The shock of hearing Haymitch's voice yesterday, of learning that he was not only functional but had some
measure of control over my life again, enraged me. I left the studio directly and refused to acknowledge his
comments from the booth today. Even so, I knew immediately he was right about my performance.
It took the whole of this morning for him to convince the others of my limitations. That I can't pull it off. I can't
stand in a television studio wearing a costume and makeup in a cloud of fake smoke and rally the districts to
victory. It's amazing, really, how long I have survived the cameras. The credit for that, of course, goes to Peeta.
Alone, I can't be the Mockingjay.
We gather around the huge table in Command. Coin and her people. Plutarch, Fulvia, and my prep team. A
group from 12 that includes Haymitch and Gale, but also a few others I can't explain, like Leevy and Greasy Sae.
At the last minute, Finnick wheels Beetee in, accompanied by Dalton, the cattle expert from 10. I suppose that
Coin has assembled this strange assortment of people as witnesses to my failure.
However, it's Haymitch who welcomes everyone, and by his words I understand that they have come at his
personal invitation. This is the first time we've been in a room together since I clawed him. I avoid looking at him
directly, but I catch a glimpse of his reflection in one of the shiny control consoles along the wall. He looks slightly
yellow and has lost a lot of weight, giving him a shrunken appearance. For a second, I'm afraid he's dying. I have
to remind myself that I don't care.
The first thing Haymitch does is to show the footage we've just shot. I seem to have reached some new low
under Plutarch and Fulvia's guidance. Both my voice and body have a jerky, disjointed quality, like a puppet
being manipulated by unseen forces.
"All right," Haymitch says when it's over. "Would anyone like to argue that this is of use to us in winning the
war?" No one does. "That saves time. So, let's all be quiet for a minute. I want everyone to think of one incident
where Katniss Everdeen genuinely moved you. Not where you were jealous of her hairstyle, or her dress went up
in flames or she made a halfway decent shot with an arrow. Not where Peeta was making you like her. I want to
hear one moment where she made you feel something real."
Quiet stretches out and I'm beginning to think it will never end, when Leevy speaks up. "When she
volunteered to take Prim's place at the reaping. Because I'm sure she thought she was going to die."
"Good. Excellent example," says Haymitch. He takes a purple marker and writes on a notepad.
"Volunteered for sister at reaping." Haymitch looks around the table. "Somebody else."
I'm surprised that the next speaker is Boggs, who I think of as a muscular robot that does Coin's bidding.
"When she sang the song. While the little girl died." Somewhere in my head an image surfaces of Boggs with a
young boy perched up on his hip. In the dining hall, I think. Maybe he's not a robot after all.
"Who didn't get choked up at that, right?" says Haymitch, writing it down.
"I cried when she drugged Peeta so she could go get him medicine and when she kissed him good-bye!"
blurts out Octavia. Then she covers her mouth, like she's sure this was a bad mistake.
But Haymitch only nods. "Oh, yeah. Drugs Peeta to save his life. Very nice."
The moments begin to come thick and fast and in no particular order. When I took Rue on as an ally.
Extended my hand to Chaff on interview night. Tried to carry Mags. And again and again when I held out those
berries that meant different things to different people. Love for Peeta. Refusal to give in under impossible odds.
Defiance of the Capitol's inhumanity.
Haymitch holds up the notepad. "So, the question is, what do all of these have in common?"
"They were Katniss's," says Gale quietly. "No one told her what to do or say."
"Unscripted, yes!" says Beetee. He reaches over and pats my hand. "So we should just leave you alone,
right?"P eople laugh. I even smile a little.
"Well, that's all very nice but not very helpful," says Fulvia peevishly. "Unfortunately, her opportunities for
being wonderful are rather limited here in Thirteen. So unless you're suggesting we toss her into the middle of
"That's exactly what I'm suggesting," says Haymitch. "Put her out in the field and just keep the cameras
"But people think she's pregnant," Gale points out.
"We'll spread the word that she lost the baby from the electrical shock in the arena," Plutarch replies. "Very
sad. Very unfortunate."
The idea of sending me into combat is controversial. But Haymitch has a pretty tight case. If I perform well
only in real-life circumstances, then into them I should go. "Every time we coach her or give her lines, the best we
can hope for is okay. It has to come from her. That's what people are responding to."
"Even if we're careful, we can't guarantee her safety," says Boggs. "She'll be a target for every--"
"I want to go," I break in. "I'm no help to the rebels here."
"And if you're killed?" asks Coin.
"Make sure you get some footage. You can use that, anyway," I answer.
"Fine," says Coin. "But let's take it one step at a time. Find the least dangerous situation that can evoke
some spontaneity in you." She walks around Command, studying the illuminated district maps that show the
ongoing troop positions in the war. "Take her into Eight this afternoon. There was heavy bombing this morning,
but the raid seems to have run its course. I want her armed with a squad of bodyguards. Camera crew on the
ground. Haymitch, you'll be airborne and in contact with her. Let's see what happens there. Does anyone have
any other comments?"
"Wash her face," says Dalton. Everyone turns to him. "She's still a girl and you made her look thirty-five.
Feels wrong. Like something the Capitol would do."
As Coin adjourns the meeting, Haymitch asks her if he can speak to me privately. The others leave except
for Gale, who lingers uncertainly by my side. "What are you worried about?" Haymitch asks him. "I'm the one who
needs the bodyguard."
"It's okay," I tell Gale, and he goes. Then there's just the hum of the instruments, the purr of the ventilation
Haymitch takes the seat across from me. "We're going to have to work together again. So, go ahead. Just
I think of the snarling, cruel exchange back on the hovercraft. The bitterness that followed. But all I say is "I
can't believe you didn't rescue Peeta."
"I know," he replies.
There's a sense of incompleteness. And not because he hasn't apologized. But because we were a team.
We had a deal to keep Peeta safe. A drunken, unrealistic deal made in the dark of night, but a deal just the
same. And in my heart of hearts, I know we both failed.
"Now you say it," I tell him.
"I can't believe you let him out of your sight that night," says Haymitch.
I nod. That's it. "I play it over and over in my head. What I could have done to keep him by my side without
breaking the alliance. But nothing comes to me."
"You didn't have a choice. And even if I could've made Plutarch stay and rescue him that night, the whole
hovercraft would've gone down. We barely got out as it was." I finally meet Haymitch's eyes. Seam eyes. Gray
and deep and ringed with the circles of sleepless nights. "He's not dead yet, Katniss."
"We're still in the game." I try to say this with optimism, but my voice cracks.
"Still in. And I'm still your mentor." Haymitch points his marker at me. "When you're on the ground,
remember I'm airborne. I'll have the better view, so do what I tell you."
"We'll see," I answer.
I return to the Remake Room and watch the streaks of makeup disappear down the drain as I scrub my
face clean. The person in the mirror looks ragged, with her uneven skin and tired eyes, but she looks like me. I
rip the armband off, revealing the ugly scar from the tracker. There. That looks like me, too.
Since I'll be in a combat zone, Beetee helps me with armor Cinna designed. A helmet of some interwoven
metal that fits close to my head. The material's supple, like fabric, and can be drawn back like a hood in case I
don't want it up full-time. A vest to reinforce the protection over my vital organs. A small white earpiece that
attaches to my collar by a wire. Beetee secures a mask to my belt that I don't have to wear unless there's a gas
attack. "If you see anyone dropping for reasons you can't explain, put it on immediately," he says. Finally, he
straps a sheath divided into three cylinders of arrows to my back. "Just remember: Right side, fire. Left side,
explosive. Center, regular. You shouldn't need them, but better safe than sorry."
explosive. Center, regular. You shouldn't need them, but better safe than sorry."
Boggs shows up to escort me down to the Airborne Division. Just as the elevator arrives, Finnick appears
in a state of agitation. "Katniss, they won't let me go! I told them I'm fine, but they won't even let me ride in the
I take in Finnick--his bare legs showing between his hospital gown and slippers, his tangle of hair, the halfknotted
rope twisted around his fingers, the wild look in his eyes--and know any plea on my part will be useless.
Even I don't think it's a good idea to bring him. So I smack my hand on my forehead and say, "Oh, I forgot. It's this
stupid concussion. I was supposed to tell you to report to Beetee in Special Weaponry. He's designed a new
trident for you."
At the word trident, it's as if the old Finnick surfaces. "Really? What's it do?"
"I don't know. But if it's anything like my bow and arrows, you're going to love it," I say. "You'll need to train
with it, though."
"Right. Of course. I guess I better get down there," he says.
"Finnick?" I say. "Maybe some pants?"
He looks down at his legs as if noticing his outfit for the first time. Then he whips off his hospital gown,
leaving him in just his underwear. "Why? Do you find this"--he strikes a ridiculously provocative pose--
I can't help laughing because it's funny, and it's extra funny because it makes Boggs look so uncomfortable,
and I'm happy because Finnick actually sounds like the guy I met at the Quarter Quell.
"I'm only human, Odair." I get in before the elevator doors close. "Sorry," I say to Boggs.
"Don't be. I thought you...handled that well," he says. "Better than my having to arrest him, anyway."
"Yeah," I say. I sneak a sidelong glance at him. He's probably in his mid-forties, with close-cropped gray
hair and blue eyes. Incredible posture. He's spoken out twice today in ways that make me think he would rather
be friends than enemies. Maybe I should give him a chance. But he just seems so in step with Coin....
There's a series of loud clicks. The elevator comes to a slight pause and then begins to move laterally to
the left. "It goes sideways?" I ask.
