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CHAPTER THIRTY-SIX

THREE DAUNTLESS SOLDIERS pursue me. They run in unison, their footsteps echoing in the alley. One of them fires, and I dive, scraping my palms on the ground. The bullet hits the brick wall to my right, and pieces of brick spray everywhere. I throw myself around the corner and click a bullet into the chamber of my gun.

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They killed my mother. I point the gun into the alley and fire blindly. It wasn’t really them, but it doesn’t matter—can’t matter, and just like death itself, can’t be real right now.

Just one set of footsteps now. I hold the gun out with both hands and stand at the end of the alley, pointing at the Dauntless soldier. My finger squeezes the trigger, but not hard enough to fire. The man running toward me is not a man, he is a boy. A shaggy-haired boy with a crease between his eyebrows.

Will. Dull-eyed and mindless, but still Will. He stops running and mirrors me, his feet planted and his gun up. In an instant, I see his finger poised over the trigger and hear the bullet slide into the chamber, and I fire. My eyes squeezed shut. Can’t breathe.

The bullet hit him in the head. I know because that’s where I aimed it.

I turn around without opening my eyes and stumble away from the alley. North and Fairfield. I have to look at the street sign to see where I am, but I can’t read it; my vision is blurred. I blink a few times. I stand just yards away from the building that contains what’s left of my family.

I kneel next to the door. Tobias would call me unwise to make any noise. Noise might attract Dauntless soldiers.

I press my forehead to the wall and scream. After a few seconds I clamp my hand over my mouth to muffle the sound and scream again, a scream that turns into a sob. The gun clatters to the ground. I still see Will.

He smiles in my memory. A curled lip. Straight teeth. Light in his eyes. Laughing, teasing, more alive in memory than I am in reality. It was him or me. I chose me. But I feel dead too.

I pound on the door—twice, then three times, then six times, as my mother told me to.

I wipe the tears from my face. This is the first time I will see my father since I left him, and I don’t want him to see me half-collapsed and sobbing.

The door opens, and Caleb stands in the doorway. The sight of him stuns me. He stares at me for a few seconds and then throws his arms around me, his hand pressing to the wound in my shoulder. I bite my lip to keep from crying out, but a groan escapes me anyway, and Caleb yanks back.

“Beatrice. Oh God, are you shot?”

“Let’s go inside,” I say weakly.

He drags his thumb under his eyes, catching the moisture. The door falls shut behind us.

The room is dimly lit, but I see familiar faces, former neighbors and classmates and my father’s coworkers. My father, who stares at me like I’ve grown a second head. Marcus. The sight of him makes me ache—Tobias…

No. I will not do that; I will not think of him.

“How did you know about this place?” Caleb says. “Did Mom find you?”

I nod. I don’t want to think about Mom, either.

“My shoulder,” I say.

Now that I am safe, the adrenaline that propelled me here is fading, and the pain is getting worse. I sink to my knees. Water drips from my clothes onto the cement floor. A sob rises within me, desperate for release, and I choke it back.

A woman named Tessa who lived down the street from us rolls out a pallet. She was married to a council member, but I don’t see him here. He is probably dead.

Someone else carries a lamp from one corner to the other so we have light. Caleb produces a first-aid kit, and Susan brings me a bottle of water. There is no better place to need help than a room full of members of Abnegation. I glance at Caleb. He’s wearing gray again. Seeing him in the Erudite compound feels like a dream now.

My father comes to me, lifts my arm across his shoulders, and helps me across the room.

“Why are you wet?” Caleb says.

“They tried to drown me,” I say. “Why are you here?”

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“I did what you said—what Mom said. I researched the simulation serum and found out that Jeanine was working to develop long-range transmitters for the serum so its signal could stretch farther, which led me to information about Erudite and Dauntless…anyway, I dropped out of initiation when I figured out what was happening. I would have warned you, but it was too late,” he says. “I’m factionless now. ”

“No, you aren’t,” my father says sternly. “You’re with us. ”

I kneel on the pallet and Caleb cuts a piece of my shirt away from my shoulder with a pair of medical scissors. Caleb peels the square of fabric away, revealing first the Abnegation tattoo on my right shoulder and second, the three birds on my collarbone. Caleb and my father stare at both tattoos with the same look of fascination and shock but say nothing about them.

I lie on my stomach. Caleb squeezes my palm as my father gets the antiseptic from the first aid kit.

“Have you ever taken a bullet out of someone before?” I ask, a shaky laugh in my voice.

“The things I know how to do might surprise you,” he replies.

A lot of things about my parents might surprise me. I think of Mom’s tattoo and bite my lip.

“This will hurt,” he says.

I don’t see the knife go in, but I feel it. Pain spreads through my body and I scream through gritted teeth, crushing Caleb’s hand. Over the screaming, I hear my father ask me to relax my back. Tears run from the corners of my eyes and I do as he tells me. The pain starts again, and I feel the knife moving under my skin, and I am still screaming.

