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“BIOTECHNOLOGY HAS BEEN around for a long time, but it wasn’t always very effective,” Caleb says. He starts on the crust of his toast—he ate the middle first, just like he used to when we were little.
He sits across from me in the cafeteria, at the table closest to the windows. Carved into the wood along the table’s edge are the letters “D” and “T” linked together by a heart, so small I almost didn’t see them. I run my fingers over the carving as Caleb speaks.
“But Erudite scientists developed this highly effective mineral solution a while back. It was better for the plants than dirt,” he says. “It’s an earlier version of that salve they put on your shoulder—it accelerates the growth of new cells. ”
His eyes are wild with new information. Not all the Erudite are power hungry and devoid of conscience, like their leader, Jeanine Matthews. Some of them are like Caleb: fascinated by everything, dissatisfied until they find out how it works.
I rest my chin on my hand and smile a little at him. He seems upbeat this morning. I am glad he has found something to distract him from his grief.
“So Erudite and Amity work together, then?” I say.
“More closely than Erudite and any other faction,” he says. “Don’t you remember from our Faction History book? It called them the ‘essential factions’—without them, we would be incapable of survival. Some of the Erudite texts called them the ‘enriching factions. ’ And one of Erudite’s missions as a faction was to become both—essential and enriching. ”
It doesn’t sit well with me, how much our society needs Erudite to function. But they are essential—without them, there would be inefficient farming, insufficient medical treatments, and no technological advance.
I bite my apple.
“You aren’t going to eat your toast?” he says.
“The bread tastes strange,” I say. “You can have it if you want. ”
“I’m amazed by how they live here,” he says as he takes the toast from my plate. “They’re completely self-sustaining. They have their own source of power, their own water pumps, their own water filtration, their own food sources. . . . They’re independent. ”
“Independent,” I say, “and uninvolved. Must be nice. ”
It is nice, from what I can tell. The large windows beside our table let in so much sunlight I feel like I’m sitting outside. Clusters of Amity sit at the other tables, their clothes bright against their tanned skin. On me the yellow looks dull.
“So I take it Amity wasn’t one of the factions you had an aptitude for,” he says, grinning.
“No. ” The group of Amity a few seats away from us bursts into laughter. They haven’t even glanced in our direction since we sat down to eat. “Keep it down, all right? It’s not something I want to broadcast. ”
“Sorry,” he says, leaning over the table so that he can talk quieter. “So what were they?”
I feel myself tensing, straightening. “Why do you want to know?”
“Tris,” he says, “I’m your brother. You can tell me anything. ”
His green eyes never waver. He’s abandoned the useless spectacles he wore as a member of Erudite in favor of an Abnegation gray shirt and their trademark short haircut. He looks just as he did a few months ago, when we were living across the hall from each other, both of us considering switching factions but not brave enough to tell one another. Not trusting him enough to tell him was a mistake I do not want to make again.
“Abnegation, Dauntless,” I say, “and Erudite. ”
“Three factions?” His eyebrows lift.
“It just seems like a lot,” he says. “We each had to choose a research focus in Erudite initiation, and mine was the aptitude test simulation, so I know a lot about the way it’s designed. It’s really difficult for a person to get two results—the program actually doesn’t allow it. But to get three . . . I’m not even sure how that’s possible. ”
“Well, the test administrator had to alter the test,” I say. “She forced it to go to that situation on the bus so that she could rule out Erudite—except Erudite wasn’t ruled out. ”
Caleb props his chin on a fist. “A program override,” he says. “I wonder how your test administrator knew how to do that. It’s not something they’re taught. ”
I frown. Tori was a tattoo artist and an aptitude test volunteer—how did she know how to alter the aptitude test program? If she was good with computers, it was only as a hobby, and I doubt that a computer hobby would enable someone to fiddle with an Erudite simulation.
Then something from one of my conversations with her surfaces. My brother and I both transferred from Erudite.
“She was Erudite,” I say. “A faction transfer. Maybe that’s how. ”
“Maybe,” he says, tapping his fingers—from left to right—against his cheek. Our breakfasts sit, almost forgotten, between us. “What does this mean about your brain chemistry? Or anatomy?”
I laugh a little. “I don’t know. All I know is that I’m always aware during simulations, and sometimes I can wake myself up from them. Sometimes they don’t even work. Like the attack simulation. ”
“How do you wake yourself up from them? What do you do?”
