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Challenges 2 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Challenges 2
I would like to see something (the fluffier the better, though obviously HG fluff is different from other fluff) where Snow took a different tack with Haymitch, and Haymitch got to keep Lacklen, Digger, and whatever other friends/social connections that he's pushed away over the years. for Sara Libby
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I think I actually managed HG fluff!

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August is the best month.

The Games are over for the year, and Haymitch hasn't had to start thinking about the next run yet. The weather is good. He spends most of his time working on his books. A little poetry, a little fiction. It started out as his talent for the Victory Tour, but now, a lot of people think of him as a writer before they remember that he's a victor.

The poetry rarely leaves the house, but he's got a detective series that everyone likes to read. Anyone here in Twelve knows that the detective (a wealthy District Twelve man named Jericho Danes, who is improbably called to all parts of the country to help baffled Peacekeepers) is just Haymitch -- maybe with a little of his dad, Basil, thrown in -- and the helpful inventor is just Rhona, brought back to life on the page to solve problems with occasional bursts of creative brilliance. Most people outside Twelve don't recognize it. They think of him as something of a wise-ass (which isn't wrong), which they might catch, but I'm pretty sure they're thrown by the vividly described struggles with alcohol. That's been a daily fight since his first year back from the Games, just like it was for Basil... except that Haymitch usually wins it.

But as much as he likes his detective stories (and as many little coded rebel messages he can get into them), his favorite writing is the August story -- the kids' book, which he writes and Danny Mellark illustrates. At first it was just for Maysie and our Basil and Danny's kids, but pretty soon, Lacklen started bringing the cousins around for the annual reading, and by the time Maysie decided at the advanced age of nine that it was for "little kids," there was no danger of losing the audience. Half the town had started coming around. Haymitch pretends not to care about having an audience, but every year, it gets just a little more elaborate, and he starts working on the story a little bit earlier.

We just call it the summer picnic, of course -- we throw open the gates to Victors' Village and set up games on the green. But everyone knows that at some point in the afternoon, while everyone is eating ice cream and fresh fruit and cookies from the bakery, after they've had big meals, Haymitch will set up in our back garden and give them this year's story. I notice that, despite Maysie's affected disdain, she was the first one back there this year. (This could just be her weird territorial tendency -- she finds it very necessary to point out to all and sundry that Haymitch is her daddy, and not theirs. It took a solid year to convince her to share him with Basil.)

I watch through the back windows. The story apparently involves a bird, because Haymitch has the kids pretending to fly. Little Katniss Everdeen (I think she's six, same as Danny's youngest) has taken to it with gusto, and is running wild around the garden, flapping her arms and trilling like a baby mockingjay.

"Hey, Digger," Lacklen says, coming in behind me. He's still in tinted glasses from the last corrective surgery on his eyes, but it's just a faint tint now. Once they're gone, he'll be able to see the world without any lenses interfering for the first time in his life. Caesar Flickerman arranged for the surgeries and fought with the Capitol authorities to bring him in. I don't think the poor man has ever forgiven himself for not getting through the red tape fast enough to help Rhona. He nods toward the garden. "What's it about this year?"

"I haven't read it yet," I say. "Danny brought over some sketches -- a little boy and a little girl. The little girl's got a sword. I don't know where the birds come in."

"He doesn't even let you read it?"

"Oh, he would if I asked, but I think he likes premiering it to the important people, so I don't ask." I smile out at the crowd in the garden. "Did you take care of the Rutledges and the Gormleys?"

He nods. The one shadow in August is that it's still close to the end of the last Games. We tried different times, later in the year, but the tribute families all came to us one year and said that we should make it as soon as possible -- something to take the District's mind away from the Games for a while before the Victory Tour. After all, their own lost children always enjoyed coming. This year's families aren't ready to come to a party -- they never are -- but Haymitch puts them up in the inn for a few days and gets someone to go in and fix anything that's wrong with their houses, and stocks their larders enough for most of the year. It doesn't fix everything, but the time to themselves, not struggling to deal with empty cupboards and empty spaces, gives them space to do their mourning. Lacklen offered to take the duty over a couple of years ago, so Haymitch could have one day in his life that's not shadowed by the Games. Haymitch made a show of objecting, but in the end, he was just grateful. The District seems to understand. To his surprise, they don't seem to want him in constant mourning.

"Where do you reckon he'll send Jericho Danes next?"

"I don't know, but he's been sending for books about the old port cities."

"The ones that are under water?"

"Yeah... so I'm guessing it'll be a little different." For the story, I really don't know what he means to do. Whatever it is, it'll have to be interesting enough that no one will notice what he's really been doing -- Jericho's tales are careful maps for the rest of the rebellion, and I'm guessing that this new passion for Boston and New York is calculated to hide something being plotted in the out-districts. At first, he thought I didn't recognize it, but I told him years ago (far from our bugged house) that if he was plotting a rebellion, he'd best not leave me out of it. Now, once he knows what he's after, he often asks me to make sure that it's only something that the other rebels can pick up.

