The training room is equipped with the following:
- A wall of weapons
- A shooting range with 25m, 50m, and 75m targets
- Training dummies; some stationary and some moving
- A sparring machine for sword-fighting, with difficulty settings of “Novice”, “Advanced”, and “Expert”
- A projectile machine for defense practice, with difficulty settings of “Novice”, “Advanced”, and “Expert”
- A table with different elements that can be combined into poisons
The boy from 1 is the first to enter the room. I’m expecting a show, considering this is a Career district. He shoots a grin up at me before heading over to the weapon wall and grabbing a throwing axe. Whirling, he launches the axe in an arc across the room, sending it sailing into the chest of a stationary training dummy.
Good, but what about moving targets?
The boy seems to comprehend my unspoken question, and he answers by grabbing a handful of knives and throwing them at the moving dummies, striking each one in either the head or chest.
Impressive, but how is he at close-range fighting?
Already the boy has grabbed a katana from the wall and is charging towards a stationary dummy. With one swipe, he decapitates the dummy, sheathing his sword before the dummy’s head even hits the floor.
Replacing the katana back on the wall, he strides confidently out of the room.
Hmm. No further questions.
For exceptional skill with weapons at both close and long-range, and for proficiency in multiple weapons, Joseph Quiggle of District 1 receives a training score of 11.
After the attendants have reset the room, the girl from 1 enters. She looks around the room without expression, before striding over to the wall and selecting a meteor hammer, probably the most dangerous weapon to handle.
The girl clearly knows how to handle the chain attached to the spiked metal ball that is the actual weapon, as she spins gracefully and lets the weapon fly in arcs around her.
What she fails to do, however, is land a killing blow. When she releases the ball to fly out at a dummy, it only glances off of its chest.
The girl frowns. Clearly she expected to at least take off the dummy’s head.
She drops the weapon and grabs a shield, heading over to the sparring machine and setting it to “Expert”. She does an outstanding job, although I note that she’s getting fatigued after only a couple minutes of blocking the sparring machine’s sword strikes.
The timer dings and the girl drops the shield and heads for the exit, breathing heavily. I give her a score equal to her abilities.
For exceptional skill with a meteor hammer and a shield, but low energy levels, Jennifer Fu of District 1 receives a training score of 9.
When the boy from 2 saunters into the room, I can tell two things about him right off the bat. First, he thinks very highly of himself. Second, he’s extremely intelligent. The way his eyes scour the room tell me that he’s very analytical, something that will serve him well in the Games, as long as he knows how to handle a weapon.
The boy selects a bow and arrow after carefully observing the wall of weapons, and then fires off a barrage of arrows at the 75m target, all of which hit on or around the bullseye. He then grabs a crossbow and repeats his barrage.
Satisfied with his performance, he strides confidently out of the room, a knowing grin on his face.
He’s cocky. But he’s got good reason to be.
For exceptional skill with a bow and a crossbow, Josh Ryken of District 2 receives a training score of 10.
The woman from 2 steps into the room. Since the age limit was abolished for this year’s Games, adults have been selected to compete. This woman is the first of five adults to present their skills this year. She selects a set of throwing knives and, with a set of graceful flourishes, lodges each one into a stationary dummy, in potentially lethal areas.
The woman then selects a whip from the wall, and moves within range of the dummy, coiling the rope in her hands. What’s she going to do?
With another graceful flourish, the woman flicks the whip out. The tip of it snaps against the handle of one of the knives stuck in the dummy, and dislodges it. The woman repeats this feat three more times, and soon the dummy is knife-less.
The woman turns to face me, grinning. She bows and then exits quickly.
Interesting. She’s good with knives, I’ll give her that. And her precision with the whip was impressive. But whips only sting. They aren’t exactly deadly. I give her a score worthy of her skills.
For exceptional skill with knives and a whip, Dr. Tiffany Kriner of District 2 receives a training score of 9.
The man from 3 enters the room. District 3 always has a tough act to follow, going after two Career districts. And to be honest, I’m not expecting much from the smiling man below me, who has just selected a crossbow from the weapon wall. He’s the only adult male this year, so he’s got a lot of pressure on him. The man grins up at me before notching an arrow and pointing it down towards the 50m target. The arrow he fires strikes the target, but far off from the bullseye. Frustrated, he loads another arrow and fires, but this one only manages to land a few inches closer to the bullseye than the first.
