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CHAPTER TWENTY

TOBIAS

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“WASN’T SURE IF you would come,” Nita says to me.

When she turns to lead me wherever we’re going, I see that her loose shirt is low in the back, and there’s a tattoo on her spine, but I can’t make out what it is.

“You get tattoos too, here?” I say.

“Some people do,” she says. “The one on my back is of broken glass. ” She pauses, the kind of pause you take when you’re deciding whether or not to share something personal. “I got it because it suggests damage. It’s . . . sort of a joke. ”

There’s that word again, “damage,” the one that’s been sinking and surfacing, sinking and surfacing in my mind since the genetic test. If it’s a joke, it’s not a funny one even for Nita—she spits out the explanation like it tastes bitter to her.

We walk down one of the tiled corridors, nearly empty now at the end of a workday, and down a flight of stairs. As we descend, blue and green and purple and red lights dance over the walls, shifting between colors with each second. The tunnel at the bottom of the stairs is wide and dark, with only the strange light to guide us. The floor here is old tile, and even through my shoe soles, it feels grainy with dirt and dust.

“This part of the airport was completely redone and expanded when they first moved in here,” Nita says. “For a while, after the Purity War, all the laboratories were underground, to keep them safer if they were attacked. Now it’s just the support staff who goes down here. ”

“Is that who you want me to meet?”

She nods. “Support staff is more than just a job. Almost all of us are GDs—genetically damaged, leftovers from the failed city experiments or the descendants of other leftovers or people pulled in from the outside, like Tris’s mother, except without her genetic advantage. And all of the scientists and leaders are GPs—genetically pure, descendants of people who resisted the genetic engineering movement in the first place. There are some exceptions, of course, but so few I could list them all for you if I wanted to. ”

I am about to ask why the division is so strict, but I can figure it out for myself. The so-called “GPs” grew up in this community, their worlds saturated by experiments and observation and learning. The “GDs” grew up in the experiments, where they only had to learn enough to survive until the next generation. The division is based on knowledge, based on qualifications—but as I learned from the factionless, a system that relies on a group of uneducated people to do its dirty work without giving them a way to rise is hardly fair.

“I think your girl’s right, you know,” Nita says. “Nothing has changed; now you just have a better idea of your own limitations. Every human being has limitations, even GPs. ”

“So there’s an upward limit to . . . what? My compassion? My conscience?” I say. “That’s the reassurance you have for me?”

Nita’s eyes study me, carefully, and she doesn’t respond.

“This is ridiculous,” I say. “Why do you, or they, or anyone get to determine my limits?”

“It’s just the way things are, Tobias,” Nita says. “It’s just genetic, nothing more. ”

“That’s a lie,” I say. “It’s about more than genes, here, and you know it. ”

I feel like I need to leave, to turn and run back to the dormitory. The anger is boiling and churning inside me, filling me with heat, and I’m not even sure who it’s for. For Nita, who has just accepted that she is somehow limited, or for whoever told her that? Maybe it’s for everyone.

We reach the end of the tunnel, and she nudges a heavy wooden door open with her shoulder. Beyond it is a bustling, glowing world. The room is lit by small, bright bulbs on strings, but the strings are so densely packed that a web of yellow and white covers the ceiling. On one end of the room is a wooden counter with glowing bottles behind it, and a sea of glasses on top of it. There are tables and chairs on the left side of the room, and a group of people with musical instruments on the right side. Music fills the air, and the only sounds I recognize—from my limited experience with the Amity—are plucked guitar strings and drums.

I feel like I am standing beneath a spotlight and everyone is watching me, waiting for me to move, speak, something. For a moment it’s hard to hear anything over the music and the chatter, but after a few seconds I get used to it, and I hear Nita when she says, “This way! Want a drink?”

I’m about to answer when someone runs into the room. He’s short, and the T-shirt he wears hangs from his body, two sizes too large for him. He gestures for the musicians to stop playing, and they do, just long enough for him to shout, “It’s verdict time!”

