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I LEAN HEAVILY on Tobias. A gun barrel pressed to my spine urges me forward, through the front doors of Abnegation headquarters, a plain gray building, two stories high. Blood trickles down my side. I’m not afraid of what’s coming; I’m in too much pain to think about it.Watch Divergent 4: Ascendant (2017)
The gun barrel pushes me toward a door guarded by two Dauntless soldiers. Tobias and I walk through it and enter a plain office that contains just a desk, a computer, and two empty chairs. Jeanine sits behind the desk, a phone against her ear.
“Well, send some of them back on the train, then,” she says. “It needs to be well guarded, it’s the most important part—I’m not talk—I have to go. ” She snaps the phone shut and focuses her gray eyes on me. They remind me of melted steel.
“Divergent rebels,” one of the Dauntless says. He must be a Dauntless leader—or maybe a recruit who was removed from the simulation.
“Yes, I can see that. ” She takes her glasses off, folds them, and sets them on the desk. She probably wears the glasses out of vanity rather than necessity, because she thinks they make her look smarter—my father said so.
“You,” she says, pointing at me, “I expected. All the trouble with your aptitude test results made me suspicious from the beginning. But you…”
She shakes her head as she shifts her eyes to Tobias.
“You, Tobias—or should I call you Four?—managed to elude me,” she says quietly. “Everything about you checked out: test results, initiation simulations, everything. But here you are nonetheless. ” She folds her hands and sets her chin on top of them. “Perhaps you could explain to me how that is?”
“You’re the genius,” he says coolly. “Why don’t you tell me?”
Her mouth curls into a smile. “My theory is that you really do belong in Abnegation. That your Divergence is weaker. ”
She smiles wider. Like she’s amused. I grit my teeth and consider lunging across the table and strangling her. If I didn’t have a bullet in my shoulder, I might.
“Your powers of deductive reasoning are stunning,” spits Tobias. “Consider me awed. ”
I look sideways at him. I had almost forgotten about this side of him—the part that is more likely to explode than to lie down and die.
“Now that your intelligence has been verified, you might want to get on with killing us. ” Tobias closes his eyes. “You have a lot of Abnegation leaders to murder, after all. ”
If Tobias’s comments bother Jeanine, she doesn’t let on. She keeps smiling and stands smoothly. She wears a blue dress that hugs her body from shoulder to knee, revealing a layer of pudge around her middle. The room spins as I try to focus on her face, and I slump against Tobias for support. He slides his arm around me, supporting me from the waist.
“Don’t be silly. There is no rush,” she says lightly. “You are both here for an extremely important purpose. You see, it perplexed me that the Divergent were immune to the serum that I developed, so I have been working to remedy that. I thought I might have, with the last batch, but as you know, I was wrong. Luckily I have another batch to test. ”
“Why bother?” She and the Dauntless leaders had no problem killing the Divergent in the past. Why would it be any different now?
She smirks at me.
“I have had a question since I began the Dauntless project, and it is this. ” She sidesteps her desk, skimming the surface with her finger. “Why are most of the Divergent weak-willed, God-fearing nobodies from Abnegation, of all factions?”
I didn’t know that most of the Divergent came from Abnegation, and I don’t know why that would be. And I probably won’t live long enough to figure it out.
“Weak-willed,” Tobias scoffs. “It requires a strong will to manipulate a simulation, last time I checked. Weak-willed is mind-controlling an army because it’s too hard for you to train one yourself. ”
“I am not a fool,” says Jeanine. “A faction of intellectuals is no army. We are tired of being dominated by a bunch of self-righteous idiots who reject wealth and advancement, but we couldn’t do this on our own. And your Dauntless leaders were all too happy to oblige me if I guaranteed them a place in our new, improved government. ”
“Improved,” Tobias says, snorting.
“Yes, improved,” Jeanine says. “Improved, and working toward a world in which people will live in wealth, comfort, and prosperity. ”
“At whose expense?” I ask, my voice thick and sluggish. “All that wealth…doesn’t come from nowhere. ”
“Currently, the factionless are a drain on our resources,” Jeanine replies. “As is Abnegation. I am sure that once the remains of your old faction are absorbed into the Dauntless army, Candorwill cooperate and we will finally be able to get on with things. ”Watch Divergent 4: Ascendant (2017)
Absorbed into the Dauntless army. I know what that means—she wants to control them, too. She wants everyone to be pliable and easy to control.
“Get on with things,” Tobias repeats bitterly. He raises his voice. “Make no mistake. You will be dead before the day is out, you—”
“Perhaps if you could control your temper,” Jeanine says, her words cutting cleanly across Tobias’s, “you would not be in this situation to begin with, Tobias. ”
“I’m in this situation because you put me here,” he snaps. “The second you orchestrated an attack against innocent people. ”
“Innocent people. ” Jeanine laughs. “I find that a little funny, coming from you. I would expect Marcus’s son to understand that not all those people are innocent. ” She perches on the edge of the desk, her skirt pulling away from her knees, which are crossed with stretch marks. “Can you tell me honestly that you wouldn’t be happy to discover that your father was killed in the attack?”
“No,” says Tobias through gritted teeth. “But at least his evil didn’t involve the widespread manipulation of an entire faction and the systematic murder of every political leader we have. ”
They stare at each other for a few seconds, long enough to make me feel tense to my core, and then Jeanine clears her throat.
