Disclaimer: The Hunger Games is not mine.
Note: Yep, another SYOT. I'm quite addicted. Information and the tribute form are on my profile.
This story does follow my other three, but it should still make perfect sense if you haven't read them. If you have, there are lots of new faces this time around, although a few familiar ones are back, as well.
Those of you who are just jumping in, the only thing you really need to know is that canon has just been tossed out the window. And it made a very satisfying "thump" as it hit the ground.
For a Reason
The 42nd Hunger Games
President Silas Grisom
President Snow was dead.
Silas paced the room once more before finally settling into the desk that was now his. It was one of the few items that remained in the room. A desk that held a few pens and pieces of paper. A few chairs. A small painting of the Capitol emblem. He had removed everything else. The room was sparse. Bare. A fresh start.
He would need it.
Silas chose one of the pens and started doodling. This wasn't a job he had ever wanted. And he hadn't been anyone's first choice
Unfortunately, it seemed he had been everyone's second choice. And since each person's first choice had been himself, second-best was enough. He wasn't a popular choice. But he was a safe choice. After the fiasco of the 41st Games and the death of the president a mere week later, people needed someone reliable. Someone who could pull things back together before handing the reins to someone younger and more ambitious.
Silas shook his head. The sooner he could hand over the title, the better. He was getting too old for this. And he had no intention of ending up like his predecessor.
Rumors still ran rampant about what, exactly, had happened to President Snow. Some claimed that he had been assassinated by rebels. Others insisted that a political rival had finally managed to get the better of him and was waiting to take his place once Silas stepped down. Still others believed that Gamemaker Ward, the most recent Head Gamemaker, feared that the president might execute her for her part in the events of the 41st Games and had decided to act first. And a few naïve fools still believed the official story: that the president had died peacefully in his bed.
A knock on the door interrupted Silas' thoughts. Immediately, he set his scribblings aside. He hadn't expected them to be so prompt. He was used to waiting until other people were ready to see him, not the other way around.
Yet another thing to get used to.
"Come in," Silas called, and the door opened. A woman in her early thirties stepped in. Tamika Ward, President Snow's most recent Head Gamemaker. The fifth – no, sixth – since both President Richmond Hyde and Head Gamemaker Helius Florum had stepped down following the 25th Games. Under President Snow, no Head Gamemaker had lasted more than three years.
No wonder she looked nervous.
She was trying to hide it, though. She stood as tall as she could – which wasn't particularly tall, even with shoes that added a few inches to her height. Her hands were clasped firmly behind her back, her head held high. "You wished to see me, Mr. President."
Mr. President. He would have to get used to that. "Have a seat," Silas offered.
Tamika shook her head. "I'd rather stand."
Silas shrugged. "Suit yourself, but we may be a while. I'd like to talk about what happened during the Games."
Reluctantly, Tamika took a seat across from him. "May I speak plainly, Sir?"
Silas grinned. "I'd be disappointed if you ever did otherwise."
"Then, if I may, Mr. President … If you're going to fire me – or execute me – then please just get it over with. Let's not bother with sitting around and chatting first."
Silas chuckled a little. "Ms. Ward, I'm not interested in executing you. As for firing you … Well, let's just say that depends on how our little chat goes. I'd like you to tell me what happened during the Games."
"But you already know—"
"I know what I saw on the screen. I know what other people have said." Silas leaned forward a little, hands folded on his desk. "Before I was a part of President Snow's cabinet, before I was District Twelve's mentor, I was a lawyer. One of the best, if I may say so. And, as a lawyer, I learned the importance of hearing everyone's side of the story. From the beginning. Without any preconceived ideas about what happened." He smiled a little. "So this is your chance, Ms. Ward. Tell me – in your own words – what happened."
Tamika seemed to relax a little. Good. That was good. "All right," she said at last. "I suppose it started at the reaping. There were the normal volunteers, of course – from One, Two, and Four. One of the tributes from Five, as well, but they've been training a bit, ever since Camden won. So that wasn't anything out of the ordinary.
"But there were other volunteers, too – more than any other year. One of the tributes from Three. Both from Six. Both from Eight. All eighteen. All strong, fit, prepared. I didn't think anything of it, at first. Figured that maybe the other districts were finally starting to take a hint and adopt a Career system of their own."
Silas nodded. "Reasonable. But…"
"But during training, they all grouped together – then began adding to their numbers. They pulled in the girl from Three – and then both the tributes from Four. A large alliance. Larger than normal. So we started paying closer attention to them, and we got wind of their plan: They wanted to put a stop to the Games.
"It was a fairly simple plan. Band together, eliminate the tributes who insisted on fighting, and then hold their ground. Wait. Hope that, if they refused to fight, we would be forced to let them go."
"So you knew their plan before they entered the arena."
"Yes. But I thought it better to wait. Let the audience see them fail. Eventually, they would turn on each other – it was only a matter of time."
Silas nodded. "Nine times out of ten, you would have been right. Probably what I would have done, myself."
Tamika stared. She had clearly expected judgment. Condemnation. Instead, he was telling her she had made the right choice. "Once they were in the arena … everything happened so quickly. The bloodbath was a slaughter. The rebels had clearly been training, and they had two of the Careers on their side. They wiped out the other Careers, then went after the others who were determined to fight. A few of the stronger outliers. Both the younger tributes from Twelve. Anyone who wouldn't join them was killed – and quickly. Soon, it was just the twelve of them, and they all refused to fight each other.
"So I sent in the mutts. Imitations of the twelve Olympian gods. They separated the tributes, brought them to a secret part of the arena – an underworld I'd intended for the finale. I offered them a deal. The first tribute to agree to kill the others would be allowed to live; the others would be tortured and executed. It didn't take long. The girl from Three took my deal, and she killed the others – one by one."
Silas nodded. "And the girl – is she a threat?"
Tamika shook her head. "Only to herself. Word is, she tried to kill herself once she found out what happened to her family."
Silas held back a cringe of distaste. The families of the twelve tributes who had refused to fight had been executed. Brutally. Mercilessly. Children as young as two and grandparents who could barely stand. Anyone deemed close enough to the tributes to pose a threat.
"Whose idea were the executions?" Silas asked after a moment.
"President Snow's," Tamika admitted. "He was very ... thorough."
"He was paranoid, a micromanager, and a loose cannon," Silas translated. "I've half a mind to thank whoever's responsible for his demise. They probably did all of Panem a favor." He shook his head. "I suppose that leaves us with one question: What do you want?"
"What do you want? After what happened last year, I wouldn't blame you if you want out. If you want to step down peacefully, go back to your life, you're welcome to do so. But if you'd prefer to continue as Head Gamemaker, the job is yours."
"Even after what happened—"
Silas shrugged. "What happened was out of your control. You couldn't have stopped the rebels from volunteering. Maybe you could have separated them from the others during training, but once they were in the Games, you couldn't stop them from interacting with the other tributes. As far as I'm concerned, you were handed a lousy situation, which you handled with control and restraint. I need that. Right now, Panem needs someone who can handle pressure, someone who will be fair but firm, someone who will deliver justice, not vengeance. So … What do you want?"
Tamika stared for a moment. Then she stood up, taller and prouder than before. "I want the job, Mr. President."
Silas stood up and offered his hand. "Just Silas is fine."
She shook it. "Tamika."
"Well, then, Tamika … We have work to do."
"It only ends once. Anything that happens before that is just progress."