Beneath the blinding lights of the stadium, the greenest artificial turf money can buy stretches across an empty sports field ringed by more than seventy-six thousand empty plastic seats. Television screens across the nation cut from the field to the halls beneath as four dozen peacekeepers dressed in riot gear march in pairs, escorting the tributes of the First Annual Hunger Games from their makeshift holding cells in the locker rooms to the main event above. Wrists zip-tied behind their backs, they stand in two even rows of twelve along the sidelines, staring each other down. A series of soft clicks break the silence as their restraints are cut free. Nothing more than a small knife lies on the ground at each of their feet.
They have been given no rules and no instructions, only the word of a police force that they have been raised not to trust that one of them will be pardoned — of their parent's crimes, of their crimes — and sent home.