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?

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37. Endgame

One week had passed since the tributes had first entered the arena. In this time, sixteen tributes had perished, leaving only eight. The final eight.

Alexis regarded this fact with surprise. She had known it would happen sooner or later, but not just yet. The pacing of the Games was changing. It was probably because these Games had gone on now for nearly twice as long as last year's, and the Capitol was probably getting bored. And that was ignoring Alexis' concern. Judging from the cannons during the past two days, it was highly likely every other remaining alliance had seen some action, whilst her allies had just sat around in this house, making subtle conversation about the escape plan. Rose and Xander were still hopeful, but Dixie seemed to be losing hope. Yet the girl still stuck around. Probably because it was pretty safe here, and they had a large food supply. The possibility of Dixie ditching them concerned Alexis. If a Career left them, then there was no way in hell the Capitol would sponsor them, final eight or not.

Rose and Xander were sat around the dining table, talking to each other. Alexis was also sat at the dining table, but looking out of the window. Dixie was outside, idly throwing her spear about. Alexis watched as the weapon slammed into the dirt ground with a thud. The crack in the window allowed her to hear it. She looked away from the window, and over to Rose.
"Hi Alexis," Rose said. She was smiling warmly.
"Hey," Alexis replied. "How are you today?" It was small talk, and nothing meaningful, but Alexis felt that over the past few days, she had spent more time focusing on how to go about this plan than actually interacting with her allies. And she knew that without these people, there was no way Alexis would be able to escape. She relied on them as much as they relied on her.
"I'm fine," Rose said. "But I am surprised that we're already in the final eight. Do you think they'll be doing the family interviews yet?"
"Maybe," Alexis said. She realised that she had forgotten about the interviews. Capitol workers would go out to the districts, and interview the friends, family, and loved ones of the remaining third of the tributes. For a brief moment, Alexis considered who they would interview for her. Her mother had died in childbirth, and she had been raised by a traumatised victor for a father, who was currently mentoring her. Could they even interview mentors? It didn't matter, Alexis told herself: the interviews would barely have any effect on the Games. But they seemed to matter to Rose, so Alexis decided to go with it. It would also work to fool the Gamemakers. "Who do you think they'll be interviewing for you?"
"Definitely my parents," Rose said. "But they might also interview Elektra, since she is a close friend of mine. I'm not sure if they can interview mentors, though."
"Me neither," Alexis said. "I can't see why they couldn't, but at the same time, especially in our case, our mentors have two tributes to look out for." Actually, Alexis was almost entirely sure Maia and her father had left Markus to his own devices, considering how much of a grade-A psychopath the boy was. He didn't need mentor advice. He just needed a powerful weapon, and the spilled blood would do the rest. Part of Alexis felt that Markus would not deserve the freedom he would get when the escape plan was put into motion. If it weren't for the fact that she would be playing entirely into the Capitol's hands, Alexis would wish the boy dead. But she didn't.

Alexis looked at Rose, who now seemed to be in thought. Rose then sighed, and looked at Alexis.
"Alexis, the thought just occurred to me," Rose said. "I've just realised we're in the final eight. It's a little unbelievable, really."
"Yeah, it is," Alexis said.
"Just, I can't believe that sixteen of us are dead," Rose said. Alexis felt a chill. Talking about the dead tributes in a negative light was dangerous.
"It's a little odd," Alexis said coolly. "But don't let it get to you. It was kind of inevitable that they were going to die." She gave Rose a reassuring look, hoping her ally would understand that they were treading on risky territory. Rose's eyes widened. She understood.
"I guess so," Rose said, shrugging it off. "It's just that we're now part of the final eight. I know we've earned our place, but it still all feels surreal."
"I know the feeling," Alexis said. "Things are progressing at a much faster pace."
"Hey," Rose said. "Does that mean we'll be getting out of this house soon?"
"Probably," Alexis replied. It was now that it hit her. They were part of the final eight, and they were going to have to execute the plan very soon. An anxious feeling was building up inside Alexis the more she thought about it. The endgame was coming. She knew there would be no time at all until they were running for their lives out of the arena. It was all happening so fast. But Alexis had to be prepared for this. She couldn't just let these things catch up to her. Now was the time for preparation.
"Really?" Rose said.
"Really," Alexis replied. "In fact, we'd better start preparing ourselves. We're in the final stretch of the Games, Rose, and we have to be prepared to fight." Rose understood the true meaning of Alexis' words, and a surprised expression crossed her face. Alexis said nothing, and decided to let Rose come to terms with it herself. Otherwise it could be seen as suspicious. And they couldn't risk it. Not now. Not so late on in the Games. Rose's expression changed. She understood. Alexis felt relief wash over her.

