The elevators. Sometimes they made Sebastian feel uncomfortable. He didn’t know if this meant he was claustrophobic because he hadn’t really had the chance to figure that out before. The place he grew up in was a ranch and it was a huge open space. Before being reaped, he didn’t have to be in a closed space. Come to think of it, the first time he had ever felt scared of being trapped was when he’d been ushered into that room in the Justice Building. All his life, that was the only time Seb could remember being afraid to be closed off. So that could be one of the reasons.
But then there was this other probable reason. Whenever he saw an elevator, he couldn’t stop thinking about that little glass tube that rises from the ground and brings a tribute up to the Arena every start of the Games. Whenever he saw an enclosed box rising up and dropping down, he couldn’t help but picture himself being lifted up to the Arena, finally being stripped of his last attachment to the real world.
Seb didn’t know for sure which of those two was the reason. He didn’t know if he was naturally scared of being trapped or if this was all just because of the Games, like everything was. So instead of using the elevator, he just went for the stairs. Now that, if you weren’t a tribute in need of intense training, might seem like an idiotic thing to do since he resided in the tenth floor. But the thing was…he was a tribute, so this could also be counted as a form of training, a form of exercise.
It didn’t take Seb long to reach the tenth floor. Since it was fairly high, along his trek, he tried to occupy his mind of other things to keep him distracted so that he wouldn’t feel very tired. He only stopped climbing when he reckoned he’d already reached his floor. He had already counted ten in his mind, right? Ten? or Nine? or Eleven? Whatever.
His head was bowed down, focused on the material that the carpet was made of. Due to this, he didn’t realize someone else was heading his way and the next thing he knew, he’d already bumped into another person. When he looked up, it was a girl who wore a training uniform. She wasn’t Tempest. So who the hell was she?
“Who are you? What are you doing here in the tenth floor? You’re not supposed to be here, you’re not from Ten.”
Sebastian looked around the training room, his eyes roaming the different stations. He was having this urge to try and learn something new, something he didn’t have any knowledge of. Having only three days of training was limiting. If they were going to have to live through the Games, survive through it, they’d need all the abilities they could learn. And with only three days, well, there wasn’t much time left. What he needed to do now was to learn as much knowledge as possible about survival and acquire as many abilities as he could. So now, that was what he was going to do.
After much looking around, debating in his mind which of the foreign stations to try out first, Seb’s eyes landed on the edible plants section. Having grown up in District 10, he was more knowledgeable about live animals, hunting them and turning them to food. But when it came to plants and knowing which were poisonous, well, he was as good as dead. So, deciding to try it out first, he took a deep breath, rubbed his hands together, and made his way towards the station, not even letting the fact that it was already occupied dampen his resolve.
When he reached the station, Seb had decided to just observe what the female tribute currently engrossed in the different plants was doing, try to get any ideas as to what this station was all about. But when Seb looked up, he noticed that the trainer assigned to the station was shooting him suspicious looks. The female trainer glared at him and eyed him carefully, seeming to think he was going to cause trouble for the busy tribute occupying the station. Seb rolled his eyes. Yes, maybe witnessing tributes clawing at each other’s throats while training wasn’t a very uncommon event for trainers. But, bloody hell, not everyone was actually looking for trouble. They were too judgmental, it irritated him a bit. So instead of walking away, Seb looked back at the trainer and clamped his hands behind his back and raised a daring set of eyebrows at the trainer. Without a word, he walked towards the female tribute.
Now, he didn’t know who this tribute was. There was a number 8 printed on the back of her training uniform so she was surely from District 8. But aside from that, Seb didn’t know anything else about her. This lack of information, though, instead of being a hindrance to Seb’s enthusiasm, had only urged him more. Wanting to tease the suspicious trainer, Seb stepped behind and a little to the right of the tribute to make the trainer assume he was planning something. He extracted his left arm from behind him and tapped the girl’s left shoulder just as he stepped further to right of her, letting her assume he was on her left. And then, he waited for her to look around, his beam already in place. “That trainer seems to think I’m going to choke you or something when all I really want is to learn about plants. So judgmental, these people here.”
“Hard to believe considering everyone over her has ulterior motives.” Danica shrugged. “Also, if you make friends training is kind of a waste because you won’t be able to kill anyone.”
“Obviously.” she frowned “Any person with half a brain and half a heart would prefer to operate alone.” she frowned as she continued “It’s sick that people get together to kill other people and then kill the very person who they were ‘allies’ with.” She grinned as she looked up at him “And as bad as you are, I’ll be surprised if you cal kill without crying or something.” Danica had been surprisingly intuitive ever since she was born. It was something of a superpower really. Making her glare even more stark she said “You’r adopted so getting back won’t really be that big a deal right?” she narrowed her eyes “Or would it? I mean, do they love you?”
