kawuli (kawuli) wrote,

Fic: Start taking back what they stole: Chapter 3

Start taking back what they stole (13849 words) by kawuli
Chapters: 3/4
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, Paylor (Hunger Games)
Additional Tags: Implied/Referenced Rape/Non-con, references to forced prostitution, canon-typical horribleness, Quarter Quell, 75th Hunger Games, Alternate Universe - Canon Divergence, Canon-Typical Violence, War Crimes
Series: Part 12 of Smiles and Promises, Part 5 of These are truly the last days: Panem's rebellion from below

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.

The Peacekeepers leave three days later. A small flock of hovercraft disappear from the barracks, spin across the city and wheel off in the direction of the Capitol.

It’s strange. They’ve been making trouble, sure: Paylor has people up on roofs with stolen weapons, taking shots at patrols and running away; they blew up most of the cargo station when it looked like the Peacekeepers were going to take it back; and the train tracks are torn up for miles, all through the city.

But it doesn’t seem like enough, not to make the Capitol give up and evacuate.

So Rokia’s suspicious, even while Paylor and Myriam and the rest are celebrating.

That night the bombs start dropping. The hovercraft uncloak mere moments before the explosions start, at the factories, around the center of town, the building across the street from where Rokia is still staying above the hospital, when she’s not out fixing stolen cars or jammed rifles or searching through equipment for trackers. They’re in everything. Tiny silver capsules, wedged into the rangefinder on the rifles, buried deep inside the wiring for the trucks and transports, even sometimes in helmets and boots and uniform jackets. Once Rokia finds their transmitting frequency, she cannibalizes a radio and the electronics from a truck’s navigation system into a detector, sweeps everything she can get near.

At first she just disables the things, shorting them out with a car battery and waiting till she sees smoke. Then Myriam gives her a better idea.

There’s ten or so in the building across the street, still transmitting. There’s trackers in each building the bombs target—but none of Paylor’s people.


Myriam comes to find Rokia early in the morning, after the bombs have stopped falling, before the sun is fully up.

“You need a hovercraft, right?” Myriam says, leaning against the doorframe. “To get to Thirteen?” She’s sweaty and dirty from checking the damage, a rifle slung over one shoulder, exhausted but grinning, eyes still sharp.

Rokia looks up from the second tracker detector she’s building and shrugs.

“Bet you those PKs left a couple,” Myriam drawls. “We could probably borrow one.”

Rokia blinks. She didn’t count how many craft left yesterday, doesn’t know how many would be stationed in Eight normally, but…there would probably be a few. The little patrol and attack craft, none of those flew out, they’re too small to be worth it for transporting people, and every district has a few.

And none of the bombs fell on the Peacekeepers’ base. “Why didn’t they blow them up when they left?” Rokia wonders.

Myriam shrugs. “Probably figured they’d be back,” she says. “Didn’t want to waste resources.”

Rokia takes a deep breath, sets down the electronics and gets to her feet. “Okay,” she says. “Let’s go check.”

Myriam flashes her a quick pleased smile and nods. “I’ll come, we’ll bring your friend Weaver, he’s good with his hands.”

There’s a hint of…something…there. “Oh yeah?” Rokia asks, quirking one eyebrow.

Myriam looks away. “Yeah,” she says. “Come on, we should go while it’s still a little dark, just in case.”

Well. That’s something.


Weaver is waiting downstairs. There’s a handful of others just outside the door.

“We’re gonna see what else useful we can find,” Weaver explains. “Might be some bigger guns, for when those bombers come back.”

Rokia nods. “Let’s go.”

The city is barely recognizable as the same place Rokia arrived less than a week ago. The center of town is almost deserted, and after tonight bombed-out buildings line the streets like broken teeth. Broken glass crackles underfoot, and Rokia almost loses her footing stepping on a bullet casing. She kicks it out of the way, keeps walking.

The gate to the Peacekeepers’ base is locked, of course. The fence isn’t electrified; nowhere in this part of town has had power for days. But that also means the biometric scanners are down, automatically bolting the huge steel gate.

Rokia looks around, wondering if there’s some way to get temporary power to it, if there’s some emergency override for in case of fire—and then notices someone cutting the no-longer-electrified fence wire with bolt cutters.

