kawuli (kawuli) wrote,
kawuli
kawuli

Fic: Start taking back what they stole, chapter 2

Start taking back what they stole (9108 words) by kawuli
Chapters: 2/4
Fandom: Hunger Games Trilogy - Suzanne Collins, Hunger Games Series - All Media Types
Rating: Teen And Up Audiences
Warnings: Creator Chose Not To Use Archive Warnings
Characters: Lyme (Hunger Games), Beetee Latier, Wiress (Hunger Games), Plutarch Heavensbee, Original Characters
Additional Tags: Implied/Referenced Rape/Non-con, references to forced prostitution, canon-typical horribleness, Quarter Quell, 75th Hunger Games, Alternate Universe - Canon Divergence
Series: Part 12 of Smiles and Promises, Part 5 of These are truly the last days: Panem's rebellion from below
Summary:
Everything still feels unreal and faraway. Rokia can't make it register, all of what's about to happen, and she doesn't really think she wants to. That much… it might drown her if she tries to think about it all at once. Better to break it down, one day, one job, one moment at a time. She heads for the back of the train to watch the District disappear behind her.

The Rebellion is starting, the world is changing, and Rokia is caught up in the whirlwind.

Rokia arrives at the cargo docks out of breath and with nothing but the clothes on her back. And three things in her pockets: the switchblade Uncle Sal gave her when she was eleven, the smooth colorful piece of Six Gold that Phillips gave her as a token before her Games, and the little beetle from Wiress.

Three things, and she couldn’t take more, because running through midnight streets is suspicious enough, even in unremarkable clothes and her hair tied up so she’s less recognizable. But the only way to get here in time was to run, and Rokia has no doubt that the train’s leaving on time whether she’s on it or not. This is too important to wait.

She’s there in time, though, and someone’s waiting for her, a tall girl with dark skin skulking in the shadows until Rokia races up. Then the girl gives her a fierce grin and jerks her head towards one of the tracks. “C’mon,” she says. “We’ll talk once we’re moving.”

She jumps up into the crew car, reaches a hand down to haul Rokia up, and as soon as Rokia’s got both feet on the floor she feels the train jerk and accelerate. She presses a hand to the wall to steady herself, the motion leaves her reeling after everything, and looks at her companion.

“I’m Myriam,” the girl says. “I used to ride with your girl Sara, couple years ago.”

“Rokia,” she echoes, shrugging because it’s obvious but she never knows what to say. “Thanks.”

“Oh, Sara would strangle me if she knew I had a chance to get you out and didn’t take it,” Myriam says. She smirks. “And not in a fun way, either.”

Rokia’s so startled she laughs, then shakes her head. It’s too weird that after months of scheming with Plutarch’s band of important people, the thing that saved her is Sara’s obnoxious stubborn protectiveness.

And she’s way too amped up to sleep, on adrenaline and the stimulants that have gotten her through the last few days, but she needs to sit down, because nobody told her body that, and it’s threatening to dump her on her ass the next time the train jolts.

“You must be exhausted,” Myriam says, so apparently it’s pretty obvious. “C’mon, you can crash in the bunkroom.”

It’s dim and quiet, several bunks occupied with sleeping shapes, and Myriam whispers as she shows Rokia to an empty place. Rokia pulls off her shoes and lies down, pulling the thin scratchy blanket over her and trying to let the smells of oil, hot metal and lingering smoke ground her. Nothing in the Capitol smells like this.

It’s soothing, the smell, the small sounds of other people sleeping, the hard thin bunk, the sway of the train—more pronounced here than on the passenger trains she’s been on—and Rokia feels herself start to unwind, her heartbeat slowing down, her breath deepening. She counts breaths the way Lyme taught her once, count four on the inhale, six on the exhale, ten breaths at a time. Then when thinking about Lyme gets too close to everything else that’s happening she counts powers of two, doubling until she loses track and then starting over. Counts by seven, counts by seventeen, and then finally slides into something like sleep.

 

Rokia wakes up when the train shudders to a stop. So does everyone else in the room, and someone pushes curtains aside, looks out the window and swears under their breath.

