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Divergent / (by Veronica Roth, 2011) -

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Divergent /  (by Veronica Roth, 2011) -

Divergent / (by Veronica Roth, 2011) -

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: 169
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Divergent / (by Veronica Roth, 2011) -
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2011
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Veronica Roth
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Emma Galvin
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/ / / / / upper-intermediate
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upper-intermediate
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11:10:05
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64 kbps
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mp3, pdf, doc

Divergent / :

.doc (Word) veronica_roth_-_divergent.doc [776.5 Kb] (c: 2) .
.pdf veronica_roth_-_divergent.pdf [1.7 Mb] (c: 5) .


: Divergent

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CHAPTER ONE THERE IS ONE mirror in my house. It is behind a sliding panel in the hallway upstairs. Our faction allows me to stand in front of it on the second day of every third month, the day my mother cuts my hair. I sit on the stool and my mother stands behind me with the scissors, trimming. The strands fall on the floor in a dull, blond ring. When she finishes, she pulls my hair away from my face and twists it into a knot. I note how calm she looks and how focused she is. She is well-practiced in the art of losing herself. I can_t say the same of myself. I sneak a look at my reflection when she isn_t paying attention_not for the sake of vanity, but out of curiosity. A lot can happen to a person_s appearance in three months. In my reflection, I see a narrow face, wide, round eyes, and a long, thin nose_I still look like a little girl, though sometime in the last few months I turned sixteen. The other factions celebrate birthdays, but we don_t. It would be self-indulgent. _There,_ she says when she pins the knot in place. Her eyes catch mine in the mirror. It is too late to look away, but instead of scolding me, she smiles at our reflection. I frown a little. Why doesn_t she reprimand me for staring at myself? _So today is the day,_ she says. _Yes,_ I reply. _Are you nervous?_ I stare into my own eyes for a moment. Today is the day of the aptitude test that will show me which of the five factions I belong in. And tomorrow, at the Choosing Ceremony, I will decide on a faction; I will decide the rest of my life; I will decide to stay with my family or abandon them. _No,_ I say. _The tests don_t have to change our choices._ _Right._ She smiles. _Let_s go eat breakfast._ _Thank you. For cutting my hair._ She kisses my cheek and slides the panel over the mirror. I think my mother could be beautiful, in a different world. Her body is thin beneath the gray robe. She has high cheekbones and long eyelashes, and when she lets her hair down at night, it hangs in waves over her shoulders. But she must hide that beauty in Abnegation. We walk together to the kitchen. On these mornings when my brother makes breakfast, and my father_s hand skims my hair as he reads the newspaper, and my mother hums as she clears the table_it is on these mornings that I feel guiltiest for wanting to leave them. The bus stinks of exhaust. Every time it hits a patch of uneven pavement, it jostles me from side to side, even though I_m gripping the seat to keep myself still. My older brother, Caleb, stands in the aisle, holding a railing above his head to keep himself steady. We don_t look alike. He has my father_s dark hair and hooked nose and my mother_s green eyes and dimpled cheeks. When he was younger, that collection of features looked strange, but now it suits him. If he wasn_t Abnegation, I_m sure the girls at school would stare at him. He also inherited my mother_s talent for selflessness. He gave his seat to a surly Candor man on the bus without a second thought. The Candor man wears a black suit with a white tie_Candor standard uniform. Their faction values honesty and sees the truth as black and white, so that is what they wear. The gaps between the buildings narrow and the roads are smoother as we near the heart of the city. The building that was once called the Sears Tower_we call it the Hub_emerges from the fog, a black pillar in the skyline. The bus passes under the elevated tracks. I have never been on a train, though they never stop running and there are tracks everywhere. Only the Dauntless ride them. Five years ago, volunteer construction workers from Abnegation repaved some of the roads. They started in the middle of the city and worked their way outward until they ran out of materials. The roads where I live are still cracked and patchy, and it_s not safe to drive on them. We don_t have a car anyway. Caleb_s expression is placid as the bus sways and jolts on the road. The gray robe falls from his arm as he clutches a pole for balance. I can tell by the constant shift of his eyes that he is watching the people around us_striving to see only them and to forget himself. Candor values honesty, but our faction, Abnegation, values selflessness. The bus stops in front of the school and I get up, scooting past the Candor man. I grab Caleb_s arm as I stumble over the man_s shoes. My slacks are too long, and I_ve never been that graceful. The Upper Levels building is the oldest of the three schools in the city: Lower Levels, Mid-Levels, and Upper Levels. Like all the other buildings around it, it is made of glass and steel. In front of it is a large metal sculpture that the Dauntless climb after school, daring each other to go higher and higher. Last year I watched one of them fall and break her leg. I was the one who ran to get the nurse. _Aptitude tests today,_ I say. Caleb is not quite a year older than I am, so we are in the same year at school. He nods as we pass through the front doors. My muscles tighten the second we walk in. The atmosphere feels hungry, like every sixteen-year-old is trying to devour as much as he can get of this last day. It is likely that we will not walk these halls again after the Choosing Ceremony_once we choose, our new factions will be responsible for finishing our education. Our classes are cut in half today, so we will attend all of them before the aptitude tests, which take place after lunch. My heart rate is already elevated. _You aren_t at all worried about what they_ll tell you?_ I ask Caleb. We pause at the split in the hallway where he will go one way, toward Advanced Math, and I will go the other, toward Faction History. He raises an eyebrow at me. _Are you?_ I could tell him I_ve been worried for weeks about what the aptitude test will tell me_Abnegation, Candor, Erudite, Amity, or Dauntless? Instead I smile and say, _Not really._ He smiles back. _Well_have a good day._ I walk toward Faction History, chewing on my lower lip. He never answered my question. The hallways are cramped, though the light coming through the windows creates the illusion of space; they are one of the only places where the factions mix, at our age. Today the crowd has a new kind of energy, a last day mania. A girl with long curly hair shouts _Hey!_ next to my ear, waving at a distant friend. A jacket sleeve smacks me on the cheek. Then an Erudite boy in a blue sweater shoves me. I lose my balance and fall hard on the ground. _Out of my way, Stiff,_ he snaps, and continues down the hallway. My cheeks warm. I get up and dust myself off. A few people stopped when I fell, but none of them offered to help me. Their eyes follow me to the edge of the hallway. This sort of thing has been happening to others in my faction for months now_the Erudite have been releasing antagonistic reports about Abnegation, and it has begun to affect the way we relate at school. The gray clothes, the plain hairstyle, and the unassuming demeanor of my faction are supposed to make it easier for me to forget myself, and easier for everyone else to forget me too. But now they make me a target. I pause by a window in the E Wing and wait for the Dauntless to arrive. I do this every morning. At exactly 7:25, the Dauntless prove their bravery by jumping from a moving train. My father calls the Dauntless _hellions._ They are pierced, tattooed, and black-clothed. Their primary purpose is to guard the fence that surrounds our city. From what, I don_t know. They should perplex me. I should wonder what courage_which is the virtue they most value_has to do with a metal ring through your nostril. Instead my eyes cling to them wherever they go. The train whistle blares, the sound resonating in my chest. The light fixed to the front of the train clicks on and off as the train hurtles past the school, squealing on iron rails. And as the last few cars pass, a mass exodus of young men and women in dark clothing hurl themselves from the moving cars, some dropping and rolling, others stumbling a few steps before regaining their balance. One of the boys wraps his arm around a girl_s shoulders, laughing. Watching them is a foolish practice. I turn away from the window and press through the crowd to the Faction History classroom. CHAPTER TWO THE TESTS BEGIN after lunch. We sit at the long tables in the cafeteria, and the test administrators call ten names at a time, one for each testing room. I sit next to Caleb and across from our neighbor Susan. Susan_s father travels throughout the city for his job, so he has a car and drives her to and from school every day. He offered to drive us, too, but as Caleb says, we prefer to leave later and would not want to inconvenience him. Of course not. The test administrators are mostly Abnegation volunteers, although there is an Erudite in one of the testing rooms and a Dauntless in another to test those of us from Abnegation, because the rules state that we can_t be tested by someone from our own faction. The rules also say that we can_t prepare for the test in any way, so I don_t know what to expect. My gaze drifts from Susan to the Dauntless tables across the room. They are laughing and shouting and playing cards. At another set of tables, the Erudite chatter over books and newspapers, in constant pursuit of knowledge. A group of Amity girls in yellow and red sit in a circle on the cafeteria floor, playing some kind of hand-slapping game involving a rhyming song. Every few minutes I hear a chorus of laughter from them as someone is eliminated and has to sit in the center of the circle. At the table next to them, Candor boys make wide gestures with their hands. They appear to be arguing about something, but it must not be serious, because some of them are still smiling. At the Abnegation table, we sit quietly and wait. Faction customs dictate even idle behavior and supersede individual preference. I doubt all the Erudite want to study all the time, or that every Candor enjoys a lively debate, but they can_t defy the norms of their factions any more than I can. Caleb_s name is called in the next group. He moves confidently toward the exit. I don_t need to wish him luck or assure him that he shouldn_t be nervous. He knows where he belongs, and as far as I know, he always has. My earliest memory of him is from when we were four years old. He scolded me for not giving my jump rope to a little girl on the playground who didn_t have anything to play with. He doesn_t lecture me often anymore, but I have his look of disapproval memorized. I have tried to explain to him that my instincts are not the same as his_it didn_t even enter my mind to give my seat to the Candor man on the bus_but he doesn_t understand. _Just do what you_re supposed to,_ he always says. It is that easy for him. It should be that easy for me. My stomach wrenches. I close my eyes and keep them closed until ten minutes later, when Caleb sits down again. He is plaster-pale. He pushes his palms along his legs like I do when I wipe off sweat, and when he brings them back, his fingers shake. I open my mouth to ask him something, but the words don_t come. I am not allowed to ask him about his results, and he is not allowed to tell me. An Abnegation volunteer speaks the next round of names. Two from Dauntless, two from Erudite, two from Amity, two from Candor, and then: _From Abnegation: Susan Black and Beatrice Prior._ I get up because I_m supposed to, but if it were up to me, I would stay in my seat for the rest of time. I feel like there is a bubble in my chest that expands more by the second, threatening to break me apart from the inside. I follow Susan to the exit. The people I pass probably can_t tell us apart. We wear the same clothes and we wear our blond hair the same way. The only difference is that Susan might not feel like she_s going to throw up, and from what I can tell, her hands aren_t shaking so hard she has to clutch the hem of her shirt to steady them. Waiting for us outside the cafeteria is a row of ten rooms. They are used only for the aptitude tests, so I have never been in one before. Unlike the other rooms in the school, they are separated, not by glass, but by mirrors. I watch myself, pale and terrified, walking toward one of the doors. Susan grins nervously at me as she walks into room 5, and I walk into room 6, where a Dauntless woman waits for me. She is not as severe-looking as the young Dauntless I have seen. She has small, dark, angular eyes and wears a black blazer_like a man_s suit_and jeans. It is only when she turns to close the door that I see a tattoo on the back of her neck, a black-and-white hawk with a red eye. If I didn_t feel like my heart had migrated to my throat, I would ask her what it signifies. It must signify something. Mirrors cover the inner walls of the room. I can see my reflection from all angles: the gray fabric obscuring the shape of my back, my long neck, my knobby-knuckled hands, red with a blood blush. The ceiling glows white with light. In the center of the room is a reclined chair, like a dentist_s, with a machine next to it. It looks like a place where terrible things happen. _Don_t worry,_ the woman says, _it doesn_t hurt._ Her hair is black and straight, but in the light I see that it is streaked with gray. _Have a seat and get comfortable,_ she says. _My name is Tori._ Clumsily I sit in the chair and recline, putting my head on the headrest. The lights hurt my eyes. Tori busies herself with the machine on my right. I try to focus on her and not on the wires in her hands. _Why the hawk?_ I blurt out as she attaches an electrode to my forehead. _Never met a curious Abnegation before,_ she says, raising her eyebrows at me. I shiver, and goose bumps appear on my arms. My curiosity is a mistake, a betrayal of Abnegation values. Humming a little, she presses another electrode to my forehead and explains, _In some parts of the ancient world, the hawk symbolized the sun. Back when I got this, I figured if I always had the sun on me, I wouldn_t be afraid of the dark._ I try to stop myself from asking another question, but I can_t help it. _You_re afraid of the dark?_ _I was afraid of the dark,_ she corrects me. She presses the next electrode to her own forehead, and attaches a wire to it. She shrugs. _Now it reminds me of the fear I_ve overcome._ She stands behind me. I squeeze the armrests so tightly the redness pulls away from my knuckles. She tugs wires toward her, attaching them to me, to her, to the machine behind her. Then she passes me a vial of clear liquid. _Drink this,_ she says. _What is it?_ My throat feels swollen. I swallow hard. _What_s going to happen?_ _Can_t tell you that. Just trust me._ I press air from my lungs and tip the contents of the vial into my mouth. My eyes close. When they open, an instant has passed, but I am somewhere else. I stand in the school cafeteria again, but all the long tables are empty, and I see through the glass walls that it_s snowing. On the table in front of me are two baskets. In one is a hunk of cheese, and in the other, a knife the length of my forearm. Behind me, a woman_s voice says, _Choose._ _Why?_ I ask. _Choose,_ she repeats. I look over my shoulder, but no one is there. I turn back to the baskets. _What will I do with them?_ _Choose!_ she yells. When she screams at me, my fear disappears and stubbornness replaces it. I scowl and cross my arms. _Have it your way,_ she says. The baskets disappear. I hear a door squeak and turn to see who it is. I see not a _who_ but a _what_: A dog with a pointed nose stands a few yards away from me. It crouches low and creeps toward me, its lips peeling back from its white teeth. A growl gurgles from deep in its throat, and I see why the cheese would have come in handy. Or the knife. But it_s too late now. I think about running, but the dog will be faster than me. I can_t wrestle it to the ground. My head pounds. I have to make a decision. If I can jump over one of the tables and use it as a shield_no, I am too short to jump over the tables, and not strong enough to tip one over. The dog snarls, and I can almost feel the sound vibrating in my skull. My biology textbook said that dogs can smell fear because of a chemical secreted by human glands in a state of duress, the same chemical a dog_s prey secretes. Smelling fear leads them to attack. The dog inches toward me, its nails scraping the floor. I can_t run. I can_t fight. Instead I breathe in the smell of the dog_s foul breath and try not to think about what it just ate. There are no whites in its eyes, just a black gleam. What else do I know about dogs? I shouldn_t look it in the eye. That_s a sign of aggression. I remember asking my father for a pet dog when I was young, and now, staring at the ground in front of the dog_s paws, I can_t remember why. It comes closer, still growling. If staring into its eyes is a sign of aggression, what_s a sign of submission? My breaths are loud but steady. I sink to my knees. The last thing I want to do is lie down on the ground in front of the dog_making its teeth level with my face_but it_s the best option I have. I stretch my legs out behind me and lean on my elbows. The dog creeps closer, and closer, until I feel its warm breath on my face. My arms are shaking. It barks in my ear, and I clench my teeth to keep from screaming. Something rough and wet touches my cheek. The dog_s growling stops, and when I lift my head to look at it again, it is panting. It licked my face. I frown and sit on my heels. The dog props its paws up on my knees and licks my chin. I cringe, wiping the drool from my skin, and laugh. _You_re not such a vicious beast, huh?_ I get up slowly so I don_t startle it, but it seems like a different animal than the one that faced me a few seconds ago. I stretch out a hand, carefully, so I can draw it back if I need to. The dog nudges my hand with its head. I am suddenly glad I didn_t pick up the knife. I blink, and when my eyes open, a child stands across the room wearing a white dress. She stretches out both hands and squeals, _Puppy!_ As she runs toward the dog at my side, I open my mouth to warn her, but I am too late. The dog turns. Instead of growling, it barks and snarls and snaps, and its muscles bunch up like coiled wire. About to pounce. I don_t think, I just jump; I hurl my body on top of the dog, wrapping my arms around its thick neck. My head hits the ground. The dog is gone, and so is the little girl. Instead I am alone_in the testing room, now empty. I turn in a slow circle and can_t see myself in any of the mirrors. I push the door open and walk into the hallway, but it isn_t a hallway; it_s a bus, and all the seats are taken. I stand in the aisle and hold on to a pole. Sitting near me is a man with a newspaper. I can_t see his face over the top of the paper, but I can see his hands. They are scarred, like he was burned, and they clench around the paper like he wants to crumple it. _Do you know this guy?_ he asks. He taps the picture on the front page of the newspaper. The headline reads: _Brutal Murderer Finally Apprehended!_ I stare at the word _murderer._ It has been a long time since I last read that word, but even its shape fills me with dread. In the picture beneath the headline is a young man with a plain face and a beard. I feel like I do know him, though I don_t remember how. And at the same time, I feel like it would be a bad idea to tell the man that. _Well?_ I hear anger in his voice. _Do you?_ A bad idea_no, a very bad idea. My heart pounds and I clutch the pole to keep my hands from shaking, from giving me away. If I tell him I know the man from the article, something awful will happen to me. But I can convince him that I don_t. I can clear my throat and shrug my shoulders_but that would be a lie. I clear my throat. _Do you?_ he repeats. I shrug my shoulders. _Well?_ A shudder goes through me. My fear is irrational; this is just a test, it isn_t real. _Nope,_ I say, my voice casual. _No idea who he is._ He stands, and finally I see his face. He wears dark sunglasses and his mouth is bent into a snarl. His cheek is rippled with scars, like his hands. He leans close to my face. His breath smells like cigarettes. Not real, I remind myself. Not real. _You_re lying,_ he says. _You_re lying!_ _I am not._ _I can see it in your eyes._ I pull myself up straighter. _You can_t._ _If you know him,_ he says in a low voice, _you could save me. You could save me!_ I narrow my eyes. _Well,_ I say. I set my jaw. _I don_t._ CHAPTER THREE I WAKE TO sweaty palms and a pang of guilt in my chest. I am lying in the chair in the mirrored room. When I tilt my head back, I see Tori behind me. She pinches her lips together and removes electrodes from our heads. I wait for her to say something about the test_that it_s over, or that I did well, although how could I do poorly on a test like this?_but she says nothing, just pulls the wires from my forehead. I sit forward and wipe my palms off on my slacks. I had to have done something wrong, even if it only happened in my mind. Is that strange look on Tori_s face because she doesn_t know how to tell me what a terrible person I am? I wish she would just come out with it. _That,_ she says, _was perplexing. Excuse me, I_ll be right back._ Perplexing? I bring my knees to my chest and bury my face in them. I wish I felt like crying, because the tears might bring me a sense of release, but I don_t. How can you fail a test you aren_t allowed to prepare for? As the moments pass, I get more nervous. I have to wipe off my hands every few seconds as the sweat collects_or maybe I just do it because it helps me feel calmer. What if they tell me that I_m not cut out for any faction? I would have to live on the streets, with the factionless. I can_t do that. To live factionless is not just to live in poverty and discomfort; it is to live divorced from society, separated from the most important thing in life: community. My mother told me once that we can_t survive alone, but even if we could, we wouldn_t want to. Without a faction, we have no purpose and no reason to live. I shake my head. I can_t think like this. I have to stay calm. Finally the door opens, and Tori walks back in. I grip the arms of the chair. _Sorry to worry you,_ Tori says. She stands by my feet with her hands in her pockets. She looks tense and pale. _Beatrice, your results were inconclusive,_ she says. _Typically, each stage of the simulation eliminates one or more of the factions, but in your case, only two have been ruled out._ I stare at her. _Two?_ I ask. My throat is so tight it_s hard to talk. _If you had shown an automatic distaste for the knife and selected the cheese, the simulation would have led you to a different scenario that confirmed your aptitude for Amity. That didn_t happen, which is why Amity is out._ Tori scratches the back of her neck. _Normally, the simulation progresses in a linear fashion, isolating one faction by ruling out the rest. The choices you made didn_t even allow Candor, the next possibility, to be ruled out, so I had to alter the simulation to put you on the bus. And there your insistence upon dishonesty ruled out Candor._ She half smiles. _Don_t worry about that. Only the Candor tell the truth in that one._ One of the knots in my chest loosens. Maybe I_m not an awful person. _I suppose that_s not entirely true. People who tell the truth are the Candor_and the Abnegation,_ she says. _Which gives us a problem._ My mouth falls open. _On the one hand, you threw yourself on the dog rather than let it attack the little girl, which is an Abnegation-oriented response_but on the other, when the man told you that the truth would save him, you still refused to tell it. Not an Abnegation-oriented response._ She sighs. _Not running from the dog suggests Dauntless, but so does taking the knife, which you didn_t do._ She clears her throat and continues. _Your intelligent response to the dog indicates strong alignment with the Erudite. I have no idea what to make of your indecision in stage one, but__ _Wait,_ I interrupt her. _So you have no idea what my aptitude is?_ _Yes and no. My conclusion,_ she explains, _is that you display equal aptitude for Abnegation, Dauntless, and Erudite. People who get this kind of result are__ She looks over her shoulder like she expects someone to appear behind her. __are called_Divergent._ She says the last word so quietly that I almost don_t hear it, and her tense, worried look returns. She walks around the side of the chair and leans in close to me. _Beatrice,_ she says, _under no circumstances should you share that information with anyone. This is very important._ _We aren_t supposed to share our results._ I nod. _I know that._ _No._ Tori kneels next to the chair now and places her arms on the armrest. Our faces are inches apart. _This is different. I don_t mean you shouldn_t share them now; I mean you should never share them with anyone, ever, no matter what happens. Divergence is extremely dangerous. You understand?_ I don_t understand_how could inconclusive test results be dangerous?_but I still nod. I don_t want to share my test results with anyone anyway. _Okay._ I peel my hands from the arms of the chair and stand. I feel unsteady. _I suggest,_ Tori says, _that you go home. You have a lot of thinking to do, and waiting with the others may not benefit you._ _I have to tell my brother where I_m going._ _I_ll let him know._ I touch my forehead and stare at the floor as I walk out of the room. I can_t bear to look her in the eye. I can_t bear to think about the Choosing Ceremony tomorrow. It_s my choice now, no matter what the test says. Abnegation. Dauntless. Erudite. Divergent. I decide not to take the bus. If I get home early, my father will notice when he checks the house log at the end of the day, and I_ll have to explain what happened. Instead I walk. I_ll have to intercept Caleb before he mentions anything to our parents, but Caleb can keep a secret. I walk in the middle of the road. The buses tend to hug the curb, so it_s safer here. Sometimes, on the streets near my house, I can see places where the yellow lines used to be. We have no use for them now that there are so few cars. We don_t need stoplights, either, but in some places they dangle precariously over the road like they might crash down any minute. Renovation moves slowly through the city, which is a patchwork of new, clean buildings and old, crumbling ones. Most of the new buildings are next to the marsh, which used to be a lake a long time ago. The Abnegation volunteer agency my mother works for is responsible for most of those renovations. When I look at the Abnegation lifestyle as an outsider, I think it_s beautiful. When I watch my family move in harmony; when we go to dinner parties and everyone cleans together afterward without having to be asked; when I see Caleb help strangers carry their groceries, I fall in love with this life all over again. It_s only when I try to live it myself that I have trouble. It never feels genuine. But choosing a different faction means I forsake my family. Permanently. Just past the Abnegation sector of the city is the stretch of building skeletons and broken sidewalks that I now walk through. There are places where the road has completely collapsed, revealing sewer systems and empty subways that I have to be careful to avoid, and places that stink so powerfully of sewage and trash that I have to plug my nose. This is where the factionless live. Because they failed to complete initiation into whatever faction they chose, they live in poverty, doing the work no one else wants to do. They are janitors and construction workers and garbage collectors; they make fabric and operate trains and drive buses. In return for their work they get food and clothing, but, as my mother says, not enough of either. I see a factionless man standing on the corner up ahead. He wears ragged brown clothing and skin sags from his jaw. He stares at me, and I stare back at him, unable to look away. _Excuse me,_ he says. His voice is raspy. _Do you have something I can eat?_ I feel a lump in my throat. A stern voice in my head says, Duck your head and keep walking. No. I shake my head. I should not be afraid of this man. He needs help and I am supposed to help him. _Um_yes,_ I say. I reach into my bag. My father tells me to keep food in my bag at all times for exactly this reason. I offer the man a small bag of dried apple slices. He reaches for them, but instead of taking the bag, his hand closes around my wrist. He smiles at me. He has a gap between his front teeth. _My, don_t you have pretty eyes,_ he says. _It_s a shame the rest of you is so plain._ My heart pounds. I tug my hand back, but his grip tightens. I smell something acrid and unpleasant on his breath. _You look a little young to be walking around by yourself, dear,_ he says. I stop tugging, and stand up straighter. I know I look young; I don_t need to be reminded. _I_m older than I look,_ I retort. _I_m sixteen._ His lips spread wide, revealing a gray molar with a dark pit in the side. I can_t tell if he_s smiling or grimacing. _Then isn_t today a special day for you? The day before you choose?_ _Let go of me,_ I say. I hear ringing in my ears. My voice sounds clear and stern_not what I expected to hear. I feel like it doesn_t belong to me. I am ready. I know what to do. I picture myself bringing my elbow back and hitting him. I see the bag of apples flying away from me. I hear my running footsteps. I am prepared to act. But then he releases my wrist, takes the apples, and says, _Choose wisely, little girl._ CHAPTER FOUR I REACH MY street five minutes before I usually do, according to my watch_which is the only adornment Abnegation allows, and only because it_s practical. It has a gray band and a glass face. If I tilt it right, I can almost see my reflection over the hands. The houses on my street are all the same size and shape. They are made of gray cement, with few windows, in economical, no-nonsense rectangles. Their lawns are crabgrass and their mailboxes are dull metal. To some the sight might be gloomy, but to me their simplicity is comforting. The reason for the simplicity isn_t disdain for uniqueness, as the other factions have sometimes interpreted it. Everything_our houses, our clothes, our hairstyles_is meant to help us forget ourselves and to protect us from vanity, greed, and envy, which are just forms of selfishness. If we have little, and want for little, and we are all equal, we envy no one. I try to love it. I sit on the front step and wait for Caleb to arrive. It doesn_t take long. After a minute I see gray-robed forms walking down the street. I hear laughter. At school we try not to draw attention to ourselves, but once we_re home, the games and jokes start. My natural tendency toward sarcasm is still not appreciated. Sarcasm is always at someone_s expense. Maybe it_s better that Abnegation wants me to suppress it. Maybe I don_t have to leave my family. Maybe if I fight to make Abnegation work, my act will turn into reality. _Beatrice!_ Caleb says. _What happened? Are you all right?