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TOBIASWatch Divergent 4: Ascendant (2017)
EVELYN BRUSHES THE tears from her eyes with her thumb. We stand by the windows, shoulder to shoulder, watching the snow swirl past. Some of the flakes gather on the windowsill outside, piling at the corners.
The feeling has returned to my hands. As I stare out at the world, dusted in white, I feel like everything has begun again, and it will be better this time.
“I think I can get in touch with Marcus over the radio to negotiate a peace agreement,” Evelyn says. “He’ll be listening in; he’d be stupid not to. ”
“Before you do that, I made a promise I have to keep,” I say. I touch Evelyn’s shoulder. I expected to see strain at the edges of her smile, but I don’t.
I feel a twinge of guilt. I didn’t come here to ask her to lay down arms for me, to trade in everything she’s worked for just to get me back. But then again, I didn’t come here to give her any choice at all. I guess Tris was right—when you have to choose between two bad options, you pick the one that saves the people you love. I wouldn’t have been saving Evelyn by giving her that serum. I would have been destroying her.
Peter sits with his back to the wall in the hallway. He looks up at me when I lean over him, his dark hair stuck to his forehead from the melted snow.
“Did you reset her?” he says.
“No,” I say.
“Didn’t think you would have the nerve. ”
“It’s not about nerve. You know what? Whatever. ” I shake my head and hold up the vial of memory serum. “Are you still set on this?”
“You could just do the work, you know,” I say. “You could make better decisions, make a better life. ”
“Yeah, I could,” he says. “But I won’t. We both know that. ”
I do know that. I know that change is difficult, and comes slowly, and that it is the work of many days strung together in a long line until the origin of them is forgotten. He is afraid that he will not be able to put in that work, that he will squander those days, and that they will leave him worse off than he is now. And I understand that feeling—I understand being afraid of yourself.
So I have him sit on one of the couches, and I ask him what he wants me to tell him about himself, after his memories disappear like smoke. He just shakes his head. Nothing. He wants to retain nothing.
Peter takes the vial with a shaking hand and twists off the cap. The liquid trembles inside it, almost spilling over the lip. He holds it under his nose to smell it.
“How much should I drink?” he says, and I think I hear his teeth chattering.
“I don’t think it makes a difference,” I say.
“Okay. Well . . . here goes. ” He lifts the vial up to the light like he is toasting me.
When he touches it to his mouth, I say, “Be brave. ”
Then he swallows.
And I watch Peter disappear.
The air outside tastes like ice.
“Hey! Peter!” I shout, my breaths turning to vapor.
Peter stands by the doorway to Erudite headquarters, looking clueless. At the sound of his name—which I have told him at least ten times since he drank the serum—he raises his eyebrows, pointing to his chest. Matthew told us people would be disoriented for a while after drinking the memory serum, but I didn’t think “disoriented” meant “stupid” until now.Watch Divergent 4: Ascendant (2017)
I sigh. “Yes, that’s you! For the eleventh time! Come on, let’s go. ”
I thought that when I looked at him after he drank the serum, I would still see the initiate who shoved a butter knife into Edward’s eye, and the boy who tried to kill my girlfriend, and all the other things he has done, stretching backward for as long as I’ve known him. But it’s easier than I thought to see that he has no idea who he is anymore. His eyes still have that wide, innocent look, but this time, I believe it.
Evelyn and I walk side by side, with Peter trotting behind us. The snow has stopped falling now, but enough has collected on the ground that it squeaks under my shoes.
We walk to Millennium Park, where the mammoth bean sculpture reflects the moonlight, and then down a set of stairs. As we descend, Evelyn wraps her hand around my elbow to keep her balance, and we exchange a look. I wonder if she is as nervous as I am to face my father again. I wonder if she is nervous every time.
At the bottom of the steps is a pavilion with two glass blocks, each one at least three times as tall as I am, at either end. This is where we told Marcus and Johanna we would meet them—both parties armed, to be realistic but even.
They are already there. Johanna isn’t holding a gun, but Marcus is, and he has it trained on Evelyn. I point the gun Evelyn gave me at him, just to be safe. I notice the planes of his skull, showing through his shaved hair, and the jagged path his crooked nose carves down his face.
“Tobias!” Johanna says. She wears a coat in Amity red, dusted with snowflakes. “What are you doing here?”
“Trying to keep you all from killing each other,” I say. “I’m surprised you’re carrying a gun. ”
I nod to the bulge in her coat pocket, the unmistakable contours of a weapon.
