I hardly got any sleep and yawn as I trudge down the path to town. It's heavily misty this time of day and it covers the world in a thick yellow haze. I love it when it's like this out in the woods. But I'm not in the woods, and the sound of a camera crew quickly reminds me of that.
I hear their chatter before I can make any of them out. I first see Cinna. He warmly greets me.
"Katniss! You look like the champion we all know and love."
"Is that why you chose this for me?"
"Of course, I wanted to remind the people about the girl that inspired them. Not her celebrity counterpart who's been distracting the media these past few months."
I smile thankfully at Cinna. I was half ready to give him an earful for the nightmares he gave me, but I can respect the decision he made. It is nice to not feel like a painted doll for once. It'd be nicer to feel that way after a good night's sleep, but, I'll take what I can get. "So, what's going on, Cinna. What are we doing?"
He takes out my Mockingjay pin and fastens it to my coat. "There." He pats it softly. Cinna seems more serious this morning than usual. "We thought it'd be nice to do a little promotional piece about life here in District 12…"
"You thought it'd be nice," Vivica butts in, "I only agreed because the gorgeous cousin's going to be in it. And it'd be such a shame not to feature someone as good looking as he is on camera…." I'm not entirely certain, but I think she may have licked her lips after saying that.
I'm shocked to learn that Gale and I will be doing a piece together. It takes me a few moments to process my thoughts and form a question. "What…um…what are we going to be doing exactly?"
"You know," Vivica chirps, she's clearly a morning person. "Showing us the mines. What it's like down there…you know, for you people…" She clearly has no idea what she's talking about.
I address Cinna. "Cinna, I'm not sure people really want to know about the mines…they are kind of horrible." Cinna looks at me knowingly. I realize this might be part of the plan, a way to sneak some information to the Capitol under Snow's radar. Clever, I think, like what I tried to do with Caesar.
"Yes," he says carefully, "but with all the shortages in other Districts, it'll be good to show people that things are running smoothly here in Twelve." I remember the conversation we had yesterday and nod.
"Also, there's your cousin's new invention…" Haymitch coughs out as he saunters over. He looks even worse today than he did yesterday. I'm not sure if he's been to sleep yet.
"Your cousin, the handsome one," Haymitch clarifies, "he's been working on a new elevator to help reach deeper, dangerous parts of the mine. Generally, no one would care," he says, pausing to take a sip from his flask, "but since he's related to our beloved victor," adds with gusto, slapping my back, "we thought maybe the world would take a bit of an interest. Plus," he takes another sip, "Vivica here was dying to find a way to tie him in."
"I just don't think anyone that handsome should be wasted." She defends.
I look at him curiously and nod.
"And here's the man of the hour now!" Haymitch celebrates as Gale walks up. "Are you ready?" I know Gale doesn't like to pander to the Capitol, but it seems like Haymitch is asking something far more serious.
"So you invented an elevator?" There is more than a hint of disbelief in my voice.
"Yes, Catinp," Gale rebukes me, grin back on his face, "I made a new design. I found a way to go deeper, safer." I nod, still not certain I believe him. His look reminds me of the times when he invented a new snare. Suddenly, it all makes more sense.
"Okay," I relent, "if you say so."
"What, don't think I can do it?"
"That's not what I meant," I'm suddenly sorry I might have offended him, "just…when did you do it?"
"In my spare time," Gale shrugs.
Gale walks over to Haymitch and the two seem to be discussing something important.
The camera crew is talking to some of the other miners. Gale's boss is not happy to have his site taken over by the Capitol, but he has no choice but to accept. Vivica starts bossing her men and the miners around. She tells most of them just to get out of her way and talks to guys about the set up and angles.
"How does it look from over here?" I hear her ask. "Better? Great. Now, let's get some of these men to work behind us. Oh I don't know! Do something natural." I can tell by the miners' faces that they don't like her. She is starting to film her intro when Cinna walks over to me.
"So, what exactly am I doing?" I ask for clarification.
"We're going to film the two of you go down in the new elevator."
"We just go down and come back up?" Cinna might not know this, but I hate the mines. The fact that they are tight, black, airless holes beneath mountains of rock aside, my father also died down there. "How safe is it?"
"If Gale's system is right, should be very safe. You trust Gale, right?"
"Remember that." He's being cryptic again. I don't like it. Someone calls Cinna's name and he walks over.
