I stand, though I’m weak and dizzy from the serum. The room is packed with people, shoulder to shoulder, and I can’t find the exit for a few long seconds, until someone takes my arm, a boy with warm brown skin and a wide smile—Uriah. He guides me to the door. Everyone starts talking.
Uriah leads me down the hallway to the elevator bank. The elevator doors spring open when he touches the button, and I follow him in, still not steady on my feet. When the doors close, I say, “You don’t think the part about the mess and the throne was too much?”
“No. She expects you to be hotheaded. She might have been suspicious if you hadn’t been.”
I feel like everything inside me is vibrating with energy, in anticipation of what is to come. I am free. We’re going to find a way out of the city. No more waiting, pacing a cell, demanding answers that I won’t get from the guards.
The guards did tell me a few things about the new factionless order this morning. Former faction members are required to move closer to Erudite headquarters and mix, no more than four members of a particular faction in each dwelling. We have to mix our clothing, too. I was given a yellow Amity shirt and black Candor pants earlier as a result of that particular edict.
“All right, we’re this way. . . .” Uriah leads me out of the elevator. This floor of Erudite headquarters is all glass, even the walls. Sunlight refracts through it and casts slivers of rainbows across the floor. I shield my eyes with one hand and follow Uriah to a long, narrow room with beds on either side. Next to each bed is a glass cabinet for clothes and books, and a small table.
“It used to be the Erudite initiate dormitory,” Uriah says. “I reserved beds for Christina and Cara already.”
Sitting on a bed near the door are three girls in red shirts—Amity girls, I would guess—and on the left side of the room, an older woman lies on one of the beds, her spectacles dangling from one ear—possibly one of the Erudite. I know I should try to stop putting people in factions when I see them, but it’s an old habit, hard to break.
Uriah falls on one of the beds in the back corner. I sit on the one next to his, glad to be free and at rest, finally.
“Zeke says it sometimes takes a little while for the factionless to process exonerations, so they should be out later,” Uriah says.
For a moment I feel relieved that everyone I care about will be out of prison by tonight. But then I remember that Caleb is still there, because he was a well-known lackey of Jeanine Matthews, and the factionless will never exonerate him. But just how far they will go to destroy the mark Jeanine Matthews left on this city, I don’t know.
I don’t care, I think. But even as I think it, I know it’s a lie. He’s still my brother.
“Good,” I say. “Thanks, Uriah.”
He nods, and leans his head against the wall to prop it up.
“How are you?” I say. “I mean . . . Lynn . . .”
Uriah had been friends with Lynn and Marlene as long as I’d known them, and now both of them are dead. I feel like I might be able to understand—after all, I’ve lost two friends too, Al to the pressures of initiation and Will to the attack simulation and my own hasty actions. But I don’t want to pretend that our suffering is the same. For one thing, Uriah knew his friends better than I did.
“I don’t want to talk about it.” Uriah shakes his head. “Or think about it. I just want to keep moving.”
“Okay. I understand. Just . . . let me know if you need . . .”
“Yeah.” He smiles at me and gets up. “You’re okay here, right? I told my mom I’d visit tonight, so I have to go soon. Oh—almost forgot to tell you—Four said he wants to meet you later.”
I pull up straighter. “Really? When? Where?”
“A little after ten, at Millennium Park. On the lawn.” He smirks. “Don’t get too excited, your head will explode.”
MY MOTHER ALWAYS sits on the edges of things—chairs, ledges, tables—as if she suspects she will have to flee in an instant. This time it’s Jeanine’s old desk in Erudite headquarters that she sits on the edge of, her toes balanced on the floor and the cloudy light of the city glowing behind her. She is a woman of muscle twisted around bone.
“I think we have to talk about your loyalty,” she says, but she doesn’t sound like she’s accusing me of something, she just sounds tired. For a moment she seems so worn that I feel like I can see right through her, but then she straightens, and the feeling is gone.
“Ultimately, it was you who helped Tris and got that video released,” she says. “No one else knows that, but I know it.”
“Listen.” I lean forward to prop my elbows on my knees. “I didn’t know what was in that file. I trusted Tris’s judgment more than my own. That’s all that happened.”
I thought telling Evelyn that I broke up with Tris would make it easier for my mother to trust me, and I was right—she has been warmer, more open, ever since I told that lie.
“And now that you’ve seen the footage?” Evelyn says. “What do you think now? Do you think we should leave the city?”
I know what she wants me to say—that I see no reason to join the outside world—but I’m not a good liar, so instead I select a part of the truth.
“I’m afraid of it,” I say. “I’m not sure it’s smart to leave the city knowing the dangers that might be out there.”
She considers me for a moment, biting the inside of her cheek. I learned that habit from her—I used to chew my skin raw as I waited for my father to come home, unsure which version of him I would encounter, the one the Abnegation trusted and revered, or the one whose hands struck me.
I run my tongue along the bite scars and swallow the memory like it’s bile.
She slides off the desk and moves to the window. “I’ve been receiving disturbing reports of a rebel organization among us.” She looks up, raising an eyebrow. “People always organize into groups. That’s a fact of our existence. I just didn’t expect it to happen this quickly.”
