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“I WILL ASK you a series of simple questions so that you can grow accustomed to the serum as it takes full effect,” says Niles. “Now. What is your name?”
Tobias sits with slouched shoulders and a lowered head, like his body is too heavy for him. He scowls and squirms in the chair, and through gritted teeth says, “Four. ”
Maybe it isn’t possible to lie under the truth serum, but to select which version of the truth to tell: Four is his name, but it is not his name.
“That is a nickname,” Niles says. “What is your real name?”
“Tobias,” he says.
Christina elbows me. “Did you know that?”
“What are the names of your parents, Tobias?”
Tobias opens his mouth to answer, and then clenches his jaw as if to stop the words from spilling out.
“Why is this relevant?” Tobias asks.
The Candor around me mutter to each other, some of them scowling. I raise my eyebrow at Christina.
“It’s extremely difficult not to immediately answer questions while under the truth serum,” she says. “It means he has a seriously strong will. And something to hide. ”
“Maybe it wasn’t relevant before, Tobias,” Niles says, “but it is now that you’ve resisted answering the question. The names of your parents, please. ”
Tobias closes his eyes. “Evelyn and Marcus Eaton. ”
Surnames are just an additional means of identification, useful only to prevent confusion in official records. When we marry, one spouse has to take the other’s surname, or both have to take a new one. Still, while we may carry our names from family to faction, we rarely mention them.
But everyone recognizes Marcus’s surname. I can tell by the clamor that rises in the room after Tobias speaks. The Candor all know Marcus is the most influential government official, and some of them must have read the article Jeanine released about his cruelty toward his son. It was one of the only things she said that was true. And now everyone knows that Tobias is that son.
Tobias Eaton is a powerful name.
Niles waits for silence, then continues. “So you are a faction transfer, are you not?”
“You transferred from Abnegation to Dauntless?”
“Yes,” snaps Tobias. “Isn’t that obvious?”
I bite my lip. He should calm down; he is giving away too much. The more reluctant he is to answer a question, the more determined Niles will be to hear the answer.
“One of the purposes of this interrogation is to determine your loyalties,” says Niles, “so I must ask: Why did you transfer?”
Tobias glares at Niles, and keeps his mouth shut. Seconds pass in complete silence. The longer he tries to resist the serum, the harder it seems to be for him: color fills his cheeks, and he breathes faster, heavier. My chest aches for him. The details of his childhood should stay inside him, if that’s where he wants them to be. Candor is cruel for forcing them from him, for taking away his freedom.
“This is horrible,” I say hotly to Christina. “Wrong. ”
“What?” she says. “It’s a simple question. ”
I shake my head. “You don’t understand. ”
Christina smiles a little at me. “You really care about him. ”
I am too busy watching Tobias to respond.
Niles says, “I’ll ask again. It is important that we understand the extent of your loyalty to your chosen faction. So why did you transfer to Dauntless, Tobias?”
“To protect myself,” says Tobias. “I transferred to protect myself. ”
“Protect yourself from what?”
“From my father. ”
All the conversations in the room stop, and the silence they leave in their wake is worse than the muttering was. I expect Niles to keep probing, but he doesn’t.
“Thank you for your honesty,” Niles says. The Candor repeat the phrase under their breath. All around me are the words “Thank you for your honesty” at different volumes and pitches, and my anger begins to dissolve. The whispered words seem to welcome Tobias, to embrace and then discard his darkest secret.
It’s not cruelty, maybe, but a desire to understand, that motivates them. That doesn’t make me any less afraid of going under truth serum.
“Is your allegiance with your current faction, Tobias?” Niles says.
“My allegiance lies with anyone who does not support the attack on Abnegation,” he says.
“Speaking of which,” Niles says, “I think we should focus on what happened that day. What do you remember about being under the simulation?”
“I was not under the simulation, at first,” says Tobias. “It didn’t work. ”
Niles laughs a little. “What do you mean, it didn’t work?”
“One of the defining characteristics of the Divergent is that their minds are resistant to simulations,” says Tobias. “And I am Divergent. So no, it didn’t work. ”
More mutters. Christina nudges me with her elbow.
“Are you too?” she says, close to my ear so she can stay quiet. “Is that why you were awake?”