"Yes. There's a whole network of elevator paths under Thirteen," he answers. "This one lies just above the
transport spoke to the fifth airlift platform. It's taking us to the Hangar."
The Hangar. The dungeons. Special Defense. Somewhere food is grown. Power generated. Air and water
purified. "Thirteen is even larger than I thought."
"Can't take credit for much of it," says Boggs. "We basically inherited the place. It's been all we can do to
keep it running."
The clicks resume. We drop down again briefly--just a couple of levels--and the doors open on the Hangar.
"Oh," I let out involuntarily at the sight of the fleet. Row after row of different kinds of hovercraft. "Did you
inherit these, too?"
"Some we manufactured. Some were part of the Capitol's air force. They've been updated, of course,"
I feel that twinge of hatred against 13 again. "So, you had all this, and you left the rest of the districts
defenseless against the Capitol."
"It's not that simple," he shoots back. "We were in no position to launch a counterattack until recently. We
could barely stay alive. After we'd overthrown and executed the Capitol's people, only a handful of us even knew
how to pilot. We could've nuked them with missiles, yes. But there's always the larger question: If we engage in
that type of war with the Capitol, would there be any human life left?"
"That sounds like what Peeta said. And you all called him a traitor," I counter.
"Because he called for a cease-fire," says Boggs. "You'll notice neither side has launched nuclear
weapons. We're working it out the old-fashioned way. Over here, Soldier Everdeen." He indicates one of the
I mount the stairs and find it packed with the television crew and equipment. Everyone else is dressed in
13's dark gray military jumpsuits, even Haymitch, although he seems unhappy about the snugness of his collar.
Fulvia Cardew hustles over and makes a sound of frustration when she sees my clean face. "All that work,
down the drain. I'm not blaming you, Katniss. It's just that very few people are born with camera-ready faces. Like
him." She snags Gale, who's in a conversation with Plutarch, and spins him toward us. "Isn't he handsome?"
Gale does look striking in the uniform, I guess. But the question just embarrasses us both, given our history.
I'm trying to think of a witty comeback, when Boggs says brusquely, "Well, don't expect us to be too impressed.
We just saw Finnick Odair in his underwear." I decide to go ahead and like Boggs.
There's a warning of the upcoming takeoff and I strap myself into a seat next to Gale, facing off with
Haymitch and Plutarch. We glide through a maze of tunnels that opens out onto a platform. Some sort of elevator
device lifts the craft slowly up through the levels. All at once we're outside in a large field surrounded by woods,
then we rise off the platform and become wrapped in clouds.
Now that the flurry of activity leading up to this mission is over, I realize I have no idea what I'm facing on this
trip to District 8. In fact, I know very little about the actual state of the war. Or what it would take to win it. Or what
would happen if we did.
Plutarch tries to lay it out in simple terms for me. First of all, every district is currently at war with the Capitol
except 2, which has always had a favored relationship with our enemies despite its participation in the Hunger
Games. They get more food and better living conditions. After the Dark Days and the supposed destruction of
13, District 2 became the Capitol's new center of defense, although it's publicly presented as the home of the
nation's stone quarries, in the same way that 13 was known for graphite mining. District 2 not only manufactures
weaponry, it trains and even supplies Peacekeepers.
"You mean...some of the Peacekeepers are born in Two?" I ask. "I thought they all came from the Capitol."
Plutarch nods. "That's what you're supposed to think. And some do come from the Capitol. But its
population could never sustain a force that size. Then there's the problem of recruiting Capitol-raised citizens for
a dull life of deprivation in the districts. A twenty-year commitment to the Peacekeepers, no marriage, no children
allowed. Some buy into it for the honor of the thing, others take it on as an alternative to punishment. For
instance, join the Peacekeepers and your debts are forgiven. Many people are swamped in debt in the Capitol,
but not all of them are fit for military duty. So District Two is where we turn for additional troops. It's a way for their
people to escape poverty and a life in the quarries. They're raised with a warrior mind-set. You've seen how
eager their children are to volunteer to be tributes."
Cato and Clove. Brutus and Enobaria. I've seen their eagerness and their bloodlust, too. "But all the other
districts are on our side?" I ask.
"Yes. Our goal is to take over the districts one by one, ending with District Two, thus cutting off the Capitol's
supply chain. Then, once it's weakened, we invade the Capitol itself," says Plutarch. "That will be a whole other
type of challenge. But we'll cross that bridge when we come to it."
"If we win, who would be in charge of the government?" Gale asks.
"Everyone," Plutarch tells him. "We're going to form a republic where the people of each district and the
Capitol can elect their own representatives to be their voice in a centralized government. Don't look so
suspicious; it's worked before."
"In books," Haymitch mutters.
"In history books," says Plutarch. "And if our ancestors could do it, then we can, too."
Frankly, our ancestors don't seem much to brag about. I mean, look at the state they left us in, with the wars
and the broken planet. Clearly, they didn't care about what would happen to the people who came after them. But
this republic idea sounds like an improvement over our current government.
"And if we lose?" I ask.
"If we lose?" Plutarch looks out at the clouds, and an ironic smile twists his lips. "Then I would expect next
year's Hunger Games to be quite unforgettable. That reminds me." He takes a vial from his vest, shakes a few
deep violet pills into his hand, and holds them out to us. "We named them nightlock in your honor, Katniss. The
rebels can't afford for any of us to be captured now. But I promise, it will be completely painless."
I take hold of a capsule, unsure of where to put it. Plutarch taps a spot on my shoulder at the front of my left
sleeve. I examine it and find a tiny pocket that both secures and conceals the pill. Even if my hands were tied, I
could lean my head forward and bite it free.
Cinna, it seems, has thought of everything.
The hovercraft makes a quick, spiral descent onto a wide road on the outskirts of 8. Almost immediately,
the door opens, the stairs slide into place, and we're spit out onto the asphalt. The moment the last person
disembarks, the equipment retracts. Then the craft lifts off and vanishes. I'm left with a bodyguard made up of
Gale, Boggs, and two other soldiers. The TV crew consists of a pair of burly Capitol cameramen with heavy
mobile cameras encasing their bodies like insect shells, a woman director named Cressida who has a shaved
head tattooed with green vines, and her assistant, Messalla, a slim young man with several sets of earrings. On
careful observation, I see his tongue has been pierced, too, and he wears a stud with a silver ball the size of a
Boggs hustles us off the road toward a row of warehouses as a second hovercraft comes in for a landing.
This one brings crates of medical supplies and a crew of six medics--I can tell by their distinctive white outfits.
We all follow Boggs down an alley that runs between two dull gray warehouses. Only the occasional access
ladder to the roof interrupts the scarred metal walls. When we emerge onto the street, it's like we've entered
The wounded from this morning's bombing are being brought in. On homemade stretchers, in
wheelbarrows, on carts, slung across shoulders, and clenched tight in arms. Bleeding, limbless, unconscious.
Propelled by desperate people to a warehouse with a sloppily painted H above the doorway. It's a scene from
my old kitchen, where my mother treated the dying, multiplied by ten, by fifty, by a hundred. I had expected
bombed-out buildings and instead find myself confronted with broken human bodies.
This is where they plan on filming me? I turn to Boggs. "This won't work," I say. "I won't be good here."
He must see the panic in my eyes, because he stops a moment and places his hands on my shoulders.
"You will. Just let them see you. That will do more for them than any doctor in the world could."
A woman directing the incoming patients catches sight of us, does a sort of double take, and then strides
over. Her dark brown eyes are puffy with fatigue and she smells of metal and sweat. A bandage around her
throat needed changing about three days ago. The strap of the automatic weapon slung across her back digs
into her neck and she shifts her shoulder to reposition it. With a jerk of her thumb, she orders the medics into the
warehouse. They comply without question.
"This is Commander Paylor of Eight," says Boggs. "Commander, Soldier Katniss Everdeen."
She looks young to be a commander. Early thirties. But there's an authoritative tone to her voice that
makes you feel her appointment wasn't arbitrary. Beside her, in my spanking-new outfit, scrubbed and shiny, I
feel like a recently hatched chick, untested and only just learning how to navigate the world.
"Yeah, I know who she is," says Paylor. "You're alive, then. We weren't sure." Am I wrong or is there a note
of accusation in her voice?
"I'm still not sure myself," I answer.
"Been in recovery." Boggs taps his head. "Bad concussion." He lowers his voice a moment. "Miscarriage.
But she insisted on coming by to see your wounded."
"Well, we've got plenty of those," says Paylor.
"You think this is a good idea?" says Gale, frowning at the hospital. "Assembling your wounded like this?"
I don't. Any sort of contagious disease would spread through this place like wildfire.
"I think it's slightly better than leaving them to die," says Paylor.
"That's not what I meant," Gale tells her.
"Well, currently that's my other option. But if you come up with a third and get Coin to back it, I'm all ears."
Paylor waves me toward the door. "Come on in, Mockingjay. And by all means, bring your friends."
I glance back at the freak show that is my crew, steel myself, and follow her into the hospital. Some sort of
heavy, industrial curtain hangs the length of the building, forming a sizable corridor. Corpses lie side by side,
curtain brushing their heads, white cloths concealing their faces. "We've got a mass grave started a few blocks
west of here, but I can't spare the manpower to move them yet," says Paylor. She finds a slit in the curtain and
opens it wide.
My fingers wrap around Gale's wrist. "Do not leave my side," I say under my breath.
"I'm right here," he answers quietly.
