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Challenges 4 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Challenges 4
Gale "cleaning-up Peacekeepers in District 2." I believe, Pulratch made a off-hand comment about Gale pulling a "stunt" with the Head Peacekeeper and now the District loves him? Can we have that story? for Anonymous

Everyone's just full of stories. The grown-ups are arguing about whether or not it makes up for what happened in the mountain, and most of them think it is. Niobe Crane says Gale Hawthorne personally pulled down the wall outside the compound. Pyramus Parker claims to have seen him personally beat the tar out of our Head Peacekeeper, Gabbro Newsome. Olivine Liscombe says he is doing penance and was willing to die to save a few of us.

I don't know if any of it is true, because I didn't the best vantage point.

I was in the caves under Gabbro's last fortress. All I know is that I'm not there anymore, and one thing I know for sure is that Gale Hawthorne had to help my big brother get out, because he had a broken ankle and couldn't make the climb topside.

This is what I know:

My mother is an accountant. She used to keep the books for the Peacekeepers at the training center in the foothills. My father worked in the mountain, but he got away from the fires and came out on the trains. He was on television with Katniss Everdeen, and he didn't kill her, and she didn't kill him. When someone else shot her, he helped medical people get through, even though his face was torn up. He says he is sick of fighting. He wasn't at home when everything happened.

I know that when there was fighting in the Capitol, a lot of rebels left to join it. They thought there was a lid on things here. But lids sometimes come off. I don't know how everything happened. I only know that Gabbro came back to town with a whole squad and said it was time to get some law and order back in District Two. Then everyone that lived around the training center was told to go underground, because the rebels were planning a bombing attack.

Only there was no bombing. Just guarded exits and day-long harangues about disloyalty. Sometimes people were brought up and told to confess to things, like sharing information about the mountain or planning treason. They'd be hit and beaten until they agreed, and then we'd hear about how the world was falling to pieces, and the barbarians were at our doorstep. I know that Gabbro sometimes talked to people who weren't there, then said they gave him orders. I know that once, they ordered him to take Ambrosia Vesey, my brother's girlfriend, into a room upstairs, and she screamed and screamed, and now she doesn't talk.

And I know that one day last week, Gabbro had his Peacekeepers wire up bombs all around the caves. He said we deserved to die the same way the people we betrayed died. He wired up cameras to feed the images up to the surface, and put up screens so we could see him give the speech before he blew us up.

There were people gathered around, but no one dared do anything, for fear he would kill us all. I saw my father standing in a line with rebel soldiers, looking wild with his scarred face.

And then Gale Hawthorne stepped forward. He went right up to Gabbro and he set down his gun, and he said, "I did it. It was me. It was my idea to blow up the mountain. I don't know any of those people on the screens. They had nothing to do with it. Kill me if you have to. I earned it. But those people down there never did anything."

My mother pulled my brother and me close. There was a bomb only a foot away from the place where we'd been assigned to sleep.

"They're all traitors!" Gabbro yelled, waving his detonator around. "All of them!"

"No. They're not. They're people trying to deal with a world that's changing."

"I don't accept your change!"

"I know." Gale knelt down. "And you'll do what you have to. To me. But not to the people down below. They're District Two people. Your own people. Good people. I've learned that. I never knew it before. I'm glad to know it now. You must know it, Newsome. You grew up with them."

Gabbro shook his head and starts one of his rants, waving the detonator crazily. I could hear people crying, screaming.

But the bombs never blew.

Gale kept him talking until suddenly, there was a single gunshot, then he jumped forward and grabbed Gabbro, throwing him to the ground. The feed went out, and I didn't see anything until the rebels were down with us, and Gale was helping my brother out. It turned out he and Dad had worked together on a plan, and it involved sneaking an electronics engineer in to jam the signal on the detonators. Once that was done, the rebels and a lot of people who wouldn't have been rebels before stormed the complex and took the last of the Peacekeepers out, then came to rescue us.

"That was when he beat up Gabbro," Pyramus says. "When the lights went out."

"He did not," Niobe says. "Gabbro was already down. He just arrested him, then went and rescued people."

"Arrested him? So how come he ended up beaten up and in the hospital?"

"Probably someone's dad," I say.

