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BY THE TIME we reach the city, all conversation has halted in the truck, replaced by pressed lips and pale faces. Marcus steers around potholes the size of a person and parts from broken-down buses. The ride is smoother when we get out of factionless territory and into the clean parts of the city.
Then I hear gunshots. From this distance they sound like popping.
For a moment I am disoriented, and all I can see are the leaders of Abnegation on their knees on the pavement and the slack-faced Dauntless with guns in hand; all I can see is my mother turning to embrace the bullets, and Will dropping to the ground. I bite my fist to keep from crying out, and the pain brings me back to the present.
My mother told me to be brave. But if she had known that her death would make me so afraid, would she have sacrificed herself so willingly?
Breaking away from the convoy of trucks, Marcus turns on Madison Avenue and, when we are just two blocks away from Michigan Avenue, where the fighting is, he pulls the truck into an alley and turns off the engine.
Fernando hops out of the truck bed and offers me his arm.
“Come on, Insurgent,” he says with a wink.
“What?” I say. I take his arm and slide down the side of the truck.
He opens the bag he was sitting with. It is full of blue clothes. He sorts through them, tossing garments to Christina and me. I get a bright blue T-shirt and a pair of blue jeans.
“Insurgent,” he says. “Noun. A person who acts in opposition to the established authority, who is not necessarily regarded as a belligerent. ”
“Do you need to give everything a name?” says Cara, running her hands over her dull blondhair to tuck the stray pieces back. “We’re just doing something and it happens to be in a group. No need for a new title. ”
“I happen to enjoy categorization,” Fernando replies, arching a dark eyebrow.
I look at Fernando. The last time I broke into a faction’s headquarters, I did it with a gun in my hand, and I left bodies behind me. I want this time to be different. I need this time to be different. “I like it,” I say. “Insurgent. It’s perfect. ”
“See?” Fernando says to Cara. “I’m not the only one. ”
“Congratulations,” she says wryly.
I stare at my Erudite clothes while the others strip off their outer layers of clothing.
“No time for modesty, Stiff!” Christina says, giving me a pointed look.
I know she’s right, so I pull off the red shirt I was wearing and put on the blue one instead. I glance at Fernando and Marcus to make sure they aren’t watching, and change out of my pants too. I have to roll up the jeans four times, and when I belt them, they bunch at the top like the neck of a crushed paper bag.
“Did she just call you ‘Stiff’?” Fernando says.
“Yeah,” I say. “I transferred into Dauntless from Abnegation. ”
“Huh. ” He frowns. “That’s quite a shift. That kind of leap in personality between generations is almost genetically impossible these days. ”
“Sometimes personality has nothing to do with a person’s choice of faction,” I say, thinking of my mother. She left Dauntless not because she was ill-suited for it but because it was safer to be Divergent in Abnegation. And then there’s Tobias, who switched to Dauntless to escape his father. “There are many factors to consider. ”
To escape the man I have made my ally. I feel a twinge of guilt.
“Keep talking like that and they’ll never discover you’re not really Erudite,” Fernando says.
I run a comb through my hair to smooth it down and then tuck it behind my ears.
“Here,” says Cara. She lifts a piece of hair from my face and pins it back with a silver hair clip, the way Erudite girls do.
Christina takes out the guns we brought with us and looks at me.
“Do you want one?” she says. “Or would you rather carry the stunner?”
I stare at the gun in her hand. If I don’t take the stunner, I leave myself completely undefended against people who will gladly shoot me. If I do, I admit to weakness in front of Fernando, Cara, and Marcus.
“You know what Will would say?” says Christina.
“What?” I say, my voice breaking.
“He would tell you to get over it,” she says. “To stop being so irrational and take the stupid gun. ”
Will had little patience for the irrational. Christina must be right; she knew him better than I did.
And she—who lost someone dear to her that day, just as I did—was able to forgive me, an act that must have been nearly impossible. It would have been impossible for me, if the situation were reversed. So why is it so difficult for me to forgive myself?
I close my hand around the gun Christina offered me. The metal is warm from where she touched it. I feel the memory of shooting him poking at the back of my mind, and try to stifle it. But it won’t be stifled. I let go of the gun.
