I stare at the wine glass until Blight puts it down on a rock. Out here, in the middle of the woods in District Seven, it looks very out of place. I have no idea why he brought it out here.
"Just being sociable," he mutters.
"I'm not one of your comfort girls, and I didn't hop three trains for a glass of cheap wine."
He raises the glass and drinks it himself. "Fine. What did you want to talk about? The weather? It's been nice up here in Seven, if rainy and dank are your ideas of nice. The next logging camp is seven miles from here. Even Snow can't bug the whole forest. Hey! Snow! I'm rebelling! Building a war chest out here!" He waits a minute, then spreads his arms expansively. "See? Not one hover craft coming in. Because I'm guessing that's what you're here about." He pours himself more wine. "You tell Gia that I almost turned you away anyway, showing up with that ring."
"I'm not telling Carolyn anything. The prison she's in is bugged, and very completely. They don't even try to hide it. It was an ordeal to find out how to get out to you in the first place. She figured you'd take me for a spy."
"A career district pet? Now, why would I think that?"
"I'm no one's pet. And I want some payback. Do you know what they've been doing to the boy?"
He looks off into the distance. "The boy. Her boy." He throws the wine glass hard against a rock, and it shatters. "I don't care how I work the months, it doesn't work. But you'd think the Gamemakers --"
"She fudged his birth date to make herself look less like she just happened to arrive when Gia Pepper disappeared," I say. "I don't have time for your drama. I have to get back to the train station in three hours to catch the next freight. Finnick is Doolin Odair's boy."
"Why? Because she said so? I get in closer with the timeline. She was out here in the fall, hopping the same trains you did. Hell, she was visiting Abernathy, too. Maybe I'm jealous of the wrong man."
I slap him across the face. "Did I not just tell you that I don't have time for your drama? The Gamemakers run gene scans to make sure they have the right tributes. Believe me, if he'd shown up related to you or Haymitch, no one in Panem would be left wondering. If these little affairs you've been having all over national television are meant to stab her in the gut for moving on too fast for your taste, good job. She can't say anything, but I used to watch her when she'd bring Finnick up to clam on the beach, and we'd watch television together. You managed to get her back for the great crime of having a life. Now, are you going to listen to me or not?"
He sighs deeply. "I know what they're doing, Mags. I'm not stupid. I don't think the boy just woke up one day with an unstoppable attraction to creepy old men and grabby women."
"They've told him that anything he won't do, they'll make sure Carolyn does. Repeatedly."
He looks up, and for a second, I see the Ollie Hedge who once loved Carolyn, and who won his Games weaponless by snapping the necks of five other tributes. Then he hunches forward, exhausted. "What do you think we can do to stop it? I mean, in the right now. We could win the war in ten years. I believe that. It's not going to stop them groping that poor kid this summer."
"I know." I lean back against a tree. "Finnick's been pretty clear about not doing anything about it directly. I know I made a few threats against those perverts myself, and Harris Greaves, of all people, wants to kill them all. All of us do." I let that sink in with him. "Me. Harris. Desandi. Mari. Hell, Hennessey Doolin feels related to him because his dad was named for him the year after his Games. He's been ready to go to war since the boat blew up. Do you get that? All of us are angry."
"What about your district, though? Four's always been pretty tight with the Capitol."
"I think they know something's wrong. They know Finnick's not the way he's shown. I don't think it's going to take much more to push them over the edge."
"But they're not there yet."
"Well, maybe not yet."
"Work on them." He stands up. "Mags, do you understand that the rest of us are mostly trying to keep our districts from rebelling before we've got our ducks in a row? No one needs to convince the lumberjacks to rebel. Jack had to steal their arsenal last year. Twelve has infighting every few years, and Haymitch can't do anything about it. And there's a reason they've got Eleven locked in like a prison camp."
"If we're not all together, with something to rally around, working at the same time, with every district, Snow will crush us. You bring me victors from Four, furious about what's going on with Finnick, and I'm glad. But if the district isn't ready, then it's no good."
"We'll work on them."
