23 Cannons: The 69th Annual Hunger Games.

24 tributes are reaped by the Capitol to enter the 69th Hunger Games, marking the end of the sixth decade of Games. And as they all prepare for the fight of their lives, none of them know the true extent of the twists that will face them in the arena. With rebels, liars, and killers thrown into a deadly arena governed by power-mad Gamemaker, who will live to hear every one of the twenty three cannons sound out?


4. Clashing Tastes

Kaye grimaced in horror as the plump orange woman rubbed a truly repulsive smelling cream into his hair. In the last half hour, he had endured a full body wax, despite him plucking every last hair from his body the night before the reaping; being coated in some slime that was supposed to make his skin 'shine like the sun', when in reality it made him feel like a greasy pig; and then there was the haircut. Oh dear god the haircut. They had completely shaved the sides off of his hair, only leaving the top of it, and they had added extensions to the front, making it impossible to not be in his face ninety nine percent of the time. And to make matters worse, they weren't even the same shade of brown. He was a light brown, and it wasn't as if it was a hard to distinguish tone. But the brain-dead prep team had given him ginger extensions. Freaking ginger, of all colours. Kaye now looked exactly like one of those tacky slum ravers, the ones with the putrid highlights. All of this was going against every fibre of his being, being reduced to a cheap imitation of the social group that Kaye belonged to back home.

Finally, the woman stepped back, satisfied with the amount of gunk in Kaye's butchered hair. She smiled at him, showing her disgustingly dyed teeth. They were all carved into various shapes, as well; for instance, the two front top teeth were shaped like a dog and cat. Other teeth were even odder; Kaye was sure he noticed some sort of spiral in the back. At least that explained her god-awful lisp. Combining that with the terrible accent pretty much made it impossible for Kaye to not want to punch her in the face every time those glittery cyan lips parted, and noise came out. In fact, thinking about it as he stood naked in this small room, he was pretty sure, no, certain, that his boyfriend was dead wrong about how glorious it would be to look like a Capitol citizen. Sure, maybe from a distance a couple of them were okay to look at, but then you got close, and could smell the filth on the cosmetic products they so enjoyed to lace themselves in. If there was ever a naked flame, Kaye was sure that most likely the entire Capitol would spontaneously combust. Oh, wouldn't that be a funny sight to see: disgustingly mutilated examples of high society running around as their make-up sizzled and burned them to the core. He couldn't help but let out a snicker.

"What's so funny?" another member of the prep team said: a tall woman with actual rose stalks wrapped around her arms. Pretty much every time she moved, she cut herself on them. It would be even more disgusting if it weren't for the fact that she had dyed her blood the same shade of green, and had it smell like the plant, albeit a disgustingly exaggerated chemically enhanced version of the potentially delightful aroma.
"Oh, nothing," Kaye said bitterly. "Just thinking to myself."
"Ooh, I wonder what district people actually think about?" the third member of the prep team, a man with hair made of hardened chocolate, and a coating of frost over his skin, said. "I've always been curious." He leaned on the trolley with Kaye's reaping outfit attached to it, and looked at Kaye with wide, white eyes. "Could you please enlighten us?" Kaye folded his arms, and looked at them with scrutiny. There was no way in hell these clowns could physically be allowed near a tribute; their sheer stupidity was enough to make someone punch them. At least this explained why there was always at least one wardrobe malfunction each year that created the laughing stock district for the Games; the prep teams were so incompetent.
"We're really going to do this?" he said, sighing. "I'm honestly entirely the most boring person possible, thank you very much."
"Oh, we don't believe that for one minute!" the orange one squeaked. "Your attitude at the reaping was just so Capitol!" Kaye groaned. This thing was actually fawning over him. "I fell in love straight away!"
"Dear lord," Kaye mumbled under his breath. How could anyone be so flamboyant? It was just an irritation.
"Now, now," the frost man said. "We must not waste any time! The chariot parade is in twenty minutes, and we still need to summon Luciaya!" He frantically skipped around the room, in some sort of blind panic, his strange shoes squeaking on the slick wet floor.
"Then go get her!" green blood said. He nodded fervently, and darted out of the room in a hasty hurry, leaving Kaye with the two women, who looked at him like some exotic creature. He looked back at them in the same way. But with two against one, he felt like some sort of animal on display; like a circus animal. He remembered the one time in his life that he saw a circus; it was when District 8 had their last victor. The celebrations were truly the most marvellous things Kaye had ever seen. But the strange animals in the circus really were the most awe-inspiring. They were creatures like no other, literally jumping through hoops to entertain the crowd. Kaye smiled again: not so different from the Games after all. The tributes were the animals, and the Gamemakers were the ringleaders. And if they wanted to get out alive, they would have to jump through a hell of a lot of hoops.

