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CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX

TRIS

Watch Divergent 4: Ascendant (2017)

I TOUCH MY forehead to the eyepiece of the microscope. The serum swims before me, orange-brown.

I was so busy looking for Nita’s lies that I barely registered the truth: In order to get their hands on this serum, the Bureau must have developed it, and somehow delivered it to Jeanine to use. I pull away. Why would Jeanine work with the Bureau when she so badly wanted to stay in the city, away from them?

But I guess the Bureau and Jeanine shared a common goal. Both wanted the experiment to continue. Both were terrified of what would happen if it didn’t. Both were willing to sacrifice innocent lives to do it.

I thought this place could be home. But the Bureau is full of killers. I rock back on my heels as if pushed back by some invisible force, then walk out of the room, my heart beating fast.

I ignore the few people dawdling in the corridor in front of me. I just push farther into the Bureau compound, farther and farther into the belly of the beast.

Maybe this place could be home, I hear myself saying to Christina.

These people murdered your parents, Tobias’s words echo in my head.

I don’t know where I’m going except that I need space, and air. I clutch my ID in my hand and half walk, half run past the security barrier to the sculpture. There is no light shining into the tank now, though the water still falls from it, one drop for every second that passes. I stand for a little while, watching it. And then, across the slab of stone, I see my brother.

“Are you all right?” he says tentatively.

I am not all right. I was beginning to feel that I had finally found a place to stay, a place that was not so unstable or corrupt or controlling that I could actually belong there. You would think that I would have learned by now—such a place does not exist.

“No,” I say.

He starts to move around the stone block, toward me. “What is it?”

“What is it. ” I laugh. “Let me put it this way: I just found out you’re not the worst person I know. ”

I drop into a crouch and push my fingers through my hair. I feel numb and terrified of my own numbness. The Bureau is responsible for my parents’ deaths. Why do I have to keep repeating it to myself to believe it? What’s wrong with me?

“Oh,” he says. “I’m . . . sorry?”

All I can manage is a small grunt.

“You know what Mom told me once?” he says, and the way he says Mom, like he didn’t betray her, sets my teeth on edge. “She said that everyone has some evil inside them, and the first step to loving anyone is to recognize the same evil in ourselves, so we’re able to forgive them. ”

“Is that what you want me to do?” I say dully as I stand. “I may have done bad things, Caleb, but I would never deliver you to your own execution. ”

“You can’t say that,” he says, and it sounds like he’s pleading with me, begging me to say that I am just like him, no better. “You didn’t know how persuasive Jeanine was—”

Something inside me snaps like a brittle rubber band.

I punch him in the face.

All I can think about is how the Erudite stripped me of my watch and my shoes and led me to the bare table where they would take my life. A table that Caleb may as well have set up himself.

I thought I was beyond this kind of anger, but as he stumbles back with his hands on his face, I pursue him, grabbing the front of his shirt and slamming him against the stone sculpture and screaming that he is a coward and a traitor and that I will kill him, I will kill him.

One of the guards comes toward me, and all she has to do is put her hand on my arm and the spell is broken. I release Caleb’s shirt. I shake out my stinging hand. I turn and walk away.

There’s a beige sweater draped over the empty chair in Matthew’s lab, the sleeve brushing the floor. I’ve never met his supervisor. I’m beginning to suspect that Matthew does all the real work.

Watch Divergent 4: Ascendant (2017)

I sit on top of the sweater and examine my knuckles. A few of them are split from punching Caleb, and dotted with faint bruises. It seems fitting that the blow would leave a mark on both of us. That’s how the world works.

Last night, when I went back to the dormitory, Tobias wasn’t there, and I was too angry to sleep. In the hours that I lay awake, staring at the ceiling, I decided that while I wasn’t going to participate in Nita’s plan, I also wasn’t going to stop it. The truth about the attack simulation brewed hate for the Bureau inside me, and I want to watch it break apart from within.

Matthew is talking science. I’m having trouble paying attention.

