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I STAND BEFORE the sinks in the women’s bathroom on the newly claimed Dauntless floor, a gun resting on my palm. Lynn put it there a few minutes ago; she seemed confused that I did not wrap my hand around it and put it somewhere, in a holster or under the waistband of my jeans. I just let it stay there, and walked to the bathroom before I started to panic.
Don’t be an idiot. I can’t set out to do what I’m doing without a gun. It would be crazy. So I will have to solve this problem I’ve been having in the next five minutes.
I curl my pinkie around the handle first, then my second finger, then the others. The weight is familiar. My index finger slips around the trigger. I release a breath.
I start to lift it, bringing my left hand to meet my right to steady it. I hold the gun out from my body, my arms straight, just as Four taught me, when that was his only name. I used a gun like this to defend my father and brother from simulation-bound Dauntless. I used it to stop Eric from shooting Tobias in the head. It is not inherently evil. It is just a tool.
I see a flicker of movement in the mirror, and before I can stop myself, I stare at my reflection. This is how I looked to him, I think. This is how I looked when I shot him.
Moaning like a wounded animal, I let the gun fall from my hands and wrap my arms around my stomach. I want to sob because I know it will make me feel better, but I can’t force the tears to come. I just crouch in the bathroom, staring at the white tiles. I can’t do it. I can’t take the gun with me.
I shouldn’t even go; I am still going to.
“Tris?” Someone knocks. I stand and uncross my arms as the door squeaks open a few inches. Tobias steps into the room.
“Zeke and Uriah told me you were going to eavesdrop on Jack,” he says.
“Why should I tell you? You don’t tell me about your plans. ”
His straight eyebrows furrow. “What are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about beating Marcus to a pulp in front of all the Dauntless for no apparent reason. ” I step toward him. “But there is a reason, isn’t there? Because it’s not like you lost control; it’s not like he did something to provoke you, so there has to be a reason!”
“I needed to prove to the Dauntless that I am not a coward,” he says. “That’s all. That’s all it was. ”
“Why would you need to . . . ” I start.
Why would Tobias need to prove himself to the Dauntless? Only if he wanted them to hold him in high regard. Only if he wants to become a Dauntless leader. I remember Evelyn’s voice, speaking in the shadows in the factionless safe house: “What I am suggesting is that you become important. ”
He wants the Dauntless to ally with the factionless, and he knows the only way he can make that happen is to do it himself.
Why he didn’t feel the need to share this plan with me is another mystery entirely. Before I can ask, he says, “So are you going to eavesdrop or not?”
“What does it matter?”
“You’re throwing yourself into danger for no reason again,” he says. “Just like when you stormed up to fight the Erudite with only a . . . a pocket knife to protect yourself. ”
“There is a reason. A good one. We won’t know what’s going on unless we eavesdrop, and we need to know what’s going on. ”
He crosses his arms. He is not bulky, the way some Dauntless boys are. And some girls might focus on the way his ears stick out, or the way his nose hooks at the end, but to me . . .
I swallow the rest of that thought. He’s here to yell at me. He’s been keeping things from me. Whatever we are now, I can’t indulge thoughts about how attractive he is. It will just make it harder for me to do what needs to be done. And right now, that is going to listen to what Jack Kang has to say to the Erudite.
“You’re not cutting your hair like the Abnegation anymore,” I say. “That because you want to look more Dauntless?”
“Don’t change the subject,” he says. “There are four people going to eavesdrop already. You don’t need to be there. ”
“Why are you so insistent on me staying home?” My voice gets louder. “I am not the kind of person who just sits back and lets other people take all the risks!”
“As long as you are someone who doesn’t seem to value her own life . . . someone who can’t even pick up and fire a gun . . . ” He leans toward me. “You should sit back and let other people take the risks. ”
His quiet voice pulses around me like a second heartbeat. I hear the words “doesn’t seem to value her own life” again and again.
“What are you going to do?” I say. “Lock me in the bathroom? Because that’s the only way you’ll be able to keep me from going. ”
He touches his forehead and lets his hand drag down the side of his face. I have never seen his face sag that way before.
