Книга Mockingjay. Содержание - 4
As we step out, I glance behind me to watch the elevator close and see a metallic grate slide into place over the regular doors. When I turn, a guard has materialized from one of the rooms at the far end of the corridor. A door swings silently shut behind him as he strides toward us.
Plutarch moves to meet him, raising a hand in greeting, and the rest of us follow behind him. Something feels very wrong down here. It’s more than the reinforced elevator, or the claustrophobia of being so far underground, or the caustic smell of antiseptic. One look at Gale’s face and I can tell he senses it as well.
«Good morning, we were just looking for—» Plutarch begins.
«You have the wrong floor,» says the guard abruptly.
«Really?» Plutarch double-checks his notes. «I’ve got Three-Nine-Oh-Eight written right here. I wonder if you could just give a call up to—»
«I’m afraid I have to ask you to leave now. Assignment discrepancies can be addressed at the Head Office,» says the guard.
It’s right ahead of us. Compartment 3908. Just a few steps away. The door—in fact, all the doors—seem incomplete. No knobs. They must swing free on hinges like the one the guard appeared through.
«Where is that again?» asks Fulvia.
«You’ll find the Head Office on Level Seven,» says the guard, extending his arms to corral us back to the elevator.
From behind door 3908 comes a sound. Just a tiny whimper. Like something a cowed dog might make to avoid being struck, only all too human and familiar. My eyes meet Gale’s for just a moment, but it’s long enough for two people who operate the way we do. I let Cinna’s sketchbook fall at the guard’s feet with a loud bang. A second after he leans down to retrieve it, Gale leans down, too, intentionally bumping heads. «Oh, I’m sorry,» he says with a light laugh, catching the guard’s arms as if to steady himself, turning him slightly away from me.
That’s my chance. I dart around the distracted guard, push open the door marked 3908 , and find them. Half-naked, bruised, and shackled to the wall.
My prep team.
The stink of unwashed bodies, stale urine, and infection breaks through the cloud of antiseptic. The three figures are only just recognizable by their most striking fashion choices: Venia’s gold facial tattoos.
Flavius’s orange corkscrew curls. Octavia’s light evergreen skin, which now hangs too loosely, as if her body were a slowly deflating balloon.
On seeing me, Flavius and Octavia shrink back against the tiled walls like they’re anticipating an attack, even though I have never hurt them. Unkind thoughts were my worst offense against them, and those I kept to myself, so why do they recoil?
The guard’s ordering me out, but by the shuffling that follows, I know Gale has somehow detained him. For answers, I cross to Venia, who was always the strongest. I crouch down and take her icy hands, which clutch mine like vises.
«What happened, Venia?» I ask. «What are you doing here?»
«They took us. From the Capitol,» she says hoarsely.
Plutarch enters behind me. «What on earth is going on?»
«Who took you?» I press her.
«People,» she says vaguely. «The night you broke out.»
«We thought it might be comforting for you to have your regular team,» Plutarch says behind me. «Cinna requested it.»
«Cinna requestedthis ?» I snarl at him. Because if there’s one thing I know, it’s that Cinna would never have approved the abuse of these three, who he managed with gentleness and patience. «Why are they being treated like criminals?»
«I honestly don’t know.» There’s something in his voice that makes me believe him, and the pallor on Fulvia’s face confirms it. Plutarch turns to the guard, who’s just appeared in the doorway with Gale right behind him. «I was only told they were being confined. Why are they being punished?»
«For stealing food. We had to restrain them after an altercation over some bread,» says the guard.
Venia’s brows come together as if she’s still trying to make sense of it. «No one would tell us anything. We were so hungry. It was just one slice she took.»
Octavia begins to sob, muffling the sound in her ragged tunic. I think of how, the first time I survived the arena, Octavia sneaked me a roll under the table because she couldn’t bear my hunger. I crawl across to her shaking form. «Octavia?» I touch her and she flinches. «Octavia? It’s going to be all right. I’ll get you out of here, okay?»
«This seems extreme,» says Plutarch.
«It’s because they took a slice of bread?» asks Gale.
«There were repeated infractions leading up to that. They were warned. Still they took more bread.» The guard pauses a moment, as if puzzled by our density. «You can’t take bread.»
I can’t get Octavia to uncover her face, but she lifts it slightly. The shackles on her wrists shift down a few inches, revealing raw sores beneath them. «I’m bringing you to my mother.» I address the guard. «Unchain them.»
The guard shakes his head. «It’s not authorized.»
«Unchain them! Now!» I yell.
This breaks his composure. Average citizens don’t address him this way. «I have no release orders. And you have no authority to—»
«Do it on my authority,» says Plutarch. «We came to collect these three anyway. They’re needed for Special Defense. I’ll take full responsibility.»
The guard leaves to make a call. He returns with a set of keys. The preps have been forced into cramped body positions for so long that even once the shackles are removed, they have trouble walking. Gale, Plutarch, and I have to help them. Flavius’s foot catches on a metal grate over a circular opening in the floor, and my stomach contracts when I think of why a room would need a drain. The stains of human misery that must have been hosed off these white tiles…
In the hospital, I find my mother, the only one I trust to care for them. It takes her a minute to place the three, given their current condition, but already she wears a look of consternation. And I know it’s not a result of seeing abused bodies, because they were her daily fare in District 12, but the realization that this sort of thing goes on in 13 as well.
My mother was welcomed into the hospital, but she’s viewed as more of a nurse than a doctor, despite her lifetime of healing. Still, no one interferes when she guides the trio into an examination room to assess their injuries. I plant myself on a bench in the hall outside the hospital entrance, waiting to hear her verdict. She will be able to read in their bodies the pain inflicted upon them.
Gale sits next to me and puts an arm around my shoulder. «She’ll fix them up.» I give a nod, wondering if he’s thinking about his own brutal flogging back in 12.
Plutarch and Fulvia take the bench across from us but don’t offer any comments on the state of my prep team. If they had no knowledge of the mistreatment, then what do they make of this move on President Coin’s part? I decide to help them out.
«I guess we’ve all been put on notice,» I say.
«What? No. What do you mean?» asks Fulvia.
«Punishing my prep team’s a warning,» I tell her. «Not just to me. But to you, too. About who’s really in control and what happens if she’s not obeyed. If you had any delusions about having power, I’d let them go now. Apparently, a Capitol pedigree is no protection here. Maybe it’s even a liability.»
«There is no comparison between Plutarch, who masterminded the rebel breakout, and those three beauticians,» says Fulvia icily.
I shrug. «If you say so, Fulvia. But what would happen if you got on Coin’s bad side? My prep team was kidnapped. They can at least hope to one day return to the Capitol. Gale and I can live in the woods. But you? Where would you two run?»
«Perhaps we’re a little more necessary to the war effort than you give us credit for,» says Plutarch, unconcerned.