"It's a tragedy," Johanna says, flopping down dramatically across Finnick's lap on the couch. "I'll never get over it."
"The train attack?" he asks. "I didn't think Seven got caught in it."
"They didn't crash us, but they shot at the train. It went through the wall of the wardrobe car." She shakes her head and sighs, throwing her hand up over her face. "Bullet holes in my dresses! I only have three without any damage."
"Yeah, that's a tragedy for the ages," Haymitch says. He glances up at the screen, where the tributes are going through the awkward first hours of training.
"I brought so many cute clothes. All gone." She sits up. "Effie! You can save me!"
"Effie had actual trouble with them," Haymitch says.
Johanna does her best exaggerated imitation of herself, weeping crocodile tears and falling at my feet. "Oh, Effie, my life is over, unless you can save me! Take me shopping!"
A part of me, still dazed from the attack on our train, recoils, but another part is amused at Johanna's antics. "Shopping," I say.
"You don't need to take her shopping," Haymitch says. "I'd rather you stayed here, actually. Just so I can --"
Johanna rolls her eyes. "Haymitch, I can kill people as easy as you can. No one touches Effie! Ever!" She grins and shakes her fist above her head. "Come on, Effie. Barnabas is awful with women's clothes. Be my chirpy escort, and I'll be your big tough victor defender for the day."
The thought of getting away from the shadow of the attack is appealing. I look at Haymitch. "Can you live without me for a few hours?"
He thinks about it quite seriously, then grins. "Aw, you know I can't live without you for a few minutes, Effie."
"Well, then consider me here in spirit."
The other victors laugh, and Johanna links her arm through mine. We start to walk away.
"Effie?" Haymitch says.
"I have her back," Johanna says. "Really."
With that, we leave the Viewing Center. Johanna is the current victor, at least until the 70th Games are over, so it takes a little while to get through the crowd of autograph seekers. Johanna seems to thrive on it.
We finally get through, and I call a car to take us to the fashion district. Johanna looks at the windows of the designers' boutiques with eager eyes. "Where do we go first?"
"Anyone you've liked in the shows this year?"
"How about Aedile Norman? Where's her place? And Crispina Lorne. I love the fish theme. Let the confuse me for Four, I don't care, those gold scales were amazing."
"I saw them. I was thinking about the emerald dress for something this fall. It'll be good for an evening event."
"I don't get many events, do I?"
"You could." I start steering her toward Crispina Lorne's boutique. "Some of the victors like to go to the theater, and there are sometimes movie premieres during the Games, just so victors can go and hobnob with the artists. You could probably even get clothes loaned to you for that."
"Why would I do that? If I buy them, I can bring them home and glitter my way around the green. It makes Jack and Linden laugh. Besides, they hardly let me spend my money on anything else. I tried to buy a shop in town. Figured I could sell everybody's little crafts. But I'm not supposed to have a business, I guess." She sighs. "Does Haymitch run into that?"
"Oh, yeah. I think a lot of victors do. You're getting an income that would be in the upper crust in the Capitol, and there aren't a lot of options for it." I look over my shoulder. "If you want to help your district, I can take you to a fabulous stationery shop. Paper for every occasion, priced absolutely obscenely. At least some of it will make it back to Seven."
She gives me an admiring nod, and I feel like the world's best big sister. "You're tricky," she tells me. "I like it. But I do need clothes. Let's do clothes first. I can put in a big order for paper later. They make some that has your name and your title and everything printed right on top. Maybe I could even make myself a little logo. Or get Jack to do it. He draws."
"I thought you were artistic, too -- weren't you painting those little red horses?"
She laughs, and I gather that her Dala horses are about as real as the translations that Gia Pepper pretended Haymitch was doing.
We reach the boutique, which is called "Capri" for some reason, and spend half an hour getting a private show of dresses appropriate for a sixteen year old girl. Johanna picks a short dress in scales that fade from pink to blue, and a blouse with the same pattern. She also falls for a pair of black pants with scales edging the seams, and buys a pair of matching heels. She gets a purse to go with the dress, and talks me into a little fascinator.
