It was fairly amusing to see, you’d admit.
A big, strapping man like Ulysses could instill fear in anyone he wanted to. To see him stride to the front of the stage, his muscles rippling like a tiger’s, was more than enough to make the Careers around you positively shake in their boots.
And when he snarled into the microphone, “Rise, Careers, to attention!” the boys and girls around you immediately shot out of their seats.
Except you, of course. And nobody sniggered except you.
“You!” Yep. You’d immediately caught Ulysses’s eye. “Why don’t you stand? Show some discipline!”
You quietly wheeled out to the aisle so that the man could see you clearly.
The boys and girls around you immediately whispered among themselves. You were silent and stared up patiently at the head trainer, who was turning exotic shades of red just looking at you.
“They let a cripple into the Career Training Academy?!” Ulysses was furious. “Who let you in?”
“Sir,” you broke in politely, “this was involuntary. I assure you that I didn’t intend to wheel my way into the Hunger Games.”
“What!” Ulysses was still working this out.
You didn’t feel the need to recount the tale to him, so you waited until he was finished gesticulating.
“I can leave, if you’d like, sir.”
“Leave! Of course you may not leave!”
“You were obviously chosen to walk--wheel among the greatest fighters of District 2. You must train with them and fight honorably for your district! Isn’t that right?”
In response, all the trainees around you broke into a hoarse, low roar of approval. You sighed and put your head in your palms. Jesus Christ.
Ulysses felt the need to end the orientation there, so he dismissed everyone to lunch. You awkwardly wheeled your way around, not sure where to go or what to do. You had no friends here and had no desire to make any…you didn’t even want to be here at all. Already others were giving you looks–some dirty, some filled with sympathy, but mostly confusion or pity. A few of the more skilled ones seemed annoyed that they had a wheelchair-bound girl around.
You wanted your old friends…the ones that were just as unqualified to be a tribute. They knew you, and would most definitely scoff at the sight of you now. Still, they might be impressed that you were in the Career Training Academy. You just wanted to sigh. There was no point to this. There were already predetermined tributes who would volunteer immediately, so you were in absolutely no danger of embarrassing your district. So why did they keep you here?
As you made your way back to your room, you noticed a large crowd of Careers clamoring around a door. It appeared to lead to the mess hall, but the doors seemed reluctant to open. The sign above the doors clearly read “PUSH,” but no matter how much they shoved, the doors would not budge. Already they started complaining and moaning that they were being denied food.
Although you were not hungry enough to care whether or not the cafeteria was opened, you watched with mild interest as one of the older Careers went to lay down the law. You recognized him as Cato, the Academy’s finest. 6’2” at 18 and enough strength to bring down the elephants of lore, he was the obvious choice for the 74th Hunger Games that took place later in the year. Immediately the younger ones around him looked at each other, impressed, knowing that Cato could open the doors with no effort.
…he couldn’t, either. He was close to punching holes in them, sure, but didn’t quite succeed in opening them.
“Oh, move it, you fools,” you sighed, losing your temper at the sight of the brute strength. The others let you pass, presumably because they didn’t want your wheels to run over their feet.
Cato looked you up and down (as much as he could, really). You were younger than him, and understandably smaller and, oh, that’s right, crippled. Still, he let you get your hands on the door, probably so he could mock you once you failed.
You didn’t. With a single tug, you opened the doors and revealed the glory of the food behind them.
“You were really put off by a mislabeled door?” You frowned, unimpressed at the legion that now stared at you in awe. “That’s the most basic prank in the book.”
They muttered and watched you wheel away to your room. Cato seemed the most irritated, considering he was just showed up by a snarky cripple. You looked back at him impassively.
“You should just be more patient,” you advised. “If you run around, impassioned like a dog in heat, nothing will ever get done…”
Now, you couldn’t wait to work with these people.