- "Most games are lost, not won."
- ―Casey Stengal, baseball coach
Alright, after finishing my previous entry, I wanted to do a Hunger Games. So here I am. And you're here, too, reading this . . . I don't know where I'm going with this. Perhaps some flavor text, eh?
While by its rules and terrain the 64th Annual Hunger Games wasn't unusual, the actions of the tributes sparked much unrest in the Capitol and the Districts. The first breaking of a Career pack in decades, attempted escapes, and its finale made it an event not soon forgotten in the minds of Panem.
Alright, it's not much so far, but I'm workin' on it.
I'll be putting in a few tributes myself for story angles and personal reasons, but be rest assured none of them will be the Victor. Someone from your minds will be the sole survivor of this year.
If I may make suggestions for your entries, the usually Career slots will become the Career pack. I'd like a Thresh-like character from someone, I have an idea for him (or perhaps her), but be forewarned that they will be killed. Other than those, I don't have many ideas already formed, so what happens will be based on who the characters are, so along with their name and age, write a sentence or two about them for reference.
Better start up a roster here, so . . .
Roster and Gamemaker's Notes
- District 1
- Kodiak Goldstein
- Male, Age 14. Unusually quiet, has not interacted much with other typically Career tributes. Some sort of upset relating to his reaping, will be cross-examined.
- Eris Scarborough
- Female, Age 17. Volunteered, and by looks of things has been trained by District 1 to be their tribute this year. Token confiscated after possible use of it as a weapon, and has had to be watched when near other tributes for fear of fighting early.
- Kodiak Goldstein
- District 2 - Reserved by Fallen Angel
- Tristen Ravenhawk
- Male, Age 17. Remains very antisocial, even towards other Career tributes. Resents his family's choice to groom him to become a tribute, but has a firm will to live himself. Element of unpredictability. Watch carefully.
- Sondra Revil
- Female, Age 15. Quite aloof considering her dire circumstances. Has repeatedly reached out to Tristen, to no avail. She's come close to provoking her Peacekeeper guards, likes to test limits. Several Capitol citizens are looking forward to seeing her die in the arena. She's aware of it and hopes to disappoint them.
- Tristen Ravenhawk
- District 3
- Dyne Rosenthal
- Male, Age 14. Talkative, too much so for his own good. Has not spent much time training or trying to make alliances. Doesn't fit known psychological profiles for tributes, neither confident nor timid. Observe closely.
- Sepia Ashe
- Female, Age 16. Unusual for a District 3 to join the Career pack, has a nasty habit of saying 'glitch', a strong District 3 curse word. She was the leader of a band of juvenile delinquents before being drawn in the reapings.
- Dyne Rosenthal
- District 4 - Reserved by Anon....
- Edward Teach
- Male, Age 15. As a former pirate, has had experience in combat, making him fit well with the Careers. He, like Sepia, was leader of a group of young renegades on a stolen boat. The Capitol doesn't tolerate dissention, and so his group was brought in and his name planted in the reaping.
- Sky Storm
- Female, Age 14. Her ship was one of those attacked by Edward, and she still harbors a strong grudge against him for tying her up when she refused to join his 'crew'. Made strong by the hard work on D4's coast, she has allied with the Career pack for now, but if there's an opportunity to kill Edward, she'll take it.
- Edward Teach
- District 5 - Reserved by Julian Espinoza
- Stronton Melich
- Male, Age 17. He's trained hard since he arrived in the Capitol, his mentor had to force him to bed because he chose to continue conditioning himself at night, forsaking all sleep. He refused what seemed like an offer from the Career pack, and it could make him a target.
- Sedra Alsypse
- Female, Age 12. Her slingshot was taken away after repeatedly pelting training instructors, gamemakers, and anyone else she could see. When her name was called, she had to be located by a squad. At the time, she was pickpocketing, a skill which might help her if she can apply it correctly.
- Stronton Melich
- District 6 - Reserved by Moon Beam
- Kakeru Satsuki
- Male, Age 16. Able to wield a sword, he is handy with it has been well trained. Was eager to be selected. Spoiled and somewhat impatient, he's used to getting everything he wants.
- Serena Wolf
- Female, Age 17. When she was a little kid her older sister died, and she became all her parents cared for. They'd teach her anything she wanted to know, and any survival skills she needed for the possibility that she would be entered into the Games, as they didn't want to lose another child. A good fighter, and she can throw far.
- Kakeru Satsuki
- District 7 - Reserved by Sparrow Hazelthorn
- Marlow Sindell
- Male, Age 14. Is good with weapons and extremely fast. He doesn't need an ally, nor want one. He's perfectly fine flying solo, and plans to win. He's a winner by nature. He can use anything to his advantage, weapon-wise, and is quite the charmer.
- Takita Harose
- Female, Age 17. Is eager for an ally - she's incompetent with weapons, but very smart. Her only downfall is that she can't defend herself. She's sneaky in a different way, within playing with people's minds - turning them against each other... and she does know edible plants, is fast, and can swim well.
- Marlow Sindell
- District 8 - Reserved by SerpentKing
- Cat Ifes
- Male, Age 13. Appears to have no qualms killing, he was able to survive on his own in District 8's township for some time. He may have trouble adapting his skills to wilderness, which he seems to be aware of and has been training in survival courses (edible plants, firebuilding, etc.).
- Kaori Azai
- Female, Age 17. Displays absolute mastery of the sword, but her ability to survive environmental hazards may depend on her allies. Her name was planted in the reapings; her family has clung to their heritage after coming here which may be seen as defiance. This will quiet them. Observing her skill with the blade, the Careers have extended an invitation, it is unknown if she will accept.
- Cat Ifes
- District 9 - Reserved by Skybender
- Markus Brown
- Male, Age 15. Resisted capture after being drawn, wounded his arm. May be liability, but his left is still good and can fight equally well with either arm. He was trained with weapons at an early age, and has spent much time in the training areas learning skills. Keep a close eye on the barriers on floor 9 of the tribute's tower. Possible continued escape attempts.
- Sheila Swift
- Female, Age 17. Has supported her family from a young age, and is skilled at stalking prey. Investigation ongoing into illegal hunting activities. Camouflage and stealth are valuable abilities, but if she is unable to feed herself, the chance of being discovered will grow.
