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CHAPTER THIRTY-EIGHT

TOBIAS

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I PROP UP my shoe on the edge of Tris’s bed and tighten the laces. Through the large windows I see afternoon light winking in the side panels of the parked airplanes on the landing strip. GDs in green suits walk across the wings and crawl under the noses, checking the planes before takeoff.

“How’s your project with Matthew going?” I say to Cara, who is two beds away. Tris let Cara, Caleb, and Matthew test their new truth serum on her this morning, but I haven’t seen her since then.

Cara is pushing a brush through her hair. She glances around the room to make sure it’s empty before she answers. “Not well. So far Tris was immune to the new version of the serum we created—it had no effect whatsoever. It’s very strange that a person’s genes would make them so resistant to mind manipulation of any kind. ”

“Maybe it’s not her genes,” I say, shrugging. I switch feet. “Maybe it’s some kind of superhuman stubbornness. ”

“Oh, are we at the insult part of the breakup?” she says. “Because I got in a lot of practice after what happened with Will. I have several choice things to say about her nose. ”

“We didn’t break up. ” I grin. “But it’s nice to know you have such warm feelings for my girlfriend. ”

“I apologize, I don’t know why I jumped to that conclusion. ” Cara’s cheeks flush. “My feelings toward your girlfriend are mixed, yes, but for the most part I have a lot of respect for her. ”

“I know. I was just kidding. It’s nice to see you get flustered every once in a while. ”

Cara glares at me.

“Besides,” I say, “what’s wrong with her nose?”

The door to the dormitory opens, and Tris walks in, hair unkempt and eyes wild. It unsettles me to see her so agitated, like the ground I’m standing on is no longer solid. I get up and smooth my hand over her hair to put it back into place. “What happened?” I say, my hand coming to rest on her shoulder.

“Council meeting,” Tris says. She covers my hand with hers, briefly, then sits on one of the beds, her hands dangling between her knees.

“I hate to be repetitive,” Cara says, “but . . . what happened?”

Tris shakes her head like she’s trying to shake the dust out of it. “The council has made plans. Big ones. ”

She tells us, in fits and starts, about the council’s plan to reset the experiments. As she speaks she wedges her hands under her legs and presses forward into them until her wrists turn red.

When she finishes I move to sit beside her, putting my arm across her shoulders. I look out the window, at the planes perched on the runway, gleaming and poised for flight. In less than two days those planes will probably drop the memory serum virus over the experiments.

Cara says to Tris, “What do you intend to do about it?”

“I don’t know,” Tris says. “I feel like I don’t know what’s right anymore. ”

They’re similar, Cara and Tris, two women sharpened by loss. The difference is that Cara’s pain has made her certain of everything, and Tris has guarded her uncertainty, protected it, despite all she’s been through. She still approaches everything with a question instead of an answer. It is something I admire about her—something I should probably admire more.

For a few seconds we stew in silence, and I follow the path of my thoughts as they turn over and over one another.

“They can’t do this,” I say. “They can’t erase everyone. They shouldn’t have the power to do that. ” I pause. “All I can think is that this would be so much easier if we were dealing with a completely different set of people who could actually see reason. Then we might be able to find a balance between protecting the experiments and opening themselves up to other possibilities. ”

“Maybe we should import a new group of scientists,” Cara says, sighing. “And discard the old ones. ”

Tris’s face twists, and she touches a hand to her forehead, as if rubbing out some brief and inconvenient pain. “No,” she says. “We don’t even need to do that. ”

She looks up at me, her bright eyes holding me still.

“Memory serum,” she says. “Alan and Matthew came up with a way to make the serums behave like viruses, so they could spread through an entire population without injecting everyone. That’s how they’re planning to reset the experiments. But we could reset them. ” She speaks faster as the idea takes shape in her mind, and her excitement is contagious; it bubbles inside me like the idea is mine and not hers. But to me it doesn’t feel like she’s suggesting a solution to our problem. It feels like she’s suggesting that we cause yet another problem. “Reset the Bureau, and reprogram them without the propaganda, without the disdain for GDs. Then they’ll never risk the memories of the people in the experiments again. The danger will be gone forever. ”

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Cara raises her eyebrows. “Wouldn’t erasing their memories also erase all of their knowledge? Thus rendering them useless?”

“I don’t know. I think there’s a way to target memories, depending on where the knowledge is stored in the brain, otherwise the first faction members wouldn’t have known how to speak or tie their shoes or anything. ” Tris comes to her feet. “We should ask Matthew. He knows how it works better than I do. ”

I get up too, putting myself in her path. The streaks of sun caught on the airplane wings blind me so I can’t see her face.

“Tris,” I say. “Wait. You really want to erase the memories of a whole population against their will? That’s the same thing they’re planning to do to our friends and family. ”

I shield my eyes from the sun to see her cold look—the expression I saw in my mind even before I looked at her. She looks older to me than she ever has, stern and tough and worn by time. I feel that way, too.

“These people have no regard for human life,” she says. “They’re about to wipe the memories of all our friends and neighbors. They’re responsible for the deaths of a large majority of our old faction. ” She sidesteps me and marches toward the door. “I think they’re lucky I’m not going to kill them. ”

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