There are several concepts, characters, and real life things that I use and/or mention in this chapter that I don't own. These include but are not limited to the Divergent Trilogy, Four, Tris, Uriah, the five Factions, and fear landscapes.
IN THIS CHAPTER: Strong adult language (I gave Four a potty mouth, sorry), Moderate Intense/Frightening scenes
Capture the flag night. Ugh. I rifle through my closet until I find something suitable to wear; a random t-shirt, a pair of jeans, and combat boots. All black; Dauntless uniform. I go back to my nightstand to grab my watch and knock over the prescription bottle sitting next to my alarm clock.
Shit. I forgot to take that this morning. Do I really need it at this point? Capture the flag shouldn't have any triggers, and after that I'm going to bed…nightmares. If I don't take it I won't sleep tonight, the worst part of PTSD. I tap a pill into my hand and take it dry.
It's honestly way too easy to get a hold of prescription medication in Dauntless. A group goes to raid Erudite pharmacies once a month anyway, mostly to get speed and tranqs for recreational use, and for a small fee they'll bring back anything you want. A majority of the money I pay them is to keep them quiet, not for them to actually get it. People would wonder why I'm taking an antiepilepsy drug when I've never had a seizure in my life. Erudite has found that it helps with flashbacks and nightmares in individuals with posttraumatic stress disorder as well.
Someone starts banging on my door. Eric, because no one else would be attacking the door like that at ten-thirty at night.
Before I can even get the door halfway open Eric is yelling, "Let's go, Four!"
I can't be bothered to respond to him, so I just edge past him into the hallway and start walking before turning to make sure he's following me. All I need is for him to decide to destroy my room.
Surprise morphs into anger, and he jogs to catch up with me.
"Lauren's waking up the Dauntless-borns and they're going to meet us at the train."
The members that Eric has rounded up are waiting outside the transfer initiates' dormitory, and they all carry flashlights, which are switched on as Eric surges into the dorm, the members behind him, yelling "Everybody up!".
I follow and lock eyes with Tris, who doesn't look like she's slept at all.
Out of my peripheral vision I see Tris' loud-mouthed Candor buddy, Christina, get out of bed in only a t-shirt and start a stare down with Eric.
"Did you go deaf, Stiff?" Eric snaps.
I break eye contact with her as she gets out of bed.
"You have five minutes to get dressed and meet us by the tracks. We're going on another field trip," Eric says. He spins on his heel and stalks out, the members trailing behind him.
We walk over to the tracks and grab paintball gear. The Dauntless-borns show up soon after us, and then the transfers.
"Everyone grab a gun!" Eric shouts, as if it wasn't self-explanatory with the pile of guns and paintballs sitting there. He turns to me and asks, "Time estimate?"
I look down to my watch. "Any minute now. How long is it going to take you to memorize the train schedule?" You'd think two years of doing this as often as he does would get it in his head by now.
"Why should I, when I have you to remind me of it?" he replies, shoving my shoulder. I try to hide a scowl because I know the initiates are probably watching us, and turn to see the train in the distance.
As soon as it gets relatively close I sprint off and jump onto the train. It still provides the same rush as it did the very first time I jumped coming from the Choosing Ceremony, and I still find myself looking for excuses to take the train places. I turn to see Tris running behind me, and hold out a hand to pull her in. She grabs it and goes to take a seat on the other side of the train. Without making eye contact.
I wait restlessly for everyone else to get on the train before I start explaining what's going on, mainly to the initiates. The members have done this before, at least once when they were initiates.
"We'll be dividing into two teams to play capture the flag. Each team will have an even mix of members, Dauntless-born initiates, and transfers. One team will get off first and find a place to hide their flag. Then the second team will get off and do the same." The train suddenly swerves, and my hand locks on the doorway to keep from losing my balance. "This is a Dauntless tradition, so I suggest you take it seriously."
Some initiate shouts, "What do we get if we win?" Probably a former Erudite. They're into instant gratification and personal benefit. As someone raised in Abnegation I've always found it rather unappealing.
I raise an eyebrow. "Sounds like a question someone not from Dauntless would ask. You get to win, of course." In Dauntless, you play for the sake of being victorious, not for whatever prize you'll get.
"Four and I will be your team captains," Eric shouts out. He turns to me. "Let's divide up transfers first, shall we?"
