The New Mockingjay

The revolution is over. Panem has been changed. Now, each year, a young girl is chosen to be the Mockingjay. There are only two requirements- she has to be pretty, and she has to be able to sing like no other.
When Electra becomes the Mockingjay, she thinks she's in for a life of public performances, and putting forward a pretty face. The reality is much, much worse than that.

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7. 6- The forest

    Someone was shaking her shoulder.
    “Electra. Electra! Wake up! Please, please wake up. Come on! We need to get moving. We have to go now. It’s going to start storming soon, and we don’t want to be out in the open when that happens. Come on, you have to get up. We need to go.”
    Electra’s eyes fluttered open. She was staring up at the sky. Gwen’s worried face hovered above hers, green eyes wide with worry.
    “Electra- I mean, Mockingjay,” she quickly corrected herself, seeing Electra’s eyes open. She blinked, and Electra swore she saw tears building in her eyes. Then the moment was gone, and Gwen rearranged her features into a firm, determined mask. “Good. You’re awake. Come on, get up. We’ve got work to do. I already collected our reward. We need to get going now. We already got water- I filled the bottle while you were unconscious.”
    Electra’s face flushed red with embarrassment. She had been a total baby with the snake, first panicking, and then passing out at the sight of a little blood. Okay, a lot of blood. The thought of it still made her sick to her stomach, and she let out a weak groan. Her vision swam, and she nearly blacked out, before Gwen’s face came back into focus.
    “Oh no you don’t!” Gwen said firmly. “You are not passing out on me! Not now. We don’t have time for this. The snake is gone. The blood is gone. You’re fine. Come on, get up.”
    How could the blood be gone? Electra wondered. There was so much of it...
    She sat up, and looked around. Gwen was right. The snake had somehow vanished. The ground was its usual swampy color. There was no sign of the giant snake that had nearly killed her. No sign of what she’d done just minutes ago, killing it.
    Gwen handed her the knife she’d used. Electra flinched back, expecting it to be running red with blood, but it was surprisingly clean. She glanced at Gwen, suddenly suspicious as to what had happened to the snake.
    “You cleaned it, didn’t you? The blade, the ground... you must have somehow buried the snake too. You did all that while I was unconscious?” She felt a surge of gratitude.
    Gwen shrugged like it was nothing. “You fainted at the sight of some blood. The last thing I needed was for you to pass out right now, especially with that storm brewing overhead.”
    “Storm?” Electra looked up. True to Gwen’s word, dark clouds were building above them. They definitely didn’t look friendly. Already, she could see lightning touching down further away from them. It wasn’t even close, and the impacts still rattled her teeth. She glanced at Gwen, who was watching the storm with worried eyes. Electra dragged herself to her feet, gritting her teeth against the nausea and dizziness. She had to be tougher than this, or she was never going to survive these two weeks. Being pretty and being able to sing weren’t going to do her any good here.
    Already, her immaculate looks were gone. She was splattered with mud, cut up from being knocked out, and passing out. Her lower legs were coated with sand, and bits of grass clung to her hair from where she’d fallen. Her shoes had dark spots on them that she didn’t think too hard about, and she imagined her face was no better. All this on her first day. She was no pretty, beautiful emblem anymore. She was survivor, and she had to start acting like one.
    She gritted her teeth. She had been a survivor before. Back in her town, she had fought off wild predators, staying out late to defend the fields. Why couldn’t she be that way again? Had two years of being spoiled ruined her instincts? She hoped that wasn’t the case. She didn’t want to be weak. She needed to be strong for Gwen.
    That thought was ridiculous. She had to be strong for Gwen? Why did Gwen need her to be strong? Gwen was the strong one. Much stronger than Electra. But hadn’t Electra just saved her life? Of course, she’d then passed out from the blood, so maybe she wasn’t as strong as she liked to think she was.
    “Mockingjay!” Gwen said sharply. “We’ve got to move!”
    Electra turned, and saw Gwen waving at her urgently. The look on the smaller girl’s face was one of intense concentration, and maybe, just maybe, a little bit of fear.
    “Are you going to move, or will I have to shove you?” Gwen snapped. “You might outrank me, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to let you stand here until the storm kills you! Come on, we’ve got to get to the forest.”
    “Our... reward?” Electra asked distractedly.
    “I already got it!” Gwen replied. “Now get moving!”
    The sharpness of her tone finally got Electra to move. She bolted towards the forest, Gwen close on her heels. For a moment, Electra wondered why she was outrunning the smaller girl, but then she realized Gwen was guarding her back, like she expected another giant snake to pop up out of the swamp and attack them. Electra silently prayed that something like that wouldn’t happen.
    She reached the forest and was about to go charging in when Gwen called from behind her, “Wait!”
    Electra froze, and Gwen walked past, her, eyes focused on the forest in front of them.
    “It looks dangerous,” Gwen said quietly. “That storm... it’s probably to drive us in here. I don’t like the thought of rushing in blindly. It’s obviously some sort of trap. Let me go first.”
