A/N: This is set post-Insurgent. The first few chapters are just dealing with setting up that world, and then the focus shifts to Tris' fear. On a slightly nerdy note, I am like Tobias in that I am deeply distrustful, but of technology (ironic, really, and probably due to consuming William Gibson's Sprawl Trilogy voraciously). The computer virus mentioned in this chapter is based on Stuxnet, which is a real thing.
To fear love is to fear life, and those who fear life are already three parts dead.
- Bertrand Russell
Antiseptic. Blood. Sweat.
That's what I smell as I sit in an uncomfortable plastic chair next to Christina. There's a constant murmur of voices around us, and if I close my eyes I can trick myself into believing I'm back in Amity, outside picking apples and listening to the wind rustle the leaves around me. But when I inhale my nose is singed by the fetid stench of humanity around me and I remember we're in Dauntless, in the infirmary, surrounded by the walking wounded.
There were casualties enough after storming Erudite's headquarters, but the fight that broke out afterwards between the factionless and everyone else was even bloodier, not least of which because they had all the guns. But it was enough to force a stalemate. When we'd parted ways with Evelyn for the last time only a few things had been settled.
The Erudite and traitor Dauntless couldn't be trusted, on that we agreed. The Erudite were confined to their compound, guarded by the factionless and the loyal Dauntless. The only thing they were allowed to do was researching and producing medicines and agricultural additives. The traitor Dauntless were shipped off to Amity for the time being to help with food production, also under the joint guardianship of the loyal Dauntless and factionless, and probably subject to large doses of their peace serum.
I suppose I'm lucky that I'm here by choice, or really that I'm here at all. I could be dead. It's no secret that Evelyn despises me; that the only reason she let me walk out of Erudite headquarters was because of Tobias; that if she had her way I wouldn't be locked in a cell like my brother, I'd be dead. But I'm not. I could be alone too, but I'm not. I know I don't deserve Christina's friendship, and it's that more than anything that has me sitting next to her, feeling self-conscious as we wait.
A harassed looking woman in nurses scrubs calls us back with a wave. Christina follows her without hesitation, but I can't help but feel uncomfortable with the whole thing. By the time the three of us are closeted away from the crowd in the waiting room I know why: I'm ashamed. Somewhere deep inside me is the small Abnegation girl, and sometimes she can be a little judgemental despite her best intentions.
The control room is still in a state of disarray. I carefully pick my way over and around the wires and pieces and computers that litter the floor, making my way to the back where I could see the blue glow of computer monitors casting Tobias shaped shadows.
He looks older now. There's lines in his face and bags under his eyes that weren't there even a few weeks ago. He doesn't look at me as I sit down next to him, but he does take my hand in his, and after everything we've been through that small act is greeting and affirmation in one.
"How did it go today?" He asks as he reaches for the cup of coffee and sandwich I brought him since he was too busy to have dinner with everyone else.
"Okay, Christina had to teach them to shoot though." I still can't handle a gun without panicking.
There was no government anymore, and there weren't supposed to be factions either, but when the dust settled the loyal Dauntless returned to the Pit accompanied by about half the remaining Abnegation and all of the Erudite defectors. There's safety in numbers, and Christina and I were teaching them to fight. It was the price they paid for staying here.
"It will get better."
I hope he's right.
"Anything I can do to help?" I ask, trying to change the subject.
"Yeah," he reaches for a marker and a pad of paper covered in strings of letters and numbers, "each disk I hand you, mark it according to the list."
"That's sufficiently cryptic. Care to explain?"
"There's that Erudite curiosity."
"You say that like it's a bad thing." I mutter.
And even though I know he's tired - exhausted mentally as well as physically - he turns and smiles at me. "It's not. Do you really want to know about this stuff?" He waves his hand around, motioning to the racks of servers and banks of screens.
"Yeah, I do, actually." If I keep distracting myself I can keep reality from crashing down on me. Right now that hydroponics book Caleb was so enthusiastic about sounds pretty great.
"How much do you know about computers?"
