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Repost: The Narrow Path, Chapter 6 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Repost: The Narrow Path, Chapter 6
Some expansion of the setting a few adjustments, more about the day Haymitch spent on the farm (for D13 culture).

Chapter Six
Half an hour after Peeta's propo airs, a teenage girl in some kind of low ranking training uniform runs up, breathless. "Soldier Abernathy!"

"Haymitch," I correct her absently, standing up.

She takes a deep breath, then looks up at the clock and seems to be jolted with fresh energy. "I couldn't find you! You aren't on your schedule. Colonel Heavensbee needs you in production. Five minutes ago!" She starts to hyperventilate.

I reach across the desk and put my hand on her shoulder to calm her down. "I'll tell Plutarch I made it difficult for you. He's in the booth?"

"Yes, sir!" She salutes, apparently unable to think of anything else to do.

I hold up my hand in a vague gesture that wants to mean Please don't salute me, call me Soldier, or call me sir right now, because I can't handle it, but comes out more like I'm wiping an invisible blackboard. The girl doesn't even try to interpret it. I grimace and say, "I'll get there. You can… um… do whatever you were doing…"

"Dismissed," Hazelle suggests.

"Oh. Right. You're dismissed." The girl runs off. I look at Hazelle. "Thanks. Never did pick up military speak."

"My brothers and I played rebels and Peacekeepers when I was a kid," she says. "I was always the commanding officer. I was very good at it." She gives me a weak smile. "You know they need to meet about that propo."

"Hazelle, what do you think they're doing to him?"

"I don't know," she says. "And I doubt Plutarch's crew is going to care. Right now, you better do damage control."

I nod. I don't need an explanation. Compared to this, Peeta's first appearance was a friendly greeting.

"Go on," she prods. "I'll try and suffer through the evening alone."

Somehow, I actually smile at this. "I'll talk to you later," I say and head off. I walk quickly, but I don't run, partly because I don't want Plutarch to get the idea that he can make me run (never let a Gamemaker think he can do that), but mostly because I want to give myself time to run through the scenario in my head, so I don't run in with nothing but steam coming out of my ears. I don't want to go in there and pick a fight with Alma Coin right away.

But when I get there, Coin isn't among the irritated group of people waiting for me in the flickering light of the television screens. It's just Plutarch, Fulvia, Gale, Beetee, Cressida and her crew, and Boggs.

It is not a discussion. As soon as I walk in, Plutarch flatly orders us not to bring up the propo with Katniss. "She and Finnick Odair were watching together. She was upset by her own segment. They turned it off. It's a piece of luck."

"She needs to know about it," I say. None of my scenarios involved this discussion.

Plutarch shakes his head sharply. "I managed to convince Coin that Katniss doesn't know a thing about it, and it's going to stay that way."

"Why?"

"Because she was demanding that Katniss immediately appear in the studio and renounce Peeta. Entirely. She wants Katniss to cut him off from the mockingjay deal and hurt him as badly as she can." He shakes his head and wrinkles his nose in unconscious disgust. "It took me ten minutes, but I convinced her that Katniss even knowing about it would be a disaster, and it's better to ignore it than risk that. So as far as we're concerned, it would be a disaster. Are we all clear?"

"I'm clear enough on what you want," I say, "but there's no way in hell I'm not telling Katniss. We just tell her to not tell Coin. I don't think she'll have any problem with that." I think about what Peeta said, about finding out who these people are. I think Katniss already has a pretty good idea.

"We can't be sure she won't break down," Beetee says. "You saw her in the arena when he was hurt. She's not rational about him. She may wish later that she had been, but it's not out of the question that she'd simply…"

Plutarch finishes the sentence by bringing up the image of Katniss pounding on the glass and screaming at the medics after her first Games, accusing them of trying to kill him.

"I don't want to lie to her," Gale says. "But this would really hurt her. And she's already not sure who she trusts, except for Peeta." To his credit, he manages to keep the bitterness in his voice to a minimum.

"It's not going to help her trust issues if we all lie to her," I say.

Gale turns on me. "You're such a hypocrite! You lied to her more than anyone."

"I'm not a hypocrite. I'm a person who's already made this mistake once, and learned from it."

I leave the meeting without giving them an answer. I go straight to the hospital, but Katniss is already asleep. Finnick is awake, and asks me if there's anything new happening. I start to obfuscate, but I see him looking at me steadily. Waiting.

