Last time, plot says Tris does stuff, so stuff. More stuff. Brain structures matter and this is shocking.
Tris says she dreamed of her mother.
I wake wondering how I did not notice, every day I sat across from her at the breakfast table, that she was full to bursting with Dauntless energy. Was it because she hid it well? Or was it because I wasn’t looking?
Because she wasn’t. We met her last book, and she was subdued and perfectly Abnegation. I’m willing to accept that she wasn’t Abnegation by choice and that, like Caleb, she was so perfectly Abnegation because it was a deliberate act, but even when she was running around shooting people, she was not bursting with Dauntless energy. Dauntless as a group behaves that way but every individual Dauntless doesn’t have to.
It’s Peter again to move her.
“Why are you constantly escorting me places?” I say. “Isn’t there a depraved activity you’re supposed to be taking part in? Kicking puppies or spying on girls while they change, or something?”
I’m really glad Tris is using her brain. It’s a weak burn when she could be saying she’s surprised he isn’t doing anything important or whatever, but hey, she keeps pointing out how weird it is that it’s always Peter. Okay, that means she’s pointing out a plot hole, but I’ll take it.
“I know what you did to Will, you know. Don’t pretend that you’re better than I am, because you and I, we’re exactly the same.”
“You’re wrong,” I say. “We may both be bad, but there’s a huge difference between us—I’m not content with being this way.”
Let’s just ignore this. Tris says that she’s now also memorizing the length of the hallways as part of learning about things.
She’s back at metal table room that is apparently execution room, although I forget if Jeanine actually said it was (makes no sense for it to be) or if it’s just Jeanine mentioned execution while in the room.
I stare for a second at the sheet of steel that awaits me. What if she changed her mind about waiting to execute me? What if this is when I die?
It does not occur to Tris that, with Tobias arriving, they now have an extra divergent. Also, seriously where are all the Erudite divergent? They didn’t have any reason to kill them since they didn’t zombify their own people. The only answer is that divergents either don’t pick Erudite or quit almost immediately because they’re too rigid, so for the entire span of the zombification project they were stuck at zero divergents.
Come to think of it, this also means Abnegation did all their divergence research completely on their own, since they seemed to have no clue how divergence worked before this, and are happily basing all their speculation on Tris’ particular results rather than being aware that, since divergence just means not normal, it could be any sort of unusual brain structure throws it off – that should honestly be the first hypothesis.
Anyway, Tris decides it’s time to panic uselessly, and of course Tris can now easily be manhandled by Peter because she’s a little girl. After she loses this fight, she then demands to know what’s going on:
“We agreed—cooperation in exchange for results!
So? She didn’t say anything one way or the other, and then you refused to cooperate. But of course Tris is right that this has nothing to do with the testing at all and is just about freaking Tobias out.
“Rather than waste any more time, Mr. Eaton, I thought I would take the most logical approach. Truth serum would be preferable, of course, but it would take days to coerce Jack Kang into handing some over, as it is jealously guarded by the Candor, and I’d rather not waste a few days.” She steps forward, a syringe in hand. This serum is tinted gray.
It could be a new version of the simulation serum, but I doubt it.
I wonder what it does. It can’t be good, if she looks this pleased with herself.
“In a few seconds, I will inject Tris with this liquid. At that point, I trust, your selfless instincts will take over and you will tell me exactly what I need to know.”
“What does she need to know?” I say, interrupting her.
“Information about the factionless safe houses,” he replies without looking at me.
Worldbuilding! Apparently Candor makes the truth serum themselves, and also Erudite doesn’t even know how it’s made. Another tick for why Erudite is cranky all the time. Of course, they could just possess Candor at will and then walk over to take stuff, since the only people to escape the first assault were Dauntless. Sure, there’s a couple divergent there (unless they saw the divergent leave) but they’ll probably just run for it as soon as they see everyone else go zombie. (Or surround the building first, then take everyone over and rush in.)
