A Different Game

By AfterSangster

Twisted from The Hunger Games

President Everdeen sat in the leather chair behind her desk, twirling a lock of her dark hair between her fingers as she brainstormed the details for the 74th Hunger Games. Her gray eyes were unfocused, her mind far away in the section of land that had been marked off for this year’s Games.

When there came a knock on the door, Katniss’s eyes narrowed and she straightened. When her posture was suitably presidential, she pressed the button on the left side of her desk. Across the room, the broad, mahogany doors swung wide.

“Ma’am, there’s been another raid on supply drops in the forest outside District 12,” the old secretary in the doorway announced, his voice wavering as he met President Everdeen’s frigid gaze.

Katniss smiled at his uncomfortable stance, half inside and half outside her office. “Please, come in. Take a seat.”

By his expression, one would have thought that Katniss had proclaimed his death sentence. The secretary made his way to one of the two chairs in front of the desk, his steps swift and nervous. He flinched when the doors to the office quietly clicked shut.

“What is your name?” Katniss demanded as soon as he was seated.

“Coriolanus Snow,” he answered readily, “but you may call me what you wish.”

The president leaned back in her chair, observing the secretary. She recognized him, of course; he was one of the oldest on her staff, and she’d been considering letting him go. He was too old for the bustling life of a Capitol secretary, but she just couldn’t bring herself to release someone who’d been around for so long. He was a fixture, someone more dependable than the young interns she’d recently hired.

“Snow, do you know what District 13 did to be wiped off the map?”

The question seemed to surprise him. “Yes, ma’am. The district was destroyed during the First Rebellion as a warning for other, more important districts to stand down.”

“You could say that,” Katniss responded. There was an edge to her tone that
further agitated Coriolanus, but he maintained his composure.

The two watched each other silently for a few moments, one tense and the other nonchalant. The former finally leaned forward in his stiff chair, hoping to ascertain the president’s orders.

“What would you have the Peacekeepers do to prevent future raids, President Everdeen?”

Katniss’s stern expression melted into a grin. “Perhaps it’s time we reminded the districts about where the power lies in Panem.”

She rose to her feet, her stately gown swishing around her legs. Coriolanus got
to his feet, slightly slower with his aged joints. The two exhibited very different
dispositions in that moment, Katniss being excited while a quiet dread had settled over Snow.

“Go,” the president ordered. “Ready the hovercraft battalions. Make sure that
District 12 has no possibility of forewarning.”

Coriolanus nodded, turning in spite of his veiled reservations. He reached the doors, waiting for Katniss to press the button and dismiss him.

“Oh,” President Everdeen added as an afterthought, “and prepare Plan B just in case.”

When the doors smoothly opened to allow Snow out of the office, he couldn’t find any relief in leaving. Thoughts of one less district and Plan B floated through his mind as he took his leave and the office doors closed behind him.

Snow followed the president’s orders impeccably, ensuring that the abrupt mission orders were kept secret as hovercraft pilots readied their battalions. The physicists in charge of Plan B were made well aware of the importance of secrecy, and everyone was now awaiting Katniss’s permission to move.

That is, except for Snow.

“This is insane,” he mumbled to himself, adjusting the white rose in his lapel as the hovercraft soared invisibly over the first 11 districts. It was night, the ideal time for a surprise attack, and he knew he had a very small window of time to warn the people of District 12.

While the rest of the government workers in the Capitol were readying for the attack or flitting around with statistics reports, Coriolanus was riding in a runaway hovercraft on his way to District 12. His intentions were to expressly disobey the most powerful person in Panem, and the danger was not lost on him.

Old as he was, Coriolanus Snow was acutely aware of the risk he was taking. If he was discovered to be missing before he could return to the Capitol, it would mean his execution. President Everdeen knew nothing of mercy; if any of her followers strayed, she would not hesitate to publicly execute them.

It was with this fearful realization that Snow touched down in the endangered 12th district. The pilot of the hovercraft opened the passenger door on the side of the vessel and the frightened secretary stepped onto the withered grass of some abandoned backyard near the district’s western edge.

“Twenty minutes,” the pilot yelled to Snow. “After that, I’m on my way back to the Capitol.”

Snow nodded, closing the hatch and dashing as quickly as he could through the empty streets. Occasionally, he caught sight of a haggard man or woman. Poverty reeked on the sidewalks, but Snow pressed onward without interference.

