Chapter III

"District Two Reapings"

Gabriel West's POV

"One! … Two! … Three! Come on, let's go! You can do it! Use those muscles!" yelled my trainer.

I was on my third set, and I'm hoping to finish the training with a grand fifth rep finale. I struggled to raise the bar past my sweat drenched chin; I was lifting four plates today after all. Four damn plates, and I refuse to give my crowd a piss poor show. I usually never fail to do so, but today could be my final day here. I want to go out with a bang.

Come on! You got this man! You're the most talented and muscular guy in this entire district, these kids got nothing! Absolutely nothing!

"Come on Gabe, don't disappoint me damn it! One more, give me one more rep! Come on boy, move it!"

I raised the bar with some effort and prepared to do my final rep. The crowd surrounding my bench is very distracting, and despite my satisfaction with their envy, I needed to focus in order to get this last lift.

"Coach…tell these bastards to…get the hell outta here!" I yelled, struggling to keep my breathing under control.

"Alright, alright! Move on out, give the kid some space! Go back to lifting, you pansies! Come on, come on!" shouted Coach Denver, red-faced and obviously just as annoyed as I was.

That's the thing about my trainer, he's just as aggressive, confident, and enthusiastic as I am, the only difference being our physique. He's obviously much older and stronger than I, but in a few years, I could see myself surpassing him. It isn't really a competition though, he's my inspiration-and he's been training me in preparation for the Games ever since I was 2 years old.

"You got this boy! Just one last lift, show these kids who the strongest man in this entire district is!" he shouted encouragingly, clapping his hands like thunder.

I slowly but surely raised the bar once more, barely a few hairs above my nose. Nevertheless, my goal was achieved. I had gone out with a bang.

Coach Denver helped me with the bar and I jumped up with my natural enthusiasm. "I did it! I am the strongest man in this entire district! WOOOO!"

The Coach threw down his clipboard and double fist pounded me, both of us flaunting our physique at all the other Career wannabes in the gym. "I thought you couldn't do it kid! But you showed me! I guess I better dye the ol' beard pink now, huh?"

I laughed and jumped for joy, throwing my fist into the air. I spotted a hilariously smaller boy staring at me with awe, mouth fastened into a big "O".

"Dude, holy crap! You just lifted 350 lbs!" the mop-haired kid yelled.

"I know! Aren't I awesome?! Get out of the way, nub-cake!" I shoved him out of the way, sending him flying into a high speeding treadmill.

I smile confidently, brushing my hand through my curly, coffee-colored hair. My trainer fetched me some 50 lb dumbbells, and tells me to work it all the way through the district.

"I think you've trained enough my boy! And now, it all comes down to today," he declared in a proud manner.

I do squats as I walk out the gym, leaving my second home and walking towards the Reapings. To exclaim my victory, I periodically gave a loud "WOO!"

It's one of my best qualities. In order to succeed, you must…pump tons of iron…and be me! I can't help it, I really can't. Every opportunity I get to show off my skills and physique, I will do so. If someone asked me to do 200 push-ups, then I'd do so on the spot, and do 50 more just because.

I'm a winner. I will not accept defeat, and I will forever show everyone how great I am!

Coach Denver and I passed everyone in a confident and enthusiastic manner, only puffing out our chests a few centimeters. We're so muscular, we barely even have to act any more masculine.

"Yo! Gabe, wait up man. You volunteering for the Games this year?" a less attractive friend of mine sped along the road, out of breath by the time he caught up with me.

"Hah! What a silly question-of course I am! I've never felt better in my life…and today, man I just feel the energy pumping. Here, take my dumbbells, and keep them as a reminder of thy greatness!"

I almost literally throw the dumbbells at the boy, expecting him to be athletically able enough to catch them. I was terribly wrong. He only caught one of them, and the weight of the instrument sent him careening toward the ground.

"Watch your strength, Gabe! You almost killed that boy!" Coach Denver yelled at me with feigned discouragement.

I shrugged off his comment, "Ah well, more training I suppose."

We both did lunges through the street, only stopping to jog in place or take a breather. Nearly all the children watched us, some with bemused expressions, and some with literal awe. I was flattered, I really was. I knew I was a badass, but this is just a whole new level. I'm at a point where every time I walk, people kiss the ground before me. They throw roses upon my feet, and they compliment my physique and beg of me to grant my perfect body to them-if only a little.

OK, so that isn't entirely true. But once I win the Games, people will worship me. Once I win, I can afford all those expensive protein shakes and…perhaps even a Shake Weight.

I drool of the future, and I almost lose count in my lunges because I'm so preoccupied with winning. Coach Denver blows his whistle from time to time, clearing all the stupid little kids from my path. They should know by now who I am, he shouldn't have to do that crap. I demand respect!

I grunt as I grab the arm of one of the small children, "Hey! Get outta my way! And tell your friends to do the same if they know what's good for em'!"

The kid gulps and I almost feel sorry as I push him to the ground and scowl at everyone to give warning. While I am now pleased with the now clear road ahead of me, my coach handles the situation rather differently.

"Damn it Gabe, don't waste your energy on these losers! That's what the whistle is for!" Coach Denver yells, once again blowing on that signature silver whistle he always has around his neck.

I see the almost prepared Reaping stage looming in the distance, dozens of men garbed in white uniforms scouting and surveying the army of children here, there, and everywhere.

However, before we can make any more progress forward, I've got the strangest feeling. I stop moving and slowly turn my head towards the buildings lined along the side of the road. As if by miracle, I see my second favorite place in the world standing before me.

"Gabriel, what the hell are you staring at? We've got to get moving! You know I don't like having to pause the stopwatch!" Denver yells back at me, whistle in his mouth, muffling his shouts.

He seems to misunderstand my solemn expression but quickly realizes the situation as he follows my gaze towards the almighty Hick's Sporting Goods.

The whistle drops out of his mouth, and a grin spreads across his bearded face. He chuckles roughly, "Yes, once more Gabe. Once more!"

We giddily walk through the Sporting Equipment shop and already we are given special treatment. Dozens upon dozens of my athletic achievements and trophies line the walls of this shop, not one other person in this entire district comes close to my record. I am the best in the District!

I'm here for another reason, though. I've got a score to settle.

I happily walk to the counter, setting my eyes upon the bastard that is Dick. Dick sees me and already his eyebrows are furrowed, teeth clenched and hands fidgeting at his side. I've only ever seen this man a few times, but if the legends are true, Dick has never been seen outside of that counter.

Not only that, but legend has it that Dick is undefeated at arm-wrestling. Apparently, he's faced everyone, even Coach. Obviously, Coach wants vengeance. Coach never loses, especially to a puny man named Dick. However, anyone who faces Dick must never reveal his secret to success. He's unbeatable for a reason, but few care to share. I've asked Coach countless times, but even he won't tell me. It will, in his words, "break the vow".

It's no secret that Dick has been jealous of my achievements, and wants to defeat me…at something. I can only guess he wants to beat me at his own game. Arm Wrestling.

Once he does that, Dick will be awarded the most important District 2 achievement of them all: The Awesome Award.

I crave this trophy-I drool over this trophy. Coach says that if I can win that trophy before I ever get Reaped, then he will attribute me with, "The Best Career Ever" medal. Of course, I do want that medal. But most of all, I want the Awesome Award. None of my other trophies will mean anything, they are just petty wins-easy victories. I didn't even have to try…but the Awesome Award…that is an entirely new level of greatness.

Dick wants it too. And despite his pathetic life as a cashier, he is the obstacle that I must smash through in order for fate to get me Reaped. And, I must get Reaped. I must.

I slam my hands on the counter, staring Dick right in the face, all the intensity and anger in my eyes attempting to burn right through his pathetic heart.

"Dick, I do believe we have…something to settle?"

Dick doesn't look fazed in the least bit, his hands don't even make a move to defend himself, they're hidden behind the damn counter as always. Strangely enough, Dick always uses his left arm, and only his left arm to work the register. I nor anyone else has probably ever seen his right arm in action…or even in general.

I can only wonder about the rat bastard.

Dick glares equally sharp daggers at me, "Yes, I do believe we have to…settle some things. Once and for all," Dick says through his clenched teeth.

Coach gives a hearty laugh and clenches my shoulders, massaging them in preparation for the showdown. He pats me on the back and glares at Dick.

"Alright boys, it's time to settle this. Gabe, show this bastard what you've got!"

I grin, and crack my neck and my knuckles. I jump in place and stretch my arms, my eyes never leaving the man behind the counter. "Coach, you've got nothing to worry about. This guy is going down!"

Coach hastily beckons me, "Remember boy, if you can't win this, there's no chance in hell you're going to win that medal, not to mention the Games!"

I nod and Coach pops some teeth guards in my mouth, just in case Dick tries anything funny. Once again, I don't know what this bastard's secret is, so caution is key.

Dick doesn't even bother stretching, but leans forward onto the counter using his chest. What the hell? Where's his arms, he's not even ready for this!

Coach takes the opportunity to blow his whistle and shout out the door to everybody in the street. "Hey people, Dick's got a challenger, and a fine one at that!"

I see everyone out the window staring at the bearded man with robotic expressions, some even frightened at the man, as they walk towards the Reaping stage.

A very agitated and annoyed grimace appears on the Coach's face. His face turns tomato red again and he throws down his whistle and grabs a megaphone from a rack.


As soon as Coach says this a swarm of kids smash through the Hick's Sporting Good's door. Careers are making their way nearest to Dick and myself. They push all the kids away and the leader of the group comes forth from his pack. He pushes around all the strewn merchandise away with his feet and picks a smaller child off his feet and slams him into the Jock Strap aisle with little effort.

The tall Career boy steps to face us and crosses his arms, a serious look plastered on his stony face.

Shit, now I really have to win!

I slam my right arm on the counter, muscles flexing with a cocky grin on my face directed at my opponent. "Let's do this, Dick!"

Dick's countenance can only be regarded as mischievous…and I do not like this look. I quickly turn my head and see some children chuckling, especially the tall Career leader, who sneers at me. It's almost as if everyone here is in on an inside joke! What the hell?

I see Coach passing out fliers and glancing over at me with an…almost concerned expression.

Alright, now I'm pissed! What the hell is everyone staring at? And why are these stupid kids laughing? Especially, why does Coach look worried about me? When have I ever failed him?

I huff and turn towards Dick, my eyes fall down to the counter and my heart almost skips a beat. Sitting right before my right arm, is the biggest, and most muscular arm I've ever seen. It's ten times bigger than my arm, hell not even, it's 100 times bigger! His elbow barely even fits on the table!

I glance at his left arm and see a puny and bony looking arm, nothing compared to the hulk-like right arm before me. "What the hell is this?! Why is his right arm freakin' colossal?!"

Grins of the audience turn into full blown laughs and I make little effort to appear confident and determined. It all comes naturally. This bastard has no chance, I couldn't care less if this guy has raptor feet, I will not be intimidated by a rat bastard named Dick!

"Heh, nice arm, loser! I-I don't care about your arm!" I say with utmost confidence; it's one of my best qualities.

Dick doesn't seem fazed-yet again. A random Peacekeeper comes in to referee or something, which I find ridiculous, but whatever.

"Alright! You two ready? Elbows on the counter please…thanks! Alright, ready? Annnnnnddddd, go!"

I prepare to destroy his arm despite the size…because I'm just that awesome. But as soon as he says "go", my arm slams on the counter with such force that it causes a crack to appear in the glass.

What?! That's-that's impossible…no, improbable! I cannot lose! I bring my elbow up and almost yell my excuse out.

"I-I wasn't ready! I wasn't ready, alright! Let's do this one more time…just one more!"

Dick smirks at me and brings his massive arm on the table once more, cracking his fingers with ease.

I scowl at him and prepare to destroy him…but this time, I mean it! The referee yells "go" again and our arms struggle against each other. I manage to last much longer than last time but my arm still comes down again, causing a bigger crack of the counter glass.

"Gah! I wasn't ready, damn it! I wasn't ready! Again!" I say angrily and prepare for another round.

Some more laughter erupts from the "Career" kids and I tell them to shut up. Once again, our arms battle against each other. Dick's arm smashes mine down with little struggle.

"Alrighty! And the winner is-" I cut off the referee with a swift kick to the face and he goes flying into the wall.

Coach rubs my shoulders again with a towel and hands me some Gatorade in a bottle. I squirt some of the drink in my mouth and gargle some of it, spitting it at my opponent.

Dick angrily wipes it off his face and prepares for another round. I walk over, focused and intense. I will not lose this round. I will win, damn it! I will win!

We arm wrestle once more, but I'm prepared this time. In an act of ultimate deception, I take out some gold bond powder from my back pocket and throw it over the audience, blinding everyone with smoke. I flash Dick an evil smirk and use both my arms to bring his massive one down.

Damn, I can barely get this damn hulk arm down with both of my own! Dick's arm is still raised, and is barely being pulled down by either of my arms and body weight. However, I notice the broken glass of the counter, and take the opportunity to spit in Dick's face again.

I got him right between the eyes, and he's pissed again, but that's just the distraction I needed. I kick the counter glass from below and the entire counter shatters, sending the register and all the items on top and within, including Dick's hulk-like arm, cascading to the ground. I use my body weight to bring his arm to the glass drenched floor, and then the smoke clears, literally.

All the crowd sees is my arm up on top of his hulk-arm, while I sit and yawn for dramatic effect. The crowd is awe-stricken, and they cheer! Coach Denver blows his whistle and announces the winner.

"And here we have it! The winner of the Arm Wrestling match, and the most Awesome guy in all of District 2, Gabe!"

I jump for joy and stomp on Dick's massive arm, making him yelp in pain.

Now I get my award, and my medal! Hahaha! My wish has come true, I have beaten Dick! I am awesome, as well as the Best Career ever! Hahaha!

I hear the familiar and loud tapping of a microphone in the distance and realize that I still have to go to the Reapings.

"Holy shizz, Gabe! Get your ass over there! It's Reaping time! I'll give you the medal later!" Coach Denver shouts and shoos me out the Sporting Goods store.

I haul ass to the stage and get my finger pricked, not even wincing at the pain. I'm too awesome for that now!

I jog over to my age group and see all the children running out of the Sporting Goods shop. All the Peacekeepers are confused, some even scratching their heads but they don't bother asking. However, I realize that the children are also running from something…the way their faces look, and the way they're looking behind them at the shop…

I take a closer look at the Shop and hear monstrous growls and yells emitting from the shop. I see windows shattering as children are thrown out. I do hear a familiar voice from within. I think I know who it may be, but I can't tell.

"Hulk smash! Hulk smash! Hulk smash!" is all I hear from the store. I only shrug.

I jog in place to get my mind-set ready just in case I get Reaped. I see a rather…large escort with a fancy white suit and poofy hair talking with an annoying voice.

"Ahem! Alright kiddies, are you all excited for this year's Games?" the large man asks, scanning the crowd with his creepy, rainbow colored, beady eyes.

I swear I almost hear damn crickets! Come on, get this crap going. I do arm stretches in my spot and see kids admiring my physique again.

"I said are you all excited?! Answer the question! Answer it!" the fat man yells again and throws his sparkly microphone at a kid in the front row. His now pink face fuming at the dullness of the audience.

The mayor does a face palm and glances at his watch in impatience. I hear a few groans from the audience. This is just ridiculous!

I see a baseball that just happened to roll my way and chuck it at the fat escort, hitting him square in the forehead. Curveball! Sucker!

The escort falls through the stage and several peacekeepers try to fan him out of his unconsciousness.

The Mayor walks over to the glass bowl, fed up with this nonsense just as everyone else is. He quickly shoves his hand in the bowl and messily takes out a more than one name, dropping some name slips on the ground. He realizes he has two names in his hand and lazily drops one.

"Calm yourselves down now. Calm yourselves. Let's see what we've got here….uhhh, what the hell does this name say? Can someone read this?"

The audience groans in impatience. Some kids near me even sit down they're so bored. Bunch of wimps in my opinion. I crack my neck and sigh deeply, awaiting the obnoxiously slow Mayor, who probably doesn't even know anyone's names in this District, let alone knowing how to read them. The Mayor struggles with the name on the paper and actually has to walk all the way over past the hole in the stage and over to a Peacekeeper, beckoning him over to lend a hand with his reading difficulties.

There are several shouts from the age groups, some of which consist of, "I gotta take a piss", or "Get on with it!" I really don't understand how this guy can lead an entire District and barely even knows how to pronounce a name…which is probably mine anyway!

Stupid man.

The sound of the microphone shrieks again and the crowd covers their ears in agony, but their faces show nothing but relief at the sound of the Mayor speaking again. "Alright, alright," huffs the Mayor, tucking the boy's name in his suit pocket and patting it down with his meaty hand. "Gay-briel West! Do we have a Gay-briel West in the audience?"

Yes, as a matter of fact we do!

I literally jump in the air for joy, accidentally upper-cutting some kid in my age group. This causes everyone in the vicinity to desperately move out the way, lest they feel my wrath!

I jog down the aisle, taking off my shirt and revealing my white wife-beater, which is tight on my abs and chest, complimenting my physique and beautiful athletic body. I raise my fist in the air as I jog to the stage, frequently shouting "Woo!" at everyone watching me. Dozens of cameras are flashing me, but I don't even care about the media, all I care about right now is that rush of adrenaline pumping through my veins! I can already see myself winning these Games!

Just before I hit the steps, a loud shout echoes through the unusually quiet crowd, "I volunteer! I volunteer! I volunteer as tribute!"

As soon as those words circulate through my brain and echo through my body about 5 times in a single second, I freeze as my foot touches the first step. I angrily turn my head to look at the bastard who just stole my moment.

The Mayor gasps, "What's this? A volunteer? Well-uh, alright! What, uh-"

I snarl at the Mayor, jumping onto the stage and skipping the rest of the steps as I grab the Mayor's shirt collar and hold him up several inches off the ground. "Don't you dare ask him his name! I will not be replaced by a weakling! Do you understand me?!"

The Mayor gulps and nods, dropping the microphone onto the stage with a "thump", causing everyone in the crowd to widen their eyes in surprise. I set the Mayor down and stare off into the crowd, looking for the idiot who dared just volunteer. I see a smaller boy with red hair and freckles skipping to the stage in glee, trying to flaunt his own physique with his pathetic excuse for a wife-beater.

As soon as the ginger bastard hit's the stage I rear back one foot and punch the kid in the face full force, sending him flying down the steps. The stupid kid doesn't appear fazed and heads right back up the steps, even with a black eye. I growl at the kid in anger and throw him over my shoulders and send him careening into the hole in the stage on top of the fat escort. I spit in the hole for good measure and wipe my hands clean of the ginger filth.

Who does that kid think he is?! I am Gabriel West! I am the greatest Career ever!

I clench my teeth and flex my muscles, prepared for any other kid who wants to challenge me. The Mayor's eyes are nearly popping out, and he has to shake his head to even get back to the bowls, "Uh, okay. Let's uh, just get back to the Reapings shall we? Yes! The Reapings indeed!"

The Mayor, for whatever reason, shoves his hand in the girl's bowl full speed and actually breaks the damn bowl in half, sending all the names onto the floor.

What the hell is wrong with this District?!

The crowd bursts into fits of laughter as the Mayor tries to shake off the pain of his hand, whining and stomping around.

This is ridiculous! All the girl's names are on the floor!

I've had enough of this. I huff and stomp over to the stupid Mayor, "Just give me the damn microphone! Give it to me," I say with irritation.

I impatiently grab a name off the ground and utter the name into the microphone, "Sophia Carlson! Sophia! Carlson! Got that? Good! Hurry up, Sophia!"

I've seriously just about had it with today. The audience is in chaos, and Peacekeepers are already throwing tear gas at several age sections trying to calm everyone down. I think I even heard gun-fire. I'm clenching my fists now, trying to scan the dysfunctional crowd for any sign of this Sophia girl.

Out of the smoke and chaos comes out Ms. Carlson. At first glance I'm already gawking at my partner. I really couldn't have asked for anyone better; when you put awesome with awesome, you get an unstoppable wrecking force. I've never seen the girl before in the gym, but from the looks of her, she looks like she's been working out…and a lot. If I wasn't so awesome, I would have actually been scared of her.

She's tall, and well over the average height for a girl, and pretty damn athletic. I've only seen so many girls in this district who could potentially prove a threat to me or anyone else in the Games, and Sophia looks like she fits that "deadly" description. She's also pretty hot; with curly blonde hair in a ponytail and attractive features; I'm actually already trying to tighten my muscles so they look more defined when she stands up close.

As Sophia walks down the aisle, I check her out from afar, and she's definitely a 7 or 8. Nothing really comes close to 9 or 10, that's kind of reserved for someone I know is in my skill level. She's got no obvious physical flaws, but I can't help but notice how the chick takes short steps when she walks. What, she doesn't know how to walk?

