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THE ERUDITE DORMITORY is one of the larger sleeping rooms in Amity headquarters. There are twelve beds total: a row of eight crammed together along the far wall, and two pressed together on each side, leaving a huge space in the middle of the room. A large table occupies that space, covered with tools and scraps of metal and gears and old computer parts and wires.
Christina and I just finished explaining our plan, which sounded a lot dumber with more than a dozen Erudite staring us down as we talked.
“Your plan is flawed,” Cara says. She is the first to respond.
“That’s why we came to you,” I say. “So you could tell us how to fix it. ”
“Well, first of all, this important data you want to rescue,” she says. “Putting it on a disc is a ridiculous idea. Discs just end up breaking or in the wrong person’s hands, like all other physical objects. I suggest you make use of the data network. ”
“The . . . what?”
She glances at the other Erudite. One of the others—a brown-skinned young man in glasses—says, “Go on. Tell them. There’s no reason to keep secrets anymore. ”
Cara looks back at me. “Many of the computers in the Erudite compound are set up to access data from the computers in other factions. That’s how it was so easy for Jeanine to run the attack simulation from a Dauntless computer instead of an Erudite one. ”
“What?” says Christina. “You mean you can just take a stroll through every faction’s data whenever you want?”
“You can’t ‘take a stroll’ through data,” the young man says. “That’s illogical. ”
“It’s a metaphor,” says Christina. She frowns. “Right?”
“A metaphor, or simply a figure of speech?” he says, also frowning. “Or is a metaphor a definite category beneath the heading of ‘figure of speech’?”
“Fernando,” says Cara. “Focus. ”
“The fact is,” Cara continues, “the data network exists, and that is ethically questionable, but I believe it can work to our advantage here. Just as the computers can access data from other factions, they can send data to other factions. If we sent the data you wished to rescue to every other faction, destroying it all would be impossible. ”
“When you say ‘we,’” I say, “are you implying that—”
“That we would be going with you?” she says. “Obviously not all of us would go, but some of us must. How do you expect to navigate Erudite headquarters on your own?”
“You do realize that if you come with us, you might get shot,” says Christina. She smiles. “And no hiding behind us because you don’t want to break your glasses, or whatever. ”
Cara removes her glasses and snaps them in half at the bridge.
“We risked our lives by defecting from our faction,” says Cara, “and we will risk them again to save our faction from itself. ”
“Also,” pipes up a small voice behind Cara. A girl no older than ten or eleven peers around Cara’s elbow. Her black hair is short, like mine, and a halo of frizz surrounds her head. “We have useful gadgets. ”
Christina and I exchange a look.
I say, “What kinds of gadgets?”
“They’re just prototypes,” Fernando says, “so there’s no need to scrutinize them. ”
“Scrutiny’s not really our thing,” says Christina.
“Then how do you make things better?” the little girl asks.
“We don’t, really,” Christina says, sighing. “They kind of just keep getting worse. ”
The little girl nods. “Entropy. ”
“Entropy,” she chirps. “It’s the theory that all matter in the universe is gradually moving toward the same temperature. Also known as ‘heat death. ’”
“Elia,” Cara says, “that is a gross oversimplification. ”
Elia sticks out her tongue at Cara. I can’t help but laugh. I have never seen one of the Erudite stick out her tongue before. But then again, I haven’t interacted with many young Erudite. Only Jeanine and the people who work for her. Including my brother.
Fernando crouches next to one of the beds and takes out a box. He digs inside it for a few seconds, then picks up a small, round disc. It is made of a pale metal that I saw often in Erudite headquarters but have never seen anywhere else. He carries it toward me on his palm. When I reach for it, he jerks it away from me.
“Careful!” he says. “I brought this from headquarters. It’s not something we invented here. Were you there when they attacked Candor?”
“Yes,” I say. “Right there. ”
“Remember when the glass shattered?”
“Were you there?” I say, narrowing my eyes.
“No. They recorded it and showed the footage at Erudite headquarters,” he says. “Well, it looked like the glass shattered because they shot at it, but that’s not really true. One of the Dauntless soldiers tossed one of these near the windows. It emits a signal that you can’t hear, but that will cause glass to shatter. ”
“Okay,” I say. “And how will that be useful to us?”
“You may find that it’s rather distracting for people when all their windows shatter at once,” he says with a small smile. “Especially in Erudite headquarters, where there are a lot of windows. ”
“Right,” I say.
“What else have you got?” says Christina.
