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Книга Mockingjay. Содержание - 26

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I still can’t see him, but his voice seems to rise up from an adjacent bed of red roses. Delicately pinching the stem of the bud through the fabric of my sleeve, I move slowly around the corner and find him sitting on a stool against the wall. He’s as well groomed and finely dressed as ever, but weighted down with manacles, ankle shackles, tracking devices. In the bright light, his skin’s a pale, sickly green. He holds a white handkerchief spotted with fresh blood. Even in his deteriorated state, his snake eyes shine bright and cold. «I was hoping you’d find your way to my quarters.»

His quarters. I have trespassed into his home, the way he slithered into mine last year, hissing threats with his bloody, rosy breath. This greenhouse is one of his rooms, perhaps his favorite; perhaps in better times he tended the plants himself. But now it’s part of his prison. That’s why the guards halted me. And that’s why Paylor let me in.

I’d supposed he would be secured in the deepest dungeon that the Capitol had to offer, not cradled in the lap of luxury. Yet Coin left him here. To set a precedent, I guess. So that if in the future she ever fell from grace, it would be understood that presidents—even the most despicable—get special treatment. Who knows, after all, when her own power might fade?

«There are so many things we should discuss, but I have a feeling your visit will be brief. So, first things first.» He begins to cough, and when he removes the handkerchief from his mouth, it’s redder. «I wanted to tell you how very sorry I am about your sister.»

Even in my deadened, drugged condition, this sends a stab of pain through me. Reminding me that there are no limits to his cruelty. And how he will go to his grave trying to destroy me.

«So wasteful, so unnecessary. Anyone could see the game was over by that point. In fact, I was just about to issue an official surrender when they released those parachutes.» His eyes are glued on me, unblinking, so as not to miss a second of my reaction. But what he’s said makes no sense. Whenthey released the parachutes? «Well, you really didn’t think I gave the order, did you? Forget the obvious fact that if I’d had a working hovercraft at my disposal, I’d have been using it to make an escape. But that aside, what purpose could it have served? We both know I’m not above killing children, but I’m not wasteful. I take life for very specific reasons. And there was no reason for me to destroy a pen full of Capitol children. None at all.»

I wonder if the next fit of coughing is staged so that I can have time to absorb his words. He’s lying. Of course, he’s lying. But there’s something struggling to free itself from the lie as well.

«However, I must concede it was a masterful move on Coin’s part. The idea that I was bombing our own helpless children instantly snapped whatever frail allegiance my people still felt to me. There was no real resistance after that. Did you know it aired live? You can see Plutarch’s hand there. And in the parachutes. Well, it’s that sort of thinking that you look for in a Head Gamemaker, isn’t it?» Snow dabs the corners of his mouth. «I’m sure he wasn’t gunning for your sister, but these things happen.»

I’m not with Snow now. I’m in Special Weaponry back in 13 with Gale and Beetee. Looking at the designs based on Gale’s traps. That played on human sympathies. The first bomb killed the victims. The second, the rescuers. Remembering Gale’s words.

«Beetee and I have been following the same rule book President Snow used when he hijacked Peeta.»

«My failure,» says Snow, «was being so slow to grasp Coin’s plan. To let the Capitol and districts destroy one another, and then step in to take power with Thirteen barely scratched. Make no mistake, she was intending to take my place right from the beginning. I shouldn’t be surprised. After all, it was Thirteen that started the rebellion that led to the Dark Days, and then abandoned the rest of the districts when the tide turned against it. But I wasn’t watching Coin. I was watching you, Mockingjay. And you were watching me. I’m afraid we have both been played for fools.»

I refuse for this to be true. Some things even I can’t survive. I utter my first words since my sister’s death. «I don’t believe you.»

Snow shakes his head in mock disappointment. «Oh, my dear Miss Everdeen. I thought we had agreed not to lie to each other.»


Out in the hall, I find Paylor standing in exactly the same spot. «Did you find what you were looking for?» she asks.

I hold up the white bud in answer and then stumble past her. I must have made it back to my room, because the next thing I know, I’m filling a glass with water from the bathroom faucet and sticking the rose in it. I sink to my knees on the cold tile and squint at the flower, as the whiteness seems hard to focus on in the stark fluorescent light. My finger catches the inside of my bracelet, twisting it like a tourniquet, hurting my wrist. I’m hoping the pain will help me hang on to reality the way it did for Peeta. I must hang on. I must know the truth about what has happened.

There are two possibilities, although the details associated with them may vary. First, as I’ve believed, that the Capitol sent in that hovercraft, dropped the parachutes, and sacrificed its children’s lives, knowing the recently arrived rebels would go to their aid. There’s evidence to support this. The Capitol’s seal on the hovercraft, the lack of any attempt to blow the enemy out of the sky, and their long history of using children as pawns in their battle against the districts. Then there’s Snow’s account. That a Capitol hovercraft manned by rebels bombed the children to bring a speedy end to the war. But if this was the case, why didn’t the Capitol fire on the enemy? Did the element of surprise throw them? Had they no defenses left? Children are precious to 13, or so it has always seemed. Well, not me, maybe. Once I had outlived my usefulness, I was expendable. Although I think it’s been a long time since I’ve been considered a child in this war. And why would they do it knowing their own medics would likely respond and be taken out by the second blast? They wouldn’t. They couldn’t. Snow’s lying. Manipulating me as he always has. Hoping to turn me against the rebels and possibly destroy them. Yes. Of course.

Then what’s nagging at me? Those double-exploding bombs, for one. It’s not that the Capitol couldn’t have the same weapon, it’s just that I’m sure the rebels did. Gale and Beetee’s brainchild. Then there’s the fact that Snow made no escape attempt, when I know him to be the consummate survivor. It seems hard to believe he didn’t have a retreat somewhere, some bunker stocked with provisions where he could live out the rest of his snaky little life. And finally, there’s his assessment of Coin. What’s irrefutable is that she’s done exactly what he said. Let the Capitol and the districts run one another into the ground and then sauntered in to take power. Even if that was her plan, it doesn’t mean she dropped those parachutes. Victory was already in her grasp. Everything was in her grasp.

Except me.

I recall Boggs’s response when I admitted I hadn’t put much thought into Snow’s successor. «If your immediate answer isn’t Coin, then you’re a threat. You’re the face of the rebellion. You may have more influence than any other single person. Outwardly, the most you’ve ever done is tolerated her.»

Suddenly, I’m thinking of Prim, who was not yet fourteen, not yet old enough to be granted the title of soldier, but somehow working on the front lines. How did such a thing happen? That my sister would have wanted to be there, I have no doubt. That she would be more capable than many older than she is a given. But for all that, someone very high up would have had to approve putting a thirteen-year-old in combat. Did Coin do it, hoping that losing Prim would push me completely over the edge? Or, at least, firmly on her side? I wouldn’t even have had to witness it in person. Numerous cameras would be covering the City Circle. Capturing the moment forever.

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