AN: Major spoilers for those of you who have not read the entire Hunger Games series. Yes, that includes Mockingjay.
I don't own. Do I wish I did? By the Mockingjay's metaphorical blazes, yeah! Do I in reality? Sadly, no. Sucks for me.
District 11 Tribute Train, the year of the Seventy-Fourth Hunger Games...
Rue had never imagined herself ever being selected as a tribute for the Hunger Games, yet out of the thousands of slips, one of her eight had been picked. There was no way she would ever win. And without her tesserae, her family would slide back into starvation. She was not sad because she knew she would die. She was sad because she knew that her family would die without her to try to prevent it.
She placed her hand on the doorknob that led into what she supposed was to be her temporary quarters on the tribute train. She did not like to call it a room, because it was the size of her entire house at home. Home, she repeated in her mind with a sad sigh. She would never see home again. She just knew it.
With some unnecessary force, she opened the door. Light flooded into the room from the hallway and illuminated a strange scene in front of her. Rue almost screamed, but she managed to turn it into a strangled choking noise. For standing in the middle of the room, facing Rue with an equally terrified expression on her face, was a girl.
Rue stared. The girl was possibly younger than she, but had obviously been living on the streets. Her thin cheeks and dark eyes were hollow from hunger, and she was skinnier than even Rue was. She wore no shoes on her callused feet. Her choppily cut brown hair looked like it had been cut with a knife and fell in front of her face, giving her a feral, wild appearance. In her hand was a tunic, which Rue recognized from the wardrobe and she assumed that the girl had stolen. There was no reason to assume it was for different purposes. The girl's own clothes were little more than rags.
"Who are you?" Rue asked, her voice almost a whisper. She stepped forward, but the strange girl flinched and immediately drew a dagger from a sheath strapped to her leg. Rue froze, then held up her hands to show that she held no weapons. "I won't hurt you."
The girl's dark eyes hardened, and then she lowered the dagger. "Who are you going to call to hurt me for you, then? We're on a moving train. I have nowhere to run."
Rue was puzzled. "No one! I just want to know…who are you?"
"Close the door. Then we will talk about me."
Rue did as she was told, because there was something about this girl. Something… different. She didn't seem like she was from District 11 at all. Her speech was too refined, and her skin too light. The structure of her face almost reminded Rue of the people from the far-off Capitol she had seen on television, but that was impossible. A Capitol girl would never be put in so low of a place.
The girl kept standing, holding the dagger in one hand and the stolen garment in the other. Rue did not feel comfortable sitting in the girl's presence, and the feeling was mutual.
"I am…a runaway," the girl began haltingly once they were alone. She seemed to notice Rue's fear, and she added, "Don't worry. I deactivated all the cameras in this room. Right now they are on a loop, and all they see is the empty room."
Rue did not know what a loop was, or how the girl could deactivate the cameras. She had come to assume that the Capitol was all-powerful, and that nothing could get by them. If a girl no older than she could slip by unseen, who knew what could be done!
"How did you get here?" Rue asked. "And why?"
The girl reluctantly dropped the stolen tunic in her hands and sheathed her dagger. "I told you," she said. "I am a runaway."
"Who…who took you?"
"I never said I was running from any captors. I ran away from my home in the Capitol, and I crashed my plane here. I've been living on the streets ever since."
"You're from the Capitol?"
"Yes. I left last year, and have been trying to survive ever since. This was my first window of opportunity to get back home."
"But why did you leave in the first place?"
"Childlike rebellion. Only I think I may have taken it too far in stealing that plane."
"You stole a plane? How did you fly it?"
"Of course I stole a plane. It's not that hard when your father, a man richer than the president himself, owns seventeen of them and a personal hanger. I've flown them since I was –– "
She froze, her eyes widening. Rue was also silent –– she had heard something outside in the hallway. Footsteps. With the speed of a fox, the girl pivoted on her heel and covered the space of the room in two leaps, diving into the open wardrobe. Her bare foot had just disappeared from view when the door opened, revealing a tall, stocky young man. "Thresh!" Rue exclaimed.
"I heard voices," said her district partner. "Is everything okay?"
Rue hesitated, unsure of whether or not to trust Thresh or not with the secret of the fugitive. He answered it for her. "There's someone here," he said. "A girl, by the sounds of it. Come clean, Rue."
He tried to sound intimidating and threatening, but both of them knew that he wasn't really. "All right," Rue sighed. "I was talking to someone. She's in the wardrobe."
Rue imagined all of the vulgar things that the mysterious runaway must be thinking about her right now. "It's okay," she coaxed, walking to the wardrobe. "We can trust Thresh. He might be able to help you."
The girl's dirty face suddenly poked out of the clothes, and Thresh visibly jumped. "What –– who is she?" he asked, his fists clenched.
"She's from the Capitol," Rue explained, helping the girl out. "She ran away, and she needs to get back."
"Doesn't she know that we're –– you know whats?"
"Tributes?" the ragged girl finished. "Yes, I do know –– and personally, I could care less. You are no more worthy of execution than I am. In fact," she added with a trace of grim humor, "less worthy. I've done some things that, for anyone else, would get them executed or at the very least turned into an Avox."
"She's from the Capitol," Thresh repeated flatly.
"Not all of us agree with the Hunger Games," she countered. "Some of us are…better informed than the other lemmings."
Neither Rue nor Thresh knew what a lemming was, and neither of them asked. However, the strange girl seemed to find it amusing.
"So can we help her?" Rue asked, as if the girl was a puppy they had found on the side of the road. The ragged thief sent the young tribute a look of exasperation, which Rue tactfully ignored.
Thresh sighed and rubbed his temples. "We're already in deep," he muttered, "I guess we can't get much worse than this. All right."
Rue exhaled, but the girl herself still seemed on her guard. "I will take care of myself," she said. "Your jobs are to slip me food, give me a place to hide, and keep quiet about my presence here. Once we arrive in the Capitol, I will find my own way off this metal bucket. The most important thing is that the Peacekeepers do not find me; they have me, under a pseudonym, on file as a citizen of District 11 and will shoot me on sight if they see me trying to leave."
"On one condition," continued Thresh, as if he had not even heard the girl's last four sentences.
"What is it?" she asked, not the least bit fazed.
"Tell us your name."
"Your real name." It was eerie, both girls thought, how Thresh could see right through the girl's pseudonym. Or maybe he was just able to because it was a bad pseudonym.
The girl hesitated, as if unsure about this. Finally she sighed. "All right," she said. "I suppose no harm will come to any of us if I tell you. My given name is Artemis. Artemis H. Gossamer."
I will get into the actual Hunger Games stuff soon! (Like, in chapter... uh... thirteen?) This is a prologue.
Reviews are a writer's best friend! Please chime in and tell me how I'm doing so far ^_^