“The Amity will like this,” Cara says. “Where is it? Ah. Here. ”
She picks up a black box made of plastic, small enough for her to wrap her fingers around it. At the top of the box are two pieces of metal that look like teeth. She flips a switch at the bottom of the box, and a thread of blue light stretches across the gap between the teeth.
“Fernando,” says Cara. “Want to demonstrate?”
“Are you joking?” he says, his eyes wide. “I’m never doing that again. You’re dangerous with that thing. ”
Cara grins at him, and explains, “If I touched you with this stunner right now, it would be extremely painful, and then it would disable you. Fernando found that out the hard way yesterday. I made it so that the Amity would have a way of defending themselves without shooting anyone. ”
“That’s . . . ” I frown. “Understanding of you. ”
“Well, technology is supposed to make life better,” she says. “No matter what you believe, there’s a technology out there for you. ”
What did my mother say, in that simulation? “I worry that your father’s blustering about Erudite has been to your detriment. ” What if she was right, even if she was just a part of a simulation? My father taught me to see Erudite a particular way. He never taught me that they made no judgments about what people believed, but designed things for them within the confines of those beliefs. He never told me that they could be funny, or that they could critique their own faction from the inside.
Cara lunges toward Fernando with the stunner, laughing when he jumps back.
He never told me that an Erudite could offer to help me even after I killed her brother.
The attack will begin in the afternoon, before it is too dark to see the blue armbands that mark some of the Dauntless as traitors. As soon as our plans are finalized, we walk through the orchard to the clearing where the trucks are kept. When I emerge from the trees, I see that Johanna Reyes is perched on the hood of one of the trucks, the keys dangling from her fingers.
Behind her waits a small convoy of vehicles packed with Amity—but not just Amity, because Abnegation, with their severe hairstyles and still mouths, are among them. Robert, Susan’s older brother, is with them.
Johanna hops down from the hood. In the back of the truck she was just sitting on is a stack of crates marked APPLES and FLOUR and CORN. It’s a good thing we only have to fit two people in the back.
“Hello, Johanna,” says Marcus.
“Marcus,” she says. “I hope you don’t mind if we accompany you to the city. ”
“Of course not,” he says. “Lead the way. ”
Johanna gives Marcus the keys and climbs into the bed of one of the other trucks. Christina starts toward the truck cab, and I go for the truck bed, with Fernando behind me.
“You don’t want to sit up front?” says Christina. “And you call yourself a Dauntless. . . . ”
“I went for the part of the truck in which I was least likely to vomit,” I say.
“Puking is a part of life. ”
I am about to ask her exactly how often she intends to throw up in the future when the truck surges forward. I grab the side with both hands so that I don’t fall out, but after a few minutes, when I get used to the bumping and jostling, I let go. The other trucks trundle along in front of us, behind Johanna’s, which leads the way.
I feel calm until we reach the fence. I expect to encounter the same guards who tried to stop us on the way in, but the gate is abandoned, left open. A tremor starts in my chest and spreads to my hands. In the midst of meeting new people and making plans, I forgot that my plan is to walk straight into a battle that could claim my life. Right after I realized that my life was worth living.
The convoy slows down as we pass through the fence, like they expect someone to jump out and stop us. Everything is silent apart from the cicadas in the distant trees and the truck engines.
“Do you think it’s already started?” I say to Fernando.
“Perhaps. Perhaps not,” he says. “Jeanine has many informants. Someone probably told her that something was going to happen, so she called all the Dauntless forces back to Erudite headquarters. ”
I nod, but I am really thinking of Caleb. He was one of those informants. I wonder why he believed so strongly that the outside world should be hidden from us that he would betray everyone he supposedly cared about for Jeanine, who cares about no one.
“Did you ever meet someone named Caleb?” I say.
“Caleb,” Fernando says. “Yes, there was a Caleb in my initiate class. Brilliant, but he was . . . what’s the colloquial term for it? A suck-up. ” He smirks. “There was a bit of a division between initiates. Those who embraced everything Jeanine said and those who didn’t. Obviously I was a member of the latter group. Caleb was a member of the former. Why do you ask?”
“I met him while I was imprisoned,” I say, and my voice sounds far away even to me. “I was just curious. ”
“I wouldn’t judge him too harshly,” says Fernando. “Jeanine can be extraordinarily persuasive to those who aren’t naturally suspicious. I have always been naturally suspicious. ”
I stare over his left shoulder, at the skyline that gets clearer the closer we get to the city. I search for the two prongs at the top of the Hub, and when I find them, I feel better and worse at the same time—better, because the building is so familiar, and worse, because seeing the prongs means that we are getting closer.
“Yeah,” I say. “So have I. ”