“Anyway,” I say. “Your fears are rarely what they appear to be in the simulation.”
“What do you mean?”Watch Divergent 4: Ascendant (2017)
“Well, are you really afraid of crows?” I grin. “When you see one, do you run away screaming?”
“No, I guess not.”
She moves closer to me. I felt safer when there was more space between us. Even closer, and I think about touching her, and my mouth goes dry. I almost never think about people that way, about girls that way.
“So what am I really afraid of?” she says.
“I don’t know,” I say. “Only you can know.”
“I didn’t know Dauntless would be this difficult.”
I’m glad to have something else to think about, other than how easy it would be to fit my hand to the arch of her back.
“It wasn’t always like this, I’m told. Being Dauntless, I mean.”
“The leadership. The person who controls training sets the standard of Dauntless behavior. Six years ago Max and the other leaders changed the training methods to make them more competitive and more brutal.” Six years ago, the combat portion of training was brief and didn’t include bare-knuckled sparring. Initiates wore padding. The emphasis was on being strong and capable, and on developing camaraderie with the other initiates. And even when I was an initiate, it was better than this—an unlimited potential for initiates to become members, fights that stopped when one person conceded. “Said it was to test people’s strength. And that changed the priorities of Dauntless as a whole. Bet you can’t guess who the leaders’ new protégé is.”
Of course, she does immediately. “So if you were ranked first in your initiate class, what was Eric’s rank?”
“So he was their second choice for leadership. And you were their first.”
Perceptive. I don’t know that I was the first choice, but I was certainly a better option than Eric. “What makes you say that?”
“The way Eric was acting at dinner the first night. Jealous, even though he has what he wants.”
I’ve never thought of Eric that way. Jealous? Of what? I’ve never taken anything from him, never posed a real threat to him. He’s the one who came after Amar, who came after me. But maybe she’s right—maybe I never saw how frustrated he was to be second to a transfer from Abnegation, after all his hard work, or that I was favored by Max for leadership even when he was positioned here specifically to take the leadership role.
She wipes her face.
“Do I look like I’ve been crying?”
The question seems almost funny to me. Her tears vanished almost as quickly as they came, and now her face is fair again, her eyes dry, her hair smooth. Like nothing ever happened—like she didn’t just spend three minutes overwhelmed by terror. She’s stronger than I was.
“Hmm.” I lean in closer, making a joke of examining her, but then it’s not a joke, and I’m just close, and we’re sharing a breath.
“No, Tris,” I say. “You look …” I try a Dauntless expression. “Tough as nails.”
She smiles a little. So do I.
“Hey,” Zeke says sleepily, leaning his head into his fist. “Want to take over for me? I practically need to tape my eyes open.”
“Sorry,” I say. “I just need to use a computer. You do know it’s only nine o’clock, right?”Watch Divergent 4: Ascendant (2017)
He yawns. “I get tired when I’m bored out of my mind. Shift’s almost over, though.”
I love the control room at night. There are only three people monitoring the footage, so the room is silent except for the hum of computers. Through the windows I see only a sliver of the moon; everything else is dark. It’s hard to find peace in the Dauntless compound, and this is the place where I find it most often.
Zeke turns back to his screen. I sit at a computer a few seats over from him, and angle the screen away from the room. Then I log in, using the fake account name I set up several months ago, so no one would be able to track this back to me.
Once I’m logged in, I open the mirroring program that lets me use Max’s computer remotely. It takes a second to kick in, but when it does, it’s like I’m sitting in Max’s office, using the same machine he uses.
I work quickly, systematically. He labels his folders with numbers, so I don’t know what each one will contain. Most are benign, lists of Dauntless members or schedules of events. I open them and close them in seconds.
I go deeper into the files, folder after folder, and then I find something strange. A list of supplies, but the supplies don’t involve food or fabric or anything else I would expect for mundane Dauntless life—the list is for weapons. Syringes. And something marked Serum D2.
I can imagine only one thing that would require the Dauntless to have so many weapons: an attack. But on who?
I check the control room again, my heartbeat pounding in my head. Zeke is playing a computer game that he wrote himself. The second control-room operator is slumped to one side, her eyes half-closed. The third is stirring his glass of water idly with his straw, staring out the windows. No one is paying attention to me.
