Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font  

Insurgent d-2, Page 2

Veronica Roth

  I feel calm as I undo the braid in my hair and comb it again. I part my hair down the middle and make sure that it is straight and flat. I close the scissors over the hair by my chin.

  How can I look the same, when she’s gone and everything is different? I can’t.

  I cut in as straight a line as I can, using my jaw as a guide. The tricky part is the back, which I can’t see very well, so I do the best I can by touch instead of sight. Locks of blond hair surround me on the floor in a semicircle.

  I leave the room without looking at my reflection again.

  When Tobias and Caleb come to get me later, they stare at me like I am not the person they knew yesterday.

  “You cut your hair,” says Caleb, his eyebrows high. Grabbing hold of facts in the midst of shock is very Erudite of him. His hair sticks up on one side from where he slept on it, and his eyes are bloodshot.

  “Yeah,” I say. “It’s … too hot for long hair.”

  “Fair enough.”

  We walk down the hallway together. The floorboards creak beneath our feet. I miss the way my footsteps echoed in the Dauntless compound; I miss the cool underground air. But mostly I miss the fears of the past few weeks, rendered small by my fears now.

  We exit the building. The outside air presses around me like a pillow meant to suffocate me. It smells green, the way a leaf does when you tear it in half.

  “Does everyone know you’re Marcus’s son?” Caleb says. “The Abnegation, I mean?”

  “Not to my knowledge,” says Tobias, glancing at Caleb. “And I would appreciate it if you didn’t mention it.”

  “I don’t need to mention it. Anyone with eyes can see it for themselves.” Caleb frowns at him. “How old are you, anyway?”


  “And you don’t think you’re too old to be with my little sister?”

  Tobias lets out a short laugh. “She isn’t your little anything.”

  “Stop it. Both of you,” I say. A crowd of people in yellow walks ahead of us, toward a wide, squat building made entirely of glass. The sunlight reflecting off the panes feels like a pinch to my eyes. I shield my face with my hand and keep walking.

  The doors to the building are wide open. Around the edge of the circular greenhouse, plants and trees grow in troughs of water or small pools. Dozens of fans positioned around the room serve only to blow the hot air around, so I am already sweating. But that fades from my mind when the crowd before me thins and I see the rest of the room.

  In its center grows a huge tree. Its branches are spread over most of the greenhouse, and its roots bubble up from the ground, forming a dense web of bark. In the spaces between the roots, I see not dirt but water, and metal rods holding the roots in place. I should not be surprised — the Amity spend their lives accomplishing feats of agriculture like this one, with the help of Erudite technology.

  Standing on a cluster of roots is Johanna Reyes, her hair falling over the scarred half of her face. I learned in Faction History that the Amity recognize no official leader — they vote on everything, and the result is usually close to unanimous. They are like many parts of a single mind, and Johanna is their mouthpiece.

  The Amity sit on the floor, most with their legs crossed, in knots and clusters that vaguely resemble the tree roots to me. The Abnegation sit in tight rows a few yards to my left. My eyes search the crowd for a few seconds before I realize what I’m looking for: my parents.

  I swallow hard, and try to forget. Tobias touches the small of my back, guiding me to the edge of the meeting space, behind the Abnegation. Before we sit down, he puts his mouth next to my ear and says, “I like your hair that way.”

  I find a small smile to give him, and lean into him when I sit down, my arm against his.

  Johanna lifts her hands and bows her head. All conversation in the room ceases before I can draw my next breath. All around me the Amity sit in silence, some with their eyes closed, some with their lips mouthing words I can’t hear, some staring at a point far away.

  Every second chafes. By the time Johanna lifts her head I am worn to the bone.

  “We have before us today an urgent question,” she says, “which is: How will we conduct ourselves in this time of conflict as people who pursue peace?”

  Every Amity in the room turns to the person next to him or her and starts talking.

  “How do they get anything done?” I say, as the minutes of chatter wear on.

