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I PULL MY jacket tight around my shoulders. I haven’t been outside in a long time. The sun shines pale against my face, and I watch my breaths form in the air.Watch Divergent 4: Ascendant (2017)
At least I accomplished one thing: I convinced Peter and his friends that I’m no longer a threat. I just have to make sure that tomorrow, when I go through my own fear landscape, I prove them wrong. Yesterday failure seemed impossible. Today I’m not sure.
I slide my hands through my hair. The impulse to cry is gone. I braid my hair and tie it with the rubber band around my wrist. I feel more like myself. That is all I need: to remember who I am. And I am someone who does not let inconsequential things like boys and near-death experiences stop her.
I laugh, shaking my head. Am I?
I hear the train horn. The train tracks loop around the Dauntless compound and then continue farther than I can see. Where do they begin? Where do they end? What is the world like beyond them? I walk toward them.
I want to go home, but I can’t. Eric warned us not to appear too attached to our parents on Visiting Day, so visiting home would be betraying the Dauntless, and I can’t afford to do that. Eric did not tell us we couldn’t visit people in factions other than the ones we came from, though, and my mother did tell me to visit Caleb.
I know I’m not allowed to leave without supervision, but I can’t stop myself. I walk faster and faster, until I’m sprinting. Pumping my arms, I run alongside the last car until I can grab the handle and swing myself in, wincing as pain darts through my sore body.
Once in the car, I lie on my back next to the door and watch the Dauntless compound disappear behind me. I don’t want to go back, but choosing to quit, to be factionless, would be the bravest thing I have ever done, and today I feel like a coward.
The air rushes over my body and twists around my fingers. I let my hand trail over the edge of the car so it presses against the wind. I can’t go home, but I can find part of it. Caleb has a place in every memory of my childhood; he is part of my foundation.
The train slows as it reaches the heart of the city, and I sit up to watch the smaller buildings grow into larger buildings. The Erudite live in large stone buildings that overlook the marsh. I hold the handle and lean out just enough to see where the tracks go. They dip down to street level just before they bend to travel east. I breathe in the smell of wet pavement and marsh air.
The train dips and slows, and I jump. My legs shudder with the force of my landing, and I run a few steps to regain my balance. I walk down the middle of the street, heading south, toward the marsh. The empty land stretches as far as I can see, a brown plane colliding with the horizon.
I turn left. The Erudite buildings loom above me, dark and unfamiliar. How will I find Calebhere?
The Erudite keep records; it’s in their nature. They must keep records of their initiates. Someone has access to those records; I just have to find them. I scan the buildings. Logically speaking, the central building should be the most important one. I may as well start there.
The faction members are milling around everywhere. Erudite faction norms dictate that a faction member must wear at least one blue article of clothing at a time, because blue causes the body to release calming chemicals, and “a calm mind is a clear mind. ” The color has also come to signify their faction. It seems impossibly bright to me now. I have grown used to dim lighting and dark clothing.
I expect to weave through the crowd, dodging elbows and muttering “excuse me” the way I always do, but there is no need. Becoming Dauntless has made me noticeable. The crowd parts for me, and their eyes cling to me as I pass. I pull the rubber band from my hair and shake it from its knot before I walk through the front doors.
I stand just inside the entrance and tilt my head back. The room is huge, silent, and smells like dust-covered pages. The wood-paneled floor creaks beneath my feet. Bookcases line the walls on either side of me, but they seem to be decorative more than anything, because computers occupy the tables in the center of the room, and no one is reading. They stare at screens with tense eyes, focused.
I should have known that the main Erudite building would be a library. A portrait on the opposite wall catches my attention. It is twice my height and four times my width and depicts an attractive woman with watery gray eyes and spectacles—Jeanine. Heat licks my throat at the sight of her. Because she is Erudite’s representative, she is the one who released that report about my father. I have disliked her since my father’s dinner-table rants began, but now I hate her.
Beneath her is a large plaque that reads KNOWLEDGE LEADS TO PROSPERITY.
Prosperity. To me the word has a negative connotation. Abnegation uses it to describe self-indulgence.
