Chapter 32

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  A canon blast suddenly booms and makes me jump. A hovercraft appears over what we estimated to be the six to seven o'clock sector and a torn body of a Tribute is pulled up and is whisked away. I shudder at whatever lurks at six o'clock. Peeta draws a new map on a big leaf, adding JJ for jabberyjays at four to five o'clock and simply beast in the six o'clock section. The only positive of the jabberjay's attack on Finnick and Katniss - however horrible it may have been - is that we now know where we are on the clock face again.

For what feels like the hundredth time in the Games, I weave another water basket while Finnick works on a net for fishing. I sit by the edge of the water next to Katniss and watch Finnick fish.

"I like your hair, Anna," Katniss says randomly as she cleans the fish Finnick catches. "Suits you."

I laugh and rake a hand through it. "Thanks...I doubt Effie shares your opinion. She'd kill me."

She laughs too, and then we fall silent as the sun drops from the horizon and night falls. The moon has already begun to rise and casts an eerie twilight over the arena. We settle for our meal of raw fish when the anthem places and then the faces appear... Cashmere, Gloss, Wiress, the woman from District 5, the morphling who gave her life for Peeta, Blight and the man from 10. Seven Tributes dead. Plus eight from the other night. Just under two thirds of us gone in less than two days.

"They're really burning through us," Johanna remarks.

"Who's left? Besides us five and District Two?" asks Finnick.

"Chaff," I say immediately. I'd been keeping an eye out at night for Chaff's face in the sky, for Haymitch. Although, when it came down to it, both of us will die. And then suddenly a parachute comes down with a pile of bite-sized square-shaped rolls.

"These are from your district, right, Beetee?" Peeta asks.

"Yes, from District Three," he says. "How many are there?"

Finnick counts them, turning each one over in his hands before he sets it in a neat configuration. He seems obsessed with handling it and I bite my lip in concern. "Twenty-four," he says.

"An even two dozen, then?" says Beetee.

"Twenty-four on the nose," says Finnick. "How should we divide them?"

"Let's each have two and a half, and whoever is still alive at breakfast can take a vote on the rest," says Johanna and Katniss laughs a little.

We wait until the giant wave has flooded out of the ten-to-eleven-o'clock section, wait for the water to ebb away, and then go to the beach to make camp. In theory, we should have a full twelve hours of safety from the jungle - but that will virtually be impossible without running in to any other tributes. There's an unpleasant chorus of clicking, probably from some evil type of insect, coming from the eleven-to-twelve-o'clock wedge. But whatever is making the sound stays within the confines of the jungle and we keep off that part of the beach in case they're just waiting for a carelessly placed footfall to swarm out.

Peeta and Katniss volunteer for the first watch because they said they're better rested, and because we want some time alone. The others go out immediately, although Finnick's sleep is restless and I can see him tossing and turning from where he lays. I get up from my own spot and slide down next to him. His hands instantly wind around my waist and his chin finds my neck. His breath tickles my skin and I can feel his scratchy stubble.

"Are you alright?" I whisper to him, clasping his hands in mine.

"Better know I love you, correct?" He mumbles.

I frown. "Yes...I love you, too."

"And I would protect you with my life,"

"Finnick?" I'm confused by his strange talk.

"Don't worry. I just wanted to make sure you knew. I love you," he murmurs before his breath steadies.

I cast aside my worries and relax into him, before falling asleep myself.


Another parachute is falling down from the artificial sky. Katniss wakes and joins us for a second delivery of bread. It's identical to the one we received the night before. Twenty four rolls from District 3. That gives us thirty-three in all. We each take four, leaving nine in reserve for who's alive the next time. I lose my appetite swiftly, but still swallow the bread. The Games are running fast, the tributes dropping fast. I suppose it's because now we're all trained killers - not inexperienced tributes fresh from the District. Not even the usual bunch of Careers could kill as well as we can. And it's brutal.

I sit by Finnick and comb my hair with my fingers. The length is strange but now it feels fresh. It feels like each time in the Games, I change in to a new person. And I hope it's for the better. This time, however, I have people I love around me. And I can't yet discern if that is a good or a bad thing yet.

