Insurgo insurgi insurrectum.
“Shit’s fucked up,” Haymitch announces, wiping his mouth on his sleeve as he slams his glass down on the glossy wooden tabletop. It’s the third day of the 70th Hunger Games and both his kids are long dead. Girl died in the bloodbath, practically as soon as she made it off her podium. The boy made it a couple days but froze during the night. Nothing left to do but drink.
(He’s not kidding himself; there’s never anything left to do but drink.)
The Games are, in their own twisted way, a respite from the monotony of the rest of the year back home in the District because here, at least, he has people to drink with. Three other victors, all from similarly beleaguered districts, all with a bone to pick, and they all converge on the Capitol each year for their yearly drinking round table because they don’t have a choice. They’re among the only mentors their districts have got. Silas, Chaff, and Rast; Eight, Eleven, and Five, respectively.
Silas won only a year after Haymitch himself. He’s the intellectual of the group, always studying old history, stories about countries that existed before Panem. He speaks their languages, too, a little bit – long-forgotten tongues like German and Russian – perhaps not as fluently as he’d like them to believe, but enough to get by with the few untranslated texts that made it through the Dark Days. He’s in the middle of a monologue (“You don’t want to be fighting on a foreign front during the winter, especially if you’re not familiar with the geography! This bastard Hitler learned the hard way!”) when Haymitch slams his empty glass down and says, “Shit’s fucked up.”
Silas heaves a sigh. “I wasn’t done, Haymitch,” he says, waving his drink around for emphasis. “What we can learn from this is –”
“Yeah, well, it’s not gonna do us a whole fuckin’ lot of good to learn anything,” Haymitch snaps. “Not a whole lot we can do with it.”
Rast raises his eyebrows, a cagey look playing on his sharp, pointy face. “You never know,” he says casually. “Learning never hurts.” He scribbles a few words on a cocktail napkin and slides it across the table to Haymitch as Chaff launches them into another topic of conversation, something about the new trains that’ve been implemented in District Eleven, replacing the old ones powered by coal and how that’s supposed to take some of the load off Twelve, and when Haymitch glances at the words scrawled in Rast’s messy penmanship, he processes them slowly, even slower than is normal for his usual booze-addled state.
He knows there have always been rebels in the districts. He doesn’t care. The Capitol’s killed every good thing in his life, and there’s not much joy in bringing kids back here to die every single year, but he’s not inclined to think anything’s going to change. They’re watched like hawks, every second of every day. Living out in Twelve is a blessing in disguise – the Peacekeepers there don’t give a shit what goes on as long as the daily coal quotas are met – but here in the Capitol, he’s reminded once a year of how oppressive, how shit’s fucked up the whole situation is.
Rast passes him a note, scrawled in fountain pen across a cocktail napkin, and something jumps inside Haymitch as he reads it. Shit’s fucked up. We’re going to burn it all down.
The Games run long this year, and end with an earthquake and a flood. Little Annie Cresta treads water until the hovercraft plucks her from the arena, but Haymitch has no memory of this.
Finnick Odair is a beautiful boy. To tell the truth, he’s more man than boy these days, a good six years removed from the child of fourteen he was when he won the Games – his jaw more rectangular, his limbs longer and more muscular. But he’s got the same impish grin and gleaming green eyes, and Cinna’s heard rumors about what the Odair boy can do in bed that would make Venus herself blush.
Cinna’s never had to work for anything. Cinna’s entire life has been handed to him, courtesy of wealthy parents who indulge his every whim. An apartment in a more fashionable neighborhood? He needn’t ask twice. Art lessons? Just say the word. Everything he’s ever wanted has fallen into his lap, and so when he decides that he wants Finnick Odair, he need only say the word and the beautiful boy – now a beautiful man – shows up at his apartment late that evening, dressed in tight linen and making himself at home. He pours himself a drink at Cinna’s behest and bats his eyelashes, loosening the collar of his shirt and rolling up his sleeves and putting on a hell of a show.
The sex is good and Finnick is everything he’s cracked up to be, but Cinna knows it’s all a performance. He reads people like this. He notices every flicker of the eyes, every time Odair slips away and ends up someplace else for a few moments. At the end he lights a cigarette and watches Finnick recline beside him, and asks, “So, where were you?”
Finnick smirks. “I never went away.”
“That’s not true,” Cinna says gently. “I know why you’re here. I know who sent you. Where were you?”
With a slight shrug of just one shoulder, Finnick flips over onto one side and props himself up on one elbow, those long fingers tangled through his own luscious hair. “That’s a secret,” he says cagily. “Speaking of which, Cinna, do you have any secrets for me?”
Cinna fixes him with a hard stare. “No,” he says firmly. This is a lie, of course. Cinna is a veritable walking database of secrets, but he’s not going to give them away to Snow’s lapdog.
