The city was alive.
Dark night skies hovered over the Capitol, but the atmosphere was anything but bleak. Teenagers ran the streets, either riding on sleek, silver tanks, or just running on foot. I could hear gunshots echoing far in the distance. A few screams. The faint sound of vicious laughter.
The districts had collapsed years ago, burning to ash in front of those who inhabited them. I could barely even remember the twelve sectors. Being only young when the government had been overthrown by the revolution, I couldn’t remember life in the sectors.
All I remembered was my mother taking us, fleeing onto the hijacked trains, and letting us escape to the inner Capitol. My mother had been terrified but she had to think of Prim and I. Of our futures. If she had stayed with us in the remains of District 12, we never would’ve survived.
Fleeing to the Capitol had been the best decision, and I would never let her forget that.
Well. I never would’ve let her forgotten it. If she’d still been alive to talk to.
After a hard year of tidying up the remains of the Capitol, it was established that the country still desperately needed some sort of leader. Every survivor from each district was now clumped together in the city, and none of us knew what to do. Everyone was elected a house, or apartment, to stay in, and given food cards. Clothes were shelled out willingly. Jobs were soon dished out and all the adults began to work in set careers.
Nearly three years went by before a new government was elected. The only party to actually compete to become the new government was named Centrist Saint, and it was led by a young man named Cobalt Rider. He was originally from District Ten, but you never would’ve guessed from how he looked. The wealth of the Capitol had been shared between the new citizens, and many were starting to look far cleaner than before. Cobalt, however, looked completely renewed. He had the aura of a strong leader—he wore tightly fitted black jumpsuits, his black-blue hair slicked back into flicked out points at the base of his skull, and always had a posse of similarly dressed followers behind him.
There was no one who disliked Cobalt, despite only being the young age of nineteen. His followers—unoriginally—called themselves Riders, and the people of the renewed Capitol knew that he was to raise the country from the smoking ashes it had become.
No one had really anticipated that Cobalt’s followers would overtake the entire country.
He ignored the adults, casting them aside as useless and unworkable. There was some disgust at that—many of the adults felt that they should’ve gained his respect for getting so many children out of the falling districts. But Rider had no time for that. He focused on rebuilding the schools, pushing children towards education. He didn’t want politicians.
He wanted soldiers.
Children grew into teenagers swiftly, and the level of intelligence they had gained from years at school set them above the uneducated elders. Some would argue that their education had really been propaganda—and it was true. No one would admit to it, though.
Teenagers ran the Capitol. They went out on patrols each night, cat-calling loudly into the darkness and breaking into traitors homes. Cobalt wanted warriors to kill off all the Gamemakers and old government members that were in hiding.
It was safe to say that no one ever remained missing in the C.S. system.
Fast-forward seven years from the election of Cobalt Rider’s new world and here I was.
Perched unceremoniously on the edge of a ruined skyscraper building, I scowled and slid another bullet into the gun in my lap. I hated the god damn thing. Each Citizen of the Capitol was legally obliged to own a gun and carry it at all times.
Stupid piece of crap. I tossed it away from me, letting it bounce on the gravel lining the collapsed roof of the building.
“Should I come back later?”
My jaw clenched. “Good idea.”
I heard a throaty laugh and the boy sat down beside me. His legs swung precariously over the edge of the roof.
He grinned widely at me. “C’mon, Catnip. Tonight’s the start of the Games! Are you not even a little excited?”
I glared at him. “I don’t enjoy killing people, Gale.”
Gale rolled his eyes, lips still curved into a smile. “They aren’t people—you have to start remembering that. They ruined people’s lives, kid. Your mother’s, for one.”
I felt my eyes prick. It had been nearly five years, but it still stung.
“I know,” I mumbled. “I just can’t seem to kill without a conscious like the rest of you.”
My mother, the woman who I had been named after at my father’s request, known to most as the Mockingjay. The reason why all of this—the rebellion, the rebuke of the people, the capture of Panem—had even started in the first place. She’d featured in the 74th Hunger Games, alongside my father. They’d fought to the very end, both desperately craving the freedom of the people and the downfall of the original government. When the Capitol regime finally fell, she had ran back to District Twelve with my father to gather survivors.
For years following, they’d lived a good life together. They’d helped people onto the trains to the Capitol, not leaving themselves until they had encouraged every last person from every district onto a train. By then, I was seven and fully aware of what was happening around me. My younger sister, Primrose—named after a long dead sister of my mother’s—was little more than four at the time.
She had only been seven years old when my parents were captured by a band of revolting Gamemakers, and both shot straight through the head with our names on their lips.
After that, I’d been left to bring her up on my own. My own grief had been pushed to the side to make room for hers.
Whether that had left me damaged or not, I didn’t know. Frankly, I found it hard to care.
Gale was still talking, but I’d stopped listening a while ago. Now that he’d brought it up, all I could think of was the Games.
Appropriately named the Insurrection Games, the week of full-fledged killing commenced once every year late in the summer months. It consisted of Citizens—children of the Capitol—being armed with weaponry and sent out on a murder spree throughout the entire city. Known Gamemakers and such were kept in prisons throughout the year until the Games were upon us, and then set free in the streets at night for us to slaughter.
Not really the Remembrance many had been hoped for, but we’d take what we could get.
“So how about it?”
I focused back on Gale’s voice. “Huh?”
“You weren’t listening at all, were you?”
Gale laughed, hopping up. “Thought as much. I was saying, do you want to take Prim? She’s old enough to actually do something this year.”
My head snapped up. “No. No way. I’m not letting Prim into this.”
Helping me up, Gale’s face softened. He placed a hand on my shoulder and gently said, “Katniss, you can’t protect her forever. No matter what, she’ll end up just like us.”
Just like us. No, I thought, just like you. But I didn’t say this—I simply brushed off his hand and bent to grab the gun. I heard him sigh.
A bell rang three times through the streets. I straightened, frowning. The sun hadn't even fully gone down yet, but that bell signified the beginning of the Games. Clearly they were eager for them to begin this year.
Gale inhaled slowly and grinned at me. “It’s time, Catnip.”