“Keep it!” I call back.
I turn a corner that I think will take me to another staircase, but I end up in another blank hallway, just like the last one I was in. I think I hear footsteps behind me, and I spin around, ready to fight the factionless girl off, but there’s no one there.
I must be getting paranoid.
I open one of the doors off the main corridor, hoping to find a window so I can reorient myself, but I find only a ransacked laboratory, beakers and test tubes scattered across each counter. Torn pieces of paper litter the floor, and I’m bending to pick one up when the lights shut off.
I lunge toward the door. A hand grabs my arm and drags me to the side. Someone shoves a sack over my head while someone else pushes me against the wall. I thrash against them, struggling with the fabric covering my face, and all I can think is, Not again not again not again. I twist one arm free and punch, hitting someone in a shoulder or a chin, I can’t tell.
“Hey!” a voice says. “That hurt!”
“We’re sorry for frightening you, Tris,” another voice says, “but anonymity is integral to our operation. We mean you no harm.”
“Let go of me, then!” I say, almost growling. All the hands holding me to the wall fall away.
“Who are you?” I demand.
“We are the Allegiant,” the voice replies. “And we are many, yet we are no one. . . .”
I can’t help it: I laugh. Maybe it’s the shock—or the fear, my pounding heart slowing by the second, my hands shaking with relief.
The voice continues, “We have heard that you are not loyal to Evelyn Johnson and her factionless lackeys.”
“This is ridiculous.”
“Not as ridiculous as trusting someone with your identity when you don’t have to.”
I try to see through the fibers of whatever is over my head, but they are too dense and it is too dark. I try to relax against the wall, but it’s difficult without my vision to orient me. I crush the side of a beaker under my shoe.
“No, I’m not loyal to her,” I say. “Why does that matter?”
“Because it means you want to leave,” the voice says. I feel a prickle of excitement. “We want to ask you for a favor, Tris Prior. We’re going to have a meeting tomorrow night, at midnight. We want you to bring your Dauntless friends.”
“Okay,” I say. “Let me ask you this: If I’m going to see who you are tomorrow, why is it so important to keep this thing over my head today?”
This seems to temporarily stump whoever I’m talking to.
“A day contains many dangers,” the voice says. “We’ll see you tomorrow, at midnight, in the place where you made your confession.”
All at once, the door swings open, blowing the sack against my cheeks, and I hear running footsteps down the hallway. By the time I’m able to pull the sack from my head, the corridor is silent. I look down at it—it’s a dark-blue pillowcase with the words “Faction before blood” painted on it.
Whoever they are, they certainly have a flair for the dramatic.
The place where you made your confession.
There’s only one place that could be: Candor headquarters, where I succumbed to the truth serum.
When I finally make it back to the dormitory that evening, I find a note from Tobias tucked under the glass of water on my bedside table.
Your brother’s trial will be tomorrow morning, and it will be private. I can’t go or I’ll raise suspicion, but I’ll get you the verdict as soon as possible. Then we can make some kind of plan.
No matter what, this will be over soon.
IT’S NINE O’CLOCK. They could be deciding Caleb’s verdict right now, as I tie my shoes, as I straighten my sheets for the fourth time today. I put my hands through my hair. The factionless only make trials private when they feel the verdict is obvious, and Caleb was Jeanine’s right-hand man before she was killed.
I shouldn’t worry about his verdict. It’s already decided. All of Jeanine’s closest associates will be executed.
Why do you care? I ask myself. He betrayed you. He didn’t try to stop your execution.
I don’t care. I do care. I don’t know.
“Hey, Tris,” Christina says, rapping her knuckles against the door frame. Uriah lurks behind her. He still smiles all the time, but now his smiles look like they’re made of water, about to drip down his face.
“You had some news?” she says.
I check the room again, though I already know it’s empty. Everyone is at breakfast, as required by our schedules. I asked Uriah and Christina to skip a meal so that I could tell them something. My stomach is already rumbling.