I open more files. After a few wasted efforts, I find a map. It’s marked mostly with letters and numbers, so at first I don’t know what it’s showing.
Then I open a map of the city on the Dauntless database to compare them, and sit back in my chair as I realize what streets Max’s map is focusing on.
The Abnegation sector.
The attack will be against Abnegation.
It should have been obvious, of course. Who else would Max and Jeanine bother to attack? Max and Jeanine’s vendetta is against Abnegation, and it always has been. I should have realized that when the Erudite released that story about my father, the monstrous husband and father. The only true thing they’ve written, as far as I can tell.
Zeke nudges my leg with his foot. “Shift’s over. Bedtime?”
“No,” I say. “I need a drink.”
He perks up noticeably. It’s not every night I decide I want to abandon my sterile, withdrawn existence for an evening of Dauntless indulgence.
“I’m your man,” he says.
I close down the program, my account, everything. I try to leave the information about the Abnegation attack behind, too, until I can figure out what to do about it, but it chases me all the way into the elevator, through the lobby, and down the paths to the bottom of the Pit.
+++Watch Divergent 4: Ascendant (2017)
I surface from the simulation with a heavy feeling in the pit of my stomach. I detach from the wires and get up. She’s still recovering from the sensation of almost drowning, shaking her hands and taking deep breaths. I watch her for a moment, not sure how to say what I need to say.
“What?” she says.
“How did you do that?”
“Crack the glass.”
“I don’t know.”
I nod, and offer her my hand. She gets up without any trouble, but she avoids my eyes. I check the corners of the room for cameras. There is one, just where I thought it would be, right across from us. I take her elbow and lead her out of the room, to a place where I know we won’t be observed, in the blind spot between two surveillance points.
“What?” she says irritably.
“You’re Divergent,” I say. I haven’t been very nice to her today. Last night I saw her and her friends by the chasm, and a lapse in judgment—or sobriety—led me to lean in too close, to tell her she looked good. I’m worried that I went too far. Now I’m even more worried, but for different reasons.
She cracked the glass. She’s Divergent. She’s in danger.
Then she sinks against the wall, adopting an almost-convincing aura of casualness. “What’s Divergent?”
“Don’t play stupid,” I say. “I suspected it last time, but this time it’s obvious. You manipulated the simulation; you’re Divergent. I’ll delete the footage, but unless you want to wind up dead at the bottom of the chasm, you’ll figure out how to hide it during the simulations! Now, if you’ll excuse me.”
I walk back to the simulation room, pulling the door closed behind me. It’s easy to delete the footage—just a few keystrokes and it’s done, the record clean. I double-check her file, making sure the only thing that’s in there is the data from the first simulation. I’ll have to come up with a way to explain where the data from this session went. A good lie, one that Eric and Max will actually believe.
In a hurry, I take out my pocketknife and wedge it between the panels covering the motherboard of the computer, prying them apart. Then I go into the hallway, to the drinking fountain, and fill my mouth with water.
When I return to the simulation room, I spit some of the water into the gap between the panels. I put my knife away and wait.
A minute or so later, the screen goes dark. Dauntless headquarters is basically a leaky cave—water damage happens all the time.
I was desperate.
I sent a message through the same factionless man I used as a messenger last time I wanted to get in touch with my mother. I arranged to meet her inside the last car of the ten-fifteen train from Dauntless headquarters. I assume she’ll know how to find me.
I sit with my back against the wall, an arm curled around one of my knees, and watch the city pass. Night trains don’t move as fast as day trains between stops. It’s easier to observe how the buildings change as the train draws closer to the center of the city, how they grow taller but narrower, how pillars of glass stand next to smaller, older stone structures. Like one city layered on top of another on top of another.
Someone runs alongside the train when it reaches the north side of the city. I stand up, holding one of the railings along the wall, and Evelyn stumbles into the car wearing Amity boots, an Erudite dress, and a Dauntless jacket. Her hair is pulled back, making her already-severe face even harsher.
“Hello,” she says.
“Hi,” I say.
