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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12. New Recruits

Tavish finished tying up his training boots, sitting up again. He stretched and yawned; it was still pretty early in the morning. But he couldn't exactly sleep in, or he would be late for training. And that was something that he couldn't afford to miss, not if he wanted to live for more than sixty seconds in the arena.

He stood up, and pulled himself off the bed, which had been perfectly made in the few minutes he was in the shower. Just like yesterday, but today he wasn't freaking out over it; his mentor, Daira, explained that this was simply something that the Avoxes did. Tavish hadn't heard of Avoxes before, but he now knew them to be silent servants to the tributes. He personally felt that slave would have been a better term for them, but there wasn't really much time to be caught up on matters such as the standings of people he never saw.

Tavish walked across the bedroom, and to the door on the other side of the room. He carefully pushed the door open, and it silently swung outwards on its hinges. The only sound made was Tavish's breathing. He looked down the hallway, and saw that it was devoid of any other people; he could only see the plush red carpet, and the lamps that adorned the rich wallpaper. It was excessive, in his opinion. But then again, he did come from a rather poor background, working as an assistant to one of the larger cattle farms. It was tedious work, but it did mean that Tavish was naturally stronger than others of his age. He hoped that that would give him some sort of edge in the arena.

The carpet was so thick that Tavish made no sound as he walked down it. As he did so, he realised how the Avoxes managed to slip in so effortlessly; there was no way anyone would hear them coming. Tavish was capable of sneaking around quietly, but never as silently as this. He didn't like that about the carpet; it gave him false confidence. And he knew for a fact that false confidence would get him killed if he wasn't careful about it.

Reaching the end of the hallway, Tavish turned right, looking out over the large living area. It was all very open, and apparently an entirely different layout than previously. Not that it mattered that much, since in a couple of days, Tavish would never see this place again anyway. It was times like this that he wished his inquisitive nature had an 'off' switch. Leaving these thoughts, Tavish descended the stairs, and walked across to the dining area.

Currently, there was another mountain of fresh food on the table, which would probably be enough to serve well over a hundred people. Two of the seats were currently occupied by Erika, Tavish's district partner, and Daira, their mentor. He noticed that he had barely seen their escort during their time in the Capitol, and from listening in on the conversations of the other tributes, neither had most of them. But it was probably something that the head Gamemaker had arranged for some unknown reason. At least it meant that there was peace and quiet around.

Erika suddenly looked up from the apple she was eating, and glanced in Tavish's direction.
"Mornin'," she said, smiling. "How're you?"
"I'm good," Tavish replied. "Just a little anxious about training."
"Why?" Erika said. "You're in that alliance with the boy from Twelve, ain't ya?"
"Yeah," he said. "It's just that I'm not sure what'll happen to day."
"Don't fret, little guy," Erika said warmly. "Just let whatever happens, happen." Tavish nodded in response, and sat at the table. He grabbed a bread roll glazed in chocolate, like he had yesterday. He had only had chocolate once before now, and that was when he was much younger. Someone on the black market was selling bars of the stuff, and Tavish bought one bar of it. It was the most delightfully sweet thing he had ever tasted.
"So," Daira suddenly spoke up. "What do you guys have planned for training today?"
"I'm just gonna stick with my alliance and go about a couple stations," Erika said simply and confidently.
"And you, Tavish?" Daira asked.
"Me?" Tavish said slowly. Daira nodded. "Well, I'm thinking of attempting a weapon station with Derek today, since all I did yesterday was work with survival stations."
"I see," Daira said. "Well, since the two of you both have plans for training today, I don't really need to help you then." Upon seeing the confused expressions of the two tributes, Daira expanded on her sentence. "I'll just instead focus on getting sponsors for the two of you today. They seem to like Erika's quirky accent, and Tavish's hidden strength."
"Really?" Erika said, grinning. "That's great news! I really hope we get sponsors in the Games!" 
"Hopefully," Daira said, glancing at the clock. "If you survive the bloodbath, and increase your chances of survival by training. And judging from the time, it'd be best if the two of you went down now."
"Okay then!" Erika said, standing up. "C'mon, Tavish. We'd best get down to training!"

Tavish followed Erika to the elevator, smiling to himself. The girl's enthusiasm was just so contageous. But Daira didn't seem to be fazed by the positivity, remaining impassive. Then again, since she had won the Games, it was understandable for her to be withdrawn in the Capitol. Too many bad memories were probably present here for her. As Erika pushed the button for the elevator to come up, Tavish wondered for a moment. If he was to win the Games, and came back to be a mentor, would be be like this when dealing with the tributes as well? Since if he won, Erika would have to die, and he would be sitting in the last building she was in alive. Of course, the same could be said if Erika won. But it was far too early to be making predictions about the victor; they were only halfway through training.