Anyway, it doesn’t seem to occur to anyone that Tobias could just lie about the safehouse locations. Even when they find out the locations aren’t true, at worst he could lie and say his mom must have known he’d give them up and didn’t tell him the truth in the first place, and at best he could just claim they evacuated already (depends on how obvious the safehouses are from the inside, really).
The plan is to inject Tris with super fear simulator, because obviously the best torture is the one Dauntless ritually inflict themselves with normally.
“Fear,” she says, “is more powerful than pain.
Even assuming this is true, Tris was never extensively trained to resist pain as well as naturally possessing tweaked brain structure that just doesn’t work as well with simulations. Why, just seconds ago Tris stopped struggling as soon as someone put pressure on her still-hurt shoulder, as she’s been doing every time anyone touches it this whole book.
And now that I’m thinking about it, Tris and Tobias were specifically taught that fear is meaningless because whatever bad thing you were scared of just goes away when you calm down, so hacking off a finger is probably all you need to do to terrify them.
That’s when the screaming starts
Tobias is fighting the Dauntless traitors by the door.
I hear what sounds like a child’s scream beside me, and wrench my head around to see where it’s coming from, but there is only a heart monitor. Above me the lines between the ceiling tiles warp and twist into monstrous creatures. The scent of rotting flesh fills the air and I gag. The monstrous creatures take on a more definite shape—they are birds, crows, with beaks as long as my forearm and wings so dark they seem to swallow all the light.
“Tris,” says Tobias. I look away from the crows.
He stands by the door, where he was before I was injected, but now he has a knife. He holds it out from his body and turns it so the blade points in, at his stomach. Then he brings it toward himself, touching the tip of the blade to his stomach.
“What are you doing? Stop!”
He smiles a little and says, “I’m doing this for you.”
He pushes the knife in farther, slow, and blood stains the hem of his shirt. I gag, and throw myself against the bonds holding me to the table. “No, stop!” I thrash and in a simulation I would have pulled free by now so this must mean that this is real, it’s real.
God damn it.
If it was just blinding, directionless fear, I could see it. But this was exactly what she had to deal with in the simulation. It’s not even worse in content than the simulations were. At absolute most, if she’d actually made any attempt to calm herself down thinking that’d break the simulation and then it didn’t, I could see panicking over that because she’s too scared to realize the heart rate this is obviously a programmed in off-switch and not an inherent feature of reality, but she doesn’t even try, she just declares that she totally would’ve because she says so – meaning it isn’t even overriding her lucid dreaming ability and she’s just being an idiot about this.
Another needle in my neck, and my heart begins to slow down. I sob with relief. For seconds all I can do is sob with relief.
The writing and Tris are both a huge disappointment.
That was not fear. That was something else; an emotion that should not exist.
I’m given to understand the book just keeps going downhill but really, it’s not like anything would save it by this point.
Tobias agrees to get everyone else killed to stop her from screaming again while not being physically harmed at all and probably no mental scarring either. They send him off, then Jeanine says she’s going to knock her out to poke her brain a bit, but noninvasively, but also apparently someone betrayed her.
“Who told me what three factions you had an aptitude for, and what our best chance was to get you to come here, and to put your mother in the last simulation to make it more effective.”
Jeanine seems unaware that this just makes her, and her entire faction really, look incompetent.
Anyway Caleb betrayed her in what’s probably some plan or whatever I don’t care. Tris angsts a bit when she wakes up and Peter’s there to bring her to the showers. Tobias is being led past right then and he to get free, get a gun, assault the guy with him, then fail to assault Peter who surrenders uninjured. Tris, incidentally, helps with none of this. She’s hurt so he carries her and they run, but pass an exit and he says they’re not trying to do that.
I would suspect that I’m dreaming if the pain in my head wasn’t so intense.
