"First and foremost," Haymitch said, pausing to take a drink from his bottle, "You kids have a good chance at winning if you play it smart." He paused to watch the door close. I followed his gaze and noticed a faint trace of Spiral Energy near it, though it seemed suppressed. "You listening to me, kid?"
I stared at the man, pondering how to deal with him. He didn't SEEM to be a bad drunk like most in the wasteland were, but the dangerous aura he portrayed with his subtle movements made me weary. Moves like a slight touch to his knife, his eyes flickering every which way, and even how he walked. Though drowning in depression - or I assumed he was - Haymitch was on edge and ready to kill.
So, I decided to handle him like a spy from the stories.
"Of course," I answered. "I've been trying to learn more about the Games since I got here. I'm not one for giving up." I didn't say I was scared, or curious, or even happy. All those emotions seemed to blend together at the promise of more knowledge. Of course, I was also worried about what might happen to me should I grow lax in any way.
"Smart ass kid," Haymitch muttered. "Anyway, you two are showing off all that Spiral energy like some sort of beacon. That's not good, really. See, the others are going to see that like a bull's eye and to try to take you out first."
"Makes sense," I said, thinking about that. It did, too. Bigger threats overshadowed smaller ones. It was why the scavengers made groups - to defend against larger threats. Well, that was what every civilization did, if in a broader sense. "So we will need to act weak and-"
"Shut up and let me talk," Haymitch snapped, cutting me off. "There's a shit ton of things we are going to have to go over. Not to mention I gotta turn this little girl into a killer!"
Nia shrank away at that. "I'd rather not kill anyone..."
A smirk painted itself over Haymitch's face. "You got no choice, girl," he said with a hint of sadness. The whiskey took away that hint a second later, though. "It's kill or be killed. Even if you luck out, you'll still be faced with at least one more person to kill. Last one standing wins."
It was my turn to react. "Last one?" I asked the man. "There's only one person who can win?"
Haymitch nodded slowly, taking another sip of booze. "Yeah, and I would like for it to be one of you two."
One survivor... I glanced at Nia, who seemed to be taking it in. It was obvious now she had been in disbelief this whole time, if barely. Of course, I had been as well. To a degree, anyway. I didn't want to kill anyone, honestly, though I knew myself capable. I had killed before, after all. You didn't survive the wastelands without killing.
But killing someone because they wanted me dead was completely different from killing someone who was forced into trying to kill me... It wasn't a huge difference for some, probably, but it was a complete opposite for me. Justice vs Efficient. The argument that engulfed Earth after the Tyrants came. Efficiency always seemed to win out, sadly.
That's why these games happened, probably. Either participate or die. Efficiency allowed for the few to die for the many. Justice did not.
"Nia," I said, feeling fear even as I did. "I will keep you from killing or being killed." Nia seemed to glow, which made Haymitch curse and take a drink. I had to wonder how he didn't succumb to alcohol poison.
"Kid, you're going to regret those words." Haymitch walked across the empty room and let his Spiral energy out. I couldn't help but notice a few specks of red in the green aura. Maybe something I had not developed yet? "Because they're going to end up as a lie."
I smiled, despite myself. I was confident in my abilities, but I was also deeply afraid he was right. "Logically," I told the man, "there's always a chance. I just need you to provide the tools."
A small smile crept along Haymitch's face. "You're stupid as hell, kid, but I like you." He took a large drink from his bottle and threw it across the room. "Alright, we got a lot to cover, so let's get started."
Nia and me nodded as one, both of us emitting determination from our Spiral power.
"For starters," Haymitch continued, "We are in a Spiral Room, where thought is given form. This will be your training ground." With a wave of his hand, Haymitch formed a large punching bag with a chain reaching high up into the ceiling above. My mouth tried to meet the floor the moment I saw the creation.
"How..?" I stopped... No, this was impossible! The Conservation of Mass stated matter can not be created or destroyed, but here... I stepped forward, touching the punching bag carefully, noting it's solidity. Maybe I was under some sort of extreme hypnosis..? No, it didn't add up. "This shouldn't be possible. Matter can not be created. This must have come from somewhere."
Haymitch smirked. "Forget the physics you know, kid. Spiral power breaks all the physics we found." As if to make his point, he held out his hand and created a goblet with some liquid in it. More alcohol, I guessed. "But don't get ahead of yourself. You can't do this normally without some sort of strong motivation. This room is just special."
I nodded, allowing it to sink in. I was still doubtful, but I had to focus on surviving these Games. Then, once I lived, I could learn more. Science must be able to explain Spiral power if I learned enough, so I could put off my shock and disbelief for a time and accept this man's words as truth.
After all, I felt no deceit in his Spiral power, only despair, humor, and a little hope.