I feel a spike of terror. She looks almost like . . . Jeanine.
No, I saw her die. Jeanine is dead.
The woman comes closer. She is statuesque and blond, like Jeanine. A pair of glasses dangles from her front pocket, and her hair is in a braid. An Erudite from head to foot, but not Jeanine Matthews.
Cara and Johanna are the leaders of the Allegiant?
“Hello,” Cara says, and all conversation stops. She smiles, but on her the expression looks compulsory, like she’s just adhering to a social convention. “We aren’t supposed to be here, so I’m going to keep this meeting short. Some of you—Zeke, Tori—have been helping us for the past few days.”
I stare at Zeke. Zeke has been helping Cara? I guess I forgot that he was once a Dauntless spy. Which is probably when he proved his loyalty to Cara—he had some kind of friendship with her before she left Erudite headquarters not long ago.
He looks at me, wiggles his eyebrows, and grins.
Johanna continues, “Some of you are here because we want to ask for your help. All of you are here because you don’t trust Evelyn Johnson to determine the fate of this city.”
Cara touches her palms together in front of her. “We believe in following the guidance of the city’s founders, which has been expressed in two ways: the formation of the factions, and the Divergent mission expressed by Edith Prior, to send people outside the fence to help whoever is out there once we have a large Divergent population. We believe that even if we have not reached that Divergent population size, the situation in our city has become dire enough to send people outside the fence anyway.
“In accordance with the intentions of our city’s founders, we have two goals: to overthrow Evelyn and the factionless so that we can reestablish the factions, and to send some of our number outside the city to see what’s out there. Johanna will be heading up the former effort, and I will be heading up the latter, which is what we will mostly be focusing on tonight.” She presses a loose strand of hair back into her braid. “Not many of us will be able to go, because a crowd that large would draw too much attention. Evelyn won’t let us leave without a fight, so I thought it would be best to recruit people who I know to be experienced with surviving danger.”
I glance at Tobias. We certainly are experienced with danger.
“Christina, Tris, Tobias, Tori, Zeke, and Peter are my selections,” Cara says. “You have all proven your skills to me in one way or another, and it’s for that reason that I’d like to ask you to come with me outside the city. You are under no obligation to agree, of course.”
“Peter?” I demand, without thinking. I can’t imagine what Peter could have done to “prove his skills” to Cara.
“He kept the Erudite from killing you,” Cara says mildly. “Who do you think provided him with the technology to fake your death?”
I raise my eyebrows. I had never thought about it before—too much happened after my failed execution for me to dwell on the details of my rescue. But of course, Cara was the only well-known defector from Erudite at that time, the only person Peter would have known to ask for help. Who else could have helped him? Who else would have known how?
I don’t raise another objection. I don’t want to leave this city with Peter, but I’m too desperate to leave to make a fuss about it.
“That’s a lot of Dauntless,” a girl at the side of the room says, looking skeptical. She has thick eyebrows that don’t stop growing in the middle, and pale skin. When she turns her head, I see black ink right behind her ear. A Dauntless transfer to Erudite, no doubt.
“True,” Cara says. “But what we need right now are people with the skills to get out of the city unscathed, and I think Dauntless training makes them highly qualified for that task.”
“I’m sorry, but I don’t think I can go,” Zeke says. “I couldn’t leave Shauna here. Not after her sister just . . . well, you know.”
“I’ll go,” Uriah says, his hand popping up. “I’m Dauntless. I’m a good shot. And I provide much-needed eye candy.”
I laugh. Cara does not seem to be amused, but she nods. “Thank you.”
“Cara, you’ll need to get out of the city fast,” the Dauntless-turned-Erudite girl says. “Which means you should get someone to operate the trains.”
“Good point,” Cara says. “Does anyone here know how to drive a train?”
“Oh. I do,” the girl says. “Was that not implied?”