Of course. No reason they have to use the gate to get in.

It’s almost stranger here than in town, because it’s so pristine. Not even any broken windows, and perfectly silent except for the sound of their footsteps on the pavement. It feels like a dream, especially with the pre-dawn mist softening everything to uncertain grey shapes.

People split off in twos and threes, wrenching doors open or smashing windows, looking for anything that could be of use. Rokia keeps walking, looking for the hangars, Myriam and Weaver following.

They’re toward the back, near where the base meets the river, a long low building Rokia recognizes instantly.

The door is open. Left that way, maybe, as the evacuation finished. Trusting that they’d be back, or that the gate would hold, or that nobody in Eight would know what to do with anything inside.

Joke’s on them. They didn’t know about Rokia.

It’s mostly empty, all the larger craft gone. But there’s three little attack craft toward the back, small and sleek and deadly, faster than anything in the sky if they need to be.

Rokia walks over to the first one, hits the switch to open the cockpit. It works.

Myriam sucks in a quick breath. “You can fly these?” she asks.

Rokia nods. “Probably,” she qualifies, “I’ve never flown anything like this, but I’ve flown other craft, and I’ve fixed these, so I’m sure I can figure it out.”

Myriam shakes her head, but she looks amused. Weaver’s waiting in the doorway, keeping watch. “Sure you can,” she says. “Okay, go on then.”

She looks a little disappointed, and Rokia can’t quite see why until she realizes—she’s leaving. She isn’t just flying, she’s flying away, and who knows if she’ll see Myriam again. Rokia pauses, hand on the step to the cockpit. “Thank you,” she says, looking Myriam in the eye. “And…be careful.”

Myriam steps forward and hugs Rokia tight. “You too, kid,” she says, stepping back. “I’m glad Sara trusted me to get you out.”

Rokia isn’t sure what to say to that, so she turns and hauls herself into the cockpit.

Systems check: avionics, guidance, stabilization, cloaking, comms. As soon as those come on she shifts frequencies, finds the ones D13 is using, hopes they’ll read her through Capitol encryption, and calls in what you might call a flight plan: “This is Rokia Diarra, leaving D8 now, need coordinates for D13 landing zone immediately.”

She starts taxiing while she waits, steering carefully past Myriam and Weaver—he waves, she waves back—and as she’s getting to the takeoff pad the radio comes back. “Copy,” says a strange voice. “Cleared for landing at the following coordinates.”

Rokia takes a deep breath, eases her way into the sky, and turns east toward Thirteen.



There’s nothing at the landing zone. It’s an unremarkable patch of grass, a gap in the trees barely big enough for her craft to settle, but as soon as the wheels touch there’s a jolt and the whole thing descends, fast, into the earth.

It’s dark, until the bottom, where the shaft opens out into a hangar bigger than anything Rokia’s ever seen. Someone’s signaling her off the landing pad, and she follows until she’s parked between two hulking, bulky, unfamiliar black hovercraft. Then she opens the cockpit and climbs down.

A man and a woman step out of the shadows to greet her. The woman has hair like sheet metal, grey and straight, the man is tall and thin, mouth set, close-cropped hair.

“Rokia Diarra?” The man asks. Rokia nods.

His face shifts just slightly, like she’s done something wrong. But he just goes on. “You’ve come from District Eight in that?”

She nods again. The man glances at the woman, who speaks up now. “Are there more of those hovercraft?”

Again, Rokia nods, then takes a deep breath. “Two others, just like this.”

The two of them study her, then share a look that’s full of spinning gears.

“Wait here,” the man says, and walks away.

Rokia stands still, looking around. It’s a huge room, fluorescent-lit, full of hovercraft, missiles, machinery. All the hovercraft are like the ones she’s next to, black hulks just different enough from the Capitol craft she knows to look wrong.

The woman’s still standing there, looking at Rokia, clearly calculating something. But she doesn’t say anything, so Rokia keeps quiet and waits.

The tall man comes back with two others, who walk past Rokia and climb up to the cockpit. The thing’s built for one pilot, one gunner, but the man in the gunner’s seat stands up, leaning forward over the other’s shoulder. They’re running through a pre-flight checklist, looks like.

