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Repost: The Narrow Path, Chapter 18 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Repost: The Narrow Path, Chapter 18
Fixed a continuity error that I spotted all by myself (Haymitch originally thought Prim was leaving town, but then I had him immediately realize in the next chapter that she was with the medics), and did a bit more with Haymitch's feelings after Finnick's death. Worked a little bit on Aurelian's beating.

Chapter Eighteen
Once the launch is over, we unstrap ourselves from the seats and go up to the observation lounge. Prim looks out a curved window as we pass over District Twelve. Even before it burned, the district itself would barely be a blip at this speed, but we can see the line of the seam -- the actual seam, the coal mine -- as it snakes down toward District Eleven. Fires wink out of areas that have collapsed, and a large section of out-district forest is in flames around one of them.

"Someone has to put that out," she says, looking down at the flames.

"It's in the out-districts," I remind her. "No one's in charge."

"We breathe air that comes from the out-districts. Someone needs to put that out."

She is called away to an extended meeting with the medical team a few minutes later. I try to get a message to Winnow Robinson -- she might still be in Eleven, and she might be able to spare someone for the fire -- but the best I can do is a local command led by an old woman in work clothes several sizes too big for her. She says Winnow is back in District Four, but she'll see if there's anyone else to help fight the forest fire. She doesn't sound hopeful. The fence on District Eleven has been pulled down, but nearly a century of being brutally guarded has made people leery of going beyond its line. Most of them believe that the brutal raiders who used to wander the country are still out there, despite Snow's war against them. I've never given the matter much thought, since raider territory tended to be well south of Twelve, but they might be right.

I watch Panem unfold beneath us -- the vast, empty out-districts, the smoggy haze over District Eight, the little hamlets that oversee fields in District Nine. We pass over the main town, and I even get a glimpse of the wreckage in the Victors' Village. The hovercraft flies low enough that once, I actually see a tractor going about whatever business it has in early November in the wheat fields. A train runs along on the route between Nine and Six. I've rarely traveled anywhere directly in Panem, other than to the Capitol for the Games. The central train system, with everything routed through District Six, has jerked me around the country at strange angles during my sanctioned and unsanctioned visits to the districts, and until now, Thirteen has traveled circuitous routes around Panem airspace.

I never looked out the train windows much, didn't notice all of these places between places. I was going from one set point to another set point, after all, and didn't have time for sightseeing.

Maybe I should have made time. I only know these people through their victors' filters, and through books I've read, and most of those books came through the heavy hands of Capitol censors. I have a nagging, uncomfortable feeling that knowing even that much puts me ahead of some of my allies.

We arrive in the Capitol in late afternoon, and I almost don't recognize it. It's not just coming down from the sky instead of gliding in on a train. The city itself is a nightmare. Smoke rises from battered buildings. Landmarks like the Martyrs' Spire and the giant statue of the first president of Panem are simply gone. All the glass on one side of the art museum has been shattered and hastily covered with sheets of plastic, which blow in the wind. Cars are burned out in piles of rubble at the edges of the streets. Rebels are camped in every park on the north end of the city, giving it the look of a series of shanty towns. I imagine it as I've always seen it, imposed on this destruction.

I'm surprised by a rising tide of fury inside of me. Maybe some destruction was unavoidable, but between my rebels and Snow's loyalists, they've wrecked the place. It didn't need to be this way.

Prim finds me and follows me out, looking around with wide eyes. "It's ugly," she says. "We're not going to leave it ugly, are we?"

I think about Thirteen, where aesthetic concerns aren't exactly top priorities, and am not sure, but I say, "I hope not. The one thing the Capitol always had going for it was that it was... well, not ugly. Not on the outside, anyway."

A young woman runs up to me and salutes. "Soldier Abernathy," she says. "You're required to report to Command immediately. Soldier Everdeen, you'll join the medical crew."

I barely get a chance to give Prim a quick wave before she's swept off among the tents. The woman with me identifies herself as Soldier Grant and says, "There's bad news."