“Aha,” says Finnick with a smile. “What’s wrong? Haven’t I earned a little of your trust?”
“I don’t trust victors and I don’t trust whores.”
“I’ll tell you one of mine if you tell me one of yours.” And then Finnick lifts three fingers to his lips and blows him a kiss. The rebel salute, almost. How did he know?
Cinna considers the offer. “Deal.”
“You start,” Finnick says.
Finnick returns each week and the two trade secrets, and the truth comes out a little more with each drink they share. Finnick knew Cinna was part of the students’ rebel society before he even set foot in his apartment; he’d obtained a membership list as payment for accompanying Junia Goodfellow to a banquet a few months earlier. Finnick has learned the names of nearly everyone involved in the new rebel efforts, from the Capitol to Thirteen, and he relates these in a low and serious tone as Cinna strokes his hair and lets his eyes go to that faraway place.
“How did you get involved with this rebellion thing, anyway?” Cinna asks. “Careers like you – I know what your type is like. You respect the Capitol, and you fear us. There’s not a lot of dissent going on in the training academies.”
Finnick’s face clouds over. “I made a mistake,” he says quietly, “and they took someone I care about. To punish me.”
Cinna understands. Of course he does. “They killed this person, then?” he asks.
“No,” says Finnick. “They reaped her. And she survived.” He fixes Cinna with a long stare. “Killing her would have been a kindness I didn’t deserve.”
Finnick Odair is a beautiful man, the Mata Hari of the Panem Insurrectum. Finnick is the rebellion’s most trusted keeper of secrets. He travels with them, takes them where they have to go, and no one suspects a thing because someone so beautiful must be on the side of the angels.
He goes to Cinna’s beautiful apartment the night after the closing ceremonies of the 73rd Hunger Games. No need to stick around for the festivities this time around. Winner of the year is a Seven, so Johanna’ll be drunk and happy, at least – he’ll meet her after the ceremonies, at one of the late-late-late parties. For now, he’s got business to attend to.
He knocks three times on Cinna’s door: twice in quick succession, then a third, harder one a split second later. He can hear footsteps inside, the scrape of a peephole cover being pushed aside, and then Cinna throws the door open and ushers him inside, bolting the door behind them. Cinna, so eager to give up everything to join their ranks – he has so much more to lose than Finnick, this beautiful apartment which is his unconditionally, not paid for in blood and fucks and his entire goddamn life. Cinna is free and willing to risk everything; Finnick can’t remember what it means to be free.
“You’ve got it, then?” Cinna asks. “Is it done?”
Finnick smirks. “I’m afraid that District Seven’s stylists won’t be returning to the Games this year, so there’ll be a bit of shuffling around,” he says. “Go to the Committee. Tell them you want District Twelve. They won’t argue with you. No one ever wants District Twelve.”
Cinna nods. “And who’s my contact in Twelve?”
She’s almost always drunk these days. The kids are off at the training center, and she’s got an interview with Caesar at 1200 hours to talk up Seven’s tributes this year. Her partner this year – a new kid who only won the year before, seventeen years old with eyes that still haven’t stopped jittering around the room nervously any time someone makes a sudden movement – has given up on trying to make polite conversation about the Games with her. “Rowan,” she had finally said after days of nervous chatter about sponsors and gift protocol, “shut the fuck up.”
He’d blinked at her. “What?”
“We’ve got a twelve and a fourteen this year. Neither is likely to make it past the bloodbath. Just enjoy the food, all right? Because if you start agonizing over whether or not you could’ve saved them, it’s gonna make your life a whole lot harder.” She sighs, the corners of her lips turned down. “Just a piece of advice, you know. From someone who’s been doing this a lot longer than you.”
As far as she’s concerned, life as a mentor is one big open bar. It’s not as if anyone depends on her, anyway. She has no responsibilities besides herself. She likes it that way.
Backstage at Caesar’s show, she feels a poke between her shoulder blades and flinches. She spins around, ready for a confrontation, but all she sees is a familiar, muscled torso clad in a shirt that's far too tight and then a familiar, friendly face.
“Ugh, Finn,” she mutters as he grins at her. “Don’t touch me like that. You know I don’t like it.”
Finnick shrugs. “Whatever you say,” he says. “How’s the party this year?”
“Same as always,” she says, rolling her eyes. “Just one long conga line of shit. It’s good to see you.”
“Yeah.” He nods, gestures at her. “You’ve grown your hair out?”
“Well,” she murmurs. “It wasn’t my choice, exactly – it was suggested to me.”
“Plutarch.” Johanna raises her eyebrows and gives Finnick a knowing grin. “Every movement needs a recognizable face, you know. You and Gloss might get all the fancy endorsement deals here, but…”
“Aha.” A look of recognition dawns on his face and he nods, smiling. “You’re our… what are we calling you?”