They stop before they get to actually starting the main engines, climb down, and talk in low voices with the tall man. He looks pleased, nods, and they come over to Rokia and the other woman.

“Yes?” the woman asks, and he nods. “Good. Miss Diarra, you will go with these men to pick up the other hovercraft and bring them here. Before the Capitol destroys them.”

Rokia blinks. “I couldn’t disable guidance, ma’am,” she says, dropping into formality because it seems to be expected. When that just gets her blank looks, she continues. “They’ll know I brought this one here.”

The woman’s face pinches tight. “Well, then you should hurry.”

Nobody else questions her, so Rokia takes a deep breath and nods.

“Come on,” one of the pilots says. “I’ll drive.” He smiles at Rokia briefly, the first thing that settles the tightening in her stomach that’s been building since she stepped out of the cockpit.

They climb into one of the black craft, the men in pilot and co-pilot seats. Rokia sees the jump seat behind them and settles in, as they rush through pre-flight checks. It’s not till they’re on a platform rising quickly toward the surface that the co-pilot looks back.

“I’m Gabe,” he says. He doesn’t reach a hand back to shake, just gives her a crooked smile.

“I’m Carson,” the pilot says, his eyes still on his instruments but his voice is friendly.

“Rokia,” she says.

“You fly?” Gabe asks. “I mean…obviously you can fly, but…you’re a pilot?”

Rokia shakes her head. “I’m a mechanic. I’ve flown a little.”

Gabe raises an eyebrow. “More than a little, if you can handle that thing,” he says. Rokia shrugs, and Gabe looks like he’s going to continue, but then a set of huge doors opens and they’re pushed up toward the sky.

“Okay,” says Carson, “Let’s go.”

It’s not as fast as the attack craft, not as smooth, not as quiet, but the thing moves well. The noise is too much for real conversation, but both men speak into some kind of comms, and Rokia picks up a bit of it. They’re calling Myriam, telling her they’re coming, monitoring Capitol frequencies to try to detect anyone else coming for those hovercraft, they’re moving as fast as they can but if the Capitol really wants to they could get there first.

That’s not exactly comforting, but it’s not like there’s anything Rokia can do about it, so she tries not to worry.

Myriam’s standing at the hangar doorway when they pull up.

“C’mon,” Gabe says, climbing out. “You get one, I’ll get one, and let’s get out of here.”

Rokia follows him at nearly a run, pausing only to wave at Myriam, who shakes her head and waves back. Then she’s back in the cockpit, rushing through her checks, following Gabe out the door.

Her radio blares a proximity alarm as they approach the takeoff zone. Carson is already in the air with the craft they came in on, and Rokia sees him turn west and shift, sees when he arms the missiles tucked under the wings. Gabe gets in the air and turns to join Carson, but when Rokia tries to follow he cuts into her comms abruptly. “Go,” he says. “We’ll meet you.”

Rokia hesitates, but that was an order, and now is obviously not the time to argue. So she sets course for the same coordinates as last time, and speeds away as fast as she can.

She hears Gabe and Carson on the radio, yelling short, sharp commands, sees the Capitol craft appear on her guidance screen, sees one of them go down, sees what her guidance system labels as enemy craft take a hit, descend too fast to be intentional, stop on the western outskirts of the city, sees one of the Capitol craft—she hopes it’s Gabe but it’s hard to tell, and something is jamming her comms frequencies so she can’t ask.

But it’s only one craft, and that has to be a good sign. Probably.

She finds the tiny landing zone, endures the seemingly endless descent into the hangar, and rushes to climb out as soon as she’s directed to land.

There’s only the signal guy and the tall man from earlier, the woman’s left. Rokia rushes over. “Gabe? And Carson?”

The man’s face is pinched. “Gabe is on his way in. Carson went down and has not reported in.”

Rokia swallows. “He’s dead?”

“It’s possible.”

“But not for sure?”

The man gives her a sharp look. “We have no confirmation. We’ve requested that Paylor investigate the crash site.”

