Книга Mockingjay. Содержание - 20

Peeta just shrugs. «I’m not much of a shot anyway.» He seems preoccupied with watching Pollux, to the point where it’s getting a little worrisome, when he finally puzzles it out and begins to speak with agitation. «You’re an Avox, aren’t you? I can tell by the way you swallow. There were two Avoxes with me in prison. Darius and Lavinia, but the guards mostly called them the redheads. They’d been our servants in the Training Center, so they arrested them, too. I watched them being tortured to death. She was lucky. They used too much voltage and her heart stopped right off. It took days to finish him off. Beating, cutting off parts. They kept asking him questions, but he couldn’t speak, he just made these horrible animal sounds. They didn’t want information, you know? They wanted me to see it.»

Peeta looks around at our stunned faces, as if waiting for a reply. When none is forthcoming, he asks, «Real or not real?» The lack of response upsets him more. «Real or not real?!» he demands.

«Real,» says Boggs. «At least, to the best of my knowledge…real.»

Peeta sags. «I thought so. There was nothing…shiny about it.» He wanders away from the group, muttering something about fingers and toes.

I move to Gale, press my forehead into the body armor where his chest should be, feel his arm tighten around me. We finally know the name of the girl who we watched the Capitol abduct from the woods of 12, the fate of the Peacekeeper friend who tried to keep Gale alive. This is no time to call up happy moments of remembrance. They lost their lives because of me. I add them to my personal list of kills that began in the arena and now includes thousands. When I look up, I see it has taken Gale differently. His expression says that there are not enough mountains to crush, enough cities to destroy. It promises death.

With Peeta’s grisly account fresh in our minds, we crunch through the streets of broken glass until we reach our target, the block we are to take. It is a real, if small, goal to accomplish. We gather around Boggs to examine the Holo projection of the street. The gunfire pod is positioned about a third of the way down, just above an apartment awning. We should be able to trigger it with bullets. The net pod is at the far end, almost the next corner. This will require someone to set off the body sensor mechanism. Everyone volunteers except Peeta, who doesn’t seem to know quite what’s going on. I don’t get picked. I get sent to Messalla, who dabs some makeup on my face for the anticipated close-ups.

The squad positions itself under Boggs’s direction, and then we have to wait for Cressida to get the cameramen in place as well. They’re both to our left, with Castor toward the front and Pollux bringing up the rear so they’ll be sure not to record each other. Messalla sets off a couple of smoke charges for atmosphere. Since this is both a mission and a shoot, I’m about to ask who’s in charge, my commander or my director, when Cressida calls, «Action!»

We slowly proceed down the hazy street, just like one of our exercises in the Block. Everyone has at least one section of windows to blow out, but Gale’s assigned the real target. When he hits the pod, we take cover—ducking into doorways or flattening onto the pretty, light orange and pink paving stones—as a hail of bullets sweeps back and forth over our heads. After a while, Boggs orders us forward.

Cressida stops us before we can rise, since she needs some close-up shots. We take turns reenacting our responses. Falling to the ground, grimacing, diving into alcoves. We know it’s supposed to be serious business, but the whole thing feels a little ridiculous. Especially when it turns out that I’m not the worst actor in the squad. Not by a long shot. We’re all laughing so hard at Mitchell’s attempt to project his idea of desperation, which involves teeth grinding and nostrils flaring, that Boggs has to reprimand us.

«Pull it together, Four-Five-One,» he says firmly. But you can see him suppressing a smile as he’s double-checking the next pod. Positioning the Holo to find the best light in the smoky air. Still facing us as his left foot steps back onto the orange paving stone. Triggering the bomb that blows off his legs.


It’s as if in an instant, a painted window shatters, revealing the ugly world behind it. Laughter changes to screams, blood stains pastel stones, real smoke darkens the special effect stuff made for television.

A second explosion seems to split the air and leaves my ears ringing. But I can’t make out where it came from.

I reach Boggs first, try to make sense of the torn flesh, missing limbs, to find something to stem the red flow from his body. Homes pushes me aside, wrenching open a first-aid kit. Boggs clutches my wrist. His face, gray with dying and ash, seems to be receding. But his next words are an order. «The Holo.»

The Holo. I scramble around, digging through chunks of tile slick with blood, shuddering when I encounter bits of warm flesh. Find it rammed into a stairwell with one of Boggs’s boots. Retrieve it, wiping it clean with bare hands as I return it to my commander.

Homes has the stump of Boggs’s left thigh cupped by some sort of compression bandage, but it’s already soaked through. He’s trying to tourniquet the other above the existing knee. The rest of the squad has gathered in a protective formation around the crew and us. Finnick’s attempting to revive Messalla, who was thrown into a wall by the explosion. Jackson’s barking into a field communicator, trying unsuccessfully to alert the camp to send medics, but I know it’s too late. As a child, watching my mother work, I learned that once a pool of blood has reached a certain size, there’s no going back.

I kneel beside Boggs, prepared to repeat the role I played with Rue, with the morphling from 6, giving him someone to hold on to as he’s released from life. But Boggs has both hands working the Holo. He’s typing in a command, pressing his thumb to the screen for print recognition, speaking a string of letters and numbers in response to a prompt. A green shaft of light bursts out of the Holo and illuminates his face. He says, «Unfit for command. Transfer of prime security clearance to Squad Four-Five-One Soldier Katniss Everdeen.» It’s all he can do to turn the Holo toward my face. «Say your name.»

«Katniss Everdeen,» I say into the green shaft. Suddenly, it has me trapped in its light. I can’t move or even blink as images flicker rapidly before me. Scanning me? Recording me? Blinding me? It vanishes, and I shake my head to clear it. «What did you do?»

«Prepare to retreat!» Jackson hollers.

Finnick’s yelling something back, gesturing to the end of the block where we entered. Black, oily matter spouts like a geyser from the street, billowing between the buildings, creating an impenetrable wall of darkness. It seems to be neither liquid nor gas, mechanical nor natural. Surely it’s lethal. There’s no heading back the way we came.

Deafening gunfire as Gale and Leeg 1 begin to blast a path across the stones toward the far end of the block. I don’t know what they’re doing until another bomb, ten yards away, detonates, opening a hole in the street. Then I realize this is a rudimentary attempt at minesweeping. Homes and I latch on to Boggs and begin to drag him after Gale. Agony takes over and he’s crying out in pain and I want to stop, to find a better way, but the blackness is rising above the buildings, swelling, rolling at us like a wave.

I’m yanked backward, lose my grip on Boggs, slam into the stones. Peeta looks down at me, gone, mad, flashing back into the land of the hijacked, his gun raised over me, descending to crush my skull. I roll, hear the butt slam into the street, catch the tumble of bodies out of the corner of my eye as Mitchell tackles Peeta and pins him to the ground. But Peeta, always so powerful and now fueled by tracker jacker insanity, gets his feet under Mitchell’s belly and launches him farther down the block.

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