“Sometimes you have to take difficult measures to ensure peace,” Johanna says. “I believe you agree with that, as a principle. ”
“We’re not here to chat,” Marcus says, looking at Evelyn. “You said you wanted to talk about a treaty. ”
The past few weeks have taken something from him. I can see it in the turned-down corners of his mouth, in the purple skin under his eyes. I see my own eyes set into his skull, and I think of my reflection in the fear landscape, how terrified I was, watching his skin spread over mine like a rash. I am still nervous that I will become him, even now, standing at odds with him with my mother at my side, like I always dreamed I would when I was a child.
But I don’t think that I’m still afraid.
“Yes,” Evelyn says. “I have some terms for us both to agree to. I think you will find them fair. If you agree to them, I will step down and surrender whatever weapons I have that my people are not using for personal protection. I will leave the city and not return. ”
Marcus laughs. I’m not sure if it’s a mocking laugh or a disbelieving one. He’s equally capable of either sentiment, an arrogant and deeply suspicious man.
“Let her finish,” Johanna says quietly, tucking her hands into her sleeves.
“In return,” Evelyn says, “you will not attack or try to seize control of the city. You will allowthose people who wish to leave and seek a new life elsewhere to do so. You will allow those who choose to stay to vote on new leaders and a new social system. And most importantly, you, Marcus, will not be eligible to lead them. ”
It is the only purely selfish term of the peace agreement. She told me she couldn’t stand the thought of Marcus duping more people into following him, and I didn’t argue with her.
Johanna raises her eyebrows. I notice that she has pulled her hair back on both sides, to reveal the scar in its entirety. She looks better that way—stronger, when she is not hiding behind a curtain of hair, hiding who she is.
“No deal,” Marcus says. “I am the leader of these people. ”Watch Divergent 4: Ascendant (2017)
“Marcus,” Johanna says.
He ignores her. “You don’t get to decide whether I lead them or not because you have a grudge against me, Evelyn!”
“Excuse me,” Johanna says loudly. “Marcus, what she is offering is too good to be true—we get everything we want without all the violence! How can you possibly say no?”
“Because I am the rightful leader of these people!” Marcus says. “I am the leader of the Allegiant! I—”
“No, you are not,” Johanna says calmly. “I am the leader of the Allegiant. And you are going to agree to this treaty, or I am going to tell them that you had a chance to end this conflict without bloodshed if you sacrificed your pride, and you said no. ”
Marcus’s passive mask is gone, revealing the malicious face beneath it. But even he can’t argue with Johanna, whose perfect calm and perfect threat have mastered him. He shakes his head but doesn’t argue again.
“I agree to your terms,” Johanna says, and she holds out her hand, her footsteps squeaking in the snow.
Evelyn removes her glove fingertip by fingertip, reaches across the gap, and shakes.
“In the morning we should gather everyone together and tell them the new plan,” Johanna says. “Can you guarantee a safe gathering?”
“I’ll do my best,” Evelyn says.
I check my watch. An hour has passed since Amar and Christina separated from us near the Hancock building, which means he probably knows that the serum virus didn’t work. Or maybe he doesn’t. Either way, I have to do what I came here to do—I have to find Zeke and his mother and tell them what happened to Uriah.
“I should go,” I say to Evelyn. “I have something else to take care of. But I’ll pick you up from the city limits tomorrow afternoon?”
“That sounds good,” Evelyn says, and she rubs my arm briskly with a gloved hand, like she used to when I came in from the cold as a child.
“You won’t be back, I assume?” Johanna says to me. “You’ve found a life for yourself on the outside?”
“I have,” I say. “Good luck in here. The people outside—they’re going to try to shut the city down. You should be ready for them. ”
Johanna smiles. “I’m sure we can negotiate with them. ”
She offers me her hand, and I shake it. I feel Marcus’s eyes on me like an oppressive weight threatening to crush me. I force myself to look at him.
“Good-bye,” I say to him, and I mean it.
Hana, Zeke’s mother, has small feet that don’t touch the ground when she sits in the easy chair in their living room. She is wearing a ragged black bathrobe and slippers, but the air she has, with her hands folded in her lap and her eyebrows raised, is so dignified that I feel like I am standing in front of a world leader. I glance at Zeke, who is rubbing his face with his fists to wake up.
Amar and Christina found them, not among the other revolutionaries near the Hancock building, but in their family apartment in the Pire, above Dauntless headquarters. I only found them because Christina thought to leave Peter and me a note with their location on the useless truck. Peter is waiting in the new van Evelyn found for us to drive to the Bureau.
“I’m sorry,” I say. “I don’t know where to start. ”
“You might begin with the worst,” Hana says. “Like what exactly happened to my son. ”
“He was seriously injured during an attack,” I say. “There was an explosion, and he was very close to it. ”
“Oh God,” Zeke says, and he rocks back and forth like his body wants to be a child again, soothed by motion as a child is.
But Hana just bends her head, hiding her face from me.