“What I was going to say,” she says, “is that soon, dozens of the Abnegation and their young children will be my responsibility to keep in order, and it does not bode well for me that a large number of them may be Divergent like yourselves, incapable of being controlled by the simulations. ”
She stands and walks a few steps to the left, her hands clasped in front of her. Her nail beds, like mine, are bitten raw.
“Therefore, it was necessary that I develop a new form of simulation to which they are not immune. I have been forced to reassess my own assumptions. That is where you come in. ” She paces a few steps to the right. “You are correct to say that you are strong-willed. I cannot control your will. But there are a few things I can control. ”
She stops and turns to face us. I lean my temple into Tobias’s shoulder. Blood trails down my back. The pain has been so constant for the past few minutes that I have gotten used to it, like a person gets used to a siren’s wail if it remains consistent.
She presses her palms together. I see no vicious glee in her eyes, and not a hint of the sadism I expect. She is more machine than maniac. She sees problems and forms solutions based on the data she collects. Abnegation stood in the way of her desire for power, so she found a way to eliminate it. She didn’t have an army, so she found one in Dauntless. She knew that she would need to control large groups of people in order to stay secure, so she developed a way to do it with serums and transmitters. Divergence is just another problem for her to solve, and that is what makes her so terrifying—because she is smart enough to solve anything, even the problem of our existence.
“I can control what you see and hear,” she says. “So I created a new serum that will adjust your surroundings to manipulate your will. Those who refuse to accept our leadership must be closely monitored. ”
Monitored—or robbed of free will. She has a gift with words.
“You will be the first test subject, Tobias. Beatrice, however…” She smiles. “You are too injured to be of much use to me, so your execution will occur at the conclusion of this meeting. ”
I try to hide the shudder that goes through me at the word “execution,” my shoulder screaming with pain, and look up at Tobias. It’s hard to blink the tears back when I see the terror in Tobias’s wide, dark eyes.
“No,” says Tobias. His voice trembles, but his look is stern as he shakes his head. “I would rather die. ”
“I’m afraid you don’t have much of a choice in the matter,” replies Jeanine lightly.
Tobias takes my face in his hands roughly and kisses me, the pressure of his lips pushing mine apart. I forget my pain and the terror of approaching death and for a moment, I am grateful that the memory of that kiss will be fresh in my mind as I meet my end.
Then he releases me and I have to lean against the wall for support. With no more warning than the tightening of his muscles, Tobias lunges across the desk and wraps his hands around Jeanine’s throat. Dauntless guards by the door leap at him, their guns held ready, and I scream.Watch Divergent 4: Ascendant (2017)
It takes two Dauntless soldiers to pull Tobias away from Jeanine and shove him to the ground. One of the soldiers pins him, his knees on Tobias’s shoulders and his hands on Tobias’s head, pressing his face to the carpet. I lunge toward them, but another guard slams his hands against my shoulders, forcing me against the wall. I am weak from blood loss and too small.
Jeanine braces herself against the desk, spluttering and gasping. She rubs her throat, which is bright red with Tobias’s fingerprints. No matter how mechanical she seems, she’s still human; there are tears in her eyes as she takes a box from her desk drawer and opens it, revealing a needle and syringe.
Still breathing heavily, she carries it toward Tobias. Tobias grits his teeth and elbows one of the guards in the face. The guard slams the heel of his gun into the side of Tobias’s head, and Jeanine sticks the needle into Tobias’s neck. He goes limp.
A sound escapes my mouth, not a sob or a scream, but a croaking, scraping moan that sounds detached, like it is coming from someone else.
“Let him up,” says Jeanine, her voice scratchy.
The guard gets up, and so does Tobias. He does not look like the sleepwalking Dauntless soldiers; his eyes are alert. He looks around for a few seconds as if confused by what he sees.
“Tobias,” I say. “Tobias!”
“He doesn’t know you,” says Jeanine.
Tobias looks over his shoulder. His eyes narrow and he starts toward me, fast. Before the guards can stop him, he closes a hand around my throat, squeezing my trachea with his fingertips. I choke, my face hot with blood.
“The simulation manipulates him,” says Jeanine. I can barely hear her over the pounding in my ears. “By altering what he sees—making him confuse enemy with friend. ”
One of the guards pulls Tobias off me. I gasp, drawing a rattling breath into my lungs.
He is gone. Controlled by the simulation, he will now murder the people he called innocent not three minutes ago. Jeanine killing him would have hurt less than this.
“The advantage to this version of the simulation,” she says, her eyes alight, “is that he can act independently, and is therefore far more effective than a mindless soldier. ” She looks at the guards who hold Tobias back. He struggles against them, his muscles taut, his eyes focused on me, but not seeing me, not seeing me the way they used to. “Send him to the control room. We’ll want a sentient being there to monitor things and, as I understand it, he used to work there. ”
Jeanine presses her palms together in front of her. “And take her to room B13,” she says. She flaps her hand to dismiss me. That flapping hand commands my execution, but to her it is just crossing off an item from a list of tasks, the only logical progression of the particular path that she is on. She surveys me without feeling as two Dauntless soldiers pull me out of the room.
They drag me down the hallway. I feel numb inside, but outside I am a screaming, thrashing force of will. I bite a hand that belongs to the Dauntless man on my right and smile as I taste blood. Then he hits me, and there is nothing.
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