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Every move hinted a brutal power restrained as the soldiers marched on by. It was a surprise thing for all of us, especially me on my way to work, because I was heading to Officer Cohne’s too. Normally in the morning only a couple people were out of the warmth of their beds. Like usual, Nya, and her nervous chatter kept me up all night. I only got an hour or two of sleep, and I didn’t mind. I have grown to like the soldiers. They were always around that radio of theirs, listening to some sort of game. They took it awfully seriously, and made me stop dusting or scrubbing the windows because of the sound.
I had to wait until most of the soldiers left to go in the dainty cabin. I stopped in the hallway to check myself. I had to look decent, at least. I ran a couple of fingers through my waves of dark hair, trying to keep it as sleek and shiny as I could. I tried not to look at anything else. My father said that I looked just like my mother. Same grey eyes, small mouth, small figure. I didn’t want to look like someone he said was dead. I refused to believe it. I straightened up and fixed my blouse before walking through the doors.
Officer Cohne’s face hardened as he talked with the only soldier left. Something seemed wrong, and I didn’t want to intrude. But as fast as their conversation intensed, it abruptly ended. The soldier turned to go, the lines around his eyes showing more wisdom than age. “And who may this be?” He asked, turning to glance back at Officer Cohne. His voice seemed to go up an octave, like how an adult talked to their newborn child. And he had this strange accent, too. Something I’ve never heard before for all the variety in this place. “Brynn Jakobson. Fifteen.” He answered. He didn’t add the orphan part.
“Jacob..?” He tried, almost wincing.
“It’s pronounced Yakob.” I say, smiling slightly.
“Yes, yes. Jakobson. Well, I guess I’ll just call you Brynn, then.” He said, smiling back and walking to the front door. “It was nice talking with the both of you.”
Officer Cohne gave me one of his glares that sent me bolting to the back. The radio was on, of course. And the boys were mostly silent, besides Erik’s snoring. I walked in, their heads popped up curiously, and then back down, murmuring some hello’s and hey Brynn’s. “What’s on today?” I whispered, and knelt down beside Aron. He looked over at me, tugged the corner’s of his mouth into a fake smile, and murmured for me to listen. But you could barely hear half the time, which is why David threatened me to be quiet or he’d make me mop the whole house. And then I reminded him how loud I would be, and that it might just slip out that I heard music coming from his bunk.
Of course, Cohne didn’t know of the radio. Just thought the boys would be playing cards or something else. Fighting and crime wasn’t a sort of thing around here. Most of the people had enough of it to deal with before they came around. “Annual…Panem…” The radio sputtered. Annual game, blah, blah, blah. Somewhere in Panem, where ever that was. “Mellark…District…” David scribbled down the familiar words, and moved the radio up higher. “Katniss Everdeen is in love!” Love? That’s new. Probably with one of those other boys they talk about. They all had weird names. Maybe it was Cato, Thresh, or Peeta. I think they were boys, anyway. “Erik, Erik!” Evan hissed, waking him up to stop his snoring. “Katniss is taken! Ha, I told you!” I rolled my eyes, and noticed Aron’s eyes on me. I blushed slightly, standing back up to stretch my legs. I don’t know how they did this all day. Erik rolled away, facing the wall. “Brilliant.” He muttered saracastically.
“Only four Tributes left standing, folks…My, my, my!” God, this girl’s voice was annoying. Only two full sentences out of her, and she was already worse than Nya. She always had an odd accent, too. Everyone on that radio did. I smoothed down my skirt, the only one I owned, and moved out of the way so Erik could sit in my spot. The game seemed to be over by now, because David turned down the volume. “What’s a Tribute?” I asked, confused. “They said there was only four left? Wasn’t there twenty-four?”
“Yeah.” Aron just said softly. He seemed upset. I didn’t understand. “And Panem, where is Panem, anyway?” I sighed. The boys didn’t answer, just stared at the floor. I was getting frustrated. Weeks of doing this, day after day, for more depression? I was getting tired of depression. It’s everywhere around here! Depression and death. And I was getting sick of it. “Aron, just tell me.” I whispered, and he looked up at me. David glared at Aron’s back before snarling, “Don’t you dare tell her, Aron Lajtner.”
“It’s just a game, Aron! Quit being so harsh to him.” I muttered. “But it isn’t, you see.” Aron sighed. “It’s not fake, Panem is real. Katniss Everdeen is a real person in the most cruel game imaginable. You know what they call it, Brynn.”
“Yeah, yeah, The Hunger Games.” I nodded. Hunger I knew of. “I still don’t understand, Aron.”
“Panem is a country not close to ours, Brynn…” He studied my face as my heart stopped beating, and then sputtered back to life.
