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History is the version of past events
that people have decided to agree upon.
- Napoleon Bonaparte
“Truth wasn't as easy as Edith Prior made it seem.” The nameless speaker on the screen says in a blank tone. “There was no war taking place beyond the borders of our city, not anymore. But they did need us, though not many were willing to accept it at the time. A group of young ones, mostly former-Dauntless, left the city to find what was beyond the limits of the fence and the Amity fields. A lot happened during their time out there, and not everything is known, but the basics have been agreed on.”
There’s a government produced video projecting pictures of the scientific base behind him. It’s Choosing Day, or what once was called that (even without the Factions, some people still remember it), and also the day when the inhabitants of Chicago choose to remember their past. It always begins with a video, some unknown spokesman from the government, and ends with a party. Though none could have known how this Memorial Day would change everything.
The monotonous drone continues. “The Bureau of Genetic Welfare was created after the Purity War, in an attempt to restore the balance in society by finding a solution for the genetically damaged. They claimed the world's trouble could be all attributed to defects in people's genes. Chicago was one such project. The factions were meant to keep order, until the solution came. That was what they wanted the Divergent for, not to fight a war, but because they believed them to be the solution to the problem. It was also the start of another. The heads of the facility were working to achieve equality between the Divergent and those who some believed not to be Pure. But not everyone agreed with the sentiment. A number of fights broke out in the following days, and it all ended with a terrible accident, in which almost all the scientists in the facility lost their memory; while the Divergent and rebel: Beatrice 'Tris' Prior lost her life, after trying to steal the serums from the vault, and accidentally activating the memory dev...”
The man's voice and the feed as a whole, are cut off rather abruptly. Though rather than a fully lost transmission, another takes its place. A green-eyed, dark-blonde, tanned young man (mid-twenties at most) in casual clothes comes into focus.
“I don't know about you all.” He begins in a half-hesitant tone. “But I've about had it with all the lies others keep feeding us. I'm tired of every year listening to the drool that is their version of history. This time... this time I'm giving mine.” His voice turns stronger, his stance straighter as he begins gaining confidence. “It is possible to tell you exactly what happened in the Bureau those days; but most people simply don't care to know. Don't want to complicate their simple, easy version of the 'truth' with facts that may make things gray, rather than black and white. Things that might reveal that the Bureau weren't as kind and compassionate as they like to make you believe, and our city wasn't as perfect either. But I care not about making things easy, I care about the truth. Have decided that, after all these years, it's time someone came out and said it. So here I am. I will tell you what really happened that day... and I can. You see, I was there. My name is Caleb Prior, Abnegation born, Erudite by choice. I am the brother of Beatrice Prior, whose friends knew better as Tris; and I will tell you right now she was neither a rebel, nor a traitor. Though she was most certainly Divergent, and proud of it.”
The response to those words, to Caleb's appearance in what was supposed to be a private feed from the government, is one of shocked chaos. It's impossible to tell if people do not yell because they're too curious about what he might say next, or just too shocked about what he has already said. In any case, no one is dozing off or playing anymore; every single eye is on the screen. In that moment, everyone wants to know what it is Caleb Prior has to say.
There are those who aren't sure if they should trust him, of course. Those who were highest among the Allegiant at the time when the boy was tried and sentenced to execution for siding with Jeanine Matthews, for betraying Abnegation, Dauntless and so many others. Most aren't even quite sure why he didn't die... and then Caleb is talking again.