There’s a burst of activity then, and the landing pad descends again, another small Capitol craft sitting on top, missiles missing but otherwise apparently undamaged.

Gabe climbs out of the cockpit. He glances at Rokia, then salutes the man in front of her.

“Commander,” he says, then stops until the man nods. “Carson went down half a mile west of the city, no confirmation of status. I believe I hit one of the enemy, but disengaged to return to base. Craft is unharmed.”

The commander nods. “Dismissed,” he says. Gabe glances at Rokia, looks her over like he’s checking for damage, then nods and walks away.

“Come with me,” the commander says. “We’ll get you registered.”


By mid-afternoon, Rokia’s sitting on a bed in a spare box of a room with her newly-issued uniforms, supplies, manuals, hair cut short and a schedule inked on her wrist. It tells her she has half an hour before she should report for firearms training.

There isn’t much to see in the room, but it’s quiet, and she’s alone, and no one is asking questions or expecting her to say anything, and after all the activity of the day it’s a welcome change. So she sits, watching the clock on the wall until she has to go find the training area.

It’s near the surface, behind a thick steel door with a sign that reads “Authorized Personnel Only.” Rokia figures the ink on her arm counts as authorization, and walks through.

There are a few others in the room already, chatting in little clumps.

A girl rushes over with a friendly smile. “They said I was getting a roommate, is that you?”

“I…guess?” Rokia tries not to flinch back from the enthusiasm.

“I’m Lilly,” the girl says. “From Twelve, we just got here a couple days ago, isn’t this place something?”

“I’m Rokia, from Six,” Rokia says, “Got here this morning.”

“You’re a Victor, aren’t you? That’s great! Welcome to Thirteen!”

“Uh, thanks,” Rokia says. She’s spared having to come up with anything else to say when the door opens and the instructor walks in.

They spend the next two hours learning how to assemble and disassemble, clean and maintain guns, and finally shooting them at paper targets downrange. They’re not Peacekeepers’ guns, but they’re close enough that all Rokia can think of is riot cops breaking up a strike, evicting squatters, executing supposed drug smugglers in front of the Justice Building. Even with headphones protecting her ears it’s loud, sharp cracks coming from both sides. She sees the instructor approaching from the corner of her eye but she still can’t keep herself from jumping when he puts a hand on her shoulder, adjusts her grip on the barrel of the rifle.

She’s not a terrible shot, when she can keep her hands steady, but Rokia hates it: hates the noise, hates the recoil jolting her shoulders, hates the sharp gunpowder and metal tang in the air. Hates watching the others joke about their aim, joke about how the targets should be shaped like Peacekeepers, or at least like deer or rabbits or something worth shooting. Hates it, but does what she’s told until it’s over and they’re cleaning the weapons a final time, putting them away in racks for the next group, walking out into the hallway.

Then Lilly finds her. “I’m sure hungry after all that,” she says, falling into step next to Rokia. “Good thing it’s dinnertime, you know where to go?”

Rokia shakes her head, feeling half-deafened in the relative quiet of the hallway.

“Come on, I’ll show you, we’ll be on the same schedule anyway.” Lilly keeps moving and Rokia follows along in her wake as the corridors get busier, echoing with footsteps and voices.

The cafeteria is the size of Sal’s hangar. Rokia takes the tray that’s handed to her, follows Lilly to a table half-full already of what Rokia assumes are more refugees from Twelve.

“You’re Lilly’s new roommate?” someone asks as Rokia sits down.

“Yeah, I’m Rokia.”

“She’s a Victor,” Lilly says, excitedly. “She flew here. In a hovercraft.”

That gets some considering looks from the others. They’re mostly older than Lilly, who Rokia’d guess was about the same age she is. “Well ain’t that something else,” one woman says, and that seems to be the final word on the subject, as people go back to their food.

After dinner, Lilly leads Rokia back to their room for something called “Reflection” and studying the stacks of manuals they were both issued. And then, just about when Rokia has lost patience with Lilly’s periodic “Sorry but—“ random questions, the clock chimes and Lilly looks up.

“Come on, we better wash up before the lights go out,” she says. When Rokia looks confused she goes on. “Lights out at nine,” she says. “Saves electricity, I guess. They come back on half-strength at 5:00.”

