Chapter 33

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We don't stray too far - only to the identical tree in the blood-rain section. We have a makeshift picnic, squatting on the ground, eating our jungle food, waiting for the bolt that signals noon. At Beetee's request, Katniss climbs up into the canopy as the clicking begins to fade out. When the lightning strikes, it's dazzling, even from here. Eventually she swings back down and reports her findings to Beetee, who seems satisfied, even if she's not terribly scientific.

We take a circular route back to the ten o'clock beach. The sand is smooth and damp, swept clean by the recent wave. Beetee gives us the afternoon off while he works with the wire. At first we take turns having naps in the shadowy edge of the jungle, but by late afternoon everyone is awake and restless. We decide, since this might be our last chance for seafood, to make a sort of feast of it. Under Finnick's guidance we spear fish and gather shellfish, even dive for oysters. I find myself smiling as I do - and reminisce about a time when Finnick and I would go diving in the summertime. It feels so far away now.

Johanna keeps watch while Finnick, Peeta, Katniss and I clean and lay out the seafood. Peeta's just pried open an oyster when I hear him give a laugh. "Hey, look at this!" He holds up a glistening, perfect pearl about the size of a pea. "You know, if you put enough pressure on coal it turns to pearls," he says earnestly to Finnick.

"No, it doesn't," says Finnick dismissively. But Katniss and I begin to crack up, remembering that's how a clueless Effie Trinket presented them to the people of the Capitol last year, before anyone knew them. As coal pressured into pearls by our weighty existence. Beauty that arose out of pain.

Peeta rinses the pearl off in the water and hands it to Katniss and I smile at the sweet gesture. "For you." she holds it out on her palm and examines its iridescent surface in the sunlight, which glints over to me even from where I sit.

"The locket didn't work, did it?" Peeta says, and I frown. What locket? "Katniss?"

"It worked," she replies.

"But not the way I wanted it to," he averts his glance and I share a shrug with Finnick.

Just as we're about to eat, a third parachute appears bearing two supplements to our meal. A small pot of spicy red sauce and yet another round of rolls from District 3. Finnick, of course, immediately counts them, and I bite my lip again. Why is he so obsessed? "Twenty-four again," he says. Thirty-two rolls, then. So we each take four, leaving eight, which will never divide equally. It's bread for only one.

I enjoy the salty fish flesh and the succulent shellfish. Even the oysters seem tasty to Katniss, vastly improved by the sauce. We indulge ourselves until no one can hold another bite, and even then there are leftovers. They won't keep long, though, so we toss all the remaining food back into the water so the Careers won't get it when we leave. No one bothers about the shells. The wave should clear those away. There's nothing to do now but wait.

The anthem begins, but there are no faces in the sky tonight and in a strange way, I find myself agitated by this. The audience will be restless, thirsting for blood. Beetee's trap holds enough promise, though, that the Gamemakers haven't sent in other attacks. Perhaps they are simply curious to see if it will work.

At what Finnick and I judge to be about nine, we leave our shell-strewn camp, cross to the twelve o'clock beach, and begin to quietly hike up to the lightning tree in the light of the moon. Our full stomachs make us more uncomfortable and breathless than we were on the morning's climb.

Beetee asks Finnick to assist him, and the rest of us stand guard. Before he even attaches any wire to the tree, Beetee unrolls yards and yards of the stuff. He has Finnick secure it tightly around a broken branch and lay it on the ground. Then they stand on either side of the tree, passing the spool back and forth as they wrap the wire around and around the trunk. At first it seems a bit haphazard, then I see a pattern, like an intricate maze, appearing in the moonlight on Beetee's side. I wonder if it makes any difference how the wire's placed, or if this is merely to add to the speculation of the audience. I bet most of them know as much about electricity as I do - a minute amount.

The work on the trunk's completed just as we hear the wave begin. I've never worked out at what point in the ten o'clock hour it erupts. There must be some buildup, then the wave itself, then the aftermath of the flooding. But the sky tells me ten-thirty. This is when Beetee reveals the rest of the plan. Since we move most swiftly through the trees, he wants Johanna, Katniss and me to take the coil down through the jungle, unwinding the wire as we go. We are to lay it across the twelve o'clock beach and drop the metal spool, with whatever is left, deep into the water, making sure it sinks. Then run for the jungle. If we go now, right now, we should make it to safety.

"I want to go with them as a guard," Peeta says immediately.