We move on to Aedile Norman's shop (which is just named after her) and look at short, kicky little skirts and cropped jackets. Johanna spends freely here as well, and asks if she can change into a new outfit before we leave. She leaves her original clothes there and asks that they be shipped to the Training Center apartment with the new order. I take her to Lepidus's shop, and we chat for a while, but he doesn't have anything that suits either of us this year. Cinna's place is closed up -- his hours are by appointment only -- but she stares longingly at a silk dress that looks like the wind has been caught and wrapped around a dress form.
We hit six shops before supper, and Johanna spends a lot at all of them. "I'm going to dress up to do my gardening!" she announces. I end up spending a good amount as well -- she has a good eye, and, when I manage to convince her that I shouldn't dress like a teenager, spots seven different dresses that will be lovely for me. Most of the packages, we leave to be delivered, but we're still laden down with accessories and make-up (I've promised to help her learn to do this season's looks) when we stop for lunch at a sidewalk café. I order a salad. Johanna orders half the menu, and asks for the truffle tray to be brought around at the end.
"Thanks," she says while we wait. "I needed a break."
"So did I."
"They really messed with you on the train?"
I try not to think of the raiders closing in on me. "They did."
She wrinkles her nose. "Well, then, we'll just have to make them pay, won't they?"
"Like I told River during training last year, when that bitch from One called him stupid -- they're not allowed to do that. We'll just have to wait for an opening for payback." Our lunch comes, and her eyes get wide. "I'm never going to be able to eat all of this. I thought they were small."
"You can get it boxed."
She looks over her shoulder. "And is there someone I'm absolutely not supposed to give leftovers to? Because I could completely claim that I don't know..."
I'd love to have a conversation among the mentors in which they are nominating their choices of the worst costume design for the tributes ever for orichalcum
"Flaming cow belts," Enobaria says, lying back on the green and looking up at the sky. "No contest. I give the win to District Ten."
There's still a little smoke coming from the mine fires -- the engineers say we'll probably have it for another twenty years -- and it makes the sunsets weirdly vivid. I've tried to paint it several times, and I guess they're okay (Haymitch wants one, anyway), but I don't feel like I've quite got it. We've all been coming out at night to enjoy the sunsets this week, the first time the full complement of surviving victors have met since... well, since the Capitol. It may be the last time, too. Enobaria's planning on going to a new district, and Annie's often very busy in Four. Beetee had to fight for some vacation time.
"They were bad," Haymitch admits. "Definitely in the running."
"They had Wiress and me in light bulbs," Beetee says. "And my year -- the first one -- I was supposed to look like a microprocessor, but I don't think our stylists ever saw one."
"Sexy miner," Haymitch says, raising his hand. "With underwear that was supposed to ..." He makes a cupping gesture with his hand and pushes it forward. Beetee and I wince. I'm glad that Portia decided that a tight-fitting bodysuit -- set on fire -- was more than enough showing off.
The women have no sympathy at all. "Put some sharp wires around it, then we'll talk," Enobaria says. "Meanwhile, we envy the ease of wear."
Katniss smiles faintly. She's been better since the wedding, but even she admits that she's never been the first one to talk in a group. "Hey, Haymitch what about those ones they ran every year in the recaps, where we were wearing coal dust?"
"Thank Effie for the coal dust. They weren't even going to get that, originally."
"Does that count?" Annie asks. "I mean, if they're naked, is it even really a bad costume?"
"Bad lack of costume," Johanna says lazily. She's picked a daisy from the green, and tickling her own nose with it. "I vote the District Seven tree costumes as a group."
"If we're doing group running, you win," I say. "Very literal. Boring."
"But fun to take off." She waggles her eyebrows at me.
Katniss flicks a pebble at her and they make playful war-faces at each other before going back to their lazy poses.
"Finnick would nominate the net," Annie says. "You know the one."
"His first one wasn't much better," Haymitch says. "Basically a few strategically placed fish scales that they called pants."
Beetee snorts laughter. "Haymitch, do you remember the get-up they put on District Nine in the Fifty-Fourth Games?"
"Was that the -- "
"Agricultural machinery. A reaper and a thresher. The boy had to hold up that spinning thing, and the girl had a tube coming off of her arm, spraying confetti down on the audience. I don't know where they hid that much confetti."
"Weren't they bread at the Seventy-Fifth?" I ask.
"Terrible stylists," Beetee says. "Just awful."