Myriam comes in a second later. “Come on,” she says, sharp. “We gotta move.”

It’s full daylight, but beyond that Rokia has no idea of the time. They’re stopped somewhere, in a city, not at a station, and the crew jumps down onto the embankment until Myriam and Rokia are the only two left. Nobody takes much with them, but everyone except Rokia has at least a few things, packed into crew duffels and shoulder bags. “The Peacekeepers are at the station,” Myriam says, short and tense. “We gotta go.”

It’s a long way down, and Rokia lands with a jolt, then follows the others through the narrow, dingy streets. It feels like home, almost. They duck into a nondescript building and Rokia blinks, waiting for her eyes to adjust to the darkness. It’s quiet, so it takes a minute for Rokia to realize that the room is full of people. The crowd fills in from the walls, everyone looking around, until another door opens and a woman walks in.

She’s no different from anyone else, at first glance. But then she straightens her shoulders and walks to the front of the room and Rokia… thinks of Lyme, actually. The same ironclad confidence, easy movement and sharp looks. This woman’s dressed in a haphazard collection of cloth in brilliant colors, as are most of the others, but while it might look ridiculous on some, with her shoulders back and chin raised this woman looks anything but.

“Okay,” the woman says, clapping her hands once. All eyes face her. “I don’t know all of you, so for anyone who doesn’t know me, I’m Paylor. And I got no way of making you do anything, but it’ll go a lot better for everyone if you all do what I say.”

There’s a few smiles, but no one laughs. Paylor goes on. “Most of you don’t have weapons. That’s fine. Peacekeepers have plenty, we just need to take theirs. We’ll start with the train station. There’s a crowd growing already, and as soon as we send the word, there’ll be a trainload of supplies coming in. Once we control the tracks, we got some leverage.”

The woman looks around the room again. Rokia looks too. There’s maybe a couple hundred people here, and while a few have weapons, most hands are empty. They’re not soldiers any more than Rokia is. They’re going to walk out of here and into gunfire, and if Rokia’d had trouble imagining the Arena and the escape, this—this is something else.

This isn’t about the Games, or the Mockingjay, or District 13, or any of the Victors. These people wouldn’t walk into fire for that. This is for them. This is long hours and high quotas and bad pay and too many injured, too many hungry kids and too much death while the Capitol shines far-off and untouchable. Rokia shivers, and starts to maybe understand what Sara’s been talking about all these years.

Sara. Rokia doesn’t know what she’s doing, only that she’s going to District Nine. Rokia’s imagination has nothing to offer beyond wide open fields with nowhere to hide, and a dusty little city she could walk across in half an hour. How Sara’s managing to disappear in that, Rokia has no idea. Only hopes she has, because there is no chance at all that Sara will keep her head down. Not now.

And then a siren wails, and someone ducks out. Everyone waits.

“Mandatory gathering,” he reports. “In the square.”

Paylor nods. “Good. Once they’re done with whatever they’re doing, we’ll head for the station. Bring your friends,” she adds, dryly. “We could use all the help we can get.”

 

Paylor walks over toward Rokia and the rail crew, while people file out. “Myriam,” she says, when she gets close. They shake hands, both grinning sharp and fierce. “Your folks’ll be sending us some fuel, that right?”

Myriam nods. “Got word it passed Six, it’s sitting on the line like everything else, on hold while the Capitol tries to figure out if there’s anyone in the Six switchyard they can trust. But they’ll come when we call.”

“And you’ve brought someone new,” Paylor adds, looking at Rokia, eyes searching, brow furrowed in puzzlement.

“Rokia Diarra,” Myriam says, because Rokia’s still too overwhelmed to get her tongue untied. “Victor from Six.”

Rokia sees when the confusion resolves to recognition, and Paylor extends a hand. Rokia takes it, all too conscious of how Remake-smooth her hands are when she feels the rough calluses. “Welcome to Eight,” Paylor says. “We’ll see where to put you later but for now you should probably just stick with Myriam.”

Myriam nods. “I’ll keep her out of trouble for now, I hear she’s too useful to risk in a fight.”

