Part One: Tides
Two small children crowd into the hut I call my home as I finish demonstrating my latest creation. The hut is full of other citizens of District Four, all gasping at what I have to show them. Other faces that could not find room in my abode can be caught peeking through the windows, and some more are waiting outside. I decided to let the more, influential, people inside first, as I know my new tool will bring more renown to Octavius Industries. At least, that’s what I refer it as. Others just call my creations “Another life-changing creation by Octavian” or “The new fad”.
The Mayor and his advisors clap as I finish my demonstration. My latest creation sends a sonic pulse through the water, bringing every kind of mobile underwater dweller to the surface to investigate. Once they come to the surface, they become easy pickings for the workers on the top of the water to collect at their leisure. Its not as complicated as my last invention, a fishing bobber that releases artificial mating hormones that affect every kind of fish, or can be programed to only attract a certain species. But I still draw in crowds, so I’m pleased.
“Now, my fellow denizens of the District, I am sure you fine, wealthy, people are already wondering, ‘How can I get one of these things?’” A tremulous uproar of laughter comes from the assembled crowd. It wasn’t really all that funny, but I suppose they’re just trying to suck up to me. Flattery, from the Mayor of all people. Take that Capitol! Your lapdogs are eating out of my hand now.
“I have five of these Pulsars with me right now. Five lucky members of civilization will be leaving with them. May the odds-“ I start, knowing the famous line will soon be completed by the crowd. I am not disappointed.
“Be ever in your favor!” They yell at once, and I could swear the glass jug of purified water by my desk begins to crack. I wait until a civilized line forms before me, and I make sure the first five people in it are the managers of the different fishing areas. I hand out five Pulsars, and they are greedily snatched up. I can almost see the Capitolia bills in there eyes. Well, if my face wasn’t disguised by its mask of humbleness, I would be sure any psychologically adept person in the crowd could tell I had the crisp, green bills in my eyes too. Luckily for me, I am the only one of those in the District. Maybe even in all of Panem.
The crowds soon go away, small group of people I paid to be here. I receive a few pats on the back as the rest of them leave, congratulating me on my latest invention. I laugh, trade jokes, and try to make merry with a few of my most “devoted” fans. I even see a few wearing the skintight bodysuit I designed a few years ago. I created those after a day of roasting on the beach, and then freezing at night. The bodysuits react to the air temperature, either thickening to protect you from the cold, or thinning its fabric to let the air cool you. I made a pretty penny off of those. I even had Peacemakers coming to buy some.
I wait until all but two people remain. They are about my age, fourteen. The male has sandy blonde hair, a common accurance in District Four. His green eyes look at me, admiration behind them, like always. He is garbed in a long blue robe, with a chestplate carved out of a massive seashell covering most of the robe above his torso.
The female, with long black hair, is garbed in a similar robe, and a similar chestplate. However, she has a very highly illegal sword in a sheathe on her belt. Her blue eyes are scanning the landscape around my hut, which is only a long beach with a few palm trees waving in the evenings breeze. The largest buildings of District Four can be seen looming behind my house, in the area more dominated by rivers and plains.
The two teenagers before me salute me as I go back inside the hut. They place their right hands over their chests, and twist there palms towards me. I nod, and beckon them inside. They know the routine.
Both bring up chairs fashioned from palm wood towards my large desk. I offer them a drink from the jug, which they both decline. The girl smiles, and the boy keeps his stoic face.
“Status report.” I say, all joviality disappearing from my voice. I do not have to keep up any facades around these two.
“Two dozen more recruits have enlisted. They come from a community about a mile off of the center of the District. They all seem to know each other, so we are splitting them up into separate groups for training.” The boy hands me a portfolio of everything our various agents have discovered on them. “None are Trained, sir.”
By trained, I know he means that none of them are what all of Panem refers to as Career Tributes. Careers are children who were raised from birth to enter the sadistic Hunger Games, an ongoing yearly punishment by the Capitol wrought upon us. District Four was the least involved, so we have more influence in the center of power in all of Panem.
“Good. You do well here, Puffer. See to it that never changes.” I say, letting the slightest hint of order creep into my voice. He nods.
“And now, my lovely Pearl, production status?” I ask the female.
“Two hundred percent increase in production from our Dens all over the District, sir.”