My mind goes back to Hazelle's desk at the jugs. The way she reached for the dial at the end of Katniss's propo.

The way she didn't even have time to turn it off.

There wasn't nearly enough time for Katniss to decide she was too upset to go on, find the remote, and turn the television off. She and Finnick are lying, to test us and see if we're going to lie.

I choose not to. I don't say anything at all. I try to reach Plutarch to warn him, but he's in sleep hours and unreachable.

In the morning, I find myself scheduled for a work detail instead of Command. Plutarch assures me at breakfast that it's because there's nothing on schedule today for Command.

"Yeah, right," I whisper. "I'm sure it has nothing to do with conversations you don't want me having with Katniss."

He looks around nervously, then gives a high, yelping sort of laugh. "Don't be so melodramatic. I'm doing a supply inventory, for goodness' sake! There's just nothing happening."

I raise an eyebrow so he understands that I don't believe him, but there's not much I can do at the moment. An irritated-looking labor supervisor comes to collect me, and I'm packed onto an underground train that eventually rises up onto a cold, gray, flat field topside. Camouflage netting of some kind hangs above it. We're gathering up the last crops of the season. It's harder physical work than I've done since I was a kid, but I haven't completely let myself go, and I can keep up. I take the cue from co-workers and don't complain. At least I'm not breathing in coal dust.

It's an all-day affair, and we have only a thirty minute break for lunch, which was brought along on a truck. Everyone gets water and a cheese sandwich. No one suggests adding any of the fresh root vegetables we've been picking.

The singing starts during this break, and continues through the afternoon. The foreman -- whose voice is almost as good as Glen Everdeen's -- leads the songs, which have lyrics like, "No, no, it ain't work, it ain't work if we're building the world" and "A guy from down the hall dropped it all for old Thirteen." There's also one that involves flying grizzly bears, which seems to be a great favorite. I don't know how that turned up in a place where no one drinks.

Everyone else seems to know the words. Most of them seem to enjoy singing. I try to say that I can't sing because I don't know the words, but this leads to being taught the words and lacking an excuse for the rest of the day. I'm not a threat to anyone's singing career, but my voice isn't too awful, and I guess thinking about the song is better than thinking about how my hands are getting cold and chapped, and how I can't talk to Katniss, and how Peeta and Jo and Annie are in the Capitol.

In fact, I wish they'd just keep singing, because whenever the tune stops, they start complaining about "that Mellark kid," and how he deserves to be shot for doing Snow's bidding. I try to point out that he's probably been worse than shot already, but they all think they would stand up to it better. They'd never break.

I decide it's probably healthier for Peeta if I don't share my opinion that the things he's saying are not entirely Snow's doing. He wouldn't be saying them publicly if it weren't for Snow, but I think he's perfectly sincere -- and completely right -- about not knowing who we're working with or if we can trust them.

The train brings us back as the sun sets, and I stare out the window until the sky disappears. I'm assigned for my daily check-in at the hospital. I'm clean.

"Haymitch?"

I am heading out when I hear Delly Cartwright's voice. I turn around. Her ever-present smile is gone. She has a towel in her hands and she has twisted it so hard that her knuckles have turned white. At some point during the day, she has taken down her braid and let her hair fall in the loose curls she generally wore in Twelve.

"Delly," I say. "Did you need something?"

"I need to talk to you. About Peeta."

I look around. I don't trust anywhere in the hospital not to be bugged. I'm not actually sure where I do trust. I go with an old standby that I've used in the Capitol: camouflage. "Is there someplace a lot of people go in the evening?"

She nods. "There's a promenade on level seven. Nothing to do there, but lots of people from school go anyway, if their work assignments are over."

"Lead the way," I say.

When we get there, I realize I may be the only person over the age of twenty, but I don't care that I'm conspicuous. There are enough people having enough conversations to confuse anyone listening. And I think I'm going to say something that really shouldn't be listened to.

The promenade is a long, wide hallway, half-heartedly decorated with potted plants and terrible art. One painfully sincere painting shows gray-clad farmers looking up at the sun as they work, their faces set with the kind of determination usually reserved for three-year-old baker's children trying to get at a fresh cookie tray. Another shows someone in a uniform from the Dark Days, standing atop a hill and waving a rebel flag, and a third is a portrait of Alma Coin on a balcony with her hand raised, probably her inauguration. Each one could have been painted by a robot.

