Author's Note: This is an entry for the Starvation April 2012 Challenge. The challenge prompt was 'Inescapable.' I hope you all enjoy :)
"Greetings to the final contestants of the Seventy-fourth Hunger Games. The earlier revision has been revoked. Closer examination of the rule book has disclosed that only one winner may be allowed." Claudius Templesmith announces. "Good luck and may the odds be ever in your favor."
Seneca Crane couldn't help but grin. Each gamemaker had a moment in their career that defined their legacy: something that occurred in one of their Games that no one would ever forget. He had just found his moment. No one will forget the tale of the star crossed lovers from District Twelve. They would retell the story of how the two fought against each other in the beginning only to ally with each other and defeat the other tributes. They will feel sorrow at their ending, when one of them had to kill the other to win. No matter if it was Katniss or Peeta who won the Games, they both have done their purpose. They created the perfect story for the Capitol and Seneca Crane would only benefit from it.
"Ready the final cannon Lucia." Seneca told the gamemaker sitting in the chair next to him. "It won't take long before one of them kills the other. I'll ready the trumpets and the fanfare."
Lucia nodded at his words, typing in her computer. All that was left was one final button to be pressed before a cannon was to be launched. She and the other gamemakers were now watching the screen, waiting for one of the star crossed lovers to kill the other.
It seemed as if Katniss was going to be the victor. She had an arrow aimed at her partner's heart when he went to get a knife. He's then asking her to kill him and live. Katniss proceeds to deny his request, giving him the bow to kill to her off.
"Even better." Seneca mumbled to himself. They are begging for the other to kill the other and live. This just adds to the tragic ending of the star crossed lovers. This is something Seneca failed to think about but it only makes it better for him in the end.
The two tributes from District Twelve continue to talk about who will walk away. Katniss at one point stopped paying attention to Peeta's words. She moved to her pouch on her belt and opened it.
"Nightlock?" Seneca questions as he watches the girl take out the berries that had previously killed the girl from District Five.
Before he had time to question what the purpose was, Katniss had already given some of the berries to Peeta. They both had them in their hands and were poised to eat them.
"On the count of three?" Katniss's voice is heard in the room through the speakers.
The grin on Seneca Crane's face drops. His eyes widen in shock and fright. This wasn't in any of his plans. He can't believe what he is seeing. Are the two seriously going to kill each other? Are they going to commit suicide? That would mean the Games would have no victor!
A phone in the room rings. Lucia runs over to the phone frantically and picks it up. She listens to the voice for a second before she turns to the head gamemaker.
"Seneca, it is Claudius! He wants to know if he should intervene and claim they both won, because right now it looks like we won't have a victor!" She yells at him, her voice filled with worry.
Seneca knows she is right. The two are going to kill to each other at the same time, preventing the Games from having a victor. That would be disastrous for the Hunger Games! The reason to have a victor is to show the Capitol's generosity to the districts and give them some hope. But what would happen if there was no victor? There's no doubt the districts would be angry. They could get angry enough to rebel. People in the Capitol would be mad as well. Mad that the Games proved to be a disappointment. Mad that there was no victor.
But can the Games have two victors, especially these two? For starters, having two victors goes against Hunger Games protocol. Secondly, Katniss has showed signs of rebelliousness in her behavior. If the gamemakers allowed this scheme of hers to work, then wouldn't that be a sign to the districts that rebellion can work? That they can at times defy the Capitol to benefit themselves. President Snow would not be pleased at all. There's no telling how he would react.
For the first time, Seneca felt genuine fear about the Games. He had to make a decision. Let them both die or crown them both victors? He felt that either choice would doom him and his career.
"One." Katniss and Peeta say in unison.
"Seneca! He needs to know if he can stop it in time!" Lucia yells again.
Seneca shook his head. He was still in thought. He didn't know what the right decision was yet. He needed more time, something he knew he didn't have.
"Two." The star crossed lovers continue.
"Seneca!" She shouts again.
The head gamemaker groans. This was it. He had to make a decision now.
"…tell Claudius not to interfere." Seneca finally replies.
Lucia's eyes widen but she does what she is told. She informs Claudius of her boss's words nervously. She knows what's going to happen now. They all know what's about to happen.
"Three!" Peeta and Katniss shout as they move the nightlock berries to their mouths.
Perhaps they thought the gamemakers would interfere. Perhaps they felt like the Games needed a victor. They did not know that the head gamemaker finally decided that the Games did not need a victor.
This realization must have hit them when they bit into the berries. It did not take long before the two star crossed lovers fell to the ground. Two cannons were launched. No victor was crowned for the Seventy-fourth Hunger Games.
Seneca closes his eyes during their final moment. He couldn't bear to see their deaths. For the first time in his career, he regretted one of his decisions. He should have let them both live. But he allowed them to die and there was nothing he could do about it.
All was silent in the control room of the gamemakers. No one had anything to say: not after what they saw. All of the hard work put into this year's Games was all for naught. What was the Hunger Games without a victor? Nothing. They all knew it.
Ten minutes after the Games ended, two peacekeepers walked into the room.
"Seneca Crane? President Snow would like to speak with you." One of them announced to everyone in the room.
Seneca felt a cold spell go through his back but nodded. He had no choice. The head gamemaker started walking to the peacekeepers. They opened the door to the room and the three walked out together.
The peacekeepers took Seneca down a path. They walked in uncomfortable silence that made the head gamemaker shiver. All three men stopped when they reached a door. The peacekeepers opened it. Seneca walked in and was met by the gaze of President Snow. The president is in the room, sitting down at a desk. On that desk is a golden cup. Seneca assumed wine was in the cup, as the president enjoyed having a drink every once in awhile.
