Chapter 1: Complex Machinery
Jonathan frowned at the complicated piece of machinery. He was good with mechanisms, but this was very intricate. The design seemed flawless; every bit of it like it was made by angels. But there was a problem with the handheld device. That was evident.
“So, what do you think?” The person asking was the best engineer in District 3, but even he was confused. His name was Garif, and he was well known for being chosen as tribute in the Hunger Games, and having someone else volunteer for him. The boy who had volunteered was his brother, and the girl tribute was the girl he had hoped to marry, but they both died. Garif had been forced to watch as his brother died from a sword in his stomach and his love be killed as someone slit her throat. But that was many Hunger Games ago. So many that the 17 year old boy was now an old man. Garif had never married. He had just worked, building and fixing electronics and the like.
Jonathan looked at the device from a different angle. He wasn’t the best like Garif, but he was damn close. Garif had noticed his potential and had picked him to work in his workshop, where only the most complicated machinery went. Most people in District 3 worked in the factories, where they either built something for the capitol, or fixed something for the capitol. Garif’s workshop did the same thing, but they also tried to sneak a few things for the people to enjoy.
Jonathan was glad that he worked in the workshop. It payed better, and everyone knew he needed the money. His mother had died giving birth to his little sister, and his dad had died trying to fix a gun and having it blow up, killing him. For five years, Jonathan and his little sister, Jasa, lived with their grandmother, but she was racked with disease, and Jonathan had to work for the whole family. He worked for food, medicine, clothes and all other needs. His sister was only five, and couldn’t work. Jonathan was thirteen, and worked at the workshop, and at three of the factories just to keep his family going. Last year, when he was old enough to be chosen for the Hunger Games, he added his name for a lot of tessera. It was plain luck that he wasn’t chosen. This year he had been a little more sensible. Without him, his family wouldn’t survive. They needed him. He had still put his name down for tessera, but not as many.
“Maybe it’s the relay,” Jonathan said, peering into the back of the device.
Garif snatched it back before Jonathan could do anything. “No,” he said. “I’ve already thought of that. I thought at one point that the connection from the battery and the wiring, but that’s not it either.”
Jonathan thought for a moment while Garif poked a screwdriver around inside it. Then idea came to mind. He grabbed it from Garif, ignoring the shout of outrage, and looked into it again, seeing the problem.
“What’s the first rule you ever taught me?” Jonathan asked, grinning.
Garif looked bemused. “Disobey me, and you’re out? No touching my tools?”
“Even if it’s a complex problem, sometimes the answer is a simple solution. Lose wires. I can see at least six of ‘em.”
He handed it back to Garif, who took a quick look inside and grunted. “You’re going to get me out of a job,” he said, but he was grinning.
He put it down and looked at Jonathan. “Reaping tomorrow. You okay for it?”
Jonathan took an unsteady breath. He was afraid of the Reaping. Everyone was. But Jonathan wasn’t a fighter. He was smart, but he knew that brains weren’t the main thing in the Arena. He wouldn’t last, and more importantly, his family wouldn’t last. They needed him too much.
“Never,” he replied.
Garif laughed roughly. “I’d be surprised if you were.”
“What’s it like,” Jonathan asked, before he could think. “Being chosen?”
Garif stiffened. For a moment he was afraid that the man would get angry and strike Jonathan. But then he dipped his head and spoke in a low voice.
“I wasn’t chosen for very long. But the few minutes that I was were the worst of my life. When they read out my name, there was a sigh of relief from the other children. No one screamed for me, no one wept. They all looked at me as I walked up to the stage. When they asked if anyone would volunteer, my brother said he would. He was eighteen, he had managed to last without being picked, but in his last year, he had volunteered. And I was relieved. I know I should’ve been, my brother just volunteered to fight other children to the death for me, but I was so relieved it wasn’t me.”
He looked at Jonathan. “No one will volunteer for you, will they?”
Jonathan shook his head. He had a few good friends, but no one would volunteer for the Hunger Games if it wasn’t family. It was just a rule.
“Then you better hope that they don’t draw your name.” Garif’s expression was filled with pity. “Go on. Get some sleep. All the other factories are closed by now.”