Rose opened her mouth to reply, but they were both distracted by the sound of something slamming against the window. Alexis turned her head, and saw as the spear collided with the glass. It did not break, and just fell to the ground.
"What the hell is she doing?" Rose asked, concerned.
"I'm not sure," Alexis said. "I'll go see." Alexis stood up from her seat, and walked across the dining room, and through to the hallway. She noticed that the front door was open. A warm summer breeze was blowing through. It moved her hair around slightly, blowing it into her eyes. Alexis pushed her hair back out of her eyes as she walked down the hallway, and out of the front door.

Alexis stepped on the porch, and now noticed that the boards creaked underfoot. But it was to be expected: the intensity of the weather over the past week had clearly created some effects on the arena. She looked up, and noticed that several of the roof tiles had fallen off, leaving awkward spaces where they once were. Shattered porcelain lay around her feet. Alexis walked over it, and down the steps of the porch, stepping onto the dirt floor for the first time in days. To her left Dixie was throwing the spear around, lost in focus. Alexis walked towards her ally. Dixie suddenly looked up at Alexis, and gave a smile.
"Hey Alexis," she said. "What's up?"
"Nothing really," Alexis said. "I'm just wondering as to why you're throwing this spear about?"
"Bored," Dixie said. "Nothing against you, Alexis, but I wasn't made to spend my time crammed in a house." She shrugged nonchalantly, and threw the spear into the ground again. Thunk.
"I'm sorry for this," Alexis said. "But we don't have any other alternative. It's the safest place in the arena."
"I know all this," Dixie said. "I just don't know how much longer I can take before I go stir crazy." Alexis felt the slightest urges of unease building up. She was pretty sure that with the final eight, the escape plan would happen sooner. But how much sooner? It couldn't be that much longer; the Capitol would eventually pay attention to them, and then hopefully allow for Alexis to commence the plan. She was confident in this theory.
"Shouldn't be too long now," Alexis said. "We're in the final eight. We can't wait much longer to get out and begin to take everyone out."
"I know," Dixie said. "But I've had another thought, Alexis: what if before we can, we end up being the only four tributes left?" A chill ran down Alexis' spine. She hadn't thought of that. They could end up biding their time throughout the entirety of the Games, only for them to then be the last tributes remaining.
"Don't say that," Alexis said darkly. "If that were to happen, then everything we've done so far will have been for nothing. That can't happen." Dixie raised an eyebrow in surprise.
"I didn't think of it like that," she said. "We'd have no choice but to turn on each other if that were to happen."
"I know," Alexis said. "That scenario is something we must avoid at all costs." She was surprised with herself that she hadn't thought of that possibility yet. It was just as Rose had said: already being in the final eight was somewhat unbelievable. But they were there, and they had to prepare for the escape plan.

Alexis just hoped that they would get out before more tributes started to perish.

--

Kaye walked along the dirt path, heading south, away from the village. The sun was high in the sky, and he felt its warmth on his face. The path was covered in long grass and colourful flowers. A few bees lazily buzzed from plant to plant. It all contributed to making a picturesque scene of nature. By contrast, Kaye, with his damaged arena clothing, and weapon, seemed horribly out of place. He found this amusing in a sense: in an arena full of violence and death, the battle-torn boy looked the most out of place. It was a ridiculous thought, and one Kaye soon pushed to the back of his mind.

He continued along the path, winding around hills of emerald green grass, his boots stomping against the dirt floor with just enough force to make small dust clouds rise up. He did not know this was the path taken by the Careers as they stormed into the village, taking out four tributes taking refuge in a house Kaye had passed less than an hour ago. He did not pay attention to the house, but if Kaye had done, he would have seen the dried blood on the porch and a discarded knife on the pavement. But he didn't, and it didn't matter anyway. The only thing Kaye cared about in the village was killing the alliance of tributes he had been stalking for days. And he had done that: he had so expertly killed Liam and Salvera, and had left Emily on the floor. She had most likely bled out in the night, and Kaye would have this confirmation tonight with the anthem.