"Katniss? Peeta?"

"No, sir. You'd best hear it from Command."

I stop walking, my hands cold, my heart booming in my chest in a kind of slow, half-frozen beat.

I do not want to hear it from Command. Or from anyone else. Being summoned to bad news means it's worse than can be conveyed by a subordinate.

Grant pauses for a moment, obviously understanding, and waits for me to start breathing normally. I nod to her, and she leads me to a large tent.

I don't need to ask what the news is.

I close my eyes and try not to see it, but it's too late.

There is a broken, bloodied trident lying on the table. A few other items surround it, but I don't recognize them.

I open my eyes. "Finnick Odair," I say. His name seems strange on my tongue here, with the bloody weapon in front of me. Surely, he's going to come through the tent flap and say, I know… they broke the trident Beetee made. Guess I'm in trouble now!

Except that he's not going to.

The boy who lived through the Games and everything after them is gone. The man who made a happy home for a few weeks in Thirteen will never return to it. The boy who said he loved me, and that he felt freer because I promised him he'd be free…

I don't breathe after I say his name. It's irrational, but I know that if I can just stop time, I'll never hear them confirm it.

"Yes, sir." A boy, barely out of his teens by the look of him, sits down at the table and indicates that I should sit as well. He is apparently named Creelman, judging by his badge.

I don't sit down. I don't want to touch the table. I breathe out. Finnick's trident is still on the table, and he has not yet come through the door to explain it. "What happened? How did this happen?"

"We don't know everything. We do know that several large mutts were set loose in the tunnels. They killed everyone in their path, including Peacekeepers. Surviving witnesses say they were clearly sent after Soldier Everdeen -- they report actually hearing the mutts say her name -- and several members of her team died defending her, including Soldier Odair. She set off an explosion, probably by putting the holo on self-destruct. One of our spies works near the blast site. She went down into the tunnels and pulled the trident from the rubble before the Capitol sweepers came in."

"Maybe he just... dropped it." I can hear the panic and petulance in my voice, but I can't seem to stop it.

Finnick. I think about the way he flung his arms around me after I hid him in a closet to get him away from reporters. I've never known why he adopted me.

Creelman must hear the panic as well. He lowers his eyes. "Sir... when we found it... his hand was still on it. Our spy brought it back."

"Maybe someone else was..."

"We scanned the blood, sir." Creelman stands up. "I’m sorry. I know you were friends. I didn't want you to hear it bandied around camp before you heard it from us."

I try to say something, but I can't. I think of the stories he and Annie told each other of the wonderful things they would do with their life together. I think of him bringing Peeta back from the dead in the arena. I think of the pleased look on his face when Peeta told him that I'd called him "one of my other kids."

I manage to get one word out: "Annie."

"Mrs. Odair has been notified."

"I need to talk to her."

"We're putting the call through now."

I manage, somehow, to get to the next tent, to the communication station. Annie doesn't come to the phone, which doesn't really surprise me. Beetee picks it up.

"Haymitch? You heard?"

"Annie," I say again.

"About what you'd expect," Beetee says. "She's down in long term with Johanna right now -- "

A flicker of anger surfaces, and I grab for it. It's real. "They put Annie in that tomb?"

"No, no. She's there with Johanna. She went down on her own. I'm going to go back down with them when we finish talking. Johanna was Finnick's friend. Annie wanted to be with her. They tried to send her away, but Johanna... um, well, Jo knocked out three guards with a pair of clipboards and threatened to share some kind of information she's gathered if they dare move Annie from her side. I gave her the knife, in case there's trouble. Hazelle and Ruth are down there, too. They've both... you know. They've lost their husbands."

I have never really listened to that phrase before. "Lost their husbands." Just somehow misplaced them. Aren't going to see them again. It doesn't seem to really express the idea of the trident on the table. The trident that was still in Finnick's hand when it was blown from his body.

I try desperately to come up with a scenario where it's anything other than what it seems like.

There isn't one.