- Markus Brown
- District 10
- District 11
- District 12
The 64th Games
1: Death Toll
A skirmish, Sheila Swift of District 9 decided. That’s what the bloodbath most resembled. No clash of teams, no one rushing to the defense of others, just chaotic all-out attacks of opportunity.
True to her name, she darted quickly over the rough, dry ground. Her footfalls kicked up plumes of dust behind her, merging with the cloud arising from the scuffle made by the other tributes who, like her, had gone for the spoils of the Cornucopia.
Picking up a short javelin on the run, she blocked a blow coming from Kakeru, the District 6 boy, dropped it, and ran on. Scooping up a backpack, she turned sharply for the nearest edge of the starting circle and sprinted for the far-off treeline.
As Sheila retreated, the Careers and those either foolish enough to contest them or too slow to escape battled on. One of the Careers, Eris, saw someone coming right at her. They were either smart or lucky, they were placed so the sun got in her eyes. This boy however, Carmine of District 10, underestimated his opponent. The Career ducked his blow with a staff and tackled him to the ground.
Eris gained a solid grip on the other tribute’s neck, and squeezed. Under the boy’s skin, blood vessels ruptured and began to bruise instantaneously as he gasped at nothing. Finally, he stopped and with a final shudder, died, his cannon joining the others sounding in the air as announcement of the bloodbath.
She looked up to select another target, and saw only Kodiak, her District partner, was standing near her, holding a sword and picking up two of the filled backpacks. They grimaced at each other a moment before she smiled at her fellow Career. She picked up a short sword lying near her like the one Kodiak held, and stood back to back with him so each could cover one area to kill the weaklings faster.
It was the first and last mistake she would make. As soon as she turned her back on him and focused on Dyne of District 3 who was just standing just a few meters away, Kodiak stabbed his blade deep into Eris’ back. Shock was the last emotion she felt, and her fading vision last saw Kodiak toss the sword she had picked up to Dyne, and the career and the weakling start running into the hills away from the slaughter on their own.
Though they weren’t far away, the dust obscured this from the vision of Edward Teach and Tristen Ravenhawk, who were fighting together against the District 11 pair and Scarlet of 10. They were outnumbered, but far from outclassed.
Scarlet rained heavy blows with the mace she’d found, its head clanging again and again on Tristen’s shield. She was a fierce fighter, strong from working as a farmhand, but not trained as Tristen had been. He bided his time, letting the girl wear herself out, and then went on the offensive.
As Scarlet raised her heavy mace for another blow, Tristen pushed forward, smashing her with the shield’s flat, metal surface. Unprepared, she fell into the dirt with blood seeping from a broken nose, and before she could recover Tristen was upon her. He raised the shield’s sharp edge over his head, and brought it down at her exposed neck.
Teach was taking a far different approach to combat. Grinning in the face of the 11s as they hung back, cautious, he jeered, “Come on then, you dogs, don’t take all day about it!”
They ran forward brandishing the spears they’d taken up, pointing the sharp spearheads for his vulnerable body. Teach sidestepped, drawing them into a line so they had to come at him one at a time. Deflecting away the first spear with the cutlass he’d claimed, then with a brutal jab from his left sent the boy reeling back, directly onto the point of his District partner’s spear.
He snickered as he saw the horrified look on the girl’s face, and savored the moment as he advanced on her, still trying to pull the spear from her ally’s body. His sword first tasted blood then.
As one more body fell into the dirt, the dust began to settle and it was easier for them to see. Most of the other tributes had fled, either once they’d secured what they could or before the bloodbath even began. Seeing this, Teach snarled at their cowardice and began shouting obscenities after them into the forest. Tristen, however, remained silent as he stared after them.
Scanning around, he saw that six tributes were already dead as the rest of the Career pack approached. Tristen and Edward’s District partners, Sondra Revil and Sky Storm, and the girl from District 3, Sepia, who was dragging someone behind her. Tristen’s eyes narrowed, concerned. District 1 was missing. They were always allies.
“Where’s 1?” he asked as they joined them. Sepia pushed her captive into the middle, who lay there breathing heavily after their struggle.
Sky answered, “Eris was stabbed in the back by her partner.” She pointed out to a set of high hills leading towards a far-off mountain peak. “He ran off with the District 3 boy that way.”
That didn’t make sense. The Careers were the best chance of survival, why would Kodiak betray them, and his own District partner? Tristen brooded over these thoughts as Edward took charge.
“So, a mutiny from him, is it? I don’t take well to traitors!” He raised his cutlass over his head, snarling, “We’ll hunt them down and make an example out of ‘em.”
There was no argument from the others. A rogue Career and his ally made a good start to hunting down their opposition. Teach began to take leadership of the Career pack, running them like his old crew and ensuring they were busy doing something that would be useful, assigning them to pack supplies or gather weapons.
In the midst of them, Takita Harose stayed silent. She was live prey in the predators’ den, waiting in fear for the moment they’d choose to pounce on her. After a time with them ignoring her, she stretched her arm cautiously across the ground, and winced as the movement caught attention.
“So what do we do with this one?” Sondra asked casually, picking her teeth with a knife after having eaten an apple from the bag she held.
Sky glanced over, and hefted her trident. “I’ll end it.”
A hand reached out and grabbed the shaft of her weapon. Tristen shook his head. “No. She might be useful later.”
Sky met his hard gaze for a moment, then pulled away and lowered the weapon. As the two turned their backs on each other, Takita dreaded the snicker in Sepia’s voice as she said, “Cool. I always wanted a pet.”
While the Careers gathered, the other survivors were quickly spreading into the surrounding area. Most were without supplies, but Marlow Sindell was not one of them. A whole bag of produce from District 11 to himself, and while no real weapon, he’d fashioned a walking stick from a thick, solid branch.
Despite that he’d just barely escaped from the bloodbath, thanks mostly to his District partner being captured, he was in high spirits. He was well-off, the dappled sunshine was coming through the canopy like it did in his home, and it looked like he was in the right position to win the Games. And that’s when he heard he whimper.
Instantly shouldering the bag and taking a two-handed grip on his staff, he looked around and spotted Kaori from District 8. She was low to the ground, in the middle of a shaft of light and clutching her leg that had been trapped in the entrance of some animal’s burrow. She was groaning loudly in pain, a target the size of the Capitol city, but Marlow was cautious all the same.
