I noticed tension in the training room when I posted the rankings earlier this evening—I never thought, when I was tallying up the points for the rankings, that maybe I should mark her down for her protection. It would have been an insult to her skill in the simulations to put her any lower on the list, but maybe she would have preferred the insult to the growing rift between her and her fellow transfers.
Even though she’s pale and exhausted, and there are little cuts around each of her nail beds, and a wavering look in her eyes, I know that’s not the case. This girl would never want to be tucked safely in the middle of the pack, never.Watch Divergent 4: Ascendant (2017)
“You belong here, you know that?” I say. “You belong with us. It’ll be over soon, so … just hold on, okay?”
The back of my neck suddenly feels hot, and I scratch at it with one hand, unable to meet her eyes, though I can feel them on me as the silence stretches.
Then she slips her fingers between mine, and I stare at her, startled. I squeeze her hand, lightly, and it registers through my turmoil and my exhaustion that though I’ve touched her half a dozen times—each one a lapse in judgment—this is the first time she’s ever done it back.
Then she turns and runs to catch up with her friends.
And I stand in the hallway, alone, grinning like an idiot.
I try to sleep for the better part of an hour, twisting under the covers to find a comfortable position. But it seems like someone has replaced my mattress with a bag of rocks. Or maybe it’s just that my mind is too busy for sleep.
Eventually I give up, putting on my shoes and jacket and walking to the Pire, the way I do every time I can’t sleep. I think about running the fear landscape program again, but I didn’t think to replenish my supply of simulation serum this afternoon, and it would be a hassle to get some now. Instead I walk to the control room, where Gus greets me with a grunt and the other two on staff don’t even notice me come in.
I don’t try to go through Max’s files again—I feel like I know everything I need to know, which is that something bad is coming and I have no idea whether I’ll try to stop it.
I need to tell someone, I need someone to share in this with me, to tell me what to do. But there’s no one that I would trust with something like this. Even my friends here were born and raised in Dauntless; how can I know that they wouldn’t trust their leaders implicitly? I can’t know.
For some reason, Tris’s face comes to mind, open but stern as she clasps my hand in the hallway.
I scroll through the footage, looking over the city streets and then returning to the Dauntless compound. Most of the hallways are so dark, I couldn’t see anything even if it was there. In my headphones, I hear only the rush of water in the chasm or the whistle of wind through the alleys. I sigh, leaning my head into my hand, and watch the changing images, one after another, and let them lull me into something like sleep.
“Go to bed, Four,” Gus says from across the room.
I jerk awake, and nod. If I’m not actually looking at the footage it’s not a good idea for me to be in the control room. I log out of my account and walk down the hallway to the elevator, blinking myself awake.
As I walk across the lobby, I hear a scream coming from below, coming from the Pit. It’s not a good-natured Dauntless shout, or the shriek of someone who is scared but delighted, or anything but the particular tone, the particular pitch of terror.
Small rocks scatter behind me as I run down to the bottom of the Pit, my breathing fast and heavy, but even.
Three tall, dark-clothed people stand near the railing below. They are crowded around a fourth, smaller target, and even though I can’t see much about them, I know a fight when I see one. Or, I would call it a fight, if it wasn’t three against one.
One of the attackers wheels around, sees me, and sprints in the other direction. When I get closer I see one of the remaining attackers holding the target up, over the chasm, and I shout, “Hey!”
I see her hair, blond, and I can hardly see anything else. I collide with one of the attackers—Drew, I can tell by the color of his hair, orange-red—and slam him into the chasm barrier. I hit him once, twice, three times in the face, and he collapses to the ground, and then I’m kicking him and I can’t think, can’t think at all.
“Four.” Her voice is quiet, ragged, and it’s the only thing that could possibly reach me in this place. She’s hanging from the railing, dangling over the chasm like a piece of bait from a fishing hook. The other one, the last attacker, is gone.
I run toward her, grabbing her under her shoulders, and pull her over the edge of the railing. I hold her against me. She presses her face to my shoulder, twisting her fingers into my shirt.
Drew is on the ground, collapsed. I hear him groan as I carry her away—not to the infirmary, where the others who went after her would think to look for her, but to my apartment, in its lonely, removed corridor. I shove my way through the apartment door and lay her down on my bed. I run my fingers over her nose and cheekbones to check for breaks, then I feel for her pulse, and lean in close to listen to her breathing. Everything seems normal, steady. Even the bump on the back of her head, though swollen and scraped, doesn’t seem serious. She isn’t badly injured, but she could have been.
