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  • Home > James Dashner > Maze Runner Prequel > The Fever Code (Chapter 23)     
  • The Fever Code(Maze Runner Prequel #0.6)(23) by James Dashner
  • “Tommy?” It was Newt, breaking him out of his thoughts. “I can see your wheels spinnin’ up there.” He tapped the side of his head. “Care to share?”

    Thomas shrugged. “I don’t know. We keep…well, I keep thinking that WICKED did something terrible by stealing us from our families.”

    “Yeah,” Alby said, though the half grin on his face showed that he’d probably considered what Thomas was about to say next.

    “But I’m not so sure that’s true.”

    “So WICKED isn’t bad?” Chuck asked, perking up. There was so much hope in the boy’s voice that it hurt Thomas a little.

    Thomas looked up at his group of friends, then looked at Chuck. “A man once gave us a message that we’ll never forget,” he said. “ ‘WICKED is good.’ I think our lives might have a lot more purpose than we could ever know. I think we need to remember to look at the big picture.”

    That’s some deep thinking, Teresa said telepathically. Makes you look cute.

    Don’t, not in front of the others! He did his best to shout it at her, and he felt a prick of pride when he saw her flinch a little.

    “Thomas, dude,” Alby said, “there you go again, drifting off. Staring into space like an idiot.”

    He had too much on his mind to try to put it all into words. “I just think we need to keep things in perspective. We’re safe, we’re warm, we’re fed. We’re protected from the weather and the Cranks.”

    “You make it sound like a bloody holiday,” Newt murmured.

    “It could be a lot worse,” Thomas countered. “Not to mention the small fact that we’re trying to help save the entire human race.”

    “And that means you, Newt,” Alby added. “I don’t wanna watch you go all Crank on me someday.”

    That sobered Newt right up. Even Teresa looked sad. Thomas had ruined it for everybody, even though he’d tried to be positive about their ordeal.

    Thomas glanced over at Minho, who’d been quiet for a while. He sat in the corner, his back against the wall, staring at the floor. He caught Thomas’s eye and stood up.

    “Make up all the fantasies about WICKED you want,” he said. “Tell yourselves this is all a good cause, that they treat us well. I’m not buying it, though. It looks like I’m the only one still working on…” Minho stopped midsentence and shook his head. “I’m heading back to my room now. Later.”

    Minho was at the door and had it opened before anyone had time to recover.

    Alby found his voice before Minho disappeared.

    “What are you talking about?” Alby asked.

    Minho had his back to them, but he didn’t even turn his head to answer.

    “We used to talk about escaping before Thomas and Teresa came around,” he said. “Well, I never stopped thinking about it. Or planning for it. We should be here by our own choice, not by theirs. Not treated like prisoners. I hope you guys’ll come with me. When I’m ready.”

    Then he left, shutting the door behind him.

    226.11.12 | 11:21 a.m.

    That was the last Thomas heard of Minho’s great escape plan for six months. During that time, life was fascinating and fun. About once a week, Teresa worked her magic on the security camera loops and they had a get-together in one of their rooms or, more frequently, in the old maintenance room, deep below everything else.

    And it was always the same group: Alby, Minho, Newt, Thomas, Teresa. And sometimes little Chuck. He’d become their favorite. He was goofy, innocent, and gullible, and he took all their jokes in stride. He’d become like the little brother they’d lost or, in Thomas’s case, never had in the first place.

    Sometimes they smuggled in food and ate as they talked and laughed. After a few months of these nights, they’d mostly forgotten that fear they’d all had. The fear of Randall or Ramirez walking in at any moment. Of being sent back to the Crank pits. Maybe this time there would be no fences to protect them.

    They forgot to be scared, and they felt safe. It was the best time of their lives.

    Okay, Teresa said in Thomas’s mind. Let me know when you see a red dot flash in the exact center of the ceiling.

    Roger that, he replied.

    Would you please stop saying that?

    Thomas held back a laugh. He stood surrounded by mountainous walls of stone that the heavy construction crews had built around skeletons of steel and fiberglass. At least half of the maze was complete, and it was starting to look spectacular. As he waited for Teresa’s signal, he tried to imagine what the place would be like when it was finished, especially with the optical-illusion technology in place. The technology would work alongside certain…powerful suggestions provided by the subjects’ brain implants to make everything seem three times as tall, as wide, as long. And it was big already.

    Even though he and Teresa were helping with the creation of it all, their WICKED overseers didn’t share a lot of information about how exactly things would work once they opened the maze for business. He’d heard the word Variables thrown around a lot, and he knew that the Psychs had spent years planning for these killzone experiments.

    He also knew there’d be some harshness. Thomas and Teresa were far from stupid, and they took every opportunity to find out more about the project they were working on. Once, they’d come across a page listing preliminary Variables, and a couple of things really stood out. Words like forced pain and attack and elimination of comforts. Those were mixed in with a bunch of scientific writing that didn’t always make sense.

    But things were moving forward, if a little behind schedule. One day, maybe with just a few years of intense research and testing, WICKED would have its cure. And Thomas could always say he’d been a big part of it. He’d started telling himself this a lot. It was easy, and it made him feel better.

    Have you seriously not seen it yet? Teresa asked, sending a jolt of annoyance along with her words.

    Oh! Sorry. He was constantly losing himself in his thoughts lately. Yeah, yeah, there’s a bright red dot, practically right above me.

    Practically? Or is it exactly in the right spot?

    Um, well. It might be about ten feet off, actually. And, um, maybe a dozen or so more are blurry and scattered. Sorry.

    It had to be one. Just one red dot, centered.

    Tom, we have to get this right before we can move on to another project. And I’m sick of this one.

    Tell me about it. My neck is killing me from looking up at all these mistakes.

    She ignored him, having learned that that was the best way to get back at him for lame sarcastic comments.

    Let me try again, she said.

    They’d been at this for at least two weeks, trying and failing, trying and failing. Ms. McVoy had assigned them to the Sky Project, and their job was to program and fine-tune the systems to look like a normal sky to those below. Blue sky, night sky, the stars, the passing of the sun, everything. Thomas couldn’t wait to see the result in all its glory.

    But first he and Teresa had to get the balance right. Thomas suspected that WICKED knew they’d been communicating telepathically before they were “officially” told about it and “taught” how to use it, but no one said anything. He supposed WICKED could only benefit from their having mastered the technique, as the instant communication made them ideal for these types of projects, which appeared to be plentiful.

    Teresa was projecting a red dot from a thousand different sources around the vast interior surface of the maze cavern, and until Thomas saw it as a single dot, in a specific location, the technicians couldn’t move forward with the projecting software.

    A half hour later, Teresa tried it again. This time, there were only six red dots, and the largest one was only four or five feet from center. They were very close.

    Let’s wrap this up tomorrow, Thomas said after the test. I gotta get a nap in before our rendezvous tonight with the fellas.

    Deal.

    Only one word, not spoken aloud, but she sounded exhausted all the same.

    They gathered in the maintenance room around one o’clock in the morning. Thomas had taken a good three- or four-hour nap but still felt groggy when Minho passed around some awful liquid concoction that made Thomas’s throat burn. Alby had a giant bag of potato chips, stolen from where, no one had any idea—and no one bothered to ask. The salty, crunchy goodness of every bite was especially powerful at such a late hour. Chuck had way more than his fair share.

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