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Return: 6th book of The Hunger Games
INFO ON BOOK: ...
Chapter 1: Part 1
"So now what?" Aubry winces as one of the careers, I forgot her name, bandages up her leg. Balthar paces the bare spot of forest that they are in.
The area looks quite odd. On one side, there is a lush, green forest, while on the other side, there is a bare desert with nothing but tumble weeds and cacti. Chase and his allies moved to the desert to explore, since it looked like there was a lake on the farther side of it. The forest, where most of the others scattered--the careers included--looks quite menacing. All around them, they hear these movements, sometimes loud and most of the time, quiet. The careers only have two on guard since they lost two when the mutations came out.
As everyone left, the camera stayed to film their death. It only took me a while to figure out that they looked like the Lionyx that I was trapped with when I was captured by the Capitol during my rebellion when the Capitol tried to come back in order.
I remember all of it clearly. How Gale laughed at the awful irony of the nickname he gave me, Catnip. He left me on a platform with Lionyx's waiting below to rip me. I remember him laughing and my family watching me as I cried and screamed.
I look behind me at Rory who has, no doubt, been staring at me the whole time with a question on his face. I grip Peeta's hand tighter and look back at the screen as the Lionyx's tear the two tributes to shreds, like how they were supposed to do to me until I escaped. These Lionyx's had longer hair, making them look sort of like wolves, but they were all, without a doubt, Lionyx.
"We should go after that group that went over there." Someone says. I can't see because the cameras are zoomed out.
"No. We should explore this half first. Then attack them!" Another career says.
"That is if they are still over there." Balthar says.
"Of course they would still be there. It's open enough for them to see anyone around them and there was obviously a water supply." Aubry says. Balthar looks over at her and smiles, causing a giant pink flush over Aubry's cheeks and nose. The girl bandaging Aubry's leg looks at her in disgust and pulls hard on the knot she made.
Aubry lets out a small yelp and hold her leg.
"Oops." The career girl says sarcastically.
"It looks like it's getting dark. We should camp here tonight. It seems pretty okay." Balthar says as he catches the bag someone tosses at him and he empties its contents along with the other bags they have.
The cameras move onto Chase and his allies. They all walk toward what looks like a lake in the middle of the desert.
"Well this is unusual..." Brandon says once they've reached the lake.
"Well, it could evaporate in a few days. We should stay here. It might be the only water source." Atlas says. "But we also have to explore some more. There's like a whole forest behind us..."
"I don't know what we should do right now." Chase says and kicks some of the dust shaking his head and looking back, possibly in hopes that he would find Aubry running behind them yelling at them to wait for her.
"She'll be fine. We have a plan. Remember that." Branda tells Chase. "Do you think we could trust the water?" She says to everyone. "Wait! What are you doing?!" She practically yells as Lartius strips off this clothes except for his underwear.
"Only one way to test it out!" He says to them.
"Wait! It might be poisoned! Or there might be some dangerous fish in there! Mutations! I don't know!" Atlas says.
Lartius yells, "Woo!" and dives in the water.
They all gather at the edge looking in the water. It has this dark blue tint to it and it's hard to see.
"Do you see him?"
"There aren't bubbles... He's not by the surface."
"Should one of us go after him?"
I sit there, watching all of this play out on screen, mentally kicking myself for choosing him to join Chase's group. Peeta senses me getting tense and he massages my shoulders a bit. I turn and look into his eyes. His eyes look the same as they did in the games. Reassuring and letting me know everything would be okay. I nod and move closer to him.
After what feels like an hour Chase shakes his head and removes his shirt.
"No. Chase you are not going!" Branda tells him.
"I have too. We agreed I would lead us and I'm responsible for what happens to you guys here. I need to find him, even if he is dead."
"Then you might die." Brandon says.
"Atlas. If I'm not out in ten minutes your in charge."
