Insurgent, p.40
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       Insurgent, p.40
 

         Part #2 of Divergent series by Veronica Roth  
Page 40

 

  Caleb doesn’t look at me.

  Marcus picks up Caleb’s revolver and turns it in his hand so the butt of the gun protrudes from his fist. Then he swings, striking Caleb under the jaw. Caleb’s eyes roll back, and he falls to the floor.

  I don’t want to know how Marcus perfected that maneuver.

  “We can’t have him running off to tell someone what we’re doing,” says Marcus. “Let’s go. Cara can take care of the rest, right?”

  Cara nods without looking up from her computer. A sick feeling in my stomach, I follow Marcus and Christina out of the control room and toward the stairs.

  The hallway outside is now empty. There are scraps of paper and footprints on the tile. Marcus, Christina, and I jog in a line to the stairwell. I stare at the back of his head, where the shape of his skull shows through his buzzed hair.

  All I can see when I look at him is a belt swinging toward Tobias, and the butt of a gun slamming into Caleb’s jaw. I don’t care that he hurt Caleb—I would have done it, too—but that he is simultaneously a man who knows how to hurt people and a man who parades around as the self-effacing leader of Abnegation, suddenly makes me so angry I can’t see straight.

  Especially because I chose him. I chose him over Tobias.

  “Your brother is a traitor,” says Marcus as we turn a corner. “He deserved worse. There’s no need to look at me that way. ”

  “Shut up!” I shout, shoving him hard into the wall. He is too surprised to push back. “I hate you, you know that! I hate you for what you did to him, and I am not talking about Caleb. ” I lean close to his face and whisper, “And while I may not shoot you myself, I will definitely not help you if someone tries to kill you, so you’d better hope to God we don’t get into that situation. ”

  He stares at me, apparently indifferent. I release him and start toward the stairs again, Christina on my heels, Marcus a few steps behind.

  “Where are we going?” she says.

  “Caleb said what we’re looking for won’t be on a public computer, so it has to be on a private one. As far as I know, Jeanine only has two private computers, one in her office, and one in her laboratory,” I say.

  “So which one do we go to?”

  “Tori told me there were insane security measures protecting Jeanine’s laboratory,” I say. “And I’ve been to her office; it’s just another room. ”

  “So . . . laboratory, then. ”

  “Top floor. ”

  We reach the door to the stairwell, and when I throw it open, a group of Erudite, including children, are sprinting down the stairs. I cling to the railing and force my way through them with my elbow, not looking at their faces, like they are not human, just a wall of mass to push aside.

  I expect the stream to stop, but more come from the next landing, a steady flow of blue-clad people in dim blue light, the whites of their eyes bright as lamps by contrast to everything else. Their terrified sobs echo in the cement chamber a hundred times, the shrieks of the demons with glowing eyes.

  When we reach the seventh-floor landing, the crowd thins, and then disappears. I run my hands along my arms to get rid of the ghosts of hair, sleeves, and skin that brushed against me on the way up. I can see the top of the stairs from where we stand.

  I also see the body of a guard, his arm dangling over the edge of a stair, and standing over him, a factionless man with an eye patch.

  Edward.

  “Look who it is,” Edward says. He stands at the top of a short flight, only seven steps long, and I stand at the bottom. The Dauntless traitor guard lies between us, his eyes glazed, a dark patch on his chest from where someone—Edward, probably—shot him.

  “That’s a strange outfit for someone who is supposed to despise Erudite,” he says. “I thought you were supposed to be at home, waiting for your boyfriend to come back a hero?”

  “As you may have gathered,” I say, walking up a step, “that was never going to happen. ”

  The blue light casts shadows into the faint hollows beneath Edward’s cheekbones. He reaches behind him.

  If he is here, that means Tori is already up here. Which means that Jeanine might already be dead.

  I feel Christina close behind me; I hear her breaths.

  “We are going to get past you,” I say, walking up another step.

  “I doubt that,” he replies. He grabs his gun. I launch myself forward, over the fallen guard. He fires, but my hands are wrapped around his wrist, so he doesn’t fire straight.

  My ears ring, and my feet scramble for stability on the dead guard’s back.

