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The Soldier

Chapter Text

“Get up!” Someone’s shaking my shoulder. My eyelids flutter open and I see Katniss over me, looking frantic. “Get up,” she says again. “We have to move.” As everyone starts to get up she explains why Wiress was saying ‘tick, tock.’

            The arena is a clock.

            Whilst everyone else wakes up, I glance around the arena, my eyes darting from spoke to spoke that surrounds the Cornucopia. It makes sense now that she says it. In fact, I wonder how we didn’t figure it out earlier. I hear Johanna protesting Katniss’ idea to move, but she seems to be against anything Katniss says or does. When she wakes up Wiress, she says, “Yes, tick, tock, the arena’s a clock. It’s a clock, Wiress. You were right.”

            I turn back to them as Wiress says, “Midnight.”

            “It starts at midnight,” Katniss nods in response.

            “One-thirty,” Wiress says, nodding towards the section with the blood rain.

            “Exactly,” Katniss says. “One-thirty. And at two, a terrible poisonous fog begins there.” She points to the jungle nearby. It’s too close for my liking. “So we have to move somewhere safe now.” Wiress stands up, seeming relieved as Katniss asks, “Are you thirsty?” She gives Wiress the rest of the water in the bowl.

            It’s then I realize no one has checked on Beetee. I move over to his side and try to lift him into my arms, but he protests, saying, “Wire.”

            “She’s right here,” I say, thinking he means Wiress. “Wiress is fine. She’s coming too.”

            Still he won’t let me take him. “Wire,” he says again.

            “Oh, I know what he wants,” Johanna says, sounding extremely exasperated. She picks up the thing that we took from his belt. It’s still coated in blood. “This worthless thing. It’s some kind of wire or something. That’s how he got cut. Running up to the Cornucopia to get this. I don’t know what kind of weapon it’s supposed to be. I guess you could pull off a piece and use it as a garrote or something. But really, can you imagine Beetee garroting somebody?”

            “He won his Games with wire. Setting up that electrical trap,” I say, disliking Johanna more and more. “It’s the best weapon he could have.”

            “Seems like you’d have figured that out,” Katniss says. “Since you nicknamed him Volts and all.” There’s something about the way she says this that makes me suspicious of Johanna. How could she not have known he needed his wire in the first place? She’s known him far longer than Katniss or I have. How could she have forgotten that?

            However, I’m not given much time to think on this, since only a few seconds later, Johanna’s saying, “Yeah, that was really stupid of me, wasn’t it? I guess I must have been distracted by keeping your little friends alive. While you were…what, again? Getting Mags killed off?”

            She’s gone too far. I can tell by the way Katniss tightens her hold on the knife at her belt.

            “Go ahead. Try it,” Johanna hisses. “I don’t care if you’re knocked up, I’ll rip your throat out.” I know she won’t do anything right now. I wouldn’t let her, but it’s only a matter of time before one of the two of them can’t stand the other anymore.

            “Maybe we all had better be careful where we step,” Finnick says, shooting a look at Katniss. As he gives Beetee his wire, I think it’s really unfair of him to be upset with her, especially when he was Johanna who was being so cruel. “There’s your wire, Volts. Watch where you plug it.”

            This time when I try to pick Beetee up, he doesn’t protest. “Where to?”

            “I’d like to Cornucopia and watch,” says Finnick. “Just to make sure we’re right about the clock.” I doubt we’re wrong, but no one else has any better ideas, so we make our way to the golden horn and the pile of weapons that has dwindled dramatically.

Once we get there, I set Beetee down in the shade and call Wiress over. I hand her the wire, saying, “Clean it, will you?”

As Wiress starts to sing some silly song about a mouse and clock, Johanna rolls her eyes and says, just adding to my dislike for her, “Oh, not the song again. That went on for hours before she started tick-tocking.”

“Two,” Wiress says, standing and pointing at the jungle.

“Yes, look, Wiress is right,” Katniss says. “It’s two o’clock and the fog has started.”

“Like clockwork,” I say. “You were very smart to figure that out, Wiress.”

“Oh, she’s more than smart,” Beete says. “She’s intuitive.” He seems to be doing much better now. “She can sense things before anyone else. Like a canary in one of your coal mines.”

“What’s that?” Finnick asks.

“It’s a bird that we take down into the mines to warn us if there’s bad air,” Katniss says.

“What’s it do, die?” Johanna asks.

“It stops singing first,” Katniss explains. “That’s when you should get out. But if the air’s too bad, it dies, yes. And so do you.”