"We haven't heard a gong yet. He might still be alive. Just give him time to swim back." Atlas replies almost shaking now. Chase just shrugs and is about to dive when Branda screams. Chase quickly looks at her.
No one is attacking them and she looks fine. The other guys are staring at her confused. Chase quickly looks in the water when he sees it. A gigantic looking snake slithers their way from across the lake. He nudges the other guys and they see it too.
I hold my breath as I inch closer to the screen.
"It can't swim right?" Chase looks at Atlas.
Atlas says "I don't think so. It looks to heavy too float." The snake looks like it has no intention to slither around the lake though. It's eyes are locked on Branda and she doesn't move. Probably in shock? Fear that if she moves it might strike faster?
"Get out of there Branda..." I whisper to her even though she can't hear me. She's in the television screen and I'm standing here helpless.
"Guys... it's in the water..." Brandon says.
The snake slithers in an S formation, almost teasing them. Building their fear before it strikes at every single one of us and kill us slowly. Hell, it's building my fear.
The snake head is a few inches away from Branda and the tail of the snake is still on the other side of the lake. The snake opens it's mouth revealing over a hundred small teeth that are shaped in a circular shape. The teeth spin like wheels, ready to grind her to shreds.
Chase grabs the bag of knifes he got from the blood bathe and tosses one to Brandon. Brandon catches it with ease and is about to throw it at the snake when the snake quickly snaps at him. I missed by an inch and Bandon flies back. The snake shakes and seizures up and falls to the floor and is pulled into the lake. Branda runs to Brandon and they both hug each other, shaking.
"What the hell was that?!" Atlas yells. Something huge just swallowed the snake in the lake. Everyone backs away from the lake, ready to run when Lartius breaks the surface.
"Did you see that?!" He yells at them and pulls the dead and bleeding snake out of the water. Everyone's jaw drops.
I break out in a smile and look around me. Everyone in this room looks disappointed that none of them died from the snake and that the thing that pulled the snake in the lake wasn't some larger animal. These people are sick. Just like the Capitol.
The screen goes black and everyone turns to the person standing next to them to discus how "nerve wrecking it was" and how "I could hardly keep my screams in!". All of it made me feel ill so I asked Peeta if he could get me out of here. He nods and puts an arm around my waist and pushes through the crowd to get me out.
I collapse on the floor when I make it to the hall and vomit on the marble tiles. Peeta kneels behind me and holds my hair back.
"Does she need water?" Someone asks.
"Yes. Thank you." The stranger walks away for a few minutes and returns with a glass of water. Peeta sits me up against the wall and sits next to me.
The stranger hands me the glass and I drink it only to vomit that out.
"She might be sick." I try to look up at the stranger but my vision blurs and I fall into Peeta's lap.
"How is she?"
"I don't know." A voice cracks.
"They say it might just be food poisoning. I'm sure she'll be fine."
"She hasn't woken up in days. She has a fever and there is nothing for me to do..."
Conversations like this happen randomly between people I can't see. I just hear their voices. Blackness crowds me vision and every time I feel like I open my eyes I see a meadow. I see Rue on the floor bleeding and Prim sitting her helping her. A bomb falls and they are both gone. A bomb always falls.
I see my dad and my mom dancing together in a flower patch. My mom's laughter fills the air. Mockingjays pick up her laughter and keep it echoing for days.
The laughter turns sinister and I hear Snow's haunting voice. I feel one of his white roses prick at my skin. I feel the cold blood drip down my forehead. His hand covering my mouth and whispering "Shh... You'll be dead soon. I will make sure of it this time. You are weak. You are nothing. You will be eliminated."
"No!" I feel myself sit up then fall back down.
"Oh thank god!" Peeta runs up of me and hold me. I have needles in my arm and an oxygen mask over my face. Someone puts a wet towel over my forehead and the cold water drips down my face cleaning off the sweat.
"I was so scared." Peeta buries his face in my neck and I feel his tears. People dressed in white surround me and I see Rory leaning against the wall. He looks relieved. He sees me and he gets up and leaves the room.
