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I jerk awake. The room I am in now—for whatever experiment they want to run on me—is large, with screens along the back wall and blue lights glowing just above the floor and rows of padded benches across the middle. I’m sitting on the farthest bench back with Peter at my left shoulder, my head leaning against the wall. I still can’t seem to get enough sleep.
Now I wish I hadn’t woken up. Caleb stands a few feet away, his weight on one foot, an uncertain posture.
“Did you ever leave Erudite?” I say.
“It’s not that simple,” he starts. “I—”
“It is that simple. ” I want to yell, but instead my voice comes out flat. “At what point did you betray our family? Before our parents died, or after?”
“I did what I had to do. You think you understand this, Beatrice, but you don’t. This whole situation . . . it’s much bigger than you think it is. ” His eyes plead with me to understand, but I recognize his tone—it’s the one he employed when we were younger, to scold me. It is condescending.
Arrogance is one of the flaws in the Erudite heart—I know. It is often in mine.
But greed is the other. And I do not have that. So I am halfway in and halfway out, as always.
I push myself to my feet. “You still haven’t answered my question. ”
Caleb steps back.
“This isn’t about Erudite; it’s about everyone. All the factions,” he says, “and the city. And what’s outside the fence. ”
“I don’t care,” I say, but that isn’t true. The phrase “outside the fence” prickles in my brain. Outside? How could any of this have to do with what’s outside?
Something itches at the back of my mind. Marcus said that information the Abnegationpossessed motivated Jeanine’s attack on Abnegation. Does that information have to do with what’s outside, too?
I push the thought away for the time being.
“I thought you were all about facts. About freedom of information? Well, how about this fact, Caleb? When—” My voice quakes. “When did you betray our parents?”
“I have always been Erudite,” he says softly. “Even when I was supposed to be Abnegation. ”
“If you’re with Jeanine, then I hate you. Just like our father would have. ”
“Our father. ” Caleb snorts a little. “Our father was Erudite, Beatrice. Jeanine told me—he was in her year at school. ”
“He wasn’t Erudite,” I say after a few seconds. “He chose to leave them. He chose a different identity, just like you, and became something else. Only you chose this . . . this evil. ”
“Spoken like a true Dauntless,” says Caleb sharply. “It’s either one way or the other way. No nuances. The world doesn’t work like that, Beatrice. Evil depends on where you’re standing. ”
“No matter where I stand, I’ll still think mind controlling an entire city of people is evil. ” I feel my lip wobble. “I’ll still think delivering your sister to be prodded and executed is evil!”
He is my brother, but I want to tear him to pieces.
Instead of trying to, though, I find myself sitting down again. I could never hurt him enough to make his betrayal stop hurting. And it hurts, in every part of my body. I press my fingers to my chest to massage some of the smarting tension away.
Jeanine and her army of Erudite scientists and Dauntless traitors walk in just as I wipe tears from my cheeks. I blink rapidly so she won’t see. She barely even gives me a glance.
“Let us view the results, shall we?” she announces. Caleb, now standing by the screens, presses something at the front of the room, and the screens turn on. Words and numbers I don’t understand fill them.
“We discovered something extremely interesting, Ms. Prior. ” I have never seen her so cheerful before. She almost smiles—but not quite. “You have an abundance of a particular kind of neuron, called, quite simply, a mirror neuron. Would someone like to explain to Ms. Prior exactly what mirror neurons do?”
The Erudite scientists raise their hands in unison. She points to an older woman in the front.
“Mirror neurons fire both when one performs an action and when one sees another person performing that action. They allow us to imitate behavior. ”
“What else are they responsible for?” Jeanine scans her “class” the same way my teachers did in Upper Levels. Another Erudite raises his hand.
“Learning language, understanding other people’s intentions based on their behavior, um . . . ” He frowns. “And empathy. ”
“More specifically,” Jeanine says, and this time she does smile at me, broadly, forcing creases into her cheeks, “someone with many, strong mirror neurons could have a flexible personality—capable of mimicking others as the situation calls for it rather than remaining constant. ”
I understand why she smiles. I feel like my mind is cracked open, its secrets spilling over the floor for me to finally see.
“A flexible personality,” she says, “would probably have aptitude for more than one faction, don’t you agree, Ms. Prior?”
“Probably,” I say. “Now if only you could get a simulation to suppress that particular ability, we could be done with this. ”
“One thing at a time. ” She pauses. “I must admit, it confuses me that you are so eager for your own execution. ”
“No, it doesn’t. ” I close my eyes. “It doesn’t confuse you at all. ” I sigh. “Can I go back to my cell now?”
I must seem nonchalant, but I’m not. I want to go back to my room so that I can cry in peace. But I don’t want her to know that.
