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I READ SOMEWHERE, once, that crying defies scientific explanation. Tears are only meant to lubricate the eyes. There is no real reason for tear glands to overproduce tears at the behest of emotion.
I think we cry to release the animal parts of us without losing our humanity. Because inside me is a beast that snarls, and growls, and strains toward freedom, toward Tobias, and, above all, toward life. And as hard as I try, I cannot kill it.
So I sob into my hands instead.
Left, right, right. Left, right, left. Right, right. Our turns, in order, from our point of origin—my cell—to our destination.
It is a new room. In it is a partially reclined chair, like a dentist’s chair. In one corner is a screen and a desk. Jeanine sits at the desk.
“Where is he?” I say.
I have been waiting for hours to ask that question. I fell asleep and dreamed that I was chasing Tobias through Dauntless headquarters. No matter how fast I ran he was always just far enough ahead of me that I watched him disappear around corners, catching sight of a sleeve or the heel of a shoe.
Jeanine gives me a puzzled look. But she is not puzzled. She is playing with me.
“Tobias,” I say anyway. My hands shake, but not from fear this time—from anger. “Where is he? What are you doing to him?”
“I see no reason to provide that information,” says Jeanine. “And since you are all out of leverage, I see no way for you to give me a reason, unless you would like to change the terms of our agreement. ”
I want to scream at her that of course, of course I would rather know about Tobias than about my Divergence, but I don’t. I can’t make hasty decisions. She will do what she intends to do to Tobias whether I know about it or not. It is more important that I fully understand what is happening to me.
I breathe in through my nose, and out through my nose. I shake my hands. I sit down in the chair.
“Interesting,” she says.
“Aren’t you supposed to be running a faction and planning a war?” I say. “What are you doing here, running tests on a sixteen-year-old girl?”
“You choose different ways of referring to yourself depending on what is convenient,” she says, leaning back in her chair. “Sometimes you insist that you are not a little girl, and sometimes you insist that you are. What I am curious to know is: How do you really view yourself? As one or the other? As both? As neither?”
I make my voice flat and factual, like hers. “I see no reason to provide that information. ”
I hear a faint snort. Peter is covering his mouth. Jeanine glares at him, and his laughter effortlessly transforms into a coughing fit.
“Mockery is childish, Beatrice,” she says. “It does not become you. ”
“Mockery is childish, Beatrice,” I repeat in my best imitation of her voice. “It does not become you. ”
“The serum,” Jeanine says, eyeing Peter. He steps forward and fumbles with a black box on the desk, taking out a syringe with a needle already attached to it.
Peter starts toward me, and I hold out my hand.
“Allow me,” I say.
He looks at Jeanine for permission, and she says, “All right, then. ” He hands me the syringe and I shove the needle into the side of my neck, pressing down on the plunger. Jeanine jabs one of the buttons with her finger, and everything goes dark.
My mother stands in the aisle with her arm stretched above her head so she can hold the bar. Her face is turned, not toward the people sitting around me, but toward the city we pass as the bus lurches forward. I see wrinkles in her forehead and around her mouth when she frowns.
“What is it?” I ask her.
“There is so much to be done,” she says with a small gesture toward the bus windows. “And so few of us left to do it. ”
It is clear what she’s referring to. Beyond the bus is rubble as far as I can see. Across the street, a building lies in ruins. Fragments of glass litter the alleyways. I wonder what caused so much destruction.
“Where are we going?” I say.
She smiles at me, and I see different wrinkles than before, at the corners of her eyes. “We’re going to Erudite headquarters. ”
I frown. Most of my life has been spent avoiding Erudite headquarters. My father used to say that he didn’t even like to breathe the air in there. “Why are we going there?”
“They’re going to help us. ”
Why do I feel a pang in my stomach when I think of my father? I picture his face, weathered by a lifetime of frustration with the world around him, and his hair, kept short by Abnegationstandard practice, and feel the same kind of pain in my stomach that I get when I have not eaten in too long—a hollow pain.
“Did something happen to Dad?” I say.
She shakes her head. “Why would you ask that?”
“I don’t know. ”
I don’t feel the pain when I look at my mother. But I do feel like every second we spend standing these inches apart is one that I must impress upon my mind until my entire memory conforms to its shape. But if she is not permanent, what is she?
The bus stops, and the doors creak open. My mother starts down the aisle, and I follow her. She is taller than I am, so I stare between her shoulders, at the top of her spine. She looks fragile, but she is not.
I step down onto the pavement. Pieces of glass crinkle beneath my feet. They are blue and, judging by the holes in the building to my right, used to be windows.
“War,” my mother says. “This is what we’ve been trying so hard to avoid. ”
“And the Erudite will help us . . . by doing what?”
“I worry that all your father’s blustering about Erudite has been to your detriment,” she says gently. “They’ve made mistakes, of course, but they, like everyone else, are a blend of good and bad, not one or the other. What would we do without our doctors, our scientists, our teachers?”
She smooths down my hair.
“Take care to remember that, Beatrice. ”
“I will,” I promise.
We keep walking. But something about what she said bothers me. Is it what she said about my father? No—my father is always complaining about Erudite. Is it what she said about Erudite? I hop over a large shard of glass. No, that can’t be it. She was right about Erudite. All my teachers were Erudite, and so was the doctor who set my mother’s arm when she broke it several years ago.
It’s the last part. “Take care to remember. ” As if she won’t have the opportunity to remind me later.
I feel something shift in my mind, like something that was closed has just opened.
“Mom?” I say.
She looks back at me. A lock of blond hair falls from its knot and touches her cheek.
“I love you. ”
I point at a window to my left, and it explodes. Particles of glass rain over us.
I don’t want to wake up in a room in Erudite headquarters, so I don’t open my eyes right away, not even when the simulation fades. I try to preserve the image of my mother and the hair sticking to her cheekbone for as long as I can. But when all I see is the redness of my own eyelids, I open them.
“You’ll have to do better than that,” I say to Jeanine.
She says, “That was only the beginning. ”