I Am Not a Victim

Sailing to Valhala

< Katniss>

Clove bursts through the trees. The fake smile she had on at the interviews is gone; this is the pure sadist Glimmer described. I'd love nothing more than to shoot her, but I'm just not in a position to do it at the moment; Glimmer and Finch will have to handle her. Instead I settle for trying to get to a branch that gives me some sort of shot at the two Careers who are coming to back Clove up. If I can keep them pinned down we might not be completely overrun, not right away at least.

Glimmer charges Clove, her Career side reemerging in an instant. The hyper aggression and lust for battle that seems common to all Careers rises within Glimmer to meet Clove's own. Glimmer said she wanted a grand duel; she'd planned on fighting me at the end of the Games; she freely told me so. It might not be the end of the Games, but that chance to duel someone who's on her level is here.

Clove throws a knife at Glimmer, who's already starting a horizontal cut with her sword. The knife may have been heading for where Glimmer's heart was less than a second ago, but her attack has carried her body around and the knife finds Glimmer's upper left arm instead. The blade embeds in Glimmer's flesh, but it's too late to stop Glimmer's attack.

Glimmer's blade arcs cleanly on its intended path, slicing cleanly through Clove's throat. Clove was at the outside of Glimmer's range so her blade wasn't able to decapitate the District 2 girl, but her windpipe is cut clear in half. Glimmer's momentum carries her sword to her right but rather than stop it there Glimmer carries that speed back and thrusts forward with the tip of her sword. It happens so fast Clove hasn't managed to fall yet; Glimmer's blade slides cleanly between the doomed girl's ribs and into Clove's heart.

BOOM

Clove's cannon sounds. They may debate which was the killing stroke on TV later, but whichever did it, one of our biggest worries is gone. Unfortunately, two more are just now reaching the battlefield: Marvel, armed with a spear and Cato with his sword. "Look out!" I yell down to Glimmer just as Marvel throws his spear.

I let an arrow of my own fly, but they're far away; far enough away that my arrow strays off target and what I hoped would be a kill shot to Marvel's heart instead lands in Cato's right shoulder. I spare a quick glance down at my allies below me while drawing my next arrow and see Marvel's aim was better than mine; his spear hangs impaled through Finch's chest.

Glimmer looks back and screams out Finch's name, running back to the girl, barely sparing a moment to pull Clove's knife from her arm. Finch slumps to her knees as Glimmer reaches her, the bigger girl wrapping her injured left arm around Finch, partly holding her up. She looks down at Finch's wound for a moment before yelling up to me. "Katniss! Cover our retreat!" She starts dragging Finch away from the Careers as best she can with her injured arm, using the other to keep her sword between her and the direction the Careers came from.

I look to see where the Careers are, but it seems they're thinking better of pressing the battle further. Marvel seems to have only been armed with the one spear, and Cato's wound isn't fatal, but the way he's clutching his shoulder I doubt he could fight effectively. Regardless I fire another arrow at them. They're retreated outside my range for now, but they get the message and keep falling back to the ruins of their camp.

I keep climbing down, watching in case the danger isn't really past, but by the time I reach the ground it looks like the Careers really are gone. I go to take Finch from the still injured Glimmer but the look she gives me makes me think better. Instead I move so Glimmer and I are carrying Finch between us. Injured or not, some things a person has to do themselves.

<Haymitch>

I can't believe those kids actually pulled it off. A fucking artillery piece. Christ, they as good as shelled the Capitol themselves! And they got away with it. Well… Sort of. That Finch girl's gonna die; I don't need to be a doctor to know a fatal wound when I see one. Also the TV's saying it went through her right lung and she's got massive internal bleeding. But even without that I can tell! You see enough kids get holes put in them and you get a sense for these things.

I also know that from here things get a lot trickier. They kids are in the final eight (well, really the final seven since red's about to check out) so that means reporters talking to their friends and family soon. That'll mean a slowdown in the action while the audience's attention turns to the interviews, but I'm worried things will get worse for the girls regardless.

