Книга Mockingjay. Содержание - 3

«Still, it took them long enough to show up,» I say.

«It wasn’t simple. They had to build up a rebel base in the Capitol, get some sort of underground organized in the districts,» he says. «Then they needed someone to set the whole thing in motion. They needed you.»

«They needed Peeta, too, but they seem to have forgotten that,» I say.

Gale’s expression darkens. «Peeta might have done a lot of damage tonight. Most of the rebels will dismiss what he said immediately, of course. But there are districts where the resistance is shakier. The cease-fire’s clearly President Snow’s idea. But it seems so reasonable coming out of Peeta’s mouth.»

I’m afraid of Gale’s answer, but I ask anyway. «Why do you think he said it?»

«He might have been tortured. Or persuaded. My guess is he made some kind of deal to protect you. He’d put forth the idea of the cease-fire if Snow let him present you as a confused pregnant girl who had no idea what was going on when she was taken prisoner by the rebels. This way, if the districts lose, there’s still a chance of leniency for you. If you play it right.» I must still look perplexed because Gale delivers the next line very slowly. «Katniss…he’s still trying to keep you alive.»

To keep me alive?And then I understand. The Games are still on. We have left the arena, but since Peeta and I weren’t killed, his last wish to preserve my life still stands. His idea is to have me lie low, remain safe and imprisoned, while the war plays out. Then neither side will really have cause to kill me. And Peeta? If the rebels win, it will be disastrous for him. If the Capitol wins, who knows? Maybe we’ll both be allowed to live—if I play it right—to watch the Games go on….

Images flash through my mind: the spear piercing Rue’s body in the arena, Gale hanging senseless from the whipping post, the corpse-littered wasteland of my home. And for what? For what? As my blood turns hot, I remember other things. My first glimpse of an uprising in District 8. The victors locked hand in hand the night before the Quarter Quell. And how it was no accident, my shooting that arrow into the force field in the arena. How badly I wanted it to lodge deep in the heart of my enemy.

I spring up, upsetting a box of a hundred pencils, sending them scattering around the floor.

«What is it?» Gale asks.

«There can’t be a cease-fire.» I lean down, fumbling as I shove the sticks of dark gray graphite back into the box. «We can’t go back.»

«I know.» Gale sweeps up a handful of pencils and taps them on the floor into perfect alignment.

«Whatever reason Peeta had for saying those things, he’s wrong.» The stupid sticks won’t go in the box and I snap several in my frustration.

«I know. Give it here. You’re breaking them to bits.» He pulls the box from my hands and refills it with swift, concise motions.

«He doesn’t know what they did to Twelve. If he could’ve seen what was on the ground» —  I start.

«Katniss, I’m not arguing. If I could hit a button and kill every living soul working for the Capitol, I would do it. Without hesitation.» He slides the last pencil into the box and flips the lid closed. «The question is, what are you going to do?»

It turns out the question that’s been eating away at me has only ever had one possible answer. But it took Peeta’s ploy for me to recognize it.

What am I going to do?

I take a deep breath. My arms rise slightly—as if recalling the black-and-white wings Cinna gave me—then come to rest at my sides.

«I’m going to be the Mockingjay.»


Buttercup’s eyes reflect the faint glow of the safety light over the door as he lies in the crook of Prim’s arm, back on the job, protecting her from the night. She’s snuggled close to my mother. Asleep, they look just as they did the morning of the reaping that landed me in my first Games. I have a bed to myself because I’m recuperating and because no one can sleep with me anyway, what with the nightmares and the thrashing around.

After tossing and turning for hours, I finally accept that it will be a wakeful night. Under Buttercup’s watchful eye, I tiptoe across the cold tiled floor to the dresser.

The middle drawer contains my government-issued clothes. Everyone wears the same gray pants and shirt, the shirt tucked in at the waist. Underneath the clothes, I keep the few items I had on me when I was lifted from the arena. My mockingjay pin. Peeta’s token, the gold locket with photos of my mother and Prim and Gale inside. A silver parachute that holds a spile for tapping trees, and the pearl Peeta gave me a few hours before I blew out the force field. District 13 confiscated my tube of skin ointment for use in the hospital, and my bow and arrows because only guards have clearance to carry weapons. They’re in safekeeping in the armory.

I feel around for the parachute and slide my fingers inside until they close around the pearl. I sit back on my bed cross-legged and find myself rubbing the smooth iridescent surface of the pearl back and forth against my lips. For some reason, it’s soothing. A cool kiss from the giver himself.

«Katniss?» Prim whispers. She’s awake, peering at me through the darkness. «What’s wrong?»

«Nothing. Just a bad dream. Go back to sleep.» It’s automatic. Shutting Prim and my mother out of things to shield them.

Careful not to rouse my mother, Prim eases herself from the bed, scoops up Buttercup, and sits beside me. She touches the hand that has curled around the pearl. «You’re cold.» Taking a spare blanket from the foot of the bed, she wraps it around all three of us, enveloping me in her warmth and Buttercup’s furry heat as well. «You could tell me, you know. I’m good at keeping secrets. Even from Mother.»

She’s really gone, then. The little girl with the back of her shirt sticking out like a duck tail, the one who needed help reaching the dishes, and who begged to see the frosted cakes in the bakery window. Time and tragedy have forced her to grow too quickly, at least for my taste, into a young woman who stitches bleeding wounds and knows our mother can hear only so much.

«Tomorrow morning, I’m going to agree to be the Mockingjay,» I tell her.

«Because you want to or because you feel forced into it?» she asks.

I laugh a little. «Both, I guess. No, I want to. I have to, if it will help the rebels defeat Snow.» I squeeze the pearl more tightly in my fist. «It’s just…Peeta. I’m afraid if we do win, the rebels will execute him as a traitor.»

Prim thinks this over. «Katniss, I don’t think you understand how important you are to the cause. Important people usually get what they want. If you want to keep Peeta safe from the rebels, you can.»

I guess I’m important. They went to a lot of trouble to rescue me. They took me to 12. «You mean…I could demand that they give Peeta immunity? And they’d have to agree to it?»

«I think you could demand almost anything and they’d have to agree to it.» Prim wrinkles her brow. «Only how do you know they’ll keep their word?»

I remember all of the lies Haymitch told Peeta and me to get us to do what he wanted. What’s to keep the rebels from reneging on the deal? A verbal promise behind closed doors, even a statement written on paper—these could easily evaporate after the war. Their existence or validity denied. Any witnesses in Command will be worthless. In fact, they’d probably be the ones writing out Peeta’s death warrant. I’ll need a much larger pool of witnesses. I’ll need everyone I can get.

«It will have to be public,» I say. Buttercup gives a flick of his tail that I take as agreement. «I’ll make Coin announce it in front of the entire population of Thirteen.»

Prim smiles. «Oh, that’s good. It’s not a guarantee, but it will be much harder for them to back out of their promise.»

I feel the kind of relief that follows an actual solution. «I should wake you up more often, little duck.»

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