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Allegiant (Divergent #3)(15)

By:Veronica Roth


I TAKE THE photograph from my pocket. The man in front of me-David-is in it, next to my mother, his face a little smoother, his middle a little trimmer.

I cover my mother's face with my fingertip. All the hope growing inside me has withered. If my mother, or my father, or my friends were still alive, they would have been waiting by the doors for our arrival. I should have known better than to think what happened with Amar-whatever it was-could happen again.

"My name is David. As Zoe probably told you already, I am the leader of the Bureau of Genetic Welfare. I'm going to do my best to explain things," David says. "The first thing you should know is that the information Edith Prior gave you is only partly true."

At the name "Prior" his eyes settle on me. My body shakes with anticipation-ever since I saw that video I've been desperate for answers, and I'm about to get them.

"She provided only as much information as you needed to meet the goals of our experiments," says David. "And in many cases, that meant oversimplifying, omitting, and even outright falsehood. Now that you are here, there is no need for any of those things."

"You all keep talking about 'experiments,'" Tobias says. "What experiments?" 

"Yes, well, I was getting to that." David looks at Amar. "Where did they start when they explained it to you?"

"Doesn't matter where you start. You can't make it easier to take," Amar says, picking at his cuticles.

David considers this for a moment, then clears his throat.

"A long time ago, the United States government-"

"The united what?" Uriah asks.

"It's a country," says Amar. "A large one. It has specific borders and its own governing body, and we're in the middle of it right now. We can talk about it later. Go ahead, sir."

David presses his thumb into his palm and massages his hand, clearly disconcerted by all the interruptions.

He begins again:

"A few centuries ago, the government of this country became interested in enforcing certain desirable behaviors in its citizens. There had been studies that indicated that violent tendencies could be partially traced to a person's genes-a gene called 'the murder gene' was the first of these, but there were quite a few more, genetic predispositions toward cowardice, dishonesty, low intelligence-all the qualities, in other words, that ultimately contribute to a broken society."

We were taught that the factions were formed to solve a problem, the problem of our flawed natures. Apparently the people David is describing, whoever they were, believed in that problem too.

I know so little about genetics-just what I can see passed down from parent to child, in my face and in friends' faces. I can't imagine isolating a gene for murder, or cowardice, or dishonesty. Those things seem too nebulous to have a concrete location in a person's body. But I'm not a scientist.

"Obviously there are quite a few factors that determine personality, including a person's upbringing and experiences," David continues, "but despite the peace and prosperity that had reigned in this country for nearly a century, it seemed advantageous to our ancestors to reduce the risk of these undesirable qualities showing up in our population by correcting them. In other words, by editing humanity.

"That's how the genetic manipulation experiment was born. It takes several generations for any kind of genetic manipulation to manifest, but people were selected from the general population in large numbers, according to their backgrounds or behavior, and they were given the option to give a gift to our future generations, a genetic alteration that would make their descendants just a little bit better."

I look around at the others. Peter's mouth is puckered with disdain. Caleb is scowling. Cara's mouth has fallen open, like she is hungry for answers and intends to eat them from the air. Christina just looks skeptical, one eyebrow raised, and Tobias is staring at his shoes.

I feel like I am not hearing anything new-just the same philosophy that spawned the factions, driving people to manipulate their genes instead of separating into virtue-based groups. I understand it. On some level I even agree with it. But I don't know how it relates to us, here, now.

"But when the genetic manipulations began to take effect, the alterations had disastrous consequences. As it turns out, the attempt had resulted not in corrected genes, but in damaged ones," David says. "Take away someone's fear, or low intelligence, or dishonesty . . . and you take away their compassion. Take away someone's aggression and you take away their motivation, or their ability to assert themselves. Take away their selfishness and you take away their sense of self-preservation. If you think about it, I'm sure you know exactly what I mean."

I tick off each quality in my mind as he says it-fear, low intelligence, dishonesty, aggression, selfishness. He is talking about the factions. And he's right to say that every faction loses something when it gains a virtue: the Dauntless, brave but cruel; the Erudite, intelligent but vain; the Amity, peaceful but passive; the Candor, honest but inconsiderate; the Abnegation, selfless but stifling.




"Humanity has never been perfect, but the genetic alterations made it worse than it had ever been before. This manifested itself in what we call the Purity War. A civil war, waged by those with damaged genes, against the government and everyone with pure genes. The Purity War caused a level of destruction formerly unheard of on American soil, eliminating almost half of the country's population."

"The visual is up," says one of the people at a desk in the control room.

A map appears on the screen above David's head. It is an unfamiliar shape, so I'm not sure what it's supposed to represent, but it is covered with patches of pink, red, and dark-crimson lights.

"This is our country before the Purity War," David says. "And this is after-"

The lights start to recede, the patches shrinking like puddles of water drying in the sun. Then I realize that the red lights were people-people, disappearing, their lights going out. I stare at the screen, unable to wrap my mind around such a substantial loss.

David continues, "When the war was finally over, the people demanded a permanent solution to the genetic problem. And that is why the Bureau of Genetic Welfare was formed. Armed with all the scientific knowledge at our government's disposal, our predecessors designed experiments to restore humanity to its genetically pure state.

"They called for genetically damaged individuals to come forward so that the Bureau could alter their genes. The Bureau then placed them in secure environments to settle in for the long haul, equipped with basic versions of the serums to help them control their society. They would wait for the passage of time-for the generations to pass, for each one to produce more genetically healed humans. Or, as you currently know them . . . the Divergent."

Ever since Tori told me the word for what I am-Divergent-I have wanted to know what it means. And here is the simplest answer I have received: "Divergent" means that my genes are healed. Pure. Whole. I should feel relieved to know the real answer at last. But I just feel like something is off, itching in the back of my mind.

I thought that "Divergent" explained everything that I am and everything that I could be. Maybe I was wrong.

I am starting to feel short of breath as the revelations begin to work their way into my mind and heart, as David peels the layers of lies and secrets away. I touch my chest to feel my heartbeat, to try to steady myself.

"Your city is one of those experiments for genetic healing, and by far the most successful one, because of the behavioral modification portion. The factions, that is." David smiles at us, like it's something we should be proud of, but I am not proud. They created us, they shaped our world, they told us what to believe. 

If they told us what to believe, and we didn't come to it on our own, is it still true? I press my hand harder against my chest. Steady.

"The factions were our predecessors' attempt to incorporate a 'nurture' element to the experiment-they discovered that mere genetic correction was not enough to change the way people behaved. A new social order, combined with the genetic modification, was determined to be the most complete solution to the behavioral problems that the genetic damage had created." David's smile fades as he looks around at all of us. I don't know what he expected-for us to smile back? He continues, "The factions were later introduced to most of our other experiments, three of which are currently active. We have gone to great lengths to protect you, observe you, and learn from you."

Cara runs her hands over her hair, as if checking for loose strands. Finding none, she says, "So when Edith Prior said we were supposed to determine the cause of Divergence and come out and help you, that was . . ."

"'Divergent' is the name we decided to give to those who have reached the desired level of genetic healing," says David. "We wanted to make sure that the leaders of your city valued them. We didn't expect the leader of Erudite to start hunting them down-or for the Abnegation to even tell her what they were-and contrary to what Edith Prior said, we never really intended for you to send a Divergent army out to us. We don't, after all, truly need your help. We just need your healed genes to remain intact and to be passed on to future generations."