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The Traitor, Page 3

Veronica Roth

  When I finish, Evelyn doesn't look surprised, or even grave. In fact, I have no idea how to read her expression. She's quiet for a few seconds, and then she says, "Did you see any indication of when this might happen?"

  "No," I say.

  "How about numbers? How large a force do Dauntless and Erudite intend to use? Where do they intend to summon it from?"

  "I don't know," I say, frustrated. "I don't really care, either. No matter how many recruits they get, they'll mow down the Abnegation in seconds. It's not like they're trained to defend themselves--not like they would even if they knew how, either."

  "I knew something was going on," Evelyn says, furrowing her brow. "The lights are on at Erudite headquarters all the time now. Which means that they're not afraid of getting in trouble with the council leaders anymore, which . . . suggests something about their growing dissent."

  "Okay," I say. "How do we warn them?"

  "Warn who?"

  "The Abnegation!" I say hotly. "How do we warn the Abnegation that they're going to be killed, how do we warn the Dauntless that their leaders are conspiring against the council, how--"

  I pause. Evelyn is standing with her hands loose at her sides, her face relaxed and passive. Our city is changing, Tobias. That's what she said to me when we first saw each other again. Sometime soon, everyone will have to choose a side, and I know which one you would rather be on.

  "You already knew," I say slowly, struggling to process the truth. "You knew they were planning something like this, and have been for a while. You're waiting for it. Counting on it."

  "I have no lingering affection for my former faction. I don't want them, or any faction, to continue to control this city and the people in it," Evelyn says. "If someone wants to take out my enemies for me, I'm going to let them."

  "I can't believe you," I say. "They're not all Marcus, Evelyn. They're defenseless."

  "You think they're so innocent," she says. "You don't know them. I know them, I've seen them for who they really are."

  Her voice is low, throaty.

  "How do you think your father managed to lie to you about me all those years? You think the other Abnegation leaders didn't help him, didn't perpetuate the lie? They knew I wasn't pregnant, that no one had called a doctor, that there was no body. But they still told you I was dead, didn't they?"

  It hadn't occurred to me before. There was no body. No body, but still all the men and women sitting in my father's house on that awful morning and at the funeral the following evening played the game of pretend for me, and for the rest of the Abnegation community, saying even in their silence, No one would ever leave us. Who would want to?

  I shouldn't be so surprised to find that a faction is full of liars, but I guess there are parts of me that are still naive, still like a child.

  Not anymore.

  "Think about it," Evelyn said. "Are those people--the kind of people who would tell a child that his mother was dead just to save face--are they the ones you want to help? Or do you want to help remove them from power?"

  I thought I knew. Those innocent Abnegation, with their constant acts of service and their deferent head-bobbing, they needed to be saved.

  But those liars, who forced me into grief, who left me alone with the man who caused me pain--should they be saved?

  I can't look at her, can't answer her. I wait for the train to pass a platform, and then jump off without looking back.

  "Don't take this the wrong way, but you look awful."

  Shauna sinks into the chair next to mine, setting her tray down. I feel like yesterday's conversation with my mother was a sudden, earsplitting noise, and now every other sound is muffled. I've always known that my father was cruel. But I always thought the other Abnegation were innocent; deep down, I've always thought of myself as weak for leaving them, as a kind of traitor to my own values.

  Now it seems like no matter what I decide, I'll be betraying someone. If I warn the Abnegation about the attack plans I found on Max's computer, I'll be betraying Dauntless. If I don't warn them, I betray my former faction again, in a much greater way than I did before. I have no choice but to decide, and the thought of deciding makes me feel sick.

  I went through today the only way I knew how: I got up and went to work. I posted the rankings--which were a source of some contention, with me advocating for giving heavier weight to improvement, and Eric advocating for consistency. I went to eat. I put myself through the motions as if by muscle memory alone.

  "You going to eat any of that?" Shauna says, nodding to my plate full of food.

  I shrug. "Maybe."

  I can tell she's about to ask what's wrong, so I introduce a new topic. "How's Lynn doing?"