“T-There are more survivors? They weren’t washed away like the prime minister said?” He lied to us? We weren’t the only ones? Does Katniss and Panem know about us?" And if my father knew of this five years ago, knew that his wife could possibly be alive and not at the bottom of the ocean in the place he called North America, he wouldn’t have left me to rot here?
My inner monologue turned high-pitched and furious in my head, my eyes drifted to the floor. “Brynn, you’ve got to understand. It’s for our safety. Right now, Panem is a much more stronger country than ours. Their government would wipe us out if they knew of us.” Aron said softly. He was the only one that knew of my father. He tried to help.
“I understand.” I said in my very best monotone. I was proud to hear that it didn’t even tremble, because I was about to lose it. David sighed, I don’t know, maybe from relief. Did he really think I would stand up and run to Cohne. Even if I were that stupid, I would’ve gotten us all fired.
They exchanged glances. “Mostly…the government knows. We have connections to Panem,” Erik shrugged, then pointed at the radio. “And this is ours. For now. Soon enough we’ll get their broadcasts, and then we can actually see their faces.” He saw my face, then added, “We’re not the only ones who get lied to, you know.”
“Why is Panem’s people being lied to?”
“Because their president is a selfish b****rd.” David muttered. “Do you even know how they play in the Hunger Games? They have to kill each other, or their family and friends will die, too.” I froze. “What?”
“David, shut up. She doesn’t need to hear it.” Aron muttered back. I sighed, agreeing. Finding out Katniss Everdeen will soon be dead was horrible. I hoped she would at least try to fight back. And I hoped we could help her somehow, somewhere. If we knew about Panem, somebody must know about us.
“Aren’t we going to do something about it? Or do you enjoy it just as much as they do?” I asked, ignoring the sharp guilt at Aron’s expression. “We can’t, Brynn. That would be suicide.”
“No, you shut up Aron. I thought we were going to stop lying to her. You see, Brynn,” David turned to face me, I just stared at Aron’s grim face. “Those soldiers out there have done it. It’s possible. Going to District 13 would be safe because nobody knows about it!”
“Brynn’s not a soldier, David.” Aron just sighed. It made me mad, because really, what did I have to lose? Obviously my father didn’t care, and my mother…there was a chance she was there. A little one, but I would take it. “Well, I’m going.” I announced. “Cohne won’t care. He’ll get Nya to take my place. The other soldiers, their officer, likes me enough. And I can take care of myself. They won’t have to babysit me or anything.” I shrugged, almost smiling at the thought of going to Panem. “I’m going, too.” Aron said, which surprised me. Flattered me. “Me, too. It’s boring here.” David smiled. Erik agreed, so did Evan. “So, the five of us are going? Cohne’s going to love that.” I said with a snort. David frowned, and in the distance we heard the soldier’s trucks rumble to life. We all stood up, ran out the back door. For some reason I thought this was madly funny. I’ve never done anything like this In my whole life. Aron motioned me to be quiet as we hopped in the back. They all blended in to the soldiers beside them…beside me. I squeezed myself between Erik and Aron, looking out the back. “Oi! Miss Brynn’s here.” The officer from before said, I looked over at him, startled. “Wonderful!
We’re going to have a great time!”
This is when he explained, and when I found out his name. Sam is from District 13, same with most of the soldiers with us. They have been sneaking back and forth between countries for years, without the least of suspicion from The Capitol. When he told me from where he was from, there was no sense of pride. He told me of how Panem rebuilt itself, how President Snow came to order with his Peacekeepers and laws.
“One hundred years ago, the people of Panem revolted against the Capitol. Unjust treatment, high taxes, oppressive laws and a myriad of other problems led to three years of general unease and violent revolution. But the Capitol in its strength quashed the rebellion and publicly executed the revolutionaries. They defined the districts into the segregated sections that are today are the Districts. What used to be an unfair government turned into a cruel government; the oppressive laws before the revolution paled in comparison to the world that began once the Capitol seized power once more. Our punishment, The Hunger Games.” He stopped, watching my face. When I didn’t say anything, Aron cut in. “But what happened to District 13? I thought you were…gone.”
“That’s what they wanted the other Districts to think. We made a deal with The Capitol. If we went underground, they would leave us alone. But we can’t have contact with any of the other Districts.” My heart sank. The chances of my mother being in District 13 was slim. Erik saw my face, and put his hand on my knee. The warm weight of it comforted me. Samuel didn’t notice, and continued on. “The only reason The Capitol agreed was because they were scared.”
“Of what?” I asked, frowing.
“District 13 specializes in nuclear weapons, Brynn. And they didn’t want a nuclear war.” I didn’t understand what the word nuclear even meant. How much destruction and death it could cause. But by the other’s faces, I judged it was clearly a thing to stay away from.
“We still make weapons. Just not for The Capitol.” Sam said, almost smirking. “Then for who?” David asked, agitated.