Allegiant / Page 29

Page 29

I feel that fear again, the fear of my own size. “Right. So?”

“So? So everything I’ve ever worried about or said or done, how can it possibly matter?” He shakes his head. “It doesn’t.”

“Of course it does,” I say. “All that land is filled with people, every one of them different, and the things they do to each other matter.”

He shakes his head again, and I wonder, suddenly, if this is how he comforts himself: by convincing himself that the bad things he’s done don’t matter. I see how the mammoth planet that terrifies me seems like a haven to him, a place where he can disappear into its great space, never distinguishing himself, and never being held responsible for his actions.

He bends over to untie his shoes. “So, have you been ostracized from your little crowd of devotees?”

“No,” I say automatically. Then I add, “Maybe. But they aren’t my devotees.”

“Please. They’re like the Cult of Four.”

I can’t help but laugh. “Jealous? Wish you had a Cult of Psychopaths to call your very own?”

One of his eyebrows twitches up. “If I was a psychopath, I would have killed you in your sleep by now.”

“And added my eyeballs to your eyeball collection, no doubt.”

Peter laughs too, and I realize that I am exchanging jokes and conversation with the initiate who stabbed Edward in the eye and tried to kill my girlfriend—if she’s still that. But then, he’s also the Dauntless who helped us end the attack simulation and saved Tris from a horrible death. I am not sure which actions should weigh more heavily on my mind. Maybe I should forget them all, let him begin again.

“Maybe you should join my little group of hated people,” says Peter. “So far Caleb and I are the only members, but given how easy it is to get on that girl’s bad side, I’m sure our numbers will grow.”

I stiffen. “You’re right, it is easy to get on her bad side. All you have to do is try to get her killed.”

My stomach clenches. I almost got her killed. If she had been standing closer to the explosion, she might be like Uriah, hooked up to tubes in the hospital, her mind quiet.

No wonder she doesn’t know if she wants to stay with me or not.

The ease of a moment ago is gone. I cannot forget what Peter did, because he has not changed. He is still the same person who was willing to kill and maim and destroy to climb to the top of his initiate class. And I can’t forget what I did either. I stand.

Peter leans against the wall and laces his fingers over his stomach. “I’m just saying, if she decides someone is worthless, everyone follows suit. That’s a strange talent, for someone who used to be just another boring Stiff, isn’t it? And maybe too much power for one person to have, right?”

“Her talent isn’t for controlling other people’s opinions,” I say, “it’s for usually being right about people.”

He closes his eyes. “Whatever you say, Four.”

All my limbs feel brittle with tension. I leave the dormitory and the maps with their red circles, though I’m not sure where else to go.

To me, Tris has always seemed magnetic in a way I could not describe, and that she was not aware of. I have never feared or hated her for it, the way Peter does, but then, I have always been in a position of strength myself, not threatened by her. Now that I have lost that position, I can feel the tug toward resentment, as strong and sure as a hand around my arm.

I find myself in the atrium garden again, and this time, light glows behind the windows. The flowers look beautiful and savage in the daylight, like vicious creatures suspended in time, motionless.

Cara jogs into the atrium, her hair askew and floating over her forehead. “There you are. It is frighteningly easy to lose people in this place.”

“What is it?”

“Well—are you all right, Four?”

I bite down on my lip so hard I feel a pinch. “I’m fine. What is it?”

“We’re having a meeting, and your presence is required.”

“Who is ‘we,’ exactly?”

“GDs and GD sympathizers who don’t want to let the Bureau get away with certain things,” she says, and then she cocks her head to the side. “But better planners than the last ones you fell in with.”

I wonder who told her. “You know about the attack simulation?”

“Better still, I recognized the simulation serum in the microscope when Tris showed it to me,” Cara says. “Yes, I know.”

I shake my head. “Well, I’m not getting involved in this again.”

“Don’t be a fool,” she says. “The truth you heard is still true. These people are still responsible for the deaths of most of the Abnegation and the mental enslavement of the Dauntless and the utter destruction of our way of life, and something has to be done about them.”

I’m not sure I want to be in the same room with Tris, knowing that we might be on the verge of ending, like standing on the edge of a cliff. It’s easier to pretend it’s not happening when I’m not around her. But Cara says it so simply I have to agree with her: yes, something has to be done.

She takes my hand and leads me down the hotel hallway. I know she’s right, but I’m uncertain, uneasy about participating in another attempt at resistance. Still, I am already moving toward it, part of me eager for a chance to move again, instead of standing frozen before the surveillance footage of our city, as I have been.

When she’s sure I’m following her, she releases my hand and tucks her stray hair behind her ears.

“It’s still strange not to see you in blue,” I say.

“It’s time to let all that go, I think,” she answers. “Even if I could go back, I wouldn’t want to, at this point.”

“You don’t miss the factions?”

“I do, actually.” She glances at me. Enough time has passed between Will’s death and now that I no longer see him when I look at her, I just see Cara. I have known her far longer than I knew him. She has just a touch of his good-naturedness, enough to make me feel like I can tease her without offending her. “I thrived in Erudite. So many people devoted to discovery and innovation—it was lovely. But now that I know how large the world is . . . well. I suppose I have grown too large for my faction, as a consequence.” She frowns. “I’m sorry, was that arrogant?”

“Who cares?”

“Some people do. It’s nice to know you aren’t one of them.”

I notice, because I can’t help it, that some of the people we pass on the way to the meeting give me nasty looks, or a wide berth. I have been hated and avoided before, as the son of Evelyn Johnson, factionless tyrant, but it bothers me more now. Now I know that I have done something to make myself worthy of that hatred; I have betrayed them all.

Cara says, “Ignore them. They don’t know what it is to make a difficult decision.”