_ _I_m fine._ He is with Susan and her brother, Robert, and Susan is giving me a strange look, like I am a different person than the one she knew this morning. I shrug. _When the test was over, I got sick. Must have been that liquid they gave us. I feel better now, though._ I try to smile convincingly. I seem to have persuaded Susan and Robert, who no longer look concerned for my mental stability, but Caleb narrows his eyes at me, the way he does when he suspects someone of duplicity. _Did you two take the bus today?_ I ask. I don_t care how Susan and Robert got home from school, but I need to change the subject. _Our father had to work late,_ Susan says, _and he told us we should spend some time thinking before the ceremony tomorrow._ My heart pounds at the mention of the ceremony. _You_re welcome to come over later, if you_d like,_ Caleb says politely. _Thank you._ Susan smiles at Caleb. Robert raises an eyebrow at me. He and I have been exchanging looks for the past year as Susan and Caleb flirt in the tentative way known only to the Abnegation. Caleb_s eyes follow Susan down the walk. I have to grab his arm to startle him from his daze. I lead him into the house and close the door behind us. He turns to me. His dark, straight eyebrows draw together so that a crease appears between them. When he frowns, he looks more like my mother than my father. In an instant I can see him living the same kind of life my father did: staying in Abnegation, learning a trade, marrying Susan, and having a family. It will be wonderful. I may not see it. _Are you going to tell me the truth now?_ he asks softly. _The truth is,_ I say, _I_m not supposed to discuss it. And you_re not supposed to ask._ _All those rules you bend, and you can_t bend this one? Not even for something this important?_ His eyebrows tug together, and he bites the corner of his lip. Though his words are accusatory, it sounds like he is probing me for information_like he actually wants my answer. I narrow my eyes. _Will you? What happened in your test, Caleb?_ Our eyes meet. I hear a train horn, so faint it could easily be wind whistling through an alleyway. But I know it when I hear it. It sounds like the Dauntless, calling me to them. _Just_don_t tell our parents what happened, okay?_ I say. His eyes stay on mine for a few seconds, and then he nods. I want to go upstairs and lie down. The test, the walk, and my encounter with the factionless man exhausted me. But my brother made breakfast this morning, and my mother prepared our lunches, and my father made dinner last night, so it_s my turn to cook. I breathe deeply and walk into the kitchen to start cooking. A minute later, Caleb joins me. I grit my teeth. He helps with everything. What irritates me most about him is his natural goodness, his inborn selflessness. Caleb and I work together without speaking. I cook peas on the stove. He defrosts four pieces of chicken. Most of what we eat is frozen or canned, because farms these days are far away. My mother told me once that, a long time ago, there were people who wouldn_t buy genetically engineered produce because they viewed it as unnatural. Now we have no other option. By the time my parents get home, dinner is ready and the table is set. My father drops his bag at the door and kisses my head. Other people see him as an opinionated man_too opinionated, maybe_but he_s also loving. I try to see only the good in him; I try. _How did the test go?_ he asks me. I pour the peas into a serving bowl. _Fine,_ I say. I couldn_t be Candor. I lie too easily. _I heard there was some kind of upset with one of the tests,_ my mother says. Like my father, she works for the government, but she manages city improvement projects. She recruited volunteers to administer the aptitude tests. Most of the time, though, she organizes workers to help the factionless with food and shelter and job opportunities. _Really?_ says my father. A problem with the aptitude tests is rare. _I don_t know much about it, but my friend Erin told me that something went wrong with one of the tests, so the results had to be reported verbally._ My mother places a napkin next to each plate on the table. _Apparently the student got sick and was sent home early._ My mother shrugs. _I hope they_re all right. Did you two hear about that?_ _No,_ Caleb says. He smiles at my mother. My brother couldn_t be Candor either. We sit at the table. We always pass food to the right, and no one eats until everyone is served. My father extends his hands to my mother and my brother, and they extend their hands to him and me, and my father gives thanks to God for food and work and friends and family. Not every Abnegation family is religious, but my father says we should try not to see those differences because they will only divide us. I am not sure what to make of that. _So,_ my mother says to my father. _Tell me._ She takes my father_s hand and moves her thumb in a small circle over his knuckles. I stare at their joined hands. My parents love each other, but they rarely show affection like this in front of us. They taught us that physical contact is powerful, so I have been wary of it since I was young. _Tell me what_s bothering you,_ she adds. I stare at my plate. My mother_s acute senses sometimes surprise me, but now they chide me. Why was I so focused on myself that I didn_t notice his deep frown and his sagging posture? _I had a difficult day at work,_ he says. _Well, really, it was Marcus who had the difficult day. I shouldn_t lay claim to it._ Marcus is my father_s coworker; they are both political leaders. The city is ruled by a council of fifty people, composed entirely of representatives from Abnegation, because our faction is regarded as incorruptible, due to our commitment to selflessness. Our leaders are selected by their peers for their impeccable character, moral fortitude, and leadership skills. Representatives from each of the other factions can speak in the meetings on behalf of a particular issue, but ultimately, the decision is the council_s. And while the council technically makes decisions together, Marcus is particularly influential. It has been this way since the beginning of the great peace, when the factions were formed. I think the system persists because we_re afraid of what might happen if it didn_t: war. _Is this about that report Jeanine Matthews released?_ my mother says. Jeanine Matthews is Erudite_s sole representative, selected based on her IQ score. My father complains about her often. I look up. _A report?_ Caleb gives me a warning look. We aren_t supposed to speak at the dinner table unless our parents ask us a direct question, and they usually don_t. Our listening ears are a gift to them, my father says. They give us their listening ears after dinner, in the family room. _Yes,_ my father says. His eyes narrow. _Those arrogant, self-righteous__ He stops and clears his throat. _Sorry. But she released a report attacking Marcus_s character._ I raise my eyebrows. _What did it say?_ I ask. _Beatrice,_ Caleb says quietly. I duck my head, turning my fork over and over and over until the warmth leaves my cheeks. I don_t like to be chastised. Especially by my brother. _It said,_ my father says, _that Marcus_s violence and cruelty toward his son is the reason his son chose Dauntless instead of Abnegation._ Few people who are born into Abnegation choose to leave it. When they do, we remember. Two years ago, Marcus_s son, Tobias, left us for the Dauntless, and Marcus was devastated. Tobias was his only child_and his only family, since his wife died giving birth to their second child. The infant died minutes later. I never met Tobias. He rarely attended community events and never joined his father at our house for dinner. My father often remarked that it was strange, but now it doesn_t matter. _Cruel? Marcus?_ My mother shakes her head. _That poor man. As if he needs to be reminded of his loss._ _Of his son_s betrayal, you mean?_ my father says coldly. _I shouldn_t be surprised at this point. The Erudite have been attacking us with these reports for months. And this isn_t the end. There will be more, I guarantee it._ I shouldn_t speak again, but I can_t help myself. I blurt out, _Why are they doing this?_ _Why don_t you take this opportunity to listen to your father, Beatrice?_ my mother says gently. It is phrased like a suggestion, not a command. I look across the table at Caleb, who has that look of disapproval in his eyes. I stare at my peas. I am not sure I can live this life of obligation any longer. I am not good enough. _You know why,_ my father says. _Because we have something they want. Valuing knowledge above all else results in a lust for power, and that leads men into dark and empty places. We should be thankful that we know better._ I nod. I know I will not choose Erudite, even though my test results suggested that I could. I am my father_s daughter. My parents clean up after dinner. They don_t even let Caleb help them, because we_re supposed to keep to ourselves tonight instead of gathering in the family room, so we can think about our results. My family might be able to help me choose, if I could talk about my results. But I can_t. Tori_s warning whispers in my memory every time my resolve to keep my mouth shut falters. Caleb and I climb the stairs and, at the top, when we divide to go to our separate bedrooms, he stops me with a hand on my shoulder. _Beatrice,_ he says, looking sternly into my eyes. _We should think of our family._ There is an edge to his voice. _But. But we must also think of ourselves._ For a moment I stare at him. I have never seen him think of himself, never heard him insist on anything but selflessness. I am so startled by his comment that I just say what I am supposed to say: _The tests don_t have to change our choices._ He smiles a little. _Don_t they, though?_ He squeezes my shoulder and walks into his bedroom. I peer into his room and see an unmade bed and a stack of books on his desk. He closes the door. I wish I could tell him that we_re going through the same thing. I wish I could speak to him like I want to instead of like I_m supposed to. But the idea of admitting that I need help is too much to bear, so I turn away. I walk into my room, and when I close my door behind me, I realize that the decision might be simple. It will require a great act of selflessness to choose Abnegation, or a great act of courage to choose Dauntless, and maybe just choosing one over the other will prove that I belong. Tomorrow, those two qualities will struggle within me, and only one can win. CHAPTER FIVE THE BUS WE take to get to the Choosing Ceremony is full of people in gray shirts and gray slacks. A pale ring of sunlight burns into the clouds like the end of a lit cigarette. I will never smoke one myself_they are closely tied to vanity_but a crowd of Candor smokes them in front of the building when we get off the bus. I have to tilt my head back to see the top of the Hub, and even then, part of it disappears into the clouds. It is the tallest building in the city. I can see the lights on the two prongs on its roof from my bedroom window. I follow my parents off the bus. Caleb seems calm, but so would I, if I knew what I was going to do. Instead I get the distinct impression that my heart will burst out of my chest any minute now, and I grab his arm to steady myself as I walk up the front steps. The elevator is crowded, so my father volunteers to give a cluster of Amity our place. We climb the stairs instead, following him unquestioningly. We set an example for our fellow faction members, and soon the three of us are engulfed in the mass of gray fabric ascending cement stairs in the half light. I settle into their pace. The uniform pounding of feet in my ears and the homogeneity of the people around me makes me believe that I could choose this. I could be subsumed into Abnegation_s hive mind, projecting always outward. But then my legs get sore, and I struggle to breathe, and I am again distracted by myself. We have to climb twenty flights of stairs to get to the Choosing Ceremony. My father holds the door open on the twentieth floor and stands like a sentry as every Abnegation walks past him. I would wait for him, but the crowd presses me forward, out of the stairwell and into the room where I will decide the rest of my life. The room is arranged in concentric circles. On the edges stand the sixteen-year-olds of every faction. We are not called members yet; our decisions today will make us initiates, and we will become members if we complete initiation. We arrange ourselves in alphabetical order, according to the last names we may leave behind today. I stand between Caleb and Danielle Pohler, an Amity girl with rosy cheeks and a yellow dress. Rows of chairs for our families make up the next circle. They are arranged in five sections, according to faction. Not everyone in each faction comes to the Choosing Ceremony, but enough of them come that the crowd looks huge. The responsibility to conduct the ceremony rotates from faction to faction each year, and this year is Abnegation_s. Marcus will give the opening address and read the names in reverse alphabetical order. Caleb will choose before me. In the last circle are five metal bowls so large they could hold my entire body, if I curled up. Each one contains a substance that represents each faction: gray stones for Abnegation, water for Erudite, earth for Amity, lit coals for Dauntless, and glass for Candor. When Marcus calls my name, I will walk to the center of the three circles. I will not speak. He will offer me a knife. I will cut into my hand and sprinkle my blood into the bowl of the faction I choose. My blood on the stones. My blood sizzling on the coals. Before my parents sit down, they stand in front of Caleb and me. My father kisses my forehead and claps Caleb on the shoulder, grinning. _See you soon,_ he says. Without a trace of doubt. My mother hugs me, and what little resolve I have left almost breaks. I clench my jaw and stare up at the ceiling, where globe lanterns hang and fill the room with blue light. She holds me for what feels like a long time, even after I let my hands fall. Before she pulls away, she turns her head and whispers in my ear, _I love you. No matter what._ I frown at her back as she walks away. She knows what I might do. She must know, or she wouldn_t feel the need to say that. Caleb grabs my hand, squeezing my palm so tightly it hurts, but I don_t let go. The last time we held hands was at my uncle_s funeral, as my father cried. We need each other_s strength now, just as we did then. The room slowly comes to order. I should be observing the Dauntless; I should be taking in as much information as I can, but I can only stare at the lanterns across the room. I try to lose myself in the blue glow. Marcus stands at the podium between the Erudite and the Dauntless and clears his throat into the microphone. _Welcome,_ he says. _Welcome to the Choosing Ceremony. Welcome to the day we honor the democratic philosophy of our ancestors, which tells us that every man has the right to choose his own way in this world._ Or, it occurs to me, one of five predetermined ways. I squeeze Caleb_s fingers as hard as he is squeezing mine. _Our dependents are now sixteen. They stand on the precipice of adulthood, and it is now up to them to decide what kind of people they will be._ Marcus_s voice is solemn and gives equal weight to each word. _Decades ago our ancestors realized that it is not political ideology, religious belief, race, or nationalism that is to blame for a warring world. Rather, they determined that it was the fault of human personality_of humankind_s inclination toward evil, in whatever form that is. They divided into factions that sought to eradicate those qualities they believed responsible for the world_s disarray._ My eyes shift to the bowls in the center of the room. What do I believe? I do not know; I do not know; I do not know. _Those who blamed aggression formed Amity._ The Amity exchange smiles. They are dressed comfortably, in red or yellow. Every time I see them, they seem kind, loving, free. But joining them has never been an option for me. _Those who blamed ignorance became the Erudite._ Ruling out Erudite was the only part of my choice that was easy. _Those who blamed duplicity created Candor._ I have never liked Candor. _Those who blamed selfishness made Abnegation._ I blame selfishness; I do. _And those who blamed cowardice were the Dauntless._ But I am not selfless enough. Sixteen years of trying and I am not enough. My legs go numb, like all the life has gone out of them, and I wonder how I will walk when my name is called. _Working together, these five factions have lived in peace for many years, each contributing to a different sector of society. Abnegation has fulfilled our need for selfless leaders in government; Candor has provided us with trustworthy and sound leaders in law; Erudite has supplied us with intelligent teachers and researchers; Amity has given us understanding counselors and caretakers; and Dauntless provides us with protection from threats both within and without. But the reach of each faction is not limited to these areas. We give one another far more than can be adequately summarized. In our factions, we find meaning, we find purpose, we find life._ I think of the motto I read in my Faction History textbook: Faction before blood. More than family, our factions are where we belong. Can that possibly be right? Marcus adds, _Apart from them, we would not survive._ The silence that follows his words is heavier than other silences. It is heavy with our worst fear, greater even than the fear of death: to be factionless. Marcus continues, _Therefore this day marks a happy occasion_the day on which we receive our new initiates, who will work with us toward a better society and a better world._ A round of applause. It sounds muffled. I try to stand completely still, because if my knees are locked and my body is stiff, I don_t shake. Marcus reads the first names, but I can_t tell one syllable from the other. How will I know when he calls my name? One by one, each sixteen-year-old steps out of line and walks to the middle of the room. The first girl to choose decides on Amity, the same faction from which she came. I watch her blood droplets fall on soil, and she stands behind their seats alone. The room is constantly moving, a new name and a new person choosing, a new knife and a new choice. I recognize most of them, but I doubt they know me. _James Tucker,_ Marcus says. James Tucker of the Dauntless is the first person to stumble on his way to the bowls. He throws his arms out and regains his balance before hitting the floor. His face turns red and he walks fast to the middle of the room. When he stands in the center, he looks from the Dauntless bowl to the Candor bowl_the orange flames that rise higher each moment, and the glass reflecting blue light. Marcus offers him the knife. He breathes deeply_I watch his chest rise_and, as he exhales, accepts the knife. Then he drags it across his palm with a jerk and holds his arm out to the side. His blood falls onto glass, and he is the first of us to switch factions. The first faction transfer. A mutter rises from the Dauntless section, and I stare at the floor. They will see him as a traitor from now on. His Dauntless family will have the option of visiting him in his new faction, a week and a half from now on Visiting Day, but they won_t, because he left them. His absence will haunt their hallways, and he will be a space they can_t fill. And then time will pass, and the hole will be gone, like when an organ is removed and the body_s fluids flow into the space it leaves. Humans can_t tolerate emptiness for long. _Caleb Prior,_ says Marcus. Caleb squeezes my hand one last time, and as he walks away, casts a long look at me over his shoulder. I watch his feet move to the center of the room, and his hands, steady as they accept the knife from Marcus, are deft as one presses the knife into the other. Then he stands with blood pooling in his palm, and his lip snags on his teeth. He breathes out. And then in. And then he holds his hand over the Erudite bowl, and his blood drips into the water, turning it a deeper shade of red. I hear mutters that lift into outraged cries. I can barely think straight. My brother, my selfless brother, a faction transfer? My brother, born for Abnegation, Erudite? When I close my eyes, I see the stack of books on Caleb_s desk, and his shaking hands sliding along his legs after the aptitude test. Why didn_t I realize that when he told me to think of myself yesterday, he was also giving that advice to himself? I scan the crowd of the Erudite_they wear smug smiles and nudge each other. The Abnegation, normally so placid, speak to one another in tense whispers and glare across the room at the faction that has become our enemy. _Excuse me,_ says Marcus, but the crowd doesn_t hear him. He shouts, _Quiet, please!_ The room goes silent. Except for a ringing sound. I hear my name and a shudder propels me forward. Halfway to the bowls, I am sure that I will choose Abnegation. I can see it now. I watch myself grow into a woman in Abnegation robes, marrying Susan_s brother, Robert, volunteering on the weekends, the peace of routine, the quiet nights spent in front of the fireplace, the certainty that I will be safe, and if not good enough, better than I am now. The ringing, I realize, is in my ears. I look at Caleb, who now stands behind the Erudite. He stares back at me and nods a little, like he knows what I_m thinking, and agrees. My footsteps falter. If Caleb wasn_t fit for Abnegation, how can I be? But what choice do I have, now that he left us and I_m the only one who remains? He left me no other option. I set my jaw. I will be the child that stays; I have to do this for my parents. I have to. Marcus offers me my knife. I look into his eyes_they are dark blue, a strange color_and take it. He nods, and I turn toward the bowls. Dauntless fire and Abnegation stones are both on my left, one in front of my shoulder and one behind. I hold the knife in my right hand and touch the blade to my palm. Gritting my teeth, I drag the blade down. It stings, but I barely notice. I hold both hands to my chest, and my next breath shudders on the way out. I open my eyes and thrust my arm out. My blood drips onto the carpet between the two bowls. Then, with a gasp I can_t contain, I shift my hand forward, and my blood sizzles on the coals. I am selfish. I am brave. CHAPTER SIX I TRAIN MY eyes on the floor and stand behind the Dauntless-born initiates who chose to return to their own faction. They are all taller than I am, so even when I lift my head, I see only black-clothed shoulders. When the last girl makes her choice_Amity_it_s time to leave. The Dauntless exit first. I walk past the gray-clothed men and women who were my faction, staring determinedly at the back of someone_s head. But I have to see my parents one more time. I look over my shoulder at the last second before I pass them, and immediately wish I hadn_t. My father_s eyes burn into mine with a look of accusation. At first, when I feel the heat behind my eyes, I think he_s found a way to set me on fire, to punish me for what I_ve done, but no_I_m about to cry. Beside him, my mother is smiling. The people behind me press me forward, away from my family, who will be the last ones to leave. They may even stay to stack the chairs and clean the bowls. I twist my head around to find Caleb in the crowd of Erudite behind me. He stands among the other initiates, shaking hands with a faction transfer, a boy who was Candor. The easy smile he wears is an act of betrayal. My stomach wrenches and I turn away. If it_s so easy for him, maybe it should be easy for me, too. I glance at the boy to my left, who was Erudite and now looks as pale and nervous as I should feel. I spent all my time worrying about which faction I would choose and never considered what would happen if I chose Dauntless. What waits for me at Dauntless headquarters? The crowd of Dauntless leading us go to the stairs instead of the elevators. I thought only the Abnegation used the stairs. Then everyone starts running. I hear whoops and shouts and laughter all around me, and dozens of thundering feet moving at different rhythms. It is not a selfless act for the Dauntless to take the stairs; it is a wild act. _What the hell is going on?_ the boy next to me shouts. I just shake my head and keep running. I am breathless when we reach the first floor, and the Dauntless burst through the exit. Outside, the air is crisp and cold and the sky is orange from the setting sun. It reflects off the black glass of the Hub. The Dauntless sprawl across the street, blocking the path of a bus, and I sprint to catch up to the back of the crowd. My confusion dissipates as I run. I have not run anywhere in a long time. Abnegation discourages anything done strictly for my own enjoyment, and that is what this is: my lungs burning, my muscles aching, the fierce pleasure of a flat-out sprint. I follow the Dauntless down the street and around the corner and hear a familiar sound: the train horn. _Oh no,_ mumbles the Erudite boy. _Are we supposed to hop on that thing?_ _Yes,_ I say, breathless. It is good that I spent so much time watching the Dauntless arrive at school. The crowd spreads out in a long line. The train glides toward us on steel rails, its light flashing, its horn blaring. The door of each car is open, waiting for the Dauntless to pile in, and they do, group by group, until only the new initiates are left. The Dauntless-born initiates are used to doing this by now, so in a second it_s just faction transfers left. I step forward with a few others and start jogging. We run with the car for a few steps and then throw ourselves sideways. I_m not as tall or as strong as some of them, so I can_t pull myself into the car. I cling to a handle next to the doorway, my shoulder slamming into the car. My arms shake, and finally a Candor girl grabs me and pulls me in. Gasping, I thank her. I hear a shout and look over my shoulder. A short Erudite boy with red hair pumps his arms as he tries to catch up to the train. An Erudite girl by the door reaches out to grab the boy_s hand, straining, but he is too far behind. He falls to his knees next to the tracks as we sail away, and puts his head in his hands. I feel uneasy. He just failed Dauntless initiation. He is factionless now. It could happen at any moment. _You all right?_ the Candor girl who helped me asks briskly. She is tall, with dark brown skin and short hair. Pretty. I nod. _I_m Christina,_ she says, offering me her hand. I haven_t shaken a hand in a long time either. The Abnegation greeted one another by bowing heads, a sign of respect. I take her hand, uncertainly, and shake it twice, hoping I didn_t squeeze too hard or not hard enough. _Beatrice,_ I say. _Do you know where we_re going?_ She has to shout over the wind, which blows harder through the open doors by the second. The train is picking up speed. I sit down. It will be easier to keep my balance if I_m low to the ground. She raises an eyebrow at me. _A fast train means wind,_ I say. _Wind means falling out. Get down._ Christina sits next to me, inching back to lean against the wall. _I guess we_re going to Dauntless headquarters,_ I say, _but I don_t know where that is._ _Does anyone?_ She shakes her head, grinning. _It_s like they just popped out of a hole in the ground or something._ Then the wind rushes through the car, and the other faction transfers, hit with bursts of air, fall on top of one another. I watch Christina laugh without hearing her and manage a smile. Over my left shoulder, orange light from the setting sun reflects off the glass buildings, and I can faintly see the rows of gray houses that used to be my home. It_s Caleb_s turn to make dinner tonight. Who will take his place_my mother or my father? And when they clear out his room, what will they discover? I imagine books jammed between the dresser and the wall, books under his mattress. The Erudite thirst for knowledge filling all the hidden places in his room. Did he always know that he would choose Erudite? And if he did, how did I not notice? What a good actor he was. The thought makes me sick to my stomach, because even though I left them too, at least I was no good at pretending. At least they all knew that I wasn_t selfless. I close my eyes and picture my mother and father sitting at the dinner table in silence. Is it a lingering hint of selflessness that makes my throat tighten at the thought of them, or is it selfishness, because I know I will never be their daughter again? _They_re jumping off!_ I lift my head. My neck aches. I have been curled up with my back against the wall for at least a half hour, listening to the roaring wind and watching the city smear past us. I sit forward. The train has slowed down in the past few minutes, and I see that the boy who shouted is right: The Dauntless in the cars ahead of us are jumping out as the train passes a rooftop. The tracks are seven stories up. The idea of leaping out of a moving train onto a rooftop, knowing there is a gap between the edge of the roof and the edge of the track, makes me want to throw up. I push myself up and stumble to the opposite side of the car, where the other faction transfers stand in a line. _We have to jump off too, then,_ a Candor girl says. She has a large nose and crooked teeth. _Great,_ a Candor boy replies, _because that makes perfect sense, Molly. Leap off a train onto a roof._ _This is kind of what we signed up for, Peter,_ the girl points out. _Well, I_m not doing it,_ says an Amity boy behind me. He has olive skin and wears a brown shirt_he is the only transfer from Amity. His cheeks shine with tears. _You_ve got to,_ Christina says, _or you fail. Come on, it_ll be all right._ _No, it won_t! I_d rather be factionless than dead!_ The Amity boy shakes his head. He sounds panicky. He keeps shaking his head and staring at the rooftop, which is getting closer by the second. I don_t agree with him. I would rather be dead than empty, like the factionless. _You can_t force him,_ I say, glancing at Christina. Her brown eyes are wide, and she presses her lips together so hard they change color. She offers me her hand. _Here,_ she says. I raise an eyebrow at her hand, about to say that I don_t need help, but she adds, _I just_can_t do it unless someone drags me._ I take her hand and we stand at the edge of the car. As it passes the roof, I count, _One_two_three!_ On three we launch off the train car. A weightless moment, and then my feet slam into solid ground and pain prickles through my shins. The jarring landing sends me sprawling on the rooftop, gravel under my cheek. I release Christina_s hand. She_s laughing. _That was fun,_ she says. Christina will fit in with Dauntless thrill seekers. I brush grains of rock from my cheek. All the initiates except the Amity boy made it onto the roof, with varying levels of success. The Candor girl with crooked teeth, Molly, holds her ankle, wincing, and Peter, the Candor boy with shiny hair, grins proudly_he must have landed on his feet. Then I hear a wail. I turn my head, searching for the source of the sound. A Dauntless girl stands at the edge of the roof, staring at the ground below, screaming. Behind her a Dauntless boy holds her at the waist to keep her from falling off. _Rita,_ he says. _Rita, calm down. Rita__ I stand and look over the edge. There is a body on the pavement below us; a girl, her arms and legs bent at awkward angles, her hair spread in a fan around her head. My stomach sinks and I stare at the railroad tracks. Not everyone made it. And even the Dauntless aren_t safe. Rita sinks to her knees, sobbing. I turn away. The longer I watch her, the more likely I am to cry, and I can_t cry in front of these people. I tell myself, as sternly as possible, that is how things work here. We do dangerous things and people die. People die, and we move on to the next dangerous thing. The sooner that lesson sinks in, the better chance I have at surviving initiation. I_m no longer sure that I will survive initiation. I tell myself I will count to three, and when I_m done, I will move on. One. I picture the girl_s body on the pavement, and a shudder goes through me. Two. I hear Rita_s sobs and the murmured reassurance of the boy behind her. Three. My lips pursed, I walk away from Rita and the roof_s edge. My elbow stings. I pull my sleeve up to examine it, my hand shaking. Some of the skin is peeling off, but it isn_t bleeding. _Ooh. Scandalous! A Stiff_s flashing some skin!