Not that this generally stops the books from being pretty damned fine adventures around the code. I sometimes think it's less a case of using the story to cover up the information transfers than it is of Haymitch insisting on putting something "useful" into them, so that he doesn't feel guilty writing them just to amuse himself.

Outside, the flying part of the story must be over, because the children have sat back down, and are just watching eagerly for whatever is coming next. Maysie keeps trying to peek over Haymitch's shoulder and read ahead, but he won't let her.

I don't see how the story ends, because Hazelle Hawthorne comes in and asks if she can help with cleaning the barbeque, which tells me that it's empty. I roll my eyes and ask her to help me carry out more food instead.




President Hawthorne is faced with something along the lines of the Whiskey Rebellion for snorkackcatcher

"I have to quash a rebellion," Gale says, coming into my lab. He's dressed in old hunting clothes and it looks like he hasn't shaved for a few days. Not many people would peg him as the president at the moment. He pulls out the rolling office chair and sits down on it, pushing back to the wall. "Got a suggestion, Beetee?"

"What's the military situation? I have a few projects --"

"Oh, we have weapons. No problem with weapons. I just need to figure out where I have the moral authority to tell people they can't rebel against the Capitol. These people are me."

"Which is why you have the moral authority. You've been there."

He shrugs. "The damnable thing is, they aren't wrong. You know that, right? The luxury tax is going to hit District One and District Three a lot harder than it hits District Twelve or District Thirteen. I might be looking at Eight and Four, too -- a lot of textiles are on the list, and there's talk about calling specialty shellfish a luxury as well. Meanwhile, the medical factory doesn't get hit at all, and neither do Thirteen's munitions factories, or agriculture in Nine and Eleven. So we invented a tax that targets some districts and not others, without giving them any extra representation."

"Well, technically, it's not a tax on the districts, per se..."

"They're not thinking about technicalities."

"You're taxing non-essential items to pay for the government. I read the transcripts of the council meetings, Gale. Everyone agreed that it was fair."

"We didn't think it through. It not be essential for me to buy Johanna an emerald necklace for her birthday, but it's pretty damned essential to the jeweler that he sells it. And with the way the districts are set up, with a single industry for each..." He sighs and digs his hands into his hair. "They're saying it's a vengeance tax, punishing the old Capitol favorites. Except for Two, because I live there when I'm not here."

"If you think it's a bad idea, put in for a repeal."

"I would, except for one thing. They've put the government compound in District One under siege. If I give them what they want, then it's capitulating to a violent revolt, and asking for another one the next time someone doesn't like the law." He gets up abruptly, shoving the chair aside, and jams his hands in his pockets. "I sound like Snow. I hate it. But if we're going to keep anything like a working government, we can't..."

"...tolerate rebellion?"

"Tolerate treason," he says. "We're old soldiers, you and me. Just like they are. You know that it's not going to end with one unpopular tax law." He slams the wall with his hand. "Why couldn't they just have petitioned? I'd have examined it, listened to what they said, and taken it to the council. I'm not Snow. I'd have listened. I'd have had the council think about it, and I probably would have argued for them. Instead, I'm sending in a battalion of trained soldiers to take out people who aren't even wrong."

"They're wrong in their tactics, and they're wrong about the kind of government you're running here."

"Are they?" He shakes his head. "What kind of government am I running? Right now, it's the kind that's sending in soldiers to quash a rebellion. In other words, the same kind I sold my soul to take down in the first place."

"First, if you sold your soul, then I sold mine as well, and I am reasonably sure that I made no such transaction," I tell him. "Second, there are some working similarities among all governments, good or bad, and you can't escape that. Sooner or later, the job of the executive branch is going to involve drawing a line on this kind of nonsense."

"But if I were from District One, I'd be on the other side of that line!"

"You're not from District One, Gale. You're also not from District Twelve or District Two. You're the president of Panem, and unless you want another round of civil war, you've got to act like it."

"But what if I'm starting another round of civil war by doing it?"

"If there's one certainty, old friend, it's that you clearly didn't start this altercation. You didn't even sponsor the tax in question."

"But -- "

"Elected representatives from each district discussed and voted on the tax. Your job is to enforce the law of the land. If they want new laws, there is a mechanism for it, and they should have made use of it. You said it yourself."

"Yeah, I know. I do. But I know what they'd say. I know what I'd say if I weren't me. Who says it would work?"

"No one says that. It's the great crap-shoot of democracy. Sometimes, it doesn't work. Which is why it's not one man, one vote, one time. If something isn't working, we bring it up again at the next election. It's nowhere near as exciting as an armed rebellion, but I rather prefer it after our recent conflict. If there had been a clear way to challenge Snow and Coin legally, it would have been much better to do so, and hundreds of thousands of lives wouldn't have been lost."

