Cia aims for the person who shot Roman, but she sees that it is Will. She is glad to see him, though Tomas is wary of his presence. He says that he found and fixed a skimmer, which was how he was able to travel so fast. Will loots Roman’s body while Cia tends to Tomas’ knife wounds, and Cia sees that Roman had a crossbow and arrow quiver. While neither of the boys are looking, she grabs Roman’s bracelet off his wrist and keeps it with the dead girl’s in her pack. Cia realizes she was angry with Roman for being so intent on winning, but she is more upset with the Testing officials for condoning his behavior.
The three travel together for a short while. A female candidate attacks them, and tries to shoot and kill Cia. Cia wounds her, but the girl makes her way to a nearby skimmer and drives off. Cia is upset that someone like her would make it to University, and this thought forces her to press on.
However, Will suddenly turns cold and calculating, and he shoots Tomas in the abdomen. Cia pulls her gun on him, and Will admits that he was the one who tried to kill her with the crossbow in Chicago. He then used Tomas and Cia’s protection to make it as far as he did. Now, though, he wants to eliminate as much competition so he can make it to University. He and Cia shoot at the same time - his bullet misses but Cia’s connects. Wounded, Will takes off in his skimmer, and Cia tends to Tomas. Tomas begs her to leave him behind, but she refuses.
The next morning, Cia lightens her load by getting rid of all unnecessary supplies. While she is digging through Tomas’ bag, she comes across a silver bracelet. She is confused, but she puts it with the rest of hers. She then mounts Tomas on a bicycle and pedals the rest of the way. The Testing officials are waiting directly across the finish line. When she and Tomas stumble, nobody comes to their aid. Fueled by anger, she hoists Tomas and drags him across the finish line.
Out of 108 original candidates, only 34 make it through all four rounds of the Testing. Only Cia and Tomas are left from the Five Lakes Colony. The candidates are given some time to heal before their final interview. Over breakfast, Cia speaks with Will as they wait for the interviews to begin. He says that he is happy to see her, regardless of trying to kill her days earlier. She accuses him of corrupt behavior, but he retorts that leaders must not trust anyone, only inspire trust in others. He also theorizes that the true purpose of the Testing is to find out whether each person can live with the choices they make.
After weighing whether or not to trust the man at the fence, Cia consumes the liquid in the vial. Though unsure about his intentions, she realizes that her family’s safety must come first. After breakfast, the officials separate each candidate and begin their final interview.
Before Cia’s interview, she is told to drink a clear liquid. She knows immediately that it is a truth serum as she can feel her muscles relax. She realizes that the liquid the man at the fence gave her is working, though, as she is lucid enough to consider her answers and avoid spilling incriminating details about herself and her family.
Dr. Barnes is extremely combative as he asks her about her reasoning behind her choices. She answers that she lives by the “Five Lakes Colony way,” a code that taught her to treat others with kindness and respect (302). She must answer for why she helped Brick overcome Roman’s trickery, trusted Will, and saved Tomas so many times.
Then Dr. Barnes tells Cia that he believes her relationship with Tomas will hurt her chances during University, a claim that makes the other officials uncomfortable. Cia refutes this claim emphatically, but she still remains respectful as one ill-placed word or tone could mean harm to her or Tomas. Unimpressed, Dr. Barnes dismisses Cia, but not before she asks what happened to Zandri. Dr. Barnes joyfully tells Cia that Tomas was involved in her demise.
When Cia goes back to her room, she digs through her belongings to find the bracelet she found in Tomas’ backpack. She realizes that the bracelet is Zandri’s, and everything suddenly makes sense. His unwillingness to talk about his night with Will, the dried blood on his knife, and Will’s insistence that Tomas was not a good person all make sense: Tomas killed Zandri.