The path took Kaye up a hill, and as he climbed, he looked around the arena from this vantage point. Behind him was the village, looking so quaint and peaceful despite the violent murders that had occurred. To his left was a continued hilly expanse, before the U of trees cut it off. The forest stretched from Kaye's left to his right. But then his gaze was drawn in front of him, and he saw the open field a little while away. And he saw the golden Cornucopia, gleaming brilliantly in the sunlight. For a moment Kaye felt a surge of panic: the Cornucopia was where the Careers were situated. Then he remembered that the Careers were dead. The Cornucopia was probably empty. And most likely it was still filled with supplies. Kaye did not hide the smile on his face as he ran down the hill, the steep slope increasing his speed.

Kaye rushed forwards, his boots slamming on the dirt. A small rose grew in the middle of the path. Kaye did not see it, and crushed it as he ran on. A few crumpled petals were lifted by the breeze, and blew back towards the village. He did not look back to see this. Instead, Kaye focused on the empty field up ahead, growing closer with every step. And Kaye, like every other tribute, did not notice that every last cloud had suddenly vanished from the sky.

The dirt ground suddenly faded to grass, and Kaye could not mask his joy. The Cornucopia was maybe a couple of hundred feet away from him. The golden horn stood proudly in the field, its surface reflecting the sunlight. Around the field, the trees stood stoically, unmoving as Kaye approached the Cornucopia in a manner not unlike one of a child towards something fascinating. His hand touched the surface of the Cornucopia, and was surprised to find how hot it was. But then again, this metal in this heat was asking for something like that. Luckily the mild discomfort would in no way hinder Kaye in the future. He was certain of that. However, the rising temperature did bother him somewhat: the Gamemakers were probably trying to kick the endgame in motion by heating up the arena. It didn't matter though: Kaye would be fine. He had complete confidence in this.

He reached the mouth of the Cornucopia, and looked on in confusion. Several blankets were hung over the mouth, shielding it from view. Or something else: perhaps it was done to keep the snow out earlier on. Whatever the reason was was insignificant: the fact that the thick blankets were still up meant that the place was empty. Just as Kaye had envisioned. Without wasting any more time, Kaye rushed up to the blankets, and pushed them aside with more effort than he anticipated, finally entering the golden horn.

The first thing to hit Kaye was the heat, followed by the stench of decaying fruit. As soon as the foul smell reached Kaye's nostrils, he took to breathing through the mouth. There were a couple of tents pitched up inside, surrounded by bags of rotten fruit. But what really interested Kaye was the pile of large crates at the back of the horn. With eager glee, Kaye walked over to them. As he did so, he stepped on one of the bags, causing a sickening squelch to reach his ears. He cringed, but was thankful for the thick boots he wore. The fabric of the bag would also prevent any of the fruit getting onto his outfit. However the dried blood did not bother Kaye at all.

Kaye continued towards the crates, standing in front of them. They were all large and grey. He reached down and touched one. Metallic as well. With this decided, Kaye grabbed the lid of one, and lifted it up, staring at the contents. It was as if Christmas had come early.

Inside the crate was an abundance of swords, bows, arrows, spears, knives, food... it was everything Kaye would need to survive. He did not try to mask the smile as he reached down into the crate, and pulled out a large bag of energy bars. All but one of them were placed into a large backpack Kaye had grabbed from the floor. He ate the remaining one, before emptying the contents of his smaller bag into the larger one as well. He then reached down into the crate, and pulled out two belts of throwing knives. He quickly fastened them to his body, before grabbing the object he had had his eyes on from the moment the crate opened: a rapier. Kaye grabbed it, and held it in his hands, before placing it in his belt. He then reached back, and grabbed one of the bottles of water from his bag, drinking it in several large gulps, feeling thoroughly satisfied. It was now that the realisation hit him: Kaye was probably the best-off tribute in the entire arena. With these weapons, he could easily take out the others.