From some impossible distance, Beetee tells me that Katniss and Gale were still moving after the explosion, promises to take care of Annie, tells me not to disrespect Finnick's sacrifice by getting drunk right now, then goes.

The next four hours are mostly blank.

I am sure I meet with Command, and I have a vague idea that they show me a map and I point things out on it, but by the time I am installed in my tent in the middle of the shanty town, I can't recall anything that's been said to me since I got off the phone with Beetee. It has gotten dark at some point, and what Beetee said last comes back to me, the part about not getting drunk, and I realize I could drink. I am in the Capitol. I know where everything is. I want to find a bottle of the strongest thing there is and drown myself in it, maybe literally. Just drink and drink until the empty space is filled up. I picture the liquor pouring down into the darkness, welling up until everything is level again.

I'm getting up to do it -- my plan is to march straight into the center of town, hole up in a bar, and stay there -- when Prim Everdeen comes in, looking worn out. I think I may have seen her earlier. I don't know.

"Don't you dare," she says, and sits me down on my bedroll. "Don't even think about it."

"It's a little late for that, sweetheart," I say.

"Fine, stop thinking about it, then." She pulls out a standard issue stool that came with the tent and shines a light in my eyes. I doubt it has any diagnostic purpose, since it has nothing to do with what she says next. "You're in shock, Haymitch. I told you to stay warm."

"You did?"

"Yeah. Blanket." She points at a crumpled silver blanket behind me and waits for me to put it over my shoulders. "They found a sign of Katniss," she says. "It's on the Capitol news. She shot a woman when she came up from the tunnels, and I guess there are some clothes missing from the apartment. She's out on the street now, with the others."

"Which others?"

"According to the Capitol -- they ran fingerprints from the apartment -- she's with Gale, Peeta, Cressida, and Pollux. There was blood. They say Peeta and Gale are both injured."

I start to ask how they'd know whose blood it was, but of course, I don't have to. They have everyone's DNA on file from the Games. Wouldn't want the wrong person reporting to the arena.

"Finnick's dead," I say. I think I must have said it before.

"Yeah. I know."

"He wasn't really my son. I just called him one of my kids."

"Like Katniss. And Jo. And Peeta."

"I'm not their father. You shouldn't have to… I shouldn't be in shock." I move to get rid of the blanket, but she forces it back around my shoulders. "It's not my place to..." I gesture around weakly at the blanket and the empty tent, at the haggard old man I see in the shaving mirror. None of it means anything, but Prim seems to understand me anyway.

"Is that what you think?" she asks, giving me an alarmed look. "Haymitch, you have a right to grieve for people you love. And you have a right to love anyone who fits in your heart."

"For all the good it does them. Finnick. Chaff and Seeder. Jack. Drake. My mother and Lacklen. My father."

"It does them all the good that's in you. And that's a lot." Prim pours a mug of coffee. I guess some Capitol luxuries have made it into the camps here. She hands it to me. "Do you want me to stay with you?"

I shake my head. I don't need a thirteen year old child to get through this. I just need a damned drink.

Not going AWOL to find one is probably the hardest thing I've ever actually managed to accomplish. After I practically push Prim out the door, I sit on the hard, cold ground, the blanket wrapped around me, my fingers digging into my hair. None of my ghosts comes to me, asking me incessant questions. I wish they would. I wonder if Finnick will join them now, telling me over and over that he feels freer already.

I sleep at last, and I dream of Finnick's wedding. He's happy and free. He turns to me and smiles. He doesn't say anything, but I still feel it. He is free. Not just of the Games, and the humiliations Snow put him through. He's free of the war, and of Thirteen. It would have been better to live free, with Annie at his side, but at least he died free and on his own terms.

It doesn't help that much. But it's something. I wake up before dawn and lie there in my tent, staring up into nothing. I can't just stay here. I can't go and get drunk. I can't swallow a bottle of pills or cut my wrists or wait for some mutt to attack me. If I want to honor Finnick, I need to try and live on Finnick's terms: keep going. No matter what they hit me with, I need to stay on my feet and keep going.

