Okay. They're Catholic, so I sent them to Purgatory. Apologies for the delay, I was slightly distracted this week...
“I’d have thought Finnick, at least, would go on to the big shiny cloudy place in the sky,” Harris Greaves grumped, scraping another layer of mud from his eyes. “Big heroic death, pure heart, all that crap.”
“Still a killer,” Finnick said, tearing his eyes away from the tidepool. He was tangled in a net, and bled from wounds in his torso, though they seemed not to cause him pain. “I don’t mind doing my time here, getting clean of it. As long as I can see.”
Mags—now young again, wild-eyed and dangerous—made her way down from the rocks. She wasn’t marked as Finnick and Harris were. Harris had no idea exactly what her “purification” was, and still wasn’t convinced any of them needed purifying. He’d been a half-assed believer in life, and maybe that’s what the mud in his eyes was about, as much as what he’d done in the arena. But he did feel like dying to get rid of Snow ought to have been a clean ticket to paradise, and it wasn’t like he’d decided to go in and drown people in the arena.
He amused himself, as he often did, by imagining Snow being subjected to every torment he’d inflicted on the districts. This probably would increase his time with mud in the eye—he knew perfectly well that he wasn’t meant to take pleasure in anyone’s pain—but he couldn’t help it. He hoped Snow was in some place where he was simultaneously drowned, attacked by mutts, hunted by other dirtbag dictators, burned up by bombs, and starved. The fantasy used to include subjecting him to the humiliating chemical castration (thankfully, temporary) that the boys in the arena were subjected to, but Mags had ripped him up one side and down the other for objecting to it, and also pointed out that, as far as anyone could tell, it wouldn’t bother Snow much.
“What are they doing now, Finnick?” Mags asked, jumping down from the last rock and landing beside the pool.
Finnick grinned. “Finny learned to say ‘shit.’ Annie is trying to get him not to say it to the rest of the District Representatives. They’re down in Four for a ‘meeting.’ Which seems to involve a lot of sunbathing on the beach.”
“Figures,” Mags said. “They getting anything done while they’re tanning?”
“Yeah. Thirteen’s good for something. That Blake kid who just took over for the district is poking everyone with sticks to at least pretend to work on the project they’re supposed to be doing.”
“What’s that?” Harris asked. “Another quilt?”
Mags gave a derisive laugh, and Finnick rolled his eyes. When some less cooperative of the Council of Districts members (led, of course, by the ever-reliable District Nine) had refused to consider what needed to be done to repair the transportation infrastructure on the grounds that it benefited the Capitol too much, President Paylor had assigned all of them to make a single quilt together to learn how to actually accomplish a task. Weirdly enough, it had worked, and the man from District Nine had making friends with the District Eight woman who’d taught him to sew, and, along with being quite good at it by the end, was routinely taking her out to dinner… and managed to allow that maybe it would be more practical to repair the existing train system than to create an entirely new one that bypassed the Capitol. The golden tracks that led there from six had been bombed during the war (by the Capitol, in hopes of cutting off the Rebel supply lines), and everyone agreed to replace them with more humble materials. Leave it to District Eight to find unity in textiles.
“I think this time, they’re working on the medical training system,” Finnick said. “Both sides lost a lot of doctors, and Annie wants to build a university in Four to train up new ones. Ruth Everdeen’s first in line.”
“Why not put it with the medical supply factory in Twelve?”
“Looks like there’s an argument going on about just that. Thom put on quite a show in favor of it.” Mags shrugged. “If you had a choice to go to Twelve or Four to study, where would you pick? Me, I’d go for sunshine and swimming every time. It’s December down there. Twelve’s just a sludge pit of mud right now.”
“Annie’s pointing out that advantage, I think,” Finnick said. “Or at least, that’s how I’d interpret the bikini.” He sighed. “Wish I could be there to see it in person.”
Mags patted his shoulder. “They wouldn’t be able to do it if hadn’t been for you.”
“I meant the bikini.”
Harris laughed and joined them. The images in the pool sometimes had sound, but mostly didn’t. There was a sense of what was going on—he couldn’t explain it; it felt something like remembering what was being said, as if he’d known it all along—but mostly, it was like watching a re-run program on a silenced television.
Annie, indeed, looked pretty spectacular. So did Poplin Goldstein from Eight, for that matter, though her swimsuit was considerably more modest. They were on the beach not far from Victor’s Village, at the base of a rocky hill that used to be home to the Peacekeeper barracks. A brand new, gleaming white hospital looked out over the sea above them.
“That’s prime real estate for a hospital,” he said. “I’m surprised they didn’t put it down in the marshes.”
“That was Ruth,” Mags said. “When she was running the field hospital and they were just talking about building it, she said that the ocean was so calming, so healing for her, that she thought having an ocean view would be nice for recovering patients.”
“Sure, up until the first hurricane.”
They all laughed—they loved the ocean as much as any other shore-dwellers, but, unlike the newcomers, they respected it.
“I’m pretty sure it’s built hurricane safe,” Finnick said. “It was designed by Capitol people, but they actually listened to people from Four about local conditions. And to doctors and healers about medical needs. Radical, right?”
“Are we sure they’re from the Capitol?” Mags asked.
“They should teach architects in the university, if they’re going to build one,” Harris said.
“I think they’re teaching medicine.”
“If it’s a real university, they can do both. And more. They could have people who do languages and history and all that stuff. The district doesn’t have to be just one thing. You could even have people who study fish.”
Mags wrinkled her nose. “What’s to study? Fish aren’t all that bright.”
“But bright people can learn lots of things about them. Look at the oysters in the Ghost Gulf. I heard when I was little that scientists went down special, before the Catastrophes, and bred ones that tasted better, and filtered the water better. If they hadn’t been down there, the water would have been a lot worse.”
“But they were poison for a long time.”
“They got over it. We could use some marine science down there.”
Finnick tore his eyes away from Annie and little Finny (who was trailing behind her with a plastic bucket). “You want it to be like the big Capitol university?”
“Why not? Why shouldn’t every district have one? They can have some special department that looks at the District’s old industries, but you could study lots of things. And if someone in District Three wanted to study fish, he could apply and go to Four. And someone from Four who wanted to learn about trains could go up to Six. And someone who wanted to write abstract, depressing poetry could go up and keep Haymitch and the kids company in Twelve.”
“Haymitch is in the Capitol,” Mags reminded him. “His Effie’s getting him to straighten out and fly right, and about damned time.”
“Wish I could run for District Council,” Harris said. “I’d put that up. Universities in every district.”
“Well, I don’t think this particular district has representation,” Finnick said, then leaned back over the pool. “Look. Finny’s making friends with the baby from District Seven…”