  "You would know better than I do," she says. "Getting to see her fears and all that."

  I cut a piece from my hunk of meat and chew it.

  "What's that like?" she asks cautiously, raising an eyebrow at me. "Seeing all their fears, I mean."

  "Can't talk to you about her fears," I say. "You know that."

  "Is that your rule, or Dauntless's rule?"

  "Does it matter?"

  Shauna sighs. "Sometimes I feel like I don't even know her, that's all."

  We eat the rest of our meals without speaking. That's what I like most about Shauna: she doesn't feel the need to fill the empty spaces. When we're done, we leave the dining hall together, and Zeke calls out to us from across the Pit.

  "Hey!" he says. He's spinning a roll of tape around his finger. "Want to go punch something?"

  "Yes," Shauna and I say in unison.

  We walk toward the training room, Shauna updating Zeke on her week at the fence--"Two days ago the idiot I was on patrol with started freaking out, swearing he saw something out there. . . . Turns out it was a plastic bag"-- and Zeke sliding his arm across her shoulders. I run my fingers over my knuckles and try not to get in their way.

  When we get closer to the training room, I think I hear voices inside. Frowning, I push the door open with my foot. Standing inside are Lynn, Uriah, Marlene, and . . . Tris. The collision of worlds startles me a little.

  "I thought I heard something in here," I say.

  Uriah is firing at a target with one of the plastic pellet guns the Dauntless keep around for fun--I know for a fact that he doesn't own it, so this one must be Zeke's--and Marlene is chewing on something. She grins at me and waves when I walk in.

  "Turns out it's my idiot brother," says Zeke. "You're not supposed to be here after hours. Careful, or Four will tell Eric, and then you'll be as good as scalped."

  Uriah tucks the gun under his waistband, against the small of his back, without turning on the safety. He'll probably end up with a welt on his butt later from the gun firing into his pants. I don't mention it to him.

  I hold the door open to usher them through it. As she passes me, Lynn says, "You wouldn't tell Eric."

  "No, I wouldn't," I say. When Tris passes me I put out a hand, and it fits automatically in the space between her shoulder blades. I don't even know if that was intentional or not. And I don't really care.

  The others start down the hallway, our original plan of spending time in the training room forgotten once Uriah and Zeke start bickering and Shauna and Marlene share the rest of a muffin.

  "Wait a second," I say to Tris. She turns to me, looking worried, so I try to smile, but it's hard to feel like smiling right now.

  I noticed tension in the training room when I posted the rankings earlier this evening--I never thought, when I was tallying up the points for the rankings, that maybe I should mark her down for her protection. It would have been an insult to her skill in the simulations to put her any lower on the list, but maybe she would have preferred the insult to the growing rift between her and her fellow transfers.

  Even though she's pale and exhausted, and there are little cuts around each of her nail beds, and a wavering look in her eyes, I know that's not the case. This girl would never want to be tucked safely in the middle of the p
ack, never.

  "You belong here, you know that?" I say. "You belong with us. It'll be over soon, so . . . just hold on, okay?"

  The back of my neck suddenly feels hot, and I scratch at it with one hand, unable to meet her eyes, though I can feel them on me as the silence stretches.

  Then she slips her fingers between mine, and I stare at her, startled. I squeeze her hand, lightly, and it registers through my turmoil and my exhaustion that though I've touched her half a dozen times--each one a lapse in judgment--this is the first time she's ever done it back.

  Then she turns and runs to catch up with her friends.

  And I stand in the hallway, alone, grinning like an idiot.

  I try to sleep for the better part of an hour, twisting under the covers to find a comfortable position. But it seems like someone has replaced my mattress with a bag of rocks. Or maybe it's just that my mind is too busy for sleep.

  Eventually I give up, putting on my shoes and jacket and walking to the Pire, the way I do every time I can't sleep. I think about running the fear landscape program again, but I didn't think to replenish my supply of simulation serum this afternoon, and it would be a hassle to get some now. Instead I walk to the control room, where Gus greets me with a grunt and the other two on staff don't even notice me come in.

