“So you saved the Bureau,” Cara says, turning to me. “You seem to get involved in a lot of conflict. I suppose we should all be grateful that you are steady in a crisis.”
“I didn’t save the Bureau. I have no interest in saving the Bureau,” I retort. “I kept a weapon out of some dangerous hands, that’s all.” I wait a beat. “Did you just compliment me?”
“I am capable of recognizing another person’s strengths,” Cara replies, and she smiles. “Additionally, I think our issues are now resolved, both on a logical and an emotional level.” She clears her throat a little, and I wonder if it’s finally acknowledging that she has emotions that makes her uncomfortable, or something else. “It sounds like you know something about the Bureau that has made you angry. I wonder if you could tell me what it is.”
Christina rests her head on the edge of Uriah’s mattress, her slender body collapsing sideways. I say wryly, “I wonder. We may never know.”
“Hmm.” The crease between Cara’s eyebrows appears when she frowns, making her look so much like Will that I have to look away. “Maybe I should say please.”
“Fine. You know Jeanine’s simulation serum? Well, it wasn’t hers.” I sigh. “Come on. I’ll show you. It’ll be easier that way.”
It would be just as easy to tell her what I saw in that old storage room, nestled deep in the Bureau laboratories. But the truth is, I just want to keep myself busy, so I don’t think about Uriah. Or Tobias.
“It seems like we’ll never reach the end of all these deceptions,” Cara says as we walk toward the storage room. “The factions, the video Edith Prior left us . . . all lies, designed to make us behave a particular way.”
“Is that what you really think about the factions?” I say. “I thought you loved being an Erudite.”
“I did.” She scratches the back of her neck, leaving little red lines on her skin from her fingernails. “But the Bureau made me feel like a fool for fighting for any of it, and for what the Allegiant stood for. And I don’t like to feel foolish.”
“So you don’t think any of it was worthwhile,” I say. “Any of the Allegiant stuff.”
“It got us out,” I say, “and it got us to the truth, and it was better than the factionless commune Evelyn had in mind, where no one gets to choose anything at all.”
“I suppose,” she says. “I just pride myself on being someone who can see through things, the faction system included.”
“You know what the Abnegation used to say about pride?”
“Something unfavorable, I assume.”
I laugh. “Obviously. They said it blinds people to the truth of what they are.”
We reach the door to the labs, and I knock a few times so Matthew will hear me and let us in. As I wait for him to open the door, Cara gives me a strange look.
“The old Erudite writings said the same thing, more or less,” she says.
I never thought the Erudite would say anything about pride—that they would even concern themselves with morality. It sounds like I was wrong. I want to ask her more, but then the door opens, and Matthew stands in the hallway, chewing on an apple core.
“Can you let me into the storage room?” I say. “I need to show Cara something.”
He bites off the end of the apple core and nods. “Of course.”
I cringe, imagining the bitter taste of apple seeds, and follow him.
I CAN’T GO back to the staring eyes and unspoken questions of the dormitory. I know I shouldn’t return to the scene of my great crime, even though it’s not one of the secure areas I’m barred from entering, but I feel like I need to see what’s happening inside the city. Like I need to remember that there is a world outside this one, where I am not hated.
I walk to the control room and sit in one of the chairs. Each screen in the grid above me shows a different part of the city: the Merciless Mart, the lobby of Erudite headquarters, Millennium Park, the pavilion outside the Hancock building.
For a long time I watch the people milling around inside Erudite headquarters, their arms covered in factionless armbands, weapons at their hips, exchanging quick conversation or handing off cans of food for dinner, an old factionless habit.
Then I hear someone at the control room desks say, “There he is,” to one of her coworkers, and I scan the screens to see what she’s talking about. Then I see him, standing in front of the Hancock building: Marcus, near the front doors, checking his watch.
I get up and tap the screen with my index finger to turn on the sound. For a moment only the rush of air comes through the speakers just below the screen, but then, footsteps. Johanna Reyes approaches my father. He stretches his hand out for her to shake, but she doesn’t, and my father is left with his hand dangling in the air, a piece of bait she did not take.
“I knew you stayed in the city,” she says. “They’re looking all over for you.”
A few of the people milling around the control room gather behind me to watch. I hardly notice them. I am watching my father’s arm return to his side in a fist.
“Have I done something to offend you?” Marcus says. “I contacted you because I thought you were a friend.”
“I thought you contacted me because you know I’m still the leader of the Allegiant, and you want an ally,” Johanna says, bending her neck so a lock of hair falls over her scarred eye. “And depending on what your aim is, I am still that, Marcus, but I think our friendship is over.”
Marcus’s eyebrows pinch together. My father has the look of a man who used to be handsome, but as he has aged, his cheeks have become hollow, his features harsh and strict. His hair, cropped close to his skull in the Abnegation style, does not help this impression.
“I don’t understand,” Marcus says.
“I spoke to some of my Candor friends,” Johanna says. “They told me what your boy said when he was under truth serum. That nasty rumor Jeanine Matthews spread about you and your son . . . it was true, wasn’t it?”