I step through the curtain and my senses are assaulted. My first impulse is to cover my nose to block out
the stench of soiled linen, putrefying flesh, and vomit, all ripening in the heat of the warehouse. They've propped
open skylights that crisscross the high metal roof, but any air that's managing to get in can't make a dent in the
fog below. The thin shafts of sunlight provide the only illumination, and as my eyes adjust, I can make out row
upon row of wounded, in cots, on pallets, on the floor because there are so many to claim the space. The drone
of black flies, the moaning of people in pain, and the sobs of their attending loved ones have combined into a
We have no real hospitals in the districts. We die at home, which at the moment seems a far desirable
alternative to what lies in front of me. Then I remember that many of these people probably lost their homes in the
Sweat begins to run down my back, fill my palms. I breathe through my mouth in an attempt to diminish the
smell. Black spots swim across my field of vision, and I think there's a really good chance I could faint. But then I
catch sight of Paylor, who's watching me so closely, waiting to see what I am made of, and if any of them have
been right to think they can count on me. So I let go of Gale and force myself to move deeper into the warehouse,
to walk into the narrow strip between two rows of beds.
"Katniss?" a voice croaks out from my left, breaking apart from the general din. "Katniss?" A hand reaches
for me out of the haze. I cling to it for support. Attached to the hand is a young woman with an injured leg. Blood
has seeped through the heavy bandages, which are crawling with flies. Her face reflects her pain, but something
else, too, something that seems completely incongruous with her situation. "Is it really you?"
"Yeah, it's me," I get out.
Joy. That's the expression on her face. At the sound of my voice, it brightens, erases the suffering
"You're alive! We didn't know. People said you were, but we didn't know!" she says excitedly.
"I got pretty banged up. But I got better," I say. "Just like you will."
"I've got to tell my brother!" The woman struggles to sit up and calls to someone a few beds down. "Eddy!
Eddy! She's here! It's Katniss Everdeen!"
A boy, probably about twelve years old, turns to us. Bandages obscure half of his face. The side of his
mouth I can see opens as if to utter an exclamation. I go to him, push his damp brown curls back from his
forehead. Murmur a greeting. He can't speak, but his one good eye fixes on me with such intensity, as if he's
trying to memorize every detail of my face.
I hear my name rippling through the hot air, spreading out into the hospital. "Katniss! Katniss Everdeen!"
The sounds of pain and grief begin to recede, to be replaced by words of anticipation. From all sides, voices
beckon me. I begin to move, clasping the hands extended to me, touching the sound parts of those unable to
move their limbs, saying hello, how are you, good to meet you. Nothing of importance, no amazing words of
inspiration. But it doesn't matter. Boggs is right. It's the sight of me, alive, that is the inspiration.
Hungry fingers devour me, wanting to feel my flesh. As a stricken man clutches my face between his hands,
I send a silent thank-you to Dalton for suggesting I wash off the makeup. How ridiculous, how perverse I would
feel presenting that painted Capitol mask to these people. The damage, the fatigue, the imperfections. That's
how they recognize me, why I belong to them.
Despite his controversial interview with Caesar, many ask about Peeta, assure me that they know he was
speaking under duress. I do my best to sound positive about our future, but people are truly devastated when
they learn I've lost the baby. I want to come clean and tell one weeping woman that it was all a hoax, a move in
the game, but to present Peeta as a liar now would not help his image. Or mine. Or the cause.
I begin to fully understand the lengths to which people have gone to protect me. What I mean to the rebels.
My ongoing struggle against the Capitol, which has so often felt like a solitary journey, has not been undertaken
alone. I have had thousands upon thousands of people from the districts at my side. I was their Mockingjay long
before I accepted the role.
A new sensation begins to germinate inside me. But it takes until I am standing on a table, waving my final
goodbyes to the hoarse chanting of my name, to define it. Power. I have a kind of power I never knew I
possessed. Snow knew it, as soon as I held out those berries. Plutarch knew when he rescued me from the
arena. And Coin knows now. So much so that she must publicly remind her people that I am not in control.
When we're outside again, I lean against the warehouse, catching my breath, accepting the canteen of
water from Boggs. "You did great," he says.
Well, I didn't faint or throw up or run out screaming. Mostly, I just rode the wave of emotion rolling through the
"We got some nice stuff in there," says Cressida. I look at the insect cameramen, perspiration pouring
from under their equipment. Messalla scribbling notes. I had forgotten they were even filming me.
"I didn't do much, really," I say.
"You have to give yourself some credit for what you've done in the past," says Boggs.
What I've done in the past? I think of the trail of destruction in my wake--my knees weaken and I slide down
to a sitting position. "That's a mixed bag."
"Well, you're not perfect by a long shot. But times being what they are, you'll have to do," says Boggs.
Gale squats down beside me, shaking his head. "I can't believe you let all those people touch you. I kept
expecting you to make a break for the door."
"Shut up," I say with a laugh.
"Your mother's going to be very proud when she sees the footage," he says.
"My mother won't even notice me. She'll be too appalled by the conditions in there." I turn to Boggs and
ask, "Is it like this in every district?"
"Yes. Most are under attack. We're trying to get in aid wherever we can, but it's not enough." He stops a
minute, distracted by something in his earpiece. I realize I haven't heard Haymitch's voice once, and fiddle with
mine, wondering if it's broken. "We're to get to the airstrip. Immediately," Boggs says, lifting me to my feet with
one hand. "There's a problem."
"What kind of problem?" asks Gale.
"Incoming bombers," says Boggs. He reaches behind my neck and yanks Cinna's helmet up onto my head.
Unsure of what's going on, I take off running along the front of the warehouse, heading for the alley that
leads to the airstrip. But I don't sense any immediate threat. The sky's an empty, cloudless blue. The street's
clear except for the people hauling the wounded to the hospital. There's no enemy, no alarm. Then the sirens
begin to wail. Within seconds, a low-flying V-shaped formation of Capitol hoverplanes appears above us, and
the bombs begin to fall. I'm blown off my feet, into the front wall of the warehouse. There's a searing pain just
above the back of my right knee. Something has struck my back as well, but doesn't seem to have penetrated
my vest. I try to get up, but Boggs pushes me back down, shielding my body with his own. The ground ripples
under me as bomb after bomb drops from the planes and detonates.
It's a horrifying sensation being pinned against the wall as the bombs rain down. What was that expression
my father used for easy kills? Like shooting fish in a barrel. We are the fish, the street the barrel.
"Katniss!" I'm startled by Haymitch's voice in my ear.
"What? Yes, what? I'm here!" I answer.
"Listen to me. We can't land during the bombing, but it's imperative you're not spotted," he says.
"So they don't know I'm here?" I assumed, as usual, it was my presence that brought on punishment.
"Intelligence thinks no. That this raid was already scheduled," says Haymitch.
Now Plutarch's voice comes up, calm but forceful. The voice of a Head Gamemaker used to calling the
shots under pressure. "There's a light blue warehouse three down from you. It has a bunker in the far north
corner. Can you get there?"
"We'll do our best," says Boggs. Plutarch must be in everyone's ear, because my bodyguards and crew are
getting up. My eye instinctively searches for Gale and sees he's on his feet, apparently unharmed.
"You've got maybe forty-five seconds to the next wave," says Plutarch.
I give a grunt of pain as my right leg takes the weight of my body, but I keep moving. No time to examine the
injury. Better not to look now, anyway. Fortunately, I have on shoes that Cinna designed. They grip the asphalt on
contact and spring free of it on release. I'd be hopeless in that ill-fitting pair that 13 assigned to me. Boggs has
the lead, but no one else passes me. Instead they match my pace, protecting my sides, my back. I force myself
into a sprint as the seconds tick away. We pass the second gray warehouse and run along a dirt brown building.
Up ahead, I see a faded blue facade. Home of the bunker. We have just reached another alley, need only to
cross it to arrive at the door, when the next wave of bombs begins. I instinctively dive into the alley and roll toward
the blue wall. This time it's Gale who throws himself over me to provide one more layer of protection from the
bombing. It seems to go on longer this time, but we are farther away.
I shift onto my side and find myself looking directly into Gale's eyes. For an instant the world recedes and
there is just his flushed face, his pulse visible at his temple, his lips slightly parted as he tries to catch his breath.
"You all right?" he asks, his words nearly drowned out by an explosion.
"Yeah. I don't think they've seen me," I answer. "I mean, they're not following us."
"No, they've targeted something else," says Gale.
"I know, but there's nothing back there but--" The realization hits us at the same time.
"The hospital." Instantly, Gale's up and shouting to the others. "They're targeting the hospital!"
"Not your problem," says Plutarch firmly. "Get to the bunker."
"But there's nothing there but the wounded!" I say.
"Katniss." I hear the warning note in Haymitch's voice and know what's coming. "Don't you even think
about--!" I yank the earpiece free and let it hang from its wire. With that distraction gone, I hear another sound.
Machine gun fire coming from the roof of the dirt brown warehouse across the alley. Someone is returning fire.
Before anyone can stop me, I make a dash for an access ladder and begin to scale it. Climbing. One of the
things I do best.
"Don't stop!" I hear Gale say behind me. Then there's the sound of his boot on someone's face. If it belongs
to Boggs, Gale's going to pay for it dearly later on. I make the roof and drag myself onto the tar. I stop long
enough to pull Gale up beside me, and then we take off for the row of machine gun nests on the street side of the
warehouse. Each looks to be manned by a few rebels. We skid into a nest with a pair of soldiers, hunching down
behind the barrier.
"Boggs know you're up here?" To my left I see Paylor behind one of the guns, looking at us quizzically.
I try to be evasive without flat-out lying. "He knows where we are, all right."
