This is the final and fourth installment in the Pandora Sullivan Series so if you haven't read the other three then you might be a wee bit (actually completely) confused. Fair warning. I also wanted to take the time to thank everyone who has reviewed and sent messages. I would obviously continue to post more of the story regardless of the reviews, but it's nice to know that the characters and story is appreciated! Anyways, welcome to The Star Splitters and enjoy.
Among frightening feathers, among nights,
among magnolias, among telegrams,
among the South wind and the maritime West,
You come flying.
Beneath the tombs, beneath the ashes,
beneath the frozen snails,
beneath the last terrestrial waters,
You come flying.
Farther down, among submerged girls,
and blind plants, and broken fish,
farther down, among clouds again,
You come flying.
Beyond blood and bones,
beyond bread, beyond wine,
You come flying.
Beyond vinegar and death,
among putrefaction and violets,
with your celestial voice and your damp shoes,
You come flying.
-From Alberto Rojas Jimenez Comes Flying, Pablo Neruda-
The water was frozen needles. It fell down her spine in irregular rushes of ice. For a heartbeat she tilted her head back with a shiver and let the shower immerse her. Her nostrils were burning. She still hadn't gotten used to that overwhelmingly present scent. Everything in District 13 smelt of musty earth. Not like the woods in District 7, full and sweet. Down in this beehive of tunnels and chambers the odor clung to every inch of cement. Pandora Sullivan hated that smell. It reminded her of rotting corpses.
After scrubbing herself with a rough bar of soap she dried herself off and pulled on a pair of pants and sweater, ignoring the dull grey outfit she was issued upon arrival into the District. Everything in this place was grey. It was a stark contrast to anything Pandora had ever known. In the Capitol everything was lush and grand. In District 7, rustic and welcoming. But here—here everyone was just trying to survive. Rats in a maze, she thought.
The bruises on her face and body had faded. The only remaining cuts and gashes were a pair of punctured holes in the soles of her feet and a half healed slice in her bottom lip. It had taken a while for the swelling in her face to go down. Yesterday had been the first time Pandora was allowed to take off the thick girdle that was keeping her cracked ribs in place to heal. It was strange to have it off, to be able to breath. After that, they had tried to keep her in the hospital but she refused. Of course, it wasn't Pandora's refusal that changed their minds. It was Plutarch.
If District 13 had it their way she would be locked up in a cement vault, down in the guts of this labyrinth. No one trusted her. For so long she had been the face of the Hunger Games. Year after year she promoted, smiled, and dined with the enemy. Pandora didn't blame them for hating her. It made sense.
Though Plutarch was able to get her out of the hospital, he couldn't stop them from tagging her. She glanced to the thin piece of metal around her ankle. Anywhere she went, they would know. In many respects Pandora Sullivan had traded one prison for another.
"Just look at it as your penitence for everything that happened in the Capitol. Everything that you did—er—I mean, everything that Snow made you do." Plutarch had tried to explain. It didn't make it better, never lessened the sting.
Pandora grimaced at her schedule as she grabbed her bag and sauntered into the corridor. Breakfast time. The citizens of District 13 loved schedules. The order bothered her. Half the time it was like they were swarming without actual thought.
At an intersection she stopped and pressed her lips together. The cafeteria was to the right, Pandora turned left. She wasn't hungry, and she wasn't going to listen to scribbled routines, it didn't matter if District 13 had saved her life.
It had been hard to keep any food down. Each night she'd wake up in a sweat. A nightmare about Adric or Finnick. Each night it was different, but the message was always the same: You're not safe yet. You won't be until President Snow is dead.
Instead of heading towards the refectory she quickened her steps down hallway after hallway. From time to time she would pass people, feeling their glares. The looks were all the same, unequivocal disgust.
The hospital came into view as soon as she stepped off the elevator. Medics slid by. It felt like refugees from District after District were constantly flowing in. Pandora didn't know how things were going up on the surface. Weeks had past since she had seen the sun, felt the breeze. Judging by the newest batch of evacuees things were not going well. She held her breath as she passed a man with no arm, a woman screaming in pain, and children dirty and crying.
After a while it became too hard to watch. She left as fast as she could and dove into the room she had been searching for in the first place.
Luckily there were no medics inside. She shut the door and fixed her eyes ahead.
Finnick was lying on his back. He had been this way since they pulled him out of the arena. Always sleeping.
She took quiet steps closer to him and pulled up a chair.
He whispered something in his sleep but she couldn't make it out.
"You look better."