  I don't try to go through Max's files again--I feel like I know everything I need to know, which is that something bad is coming and I have no idea whether I'll try to stop it.

  I need to tell someone, I need someone to share in this with me, to tell me what to do. But there's no one that I would trust with something like this. Even my friends here were born and raised in Dauntless; how can I know that they wouldn't trust their leaders implicitly? I can't know.

  For some reason, Tris's face comes to mind, open but stern as she clasps my hand in the hallway.

  I scroll through the footage, looking over the city streets and then returning to the Dauntless compound. Most of the hallways are so dark, I couldn't see anything even if it was there. In my headphones, I hear only the rush of water in the chasm or the whistle of wind through the alleys. I sigh, leaning my head into my hand, and watch the changing images, one after another, and let them lull me into something like sleep.

  "Go to bed, Four," Gus says from across the room.

  I jerk awake, and nod. If I'm not actually looking at the footage it's not a good idea for me to be in the control room. I log out of my account and walk down the hallway to the elevator, blinking myself awake.

  As I walk across the lobby, I hear a scream coming from below, coming from the Pit. It's not a good-natured Dauntless shout, or the shriek of someone who is scared but delighted, or anything but the particular tone, the particular pitch of terror.

  Small rocks scatter behind me as I run down to the bottom of the Pit, my breathing fast and heavy, but even.

  Three tall, dark-clothed people stand near the railing below. They are crowded around a fourth, smaller target, and even though I can't see much about them, I know a fight when I see one. Or, I would call it a fight, if it wasn't three against one.

  One of the attackers wheels around, sees me, and sprints in the other direction. When I get closer I see one of the remaining attackers holding the target up, over the chasm, and I shout, "Hey!"

  I see her hair, blond, and I can hardly see anything else. I collide with one of the attackers--Drew, I can tell by the color of his hair, orange-red--and slam him into the chasm barrier. I hit him once, twice, three times in the face, and he collapses to the ground, and then I'm kicking him and I can't think, can't think at all.

  "Four." Her voice is quiet, ragged, and it's the only thing that could possibly reach me in this place. She's hanging from the railing, dangling over the chasm like a piece of bait from a fishing hook. The other one, the last attacker, is gone.

  I run toward her, grabbing her under her shoulders, and pull her over the edge of the railing. I hold her against me. She presses her face to my shoulder, twisting her fingers into my shirt.

  Drew is on the ground, collapsed. I hear him groan as I carry her away--not to the infirmary, where the others who went after her would think to look for her, but to my apartment, in its lonely, removed corridor. I shove my way through the apartment door and lay her down on my bed. I run my fingers over her nose and cheekbones to check for breaks, then I feel for her pulse, and lean in close to listen to her breathing. Everything seems normal, steady. Even the bump on the back of her head, though swollen and scraped, doesn't seem serious. She isn't badly injured, but she could have been.

  My hands shake when I pull away from her. She isn't badly injured, but Drew might be. I don't even know how many times I hit him before she finally said my name and woke me up. The rest of my body starts to shake, too, and I make sure there's a pillow supporting her head, then leave the apartment to go back to the railing next to the Pit. On the way, I try to replay the last few minutes in my mind, try to recall what I punched and when and how hard, but the whole thing is lost to a dizzy fit of anger.

  I wonder if this is what it was like for him, I think, remembering the wild, frantic look in Marcus's eyes every time he got angry.

  When I reach the railing, Drew is still there, lying in a strange, crumpled position on the ground. I pull his arm across my shoulders and half lift, half drag him to the infirmary.

  When I make it back to my apartment, I immediately walk to the bathroom to wash the blood from my hands--a few of my knuckles are split, cut from the impact with Drew's face. If Drew was there, the other attacker had to be Peter, but who was the third? Not Molly--the shape was too tall, too big. In fact, there's only one initiate that size.


  I check my reflection, like I'm going to see little pieces of Marcus staring back at me there. There's a cut at the corner of my mouth--did Drew hit me back at some point? It doesn't matter. My lapse in memory doesn't matter. What matters is that Tris is breathing.