The door to the room swung open, revealing frost man, and a woman with the most atrocious look ever. She had crazy hair, spiked up and coloured with various clashing hues, leopard print skin, and a bubble blowing machine attached to the front of her sparkling dress.
"Hello there!" she squealed. "I'm Luciaya, your stylist!"
"Pleasure," Kaye said dryly. Luciaya offered her hand. Kaye took a step back. "I'd prefer it if you kept your filthy hands away from me."
"Don't give me that attitude," she said sternly, before her expression returned to the stupid grin she wore when she came in, showing off bright pink teeth. "But I know you'll be overjoyed by your chariot outfit!" Luciaya grabbed the silver trolley that frost man had wheeled in, and pulled out the chariot outfit, holding it for all to see. The prep team simultaneously let out squeaks of delight. Kaye looked at it in horror.

The chariot outfit was nothing more than a unitard with a crudely-painted patchwork pattern on it, and adorned with diamonds that seemed to have been stuck with glue. It was a last minute fashion disaster; it was clear which district was going to be mocked this year. Kaye turned his head away in disgust; he'd sooner jump into an active volcano than wear that atrocity.
"Isn't it the most beautiful thing you've ever seen?" Luciaya asked enthusiastically. "Well?"
"Honestly?" Kaye said, feeling his blood boiling. "It looks like a Mutt vomited onto cheap, tacky fabric." Luciaya's eyes grew wide, and her jaw dropped.
"Excuse me, but what?"
"You heard me," he continued. "It is a putrid, rancid pile of filth that I wouldn't even bestow on the street urchins from District Twelve!"
"Please," Luciaya said, chuckling. "What do you know? You're a stupid kid from District Eight. You have no clue about what true fashion is!"
"You wanna bet on that?" Kaye said. "I bet that I can come up with something better than that trash bucket you call stylish."
"Fine then," Luciaya huffed, blushing furiously. "But if you don't, then you're going out there naked!"
"I'd rather that than look like something that's been through a blender," he snapped. "At least nudity will get me sponsors."

Luciaya stormed over to the corner of the room, watching Kaye with seething fury. Kaye, meanwhile grabbed the disgusting outfit with one hand; he did not want to touch it for any longer than he had to. And then, with precise hands, he plucked every last diamond off of the outfit, and tossed the fabric to the floor, stomping on it as he walked over to the second trolley, containing his reaping outfit: a hot pink suit with matching shoes and tie. Without wasting a second, he grabbed one of the adhesive creams from the shelf in the room, and used the invisible substance to glue the diamonds along the sleeves and legs of the pants. He adjusted the gems neatly, to ensure they were aligned properly, and then slid into the outfit, standing in front of the mirror. Much better. But there was one thing left to do. Kaye glanced at the horrified group of Capitol freaks, and yanked the ginger extensions out, letting them fall to the floor. His pristine pink shoe then crushed them with glee.
"There," Kaye said, glaring at Luciaya. "Now I can be presented to the world."
"But that's hideous!" she squawked. "In what way is that District Eight."
"Oh, babe, there's something you should know," Kaye said with a wry smirk. "District Eight is so three years ago."

The conversation was cut off by a pinging bell: the announcement that the stylists should bring the tributes down to the chariots now. Luciaya didn't move, glaring daggers at Kaye.
"Well, it's too late now to change what you're wearing," she said dully, "so I guess that's what you're gonna be wearing. Just don't come crying to me when you get literally zero sponsors."
"Oh, I won't," Kaye said smugly. "Now, how's about we get down there?" He winked coyly at Luciaya, who sighed, and walked across the room to the chrome wall.
"The elevator's here," she said, rolling her eyes. "Get in: you're an embarrassment."
"Because I'm really the one willing for children to parade around in rags embroidered with vomit, aren't I?" Kaye retorted, stepping through the shining doors, and into the snug compartment. There was a red carpet floor, and rich wooden walls. A relaxing, tinny version of the anthem of Panem was coming from the speaker on the roof of the elevator. A golden railing lined the walls, which Kaye gripped onto, leaning against the wall. Luciaya stepped in, and pressed one of the hundreds of buttons on the wall next to the door. A small chime rang out, and the elevator began to move down slowly. Kaye noted that the place smelled of cheap hairspray.
"It's just an elevator," Luciaya said, observing Kaye's curiosity. "Nothing to get excited over." Kaye's eyes narrowed. He could now see exactly how this next week was going to play out: it would be a battle of constant snarky quips between him and this failure of a stylist. 
Well, let the battle commence, he though to himself as the elevator came to a stop. The doors opened, and Kaye began to step out, before turning to Luciaya, smiling sweetly.
"Oh, one more thing," he said. "That dress? It doesn't go with your hair at all, honey." He stepped out of the elevator, and looked at Luciaya's fuming face as it vanished behind the doors.

Smirking to himself, Kaye walked through the large open space full of chariots, spotting Emily on District 8's chariot. She was wearing that unholy abomination of an outfit that the stylists had coordinated on. He laughed to himself as he joined her on the chariot; at least only one of them was going to look bad this year.
"What the hell's with your getup?" Emily asked Kaye sceptically, looking over him.
"Oh, it was simple enough," Kaye said. "I destroyed the original outfit, what you're wearing, and simply modified my reaping outfit."
"And your stylist let you do that?" Emily asked harshly.
"I sort of didn't ask for permission," Kaye said. "I destroyed the outfit, and made my own. Because if there's one thing I'm going to be remembered for, it's going to be for being known as the most fashionable tribute to have ever set foot in the Capitol."

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