I look at her. I have spent the past few months afraid of the word “Divergent,” terrified that anyone would discover what I am. But I won’t be able to hide it anymore. I nod.
It’s like her eyes swell to fill their sockets; that’s how big they get. I have trouble identifying her expression. Is it shock? Fear?
“Do you know what it means?” I say.
“I heard about it when I was young,” she says in a reverent whisper.
“Like it was a fantasy story,” she says. “‘There are people with special powers among us!’ Like that. ”
“Well, it’s not a fantasy, and it’s not that big a deal,” I say. “It’s like the fear landscape simulation—you were aware while you were in it, and you could manipulate it. Except for me, it’s like that in every simulation. ”
“But Tris,” she says, setting her hand on my elbow. “That’s impossible. ”
In the center of the room, Niles has his hands up and is trying to silence the crowd, but there are too many whispers—some hostile, some terrified, and some awed, like Christina’s. Finally Niles stands and yells, “If you don’t quiet down, you will be asked to leave!”
At last everyone quiets down. Niles sits.
“Now,” he says. “When you say ‘resistant to simulations,’ what do you mean?”
“Usually, it means we’re aware during simulations,” says Tobias. He seems to have an easier time with the truth serum when he answers factual questions instead of emotional ones. He doesn’t sound like he’s under the truth serum at all now, though his slumped posture and wandering eyes indicate otherwise. “But the attack simulation was different, using a different kind of simulation serum, one with long-range transmitters. Evidently the long-range transmitters didn’t work on the Divergent at all, because I awoke in my own mind that morning. ”
“You say you weren’t under the simulation at first. Can you explain what you mean by that?”
“I mean that I was discovered and brought to Jeanine, and she injected a version of the simulation serum that specifically targeted the Divergent. I was aware during that simulation, but it didn’t do much good. ”
“The video footage from the Dauntless headquarters shows you running the simulation,” Niles says darkly. “How, exactly, do you explain that?”
“When a simulation is running, your eyes still see and process the actual world, but your brain no longer comprehends them. On some level, though, your brain still knows what you’re seeing and where you are. The nature of this new simulation was that it recorded my emotional responses to outside stimuli,” Tobias says, closing his eyes for a few seconds, “and responded by altering the appearance of that stimuli. The simulation made my enemies into friends, my friends into enemies. I thought I was shutting the simulation down. Really I was receiving instructions about how to keep it running. ”
Christina nods along to his words. I feel calmer when I see that most of the crowd is doing the same thing. This is the benefit of the truth serum, I realize. Tobias’s testimony is irrefutable this way.
“We have seen footage of what ultimately happened to you in the control room,” says Niles, “but it is confusing. Please describe it to us. ”
“Someone entered the room, and I thought it was a Dauntless soldier, trying to stop me from destroying the simulation. I was fighting her, and . . . ” Tobias scowls, struggling. “. . . and then she stopped, and I got confused. Even if I had been awake, I would have been confused. Why would she surrender? Why didn’t she just kill me?”
His eyes search the crowd until they find my face. My heartbeat lives in my throat; lives in my cheeks.
“I still don’t understand,” he says softly, “how she knew that it would work. ”
Lives in my fingertips.
“I think my conflicted emotions confused the simulation,” he says. “And then I heard her voice. Somehow, that enabled me to fight the simulation. ”
My eyes burn. I have tried not to think of that moment, when I thought he was lost to me and that I would soon be dead, when all I wanted was to feel his heartbeat. I try not to think of it now; I blink the tears from my eyes.
“I recognized her, finally,” he says. “We went back into the control room and stopped the simulation. ”
“What is the name of this person?”
“Tris,” he says. “Beatrice Prior, I mean. ”
“Did you know her before this happened?”
“How did you know her?”
“I was her instructor,” he says. “Now we’re together. ”
“I have a final question,” Niles says. “Among the Candor, before a person is accepted into our community, they have to completely expose themselves. Given the dire circumstances we are in, we require the same of you. So, Tobias Eaton: what are your deepest regrets?”
I look him over, from his beat-up sneakers to his long fingers to his straight eyebrows.
