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  • Home > James Dashner > Maze Runner Prequel > The Fever Code (Chapter 22)     
  • The Fever Code(Maze Runner Prequel #0.6)(22) by James Dashner
  • One hundred percent okay?

    Ninety-nine.

    Good enough for me.

    Then we go exploring tonight.

    Open your door in twenty seconds, she told him just after midnight. I want to be in your room as fast as possible.

    Thomas did exactly as she instructed, and less than half a minute later she joined him inside his quarters. It was the first time someone other than a WICKED employee had gone past his door. He surprised her—and himself—by pulling her into a fierce hug, squeezing her like she’d disappear if he let go. Thankfully, she returned the effort just as strongly.

    Man, it’s good to see you, he said, still speaking with his mind, he’d grown so used to it.

    She responded by hugging him even tighter.

    Eventually, sadly, they let go. He sat on the bed and she sat at his desk.

    “Let’s give it a few minutes, make sure the first loop is working,” Teresa said to him, smiling with anticipation. He’d never seen her so full of energy and excitement.

    “What will we do if they catch us?” Thomas asked, relieved to use his real voice with her again. “This might set us back. I mean, we’ll be working more on the mazes and stuff. Are we sure we want to risk it? What if they take it away?”

    He didn’t know why he bothered. Teresa answered only by rolling her eyes. They were going to explore and that was that.

    After a few minutes of silence, Teresa spoke into his mind.

    Let’s go, she said. And let’s stick to the telepathy just in case. The video will work great, but who knows who might hear us if we’re talking out loud. We can only speak if we run into our friends, and then only whisper. Sound good?

    Sounds like a plan, he replied.

    They opened the door to his room, looked both ways, then went for it.

    I’ve got it all timed, Teresa said. When I say we have to leave for the next area, no arguing. Or else someone is going to catch us when the loops run out.

    Thomas merely nodded, and then they were running, his chest on fire.

    A few turns, a trip through the elevator, a few more turns, always pausing to peek around corners, make sure no one was wandering the halls.

    Their first stop was the sector of Group B. The goal was to meet Aris and Rachel—they had placards on their doors just like Thomas’s and Teresa’s. But when Teresa knocked on Aris’s door, there was no answer. They tried Rachel’s. Again, no response.

    Teresa spoke with their special ability. These guys are either heavy sleepers, extremely obedient, or they’re out breaking the rules just like us.

    Thomas nodded. Oh well. Should we go say hi to Newt and them now?

    Teresa nodded and he took the lead, winding through the halls and stairways, glad for the dimmed lighting. Teresa communicated the pattern she’d set up with the camera loops to figure out the best route, and where to stop and wait. Finally they turned the last corner before the Group A sector and stopped dead. Thomas sucked in a breath. There was a young boy in the hall; he had to be only seven or eight years old, and was a little on the pudgy side. He sat with his back against the wall, arms wrapped around his knees. Tears covered his face. When he saw Thomas and Teresa, he went as pale as the moon and jumped to his feet.

    “I’m s-s-sorry,” he stuttered. “P-p-please don’t tell on me.”

    Thomas slowly crossed the distance between them and put a hand on the boy’s shoulder, trying to reassure him. “It’s okay, man, we’re just like you. Nothing to worry about.”

    “What’s your name?” Teresa asked. Their whole plan was now in jeopardy, but the kid seemed so young, so innocent, so scared.

    The boy burst into another round of tears, then answered through one of his sobs.

    “They’re making me call myself Charles.”

    Thomas shook his head. “Well, that’s lame. We’re going to call you Chuck.”

    226.05.17 | 2:42 a.m.

    “Are you staying in the barracks?” Thomas asked the boy.

    “Barracks? No. I’ve got my own room. At least for now.”

    Teresa looked at Thomas, and he knew what she was thinking even without the telepathy. Why did this kid have his own room? “Is it close?” Teresa asked the boy. “Maybe we can go in there to talk.” She glanced at Thomas again. “We have other friends we could get. Would that help you feel a little better?”

    Chuck nodded, relief filling his eyes. He probably thought he’d never have friends again. He turned around and led them to his room, and Thomas got comfortable in the chair by the desk while Teresa went to get Newt, Alby, and Minho. According to her setup of camera loops, they had a few hours before they needed to be back in their own rooms.

    Chuck lay on his bed, and Thomas pulled the desk chair to within a couple of feet.

    “How long since they brought you in here?” Thomas asked.

    “A couple of weeks. I don’t know if my parents knew about it. I don’t even know if they had the Flare!” He started sobbing again, and Thomas didn’t know what to do.

    “It’s okay,” he said, a pitiful attempt to make the kid feel better. “Teresa and I have been here for years. You get kind of used to it. I know they can be jerks when it comes to renaming you, but after that it gets a lot better. As long as you basically do what they tell you to do.”

    Chuck didn’t seem too appeased. A few more tears trickled down his face.

    “What’re they gonna do to me?” the boy asked, sniffing back more tears. “So far they’ve pricked me with needles about a million times.”

    “Well, yeah. They’ll be doing that to you for years. You get used to it.” Just be glad you don’t know about the implants yet, he refrained from saying. “But most of what happens is like school. You’ll go to classes, learn lots of stuff. It’s fun, actually. Plus, you’ll make new friends.” He wondered again why Chuck was in a single room, not in the barracks with the other boys in Group A.

    Chuck sat up on the edge of his bed, curious about what Thomas could tell him, and started unloading questions.

    “Why do you think we’re immune? Did your parents get the Flare? Did you see them go crazy? Did you have any brothers or sisters?” A few other inquiries flew out, Chuck not allowing Thomas a single second to attempt an answer to any of them. Luckily, Thomas was saved when the door opened. In marched Alby, then Minho, then Newt, then Teresa.

    “What’s up, Tommy?” Newt exclaimed, his face filled with genuine happiness at the pleasant surprise that’d been sprung on him. Thomas couldn’t remember exactly how long it’d been since the last time he’d seen Newt. “You look bloody fantastic for three in the morning.”

    “Who’s the new kid?” Minho asked.

    Alby, a bit more thoughtful, went up to Chuck and shook his hand. “What’s your name? Mine’s Alby.”

    “I’m Chuck. I just got here.”

    Alby nodded. “Cool, man. They’ll probably move you into the barracks with us soon. It’ll be fun, don’t worry. This place is all fun and games.”

    Thomas had never heard such kind lies.

    The next couple of hours passed with light conversation, lots of laughs, and dreams of the future that no one actually expected to happen. But for a little while, anyway, it was nice to pretend, to relax, to let themselves think they had a future and could do whatever they wished with it.

    It was the best night Thomas could remember having since he’d first met his friends. He laughed even more than he remembered laughing that first night. He also felt at peace as they talked, often over each other, many times needing to repeat what they’d said because of being drowned out. Chuck’s demeanor had gone from blurry eyes and a tear-streaked face to the joy and wonder of a kid at a birthday party. And that made Thomas feel good.

    This place, he thought. WICKED. There were a million ways it could be worse. He’d been spared having to watch his mom succumb to the Flare, been spared from the harsh realities of the outside world. Spared a terrifying death at the hands of a Crank. Spared a lot of sorrow and horror in his life.

    And what was the price? Boredom? A few tests? Dealing with a bunch of strange grown-ups who didn’t always know how to handle children? And here Thomas was, sitting with a group of friends, joking, laughing, feeling good. And hey, a cure. Why not?

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire