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CHAPTER THIRTEEN

TRIS

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THE WORLD BEYOND ours is full of roads and dark buildings and collapsing power lines.

There is no life in it, as far as I can see; no movement, no sound but the wind and my own footsteps.

It’s like the landscape is an interrupted sentence, one side dangling in the air, unfinished, and the other, a completely different subject. On our side of that sentence is empty land, grass and stretches of road. On the other side are two concrete walls with half a dozen sets of train tracks between them. Up ahead, there is a concrete bridge built across the walls, and framing the tracks are buildings, wood and brick and glass, their windows dark, trees growing around them, so wild their branches have grown together.

sign on the right says 90.

“What do we do now?” Uriah asks.

“We follow the tracks,” I say, but quietly, so only I hear it.

We get out of the trucks at the divide between our world and theirs—whoever “they” are. Robert and Johanna say a brief good-bye, turn the trucks around, and drive back into the city. I watch them go. I can’t imagine coming this far and then turning back, but I guess there are things they have to do in the city. Johanna still has an Allegiant rebellion to organize.

The rest of us—me, Tobias, Caleb, Peter, Christina, Uriah, and Cara—set out with our meager possessions along the railroad tracks.

The tracks are not like the ones in the city. They are polished and sleek, and instead of boards running perpendicular to their path, there are sheets of textured metal. Up ahead I see one of the trains that runs along them, abandoned near the wall. It is metal-plated on the top and front, like a mirror, with tinted windows all along the side. When we draw closer, I see rows of benches inside it with maroon cushions on them. People must not jump on and off these trains.

Tobias walks behind me on one of the rails, his arms held out from his sides to maintain his balance. The others are spread out over the tracks, Peter and Caleb near one wall, Cara near the other. No one talks much, except to point out something new, a sign or a building or a hint of what this world was like, when there were people in it.

The concrete walls alone hold my attention—they are covered with strange pictures of people with skin so smooth they hardly look like people anymore, or colorful bottles with shampoo or conditioner or vitamins or unfamiliar substances inside them, words I don’t understand, “vodka” and “Coca-Cola” and “energy drink. ” The colors and shapes and words and pictures are so garish, so abundant, that they are mesmerizing.

“Tris. ” Tobias puts his hand on my shoulder, and I stop.

He tilts his head and says, “Do you hear that?”

I hear footsteps and the quiet voices of our companions. I hear my own breaths, and his. But running beneath them is a quiet rumble, inconsistent in its intensity. It sounds like an engine.

“Everyone stop!” I shout.

To my surprise, everyone does, even Peter, and we gather together in the center of the tracks. I see Peter draw his gun and hold it up, and I do the same, both hands joined together to steady it, remembering the ease with which I used to lift it. That ease is gone now.

Something appears around the bend up ahead. A black truck, but larger than any truck I’ve ever seen, large enough to hold more than a dozen people in its covered bed.

I shudder.

The truck bumps over the tracks and comes to a stop twenty feet away from us. I can see the man driving it—he has dark skin and long hair that is in a knot at the back of his head.

“God,” Tobias says, and his hands tighten around his own gun.

A woman gets out of the front seat. She looks to be around Johanna’s age, her skin patterned with dense freckles and her hair so dark it’s almost black. She hops to the ground and puts up both hands, so we can see that she isn’t armed.

“Hello,” she says, and smiles nervously. “My name is Zoe. This is Amar. ”

She jerks her head to the side to indicate the driver, who has gotten out of the truck too.

“Amar is dead,” Tobias says.

“No, I’m not. Come on, Four,” Amar says.

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Tobias’s face is tight with fear. I don’t blame him. It’s not every day you see someone you care about come back from the dead.

The faces of all the people I’ve lost flash into my mind. Lynn. Marlene. Will. Al.

My father. My mother.

What if they’re still alive, like Amar? What if the curtain that separates us is not death but a chain-link fence and some land?

I can’t stop myself from hoping, foolish as it is.

“We work for the same organization that founded your city,” Zoe says as she glares at Amar. “The same organization Edith Prior came from. And . . . ”

She reaches into her pocket and takes out a partially crumpled photograph. She holds it out, and then her eyes find mine in the crowd of people and guns.

“I think you should look at this, Tris,” she says. “I’ll step forward and leave it on the ground, then back up. All right?”

She knows my name. My throat tightens with fear. How does she know my name? And not just my name—my nickname, the name I chose when I joined Dauntless?

“All right,” I say, but my voice is hoarse, so the words barely escape.

Zoe steps forward, sets the photograph down on the train tracks, then moves back to her original position. I leave the safety of our numbers and crouch near the photograph, watching her the whole time. Then I back up, photograph in hand.

It shows a row of people in front of a chain-link fence, their arms slung across one another’s shoulders and backs. I see a child version of Zoe, recognizable by her freckles, and a few people I don’t recognize. I am about to ask her what the point of me looking at this picture is when I recognize the young woman with dull blond hair, tied back, and a wide smile.

My mother. What is my mother doing next to these people?

Something—grief, pain, longing—squeezes my chest.

“There is a lot to explain,” Zoe says. “But this isn’t really the best place to do it. We’d like to take you to our headquarters. It’s a short drive from here. ”

Still holding up his gun, Tobias touches my wrist with his free hand, guiding the photograph closer to his face. “That’s your mother?” he asks me.

“It’s Mom?” Caleb says. He pushes past Tobias to see the picture over my shoulder.

“Yes,” I say to both of them.

“Think we should trust them?” Tobias says to me in a low voice.

Zoe doesn’t look like a liar, and she doesn’t sound like one either. And if she knows who I am, and knew how to find us here, it’s probably because she has some form of access to the city, which means she is probably telling the truth about being with the group that Edith Prior came from. And then there’s Amar, who is watching every movement Tobias makes.

Watch Divergent 4: Ascendant (2017)

“We came out here because we wanted to find these people,” I say. “We have to trust someone, don’t we? Or else we’re just walking around in a wasteland, possibly starving to death. ”

Tobias releases my wrist and lowers his gun. I do the same. The others follow suit slowly, with Christina putting hers down last.

“Wherever we go, we have to be free to leave at any time,” Christina says. “Okay?”

Zoe places her hand on her chest, right over her heart. “You have my word. ”

I hope, for all our sakes, that her word is worth having.

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