Title: Jessica vs Elizabeth
“Oh, Lizzie, isn’t it romantic?” Jessica squealed.
Elizabeth gaped at her twin. “They’re expecting us to kill each other.”
“Yes, but we get new clothes and we’re paired with a boy!”
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.
Notes: I am going to post this, unbeta’d as it gets written for NaNoWriMo2017. I will post a clean, edited (hopefully coherent) version when it is finished, but if you want to see the raw, error-laden process of my word-vomit, here it is.
When they broke for lunch, Jessica dropped into the seat beside Lila. In theory, they were supposed to sit with their district partners, but Rick was waiting to have his finger sewn back on and there was still no sign of Bruce.
Elizabeth was also absent. After killing three security guards, and chopping parts off four more (hence the delay in getting to Rick’s finger), someone had finally sedated her with a dart gun. Jessica had heard that Elizabeth had suffered a broken nose. After killing and maiming so many of the security team, when the sedative hit her bloodstream, the surviving members felt no urge at all to catch her when she dropped like a rock face-first from the table.
Despite the jaw-dropping fear that Elizabeth now inspired, Jessica couldn’t help but feel proud of her sister for being so utterly brutal. Elizabeth was now the kind of tribute that Jessica wanted to be – although, come to think of it, neither of them were particularly like Katniss.
“Did you talk to anyone?” Lila asked.
Jessica nodded. She and Lila had quickly realised the rest of the Unicorns were write-offs, so had moved on with the plan by themselves. “Tom and Dylan McKay, Ken Matthews, Winston Egbert and Patrick Morris.” She ticked them off on her fingers. “Everyone but Winston and Tom said they weren’t going to fight her, because she’s scary. Tom said he could beat any girl, even if she was ‘on the rag’. I asked him what that meant, and he said Mr Davis taught him that sometimes girls get ‘insane and dangerous’. Winston said he probably couldn’t fight Elizabeth by himself, but if we got a team that wasn’t as suicidally stupid as Tom, then he’d be in. How did you do?”
Lila raised a finger. “You know, Jim Sturbridge said the same thing about her being on the rag too.”
Jessica rolled her eyes. “I hate it when boys have secret codes. It bet they’re pretending they’re secret agents or something. So immature. Who else?”
“Obviously, after Ken had a panic attack when Elizabeth glared at him, I wrote him off. Dennis Cookman said he’d consider it, but he’s been working on not being a bully any more, and thinks that because Elizabeth is smaller than him, it might be bullying. Denny Jacobson said no way.”
Jessica sighed. “So we have Winston Egbert?”
“We have Winston Egbert.”
Another figure pulled out a chair and sat down at their table. A girl a few pounds heavier than Jessica or Lila, with brown hair pulled back from her face in a neat ponytail. “I hear you’re building a team to take down Elizabeth,” said Lois Waller. “I’m in.”
Eventually Rick got his finger sewn back on and he rejoined Jessica in the training room for the afternoon activities. She quickly filled him in on what he had missed – including Elizabeth being taken down by a dart gun.
He was surprised to learn he was part of an allyship. And even more surprised to learn that his teammates were Winston Egbert and Lois Waller. “Airhead, are you growing as a person?” he asked.
Jessica slapped him in response. She aimed for his face, but he anticipated her violence and brought his hands up to protect himself.
He fell about shrieking in agony when she knocked his finger off.
He was carted off back to the makeshift infirmary that had been set up.
Elizabeth’s bloodlust was aroused by the screams, and she took her place once more at the weapons table, this time with a mace and throwing stars.
Four security guards handed in their guns and badges and fled.
She took out two of them with the throwing stars.
Training was cancelled for the rest of the day.
Todd moved out of the suite and into the lobby, where an adult was present at all times.
Team Life, as Winston dubbed them, congregated in Jessica and Rick’s suite, because they were the only district pair who was on the team. The five settled on the plush sofas, and set the Johnny Buck music video channel running in the background. With that done, Lois tried to move them on to the planning stage, but it wasn’t going well.
“Oh, I love this song!” Jessica exclaimed. “Isn’t Passing the Buck the greatest?”
“I like Bang for your Buck,” Lila replied, then frowned. “But I didn’t like all the girls in the video. Who do they think they are, touching him like that?”
“Well, later in the video they’re just touching each other,” Rick commented. “Is that better?”
“I preferred Buck Off,” Lois offered. “But none of that really helps. We should formulate a plan.”
“Oooh!” Lila squealed. “Buck You and the Horse You Rode In On is starting! It must be a Buck: Naked marathon.”
Winston jumped to his feet and turned the TV off with a snap. “No more Johnny Buck until we have a plan, because if we don’t have a plan by the end of the day, I’m reverting to my original plan, which was to run away as fast as I can.”
“How long do you think that will save you?” Lila asked.
“A day or so, my legs are long, I can outrun everyone here, and Elizabeth can only kill so many people at a time,” Winston said. He glanced down at the TV. “Hey, there’s a VCR in here. We should get a copy of the Hunger Games and watch it.”