Dens refer to the warehouses controlled by Octavius Industries. The workers are always those who can’t work the fisheries, due to either age, criminal backgrounds, or disabilities. They get fed, paid, and are guaranteed a home nearby the Den. As long as they follow the rules, they live pretty easy compared to the other destitute classes of Panem.
“Good, good. And I’m assuming profit has increased as much.” I say, curious and unwilling to have failure anywhere close to me.
“Of course, sir. However, a small protest occurred in the Den closest to the Left Ocean, but we had a Peacemaker squad nearby. It was dealt with publicly.” Her eyes were hardened by the life she had previously lived as one of the impoverished, but as soon as she joined the Industry, she quickly rose to the top and could support her family. They now lived in a large house in the center of the District, along with Puffer and his siblings.
“Excellent. Any news from the Capitol, Puffer?”
“Yes, sir. One of our agents in the Presidents retinue of Advisors says that in an interview yesterday, he was asked about a certain organization in District Four that had its reach all the way to the Capitol. He denied any knowledge of the group, and said that such a thing would be so terribly illegal, any members of such a thing would be killed, along with the remainder of their family trees.” Puffer said, amuzement showing all over his face.
I allow my laughter to fill the hut, and the two infront of me quickly join in. I take a few sips from a glass of water, and again offer them some. They accept. I let the cold, icy water to slide down my throaght, knowing that I was swallowing bags of money. Ice was rare in the District, and was a delicacy. I sold it by the ton to rich families who wanted to flaunt about their wealth. Nowhere in the all of the District was cold enough to freeze water, except for a few Dens by the Right Ocean. They were a very good investment, on my behalf.
“Interesting. Send two pounds of ice cream to Finn to make sure he knows who’s really in control here.” Finn was the Head Peacemaker of District Four, an incompetent who was only elevated to the position by my removal of any other possible candidates for the post. He made sure I got what I wanted, when I wanted. He overlooked all of my illegal enterprises, like all of my weapon creating Dens. We bribed him with ice cream, because it was a delicacy in the District, both because of the same reason ice was so expensive, and we had to either illegally import the ingredients from other districts, or harvest them ourselves from cattle and sugar farms in the area. Only two of each farms existed in the District, both funded by Octavius Industries.
“As you will, sir.” Pearl says, jotting it down in a notepad she keeps in a pouch on her weapon belt. As Head of Production, she makes sure things go where they need to go, when they need to go, and that there is something that goes.
“Dismissed.” I say, allowing both of my Lieutenants to leave my hut. They salute, like all members of my Industry, and leave, robes billowing behind them. Pearl turns back to look at me for a moment, like she has something to say. But, after a few seconds, she seems to change her mind about it and keeps on her way.
I make sure both are far away before I lock up my hut for the night. I change out of my formal attire, which I only wear when I have company, and open a secret trapdoor I have under one of my thatched bookshelves. It opens, and I close it as the bookcase returns to its original position, hiding the trapdoor from view. I clap my hands three times, and a higly illegal generator powers everything in my large basement on.
A whole quarter of my basement is taken up by my gym, the place where I make sure I can be ready for anything whenever I need to be. Weapon racks line the walls, and a humanlike shape stands in the middle of it, lifeless. The shape is a practice droid, one of the first robotic creations in all of Panem. I intend to reveal it and its kind to the Mayor next Harvest Day. Ironically, Harvest Day in District Four is always the same day of the Reaping, when all the participants of the Hunger Games are chosen. It has become somewhat of a joke in the District.
I do not want to use the droid, since I am too worn out from the demonstration. I do a few push ups, stretch a bit, and then do a handstand for about ten minutes. The bare minimum for today. I exit the gym the same way I entered, and survey my underground living quarters. Up against one concrete wall is the bedroom, with a small door leading to the bathroom. When building the bedroom, I fought over putting the bathroom in plain sight, as no one but me has ever come down here, but I decided just in case, I shouldn’t. You never know, one day I could fall in love.
Like that is ever going to happen. That would mean someone would have emotional power over me, which was something I could never allow. Well, maybe Pearl has some control over me, and whether she knows it or not, I would be quite disturbed is she was hurt.
I walk over to my bed, which is a comfortable water filled mattress, and draw the rare woven sheep’s wool blanket over me. The last thought before I have to go to bed rings around in my head for some odd reason not even I know.
The reaping is in two days.