Rokia’s schedule for today didn’t start until noon, and she didn’t realize the “Lights Out” at 9:00PM was literal. But she gets up, splashes water on her face, brushes her teeth and is settled in bed before the lights go out and plunge the room into total darkness.

“Goodnight, Rokia,” Lilly calls quietly from the other side of the room.

“Goodnight,” Rokia calls back, and for the first time in a long time she can’t keep from thinking about Allie and Kadi, where they are right now, who might be saying goodnight to them—and then she forces herself to calculate wingspans and material requirements so she doesn’t cry.


Rokia wakes up gasping, in total darkness, unsure where she is or why or even who she is until she catches her breath and her heart stops feeling like it’s trying to beat its way out of her chest.

Thirteen. Right. And the lights will come halfway on at five, and Rokia has no idea what time it is now other than “before five.”

It’s quiet, except for the quiet sound of the ventilation system, occasional footsteps outside—and how can they see, if all the lights are out?—and Lilly’s sleep-soft breathing across the room. Everything feels loud, though, even things that aren’t sounds, like the scratchy wool blanket tickling her chin. Loud, and unfamiliar, and wrong, and nothing has felt right since she left Six, a lifetime ago even though when she counts back it’s less than a month. Everything’s strange and wrong and uncertain and she’s surrounded by people and still all alone. And she’s tired. Tired enough it’s an all-over ache, pulsing behind her eyes, twisting up her stomach, tightening her shoulders and making her limbs heavy and dull. Tired, but awake, threads of thought twisting out in all directions and all she can do is pull back the ones heading for dangerous places.

Like wondering what happened to her sisters. Grandma was supposed to put them on a train out into the wild north the night the Arena fell, but Rokia has no way of knowing if that’s what actually happened. They planned it that way, it’s safer that way for everyone, but lying here listening to someone else’s sleeping breaths across a small room Rokia would give anything for the lights to come on and reveal Allie and Kadi, curled together on the narrow bunk.

But that’s too dangerous to think about.

Lyme might be here, somewhere, her very own schedule inked on her wrist, learning to shoot guns as though she wasn’t already more dangerous than anyone here without one.

Beetee is definitely here, and he wanted Rokia here, and that’s the best compliment she’s gotten, possibly ever. She still has the tiny beetle from Wiress, and Rokia is almost certain it’s not just a sentimental gift, and if anyone can figure out what Wiress hid inside, it’s Beetee. Because Wiress is dead—really dead, throat slit bleeding out into the water startled-looking eyes going blank and staring, hands that made the little wire creature useless against a trained killer with a blade.

Wiress is dead and Lumina and Eibhlin are who knows where having who knows what done to them, and Rokia didn’t save any of them—and Beetee still wanted her. Wants her? Does he know?

And who else came out with their Mockingjay? Myriam said Thirteen saved her, and more Victors besides, but she didn’t say who and Rokia couldn’t bring herself to ask. There’s no good answers.

And whatever’s happening to Lumina and Eibhlin is happening to Phillips, too.

And later today Rokia is going to have to train to fire a gun again so she can—what? She’s never going to be good in a gun fight. She’ll always be small and she’ll always hate it and while maybe shooting the people who hurt Phillips sounds good from this distance, the idea of doing it up close, seeing blood spray and bullets punch holes through actual living people—

She’s to report to the hangars in the morning, first thing. She’ll need to learn about the D13 hovercraft, see what’s different and what’s the same. See if there’s a way to use what she knows about the Capitol craft to improve the shielding, or the stealth, or the speed. Patch-weld bullet-riddled wing panels. Fix the electronics on the Capitol craft that brought the Victors from the Arena but is all fucked up from the lightning and no one here knows what to do. Figure out how much fuel can be pumped through the system, how fast, for how much power, and how to use it more efficiently.

She’s still thinking about that one when the lights come on. Lilly makes a reluctant noice and stretches, but Rokia practically jumps out of bed, she’s so glad to finally be able to get up.

She splashes water on her face, presents her arm to the scheduler, and sees that she isn’t scheduled for breakfast until 6:00, reporting to the hangars at 6:45. Fuck that. She pushes open the door and heads for the elevator.


