When I wake the sun is starting to rise. I walk out of the "Boy's tent" so named because we managed to acquire two tents during the bloodbath, and the occupants are divided by gender. When I get outside Ashlyn is awake, admiring the sunrise. I grab my supplies as I head over to her. "Hey Lex," she greets me.
"Good morning," I respond with a smile.
"I've always loved the sunrise," Ashlyn says simply.
"Yes they are quite stunning, do you see them often?"
"Every day back in 10, I'd be up with the sun to start work on my ranch."
"Wow, that's pretty cool, I don't even remember the last time I saw the sunrise."
"Well," she says turning to me, "Then make sure you savor the rest."
"Yeah who knows how many more any of us have left." For a minute neither of us says anything, thinking of our own mortality perhaps. Ashlyn finally breaks the silence.
"So what is that you've got there?" She asks referring to my supplies.
"Oh well, during all the madness of the bloodbath I was able to find a spring and other materials which I could use to construct an apparatus for my arm."
"What kind of apparatus?" Ashlyn wonders curiously.
"I'm making a kind of spring loaded blade, and when I apply pressure on the trigger, which I will have on my hand, the blade will emerge, it should take my opponent by surprise."
"Wow, so a retractable blade?"
"Precisely" I say with a smile.
"You sure are a smart kid," she responds. This is followed by another awkward silence. Something seems to be distressing Ashlyn.
"Ashlyn, is something bothering you?" This may be a foolish question; many things are bothering all of us. It was only a few hours ago that we saw our ally killed, along with many others. What's more is we are being hunted down ourselves, and will have to kill other children if we want to survive.
"Lexeon, were you and Proxy friends?" she asks.
"Yes, I believe we got along well, she may have been a bit abrasive, but never towards me. Honestly if no one from this alliance is the victor of the games, then I hope she can find a way to win."
"Do you ever worry about her?"
I feel a bit guilty when I realize that I haven't given much thought to my partner since entering the arena. "Well…I suppose she has allies, the pair from 5, and she seems very able to handle herself." Even though I avoided giving Ashlyn a straight answer she seems satisfied.
"Yeah, she does seem that way, very capable."
It isn't till Allan and Jade have woken up, while we are moving camp that I begin to wonder why Ashlyn brought up Proxy. I never saw the two of them interact at all; I did not think she would be worried about her.
Perhaps it wasn't Proxy she was worried about after all. Could she have been asking about how I felt about Proxy because she was worried about someone else in the games?
Sometimes I amaze myself at how naive I can be. I can figure out how to design a retractable blade using; a spring, a blade, and little else, but understanding another human's emotions is beyond me.
I feel soft fingers brush back my hair. "You plan on actually waking up today?"
"Hey," I smile up at her. Last night we fell asleep holding hands, I think Proxy may have taken a longer shift than she should have, to give us some time. Nothing else happened, but it's more than I could ask for.
"Proxy caught something for breakfast, a mole or something."
"Good," I say stretching out, "I was worried there wasn't much food."
"Think we could risk a fire to cook it? We don't want to draw the careers."
"Well, we don't have any wood." I look over at the dead forest.
"You think it's safe?" Azeika asks nervously.
"If we start a small fire we they shouldn't see it from there." I say with more confidence than I really feel.
"Well, lets see what Proxy thinks. Proxy!" she calls over our friend, standing by the river.
After hearing the plan Proxy just says, "Well our only alternative is eating it raw, so lets do it."
The three of us follow the river until we reach the woods, keeping an eye out for other tributes, but we don't meet any. We decide to head in deep, if someone does see our fire it will take them a while to get to us.
When we first see it none of us really understand what it is. It's only when are a few feet away that we really take in what we are looking at. The trail of blood stretches a few feet from the collapsed tree. Someone was killed here.
"What happened?" Azeika asks in shock.
"Right before I woke Dale up, I heard a cannon, it must have been for whoever this was." Proxy answers.
"So that was at least ten hours ago…" I figure.
"So whoever did this is probably gone." Azeika says.
"There is no guarantee, but probably. We just increase our chances of running into somebody the more we move around, so lets set up a fire." Proxy asserts.
"Lets just move a bit further away," Azeika adds. No one objects, and within half an hour we all have a nice meal. Proxy sits alone, keeping an eye out for Storm or Chace. Azeika leans against me.
"Dale." She says.
"Yeah Zee?" I say swallowing a bit.
"Seeing that…place, where the tribute died. Well, it made me think."
"About what would happen if I lost you. I don't know what I would do." I don't know how to respond so I don't. "I don't think I could take it. I'm going to do everything I can to make sure Proxy's plan works." For a moment I'm worried that she has tipped the Gamemakers off to our plan, but she doesn't let on anything more than that Proxy has some kind of plan. "Dale, I'm not planning on loosing you." She sits up, and does something completely unexpected. She kisses me.
"What was that for?"
"I don't know, but you deserve it."
"Thanks." I say sheepishly.
"Hah, Dale, you don't thank a girl when she kisses you." She is back to the fun loving Azeika and I'm glad.
I suddenly remember we aren't alone, and I bit embarrassed. Proxy's seems to be staring very intently at a tree when I notice her, apparently trying hard not to notice us.
I wake with a jolt, for a moment I'm confused, I expect to wake up back in my own bed in 11. Right, I'm not in my father's luxurious house, I'm here in the arena. I quickly scan for any signs of another tribute, but there don't seem to be any. If there had been I probably wouldn't have woken up at all.
It's a task just to stand up. After years of my soft bed, and a week of Capitol mattresses, the cold rocky ground leaves a bit to be desired. I hear my back crack at least four times as I straighten it out.