A wide smile erupted on Kaye's face as he stepped out of the Cornucopia, breathing in the fresh air. However, it wasn't that much cooler outside than it was inside. But Kaye then put this to one side, and looked around the field, envisioning the bloodbath once more. He recalled the directions each tribute went, and then which ones were still alive. It took maybe thirty seconds to realise that the majority of the tributes had headed west. It was just a gut feeling, but every instinct of Kaye's told him to head in that direction. So he hitched up his bag, and walked across the field, approaching the tree line. He was not aware that he would be the last human being to walk through this field.

--

Emily opened her eyes slowly. Her body felt numb for just a moment as the light of day reached her. But then came the pain. It was if a thousand bombs had exploded all over her body, shattering everything at once. She screamed in agony. But she still tried to sit up, causing her back to erupt in pain as well. The feeling of blood trickling down her was almost enough for her to pass out. But she held strong, and looked around the room, immediately wishing she hadn't.

Blood was everywhere. No matter where Emily looked, all she could see was the bright red fluid. A panic rose up inside her. What had happened in here? Why was she in pain, and why was the entire ground coated in a pool of blood?
"Liam?" Emily called out. No response. She opened her mouth again, when a bullet struck her heart. Liam was dead. He had died last night. Her own district partner, Kaye, had killed him. A loud sob erupted from her lips, that soon cascaded into a wail of despair. Tears poured down Emily's face, causing the wounds to flare up. But she didn't care. The physical pain was nothing compared to the immense emotional heartache that she felt.

She looked around again, and saw her staff, coated in blood, and laying in a pool of some dark fluid. Nightlock juice. Her back exploded into pure agony as she recalled Kaye driving the staff into her back. Strangely enough, she also thought about how her tattoo would be ruined. She shakily lifted her hands to her face, and cried into them for an indefinite period of time. In reality it was around three minutes. For Emily it felt like nine eternities. The boy she loved had died. She had failed to protect him. She had failed.

Emily felt herself go faint, and fought the urge to collapse into the fluids. She remained upright, and looked across to the staircase. What she saw broke her heart all over again. It was the bracelet that Liam had taken into the arena with him as his district token. The brown bracelet must have fallen off of his wrist at some point in the conflict. And as Emily looked at it, she cried once more. That bracelet was all that remained of Liam: that was all she had to remember him by. She couldn't leave it. She couldn't leave Liam.

Shakily, Emily managed to stand to her feet. She opened most of her wounds as she did so, but didn't notice, instead focusing on Liam's bracelet. She had to get it. That was all that mattered. Emily placed one foot forwards, causing the leg to erupt in agony. She saw blood dripping through the fabric of her pants, but didn't let it deter her. The pain was nothing compared to her determination to reach the bracelet. Every step caused more blood to pour from Emily's wounds, but she didn't care. She passed her staff, almost tripping on it, instead hopping over it. This single action caused even more agony to rise up. Emily felt like screaming. But she didn't; she instead grabbed onto the wall, waiting for the pain to subside. It didn't, but it dulled just enough for Emily to continue walking.

After what seemed like forever (around four minutes), Emily finally reached the bottom of the stairs, where the bracelet lay. She bent down to pick it up when a sudden surge of pain and weakness erupted. Emily let out a dull scream, and slumped against the wall, falling to the ground. She used the remainder of her strength to roll around so that she was sitting up with her back against the wall. She looked at her arms, and saw thick pulses of blood pouring from her wounds. Immediately the source of her weakness came to her: blood loss. It was hopeless.

Emily began to cry again, tears blurring her vision. But as she felt herself going even weaker, her eyes rested on the bracelet. She had not used up so much of her strength for nothing. Emily reached over, and grabbed the bracelet. And then, with shaky hands, she fastened it around her wrist. The fabric soon was stained a deep red, but at this point, Emily was just glad to have it. And as she stared at it, Emily realised something: there was a very real chance that she would die in this house. And if that happened, Liam's sacrifice would have been in vain. That simply could not happen.

Emily tried to stand up, to keep going, but she managed to sit upright before a powerful wave of dizziness struck her. She fell back against the wall, and her last thought before she lost consciousness was that in no way was she going to let Liam down. She was going to survive for him. And then, everything went black.

And still, Emily Horwitz remained alive.