I wonder if their poetry is as bad. Maybe they liked Fulvia's line until they realized Katniss couldn't say it.

There are study tables and computer kiosks set in alcoves around it, and a few game tables in the middle. I find a chess table and sit down at it with Delly. While I line up the pieces, I say, quietly, "I take it you saw the show last night."

She nods. "What are they doing to him, Haymitch? His hands were shaking. Why haven't we recovered him yet?"

"It's complicated. And it got more complicated when that aired."

She slams a pawn down on the table. "I know. I've been hearing it all day. If they'd gotten him out before, this wouldn't have happened."

"I know."

"He's hurt. I don't know how bad. They didn't show him trying to stand up."

"Did you see him on the news earlier?"

"What?"

"He was out and about in City Center. Got mobbed by fans and 'rescued' by Peacekeepers."

The blood drains from her face and she puts her hand over her mouth. "If he got away from them, they'll kill him."

"Not as long as they can hold him against Katniss."

She catches people looking at us, and again pulls that smile of hers out of nowhere. She finishes setting her pawns and makes the first move. Her voice is weak, though, and her hands are shaking almost as much as Peeta's. "What can I do? I'm the closest thing he has left to his family -- his old family, I mean; I know he has you and Katniss now, too. I can't just sit here and watch him get tortured. Just smile and listen to the people in school saying he deserves to die."

"That's exactly what you're going to do, though," I say. I really don't know what I can have her do, but I have to think of something, before she gets herself in trouble. I look around, make sure no one is paying attention, and say, "Do you remember what he said? About who we're with?" I move a knight.

"Yeah. About whether or not Katniss trusts them."

"I don't. You don't either." This is not a question.

She nods and moves another pawn. "Which makes me wonder why I'm just going to smile a lot."

"Because it's less suspicious. Delly, I want you to find out who they are. I can't think of a better place to do that than in school. Find out what they're being taught. Prim says the history classes are different. "

"Well, there's more revolution and less coal."

"I want to find out what makes this place tick."

"How's that going to help Peeta?"

"I don't know yet," I say. "But it can't hurt if we listen to him, can it? And maybe once you get to know them, you can start to tell them about Peeta. Carefully."

She sighs, then grabs her hair and pulls it around. She starts smiling as she braids it, and waves to a girl who's passing. "Hi, Belva!" she calls. "Did you get that assignment in math?"

The girl comes over and starts chatting, and in a few minutes, I'm drowning in teenagers. Some of them guess that I'm Delly's dad, and she claims I'm a distant cousin, a few times removed. For all I know, she's right. The merchants and the Seam have not been nearly as isolated from each other as either side likes to pretend. Delly is gregarious, smiling and friendly. I realize that this must have been what Peeta was like in public before the Games isolated him. No wonder she's his friend. And no wonder Katniss never approached him earlier. I can't even imagine how she'd react to this kind of press of people.

The kids in Thirteen are surprisingly normal. They chat about who's going out and who's broken up, and how much their teachers hate them. I remember my Games, realizing during training that even the Career kids were perfectly recognizable, just like the kids in school in a lot of ways. This didn't make me like them any better. I did not enjoy the company of most of the kids I went to school with. Later, I realized that even Capitol kids could be completely normal under some circumstances. I guess I shouldn't be surprised to find it in Thirteen.

When we get the lights-out warning, I head back toward my apartment. Dalton restricts his booze quiz to "Dry?" and I assure him that I am.

"Found you something," he says, and, grinning, pushes a tattered paperback book into my hands. "It's definitely not published by Panem in the last seventy-five years."

I look at it. There is a picture of a one-eyed giant holding a boulder on the front. "The Odyssey," I say. "Thanks."

"Oh, you know it?"

"One of my favorites," I say. I think about my book of fairy tales, and about Lacklen telling me to be Odysseus in the arena. This doesn't carry any sting anymore. I point to the giant on the cover. "The main guy, Odysseus, gets out of this scrape by blinding the giant, then sneaking out by hiding under his sheep."

"You don't say!"

"And he says his name is 'Nobody,' so that when the other giants ask who blinded him, the blind giant says, 'Nobody did it!' and they don't help him."