While everyone is preoccupied with Katniss’ story about the birds in the mines, I rush over to the closest bit of jungle away from the Cornucopia. I go a short ways into the trees, pull a large leaf from one of them, and hurry back out to the others before anyone can notice I’ve gone. I sit down in the sand, place the leaf in front of me and, using my knife, I begin to draw a map of the arena. The Cornucopia in the center, the twelve spokes going out towards the jungle. I draw a circle to represent the water line. When I feel Katniss’ presence behind me, I say, “Look how the Cornucopia’s positioned.”

“The tail points toward twelve o’clock,” she says.

“Right,” I say. “So this is the top of our clock,” I quickly write the numbers one through twelve around the clock face. “Twelve to one is the lightning zone,” I write lightning in minute print here, then write in blood, fog,and monkeys in the corresponding sections.

“And ten to eleven is the way,” she says. I add it in. By now Johanna and Finnick have joined us, armed in such a way to make them deadly.

“Did you notice anything unusual in the others?” I hear Katniss asking Johanna and Beetee. But they’ve only been in the blood rain section. “I guess they could hold anything.”

“I’m going to mark the ones where we know the Gamemakers’ weapon follows us out past the jungle, so we’ll stay clear of those,” I say, marking those sections with diagonal lines. It isn’t much, I suppose, but, sitting back, I tell everyone, “Well, it’s a lot more than we knew this morning, anyway.”

That’s when I notice the silence. Wiress has stopped singing.

Katniss spins around and lets an arrow fly into Gloss’s right temple. I watch Wiress fall from his hands and into the water, her throat gushing blood. Johanna throws an axe that hits Cashmere in the chest, killing her instantly. Finnick knocks away a spear that I didn’t notice Brutus had thrown at me, which results in him taking Enobaria’s knife in his thigh. The cannons are just going off, letting us know that Wiress cannot be saved when the ground moves and the spit of land we’re standing on begins to spin. I fall to the ground and dig my fingers into the sand, doing my best to hold on. When it stops, I notice that everyone has managed to hold on and the bodies of the dead have been flung out to sea.

“Where’s Volts?” Johanna asks as we stumble to our feet. We circle the Cornucopia once, but don’t find him anywhere. Then Finnick sees him floating in the sea, trying to paddle back to us, but not doing a very good job of it. He goes out into the water to pull him in and by the time he’s back, Katniss has jumped in to go get Beetee’s wire, which is still being held in Wiress’s hand. She manages to get to her right before the claw from the hovercraft descends upon her and carries her away. When she returns to the beach, she hands Beetee his wire and then sits down next to me, wrapping her arms around me. I don’t say anything. I don’t have to. My actions that are similar to hers speak for themselves.

“Let’s get off this stinking island,” Johanna says. We all agree and decide to head to the twelve o’clock beach, but when we begin heading away from the Cornucopia, we all go in different directions.

“Twelve o’clock, right?” I ask. “The tail points at twelve.”

“Before they spun us,” says Finnick. “I was judging by the sun.”

“The sun only tells you it’s going on four, Finnick,” Katniss says.

“I think Katniss’ point is, knowing the time doesn’t mean you necessarily know where four is on the clock,” says Beetee. “You might have a general idea of the direction. Unless you consider that they may have shifted the outer ring of the jungle as well.”

“Yes, so any one of these paths could lead to twelve o’clock,” she says.

We walk around the Cornucopia again. When we can’t discern one part of the jungle from the other, Johanna suggests we follow Brutus and Enobaria’s tracks, but they were swept away when the island spun around. No one knows where anything is. “I should have never mentioned the clock,” Katniss says bitterly. “Now they’ve taken that advantage away as well.”

“Only temporarily,” says Beetee. “At ten, we’ll see the wave again and be back on track.”

“Yes,” I say, relieved by this observation. “They can’t redesign the whole arena.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Johanna says, managing to frustrate me again. “You had to tell us or we never would have moved our camp in the first place, brainless. Come on, I need water. Anyone have a good gut feeling?”

No one does, so we choose a random path. Once we get to the beach, we all cautiously peer into the jungle, trying to figure out what danger lies in its depths.

“Well, it must be monkey hour,” I say. “And I don’t see any of them in there. I’m going to try to tap a tree.”

“No,” Finnick says. “It’s my turn.”

“I can at least watch your back,” I offer.

“Katniss can do that,” Johanna says, making me suspicious. “We need you to make another map. The other washed away.” She pulls a large leaf off one of the nearby trees and hands it to me as Katniss and Finnick head into the jungle. I bet she’s hoping that something will happen in there and Katniss will die. Or maybe she’s said something to Finnick, while Katniss and I were sleeping and told him to kill her when he got the chance. I try not to dwell too much on this and make the map, but I’ve just finished drawing the Cornucopia when I hear a scream. But it doesn’t belong to Katniss. She couldn’t make a scream like that. It belongs to a child. A small child. Someone who can’t be older than twelve or thirteen. There is only one child I know that is that age.