The man drops the crossbow and goes back to look at the weapon wall, perusing it before selecting a spiked mace and charging at a stationary dummy. He attacks it brutishly, with no real technique except to swing wildly. Still, the dummy is decapitated and armless by the time the timer dings. He killed it, technically.
Breathing heavily, the man from 3 exits quickly as I write down his score.
For limited skill with a crossbow and brutish skill with a mace, Dr. Matthew Milliner of District 3 receives a training score of 6.
The girl from 3 is up next. After the average performance from her district partner, I’m not expecting anything spectacular from this girl. She looks far too friendly and sweet to be a killer. I glance down at her tribute picture as she selects a spear from the weapon wall. She’s wearing an infinity scarf. Something about that doesn’t scream “Victor” to me.
I’m forced to eat my words almost immediately as her thrown spear lodges itself into the bullseye of the 50m target. She then grabs a set of knives and rushes over to the stationary dummies, alternating between rolling in-between them and slamming knives into their chests. By the time the timer dings, no dummy is left untouched.
She turns to look up at me.
“Bet you weren’t expecting that, huh?”
She then turns to leave.
Looks like District 3 has a contender this year.
For exceptional skill with a spear and with knives, and an unassuming air, Katherine Braden of District 3 receives a training score of 10.
The boy from 4, the last male Career, strides into the room with swagger. He looks up at me and gives a small wave before selecting a katana from the weapon wall. Stepping quickly, he attacks a stationary dummy, removing an arm and a leg before slicing off its head.
He’s efficient, I’ll give him that. But he lacks the finesse that is necessary for a true swordman. The cuts on the dummy are ragged and not clean at all. Still, he removed some limbs.
The boy throws a few knives, but his above-average performance doesn’t alter the score I’ve already decided for him.
For exceptional but brutish skill with a katana, and advanced skill with knives, Edwin Chung of District 4 receives a training score of 9.
When the girl from 4 enters the room and glances up at me, I’m immediately reminded of Victoria from District 10, who won last year’s Games. Victoria could make anyone nervous with a single glance, and this girl is no different. She grabs a crossbow and launches 5 arrows in rapid succession at the moving dummies. Each one is a direct headshot. She then pulls a bow from the wall and repeats her feat. 5 more headshots.
Nowhere near finished, the girl grabs a curved knife and launches herself at a stationary dummy, slicing across it’s throat as she spins around it.
The timer dings, but I’m too transfixed to even notice until the girl has stepped out of the room.
She’s by far the strongest Career at long-range in the Games. I pity anyone who lets their guard down around her.
For mastery of long-range weapons and exceptional skill with knives, Abigail Black of District 4 receives a training score of 11.
The boy from 5 steps into the room and immediately makes an announcement to me.
“District 5 won’t be killing anyone in the Games.”
I make a small note next to his picture in front of me. “Pacifist”. This shouldn’t take long.
The boy grabs a staff off the weapon wall and heads over to the sparring machine, setting it to “Expert”. What follows is a brilliant performance of juking, dodging, and blocking. The sparring machine swings and strikes at the boy, but never even gets close to touching him.
The boy then heads over to the projectile machine, setting it to “Expert”. Small white spheres rapidly shoot out of the machine at different velocities and angles. But the boy from 5, with his staff, is a wall. He swipes, bats, and spins his weapon, smacking each projectile out of the air. Nothing hits him.
Satisfied with his performance, the boy drops the staff and exits the room, hands in his pockets. I mark down his score.
He might be a pacifist, but he will be very, very hard to kill.
For mastery of defensive techniques with a staff, but a pacifist’s attitude, Maurice Bokanga of District 5 receives a training score of 10.
The woman from 5 walks into the room.
“Just so you’re aware, District 5 won’t be killing anyo—
“I already heard it from your district partner,” I interrupt. “Why won’t you put up a fight?”
“Because we’re opposed to everything the Games stand for,” the woman responds, staring up at me.
“Well if you don’t do something, I’ll give you an automatic one for a score.”