“Don’t get too comfortable,” she chirps. “We’ll have a simulation serum to try out soon. ”
“Yeah,” I say. “Whatever. ”
Someone shakes my shoulder. I jerk awake, my eyes wide and searching, and I see Tobias kneeling over me. He wears a Dauntless traitor jacket, and one side of his head is coated with blood. The blood streams from a wound on his ear—the top of his ear is gone. I wince.
“What happened?” I say.
“Get up. We have to run. ”
“It’s too soon. It hasn’t been two weeks. ”
“I don’t have time to explain. Come on. ”
“Oh God. Tobias. ”
I sit up and wrap my arms around him, pressing my face into his neck. His arms tighten around me and squeeze. Warmth courses through me, and comfort. If he is here, that means I’m safe. My tears make his skin slippery.
He stands and pulls me to my feet, which makes my wounded shoulder throb.
“Reinforcements will be here soon. Come on. ”
I let him lead me out of the room. We make it down the first hallway without difficulty, but in the second hallway, we encounter two Dauntless guards, one a young man and one a middle-aged woman. Tobias fires twice in a matter of seconds, both hits, one in the head and one in the chest. The woman, who was hit in the chest, slumps against the wall but doesn’t die.
We keep moving. One hallway, then another, all of them look the same. Tobias’s grip on my hand never falters. I know that if he can throw a knife so that it hits just the tip of my ear, he can fire accurately at the Dauntless soldiers who ambush us. We step over fallen bodies—the people Tobias killed on the way in, probably—and finally reach a fire exit.
Tobias lets go of my hand to open the door, and the fire alarm screeches in my ears, but we keep running. I am gasping for air but I don’t care, not when I’m finally escaping, not when this nightmare is finally over. My vision starts to go black at the edges, so I grab Tobias’s arm and hold on tight, trusting him to lead me safely to the bottom of the stairs.
I run out of steps to run down, and I open my eyes. Tobias is about to open the exit door, but I hold him back. “Got to . . . catch my breath. . . . ”
He pauses, and I put my hands on my knees, leaning over. My shoulder still throbs. I frown, and look up at him.
“Come on, let’s get out of here,” he says insistently.
My stomach sinks. I stare into his eyes. They are dark blue, with a patch of light blue on his right iris.
I take his chin in hand and pull his lips down to mine, kissing him slowly, sighing as I pull back.
“We can’t get out of here,” I say. “Because this is a simulation. ”
He pulled me to my feet with my right hand. The real Tobias would have remembered the wound in my shoulder.
“What?” He scowls at me. “Don’t you think I would know if I was under a simulation?”
“You aren’t under a simulation. You are the simulation. ” I look up and say in a loud voice, “You’ll have to do better than that, Jeanine. ”
All I have to do now is wake up, and I know how—I have done it before, in my fear landscape, when I broke a glass tank just by touching my palm to it, or when I made a gun appear in the grass to shoot descending birds. I take a knife from my pocket—a knife that wasn’t there a moment ago—and will my leg to be hard as diamond.
I thrust the knife toward my thigh, and the blade bends.
I wake with tears in my eyes. I wake to Jeanine’s scream of frustration.
“What is it?” She grabs Peter’s gun out of his hand and stalks across the room, pressing the barrel to my forehead. My body stiffens, goes cold. She won’t shoot me. I am a problem she can’t solve. She won’t shoot me.
“What is it that clues you in? Tell me. Tell me or I will kill you. ”
I slowly push myself up from the chair, coming to my feet, pushing my skin harder into the cold barrel.
“You think I’m going to tell you?” I say. “You think I believe that you would kill me without figuring out the answer to this question?”
“You stupid girl,” she says. “You think this is about you, and your abnormal brain? This is not about you. It is not about me. It is about keeping this city safe from the people who intend to plunge it into hell!”
I summon the last of my strength and launch myself at her, clawing at whatever skin my fingernails find, digging in as hard as I can. She screams at the top of her lungs, a sound that turns my blood into fire. I punch her hard in the face.
A pair of arms wrap around me, pulling me off her, and a fist meets my side. I groan, and lunge toward her, held at bay by Peter.
“Pain can’t make me tell you. Truth serum can’t make me tell you. Simulations can’t make me tell you. I’m immune to all three. ”
Her nose is bleeding, and I see lines of fingernail scrapes in her cheeks, on the side of her throat, turning red with blossoming blood. She glares at me, pinching her nose closed, her hair disheveled, her free hand trembling.
“You have failed. You can’t control me!” I scream, so loud it hurts my throat. I stop struggling and sag against Peter’s chest. “You will never be able to control me. ”
I laugh, mirthless, a mad laugh. I savor the scowl on her face, the hate in her eyes. She was like a machine; she was cold and emotionless, bound by logic alone. And I broke her.
I broke her.