Книга Mockingjay. Содержание - 18

«You,» Gale answers.

«You’ll have to be a little more specific,» says Peeta. «What about me?»

«That they’ve replaced you with the evil-mutt version of yourself,» says Johanna.

Gale finishes his milk. «You done?» he asks me. I rise and we cross to drop off our trays. At the door, an old man stops me because I’m still clutching the rest of my gravy bread in my hand. Something in my expression, or maybe the fact that I’ve made no attempt to conceal it, makes him go easy on me. He lets me stuff the bread in my mouth and move on. Gale and I are almost to my compartment when he speaks again. «I didn’t expect that.»

«I told you he hated me,» I say.

«It’s the way he hates you. It’s so…familiar. I used to feel like that,» he admits. «When I’d watch you kissing him on the screen. Only I knew I wasn’t being entirely fair. He can’t see that.»

We reach my door. «Maybe he just sees me as I really am. I have to get some sleep.»

Gale catches my arm before I can disappear. «So that’s what you’re thinking now?» I shrug. «Katniss, as your oldest friend, believe me when I say he’s not seeing you as you really are.» He kisses my cheek and goes.

I sit on my bed, trying to stuff information from my Military Tactics books into my head while memories of my nights with Peeta on the train distract me. After about twenty minutes, Johanna comes in and throws herself across the foot of my bed. «You missed the best part. Delly lost her temper at Peeta over how he treated you. She got very squeaky. It was like someone stabbing a mouse with a fork repeatedly. The whole dining hall was riveted.»

«What’d Peeta do?» I ask.

«He started arguing with himself like he was two people. The guards had to take him away. On the good side, no one seemed to notice I finished his stew.» Johanna rubs her hand over her protruding belly. I look at the layer of grime under her fingernails. Wonder if the people in 7 ever bathe.

We spend a couple of hours quizzing each other on military terms. I visit my mother and Prim for a while. When I’m back in my compartment, showered, staring into the darkness, I finally ask, «Johanna, could you really hear him screaming?»

«That was part of it,» she says. «Like the jabberjays in the arena. Only it was real. And it didn’t stop after an hour. Tick, tock.»

«Tick, tock,» I whisper back.

Roses. Wolf mutts. Tributes. Frosted dolphins. Friends. Mockingjays. Stylists. Me.

Everything screams in my dreams tonight.


I throw myself into training with a vengeance. Eat, live, and breathe the workouts, drills, weapons practice, lectures on tactics. A handful of us are moved into an additional class that gives me hope I may be a contender for the actual war. The soldiers simply call it the Block, but the tattoo on my arm lists it as S.S.C., short for Simulated Street Combat. Deep in 13, they’ve built an artificial Capitol city block. The instructor breaks us into squads of eight and we attempt to carry out missions—gaining a position, destroying a target, searching a home—as if we were really fighting our way through the Capitol. The thing’s rigged so that everything that can go wrong for you does. A false step triggers a land mine, a sniper appears on a rooftop, your gun jams, a crying child leads you into an ambush, your squadron leader—who’s just a voice on the program—gets hit by a mortar and you have to figure out what to do without orders. Part of you knows it’s fake and that they’re not going to kill you. If you set off a land mine, you hear the explosion and have to pretend to fall over dead. But in other ways, it feels pretty real in there—the enemy soldiers dressed in Peacekeepers’ uniforms, the confusion of a smoke bomb. They even gas us. Johanna and I are the only ones who get our masks on in time. The rest of our squad gets knocked out for ten minutes. And the supposedly harmless gas I took a few lungfuls of gives me a wicked headache for the rest of the day.

Cressida and her crew tape Johanna and me on the firing range. I know Gale and Finnick are being filmed as well. It’s part of a new propos series to show the rebels preparing for the Capitol invasion. On the whole, things are going pretty well.

Then Peeta starts showing up for our morning workouts. The manacles are off, but he’s still constantly accompanied by a pair of guards. After lunch, I see him across the field, drilling with a group of beginners. I don’t know what they’re thinking. If a spat with Delly can reduce him to arguing with himself, he’s got no business learning how to assemble a gun.

When I confront Plutarch, he assures me that it’s all for the camera. They’ve got footage of Annie getting married and Johanna hitting targets, but all of Panem is wondering about Peeta. They need to see he’s fighting for the rebels, not for Snow. And maybe if they could just get a couple of shots of the two of us, not kissing necessarily, just looking happy to be back together—

I walk away from the conversation right then. That is not going to happen.

In my rare moments of downtime, I anxiously watch the preparations for the invasions. See equipment and provisions readied, divisions assembled. You can tell when someone’s received orders because they’re given a very short haircut, the mark of a person going into battle. There is much talk of the opening offensive, which will be to secure the train tunnels that feed up into the Capitol.

Just a few days before the first troops are to move out, York unexpectedly tells Johanna and me she’s recommended us for the exam, and we’re to report immediately. There are four parts: an obstacle course that assesses your physical condition, a written tactics exam, a test of weapons proficiency, and a simulated combat situation in the Block. I don’t even have time to get nervous for the first three and do well, but there’s a backlog at the Block. Some kind of technical bug they’re working out. A group of us exchanges information. This much seems true. You go through alone. There’s no predicting what situation you’ll be thrown into. One boy says, under his breath, that he’s heard it’s designed to target each individual’s weaknesses.

My weaknesses? That’s a door I don’t even want to open. But I find a quiet spot and try to assess what they might be. The length of the list depresses me. Lack of physical brute force. A bare minimum of training. And somehow my stand-out status as the Mockingjay doesn’t seem to be an advantage in a situation where they’re trying to get us to blend into a pack. They could nail me to the wall on any number of things.

Johanna’s called three ahead of me, and I give her a nod of encouragement. I wish I had been at the top of the list because now I’m really overthinking the whole thing. By the time my name’s called, I don’t know what my strategy should be. Fortunately, once I’m in the Block, a certain amount of training does kick in. It’s an ambush situation. Peacekeepers appear almost instantly and I have to make my way to a rendezvous point to meet up with my scattered squad. I slowly navigate the street, taking out Peacekeepers as I go. Two on the rooftop to my left, another in the doorway up ahead. It’s challenging, but not as hard as I was expecting. There’s a nagging feeling that if it’s too simple, I must be missing the point. I’m within a couple of buildings from my goal when things begin to heat up. A half dozen Peacekeepers come charging around the corner. They will outgun me, but I notice something. A drum of gasoline lying carelessly in the gutter. This is it. My test. To perceive that blowing up the drum will be the only way to achieve my mission. Just as I step out to do it, my squadron leader, who’s been fairly useless up to this point, quietly orders me to hit the ground. Every instinct I have screams for me to ignore the voice, to pull the trigger, to blow the Peacekeepers sky-high. And suddenly, I realize what the military will think my biggest weakness is. From my first moment in the Games, when I ran for that orange backpack, to the firefight in 8, to my impulsive race across the square in 2. I cannot take orders.

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