“Every time I see you, you’re bigger,” she says. “I guess there’s no point in worrying that you’re eating well.”
“Could say the same to you,” I say, “but for different reasons.”
I know she’s not eating well. She’s factionless, and the Abnegation haven’t been providing as much aid as they usually do, with the Erudite bearing down on them the way they are.
I reach behind me and grab the backpack I brought with cans from the Dauntless storeroom.
“It’s just bland soup and vegetables, but it’s better than nothing,” I say when I offer it to her.
“Who says I need your help?” Evelyn says carefully. “I’m doing just fine, you know.”
“Yeah, that’s not for you,” I say. “It’s for all your skinny friends. If I were you, I wouldn’t turn down food.”
“I’m not,” she says, taking the backpack. “I’m just not used to you caring. It’s a little disarming.”
“I’m familiar with the feeling,” I say coldly. “How long was it before you checked in on my life? Seven years?”
Evelyn sighs. “If you asked me to come here just to start this argument again, I’m afraid I can’t stay long.”
“No,” I say. “No, that’s not why I asked you to come here.”
I didn’t want to contact her at all, but I knew I couldn’t tell any of the Dauntless what I had learned about the Abnegation attack—I don’t know how loyal to the faction and its policies they are—and I had to tell someone. The last time I spoke to Evelyn, she seemed to know things about the city that I didn’t. I assumed she might know how to help me with this, before it’s too late.
It’s a risk, but I’m not sure where else to turn.
“I’ve been keeping an eye on Max,” I say. “You said the Erudite were involved with the Dauntless, and you were right. They’re planning something together, Max and Jeanine and who knows who else.”
I tell her what I saw on Max’s computer, the supply lists and the maps. I tell her what I’ve observed about the Erudite’s attitude toward Abnegation, the reports, how they’re poisoning even Dauntless minds against our former faction.
When I finish, Evelyn doesn’t look surprised, or even grave. In fact, I have no idea how to read her expression. She’s quiet for a few seconds, and then she says, “Did you see any indication of when this might happen?”
“No,” I say.
“How about numbers? How large a force do Dauntless and Erudite intend to use? Where do they intend to summon it from?”
“I don’t know,” I say, frustrated. “I don’t really care, either. No matter how many recruits they get, they’ll mow down the Abnegation in seconds. It’s not like they’re trained to defend themselves—not like they would even if they knew how, either.”
“I knew something was going on,” Evelyn says, furrowing her brow. “The lights are on at Erudite headquarters all the time now. Which means that they’re not afraid of getting in trouble with the council leaders anymore, which … suggests something about their growing dissent.”
“Okay,” I say. “How do we warn them?”
“The Abnegation!” I say hotly. “How do we warn the Abnegation that they’re going to be killed, how do we warn the Dauntless that their leaders are conspiring against the council, how—”
I pause. Evelyn is standing with her hands loose at her sides, her face relaxed and passive. Our city is changing, Tobias. That’s what she said to me when we first saw each other again. Sometime soon, everyone will have to choose a side, and I know which one you would rather be on.
“You already knew,” I say slowly, struggling to process the truth. “You knew they were planning something like this, and have been for a while. You’re waiting for it. Counting on it.”
“I have no lingering affection for my former faction. I don’t want them, or any faction, to continue to control this city and the people in it,” Evelyn says. “If someone wants to take out my enemies for me, I’m going to let them.”
“I can’t believe you,” I say. “They’re not all Marcus, Evelyn. They’re defenseless.”
“You think they’re so innocent,” she says. “You don’t know them. I know them, I’ve seen them for who they really are.”
Her voice is low, throaty.
“How do you think your father managed to lie to you about me all those years? You think the other Abnegation leaders didn’t help him, didn’t perpetuate the lie? They knew I wasn’t pregnant, that no one had called a doctor, that there was no body. But they still told you I was dead, didn’t they?”
It hadn’t occurred to me before. There was no body. No body, but still all the men and women sitting in my father’s house on that awful morning and at the funeral the following evening played the game of pretend for me, and for the rest of the Abnegation community, saying even in their silence, No one would ever leave us. Who would want to?
