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THAT NIGHT I dream, not of Tobias, and not of Will, but of my mother. We stand in the Amity orchards, where the apples are ripe and dangle just inches above our heads. Leaf shadows pattern her face, and she wears black, though I never saw her in black when she was alive. She is teaching me to braid hair, demonstrating on a lock of her own, laughing when my fingers fumble.
I wake wondering how I did not notice, every day I sat across from her at the breakfast table, that she was full to bursting with Dauntless energy. Was it because she hid it well? Or was it because I wasn’t looking?
I bury my face in the thin mattress I slept on. I will never know her. But at least she will never know what I did to Will, either. At this point I don’t think I could bear it if she did.
I am still blinking the haze of sleep from my eyes when I follow Peter down the corridor, seconds or minutes later, I can’t tell.
“Peter. ” My throat aches; I must have screamed while I slept. “What time is it?”
He wears a watch, but the face is covered, so I can’t see it. He doesn’t even bother to look at it.
“Why are you constantly escorting me places?” I say. “Isn’t there a depraved activity you’re supposed to be taking part in? Kicking puppies or spying on girls while they change, or something?”
“I know what you did to Will, you know. Don’t pretend that you’re better than I am, because you and I, we’re exactly the same. ”
The only thing that distinguishes one hallway from another, here, is their length. I decide to label them according to how many steps I take before I turn. Ten. Forty-seven. Twenty-nine.
“You’re wrong,” I say. “We may both be bad, but there’s a huge difference between us—I’m not content with being this way. ”
Peter snorts a little, and we walk between the Erudite lab tables. That’s when I realize where I am, and where we’re going: back to the room Jeanine showed me. The room where I will be executed. I shudder so hard my teeth chatter, and it’s difficult to keep walking, hard to keep my thoughts straight. It’s just a room, I tell myself. Just a room like any other room.
I am such a liar.
This time the execution chamber is not empty. Four Dauntless traitors mill around in one corner, and two of the Erudite, one a dark-skinned woman, one an older man, both wearing lab coats, stand with Jeanine near the metal table in the center. Several machines are set up around it, and there are wires everywhere.
I don’t know what most of those machines do, but among them is a heart monitor. What does Jeanine plan to do that requires a heart monitor?
“Get her on the table,” says Jeanine, sounding bored. I stare for a second at the sheet of steel that awaits me. What if she changed her mind about waiting to execute me? What if this is when I die? Peter’s hands clamp around my arms and I writhe, throwing all my strength into the struggle.
But he just lifts me up, dodging my kicking feet, and slams me down on the metal slab, knocking the wind out of me. I gasp, and fling a fist out at whatever I can hit, which just happens to be Peter’s wrist. He winces, but by now the other Dauntless traitors have come forward to help.
One of them holds down my ankles, and the other holds down my shoulders as Peter pulls black straps across my body to keep me pinned. I flinch at the pain in my wounded shoulder and stop struggling.
“What the hell is going on?” I demand, craning my neck to look at Jeanine. “We agreed—cooperation in exchange for results! We agreed—”
“This is entirely separate from our agreement,” says Jeanine, glancing at her watch. “This is not about you, Beatrice. ”
The door opens again.
Tobias walks in—limps in—flanked by Dauntless traitors. His face is bruised and there’s a cut above his eyebrow. He does not move with his usual care; he’s holding himself perfectly straight. He must be injured. I try not to think about how he got that way.
“What is this?” he says, his voice rough and creaky.
From screaming, probably.
My throat feels swollen.
“Tris,” he says, and he lurches toward me, but the Dauntless traitors are too quick. They grab him before he can move more than a few steps. “Tris, are you okay?”
“Yeah,” I say. “Are you?”
He nods. I don’t believe him.
“Rather than waste any more time, Mr. Eaton, I thought I would take the most logical approach. Truth serum would be preferable, of course, but it would take days to coerce Jack Kang into handing some over, as it is jealously guarded by the Candor, and I’d rather not waste a few days. ” She steps forward, a syringe in hand. This serum is tinted gray. It could be a new version of the simulation serum, but I doubt it.
I wonder what it does. It can’t be good, if she looks this pleased with herself.
“In a few seconds, I will inject Tris with this liquid. At that point, I trust, your selfless instincts will take over and you will tell me exactly what I need to know. ”
“What does she need to know?” I say, interrupting her.
“Information about the factionless safe houses,” he replies without looking at me.
My eyes widen. The factionless are the last hope any of us has, now that half the loyal Dauntless and all the Candor are simulation-ready, and half the Abnegation are dead.
“Don’t give it to her. I’m going to die anyway. Don’t give her anything. ”
“Remind me, Mr. Eaton,” says Jeanine. “What do Dauntless simulations do?”