"The first year, everyone was just in prison uniforms," Annie says. "On the backs of flatbed trucks with cages."
"If their private parts weren't shoved halfway to the next district, they were the lucky ones," Haymitch says. "Do we count ones we avoided?"
"You avoided one?"
"Yeah. Pile of coal. By the time Therinus was finished, the poor kids looked like a manure pile. Effie and I fixed it as well as we could, but there wasn't much time."
"I saw them," Enobaria says. "That was Finnick's year. No one was looking at them, anyway."
"What's the worst that happened in District Two?" I ask. "I don't really remember any of them."
"Luckily, that's as bad as it got, not being very memorable. They liked to dress us up as boulders and statues." She thinks about it. "I think they were marble columns one year. That was pretty bad. It was One that got the ridiculous stuff. They made all the Capitol's luxury goods, and their stylist always figured she'd just lay all of it on as thick as she could. They looked like unsorted inventory piles every year."
"We always thought they were lucky because they were covered up," Katniss says.
Annie suddenly covers her mouth and giggles.
"What?" Johanna asks.
"Oh, when I was little. I remember the year they had Five dressed up as generators. Big white top hats with steam coming out of them." She laughs again. "I never thought I'd laugh at the Games."
"Well, technically, we're laughing at the parade," I tell her. "And it happened. We may as well laugh at it."
"Good point." She sits up, then leans forward, laughing with her face in her hands. In the playpen beside her, Finny gets the giggles, too. She wiggles a little stuffed bear at him. "District six. Headlights." She points at the unfortunate parts of the bear where the headlights were during the Quell parade.
"What about you, Annie?" Johanna says. "Didn't they have your hair braided up like a big net?"
"It took hours. They started it on the train. Finnick kept telling them it was ridiculous. Yes, he did," she says to the baby. "Your daddy knew a lot about ridiculous things."
Haymitch smiles fondly. "What about the year that District Eight had a piece of every popular fabric pattern for the season dragging behind the chariot? It was Brutus's year -- right before me. The District Nine horses kept trying to eat it during Snow's speech."
"That's because Woof and Chaff were pranking each other that year," Beetee tells him. "Chaff tied up sugar cubes all along the fabric train from the chariot. Woof got him back during training. Kept sending him right-handed gloves. The Gamemakers put a stop to that. Too bad. It was always fun." He grins. "The first year Chaff was in, I reprogrammed his table to send him oatmeal, no matter what he ordered. He never ate the stuff again."
"Seeder let you do that?"
"She was in on it. She told him that in the Capitol, District Eleven was only fed gruel. He believed it for three days."
"I don't know about you people," Haymitch says. "You're all crazy."
We sit in comfortable silence for a while, watching the sky darken. The first stars start to twinkle in the twilight. Katniss gets up and starts stoking the campfire in the firepit we've installed on the green. She feared fire for a while -- we both did -- but she's gotten used to it again. "What about those moss... things... that Seven had one year...?"
At the Villains' Convention, The Wicked Witch Of The West and Cory Snow discuss those disgusting do-gooders that they're stuck with. (I read somewhere that _everything_ that Dorothy Gale does in _The Wizard Of Oz_, she does to save Toto. So Dorothy and Katniss are alike.) Bonus points if you can throw in what the WWW and Snow think of Voldemort for Tom.
Panel transcript, Villains' Convention.
Special Guest Panel Discussion: Dealing With Heroes
Moderator: Luke Castellan (Camp Half-Blood)
Luke: Can we get some better lighting down here? I think our esteemed panel members rate better than fluorescents. How about that volcano light? Okay, yeah, much better. (applause from the audience) Thank you, everyone! Glad you could be here. As you might imagine, it's a little hard to find a place for a villains' convention -- everyone's worried that if they invite everyone else, they'll get taken over! So we settled here, in this historic, but sadly defeated, site of evil. We hope you and our guests on the panel will join us all later for the annual Ring hunt at Mount Doom.
Luke: (holds up hands) All right, guys. I know all of you aspiring villains have been looking forward to this all weekend. I know I have! I wonder what I could have done with that runt Percy Jackson if I'd just had these guys to advise me. Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce our panel members. (Introduces over rising applause)
Luke: First, from a galaxy far, far away -- maybe the most powerful of us in terms of the number of people and amount of space he terrorized... Emperor Palpatine!