I notice Tris looking crestfallen from the corner of my eye. Huh.
"You go first," I tell Eric.
He chooses Edward. I'm not surprised. At all.
I lean back against the door frame and scan the group briefly.
"I want the Stiff."
Laughter ripples through the train car and I bite the inside of my cheek to keep from making a face.
Eric smirks at me. "Got something to prove? Or are you just picking the weak ones so that if you lose, you'll have someone to blame it on?"
I know better to even try to deny that. Tris isn't weak, but at a certain point it's a battle not worth fighting. That's also why I called her 'the Stiff' even though I never refer to her as that in my head, and rarely out loud. Maybe because two years ago I was 'the Stiff'.
I just shrug. "Something like that."
Tris is wearing the scowly face again. Dammit. Can't make a face. Can't show I care.
"Your turn," I say to Eric.
He chooses Peter.
Will, Al, Myra, and Drew are left. I already have Tris and Christina. I barely notice as I start biting my fingernails. One of the few physical remnants of my bad childhood.
I choose Will.
Eric gets Myra who's last, so I get to start with the Dauntless-born initiates.
I stick with the theme and pick fast, smart initiates. Same with the members.
Eric smirks at me (again). "Your team can get off second."
I give him a smug smile. "Don't do me any favors. You know I don't need them to win."
"No, I know that you'll lose no matter when you get off," Eric snipes, chomping on one of his lip rings. "Take your scrawny team and get off first, then."
The entire team stands up. Molly tries to shove Tris out of the train, but she manages to catch herself and then promptly jumps. I'm right behind her.
I feel a hand on my shoulder and turn to see Marlene giving me a desperate look. Dang it. For some reason I was hoping for Tris.
"When your team won, where did you put the flag?" she ask.
I try not to roll my eyes. As a Dauntless-born, you'd think she'd understand our values enough to know why we're doing this, and therefore know why that's a stupid question.
"Telling you wouldn't really be in the spirit of the exercise, Marlene."
"Come on, Four." She adds a sugary smile.
I slowly release a sigh and lightly shove her hand off my arm.
"Navy Pier," Uriah calls out. "My brother was on the winning team. They kept the flag at the carousel."
I stay silent. In general I usually don't intervene unless a major physical fight breaks out. This isn't about me.
Will suggests that we go to the carousel, and the team agrees.
An uneventful walk leads us there, and I pull out the flag.
"In ten minutes, the other team will pick their location. I suggest you take this time to formulate a strategy. We may not be Erudite, but mental preparedness is one aspect of your Dauntless training. Arguably, it is the most important aspect."
Will takes the flag from me. I'm not surprised, Erudites like control.
"Some people should stay here and guard, and some people should go out and scout the other team's location," he suggests.
At this point I go sit down on the edge of the carousel. I feel no need to be part of the argument that I know is about to take place.
"Yeah? You think?" snaps Marlene, taking the flag. "Who put you in charge, transfer?"
"No one," says Will. "But someone's got to do it."
Christina chimes in with, "Maybe we should develop a more defensive strategy. Wait for them to come to us, then take them out."
Uriah snorts. "That's the sissy way out. I vote we go all out. Hide the flag well enough that they can't find it."
I sigh and tune out the discussion, instead keeping watch for my idiot team who is so busy arguing that a stampede of wild animals could sneak up on them. Except for Tris, who is giving the Ferris wheel a slightly worrying look.
She sneaks over to it and one hand goes to the rusted ladder.
She's going to climb it.
No, no, no, no, no, no, no.
Heights. One of my four main fears, which make up the biggest component of psychological scarring from my early years in Abnegation. The other three are confinement, power, and my fath—Marcus.
It would be so damn easy to turn the other way and pretend I didn't see her so I don't have to follow her. But then if she falls and dies I have to live with the guilt.
Dauntless. You don't have to be fearless, but you do have to ignore your fear in favor of doing what's right.
I walk up behind her.
She turns. "Yes?"
"I came to find out what you think you're doing."
"I'm seeking higher ground," she replies. "I don't think I'm doing anything."
I can't help but smile. Regardless of where she's from she has a Dauntless attitude.
"All right. I'm coming."
We believe in freedom from fear, in denying fear the power to influence our decisions.
"I'll be fine," she states, determinedly.
