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  • Home > James Dashner > Maze Runner Prequel > The Fever Code (Chapter 16)     
  • The Fever Code(Maze Runner Prequel #0.6)(16) by James Dashner
  • It was fun. Exciting. Terrifying. Invigorating. In all the years since WICKED had taken Thomas, he’d never felt so alive. He could feel the bonds of trust growing between them, although he still had no idea where that trust was leading. It was as if the original purpose of their summons had been lost in a burgeoning friendship.

    Alby, Minho, Newt, Teresa.

    Thomas had friends.

    224.10.20 | 12:15 a.m.

    Newt had been promising them that he was saving something special, and he did that annoying zipped-lip sign every time Thomas or Teresa asked him what—pinched fingers swept across his tightly closed mouth. The little light in his eyes showed he enjoyed every second of their torture.

    Regardless of where they were headed on any given night, they always assembled in the basement maintenance room. The dusty old room had become something of a sanctuary for their group. After their third escapade, Newt stopped coming to escort Thomas and Teresa there—they knew their own way—and the exhilaration of sneaking through the dark halls of WICKED only became more enjoyable every time Thomas did it.

    He lightly tapped on Teresa’s door and she opened it immediately. She poked her head out cautiously and looked up and down the hallway to make sure the coast was clear.

    “Okay,” she said the fourth night, as she joined him and closed her door. She couldn’t hide the smile blooming on her face. “What do you think it is tonight?” They started making their way.

    Thomas did Newt’s zipped-lip gesture, and that got him a sharp poke in the ribs.

    “Ow,” he said dryly, and they picked up the pace.

    Minho and Alby were wrestling when they walked into the maintenance room. For a second Thomas thought it was a genuine fight, but then Alby let out a whooping laugh when he pulled a maneuver that flipped Minho onto his back with a grunt.

    “Not this time, sucker!” Alby yelled. He pressed his forearm into Minho’s chest and Newt slapped the floor three times.

    Alby jumped up, arms raised in a victory dance.

    Minho scrambled to his feet as well, dusting himself off. He let loose a few words Thomas used to hear his dad say, then added a very insincere “Good job.” Alby seemed to take it all as a compliment. It meant he’d won.

    “All right, then,” Newt said, stretching his arms over his head and letting out a yawn. “Let’s get on with it, shall we?”

    “What’s the big surprise tonight?” Thomas asked. “Where’re we going?”

    Newt looked up at the ceiling. “Well, we’ve pretty much been from one end of this place to the other.”

    It was hard for Thomas not to look over at Teresa. The truth was, Newt and his friends had no idea what was hidden right under their feet. Trust or no trust, though, there was no way Thomas and Teresa could share the information about the maze cavern. He was just shocked that with all their exploring, the others hadn’t already discovered it on their own. And there were supposed to be two mazes. How had Newt and his friends not stumbled upon either one of them?

    “Tommy?”

    Thomas realized Newt was staring straight at him, eyebrows raised.

    “Sorry,” he said, embarrassed. “Wandered off there for a second. What’d you say?”

    Newt shook his head in admonishment. “Try to keep up, Tommy. Are you ready to see the great outdoors?”

    They climbed up a ladder hidden behind a cinder-block wall, its original purpose mysterious to Thomas. The building had been built way before any organization named WICKED came into being, and the ladder had a sinister feel to it, as if it had been put there without the knowledge of the original planners or owners. Put there to accomplish devious deeds.

    Thomas choked on dust as they climbed rung by rung, up and up and up. Somehow he’d gotten stuck going last, so he had four people above him kicking loose dirt and gravel and anything else that had collected over the years. A couple of nails even dropped down, one of them almost piercing his right eyeball.

    “Could you guys be a little more careful up there?” he whisper-shouted at the group more than once. The only response was a giggle, and he was pretty sure Minho was the guilty one.

    Finally, after climbing what had to be ten floors, they reached a steel landing that was barely big enough to hold the five of them. A heavy metal door, curved and rusted, sat like an ugly tooth in the cement wall to their left. The only thing on the door that didn’t look a hundred years old was a handle, rubbed shiny silver from usage.

    “How many times have you guys done this?” Teresa asked.

    “A dozen?” Alby replied. “Maybe fifteen? I don’t know. You have no idea how nice it is to get some fresh air, though. You’re about to see for yourself. Oh, man, and the sound of the ocean in the distance. Can’t beat it.”

    “I thought the outside world was a wasteland,” Thomas said, butterflies swarming more than ever in his gut. “Radiation and heat and all that? Little things called sun flares?”

    “Not to mention Cranks,” Teresa added. “How do you know there aren’t Cranks out there?”

    “Hey, people,” Minho said, holding a hand up as if to say slow down. “You think we’re morons? Would we have gone out there fifteen times if we’d lost a finger to a Crank every time or had our privates zapped by radiation? Come on, now.”

    Newt waggled his fingers in front of Thomas’s face. “Still got ’em all. And I’m not too worried about down under just yet.” A laugh exploded out of Thomas’s mouth that sent spray everywhere.

    “Sorry,” he said, wiping his lips on his sleeve.

    Alby took over the conversation with a little more sense of reason. “Things are starting to get better out there. Plus, we’re way up north, which wasn’t hit as badly. A couple of times we’ve seen snow in the trees.”

    “Snow?” Teresa repeated, sounding as shocked as if he’d said aliens. “Are you serious?”

    “Yep.”

    “Enough chitchat,” Newt said. “Minho, open her up.”

    “Yes, sir!” Minho barked. He grabbed the handle and pushed it down with a grunt of effort. There was a loud metallic clunk; then the door opened on squealing hinges, swinging outward.

    A stiff breeze blew up the ladder chute as pressurized air escaped the complex, as if rushing to freedom. It ruffled Thomas’s clothes as it crossed over him, giving him a slight chill, and the anticipation of what awaited them spiked so hard that he could barely contain himself. Minho went out first, then Alby. Newt gestured for Teresa to go next, and she did so, but not before throwing one last glance at Thomas. Her eyes said a million things, but he couldn’t decipher any of them.

    “You’re next, Tommy,” Newt said. “Try not bangin’ your head, all right?”

    Thomas ducked through the small opening and stepped onto a wide platform of concrete, the air outside crisp and cool. Every memory of the time before WICKED when he was allowed to go outside came rushing back to him, paired with warmth and heat and sweat. It was odd, but fantastic, to feel such a refreshing bite of fresh air—just as Alby had predicted—and to hear the ocean waves crashing on rocky cliffs in the distance.

    “Whatcha think?” Minho asked.

    Thomas looked around, though he couldn’t see much in the darkness. Lights shone down from somewhere above, obscuring his vision even more. All he could make out was the platform, a railing around its edge, and a sea of blackness beyond. The sky showed the faintest pinpricks of stars.

    “Can’t see a whole lot,” Thomas answered after a moment of silence. “But, man, it feels great.”

    “Told ya,” Alby said. Thomas could hear the smile in his voice.

    “There’s a drainpipe over here,” Newt said, leaning over the railing at the corner of the platform. “Has notches in it, see? Makes it easy to climb down, but it’s a bit of an effort coming back up. A little sweat’ll be good for you, though.”

    “Let’s show them the woods,” Minho said. “Maybe we’ll get lucky and see a deer. And maybe it’ll let us pet it.”

    Thomas had the feeling he’d never be sure whether Minho was joking or not. He used the exact same tone—his words tinged with amusement—no matter what came out of his mouth.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire