Lauren and the Dauntless born initiates dissolve into the shadows, and I turn towards the faction transfers, scrutinizing each one of them in turn. Half are from Erudite. The other half is from Candor, oddly enough. Maybe it requires bravery to be honest all the time. I wouldn’t know.
I keep my face placid, no emotion. That is my best armour, and it alone is enough for them to know that I’m not one to be messed with.
“Most of the time I work in the control room, but for the next few weeks, I am your instructor. My name is Four.”
A copper skinned girl with chin length black hair frowns at me, a smile tugging at the corners of her mouth. “Four? Like the number?”
I give her an icy glare and raise my eyebrows. “Yes. Is there a problem?”
“Good. We’re about to go into the Pit, which you will someday learn to love. It–”
The girl snickers. “The Pit? Clever name.”
Sometimes the Candor are too cocky for their own good. I let the waves of anger roll over me, and I walk up to her, leaning my face close to hers. I stare at her, watching the warmth and smugness in her eyes go out cold.
Good. That’s better.
“What’s your name?” I ask it quietly, venomously, enough to scare myself.
“Christina,” she squeaks, like a scared mouse.
“Well, Christina, if I wanted to put up with Candor smart-mouths, I would have joined their faction,” I hiss it, almost like a snake. “The first lesson you will learn from me is to keep your mouth shut. Got that?”
She nods, and I can tell she’s slightly afraid of me.
I turn around and start towards the double doors that lead into the Pit.
I hear Christina whisper behind me. “What a jerk.”
And I can’t help but smile, just for that moment.
The initiates absorb the Pit with their eyes. They each try to look as cool as possible, like they’ve lived here their whole life, even though they obviously haven’t.
But she doesn’t. Tris is shorter than the others, but looking down, I can see her blonde head clearly. She looks up and around, interested, taking everything in. She’s already deemed it useless to pretend she’s known this place forever. She’d rather try her best to learn as much about it as she possibly can.
The other initiates stare at me, waiting. “If you follow me,” I say, “I’ll show you the chasm.” I say it more to her than anyone else. Her eyes break away from whatever she was looking at and she stares up at me. I don’t make eye contact with her. As I lead them to the chasm, I feel her eyes on me.
Does she recognize me?
A voice chants in my head, but I suppress it.
I take them to the dining hall. Tris’ eyes bore into my back, and I feel my palms get sweaty.
The Dauntless cheer, stamp their feet, shout. Their noise surrounds the initiates, fills them, makes them grin with pride. Half of them will be factionless by the end of all this. For some of them, those grins will never have existed.
I see Tris and Christina seat themselves at a table.
I swallow. She’s shown no sign of recognition, but I must make sure.
She can’t be the one who unravels me.
I sit next to her, and watch her stare at the hamburgers on the table as if they had just sprouted horns. It’s a bit comical, but I feel just a bit sorry for her. Being a Stiff is not the easiest when surrounded by Dauntless.
I nudge her with my elbow. “It’s beef. Put this on it.” I hand her a bowl of ketchup.
The Candor girl stares at her, a stricken expression on her face. “You’ve never had a hamburger before?”
It’s out of my mouth before I even realize it. “Stiffs eat plain food.”
Tris shrugs. “Extravagance is considered self-indulgent and unnecessary.”
She’s still a Stiff, at her core.
Christina smirks. “No wonder you left.”
“Yeah,” she says, rolling her eyes. “It was just because of the food.”
First time I’ve seen a Stiff capable of sarcasm. I have to pinch myself to keep from full-out grinning.
And that is when Eric walks in. He commands respect, as the youngest Dauntless leader, and a hush falls over the dining room.
“Who’s that?” hisses Christina.
Not the best time to speak, Candor.
“His name is Eric,” I say, “He’s a Dauntless leader.”
“Seriously? But he’s so young.”
“Age doesn’t matter here.” How well you fight, how ruthless you are, how much you’re willing to kill…that’s what matters here.
When Eric’s eyes find me, my jaw tightens. He sits down next to me, and I look away from him. It’s the best I can do to keep myself from punching him in the nose.
“Well, aren’t you going to introduce me?” He laces his fingers together and nods across the table.
“This is Tris and Christina.” I say it coldly, reminding him that’s he’s not welcome here. He’s not welcome anywhere near me.
“Ooh, a Stiff,” says Eric, smirking at Tris. I see her wince. “We’ll see how long you last.” Eric is not human. He can’t be. When someone is in pain, he doesn’t care. In fact, he sees torture as a form of entertainment.
He taps his fingers against the table and turns towards me. “What have you been doing lately, Four?”
I squeeze my fists and glare at him, letting all the anger that’s inside of me stream out of my eye sockets. “Nothing, really.”
“Max tells me he keeps trying to meet with you, and you don’t show up,” Eric says. “He requested that I find out what’s going on with you.”
Eric is power hungry. To him, I’m a threat to his position. He wants more power, and the more he gets, the more he lives in the terror of losing it. For a moment, my mind grapples with the idea of accepting a government job so I can find out what the Dauntless leaders have been keeping in the shadows. Maps, supply lists, thinly veiled commands.
But I don’t. I can’t.
“Tell him that I am satisfied with the position I currently hold.”
“So he wants to give you a job.”
“So it would seem.”
“And you aren’t interested.”
“I haven’t been interested in two years.” And I never will be. I’ll never be able to face Marcus.
And I’m a coward.
“Well, let’s hope he gets the point, then.” He claps me on the shoulder and gets up. I don’t watch him walk away. I just look at something in the distance.
“Are you two…friends?” I hear Tris’ voice, cutting through my daze.
“We were in the same initiate class. He transferred from Erudite.”
“Were you a transfer too?”
I don’t give her the answer to that question, and I let her know that she will never get the answer, especially since she’s as nosy as a Candor.
“I thought I would only have trouble with the Candor asking too many questions,” I tell her coldly. “Now I’ve got Stiffs, too?”
She replies back, strong, ignoring the consequences it might cause, even though she knows how dangerous it is. “It must be because you’re so approachable. You know. Like a bed of nails.”
And it strikes me again. Her inner strength.
She stares at me, challenging me, telling me she will never give in. Then she blushes bright red, and I Iean back and cross my arms.
“Careful, Tris,” I tell her.
You don’t yet know how strong you can be.