“I know what some of you might be thinking right now. Why should you believe me? Why should you trust me? After everything I did, all the ways I betrayed everyone, my old faction, my own family... All I can say is that this isn't about me, it's about my sister. Who cannot speak up on her own defense, so I will. I will speak up for her, will defend her, like I always should have...” He takes a deep breath before focusing again. “You've all heard about the Old Times, about the Purity War, the lies regarding those Genetically Pure and those Defective... but the truth, it goes beyond all that. And at the same time is much more basic than that. It's about a group of men and women in the Bureau who believed that because they were born in a certain way, they were somehow more deserving, with more rights, than the rest of us. The Divergent were believed to be like them, it was why they wanted them, while they cared little for the rest of us. I was with the group who left the city to find out what was really going on beyond the fence and what we found... it was like nothing we could have ever expected. There was no war, but that's because the supposedly GP's were so sure of their own power, it seemed like nothing could be done. Except it was. It started before we even got there, a group of those they called GD's, those they saw as less, getting ready to rebel. We ended up getting involved, for no other reason than we were already there, I think. Tobias, who the Dauntless called Four, was pulled into the conflict. My sister, on the other hand, got close to the head of the Bureau, a man called David, who'd known our mother before she was Abnegation... before she was even Dauntless. It was from him that Beatrice learnt what was really going on. The Bureau, while they had arranged for the video we watched, which revealed to us the existence of a world beyond the fence... they had changed their minds at some point and were no longer interested in ending the project. They wanted us to stay in Factions, in the fractioned society we'd been for generations. For that way they could control us, and could keep studying us. If we changed, if we erased the Factions, they could no longer do any of that. So, you see, they couldn't allow us to change. And the Bureau... they were willing to do anything to return to the old status quo.”
People begin shifting in their places as the revelations keep coming, one after the other.
Somewhere people are typing madly in their computers, trying by all means to cut off the video, to stop Caleb Prior before he says too much; wondering how they missed that he was capable of something like that, while at the same time not understanding why, if he had it in himself all along, why has he waited ten years? In any case, they cannot stop it. They have no idea how it's been done, but their own transmission has been hacked, and the new one cannot be hacked in return, or interrupted. There's nothing they can do until it's all over.
“The Bureau never intended for us to be free, either of the factions or them.” Caleb continues. “They were the ones who gave Jeanine the death-serum, the greatest weapon in her arsenal. They used her as a way to try and keep control over the factions; though in the end it backfired. It all came to a head rather fast. A plan was made. Beatrice knew the Bureau intended to release a special toxin in the city which would erase everyone's minds. Erase the massacre, the conflict, and our desire to change... It would basically be like pushing a reset button... one that, in the end, was pushed on them instead.” He sighs, before steeling himself for what's coming. “It was a suicide mission. We knew it even as we planned it. The memory serum was in the vaults, and the security system in it was fool-proof. While it was possible to force our way inside, doing so released the death-serum, and there was no protection and no cure for that. So we planned the best we could. A sealed suit, something that would protect the person for as long as possible; the toxin would get through eventually, but we hoped there would be enough time to get to the keypad that released the memory toxin. I offered myself to do it.”
There are actually gasps at that revelation, so very few people know that Caleb offered himself, that he was the one who was supposed to go into that vault, not his sister.
“The way I saw it, it was only right. A way to pay for my sins. I've been told it was 'doing the right thing for the wrong reasons...' Beatrice wouldn't stand for it. In the end she went in herself, with no suit, no weapon, nothing... So you see, this girl whom you've been told was a rebel, a destroyer, was anything but. She was a woman, a brave woman, fighting to protect those she cared for: her family, her beloved, her people in the city, who had no idea of the fate that awaited them if the Bureau wasn't stopped...” He actually gasps, fighting to control himself, his emotions, it's hard. “She was someone who was willing to sacrifice her own life for that of her brother, a brother who'd done nothing but betray her for so long... a brother who didn't realize how much she was worth until it was too late...”
Caleb actually has to pause then. The transmission does not cut, everyone can see him take deep breaths, almost panting as he forcefully controls himself. He has a story to tell, things to set right, he cannot lose himself in the grief and the pain, not again, not when he's finally doing something right, for the right reasons...
“She survived the death serum.” He practically blurts out, before straightening and continuing in a more focused tone. “It was said to be impossible, beyond anything even a Divergent could do... but she did it anyway. I think it had nothing to do with being Divergent. It had everything to do with being Beatrice, being Tris, the bravest, most brilliant, stubborn and protective sister, woman I've ever known...” He inhaled sharply. “She survived the death serum, and entered the vault, only to find someone waiting for her there: David... He knew we were planning something, had realized Beatrice wasn't really on his side. And yet, he couldn't accept that she had survived the death serum on her own will, insisting that she'd somehow managed to inoculate herself against it. He also believed Beatrice was there to steal something... unable to even contemplate the true objective. Beatrice knew the odds were against her, realized it the moment she saw David standing right there; yet she refused to give up. How could she when the lives of everyone she knew and cared for were on the line? So, even knowing how things would go, she tried her best to distract David, and at the first opportunity, threw herself at the keypad and began entering the password. She succeeded, though not before two bullets hit her. Even then she wouldn't let herself fall until she was finished, until she was sure it was all done.” He lets out a long breath. “She did it. She won... and then she was gone.”