“I don’t want to stop you. I want you to stop yourself,” he says. “But if you’re going to be reckless, you can’t prevent me from coming along. ”
It is still dark, but just barely, when we reach the bridge, which is two-tiered, with stone pillars at each corner. We descend the stairs next to one of the stone pillars and creep with silent feet at river level. Large puddles of standing water gleam as the light of day hits them. The sun is rising; we have to get into position.
Uriah and Zeke are in the buildings on either side of the bridge so they can get a better view and cover us from a distance. They have better aim than Lynn or Shauna, who came because Lynn asked her to, despite her outburst in the Gathering Place.
Lynn goes first, her back pressed to the stone as she inches along the lower lip of the bridge supports. I follow her, with Shauna and Tobias behind me. The bridge is supported by four curved metal structures that secure it to the stone wall, and by a maze of narrow girders beneath its lower tier. Lynn wedges herself under one of the metal structures and climbs quickly, keeping the narrow girders beneath her as she works her way to the middle of the bridge.
I let Shauna go in front of me because I can’t climb as well. My left arm shakes as I try to balance on top of the metal structure. I feel Tobias’s cool hand on my waist, steadying me.
I crouch low to fit in the space between the bottom of the bridge and the girders beneath me. I don’t make it very far before I have to stop, my feet on one girder and my left arm on another. And I will have to stay that way for a long time.
Tobias slides along one of the girders and puts his leg under me. It is long enough to stretch beneath me and onto a second girder. I breathe out and smile at him as a kind of thank-you. It’s the first time we have acknowledged each other since we left the Merciless Mart.
He smiles back, but grimly.
We bide our time in silence. I breathe through my mouth and try to control the shaking of my arms and legs. Shauna and Lynn seem to communicate without speaking. They make faces at each other that I can’t read, and nod and smile at each other when they reach an understanding. I have never thought about what it would be like to have a sister. Would Caleb and I be closer if he were a girl?
The city is so quiet in the morning that the footsteps echo as they approach the bridge. The sound comes from behind me, which must mean it’s Jack and his Dauntless escort, not the Erudite, who have arrived. The Dauntless know that we are here, though Jack Kang himself does not. If he stares down for more than a few seconds, he might see us through the metal mesh beneath his feet. I try to breathe as quietly as possible.
Tobias checks his watch, and then holds his arm out to me to show me the time. Seven o’clock exactly.
I glance up and peer through the steel web above me. Feet pass over my head. And then I hear him.
“Hello, Jack,” he says.
It’s Max, who appointed Eric to Dauntless leadership at Jeanine’s demand, who implemented policies of cruelty and brutality in Dauntless initiation. I have never spoken to him directly, but the sound of his voice makes me shiver.
“Max,” Jack says. “Where’s Jeanine? I thought she would at least have the courtesy to show up herself. ”
“Jeanine and I divide our responsibilities according to our strengths,” he says. “That means I make all military decisions. I believe that includes what we are doing today. ”
I frown. I haven’t heard Max speak much, but something about the words he’s using, and their rhythm, sounds . . . off.
“Fine,” says Jack. “I came to—”
“I should inform you that this will not be a negotiation,” Max says. “In order to negotiate, you have to be on even footing, and you, Jack, are not. ”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean that you are the only disposable faction. Candor does not provide us with protection, sustenance, or technological innovation. Therefore you are expendable to us. And you have not done much to win the favor of your Dauntless guests,” says Max, “so you are completely vulnerable and completely useless. I recommend, therefore, that you do exactly as I say. ”
“You piece of scum,” says Jack through gritted teeth. “How dare—”
“Now let’s not get testy,” Max says.
I chew on my lip. I should trust my instincts, and my instincts tell me that something is wrong here. No self-respecting Dauntless man would say the word “testy. ” Nor would he react so calmly to an insult. He’s speaking like someone else. He’s speaking like Jeanine.
The back of my neck prickles. It makes perfect sense. Jeanine would not trust anyone, particularly not a volatile Dauntless, to speak on her behalf. The best solution to that problem is to give Max an earpiece. And the signal from an earpiece can stretch only a quarter of a mile at most.
