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ONE OF THE factionless started a fire so we could heat up our food. Those who want to eat sit in a circle around the large metal bowl that contains the fire, first heating the cans, then passing out spoons and forks, then passing cans around so everyone can have a bite of everything. I try not to think about how many diseases could spread this way as I dip my spoon into a can of soup.
Edward drops to the ground next to me and takes the can of soup from my hands.
“So you were all Abnegation, huh?” He shovels several noodles and a piece of carrot into his mouth, and passes the can to the woman on his left.
“We were,” I say. “But obviously Tobias and I transferred, and . . . ” Suddenly it occurs to me that I shouldn’t tell anyone Caleb joined Erudite. “Caleb and Susan are still Abnegation. ”
“And he’s your brother. Caleb,” he says. “You ditched your family to become Dauntless?”
“You sound like the Candor,” I say irritably. “Mind keeping your judgments to yourself?”
Therese leans over. “He was Erudite first, actually. Not Candor. ”
“Yeah, I know,” I say, “I—”
She interrupts me. “So was I. Had to leave, though. ”
“I wasn’t smart enough. ” She shrugs and takes a can of beans from Edward, plunging her spoon into it. “I didn’t get a high enough score on my initiation intelligence test. So they said, ‘Spend your entire life cleaning up the research labs, or leave. ’ And I left. ”
She looks down and licks her spoon clean. I take the beans from her and pass them along to Tobias, who is staring at the fire.
“Are many of you from Erudite?” I say.
Therese shakes her head. “Most are from Dauntless, actually. ” She jerks her head toward Edward, who scowls. “Then Erudite, then Candor, then a handful of Amity. No one fails Abnegation initiation, though, so we have very few of those, except for a bunch who survived the simulation attack and came to us for refuge. ”
“I guess I shouldn’t be surprised about Dauntless,” I say.
“Well, yeah. You’ve got one of the worst initiations, and there’s that whole old-age thing. ”
“Old-age thing?” I say. I glance at Tobias. He is listening now, and he looks almost normal again, his eyes thoughtful and dark in the firelight.
“Once the Dauntless reach a certain level of physical deterioration,” he says, “they are asked to leave. In one way or another. ”
“What’s the other way?” My heart pounds, like it already knows an answer I can’t face without prompting.
“Let’s just say,” says Tobias, “that for some, death is preferable to factionlessness. ”
“Those people are idiots,” says Edward. “I’d rather be factionless than Dauntless. ”
“How fortunate that you ended up where you did, then,” says Tobias coldly.
“Fortunate?” Edward snorts. “Yeah. I’m so fortunate, with my one eye and all. ”
“I seem to recall hearing rumors that you provoked that attack,” says Tobias.
“What are you talking about?” I say. “He was winning, that’s all, and Peter was jealous, so he just . . . ”
I see the smirk on Edward’s face and stop talking. Maybe I don’t know everything about what happened during initiation.
“There was an inciting incident,” says Edward. “In which Peter did not come out the victor. But it certainly didn’t warrant a butter knife to the eye. ”
“No arguments here,” says Tobias. “If it makes you feel any better, he got shot in the arm from a foot away during the simulation attack. ”
And it does seem to make Edward feel better, because his smirk carves a deeper line into his face.
“Who did that?” he says. “You?”
Tobias shakes his head. “Tris did. ”
“Well done,” Edward says.
I nod, but I feel a little sick to be congratulated for that.
Well, not that sick. It was Peter, after all.
I stare at the flames wrapping around the fragments of wood that fuel them. They move and shift, like my thoughts. I remember the first time I realized I had never seen an elderly Dauntless. And when I realized my father was too old to climb the paths of the Pit. Now I understand more about that than I’d like to.
“Do you know much about how things are right now?” Tobias asks Edward. “Did all the Dauntless side with Erudite? Has Candor done anything?”
“Dauntless is split in half,” Edward says, talking around the food in his mouth. “Half at Erudite headquarters, half at Candor headquarters. What’s left of Abnegation is with us. Nothing much has happened yet. Except for whatever happened to you, I guess. ”
Tobias nods. I feel a little relieved to know that half of the Dauntless, at least, are not traitors.
I eat spoonful after spoonful until my stomach is full. Then Tobias gets us sleeping pallets and blankets, and I find an empty corner for us to lie down in. When he bends over to untie his shoes, I see the symbol of Amity on the small of his back, the branches curling over his spine. When he straightens, I step across the blankets and put my arms around him, brushing the tattoo with my fingers.
Tobias closes his eyes. I trust the dwindling fire to disguise us as I run my hand up his back, touching each tattoo without seeing it. I imagine Erudite’s staring eye, Candor’s unbalanced scales, Abnegation’s clasped hands, and the Dauntless flames. With my other hand I find the patch of fire tattooed over his rib cage. I feel his heavy breaths against my cheek.
“I wish we were alone,” he says.
“I almost always wish that,” I say.