"Undoubtedly," I reply instantly, and I realize that I mean it. It's not the right thing to say, it's the truth.
I wait for her to get a head start, but I'm faster than she is so I catch up with her pretty quickly.
To keep my mind off the fact that I only climb this high in my fear landscape, and that's a simulation that I can fight, I start talking.
"So tell me, what do you think the purpose of this exercise is? The game, I mean, not the climbing." I can hear my discomfort in my voice, but she's not always the most observant of people, so I'm hoping she can't.
She thinks for a moment before answering. "Learning about strategy. Teamwork, maybe."
A sarcastic laugh turns into a panicked breath, and I curse in my head. "Teamwork."
She tries to backtrack. "Maybe not. Teamwork doesn't seem to be a Dauntless priority."
"It's supposed to be a priority. It used to be."
It's getting really freaking difficult to keep my breathing regular.
"Now tell me, what do you think learning strategy has to do with…bravery?"
She thinks for a moment before saying, "It…it prepares you to act. You learn strategy so you can use it…Are you all right, Four?"
Fuck it. I'm pretty sure a squirrel could figure out that I'm freaked out at this point.
"Are you human, Tris? Being up this high…" I gulp. "It doesn't scare you at all?"
Before she can respond a gust of wind comes from the left and she sways to right, and my hand immediately goes to her hip. One of my fingers hits bare skin and I have to fight to ignore the spark that runs me, and her too if the spike in her pulse is any indication, on contact.
I gently push her back to the center of the ladder before letting go, and notice that she's frozen up.
"You okay?" I ask.
"Yes." Her voice is strained.
We climb the rest of the way silently and when she gets to the top she scoots to the back and throws her feet over the side. Dear God. I climb up and lean back against the metal support, trying to calm my breathing.
"You're afraid of heights," she says.
Yeah, I'd say so.
"How do you survive in the Dauntless compound?"
She reminds me of myself as an initiate. A lot. Everyone in Abnegation thinks the Dauntless are fearless. We're not. Most of us have at least one fear that is inhibiting in a normal lifestyle, and we all do the same exact thing.
"I ignore my fear. When I make decisions, I pretend it doesn't exist."
She just stares, probably reeling at the realization that the Dauntless have fears. I know I was when I found out.
"What?" I ask.
"Nothing." She looks away and tries to see what she came for. There's a huge building in the way though, so we see absolutely nothing.
"We're not high enough," she says, and her eyes lock on the scaffolding.
Oh dear God, no.
"I'm going to climb," she says as she stands up. I can see how sore she is as she pulls herself up.
"For God's sake, Stiff." It slips out, but I don't try to correct it.
"You don't have to follow me," she says without turning.
"Yes, I do."
She starts up the scaffolding, and I swear she's smiling.
What. The hell.
I follow her up and she stops abruptly.
"See that?" she asks, pointing. I keep climbing until I'm right on top of her and my eyes follow her finger.
A pulsing light. A flag. I smile. "Yeah. It's coming from the park at the end of the pier. Figures. It's surrounded by open space, but the trees provide some camouflage. Obviously not enough."
"Okay." She turns to look at me over her shoulder, and ho-ly crap, she's so close that it takes every bit of self-control in me to keep semi-straight face, never mind say anything or move.
"Um," she says, clearing her throat. "Start climbing down. I'll follow you."
I nod and start moving down. Even though it's twice as easy for me physically as it is for her—I'm taller, I'm not deathly sore, and honestly, I'm in better physical shape than her—my hands are shaking as much or more than hers.
God-forsaken fear of heights.
God-forsaken stair punishments as a kid.
I take another step down as the bar Tris is standing on gives way and clatters to the ground, narrowly missing my head.
What to do, what to do, what to—the Ferris wheel.
"Hold on!" I shout up to her. "Just hold on, I have an idea."
I scramble down the scaffolding, and then start down the ladder.
The adrenaline is overriding the fear of heights.
I jump the last four rings to the ground and land in a crouch before scrambling over to the controls. It's all wires, and I obviously don't have a soldering iron. If I had a real gun I could take it apart and use the gunpower and—matches. I have a book of matches in my back pocket. If there's still any traces of solder on the wires…
Focus. Time is of the essence here, this is just Tris' life we're talking about.
I pull the matches out of my back pocket and start working. There must still be solder on the wires or something because they are sticking way faster than I expected.
