Chapter 2: despite what fear denies, what hope asserts

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It takes longer than I expected to reach Dauntless headquarters, a solid half hour, at the least. My knees are starting to cramp by the time the Dauntless born begin to stir, but I stand with them, taking my ques. One by one the other transfers stand, figuring that something has to be coming. I lean out of the train car door, not very far, but I am able to see little figures hurling themselves from the train onto a rooftop. It doesn’t look very safe, and the thought of falling has the potential to make me sick to my stomach, but I don’t let it. This is what I left Abnegation for: freedom.

“Are we jumping?” a Candor boy asks over the wind.

No one answers him.

The Dauntless born line up on the edge of the car, and I am right behind them. The first three jump, ducking and rolling onto the rooftop, and I am quick to follow. My fall is easy, and my landing is breathtaking. My weight jars my ankles and elbows, and the gravel on the roof breaks the skin of my hands, but as a whole I am able to stand up again. The Dauntless girl that I helped onto the train is watching me. There’s a strangled cry from behind me, and we all turn just in time to see the Candor boy who asked if we were jumping grab onto a small Amity girl as she loses her footing. The transfers release a collective sigh as she regains it.

A loud whistle catches out attention and we all look to the man standing on a ledge in the center of the roof. He’s older than the other Dauntless I’ve seen, and he has hair graying around his temples. He walks across the ledge like it’s as wide as he is tall, like there’s no danger at all of him, or anyone else, falling and breaking their necks.

“Listen up! My name is Max and I’m one of the leaders of your new faction,” he announces to us. “Several stories below us is the member’s entrance to our compound. If you can’t muster the will to jump off, you don’t belong here. Our initiates have the privilege of going first.”

“You want us to do what?” an Erudite transfer asks.

“I want you to jump off a ledge,” he says, amused.

“What’s at the bottom?” the small Amity girl who almost fell asks.

“Can’t really say. Could be anything.”

I can tell he’s more amused by our hesitation than we are. I take a deep breath.

This is what I left Abnegation for, I tell myself as I push through the other transfers.

Max steps aside as I step onto the ledge and look down. There are three other buildings that join with the one I’m standing on to form a square, and I can’t see what’s at the bottom. It has to be safe, otherwise every initiate would be jumping to their deaths, but that does not help my nerves. I take a deep breath, and turn to face the others. They’re watching me, but I can’t watch them. I close my eyes and I let myself fall.

I hear screams echoing through my ears as I fall, but I know it’s not me; my teeth are locked together. My heart is pounding and I can feel my blood speeding through my veins, and I land on something tough. I bounce a few times, and when I stop whatever has me cradles my body. Air rushes back into my lungs and I force a deep breath as I open my eyes. I’m lying in a giant net. A giant flipping net. A laugh bubbles up from my chest and by the time I realize what it is I can’t stop it. I laugh, deep-bellied and unrestricted, from joy, and relief, and, I think, from sadness.

A hand is thrust under my nose and I grab it without searching for the face it belongs to. They pull me back onto solid ground and a woman asks my name.

“Olivia,” I tell her, and I realize it’s Cate, my Aptitude Test administrator.

Her grin is predatory when she says, “Make the call, Four.”

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