She rummaged through her bag and pulled out a small knife and piece of wood. It was a battle for Plutarch to get clearance for the knife, but she was glad he had. It had been so long since she had whittled or carved anything. It wasn't until she had remembered everything, felt everything that had happened to her that night on the hovercraft that she could recall how the delicate skill went. With her eyes still on Finnick she began to smooth the wood.
This was Pandora's routine. She ignored her schedule. Ignored her hunger. Each day she visited Finnick hoping that he would be awake. So far he was being stubborn, although Pandora had a sneaking suspicion that the medics were giving him sedatives. When he was awake she wasn't allowed into the room, but she heard him. He would scream, and more than anything he would cry.
"I'm making you something." She kicked her feet up and glanced down at her work, "A present."
He shifted. "Ahrm."
"But you have to wake up, otherwise there's no point in all this work. It's just like you to make me wait like this, isn't it?"
His shifts started to turn into violent thrashes.
She could hear his erratic breaths, seeing how sweaty his brow had gotten in a matter of seconds. Quickly she dropped the wood and knife and jumped to his side.
"Shh." She touched his shoulders, "It'll be okay. She'll be okay."
Through closed eyes he started to cry. Even in his sleep he couldn't run away from the fear. Pandora steadied him until he started to calm, only then did she return to her seat.
"Annie…" He kept whispering. Sometimes it was soft and sweet, but mostly it was in terror.
Annie was in the Capitol. Snow had ordered her to be taken once the arena went up in smoke. Whatever was happening to her, Pandora knew it wasn't civil or pleasant. And she wasn't the only one. Several of the other victors were taken, the ones Plutarch couldn't get out in time. A few days after their arrival into 13 Pandora had asked if they had gotten Lux out. That was when she found out he never made it past the first day in the arena. Just another life lost, another sliver of guilt to weave into her nightmares.
Pandora reached for Finnick's hand and swallowed hard. "We're going to get her back, Finnick. I promise."
She hoped that even in his drug-induced sleep he could hear her and know that she was telling the truth.
"You aren't supposed to be in here."
Pandora didn't flinch when she heard Plutarch's voice. Instead she pushed Finnick's hair away from his face and coolly returned to whittling.
"Your schedule says you're suppose to report to me."
"Does it? I didn't notice."
"He needs his rest, Pandora."
"He's sleeping isn't he?"
"It doesn't do any good to be here."
"I want to be here. I need to—" Need to what? She clenched her jaw. "I need to set things right."
"And you will. Once he's better."
"If he gets better."
"He's only asleep."
She let out a dark laugh and scraped a chunk off the wood, "I think I know a thing or two about being asleep, Mr. Heavensbee."
"Pandora, Coin wants to speak with you."
She suddenly froze. Her eyes lifted.
"She thinks it's time you two sat down and discussed your future in this revolution."
"You mean you implored her to speak with me."
"I may have, yes."
"I'm here, aren't I?"
"For many people in District 13 that's not enough."
"It's a good thing I'm not here for District 13."
"Please, Pandora. Will you just come?"
She sighed and glanced to Finnick. Whatever nightmare he was having had passed. "Yea, right. Sure."
They walked along the corridor silently. Every person they walked by nodded to Plutarch and ignored Pandora, but she didn't mind. After all, it was a step up from blatant glares.
At the entrance to the office Plutarch told her wait and went in alone.
She stood there for some time, with her back pressed hard against the wall and her eyes focused on the door. Impatiently she wound a loose piece of thread around her finger and hummed. It was a new coping mechanism Pandora had settled into. Humming. Humming any tune she could remember. Sometimes it would be District 7 folk songs, but more often than not the tune would be Capitol in nature. Melodies she recalled from her time there. The swelling violins, the well tailored measures of music.
When the door finally opened she fell silent and straightened her back. Standing next to Plutarch was Katniss Everdeen. He whispered something to the girl from District 12 and she seemed to bristle at it.
"Pandora, you can come in now."
Pandora kept her eyes on Katniss as she passed by. Peeta Mellark had been one of the victors that the Capitol had in custody and the girl on fire was obviously affected by that. They had never exchanged words, but Pandora could tell. Everyone could tell.
She locked eyes with Everdeen with tightened her lips before clearing her throat and moving forward.
Coin's office was grey. Just like her emotionless eyes, just like the rest of this hellish hole.
She didn't realize they were on a first name basis. It bothered her that Coin was using her name so candidly, let alone at all. She stepped forward with a few careful swivels of her hips.
"Hello, Alma." She mocked.
"Pandora—" Plutarch hissed.
"Oh, sorry. Hello president Coin."
It had been interesting to find out that District13 had their own president. You'd think they would have learned their lesson after they had seceded from the rest of Panem.
Coin shot her look that could kill. "Please take a seat."