Feeling tired, hurt, and betrayed, Cia brazenly takes off her bracelet and locks herself in her bathroom with her belongings that she brought from home. While hugging Zeen’s Transit Communicator, she squeezes too hard and accidentally presses a button. An audio recording of Zeen talking plays; she has found a recording device. Cia decides to record her experiences, knowing that if she passes to University, her memory will be wiped. She has to be selective, though, because the recorder does not have enough space for her entire Testing experience.
Soon after, Cia receives word that the University candidates have been chosen. She is led into a room and handed a note that tells her she passed. In her excitement, she does not see who comes up behind her; she only feels a pinch on her neck before everything goes black.
Some time later, Cia has moved into her University dorm room. It is her birthday, and the other students are attending her party. Tomas is there, along with Will and Brick. Will says something that sounds familiar, but Cia cannot place where she has heard his words before because her memories were successfully wiped after the Testing. Even though he can't place his anger, Tomas is upset with the attention Cia receives from Will, though he holds himself back from doing or saying anything about it.
Cia sees Michal and goes to him, and he hands her a birthday gift from her family. When Cia returns to her room, she opens the gift and enjoys the cards, flowers, and cooking pot her family sent. Zeen mentions in a card that he wants his Transit Communicator back, and Cia picks it up. She sees a small carving on the back and begins tinkering with the device until she presses a button that starts her recording.
After Roman’s death, Cia is upset with Roman for being so violent and making deadly choices in order to make it through the Testing. She does not believe someone like him should be a leader of the United Commonwealth because he took the easy way out; rather than relying on his strengths and aptitude to carry him, Roman chose to eliminate competition to make himself one of the last candidates standing.
However, Cia recognizes that she is more upset with the Testing officials for putting this type of pressure on the candidates. She has come to see Michal’s assertion that the Testing produces the wrong type of leader was correct. Everyone she knows, from Roman, Brick, Will, and even Tomas have committed murder in order to position themselves better. Even she was forced to kill the humanoid creatures, despite her promise that she would not take a life. No one comes out of the Testing unscathed.
These thoughts make Cia sick, but she knows she has to make it through in order to survive. She does not fully believe in Michal and the man at the fence’s cause yet, but the stakes are too high for her to lose. She chooses to drink the vial to protect her family.
When Will and Cia have their discussion after the fourth round, Cia is obviously hurt by Will’s actions. Trying to kill her twice made his actions personal, and it is hard for her to forgive him. However, Will does not think her anger is justified, as he believes he did what was necessary to put him in a better position to gain access to University. Cia accuses him of not caring about the people he hurt, but Will surprises her by telling Cia about the girl she and Tomas found dead on the road.
Will knows that what he did was morally wrong, and he knows that it was easy. He believes, however, that the Testing forces people to see whether or not they can live with their actions. In his opinion, that is the point of the Testing; leaders have to make difficult decisions that might cause the deaths of countless people. However, leaders must find a way to not let their feelings stop them from doing what is best for their country.
Cia knows she cannot live with these types of decisions, though, as she follows what she calls the “Five Lakes Colony way.” She treats everyone with kindness and trust, and she expects everyone to behave the same way. Though Dr. Barnes does not seem to be impressed with Cia’s choice to keep her hands clean during the Testing, Cia is adamant that she believes she is doing the right thing. In the interview, however, she realizes that her affection for Tomas has indeed clouded her judgment. Tomas played a part in Zandri's murder. He not only crossed a line, but he killed someone he grew up with. Cia is shocked to learn that Tomas is no better than Will.
After her interview, Cia decides she does not care to remain stoic. She takes off her bracelet in view of the camera, and goes into the bathroom (out of the camera's range) and waits until the final decision. At this point, she does not care to follow the script of a model candidate. However, her actions must impress the powers that be, as she is ultimately chosen for University. Her memory is wiped, as her father said would happen, but Cia has a powerful tool at her disposal - Zeen's transit communicator, loaded with her experiences of the Testing. Her discovery of the recording sets up the second novel in the series, and confirms Michal and the man at the fence's belief that Cia can take down the authority from the inside.