Chapter 8:Early morning
We are allowed to sleep in this encampment for tonight, because tomorrow both encampments are to relocate further into the interior of the district and merge into one large encampment.
Headpeacekeeper Romulus Thread lead us to the sleeping tents, past the sleeping peacekeepers until we got to the empty bunks. Commander Barca and I found bunks and went strait to sleep, Romulus Thread and went to sleep in an empty bunk not too far away; like a true Headpeacekeeper he lives in the same conditions as the men under his command.
I am able to go into a sort of half sleep in which I am still faintly aware of my surroundings, I force myself to stay partially alert not out of any paranoia but rather to prevent my subconscious from locking me in a personally tailored dungeon of my own terror.
I just listen to the muffled sobs of one peacekeeper at the far end of the barracks tent, or to Romulus Thread's shifting his position in his sleep, or to Larsen Barca's content snoring.
Pat one point, I can hear someone walking stealthily. Whoever this is, he or she is clearly attempting to avoid detection so as to carry out some act which has a nefarious purpose. I squint to see who it is, and I hear a crashing sound.
I can hear the click of a pistols safety being turned off, and Romulus Thread saying this. "Hands to your head, one move and I'll blow your brains out."
Me and Commander Barca, as well as all the peacekeepers in the tent, jump out of our beds. Someone turns the lights on. We can all see Romulus Thread sitting up in his bed and holding his pistol aimed at the women who stands in the isle. We all take a moment for our eyes to adjust and for our brains to register what we see. Once we do, we all notice that the women is a peacekeeper.
Romulus Thread asks the peacekeeper in a voice similar to that of a teacher lecturing a truant. "Soldier, what is your name?"
"Peacekeeper Cassidy Smith."
"Why are you in the men's barrack at midnight?"
When she did not say anything, Thread added, "Come on, out with it."
She finally said with carefully chosen words, "I was ... visiting one of the peacekeepers here."
"Sure, visiting. Who were you ... visiting?"
"Peacekeepers Jason Mercury."
Giggling and laughing erupted from the peacekeepers who were awake and listening in.
"Soldiers, this is why the barracks is not coed. Smith, as punishment for breaking curfew and leaving your post without permission, you are to report to the camp center in the morning for eight lashings. We need all our soldiers to stay where they are ordered to. Just be glad I didn't think you were an assassin."
As a peacekeeper walked her off to the brig, the peacekeepers were reacting with amusement. I have to admit, I am able to laugh out of relief that she was not an assassin.
After a quick meal, we disassembled the encampment and in less than an hour we were back on the road. The peacekeepers are are trained from the start to be the most disciplined and regimented fighting force the world has ever seen. We are able to march to our destination by dinner time.
We have to march through freezing drizzle, but I do not mind the rain. The rain reminds me of my childhood, of growing up in the mountains, of a happiness that comes with nor knowing what it is to fight and to kill and to be the person others will try to kill. I wonder if my grandfather felt this way about district 2, or if it also reminded him of wartime endurance.
I wonder how felt right before a cavalry charge, did he feel afraid that this would be his last battle, or was he exhilarated with the knowledge that he was more alive, or did he treat if as another fact of life and become immune to the horrors of war. I also wonder how Cato felt when he went to hunt down Thresh to avenge his fallen district partner, or when he was climbing up the Nut and knew he still had a chance of winning the battle. I know that before the games began he probably felt something along the lines of confidence, because he had been training his whole life and victory would ,ean being remembered forever.
I know I will never forget Cato, and I will never forgive the people who tortured him to death.