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?


22. Let the Games Begin

The sun shone down on the arena, preventing the tributes from properly seeing their surroundings. The only thing that a few were certain of was the golden sheen of the massive horn known as the Cornucopia. But it was still too bright to properly see what was inside the Cornucopia. And all the while, a low metallic voice rang out, signalling the countdown to the beginning of the sixty ninth annual Hunger Games.


Gwen blinked rapidly, still not able to see entirely. But she had managed to make out a decently sized backpack just a few feet from her platform.


Derek glanced around. There was a bag to his right, and in the distance, what appeared to be a collection of houses. If he, Griffin, Mason, and Tavish could get there without injury, they could survive.


Lucy took deep breaths, looking around. Besides the bag, she could see a bow, complete with a quiver, almost looking right at her. But she couldn't risk it; not if she wanted to escape unscathed.


Liam scanned the ring of tributes, desperately searching for Emily. As soon as the gong went off, he would meet up with her, and they would get the hell out of there. But he couldn't see her from his position, and he only hoped she would survive.


Erika glanced around, and locked eye contact with Rosa. At least that was one ally who she knew that was within reach; now she just had to find the rest without dying.


Tavish was shaking, out of anticipation, and fear. But he had to keep calm, meet up with his allies, and devise a plan of survival. As long as he survived the bloodbath, it would be fine.


Dixie clenched her fists, and looked around. She was placed right next to Osiris, and there was a whip right near the mouth of the Cornucopia. It practically had her name on it, and if she could get it quickly, then the world would see why she was in with the Careers.


Griffin's eyes were everywhere as they filled with tears. He was going to die in the bloodbath, he was sure of it.
"Please, help me..." he whimpered, his eyes focusing on a shining dagger. There was probably a blowgun somewhere, but it was too dangerous.


Emily felt the panic rising. She couldn't see Liam, and that meant that there was every possibility that he would die before they managed to meet up. Or she could die as well. Emily held her breath as the low voice continued to count down, trying to contain the panic attack.


Kaye looked around at the tributes surrounding him, and he felt his heart flutter as he saw Osiris, who was to his left, wipe some sweat from his brow due to the high temperature. 
"Oh yes please," he murmured under his breath, keeping his eyes on the bag and dagger that were next to his platform. He could grab the supplies, and observe those hot Career boys all he liked. But not if his life was cut short in the bloodbath, and Kaye was certain that wasn't going to happen.


Rosa kept eye contact with Erika, and gave her a nod. It meant that she would stay in the bloodbath, until Erika managed to get out with her. At least, Rosa hoped that Erika got the message.


Brinn, get the bag.
Yes Brinn, the one in front of you.
Brinn, get it, and run.
Don't stay.
Just go!

Brinn's coworkers' voices swam in his head, and he agreed with them, as he tended to when his survival was brought into question. He would grab the bag, and get out of there as fast as possible. There was no other way around surviving.


Salvera stared off into the distance, focusing on a tree. To the tributes that surrounded her, it looked like she wasn't paying attention to the most crucial moment of the Games, but she was.

Sally, what are you going to do? Roll over and be the pretty little sacrifice you were meant to be?

Salvera shook her head. Despite the medication she was on, Velcro's voice still came up every now and again. But she was determined to not let the voice bother her. Not now.

Oh? Are we going to try fighting to survive? Like hell you'd succeed.


Mason looked at the large knife in front of him. It was about ten feet away, which was twice the distance of his bag. If he could grab it, and the knife, it would take all of four seconds. Not much, but it could be enough time for his neck to be snapped. He looked over at Griffin, who was on the verge of crying, and decided to grab the bag and knife, and go help his ally out.


Alexis remained calm, and coolly scanned over the Cornucopia. There was a set of throwing knives, and a bag placed in front of her. Quite clearly done to try and draw her into the bloodbath, but she wouldn't. She'd grab it, and pull Rose and Xander out of this deathtrap straight away. Lingering meant death, or severe injury. She once more held onto the necklace that contained her token; they couldn't let the bloodbath ruin their plans.