Jonathan nodded. They would be closed by now, all the factories closed early on the day before the Reaping.
Jonathan thanked Garif and walked out the sunshine. It would be about three by now. He went over to Mariana, who gave him some medicine. He thanked her and went of looking for someone who would still have some food. He found very little. That was the problem with working so much. With Mariana, he could ask her to set aside some medicine. But with food, that sold out quickly, and no one was willing to keep some when they could sell it and go home early.
Jonathan went home with his medicine and his little amount of food. He met some people on the way, and they said things like “Hi”, and “how’s your grandmother?”
A few of the richer, more annoying ones actually said “May the odds be ever in your favour”. They were idiots. Anyone who knew Jonathan, and that was most people, knew that he had brought a lot of tessera. Maybe not as much as last year, but still enough to make him one of the most likely to be chosen.
He got home, seeing his little sister talking with Kenisdra. She took care of Jasa whenever Jonathan was at work. Jasa was fiddling with some wires and Kenisdra was teaching her. Jasa had a knack with building things, like Jonathan. Kenisdra used to work at the factory, but in an accident she had lost her left thumb. She couldn’t work, but she still knew her stuff, and had been teaching Jasa. Jonathan grinned. This reminded him about how his father used to teach him until Jonathan had got too good to be taught. When most people think about deceased family, they get sad. But Jonathan only got happier. He didn’t know why, but he was glad. Whenever he thought about their deaths, however…
“And how are we today,” he asked as he walked through the door. Jasa jumped up and ran over to him. She tackled hugged him as Kenisdra stood up.
“Fine,” she said, looking at Jasa and Jonathan, smiling. “How was the workshop?”
Jonathan shrugged. “Finished quickly, half a day off, I can’t complain. And how’s…”
He trailed off. Kenisdra understood though, and a pained look crossed her face. “Not to good today dear,” she said in a quiet voice.
Jonathan nodded. He knew that she needed better medical attention then her thirteen year old grandson getting her a couple of pills. But there was nothing they could do. The doctor had some over and said that there was nothing he could do either. Jonathan knew it was a matter of weeks before she died. Most of him was sad that another family member would die. Part of him, the survival part of him thought one less mouth to feed, and a whole lot more money because he could stop buying medicine.
He hated that part of him.
He walked over to his grandmother’s room and slowly opened the door. She was lying there, seemingly sleeping. He walked over to a chair beside her and sat down. She heard this and opened her eyes, a weak smile breaking out on her lips. She was deathly pale, and getting skinnier by the day.
“How are you sweetie?” she asked in a weak, drained, tired voice.
Jonathan swallowed and tried to stop his voice from cracking. “Fine Grandma. And how are you?”
She looked up at the ceiling. “I feel dizzy.”
“I’ve got some pills.” Jonathan rummaged through his bag and drew a small container. He read the instructions and shouted out to Jasa to get a glass of water.
When she came over with one, Jonathan quickly crushed up two of the pills and stirred them into the water.
“You’re going to have to sit up to drink this.” Jonathan and Jasa helped her sit up and drink it.
She lay down again and blinked. “I feel sleepy,” she said.
“It says you might feel a little drowsy,” Jonathan said soothingly. “Just rest for a while. Get some sleep.”
She had fallen asleep before he had even finished talking. Jasa looked up at Jonathan with wide eyes.
“Is Grandma going to be alright?” she asked.
It broke his heart to lie to Jasa. “She’ll be fine,” he said, and ushered her out of the room.
But he knew that their grandmother had only weeks, if not days.
Soon they would be alone.
Their grandmother slept through the poor dinner Jonathan had prepared. He considered waking her up, she need food. But she was in so much pain; it was hard to get her to sleep. So he left her.
He got Jasa to go to sleep and laid down in his own bed soon after, exhausted. If their grandmother died, they would have to move in with someone else. It was the law. They might even be separated. Jonathan hated to think what would happen to Jasa if he was chosen. She would have to life with someone who would no doubt treat her badly. At least while he was there, he was old enough to refuse someone as guardian for both himself and Jasa. But if he left, they would say that Jasa was too young to make decisions and would give her to someone.
Jonathan closed his eyes, trying and failing to not dream about the Reaping, their grandmother dying and what would happen to them.