Chapter 3: Training
there is absolutely no fighting with the other tributes. Enough of that will
happen inside the arena.
Now off you go," the head trainer, Marko, said as he finished his long spiel
about the rules and regulations of the Training Center.
There was a beat of silence before all forty-eight tributes started making their ways to specific stations, all quiet.
The training center had various weapons, weights, obstacle courses, and survival skill stations: some even had real trees, he saw paintbrushes at another one, and one just had a bunch of pieces of rope and wire waiting to be crafted into traps.
As per Cassie's instructions, Haymitch ignored the numbers pinned to each of their backs, noting their District - all except the numbers of 1 and 2, whom Haymitch had paid attention to once they all got to the enormous training gymnasium.
Oren, Stone, Lyla, and Remy were from District 1. Slater, Argo, Maya, and Alecia from 2. All were tall, toned in muscle, and were sending intimidating glares to all the other tributes as they stuck together, muttering and whispering and even chuckling as they look around at the other tributes, as though readying and planning each kill.
Haymitch ignored the cold shiver down his back and decided to go to the edible plants station first, something he was at least somewhat familiar with. In the odd seasons where the animals were scarce, he had to turn to the native fauna to forage for food.
All four members of District 3 were there, but he noticed Maysilee among them. She didn’t look that happy to see him.
The trainer put them together by district, and Maysliee didn't hide her sigh of resentment, making Haymitch raise an eyebrow. Then the two of them proceeded to bicker at each other as they tried the ‘tells’ of a poisonous plant.
"Of course this thing is poisonous, look at the spiked leaves!" Maysilee said as she held onto a branch with light purple berries in her hand, brandishing it front of his face.
"But mint has spiked leaves! And I know that your Uncle's shop has minted chocolates, are you saying they are poisonous too?"
Her eyebrow twitched.
"This is poisonous, and I know it," she said through clenched teeth.
"Then you just killed me," Haymitch said and without another thought, grabbed at a berry and tossed it into his mouth.
For some reason, they had been each other’s competition since the moment they stepped onto the train at District 12. And they both knew it; he watched her as she sized him up as he did the same to her.
Which is why it surprised him that the moment he closed his mouth around the purple berries and took his first bite to prove her wrong, Maysilee let out a gasp as she grabbed his face, pushing his cheeks together to try to get him to spit them out.
He kept her bright green gaze with his as he finished chewing the berry that tasted too sweet, ignoring her hands on his cheeks as he swallowed. He then grinned.
Maysilee stared for a few seconds more before she drew her hands back, and her hands were suddenly slapping at him with even a punch or two thrown in.
"What the-" he said, trying to get a hold of her. If the trainers saw they were fighting, it wouldn’t end to well. Especially if they were from the same District...
"You're supposed to die in the arena, you idiot!" she gave him a shove, but he didn't even budge.
"I just proved to you that they're not poisonous, May!"
She faltered in her anger and looked at him in shock, her mouth falling open.
"What did you just call me?" she asked in a whisper.
"Uhm," Haymitch looked down, hiding his own shock. He'd meant to say her full name... but the nickname just came easy to him. It had come naturally; like with Finn and Finnick. "Nothing, I just forg-"
"No… my- never mind," she said, looking down, her hands dropping as she took a step back.
There was another second of silence until he reached forward and grabbed the branch from Maysilee. He took another berry and popped it into his mouth.
"I just hope there are more of these in the arena. I might just eat myself to death," he said, suddenly wanting to erase the distant look on Maysilee's face.
It worked. It took a second before she blinked and laughed.
"I can see that. You getting bloat or something," she said, smirking.
"I'd probably be the first to die of that in the history of the Games. I'll be talked about for ages," he said as he grinned, "Careful kids, don't come hungry to the Hunger Games!" he mimicked in his best Clara voice.
She let out a small laugh.
They got looks from the other tributes that were picking through some ivy. Haymitch glared at them, and they looked away.