How could Caleb have chosen to be one of these people? The things they do, the things they want, it’s all wrong. But he probably thinks the same of the Dauntless.
I walk up to the desk just beneath Jeanine’s portrait. The young man sitting behind it doesn’t look up as he says, “How can I help you?”
“I am looking for someone,” I say. “His name is Caleb. Do you know where I can find him?”
“I am not permitted to give out personal information,” he replies blandly, as he jabs at the screen in front of him.
“He’s my brother. ”
“I am not permi—”
I slam my palm on the desk in front of him, and he jerks out of his daze, staring at me over his spectacles. Heads turn in my direction.Watch Divergent 4: Ascendant (2017)
“I said. ” My voice is terse. “I am looking for someone. He’s an initiate. Can you at least tell me where I can find them?”
“Beatrice?” a voice behind me says.
I turn, and Caleb stands behind me, a book in hand. His hair has grown out so it flips at his ears, and he wears a blue T-shirt and a pair of rectangular glasses. Even though he looks different and I’m not allowed to love him anymore, I run at him as fast as I can and throw my arms around his shoulders.
“You have a tattoo,” he says, his voice muffled.
“You have glasses,” I say. I pull back and narrow my eyes. “Your vision is perfect, Caleb, what are you doing?”
“Um…” He glances at the tables around us. “Come on. Let’s get out of here. ”
We exit the building and cross the street. I have to jog to keep up with him. Across from Erudite headquarters is what used to be a park. Now we just call it “Millenium,” and it is a stretch of bare land and several rusted metal sculptures—one an abstract, plated mammoth, another shaped like a lima bean that dwarfs me in size.
We stop on the concrete around the metal bean, where the Erudite sit in small groups with newspapers or books. He takes off his glasses and shoves them in his pocket, then runs a hand through his hair, his eyes skipping over mine nervously. Like he’s ashamed. Maybe I should be too. I’m tattooed, loose-haired, and wearing tight clothes. But I’m just not.
“What are you doing here?” he says.
“I wanted to go home,” I say, “and you were the closest thing I could think of. ”
He presses his lips together.
“Don’t look so pleased to see me,” I add.
“Hey,” he says, setting his hands on my shoulders. “I’m thrilled to see you, okay? It’s just that this isn’t allowed. There are rules. ”
“I don’t care,” I say. “I don’t care, okay?”
“Maybe you should. ” His voice is gentle; he wears his look of disapproval. “If it were me, I wouldn’t want to get in trouble with your faction. ”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
I know exactly what it means. He sees my faction as the cruelest of the five, and nothing more.
“I just don’t want you to get hurt. You don’t have to be so angry with me,” he says, tilting his head. “What happened to you in there?”
“Nothing. Nothing happened to me. ” I close my eyes and rub the back of my neck with one hand. Even if I could explain everything to him, I wouldn’t want to. I can’t even summon the will to think about it.
“You think…” He looks at his shoes. “You think you made the right choice?”Watch Divergent 4: Ascendant (2017)
“I don’t think there was one,” I say. “How about you?”
He looks around. People stare at us as they walk past. His eyes skip over their faces. He’s still nervous, but maybe it’s not because of how he looks, or because of me. Maybe it’s them. I grab his arm and pull him under the arch of the metal bean. We walk beneath its hollow underbelly. I see my reflection everywhere, warped by the curve of the walls, broken by patches of rust and grime.
“What’s going on?” I say, folding my arms. I didn’t notice the dark circles under his eyes before. “What’s wrong?”
Caleb presses a palm to the metal wall. In his reflection, his head is small and pressed in on one side, and his arm looks like it is bending backward. My reflection, however, looks small and squat.
“Something big is happening, Beatrice. Something is wrong. ” His eyes are wide and glassy. “I don’t know what it is, but people keep rushing around, talking quietly, and Jeanine gives speeches about how corrupt Abnegation is all the time, almost every day. ”
“Do you believe her?”
“No. Maybe. I don’t…” He shakes his head. “I don’t know what to believe. ”
“Yes, you do,” I say sternly. “You know who our parents are. You know who our friends are. Susan’s dad, you think he’s corrupt?”