Paylor raises one eyebrow. “I fix hovercraft,” Rokia says, her voice abrupt in her own ears.

“Among other things,” Myriam adds. “At least, if the rumors are true.”

Rokia shrugs. “I guess so,” she says, and they probably are, at least if Sara’s the one spreading the rumors.

“Good,” Paylor says. “We’ll have to go find you some, then.”

She’s not smiling. “Sounds good,” Rokia says.

“Alright, I gotta be in the square, and you all should hide out here till you get word,” Paylor says.

“Take care,” Myriam replies, shaking her hand again.

Paylor glances around once more and then walks out.

 

The room is cavernous now that it’s empty. There’s eight of them, nine with Rokia. Myriam leads the way to another door, up the stairs behind it, around a corner and to a room with windows looking toward the square. Rokia can’t see the square, but she sees the Peacekeeper vehicles in the streets around it, hears the noise as the loudspeakers crackle to life.

She’s expecting a performance, but this time it’s short clipped voices from the microphone, distorted by echoes and distance until they’re almost incomprehensible.

The gunshots, though, those carry. More than one, not precisely simultaneous but pretty damn close. There’s a ringing silence, after, and then the noise rises like a wave, shouts and gunfire, vehicles and sirens, and Rokia stops even trying to make sense of it.

She looks around at the others. Rokia doesn’t recognize any of them, not that she’d expect to. They’re ordinary railroaders, mostly a little older than Sara, sitting on the floor with their legs stretched out and heads tipped back against the wall. Resting. Waiting, because there’s nothing to do right now. Rokia’s restless, working hard to stay sitting still, and Myriam chuckles, low and warm.

“You’re just like her,” she says. “Sara,” she adds, seeing Rokia’s confusion. “Can’t sit still, don’t wanna miss out.”

Rokia feels heat in her cheeks, hopes it doesn’t show. “I slept all the way here,” she says. “I’m ready to go.”

Myriam’s still smiling fondly. “You must’ve been tired, you slept all day.”

So it’s afternoon, then. Good to know.

 

The sounds shift, getting quieter, moving away. Toward the station, presumably, hopefully, and they take turns peeking out the windows but nobody’s coming this way. It’s well into the night before they hear the door open downstairs, and a mockingjay’s whistle. Useful, that. Recognizable, even in the city, and pretty damn unlikely to be a Peacekeeper. They move down the stairs into the open room below.

Paylor’s there, sweating and dirty and banged up but whole. A few others with her aren’t as lucky. People start flooding in after, bringing what medical supplies they can find, blankets and bedding and food and water. Paylor sees Myriam and walks over.

“Call your people,” she says, exhausted but triumphant. “Tell them to bring that stuff in, quick as they can. We’ve got the station, but who knows for how long.”

Paylor glances at Rokia. “You know how those Peacekeeper transports work?” she asks. “They left a couple when they pulled back to their barracks, and we need to get stuff distributed before they get reinforcements and come back out.”

Rokia shrugs. “Probably,” she says. “I’m sure I could figure it out.”

“Good,” Paylor says. “Let’s go.”

“I’ll make the call,” Myriam says, turning toward the stairs.

Paylor motions toward a kid, hovering in the corner like he’s hoping nobody’ll notice and kick him out. “You, kid, you bring her down to the station when she’s done,” Paylor calls.

“Yes ma’am!” The kid’s eyes light up and he dashes for the stairs after Myriam.

Paylor walks fast enough Rokia has to work to keep up, through streets full of milling people. There’s nothing strange until they get close to the square—and there it starts. The stage is up, like for the Tour, or the Reaping. Rokia almost doesn’t notice the hooded bodies slumped on the rough planks—in bright Eight clothes, the bloodstains blending in with one woman’s red and gold dress.

There’s more people in the square—not all dead, some are moving, or have people kneeling next to them, but a few of the bodies are left huddled on the ground, because for them there's no need to hurry.

Paylor slows a little to look at what’s happening, then takes a deep breath, looks back at Rokia. “Come on,” she says. “We’re needed.”

