The Conspiracy

Chapter XII: The Bloodbath

My footing is good. The boots they've provided have grooves in the soles that grip the metal circle and give me a strong start. I'm small so the kid on my right thinks he can overpower me. He crashes into me, hard, tries to wrap his arms around my waist to bring me to the ground. Ha, no! I bring my right arm back, elbow him in the face, and hear him grunt with pain.

He's slowed me down some, but I still reach the knives I want. There are already shouts around me. I turn. Good, 23, get into trouble on the first day. I'm not picky about the knife I choose but send it flying into 18's back. I see 23's face spattered with blood, then watch 18 fall to the ground. I've never killed a person before this moment. The trainers wanted us to be well-liked by everyone in the District. And if we were killing people, any people, criminals, other trainees, whoever, the families wouldn't like us. I see 23 look at me. She's holding the bright orange pack they had been fighting over and standing dead still, fear in her eyes.

I run at her, yelling like a crazy person and brandishing my handful of knives and she flees, pulling the straps of the pack over her shoulders as she goes. I'm more careful about the knife I choose now. She'll need something good for cutting things other than flesh. Something serrated. She holds the pack up to protect her head and the knife sticks in it. You're welcome and you'd better not come back and stab me with that. There are no cannons thus far. That's policy on the first day. There's enough chaos that cannons right now would only detract from the blood.

I kill the kid who attacked me earlier, 10. I kill him face-to-face though and only after he starts our fight up again. I don't know where he was in the meantime, but he's found a weapon of his own, a heavy ornately-decorated club. He runs at me, yelling, trying to scare me. I can't help but smirk as I duck his blow and stick him in the leg with the knife in my right hand. He yells again, though this time in pain and fear, probably sensing only now that he would have done better to leave me alone. Stupidly, he drops the club as his hands fumble to staunch the flow of blood from the femoral vein I've just severed. The club catches me across the back, but it isn't painful and I stand up quickly, his head level with my navel as he's fallen to his knees. Instinctively, 10 is begging me not to hurt him anymore. It registers somewhere in my brain, but there's no time to let it stop me. He cries and curls up to protect his already injured leg and with one blow to the back of his head, I damage his brain stem enough that he's dead before he hits the ground.

It's not difficult for me. I've trained for this my whole life. My expertise is in knife throwing, but as a Career who was set to win the Games, I'm one of the elite. Proficient in everything from weaponry to survival in the wild and with the mentality of one who, when necessary, can kill with no sympathy. Cato's the same, better actually as far as the Capitol is concerned because his cuts are deeper and longer than mine, which are just as deadly, but a little neater.

18 is the exception. He was my first kill, the one to break the ice, and he died without ever even knowing who killed him. Somewhere deeper than the part of my brain I used to kill 10, I recognize that that was indecent and I resolve not to throw again without first seeing the victim's eyes. I don't want to watch them die but I don't want to kill them without provocation like I killed 18. Numbers or not, they have a right to know who's killing them. The hovercraft hasn't picked 18's body up yet. His blood is staining the grass. Move on, Clove. The fewer people in this arena, the closer you and Cato are to home. That's why all this has to go so quickly. The more people who escape the bloodbath, the more we have to hunt down and therefore, the longer we're in the arena.

Cato and I stay within sight of each other, barring the times when I do quick spins or turns to throw off an opponent. There's one point, when he's fighting 12, (the boy from District 6, not 23 and 24) when 14 tries to attack him from behind. I'm too panicked to remember that, at the beginning of the Bloodbath, I did just what 14 is trying to do. Perhaps mercilessly, I throw, bringing my right arm to my left shoulder, then quickly snapping it back, releasing perfectly, with my fingers extended, pointing to his throat. They always told me to point where I'm throwing. "The knife goes where your fingers tell it to go." Cato looks confused as he drops 12's body on the ground. His head follows my knife and we both watch it skewer 14 through the Adam's apple. "Watch yourself," I tell Cato. He just grins at me, reaches down, removes the knife, cleans it on 14's shirt, and tosses it back to me.

All in all, eleven are dead by the time the Bloodbath is over. Many of the Tributes, including 20-23 took off. So did 9 and 15. 1 are covered blood and very little of it is their own, 6 has just tried to stay out of harm's way, I'm sporting a split lip from a brief spat with 11 which ended with Cato pulling her away from me and cutting her throat. The front of my red shirt is spattered with blood from 10 and 11. It's stickier than sweat, but I try not to notice it. Still, I want a shower, or at least to wash this shirt.

Strangely enough, 24 has hung around and done some damage by the looks of things. He's handy with a knife. Not like me. I doubt he can throw, but he seems to understand the concept of "slice don't stab" better than most. I see him kill 8. What? He killed a Career? 7 about loses her head, but when she charges him, he catches her and holds her still, his knife at her throat. He doesn't kill her though. She's yelling at us to help her but I don't throw and give a signal to both 1s to wait as well. "What are you waiting for, Lover Boy? Scared?" 2 taunts him. 7 swears at him screaming at all of us to kill him, telling us we shouldn't be testing this kid with her life. She claws at 24's arm but he's too strong for her.

"I want in on the Alliance," 24 says. It's an ultimatum. Either we let him in or he'll cut her throat.

"Where's your pretty friend?" 2 ignores what he's said. It's just us now, 1, Cato and me, 6, and 7. Everyone else is either dead or gone.

"You know as much as I do. She probably knows better than all of us." He indicates me by fleetingly taking the knife off 7's throat and pointing the tip at me. 1 look at me. 7 even stops struggling for a minute to stare. "She ran her out," 24 explains, then moves on with his argument as to why we should let him live. "I can help you track her," he offers. "But you have to say I'm in." This could throw everything into jeopardy. Cato and I glance at each other. He can't betray her. No. They're a team. They're supposed to be in love. Hm. Maybe he'll show the Capitol, but not us, that he's trying to help her? This would be the one time I'd be ok with being betrayed. 1 look at Cato for instructions.

"He knows her better than we do. He'll know how to track her. Don't touch him. You're in, 24." We see his muscles relax and he pulls the knife away from 7's throat. Before she can turn to hit him, he shoves her forward. 2 catches hold of her before she hits the ground, but she's just as angry with him as she is with 24 and she shoves him away with the heels of her palms digging into his chest.

Somebody's already touched 24 though, or several somebodies. He's bruised and bloody already and when he walks away toward the Cornucopia, I notice a limp. Not a pretty combination after only the first day. "Clean up. Collect what you want from the supplies. 6," He looks around for 6 who raises a hand to get his attention. "You make our camp here, while we take weapons and find the others."

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