“How much do I know? How much did they allow me to know? We weren’t allowed to ask questions, Beatrice; we weren’t allowed to know things! And here…” He looks up, and in the flat circle of mirror right above us, I see our tiny figures, the size of fingernails. That, I think, is our true reflection; it is as small as we actually are. He continues, “Here, information is free, it’s always available. ”
“This isn’t Candor. There are liars here, Caleb. There are people who are so smart they know how to manipulate you. ”
“Don’t you think I would know if I was being manipulated?”
“If they’re as smart as you think, then no. I don’t think you would know. ”
“You have no idea what you’re talking about,” he says, shaking his head.
“Yeah. How could I possibly know what a corrupt faction looks like? I’m just training to be Dauntless, for God’s sake,” I say. “At least I know what I’m a part of, Caleb. You are choosing to ignore what we’ve known all our lives—these people are arrogant and greedy and they will lead you nowhere. ”
His voice hardens. “I think you should go, Beatrice. ”
“With pleasure,” I say. “Oh, and not that it will matter to you, but Mom told me to tell you to research the simulation serum. ”
“You saw her?” He looks hurt. “Why didn’t she—”
“Because,” I say. “The Erudite don’t let the Abnegation into their compound anymore. Wasn’t that information available to you?”
I push past him, walking away from the mirror cave and the sculpture, and start down the sidewalk. I should never have left. The Dauntless compound sounds like home now—at least there, I know exactly where I stand, which is on unstable ground.
The crowd on the sidewalk thins, and I look up to see why. Standing a few yards in front of me are two Erudite men with their arms folded.
“Excuse me,” one of them says. “You’ll have to come with us. ”
One man walks so close behind me that I feel his breath against the back of my head. The other man leads me into the library and down three hallways to an elevator. Beyond the library the floors change from wood to white tile, and the walls glow like the ceiling of the aptitude test room. The glow bounces off the silver elevator doors, and I squint so I can see.
I try to stay calm. I ask myself questions from Dauntless training. What do you do if someone attacks you from behind? I envision thrusting my elbow back into a stomach or a groin. I imagine running. I wish I had a gun. These are Dauntless thoughts, and they have become mine.
What do you do if you’re attacked by two people at once? I follow the man down an empty, glowing corridor and into an office. The walls are made of glass—I guess I know which faction designed my school.
A woman sits behind a metal desk. I stare at her face. The same face dominates the Erudite library; it is plastered across every article Erudite releases. How long have I hated that face? I don’t remember.
“Sit,” Jeanine says. Her voice sounds familiar, especially when she is irritated. Her liquid gray eyes focus on mine.
“I’d rather not. ”
“Sit,” she says again. I have definitely heard her voice before.
I heard it in the hallway, talking to Eric, before I got attacked. I heard her mention Divergents. And once before—I heard it…
“It was your voice in the simulation,” I say. “The aptitude test, I mean. ”
She is the danger Tori and my mother warned me about, the danger of being Divergent. Sitting right in front of me.
“Correct. The aptitude test is by far my greatest achievement as a scientist,” she replies. “I looked up your test results, Beatrice. Apparently there was a problem with your test. It was never recorded, and your results had to be reported manually. Did you know that?”
“Did you know that you’re one of two people ever to get an Abnegation result and switch to Dauntless?”
“No,” I say, biting back my shock. Tobias and I are the only ones? But his result was genuine and mine was a lie. So it is really just him.
My stomach twinges at the thought of him. Right now I don’t care how unique he is. He called me pathetic.
“What made you choose Dauntless?” she asks.
“What does this have to do with anything?” I try to soften my voice, but it doesn’t work. “Aren’t you going to reprimand me for abandoning my faction and seeking out my brother? ‘Faction before blood,’ right?” I pause. “Come to think of it, why am I in your office in the first place? Aren’t you supposed to be important or something?”
Maybe that will take her down a few pegs.
Her mouth pinches for a second. “I will leave the reprimands to the Dauntless,” she says, leaning back in her chair.