"Sorry," he whispered to May, knowing that they were being listened to.
"It's not you. I just need to keep my laughter under control. God forbid I show mirth around here, right?"
Haymitch nodded. He looked to his left, and saw the two blonde females from District 1 the next station over looking at them with dangerous grins.
He looked back to Maysilee, who had also masked her smiling face to a general scowl, just like he had done.
They came to a silent understanding and Haymitch set down the branch and gave her a nod.
"See you around," she said softly as he walked away, putting needed distance between them.
He gave a charming smile to the girls from District 1 who only shook their heads as he walked by, their grins now fainter.
He acted like a tribute on a mission, and found himself making his way towards a table filled with a display of knives even though his next plan was to train in camouflage. Mannequins with scored targets on various parts were but a few feet away.
He was skilled with a knife. He might be better trained in skinning an animal with the weapon rather than killing it, but he knew how to throw one. However, the only knife he had back at home was at least two times smaller in size than the one he now held in his hand. One side of the blade was razor sharp, the other serrated, with large hooked points. This wasn’t just any knife, it was a murder weapon.
"Next!" he heard a deep voice yell out. He looked over to the Trainer of the station, dressed in the uniform grey, looking at him.
"What?" he asked, not sure what was going on.
"You need three knives for this exercise, pick two more," the trainer said, frowning. He heard a scoff behind him, and saw a pack of three guys sneering and shaking their heads at him. Haymitch looked back down at the table with various knives, and he chose two smaller ones, something he was more used to.
"Hit the mannequins as they come forward," the trainer said as he stepped back.
Haymitch heard a few more laughs behind him, but ignored them as he stepped forward onto the small platform that let out the sound of a bell as it felt his weight. Then he heard a small whirr of something mechanical and looked up to see the mannequin on the right move forward.
He threw the larger knife by the handle. It spun and hit the mannequin's lower thigh, barely sticking. The next one to move was in the center, and he threw the next knife gingerly by the blade. This time it hit the stomach. The next one, on the left, got a knife near the middle of the chest. Another beep motioned the end of the practice, the mannequins retreating.
"Not bad! You're getting the hang of it, 12. Practice more, you'll get better these next few days," the trainer said.
Haymitch nodded and barely muttered a 'thank you' as he left and headed towards the neighboring station with spears, where he saw the station trainer was standing around doing nothing.
"What do I need to know?" Haymitch asked as he approached.
The trainer looked up from cracking his knuckles and smiled at his new trainee.
"You need to know about balance," he said as he grabbed two spears, handing one out to Haymitch.
He grabbed it and followed the trainer to the base of the platform.
"The balance point is all about where you hold it; this is the spot where it stays steady, doesn’t tilt forwards or backwards with ease - complete control. Take a slanted vertical stance to get the right position... bend your knees slightly, and throw," he said, showing each step with a second of a pause in between. He re-did the throw motion and let go of the spear, it hitting the furthest mannequin in the middle of the target.
"Up you go," the trainer said.
Haymitch sighed and walked up to the platform; it gave a similar ding as it felt his weight, and the mannequins lit up in a red glow and moved forward. He did as the trainer did; putting his left foot forward as he turned to the right and took a deep breath as he held the spear in balance. He then pitched his arm forward, letting it go at the last second. It hit the nearest mannequin on the target, but at one of the outer rings.
"Good weight, but work on the follow through. It's all about letting go at the right time," the trainer said.
"What's your name?" Haymitch asked, turning towards the trainer as he stood on the platform, the target mannequins continuing to move behind him.
"Leo?" he asked, as though unsure of the question.
"Well Leo, I think we might be spending a lot of time training together. I'm Haymitch."
The trainer smiled, and tilted his head.
“If you’d like, I can show you how to craft one without using a stone or blade,” Leo said as he walked towards the cluster of spears where a few lone sticks of wood and string sat to the side.
Haymitch followed, smiling, finally feeling a little bit of confidence.