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Repost: The Golden Mean, Chapter 22 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Repost: The Golden Mean, Chapter 22
A good deal of tweaking here. I think I've made a little more sense of the bread code, at least as tied into this version.

Chapter Twenty-Two
In the arena, the kids are exhausted, and they're sleeping easily on Finnick's watch, but I'm too anxious to go back to sleep, even if it is after three o'clock in the morning. Effie's eyes are slipping shut on their own, so I send her back to the beds. She gives my hair an absent tousle as she goes.

I stay tuned until three-thirty, when a breathless announcer in a glittery dress takes us to the red carpet premiere -- taped two months ago -- of Star-Crossed, a new musical by Julian Day. The singer is interviewed. He smiles awkwardly, and thanks several people -- including, of all people, Fulvia Cardew -- for their help in taking his vision to the stage. This segues to a little history of his career (which is all of five years long, having started when he was ten), with increasingly good reviews of music that sounds the same to me from beginning to end.

There's a brief recap of the most romantic moments of the Seventy-Fourth Games, and a strange and garbled version of Ruth and Danny's history. "We learned of the great lost love between Katniss Everdeen's mother and Peeta Mellark's father!" the announcer says breathlessly, juxtaposed with a baffled expression on Ruth's face as she looks at something off camera (possibly one of the production assistants; I think it was when they were talking to her about how Katniss needed to treat Peeta's wounds) and a pinched expression on Danny's… I'm guessing that he's dealing with the fallout from Mir. They stop short of suggesting that Prim is Danny's child, but they do stress that there's a "quaint" phenotypical difference between the town and the Seam.

They mention the mine explosion that killed Glen, but he doesn't even get a name. My own history since the Quell is summarized as "Abernathy's tragic descent into alcoholism," and District Twelve itself is presented as a drab and depressing place, deprived of all the privileges of the Capitol. But under it is deep warmth, and, we are assured, it is about to change everything. I have no idea what they mean by that, unless the announcers are rebels, in which case, I hope Snow has gone to bed early.

This fades to black at around for in the morning, and the single light onstage in one of the Capitol's larger theaters, while the overture plays for five minutes. I'll give it this -- the music is already better than the Julian Day music that was playing during the introductory material. The light gets brighter to show "sunrise" on reaping day, and soon, they're in a full cast number that seems to be called "Life in District Twelve," which is hard to reconcile with the decent overture. We see the Mellarks baking for poor orphan children, and Katniss and Gale distributing food (no mention is made of the inevitable time in the stocks for illegal distribution), and various other townspeople crooning saccharine sentiments about life in a small town where everyone takes care of everyone. I am conspicuously absent, not that I mind.

It's just terrible, and it gets worse when a little blond girl comes on stage, picking flowers.

The phone rings. I am not surprised to find Prim on the other end -- this is a Games business line, so calls to it can always go through -- embarrassed as only a girl of thirteen can be. It's got to be about six in the morning there -- it's just past four here -- but she's definitely been up for a while… if not all night.

"Haymitch! Can't they stop playing this?"

"Sorry, Sweetheart," I say. On screen, the actress is dancing through a flower-strewn meadow, on her way to help a sick old woman, singing about her deep love for her beautiful, impoverished home. I wait to see if there is a wolf in the offing somewhere, but he seems to be absent (at least until the upcoming Reaping scene, I suppose, where the part will be played by whoever's playing Effie). "Capitol entertainment is one thing I can't explain. Or control."

I hear someone say something indistinctly in the background, and Prim snorts with laughter. "Ed Mellark says that girl doesn't even look like she farts properly."

In the background, I hear Ruth yell, "Primrose!"

"Sorry, Mom!" she calls back, then whispers, "Well, she doesn't. Ed says he doesn't want to see it when Peeta starts walking on the river or whatever he's going to do."

"Ed's over there?" I ask.

"He crashed here last night. They wanted to do all the interviews together, in case anything… you know, anything happened. Mr. and Mrs. Mellark went home after, and Jona and Sarey, but Ed and Delly stayed with me while… the fog and the monkeys. I'm sorry about your friends. Those ladies were your friends, weren't they?"

I don't want to get into it on the bugged phone, so I just say, "Yeah. They were. Thanks."

Prim draws in a breath with a hiss, then says, "Anyway, Ed slept on the couch. I can't sleep and I woke him up with the television, and Delly's in Katniss's room. I don't think Katniss would mind." She breathes rapidly for a few seconds. "Are they okay, Haymitch?"

"As okay as they can be, honey."

I know that Prim isn't really on the phone with me to watch television together, or complain about the musical. She's worried about her sister, and she should be.

