The two victors from District 12 sat side-by-side on the edge of the forest looking out over the unnaturally blue water while the rest of their team either slept or lay awake, presumably thinking existential and depressing thoughts.
"I hate to be the one to say it," said Katniss with a sigh, "But only one of us can go back, and it should definitely be me."
"I did most of the work in the first Games," she said, "and I could have just won anyway by kiting you with my superior range at the end. I also have more kills than you do."
Although Peeta was looking her in the face, a distant, detached look came into his eyes.
The team rotated the night away, sleeping in shifts until the sun returned to put the sparkle back in the waves and warm the sand up. After collecting some nuts for a sufficient breakfast, Katniss took herself and Peeta away from the group once again under the premise of teaching him how to swim.
"There are only eight victors left," she said in low tones, "So I think it's time we got out of here. How long can this last anyway?"
He shrugged. "I'm not sure, but I think we could wait it out still. Think of all the great banter this has produced."
"Banter aside, we're going to end up killing each other any moment now."
"Why didn't you shoot them earlier then? You've had literally innumerable opportunities."
Katniss replied with a laugh. "Since when have I done things according to what would make rational sense? I win by balling, not planning."
It appeared as though Finnick and Johanna were now paying more attention to them than they had been before, giving them the occasional glance with a little bit too much directness.
"Anyway," argued Peeta, "Brutus and Enobaria are still out there. We might as well stick around until we've hunted them down, or else we'll have to do that by ourselves."
They returned to shore in time for Beetee to call everyone over to a map of the arena he had traced in the sand. Examining it carefully over his spectacles, he relayed his plan to them.
"We have, of course, observed that in this section," he pointed to a particular slice of his diagram, the same one where their current location had been marked, before resuming, "This tree is struck by lightning roughly an hour after the previous zone's event."
After receiving some nods and general confirmation that he had been understood, Beetee continued.
"This tree is of course not a regular tree, or it would have been destroyed by now. Using my wire, I believe the energy of the lightning strike can be transferred from the tree into the water, which is of course highly conductive. I believe it is reasonable to assume that our friends Brutus and Enobaria, having become acquainted with the arena, will be on the beach so as to avoid game maker obstacles. There is therefore a good chance that they will be on wet enough sand, if not in the water itself, when the energy is conducted."
"In English!" Katniss shouted.
Beetee looked up from his work at her with a look of pity. "I'm afraid I can't break electricity down into simpler terms than that."
"What do you think District 12 makes, iPads? We can't all be scientists!" she railed.
"It's quite simple, really..."
"I guess I'll just have to trust you," Katniss concluded, eyeing him with intense suspicion.
The team enjoyed a last feast while they waited and prepared for the execution of Beetee's plan. Because the shock would likely eliminate everything in the water, they caught every shellfish they possibly could and ate it with the surprisingly satisfactory meat of a large rodent that Katniss managed to kill. When the beach was littered with shells and they were feeling fuller than any of them had since the beginning of the games, Beetee summoned them again.
"Katniss and Johanna, you two can move the fastest through the forest, so you'll be the ones to take the wire down to the water," he explained.
"Why not me and Peeta?" proposed Katniss, "Because reasons."
"With Peeta's leg, he just isn't fast enough to get there and then get out of range in time. He and Finnick will guard the tree with me. This way both ends are protected against potential interference."
Having now come to terms with the situation, Johanna took the spool of wire and they made their way as fast as was possible towards the water through the tangled forest. About halfway into the maze of foliage, however, the wire caught up with them in a springy jump.
"How did this happen?" Katniss stared at the mess of wire she'd taken into her hands, "I just don't understand the complex physics that are at work in this plan."
Johanna smashed her in the head with the metal spool, and she collapsed. Before she could even think about what had happened to her, Johanna had pinned her shoulders down with her could hear Johanna take a knife from her belt, but could do nothing to prevent it from being gouged into her arm, spraying her face with blood.
"Wow, way to use cheap tactics," Katniss shouted as her attacker ran off.
Soon, the reason she had taken flight became clear. Brutus and Enobaria appeared, breathing hard and scanning the forest. Seeing Katniss semi-conscious and bleeding profusely, they left her to die and continued their pursuit. When they were out of sight, Katniss, less content to die, pulled some moss from a nearby tree and pressed it to her wound. Struggling to her feet, she began to make her way back to the lightning tree.
"If I'm not going to win," she said, grabbing a nearby branch for support, "Then I am absolutely not letting Finnick win."
Upon reaching the origin of the wire, she found Beetee, with a similar wound, laying on the ground. In his hand was a knife and a separate wire that also ran to and around the tree.
She looked down at him and shook her head. "So he was trying to make a lightsaber. Even I know that that wouldn't work."
Finnick and Enobaria broke through into the clearing, grappling and slashing at each other. Katniss could hear someone shouting her name from somewhere she couldn't see. Loading her bow, she took aim at the entangled pair in front of her. Suddenly, her whole face relaxed.
"I suddenly understand for some reason," she said calmly, stooping to pick the wire up out of Beetee's hand. Tying it around her arrow, she released it into the force-field.
Everything around her disappeared into a great white expanse.
Her surroundings when she awoke reminded her of how the last games had concluded, with tubes and equipment plugged into her and her limbs secured to the sterile smelling bed she was in. Panic rose up inside her, but as she began to struggle a sedative entered her arm and she floated away once more.
The next time she regained consciousness her determination was rewarded, as she was no longer restrained. Taking a syringe from the table beside her bed, she made her way to the only door in the room and opened it, holding the needle defensively in front of her.
"Only two kills?" greeted Haymitch, "You could have done better."
"What is this?" Katniss demanded, dropping the syringe so as to better hold her throbbing head in her bandaged hands.
"In short," said Plutarch, who was seated beside Haymitch, "We had been planning all along with the Districts who's victors you became allied with to escape from the Games."
"Why didn't you tell me?!"
Her mentor laid his fork down and dabbed carefully at his mouth with his napkin before answering. "To make things more dramatic. We realized that our plan was actually pretty easy, so we decided to spice it up a little bit."
This seemed to be a sufficiently explanatory answer for Katniss, because that was the last of her questions.
"Also, Peeta got taken by the Capitol."
"Well, is Finnick still alive?" Katniss rationalized.
"As long as some sort of triangle can still be formed," she said with a shrug, "We'll be fine."
Having thus come to terms with the whole situation, Katniss was advised to return to her bed for recuperation purposes. In a short time, however, she woke again. Gale stood beside her bed, gazing down at her with a mixture of empathy and attractiveness.
It seemed unreal to her. "Gale? Is that really you?"
There was a quiet moment before he spoke again. "So, what's going on with the whole Peeta thing? Did you guys actually get together this time? And now he's-"
"Does anybody actually care at this point? Really?" Katniss asked bluntly. She cleared her throat, "Anyway, how are things back in District 12?"
Gale's eyes fell. "There is no District 12, Katniss."
"And nothing of value was lost," she replied, closing her eyes and snuggling back under the white sheets before repeating, "And nothing of value was lost."