_ I lift my head. _Stiff_ is slang for Abnegation, and I_m the only one here. Peter points at me, smirking. I hear laughter. My cheeks heat up, and I let my sleeve fall. _Listen up! My name is Max! I am one of the leaders of your new faction!_ shouts a man at the other end of the roof. He is older than the others, with deep creases in his dark skin and gray hair at his temples, and he stands on the ledge like it_s a sidewalk. Like someone didn_t just fall to her death from it. _Several stories below us is the members_ entrance to our compound. If you can_t muster the will to jump off, you don_t belong here. Our initiates have the privilege of going first._ _You want us to jump off a ledge?_ asks an Erudite girl. She is a few inches taller than I am, with mousy brown hair and big lips. Her mouth hangs open. I don_t know why it shocks her. _Yes,_ Max says. He looks amused. _Is there water at the bottom or something?_ _Who knows?_ He raises his eyebrows. The crowd in front of the initiates splits in half, making a wide path for us. I look around. No one looks eager to leap off the building_their eyes are everywhere but on Max. Some of them nurse minor wounds or brush gravel from their clothes. I glance at Peter. He is picking at one of his cuticles. Trying to act casual. I am proud. It will get me into trouble someday, but today it makes me brave. I walk toward the ledge and hear snickers behind me. Max steps aside, leaving my way clear. I walk up to the edge and look down. Wind whips through my clothes, making the fabric snap. The building I_m on forms one side of a square with three other buildings. In the center of the square is a huge hole in the concrete. I can_t see what_s at the bottom of it. This is a scare tactic. I will land safely at the bottom. That knowledge is the only thing that helps me step onto the ledge. My teeth chatter. I can_t back down now. Not with all the people betting I_ll fail behind me. My hands fumble along the collar of my shirt and find the button that secures it shut. After a few tries, I undo the hooks from collar to hem, and pull it off my shoulders. Beneath it, I wear a gray T-shirt. It is tighter than any other clothes I own, and no one has ever seen me in it before. I ball up my outer shirt and look over my shoulder, at Peter. I throw the ball of fabric at him as hard as I can, my jaw clenched. It hits him in the chest. He stares at me. I hear catcalls and shouts behind me. I look at the hole again. Goose bumps rise on my pale arms, and my stomach lurches. If I don_t do it now, I won_t be able to do it at all. I swallow hard. I don_t think. I just bend my knees and jump. The air howls in my ears as the ground surges toward me, growing and expanding, or I surge toward the ground, my heart pounding so fast it hurts, every muscle in my body tensing as the falling sensation drags at my stomach. The hole surrounds me and I drop into darkness. I hit something hard. It gives way beneath me and cradles my body. The impact knocks the wind out of me and I wheeze, struggling to breathe again. My arms and legs sting. A net. There is a net at the bottom of the hole. I look up at the building and laugh, half relieved and half hysterical. My body shakes and I cover my face with my hands. I just jumped off a roof. I have to stand on solid ground again. I see a few hands stretching out to me at the edge of the net, so I grab the first one I can reach and pull myself across. I roll off, and I would have fallen face-first onto a wood floor if he had not caught me. _He_ is the young man attached to the hand I grabbed. He has a spare upper lip and a full lower lip. His eyes are so deep-set that his eyelashes touch the skin under his eyebrows, and they are dark blue, a dreaming, sleeping, waiting color. His hands grip my arms, but he releases me a moment after I stand upright again. _Thank you,_ I say. We stand on a platform ten feet above the ground. Around us is an open cavern. _Can_t believe it,_ a voice says from behind him. It belongs to a dark-haired girl with three silver rings through her right eyebrow. She smirks at me. _A Stiff, the first to jump? Unheard of._ _There_s a reason why she left them, Lauren,_ he says. His voice is deep, and it rumbles. _What_s your name?_ _Um__ I don_t know why I hesitate. But _Beatrice_ just doesn_t sound right anymore. _Think about it,_ he says, a faint smile curling his lips. _You don_t get to pick again._ A new place, a new name. I can be remade here. _Tris,_ I say firmly. _Tris,_ Lauren repeats, grinning. _Make the announcement, Four._ The boy_Four_looks over his shoulder and shouts, _First jumper_Tris!_ A crowd materializes from the darkness as my eyes adjust. They cheer and pump their fists, and then another person drops into the net. Her screams follow her down. Christina. Everyone laughs, but they follow their laughter with more cheering. Four sets his hand on my back and says, _Welcome to Dauntless._ CHAPTER SEVEN WHEN ALL THE initiates stand on solid ground again, Lauren and Four lead us down a narrow tunnel. The walls are made of stone, and the ceiling slopes, so I feel like I am descending deep into the heart of the earth. The tunnel is lit at long intervals, so in the dark space between each dim lamp, I fear that I am lost until a shoulder bumps mine. In the circles of light I am safe again. The Erudite boy in front of me stops abruptly, and I smack into him, hitting my nose on his shoulder. I stumble back and rub my nose as I recover my senses. The whole crowd has stopped, and our three leaders stand in front of us, arms folded. _This is where we divide,_ Lauren says. _The Dauntless-born initiates are with me. I assume you don_t need a tour of the place._ She smiles and beckons toward the Dauntless-born initiates. They break away from the group and dissolve into the shadows. I watch the last heel pass out of the light and look at those of us who are left. Most of the initiates were from Dauntless, so only nine people remain. Of those, I am the only Abnegation transfer, and there are no Amity transfers. The rest are from Erudite and, surprisingly, Candor. It must require bravery to be honest all the time. I wouldn_t know. Four addresses us next. _Most of the time I work in the control room, but for the next few weeks, I am your instructor,_ he says. _My name is Four._ Christina asks, _Four? Like the number?_ _Yes,_ Four says. _Is there a problem?_ _No._ _Good. We_re about to go into the Pit, which you will someday learn to love. It__ Christina snickers. _The Pit? Clever name._ Four walks up to Christina and leans his face close to hers. His eyes narrow, and for a second he just stares at her. _What_s your name?_ he asks quietly. _Christina,_ she squeaks. _Well, Christina, if I wanted to put up with Candor smart-mouths, I would have joined their faction,_ he hisses. _The first lesson you will learn from me is to keep your mouth shut. Got that?_ She nods. Four starts toward the shadow at the end of the tunnel. The crowd of initiates moves on in silence. _What a jerk,_ she mumbles. _I guess he doesn_t like to be laughed at,_ I reply. It would probably be wise to be careful around Four, I realize. He seemed placid to me on the platform, but something about that stillness makes me wary now. Four pushes a set of double doors open, and we walk into the place he called _the Pit._ _Oh,_ whispers Christina. _I get it._ _Pit_ is the best word for it. It is an underground cavern so huge I can_t see the other end of it from where I stand, at the bottom. Uneven rock walls rise several stories above my head. Built into the stone walls are places for food, clothing, supplies, leisure activities. Narrow paths and steps carved from rock connect them. There are no barriers to keep people from falling over the side. A slant of orange light stretches across one of the rock walls. Forming the roof of the Pit are panes of glass and, above them, a building that lets in sunlight. It must have looked like just another city building when we passed it on the train. Blue lanterns dangle at random intervals above the stone paths, similar to the ones that lit the Choosing room. They grow brighter as the sunlight dies. People are everywhere, all dressed in black, all shouting and talking, expressive, gesturing. I don_t see any elderly people in the crowd. Are there any old Dauntless? Do they not last that long, or are they just sent away when they can_t jump off moving trains anymore? A group of children run down a narrow path with no railing, so fast my heart pounds, and I want to scream at them to slow down before they get hurt. A memory of the orderly Abnegation streets appears in my mind: a line of people on the right passing a line of people on the left, small smiles and inclined heads and silence. My stomach squeezes. But there is something wonderful about Dauntless chaos. _If you follow me,_ says Four, _I_ll show you the chasm._ He waves us forward. Four_s appearance seems tame from the front, by Dauntless standards, but when he turns around, I see a tattoo peeking out from the collar of his T-shirt. He leads us to the right side of the Pit, which is conspicuously dark. I squint and see that the floor I stand on now ends at an iron barrier. As we approach the railing, I hear a roar_water, fast-moving water, crashing against rocks. I look over the side. The floor drops off at a sharp angle, and several stories below us is a river. Gushing water strikes the wall beneath me and sprays upward. To my left, the water is calmer, but to my right, it is white, battling with rock. _The chasm reminds us that there is a fine line between bravery and idiocy!_ Four shouts. _A daredevil jump off this ledge will end your life. It has happened before and it will happen again. You_ve been warned._ _This is incredible,_ says Christina, as we all move away from the railing. _Incredible is the word,_ I say, nodding. Four leads the group of initiates across the Pit toward a gaping hole in the wall. The room beyond is well-lit enough that I can see where we_re going: a dining hall full of people and clattering silverware. When we walk in, the Dauntless inside stand. They applaud. They stamp their feet. They shout. The noise surrounds me and fills me. Christina smiles, and a second later, so do I. We look for empty seats. Christina and I discover a mostly empty table at the side of the room, and I find myself sitting between her and Four. In the center of the table is a platter of food I don_t recognize: circular pieces of meat wedged between round bread slices. I pinch one between my fingers, unsure what to make of it. Four nudges me with his elbow. _It_s beef,_ he says. _Put this on it._ He passes me a small bowl full of red sauce. _You_ve never had a hamburger before?_ asks Christina, her eyes wide. _No,_ I say. _Is that what it_s called?_ _Stiffs eat plain food,_ Four says, nodding at Christina. _Why?_ she asks. I shrug. _Extravagance is considered self-indulgent and unnecessary._ She smirks. _No wonder you left._ _Yeah,_ I say, rolling my eyes. _It was just because of the food._ The corner of Four_s mouth twitches. The doors to the cafeteria open, and a hush falls over the room. I look over my shoulder. A young man walks in, and it is quiet enough that I can hear his footsteps. His face is pierced in so many places I lose count, and his hair is long, dark, and greasy. But that isn_t what makes him look menacing. It is the coldness of his eyes as they sweep across the room. _Who_s that?_ hisses Christina. _His name is Eric,_ says Four. _He_s a Dauntless leader._ _Seriously? But he_s so young._ Four gives her a grave look. _Age doesn_t matter here._ I can tell she_s about to ask what I want to ask: Then what does matter? But Eric_s eyes stop scanning the room, and he starts toward a table. He starts toward our table and drops into the seat next to Four. He offers no greeting, so neither do we. _Well, aren_t you going to introduce me?_ he asks, nodding to Christina and me. Four says, _This is Tris and Christina._ _Ooh, a Stiff,_ says Eric, smirking at me. His smile pulls at the piercings in his lips, making the holes they occupy wider, and I wince. _We_ll see how long you last._ I mean to say something_to assure him that I will last, maybe_but words fail me. I don_t understand why, but I don_t want Eric to look at me any longer than he already has. I don_t want him to look at me ever again. He taps his fingers against the table. His knuckles are scabbed over, right where they would split if he punched something too hard. _What have you been doing lately, Four?_ he asks. Four lifts a shoulder. _Nothing, really,_ he says. Are they friends? My eyes flick between Eric and Four. Everything Eric did_sitting here, asking about Four_suggests that they are, but the way Four sits, tense as pulled wire, suggests they are something else. Rivals, maybe, but how could that be, if Eric is a leader and Four is not? _Max tells me he keeps trying to meet with you, and you don_t show up,_ Eric says. _He requested that I find out what_s going on with you._ Four looks at Eric for a few seconds before saying, _Tell him that I am satisfied with the position I currently hold._ _So he wants to give you a job._ The rings in Eric_s eyebrow catch the light. Maybe Eric perceives Four as a potential threat to his position. My father says that those who want power and get it live in terror of losing it. That_s why we have to give power to those who do not want it. _So it would seem,_ Four says. _And you aren_t interested._ _I haven_t been interested for two years._ _Well,_ says Eric. _Let_s hope he gets the point, then._ He claps Four on the shoulder, a little too hard, and gets up. When he walks away, I slouch immediately. I had not realized that I was so tense. _Are you two_friends?_ I say, unable to contain my curiosity. _We were in the same initiate class,_ he says. _He transferred from Erudite._ All thoughts of being careful around Four leave me. _Were you a transfer too?_ _I thought I would only have trouble with the Candor asking too many questions,_ he says coldly. _Now I_ve got Stiffs, too?_ _It must be because you_re so approachable,_ I say flatly. _You know. Like a bed of nails._ He stares at me, and I don_t look away. He isn_t a dog, but the same rules apply. Looking away is submissive. Looking him in the eye is a challenge. It_s my choice. Heat rushes into my cheeks. What will happen when this tension breaks? But he just says, _Careful, Tris._ My stomach drops like I just swallowed a stone. A Dauntless member at another table calls out Four_s name, and I turn to Christina. She raises both eyebrows. _What?_ I ask. _I_m developing a theory._ _And it is?_ She picks up her hamburger, grins, and says, _That you have a death wish._ After dinner, Four disappears without a word. Eric leads us down a series of hallways without telling us where we_re going. I don_t know why a Dauntless leader would be responsible for a group of initiates, but maybe it is just for tonight. At the end of each hallway is a blue lamp, but between them it_s dark, and I have to be careful not to stumble over uneven ground. Christina walks beside me in silence. No one told us to be quiet, but none of us speak. Eric stops in front of a wooden door and folds his arms. We gather around him. _For those of you who don_t know, my name is Eric,_ he says. _I am one of five leaders of the Dauntless. We take the initiation process very seriously here, so I volunteered to oversee most of your training._ The thought makes me nauseous. The idea that a Dauntless leader will oversee our initiation is bad enough, but the fact that it_s Eric makes it seem even worse. _Some ground rules,_ he says. _You have to be in the training room by eight o_clock every day. Training takes place every day from eight to six, with a break for lunch. You are free to do whatever you like after six. You will also get some time off between each stage of initiation._ The phrase _do whatever you like_ sticks in my mind. At home, I could never do what I wanted, not even for an evening. I had to think of other people_s needs first. I don_t even know what I like to do. _You are only permitted to leave the compound when accompanied by a Dauntless,_ Eric adds. _Behind this door is the room where you will be sleeping for the next few weeks. You will notice that there are ten beds and only nine of you. We anticipated that a higher proportion of you would make it this far._ _But we started with twelve,_ protests Christina. I close my eyes and wait for the reprimand. She needs to learn to stay quiet. _There is always at least one transfer who doesn_t make it to the compound,_ says Eric, picking at his cuticles. He shrugs. _Anyway, in the first stage of initiation, we keep transfers and Dauntless-born initiates separate, but that doesn_t mean you are evaluated separately. At the end of initiation, your rankings will be determined in comparison with the Dauntless-born initiates. And they are better than you are already. So I expect__ _Rankings?_ asks the mousy-haired Erudite girl to my right. _Why are we ranked?_ Eric smiles, and in the blue light, his smile looks wicked, like it was cut into his face with a knife. _Your ranking serves two purposes,_ he says. _The first is that it determines the order in which you will select a job after initiation. There are only a few desirable positions available._ My stomach tightens. I know by looking at his smile, like I knew the second I entered the aptitude test room, that something bad is about to happen. _The second purpose,_ he says, _is that only the top ten initiates are made members._ Pain stabs my stomach. We all stand still as statues. And then Christina says, _What?_ _There are eleven Dauntless-borns, and nine of you,_ Eric continues. _Four initiates will be cut at the end of stage one. The remainder will be cut after the final test._ That means that even if we make it through each stage of initiation, six initiates will not be members. I see Christina look at me from the corner of my eye, but I can_t look back at her. My eyes are fixed on Eric and will not move. My odds, as the smallest initiate, as the only Abnegation transfer, are not good. _What do we do if we_re cut?_ Peter says. _You leave the Dauntless compound,_ says Eric indifferently, _and live factionless._ The mousy-haired girl clamps her hand over her mouth and stifles a sob. I remember the factionless man with the gray teeth, snatching the bag of apples from my hands. His dull, staring eyes. But instead of crying, like the Erudite girl, I feel colder. Harder. I will be a member. I will. _But that_s_not fair!_ the broad-shouldered Candor girl, Molly, says. Even though she sounds angry, she looks terrified. _If we had known__ _Are you saying that if you had known this before the Choosing Ceremony, you wouldn_t have chosen Dauntless?_ Eric snaps. _Because if that_s the case, you should get out now. If you are really one of us, it won_t matter to you that you might fail. And if it does, you are a coward._ Eric pushes the door to the dormitory open. _You chose us,_ he says. _Now we have to choose you._ I lie in bed and listen to nine people breathing. I have never slept in the same room as a boy before, but here I have no other option, unless I want to sleep in the hallway. Everyone else changed into the clothes the Dauntless provided for us, but I sleep in my Abnegation clothes, which still smell like soap and fresh air, like home. I used to have my own room. I could see the front lawn from the window, and beyond it, the foggy skyline. I am used to sleeping in silence. Heat swells behind my eyes as I think of home, and when I blink, a tear slips out. I cover my mouth to stifle a sob. I can_t cry, not here. I have to calm down. It will be all right here. I can look at my reflection whenever I want. I can befriend Christina, and cut my hair short, and let other people clean up their own messes. My hands shake and the tears come faster now, blurring my vision. It doesn_t matter that the next time I see my parents, on Visiting Day, they will barely recognize me_if they come at all. It doesn_t matter that I ache at even a split-second memory of their faces. Even Caleb_s, despite how much his secrets hurt me. I match my inhales to the inhales of the other initiates, and my exhales to their exhales. It doesn_t matter. A strangled sound interrupts the breathing, followed by a heavy sob. Bed springs squeal as a large body turns, and a pillow muffles the sobs, but not enough. They come from the bunk next to mine_they belong to a Candor boy, Al, the largest and broadest of all the initiates. He is the last person I expected to break down. His feet are just inches from my head. I should comfort him_I should want to comfort him, because I was raised that way. Instead I feel disgust. Someone who looks so strong shouldn_t act so weak. Why can_t he just keep his crying quiet like the rest of us? I swallow hard. If my mother knew what I was thinking, I know what look she would give me. The corners of her mouth turned down. Her eyebrows set low over her eyes_not scowling, almost tired. I drag the heel of my hand over my cheeks. Al sobs again. I almost feel the sound grate in my own throat. He is just inches away from me_I should touch him. No. I put my hand down and roll onto my side, facing the wall. No one has to know that I don_t want to help him. I can keep that secret buried. My eyes shut and I feel the pull of sleep, but every time I come close, I hear Al again. Maybe my problem isn_t that I can_t go home. I will miss my mother and father and Caleb and evening firelight and the clack of my mother_s knitting needles, but that is not the only reason for this hollow feeling in my stomach. My problem might be that even if I did go home, I wouldn_t belong there, among people who give without thinking and care without trying. The thought makes me grit my teeth. I gather the pillow around my ears to block out Al_s crying, and fall asleep with a circle of moisture pressed to my cheek. CHAPTER EIGHT _THE FIRST THING you will learn today is how to shoot a gun. The second thing is how to win a fight._ Four presses a gun into my palm without looking at me and keeps walking. _Thankfully, if you are here, you already know how to get on and off a moving train, so I don_t need to teach you that._ I shouldn_t be surprised that the Dauntless expect us to hit the ground running, but I anticipated more than six hours of rest before the running began. My body is still heavy from sleep. _Initiation is divided into three stages. We will measure your progress and rank you according to your performance in each stage. The stages are not weighed equally in determining your final rank, so it is possible, though difficult, to drastically improve your rank over time._ I stare at the weapon in my hand. Never in my life did I expect to hold a gun, let alone fire one. It feels dangerous to me, as if just by touching it, I could hurt someone. _We believe that preparation eradicates cowardice, which we define as the failure to act in the midst of fear,_ says Four. _Therefore each stage of initiation is intended to prepare you in a different way. The first stage is primarily physical; the second, primarily emotional; the third, primarily mental._ _But what__ Peter yawns through his words. _What does firing a gun have to do with_bravery?_ Four flips the gun in his hand, presses the barrel to Peter_s forehead, and clicks a bullet into place. Peter freezes with his lips parted, the yawn dead in his mouth. _Wake. Up,_ Four snaps. _You are holding a loaded gun, you idiot. Act like it._ He lowers the gun. Once the immediate threat is gone, Peter_s green eyes harden. I_m surprised he can stop himself from responding, after speaking his mind all his life in Candor, but he does, his cheeks red. _And to answer your question_you are far less likely to soil your pants and cry for your mother if you_re prepared to defend yourself._ Four stops walking at the end of the row and turns on his heel. _This is also information you may need later in stage one. So, watch me._ He faces the wall with the targets on it_one square of plywood with three red circles on it for each of us. He stands with his feet apart, holds the gun in both hands, and fires. The bang is so loud it hurts my ears. I crane my neck to look at the target. The bullet went through the middle circle. I turn to my own target. My family would never approve of me firing a gun. They would say that guns are used for self-defense, if not violence, and therefore they are self-serving. I push my family from my mind, set my feet shoulder-width apart, and delicately wrap both hands around the handle of the gun. It_s heavy and hard to lift away from my body, but I want it to be as far from my face as possible. I squeeze the trigger, hesitantly at first and then harder, cringing away from the gun. The sound hurts my ears and the recoil sends my hands back, toward my nose. I stumble, pressing my hand to the wall behind me for balance. I don_t know where my bullet went, but I know it_s not near the target. I fire again and again and again, and none of the bullets come close. _Statistically speaking,_ the Erudite boy next to me_his name is Will_says, grinning at me, _you should have hit the target at least once by now, even by accident._ He is blond, with shaggy hair and a crease between his eyebrows. _Is that so,_ I say without inflection. _Yeah,_ he says. _I think you_re actually defying nature._ I grit my teeth and turn toward the target, resolving to at least stand still. If I can_t master the first task they give us, how will I ever make it through stage one? I squeeze the trigger, hard, and this time I_m ready for the recoil. It makes my hands jump back, but my feet stay planted. A bullet hole appears at the edge of the target, and I raise an eyebrow at Will. _So you see, I_m right. The stats don_t lie,_ he says. I smile a little. It takes me five rounds to hit the middle of the target, and when I do, a rush of energy goes through me. I am awake, my eyes wide open, my hands warm. I lower the gun. There is power in controlling something that can do so much damage_in controlling something, period. Maybe I do belong here. By the time we break for lunch, my arms throb from holding up the gun and my fingers are hard to straighten. I massage them on my way to the dining hall. Christina invites Al to sit with us. Every time I look at him, I hear his sobs again, so I try not to look at him. I move my peas around with my fork, and my thoughts drift back to the aptitude tests. When Tori warned me that being Divergent was dangerous, I felt like it was branded on my face, and if I so much as turned the wrong way, someone would see it. So far it hasn_t been a problem, but that doesn_t make me feel safe. What if I let my guard down and something terrible happens? _Oh, come on. You don_t remember me?_ Christina asks Al as she makes a sandwich. _We were in Math together just a few days ago. And I am not a quiet person._ _I slept through Math most of the time,_ Al replies. _It was first hour!_ What if the danger doesn_t come soon_what if it strikes years from now and I never see it coming? _Tris,_ says Christina. She snaps her fingers in front of my face. _You in there?_ _What? What is it?_ _I asked if you remember ever taking a class with me,_ she says. _I mean, no offense, but I probably wouldn_t remember if you did. All the Abnegation looked the same to me. I mean, they still do, but now you_re not one of them._ I stare at her. As if I need her to remind me. _Sorry, am I being rude?_ she asks. _I_m used to just saying whatever is on my mind. Mom used to say that politeness is deception in pretty packaging._ _I think that_s why our factions don_t usually associate with each other,_ I say, with a short laugh. Candor and Abnegation don_t hate each other the way Erudite and Abnegation do, but they avoid each other. Candor_s real problem is with Amity. Those who seek peace above all else, they say, will always deceive to keep the water calm. _Can I sit here?_ says Will, tapping the table with his finger. _What, you don_t want to hang out with your Erudite buddies?_ says Christina. _They aren_t my buddies,_ says Will, setting his plate down. _Just because we were in the same faction doesn_t mean we get along. Plus, Edward and Myra are dating, and I would rather not be the third wheel._ Edward and Myra, the other Erudite transfers, sit two tables away, so close they bump elbows as they cut their food. Myra pauses to kiss Edward. I watch them carefully. I_ve only seen a few kisses in my life. Edward turns his head and presses his lips to Myra_s. Air hisses between my teeth, and I look away. Part of me waits for them to be scolded. Another part wonders, with a touch of desperation, what it would feel like to have someone_s lips against mine. _Do they have to be so public?_ I say. _She just kissed him._ Al frowns at me. When he frowns, his thick eyebrows touch his eyelashes. _It_s not like they_re stripping naked._ _A kiss is not something you do in public._ Al, Will, and Christina all give me the same knowing smile. _What?_ I say. _Your Abnegation is showing,_ says Christina. _The rest of us are all right with a little affection in public._ _Oh._ I shrug. _Well_I guess I_ll have to get over it, then._ _Or you can stay frigid,_ says Will, his green eyes glinting with mischief. _You know. If you want._ Christina throws a roll at him. He catches it and bites it. _Don_t be mean to her,_ she says. _Frigidity is in her nature. Sort of like being a know-it-all is in yours._ _I am not frigid!_ I exclaim. _Don_t worry about it,_ says Will. _It_s endearing. Look, you_re all red._ The comment only makes my face hotter. Everyone else chuckles. I force a laugh and, after a few seconds, it comes naturally. It feels good to laugh again. After lunch, Four leads us to a new room. It_s huge, with a wood floor that is cracked and creaky and has a large circle painted in the middle. On the left wall is a green board_a chalkboard. My Lower Levels teacher used one, but I haven_t seen one since then. Maybe it has something to do with Dauntless priorities: training comes first, technology comes second. Our names are written on the board in alphabetical order. Hanging at three-foot intervals along one end of the room are faded black punching bags. We line up behind them and Four stands in the middle, where we can all see him. _As I said this morning,_ says Four, _next you will learn how to fight. The purpose of this is to prepare you to act; to prepare your body to respond to threats and challenges_which you will need, if you intend to survive life as a Dauntless._ I can_t even think of life as a Dauntless. All I can think about is making it through initiation. _We will go over technique today, and tomorrow you will start to fight each other,_ says Four. _So I recommend that you pay attention. Those who don_t learn fast will get hurt._ Four names a few different punches, demonstrating each one as he does, first against the air and then against the punching bag. I catch on as we practice. Like with the gun, I need a few tries to figure out how to hold myself and how to move my body to make it look like his. The kicks are more difficult, though he only teaches us the basics. The punching bag stings my hands and feet, turning my skin red, and barely moves no matter how hard I hit it. All around me is the sound of skin hitting tough fabric. Four wanders through the crowd of initiates, watching us as we go through the movements again. When he stops in front of me, my insides twist like someone_s stirring them with a fork. He stares at me, his eyes following my body from my head to my feet, not lingering anywhere_a practical, scientific gaze. _You don_t have much muscle,_ he says, _which means you_re better off using your knees and elbows. You can put more power behind them._ Suddenly he presses a hand to my stomach. His fingers are so long that, though the heel of his hand touches one side of my rib cage, his fingertips still touch the other side. My heart pounds so hard my chest hurts, and I stare at him, wide-eyed. _Never forget to keep tension here,_ he says in a quiet voice. Four lifts his hand and keeps walking. I feel the pressure of his palm even after he_s gone. It_s strange, but I have to stop and breathe for a few seconds before I can keep practicing again. When Four dismisses us for dinner, Christina nudges me with her elbow. _I_m surprised he didn_t break you in half,_ she says. She wrinkles her nose. _He scares the hell out of me. It_s that quiet voice he uses._ _Yeah. He_s__ I look over my shoulder at him. He is quiet, and remarkably self-possessed. But I wasn_t afraid that he would hurt me. __definitely intimidating,_ I finally say. Al, who was in front of us, turns around once we reach the Pit and announces, _I want to get a tattoo._ From behind us, Will asks, _A tattoo of what?