Not a word is said, not a whisper even. Some begin looking around, searching for someone who might be able to confirm or deny what's being said. But hardly anyone knows the names of those who went to the Bureau that first time, and even if they knew, it would be next to useless, for only one is there, Cara, and all she can do is watch the screen jaw slack and holding her breath. Cara doesn't understand Caleb, while both might have been Erudite, they were never the same. For years Cara has known of Caleb's wish to redeem himself, to somehow compensate for the mistakes he made all those years before, the betrayal... She never doubted he would find a way, and yet, what he's chosen to do... it's completely irrational!
“For years you've all been lead to believe that my sister was the villain of the story.” Caleb goes on. “That she had some terrible plan and the valiant director of the Bureau went all alone to stop her, that he killed Beatrice while trying to stop her, and somehow the freak accident happened. My sister's name and memory have been covered in a veil of lies and wrongful accusations. Beatrice... Tris was never the villain... she was always the hero.” His voice breaks, just a little. “And maybe if some of us had realized that sooner, things wouldn't have been so dark...”
Whispers start then, finally, as people begin turning to those closest to them, asking what they know, if any of what they just heard is true. All but a few, who either know or suspect, that there's more than what is being said. Two in particular: Johanna Mason and Evelyn Johnson, turn to look at each other in silence. They can still remember Tobias's abrupt departure almost seven years ago; how he left with no true explanation and telling no one where he was going exactly, except to say that he wanted to see more of the world... and both women know that his departure, and maybe even his words are significant, even if they have no idea how.
“I know what most of you are thinking right now.” Caleb speaks again right then. “Why should you believe me? What guarantee is there that I am telling you the truth? It's not like I'm Candor or anything... and even if I told you I drank truth serum and cannot lie, most of you wouldn't believe it anyway.” He shakes his head. “I cannot make you believe me, believe any of this. All I can do is pass on what I know, and hope each of you will make up your minds.” He looks to the side before once again facing the camera. “For those of you wondering why I'm doing this, ten years ago my sister needed me, and I didn't help her... and even if she's not here physically anymore, it's not right for her memory, her name to continue being desecrated by the lies some people in power choose to call history. This life we have, this life we all love, our city... we don't have it because the Bureau wanted to give it to us, we have it because a few fought to give it to us, even if they knew they probably wouldn't be here to enjoy it. The only right thing to do is honor their actions, and remember them right.” He presses the back of his hand to his lips, and then to his forehead, as if kissing a brow, and receiving a kiss in return; his way of remembering one who's not there to share such gestures with him. “Farewell sister...”
The transmission cuts then. It takes a second, as if everyone were taking a deep breath at the same time, and then... pandemonium.
In a lab deep in what once was the Dauntless compound, an almost-twenty-seven year old man with short dark-blonde hair, dark-green eyes and tanned skin, stands in a white linen shirt, long sleeves rolled up almost to his elbows, blue jeans tight on his hips and dark boots on his feet. He's staring silently at the camera a few feet in front of him; it's still on, though the video is no longer being transmitted.
“There, it's done.” A female voice to his left announces.
The man, Caleb Prior, turns to meet the dark eyes of the coffee skinned, ebony-haired twenty-six year old woman in a black top, black cargo pants loose on her hips and thick soled boots on her feet. She once was Tris's closest friend; and Caleb's sure he would have never achieved so much without her.
“Thank you Christina.” He murmurs softly as he finally moves to turn off the video camera. “I would have never been able to do this without you.”
“No, you wouldn't have.” She agrees easily, fingers flying over keys as she finishes turning off all the machines they used to hack the transmission and send their own. “Though there is one thing I still do not understand...” She spins around, chair and all, to look at Caleb. “Why this? And most importantly, why now?”