But she's apparently decided that having someone here to talk to is the best way to get through it. She makes an injured sound. "Who wrote this, Haymitch? What am I supposed to be singing?"

"About the rustic beauty of life in District Twelve, as far as I can tell."

"And who wrote it? Haymitch, it says Julian Day, but he was so nice to me last year!"

"Oh, right, that one. He's sponsoring your sister and made sure to tell me to say hello to you."

Silence.

Then, "Oh... flowers."

"Flowers?"

"Flowers! She's dancing in flowers." Her voice becomes actively pained. "Haymitch, I think they're supposed to be primroses."

I laugh.

"You just wait! You're not on yet. You wait until you're dancing around up there. I bet you have to sing something sappy about how you never should have started drinking, and it's all so painful." She makes a disgusted sound, and I can almost see her wrinkling her nose. "I want bees to come out and sting her. Or, better yet, mosquitoes. Everyone takes bees seriously. I want her to be itchy and swollen up, and scratching in places Mom would yell at me for."

I laugh. "Right there with you. Though I doubt the actress would appreciate it."

"Oh, I don't mean for real to do that to that poor girl. It's not her fault. Do people really see me like that, Haymitch? Like I'm... Oh... I'm dancing with a butterfly! I'm dancing with a butterfly!"

"On the plus side, this has to be almost over. You've had time to dance the whole length of the Seam and most of the way back."

"A butterfly, Haymitch. A giant one."

"I see it, honey."

She's quiet for a little bit, though I can hear occasional whimpers as the dance moves through its climax. When the character starts singing again -- "Here in my home... I never will roam..." -- the real Prim makes a strangled, screaming sound. "I'd love to roam. Everyone wants to roam. Why wouldn't I ever want to see anything but Twelve? This whole song doesn't even make sense. You tell Julian that he better fix that."

"Since when did I become the official Everdeen message bearer to the various smitten boys in your lives?"

"No one is smitten."

On the screen, her character twirls, and flowers bloom at her feet while little birdies twitter in the trees. This, at least, is the climax of the number, and she disappears into the sick old woman's house.

I feel a tap on my shoulder, and a Capitol attendant says, "The phones aren't for personal calls, and you know it."

I gesture that I understand, and tell Prim that she should get some sleep anyway. She makes a frustrated sound of some sort, then hangs up.

I hang up, and momentarily want to be there at the Everdeens', no Games going on, just watching this insane musical and laughing about the butterfly. I doubt Katniss will be in a laughing mood when we pull her out of the arena, so I probably won't even tell her about it, but I imagine her into the scene, cuddled up with Peeta, groaning elaborately at Bellona Baynes's overdone iciness while Peeta cringes at the sappy ballad his actor has just entered singing, as he is the first to arrive for the Reaping and he "has a feeling" that it's him and just wants to "love that one girl" before he dies.

They'd hate it. I hate it, too, but I want them here with me, so we can hate it together. Johanna and Finnick and Mags and Seeder and Chaff, too. Hell, Berenice can come. Peeta'd want her there. She'll be as sober as she can be, and she can finger paint the television. I decide to stop before I imagine us into breaking the overcrowding codes. I'm sure Thread has ways to control imaginary crowds.

The music picks up, and the raucous Reaping scene begins with a duet between Effie and me, as she scolds me for being a drunk, and tells me there's more to me, and I should know it, and I tell her to stop nagging, because a drunk is all I am. Prim's prediction turns out to be prescient on this count, and I feel her embarrassment. It ends with a balletic dive from the stage. This gets sarcastic applause from the mentors in One and Two. Toffy, who's managed to drag himself out of bed somehow (Harris and Jack have both gone in), rolls his eyes.

I go to get something to eat, but as I pass the lift, the door opens, and Plutarch Heavensbee looks out at me. He nods into the elevator, and I go in with him. We go back up to the penthouse. The worker ant techs have changed shifts, but they don't look any different. Other than Plutarch, the Gamemakers aren't there.

"Enjoying the show?" Plutarch asks. "Star-Crossed, I mean. It was quite a sensation. Fulvia had a hand in it."

"Never saw anything like that butterfly dance back in District Twelve," I say.

He puffs up. "Yes, that was my nephew's choreography. And the music for the whole thing was written by young Julian Day, though Fulvia adjusted the lyrics a bit, to fit the images we want to project."

"How do you mean?"

"Well, among other things, he seems to have envisioned Primrose as some kind of comic relief, instead of the healer most of the country sees her as. She was making jokes every other minute. Also, he wanted to have her be frightened. The original opening number was a nightmare sequence, if you can imagine it."

"Sounds like the way things are."

He gives me an irritated squint. "District Twelve is the seat of the rebellion, and Katniss herself is the symbol of it. We need people to see both as brave and serious."