Dalton laughs. "That's something. I like it. And that joke made sense thousands of years ago in a different language?"

"That's what I like about old books," I say. "Everything's different, except the people. I think the Greeks knew people better than anyone."

"You don't think people change?"

"Individual people maybe. People as a whole? If you're waiting for that, you're going to wait a long time."

I try to settle into the book and put aside as much as I can of what's happening in the real world, but watching Odysseus steadily lose his crew as he makes his way home doesn’t exactly comfort me. I find it all too easy to think that one of these days, I'll wander back to Twelve with no one I know left alive. There'll be no Penelope or Telemachus waiting for me there, either.

The lights go out, and I lie awake in the dark long after Dalton starts snoring. I am trying not to think about Peeta. I do believe that they won't kill him as long as he can be used against Katniss, but that's about all I believe they won't do. I try not to imagine Adamaris Brinn cutting a deal for him.

Sleep doesn't seem to be much of an option, so I get up and leave the apartment. I haven't done this during sleep hours before, and I don't know what to expect. The hall outside has pale emergency lighting. There is a small common area with a television a few doors down, and Harriet Peale is there, watching a locally produced show about maximizing efficiency. The host has a weirdly perky attitude about how to squeeze more housework into Reflection time. He is working in family quarters, which I haven't seen before. They look almost like normal homes, though they're very sparse and cramped, like everything else here. The "mess" he's cleaning up seems to be made up of five or six toys that have been left in a corner instead of in their designated box, and a single child's bed that was left unmade.

"I used to do that all the time," Harriet says wistfully. "I got in such trouble for it."

I think of the colossal mess that Hazelle dug me out of in my house in the Victors' Village, and opt not to say anything. The whole thing leaves me with a crazy desire to throw dirty underwear on the floor.

I finally fall asleep on the sofa out here, which is not terribly comfortable. I'm woken up by Plutarch wanting to know if I feel like taking a jaunt out to the ashes of District Twelve today, since Katniss will be filming a propo.

"You're not worried that I'm going to spill the beans?" I ask.

"Er, yes, that. It seems that she and Finnick may have… um…"

"Lied their lips off to test us?"

"You knew?"

"I told you we shouldn't lie to them." I get up. "I better check with Effie to see where I’m supposed to be."

"With Effie?"

"The scheduler. I call it Effie."

"Oh." Plutarch thinks about this for a minute, then apparently decides not to think about it anymore. He shakes his head and says, "That's why I woke you early. Do you want to be scheduled with us for Twelve or not?"

"I'm surprised I get a choice."

"Well, you're not on-camera talent, and we're not expecting to get into any tussles that you'll need to get her out of, so it's not really necessary. I just thought you might like to go."

"Yeah, I can't wait to smell the rotting bodies of people I know."

"I -- "

"No, sorry. I just… unless there's a stash of white liquor there, I'm not going. I can't handle Twelve without a bottle of something."

Plutarch sighs. "I'm sorry, Haymitch. It was just an idea."

"Thanks, but no. I'll go pull radishes and sing about flying bears."

"Is there anything you want from your house?"

"There's a painting on the wall," I say. "Katniss and me. Peeta did it. I could stand that. It's above the sofa. And…" I think about asking for my dictionary and my parents' quilt, but I don't want to explain where they're hidden. "If you can find any of my books, I'd like them," I say, not expecting much.

He leaves. I don't end up scheduled on the farm. Instead, I'm downstairs with Beetee in Special Weaponry all day. We go over some of the more effective improvised weapons in the arenas we've observed over the years. Beetee's trying to work out something that would approximate Finnick's net and trident. All that makes me think of these days is Rue. And, as I point out, Snow already seems to understand the concept. He trapped people in a hospital, then dropped a bomb on them.

"I suppose it's not useful in hot combat, anyway," he says. "Too much planning."

"I doubt they understand the idea of 'too much planning' around here."

Beetee grins. "You've noticed that, have you? I don't think Thirteen would have had a single victor. It's too messy in there."

"Oh, I think they can fight dirty if they need to."

"Maybe. But not in one on one fights. Eno would rip their throats out and call it a day before they finished making a plan."

I think about this. "Is she working for Snow now? Does he have any victors on his side? Voluntarily, I mean."