"And Gia? You'll work on getting her out of jail?"
"She won't let me. She's afraid they'll do something worse to Finnick."
"Tell her that they won't. He's a victor. They like hanging his face out."
"I tried. And I reminded her that as long as she's in jail, they can use her against him. But if I get her out, they'll take it out on the whole district."
"Maybe that would galvanize them."
"Maybe it would galvanize them against those 'out-district' strangers we keep taking in, like Carolyn. Maybe they'd turn all of their neighbors over."
He swears under his breath. "All right. Do what you can. And I'll get word out that Four's victors are in."
I get up and head for the motorbike. He'll take me back to the logging road, and I'll hide among the lumberjacks to get back to town. Then the trains, and --
"Can I have the ring?"
"The ring I gave Gia. Please."
I nod, and hand it to him. He looks at it, then puts it in his pocket. A few minutes later, we're heading for the road.
I'd like to see your take on what happens in District 13 post-Mockingjay. Still underground? Still grey and grim? Or...? for marycontraria
There are almost no families from Twelve left in District Thirteen. I asked Rory and Vick if they wanted to come back with me, and they responded with retching noises loud enough to be heard in the Capitol. Of course, Katniss and Peeta are back in Twelve, and Haymitch is in the Capitol -- there was never a chance of them staying here -- but I am surprised that so very few people put down any kinds of roots here. The only ones who stayed are the young ones who fell in love while we were here and stayed with their husbands or wives. Sometimes, their parents stayed. In all, I'd say there are about seventy-five of the original eight hundred people we brought through.
Most of the natives of Thirteen who I knew are dead. Those who aren't, I wasn't that close to. I have not been looking forward to this trip, but they've been begging for visitors to come see all the work they've done, and President Paylor can't make it. I'm not sure why my job as District Two liaison has put me first in line for this kind of thing, but Paylor tends to find my number first whenever something comes up.
A lot of the district is still underground. What has come up to the surface feels like a rabbit hole -- a place where they can poke a twitchy nose out, then run back for the warren if anything seems off-kilter. (I try to explain that a rabbit is pretty easy to trap, but no one gets the metaphor.)
They don't see it that way, of course. They're very proud of the buildings they've put up. They've kept the facade of the old Justice Building, and put up something behind it that looks like a large greenhouse. They're very proud of how much plant life they can maintain... entirely ignoring the pine forest beyond the old fence line. There's still a fence to keep out the bigger predators, but it's not electrified and you don't need permission to leave it, but as far as I know, almost no one has explored it since Katniss and I went hunting here.
Hester Gully meets me in the lobby of the new Justice Building. She's wearing a pink and green dress with circle-shaped things on the sleeves that go around and around. I've seen it in the Capitol... on sixteen-year-olds. Hester's forty-five if she's a day, and the dress doesn't fit her properly. She's also put on a wig like Effie used to wear, but doesn't anymore because they've gone out of style. (This makes Effie crazy for some reason, and she wears big colorful scarves and fancy hats most of the time. I don't get it.)
"Commander Hawthorne! It's so good to see you again."
"I resigned my commission, Madam Mayor. It's just Mr. Hawthorne, if you want to be fancy, and Gale if you want to talk like regular folk."
"Well, in that case, you must call me Hester." She forces a giggle. It doesn't fit her any better than the dress does. "It just sounds so old fashioned these days. Now, they're naming babies Capitol style, or Twelve-style."
"Nature names, like yours. Why, my neighbor's daughter just had a baby and named him Pine."
"Pine. That's a good name." I look around. There are huge-leafed plants everywhere, but they're haphazardly arranged. "How are things underground?" I ask.
"Oh, we've changed so much! Everyone is allowed to paint their quarters however they like!"
"Yes. And we have weekly socials on the promenande, every Sunday at six."
"Do a lot of people come?"
"Of course they do! It's required."
I raise my eyebrows. "You're requiring people to come to a party?"
"Well, we want it to be successful!" She starts leading me to the elevators. "Have you seen any of our television shows? We've been making game shows. Not the same as the shows made in the Capitol, of course!"