_ _I don_t know._ Al laughs. _I just want to feel like I_ve actually left the old faction. Stop crying about it._ When we don_t respond, he adds, _I know you_ve heard me._ _Yeah, learn to quiet down, will you?_ Christina pokes Al_s thick arm. _I think you_re right. We_re half in, half out right now. If we want all the way in, we should look the part._ She gives me a look. _No. I will not cut my hair,_ I say, _or dye it a strange color. Or pierce my face._ _How about your bellybutton?_ she says. _Or your nipple?_ Will says with a snort. I groan. Now that training is done for the day, we can do whatever we want until it_s time to sleep. The idea makes me feel almost giddy, although that might be from fatigue. The Pit is swarming with people. Christina announces that she and I will meet Al and Will at the tattoo parlor and drags me toward the clothing place. We stumble up the path, climbing higher above the Pit floor, scattering stones with our shoes. _What is wrong with my clothes?_ I say. _I_m not wearing gray anymore._ _They_re ugly and gigantic._ She sighs. _Will you just let me help you? If you don_t like what I put you in, you never have to wear it again, I promise._ Ten minutes later I stand in front of a mirror in the clothing place wearing a knee-length black dress. The skirt isn_t full, but it isn_t stuck to my thighs, either_unlike the first one she picked out, which I refused. Goose bumps appear on my bare arms. She slips the tie from my hair and I shake it out of its braid so it hangs wavy over my shoulders. Then she holds up a black pencil. _Eyeliner,_ she says. _You aren_t going to be able to make me pretty, you know._ I close my eyes and hold still. She runs the tip of the pencil along the line of my eyelashes. I imagine standing before my family in these clothes, and my stomach twists like I might be sick. _Who cares about pretty? I_m going for noticeable._ I open my eyes and for the first time stare openly at my own reflection. My heart rate picks up as I do, like I am breaking the rules and will be scolded for it. It will be difficult to break the habits of thinking Abnegation instilled in me, like tugging a single thread from a complex work of embroidery. But I will find new habits, new thoughts, new rules. I will become something else. My eyes were blue before, but a dull, grayish blue_the eyeliner makes them piercing. With my hair framing my face, my features look softer and fuller. I am not pretty_my eyes are too big and my nose is too long_but I can see that Christina is right. My face is noticeable. Looking at myself now isn_t like seeing myself for the first time; it_s like seeing someone else for the first time. Beatrice was a girl I saw in stolen moments at the mirror, who kept quiet at the dinner table. This is someone whose eyes claim mine and don_t release me; this is Tris. _See?_ she says. _You_re_striking._ Under the circumstances, it_s the best compliment she could have given me. I smile at her in the mirror. _You like it?_ she says. _Yeah._ I nod. _I look like_a different person._ She laughs. _That a good thing or a bad thing?_ I look at myself head-on again. For the first time, the idea of leaving my Abnegation identity behind doesn_t make me nervous; it gives me hope. _A good thing._ I shake my head. _Sorry, I_ve just never been allowed to stare at my reflection for this long._ _Really?_ Christina shakes her head. _Abnegation is a strange faction, I have to tell you._ _Let_s go watch Al get tattooed,_ I say. Despite the fact that I have left my old faction behind, I don_t want to criticize it yet. At home, my mother and I picked up nearly identical stacks of clothing every six months or so. It_s easy to allocate resources when everyone gets the same thing, but everything is more varied at the Dauntless compound. Every Dauntless gets a certain amount of points to spend per month, and the dress costs one of them. Christina and I race down the narrow path to the tattoo place. When we get there, Al is sitting in the chair already, and a small, narrow man with more ink than bare skin is drawing a spider on his arm. Will and Christina flip through books of pictures, elbowing each other when they find a good one. When they sit next to each other, I notice how opposite they are, Christina dark and lean, Will pale and solid, but alike in their easy smiles. I wander around the room, looking at the artwork on the walls. These days, the only artists are in Amity. Abnegation sees art as impractical, and its appreciation as time that could be spent serving others, so though I have seen works of art in textbooks, I have never been in a decorated room before. It makes the air feel close and warm, and I could get lost here for hours without noticing. I skim the wall with my fingertips. A picture of a hawk on one wall reminds me of Tori_s tattoo. Beneath it is a sketch of a bird in flight. _It_s a raven,_ a voice behind me says. _Pretty, right?_ I turn to see Tori standing there. I feel like I am back in the aptitude test room, with the mirrors all around me and the wires connected to my forehead. I didn_t expect to see her again. _Well, hello there._ She smiles. _Never thought I would see you again. Beatrice, is it?_ _Tris, actually,_ I say. _Do you work here?_ _I do. I just took a break to administer the tests. Most of the time I_m here._ She taps her chin. _I recognize that name. You were the first jumper, weren_t you?_ _Yes, I was._ _Well done._ _Thanks._ I touch the sketch of the bird. _Listen_I need to talk to you about__ I glance over at Will and Christina. I can_t corner Tori now; they_ll ask questions. __something. Sometime._ _I am not sure that would be wise,_ she says quietly. _I helped you as much as I could, and now you will have to go it alone._ I purse my lips. She has answers; I know she does. If she won_t give them to me now, I will have to find a way to make her tell me some other time. _Want a tattoo?_ she says. The bird sketch holds my attention. I never intended to get pierced or tattooed when I came here. I know that if I do, it will place another wedge between me and my family that I can never remove. And if my life here continues as it has been, it may soon be the least of the wedges between us. But I understand now what Tori said about her tattoo representing a fear she overcame_a reminder of where she was, as well as a reminder of where she is now. Maybe there is a way to honor my old life as I embrace my new one. _Yes,_ I say. _Three of these flying birds._ I touch my collarbone, marking the path of their flight_toward my heart. One for each member of the family I left behind. CHAPTER NINE _SINCE THERE ARE an odd number of you, one of you won_t be fighting today,_ says Four, stepping away from the board in the training room. He gives me a look. The space next to my name is blank. The knot in my stomach unravels. A reprieve. _This isn_t good,_ says Christina, nudging me with her elbow. Her elbow prods one of my sore muscles_I have more sore muscles than not-sore muscles, this morning_and I wince. _Ow._ _Sorry,_ she says. _But look. I_m up against the Tank._ Christina and I sat together at breakfast, and earlier she shielded me from the rest of the dormitory as I changed. I haven_t had a friend like her before. Susan was better friends with Caleb than with me, and Robert only went where Susan went. I guess I haven_t really had a friend, period. It_s impossible to have real friendship when no one feels like they can accept help or even talk about themselves. That won_t happen here. I already know more about Christina than I ever knew about Susan, and it_s only been two days. _The Tank?_ I find Christina_s name on the board. Written next to it is _Molly._ _Yeah, Peter_s slightly more feminine-looking minion,_ she says, nodding toward the cluster of people on the other side of the room. Molly is tall like Christina, but that_s where the similarities end. She has broad shoulders, bronze skin, and a bulbous nose. _Those three__Christina points at Peter, Drew, and Molly in turn__have been inseparable since they crawled out of the womb, practically. I hate them._ Will and Al stand across from each other in the arena. They put their hands up by their faces to protect themselves, as Four taught us, and shuffle in a circle around each other. Al is half a foot taller than Will, and twice as broad. As I stare at him, I realize that even his facial features are big_big nose, big lips, big eyes. This fight won_t last long. I glance at Peter and his friends. Drew is shorter than both Peter and Molly, but he_s built like a boulder, and his shoulders are always hunched. His hair is orange-red, the color of an old carrot. _What_s wrong with them?_ I say. _Peter is pure evil. When we were kids, he would pick fights with people from other factions and then, when an adult came to break it up, he_d cry and make up some story about how the other kid started it. And of course, they believed him, because we were Candor and we couldn_t lie. Ha ha._ Christina wrinkles her nose and adds, _Drew is just his sidekick. I doubt he has an independent thought in his brain. And Molly_she_s the kind of person who fries ants with a magnifying glass just to watch them flail around._ In the arena, Al punches Will hard in the jaw. I wince. Across the room, Eric smirks at Al, and turns one of the rings in his eyebrow. Will stumbles to the side, one hand pressed to his face, and blocks Al_s next punch with his free hand. Judging by his grimace, blocking the punch is as painful as a blow would have been. Al is slow, but powerful. Peter, Drew, and Molly cast furtive looks in our direction and then pull their heads together, whispering. _I think they know we_re talking about them,_ I say. _So? They already know I hate them._ _They do? How?_ Christina fakes a smile at them and waves. I look down, my cheeks warm. I shouldn_t be gossiping anyway. Gossiping is self-indulgent. Will hooks a foot around one of Al_s legs and yanks back, knocking Al to the ground. Al scrambles to his feet. _Because I_ve told them,_ she says, through the gritted teeth of her smile. Her teeth are straight on top and crooked on the bottom. She looks at me. _We try to be pretty honest about our feelings in Candor. Plenty of people have told me that they don_t like me. And plenty of people haven_t. Who cares?_ _We just_weren_t supposed to hurt people,_ I say. _I like to think I_m helping them by hating them,_ she says. _I_m reminding them that they aren_t God_s gift to humankind._ I laugh a little at that and focus on the arena again. Will and Al face each other for a few more seconds, more hesitant than they were before. Will flicks his pale hair from his eyes. They glance at Four like they_re waiting for him to call the fight off, but he stands with his arms folded, giving no response. A few feet away from him, Eric checks his watch. After a few seconds of circling, Eric shouts, _Do you think this is a leisure activity? Should we break for nap-time? Fight each other!_ _But__ Al straightens, letting his hands down, and says, _Is it scored or something? When does the fight end?_ _It ends when one of you is unable to continue,_ says Eric. _According to Dauntless rules,_ Four says, _one of you could also concede._ Eric narrows his eyes at Four. _According to the old rules,_ he says. _In the new rules, no one concedes._ _A brave man acknowledges the strength of others,_ Four replies. _A brave man never surrenders._ Four and Eric stare at each other for a few seconds. I feel like I am looking at two different kinds of Dauntless_the honorable kind, and the ruthless kind. But even I know that in this room, it_s Eric, the youngest leader of the Dauntless, who has the authority. Beads of sweat dot Al_s forehead; he wipes them with the back of his hand. _This is ridiculous,_ Al says, shaking his head. _What_s the point of beating him up? We_re in the same faction!_ _Oh, you think it_s going to be that easy?_ Will asks, grinning. _Go on. Try to hit me, slowpoke._ Will puts his hands up again. I see determination in Will_s eyes that wasn_t there before. Does he really believe he can win? One hard shot to the head and Al will knock him out cold. That is, if he can actually hit Will. Al tries a punch, and Will ducks, the back of his neck shining with sweat. He dodges another punch, slipping around Al and kicking him hard in the back. Al lurches forward and turns. When I was younger, I read a book about grizzly bears. There was a picture of one standing on its hind legs with its paws outstretched, roaring. That is how Al looks now. He charges at Will, grabbing his arm so he can_t slip away, and punches him hard in the jaw. I watch the light leave Will_s eyes, which are pale green, like celery. They roll back into his head, and all the tension falls from his body. He slips from Al_s grasp, dead weight, and crumples to the floor. Cold rushes down my back and fills my chest. Al_s eyes widen, and he crouches next to Will, tapping his cheek with one hand. The room falls silent as we wait for Will to respond. For a few seconds, he doesn_t, just lies on the ground with an arm bent beneath him. Then he blinks, clearly dazed. Filtered him up,_ Eric says. He stares with greedy eyes at Will_s fallen body, like the sight is a meal and he hasn_t eaten in weeks. The curl of his lip is cruel. Four turns to the chalkboard and circles Al_s name. Victory. _Next up_Molly and Christina!_ shouts Eric. Al pulls Will_s arm across his shoulders and drags him out of the arena. Christina cracks her knuckles. I would wish her luck, but I don_t know what good that would do. Christina isn_t weak, but she_s much narrower than Molly. Hopefully her height will help her. Across the room, Four supports Will from the waist and leads him out. Al stands for a moment by the door, watching them go. Four leaving makes me nervous. Leaving us with Eric is like hiring a babysitter who spends his time sharpening knives. Christina tucks her hair behind her ears. It is chin-length, black, and pinned back with silver clips. She cracks another knuckle. She looks nervous, and no wonder_who wouldn_t be nervous after watching Will collapse like a rag doll? If conflict in Dauntless ends with only one person standing, I am unsure of what this part of initiation will do to me. Will I be Al, standing over a man_s body, knowing I_m the one who put him on the ground, or will I be Will, lying in a helpless heap? And is it selfish of me to crave victory, or is it brave? I wipe my sweaty palms on my pants. I snap to attention when Christina kicks Molly in the side. Molly gasps and grits her teeth like she_s about to growl through them. A lock of stringy black hair falls across her face, but she doesn_t brush it away. Al stands next to me, but I_m too focused on the new fight to look at him, or congratulate him on winning, assuming that_s what he wants. I am not sure. Molly smirks at Christina, and without warning, dives, hands outstretched, at Christina_s midsection. She hits her hard, knocking her down, and pins her to the ground. Christina thrashes, but Molly is heavy and doesn_t budge. She punches, and Christina moves her head out of the way, but Molly just punches again, and again, until her fist hits Christina_s jaw, her nose, her mouth. Without thinking, I grab Al_s arm and squeeze it as tightly as I can. I just need something to hold on to. Blood runs down the side of Christina_s face and splatters on the ground next to her cheek. This is the first time I have ever prayed for someone to fall unconscious. But she doesn_t. Christina screams and drags one of her arms free. She punches Molly in the ear, knocking her off-balance, and wriggles free. She comes to her knees, holding her face with one hand. The blood streaming from her nose is thick and dark and covers her fingers in seconds. She screams again and crawls away from Molly. I can tell by the heaving of her shoulders that she_s sobbing, but I can barely hear her over the throbbing in my ears. Please go unconscious. Molly kicks Christina_s side, sending her sprawling on her back. Al frees his hand and pulls me tight to his side. I clench my teeth to keep from crying out. I had no sympathy for Al the first night, but I am not cruel yet; the sight of Christina clutching her rib cage makes me want to stand between her and Molly. _Stop!_ wails Christina as Molly pulls her foot back to kick again. She holds out a hand. _Stop! I_m__ She coughs. _I_m done._ Molly smiles, and I sigh with relief. Al sighs too, his rib cage lifting and falling against my shoulder. Eric walks toward the center of the arena, his movements slow, and stands over Christina with his arms folded. He says quietly, _I_m sorry, what did you say? You_re done?_ Christina pushes herself to her knees. When she takes her hand from the ground, it leaves a red handprint behind. She pinches her nose to stop the bleeding and nods. Filtered up,_ he says. If he had yelled, I might not have felt like everything inside my stomach was about to come out of it. If he had yelled, I would have known that the yelling was the worst he planned to do. But his voice is quiet and his words precise. He grabs Christina_s arm, yanks her to her feet, and drags her out the door. _Follow me,_ he says to the rest of us. And we do. I feel the roar of the river in my chest. We stand near the railing. The Pit is almost empty; it is the middle of the afternoon, though it feels like it_s been night for days. If there were people around, I doubt any of them would help Christina. We are with Eric, for one thing, and for another, the Dauntless have different rules_rules that brutality does not violate. Eric shoves Christina against the railing. _Climb over it,_ he says. _What?_ She says it like she expects him to relent, but her wide eyes and ashen face suggest otherwise. Eric will not back down. _Climb over the railing,_ says Eric again, pronouncing each word slowly. _If you can hang over the chasm for five minutes, I will forget your cowardice. If you can_t, I will not allow you to continue initiation._ The railing is narrow and made of metal. The spray from the river coats it, making it slippery and cold. Even if Christina is brave enough to hang from the railing for five minutes, she may not be able to hold on. Either she decides to be factionless, or she risks death. When I close my eyes, I imagine her falling onto the jagged rocks below and shudder. _Fine,_ she says, her voice shaking. She is tall enough to swing her leg over the railing. Her foot shakes. She puts her toe on the ledge as she lifts her other leg over. Facing us, she wipes her hands on her pants and holds on to the railing so hard her knuckles turn white. Then she takes one foot off the ledge. And the other. I see her face between the bars of the barrier, determined, her lips pressed together. Next to me, Al sets his watch. For the first minute and a half, Christina is fine. Her hands stay firm around the railing and her arms don_t shake. I start to think she might make it and show Eric how foolish he was to doubt her. But then the river hits the wall, and white water sprays against Christina_s back. Her face strikes the barrier, and she cries out. Her hands slip so she_s just holding on by her fingertips. She tries to get a better grip, but now her hands are wet. If I help her, Eric would make my fate the same as hers. Will I let her fall to her death, or will I resign myself to being factionless? What_s worse: to be idle while someone dies, or to be exiled and empty-handed? My parents would have no problem answering that question. But I am not my parents. As far as I know, Christina hasn_t cried since we got here, but now her face crumples and she lets out a sob that is louder than the river. Another wave hits the wall and the spray coats her body. One of the droplets hits my cheek. Her hands slip again, and this time, one of them falls from the railing, so she_s hanging by four fingertips. _Come on, Christina,_ says Al, his low voice surprisingly loud. She looks at him. He claps. _Come on, grab it again. You can do it. Grab it._ Would I even be strong enough to hold on to her? Would it be worth my effort to try to help her if I know I_m too weak to do any good? I know what those questions are: excuses. Human reason can excuse any evil; that is why it_s so important that we don_t rely on it. My father_s words. Christina swings her arm, fumbling for the railing. No one else cheers her on, but Al brings his big hands together and shouts, his eyes holding hers. I wish I could; I wish I could move, but I just stare at her and wonder how long I have been this disgustingly selfish. I stare at Al_s watch. Four minutes have passed. He elbows me hard in the shoulder. _Come on,_ I say. My voice is a whisper. I clear my throat. _One minute left,_ I say, louder this time. Christina_s other hand finds the railing again. Her arms shake so hard I wonder if the earth is quaking beneath me, jiggling my vision, and I just didn_t notice. _Come on, Christina,_ Al and I say, and as our voices join, I believe I might be strong enough to help her. I will help her. If she slips again, I will. Another wave of water splashes against Christina_s back, and she shrieks as both her hands slip off the railing. A scream launches from my mouth. It sounds like it belongs to someone else. But she doesn_t fall. She grabs the bars of the barrier. Her fingers slide down the metal until I can_t see her head anymore; they are all I see. Al_s watch reads 5:00. _Five minutes are up,_ he says, almost spitting the words at Eric. Eric checks his own watch. Taking his time, tilting his wrist, all while my stomach twists and I can_t breathe. When I blink, I see Rita_s sister on the pavement below the train tracks, limbs bent at strange angles; I see Rita screaming and sobbing; I see myself turning away. _Fine,_ Eric says. _You can come up, Christina._ Al walks toward the railing. _No,_ Eric says. _She has to do it on her own._ _No, she doesn_t,_ Al growls. _She did what you said. She_s not a coward. She did what you said._ Eric doesn_t respond. Al reaches over the railing, and he_s so tall that he can reach Christina_s wrist. She grabs his forearm. Al pulls her up, his face red with frustration, and I run forward to help. I_m too short to do much good, as I suspected, but I grip Christina under the shoulder once she_s high enough, and Al and I haul her over the barrier. She drops to the ground, her face still blood-smeared from the fight, her back soaking wet, her body quivering. I kneel next to her. Her eyes lift to mine, then shift to Al, and we all catch our breath together. CHAPTER TEN THAT NIGHT I dream that Christina hangs from the railing again, by her toes this time, and someone shouts that only someone who is Divergent can help her. So I run forward to pull her up, but someone shoves me over the edge, and I wake before I hit the rocks. Sweat-soaked and shaky from the dream, I walk to the girls_ bathroom to shower and change. When I come back, the word _Stiff_ is spray-painted across my mattress in red. The word is written smaller along the bed frame, and again on my pillow. I look around, my heart pounding with anger. Peter stands behind me, whistling as he fluffs his pillow. It_s hard to believe I could hate someone who looks so kind_his eyebrows turn upward naturally, and he has a wide, white smile. _Nice decorations,_ he says. _Did I do something to you that I_m unaware of?_ I demand. I grab the corner of a sheet and yank it away from the mattress. _I don_t know if you_ve noticed, but we are in the same faction now._ _I don_t know what you_re referring to,_ he says lightly. Then he glances at me. _And you and I will never be in the same faction._ I shake my head as I remove my pillowcase from the pillow. Don_t get angry. He wants to get a rise out of me; he won_t. But every time he fluffs his pillow, I think about punching him in the gut. Al walks in, and I don_t even have to ask him to help me; he just walks over and strips bedding with me. I will have to scrub the bed frame later. Al carries the stack of sheets to the trash can and together we walk toward the training room. _Ignore him,_ Al says. _He_s an idiot, and if you don_t get angry, he_ll stop eventually._ _Yeah._ I touch my cheeks. They are still warm with an angry blush. I try to distract myself. _Did you talk to Will?_ I ask quietly. _After_you know._ _Yeah. He_s fine. He isn_t angry._ Al sighs. _Now I_ll always be remembered as the first guy who knocked someone out cold._ _There are worse ways to be remembered. At least they won_t antagonize you._ _There are better ways too._ He nudges me with his elbow, smiling. _First jumper._ Maybe I was the first jumper, but I suspect that_s where my Dauntless fame begins and ends. I clear my throat. _One of you had to get knocked out, you know. If it hadn_t been him, it would have been you._ _Still, I don_t want to do it again._ Al shakes his head, too many times, too fast. He sniffs. _I really don_t._ We reach the door to the training room and I say, _But you have to._ He has a kind face. Maybe he is too kind for Dauntless. I look at the chalkboard when I walk in. I didn_t have to fight yesterday, but today I definitely will. When I see my name, I stop in the middle of the step. My opponent is Peter. _Oh no,_ says Christina, who shuffles in behind us. Her face is bruised, and she looks like she is trying not to limp. When she sees the board, she crumples the muffin wrapper she is holding into her fist. _Are they serious? They_re really going to make you fight him?_ Peter is almost a foot taller than I am, and yesterday, he beat Drew in less than five minutes. Today Drew_s face is more black-and-blue than flesh-toned. _Maybe you can just take a few hits and pretend to go unconscious,_ suggests Al. _No one would blame you._ _Yeah,_ I say. _Maybe._ I stare at my name on the board. My cheeks feel hot. Al and Christina are just trying to help, but the fact that they don_t believe, not even in a tiny corner of their minds, that I have a chance against Peter bothers me. I stand at the side of the room, half listening to Al and Christina_s chatter, and watch Molly fight Edward. He_s much faster than she is, so I_m sure Molly will not win today. As the fight goes on and my irritation fades, I start to get nervous. Four told us yesterday to exploit our opponent_s weaknesses, and aside from his utter lack of likable qualities, Peter doesn_t have any. He_s tall enough to be strong but not so big that he_s slow; he has an eye for other people_s soft spots; he_s vicious and won_t show me any mercy. I would like to say that he underestimates me, but that would be a lie. I am as unskilled as he suspects. Maybe Al is right, and I should just take a few hits and pretend to be unconscious. But I can_t afford not to try. I can_t be ranked last. By the time Molly peels herself off the ground, looking only half-conscious thanks to Edward, my heart is pounding so hard I can feel it in my fingertips. I can_t remember how to stand. I can_t remember how to punch. I walk to the center of the arena and my guts writhe as Peter comes toward me, taller than I remembered, arm muscles standing at attention. He smiles at me. I wonder if throwing up on him will do me any good. I doubt it. _You okay there, Stiff?_ he says. _You look like you_re about to cry. I might go easy on you if you cry._ Over Peter_s shoulder, I see Four standing by the door with his arms folded. His mouth is puckered, like he just swallowed something sour. Next to him is Eric, who taps his foot faster than my heartbeat. One second Peter and I are standing there, staring at each other, and the next Peter_s hands are up by his face, his elbows bent. His knees are bent too, like he_s ready to spring. _Come on, Stiff,_ he says, his eyes glinting. _Just one little tear. Maybe some begging._ The thought of begging Peter for mercy makes me taste bile, and on an impulse, I kick him in the side. Or I would have kicked him in the side, if he hadn_t caught my foot and yanked it forward, knocking me off-balance. My back smacks into the floor, and I pull my foot free, scrambling to my feet. I have to stay on my feet so he can_t kick me in the head. That_s the only thing I can think about. _Stop playing with her,_ snaps Eric. _I don_t have all day._ Peter_s mischievous look disappears. His arm twitches and pain stabs my jaw and spreads across my face, making my vision go black at the edges and my ears ring. I blink and lurch to the side as the room dips and sways. I don_t remember his fist coming at me. I am too off-balance to do anything but move away from him, as far as the arena will allow. He darts in front of me and kicks me hard in the stomach. His foot forces the air from my lungs and it hurts, hurts so badly I can_t breathe, or maybe that_s because of the kick, I don_t know, I just fall. On your feet is the only thought in my mind. I push myself up, but Peter is already there. He grabs my hair with one hand and punches me in the nose with the other. This pain is different, less like a stab and more like a crackle, crackling in my brain, spotting my vision with different colors, blue, green, red. I try to shove him off, my hands slapping at his arms, and he punches me again, this time in the ribs. My face is wet. Bloody nose. More red, I guess, but I_m too dizzy to look down. He shoves me and I fall again, scraping my hands on the ground, blinking, sluggish and slow and hot. I cough and drag myself to my feet. I really should be lying down if the room is spinning this fast. And Peter spins around me; I am the center of a spinning planet, the only thing staying still. Something hits me from the side and I almost fall over again. On my feet on my feet. I see a solid mass in front of me, a body. I punch as hard as I can, and my fist hits something soft. Peter barely groans, and smacks my ear with the flat of his palm, laughing under his breath. I hear ringing and try to blink some of the black patches out of my eyes; how did something get in my eye? Out of my peripheral vision, I see Four shove the door open and walk out. Apparently this fight isn_t interesting enough for him. Or maybe he_s going to find out why everything_s spinning like a top, and I don_t blame him; I want to know the answer too. My knees give out and the floor is cool against my cheek. Something slams into my side and I scream for the first time, a high screech that belongs to someone else and not me, and it slams into my side again, and I can_t see anything at all, not even whatever is right in front of my face, the lights out. Someone shouts, _Enough!_ and I think too much and nothing at all. When I wake up, I don_t feel much, but the inside of my head is fuzzy, like it_s packed with cotton balls. I know that I lost, and the only thing keeping the pain at bay is what is making it difficult to think straight. _Is her eye already black?_ someone asks. I open one eye_the other stays shut like it_s glued that way. Sitting to my right are Will and Al; Christina sits on the bed to my left with an ice pack on her jaw. _What happened to your face?_ I say. My lips feel clumsy and too large. She laughs. _Look who_s talking. Should we get you an eye patch?_ _Well, I already know what happened to my face,_ I say. _I was there. Sort of._ _Did you just make a joke, Tris?_ Will says, grinning. _We should get you on painkillers more often if you_re going to start cracking jokes. Oh, and to answer your question_I beat her up._ _I can_t believe you couldn_t beat Will,_ Al says, shaking his head. _What? He_s good,_ she says, shrugging. _Plus, I think I_ve finally learned how to stop losing. I just need to stop people from punching me in the jaw._ _You know, you_d think you would have figured that out already._ Will winks at her. _Now I know why you aren_t Erudite. Not too bright, are you?