Allegiantpart #3 of Divergent Series by Veronica Roth / Young Adult / Science Fiction
I PACE IN our cell in Erudite headquarters, her words echoing in my mind: My name will be Edith Prior, and there is much I am happy to forget.
“So you’ve never seen her before? Not even in pictures?” Christina says, her wounded leg propped up on a pillow. She was shot during our desperate attempt to reveal the Edith Prior video to our city. At the time we had no idea what it would say, or that it would shatter the foundation we stand on, the factions, our identities. “Is she a grandmother or an aunt or something?”
“I told you, no,” I say, turning when I reach the wall. “Prior is—was—my father’s name, so it would have to be on his side of the family. But Edith is an Abnegation name, and my father’s relatives must have been Erudite, so . . . ”
“So she must be older,” Cara says, leaning her head against the wall. From this angle she looks just like her brother, Will, my friend, the one I shot. Then she straightens, and the ghost of him is gone. “A few generations back. An ancestor. ”
“Ancestor. ” The word feels old inside me, like crumbling brick. I touch one wall of the cell as I turn around. The panel is cold and white.
My ancestor, and this is the inheritance she passed to me: freedom from the factions, and the knowledge that my Divergent identity is more important than I could have known. My existence is a signal that we need to leave this city and offer our help to whoever is outside it.
“I want to know,” Cara says, running her hand over her face. “I need to know how long we’ve been here. Would you stop pacing for one minute?”
I stop in the middle of the cell and raise my eyebrows at her.
“Sorry,” she mumbles.
“It’s okay,” Christina says. “We’ve been in here way too long. ”
It’s been days since Evelyn mastered the chaos in the lobby of Erudite headquarters with a few short commands and had all the prisoners hustled away to cells on the third floor. A factionless woman came to doctor our wounds and distribute painkillers, and we’ve eaten and showered several times, but no one has told us what’s going on outside. No matter how forcefully I’ve asked them.
“I thought Tobias would come by now,” I say, dropping to the edge of my cot. “Where is he?”
“Maybe he’s still angry that you lied to him and went behind his back to work with his father,” Cara says.
I glare at her.
“Four wouldn’t be that petty,” Christina says, either to chastise Cara or to reassure me, I’m not sure. “Something’s probably going on that’s keeping him away. He told you to trust him. ”
In the chaos, when everyone was shouting and the factionless were trying to push us toward the staircase, I curled my fingers in the hem of his shirt so I wouldn’t lose him. He took my wrists in his hands and pushed me away, and those were the words he said. Trust me. Go where they tell you.
“I’m trying,” I say, and it’s true. I’m trying to trust him. But every part of me, every fiber and every nerve, is straining toward freedom, not just from this cell but from the prison of the city beyond it.
I need to see what’s outside the fence.
I CAN’T WALK these hallways without remembering the days I spent as a prisoner here, barefoot, pain pulsing inside me every time I moved. And with that memory is another one, one of waiting for Beatrice Prior to go to her death, of my fists against the door, of her legs slung across Peter’s arms when he told me she was just drugged.
I hate this place.
It isn’t as clean as it was when it was the Erudite compound; now it is ravaged by war, bullet holes in the walls and the broken glass of shattered lightbulbs everywhere. I walk over dirty footprints and beneath flickering lights to her cell and I am admitted without question, because I bear the factionless symbol—an empty circle—on a black band around my arm and Evelyn’s features on my face. Tobias Eaton was a shameful name, and now it is a powerful one.
Tris crouches on the ground inside, shoulder to shoulder with Christina and diagonal from Cara. My Tris should look pale and small—she is pale and small, after all—but instead the room is full of her.
Her round eyes find mine and she is on her feet, her arms wound tightly around my waist and her face against my chest.
I squeeze her shoulder with one hand and run my other hand over her hair, still surprised when her hair stops above her neck instead of below it. I was happy when she cut it, because it was hair for a warrior and not a girl, and I knew that was what she would need.