“Got it,” he says. He drops something on the floor with a ding.

Caleb looks at my father and then at me, and then he laughs. I haven’t heard him laugh in so long that the sound makes me cry.

“What’s so funny?” I say, sniffling.

“I never thought I would see us together again,” he says.

My father cleans the skin around my wound with something cold. “Stitching time,” he says.

I nod. He threads the needle like he’s done it a thousand times.

“One,” he says, “two…three. ”

I clench my jaw and stay quiet this time. Of all the pain I have suffered today—the pain of getting shot and almost drowning and taking the bullet out again, the pain of finding and losing my mother and Tobias, this is the easiest to bear.

My father finishes stitching my wound, ties off the thread, and covers the stitches with a bandage. Caleb helps me sit up and separates the hems of his two shirts, pulling the long-sleeved one over his head and offering it to me.

My father helps me guide my right arm through the shirt sleeve, and I pull the rest over my head. It is baggy and smells fresh, smells like Caleb.

“So,” my father says quietly. “Where is your mother?”

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I look down. I don’t want to deliver this news. I don’t want to have this news to begin with.

“She’s gone,” I say. “She saved me. ”

Caleb closes his eyes and takes a deep breath.

My father looks momentarily stricken and then recovers himself, averting his glistening eyes and nodding.

“That is good,” he says, sounding strained. “A good death. ”

If I speak right now, I will break down, and I can’t afford to do that. So I just nod.

Eric called Al’s suicide brave, and he was wrong. My mother’s death was brave. I remember how calm she was, how determined. It isn’t just brave that she died for me; it is brave that she did it without announcing it, without hesitation, and without appearing to consider another option.

He helps me to my feet. Time to face the rest of the room. My mother told me to save them. Because of that, and because I am Dauntless, it’s my duty to lead now. I have no idea how to bear that burden.

Marcus gets up. A vision of him whipping my arm with a belt rushes into my mind when I see him, and my chest squeezes.

“We are only safe here for so long,” Marcus says eventually. “We need to get out of the city. Our best option is to go to the Amity compound in the hope that they’ll take us in. Do you know anything about the Dauntless strategy, Beatrice? Will they stop fighting at night?”

“It’s not Dauntless strategy,” I say. “This whole thing is masterminded by the Erudite. And it’s not like they’re giving orders. ”

“Not giving orders,” my father says. “What do you mean?”

“I mean,” I say, “ninety percent of the Dauntless are sleepwalking right now. They’re in a simulation and they don’t know what they’re doing. The only reason I’m not just like them is that I’m…” I hesitate on the word. “The mind control doesn’t affect me. ”

“Mind control? So they don’t know that they’re killing people right now?” my father asks me, his eyes wide.

“No. ”

“That’s…awful. ” Marcus shakes his head. His sympathetic tone sounds manufactured to me. “Waking up and realizing what you’ve done…”

The room goes quiet, probably as all the Abnegation imagine themselves in the place of the Dauntless soldiers, and that’s when it occurs to me.

“We have to wake them up,” I say.

“What?” Marcus says.

“If we wake the Dauntless up, they will probably revolt when they realize what’s going on,” I explain. “The Erudite won’t have an army. The Abnegation will stop dying. This will be over. ”

“It won’t be that simple,” my father says. “Even without the Dauntless helping them, the Erudite will find another way to—”

“And how are we supposed to wake them up?” Marcus says.

“We find the computers that control the simulation and destroy the data,” I say. “The program. Everything. ”

“Easier said than done,” Caleb says. “It could be anywhere. We can’t just appear at the Erudite compound and start poking around. ”

“It’s…” I frown. Jeanine. Jeanine was talking about something important when Tobias and I came into her office, important enough to hang up on someone. You can’t just leave it undefended. And then, when she was sending Tobias away: Send him to the control room. The control room where Tobias used to work. With the Dauntless security monitors. And the Dauntless computers.

“It’s at Dauntless headquarters,” I say. “It makes sense. That’s where all the data about the Dauntless is stored, so why not control them from there?”

I faintly register that I said them. As of yesterday, I technically became Dauntless, but I don’t feel like one. And I am not Abnegation, either.

I guess I am what I’ve always been. Not Dauntless, not Abnegation, not factionless. Divergent.

“Are you sure?” my father asks.

“It’s an informed guess,” I say, “and it’s the best theory I have. ”

“Then we’ll have to decide who goes and who continues on to Amity,” he says. “What kind of help do you need, Beatrice?”

The question stuns me, as does the expression he wears. He looks at me like I’m a peer. He speaks to me like I’m a peer. Either he has accepted that I am an adult now, or he has accepted that I am no longer his daughter. The latter is more likely, and more painful.

“Anyone who can and will fire a gun,” I say, “and isn’t afraid of heights. ”

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