Tris continues not to be concerned she’s in a simulation, because the author has absolutely no interest in actually worrying about the reality/simulation divide and that’s why it only ever happens to other people. He manages to find somewhere with no cameras so he can explain that unlike he, he actually has this whole plan where he finds out where the Erudite computers are to stop the transmitters and to tell her to make sure you hold on because apparently her execution is “tentatively” scheduled in two weeks which means it’s absolutely certain and they mean to rescue her precisely then because that isn’t obvious, and also it’s totally impossible that Jeanine could say that and then execute her early. So I guess setting dates for things when they’re not actually done is a Jeanine thing, which in turn would suggest Marcus’ claim it was in reaction to Abnegation doing something isn’t true but who knows if either of those two events even happened in whatever alternate story we’re in by now.
“But you told Jeanine where the factionless safe houses were.”
“Yeah.” He frowns a little. “That is problematic. But as you and I know, a lot of the factionless are Divergent, and many of them were already moving toward the Abnegation sector when I left, so only some of the safe houses will be affected. So they will still have a huge population to contribute to the invasion.”
Because some people being divergent sure saved Candor and didn’t just mean those people were rounded up to be murdered first. Besides, they’re just unnamed people, who cares.
Two weeks. Will I be able to make it through two weeks of this? I am already so tired I’m finding it difficult to stand on my own. Even the rescue that Tobias is proposing barely appeals to me. I don’t want freedom. I want sleep. I want this to end.
“I don’t …” I choke on the words and start to cry. “I can’t … make it …that long.”
You were completely fine yesterday. The author can’t just now declare that suddenly you can’t take it.
Tris goes on a bit and suddenly realizes she really just wanted to die and be with her parents, which is weird for a sudden realization given she explicitly said it ages ago.
We jump to a new scene where Tris wakes up to see Caleb.
“I did what I had to do. You think you understand this, Beatrice, but you don’t. This whole situation … it’s much bigger than you think it is.”
His eyes plead with me to understand, but I recognize his tone—it’s the one he employed when we were younger, to scold me. It is condescending.
Arrogance is one of the flaws in the Erudite heart—I know. It is often in mine.
But greed is the other. And I do not have that. So I am halfway in and halfway out, as always.
Abnegation, in contrast, are so humble. You have no idea how humble they are, Let them tell you more about how very, very humble they are, and how much better at it they are than you.
Caleb starts saying stuff that sounds like information but is carefully arranged to not, in fact, be information:
“This isn’t about Erudite; it’s about everyone. All the factions,” he says, “and the city. And what’s outside the fence.”
Factions city outside fence? Well now I’m convinced! Factions city outside fence is definitely a good three reasons to do anything.
He says their dad was Erudite, Tris argues that he left for Abnegation.
He chose a different identity, just like you, and became something else. Only you chose this … this evil.”
“Spoken like a true Dauntless,” says Caleb sharply. “It’s either one way or the other way. No nuances. The world doesn’t work like that, Beatrice. Evil depends on where you’re standing.”
“No matter where I stand, I’ll still think mind controlling an entire city of people is evil.” I feel my lip wobble. “I’ll still think delivering your sister to be prodded and executed is evil!”
“It’s almost like this entire conversation is a bunch of strawmen even!”
Then Jeanine arrives to say that Tris’ brain has another special thing.
“You have an abundance of a particular kind of neuron, called, quite simply, a mirror neuron.
We established right at the start of the series that Tris has trouble paying attention to others. She does not learn from others, she struggles to understand others, and she absolutely does not feel what others feel – even her altruistic behavior works because she can be calm while others panic.
“someone with many, strong mirror neurons could have a flexible personality—capable of mimicking others as the situation calls for it rather than remaining constant.”
“Or so we thought, and then we met Tris who behaves nothing like that so I gues not.”
We continue the bullshit logic leapfrog game to decide that because that sentence involved the word “flexible” it covers someone having a flexible personality in ways completely unrelated to mimicking others such as an aptitude test.
Later, Tobias comes to rescue her.
“It’s too soon. It hasn’t been two weeks.”
God damn it Tris, you know they’re supposedly doing simulations to fuck with your head, why would the first response you have be to tell someone their behavior isn’t in line with the secret plan they secretly told you?
They run a bit.
I take his chin in hand and pull his lips down to mine, kissing him slowly, sighing as I pull back.
“We can’t get out of here,” I say. “Because this is a simulation.”