Markus looked around, and chuckled. There were a few terrified tributes surrounding him, and the Careers were on the other side of the ring of tributes, giving him a clear run at the mouth of the golden horn, and the large sword that resided inside it. The others would be mown down like blades of grass.


Annabell could feel herself shaking, but told herself to ignore it. She was in with the Careers; she was going to be fine. Ren promised her, and her own district partner wouldn't lie to her. Or would he?


Ren looked around. He wasn't surrounded by anyone that would immediately kill him, but the fact that he couldn't see Annabell bothered him. She was still hung up on doubting whether or not she was actually in the Career pack. But he was sure she'd accept them once the bloodbath was over.


Rose stared at the bag and knife in front of her. She had to keep calm, and not lose focus, or she'd die. Was this how Elektra felt in her Games? If so, no wonder she didn't watch the recap of last year's Games as much as she should have. The bloodbath was terrifying. But Rose had to remain focused, and find Xander and Alexis, before running. Now she could only hope all three would make it out alive.


Xander looked at his surroundings. Judging from the sun, he was facing north. Directly ahead was what appeared to be houses; probably a village of sorts. To the east was an expanse of hills, with one or two houses there, and to the south and east was a large woodland area. The trees would be his, Rose's and Alexis' best bet to get out unscathed.


Kylee idly looked at the Cornucopia. She could see a bag near her platform, and a scythe sticking out of the mouth, trying to tempt her. But she wasn't tempted; there was no risk to this. She'd walk over there, and grab the scythe whilst her allies did the dirty work of slaughtering the others.


Dylan looked at the expanse of grass between his platform and the Cornucopia. He could see a double edged throwing knife, looking right at him; the reward for a good show in training. Once he got that, the other tributes would be dead meat, and it would help guarantee that District 2 would bring home the prestigious honour and glory of victory, not to mention get the money to save the life of his family. Since as good as the Career alliance was, at the end of the day, victory ultimately came first. But it would have to be Dylan that won; Kylee wouldn't take it seriously enough. Perhaps he could kill her in the bloodbath to show off his power to Panem.


Topaz felt the anxiety building. The bloodbath was the make or break moment of the Hunger Games, and one error would be fatal. She had to come home; for herself, and Ebony. She took a deep breath, and prepared to run for the sword, bag, and spear that were positioned close to her, hopefully taking enough time to avoid actually having to fight.


This was it. Osiris clenched his fists, and only focused on the sword. He would get the sword, then start to fight, but he hoped that Kylee and Dylan would do most of the killing. Despite his position, the thought of taking another's life was too much, and he hoped it wouldn't show. But there was no time for that, as the countdown had ended, and Claudius Templesmith's voice was booming down.

"Ladies and gentlemen, let the sixty ninth annual Hunger Games begin!"

The gong rang out, signalling that the explosives surrounding the plates had been disabled, and the tributes were now free to begin the gruelling deathmatch, in which only one would be able to walk away from alive.

Liam was first to run ahead. He quickly swiped a large backpack, and swung it over his shoulder. It was heavier than he anticipated, but he couldn't let that stop him. He ran past Tavish, knocking him flying as he ran past. He could hear the cries of other tributes, but he couldn't stop until he found Emily. And then, as if by some miracle, Liam spotted a familiar head of red hair: it was Emily, and she had also snagged a backpack.
"Em!" Liam called out. Emily turned her head, and ran towards him, grabbing his hand.
"Let's get out of here!" she yelled, pointing to the woods that surrounded the lower half of the opening area. "It's our safest bet!" Liam nodded, and together, the two of them vanished into the foliage, fleeing the bloodbath with sufficient equipment.

Tavish, however, hadn't.