“Yeah,” I say.
They sit on the bed across from mine, and I tell them about getting cornered in one of the Erudite laboratories the night before, about the pillowcase and the Allegiant and the meeting.
“I’m surprised all you did was punch one of them,” Uriah says.
“Well, I was outnumbered,” I say, feeling defensive. It wasn’t very Dauntless of me to just trust them immediately, but these are strange times. And I’m not sure how Dauntless I really am, anyway, now that the factions are gone.
I feel a strange little ache at the thought, right in the middle of my chest. Some things are hard to let go of.
“So what do you think they want?” Christina says. “Just to leave the city?”
“It sounds that way, but I don’t know,” I say.
“How do we know they’re not Evelyn’s people, trying to trick us into betraying her?”
“I don’t know that, either,” I say. “But it’s going to be impossible to get out of the city without someone’s help, and I’m not just going to stay here, learning how to drive buses and going to bed when I’m told to.”
Christina gives Uriah a worried look.
“Hey,” I say. “You don’t have to come, but I need to get out of here. I need to know who Edith Prior was, and who’s waiting for us outside the fence, if anyone. I don’t know why, but I need to.”
I take a deep breath. I’m not sure where that swell of desperation came from, but now that I’ve acknowledged it, it’s impossible to ignore, like a living thing has awakened from a long sleep inside me. It writhes in my stomach and throat. I need to leave. I need the truth.
For once, the weak smile playing over Uriah’s lips is gone. “So do I,” he says.
“Okay,” Christina says. Her dark eyes are still troubled, but she shrugs. “So we go to the meeting.”
“Good. Can one of you tell Tobias? I’m supposed to be keeping my distance, since we’re ‘broken up,’” I say. “Let’s meet in the alley at eleven thirty.”
“I’ll tell him. I think I’m in his group today,” Uriah says. “Learning about the factories. I can’t wait.” He smirks. “Can I tell Zeke, too? Or is he not trustworthy enough?”
“Go ahead. Just make sure he doesn’t spread it around.”
I check my watch again. Nine fifteen. Caleb’s verdict has to be decided by now; it’s almost time for everyone to go learn their factionless jobs. I feel like the slightest thing could make me jump right out of my skin. My knee bounces of its own volition.
Christina puts her hand on my shoulder, but she doesn’t ask me about it, and I’m grateful. I don’t know what I would say.
Christina and I weave a complicated path through Erudite headquarters on our way to the back staircase, avoiding patrolling factionless. I pull my sleeve down over my wrist. I drew a map on my arm before I left—I know how to get to Candor headquarters from here, but I don’t know the side streets that will keep us away from prying factionless eyes.
Uriah waits for us just outside the door. He wears all black, but I can see a hint of Abnegation gray peeking over the collar of his sweatshirt. It’s strange to see my Dauntless friends in Abnegation colors, as if they’ve been with me my entire life. Sometimes it feels that way anyway.
“I told Four and Zeke, but they’re going to meet us there,” Uriah says. “Let’s go.”
We run in a pack down the alley toward Monroe Street. I resist the urge to wince at each of our loud footsteps. It’s more important to be quick than silent at this point, anyway. We turn onto Monroe, and I check behind us for factionless patrols. I see dark shapes moving closer to Michigan Avenue, but they disappear behind the row of buildings without stopping.
“Where’s Cara?” I whisper to Christina, when we’re on State Street and far enough away from Erudite headquarters that it’s safe to talk.
“I don’t know, I don’t think she got an invitation,” Christina says. “Which is really bizarre. I know she wants to—”
“Shh!” Uriah says. “Next turn?”
I use my watch light to see the words written on my arm. “Randolph Street!”
We settle into a rhythm, our shoes slapping on the pavement, our breaths pulsing almost in unison. Despite the burn in my muscles, it feels good to run.
My legs ache by the time we reach the bridge, but then I see the Merciless Mart across the marshy river, abandoned and unlit, and I smile through the pain. My pace slows when I am across the bridge, and Uriah slings an arm across my shoulders.
