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CHAPTER FIFTY

TRIS

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“HOW DID YOU inoculate yourself against the death serum?” he asks me. He’s still sitting in his wheelchair, but you don’t need to be able to walk to fire a gun.

I blink at him, still dazed.

“I didn’t,” I say.

“Don’t be stupid,” David says. “You can’t survive the death serum without an inoculation, and I’m the only person in the compound who possesses that substance. ”

I just stare at him, not sure what to say. I didn’t inoculate myself. The fact that I’m still standing upright is impossible. There’s nothing more to add.

“I suppose it no longer matters,” he says. “We’re here now. ”

“What are you doing here?” I mumble. My lips feel awkwardly large, hard to talk around. I still feel that oily heaviness on my skin, like death is clinging to me even though I have defeated it.

I am dimly aware that I left my own gun in the hallway behind me, sure I wouldn’t need it if I made it this far.

“I knew something was going on,” David says. “You’ve been running around with genetically damaged people all week, Tris, did you think I wouldn’t notice?” He shakes his head. “And then your friend Cara was caught trying to manipulate the lights, but she very wisely knocked herself out before she could tell us anything. So I came here, just in case. I’m sad to say I’m not surprised to see you. ”

“You came here alone?” I say. “Not very smart, are you?”

His bright eyes squint a little. “Well, you see, I have death serum resistance and a weapon, and you have no way to fight me. There’s no way you can steal four virus devices while I have you at gunpoint. I’m afraid you’ve come all this way for no reason, and it will be at the expense of your life. The death serum may not have killed you, but I am going to. I’m sure you understand—officially we don’t allow capital punishment, but I can’t have you surviving this. ”

He thinks I’m here to steal the weapons that will reset the experiments, not deploy one of them. Of course he does.

I try to guard my expression, though I’m sure it’s still slack. I sweep my eyes across the room, searching for the device that will release the memory serum virus. I was there when Matthew described it to Caleb in painstaking detail earlier: a black box with a silver keypad, marked with a strip of blue tape with a model number written on it. It is one of the only items on the counter along the left wall, just a few feet away from me. But I can’t move, or else he’ll kill me.

I’ll have to wait for the right moment, and do it fast.

“I know what you did,” I say. I start to back up, hoping that the accusation will distract him. “I know you designed the attack simulation. I know you’re responsible for my parents’ deaths—for my mother’s death. I know. ”

“I am not responsible for her death!” David says, the words bursting from him, too loud and too sudden. “I told her what was coming just before the attack began, so she had enough time to escort her loved ones to a safe house. If she had stayed put, she would have lived. But she was a foolish woman who didn’t understand making sacrifices for the greater good, and it killed her!”

I frown at him. There’s something about his reaction—about the glassiness of his eyes—something that he mumbled when Nita shot him with the fear serum—something about her.

“Did you love her?” I say. “All those years she was sending you correspondence . . . the reason you never wanted her to stay there . . . the reason you told her you couldn’t read her updates anymore, after she married my father . . . ”

David sits still, like a statue, like a man of stone.

“I did,” he says. “But that time is past. ”

That must be why he welcomed me into his circle of trust, why he gave me so many opportunities. Because I am a piece of her, wearing her hair and speaking with her voice. Because he has spent his life grasping at her and coming up with nothing.

I hear footsteps in the hallway outside. The soldiers are coming. Good—I need them to. I need them to be exposed to the airborne serum, to pass it on to the rest of the compound. I hope they wait until the air is clear of death serum.

“My mother wasn’t a fool,” I say. “She just understood something you didn’t. That it’s not sacrifice if it’s someone else’s life you’re giving away, it’s just evil. ”

I back up another step and say, “She taught me all about real sacrifice. That it should be done from love, not misplaced disgust for another person’s genetics. That it should be done from necessity, not without exhausting all other options. That it should be done for people who need your strength because they don’t have enough of their own. That’s why I need to stop you from ‘sacrificing’ all those people and their memories. Why I need to rid the world of you once and for all. ”

I shake my head.

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“I didn’t come here to steal anything, David. ”

I twist and lunge toward the device. The gun goes off and pain races through my body. I don’t even know where the bullet hit me.

I can still hear Caleb repeating the code for Matthew. With a quaking hand I type in the numbers on the keypad.

The gun goes off again.

More pain, and black edges on my vision, but I hear Caleb’s voice speaking again. The green button.

So much pain.

But how, when my body feels so numb?

I start to fall, and slam my hand into the keypad on my way down. A light turns on behind the green button.

I hear a beep, and a churning sound.

I slide to the floor. I feel something warm on my neck, and under my cheek. Red. Blood is a strange color. Dark.

From the corner of my eye, I see David slumped over in his chair.

And my mother walking out from behind him.

She is dressed in the same clothes she wore the last time I saw her, Abnegation gray, stained with her blood, with bare arms to show her tattoo. There are still bullet holes in her shirt; through them I can see her wounded skin, red but no longer bleeding, like she’s frozen in time. Her dull blond hair is tied back in a knot, but a few loose strands frame her face in gold.

I know she can’t be alive, but I don’t know if I’m seeing her now because I’m delirious from the blood loss or if the death serum has addled my thoughts or if she is here in some other way.

She kneels next to me and touches a cool hand to my cheek.

“Hello, Beatrice,” she says, and she smiles.

“Am I done yet?” I say, and I’m not sure if I actually say it or if I just think it and she hears it.

“Yes,” she says, her eyes bright with tears. “My dear child, you’ve done so well. ”

“What about the others?” I choke on a sob as the image of Tobias comes into my mind, of how dark and how still his eyes were, how strong and warm his hand was, when we first stood face-to-face. “Tobias, Caleb, my friends?”

“They’ll care for each other,” she says. “That’s what people do. ”

Watch Divergent 4: Ascendant (2017)

I smile and close my eyes.

I feel a thread tugging me again, but this time I know that it isn’t some sinister force dragging me toward death.

This time I know it’s my mother’s hand, drawing me into her arms.

And I go gladly into her embrace.

Can I be forgiven for all I’ve done to get here?

I want to be.

I can.

I believe it.

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