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CHRISTINA STEPS BACK into the room. We are all still.
“I don’t mean to be insensitive,” says Marcus, “but we have to go before the Dauntless and factionless enter this building. If they haven’t already. ”
I hear tapping against the window and jerk my head to the side, for a split second believing that it is Fernando, trying to get in. But it’s just rain.
We follow Cara out of the bathroom. She is our leader now. She knows Erudite headquarters best. Christina follows, then Marcus, then me. We leave the bathroom, and we are in an Erudite hallway like every other Erudite hallway: pale, bright, sterile.
But this hallway is more active than I have ever seen it. People in Erudite blue sprint back and forth, in groups and alone, shouting things at each other like, “They’re at the front doors! Go as high as you can!” and “They’ve disabled the elevators! Run for the stairs!” It’s only there, in the midst of chaos, that I realize I forgot the stunner in the bathroom. I am unarmed again.
Dauntless traitors also run past us, though they are less frantic than the Erudite. I wonder what Johanna, the Amity, and the Abnegation are doing in this chaos. Are they tending to the wounded? Or are they standing between Dauntless guns and Erudite innocents, taking bullets for the sake of peace?
I shudder. Cara leads us to a back staircase, and we join a group of terrified Erudite as we run up one, two, three flights of stairs. Then Cara shoves her shoulder into a door next to the landing, holding her gun close to her chest.
I recognize this floor.
It is my floor.
My thoughts become sluggish. I almost died here. I craved death here.
I slow down and fall behind. I can’t break out of the daze, though people keep rushing past me, and Marcus shouts something at me, but his voice is muffled. Christina doubles back and grabs me, dragging me toward Control-A.
Inside the control room, I see rows of computers but I don’t really see them; there is a film covering my eyes. I try to blink it away. Marcus sits at one of the computers, and Cara sits at another. They will send all the data from the Erudite computers to the other faction computers.
Behind me, the door opens.
And I hear Caleb say, “What are you doing here?”
His voice wakes me. I turn and stare right at his gun.
His eyes are my mother’s eyes—a dull green, almost gray, though his blue shirt makes their color appear more potent.
“Caleb,” I say. “What do you think you’re doing?”
“I’m here to stop whatever you’re doing!” His voice trembles. The gun wavers in his hands.
“We’re here to save the Erudite data that the factionless want to destroy,” I say. “I don’t think you want to stop us. ”
“That’s not true,” he says. He jerks his head toward Marcus. “Why would you bring him if you weren’t trying to find something else? Something more important to him than all the Erudite data combined?”
“She told you about it?” Marcus says. “You, a child?”
“She didn’t tell me at first,” Caleb says. “But she didn’t want me to choose a side without knowing the facts!”
“The facts,” says Marcus, “are that she is terrified of reality, and the Abnegation were not. Are not. And neither is your sister. To her credit. ”
I scowl. Even when he is complimenting me, I want to smack him.
“My sister,” says Caleb gently, looking at me again, “doesn’t know what she’s getting into. Doesn’t know what it is that you want to show everyone . . . doesn’t know it will ruin everything!”
“We are here to serve a purpose!” Marcus is almost yelling now. “We have completed our mission, and it is time for us to do what we were sent here to do!”
I don’t know the purpose or the mission that Marcus is referring to, but Caleb doesn’t look confused.
“We were not sent here,” Caleb says. “We have no responsibility to anyone but ourselves. ”
“That kind of self-interested thinking is what I have come to expect from those who have spent too much time with Jeanine Matthews. You are so unwilling to relinquish your comfort that your selfishness drains you of humanity!”
I don’t care to hear more. While Caleb stares down Marcus, I turn and kick hard at Caleb’s wrist. The impact shocks him, and his gun topples from his hands. I slide it across the floor with my toes.
“You need to trust me, Beatrice,” he says, chin wobbling.
“After you helped her torture me? After you let her almost kill me?”
“I didn’t help her tort—”
“You certainly didn’t stop her! You were right there, and you just watched—”
“What could I have done? What—”
“You could have tried, you coward!” I scream so loud my face gets hot and tears jump into my eyes. “Tried, and failed, because you love me!”
I gasp, just to take in enough air. All I hear is the click of keys as Cara works on the task at hand. Caleb doesn’t seem to have a response. His pleading look slowly disappears, replaced by a blank stare.
“You won’t find what you’re looking for here,” he says. “She wouldn’t keep such important files on public computers. That would be illogical. ”
“So she hasn’t destroyed it?” Marcus says.
Caleb shakes his head. “She does not believe in the destruction of information. Only its containment. ”
“Well, thank God for that,” says Marcus. “Where is she keeping it?”
“I’m not going to tell you,” Caleb says.
“I think I know,” I say. Caleb said she wouldn’t keep the information on a public computer. So he must mean she is keeping it on a private one: either the one in her office or the one in the laboratory Tori told me about.
Caleb doesn’t look at me.
Marcus picks up Caleb’s revolver and turns it in his hand so the butt of the gun protrudes from his fist. Then he swings, striking Caleb under the jaw. Caleb’s eyes roll back, and he falls to the floor.
I don’t want to know how Marcus perfected that maneuver.
“We can’t have him running off to tell someone what we’re doing,” says Marcus. “Let’s go. Caracan take care of the rest, right?”
Cara nods without looking up from her computer. A sick feeling in my stomach, I follow Marcus and Christina out of the control room and toward the stairs.