Eventually, the mayor’s residence swam into view beyond the district square. Conscious of the seconds constantly ticking by, Coriolanus pounded on the mayor’s door and stood back, impatiently waiting to be acknowledged.

A young lady, probably in her teens—the prime age for the Games—answered the door. She had a placid disposition, her hair drawn into a side braid as she offered a confused smile.

“Good evening, sir,” she greeted. “How may we help you?”

Coriolanus peered over her head into the foyer. “Where is the mayor?”

“He is currently unavailable.”

Snow cut her off. “Make him available. There is an emergency. I’m from the Capitol.”

Her eyes widened and she slowly opened the door all the way to reveal the mayor just beside her. His expression was guarded as he observed the old man on his doorstep.

“Madge, get to bed. We have a long day tomorrow,” Mayor Undersee murmured to his daughter. The girl, Madge, walked off without question.

The mayor stepped out onto the doorstep. He was a balding man, tall but not taller than Coriolanus. The two men were undeniably on edge with each other; the tension in the air was palpable.

“Mayor Undersee, there is an emergency,” Snow announced without preamble.

The mayor was naturally a nervous man, and he folded his hands at Snow’s words. “Please do tell, Mister …?”

Ignoring the subtle inquiry for his name, Coriolanus explained the situation in the Capitol. He went over the basics as the mayor’s terror heightened steadily. “The attack will be tonight, and this district will be obliterated. You do not have much time. Get the people and find some way to shelter them before the bombings begin.”

“How … why?” the mayor asked with clear panic.

Coriolanus shook his head. “A show of power, Mayor Undersee. A warning. A reminder. Follow my instructions or your district’s people will pay with their lives. You must hurry.”

The mayor’s expression was blank for a moment before determination lit up his eyes. “Thank you. Why did you warn us?”

The perfect politician, speaking inclusively.

“That is none of your concern,” Snow said vaguely, not knowing the answer himself. He carefully pulled an earpiece out of the pocket of his suit jacket, pressing it into the mayor’s palm. “Keep me updated on your progress. Be swift, subtle. The attack could come at any time, even now.”

“What if the Peacekeepers discover us trying to leave?” Mayor Undersee asked, his eyes tired but alert.

Coriolanus just shook his head for a second time. “Don’t let them.”

Turning on his heel, he left the mayor behind him to rescue an entire district on his own. Snow had done what he could; now he had to save his own life by getting back to the hovercraft.

With less than 30 seconds to spare, Snow reached his escape transport and the pilot silently brought them back up into the air. As the 12th district faded into the darkness of night behind them, Snow wondered if he’d ever see the land intact again.

He knew he wouldn’t.

With regular updates from the mayor via their earpieces, Coriolanus knew exactly how many people were still in District 12 when Katniss ordered the battalions to set out. When the swarm of hovercrafts flew out of the dozens of Capitol hangars, only 15 percent of District 12 had been moved to the safety of the forest, and even those citizens wouldn’t be safe if Plan B was implemented.

Plan B: the nuclear warheads that were ready to fire from the coast of what used to be the Pacific Ocean. Plan B, which would demolish all of District 12 and a majority of the surrounding forest if Katniss ordered them to fire.

The lives of thousands of mostly innocent Panem citizens rested in the hands of Panem’s tyrant, and she was cruel enough to wipe every last man, woman, and child off the map.

Snow curtly informed the mayor of the approaching bombers, swiftly making his way up to the president’s office. She allowed him entrance as soon as he knocked on the door, and she was calmly relaying orders to the interns downstairs through the high-tech, holographic screens that had sprouted from her desk.

“Keep up the data flow. I don’t care if you have to skip your breaks and dinner tonight,” President Everdeen was saying, a cruel smile adorning her childlike features.

Wordlessly, she muted the screens and brushed them to the side, turning her attention to Coriolanus. The secretary had an unnerving look in his eyes, but Katniss wasn’t fazed.

“Yes?” she asked when he didn’t speak.

“Will you be calling on Plan B this evening?” Snow asked boldly.

Katniss glanced over at the screens, briefly furrowing her eyebrows. “I have no intention to as of right now. Why?”

“I just wanted to remind you of the repercussions of such an act,” he replied cautiously.