"Not that I've heard of. There may be a couple in Two, if they didn't die getting out of the Viewing Center. Maybe one of the ones from Nine. But Enobaria's useless in planning, if she's on his side at all, which I doubt."

"You do?"

"Give me a break, Haymitch. Do you really think there aren't a lot of guys in the Capitol with a biting fetish? She's turned out almost as much as Finnick. Personally, I think we should recruit her to assassinate Snow. She'd have fun."

"She'd turn on us the second his heart stopped beating. Maybe before."

"Mm. Probably." He looks down at a rough sketch he's been making of an electrical net. "I wonder if it even occurred to Snow that he's been gathering up a trained force of killers and making them hate him. It would have been a lot smarter for him -- and ultimately cheaper -- to actually pamper us like he promised to."

"It would have been smarter and cheaper to make a more reasonable surrender treaty in the first place."

Eventually, we move on to the airtime assaults. Beetee is sure he's close to a breakthrough that will let him interrupt broadcasts in the Capitol itself. He tries to explain it to me, but he's never been any good at verbalizing his ideas to anyone other than Wiress.

After lunch, I'm scheduled for training. It's the first time this has appeared on my itinerary, and I'm half afraid that I'll end up doing laps with a bunch of kids. Instead, it turns out to be weapons training. Not the one-on-one stuff I learned for the Games, but education about bombs and defenses. It takes the rest of the afternoon, and I'm just finishing up when the transport gets back from Twelve. Katniss looks put out about something and doesn't show up for dinner (Prim says she's sleeping). Plutarch is delighted with whatever she did today. Gale may well have eaten a box of rusty nails at some point, judging by his expression.

After dinner, Plutarch asks if he can see me. I follow him to a little alcove with a work table in it.

"How did it go?" I ask.

"Great. She sang. Literally sang."

This surprises me. "What happened after that? She's sleeping through dinner now."

"No idea. Some kind of fight with Gale." He makes an impatient motion with his hand. "Haymitch, I need to tell you something."

"What?"

"The Capitol has obviously been sending people into the houses in Victors' Village."

"What do you mean?"

"There's a floorboard up in your living room. I'm guessing they took your books."

"I have more than one stash," I say. "The ones in the living room weren't very important. I -- "

"Haymitch."

"What?" I ask. "What else?"

"They slashed the painting you wanted. Slashed it and… befouled it."

I stand there, blinking in the dim light, not processing this. "They did… what?"

"I'm sorry. I wish they hadn't. I know what it must have meant to you. I could see that it was a beautiful piece."

I shake my head. "Did you bring it? Can it be fixed?"

"Haymitch, it's gone."

"Peeta made that."

"I know."

I can't think of a single thing to say that doesn't sound absurd. There are more than eight thousand people dead in District Twelve. Mourning a painting seems selfish.

I go back to my apartment to mourn it. When Dalton asks what's wrong, I don't tell him. I don't want him to offer to paint some lopsided, clumsy replacement. I find Hazelle and try telling her. She remembers the painting, at least. But it's not hers, and her sympathy is exactly like Plutarch's.

I go back to the apartment. Look at pictures of Effie. I imagine her saying, Oh, that's an awful thing! That was Peeta's painting! Why would anyone do something like that?

Of course, these days she'd probably find a way to cap it off by saying something horrible that comes out completely wrong, but I'm used to that from her, and I don't pay attention to it anymore. Just before lights out, I check the digital archives to see if there are any pictures of Katniss and me. Or of Peeta and me. There's just one, taken at the celebration after the Games, where we're all at the Undersees'. I'm glowering at a glass while they stare awkwardly at the camera. I look at this for a long time.

"Are you even going to tell me part of what's wrong?" Dalton asks.

I turn off the computer. "I want my kids," I say. I don't explain, and don't wait for him to ask me to.

The next morning, Katniss is nowhere to be found, certainly nowhere that Wall-Effie thinks she is. I finally go to production and help Plutarch pick out good shots from yesterday. I listen to her singing the old rebel song, "The Hanging Tree." Glen used to sing it all the time. I think the Seam kids sang it during the tussles that sprang up after my Games, the fights with Beckett over her little power games. It never went further than pranks. I remember that Kay Donner was upset about that. Maysilee would have fumed. I ignored it for the most part and got Danny to ignore it, so we'd be free to work on the real rebellion, but for a lot of the town, I guess it was something of a glorious revolution.