I drift off to sleep, carried by the sound of distant conversations. These days it’s easier for me to fall asleep when there is noise around me. I can focus on the sound instead of whatever thoughts would crawl into my head in silence. Noise and activity are the refuges of the bereaved and the guilty.
I wake when the fire is just a glow, and only a few of the factionless are still up. It takes me a few seconds to figure out why I woke up: I heard Evelyn’s and Tobias’s voices, a few feet away from me. I stay still and hope they don’t discover that I’m awake.
“You’ll have to tell me what’s going on here if you expect me to consider helping you,” he says. “Though I’m still not sure why you need me at all. ”
I see Evelyn’s shadow on the wall, flickering with the fire. She is lean and strong, just like Tobias. Her fingers twist into her hair as she speaks.
“What would you like to know, exactly?”
“Tell me about the chart. And the map. ”
“Your friend was correct in thinking that the map and the chart listed all of our safe houses,” she says. “He was wrong about the population counts . . . sort of. The numbers don’t document all the factionless—only certain ones. And I’ll bet you can guess which ones those are. ”
“I’m not in the mood for guessing. ”
She sighs. “The Divergent. We’re documenting the Divergent. ”
“How do you know who they are?”
“Before the simulation attack, part of the Abnegation aid effort involved testing the factionless for a certain genetic anomaly,” she says. “Sometimes that testing involved re-administering the aptitude test. Sometimes it was more complicated than that. But they explained to us that they suspected we might have the highest Divergent population of any group in the city. ”
“I don’t understand. Why—”
“Why would the factionless have a high Divergent population?” It sounds like she’s smirking. “Obviously those who can’t confine themselves to a particular way of thinking would be most likely to leave a faction or fail its initiation, right?”
“That’s not what I was going to ask,” he says. “I want to know why you care how many Divergent there are. ”
“The Erudite are looking for manpower. They found it temporarily in Dauntless. Now they’ll be looking for more, and we’re the obvious place, unless they figure out that we’ve got more Divergent than any other group. Just in case they don’t, I want to know how many people we’ve got who are resistant to simulations. ”
“Fair enough,” he says, “but why were the Abnegation so concerned with finding the Divergent? It wasn’t to help Jeanine, was it?”
“Of course not,” she says. “But I’m afraid I don’t know. The Abnegation were reluctant to provide information that only serves to relieve curiosity. They told us as much as they believed we should know. ”
“Strange,” he mumbles.
“Perhaps you should ask your father about it,” she says. “He was the one who told me about you. ”
“About me,” says Tobias. “What about me?”
“That he suspected you were Divergent,” she says. “He was always watching you. Noting your behavior. He was very attentive to you. That’s why . . . that’s why I thought you would be safewith him. Safer with him than with me. ”
Tobias says nothing.
“I see now that I must have been wrong. ”
He still says nothing.
“I wish—” she starts.
“Don’t you dare try to apologize. ” His voice shakes. “This is not something you can bandagewith a word or two and some hugging, or something. ”
“Okay,” she says. “Okay. I won’t. ”
“For what purpose are the factionless uniting?” he says. “What do you intend to do?”
“We want to usurp Erudite,” she says. “Once we get rid of them, there’s not much stopping us from controlling the government ourselves. ”
“That’s what you expect me to help you with. Overthrowing one corrupt government and instating some kind of factionless tyranny. ” He snorts. “Not a chance. ”
“We don’t want to be tyrants,” she says. “We want to establish a new society. One without factions. ”
My mouth goes dry. No factions? A world in which no one knows who they are or where they fit? I can’t even fathom it. I imagine only chaos and isolation.
Tobias lets out a laugh. “Right. So how are you going to usurp Erudite?”
“Sometimes drastic change requires drastic measures. ” Evelyn’s shadow lifts a shoulder. “I imagine it will involve a high level of destruction. ”
I shiver at the word “destruction. ” Somewhere in the darker parts of me, I crave destruction, as long as it is Erudite being destroyed. But the word carries new meaning for me, now that I have seen what it can look like: gray-clothed bodies slung across curbs and over sidewalks, Abnegation leaders shot on their front lawns, next to their mailboxes. I press my face into the pallet I’m sleeping on, so hard it hurts my forehead, just to force the memory out, out, out.
“As for why we need you,” Evelyn says. “In order to do this, we will need Dauntless’s help. They have the weapons and the combat experience. You could bridge the gap between us and them. ”
“Do you think I’m important to the Dauntless? Because I’m not. I’m just someone who isn’t afraid of much. ”
“What I am suggesting,” she says, “is that you become important. ” She stands, her shadow stretching from ceiling to floor. “I am sure you can find a way, if you want to. Think about it. ”
She pulls back her curly hair and ties it in a knot. “The door is always open. ”
A few minutes later he lies next to me again. I don’t want to admit that I was eavesdropping, but I want to tell him I don’t trust Evelyn, or the factionless, or anyone who speaks so casually about demolishing an entire faction.
Before I can muster the courage to speak, his breaths become even, and he falls asleep.