I force myself to get out of the sleeping bag. I go to the mess for breakfast and put a call in to Command back in Thirteen.

Annie herself picks up. She sounds hollow and tortured, but not insane. "Haymitch," she says. "It's true. It's really true."

"Yeah. Annie, I'm so sorry. I'm sorry I got him into this mess--"

"You all got into it together," she says. "For good reasons. But we still have each other, right? The victors? I got them to let Johanna come up and stay with me." She pauses. When she speaks again, her voice is thick. "Win this war, Haymitch. Win it and come back."

"We will. You have my word."

After we talk, I straighten my uniform and go to Command. The world is coming back into focus. I still feel hollow and everything still hurts, but for good or ill, I'm here.

Creelman welcomes me and gives me a handheld with the notes on what I've missed. Capitol citizens are moving in toward the center of the city. There's been some looting in the mercantile district. No direct sign of Katniss and her team.

The tent flap comes up, and a lanky boy comes in with a brown-haired girl a little younger than he is. The boy smiles at me, and my mind tries to read him as Peeta -- he has the same blond curls (though these seem bleached a bit lighter than nature would have it), and a kind of easy grin that brings Peeta to mind, though they're certainly not twins. His eyes are a sort of muddy green instead of blue. His hair is longer and tied back with a leather strap. But there is something Peeta-like about him.

"You don't remember me?" he says, smiling. "But we sponsored you."

I frown, then realize who he is. I'd just forgotten that he was a rebel. "Aurelian!"

Now that I recognize him, I'm pretty sure the girl beside him is Tazzy Vole, a young woman who was not earning her own money selling lemonade. Tazzy snuck into the prison this summer and found out that Effie was needed there to help Portia. Effie invited her to stay the night so she wouldn't be out on the street. When I last saw her, she was dressed in a sparkly mini-dress with a flame pattern on it. Now, she's in jeans and a standard issue combat top from Thirteen. She looks more her age.

"You know our spies?" Creelman asks. "It was Soldier Vole who... " He stops. "Who I mentioned yesterday. Who works near the blast site."

The one who pulled Finnick's hand from the wreckage. I look at her.

She nods. "I'm sure sorry about Finnick. He used to come down to the corner... you know, where I worked... and bring us food and things. We all saw the story he told. I guess that's why he always helped us. I wish I could have helped him."

"You did," I tell her. "You brought what you could to his friends, instead of leaving it for his enemies."

She nods.

They sit down at the table. I know they would not be allowed to join a council in the Capitol's ranks, and I have a distinct impression that they would not be welcome in Thirteen proper, but here, they seem to be fine.

"Word on the street?" Creelman asks.

"It's getting dangerous," Aurelian says. "People are really scared. That thing on the news yesterday, where Katniss shot the woman... that's got them terrified. They remember her in the Games. They think she's going to come after them."

"I don't think Katniss is just out hunting civilians," I say.

"Do you know what she is doing?" Creelman asks. "Because that's a question we'd like answered."

"No idea," I lie without looking at him. "I haven't talked to her any more than you have. But if she shot a civilian, it was in the line of doing something else. It wasn't something she set out to do." I hope this is true, that even without Peeta's steadying influence, Katniss hasn't gone completely over the edge.

Tazzy nods. "I think they know that, when they think about it."

"But who's to say they won't be the next ones in her way?" Aurelian points out. He sighs and takes the leather string out of his hair, letting his curls fall down almost to his shoulders. "That's the problem. They remember the parade last summer. The way Katniss and Peeta were so angry. Wouldn't talk to them. And now, a lot of them have it in their heads that they're out for vengeance."

"It doesn't help that there's a price on their heads," Tazzy adds. "Dead or alive. It doesn't bring out the higher quality of Capitol citizen."

We all talk for a while about how to get around the mounting panic in the Capitol. The sooner we end it and topple Snow, the easier it will be to stabilize things. Plutarch can take control of the television and start soothing the population with a little bit of the truth. Creelman and the others from Thirteen have a separate meeting to discuss "minor matters," most of which I assume from their tone are spelled K-A-T-N-I-S-S. I go out with Aurelian and Tazzy.