Paylor laughs. "I bet he does. You been trained in these?" She slaps the stock of her gun.
"I have. In Thirteen," says Gale. "But I'd rather use my own weapons."
"Yes, we've got our bows." I hold mine up, then realize how decorative it must seem. "It's more deadly than
"It would have to be," says Paylor. "All right. We expect at least three more waves. They have to drop their
sight shields before they release the bombs. That's our chance. Stay low!" I position myself to shoot from one
"Better start with fire," says Gale.
I nod and pull an arrow from my right sheath. If we miss our targets, these arrows will land somewhere--
probably the warehouses across the street. A fire can be put out, but the damage an explosive can do may be
Suddenly, they appear in the sky, two blocks down, maybe a hundred yards above us. Seven small
bombers in a V formation. "Geese!" I yell at Gale. He'll know exactly what I mean. During migration season, when
we hunt fowl, we've developed a system of dividing the birds so we don't both target the same ones. I get the far
side of the V, Gale takes the near, and we alternate shots at the front bird. There's no time for further discussion. I
estimate the lead time on the hoverplanes and let my arrow fly. I catch the inside wing of one, causing it to burst
into flames. Gale just misses the point plane. A fire blooms on an empty warehouse roof across from us. He
swears under his breath.
The hoverplane I hit swerves out of formation, but still releases its bombs. It doesn't disappear, though.
Neither does one other I assume was hit by gunfire. The damage must prevent the sight shield from reactivating.
"Good shot," says Gale.
"I wasn't even aiming for that one," I mutter. I'd set my sights on the plane in front of it. "They're faster than
"Positions!" Paylor shouts. The next wave of hoverplanes is appearing already.
"Fire's no good," Gale says. I nod and we both load explosive-tipped arrows. Those warehouses across
the way look deserted anyway.
As the planes sweep silently in, I make another decision. "I'm standing!" I shout to Gale, and rise to my feet.
This is the position I get the best accuracy from. I lead earlier and score a direct hit on the point plane, blasting a
hole in its belly. Gale blows the tail off a second. It flips and crashes into the street, setting off a series of
explosions as its cargo goes off.
Without warning, a third V formation unveils. This time, Gale squarely hits the point plane. I take the wing off
the second bomber, causing it to spin into the one behind it. Together they collide into the roof of the warehouse
across from the hospital. A fourth goes down from gunfire.
"All right, that's it," Paylor says.
Flames and heavy black smoke from the wreckage obscure our view. "Did they hit the hospital?"
"Must have," she says grimly.
As I hurry toward the ladders at the far end of the warehouse, the sight of Messalla and one of the insects
emerging from behind an air duct surprises me. I thought they'd still be hunkered down in the alley.
"They're growing on me," says Gale.
I scramble down a ladder. When my feet hit the ground, I find a bodyguard, Cressida, and the other insect
waiting. I expect resistance, but Cressida just waves me toward the hospital. She's yelling, "I don't care, Plutarch!
Just give me five more minutes!" Not one to question a free pass, I take off into the street.
"Oh, no," I whisper as I catch sight of the hospital. What used to be the hospital. I move past the wounded,
past the burning plane wrecks, fixated on the disaster ahead of me. People screaming, running about frantically,
but unable to help. The bombs have collapsed the hospital roof and set the building on fire, effectively trapping
the patients within. A group of rescuers has assembled, trying to clear a path to the inside. But I already know
what they will find. If the crushing debris and the flames didn't get them, the smoke did.
Gale's at my shoulder. The fact that he does nothing only confirms my suspicions. Miners don't abandon an
accident until it's hopeless.
"Come on, Katniss. Haymitch says they can get a hovercraft in for us now," he tells me. But I can't seem to
"Why would they do that? Why would they target people who were already dying?" I ask him.
"Scare others off. Prevent the wounded from seeking help," says Gale. "Those people you met, they were
expendable. To Snow, anyway. If the Capitol wins, what will it do with a bunch of damaged slaves?"
I remember all those years in the woods, listening to Gale rant against the Capitol. Me, not paying close
attention. Wondering why he even bothered to dissect its motives. Why thinking like our enemy would ever
matter. Clearly, it could have mattered today. When Gale questioned the existence of the hospital, he was not
thinking of disease, but this. Because he never underestimates the cruelty of those we face.
I slowly turn my back to the hospital and find Cressida, flanked by the insects, standing a couple of yards in
front of me. Her manner's unrattled. Cool even. "Katniss," she says, "President Snow just had them air the
bombing live. Then he made an appearance to say that this was his way of sending a message to the rebels.
What about you? Would you like to tell the rebels anything?"
"Yes," I whisper. The red blinking light on one of the cameras catches my eye. I know I'm being recorded.
"Yes," I say more forcefully. Everyone is drawing away from me--Gale, Cressida, the insects--giving me the
stage. But I stay focused on the red light. "I want to tell the rebels that I am alive. That I'm right here in District
Eight, where the Capitol has just bombed a hospital full of unarmed men, women, and children. There will be no
survivors." The shock I've been feeling begins to give way to fury. "I want to tell people that if you think for one
second the Capitol will treat us fairly if there's a cease-fire, you're deluding yourself. Because you know who they
are and what they do." My hands go out automatically, as if to indicate the whole horror around me. "This is what
they do! And we must fight back!"
I'm moving in toward the camera now, carried forward by my rage. "President Snow says he's sending us a
message? Well, I have one for him. You can torture us and bomb us and burn our districts to the ground, but do
you see that?" One of the cameras follows as I point to the planes burning on the roof of the warehouse across
from us. The Capitol seal on a wing glows clearly through the flames. "Fire is catching!" I am shouting now,
determined that he will not miss a word. "And if we burn, you burn with us!"
My last words hang in the air. I feel suspended in time. Held aloft in a cloud of heat that generates not from
my surroundings, but from my own being.
"Cut!" Cressida's voice snaps me back to reality, extinguishes me. She gives me a nod of approval.
"That's a wrap."
Boggs appears and gets a firm lock on my arm, but I'm not planning on running now. I look over at the
hospital--just in time to see the rest of the structure give way--and the fight goes out of me. All those people, the
hundreds of wounded, the relatives, the medics from 13, are no more. I turn back to Boggs, see the swelling on
his face left by Gale's boot. I'm no expert, but I'm pretty sure his nose is broken. His voice is more resigned than
angry, though. "Back to the landing strip." I obediently take a step forward and wince as I become aware of the
pain behind my right knee. The adrenaline rush that overrode the sensation has passed and my body parts join
in a chorus of complaints. I'm banged up and bloody and someone seems to be hammering on my left temple
from inside my skull. Boggs quickly examines my face, then scoops me up and jogs for the runway. Halfway
there, I puke on his bulletproof vest. It's hard to tell because he's short of breath, but I think he sighs.
A small hovercraft, different from the one that transported us here, waits on the runway. The second my
team's on board, we take off. No comfy seats and windows this time. We seem to be in some sort of cargo craft.
Boggs does emergency first aid on people to hold them until we get back to 13. I want to take off my vest, since I
got a fair amount of vomit on it as well, but it's too cold to think about it. I lie on the floor with my head in Gale's
lap. The last thing I remember is Boggs spreading a couple of burlap sacks over me.
When I wake up, I'm warm and patched up in my old bed in the hospital. My mother's there, checking my
vital signs. "How do you feel?"
"A little beat-up, but all right," I say.
"No one even told us you were going until you were gone," she says.
I feel a pang of guilt. When your family's had to send you off twice to the Hunger Games, this isn't the kind of
detail you should overlook. "I'm sorry. They weren't expecting the attack. I was just supposed to be visiting the
patients," I explain. "Next time, I'll have them clear it with you."
"Katniss, no one clears anything with me," she says.
It's true. Even I don't. Not since my father died. Why pretend? "Well, I'll have them...notify you anyway."
On the bedside table is a piece of shrapnel they removed from my leg. The doctors are more concerned
with the damage my brain might have suffered from the explosions, since my concussion hadn't fully healed to
begin with. But I don't have double vision or anything and I can think clearly enough. I've slept right through the
late afternoon and night, and I'm starving. My breakfast is disappointingly small. Just a few cubes of bread
soaking in warm milk. I've been called down to an early morning meeting at Command. I start to get up and then
realize they plan to roll my hospital bed directly there. I want to walk, but that's out, so I negotiate my way into a
wheelchair. I feel fine, really. Except for my head, and my leg, and the soreness from the bruises, and the nausea
that hit a couple minutes after I ate. Maybe the wheelchair's a good idea.
As they wheel me down, I begin to get uneasy about what I will face. Gale and I directly disobeyed orders
yesterday, and Boggs has the injury to prove it. Surely, there will be repercussions, but will they go so far as Coin
annulling our agreement for the victors' immunity? Have I stripped Peeta of what little protection I could give him?
When I get to Command, the only ones who've arrived are Cressida, Messalla, and the insects. Messalla
beams and says, "There's our little star!" and the others are smiling so genuinely that I can't help but smile in
return. They impressed me in 8, following me onto the roof during the bombing, making Plutarch back off so they
could get the footage they wanted. They more than do their work, they take pride in it. Like Cinna.
I have a strange thought that if we were in the arena together, I would pick them as allies. Cressida,
Messalla, and--and--"I have to stop calling you 'the insects,'" I blurt out to the cameramen. I explain how I didn't
know their names, but their suits suggested the shelled creatures. The comparison doesn't seem to bother them.
Even without the camera shells, they strongly resemble each other. Same sandy hair, red beards, and blue eyes.