Lois approved of that plan, and wished she’d thought of it. They should watch the fights and take notes. Sweet Valley Middle didn’t exactly produce the brightest of sparks, so there was a pretty good chance they would do what the movie showed simply because it wouldn’t occur to them to do anything else.
“Ooh, that sounds perfect!” Lila said. “We can call room service for popcorn and snacks.”
“Ask them if they have Tender Hearts as well,” Jessica suggested. “I just love that movie. It’s so sad when Beau Dillon finds out he has cancer.”
Rick affected a falsetto voice. “Airhead’s right. He’s sooooooooo cuuuuuuuuuuuuute.”
“No!” Lois said, moving to Winston’s side. “We’re not watching movies, we’re watching the opening part of the games. We’re trying to come up with a strategy.” She moved to the phone and dialled reception. “Hi, this is suite 12, could we please have a copy of the Hunger Games, five notepads and pens, some popcorn and five cokes please?”
Within minutes, room service arrived with their order, and Lois and Winston moved everyone from the comfy sofas to the dining table, where they could easily make notes. Winston fired up the VCR and fast-forwarded to the beginning of the games.
“Oh! But I wanted to see Katniss’s dress with the magic fire,” Lila groused. “I don’t see why we can’t watch the whole thing properly.”
“Because,” Lois said severely, “you don’t pay attention to what matters. If you did, none of us would be here right now.” Lila opened her mouth to object but Lois talked over her. “If you’d have thought it through, you could’ve asked your dad for a beauty pageant, or something like ‘Sweet Valley’s Got Talent’, but instead of you demanded the child-murder games. You don’t get to object.”
Lila shuffled closer to Jessica, and shut her mouth. It was a strange and satisfying feeling to tell a queen bee as important as Lila off. For years everyone at school had taunted her about her weight and made her feel as if she was less important than everyone. Even if people were kind to her, she felt nervous, as if she didn’t have the right to speak to a thin person. But now, just over a day away from the Hunger Games, she found she didn’t care what the thin beautiful kids of Sweet Valley thought of her. Especially since Lila had been the one to get them all into this mess. Lois was determined to live, and if that meant teaming up with three popular kids and Winston, then that’s what she was going to do. But she was going to do it with confidence.
“That metal cave thing–” Winston began.
“It’s called a cornucopia. It’s grey in the movie, but it will be purple metal in our games,” Lila corrected.
“Yes, that. I’ve heard that we won’t be given weapons each, but they will be piled in there, and we have to decide whether or not we want to go in there to get them.”
Jessica pulled a face. “Why wouldn’t we?”
“You go into the back of a tiny, cramped space with only one exit. Your sister follows you in. You both have weapons, but not a lot of space. And only she can run to safety,” Lois explained, and was gratified to see how Jessica paled in response. Lois had honestly not expected Elizabeth to be so… well, Jessica about the Hunger Games. She had anticipated petitions, letters to the President of the USA, impassioned speeches. Instead, Elizabeth was a bloodthirsty savage who terrorised grown men.
Rick raised his hand. “All in favour of not bundling into the death cone?”
“But on the other hand, we will need weapons, and leaving them all for Elizabeth is probably suicide,” Winston said.
Lila sighed. “And nobody else is going near Elizabeth but us, are they?”
Lois rewound the tape and hit play once more. “Lila, is your father doing this just like the movie?”
“Well, mostly, except there will be purple accents on the outfits of the Unicorns.”
Lois replayed a minute of tape again. “There are weapons and items scattered on the ground outside. In her current state, I would guess Elizabeth will run into the cornucopia, certain that everyone else is too scared to try. I think we should run for the items on the ground and attack her when she comes back out.”
“When she comes out laden down with swords?” Jessica asked doubtfully.
Lois paused the tape. “We’re going to have to move fast. When she goes in, we need to grab what we can and gather either side of the mouth of the cornucopia, out of sight and catch her unaware.” When she said that, she felt the room silently ask, Fat Girl, how fast can you run?
Winston pointed at the screen. “The stuff outside isn’t really very deadly. What are we going to do, hit her with rucksacks?”
Lois didn’t even flinch. “You can strangle her with the straps. You can put the bag over her head. You can throw it at her and see if she drops her weapons to catch it. If all five of us act at once, we can take her down. There might even be rocks on the ground.”
There was a silence as everyone digested that.
“I think,” said Lois. “We need to move the sofas and the table out of the way, and practice running across the room and picking something up on the floor without stopping.”
Half an hour later, pillows, VCR remotes, coke cans and shoes were laid out all over the main living area, and they were taking it in turns to run and grab something. Lois and Winston were very very good at it. Lois could see the brains whirring away, wondering how the beautiful athletic popular kids were not as good as the fat girl and the lanky nerd.
It would never occur to them that kids just like them were forever knocking books out of their hands, and the losers at Sweet Valley Middle had made a career out of chasing the missing item down the hall, desperate to get it before the next popular kid could kick it away.
Lois planned to survive the Hunger Games. And if she had to use the bullies of Sweet Valley Middle to do so, she had no problem with that.