I don't know if Lucretia Beckett has an amazing constitution, or if she's had work done in the Capitol. Either way, she's got to be in her mid-fifties, and she could pass for thirty-five. She looks better than I do, anyway. She's changed her hair with the times, but otherwise, she could almost be the woman I served under the year after the second quarter quell, when Snow first decided that District Twelve needed a reminder of who was in charge, the year it got its shiny new victor.
Becket got moved out to District Two to train new Peacekeepers. I was left with the glamorous task of reminding sullen miners that it would be a very bad idea to steal the explosives they use at work and use them on… well, say, me.
I guess that as Haymitch tarnished, I must have gotten lax, because when they turned out not one but two victors in the seventy-fourth Games, Snow decided to replace me with Romulus Thread.
Far be it from me to get big-headed, but I didn't fail to notice that it took less than a year after Thread showed up for the District to go into full rebellion, necessitating its being burned to the ground. As far as I know, Thread burned up with it. It's not like Snow would tip his hand to the citizens by pulling out the Peacekeepers.
And in Twelve, if he had, there are enough clever people that they'd have used the time to deactivate the fence and exit. It's not like it's big enough to do it without anyone noticing. It's ten minutes from one end of town to the other. Oddly enough, most of them are just not docile enough to sit around scratching their heads and waiting for the bombs to fall. If I had to guess, I'd say they cut the power just before the bombs dropped.
If the Capitol had brains, they'd have bombed the Seam first, but apparently, they didn't, because staring right out from the monitor screens on Beckett's desk is the oldest of the Hawthorne boys.
"You know him, then," Beckett says.
"Bought a few turkeys off him. He's a good shot."
She lets her eyes linger on him. "I'd have bought more than turkeys."
"You'd have gotten a knife in the gut for asking. He's not one of the sociable ones."
"He seemed sociable enough with the Mockingjay the other day," she says, and hands me a photo taken by a surveillance drone out in the mountains.
"They're hunting partners."
"What's he hunting… her tonsils?"
I shrug. "They might have something going."
"And the Mellark kid?"
"It could be a threesome, for all I know. I wasn't sleeping with any of them." I sit down. "Hawthorne was flagged by the school. Too smart for the classes he was in, and his father died in the big blow-up, same as Katniss Everdeen's. Known for being hostile to authority."
"I see it didn't stop you from purchasing contraband from him."
"I like turkey. Besides -- let them think they're getting away with something, they're less likely to explode."
"That's because they're actually getting away with something. It defeats the purpose."
"Depends on what the purpose is." I look at the picture again. "Both of his parents were among your old friends in Twelve."
"Who's the mother?"
"Name sounds familiar."
"You hanged her little brother for taking advantage of you after he told you where to go."
"Oh." She looks at Gale. "If there's a family resemblance, I see why I called him."
I roll my eyes. Beckett, in my opinion, had one serious weakness -- she tried to force people to do things that it's much easier to trade for. "You didn't call me here from the front in District Nine to identify Gale Hawthorne. He was on television a lot last year. If you don't know who he is, I promise that someone above you does."
"It's hardly a front up there anymore. Snow must really want you dead if he was keeping you there."
"Hey, I had a good set-up. You don't have to keep your guns raised all the time."
"As I understand it, it wasn't your gun you kept up all the time in Twelve."
"Not at all." She taps the screen. "Intelligence did identify him. I wanted to double-check, but I also wanted to know what we can expect from him. He and Everdeen have been in meetings with the rebel commanders around here all day."
"What are they trying to do?"
"As far as we know, they're trying to figure out how to breach this facility. Radio chatter says they're calling it 'The Nut' -- as in 'a tough nut to crack.'"
I stare at the picture of Gale Hawthorne. My only interactions with him were over illegal game. He didn't talk much, and he always glared at me, even when I paid him. "He's angry. Smart. He knows about trapping --"
"And if I were a rabbit, I'd worry about that."
