There isn’t enough time to think about the significance of what we’re going to try to do: stop a revolution, save the experiments, change the Bureau forever.
While Tris is gone, I go to the hospital to see Uriah one last time before I bring his family back to him.
When I get there, I can’t go in. From here, through the glass, I can pretend that he is just asleep, and that if I touched him, he would wake up and smile and make a joke. In there, I would be able to see how lifeless he is now, how the shock to his brain took the last parts of him that were Uriah.
I squeeze my hands into fists to disguise their shaking.
Matthew approaches from the end of the hallway, his hands in the pockets of his dark blue uniform. His gait is relaxed, his footsteps heavy. “Hey.”
“Hi,” I say.
“I was just inoculating Nita,” he says. “She’s in better spirits today.”
Matthew taps the glass with his knuckles. “So . . . you’re going to go get his family later? That’s what Tris told me.”
I nod. “His brother and his mom.”
I’ve met Zeke and Uriah’s mother before. She is a small woman with power in her bearing, and one of the rare Dauntless who goes about things quietly and without ceremony. I liked her and I was afraid of her at the same time.
“No dad?” Matthew says.
“Died when they were young. Not surprising, among the Dauntless.”
We stand in silence for a little while, and I’m grateful for his presence, which keeps me from being overwhelmed by grief. I know that Cara was right yesterday to tell me that I didn’t kill Uriah, not really, but it still feels like I did, and maybe it always will.
“I’ve been meaning to ask you,” I say after a while. “Why are you helping us with this? It seems like a big risk for someone who isn’t personally invested in the outcome.”
“I am, though,” Matthew says. “It’s sort of a long story.”
He crosses his arms, then tugs at the string around his throat with his thumb.
“There was this girl,” he says. “She was genetically damaged, and that meant I wasn’t supposed to go out with her, right? We’re supposed to make sure that we match ourselves with ‘optimal’ partners, so we produce genetically superior offspring, or something. Well I was feeling rebellious, and there was something appealing about how forbidden it was, so she and I started dating. I never meant for it to become anything serious, but . . .”
“But it did,” I supply.
He nods. “It did. She, more than anything else, convinced me that the compound’s position on genetic damage was twisted. She was a better person than I was, than I’ll ever be. And then she got attacked. A bunch of GPs beat her up. She had kind of a smart mouth, she was never content to just stay where she was—I think that had something to do with it, or maybe nothing did, maybe people just do things like that out of nowhere, and trying to find a reason just frustrates the mind.”
I look closely at the string he’s toying with. I always thought it was black, but when I look closely, I see that it’s actually green—the color of the support staff uniforms.
“Anyway, she was injured pretty badly, but one of the GPs was a council member’s kid. He claimed the attack was provoked, and that was the excuse they used when they let him and the other GPs off with some community service, but I knew better.” He starts nodding along with his own words. “I knew that they let them off because they thought of her as something less than them. Like if the GPs had beat up an animal.”
A shiver starts at the top of my spine and travels down my back. “What . . .”
“What happened to her?” Matthew glances at me. “She died a year later during a surgical procedure to fix some of the damage. It was a fluke—an infection.” He drops his hands. “The day she died was the day I started helping Nita. I didn’t think her recent plan was a good one, though, which is why I didn’t help out with it. But then, I also didn’t try that hard to stop her.”
I cycle through the things you’re supposed to say at times like these, the apologies and the sympathy, and I don’t find a single phrase that feels right to me. Instead I just let the silence stretch out between us. It’s the only adequate response to what he just told me, the only thing that does the tragedy justice instead of patching it up hastily and moving on.
“I know it doesn’t seem like it,” Matthew says, “but I hate them.”
The muscles in his jaw stand at attention. He has never struck me as a warm person, but he’s never been cold, either. That is what he’s like now, a man encased in ice, his eyes hard and his voice like a frosty exhale.
“And I would have volunteered to die instead of Caleb . . . if not for the fact that I really want to see them suffer the repercussions. I want to watch them fumble around under the memory serum, not knowing who they are anymore, because that’s what happened to me when she died.”
“That sounds like an adequate punishment,” I say.
“More adequate than killing them would be,” Matthew says. “And besides, I’m not a murderer.”
I feel uneasy. It’s not often you encounter the real person behind a good-natured mask, the darkest parts of someone. It’s not comfortable when you do.
“I’m sorry for what happened to Uriah,” Matthew says. “I’ll leave you with him.”
He puts his hands back in his pockets and continues down the hallway, his lips puckered in a whistle.
THE EMERGENCY COUNCIL meeting is more of the same: confirmation that the viruses will be dropped over the cities this evening, discussions about what planes will be used and at what times. David and I exchange friendly words when the meeting is over, and then I slip out while the others are still sipping coffee and walk back to the hotel.
Tobias takes me to the atrium near the hotel dormitory, and we spend some time there, talking and kissing and pointing out the strangest plants. It feels like something that normal people do—go on dates, talk about small things, laugh. We have had so few of those moments. Most of our time together has been spent running from one threat or another, or running toward one threat or another. But I can see a time on the horizon when that won’t need to happen anymore. We will reset the people in the compound, and work to rebuild this place together. Maybe then we can find out if we do as well with the quiet moments as we have with the loud ones.
I am looking forward to it.
Finally the time comes for Tobias to leave. I stand on the higher step in the atrium and he stands on the lower one, so we’re on the same plane.
“I don’t like that I can’t be with you tonight,” he says. “It doesn’t feel right to leave you alone with something this huge.”
“What, you don’t think I can handle it?” I say, a little defensive.
“Obviously that is not what I think.” He touches his hands to my face and leans his forehead against mine. “I just don’t want you to have to bear it alone.”