_ _You feeling okay, Tris?_ Al says. His eyes are dark brown, almost the same color as Christina_s skin. His cheek looks rough, like if he didn_t shave it, he would have a thick beard. Hard to believe he_s only sixteen. _Yeah,_ I say. _Just wish I could stay here forever so I never have to see Peter again._ But I don_t know where _here_ is. I am in a large, narrow room with a row of beds on either side. Some of the beds have curtains between them. On the right side of the room is a nurse_s station. This must be where the Dauntless go when they_re sick or hurt. The woman there looks at us over a clipboard. I_ve never seen a nurse with so many piercings in her ear before. Some Dauntless must volunteer to do jobs that traditionally belong to other factions. After all, it wouldn_t make sense for the Dauntless to make the trek to the city hospital every time they get hurt. The first time I went to the hospital, I was six years old. My mother fell on the sidewalk in front of our house and broke her arm. Hearing her scream made me burst into tears, but Caleb just ran for my father without saying a word. At the hospital, an Amity woman in a yellow shirt with clean fingernails took my mother_s blood pressure and set her bone with a smile. I remember Caleb telling her that it would only take a month to mend, because it was a hairline fracture. I thought he was reassuring her, because that_s what selfless people do, but now I wonder if he was repeating something he had studied; if all his Abnegation tendencies were just Erudite traits in disguise. _Don_t worry about Peter,_ says Will. _He_ll at least get beat up by Edward, who has been studying hand-to-hand combat since we were ten years old. For fun._ _Good,_ says Christina. She checks her watch. _I think we_re missing dinner. Do you want us to stay here, Tris?_ I shake my head. _I_m fine._ Christina and Will get up, but Al waves them ahead. He has a distinct smell_sweet and fresh, like sage and lemongrass. When he tosses and turns at night, I get a whiff of it and I know he_s having a nightmare. _I just wanted to tell you that you missed Eric_s announcement. We_re going on a field trip tomorrow, to the fence, to learn about Dauntless jobs,_ he says. _We have to be at the train by eight fifteen._ _Good,_ I say. _Thanks._ _And don_t pay attention to Christina. Your face doesn_t look that bad._ He smiles a little. _I mean, it looks good. It always looks good. I mean_you look brave. Dauntless._ His eyes skirt mine, and he scratches the back of his head. The silence seems to grow between us. It was a nice thing to say, but he acts like it meant more than just the words. I hope I am wrong. I could not be attracted to Al_I could not be attracted to anyone that fragile. I smile as much as my bruised cheek will allow, hoping that will diffuse the tension. _I should let you rest,_ he says. He gets up to leave, but before he can go, I grab his wrist. _Al, are you okay?_ I say. He stares blankly at me, and I add, _I mean, is it getting any easier?_ _Uh__ He shrugs. _A little._ He pulls his hand free and shoves it in his pocket. The question must have embarrassed him, because I_ve never seen him so red before. If I spent my nights sobbing into my pillow, I would be a little embarrassed too. At least when I cry, I know how to hide it. _I lost to Drew. After your fight with Peter._ He looks at me. _I took a few hits, fell down, and stayed there. Even though I didn_t have to. I figure_I figure that since I beat Will, if I lose all the rest, I won_t be ranked last, but I won_t have to hurt anyone anymore._ _Is that really what you want?_ He looks down. _I just can_t do it. Maybe that means I_m a coward._ _You_re not a coward just because you don_t want to hurt people,_ I say, because I know it_s the right thing to say, even if I_m not sure I mean it. For a moment we are both still, looking at each other. Maybe I do mean it. If he is a coward, it isn_t because he doesn_t enjoy pain. It is because he refuses to act. He gives me a pained look and says, _You think our families will visit us? They say transfer families never come on Visiting Day._ _I don_t know,_ I say. _I don_t know if it would be good or bad if they did._ _I think bad._ He nods. _Yeah, it_s already hard enough._ He nods again, as if confirming what he just said, and walks away. In less than a week, the Abnegation initiates will be able to visit their families for the first time since the Choosing Ceremony. They will go home and sit in their living rooms and interact with their parents for the first time as adults. I used to look forward to that day. I used to think about what I would say to my mother and father when I was allowed to ask them questions at the dinner table. In less than a week, the Dauntless-born initiates will find their families on the Pit floor, or in the glass building above the compound, and do whatever it is the Dauntless do when they reunite. Maybe they take turns throwing knives at each other_s heads_it wouldn_t surprise me. And the transfer initiates with forgiving parents will be able to see them again too. I suspect mine will not be among them. Not after my father_s cry of outrage at the ceremony. Not after both their children left them. Maybe if I could have told them I was Divergent, and I was confused about what to choose, they would have understood. Maybe they would have helped me figure out what Divergent is, and what it means, and why it_s dangerous. But I didn_t trust them with that secret, so I will never know. I clench my teeth as the tears come. I am fed up. I am fed up with tears and weakness. But there isn_t much I can do to stop them. Maybe I drift off to sleep, and maybe I don_t. Later that night, though, I slip out of the room and go back to the dormitory. The only thing worse than letting Peter put me in the hospital would be letting him put me there overnight. CHAPTER ELEVEN THE NEXT MORNING, I don_t hear the alarm, shuffling feet, or conversations as the other initiates get ready. I wake to Christina shaking my shoulder with one hand and tapping my cheek with the other. She already wears a black jacket zipped up to her throat. If she has bruises from yesterday_s fight, her dark skin makes them difficult to see. _Come on,_ she says. _Up and at _em._ I dreamt that Peter tied me to a chair and asked me if I was Divergent. I answered no, and he punched me until I said yes. I woke up with wet cheeks. I mean to say something, but all I can do is groan. My body aches so badly it hurts to breathe. It doesn_t help that last night_s bout of crying made my eyes swell. Christina offers me her hand. The clock reads eight. We_re supposed to be at the tracks by eight fifteen. _I_ll run and get us some breakfast. You justFiltered ready. Looks like it might take you a while,_ she says. I grunt. Trying not to bend at the waist, I fumble in the drawer under my bed for a clean shirt. Luckily Peter isn_t here to see me struggle. Once Christina leaves, the dormitory is empty. I unbutton my shirt and stare at my bare side, which is patched with bruises. For a second the colors mesmerize me, bright green and deep blue and brown. I change as fast as I can and let my hair hang loose because I can_t lift my arms to tie it back. I look at my reflection in the small mirror on the back wall and see a stranger. She is blond like me, with a narrow face like mine, but that_s where the similarities stop. I do not have a black eye, and a split lip, and a bruised jaw. I am not as pale as a sheet. She can_t possibly be me, though she moves when I move. By the time Christina comes back, a muffin in each hand, I_m sitting on the edge of my bed, staring at my untied shoes. I will have to bend over to tie them. It will hurt when I bend over. But Christina just passes me a muffin and crouches in front of me to tie my shoes. Gratitude surges in my chest, warm and a little like an ache. Maybe there is some Abnegation in everyone, even if they don_t know it. Well, in everyone but Peter. _Thank you,_ I say. _Well, we would never get there on time if you had to tie them yourself,_ she says. _Come on. You can eat and walk at the same time, right?_ We walk fast toward the Pit. The muffin is banana-flavored, with walnuts. My mother baked bread like this once to give to the factionless, but I never got to try it. I was too old for coddling at that point. I ignore the pinch in my stomach that comes every time I think of my mother and half walk, half jog after Christina, who forgets that her legs are longer than mine. We climb the steps from the Pit to the glass building above it and run to the exit. Every thump of my feet sends pain through my ribs, but I ignore it. We make it to the tracks just as the train arrives, its horn blaring. _What took you so long?_ Will shouts over the horn. _Stumpy Legs over here turned into an old lady overnight,_ says Christina. _Oh, shut up._ I_m only half kidding. Four stands at the front of the pack, so close to the tracks that if he shifted even an inch forward, the train would take his nose with it. He steps back to let some of the others get on first. Will hoists himself into the car with some difficulty, landing first on his stomach and then dragging his legs in behind him. Four grabs the handle on the side of the car and pulls himself in smoothly, like he doesn_t have more than six feet of body to work with. I jog next to the car, wincing, then grit my teeth and grab the handle on the side. This is going to hurt. Al grabs me under each arm and lifts me easily into the car. Pain shoots through my side, but it only lasts for a second. I see Peter behind him, and my cheeks get warm. Al was trying to be nice, so I smile at him, but I wish people didn_t want to be so nice. As if Peter didn_t have enough ammunition already. _Feeling okay there?_ Peter says, giving me a look of mock sympathy_his lips turned down, his arched eyebrows pulled in. _Or are you a little_Stiff?_ He bursts into laughter at his joke, and Molly and Drew join in. Molly has an ugly laugh, all snorting and shaking shoulders, and Drew_s is silent, so it almost looks like he_s in pain. _We are all awed by your incredible wit,_ says Will. _Yeah, are you sure you don_t belong with the Erudite, Peter?_ Christina adds. _I hear they don_t object to sissies._ Four, standing in the doorway, speaks before Peter can retort. _Am I going to have to listen to your bickering all the way to the fence?_ Everyone gets quiet, and Four turns back to the car_s opening. He holds the handles on either side, his arms stretching wide, and leans forward so his body is mostly outside the car, though his feet stay planted inside. The wind presses his shirt to his chest. I try to look past him at what we_re passing_a sea of crumbling, abandoned buildings that get smaller as we go. Every few seconds, though, my eyes shift back to Four. I don_t know what I expect to see, or what I want to see, if anything. But I do it without thinking. I ask Christina, _What do you think is out there?_ I nod to the doorway. _I mean, beyond the fence._ She shrugs. _A bunch of farms, I guess._ _Yeah, but I mean_past the farms. What are we guarding the city from?_ She wiggles her fingers at me. _Monsters!_ I roll my eyes. _We didn_t even have guards near the fence until five years ago,_ says Will. _Don_t you remember when Dauntless police used to patrol the factionless sector?_ _Yes,_ I say. I also remember that my father was one of the people who voted to get the Dauntless out of the factionless sector of the city. He said the poor didn_t need policing; they needed help, and we could give it to them. But I would rather not mention that now, or here. It_s one of the many things Erudite gives as evidence of Abnegation_s incompetence. _Oh, right,_ he says. _I bet you saw them all the time._ _Why do you say that?_ I ask, a little too sharply. I don_t want to be associated too closely with the factionless. _Because you had to pass the factionless sector to get to school, right?_ _What did you do, memorize a map of the city for fun?_ says Christina. _Yes,_ says Will, looking puzzled. _Didn_t you?_ The train_s brakes squeal, and we all lurch forward as the car slows. I am grateful for the movement; it makes standing easier. The dilapidated buildings are gone, replaced by yellow fields and train tracks. The train stops under an awning. I lower myself to the grass, holding the handle to keep me steady. In front of me is a chain-link fence with barbed wire strung along the top. When I walk forward, I notice that it continues farther than I can see, perpendicular to the horizon. Past the fence is a cluster of trees, most of them dead, some green. Milling around on the other side of the fence are Dauntless guards carrying guns. _Follow me,_ says Four. I stay close to Christina. I don_t want to admit it, not even to myself, but I feel calmer when I_m near her. If Peter tries to taunt me, she will defend me. Silently I scold myself for being such a coward. Peter_s insults shouldn_t bother me, and I should focus on getting better at combat, not on how badly I did yesterday. And I should be willing, if not able, to defend myself instead of relying on other people to do it for me. Four leads us toward the gate, which is as wide as a house and opens up to the cracked road that leads to the city. When I came here with my family as a child, we rode in a bus on that road and beyond, to Amity_s farms, where we spent the day picking tomatoes and sweating through our shirts. Another pinch in my stomach. _If you don_t rank in the top five at the end of initiation, you will probably end up here,_ says Four as he reaches the gate. _Once you are a fence guard, there is some potential for advancement, but not much. You may be able to go on patrols beyond Amity_s farms, but__ _Patrols for what purpose?_ asks Will. Four lifts a shoulder. _I suppose you_ll discover that if you find yourself among them. As I was saying. For the most part, those who guard the fence when they are young continue to guard the fence. If it comforts you, some of them insist that it isn_t as bad as it seems._ _Yeah. At least we won_t be driving buses or cleaning up other people_s messes like the factionless,_ Christina whispers in my ear. _What rank were you?_ Peter asks Four. I don_t expect Four to answer, but he looks levelly at Peter and says, _I was first._ _And you chose to do this?_ Peter_s eyes are wide and round and dark green. They would look innocent to me if I didn_t know what a terrible person he is. _Why didn_t you get a government job?_ _I didn_t want one,_ Four says flatly. I remember what he said on the first day, about working in the control room, where the Dauntless monitor the city_s security. It is difficult for me to imagine him there, surrounded by computers. To me he belongs in the training room. We learned about faction jobs in school. The Dauntless have limited options. We can guard the fence or work for the security of our city. We can work in the Dauntless compound, drawing tattoos or making weapons or even fighting each other for entertainment. Or we can work for the Dauntless leaders. That sounds like my best option. The only problem is that my rank is terrible. And I might be factionless by the end of stage one. We stop next to the gate. A few Dauntless guards glance in our direction but not many. They are too busy pulling the doors_which are twice as tall as they are and several times wider_open to admit a truck. The man driving wears a hat, a beard, and a smile. He stops just inside the gate and gets out. The back of the truck is open, and a few other Amity sit among the stacks of crates. I peer at the crates_they hold apples. _Beatrice?_ an Amity boy says. My head jerks at the sound of my name. One of the Amity in the back of the truck stands. He has curly blond hair and a familiar nose, wide at the tip and narrow at the bridge. Robert. I try to remember him at the Choosing Ceremony and nothing comes to mind but the sound of my heart in my ears. Who else transferred? Did Susan? Are there any Abnegation initiates this year? If Abnegation is fizzling, it_s our fault_Robert_s and Caleb_s and mine. Mine. I push the thought from my mind. Robert hops down from the truck. He wears a gray T-shirt and a pair of blue jeans. After a second_s hesitation, he moves toward me and folds me in his arms. I stiffen. Only in Amity do people hug each other in greeting. I don_t move a muscle until he releases me. His own smile fades when he looks at me again. _Beatrice, what happened to you? What happened to your face?_ _Nothing,_ I say. _Just training. Nothing._ _Beatrice?_ demands a nasal voice next to me. Molly folds her arms and laughs. _Is that your real name, Stiff?_ I glance at her. _What did you think Tris was short for?_ _Oh, I don_t know_weakling?_ She touches her chin. If her chin was bigger, it might balance out her nose, but it is weak and almost recedes into her neck. _Oh wait, that doesn_t start with Tris. My mistake._ _There_s no need to antagonize her,_ Robert says softly. _I_m Robert, and you are?_ _Someone who doesn_t care what your name is,_ she says. _Why don_t you get back in your truck? We_re not supposed to fraternize with other faction members._ _Why don_t you get away from us?_ I snap. _Right. Wouldn_t want to get between you and your boyfriend,_ she says. She walks away smiling. Robert gives me a sad look. _They don_t seem like nice people._ _Some of them aren_t._ _You could go home, you know. I_m sure Abnegation would make an exception for you._ _What makes you think I want to go home?_ I ask, my cheeks hot. _You think I can_t handle this or something?_ _It_s not that._ He shakes his head. _It_s not that you can_t, it_s that you shouldn_t have to. You should be happy._ _This is what I chose. This is it._ I look over Robert_s shoulder. The Dauntless guards seem to have finished examining the truck. The bearded man gets back into the driver_s seat and closes the door behind him. _Besides, Robert. The goal of my life isn_t just_to be happy._ _Wouldn_t it be easier if it was, though?_ he says. Before I can answer, he touches my shoulder and turns toward the truck. A girl in the back has a banjo on her lap. She starts to strum it as Robert hoists himself inside, and the truck starts forward, carrying the banjo sounds and her warbling voice away from us. Robert waves to me, and again I see another possible life in my mind_s eye. I see myself in the back of the truck, singing with the girl, though I_ve never sung before, laughing when I am off-key, climbing trees to pick the apples, always peaceful and always safe. The Dauntless guards close the gate and lock it behind them. The lock is on the outside. I bite my lip. Why would they lock the gate from the outside and not the inside? It almost seems like they don_t want to keep something out; they want to keep us in. I push the thought out of my head. That makes no sense. Four steps away from the fence, where he was talking to a female Dauntless guard with a gun balanced on her shoulder a moment before. _I am worried that you have a knack for making unwise decisions,_ he says when he_s a foot away from me. I cross my arms. _It was a two-minute conversation._ _I don_t think a smaller time frame makes it any less unwise._ He furrows his eyebrows and touches the corner of my bruised eye with his fingertips. My head jerks back, but he doesn_t take his hand away. Instead he tilts his head and sighs. _You know, if you could just learn to attack first, you might do better._ _Attack first?_ I say. _How will that help?_ _You_re fast. If you can get a few good hits in before they know what_s going on, you could win._ He shrugs, and his hand falls. _I_m surprised you know that,_ I say quietly, _since you left halfway through my one and only fight._ _It wasn_t something I wanted to watch,_ he says. What_s that supposed to mean? He clears his throat. _Looks like the next train is here. Time to go, Tris._ CHAPTER TWELVE I CRAWL ACROSS my mattress and heave a sigh. It has been two days since my fight with Peter, and my bruises are turning purple-blue. I have gotten used to aching every time I move, so now I move better, but I am still far from healed. Even though I am still injured, I had to fight again today. Luckily this time, I was paired against Myra, who couldn_t throw a good punch if someone was controlling her arm for her. I got a good hit in during the first two minutes. She fell down and was too dizzy to get back up. I should feel triumphant, but there is no triumph in punching a girl like Myra. The second I touch my head to the pillow, the door to the dormitory opens, and people stream into the room with flashlights. I sit up, almost hitting my head on the bed frame above me, and squint through the dark to see what_s going on. _Everybody up!_ someone roars. A flashlight shines behind his head, making the rings in his ears glint. Eric. Surrounding him are other Dauntless, some of whom I have seen in the Pit, some of whom I have never seen before. Four stands among them. His eyes shift to mine and stay there. I stare back and forget that all around me the transfers are getting out of bed. _Did you go deaf, Stiff?_ demands Eric. I snap out of my daze and slide out from beneath the blankets. I am glad I sleep fully clothed, because Christina stands next to our bunk wearing only a T-shirt, her long legs bare. She folds her arms and stares at Eric. I wish, suddenly, that I could stare so boldly at someone with hardly any clothes on, but I would never be able to do that. _You have five minutes to get dressed and meet us by the tracks,_ says Eric. _We_re going on another field trip._ I shove my feet into shoes and sprint, wincing, behind Christina on the way to the train. A drop of sweat rolls down the back of my neck as we run up the paths along the walls of the Pit, pushing past members on our way up. They don_t seem surprised to see us. I wonder how many frantic, running people they see on a weekly basis. We make it to the tracks just behind the Dauntless-born initiates. Next to the tracks is a black pile. I make out a cluster of long gun barrels and trigger guards. _Are we going to shoot something?_ Christina hisses in my ear. Next to the pile are boxes of what looks like ammunition. I inch closer to read one of the boxes. Written on it is _PAINTBALLS._ I_ve never heard of them before, but the name is self-explanatory. I laugh. _Everyone grab a gun!_ shouts Eric. We rush toward the pile. I am the closest to it, so I snatch the first gun I can find, which is heavy, but not too heavy for me to lift, and grab a box of paintballs. I shove the box in my pocket and sling the gun across my back so the strap crosses my chest. _Time estimate?_ Eric asks Four. Four checks his watch. _Any minute now. How long is it going to take you to memorize the train schedule?_ _Why should I, when I have you to remind me of it?_ says Eric, shoving Four_s shoulder. A circle of light appears on my left, far away. It grows larger as it comes closer, shining against the side of Four_s face, creating a shadow in the faint hollow beneath his cheekbone. He is the first to get on the train, and I run after him, not waiting for Christina or Will or Al to follow me. Four turns around as I fall into stride next to the car and holds out a hand. I grab his arm, and he pulls me in. Even the muscles in his forearm are taut, defined. I let go quickly, without looking at him, and sit down on the other side of the car. Once everyone is in, Four speaks up. _We_ll be dividing into two teams to play capture the flag. Each team will have an even mix of members, Dauntless-born initiates, and transfers. One team will get off first and find a place to hide their flag. Then the second team will get off and do the same._ The car sways, and Four grabs the side of the doorway for balance. _This is a Dauntless tradition, so I suggest you take it seriously._ _What do we get if we win?_ someone shouts. _Sounds like the kind of question someone not from Dauntless would ask,_ says Four, raising an eyebrow. _You get to win, of course._ _Four and I will be your team captains,_ says Eric. He looks at Four. _Let_s divide up transfers first, shall we?_ I tilt my head back. If they_re picking us, I will be chosen last; I can feel it. _You go first,_ Four says. Eric shrugs. _Edward._ Four leans against the door frame and nods. The moonlight makes his eyes bright. He scans the group of transfer initiates briefly, without calculation, and says, _I want the Stiff._ A faint undercurrent of laughter fills the car. Heat rushes into my cheeks. I don_t know whether to be angry at the people laughing at me or flattered by the fact that he chose me first. _Got something to prove?_ asks Eric, with his trademark smirk. _Or are you just picking the weak ones so that if you lose, you_ll have someone to blame it on?_ Four shrugs. _Something like that._ Angry. I should definitely be angry. I scowl at my hands. Whatever Four_s strategy is, it_s based on the idea that I am weaker than the other initiates. And it gives me a bitter taste in my mouth. I have to prove him wrong_I have to. _Your turn,_ says Four. _Peter._ _Christina._ That throws a wrench in his strategy. Christina is not one of the weak ones. What exactly is he doing? _Molly._ _Will,_ says Four, biting his thumbnail. _Al._ _Drew._ _Last one left is Myra. So she_s with me,_ says Eric. _Dauntless-born initiates next._ I stop listening once they_re finished with us. If Four isn_t trying to prove something by choosing the weak, what is he doing? I look at each person he chooses. What do we have in common? Once they_re halfway through the Dauntless-born initiates, I have an idea of what it is. With the exception of Will and a couple of the others, we all share the same body type: narrow shoulders, small frames. All the people on Eric_s team are broad and strong. Just yesterday, Four told me I was fast. We will all be faster than Eric_s team, which will probably be good for capture the flag_I haven_t played before, but I know it_s a game of speed rather than brute force. I cover a smile with my hand. Eric is more ruthless than Four, but Four is smarter. They finish choosing teams, and Eric smirks at Four. _Your team can get off second,_ says Eric. _Don_t do me any favors,_ Four replies. He smiles a little. _You know I don_t need them to win._ _No, I know that you_ll lose no matter when you get off,_ says Eric, biting down briefly on one of the rings in his lip. _Take your scrawny team and get off first, then._ We all stand up. Al gives me a forlorn look, and I smile back in what I hope is a reassuring way. If any of the four of us had to end up on the same team as Eric, Peter, and Molly, at least it was him. They usually leave him alone. The train is about to dip to the ground. I am determined to land on my feet. Just before I jump, someone shoves my shoulder, and I almost topple out of the train car. I don_t look back to see who it is_Molly, Drew, or Peter, it doesn_t matter which one. Before they can try it again, I jump. This time I am ready for the momentum the train gives me, and I run a few steps to diffuse it but keep my balance. Fierce pleasure courses through me and I smile. It_s a small accomplishment, but it makes me feel Dauntless. One of the Dauntless-born initiates touches Four_s shoulder and asks, _When your team won, where did you put the flag?_ _Telling you wouldn_t really be in the spirit of the exercise, Marlene,_ he says coolly. _Come on, Four,_ she whines. She gives him a flirtatious smile. He brushes her hand off his arm, and for some reason, I find myself grinning. _Navy Pier,_ another Dauntless-born initiate calls out. He is tall, with brown skin and dark eyes. Handsome. _My brother was on the winning team. They kept the flag at the carousel._ _Let_s go there, then,_ suggests Will. No one objects, so we walk east, toward the marsh that was once a lake. When I was young, I tried to imagine what it would look like as a lake, with no fence built into the mud to keep the city safe. But it is difficult to imagine that much water in one place. _We_re close to Erudite headquarters, right?_ asks Christina, bumping Will_s shoulder with her own. _Yeah. It_s south of here,_ he says. He looks over his shoulder, and for a second his expression is full of longing. Then it_s gone. I am less than a mile away from my brother. It has been a week since we were that close together. I shake my head a little to get the thought out of my mind. I can_t think about him today, when I have to focus on making it through stage one. I can_t think about him any day. We walk across the bridge. We still need the bridges because the mud beneath them is too wet to walk on. I wonder how long it_s been since the river dried up. Once we cross the bridge, the city changes. Behind us, most of the buildings were in use, and even if they weren_t, they looked well-tended. In front of us is a sea of crumbling concrete and broken glass. The silence of this part of the city is eerie; it feels like a nightmare. It_s hard to see where I_m going, because it_s after midnight and all the city lights are off. Marlene takes out a flashlight and shines it at the street in front of us. _Scared of the dark, Mar?_ the dark-eyed Dauntless-born initiate teases. _If you want to step on broken glass, Uriah, be my guest,_ she snaps. But she turns it off anyway. I have realized that part of being Dauntless is being willing to make things more difficult for yourself in order to be self-sufficient. There_s nothing especially brave about wandering dark streets with no flashlight, but we are not supposed to need help, even from light. We are supposed to be capable of anything. I like that. Because there might come a day when there is no flashlight, there is no gun, there is no guiding hand. And I want to be ready for it. The buildings end just before the marsh. A strip of land juts out into the marsh, and rising from it is a giant white wheel with dozens of red passenger cars dangling from it at regular intervals. The Ferris wheel. _Think about it. People used to ride that thing. For fun,_ says Will, shaking his head. _They must have been Dauntless,_ I say. _Yeah, but a lame version of Dauntless._ Christina laughs. _A Dauntless Ferris wheel wouldn_t have cars. You would just hang on tight with your hands, and good luck to you._ We walk down the side of the pier. All the buildings on my left are empty, their signs torn down and their windows closed, but it is a clean kind of emptiness. Whoever left these places left them by choice and at their leisure. Some places in the city are not like that. _Dare you to jump into the marsh,_ says Christina to Will. _You first._ We reach the carousel. Some of the horses are scratched and weathered, their tails broken off or their saddles chipped. Four takes the flag out of his pocket. _In ten minutes, the other team will pick their location,_ he says. _I suggest you take this time to formulate a strategy. We may not be Erudite, but mental preparedness is one aspect of your Dauntless training. Arguably, it is the most important aspect._ He is right about that. What good is a prepared body if you have a scattered mind? Will takes the flag from Four. _Some people should stay here and guard, and some people should go out and scout the other team_s location,_ Will says. _Yeah? You think?_ Marlene plucks the flag from Will_s fingers. _Who put you in charge, transfer?