Unsatisfied with the answers I'm getting, I decide to go interrogate Haymitch. "What the hell is going on?"
"And a good morning to you too, sweetheart. How come you don't talk to me the way you talk to Cinna?" He tries to focus his glazed eyes on me.
"Haymitch, are you all right?"
"Just fine and brandy," he says, laughing at his lame joke, "get it? Brandy!" He laughs again.
"What's going on, Haymitch?"
"Hasn't anyone told you? Just a nice little piece to promote good… good, I don't know, goodness in District 12. Showing our people come together, working hard, doing things." His hands swim before him, trying to make some kind of grand gesture, but he fails, and takes another swig and then passes his flask to me. I take it. "It's important to reassure people there are no shortages here." His tone changes as he says this, and I realize it must be incredibly important.
Cinna and Haymitch must be in the midst of something big. I can see the toll it's taking on both of them. I want to ask them to confide in me, see if I can help. But I remember what they told me to do a few nights ago. Stay safe and play my part. They seem to have enough on their minds anyway right now. It's probably best if I let them be.
I bounce between steely resolve and anxious nerves as the time passes before filming. Cinna, Gale, and a crew of men are all talking about the elevator. Vivica is fighting with Gale's boss, who doesn't like her telling him what to do, and I know it's bad when Haymitch has to intervene. I sip some hot tea and watch Vivica film the rest of her intro. She gives some general facts about the mines and says how much deeper we'll be able to go if these new elevators work. Apparently, they are made a lot lighter and can go quicker and carry more cargo. I'm honestly impressed as I hear her describe it. This actually might be a moment worthy of national television. If these elevators are a success, District 12 will be able to increase its coal exports by ten percent. That means a good bit more money, and we desperately need it. Vivica also talks about that, and when she does, she's as condescending as ever.
Someone finally motions me over. I walk into view and but on my best smile.
"Katniss, you cousin invented this elevator, correct?"
What a stupid question, I think. "Yes."
"You must be very impressed?"
"I'm more proud than anything. Gale's always been really smart about inventing things. I'm just happy to see something that will make life easier for the workers. And produce more resources for the country." I look over at Cinna when I say this, hoping it had a good ring to it. He nods approvingly.
"Of course!" Vivica returns. She looks back at the camera and I assume she's done with me. A few of the workers lead me over to the elevator. A camera is mounted on its frame and there is barely enough room for Gale and me together. It looks like it's made from glass, but I guess this is the special new light weight material. I tap it, it sounds like thick plastic. I wonder where Gale read about this stuff.
I hear Vivica in the background talking to Gale now. He's does look good on the camera. He's smiling, not as nervous as he usually is. Basking in the glow of his success, I suppose. Gale soon comes over to join me and Vivica explains the revolutionary new design of the lift. Something about hydraulics, I think I hear her say. I look and do see what appears to be a kind of motor or something attached. All the other elevators are strictly mechanical. Ropes and chains and pulleys. I can see how a motor would help speed things up.
"Now, this is just the trial run," she explains, "but we want to see just how far down it can go and how quickly it can come back up. The inventor here says it can come back in a matter of seconds. Do you stand by your estimate?"
"We'll be back in less than thirty seconds," Gale says confidently.
"All right, folks, there you have it. The inventor himself and the most courageous girl in District 12 are about to brave new depths of this old mine. Small, lighter, and faster, Mr. Hawthorne thinks they can access areas previously unreachable to miners. Are you guys ready?" she asks us both.
Gale nods confidently and I try to copy his expression. Inside, my stomach is twisted with dread as I think about going into the mines. Being trapped underground is one of my worst fears, after what happened to my father. But I look to Gale for strength. His father also died in the mines, and he has to go down here every day. If he can do it, I think, so can I.
We both step into the box and have to press close to one another to fit. I look out and see both Cinna and Haymitch, who are waving at me. Strangely, it seems to me like they are waving goodbye.
Gale smiles at me brightly and I'm not entirely certain why. A man reaches in front of us and seals the door shut. Gale gives me a reassuring smile as he presses the button to take us down. He takes my hand with the other. I feel the elevator lurch, and hear the click click of the gears as we start to descend. I see the world outside slowly be replaced by darkened rock. I look at Gale a bit uncertainly as we go down. But his smile reassures me and I'm thinking how silly I am to be so nervous when BANG!