(Palpatine glides out, cloaked, and doesn't acknowledge the audience.)
Luke: Second, one of my favorites -- and certainly one whose name everyone knows, despite not being able to say it... YOU KNOW WHO!
(Voldemort enters and sneers at the audience. They go crazy. A black robed girl in the front faints.)
Luke: Third... and I had to promise her that the janitors moved all the mop buckets in Barad-dur... the Wicked Witch of the West!
(The Wicked Witch enters, raises her arms, and sends green smoke around the auditorium. Fans go wild.)
Luke: And finally -- he doesn't have Palpatine's numbers, but you have to respect the authority, straight outta Panem.... President Corialanus Snow!
(There is a moment of mixed muttering as the panel members take their seats, then Luke goes out into the audience and brings up a young teenage girl with heavy eye-liner and a bright purple cloak.)
Luke: Our first question comes to us from Madison Laine -- (she whispers something to him) -- ah, my apologies. From her excellence, the Mad Duchess! Dutchy?
Mad Duchess: (voice shaking with nerves) Hi. I'm, um... Well, I just started out. I'm here on a grant from the local chapter for study? I only just got going by taking over student council. Turns out the old president had a few secrets she didn't want getting out.
Snow: I thoroughly approve of the tactics, though as you grow into your role, you may need something more permanent.
Mad Duchess: (giggles) Thank you. Um, what I wanted to, um, ask is... well, since I'm just starting out, how can I keep a hero from deciding to go up against me at all?
Luke: A terrific question! Miss West -- you had some luck at not being hounded, at least until Dorothy Gale (hisses from audience) came along. Why don't you start us off?
Wicked Witch: Ah-ha, my pretty. You mean to start off well, I see. For myself, I let my sister oppress the munchkins. She bore the brunt of most of their whining. I contented myself with the flying monkeys, who, a few exceptions aside, didn't especially care.
Snow: (sniffs) So your advice is to mind your own business and not cause trouble? That may be well and good for remaining un-challenged -- in more ways than one -- but really, what's the point of being a villain if you're not enjoying it? (turns to audience) You should learn to accept the challenge. For myself, I relish the rebels. Far more interesting than my loyal inner circle, and much more fun to toy with. After all, how much fun is it it play on the morals of men who prey on fourteen-year-olds? It'll never get you anywhere. But a Katniss Everdeen or Haymitch Abernathy, playing their desire to overthrow me against their distaste for war? Her more than him, of course, though he could be broken by taking away pretty things. And best off all, Peeta Mellark. Breaking a true altruist with a heart as pure as a saint's. Now that, you must admit, was a work of art.
Palpatine: Maybe, in the sense of it being a demonstration of great skill that's utterly useless to you in the end. Didn't the Mellark boy end up beating your brainwashing before he accomplished anything?
Wicked Witch: You're one to talk. You lost your own apprentice by laughing at his son.
Voldemort: And you were defeated by a ten-year-old.
Snow: You were defeated by an infant once. Then an eleven-year-old. Then by the same child every year until he was seventeen.
Voldemort: Well, let's be honest, we've all been defeated by someone.
Snow: Unlike you -- or her -- (points to Wicked Witch) I didn't actually arm my nemesis. And in fact, in the end, she didn't defeat me. She defeated that witch from Thirteen. One of your relatives, I presume?
Wicked Witch: Good heavens, no. Even my sister and I had better dress sense than District Thirteen. Can you imagine Alma Coin wearing ruby slippers? (laughter) Speaking of her, why isn't she on this panel? She used to be a hoot at these things, running around with her nose in the air and her broomstick where it didn't belong.
Luke: She's scheduled on tomorrow's star panel, about manipulating idealists. She wouldn't appear with President Snow.
(The panel nods, taking this as a matter of course.)
Snow: To get back to the Mad Duchess's question -- and my dear, you really should reconsider that name -- you shouldn't try to avoid the heroes. If you do anything worthy of the name villain, then someone in a white hat will jump in and try to save the world from you. Enjoy the game of breaking him. It's half the fun of our chosen profession.
Voldemort: Most of the would-be "heroes" aren't worth fighting. I put too much emphasis on the idea of stopping a hero before he got strong, and look where it got me!