_ _No one,_ says Will. _But someone_s got to do it._ _Maybe we should develop a more defensive strategy. Wait for them to come to us, then take them out,_ suggests Christina. _That_s the sissy way out,_ Uriah says. _I vote we go all out. Hide the flag well enough that they can_t find it._ Everyone bursts into the conversation at once, their voices louder with each passing second. Christina defends Will_s plan; the Dauntless-born initiates vote for offense; everyone argues about who should make the decision. Four sits down on the edge of the carousel, leaning against a plastic horse_s foot. His eyes lift to the sky, where there are no stars, only a round moon peeking through a thin layer of clouds. The muscles in his arms are relaxed; his hand rests on the back of his neck. He looks almost comfortable, holding that gun to his shoulder. I close my eyes briefly. Why does he distract me so easily? I need to focus. What would I say if I could shout above the sniping behind me? We can_t act until we know where the other team is. They could be anywhere within a two-mile radius, although I can rule out the empty marsh as an option. The best way to find them is not to argue about how to search for them, or how many to send out in a search party. It_s to climb as high as possible. I look over my shoulder to make sure no one is watching. None of them look at me, so I walk toward the Ferris wheel with light, quiet footsteps, pressing my gun to my back with one hand to keep it from making noise. When I stare up at the Ferris wheel from the ground, my throat feels tighter. It is taller than I thought, so tall I can barely see the cars swinging at the top. The only good thing about its height is that it is built to support weight. If I climb it, it won_t collapse beneath me. My heart pumps faster. Will I really risk my life for this_to win a game the Dauntless like to play? It_s so dark I can barely see them, but when I stare at the huge, rusted supports holding the wheel in place, I see the rungs of a ladder. Each support is only as wide as my shoulders, and there are no railings to hold me in, but climbing a ladder is better than climbing the spokes of the wheel. I grab a rung. It_s rusty and thin and feels like it might crumble in my hands. I put my weight on the lowest rung to test it and jump to make sure it will hold me up. The movement hurts my ribs, and I wince. _Tris,_ a low voice says behind me. I don_t know why it doesn_t startle me. Maybe because I am becoming Dauntless, and mental readiness is something I am supposed to develop. Maybe because his voice is low and smooth and almost soothing. Whatever the reason, I look over my shoulder. Four stands behind me with his gun slung across his back, just like mine. _Yes?_ I say. _I came to find out what you think you_re doing._ _I_m seeking higher ground,_ I say. _I don_t think I_m doing anything._ I see his smile in the dark. _All right. I_m coming._ I pause a second. He doesn_t look at me the way Will, Christina, and Al sometimes do_like I am too small and too weak to be of any use, and they pity me for it. But if he insists on coming with me, it is probably because he doubts me. _I_ll be fine,_ I say. _Undoubtedly,_ he replies. I don_t hear the sarcasm, but I know it_s there. It has to be. I climb, and when I_m a few feet off the ground, he comes after me. He moves faster than I do, and soon his hands find the rungs that my feet leave. _So tell me_,_ he says quietly as we climb. He sounds breathless. _What do you think the purpose of this exercise is? The game, I mean, not the climbing._ I stare down at the pavement. It seems far away now, but I_m not even a third of the way up. Above me is a platform, just below the center of the wheel. That_s my destination. I don_t even think about how I will climb back down. The breeze that brushed my cheeks earlier now presses against my side. The higher we go, the stronger it will get. I need to be ready. _Learning about strategy,_ I say. _Teamwork, maybe._ _Teamwork,_ he repeats. A laugh hitches in his throat. It sounds like a panicked breath. _Maybe not,_ I say. _Teamwork doesn_t seem to be a Dauntless priority._ The wind is stronger now. I press closer to the white support so I don_t fall, but that makes it hard to climb. Below me the carousel looks small. I can barely see my team under the awning. Some of them are missing_a search party must have left. Four says, _It_s supposed to be a priority. It used to be._ But I_m not really listening, because the height is dizzying. My hands ache from holding the rungs, and my legs are shaking, but I_m not sure why. It isn_t the height that scares me_the height makes me feel alive with energy, every organ and vessel and muscle in my body singing at the same pitch. Then I realize what it is. It_s him. Something about him makes me feel like I am about to fall. Or turn to liquid. Or burst into flames. My hand almost misses the next rung. _Now tell me_,_ he says through a bursting breath, _what do you think learning strategy has to do with_bravery?_ The question reminds me that he is my instructor, and I am supposed to learn something from this. A cloud passes over the moon, and the light shifts across my hands. _It_it prepares you to act,_ I say finally. _You learn strategy so you can use it._ I hear him breathing behind me, loud and fast. _Are you all right, Four?_ _Are you human, Tris? Being up this high__ He gulps for air. _It doesn_t scare you at all?_ I look over my shoulder at the ground. If I fall now, I will die. But I don_t think I will fall. A gust of air presses against my left side, throwing my body weight to the right. I gasp and cling to the rungs, my balance shifting. Four_s cold hand clamps around one of my hips, one of his fingers finding a strip of bare skin just under the hem of my T-shirt. He squeezes, steadying me and pushing me gently to the left, restoring my balance. Now I can_t breathe. I pause, staring at my hands, my mouth dry. I feel the ghost of where his hand was, his fingers long and narrow. _You okay?_ he asks quietly. _Yes,_ I say, my voice strained. I keep climbing, silently, until I reach the platform. Judging by the blunted ends of metal rods, it used to have railings, but it doesn_t anymore. I sit down and scoot to the end of it so Four has somewhere to sit. Without thinking, I put my legs over the side. Four, however, crouches and presses his back to the metal support, breathing heavily. _You_re afraid of heights,_ I say. _How do you survive in the Dauntless compound?_ _I ignore my fear,_ he says. _When I make decisions, I pretend it doesn_t exist._ I stare at him for a second. I can_t help it. To me there_s a difference between not being afraid and acting in spite of fear, as he does. I have been staring at him too long. _What?_ he says quietly. _Nothing._ I look away from him and toward the city. I have to focus. I climbed up here for a reason. The city is pitch-black, but even if it wasn_t, I wouldn_t be able to see very far. A building stands in my way. _We_re not high enough,_ I say. I look up. Above me is a tangle of white bars, the wheel_s scaffolding. If I climb carefully, I can wedge my feet between the supports and the crossbars and stay secure. Or as secure as possible. _I_m going to climb,_ I say, standing up. I grab one of the bars above my head and pull myself up. Shooting pains go through my bruised sides, but I ignore them. _For God_s sake, Stiff,_ he says. _You don_t have to follow me,_ I say, staring at the maze of bars above me. I shove my foot onto the place where two bars cross and push myself up, grabbing another bar in the process. I sway for a second, my heart beating so hard I can_t feel anything else. Every thought I have condenses into that heartbeat, moving at the same rhythm. _Yes, I do,_ he says. This is crazy, and I know it. A fraction of an inch of mistake, half a second of hesitation, and my life is over. Heat tears through my chest, and I smile as I grab the next bar. I pull myself up, my arms shaking, and force my leg under me so I_m standing on another bar. When I feel steady, I look down at Four. But instead of seeing him, I see straight to the ground. I can_t breathe. I imagine my body plummeting, smacking into the bars as it falls down, and my limbs at broken angles on the pavement, just like Rita_s sister when she didn_t make it onto the roof. Four grabs a bar with each hand and pulls himself up, easy, like he_s sitting up in bed. But he is not comfortable or natural here_every muscle in his arm stands out. It is a stupid thing for me to think when I am one hundred feet off the ground. I grab another bar, find another place to wedge my foot. When I look at the city again, the building isn_t in my way. I_m high enough to see the skyline. Most of the buildings are black against a navy sky, but the red lights at the top of the Hub are lit up. They blink half as fast as my heartbeat. Beneath the buildings, the streets look like tunnels. For a few seconds I see only a dark blanket over the land in front of me, just faint differences between building and sky and street and ground. Then I see a tiny pulsing light on the ground. _See that?_ I say, pointing. Four stops climbing when he_s right behind me and looks over my shoulder, his chin next to my head. His breaths flutter against my ear, and I feel shaky again, like I did when I was climbing the ladder. _Yeah,_ he says. A smile spreads over his face. _It_s coming from the park at the end of the pier,_ he says. _Figures. It_s surrounded by open space, but the trees provide some camouflage. Obviously not enough._ _Okay,_ I say. I look over my shoulder at him. We are so close I forget where I am; instead I notice that the corners of his mouth turn down naturally, just like mine, and that he has a scar on his chin. _Um,_ I say. I clear my throat. _Start climbing down. I_ll follow you._ Four nods and steps down. His leg is so long that he finds a place for his foot easily and guides his body between the bars. Even in darkness, I see that his hands are bright red and shaking. I step down with one foot, pressing my weight into one of the crossbars. The bar creaks beneath me and comes loose, clattering against half a dozen bars on the way down and bouncing on the pavement. I_m dangling from the scaffolding with my toes swinging in midair. A strangled gasp escapes me. _Four!_ I try to find another place to put my foot, but the nearest foothold is a few feet away, farther than I can stretch. My hands are sweaty. I remember wiping them on my slacks before the Choosing Ceremony, before the aptitude test, before every important moment, and suppress a scream. I will slip. I will slip. _Hold on!_ he shouts. _Just hold on, I have an idea._ He keeps climbing down. He_s moving in the wrong direction; he should be coming toward me, not going away from me. I stare at my hands, which are wrapped around the narrow bar so tightly my knuckles are white. My fingers are dark red, almost purple. They won_t last long. I won_t last long. I squeeze my eyes shut. Better not to look. Better to pretend that none of this exists. I hear Four_s sneakers squeak against metal and rapid footsteps on ladder rungs. _Four!_ I yell. Maybe he left. Maybe he abandoned me. Maybe this is a test of my strength, of my bravery. I breathe in my nose and out my mouth. I count my breaths to calm down. One, two. In, out. Come on, Four is all I can think. Come on, do something. Then I hear something wheeze and creak. The bar I_m holding shudders, and I scream through my clenched teeth as I fight to keep my grip. The wheel is moving. Air wraps around my ankles and wrists as the wind gushes up, like a geyser. I open my eyes. I_m moving_toward the ground. I laugh, giddy with hysteria as the ground comes closer and closer. But I_m picking up speed. If I don_t drop at the right time, the moving cars and metal scaffolding will drag at my body and carry me with them, and then I will really die. Every muscle in my body tenses as I hurtle toward the ground. When I can see the cracks in the sidewalk, I drop, and my body slams into the ground, feet first. My legs collapse beneath me and I pull my arms in, rolling as fast as I can to the side. The cement scrapes my face, and I turn just in time to see a car bearing down on me, like a giant shoe about to crush me. I roll again, and the bottom of the car skims my shoulder. I_m safe. I press my palms to my face. I don_t try to get up. If I did, I_m sure I would just fall back down. I hear footsteps, and Four_s hands wrap around my wrists. I let him pry my hands from my eyes. He encloses one of my hands perfectly between two of his. The warmth of his skin overwhelms the ache in my fingers from holding the bars. _You all right?_ he asks, pressing our hands together. _Yeah._ He starts to laugh. After a second, I laugh too. With my free hand, I push myself to a sitting position. I am aware of how little space there is between us_six inches at most. That space feels charged with electricity. I feel like it should be smaller. He stands, pulling me up with him. The wheel is still moving, creating a wind that tosses my hair back. _You could have told me that the Ferris wheel still worked,_ I say. I try to sound casual. _We wouldn_t have had to climb in the first place._ _I would have, if I had known,_ he says. _Couldn_t just let you hang there, so I took a risk. Come on, time to get their flag._ Four hesitates for a moment and then takes my arm, his fingertips pressing to the inside of my elbow. In other factions, he would give me time to recover, but he is Dauntless, so he smiles at me and starts toward the carousel, where our team members guard our flag. And I half run, half limp beside him. I still feel weak, but my mind is awake, especially with his hand on me. Christina is perched on one of the horses, her long legs crossed and her hand around the pole holding the plastic animal upright. Our flag is behind her, a glowing triangle in the dark. Three Dauntless-born initiates stand among the other worn and dirty animals. One of them has his hand on a horse_s head, and a scratched horse eye stares at me between his fingers. Sitting on the edge of the carousel is an older Dauntless, scratching her quadruple-pierced eyebrow with her thumb. _Where_d the others go?_ asks Four. He looks as excited as I feel, his eyes wide with energy. _Did you guys turn on the wheel?_ the older girl says. _What the hell are you thinking? You might as well have just shouted _Here we are! Come and get us!__ She shakes her head. _If I lose again this year, the shame will be unbearable. Three years in a row?_ _The wheel doesn_t matter,_ says Four. _We know where they are._ _We?_ says Christina, looking from Four to me. _Yes, while the rest of you were twiddling your thumbs, Tris climbed the Ferris wheel to look for the other team,_ he says. _What do we do now, then?_ asks one of the Dauntless-born initiates through a yawn. Four looks at me. Slowly the eyes of the other initiates, including Christina, migrate from him to me. I tense my shoulders, about to shrug and say I don_t know, and then an image of the pier stretching out beneath me comes into my mind. I have an idea. _Split in half,_ I say. _Four of us go to the right side of the pier, three to the left. The other team is in the park at the end of the pier, so the group of four will charge as the group of three sneaks behind the other team to get the flag._ Christina looks at me like she no longer recognizes me. I don_t blame her. _Sounds good,_ says the older girl, clapping her hands together. _Let_s get this night over with, shall we?_ Christina joins me in the group going to the right, along with Uriah, whose smile looks white against his skin_s bronze. I didn_t notice before, but he has a tattoo of a snake behind his ear. I stare at its tail curling around his earlobe for a moment, but then Christina starts running and I have to follow her. I have to run twice as fast to match my short strides to her long ones. As I run, I realize that only one of us will get to touch the flag, and it won_t matter that it was my plan and my information that got us to it if I_m not the one who grabs it. Though I can hardly breathe as it is, I run faster, and I_m on Christina_s heels. I pull my gun around my body, holding my finger over the trigger. We reach the end of the pier, and I clamp my mouth shut to keep my loud breaths in. We slow down so our footsteps aren_t as loud, and I look for the blinking light again. Now that I_m on the ground, it_s bigger and easier to see. I point, and Christina nods, leading the way toward it. Then I hear a chorus of yells, so loud they make me jump. I hear puffs of air as paintballs go flying and splats as they find their targets. Our team has charged, the other team runs to meet us, and the flag is almost unguarded. Uriah takes aim and shoots the last guard in the thigh. The guard, a short girl with purple hair, throws her gun to the ground in a tantrum. I sprint to catch up to Christina. The flag hangs from a tree branch, high above my head. I reach for it, and so does Christina. _Come on, Tris,_ she says. _You_re already the hero of the day. And you know you can_t reach it anyway._ She gives me a patronizing look, the way people sometimes look at children when they act too adult, and snatches the flag from the branch. Without looking at me, she turns and gives a whoop of victory. Uriah_s voice joins hers and then I hear a chorus of yells in the distance. Uriah claps my shoulder, and I try to forget about the look Christina gave me. Maybe she_s right; I_ve already proved myself today. I do not want to be greedy; I do not want to be like Eric, terrified of other people_s strength. The shouts of triumph become infectious, and I lift my voice to join in, running toward my teammates. Christina holds the flag up high, and everyone clusters around her, grabbing her arm to lift the flag even higher. I can_t reach her, so I stand off to the side, grinning. A hand touches my shoulder. _Well done,_ Four says quietly. _I can_t believe I missed it!_ Will says again, shaking his head. Wind coming through the doorway of the train car blows his hair in every direction. _You were performing the very important job of staying out of our way,_ says Christina, beaming. Al groans. _Why did I have to be on the other team?_ _Because life_s not fair, Albert. And the world is conspiring against you,_ says Will. _Hey, can I see the flag again?_ Peter, Molly, and Drew sit across from the members in the corner. Their chests and backs are splattered with blue and pink paint, and they look dejected. They speak quietly, sneaking looks at the rest of us, especially Christina. That is the benefit of not holding the flag right now_I am no one_s target. Or at least, no more than usual. _So you climbed the Ferris wheel, huh,_ says Uriah. He stumbles across the car and sits next to me. Marlene, the girl with the flirty smile, follows him. _Yes,_ I say. _Pretty smart of you. Like_Erudite smart,_ Marlene says. _I_m Marlene._ _Tris,_ I say. At home, being compared to an Erudite would be an insult, but she says it like a compliment. _Yeah, I know who you are,_ she says. _The first jumper tends to stick in your head._ It has been years since I jumped off a building in my Abnegation uniform; it has been decades. Uriah takes one of the paintballs from his gun and squeezes it between his thumb and index finger. The train lurches to the left, and Uriah falls against me, his fingers pinching the paintball until a stream of pink, foul-smelling paint sprays on my face. Marlene collapses in giggles. I wipe some of the paint from my face, slowly, and then smear it on his cheek. The scent of fish oil wafts through the train car. _Ew!_ He squeezes the ball at me again, but the opening is at the wrong angle, and the paint sprays into his mouth instead. He coughs and makes exaggerated gagging sounds. I wipe my face with my sleeve, laughing so hard my stomach hurts. If my entire life is like this, loud laughter and bold action and the kind of exhaustion you feel after a hard but satisfying day, I will be content. As Uriah scrapes his tongue with his fingertips, I realize that all I have to do is get through initiation, and that life will be mine. CHAPTER THIRTEEN THE NEXT MORNING, when I trudge into the training room, yawning, a large target stands at one end of the room, and next to the door is a table with knives strewn across it. Target practice again. At least it won_t hurt. Eric stands in the middle of the room, his posture so rigid it looks like someone replaced his spine with a metal rod. The sight of him makes me feel like all the air in the room is heavier, bearing down on me. At least when he was slouched against a wall, I could pretend he wasn_t here. Today I can_t pretend. _Tomorrow will be the last day of stage one,_ Eric says. _You will resume fighting then. Today, you_ll be learning how to aim. Everyone pick up three knives._ His voice is deeper than usual. _And pay attention while Four demonstrates the correct technique for throwing them._ At first no one moves. _Now!_ We scramble for daggers. They aren_t as heavy as guns, but they still feel strange in my hands, like I am not allowed to hold them. _He_s in a bad mood today,_ mumbles Christina. _Is he ever in a good mood?_ I murmur back. But I know what she means. Judging by the poisonous look Eric gives Four when he isn_t paying attention, last night_s loss must have bothered Eric more than he let on. Winning capture the flag is a matter of pride, and pride is important to the Dauntless. More important than reason or sense. I watch Four_s arm as he throws a knife. The next time he throws, I watch his stance. He hits the target each time, exhaling as he releases the knife. Eric orders, _Line up!_ Haste, I think, will not help. My mother told me that when I was learning how to knit. I have to think of this as a mental exercise, not a physical exercise. So I spend the first few minutes practicing without a knife, finding the right stance, learning the right arm motion. Eric paces too quickly behind us. _I think the Stiff_s taken too many hits to the head!_ remarks Peter, a few people down. _Hey, Stiff! Remember what a knife is?_ Ignoring him, I practice the throw again with a knife in hand but don_t release it. I shut out Eric_s pacing, and Peter_s jeering, and the nagging feeling that Four is staring at me, and throw the knife. It spins end over end, slamming into the board. The blade doesn_t stick, but I_m the first person to hit the target. I smirk as Peter misses again. I can_t help myself. _Hey, Peter,_ I say. _Remember what a target is?_ Next to me, Christina snorts, and her next knife hits the target. A half hour later, Al is the only initiate who hasn_t hit the target yet. His knives clatter to the floor, or bounce off the wall. While the rest of us approach the board to collect our weapons, he hunts the floor for his. The next time he tries and misses, Eric marches toward him and demands, _How slow are you, Candor? Do you need glasses? Should I move the target closer to you?_ Al_s face turns red. He throws another knife, and this one sails a few feet to the right of the target. It spins and hits the wall. _What was that, initiate?_ says Eric quietly, leaning closer to Al. I bite my lip. This isn_t good. _It_it slipped,_ says Al. _Well, I think you should go get it,_ Eric says. He scans the other initiates_ faces_everyone has stopped throwing again_and says, _Did I tell you to stop?_ Knives start to hit the board. We have all seen Eric angry before, but this is different. The look in his eyes is almost rabid. _Go get it?_ Al_s eyes are wide. _But everyone_s still throwing._ _And?_ _And I don_t want to get hit._ _I think you can trust your fellow initiates to aim better than you._ Eric smiles a little, but his eyes stay cruel. _Go get your knife._ Al doesn_t usually object to anything the Dauntless tell us to do. I don_t think he_s afraid to; he just knows that objecting is useless. This time Al sets his wide jaw. He_s reached the limits of his compliance. _No,_ he says. _Why not?_ Eric_s beady eyes fix on Al_s face. _Are you afraid?_ _Of getting stabbed by an airborne knife?_ says Al. _Yes, I am!_ Honesty is his mistake. Not his refusal, which Eric might have accepted. _Everyone stop!_ Eric shouts. The knives stop, and so does all conversation. I hold my small dagger tightly. _Clear out of the ring._ Eric looks at Al. _All except you._ I drop the dagger and it hits the dusty floor with a thud. I follow the other initiates to the edge of the room, and they inch in front of me, eager to see what makes my stomach turn: Al, facing Eric_s wrath. _Stand in front of the target,_ says Eric. Al_s big hands shake. He walks back to the target. _Hey, Four._ Eric looks over his shoulder. _Give me a hand here, huh?_ Four scratches one of his eyebrows with a knife point and approaches Eric. He has dark circles under his eyes and a tense set to his mouth_he_s as tired as we are. _You_re going to stand there as he throws those knives,_ Eric says to Al, _until you learn not to flinch._ _Is this really necessary?_ says Four. He sounds bored, but he doesn_t look bored. His face and body are tense, alert. I squeeze my hands into fists. No matter how casual Four sounds, the question is a challenge. And Four doesn_t often challenge Eric directly. At first Eric stares at Four in silence. Four stares back. Seconds pass and my fingernails bite my palms. _I have the authority here, remember?_ Eric says, so quietly I can barely hear him. _Here, and everywhere else._ Color rushes into Four_s face, though his expression does not change. His grip on the knives tightens and his knuckles turn white as he turns to face Al. I look from Al_s wide, dark eyes to his shaking hands to the determined set of Four_s jaw. Anger bubbles in my chest, and bursts from my mouth: _Stop it._ Four turns the knife in his hand, his fingers moving painstakingly over the metal edge. He gives me such a hard look that I feel like he_s turning me to stone. I know why. I am stupid for speaking up while Eric is here; I am stupid for speaking up at all. _Any idiot can stand in front of a target,_ I say. _It doesn_t prove anything except that you_re bullying us. Which, as I recall, is a sign of cowardice._ _Then it should be easy for you,_ Eric says. _If you_re willing to take his place._ The last thing I want to do is stand in front of that target, but I can_t back down now. I didn_t leave myself the option. I weave through the crowd of initiates, and someone shoves my shoulder. _There goes your pretty face,_ hisses Peter. _Oh, wait. You don_t have one._ I recover my balance and walk toward Al. He nods at me. I try to smile encouragingly, but I can_t manage it. I stand in front of the board, and my head doesn_t even reach the center of the target, but it doesn_t matter. I look at Four_s knives: one in his right hand, two in his left hand. My throat is dry. I try to swallow, and then look at Four. He is never sloppy. He won_t hit me. I_ll be fine. I tip my chin up. I will not flinch. If I flinch, I prove to Eric that this is not as easy as I said it was; I prove that I_m a coward. _If you flinch,_ Four says, slowly, carefully, _Al takes your place. Understand?_ I nod. Four_s eyes are still on mine when he lifts his hand, pulls his elbow back, and throws the knife. It is just a flash in the air, and then I hear a thud. The knife is buried in the board, half a foot away from my cheek. I close my eyes. Thank God. _You about done, Stiff?_ asks Four. I remember Al_s wide eyes and his quiet sobs at night and shake my head. _No._ _Eyes open, then._ He taps the spot between his eyebrows. I stare at him, pressing my hands to my sides so no one can see them shake. He passes a knife from his left hand to his right hand, and I see nothing but his eyes as the second knife hits the target above my head. This one is closer than the last one_I feel it hovering over my skull. _Come on, Stiff,_ he says. _Let someone else stand there and take it._ Why is he trying to goad me into giving up? Does he want me to fail? _Shut up, Four!_ I hold my breath as he turns the last knife in his hand. I see a glint in his eyes as he pulls his arm back and lets the knife fly. It comes straight at me, spinning, blade over handle. My body goes rigid. This time, when it hits the board, my ear stings, and blood tickles my skin. I touch my ear. He nicked it. And judging by the look he gives me, he did it on purpose. _I would love to stay and see if the rest of you are as daring as she is,_ says Eric, his voice smooth, _but I think that_s enough for today._ He squeezes my shoulder. His fingers feel dry and cold, and the look he gives me claims me, like he_s taking ownership of what I did. I don_t return Eric_s smile. What I did had nothing to do with him. _I should keep my eye on you,_ he adds. Fear prickles inside me, in my chest and in my head and in my hands. I feel like the word _DIVERGENT_ is branded on my forehead, and if he looks at me long enough, he_ll be able to read it. But he just lifts his hand from my shoulder and keeps walking. Four and I stay behind. I wait until the room is empty and the door is shut before looking at him again. He walks toward me. _Is your__ he begins. _You did that on purpose!_ I shout. _Yes, I did,_ he says quietly. _And you should thank me for helping you._ I grit my teeth. _Thank you? You almost stabbed my ear, and you spent the entire time taunting me. Why should I thank you?_ _You know, I_m getting a little tired of waiting for you to catch on!_ He glares at me, and even when he glares, his eyes look thoughtful. Their shade of blue is peculiar, so dark it is almost black, with a small patch of lighter blue on the left iris, right next to the corner of his eye. _Catch on? Catch on to what? That you wanted to prove to Eric how tough you are? That you_re sadistic, just like he is?_ _I am not sadistic._ He doesn_t yell. I wish he would yell. It would scare me less. He leans his face close to mine, which reminds me of lying inches away from the attack dog_s fangs in the aptitude test, and says, _If I wanted to hurt you, don_t you think I would have already?_ He crosses the room and slams the point of a knife so hard into the table that it sticks there, handle toward the ceiling. _I__ I start to shout, but he_s already gone. I scream, frustrated, and wipe some of the blood from my ear. CHAPTER FOURTEEN TODAY IS THE day before Visiting Day. I think of Visiting Day like I think of the world ending: Nothing after it matters. Everything I do builds up to it. I might see my parents again. I might not. Which is worse? I don_t know. I try to pull a pant leg over my thigh and it sticks just above my knee. Frowning, I stare at my leg. A bulge of muscle is stopping the fabric. I let the pant leg fall and look over my shoulder at the back of my thigh. Another muscle stands out there. I step to the side so I stand in front of the mirror. I see muscles that I couldn_t see before in my arms, legs, and stomach. I pinch my side, where a layer of fat used to hint at curves to come. Nothing. Dauntless initiation has stolen whatever softness my body had. Is that good, or bad? At least I am stronger than I was. I wrap my towel around me again and leave the girls_ bathroom. I hope no one is in the dormitory to see me walking in my towel, but I can_t wear those pants. When I open the dormitory door, a weight drops into my stomach. Peter, Molly, Drew, and some of the other initiates stand in the back corner, laughing. They look up when I walk in and start snickering. Molly_s snort-laugh is louder than everyone else_s. I walk to my bunk, trying to pretend like they aren_t there, and fumble in the drawer under my bed for the dress Christina made me get. One hand clamped around the towel and one holding the dress, I stand up, and right behind me is Peter. I jump back, almost hitting my head on Christina_s bunk. I try to slip past him, but he slams his hand against Christina_s bed frame, blocking my path. I should have known he wouldn_t let me get away that easily. _Didn_t realize you were so skinny, Stiff._ Filtered away from me._ My voice is somehow steady. _This isn_t the Hub, you know. No one has to follow a Stiff_s orders here._ His eyes travel down my body, not in the greedy way that a man looks at a woman, but cruelly, scrutinizing every flaw. I hear my heartbeat in my ears as the others inch closer, forming a pack behind Peter. This will be bad. I have to get out of here. Out of the corner of my eye, I see a clear path to the door. If I can duck under Peter_s arm and sprint toward it, I might be able to make it. _Look at her,_ says Molly, crossing her arms. She smirks at me. _She_s practically a child._ _Oh, I don_t know,_ says Drew. _She could be hiding something under that towel. Why don_t we look and see?