I catch Tobias’s eye, and slowly move my hand to point at my ear. Then I point above me, at my best approximation of where Max stands.
Tobias frowns for a moment, then nods, but I’m not sure he understands me.
“I have three requirements,” says Max. “First, that you return the Dauntless leader you currently hold in captivity unharmed. Second, that you allow your compound to be searched by our soldiers so that we can extract the Divergent; and third, that you provide us with the names of those who were not injected with the simulation serum. ”
“Why?” Jack says bitterly. “What are you searching for? And why do you need those names? What do you intend to do with them?”
“The purpose of our search would be to locate and remove any of the Divergent from the premises. And as for the names, that is none of your concern. ”
“None of my concern!” I hear footsteps squeak above me and stare up through the mesh. From what I can see, Jack has the collar of Max’s shirt wrapped around his fist.
“Release me,” says Max. “Or I will order my guards to fire. ”
I frown. If Jeanine is speaking through Max, she had to be able to see him in order to know that he was grabbed. I lean forward to look at the buildings on the other side of the bridge. On my left, the river bends, and a squat glass building stands at the edge. That must be where she is.
I start to climb backward, toward the metal structure that supports the bridge, toward the staircase that will lead me to Wacker Drive. Tobias follows me immediately, and Shauna taps Lynn on the shoulder. But Lynn is doing something else.
I was too busy thinking about Jeanine. I failed to notice that Lynn took out her gun and started to climb toward the edge of the bridge. Shauna’s mouth opens and her eyes go wide as Lynn swings herself forward, grabbing the lip of the bridge, and shoves her arm over it. Her finger squeezes the trigger.
Max gasps, his hand clapping over his chest, and stumbles back. When he pulls his hand away, it is dark with blood.
I don’t bother to climb anymore. I drop into the mud, closely followed by Tobias, Lynn, and Shauna. My legs sink into the mire, and my feet make sucking noises as I pull them free. My shoes slip off but I keep going until I reach the concrete. Guns fire and bullets stick in the mud next to me. I throw myself against the wall under the bridge so they can’t aim at me.
Tobias presses into the wall behind me, so close to me that his chin floats over my head and I can feel his chest against my shoulders. Shielding me.
I can run back to Candor headquarters, and to temporary safety. Or I can find Jeanine in what is probably the most vulnerable state she will ever be in.
It’s not even a choice.
“Come on!” I say. I sprint up the stairs, the others on my heels. On the lower tier of the bridge, our Dauntless shoot at the Dauntless traitors. Jack is safe, bent over with a Dauntless arm slung across his back. I run faster. I run across the bridge and don’t look behind me. I can already hear Tobias’s footsteps. He is the only one who can keep up with me.
The glass building is in my sights. And then I hear more footsteps, more gunshots. I weave as I run, to make it more difficult for the Dauntless traitors to hit me.
I am close to the glass building. I am yards away. I grit my teeth and push myself harder. My legs are numb; I barely feel the ground beneath me. But before I reach the doors, I see movement in the alley to my right. I swerve and follow it with my feet.
Three figures run down the alley. One is blond. One is tall. And one is Peter.
I stumble, and almost fall.
“Peter!” I shout. He lifts his gun, and behind me, Tobias lifts his own, and we stand just yards away from each other, at a standstill. Behind him, the blond woman—Jeanine, probably—and the tall Dauntless traitor turn the corner. Though I don’t have a weapon, and I don’t have a plan, I want to run after them, and maybe I would if Tobias did not clamp his hand over my shoulder and hold me in place.
“You traitor,” I say to Peter. “I knew it. I knew it. ”
A scream pierces the air. It is anguished and female.
“Sounds like your friends need you,” Peter says with the flash of a smile—or bared teeth, I can’t tell. He keeps his gun steady. “So you have a choice. You can let us go, and help them, or you can die trying to follow us. ”
I almost scream. We both know what I’m going to do.
“I hope you die,” I say.
I back up into Tobias, who backs up with me, until we reach the end of the alley, and then turn and run.