  “They don’t care about efficiency,” Tobias says. “They care about agreement. Watch.”

  Two women in yellow dresses a few feet away rise and join a trio of men. A young man shifts so that his small circle becomes a large one with the group next to him. All around the room, the smaller crowds grow and expand, and fewer and fewer voices fill the room, until there are only three or four. I can only hear pieces of what they say: “Peace — Dauntless — Erudite — safe house — involvement—”

  “This is bizarre,” I say.

  “I think it’s beautiful,” he says.

  I give him a look.

  “What?” He laughs a little. “They each have an equal role in government; they each feel equally responsible. And it makes them care; it makes them kind. I think that’s beautiful.”

  “I think it’s unsustainable,” I say. “Sure, it works for the Amity. But what happens when not everyone wants to strum banjos and grow crops? What happens when someone does something terrible and talking about it can’t solve the problem?”

  He shrugs. “I guess we’ll find out.”

  Eventually someone from each of the big groups stands and approaches Johanna, picking their way carefully over the roots of the big tree. I expect them to address the rest of us, but instead they stand in a circle with Johanna and the other spokespeople and talk quietly. I begin to get the feeling that I will never know what they’re saying.

  “They’re not going to let us argue with them, are they,” I say.

  “I doubt it,” he says.

  We are done for.

  When everyone has said his or her piece, they sit down again, leaving Johanna alone in the center of the room. She angles her body toward us and folds her hands in front of her. Where will we go when they tell us to leave? Back into the city, where nothing is safe?

  “Our faction has had a close relationship with Erudite for as long as any of us can remember. We need each other to survive, and we have always cooperated with each other,” says Johanna. “But we have also had a strong relationship with Abnegation in the past, and we do not think it is right to revoke the hand of friendship when it has for so long been extended.”

  Her voice is honey-sweet, and moves like honey too, slow and careful. I wipe the sweat from my hairline with the back of my hand.

  “We feel that the only way to preserve our relationships with both factions is to remain impartial and uninvolved,” she continues. “Your presence here, though welcome, complicates that.”

  Here it comes, I think.

  “We have arrived at the conclusion that we will establish our faction headquarters as a safe house for members of all factions,” she says, “under a set of conditions. The first is that no weaponry of any kind is allowed on the compound. The second is that if any serious conflict arises, whether verbal or physical, all involved parties will be asked to leave. The third is that the conflict may not be discussed, even privately, within the confines of this compound. And the fourth is that everyone who stays here must contribute to the welfare of this environment by working. We will report this to Erudite, Candor, and Dauntless as soon as we can.”

  Her stare drifts to Tobias and me, and stays there.

  “You are welcome to stay here if and only if you can abide by our rules,” she says. “That is our decision.”

  I think of the gun I hid under my mattress, and the tension between me and Peter, and Tobias and Marcus, and my mouth feels dry. I am not good at avoiding conflict.

  “We won’t be able to stay long,” I say to Tobias under my brea

  A moment ago, he was still faintly smiling. Now the corners of his mouth have disappeared into a frown. “No, we won’t.”

  Chapter 3

  THAT EVENING I return to my room and slide my hand beneath my mattress to make sure the gun is still there. My fingers brush over the trigger, and my throat tightens like I am having an allergic reaction. I withdraw my hand and kneel on the edge of the bed, taking hard swallows of air until the feeling subsides.

  What is wrong with you? I shake my head. Pull it together.

  And that is what it feels like: pulling the different parts of me up and in like a shoelace. I feel suffocated, but at least I feel strong.

  I see a flicker of movement in my periphery, and look out the window that faces the apple orchard. Johanna Reyes and Marcus Eaton walk side by side, pausing at the herb garden to pluck mint leaves from their stems. I am out of my room before I can evaluate why I want to follow them.

