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Watch Divergent 4: Ascendant (2017)

THE BROKEN BUILDINGS in the Dauntless sector look like doorways to other worlds. Ahead of me I see the Pire piercing the sky.

The pulse in my fingertips marks the passing seconds. The air still feels rich in my lungs, though summer is drawing to a close. I used to run all the time and fight all the time because I cared about muscles. Now my feet have saved me too often, and I can’t separate running and fighting from what they are: a way to escape danger, a way to stay alive.

When I reach the building, I pace before the entrance to catch my breath. Above me, panes of glass reflect light in every direction. Somewhere up there is the chair I sat in while I was running the attack simulation, and a smear of Tris’s father’s blood on the wall. Somewhere up there, Tris’s voice pierced the simulation I was under, and I felt her hand on my chest, drawing me back to reality.

I open the door to the fear landscape room and flip open the small black box that was in my back pocket to see the syringes inside. This is the box I have always used, padded around the needles; it is a sign of something sick inside me, or something brave.

I position the needle over my throat and close my eyes as I press down on the plunger. The black box clatters to the ground, but by the time I open my eyes, it has disappeared.

I stand on the roof of the Hancock building, near the zip line where the Dauntless flirt with death. The clouds are black with rain, and the wind fills my mouth when I open it to breathe. To my right, the zip line snaps, the wire cord whipping back and shattering the windows below me.

My vision tightens around the roof edge, trapping it in the center of a pinhole. I can hear my own exhales despite the whistling wind. I force myself to walk to the edge. The rain pounds against my shoulders and head, dragging me toward the ground. I tip my weight forward just a little and fall, my jaw clamped around my screams, muffled and suffocated by my own fear.

After I land, I don’t have a second to rest before the walls close in around me, the wood slamming into my spine, and then my head, and then my legs. Claustrophobia. I pull my arms in to my chest, close my eyes, and try not to panic.

I think of Eric in his fear landscape, willing his terror into submission with deep breathing and logic. And Tris, conjuring weapons out of thin air to attack her worst nightmares. But I am not Eric, and I am not Tris. What am I? What do I need, to overcome my fears?

I know the answer, of course I do: I need to deny them the power to control me. I need to know that I am stronger than they are.

I breathe in and slam my palms against the walls to my left and right. The box creaks, and then breaks, the boards crashing to the concrete floor. I stand above them in the dark.

Amar, my initiation instructor, taught us that our fear landscapes were always in flux, shifting with our moods and changing with the little whispers of our nightmares. Mine was always the same, until a few weeks ago. Until I proved to myself that I could overpower my father. Until I discovered someone I was terrified to lose.

I don’t know what I will see next.

I wait for a long time without anything changing. The room is still dark, the floor still cold and hard, my heart still beating faster than normal. I look down to check my watch and discover that it’s on the wrong hand—I usually wear mine on my left, not my right, and my watchband isn’t gray, it’s black.

Then I notice bristly hairs on my fingers that weren’t there before. The calluses on my knuckles are gone. I look down, and I am wearing gray slacks and a gray shirt; I am thicker around the middle and thinner through the shoulders.

I lift my eyes to a mirror that now stands in front of me. The face staring back at mine is Marcus’s.

He winks at me, and I feel the muscles around my eye contracting as he does, though I didn’t tell them to. Without warning, his—my—our arms jerk toward the glass and reach into it, closing around the neck of my reflection. But then the mirror disappears, and my—his—our hands are around our own throat, dark patches creeping into the edge of our vision. We sink to the ground, and the grip is as tight as iron.

I can’t think. I can’t think of a way out of this one.

By instinct, I scream. The sound vibrates against my hands. I picture those hands as mine really are, large with slender fingers and calloused knuckles from hours at the punching bag. I imagine my reflection as water running over Marcus’s skin, replacing every piece of him with a piece of me. I remake myself in my own image.

I am kneeling on the concrete, gasping for air.

My hands tremble, and I run my fingers over my neck, my shoulders, my arms. Just to make sure.

I told Tris, on the train to meet Evelyn a few weeks ago, that Marcus was still in my fear landscape, but that he had changed. I spent a long time thinking about it; it crowded my thoughts every night before I slept and clamored for attention every time I woke. I was still afraid of him, I knew, but in a different way—I was no longer a child, afraid of the threat my terrifying father posed to my safety. I was a man, afraid of the threat he posed to my character, to my future, to my identity.

But even that fear, I know, does not compare to the one that comes next. Even though I know it’s coming, I want to open a vein and drain the serum from my body rather than see it again.

A pool of light appears on the concrete in front of me. A hand, the fingers bent into a claw, reaches into the light, followed by another hand, and then a head, with stringy blond hair. The woman coughs and drags herself into the circle of light, inch by inch. I try to move toward her, to help her, but I am frozen.