He pulled me to my feet with my right hand. The real Tobias would have remembered the wound in my shoulder.
So apparently they’re coding every interaction into the simulation. And here I thought they were taking it from her brain god this makes less sense by the minute.
But anyway this is actually a perfectly good victory for them – she only figured it was wrong because there was an actual discrepancy. All they have to do is put her under and not add in anyone she knows.
All I have to do now is wake up, and I know how—I have done it before, in my fear landscape, when I broke a glass tank just by touching my palm to it, or when I made a gun appear in the grass to shoot descending birds. I take a knife from my pocket—a knife that wasn’t there a moment ago—and will my leg to be hard as diamond.
I thrust the knife toward my thigh, and the blade bends.
Which naturally works despite the fact the simulations were deliberately coded to end if those things were done and this was not, and Jeanine apparently snaps because she doesn’t know how Tris figured it out because apparently their brain reading technology works exactly well enough to not know that, and also because scientists have no patience for experiments, it’s part of being a scientist.
“You stupid girl,” she says. “You think this is about you, and your abnormal brain? This is not about you. It is not about me. It is about keeping this city safe from the people who intend to plunge it into hell!”
Slightly more info there than Caleb. Thanks, Jeanine.
“Pain can’t make me tell you. Truth serum can’t make me tell you. Simulations can’t make me tell you. I’m immune to all three.”
I remind you once again that no effort has been made to use pain, and it’s a great idea to try it.
I savor the scowl on her face, the hate in her eyes. She was like a machine; she was cold and emotionless, bound by logic alone. And I broke her. I broke her.
The book is getting increasingly creepy with this.
And now, memories:
Once, when I was about eleven, I stopped at the doorway to my parents’ bedroom to watch them make the bed together. My father smiled at my mother as they pulled the sheets back and smoothed them down in perfect synchronicity. I knew by the way he looked at her that he held her in a higher regard than he held even himself. No selfishness or insecurity kept him from seeing the full extent of her goodness, as it so often does with the rest of us. That kind of love may only be possible in Abnegation.
In fairness, Tris is that mix of oblivious and smug that she could believe this.
Peter comes by to say the execution has been moved to tomorrow. Erudite, clearly, is very much Lawful Evil and can’t just kill someone when it’s necessary but has to do a whole official song and dance.
But she … she hasn’t developed the right simulation yet; she couldn’t possibly …”
“She said that she will continue the experiments on Tobias instead of you,” he says.
SOMEONE BEING SMART!
Tomorrow my life will be over. Tobias may survive long enough to escape in the factionless invasion. The Dauntless will elect a new leader.
All the loose ends I will leave will be easily tied up.
In all seriousness, I think this is a loose end from an earlier draft when she was a faction leader.
“I could have forgiven you, you know,” I say. “For trying to kill me during initiation. I probably could have.”
We are both quiet for a while. I don’t know why I told him that. Maybe just because it’s true, and tonight, of all nights, is the time for honesty.
So there’s that down the drain. Girls should forgive boys who shove them off cliffs while grabbing their breasts. I didn’t realize the Al guilt was a prelude to forgiving the evil one without a single redeeming feature.
Is this why he’s not dead? Because he had to be here for Tris to realize grudges against terrible people who sexually assault you during their murder attempt are bad?
But anyway because Tris was a proper forgiving girl the psychopath is touched and tells her the time at last.
I suppose that now would be the time to ask for forgiveness for all the things I’ve done, but I’m sure my list would never be complete.
Girl heroes are bad and you’re bad for liking them. Only boy heroes get to do stuff without explaining how they’re constantly terrible.
Tris then says it’s fine because she’s sure any afterlife that allows you remember events in a list is Erudite.
I don’t believe that what comes after depends on anything I do at all.
What the fuck is with this book.
She ends by saying she’ll be Abnegation about it and hope she’ll become better because obviously she’s so terrible now. MOST OF THAT IS BECAUSE YOU WON’T SHUT UP ABOUT HOW TERRIBLE YOU ARE, TRIS. THIS DOESN’T HELP.