The Stone Cries Out



"I would like to talk to you about your place in the Games,"

I don't say anything, keeping my eyes straight ahead. I'm willing to listen but I continue to be wary. Even though my body is relaxed and I feel no tension rising, I can't shake the feeling in me to keep alert. Probably all the training I've gone through.

We head down this narrow corridor, the white of the walls blinding me. It's eerily quiet, absolutely no one nearby. It's not surprising but it is a little unnerving. He's the leader of our country and yet there's very little protection around him. Even though I wouldn't do anything stupid or traitorous, the lax of security is one I'm not expecting.

He leads me down until we reach a room where there are two armchairs facing each other, a pattern of blue and green. The color stands out since the rest of the place is still dull in appearance. President Snow sits down on the one on the right, motioning for me to take rest in the left. I do so.

"It's most likely irritating you to know nothing about why I've got you here." He says this calmly. Must be a test—his eyes hold a glint I see in some of my teachers.

"Not really," I reply, "Just piquing my curiosity."

He smiles and there's red at the corners of his mouth. I wonder if he's sick or something—it's a little too red.

Before I can ask about his welfare, he leans against the chair, leg propped the other, "Tell me, my boy, how badly do you want to win?"

"More than anything," My reply is earnest and I lean forward with an anxiety I've never felt before; even when I was lost in the heat of death.

It's quiet for a moment. He only peers intently at me, eyes not revealing anything to me. I have to admit to myself I don't like not knowing expressions. Eyes are typically so open. But perhaps I'm giving too much credit to the boy I've been around with the past few days—he doesn't hide much.

"That's good to hear." He tells me, reclining further back, "Because I would very much like to have you a part of a plan."

"What kind of plan, sir?"

"For many years, I've watched countless Games, all of them different from the other. This one, though, is so different it's dangerous." Rising from his seat, he walks to a wall and touches it, a screen suddenly coming from the solid area. I blink at it as it turns on, and there are tributes on the screen, none whom I know. "These are tributes from the past Games. Normally, as it is, the ones from 1, 2 and 4 are the Victors, as I'm sure you are well aware of."

"Yes," I reply, walking to his side, "But what's different about it, then?"

"The Victor, of this year, will be the girl from 12."

I stiffen, my head whipping to face him and I pull a muscle. "What? How? The Games aren't over!"

"Not yet," President Snow answers me, face calm, "But she will be, with the way they're going."

Before I can ask all the incredulous questions that are bursting in my head, the screen flickers and it shows fire, bright and strong, with people in the background screaming and fighting with fervor—a riot. "When did this happen?"

"It began not too long ago. Miss Everdeen is very influential, even though she has yet to do much. It seems her passion for her sister and the relationship with the boy from 12 was enough to drive a little of the people into beginning this riot. It ended very quickly, and we made short work of those who opposed us; this is the only riot that has occurred and we've doubled the security in that district. However, this only proves how dangerous she can be."

"So much for just one person?"

His lips turn up in a chiding grin, "You'd be surprised how much damage one person can do,"

I turn to the screen again, watching Peacekeepers club several people back. "What does this have to with me?"

"You, Cato, are actually the only one I could think of for this assignment. You see: even though you've received very little, there are many sponsors who support you. You've just shown so much capability that they believe you can rely on your wits well enough. There is much you're able to do and, I believe, that includes playing the emotions of others."

"I'm not a people person."

"Neither am I, my boy; that is why you're perfect,"

"What do I have to do?"

"Get into the heart of Katniss Everdeen,"

I stare at him, uncomprehending, "Be with the Girl on Fire?"

"Earn her trust,"

My heart is pounding in my chest. I'm unsure if this is from excitement or apprehension. I see her face in my mind, in the chariot, flames flickering behind her, above me in a tree, releasing a swarm of death. She's everywhere all at once and suddenly I'm alright with putting myself in this position. "How are we going to do that?"

He puts his hand on my shoulder, "We'll place you in an area where she'll be nearby. Of course, we're going to need a way to get you two together and I have an idea for that. It'll take a little bit to set into motion. After all, we still have the boy from 12 to contend with."

Peeta. I nearly forgot. I find myself swallowing, "Kill him, you mean."

"Yes. He will have to die. Eventually,"

"In the meantime, then?"

"Simply continue as you were. It does matter at the moment what happens but, soon, I will bring you back with the plan ready to set into motion."

"Have you done this before, taking a tribute out to win?"

"No," he says, chuckling, "As I said, this one is entirely different. So the Games will have to change, a little."

Before I say anything further, President Snow turns in the opposite direction. "Come, it is nearly dawn, and we haven't had the cameras on you for a while. The people will wonder."

I'm whisked into the hallway again and a woman comes from a corner I didn't notice. I flinch back when her hands reach for me, a blindfold in hand. Relaxing, I wait for it to cover my eyes. For the next several minutes, all I hear and feel is air. Everything rushes into my mind, the talk and the implications of what has to be done. It nettles me that I will not win on my own terms—that I'm becoming a piece to destroy a threat. But it'll be for the greater good. If it keeps the unity of the nation, then there has to be no harm to it.

I feel my feet on solid ground, the blindfold whisked off in one swooping motion. The dawn blinds my eyes, shutting them quickly. I look around at the scenery, the boy at my feet.

Peeta stirs and sits up, looking at me, "Hey. You're up early,"

"Yeah, didn't get much sleep."

Getting to his own feet, he stands a little taller than usual. He's looking at the sun with a particular serenity, "The sun is brighter than usual."

I look at the horizon, the gray breaking away to blue and pink hues. "It does," It really does.

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