Caleb answers honestly, “Because I'm tired. Of hearing the same stupid lies, year after year. Of listening to those bastards disrespect my sister's memory and... everyone believes them, they dare think the worst of her, when everything she did was to protect. Me, you, Tobias... Dauntless, Abnegation... the whole damned city!” He lets out an unwilling, ragged sob. “It's not... it's not right, it's not fair, Christina...”
“Life's not fair...” She begins, in a monotone.
“Don't give me ridiculous platitudes!” Caleb retorts, harsher than intended. “I know life isn't fair. If it were we wouldn't be in this situation. I... we all...”
“Things are still much better than they could have been, you know?” Christina says quietly, tone completely changed, soft, tender. “I mean, they were bad for a while, yeah; and not everything has been made better, but it could be much worse. Tobias could have died, or worse...”
Caleb knows what she's alluding to, the vial of memory serum; he actually saw it in his sister's boyfriend hand a number of times in the years following her death... before everything changed so abruptly. So unexpectedly...
“I know we got enough of a miracle.” Caleb nods. “Finding her alive...” His voice breaks just for a moment. “I thought I was hallucinating, you know? The first time I saw her, in that room. I thought I'd finally snapped, that my grief had broken my mind completely... not the best thought to go through an Erudite... or former Erudite, whatever. It wasn’t until the third time I saw her, when I finally saw her chart, that I allowed myself to believe it was real... that I understood the depth of the cruelty, of the evil in our so-called government. To keep my sister prisoner, keep her caged like some sort of wild-animal... and all along letting us believe she was dead!”
“I know...” Christina lets out a tired sigh. “You must remember that when you first came to me with your findings I pretty much closed the door on your face, called you every bad name I could think of... until you showed me that picture...”
“There's a reason I went to you and not Tobias.” Caleb deadpanned. “He would have killed me. And then he would have razed the Compound to the ground, neither of which would have helped us, or Beatrice.”
“But you did help her Caleb...” Christina left her chair, going to stand before Caleb, a reassuring hand on his shoulder. “You found her, and you got her out of that awful place. Got her back to full health, without all those drugs they were using to keep her down... and then you helped her and Tobias leave...”
“Some might argue it's my fault she ever ended up in that cage in the first place.” Caleb's voice has a tone of self-deprecation, as it always does when he remembers the events of seven years ago. “I was supposed to go into the vault, not her.”
“You would have died, she survived.” Christina reminds him.
“And yet they somehow managed to make us believe she hadn't.” Caleb let out something that sounded like a half-sigh, half-hiccup. “I will never understand how they managed that. To fool us all in such a way. And for three years! If the paper-pushers in the Bureau didn't hate us GD's so much that they don't even know the difference between a Fringe inhabitant and a former Faction-member... I would have never been anywhere close to there.”
“But you were.” Christina insists. “You found Tris. It doesn't matter if it was coincidence, luck, a god-given miracle even! I told you, what matters is that you found her, saved her. You stopped whatever it was they were planning on doing with her. And right now she's somewhere out there, with Four, and they're living their lives, free, together and happy, just as they're supposed to be.”
“I suppose you're right.” Caleb lets out a breath. “Though that's yet another things to hate the higher ups for. Chicago was supposed to be Beatrice's home, our home... and after everything that happened, she couldn't stay.”
“They would have never allowed her to be free here.” Christina nods. “The story they created, the awful lie they spun and chose to call history... it would have never stood if Tris had been here, free, able to tell her version of things... If she had stayed they'd have gone after her.”
“All for their broken excuse of history.” He huffs.
“Broken history indeed!” Christina practically snorts. “Never more so than now. After everything you just said on that video...”
“Not everyone will believe me.” He points out.
“Maybe not.” She admits. “But I believe there will be more people who will believe you than those who won't. And even among those who don't believe it, a doubt has been created. It might not be now, it might not be for weeks or even months... but sooner or later they will begin asking questions. They will grow curious, wanting to know whether you said the truth. The government's lies won't stand a chance against that.”
Caleb nods; he might not be happy, not completely satisfied with things, but it's still better than nothing, that much he knows. And in the end, he'd gone into things knowing it might not work, that it might not be enough... he might not have managed to change everything, but he'd done something, and that mattered.