    Gwen started forwards, moving slowly and carefully. She made it about five feet, when something beneath her went snap. Gears whirred, and a net, carefully concealed beneath the leaves, snapped upwards, wrapping around Gwen and flipping her upside down. Electra let out a little shriek, caught between running to help Gwen and backing away.
    Gwen glared at her from upside down, her face already turning red from the strain.
    “Are you done staring? Get me down!”
    Electra fumbled around until she found the knife, which she used to cut through the net. Fortunately, the knife sliced the rope easily. Unfortunately, the whole thing broke, dumping Gwen onto the ground like a sack of potatoes.
    “Thank you for that,” she said icily, standing and brushing herself off.
    “I’m sorry,” Electra apologized weakly. “I didn’t know how else to cut you down, and I didn’t want to hurt you, I’m so sorry, please don’t be mad at me...” She trailed off, realizing she was rambling. She hated rambling.
    “It’s alright,” Gwen replied. “I’m not mad at you. But... putting a trap right there... that’s just cruel. Letting you think you’re safe, and then wham. You’re upside down. I’m just glad it didn’t catch you. I guess I should keep going first.”
    “You don’t... have to go first,” Electra said awkwardly.
    As usual, that seemed to be the wrong thing to say. Gwen glanced back at her, and sighed. “Yes, yes I do, actually. It’s my job to keep you from getting killed. That means walking in front, so I can deal with any traps we come across.”
    “But what if they’re more dangerous than a net?” Electra protested. “This place is designed to... you know, to kill me. What if you hit a trap, and it-”
    That, of all things, brought a smile to Gwen’s face. That girl had a strange sense of humor.
    “You know, I don’t plan to just go blundering along, hitting as many traps as I can. I actually am going to try to find and deactivate them, not just run headlong into them. I’m not that much of an idiot. That first one was well concealed- it just caught me off guard, I guess. Don’t worry. I’ll be more careful. That first one was evil. We’d better get deeper in, though, or the lightning will fry both of us.”
    “Gwen, you don’t have to keep risking your life for me,” Electra insisted. “I can help. Show me what to do, and I’ll help you find those traps, and deactivate them.”
    “No,” Gwen replied shortly. “Security risk. Too dangerous. I’m not allowed to put you in any situation that might endanger you, or put your life at risk. That’s too dangerous, which means you have to let me handle that. You’re important- I’m not. I can die, but we need you to live, and survive this whole thing.”
    “You can’t just die!” Electra protested. “Are you kidding me? You’re important too.”
    Gwen’s eyebrows lowered in a dark expression. “No. Not next to you, I’m not. They can always find another soldier. But you? They can’t replace the Mockingjay. If you die, there will never be another one. Ever again. So yeah, your life is much more important. Don’t try to make me feel better about my position.”
    She turned away- a clear sign that she didn’t want to talk. Electra let out a sigh, looking away. Was there anything she could say that would make the smaller girl actually treat her like a friend instead of like a responsibility.
    Maybe I just need to start acting less like a responsibility... She shook her head, trying to focus on anywhere other than Gwen’s small, angry form. If only I had a sling, or a weapon, or something other than this stupid knife. Something that wouldn't spill a whole ton of blood and make me pass out. Anything along those lines would be good. Anything to keep me from being this useless drag, who’s always slowing Gwen down, and making her risk her life, while she has to drag me along.
    Electra looked away, wishing she could do something, anything, to convince Gwen she wasn’t going to be a total drag. She’d killed the snake, hadn’t she? And even that didn’t seem to matter. She considered mentioning that to Gwen, but she felt like that would just sound conceited and arrogant. She wouldn’t have been able to kill it without Gwen’s help, after all. Making it sound like it was all her was rude and mean, especially after Gwen nearly died.
    They crept further into the forest. Every couple minutes, Gwen would indicate to Electra that she needed to stop, and then sneak forwards and deactivate a trap. They went on like this for a while. Electra couldn’t help but be impressed with the small girl’s skill. She deactivated nearly twenty traps in the course of their short walk. It was almost like she could smell them, because Electra could never see the traps until Gwen had finished deactivating them, leaving a pile of twisted, broken wires in her wake. Gwen never spoke to her. She was still bitter about the whole talk about importance thing. So they walked in a tense sort of silence, Gwen stalking forwards in a half crouch, and Electra following behind, wishing she looked half as quick and graceful as Gwen did.
    At one point, Electra began to whistle, just to pass the time. Gwen glanced back at her, expression confused.
    “What are you doing?”
    “Whistling...” Electra said uncertainly, thrown off by Gwen’s tone. She actually sounded slightly worried. What was she doing wrong this time?
    “You’re alerting everything in the forest to our position,” Gwen said tensely, hands clenched into knotted fists. “I’m trying to keep you alive, and you’re sounding off our position like a radar beacon. Anything and everything in these woods is probably rushing towards us right now. Our best strategy is to be swift and silent, understand?”
    Electra nodded weakly, and they traveled in total silence after that.

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