1. This was only Stella’s second time at the reaping, and she knew that the odds say that she won’t be picked. Her family had never had any need for tesserae - both of her parents are engineers, working to provide power for all of Panem, and they have enough to get by. Not that she always had enough to eat, but enough to keep her from increasing her chances of being sent to the games unnecessarily. Logic would dictate that it would go to one of the other children, one that had their name entered far more times than she would.
Logic dictated many things, like how rare it was that someone from her district would win the games. If it was her name that was picked, logic said that she would be one of the first to die.
Stella’s family had taught her the importance of logic. Of planning.
And as her name was called, Stella was determined that the odds would be in her favor.
2. Stella had been the top of her class in all of the sciences. She was going to be an engineer like her parents. She knew how to plan. But being an engineer didn’t usually win you the Games. But... she had seen the games every year she’d been alive, and she knew that strategy was important, if you could survive long enough to enact it.
If she made too much of a target for herself, she would die. If she participated in the cornucopia battle, she would die.
Stella was not going to die. She remembered the games she had seen. She remembered how Johanna had won. She may not be Johanna Mason, but she had learned her lessons well. Be unassuming at first, survive long enough for the others to wipe each other out, and then win.
She didn’t have Johanna’s strength. She wouldn’t be able to take out the careers at the end.
No. Her strategy would be simple. She was going to outsmart them. Let them take out each other, and then just outlast them. She was smarter then they were. She would survive.
Her mentor wasn’t going to be a lot of help. Stella knew that many of the past victors were alcoholics, but she had expected some help, at least. There was nobody to talk over her strategy with, nobody who was going to get her sponsors. She was only going to be able to count on herself. That was the way that it had always been.
She let the stylists do their work without protest. She would have to make an impression the best way she could, and fighting with her stylist was not the way to do it. Even if her strategy was just to survive, she still couldn’t afford to alienate everyone in the Capitol, because when it came down to it, she would need their support. Cunning. Logic. Planning. Make the friends that you can, but only depend on yourself. Nobody else will will be there for you when it comes down to it.
After all, there could only be one Victor.
3. Stella briefly thought about avoiding anything in the training facility that could make people suspect her plan, but she quickly discarded that idea. Failing at weapons would make people think instead that she would be an easy target to be picked off at the bloodbath at the cornucopia. Besides, she really did need to work on her survival skills. She had been raised to think that she would be an engineer - her district harnessed energy, she didn’t have experience in the woods, or in the water, or in the mountains. Logic dictated that she would need to learn as much as she could about survival before the Games began.
So she spent her time learning all that she could about survival. She tried practicing with a knife, once, but she quickly left that station after seeing how the girl from District Two was monopolizing it. The last thing she wanted to was antagonize her. Being forgotten was a good strategy. Antagonizing a career was not.
When it was her chance to show the Gamemakers what she could do, all Stella could do was demonstrate some survival skills. She was actually surprised when she was given a score of Five. Maybe they guessed her plans, maybe they thought that it would make the games more interesting. But it was a good number. Not low enough that she would be instantly killed, not high enough to make her a target. She was safely in the middle, where the other Tributes would forget about her.
At her interview, Stella smiled and was nice and polite. She let Caesar direct the interview to her interests at home, and she gave the audience a long and involved explanation of her engineering interests, and the science and math that she was looking forward to returning to. She was willing to let her intelligence shine here, but she was careful not to let any of her survival skills show. She was willing to let them all think that she was just a smart kid whose only talents weren’t suited for the Arena.
And if any of the tributes could figure out that she was more than intelligence - that she was cunning - well, she really didn’t think any of them had it in them.
4. Stella rose into the Arena along with the others, having been warned not to move until it was time, or she would be killed before the Hunger Games even began. There were many things in the Cornucopia that she could have used, but she knew that her odds of surviving that were non-existent. Instead, as soon as the cannon went off, she grabbed a backpack and ran for the woods. Hide. Survive. Watch. Learn.
She saw her partner from her own district die quickly, saw the Careers quickly make their alliance, surprisingly along with the boy from 12, who she had figured would try to help his girlfriend. Her eyes narrowed as she thought about it from her vantage point in the trees. Working with the Careers, that was where he could do the most good for his girlfriend.
Time passed, and she continued to survive, finding various places to hide. Sometimes in the trees, sometimes in caves, always hidden. She sometimes saw the other Tributes, as she kept an eye on what they were doing, but they never saw her. She had other problems to think of - she had learned some trapping while she was preparing for the Games, but she didn’t have all the equipment that she’d had there. Her traps had been mostly unsuccessful, and she was running out of food.
She needed a new plan.
The Careers had most of the food and supplies, which gave them an advantage. She’d observed that they didn’t always stay by the Cornucopia - they had to hunt down the other Tributes, after all. Still, they had placed traps around it to prevent anyone else from getting the food - if you stepped on a mine they had buried, you would be killed.
It was fairly easy to figure out what the pattern was, and where the mines were buried. All she needed to do was stay out of sight until they had left, and then steal a tiny bit of their supplies at a time, so that they wouldn’t notice she was taking them.
Stella wasn’t quite as light on her feet as the girl from Eleven was, but she was fast enough, and soon things had settled into a routine. The Careers were killing everyone else off, and she was stealing from them. The body count began to mount, but she was surviving.
Up until that damn Katniss Everdeen blew up the supplies.
Still. With the careers out of food, they’d lost their advantage over everyone else. Maybe, just maybe, she would have the chance to survive.
5. Even an idiot should be able to figure out that the Games were rigged. The Gamemakers controlled every aspect of the Arena. And as soon as the announcement went up that there could be two victors from the same district, Stella knew she was dead. The Gamemakers loved a story, and the lovers from twelve would be that story. Of course, the careers from two would also be a problem - and they would be more vicious than twelve would be.
And then the announcement of the feast came. If she could just get there first - maybe the others would all kill themselves, and she would survive. Making her way into the cornucopia without being seen was easier than she thought it would be - she knew that the others would be resting in anticipation of a fight - one that she had no desire to participate in. She had briefly thought about not going to the cornucopia at all, but she was so hungry. The only thing she needed was food.
As usual, surprise worked in her favor. Coming from inside the cornucopia itself, she was able to grab her backpack and run before the others had the chance to react. She ran as fast as she could, trying to get away, and then she waited for the sound of the cannons.
It only came once. She had been hoping for more.
6. The food that the Gamemakers had provided was beginning to run out. She’d heard the cannon once more - there were only the four of them now. It had been a long time since anyone from her District had made it this far. If it wasn’t for the promise that two victors could come from the same District, she was sure she could win - the two from twelve might have taken each other out. There were rarely allies this late in the game.
She had taken to trailing them, stealing from their food. It was nice of them to do the work for her. She grabbed some berries, and then retreated back to her hideout. She only needed to last a little bit longer.
Stella examined the berries, and briefly wondered if the Twelve boy knew she was stealing from them. She thought that the berries were poisonous. But he surely wouldn’t be stupid enough to have mixed them in with the rest of the food if they were. Surely.
And... she hesitated. She examined her choices. She could eat the berries, taking the chance that they weren’t poisonous, and continue to wait, hoping that the other three tributes killed each other. She would have to stop hiding, and start trying to kill them. If they were poisonous, at least it would be quick and easy. She knew she wouldn’t be able to win, and she didn’t want to end up with an arrow in her throat from Twelve, or painfully at the hands or Two.
If they were fine, then she could keep going. If not... well, Stella would at least end it on her own terms.
She ate the berries.