Today on Dauntless, scene after scene after scene showing why the fear simulations were a bad idea.
THREE DAUNTLESS SOLDIERS pursue me. They run in unison, their footsteps echoing in the alley. One of them fires, and I dive, scraping my palms on the ground. The bullet hits the brick wall to my right, and pieces of brick spray everywhere. I throw myself around the corner and click a bullet into the chamber of my gun.
They killed my mother. I point the gun into the alley and fire blindly. It wasn’t really them, but it doesn’t matter—can’t matter, and just like death itself, can’t be real right now.
And here we see the main reason why you don’t want people trained with movies and videogames. It smothers the part of your brain that tells you you’re in reality facing other real people, teaches you to disassociate as soon as violence starts and treat everything as fake. Tris couldn’t justly kill an actual murderer to save someone when she had a gun pressed against his skull, but now she’s murdering innocent people because she’s upset.
Just one set of footsteps now. I hold the gun out with both hands and stand at the end of the alley, pointing at the Dauntless soldier. My finger squeezes the trigger, but not hard enough to fire. The man running toward me is not a man, he is a boy. A shaggyhaired boy with a crease between his eyebrows.
Will. Dull-eyed and mindless, but still Will. He stops running and mirrors me, his feet planted and his gun up. In an instant, I see his finger poised over the trigger and hear the bullet slide into the chamber, and I fire. My eyes squeezed shut. Can’t breathe.
The bullet hit him in the head. I know because that’s where I aimed it.
I wonder how she’ll live with herself when she realizes what she’s done. Even people who are taught to shoot to kill aren’t taught to aim at the head because headshots are significantly more difficult and not particularly more effective at taking someone down than just shooting at the center of mass. She deliberately chose to kill her friend.
Tris staggers off to scream.
I still see Will.
He smiles in my memory. A curled lip. Straight teeth. Light in his eyes. Laughing, teasing, more alive in memory than I am in reality. It was him or me.
She’s made it to where her surviving family is hidden. It turns out her mother got their whole block out – imagine what she might have been able to do had Tris given her any advance warning. This includes Marcus, so I guess he’ll stick around long enough for Tris or Tobias to kill personally.
“Why are you here?”
“I did what you said—what Mom said. I researched the simulation serum and found out that Jeanine was working to develop long-range transmitters for the serum so its signal could stretch farther, which led me to information about Erudite and Dauntless… anyway, I dropped out of initiation when I figured out what was happening. I would have warned you, but it was too late,” he says. “I’m factionless now.”
So her brother was willing to do it. Her brother sacrificed his own wellbeing to warn Abnegation while she was kissing her boyfriend and chatting with her friends about what job she might want.
They decide the bullet has to come out right now, because, so they hack her open and stitch her up. She tells them her mother died to get her away, and they say it’s a good death and she agrees that suicide isn’t brave but sacrifice is.
“We are only safe here for so long,” Marcus says eventually. “We need to get out of the city. Our best option is to go to the Amity compound in the hope that they’ll take us in.
I doubt that’d do any good. They are the ones you can assume are most likely to want to stop violence from happening to you, but I don’t think they have any way of actually defending people. Candor might actually be the better bet because Candor is technically able to defend themselves. (They might also have a particularly visceral reaction to Erudite’s plan to control people by manipulating reality.)
It’s interesting that there doesn’t appear to be any Abnegation debate that’s about do they seek shelter vs would that just make the Dauntless massacre that faction too.
Tris tells them that this isn’t the Dauntless attacking, it’s Erudite mindcontrol, despite her brother seconds ago telling us he’d figured that out independently.
“That’s…awful.” Marcus shakes his head. His sympathetic tone sounds manufactured to me. “Waking up and realizing what you’ve done…”
Much like Tris will.
Showing how utterly she’s rejected Erudite, only at Marcus’ prompt here does she realize that waking them up would be the solution. But then her own brain finally kicks in:
Jeanine was talking about something important when Tobias and I came into her office, important enough to hang up on someone. You can’t just leave it undefended. And then, when she was sending Tobias away: Send him to the control room. The control room where Tobias used to work. With the Dauntless security monitors. And the Dauntless computers.
“It’s at Dauntless headquarters,” I say. “It makes sense. That’s where all the data about the Dauntless is stored, so why not control them from there?”
