A/N: So here we are, the reapings! Like I said in the first chapter, I will only be featuring two tributes', each from two different districts, for each event. I hope you like it!
Chapter 1: The Reapings
I groan as the morning light shines through my window, burning my eyes and causing my head to throb lightly before I'm even fully awake. I'm starting to regret staying so late last night at The Outcast, a bar on the outskirts of the district where I like to spend time. The people who I meet there are pretty much the only ones in the district that I care to ever talk to. Well, almost the only ones.
The exception to that is currently still asleep across the room. I stretch and walk over to his bed. "Come on kid, time to wake up," I say to the five year old as I gently shake his shoulder. His dark eyes flutter open for a moment before he closes them again and turns around, ignoring me stubbornly. I sigh. "Vice, I'm not kidding. I don't have time for this, I have to get ready." No response. "Fine," I say. "your choice."
I pick him up and throw him over my shoulder playfully. "Hey!" he yells in protest. "Not fair! Let me down!" He flails his arms and legs in an attempt to get down and I laugh. I walk to the small kitchen and set him on the floor. He looks up at me and glares, his arms crossed and his black hair a tangled mess.
I briefly remember when I found him over a year ago. The first time I saw him he had been on the ground only a few feet away from a burning building, trying to shake awake his grandfather who had died in the fire. There was no one else around and I couldn't just leave the kid there to die, so I had picked him up and brought him back to the boarding school that I was living at. I was expelled a few days later for a variety of reasons, though that didn't bother me; I hardly showed up to classes anyways. School was definitely not my thing.
My parents had sent me to the boarding school after deciding they had exhausted their ideas of how to 'handle me and my tendencies for finding mischief', as they had put it. I mean, they aren't wrong. But I like to think of it more as preferring chaos to the boring, mundane lives of everyone else I encounter in this district.
After I was expelled I got a job fighting viruses on computers and electronic equipment all over the district. Even though I never liked school, my skill with technology is something I've always been proud of.
Once I had saved enough money from my job I moved with Vice into the small apartment we live in now. It isn't much, but it's better than nothing.
I look down at Vice and ruffle his hair. "Come on, its time to eat." I say as I pour him a bowl of cereal and place it in front of him. He takes a few small bites but, as usual, is too busy talking to focus on eating.
"What are we gonna do after the reaping?" he asks excitedly. Even though neither of us go to school, Vice likes the day of the reaping because the rest of the district has the day off, giving us more opportunities to make some trouble.
"Not sure," I say. "How about you think about it during the ceremony?" Last year during the reaping Vice got bored standing there waiting for me and had tried to climb up onto the stage. A few Peacekeepers pulled him down but he used his little kid charm to get out of any serious trouble. We got off with a warning to make sure it never happened again, which seems to be the ending line to most conversations I have with people when either Vice or I get in trouble, which is pretty often. I give him the task to think of our plans for later to avoid a repeat of last year; even though it worked out okay that time, I wasn't really in the mood to deal with angry Peacekeepers today.
"Okay," he said happily, still only picking at his food.
"I'm going to go get dressed," I say as I stand up from the table. "Get ready and then we can go." Vice nods his head as I walk away.
I change into a nice-ish blue suit with a matching vest and brown dress shoes. I try to put on a tie but I can't get it on right. After wrestling with it for a few minutes I give up and just toss it onto my bed. I'll just put it away later when I get back. I slick back my hair like always so it'll stay out of my face before walking back into the kitchen where Vice is already dressed and playing with a clump of tangled wires like he usually does when he's bored.
"Let's go," I say as I take his hand and walk out the door. I don't usually hold his hand when we're just walking around, but today the streets are crowded with people trying to get to the ceremony and I don't want to risk him running off and us being late because I had to find him.
"Meet me back here when it's done," I tell him when we reach the area where we have to split up. He nods his head and I ruffle his hair before getting in line. I wait a few minutes to get my finger pricked before I step into the spot with all the other sixteen year old boys.
It's crowded; we're almost the last ones to show up. I look around and see Vice poking his head under the dividing line where anyone not eligible for the reaping is supposed to wait. He still has the tangled wires in his hand. I figure he had pushed himself to the front so he could see better.
It's only a few minutes before our district's escort, Omega Hiski, steps up to the microphone. Her long, white blonde hair is tied in multiple braids that twist around her head in different knots and loops. She only looks like she's in her twenties but I know that she must be must older than that.
She opens with the normal speech that we've all heard too many times to count and much too happily introduces the movie from the Capitol.
