In District 3, when you’re not studying, you’re given puzzles in school. Sometimes the Peacekeepers watch you, waiting to see if there is any one student that is a little too good, a little too quick, a little too rebellious. But here’s the thing: the best ones know you’re on alert, so they swallow their pride and float on by, biding their time until they can secure the highest level jobs in the factories. It’s not much, but it’s something.
Beetee, possessing a bit of all these qualities and keeping his head down low, still gets singled out just a few days before the Reaping. He knows exactly who ratted him out, but keeps it a secret.
In the Career Districts, the Victor’s Village becomes somewhat of a home, with people (and sometimes families, if you’re lucky) bustling about. But when Wiress comes back, this row of buildings, set away and apart, is quiet. She and the others, for the most part, keep to themselves, tinkering with their tools and their toys because the laws of physics, the mechanics of these moving gears and switches don’t seem to change. And all of that, the stability, the sense of permanence, matters once you’ve seen all that humans and monsters can do.
Wiress is content to settle into the dwelling farthest from the road, but Beetee insists on visiting her weekly for afternoon tea. He doesn’t mind that she doesn’t speak much and she thinks she almost forgot how to, back in the arena, when all she could was scream.
Things start to change when Beetee walks over to the deserted plot of land, concrete and asphalt and empty space. He starts growing his garden of flowers with twisting sculptures of filament and light and Wiress fashions her little creatures, flittering flying things that spin and move about. She’s different, animated and flushed with the excitement of all that they can do, of all they can create. Beetee likes that look on her, likes the way they have something bigger than themselves that isn’t death and destruction to share. It’s their own world, their safe place, and they decide to invite the children.
When the Peacekeepers hear word and pay a friendly visit, Beetee is ready. “It’s an educational experience,” he says, when they give him a suspicious look, “to demonstrate the achievements of the glorious nation of Panem.” He and Wiress take turns, of course, explaining the science, the methodology, the brilliance of each and every part, from the stone path that illuminates as they walk to the leaves that curl inward at a finger’s touch. The citizens gather there, watching as their daughters and sons race their tiny motorized sailboats across the holographic pond, as they use prisms to cast rainbows across the evening sky, as they laugh and look about with wonder, running free in a place that isn’t a prison of silicon chips and glaring screens.
The moment it starts to smell of protest, President Snow calls Wiress and Beetee away to serve as technical advisors to the Gamemakers, and the Peacekeepers pull workers from the munitions factory to burn it all to the ground.
The anger of this loss festers in the town, silent and waiting, and is one of the reasons District 3 rises up so quickly to rebel. You know it; you saw it on those sets they’ve sweated and died for the Capitol to own.
Beetee still goes back each year to mentor and sometimes Wiress shows up too. They sit close together on the train, speaking about electricity and schematics and their Escort never really understands what they say, how to wade through their numbers and their codes and theories. They intend to keep it that way, leaving thoughts half-finished, lingering about, messages to be encrypted and caught (Nuts and Volts, Volts and Nuts</i>). They’ve found their own language, ways of speaking without words, and there are times when Wiress will grab Beetee’s hand, will use the other to trace a familiar shape on the paper. Each line, perfectly balanced.
“You ground me too,” he will breathe.