Given the whippings, the time spent in the stocks, and the hangings, I guess I can forgive them for wanting to make it more significant.

I'm surprised Ruth let Glen sing that song around the girls. Under Beckett, it would have been cause for a flogging, and Cray was Beckett's second in command. You never knew when he might decide to play by her rules.

But Katniss learned it somewhere, and Glen's the only one I can think of who'd have taught it to her.

There's a lot of discussion of the segment. Everyone loves it. Cressida wants to do an extended propo with it. But it can't be cut down into shorter parts, which means it's less likely to make it through an uninterrupted airing. They finally decide to put together the film later, as part of an extended documentary, which, they optimistically announce, will be aired after the war has been won.

We stick with shorter images. Gale talking about the bombing. Katniss in her house. The two of them chatting on a rock in the woods (there are a few sound bites they can find for separate propos). Most important -- and Beetee decides to air it first if we can break into the Capitol -- a shot of Katniss, looking weary and sad, addressing Peeta directly from the remains of the bakery. I wonder what he'll make of it, if he sees it.

Finnick joins us for the afternoon and puts the voiceovers on a few more "We remember" propos, made particularly short, because Beetee is expecting an all-out duel, and we may not be able to hold on to any given broadcast for a long time.

"When are we going to do this?" I ask.

"Tonight." We look up. President Coin is standing at the door of the production booth. "There's just been an announcement on Capitol television," she says. "There's mandatory live programming. Almost certainly some kind of response by Snow to the actions in the districts. That's what we're going to intercept."

Beetee pales, and heads down to Special Weaponry to finish whatever work needs doing. There is no more chatter as we put together the mini-propos. We work through dinner.

Boggs goes to find Katniss after we eat. I don't know where he finally fishes her out from. She has an odd look on her face, like she's gotten away with something. It ought to be obnoxious, but I just find it a little troubling. Finnick explains the situation to her.

Plutarch has the regular Capitol broadcast going. It's a new show about an honorable Peacekeeper who's tracking a serial killer that he thinks is a rogue victor, based on the patterns of the crimes. It's left on a cliffhanger when he's caught in an electric cage. The screen goes black. The seal of Panem comes up, followed by Snow.

And Peeta.

I thought he looked bad three days ago, but whatever they've done to him since they "rescued" him from the crowd has been extreme. His eyes are sunken and wide, and he keeps glancing over Snow's shoulder. He's developed a nervous tic in his face. The mild shaking in his hands has been replaced by an uncontrolled jittering in all of his limbs, marked by the repeated thumping of his prosthetic leg against a metal rung. The chair he's in approximates standing height, and the only conclusion I can come to is that Peeta can't stand on his own. Across from me, Katniss has lost that strange, smug little girl look. The blood has drained from her face.

I am sitting near Boggs, and I whisper, "We have to get him out of there."

Boggs nods. He doesn't have the authority to do anything about it and neither do I, but I'm glad he agrees.

Peeta has obviously been instructed to talk about the damage from the war. I don't know what it's leading up to. He's already having a hard time concentrating when Beetee breaks in for the first time, cutting to Katniss sitting in the ashes of the bakery. She says Peeta's name.

When they cut back, he's staring, wide-eyed. Beetee has managed to cut directly into the President's home, into whatever filming equipment they're using. Peeta has seen it.

He chokes on a word, then looks again at the spot over Snow's shoulder. He swallows and forces himself onto the script.

"What's he looking at?" Boggs asks.

I start to say I don't know, but I have a horrible feeling that I do. They're keeping him on script by threatening someone off-screen. Johanna. Or Annie, maybe. Peeta doesn't know Annie, but I doubt it matters. He won't let anyone be killed because of him.

Beetee breaks in again. The Capitol cuts him off. Again. And again. It's becoming increasingly obvious that the point here wasn't just to show the propos to the Capitol. It was to mock Snow's power on his own ground.

I think I'd appreciate it a lot more if I couldn't see Peeta flinching back into his chair, struggling to get out lines that he has to say on pain of someone else's injury.

Everyone else is cheering.

Everyone except Finnick and Katniss. I look across at her. She understands. Finnick understands… and I wonder if he has his own ideas about who might be on the far side of that camera, at Snow's mercy.

