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Книга Mockingjay. Содержание - 23

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«Climb!» Gale barks at me. I’m back up, hauling him in, peering into the gloom for more. «No.» Gale turns my face to him and shakes his head. Uniform shredded. Gaping wound in the side of his neck.

There’s a human cry from below. «Someone’s still alive,» I plead.

«No, Katniss. They’re not coming,» says Gale. «Only the mutts are.»

Unable to accept it, I shine the light from Cressida’s gun down the shaft. Far below, I can just make out Finnick, struggling to hang on as three mutts tear at him. As one yanks back his head to take the death bite, something bizarre happens. It’s as if I’m Finnick, watching images of my life flash by. The mast of a boat, a silver parachute, Mags laughing, a pink sky, Beetee’s trident, Annie in her wedding dress, waves breaking over rocks. Then it’s over.

I slide the Holo from my belt and choke out «nightlock, nightlock, nightlock.» Release it. Hunch against the wall with the others as the explosion rocks the platform and bits of mutt and human flesh shoot out of the pipe and shower us.

There’s a clank as Pollux slams a cover over the pipe and locks it in place. Pollux, Gale, Cressida, Peeta, and me. We’re all that’s left. Later, the human feelings will come. Now I’m conscious only of an animal need to keep the remnants of our band alive. «We can’t stop here.»

Someone comes up with a bandage. We tie it around Gale’s neck. Get him to his feet. Only one figure stays huddled against the wall. «Peeta,» I say. There’s no response. Has he blacked out? I crouch in front of him, pulling his cuffed hands from his face. «Peeta?» His eyes are like black pools, the pupils dilated so that the blue irises have all but vanished. The muscles in his wrists are hard as metal.

«Leave me,» he whispers. «I can’t hang on.»

«Yes. You can!» I tell him.

Peeta shakes his head. «I’m losing it. I’ll go mad. Like them.»

Like the mutts. Like a rabid beast bent on ripping my throat out. And here, finally here in this place, in these circumstances, I will really have to kill him. And Snow will win. Hot, bitter hatred courses through me. Snow has won too much already today.

It’s a long shot, it’s suicide maybe, but I do the only thing I can think of. I lean in and kiss Peeta full on the mouth. His whole body starts shuddering, but I keep my lips pressed to his until I have to come up for air. My hands slide up his wrists to clasp his. «Don’t let him take you from me.»

Peeta’s panting hard as he fights the nightmares raging in his head. «No. I don’t want to…»

I clench his hands to the point of pain. «Stay with me.»

His pupils contract to pinpoints, dilate again rapidly, and then return to something resembling normalcy. «Always,» he murmurs.

I help Peeta up and address Pollux. «How far to the street?» He indicates it’s just above us. I climb the last ladder and push open the lid to someone’s utility room. I’m rising to my feet when a woman throws open the door. She wears a bright turquoise silk robe embroidered with exotic birds. Her magenta hair’s fluffed up like a cloud and decorated with gilded butterflies. Grease from the half-eaten sausage she’s holding smears her lipstick. The expression on her face says she recognizes me. She opens her mouth to call for help.

Without hesitation, I shoot her through the heart.


Who the woman was calling to remains a mystery, because after searching the apartment, we find she was alone. Perhaps her cry was meant for a nearby neighbor, or was simply an expression of fear. At any rate, there’s no one else to hear her.

This apartment would be a classy place to hole up in for a while, but that’s a luxury we can’t afford. «How long do you think we have before they figure out some of us could’ve survived?» I ask.

«I think they could be here anytime,» Gale answers. «They knew we were heading for the streets. Probably the explosion will throw them for a few minutes, then they’ll start looking for our exit point.»

I go to a window that overlooks the street, and when I peek through the blinds, I’m not faced with Peacekeepers but with a bundled crowd of people going about their business. During our underground journey, we have left the evacuated zones far behind and surfaced in a busy section of the Capitol. This crowd offers our only chance of escape. I don’t have a Holo, but I have Cressida. She joins me at the window, confirms she knows our location, and gives me the good news that we aren’t many blocks from the president’s mansion.

One glance at my companions tells me this is no time for a stealth attack on Snow. Gale’s still losing blood from the neck wound, which we haven’t even cleaned. Peeta’s sitting on a velvet sofa with his teeth clamped down on a pillow, either fighting off madness or containing a scream. Pollux weeps against the mantel of an ornate fireplace. Cressida stands determinedly at my side, but she’s so pale her lips are bloodless. I’m running on hate. When the energy for that ebbs, I’ll be worthless.

«Let’s check her closets,» I say.

In one bedroom we find hundreds of the woman’s outfits, coats, pairs of shoes, a rainbow of wigs, enough makeup to paint a house. In a bedroom across the hall, there’s a similar selection for men. Perhaps they belong to her husband. Perhaps to a lover who had the good luck to be out this morning. I call the others to dress. At the sight of Peeta’s bloody wrists, I dig in my pocket for the handcuff key, but he jerks away from me.

«No,» he says. «Don’t. They help hold me together.»

«You might need your hands,» says Gale.

«When I feel myself slipping, I dig my wrists into them, and the pain helps me focus,» says Peeta. I let them be.

Fortunately, it’s cold out, so we can conceal most of our uniforms and weapons under flowing coats and cloaks. We hang our boots around our necks by their laces and hide them, pull on silly shoes to replace them. The real challenge, of course, is our faces. Cressida and Pollux run the risk of being recognized by acquaintances, Gale could be familiar from the propos and news, and Peeta and I are known by every citizen of Panem. We hastily help one another apply thick layers of makeup, pull on wigs and sunglasses. Cressida wraps scarves over Peeta’s and my mouths and noses.

I can feel the clock ticking away, but stop for just a few moments to stuff pockets with food and first-aid supplies. «Stay together,» I say at the front door. Then we march right into the street. Snow flurries have begun to fall. Agitated people swirl around us, speaking of rebels and hunger and me in their affected Capitol accents. We cross the street, pass a few more apartments. Just as we turn the corner, three dozen Peacekeepers sweep past us. We hop out of their way, as the real citizens do, wait until the crowd returns to its normal flow, and keep moving. «Cressida,» I whisper. «Can you think of anywhere?»

«I’m trying,» she says.

We cover another block, and the sirens begin. Through an apartment window, I see an emergency report and pictures of our faces flashing. They haven’t identified who in our party died yet, because I see Castor and Finnick among the photos. Soon every passerby will be as dangerous as a Peacekeeper. «Cressida?»

«There’s one place. It’s not ideal. But we can try it,» she says. We follow her a few more blocks and turn through a gate into what looks like a private residence. It’s some kind of shortcut, though, because after walking through a manicured garden, we come out of another gate onto a small back street that connects two main avenues. There are a few poky stores—one that buys used goods, another that sells fake jewelry. Only a couple of people are around, and they pay no attention to us. Cressida begins to babble in a high-pitched voice about fur undergarments, how essential they are during the cold months. «Wait until you see the prices! Believe me, it’s half what you pay on the avenues!»

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