My hands shake when I pull away from her. She isn’t badly injured, but Drew might be. I don’t even know how many times I hit him before she finally said my name and woke me up. The rest of my body starts to shake, too, and I make sure there’s a pillow supporting her head, then leave the apartment to go back to the railing next to the Pit. On the way, I try to replay the last few minutes in my mind, try to recall what I punched and when and how hard, but the whole thing is lost to a dizzy fit of anger.
I wonder if this is what it was like for him, I think, remembering the wild, frantic look in Marcus’s eyes every time he got angry.
When I reach the railing, Drew is still there, lying in a strange, crumpled position on the ground. I pull his arm across my shoulders and half lift, half drag him to the infirmary.Watch Divergent 4: Ascendant (2017)
When I make it back to my apartment, I immediately walk to the bathroom to wash the blood from my hands—a few of my knuckles are split, cut from the impact with Drew’s face. If Drew was there, the other attacker had to be Peter, but who was the third? Not Molly—the shape was too tall, too big. In fact, there’s only one initiate that size.
I check my reflection, like I’m going to see little pieces of Marcus staring back at me there. There’s a cut at the corner of my mouth—did Drew hit me back at some point? It doesn’t matter. My lapse in memory doesn’t matter. What matters is that Tris is breathing.
I keep my hands under the cool water until it runs clear, then dry them on the towel and go to the freezer for an ice pack. As I carry it toward her, I realize she’s awake.
“Your hands,” she says, and it’s a ridiculous thing to say, so stupid, to be worried about my hands when she was just dangled over the chasm by her throat.
“My hands,” I say irritably, “are none of your concern.”
I lean over her, slipping the ice pack under her head, where I felt a bump earlier. She lifts her hand and touches her fingertips lightly to my mouth.
I never thought you could feel a touch this way, like a jolt of energy. Her fingers are soft, curious.
“Tris,” I say. “I’m all right.”
“Why were you there?”
“I was coming back from the control room. I heard a scream.”
“What did you do to them?”
“I deposited Drew at the infirmary a half hour ago. Peter and Al ran. Drew claimed they were just trying to scare you. At least, I think that’s what he was trying to say.”
“He’s in bad shape?”
“He’ll live. In what condition, I can’t say,” I spit.
I shouldn’t let her see this side of me, the side that derives savage pleasure from Drew’s pain. I shouldn’t have this side.
She reaches for my arm, squeezes it. “Good,” she says.
I look down at her. She has that side, too, she must have it. I saw the way she looked when she beat Molly, like she was going to keep going whether her opponent was unconscious or not. Maybe she and I are the same.
Her face contorts, twists, and she starts to cry. Most of the time, when someone has cried in front of me, I’ve felt squeezed, like I needed to escape their company in order to breathe. I don’t feel that way with her. I don’t worry, with her, that she expects too much from me, or that she needs anything from me at all. I sink down to the floor so we’re on the same plane, and watch her carefully for a moment. Then I touch my hand to her cheek, careful not to press against any of her still-forming bruises. I run my thumb over her cheekbone. Her skin is warm.Watch Divergent 4: Ascendant (2017)
I don’t have the right word for how she looks, but even now, with parts of her face swollen and discolored, there’s something striking about her, something I haven’t seen before.
In that moment I’m able to accept the inevitability of how I feel, though not with joy. I need to talk to someone. I need to trust someone. And for whatever reason, I know, I know it’s her.
I’ll have to start by telling her my name.
I approach Eric in the breakfast line, standing behind him with my tray as he uses a long-handled spoon to scoop scrambled eggs onto his plate.
“If I told you that one of the initiates was attacked last night by a few of the other initiates,” I say, “would you even care?”
He pushes the eggs to one side of his plate, and lifts a shoulder. “I might care that their instructor doesn’t seem to be able to control his initiates,” Eric says as I pick up a bowl of cereal for myself. He eyes my split knuckles. “I might care that this hypothetical attack would be the second under that instructor’s watch … whereas the Dauntless-borns don’t seem to have this problem.”
“Tensions between the transfers are naturally higher—they don’t know each other, or this faction, and their backgrounds are wildly different,” I say. “And you’re their leader, shouldn’t you be responsible for keeping them ‘under control’?”
He sets a piece of toast next to his eggs with some tongs. Then he leans in close to my ear and says, “You’re on thin ice, Tobias,” he hisses. “Arguing with me in front of the others. ‘Lost’ simulation results. Your obvious bias toward the weaker initiates in the rankings. Even Max agrees now. If there was an attack, I don’t think he would be too happy with you, and he might not object when I suggest that you be removed from your post.”
“Then you’d be out an initiation instructor a week before the end of initiation.”
“I can finish it out myself.”