"Is that why she added the crap about me and Effie and the drinking?"

"No, that was native to the original libretto, and there are some of your friends who consider it native to your life. I believe Day lifted it from an interview with Finnick Odair, when he'd been sidetracked into talking about you." If Finnick weren't in mortal danger, I'd probably consider killing him, if this is true. "Those who are sympathetic to you imagine that you drink because you're miserable, instead of because you're a drunk. It helps us if they at least see you as sympathetic, so Fulvia left it alone." He purses his lips, clearly annoyed. "Julian was very taken with District Twelve, as I understand it." He looks like this is something he will never particularly understand. "We need to talk in my office." He opens the door and practically pushes me in. Jack Anderson is in a chair, snoring. Harris is making a superhuman effort to keep his eyes open, and the District Three stylist, Nerilla, is curled up under the window.

"One more," Plutarch says and disappears.

"One more?"

"Toffy," Harris says, and yawns. "Guess he'll just order him up here. He can do that."

Sure enough, five minutes later, Toffy is marched in. Plutarch calls for a pot of coffee.

"Don't you need to be babysitting your arena?" Jack asks. "It might start raining blood on my tributes, or gassing Harris's."

"They're going to have to figure the arena out," Plutarch says brusquely. "It's a relatively simple design, and I believe Wiress already has it, though she seems to have trouble making herself understood without Beetee fully conscious. Once they figure it out, they'll have no problem avoiding the traps until the hovercraft arrives."

"Which is when, exactly?" Toffy asks.

"They're going full out. I expect that they'll be able to get in on the third day of the Games."

I force myself not to try and strangle him. "You expect?"

"I wondered why no one had asked me about the arena before our meeting," Plutarch says. "Apparently, some false intelligence was floating around about the South Seas, and it made its way through the spy network to their strategic command. Luckily, our friends weren't foolish enough to go in without surveillance, and they found half of the Panem Navy patrolling the coordinates that had been leaked."

"Panem has a Navy?" Harris asks, and I can almost see the wheels in his head turning. I think in District Four, they assumed that, if they got past the boundary mines, they'd be clear in the ocean.

Plutarch looks chagrined. "Well... let's say that half the Navy is not a particularly dire threat, unless you're trying to do something sneaky. The point is, they were testing for a leak. They'd have found one if a commander called Boggs had not been particularly alert. That said, the rescue craft is significantly off course."

I put my hand to my head. Of course. That short a flight, the damned arena is probably closer to the Capitol than it is to anywhere else. They build the arenas thinking of potential tourists these days. I can't believe I swallowed the false intelligence. After Jo's arena, I doubt they even considered traveling again. "And let me guess," I say. "It's well defended against out-district elements."

"Of course it is." Plutarch sighs. "Now, before we are further derailed, we have a fairly serious problem. I was able to work with Beetee to get electrical equipment into the arena for him, but they will have to time it carefully. I'd initially worked with Seeder and Cecelia on the timing, and arranged to send them particular items to let them know the schedule."

This sinks in, and I grimace. "Perfect." I shake my head. "I understand that you couldn't tell me much this year, not with the cameras running, but are you telling me that you didn't manage to tell them?"

"Given your choices regarding the information given to the Mockingjay, I can't see where your moral high ground is." He sighs. "At any rate, we will need to communicate with them. We need to tell them which day, and whether they will be lifted at noon or midnight."

"Why noon or midnight?"

"Isn't it obvious?" Plutarch asks, and doesn’t clarify. I hope Beetee has this piece of information. "So we need to send something to suggest how many days away the rescue is, and then which hour it will be at. It can't be anything that looks suspicious. Haymitch, you've always had success at sending Katniss Everdeen messages…"

"I sent her messages that she could read because she knew what she was looking for. Thanks to someone deciding I could tell her either everything or nothing at all, she has no idea that she's looking for a rescue."

"Could you use the same tactics with Finnick and Beetee? They're both aware of the endgame."

I'm about to start arguing, mostly for the sake of arguing, but I think it may be possible, at least with Finnick. Beetee is hopeless about deviating from his plans, once he's made them. They're going to have to meet up soon, anyway. "Let me think," I say.

The others start to get details about the rescue, and about our own departure from the Capitol. I have some impression that Katniss's preps are brought up, but I don't know for sure. I comb through my brains for anything that would make sense to Finnick, and that we can get our hands on. I think about watches, but that would be too obvious, and I've never seen one in the book. No calendars. They might believe me sending a book as a gag gift, but since I couldn't touch it, I couldn't guarantee a message would get through.

I glance over at Jack, who looks back blankly. He's got his notebook open, but all he's doing is doodling mockingjays on it. His pen shifts, and he draws a prettily curled feather.

