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CHAPTER THIRTY-NINE

TRIS

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MATTHEW CLASPS HIS hands behind his back.

“No, no, the serum doesn’t erase all of a person’s knowledge,” he says. “Do you think we would design a serum that makes people forget how to speak or walk?” He shakes his head. “It targets explicit memories, like your name, where you grew up, your first teacher’s name, and leaves implicit memories—like how to speak or tie your shoes or ride a bicycle—untouched. ”

“Interesting,” Cara says. “That actually works?”

Tobias and I exchange a look. There’s nothing like a conversation between an Erudite and someone who may as well be an Erudite. Cara and Matthew are standing too close together, and the longer they talk, the more hand gestures they make.

“Inevitably, some important memories will be lost,” Matthew says. “But if we have a record of people’s scientific discoveries or histories, they can relearn them in the hazy period after their memories are erased. People are very pliable then. ”

I lean against the wall.

“Wait,” I say. “If the Bureau is going to load all of those planes with the memory serum virus to reset the experiments, will there be any serum left to use against the compound?”

“We’ll have to get it first,” Matthew says. “In less than forty-eight hours. ”

Cara doesn’t appear to hear what I said. “After you erase their memories, won’t you have to program them with new memories? How does that work?”

“We just have to reteach them. As I said, people tend to be disoriented for a few days after being reset, which means they’ll be easier to control. ” Matthew sits, and spins in his chair once. “We can just give them a new history class. One that teaches facts rather than propaganda. ”

“We could use the fringe’s slide show to supplement a basic history lesson,” I say. “They have photographs of a war caused by GPs. ”

“Great. ” Matthew nods. “Big problem, though. The memory serum virus is in the Weapons Lab. The one Nita just tried—and failed—to break into. ”

“Christina and I were supposed to talk to Reggie,” Tobias says, “but I think, given this new plan, we should talk to Nita instead. ”

“I think you’re right,” I say. “Let’s go find out where she went wrong. ”

When I first arrived here, I felt like the compound was huge and unknowable. Now I don’t even have to consult the signs to remember how to get to the hospital, and neither does Tobias, who keeps stride with me on the way. It’s strange how time can make a place shrink, make its strangeness ordinary.

We don’t say anything to each other, though I can feel a conversation brewing between us. Finally I decide to ask.

“What’s wrong?” I say. “You hardly said anything during the meeting. ”

“I just . . . ” He shakes his head. “I’m not sure this is the right thing to do. They want to erase our friends’ memories, so we decide to erase theirs?”

I turn to him and touch his shoulders lightly. “Tobias, we have forty-eight hours to stop them. If you can think of any other idea, anything else that could save our city, I’m open to it. ”

“I can’t. ” His dark blue eyes look defeated, sad. “But we’re acting out of desperation to save something that’s important to us—just like the Bureau is. What’s the difference?”

“The difference is what’s right,” I say firmly. “The people in the city, as a whole, are innocent. The people in the Bureau, who supplied Jeanine with the attack simulation, are not innocent. ”

His mouth puckers, and I can tell he doesn’t completely buy it.

I sigh. “It’s not a perfect situation. But when you have to choose between two bad options, you pick the one that saves the people you love and believe in most. You just do. Okay?”

He reaches for my hand, his hand warm and strong. “Okay. ”

“Tris!” Christina pushes through the swinging doors to the hospital and jogs toward us. Peter is on her heels, his dark hair combed smoothly to the side.

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At first I think she’s excited, and I feel a swell of hope—what if Uriah is awake?

But the closer she gets, the more obvious it is that she isn’t excited. She’s frantic. Peter lingers behind her, his arms crossed.

“I just spoke to one of the doctors,” she says, breathless. “The doctor says Uriah’s not going to wake up. Something about . . . no brain waves. ”

A weight settles on my shoulders. I knew, of course, that Uriah might never wake up. But the hope that kept the grief at bay is dwindling, slipping away with each word she speaks.

“They were going to take him off life support right away, but I pleaded with them. ” She wipes one of her eyes fiercely with the heel of her hand, catching a tear before it falls. “Finally the doctor said he would give me four days. So I can tell his family. ”

His family. Zeke is still in the city, and so is their Dauntless mother. It never occurred to me before that they don’t know what happened to him, and we never bothered to tell them, because we were all so focused on—

“They’re going to reset the city in forty-eight hours,” I say suddenly, and I grab Tobias’s arm. He looks stunned. “If we can’t stop them, that means Zeke and his mother will forget him. ”

They’ll forget him before they have a chance to say good-bye to him. It will be like he never existed.