"Believe me, Lucretia, we're all rabbits right now, as far as he's concerned."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"It means I know you're hearing me and thinking about Abernathy -- too smart, angry, a lot of that. But Abernathy is, comparatively speaking, a people person. Hawthorne wouldn't even talk to merchants, let alone Peacekeepers, unless he had no choice. Abernathy might hesitate before doing something vile, maybe because he thinks things through, maybe because he looks across the table at you or me and sees another person, instead of just an enemy. Hawthorne doesn't. I don't know how to put it any more clearly than that."
"It's clear enough, but so what?"
"So, he's not going to scruple. He dealt with me because I had the guns. Now he has bombers. He's not going to bother. Don't try to negotiate. Don't think there's anything that won't happen. And remember that you're a rabbit. Dig some holes out of this place where he won't be able to see it."
"The more ways out there are, the more ways in."
"I think you need to accept that this place is going to fall. District Two is going to fall. You and me? We need to be planning a long trip to the out-districts."
There's a thud above us, and a report of minor structural damage comes across the screen.
Beckett rolls her eyes hugely. "Yes, that's who you're worried about. They're bombing the dirt on the mountain. Oh, help. A landslide."
"Or a cave-in."
"They're not going to give up the prize, and we know their spies are in here."
"Are you really that sure? Because you missed the big cave-in that killed his father. I have a feeling he's going for a re-run."
"They wouldn't dare."
"I'm going AWOL. You fend for yourself."
She raises her gun. "I'm not going to let you desert."
There's another thud, then the whole room shakes. Power cuts out, and emergency lighting comes on.
"Fine, then call a retreat."
"Not a chance."
I turn my back on her. She might fire, she might not. A bullet in the back sounds nice and quick at the moment.
Another explosion knocks out the emergency lights.
I stand in complete darkness. There's a muzzle flash from her gun, but the shot is wild.
Then the ceiling comes down.
I'd love to see you write an example of Bad Fannick Fic from the height of the Finnick Odair craze! for Anon
(All typos deliberately left in, unless autocorrected, plus a few added. For the rest, I really don't have much excuse for the twelve-year-old who still lives in my skull.)
"I'm so glad to be going to a real school!" the new boy said. His name used to be Finnick Odair, or at least that's what people called him when he was in the arena, before everyone knew the truth about him. His real name was Julius Maximus Vale. He didn't want to use a common district name anymore, so everyone was going to call him his real name now.
Also, he had all new clothes, from the very best designers. He was wearing green eyeliner that matched his emerald eyes, and a wig of sea green as well, shaped like an ankor. His paints were made of soft red leather, and his shirt was silky black. Around his neck, he now wore a heart-shaped pendant made of purple diamonds, the token of his real parents -- Valerian Vale and Lydia Grimm, who didn't really die of a drug overdose like they said. She was too smart for that! She was filming a video in District Four and she was kidnapped and murdered after her baby was born! The pendant came from the movie where she rote the main song, and he played the guy who found treasures in the out-districts. (It was really true, but they pretended it was just a movie for everyone else. He really did find the pendant, and he kept it to give to her, because he loved her voice so much.) Like his father, he was handsome and great with the cameras, but everyone already knew that. It turned out that, like his mother, he was a great singer and song writer. He was going to star in the school musical. Everyone knew it.
His new girlfriend, Cornificia LaMay, met him outside his first class. She was wearing a turquoise dress and new heals from Maxentius. She had a jet black wig, and wore a leather cuff on her wrist that matched his red pants, and had a fragment of the purple diamond in it as well. That was how they met each other. Lydia had a very best friend during the movie, and she took just a tiny bit of the diamond and chipped it off to give it to him. He thought they were going to get married, but she loved Valerian too much. So she promised that their children would marry each other instead, and they'd all be one family! And that was why Cornaficia was Finnick's girlfriend now, and would be his wife as soon as it was legal.