I set my hands on the back of the chair I refused to sit in and clench my fingers. Behind her is a window that overlooks the city. The train takes a lazy turn in the distance.
“As to the reason for your presence here…a quality of my faction is curiosity,” she says, “and while perusing your records, I saw that there was another error with another one of your simulations. Again, it failed to be recorded. Did you know that?”
“How did you access my records? Only the Dauntless have access to those. ”
“Because Erudite developed the simulations, we have an…understanding with the Dauntless, Beatrice. ” She tilts her head and smiles at me. “I am merely concerned for the competence of our technology. If it fails while you are around, I have to ensure that it does not continue to do so, you understand?”
I understand only one thing: She is lying to me. She doesn’t care about the technology—she suspects that something is awry with my test results. Just like the Dauntless leaders, she is sniffing around for the Divergent. And if my mother wants Caleb to research the simulation serum, it is probably because Jeanine developed it.
But what is so threatening about my ability to manipulate the simulations? Why would it matter to the representative of the Erudite, of all people?
I can’t answer either question. But the look she gives me reminds me of the look in the attack dog’s eyes in the aptitude test—a vicious, predatory stare. She wants to rip me to pieces. I can’t lie down in submission now. I have become an attack dog too.
I feel my pulse in my throat.
“I don’t know how they work,” I say, “but the liquid I was injected with made me sick to my stomach. Maybe my simulation administrator was distracted because he was worried I would throw up, and he forgot to record it. I got sick after the aptitude test too. ”
“Do you habitually have a sensitive stomach, Beatrice?” Her voice is like a razor’s edge. She taps her trimmed fingernails against the glass desk.
“Ever since I was young,” I reply as smoothly as I can. I release the chair back and sidestep it to sit down. I can’t seem tense, even though I feel like my insides are writhing within me.
“You have been extremely successful with the simulations,” she says. “To what do you attributethe ease with which you complete them?”
“I’m brave,” I say, staring into her eyes. The other factions see the Dauntless a certain way. Brash, aggressive, impulsive. Cocky. I should be what she expects. I smirk at her. “I’m the best initiate they’ve got. ”
I lean forward, balancing my elbows on my knees. I will have to go further with this to make it convincing.
“You want to know why I chose Dauntless?” I ask. “It’s because I was bored. ” Further, further. Lies require commitment. “I was tired of being a wussy little do-gooder and I wanted out. ”
“So you don’t miss your parents?” she asks delicately.
“Do I miss getting scolded for looking in the mirror? Do I miss being told to shut up at the dinner table?” I shake my head. “No. I don’t miss them. They’re not my family anymore. ”
The lie burns my throat on the way out, or maybe that’s the tears I’m fighting. I picture my mother standing behind me with a comb and a pair of scissors, faintly smiling as she trims my hair, and I want to scream rather than insult her like this.
“Can I take that to mean…” Jeanine purses her lips and pauses for a few seconds before finishing. “…that you agree with the reports that have been released about the political leaders of this city?”
The reports that label my family as corrupt, power-hungry, moralizing dictators? The reports that carry subtle threats and hint at revolution? They make me sick to my stomach. Knowing that she is the one who released them makes me want to strangle her.
“Wholeheartedly,” I say.
One of Jeanine’s lackeys, a man in a blue collared shirt and sunglasses, drives me back to the Dauntless compound in a sleek silver car, the likes of which I have never seen before. The engine is almost silent. When I ask the man about it, he tells me it’s solar-powered and launches into a lengthy explanation of how the panels on the roof convert sunlight into energy. I stop listening after sixty seconds and stare out the window.
I don’t know what they’ll do to me when I get back. I suspect it will be bad. I imagine my feet dangling over the chasm and bite my lip.
When the driver pulls up to the glass building above the Dauntless compound, Eric is waiting for me by the door. He takes my arm and leads me into the building without thanking the driver. Eric’s fingers squeeze so hard I know I’ll have bruises.
He stands between me and the door that leads inside. He starts to crack his knuckles. Other than that, he is completely still.
I shudder involuntarily.
The faint pop of his knuckle-cracking is all I hear apart from my own breaths, which grow faster by the second. When he is finished, Eric laces his fingers together in front of him.
“Welcome back, Tris. ”
He walks toward me, carefully placing one foot in front of the other.
“What…” His first word is quiet. “Exactly,” he adds, louder this time, “were you thinking?”
“I…” He is so close I can see the holes his metal piercings fit into. “I don’t know. ”
“I am tempted to call you a traitor, Tris,” he says. “Have you never heard the phrase ‘faction before blood’?”
I have seen Eric do terrible things. I have heard him say terrible things. But I have never seen him like this. He is not a maniac anymore; he is perfectly controlled, perfectly poised. Careful and quiet.
For the first time, I recognize Eric for what he is: an Erudite disguised as a Dauntless, a genius as well as a sadist, a hunter of the Divergent.
I want to run.
“Were you unsatisfied with the life you have found here? Do you perhaps regret your choice?” Both of Eric’s metal-ridden eyebrows lift, forcing creases into his forehead. “I would like to hear an explanation for why you betrayed Dauntless, yourself, and me…” He taps his chest. “…by venturing into another faction’s headquarters. ”
“I…” I take a deep breath. He would kill me if he knew what I was, I can feel it. His hands curl into fists. I am alone here; if something happens to me, no one will know and no one will see it.
“If you cannot explain,” he says softly, “I may be forced to reconsider your rank. Or, because you seem to be so attached to your previous faction…perhaps I will be forced to reconsider your friends’ ranks. Perhaps the little Abnegation girl inside of you would take that more seriously. ”
My first thought is that he couldn’t do that, it wouldn’t be fair. My second thought is that of course he would, he would not hesitate to do it for a second. And he is right—the thought that my reckless behavior could force someone else out of a faction makes my chest ache from fear.
I try again. “I…”
But it is hard to breathe.
And then the door opens. Tobias walks in.
“What are you doing?” he asks Eric.
“Leave the room,” Eric says, his voice louder and not as monotone. He sounds more like the Eric I am familiar with. His expression, too, changes, becomes more mobile and animated. I stare, amazed that he can turn it on and off so easily, and wonder what the strategy behind it is.
“No,” Tobias says. “She’s just a foolish girl. There’s no need to drag her here and interrogate her. ”
“Just a foolish girl. ” Eric snorts. “If she were just a foolish girl, she wouldn’t be ranked first, now would she?”
Tobias pinches the bridge of his nose and looks at me through the spaces between his fingers. He is trying to tell me something. I think quickly. What advice has Four given me recently?
The only thing I can think of is: pretend some vulnerability.
It’s worked for me before.
“I…I was just embarrassed and didn’t know what to do. ” I put my hands in my pockets and look at the ground. Then I pinch my leg so hard that tears well up in my eyes, and I look up at Eric, sniffing. “I tried to…and…” I shake my head.
“You tried to what?” asks Eric.
“Kiss me,” says Tobias. “And I rejected her, and she went running off like a five-year-old. There’s really nothing to blame her for but stupidity. ”
We both wait.
Eric looks from me to Tobias and laughs, too loudly and for too long—the sound is menacing and grates against me like sandpaper. “Isn’t he a little too old for you, Tris?” he says, smiling again.
I wipe my cheek like I’m wiping a tear. “Can I go now?”
“Fine,” Eric says, “but you are not allowed to leave the compound without supervision again, you hear me?” He turns toward Tobias. “And you… had better make sure none of the transfers leave this compound again. And that none of the others try to kiss you. ”
Tobias rolls his eyes. “Fine. ”
I leave the room and walk outside again, shaking my hands to get rid of the jitters. I sit down on the pavement and wrap my arms around my knees.
I don’t know how long I sit there, my head down and my eyes closed, before the door opens again. It might have been twenty minutes and it might have been an hour. Tobias walks toward me.
I stand and cross my arms, waiting for the scolding to start. I slapped him and then got myself into trouble with the Dauntless—there has to be scolding.
“What?” I say.
“Are you all right?” A crease appears between his eyebrows, and he touches my cheek gently. I bat his hand away.