“Do what you want,” the woman responds. She turns on her heel and starts walking towards the exit.
Halfway across the room, she reconsiders. She rushes over to the weapons wall and grabs a spear, launching it across the room, where it grazes off the side of a dummy. A passable throw.
“I’ll never do that in the Games. I’m above all this,” says the woman, before finally stepping out of the room.
She’s defiant, like her district partner. But at least he knows how to protect himself. Once she’s in the arena, her words will fall on deaf ears and sharpened spears.
For mediocre skill with a spear and a pacifist’s attitude, Dr. Beth Jones of District 5 receives a training score of three.
After a disappointing showing from the District 5 woman, I’m hoping for something that I can at least give an average score to from District 6.
The boy strides in and immediately heads over to the table of elements. Finally, I’ve been waiting for a tribute who knows how to use poison.
The boy quickly combines a few elements and liquefies them into a reddish-brown concoction. He then whirls and hurls the vial of liquid, which shatters brilliantly against the face of a stationary dummy. In an instant, the dummy’s face begins to dissolve due to the acidic content of the vial.
I’m so transfixed by the display that I hardly notice the boy charge across the room wielding a katana. He spins and thrusts and slashes, removing limbs and heads from dummies, both stationary and moving. By the time the timer dings, one dummy has lost a head to acid, and seven others have lost heads and arms to kataka strikes.
The boy bows and exits.
Males from District 6 typically haven’t done well in the Games, but I see that changing this year. This boy could win.
For mastery of the katana and exceptional skills with poisons and acids, Zackary Smiley of District 6 receives a training score of 11.
The girl from 6 walks into the room, determination emanating from her face. Not even looking at me, she strides over to the weapon wall and selects a crossbow, loading it and firing it down the range a few times. She does an average job: some arrows miss the 50m target she’s aiming at, while others land near the bullseye. None, however, make their mark in the center of the target.
The girl then grabs a spear from the weapon wall and launches it across the room. It clatters to the ground at the feet of a training dummy. Unfazed, she rushes over, snatches the spear off the ground, and stabs it through the dummy’s chest.
The timer sounds, and the girl strides out of the room, still not even having glanced at me.
She’s not a great fighter. But she certainly has the attitude of one.
For mediocre skill with crossbows and spears, and overall confidence, Kasey Send of District 6 receives a training score of 5.
The boy from 7 steps into the room and shoots me a confident look. He grabs a staff from the weapon wall and heads over to the sparring machine, setting it to “Advanced”. The boy uses strong blocks combined with aggressive attacks to fight back against the machine. But even though he does a good job, he’s competing against tributes that did a perfect job against the machine on a higher setting.
The machine dies down, and the boy seems ready to leave. But he decided to head back over to the weapons wall and grabs a bow and quiver of arrows.
Stringing up an arrow, he aims down at the 50m target, and releases the bowstring.
The arrow flies off to the right, missing the target completely and clattering off the wall.
Embarrassed, the boy tries to string up another arrow, but the timer dings and he is forced to leave before he can take another shot.
It’s too bad that he fired that bad shot. I could have given him the benefit of the doubt on his skill with other weapons, but after seeing him fail with a bow, and the fact that a staff isn’t considered a lethal weapon, I have to give a corresponding score.
For exceptional skill with a staff but failing at archery, Ben Weidemann of District 7 receives a training score of 6.
The woman from 7 walks into the room, eying the weapons wall. She’s unsure of herself, so I’m not expecting much from her.
The woman then glances over at the elements table, and her face lights up. She rushes over and combines some elements in a flask. She then corks the flask, shakes it, and turns to view a flowerpot that sits on the far end of the table.
Uncorking the flask, she pours a few drops onto the petals of the flower, which flops over almost instantaneously. This woman knows a thing or two about poison.
The woman fires off a few shots with a slingshot at some dummies. Nothing too dangerous or impressive, but she can at least hold her own.
As the timer dings and the woman exits, I write down her score. If she gets her hands on the right elements in the arena, she could poison her way to the finale. As long as no one fights her head-on before that.
For exceptional skill with poison and mediocre skill with a slingshot, Dr. Alison Gibson of District 7 receives a training score of 7.