Feather.

I think of feathers, drawn along the edges of bits of paper, collected up to be brought back to Danny.

Bread recipes. One for each district.

It's not much, but maybe, if they know we're trying for a message, they'll get it.

"Bread," I say.

Plutarch stops talking. "What?"

"Bread. District Three has little bites that you break off of it. Send twelve or twenty-four. Third day, too."

"Will they even think to look at that?" Plutarch asks. "I mean… bread. It's a common arena gift."

"Send Finnick a loaf tomorrow morning. See if he takes a good look at it. If he doesn’t, I'll think of something else."

This is a half-baked plan -- so to speak -- that could go wrong a hundred ways, not the least of which would be that none of them can really be expected to figure it out. "Wouldn't it make more sense to code messages with gifts? Don't you have anyone on the supply ship?"

"I have two. But gifts go through a lot of hands, Haymitch."

I bite my lip. "District Four bread has seaweed in it. There are… swirls and things on the crust. Can you use my old code?"

"That's pretty complicated…"

"Just put the signs for 'day' and 'hour' and 'bread.'" I draw them quickly.

Plutarch takes it with some trepidation, then turns decisively to address everyone. "We will, of course, also need to consider our evacuation of the Viewing Center more carefully than we have. It will need to be simultaneous with the break from the arena, or we risk sabotaging one or the other. I have a craft of my own, suitable to get us to a rendezvous point which is, in fact, an island, where we will regroup with the tributes from the arena. There is a fully equipped medical hovercraft waiting for us there, in case of injuries."

"So, what's the plan for our evacuation?" Jack asks.

"On screen, you will see Beetee working with the wire he has been provided. Ignore whatever he claims to be using it for. Come to the roof in the hour before -- one at a time. Cause no alarm. Just start calling in your spellers and escorts."

"What about Effie?" I ask. "If we disappear, they'll grab her for sure. I want her with us when we go."

"Effie Trinket is a Capitol citizen, and not part of this business. Snow knows he has no reason to mistreat her."

"Except to get us to make a mistake!" I pace across the room. "And what about Portia? They've already arranged an accident for Cinna, and she's locked up in the Justice Building. Effie's trying to get her out --"

"Then Effie will need to succeed. There is no way we'll be able to manage a jailbreak at the same time."

"So you want Effie to stick her neck out, and then you're going to leave her here?"

"Where, precisely, do you think she'd rather be? Or do you suggest we remove her from her home against her will? Possibly drug her and re-educate her?"

I don't look at him. I don't think Effie needs re-educating, I just think she needs to get rid of the re-education she has. But Plutarch thinks he's the only one who can beat it. "And Peeta's preps? You said Fulvia's taking care of Katniss's."

Plutarch glowers at me. "Who else do you want me to bring along, Haymitch? Those children you visited, maybe? Or the young couple who want you to save Katniss and Peeta? Perhaps Julian Day? Snow's granddaughter, Prisca? Maybe we should bring Snow himself along, while we're at it. Or we could just airlift the entire population of the Capitol out, and they can all start over somewhere else."

"I'm talking about people in the line of fire."

"And I am talking about an already delicate operation that cannot absorb more complications. If Effie isn't able to sponsor Portia successfully, she will most likely be deported to District Three, much of which is in rebel hands. As to the beauticians and the medic on Peeta's prep team, I hardly think Snow will concern himself with them. They're not important, in the grand scheme. I wouldn't trouble Katniss's team if Cinna hadn't explicitly requested it."

"And our Avox, Darius? He's Katniss's friend."

Plutarch looks at me like I'm something nasty he's found on his shoe. "I sometimes wonder, Haymitch, how dedicated you are to this." I clench my fists against my side to keep from hitting him, but let him go on. "This isn't about keeping up your social connections in the Capitol. We'll all be losing people. I have a family myself. I'm sure that my nephew's career will be destroyed. My apprentice Gamemakers will be questioned harshly. Fulvia's brother is in debtors' prison, and will almost certainly never be released. We can't rescue everyone. We don't have the resources. I arranged to make sure Peeta Mellark remains alive, and you've seen what that has cost so far. How many more will you sacrifice to remove people who are not, in all likelihood, in mortal danger?"

I don't say anything. There's no argument with this on a logical level. But I decide that even if I have to take a page out of Katniss's book and drug Effie with sleep syrup, she and Portia will be on the rooftop with me, and if Plutarch doesn't put her on his transport, I'll leave Plutarch behind and learn to fly the thing myself.

Having decided this, I feel considerably better.