"Maybe," Olivine says. "But it was really brave, just going right up there like that, and putting down his gun. Gabbro could have killed him for real any time."

Niobe climbs up on a crate. "I heard that where he comes from, back in Twelve, he led the whole district away from a Capitol bombing raid..."

Haymitch finds out Caesar Flickerman was a victor. for bluejayfic

When we get to Peeta's place, I almost turn around and walk back out the door. There's no way I'm watching what he has set up, especially not now that he's forced me into sobriety. I don't think I'd be able to watch it dead drunk. I can't think why Peeta would want to, let alone why he'd put Katniss and me through it.

"Wait," he says when I turn. "Please, Haymitch. I asked Effie to send me this. It's the first Quarter Quell."

"Why?" Katniss asks, speaking for both of us, since I'm a little too angry to speak. "Why would you ever look at another Games tape?"

"I had to. I had to see it for myself."

I find my voice and sit down on his couch. "The first Quell. This is what you have to see. After everything."

"Look." He presses a button, and the video picks up at the interviews.

The show is run by a middle aged woman with a three foot high sky-blue hat with live birds in embedded cages. I think her name was Candria Light. She was Caesar Flickerman's predecessor. She is still in the first half of the interviews. She's just interviewed the girl from District Five, if I’m counting right. "And our other tribute from District Five," she says. "Charlie Flynn!"

The boy gives her an easy, friendly sort of smile. He reminds me of Peeta. "Hi, Candria," he says. "That's some hat. Much better than last year's."

"Thank you."

"Can I ask you something?"

"I think that's my job... but what?"

"What happens when the birds need to relieve themselves?" The audience laughs. He pretends not to notice. "I've just been sitting here wondering about that. If I'm going to die, I have to know that first."

"Oh, there's a little trap." Candria says, and unpins the hat. She's careful to keep it upright to not disturb the birds too much.

Charlie Flynn peers down into it and says, "Huh. Well, that's that. I guess I can go to the arena with a calm mind now."

This gets another laugh, and this time, Charlie looks over his shoulder and grins at the audience.

"Do you see it?" Peeta asks, pausing on the image of the grinning boy.

Katniss looks at him like he's crazy. "See... what?"

"I guess I didn't show you everything before. But no one laughed before Charlie started talking. Do you remember watching Mags's Games? No one laughed there, either. I think Charlie was the first one to make them laugh. No one laughs after, either. She just gets them to say what their strengths are and what kind of Game they'll play. It's Charlie everyone remembered."

"He's the victor, isn't he?" I ask.

"Yeah. But he doesn't get all of his sponsors until here." Peeta frowns. "Don't you see it, Haymitch?"

I stare at the boy. There is something familiar about him. About that weird, toothy grin, the slicked back hair, the easy grace with the audience.

"Keep going," I say.

Peeta skips ahead. Charlie Flynn is in a cave now, with several of his allies, including the kids from Twelve. He sits them in a semi-circle, carefully aimed at the spots where he must sense there are cameras. He starts prodding them for stories.

"Remind you of anyone?" Peeta asks.

"He was like Caesar," Katniss says, then her eyes widen. "Peeta, is that really... but..."

"It is," Peeta says. "He told me. He told me in the Capitol. But I wasn't sure. I didn't think he'd lie to me, but I had to know." He pauses it on another shot -- Charlie Flynn laughing uproariously at a story from a District Eight boy -- and says, "But that's him. Before the plastic surgeries and the stupid hair dyes. It's him. He was one of us."

"Why would he work for the Gamemakers?" Katniss asks.

"He needed a job. And he needed to disappear. There was no way he was going back to District Five -- they voted him into the arena that year."

"So that's why he was always with us," I say.


"And we watched Coin assassinate a victor on live television."

Peeta nods. "And the last thing he thought he saw was me being glad about it. After everything he did for me, that's what he thought I did in the end."

Katniss takes his hand. "I'm sure he knew better."

I'm not sure of it. Not the way his face looked when those images came up all around him. I doubt Peeta thinks for a second that Caesar had time to reconsider his first impression in the few seconds before his brains landed on the camera lens.