--

Kylee walked through the woods, just behind Markus. The sun was beginning to set, casting a harsh glow in front of them. She shielded her eyes as she looked ahead: in no way was she going to risk affecting her eyesight. Markus, however, did not seem to be bothered by this at all, and merely cut through the foliage.

The two of them had been going non-stop today, aiming to get out of the woods at long last. Deep down, Kylee knew that they would: today felt like a good day. It had now been precisely over a week since they had all entered the arena, and they were now in the final eight. So many good omens surrounded today, it was almost unbelievable. So it was hardly a stretch of the imagination to envision finally getting the hell out of these woods before the next projections. And most importantly, there was a feeling of finality in the air; they were on the verge of the endgame. They had to be.

Kylee looked ahead again, and saw Markus slowing down. She too slowed.
"You okay?" she asked her ally, standing with her arms folded.
"Fine, Harker," Markus said. He did not look back to speak to her. "Just trying to decide which route to take."
"I'm pretty sure that we should just keep going straight ahead," Kylee said dryly. "Unless by some miracle there's actually a magic short cut you're not telling me about."
"Okay, you got me," Markus said. A dry chuckle escaped his lips. "I'm actually tired as hell, and need to take a quick breather."
"I see what this is about," Kylee said coyly. "You don't want me to see that the invincible psychopath gets tired."
"Can it, Harker," Markus said. "We're in the final eight now, and wouldn't it be a waste for one of us to die when we've come so far?"
"Whatever, asshole," Kylee said. She leaned against a tree. "Just because you're pissed that you can actually feel fatigue doesn't mean you have to resort to petty death threats." She then let out a mirthful laugh as she held her scythe. "Besides, you grossly underestimate me."
"Not really," Markus said. "But now's not the time for tension between us to develop, is it?"
"No," Kylee agreed. Markus pulled out a bottle of water, and began to drink. "That can wait until we're the only two human beings left alive in this arena."
"Hopefully that time will come soon," Markus said. He placed the water back in his bag. "Things seem to be speeding up."
"Well of course they are," Kylee said. "It's been over a week since the Games began and the past few Games have all ended after around a week. Our audience is probably craving the grand finale right about now."
"Really?" Markus said. "In the final eight?"
Kylee nodded. "Pretty sure."
"I guess you're right," Markus said. "In that case, we should keep heading onwards. It can't be much further now."
"Yeah," Kylee said. Markus began to walk onwards. She followed swiftly, looking around, despite intuitively knowing that she wouldn't find anything.

The two of them pressed through the woods, the foliage getting thicker. Above their heads, the sun continued to lower, turning the sky a beautiful golden shade. Kylee couldn't care less about the sky; her sole goal was victory. She'd have all the time in the world to admire the sunset once she was out of here. Until then, nature's beauty could wait. And of course, this was ignoring the fact that the sun above their heads was entirely artificial. Only an idiot would assume otherwise. However, Kylee doubted that there were any idiots left in the arena: only the smart survived until the final eight, and this trend had definitely continued this year like it had done every year before. For just a moment, Kylee wondered about her opponents. There was the chance that she had underestimated them. But this was very unlikely, and besides, with Markus as her weapon, Kylee was pretty sure that the other tributes would not be able to defeat her. Only time would tell if she was right.

Kylee looked ahead again, seeing Markus continue to cut through the trees. The foliage above them now almost entirely hid them from the sun, plunging them into a psuedo-twilight. Despite how enclosed it was, it seemed to offer Kylee a sense of comfort; being among the shadows meant that she could easily hide away if the worst came to the worst. She laughed. Even now, in the crucial final eight, Kylee was envisioning ways in which she could ditch Markus. It was a damn good thing the psychopath wasn't a mind reader, else she'd have crossed the line for sure. As she thought this, her grip on her scythe tightened. This was a subconscious choice, but was definitely Kylee's way of telling herself to be wary of Markus. They were in the final eight, and there were no guarantees that he wouldn't betray her. Not that it would come to that, surely.

Suddenly, the darkness became light again, and Kylee squinted in the evening sun. However, she didn't need her sight to hear Markus' laughter.
"Oh my god," he said. "We did it. Harker, we're officially out of the woods."
"What?" Kylee said. She blinked a few times, and everything came into focus. She looked ahead. There was a vast plain of dried dirt that seemed to stretch on for miles. At first glance, it would appear to be a crushing disappointment, but in the diminishing light, the houses in the distance stood out clearly. "Oh hot damn."
"Yeah," Markus said. "I think we have our next destination."
"The houses?" Kylee said. 
"You know it," Markus replied. He began to run ahead. "Now come on. Let's go."