As soon as Sophia goes up the steps, she trips and falls…and so does my hotness meter. I don't fancy for clumsy girls.

The crowd pauses their chaotic antics to laugh at the fallen girl while the Mayor rushes over to help her up. Sophia climbs to her feet again and brushes herself off as she takes to the steps again. She has a disgruntled expression set on her face, and when she goes to stand near me she falls on her ass again!

I have my hand on my face in embarrassment as the crowd bursts into laughter again. The Mayor helps her to her feet again but she refuses this time, "No, don't help me! Just go stand over there!"

Sophia huffs and goes to shake my hand. Even though the girl can hardly stay on her feet, I still try to show off. Even up close, her beauty never falters. Plus, she's almost my height, about 5'10''.

"Hey, don't worry baby, I'll keep you on your feet during the Games," I say as I run my hand through my hair.

For some reason, the girl can't take a hint, and looks at me with disgust. "Yeah, whatever."

I immediately drop her hand, "You better watch that mouth, I'm the most awesome person in this entire district!"

This time, the girl smirks and walks back to her spot, glaring with bemusement at the audience. I glower at the girl and storm off to where the Mayor stands, snatching the microphone out of his chubby hands. "I just want to say to you people, that I deserve respect when I'm up on this stage…got that? This goes for you too, Sophia! I am the most awesome man in this whole damn country! This whole…damn…country!"

I don't get to finish my rant because my stupid partner grabs the microphone out of my hands with greater strength than I would have imagined. But her ability to firmly grasp it in her hand has me in tears as she drops the thing on the floor and it cracks.

The Mayor throws his hands into the air and shouts at her, "Great! Look what you've caused!"

The Mayor gives the signal to end the Reapings without a proper farewell or closing speech and orders Peacekeepers to wrestle us off the stage. Sophia has to be dragged off because she loses her footing near the hole and one of her feet falls through. I don't like to be manhandled, so I show the bastards who's boss.

As soon as they grab my arms I twist out and push a Peacekeeper into the hole, sending him flying with a scream that amuses me. I kick the other Peacekeeper in the shin and punch him in the face, knocking him out cold. I laugh as the crowd gets even more chaotic, now they're throwing crap at the stage. This is just hilarious.

I laugh so much that I completely forget about the other Peacekeepers, and before I know it, I'm being thrown into the Justice Building.

I don't bother trying to fight any more Peacekeepers, it's wasting my energy. Instead, I just relax on the couch in the Justice Building. My arms are draped over my head as I try to snooze for the next 15 minutes in here. I'm pretty sure I won't be getting any visitors except the Coach. My parents are always working and I'm an only child; not like I want to be seen around my mom or anything, I'm just way too cool for that these days.

The sound of silence is interrupted by the crash of the oak door, Coach walking in with a hearty laugh, clapping loudly as he sits down upon the opposite couch. "You put on a show out there my boy! That was the greatest thing I've ever seen in years!"

I laugh wearily, sitting up and sighing as the Coach digs around in his fanny pack for something.

"I tried, Coach. I just can't believe nobody respects my greatness around here! Who do they think won all those medals back at the sports shop? Who do they think is the most awesome man in the District is?"

Coach is still digging around in the pack, hastily searching for something…probably my token. "Yes, yes Gabe. There's a lot of narrow minded people in this damned district nowadays. They don't know true greatness when they see it…but I'm telling you, once you win, they'll be all over you".

I smirk to myself as Coach says this, because he's right. He's absolutely right; once I win the Games, I will earn the greatest award there is to get. Not only will I be heralded and worshipped throughout District Two, but I will be a Victor. I will go in the record books…I will be a legend!

Coach ceases his digging and scratches his head, appearing to be conflicted with something, then huffs and goes digging in the pack again.

I eye the pack with concern, there's obviously something I forgot about as well, but I can't put a name on it.

Didn't I win something today? Dang, I don't even remember. What the hell was it? A…wait! Coach was supposed to give me my "Best Career Ever" medal!

I almost leap up off the couch at the thought of this, "Coach! You were-"

Coach shushes me with a wave of his left hand as he continues looking in his fanny pack, his forehead crinkled in extreme concentration.

I frown and cross my arms, clearly not happy with being ignored. I earned my medal, and I want it now!

I give a loud "ahem" sound but the Coach doesn't seem to notice as he starts throwing items out of his fanny pack now.

"Alrighty…now where did I…should be in here…" the Coach mumbles to himself, still throwing a vast array of odd items out of his fanny pack.

I inwardly sigh and tap my foot impatiently, looking at the fancy clock that's hanging on the wall near the entrance door.

I try to get his attention again but he's too busy throwing crap everywhere. I actually have to get up and shake him on the shoulder just to get his damn attention.

I want my medal damn it!

Coach looks up at me with a scowl, "What?"

I try to quell my impatience, "Yeah, uh, Coach? Where's my medal you were supposed to give me?"

Coach has his mouth open in surprise, and he hesitates before answering. I don't like the look of this…

"Well, you know, Gabe," Coach says as he puts a firm hand on my shoulder. He coughs into his hand once and continues as he pulls me back into my seat, "Sometimes, I uh, can't always…Well, you see. Surely there are…other things you may want besides a…medal, right?"