Rokia follows, feeling like she’s in a bad dream, the shadows of buildings creeping close, the noise, the smells, the people who could almost be from Six except for their clothes. But it’s not a dream. It’s not, and she blinks hard once, twice, and hurries after Paylor.

 

Paylor stops in front of a Peacekeeper transport. It’s wedged into a driveway, the hood crumpled a little against the corner of a big brick factory building. “If it’ll run, we need it,” Paylor said. “Think you could help?”

Rokia nods, looks around and realizes she doesn’t have any tools. Maybe there’ll be something in the vehicle. “I think so,” she says, wrenching open the passenger side door. “Probably just body damage, nothing important.” She looks under the seat, and there it is: a toolkit the size of a shoebox. When she opens it she grins, despite everything. Even if there’s something serious wrong with this truck, the toolbox itself will be worth the trouble.

Paylor glances around. “Okay, I’ll send someone back to help,” she says, “I gotta get ready for that train.”

“Okay,” Rokia says, absent-mindedly, and goes around to the drivers side to see what she can do.

It’d be too much to ask for the PKs to leave the keys, even in a rush, but that’s not the end of the world. Rokia’s never stolen cars, but she knows, in theory, how it’s done. The hood’s not locked, that’s just a lever, and she takes more of the paint off scraping against the brick wall as she opens it up but that doesn’t matter. What matters is what she finds inside: the radiator’s intact, nothing seems to be leaking in any obvious way, so they should be able to drive it just fine. She’s back in the drivers seat and prying out wires when a kid comes up behind her, sidling along the brick wall.

“Who’re you?” Rokia snaps.

The kid grins. “Paylor told me to come find you.” Rokia’s not sure if the kid’s a boy or a girl, they’re young enough to have gaps where their front teeth should be, and the t-shirt and bright green pants could go either way.

“Okay. What’s your name?” Rokia asks.

“Janine,” the kid says, and on that basis Rokia will guess “girl,” but without too much confidence.

“Okay, Janine,” Rokia says. “Come here and get in the car, as soon as I get it started we’re going, and I don’t want to have to go find you.”

Janine’s whole face lights up. She’s Allie’s age, just about, and Rokia has to swallow a lump in her throat before she can boost the kid up onto the high seat.

Janine sits pretty still, for a kid—mostly she stares out the window as though it were television—and that’s a relief, because hot-wiring a car turns out to be tricky.

She manages, finally, and the engine roars to life, loud and powerful. Janine’s head whips around to stare at Rokia, then out at the front. Her eyes are huge, half scared, half excited.

Rokia sighs, pulls her door closed, and eases the truck back away from the wall. “Which way, Janine?” she asks. Janine points, still wide-eyed and speechless, and Rokia heads out onto unfamiliar streets.

 

She’s just pulling up to the station when she hears a train whistle. Myriam’s standing on the platform, next to Paylor and some other folks Rokia doesn’t recognize, but turns and waves when someone notices the truck and nudges her.

A man rushes up to the window. “Over there,” he says, pointing to a loading bay. “Quick.”

Rokia goes where he tells her, then goes around to the back and opens the double doors. It’s a big space, in back, enough for maybe six people, three per side on uncomfortable-looking benches. There’s stuff strapped against the walls, and Rokia starts pulling it down—they can see what’s useful, chuck the rest, and they’ll want as much space back here as they can get.

A few more vehicles pull up—a battered pickup that looks like Sal’s, another slightly-damaged transport, what looks like a bicycle with a truck bed attached— and pretty soon people start bringing sacks full of…something that looks like salt, and smells sharp.

Once the transport’s full, a guy comes over and opens the passenger door. “I’ll show you where to go,” he says.

Janine’s fallen asleep in the truck. The man shakes her gently. “Hey, kid, you should get home,” he says. “Come on, hop down.”

Janine sits up, looks around, and shakes her head. “No,” she says, lower lip sticking out. “I wanna stay.”

Rokia, sitting in the drivers seat, has to smile. “Slide over then, toward me,” she says, the way she would if it were Kadi being obstinate. “There’s plenty of room.”