When the District 8 male walks into the room, I have high hopes for him. He looks athletic and strong, and I have no doubt that he’s proficient in some sort of weaponry.
My hopes are dashed, however, as the boy selects a set of throwing knives and proceeds to miss every single dummy he tosses a knife at. This seems to catch him off guard, as he worriedly turns back to the weapon wall and grabs a katana. He charges forward at a dummy and swipes at it’s neck. But his swing is at a bad angle, and it ends up wedged in the space where the dummy’s collarbone should be.
The boy spends a good minute trying to tug the sword out of the dummy, stumbling backwards when it finally pops out. He knows that he hasn’t shown me anything good yet, so he rushed over to the elements table and starts putting together what appears to be a poison.
Unfortunately for him, the timer dings before he has a chance to finish. He leaves, looking downcast.
I survey the room. Well, maybe the dummy he sliced would die from bloodloss. I give him a sympathetic yet fair score.
For failing at knife-throwing, mediocre skill with a katana, and failing to produce a viable poison, Abe Nakamura of District 8 receives a training score of 3.
The woman from 8 enters the room quietly. She glances up at me, gives a quick nod, and then selects a shield from the weapons wall. Heading over to the projectile machine, she sets it to “Advanced” and crouches into a defensive position. A moderate onslaught of white spheres shoots out of the machine, and she blocks almost all of them. An average performance.
The woman then grabs an axe from the wall and, lifting it high over her head and behind her back, throws it in an arc towards a dummy. The axe lands blade-first in the center of a dummy’s chest. I’m about to mark down points when I see her looking somewhat distraught.
Hmm. Perhaps she’s doubting whether or not she could actually do that to a person. Hesitation and pacifistic tendencies will only get you killed in the arena.
The woman shuffles out quietly as I write down her score.
For average skill with a shield and axe, but possible pacifistic tendencies, Dr. Heather Whitney of District 8 receives a training score of 6.
The District 9 male strides into the room. District 9 tributes typically don’t do very well; in the past two years, the District 9 males were among the weakest tributes in the Games. But this one shows promise.
The boy begins his performance by throwing a spear through the chest of a stationary dummy. Not through the heart, but a solid hit nonetheless. He then grabs a crossbow from the wall and shoots down the firing range at the 25m target. All his shots hit near or on the bullseye. An impressive feat, but less impressive than the tributes that were able to do the same on the 50m and 75m targets.
Satisfied with his performance, the boy exits the room before the timer even dings. I have to say, I’m satisfied too.
For above-average skill with a spear and a crossbow, Joseph Abdelmelek of District 9 receives a training score of 8.
The girl from 9 enters the room, surveying the wall of weapons. She looks unimpressed. Then she glances over at the table of elements and heads towards it. After a couple minutes of work, the girl turns to the weapon wall and grabs a knife. She cuts a somewhat large gash on the palm of her hand, shows it to me, and then applies the salve that she’s made. In moments, the bleeding stops and the cut seals itself.
The girl then grabs a spear and thrusts it forward into a moving dummy’s neck and chest a few times, showing that she knows lethal spots to strike.
As she leaves, I make a note next to her picture. “Medic”.
We’ve never seen a healer enter the Games in the past four years. And while it might not be the place to be healing others, it could come to her advantage in a strong alliance. I’ll have to keep my eye on this one.
For first aid skills and average skill with a spear, Christie Taylor of District 9 receives a training score of 7.
The District 10 male steps into the room looking strong and confident. He promptly trips over himself and stumbles forward, but tries to play it off as if he was simply jogging forward. Clumsy. He’ll really have to prove himself if he wants to be a contender.
The boy picks a weapon that could help him do that, a meteor hammer. No one unskilled with a meteor hammer would ever pick it up, so he’s already regaining points for confidence. The boy swings it high over his head before letting it fly out and slam against a dummy’s side. He’s strong; that hit would have crushed a few ribs.
The boy then drops the hammer and grabs a katana. Interesting. Power and finesse makes a menacing tribute. He advances slowly on a stationary dummy and strikes, removing its head. Good, but like the boy from 4, the cut isn’t clean. Points have to be detracted, but at least the head came off.
The boy leaves as I calculate his score.