“I regret . . . ” Tobias tilts his head, and sighs. “I regret my choice. ”
“Dauntless,” he says. “I was born for Abnegation. I was planning on leaving Dauntless, and becoming factionless. But then I met her, and . . . I felt like maybe I could make something more of my decision. ”
For a moment, it’s like I’m looking at a different person, sitting in Tobias’s skin, one whose life is not as simple as I thought. He wanted to leave Dauntless, but he stayed because of me. He never told me that.
“Choosing Dauntless in order to escape my father was an act of cowardice,” he says. “I regret that cowardice. It means I am not worthy of my faction. I will always regret it. ”
I expect the Dauntless to let out indignant shouts, maybe to charge the chair and beat him to a pulp. They are capable of far more erratic things than that. But they don’t. They stand in stony silence, with stony faces, staring at the young man who did not betray them, but never truly felt that he belonged to them.
For a moment we are all silent. I don’t know who starts the whisper; it seems to originate from nothing, to come from no one. But someone whispers, “Thank you for your honesty,” and the rest of the room repeats it.
“Thank you for your honesty,” they whisper.
I don’t join in.
I am the only thing that kept him in the faction he wanted to leave. I am not worth that.
Maybe he deserves to know.
Niles stands in the center of the room with a needle in hand. The lights above him make it shine. All around me, the Dauntless and the Candor wait for me to step forward and spill my entire life before them.
The thought occurs to me again: Maybe I can fight the serum. But I don’t know if I should try. It might be better for the people I love if I come clean.
I walk stiffly to the center of the room as Tobias leaves it. As we pass each other, he takes my hand and squeezes my fingers. Then he’s gone, and it’s just me and Niles and the needle. I wipe the side of my neck with the antiseptic, but when he reaches out with the needle, I pull back.
“I would rather do it myself,” I say, holding out my hand. I will never let someone else inject me again, not after letting Eric inject me with attack simulation serum after my final test. I can’t change the contents of the syringe just by doing it myself, but at least this way, I am the instrument of my own destruction.
“Do you know how?” he says, raising a bushy eyebrow.
Niles offers me the syringe. I position it over the vein in my neck, insert the needle, and press the plunger. I barely feel the pinch. I am too charged with adrenaline.
Someone comes forward with a trash can, and I toss the needle in. I feel the effects of the serum immediately afterward. It makes my blood feel like lead in my veins. I almost collapse on my way to the chair—Niles has to grab my arm and guide me toward it.
Seconds later my brain goes silent. What was I thinking about? It doesn’t seem to matter. Nothing matters except the chair beneath me and the man sitting across from me.
“What is your name?” he says.
The second he asks the question, the answer pops out of my mouth. “Beatrice Prior. ”
“But you go by Tris?”
“I do. ”
“What are the names of your parents, Tris?”
“Andrew and Natalie Prior. ”
“You are also a faction transfer, are you not?”
“Yes,” I say, but a new thought whispers at the back of my mind. Also? Also refers to someone else, and in this case, someone else is Tobias. I frown as I try to picture Tobias, but it is difficult to force the image of him into my mind. Not so difficult that I can’t do it, though. I see him, and then I see a flash of him sitting in the same chair I’m sitting in.
“You came from Abnegation? And chose Dauntless?”
“Yes,” I say again, but this time, the word sounds terse. I don’t know why, exactly.
“Why did you transfer?”
That question is more complicated, but I still know the answer. I was not good enough for Abnegation is on the tip of my tongue, but another phrase replaces it: I wanted to be free. They are both true. I want to say them both. I squeeze the armrests as I try to remember where I am, what I’m doing. I see people all around me, but I don’t know why they’re there.
I strain, the way I used to strain when I could almost remember the answer to a test question but couldn’t call it to mind. I used to close my eyes and picture the textbook page the answerwas on. I struggle for a few seconds, but I can’t do it; I can’t remember.
“I wasn’t good enough for Abnegation,” I say, “and I wanted to be free. So I chose Dauntless. ”
“Why weren’t you good enough?”
“Because I was selfish,” I say.
“You were selfish? You aren’t anymore?”
“Of course I am. My mother said that everyone is selfish,” I say, “but I became less selfish in Dauntless. I discovered there were people I would fight for. Die for, even. ”
The answer surprises me—but why? I pinch my lips together for a moment. Because it’s true. If I say it here, it must be true.
That thought gives me the missing link in the chain of thought I was trying to find. I am here for a lie-detector test. Everything I say is true. I feel a bead of sweat roll down the back of my neck.