The pieces of the plan come together. Johanna suggests we take Amity trucks from the end of the railroad tracks out of the city, and she volunteers to supply them to us. Robert offers to help her. Stephanie and Rose volunteer to monitor Evelyn’s movements in the hours before the escape, and to report any unusual behavior to the Amity compound by two-way radio. The Dauntless who came with Tori offer to find weapons for us. The Erudite girl prods at any weaknesses she sees, and so does Cara, and soon they are all shored up, like we have just built a secure structure.
There is only one question left. Cara asks it:
“When should we go?”
And I volunteer an answer:
THE NIGHT AIR slips into my lungs, and I feel like it is one of my last breaths. Tomorrow I will leave this place and seek another.
Uriah, Zeke, and Christina start toward Erudite headquarters, and I hold Tris’s hand to keep her back.
“Wait,” I say. “Let’s go somewhere.”
“Go somewhere? But . . .”
“Just for a little while.” I tug her toward the corner of the building. At night I can almost see what the water looked like when it filled the empty canal, dark and patterned with moonlit ripples. “You’re with me, remember? They’re not going to arrest you.”
A twitch at the corner of her mouth—almost a smile.
Around the corner, she leans against the wall and I stand in front of her, the river at my back. She’s wearing something dark around her eyes to make their color stand out, bright and striking.
“I don’t know what to do.” She presses her hands to her face, curling her fingers into her hair. “About Caleb, I mean.”
She moves one hand aside to look at me.
“Tris.” I set my hands on the wall on either side of her face and lean into them. “You don’t want him to die. I know you don’t.”
“The thing is . . .” She closes her eyes. “I’m so . . . angry. I try not to think about him because when I do I just want to . . .”
“I know. God, I know.” My entire life I’ve daydreamed about killing Marcus. Once I even decided how I would do it—with a knife, so I could feel the warmth leave him, so I could be close enough to watch the light leave his eyes. Making that decision frightened me as much as his violence ever did.
“My parents would want me to save him, though.” Her eyes open and lift to the sky. “They would say it’s selfish to let someone die just because they wronged you. Forgive, forgive, forgive.”
“This isn’t about what they want, Tris.”
“Yes, it is!” She presses away from the wall. “It’s always about what they want. Because he belongs to them more than he belongs to me. And I want to make them proud of me. It’s all I want.”
Her pale eyes are steady on mine, determined. I have never had parents who set good examples, parents whose expectations were worth living up to, but she did. I can see them within her, the courage and the beauty they pressed into her like a handprint.
I touch her cheek, sliding my fingers into her hair. “I’ll get him out.”
“I’ll get him out of his cell. Tomorrow, before we leave.” I nod. “I’ll do it.”
“Really? Are you sure?”
“Of course I’m sure.”
“I . . .” She frowns up at me. “Thank you. You’re . . . amazing.”
“Don’t say that. You haven’t found out about my ulterior motives yet.” I grin. “You see, I didn’t bring you here to talk to you about Caleb, actually.”
I set my hands on her hips and push her gently back against the wall. She looks up at me, her eyes clear and eager. I lean in close enough to taste her breaths, but pull back when she leans in, teasing.
She hooks her fingers in my belt loops and pulls me against her, so I have to catch myself on my forearms. She tries to kiss me but I tilt my head to dodge her, kissing just under her ear, then along her jaw to her throat. Her skin is soft and tastes like salt, like a night run.
“Do me a favor,” she whispers into my ear, “and never have pure motives again.”
She puts her hands on me, touching all the places I am marked, down my back and over my sides. Her fingertips slip under the waistband of my jeans and hold me against her. I breathe against the side of her neck, unable to move.
Finally we kiss, and it is a relief. She sighs, and I feel a wicked smile creep across my face.
I lift her up, letting the wall bear most of her weight, and her legs drape around my waist. She laughs into another kiss, and I feel strong, but so does she, her fingers stern around my arms. The night air slips into my lungs, and I feel like it is one of my first breaths.
