The Reality of District 3
Alanza was slow, not dumb. She'd made middling grades at one of the 'medium difficulty' schools before getting into the Games, but had doodled a lot too, had gotten very good at it. She'd spent most of the run up to her Games amazed at the Capitol, and had used what she learned there combined with her sketchbook to invent things in the arena (her mentor had been particularly helpful, had gotten her the tools her sketches showed she needed.)
Now, years later, she'd chosen the 18s because she wasn't one to take risks, to step outside the norm. That had been a mistake.
She would have been surprised to know the near-unanimity of the District residents about what the Games meant, about what Team 13 meant.
She'd never been good at the social stuff, of parsing out meanings and context and subtext.
Well, she'd won the 82nd.
That had been eighteen years ago.
Since then she'd enjoyed a position of opulent privilege, but also a position which allowed for no freedom.
She didn't miss it; she'd never had it. That didn't mean the lack of freedom was any less frustrating.
She'd spent her days, instead, doing what she could to keep up with the Capitol's demands of her. She would spend almost every day working on inventions, coming up with them at such slow speeds that the majority of the Capitol—the majority of her District—thought it was only a hobby of hers, something to pass the time instead of a twelve hour a day job.
She'd liked being liked, though, liked the Capitol and the glitz and the glamour and the lack of bullies, so she'd kept at it.
And at it.
And at it.
And then the Centennial Censure had been announced.
It had been… mildly disconcerting, she supposed, when she and the other two District 3 victors were brought together and told to do whatever it took to keep her alive. It wasn't surprising, in retrospect—she was the Capitol's favorite, and having a victor the Capitol liked helped the District as a whole—but it felt callous, cruel.
It would not, after all, be the members of the District killing the victors whose teams lost—no, the Capitol was holding an auction to give their own citizens that honor.
Death by firing squad; what a way to go.
She'd been more than happy, if slightly guilty, to agree to her two neighbors sacrificing themselves to keep herself alive and away from dozens of guns pointed at her face.
So she'd chosen Team 18.
Then Team 17.
It hadn't even been her choice, was the thing.
Things were moving too fast, and Alanza had always been slow.
It had been Feron—Feron who saw things when there were none, who was far more brilliant than she but also refused to take his medication because "the Capitol had done enough already"—who had switched the teams, had her take 13.
"Far more likely than the sixteen-year-olds," he'd whispered in his ear—far too close, and far too raspily, "and we have to keep you alive."
She'd… not necessarily disagreed.
But she'd still thought Team 18 had the best chance.
So she'd ignored Hermosa, ignored the smartest of her tributes in exchange for the ones who were most physically fit, for the ones with the most intimidating teammates.
And Jago, her eighteen, was strong indeed. He had, after all, been slated for warehouse work.
District 3 had the most non-food warehouses of any District—massive, towering structures which stretched to the horizon and held everything and anything the Capitol could possibly want. Work there was grueling, and the pace nearly impossible to keep up with: anything that was ordered had to arrive in five hours, and that tight deadline and the 24/7 lifestyle of the citizens made the work constant and constantly draining.
Jago, perfectly aware of where he had been headed, had been building muscle from a young age.
He had fantastic endurance, amazing grip strength—he could keep loading and unloading and doing all the work that had to be done for hours.
He hadn't been much looking forward to it, though, and the chance to get his family—both immediate and extended—a better life in exchange for his own…
It was no surprise he'd ended up as the 18-year-old volunteer.
She'd tried, for him, even after the first day when nothing went to plan. She'd done her best to be sociable, to get sponsors.
She'd gotten enough to send him the materials for a grenade on Day 4.
He'd died that same day.
Alanza had considered, but by now it was clear to even her that Team 17—and Adelita in particular—was bound to suffer the same fate.
The various gambling establishments were working overtime as upset over upset through the Games into chaos.
Alanza realized she'd bet on the wrong horse.
And then she realized that that probably meant something was different.
She was slow, after all, but not dumb.
Team 18 really should have been the likeliest to win.
That they weren't, that the Alliance had been formed, that Team 13 was Team 13…
Something, she finally realized, was brewing.
Serafina cackled to herself in a corner of their suite for the entirety of Day 5. Feron had locked himself in his room the night they'd arrived and only ever made sparing visits to the rest of the world.
Both of them were due to die in mere days.
Feron had even gone out of his way to make sure it was him, not her, that had that dubious honor.
Alanza remembered being a child, remembered being bullied for being too dumb, too slow, remembered the feeling she'd had when she'd come back a Victor—the sudden difference in treatment, the sudden celebrity she'd gained.
And all she'd had to do was kill.
And Alanza realized that she didn't want to live in a world where her treatment—where her life, and those of everyone else's—was determined by a fraction of a fraction of the whole of Panem.
And then she'd realized that Team 13 had decided the same.
It took her a bit longer to work out that rebellion really was coming, a bit longer to work out what to do about it, and then Day 10 arrived and Alanza—
Wasn't anywhere to be seen.
Not, that is, until her body, far beyond recognition, was identified amidst rows and rows and rows of destroyed drones—an electrical attack that crippled over half the Capitol's aerial weaponry in one swoop.
Feron, who was the first to be grabbed by the Capitol soldiers to be questioned as a possible accomplice, laughed when he heard.
"Did not expect that." He said. "But really, that's the least of your concerns." With the alarms blaring above them, they couldn't even argue the point.
They killed him anyway.