“Well,” I say, “first I got reamed out in front of everyone, and then I had to chat with the woman who’s trying to destroy my old faction, and then Eric almost tossed my friends out of Dauntless, so yeah, it’s shaping up to be a pretty great day, Four. ”
He shakes his head and looks at the dilapidated building to his right, which is made of brick and barely resembles the sleek glass spire behind me. It must be ancient. No one builds with brick anymore.
“Why do you care, anyway?” I say. “You can be either cruel instructor or concerned boyfriend. ” I tense up at the word “boyfriend. ” I didn’t mean to use it so flippantly, but it’s too late now. “You can’t play both parts at the same time. ”
“I am not cruel. ” He scowls at me. “I was protecting you this morning. How do you think Peter and his idiot friends would have reacted if they discovered that you and I were…” He sighs. “You would never win. They would always call your ranking a result of my favoritism rather than your skill. ”
I open my mouth to object, but I can’t. A few smart remarks come to mind, but I dismiss them. He’s right. My cheeks warm, and I cool them with my hands.
“You didn’t have to insult me to prove something to them,” I say finally.
“And you didn’t have to run off to your brother just because I hurt you,” he says. He rubs at the back of his neck. “Besides—it worked, didn’t it?”
“At my expense. ”
“I didn’t think it would affect you this way. ” Then he looks down and shrugs. “Sometimes I forget that I can hurt you. That you are capable of being hurt. ”
I slide my hands into my pockets and rock back on my heels. A strange feeling goes through me—a sweet, aching weakness. He did what he did because he believed in my strength.
At home it was Caleb who was strong, because he could forget himself, because all the characteristics my parents valued came naturally to him. No one has ever been so convinced of my strength.
I stand on my tiptoes, lift my head, and kiss him. Only our lips touch.
“You’re brilliant, you know that?” I shake my head. “You always know exactly what to do. ”
“Only because I’ve been thinking about this for a long time,” he says, kissing me briefly. “How I would handle it, if you and I…” He pulls back and smiles. “Did I hear you call me your boyfriend, Tris?”
“Not exactly. ” I shrug. “Why? Do you want me to?”
He slips his hands over my neck and presses his thumbs under my chin, tilting my head back so his forehead meets mine. For a moment he stands there, his eyes closed, breathing my air. I feel the pulse in his fingertips. I feel the quickness of his breath. He seems nervous.
“Yes,” he finally says. Then his smile fades. “You think we convinced him you’re just a silly girl?”
“I hope so,” I say. “Sometimes it helps to be small. I’m not sure I convinced the Erudite, though. ”
The corners of his mouth tug down, and he gives me a grave look. “There’s something I need to tell you. ”
“What is it?”
“Not now. ” He glances around. “Meet me back here at eleven thirty. Don’t tell anyone where you’re going. ”
I nod, and he turns away, leaving just as quickly as he came.
“Where have you been all day?” Christina asks when I walk back into the dormitory. The room is empty; everyone else must be at dinner. “I looked for you outside, but I couldn’t find you. Is everything okay? Did you get in trouble for hitting Four?”
I shake my head. The thought of telling her the truth about where I was makes me feel exhausted. How can I explain the impulse to hop on a train and visit my brother? Or the eerie calm in Eric’s voice as he questioned me? Or the reason that I exploded and hit Tobias to begin with?
“I just had to get away. I walked around for a long time,” I say. “And no, I’m not in trouble. He yelled at me, I apologized…that’s it. ”
As I speak, I’m careful to keep my eyes steady on hers and my hands still at my sides.
“Good,” she says. “Because I have something to tell you. ”
She looks over my head at the door and then stands on her tiptoes to see all the bunks—checking if they’re empty, probably. Then she sets her hands on my shoulders.
“Can you be a girl for a few seconds?”
“I’m always a girl. ” I frown.
“You know what I mean. Like a silly, annoying girl. ”
I twirl my hair around my finger. “’Kay. ”
She grins so wide I can see her back row of teeth. “Will kissed me. ”
“What?” I demand. “When? How? What happened?”