"No much." I answer honestly.
"Okay, every computer terminal in the Dauntless compound only has enough RAM to run the operating system. When you log in with your username and password what you're actually doing is accessing our servers, which is where everything is stored. Email, any files you save, and a history of what you did while logged into that terminal is stored there. Most people's files aren't encrypted, and as an administrator I can access them."
It's nice to see Tobias like this; it reminds me of that morning in Marcus' living room, the morning after we escaped from Erudite. His eyes are bright and curious and even if I don't particularly appreciate the way computers work, I can appreciate the way the intellectual puzzle in front of him lightens the burden he's been carrying around for weeks.
"But those files don't concern me. I mean, I wrote a program that searched them, flagged anything with key terms, but the only people who knew what was going on with the Erudite was Max and Eric and the other leaders. I told you before the war that I'd hacked their files, remember?"
"Okay, so, now that I've hacked the files and unencrypted them I'm saving them onto disks."
"A couple of reasons. For one I want to know what they told the Erudite. For another though, we know now that servers - along with the servers of the other factions - are linked to the Erudite computer system."
"They don't have a system anymore."
Six months ago I would have said he was paranoid. Now though...
"But even if they don't I don't want anyone else accessing our information. Once I save the data I want I'm going to disconnect the cables that connect us to the rest of the city-wide system."
"So why are you removing the data at all? I mean if they won't be connected to the bigger system we should be safe, right?"
"Yes, we should."
"But there's the possibility that cutting us off will trigger a program that burns all the data anyway." He reaches across me, turning on another monitor thats screen is filled with lines of code. "I don't know what that is, but I know what it isn't. I also know how it got into our system, and that's replicated itself onto all our servers and terminals."
Tobias' brow furrows, and I can practically see the wheels turning behind his eyes. "I also know it hasn't done anything yet; it's just there, waiting, and that worries me. Even if it doesn't do anything when I disconnect us I've written a program that will corrupt all the data on our servers, totally wipe them. Once that's done I'll set up a new closed system."
"You're brilliant, you know that, right?"
He grimaces, shaking his head. "No, I'm not. If I was as brilliant as you think I would have realized Evelyn isn't much better than Marcus."
I don't know what to say to that, so I don't say anything. Things have been better between us, but there are still a lot of things we don't talk about. This is one of them.
He clears his throat. "So... where were you today? I didn't see you at lunch."
"Oh... umm... I, uh... went to the Infirmary with Christina."
"Everything okay? Is your shoulder still bothering you?"
I chew on my lip unsure of how to tell him why I was there; if I even want to. My silence doesn't go unnoticed.
"What is it?"
I can feel the blush making my cheeks burn. "Christina and I went to get birth control." I mutter, looking down at my lap, afraid to look anywhere else.
He doesn't say anything for a long time, and when he does his voice is cautious. "I don't know what to say to that, Tris."
"You don't have to say anything." I take a deep breath. "Christina just didn't want to go alone, and I thought... well, I thought it was a good idea for when we eventually... when we-"
"Hey, you don't have to explain it to me. I think it's smart, you know? With the way everything is right now," he shakes his head, "kids are a bad idea for anyone."
I manage an awkward smile. We still haven't had sex; the closest we've even gotten to it was that night in Amity that feels like a lifetime ago. But we will one day, I hope, and he's right about kids being a bad idea with the chaos surrounding us.
"Who's Christina-," he starts and then stops himself abruptly.
"Nothing. None of my business."
"Uriah." I answer his unspoken question.
"They got over Will and Marlene fast." He says dryly.
"It's not like that." I snap.
"Then what's it like?"
"They're hurting," I say before I can stop myself. "Being together lets them forget about the pain for a little while. Is it really that different from you working in here from sunup to sundown and being so exhausted you're asleep by the time your head hits your pillow every night? Or all the people who drink until they're passed out across the tables in the cafeteria? We're all just looking for a way to forget everything we've been through, even if it's only temporary. This is their way; it's not for us to judge."
But we do, both of us, just a little because we're only human.