"You're too slow. Besides, I'll need you on this end. Katniss and Vivianna will guard," says Beetee. "There's no time to debate this. I'm sorry. If the girls are to get out of there alive, they need to move now." He hands the coil to Johanna.

"It's okay," Katniss tells Peeta. "We'll just drop the coil and come straight back up."

"Not into the lightning zone," Beetee reminds us. "Head for the tree in the one-to-twoo'clock sector. If you find you're running out of time, move over one more. Don't even think about going back on the beach, though, until I can assess the damage."

Katniss takes Peeta's face in her hands. "Don't worry. I'll see you at midnight." she give him a kiss and, before he can object any further, she lets go.

"Anna..." Finnick comes up and grasps my hands in his. "Be safe." he plants a soft kiss on my forehead and pulls me into his chest. I can feel his chest rising up and falling fast, as if he's trying to hold it together. My eyes fill up with tears.

"I will be. You be safe, too," I whisper to him. "I love you so much."

"I love you, too. Always remember that," he pulls away and kisses me hard before letting me go and we're both so choked up. I simply nod and turn to Johanna.

"Ready?"

"Why not?" says Johanna with a shrug. She's clearly not happy about being teamed up with Katniss than Katniss is, but for the sake of the plan I hope they can tolerate each other. "You two guard, I'll unwind. We can trade off later."

Without further discussion, we head down the slope. In fact there's very little discussion between us at all. We move at a pretty good clip, one manning the coil, the other keeping watch. About halfway down, we hear the clicking beginning to rise, indicating it's after eleven.

"Better hurry," I warn.

Johanna nods. "I want to put a lot of distance between me and that water before the lightning hits. Just in case Volts miscalculated something."

"I'll take the coil for a while," Katniss suggests.

"Here," Johanna says, passing her the coil. Both of their hands are still on the metal cylinder when I see that there's a slight vibration. Suddenly the thin golden wire from above springs down at us, bunching in tangled loops and curls around our wrists. Then the severed end snakes up to our feet. It only takes a second to register this rapid turn of events. Johanna, Katniss and I look at each other, but neither of us has to say it. Someone not far above us has cut the wire. And they will be on us at any moment.

"I'll go look for trouble," I say immediately and begin to head back up towards the slope, knives at the ready.

"Anna - no!" Johanna protests but I'm already far away.

And suddenly I'm lost. Far away from Finnick, Beetee and Peeta, and too far up to hear Johanna and Katniss. I'm utterly lost.

I set out into a run and try to find my tracks, but they're lost in the springy floor of the jungle. I stop and begin to turn in circles, frantic and scared. I'm alone. I need to get back to Finnick.

"Lost without our friends, are we?" a voice appears behind me and I whip my head around rapidly to see Brutus stood before me, knife in hand, smirk across his lips. I notice Enobaria's absence.

"I could say the same about you," I bite back through my teeth.

He growls and launches at me, swinging his arm around but I duck and swipe my knife at his leg. He growls again and regains his stance. I lurch forward and I attempt to bury my knife in his chest but he bats aside my hand and I lose grip on one of my knives. I stumble, but kick him backwards for distance. He runs towards me and before I can retaliate, he grips my neck and slams me back against the tree behind me, my head colliding hard with the wood. My head is dazed and his grip on my neck is tight, squeezing the air from my lungs.

"I've been looking forward to killing you for a while," Brutus sneers at me and presses me harder back. My vision blurs at the edges and I can hardly think. "I'm going to make it nice and-"

Before he can finish his sentence, I lift my arm and plunge my final knife into his chest - right on his heart. He drops me and we both crash to the ground, him slumped backwards and me on my knees, gasping for air. My neck is sore and I massage my neck. And then a cannon booms, signifying his death.

I stand up but I'm weak and stumbling, practically falling all the way back up the slope, heading in an unknown direction, praying I'm going the right way. I trip and fall to the ground, barely alive.

"Anna!" I hear someone call out and I try to lift my head. I can hear Finnick but he's nowhere near me.

"Finnick!" I try to scream to him but all that comes out is a breathy whisper, and I begin to cry, desperate.

"Anna! Where are you?!" I can hear the pain in his voice and it wills me to stand up but my legs are shaky and almost cave out.

And then we see each other - barely. He's far away and there are too many obstacles. As soon as he steps forward to reach me, there's a huge flood of electricity and I'm flung backwards.

There are flames and explosions and I'm crying, lying in the ground, surely dying.

I see a crane above me and just as it lifts me up, I let out a pathetic "Finnick!" and then I slip down, down, down into an obsidian cloak.   


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