I feel anger starting to bubble in my core and I have to clench my teeth to suppress any of it, "What…what are you saying Coach? You saying you lied to me?"

The Coach shakes his head and gives me a sheepish laugh, "Lied? Bah, what is that nonsense? I didn't lie to my favorite trainee in the world! Hah! 'Lied', what kind of garbage is that?"

I glare at the Coach, my entire body as still as stone. The Coach clears his throat and his gaze flickers over to the fancy clock near the door, "Ah! Would you look at the time, I best be leaving now. We've only got about…what? Five minutes?"

Coach maneuvers around the Couch and promptly takes his leave, much to my…dismay. "Coach! Where's my token?"

Coach turns around slowly with his hand on the door and sighs to himself, "Look, Gabe. You're a great kid, and I wish you the best out there." Coach throws me a small, pink flamingo and he walks out, leaving me to drown myself in my own anger.

I examine the plastic flamingo with discontent, and I make a "pfft" sound as I throw the damn thing against the wall.

Great, now I have no token. Damn Coach and his false promises.

I trudge over to the fancy, velvet couch and flop down on it again, and manage to sleep for about 5 more minutes before a Peacekeeper rudely wakes me up and sends me onto the Capitol train.

As the train speeds away from the station, the only thing on my mind is the fact that I, Gabriel West, am going to win these ultimate Games. I can imagine it now, all the other puny wimps from the rest of the Districts, they got nothing on me!

Sophia Carlson's POV

"Get up. Sophia…Come on, get up."

My safety within the snug and silky expanse of the cocoon of sheets is being cut short, and dreams of wishes and hopes are shattered when my eyes open to one of my younger brothers.

I rub my eyes and groan as more light sheathes in through the cracks of the window blinds, "Can't I just…sleep for a couple more minutes? At least?"

Justin, my 9 year old sibling, bites his lip in contemplation and struggles with himself to answer. He looks back into the doorway and glances back at me with obvious worry, "I don't know, Sophia. Dad said he'd wake you up last…and we're all up already…So…"

Justin is interrupted by the sound of thunderous footsteps into my room, accompanied by several loud taps and bangs on the wall of room.

Oh great, now I have to get up.

Stephen, my oldest sibling, stomps in my room, smiling deviously as he throws my covers off and pulls me by the feet off the bed, "Time for the Reapings, twinkle-toes! Get up, get up, get up!"

"Hey! I get it, I get it! I'm up!"

Stephen laughs and ruffles the hair of Justin who is watching the struggle from the sidelines, "Justin, kick her a few times for me, will ya?"

Justin sheepishly nods and helps me off the bed before running back into the kitchen for breakfast. I stretch near my bed and prepare for hell; god of all the days to hate, I really hate today.

The Reapings is probably one of the worst days ever. Besides those gym and fighting tournaments that are always going on around here and their annoying celebrations, the Reapings are something I'd as soon forget.

But it's not just the Reapings in general that I despise, it's the fact that I have to walk into the Town Square and stumble around in the streets because I can't even walk right.

Don't confuse this with stupidity, because I know how to walk and I know where I'm headed. I just have to take baby-steps sometimes, especially on rough terrain where there's an 80% chance that I will fall and embarrass myself. I can't tell you how many times I have fallen in the past. I just know that I've done it all of my life, and it's something that's caused many of my friends to avoid me.

Being from a Career district is a great thing, and it's something that I try to honor and relish in while I can. It's just the fact that I was never exactly cared for 24/7 as a budding child, and my permanent clumsiness is probably a result of that. I can't really blame my parents for that, because, my mother is dead. And my dad can't really help that he has to work so much to support the family.

My dad tries to support me as best he can, and he always manages to squeeze in a few talks about life at the dinner table to my siblings and I. One thing my dad wants for us, is to become warriors like our mother. My mother came from a strong family, and she was related to many Games victors. When she died of Mountain Fever, my dad kind of lost his sense of humor and immaturity. He's been working ever since, but he's always made it an effort to inspire us to become Peacekeepers like him, or gain a powerful high-status job so people won't make a joke of the Carlsons.

And it has worked, and my dad's seen that. He's proud of how we're turning out, and he'll be especially proud when he learns of our goals to become Careers or victors of the Games. If one of us becomes a Victor, we'll have all the power we need in this District. Everyone will respect our family, and everyone will respect my father. And, hopefully, everyone will respect me.

And ever since the day mom died, I've tried to honor his wishes. I've trained at the gym as long as I can remember in effort to strengthen my tense and delicate muscles, and I've encouraged the same with Justin and the rest of my siblings. Stephen is the second "dad", and we all have to respect him and his wishes as well, and I have to admit, as much as I don't like how he treats me, he still cares about us.

I pad over to the bathroom, with support of the wall hooks and ledges, which were recently implemented to help me out with my "clumsy" problem as Stephen had told me. I turn on the faucet and wash my face and hands before getting ready to bathe. Physically, I'm going to admit, I'm a rare breed. My mom was a strong woman, inside and out, and she refused to give up with her fatal sickness until her dying day. My father, being quite a handsome man, gave us all the good looks while my mom gave us our strength and attitude.

