We sit in the hangar, waiting to board the hovercraft. I am rubbing my locket with the picture of Artemis in it, trying to keep the picture of her engraved in my head. I was in full armor, along with my fellow members from the Mockingjay squad. Everyone was quiet, no one dared to speak. Kim was clinging to Ron, and Astrid to Hiccup. Tris had her head down and was cleaning her gun with shaky hands. Everyone knew what was about to happen. There were three hovercrafts taking off from the hangar today. On our right, the 501st were sitting and waiting, and on our left the Howling Commandos were doing the same. Up on the ledge above the hangar was President Coin talking with Ahsoka, Rogers, and Rex. She nodded to them and the three squad leaders walked down the steps to stand by their squads. The time was now.
One week earlier
I was running through a street, taking heavy fire. I got behind a corner, and looked behind me. Kim and Ron slammed into the wall just behind me, followed shortly by Tris. I look across the street and see that Ahsoka, Astrid, and HIccup are behind cover as well. Ahsoka peers around the corner and looks over to me. She signals a fist and then holds up four fingers.
We are in a battle situation, like we would be in the Capitol. The Capitol had set up numerous traps, known as pods. They held many horrors inside of them, and we had no information on what was inside. Ahsoka said that she saw pods, indicated by the fist, and four of them. I nodded and looked back over to the people behind me.
"We got four pods around this corner," I say. "Stay on my ass, and keep to the right side."
I peer around the corner and see a slab of concrete in the middle of the street. I also see one pod that is hanging on a street light a couple of yards in front of the slab, and two to the right, and one to the left.
"Tris you follow me to the middle," I say. "Kim, you and Ron stay glued to these buildings. You got two pods on coming up on the right, so take them out. Be careful though, there is one in the center of the street that Tris and I will take care of, and one all the way on the left that Ahsoka should take down."
They all nod and I turn towards Ahsoka and nod. She acknowledges me and signals us to move forward. I sprint around the corner, followed by my team. I slide in front of the slab and Tris is right behind me. Kim and Ron move swiftly to the right and take out both pods. I lean over and see that Ahsoka and her team have taken out the left one. I am about to take out the center one, when someone trips it. Gunfire sprays all around us, and I duck behind the slab. Then a grenade flies behind us, threatening our flank.
"GRENADE!" Tris yells as she jumps on to it.
The grenade goes off, and the simulation is over. I rush over to Tris and pick her off the ground. She is groaning as I lift up her shirt to view her stomach. Sure enough, there are a bunch of red marks all around her. The bullets and grenades were simply rubber pellets, discharged at a high velocity. It is basically getting shot, without getting shot.
"Tris that was amazing," I say.
"I feel amazing," she says sarcastically, groaning while she does.
I start to lead her over to the review room and say to her, "You know that is the equivalent of sacrificing your life for us right?"
"Yeah," she says. "I would do anything for you guys."
"Thank you Tris," I say and give her a hug.
The review room is set up like a small theater, with a large screen in front to review video from the battle. I sit down next to Tris while Kim and Ron sit a few rows back. Astrid and Hiccup are two chairs to our left and one row down. Ahsoka stands at the front of the room, going over some pieces of paper.
"Alright," she says. "Really well done through the first part. Everyone did everything just as planned. The last street is where we ran into trouble. The pod that detonated was a pressure detector detonator. Let's look and see what happened."
She pulls up the video and starts it right before we sprint to the spot.
"Katniss," Ahsoka says. "What were your orders?"
"I told Kim and Ron to stay to the side of the buildings and take out the two pods on the right. I went with Tris to try and take out the one in the middle, but the pod detonated before we could take it out."
"Okay," Ahsoka says. "Let's see what detonated it."
We watch the footage and she starts commenting on it.
"Astrid and Hiccup, top marks," she begins. "You followed my orders perfectly and stayed behind perfect cover. You did not set off the pod. Katniss and Tris, perfect. Got to your cover quick and were in great position. Kim and Ron, wait-"
Ahsoka frowned at the screen and looked up at Kim with anger in her eyes.
"Kim, what the hell were you doing," she asks pointedly.
I look up at the screen to see Ron trying to coax Kim back behind cover when she was creeping forward.
