The Fighter of the Second Quarter Quell

Chapter 2: To the Capitol

"Come on, darlings! I know it's a lot to take in, but the train will be absolutely to die for!" Clara Fiore along with a crew of Peacekeepers edged them all on board, leaving the loud crowd of District 12 citizens behind them as the doors closed behind with a click. It left them all in an eerie silence despite through the train door windows the boisterous and soon to be riotous crowd was still seen. "Witness the great luxuries of The Capitol and all it has to offer!"

Haymitch blinked at the brightness of it. There was a large table, mountains of colored treats and pastries in the middle, a sitting area in the front with two sofas and several armchairs, and more seating on the other side of the tables. Everything was in either a rich purple or blue color, the wood of the tables shined as though polished twice, and the lights all had crystal fixtures, making everything almost blinding it was so bright.

The four of them sat down on the arm chairs, more-so Clara pushed them to sit down.

"The train will be departing within ten minutes. Your mentor was travelling all day; she's resting now, so you will meet her in a few hours. There are multiple sleeping carts, so no fighting over who gets which bed!" she said and let out a small laugh.

It was met with silence.

"Well... I think I'll leave you four to get acquainted, then. I'll be in the bar cart if you need me," Clara said and disappeared through another door.

They all looked at one another, yet never met each other's eyes.

Haymitch was finally facing the first part of his competition.

He stood up and walked over to the drink cart, glancing around at all of the colored liquids. He chose a clear brown one that smelled like maple, poured himself a generous amount into a nearby glass and took a big gulp. It tasted sour, and burned his mouth and throat. He squeezed his eyes tight and swallowed back a cough as he took a deep breath.

He heard a colorful laugh. He looked over to see the blonde, whose hair wasn't in a braid anymore but loose, in soft waves falling down her back. She was grinning as she lay back in her chair.

"Scotch isn't for everybody," she said.

Haymitch frowned for a second, hating to be embarrassed. He opened the lid of a small silver tub and found it full of ice. He put a small handful in his glass with the 'Scotch' and returned to his seat. He took another drink, this time making it a small sip. It still burned but the ice made it a little easier and he made sure to keep his face straight.

"Well I guess I'm not everybody," he said, meeting the girls bright green eyes.

She only smirked.

"Try saying that without straining your voice."

"Maybell, is it?" he asked, even though he knew her actual name.

He usually saw her when he passed the marketplace every day on his way home from school. Her uncle worked in the small sweets shop, she and her twin sister were always working there when they weren't in school. He knew it was Maysilee because she always had her long hair in a braid, while her twin sister Mariella’s hair was too short to support anything that required a ribbon.

Her smile faltered, but she shook her head.

"Maysilee," she corrected.

"Haymitch," he replied.

"I know," she shot back.

He raised an eyebrow at her, keeping her gaze for a stern moment before turning to the boy in the armchair next to him.

He was big in size, but the fear on his face made him seem younger. His long, straight, and unkempt brown hair didn't help him seem any older.

"Dylan, right?"

He only nodded.

The three then looked at the brown haired girl, still un-introduced.

"Call me Maggie."

They fell into an awkward silence.

Maggie was glancing at each of them with worried eyes, her hands twitching in her lap, Dylan was staring at his outstretched legs, and Maysilee and Haymitch were intermittently looking at each other - sizing each other up: Maysilee glaring, Haymitch staring.

"Well, this is going to be fun," Haymitch said as he stood up yet again, this time intent to put something in his mouth so he wouldn't try to fill the silence with babble.

Food sounded good.

It seemed as if a day had passed while they all sat around and said nothing. The girls had silently come close and Maggie was now re-braiding Maysilee's hair. Dylan had stayed in his seat, silent as ever but now curled up and staring at the floor.

The train cart door opened and the tall woman from the Reaping walked through, with Clara tagging along, still in her white dress. The other woman had gotten rid of her pinstripe jacket, showing her matching purple vest over a peach colored shirt with the sleeves rolled up.

"Sit," she said to the room in an easy yet commanding tone.

Haymitch walked over from the train windows and sat back down at the small crowd of armchairs.

She walked forward, her hands in her pockets.

"My name is Cassie and I'm your mentor for this year, and yes, for all four of you."

She met each of their gazes, looking at Haymitch last.

As a mentor, she was a Victor, and she had dark eyes; serious and intent. They held the memories of whatever she had to do in her own Games to be standing before them now.