“—doing some genetic analysis, which is fine, but before, we were developing a way to make the memory compound behave as a virus,” he says. “With the same rapid replication, the same ability to spread through the air. And then we developed a vaccination for it. Just a temporary one, only lasts for forty-eight hours, but still. ”

I nod. “So . . . you were making it so you could set up other city experiments more efficiently, right?” I say. “No need to inject everyone with the memory serum when you can just release it and let it spread. ”

“Exactly!” He seems excited that I’m actually interested in what he’s saying. “And it’s a better model for having the option to select particular members of a population to opt out—you inoculate them, the virus spreads within twenty-four hours, and it has no effect on them. ”

I nod again.

“You okay?” Matthew says, his coffee mug poised near his mouth. He puts it down. “I heard the security guards had to pull you off someone last night. ”

“It was my brother. Caleb. ”

“Ah. ” Matthew raises an eyebrow. “What did he do this time?”

“Nothing, really. ” I pinch the sweater sleeve between my fingers. Its edges are all fraying, wearing with time. “I was wired to explode anyway; he just got in the way. ”

I already know, by looking at him, the question he’s asking, and I want to explain it all to him, everything that Nita showed me and told me. I wonder if I can trust him.

“I heard something yesterday,” I say, testing the waters. “About the Bureau. About my city, and the simulations. ”

He straightens up and gives me a strange look.

“What?” I say.

“Did you hear that something from Nita?” he says.

“Yes. How did you know that?”

“I’ve helped her a couple times,” he says. “I let her into that storage room. Did she tell you anything else?”

Matthew is Nita’s informant? I stare at him. I never thought that Matthew, who went out of his way to show me the difference between my “pure” genes and Tobias’s “damaged” genes, might be helping Nita.

“Something about a plan,” I say slowly.

Watch Divergent 4: Ascendant (2017)

He gets up and walks toward me, oddly tense. I lean away from him by instinct.

“Is it happening?” he says. “Do you know when?”

“What’s going on?” I say. “Why would you help Nita?”

“Because all this ‘genetic damage’ nonsense is ridiculous,” he says. “It’s very important that you answer my questions. ”

“It is happening. And I don’t know when, but I think it will be soon. ”

“Shit. ” Matthew puts his hands on his face. “Nothing good can come of this. ”

“If you don’t stop saying cryptic things, I’m going to slap you,” I say, getting to my feet.

“I was helping Nita until she told me what she and those fringe people wanted to do,” Matthew says. “They want to get to the Weapons Lab and—”

“—steal the memory serum, yeah, I heard. ”

“No. ” He shakes his head. “No, they don’t want the memory serum, they want the death serum. Similar to the one the Erudite have—the one you were supposed to be injected with when you were almost executed. They’re going to use it for assassinations, a lot of them. Set off an aerosol can and it’s easy, see? Give it to the right people and you have an explosion of anarchy and violence, which is exactly what those fringe people want. ”

I do see. I see the tilt of a vial, the quick press of a button on an aerosol can. I see Abnegationbodies and Erudite bodies sprawled over streets and staircases. I see the little pieces of this world that we’ve managed to cling to bursting into flames.

“I thought I was helping her with something smarter,” Matthew says. “If I had known I was helping her start another war, I wouldn’t have done it. We have to do something about this. ”

“I told him,” I say softly, but not to Matthew, to myself. “I told him she was lying. ”

“We may have a problem with the way we treat GDs in this country, but it’s not going to be solved by killing a bunch of people,” he says. “Now come on, we’re going to David’s office. ”

I don’t know what’s right or wrong. I don’t know anything about this country or the way it works or what it needs to change. But I do know that a bunch of death serum in the hands of Nita and some people from the fringe is no better than a bunch of death serum in the Weapons Lab of the Bureau. So I chase Matthew down the hallway outside. We walk quickly in the direction of the front entrance, where I first entered this compound.

When we walk past the security checkpoint, I spot Uriah near the sculpture. He lifts a hand to wave to me, his mouth pressed into a line that could be a smile if he was trying harder. Above his head, light refracts through the water tank, the symbol of the compound’s slow, pointless struggle.

I’m just passing the security checkpoint when I see the wall next to Uriah explode.