Entering the glade where she was slowly, he kept his eyes on her when she spotted him, watching her eyes for some telltale sign of a trap. There only seemed to be panic and pain.
“Help,” she said pitifully, “please!”
That didn’t fit. If she was really in trouble, she would try to get away somehow. So instead of moving slowly, he lunged at her, discarding his staff. Marlow heard the heavy footsteps of her allies leaving cover and saw her going for a sword she’d hidden in the brush, but he quickly got his arms around her head and ready to twist.
Everyone froze as Marlow put his hostage between himself and the other two staring at him. It was Cat, the other District 8, and Marcus, the 9 who’d been wounded before the Games. They had a couple of sharpened sticks pointed towards him, but weren’t moving to attack yet.
Marlow was ready for a fight, and looked at them confusedly as they held back. “Well?” he said, waiting on them. But they hesitated. It gnawed away at his curiosity, sitting there at an impasse until he realized what they were doing.
“You . . . need her. You all need allies.” He said, smiling as he caught on. “Wounded or just weak, you know you can’t take on the Careers if they come after you.”
The standoff lasted a moment more before Cat responded, not lowering his stake. “Yeah. Kinda.”
Marlow nodded, and released Kaori. She gasped in the air, slipping to the forest floor. “Well, you don’t need to worry about them for now. They took off after a couple of other tributes in the opposite direction.” Marlow said. He took a step back and surveyed them. They were ill prepared, with only the sword and makeshift spears between them. Still . . . he unslung the bag of food he had. “It seems like you could use someone who can help you get food. Or at least another fighter.”
“You want to join up with us?” Marcus asked, keeping between Marlow and where Cat was helping Kaori up.
“Yeah.” Marlow said simply. “There’s safety in numbers, you know.”
Passing out an item of food to each of them, the four started off, putting more distance between themselves and the Careers. Marlow went first, reminding himself that teamwork was, after all, important. It gave the enemy someone else to attack.
On the opposite side of the spread of tributes, the rogue Career and his companion from District 3 were surveying the contents of their acquired packs. All of it was useful stuff, just not useful to them. A pocket watch, a tarp, an explosive flare, some small tacks. There was a bit of food, and Kodiak had to keep Dyne from eating it all before they began their planned hike.
Kodiak hefted one of the packs, now with less of the things they couldn’t use in it, onto his broad shoulders. He looked at his comparatively small ally. “So. To the edge?”
“Yep.” Dyne said, nodding. “Out of the Arena. We’re leaving.”
Turning away from the place they’d started, the pair began walking in a straight line, hoping they’d find the edge of the Arena. They didn’t know how far it was exactly, only that it would be a very, long walk.
In yet another part of the graveyard the Capitol had created for them, Serena Wolf was welcoming the evening’s fast approach. Actually, she wasn’t sure if it was real night or only simulated inside the controlled Arena dome. She’d studied Capitol technology, what little she could, and it didn’t inspire confidence in the rumors of a resistance she’d heard.
Turning to more immediate issues, she counted herself lucky to get a knife and a backpack out of the chaos earlier. Several from the lower Districts hadn’t been so lucky. A sharp blade was the first step for anyone’s survival, knowing how to use it was the second. Not like her District partner, Kakeru, whom she’d last seen chasing after Sedra Alsypse with a long sword. He was a good warrior, but Serena could outlast him out here, now alone for miles. No one could out-fight Mother Nature.
But Serena was resourceful. She knew how to take advantage of the bounties and avoid the hazards. It gave her good odds of surviving this, and if sponsors could see that, she was in a good position.
She kept her eyes skyward on the watch for silver parachutes. It was too early in to tell what she’d need to survive, but buying early when gifts were cheap might pay off.
Suddenly, she realized what would happen when evening came around. Stowing her pack and knife where they wouldn’t be easily seen, she found a tree and started climbing. Despite rough branches and sap not helping, Serena reached a high enough branch in time to stand and watch the faces of dead tributes appear in the sky.
As the dead from Districts 1, 10, 11, and 12 were shown in sequence, her dark silhouette against the night sky gave the cameras an excellent moment to exploit.
Six dead already. That was what? About a quarter? Unlike everyone else in the Capitol at the moment, Kyler Teak felt nothing but bitter sorrow. He was an agent of District 13, sent to run messages between the resistance's members. But he'd delayed his mission to watch the Games.
Back when he'd been nothing but a District 7 citizen, he'd hated watching the Games, and often hid in the forest for hours at a time to avoid it. But now, he felt he had an obligation, to bear witness to these pointless, painful deaths. Only a few years ago, his name had been drawn, and he was dragged here and set in an Arena of his own. He'd lived, but he was not the Victor.
He'd escaped. But he'd paid a high price for his freedom. His arm, severed below the shoulder, had taken his tracking chip with it when he was nearly crushed by rubble.
Now, he was fighting the Capitol in the best way he could, helping the resistance and biding his time for when the moment was right to bring them down. If he was lucky, he even got to carry out an occasional assassination.
Kyler heard heavy footsteps in the hall. He knew it was Peacekeepers, and that they knew he was here. As they approached, he jeered at them through the barricaded door, "Hurry up, jumpsuits, I'll take you with one arm completely gone!"
The door jolted as they hit it with a battering ram, but held closed. Sighing, Kyler took his leave. Going to a window, he opened it and climbed out onto the fire escape. Taking one last look back inside, he laughed inside as he saw the trip mine he'd left on the door. As the battering ram again hit the door, opening it this time, Kyler jumped the few stories to the ground.
Above him, the room combusted into an orange fireball, taking the Peacekeeper squad with it. Kyler felt the heat on his back as he landed in the street below.
He grunted in pain as his legs suddenly ached. "Okay, not doing that again." he groaned. Then, as quickly as he could, he limped away from the scene, off on some errand to help bring about the end of the Capitol.
Hunter, Survivor, Prey
"Come back here and let me kill you already!" Kakeru Satsuki of District 6 shouted at his quarry. He deigned to offer some small mercy. "I'll be sure to make it quick!"
Sedra Alsypse's answer was preceded by yet another pebble being thrown from the ridge above him she was running along, which bounced off of his forehead. "You're really bad at tag, aren't you?"
It only added to his anger that had been building up since he'd spotted the District 5 girl and given chase early this morning. After he'd gotten away from the bloodbath unscathed, he was feeling cocky and when he sighted Sedra, he'd broken cover immediately and charged her with his sword. He hadn't expected her to run in the opposite direction, or to be so fast.