“Plutarch favors the term ‘mockingjay,’” Johanna says. She pats at her dark hair, which has grown out into a shoulder length bob; blunt bangs frame her face. “It’s not bad, is it?”
“It’s you,” says Finnick. “I like it, anyway.”
Onstage, Caesar’s calling her name, and she flips Finnick off behind her back to say goodbye as she walks away.
Four weeks after the Games end, the committee rules in a twelve-to-one vote to make Katniss Everdeen the official mockingjay, if they can swing it.
Johanna says nothing during the meeting to express her disagreement aside from her curt, pointed ‘nay’ vote.
(They call her “the girl on fire.” Johanna remembers her year, when she was “the girl who dripped blood,” and says nothing.)
In her apartment that night, she attacks her hair with a pair of scissors, shearing off as much as she can until only a mess of spikes and scraggles remain.
Everything is fucked.
In some ways, she has more to lose than anyone else.
Lyme is a Career first and foremost, and a Career is what she will always be. She follows rules; she is a keeper of order and a person who lives to please the Capitol, because the Capitol has never been anything but good and generous to her. If she had come in second in her year and graduated without ever competing, she most likely would have gone into the military track and become a Peacekeeper or even a Peacekeeping Director, entered into the bureaucratic world of order and rules. But as luck had it, she was always first in her year, first in the District, first out of all the tributes sent to the Capitol that year. She carved up her own districtmate with a thin, curved sword early in the Games; didn’t save him for last because she didn’t need his help to win.
But as the years went by – mentoring every three years, as was her duty, and spending the rest home alone in the Victors’ Village in Two – she grows discontent.
No one stays with her. The years tick on and she finds that she cannot bear children, and the worst part is, she wanted them. She knew they would be safe here, growing up in Two where there is always a steady stream of Volunteers, two per year and no civilian child ever goes to the Games. She sits alone in her beautiful house, drinking tea and staring at the walls and wondering if it was the pills and injections at the Center or Boy One’s knife deep in her abdomen that made her like this. Or perhaps it was fate. Perhaps she was never meant to be happy or fulfilled. Faithful servant to Snow and the Capitol; exemplary trainee; gifted volunteer; brilliant, shining winner. And now this. Now nothing.
Twos are different, you see. Twos do not dissent. It simply isn’t done. Rules are made to be followed and no one dares think twice about it. Rules are what keep their mines safe and their streets bright and clean; rules keep their families fed and their children safe each summer at the Reaping. Twos do not speak ill of the Capitol because the Capitol takes care of Two.
Disappointment and discontent can fester like an infection, and like an infection, when left untreated, they will spread and become something worse. Something like hatred.
The Capitol made her like this.
She realizes, one day, that she hates the Capitol.
No one suspects a thing.
She is the model Two Career Victor. She takes on extra mentor duties – starts going every other year rather than every three – and runs ruthless campaigns for her tributes behind the scenes. She is a master of the webbed world of parties and underground betting. She knows everyone who matters. Even when her tributes die, they die with glory: a muscular, vicious redheaded girl who is murder with a mace, undone by a slingshot; a blond Adonis of a boy who takes an arrow to the shoulder and is picked apart by mutts. She does not let them go forgotten in Two.
“How are we supposed to get Two on our side?” the strategists ask, and she mulls it over briefly before answering, “The fallen tributes.”
Because Twos do not usually question authority. But the children who gave their lives for the rest of Two, who stepped up so eagerly, ready to die for the glory of their District and country – they will serve as a reminder of what the Capitol stands for. Lyme sits in the edit bay with the filmmakers, making suggestions and watching critically until all of the propos are done.
There is a black screen, which fades into a shot of the District’s two most recent volunteers, Cato and Clove, smiling eagerly at their reaping, working the crowd into a frenzy. Quick cuts to the tribute parades and interviews with Two’s countless sacrificial lambs. And then the deaths, edited together quick and unsettling: Lucius, beheaded with a scythe; Felix, with an axe in his back; Mallory, caught in a snare and left to bleed out of a slit throat; Grendel, with the enormous boy from Nine bashing her head senselessly against the cold ice of the arena. It ends with a dual shot of Clove and Cato, their eyes blank and lifeless, their heads lying obscenely upon the ground at angles that shouldn’t be real.
“They could have been your children,” says a deep, anonymous voice over this last shot.
When the bomb goes off in the Quarry Rock, she sits at Control, watching the avalanche.
War isn’t pretty and it isn’t simple. There are no clean-cut answers during moments like this, when she’s watching thousands of people die in real time just to prove a point. It’s for the greater good and she knows it.
She was born in Two.
She dies in Two.
No one in Two mourns a traitor.