The backpack he was aiming for had been taken by Brinn, who had also fled to the woods, albeit in a different spot from where Liam and Emily had done previously. Tavish looked around, and decided against going for a bag, and instead located his allies: Derek, Mason, and Griffin, who were hanging around the northern half of the Cornucopia, holding bags.
"Hey!" Derek called out to Tavish, who hurried up, and rushed over to his allies as they all ran north, also escaping unscathed.

Osiris had reached the mouth of the Cornucopia first, and had been rewarded with a set of throwing knives. He wasted no time in equipping it, and ran out of the golden horn as Dylan, Kylee, and Topaz ran in.
"You guys go get some stuff," Osiris said. "I'll take out some tributes!"
"Got it!" Topaz said, rummaging through quickly for a weapon. Osiris turned away, and ran back out into the large field, seeing several more tributes running away. His eyes then trained on Rosa from 7, who had fallen to the ground, holding a small backpack. He lifted a throwing knife, and went to launch when suddenly, he was tackled to the ground by Markus. The larger boy continued past Osiris, and grabbed a large sword and backpack, also fleeing into the woods.
"Hey, what the hell?!" Osiris groaned as he stood up, only to find that Rosa had also escaped. "Oh god damn it!"

Rosa was running for her life. Her heart was hammering in her chest as she ran. Sweat was dripping down her forehead. She had just had an extremely close encounter with a Career, and had only been spared by the strange boy from 5, Markus. On the eastern half of the starting zone, she soon encountered the rest of her alliance: Gwen, Erika, and Lucy, all of whom had bags and weapons.
"Guys!" Rosa called out, catching their attention.
"Come on!" Gwen yelled as they fled into the woods, not looking back.

Xander had taken the risk, and had managed to grab two backpacks from near the Cornucopia, and a hunting dagger. He ran out before anyone could see him, and met up with Alexis and Rose, both of whom had also obtained equipment.
"Let's get out of here," Alexis said, beginning to run into the western section of the woods. "Come on!" Xander and Rose didn't waste a millisecond, and darted after Alexis, fleeing from the bloodbath as soon as possible.

Dixie watched as Ren and Annabell ran up to the Cornucopia. She already had a whip in hand, and she was planning on using it. And lo and behold, right in front of Dixie was the strange girl from District 6, Salvera. She struck out with the whip, but Salvera dodged the blow, fleeing into the woods. Dixie cursed to herself, and decided it wasn't worth going after her just yet. Instead, she rushed up to the Cornucopia, joining the other Careers.

Kaye, meanwhile, had managed to grab a sharp hunting dagger, and a backpack full of supplies. As much as he wanted to observe the Careers, he knew his life was more important. So instead, he fled into the woods, absconding from the bloodbath without a scratch.

And six minutes, twelve seconds into the sixty ninth Games, the opening bloodbath had drawn to a close, with precisely zero casualites. Nearly all the tributes were relieved to find that their friends and allies had all survived. The Careers, however, were less than satisfied.

"What the actual hell?!" Dylan exclaimed, motioning to the empty field. "How did they all manage to get out alive?!"
"I don't know!" Osiris said. "I was only knocked down for a few moments, and when I got up, they had all fled."
"I almost got the girl from Six," Dixie said. "But the damn thing was too fast for me."
"Well," Kylee said from atop the Cornucopia as she cradled her scythe. "No use crying over spilled milk, is there?"
"Uh, yes there is," Osiris said. "Kylee, I don't think you understand: the Careers pride themselves in killing so many at the start of the Games, and do you see any bodies? No!"
"Ugh, relax," Kylee said. "It's not the end of the world. We can still kill them; it only means that they have a slight headstart. However, not all of them could have gotten too far."
"I guess we could go out tonight and look for some," Topaz said. "But for now, let's focus on setting up camp. Kylee's right; they're still out there, and just because they survived the bloodbath doesn't mean that we can't kill them."
"I suppose," Osiris said. "But yeah, let's wait until tonight; the other tributes won't know what hit them."

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