“What kind of organization?”
“The kind that wants to leave the city,” she says. “They released some kind of manifesto this morning. They call themselves the Allegiant.” When she sees my confused look, she adds, “Because they’re allied with the original purpose of our city, see?”
“The original purpose—you mean, what was in the Edith Prior video? That we should send people outside when the city has a large Divergent population?”
“That, yes. But also living in factions. The Allegiant claim that we’re meant to be in factions because we’ve been in them since the beginning.” She shakes her head. “Some people will always fear change. But we can’t indulge them.”
With the factions dismantled, part of me has felt like a man released from a long imprisonment. I don’t have to evaluate whether every thought I have or choice I make fits into a narrow ideology. I don’t want the factions back.
But Evelyn hasn’t liberated us like she thinks—she’s just made us all factionless. She’s afraid of what we would choose, if we were given actual freedom. And that means that no matter what I believe about the factions, I’m relieved that someone, somewhere, is defying her.
I arrange my face into an empty expression, but my heart is beating faster than before. I have had to be careful, to stay in Evelyn’s good graces. It’s easy for me to lie to everyone else, but it’s more difficult to lie to her, the only person who knew all the secrets of our Abnegation house, the violence contained within its walls.
“What are you going to do about them?” I say.
“I am going to get them under control, what else?”
The word “control” makes me sit up straight, as rigid as the chair beneath me. In this city, “control” means needles and serums and seeing without seeing; it means simulations, like the one that almost made me kill Tris, or the one that made the Dauntless into an army.
“With simulations?” I say slowly.
ls. “Of course not! I am not Jeanine Matthews!”
Her flare of anger sets me off. I say, “Don’t forget that I barely know you, Evelyn.”
She winces at the reminder. “Then let me tell you that I will never resort to simulations to get my way. Death would be better.”
It’s possible that death is what she will use—killing people would certainly keep them quiet, stifle their revolution before it begins. Whoever the Allegiant are, they need to be warned, and quickly.
“I can find out who they are,” I say.
“I’m sure that you can. Why else would I have told you about them?”
There are plenty of reasons she would tell me. To test me. To catch me. To feed me false information. I know what my mother is—she is someone for whom the end of a thing justifies the means of getting there, the same as my father, and the same, sometimes, as me.
“I’ll do it, then. I’ll find them.”
I rise, and her fingers, brittle as branches, close around my arm. “Thank you.”
I force myself to look at her. Her eyes are close above her nose, which is hooked at the end, like my own. Her skin is a middling color, darker than mine. For a moment I see her in Abnegation gray, her thick hair bound back with a dozen pins, sitting across the dinner table from me. I see her crouched in front of me, fixing my mismatched shirt buttons before I go to school, and standing at the window, watching the uniform street for my father’s car, her hands clasped—no, clenched, her tan knuckles white with tension. We were united in fear then, and now that she isn’t afraid anymore, part of me wants to see what it would be like to unite with her in strength.
I feel an ache, like I betrayed her, the woman who used to be my only ally, and I turn away before I can take it all back and apologize.
I leave Erudite headquarters amid a crowd of people, my eyes confused, hunting for faction colors automatically when there are none left. I am wearing a gray shirt, blue jeans, black shoes—new clothes, but beneath them, my Dauntless tattoos. It is impossible to erase my choices. Especially these.
I SET MY watch alarm for ten o’clock and fall asleep right away, without even shifting to a comfortable position. A few hours later the beeps don’t wake me, but the frustrated shout of someone across the room does. I turn off the alarm, run my fingers through my hair, and half walk, half jog to one of the emergency staircases. The exit at the bottom will let me out in the alley, where I probably won’t be stopped.
Once I’m outside, the cool air wakes me up. I pull my sleeves down over my fingers to keep them warm. Summer is finally ending. There are a few people milling around the entrance to Erudite headquarters, but none of them notices me creeping across Michigan Avenue. There are some advantages to being small.
I see Tobias standing in the middle of the lawn, wearing mixed faction colors—a gray T-shirt, blue jeans, and a black sweatshirt with a hood, representing all the factions my aptitude test told me I was qualified for. A backpack rests against his feet.
“How did I do?” I say when I’m close enough for him to hear me.
“Very well,” he says. “Evelyn still hates you, but Christina and Cara have been released without questioning.”
“Good.” I smile.
He pinches the front of my shirt, right over my stomach, and tugs me toward him, kissing me softly.
“Come on,” he says as he pulls away. “I have a plan for this evening.”
“Yes, well, I realized that we’ve never been on an actual date.”
“Chaos and destruction do tend to take away a person’s dating possibilities.”
“I would like to experience this ‘date’ phenomenon.” He walks backward, toward the mammoth metal structure at the other end of the lawn, and I follow him. “Before you, I only went on group dates, and they were usually a disaster. They always ended up with Zeke making out with whatever girl he intended to make out with, and me sitting in awkward silence with some girl that I had somehow offended in some way early on.”
“You’re not very nice,” I say, grinning.