“I don’t want you to have to bear Uriah’s family alone,” I say softly. “But I think these are things we have to do separately. I’m glad I’ll get to be with Caleb before . . . you know. It’ll be nice not having to worry about you at the same time.”
“Yeah.” He closes his eyes. “I can’t wait until tomorrow, when I’m back and you’ve done what you set out to do and we can decide what comes next.”
“I can tell you it will involve a lot of this,” I say, and I press my lips to his.
His hands shift from my cheeks to my shoulders and then slide painstakingly down my back. His fingers find the hem of my shirt, then slip under it, warm and insistent.
I feel aware of everything at once, of the pressure of his mouth and the taste of our kiss and the texture of his skin and the orange light glowing against my closed eyelids and the smell of green things, growing things, in the air. When I pull away, and he opens his eyes, I see everything about them, the dart of light blue in his left eye, the dark blue that makes me feel like I am safe inside it, like I am dreaming.
“I love you,” I say.
“I love you, too,” he says. “I’ll see you soon.”
He kisses me again, softly, and then leaves the atrium. I stand in that shaft of sunlight until the sun disappears.
It’s time to be with my brother now.
I CHECK THE screens before I go to meet Amar and George. Evelyn is holed up in Erudite headquarters with her factionless supporters, leaning over a map of the city. Marcus and Johanna are in a building on Michigan Avenue, north of the Hancock building, conducting a meeting.
I hope that’s where they both are in a few hours when I decide which of my parents to reset. Amar gave us a little over an hour to find and inoculate Uriah’s family and get back to the compound unnoticed, so I only have time for one of them.
Snow swirls over the pavement outside, floating on the wind. George offers me a gun.
“It’s dangerous in there right now,” he says. “With all that Allegiant stuff going on.”
I take the gun without even looking at it.
“You are all familiar with the plan?” George says. “I’m going to be monitoring you from here, from the small control room. We’ll see how useful I am tonight, though, with all this snow obscuring the cameras.”
“And where will the other security people be?”
“Drinking?” George shrugs. “I told them to take the night off. No one will notice the truck is gone. It’ll be fine, I promise.”
Amar grins. “All right, let’s pile in.”
George squeezes Amar’s arm and waves at the rest of us. As the others follow Amar to the parked truck outside, I grab George and hold him back. He gives me a strange look.
“Don’t ask me any questions about this, because I won’t answer them,” I say. “But inoculate yourself against the memory serum, okay? As soon as possible. Matthew can help you.”
He frowns at me.
“Just do it,” I say, and I go out to the truck.
Snowflakes cling to my hair, and vapor curls around my mouth with each breath. Christina bumps into me on our way to the truck and slips something into my pocket. A vial.
I see Peter’s eyes on us as I get in the passenger’s seat. I’m still not sure why he was so eager to come with us, but I know I need to be wary of him.
The inside of the truck is warm, and soon we are all covered with beads of water instead of snow.
“Lucky you,” Amar says. He hands me a glass screen with bright lines tangled across it like veins. I look closer and see that they are streets, and the brightest line traces our path through them. “You get to man the map.”
“You need a map?” I raise my eyebrows. “Has it not occurred to you to just . . . aim for the giant buildings?”
Amar makes a face at me. “We aren’t just driving straight into the city, we’re taking a stealth route. Now shut up and man the map.”
I find a blue dot on the map that marks our position. Amar urges the truck into the snow, which falls so fast I can only see a few feet in front of us.
The buildings we drive past look like dark figures peeking through a white shroud. Amar drives fast, trusting the weight of the truck to keep us steady. Between snowflakes, I see the city lights up ahead. I had forgotten how close we were to it, because everything is so different just outside its limits.
“I can’t believe we’re going back,” Peter says quietly, like he doesn’t expect a response.
“Me either,” I say, because it’s true.
The distance the Bureau has kept from the rest of the world is an evil separate from the war they intend to wage against our memories—more subtle, but, in its way, just as sinister. They had the capacity to help us, languishing in our factions, but instead they let us fall apart. Let us die. Let us kill one another. Only now that we are about to destroy more than an acceptable level of genetic material are they deciding to intervene.
We bounce back and forth in the truck as Amar drives over the railroad tracks, staying close to the high cement wall on our right.
I look at Christina in the rearview mirror. Her right knee bounces fast.
I still don’t know whose memory I’m going to take: Marcus’s, or Evelyn’s?
Usually I would try to decide what the most selfless choice would be, but in this case either choice feels selfish. Resetting Marcus would mean erasing the man I hate and fear from the world. It would mean my freedom from his influence.
Resetting Evelyn would mean making her into a new mother—one who wouldn’t abandon me, or make decisions out of a desire for revenge, or control everyone in an effort not to have to trust them.
Either way, with either parent gone, I am better off. But what would help the city most?
I no longer know.
I hold my hands over the air vents to warm them as Amar continues to drive, over the railroad tracks and past the abandoned train car we saw on our way in, reflecting the headlights in its silver panels. We reach the place where the outside world ends and the experiment begins, as abrupt a shift as if someone had drawn a line in the ground.
Amar drives over that line like it isn’t there. For him, I suppose, it has faded with time, as he grows more and more used to his new world. For me, it feels like driving from truth into a lie, from adulthood into childhood. I watch the land of pavement and glass and metal turn into an empty field. The snow is falling softly now, and I can faintly see the city’s skyline up ahead, the buildings just a shade darker than the clouds.
“Where should we go to find Zeke?” Amar says.
“Zeke and his mother joined up with the revolt,” I say. “So wherever most of them are is my best bet.”