Her insolence was easily getting under his skin. He was used to having rabble like her obey him, and she should have died easy. But the insults, laughter, and hail of pebbles he'd received instead of a kill tally was just making him more and more angry, and less careful.
Kakeru's malicious smile returned as he started gaining ground on her. Soon, he could scale the ridge and reach her, and then there would be no contest. He started running closer to the bottom of it when another rock came down, but this was no pebble.
Stopping short just in time, he leaped backwards as the boulder crashed down in a cloud of dust where he would have been. Sedra's head poked over the ridge.
"Damn. Missed you." she looked directly at him. "Hold still next time, will you?"
Kakeru snarled and the chase resumed. He looked ahead on his own path, now, and found that soon this gorge he was in rose up and met her trail. Flicking his eyes in Sedra's direction occasionally, he doubled his speed and made for the end. As the ground sloped up, he pushed off against boulders and scrambled up banks of crumbled shale until he made the crest of it, and then picked his sword back up from where he'd tossed it in front of him and went to cut Sedra off.
He spotted her quickly in a wider section of the ledge, standing still with her back to him. Grinning at his good fortune, he was advancing on her with his sword ready when she hissed, "Shh!"
Indignation stopped him, that his victim was telling him to shush. He was about to answer and lop off her head when he caught motion in his peripheral vision. Spinning his head, he froze as he laid eyes on a mountain of rolling muscle with a brown coat of thick, knotted fur.
Hunched over a deer carcass with jaws stained red with blood, not ten feet away from them, was a massive cave bear.
The Career Pack was making use of every moment of daylight. From the first breaking of the sun, artificial or not, over the mountains, they had started moving, intent on catching their prey. Edward Teach had taken control of the group, at least for now. The others followed him in silence, willing to ally for now, but each was privately calculating their odds for survival, and when betraying the others would be most to their advantage. They were allies, yes, but no love would be lost between them.
Only one was more concerned with extending her own life than ending the others. Takita Harose was not as physically strong as her captors, and with her hands bound it made it difficult for her to climb the steep hills with them. Sepia, who seemed to be acting guard, kept prodding her back with the tip of a sharpened stake when she slowed down, denying her any respite. Still clinging to life, Takita would desperately push on.
Sky Storm had gone on ahead of them, to make sure they didn't lose Dyne and Kodiak's trail. Teach and Sondra were in front of the main group, with Tristen in the rear, so when Takita finally slipped and fell, she lay in the middle of them waiting for death.
"Move it." Sepia growled, and raised the stake. Takita screamed as it punctured her arm. The others turned to observe what happened.
Takita was too exhausted to get back up. She watched helpless as Sepia raised it again, ready to welcome death when a hand snaked out and stopped her. Sepia turned and bared her teeth at Tristen, but his firm grip on her wrist held.
After a moment, she backed off and Tristen released her. Then, he hooked his arm under Takita's shoulder and pulled her up to a place easier to walk on.
"Thank you." she whispered, but Tristen just walked on without further acknowledging her. The comment added to Sepia's frustration, and she pressed the tip of the stake against her ribcage.
"The 7's just slowing us down. We should kill her and be done with it."
From a bit higher and farther up, Teach wheeled around. "I'll be the one making the calls around here."
Sepia raised an eyebrow, but rather than challenge him now asked, "So do we kill her, or not?"
Teach seemed to think on it a moment, his hand resting thoughtfully on the hilt of his cutlass. Her eyes darting back and forth between her companions, Sondra caught a flash of some emotion in Tristen's eyes, well hidden behind his mask of indifference. Pity, even fear for this person's life? Without taking her eyes off Tristen, she suggested, "Not yet . . . it might be useful to have her as live bait."
She met Tristen's gaze a moment, trying to convey support and compassion, then both of them stared hard at Teach.
The side of Edward's mouth curled up in a defiant smile, watching the two of them stare him down. He was only leader as long as they saw fit, and without his district partner here he was outnumbered.
"We keep her." Teach said, making it sound like it was his idea. "But she better not slow us down. Let's go find Sky."
During the conversation, Takita had managed to get enough rest to continue, but she knew she'd just unintentionally driven a wedge between the Careers. Oh yes, there would be no love lost between them.
Stronton Melich was waiting for the Careers. He had been sitting on the mound of supplies that remained at the Cornucopia ever since they’d set off after Dyne and Kodiak, waiting for them to return. Until they did, however, he was left to ponder his own thoughts.
There was plenty of food, but Stronton didn’t feel hungry. He’d taken the time to sit and listen to the wind and birds that had been brought in and forced to live in it. They found it a safe place. And for the last three minutes, he’d listened to another sound before the thief accidentally dropped something and it rolled noisily down the mountain of boxes and weapons.
Whoever it was drew in a sharp breath, and held still, hoping it would be chalked up as a random item falling.
“You might as well come out, District 9. I’ve been listening to you there for some time.”
The silence remained for a moment before a nervous voice asked, “If I come out, do you promise not to hurt me?”
Stronton chuckled. “Promises between people meant to kill each other mean nothing, but you will feel no pain on my account.”
From around the Cornucopia, Sheila Swift cautiously came into view. She held a sharpened branch in one hand, and clutched a box of cookies in the other. “Okay,” she said, holding the stick like she meant to stab someone with it. “What do you want?”
Stronton remained where he was. “I don’t want anything from you. I don’t need anything. I have food and water, and the ones I want dead are coming back soon enough.”
This seemed to ease Sheila’s fears, and she relaxed noticeably. “I want to take some supplies, and then I’ll be gone, alright?”
“Fine with me. They’re not mine, anyway. Or that’s what the Careers seem to think. But why not stay a while?” He rummaged around near him, and came up with another box. “These are much better. But you’ll have to come take them.”
More wary than ever, Sheila stood indecisively for a moment, before taking a few steps up the hill of boxes without breaking her stare at him. This caused her to step on a flimsy shield, and fall on her front. She looked up alarmed, expecting an attack, but Stronton hadn’t moved. Finally reassured, she approached and took the box from his hand, then sat down next to him and started tearing at the package.
“Is that the first thing you’ve had to eat all this time?” Stronton asked, but she confirmed it with hastily wolfing down three of the cookies rather than verbally.