Janine slides all the way across the bench seat until she’s leaning against Rokia, settles from stubbornness back to sleepy relaxation. The guy rolls his eyes, hops up, and pulls the door closed.

 

Rokia loses count of how many trips they make, all over the city, with bags of, it turns out, fertilizer, buckets and barrels and flasks of diesel from the train’s engine, boxes with who knows what. The guy directing her turns out to be a factory foreman named Weaver—first or last name, Rokia’s not sure. When it becomes clear Janine isn’t going anywhere, he pulls her over to lean against him, so it’s easier for Rokia to drive. They’re heading back to the station when Rokia hears a roar, looks up just in time to see a hovercraft uncloak and start firing toward the station. She slams on the brakes, looks over at Weaver, tries not to look at Janine, who’s awake, terrified, and for now at least too shocked for tears.

“Turn left,” Weaver says, sharp. “My place is just close.”

They pull up to the loading doors of an apartment building. Weaver jumps out, opens them, motions her through into a covered garage, dumpster to one side, stairs to the other.

Rokia pulls Janine over towards her, helps the kid down. Janine doesn’t want Rokia to let her down, but she’s too big for Rokia to hold for long. “What now?” Rokia asks.

“We wait,” Weaver says. “Come on.”

They walk up four flights of stairs, through an unlit hallway, where Weaver unlocks a door, turns on a light, and motions them in, Janine clinging to Rokia’s hand. Weaver locks the door behind them, leads them out into the one-room apartment. Rokia looks around. Mattress in one corner, table and chair in another, door to what’s probably a bathroom just where they came in. It could be Six. Rokia really doesn’t want to think about Six right now.

Weaver crouches down. “Janine, honey, where’s your Mom?”

Janine shrugs her shoulders, palms up. “We went to the square, and then she ran away with everybody, and then I went to the station because that’s where everyone else went.” She looks at Rokia. “Then Miz Paylor said she needed somebody to go down 5th street and show Miz Rokia the way to the station and I said I’d go.”

Weaver looks up at Rokia. She shrugs, shakes her head. How are they going to find anyone with just that to go on?

“Okay,” Weaver says, getting up. “Lemme see if I can find you something to eat, and then we’ll see what to do.”

Outside, it’s starting to get light. Rokia walks over to the one window. There’s a hovercraft poised above the Peacekeeper barracks, ramp lowered, as the last of the white-uniformed figures walk out. Rokia shudders. They got their supplies in, these Eight rebels, but the fight is just starting.

 

Rokia tells Weaver to get some sleep, settles herself at the window. Janine sleeps too, curled against Weaver’s side. So Rokia sees when the squad of Peacekeepers comes up the road.

At first she thinks they're just patrolling, but they come straight toward her, don't hesitate or look into alleyways. They're moving like they're going somewhere. And that somewhere is here. How could they know?

The transport. There must have been trackers in the transport.

They have to move. Right now.

“Weaver,” she says, soft but urgent. He wakes up fast, looks over. “Peacekeepers. We have to leave.”

He doesn't ask if she's sure, just stands and scoops up Janine. “Come on,” he says, walks to the door.

They walk away from the stairs they came in by, to the other end of the hall and what looks like a broom closet. Weaver motions Rokia in, then follows and sets Janine, awake now, onto her feet. He puts a finger to his lips, then reaches for a broom.

One of the ceiling tiles moves when he pushes it with the end of the broom. He glances at Rokia, who moves so he can help her up into the small space. He passes Janine up to her, then scrambles up himself. Rokia can sit up in here, barely, but Weaver is bent over, his knees brushing Rokia's. He pushes the tile back into place, and everything goes dark.

Janine whimpers. “Shhhh,” Rokia says, pulls the kid onto her lap. “It's okay,” she whispers. “We just need to be very quiet, alright? Can you do that for me?”

Rokia can feel Janine’s head nod, and she reaches out a hand, automatic, to stroke the girl’s hair.