"Seneca, good to see you." Snow greets.
Seneca bows in response, walking further into the room. The peacekeepers stand near the door to the room.
"Have you been watching much television recently Seneca?" President Snow asks. "I know you've been busy with the Games, but it's gotten pretty interesting since the Games ended."
Snow turns on a television that was in the room. An image of District Twelve was now shown on screen. The people of the district were screaming and running around, attacking all signs of the Capitol evident in the district. The justice building was lit on fire. A couple of men were standing by it making sure it was being burnt to the ground. The men and women of the district were attacking peacekeepers. Seneca knew what was being shown: District Twelve was staging a rebellion.
"Do not worry too much. We've already sent in more peacekeepers and we know that this conflict will not last much longer." President Snow replies. "Still, it's odd that District Twelve would finally revolt now. They aren't the district we've had problems with. It would take a lot to get them to rebel."
Before Seneca can open his mouth to explain his decision, Snow changes the channel on the screen. It cuts to the live commentary of Caesar and Claudius about the Games.
"Yes, we understand! We agree wholeheartedly! Thank you for calling in." Caesar tells someone on a call. At that moment, he hangs up the phone and turns to Claudius. "I think we're doing taking calls at the moment. What do you think Claudius?"
"I would agree!" The man replies with a heavy sigh. "The opinion seems completely unanimous around the Capitol: we are not happy with the Games this year!"
"Such a disappointment it is!" Caesar frowns. "I can't get over the fact that they killed themselves. Now I'm one for a tragic ending but that seemed almost too tragic!"
"I would agree." Claudius said shaking his head in disappointment.
Snow shuts off the television and looks at Seneca expectantly. The head gamemaker feels the same cold spell come again. He has to word things carefully now. He knows what the president wants to know and he can't screw up what he his saying. The head gamemaker feels like a tribute in his own Games, cornered by some ruthless Career who is prepared to tear him apart limb by limb.
"I felt that the decision to not intervene was for the best. It goes against the very nature of the Hunger Games to allow two victors! Also, if we allowed them both to live, that gives the districts an example on what happens if they rebel against the Capitol. It can give them the idea to look for loopholes in the system!" Seneca explains his logic as carefully as he can. "I felt that letting them both live would endanger the Capitol to uprisings by the other districts."
"I understand." President Snow nods. "I'm sure that letting two victors win would cause for people in all districts to look for loopholes and try and take advantage of the Capitol. I understand completely. But is this outcome much better than if they were both allowed to live?"
Seneca thought back to the image of District Twelve rebelling on the screen. They were obviously enraged by both of their tributes dying in such a manner when they were finally about to have their first victor since Haymitch. They were trying to get their revenge on the Capitol.
"What is the status in the other districts?" Seneca asked the president nervously.
"District Eleven is rebelling as well. It's more contained and not broadcasted though since the peacekeeper forces there are better than the ones in District Twelve." President Snow informs him. "As for the other districts, nothing as of yet. But you can never be too certain. Everyone is angry because of the Games. They feel they were tricked. They are going to be more suspicious during the next Games. I think they are wondering if there will be a victor next year."
Seneca opened his mouth to speak but couldn't find the words. The president was right. The districts were going to get angry by this decision. But is it that much worse than if Katniss and Peeta were allowed to live? In his mind, Seneca thought it would not be as bad for the Capitol. Now, he wasn't certain.
"I understand that it was a difficult choice Seneca. Both options had horrible consequences. But you chose one, and now we all have to live with the consequences of that decision." Snow tells him.
With that, President Snow gets up from his desk and gives the head gamemaker a handshake. He then walks out of the room. The peacekeepers follow him, leaving Seneca alone in the room.
Seneca gets up from his seat and walks over to the door a few seconds after everyone else has left. He reaches for the handle and tries to open it. The door would not open. He tries again. The door doesn't budge. The doors are locked from the outside.
Panic and fright takes over Seneca Crane once more. He is locked in this room. He wanders around the room nervously, trying to imagine what is going on. The head gamemaker tries to calm himself down. Surely the president will come back. That was an accident. He will come back and unlock the door. Deep down, Seneca knew the truth though. He just could not face it.
Seneca decides he needed alcohol to calm himself down. He walks over to the golden cup that was left behind in the room. He picks up the cup and is about to drink it when he notices what is in it.
It's nightlock berries.
Seneca's eyes widen in shock. President Snow has locked him in a room with only these berries. His intention is now seen to the head gamemaker. The president wants Senca to kill himself. He wants him dead. This is the punishment for his decision.
The head gamemaker stares at the berries in the cup in despair. This was supposed to be the Games that established his legacy forever! He was supposed to profit from this! But no, his ideas never came to reality. His legacy would live on forever as an example of what not to do for future gamemakers. This is the consequence of having no victor.
Seneca takes a brief moment to imagine what would have happened if he let Katniss and Peeta lived. He pictured less immediate violence and rebellion but it would come. It would come and damage all of Panem. That would have given the districts an example that they could outwit the Capitol. That would have been just as bad. President Snow would know the effects of them living. He would have to give punishments for that decision…
At that moment, Seneca realizes the horrible scenario he was put in. The second the nightlock berries were taken from the pouch, his fate was sealed. There was nothing he could to save himself.
Seneca had some time to think. He was locked in the room with no way out. The only way out was the berries. He could not eat them, but he knew was never going to be allowed out of the room. He was going to eventually die from starvation or dehydration. Or he could eat the berries right now and die. He had another choice to make, just like he did when Katniss and Peeta took out the berries. Just like that very moment, his decision was going to end the same way. His fate was truly inescapable.