"Yes, actually, they're popular. But maybe the production value could go up a little. It's making the place look a little... dour."
Hester's face falls. "It is? Oh, dear. We've been trying so hard to cheer it up!" We get into the elevator, and the doors close. The elevator has been done up like the "fancy" area around the conjugal visit rooms, with a red carpet and mirrors on the walls, and a chandelier on the ceiling. Hester bites her lip. "We have the munitions factory, and a lot of jobs are open, but no one's coming here."
"Everywhere is short on people, Hester. The war took a toll."
"But if they don't come here, we'll disappear. I talk about new baby names, but there aren't many new babies."
"I remember that was a concern."
She hits the emergency stop button. "It's more than a concern. My generation... not even half of us were able to have children, and some of those didn't -- it's not like you can force it! We've tried harvesting eggs and sperm so people who do want children can have them, but there aren't a lot of takers. We need young people, Gale. If this doens't turn around soon, it's a death spiral. We need to make this place attractive to young people. What do they want?"
She looks at me, wide-eyed and desperate, and I have no idea what to tell her. I start the elevator again. It opens into the promenade, the sparsely decorated area where people gather socially. Much of it has been covered with glitter, and balloons float around the ceiling. The pillars have been painted a horrible shade of hot pink, and popular music is piped in from hidden speakers. Not many people are here.
I take her to a table and sit down with her. "I see what you're trying to do," I say. "But-- I don't know how to say it exactly. After getting out from behind the fences, nobody wants to live underground. They're not going to come out here for a repeat of Capitol culture -- if they want that, they'll come to the Capitol. With so few people, no one's getting turned away from any district. People are going to places where they're rebuilding. The ones who aren't staying in the Capitol and the inner districts, they're going places that are getting rebuilt. The ones in Twelve, they're making a whole town from scratch, except for Victors' Village. They're excited about it. And in Seven, they're heading into new parts of the forest. Three got pretty well blasted and... well, honestly, they're running into the same trouble you are. No one wants to stay out there on the salt flats when they can come into the Capitol to use the labs and resources there."
"What are they doing?"
What they're doing is dying. It's nothing spectacular, just a slow death of old age, but Beetee thinks that Three will be empty in fifty years. I look at Hester's hopeful face, and just can't tell her that. "People are looking for a frontier. You've got that. They're also looking for a little glamor, and you could have it -- you have all the communications equipment. Why not... I don't know, build a second entertainment capital? Make movies. I'll bet Plutarch would help. Then people might come because they want to."
"Why would we need two districts making the same product? And should we close the munitions factory?"
"No, I was just thinking... well, a second industry. Towns used to do it. Plutarch says so, anyway. And what's wrong with two towns making movies? You could give it a shot. All that underground space made for good sound stages."
"It seems strange." She smiles politely, and I know she's already written this off. "Oh, I could show you the school. We've made our school colors red and yellow, and we've been talking to District Twelve about sometimes playing against them..."
I nod, and follow her out. I'm not sure what else to do.
In one of your other challenges, you mentioned in passing Indigo getting grounded after some older kids got her drunk. I'd be interested in seeing that conversation with Haymitch for Anon.
"Are you going to start yelling?" I ask.
Daddy shakes his head. He goes to his desk and sits down, putting his head in his hands. The curtains are drawn, and the study has a kind of hazy red sunset light to it. "I'm not going to yell," he says.
"You can. I know you're mad."
He stays silent.
"Daddy, you can't pull me off the show. I have a contract."
"They reneged. There are safety clauses."
"The producers didn't know." I sit down. "Aliana and Damita took me back to Damita's place after dailies. They thought it would be funny. And it's not even their fault. I knew. I just wanted them to stop treating me like a little kid."
"You are a kid." He turns his chair and looks at the square of reddish light where the window is. "Worse than that, you're my kid."
"I never thought of that as a bad thing."
"Yeah, well, if you'd been my kid while I was drinking, you probably would have. Did Katniss ever tell you about the day we met each other properly? I was so drunk that I passed out in my own puke, and Peeta had to give me a sponge bath on the train."