  I sprint through the building so that I don’t lose them. Once I am outside, I have to be more careful. I walk around the far side of the greenhouse and, after I see Johanna and Marcus disappear into one row of trees, I creep down the next row, hoping the branches will hide me if either of them looks back.

  “… been confused about is the timing of the attack,” says Johanna. “Is it just that Jeanine finally finished planning it, and acted, or was there an inciting incident of some kind?”

  I see Marcus’s face through a divided tree trunk. He presses his lips together and says, “Hmm.”

  “I suppose we’ll never know.” Johanna raises her good eyebrow. “Will we?”

  “No, perhaps not.”

  Johanna places her hand on his arm and turns toward him. I stiffen, afraid for a moment that she will see me, but she looks only at Marcus. I sink into a crouch and crawl toward one of the trees so that the trunk will hide me. The bark itches my spine, but I don’t move.

  “But you do know,” she says. “You know why she attacked when she did. I may not be Candor anymore, but I can still tell when someone is keeping the truth from me.”

  “Inquisitiveness is self-serving, Johanna.”

  If I were Johanna, I would snap at him for a comment like that, but she says kindly, “My faction depends on me to advise them, and if you know information this crucial, it is important that I know it also so that I can share it with them. I’m sure you can understand that, Marcus.”

  “There is a reason you don’t know all the things I know. A long time ago, the Abnegation were entrusted with some sensitive information,” says Marcus. “Jeanine attacked us to steal it. And if I am not careful, she will destroy it, so that is all I can tell you.”

  “But surely—”

  “No,” Marcus cuts her off. “This information is far more important than you can imagine. Most of the leaders of this city risked their lives to protect it from Jeanine and died, and I will not jeopardize it now for the sake of sating your selfish curiosity.”

  Johanna is quiet for a few seconds. It’s so dark now I can barely see my own hands. The air smells like dirt and apples, and I try not to breathe it too loudly.

  “I’m sorry,” says Johanna. “I must have done something to make you believe I am not trustworthy.”

  “The last time I trusted a faction representative with this information, all my friends were murdered,” he replies. “I don’t trust anyone anymore.”

  I can’t help it — I lean forward so that I can see around the trunk of the tree. Both Marcus and Johanna are too preoccupied to notice the movement. They are close together, but not touching, and I’ve never seen Marcus look so tired or Johanna so angry. But her face softens, and she touches Marcus’s arm again, this time with a light caress.

  “In order to have peace, we must first have trust,” says Johanna. “So I hope you change your mind. Remember that I have always been your friend, Marcus, even when you did not have many to speak of.”

  She leans in and kisses his cheek, then walks to the end of the orchard. Marcus stands for a few seconds, apparently stunned, and starts toward the compound.

  The revelations of the past half hour buzz in my mind. I thought Jeanine attacked the Abnegation to seize power, but she attacked them to steal information — information only they knew.

  Then the buzzing stops as I remember something else Marcus said: Most of the leaders of this city risked their lives for it. Was one of those leaders my father?

  I have to know. I have to find out what could possibly be important enough for the Abnegation to die for — and the Erudite to kill for.

  I pause before knocking on Tobias’s door, and listen to what’s going on inside.

  “No, not like that,” Tobias says through laughter.

  “What do you mean, ‘not like that’? I imitated you perfectly.” The second voice belongs to Caleb.

  “You did not.”

  “Well, do it again, then.”

  I push open the door just as Tobias, who is sitting on the floor with one leg stretched out, hurls a butter knife at the opposite wall. It sticks, handle out, from a large hunk of cheese they positioned on top of the dresser. Caleb, standing beside him, stares in disbelief, first at the cheese and then at me.

  “Tell me he’s some kind of Dauntless prodigy,” says Caleb. “Can you do this too?”

  He looks better than he did earlier — his eyes aren’t red anymore and some of the old spark of curiosity is in them, like he is interested in the world again. His brown hair is tousled, his shirt buttons in the wrong buttonholes. He is handsome in a careless way, my brother, like he has no idea what he looks like most of the time.