And there's a part of me that knows it's all my fault. There was - is - so much tragedy around us, but I could have saved Will and Marlene; I could have saved Christina and Uriah from the pain and grief of their loss.
We lapse into silence, him tapping away at the keyboard and handing me a disk to scribble on every few minutes. I try to ignore the guilt I feel, and focus only on the task at hand.
A few hours later there's a stack of disks between us. Tobias rubs at his eyes and stretches hugely when he finally stands up. "Watch the screen and tell me if anything happens." He says as he disappears behind the rack of servers.
I hear him shuffling around, cursing to himself as he does whatever it is that he's going.
The screens in front of me look the same as they did a minute before. "Nope."
"How about now?"
"Nothing, as in 'now there's nothing there', or nothing as in 'no change'."
I roll my eyes. "No change."
"Okay." He says as comes to sit next to me again, dusting his hands off before tapping away at the keyboard. "Here we go." He slips another disk into the computer in front of him, and there's a smile on his face.
"Medical records. Are they kept on the servers too?"
"Yeah, but the infirmary keeps a paper copy of everything just in case the system goes down."
I feel like smacking myself for my stupidity. Of course they do. I had to fill out pages and pages of papers when I was there earlier.
I watch as Tobias unleashes digital armageddon with a few keystrokes. He looks satisfied.
"How long is this going to take?"
"Hours. But by the time everyone everyone wakes up in the morning everything will be gone."
"Is that why you're doing it in the middle of the night?" It has to be close to midnight by now, but the control room is windowless, perpetual night, so it's hard to tell time.
"Yes. I definitely don't want anyone to know what I'm doing until it's too late."
"Who knows about this?"
"Me, you, Tori, and Harrison are the only ones."
Once he's satisfied the program is working the way it's supposed to he carefully picks up the disks he made in one hand and takes my hand with his other. "Come on, let's get some sleep. I have another long day tomorrow."
He locks the door behind us; he has the only key now. As we walk down the hall I try not to look at the spot where my father died, but it pulls my gaze morbidly. Someone's cleaned up the blood and the bright clean spot contrasts so sharply with the dingy carpet around it I almost think the blood would be better.
Before I can dwell on it too much we're in the elevator; five minutes later we're walking through the door of Tobias' apartment. Space is as a premium now, so when we came back I moved in with him. There's only two visible changes in the room: a bigger bed, and my soap next to his in the shower. I like it.
I like the ritual we have before we go to bed too. He kisses my lips and then each of the four birds tattooed under my collarbone, lingering a little longer on the newest one; the one closest to my heart; the one that represents him.
"I love you." They're three simple words, but I hear so much more in them than that in the fierceness of his voice, and the tightening of his hands where they're cuffed around my hips.
We both know this peace we're living in is temporary at best. There's war simmering just below the surface and anything could break the fragile tension and sink us back into it. We almost lost each other, and it's still a threat. Maybe not from my stupidity or his anymore, but there's too much unsettled, too much out of our control to think of a future beyond tomorrow.
"I love you too." I tighten my hold on him, pulling his lips back to mine, and once they are I feel like I'm melting.
It makes me want him. It makes me want to pull his shirt off and mine so I can feel the press of his flesh against me. It makes me want to push the world away with him the same way Christina and Uriah do. And as much as I try to tell myself that's not the best reason to have sex with someone, it's getting harder to ignore.
He pulls away, trying to stifle a yawn and failing completely. "Sorry. If I say 'it's not you, it's me' will you believe me?"
I kiss him on the cheek chastely. "Sleep."
"You too." He mumbles and pulls me against him. And with his body pressed against mine, and his arm looped around my middle I suddenly realize how tired I am. "Tris?"
"Have you gone in your fear landscape since we got back?"
"No. Why?" I mumble, fighting to stay awake.
"I was just wondering if it changed like mine did. I should have told you to go through it before I wiped all the simulation data."
It makes sense that he'd wonder that, considering the reason for my trip to the infirmary today, and I'd tell him that, but I'm too far gone.