“This isn’t a classroom,” he replies through gritted teeth. “Tell me what you’re going to do. ”
“I will if you answer my very simple question. ”
“Fine. ” Tobias’s eyes shift to me. “The simulations stimulate the amygdala, which is responsible for processing fear, induce a hallucination based on that fear, and then transmit the data to a computer to be processed and observed. ”
It sounds like he’s had that memorized for a long time. Maybe he has—he did spend a lot of time running simulations.
“Very good,” she says. “When I was developing the Dauntless simulations, years ago, we discovered that certain levels of potency overwhelmed the brain and made it too insensible with terror to invent new surroundings, which was when we diluted the solution so that the simulations would be more instructive. But I still remember how to make it. ”
She taps the syringe with her fingernail.
“Fear,” she says, “is more powerful than pain. So is there anything you’d like to say, before I inject Ms. Prior?”
Tobias presses his lips together.
And Jeanine inserts the needle.
It begins quietly, with the pounding of a heart. I am not sure, at first, whose heartbeat I’m hearing, because it’s far too loud to be my own. But then I realize that it is my own, and it’s getting faster and faster.
Sweat collects in my palms and behind my knees.
And then I have to gasp in order to breathe.
That’s when the screaming starts
Tobias is fighting the Dauntless traitors by the door.
I hear what sounds like a child’s scream beside me, and wrench my head around to see where it’s coming from, but there is only a heart monitor. Above me the lines between the ceiling tiles warp and twist into monstrous creatures. The scent of rotting flesh fills the air and I gag. The monstrous creatures take on a more definite shape—they are birds, crows, with beaks as long as my forearm and wings so dark they seem to swallow all the light.
“Tris,” says Tobias. I look away from the crows.
He stands by the door, where he was before I was injected, but now he has a knife. He holds it out from his body and turns it so the blade points in, at his stomach. Then he brings it toward himself, touching the tip of the blade to his stomach.
“What are you doing? Stop!”
He smiles a little and says, “I’m doing this for you. ”
He pushes the knife in farther, slow, and blood stains the hem of his shirt. I gag, and throw myself against the bonds holding me to the table. “No, stop!” I thrash and in a simulation I would have pulled free by now so this must mean that this is real, it’s real. I scream and he sticks the knife in to the handle. He collapses to the floor and his blood spills fast and surrounds him. The shadow-birds turn their beady eyes on him and swarm in a tornado of wings and talons, pecking at his skin. I see his eyes through the whirling feathers and he is still awake.
A bird lands on the fingers that hold the knife. He draws it out again and it clatters to the ground and I should hope that he is dead but I’m selfish so I can’t. My back lifts from the table and all my muscles clench and my throat aches from this scream that no longer shapes itself into words and will not stop.
“Sedative,” a stern voice commands.
Another needle in my neck, and my heart begins to slow down. I sob with relief. For seconds all I can do is sob with relief.
That was not fear. That was something else; an emotion that should not exist.
“Let me go,” Tobias says, and he sounds scratchier than before. I blink fast so I can see him through my tears. There are red marks on his arms from where the Dauntless traitors held him back, but he is not dying; he is all right. “That’s the only way I’ll tell you, is if you let me go. ”
Jeanine nods, and he runs to me. He wraps one hand around mine and touches my hair with the other. His fingertips come away wet with tears. He doesn’t wipe them off. He leans over and presses his forehead to mine.
“The factionless safe houses,” he says dully, right against my cheek. “Get me a map and I’ll mark them for you. ”
His forehead feels cool and dry against mine. My muscles ache, probably from being clenched for however long Jeanine left me with that serum pulsing through me.
He pulls back, his fingers wrapped around my fingers for as long as they can be until the Dauntless traitors pull him from my grasp to escort him elsewhere. My hand falls heavy on the table. I don’t want to struggle against the restraints anymore. All I want to do is sleep.
“While you’re here . . . ” Jeanine says once Tobias and his escorts are gone. She looks up and focuses her watery eyes on one of the Erudite. “Get him and bring him in here. It’s time. ”
She looks back down at me.
“While you sleep, we will be performing a short procedure to observe a few things about your brain. It will not be invasive. But before that . . . I promised you full transparency with these procedures. So I feel it’s only fair that you know exactly who has been assisting me in my endeavors. ” She smiles a little. “Who told me what three factions you had an aptitude for, and what our best chance was to get you to come here, and to put your mother in the last simulation to make it more effective. ”
She looks toward the doorway as the sedative sets in, making everything blur at the edges. I look over my shoulder, and through the haze of drugs I see him.