“And now,” he says, “we get to walk up a million flights of stairs.”
“Maybe they turned the elevators on?”
“Not a chance.” He shakes his head. “I bet Evelyn’s monitoring all the electricity usage—it’s the best way to figure out if people are meeting in secret.”
I sigh. I may like to run, but I hate climbing stairs.
When we finally reach the top of the stairs, our chests heaving, it is five minutes to midnight. The others go ahead while I catch my breath near the elevator bank. Uriah was right—there isn’t a single light on that I can see, apart from the exit signs. It is in their blue glow that I see Tobias emerge from the interrogation room up ahead.
Since our date I have spoken to him only in covert messages. I have to resist the urge to throw myself at him and brush my fingers over the curl of his lip and the crease in his cheek when he smiles and the hard line of his eyebrow and jaw. But it’s two minutes to midnight. We don’t have any time.
He wraps his arms around me and holds me tight for a few seconds. His breaths tickle my ear, and I close my eyes, letting myself finally relax. He smells like wind and sweat and soap, like Tobias and like safety.
“Should we go in?” he says. “Whoever they are, they’re probably prompt.”
“Yes.” My legs are trembling from overexertion—I can’t imagine going down the stairs and running back to Erudite headquarters later. “Did you find out about Caleb?”
He winces. “Maybe we should talk about that later.”
That’s all the answer I need.
“They’re going to execute him, aren’t they,” I say softly.
He nods, and takes my hand. I don’t know how to feel. I try not to feel anything.
Together we walk into the room where Tobias and I were once interrogated under the influence of truth serum. The place where you made your confession.
A circle of lit candles is arranged on the floor over one of the Candor scales set into the tile. There is a mix of familiar and unfamiliar faces in the room: Susan and Robert stand together, talking; Peter is alone on the side of the room, his arms crossed; Uriah and Zeke are with Tori and a few other Dauntless; Christina is with her mother and sister; and in a corner are two nervous-looking Erudite. New outfits can’t erase the divisions between us; they are ingrained.
Christina beckons to me. “This is my mom, Stephanie,” she says, indicating a woman with gray streaks in her dark curly hair. “And my sister, Rose. Mom, Rose, this is my friend Tris, and my initiation instructor, Four.”
“Obviously,” Stephanie says. “We saw their interrogations several weeks ago, Christina.”
“I know that, I was just being polite—”
“Politeness is deception in—”
“Yeah, yeah, I know.” Christina rolls her eyes.
Her mother and sister, I notice, look at each other with something like wariness or anger or both. Then her sister turns to me and says, “So you killed Christina’s boyfriend.”
Her words create a cold feeling inside me, like a streak of ice divides one side of my body from the other. I want to answer, to defend myself, but I can’t find the words.
“Rose!” Christina says, scowling at her. At my side, Tobias straightens, his muscles tensing. Ready for a fight, as always.
“I just thought we would air everything out,” Rose says. “It wastes less time.”
“And you wonder why I left our faction,” Christina says. “Being honest doesn’t mean you say whatever you want, whenever you want. It means that what you choose to say is true.”
“A lie of omission is still a lie.”
“You want the truth? I’m uncomfortable and don’t want to be here right now. I’ll see you guys later.” She takes my arm and walks Tobias and me away from her family, shaking her head the whole time. “Sorry about that. They’re not really the forgiving type.”
“It’s fine,” I say, though it’s not.
I thought that when I received Christina’s forgiveness, the hard part of Will’s death would be over. But when you kill someone you love, the hard part is never over. It just gets easier to distract yourself from what you’ve done.
My watch reads twelve o’clock. A door across the room opens, and in walk two lean silhouettes. The first is Johanna Reyes, former spokesperson of Amity, identifiable by the scar that crosses her face and the hint of yellow peeking out from under her black jacket. The second is another woman, but I can’t see her face, just that she is wearing blue.