It is like fire blossoming from a bud. Shards of glass and metal spray from the center of the bloom, and Uriah’s body is among them, a limp projectile. A deep rumble moves through me like a shudder. My mouth is open; I am screaming his name, but I can’t hear myself over the ringing in my ears.

Around me, everyone is crouched, their arms curled around their heads. But I am on my feet, watching the hole in the compound wall. No one comes through it.

Seconds later, everyone around me starts running away from the blast, and I hurl myself against them, shoulder first, toward Uriah. An elbow hits me in the side and I fall down, my face scraping something hard and metal—the side of a table. I struggle to my feet, wiping blood from my eyebrow with a sleeve. Fabric slides over my arms, and limbs, hair, and wide eyes are all I can see, except the sign over their heads that says COMPOUND EXIT.

“Signal the alarms!” one of the guards at the security checkpoint screams. I duck under an arm and trip to the side.

“I did!” another guard shouts. “They aren’t working!”

Matthew grabs my shoulder and yells into my ear. “What are you doing? Don’t go toward—”

I move faster, finding an empty channel where there are no people to obstruct my path. Matthew runs after me.

“We shouldn’t be going to the explosion site—whoever set it off is already in the building,” he says. “Weapons Lab, now! Come on!”

The Weapons Lab. Holy words.

I think of Uriah lying on the tile surrounded by glass and metal. My body is straining toward him, every muscle, but I know there’s nothing I can do for him right now. The more important thing for me to do is to use my knowledge of chaos, of attacks, to keep Nita and her friends from stealing the death serum.

Matthew was right. Nothing good can come of this.

Matthew takes the lead, plunging into the crowd like it is a pool of water. I try to look only at the back of his head, to keep track of him, but the oncoming faces distract me, the mouths and eyes rigid with terror. I lose him for a few seconds and then find him again, several yards ahead, turning right at the next hallway.

“Matthew!” I shout, and I push my way through another group of people. Finally I catch up, grabbing the back of his shirt. He turns and grabs my hand.

“Are you okay?” he says, staring just above my eyebrow. In the rush I almost forgot about my cut. I press my sleeve to it, and it comes away red, but I nod.

“I’m fine! Let’s go!”

We sprint side by side down the hallway—this one is not as crowded as the others, but I can see that whoever infiltrated the building has been here already. There are guards lying on the floor, some alive and some not. I see a gun on the tile near a drinking fountain and lurch toward it, breaking my grip on Matthew’s hand.

I grab the gun and offer it to Matthew. He shakes his head. “I’ve never fired one. ”

“Oh, for God’s sake. ” My finger curls around the trigger. It’s different from the guns we had in the city—it doesn’t have a barrel that shifts to the side, or the same tension in the trigger, or even the same distribution of weight. It’s easier to hold, as a result, because it doesn’t spark the same memories.

Matthew is gasping for air. So am I, only I don’t notice it the same way, because I’ve done this sprint through chaos so many times. The next hallway he guides us to is empty except for one fallen soldier. She’s not moving.

“It’s not far,” he says, and I touch my finger to my lips to tell him to be quiet.

We slow to a walk, and I squeeze the gun, my sweat making it slip. I don’t know how many bullets are in it, or how to check. When we pass the soldier, I pause to search her for a weapon. I find a gun tucked under her hip, where she fell on her own wrist. Matthew stares at her, unblinking, as I take her weapon.

“Hey,” I say quietly. “Just keep moving. Move now, process later. ”

I elbow him and lead the way down the hallway. Here the hallways are dim, the ceilings crossed with bars and pipes. I can hear people ahead and don’t need Matthew’s whispered directions to find them.

When we reach the place where we’re supposed to turn, I press against the wall and look around the corner, careful to keep myself as hidden as possible.

There’s a set of double-walled glass doors that look as heavy as metal doors would be, but they’re open. Beyond them is a cramped hallway, empty except for three people in black. They wear heavy clothing and carry guns so big I’m not sure I would be able to lift one. Their faces are covered with dark fabric, disguising all but their eyes.

On his knees before the double doors is David, a gun barrel pressed to his temple, blood trailing down his chin. And standing among the invaders, wearing the same mask as the others, is a girl with a dark ponytail.

Nita.

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