"What happened?" I barely make out a whisper.
"Did I miss anything?" I was worried Peeta would tell me Aubry died because Balthar found out she was playing sides or that Chase died protecting one of this allies.
"They're both fine. Alive and well." Peeta says brushing my hair back. "They are showing reruns all day. You can catch up today then watch the live footage tonight."
They are unsure about what happened to me. They say I've had a high fever for days. Peeta tells me how I talked in my sleep about flames and my family, Snow, Rue, Silver, even Cinna. That he had to pull our children, Prim and Cinna off of me most nights because they didn't want to leave my side. He also tells me that Rory has watched them out in the hall most days when I was at my worst.
So I sit in my bed with a cold bowl of soup and reruns of the quarter quell. It seems that they haven't even introduced a surprise element to the games. Chase and his group have explored the forest but always returned to the lake. They have been close to the careers but quickly find ways to avoid being seen by them. Sometimes they climb trees and stay still until they are far away and other times they duck down--either too late to climb a tree or there are no trees around them--and hope the careers don't stumble on them.
Once they ducked and Balthar stops and whispered, "I think I hear something..." He lifts up his spear and walks toward Chase and his group.
"I'll check for you." Aubry says and kissed his cheek. He nods shocked by her kiss and stumbles back.
So he has a weakness. I laugh a little.
"Aubry crouches down near Chase and his group. She obviously sees them and moves her head. I can't tell whether she sys something or gestures for them to run in a certain direction. She stands and says "Nothing here. Just a dying bird. Not a mutant but it probably has a disease."
Balthar nods and the careers move along.
Aside from that close call, nothing major has happened. Only a few died but so far every career and everyone in Chase's group have been alright.
I wait impatiently for the games to come on. I fiddle with the end of my nightgown anxiously until I hear the Capitol Music play loudly. I look outside and see every tribute on screen. The pictures of those who died have an animated arrow fly at their heart and burst into flames. I can't help but think of Rue and my sister, Prim.
Two peacekeepers enter my room with Peeta and we are quickly escorted to a room with all the other mentors to watch the games. Me and Peeta take a seat and I look around everywhere for a familiar face.
Peeta looks over at me and holds my hand, giving it a small, but reassuring squeeze that it'll be fine. I hook my arm through his and rest my head on his shoulder as we watch the television screen.
IT'S BEEN A LONG TIME SO IF YOU FORGOT, HERE IS WHERE THE NEW UPDATE BEGINS!!
"Hello tributes." Johanna's voices fills the arena. "As all of you know, this is the Quarter Quell, and you may have also been wondering why nothing drastic has happened yet."
The camera's zoom in on Chase's face and his eye fill with worry. A different camera catches Balthar's face and his eyes are filled with excitement.
"From this moment on all communication with your mentors have been officially removed from the games."
The camera's show the faces of a few scared tributes who have been living solely off what people have sent them in parachutes and some people with their allies--Chase's group included--looking down at their limited weapons and food.
I look around at some of the mentors. A few of them are snickering at the mentors with weak tributes and some of them look scared and sad. Others, like Rory, have a blank expressions.
"Happy Hunger Games. And may the odds be ever in your favor." Johanna says. There's static and then silence in the area.
Chase picks up a large rock and hurls it into the sky as if he was trying to hit Johanna with it. Although Chase is strong, the rock hardly reaches the sky and it just falls down in the sand.
"They can't do this!" Chase yells and runs a hand through his hair and kicks a cactus. "Ow!" Chase says, looking like he's getting more mad that he hurt his foot and can't get medicine sent because of the new rule.
"Technically they can and you didn't have to take your anger out on the poor cuddly cactus." Atlas says in his usual casual voice.
"That poor cactus!" Chase says sarcastically to Atlas as he jumps around on one foot.