“How’d you get in?” she says in her low, clear voice.
“I’m Tobias Eaton,” I say, and she laughs.
“Right. I keep forgetting. ” She pulls away just far enough to look at me. There is a wavering expression in her eyes, like she is a heap of leaves about to be scattered by the wind. “What’s happening? What took you so long?”
She sounds desperate, pleading. For all the horrible memories this place carries for me, it carries more for her, the walk to her execution, her brother’s betrayal, the fear serum. I have to get her out.
Cara looks up with interest. I feel uncomfortable, like I have shifted in my skin and it doesn’t quite fit anymore. I hate having an audience.
“Evelyn has the city under lockdown,” I say. “No one goes a step in any direction without her say-so. A few days ago she gave a speech about uniting against our oppressors, the people outside. ”
“Oppressors?” Christina says. She takes a vial from her pocket and dumps the contents into her mouth—painkillers for the bullet wound in her leg, I assume.
I slide my hands into my pockets. “Evelyn—and a lot of people, actually—think we shouldn’t leave the city just to help a bunch of people who shoved us in here so they could use us later. They want to try to heal the city and solve our own problems instead of leaving to solve other people’s. I’m paraphrasing, of course,” I say. “I suspect that opinion is very convenient for my mother, because as long as we’re all contained, she’s in charge. The second we leave, she loses her hold. ”
“Great. ” Tris rolls her eyes. “Of course she would choose the most selfish route possible. ”
“She has a point. ” Christina wraps her fingers around the vial. “I’m not saying I don’t want to leave the city and see what’s out there, but we’ve got enough going on here. How are we supposed to help a bunch of people we’ve never met?”
Tris considers this, chewing on the inside of her cheek. “I don’t know,” she admits.
My watch reads three o’clock. I’ve been here too long—long enough to make Evelyn suspicious. I told her I came to break things off with Tris, that it wouldn’t take much time. I’m not sure she believed me.
I say, “Listen, I mostly came to warn you—they’re starting the trials for all the prisoners. They’re going to put you all under truth serum, and if it works, you’ll be convicted as traitors. I think we would all like to avoid that. ”
“Convicted as traitors?” Tris scowls. “How is revealing the truth to our entire city an act of betrayal?”
“It was an act of defiance against your leaders,” I say. “Evelyn and her followers don’t want to leave the city. They won’t thank you for showing that video. ”
“They’re just like Jeanine!” She makes a fitful gesture, like she wants to hit something but there’s nothing available. “Ready to do anything to stifle the truth, and for what? To be kings of their tiny little world? It’s ridiculous. ”
I don’t want to say so, but part of me agrees with my mother. I don’t owe the people outside this city anything, whether I am Divergent or not. I’m not sure I want to offer myself to them to solve humanity’s problems, whatever that means.
But I do want to leave, in the desperate way that an animal wants to escape a trap. Wild and rabid. Ready to gnaw through bone.
“Be that as it may,” I say carefully, “if the truth serum works on you, you will be convicted. ”
“If it works?” says Cara, narrowing her eyes.
“Divergent,” Tris says to her, pointing at her own head. “Remember?”
“That’s fascinating. ” Cara tucks a stray hair back into the knot just above her neck. “But atypical. In my experience, most Divergent can’t resist the truth serum. I wonder why you can. ”
“You and every other Erudite who ever stuck a needle in me,” Tris snaps.
“Can we focus, please? I would like to avoid having to break you out of prison,” I say. Suddenly desperate for comfort, I reach for Tris’s hand, and she brings her fingers up to meet mine. We are not people who touch each other carelessly; every point of contact between us feels important, a rush of energy and relief.
“All right, all right,” she says, gently now. “What did you have in mind?”
“I’ll get Evelyn to let you testify first, of the three of you,” I say. “All you have to do is come up with a lie that will exonerate both Christina and Cara, and then tell it under truth serum. ”
“What kind of lie would do that?”