  Christina punches over my head. Her knuckles connect with Edward’s nose. I can’t balance on top of the body; I fall to my knees, digging my fingernails into his wrist. He wrenches me to the side and fires again, hitting Christina in the leg.

  Gasping, Christina draws her gun and shoots. The bullet hits him in the side. Edward screams and drops the gun, pitching forward. He falls on top of me, and I smack my head against one of the cement steps. The dead guard’s arm is jammed into my spine.

  Marcus picks up Edward’s gun and trains it on both of us.

  “Get up, Tris,” he says. And to Edward: “You. Don’t move. ”

  My hand searches for the corner of a step, and I squeeze from between Edward and the dead guard. Edward pushes himself to a sitting position on top of the guard—like he’s some kind of cushion—clutching his side with both hands.

  “You okay?” I ask Christina.

  Her face contorts. “Ahh. Yeah. It hit the side, not the bone. ”

  I reach for her, to help her up.

  “Beatrice,” Marcus says. “We have to leave her. ”

  “What do you mean leave?” I demand. “We can’t leave! Something terrible could happen!”

  Marcus presses his index finger to my sternum, in the gap between my collarbones, and leans over me.

  “Listen to me,” he says. “Jeanine Matthews will have retreated to her laboratory at the first sign of attack, because it is the safest room in this building. And at any moment, she will decide that Erudite is lost and it is better to delete the data than risk anyone else finding it, and this mission of ours will be useless. ”

  And I will have lost everyone: my parents, Caleb, and finally, Tobias, who will never forgive me for working with his father, especially if I have no way to prove that it was worthwhile.

  “We are going to leave your friend here. ” His breath smells stale. “And move on, unless you would rather me go on alone. ”

  “He’s right,” says Christina. “There’s no time. I’ll stay here and keep Ed from coming after you. ”

  I nod. Marcus removes his finger, leaving an aching circle behind. I rub the pain away and open the door at the top of the landing. I look back before I walk through it, and Christina gives me a pained smile, her hand pressed to her thigh.

  CHAPTER FORTY-FOUR

  THE NEXT ROOM is more like a hallway: it is wide, but not deep, with blue tile, blue walls, and a blue ceiling, all the same shade. Everything glows, but I can’t tell where the light is coming from.

  At first I don’t see any doors, but once my eyes adjust to the shock of color, I see a rectangle in the wall to my left, and another one in the wall to my right. Just two doors.

  “We have to split up,” I say. “We don’t have time to try each one together. ”

  “Which one do you want?” Marcus says.

  “Right,” I say. “Wait, no. Left. ”

  “Fine. I will go right. ”

  “If I’m the one who finds the computer,” I say, “what should I look for?”

  “If you find the computer, you will find Jeanine. I assume you know a few ways to coerce her into doing what you want. She is not, after all, accustomed to pain,” he says.

  I nod. We walk at the same pace toward our respective doors. A moment ago I would have said that separating from Marcus would be a relief. But going on alone is its own bu
rden. What if I can’t get through the security measures Jeanine undoubtedly has in place to keep out intruders? What if, if I somehow manage to get through them, I can’t find the right file?

  I put my hand on the door handle. There doesn’t seem to be a lock. When Tori said there were insane security measures, I thought she meant eye scanners and passwords and locks, but so far, everything has been open.

  Why does that worry me?

  I open my door, and Marcus opens his. We share a look. I walk into the next room.

  The room, like the hallway outside, is blue, though here it is clear where the light is coming from. It glows from the center of every panel, ceiling, floor, and walls.

  Once the door closes behind me, I hear a thud like a dead bolt shifting into place. I grab the door handle again and push down as hard as I can, but it doesn’t budge. I am trapped.

  Small, piercing lights come at me from all angles. My eyelids aren’t enough to block them, so I have to press my palms over my eye sockets.

  I hear a calm, feminine voice:

  “Beatrice Prior, second generation. Faction of origin: Abnegation. Selected faction: Dauntless. Confirmed Divergent. ”

  How does this room know who I am?

  And what does “second generation” mean?