My face feels hot, and I shrink into myself, my shoulders curving in.
Marcus is shaking his head. “No, Tobias is—”
Johanna holds up a hand. She speaks with her eyes closed, like she can’t stand to look at him. “Please. I have watched how your son behaves, how your wife behaves. I know what people who are stained with violence look like.” She pushes her hair behind her ear. “We recognize our own.”
“You can’t possibly believe—” Marcus starts. He shakes his head. “I’m a disciplinarian, yes, but I only wanted what was best—”
“A husband should not discipline his wife,” Johanna says. “Not even in Abnegation. And as for your son . . . well, let us say that I do believe it of you.”
Johanna’s fingers skip over the scar on her cheek. My heart overwhelms me with its rhythm. She knows. She knows, not because she heard me confess to my shame in the Candor interrogation room, but because she knows, she has experienced it herself, I’m sure of it. I wonder who it was for her—mother? Father? Someone else?
Part of me always wondered what my father would do if directly confronted with the truth. I thought he might shift from the self-effacing Abnegation leader to the nightmare I knew at home, that he might lash out and reveal himself for who he is. It would be a satisfying reaction for me to see, but it is not his real reaction.
He just stands there looking confused, and for a moment I wonder if he is confused, if in his sick heart he believes his own lies about disciplining me. The thought creates a storm inside me, a rumbling of thunder and a rush of wind.
“Now that I’ve been honest,” Johanna says, a little more calm now, “you can tell me why you asked me to come here.”
Marcus shifts to a new subject like the old one was never discussed. I see in him a man who divides himself into compartments and can switch between them on command. One of those compartments was reserved only for my mother and me.
The Bureau employees move the camera in closer, so that the Hancock building is just a black backdrop behind Marcus’s and Johanna’s torsos. I follow a girder diagonally across the screen so I don’t have to look at him.
“Evelyn and the factionless are tyrants,” Marcus says. “The peace we experienced among the factions, before Jeanine’s first attack, can be restored, I’m sure of it. And I want to try to restore it. I think this is something you want too.”
“It is,” Johanna says. “How do you think we should go about it?”
“This is the part you might not like, but I hope you will keep an open mind,” Marcus says. “Evelyn controls the city because she controls the weapons. If we take those weapons away, she won’t have nearly as much power, and she can be challenged.”
Johanna nods, and scrapes her shoe against the pavement. I can only see the smooth side of her face from this angle, the limp but curled hair, the full mouth.
“What would you like me to do?” she says.
“Let me join you in leading the Allegiant,” he says. “I was an Abnegation leader. I was practically the leader of this entire city. People will rally behind me.”
“People have rallied already,” Johanna points out. “And not behind a person, but behind the desire to reinstate the factions. Who says I need you?”
“Not to diminish your accomplishments, but the Allegiant are still too insignificant to be any more than a small uprising,” Marcus says. “There are more factionless than any of us knew. You do need me. You know it.”
My father has a way of persuading people without charm that has always confused me. He states his opinions as if they’re facts, and somehow his complete lack of doubt makes you believe him. That quality frightens me now, because I know what he told me: that I was broken, that I was worthless, that I was nothing. How many of those things did he make me believe?
I can see Johanna beginning to believe him, thinking of the small cluster of people she has gathered to the Allegiant cause. Thinking of the group she sent outside the fence, with Cara, and never heard from again. Thinking of how alone she is, and how rich his history of leadership is. I want to scream at her through the screens not to trust him, to tell her that he only wants the factions back because he knows he can then take up his place as their leader again. But my voice can’t reach her, wouldn’t be able to even if I was standing right next to her.
Carefully, Johanna says to him, “Can you promise me that you will, wherever possible, try to limit the destruction we will cause?”
Marcus says, “Of course.”
She nods again, but this time it looks like she’s nodding to herself.
“Sometimes we need to fight for peace,” she says, more to the pavement than to Marcus. “I think this is one of those times. And I do think you would be useful for people to rally behind.”
It’s the beginning of the Allegiant rebellion I’ve been expecting since I first heard the group had formed. Even though it has seemed inevitable to me since I saw how Evelyn chose to rule, I feel sick. It seems like the rebellions never stop, in the city, in the compound, anywhere. There are just breaths between them, and foolishly, we call those breaths “peace.”
I move away from the screen, intending to leave the control room behind me, to get some fresh air wherever I can.
But as I walk away, I catch sight of another screen, showing a dark-haired woman pacing back and forth in an office in Erudite headquarters. Evelyn—of course they keep footage of Evelyn on the most prominent screens in the control room, it only makes sense.
Evelyn pushes her hands into her hair, clenching her fingers around the thick locks. She drops to a crouch, papers littering the floor all around her, and I think, She’s crying, but I’m not sure why, since I don’t see her shoulders shake.
I hear, through the screen speakers, a knock on the office door. Evelyn straightens, pats her hair, wipes her face, and says, “Come in!”