Finally, Snow wrests control back from us and says he's planning to cut the broadcast feeds until we stop "interfering with the truth." He turns to Peeta and demands that he address Katniss.

Peeta flinches again. He's shaking. Something seems to be going on inside his head. "Katniss," he says. "How do you think this will end? What will be left? And you…" He takes several shaky breaths. "In Thirteen…" He seems to be struggling for words, the boy whose silver tongue never betrayed him before. He clenches his teeth, then spits out, "DEAD BY MORNING!"

"End it!" Snow bellows, but the broadcast goes on. I want Beetee to break in again. I'd rather see anything than the crazy angle as the camera there falls. Rather hear anything than the sounds of Peeta Mellark being beaten, maybe dying in agony, as we stand here watching, unable to help.

Again.
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Comments
redrikki From: redrikki Date: October 10th, 2015 06:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
There's also one that involves flying grizzly bears, which seems to be a great favorite. I don't know how that turned up in a place where no one drinks.

Not only is that a wonderful bit of world building, it's classic Haymitch snark. Bit of light in a otherwise fairly dark, paranoid and claustrophobic chapter. Also, I love your take on Delly.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: October 11th, 2015 04:30 am (UTC) (Link)
Thanks.

I like Haymitch snark. It's one of his healthier vices, but I can imagine any number of people who would just not take it well.
sonetka From: sonetka Date: October 11th, 2015 02:23 am (UTC) (Link)
So good -- especially loved the world-building on the farm. And on that note of people never changing, sure, THEY'D never break, they totally know it, they'd be just like interrogation victims on TV, complete with swelling background music. (Though it doesn't seem like D13 has much in the way of entertainment).
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: October 11th, 2015 04:38 am (UTC) (Link)
They pretty much watch pirated Capitol TV for entertainment, when they can get it. Otherwise? Yeah. Pretty much "How to Clean Your House," interspersed with maybe a game show or two. Fiction is probably about the wonders of the strong pioneers of Thirteen and how, unlike everyone else, they remain in defiance of the Capitol.

Because nothing says "defiant" quite like playing dead for 75 years and letting your erstwhile allies pay for your last rebellion.

And I stuck my own opinion about old books in Haymitch's mouth. Because they totally make sense. Just on a story level. Some of the legalistic stuff in the Bible may no longer apply, but look Rebecca scheming to get her favored son the blessing of the firstborn, or Abraham bargaining with God, or Miriam getting jealous of her sister-in-law, or David getting caught up with lust over a beautiful woman and committing an awful sin over it? Totally familiar. Or look at pretty much anything Odysseus does, no matter how unfamiliar the rituals of the culture are. Or the story of Helen trying to trick the Greek sailors out of the horse by imitating the voices of their wives. Or the stories of Arthur's knights, or...

Well, you get the picture. All of these people are recognizable immediately as kin, no matter what's going on in the setting. That's why we still tell the stories.

Edited at 2015-10-11 04:39 am (UTC)
sonetka From: sonetka Date: October 11th, 2015 05:09 am (UTC) (Link)
Because nothing says "defiant" quite like playing dead for 75 years and letting your erstwhile allies pay for your last rebellion.

"Brave Sir Robin ran away! When danger reared its ugly head, he bravely turned his tail and fled!" (I'll bet they don't watch that, though).

Your mention of David made me laugh because it reminded me of going to curriculum night at my kids' school. The fourth graders had all written short essays about their names and they were posted on the bulletin board. Daniel wrote that he was named after someone who was thrown to the lions even though he hadn't done anything wrong, "and I think they shouldn't have done that. They should have thrown David to the lions, because he was a jerk." Um, OK. I'm definitely saving that one :).
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: October 11th, 2015 05:17 am (UTC) (Link)
Heh! Yea, verily.

I have this wild desire to write a fanfic of Odysseus getting off-course and sailing to Canaan, where he meets Jacob, and they compare notes on how to win through trickery.
From: (Anonymous) Date: October 11th, 2015 07:14 am (UTC) (Link)

Thirteens in the arena

I cracked up at the discussion between Beetee and Haymitch about how Thirteen tributes would act in the Hunger Games.

Alma Coin wouldn't last a minute. She'd stand there, hands on hips, and order the Careers not to bother her; and would be totally unprepared when they laughed and kept coming. The other Thirteen tribute would remain on the pedestal, not moving until he received orders from his mentor (which of course would not come in time).