Next wire. I'm so focused on making sure that these stick, but don't get completely melted down, that I don't notice the flame is all the way to my thumb, and I yelp as I get burnt.
I thrown the match down and get another.
Two down, one to go.
I finish the last wire and then hit the button start the Ferris wheel.
"Come on, dammit!"
I hit it again, and I get a creak.
One more time.
The Ferris wheel starts moving, and as she gets closer to the ground I can hear Tris start laughing.
She has a beautiful laugh, but I swear she's insane.
She drops to the ground just at the right time and rolls out of the way of the car coming after her.
Her hands go to her face and I walk over. Shock. A pretty common side-effect of these types of near-death experiences.
I wait a second before pulling her hands off of her face, and taking one of them into my own.
"You all right?"
And for some reason, God knows why, I start to laugh.
And she joins.
She sits up, and I get that "Holy crap she's so close" feeling again.
I stand, pulling her up with me, and my eyes go to the Ferris wheel behind her, which is still turning. The displaced air causes her hair to fly back behind her.
Yeah, it looks good.
"You could have told me that the Ferris wheel still worked," she says. "We wouldn't have had to climb in the first place.
I sigh. "I would have, if I had known. Couldn't just let you hang there, so I took a risk. Come on, time to get their flag." After a brief moment's hesitation, I take her arm and start running back to the carousel, being careful to push her just hard enough, without going too fast.
Christina, Uriah and two Dauntless-borns that I don't know the names of, and one lone member, Lacey, I think, remain.
"Where'd the others go?" I ask.
"Did you guys turn the wheel?" Lacey asks. "What the hell are you thinking? You might as well have just shouted 'Here we are! Come and get us!'" She shakes here head. "If I lose again this year, the shame will be unbearable. Three years in a row?"
I can't be bothered to even address that.
"The wheel doesn't matter. We know where they are."
"We?" Christina asks, looking between me and Tris.
"Yes, while the rest of you were twiddling your thumbs, Tris climbed the Ferris wheel to look for the other team." Regardless of her own misgivings, she belongs here. That's what Dauntless is supposed to be.
"What do we do now, then?" one of the Dauntless-borns asks.
I turn to Tris, and I get a deer-in-headlights look.
Come on, Tris. I'm giving you a chance to prove yourself to a member and three Dauntless-borns, don't blow it, I think.
Her face lights up, and I know she's got it. "Split in half. Four of us go to the right side of the pier, three to the left. The other team is in the park at the end of the pier, so the group of four will charge as the group of three sneaks behind the other team to get the flag."
I smile slightly. She's good. I notice her Candor buddy pulling a face, and I have to fight back a scowl. I don't care if she's Tris' friend, she pisses me off.
Lacey nods. "Sounds good. Let's get this night over with, shall we?"
Tris, Christina, and Uriah go to get the flag while I take Lacey and the two other Dauntless borns to be the distraction.
"Let's go, folks."
As we get closer to the pier I whisper instructions.
"Stay close, try not to get shot obviously, and use strategic shots. Don't shoot all over, plan each shot and make it count."
We're getting close enough that Lacey and I who are more familiar with paintball could start shooting with accuracy.
"Let's do this."
Lacey starts some kind of battle cry and the rest of us join as we charge. I start with a headshot on Peter. We're not supposed to do headshots, but I never said anything about that to the initiates, and Lacey knows better than to call me on it. I'm sure Eric's team doesn't care anyway. His head whips back, and he's on the ground before he can even reach for his gun.
Next is Molly, who's barreling my way. A well-directed shot to her right ankle sends her into the dirt, and another to her lower back makes sure that she won't be getting up again any time soon. I look to see that both the Dauntless-born initiates have been taken out, but Lacey's still in, and she's going head to head with Eric. Good for her.
I sneak as close to them as I can without Eric seeing me and shoot him smack in the middle of the forehead. I watch his surprise in amusement before I slip out of the shadows, just to screw with him, and seconds later Christina comes charging out with the flag.
I throw a smirk Eric's way before running with Lacey to where our giddy team is clustered around the flag. Tris stands slightly to the side, smiling at Christina's triumph.
A little piece of Abnegation stays with you no matter what you do. Letting her friend have the glory, selfless.
I tap her shoulder and she turns.