The seat was uncomfortable. Its steel frame pierced her legs.
"I'm so glad that you're looking better."
"Pandora, I'm just going to dive in."
Plutarch nudged her as a warning and Pandora leaned back.
"I'm sure you're aware of the dangers involved with allowing you to be a part of our society. There are certain…factors that worry, not only me, but also the rest of District 13. Today I wanted to talk to you about them."
Pandora kept quiet.
"Plutarch, here, thinks that you'd be a vital part of this revolution. He tells me that you have inside information. That you have military training. That you know President Snow. Is this correct?"
"Forgive my skepticism with all this, Pandora, but you were working with President Snow up until Plutarch plucked you out of the Capitol. How could we trust you? You've spent years endorsing the Capitol, our enemies."
"She was forced." Plutarch defended.
"She did a very good job of not looking forced."
"I'm told that I'm a wonderful actress," Pandora darkly joked. She was losing patience with this. She wasn't here to prove herself to these people.
"They killed her family, and you question her motives?" Plutarch continued.
"I do. You told us, Plutarch, that they were running experiments on her. Is this true, Pandora?"
She took in a breath, "Yes."
"Part of our agreement was that you, Pandora, would undergo detox treatment."
Her mouth dropped open, "What?"
"Drugs were used on you during these extensive procedures. I've seen the reports."
"No, no way. I'm not going to let you strap me down and drain me."
"I assure you the detox methods are not invasive. Our medics are trained well."
"I haven't been in the Capitol for weeks. How can they still be in my system?"
"We want to be sure."
"She's right, Pandora," Plutarch sighed. "It's not asking too much. It will only be for a few weeks."
She knew that was the root of all the suspicion. The experiments. "Fine. I agree."
"Because essentially what you are now is just another muttation."
Plutarch shifted out of discomfort and shock. Pandora's expression quickly morphed from expressionless to hateful. "What did you just say?"
"Alma, that is a great insult to someone like Pandora."
"I know what I'm saying."
"I doubt that very much," Pandora combated.
"You don't like me, do you?"
"No, president Coin. I do not."
Coin nodded. "Would you rather be back in the Capitol?"
Pandora glared, "What do you think?"
"I don't know. That's why I ask."
"You ask a lot of questions for someone who seems to think they know all the answers."
"Pandora, Plutarch here has told me many things about your time in the Capitol that leave me cynical. If I had it my way you would be put on trial in front of an assembly. We know about the revolutionaries you've killed, all the other little chores you did for Snow. But thanks to Plutarch you aren't going to be put on trial."
"You don't understand."
"So you're saying you didn't kill innocent people?"
Pandora could feel how fast she was losing ground. She gritted her teeth. "I did what I had to do. Something you know nothing about. It's easy to sit there all smug and self-assured when you haven't lived through what I have. It must be so nice."
"District 13 has suffered greatly thanks to the Capitol you decided to endorse."
"I hate to break it to you, Alma—" Pandora smiled as Coin flinched at the casual tone. "—but there wasn't much choice in the matter."
"Well that's just it, isn't it? There's always a choice."
Pandora held back the urge to hum. Instead she rubbed her lips together and manically wound the thread around her fingers.
Coin nodded, her eyes staying on Pandora. "And what of this soldier, Plutarch? The one you were telling me about?"
Pandora felt her heart jump. The thread stopped winding. She twitched her gaze to Heavensbee.
"What about Adric?!"She suddenly shouted.
"Pandora, calm down," Plutarch reached for her arm but she wiggled away.
"Is that his name?" Coin shrugged. "He is part of the Capitol. Part of the system we are fighting against. Now, Plutarch has tried to convince me that he wants to help, but I don't think that's right at all. I think he's lying. Do you know how many people he has killed Pandora? How many innocent people he has killed for the Capitol?"
"I could give you a number. If I'm correct I believe that the military keeps such statistics on hand. That way they know how to reward their—oh so—brave soldiers. I'm sure you've seen all his pretty medals. Earned through the bloodshed of innocent people like your family. Of course, it might be hard to retrieve the statistics now that they know we had spies in the Capitol."
She wanted to claw Coin's face off, "I don't care. I'm finished. I'm done with this discussion."
Just as Pandora stood up Coin spoke, "Just one final question. If it was between our cause, the freedom of Panem, the chance to break away from the Capitol, or that soldier, which would you pick?"
"Pandora, you don't have to answer that. This discussion has gotten out of hand."
She ignored Plutarch and kicked the seat to the ground. Pandora was done being manipulated. With narrowed eyes and parted lips she replied with what was in her heart.
"Him." She said, "Every single time, him."