“You know they won't leave you alone now, right?” Christina asks him suddenly. “After what we just did, what you just said in that transmission... the government will never leave you alone.”
“It's why I'm leaving the city today.” Caleb says calmly. “I've planned everything.”
“Will you be looking for Tris and Tobias?” There's a mix of curiosity and longing in her voice.
“Maybe eventually.” Caleb shrugs. “But not at first. I'll be going north. In the opposite direction that they are, according to the single letter Beatrice sent me, years ago... just in case they do come after me. I plan to travel for a bit and... who knows, maybe one day I'll find my way to them.”
“Will you ever come back?” Her voice sounds oddly small as she asks that.
“I... I honestly don't know.” He admits. “But I promise to send letters whenever I can and... who knows? Maybe once I've settled down somewhere you could visit me?”
“I...” Christina hesitates before admitting. “I think I would like that.”
Nothing more was said, no questions, no platitudes, no goodbyes. Caleb already has a bag ready on a corner, a jacket folded on top of it. He takes both and simply leaves; the lab, the Compound and later on Chicago, never looking back because, in the end, there is nothing to look back to.
Many miles away, a young couple in their mid to late twenties sits in the shadow of a tree. The woman is a bit on the small side, lean body, long blonde hair falling straight past the middle of her back and big grayish-blue eyes that reflect the light of the sun; she's wearing a simple multi-colored summer dress, so different from anything she might have worn in her teenage years. Back then she'd always been in gray, and later on in red and black; never so many cheerful colors. And yet they fit, with their surroundings, and also with her mood... she's so happy... like she never thought she would be.
There is a head on her lap, belonging to a muscular, tanned man, with dark brown hair that is beginning to look shaggy. He's wearing a simple white muscle-shirt and tight jeans low on his hips, eyes closed and face turned in the direction of the woman as she cards her fingers tenderly through his hair.
It's so peaceful in that moment, the place, their lives... it's perfect.
The moment is interrupted as a small figure drops over them, hitting the woman's leg and making her jerk a bit, while knocking the air out of the man's lungs... and yet neither of them care at all about such things. The man's arms immediately go around the figure. A little girl, maybe three years old, with loose waves of dark-blonde hair and big chocolate eyes in denim shorts and a cute yellow top; she begins giggling almost right away.
“Enough Papa!” She shrieks, laughing. “No more tickling!”
“No more tickling?” The man repeats in a mischievous tone, before turning to the woman looking at them both fondly. “What do you think love, should we let this miscreant go?”
The woman's eyes come alight with mischief as she pretends to think about it.
“Mama, please!” The girl calls out, unable to stop her giggling for long.
“All right, let her go.” The woman says with fake resignation. “It's time to eat something anyway.”
They rearrange themselves in the shadow of the tree, pulling the contents of a basket beside them, a small picnic; perfect for the day and part of their outing. It's nothing elaborate, simply cold-cut sandwiches, juices and slices of chocolate cake. If there's one thing that hasn't changed in the last ten years it's how much the two lovers enjoy chocolate.
“Can I go play?” The girl asks after they've finished.
“All right.” The woman nods after considering it for a moment. “But be careful please.”
“Yes mama.” The girl nods dutifully.
She's barely a handful of steps away when she's back, bending to kiss the blonde woman on the cheek, a sloppy and very loving kiss.
“Love you mama...” She whispers with a bright smile, and then she's off.
“I love you too, Talia...” The mother whispers in return.
“That girl truly adores you.” The man comments right then, raising a hand to cup his wife's face. “Almost as much as I do...”
“Almost as much as I love the both of you.” She says in turn, pressing into his hold just briefly. “You know, of all the things I imagined I could one day have, and all I never imagined could be possible... this goes so far beyond any of them. It's amazing.”
“It's perfect.” He states.
“Yes.” She agrees. “Absolutely perfect.”
And it is. For they are Tris and Tobias, and regardless what things might have been like for them in the past, how bad they might have been at one point (and how much worse they might have become, had Caleb not found her when he did...); in that moment they have each other, they have a home, peace, a family... it's all absolutely perfect indeed.