“I . . . ” I try to remember. I feel like it has been a long time since I was in one, though it was only a few weeks. “It’s hard to say, because the Dauntless simulations were supposed to end when we had calmed down. But in one of mine . . . the one where Tobias figured out what I was . . . I just did something impossible. I broke glass just by putting my hand on it. ”
Caleb’s expression becomes distant, like he is looking into faraway places. Nothing like what I just described ever happened to him in the aptitude test simulation, I know. So maybe he is wondering what it felt like, or how it’s possible. My cheeks grow warmer—he is analyzing my brain like he would analyze a computer or a machine.
“Hey,” I say. “Come back. ”
“Sorry,” he says, focusing on me again. “It’s just . . . ”
“Fascinating. Yeah, I know. You always look like someone’s sucked the life right out of you when something fascinates you. ”
“Can we talk about something else, though?” I say. “There may not be any Erudite or Dauntless traitors around, but it still feels weird, talking about it in public like this. ”
“All right. ”
Before he can go on, the cafeteria doors open, and a group of Abnegation come in. They wear Amity clothes, like me, but also like me, it’s obvious what faction they are really in. They are silent, but not somber—they smile at the Amity they pass, inclining their heads, a few of them stopping to exchange pleasantries.
Susan sits down next to Caleb with a small smile. Her hair is pulled back in its usual knot, but her blond hair shines like gold. She and Caleb sit just slightly closer than friends would, though they do not touch. She bobs her head to greet me.
“I’m sorry,” she says. “Did I interrupt?”
“No,” says Caleb. “How are you?”
“I’m well. How are you?”
I am just about to flee the dining hall rather than participate in careful, polite Abnegationconversation when Tobias comes in, looking harassed. He must have been working in the kitchen this morning, as part of our agreement with the Amity. I have to work in the laundry rooms tomorrow.
“What happened?” I say as he sits down next to me.
“In their enthusiasm for conflict resolution, the Amity have apparently forgotten that meddling creates more conflict,” says Tobias. “If we stay here much longer, I am going to punch someone, and it’s not going to be pretty. ”
Caleb and Susan both raise their eyebrows at him. A few of the Amity at the table next to ours stop talking to stare.
“You heard me,” Tobias says to them. They all look away.
“As I said,” I say, covering my mouth to hide my smile, “what happened?”
“I’ll tell you later. ”
It must have to do with Marcus. Tobias doesn’t like the dubious looks the Abnegation give him when he refers to Marcus’s cruelty, and Susan is sitting right across from him. I clasp my hands in my lap.
The Abnegation sit at our table, but not right next to us—a respectful distance of two seats away, though most of them still nod at us. They were my family’s friends and neighbors and coworkers, and before, their presence would have encouraged me to be quiet and self-effacing. Now it makes me want to talk louder, to be as far from that old identity and the pain that accompanies it as possible.
Tobias goes completely still when a hand falls on my right shoulder, sending prickles of pain down my right arm. I clench my teeth to keep from groaning.
“She got shot in that shoulder,” Tobias says without looking at the man behind me.
“My apologies. ” Marcus lifts his hand and sits down on my left. “Hello. ”
“What do you want?” I say.
“Beatrice,” Susan says quietly. “There’s no need to—”
“Susan, please,” says Caleb quietly. She presses her lips into a line and looks away.
I frown at Marcus. “I asked you a question. ”
“I would like to discuss something with you,” says Marcus. His expression is calm, but he’s angry—the terseness in his voice betrays him. “The other Abnegation and myself have discussed it and decided that we should not stay here. We believe that, given the inevitability of further conflict in our city, it would be selfish of us to stay here while what remains of our faction is inside that fence. We would like to request that you escort us. ”
I did not expect that. Why does Marcus want to return to the city? Is it really just an Abnegation decision, or does he intend to do something there—something that has to do with whatever information the Abnegation have?
I stare at him for a few seconds and then look at Tobias. He has relaxed a little, but he keeps his eyes focused on the table. I don’t know why he acts this way around his father. No one, not even Jeanine, makes Tobias cower.
“What do you think?” I say.
“I think we should leave the day after tomorrow,” Tobias says.
“Okay. Thank you,” says Marcus. He gets up and sits at the other end of the table with the rest of the Abnegation.
I inch closer to Tobias, not sure how to comfort him without making things worse. I pick up my apple with my left hand, and grab his hand under the table with my right.
But I can’t keep my eyes away from Marcus. I want to know more about what he said to Johanna. And sometimes, if you want the truth, you have to demand it.