“You’re one to talk.”
“Hey, I could be nice if I tried.”
“Hmm.” He taps his chin. “Say something nice, then.”
“You’re very good-looking.”
He smiles, his teeth a flash in the dark. “I like this ‘nice’ thing.”
We reach the end of the lawn. The metal structure is larger and stranger up close than it was from far away. It’s really a stage, and arcing above it are massive metal plates that curl in different directions, like an exploded aluminum can. We walk around one of the plates on the right side to the back of the stage, which rises at an angle from the ground. There, metal beams support the plates from behind. Tobias secures his backpack on his shoulders and grabs one of the beams. Climbing.
“This feels familiar,” I say. One of the first things we did together was scale the Ferris wheel, but that time it was me, not him, who compelled us to climb higher.
I push up my sleeves and follow him. My shoulder is still sore from the bullet wound, but it is mostly healed. Still, I bear most of my weight with my left arm and try to push with my feet whenever possible. I look down at the tangle of bars beneath me and beyond them, the ground, and laugh.
Tobias climbs to a spot where two metal plates meet in a V, leaving enough room for two people to sit. He scoots back, wedging himself between the two plates, and reaches for my waist to help me when I get close enough. I don’t really need the help, but I don’t say so—I am too busy enjoying his hands on me.
He takes a blanket out of his backpack and covers us with it, then produces two plastic cups.
“Would you like a clear head or a fuzzy one?” he says, peering into the bag.
“Um . . .” I tilt my head. “Clear. I think we have some things to talk about, right?”
He takes out a small bottle with clear, bubbling liquid in it, and as he twists open the cap, says, “I stole it from the Erudite kitchens. Apparently it’s delicious.”
He pours some in each cup, and I take a sip. Whatever it is, it’s sweet as syrup and lemon-flavored and makes me cringe a little. My second sip is better.
“Things to talk about,” he says.
“Well . . .” Tobias frowns into his cup. “Okay, so I understand why you worked with Marcus, and why you felt like you couldn’t tell me. But . . .”
“But you’re angry,” I say. “Because I lied to you. On several occasions.”
He nods, not looking at me. “It’s not even the Marcus thing. It’s further back than that. I don’t know if you can understand what it was like to wake up alone, and know that you had gone”—to your death, is what I suspect he wants to say, but he can’t even say the words—“to Erudite headquarters.”
“No, I probably can’t.” I take another sip, turning the sugary drink over in my mouth before swallowing. “Listen, I . . . I used to think about giving my life for things, but I didn’t understand what ‘giving your life’ really was until it was right there, about to be taken from me.”
I look up at him, and finally, he looks back at me.
“I know now,” I say. “I know I want to live. I know I want to be honest with you. But . . . but I can’t do that, I won’t do it, if you won’t trust me, or if you talk to me in that condescending way you sometimes do—”
“Condescending?” he says. “You were doing ridiculous, risky things—”
“Yeah,” I say. “And do you really think it helped to talk to me like I was a child who didn’t know any better?”
“What else was I supposed to do?” he demands. “You wouldn’t see reason!”
“Maybe reason wasn’t what I needed!” I sit forward, not able to pretend I am relaxed anymore. “I felt like I was being eaten alive by guilt, and what I needed was your patience and your kindness, not for you to yell at
me. Oh, and for you to constantly keep your plans from me like I couldn’t possibly handle—”
“I didn’t want to burden you more than you already were.”
“So do you think I’m a strong person, or not?” I scowl at him. “Because you seem to think I can take it when you’re scolding me, but you don’t think I can handle anything else? What does that mean?”
“Of course I think you’re a strong person.” He shakes his head. “I just . . . I’m not used to telling people things. I’m used to handling things on my own.”
“I’m reliable,” I say. “You can trust me. And you can let me be the judge of what I can handle.”
“Okay,” he says, nodding. “But no more lies. Not ever.”
I feel stiff and squeezed, like my body was just forced into something too small for it. But that’s not how I want the conversation to end, so I reach for his hand.
“I’m sorry I lied to you,” I say. “I really am.”
“Well,” he says. “I didn’t mean to make you feel like I didn’t respect you.”
We stay there for a while, our hands clasped. I lean back against the metal plate. Above me, the sky is blank and dark, the moon shielded by clouds. I find a star ahead of us, as the clouds shift, but it seems to be the only one. When I tilt my head back, though, I can see the line of buildings along Michigan Avenue, like a row of sentries keeping watch over us.
I am quiet until the stiff, squeezed feeling leaves me. In its place I now feel relief. It isn’t usually that easy for me to let go of anger, but the past few weeks have been strange for both of us, and I am happy to release the feelings I have been holding on to, the anger and the fear that he hates me and the guilt from working with his father behind his back.
“This stuff is kind of gross,” he says, draining his cup and setting it down.
“Yes, it is,” I say, staring at what remains in mine. I drink it in one gulp, wincing as the bubbles burn my throat. “I don’t know what the Erudite are always bragging about. Dauntless cake is much better.”
“I wonder what the Abnegation treat would have been, if they had one.”