As awesome as that whole artillery bit was, I know I'm not the only one who sees the Games as a metaphor for Panem thing. And that means that people with power just saw their Capitol get shelled, and when the defenders came out they couldn't manage to get better than a draw out of the counter attack. The Gamemakers aren't going to let that shit go. Hell, it wouldn't surprise me if Snow himself was moving to direct the action now.

1 and 12 teaming up must have gotten his attention, but weird alliances have happened a few times before; that alone isn't a worry for him. But a weird alliance that holds and can go toe to toe with the Careers? That gets attention; that gets people wondering.

If sweetheart and princess can team up against the Careers then maybe the Districts can team up against the Capitol. After the whole catapult with the weird ass name thing Snow's almost going to have to break them. Just killing them won't do; doesn't send the right message after all. And I doubt he plans to let them have that epic duel to the death at the end like princess planned. No, he won't wait that long. Fucker's patient, but he wants everyone dancing to his tune, not their own.

Problem is, I don't know what he'll do. I don't think it'll be mutts; they already got used. And obviously he can't count on the Careers anymore. Even with red out of the picture and if they patch the brute from 2 up it's still no guarantee, not since princess can apparently back up her big talk.

So I don't know what he'll do. The fucker loves to manipulate and control, sometimes it's direct, sometimes not. Bastard loves blackmail, but I don't see how he can use it against kids in the Games. So that means something else. He'll probably come at them sideways, and that shit's always the hardest to see coming. Damn.

I've got another problem too. Usually getting a kid out of the Games is the big thing for a mentor, but, well, let's face it that normally just isn't a thing for me. The poor half starved kids from 12 are dead meat and everyone knows it. It doesn't matter what advice I give when they aren't going to last through the bloodbath. The best they get is a few nice last meals in the Capitol and that's it.

But this year it's different; this year it's down to the final eight (well, seven in a few minutes) and I've got, well… Really I've got three tributes. And that's a problem; a big damned problem. Ok, even if you write off bread boy I've still got sweetheart and princess; since 1 has ditched princess she's basically mine after all, and she figures big into my real concern: the rebellion.

Either girl can work great there, in theory. Sweetheart even without that whole star-crossed lovers shit bread boy was trying cleaned up great. She photogenic (somehow) and the flame theme would be a perfect fit. Add to that the whole self sacrificing volunteer for her sister shit and she's a great fit. She's no actress and certainly doesn't have much for charm, but she's tough and she could be a great symbol for the rebellion. Well, as long as they don't do too many interviews with her at least.

Princess on the other hand is great on camera; looks great, knows how to smile, and she's been bullshitting people all her life in that Academy of hers, she can do it for us too. That and the girl's actually got some brains; she might be able to handle small bits of responsibility in the rebellion, not just the made for TV bullshit.

Unfortunately, she's from 1, and that means it's a bit of a stretch for the districts to follow her. They'll wonder if she isn't too close to the Capitol probably no matter what she says or does in the Games. And if the mentors from 1 are any indication she won't get a bit of support from there her own district.

Honestly there's pros and cons each way, and I'm not sure which is better. I probably should be considering bread boy too, but he really hasn't done shit to help his case all Games. It doesn't matter how much I might like the kid, teaming up with the Careers isn't gonna play well in the districts. Besides, he hasn't had shit for camera time; it's all about the girls so far.

Anyway even if I did have a favorite I don't know if I could influence the outcome. Hell even if I do pick they could still both blow it and none of it will matter. It all depends how it ends between the two of them, and there's not a whole hell of a lot I can do there. The way shit gets so expensive this late in the Games I'll be lucky to send one thing, and so far they haven't needed anything.

No, I've got to save my cash for when it's needed, not risk it on some crapshoot plan to try to pick a winner. Just gotta hope the kids don't ruin it, and hope that sweetheart's wannabe boyfriend doesn't fuck up the interviews. That and whatever shit Snow's planning, be nice if at least one of them survives that. Damn I'll be glad when the rebellion starts and we can just deal with problems by blowing them up.

