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Hunger Games training
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After a brief moment to say goodbye to their families, the tributes are herded onto trains headed for the Training Center in the Capitol. Each pair of tributes is accompanied by an escort from the Capitol, as well as at least one experienced Hunger Games victor from their district, who serve as mentors. If you're a Career, you've probably already trained with your mentor, and maybe even your co-tribute, for years. If you're not... well, you have three days to train. Good luck.

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"Fastest volunteering I've ever heard that wasn't a Career," says Crow's mentor Winnow, "Friend of yours?"

"No. I'd just rather be here than there."

"Think you're hot shit?"

"I am hot shit."

He looks her over in more detail, and notices the shapes of her two mismatched knives, hidden in the ragged clothing. "Used those a lot?"

"I was near enough to the forest to hunt. And five - no, six - fights worth mentioning. Scared them, didn't cripple them - except Sparrow Bel, he came back for another round and I ruined his eye. Not that he's ever admitted that, since he knows what's good for him."

"Knife hunting."

"Well, I can carve a bow or arrows, but sneaking anything big back to the house wasn't worth the effort so I usually stuck to the knives."

"Knives are an absolutely terrible weapon against opponents expecting a fight with any training at all. Even if you kill them, you'll be killed yourself more often than not."

"Better to die covered in blood than live as a farmer. I doubt the Peacekeepers would take me."

He tips his head. "Certain chunk of the Capitol might even like hearing you say that. Which is as important as your actual skill, maybe more."

"I can pretend to be civilized people. It's not like I don't have practice."

"It's not me you have to fool. Try convincing our escort  that you really want the glory and fame of winning the Games. If she buys it, good. If not, we need to know that and plan to do without charm."

"I can work with that. Boss."

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Every kid training to be a career watches reruns of past games and gets lectures from the mentors about strategy. There’s not much one train ride can add to that. So instead they’re focusing on planning out the speeches and shows.

Mentor reminds Hew and the other volunteer that sob stories are for the peasant districts. You don’t want to be sympathetic, you want to be strong. Likable is fine, if you can manage it, but mostly just try to look strong. The sponsors want to put their money on a winner. 

The careers always team up to take all the weapons in the center, then hunt down everyone else. Then they start fighting each other. So the optimal strategy is to turn on your team at exactly the right time. So you need to show the sponsors that you’re smart and ruthless enough to stab your friends in the back when the time. comes. Problem is, your teammates will be watching too, and you don’t want them to think you’re raring to betray them, or they’ll leave you behind or do it to you first. It’s all a complicated game of signaling…

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politics

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Time to glare at the window and will the train to move faster. Trees… hills… trees… munitions plant… trees… hills… quarry… 

Hopefully they get there soon. Or the conversation gets to an actually interesting topic. 

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Pippi's mentor finds her in the tender of the train, shoveling coal into the fire that fuels the boiler. She's wielding two shovels at the same time, and has big black smudges on her face and clothing.

"Where is the fireman?" asks the mentor. "He's the one who is supposed to shovel the coal."

Pippi looks up and grins without stopping her work. "He and Mr. Nilsson went for a snack. I'm making the train go faster! Can you find me another shovel?"

"Are two shovels not enough?"

"Why stop at two? They never stop at two on the steam trains in Siberia!"

"When do you want to talk about preparations for the Games?"

"Not now! Too busy! Come back later!"

The mentor shakes his head and goes to find the District 8 boy. Maybe he'll be more pliable.

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Avery pauses in the aisle of the train car.  He hates this part of his job, when he needs to take two more kids and train them to become murderers like him.  And if he doesn't do it, well, they'll die.

He whispers a prayer under his breath to anyone who'll listen, for something to save him and the kids from this.

But nothing happens.  Oh well.

He pushes the door open to the Tributes' lounge.  The girl isn't there - but Fraddam is, intently watching footage of a past game on the TV.  (Avery doesn't remember this scene well - it was after his Tribute had already died, and he wasn't caring to watch anymore.)

Fraddam pauses the TV and holds up his hand to greet Avery.  "Hello again!  We've never really talked, but I've seen you!  Excellent work with that spear in your own Games.  Do you think you can get me some special chips for my electric weapons?  Or any other tips?"

... Avery pushes aside his worry about this one.  It looks like there isn't much innocence to be lost.  Businesslike, he starts explaining his best idea of the Capital sponsorship situation.  And soon, his guilt really is pushed back to a dull ache at the back of his mind.

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"A story," Fraddam echoes dully.

Well, he'll try sincerity.  "Would it work that I've always wanted for my family and me to live in Victors' Village?"

Avery frowns.  "They'll want something more.  They're the Capital.  But it could be the start of a story."

Fraddam strokes the hilt of the knife resting on the arm of his chair.  "I could tell them about my mom's foot?  And everything about the factory that I want to get away from, and get my parents away from?"