I shouldn’t be so surprised to find that a faction is full of liars, but I guess there are parts of me that are still naive, still like a child.
“Think about it,” Evelyn said. “Are those people—the kind of people who would tell a child that his mother was dead just to save face—are they the ones you want to help? Or do you want to help remove them from power?”
I thought I knew. Those innocent Abnegation, with their constant acts of service and their deferent head-bobbing, they needed to be saved.
But those liars, who forced me into grief, who left me alone with the man who caused me pain—should they be saved?
I can’t look at her, can’t answer her. I wait for the train to pass a platform, and then jump off without looking back.
“Don’t take this the wrong way, but you look awful.”
Shauna sinks into the chair next to mine, setting her tray down. I feel like yesterday’s conversation with my mother was a sudden, earsplitting noise, and now every other sound is muffled. I’ve always known that my father was cruel. But I always thought the other Abnegation were innocent; deep down, I’ve always thought of myself as weak for leaving them, as a kind of traitor to my own values.
Now it seems like no matter what I decide, I’ll be betraying someone. If I warn the Abnegation about the attack plans I found on Max’s computer, I’ll be betraying Dauntless. If I don’t warn them, I betray my former faction again, in a much greater way than I did before. I have no choice but to decide, and the thought of deciding makes me feel sick.
I went through today the only way I knew how: I got up and went to work. I posted the rankings—which were a source of some contention, with me advocating for giving heavier weight to improvement, and Eric advocating for consistency. I went to eat. I put myself through the motions as if by muscle memory alone.
“You going to eat any of that?” Shauna says, nodding to my plate full of food.
I shrug. “Maybe.”
I can tell she’s about to ask what’s wrong, so I introduce a new topic. “How’s Lynn doing?”
“You would know better than I do,” she says. “Getting to see her fears and all that.”
I cut a piece from my hunk of meat and chew it.
“What’s that like?” she asks cautiously, raising an eyebrow at me. “Seeing all their fears, I mean.”
“Can’t talk to you about her fears,” I say. “You know that.”
“Is that your rule, or Dauntless’s rule?”
“Does it matter?”
Shauna sighs. “Sometimes I feel like I don’t even know her, that’s all.”
We eat the rest of our meals without speaking. That’s what I like most about Shauna: she doesn’t feel the need to fill the empty spaces. When we’re done, we leave the dining hall together, and Zeke calls out to us from across the Pit.
“Hey!” he says. He’s spinning a roll of tape around his finger. “Want to go punch something?”
“Yes,” Shauna and I say in unison.
We walk toward the training room, Shauna updating Zeke on her week at the fence—“Two days ago the idiot I was on patrol with started freaking out, swearing he saw something out there … Turns out it was a plastic bag”—and Zeke sliding his arm across her shoulders. I run my fingers over my knuckles and try not to get in their way.
When we get closer to the training room, I think I hear voices inside. Frowning, I push the door open with my foot. Standing inside are Lynn, Uriah, Marlene, and … Tris. The collision of worlds startles me a little.
“I thought I heard something in here,” I say.
Uriah is firing at a target with one of the plastic pellet guns the Dauntless keep around for fun—I know for a fact that he doesn’t own it, so this one must be Zeke’s—and Marlene is chewing on something. She grins at me and waves when I walk in.
“Turns out it’s my idiot brother,” says Zeke. “You’re not supposed to be here after hours. Careful, or Four will tell Eric, and then you’ll be as good as scalped.”
Uriah tucks the gun under his waistband, against the small of his back, without turning on the safety. He’ll probably end up with a welt on his butt later from the gun firing into his pants. I don’t mention it to him.
I hold the door open to usher them through it. As she passes me, Lynn says, “You wouldn’t tell Eric.”
“No, I wouldn’t,” I say. When Tris passes me I put out a hand, and it fits automatically in the space between her shoulder blades. I don’t even know if that was intentional or not. And I don’t really care.
The others start down the hallway, our original plan of spending time in the training room forgotten once Uriah and Zeke start bickering and Shauna and Marlene share the rest of a muffin.
“Wait a second,” I say to Tris. She turns to me, looking worried, so I try to smile, but it’s hard to feel like smiling right now.
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