The Conspiracy

Chapter X: Alaia and Enobaria

I wake up feeling slightly sick, nauseas, and sweaty, and it takes me a minute to remember why. When I remember that launch is in just a few hours (it's barely five in the morning but I know I won't sleep anymore), the nausea increases. Stupid blanket! I push it away from me, swing my legs off the bed and walk to the bathroom. I drink some water and splash some on my face, trying to cool myself down, but eventually I realize this isn't the kind of nausea that will just go away. It's the real kind.

Once I get the offensive taste out of my mouth, I take the hair tie out of my hair, strip down and shower. Everything feels strange. I'm still here in this room with all these extravagant things but I'll be in the arena, sleeping with one eye open for the next few weeks. I don't pay attention to the temperature of the water.

I sit wrapped in a fluffy towel untangling my hair myself. I don't know whether the arena will be hot like Distict 2 is right now or freezing like it is in the winter. If it's hot, it'll be good to have my hair wet, but if it's freezing, that could make me miserable. After I've untangled my tresses, I dry them just in case.

It doesn't matter what I wear to the arena. We'll all be provided with the same clothes at the launch. Wouldn't want anyone to have an unfair advantage. I wish I had my own clothes from home, the clothes I wore hiking with Cato. Maybe the material's itchy and of poor quality compared with this Capitol stuff, but it's comfortable to me. I pull on a T-shirt and pants and sit on the end of my bed, my arms around my stomach, which still feels a little rocky.

There's a very soft knock on my door. It's not even 5:30 yet and launch isn't until later. I wonder who else is awake. Whoever it is knocks again. I rise and go to the door. When I pull it open, Cato's standing there, looking like he's just done the same things I have. "Can I come in?" I nod, turn around, walk back to my bed, and sit down on it. He closes the door and follows me. "How are you?" he asks.

"Nervous, for once," I answer truthfully. He sits down beside me, puts one arm around my shoulders.

"We're Careers. We've trained forever for this." I sigh, knowing he's right. "We'll be alright. No matter what, we're a team, right?"

But another thought has just returned to my brain. "Even if we're the top two?" What if they don't fall for 12 the way we want them to? What if we end up top two and the Capitol has done nothing. We can't force them to do anything in their own Games, in the arena where the control everything.

He rubs my arm as he answers. "We'll be the top two, and yes, even then."

We sit silently for a minute or two, thinking. "What are we gonna tell them? They won't let us both out."

"That's what we're using 12 for, isn't it? And if that doesn't work..." That's exactly my problem. What leverage do we have over them? "If they won't take both of us, then they can't have either." I think about this. He's not promising to die so that I can get out. Thank goodness for that. I don't think I could live with the guilt. He's promising solidarity. Every decision we make from here will be made as a team, for the good of the team. We're smart. Wait - solidarity?

"You mean suicide?"

"If we won't kill each other and they won't let us out of the arena as a team, that's the only alternative." I pause and think this through.

"They'd hate us for it. The Capitol would."

"We'd be dead." It's very simple.

"Ok," I tell him. "Ok. We're a team. We'll get out together no matter how." Another thought occurs to me and I vocalize it before I have time to decide whether or not it's a good idea. "I wouldn't want to go home without you. It wouldn't be the same." He looks at me and for once I don't know why. Then he puts his other arm around me and I rest my head on his arm and he puts his chin on my head. It's nice to have something solid and alive to lean against while I wait. It's much better than trying to calm myself down.

We can see the sun beginning to rise when there's another soft tap on my door. I've about fallen asleep on his shoulder, which is ridiculous because sleeping sitting up is not comfortable. I make some noise to tell Cato that I'm going to stand up and get the door. He moves the arm that's in front of me and picks his head up to allow me to stand. I turn, mess up his hair, and go to the door.

Alaia is standing there, beaming as usual. I stand back to allow her to enter. "Oh," she says upon seeing Cato. "Hello there. Sunny's probably looking for you. Maybe you should go meet him."

He looks at her, then at me like, 'You're going to tell me to leave? What do you think?' I take a deep breath, then tell him, "If he's looking for you, you should go meet him. We're not gonna be able to go into the arena together. I'll see you later, ok?" He nods, crosses to me, squeezes my shoulder and leaves.

'You look ready to go," Alaia says, watching me look at the door.

"Yeah," I say. "I've been up for a while." I don't mean to sound cold.

"The hovercraft isn't quite here yet. I came a little early to get you up and ready."

"You didn't have to." My voice has gone oddly flat. I sit on the end of my bed again.

"Look," Alaia says, dropping her trademark cheeriness and kneeling in front of me. She takes my hand in both of hers. "You're one of a kind, you know? I've never met another tribute like you. I know you don't like it here and I know you don't like me. But please know I've done everything I can to help you." I look up at her at that. "I'm sorry if it's been insufficient. I'm sorry they're doing this to you and Cato. I hope you remember me for this, now, not as just one more Capitol citizen."

I look at her, so stunned that my mouth has fallen open. I don't know what to say but now that she's said all that, I feel an apology is in order from me too. "I'm sorry if I've treated you poorly. It's the Capitol and the Games, not you. Not all the kids from my District are like me." Even if I hate many people at home right now, I feel as if I owe it to them to tell her that. There are better people than me at home. Nicer people. People who would appreciate her.

"They should be. I really hope to see you and Cato both again, in person, not on the screen and I think that if either of you have anything to say about it, I'll get to. You two care about each other." Who knew she was so perceptive? I think she might have the wrong impression of our relationship, but she is right, I care about him and if I can, I'll make sure we get home together.

We leave my room and go get breakfast. She knows quite a bit about food, probably from determining what to eat that won't make her gain weight and ruin her figure. She's been born and raised in the Capitol and it's made an impression on her, but I will remember her for this morning, not for the way I judged her at the beginning.

Enobaria joins us. "Nervous?" she asks, taking a seat next to me and a roll off the table.

"Were you nervous?" I ask. She did win this once. Maybe even the future victors are nervous at the beginning.

"Oh yeah." It's a genuine answer. "I was so nervous I was sick- this doesn't leave this room- but you have a teammate. I was going in alone. Also, final words of advice: Remember who your audience is: the Capitol. They still have to like you. Remember that the Gamemakers control everything in the arena. And you and Cato are a good team. Stick together. I won't wish you luck. It won't help much in there." After a brief pause, she adds, "Much success."

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