Loved them, fed them, protected them…
I pretty much zone out throughout the entire thing; it's not like there is anything important that I'm going to miss from not listening. And after what seems like an eternity Omega finally walks over to the giant bowls filled with slips of paper.
"We'll start with the girls," she says with an ever-present smile. She reaches into the bowl dramatically and pulls out a slip.
"Harmony Dae!" she announces, looking around for someone to step forward. After a few minutes I see a girl from the sixteen year old section walk up shyly. When she is on stage she looks down, not looking out at the crowd. She must be scared but she doesn't seem surprised.
Once Omega finishes introducing Harmony she walks over to the bowl with the boy's names. She reaches in with a flourish and pulls out a slip. She looks out over the crowd before saying the name.
"Current Electry!" she says happily as she looks over to the boy's section.
I groan to myself. Wonderful. Simply wonderful. I'm about to start making my way to the stage when I hear a cry from behind me.
"No!" the voice shouts desperately. I turn around and see Vice pushing his way through the crowd to get to me. He latches onto my leg and I pick him up. There are tears streaming down his face and he is holding onto me tightly. Before I can even try to say something to comfort him, a group of Peacekeepers approach me.
"Let him go," one of them says sternly. I shake my head and turn to the side slightly so Vice isn't directly in front of them.
"Don't make this difficult," another one says. I feel Vice latch tighter onto me. I keep holding onto him and stare at the Peackeepers coldly. Two of them grab onto my arms while another one pulls Vice off of me. He kicks and screams at them, trying to get back to me but it isn't working.
I am pushed forward and onto the stage before I can even react.
"Well then," Omega says, obviously struggling to keep the smile on her face as she looks at me. She steps back, leaving nothing between me and Harmony. "Why don't you two shake hands" she says brightly.
I reluctantly take a small step forward and the girl does the same. As we shake hands she gives me a small smile and looks at me encouragingly. She doesn't seem to be annoyed by what happened with Vice like I would have expected. I take that as a sign that we may have a chance at getting along.
Omega closes the ceremony and Harmony and I are hurried into the Justice Building. I don't have time to say or do anything before I am pushed into a room by myself; obviously the Peacekeepers aren't very happy with me. I try to open the door, not thinking about anything besides getting back to Vice, but it's locked. I pace the floor restlessly, not knowing what to do.
The door opens after what seems like hours. Vice rushes in and jumps into my arms, shaking and crying. "You have two minutes," a very unhappy voice says before the door closes.
"You can't go, you can't!" Vice cries, his voice shaking.
"I have to," I say softly. "But don't worry, I'm going to do everything I can to win."
"Promise?" he asks, looking up at me.
"Of course I promise," I say, trying to smile. I know that I can't promise him that I'm going to win. Hell, I probably don't stand a chance. But I could never tell him that. I hold him tightly. "You are going to do so much with your life," I say quietly. "You're going to do much better than I ever did. All you have to do is remember everything I've taught you and use that clever little brain of yours and you'll be fine." I sigh and kneel down, setting him on the floor in front of me. "Once you leave here I want you to go to The Outcast," I say. "They'll know what happened and one of them will take care of you until I get back." I know that at least one of my friends there will be willing to watch after him. They all like Vice there and I trust them. "Got it?" I ask to make sure he understands. He nods his head and reaches into his pocket. He pulls out the tangled wires and hands them to me.
"Will you take these with you?" he asks.
"Of course I will," I say holding them in my hand. "Thank you."
The door opens and three Peacekeepers come in, obviously expecting another fight to pry us apart. But I'm not going to fight; its no use and it'll only end up making it harder for Vice in the end.
I kiss him on the cheek and let him go, one of the Peacekeeprs taking him by the hand. The door closes and I can hear Vice trying to get away from them but I know its too late for me to do anything now. I just have to let him go.
"Come on Callie, keep up!" I shout with a laugh to my friend as we run as fast as we can. She is only a few feet behind me but I could never give up an opportunity to tease her.
We each carry a big fabric sack with us as we run through the district. The morning sun is just starting to rise so we don't worry too much about anyone outside seeing us. Although we are laughing we still manage to move almost silently; a skill acquired from many years of doing this.
We reach our destination, a small rundown house, and walk in. We are both still laughing, the high of stealing not quite gone yet. We throw the bags to the ground and lay back on the couch, resting after the long run. We do our best to keep quiet, knowing everyone else in the house was still sleeping.
"Ahem," we hear from across the room.
