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Watch Divergent 4: Ascendant (2017)

I CAN’T GO back to the staring eyes and unspoken questions of the dormitory. I know I shouldn’t return to the scene of my great crime, even though it’s not one of the secure areas I’m barred from entering, but I feel like I need to see what’s happening inside the city. Like I need to remember that there is a world outside this one, where I am not hated.

I walk to the control room and sit in one of the chairs. Each screen in the grid above me shows a different part of the city: the Merciless Mart, the lobby of Erudite headquarters, Millennium Park, the pavilion outside the Hancock building.

For a long time I watch the people milling around inside Erudite headquarters, their arms covered in factionless armbands, weapons at their hips, exchanging quick conversation or handing off cans of food for dinner, an old factionless habit.

Then I hear someone at the control room desks say, “There he is,” to one of her coworkers, and I scan the screens to see what she’s talking about. Then I see him, standing in front of the Hancock building: Marcus, near the front doors, checking his watch.

I get up and tap the screen with my index finger to turn on the sound. For a moment only the rush of air comes through the speakers just below the screen, but then, footsteps. Johanna Reyes approaches my father. He stretches his hand out for her to shake, but she doesn’t, and my father is left with his hand dangling in the air, a piece of bait she did not take.

“I knew you stayed in the city,” she says. “They’re looking all over for you. ”

A few of the people milling around the control room gather behind me to watch. I hardly notice them. I am watching my father’s arm return to his side in a fist.

“Have I done something to offend you?” Marcus says. “I contacted you because I thought you were a friend. ”

“I thought you contacted me because you know I’m still the leader of the Allegiant, and you want an ally,” Johanna says, bending her neck so a lock of hair falls over her scarred eye. “And depending on what your aim is, I am still that, Marcus, but I think our friendship is over. ”

Marcus’s eyebrows pinch together. My father has the look of a man who used to be handsome, but as he has aged, his cheeks have become hollow, his features harsh and strict. His hair, cropped close to his skull in the Abnegation style, does not help this impression.

“I don’t understand,” Marcus says.

“I spoke to some of my Candor friends,” Johanna says. “They told me what your boy said when he was under truth serum. That nasty rumor Jeanine Matthews spread about you and your son . . . it was true, wasn’t it?”

My face feels hot, and I shrink into myself, my shoulders curving in.

Marcus is shaking his head. “No, Tobias is—”

Johanna holds up a hand. She speaks with her eyes closed, like she can’t stand to look at him. “Please. I have watched how your son behaves, how your wife behaves. I know what people who are stained with violence look like. ” She pushes her hair behind her ear. “We recognize our own. ”

“You can’t possibly believe—” Marcus starts. He shakes his head. “I’m a disciplinarian, yes, but I only wanted what was best—”

“A husband should not discipline his wife,” Johanna says. “Not even in Abnegation. And as for your son . . . well, let us say that I do believe it of you. ”

Johanna’s fingers skip over the scar on her cheek. My heart overwhelms me with its rhythm. She knows. She knows, not because she heard me confess to my shame in the Candor interrogation room, but because she knows, she has experienced it herself, I’m sure of it. I wonder who it was for her—mother? Father? Someone else?

Part of me always wondered what my father would do if directly confronted with the truth. I thought he might shift from the self-effacing Abnegation leader to the nightmare I knew at home, that he might lash out and reveal himself for who he is. It would be a satisfying reaction for me to see, but it is not his real reaction.

He just stands there looking confused, and for a moment I wonder if he is confused, if in his sick heart he believes his own lies about disciplining me. The thought creates a storm inside me, a rumbling of thunder and a rush of wind.

“Now that I’ve been honest,” Johanna says, a little more calm now, “you can tell me why you asked me to come here. ”

Marcus shifts to a new subject like the old one was never discussed. I see in him a man who divides himself into compartments and can switch between them on command. One of those compartments was reserved only for my mother and me.

The Bureau employees move the camera in closer, so that the Hancock building is just a black backdrop behind Marcus’s and Johanna’s torsos. I follow a girder diagonally across the screen so I don’t have to look at him.

“Evelyn and the factionless are tyrants,” Marcus says. “The peace we experienced among the factions, before Jeanine’s first attack, can be restored, I’m sure of it. And I want to try to restore it. I think this is something you want too. ”

“It is,” Johanna says. “How do you think we should go about it?”