"But now, those lives are on my head."

I understand Gale's position. It would be difficult for me not to. I was an active rebel for thirty years. I lost most of my mobility in a violent revolt. I've lost friends and colleagues fighting -- violently -- for a better world. But the whole point of that better world was meant to be that we didn't need to resort to violence to express political disagreements anymore. If they're resorting to laying siege to government buildings instead of participating in the process, I don't see a lot of hope for them if they do take power. They stand a much better chance of becoming new Snows and Coins than Gale does.

I think Gale knows that. He's sending soldiers, after all.

"You're worried that they'll call you a hypocrite," I guess.

"I'm worried that they'll be right."

I sigh. "Well, maybe so. Maybe we both are. Or maybe we both just know the stakes."
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Comments
upupa_epops From: upupa_epops Date: August 1st, 2014 08:50 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm suddenly craving a long AU story in which Haymitch is a functional person with a functional support system, and I don't even like this kind of stories. I think at this point you'd be able to make any scenario enjoyable for me.

(Also, I'm a terrible lurker that lurks, and I often don't know what to say as I read, but These Are The Names left me salivating over your storytelling. I still have two chapters to read, and I'm sort of saving them for a rainy day. Can't wait for your next project!)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 2nd, 2014 02:09 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, every time I do an AU prompt, I want to flesh it out and see where it goes. This one seems like fun.
redrikki From: redrikki Date: August 1st, 2014 01:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
Both of these are just brilliant. I love the idea of Haymitch writing secretly rebellious murder mysteries and kids stories. That's just perfect.

I also like the Gale one, both for what it says about his character and what it says about the state of post-war Panem. One of the big problems they're having in the Middle East right now is that since they've never had an outlet for public dissent they're first reaction to disagreeing with the government in all those newly formed democracies is to head to the barricades. I can easily see the same mindset in Panem where everyone assumes that, of course, their leaders wont listen to them without the threat of violence being involved.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 2nd, 2014 02:12 am (UTC) (Link)
I think it's an important point about what people have become used to. After the Revolution in America, we very easily could have gone south, and fast -- the Whiskey Rebellion was actually a serious danger point -- but we were lucky to have a few centuries of English common law and parliamentary procedure to build our expectations on. The government in Panem after Katniss assassinates Coin would have to be really, really exceptional (and Plutarch really on the ball with the cultural stuff) to avoid a few major confrontations. I prefer to believe that Plutarch was really on the ball and everyone contributed... but realistically, when the two factions people had to choose from were the Capitol and Thirteen, how much trust could they possibly have?
snorkackcatcher From: snorkackcatcher Date: August 3rd, 2014 08:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
That was pretty much what I had in mind in suggesting the scenario -- there are a lot of obvious questions about how exactly the new rulers of Panem would manage to rebuild a functioning non-dictatorship out of what they had to work with at the end of Mockingjay. It's not exactly been the normal result of a real-world rebellion.

Having Beetee as Gale's advisor sounds just right -- even more than Plutarch, he has a broad view of history and governance, and probably a more pragmatic one. Gale's a tough-minded individual, but the sort of person who could easily turn dark in that situation without the right people -- and his own past and natural sympathies -- to ground him, and that came out well in the conversation. Thank you.
From: (Anonymous) Date: August 1st, 2014 03:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
omg, why was the happy story so incredibly sad and hard to read
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 2nd, 2014 02:12 am (UTC) (Link)
Because it totally didn't happen, and this smart, creative guy ended up a stewbum?
From: (Anonymous) Date: August 1st, 2014 06:33 pm (UTC) (Link)

Squeee!!!

That was Perfect! And Dee-lightful. And lots of other really awesome things. You managed to give Haymitch everything, without simultaneously handicapping his usefulness to the Rebellion. (Now that I think of it, domestic bliss didn't keep Cecelia from being a rebel either, of course.)

I adore the idea of his detective novels, both on their own merits and for their sub-rosa use of communicating with the other rebels. And the summer party setting, which I remember you used in my last request challenge call for District 8.

I couldn't be happier with the little AU you've conjured up for me. Many thanks.

Sara Libby
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 2nd, 2014 02:14 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Squeee!!!

Glad you liked it -- it was actually fun to write. You asked for the fluffiest it could get, and I figured it would have a really dark underside if all the happiness was really just a trick that would actually keep him from changing things. So he stayed a rebel. :D

I think Haymitch would like Sherlock Holmes. Just a sense.
mirandabeth From: mirandabeth Date: August 8th, 2014 07:22 am (UTC) (Link)
Aw, the rebellion one was fascinating. Very neat. I'm going to believe they found a nice peaceful way to settle it. *nods*

Haymitch Having Nice Things was lovely. Well, he'll get there one day, right?
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