Slowing down enough to chew, she asked, “So why are you up here?” and then began eating another one.
“Because I’m angry.” He said simply. “Every year the Districts of 1, 2, and 4 train their children to come here and murder the others. It’s not that I’m angry with the tributes themselves, but they’re like rabid dogs after all the ‘conditioning’ they’ve been through. The only help you can give is to put them down.”
Sheila listened intently, but made to look like she was only interested in the food as Stronton continued.
“So I’m going to kill them all, and deny the parents who train their children to kill, of their only desire . . . to win, and live like parasites off the Capitol’s evil. Give people like you a chance.”
She swallowed the last bite of food from the box and sighed appreciatively. “Well, good luck with that. Thanks for the–” But just as she said it, a thin, sharp blade pierced her neck. She gasped, and clutched her throat, feeling the warm, red liquid run down her chest.
“Don’t struggle, don’t struggle! Hush, it’s over now, little one.” Stronton cooed as her eyes glazed over and a bang reverberated through the air. “Your death is painless . . . I suspect mine will be far from it, and not long ahead.” He picked up her warm, limp form, and carried it down to the flat ground to be collected in a respectful manner. Her body would soon leave this horrible place, and he prayed her soul was already in a better one.
Elsewhere, Serena was settling down for the night, again on her own. She'd spent the day cutting farther into the forest, making sure to look interesting enough as to not let the Gamemakers pick her as a target. There had been two cannons today, neither of which she knew anything about, but wasn't concerned. Quietly shadowing the group of four from Districts 7, 8, and 9 for a while and scaling a cliff had made her quota for adventure today.
She found a secluded spot that would be avoided by anyone trying to pick a clear path through this part of the woods and began laying out the bedroll that had been in her pack. Along with it was a bit of jerky and some edible plants and berries she'd found along the way.
With evening fast approaching, she prepared to climb another tree and see who'd died when something moved, very close by. Serena froze, scanning in the fading light for whatever it was.
No movement. She thought about getting up a tree for protection when the brush was split by a huge shape. Padding silently toward her was a dire wolf.
Serena knew about these muttations. Wolves, which were usually pack hunters, big enough to survive on their own and track across great distances. Not to mention kill a human on command.
It bared its fangs silently and started circling her, aware it could kill her at any time and yet toying with its prey. Maybe this was the influence of the Gamemakers, but it could just as easily have been the mutt's nature.
Serena was strangely calm about it. Slowly, clearly, she reached into her pack and withdrew the meat. The wolf tracked her hand warily, but quickly smelled the spices in it and was overcome with curiosity.
She placed a few pieces of the meat on the ground, then backed away a few yards to let it approach. It did so, not taking its suspicious eyes off of her. Snapping up the strips of meat, it looked up to see Serena holding another of the morsels in her outstretched hand.
It approached cautiously, but knew that it was still in control. This was the one moment Serena was nervous about, whether or not the mutt would take her hand with it.
Surprisingly, it put its teeth around the food, brushing her hand with its tongue, and pulled it away from her. As soon as it had devoured the food, it returned its muzzle to under her hand, allowing Serena to pet the creature.
This was the payoff. Serena now had a loyal companion that she didn't have to worry about killing. Dire wolves were meant to be trained creatures, and bonded easily with a human.
Presently, the wolf trotted back to where it had come from, pausing and looking at her, a request to follow. Serena complied. Maybe this creature had killed one of the deer she'd seen around and could give her a food source that would last a long time.
As she got closer, she saw the wolf dragging a carcass out of the brush, but to her horror it was wearing a tribute's suit. Thompson's mauled body was revealed as the wolf began tearing at it. This suddenly made Serena doubt her actions. The wolf had killed a tribute no different than her already.
Nearly halfway across Panem, the pain was still felt in District 8. Everyone was required to watch the Games, but the Capitol was somewhat lenient as to where. In one of the small, humble houses, the families of the District 8 and 9 tributes had come together to support each other, as had many of their friends.
The inside had grown very silent, Nomin Dregg realized. Cramped into the main room where the television was, people stared bleakly at the floor, the only soft noise coming from where Dale and Effrey sobbed, teary faces buried in their mother's dress. Those seated closest to them did their best to comfort them, but there was little to be done.
Nomin looked at some of the other children present. They'd seen this happen before, but there was still the shock. They searched their parents' faces for hope, but could find none. Worst of all were Cat Ifes' siblings, Jade and Lynx. They were starting to understand that what had happened to Sheila could happen to their brother, and the idea was too staggering to them even to cry about it. They sat quietly, staring a thousand yards away.
Watching the TV set as they showed a hovercraft come in and pick up Sheila's body, he thought that there were worse ways she could have died. Most of what Stronton had said had been edited out, but not enough. To Nomin, he'd done the noble thing, despite the cruelty of how he'd lured her into feeling safe. It had been quick, and relatively painless. He'd even given her a last meal.
If Nomin ever found himself in an Arena, he thought, he would want to ensure any of his allies or anyone he killed would die like that. If anyone he knew, even his best friend Lelt, was there, he would protect them. By making sure it was painless.
Defiant to the End
"That's them." Sky Storm reported, the other Careers having caught up to her. They lay just inside the tree line where the hill flattened to an open clearing just before the slope continued, becoming rocky crags devoid of plant life.
On the climb ahead, two boys with light packs were hiking away from the starting point, unaware they were so closely followed.
"They're in the open." Sondra said frustratedly. "If we follow them further they'll see us."
Teach looked at her, then at the prisoner she'd defended, Takita. He grinned wickedly. "I've an idea. It's time to use the live bait."
Not so far off, Kodiak and Dyne were picking their way up a hillside. Keeping themselves alive with the supplies Kodiak had taken from the Cornucopia, they’d been able to keep a steady pace and now were the farther from the starting point than anyone else. Despite the Gamemakers’ displeasure with their actions, they had other conflicts to oversee, and though they’d left the pair under a burning sun to hurt them, up high there was a constant breeze.
They’d been quiet since the day before. But after rolling his thoughts around for a long time, Kodiak was ready to speak. Picking his way over some rocks, he asked, “So . . . which of us do you think is more likely to live?”
Because he was lighter and not carrying as much, Dyne was a few yards ahead of him when he turned around and asked, “What?”