“I thought I would leave that to you,” I say. “Since you’re the better liar. ”
I know as I’m saying the words that they hit a sore spot in both of us. She lied to me so many times. She promised me she wouldn’t go to her death in the Erudite compound when Jeanine demanded the sacrifice of a Divergent, and then she did it anyway. She told me she would stay home during the Erudite attack, and then I found her in Erudite headquarters, working with my father. I understand why she did all those things, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t still broken.
“Yeah. ” She looks at her shoes. “Okay, I’ll think of something. ”
I set my hand on her arm. “I’ll talk to Evelyn about your trial. I’ll try to make it soon. ”
“Thank you. ”
I feel the urge, familiar now, to wrench myself from my body and speak directly into her mind. It is the same urge, I realize, that makes me want to kiss her every time I see her, because even a sliver of distance between us is infuriating. Our fingers, loosely woven a moment ago, now clutch together, her palm tacky with moisture, mine rough in places where I have grabbed too many handles on too many moving trains. Now she looks pale and small, but her eyes make me think of wide-open skies that I have never actually seen, only dreamed of.
“If you’re going to kiss, do me a favor and tell me so I can look away,” says Christina.
“We are,” Tris says. And we do.
I touch her cheek to slow the kiss down, holding her mouth on mine so I can feel every place where our lips touch and every place where they pull away. I savor the air we share in the second afterward and the slip of her nose across mine. I think of something to say, but it is too intimate, so I swallow it. A moment later I decide I don’t care.
“I wish we were alone,” I say as I back out of the cell.
She smiles. “I almost always wish that. ”
As I shut the door, I see Christina pretending to vomit, and Cara laughing, and Tris’s hands hanging at her sides.
“I THINK YOU’RE all idiots. ” My hands are curled in my lap like a sleeping child’s. My body is heavy with truth serum. Sweat collects on my eyelids. “You should be thanking me, not questioning me. ”
“We should thank you for defying the instructions of your faction leaders? Thank you for trying to prevent one of your faction leaders from killing Jeanine Matthews? You behaved like a traitor. ” Evelyn Johnson spits the word like a snake. We are in the conference room in Erudite headquarters, where the trials have been taking place. I have now been a prisoner for at least a week.
I see Tobias, half-hidden in the shadows behind his mother. He has kept his eyes averted since I sat in the chair and they cut the strip of plastic binding my wrists together. For just for a moment, his eyes touch mine, and I know it’s time to start lying.
It’s easier now that I know I can do it. As easy as pushing the weight of the truth serum aside in my mind.
“I am not a traitor,” I say. “At the time I believed that Marcus was working under Dauntless-factionless orders. Since I couldn’t join the fight as a soldier, I was happy to help with something else. ”
“Why couldn’t you be a soldier?” Fluorescent light glows behind Evelyn’s hair. I can’t see her face, and I can’t focus on anything for more than a second before the truth serum threatens to pull me down again.
“Because. ” I bite my lip, as if trying to stop the words from rushing out. I don’t know when I became so good at acting, but I guess it’s not that different from lying, which I have always had a talent for. “Because I couldn’t hold a gun, okay? Not after shooting . . . him. My friend Will. I couldn’t hold a gun without panicking. ”
Evelyn’s eyes pinch tighter. I suspect that even in the softest parts of her, there is no sympathy for me.
“So Marcus told you he was working under my orders,” she says, “and even knowing what you do about his rather tense relationship with both the Dauntless and the factionless, you believed him?”
“I can see why you didn’t choose Erudite. ” She laughs.
My cheeks tingle. I would like to slap her, as I’m sure many of the people in this room would, though they wouldn’t dare to admit it. Evelyn has us all trapped in the city, controlled by armed factionless patrolling the streets. She knows that whoever holds the guns holds the power. And with Jeanine Matthews dead, there is no one left to challenge her for it.
From one tyrant to another. That is the world we know, now.