“What?” Christina demands, her eyes wide. “My family is in there. They can’t reset everyone! How could they do that?”

“Pretty easily, actually,” Peter says. I had forgotten that he was there.

“What are you even doing here?” I demand.

“I went to see Uriah,” he says. “Is there a law against it?”

“You didn’t even care about him,” I spit. “What right do you have—”

“Tris. ” Christina shakes her head. “Not now, okay?”

Tobias hesitates, his mouth open like there are words waiting on his tongue.

“We have to go in,” he says. “Matthew said we could inoculate people against the memory serum, right? So we’ll go in, inoculate Uriah’s family just in case, and take them back to the compound to say good-bye to him. We have to do it tomorrow, though, or we’ll be too late. ” He pauses. “And you can inoculate your family too, Christina. I should be the one who tells Zeke and Hana, anyway. ”

Christina nods. I squeeze her arm, in an attempt at reassurance.

“I’m going too,” Peter says. “Unless you want me to tell David what you’re planning. ”

We all pause to look at him. I don’t know what Peter wants with a journey into the city, but it can’t be good. At the same time, we can’t afford for David to find out what we’re doing, not now, when there’s no time.

“Fine,” Tobias says. “But if you cause any trouble, I reserve the right to knock you unconscious and lock you in an abandoned building somewhere. ”

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Peter rolls his eyes.

“How do we get there?” Christina says. “It’s not like they just let people borrow cars. ”

“I bet we could get Amar to take you,” I say. “He told me today that he always volunteers for patrols. So he knows all the right people. And I’m sure he would agree to help Uriah and his family. ”

“I should go ask him now. And someone should probably sit with Uriah . . . make sure that doctor doesn’t go back on his word. Christina, not Peter. ” Tobias rubs the back of his neck, pawing at the Dauntless tattoo like he wants to tear it from his body. “And then I should figure out how to tell Uriah’s family that he got killed when I was supposed to be looking out for him. ”

“Tobias—” I say, but he holds up a hand to stop me.

He starts to move away. “They probably won’t let me visit Nita anyway. ”

Sometimes it’s hard to know how to take care of people. As I watch Peter and Tobias walk away—keeping their distance from each other—I think it’s possible that Tobias needs someone to run after him, because people have been letting him walk away, letting him withdraw, his entire life. But he’s right: He needs to do this for Zeke, and I need to talk to Nita.

“Come on,” Christina says. “Visiting hours are almost over. I’m going back to sit with Uriah. ”

Before I go to Nita’s room—identifiable by the security guard sitting by the door—I stop by Uriah’s room with Christina. She sits in the chair next to him, which is creased with the contours of her legs.

It’s been a long time since I’ve spoken to her like a friend, a long time since we laughed together. I was lost in the fog of the Bureau, in the promise of belonging.

I stand next to her and look at him. He doesn’t really look injured anymore—there are some bruises, some cuts, but nothing serious enough to kill him. I tilt my head to see the snake tattoo wrapped around his ear. I know it’s him, but he doesn’t look much like Uriah without a wide smile on his face and his dark eyes bright, alert.

“He and I weren’t really even that close,” she says. “Just at the . . . the very end. Because he had lost someone who died, and so had I . . . ”

“I know,” I say. “You really helped him. ”

I drag a chair over to sit next to her. She clutches Uriah’s hand, which stays limp on the sheets.

“Sometimes I just feel like I’ve lost all my friends,” she says.

“You haven’t lost Cara,” I say. “Or Tobias. And Christina, you haven’t lost me. You’ll never lose me. ”

She turns to me, and somewhere in the haze of grief we wrap our arms around each other, in the same desperate way we did when she told me she had forgiven me for killing Will. Our friendship has held up under an incredible weight, the weight of me shooting someone she loved, the weight of so many losses. Other bonds would have broken. For some reason, this one hasn’t.

We stay clutched together for a long time, until the desperation fades.

“Thanks,” she says. “You won’t lose me, either. ”

“I’m pretty sure if I was going to, I would have already. ” I smile. “Listen, I have some things to catch you up on. ”

I tell her about our plan to stop the Bureau from resetting the experiments. As I speak, I think of the people she stands to lose—her father and mother, her sister—all those connections, forever altered or discarded, in the name of genetic purity.