“I’m just saying if this doesn’t work, maybe we should have an idea what we’re doing.” Kodiak answered.
“What’s to think about? We’re going to get out of the Arena and just leave. We’re not doing any harm, and no one will follow us.”
Tired of Dyne’s poorly thought-out plans, he stood straight and spread his arms. “Really? If we just walk away, you don’t think the Peacekeepers will kill us? Or maybe the other tributes will follow us and kill us first.”
Dyne looked hurt, and yelled back, “Neither of us know if they will! So what do you really want?”
“Maybe . . . maybe we shouldn’t be allies. If we’re the last ones left, I’ve got the better odds of killing you or anyone else and winning.” He was sorry he’d said it, but he didn’t know how to put it better.
“Winning!? Oh, just like a Career. You never thought we had a chance, did you? But no, your little head couldn’t plan anything but killing, and you agreed to follow me anyway.” He watched Kodiak’s face darken, but didn’t look impressed. “Hah, when you’re angry you really look like one of them. So if you aren’t stupid, and followed me, then you should have been thinking about what we’d do after getting out. So why would you even start thinking about winning in the first place?”
“Because I don’t take comfort in fantasies to hide from the reality that we’re going to die here!” he yelled.
Neither of them moved, just stood with their faces flushed and staring angrily. But quickly, with his thoughts so confused, Kodiak tried to explain and avoid a fight.
“I just . . . if I do live through this, somehow . . . I want to know how I can live with myself. After being part of all this death. How can either of us kill someone we knew to save ourselves, and not just kill ourselves afterward? When it all ends . . .”
Dyne understood what he felt now. In a quieter voice, he said, “It’s likely that by that time, one or both of us will be dead. So let’s cross that bridge if we come to it. By then neither of us is likely to be innocent, and we can figure out who has more guilt.”
After a moment of letting their anger cool off, Kodiak nodded and the two began walking again. They didn’t go much farther before Kodiak laughed, “It’s good to know we both have such high hopes for getting out.”
Dyne smiled. “I guess . . . maybe it’s not about getting out. It’s just a choice, to try and find another option. Prove to ourselves that we wouldn’t go straight to murdering each other to save ourselves in a tight spot. Hey . . . can I ask you something?”
“Sure.” Kodiak said.
“Well . . . while we’re on the subject of why you’re here . . . doesn’t District 1 usually train a kid to, well, play to win? I mean, I apologize if this is an insult, but you don’t seem that bloodthirsty.”
Kodiak laughed again. “I . . . I’ll try to explain. District 1 does try to win, of course, and they train two kids for each year of the Games. Then, when they’re eighteen and strongest, they volunteer and do their best, and do pretty well.”
“I’ve seen that. But what does that have to do with you here? I mean, if you were the one they trained, you’d have joined the Career pack instead of allying with me.” Dyne said curiously.
“There was this guy Derrick.” Kodiak said, not sure how to say this. “He was the one to be put in this year. He always thought he was better than everyone else, because he was going to be a tribute and win. He was so big from his training, he’d pick on the rest of us whenever he could. I thought the only revenge I might get was watching him get killed doing something stupid here.”
“Again, we’re sidetracking here.” Dyne teased. “Get to the point.”
“I’m getting there!” Kodiak grinned. “Well, in our District, there have been fights before over who got to be sent, so only one person can volunteer. That was going to be Derrick. But when they drew the name, it was him immediately. No problems, if an unexpected surprise.”
Dyne shook his head and rolled his hand, still not getting it and signaling ‘go on’.
“I volunteered . . . because for all the time he trained, he couldn’t volunteer over me, and next year, he’ll be too old.”
“He’ll never go to the Hunger Games . . .” Dyne realized, a slow smile creeping up on his face.
Kodiak nodded. “His life’s purpose is gone. Even if I die, that’s a better revenge than any other I could have gotten.”
“Man . . . even if you do live, I can’t imagine there’ll be a warm welcome for you!” Dyne stopped and looked up at the artificial sky. “He’s probably being forced to watch this right now.”
“Burgers in the Capitol were delicious.” Kodiak flipped off a cloud with a smug grin.
Dyne chuckled. “You are one suicidal fool.”
“And you agreed to team up with me.” Kodiak said, walking on again.
Dyne shook his head, just holding back his mirth at the idea of a foiled Career. “Bad call on my part. We’re stuck, but at least we’re not alone.”
Kodiak looked over his shoulder to make sure Dyne caught up, when he saw something moving past the District 3 kid’s head. He hissed a warning, and both of them scurried to fissures in the rock where they couldn’t be seen.
He popped his head up, looking for what he’d seen, and caught sight of Takita, stumbling across a clearing halfway down the hill. Her clothes were ragged and dirty, and red blood was spattered over her skin.
“What is it?” Dyne asked.
“The District 7 girl,” as Kodiak talked, Dyne popped his head up, “and she looks like she just killed someone with her bare hands.”
Dyne shook his head. His voice was strangled, like he almost couldn’t speak. “No . . . that’s her own blood.”
Takita had collapsed in the middle of the clearing, and wasn’t moving. But no cannons went off. For a long minute, they stayed where they were, watching the girl before Dyne made an attempt to speak again.
“Should we . . . should we help her?”
Kodiak shook his head. “And do what? Nurse her back to health just to kill her later?”
Dyne bit his lip. He didn’t like it, but Kodiak was right. “We can’t just leave her there . . .”
They locked eyes, and an answer came to them without needing to be spoken. But they hesitated, and just to break the silence Dyne finally asked, “Mercy kill?”
“You’ll have to do it.” Kodiak said. “This is your suggestion.” Despite trying to hide it, he felt a strong pang of regret for what needed to be done.
Dumping their packs to collect them on the way back up, they took their swords and climbed back down until they reached the clearing. Takita had not moved, but now that they were close they could see her making quick, ragged breaths and watching them approach. Dark bruises and wicked lacerations covered her body, they guessed from the blades and clubs of the Careers.
Her eyes shone with fear as they approached, staring up at the pair’s expressions, like shell-shocked soldiers seeing someone die for the first time. For the most part, this was what they were doing.
Dyne drew his sword and kneeled down next to her, and whispered, “I’ll make it quick for you.”
But Takita had pulled together enough strength to cough hoarsely, “Trap!”