  “With my right hand, maybe,” I say. “But yes, Four is some kind of Dauntless prodigy. Can I ask why you’re throwing knives at cheese?”

  Tobias’s eyes catch mine on the word “Four.” Caleb doesn’t know that Tobias wears his excellence all the time in his own nickname.

  “Caleb came by to discuss something,” Tobias says, leaning his head against the wall as he looks at me. “And knife-throwing just came up somehow.”

  “As it so often does,” I say, a small smile inching its way across my face.

  He looks so relaxed, his head back, his arm slung over his knee. We stare at each other for a few more seconds than is socially acceptable. Caleb clears his throat.

  “Anyway, I should be getting back to my room,” Caleb says, looking from Tobias to me and back again. “I’m reading this book about the water-filtration systems. The kid who gave it to me looked at me like I was crazy for wanting to read it. I think it’s supposed to be a repair manual, but it’s fascinating.” He pauses. “Sorry. You probably think I’m crazy too.”

  “Not at all,” Tobias says with mock sincerity. “Maybe you should read that repair manual too, Tris. It sounds like something you might like.”

  “I can loan it to you,” Caleb says.

  “Maybe later,” I say. When Caleb closes the door behind him, I give Tobias a dirty look.

  “Thanks for that,” I say. “Now he’s going to talk my ear off about water filtration and how it works. Though I guess I might prefer that to what he wants to talk to me about.”

  “Oh? And what’s that?” Tobias quirks his eyebrows. “Aquaponics?”


  “It’s one of the ways they grow food here. You don’t want to know.”

  “You’re right, I don’t,” I say. “What did he come to talk to you about?”

  “You,” he says. “I think it was the big-brother talk. ‘Don’t mess around with my sister’ and all that.”

  He gets up.

  “What did you tell him?”

  He comes toward me.

  “I told him how we got together — that’s how knife-throwing came up,” he says, “and I told him I wasn’t messing around.”

  I feel warm everywhere. He wraps his hands around my hips and presses me gently against the door. His lips find mine.

  I don’t remember why I came here in the first place.
br />   And I don’t care.

  I wrap my uninjured arm around him, pulling him against me. My fingers find the hem of his T-shirt, and slide beneath it, spreading wide over the small of his back. He feels so strong.

  He kisses me again, more insistent this time, his hands squeezing my waist. His breaths, my breaths, his body, my body, we are so close there is no difference.

  He pulls back, just a few centimeters. I almost don’t let him get that far.

  “This isn’t what you came here for,” he says.


  “What did you come for, then?”

  “Who cares?”

  I push my fingers through his hair, and draw his mouth to mine again. He doesn’t resist, but after a few seconds, he mumbles, “Tris,” against my cheek.

  “Okay, okay.” I close my eyes. I did come here for something important: to tell him the conversation I overheard.

  We sit side by side on Tobias’s bed, and I start from the beginning. I tell him how I followed Marcus and Johanna into the orchard. I tell him Johanna’s question about the timing of the simulation attack, and Marcus’s response, and the argument that followed. As I do, I watch his expression. He does not look shocked or curious. Instead, his mouth works its way into the bitter pucker that accompanies any mention of Marcus.

  “Well, what do you think?” I say once I finish.

  “I think,” he says carefully, “that it’s Marcus trying to feel more important than he is.”

  That was not the response I was expecting.

  “So … what? You think he’s just talking nonsense?”

  “I think there probably is some information the Abnegation knew that Jeanine wanted to know, but I think he’s exaggerating its importance. Trying to build up his own ego by making Johanna think he’s got something she wants and he won’t give it to her.”

  “I don’t …” I frown. “I don’t think you’re right. He didn’t sound like he was lying.”

  “You don’t know him like I do. He is an excellent liar.”

  He is right — I don’t know Marcus, and certainly not as well as he does. But my instinct was to believe Marcus, and I usually trust my instincts.