A pinging sound rang out, and the silver elevator doors slid open. Tavish and Erika stepped inside, moving to the back of the small space as the doors slid shut. Erika gripped onto the railing, and Tavish did the same: they knew what was coming. As soon as he had grabbed the railing, the elevator began to shoot downwards. Tavish tensed up as he felt the motion of the elevator affect him. He wondered for a moment why they had to go so fast. But they probably were going at the average pace for an elevator, just that Tavish hadn't yet grown accustomed to it. The elevator soon stopped again, and the two doors opened up, revealing the training gym once more.

The two tributes stepped out of the elevator, and into the main area. Tavish looked around, seeing that all the stations were in exactly the same place as they were yesterday. The Careers were swarming around the spear station, and a couple of the other stations were occupied by the other tributes. Erika also looked around, but Tavish knew she was looking for her alliance.
"Hey," she said. "I'm gonna go off with my allies now, Tavish, so I'll see ya later." She smiled, waved, and ran off towards the group of girls that she was working with.
"Yeah, bye," Tavish said quietly. He looked at Erika one last time, before surveying the room again. There was no sign of Derek yet, though. But he couldn't just hang around all day doing nothing; he decided that it would probably be beneficial to begin training without him.

Tavish walked towards the weapon stations. Most of them were full, or adjacent to one a Career was using. He did not want to be near one of them at all if he could help it; he didn't have a deathwish. However, there was one station that was both vacant, and far enough away from the Careers: the maces. Tavish was familiar with maces, due to it being a commonplace item to use in the butchering factories back in 10, but he wasn't too skilled with one. But it didn't really hurt to try, he reasoned. So he walked towards the station, and found it to be full of spiked maces of all shapes and sizes. In the middle of the station, sat at a wooden desk, was the trainer: a woman with spiky hair the colour of snow. She was engrossed in some sort of fashion magazine, and generally not really caring about what was going on around her. Tavish groaned: this was going to be the opposite of fun.

"Uh, excuse me," he said, approaching the woman. 
"What is it?" she asked, looking highly nonplussed.
"Well, it's just that I kind of want to train with a mace, and I don't know where to start, really," Tavish replied nervously. For some reason, he felt really anxious when talking to these trainers; none of them really seemed to care about the tributes. It was is if they were only there because nobody else wanted the positions.
"Oh," she replied. "Well, I guess it's simple. You take a mace that suits you, and you kind of just practice with it until you get the hang of it, 'kay?"
"All right then," Tavish said, walking away from the woman. He looked back at her, as if to say more, but she had already returned to her magazine. He guessed it was up to him to learn how to work with a mace. He approached one of the shelves stocked up with maces, and took one that he could reach. It was heavier than he thought, but it seemed to quite sturdy.

After getting used to holding onto it, Tavish walked over to the targets set up on the other side of the station. He walked up to one, and took a swing with the mace. It caught the dummy's shoulder, and tore it, leaving the limb to dangle there. It was soon followed by a gush of fake blood dripping onto the floor. Tavish smiled confidently as a result; he could really do well with this mace. He moved on to the next dummy, and swung at it. This time, he tore the arm off from below the elbow. Becoming more sure in his abilities, Tavish moved on to the next one, preparing to do the same.

This routine of swinging at the dummies carried on for another half hour, before Tavish was aware of another presence. He turned around, still holding the mace, which swung out of his hand. He watched in horror as it flew towards the other person, who Tavish quickly realised was Derek. However, Derek ducked to the ground, and the mace clattered to the floor harmlessly. The older boy from District 12 laughed.
"Hey, I thought we were allies!" he said. "At least wait until the arena before you back-stab me!"
"Ha, sorry about that," Tavish said sheepishly. "Anyway, where have you been today?"
"Okay," Derek said. "Don't kill me for this, but I kinda made a couple more allies."
"Really?" Tavish replied. "Who are they?"
Derek motioned to two tributes on his left, who quickly walked over to his side. "Tavish, meet Mason and Griffin."

Mason was a boy about the same height as Tavish, but with dirty blonde hair and a pair of glasses. Griffin was considerably smaller, with wide eyes and a nervous disposition. They weren't exactly life-saving assets, but together, the four of them could potentially survive, Tavish reasoned.
"Hey there," he said to the new allies.
"Hey," Mason said, smiling.
"Hi," Griffin said.
"Well, isn't this great conversation?" Derek said with a grin.
"Not really," Tavish said. "But how about we go somewhere else. If you haven't noticed, we're quite close to the Careers."
"You're right," Derek said, before his grey eyes lit up. "Hey! I have an idea! The first aid station's empty; how about we get to know each other over there?"
"Okay then," Tavish said, before facing Mason and Griffin. "You guys up for this?" Both nodded. "Okay then, let's go!"
"Yeah!" Derek cried, and ran towards the station. Tavish followed him, along with Mason and Griffin. He couldn't help but smile; a large alliance could only be a good thing, and he was hopeful that this would truly help with his survival.

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