Come here, Chase." Branda sighs as she takes out a first aid kit that a sponsor sent them when Lartius was running thorough the forest away from a tribute and Chase and Brandon went to rescue Lartius. It was Chase's first kill and it took his a day to recover from the trauma when Atlas reminded him that he still had a team to take care of. Lartius suffered a cut from the tribute chasing him and a sponsor sent Branda a kit so she could take care of him.
"No don't waste the supplies on me. We need to save every single item we have!" Chase says. Branda gives Brandon a look and Brandon nods his head as if they had some weird twin telepathy going on. Brandon pushes Chase to the floor and Lartius and Atlas come to pin down his arms and legs as Branda moves to begin removing every single needle off his shoe. The needles were long and pierced Chase's foot through his shoe.
By the time half the needles are out the guys release Chase since he shows to have given up and let her use the first aid kit on him.
"We can take those idiots easily." Ander, one of the carriers, says as they watch Chase get needles removed from his foot and all his allies as they carry on with their own business.
"Yes, but not yet." Balthar replies.
"Why not?" Audry asks. I can tell she's trying not to sound scared.
"That guy from your same district...he seems like he won't go down easy. Is that how he is?" Balthar turns and looks at Aubry in the eyes. I know what he's doing. He's trying to slowly pry information about Chase and everyone else out of her.
Don't fall for it. Please! Don't fall for it! I think to myself.
Without looking away from him, she flashes him a smile and laughs a little. "He only looks that way. He's actually kind of weak. He told me this the first week of training." Balthar laughs quietly with her since they're watching Chase and everyone behind a small forest of cacti. He throws an arm around her shoulder and pulls her against him, brushing his lips against her temple. Aubry looks disturbed but tries to hide her facial expression by looking down. Her hair falls over her face and Balthar mistakes her doing this as her attempt to hide a blush. His smile grows and he plants a kiss on her temple.
"We should focus on Chase." Aubry steps out from under his arm and steps near Ander who is throwing his knife repeatedly into the cactus in front of him.
Balthar has tried to get closer and closer to Aubry since the blood bathe. He is always standing too close to her as they go on hunts or tried to teach her weapons she already is skilled at just as an excuse to put his arms around her. It makes me and Peeta sick and we always look at his mentor in disgust since it's the only thing we can do.
"Why can't we just ambush them at night and take their food? There's no way they can get anything anymore with that stupid little twist." Ander tells them.
"It'll be far too dark here. There aren't light bugs like in the forest to help us see." Willow, another career, says.
Willow seems to be the most logical out of the bunch. Balthar is the leader, Ander and 2 other guys are the muscle, and Aubry is a little of both. Maybe this is why Balthar has such a liking for her? Either way I hate it. Peeta has told me that every time he sees him touch her or look at her a certain way when she is sleeping and Balthar is on guard that he just wants to punch him in the face. I wish he could.
"Plus it's too open. If we have torches they would see us a mile away and it'll make us vulnerable to other people and animals." Aubry says. Willow nods in agreement.
"Can we steal someone else's stuff then? I remember seeing a kid from district 10 take an ax. I want to use an ax!" Ander says. One of the other careers slaps him and tells him to shut up because he's getting annoying.
"Fine. We might as well do that. We need to strategize more about how to attack them anyway. A good game of cat and mouse could help." Balthar says. Silently they turn and make their way back to the forest. Aubry looks back at Chase and sees him wave good-bye to her.
"The careers?" Branda asks, following Chase's gaze.
Branda shrugs and just shakes her head. She, like the others, see Aubry as a trader. They don't see the District 12 girl that Chase and me and Peeta see. They see someone who turned against them and joined the careers. I don't blame them though. That's how I saw Peeta when I found out he joined the careers. They'll learn that she is still with them and will be through the whole game.
That night a Ander throws his new ax in the air and catches it, occasionally throwing it in a tree. He's on watch while everyone is asleep.
Balthar laid next to Aubry to fall sleep. Aubry waited for him to sleep then got up and moved to sleep by Willow.