The woman turns her face toward the light, and I see that she is Tris. Blood spills over her lips and curls around her chin. Her bloodshot eyes find mine, and she wheezes, “Help. ”

Watch Divergent 4: Ascendant (2017)

She coughs red onto the floor, and I throw myself toward her, somehow knowing that if I don’t get to her soon, the light will leave her eyes. Hands wrap around my arms and shoulders and chest, forming a cage of flesh and bone, but I keep straining toward her. I claw at the hands holding me, but I only end up scratching myself.

I shout her name, and she coughs again, this time more blood. She screams for help, and I scream for her, and I don’t hear anything, I don’t feel anything, but my heartbeat, but my own terror.

She drops to the ground, tensionless, and her eyes roll back into her head. It’s too late.

The darkness lifts. The lights return. Graffiti covers the walls of the fear landscape room, and across from me are the mirror-windows to the observation room, and in the corners are the cameras that record each session, all where they’re supposed to be. My neck and back are covered in sweat. I wipe my face with the hem of my shirt and walk to the opposite door, leaving my black box with its syringe and needle behind.

I don’t need to relive my fears anymore. All I need to do now is try to overcome them.

I know from experience that confidence alone can get a person into a forbidden place. Like the cells on the third floor of Erudite headquarters.

Not here, though, apparently. A factionless man stops me with the end of his gun before I reach the door, and I am nervous, choking.

“Where you going?”

I put my hand on his gun and push it away from my arm. “Don’t point that thing at me. I’m here on Evelyn’s orders. I’m going to see a prisoner. ”

“I didn’t hear about any after-hours visits today. ”

I drop my voice low, so he feels like he’s hearing a secret. “That’s because she didn’t want it on the record. ”

“Chuck!” someone calls out from the stairs above us. It’s Therese. She makes a waving motion as she walks down. “Let him through. He’s fine. ”

I nod to Therese and keep moving. The debris in the hallway has been swept clean, but the broken lightbulbs haven’t been replaced, so I walk through stretches of darkness, like patches of bruises, on my way to the right cell.

When I reach the north corridor, I don’t go straight to the cell, but rather to the woman who stands at the end. She is middle-aged, with eyes that droop at the edges and a mouth held in a pucker. She looks like everything exhausts her, including me.

“Hi,” I say. “My name is Tobias Eaton. I’m here to collect a prisoner, on orders from Evelyn Johnson. ”

Her expression doesn’t change when she hears my name, so for a few seconds I’m sure I’ll have to knock her unconscious to get what I want. She takes a piece of crumpled paper from her pocket and flattens it against her left palm. On it is a list of prisoners’ names and their corresponding room numbers.

“Name?” she says.

Caleb Prior. 308A. ”

“You’re Evelyn’s son, right?”

“Yeah. I mean . . . yes. ” She doesn’t seem like the kind of person who likes the word “yeah. ”

Watch Divergent 4: Ascendant (2017)

She leads me to a blank metal door with 308A on it—I wonder what it was used for when our city didn’t require so many cells. She types in the code, and the door springs open.

“I guess I’m supposed to pretend I don’t see what you’re about to do?” she says.

She must think I’m here to kill him. I decide to let her.

“Yes,” I say.

“Do me a favor and put in a good word for me with Evelyn. I don’t want so many night shifts. The name’s Drea. ”

“You got it. ”

She gathers the paper into her fist and shoves it back into her pocket as she walks away. I keep my hand on the door handle until she reaches her post again and turns to the side so she isn’t facing me. It seems like she’s done this a few times before. I wonder how many people have disappeared from these cells at Evelyn’s command.

I walk in. Caleb Prior sits at a metal desk, bent over a book, his hair piled on one side of his head.

“What do you want?” he says.

“I hate to break this to you—” I pause. I decided a few hours ago how I wanted to handle this—I want to teach Caleb a lesson. And it will involve a few lies. “You know, actually, I kind of don’t hate it. Your execution’s been moved up a few weeks. To tonight. ”

That gets his attention. He twists in his chair and stares at me, his eyes wild and wide, like prey faced with a predator.

“Is that a joke?”

“I’m really bad at telling jokes. ”

“No. ” He shakes his head. “No, I have a few weeks, it’s not tonight, no—”

“If you shut up, I’ll give you an hour to adjust to this new information. If you don’t shut up, I’ll knock you out and shoot you in the alley outside before you wake up. Make your choice now. ”

Seeing an Erudite process something is like watching the inside of a watch, the gears all turning, shifting, adjusting, working together to form a particular function, which in this case is to make sense of his imminent demise.

Caleb’s eyes shift to the open door behind me, and he seizes the chair, turning and swinging it into my body. The legs hit me, hard, which slows me down just enough to let him slip by.