The hallway outside is now empty. There are scraps of paper and footprints on the tile. Marcus, Christina, and I jog in a line to the stairwell. I stare at the back of his head, where the shape of his skull shows through his buzzed hair.
All I can see when I look at him is a belt swinging toward Tobias, and the butt of a gun slamming into Caleb’s jaw. I don’t care that he hurt Caleb—I would have done it, too—but that he is simultaneously a man who knows how to hurt people and a man who parades around as the self-effacing leader of Abnegation, suddenly makes me so angry I can’t see straight.
Especially because I chose him. I chose him over Tobias.
“Your brother is a traitor,” says Marcus as we turn a corner. “He deserved worse. There’s no need to look at me that way. ”
“Shut up!” I shout, shoving him hard into the wall. He is too surprised to push back. “I hate you, you know that! I hate you for what you did to him, and I am not talking about Caleb. ” I lean close to his face and whisper, “And while I may not shoot you myself, I will definitely not help you if someone tries to kill you, so you’d better hope to God we don’t get into that situation. ”
He stares at me, apparently indifferent. I release him and start toward the stairs again, Christina on my heels, Marcus a few steps behind.
“Where are we going?” she says.
“Caleb said what we’re looking for won’t be on a public computer, so it has to be on a private one. As far as I know, Jeanine only has two private computers, one in her office, and one in her laboratory,” I say.
“So which one do we go to?”
“Tori told me there were insane security measures protecting Jeanine’s laboratory,” I say. “And I’ve been to her office; it’s just another room. ”
“So . . . laboratory, then. ”
“Top floor. ”
We reach the door to the stairwell, and when I throw it open, a group of Erudite, including children, are sprinting down the stairs. I cling to the railing and force my way through them with my elbow, not looking at their faces, like they are not human, just a wall of mass to push aside.
I expect the stream to stop, but more come from the next landing, a steady flow of blue-clad people in dim blue light, the whites of their eyes bright as lamps by contrast to everything else. Their terrified sobs echo in the cement chamber a hundred times, the shrieks of the demons with glowing eyes.
When we reach the seventh-floor landing, the crowd thins, and then disappears. I run my hands along my arms to get rid of the ghosts of hair, sleeves, and skin that brushed against me on the way up. I can see the top of the stairs from where we stand.
I also see the body of a guard, his arm dangling over the edge of a stair, and standing over him, a factionless man with an eye patch.
“Look who it is,” Edward says. He stands at the top of a short flight, only seven steps long, and I stand at the bottom. The Dauntless traitor guard lies between us, his eyes glazed, a dark patch on his chest from where someone—Edward, probably—shot him.
“That’s a strange outfit for someone who is supposed to despise Erudite,” he says. “I thought you were supposed to be at home, waiting for your boyfriend to come back a hero?”
“As you may have gathered,” I say, walking up a step, “that was never going to happen. ”
The blue light casts shadows into the faint hollows beneath Edward’s cheekbones. He reaches behind him.
If he is here, that means Tori is already up here. Which means that Jeanine might already be dead.
I feel Christina close behind me; I hear her breaths.
“We are going to get past you,” I say, walking up another step.
“I doubt that,” he replies. He grabs his gun. I launch myself forward, over the fallen guard. He fires, but my hands are wrapped around his wrist, so he doesn’t fire straight.
My ears ring, and my feet scramble for stability on the dead guard’s back.
Christina punches over my head. Her knuckles connect with Edward’s nose. I can’t balance on top of the body; I fall to my knees, digging my fingernails into his wrist. He wrenches me to the side and fires again, hitting Christina in the leg.
Gasping, Christina draws her gun and shoots. The bullet hits him in the side. Edward screams and drops the gun, pitching forward. He falls on top of me, and I smack my head against one of the cement steps. The dead guard’s arm is jammed into my spine.
Marcus picks up Edward’s gun and trains it on both of us.
“Get up, Tris,” he says. And to Edward: “You. Don’t move. ”
My hand searches for the corner of a step, and I squeeze from between Edward and the dead guard. Edward pushes himself to a sitting position on top of the guard—like he’s some kind of cushion—clutching his side with both hands.
“You okay?” I ask Christina.
Her face contorts. “Ahh. Yeah. It hit the side, not the bone. ”
I reach for her, to help her up.
“Beatrice,” Marcus says. “We have to leave her. ”
“What do you mean leave?” I demand. “We can’t leave! Something terrible could happen!”
Marcus presses his index finger to my sternum, in the gap between my collarbones, and leans over me.
“Listen to me,” he says. “Jeanine Matthews will have retreated to her laboratory at the first sign of attack, because it is the safest room in this building. And at any moment, she will decide that Erudite is lost and it is better to delete the data than risk anyone else finding it, and this mission of ours will be useless. ”
And I will have lost everyone: my parents, Caleb, and finally, Tobias, who will never forgive me for working with his father, especially if I have no way to prove that it was worthwhile.
“We are going to leave your friend here. ” His breath smells stale. “And move on, unless you would rather me go on alone. ”
“He’s right,” says Christina. “There’s no time. I’ll stay here and keep Ed from coming after you. ”
I nod. Marcus removes his finger, leaving an aching circle behind. I rub the pain away and open the door at the top of the landing. I look back before I walk through it, and Christina gives me a pained smile, her hand pressed to her thigh.