"I thought I had a better angle on the pod in the middle so I moved to take it out," Kim says.
"You set off the pod," Ahsoka says bluntly. "Ron, good work. Especially trying to get Kim back. Kim, I want you to watch the rest of this."
The video goes up of the pod opening and the gunfire spraying around, forcing everyone behind cover. Then it launches a grenade behind Tris and I. I watch Tris scream and jump on the grenade, then the video is over.
"Do you realize the gravity of your overconfidence?" Ahsoka asks with anger in her eyes. "Tris is dead at this point. She jumped on a grenade to save Katniss and she had to because you set off the pod. Do you realize that if you had listened to orders, made by your superior, that everyone would be alive. THIS ISN'T A GAME!"
Ahsoka shouts the last line and everyone jumps. Kim looks down at the ground, unable to keep eye contact with Ahsoka.
"Tris," Ahsoka says, looking over to the girl. "Best marks of the day. Your sacrifice is noted and might result in a promotion. And Kim," she looks at the red-head. "Listen to your fucking orders. Dismissed."
Ahsoka walks out of the room and I start to help Tris up. I look over my shoulder to see Kim running out of the room with Ron close on her heels. I sigh and I know that I am going to have to talk to her.
I can barely stand in that room anymore. Ahsoka's comments still ring through my head. I didn't think that I would be doing anything wrong with my actions. I thought that I would be the hero, taking out three pods with just Ron and I. Then I learned that I set off the pod, and Tris jumped on the grenade. She didn't have to, she should have known that all the pds were deactivated and jumped away from the grenade. But she decided not to risk anybodies life and jump on it, and Ahsoka was right. If it was real life, Tris would be dead. I got a glimpse of Katniss helping Tris back to our rooms and the bruises that resulted from my mistake. She had to be in extreme pain, but her eyes were shining with pride from the appreciation from Katniss and Ahsoka.
"Kim wait," Ron says as he tries to catch up to me.
I make it to our room first and shut the door on him.
"Kim," Ron said through the door. "C'mon, let me in."
"Go away," I say through sobs.
I hear a sigh from the door and footsteps walking away. I continue to cry until I eventually fall asleep.
I awake to pounding on my door.
"Stoppable," a voice calls out. "Open up."
"I'm not in the mood Katniss," I say, stuffing my face back into my pillow.
Suddenly the door burst open and Katniss walks in holding Artemis.
"Wasn't a suggestion," she says plainly.
She shuts the door and walks over to where I am laying. She sits down on a chair beside my bed and sets Artemis down on the bed next to me. The baby crawls over to me and touches my face with a curious look to her. I smile at her and she returns it.
"Ahsoka won't apologize," Katniss says. "You know that. I know that. She might have been a little harsh on you, but she is too proud to admit it. She does have a point though, you have to listen to orders."
Katniss isn't yelling, and she doesn't have a mean tone to her voice. I look up at her and she is looking at me with a neutral look.
"Is Tris okay?" I ask.
"Yeah," Katniss answers. "Tough girl that one. Took all the pellets to the stomach, but walking on her own within the hour."
"I didn't mean-," I say.
"I know you didn't mean to," Katniss cuts me off. "But listening is very important to this cause. Here, we have to trust each other. I will not put you into a situation I don't think you can handle, but you have to realize whatever situation I do put you in, you finish it and wait for my next instructions."
I nod and she leans over to give me a hug. I am totally taken aback by this gesture. I have only seen Katniss give hugs a few times, more recently than not.
She pulls back and looks at me, "Now let your husband in, he is a worried man."
I laugh for the first time in a while.
6 days later Katniss POV
"Now," Ahsoka says. "This will be your final test to see if you are ready to make the assault on the Capitol."
She is standing in front of us in the review room that Ahsoka screamed at Kim just six days ago. It was a vigorous week of training, but the image of me killing Snow kept me going. Everyone seemed to be doing very well, especially Kim. She had made leaps and bounds above her first run through. She even listened to an order of me telling her to stay behind and not take out any pods.