Plutarch lays out the rest of his delicate choreography, which will undoubtedly fail to happen as planned, then releases us, saying obscurely that, given the positions of the tributes, nothing of consequence will happen until six, and we should get some sleep while we can. He instructs us to go down separately, as it would be obvious if we all arrived in a pack.

Effie has returned to my station when I get back, though she's asleep with her head on the table beside the phone. I wake her up. Her wig is slightly askew, but I can't see the hair under it. "Go back to bed, Effie," I say.

"You left the phone unattended," she says, straightening the wig and looking at me crossly.

"Sorry. Got called in by the Gamemakers. Well, Plutarch Heavensbee, anyway. He says our bank account is pretty low. And he won't send Katniss clothes."

Effie makes a disgusted little sound. "Really. The poor girl is nearly naked in there. Did any sponsors call while I was sleeping?"

"The only call I got was from Prim."

"Oh. She's a sweet thing, isn't she?" Effie starts going through our donations on the boards, probably trying to make them add up to a tee shirt. "I do like her when I go visit Twelve."

"Effie, do you ever think of living someplace like Twelve?"

Her hand flutters over her heart, and she says, possibly sarcastically, "Haymitch, what are you proposing?"

"Nothing. Just wondering."

She considers it. "I can't see why I'd give up everything I have. My work is here, such as it is. And I have to admit, I'd be very uncomfortable if everyone could see my real hair. I'd feel as naked as Katniss must!"

I consider pressing further, to see if she'd really object to being kidnapped. There was a time she would have come with me, before they took her away, before she became a model Capitol citizen. It wouldn't have been a kidnapping, either. She actually told me once that she'd "theoretically" not mind being in Twelve with me at all. It was the closest we came to talking about a future together. I didn't believe her then, and now… now, I don't know what she'd think of it at all.

Besides, I'm pretty sure she knows about Hazelle, though she may ascribe it more importance than it actually has. Instead of pressing on, I tell her to get more sleep, and she tells me to get some, and we argue about who will be spelling who until we decide to just stay up together and watch the musical.

Fulvia apparently stopped re-writing before the end, because the last half hour is actually watchable, and the "Nightlock" number, with six separate plots being sung around the image of Katniss offering up the berries, is kind of terrifying. Peeta is singing about his death wish, and Katniss about how she refuses to live without him. I am contemplating suicide (I'm not really following why in this instance, but I'm a little uncomfortable to find out just how transparent that is to a complete stranger), and Effie is trying to sing me out of it. Ruth and Dannel -- who are best friends in the play, though in real life, until the Reaping, they hadn't spoken for years -- are singing out their mutual grief, while Mirrem sings wistfully about having his children, but never his heart. The "cousins" are singing about how life would be without family, and Prim has a haunting song about becoming an only child. If I didn't know who these people were in real life, and exactly how they must be feeling about this, I'd probably be impressed.

At about a quarter to six, the show ends, and I go to sleep with my head on the table until the anthem plays, announcing the start of live coverage fifteen minutes later. They don't waste time with recaps or studio analysis, because Chaff and Earl have woken up to a nightmare.

I have seen a lot of mutts in the last twenty-five years, and none of them inspire warm feelings in me, but this thing has to be the largest mutt I've ever seen. Leontius cheerfully describes it as another "literary" mutt, this one a dragon. Personally, I think it looks like pictures of dinosaurs I've seen, but I'll go with dragon if that's what Claudius wants to call it. It's a huge, bird-like thing, with sharp claws and a tearing beak.

And it breathes fire.

The Muttation Appreciation Society must be going crazy for this thing.

It seems to have woken up just as coverage began, giving a flaming roar and taking to the skies above Chaff and Earl's camp. They'd have been flash-fried if Chaff hadn't been awake and keeping watch. He grabs Earl and doesn't even wait for him to wake up before dragging him to cover under the heavy forest canopy.

"This cover won't last!" he yells, pulling Earl up a hill. "The thing can burn the canopy away."

"The hell..." Earl manages, panting. He stops running and breathes heavily, hands on his knees. "I can't just keep running, Chaff. Neither can you."

"You have a weapon?"

Earl shakes his head. "We can come up with something. Let's break another tree. Spear." He mimes throwing one.

Chaff obviously has his doubts, but neither of them is in any shape to run forever. So he finds a thin tree, and between them, they manage to snap it in two, leaving a sharp wooden point. Water gushes from the stump, then peters out.

"You take it," he says. "I only have one hand -- that thing's too heavy to work without balance." He pries one of the sharp splinters off the side of the stump, using his foot for counter pressure, and wields it like a knife. It was his smart hand he lost, but he's made himself learn to compensate.