“See what I just did there? That is why I have never had friends. They get creeped out.” she said in a rather matter of fact tone. It hardly bothered Danica that she didn’t have any friends. Friends were pretty useless. “No one goes against me back at my district though. They are kind of scared, actually.” she laughed a little. She thought being scared of a single person was incredibly absurd. Fear will never get you anywhere!
“You got me!” she laughed again “The human race. Ew.” Even though she said it in a humorous manner, she realised it was true. “There is no point. I’ve seen too many friends backstab each other.” she said seriously. “Friends are fake. If not always, most of the time. And I don’t want to take the risk.”
Seb raised an eyebrow and pondered over that little statement for a while before nodding slightly. It might not be completely true. Maybe not everyone had ulterior motives around here at the start, but most of the other do. And those who started without any motives eventually develop them as things about other tributes gets revealed. Especially when talents are revealed because then, people would know which ones were the stronger enemies who needed to be kept eyes carefully on.
“You’ve got a point.” Seb nodded. “But making friends right now doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll impede anything in the Arena. The Arena changes people, that’s what my mentor told me. So whatever happens with you or to you right now, you wouldn’t know if it’ll have an effect on how you act in the Arena, because you really don’t know what you’ll be like in there and what will change, not until you’re already there.”
“That’s not necessarily true as well, though. Forming an alliance doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be the ones to kill each other in the end. You can avoid that from happening if you want,” Seb started as he turned away from Danica, fixing his eyes in front of him, looking at the other occupants of the training room, but not really paying much attention. He just did it for the sake of having something to do. “If you know that there is already a small number of tributes left alive, then you can break the alliance and stay away from your allies so you wouldn’t have to kill each other.”
“Oh, really?” Seb turned his head back to look at Danica and leaned his head to one side as he stared into her eyes and took in how certain and sure she seemed about that little opinion she had of him. “You’ll be surprised if I end up being a killing machine or something? And you’re sure of that because? Do I look weak in your eyes?” He knew he should have been offended by what she said. After all, for a tribute, hearing someone say you don’t look like someone who could kill people wasn’t a good thing to hear since it suggested that you’d be weak in the Arena. But really, Seb didn’t want to be a monster. He knew he’d have to kill, but he didn’t want to be someone who sought people just so he could kill them. He didn’t want to be someone who killed and laughed at the face of the corpse. So instead of frowning, he only raised an eyebrow as a daring smile appeared on his lips, waiting for Danica to either deny what he’d just said or to admit it proudly. No matter which she choose, he’d be sure to have a playful retort ready.
For the span of their short conversation, Seb didn’t feel any heaviness clouding the atmosphere. It wasn’t exactly the most humourous and light of conversations, but it wasn’t heavy as well. It was just a normal conversation where two people talked about the most random things, talked about things that skimmed the surface of the questions that were personal for both of them. But as soon as the conversation veered towards the route of his family, he felt something shift. He knew he should have just steered clear of this. After all, he barely knew this person. He only had been this open to Robbie and to no one else. But as he thought back to his family, he realised he didn’t want to brush them away in every conversation he had just because he didn’t want to be to open to people. He did love his family and he knew they deserved to be appreciated. And if this was one of the ways he could show that he did love his family, then so be it. “They did love me. Do love me. They’re a wonderful family. They’ve been wonderful to me, but I don’t think I’ve been much appreciative of them during the past years. It’s not that I didn’t love them and show them that I did. It’s just that for the past few years, I didn’t think they were enough for me. And now I want to make it up to them, but to be honest, I don’t know if I ever will be able to because honestly, I don’t know what will happen to me during the Games.”
“Well, I don’t know what exactly it is about you that creeps them out, but I know what creeps me.” Seb raised his hand to his face, cradling his chin with his index finger and thumb in faux concentration. “It’s your eyes,” he said as he pointed to her strikingly blue eyes. “Don’t get me wrong, they’re beautiful. It’s just that you’re looking at me now as if you know each and every one of my secrets. And it is kinda creepy. You know, even guys prefer their secrets to remain secrets.”
Seb chuckled. “Yeah, the human race is disappointing, innit? I’ve always found that to be true, especially the race that lives here in this city.” He nodded to himself to emphasize his point. “But you know, there’s no harm in trying. At least you can tell yourself you have. Besides, if ever someone is backstabbing you, I honestly think you’ll be able to know. What with those psychic eyes you’ve got,” he teased as he pointed to her eyes with a chuckle. “And so when you already know, you can just kick their arses for backstabbing you or something.”