"I heard Primrose Everdeen is here," Tazzy says.

"Where did you hear that?"

"Just people talking. They say she's with the medics. I should tell Solly -- remember my sister Solly? She'd get a kick out of it."

"With all the panic, I hope you told her not to carry that Katniss doll of hers around," I say. I look at Aurelian. "And maybe you ought to think about going back to your natural hair color."

"Solly's way out at the lake with the little boys," Tazzy says. "She can carry whatever she wants. They still love Katniss. As to his hair" -- she points at Aurelian -- "maybe you'll have better luck with that than the rest of us."

"If people weren't saying nasty things about him, I probably would. But I got to meet him -- I lied my way onto his prep team and helped with his first interview prep -- and I'm not going to do something that looks like I'm going over to the other side." He seems to consider something carefully, then just shakes his head. "The only thing he asked about, in the middle of all that hell, was how everyone else was. Junie'd gotten into the minimum security prison, so I could tell him. She was pretending to be a guard."

"You have someone in the prison?"

"Yeah. Caesar got her the job. He got me on the prep team for real, too, after I got out of questioning. And he got Tazzy the key to Effie Trinket's apartment."

Tazzy frowns at what I guess must be confusion on my face. "Her cat," she explains. "Solly loved the cat when we stayed there, so I broke in and stole it, so it wouldn't starve."

I find a bench and sit down, putting my head in my hands. I'm dizzy. For months, I've been haunted by that damned cat, and it's been safe with a little girl all along.

"You okay?" Aurelian asks.

"Yeah. I'm good." I sigh. "This has to be the dumbest question I've ever asked, but what's the cat's name?"

"It's Sweetheart," Tazzy says. "Why?"

I can't answer. I can't say why the cat's name mattered to me in the first place, or why I feel like crying when I learn it. I don't know if there's a word for the feeling it brings up in me, the sense of some hidden knife -- or maybe an axe -- going deeper into my guts, cutting through the old scar tissue and finding new nerves. I shake my head. "Have we heard anything about Effie since she was moved? Has Junie been able to get to maximum security?"

"No," Tazzy says. "I'm sorry."

"But if they had done something," Aurelian says, "I think they'd show it everywhere, like they did with Peeta's real preps."

That's true. Unless they saved her to torment me later with whatever they've been doing to her. Unless they did something so horrible to her that people wouldn't recognize her.

Unless they've hijacked her.

I don't mention this to the kids. I send them off together, and hope that the arms they sneak around each other mean that they're going to find something to be happy about in all this mess.

A squad goes out later in the day, but is forced back by several activated pods. I meet with Command about how to deal with these bizarre defense mechanisms, since their holos are outdated. I suggest running unmanned cars up and down the streets to deliberately set them all off. This is lauded as brilliant, and no one listens when I tell them that it will only work for the first few blocks, and after that, the Capitol will put the things on manual control.

We start the experiment the next morning, as Capitol citizens stream through the streets, trying to find shelter further into the city. Creelman listens to me at first and tries the cars on streets that have already been deserted, but gets orders later to take a more direct route to city center. I guess Coin has decided to get to Snow before Katniss can.

The cars set off deadly explosions, release gases, even send out vicious mutts. The Rebellion is safe behind the lines. The vast majority of those hurt by the pods are Capitol citizens just going about their business and trying to get to safety. I ask Creelman to at least let them walk ahead, hoping that there is some mechanism that will keep the pods from firing on citizens. There are children in among them. He does it. The stream of refugees gets wider and faster, and the cars keep pace about two blocks behind them, with soldiers following. The casualty count among the civilians goes down. I guess they turn on the pods after blocks have been evacuated. It takes about three hours for the Capitol to switch control over to manual.