The one with close-bitten nails introduces himself as Castor and the other, who's his brother, as Pollux. I wait for
Pollux to say hello, but he just nods. At first I think he's shy or a man of few words. But something tugs on me--the
position of his lips, the extra effort he takes to swallow--and I know before Castor tells me. Pollux is an Avox.
They have cut out his tongue and he will never speak again. And I no longer have to wonder what made him risk
everything to help bring down the Capitol.
As the room fills, I brace myself for a less congenial reception. But the only people who register any kind of
As the room fills, I brace myself for a less congenial reception. But the only people who register any kind of
negativity are Haymitch, who's always out of sorts, and a sour-faced Fulvia Cardew. Boggs wears a fleshcolored
plastic mask from his upper lip to his brow--I was right about the broken nose--so his expression's hard
to read. Coin and Gale are in the midst of some exchange that seems positively chummy.
When Gale slides into the seat next to my wheelchair, I say, "Making new friends?"
His eyes flicker to the president and back. "Well, one of us has to be accessible." He touches my temple
gently. "How do you feel?"
They must have served stewed garlic and squash for the breakfast vegetable. The more people who
gather, the stronger the fumes are. My stomach turns and the lights suddenly seem too bright. "Kind of rocky," I
say. "How are you?"
"Fine. They dug out a couple of pieces of shrapnel. No big deal," he says.
Coin calls the meeting to order. "Our Airtime Assault has officially launched. For any of you who missed
yesterday's twenty-hundred broadcast of our first propo--or the seventeen reruns Beetee has managed to air
since--we will begin by replaying it." Replaying it? So they not only got usable footage, they've already slapped
together a propo and aired it repeatedly. My palms grow moist in anticipation of seeing myself on television.
What if I'm still awful? What if I'm as stiff and pointless as I was in the studio and they've just given up on getting
anything better? Individual screens slide up from the table, the lights dim slightly, and a hush falls over the room.
At first, my screen is black. Then a tiny spark flickers in the center. It blossoms, spreads, silently eating up
the blackness until the entire frame is ablaze with a fire so real and intense, I imagine I feel the heat emanating
from it. The image of my mockingjay pin emerges, glowing red-gold. The deep, resonant voice that haunts my
dreams begins to speak. Claudius Templesmith, the official announcer of the Hunger Games, says, "Katniss
Everdeen, the girl who was on fire, burns on."
Suddenly, there I am, replacing the mockingjay, standing before the real flames and smoke of District 8. "I
want to tell the rebels that I am alive. That I'm right here in District Eight, where the Capitol has just bombed a
hospital full of unarmed men, women, and children. There will be no survivors." Cut to the hospital collapsing
in on itself, the desperation of the onlookers as I continue in voice-over. "I want to tell people that if you think for
one second the Capitol will treat us fairly if there's a cease-fire, you're deluding yourself. Because you know
who they are and what they do." Back to me now, my hands lifting up to indicate the outrage around me. "This is
what they do! And we must fight back!" Now comes a truly fantastic montage of the battle. The initial bombs
falling, us running, being blown to the ground--a close-up of my wound, which looks good and bloody--scaling the
roof, diving into the nests, and then some amazing shots of the rebels, Gale, and mostly me, me, me knocking
those planes out of the sky. Smash-cut back to me moving in on the camera. "President Snow says he's
sending us a message? Well, I have one for him. You can torture us and bomb us and burn our districts to
the ground, but do you see that?" We're with the camera, tracking to the planes burning on the roof of the
warehouse. Tight on the Capitol seal on a wing, which melts back into the image of my face, shouting at the
president. "Fire is catching! And if we burn, you burn with us!" Flames engulf the screen again. Superimposed
on them in black, solid letters are the words:
IF WE BURN YOU
BURN WITH US
The words catch fire and the whole screen burns to blackness.
There's a moment of silent relish, then applause followed by demands to see it again. Coin indulgently hits
the replay button, and this time, since I know what will happen, I try to pretend that I'm watching this on my
television at home in the Seam. An anti-Capitol statement. There's never been anything like it on television. Not
in my lifetime, anyway.
By the time the screen burns to black a second time, I need to know more. "Did it play all over Panem? Did
they see it in the Capitol?"
"Not in the Capitol," says Plutarch. "We couldn't override their system, although Beetee's working on it. But
in all the districts. We even got it on in Two, which may be more valuable than the Capitol at this point in the
"Is Claudius Templesmith with us?" I ask.
This gives Plutarch a good laugh. "Only his voice. But that's ours for the taking. We didn't even have to do
any special editing. He said that actual line in your first Games." He slaps his hand on the table. "What say we
give another round of applause to Cressida, her amazing team, and, of course, our on-camera talent!"
I clap, too, until I realize I'm the on-camera talent and maybe it's obnoxious that I'm applauding for myself,
but no one's paying attention. I can't help noticing the strain on Fulvia's face, though. I think how hard this must be
for her, watching Haymitch's idea succeed under Cressida's direction, when Fulvia's studio approach was such
Coin seems to have reached the end of her tolerance for self-congratulation. "Yes, well deserved. The
result is more than we had hoped for. But I do have to question the wide margin of risk that you were willing to
operate within. I know the raid was unforeseen. However, given the circumstances, I think we should discuss the
decision to send Katniss into actual combat."
The decision? To send me into combat? Then she doesn't know that I flagrantly disregarded orders, ripped
out my earpiece, and gave my bodyguards the slip? What else have they kept from her?
"It was a tough call," says Plutarch, furrowing his brow. "But the general consensus was that we weren't
going to get anything worth using if we locked her in a bunker somewhere every time a gun went off."
"And you're all right with that?" asks the president.
Gale has to kick me under the table before I realize that she's talking to me. "Oh! Yeah, I'm completely all
right with that. It felt good. Doing something for a change."
"Well, let's be just a little more judicious with her exposure. Especially now that the Capitol knows what she
can do," says Coin. There's a rumble of assent from around the table.
No one has ratted out Gale and me. Not Plutarch, whose authority we ignored. Not Boggs with his broken
nose. Not the insects we led into fire. Not Haymitch--no, wait a minute. Haymitch is giving me a deadly smile and
saying sweetly, "Yeah, we wouldn't want to lose our little Mockingjay when she's finally begun to sing." I make a
note to myself not to end up alone in a room with him, because he's clearly having vengeful thoughts over that
"So, what else do you have planned?" asks the president.
Plutarch nods to Cressida, who consults a clipboard. "We have some terrific footage of Katniss at the
hospital in Eight. There should be another propo in that with the theme 'Because you know who they are and
what they do.' We'll focus on Katniss interacting with the patients, particularly the children, the bombing of the
hospital, and the wreckage. Messalla's cutting that together. We're also thinking about a Mockingjay piece.
Highlight some of Katniss's best moments intercut with scenes of rebel uprisings and war footage. We call that
one 'Fire is catching.' And then Fulvia came up with a really brilliant idea."
Fulvia's mouthful-of-sour-grapes expression is startled right off her face, but she recovers. "Well, I don't
know how brilliant it is, but I was thinking we could do a series of propos called We Remember. In each one, we
would feature one of the dead tributes. Little Rue from Eleven or old Mags from Four. The idea being that we
could target each district with a very personal piece."
"A tribute to your tributes, as it were," says Plutarch.
"That is brilliant, Fulvia," I say sincerely. "It's the perfect way to remind people why they're fighting."
"I think it could work," she says. "I thought we might use Finnick to intro and narrate the spots. If there was
interest in them."
"Frankly, I don't see how we could have too many We Remember propos," says Coin. "Can you start
producing them today?"
"Of course," says Fulvia, obviously mollified by the response to her idea.
Cressida has smoothed everything over in the creative department with her gesture. Praised Fulvia for
what is, in fact, a really good idea, and cleared the way to continue her own on-air depiction of the Mockingjay.
What's interesting is that Plutarch seems to have no need to share in the credit. All he wants is for the Airtime
Assault to work. I remember that Plutarch is a Head Gamemaker, not a member of the crew. Not a piece in the
Games. Therefore, his worth is not defined by a single element, but by the overall success of the production. If
we win the war, that's when Plutarch will take his bow. And expect his reward.
The president sends everyone off to get to work, so Gale wheels me back to the hospital. We laugh a little
about the cover-up. Gale says no one wanted to look bad by admitting they couldn't control us. I'm kinder, saying
they probably didn't want to jeopardize the chance of taking us out again now that they've gotten some decent
footage. Both things are probably true. Gale has to go meet Beetee down in Special Weaponry, so I doze off.
It seems like I've only shut my eyes for a few minutes, but when I open them, I flinch at the sight of Haymitch
sitting a couple of feet from my bed. Waiting. Possibly for several hours if the clock is right. I think about hollering
for a witness, but I'm going to have to face him sooner or later.
Haymitch leans forward and dangles something on a thin white wire in front of my nose. It's hard to focus
on, but I'm pretty sure what it is. He drops it to the sheets. "That is your earpiece. I will give you exactly one more
chance to wear it. If you remove it from your ear again, I'll have you fitted with this." He holds up some sort of
metal headgear that I instantly name the head shackle. "It's an alternative audio unit that locks around your skull
and under your chin until it's opened with a key. And I'll have the only key. If for some reason you're clever enough
to disable it"--Haymitch dumps the head shackle on the bed and whips out a tiny silver chip--"I'll authorize them
to surgically implant this transmitter into your ear so that I may speak to you twenty-four hours a day."
Haymitch in my head full-time. Horrifying. "I'll keep the earpiece in," I mutter.