"Hey, Finnick, Vivianna!" Katniss calls out to us from where she and Peeta are swimming. "We figured out how to make you pretty again!"

We slide into the water, and the sense of familiarity and safety envelops me. Katniss shows us how to rid ourselves of the left over scabs from the fog attack and the four of us scour all the scabs from our bodies, helping with the others' backs, and come out the same pink as the sky. We apply another round of medicine because the skin seems too delicate for the sunlight, but it doesn't look half as bad on smooth skin and will be good camouflage in the jungle. Beetee calls us over, and tells us that during all those hours of fiddling with wire, he has finally come up with a plan.

"I think we'll all agree our next job is to kill Brutus and Enobaria," he says mildly. "I doubt they'll attack us openly again, now that they're so outnumbered. We could track them down, I suppose, but it's dangerous, exhausting work."

"Do you think they've figured out about the clock?" I ask.

"If they haven't, they'll figure it out soon enough. Perhaps not as specifically as we have. But they must know that at least some of the zones are wired for attacks and that they're reoccurring in a circular fashion. Also, the fact that our last fight was cut off by Gamemaker intervention will not have gone unnoticed by them. We know it was an attempt to disorient us, but they must be asking themselves why it was done, and this, too, may lead them to the realization that the arena's a clock," says Beetee. "So I think our best bet will be setting our own trap."

"Wait, let me get Johanna up," says Finnick. "She'll be rabid if she thinks she missed something this important."

"And he's not joking," I add, sharing a smile with Peeta. When she's joined us, Beetee shifts us all back a few feet so he can have room to work in the sand. He swiftly draws a large circle and divides it into twelve wedges. It's the arena, not drawn with the same precision as Peeta's, but in the rough lines of a man whose mind is occupied by other, far more complex things. "If you were Brutus and Enobaria, knowing what you do now about the jungle, where would you feel safest?" Beetee asks.

"Where we are now. On the beach," says Peeta. "It's the safest place."

"So why aren't they on the beach?" says Beetee.

"Because we're here," says Johanna impatiently.

"Exactly. We're here, claiming the beach. Now where would you go?" says Beetee.

"I'd hide just at the edge of the jungle. So I could escape if an attack came. And so I could spy on us." Katniss says.

"Also to eat," I say.

Finnick nods and adds, "The jungle's full of strange creatures and plants. But by watching us, I'd know the seafood's safe."

Beetee smiles at us as if we've pleased him. "Yes, good. You do see. Now here's what I propose: a twelve o'clock strike. What happens exactly at noon and at midnight?"

"The lightning bolt hits the tree," I say.

"Yes. So what I'm suggesting is that after the bolt hits at noon, but before it hits at midnight, we run my wire from that tree all the way down into the saltwater, which is, of course, highly conductive. When the bolt strikes, the electricity will travel down the wire and into not only the water but also the surrounding beach, which will still be damp from the ten o'clock wave. Anyone in contact with those surfaces at that moment will be electrocuted," says Beetee. There's a long pause while we all absorb Beetee's plan. It seems incredibly calculated but difficult to execute. It'll be risky...but the results will be worth it.

"Will that wire really be able to conduct that much power, Beetee?" Peeta asks. "It looks so fragile, like it would just burn up."

"Oh, it will. But not until the current has passed through it. It will act something like a fuse, in fact. Except the electricity will travel along it," says Beetee.

"How do you know?" asks Johanna, clearly not convinced.

"Because I invented it," says Beetee, as if slightly surprised. "It's not actually wire in the usual sense. Nor is the lightning natural lightning nor the tree a real tree. You know trees better than any of us, Johanna. It would be destroyed by now, wouldn't it?"

"Yes," she says glumly.

"Don't worry about the wire — it will do just what I say," Beetee assures us.

"And where will we be when this happens?" asks Finnick.

"Far enough up in the jungle to be safe," Beetee replies.

"The Careers will be safe, too, then, unless they're in the vicinity of the water," I point out.

"That's right," says Beetee.

"But all the seafood will be cooked," says Peeta.

"Probably more than cooked," says Beetee. "We will most likely be eliminating that as a food source for good. But you found other edible things in the jungle, right, Katniss?"

"Yes. Nuts and rats," she says.