Lie-detector test. Truth serum. I have to remind myself. It is too easy to get lost in honesty.
“Tris, would you please tell us what happened the day of the attack?”
“I woke up,” I say, “and everyone was under the simulation. So I played along until I found Tobias. ”
“What happened after you and Tobias were separated?”
“Jeanine tried to have me killed, but my mother saved me. She used to be Dauntless, so she knew how to use a gun. ” My body feels even heavier now, but no longer cold. I feel something stir in my chest, something worse than sadness, worse than regret.
I know what comes next. My mother died and then I killed Will; I shot him; I killed him.
“She distracted the Dauntless soldiers so I could get away, and they killed her,” I say.
Some of them ran after me, and I killed them. But there are Dauntless in the crowd around me, Dauntless, I killed some of the Dauntless, I shouldn’t talk about it here.
“I kept running,” I say, “And . . . ” And Will ran after me. And I killed him. No, no. I feel sweat near my hairline.
“And I found my brother and father,” I say, my voice strained. “We formed a plan to destroy the simulation. ”
The edge of the armrest digs into my palm. I withheld some of the truth. Surely that counts as deception.
I fought the serum. And in that short moment, I won.
I should feel triumphant. Instead I feel the weight of what I did crush me again.
“We infiltrated the Dauntless compound, and my father and I went up to the control room. He fought off Dauntless soldiers at the expense of his life,” I say. “I made it to the control room, and Tobias was there. ”
“Tobias said you fought him, but then stopped. Why did you do that?”
“Because I realized that one of us would have to kill the other,” I say, “and I didn’t want to kill him. ”
“You gave up?”
“No!” I snap. I shake my head. “No, not exactly. I remembered something I had done in my fear landscape in Dauntless initiation . . . in a simulation, a woman demanded that I kill my family, and I let her shoot me instead. It worked then. I thought . . . ” I pinch the bridge of my nose. My head is starting to ache and my control is gone and my thoughts run into words. “I was so frantic, but all I could think was that there was something to it; there was a strength in it. And I couldn’t kill him, so I had to try. ”
I blink tears from my eyes.
“So you were never under the simulation?”
“No. ” I press the heel of my hands to my eyes, pushing the tears out of them so they don’t fall on my cheeks where everyone can see them.
“No,” I say again. “No, I am Divergent. ”
“Just to clarify,” says Niles. “Are you telling me that you were almost murdered by the Erudite . . . and then fought your way into the Dauntless compound . . . and destroyed the simulation?”
“Yes,” I say.
“I think I speak for everyone,” he says, “when I say that you have earned the title of Dauntless. ”
Shouts rise up from the left side of the room, and I see blurs of fists pressing into the dark air. My faction, calling to me.
But no, they’re wrong, I’m not brave, I’m not brave, I shot Will and I can’t admit it, I can’t even admit it. . . .
“Beatrice Prior,” says Niles, “what are your deepest regrets?”
What do I regret? I do not regret choosing Dauntless or leaving Abnegation. I do not even regret shooting the guards outside the control room, because it was so important that I get past them.
“I regret . . . ”
My eyes leave Niles’s face and drift over the room, and land on Tobias. He is expressionless, his mouth in a firm line, his stare blank. His hands, crossed over his chest, clasp his arms so hard his knuckles are white. Next to him stands Christina. My chest squeezes, and I can’t breathe.
I have to tell them. I have to tell the truth.
“Will,” I say. It sounds like a gasp, like it was pulled straight from my stomach. Now there is no turning back.
“I shot Will,” I say, “while he was under the simulation. I killed him. He was going to kill me, but I killed him. My friend. ”
Will, with the crease between his eyebrows, with green eyes like celery and the ability to quote the Dauntless manifesto from memory. I feel pain in my stomach so intense that I almost groan. It hurts to remember him. It hurts every part of me.
And there is something else, something worse that I didn’t realize before. I was willing to die rather than kill Tobias, but the thought never occurred to me when it came to Will. I decided to kill Will in a fraction of a second.
I feel bare. I didn’t realize that I wore my secrets as armor until they were gone, and now everyone sees me as I really am.
“Thank you for your honesty,” they say.
But Christina and Tobias say nothing.