"The foot could work.  The factory... maybe.  It'd work for some of the sponsors.  Others of them don't like to think about the work situation in the Districts."

Yes, it's a rigged system.  Fraddam shrugs.  "I know we could be more and live more in Victors' Village?  Sit down by the river?  Invent stuff beyond just our daily projects?"

Avery smiles a bit.  "That's the spirit.  You've got a bit to develop it, after all.  And we can see what Krinn thinks about it - she knows some sponsors I don't know so well."

"Sure."  Fraddam nods, recognizing the female mentor's name immediately.  "Maybe she'll be willing to give me a few tips on wilderness survival too, after all she did in her Games?  But for now, how about some weapons work?"

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Upon arriving in the Capitol, each tribute is immediately taken to a team of stylists, who will fix up their hair, faces, and everything else for the opening ceremony. The stylists have prepared costumes themed around the Districts' primary productions - which usually advantages the jewelry-clad District 1 tributes more than the coal miners of District 2.

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Upon arriving in the Capitol, each tribute is immediately taken to a team of stylists, who will fix up their hair, faces, and everything else for the opening ceremony. The stylists have prepared costumes themed around the Districts' primary productions - which usually advantages the jewelry-clad District 1 tributes more than the coal miners of District 2.

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Crow suffers the initial attentions of her stylist grimly but quietly, until they approach the two scars on her face with some chemical-looking lotion, at which points she bats their hands away.

"Don't touch those. I like my scars," she says, with cold anger leaking into her voice.

"But they're ugly! So asymmetrical and... shocking!"

She glares. "If you can make puffball-pink skin and blue and orange lightning lines work as a style for you, you can make a style for me that looks good with my scars. You can pretty them up as long as they're still recognizable as scars. Ones I got violently. Or else I fight you on everything else you do and look ugly on purpose to spite you."

The stylist is not prepared to deal with this. His assistant, who is not getting the full force of the glare, is thinking on her feet faster. "They are striking - they break up the lines of her face interestingly. If we color the ends to shape them... and maybe a few tiger stripes along the neck?"

"That... would look memorable. I'm not sure how to work it with the dress, though."

"Sounds alright to me," says Crow, "you're the ones who know what pretty looks like. Or handsome. Don't mess with this and you can go ahead. Always thought the Twelver chariot should have a scythe, though. We're the ones that do the reaping, you know?"

"Hmm," says the main stylist, "Nephi, you handle this part, the tiger stripes sound good. I need to express my new vision for the outfit and there's not much time."

Crow smiles and lets them scour her down without further incident.

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Fraddam waits patiently while the stylists talk about ideas and try him in different sorts of clothes.

Finally, when they're trying one of their last two ideas on him (supposed to make him look "grim and ominous," he asks, "Okay, how can I bring this out best?  How do I... er, loom?... ominously?"

The stylists all break into smiles at this, and one of them exclaims, "Oh!  You think you can cooperate in the image?"

"- well, I'll sure try!"  One more unfamiliar weapon to learn.

"Then how about this..."

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Hew thought he was going to hate this part and, while it did involve people poking at him, he has to admit that the result is kinda awesome.

He emerges looking like some kind of post apocalyptic warlord, face decorated and outfit incorporating as many as several unnecessary spikes. The jacket made of shining brass casings is his favorite part. He didn’t know people from the Capitol could get it, but whoever decided this was the best way to represent the weapon manufacturing district definitely gets it

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She doesn't get the scythe, but the outfit and chariot, already styled to look like fields of grain, get last-minute changes to make it look more like she's stalking through the fields and peeking out between the grain - the tiger stripes subtly matching the amber waves.

"Oh, I like it," she tells the head stylist, with her best real human being face on, "Looks like home, looks like me, and looks good. Thank you."

"You're not the usual Elevener," he says, "I'm glad to have had the original inspiration. Now - go wow them!"

She grins. "Sure thing, boss!"

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After the ceremony is over, the tributes will go to their luxuriously furnished apartments, where they find delicious food and helpful slaves to tend to their every need.

The next three days will be spent in the Training Center. There are a great many training stations set up by experts on various subjects - weapons, of course, but also snares, making shelter, fishing, camouflage, fire-starting, and lessons on which plants and animals are edible. This is also the time when alliances are made.

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She gets to fight with actual weapons! Okay, sure, these are practice blades, but they're actually made for violence. Crow is in Heaven. Well, Purgatory; Heaven comes later this week.

("You'll want to go to the swords station first," Winnow advised her, "To be sure you can pick up fighting with longer blades. Start with forearm-length, try arm-length when you're used to them.")

Also she is good at it. She's on to moving targets with the shorter swords inside fifteen minutes, and there's some places she overextends or doesn't take openings reflecting her knife instincts, but she's picking it up as quickly as could be desired.

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