"And we have sponsors," I add.

"Well, then. I don't see that as a problem," says Beetee. "But as we are allies and this will require all our efforts, the decision of whether or not to attempt it is up to you four."

"Why not?" Katniss shrugs after we're all thinking through it, probably looking fairly skeptical. "If it fails, there's no harm done. If it works, there's a decent chance we'll kill them. And even if we don't and just kill the seafood, Brutus and Enobaria lose it as a food source, too."

"I say we try it," says Peeta. "Katniss is right."

Finnick looks at Johanna and I and raises his eyebrows - making a silent unanimous vote. "All right," she says finally. "It's better than hunting them down in the jungle, anyway. And I doubt they'll figure out our plan, since we can barely understand it ourselves."

Beetee wants to inspect the lightning tree before he has to rig it. Judging by the sun, it's about nine in the morning. We have to leave our beach soon, anyway. So we break camp, walk over to the beach that borders the lightning section, and head into the jungle. Beetee's still too weak to hike up the slope on his own, so Finnick and Peeta take turns carrying him. Johanna and I lead because it's a pretty straight shot up to the tree, and we figure we can't get us all too lost. Besides, I suppose Katniss thinks she can do a lot more damage with a sheath of arrows if there's any threats than Johanna and I can with two axes and a few knives. The dense, muggy air weighs on me like rocks on my shoulders. There's been no break from it since the Games began. I wish Haymitch would stop sending us that District 3 bread and get us some fresh cold water. I'm grateful for the fluid from the trees, but it's the same temperature as the seawater and the air and the other tributes and me. We're all just one big, warm stew. As we near the tree, Finnick suggests Katniss takes the lead. "Katniss can hear the force field," he explains to Beetee and Johanna.

"Hear it?" asks Beetee.

"Only with the ear the Capitol reconstructed," she says.

"Then by all means, let Katniss go first," he says, pausing a moment to wipe the steam off his glasses. "Force fields are nothing to play around with."

The lightning tree's unmistakable as it towers so high above the others. Katniss and I collect a bunch of nuts and make everybody wait while she moves slowly up the slope, tossing the nuts ahead of her. She throws a nut directly in front of her and we hear it sizzle in confirmation. "Just stay below the lightning tree," she instructs us. We divide up duties. Finnick and I guard Beetee while he examines the tree, Johanna taps for water, Peeta gathers nuts, and Katniss hunts nearby.

Beetee takes measurements of the tree, doing technical things I can barely even begin to comprehend. Instead, I hold my weapons tightly, ready for any threats. I relax my shoulders and roll my neck to sooth my aching muscles.

"That's some grip you have," Finnick grins and eyes the knife in my hand. My knuckles are white and the palm of my hand red and angry.

I loosen my hold on it. "Knives were my best weapon in my Games,"

He nods. "I remember watching," I'm taken aback slightly having never thought that Finnick would have seen my own Games. Seen me change...seen the horrors and the fog and killing my final opponent. "I've been enthralled by you since I saw you. I remembered you instantly, when I first heard your name being called. I'll never forget hearing your name."

"It's not something I'll forget either," I nod solemnly. The first day I met Effie, and Haymitch, and traveled to the Capitol. And Cinna. I miss Cinna. Is he watching now? Are they all watching?

"Well, that explains a lot," says Beetee suddenly as he snaps off a sliver of bark, joins us, and throws it against the force field. It bounces back and lands on the ground, glowing. In a few moments it returns to its original color. I let out a quiet breathy laugh and share a grin with Finnick.

About this time we hear the sound of clicks rising from the sector next to us - eleven o'clock. It's far louder in the jungle than it was on the beach last night and we all listen intently. "It's not mechanical," Beetee says decidedly.

"I'd guess insects," I suggest.

"Maybe beetles." Katniss adds.

"Something with pincers," adds Finnick. The sound suddenly rises, as if alerted by our quiet words to the proximity of live flesh. I edge closer to Finnick, feeling weary despite the fact it can't reach us. Whatever is making that clicking...I have no doubt it could strip us to the bone in seconds.

"We should get out of here, anyway," says Johanna. "There's less than an hour before the lightning starts."   

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