Dyne and Kodiak blinked uncomprehendingly, when yells suddenly broke out all around them, and the Careers brandishing their weapons broke from their cover surrounding the clearing. Backing off and otherwise forgetting the dying girl, they stood back-to-back with their swords raised and ready for a fight.
“You were wondering what would happen when the others caught up to us?” Dyne said, just before the two sides clashed.
Exhausted or not, Kakeru and Sedra half-ran half-stumbled through the forest as fast as their aching legs could carry them. Fear and adrenaline spurred them on, the crashing sounds of the cave bear just behind them.
From what Kakeru knew, cave bears would leave you alone for the most part. And this one had already gotten a much larger kill than a pair of scrawny tributes, why waste the energy? He knew. Because the Gamemakers had made it so. They wanted to see human blood.
At this moment, he really didn't. And so he ran.
He glanced sideways again, and found he'd lost track of Sedra. She had vanished into the evening shadows of the forest, but the bear had chosen him to follow. He didn't have the energy to hate her at the moment.
The metal sword was weighing him down, but it might be his only defense against the bear. He paused and turned, but one look at the bloodstained teeth and layers of muscle reinforced the idea that he had no chance against this thing. Where he had to weave through and around tree trunks, this thing just glanced off of them, tearing away the bark.
Kakeru burst through a tall fern and found himself . . . staring at a sheer rock wall. The adrenaline abandoned him, leaving only hopelessness and a final bit of desperation. He was well and truly screwed.
He accepted this would probably be where he died, and found strength in the thought. With the sword raised, he turned and stared down the massive creature bearing down on him.
Kakeru shook the glinting point forward threateningly, and the mutt reared up on its hind legs. He was awestruck by the claws it had, its snarling muzzle ten feet above him. Just as its jaw opened to growl and bring its fangs down on him, an object smacked it squarely in the nose. The bear seemed puzzled, frozen mid-stance and wondering what had just happened.
"Climb, you idiot!" Sedra shouted. He didn't see her, but Kakeru knew the voice came from up the cliff. He wasted no time in dropping the sword and searching frantically for a hand hold.
The bear shook itself, and looked down at him ready to tear him open. Then another rock, larger than the last, hit him upside the head. It shook, and snarled up at the cliff, seeking its foe.
Kakeru had just gotten his foot out of the bear's reach when it began climbing after him. He felt the gust of wind from its nose, and scrambled faster up the rocks. Above him, he saw a boulder shifting, and he crawled onto the ledge to find Sedra gritting her teeth as she put her weight against it.
With the last reserve of energy he had left, Kakeru helped her push the boulder to the edge. Kakeru saw one of the massive paws reach their ledge, its claws digging in, when the rock gave way.
The stone vanished over the lip of the cliff, and with it went the paw. Kakeru heard one last howl filled with rage, surprise, and anguish, cut off by a heavy thud as it hit the ground. Then, only dust settling accompanied the pair's ragged breathing.
"Why . . . why did you help me?" Kakeru asked, turning to Sedra.
She forced a smile, her white teeth showing in the dark. "'Cause, now you owe me one."
They looked over the edge, and saw a pool of blood spreading from under the rock. Kakeru didn't have the energy to be sick. "We should . . . find some food. And sleep."
"There's a peach tree up here." Sedra remarked, casually. The words to Kakeru were the words of God. He turned and walked trance-like to the tree, selecting a red and gold fruit and sinking his teeth into it, savoring the sweet juices before downing the rest of it as fast as he could, then went for another one.
Sedra joined him after a while, having gone down to retrieve Kakeru's sword. She found him asleep, a half-eaten peach in his hand. She looked at the sword, and at the helpless tribute before her. She set the sword down and went to sleep with her back to the cliff, watching him with one eye open.
The noise of the battle had attracted attention. From a hill on the other side of the valley, Cat Ifes was watching them through the telescope he'd grabbed before fleeing the Corne-whatsit.
"It's the 6 boy and 5 girl." he said to Marlow, Kaori, and Markus. "They're sleeping under a peach tree."
"They did good killing that bear." Kaori pointed out, still watching the bottom of the cliff. Markus, his arm still in the splint, nodded his agreement, but didn't take his eyes off of Marlow. He didn't trust this new ally of theirs. Marlow had planned on being a loner, and probably could take care of himself. It made Markus distrust him, the only motivation he could have for joining them was to betray them later. And Markus would be ready.
Marlow, aware but not concerned with Markus, smirked. "We have an opportunity here."
"How so?" Kaori asked, studying his expression.
"Easy, really." Marlow said, brandishing his staff. "We've been on the run too long. Here's a chance to go on the offensive. Take out two enemies, and get our hands on a supply of food. I doubt the Careers will expect us to have full bellies and experience killing when they catch up to us."
Cat made a concerned glance back at Markus, licking his dry lips. He was able to kill when threatened, but to attack someone unsuspecting? Markus knew, however, they were in a dangerous place, and couldn't afford hesitation.
"I agree." Markus said, and that settled the matter. Marlow looked at him, a little surprised he'd support him, but didn't question it. Now was the time for action.
President Cornelius Snow stalked the halls of the Hunger Games' Command and Control Center. His crimson lips were curled in a vicious snarl, and the young representative politicians from the Districts stayed quietly out of his way.
The only ones that seemed indifferent when he entered the command center were the tribute mentors. They already knew what Snow could do, and had long since stopped caring to resist. No one wanted to fight an unwinnable battle again, not after their Games.
The ones from Districts 10, 11, and 12 had already left, their tributes dead. The others had blank stares as they gazed out the windows or at monitors showing inside the Arena. They'd seen this all before. Little they could do except watch the kids they'd just met die.
Some of the younger ones still looked sad, or angry. Johanna Mason was one of them, though after last year and Kyler Teak's death, she had been quieted. She stood close to Finnick Odair, sheltered by his muscled form. But Snow was not interested in them for the time being.
A group of technicians, one holding a clipboard, stared at him nervously. Snow pointed to an adjacent room. "Inside." he hissed, and they didn't hesitate.
They filed in, and Snow's personal bodyguard, Romulus Thread, sealed the door behind him. For a moment, the cluster of Gamemakers quivered silently as Snow stared down, collecting his thoughts. Then, he began, in a voice cold as ice, "I take it by the fact that you have not all committed suicide that the incursion was halted?"
"Yes, sir." The Head Gamemaker, Seneca Crane, squeaked.