<Glimmer>

We've carried Finch a ways, I'm really not sure how far, but we finally reach the banks of a stream. We set Finch down and I look over at Katniss. She looks at me and is obviously concerned about Finch, but I don't see her looking around for something that's ready to attack us. I haven't been paying any attention, so her sense for danger is all I have to go on, and right now she feels reasonable safe, which will be good enough for now.

Finch is quiet now. The pain must be excruciating, but she's taking it like a trooper; a lot better than most of the idiots I saw at the Academy. Some of them cried like babies if they got cut with a weapon, fell and broke an ankle or things like that. Finch has a god damned hole in her chest and she's dealing with it. She yelled when it happened, sure. But that didn't last. Moving her must have been horrible for the poor girl, but she handled it. Moaning in pain some, but that's it. The girl's tough; a lot tougher than I ever dreamed some scrawny kid from 5 could be.

We lay her down near the water's edge and she looks up at me. "How bad is it?"

"It'll be fine. Don't worry about it. We'll patch it up just fine, sweetie." I lie.

"I'm dying. People are always way too nice to you when you're dying." Damn. Girl's too smart for her own good.

"Just hang on, it'll be ok." Damn it. I can't even pull the damned spear out; she'll bleed out in a minute or two if I do that. Not that she'll make it if I leave it in. Damn. I know first aid, but this is way out of my league; there's just nothing I can do. Hell, I've learned enough about inflicting wounds just like this to know a fatal one when I see it. There's just nothing I can do that will change that now.

Finch may be dead in minutes, but she isn't there yet, and that means there's still a bit of time. I'm sure the Gamemakers will hate me for this, but the poor girl deserves better than to just be left for some hovercraft to snatch up. I'll need Katniss' help though, and we have to hurry.

I look up at Katniss. "Get some wood. I need a raft, about two foot by five and a half or six foot."

She stares blankly back at me. "What?"

"A raft. A small flat and easy to construct boat. Just a few logs tied together. It doesn't need to be particularly sturdy, but it does need to get built fast."

"Um, ok… But why?"

"Just do it, ok?" I snap. "I'll explain later, just please, can you do this?" Thankfully she complies. I'm really not in a mood to explain now and Finch won't last long enough that I can afford to waste the time either. It'll be obvious soon enough anyway.

I look back to Finch. "I'm sorry, Glimmer." she apologizes.

"Sorry? Why? You don't have anything to be sorry for."

"You and Katniss could have won if not for me; you could have finished them all off."

"Nah. We weren't ready for that. I got lucky with Clove; I expected the fight to go a long longer. And if we'd stayed much longer they'd have just rushed us. We had to get out of there one way or another."

"But Katniss was up in a tree, she had great shots."

"It's ok, we'll get them later. After all, we just meant to blow up their camp, and you did that for us; anything else was a bonus. You did great. There's nothing to be sorry for. Really."

"Are you sure?" she asks.

"Of course I'm sure. You did great. We did everything we wanted and more. There's nothing to be sorry for at all. You should be proud. It was amazing."

"Oh. Okay then. Thanks…" Finch trails off. A few moments later her cannon sounds.

BOOM

Damn it. I can't cry. Not yet. The Gamemakers will want her body; I don't have time to cry. I look to see how Katniss is doing, and fortunately she has a rather rough, but serviceable raft more or less ready. Really it's a few pieces of scrap wood tied together, but it'll be good enough; all it has to do is float for a few minutes. "Ok, that should be good enough. Can you make a fire? It doesn't have to be big."

"Um, sure. But why? There's nothing we can do for her, Glimmer." I know she's trying to be comforting, but Katniss is just taking too damned much time doing it at the moment.

"I know, but please just do it. We're about out of time here. I'll explain what it's for soon, so please just trust me for a minute longer, 'k?"

Thankfully Katniss complies and gets the fire starter out of her pack. I gather a quick pile of dead leaves and lay them on the raft. It's not as good as she deserves, but it's all I can manage. I'm sure she'd understand. I look over at Katniss who has a small fire going now (it's easy when you have flint and steel thanks to a Cornucopia sourced pack). This next part is going to be bad. "Um, I need your help for this. We need to get her on the raft. And um, we need to get the spear out of her."