I follow him into the hallway, my arms burning from where the chair hit me. I am faster than he is—I slam into his back and he hits the floor face-first, without bracing himself. With my knee against his back, I pull his wrists together and squeeze them into a plastic loop. He groans, and when I pull him to his feet, his nose is bright with blood.

Drea’s eyes touch mine for just a moment, then move away.

I drag him down the hallway, not the way I came, but another way, toward an emergency exit. We walk down a flight of narrow stairs where the echo of our footsteps layers over itself, dissonant and hollow. Once I’m at the bottom, I knock on the exit door.

Zeke opens it, a stupid grin on his face.

“No trouble with the guard?”

“No. ”

“I figured Drea would be easy to get by. She doesn’t care about anything. ”

“It sounded like she had looked the other way before. ”

“That doesn’t surprise me. Is this Prior?”

“In the flesh. ”

“Why’s he bleeding?”

“Because he’s an idiot. ”

Zeke offers me a black jacket with a factionless symbol stitched into the collar. “I didn’t know that idiocy caused people to just start spontaneously bleeding from the nose. ”

I wrap the jacket around Caleb’s shoulders and fasten one of the buttons over his chest. He avoids my eyes.

“I think it’s a new phenomenon,” I say. “The alley’s clear?”

“Made sure of it. ” Zeke holds out his gun, handle first. “Careful, it’s loaded. Now it would be great if you would hit me so I’m more convincing when I tell the factionless you stole it from me. ”

“You want me to hit you?”

“Oh, like you’ve never wanted to. Just do it, Four. ”

I do like to hit people—I like the explosion of power and energy, and the feeling that I am untouchable because I can hurt people. But I hate that part of myself, because it is the part of me that is the most broken.

Zeke braces himself and I curl my hand into a fist.

“Do it fast, you pansycake,” he says.

I decide to aim for the jaw, which is too strong to break but will still show a good bruise. I swing, hitting him right where I mean to. Zeke groans, clutching his face with both hands. Pain shoots up my arm, and I shake my hand out.

“Great. ” Zeke spits at the side of the building. “Well, I guess that’s it. ”

“Guess so. ”

“I probably won’t be seeing you again, will I? I mean, I know the others might come back, but you . . . ” He trails off, but picks up the thought again a moment later. “Just seems like you’ll be happy to leave it behind, that’s all. ”

“Yeah, you’re probably right. ” I look at my shoes. “You sure you won’t come?”

“Can’t. Shauna can’t wheel around where you guys are going, and it’s not like I’m gonna leave her, you know?” He touches his jaw, lightly, testing the skin. “Make sure Uri doesn’t drink too much, okay?”

“Yeah,” I say.

“No, I mean it,” he says, and his voice dips down the way it always does when he’s being serious, for once. “Promise you’ll look out for him?”

It’s always been clear to me, since I met them, that Zeke and Uriah were closer than most brothers. They lost their father when they were young, and I suspect Zeke began to walk the line between parent and sibling after that. I can’t imagine what it feels like for Zeke to watch him leave the city now, especially as broken by grief as Uriah is by Marlene’s death.

“I promise,” I say.

I know I should leave, but I have to stay in this moment for a little while, feeling its significance. Zeke was one of the first friends I made in Dauntless, after I survived initiation. Then he worked in the control room with me, watching the cameras and writing stupid programs that spelled out words on the screen or played guessing games with numbers. He never asked me for my real name, or why a first-ranked initiate ended up in security and instruction instead of leadership. He demanded nothing from me.

“Let’s just hug already,” he says.

Keeping one hand firm on Caleb’s arm, I wrap my free arm around Zeke, and he does the same.

When we break apart, I pull Caleb down the alley, and can’t resist calling back, “I’ll miss you. ”

“You too, sweetie!”

He grins, and his teeth are white in the twilight. They are the last thing I see of him before I have to turn and set out at a trot for the train.

“You’re going somewhere,” says Caleb, between breaths. “You and some others. ”

“Yeah. ”

“Is my sister going?”

The question awakes inside me an animal rage that won’t be satisfied by sharp words or insults. It will only be satisfied by smacking his ear hard with the flat of my hand. He winces and hunches his shoulders, preparing for a second strike.

I wonder if that’s what I looked like when my father did it to me.

“She is not your sister,” I say. “You betrayed her. You tortured her. You took away the only family she had left. And because . . . what? Because you wanted to keep Jeanine’s secrets, wanted to stay in the city, safe and sound? You are a coward. ”

“I am not a coward!” Caleb says. “I knew if—”

“Let’s go back to the arrangement where you keep your mouth closed. ”

“Fine,” he says. “Where are you taking me, anyway? You can kill me just as well here, can’t you?”

