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  • Home > James Dashner > Maze Runner Prequel > The Fever Code (Chapter 26)     
  • The Fever Code(Maze Runner Prequel #0.6)(26) by James Dashner
  • Thomas lost every bit of his restraint.

    “Stop that thing!” he yelled, standing up. Ramirez was there instantly, pushing him down again. “You can’t do this!”

    Randall glanced over his shoulder—he’d been watching Minho intently—and gave Thomas a tired expression.

    “We have no choice,” the man said simply.

    Teresa! He screamed in his mind. You have to do something. They’ve got Minho tied up in a chair and…this…thing, this monster, is about to attack him!

    The words inside his mind felt strange this time, hollow. It felt like some invisible barrier was up and everything he said was bouncing back at him.

    Of course, he thought. Of course WICKED can turn it off. They can do whatever the hell they want.

    Minho continued to struggle and scream. He managed to move his chair, sliding it back until he hit the wall farthest from the Griever. On the left side of the screen, something flashed into view, a blob with spikes dragging it along the ground. Right before it ran into Minho, it stopped. The metal spikes receded into its skin and the creature flattened out.

    Thomas was desperate now, seeing one of his few friends on the verge of serious damage—possibly even death.

    “Randall!” he begged. “Listen to me! Please, just…stop that thing. Just stop it! Just…hear me out! Let me talk, and then if you don’t change your mind you can start it again. Please.”

    Part of the creature’s body was rising now, and several lengths of metal extended where the spikes had been. They were solid, covered in deadly objects—blades and saws and claws that snapped open and closed. Thomas watched, nearly in tears, as very slowly, the weapons extended toward Minho’s body.

    Thomas tried to take a calmer approach. He sucked in a breath. “Randall, please. Minho is too valuable for this. If you don’t stop that thing, I’m not helping you anymore. With anything. I don’t care what you guys do to me.”

    The creature had risen on its hindquarters, and it now stood several feet higher than Minho’s head. The metal arms that had extended from its skin wrapped around Minho, encircling him, trapping him against the wall he’d backed into.

    “Randall,” Thomas said, fighting to keep calm. “Go get Dr. Paige. The Psychs. Go get the chancellor. Go get all of them! They need me, and they need Minho. He has too much potential to help your trial to waste him here.”

    The creature lifted its saw appendage and the blade spun to life, the arm inching closer to Minho’s forehead. He’d already pressed his head back against the wall. Thomas watched as his friend’s face now contorted in pure fear.

    “Last chance!” Thomas yelled. “If he dies, I might as well—”

    He cut off abruptly when Randall pressed the call button again.

    “Pause,” he commanded, a little urgently, as if he’d let it go too far, too late to stop it.

    The creature froze. And Thomas let out a huge, shuddering breath. He slumped back down into his seat and dropped his head into his hands. It took everything he had not to burst into tears.

    “Look at him, please,” Randall said quietly. “Look at the screen.”

    Thomas raised his head and focused on Minho’s display.

    “You see that?” Randall asked. He was also watching Minho. The creature was draped over the boy, almost like a blanket. “Did I not tell you that we’re almost there, we’ve almost perfected the greatest soldier?”

    Thomas didn’t see anything besides his friend, literally inches from death, and a man who seemed to have lost his grip on reality—if he’d ever had it in the first place.

    “I think this goes without saying,” Randall continued, his voice still imbued with a sense of awe. “I need you to never forget what you’ve seen here today. I need you to understand the power and the danger of these creatures. The pattern of your empathy could end up being one of the biggest pieces of our puzzle.”

    Thomas found it hard to focus on the man’s words. All he could do was stare at Minho and his sweat-streaked face. The blade, even though it had stopped inching forward, still spun as fast as ever. Thomas found it hard to breathe, knowing it would only take one word from Randall to end Minho’s life.

    The man pressed his magic button again and said, “Okay, go ahead and call it back.”

    Seconds later, the metal arms of the Griever withdrew, folding away from Minho and retracting into the moist, fatty body. The Griever seemed to melt into a flat slab of flesh on the floor, then wrapped itself into a rounded ball, traction spikes extending; finally it pulled itself end over end until it had rolled out of sight on the screen. Thomas turned his attention to the other screen and the creature appeared, spinning until it reached the pod, retracted its spikes, and oozed its way back inside. The pod hatch was closing even before the creature had disappeared into its home. A few seconds and a hiss of steam later, the pod closed and all went still.

    Thomas looked back at Minho, hoping to see that some piece of his friend’s rebellious nature had returned to him.

    But not this time.

    Minho’s head hung low, and his body shook with sobs. Thomas just dropped his own head sadly. He was at a complete loss trying to understand what he’d just watched.

    “Let’s get you back to your room,” Randall said. “We still have three more subjects to witness what you just saw. If I were you, I’d write down anything of importance you learned today.”

    Thomas had missed something. “Wait…what?”

    Randall ignored him. “You do realize that we never would have let the Griever hurt Minho, much less kill him. You’re smart enough to know that, right? We only want everyone to learn a valuable lesson: the rules must be followed. Going outside, much less leaving the WICKED compound…Now you know the consequences.”

    “But…” Thomas was so shaken, he couldn’t put together the question he wanted to ask.

    Dr. Leavitt spoke up. “Don’t worry about your reaction today, Thomas. It was pretty close to what we expected, and it’s not lost on us the passion you threw into trying to save your friend. I tell you what, the Psychs are going to have a field day with this one. Lots of data to analyze.”

    Thomas finally realized what the man was saying. “What do you mean you have three others to show…this?” He pointed to all the screens in front of him, the control deck, the ceiling above. “You do mean a recording of it, right?” The next half second seemed to stretch out forever. Please, please, please, he thought. Tell me that yes, you recorded it.

    “I’m sorry to say the answer is no,” Randall replied. “It’s more effective if Minho goes through it again.” He sighed. “On so many levels, Thomas.”

    228.04.03 | 7:00 a.m.

    Thomas reached over, hit snooze on his alarm clock, and dropped his arm over the side of his bed. He hated the wake-up on days after a maintenance room rendezvous, possibly hated that alarm more than a houseful of Cranks. Hungry Cranks.

    But he did relish those ten minutes that followed hitting snooze, before the alarm blared again. It was like a little bonus to himself every morning.

    He curled back into a ball, content, if just for a moment.

    He hadn’t seen Minho for over a year, even though he’d survived the punishment with the Griever. Well, at least physically. Alby said that mentally, emotionally…Minho was different. He wasn’t as talkative, or reckless, and he certainly never mentioned the word escape again. The passing of time can certainly heal a lot of wounds, but the way Alby described their mutual friend, Minho would need about twenty more years.

    The other members of their “maintenance room” clan met once a week. Everyone but Minho. He hadn’t shown up once since the fateful day, and Newt said their friend wouldn’t even consider it. He was a shell of the person they’d all gotten to know. It made Thomas incredibly sad. He’d really liked Minho, and everything about their situation seemed so unfair. Who could blame him for reacting this way after the horror show WICKED called his punishment?

    Thomas believed in the cure—at least, he told himself he did. But WICKED treating them like lab rats—sometimes that turned his sadness into anger. Often he’d have to kneel by his bed and pound on the mattress with both fists until he collapsed from exhaustion. He wanted it all to be over, a cure in hand, and he did his best to stay positive in that regard. Dr. Paige always said the data was plentiful and rolling in.

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