No one seems to be adjusting well. Peter lies facing the wall. Uriah and Christina sit side by side, having a conversation in low voices. Caleb is massaging his temples with his fingertips. Tobias is still pacing and gnawing on his fingernails. And Cara is on her own, dragging her hand over her face. For the first time since I met her, she looks upset, the Erudite armor gone.
I sit down across from her. “You don’t look so good.”
Her hair, usually smooth and perfect in its knot, is disheveled. She glowers at me. “That’s kind of you to say.”
“Sorry,” I say. “I didn’t mean it that way.”
“I know.” She sighs. “I’m . . . I’m an Erudite, you know.”
I smile a little. “Yeah, I know.”
“No.” Cara shakes her head. “It’s the only thing I am. Erudite. And now they’ve told me that’s the result of some kind of flaw in my genetics . . . and that the factions themselves are just a mental prison to keep us under control. Just like Evelyn Johnson and the factionless said.” She pauses. “So why form the Allegiant? Why bother to come out here?”
I didn’t realize how much Cara had already cleaved to the idea of being an Allegiant, loyal to the faction system, loyal to our founders. For me it was just a temporary identity, powerful because it could get me out of the city. For her the attachment must have been much deeper.
“It’s still good that we came out here,” I say. “We found out the truth. That’s not valuable to you?”
“Of course it is,” Cara says softly. “But it means I need other words for what I am.”
Just after my mother died, I grabbed hold of my Divergence like it was a hand outstretched to save me. I needed that word to tell me who I was when everything else was coming apart around me. But now I’m wondering if I need it anymore, if we ever really need these words, “Dauntless,” “Erudite,” “Divergent,” “Allegiant,” or if we can just be friends or lovers or siblings, defined instead by the choices we make and the love and loyalty that binds us.
“Better check on him,” Cara says, nodding to Tobias.
“Yeah,” I say.
I cross the room and stand in front of the windows, staring at what we can see of the compound, which is just more of the same glass and steel, pavement and grass and fences. When he sees me, he stops pacing and stands next to me instead.
“You all right?” I say to him.
“Yeah.” He sits on the windowsill, facing me, so we’re at eye level. “I mean, no, not really. Right now I’m just thinking about how meaningless it all was. The faction system, I mean.”
He rubs the back of his neck, and I wonder if he’s thinking about the tattoos on his back.
“We put everything we had into it,” he says. “All of us. Even if we didn’t realize we were doing it.”
“That’s what you’re thinking about?” I raise my eyebrows. “Tobias, they were watching us. Everything that happened, everything we did. They didn’t intervene, they just invaded our privacy. Constantly.”
He rubs his temple with his fingertips. “I guess. That’s not what’s bothering me, though.”
I must give him an incredulous look without meaning to, because he shakes his head. “Tris, I worked in the Dauntless control room. There were cameras everywhere, all the time. I tried to warn you that people were watching you during your initiation, remember?”
I remember his eyes shifting to the ceiling, to the corner. His cryptic warnings, hissed between his teeth. I never realized he was warning me about cameras—it just never occurred to me before.
“It used to bother me,” he says. “But I got over it a long time ago. We always thought we were on our own, and now it turns out we were right—they left us on our own. That’s just the way it is.”
“I guess I don’t accept that,” I say. “If you see someone in trouble, you should help them. Experiment or not. And . . . God.” I cringe. “All the things they saw.”
He smiles at me, a little.
“What?” I demand.
“I was just thinking of some of the things they saw,” he says, putting his hand on my waist. I glare at him for a moment, but I can’t sustain it, not with him grinning at me like that. Not knowing that he’s trying to make me feel better. I smile a little.
I sit next to him on the windowsill, my hands wedged between my legs and the wood. “You know, the Bureau setting up the factions is not much different than what we thought happened: A long time ago, a group of people decided that the faction system would be the best way to live—or the way to get people to live the best lives they could.”
He doesn’t respond at first, just chews on the inside of his lip and looks at our feet, side by side on the floor. My toes brush the ground, not quite reaching it.
“That helps, actually,” he says. “But there’s so much that was a lie, it’s hard to figure out what was true, what was real, what matters.”
I take his hand, slipping my fingers between his. He touches his forehead to mine.
I catch myself thinking, Thank God for this, out of habit, and then I understand what he’s so concerned about. What if my parents’ God, their whole belief system, is just something concocted by a bunch of scientists to keep us under control? And not just their beliefs about God and whatever else is out there, but about right and wrong, about selflessness? Do all those things have to change because we know how our world was made?
I don’t know.
The thought rattles me. So I kiss him—slowly, so I can feel the warmth of his mouth and the gentle pressure and his breaths as we pull away.
“Why is it,” I say, “that we always find ourselves surrounded by people?”
“I don’t know,” he says. “Maybe because we’re stupid.”
I laugh, and it’s laughter, not light, that casts out the darkness building within me, that reminds me I am still alive, even in this strange place where everything I’ve ever known is coming apart. I know some things—I know that I’m not alone, that I have friends, that I’m in love. I know where I came from. I know that I don’t want to die, and for me, that’s something—more than I could have said a few weeks ago.
That night we push our cots just a little closer together, and look into each other’s eyes in the moments before we fall asleep. When he finally drifts off, our fingers are twisted together in the space between the beds.
I smile a little, and let myself go too.
THE SUN STILL hasn’t completely set when we fall asleep, but I wake a few hours later, at midnight, my mind too busy for rest, swarming with thoughts and questions and doubts. Tris released me earlier, and her fingers now brush the floor. She is sprawled over the mattress, her hair covering her eyes.