"I'm going to give it to you straight and simple: this year, your chance of dying sooner is greater. That is, if you're weak. If you want to live, if you can fight, then you lower that chance. Now I may not be from your District, but truthfully, in the Arena, it doesn't mean as much as everybody makes it out to be. And this time… it could be the same. But the Careers, you never-"

"Cassie, that is not necessary," Clara interrupted sharply. "There is no need to-"

"Fine, fine," she said, waving a hand to shut her up. Clara sighed, and turned to make a small plate of treats for herself, keeping the plate an arm's length away from her spotless white dress. Cassie continued.

"I will be mentoring you individually and as a group."

"Wait, you can't make-" Haymitch started.

"I am not going to be-" Maysilee also started but Cassie cut them both off.

"No arguments. I'm not going to sugarcoat anything, guys. I'm not here to comfort you, give you false encouragement. I'm here to give you a chance to be a survivor in the arena.

“We'll be arriving at The Capitol soon. At the station there will be citizens there to greet you. Don't cower, frown, or show that you're scared; this is the time to pretend - your life actually depends on it. Your first impressions this next week are extremely important. You need sponsors when you get to the arena, and sponsors spend their money on Tributes that grab their attention and hold onto it. You want to be remembered, liked, and recognized. And since you aren't Careers, this will take a lot more effort."

"Who are the Careers?" Dylan asked in a low voice, almost a whisper.

"Tributes from the first two Districts; trained since they’re born for The Games and then volunteer at the Reapings," Maysilee muttered.

"And this year instead of four of them, there will be eight," Haymitch added dryly.

Cassie nodded, looking solemn.

"You want to stay away from them, at all costs. I will say this again, and repeatedly during training: At. All. Costs,” she said, meeting each of their gazes again, her eyes turning downright mean. But it had the desired effect, at least Haymitch could see, as Dylan and Maggie both shivered. However he and Maysilee already knew what the Careers were, so they didn’t need to hear it again that joining in alliance with a Career meant you were expendable.

“After the grand entrance at the station you'll be dragged off to be made pretty by your designers, one each for the boys and girls. Then it's the Parade where you'll wear ridiculous costumes, a night of rest, and then it's all survival training from then on, with help from those at the Training Center and my own mentoring. After the scoring, there are the interviews, and then... The Games."

There was a beat of silence, and Haymitch needed to break it.

"We're not going to be naked for the Parade, are we?" he asked, recalling that last year the District 12 Tributes were slathered in black body paint and little else to represent coal; the District’s main export and only thing it was known for.

That got the rest laughing.

"If you guys complain enough, it might be changed; after all your numbers are greater this time," Cassie said with a surprising grin.

After that, despite the situation the train was leading them towards, talking between them seemed to go smoother and the tension slowly subsided as they spent their last hour on the train towards The Capitol.

Somehow they all got to talking about their lives at Disctrict 12.

Dylan and Maysilee were both from merchant families. Dylan's parents sold fabrics and yarn in the Marketplace, and Maysilee's Uncle had his sweets shop. Maggie and Haymitch talked about the Seam, Maggie's sister had a junk stand at the Black Market, selling trinkets and vintage objects.

Soon enough, the train was pulling to a stop, and they all went to the windows to watch the colorful and gaudy crowd of cheering people. Maysilee went up next to Haymitch as he watched the colorful crowd.

"Their hats all look like genitalia," Maysilee said as she smiled and gave a short wave through the window. A few people jumped up and down and waved back as Haymitch threw his head back in laughter.

"I thought I knew you could smile. Only with your brother though, it seems."

Haymitch stopped and looked down at her green eyes, confused.

He had noticed her - it was hard not to with that bright hair and her excitement at school for every subject, often annoying the teachers with her endless questions, and even corrections… but that comment said it all: she’d noticed him?

She raised an eyebrow, and Haymitch blinked.

"Well, I've found something new to entertain me," he said, nodding his head to the crowd.

Maysilee smiled and lingered for a second before her smile faltered as she turned and left, gathering with Cassie and Clara to exit the train.

The rest of them followed and all climbed down the steps together to a loud cheering crowd. The Peacekeepers made a small barrier to either keep the crowd away from them, or to prevent one of them running away.

They were shuffled into a large elevator. After few seconds of tense silence, the doors opened and Cassie turned around, gave a nod as a goodbye, and got off. The doors closed again.

"Off to meet the cleaners, then the designers!" Clara said as she pressed another button. The doors opened to a bustling room with white walls and glossy black tiles.

"There you are!"

Haymitch looked around and frowned, trying not to laugh. Two women were rushing towards them, wearing brightly colored dresses and matching purple ringlets for hair.

The one in the pink dress grabbed Dylan and Haymitch and rushed them to a different room.

"We'll need a double deep clean before we present you to Mackie. Prepare yourselves, boys."

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