Snow raised his head. "Then perhaps, Crane, you could explain to me how exactly a band of street-born peasants managed to find, and nearly enter the Arena."
"We-we have teams working on the problem now, sir! Based on their chosen point of entry, we surmise there was no tracking beacon on any of the tributes, it's likely they found it by acci-"
Snow's slight frame belied his enormous strength, which was now applied to Crane's neck. Grabbing the man's throat and pushing him against a wall, he made sure the Gamemaker could smell the blood on his lips as he spoke. "There are no accidents like that, Crane! We are so far removed from District Four, there is no doubt that band of filthy searats were looking for it! Next time you display such stupidity, I suggest running!"
Snow released him, and Crane retreated farther back in the room, clutching the bleeding cuts made by Snow's nails. Then one young Gamemaker, a man named Heavensby, piped up. "Sir, the children we caught were members of the District Four male's crew, likely going to try and break him out of this place."
The President regained his composure. "They must have known it was a futile attempt."
"Bonds of loyalty are strong in those who lack power." Plutarch observed. Snow had to agree, vermin had that annoying habit.
"See to it the captives are hijacked. I don't want them remembering this or their time with the Four male. Or failing that, lock them in a cell and dispose of the key."
With that, Snow rapped on the door with his fist, and Thread opened it from the outside. He left, without another look or word.
With five Careers coming at them from all sides, Kodiak and Dyne split up and started to fight on the run. Tristen, Sondra, Sepia and Sky all chose Dyne as a target, hoping to increase their kill count (and so favor of the audience) by taking out the weak one and trying to get the killing blow in on Kodiak later. Teach, however, faced the traitorous Career with a wide grin. Kodiak noted the black stubble growing on his chin, holding the cutlass before him with arrogant confidence. Kodiak was no swordfighter, but he'd learned a few things about how to fight in District 1.
As the other Careers found themselves trying to chase down a much faster Dyne, Teach and Kodiak first crossed blades with a clang of metal on metal. With the same motion, Teach brought the blade around again for a second blow. It was close, but Kodiak deflected before the edge could cut his neck open.
Then Edward launched at him, swinging the sword with aggressive, powerful strikes that drove his opponent back. Kodiak frantically parried or jumped back to avoid, gritting his teeth and trying not to be startled by the snarls Teach made when he swung at him.
This wasn't working. Teach was intimidating him into giving ground and might be driving him towards an obstacle that would distract him and spell death. Not about to let that happen, he chose his moment, and with his left hand on the flat of his blade, pushed forward, ramming his body against Edward.
Wind rushed out of their lungs, stumbling back while holding their blades against one another. Regaining his footing, Teach slid his blade out of their lock, making sparks fly as the sharp edges ground against each other. Kodiak narrowly escaped having the fingers on his left slashed.
Teach now drove Kodiak back the way they'd come, having switched places in the scuffle. Kodiak kept far from him, their blades hardly connecting and Edward growing angrier with him. Then, he raised his blade, and was stunned by a light blow with Kodiak's fist square with his jaw. After this, Teach fought smarter, relying on his cutlass' reach to drive him back even further.
Kodiak was tiring quickly. His arms felt leaden, the sword's weight was incredible, and when Teach hit it one last time Kodiak knew he'd never bring it up again in time. Suddenly, the Career jerked to a halt, and looked down at his left leg. Takita Harose had waited, and when he passed by had grabbed his leg and was hanging onto him, Teach tried to kick her off, but she was holding on with every last ounce of strength she had.
Teach turned his weapon and stabbed through Takita’s chest, but he wasn’t fast enough to keep Kodiak from running him through.
As Edward fell, two cannons sounded and Kodiak began to pull the sword out, when a blade went through his back. He screamed in pain, and fell to the ground next to the two dead tributes.
Now he was frozen on the ground like Takita had been. Watching, but unmoving. He saw the trample of feet as the Careers now ganged up on Dyne and brought him to the ground with several weapons through his torso. But both he and Dyne were still alive.
The remaining Careers stood over them, admiring their handiwork. “These glitches really were more trouble than they were worth.” One said, catching her breath.
Sky hefted her trident. “Let’s finish them off.”
“No!” Tristen shouted, halting them. “They’re as good as dead. I say let ‘em bleed out.”
They seemed to follow his orders. The Careers turned their backs, and left without another look back at them. Darkness was beginning to creep around Kodiak’s vision, and he fought to stay awake a moment longer.
“Dyne . . . hey Dyne!”
“I’m here . . .” he answered, without using the energy to turn his head. Blood shot from his mouth as he spoke. “So . . . what’s the escape plan?”
Had he the energy, Kodiak would have laughed. Even when they knew they were doomed, he wouldn’t give in. “Wait for the angels . . . see if they’ll trade us anything for a ride.”
“Hmm.” Dyne didn’t even have enough to speak anymore. In his last moments, Kodiak wondered what his first glimpse of the afterlife, or last glimpse he’d ever have, would be like. He didn’t have long to wait.
Cannons. Several of them. Two, then two. Four dead not a minute apart. Serena wondered who they were and what had happened, but didn't really want to go through the trouble of finding out right now. Her own survival took precedence. As the night approached, all the advantages she had meant it was time for her to go on the offensive. The mutt wolf padded silently behind her. Serena wasn't sure she wanted this creature as an ally. It had been easy to bond with it. Did that mean the Gamemakers would throw in some cruel twist of fate later, and make it betray her? No way to tell. For now, at least, it wouldn't be a threat.
The moon was out. Serena had often wondered why a pale moon made everything on the ground have a soft shade of blue, like a light shade of darkness. In any case, she avoided it to stick in the pitch black under thick branches. The 7-9 alliance hadn't gone far.
- The tributes of 10, 11, and 12 are named to reflect their position as RedShirts, who are characters killed off for dramatic effect, essentially named extras. Carmine is the name of a redshirt rookie from Gears of War, Scarlet is merely the color red. Jenkins is a common redshirt name, notably in Halo and of course, 'Leroy', while Vasquez some may recognize from the movie Aliens. Thompson and Shea were redshirt characters in Star Trek, where the trope originated. Each of them is now dead.
- Kodiak and Dyne, and Sepia, are a reference to my Halo Fanon characters, two of the most undisciplined young Spartans ever trained, and their teammate who rebels against the actions of the UNSC.