"You will be issued a score, just like the rest of the simulations, and add those points to your total score," Ahsoka continues. "If you do not pass the threshold of 1,000 points, you will not be going. He is what everyone has to gain from highest to lowest. Tris, you have 1,003 points. You do not need to go through the training run. Astrid, you have 997 points. You have to enter the sim and you have enough points. Katniss, you have 976 points. Basically complete the training run and you have it in the bag. Hiccup, you have 947 points, a good run will push you over. Ron, you have 933 points, an excellent run will be plenty enough. Kim, you have 900 points. You need a perfect run to be able to go."
I look over to Kim to see her reaction, and it has no effect on her. I smile because I know getting a perfect score will be no problem for her.
"Alright," Ahsoka says. "Starting from the highest score to the lowest. I will be entering the simulator with you along with Captain Rex and Captain Rogers. We will be trying to expose your biggest weakness to see if you can handle it in a battle situation. Let the games begin."
I know that I only need to enter to get on the battle squad, but I want a perfect run. I try to think of some of the weakness that I have, and I can't pull any up. I shrug it off, knowing that I will probably recognize it, when it comes to me.
Ahsoka walks up to the door to enter the sim and looks at us.
"Alright," she says. "Lock and load."
She opens the door and in we go. It is a solitary street and we sprint behind some cover that is almost right by the entrance.
"Listen up," Ahsoka yells over the sound of gunfire. "We have three pods to take out. Rex and Astrid, take the right. Rogers, take the left. I'm going up the middle."
"Yes sir," we all say and move towards our assignments.
Rex and I get to cover on the right side and see the pod that we are going to take out. I start to lean around the structure slowly, only to be pulled back by Rex.
"Let me take this girl," he says. "This is a man's job."
"Excuse me," I say as he peers around the corner. "Who the hell do you think you are you-," and then I stop.
I figure out what they are testing me on. I have always prided myself on being a fine female warrior and not needing the help of anyone, especially men. They are trying to see if I can take the arrogance of others with their comments added to it.
"Okay," I say. "I've got your six."
He nods and effectively takes out the pod with me watching around him. Ahsoka and Rogers take out the other pods and we clear the sim.
We come out and back to the review room and I sit down next to Hiccup while they discuss my score.
"You did great," he whispers to me. "We saw the whole thing, they had a video feed of the battle. I am a bit surprised that you let that guy talk to you like that."
"Shhh," I say smiling at him. "Just wait."
Ahsoka finishes her conversation and turns around to us.
"After each sim, I will tell you the lesson that everyone will go through, so you can learn your squad members better," she says. "Astrid, you scored a perfect 100. The situation Astrid was put in was that battle makes people feel invincible. They will say shit and act like a maniac. Astrid demonstrated how to deal with this perfectly. Let them be crazy, and do what you can to protect them. Astrid let him go and covered him while he took out the pod. Excellent work."
I beamed up at her and she smiled back.
"Alright," Ahsoka continues. "Katniss, you're up."
"Go go go," Ahsoka yells and we are in the simulation.
We enter the sim and there is no gunfire. We get behind cover and look around.
"Okay there are two pods on this street," Ahsoka says. "Katniss get up onto that roof and cover us."
I nod and sprint over to the building that she is talking about. I get inside and race up the stairs. I come out onto the roof and set up shop. I look down and see Ahsoka, Rex, and Rogers moving down the street slowly. I scan ahead and find nothing. Then a little boy pops out from behind a building. He is holding what seems to be an rocket launcher. I get nervous about this and pull back on my bow.
"Ahsoka," I say into my com. "I have a twenty on a kid in the street with what appears to be a weapon, can you see anything?"
"Negative," Ahsoka calls back. "Your call on the shot."
I look down the scope of my bow again and see that the boy does have a rocket launcher and is preparing to fire.
"C'mon kid," I say to myself. "Drop it."
He fumbles with the weapon a little more.
He secures it and hoists it on his shoulder.
He starts to look down the street at our advancing troops but doesn't have the opportunity to fire. An arrow hits him straight in the chest and he drops to the ground. I take a sharp breath in and a small sob comes out. Ahsoka and the others clear the pod as I watch over them, but nothing else comes that could harm them. The sim ends and we exit to the review room.
I sit down next to Tris and bury my face in my hand. She puts a hand on my back as I try not to cry. All I can picture is that little boy's face. I take deep breaths and look up to the front. Ahsoka finishes conversing and looks over to us.