_ Now. I duck under Peter_s arm and dart toward the door. Something pinches and pulls at my towel as I walk away and then yanks sharply_Peter_s hand, gathering the fabric into his fist. The towel slips from my hand and the air is cold on my naked body, making the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. Laughter erupts, and I run as fast as I can toward the door, holding the dress against my body to hide it. I sprint down the hallway and into the bathroom and lean against the door, breathing hard. I close my eyes. It doesn_t matter. I don_t care. A sob bursts from my mouth, and I slap my hand over my lips to contain it. It doesn_t matter what they saw. I shake my head like the motion is supposed to make it true. With shaking hands, I get dressed. The dress is plain black, with a V-neck that shows the tattoos on my collarbone, and goes down to my knees. Once I_m dressed and the urge to cry is gone, I feel something hot and violent writhing in my stomach. I want to hurt them. I stare at my eyes in the mirror. I want to, so I will. I can_t fight in a dress, so I get myself some new clothes from the Pit before I walk to the training room for my last fight. I hope it_s with Peter. _Hey, where were you this morning?_ Christina asks when I walk in. I squint to see the blackboard across the room. The space next to my name is blank_I haven_t gotten an opponent yet. _I got held up,_ I say. Four stands in front of the board and writes a name next to mine. Please let it be Peter, please, please_. _You okay, Tris? You look a little_,_ says Al. _A little what?_ Four moves away from the board. The name written next to mine is Molly. Not Peter, but good enough. _On edge,_ says Al. My fight is last on the list, which means I have to wait through three matches before I face her. Edward and Peter fight second to last_good. Edward is the only one who can beat Peter. Christina will fight Al, which means that Al will lose quickly, like he_s been doing all week. _Go easy on me, okay?_ Al asks Christina. _I make no promises,_ she replies. The first pair_Will and Myra_stand across from each other in the arena. For a second they both shuffle back and forth, one jerking an arm forward and then retracting it, the other kicking and missing. Across the room, Four leans against the wall and yawns. I stare at the board and try to predict the outcome of each match. It doesn_t take long. Then I bite my fingernails and think about Molly. Christina lost to her, which means she_s good. She has a powerful punch, but she doesn_t move her feet. If she can_t hit me, she can_t hurt me. As expected, the next fight between Christina and Al is quick and painless. Al falls after a few hard hits to the face and doesn_t get back up, which makes Eric shake his head. Edward and Peter take longer. Though they are the two best fighters, the disparity between them is noticeable. Edward_s fist slams into Peter_s jaw, and I remember what Will said about him_that he has been studying combat since he was ten. It_s obvious. He is faster and smarter than even Peter. By the time the three matches are done, my nails are bitten to the beds and I_m hungry for lunch. I walk to the arena without looking at anyone or anything but the center of the room. Some of my anger has faded, but it isn_t hard to call back. All I have to do is think about how cold the air was and how loud the laughter was. Look at her. She_s a child. Molly stands across from me. _Was that a birthmark I saw on your left butt cheek?_ she says, smirking. _God, you_re pale, Stiff._ She_ll make the first move. She always does. Molly starts toward me and throws her weight into a punch. As her body shifts forward, I duck and drive my fist into her stomach, right over her bellybutton. Before she can get her hands on me, I slip past her, my hands up, ready for her next attempt. She_s not smirking anymore. She runs at me like she_s about to tackle me, and I dart out of the way. I hear Four_s voice in my head, telling me that the most powerful weapon at my disposal is my elbow. I just have to find a way to use it. I block her next punch with my forearm. The blow stings, but I barely notice it. She grits her teeth and lets out a frustrated groan, more animal-sounding than human. She tries a sloppy kick at my side, which I dodge, and while her balance is off, I rush forward and force my elbow up at her face. She pulls her head back just in time, and my elbow grazes her chin. She punches me in the ribs and I stumble to the side, recovering my breath. There_s something she_s not protecting, I know it. I want to hit her face, but maybe that_s not a smart move. I watch her for a few seconds. Her hands are too high; they guard her nose and cheeks, leaving her stomach and ribs exposed. Molly and I have the same flaw in combat. Our eyes meet for just a second. I aim an uppercut low, below her bellybutton. My fist sinks into her flesh, forcing a heavy breath from her mouth that I feel against my ear. As she gasps, I sweep-kick her legs out from under her, and she falls hard on the ground, sending dust into the air. I pull my foot back and kick as hard as I can at her ribs. My mother and father would not approve of my kicking someone when she_s down. I don_t care. She curls into a ball to protect her side, and I kick again, this time hitting her in the stomach. Like a child. I kick again, this time hitting her in the face. Blood springs from her nose and spreads over her face. Look at her. Another kick hits her in the chest. I pull my foot back again, but Four_s hands clamp around my arms, and he pulls me away from her with irresistible force. I breathe through gritted teeth, staring at Molly_s blood-covered face, the color deep and rich and beautiful, in a way. She groans, and I hear a gurgling in her throat, watch blood trickle from her lips. _You won,_ Four mutters. _Stop._ I wipe the sweat from my forehead. He stares at me. His eyes are too wide; they look alarmed. _I think you should leave,_ he says. _Take a walk._ _I_m fine,_ I say. _I_m fine now,_ I say again, this time for myself. I wish I could say I felt guilty for what I did. I don_t. CHAPTER FIFTEEN VISITING DAY. The second I open my eyes, I remember. My heart leaps and then plummets when I see Molly hobble across the dormitory, her nose purple between strips of medical tape. Once I see her leave, I check for Peter and Drew. Neither of them is in the dormitory, so I change quickly. As long as they aren_t here, I don_t care who sees me in my underwear, not anymore. Everyone else dresses in silence. Not even Christina smiles. We all know that we might go to the Pit floor and search every face and never find one that belongs to us. I make my bed with the tight corners like my father taught me. As I pinch a stray hair from my pillow, Eric walks in. _Attention!_ he announces, flicking a lock of dark hair from his eyes. _I want to give you some advice about today. If by some miracle your families do come to visit you__ He scans our faces and smirks. __which I doubt, it is best not to seem too attached. That will make it easier for you, and easier for them. We also take the phrase _faction before blood_ very seriously here. Attachment to your family suggests you aren_t entirely pleased with your faction, which would be shameful. Understand?_ I understand. I hear the threat in Eric_s sharp voice. The only part of that speech that Eric meant was the last part: We are Dauntless, and we need to act accordingly. On my way out of the dormitory, Eric stops me. _I may have underestimated you, Stiff,_ he says. _You did well yesterday._ I stare up at him. For the first time since I beat Molly, guilt pinches my gut. If Eric thinks I did something right, I must have done it wrong. _Thank you,_ I say. I slip out of the dormitory. Once my eyes adjust to the dim hallway light, I see Christina and Will ahead of me, Will laughing, probably at a joke Christina made. I don_t try to catch up. For some reason, I feel like it would be a mistake to interrupt them. Al is missing. I didn_t see him in the dormitory, and he_s not walking toward the Pit now. Maybe he_s already there. I run my fingers through my hair and smooth it into a bun. I check my clothes_am I covered up? My pants are tight and my collarbone is showing. They won_t approve. Who cares if they approve? I set my jaw. This is my faction now. These are the clothes my faction wears. I stop just before the hallway ends. Clusters of families stand on the Pit floor, most of them Dauntless families with Dauntless initiates. They still look strange to me_a mother with a pierced eyebrow, a father with a tattooed arm, an initiate with purple hair, a wholesome family unit. I spot Drew and Molly standing alone at one end of the room and suppress a smile. At least their families didn_t come. But Peter_s did. He stands next to a tall man with bushy eyebrows and a short, meek-looking woman with red hair. Neither of his parents looks like him. They both wear black pants and white shirts, typical Candor outfits, and his father speaks so loudly I can almost hear him from where I stand. Do they know what kind of person their son is? Then again_what kind of person am I? Across the room, Will stands with a woman in a blue dress. She doesn_t look old enough to be his mother, but she has the same crease between her eyebrows as he does, and the same golden hair. He talked about having a sister once; maybe that_s her. Next to him, Christina hugs a dark-skinned woman in Candor black and white. Standing behind Christina is a young girl, also a Candor. Her younger sister. Should I even bother scanning the crowd for my parents? I could turn around and go back to the dormitory. Then I see her. My mother stands alone near the railing with her hands clasped in front of her. She has never looked more out of place, with her gray slacks and gray jacket buttoned at the throat, her hair in its simple twist and her face placid. I start toward her, tears jumping into my eyes. She came. She came for me. I walk faster. She sees me, and for a second her expression is blank, like she doesn_t know who I am. Then her eyes light up, and she opens her arms. She smells like soap and laundry detergent. _Beatrice,_ she whispers. She runs her hand over my hair. Don_t cry, I tell myself. I hold her until I can blink the moisture from my eyes, and then pull back to look at her again. I smile with closed lips, just like she does. She touches my cheek. _Well, look at you,_ she says. _You_ve filled out._ She puts her arm across my shoulders. _Tell me how you are._ _You first._ The old habits are back. I should let her speak first. I shouldn_t let the conversation stay focused on me for too long. I should make sure she doesn_t need anything. _Today is a special occasion,_ she says. _I came to see you, so let_s talk mostly about you. It is my gift to you._ My selfless mother. She should not be giving me gifts, not after I left her and my father. I walk with her toward the railing that overlooks the chasm, glad to be close to her. The last week and a half has been more affectionless than I realized. At home we did not touch each other often, and the most I ever saw my parents do was hold hands at the dinner table, but it was more than this, more than here. _Just one question._ I feel my pulse in my throat. _Where_s Dad? Is he visiting Caleb?_ _Ah._ She shakes her head. _Your father had to be at work._ I look down. _You can tell me if he didn_t want to come._ Her eyes travel over my face. _Your father has been selfish lately. That doesn_t mean he doesn_t love you, I promise._ I stare at her, stunned. My father_selfish? More startling than the label is the fact that she assigned it to him. I can_t tell by looking at her if she_s angry. I don_t expect to be able to. But she must be; if she calls him selfish, she must be angry. _What about Caleb?_ I say. _Will you visit him later?_ _I wish I could,_ she says, _but the Erudite have prohibited Abnegation visitors from entering their compound. If I tried, I would be removed from the premises._ _What?_ I demand. _That_s terrible. Why would they do that?_ _Tensions between our factions are higher than ever,_ she says. _I wish it wasn_t that way, but there is little I can do about it._ I think of Caleb standing among the Erudite initiates, scanning the crowd for our mother, and feel a pang in my stomach. Part of me is still angry with him for keeping so many secrets from me, but I don_t want him to hurt. _That_s terrible,_ I repeat. I look toward the chasm. Standing alone at the railing is Four. Though he_s not an initiate anymore, most of the Dauntless use this day to come together with their families. Either his family doesn_t like to come together, or he wasn_t originally Dauntless. Which faction could he have come from? _There_s one of my instructors._ I lean closer to her and say, _He_s kind of intimidating._ _He_s handsome,_ she says. I find myself nodding without thinking. She laughs and lifts her arm from my shoulders. I want to steer her away from him, but just as I_m about to suggest that we go somewhere else, he looks over his shoulder. His eyes widen at the sight of my mother. She offers him her hand. _Hello. My name is Natalie,_ she says. _I_m Beatrice_s mother._ I have never seen my mother shake hands with someone. Four eases his hand into hers, looking stiff, and shakes it twice. The gesture looks unnatural for both of them. No, Four was not originally Dauntless if he doesn_t shake hands easily. _Four,_ he says. _It_s nice to meet you._ _Four,_ my mother repeats, smiling. _Is that a nickname?_ _Yes._ He doesn_t elaborate. What is his real name? _Your daughter is doing well here. I_ve been overseeing her training._ Since when does _overseeing_ include throwing knives at me and scolding me at every opportunity? _That_s good to hear,_ she says. _I know a few things about Dauntless initiation, and I was worried about her._ He looks at me, and his eyes move down my face, from nose to mouth to chin. Then he says, _You shouldn_t worry._ I can_t keep the heat from rushing into my cheeks. I hope it isn_t noticeable. Is he just reassuring her because she_s my mother, or does he really believe that I am capable? And what did that look mean? She tilts her head. _You look familiar for some reason, Four._ _I can_t imagine why,_ he replies, his voice suddenly cold. _I don_t make a habit of associating with the Abnegation._ My mother laughs. She has a light laugh, half air and half sound. _Few people do, these days. I don_t take it personally._ He seems to relax a little. _Well, I_ll leave you to your reunion._ My mother and I watch him leave. The roar of the river fills my ears. Maybe Four was one of the Erudite, which explains why he hates Abnegation. Or maybe he believes the articles the Erudite release about us_them, I remind myself. But it was kind of him to tell her that I_m doing well when I know he doesn_t believe it. _Is he always like that?_ she says. _Worse._ _Have you made friends?_ she asks. _A few,_ I say. I look over my shoulder at Will and Christina and their families. When Christina catches my eye, she beckons to me, smiling, so my mother and I cross the Pit floor. Before we can get to Will and Christina, though, a short, round woman with a black-and-white-striped shirt touches my arm. I twitch, resisting the urge to smack her hand away. _Excuse me,_ she says. _Do you know my son? Albert?_ _Albert?_ I repeat. _Oh_you mean Al? Yes, I know him._ _Do you know where we can find him?_ she says, gesturing to a man behind her. He is tall and as thick as a boulder. Al_s father, obviously. _I_m sorry, I didn_t see him this morning. Maybe you should look for him up there?_ I point at the glass ceiling above us. _Oh my,_ Al_s mother says, fanning her face with her hand. _I would rather not attempt that climb again. I almost had a panic attack on the way down here. Why aren_t there any railings along those paths? Are you all insane?_ I smile a little. A few weeks ago I might have found that question offensive, but now I spend too much time with Candor transfers to be surprised by tactlessness. _Insane, no,_ I say. _Dauntless, yes. If I see him, I_ll tell him you_re looking for him._ My mother, I see, wears the same smile I do. She isn_t reacting the way some of the other transfers_ parents are_her neck bent, looking around at the Pit walls, at the Pit ceiling, at the chasm. Of course she isn_t curious_she_s Abnegation. Curiosity is foreign to her. I introduce my mother to Will and Christina, and Christina introduces me to her mother and her sister. But when Will introduces me to Cara, his older sister, she gives me the kind of look that would wither a plant and does not extend her hand for me to shake. She glares at my mother. _I can_t believe that you associate with one of them, Will,_ she says. My mother purses her lips, but of course, doesn_t say anything. _Cara,_ says Will, frowning, _there_s no need to be rude._ _Oh, certainly not. Do you know what she is?_ She points at my mother. _She_s a council member_s wife is what she is. She runs the _volunteer agency_ that supposedly helps the factionless. You think I don_t know that you_re just hoarding goods to distribute to your own faction while we don_t get fresh food for a month, huh? Food for the factionless, my eye._ _I_m sorry,_ my mother says gently. _I believe you are mistaken._ _Mistaken. Ha,_ Cara snaps. _I_m sure you_re exactly what you seem. A faction of happy-go-lucky do-gooders without a selfish bone in their bodies. Right._ _Don_t speak to my mother that way,_ I say, my face hot. I clench my hands into fists. _Don_t say another word to her or I swear I will break your nose._ _Back off, Tris,_ Will says. _You_re not going to punch my sister._ _Oh?_ I say, raising both eyebrows. _You think so?_ _No, you_re not._ My mother touches my shoulder. _Come on, Beatrice. We wouldn_t want to bother your friend_s sister._ She sounds gentle, but her hand squeezes my arm so hard I almost cry out from the pain as she drags me away. She walks with me, fast, toward the dining hall. Just before she reaches it, though, she takes a sharp left turn and walks down one of the dark hallways I haven_t explored yet. _Mom,_ I say. _Mom, how do you know where you_re going?_ She stops next to a locked door and stands on her tiptoes, peering at the base of the blue lamp hanging from the ceiling. A few seconds later she nods and turns to me again. _I said no questions about me. And I meant it. How are you really doing, Beatrice? How have the fights been? How are you ranked?_ _Ranked?_ I say. _You know that I_ve been fighting? You know that I_m ranked?_ _It isn_t top-secret information, how the Dauntless initiation process works._ I don_t know how easy it is to find out what another faction does during initiation, but I suspect it_s not that easy. Slowly, I say, _I_m close to the bottom, Mom._ _Good._ She nods. _No one looks too closely at the bottom. Now, this is very important, Beatrice: What were your aptitude test results?_ Tori_s warning pulses in my head. Don_t tell anyone. I should tell her that my result was Abnegation, because that_s what Tori recorded in the system. I look into my mother_s eyes, which are pale green and framed by a dark smudge of eyelashes. She has lines around her mouth, but other than that, she doesn_t look her age. Those lines get deeper when she hums. She used to hum as she washed the dishes. This is my mother. I can trust her. _They were inconclusive,_ I say softly. _I thought as much._ She sighs. _Many children who are raised Abnegation receive that kind of result. We don_t know why. But you have to be very careful during the next stage of initiation, Beatrice. Stay in the middle of the pack, no matter what you do. Don_t draw attention to yourself. Do you understand?_ _Mom, what_s going on?_ _I don_t care what faction you chose,_ she says, touching her hands to my cheeks. _I am your mother and I want to keep you safe._ _Is this because I_m a__ I start to say, but she presses her hand to my mouth. _Don_t say that word,_ she hisses. _Ever._ So Tori was right. Divergent is a dangerous thing to be. I just don_t know why, or even what it really means, still. _Why?_ She shakes her head. _I can_t say._ She looks over her shoulder, where the light from the Pit floor is barely visible. I hear shouts and conversations, laughter and shuffling footsteps. The smell from the dining hall floats over my nose, sweet and yeasty: baking bread. When she turns toward me, her jaw is set. _There_s something I want you to do,_ she says. _I can_t go visit your brother, but you can, when initiation is over. So I want you to go find him and tell him to research the simulation serum. Okay? Can you do that for me?_ _Not unless you explain some of this to me, Mom!_ I cross my arms. _You want me to go hang out at the Erudite compound for the day, you had better give me a reason!_ _I can_t. I_m sorry._ She kisses my cheek and brushes a lock of hair that fell from my bun behind my ear. _I should leave. It will make you look better if you and I don_t seem attached to each other._ _I don_t care how I look to them,_ I say. _You should,_ she says. _I suspect they are already monitoring you._ She walks away, and I am too stunned to follow her. At the end of the hallway she turns and says, _Have a piece of cake for me, all right? The chocolate. It_s delicious._ She smiles a strange, twisted smile, and adds, _I love you, you know._ And then she_s gone. I stand alone in the blue light coming from the lamp above me, and I understand: She has been to the compound before. She remembered this hallway. She knows about the initiation process. My mother was Dauntless. CHAPTER SIXTEEN THAT AFTERNOON, I go back to the dormitory while everyone else spends time with their families and find Al sitting on his bed, staring at the space on the wall where the chalkboard usually is. Four took it down yesterday so he could calculate our stage one rankings. _There you are!_ I say. _Your parents were looking for you. Did they find you?_ He shakes his head. I sit down next to him on the bed. My leg is barely half the width of his, even now that it_s more muscular than it was. He wears black shorts. His knee is purple-blue with a bruise and crossed with a scar. _You didn_t want to see them?_ I say. _Didn_t want them to ask how I was doing,_ he says. _I_d have to tell them, and they would know if I was lying._ _Well__ I struggle to come up with something to say. _What_s wrong with how you_re doing?_ Al laughs harshly. _I_ve lost every fight since the one with Will. I_m not doing well._ _By choice, though. Couldn_t you tell them that, too?_ He shakes his head. _Dad always wanted me to come here. I mean, they said they wanted me to stay in Candor, but that_s only because that_s what they_re supposed to say. They_ve always admired the Dauntless, both of them. They wouldn_t understand if I tried to explain it to them._ _Oh._ I tap my fingers against my knee. Then I look at him. _Is that why you chose Dauntless? Because of your parents?_ Al shakes his head. _No. I guess it was because_I think it_s important to protect people. To stand up for people. Like you did for me._ He smiles at me. _That_s what the Dauntless are supposed to do, right? That_s what courage is. Not_hurting people for no reason._ I remember what Four told me, that teamwork used to be a Dauntless priority. What were the Dauntless like when it was? What would I have learned if I had been here when my mother was Dauntless? Maybe I wouldn_t have broken Molly_s nose. Or threatened Will_s sister. I feel a pang of guilt. _Maybe it will be better once initiation is over._ _Too bad I might come in last,_ Al says. _I guess we_ll see tonight._ We sit side-by-side for a while. It_s better to be here, in silence, than in the Pit, watching everyone laugh with their families. My father used to say that sometimes, the best way to help someone is just to be near them. I feel good when I do something I know he would be proud of, like it makes up for all the things I_ve done that he wouldn_t be proud of. _I feel braver when I_m around you, you know,_ he says. _Like I could actually fit in here, the same way you do._ I am about to respond when he slides his arm across my shoulders. Suddenly I freeze, my cheeks hot. I didn_t want to be right about Al_s feelings for me. But I was. I do not lean into him. Instead I sit forward so his arm falls away. Then I squeeze my hands together in my lap. _Tris, I_,_ he says. His voice sounds strained. I glance at him. His face is as red as mine feels, but he_s not crying_he just looks embarrassed. _Um_sorry,_ he says. _I wasn_t trying to_um. Sorry._ I wish I could tell him not to take it personally. I could tell him that my parents rarely held hands even in our own home, so I have trained myself to pull away from all gestures of affection, because they raised me to take them seriously. Maybe if I told him that, there wouldn_t be a layer of hurt beneath his flush of embarrassment. But of course, it is personal. He is my friend_and that is all. What is more personal than that? I breathe in, and when I breathe out, I make myself smile. _Sorry about what?_ I ask, trying to sound casual. I brush off my jeans, though there isn_t anything on them, and stand up. _I should go,_ I say. He nods and doesn_t look at me. _You going to be okay?_ I say. _I mean_because of your parents. Not because__ I let my voice trail off. I don_t know what I would say if I didn_t. _Oh. Yeah._ He nods again, a little too vigorously. _I_ll see you later, Tris._ I try not to walk out of the room too fast. When the dormitory door closes behind me, I touch a hand to my forehead and grin a little. Awkwardness aside, it is nice to be liked. Discussing our family visits would be too painful, so our final rankings for stage one are all anyone can talk about that night. Every time someone near me brings it up, I stare at some point across the room and ignore them. My rank can_t be as bad as it used to be, especially after I beat Molly, but it might not be good enough to get me in the top ten at the end of initiation, especially when the Dauntless-born initiates are factored in. At dinner I sit with Christina, Will, and Al at a table in the corner. We are uncomfortably close to Peter, Drew, and Molly, who are at the next table over. When conversation at our table reaches a lull, I hear every word they say. They are speculating about the ranks. What a surprise. _You weren_t allowed to have pets?_ Christina demands, smacking the table with her palm. _Why not?_ _Because they_re illogical,_ Will says matter-of-factly. _What is the point in providing food and shelter for an animal that just soils your furniture, makes your home smell bad, and ultimately dies?_ Al and I meet eyes, like we usually do when Will and Christina start to fight. But this time, the second our eyes meet, we both look away. I hope this awkwardness between us doesn_t last long. I want my friend back. _The point is__ Christina_s voice trails off, and she tilts her head. _Well, they_re fun to have. I had a bulldog named Chunker. One time we left a whole roasted chicken on the counter to cool, and while my mother went to the bathroom, he pulled it down off the counter and ate it, bones and skin and all. We laughed so hard._ _Yes, that certainly changes my mind. Of course I want to live with an animal that eats all my food and destroys my kitchen._ Will shakes his head. _Why don_t you just get a dog after initiation if you_re feeling that nostalgic?_ _Because._ Christina_s smile falls, and she pokes at her potato with her fork. _Dogs are sort of ruined for me. After_you know, after the aptitude test._ We exchange looks. We all know that we aren_t supposed to talk about the test, not even now that we have chosen, but for them that rule must not be as serious as it is for me. My heart jumps unsteadily in my chest. For me that rule is protection. It keeps me from having to lie to my friends about my results. Every time I think the word _Divergent,_ I hear Tori_s warning_and now my mother_s warning too. Don_t tell anyone. Dangerous. _You mean_killing the dog, right?_ asks Will. I almost forgot. Those with an aptitude for Dauntless picked up the knife in the simulation and stabbed the dog when it attacked. No wonder Christina doesn_t want a pet dog anymore. I tug my sleeves over my wrists and twist my fingers together. _Yeah,_ she says. _I mean, you guys all had to do that too, right?_ She looks first at Al, and then at me. Her dark eyes narrow, and she says, _You didn_t._ _Hmm?_ _You_re hiding something,_ she says. _You_re fidgeting._ _What?_ _In Candor,_ says Al, nudging me with his shoulder. There. That feels normal. _We learn to read body language so we know when someone is lying or keeping something from us._ _Oh._ I scratch the back of my neck. _Well__ _See, there it is again!_ she says, pointing at my hand. I feel like I_m swallowing my heartbeat. How can I lie about my results if they can tell when I_m lying? I_ll have to control my body language. I drop my hand and clasp my hands in my lap. Is that what an honest person does? I don_t have to lie about the dog, at least. _No, I didn_t kill the dog._ _How did you get Dauntless without using the knife?_ says Will, narrowing his eyes at me. I look him in the eye and say evenly, _I didn_t. I got Abnegation._ It is half-true. Tori reported my result as Abnegation, so that is what is in the system. Anyone who has access to the scores would be able to see it. I keep my eyes on his for a few seconds. Shifting them away might be suspicious. Then I shrug and stab a piece of meat with my fork. I hope they believe me. They have to believe me. _But you chose Dauntless anyway?_ Christina says. _Why?_ _I told you,_ I say, smirking. _It was the food._ She laughs. _Did you guys know that Tris had never seen a hamburger before she came here?_ She launches into the story of our first day, and my body relaxes, but I still feel heavy. I should not lie to my friends. It creates barriers between us, and we already have more than I want. Christina taking the flag. Me rejecting Al. After dinner we go back to the dormitory, and it_s hard for me not to sprint, knowing that the rankings will be up when I get there. I want to get it over with. At the door to the dormitory, Drew shoves me into the wall to get past me. My shoulder scrapes on the stone, but I keep walking. I_m too short to see over the crowd of initiates standing near the back of the room, but when I find a space between heads to look through, I see that the blackboard is on the ground, leaning against Four_s legs, facing away from us. He stands with a piece of chalk in one hand. _For those of you who just came in, I_m explaining how the ranks are determined,_ he says. _After the first round of fights, we ranked you according to your skill level. The number of points you earn depends on your skill level and the skill level of the person you beat. You earn more points for improving and more points for beating someone of a high skill level. I don_t reward preying on the weak. That is cowardice._ I think his eyes linger on Peter at that last line, but they move on quickly enough that I_m not sure. _If you have a high rank, you lose points for losing to a low-ranked opponent._ Molly lets out an unpleasant noise, like a snort or a grumble. _Stage two of training is weighted more heavily than stage one, because it is more closely tied to overcoming cowardice,_ he says. _That said, it is extremely difficult to rank high at the end of initiation if you rank low in stage one._ I shift from one foot to the other, trying to get a good look at him. When I finally do, I look away. His eyes are already on me, probably drawn by my nervous movement. _We will announce the cuts tomorrow,_ Four says. _The fact that you are transfers and the Dauntless-born initiates are not will not be taken into consideration. Four of you could be factionless and none of them. Or four of them could be factionless and none of you. Or any combination thereof. That said, here are your ranks._ He hangs the board on the hook and steps back so we can see the rankings: 1. Edward 2. Peter 3. Will 4. Christina 5. Molly 6. Tris Sixth? I can_t be sixth. Beating Molly must have boosted my rank more than I thought it would. And losing to me seems to have lowered hers. I skip to the bottom of the list. 7. Drew 8. Al 9. Myra Al isn_t dead last, but unless the Dauntless-born initiates completely failed their version of stage one of initiation, he is factionless. I glance at Christina. She tilts her head and frowns at the board. She isn_t the only one. The quiet in the room is uneasy, like it is rocking back and forth on a ledge. Then it falls. _What?