  “Status: Intruder. ”

  I hear a click, and pull my fingers apart just enough to see if the lights are gone. They aren’t, but fixtures in the ceiling spray tinted vapor. Instinctively I clap my hand over my mouth. In seconds I stare through a blue fog. And then I stare at nothing.

  I now stand in darkness so complete that when I hold my hand in front of my nose, I can’t even see its silhouette. I should walk forward and search for a door on the other side of the room, but I am afraid to move—who knows what would happen to me here if I did?

  Then the lights lift, and I stand in the Dauntless training room, in the circle in which we used to spar. I have so many mixed memories of this circle, some triumphant, like beating Molly, and some haunting—Peter punching me until I fell unconscious. I sniff, and the air smells the same, like sweat and dust.

  Across the circle is a blue door that doesn’t belong there. I frown at it.

  “Intruder,” the voice says, and now it sounds like Jeanine, but that could be my imagination. “You have five minutes to reach the blue door before the poison will kick in. ”

  “What?”

  But I know what she said. Poison. Five minutes. I shouldn’t be surprised; this is Jeanine’s work, just as empty of conscience as she is. My body shudders, and I wonder if that is the poison, if the poison is already shutting down my brain.

  Focus. I can’t get out; I have to move forward, or . . .

  Or nothing. I have to move forward.

  I start toward the door, and someone appears in my path. She is short, thin, and blond, with dark circles under her eyes. She is me.

  A reflection? I wave at her to see if she will mirror me. She doesn’t.

  “Hello,” I say. She doesn’t answer. I didn’t really think she would.

  What is this? I swallow hard to pop my ears, which feel like they are stuffed with cotton. If Jeanine designed this, it is probably a test of intelligence or logic, which means I will have to think clearly, which means I will have to calm down. I clasp my hands over my chest and press down, hoping the pressure will make me feel safe, like an embrace.

  It doesn’t.

  I step to the right to get a better angle on the door, and my double hops to the side, her shoes scraping the dirt, to block my way again.

  I think I know what will happen if I start toward the door, but I have to try. I break into a run, intending to swerve around her, but she is ready for me: she grabs my wounded shoulder and wrenches me to the side. I scream so loud it scrapes my throat; I feel like knives are stabbing deeper and deeper into my right side. As I begin to sink to my knees, she kicks me in the stomach and I sprawl across the floor, inhaling dust.

  That, I realize as I clutch my stomach, is exactly what I would have done if I had been in her position. Which means that in order to defeat her, I have to think of a way to defeat myself. And how can I be a better fighter than myself, if she knows the same strategies I know, and is exactly as resourceful and clever as I am?

  She starts toward me again, so I scramble to my feet and try to put aside the pain in my shoulder. My heart beats faster. I want to punch her, but she gets there first. I duck at the last second, and her fist hits my ear, knocking me off balance.

  I back up a few steps, hoping that she won’t pursue me, but she does. She comes at me again, this time seizing my shoulders and pulling me down, toward her bent knee.

  I put my hands up, between my stomach and her knee, and push as hard as I can. She was not expecting that; she stumbles back, but doesn’t fall.

  I run at her, and as the desire to kick her slips into my mind, I realize that it is also her desire. I twist away from her foot.

  The second I want something, she also wants it. She and I can only be, at best, at a standstill—but I need to beat her to get through the door. To survive.

  I try to think it through, but she is coming at me again, her forehead tightened into a scowl of concentration. She grabs my arm, and I grab hers, so that we are clutched forearm to forearm.

  At the same time, we yank our elbows back and thrust them forward. I lean in at the last second, and my elbow smashes into her teeth.

  Both of us cry out. Blood spills over her lip, and runs down my forearm. She grits her teeth and yells, diving at me, stronger than I anticipated.

  Her weight knocks me down. She pins me to the floor with her knees and tries to punch my face, but I cross my arms in front of me. Her fists hit my arms instead, each one like a stone striking my skin.

  With a heavy exhale, I grab at one of her wrists, and I notice that spots are dancing at the corners of my eyes. Poison.

  Focus.

  As she struggles to free herself, I bring my knee up to my chest. Then I push her back, grunting with effort, until I can press my foot to her stomach. I kick her, my face boiling hot.

 
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