“I’m sorry,” I say when I finish. “I know you probably want to help us, but . . . ”

“Don’t be sorry. ” She stares at Uriah. “I’m still glad I’m going into the city. ” She nods a few times. “You’ll stop them from resetting the experiment. I know you will. ”

I hope she’s right.

I only have ten minutes until visiting hours are over when I arrive at Nita’s room. The guard looks up from his book and raises his eyebrow at me.

“Can I go in?” I say.

“Not really supposed to let people in there,” he says.

“I’m the one who shot her,” I say. “Does that count for anything?”

“Well. ” He shrugs. “As long as you promise not to shoot her again. And get out within ten minutes. ”

“It’s a deal. ”

He has me take off my jacket to show that I’m not carrying any weapons, and then he lets me into the room. Nita jerks to attention—as much as she can, anyway. Half her body is encased in plaster, and one of her hands is cuffed to the bed, as if she could escape even if she wanted to. Her hair is messy, knotted, but of course, she’s still pretty.

“What are you doing here?” she says.

I don’t answer—I check the corners of the room for cameras, and there’s one across from me, pointed at Nita’s hospital bed.

“There aren’t microphones,” she says. “They don’t really do that here. ”

“Good. ” I pull up a chair and sit beside her. “I’m here because I need important information from you. ”

“I already told them everything I felt like telling them. ” She glares at me. “I’ve got nothing more to say. Especially not to the person who shot me. ”

“If I hadn’t shot you, I wouldn’t be David’s favorite person, and I wouldn’t know all the things I know. ” I glance at the door, more from paranoia than an actual concern that someone is listening in. “We’ve got a new plan. Matthew and I. And Tobias. And it will require getting into the Weapons Lab. ”

“And you thought I could help you with that?” She shakes her head. “I couldn’t get in the first time, remember?”

“I need to know what the security is like. Is David the only person who knows the pass code?”

“Not like . . . the only person ever,” she says. “That would be stupid. His superiors know it, but he’s the only person in the compound, yes. ”

“Okay, then what’s the backup security measure? The one that is activated if you explode the doors?”

She presses her lips together so they almost disappear, and stares at the half-body cast covering her. “It’s the death serum,” she says. “In aerosol form, it’s practically unstoppable. Even if you wear a clean suit or something, it works its way in eventually. It just takes a little more time that way. That’s what the lab reports said. ”

“So they just automatically kill anyone who makes their way into that room without the pass code?” I say.

“It surprises you?”

“I guess not. ” I balance my elbows on my knees. “And there’s no other way in except with David’s code. ”

“Which, as you found out, he is completely unwilling to share,” she says.

“There’s no chance a GP could resist the death serum?” I say.

“No. Definitely not. ”

“Most GPs can’t resist the truth serum, either,” I say. “But I can. ”

“If you want to go flirt with death, be my guest. ” She leans back into the pillows. “I’m done with that now. ”

“One more question,” I say. “Say I do want to flirt with death. Where do I get explosives to break through the doors?”

“Like I’m going to tell you that. ”

“I don’t think you get it,” I say. “If this plan succeeds, you won’t be imprisoned for life anymore. You’ll recover and you’ll go free. So it’s in your best interest to help me. ”

She stares at me like she is weighing and measuring me. Her wrist tugs against the handcuff, just enough that the metal carves a line into her skin.

“Reggie has the explosives,” she says. “He can teach you how to use them, but he’s no good in action, so for God’s sake, don’t bring him along unless you feel like babysitting. ”

“Noted,” I say.

“Tell him it will require twice as much firepower to get through those doors than any others. They’re extremely sturdy. ”

I nod. My watch beeps on the hour, signaling that my time is up. I stand and push my chair back to the corner where I found it.

“Thank you for the help,” I say.

“What is the plan?” she says. “If you don’t mind telling me. ”

I pause, hesitating over the words.

“Well,” I say eventually. “Let’s just say it will erase the phrase ‘genetically damaged’ from everyone’s vocabulary. ”

The guard opens the door, probably to yell at me for overstaying my welcome, but I’m already making my way out. I look over my shoulder just once before going, and I see that Nita is wearing a small smile.

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