Earl has the spear balanced nicely. He was a spear-man in his Games, if I recall. As he watches, the leaves above them go up in flames, and sharp talons descend. Chaff swings with his knife, drawing blood. Earl pokes at the creature with the makeshift spear, but can't get a clear throw.

"If we were out on the beach," he says, "I could hit him from the ground."

"And he could broil us while you're trying!"

Earl considers this. "Right. Yeah. Don't need to slay the dragon. Just keep him off us. Except that we can't do that if it's alive, so maybe we better slay it."

"Oh!" Chaff exclaims in disgust. "Was it your Games where you were slaying half the arena just to keep it off you?"

"There were a lot of mutts!"

"And you went out hunting them. You were crazy. Crazy's going to get us both killed."

"You have a better idea?"

Chaff grumbles, then says, "Fine. The beach. But stick close to the trees."

They make a run for it. The dragon follows them.

Once they reach the beach, Earl hurls the spear at the creature... and misses. The dragon burns it to a stick of ash.

Chaff grabs his arm and says, "Come on. We've got to get somewhere, fast."

As if to punctuate, a jet of flame comes at them. They dive for the trees. Earl starts to head east.

Chaff grabs him. "No! Just before our friend woke up, I heard something over there. Buzzing. I got close. There were tracker jacker nests in the trees."

Earl looks west, toward where the dragon is systematically burning down lines of trees. "Well," he says, "we can't go the other way. I'll try not to upset the bees."

"Wasps."

"Whatever. Maybe our friend will bake them for us. Think we could eat them?" Earl sets off at a jog, his earlier weariness absorbed in the rush of adrenaline. Chaff follows, looking nervously up at the trees. There are definitely nests up there, but I don't see any tracker jackers crawling on them. They're asleep.

The dragon comes to the edge of the wood, then, for no reason I can see, turns around and goes back to its lair.

"What an exciting chase to wake up to!" Leontius Bidwell, Claudius's early morning replacement, says as we return to the studio. "Welcome back to the Seventy-Fifth Annual Hunger Games!"

He goes on to re-cap yesterday's events, and again, they try for interviews in the street. They manage to scare up people who claim these are the best games ever, and they're terribly excited, but I can't help noticing that they keep looking nervously off-camera. I wonder who's been brought along to make sure they give the right answers.

On my screens, I can see that Katniss and Peeta are still sleeping. They've both been digging at their rashes. So has Finnick, who I can see on Harris's screen, though he hasn't been doing it in his sleep. I don't think he's slept at all, though he's nodding groggily as he weaves a basket to keep himself awake.

Coverage shows the Careers, now being guarded by Cashmere, sleeping peacefully. Cashmere is singing quietly to herself, the one song of hers that almost reached the level of a hit (a brainless little dance tune that had a quick run in the clubs during the Games the year it was out).

Wiress is awake in Johanna's camp, muttering "Tick-tock, tick-tock," and singing "Hickory Dickory Dock." She watches the smoke rise from the fires where Chaff and Earl were, and sings, "The clock struck four, the mouse said no more," then lets her voice trail off, whispering, "Tick-tock."

In her tree, Faraday Sykes is muttering in her sleep.

Coverage returns to the studio, where Leontius has invited in several muttation experts to talk about the dragon.

I fall asleep at the table, and don't wake up until nine, when there is a lot of noise in the room. A hot geyser has just erupted in the middle of the Careers' camp. Gloss gets a nasty burn, and they're lucky that's all it is. The whole area is filled with them, and everywhere they try to go, it seems there are walls of hot water shooting up around them. Somehow, they manage to dodge them, running a little bit to the south. Leontius shows this on the map.

I frown at it, and think "Tick-tock." The dragon, at six in the morning. At the base of the circle. Right before the dragon, Chaff heard tracker jackers in the area where he and Earl are now. The blood rain last night, followed by the fog, followed by the monkeys, as Katniss's group worked its way around the edge of the circle. And now, nine o'clock, and geysers.

By luck, Earl and Chaff, and now the Careers, have moved backward.

In the opposite direction from the way the disasters are moving.

"What is it, Haymitch?" Harris asks beside me.

I switch my screen to show the main broadcast, where the map is still hanging, then hold up my watch. "Notice anything?" I ask.

Harris swears under his breath.

Tick-tock.

Yeah, Plutarch -- very easy once you figure it out. Except that there's nowhere else to go, and if you escape one horror, there's a good chance of running into another.

I don't have time to think about it much, because Katniss wakes up around nine-fifteen and demands that I send her ointment for her skin. Her exact words are, "Hey, Haymitch, if you're not too drunk, we could use a little something for our skin!" This gets a laugh in the room, including from me, largely because she has so easily expanded the word "we" to include Finnick, and seems not to even have noticed that she's done so. I send the order to Plutarch. Luckily, the sponsor calls have been coming in while I was sleeping.