"Katniss, you scored a 95," she says. "The next lesson is that anything could be a threat to your squad mates. You have to look out for each other. Katniss you lost points because you hesitated, you may not have that luxury in a real battle. I know it was a child, so I can understand you wanting him to put it down."
I nod and look over to Tris. She has a look of understanding on her face and gives me a smile. I smile weakly back and then I hear Ahsoka call out.
"Let's go Hiccup," she says.
I sit in the middle of the street awaiting orders. Gunfire whistles over my head constantly, so much that if I was to stick my head over I would be riddled with shots. Ahsoka took off with Rex and Rogers a couple minutes ago and told me to wait until she gave the word. A crackling came over my com and I tap it a few times before the voice comes in clear.
"Hiccup," she says into the com.
"Yes," I reply quickly.
"I'm hit," she says. "I need you to get up here very quickly and get me back to safety."
"But my leg," I say. "I can't move very fast."
"I need you," Ahsoka says and I am off.
I sprint down the street dodging sprays of shots left and right and slide behind the cover that Ahsoka is currently at. I can feel the gravel shoot into my good knee and look over to Ahsoka. She is smiling and the simulation ends. I am very confused at this point.
"What's going on?" I ask.
"That's it," she says and gets up and walks out.
I am still sitting there until a voice in the other room calls me to it. I get up and stumble a little, but make my way into the next room. I sit down next to Astrid who cleans up my knee. It has started bleeding and I can see some small rocks still wedged in there. I must have slid pretty hard.
"Hiccup," Ahsoka says and grabs my attention. "You have made it in with a score of 91. The lesson here is do not doubt your abilities. If Katniss or myself gives you an order or asks you to do something, we have confidence that you can do it. All you need to do is gain that mindset."
I nod and Astrid whispers to me, "it was still pretty slow."
"Oh c'mon Astrid," I say to her. "Can't you give a cripple a break?"
"Oh I was comparing myself to you," she said. "So of course you look slow. To Tris though is another story."
"Don't start," Tris says from the other side of the room.
We all laugh at that and then Ahsoka calls Ron into the simulator.
We break into the street at a quick sprint. The only cover is a single wall in the middle of the street. I look towards Ahsoka and wait for her signal.
"I'll take Rex and Steve towards the back and look for a way around. Hold down the fort here in case we can't."
"Yes sir," I say and they take off.
I lean my head around and see if I can see anything. Nothing visible, so I retreat back behind the cover and wait. It is a couple of minutes before I hear some gun fire up ahead. I am fully prepared to see Ahsoka and the others fighting their way up, but instead there are only two people. One of them is Tris, who is on the far right. Another is Kim, on the far left. I am about to go after them and help cover when an explosion goes off on the right and Tris is enveloped in it. After the smoke clears, she is screaming out in pain, both of her legs blown clean off. Kim notices this and moves to help her. Then a bullet comes through and nails Kim right through the temple, shattering her skull.
"KIM!" I scream and am about to rush over to her when I pause.
Tris is still rolling around on the ground, screaming in pain, but Kim is not moving, and from what I can tell, breathing. I know that Kim is gone, so I come out from behind cover and make my way over to Tris. I get over to her, grab her, and sling her on my back. Once she is secure, I run back towards the cover that I originally had and start medical treatment on her. I rip off both my sleeves to create tourniquets for both of her legs and try to calm her down.
"Hey look at me," I say to her. "Tris let me see your eyes."
She looks at me and I smile.
"Good," I say. "Now I need you to keep looking at me, okay. Don't close your eyes."
She nods at me and I immediately start yelling, "MEDIC! CAN I GET A MEDIC! CORPSMAN!"
Then everything stops and the lights come up. What was the body of Tris is now just some robot and Ahsoka comes up from behind me.
"Good work Ron," she says and helps me up.
We go back into the room and I sit down next to Kim.
Ahsoka stands at the front of the room and looks out on to us.
"Ron scores a 98," she says. "Only because one of the tourniquet was in the wrong spot."
"Thanks for that," Tris says and everyone laughs at her sarcasm.
