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Watch Divergent 4: Ascendant (2017)

FACTIONLESS HEADQUARTERS—BUT this building will always be Erudite headquarters to me, no matter what happens—stands silent in the snow, with nothing but glowing windows to signal that there are people inside. I stop in front of the doors and make a disgruntled sound in my throat.

“What?” Peter says.

“I hate it here,” I say.

He pushes his hair, soaked from the snow, out of his eyes. “So what are we going to do, break a window? Look for a back door?”

“I’m just going to walk in,” I say. “I’m her son. ”

“You also betrayed her and left the city when she forbade anyone from doing that,” he says, “and she sent people after you to stop you. People with guns. ”

“You can stay here if you want,” I say.

“Where the serum goes, I go,” he says. “But if you get shot at, I’m going to grab it and run. ”

“I don’t expect anything more. ”

He is a strange sort of person.

I walk into the lobby, where someone reassembled the portrait of Jeanine Matthews, but they drew an X over each of her eyes in red paint and wrote “Faction scum” across the bottom.

Several people wearing factionless armbands advance on us with guns held high. Some of them I recognize from across the factionless warehouse campfires, or from the time I spent at Evelyn’s side as a Dauntless leader. Others are complete strangers, reminding me that the factionless population is larger than any of us suspected.

I put up my hands. “I’m here to see Evelyn. ”

“Sure,” one of them says. “Because we just let anyone in who wants to see her. ”

“I have a message from the people outside,” I say. “One I’m sure she would like to hear. ”

“Tobias?” a factionless woman says. I recognize her, but not from a factionless warehouse—from the Abnegation sector. She was my neighbor. Grace is her name.

“Hello, Grace,” I say. “I just want to talk to my mom. ”

She bites the inside of her cheek and considers me. Her grip on her pistol falters. “Well, we’re still not supposed to let anyone in. ”

“For God’s sake,” Peter says. “Go tell her we’re here and see what she says, then! We can wait. ”

Grace backs up into the crowd that gathered as we were talking, then lowers her gun and jogs down a nearby hallway.

We stand for what feels like a long time, until my shoulders ache from supporting my arms. Then Grace returns and beckons to us. I lower my hands as the others lower their guns, and walk into the foyer, passing through the center of the crowd like a piece of thread through the eye of a needle. She leads us into an elevator.

“What are you doing holding a gun, Grace?” I say. I’ve never known an Abnegation to pick up a weapon.

“No faction customs anymore,” she says. “Now I get to defend myself. I get to have a sense of self-preservation. ”

“Good,” I say, and I mean it. Abnegation was just as broken as the other factions, but its evils were less obvious, cloaked as they were in the guise of selflessness. But requiring a person to disappear, to fade into the background wherever they go, is no better than encouraging them to punch one another.

We go up to the floor where Jeanine’s administrative office was—but that’s not where Grace takes us. Instead she leads us to a large meeting room with tables, couches, and chairs arranged in strict squares. Huge windows along the back wall let in the moonlight. Evelyn sits at a table on the right, staring out the window.

Watch Divergent 4: Ascendant (2017)

“You can go, Grace,” Evelyn says. “You have a message for me, Tobias?”

She doesn’t look at me. Her thick hair is tied back in a knot, and she wears a gray shirt with a factionless armband over it. She looks exhausted.

“Mind waiting in the hallway?” I say to Peter, and to my surprise, he doesn’t argue. He just walks out, closing the door behind him.

My mother and I are alone.

“The people outside have no messages for us,” I say, moving closer to her. “They wanted to take away the memories of everyone in this city. They believe there is no reasoning with us, no appealing to our better natures. They decided it would be easier to erase us than to speak with us. ”

“Maybe they’re right,” Evelyn says. Finally she turns to me, resting her cheekbone against her clasped hands. She has an empty circle tattooed on one of her fingers like a wedding band. “What is it you came here to do, then?”

I hesitate, my hand on the vial in my pocket. I look at her, and I can see the way time has worn through her like an old piece of cloth, the fibers exposed and fraying. And I can see the woman I knew as a child, too, the mouth that stretched into a smile, the eyes that sparkled with joy. But the longer I look at her, the more convinced I am that that happy woman never existed. That woman is just a pale version of my real mother, viewed through the self-centered eyes of a child.

I sit down across from her at the table and put the vial of memory serum between us.

“I came to make you drink this,” I say.

She looks at the vial, and I think I see tears in her eyes, but it could just be the light.

“I thought it was the only way to prevent total destruction,” I say. “I know that Marcus and Johanna and their people are going to attack, and I know that you will do whatever it takes to stop them, including using that death serum you possess to its best advantage. ” I tilt my head. “Am I wrong?”

“No,” she says. “The factions are evil. They cannot be restored. I would sooner see us all destroyed. ”

Her hand squeezes the edge of the table, the knuckles pale.

“The reason the factions were evil is because there was no way out of them,” I say. “They gave us the illusion of choice without actually giving us a choice. That’s the same thing you’re doing here, by abolishing them. You’re saying, go make choices. But make sure they aren’t factions or I’ll grind you to bits!”

“If you thought that, why didn’t you tell me?” she says, her voice louder and her eyes avoiding mine, avoiding me. “Tell me, instead of betraying me?”

“Because I’m afraid of you!” The words burst out, and I regret them but I’m also glad they’re there, glad that before I ask her to give up her identity, I can at least be honest with her. “You . . . you remind me of him!”

“Don’t you dare. ” She clenches her hands into fists and almost spits at me, “Don’t you dare. ”

“I don’t care if you don’t want to hear it,” I say, coming to my feet. “He was a tyrant in our house and now you’re a tyrant in this city, and you can’t even see that it’s the same!”

“So that’s why you brought this,” she says, and she wraps her hand around the vial, holding it up to look at it. “Because you think this is the only way to mend things. ”

“I . . . ” I am about to say that it’s the easiest way, the best way, maybe the only way that I can trust her.

Watch Divergent 4: Ascendant (2017)

If I erase her memories, I can create for myself a new mother, but.

But she is more than my mother. She is a person in her own right, and she does not belong to me.

I do not get to choose what she becomes just because I can’t deal with who she is.

“No,” I say. “No, I came to give you a choice. ”

I feel suddenly terrified, my hands numb, my heart beating fast—

“I thought about going to see Marcus tonight, but I didn’t. ” I swallow hard. “I came to see you instead because . . . because I think there’s a hope of reconciliation between us. Not now, not soon, but someday. And with him there’s no hope, there’s no reconciliation possible. ”

She stares at me, her eyes fierce but welling up with tears.

“It’s not fair for me to give you this choice,” I say. “But I have to. You can lead the factionless, you can fight the Allegiant, but you’ll have to do it without me, forever. Or you can let this crusade go, and . . . and you’ll have your son back. ”

It’s a feeble offer and I know it, which is why I’m afraid—afraid that she will refuse to choose, that she will choose power over me, that she will call me a ridiculous child, which is what I am. I am a child. I am two feet tall and asking her how much she loves me.

Evelyn’s eyes, dark as wet earth, search mine for a long time.

Then she reaches across the table and pulls me fiercely into her arms, which form a wire cage around me, surprisingly strong.

“Let them have the city and everything in it,” she says into my hair.

I can’t move, can’t speak. She chose me. She chose me.

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