The ointment is the regular stocks, so Plutarch just has it dropped. Katniss and Finnick smear it on, then, because they are both still children no matter what they think, decide to scare Peeta with their painted faces. The phones start ringing, and don't stop.

Plutarch drops the bread a few minutes later. Finnick examines it very closely, and obviously notices the designs. They don't actually tell him anything.

By ten, I'm wondering what the next disaster will be. Sure enough, we start to hear a rushing sound. The camera goes to Faraday Sykes, who has been gathering fruit from high in the trees. She frowns, then screams and tries to scramble down from her perch, to get somewhere she can run.

The camera shows the spread of the woods. From the top of the hill, there is a huge wave cresting. I have no idea where it's coming from -- most likely the clockwork, so to speak, under the arena.

It crashes down, taking everything along with it. Faraday is thrown high into the sky as it hits her tree, and falls down into the canopy, skewered on a treetop. The wave rolls over her.

The cannon fires.

We get a long dissertation from Leontius about exactly how the wave worked, and a brief mention of Faraday's victory long ago.

When we return to the arena, Katniss, Finnick, and Peeta are all gathering their things, which were nearly dragged out to sea. Well, out to small, shallow lake, anyway. Katniss retrieves her mockingjay pin, thankfully, but lets her ruined clothes sink. She suddenly stops and moves slowly back to the boys, signaling them to fade into the jungle.

"There," she says, pointing her chin toward a spot down the beach. The camera shows it from a vantage point close to her. All they'll be able to see are three bloody figures staggering up the beach quite a ways away.

"Who is that?" Peeta asks. "Or what? Muttations?"

Katniss draws her bow, and I will her not to fire. She's too far for a clean shot, but this particular alliance is going to be prickly enough without it starting that way.

I look at Harris's screen, which shows Finnick.

On the main screen, one of the red figures starts dancing around in an animated, angry way.

Finnick laughs and runs out onto the beach.

"Johanna!" he calls.

A moment later, our team is together.
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Comments
From: (Anonymous) Date: June 24th, 2015 05:15 pm (UTC) (Link)

Star-Crossed

Suzanne Collins has never hinted that Fulvia Cardew and Alma Coin are related. Nonetheless, they think exactly they same. How did Fulvia, with her tin ear for how people actually think, talk herself into becoming "technical advisor" for Julian's musical? Especially since, AFAIK, Fulvia has never set foot in Twelve?

Now there is a real-life Broadway musical about _The Hunger Games_ at some stage of production. Have you heard anything about it? How much is its libretto like your story line for "Star-Crossed"?

Real-Prim and real-Haymitch reacting to what their "Star-Crossed" counterparts are doing, still cracks me up.

-- Tom
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 25th, 2015 02:38 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Star-Crossed

Now there is a real-life Broadway musical about _The Hunger Games_ at some stage of production

Heh, the problem with parodying pop culture is that you can never keep up. :D I'll be curious, because, while played here for laughs and for the uncomfortable reactions of real people to seeing themselves singing and dancing out feelings that they may or may not have, the staging of the real one (unedited by Fulvia) wouldn't actually be a bad approach.

As to Fulvia? Plutarch got her a job in cultural affairs, and finagled her into the censors' bureau so she could do... pretty much what she did. His ear's pretty tinny, too.

Edited at 2015-06-25 02:42 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous) Date: June 25th, 2015 02:53 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Star-Crossed

I believe it was Queen Bellatrix who mentioned the Broadway musical, some months ago. Maybe she has an update?
From: queen_bellatrix Date: June 25th, 2015 09:12 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Star-Crossed

Proper chapter comment tomorrow, but I just happened to see this and naw, wasn't me who mentioned a musical; sorry! It will be interesting, though, if for no other reason than seeing how HG and its impact is perceived by people with their finger very much on the pulse of pop culture.
From: (Anonymous) Date: June 25th, 2015 05:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
A Hunger games Broadway musical was confirmed in November 2014 and will be a musical set to hit theatres in June 2016 and apparently will add extra layers to the story. As far as I'm concerned you've already added more than enough extra layers but IMO it will be interesting to see what if any they add to canon. I'm hoping for the Viewing center or some canonical variation of hopefully featuring chaff seeder Cecelia Jo etc


fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 26th, 2015 12:42 am (UTC) (Link)
I figure, everyone gets to add whatever layers they want when they do a derivative piece (though I wish the people who got paid for it would stop pretending that their layers are more valid than other people's layers).

I went online and only found info from November on the West End show (some kind of specialty theater being built). It could be interesting.