He was very happy about that, since he'd been afraid he'd have to marry someone from District Four, since the Odairs, who kidnaped him after they killed his mother, raised him there. It was sure a good thing that they never dared to sell the pendant! They probably figured everyone would recognize it. Only Finnick -- Julius -- found it buried with his real mother's bones. And there was a note in it, hidden in the clasp, that told him the real truth. He told the Gamemakers, and they apologized for making him go to the arena, since he wasn't really a district boy, and they paid for him to come home to his real father.
"I'll probably be behind everyone!" he said. "I never got to go to real classes before. All they ever taught me was about fishing."
"You'll be okay," Cornafitia said. "I promise."
"Do they slap you if you get things wrong?"
"Of course not! Why would you thin so?"
A tear slipped down, running through the eyeliner and leaving a green streak down his cheek that made him even more beautiful. "When I didn't catch things right away on the fishing boat, my mother would beat me. Then my father wouldn't let me eat until I got it absolutely right."
"Those people weren't your parents," Cornificia said. "They were your kidnapers. Your safe now, and no one will ever hurt you again!"
"I promise! Your in the Capitol now, and its you're home. We're going to take really good care of you, and I bet you'll be caught up in no time at all! I'll help you with all you're work."
"Thanks. That's really nice. Its good to have people be nice, and smile instead of growl at you all the itme. Will I really fit in her?"
They went into class, which was a music class, and he sang a song he rote specially for Cornifitia. It was called Fate's Surpsie. (They said later that Marcas Mann rote it and that was okay with him, because he didn't want to be a famous song writier.)
I saw you in my dreams
I saw you in my deepest soul
I saw you in my own eyes
And now were on a roll…
Cornaficia smiled whiel he sang. She'd dreamed about him, too. Every day, for as long as s he could remember. When s he saw him in the chariot, she'd recognize dhim right away. He was Julius, the one she'd been promised to. It was a lifetime marriage contract. Almost no one made them, even as grown-ups, but Daddy and Lydia had kneown that it was meant to be for thei rchildren, and no one could talk them out of it. They had dreams, too.
When the moon rose on the lake
I saw your eyes in the waves
Gleaming silver stars at me
You're the one who'll always save me!
She would always save him -- whether it was from kidnapers or math class. He was hers and she was his, and if she didn't save him, she'd never find anyone like him. He was special!
The teacher came in and made him stop singing, though she said he was so good he could probably teach the whole class. "But of course, you're too young to have a job! That's only in the districts. You'er safe from all of htat now."
So they went through class together, and they sang in chorus, the theme song from Seagull Point ("Shining Like a Beacon" -- Finnick smiled when he came to the line about Valerian's character). After music they went to fashion class, and Cornificia got Finnick to model everything that they had in to judge for the day. They laughed about the silliest s tuff.
After fashion it as lunch, and they ate beef and squash. There was seafood, but it made Finnick cry to see it after everything he went through in District Four. "I'll probably never eat fish again!" he said. "Sometimes, they used to make me torture the fish, jut to amuse them!"
Cornafica patted his s houlder and kissed him until he calmed down, then said, " You don't hve to eat anything you don't want to. And I think I know something that will make you feel better!"
"It's a supprise!" She kissed him again. "Come with me after school."
So they spent the rest of the ady in school, and after school, he walked with her to the animal shelter where she worked. There were kittens and puppies who had all had hard lives.
"Now," she said, "you can be nice to thim instead of mean, and it will be tomake yourself happy!"
Finnick picked up the nearest puppy and petted him. "Yes, this is exactly right. How did you know? I guess you really are my Feat's Surpise!"
I'd love to see the other Victors' reactions to Effie's, uh, treatment at the end of These Are the Names. She seems to have become friendly with quite a few of them for Anon
I say it first, because it looks like no one else is going to: "What's going on with Effie Trinket?"
Jack gives me a kind of guarded look, and Seeder covers her eyes for a minute. Finnick grinds his teeth.
"Noticed, did you?" Chaff says.