Wicked Witch: If there's an item that you use to store power, don't point it out to them. That's all I'll say on that subject.
Palpatine: While my esteemed colleague is certainly right about the amusement factor of tarnishing their halos, I highly recommend not trying that with a family man. Of course, you can kill the family, but I'm sure even President Snow will acknowledge that such a course could well backfire.
Snow: That was not my order. Lecture Coin about that.
(Luke goes to another part of the audience, and brings out a middle-aged woman wearing a Wicked Witch tee shirt.)
Luke: Our next question here comes from Miss Understood. Come on out here.
Miss Understood: What about telling them our tragic back stories? I've always had good luck with small time heroes by telling them about my money troubles growing up. That was a great tip, Miss West.
Wicked Witch: Oh, dear, that's a marvelous thing. Make the hero feel like he's a villain for trying to defeat poor, defenseless little you. I have a cottage industry based on that. It's a sideline, but it's turned out to be... well, something like our equivalent of a tax shelter. There's very little I can do now that half of the would-be heroes in Oz won't justify for me. But you'll need to come up with something better than money troubles. Once you get out of your own neighborhood and try a grander domination scheme, you'll need something to do with love and heartbreak.
Snow: Oh, please. Sympathy for the devil is played out. And again, you're trying to dodge your own villainy.
Wicked Witch: I am not! I revel in watching people justify my villainous acts!
Snow: This is... well, some point in the future. Women can be evil without a tragic back story involving a doomed romance these days! Grow a spine! Besides, that can backfire, too. Tom --
Voldemort: That's Lord Voldemort.
Snow: If that's today's name, fine. Though I thought you wanted no one to say it, and I've never liked code names. "Mockingjay." Really, how long did it take Abernathy to come up with that one? A bird? (shakes head) The point is, you turned your tragic back story on the Potter boy, and what did he do with it? Used it to figure out your next move. And then there's the bigger danger, isn't there, Palpatine -- that the hero will use that tragic back story to take your very right hand away!
Palpatine: It's true, but in terms of Miss Understood's question, it was certainly an effective tactic up to that point. I got Luke Skywalker all the way onto the Death Star, and if Vader hadn't gone sentimental --
Snow: But they always go sentimental! You have to work that into your plans! And by all means, use the hero, but don't make him your right hand man. I could manipulate Abernathy and Everdeen beyond all reason, but I wasn't foolish enough to assume they worked for me.
Wicked Witch: But they defeated you, anyway. (sighs) You'd have been able to get away with things for a lot longer if, every year, you'd reminded all of Panem about how you were in the tower when the rebels blew it up, and crawled over the bones of your classmates to escape, only to find your parents dead and your city in ruins. Reading a treaty every year hardly does it. You have to make it personal. Isolate the incidents, and take them out of the context of your contemporary actions. If you'd had my people on this, you'd have had parents begging to send their children to the arena to atone for the wrongs done to you. For someone as obsessed with public relations as you are, you don't work them very well for yourself.
Snow: So they would see me as a weepy outcast with a broken heart? I think not. You were far better in your original incarnation, dear, and a greater inspiration to villainesses everywhere. You're the Wicked Witch of the West. You're meant to be wicked, not tiresome. What sort of role model are you to young, evil girls? Miss Understood, I highly urge you to avoid this advice. And change your name. Or use your real one. What's your real name?"
Miss Understood: Hortense Hooker.
Snow: Well, maybe not. But these ridiculous names really need to stop. At any rate, don't make your heroes sympathize with you. It's much funnier when they're doing your bidding at the same time they think they're fighting you.
(Luke has made his way to the back of the auditorium. He pulls up a skinny boy wearing a black cloak.)
Luke: Our last question is from Ken. What did you want to ask?
Ken: If you could team up with one other panel member to defeat your heroes, who would it be?
(All panel members laugh uproariously. No one answers.)
Luke: Well, I guess that is an answer. That's all we'll have time for today. Don't forget to try our Ork marching drills in the lobby. There's a gate to the House of Hades in Barad-dur as well, if you're feeling adventurous -- check out Tartarus! You can meet some of the great villains of the past, and all you need to do is find someone to sacrifice for it. See you at the Ring-hunt!