Mere moments after the door leading in and out of the train opens, a pair of peacekeepers garbed in the typical anonymity ensuring uniform they wear step into the train. They wield rifles, and I momentarily feel a pang of envy as I gaze at the weapons.
Guns are far from rare in the Districts but only ever seen in the possession of the Peacekeepers. Before I became a “Jumper” I wanted to own someday, probably as a Peacekeeper myself.
The two peacekeepers silently examine Glimmer and I, and I turn to her and smile. And then I do something fully unexpected by anyone but myself.
“Come on… The people are awaiting us.” I tell her, softly, before reaching forward and kissing her cheek gently. This causes her to gasp softly, and I can see that she tenses up, her muscles tightening and for a split second I wonder if she’ll slap me.
Behind us our mentors and our escort all watch us, curiously. Even the crowd of people stationed outside of the train have stilled and grown silent. I can sense Glimmer repressing her instincts, and consciously trying to calm down. She has an impressive amount of self-control, and I find myself actually somewhat liking her as I watch her choose the correct path.
After a few moments, she places her hand on mine and smiles at me even as a soft blush spreads across her cheeks. I smile, softly, back at her and lightly take her hand in mine. This causes an almost deafening explosion of cheers and applause from the assorted crowd of onlookers, fans, and well-wishers.
It takes several minutes for the noise from the crowd to go from a deafening roar to something more manageable. When the noise dies down I chuckle, almost impossibly quietly, and ready myself for what is to come.
I then turn, slightly, and nod at the peacekeepers. They nod back at me and motion for us to come to them. In the moments after our subtle, unspoken exchange I feel my mind expanding slightly as “Soulseer” takes effect. Even garbed from head to toe in clothing meant to assure their anonymity they cannot hide their identities from me. Not that I care to use this information in any meaningful way.
I lightly squeeze the hand of the girl next to me. She smiles at the Peacekeepers, but they do not react. Internally I note this, but I do not make a big deal of it. My attractiveness is a weapon, as is Glimmer’s. And beauty is a weapon as dangerous as any knife, in the hands of the right wielder.
I lead my fellow tribute to the door and we both put on our game faces as we step out of the train. And as soon as we do I feel the gentle glow of the sun’s light on my skin which causes me to momentarily sigh in mild discomfort.
Back home the sky had been overcast the entire time of the reaping. Now, as I felt the sun’s gentle glow on my skin I felt a pang of discomfort. Not… pain, persay, but something else altogether. This was an annoying consequence of my nature as a vampire, but my innate weaknesses were both dulled by perks and also by my multifaceted nature.
The sun is a bane to vampires, and to someone with a vampire alt-form, even one locked away, it is a source of mild discomfort now that my supernatural gifts have slowly begun to manifest. It is not debilitating, and I can ignore it easily thanks to my healthy willpower, but it is still annoying. That the sun would cause me discomfort was one of many things I learned about my new nature in the wake of my fight against the three teenage boys.
The benefits of being a vampire far outweigh the downsides, even though in my current state I cannot utilize the majority of the benefits of my potent form of vampirism. Nevertheless, the sensation of the sun on my skin is mildly annoying. It feels… like I had very, very mild sunburn, all the time. Not bad enough to cause me actual pain, but certainly bad enough to be a mild distraction, all the time.
I then push my unspoken complaints to a small corner of my mind and focus on the present. Glimmer and I are surrounded by hundreds of powerfully genetically alerted men and women who are all around us, though they thankfully have the decency to not try and grab us.
The people of the Capitol are not like the people of the Districts. They wear outlandish clothes and have strange, unnatural bodies. The technology of the Capitol, its secret weapon during the rebellion, is strong enough to do things like genetically alter the people of the Capitol in ways that are harmless, like allowing men to naturally smell like roses, and not so harmless, like inflicting sicknesses on their enemies.
I know of the strange and potent sciences of the Capitol. The secrets of the dark technology this place used to destroy the rebellion fills a mostly untouched corner of my mind. Everything from the knowledge they used to create muttations, genetically modified animals that they used for a range of purposes, to their knowledge of physics that allowed the creation of hovercraft, sits in the back of my mind.
I have deliberately ignored this part of my mind. For now this knowledge is next to useless. I do not have the vast resources needed to take advantage of the treasure trove of information I possess. All the theoretical knowledge in the world can only go so far if one does not have what is needed to properly leverage it.
The people in front of us offend the senses in a number of ways. They speak in rather off-putting ways, with accents that make the language of Panem sound weird and almost inhuman. They also smell strange.
They smell of objects, and of flavors, like lavender and roses. It is clearly unnatural, so much so that even without the memories of theirs that flow into me I intuit, by combining my knowledge of the Capitol’s technology with my own knowledge of Capitol citizens that I can slowly piece together what sort of genetic modifications they have received.