"Kind of hard to miss." I sit down on the back of a park bench, and look over the board where Chaff is currently destroying Beetee's defensive lines. "Is it because of last year? Because of when she… you know… went to the hospital?"
"Keep your voice down, Johanna," Beetee says in a low, pleasant tone, smiling just a little bit. "Of course it has to do with that, but remember where you are."
I move again and sit closer. "Are people not supposed to notice?"
"Capitol-wise, you're supposed to compliment her on how well she's doing," Jack says. "It's a new 'disease' they've defined."
Finnick snorts. "Yeah. Entafaistic syndrome. Sounds deadly, huh?"
"What is it?"
"It means she gave too much of a damn about the people she worked with. Can't have that."
"Just don't talk to Haymitch about it," Seeder says. "He's very upset."
"I wasn't going to. Even if he hadn't been dead drunk since the Cornucopia. I tried to jolly him up a little bit, but he cut me off."
"He's not a big one for jollying," Chaff says. "Not even when he didn't just lose someone."
"Well, someone's got to snap him out of it. And her. What did they do?" I get up and walk around, try to keep myself on a short leash so I don't have to raise my voice. "I mean, she called me a lot last year, just to check on me and make sure I was feeling all right. She sent me the catalogs from the new shows. But this year, nothing. I tried to talk to her about the new show from Philippa Simms. They used to be friends, and -- "
"It was Philippa who turned her in." Beetee says. "She was the stylist Effie went to for our props."
"Even better. You'd think they'd want her to associate with someone who'd turn her in. It should have been a totally safe subject. But Effie didn't even act like she'd seen the fall show."
Jack sighs. "I think somewhere in her head, she must know that something was done to her. She probably knows whose fault it is. I mean, I don't think Philippa even did it on purpose. I think she probably just mentioned something to the wrong person about being worried. But I guess that friendship's over."
"What about her friendship with us?"
"We're the target," Chaff says. "Us and Haymitch. They're most likely telling her that we'll make her 'sick' again. It'll be enough for her to ignore us. But they'll leave her with Haymitch, just to make him squirm. Bastards. It would have been better if they'd made her quit."
Finnick shakes his head. "I don't think so. At least this way… maybe she'll come back."
"I wouldn't count on it, honey," Seeder says. "Plutarch came back, but he's the only one I've ever heard of. It's conditioning. We have a couple of weeks with her every year. They have the rest of the time to… well, love her into submission."
"That's not love," Jack says.
"No. But it's attention to someone who starves for it." Seeder looks up at the screen, where the last few tributes are shivering out on the ice, and gives a sympathetic shudder, even though it's eighty degrees here. "I love Haymitch like he's my own blood, but he's done that woman no favors by cutting himself off all year. Whatever else is there, I think he's her only true blue friend since the Meadowbrook woman died. She's lonely. And now, they're giving her all the company she wants. They're calling her, they're inviting her places, they're coming to her parties… even if it's a fake, it's got to be like… well, like a nice warm fire out there on the ice." She points at the screen.
"Yeah," Chaff agrees. "Just like a fire -- if it doesn't end up signaling the nearest hunting pack to kill you, it'll melt through and dump you in freezing water. Good metaphor."
"You know what I mean. It's got to feel good after all those years alone."
We don't comment on this. All of us know what she means. I'm lucky. I have Jack and Blight. Jack was at least lucky enough to have Blight. Blight's a lost cause after being alone so long. Haymitch is a mess when he's not with us. Seeder and Chaff stick to each other like clingwear fashions. Beetee has Wiress, but as far as I can tell, that's pretty much like being alone, except that the voices in your head make more sense.
Lonely, we get.
"Do you suppose it's possible to lure her back the same way?" Beetee asks.
"If we had all year. If we were here."
"And that's the problem," Finnick says. "She could call us -- Capitol citizens don't need to make up reasons to call. I get calls all the time that want less than official commentary out of me." He grimaces, and I wonder just what they do want over the phone. "But we need a reason to call a Capitol citizen. So, Effie's not going to call us, because they've convinced her that caring about any of us is a sickness. And we can't call her, and we can't come here. Only Haymitch would have any business calling her -- you can call your team members -- and he ripped his phone out."