For exceptional skill with a meteor hammer and acceptable skill with a katana, David Nitchman of District 10 receives a training score of 9.
The girl from 10 enters the room with a brave face. She’s got a lot to live up to: the girl from her district last year, Victoria Paul, won her Games. The girl eyes the weapon wall and, failing to find anything that interests her, heads over to the elements table and gets to work.
In the four minutes that she spends at the table, she creates two mixtures. With one more minute to show off what each potion does, she grabs a slingshot from the weapons wall and fires the first vial off at a dummy. Turns out it’s the same acid that the boy from 6 made; the dummy’s head begins to dissolve as the acid takes effect.
The girl fires off the last potion just as the timer dings. It shatters open against a dummy, which is instantly set ablaze. As attendants rush into the room to put out the blaze that begins to spread between the dummies, the girl strolls right past them, totally uninterested at the carnage she’s caused.
I like this one.
For exceptional skill with acidic and incendiary mixtures, and average skill with a slingshot, Ellen Egerton of District 10 receives a training score of 9.
The boy from 11 enters the room and immediately heads for the elements table. Lots of alchemists this year.
He spends a long time creating a mixture, far too long. By the time he’s finished, his time is almost up. Noticing this, he rushes the final touches, and then turns and throws his potion at a dummy.
The vial shatters, the mixture splashes out over the dummy, and…nothing happens.
I’m about to totally write the boy off when the smell suddenly hits me, powerful enough that I start choking on my own breath. It’s clear that this isn’t the reaction the boy was hoping for from his mixture, as he too is gagging and choking on the vile air.
Attendants rush into the room with airscrubbers, and the boy rushes out between them. Between my gasps, I write down a score for the boy, whose five minute session has only resulted in making the room smell.
For mediocre skill with poisons, Nico Lasta of District 11 receives a training score of 3.
When the air is finally clear, the girl from 11 saunters into the room. It’s clear what her angle is; she looks good, and she knows it. She selects a whip from the weapons wall and starts flicking it out against a dummy, striking it in the face and chest. She might blind someone with that, but there’s no way she’ll be killing anyone with a whip.
The girl then grabs a katana and charges at a dummy, slamming her weapon through its chest. This would be impressive, if she were able to pull the sword back out of her opponent, which she is unable to do. After a minute of awkward struggling, the timer dings and the girl heads towards the exit.
Before leaving, however, she glances up at me and gives me a wink. The doors shut behind her.
For above-average skill with a whip, mediocre skill with a katana, and a flirtatious personality, Emily Mirrilees of District 11 receives a training score of 6.
The last male tribute steps into the room. District 12’s male tributes have never been very strong; two of the three tributes from the past three years died on the first day, and the exception ended up going insane. This boy, at first glance, seems to not deviate from that low standard.
My suspicions are confirmed as the boy proceeds to give me a mediocre performance.
First, he grabs a spear and stabs weakly at a stationary dummy. I do have to give him points for stabbing in areas that are lethal, but the spear rarely if ever fully embeds itself in the dummy.
The boy then grabs a staff and squares off against the sparring dummy set at “Advanced”. All goes well until the boy misses a block and takes a hit from the sparring dummy’s training staff, which smacks him across the forehead. Falling back and reeling, he is unable to fully recover before the timer dings.
As he exits, I write down a score equal to his performance. He isn’t the weakest tribute in the Games, but I don’t see him making it very far.
For mediocre skills with a spear and a staff, Andrew Wang of District 12 receives a training score of 5.
The final tribute strides quickly into the room. Like their male counterparts, District 12 females haven’t done well in the Games, their best finishing position being from last year, 16th place. Low expectations stick to District 12 like a plague. Perhaps this girl will be the tribute to shed that reputation.
She begins her exhibition by firing three arrows into the bullseye of the 25m target, proving she can handle a bow at shorter distances.
Then she grabs two knives from the weapons wall and charges at the stationary dummies. With a series of tucks, slashes, and rolls, she manages to slice both the ankles and necks of the dummies. An impressive showing, though it would have been more impressive performed against the moving dummies.
Still, as the girl exits the room, I can certainly mark her down as one to not count out.
For above-average skill with a bow and exceptional skill with knives, Kayla Roberson of District 12 receives a training score of 8.