"Excuse me?" he says.
"I'll keep the earpiece in!" I say, loud enough to wake up half the hospital.
"You sure? Because I'm equally happy with any of the three options," he tells me.
"I'm sure," I say. I scrunch up the earpiece wire protectively in my fist and fling the head shackle back in his
face with my free hand, but he catches it easily. Probably was expecting me to throw it. "Anything else?"
Haymitch rises to go. "While I was waiting...I ate your lunch."
My eyes take in the empty stew bowl and tray on my bed table. "I'm going to report you," I mumble into my
"You do that, sweetheart." He goes out, safe in the knowledge that I'm not the reporting kind.
I want to go back to sleep, but I'm restless. Images from yesterday begin to flood into the present. The
bombing, the fiery plane crashes, the faces of the wounded who no longer exist. I imagine death from all sides.
The last moment before seeing a shell hit the ground, feeling the wing blown from my plane and the dizzying
nosedive into oblivion, the warehouse roof falling down at me while I'm pinned helplessly to my cot. Things I saw,
in person or on the tape. Things I caused with a pull of my bowstring. Things I will never be able to erase from my
At dinner, Finnick brings his tray to my bed so we can watch the newest propo together on television. He
was assigned quarters on my old floor, but he has so many mental relapses, he still basically lives in the hospital.
The rebels air the "Because you know who they are and what they do" propo that Messalla edited. The footage
is intercut with short studio clips of Gale, Boggs, and Cressida describing the incident. It's hard to watch my
reception in the hospital in 8 since I know what's coming. When the bombs rain down on the roof, I bury my face
in my pillow, looking up again at a brief clip of me at the end, after all the victims are dead.
At least Finnick doesn't applaud or act all happy when it's done. He just says, "People should know that
happened. And now they do."
"Let's turn it off, Finnick, before they run it again," I urge him. But as Finnick's hand moves toward the
remote control, I cry, "Wait!" The Capitol is introducing a special segment and something about it looks familiar.
Yes, it's Caesar Flickerman. And I can guess who his guest will be.
Peeta's physical transformation shocks me. The healthy, clear-eyed boy I saw a few days ago has lost at
least fifteen pounds and developed a nervous tremor in his hands. They've still got him groomed. But underneath
the paint that cannot cover the bags under his eyes, and the fine clothes that cannot conceal the pain he feels
when he moves, is a person badly damaged.
My mind reels, trying to make sense of it. I just saw him! Four--no, five--I think it was five days ago. How has
he deteriorated so rapidly? What could they possibly have done to him in such a short time? Then it hits me. I
replay in my mind as much as I can of his first interview with Caesar, searching for anything that would place it in
time. There is nothing. They could have taped that interview a day or two after I blew up the arena, then done
whatever they wanted to do to him ever since. "Oh, Peeta..." I whisper.
Caesar and Peeta have a few empty exchanges before Caesar asks him about rumors that I'm taping
propos for the districts. "They're using her, obviously," says Peeta. "To whip up the rebels. I doubt she even really
knows what's going on in the war. What's at stake."
"Is there anything you'd like to tell her?" asks Caesar.
"There is," says Peeta. He looks directly into the camera, right into my eyes. "Don't be a fool, Katniss.
Think for yourself. They've turned you into a weapon that could be instrumental in the destruction of humanity. If
you've got any real influence, use it to put the brakes on this thing. Use it to stop the war before it's too late. Ask
yourself, do you really trust the people you're working with? Do you really know what's going on? And if you
Black screen. Seal of Panem. Show over.
Black screen. Seal of Panem. Show over.
Finnick presses the button on the remote that kills the power. In a minute, people will be here to do damage
control on Peeta's condition and the words that came out of his mouth. I will need to repudiate them. But the truth
is, I don't trust the rebels or Plutarch or Coin. I'm not confident that they tell me the truth. I won't be able to conceal
this. Footsteps are approaching.
Finnick grips me hard by the arms. "We didn't see it."
"What?" I ask.
"We didn't see Peeta. Only the propo on Eight. Then we turned the set off because the images upset you.
Got it?" he asks. I nod. "Finish your dinner." I pull myself together enough so that when Plutarch and Fulvia enter, I
have a mouthful of bread and cabbage. Finnick is talking about how well Gale came across on camera. We
congratulate them on the propo. Make it clear it was so powerful, we tuned out right afterward. They look
relieved. They believe us.
No one mentions Peeta.
I stop trying to sleep after my first few attempts are interrupted by unspeakable nightmares. After that, I just
lie still and do fake breathing whenever someone checks on me. In the morning, I'm released from the hospital
and instructed to take it easy. Cressida asks me to record a few lines for a new Mockingjay propo. At lunch, I
keep waiting for people to bring up Peeta's appearance, but no one does. Someone must have seen it besides
Finnick and me.
I have training, but Gale's scheduled to work with Beetee on weapons or something, so I get permission to
take Finnick to the woods. We wander around awhile and then ditch our communicators under a bush. When
we're a safe distance away, we sit and discuss Peeta's broadcast.
"I haven't heard one word about it. No one's told you anything?" Finnick says. I shake my head. He pauses
before he asks, "Not even Gale?" I'm clinging to a shred of hope that Gale honestly knows nothing about Peeta's
message. But I have a bad feeling he does. "Maybe he's trying to find a time to tell you privately."
"Maybe," I say.
We stay silent so long that a buck wanders into range. I take it down with an arrow. Finnick hauls it back to
For dinner, there's minced venison in the stew. Gale walks me back to Compartment E after we eat. When I
ask him what's been going on, again there's no mention of Peeta. As soon as my mother and sister are asleep, I
slip the pearl from the drawer and spend a second sleepless night clutching it in my hand, replaying Peeta's
words in my head. "Ask yourself, do you really trust the people you're working with? Do you really know what's
going on? And if you don't...find out." Find out. What? From who? And how can Peeta know anything except
what the Capitol tells him? It's just a Capitol propo. More noise. But if Plutarch thinks it's just the Capitol line, why
didn't he tell me about it? Why hasn't anyone let me or Finnick know?
Under this debate lies the real source of my distress: Peeta. What have they done to him? And what are
they doing to him right now? Clearly, Snow did not buy the story that Peeta and I knew nothing about the
rebellion. And his suspicions have been reinforced, now that I have come out as the Mockingjay. Peeta can only
guess about the rebel tactics or make up things to tell his torturers. Lies, once discovered, would be severely
punished. How abandoned by me he must feel. In his first interview, he tried to protect me from the Capitol and
rebels alike, and not only have I failed to protect him, I've brought down more horrors upon him.
Come morning, I stick my forearm in the wall and stare groggily at the day's schedule. Immediately after
breakfast, I am slated for Production. In the dining hall, as I down my hot grain and milk and mushy beets, I spot a
communicuff on Gale's wrist. "When did you get that back, Soldier Hawthorne?" I ask.
"Yesterday. They thought if I'm going to be in the field with you, it could be a backup system of
communication," says Gale.
No one has ever offered me a communicuff. I wonder, if I asked for one, would I get it? "Well, I guess one of
us has to be accessible," I say with an edge to my voice.
"What's that mean?" he says.
"Nothing. Just repeating what you said," I tell him. "And I totally agree that the accessible one should be
you. I just hope I still have access to you as well."
Our eyes lock, and I realize how furious I am with Gale. That I don't believe for a second that he didn't see
Peeta's propo. That I feel completely betrayed that he didn't tell me about it. We know each other too well for him
not to read my mood and guess what has caused it.
"Katniss--" he begins. Already the admission of guilt is in his tone.
I grab my tray, cross to the deposit area, and slam the dishes onto the rack. By the time I'm in the hallway,
he's caught up with me.
"Why didn't you say something?" he asks, taking my arm.
"Why didn't I?" I jerk my arm free. "Why didn't you, Gale? And I did, by the way, when I asked you last night
about what had been going on!"
"I'm sorry. All right? I didn't know what to do. I wanted to tell you, but everyone was afraid that seeing
Peeta's propo would make you sick," he says.
"They were right. It did. But not quite as sick as you lying to me for Coin." At that moment, his communicuff
starts beeping. "There she is. Better run. You have things to tell her."
For a moment, real hurt registers on his face. Then cold anger replaces it. He turns on his heel and goes.
Maybe I have been too spiteful, not given him enough time to explain. Maybe everyone is just trying to protect me
by lying to me. I don't care. I'm sick of people lying to me for my own good. Because really it's mostly for their own
good. Lie to Katniss about the rebellion so she doesn't do anything crazy. Send her into the arena without a clue
so we can fish her out. Don't tell her about Peeta's propo because it might make her sick, and it's hard enough to
get a decent performance out of her as it is.
I do feel sick. Heartsick. And too tired for a day of production. But I'm already at Remake, so I go in. Today, I
discover, we will be returning to District 12. Cressida wants to do unscripted interviews with Gale and me
throwing light on our demolished city.
"If you're both up for that," says Cressida, looking closely at my face.
"Count me in," I say. I stand, uncommunicative and stiff, a mannequin, as my prep team dresses me, does
my hair, and dabs makeup on my face. Not enough to show, only enough to take the edge off the circles under
my sleepless eyes.
Boggs escorts me down to the Hangar, but we don't talk beyond a preliminary greeting. I'm grateful to be
spared another exchange about my disobedience in 8, especially since his mask looks so uncomfortable.