I take a seat, trying not to picture this particular scene. "That's just because of the Games. You were... hurt and --"
"I was a drunk, Indigo. A falling down, blacking out, drink-'til-it-killed-me drunk."
"It was because you were sick! And the Games!"
"If I never went to the Games, it would have been because of the mines. Or not having money. Or dealing with bad weather. Because you're right, I was sick. My daddy was sick, too, and his momma, and both her parents, as I understand it. It runs in the blood. I drank like a damned fish, and your mother popped pills like candy for a decade."
I look up. "Mom?"
"Mom," he confirms. "Don't tell her I told you. It's a sore spot. But you need to have your eyes way more open than they've been."
"Daddy, I got drunk once. I'm not planning to do it again."
"It's not that you got drunk. It's that you kept drinking until Damita cut you off." He finally turns around. There are dark, bruised circles under his eyes, and he looks old. "There are genetic markers. It's not a particular gene, and there are environmental things that get it going, but the genetic markers are pretty stable when it comes to a diagnosis. I had them scan you when you were a baby. You've got them, same as I do. So let's stay away from the environmental influences, okay?"
"What, so I can never have a drink?"
"I don't think it's a great idea."
"But -- "
"Do you remember when we found out that Pearl was allergic to strawberries?"
"You took her out for a walk, and you were picking berries, then suddenly, she had a rash, and her fingers were swollen. You got scared, and you picked her up and carried her back to house, even though she wasn't that much smaller than you, even back then."
"Well, think of it as an allergy. Only instead of getting a rash and puffy fingers, your brain starts to send out weird little juices."
"Weird little juices."
"Look, I've read it all, but I don't have all the science to tell you about it. It's... you've read about viruses, right?"
"What do they do?"
"They go into a cell and take over its functions to do what they want."
"Right. Well, maybe you should think of it as a virus instead of an allergy, and instead of a cell, it's your whole brain. It just goes in and starts taking over, and making it do what the virus wants."
"Virus, allergy, weird little juices, genes." I roll my eyes. "Daddy, I'm not going to be a drunk."
"Well, that's a relief. I remember when I was your age, it was my life's plan. But hey, as long as it's not anything your aiming for, I guess you don't have anything to worry about."
"You don't have to be sarcastic."
"Well, being serious wasn't helping."
I don't say anything. It's not fair. I went out with a couple of friends -- okay, maybe they're not friends, really -- and got drunk once. It's not like I do it all the time, or like I was thinking, "Wow, I can be just like Daddy." It was just Aliana and Damita being a little bit mean. He never would have even found out if they hadn't taken pictures of me dancing in my underwear and sold them to a reporter. I was fine the next day, and not going out to get drunk again.
"You're making up a story about it not being fair," Daddy says.
"I hate it when you do that."
"I know." He comes over and sits down beside me, taking my hands. "It's not fair. I know it. Some people can have a little fun and get off free. They're not fifteen, mind you -- that's a whole different question and why you're grounded for two months -- but they can do it. You most likely will never be able to. And that's pretty much on me. I sorry."
"For something genetic? It's like being sorry I have curly hair."
He smiles. "I used to be sorry about that when I was combing out your snarls, too."
"You have a serious guilt complex."
"You spend too much time reading Capitol psychology." He takes a deep breath. "I'm also sorry because I'm pretty sure those girls targeted you because they thought it would be funny to get my daughter drunk. Given the captions on the pictures, that's probably how they sold it. It wasn't 'Actress goes wild." It was 'Like father, like daughter.' And that, I'm responsible for. I let myself get that reputation. I don't want you to have it."
"Just like that?"
"Yup. Then we're done?"
He thinks about it. "I guess. But how about we take a trip out to Twelve... when you finish shooting the season?"
"I can go back to work?"
He sighs. "I'll be watching more closely. So, do you want to go out to Twelve this summer? Hang out with Pearl and Charlie?"
"Good. Then that's that. I hope."