Of course, unlike the Erudite and their fancy logic, this is really just a string of assumptions. The only solid one in the lot is Tobias being put in the control room (“Who needs testing?” apparently being the Erudite motto) and for all we know about the Dauntless, the control room could be anywhere, including in Erudite territory.
I faintly register that I said them. As of yesterday, I technically became Dauntless, but I don’t feel like one. And I am not Abnegation, either.
I guess I am what I’ve always been. Not Dauntless, not Abnegation, not factionless. Divergent.
No, you’re Dauntless. You’re just Dauntless. The Dauntless built themselves originally around the same ideals of Abnegation anyway, they’re just the warrior faction. Abnegation wanted to selflessly support others, Dauntless wanted to sacrifice themselves defending others.
“What kind of help do you need, Beatrice?”
The question stuns me, as does the expression he wears. He looks at me like I’m a peer. He speaks to me like I’m a peer. Either he has accepted that I am an adult now, or he has accepted that I am no longer his daughter. The latter is more likely, and more painful.
Yeah the part where you’re treated as an adult after the choosing ceremony and go on to your adult job immediately after finishing initiation can’t possibly be what’s going on here.
The next chapter has the braver/useful members of the survivors come along, which includes Marcus so I guess Tobias will finally get to kill the guy. Marcus might actually be useful, though – we don’t know what he’s seeing but either it has to be manually altered to replace people, in which case he’ll still see Marcus and recoil from the computers as would a vampire before a cross, or it flips who he sees, in which case he’ll hug whoever he thinks Marcus is and do whatever he’s asked.
And my father acted like his place was assumed from the beginning.
I would actually be concerned this is a suicidal thing – his wife died to protect their kid, he may be looking for an opportunity to do the same now that she’s gone.
“What time is it?” I ask Caleb.
He checks his watch. “Three twelve.”
“Should be here any second,” I say.
And so indeed, the true reason the trains don’t stop is because someone along the line said god damn it, I WILL MAKE THE TRAINS RUN ON TIME FOREVER. Possibly they were never intended for the Dauntless but everyone else stopped using them for sanity reasons long ago.
“I assume you now regret choosing Dauntless,” Marcus says.
Marcus disappoints me. She’s been saying she can just tell his niceness is all fake now, and now he’s doing what obviously looks like dickery. Tris has said the Dauntless rank and file aren’t to blame, and Tris didn’t choose Dauntless, there’d be no one now to stop it.
“Not even after your faction’s leaders decided to join in a plot to overthrow the government?” Marcus spits.
This should mean nothing to them compared to the faction system. The leaders don’t matter, only the ideals. I do wonder if Caleb returned lamenting he’d seen the error of his ways and that’s why they’re assuming Tris must be the same.
Tris just explains to everyone that bravery and selflessness are the same thing.
It turns out there’s actually a very significant gap onto the roof that Tris jumped to way back when. Her dad barely makes the jump and Marcus doesn’t and they only just manage to grab him and drag him up.
The thought of what comes next has me preoccupied. It is one thing to ask people to jump off a train, but a roof?
Yeah, but unlike the train you can just shove them off and be done with it. The train has an actual physical component.But instead she jumps first, risking the possibility that the rest of them will chicken out. Luckily they don’t.
“So this is the Dauntless compound,” says Marcus.
“Yes,” I say. “And?”
“And I never thought I would get to see it,” he replies, his hand skimming a wall. “No need to be so defensive, Beatrice.”
I never noticed how cold his eyes were before.
See, why can’t Marcus keep being the nicest best guy ever? The idea you should be able to recognize people being secretly evil isn’t a good one, because it means when you inevitably don’t, you start thinking that maybe they’re not really evil, they’re so nice maybe it’s really the other person who’s wrong…
It’s also annoying because Marcus’ statements here don’t work. For one thing, he wanted to see the compound, he could’ve visited his son – it’d have played fine in Abnegation that Marcus was so selfless he was even willing to visit his terrible Abnegation-betraying son. It’s possible that kids can ban their parents from coming, but we’ve heard no mention of it and you’d think that’d have been included in the tale of how utterly Marcus’ son abandoned them for his new faction.
For another…Abnegation does not display curiosity. Why is an Abnegation leader visibly expressing curiosity and not backing down even when called on it?
They continue on. They hear bullets. They get into the shadows and begin crawling. Tris finds the shooter! It is Peter because she’s already checked the murder innocent friend box and now it’s all acceptable enemies. Oh and Peter says they should surrender but he doesn’t keep giving away his position by continuing to talk when they don’t respond in any way, so Judging by his silence, he does not intend to negotiate with us; he will kill us without question. unlike Tris’ silence which is good-aligned.
She wants explanations.
“The Dauntless leaders…they evaluated my records and removed me from the simulation,” he says.
“Because they figured out that you already have murderous tendencies and wouldn’t mind killing a few hundred people while conscious,” I say. “Makes sense.”
Continuing our damn, how can Harry Potter be better, one of the few things I did like was the part about how it’s wrong to assume your school rival is distilled evil. Also good was the part where Draco didn’t stab people’s eyes out.
Tris responds to being told she won’t shoot him by shooting his arm.
“They’re listening,” he spits. “If you don’t kill me, they will. The only way I’ll tell you is if you get me out of here.”
“Take me…ahh…with you,” he says, wincing.
“You want me to take you,” I say, “the person who tried to kill me…with me?”
“I do,” he groans. “If you expect to find out what you need to know.”
Wow, it’s sort of like Peter is legitimately in a shitty situation! I assume we will proceed to ignore that.
Her dad objects to Tris’ let’s torture the truth out idea and Marcus quickly comes to her defense about how a bit of pain can be necessary, thus making it clear that maybe not the best idea Tris. But Tris just thinks about how it’s wrong when it’s Tobias and also that it sounds Dauntless rather than Abnegation.
Her dad tries to argue with her about the morality of shooting and she tells him to stfu and her brother says argue later.
“There are men with guns up there. When they see me, they will kill me, if they can,” I tell my father quietly. I search his eyes.
“Should I let them?”
He stares at me for a few seconds.
“Go,” he says, “and God help you.”
How about compromising by not doing headshots? Given there is no reason to do that but malice?
She then sneaks up, shoots at a guard and misses presumably because she was trying to a headshot, shattering a window. They return fire but Thank God the glass ceiling is bulletproof, or the glass would break and I would fall to my death. because they have super glass but only build some things out of it, apparently, then I think jumps through the hole shot in the ceiling to reach them.
Another guard stands across from me. I lie flat on my stomach and point both guns at him, my arms resting on the floor. I stare into the black pinprick that is his gun barrel.
Then something surprising happens. He jerks his chin to the side. Telling me to go.
He must be Divergent.
And what must he be thinking? The Dauntless should be fearless. While being afraid and just going along with the group is something you’d expect plenty of people to do, it should be the exception rather than the rule here.
And what does he do now? He runs off. Presented with someone who knows what’s going on fighting her way in, he just lets her past and calls it a day.
Before heading further, she decides it’s time to split the party since they need guards for Peter. Caleb and Marcus go stay, her dad comes. She thinks that she’s doing this to keep Caleb safe, but she should’ve taken Marcus – she’s been rooting for the guy’s accidental death this whole time and he’s also the only one who’s expressed a willingness to use violence to achieve ends.
If I go up into the building, I probably won’t come back down. The best I can hope for is to destroy the simulation before someone kills me
Normally this would be true, but it’s guarded by people in the simulation, so destroying it should stop the problem of people killing you. There’s a couple free willed people around, sure, but if they’re not in time to stop you ending the simulation, they’ll have bigger problems.
I could run down the right hallway, but if the guards came from the left hallway, that’s where the computers are. I
drop to the ground between the guards my father just shot and lie as still as I can.
My father jumps out of the elevator and sprints down the right hallway, drawing the Dauntless guards after him. I clap my hand over my mouth to keep from screaming at him. That hallway will end.
I try to bury my head so I don’t see it, but I can’t. I peer over the fallen guard’s back. My father fires over his shoulder at the guards pursuing him, but he is not fast enough. One of them fires at his stomach, and he groans so loud I can almost feel it in my chest.
He clutches his gut, his shoulders hitting the wall, and fires again. And again. The guards are under the simulation; they keep moving even when the bullets hit them, keep moving until their hearts stop, but they don’t reach my father. Blood spills over his hand and the color drains from his face. Another shot and the last guard is down.
All she had to do was fire at them after they went past. Your Harry Potter comparison of the day: wow, it’s just like how adults just suddenly started dying in the last book because the author’s decided they need to die for pathos. As then, this just ensures I don’t care about the events.
So Tris goes on to turn the simulation off.
One of the screens has a line of code on it instead of an image. It breezes past faster than I can read. It is the simulation, the code already compiled, a complicated list of commands that anticipate and address a thousand different outcomes.
Come to think of it, I wonder if Erudite’s been using this stuff to run actual simulations of their own, in the sense of what would happen if…? If they’ve been turning up dire things, that might explain how rushed this is and how disconnected Jeanine’s evil villain rant seemed to be from what the main characters knew. The higher ups in Erudite have been having their own debates on the subject already and she’s talking based on advanced discussion from Abnegation Fuckups 490: These people are running our society into the ground and hate all attempts at progress while they’re still on Abnegation Fuckups 101: But improvement is impossible!
Anyway, Tobias is waiting for her. Only him, so they can have a dramatic reunion without another soldier just blowing her head off immediately.
“Drop your weapon,” he says.
“Tobias,” I say, “you’re in a simulation.”
“Drop your weapon,” he repeats. “Or I’ll fire.”
Jeanine said he didn’t know me. Jeanine also said that the simulation made Tobias’s friends into enemies. He will shoot me if he has to.
I set my gun down at my feet.
“Drop your weapon!” shouts Tobias.
This is a pretty disturbing moment, though. Tobias’ version is actually a lot more interesting than the standard form – the meat robots thing is initially creepy but like your standard zombie, they’re quite predictable once you’re familiar with them. But Tobias is unpredictable. We don’t know what he’s seeing or and how much it’s connected to reality. It refuses to show her putting the gun down, and presumably would report she was armed even if there was no gun at all – what he sees may not have any bearing on what she has at all. But it’s seeing something since he reacts to seeing a person when she comes in. If she lay down, would he realize she was trying to show she wasn’t violent? Would the simulation refuse to show that at all, meaning when he aimed at her he’d be aiming well above her head? How well can this edit reality?
She lunges for him and manages to wrestle the gun from him. She then starts explaining she can’t beat Tobias despite doing a pretty good job so far, so she’ll have to destroy the computer. For some reason just shooting it earlier isn’t an option.
They fight and while it was okay blowing Will’s head off, she can’t shoot him at all, even to disable. So it’s time for power of love shit. I hate this. If someone literally cannot hear you, impassioned speeches don’t matter. But of course he can hear her because power of love.
“Tobias, please.” I am begging. I am pathetic. Tears make my face hot. “Please. See me.” He walks toward me, his movements dangerous, fast, powerful. The gun shakes in my hands. “Please see me, Tobias, please!”
Now, shooting the computer might fix this, and shooting him in the leg would at least slow him down. But no, tearful confession time.
I have done this before—in my fear landscape, with the gun in my hand, a voice shouting at me to fire at the people I love. I volunteered to die instead, that time, but I can’t imagine how that would help me now. But I just know, I know what the right thing to do is.
My father says—used to say—that there is power in self-sacrifice.
I turn the gun in my hands and press it into Tobias’s palm.
Yeah all those other people who are depending on you saving their lives, fuck them.
And never mind that this goes beyond Abnegation. You say that you’re also thinking of the Dauntless being made into killers, but I didn’t get the impression Jeanine intended to let this stuff wear off, so they’re effectively dead as well. And what next? She thinks Candor will go along with this, but they’re far more likely to start a civil war, and Amity, as the doctor faction and likely the largest one, will be dragged in no matter how much they don’t want to be. If this isn’t stopped here, everyone dies.
He pushes the barrel into my forehead.
So thanks for fucking up everything for everyone because you couldn’t even shoot him in the foot.
Maybe it will be as easy to let him shoot me as it was in the fear landscape, as it is in my dreams. Maybe it will just be a bang, and the lights will lift, and I will find myself in another world.
This sort of thinking is bullshit for Al’s suicide, but make it about your boyfriend and suddenly delusion and cowardice and “it’s just the start of a new adventure!!!” is fine.
Can I be forgiven for all I’ve done to get here?
NO YOU CAN’T YOU SELFISH IDIOT
YOU JUST WATCHED YOUR DAD DIE TRYING TO GET YOU HERE BUT WHO FUCKING CARES RIGHT IT’S YOUR BOYFRIEND SO THE WHOLE WORLD CAN BURN
YOUR BOYFRIEND WHO EVEN SAID HE WOULD RATHER DIE THAN BE USED LIKE THIS BUT WHO CARES WHAT HE WANTS, YOU PICK SUICIDE SO FUCK EVERYONE ELSE