_ demands Molly. She points at Christina. _I beat her! I beat her in minutes, and she_s ranked above me?_ _Yeah,_ says Christina, crossing her arms. She wears a smug smile. _And?_ _If you intend to secure yourself a high rank, I suggest you don_t make a habit of losing to low-ranked opponents,_ says Four, his voice cutting through the mutters and grumbles of the other initiates. He pockets the chalk and walks past me without glancing in my direction. The words sting a little, reminding me that I am the low-ranked opponent he_s referring to. Apparently they remind Molly, too. _You,_ she says, focusing her narrowed eyes on me. _You are going to pay for this._ I expect her to lunge at me, or hit me, but she just turns on her heel and stalks out of the dormitory, and that is worse. If she had exploded, her anger would have been spent quickly, after a punch or two. Leaving means she wants to plan something. Leaving means I have to be on my guard. Peter didn_t say anything when the rankings went up, which, given his tendency to complain about anything that doesn_t go his way, is surprising. He just walks to his bunk and sits down, untying his shoelaces. That makes me feel even more uneasy. He can_t possibly be satisfied with second place. Not Peter. Will and Christina slap hands, and then Will claps me on the back with a hand bigger than my shoulder blade. _Look at you. Number six,_ he says, grinning. _Still might not have been good enough,_ I remind him. _It will be, don_t worry,_ he says. _We should celebrate._ _Well, let_s go, then,_ says Christina, grabbing my arm with one hand and Al_s arm with the other. _Come on, Al. You don_t know how the Dauntless-borns did. You don_t know anything for sure._ _I_m just going to go to bed,_ he mumbles, pulling his arm free. In the hallway, it is easy to forget about Al and Molly_s revenge and Peter_s suspicious calm, and easy to pretend that what separates us as friends does not exist. But lingering at the back of my mind is the fact that Christina and Will are my competitors. If I want to fight my way to the top ten, I will have to beat them first. I just hope I don_t have to betray them in the process. That night I have trouble falling asleep. The dormitory used to seem loud to me, with all the breathing, but now it is too quiet. When it_s quiet, I think about my family. Thank God the Dauntless compound is usually loud. If my mother was Dauntless, why did she choose Abnegation? Did she love its peace, its routine, its goodness_all the things I miss, when I let myself think about it? I wonder if someone here knew her when she was young and could tell me what she was like then. Even if they did, they probably wouldn_t want to discuss her. Faction transfers are not really supposed to discuss their old factions once they become members. It_s supposed to make it easier for them to change their allegiance from family to faction_to embrace the principle _faction before blood._ I bury my face in the pillow. She asked me to tell Caleb to research the simulation serum_why? Does it have something to do with me being Divergent, with me being in danger, or is it something else? I sigh. I have a thousand questions, and she left before I could ask any of them. Now they swirl in my head, and I doubt I_ll be able to sleep until I can answer them. I hear a scuffle across the room and lift my head from the pillow. My eyes aren_t adjusted to the dark, so I stare into pure black, like the backs of my eyelids. I hear shuffling and the squeak of a shoe. A heavy thud. And then a wail that curdles my blood and makes my hair stand on end. I throw the blankets back and stand on the stone floor with bare feet. I still can_t see well enough to find the source of the scream, but I see a dark lump on the floor a few bunks down. Another scream pierces my ears. _Turn on the lights!_ someone shouts. I walk toward the sound, slowly so I don_t trip over anything. I feel like I_m in a trance. I don_t want to see where the screaming is coming from. A scream like that can only mean blood and bone and pain; that scream that comes from the pit of the stomach and extends to every inch of the body. The lights come on. Edward lies on the floor next to his bed, clutching at his face. Surrounding his head is a halo of blood, and jutting between his clawing fingers is a silver knife handle. My heart thumping in my ears, I recognize it as a butter knife from the dining hall. The blade is stuck in Edward_s eye. Myra, who stands at Edward_s feet, screams. Someone else screams too, and someone yells for help, and Edward is still on the floor, writhing and wailing. I crouch by his head, my knees pressing to the pool of blood, and put my hands on his shoulders. _Lie still,_ I say. I feel calm, though I can_t hear anything, like my head is submerged in water. Edward thrashes again and I say it louder, sterner. _I said, lie still. Breathe._ _My eye!_ he screams. I smell something foul. Someone vomited. _Take it out!_ he yells. Filtered it out, get it out of me, get it out!_ I shake my head and then realize that he can_t see me. A laugh bubbles in my stomach. Hysterical. I have to suppress hysteria if I_m going to help him. I have to forget myself. _No,_ I say. _You have to let the doctor take it out. Hear me? Let the doctor take it out. And breathe._ _It hurts,_ he sobs. _I know it does._ Instead of my voice I hear my mother_s voice. I see her crouching before me on the sidewalk in front of our house, brushing tears from my face after I scraped my knee. I was five at the time. _It will be all right._ I try to sound firm, like I_m not idly reassuring him, but I am. I don_t know if it will be all right. I suspect that it won_t. When the nurse arrives, she tells me to step back, and I do. My hands and knees are soaked with blood. When I look around, I see that only two faces are missing. Drew. And Peter. After they take Edward away, I carry a change of clothes into the bathroom and wash my hands. Christina comes with me and stands by the door, but she doesn_t say anything, and I_m glad. There isn_t much to say. I scrub at the lines in my palms and run one fingernail under my other fingernails to get the blood out. I change into the pants I brought and throw the soiled ones in the trash. I get as many paper towels as I can hold. Someone needs to clean up the mess in the dormitory, and since I doubt I_ll ever be able to sleep again, it might as well be me. As I reach for the door handle, Christina says, _You know who did that, right?_ _Yeah._ _Should we tell someone?_ _You really think the Dauntless will do anything?_ I say. _After they hung you over the chasm? After they made us beat each other unconscious?_ She doesn_t say anything. For a half hour after that, I kneel alone on the floor in the dormitory and scrub at Edward_s blood. Christina throws away the dirty paper towels and gets me new ones. Myra is gone; she probably followed Edward to the hospital. No one sleeps much that night. _This is going to sound weird,_ Will says, _but I wish we didn_t have a day off today._ I nod. I know what he means. Having something to do would distract me, and I could use a distraction right now. I have not spent much time alone with Will, but Christina and Al are taking naps in the dormitory, and neither of us wanted to be in that room longer than we had to. Will didn_t tell me that; I just know. I slide one fingernail under another. I washed my hands thoroughly after cleaning up Edward_s blood, but I still feel like it_s on my hands. Will and I walk with no sense of purpose. There is nowhere to go. _We could visit him,_ suggests Will. _But what would we say? _I didn_t know you that well, but I_m sorry you got stabbed in the eye_?_ It isn_t funny. I know that as soon as he says it, but a laugh rises in my throat anyway, and I let it out because it_s harder to keep it in. Will stares at me for a second, and then he laughs too. Sometimes crying or laughing are the only options left, and laughing feels better right now. _Sorry,_ I say. _It_s just so ridiculous._ I don_t want to cry for Edward_at least not in the deep, personal way that you cry for a friend or loved one. I want to cry because something terrible happened, and I saw it, and I could not see a way to mend it. No one who would want to punish Peter has the authority to, and no one who has the authority to punish him would want to. The Dauntless have rules against attacking someone like that, but with people like Eric in charge, I suspect those rules go unenforced. I say, more seriously, _The most ridiculous part is, in any other faction it would be brave of us to tell someone what happened. But here_in Dauntless_bravery won_t do us any good._ _Have you ever read the faction manifestos?_ says Will. The faction manifestos were written after the factions formed. We learned about them in school, but I never read them. _You have?_ I frown at him. Then I remember that Will once memorized a map of the city for fun, and I say, _Oh. Of course you have. Never mind._ _One of the lines I remember from the Dauntless manifesto is, _We believe in ordinary acts of bravery, in the courage that drives one person to stand up for another.__ Will sighs. He doesn_t need to say anything else. I know what he means. Maybe Dauntless was formed with good intentions, with the right ideals and the right goals. But it has strayed far from them. And the same is true of Erudite, I realize. A long time ago, Erudite pursued knowledge and ingenuity for the sake of doing good. Now they pursue knowledge and ingenuity with greedy hearts. I wonder if the other factions suffer from the same problem. I have not thought about it before. Despite the depravity I see in Dauntless, though, I could not leave it. It isn_t only because the thought of living factionless, in complete isolation, sounds like a fate worse than death. It is because, in the brief moments that I have loved it here, I saw a faction worth saving. Maybe we can become brave and honorable again. _Let_s go to the cafeteria,_ Will says, _and eat cake._ _Okay._ I smile. As we walk toward the Pit, I repeat the line Will quoted to myself so I don_t forget it. I believe in ordinary acts of bravery, in the courage that drives one person to stand up for another. It is a beautiful thought. Later, when I return to the dormitory, Edward_s bunk is stripped clean and his drawers are open, empty. Across the room, Myra_s bunk looks the same way. When I ask Christina where they went, she says, _They quit._ _Even Myra?_ _She said she didn_t want to be here without him. She was going to get cut anyway._ She shrugs, like she can_t think of anything else to do. If that_s true, I know how she feels. _At least they didn_t cut Al._ Al was supposed to get cut, but Edward_s departure saved him. The Dauntless decided to spare him until the next stage. _Who else got cut?_ I say. Christina shrugs again. _Two of the Dauntless-born. I don_t remember their names._ I nod and look at the blackboard. Someone drew a line through Edward and Myra_s names, and changed the numbers next to everyone else_s names. Now Peter is first. Will is second. I am fifth. We started stage one with nine initiates. Now we have seven. CHAPTER SEVENTEEN IT_S NOON. LUNCHTIME. I sit in a hallway I don_t recognize. I walked here because I needed to get away from the dormitory. Maybe if I bring my bedding here, I will never have to go to the dormitory again. It may be my imagination, but it still smells like blood in there, even though I scrubbed the floor until my hands were sore, and someone poured bleach on it this morning. I pinch the bridge of my nose. Scrubbing the floor when no one else wanted to was something that my mother would have done. If I can_t be with her, the least I can do is act like her sometimes. I hear people approaching, their footsteps echoing on the stone floor, and I look down at my shoes. I switched from gray sneakers to black sneakers a week ago, but the gray shoes are buried in one of my drawers. I can_t bear to throw them away, even though I know it_s foolish to be attached to sneakers, like they can bring me home. _Tris?_ I look up. Uriah stops in front of me. He waves along the Dauntless-born initiates he walks with. They exchange looks but keep moving. _You okay?_ he says. _I had a difficult night._ _Yeah, I heard about that guy Edward._ Uriah looks down the hallway. The Dauntless-born initiates disappear around a corner. Then he grins a little. _Want to get out of here?_ _What?_ I ask. _Where are you going?_ _To a little initiation ritual,_ he says. _Come on. We have to hurry._ I briefly consider my options. I can sit here. Or I can leave the Dauntless compound. I push myself to my feet and jog next to Uriah to catch up to the Dauntless-born initiates. _The only initiates they usually let come are ones with older siblings in Dauntless,_ he says. _But they might not even notice. Just act like you belong._ _What exactly are we doing?_ _Something dangerous,_ he says. A look I can only describe as Dauntless mania enters his eyes, but rather than recoil from it, as I might have a few weeks ago, I catch it, like it_s contagious. Excitement replaces the leaden feeling inside me. We slow when we reach the Dauntless-born initiates. _What_s the Stiff doing here?_ asks a boy with a metal ring between his nostrils. _She just saw that guy get stabbed in the eye, Gabe,_ says Uriah. _Give her a break, okay?_ Gabe shrugs and turns away. No one else says anything, though a few of them give me sidelong glances like they_re sizing me up. The Dauntless-born initiates are like a pack of dogs. If I act the wrong way, they won_t let me run with them. But for now, I am safe. We turn another corner, and a group of members stands at the end of the next hallway. There are too many of them to all be related to a Dauntless-born initiate, but I see some similarities among the faces. _Let_s go,_ one of the members says. He turns and plunges through a dark doorway. The other members follow him, and we follow them. I stay close behind Uriah as I pass into darkness and my toe hits a step. I catch myself before falling forward and start to climb. _Back staircase,_ Uriah says, almost mumbling. _Usually locked._ I nod, though he can_t see me, and climb until all the steps are gone. By then, a door at the top of the staircase is open, letting in daylight. We emerge from the ground a few hundred yards from the glass building above the Pit, close to the train tracks. I feel like I have done this a thousand times before. I hear the train horn. I feel the vibrations in the ground. I see the light attached to the head car. I crack my knuckles and bounce once on my toes. We jog in a single pack next to the car, and in waves, members and initiates alike pile into the car. Uriah gets in before me, and people press behind me. I can_t make any mistakes; I throw myself sideways, grabbing the handle on the side of the car, and hoist myself into the car. Uriah grabs my arm to steady me. The train picks up its speed. Uriah and I sit against one of the walls. I shout over the wind, _Where are we going?_ Uriah shrugs. _Zeke never told me._ _Zeke?_ _My older brother,_ he says. He points across the room at a boy sitting in the doorway with his legs dangling out of the car. He is slight and short and looks nothing like Uriah, apart from his coloring. _You don_t get to know. That ruins the surprise!_ the girl on my left shouts. She extends her hand. _I_m Shauna._ I shake her hand, but I don_t grip hard enough and I let go too quickly. I doubt I will ever improve my handshake. It feels unnatural to grasp hands with strangers. _I_m__ I start to say. _I know who you are,_ she says. _You_re the Stiff. Four told me about you._ I pray the heat in my cheeks is not visible. _Oh? What did he say?_ She smirks at me. _He said you were a Stiff. Why do you ask?_ _If my instructor is talking about me,_ I say, as firmly as I can, _I want to know what he_s saying._ I hope I tell a convincing lie. _He isn_t coming, is he?_ _No. He never comes to this,_ she says. _It_s probably lost its appeal. Not much scares him, you know._ He isn_t coming. Something in me deflates like an untied balloon. I ignore it and nod. I do know that Four is not a coward. But I also know that at least one thing does scare him: heights. Whatever we_re doing, it must involve being high up for him to avoid it. She must not know that if she speaks of him with such reverence in her voice. _Do you know him well?_ I ask. I am too curious; I always have been. _Everyone knows Four,_ she says. _We were initiates together. I was bad at fighting, so he taught me every night after everyone was asleep._ She scratches the back of her neck, her expression suddenly serious. _Nice of him._ She gets up and stands behind the members sitting in the doorway. In a second, her serious expression is gone, but I still feel rattled by what she said, half confused by the idea of Four being _nice_ and half wanting to punch her for no apparent reason. _Here we go!_ shouts Shauna. The train doesn_t slow down, but she throws herself out of the car. The other members follow her, a stream of black-clothed, pierced people not much older than I am. I stand in the doorway next to Uriah. The train is going much faster than it has every other time I_ve jumped, but I can_t lose my nerve now, in front of all these members. So I jump, hitting the ground hard and stumbling forward a few steps before I regain my balance. Uriah and I jog to catch up to the members, along with the other initiates, who barely look in my direction. I look around as I walk. The Hub is behind us, black against the clouds, but the buildings around me are dark and silent. That means we must be north of the bridge, where the city is abandoned. We turn a corner and spread out as we walk down Michigan Avenue. South of the bridge, Michigan Avenue is a busy street, crawling with people, but here it is bare. As soon as I lift my eyes to scan the buildings, I know where we_re going: the empty Hancock building, a black pillar with crisscrossed girders, the tallest building north of the bridge. But what are we going to do? Climb it? As we get closer, the members start to run, and Uriah and I sprint to catch them. Jostling one another with their elbows, they push through a set of doors at the building_s base. The glass in one of them is broken, so it is just a frame. I step through it instead of opening it and follow the members through an eerie, dark entryway, crunching broken glass beneath my feet. I expect us to go up the stairs, but we stop at the elevator bank. _Do the elevators work?_ I ask Uriah, as quietly as I can. _Sure they do,_ says Zeke, rolling his eyes. _You think I_m stupid enough not to come here early and turn on the emergency generator?_ _Yeah,_ says Uriah. _I kinda do._ Zeke glares at his brother, then puts him in a headlock and rubs his knuckles into Uriah_s skull. Zeke may be smaller than Uriah, but he must be stronger. Or at least faster. Uriah smacks him in the side, and he lets go. I grin at the sight of Uriah_s disheveled hair, and the elevator doors open. We pile in, members in one and initiates in the other. A girl with a shaved head stomps on my toes on the way in and doesn_t apologize. I grab my foot, wincing, and consider kicking her in the shins. Uriah stares at his reflection in the elevator doors and pats his hair down. _What floor?_ the girl with the shaved head says. _One hundred,_ I say. _How would you know that?_ _Lynn, come on,_ says Uriah. _Be nice._ _We_re in a one-hundred-story abandoned building with some Dauntless,_ I retort. _Why don_t you know that?_ She doesn_t respond. She just jams her thumb into the right button. The elevator zooms upward so fast my stomach sinks and my ears pop. I grab a railing at the side of the elevator, watching the numbers climb. We pass twenty, and thirty, and Uriah_s hair is finally smooth. Fifty, sixty, and my toes are done throbbing. Ninety-eight, ninety-nine, and the elevator comes to a stop at one hundred. I_m glad we didn_t take the stairs. _I wonder how we_ll get to the roof from__ Uriah_s voice trails off. A strong wind hits me, pushing my hair across my face. There is a gaping hole in the ceiling of the hundredth floor. Zeke props an aluminum ladder against its edge and starts to climb. The ladder creaks and sways beneath his feet, but he keeps climbing, whistling as he does. When he reaches the roof, he turns around and holds the top of the ladder for the next person. Part of me wonders if this is a suicide mission disguised as a game. It isn_t the first time I_ve wondered that since the Choosing Ceremony. I climb the ladder after Uriah. It reminds me of climbing the rungs on the Ferris wheel with Four close at my heels. I remember his fingers on my hip again, how they kept me from falling, and I almost miss a step on the ladder. Stupid. Biting my lip, I make it to the top and stand on the roof of the Hancock building. The wind is so powerful I hear and feel nothing else. I have to lean against Uriah to keep from falling over. At first, all I see is the marsh, wide and brown and everywhere, touching the horizon, devoid of life. In the other direction is the city, and in many ways it is the same, lifeless and with limits I do not know. Uriah points to something. Attached to one of the poles on top of the tower is a steel cable as thick as my wrist. On the ground is a pile of black slings made of tough fabric, large enough to hold a human being. Zeke grabs one and attaches it to a pulley that hangs from the steel cable. I follow the cable down, over the cluster of buildings and along Lake Shore Drive. I don_t know where it ends. One thing is clear, though: If I go through with this, I_ll find out. We_re going to slide down a steel cable in a black sling from one thousand feet up. _Oh my God,_ says Uriah. All I can do is nod. Shauna is the first person to get in the sling. She wriggles forward on her stomach until most of her body is supported by black fabric. Then Zeke pulls a strap across her shoulders, the small of her back, and the top of her thighs. He pulls her, in the sling, to the edge of the building and counts down from five. Shauna gives a thumbs-up as he shoves her forward, into nothingness. Lynn gasps as Shauna hurtles toward the ground at a steep incline, headfirst. I push past her to see better. Shauna stays secure in the sling for as long as I can see her, and then she_s too far away, just a black speck over Lake Shore Drive. The members whoop and pump their fists and form a line, sometimes shoving one another out of the way to get a better place. Somehow I am the first initiate in line, right in front of Uriah. Only seven people stand between me and the zip line. Still, there is a part of me that groans, I have to wait for seven people? It is a strange blend of terror and eagerness, unfamiliar until now. The next member, a young-looking boy with hair down to his shoulders, jumps into the sling on his back instead of his stomach. He stretches his arms wide as Zeke shoves him down the steel cable. None of the members seem at all afraid. They act like they have done this a thousand times before, and maybe they have. But when I look over my shoulder, I see that most of the initiates look pale or worried, even if they talk excitedly to one another. What happens between initiation and membership that transforms panic into delight? Or do people just get better at hiding their fear? Three people in front of me. Another sling; a member gets in feet-first and crosses her arms over her chest. Two people. A tall, thick boy jumps up and down like a child before climbing into the sling and lets out a high screech as he disappears, making the girl in front of me laugh. One person. She hops into the sling face-first and keeps her hands in front of her as Zeke tightens her straps. And then it_s my turn. I shudder as Zeke hangs my sling from the cable. I try to climb in, but I have trouble; my hands are shaking too badly. _Don_t worry,_ Zeke says right next to my ear. He takes my arm and helps me get in, facedown. The straps tighten around my midsection, and Zeke slides me forward, to the edge of the roof. I stare down the building_s steel girders and black windows, all the way to the cracked sidewalk. I am a fool for doing this. And a fool for enjoying the feeling of my heart slamming against my sternum and sweat gathering in the lines of my palms. _Ready, Stiff?_ Zeke smirks down at me. _I have to say, I_m impressed that you aren_t screaming and crying right now._ _I told you,_ Uriah says. _She_s Dauntless through and through. Now get on with it._ _Careful, brother, or I might not tighten your straps enough,_ Zeke says. He smacks his knee. _And then, splat!_ _Yeah, yeah,_ Uriah says. _And then our mother would boil you alive._ Hearing him talk about his mother, about his intact family, makes my chest hurt for a second, like someone pierced it with a needle. _Only if she found out._ Zeke tugs on the pulley attached to the steel cable. It holds, which is fortunate, because if it breaks, my death will be swift and certain. He looks down at me and says, _Ready, set, g__ Before he can finish the word _go,_ he releases the sling and I forget him, I forget Uriah, and family, and all the things that could malfunction and lead to my death. I hear metal sliding against metal and feel wind so intense it forces tears into my eyes as I hurtle toward the ground. I feel like I am without substance, without weight. Ahead of me the marsh looks huge, its patches of brown spreading farther than I can see, even up this high. The air is so cold and so fast that it hurts my face. I pick up speed and a shout of exhilaration rises within me, stopped only by the wind that fills my mouth the second my lips part. Held secure by the straps, I throw my arms out to the side and imagine that I am flying. I plunge toward the street, which is cracked and patchy and follows perfectly the curve of the marsh. I can imagine, up here, how the marsh looked when it was full of water, like liquid steel as it reflected the color of the sky. My heart beats so hard it hurts, and I can_t scream and I can_t breathe, but I also feel everything, every vein and every fiber, every bone and every nerve, all awake and buzzing in my body as if charged with electricity. I am pure adrenaline. The ground grows and bulges beneath me, and I can see the tiny people standing on the pavement below. I should scream, like any rational human being would, but when I open my mouth again, I just crow with joy. I yell louder, and the figures on the ground pump their fists and yell back, but they are so far away I can barely hear them. I look down and the ground smears beneath me, all gray and white and black, glass and pavement and steel. Tendrils of wind, soft as hair, wrap around my fingers and push my arms back. I try to pull my arms to my chest again, but I am not strong enough. The ground grows bigger and bigger. I don_t slow down for another minute at least but sail parallel to the ground, like a bird. When I slow down, I run my fingers over my hair. The wind teased it into knots. I hang about twenty feet above the ground, but that height seems like nothing now. I reach behind me and work to undo the straps holding me in. My fingers shake, but I still manage to loosen them. A crowd of members stands below. They grasp one another_s arms, forming a net of limbs beneath me. In order to get down, I have to trust them to catch me. I have to accept that these people are mine, and I am theirs. It is a braver act than sliding down the zip line. I wriggle forward and fall. I hit their arms hard. Wrist bones and forearms press into my back, and then palms wrap around my arms and pull me to my feet. I don_t know which hands hold me and which hands don_t; I see grins and hear laughter. _What_d you think?_ Shauna says, clapping me on the shoulder. _Um__ All the members stare at me. They look as windblown as I feel, the frenzy of adrenaline in their eyes and their hair askew. I know why my father said the Dauntless were a pack of madmen. He didn_t_couldn_t_understand the kind of camaraderie that forms only after you_ve all risked your lives together. _When can I go again?_ I say. My smile stretches wide enough to show teeth, and when they laugh, I laugh. I think of climbing the stairs with the Abnegation, our feet finding the same rhythm, all of us the same. This isn_t like that. We are not the same. But we are, somehow, one. I look toward the Hancock building, which is so far from where I stand that I can_t see the people on its roof. _Look! There he is!_ someone says, pointing over my shoulder. I follow the pointed finger toward a small dark shape sliding down the steel wire. A few seconds later I hear a bloodcurdling scream. _I bet he_ll cry._ _Zeke_s brother, cry? No way. He would get punched so hard._ _His arms are flailing!_ _He sounds like a strangled cat,_ I say. Everyone laughs again. I feel a twinge of guilt for teasing Uriah when he can_t hear me, but I would have said the same thing if he were standing here. I hope. When Uriah finally comes to a stop, I follow the members to meet him. We line up beneath him and thrust our arms into the space between us. Shauna clamps a hand around my elbow. I grab another arm_I_m not sure who it belongs to, there are too many tangled hands_and look up at her. _Pretty sure we can_t call you _Stiff_ anymore,_ Shauna says. She nods. _Tris._ I still smell like wind when I walk into the cafeteria that evening. For the second after I walk in, I stand among a crowd of Dauntless, and I feel like one of them. Then Shauna waves to me and the crowd breaks apart, and I walk toward the table where Christina, Al, and Will sit, gaping at me. I didn_t think about them when I accepted Uriah_s invitation. In a way, it is satisfying to see stunned looks on their faces. But I don_t want them to be upset with me either. _Where were you?_ asks Christina. _What were you doing with them?_ _Uriah_you know, the Dauntless-born who was on our capture the flag team?_ I say. _He was leaving with some of the members and he begged them to let me come along. They didn_t really want me there. Some girl named Lynn stepped on me._ _They may not have wanted you there then,_ says Will quietly, _but they seem to like you now._ _Yeah,_ I say. I can_t deny it. _I_m glad to be back, though._ Hopefully they can_t tell I_m lying, but I suspect they can. I caught sight of myself in a window on the way into the compound, and my cheeks and eyes were both bright, my hair tangled. I look like I have experienced something powerful. _Well, you missed Christina almost punching an Erudite,_ says Al. His voice sounds eager. I can count on Al to try to break the tension. _He was here asking for opinions about the Abnegation leadership, and Christina told him there were more important things for him to be doing._ _Which she was completely right about,_ adds Will. _And he got testy with her. Big mistake._ _Huge,_ I say, nodding. If I smile enough, maybe I can make them forget their jealousy, or hurt, or whatever is brewing behind Christina_s eyes. _Yeah,_ she says. _While you were off having fun, I was doing the dirty work of defending your old faction, eliminating interfaction conflict__ _Come on, you know you enjoyed it,_ says Will, nudging her with his elbow. _If you_re not going to tell the whole story, I will. He was standing__ Will launches into his story, and I nod along like I_m listening, but all I can think about is staring down the side of the Hancock building, and the image I got of the marsh full of water, restored to its former glory. I look over Will_s shoulder at the members, who are now flicking bits of food at one another with their forks. It_s the first time I have been really eager to be one of them. Which means I have to survive the next stage of initiation.

  • The Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck /  .   (by Jeff Kinney, 2013) -   The Diary of a Wimpy Kid:
  • The Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Last Straw /  .   (by Jeff Kinney, 2009) -   The Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules /  .   (by Jeff Kinney, 2009) -   Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid /   (by Jeff Kinney, 2008) -   Diary of a Wimpy Kid /

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