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CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX

SOMETHING SHAKES ME awake.

“Tris! Get up!”

A shout. I don’t question it. I throw my legs over the edge of the bed and let a hand pull me toward the door. My feet are bare, and the ground is uneven here. It scrapes at my toes and the edges of my heels. I squint ahead of me to figure out who’s dragging me. Christina. She’s almost pulling my left arm from its socket.

“What happened?” I say. “What’s going on?”

“Shut up and run!”

We run to the Pit, and the roar of the river follows me up the paths. The last time Christina pulled me out of bed, it was to see Al’s body lifted out of the chasm. I grit my teeth and try not to think about that. It can’t have happened again. It can’t.

I gasp—she runs faster than I do—as we sprint across the glass floor of the Pire. Christina slams her palm into an elevator button and slips inside before the doors are fully open, dragging me behind her. She jabs the DOOR CLOSE button, and then the button for the top floor.

“Simulation,” she says. “There’s a simulation. It’s not everyone, it’s just . . . just a few. ”

She puts her hands on her knees and takes deep breaths.

“One of them said something about the Divergent,” she says.

“Said that?” I say. “While under a simulation?”

She nods. “Marlene. Didn’t sound like her, though. Too . . . monotone. ”

The doors open, and I follow her down the hallway to the door marked ROOF ACCESS.

“Christina,” I say, “why are we going to the roof?”

She doesn’t answer me. The stairs to the roof smell like old paint. Dauntless graffiti is scrawled on the cement-block walls in black paint. The symbol of Dauntless. Initials paired together with plus signs: RG + NT, BR + FH. Couples who are probably old now, maybe broken up. I touch my chest to feel my heartbeat. It’s so fast, it’s a wonder I’m still breathing at all.

The night air is cool; it gives me goose bumps on my arms. My eyes have adjusted to the darkness by now, and across the roof I see three figures standing on the ledge, facing me. One is Marlene. One is Hector. One is someone I don’t recognize—a young Dauntless, barely eight years old, with a green streak in her hair.

They stand still on the ledge, though the wind is blowing hard, tossing their hair over their foreheads, into their eyes, into their mouths. Their clothes snap in the wind, but still they stand motionless.

“Just come down off the ledge now,” Christina says. “Don’t do anything stupid. Come on, now . . . ”

“They can’t hear you,” I say quietly as I walk toward them. “Or see you. ”

“We should all jump at them at once. I’ll take Hec, you—”

“We’ll risk shoving them off the roof if we do that. Stand by the girl, just in case. ”

She is too young for this, I think, but I don’t have the heart to say it, because it means Marlene is old enough.

I stare at Marlene, whose eyes are blank like painted stones, like spheres of glass. I feel as if those stones are slipping down my throat and settling in my stomach, pulling me toward the ground. There is no way to get her off that ledge.

Finally she opens her mouth and speaks.

“I have a message for the Divergent. ” Her voice sounds flat. The simulation is using her vocal cords, but robs them of the natural fluctuations of human emotion.

I look from Marlene to Hector. Hector, who was so afraid of what I am because his mother told him to be. Lynn is probably still at Shauna’s bedside, hoping Shauna can move her legs when she wakes up again. Lynn can’t lose Hector.

I step forward to receive the message.

“This is not a negotiation. It is a warning,” says the simulation through Marlene, moving her lips and vibrating in her throat. “Every two days until one of you delivers yourself to Erudite headquarters, this will happen again. ”

This.

Marlene steps back, and I throw myself forward, but not at her. Not at Marlene, who once let Uriah shoot a muffin off her head on a dare. Who gathered a stack of clothing for me to wear. Who always, always greeted me with a smile. No, not at Marlene.

As Marlene and the other Dauntless girl step off the edge of the roof, I dive at Hector.

I grab whatever my hands can find. An arm. A fistful of shirt. The rough rooftop scrapes my knees as his weight drags me forward. I am not strong enough to lift him. I whisper, “Help,” because I can’t speak any louder than that.

Christina is already at my shoulder. She helps me haul Hector’s limp body onto the roof. His arm flops to the side, lifeless. A few feet away, the little girl lies on her back on the rooftop.

Then the simulation ends. Hector opens his eyes, and they are no longer empty.

“Ow,” he says. “What’s going on?”

The little girl whimpers, and Christina walks over to her, mumbling something in a reassuring voice.

I stand, my entire body shaking. I inch toward the edge of the roof and stare at the ground. The street below isn’t lit very well, but I can see Marlene’s faint outline on the pavement.

Breathing—who cares about breathing?

I turn from the sight, listening to my heart beat in my ears. Christina’s mouth moves. I ignore her, and walk to the door and down the stairs and down the hallway and into the elevator.

The doors close and as I drop to the earth, just as Marlene did after I decided not to save her, I scream, my hands tearing at my clothes. My throat is raw after just a few seconds, and there are scratches on my arms where I missed the fabric, but I keep screaming.

The elevator stops with a ding. The doors open.

I straighten my shirt, smooth my hair down, and walk out.

I have a message for the Divergent.

I am Divergent.

This is not a negotiation.

No, it is not.

It is a warning.

I understand.

Every two days until one of you delivers yourself to Erudite headquarters . . .

I will.

. . . this will happen again.

It will never happen again.

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