Or, at least we thought everyone was still sleeping.
We turn our heads and see Hannah standing in the doorway, her arms crossed and not looking very happy. "Have a nice run?" she asks, glaring at us both.
"Um yeah," I answer. "Really fun." She rolls her eyes, apparently not in the mood for stalling.
"I don't know what I'm going to do with you two," she says, shaking her head. "I specifically told you both not to go on a raid today. There are Peacekeepers everywhere, it's too risky. Not to mention the fact that you two didn't even bother trying to keep quiet. I wouldn't be surprised if you woke up half the district." We knew better than to try to interrupt while she was lecturing us. If we just stayed quiet and nodded our heads, eventually she will let it go.
"Sorry Hannah," Callie said in her most innocent voice. "We really are. We just needed something to wear today and knew a house that would be empty for a while that we could check."
Hannah sighed. "Fine, whatever. Just don't let it happen again." I look over at Callie when Hannah turns away and give her a thumbs up. Because Callie is the youngest of us, Hannah usually goes the easiest on her.
Hannah is kind of like the unspoken leader of our house; though we actually have a boss above Hannah, she doesn't live with us.
Everyone in our house steals to live. That's why we're all here. None of us are related but we all ended up together one way or another.
Marcus is the oldest one in the house. He is twenty seven and pretty much hates everything and everyone. He's a grouch and we try to avoid him whenever we can. But he's actually pretty smart and is good at what he does.
Delia is twenty and, besides Callie, I feel the closest to her. She's been like a big sister ever since I joined the group and has always protected me, especially when I was younger and still learning how to do everything right.
Hannah is twenty five and the second oldest. She's always very strict and doesn't let us, well me, get away with anything. There's a good reason why she seems to be in charge of the house and that's her talent. She can execute a raid on a house faster and more effectively than anyone in the group. She is an amazing strategist and is the main reason why none of us have ever been caught. I respect her a lot. Callie always makes fun of me, saying that I like her as more than just a group member. Maybe it's true, just a little bit.
Callie is fifteen and joined us the most recently. We found her when she was thirteen years old after her parents had abandoned her when she was ten. We weren't supposed to bring in any new members but Hannah had been impressed that she had survived for three years on her own and figured she would be a good addition. And she is good at this, although she is still learning. Callie is the closest in age to me and when she was brought in she was the only other kid. We have been best friends since almost the day I met her.
I was brought into the group when I was eight after my parents died. I don't remember much but I can recall Delia finding me, she was only ten at the time, and begging Hannah and Marcus to let me stay with them. They were only teenagers then and didn't want to take on another child, but I guess Delia had convinced them to let me stay.
Our boss is Genevieve. She is the leader of all of us but she doesn't live with us. No one in the house has even met her besides me. I was in charge dropping off newly stolen items to her once, but that's the only time I have ever met her. She's much older than the rest of us, Hannah told me that she's forty, so I guess she's been doing this since before we were even born.
"You're home!" Delia says as she runs into the room, wrapping her arms around Callie and me. "I was so worried. I woke up and Hannah told me that you two were gone."
I laugh softly. "You know you don't have to worry about us, Delia. We're professionals; we know what we're doing."
"Ha! You two, professionals?" Marcus scoffs as he walks in. I roll my eyes.
"And such a pleasure to see you this fine morning, Marcus." Callie says sarcastically. He glares at her before sitting down..
"I bet you two are nervous about today," he says with a smirk, looking at Callie and me.
"Don't remind me," Delia says, sitting back. "You guys don't have to worry; I do enough of that for all of us."
"The kids will be fine," Hannah assures her. I try not to let it bother me that she called me a kid. "Although that may change if you're late. Go put on those clothes that were so important you had to go against my orders to get them." We both stand up and pick up our bags.
"You're not going to just forget about this, are you?" I ask as I pass her to get to me and Callie's room.
"Not a chance," she says, patting me on the back.
When I get to our bedroom I drop the bag down and pull out the dress suit that I took from the house earlier. I pull it on quickly and check the mirror to make sure I don't look like too much of a mess. I really don't care if I look up to the 'standards' of reaping appearances, but I know that if my hair is too messed up Delia will make a fuss trying to fix it and I'll never get out of the house. Luckily I keep my dark hair pretty short so I don't have to spend too much time trying to get it to look okay.
When I'm done I'm surprised to see that Callie is already dressed in the yellow sundress and leather sandals that she picked up this morning. "You ready?" she asks me. I nod in response and we both walk out the door.