THE BROKEN BUILDINGS in the Dauntless sector look like doorways to other worlds. Ahead of me I see the Pire piercing the sky.
The pulse in my fingertips marks the passing seconds. The air still feels rich in my lungs, though summer is drawing to a close. I used to run all the time and fight all the time because I cared about muscles. Now my feet have saved me too often, and I can’t separate running and fighting from what they are: a way to escape danger, a way to stay alive.
When I reach the building, I pace before the entrance to catch my breath. Above me, panes of glass reflect light in every direction. Somewhere up there is the chair I sat in while I was running the attack simulation, and a smear of Tris’s father’s blood on the wall. Somewhere up there, Tris’s voice pierced the simulation I was under, and I felt her hand on my chest, drawing me back to reality.
I open the door to the fear landscape room and flip open the small black box that was in my back pocket to see the syringes inside. This is the box I have always used, padded around the needles; it is a sign of something sick inside me, or something brave.
I position the needle over my throat and close my eyes as I press down on the plunger. The black box clatters to the ground, but by the time I open my eyes, it has disappeared.
I stand on the roof of the Hancock building, near the zip line where the Dauntless flirt with death. The clouds are black with rain, and the wind fills my mouth when I open it to breathe. To my right, the zip line snaps, the wire cord whipping back and shattering the windows below me.
My vision tightens around the roof edge, trapping it in the center of a pinhole. I can hear my own exhales despite the whistling wind. I force myself to walk to the edge. The rain pounds against my shoulders and head, dragging me toward the ground. I tip my weight forward just a little and fall, my jaw clamped around my screams, muffled and suffocated by my own fear.
After I land, I don’t have a second to rest before the walls close in around me, the wood slamming into my spine, and then my head, and then my legs. Claustrophobia. I pull my arms in to my chest, close my eyes, and try not to panic.
I think of Eric in his fear landscape, willing his terror into submission with deep breathing and logic. And Tris, conjuring weapons out of thin air to attack her worst nightmares. But I am not Eric, and I am not Tris. What am I? What do I need, to overcome my fears?
I know the answer, of course I do: I need to deny them the power to control me. I need to know that I am stronger than they are.
I breathe in and slam my palms against the walls to my left and right. The box creaks, and then breaks, the boards crashing to the concrete floor. I stand above them in the dark.
Amar, my initiation instructor, taught us that our fear landscapes were always in flux, shifting with our moods and changing with the little whispers of our nightmares. Mine was always the same, until a few weeks ago. Until I proved to myself that I could overpower my father. Until I discovered someone I was terrified to lose.
I don’t know what I will see next.
I wait for a long time without anything changing. The room is still dark, the floor still cold and hard, my heart still beating faster than normal. I look down to check my watch and discover that it’s on the wrong hand—I usually wear mine on my left, not my right, and my watchband isn’t gray, it’s black.
Then I notice bristly hairs on my fingers that weren’t there before. The calluses on my knuckles are gone. I look down, and I am wearing gray slacks and a gray shirt; I am thicker around the middle and thinner through the shoulders.
I lift my eyes to a mirror that now stands in front of me. The face staring back at mine is Marcus’s.
He winks at me, and I feel the muscles around my eye contracting as he does, though I didn’t tell them to. Without warning, his—my—our arms jerk toward the glass and reach into it, closing around the neck of my reflection. But then the mirror disappears, and my—his—our hands are around our own throat, dark patches creeping into the edge of our vision. We sink to the ground, and the grip is as tight as iron.
I can’t think. I can’t think of a way out of this one.
By instinct, I scream. The sound vibrates against my hands. I picture those hands as mine really are, large with slender fingers and calloused knuckles from hours at the punching bag. I imagine my reflection as water running over Marcus’s skin, replacing every piece of him with a piece of me. I remake myself in my own image.
I am kneeling on the concrete, gasping for air.
My hands tremble, and I run my fingers over my neck, my shoulders, my arms. Just to make sure.