At the last moment, I remember to send a message to my mother about my leaving 13, and stress that it
won't be dangerous. We board a hovercraft for the short ride to 12 and I'm directed to a seat at a table where
Plutarch, Gale, and Cressida are poring over a map. Plutarch's brimming with satisfaction as he shows me the
before/after effects of the first couple of propos. The rebels, who were barely maintaining a foothold in several
districts, have rallied. They have actually taken 3 and 11--the latter so crucial since it's Panem's main food
supplier--and have made inroads in several other districts as well.
"Hopeful. Very hopeful indeed," says Plutarch. "Fulvia's going to have the first round of We Remember
spots ready tonight, so we can target the individual districts with their dead. Finnick's absolutely marvelous."
"It's painful to watch, actually," says Cressida. "He knew so many of them personally."
"That's what makes it so effective," says Plutarch. "Straight from the heart. You're all doing beautifully. Coin
could not be more pleased."
Gale didn't tell them, then. About my pretending not to see Peeta and my anger at their cover-up. But I
guess it's too little, too late, because I still can't let it go. It doesn't matter. He's not speaking to me, either.
It's not until we land in the Meadow that I realize Haymitch isn't among our company. When I ask Plutarch
about his absence, he just shakes his head and says, "He couldn't face it."
"Haymitch? Not able to face something? Wanted a day off, more likely," I say.
"I think his actual words were 'I couldn't face it without a bottle,'" says Plutarch.
I roll my eyes, long out of patience with my mentor, his weakness for drink, and what he can or can't
confront. But about five minutes after my return to 12, I'm wishing I had a bottle myself. I thought I'd come to terms
with 12's demise--heard of it, seen it from the air, and wandered through its ashes. So why does everything bring
on a fresh pang of grief? Was I simply too out of it before to fully register the loss of my world? Or is it the look on
Gale's face as he takes in the destruction on foot that makes the atrocity feel brand-new?
Cressida directs the team to start with me at my old house. I ask her what she wants me to do. "Whatever
you feel like," she says. Standing back in my kitchen, I don't feel like doing anything. In fact, I find myself focusing
up at the sky--the only roof left--because too many memories are drowning me. After a while, Cressida says,
"That's fine, Katniss. Let's move on."
Gale doesn't get off so easily at his old address. Cressida films him in silence for a few minutes, but just as
he pulls the one remnant of his previous life from the ashes--a twisted metal poker--she starts to question him
about his family, his job, life in the Seam. She makes him go back to the night of the firebombing and reenact it,
starting at his house, working his way down across the Meadow and through the woods to the lake. I straggle
behind the film crew and the bodyguards, feeling their presence to be a violation of my beloved woods. This is a
private place, a sanctuary, already corrupted by the Capitol's evil. Even after we've left behind the charred
stumps near the fence, we're still tripping over decomposing bodies. Do we have to record it for everyone to
By the time we reach the lake, Gale seems to have lost his ability to speak. Everyone's dripping in sweat--
especially Castor and Pollux in their insect shells--and Cressida calls for a break. I scoop up handfuls of water
especially Castor and Pollux in their insect shells--and Cressida calls for a break. I scoop up handfuls of water
from the lake, wishing I could dive in and surface alone and naked and unobserved. I wander around the
perimeter for a while. When I come back around to the little concrete house beside the lake, I pause in the
doorway and see Gale propping the crooked poker he salvaged against the wall by the hearth. For a moment I
have an image of a lone stranger, sometime far in the future, wandering lost in the wilderness and coming upon
this small place of refuge, with the pile of split logs, the hearth, the poker. Wondering how it came to be. Gale
turns and meets my eyes and I know he's thinking about our last meeting here. When we fought over whether or
not to run away. If we had, would District 12 still be there? I think it would. But the Capitol would still be in control
of Panem as well.
Cheese sandwiches are passed around and we eat them in the shade of the trees. I intentionally sit at the
far edge of the group, next to Pollux, so I don't have to talk. No one's talking much, really. In the relative quiet, the
birds take back the woods. I nudge Pollux with my elbow and point out a small black bird with a crown. It hops to
a new branch, momentarily opening its wings, showing off its white patches. Pollux gestures to my pin and raises
his eyebrows questioningly. I nod, confirming it's a mockingjay. I hold up one finger to say Wait, I'll show you, and
whistle a birdcall. The mockingjay cocks its head and whistles the call right back at me. Then, to my surprise,
Pollux whistles a few notes of his own. The bird answers him immediately. Pollux's face breaks into an
expression of delight and he has a series of melodic exchanges with the mockingjay. My guess is it's the first
conversation he's had in years. Music draws mockingjays like blossoms do bees, and in a short while he's got
half a dozen of them perched in the branches over our heads. He taps me on the arm and uses a twig to write a
word in the dirt. SING?
Usually, I'd decline, but it's kind of impossible to say no to Pollux, given the circumstances. Besides, the
mockingjays' song voices are different from their whistles, and I'd like him to hear them. So, before I actually think
about what I'm doing, I sing Rue's four notes, the ones she used to signal the end of the workday in 11. The notes
that ended up as the background music to her murder. The birds don't know that. They pick up the simple phrase
and bounce it back and forth between them in sweet harmony. Just as they did in the Hunger Games before the
muttations broke through the trees, chased us onto the Cornucopia, and slowly gnawed Cato to a bloody pulp--
"Want to hear them do a real song?" I burst out. Anything to stop those memories. I'm on my feet, moving
back into the trees, resting my hand on the rough trunk of a maple where the birds perch. I have not sung "The
Hanging Tree" out loud for ten years, because it's forbidden, but I remember every word. I begin softly, sweetly,
as my father did.
"Are you, are you
Coming to the tree
Where they strung up a man they say murdered three.
Strange things did happen here
No stranger would it be
If we met up at midnight in the hanging tree."
The mockingjays begin to alter their songs as they become aware of my new offering.
"Are you, are you
Coming to the tree
Where the dead man called out for his love to flee.
Strange things did happen here
No stranger would it be
If we met up at midnight in the hanging tree."
I have the birds' attention now. In one more verse, surely they will have captured the melody, as it's simple
and repeats four times with little variation.
"Are you, are you
Coming to the tree
Where I told you to run, so we'd both be free.
Strange things did happen here
No stranger would it be
If we met up at midnight in the hanging tree."
A hush in the trees. Just the rustle of leaves in the breeze. But no birds, mockingjay or other. Peeta's right.
They do fall silent when I sing. Just as they did for my father.
"Are you, are you
Coming to the tree
Wear a necklace of rope, side by side with me.
Strange things did happen here
No stranger would it be
If we met up at midnight in the hanging tree."
The birds are waiting for me to continue. But that's it. Last verse. In the stillness I remember the scene. I
was home from a day in the woods with my father. Sitting on the floor with Prim, who was just a toddler, singing
"The Hanging Tree." Making us necklaces out of scraps of old rope like it said in the song, not knowing the real
meaning of the words. The tune was simple and easy to harmonize to, though, and back then I could memorize
almost anything set to music after a round or two. Suddenly, my mother snatched the rope necklaces away and
was yelling at my father. I started to cry because my mother never yelled, and then Prim was wailing and I ran
outside to hide. As I had exactly one hiding spot--in the Meadow under a honeysuckle bush--my father found me
immediately. He calmed me down and told me everything was fine, only we'd better not sing that song anymore.
My mother just wanted me to forget it. So, of course, every word was immediately, irrevocably branded into my
We didn't sing it anymore, my father and I, or even speak of it. After he died, it used to come back to me a
lot. Being older, I began to understand the lyrics. At the beginning, it sounds like a guy is trying to get his girlfriend
to secretly meet up with him at midnight. But it's an odd place for a tryst, a hanging tree, where a man was hung
for murder. The murderer's lover must have had something to do with the killing, or maybe they were just going to
punish her anyway, because his corpse called out for her to flee. That's weird obviously, the talking-corpse bit,
but it's not until the third verse that "The Hanging Tree" begins to get unnerving. You realize the singer of the song
is the dead murderer. He's still in the hanging tree. And even though he told his lover to flee, he keeps asking if
she's coming to meet him. The phrase Where I told you to run, so we'd both be free is the most troubling
because at first you think he's talking about when he told her to flee, presumably to safety. But then you wonder if
he meant for her to run to him. To death. In the final stanza, it's clear that that's what he's waiting for. His lover, with
her rope necklace, hanging dead next to him in the tree.
I used to think the murderer was the creepiest guy imaginable. Now, with a couple of trips to the Hunger
Games under my belt, I decide not to judge him without knowing more details. Maybe his lover was already
sentenced to death and he was trying to make it easier. To let her know he'd be waiting. Or maybe he thought the
place he was leaving her was really worse than death. Didn't I want to kill Peeta with that syringe to save him
from the Capitol? Was that really my only option? Probably not, but I couldn't think of another at the time.
I guess my mother thought the whole thing was too twisted for a seven-year-old, though. Especially one who
made her own rope necklaces. It wasn't like hanging was something that only happened in a story. Plenty of
people were executed that way in 12. You can bet she didn't want me singing it in front of my music class. She
probably wouldn't like me doing it here for Pollux even, but at least I'm not--wait, no, I'm wrong. As I glance
sideways, I see Castor has been taping me. Everyone is watching me intently. And Pollux has tears running
down his cheeks because no doubt my freaky song has dredged up some terrible incident in his life. Great. I
sigh and lean back against the trunk. That's when the mockingjays begin their rendition of "The Hanging Tree." In
their mouths, it's quite beautiful. Conscious of being filmed, I stand quietly until I hear Cressida call, "Cut!"