“I can only imagine what it would be like under your watch,” I say, narrowing my eyes. “We wouldn’t even need to make any cuts. They would all die or defect on their own.”
“If you’re not careful you won’t have to imagine anything.” He reaches the end of the food line and turns to me. “Competitive environments create tension, Four. It’s natural for that tension to be released somehow.” He smiles a little, stretching the skin between his piercings. “An attack would certainly show us, in a real-world situation, who the strong ones and the weak ones are, don’t you think? We wouldn’t have to rely on the test results at all, that way. We could make a more informed decision about who doesn’t belong here. That is … if an attack were to happen.”
The implication is clear: As the survivor of the attack, Tris would be viewed as weaker than the other initiates, and fodder for elimination. Eric wouldn’t rush to the aid of the victim, but would rather advocate for her expulsion from Dauntless, as he did before Edward left of his own accord. I don’t want Tris to be forced into factionlessness.
“Right,” I say lightly. “Well, it’s a good thing no attacks have happened recently, then.”
I dump some milk on top of my cereal and walk to my table. Eric won’t do anything to Peter, Drew, or Al, and I can’t do anything without stepping out of line and suffering the repercussions. But maybe—maybe I don’t have to do this alone. I put my tray down between Zeke and Shauna and say, “I need your help with something.”
After the fear landscape explanation is over and the initiates are dismissed for lunch, I pull Peter aside into the observation room next to the bare simulation room. It contains rows of chairs, ready for the initiates to sit in as they wait to take their final test. It also contains Zeke and Shauna.
“We need to have a chat,” I say.
Zeke lurches toward Peter, slamming him against the concrete wall with alarming force. Peter cracks the back of his head, and winces.
“Hey there,” Zeke says, and Shauna moves toward them, spinning a knife on her palm.
“What is this?” Peter says. He doesn’t even look a little afraid, even when Shauna catches the blade by the handle and touches the point to his cheek, creating a dimple. “Trying to scare me?” he sneers.
“No,” I say. “Trying to make a point. You’re not the only one with friends who are willing to do some harm.”
“I don’t think initiation instructors are supposed to threaten initiates, do you?” Peter gives me a wide-eyed look, one I might mistake for innocence if I didn’t know what he was really like. “I’ll have to ask Eric, though, just to be sure.”
“I didn’t threaten you,” I say. “I’m not even touching you. And according to the footage of this room that’s stored on the control room computers, we’re not even in here right now.”
Zeke grins like he can’t help it. That was his idea.
“I’m the one who’s threatening you,” Shauna says, almost in a growl. “One more violent outburst and I’m going to teach you a lesson about justice.” She holds the knife point over his eye, and brings it down slowly, pressing the point to his eyelid. Peter freezes, barely moving even to breathe. “An eye for an eye. A bruise for a bruise.”
“Eric may not care if you go after your peers,” Zeke says, “but we do, and there are a lot of Dauntless like us. People who don’t think you should lay a hand on your fellow faction members. People who listen to gossip, and spread it like wildfire. It won’t take long for us to tell them what kind of worm you are, or for them to make your life very, very difficult. You see, in Dauntless, reputations tend to stick.”
“We’ll start with all your potential employers,” Shauna says. “The supervisors in the control room—Zeke can take them; the leaders out by the fence—I’ll get those. Tori knows everyone in the Pit—Four, you’re friends with Tori, right?”
“Yes I am,” I say. I move closer to Peter, and tilt my head. “You may be able to cause pain, initiate … but we can cause you lifelong misery.”
Shauna takes the knife away from Peter’s eye. “Think about it.”
Zeke lets go of Peter’s shirt and smooths it down, still smiling. Somehow the combination of Shauna’s ferocity and Zeke’s cheerfulness is just strange enough to be threatening. Zeke waves at Peter, and we all leave together.
“You want us to talk to people anyway, right?” Zeke asks me.
“Oh yeah,” I say. “Definitely. Not just about Peter. Drew and Al, too.”
“Maybe if he survives initiation, I’ll accidentally trip him and he’ll fall right into the chasm,” Zeke says hopefully, making a plummeting gesture with his hand.
The next morning, there’s a crowd gathered by the chasm, all quiet and still, though the smell of breakfast beckons us all toward the cafeteria. I don’t have to ask what they’re gathered for.
This happens almost every year, I’m told. A death. Like Amar’s, sudden and awful and wasteful. A body pulled out of the chasm like a fish on a hook. Usually someone young—an accident, because of a daredevil stunt gone wrong, or maybe not an accident, a wounded mind further injured by the darkness, pressure, pain of Dauntless.
I don’t know how to feel about those deaths. Guilty, maybe, for not seeing the pain myself. Sad, that some people can’t find another way to escape.