Watch Divergent 4: Ascendant (2017)

“This is the part you might not like, but I hope you will keep an open mind,” Marcus says. “Evelyn controls the city because she controls the weapons. If we take those weapons away, she won’t have nearly as much power, and she can be challenged. ”

Johanna nods, and scrapes her shoe against the pavement. I can only see the smooth side of her face from this angle, the limp but curled hair, the full mouth.

“What would you like me to do?” she says.

“Let me join you in leading the Allegiant,” he says. “I was an Abnegation leader. I was practically the leader of this entire city. People will rally behind me. ”

“People have rallied already,” Johanna points out. “And not behind a person, but behind the desire to reinstate the factions. Who says I need you?”

“Not to diminish your accomplishments, but the Allegiant are still too insignificant to be any more than a small uprising,” Marcus says. “There are more factionless than any of us knew. You do need me. You know it. ”

My father has a way of persuading people without charm that has always confused me. He states his opinions as if they’re facts, and somehow his complete lack of doubt makes you believe him. That quality frightens me now, because I know what he told me: that I was broken, that I was worthless, that I was nothing. How many of those things did he make me believe?

I can see Johanna beginning to believe him, thinking of the small cluster of people she has gathered to the Allegiant cause. Thinking of the group she sent outside the fence, with Cara, and never heard from again. Thinking of how alone she is, and how rich his history of leadership is. I want to scream at her through the screens not to trust him, to tell her that he only wants the factions back because he knows he can then take up his place as their leader again. But my voice can’t reach her, wouldn’t be able to even if I was standing right next to her.

Carefully, Johanna says to him, “Can you promise me that you will, wherever possible, try to limit the destruction we will cause?”

Marcus says, “Of course. ”

She nods again, but this time it looks like she’s nodding to herself.

“Sometimes we need to fight for peace,” she says, more to the pavement than to Marcus. “I think this is one of those times. And I do think you would be useful for people to rally behind. ”

It’s the beginning of the Allegiant rebellion I’ve been expecting since I first heard the group had formed. Even though it has seemed inevitable to me since I saw how Evelyn chose to rule, I feel sick. It seems like the rebellions never stop, in the city, in the compound, anywhere. There are just breaths between them, and foolishly, we call those breaths “peace. ”

I move away from the screen, intending to leave the control room behind me, to get some fresh air wherever I can.

But as I walk away, I catch sight of another screen, showing a dark-haired woman pacing back and forth in an office in Erudite headquarters. Evelyn—of course they keep footage of Evelyn on the most prominent screens in the control room, it only makes sense.

Evelyn pushes her hands into her hair, clenching her fingers around the thick locks. She drops to a crouch, papers littering the floor all around her, and I think, She’s crying, but I’m not sure why, since I don’t see her shoulders shake.

I hear, through the screen speakers, a knock on the office door. Evelyn straightens, pats her hair, wipes her face, and says, “Come in!”

Therese comes in, her factionless armband askew. “Just got an update from the patrols. They say they haven’t seen any sign of him. ”

“Great. ” Evelyn shakes her head. “I exile him, and he stays inside the city. He must be doing this just to spite me. ”

“Or he’s joined the Allegiant, and they’re harboring him,” Therese says, slinging her body across one of the office chairs. She twists paper into the floor with her boot soles.

Watch Divergent 4: Ascendant (2017)

“Well, obviously. ” Evelyn puts her arm against the window and leans into it, looking out over the city and beyond it, the marsh. “Thank you for the update. ”

“We’ll find him,” Therese says. “He can’t have gone far. I swear we’ll find him. ”

“I just want him to be gone,” Evelyn says, her voice tight and small, like a child’s. I wonder if she’s still afraid of him, in the way that I’m still afraid of him, like a nightmare that keeps resurfacing during the day. I wonder how similar my mother and I are, deep down where it counts.

“I know,” Therese says, and she leaves.

I stand for a long time, watching Evelyn stare out the window, her fingers twitching at her side.

I feel like what I have become is halfway between my mother and my father, violent and impulsive and desperate and afraid. I feel like I have lost control of what I have become.

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