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CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE

TOBIAS

Watch Divergent 4: Ascendant (2017)

MY WRISTS STING from the plastic tie the guard squeezed around them. I probe my jaw with just my fingertips, testing the skin for blood.

“All right?” Reggie says.

I nod. I have dealt with worse injuries than this—I have been hit harder than I was by the soldier who slammed the butt of his gun into my jaw while he was arresting me. His eyes were wild with anger when he did it.

Mary and Rafi sit a few feet away, Rafi clutching a handful of gauze to his bleeding arm. A guard stands between us and them, keeping us separate. As I look at them, Rafi meets my eyes and nods. As if to say, Well done.

If I did well, why do I feel sick to my stomach?

“Listen,” Reggie says, shifting so he’s closer to me. “Nita and the fringe people are taking the fall. It’ll be all right. ”

I nod again, without conviction. We had a backup plan for our probable arrest, and I’m not worried about its success. What I am worried about is how long it’s taking them to deal with us, and how casual it has been—we have been sitting against a wall in an empty corridor since they caught the invaders more than an hour ago, and no one has come to tell us what will happen to us, or to ask us any questions. I haven’t even seen Nita yet.

It puts a sour taste in my mouth. Whatever we did, it seems to have shaken them up, and I know of nothing that shakes people up as much as lost lives.

How many of those am I responsible for, because I participated in this?

“Nita told me they were going to steal memory serum,” I say to Reggie, and I’m afraid to look at him. “Was that true?”

Reggie eyes the guard who stands a few feet away. We have already been yelled at once for talking.

But I know the answer.

“It wasn’t, was it,” I say. Tris was right. Nita was lying.

“Hey!” The guard marches toward us and sticks the barrel of her gun between us. “Move aside. No conversation allowed. ”

Reggie shifts to the right, and I make eye contact with the guard.

“What’s going on?” I say. “What happened?”

“Oh, like you don’t know,” she answers. “Now keep your mouth shut. ”

I watch her walk away, and then I see a small blond girl appear at the end of the hallway. Tris. A bandage stretches across her forehead, and blood smears her clothes in the shape of fingers. She clutches a piece of paper in her fist.

“Hey!” the guard says. “What are you doing here?”

“Shelly,” the other guard says, jogging over. “Calm down. That’s the girl who saved David. ”

The girl who saved David—from what, exactly?

“Oh. ” Shelly puts her gun down. “Well, it’s still a valid question. ”

“They asked me to bring you guys an update,” Tris says, and she offers Shelly the piece of paper. “David is in recovery. He’ll live, but they’re not sure when he’ll walk again. Most of the other injured have been cared for. ”

The sour taste in my mouth grows stronger. David can’t walk. And what they’ve been doing all this time is caring for the injured. All this destruction, and for what? I don’t even know. I don’t know the truth.

What did I do?

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“Do they have a casualty count?” Shelly asks.

“Not yet,” Tris replies.

“Thanks for letting us know. ”

“Listen. ” She shifts her weight to one foot. “I need to talk to him. ”

She jerks her head toward me.

“We can’t really—” Shelly starts.

“Just for a second, I promise,” Tris says. “Please. ”

“Let her,” the other guard says. “What could it hurt?”

“Fine,” Shelly says. “I’ll give you two minutes. ”

She nods to me, and I use the wall to push myself to my feet, my hands still bound in front of me. Tris comes closer, but not that close—the space, and her folded arms, form a barrier between us that may as well be a wall. She looks somewhere south of my eyes.

“Tris, I—”

“Want to know what your friends did?” she says. Her voice shakes, and I do not make the mistake of thinking it’s from tears. It’s from anger. “They weren’t after the memory serum. They were after poison—death serum. So that they could kill a bunch of important government people and start a war. ”

I look down, at my hands, at the tile, at the toes of her shoes. A war. “I didn’t know—”

“I was right. I was right, and you didn’t listen. Again,” she says, quiet. Her eyes lock on mine, and I find that I do not want the eye contact I craved, because it takes me apart, piece by piece. “Uriah was standing right in front of one of the explosives they set off as diversions. He’s unconscious and they’re not sure he’ll wake up. ”

It’s strange how a word, a phrase, a sentence, can feel like a blow to the head.

