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Katniss hears her name echoing through the tunnels underneath the Capitol. She realizes what has happened: Snow has realized that Katniss is, in fact, alive, and probably underneath his city. Katniss is afraid that the sound of her name will retrigger Peeta, but to her surprise, he isn’t hostile at all. Instead, he urges Katniss to leave the tunnels as soon as possible. Katniss suggests that she split from the rest of the group, as she’d planned to do several days earlier. Gale and the other members of the mission, however, refuse to abandon Katniss.
Snow proves himself to be a master of theater as well as a talented tactician: he knows exactly what will disturb Katniss most. In the face of such chilling horror, however, it’s inspiring to see the mission members stick together. Gale and Peeta refuse to abandon Katniss in the middle of the tunnels.
The group notices that the whispers of “Katniss” are getting louder. They run away from the sound, toward an area that, according to the Holo, contains a dangerous Pod called “Meat grinder.” As they walk through this area, Finnick pulls Katniss aside, a split-second before he’s captured in a beam of light and killed. The beam then captures Messalla and melts the flesh off of his body. At the same time, a manhole opens above the tunnel, and Katniss sees a squad of “mutt” (mutant) soldiers with long reptilian tales. The mutts fire guns at Katniss and her team. Jackson stays behind to fight the mutts, while Gale, Peeta, and Katniss run away. Katniss notes, impressed, that Peeta seems to be the calmest and most self-controlled member of their mission.
Finnick dies only weeks after marrying the love of his life, Annie Cresta. Collins dispatches with his body in a shocking way: he’s melted. At the same time, there is a kind of victory in the fact that he did get to marry his love, even as Collins makes it clear that love does not in any way offer automatic happy endings. Finnick also clearly recognizes Katniss's importance as a symbol beyond his own, sacrificing himself for her. It’s also in this section that Collins exposes us to more futuristic terrors like those in the Hunger Games arenas: half-human, half-reptilian monsters sent by Snow to kill Katniss. A major turning point in the chapter comes when Katniss notices that Peeta is the calmest one among them—in all his conditioning and de-conditioning he has seemingly lost the need to panic in a crisis.
Katniss, Gale, Peeta, and Cressida run away from the mutts through the tunnels. They find a ladder leading up toward the ground. Katniss climbs it and helps the others up. Gale, who’s been grazed in the neck by a mutt’s bullet, tells Katniss that no one else has survived the mutts’ attack. Katniss throws the Holo back down the ladder and says “nightlock” three times, triggering the Holo to explode and kill the mutts. Overcome with fear and anxiety, Katniss kisses Peeta on the mouth. To her relief, Peeta kisses her back, and whispers that he’s not going to let Snow kill her.
Peeta’s renewed affections for Katniss come on the heels of a number of other recent “milestones”—his calmness during the attack, his noble request that he be killed, and even his brief relapse after Boggs’s death. Even so, it’s impressive to see him telling Katniss that he’ll protect her from Snow at all costs. In a sense, we’re back in the Hunger Games, with Peeta being fiercely loyal and affectionate to Katniss.
The group proceeds through the tunnels, no longer pursued by mutts. They come to another ladder, which leads to the street outside a huge Capitol house. Katniss runs to the door of the house, where there is a well-dressed woman. The woman recognizes Katniss and is about to call for help when Katniss shoots her in the heart.
Collins juxtaposes a scene of surprising warmth—Peeta promising to protect Katniss—with a scene of sudden brutality. Katniss is the protagonist of the book, but there are many times—like now—when her behavior is shockingly callous to readers.