I head to the river and rehydrate myself, and nibble on a bit of food. I have to be careful to conserve what I have, who knows how effective my traps have been.
That's the first task of the day, to check on the traps. I hope that there are some nocturnal animal out there, who may have stumbled across my traps. I've set up five all around the area, so I think my chances of finding something are pretty good.
Then again Kellen always laughed at my attempts to make traps, he said he would be the one to do that kind of thing once we were in here. Add one more thing to the list of reasons why it sucks to be alone.
The first trap I find isn't sprung and neither is the second. However, once I reach the third I'm a bit confused. It looks like it's been set off but there is no animal inside. I can almost hear what Kellen would say, "I guess they don't teach survival skill at the mayor's office," or something like that.
I spin around when I hear it, it sounds like gravel shuffling. Is there someone out there? I draw my knife, ready for battle, but no one is there. Am I going crazy? I turn back to investigate the trap, but keep my knife out just in case.
It happens so fast I don't fully understand it. A huge net flies over me, entangling me. I fall back desperately trying to cut my way out, but I've dropped my knife. I'm on my knees searching for it in a panic when I see Aaralyn perched on top of one of the rock formations. She smiles a wicked smile at me. I'm her prey.
Just as I think it's over, I realize something, she doesn't have a way down; I still have time to escape. She seems to get this seconds after I do, she spins in a circle, and I see her contemplating weather or not to jump. She decides against it, and awkwardly begins to climb down.
I have my knife, but she is already halfway down. I'm cutting furiously, I have to make a hole in this net big enough to get through, but it's difficult; the net's tough.
I have a hole big enough to slip an arm trough, but she only has a few more feet to go. I'm so close, I stick my head through, but my shoulders are still too wide. Out of the corner of my eye I see Aaralyn stumble, almost loosing her grip on the rock she is scaling, giving me a few more valuable seconds to cut myself loose.
Then, just as all hope is lost, I do it, I squeeze through the hole. I hear Aaralyn drop to the ground behind me but I don't dare look back. I start to sprint away, but something is wrong. My foot is still caught on the net.
I fall forward, and barley brace myself for the fall in time. I yank my foot out as fast as I can. I know by now Aaralyn is only a few steps behind me, so I take off, running faster than I ever have before.
"How much food is left?" I ask as Chace goes through our supplies.
"A bit, maybe enough for two days." He says without emotion. "Can you hunt at all?"
"I'm not the best; I think we should try to raid some other tributes." I try to be just as noncelaunt as he is.
"Yeah, I think that's the best way to restock," he says it simply, like we are going to the market to pick up groceries. I don't know what to think of my only ally. He could cut down any of the rest of us with ease, except for maybe Storm. But he is smart too, perhaps too smart for his own good. I don't know if I could trust him.
He knew that once Storm had the advantage we were expendable to the rest of the careers. So when would I become expendable to Chace? Would he stab me in the back as soon as he had the advantage? He seems so secretive, like he is covering something up. Maybe he is just as nervous about me as I am of him?
The two of us seem to keep covering things up, but there are moments of genuineness. Maybe I really can trust him. For now I will have to, we are keeping each other alive. The one thing I know for sure is that I do not want to die. As long as Chace wants to stay alive too he has my back. I can worry about trusting him later, for now we need each other.
"It looks like someone set up camp down the river, but they are long gone" Chace says staring off into the distance.
"Is it worth checking out?" I ask.
"Don't think so, no way of knowing which they went."
"Well, then where should we head next?" We'd hoped that we could find some tributes along the river but that seems not to have worked.
"Let's head into the middle of the arena." Chace says with conviction.
"Why, there is nothing out there but rocks? We will find someone if we follow the river."
"I'm sure we will, and chances are good that could be the rest of the careers. They need water for three and will be looking for other tributes. Besides any tributes we find in that wasteland are sure to be well stocked. What do you think Ace?"
The last thing he says takes me a bit by surprise. Chace has never asked me if I agree with his plans. We have always just done whatever he thinks we should do. I haven't had a reason to disagree before, and I don't now.
Still, it's nice to be asked.
My jug of water is nearly empty.
It looks like it's time for a refill, which will mean going out into the arena, leaving my perfectly hidden, albeit painful, hiding spot. I know there is a river or stream somewhere around here; I could hear it last night as I tried to fall asleep.
I decide to leave my supplies, except of course my water jug and weapon. I plan on coming back here once my jug is refilled. If I never make it back, it won't be because I've found another place to camp.
It isn't hard to find the river; I just let my ears guide me. It takes maybe an hour to get there I have to hack and chop through all the thorns. At least on the way back it will be easier. I just hope I haven't made too clear a path to myself. I wouldn't put it past Maruis to sneak in after me.
The river actually seems to run along the entire sea of thorns on the opposite side of the cornucopia. Now I know where I can easily get water, I can come back every few days to restock.
As I'm bending down to fill my jug I feel the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. I swivel around, ax in hand. Kasha is about a hundred yards away; she must have just noticed me too. Her gaze is unblinking.
We both understand what will happen next. There will be no running, no hiding, just a fight to the death. There is no point exhausting ourselves, running toward each other, instead we maintain a slow pace towards one another.
I know exactly what Kasha is capable of. I saw her run after Matt during the bloodbath, and then hours later he was confirmed dead. I haven't forgotten her training score, an 8, better than my own.
I know she doesn't want to kill me, just like I don't want to kill her. That doesn't mean either of us will show any hesitation. We won't enjoy what we are doing, like Storm or Marius, but that doesn't really help you kill someone anyway.
We've stopped advancing about ten feet from one another. Each of us is waiting for someone to make the first move. We stare right into each other's eyes. Hers are hazel. She really is a pretty girl, it a shame that I'm about to try to ruin that pretty face.