The president’s temper flared, her eyes noticeably darkening. “Oh? You don’t think I’m kept informed of the consequences of my actions? I know exactly what the results of Plan B would be, Snow. And trust me when I say this: I haven’t the slightest worry. If I use Plan B, so be it. The districts have brought it on themselves.”

“Of course,” Coriolanus agreed instantly. “The radiation is dangerous, but it’s nothing we can’t handle.”

“Exactly,” Katniss said with a smirk. “In fact, I just might do it. If they manage to take out a hovercraft somehow, I won’t hesitate to press that button.”

“That button” was a heavily guarded control panel beneath the president’s private research facility. It controlled the nuclear warhead from thousands of miles away, and the physicists and engineers who regularly updated the technology had installed everything from eye scanners to fingerprint-sensitive buttons.

Snow nodded, hiding his panic at her careless attitude. “Yes. Well, I’ll keep you updated on the status of the bombing.”

“Yes, you will,” she told him. “If a single one of the crafts gets taken down, I want to be informed immediately.”

“Of course,” Snow said, hoping to appease her as he bowed out of her office.

As soon as he was out in the hallway, the mayor’s voice exploded in his ear.

“There are still thousands of children in the city, and the bombs are beginning
to drop!”

Snow halted in his steps, eyes widening. “They’ve arrived already?”

“Yes! They’ve hit the square and th

Mayor Undersee’s voice was cut off by feedback and a crashing sound, and static took its place in Snow’s ear.

“Damn it,” he murmured.

Jerking the earpiece out, he dashed off at a quick sprint toward the control room, where the hovercraft and nuclear warhead data were updated every second. Perhaps there was some kind of way to stop the hovercrafts’ bombing abilities, even temporarily.

Snow was confronted by several guards when he reached the reinforced steel walls of the hallway beneath Katniss’s office. They were all dressed in gray fatigues, clutching their sidearms as if Snow was brandishing an AK-47.

“Name and position,” the first guard demanded.

“Coriolanus Snow, secretary and adviser to President Everdeen,” Snow told them without delay. “I’ve been sent to reprogram Hovercraft 28C. It will only take a moment.”

The guards were unconvinced. The first one sneered. “We need the president herself to confirm your entrance, sir.”

Coriolanus could faintly hear the static from the earpiece in his pocket. Time was running out for District 12.

“Denying me a pass will result in your executions. There is an attack on District 12 and the president needs the hovercraft to be reprogrammed now. If you want her confirmation, feel free to walk upstairs and get it while I do my job.”

His firm, unwavering tone had the desired effect. The other guards looked to their mouthpiece for guidance, and he looked at Snow suspiciously.

“Entrance granted, Secretary Snow. Adam, go and retrieve confirmation from Everdeen.” His tone was scathing, warning.

Not intimidated, Snow pressed forward and swiped his keycard through the door’s lock. It opened to welcome him, and he ignored the groups of professionals observing the monitors. Screens covered every inch of wall space, and all of them were currently filled with the carnage of the bombing.

Before Snow could so much as announce his purpose, the intercom screeched to life, and President Everdeen’s angry voice filled the room.

“Activate Plan B. I repeat, activate Plan B.”

The intercom went silent and everyone paused, shocked. Finally, a man in a pristine lab coat stepped forward.

“Activate Plan B,” he said loudly, his voice echoing in the stillness of the control room.

Snow watched as several men approached a biohazard curtain, throwing it open to reveal a panel of complicated triggers, levers, and switches. They got to work and a screen came to life above the contraption, displaying a map of Panem. A blood-red X settled over District 12, freezing Snow’s blood.

He saw the innocent faces of the women and children, the men working hard to support their poor families. Madge and Mayor Undersee. Haymitch, the unpleasant, lone District 12 Games victor. The homeless men and women.

Suddenly, a red light lit up the room. The door burst open and the guards poured in.

“Coriolanus Snow, you are under arrest for treason!”

Adrenaline rushed through Snow’s veins and he watched the men readying the nuclear warhead that would take thousands of lives. In a moment of complete madness, he rushed forward, knocking aside the professionals.

Snow redirected the target, lighting up the Capitol with a red X.

His eyes found the guards aiming their guns, the control room workers gasping, his own life flashing before his eyes.

Grabbing the nearest authorized worker’s hand, he flipped the “Fire” switch.