“What?”

All I can see is Uriah’s face when he hit the net after the Choosing Ceremony, the giddy smile he wore as Zeke and I pulled him onto the platform next to the net. Or him sitting in the tattoo parlor, his ear taped forward so it wouldn’t get in Tori’s way as she drew a snake on his skin. Uriah might not wake up? Uriah, gone forever?

And I promised. I promised Zeke I would look after him, I promised . . .

“He’s one of the last friends I have,” she says, her voice breaking. “I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to look at you the same way again. ”

She walks away. I hear Shelly’s muffled voice telling me to sit down, and I sink to my knees, letting my wrists rest on my legs. I struggle to find a way to escape this, the horror of what I’ve done, but there is no sophisticated logic that can liberate me; there is no way out.

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I put my face in my hands and try not to think, try not to imagine anything at all.

The overhead light in the interrogation room reflects a muddled circle in the center of the table. That is where I keep my eyes as I recite the story Nita gave me, the one that is so close to true I have no trouble telling it. When I’m finished, the man recording it taps out my last sentences on his screen, the glass lighting up with letters where his fingers touch it. Then the woman acting as David’s proxy—Angela—says, “So you didn’t know the reason Juanita asked you to disable the security system?”

“No,” I say, which is true. I didn’t know the real reason; I only knew a lie.

They put all the others under truth serum, but not me. The genetic anomaly that makes me aware during simulations also suggests I could be resistant to serums, so my truth serum testimony might not be reliable. As long as my story fits with the others, they will assume it’s true. They don’t know that, a few hours ago, all of us were inoculated against truth serum. Nita’s informant among the GPs provided her with the inoculation serum months ago.

“How, then, did she compel you to do it?”

“We’re friends,” I say. “She is—was—one of the only friends I had here. She asked me to trust her, told me it was for a good reason, so I did it. ”

“And what do you think about the situation now?”

I finally look at her. “I’ve never regretted something so much in my life. ”

Angela’s hard, bright eyes soften a little. She nods. “Well, your story fits with what the others told us. Given your newness to this community, your ignorance of the master plan, and your genetic deficiency, we are inclined to be lenient. Your sentence is parole—you must work for the good of this community, and stay on your best behavior, for one year. You will not be allowed to enter any private laboratories or rooms. You will not leave the confines of this compound without permission. You will check in every month with a parole officer who will be assigned to you at the conclusion of our proceedings. Do you understand these terms?”

With the words “genetic deficiency” lingering in my mind, I nod and say, “I do. ”

“Then we’re finished here. You’re free to go. ” She stands, pushing her chair back. The recorder also stands, and slips his screen into his bag. Angela touches the table so that I look up at her again.

“Don’t be so hard on yourself,” she says. “You’re very young, you know. ”

I don’t think my youth excuses it, but I accept her attempt at kindness without objection.

“Can I ask what’s going to happen to Nita?” I say.

Angela presses her lips together. “Once she recovers from her substantial injuries, she will be transferred to our prison and will spend the duration of her life there,” she says.

“She won’t be executed?”

“No, we don’t believe in capital punishment for the genetically damaged. ” Angela moves toward the door. “We can’t have the same behavioral expectations for those with damaged genes as we do for those with pure genes, after all. ”

With a sad smile, she leaves the room, and doesn’t close the door behind her. I stay in my seat for a few seconds, absorbing the sting of her words. I wanted to believe they were all wrong about me, that I was not limited by my genes, that I was no more damaged than any other person. But how can that be true, when my actions landed Uriah in the hospital, when Tris can’t even look me in the eye, when so many people died?

I cover my face and grit my teeth as the tears fall, bearing the wave of despair like it is a fist, striking me. By the time I get up to leave, the cuffs of my sleeves, used to wipe my cheeks, are damp, and my jaw aches.

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