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  • Home > James Dashner > Maze Runner Prequel > The Fever Code (Chapter 17)     
  • The Fever Code(Maze Runner Prequel #0.6)(17) by James Dashner
  • Alby scrambled over the railing and started his descent. Newt had Thomas go second this time. His fingers ached as he gripped the notches in the drainpipe. Luckily, the trip was nowhere near as long as the climb up the ladder inside. When Thomas’s feet finally landed on the soft earth, it felt as if he’d stepped onto an alien planet.

    He stood next to Alby as they waited for the others to join them. There was no snow, but a cool bite to the air hinted it might not be too far away.

    “What’s out there?” Thomas asked, gesturing to the wide-open space that ended in the dark wall of the forest. “Can we really just walk away? Why would we even come back?”

    “Trust me,” Alby responded, “we’ve thought about it. We’ve talked about hoarding a bunch of food and making a run for it. But…the odds, man. Who knows how long we’d last. But even more than that, we’ve got it pretty good on the inside. We’re fed, it’s warm, no Cranks….Still it’s something we think about.” There seemed to be more on his mind that he chose not to share.

    Teresa was the last one to jump the few feet off the bottom of the drainpipe. Thomas saw Alby open his mouth to say something, but before he got a word out, blazing lights ignited from all directions, along with a series of clunks, as if giant switches were being thrown. Thomas shielded his eyes, spun in a circle, but he couldn’t see a thing, blinded by light.

    Squinting, he could gradually make out three dark figures piercing the brightness. They approached, hunched over some sort of handheld weapon, and as they got closer, Thomas could see they wore uniforms and helmets. A fourth man appeared behind them, and as he neared, Thomas’s insides felt like they were melting into something toxic. It was a man Thomas hadn’t seen since his naming day.

    Randall. And it appeared he’d graduated from the green scrubs.

    “You kids really shouldn’t be out here,” he said. He sounded almost sad. “But I don’t think you need me to tell you that. You’re smart enough to have figured it out on your own. It seems we need to teach you a lesson about the dangers of the outside world. Make you appreciate what WICKED does for you just a teeny bit more.” His speech had an odd cadence, as if he were reciting something he’d memorized and practiced beforehand.

    He pointed at Newt. “That one’s not immune—get him back to his room and call a doctor in to test him. Pronto!”

    As one of the guards moved toward Newt, Randall sighed loudly, then waved a hand toward Thomas and the others.

    “Take the rest of them to the Crank pits.”

    224.10.20 | 2:09 a.m.

    Thomas didn’t know when it had started, but he and Teresa were holding hands. They were standing together, sharing their sudden fear of what was about to happen, worrying about their punishment. One of the guards, a woman, stepped up to them.

    “Don’t be scared,” she whispered. “Randall just wants to teach you a quick lesson about the dangers of being out here. It’s for your own good, and you’ll be safe. Just do as we say and it’ll be over soon. Deal?”

    Thomas nodded; the words Crank and pits were still reverberating through his mind. How many times in his life had he heard about Cranks—people with the Flare who were well past the Gone? Who were nothing more than animals consumed by bloodlust?

    What had Randall meant? Where were they being taken?

    “Come on now,” the female guard said to him, reaching out and gently taking his arm. “If you cooperate you’ll be back in your room safe and sound before you know it, with enough time for a quick nap before the wake-up.”

    Teresa was squeezing his hand so hard it hurt. But he nodded and then followed the guard when she started walking away from the drainpipe, leading them along a path that followed the footprint of the WICKED complex. Another guard walked with Alby and Minho, who both looked just as stunned as Thomas felt.

    The third guard stayed at the building, Newt by his side, looking at the ground, his face unreadable. Thomas looked for Randall, but the man was on the phone, several yards from his friend.

    Thomas lost sight of them as they turned a corner, but he couldn’t shake what Randall had said about Newt—that he wasn’t immune. It didn’t hit Thomas until that moment just how enormous the implications of that were. And then, why was Newt here if he wasn’t a Munie?

    Teresa’s voice tore him from his thoughts.

    “Can’t you tell us where we’re going?” she asked. “What are the Crank pits?” The little group continued walking, following the path. The lady didn’t answer, nor did the guard escorting Alby and Minho, just a few steps behind. The sounds of the ocean and the smell of salt and pine filled the silence.

    “Answer her,” Thomas said. “Please. We didn’t do anything wrong—we were just exploring. What are we, prisoners?”

    This also was met with silence.

    “Say something!” Teresa yelled.

    Their guard whirled to face them. “You think I like this?” she snapped. Then she looked around like someone caught stealing. She lowered her voice. “I’m sorry. Really. Just do as you’re told—it makes things a lot easier. All we’re going to do is help you to realize why it’s better to stay inside.”

    After that ominous statement, she turned and continued leading them along the exterior of the building. No one said another word.

    They came to a road. To the right, it wound through some fields, then disappeared into the forest looming in the distance. To the left, it intersected with the WICKED complex itself and turned into a steep ramp that descended beneath the building. Without hesitating, the guard stepped onto the asphalt and turned left, toward the darkness of the tunnel thirty feet in front of them.

    Thomas looked up as he followed her. Saw the tall granite walls of the WICKED facility, the faint scattering of stars in the dark sky above that. He’d been hoping so badly to see the moon.

    The road dipped down, and soon they were beneath the building, in a wide tunnel with no lights. Someone must have turned them off, because there was no way they’d normally keep this place unlit.

    He heard a sound that made him pause midstep. It was haunting, a human sound between a cry and a moan. Maybe not so human. Goose bumps prickled across his skin, and he felt a shudder of horror go through his chest.

    It was so dark he could barely see the outline of their guard when she stopped and turned to face them. She pulled out a flashlight and flicked it on, shined it in their faces, then to her left. It revealed a rickety iron gate, a chain and padlock wrapped around its bars to keep it closed. Without saying anything, the other guard left Alby and Minho and walked over, pulled out a key, then unlocked the padlock. The loud rattle of the chain being unwrapped echoed through the tunnel.

    The man dropped the chain to the ground and opened the gate.

    “In you go,” he said. “This is only meant to give you a scare—they won’t be able to actually harm you. I promise.”

    “What’s in there?” Thomas asked.

    “Cranks,” the female guard answered in a kind tone completely incongruous with the word itself. “Sometimes we need to remind you just how awful this disease is.”

    “They won’t hurt you,” the man said again. His voice was solemn. “They’ll scare the pants off you, but they won’t hurt you.”

    “Come on, guys,” Minho said, marching past the guard. “Let’s see what’s inside this hellhole.”

    Thomas didn’t want to. Every nightmare he’d ever had was welling up inside him. Teresa’s bravery shook him out of it. She went through the gate, then Alby. Thomas followed.

    224.10.20 | 2:28 a.m.

    The darkness was the scariest part. Even though the guard continued to shine her light behind them, it seemed the beam was lost in a black fog. They walked, small step by small step, across crunchy gravel, down a narrow path lined on both sides with the iron railings of a fence. The bars, rising from the ground, were spaced about five inches apart; two long bars ran along the top and bottom. If there was anything on the other side of the fence, Thomas couldn’t make it out.

    “This is spooky,” Minho spoke quietly, though it seemed loud in the still darkness. “Alby, hold my hand.”

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire