Jeanine stands in a tight blue dress that reveals the layer of pudge around her middle. Her hands are clasped together and she smirks at Tris.
“I have had a question since I began the Dauntless project, and it is this.” She sidesteps her desk, skimming the surface with her finger. “Why are most of the Divergent weak-willed, God-fearing nobodies from Abnegation, of all factions?”
Tris is the strongest person I know. She is certainly not a nobody. “Weak-willed,” I scoff at her. “It requires strong will to manipulate a simulation, last time I checked. Weak-willed is mind-controlling an army because it’s too hard for you to train one yourself.”
“I am not a fool,” says Jeanine. “A faction of intellectuals is no army. We are tired of being dominated by a bunch of self-righteous idiots who reject wealth and advancement, but we couldn’t do this on our own. And your Dauntless leaders were all too happy to oblige me if I guaranteed them a place in our new, improved government.”
“Improved,” I say, snorting. I don’t think killing innocent people is much of an improvement.
“Yes, improved,” Jeanine says. “Improved, and working toward a world in which people will live in wealth, comfort, and prosperity.”
“At whose expense?” Tris asks. Her voice is thick and sluggish. “All that wealth…doesn’t come from nowhere.”
“Currently, the factionless are a drain on our resources,” Jeanine replies. “As is Abnegation. I am sure that once the remains of your old faction are absorbed into the Dauntless army, Candor will cooperate and we will finally be able to get on with things.”
Jeanine wants control over everything. It’s the only way that she can be sure that everything goes the way she likes.
“Get on with things,” I repeat. It’s hard to not scream at this robot, a woman turned machine. “Make no mistake. You will be dead before the day is out, you—“
“Perhaps if you could control your temper,” Jeanine says, interrupting me, “you would not be in this situation to begin with Tobias.”
“I’m in this situation because you put me here,” I snap at her. “The second you orchestrated an attack against innocent people. “
“Innocent people.” She laughs, and I want to strangle her. “I find that a little funny, coming from you. I would expect Marcus’s son to understand that not all those people are innocent.” She sits on the edge of her desk, smirking. “Can you tell me honestly that you wouldn’t be happy to discover that your father was killed in the attack?”
I may hate my father, but I am not one to kill for selfish, personal reasons. “No,” I say through gritted teeth. “But at least his evil didn’t involve the widespread manipulation of an entire faction and the systematic murder of every political leader we have.” I stare at her, hard, like maybe I can pound those words into her.
Seconds go by, and she clears her throat, awkwardly. “What I was going to say,” she says, “is that soon, dozens of the Abnegation and their young children will be my responsibility to keep in order, and it does not bode well for me that a large number of them may be Divergent like yourselves, incapable of being controlled by the simulations.”
She stands and walks a few steps to the left, her hands clasped in front of her. “Therefore, it was necessary that I develop a new form of simulation to which they are not immune. I have been forced to reassess my own assumptions. That is where you come in.”
She paces a few steps to the right. “You are correct to say that you are strong-willed. I cannot control your will. But there are a few things I can control.”
She stops and faces us. Tris leans her temple into my shoulder.
Jeanine presses her palms together. There is no excitement in her eyes, no vicious glee. She is a machine, and she solves problems. We are the Divergent, we are her weakness, and we are her problem.
And she is smart enough to solve any problem.
“I can control what you see and hear,” she says. “So I created a new serum that will adjust your surroundings to manipulate your will. Those who refuse to accept our leadership must be closely monitored.”
She makes everything she says sound less severe than it really is.
“You will be the first test subject, Tobias. Beatrice, however…” She smiles. “You are too injured to be of much use to me, so your execution will occur at the conclusion of this meeting.”
I feel Tris shudder against me.
I will not let this happen.
“No,” I tell her. My voice trembles, and I feel ashamed. “I would rather die.”
“I’m afraid you don’t have much of a choice in the matter,” she replies lightly.
I turn towards Tris and kiss her, whether as a goodbye or as an I'm-sorry-I-have-to-do-this, I don't know.
It’s instinct that makes me do it, nothing else. I’m Dauntless, after all.
I lunge across the desk and wrap my hands around Jeanine’s throat. Dauntless guards leap at me, but I don’t care, even when I hear Tris scream.
This is something I’ve wanted to do for so long.
Eventually, two Dauntless soldiers pull me away from her and shove me to the ground. One of the soldiers pins me to the ground, pressing my face into the carpet. It’s hard to care because I’m feeling so triumphant, just for that moment. From the corner of my eye I see Tris lunge at the guards, but one of them slams her into the wall. She is weak.
And suddenly I feel stupid. When I do idiotic things, she gets hurt.
Jeanine braces herself against the desk, spluttering and gasping. She rubs her throat, which is bright red with my fingerprints. There are tears in her eyes. She takes a box from her desk drawer and opens it, revealing a needle and syringe.
Still breathing heavily, she carries it towards me.
No, not happening.
I struggle, but it is worthless. I feel the pinch of the needle as she sticks it in my neck. The fluid runs through me like lead, and I try to hold on, staring at Tris’ face as hard as I can. I fight against the serum, trying to delay the time in which it will take over me.
I blink once, and I see Tris moaning, her head in her hands.
I blink again and see Jeanine moaning, her head in her hands. Her Divergent serum was a failure.
Or was it? I can’t be sure, I can’t be sure.
A guard pulls me up to my feet.
I see Jeanine, the syringe in her hand. “Tobias,” she screeches. “Tobias!”
I attack her, closing my hands around her throat, squeezing her trachea with my fingertips.
Someone grabs my arm, and I am pulled off of her.
I look around, and see that Tris was the one who grabbed my arm. “Go to the control room,” she tells me urgently. “We can find a way to shut down the simulation from there.”
Why does everything feel like a dream?
I am led to the control room by a pair of Abnegation.