"This lesson," Ahsoka says. "Is that you have to let people go, to help the people that can live, especially people that you are close to. This is a very tight group, we all are pretty good friends. I know this sounds harsh, but you have to learn to let people go."
Ahsoka looks out onto us and seems convinced.
"Now for our final test," she says. "Kim, it's showtime."
"Ready?" Ahsoka asks.
I shake my head nervously. I know I need a perfect score to make it to the Capitol, and I have to go.
"Alright," she says. "This time, just you and me. Go."
We enter the sim and move towards the street. We get behind cover and look around the corner.
"Two pods," Ahsoka says. "Take the one on the right, I'll go to the left. Do not help on my side, got it?"
"Yes sir," I say and she takes off.
I see everything in slow motion this time. I veer around the corner, headed to the right, when I see a peacekeeper coming around the corner, in a direct line of sight of Ahsoka. I change direction and head towards Ahsoka. I am about three feet away when I hear the peacekeeper fire. I leap in front of Ahsoka and feel the pain of getting shot right in the chest. I hit the ground hard and just lay there. I would be dead at this point, and I disobeyed orders. I didn't listen again and now my chances of going to the Capitol are little to none. Ahsoka takes out the peacekeeper and drags me behind some cover. There must have been some electric shot to the bullet because I can't move my arms and legs. Ahsoka clears the street, taking out the pods with ease and the sim is over. The feeling of my arms and legs come back to me and I sit up. I notice Ahsoka walking out of the room quickly and I bury my face in my hands.
"KIM," I hear from the other room and I reluctantly get up and make my way in.
I enter the room and see Ahsoka standing at the head of the room. Her expression is unreadable to me. I lower my head and shuffle over to Ron. I sit down and he takes my hand. I don't want him to take my hand right now because I feel like I have let him down. I don't rip my hand away, but I want to.
"Kim," Ahsoka begins.
I know that this won't end well.
"I know what you're going to say," I interrupt her. "I know I disobeyed direct orders and that I won't be going to the Capitol. Just keep yourselves safe please."
"Well," Ahsoka says. "We will have to to help us."
I look at her bewildered.
She laughs and continues, "You didn't let me finish earlier. You scored a perfect round. The lesson to be learned is that following orders is very key to an effective army, but knowing when to break orders is the mark of a true soldier. Kim sacrificed herself for me, blatantly disobeying my orders to stay on her side of the street. She saved a life for the mission. That was excellent."
I beam with pride as everyone smiles.
"So," Ahsoka says. "Congratulations. You have all earned the right to go to the Capitol. We leave at 12 am sharp tomorrow. We will have to parachute in to our assigned area. That gives you roughly 10 hours. Prepare yourselves. Dismissed."
Hangar before leaving Katniss POV
I keep the image of Artemis in my head constantly. I look over to Tris who is still fiddling with her gun. I notice that her hair is way shorter now. Her blonde hair doesn't go past her ears now.
"Hey," I say quietly.
She looks over and I ask, "When did you get your hair like that?"
"Couple hours ago," she says. "I not going back to the Capitol the same person that went before, so why look the same."
"I like it," I say and smile.
She smiles and nods, then goes back to her gun. I go back to rubbing my locket and notice that Ahsoka has walked away from where she was talking to President Coin. Coin looked down at all of us sitting there and spoke to us,
"Tonight, you all ship out to the Capitol. You are going to fight to end the tyranny of President Snow once and for all. Make sure it gets done right."
She walks away and we turn towards Ahsoka
"To the Mockingjay Squad, Howling Commandos and 501st Legion," she begins. "You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Districts and brothers-in-arms on other fronts you will bring about the destruction of the Capitol war machine, the elimination of Snow's tyranny over oppressed peoples of Panem, and security for ourselves in a free world. Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle-hardened. They will fight savagely. But this is the year. Much has happened since the first Hunger Games. District 13 has inflicted upon the Capitol great defeats, in open battle, man-to-man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground. Our Home Fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men and women. The tide has turned. The free people of Panem are marching together to victory. I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty, and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full victory. Good Luck! And let us all beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking."
She finishes and boards the hovercraft. We all follow suit, readying ourselves for the impending task in front of us. Preparing ourselves for invasion.