Книга Mockingjay. Содержание - 22

When my eyes fall on Peeta, whose head rests right by my feet, I see he’s awake. I wish I could read what’s going on in his mind, that I could go in and untangle the mess of lies. Then I settle for something I can accomplish.

«Have you eaten?» I ask. A slight shake of his head indicates he hasn’t. I open a can of chicken and rice soup and hand it to him, keeping the lid in case he tries to slit his wrists with it or something. He sits up and tilts the can, chugging back the soup without really bothering to chew it. The bottom of the can reflects the lights from the machines, and I remember something that’s been itching at the back of my mind since yesterday. «Peeta, when you asked about what happened to Darius and Lavinia, and Boggs told you it was real, you said you thought so. Because there was nothing shiny about it. What did you mean?»

«Oh. I don’t know exactly how to explain it,» he tells me. «In the beginning, everything was just complete confusion. Now I can sort certain things out. I think there’s a pattern emerging. The memories they altered with the tracker jacker venom have this strange quality about them. Like they’re too intense or the images aren’t stable. You remember what it was like when we were stung?»

«Trees shattered. There were giant colored butterflies. I fell in a pit of orange bubbles.» I think about it. «Shiny orange bubbles.»

«Right. But nothing about Darius or Lavinia was like that. I don’t think they’d given me any venom yet,» he says.

«Well, that’s good, isn’t it?» I ask. «If you can separate the two, then you can figure out what’s true.»

«Yes. And if I could grow wings, I could fly. Only people can’t grow wings,» he says. «Real or not real?»

«Real,» I say. «But people don’t need wings to survive.»

«Mockingjays do.» He finishes the soup and returns the can to me.

In the fluorescent light, the circles under his eyes look like bruises. «There’s still time. You should sleep.» Unresisting, he lies back down, but just stares at the needle on one of the dials as it twitches from side to side. Slowly, as I would with a wounded animal, my hand stretches out and brushes a wave of hair from his forehead. He freezes at my touch, but doesn’t recoil. So I continue to gently smooth back his hair. It’s the first time I have voluntarily touched him since the last arena.

«You’re still trying to protect me. Real or not real,» he whispers.

«Real,» I answer. It seems to require more explanation. «Because that’s what you and I do. Protect each other.» After a minute or so, he drifts off to sleep.

Shortly before seven, Pollux and I move among the others, rousing them. There are the usual yawns and sighs that accompany waking. But my ears are picking up something else, too. Almost like a hissing. Perhaps it’s only steam escaping a pipe or the far-off whoosh of one of the trains….

I hush the group to get a better read on it. There’s a hissing, yes, but it’s not one extended sound. More like multiple exhalations that form words. A single word. Echoing throughout the tunnels. One word. One name. Repeated over and over again.



The grace period has ended. Perhaps Snow had them digging through the night. As soon as the fire died down, anyway. They found Boggs’s remains, briefly felt reassured, and then, as the hours went by without further trophies, began to suspect. At some point, they realized that they had been tricked. And President Snow can’t tolerate being made to look like a fool. It doesn’t matter whether they tracked us to the second apartment or assumed we went directly underground. They know we are down here now and they’ve unleashed something, a pack of mutts probably, bent on finding me.

«Katniss.» I jump at the proximity of the sound. Look frantically for its source, bow loaded, seeking a target to hit. «Katniss.» Peeta’s lips are barely moving, but there’s no doubt, the name came out of him. Just when I thought he seemed a little better, when I thought he might be inching his way back to me, here is proof of how deep Snow’s poison went. «Katniss.» Peeta’s programmed to respond to the hissing chorus, to join in the hunt. He’s beginning to stir. There’s no choice. I position my arrow to penetrate his brain. He’ll barely feel a thing. Suddenly, he’s sitting up, eyes wide in alarm, short of breath. «Katniss!» He whips his head toward me but doesn’t seem to notice my bow, the waiting arrow. «Katniss! Get out of here!»

I hesitate. His voice is alarmed, but not insane. «Why? What’s making that sound?»

«I don’t know. Only that it has to kill you,» says Peeta. «Run! Get out! Go!»

After my own moment of confusion, I conclude I do not have to shoot him. Relax my bowstring. Take in the anxious faces around me. «Whatever it is, it’s after me. It might be a good time to split up.»

«But we’re your guard,» says Jackson.

«And your crew,» adds Cressida.

«I’m not leaving you,» Gale says.

I look at the crew, armed with nothing but cameras and clipboards. And there’s Finnick with two guns and a trident. I suggest that he give one of his guns to Castor. Eject the blank cartridge from Peeta’s, load it with a real one, and arm Pollux. Since Gale and I have our bows, we hand our guns over to Messalla and Cressida. There’s no time to show them anything but how to point and pull the trigger, but in close quarters, that might be enough. It’s better than being defenseless. Now the only one without a weapon is Peeta, but anyone whispering my name with a bunch of mutts doesn’t need one anyway.

We leave the room free of everything but our scent. There’s no way to erase that at the moment. I’m guessing that’s how the hissing things are tracking us, because we haven’t left much of a physical trail. The mutts’ noses will be abnormally keen, but possibly the time we spent slogging through water in drainpipes will help throw them.

Outside the hum of the room, the hissing becomes more distinct. But it’s also possible to get a better sense of the mutts’ location. They’re behind us, still a fair distance. Snow probably had them released underground near the place where he found Boggs’s body. Theoretically, we should have a good lead on them, although they’re certain to be much faster than we are. My mind wanders to the wolflike creatures in the first arena, the monkeys in the Quarter Quell, the monstrosities I’ve witnessed on television over the years, and I wonder what form these mutts will take. Whatever Snow thinks will scare me the most.

Pollux and I have worked out a plan for the next leg of our journey, and since it heads away from the hissing, I see no reason to alter it. If we move swiftly, maybe we can reach Snow’s mansion before the mutts reach us. But there’s a sloppiness that comes with speed: the poorly placed boot that results in a splash, the accidental clang of a gun against a pipe, even my own commands, issued too loudly for discretion.

We’ve covered about three more blocks via an overflow pipe and a section of neglected train track when the screams begin. Thick, guttural. Bouncing off the tunnel walls.

«Avoxes,» says Peeta immediately. «That’s what Darius sounded like when they tortured him.»

«The mutts must have found them,» says Cressida.

«So they’re not just after Katniss,» says Leeg 1.

«They’ll probably kill anyone. It’s just that they won’t stop until they get to her,» says Gale. After his hours studying with Beetee, he is most likely right.

And here I am again. With people dying because of me. Friends, allies, complete strangers, losing their lives for the Mockingjay. «Let me go on alone. Lead them off. I’ll transfer the Holo to Jackson. The rest of you can finish the mission.»

«No one’s going to agree to that!» says Jackson in exasperation.

«We’re wasting time!» says Finnick.

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