I'm well over 5'10'', and for a girl, that's pretty crazy. I love showing up all the boys at my school…and sure, they never thought a small girl like me could win in 3rd grade. But look at me now! I'm a tough girl…and even despite my clumsiness, I still have what it takes to make it big. I'm a born Career, just like my mother wanted me to be.

I quickly take a shower and fix myself up. I have to look my best for the Reapings. I don't put on anything too fancy. Just something to make a bit of an impression on others. I put on classy dark jeans and a long sleeve shirt. I tie my hair up in a ponytail and only put a few dabs of makeup on my face. My skin is actually rather healthy for a girl of my age. It's all thanks to my brother and father, and the rigorous training they put me through for this event.

Notice the clothing which covers most of my skin? Yeah, I kind of have to wear a lot of layers. This is not because I'm self-conscious, it's because of my chronic clumsiness. I wasn't going to be caught dead walking around with a walker or supporter like an old hag. What kind of Career would that be?

The only other solution for my problem was to wear thick clothing to avoid the bruises and scratches, and also implementing ledges and hooks around the house for me to grab on to. And also, keeping everything around the house nice and tidy. It's not just my feet that stumble, it's also my hands. It's not like I can't walk entirely. I don't fall that much, it's more me being clumsy with everything in general that gets people going. To be honest, I'm really not allowed in places like the Justice House or the museums here.

Heck, I don't even think I'm allowed to go near the dumbbells or weight machines at the gyms. My father and family understands my plight. And I'm sure mother would too. It's just…not everyone sees things as light-hearted as they do. People in Two are stricter, and people here are more hardened to the environment. They wouldn't want someone like me to hold a gun or protect this country. I've heard my father being told this first-hand. It does make me sad sometimes, but I'm positive and confident enough that I know I can still represent my family in the Games one day.

Being in the Games is more for my family than anything. I know I have the potential. I've trained with the little things I was able to train with, and I'm pretty damn good. But, it's just…I'm just simply too clumsy.

What's the point in hiding it anymore? I'm just too damn clumsy. And that's all it falls down to.

But that doesn't mean I shouldn't be taken seriously! I'm a feared girl either way! I'm a natural born Career! Stephen is proof of this; just look at how hard he works to keep me on my feet! He's trained me and so has my family in the ways they can, and I can tell you now it has worked to my advantage.

I shuffle out of my bedroom and notice that my brothers have already left. There is a note on the kitchen table, "LEFT FOR REAPINGS. FRUIT ON THE TABLE. MEET US THERE. DON'T RUN TOO QUICK…TWINKLE-TOES."

I angrily ball up the paper and throw it at the wall, earning myself a paper cut in the process. I don't even know how I got it! See what I mean? Everything I touch ends in disaster.

I grab the banana from the table and walk out the door. It's a nice day outside; perfect for a Reaping Day. It's always nicer around this time of year. It's my favorite time of year, to be exact. I believe it was in the summer that I first learned about the Games and realized it was what I wanted to do one day. It wasn't a big goal, but as I trained with my brother, I learned that being a part of this family meant being strong; it's what my mother would have wanted.

I try to jog around the corner but I end up falling again, and some stupid bratty kids laugh at me. I give them an angry look and decide to give them a taste of their own medicine.

"Hey! There a problem?"

One of the stupid kids has his hand over his mouth, trying to stifle his laughter but I can obviously still here it. They don't answer my question, so I go along with my plan. I peel my banana and drop the fruit on the ground while I throw the peel at their feet.

One of the kids looks down and laughs even harder, "I don't get it. Is this supposed to hurt me?"

I snarl and lunge at the trio but trip absent mindedly over the peel, and more laughter ensues.

"Alright! Go ahead and laugh, you brats! Just wait until I win these Games! You will respect me, and you will envy me!"

I pick myself up and inwardly groan in frustration at now having to baby step my way over to the damn Reapings. I slowly pass the Sporting Goods shop which I frequent but there appears to be some sort of ruckus going on inside, because the windows are broken and there are people fallen outside, as if they've been thrown through the glass.

Looks like there was a fight.

Not my problem; all I have to worry about is getting to these Reapings without being made fun of. I don't really care what anything thinks of me, but when it comes to what people think of the Carlsons…that's a different story. Whether I like it or not, I'm a born warrior. If I don't look like I'm made for the arena, then nobody will respect my family.

I cautiously make my way over to my age group, careful not to bump into anyone or hang on to anyone I don't know. I'm not too sure where my brothers are, but I'm sure they won't get picked. Justin is only 10 years old, and my middle brother is too well liked in the District to be participating in the Games. Everybody loves him and his gentle nature.

But me? Yeah, I definitely have a chance.

It's not like I don't want to compete in the Games, but it's just the way things have been going for the past 30 years that worries me. My father told me that when he was younger, the Games were much more serious and competitive than they are nowadays. He told me that the Games used to be filled with bloodthirsty, and savage children who trained intensely and fought intensely. It was a show of epic proportions every year, and the Arenas were spectacular to behold.

The Games did not have any special catch, and life was rather simple according to him. Everyone trained, and everyone wanted to compete. Even if you died, your name would be in the record books, because every fighter in those Arenas were deadly, and every fight lasted awhile before it ended. Mutts were much less prevalent, and so were environmental factors, which made for a more fair system in the competition.