Markus began to run ahead. Kylee followed him, staring ahead at the houses. Finally, they were away from the woods. It had felt like they had been in there for far too long, but now, they had a change of scenery. And Kylee knew that somehow, this was to be their final destination of the Games. This thought filled her with a rush of adrenaline. The area of housing up ahead would somehow determine who lived, and who died. In which way, Kylee was unsure. Perhaps the other tributes were all already up there, waiting for them, or perhaps Markus and herself were to be the first to arrive, and to wait for everyone else to appear. However, she was certain that the endgame was but a breath away.

Kylee looked ahead, seeing the houses drawing closer. One house seemed to be attached to a cable, which could only mean one thing: electricity.
"Hey Markus," Kylee said, pointing at the house. "That one there seems to have power."
"Forget it," Markus said. "It's too obvious a place to hide. The other tributes would swarm on us like tracker jackers before we'd even have the chance to fight back." He pointed at a house closer to them, with no cables. "That one there's a much better place to go: it's on the outskirts, and will allow us to see anyone else coming from miles away."
"I suppose you're right," Kylee said. She looked away from the house. "Whatever. It was an idea."

The conversation died down, and the only sound that could be heard was that of their boots pounding against the ground. Neither of them looked back: the only thing either of them saw was the house. That was their sole goal at the moment: to arrive there, and settle down for the evening. After that was anyone's guess, although Kylee predicted that they would wait there until they saw any signs of other tributes. She had no idea how wrong she would be.

Finally, the house drew closer, and they slowed to a stop as they reached the front door.
"I'll go first," Markus said. Not that he needed to say it: Kylee had manipulated their dynamic so that he felt obligated to go in front. Perhaps to appease to some deep-rooted chauvinism, or to his thrill-seeking nature. Whatever it was didn't matter: all that mattered was that Kylee had ensured that Markus was going to be put in danger first. And if it truly hit the fan, then she'd have a precious few moments to get her ass as far away as possible.
"Okay then," Kylee replied, watching as Markus walked up to the front door. He grabbed the handle, and pushed down, opening the door. He stepped inside, vanishing from Kylee's sight for just a moment. She remained standing outside.
"It's safe," he said.
"Okay," Kylee replied, walking up to the house. "I'm coming." She then proceeded to walk through the doorway, and into the house.

Kylee found Markus in the living room, which consisted of two large sofas. One was situated near the window. Kylee sat down on that sofa.
"These are our sleeping arrangements," Markus said, claiming the other sofa.
"That's fine," Kylee said, looking out of the window. The sun was beginning to set rapidly now, casting deep shadows over the arena. "I guess we now just wait here until the other tributes show." And with that the conversation ceased. Around an hour or so later, both tributes had fallen asleep. This would be the last time they would slumber.

--

Kaye walked along the dirt ground, the moon serving as his source of light. He had been on the go since earlier today, not stopping for one second until he was through the woods. Every muscle in his body ached, and he just wanted to collapse onto the ground. But he didn't do that; he had come too far for any of that.

However, the houses up ahead would definitely serve to be somewhere to rest for the evening. Just the thought of finding a nice bed to rest in was enough to spur Kaye into running ahead. He pressed onward despite the protests of his body, instead focusing on what was up ahead. After all, this was where his instinct had led him (actually, the Gamemakers had altered the woods to provide the easiest route to the houses for Kaye, but this was something he did not know), and that could only mean something significant. And after his killing spree that had occurred over the past couple of days, Kaye knew that he was a force to be reckoned with for sure.

Kaye broke into a smile. He knew that every eye in the Capitol would be trained on him due to the way he had shoved himself into the spotlight. Since who in their right mind would suspect an overly flamboyant District 8 tribute to be a powerful killer? Nobody normal, that was for sure. And Kaye was pretty certain he had received the most sponsor gifts out of all the tributes. He knew they were all signs leading to one thing: he was going to be the victor. No doubt about it.