Katniss nods and lets me take the lead and decide which part of this little task I'll take. It's my idea, so I take hold of the spear's shaft while Katniss holds Finch's shoulders in place. I know it's too late for her to feel anything and any blood that comes out of the wound won't matter anymore, but I still can't shake the feeling of dread at this. I take a deep breath and pull hard. The spear holds stead for a moment and then all at once comes free with a sickening sucking sound.

I toss the spear aside and with Katniss' help we pick up finch's body and set it carefully on the raft. I set Finch's small knife on her chest and cross her arms over it. As an afterthought I set the spear that took her life on the raft as well. All it takes is a small shove and the raft is afloat, drifting towards the middle of the stream where the current will catch it. Katniss hands me a burning stick from the fire, having by now obviously guessed my intention, even if she doesn't know the meaning behind it. I throw the torch onto the raft, where the dry leaves quickly catch fire.

"When I was a little girl, before I went to the Academy, my daddy would read me stories. There were princesses and castles, knights and dragons, all the things you'd expect in stories for a little girl. I loved them. But he also told me stories from history. Really old ones, from before Panem was founded, hundreds of years before, maybe thousands, I don't really know. There were these warriors from somewhere up north where it was cold. They lived near the ocean and would take boats to raid other places. He said they were Norse, whatever that is. They were these great warriors no one could stand up to; tall and strong, proud and powerful, and a lot had long blonde hair and blue eyes he said. I dreamed they looked just like District 1's victors. Yeah, I know, we're green eyed, but to a little girl, it was close enough."

The fire has spread to the entire raft now, starting to lick at Finch's remains. "When one of their warriors died, they had traditions for how to deal with it; their own version of a funeral. They'd take the dead warrior and all his possessions, set them on a boat and float it out somewhere and set fire to it."

The current has picked up the raft now, moving it downstream. Flames are eating at the raft and it won't stay intact much longer. "Finch would have been a good Career. In the Academy she'd have gotten enough to eat to be a lot bigger and stronger. And she was smart; smart enough to build a crazy weapon to attack from far away."

I stop for a moment, sniffling. The Gamemakers can have her body now; I've done what I wanted; I can afford to cry now. "But more than that, she had guts. She had a will to live; a will to win. That's something you can't teach or give to someone, they either have it or they don't. Yeah, she was small, she didn't know how to use a weapon or even how to really survive in the woods, so she hid. But when she had a chance to fight and make a difference, she did."

I wipe away tears. Who cares if it looks weak. "I've watched every Hunger Games there ever has been, all 73 of them. I know them backwards and forwards. No one ever dreamed of building a machine like that before. Even though she knew she had no chance to win, she still did something no one ever thought of, and she made it work. She really made a difference."

I trail off and Katniss gives me a hug. It's a bit awkward, neither of us are the sorts to normally hug. I don't think she really does affection, and after years at the Academy I don't really trust people to touch me, but it's comforting just the same. "She was a lot more than she looked like at first." Katniss agrees. "She deserved better than all this. But she didn't complain or cry, she just kept on going, right up to the end."

We stay there a bit longer, watching the raft move down the stream, slowly disintegrating. "We should go." Katniss announces. The Gamemakers are probably out of patience waiting for the body and we need to find a safer place. I nod and we get going, staying along the edge of the stream.

It's maybe fifteen minutes later when the voice of Claudius Templesmith come on across the arena's speakers. "Attention tributes! Attention tributes! There has been a slight rule change. It is now possible for a team of two tributes to both be crowned victor if they are in a prearranged alliance before the finale. There will be no restrictions on gender or district for these pairings. Good luck, and may the odds be ever in your favor."

We stop and stare at each other. "What the heck?" Katniss asks. "Does that mean we can both win? We don't have to fight?"

"I think so…"

"So you want to do it? I mean team up and not have that grand duel at the end you were talking about?"

I'm about to answer when Katniss yells out in surprise, trying to jump back, but something holds her in place. I look down and see a hand wrapped firmly around her left ankle.


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