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CHAPTER FOUR

TOBIAS

Watch Divergent 4: Ascendant (2017)

MY MOTHER ALWAYS sits on the edges of things—chairs, ledges, tables—as if she suspects she will have to flee in an instant. This time it’s Jeanine’s old desk in Erudite headquarters that she sits on the edge of, her toes balanced on the floor and the cloudy light of the city glowing behind her. She is a woman of muscle twisted around bone.

“I think we have to talk about your loyalty,” she says, but she doesn’t sound like she’s accusing me of something, she just sounds tired. For a moment she seems so worn that I feel like I can see right through her, but then she straightens, and the feeling is gone.

“Ultimately, it was you who helped Tris and got that video released,” she says. “No one else knows that, but I know it. ”

“Listen. ” I lean forward to prop my elbows on my knees. “I didn’t know what was in that file. I trusted Tris’s judgment more than my own. That’s all that happened. ”

I thought telling Evelyn that I broke up with Tris would make it easier for my mother to trust me, and I was right—she has been warmer, more open, ever since I told that lie.

“And now that you’ve seen the footage?” Evelyn says. “What do you think now? Do you think we should leave the city?”

I know what she wants me to say—that I see no reason to join the outside world—but I’m not a good liar, so instead I select a part of the truth.

“I’m afraid of it,” I say. “I’m not sure it’s smart to leave the city knowing the dangers that might be out there. ”

She considers me for a moment, biting the inside of her cheek. I learned that habit from her—I used to chew my skin raw as I waited for my father to come home, unsure which version of him I would encounter, the one the Abnegation trusted and revered, or the one whose hands struck me.

I run my tongue along the bite scars and swallow the memory like it’s bile.

She slides off the desk and moves to the window. “I’ve been receiving disturbing reports of a rebel organization among us. ” She looks up, raising an eyebrow. “People always organize into groups. That’s a fact of our existence. I just didn’t expect it to happen this quickly. ”

“What kind of organization?”

“The kind that wants to leave the city,” she says. “They released some kind of manifesto this morning. They call themselves the Allegiant. ” When she sees my confused look, she adds, “Because they’re allied with the original purpose of our city, see?”

“The original purpose—you mean, what was in the Edith Prior video? That we should send people outside when the city has a large Divergent population?”

“That, yes. But also living in factions. The Allegiant claim that we’re meant to be in factions because we’ve been in them since the beginning. ” She shakes her head. “Some people will always fear change. But we can’t indulge them. ”

With the factions dismantled, part of me has felt like a man released from a long imprisonment. I don’t have to evaluate whether every thought I have or choice I make fits into a narrow ideology. I don’t want the factions back.

But Evelyn hasn’t liberated us like she thinks—she’s just made us all factionless. She’s afraid of what we would choose, if we were given actual freedom. And that means that no matter what I believe about the factions, I’m relieved that someone, somewhere, is defying her.

I arrange my face into an empty expression, but my heart is beating faster than before. I have had to be careful, to stay in Evelyn’s good graces. It’s easy for me to lie to everyone else, but it’s more difficult to lie to her, the only person who knew all the secrets of our Abnegation house, the violence contained within its walls.

“What are you going to do about them?” I say.

“I am going to get them under control, what else?”

The word “control” makes me sit up straight, as rigid as the chair beneath me. In this city, “control” means needles and serums and seeing without seeing; it means simulations, like the one that almost made me kill Tris, or the one that made the Dauntless into an army.

“With simulations?” I say slowly.

She scowls. “Of course not! I am not Jeanine Matthews!”

Her flare of anger sets me off. I say, “Don’t forget that I barely know you, Evelyn. ”

She winces at the reminder. “Then let me tell you that I will never resort to simulations to get my way. Death would be better. ”

Watch Divergent 4: Ascendant (2017)

It’s possible that death is what she will use—killing people would certainly keep them quiet, stifle their revolution before it begins. Whoever the Allegiant are, they need to be warned, and quickly.

“I can find out who they are,” I say.

“I’m sure that you can. Why else would I have told you about them?”

There are plenty of reasons she would tell me. To test me. To catch me. To feed me false information. I know what my mother is—she is someone for whom the end of a thing justifies the means of getting there, the same as my father, and the same, sometimes, as me.

“I’ll do it, then. I’ll find them. ”

I rise, and her fingers, brittle as branches, close around my arm. “Thank you. ”

I force myself to look at her. Her eyes are close above her nose, which is hooked at the end, like my own. Her skin is a middling color, darker than mine. For a moment I see her in Abnegation gray, her thick hair bound back with a dozen pins, sitting across the dinner table from me. I see her crouched in front of me, fixing my mismatched shirt buttons before I go to school, and standing at the window, watching the uniform street for my father’s car, her hands clasped—no, clenched, her tan knuckles white with tension. We were united in fear then, and now that she isn’t afraid anymore, part of me wants to see what it would be like to unite with her in strength.

I feel an ache, like I betrayed her, the woman who used to be my only ally, and I turn away before I can take it all back and apologize.

I leave Erudite headquarters amid a crowd of people, my eyes confused, hunting for faction colors automatically when there are none left. I am wearing a gray shirt, blue jeans, black shoes—new clothes, but beneath them, my Dauntless tattoos. It is impossible to erase my choices. Especially these.

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