-- Tom
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: October 11th, 2015 08:55 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thirteens in the arena

Either that, or they'd last a few minutes sticking doggedly to some objective, but totally unable to change that objective based on circumstances on the ground, or, God forbid, create impromptu alliances.
From: (Anonymous) Date: October 12th, 2015 04:33 am (UTC) (Link)
Love this chapter so much. The extra information you added about District 13 was great. Haymitch's snarky comment about poetry made me laugh. Perhaps he should liven them up a bit then with his own, eh?
The bit about Peeta's paiting always get to me because you show how clearly it means to Haymitch both because of the "gaze" Katniss is giving him and because Peeta painted it with such love. Finding the photograph with him, Peeta, and Katniss was a great addition. I like the call back it gives to his picture with Effie where he is "sneering" at the camera (although it's hard to say if that's what it really looks like or if it's his self-loathing talking).
Thanks for writing!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: October 12th, 2015 05:00 am (UTC) (Link)
It was probably just one of those unflattering pictures people can get if you happen to be thinking about something else (like, say, how to keep Peeta and Katniss from screwing things up for themselves), but yeah, Haymitch would interpret it as, "I'm awful."

I did my research by looking at Soviet art. It's... bad. I mean, the 20th century wasn't the best century for visual art in general, but Soviet art had less soul than advertising copy.
From: queen_bellatrix Date: October 13th, 2015 01:01 am (UTC) (Link)

Some Catches/feedback

looks up the clock Just need an at before the.

suffer the through the Just an extra the.

I wonder if even occurred Just need an it before even.

something of glorious revolution Just a missing word after of; I think maybe an a or the?

short form for what Beetee is expecting to be an all-out duel Something about this bit is reading very oddly for me; I'm guessing that the "we remember" things are what they know they'll predominantly be using, since there aren't that many images of Katniss, and that's why they're "short form" but I'm not sure?

Also on the continuity front: There's a bit where Dalton's restricting his booze quiz to "dry" and Haymitch thinks that he considers telling him how bad it was that morning, but then doesn't. Unless you're referring to his time on the farm and the insinuations about Peeta, I feel like that's an odd edit survivor from when there was more alcohol reflection in this bit, though I could be completely wrong. The last time I remember Haymitch wanting a bottle was a few days before when Snow aired the targeted propos? Unless that was just meant to show that he always wants a bottle, which totally makes sense.

Anyway, really liked this chapter. Liked the extra bits of Haymitch and Hazelle dialogue in the beginning, and the extra bits of world building surrounding the farm.

Also have to agree with the people that liked all the grizzly bear snarck and Deli. No idea why, but I'm liking/identifying with Deli more on this reread; there's something very strong in her constant insistence on smiling and trying to make the best of things, even as she's absolutely determined to keep helping Peeta and the rest of them. What's that old saying: fake it till you make it? I feel like that's so much of what Deli's doing here, and yeah, that's very brave.

Really appreciated you addressing some of the consequences of making "The Hanging Tree" a rebel song, particularly having Haymitch wonder how/why she learned it, which're good questions, especially in this verse.

I'm so glad you had the Finn/Jo bond be established in prior fics, because it gives Finn's actions here such a cool spin. Because of course he'd start to see Katniss as something of a little sister, too, and there's just something really smart and awesome about concocting that lie to show her the people she can trust--and Finn himself, for that matter--that I'd never really thought about until you framed it in a sibling lens.

And you have a real knack for ending chapters with a bang; damn, I'd forgotten how awful that final propo was. (You also have a knack for weaving in bits of prior continuity seamlessly; I loved Haymitch's musings around the dustup surrounding his games and why people would want to make it the glorious revolution.)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: October 14th, 2015 04:17 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Some Catches/feedback

Wow, I totally don't remember what Haymitch was referring to the first time around. Just removed it, and go the others.

I clarified the "short form." Basically it's that Beetee is making bite sized propos because he figures it's going to be a lot of stealing and re-taking, with not much time for an extended narrative, during the media battle.

I always liked the slow, unsure bonding Katniss had with Finnick. She just couldn't be sure. But by the time this scene happens, with the two of them just instinctively collaborating, they're clearly on the same page.
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