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  • Home > James Dashner > Maze Runner Prequel > The Fever Code (Chapter 3)     
  • The Fever Code(Maze Runner Prequel #0.6)(3) by James Dashner
  • “Wh-what was that?” he stammered. He tried to get up from the chair despite all the things attached to him.

    Randall pushed him back into his seat. Easy to do when he was twice Stephen’s size.

    “It’s a pain stimulator. Don’t worry, it’ll dissolve and get flushed out of your system. Eventually. By then you probably won’t need it anymore.” He shrugged. What can you do? “But we can always insert another one if you make it necessary. Now calm down.”

    Stephen had a hard time catching his breath. “What’s it going to do to me?”

    “Well, that depends…Thomas. We have a long road ahead of us, you and me. All of us. But for today, right now, at this moment, we can take a shortcut. A little path through the woods. All you need to do is tell me your name.”

    “That’s easy. Stephen.”

    Randall let his head fall into his hands. “Do it,” he said, his voice little more than a tired whisper.

    Until this moment, Stephen hadn’t known pain outside of the scrapes and bruises of childhood. And so it was that when the fiery tempest exploded throughout his body, when the agony erupted in his veins and muscles, he had no words for it, no capacity to understand. There were only the screams that barely reached his own ears before his mind shut down and saved him.

    Stephen came to, breathing heavily and soaked in sweat. He was still in the strange chair, but at some point, he’d been secured to it with straps of soft leather. Every nerve in his body buzzed with the lingering effects of the pain inflicted by Randall and the implanted device.

    “What…,” Stephen whispered, a hoarse croak. His throat burned, telling him all he needed to know about how much he’d screamed in the time he lost. “What?” he repeated, his mind struggling to connect the pieces.

    “I tried to tell you, Thomas,” Randall said, with perhaps, perhaps, some compassion in his voice. Possibly regret. “We don’t have time to mess around. I’m sorry. I really am. But we’re going to have to try this again. I think you understand now that none of this is a bluff. It’s important to everyone here that you accept your new name.” The man looked away and paused a long time, staring at the floor.

    “How could you hurt me?” Stephen asked through his raw throat. “I’m just a little kid.” Young or not, he understood how pathetic he sounded.

    Stephen also knew that adults seemed to react to pathetic in one of two ways: Their hearts would melt a little and they’d backtrack. Or the guilt would burn like a furnace within them and they’d harden into rock to put the fire out. Randall chose the latter, his face reddening as he shouted back.

    “All you have to do is accept a name! Now—I’m not playing around anymore. What’s your name?”

    Stephen wasn’t stupid—he’d just pretend for now. “Thomas. My name is Thomas.”

    “I don’t believe you,” Randall responded, his eyes pools of darkness. “Again.”

    Stephen opened his mouth to answer, but Randall hadn’t been speaking to him. The pain came back, harder and faster. He barely had time to register the agony before he passed out.

    “What’s your name?”

    Stephen could barely speak. “Thomas.”

    “I don’t believe you.”

    “No.” He whimpered.

    The pain was no longer a surprise, nor was the darkness that came after.

    “What’s your name?”

    “Thomas.”

    “I don’t want you to forget.”

    “No.” He cried, trembling with sobs.

    “What’s your name?”

    “Thomas.”

    “Do you have any other name?”

    “No. Only Thomas.”

    “Has anyone ever called you anything else?”

    “No. Only Thomas.”

    “Will you ever forget your name? Will you ever use another?”

    “No.”

    “Okay. Then I’ll give you one last reminder.”

    Later, he lay on his bed, once again curled up into himself. The world outside felt far away, silent. He’d run out of tears, his body numb except that unpleasant tingle. It was as if his entire being had fallen asleep. He pictured Randall across from him, guilt and anger mixed into a potent, lethal form of rage that turned his face into a grotesque mask as he inflicted the pain.

    I’ll never forget, he told himself. I must never, never forget.

    And so, inside his mind, he chanted a familiar phrase, over and over and over. Though he couldn’t quite put a finger on it, something did seem different.

    Thomas, Thomas, Thomas. My name is Thomas.

    222.2.28 | 9:36 a.m.

    “Please hold still.”

    The doctor wasn’t mean, but he wasn’t kind either. He was just kind of there, stoic and professional. Also forgettable: middle-aged, average height, medium build, short dark hair. Thomas closed his eyes and felt the needle slide into his vein after that quick pinprick of pain. It was funny how he dreaded it every week, but then it lasted less than a second, followed by the flood of cold inside his body.

    “See, now?” the doctor said. “That didn’t hurt.”

    Thomas shook his head but didn’t speak. He had a hard time speaking ever since the incident with Randall. He had a hard time sleeping, eating, and just about everything else, too. Only in the last few days had he started to get over it, little by little. Whenever a trace memory of his real name came forward in his mind, he pushed it away, not ever wanting to go through that torture again. Thomas worked just fine. It’d have to do.

    Blood, so dark it looked almost black, glided up the narrow tube from his arm and into the vial. He didn’t know what they tested him for, but this was just one of many, many pokes and prods—some daily, some weekly.

    The doctor stopped the flow and sealed off the vial. “All right, then, that does it for the blood work.” He pulled out the needle. “Now let’s get you into the scanning machine and capture another look at that brain of yours.”

    Thomas froze, anxiety trickling in, tightening his chest. The anxiety always came when they mentioned his brain.

    “Now, now,” the doctor chided, noticing Thomas’s body tense. “We do this every week. It’s just routine—nothing to fret over. We need to capture regular images of your activity up there. Okay?”

    Thomas nodded, squeezing his eyes shut for a moment. He wanted to cry. He sucked in a breath and fought the urge.

    He stood and followed the doctor to another room, where a massive machine sat like a giant elephant, a tube-shaped chamber at its center, a flat bed extended, waiting for him to be slid inside.

    “Up you go.”

    This was the fourth or fifth time Thomas had done this, and there was no point fighting it. He jumped up onto the bed and lay flat on his back, staring up at the bright lights on the ceiling.

    “Remember,” the doctor said, “don’t worry about those knocking sounds. It’s all normal. All part of the game.”

    There was a click and then a groan of machinery, and Thomas’s bed glided into the yawning tube.

    Thomas sat at a desk, all by himself. In front of him, standing by a writing board, was his teacher, Mr. Glanville—a gruff, gray-toned man with barely any hair. Unless you counted his eyebrows. Those bushy things looked like they’d commandeered every follicle from the rest of his body. It was the second hour after lunch now, and Thomas would’ve given at least three of his toes to lie down, right there on the floor, and take a nap. Just a five-minute nap.

    “Do you remember what we talked about yesterday?” Mr. Glanville asked him.

    Thomas nodded. “FIRE.”

    “Yes, that’s right. And what does it stand for?”

    “Flares Information Recovery Endeavor.”

    His teacher smiled with obvious satisfaction. “Very good. Now.” He turned back to his board and wrote the letters PFC. “P…F…C. That stands for Post Flares Coalition, which was a direct result of FIRE. Once they’d heard from as many countries as possible, gathered representatives and so forth, they could start dealing with the spectacular disaster caused by the sun flares. While FIRE figured out the full ramifications of the sun flares and who had been affected, the PFC tried to start fixing things. Am I boring you, son?”

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