Chapter 16

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Once it's fully processed what we're seeing, Katniss grabs my hand and we quickly leave the room - and the television - and start off down the hall, just in time to see Mayor Undersee come up the steps only seconds later. Katniss sends him a wave and I give him a polite smile.

''Looking for Madge?'' he asks us, his voice friendly and kind.

''Yes, we want to show her our dresses,'' Katniss replies, not showing any hint that we've just witnessed an uprising.

''Well, you know where to find her,'' and then we hear another set of beeps coming from the study we left behind. His face turned grave. ''Excuse me,'' he left and closed his study door firmly.

I let out a long, shaky breath, Katniss composing herself, too. ''Katniss? What are we going to do?''

I sounded strange me asking that. I was the mentor, I was Katniss' mentor. She was supposed to look up to me, but I find myself in an unknown situation looking up to someone younger than me and with less experience with the Games. However, she was the one who stirred the Capitol - something that I praise her for, hating the Capitol myself. There's only one person I can think of who would know what to do, and I don't particularly want to talk to him right now. Haymitch.

''We don't show emotion towards it. No one knows. Nothing happened, we saw nothing. We'll talk later,'' says Katniss, a stern tone now apparent in her voice. I simply nod and we set off to Madge's room. She's sat at her dressing table, completely unaware and brushing out her wavy blonde hair, wearing a pretty white dress. When she noticed Katniss and I in the mirror, she smiled at us. ''Look at you two! Like you came right off the streets of the Capitol.''

I groan. I hate looking like the epitome of the Capitol. It's a curse, really.

Katniss steps closer, her fingers rested softly on her mockingjay pin. ''Even my pin now. Mockingjays are all the rage in the Capitol, thanks to you. Are you sure you don't want it back?''

''Don't be silly, it was a gift,'' Madge says kindly, tying her hair back with a very festive gold ribbon.

''Where did you get it, anyway?'' I ask.

''It was my aunt's,'' she says. ''But I think it's been in the family a long time.''

''It's a funny choice, a mockingjay,'' Katniss observes. ''I mean, because of what happened in the rebellion. With the jabber-jays backfiring on the Capitol and all.''

''But mockingjays were never a weapon,'' Madge responds. ''They're just songbirds, right?''

''Yeah, I guess so,'' Katniss shrugs but we both know it's not true. A mockingjay wasn't supposed to be created. They were the product of jabber-jays, mutations of the Capitol, and mockingbirds. And we all know the Capitol hate mistakes.

~

I'm walking with Peeta, enjoying the company of a friend, when we run into Katniss. It's after the Harvest Festival, the weather turning icy and cold.

''Been hunting?'' Peeta asks Katniss, disapproval in his voice.

''Not really. You two going to town?'' she asks.

''Yes. I'm supposed to eat dinner with my family and Vivianna wanted to say hi to my brother,''

''Well, I can at least walk you two in,'' so we start walking, in a strange silence. After a while, Katniss breaks it. ''Peeta, if I asked you to run away from the district with me, would you?''

This surprises me. Peeta grabs Katniss' arm and stops her. ''Depends on why you're asking.''

''President Snow wasn't convinced by me,'' my heart drops, defeated, at this. ''There's an uprising in District Eight, you know this Anna. We have to get out.''

''By 'we' do you mean just you and me? No. Who else would be going?'' Peeta asks her.

''My family. Yours, if they would come. Vivianna, you too. Haymitch, maybe.''

''I'm in,'' I nod, having nothing left to lose.

''What about Gale?'' Peeta wonders.

''I don't know. He might have other plans.''

Peeta shakes his head and gives Katniss a rueful smile. ''I bet he does. Sure, Katniss, I'll go.''

''You will?''

''Yeah,'' he says. ''But I don't think for a minute you will.''

Katniss jerks her arm away. ''Then you don't know me. Be ready. It could be anytime.''

She takes off walking. Peeta and I share a glance before following.

''Katniss,'' Peeta says but she ignores him.

''Katniss, wait!'' I call to her. She kicks a dirty, frozen chunk of snow off the path and lets us catch up.

''I really will you, if you want me to. Anna will, too. I just think we better talk it through with Haymitch. Make sure we wont be making things worse for everyone.'' Peeta says.

I hear a strange noise coming from the square. Peeta and I lift our heads. ''What's that?'' I ask him but he doesn't know. Katniss lifts her chin just in time to hear it again; a whistling, the sound of impact against something solid, but soft, then the sharp intake of breath from a crowd. I know what that is. My stomach flips, my heart drops.

''Come on,'' Peet says, his face hard.

When we reach the square, the crowd blocks our view. Peeta steps up on a crate against the wall of the sweetshop and offers Katniss a hand while he scans the square. When she's halfway up, he blocks her way. ''Get down. Get out of here, both of you!'' he's whispering but his voice is harsh and insistent.