Another wave of fatigue cascaded over Kaye's body, and he slowed for a moment to catch his breath. He stopped outside a house, doubling over as the oxygen returned to his body. But as Kaye did so, he looked up to the window. Immediately his blood turned to ice. There, leaning against the window, fast asleep, was the girl from District 2: Kylee. Kaye didn't dare breathe as he stood upright, and crept past the window, looking inside. There he saw the monstrous psychopath from 5, Markus, sleeping on another sofa further inside. This was not good news. Not at all. Kaye felt his heart pounding in his chest, but he forced himself to remain calm, reminding himself that they were fast asleep, and that he could take them on. But not right now. Not after running through the woods non-stop.

With this in mind, Kaye silently sneaked away from the house, wandering towards the other houses in the area. He saw one house with something long and black coming out of it. It seemed like a bad omen; it was an all too obvious Gamemaker trap. Kaye looked away from it, and instead focused on the three other houses dotted around. They were in a rough row of sorts. Kaye decided that he would go to the middle one. He let out a deep breath, and rushed towards the house, his new equipment feeling heavier than before.

Soon enough, Kaye was at the doorstep of the house. He cautiously pushed open the door, and stepped inside. Darkness greeted him, thankfully. Silence as well. The house was clearly empty. With this confirmed, Kaye closed the door, and walked along the hallway until he reached the staircase. He let out a light laugh as he realised how similar this house's layout was to the one where he had killed Liam, Emily, and Salvera. But this wasn't important right now, and Kaye put this to the back of his mind as he ascended the staircase, reaching the top floor.

The hallway was also similar to the other house, but there was only the one bedroom. Kaye walked up to the door, and pushed it open with a creak. He took in the bedroom: it was fairly plain, with a wooden boarded floor and ceiling. There was a double bed in the middle of the room, and a large window looking out over the plain. Kaye let out a yawn: he knew where he was going.

He dropped his bag at the foot of the bed, and walked up to the bed, pulling back the covers. Soon enough, Kaye was in the bed, sound asleep for the final night in the arena.

--

Alexis sat on the porch of the house, looking out across the plain, oblivious to the fact that all but one of the tributes happened to be inside the other houses. It was now past midnight, yet for some reason, she couldn't sleep. Instead, she had opted to remain outside. There was a pleasant summer night breeze blowing through. It was almost relaxing if it weren't for the fact that it was blowing through an arena of death.

A sigh escaped Alexis' lips, and she leaned back. As she did so, her token touched her chest again, the cold metal unexpected. Any slight tiredness that Alexis felt vanished in that instant: she was wide awake. She looked back at the house. The lights were off, which she had instructed Rose and Xander to do the moment she thought she saw a few figures in the horizon. She did not know that they were Kylee and Markus.

The night was still and silent; it was a strange kind of peace. Like the calm before a storm, Alexis realised suddenly. Only she had no idea what the storm was going to be. Was it going to be their escape plan? Or was it going to be some Gamemaker-caused abomination? She simply didn't know.

"Hey," a voice suddenly said. Alexis turned around in surprise to see Dixie, Rose, and Xander standing in the doorway. She quickly stood up.
"Hey guys," Alexis replied. "What are you doing up so late?"
"I don't know," Rose said with a shrug. "None of us could sleep."
"That makes four of us, then," Alexis said. "I wonder why we can't sleep though? We normally don't have this problem."
"No idea," Xander said. "Perhaps it's just endgame anticipation."
"Huh," Alexis said. "That's actually been on my mind for a while."
"Not that you can call it the endgame, really," Dixie said. "I mean, we're still only in the final eight. It could be a while before then, you know?"
"I'm not sure," Alexis said. "It sort of just feels like tonight has a sense of finality to it."
"I understand," Rose said. She offered a warm smile. "Perhaps it's a sign things are about to change. Maybe we're finally going to see something happen."
"Oh my god," Alexis said. Her eyes widened. "You think so, Rose?"
"Yes," Rose said. "We've waited long enough; something is definitely on the verge of happening."