“The stunner is a perfectly good option,” Cara says as she plucks a hair from her shirtsleeve. “If you ask me, the Dauntless are too gun-happy anyway. ”
Fernando offers me the stunner. I wish I could communicate my gratitude to Cara, but she isn’t looking at me.
“How am I going to conceal this thing?” I say.
“Don’t bother,” Fernando says.
“We’d better go,” says Marcus, glancing at his watch.
My heart beats so hard it marks each second for me, but the rest of me is numb. I can barely feel the ground. I have never been this afraid before, and considering all that I have seen in simulations, and all that I did during the attack simulation, that doesn’t make any sense.
Or maybe it does. Whatever the Abnegation were about to show everyone before the attack, it was enough to make Jeanine take drastic and terrible measures to stop them. And now I am about to finish their work, the work my old faction died for. So much more than my life is at stake now.
Christina and I lead the way. We run down the clean, even sidewalks on Madison Avenue, passing State Street, toward Michigan Avenue.
Half a block from Erudite headquarters, I come to a sudden stop.
Standing in four rows in front of us are a group of people, mostly dressed in black and white, spaced two feet apart, guns held up and ready. I blink and they become simulation-controlled Dauntless in the Abnegation sector, during the simulation attack. Get a grip! Get a grip get a grip get a grip. . . . I blink again and they are the Candor again—though some of them, dressed all in black, do look like Dauntless. If I’m not careful I’ll lose touch with where, and when, I am.
“Oh my God,” Christina says. “My sister, my parents . . . what if they . . . ”
She looks at me, and I think I know her thoughts, because I have experienced them before. Where are my parents? I have to find them. But if her parents are like these Candor, simulation controlled and armed, there is nothing she can do for them.
I wonder if Lynn stands in one of these rows, somewhere else.
“What do we do?” Fernando asks.
I step toward the Candor. Maybe they aren’t programmed to shoot. I stare into the glazed eyes of a woman in a white blouse and black slacks. She looks like she just came from work. I take another step.
Bang. By instinct I drop to the ground, covering my head with my arms, and scramble backward, toward Fernando’s shoes. He helps me to my feet.
“How about let’s not do that?” he says.
I lean forward—not too far—and peer into the alley between the building next to us and Erudite headquarters. The Candor are in the alley too. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a dense layer of Candor surrounding the entire complex of Erudite buildings.
“Is there any other way to Erudite headquarters?” I say.
“Not that I know of,” says Cara. “Unless you want to jump from one roof to another. ”
She laughs a little as she says it, like it’s a joke. I raise my eyebrows at her.
“Wait,” she says. “You aren’t considering—”
“The roof?” I say. “No. Windows. ”
I walk to the left, careful not to advance even an inch toward the Candor. The building on my left overlaps with Erudite headquarters on its far left side. There have to be a few windows that face each other.
Cara mutters something about crazy Dauntless stunts, but runs after me, and Fernando, Marcus, and Christina follow. I try to open the back door of the building, but it’s locked.
Christina steps forward and says, “Stand back. ” She points her gun at the lock. I shield my face with an arm as she fires. We hear a loud bang, and then a high ringing, the aftereffects of firing a gun in such a close space. The lock is broken.
I pull the door open and walk inside. A long hallway with a tile floor greets me, doors on either side, some open, some closed. When I look into the open rooms, I see rows of old desks, and chalkboards on the walls like the ones in Dauntless headquarters. The air smells musty, like the pages of a library book mixed with cleaning solution.
“This used to be a commercial building,” says Fernando, “but Erudite converted it into a school, for post-Choosing education. After the major renovations in Erudite headquarters about a decade ago—you know, when all the buildings across from Millennium were connected?—they stopped teaching there. Too old, hard to update. ”
“Thanks for the history lesson,” says Christina.
When I reach the end of the hallway, I walk into one of the classrooms to see where I am. I see the back of Erudite headquarters, but there are no windows across the alley at street level.
Right outside the window, so close I could touch her if I stretched my hand through the window, is a Candor child, a girl, holding a gun that is as long as her forearm. She stands so still I wonder if she is even breathing.
I crane my neck to see the windows above street level. Over my head in the school building there are plenty of windows. At the back of Erudite headquarters, there is only one that lines up. And it’s on the third story.
“Good news,” I say. “I found a way across. ”