I pause. A shape moves along the sidewalk behind us, slippery in my periphery. I twist and hold up my gun, but the shape disappears into the yawn of an alley.

I keep walking, pulling Caleb with me, listening for footsteps behind me. We scatter broken glass with our shoes. I watch the dark buildings and the street signs, dangling from their hinges like late-clinging leaves in autumn. Then I reach the station where we’ll catch the train, and lead Caleb up a flight of metal steps to the platform.

I see the train coming from a long way off, making its last journey through the city. Once, the trains were a force of nature to me, something that continued along their path regardless of what we did inside the city limits, something pulsing and alive and powerful. Now I have met the men and women who operate them, and some of that mystery is gone, but what they mean to me will never be gone—my first act as a Dauntless was to jump on one, and every day afterward they were the source of my freedom, they gave me the power to move within this world when I had once felt so trapped in the Abnegation sector, in the house that was a prison to me.

When it comes closer, I cut the tie around Caleb’s wrists with a pocketknife and keep a firm hold on his arm.

“You know how to do this, right?” I say. “Get in the last car. ”

He unbuttons the jacket and drops it on the ground. “Yeah. ”

Starting at one end of the platform, we run together along the worn boards, keeping pace with the open door. He doesn’t reach for the handle, so I push him toward it. He stumbles, then grabs it and pulls himself into the last car. I am running out of space—the platform is ending—I seize the handle and swing myself in, my muscles absorbing the pull forward.

Tris stands inside the car, wearing a small, crooked smile. Her black jacket is zipped up to her throat, framing her face in darkness. She grabs my collar and pulls me in for a kiss. As she pulls away, she says, “I always loved watching you do that. ”

I grin.

“Is this what you had planned?” Caleb demands from behind me. “For her to be here when you kill me? That’s—”

“Kill him?” Tris asks me, not looking at her brother.

“Yeah, I let him think he was being taken to his execution,” I say, loud enough that he can hear. “You know, sort of like he did to you in Erudite headquarters. ”

“I . . . it isn’t true?” His face, lit by the moon, is slack with shock. I notice that his shirt’s buttons are in the wrong buttonholes.

“No,” I say. “I just saved your life, actually. ”

He starts to say something, and I interrupt him. “Might not want to thank me just yet. We’re taking you with us. Outside the fence. ”

Outside the fence—the place he once tried so hard to avoid that he turned on his own sister. It seems a more fitting punishment than death, anyway. Death is so quick, so certain. Where we’re going now, nothing is certain.

He looks frightened, but not as frightened as I thought he would be. I feel like I understand, then, the way he ranks things in his mind: his life, first; his comfort in a world of his own making, second; and somewhere after that, the lives of the people he is supposed to love. He is the sort of despicable person who has no understanding of how despicable he is, and my badgering him with insults won’t change that; nothing will. Rather than angry, I just feel heavy, useless.

I don’t want to think about him anymore. I take Tris’s hand and lead her to the other side of the car, so we can watch the city disappear behind us. We stand side by side in the open doorway, each of us holding one of the handles. The buildings create a dark, jagged pattern on the sky.

“We were followed,” I say.

“We’ll be careful,” she answers.

“Where are the others?”

“In the first few cars,” she says. “I thought we should be alone. Or as alone as we can get. ”

She smiles at me. These are our last moments in the city. Of course we should spend them alone.

“I’m really going to miss this place,” she says.

“Really?” I say. “My thoughts are more like, ‘Good riddance. ’”

“There’s nothing you’ll miss? No good memories?” She elbows me.

“Fine. ” I smile. “There are a few. ”

“Any that don’t involve me?” she says. “That sounds self-centered. You know what I mean. ”

“Sure, I guess,” I say, shrugging. “I mean, I got to have a different life in Dauntless, a different name. I got to be Four, thanks to my initiation instructor. He gave me the name. ”

“Really?” She tilts her head. “Why haven’t I met him?”

“Because he’s dead. He was Divergent. ” I shrug again, but I don’t feel casual about it. Amarwas the first person who noticed that I was Divergent, and he helped me to hide it. But he couldn’t hide his own Divergence, and that killed him.

She touches my arm, lightly, but doesn’t say anything. I shift, uncomfortable.

“See?” I say. “Too many bad memories here. I’m ready to leave. ”

I feel empty, not because of sadness, but because of relief, all the tension flowing out of me. Evelyn is in that city, and Marcus, and all the grief and nightmares and bad memories, and the factions that kept me trapped inside one version of myself. I squeeze Tris’s hand.

“Look,” I say, pointing at a distant cluster of buildings. “There’s the Abnegation sector. ”

She smiles, but her eyes are glassy, like a dormant part of her is fighting its way out and spilling over. The train hisses over the rails, a tear drops down Tris’s cheek, and the city disappears into the darkness.

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