I shove my feet into my shoes and walk the hallways, shoelaces slapping the carpets. I am so accustomed to the Dauntless compound that I am not used to the creak of wooden floors beneath me—I am used to the scrape and echo of stone, and the roar and pulse of water in the chasm.
A week into my initiation, Amar—worried that I was becoming increasingly isolated and obsessive—invited me to join some of the older Dauntless for a game of Dare. For my dare, we went back to the Pit for me to get my first tattoo, the patch of Dauntless flames covering my rib cage. It was agonizing. I relished every second of it.
I reach the end of one hallway and find myself in an atrium, surrounded by the smell of wet earth. Everywhere plants and trees are suspended in water, the same way they were in the Amity greenhouses. In the center of the room is a tree in a giant water tank, lifted high above the floor so I can see the tangle of roots beneath it, strangely human, like nerves.
“You’re not nearly as vigilant as you used to be,” Amar says from behind me. “Followed you all the way here from the hotel lobby.”
“What do you want?” I tap the tank with my knuckles, sending ripples through the water.
“I thought you might like an explanation for why I’m not dead,” he says.
“I thought about it,” I say. “They never let us see your body. It wouldn’t be that hard to fake a death if you never show the body.”
“Sounds like you’ve got it all figured out.” Amar claps his hands together. “Well, I’ll just go, then, if you’re not curious. . . .”
I cross my arms.
Amar runs a hand over his black hair, tying it back with a rubber band. “They faked my death because I was Divergent, and Jeanine had started killing the Divergent. They tried to save as many as they could before she got to them, but it was tricky, you know, because she was always a step ahead.”
“Are there others?” I say.
“A few,” he says.
“Any named Prior?”
Amar shakes his head. “No, Natalie Prior is actually dead, unfortunately. She was the one who helped me get out. She also helped this other guy too . . . George Wu. Know him? He’s on a patrol right now, or he would have come with me to get you. His sister is still inside the city.”
The name clutches at my stomach.
“Oh God,” I say, and I lean into the tank wall.
“What? You know him?”
I shake my head.
I can’t imagine it. There were just a few hours between Tori’s death and our arrival. On a normal day, a few hours can contain long stretches of watch-checking, of empty time. But yesterday, just a few hours placed an impenetrable barrier between Tori and her brother.
“Tori is his sister,” I say. “She tried to leave the city with us.”
“Tried to,” repeats Amar. “Ah. Wow. That’s . . .”
Both of us are quiet for a while. George will never get to reunite with his sister, and she died thinking he had been murdered by Jeanine. There isn’t anything to say—at least, not anything that’s worth saying.
Now that my eyes have adjusted to the light, I can see that the plants in this room were selected for beauty, not practicality—flowers and ivy and clusters of purple or red leaves. The only flowers I’ve ever seen are wildflowers, or apple blossoms in the Amity orchards. These are more extravagant than those, vibrant and complex, petals folded into petals. Whatever this place is, it has not needed to be as pragmatic as our city.
“That woman who found your body,” I say. “Was she just . . . lying about it?”
“People can’t really be trusted to lie consistently.” He quirks his eyebrows. “Never thought I would say that phrase—it’s true, anyway. She was reset—her memory was altered to include me jumping off the Pire, and the body that was planted wasn’t actually me. But it was too messed up for anyone to notice.”
“She was reset. You mean, with the Abnegation serum.”
“We call it ‘memory serum,’ since it doesn’t technically just belong to the Abnegation, but yeah. That’s the one.”
I was angry with him before. I’m not really sure why. Maybe I was just angry that the world had become such a complicated place, that I have never known even a fraction of the truth about it. Or that I allowed myself to grieve for someone who was never really gone, the same way I grieved for my mother all the years I thought she was dead. Tricking someone into grief is one of the cruelest tricks a person can play, and it’s been played on me twice.
But as I look at him, my anger ebbs away, like the changing of the tide. And standing in the place of my anger is my initiation instructor and friend, alive again.
“So you’re alive,” I say.
“More importantly,” he says, pointing at me, “you are no longer upset about it.”
He grabs my arm and pulls me into an embrace, slapping my back with one hand. I try to return his enthusiasm, but it doesn’t come naturally—when we break apart, my face is hot. And judging by how he bursts into laughter, it’s also bright red.
“Once a Stiff, always a Stiff,” he says.
“Whatever,” I say. “So do you like it here, then?”
Amar shrugs. “I don’t really have a choice, but yeah, I like it fine. I work in security, obviously, since that’s all I was trained to do. We’d love to have you, but you’re probably too good for it.”
“I haven’t quite resigned myself to staying here just yet,” I say. “But thanks, I guess.”
“There’s nowhere better out there,” he says. “All the other cities—that’s where most of the country lives, in these big metropolitan areas, like our city—are dirty and dangerous, unless you know the right people. Here at least there’s clean water and food and safety.”
I shift my weight, uncomfortable. I don’t want to think about staying here, making this my home. I already feel trapped by my own disappointment. This is not what I imagined when I thought of escaping my parents and the bad memories they gave me. But I don’t want to disturb the peace with Amar now that I finally feel like I have my friend back, so I just say, “I’ll take that under advisement.”
“Listen, there’s something else you should know.”
“What? More resurrections?”
“It’s not exactly a resurrection if I was never dead, is it?” Amar shakes his head. “No, it’s about the city. Someone heard it in the control room today—Marcus’s trial is scheduled for tomorrow morning.”
I knew it was coming—I knew Evelyn would save him for last, would savor every moment she spent watching him squirm under truth serum like he was her last meal. I just didn’t realize that I would be able to see it, if I wanted to. I thought I was finally free of them, all of them, forever.
“Oh,” is all I can say.
I still feel numb and confused when I walk back to the dormitory later and crawl back into bed. I don’t know what I’ll do.