It was before dinner when Seb decided to just lounge in the common room of the District 10 floor. In his opinion, the day was productive. He’d learned a couple of new things in the training stations and he finally felt like he really was trying. At first, his lack of drive to train had made him a bit disappointed of himself. For the first day, he hadn’t really done any training. All he did was talk to people, talk to Robbie, but even so, he didn’t regret that. If he hadn’t talked to Robbie then, he wouldn’t have realized a lot of things. Talking to his mentor really had helped him think about things and understand the situation better. At least now that he could see thing in a clearer perspective, a perspective that wasn’t clouded with confusion and shock, he would be able to decide what he should do. Seb really did believe that talking was a good thing to do every once in a while in this place at this time. Only, there was one other person he wished he could really talk to.
He was just thinking that, juggling the decision of going around the floor and looking for his district partner to see if they could just talk when he spotted her walking in. He hadn’t talked to her much since arriving here. They’d just been casual around each other. Now, this was the first time Seb had been a tribute, of course, but he definitely knew that that wasn’t supposed to be the case between district partners. District partners should at least talk, right? So, inhaling deeply, he stood up from the sofa he’d been sitting on and instead leaned against it. He waited for her to pass by him before he spoke.
“Hey. I was wondering if we could talk? We hadn’t really talked about anything yet since arriving. And I just figured we should talk about stuff, decisions about alliances and all that,” he said as an excuse to talk to her. He actually didn’t know her decision about alliances, if she even wanted to ally with him or not, but he just wanted to talk to her. Try to get to know her. The knowledge of their familial connection was weighing heavier on his shoulder every passing second and he knew that the only way he could ease the burden was to at least try and get to know her. And maybe then he could decide what he wanted to do about that little secret.
“I’m Seb, by the way. I’m from District 10.”
Danica turned around and smirked “Oh, now you want to be friends?” she raised an eyebrow in defiance. It was quite foolish to be friendly with people now. I mean why? So that you can bro-fist them before you kill them? Danica had always been cryptic about taking on additional relationships. In fact, she didn’t have any friends even back at home. Some followers, who were far too scared to talk to her and were content to listen.
Turning around a little to face him, she widened her eyes and nodded her head as a grin replaced the smirk. “Ah, you want to be allies? Sorry to disappoint, but I prefer operating alone.” She looked closely at the boy, he had the tan complexion of D10. He also looked far more friendly and amiable than most of the other tributes.
Tilting her head to a side she shrugged “I’m sorry. Nerves all over the place, you know. I am Danica. I’m from district 5. And I have never made a friend in my life.” she snorted a bit before adding “Well, since I am going to die anyway, might as well make one now, eh?”
Seb went to lift his hands in surrender when Danica raised her eyebrow at him and took his introduction as something more than what it really was - just a polite thing to do. “Hey, I just wanted someone to talk to. I’ve been training for hours and I need a break. It’s the first time I’ve met you. I just figured it’d be good to talk for a while. No need to be nervous.” He tilted his head to the side as he smiled again. “And I promise I have no ulterior motives. I swear.” He even raised his right hand in an oath.
“You prefer to operate alone, though?” Seb clarified, taking a chance to have a conversation with her. He wasn’t actually trying to get information, he wasn’t gonna try and pry it out of her, but tidbits of info like this could come in handy some time. He’d keep everything he hears in mind just to be safer than sorry. “I’m not sure of the final decision about my alliance with anybody. I’ve still got to clarify that with my mentor and my district partner.”
After saying she’d never made a friend in her life, though, it was Seb’s turn to raise an eyebrow? “Really? Somehow, I don’t believe that.” Seb was the kind of person who was genuinely friendly even when he really wasn’t supposed to be, just like now, befriending someone who could very well be the one to kill him in the Arena. But then again, he couldn’t help it. After all, they were already prisoners here in the Capitol. He wouldn’t let the upcoming Games change him anymore than it already had. He wasn’t gonna stop being himself just because the Games are coming up. If anything, he would try to be himself as much as he could now that there was still a chance. He knew being in the Arena tended to change people. This was the only chance he had to be himself before getting dumped into that hell. He might as well make the most of it.
“But just because I’m curious, why have you ever not had a friend before? Is that a personal choice or is the human race really just that disappointing?” He joked lightheartedly, trying to ease any traces of awkwardness that might still be hanging over them.
Danica Blake wasn’t lazy, no. But she was confident. Not of winning, actually she was rather confident of losing. She was going to fight, of course, but she had already memorised the edible herbs and medicinal plants on the first day and had become quite skilled at making a snare. Earlier that day, she had been at the electronics section, trying to make a bomb with some herbs she had found earlier. She had a foolproof plan, but had been rather hastily interrupted by the trainer present who had advised her strongly to take a break.