In the middle of the afternoon, Tazzy comes looking for me, because Aurelian has done something phenomenally stupid. He's deliberately re-dyed his hair and styled himself like Peeta, and walked down the street in a neighborhood far from the one we believe the kids are in, trying to set out a false trail. It works a little too well.

Tazzy and I are still a few blocks away when we hear the sirens. The crowd has mobbed Aurelian and started beating him, and possibly even stoning him. Before we can get to him, he's taken off to a hospital, but luckily, it's one where we have a lot of the Capitol rebels on staff, and they make it easy for Tazzy and me to sneak him out into a rebel-run ambulance before the Capitol can come and start interrogating him. Plutarch's doctor spy, Galerius, spins a story about how he died en route to the hospital, and goes on television begging people to leave these things to the proper authorities from now on. When he finishes the conference, I tell him to get out. It will be sooner rather than later when the authorities realize there's no body to show.

I hope the real Peeta sees the press conference and takes it as a warning to stay inside, wherever he is. I don't bother hoping Katniss will take the lesson. I sit with Aurelian in the medical tent while Prim tends his wounds. I am tired of sitting by hospital beds. Tazzy comes in and takes over the watch. I introduce her to Prim, then go for a walk. The hovercraft we came in is gone, probably back to get more supplies. There is a panel sitting against the wall of the train depot with the "Union of Districts" name and seal on it. The seal is black and shows a minimalist white bear prowling through a circle of thirteen stars. Boring and Coin-approved, no doubt.

I sit and look at it for a long time. There's something wrong with it. I decide that it's the symbolism of thirteen districts and one central figure. Does it mean that she means to wipe out the Capitol after all, leaving only the districts? Or that they've given up on re-settling Twelve? Or that Thirteen, the bear, is going to become the center? I can't say I like any of those ideas. I suppose it's also possible that someone miscounted the stars, or just had thirteen districts on the brain.

That's it. That's what's wrong with it.

I continue to stare at it.

It's very late when Prim comes out of the medical tent and joins me. She's bundled up in a heavy jacket. "I wonder what they sent for," she says, looking at the empty space where the hovercraft was. "I hope it's bandages. We're running low."

"You're very good at what you do," I tell her. "They're right to train you. But you shouldn't be here. It's not safe yet."

She doesn't answer this, exactly. "Other than the techs who came up for shoots after the Games -- the preps and Effie and the stylists and so on -- I never met a Capitol citizen before. That boy, the one I was taking care of… he's as brave as Katniss or Gale, isn't he, just going off into the middle of all that?"

"Yeah. And as stupid."

"And the girl says she takes care of her sister, like Katniss used to take care of me. I have a feeling she doesn't put food on the table by hunting, though."

"There's not much game in the Capitol."

"We're really wrecking these people's lives, aren't we? I mean, this is their home. Did you see them in the street?"

"A little bit."

"We must have looked like that when Twelve was burning. We were moving faster because the fire was faster, but... we must have looked the same. Like nothing makes sense anymore. They're just normal people."

"I know. Some of them are my friends." I put a hand on her shoulder. "It's ugly. I know. I guess when I thought about the war, I thought it would just be... like the Games. Maybe everyone wouldn't want to be there, but everyone would know to fight. It's not how it works, though."

"Snow's putting out human shields," Prim tells me. "It's on the news. He's inviting citizens into the presidential mansion. They're scared. They'll go."


She breathes out softly, her breath making a cloud in the cold, early winter air. It catches the moonlight, frozen in the blackness. I will think about this later. A lot. I will think about Prim's breath, caught in the dark, shining in the moonlight, then disappearing.

She looks out at the Capitol, where fires are burning in many of the streets we're clearing. She crosses her arms over her chest and says, "How do we put the fire out, Haymitch? When all of this is over, how do we put it out?"

I don't have an answer. We sit together until she is called back to her unit and I am called back to mine. As she gets up, she looks at the seal and frowns. "I wonder why they took that off the hovercraft," she says mildly.

Neither of us has an answer for that.

I don't see her again that night.