“You wouldn’t have done it, I bet.”

“That is only because I have been taught to be cautious when I don’t know all the information, and you have been taught that risks can produce great rewards.” She looks at me sideways. “Or, in this case, no rewards.”

She pauses at the door to the labs Matthew and his supervisor use, and knocks. Matthew tugs it open and takes a bite out of the apple he’s holding. We follow him into the room where I found out I was not Divergent.

Tris is there, standing beside Christina, who looks at me like I am something rotten that needs to be discarded. And in the corner by the door is Caleb, his face stained with bruises. I am about to ask what happened to him when I realize that Tris’s knuckles are also discolored, and that she very intentionally isn’t looking at him.

Or at me.

“I think that’s everyone,” Matthew says. “Okay . . . so . . . um. Tris, I suck at this.”

“You do, actually,” she says with a grin. I feel a flare of jealousy. She clears her throat. “So, we know that these people are responsible for the attack on Abnegation, and that they can’t be trusted to safeguard our city any longer. We know that we want to do something about it, and that the previous attempt to do something was . . .” Her eyes drift to mine, and her stare carves me into a smaller man. “Ill-advised,” she finishes. “We can do better.”

“What do you propose?” Cara says.

“All I know right now is that I want to expose them for what they are,” Tris says. “The entire compound can’t possibly know what their leaders have done, and I think we should show them. Maybe then they’ll elect new leaders, ones who won’t treat the people inside the experiments as expendable. I thought, maybe a widespread truth serum ‘infection,’ so to speak—”

I remember the weight of the truth serum, filling me in all my empty places, lungs and belly and face. I remember how impossible it seemed to me that Tris had lifted that weight enough to lie.

“Won’t work,” I say. “They’re GPs, remember? GPs can resist truth serum.”

“That’s not necessarily true,” Matthew says, pinching the string around his neck and then twisting it. “We don’t see that many Divergent resisting truth serum. Just Tris, in recent memory. The capacity for serum resistance seems to be higher in some people than others—take yourself, for example, Tobias.” Matthew shrugs. “Still, this is why I invited you, Caleb. You’ve worked on the serums before. You might know them as well as I do. Maybe we can develop a truth serum that is more difficult to resist.”

“I don’t want to do that kind of work anymore,” Caleb says.

“Oh, shut—” starts Tris, but Matthew interrupts her.

“Please, Caleb,” he says.

Caleb and Tris exchange a look. The skin on his face and on her knuckles is nearly the same color, purple-blue-green, as if drawn with ink. This is what happens when siblings collide—they injure each other the same way. Caleb sinks back against the countertop edge, touching the back of his head to the metal cabinets.

“Fine,” Caleb says. “As long as you promise not to use this against me, Beatrice.”

“Why would I?” Tris says.

“I can help,” Cara says, lifting a hand. “I’ve worked on serums too, as an Erudite.”

“Great.” Matthew claps his hands together. “Meanwhile, Tris will be playing the spy.”

“What about me?” Christina says.

“I was hoping you and Tobias could get in with Reggie,” Tris says. “David wouldn’t tell me about the backup security measures in the Weapons Lab, but Nita can’t have been the only one who knew about them.”

“You want me to get in with the guy who set off the explosives that put Uriah in a coma?” Christina says.

“You don’t have be friends,” Tris says, “you just need to talk to him about what he knows. Tobias can help you.”

“I don’t need Four; I can do it myself,” Christina says.

She shifts on the exam table, tearing the paper beneath her with her thigh, and gives me another sour look. I know it must be Uriah’s blank face she sees when she looks at me. I feel like there is something stuck in my throat.

“You do need me, actually, because he already trusts me,” I say. “And those people are very secretive, which means this will require subtlety.”

“I can be subtle,” Christina says.

“No, you can’t.”

“He’s got a point . . .” Tris sings with a smile.

Christina smacks her arm, and Tris smacks her back.

“It’s all settled, then,” Matthew says. “I think we should meet again after Tris has been to the council meeting, which is on Friday. Come here at five.”

He approaches Cara and Caleb and says something about chemical compounds I don’t quite understand. Christina walks out, bumping me with her shoulder as she leaves. Tris lifts her eyes to mine.

“We should talk,” I say.

“Fine,” she says, and I follow her into the hallway.

We stand next to the door until everyone else leaves. Her shoulders are drawn in like she’s trying to make herself even smaller, trying to evaporate on the spot, and we stand too far apart, the entire width of the hallway between us. I try to remember the last time I kissed her and I can’t.

Finally we’re alone, and the hallway is quiet. My hands start to tingle and go numb, the way they always do when I panic.

“Do you think you’ll ever forgive me?” I say.

She shakes her head, but says, “I don’t know. I think that’s what I need to figure out.”

“You know . . . you know I never wanted Uriah to get hurt, right?” I look at the stitches crossing her forehead and I add, “Or you. I never wanted you to get hurt either.”

She’s tapping her foot, her body shifting with the movement. She nods. “I know that.”

“I had to do something,” I say. “I had to.”

“A lot of people got hurt,” she says. “All because you dismissed what I said, because—and this is the worst part, Tobias—because you thought I was being petty and jealous. Just some silly sixteen-year-old girl, right?” She shakes her head.

“I would never call you silly or petty,” I say sternly. “I thought your judgment was clouded, yes. But that’s all.”

“That’s enough.” Her fingers slide through her hair and wrap around it. “It’s just the same thing all over again, isn’t it? You don’t respect me as much as you say you do. When it comes down to it, you still believe I can’t think rationally—”

“That is not what’s happening!” I say hotly. “I respect you more than anyone. But right now I’m wondering what bothers you more, that I made a stupid decision or that I didn’t make your decision.”

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