Plutarch crosses to me, laughing. "Where do you come up with this stuff? No one would believe it if we
made it up!" He throws an arm around me and kisses me on the top of my head with a loud smack. "You're
"I wasn't doing it for the cameras," I say.
"Lucky they were on, then," he says. "Come on, everybody, back to town!"
As we trudge back through the woods, we reach a boulder, and both Gale and I turn our heads in the same
direction, like a pair of dogs catching a scent on the wind. Cressida notices and asks what lies that way. We
admit, without acknowledging each other, it's our old hunting rendezvous place. She wants to see it, even after
we tell her it's nothing really.
Nothing but a place where I was happy, I think.
Our rock ledge overlooking the valley. Perhaps a little less green than usual, but the blackberry bushes
hang heavy with fruit. Here began countless days of hunting and snaring, fishing and gathering, roaming together
through the woods, unloading our thoughts while we filled our game bags. This was the doorway to both
sustenance and sanity. And we were each other's key.
There's no District 12 to escape from now, no Peacekeepers to trick, no hungry mouths to feed. The
Capitol took away all of that, and I'm on the verge of losing Gale as well. The glue of mutual need that bonded us
so tightly together for all those years is melting away. Dark patches, not light, show in the spaces between us.
How can it be that today, in the face of 12's horrible demise, we are too angry to even speak to each other?
Gale as good as lied to me. That was unacceptable, even if he was concerned about my well-being. His
apology seemed genuine, though. And I threw it back in his face with an insult to make sure it stung. What is
happening to us? Why are we always at odds now? It's all a muddle, but I somehow feel that if I went back to the
root of our troubles, my actions would be at the heart of it. Do I really want to drive him away?
My fingers encircle a blackberry and pluck it from its stem. I roll it gently between my thumb and forefinger.
Suddenly, I turn to him and toss it in his direction. "And may the odds--" I say. I throw it high so he has plenty of
time to decide whether to knock it aside or accept it.
Gale's eyes train on me, not the berry, but at the last moment, he opens his mouth and catches it. He
chews, swallows, and there's a long pause before he says "--be ever in your favor." But he does say it.
Cressida has us sit in the nook in the rocks, where it's impossible not to be touching, and coaxes us into
talking about hunting. What drove us out into the woods, how we met, favorite moments. We thaw, begin to laugh
a little, as we relate mishaps with bees and wild dogs and skunks. When the conversation turns to how it felt to
translate our skill with weapons to the bombing in 8, I stop talking. Gale just says, "Long overdue."
By the time we reach the town square, afternoon's sinking into evening. I take Cressida to the rubble of the
bakery and ask her to film something. The only emotion I can muster is exhaustion. "Peeta, this is your home.
None of your family has been heard of since the bombing. Twelve is gone. And you're calling for a cease-fire?" I
look across the emptiness. "There's no one left to hear you."
As we stand before the lump of metal that was the gallows, Cressida asks if either of us has ever been
tortured. In answer, Gale pulls off his shirt and turns his back to the camera. I stare at the lash marks, and again
hear the whistling of the whip, see his bloody figure hanging unconscious by his wrists.
"I'm done," I announce. "I'll meet you at the Victor's Village. Something for...my mother."
I guess I walked here, but the next thing I'm conscious of is sitting on the floor in front of the kitchen cabinets
of our house in the Victor's Village. Meticulously lining ceramic jars and glass bottles into a box. Placing clean
cotton bandages between them to prevent breaking. Wrapping bunches of dried flowers.
Suddenly, I remember the rose on my dresser. Was it real? If so, is it still up there? I have to resist the
temptation to check. If it's there, it will only frighten me all over again. I hurry with my packing.
When the cabinets are empty, I rise to find that Gale has materialized in my kitchen. It's disturbing how
soundlessly he can appear. He's leaning on the table, his fingers spread wide against the wood grain. I set the
box between us. "Remember?" he asks. "This is where you kissed me."
So the heavy dose of morphling administered after the whipping wasn't enough to erase that from his
consciousness. "I didn't think you'd remember that," I say.
"Have to be dead to forget. Maybe even not then," he tells me. "Maybe I'll be like that man in 'The Hanging
Tree.' Still waiting for an answer." Gale, who I have never seen cry, has tears in his eyes. To keep them from
spilling over, I reach forward and press my lips against his. We taste of heat, ashes, and misery. It's a surprising
flavor for such a gentle kiss. He pulls away first and gives me a wry smile. "I knew you'd kiss me."
"How?" I say. Because I didn't know myself.
"Because I'm in pain," he says. "That's the only way I get your attention." He picks up the box. "Don't worry,
Katniss. It'll pass." He leaves before I can answer.
I'm too weary to work through his latest charge. I spend the short ride back to 13 curled up in a seat, trying
to ignore Plutarch going on about one of his favorite subjects--weapons mankind no longer has at its disposal.
High-flying planes, military satellites, cell disintegrators, drones, biological weapons with expiration dates.
Brought down by the destruction of the atmosphere or lack of resources or moral squeamishness. You can hear
the regret of a Head Gamemaker who can only dream of such toys, who must make do with hovercraft and landto-
land missiles and plain old guns.
After dropping off my Mockingjay suit, I go straight to bed without eating. Even so, Prim has to shake me to
get me up in the morning. After breakfast, I ignore my schedule and take a nap in the supply closet. When I come
to, crawling out from between the boxes of chalk and pencils, it's dinnertime again. I get an extra-large portion of
pea soup and am headed back to Compartment E when Boggs intercepts me.
"There's a meeting in Command. Disregard your current schedule," he says.
"Done," I say.
"Did you follow it at all today?" he asks in exasperation.
"Who knows? I'm mentally disoriented." I hold up my wrist to show my medical bracelet and realize it's
gone. "See? I can't even remember they took my bracelet. Why do they want me in Command? Did I miss
"I think Cressida wanted to show you the Twelve propos. But I guess you'll see them when they air," he
"That's what I need a schedule of. When the propos air," I say. He shoots me a look but doesn't comment
further.P eople have crowded into Command, but they've saved me a seat between Finnick and Plutarch. The
screens are already up on the table, showing the regular Capitol feed.
"What's going on? Aren't we seeing the Twelve propos?" I ask.
"Oh, no," says Plutarch. "I mean, possibly. I don't know exactly what footage Beetee plans to use."
"Beetee thinks he's found a way to break into the feed nationwide," says Finnick. "So that our propos will
air in the Capitol, too. He's down working on it in Special Defense now. There's live programming tonight.
Snow's making an appearance or something. I think it's starting."
The Capitol seal appears, underscored by the anthem. Then I'm staring directly into President Snow's
snake eyes as he greets the nation. He seems barricaded behind his podium, but the white rose in his lapel is in
full view. The camera pulls back to include Peeta, off to one side in front of a projected map of Panem. He's
sitting in an elevated chair, his shoes supported by a metal rung. The foot of his prosthetic leg taps out a strange
irregular beat. Beads of sweat have broken through the layer of powder on his upper lip and forehead. But it's
the look in his eyes--angry yet unfocused--that frightens me the most.
"He's worse," I whisper. Finnick grasps my hand, to give me an anchor, and I try to hang on.
Peeta begins to speak in a frustrated tone about the need for the cease-fire. He highlights the damage
done to key infrastructure in various districts, and as he speaks, parts of the map light up, showing images of the
destruction. A broken dam in 7. A derailed train with a pool of toxic waste spilling from the tank cars. A granary
collapsing after a fire. All of these he attributes to rebel action.
Bam! Without warning, I'm suddenly on television, standing in the rubble of the bakery.
Plutarch jumps to his feet. "He did it! Beetee broke in!"
The room's buzzing with reaction when Peeta's back, distracted. He has seen me on the monitor. He tries
to pick up his speech by moving on to the bombing of a water purification plant, when a clip of Finnick talking
about Rue replaces him. And then the whole thing breaks down into a broadcast battle, as the Capitol tech
masters try to fend off Beetee's attack. But they are unprepared, and Beetee, apparently anticipating he would
not hold on to control, has an arsenal of five- to ten-second clips to work with. We watch the official presentation
deteriorate as it's peppered with choice shots from the propos.
Plutarch's in spasms of delight and most everybody is cheering Beetee on, but Finnick remains still and
speechless beside me. I meet Haymitch's eyes from across the room and see my own dread mirrored back. The
recognition that with every cheer, Peeta slips even farther from our grasp.
recognition that with every cheer, Peeta slips even farther from our grasp.
The Capitol seal's back up, accompanied by a flat audio tone. This lasts about twenty seconds before
Snow and Peeta return. The set is in turmoil. We're hearing frantic exchanges from their booth. Snow plows
forward, saying that clearly the rebels are now attempting to disrupt the dissemination of information they find
incriminating, but both truth and justice will reign. The full broadcast will resume when security has been
reinstated. He asks Peeta if, given tonight's demonstration, he has any parting thoughts for Katniss Everdeen.
At the mention of my name, Peeta's face contorts in effort. "Katniss...how do you think this will end? What
will be left? No one is safe. Not in the Capitol. Not in the districts. And you...in Thirteen..." He inhales sharply, as if
fighting for air; his eyes look insane. "Dead by morning!"
Off camera, Snow orders, "End it!" Beetee throws the whole thing into chaos by flashing a still shot of me
standing in front of the hospital at three-second intervals. But between the images, we are privy to the real-life
action being played out on the set. Peeta's attempt to continue speaking. The camera knocked down to record
the white tiled floor. The scuffle of boots. The impact of the blow that's inseparable from Peeta's cry of pain.
And his blood as it splatters the tiles.