Alexis stood there in shock. How could she have not though of that? Perhaps they truly were about to launch the escape plan. However, just as Alexis thought this, she remembered that they were still lacking a vital component. It took all her will to not curse on the spot.
"Could be," Alexis said in a steady voice. She looked out over the plain, seeing the looming silhouettes of the houses. "Or maybe we're just losing it."
"I hope not," Dixie said with a laugh. "I've been through too much to just lose my mind, you know?"
"Yeah, I know," Alexis agreed, knowing that there was much more to that statement than the Capitol would ever realise.
"But enough of that," Rose said. "Isn't the weather pleasant tonight?" Alexis smiled. Even now, Rose was keeping everyone's spirits up. Elektra was truly lucky to have a close friend like Rose.
"Yeah, it is," Dixie said dryly. "If it weren't so damn dark." Alexis opened her mouth to reply, but was cut off by a sound that was pure music to her ears: the sponsor parachute.

The four tributes sprinted out from the porch, rushing out onto the plain as the blinking red light landed on the ground. Dixie was the first to walk over. She bent down, and picked up the package, opening it.
"What is it?" Alexis asked, her voice heavy with anticipation.
"It's a flash light," Dixie said. She revealed the long object, and pressed a button, causing a few short bursts of light. Alexis' eyes widened, and her heart began to pound in her chest.
"Oh my god," she said. "That's it."
"What's it?" Dixie said. She twirled the flash light in her hands. Alexis was practically trembling.
"The flash light is the final component," Alexis said. She did nothing to mask her excitement.
"What do you mean?" Dixie asked. She raised an eyebrow.
"Can I see the flash light for just a moment?" Alexis asked.
"Uh, sure," Dixie said. She tossed the flash light to Alexis, who caught it expertly. With the object in her hands, Alexis wasted no time in opening up the flash light, pulling out four very distinct shapes: batteries.
"Oh," Xander said in a voice that was barely a whisper as Alexis held the batteries. She dropped the flash light to the ground.
"Yeah," Alexis said. "It's time."

With that, Alexis reached into her shirt, and pulled out her token. The others swarmed around her, looking in the moonlight.
"What is that?" Rose asked, pointing to the token. It was a rectangular device that resembled a radio transmitter. There was an antenna sticking from the top, and a large red button in the middle. Alexis opened up the back, and began to feed the batteries into the device.
"This, my friends," Alexis said, letting out a laugh, "is the device that will get us out of here."
"Alexis," Xander said. "Should we be talking about this?"
"Who gives a damn!" Alexis said. She fastened the back on again. Her eyes sparked with glee. "We're about to break out of the arena, and the Capitol can't do anything about it!"
"But how is that," Dixie said, motioning to the device, "going to break out?"
"Let me explain," Alexis said as she flicked a switch. The light lit up. "This device is designed to block all communication signals with the Capitol, including cameras, microphones, hovercraft, and most importantly, the program that runs the forcefield. It'll all shut down, and we will be able to get out of here."
"Oh my god," Dixie said. "That's genius."
"I know," Alexis said. "This is how the District Three rebels broke into the Capitol during the Rebellion. In no way could the Capitol have prepared for a tribute to replicate it." She was grinning madly.
"Good thing I came prepared," Dixie said. She motioned to her backpack which was full of supplies.
"Indeed," Alexis said. The device let out a small bleep, and a dark chuckle came from her. "It's ready." She then brought her finger down over the button, and just before she pressed it, she looked up at the sky. "Take this, you Capitol bastards."

Alexis pressed the button. Rose, Xander, and Dixie stood back as the device began to let out a low hum. The air was electric with tension as they all waited for something to happen. And then the ground began to rumble.

It was as if a thousand cannons had gone off all at once in the distance. Rose and Xander looked around frantically for the source of the sound, but as the explosions rang out, something far more surprising happened. All four of them looked skywards.

The pitch black midnight sky suddenly began to turn blue at the top of the arena. It was as if someone was unwrapping the arena like a piece of foil. In around twelve seconds, the arena had suddenly transformed from midnight to midday. A sudden sharp breeze rolled through. Alexis looked at her allies with a sense of sheer joy. They had done it. By god, they had done it! They had managed to do the one thing thought impossible: they had shut down the arena. Rose, Xander, and Dixie mirrored Alexis' look. Wide smiles of disbelief crossed their faces. Everything Alexis had been planning had worked to the letter. The plan had been executed perfectly.

But then the sky began to crack.

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