Ofelia can’t run for much longer. Her limbs feel like lead, and her heart feels like it’s about to burst out of her chest. She casts another glance over her shoulder. There must be somewhere where she can hide, where they can’t find her.
At least she knows which assholes were the ones firing at her at the Cornucopia. Her brain supplies the information Reinald had made her study as if for an exam. Cyril Mors, District 1. Rich snob. Score: four. Azlin Bluestone, District 1. Also rich, less of a snob. Score: ten. Ofelia couldn’t get a good look at the others. A few drops of water pelt her in the face and slide down her cheek. Rain. Rain means lower visibility.
There—a window half-buried beneath what used to be part of a wall. She squeezes herself through the aperture. There’s a chamber on the other side, part of a hallway that’s been blocked off by fallen rock. She collapses to the floor under the window, trying to calm her harsh breathing. Calm down, you don’t want them to find you because you’re wheezing too hard.
Movement in the corner. Her heart stops. She looks up and meets a pair of familiar blue eyes.
The boy looks miserable, and as scared as she feels. He makes no move toward her, so she holds out her hands to show that they’re empty. Garrett Lykke, District Six. Twelve years old. The immigrant. Mentored by the stocky old Capitol war hero. Volunteered for the Games. Doesn’t speak a word of English, which means he was just stupid, not crazy, to volunteer. Score: three.
She presses her finger to her lips and sneaks a quick look out the window. Had someone out for easy blood been chasing him too? Another pack of blood-frenzied sharks, or the same one?
Garrett’s stomach growls loudly, and Ofelia nearly jumps out of her skin. She roots through her pack and shoves an energy bar at him. Anybody within a ten yard radius would be able to hear this boy’s overactive digestive system.
He accepts the bar from her, mouths something she assumes is “thanks” in whatever language he speaks, and eats it as quietly as he can. It’s clear that he’s starving. And that’s when she realizes that he’s got nothing on him. No weapons, no gear—hell, not even a freaking fanny pack.
And it doesn’t help that he looks younger than he is, just about the same age as Warren, really. Ofelia grinds her teeth in frustration. She can barely take care of herself as it is. But there’s no way she can leave him to fend for himself, especially when she knows who’s watching right now. Garrett looks up at her, gratitude still written all over his face.
Stay with me, she mouths at him. She points at him, then back at herself in a sweeping gesture. With me, she repeats. She looks out the window again. The rain’s starting to pick up, but otherwise there’s no movement.
The word gunpowder comes to mind, and she frowns. Why is that important? The pack has guns, yes. It's completely unfair how the Gamemakers put such an overpowered weapon in the arena. At least the shooters have horrid accuracy. Or maybe it's the fault of the guns. She’d caught a glimpse of the posh, old-fashioned revolvers they’d been using. Just one step away from muskets, really. And those were notoriously unreliable when exposed to…
A faint hiss reaches her ears, and something slides in between a gap in the rock. Feathers and scales glint in the dying light.
The mutts rear back and bare their fangs.
Cyril knows that the girl can’t have gone far. She’s small too, which means she’s probably wedged herself into one of the many hiding spots the ruins provide. But he can’t fit in most of them, and he’s not about to go sticking his head into those places to find her unless he wants to lose an eye.
The Careers are watching him like hawks. They’re looking for any reason to get rid of him. As much as he hates dealing with them, it’s his best chance of survival for now. So he explains to them his plan to flush the girl out.
It turns out the snake mutts only attacked when they felt cornered or threatened, so they could be herded as long as nobody made any sudden movements or loud noises. He ushers the mutts into a couple of likely hideaways and waits.
It works like a charm. So well, in fact, that none of them are prepared for not one, but two people taking off from behind a pile of rocks.
They give chase, splitting off when their two targets part ways. The rain’s coming down hard now, fogging up the area, but he can still track the girl's desperate flight. She leads him through the courtyards, using statues as cover. He brings out the revolver, sets his jaw, and fires. And again.
The girl falters, and she falls. Cyril catches up to her, and slowly levels the gun at her chest.
She looks even tinier now that he’s standing over her. There’s blood on her leg. It looks like the bullet scraped her, but it was just enough to make her stumble.
She looks up at him and sneers. “You. Rich snob from District One. Tell me, why are those jackasses even keeping you around? Only that District Six boy got a lower score than you and he’s twelve.”
Cyril feels a twinge of annoyance. “Are you sure hurling insults at me is the best idea in your situation?”
“What, you’re disappointed I’m not begging for my life?” The girl pushes herself into a sitting position. “I bet you’re shocked because you’ve gotten so used to people kissing your ass your whole life without you having to lift a finger.”
Just shoot her, the practical part of his mind tells him. She’s going to end up dead anyway. Better now than later.
But he looks down the barrel of the gun at the young girl, wet hair plastered to her face, throwing every last bit of defiance at him, and he can’t. Not when she’s staring him down, fierce and furious and very much alive. He can’t watch himself take that away.
“I bet your mommy’s so proud of you right now—”
He closes his eyes and squeezes the trigger.
“Wet gunpowder,” she says. Her hand lashes out like a snake.
A searing pain in Cyril’s hand makes him drop the gun. He backpedals, reaching for his knife, but the girl’s already retreating. He watches her disappear into the fog.
And somehow, he feels strangely relieved.