Their living room smells like garlic and onion, maybe remnants from that night’s dinner. I lean my shoulder into the white wall by the doorway. Hanging crookedly next to me is a picture of the family—Zeke as a toddler, Uriah as a baby, balancing on his mother’s lap. Their father’s face is pierced in several places, nose and ear and lip, but his wide, bright smile and dark complexion are more familiar to me, because he passed them both to his sons.
“He has been in a coma since then,” I say. “And . . . ”
“And he isn’t going to wake up,” Hana says, her voice strained. “That is what you came to tell us, right?”
“Yes,” I say. “I came to collect you so that you can make a decision on his behalf. ”
“A decision?” Zeke says. “You mean, to unplug him or not?”
“Zeke,” Hana says, and she shakes her head. He sinks back into the couch. The cushions seem to wrap around him.
“Of course we don’t want to keep him alive that way,” Hana says. “He would want to move on. But we would like to go see him. ”
I nod. “Of course. But there’s something else I should say. The attack . . . it was a kind of uprising that involved some of the people from the place where we were staying. And I participated in it. ”
I stare at the crack in the floorboards right in front of me, at the dust that has gathered there over time, and wait for a reaction, any reaction. What greets me is only silence.
“I didn’t do what you asked me,” I say to Zeke. “I didn’t watch out for him the way I should have. And I’m sorry. ”
I chance a look at him, and he is just sitting still, staring at the empty vase on the coffee table. It is painted with faded pink roses.
“I think we need some time with this,” Hana says. She clears her throat, but it doesn’t help her tremulous voice.
“I wish I could give it to you,” I say. “But we’re going back to the compound very soon, and you have to come with us. ”
“All right,” Hana says. “If you can wait outside, we will be there in five minutes. ”
The ride back to the compound is slow and dark. I watch the moon disappear and reappear behind the clouds as we bump over the ground. When we reach the outer limits of the city, it begins to snow again, large, light flakes that swirl in front of the headlights. I wonder if Tris is watching it sweep across the pavement and gather in piles by the airplanes. I wonder if she is living in a better world than the one I left, among people who no longer remember what it is to have pure genes.
Christina leans forward to whisper into my ear. “So you did it? It worked?”
I nod. In the rearview mirror I see her touch her face with both hands, grinning into her palms. I know how she feels: safe. We are all safe.
“Did you inoculate your family?” I say.
“Yep. We found them with the Allegiant, in the Hancock building,” she says. “But the time for the reset has passed—it looks like Tris and Caleb stopped it. ”
Hana and Zeke murmur to each other on the way, marveling at the strange, dark world we move through. Amar gives the basic explanation as we go, looking back at them instead of the road far too often for my comfort. I try to ignore my surges of panic as he almost veers into streetlights or road barriers, and focus instead on the snow.
I have always hated the emptiness that winter brings, the blank landscape and the stark difference between sky and ground, the way it transforms trees into skeletons and the city into a wasteland. Maybe this winter I can be persuaded otherwise.
We drive past the fences and stop by the front doors, which are no longer manned by guards. We get out, and Zeke seizes his mother’s hand to steady her as she shuffles through the snow. As we walk into the compound, I know for a fact that Caleb succeeded, because there is no one in sight. That can only mean that they have been reset, their memories forever altered.
“Where is everyone?” Amar says.
We walk through the abandoned security checkpoint without stopping. On the other side, I see Cara. The side of her face is badly bruised, and there’s a bandage on her head, but that’s not what concerns me. What concerns me is the troubled look on her face.
“What is it?” I say.
Cara shakes her head.
“Where’s Tris?” I say.
“I’m sorry, Tobias. ”
“Sorry about what?” Christina says roughly. “Tell us what happened!”
“Tris went into the Weapons Lab instead of Caleb,” Cara says. “She survived the death serum, and set off the memory serum, but she . . . she was shot. And she didn’t survive. I’m so sorry. ”
Most of the time I can tell when people are lying, and this must be a lie, because Tris is still alive, her eyes bright and her cheeks flushed and her small body full of power and strength, standing in a shaft of light in the atrium. Tris is still alive, she wouldn’t leave me here alone, she wouldn’t go to the Weapons Lab instead of Caleb.
“No,” Christina says, shaking her head. “No way. There has to be some mistake. ”
Cara’s eyes well up with tears.
It’s then that I realize: Of course Tris would go into the Weapons Lab instead of Caleb.
Of course she would.
Christina yells something, but to me her voice sounds muffled, like I have submerged my head underwater. The details of Cara’s face have also become difficult to see, the world smearing together into dull colors.
All I can do is stand still—I feel like if I just stand still, I can stop it from being true, I can pretend that everything is all right. Christina hunches over, unable to support her own grief, and Cara embraces her, and
all I’m doing is standing still.
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