“You can be a girl!” She straightens, taking her hands from my shoulders. “Well, right after your little episode, we ate lunch and then we walked around near the train tracks. We were just talking about…I don’t even remember what we were talking about. And then he just stopped, and leaned in, and…kissed me. ”
“Did you know that he liked you?” I say. “I mean, you know. Like that. ”
“No!” She laughs. “The best part was, that was it. We just kept walking and talking like nothing happened. Well, until I kissed him. ”
“How long have you known you liked him?”
“I don’t know. I guess I didn’t. But then little things…how he put his arm around me at the funeral, how he opens doors for me like I’m a girl instead of someone who could beat the crap out of him. ”
I laugh. Suddenly I want to tell her about Tobias and everything that has happened between us. But the same reasons Tobias gave for pretending we aren’t together hold me back. I don’t want her to think that my rank has anything to do with my relationship with him.
So I just say, “I’m happy for you. ”
“Thanks,” she says. “I’m happy too. And I thought it would be a while before I could feel that way…you know. ”
She sits down on the edge of my bed and looks around the dormitory. Some of the initiates have already packed their things. Soon we’ll move into apartments on the other side of the compound. Those with government jobs will move to the glass building above the Pit. I won’t have to worry about Peter attacking me in my sleep. I won’t have to look at Al’s empty bed.
“I can’t believe it’s almost over,” she says. “It’s like we just got here. But it’s also like…like I haven’t seen home in forever. ”
“You miss it?” I lean into the bed frame.
“Yeah. ” She shrugs. “Some things are the same, though. I mean, everyone at home is just as loud as everyone here, so that’s good. But it’s easier there. You always know where you stand with everyone, because they tell you. There’s no…manipulation. ”
I nod. Abnegation prepared me for that aspect of Dauntless life. The Abnegation aren’t manipulative, but they aren’t forthright, either.
“I don’t think I could have made it through Candor initiation, though. ” She shakes her head. “There, instead of simulations, you get lie detector tests. All day, every day. And the final test…” She wrinkles her nose. “They give you this stuff they call truth serum and sit you in front of everyone and ask you a load of really personal questions. The theory is that if you spill all your secrets, you’ll have no desire to lie about anything, ever again. Like the worst about you is already in the open, so why not just be honest?”
I don’t know when I accumulated so many secrets. Being Divergent. Fears. How I really feel about my friends, my family, Al, Tobias. Candor initiation would reach things that even the simulations can’t touch; it would wreck me.
“Sounds awful,” I say.
“I always knew I couldn’t be Candor. I mean, I try to be honest, but some things you just don’t want people to know. Plus, I like to be in control of my own mind. ”
Don’t we all.
“Anyway,” she says. She opens the cabinet to the left of our bunk beds. When she pulls the door open, a moth flutters out, its white wings carrying it toward her face. Christina shrieks so loud I almost jump out of my skin and slaps at her cheeks.
“Get it off! Get it off get it off get it off!” she screams.
The moth flutters away.
“It’s gone!” I say. Then I laugh. “You’re afraid of…moths?”
“They’re disgusting. Those papery wings and their stupid bug bodies…” She shudders.
I keep laughing. I laugh so hard I have to sit down and hold my stomach.
“It’s not funny!” she snaps. “Well…okay, maybe it is. A little. ”
When I find Tobias late that night, he doesn’t say anything; he just grabs my hand and pulls me toward the train tracks.
He draws himself into a train car as it passes with bewildering ease and pulls me in after him. I fall against him, my cheek against his chest. His fingers slide down my arms, and he holds me by the elbows as the car bumps along the steel rails. I watch the glass building above the Dauntless compound shrink behind us.
“What is it you need to tell me?” I shout over the cry of the wind.
“Not yet,” he says.
He sinks to the floor and pulls me down with him, so he’s sitting with his back against the wall and I’m facing him, my legs trailing to the side on the dusty floor. The wind pushes strands of my hair loose and tosses them over my face. He presses his palms to my face, his index fingers sliding behind my ears, and pulls my mouth to his.
I hear the screech of the rails as the train slows, which means we must be nearing the middle of the city. The air is cold, but his lips are warm and so are his hands. He tilts his head and kisses the skin just beneath my jaw. I’m glad the air is so loud he can’t hear me sigh.