They almost assail the two of us with questions. Their curiosity is impressive and implacable. Glimmer and I stoically endure the assault, grateful for the attention that is on us. This sort of attention being paid to us will keep us at the forefront of Capitol gossip going into the opening ceremonies, and eventually into the games. I know it will… Because it works for Katniss and Peeta. But it won’t be as effective as it was supposed to be since they won’t be alone.
Right before more Peacekeepers appear to shepherd Glimmer and I towards the Remake Center, I quietly wonder if Katniss has already volunteered. If she is on her way towards the Capitol, having saved her sister, but doomed herself.
Glimmer and I are rescued from the bored buzzards of the Capitol by a group of uniformed Peacekeepers. They appear and peacefully disperse the crowd, though not completely, and not quickly. It takes several minutes before enough of the “Journalists” who have crowded around us have left for us to make our way towards the strange building.
The people of the Capitol are not afraid. To them we are not victims of some strange tradition, we are actors in a brutal, action-packed competition. We are celebrities, even the least remarkable of us. And Glimmer and I are not unremarkable.
They peer at us from within the buildings that surround us. Some of them exit those buildings and watch us from atop platforms that jut out from their buildings. A few of them even shout questions at us. That last one is more common with children, but it is not uncommon even from adults.
Glimmer is a blonde bombshell, and I am an almost idealized example of masculinity. I can trust in the power of the perks I possess, I know that even from a purely visual standpoint I draw admiring gazes from anyone who beholds me.
I allow them to gaze at me and even pretend to be excited by their gazes. I wave at them, smile at them, and put on a performance of being excited to be here for mundane reasons. Truthfully… I am excited to be here, but not for mundane reasons.
Being in the Capitol means that I am just days from the Games. And from the freedom of leaving this strange place behind forever. For days now I have wanted to leave this world behind, and as I explore the streets of the Capitol during my trip I wonder, not for the first time, how much of these feelings are truly my own.
My “Sponsor” has strange abilities of her own. I don’t know the limits of her capabilities, or even if there ARE any limits. She is the figure responsible for my own powers… But still, I am here now, and the best way forward is for me to accept my current situation, work within it, and attempt to learn more when I am in a setting where the supernatural exists in more researchable ways.
Even walking we are only a short walk from the place we are headed to, the “Remake Center”. I estimate that it takes us about fifteen minutes to get there, all the while we are being watched. Buildings surround us, even this close to the great lake that surrounds the city in every direction.
The strange building is a weird white thing in a sea of chrome and metallic hues. It is several stories tall and there are many more guards stationed around it than there were in the few streets we’ve walked to so far.
Glimmer and I are shepherded into the strange building and then separated by a number of colorful Capitol citizens. It seems that the people who separate us are the assistants of our stylists, well-trained, well-paid Capitol citizens whose jobs are to help us prepare for our the Games and the few opportunities we have to shine and make us appealing to the men and women who might sponsor us if we catch their eyes.
It takes only a few minutes for one of the separated tributes from District 1 to find himself stripped naked and under the gaze of a sepia-toned man and his assistants. The man gazes at the male tribute with a curious gaze.
Mars, a well-trained and experienced stylist, studies Cossus with a look that is both serious and admiring. It is hard not to admire the physical perfection of Cossus, regardless of things like one’s orientation or their own aesethetic preferences. The young tribute is in a class all his own as far as appearances go.
“We have… a lot to work with.” Mars mutters, his voice only slightly touched by the unusual vocal traditions of the Capitol. Every aspect of Cossus’s appearance is handsome and attractive, from his stern gaze to his powerful muscles. It is as if the young man sculpted his own body specifically to inspire powerful feelings of love and lust.
Cossus himself is stoic at the moment. He has barely uttered even a single word to Mars’ assistants, and not a single one to the man himself. Cossus trusts the man, having used “Soulseer” on the man the moment he first entered the large chamber the five individuals are in and determining that Mars can be trusted.
Mars likes the tribute’s silence. He has helped a number of tributes, even a few victors, and the majority of them, even careers, tend to whine, or worse; be sullen and moody. Cossus is a rare breed, a tribute who is both largely physically perfect and has exactly the right kind of attitude for a stylist to work with.
The two figures will be together for close to three hours before it is time for the very first major event in the grand week of celebration that leads to the actual Hunger Games. In that time Cossus will be dressed in a dozen outfits, before Mars decides that simplicity was best.
When the time comes for the buildup to the parade during the opening to the Hunger Games, Cossus is dressed in a simple tunic and spray-painted silver. The figure is then led to the ground floor of the Remake Center and stationed in a stable to await his fellow tribute, Glimmer. And it is during this time that he lays his eyes on other tributes for the very first time.