(OOC: This RP is now CLOSED. Thank you for showing interest, everyone!) “Check!” Cicero said gleefully as he placed a rook down on the board. Julius sighed. “Seriously, I know you can just end the game now with that brain of yours.” Cicero chuckled as he picked up another piece. “Why, and take away all the fun, Jules? We still have a few minutes or so before the first reaping airs.” The older man thought for a moment longer before smiling and setting the piece down. “Check, again.” “See, there is a reason why you are the Head Gamemaster and not me,” Julius said, “for you seem to enjoy squeezing as much as you can from each game before you plan to end it.” Moving his king, he added, “And you know exactly how to enjoy the game and when to end it before it gets too drawn out. Really.” “And that’s a checkmate,” said Cicero, planting his queen a few squares away from his rook. He leaned back in the couch and grinned victoriously, or rather, smugly. “Good game, kid; you’re getting a lot better.” Julius just rolled his eyes and pressed a button on the table, effectively clearing it of the chessboard and pieces and replaced it with a tray of cookies, cakes, and milk. Cicero picked up a large cookie and eyed it closely. “What,” he began with a mildly accusing tone, “no nuts again?” “You know I have allergies,” replied the other man, “and no, I do not plan on getting it fixed. As I have told you many times already.” He took of his glasses to clean some of the dust off, revealing his icy blue eyes for once. “Besides, I do not have much of a taste for almonds or pecans.” “Or even peanuts” “Especially not peanuts.” The two were an odd pair, Cicero and Julius. Julius was a sort of an oddball in the Capitol, refusing to get plastic surgery and other whatnots to alter his physical appearance. His hair was in its natural shade of yellow, though it had darkened considerably now that he was in his mid-twenties. He was unwilling to get even wear contacts, let alone use surgery to fix his somewhat poor eyesight, so he wore glasses. Standing at around six feet tall, he towered over the shorter Cicero by half a foot. He would’ve been quite popular with the girls for his looks if it wasn’t for the scar that ran along the side of his neck, his cold personality, and his outdated, no, “conservative” (as Cicero liked to put it) beliefs. Cicero, on the other hand, was the typical sort of person someone might find at the Capitol. He was outgoing and talkative, able to strike up a conversation with even the most aloof person out there. His unnaturally black hair, golden eyes, and soft, blameless, baby-like skin all spoke of Capitol culture. And though Julius was much taller than Cicero, the latter was twenty or so years older. The older man seemed to enjoy pulling that particular card on his young friend, for he said, “Well, you are the youngest Gamemaker in history yet, and you should have enough money at the end of, oh, a month to fix all that.” He proceeded to gesture around the room, though, and continued, “But only if you weren’t so worried about the state of your house.” When Julius chose to ignore him, he shrugged and said, “Perhaps in a few years you’ll replace good old me, huh?” Julius rolled his eyes, but didn’t have time to shoot back a retort. The trumpets began to blare outside, and, after a quick glance at each other, the two men hurriedly scrambled for the remote and tray and dashed into the media room. Cicero clicked a button on the device and watched the TV screen blink into life, watching the anxious faces of all the kids, young and old, in the square of District One. “Just wait until they see what we have in store for them this year,” he said with a satisfied smile. “Yes,” Julius said absentmindedly, his attention focused on a particular boy in the sixteen-year-old section. “It will give them quite a shock if I do say so myself. I am still not sure if everyone in the Capitol will enjoy it, though.” He glanced at the clock, and said, “My brother should be arriving at District Two about now.” “Oh right, old Mitch is an escort again this year, huh?” Cicero said as the camera zoomed onto the face of the mayor. “I hope he doesn’t get a load of troublemakers like he did last year. Goodness me, that boy had such a chance at winning had he not fell into that-” “Quiet, they are starting, Cicero.” “My apologies, Jules.” *** Bam, bam, bam! “Alright, I’m up, Mister Peacekeeper! I’m just combing my hair, okay?” Deneb called to her locked door. “Hurry up then, the reaping begins in an hour, brat,” the man outside her door yelled back. Deneb heard the distinct thudding of boots against pavement, and guessed that he was marching away to go disturb some other family and tell them to go to the square for the reaping. The girl sighed and straightened out her hot pink skirt, which nicely complimented her pastel-colored blouse. If there was still an hour, then she would take as much time as she could before the reaping began, then. Deneb strode over to a mirror and parted her bangs, holding them up with a pair of white clips in the shape of wings. She tied up her brown hair into twin pigtails and decorated them with some pink ribbons; she looked like she could’ve been nine now. Satisfied, the girl put on her dainty white shoes and was about to leave the house when she felt some sort of a presence behind her. Deneb whirled around, but she only faced her empty room and a few dust bunnies. For a second, she held her pose, before finally relaxing her shoulders and smiling a bit. “I know you’re there, Al. Come on out.” Of course, nothing stirred in that empty house except for a few dust particles, but the girl was absolutely sure Al had somehow managed to sneak back in to either pick up something he forgot or perhaps just to spook out his little sister. Whatever. Deneb decided to just ignore the nagging feeling of someone watching her alone and ran out of the house. She found the square with no problem and, after giving her parents a quick hug, joined the other kids in the section labeled for twelve year olds. Less than a minute later, the clock struck, and the mayor of her district rose up from his seat to begin the reaping ceremony. He read about the long, boring history of Panem, and before he even finished uttering the last word of his speech, the escort stood up. He was a rather attractive young man, and he definitely had that Capitol look about him. His hair was bleached a startling white color, and his pale, almost silvery eyes gave him the impression of a man wiser than others his age. And he definitely couldn’t be more than thirty years old. “Ladies first, as always!” he said with a somewhat amused smile, waving his arms around energetically. Deneb had a vague feeling that all escorts said that, or some sort of variation of the sort, but quickly brushed it away when the man (she remembered that his name was Mitchell Powell from the previous years he’d been her district’s escort) plunged his hand into the reaping bowl and drew out a name. He didn’t even have time to read out the name, though, when Deneb found herself pushing her way through the crowd to get to the front. “Alice Mi-” “I volunteer!” Deneb yelled, bursting out from the front of the crowd and ascending the stairs to the stage. Several people looked at her incredulously, but most just nodded absentmindedly like this sort of thing was normal in her district. Which, quite obviously, it was for District Two. The escort himself didn’t seem to notice much, for he just looked at her with a rather bored expression on his face and asked, “Name, dear?” “Deneb Cygni,” she replied confidently, and the girl was aware that there was a sudden shift in the audience and on stage when her last name began to sink into their minds. She could tell that they were trying to fish for some distant memory, or perhaps not-so-distant but just half forgotten. Deneb looked towards the audience to try to find her brother, but amidst the crowd, he was easily lost and therefore invisible. Mr. Mitchell looked like he was about to say something, but decided against it. He turned back around and, with that same smile plastered on his face from the beginning, drew a name from the boy’s reaping bowl. The same scene played out, only this time a boy from the fifteen year old section pounced forward and volunteered to be the tribute. He introduced himself as Sirius Hunter. Without too much fanfare, the two tributes shook hands and were directed into the Justice Building to say good-bye to their loved ones. Deneb was taken into a room adjacent to the one they dropped Sirius off in, and soon found herself facing her sobbing parents and friends who wondered why she, at only twelve years of age and almost no training like most of the older kids had, had bothered to volunteer herself to be a tribute. She vaguely wondered why her brother hadn’t come to visit her, but brushed it away that he was too mad at her or something to come and give her a nice farewell. The hour ended, and she was pushed onto the train with her fellow tribute and mentors to be essentially shipped off to the Capitol.