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I SHIFT MY hand back, centimeter by centimeter, so the soldier pointing a gun at me doesn’t notice. The elevator doors open again, bringing more of the Divergent with more Dauntless traitors. The Candor woman on my right whimpers. Strands of her hair are stuck to her lips, which are wet with spit, or tears, I can’t tell.
My hand reaches the corner of my back pocket. I keep it steady, my fingers shaking with anticipation. I have to wait for the right moment, when Eric is close.
I focus on the mechanics of my breathing, imagining air filling every part of my lungs as I inhale, then remembering as I exhale how all my blood, oxygenated and unoxygenated, travels to and from the same heart.
It’s easier to think of biology than the line of the Divergent sitting between the elevators. A Candor boy who can’t be older than eleven sits to my left. He’s braver than the woman to my right—he stares at the Dauntless soldier in front of him, unflinching.
Air in, air out. Blood pushed all the way to my extremities—the heart is a powerful muscle, the strongest muscle in the body in terms of longevity. More Dauntless arrive, reporting successful sweeps of specific floors of the Merciless Mart. Hundreds of people unconscious on the floor, shot with something other than bullets, and I have no idea why.
But I am thinking of the heart. Not of my heart anymore, but of Eric’s, and how empty his chest will sound when his heart is no longer beating. Despite how much I hate him, I don’t really want to kill him, at least not with a knife, up close where I can see the life leave him. But I have one chance left to do something useful, and if I want to hit the Erudite where it hurts, I have to take one of their leaders from them.
I notice that no one ever brought the Candor girl I warned to the elevator bank, which means she must have gotten away. Good.
Eric clasps his hands behind his back and begins to pace, back and forth, before the line of Divergent.
“My orders are to take only two of you back to Erudite headquarters for testing,” says Eric. “The rest of you are to be executed. There are several ways to determine who among you will be least useful to us. ”
His footsteps slow when he approaches me. I tense my fingers, about to grab the knife handle, but he doesn’t come close enough. He keeps walking and stops in front of the boy to my left.
“The brain finishes developing at age twenty-five,” says Eric. “Therefore your Divergence is not completely developed. ”
He lifts his gun and fires.
A strangled scream leaps out of my body as the boy slumps to the ground, and I squeeze my eyes shut. Every muscle in my body strains toward him, but I hold myself back. Wait, wait, wait. I can’t think of the boy. Wait. I force my eyes open and blink tears from them.
My scream accomplished one thing: now Eric stands in front of me, smiling. I caught his attention.
“You are also rather young,” he says. “Nowhere near finished developing. ”
He steps toward me. My fingertips inch closer to the knife handle.
“Most of the Divergent get two results in the aptitude test. Some only get one. No one has ever gotten three, not because of aptitude, but simply because in order to get that result, you have to refuse to choose something,” he says, moving closer still. I tilt my head back to look at him, at all the metal gleaming in his face, at his empty eyes.
“My superiors suspect that you got two, Tris,” he says. “They don’t think you’re that complex—just an even blend of Abnegation and Dauntless—selfless to the point of idiocy. Or is that brave to the point of idiocy?”
I close my hand around the knife handle and squeeze. He leans closer.
“Just between you and me . . . I think you might have gotten three, because you’re the kind of bullheaded person who would refuse to make a simple choice just because she was told to,” he says. “Care to enlighten me?”
I lurch forward, pulling my hand out of my pocket. I close my eyes as I thrust the blade up and toward him. I don’t want to see his blood.
I feel the knife go in and then pull it out again. My entire body throbs to the rhythm of my heart. The back of my neck is sticky with sweat. I open my eyes as Eric slumps to the ground, and then—chaos.
The Dauntless traitors aren’t holding lethal guns, only ones that shoot whatever it is they shot at us before, so they all scramble for their real guns. As they do, Uriah launches himself at one of them and punches him hard in the jaw. The life goes out of the soldier’s eyes and he falls, knocked out. Uriah takes the soldier’s gun and starts shooting at the Dauntless closest to us.
I reach for Eric’s gun, so panicked I can barely see, and when I look up, I swear the amount of Dauntless in the room has doubled. Gunshots fill my ears, and I drop to the ground as everyone starts running. My fingers brush the gun barrel, and I shudder. My hands are too weak to grasp it.
A heavy arm wraps around my shoulders and shoves me toward the wall. My right shoulder burns, and I see the Dauntless symbol tattooed on the back of a neck. Tobias turns, crouched around me to shield me from the gunfire, and shoots.
“Tell me if anyone’s behind me!” he says.
I peer over his shoulder, curling my hands into fists around his shirt.
There are more Dauntless in the room, Dauntless without blue armbands—loyal Dauntless. My faction. My faction has come to save us. How are they awake?
The Dauntless traitors sprint away from the elevator bank. They were not prepared for an attack, not from all sides. Some of them fight back, but most run for the stairs. Tobias fires over and over again, until his gun runs out of bullets, and the trigger makes a clicking sound instead. My vision is too blurry with tears and my hands too useless to fire a gun. I scream into gritted teeth, frustrated. I can’t help. I am worthless.
On the floor, Eric moans. Still alive, for now.
The gunshots gradually stop. My hand is wet. One glimpse of red tells me it’s covered in blood—Eric’s. I wipe it off on my pants and try to blink the tears away. My ears ring.
“Tris,” Tobias says. “You can put the knife down now. ”