Danica smirked, remembering the look of fear and dismay on his face. That’s right capitol sucking arse, we can actually be better than you. She hadn’t said much before casually walking to the bench directly opposite to the area. She knew she wouldn’t be allowed to practice at that station any more and most other techniques were too gruesome for her.
Danica hated personal targets. She would much rather kill 4 people in a bomb accident than aim and shoot a particular tribute. Having no tolerance for stupidity, her simple logic had always been, If you’re stupid enough to come near me, you will get what you deserve. What irked her most was the diligence with which almost all the tributes trained. Why give the capitol the satisfaction of it all? Why allow them to set them against each other?
She had been noticing one particular boy, who had been at it all day. Her instinctive ability to read people told her that he was approximately her age, and for some reason, pretty familiar with nature. The way he was holding the clumps of tinder was an immediate giveaway. She had also noticed that he hadn’t taken a break all day. He seemed immensely determined and focused but he didn’t seem like a career. Potential, non-career danger, she tucked him away in her mind for future reference, when she suddenly spied him walking towards her.
“Hey, would you mind if I sit here with you? The others are too far away and I can’t be bothered to walk that far.” He smiled at her, without sitting down. Well-mannered boy. Danica smiled and nodded as she moved to the corner of the bench “Sure. It’s as much yours as it is mine.”
“Sure. It’s as much yours as it is mine.”
“Thanks.” Seb said and finally went to sit down. He made sure he didn’t sit too close to her lest she think he was invading her personal space. She looked like they were the same age. Seb tried to remember if he’d ever seen her before, tried to remember her face from the replays of the reaping or from the parade, just try to remember which district she was from, but he came out with nothing. He couldn’t remember her. He was sure he hadn’t met her before. He would have remembered talking to someone with eyes as blue as those she had.
Seb smiled at her as he mentally contemplated stretching his hand out as a greeting, almost ruled it out for the same aforementioned reason, but in the end, he decided to just go and do it. No harm done in trying. “I’m Seb, by the way. I’m from District 10.” was his curt introduction. He didn’t ask about her, still giving her a choice whether or not she wanted to talk to him. You couldn’t be sure with this people. After all, they were supposed to be enemies, but he just couldn’t help but try and be friendly at least.
Seb cracked his knuckles rapidly, loving how doing so had eased the slight pain in his joints. He’s been at it for hours now in the fire-making station and the continuous effort of lighting a fire with one clump of tinder after another was starting to take its toll on him. Growing up in a ranch in the livestock district, Seb actually didn’t know why he’d never taken the chance to learn how to light a fire. So, thinking that the chance was presenting itself to him now and it was time to go and take it this time, it was the first section he went to that day and ever since starting, he hasn’t taken a break yet, not even a few minutes.
“Maybe you should take a short break.” Seb heard the designated trainer in the fire-making station say to him as he rolled his shoulders and flexed his neck, trying to ease the knots that had gripped at his muscles due to leaning down too long. He chanced a glance at the clock somewhere in the room before exhaling and deciding that indeed, a few minutes of break wouldn’t hurt. With a nod and a smile to the trainer, Seb left the section and made a beeline for the benches.
There were benches placed at certain corners of the room, meant to give the tributes a place to rest and take a break. Seb had been heading to the one at the right side of him, but before he could reach it, someone else did. For a moment, he thought about looking for somewhere else to sit, but after looking around and realizing that the next unoccupied bench was too far away, he just shrugged his shoulders and continued on his way to sit by the other tribute.
“Hey, would you mind if I sit here with you? The others are too far away and I can’t be bothered to walk that far.” He smiled at her as he waited for her to answer before he sat down. He’d never seen her before, he was sure of it. He couldn’t even remember which district she was from. But he did wish she wasn’t one of those snobbish ones. He really didn’t want to have to walk away and find somewhere else to sit. He was far too knackered to do that.
Precisely. Back in ten I like to perfect my butchering skills. It’s a hobby, you see.
Oh, so that’s it. I’m from a ranch there. Used to running around with cattle. Why hadn’t we ever bumped into each other before?
I wouldn’t call it bonding time exactly, but I suppose you could join me on this adventure. It’ll be more fun with another, anyway. What kind of person would I be if I didn’t share the joy?
What an adventure that will be. Tag team gutting. Is it what you do back in ten?
They don’t mind seeing it, no, but they’d definitely mind if it was them. Let’s gut all of them. I’ll paint there streets with it.
Bonding time, then? Run amok in the streets, gutting the citizens, going “Oh, I thought you were some kind of beaver or something. Saaarrry.”