"Good luck!" Delia calls from the doorway when we're already halfway down the road.
We reach the lines where we have to split up and she turns to me. "This is your last year," she says. "Are you excited?" I laugh and roll my eyes.
"Oh absolutely," I say.
"Well, may the odds be ever in your favour," she says teasingly as she walks over to her line. I think about saying something back but can't think of anything so I just walk over to my own section.
I can't see her once I'm there, my section of eighteen year olds not close enough to the fifteen year old section. I keep looking for her until Maria Teal, the district escort, clears her throat into the microphone.
Maria looks less than happy to be here, to say the least. She has a disgusted look on her face and she keeps swatting at the air like she's being attacked by flies. I stifle a laugh as she almost knocks over the microphone and struggles to regain her balance on her ridiculously high orange heels.
"Let's just get this over with," she says, not knowing that the mic picked it up. The video starts without her introducing it, obviously an attempt to give her time to recuperate. I practically know the entire thing by heart now, I've heard it so many times.
By the time it's over Maria seems to have regained composure and is standing over the girl's bowl. She reaches in and pulls out a slip.
"Callie Wolfson!" she says with the fakest enthusiasm I've ever heard.
My heart starts pounding and my head starts spinning as I watch Callie walk up, shaking in fear. Right before she reaches the stage I hear a scream from the crowd, the voice unmistakably Delia's. I can tell she's far away but I can't see where she is. I don't bother trying to look for her; I keep my eyes on Callie. When she's on stage she looks smaller than ever. I see in her eyes that she's about to cry and I can't stand to know that this could be one of the last times I ever see her.
Maria walks to the boy's bowl and picks out a slip, completely abandoning Callie on the right side of the stage. Before Maria even opens her mouth my hand shoots up.
"I volunteer!" I yell, making sure that they hear me. I push my way to the foot of the stage and I see Callie looking down at me, shaking her head in protest.
"Well isn't this fantastic," Maria says as she motions for me to get on stage. "It seems we have a volunteer. Would you like to tell us your name, young man?"
I step forward to the microphone. "Zack Estrada," I say, keeping my eyes on Callie the entire time. Her head is still shaking, as if I could still back out.
"Ladies and gentlemen, I present this year's tributes of District 10!" Maria says as she steps back so we can shake hands.
'No' Callie mouths to me as we shake hands.
'I'm sorry" I mouth back.
We are quickly escorted into the Justice Building and pushed apart into separate rooms. I sit down on a chair and breath deeply for a few minutes, trying to wrap my head around the way my life has completely changed within just a few minutes.
I don't have to wait long before the door opens and I hear the voice of a Peacekeeper giving us two minutes.
The person who walks in is not who I expect at all. It is not Delia or Hannah or even Marcus, its Genevieve.
"Hello again, Zack," she says, her voice even and smooth.
"G-Genevieve," I stutter out.
"That was very kind of you, what you have done for Callie," she says, walking around the room slowly. "And very brave. I know that you did it to protect her."
"Yes," I say quietly, still wondering why she is here at all. I have seen her once in my life, and that was only for a few minutes, and now she's here to see me off to my death?
"She's lucky to have a friend like you," she says as she smiles softly at me. She is silent for a few moments before speaking again. "You are probably wondering why I am here." I nod my head in response. "It must seem strange. I don't usually contact my workers face to face. But for you, I was willing to make an exception. You see, Zack, you remind me of my son. Almost everything about you, really, is identical to him. Dark hair, green eyes, brave, kind," she lists. She sighs. "Of course he died many years ago, a few years before I met you. He was about your age." She walks over to me.
She takes my hand and places something in it. I look down and see that it is a metal ring. "That was my son's. I would like for you to take it with you."
"Thank you," I say softly as I put it on my finger. A Peacekeeper opens the door as she puts her hands on my shoulders.
"Be brave, Zack. Be strong. For both you and Callie," she says.
"I will," I promise and she smiles.
"I know." And with that she turns around and leaves the room, the door shutting behind her.
Even after she is gone, her words echo in my mind.
Be brave. Be strong.
A/N: So what did you all think? Do you like the tributes so far? I had a lot of fun writing these two and I can't wait to work on the next chapter. It should be out in a few days but I can never be sure.
Please remember to leave a review about what you think of the tributes, the writing, the story, anything!
I also have a little request from anyone with any skills with photography, drawing, or photoshopping. I'm looking for a cover for this story so if you would like to have me use your artwork, PM me and I'll tell you how to send it to me.