The backstory to this story: On request, I submitted a profile for an original character to "CesteIzAFanLotz" for "300th Hunger Games SYOT". I decided I liked my creation enough to give him his own story, which the user who solicited the profile has agreed with. I chose Johanna Mason's Hunger Games as the timeframe for "my" take on the character because I envisioned him as coming from 7 and I have fun writing for Johanna.
They are only a few years apart in age, him not quite 21 and her 24, but behind the eyes is the difference of May and December. He has the look of impetuous, vaguely angry youth, despite the mark of a burn on one cheek. Hers is the look of ageless weariness that can just manage to hide behind a cynical smile. Tonight, however, she isn't hiding.
"I'm Gale Hawthorne," he says, "and welcome to part 3 of our Hunger Games retrospective. My guest tonight is Johanna Mason, the `Victor' of the 69th Games, and my producer and good friend. This interview is her request, and frankly, she hasn't told me just what she wants to talk about. So, Johanna, what is it you want our audience to hear?"
"I want to talk... about one of the Tributes from the Game," she says, holding her voice steady. "I guess I'll start where the Games started..."
From the start, the 69th Games was business as usual, but a little faster. Half a dozen Tributes died in the bloodbath. I ran for it straight away, but I saw the first kill. It was the District 2 tribute, can't recall his name offhand, we just called him Wolf. Volunteer, as always, and bigger, tougher and flat-out nastier than most. Bad enough the other Careers decided he was the first order of business. I actually saw the important thing, which was that it was the girl who came with him, Ion, who did the real work. He was so huge, it took a bit of time for him to get a full head of steam, and so she was able to come in from behind and get him in the shins halfway. Then the rest of the career boys grabbed for weapons, and it was obvious they had planned it all along.
One of them was the boy from Three, and I could tell it was his idea. I always thought of him by a name from one of the legends of the Ancients: Napoleon. He had good skills, and he was smart, but he was too small to hold his own in a stand-up fight. He was fast, though, and by the time Wolf was down he already had the only bow. He gave it to Wolf just south and west of the heart, in the liver where it's sure but slow, and I never doubted it was on purpose. Then the regular Career boys, Rook from One and Erne from Four, came in with a polearm and a harpoon. Erne threw, and Rook slashed with this nasty hook. They may have planned it cold, but those two were still giving it to Wolf when the cannon sounded, and I heard "boom-boom" right after that. By then, I was away from the circle, going as fast as I could, with nothing but a toothpick knife that someone threw in my direction.
They had us in a forest, which people think was what gave me the advantage, because my District does forestry. Actually, it was knowing about forests that nearly did me in, because I knew the second I was out of the ground that this forest was like nothing this world's seen in a thousand years. The "forests" in Seven are really more like farms: We cut the trees down and move on, the trees grow back, and in a century or a few decades or even ten years, we make our way back and cut them down again. But these trees would have been hundreds and thousands of years old if they had occurred naturally. They were hundreds of feet tall, yards thick, and there could be dozens of yards between them with nothing but dead leaves. And then there was me in the middle, knowing all of this, and wondering how the Gamemmakers did it.
I kept making my way along through the first day, trying to get as far as I can from the starting point. I heard the final count of the bloodbath, one more after, and two more as the afternoon went on. The last cannon got me wondering if we were going to have a full dozen by nightfall, which would make it the bloodiest first day since the Second Quell, and maybe an all-time record. Stupid. I barely noticed in time that someone was on my tail.
It was two guys, but not from the Careers. I knew one of them, a guy from 12 name of Kohl- honest, look it up- and I guessed the other guy was from 11, because he had dark skin. They had spears they had cut from old branches, both bloody. I knew they had gotten out fast, too, and I figured there couldn't be anyone too close behind them, or they wouldn't be bothering to come after me. I probably could have gotten away, but as long as it was just two of them, I wanted to try out the skills I had been hiding during training.
I already had a plan, and it was one I had seen played before: Get right behind the one in the rear and take him out, and throw for the one in front. But they made it a bit tough. They were going back and forth, one going ahead and then the other catching up, and the one in front always looking over his shoulder. They could have stopped me cold, except they kept watching each other. That was all I needed to double back as they were rounding a big tree and get the dark boy once in each kidney. I had done that, once before. But I didn't do it quite right, because the dark boy got off a squeal, and on top of that, the cannon went off.
By the time the dark boy hit the ground, I had pulled out a hatchet from the black boy's belt and had the knife ready to throw. Like anybody who knows anything about knife throwing, I expected to miss, which shouldn't have mattered because just the distraction of a knife throw would be time enough to do something with the hatchet. But the scream gave Kohl time to turn around, so his eyes locked on me straightaway, and by the time the knife went by his ear, he was coming straight for me. I didn't have time to do anything but run.
I ran for quite a ways, until I couldn't hear Kohl behind me anymore, and then I started to worry. I knew he was pretty smart and knew his way around a forest well enough. If he wasn't behind me anymore, I had to assume he could be ahead. Sure enough, when I listened, I heard him, coming from ahead. Only, he didn't seem to be coming straight at me, and I started to wonder if he was after someone else. That was when I heard Kohl's shout, not words or anything but just surprise, and a crash that made me think of a deadfall. That should have gotten me running the other way, but in that moment, I just wanted to see the look on Kohl's face. So I ran for the sound, and I saw Kohl hanging upside down ten feet in the air, and still I didn't think twice about running toward him- not until I felt something jerk my ankle, and the next minute found myself ten feet up there with Kohl. Then I looked down, as someone stepped out from behind a tree, and said, "Sky?"