Therese comes in, her factionless armband askew. “Just got an update from the patrols. They say they haven’t seen any sign of him.”
“Great.” Evelyn shakes her head. “I exile him, and he stays inside the city. He must be doing this just to spite me.”
“Or he’s joined the Allegiant, and they’re harboring him,” Therese says, slinging her body across one of the office chairs. She twists paper into the floor with her boot soles.
“Well, obviously.” Evelyn puts her arm against the window and leans into it, looking out over the city and beyond it, the marsh. “Thank you for the update.”
“We’ll find him,” Therese says. “He can’t have gone far. I swear we’ll find him.”
“I just want him to be gone,” Evelyn says, her voice tight and small, like a child’s. I wonder if she’s still afraid of him, in the way that I’m still afraid of him, like a nightmare that keeps resurfacing during the day. I wonder how similar my mother and I are, deep down where it counts.
“I know,” Therese says, and she leaves.
I stand for a long time, watching Evelyn stare out the window, her fingers twitching at her side.
I feel like what I have become is halfway between my mother and my father, violent and impulsive and desperate and afraid. I feel like I have lost control of what I have become.
DAVID SUMMONS ME to his office the next day, and I am afraid that he remembers how I used him as a shield when I was backing away from the Weapons Lab, how I pointed a gun at his head and said I didn’t care if he lived or died.
Zoe meets me in the hotel lobby and leads me through the main hallway and down another one, long and narrow, with windows on my right that show the small fleet of airplanes perched in rows on the concrete. Light snow touches the glass, an early taste of winter, and melts within seconds.
I sneak looks at her as we walk, hoping to see what she is like when she doesn’t think anyone is watching, but she seems just the same as always—chipper, but businesslike. Like the attack never happened.
“He’ll be in a wheelchair,” she says when we reach the end of the narrow hallway. “It’s best not to make a big deal of it. He doesn’t like to be pitied.”
“I don’t pity him.” I struggle to keep the anger out of my voice. It would make her suspicious. “He’s not the first person to ever be hit with a bullet.”
“I always forget that you have seen far more violence than we have,” Zoe says, and she scans her card at the next security barrier we reach. I stare through the glass at the guards on the other side—they stand erect, their guns at their shoulders, facing forward. I get the sense they have to stand that way all day.
I feel heavy and achy, like my muscles are communicating a deeper, emotional pain. Uriah is still in a coma. I still can’t look at Tobias when I see him in the dormitory, in the cafeteria, in the hallway, without seeing the exploded wall next to Uriah’s head. I’m not sure when, or if, anything will ever get better, not sure if these wounds are the kind that can heal.
We walk past the guards, and the tile turns to wood beneath my feet. Small paintings with gilded frames line the walls, and just outside David’s office is a pedestal with a bouquet of flowers on it. They are small touches, but the effect is that I feel like my clothes are smudged with dirt.
Zoe knocks, and a voice within calls out, “Come in!”
She opens the door for me but doesn’t follow me in. David’s office is spacious and warm, the walls lined with books where they are not lined with windows. On the left side is a desk with glass screens suspended above it, and on the right side is a small laboratory with wood furnishings instead of metal ones.
David sits in a wheelchair, his legs covered in a stiff material—to keep the bones in place so they can heal, I assume. He looks pale and wan, but healthy enough. Though I know that he had something to do with the attack simulation, and with all those deaths, I find it difficult to pair those actions with the man I see in front of me. I wonder if this is how it
is with all evil men, that to someone, they look just like good men, talk like good men, are just as likable as good men.
“Tris.” He pushes himself toward me and presses one of my hands between his. I keep my hand firmly in his, though his skin feels dry as paper and I am repulsed by him.
“You are so very brave,” he says, and then he releases my hand. “How are your injuries?”
I shrug. “I’ve had worse. How are yours?”
“It will take me some time to walk again, but they’re confident that I will. Some of our people are developing sophisticated leg braces anyway, so I can be their first test case if I have to,” he says, the corners of his eyes crinkling. “Could you push me behind the desk again? I am still having trouble steering.”
I do, guiding his stiff legs under the tabletop and letting the rest of him follow. When I’m sure he’s positioned correctly, I sit in the chair across from him and try to smile. In order to find some way to avenge my parents, I need to keep his trust and his fondness for me intact. And I won’t do that with a scowl.
“I asked you to come here mostly so that I could thank you,” he says. “I can’t think of many young people who would have come after me instead of running for cover, or who would have been able to save this compound the way you did.”
I think of pressing a gun to his head and threatening his life, and swallow hard.
“You and the people you came with have been in a regrettable state of flux since your arrival,” he says. “We aren’t quite sure what to do with all of you, to be honest, and I’m sure you don’t know what to do with yourselves, but I have thought of something I would like you to do. I am the official leader of this compound, but apart from that, we have a similar system of governance to the Abnegation, so I am advised by a small group of councilors. I would like you to begin training for that position.”
My hands tighten around the armrests.