I tell Peeta to go back to the beginning, and we watch the Quell in its entirety. I don't know what we mean to accomplish by this. It won't make Charlie Flynn or Caesar Flickerman magically reappear. But we watch him in solemn silence as he pulls together his band of hopeless cases, trying to hide them from the inevitable. We watch as the Careers finally track them down, and we watch as Caesar's smiling façade breaks, and he pulls down the house on the remaining competitors by dropping a boulder on them.

We watch the interviews after the Games, where he manages to get his smile back, and tell good stories about his friends in the arena. Candria Light asks him what he means to do next, and he jokes about learning the secrets of the rest of her hats.

But we can all see it. The look. Under the banter, the fury. The hurt in his eyes.

They're a victor's eyes now, the same as we all see in our own mirrors. I don't know how he learned to hide them over the years.

Or maybe I just wasn't looking.
18 comments or Leave a comment
sonetka From: sonetka Date: June 5th, 2013 07:19 am (UTC) (Link)
These are absolutely fantastic. So will everyone find out that Caesar was Charlie or are they going to keep it to themselves? I could think of arguments for both scenarios.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 5th, 2013 03:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm going to go with not. There are arguments for both, but I think what would decide it is that Caesar himself kept it quiet, and it would be respecting his wishes. They may tell the other victors, though.
sonetka From: sonetka Date: June 5th, 2013 07:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
Would they want his granddaughter to know? Peeta knows where she went, after all.
dragonzair From: dragonzair Date: June 5th, 2013 07:57 am (UTC) (Link)
oh man.... Caesar's story still hurts
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 5th, 2013 03:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
That first Quell must have been an emotional wringer.
bluejayfic From: bluejayfic Date: June 5th, 2013 12:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you so much!!! That has to be precisely how it happens. The teenage Charlie reminds me so much of Peeta, even more than the grown-up Caesar.

And the first ficlet... Gale's head is a really bad place to be at this point, isn't it.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 5th, 2013 03:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
I liked the instant rapport between them. They played the Games the same way.

And yes, Gale is in a bad place. But District Two respects warriors, so I think that they'd be more likely to forgive him than some other places.
barbara_the_w From: barbara_the_w Date: June 5th, 2013 01:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh. Oh, Caesar.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 5th, 2013 03:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah. I know.
barbara_the_w From: barbara_the_w Date: June 5th, 2013 08:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
I REALLY like how you named Katniss and Peeta's kids now.
I get the feeling that Pearl is Katniss' choice, with Peeta's agreement--and Charlie is Peeta's choice, with her agreement. And now I can see how she could agree.
redrikki From: redrikki Date: June 5th, 2013 01:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, Charlie. Thanks for making his eventual fate that much more awful.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 5th, 2013 03:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
I didn't want to kill off Caesar, but I couldn't think of any way he'd be allowed to live if someone like Effie had to have a full scale alibi made up to keep her breathing.
From: (Anonymous) Date: June 5th, 2013 06:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
Gale must have taken Katniss' shaming very much to heart.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 5th, 2013 09:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yes. He was using it as a stalling tactic while someone else disabled the explosives, but it could very easily have backfired on him.
From: (Anonymous) Date: June 5th, 2013 06:42 pm (UTC) (Link)


Over what was going on in 2. Very Hitler's bunkers. Probably what Romulus Thread would have done (Did he die in the bombings? That would be a thread of a silver lining.)

Gale is definitely becoming the stuff of legends. And the best bit is that the rescue of District 12 is actually quite true.

Nice way to pay tribute to Ceasar.

Sara Libby
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 5th, 2013 09:41 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Shudders...

I would think Thread would have to be dead. The bombs seemed to have annihilated the town population, and I think the Peacekeepers were probably in town.

Alas, Gale didn't save the entire district, as the fast-growing legend would have it, but it sure wasn't for lack of trying, and rescuing more than eight hundred people earns him serious respect.
From: (Anonymous) Date: June 6th, 2013 01:32 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Shudders...

Right, not the whole District. But under the circumstances, 1/10 the populations is seriously impressive and gives way more than a grain of truth (more like a salt shaker's worth) to the "Legend that is Gale Hawthorne."

Sara Libby
shortysc22 From: shortysc22 Date: June 6th, 2013 01:46 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm loving more exploration of Gale and love these little bits.

And I love that Peeta was the one to reveal to Haymitch and Katniss that Charlie Flynn and Caesar Flickerman were one and the same.
18 comments or Leave a comment