The train car wobbles, throwing off my balance, and I put my hand down to steady myself. A split second later I realize that my hand is on his hip. The bone presses into my palm. I should move it, but I don’t want to. He told me once to be brave, and though I have stood still while knives spun toward my face and jumped off a roof, I never thought I would need bravery in the small moments of my life. I do.
I shift, swinging a leg over him so I sit on top of him, and with my heartbeat in my throat, I kiss him. He sits up straighter and I feel his hands on my shoulders. His fingers slip down my spine and a shiver follows them down to the small of my back. He unzips my jacket a few inches, and I press my hands to my legs to stop them from shaking. I should not be nervous. This is Tobias.
Cold air slips across my bare skin. He pulls away and looks carefully at the tattoos just above my collarbone. His fingers brush over them, and he smiles.
“Birds,” he says. “Are they crows? I keep forgetting to ask. ”
I try to return his smile. “Ravens. One for each member of my family,” I say. “You like them?”
He doesn’t answer. He tugs me closer, pressing his lips to each bird in turn. I close my eyes. His touch is light, sensitive. A heavy, warm feeling, like spilling honey, fills my body, slowing my thoughts. He touches my cheek.
“I hate to say this,” he says, “but we have to get up now. ”
I nod and open my eyes. We both stand, and he tugs me with him to the open door of the train car. The wind is not as strong now that the train has slowed. It’s past midnight, so all the street lights are dark, and the buildings look like mammoths as they rise from the darkness and then sink into it again. Tobias lifts a hand and points at a cluster of buildings, so far away they are the size of a fingernail. They are the only bright spot in the dark sea around us. Erudite headquarters again.
“Apparently the city ordinances don’t mean anything to them,” he says, “because their lights will be on all night. ”
“No one else has noticed?” I say, frowning.
“I’m sure they have, but they haven’t done anything to stop it. It may be because they don’t want to cause a problem over something so small. ” Tobias shrugs, but the tension in his features worries me. “But it made me wonder what the Erudite are doing that requires night light. ”
He turns toward me, leaning against the wall.
“Two things you should know about me. The first is that I am deeply suspicious of people in general,” he says. “It is my nature to expect the worst of them. And the second is that I am unexpectedly good with computers. ”
I nod. He said his other job was working with computers, but I still have trouble picturing him sitting in front of a screen all day.
“A few weeks ago, before training started, I was at work and I found a way into the Dauntless secure files. Apparently we are not as skilled as the Erudite are at security,” he says, “and what I discovered was what looked like war plans. Thinly veiled commands, supply lists, maps. Things like that. And those files were sent by Erudite. ”
“War?” I brush my hair away from my face. Listening to my father insult Erudite all my life has made me wary of them, and my experiences in the Dauntless compound make me wary of authority and human beings in general, so I’m not shocked to hear that a faction could be planning a war.
And what Caleb said earlier. Something big is happening, Beatrice. I look up at Tobias.
“War on Abnegation?”
He takes my hands, lacing his fingers with mine, and says, “The faction that controls the government. Yes. ”
My stomach sinks.
“All those reports are supposed to stir up dissension against Abnegation,” he says, his eyes focused on the city beyond the train car. “Evidently the Erudite now want to speed up the process. I have no idea what to do about it…or what could even be done. ”
“But,” I say, “why would Erudite team up with Dauntless?”
And then something occurs to me, something that hits me in the gut and gnaws at my insides. Erudite doesn’t have weapons, and they don’t know how to fight—but the Dauntless do.
I stare wide-eyed at Tobias.
“They’re going to use us,” I say.
“I wonder,” he says, “how they plan to get us to fight. ”
I told Caleb that the Erudite know how to manipulate people. They could coerce some of us into fighting with misinformation, or by appealing to greed—any number of ways. But the Erudite are as meticulous as they are manipulative, so they wouldn’t leave it up to chance. They would need to make sure that all their weaknesses are shored up. But how?
The wind blows my hair across my face, cutting my vision into strips, and I leave it there.
“I don’t know,” I say.
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