Then a door bangs open, down the hall, and Janine stiffens, sucks in a breath but stays quiet. Bang, bang, bang, all the way down the hallway, doors opening and people screaming and kids crying, Peacekeepers shouting for people to get downstairs. The door to the closet opens, light spilling in through the cracks in the ceiling tiles. Rokia holds Janine close, closes her eyes, holds her breath while the Peacekeepers search the little room, banging on the walls and knocking the brooms and mops to the floor.

And then the sound stops, but the door stays open, leaving enough dim grey light for Rokia to see Weaver’s shoulders fall, his eyes close in relief. Janine’s crying again, silently.

They don't move, not yet. The noise moves to the floor above them, continues moving up, quieter and quieter, while footsteps clatter down the stairs.

And then silence, and then an explosion of gunfire, and in the shocked ringing silence after that, the sound of an engine starting, driving away.

 

It stays quiet after that, and eventually Rokia glances up at Weaver, raises an eyebrow in silent question. He nods. “Come on,” he says, quiet and somber, and shifts the ceiling tile. Rokia hands Janine down to him once he's on the ground, then slides down herself. Her feet and legs tingle with the sudden movement after long stillness, and she has to lean on the wall for a moment before she can find her balance.

Weaver, still holding Janine, walks slowly out into the deserted hallway. Rokia follows him out, down the stairs, and out to the street.

She was expecting it, but that doesn't lessen the horror. Bodies lay strewn in the street, blood pooling. Weaver steps through the horror, one hand holding Janine’s face against his chest until they reach the end of the block and turn away.

“It won't have been everyone,” he says, in a low, choked voice. “Lot of folks were out, at work. Maybe some hid.”

It was enough. Rokia forces herself not to try and count, but the street was full. She swallows, breathes. “We should find Paylor,” she says, and he nods, looks around, and starts walking.

They barely make it into what's rapidly becoming a hospital before Myriam comes racing over, traps Rokia in a hug. “Oh, thank fuck,” she says, stepping away. “Sara would kill me if I lost you.”

Rokia tries to smile.

“What happened?” Myriam asks, looking worried again. “What's wrong?” She looks at Weaver, the kid, back to Rokia.

“They found the transport,” Rokia says. “They must have trackers in them somewhere.”

Myriam's eyes go wide and she takes a breath, lets it out slow between her teeth.

“We hid. They shot everyone they found.”

Myriam glances at Weaver again, as if she hopes he’ll deny it, but he just looks right back. She takes another deep breath, nods, looks around.

“Okay,” she says, subdued, “come on, I was talking to some folks, you should meet them.”

But before they can go, Janine starts struggling. Weaver lets her down carefully, and she takes off across the room, yelling “Mama!”

A woman whips around to look, and for a second relief leaves her face blank. Then Janine gets to her, and she wraps her arms around the girl, tears leaking from closed eyes.

Rokia looks at Weaver, but he just shrugs, so apparently he doesn't know the woman either. Myriam just looks confused, so Rokia and Weaver turn and follow her past cots and blankets to the stairway.

 

There's a radio near the back of the room, a couple guys from the train crew, Paylor, and some people who must be from Eight. They're all talking, in twos and threes, heads together, glancing around. Myriam walks toward Paylor.

“We can keep the tracks down,” Paylor is saying. “But if they just keep flying people in, that won't matter.” She looks up as they approach, nods. “Good, you made it,” she says, matter-of-fact, then glances from Rokia to Myriam to Weaver. “What happened?”

“Tracker in the transport,” Weaver starts explaining, and Rokia looks around the room, wondering what on earth they want her to do here.

“Rokia?” Myriam asks, and Rokia looks over, a little guilty for getting distracted. “Someone named Beetee says he thinks you should go to Thirteen?”

“You talked to Beetee?” Rokia asks. “He's okay?”

“I guess,” Myriam says. “Alive and talking, anyway.”

Then Rokia processes the rest of the sentence. “How?”

Myriam looks confused.

“How am I supposed to get to Thirteen?”

Myriam sighs. “He says he'll try to send a hovercraft, but apparently we shouldn't count on it.”

Rokia can’t do anything but stare.

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