"They wouldn't let even him call to chat," Beetee points out. "It would have to be about the Games."
"I hate this," I say. "She's their own citizen."
Jack shrugs. "As far as the people she's with are concerned, they're helping her. It's like you trying to get Blight to come to dinner parties dressed up with the rest of us."
"I do that because he's an old grump who needs to be dragged out by people he's not sleeping with."
"Which is how they probably see what they're doing with Effie -- that she's just a lonely woman who got mixed up with a bad crowd, which they're now saving her from."
"I'm a bad crowd?"
"Well, you're the worst, obviously." Jack grins.
"I think I'm worse than Jo," Finnick says, stroking his chin thoughtfully. "I mean, clearly, I'm nearly as big a sinkhole of need as Haymitch is."
"No," Jack says. "I'm clearly the one who leads her astray. I almost talked her into a pair of blue jeans once."
"Be quiet," Chaff tells him. "They'll throw you in jail for that for sure."
"It's a not a joke," Seeder says.
No one knows what to say to that. Of course it's not a joke . A perfectly decent woman seems to have been brainwashed, and I think all of us know that it is our fault. It was our meeting last year -- a meeting to argue about our unwise alliance with the out-district raiders -- that got her dragged in.
And there's nothing we can do about it.
I wrinkle my nose and sit down by the chess board. "Is anyone going to get around to teaching me this game?"
Chaff snorts. "I don't think chess is ever going to be your game, Johanna…"
I'm curious about Jack and Lindens first meeting after Jacks Games. for sousha
I met Jack Anderson a few times before he was reaped.
Like most town kids, he went on the summer logging field trips, and lived in their camp. Unlike most of them, he enjoyed the woods, and loved the trees. He went swimming with the regular logging kids, and had a laugh that tended to catch on whenever he got going. He had bright, hazel eyes that always seemed to be full of mischief. We didn't know each other very well. I was a little jealous of him, because the guy I'd been dating had a crush, but nothing ever went anywhere. I got dumped for someone else entirely the next month, and Jack didn't cross my mind again until reaping day, when he was taken off to the arena. He was a small, delicate sort of kid, and the only thing I thought was that we'd miss him at the summer camp.
But he's back. I don't know if I was supposed to miss what happened with the boy they manipulated him into killing, or if it was supposed to be subtext that everyone knew. One way or the other, I'm pretty sure I know what they didn't show us.
I really didn't expect him to show up at the winter camp. It's a workman's thing, and, as a victor, he's never going to have to work again. But here he is, sitting in the camp's field office. I just took over as youth coordinator. He doesn't really look any different. His clothes are more expensive, but his straight, straw-colored hair is cut the same, and his skin is still pale, with light freckles, and he's still so thin that it looks like a good rain storm would wash him out to sea.
"Hey," I say.
He looks up. There's the difference. The mischief in his eyes is gone. "Hey. Linden, right? I think we met last summer."
"I…" He holds out his hand to shake. "I'm Jack Anderson."
I shake his hand. "Yeah, I know. I just watched your glorious Victory Tour."
"Did you need something?"
"I thought maybe I could come by and… I don’t know. Teach drawing in crafts? Anything."
I sit down across from him. "You're that bored?"
"Yeah. I'm that bored." He smiles faintly. "It's not very easy just staying up at Victors' Village with Blight. I mean, he tries. But he's not very sociable."
"I hear he's real sociable to those of the female persuasion."
"Well, yeah, but that doesn't count for me, does it?" He laughs in a mechanical way, then looks up curiously through his bangs. "He's not really my type, though."
I nod. It occurs to me that this might not be a visit about coming to teach drawing, or even just finding something to do. I have a feeling that he needs to talk about what the cameras didn't show. But I don't push. "Well, you could probably come by, but it's hard to say when. Sometimes the Games take up the whole summer camp season."