I hear the name of the deceased spoken up ahead, and both emotions strike me hard.
Al. Al. Al.
My initiate—my responsibility, and I failed, because I’ve been so obsessed with catching Max and Jeanine, or with blaming everything on Eric, or with my indecision about warning the Abnegation. No—none of those things so much as this: that I distanced myself from them for my own protection, when I should have been drawing them out of the dark places here and into the lighter ones. Laughing with friends on the chasm rocks. Late-night tattoos after a game of Dare. A sea of embraces after the rankings are announced. Those are the things I could have shown him—even if it wouldn’t have helped him, I should have tried.
I know one thing: after this year’s initiation is done, Eric won’t need to try so hard to oust me from this position. I’m already gone.
Al. Al. Al.
Why do all dead people become heroes in Dauntless? Why do we need them to? Maybe they’re the only ones we can find in a faction of corrupt leaders, competitive peers, and cynical instructors. Dead people can be our heroes because they can’t disappoint us later; they only improve over time, as we forget more and more about them.
Al was unsure and sensitive, and then jealous and violent, and then gone. Softer men than Al have lived and harder men than Al have died and there’s no explanation for any of it.
But Tris wants one, craves one, I can see it in her face, a kind of hunger. Or anger. Or both. I can’t imagine it’s easy to like someone, hate them, and then lose them before any of those feelings are resolved. I follow her away from the chanting Dauntless because I’m arrogant enough to believe I can make her feel better.
Right. Sure. Or maybe I follow her because I’m tired of being so removed from everyone, and I’m no longer sure it’s the best way to be.
“Tris,” I say.
“What are you doing here?” she says bitterly. “Shouldn’t you be paying your respects?”
“Shouldn’t you?” I move toward her.
“Can’t pay respect when you don’t have any.” I’m surprised, for a moment, that she can manage to be so cold—Tris isn’t always nice, but she’s rarely cavalier about anything. It only takes her a second to shake her head. “I didn’t mean that.”
“This is ridiculous,” she says, flushing. “He throws himself off a ledge and Eric’s calling it brave? Eric, who tried to have you throw knives at Al’s head?” Her face contorts. “He wasn’t brave! He was depressed and a coward and he almost killed me! Is that the kind of thing we respect here?”
“What do you want them to do?” I say as gently as I can—which isn’t saying much. “Condemn him? Al’s already dead. He can’t hear it, and it’s too late.”
“It’s not about Al,” she says. “It’s about everyone watching! Everyone who now sees hurling themselves into the chasm as a viable option. I mean, why not do it if everyone calls you a hero afterward? Why not do it if everyone will remember your name?” But of course, it is about Al, and she knows that. “It’s …” She’s struggling, fighting with herself. “I can’t … This would never have happened in Abnegation! None of it! Never. This place warped him and ruined him, and I don’t care if saying that makes me a Stiff, I don’t care, I don’t care!”
My paranoia is so deeply ingrained, I look automatically at the camera buried in the wall above the drinking fountain, disguised by the blue lamp fixed there. The people in the control room can see us, and if we’re unlucky, they could choose this moment to hear us, too. I can see it now, Eric calling Tris a faction traitor, Tris’s body on the pavement near the railroad tracks …
“Careful, Tris,” I say.
“Is that all you can say?” She frowns at me. “That I should be careful? That’s it?”
I understand that my response wasn’t exactly what she was expecting, but for someone who just railed against Dauntless recklessness, she’s definitely acting like one of them.
“You’re as bad as the Candor, you know that?” I say. The Candor are always running their mouths, never thinking about the consequences. I pull her away from the drinking fountain, and then I’m close to her face and I can see her dead eyes floating in the water of the underground river and I can’t stand it, not when she was just attacked and who knows what would have happened if I hadn’t heard her scream.
“I’m not going to say this again, so listen carefully.” I put my hands on her shoulders. “They are watching you. You, in particular.”
I remember Eric’s eyes on her after the knife throwing. His questions about her deleted simulation data. I claimed water damage. He thought it was interesting that the water damage occurred not five minutes after Tris’s simulation ended. Interesting.
“Let go of me,” she says.
I do, immediately. I don’t like hearing her voice that way.
“Are they watching you, too?”
Always have been, always will be. “I keep trying to help you, but you refuse to be helped.”
“Oh, right. Your help,” she says. “Stabbing my ear with a knife and taunting me and yelling at me more than you yell at anyone else, it sure is helpful.”
“Taunting you? You mean when I threw the knives? I wasn’t taunting you!” I shake my head. “I was reminding you that if you failed, someone else would have to take your place.”
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