Half the room gets up and rushes toward the door. I give Nita a questioning look, and she frowns, creating a crease in her forehead.

“Whose verdict?” I say.

“Marcus’s, no doubt,” she replies.

And I’m running.

I sprint back down the tunnel, finding the open spaces between people and pushing my way through if there are none. Nita runs at my heels, shouting for me to stop, but I can’t stop. I am separate from this place and these people and my own body, and besides, I have always been a good runner.

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I take the stairs three at a time, clutching the railing for balance. I don’t know what I am so eager for—Marcus’s conviction? His exoneration? Do I hope that Evelyn finds him guilty and executes him, or do I hope that she spares him? I can’t tell. To me each outcome feels like it is made of the same substance. Everything is either Marcus’s evil or Marcus’s mask, Evelyn’s evil or Evelyn’s mask.

I don’t have to remember where the control room is, because the people in the hallway lead me to it. When I reach it, I push my way to the front of the crowd and there they are, my parents, shown on half the screens. Everyone moves away from me, whispering, except Nita, who stands beside me, catching her breath.

Someone turns up the volume, so we can all hear their voices. They crackle, distorted by the microphones, but I know my father’s voice; I can hear it shift at all the right times, lift in all the right places. I can almost predict his words before he says them.

“You took your time,” he says, sneering. “Savoring the moment?”

I stiffen. This is not Marcus’s mask. This is not the person who the city knows as my father—the patient, calm leader of Abnegation who would never hurt anyone, least of all his own son or wife. This is the man who slid his belt out loop by loop and wrapped it around his knuckles. This is the Marcus I know best, and the sight of him, like the sight of him in my fear landscape, turns me into a child.

“Of course not, Marcus,” my mother says. “You have served this city well for many years. This is not a decision I or any of my advisers have taken lightly. ”

Marcus is not wearing his mask, but Evelyn is wearing hers. She sounds so genuine she almost convinces me.

“I and the former representatives of the factions have had a lot to consider. Your years of service, the loyalty you have inspired among your faction members, my lingering feelings for you as my former husband . . . ”

I snort.

“I am still your husband,” Marcus says. “The Abnegation do not allow divorce. ”

“They do in cases of spousal abuse,” Evelyn replies, and I feel that same old feeling again, the hollowness and the weight. I can’t believe she just admitted that in public.

But then, she now wants the people in the city to see her a certain way—not as the heartless woman who took control of their lives, but as the woman Marcus attacked with his might, the secret he hid behind a clean house and pressed gray clothing.

I know, then, what the outcome of this will be.

“She’s going to kill him,” I say.

“The fact remains,” says Evelyn, almost sweetly, “that you have committed egregious crimes against this city. You deceived innocent children into risking their lives for your purposes. Your refusal to follow the orders of myself and Tori Wu, the former leader of Dauntless, resulted in countless deaths in the Erudite attack. You betrayed your peers by failing to do as we agreed and by failing to fight against Jeanine Matthews. You betrayed your own faction by revealing what was supposed to be a guarded secret. ”

“I did not—”

“I am not finished,” Evelyn says. “Given your record of service to this city, we have decided on an alternate solution. You will not, unlike the other former faction representatives, be forgiven and allowed to consult on issues regarding this city. Nor will you be executed as a traitor. Instead, you will be sent outside the fence, beyond the Amity compound, and you will not be allowed to return. ”

Marcus looks surprised. I don’t blame him.

“Congratulations,” says Evelyn. “You have the privilege of beginning again. ”

Should I feel relieved, that my father isn’t going to be executed? Angry, that I came so close to finally escaping him, but instead he’ll still be in this world, still hanging over my head?

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I don’t know. I don’t feel anything. My hands go numb, so I know I’m panicking, but I don’t really feel it, not the way I normally do. I am overwhelmed with the need to be somewhere else, so I turn and leave my parents and Nita and the city where I once lived behind me.

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