''What?'' Katniss asks, trying to force her way back up but Peeta stops her, and sends me a pleading look.

''Come on,'' I mumble, trying to pull her back down.

''Go home, Katniss! I'll be there in a minute, I swear!''

Katniss pulls her hand away and begins to push through the crowd. I follow after her, instantly. People recognise her, and me, and try to push us back.

''Get out of here, girl.''

''Only make it worse.''

''What do you want to do? Get him killed?''

Katniss emerges in the square seconds before me. My breath catches and I can't breath.
Gale's wrists are bound to a wooden post. A wild turkey is hanging above him, a nail driven through it's neck. A jacket, presumably Gale's, is cast away, torn. He's slumped, unconscious, on his knees, only held up by his wrists, his back now raw and bloody. Standing behind him is a new man in the Head Peacekeeper uniform. What happened to Cray? And then he raises the whip.

''No!'' Katniss cries and rushes forward. It's too late for the new man to stop, so he ends up hitting Katniss' face with his whip.

''Katniss!'' I exclaim and run to catch her as she falls to her knees, the stones beneath her stained red with Gale's blood.

''Stop it! You'll kill him!'' Katniss shrieks, holding her injured cheek.

''Enough!'' I say sternly, protecting Katniss and looking hard at the man. He looks cruel and fierce. His arm lifts again, this time aiming for me. His eyes lock with mine as he's about to hit me.

''Hold it!'' I turn to see Haymitch, never so glad to see him before. He trips over another unconscious body, this time it's Darius. Haymitch reaches us, pulling us to our feet. He checks over Katniss' face. ''Oh excellent. She's got a photo shoot next week modelling wedding dresses. What am I supposed to tell her stylist?''

I glare at the new Peacekeeper, his eyes flickering with recognition as he looks at Katniss. At first sight, it must be hard to know who Katniss is, away from the glamour of the Capitol. But he recognises Haymitch and I, having shown up on television for several years.

The man rests his hand on his whip. ''They interrupted the punishment of a criminal.''

I shudder at the sound of his voice, his strange accent adding extra threat.

''I don't care if they blew up the blasted Justice Building! Look at her cheek!'' Haymitch snarls, pointing at Katniss' swollen cheek. ''Think that will be camera ready in a week?''

The mans voice is still cold but there is a hint of doubt in it now. ''That's not my problem.''

''No? Well, it's about to be, my friend. The first call I make when I get home is to the Capitol. Find out who authorised you to mess up my victor's pretty little face and why you were about to attack the Capitols favourite female victor!''

''He was poaching. What business is it of hers, anyway?'' the man asks.

''He's her cousin,'' Peeta comes up and puts his arm on Katniss'. ''And she-'' he nods to me. ''-was our mentor. And she's my fiancé. So if you want to get to him, expect to go through the three of us.''

Inwardly, I freak out. The Capitol will hate that the only four people who probably can say anything, stood up to it. We're in for it.

One woman, Purnia, breaks away from the crowd of back-up Peacekeepers, who evidently aren't enjoying the show in front of them. ''I believe, for a first offence, the required number of lashes has been dispensed, sir. Unless your sentence is death, which we would carry out by a firing squad.''

''Is that standard protocol here?'' the cruel Head Peacekeeper asks her.

''Yes, sir,'' Purnia confirms and the other Peacekeepers nod.

''Very well. Get your cousin out of here, then, girl. And if he comes to, remind him that next time he poaches off the Capitol's land, I'll assemble the firing squad personally.'' He wipes his across the length of his whip, splattering us with blood. He coils it up before walking off, as he does I glare at his back.

''Gale,'' Katniss breathes. She turns and fumbles with the ropes binding him. Someone passes a knife forward and Peeta cuts the ropes, Gale collapsing on the ground.

I don't really know Gale that well. I've met him before, he was very nice, and Katniss seems to like him. I know they're not cousins, having heard enough about him and the way he feels towards Katniss, from Katniss herself and Peeta. I still don't like to see him like this. I don't like to see anyone like this.

''Better get him to your mother,'' Haymitch says to her.

Once Gale is set on a makeshift stretcher (a board), there's only a few people who help carry him up to Katniss' house.

I take Katniss' hand, another girl - Leevy - taking her other.

''Need help getting back?'' Leevy asks her kindly but we can see she's scared.

''No thank you, I have Anna. But can you get Hazelle? Send her over?'' Katniss asks her.

''Yeah,'' Leevy turns on her heel but Katniss calls her back.

''Leevy! Don't let her bring the kids,''

''No, I'll stay with them myself,'' and she runs off.

''Come on, let's go,'' I say, picking up Gale's jacket and handing it to Katniss before we hurry back to the others.


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