The hangars are brightly lit and busy and everyone mostly ignores Rokia and keeps working. So at least something feels right. She looks around, finds the little corner office, and introduces herself.

Everyone wears the same uniform, but this guy looks like he’s in charge. “I didn’t think you were coming until later,” he says, poking at something snapped around his wrist.

Rokia shrugs. “Figured I might as well get started,” she says.

He gives her a sharp look, then nods. “Start with getting that Capitol thing sorted. Tool cabinet’s along the wall, find me if you need something that’s not there.”

“Okay,” Rokia says, and gets to work.


Her wrist says she’s supposed to have breakfast, and lunch, and calisthenics, but Rokia’s busy checking miles of wiring and doesn’t bother. When it’s time for combat training, though, Lilly walks hesitantly over to where Rokia’s working and calls her name.

“They sent me to get you,” Lilly says, biting at her lip. “We’re late.”

Rokia sighs, sets down her tools, and follows Lilly out.

She goes to dinner afterwards, because she should probably eat something, and then heads back to the hangars.

She’s still there when the lights-out bell chimes, and she has to rush to get back to her room before the lights plunge her back into darkness.


It turns out she can skip everything except combat training and nobody really cares. And then, one night when Rokia absolutely cannot fall asleep she gives up, pushes the door open, and notices the dim emergency lighting is plenty to see by.

It’s not enough to read by, but it might be enough for working on the damaged fuel lines she started on earlier. So she heads for the hangars.

Where she’s surprised to find the lights on and a low hum of activity, as pilots run checks and a few mechanics are working. The relief leaves her nearly breathless, and Rokia finds her tools and gets to work.


After dinner, she decides it’s time to find Beetee. On the wall of the hangar is a map of sorts, with most areas marked. Rokia’s not sure where to look until she sees the section labeled “Research and Development.” That’ll be it.

When Rokia gets there, she realizes it’s a whole warren of little rooms, and she can’t very well go around opening random doors. So when she sees someone walking toward her she straightens her shoulders, tries to look official, and asks where she can find Beetee Latier.

The woman gives her a careful look, then points. “Special Weapons, just down there.”

“Thanks,” Rokia says, and hurries over.

She pushes open the door into a wide, bright room full of—everything. She looks around for Beetee, doesn’t see him until a man in a wheelchair comes around a corner and faces Rokia.

Beetee. Looking older, and tireder, and sadder, but what else could she expect?

He adjusts his glasses and looks at her, a thin smile starting. “Rokia,” he says. “I heard you had found your way here. Welcome to Thirteen.”

There’s suddenly a lump in Rokia’s throat that makes it hard to breathe. So she just holds out Wiress’ little beetle, and Beetee goes still.

“She gave it to me,” Rokia says, her voice low and scraping in her own ears. “I don’t think it’s just a toy.”

Beetee’s just staring at the thing, but he glances up at her. “No,” he says, barely above a whisper. “I doubt that.” He turns and starts toward a bank of electronics and computer terminals, and Rokia follows.

“Set it down here?” Beetee asks, gesturing toward an open space on the countertop. He takes a deep breath and reaches for it, hesitating just a second before taking the thing in his palm and pushing his glasses up onto his forehead to look closely at it.

He’s silent a long time, then reaches for a cable, which he wedges between the thing’s body and head, and suddenly the tiny eyes glow green.

Beetee turns to the computer, still quiet, and his fingers fly for several seconds before he sighs, sits back, and windows pop up, showing pages of computer code, diagrams of hovercraft components, and finally, last of all, a colorful swirling model of turbulent air past a wing, totally ordinary except that the odd shape of the wing means the air moving around it forms the shape of a heart.

Rokia’s eyes fill, and she has to lean on the countertop to keep from falling. When she sucks in a desperate breath, Beetee turns, his own eyes bright, and slowly stands, only to hug Rokia so tightly she can barely breathe. They stay like that, holding each other up, until Beetee takes a deep breath, sits back heavily in his wheelchair.

“Well,” he says, adjusting his glasses and looking at the screen. “Let’s see what she’s given us.”

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