"Yeah, I guess that could be a problem. With just Blight and me, I guess there's no staying home. I have to go back. But I want to make plans anyway. I want to… I want to do something that's not about the Games."
"You could come in the spring," I suggest. "The town kids aren't there, but the regular camp kids are. They'd probably like having an art class."
"Yeah. Right." He slaps his forehead weakly. "Town kid. I only think about the woods in the summer."
"They only think about town on reaping day," I point out.
"When are they in school?"
"School can get a little informal out here." I don't mention that what passes for "school" in the mobile camps tends to be a teacher who drills a handful of kids each day. District Seven has a decent-sized population, but it's split into twelve different logging camps, and the government only springs for one central school. Most of the lumberjacks don't send their kids to it. We just test them on the official materials every year. "We could just make you an official class whenever you want to come."
"Oh. Good." He looks out the window. "I guess that's it, then."
He shrugs nervously. "Yeah. That's it."
He starts to walk out, but he's going very slowly.
"Was that the first time for you?" I ask.
He freezes. "What do you mean?"
"What happened in the arena."
"Oh, no," he says, grimacing. "I always throw my boyfriends off of cliffs. That's why I have such a hard time getting dates."
"That's not what I meant."
He shakes his head. "I'd been dating for a year. I was just coming off a break-up. That's what Marcus and I started talking about in the first place. I thought they didn't show that stuff."
"They didn't. I read between the lines."
"And you thought that's what was bothering me? Not that I ended up killing the first guy I ever really fell in love with?"
"Why are you here, then?"
"It's what I said. I need something to do. Having time to sit down and think things out doesn't seem like the best plan ever."
"I hope you're not expecting me to disagree. I think keeping busy until the scab forms is probably a good idea."
"The scab. The thing that keeps it from getting infected. It seems like you've been poking at it enough that you know what's getting to you, so it's probably clean under there. I think letting it be for a while is probably a good idea. Now that the Victory Tour is over, you probably won't have to talk about it again."
He sits back down. "You know, they mostly didn't even ask about it on the tour. A few people wanted to know if I thought I really deserved to win, since I only had the one fight."
"People are sick. That's not news."
"That's true." He laughs faintly. "I think a few people in the audience noticed. There seemed to be a lot of girls interested in helping me through my deep pain."
"Did you take any of them up on it?"
"Nah." He shrugs. "It's not that I'm writing off the idea of ever liking a girl again. What do I know? I'm sixteen. Six years ago, I thought I'd end up married to Glorious Girl from the comics. Six years from now, I'll probably be hermit in love with nature. Which is probably safer."
"Do you really think that?"
"No. Not really. I don't know. But I'm pretty damned sure I'm never going to go for a groupie with a savior complex, no matter what shape she -- or he -- comes in. I'd never get to talk about anything but the Games again."
"That's a good point. What do you want to talk about?"
"Literally anything," he says, and leans forward, a look of total relief coming across his face. "Seriously, whatever you've got in your head, spill it. I'm bored out of my skull. Did you read a good book lately? Cut down an interesting tree? Who's the best speed skater in your camp? Did you see that movie about --?"
"Okay!" I say. "I get it. Literally anything. " I scratch my head. "That actually makes it hard to think of anything."
"First random thing to come into your head."
"I paint wooden decoy ducks."
"You like art. That's the only art thing I do."
"What do you need a decoy duck for…?"
And so we spend all afternoon in the office, talking about duck hunting, movies, and the finer points of the Glorious Girl comics. We have an argument about whether or not it was better before she discovered the Wings of the Wind in Dark Eagle's lair and learned to fly. (He's a fan of flying; I think it made her too invincible.) He sketches out a few panels of his own comic, but says that's not going to be his talent. He's really going to learn to fly a glider. I doubt the Capitol will let him, but I don't say it.
By the time he has to head back to Victors' Village, the tiniest edge of mischief is starting to come back into his eyes.
He promises to come again tomorrow.