But then…Poobah came. A man with a mysterious past, and literally no trace of his childhood or ideologies on a silver platter for the world to see. Poobah seemed to arise out of thin air; one day it was President Hawkins, and then, Poobah. Usually the elections of a new president are the next biggest thing besides the Games, but when Poobah was elected, according to father, no one saw it coming.

And for the first few years, Poobah, despite the ridiculous name, lived up to the expectations as previous presidents had done. He was simply just a President, and nobody thought much of it. The Games went on as normal and the people in Panem were content. But then…something changed. 25 years ago, about the time father met mother, Poobah changed his tactics. Instead of becoming the same and relatively dull man that other presidents in the past have done, Poobah began to reveal future plans for the Games.

Soon after, the Games would become stranger and stranger every year following. It ranged from the Games where the only weapons Tributes had were little red and white balls to summon creatures to fight for them; to the recent Games where Tributes were running around naked in minus degree temperature while flying, fire-breathing, monkey mutts struck them from above.

I just want to fight like the Career I am…I don't want to fight like a moron with other morons. President Poobah's plans are scaring me…

The fat, stupid escort for this year catches my eye and I have to stifle a chuckle at the idiot. He's skipping around the stage like a ballerina, even though he's fat and pink. He looks like a pig.

Then, I think someone from the audience throws a ball at him or something because he actually falls through the stage.

What the heck is going on here?

I play with the rubber band in my hair and adjust my ponytail as more chaos ensues throughout the crowd. I thought I heard the boy's name being called, but it's so loud that I can't even tell who is saying what.

I peer through the mass of kids and at the now dysfunctional stage. I see a muscular boy yelling at the Mayor, who had to take over for the collapsed escort. When is the girl's name going to be called?

"Sophia Carlson!"


What a coincidence! Out of all those names, mine just had to be called! This…this is brilliant! Now I can bring fame to my family, and now my brother and father can take me seriously! Now I can prove to the world that I'm a natural born Career! I'm going classy this year, and I will bring back the intensity and true fight that the Games have lacked in so long.

I stumble through the aisles and shove my way through all the laughing and noisy crowd. For some reason, there's smoke everywhere, and I think it might be some sort of gas the Peacekeepers tried to dispel to restore order…but it didn't work, as everyone just got more insane.

I take slow, cautious steps to the stage, as I don't want to embarrass myself on camera. If I'm going to be tough, I want everyone to see it already. My right foot is already on the bottom step, and I slowly but confidently strut up the steps, flashing a smirk to the cameras.

I don't even notice the piece of clipped wood that juts out the edge of the top step, and I stumble onto my knees.


I brush myself off and briskly walk over to the spot near my partner, but I trip over my feet again and land on my butt. The whole audience laughs at me! Do they not realize that I'm a Career-that I'm going to be the one trying to fight for them?!

The Mayor tries to lend me a hand but honestly, that's even worse than falling! He's just trying to make me look weak. "No, don't help me! Just go stand over there!"

I shake my stupid, over muscled, jockey partner's hand but he assumes it's some sort of secret flirt or something and he takes things further.

"Hey, don't worry baby, I'll keep you on your feet during the Games," he says, trying to act all sexy or something.

Oh, please. I've seen hotter guys in the Capitol than this chump. I'm not here to meet guys…I can get plenty of those when I win anyway.

I shrug off his poor attempts to hit on me, "Yeah, whatever."

Apparently, this guy doesn't like to be rejected, because he's all red in the face now. It's actually making me laugh.

"You better watch that mouth, I'm the most awesome person in this entire district!"

I snort at his anger and shuffle back to my spot, trying to make up for my embarrassing moments by giving in to the cheers of the crowd.

"I just want to say to you people, that I deserve respect when I'm up on this stage…got that? This goes for you too, Sophia! I am the most awesome man in this whole damn country! This whole…damn…country!"

Alright, I'm getting tired of this moron. He's worse than my older brother.

I snatch the microphone from Gabriel's hands with ease, and he glowers at me with badly hidden distaste. But of course, my hands never knew how to grasp onto things and the stupid thing shatters to pieces on the ground.

The Mayor looks fed up with everything now, "Great! Look what you've caused!"

He signals to the Peacekeepers and now me and my partner are getting dragged off the stage. I will not be embarrassed even more! This is not how I wanted my Reapings to go! How am I supposed to be taken seriously if I'm getting dragged.

I shove an officer away, "Get off me! I can walk down by myself, thank you."

But I loose my footing near the hole and I fall to one knee. The Peacekeepers laugh along with the crowd and grab me by my shoulders, dragging me limply like a sack…embarrassing me and my lineage. This is not what mother would have wanted.

As soon as I'm set down again, I'm being placed in a wheelchair…wait, what?! A wheelchair?

The burly Peacekeepers buckles me in the chair and rolls me past the Justice Building. I'm now infuriated, and I don't bother to hide it.

"OK, what the hell are you doing? Aren't I supposed to get my goodbyes? Hey! Are you listening to me!"

The rough faced man looks down at me, "Your father requested that you be placed in a wheelchair to prevent any more injury."

Prevent injury?!

I can't even speak as I'm placed on the train. I'm so pissed about this whole ordeal and how it turned out. It's as if I were destined to be twinkle toes! This had to have been set up by my brother…it had to have been!

All I know is this: I will be coming back from that Arena-scratch that, walking back from that Arena; not as twinkle-toes, but as a Carlson!