The next morning, it's like a signal has come from everywhere at once. The Capitol citizens speed up as they head for City Center. The Peacekeepers swarm up the empty streets. There is fierce fighting downtown. Here in camp, giant mutt rats crawl up out of the sewers and attack the shanty town, weakening us before a squad of Peacekeepers descends. The hospital is evacuated onto a train, and the train gets clear. I have a moment's hope that Prim is on it, but as I fight with the Peacekeepers, I catch a glimpse of her on a flatbed transport, being pulled away toward city center with most of the other medics. I guess the casualties are really starting to come in.

By mid-morning, we've pushed the Peacekeepers back. I grab a gun from one of them, but don't use it unless I'm almost close enough to use my knife. No sense wasting ammunition, and between my regularly bad aim and the heavy snow that's starting to fall, anything I fire would be a waste.

Creelman gets orders for us to help "maintain order" in the city while the final push toward the Presidential Mansion goes on. I don't know what the endgame is. I hope that Katniss is trying to sneak in with the refugees, and that she'll find the way around Snow's human shields before something really catastrophic happens.

People around me are firing blindly. Stupidly. I see some of ours on a far rooftop, and they are actually firing into the crowd. A little girl in a yellow coat falls to the pavement, bleeding. I can't see who shot her. If I ever find out, that person is going to have his throat slit.

Pods are opening everywhere, killing rebels and Capitol citizens without distinction. One opens on the street just ahead of me, sending people screaming into the depths. A few manage to hang on. I see a girl most of the block away from me in a heavy overcoat and layers of coverings on her head leap for the corner. She makes it. The boy she's with is dragged up into a building by Peacekeepers. She is screaming something, but I can't hear her over the din.

A pod opens near me, sending electrified wires across the street, killing Creelman and two other members of my squad.

I don't know what the plan is.

I make my own. In case Katniss doesn't make it to Snow, I'd better be there for backup. I slip around the corner, and start to make my way down alleys that don't appear on our maps, narrow paths where drunks and morphling addicts sleep off their stupors on safer days. I see someone moving ahead of me, someone lurching on an unsteady leg.

A curl of blond hair escapes from under his scarf.

"Peeta!" I call.

He doesn't hear.

I follow him.

We have nearly reached City Center when the world is shaken by an explosion that sends glass shattering down from the buildings above us. Peeta has reached the opening of the alley, and suddenly runs forward. I go after him.

Inside a newly walled off area, I can see screaming children, and blood and body parts. For some reason, arena parachutes are scattered among them. A Capitol hovercraft floats in the sky.

There are piles of overturned cars in the way, but Peeta is trying to scramble around them. Medical teams rush in.

Then the world is on fire.
5 comments or Leave a comment
From: (Anonymous) Date: December 21st, 2015 01:51 pm (UTC) (Link)

"We're really wrecking these people's lives, aren't we? I mean, these is their home. Did you see them in street?"

I never did well in English class picking up hidden meanings. What's up with the bear as a symbol of Thirteen? Did you base the song and the winged bear off something, or am I just looking too hard for more meaning?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 21st, 2015 05:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
The bear is a traditional symbol of Russia/the Soviet Union, adopted in homage by the early communist settlers in 13, though probably altered to the Canadian grizzly bear.

(And oops on the first... completely missed that pronoun when I edited the line.)
From: (Anonymous) Date: December 23rd, 2015 03:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you. Was missing the Russian connection and I knew it had to have a real world connection somewhere!
From: (Anonymous) Date: December 21st, 2015 10:12 pm (UTC) (Link)

It is Both...

Incredibly typical of Haymitch and incredibly sad that in the same breath that he uses to say that he helped Finnick escape those reporters his first year as a mentor, Haymitch also wonders why Finnick loved him so much. Come on, Haymitch, can't a genius like you make such an obvious connection :(

Sara Libby
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 22nd, 2015 04:30 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: It is Both...

I think Haymitch is baffled by Finnick choosing to throw his arms around him even then. I mean, anyone would have protected the kid, right? Isn't that what grown-ups are supposed to do? Nothing special...
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