  I keep my hands under the cool water until it runs clear, then dry them on the towel and go to the freezer for an ice pack. As I carry it toward her, I realize she's awake.

  "Your hands," she says, and it's a ridiculous thing to say, so stupid, to be worried about my hands when she was just dangled over the chasm by her throat.

  "My hands," I say irritably, "are none of your concern."

  I lean over her, slipping the ice pack under her head, where I felt a bump earlier. She lifts her hand and touches her fingertips lightly to my mouth.

  I never thought you could feel a touch this way, like a jolt of energy. Her fingers are soft, curious.

  "Tris," I say. "I'm all right."

  "Why were you there?"

  "I was coming back from the control room. I heard a scream."

  "What did you do to them?"

  "I deposited Drew at the infirmary a half hour ago. Peter and Al ran. Drew claimed they were just trying to scare you. At least, I think that's what he was trying to say."

  "He's in bad shape?"

  "He'll live. In what condition, I can't say," I spit.

  I shouldn't let her see this side of me, the side that derives savage pleasure from Drew's pain. I shouldn't have this side.

  She reaches for my arm, squeezes it. "Good," she says.

  I look down at her. She has that side, too, she must have it. I saw the way she looked when she beat Molly, like she was going to keep going whether her opponent was unconscious or not. Maybe she and I are the same.

  Her face contorts, twists, and she starts to cry. Most of the time, when someone has cried in front of me, I've felt squeezed, like I needed to escape their company in order to breathe. I don't feel that way with her. I don't worry, with her, that she expects too much from me, or that she needs anything from me at all. I sink down to the floor so we're on the same plane, and watch her carefully for a moment. Then I touch my hand to her cheek, careful not to press against any of her still-forming bruises. I run my thumb over her cheekbone. Her skin is warm.

  I don
't have the right word for how she looks, but even now, with parts of her face swollen and discolored, there's something striking about her, something I haven't seen before.

  In that moment I'm able to accept the inevitability of how I feel, though not with joy. I need to talk to someone. I need to trust someone. And for whatever reason, I know, I know it's her.

  I'll have to start by telling her my name.

  I approach Eric in the breakfast line, standing behind him with my tray as he uses a long-handled spoon to scoop scrambled eggs onto his plate.

  "If I told you that one of the initiates was attacked last night by a few of the other initiates," I say, "would you even care?"

  He pushes the eggs to one side of his plate, and lifts a shoulder. "I might care that their instructor doesn't seem to be able to control his initiates," Eric says as I pick up a bowl of cereal for myself. He eyes my split knuckles. "I might care that this hypothetical attack would be the second under that instructor's watch . . . whereas the Dauntless-borns don't seem to have this problem."

  "Tensions between the transfers are naturally higher--they don't know each other, or this faction, and their backgrounds are wildly different," I say. "And you're their leader, shouldn't you be responsible for keeping them 'under control'?"

  He sets a piece of toast next to his eggs with some tongs. Then he leans in close to my ear and says, "You're on thin ice, Tobias," he hisses. "Arguing with me in front of the others. 'Lost' simulation results. Your obvious bias toward the weaker initiates in the rankings. Even Max agrees now. If there was an attack, I don't think he would be too happy with you, and he might not object when I suggest that you be removed from your post."

  "Then you'd be out an initiation instructor a week before the end of initiation."

  "I can finish it out myself."

  "I can only imagine what it would be like under your watch," I say, narrowing my eyes. "We wouldn't even need to make any cuts. They would all die or defect on their own."

  "If you're not careful you won't have to imagine anything." He reaches the end of the food line and turns to me. "Competitive environments create tension, Four. It's natural for that tension to be released somehow." He smiles a little, stretching the skin between his piercings. "An attack would certainly show us, in a real-world situation, who the strong ones and the weak ones are, don't you think? We wouldn't have to rely on the test results at all, that way. We could make a more informed decision about who doesn't belong here. That is . . . if an attack were to happen."