Or it could be Carrie, which is a scary thought...
From: (Anonymous) Date: June 28th, 2015 07:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
I really liked the talk between Haymitch and Prim the first time. I thought the information you added was great. I loved the callback to Haymitch's code. It makes sense within the story because we know that Finnick grabbed the loaves "possessively" according to Katniss and that would give him enough time to see if something had been written to him. The only thing I wasn't quite sure of is the rhythm of the sentences about the ointment. In the original version "the phones don't stop ringing" is right after Katniss and Finnick scare Peeta with their faces. Now the line about Plutarch interrupts the flow. I can see why you put it there, I'm not sure where else you would put it, but it kind of feels like it interrupts the flow.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 28th, 2015 08:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, I was thinking that, too. I'll see what I can do.
From: queen_bellatrix Date: June 29th, 2015 06:36 am (UTC) (Link)

A few more catches, better late than never

Proper comment to come in a bit, because the catches and my continuity blathering broke the comment limit.:d Gaaah, sorry these took so long, but the doc I was keeping them in got deleted and it took me a while to find them again.

we assured, it is about to change everything. First, just have a missing are. Second, I'm a bit confused with the change everything phrase. Are they saying that the rule change, which came about because of Twelve, is about to change everything? Or that everything is about to change in the district. If the former, I pity the fool who said that live, because with Snow's insistence on a normal games with no rule aborations, he is going to be pissed. If the latter, I think some things may've gotten a bit muddled in the editing?

the single light onstage Not sure if there needs to be a to before the the there?

I hear someone say Think there may be some extra spaces just before this, because IE is doing very odd things with the number of line breaks here.

draws in breath at a hiss Not sure if this should have been something like Prim draws in a breath that's a hiss, or if there was some other odd editing thing here?

wrote this Haymitch Just missing a comma before Haymitch, unless you kept it out for effect?

for real to do to that poor girl I'm still not as familiar as I should be with Twelve syntax, so I'm not sure if this is syntax or an odd editing holdover, but I thought I'd mention because I'm guessing the latter; that phrase feels off, though I can't put my finger on why.

know it and I Think you're missing a comma after it?

yawns. Guess he'll just Just missing the opening quote before guess.

sent her message that Just need message to be messages.

couldn't touch it, I could guarantee Just need that second could to be couldn't.

do suggest we remove Just need a you before suggest.

I decided that even if I Just need to change the tense of decided.

the phone attended Just need to add the un to attended.

Claudius cheerfully descirbes For the rest of this chapter, you have Leontius as the announcer; so unless Claudius left during the chase, wouldn't the Claudius here be Leontius?

and does even wait for Just need the does to be doesn't.

can burn the canopy Am a bit confused here as to whether Chaff is saying that the attack won't last, or if it's the respite they're using to run he's talking about. If it's the former, it'd be can't burn etc. etc., but if it's the latter, all's good.

year it was out. Just missing the closing parenthesis.

phones start ringing don't stop ringing until Not sure if you just need an and there or if you had these two phrases in and one just didn't get deleted in editing.

Just a few continuity things: in TANT, there's a whole conversation between Haymitch and Effie just after Jo's games about Effie "theoretically" living in Twelve, in which she very much doesn't object. I'm not sure, though, if that's an actual continuity gaff or if Haymitch just blocked it because "ever" now means the last five years where Effie's concerned.

Also on the Effie front, and again, I'm not sure how much Haymitch's perceptions about the pills are playing into this, but in your edits to earlier chapters, you have Effie knowing much more about Hazelle than she does in the original, so I'd say she has more than a pretty good idea who he's involved with, though I'd definitely agree with his assertion about ascribing importance. I'm just not sure if that's continuity or Haymitch thinking she may not remember that far back because of the pills.

And then there's the bit where he's telling Plutarch that he knows he couldn't get to him this year but he should've been able to get to the others. Except that Plutarch did get to Haymitch using the tribute train after Cinna requested a meeting and then presumably to Seeder and Cecelia. So unless I'm misreading who the others are, and they're K/P, wouldn't Haymitch e yelling at Plutarch to have used similar ploys with everyone else rather than excusing it?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 30th, 2015 05:12 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: A few more catches, better late than never

Whew, glad I waited; I'd have TOTALLY missed most of those.

I tweaked the continuity issues a little bit, bringing up with Effie that he remembers the conversation, but that (a) it was before and (b) he didn't really believe her then, anyway, or at least told himself that he didn't.

Plutarch didn't give Haymitch a lot of details, though he probably could have on the train, for the same kinds of ridiculous reasons that Haymitch didn't give Katniss the details he did have: Too many people watching, and he might give something away. Haymitch gets this, but can't figure out why the others weren't properly briefed. I changed the line a little bit.
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