I barely made it to the dining hall before Jake starts speaking. Jake is a Dauntless leader. A grotesque scar flashed across his right cheek. Rumours flew round the compound like lightning as to how he got it; a new theory every day. From what I had seen of him, Jake was a brilliant warrior, normally quite fair tempered, but you did not want to get on the wrong side of him.. Next to him stood Zoe. She trained the Dauntless-born initiates. A captivating woman, violet eyes and curves in all the right places. James especially had been very 'complimentary' about her.
I glanced around. I spotted Matt in conference with a woman whom I only knew by sight - bright red hair tends to stick in your memory - before I saw James frantically waving me over. I hurried to where my friends were sat, aware of the annoyed glares I was getting. I was late, after all.
"Where did you run off to?" hissed Nick, his arm round a nervous looking Katie. How had I not noticed how close they had become? If Katie didn't make it, how would Nick react?
"I needed some alone time," I whispered back. "I..."
Any explanation I had been going to give was cut short by Jake's silvery voice cutting through the room like a knife.
"I will keep this short. I am well aware of most initiates short attention spans." This gains a smattering of snickers from the Dauntless-born, quickly surpressed. "Another year - another group of initiates..."
I let his voice fade into the background. Diane's gaze was fixated on the board behind the leaders, as if her eyes could make the rankings appear quicker. Nick was looking at Katie, who in turn was looking at Jake. But James was looking at me. I could tell from his eyes that he knew something was up. I wasn't one to shy away from people, to isolate myself. My disappeance must have set alarm bells ringing in his head. I shook my head in answer to his glance. Not here.
A clamour of shouts and stamps brought back to the speech. Jake had obviously said something that the Dauntless approved off, as the room was filled with noise. From his vantage point on a table, Jake raised his hands. Slowly, the room resumed its earlier quiet. A quiet so full of apprehension and nervous tension you could almost feel it. Jake commandeered respect naturally.
"The rankings determine the future of every initiate sitting here today - whether they be Dauntless-born, or transfers. It proves who has what it takes to become one of us, and who does not." His words fell like stones into the pit of my stomach, heavy with dread. But Jake was smirking now, obviously enjoying watching us squirm.
"The rankings also determine the professions available to the top ten initiates. Tomorrow, four of you will be factionless. The rest, well... let's take a look, shall we?"
I could hear the collective intake of breath, seconds away from finding out what the future holds for us. But before any names could appear, Matt appeared next to Zoe, whispering something to her. I watched, wondering what could be so important that he would interrupt this crucial moment. Obviously it was important, as Zoe tapped Jake's shoulder, relaying whatever it was that he had been told.
Jake's smirk turned to a frown, then morphed into a look of interest. He turned back to the waiting crowd.
"Before we reveal the rankings, I have been informed that a revision of the final examination needs to be made. There will be a short pause, but don't go anywhere." A sigh arouse from the crowd. Everyone was already on edge, and waiting just made it worse. I turned back towards James, knowing that he would want a full explanation, but Jake hadn't finished yet.
"Jasper Blackwing. Come here."
My friends stared at me. I stared at Jake, not sure I had heard right.
"Come on, boy. We haven't got all day."
Unsteadily, I got to my feet, and made my way through the tables towards Jake. I stumbled twice, not looking at the faces I knew were looking at me, not hearing the murmurs that followed me.
"Come with me, Jasper." Matt, this time. I followed him and Zoe out of the dining hall, staring at his back, no where else.
All my worries from before came rushing back. The look in Matt's eyes. The disruption of the fear-scape. Only five fears. Did something go wrong? Was it me? I knew better than to ask where we were going. As we progressed through the compound, I realised I wouldn't have to. I knew where we were heading, although I had never been there. The control room. The centre of Dauntless.