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  • Home > James Dashner > Maze Runner Prequel > The Fever Code (Chapter 28)     
  • The Fever Code(Maze Runner Prequel #0.6)(28) by James Dashner
  • Thomas walked along the corridors of the maze, proud of the progress they’d made over the last few months. He couldn’t take much credit for the majestic walls themselves—the cracked gray stone, the ivy that crawled like veins across their surfaces, the sheer magnitude of it all. Especially the advanced level of engineering that went into the moving walls, the changing configurations of the maze itself. It was cool to watch, but he had no idea how it worked—the engineers weren’t the friendliest folk in the world, and were too busy to get much information out of.

    But so many of the finer details around him—the little things that really made the place come alive and feel real—were due to his and Teresa’s tireless efforts.

    He was thinking about all they’d done as he turned a corner and headed down a long stretch of the labyrinth. Even the doctors, Psychs, and technicians of WICKED were surprised at how valuable the telepathy had ended up being. Not only could Thomas and Teresa instantly communicate, they’d become much better at sensing the other’s feelings, anticipating their thoughts, understanding things that were impossible to articulate. No one really believed him when he tried to explain it, so he’d stopped trying a long time ago.

    You there yet? Teresa asked him from the control center.

    Give me a second, he responded. I’m just enjoying our handiwork. He looked up at the bright blue sky, the sun just peeking over the tall stone wall to his left. The sky on its own had taken countless days of painstaking effort to perfect, but seeing the end result—seeing that beautiful sky that looked so real—made him forget just how hard it had been.

    The sound of little clattering metal feet approached from behind, and he knew what it was. The beetle-blade cameras that were now spread all over the complex, ready to record every single thing that happened during the trials. He was going to ignore the thing, until it jumped onto the back of his leg and crawled up his body.

    “Ahh!” he yelped, and leaped into the air, twisting, reaching for his back, trying to swat the creature off. He spun in a circle as the thing scuttled all over his clothes, pecking his skin with those sharp legs. It reached his neck and latched on, digging in until it hurt.

    You were saying again? Teresa asked. He felt every morsel of her evil glee. That’s a really nice dance you put on down there. Don’t worry, I have it recorded, ready to show Newt and everybody else next time we get together.

    “Not funny!” he yelled out loud. The beetle blade was knocking its head into his ear, right in a spot that hurt like crazy. Thomas finally got a grip on the metal body and flung the creature off. It landed on its feet and scampered away, disappearing into the ivy of the wall to his right.

    You win, he said. I’m coming. He tried not to smile, but he couldn’t help it.

    Next time I’ll send a Griever, she replied. Or worse—Randall.

    He laughed and so did she, one of those things he knew and felt without understanding how.

    Okay, I’m here, he said. He’d reached the end of the corridor, which had a drop-off of about twenty feet to a black-painted floor. This was one of those weird areas inside the maze where the optical-illusion technology wasn’t yet complete, making you think you’d lost your mind. When he looked up, he saw a perfect sky. When he looked down, over the edge of the cliff, he saw a black floor that led to a black wall—the edge of the maze cavern. But straight ahead, the sky and the wall didn’t exactly meet—the boundary between the two bounced here and there, blended and unblended, mixed and swirled. It made him dizzy and nauseous.

    Can you see the Griever hatch? Teresa asked.

    He’d closed his eyes to keep his stomach from swimming, but opened them again. Somewhere in the middle of that crazy kaleidoscope of illusion and real world mixing together, he saw a shaft towering up from the floor below, with an open circle at its top. This was the hole from which the Grievers would enter and exit the maze.

    I can see it, he replied to Teresa, but it keeps swimming in and out of the illusion. It’s gonna make me throw up.

    She didn’t return a hint of sympathy. Let me know when it disappears completely.

    He watched, squinting, hoping that would help his stomach. The image in front of him shimmered, went out of focus, bounced, then shimmered again. But soon the shaft of the Griever entrance vanished from his sight, and as long as he didn’t look down, the illusion of endless blue sky opened up before him. Now, instead of dizziness, he felt an overwhelming sense of vertigo, almost like falling. He took a step backward.

    It worked! he yelled. It looks perfect!

    She let out a big whoop, something he felt all the way to his bones. They’d been working on this section for a month, and now they were so close.

    Good job, he said. Seriously. What would these people do without us?

    They’d need another few years at least.

    Thomas stared at the vista before him, in disbelief at how realistic it appeared. As if the corridor of the maze ended in a cliff at the end of the world, at the end of existence.

    I wonder who’ll be the first one to see a Griever, he said. And will they crap their pants? Should we bet on it?

    He was surprised by the somber tone that rebounded back to him. And even more so by her words.

    And who’ll be the first to die?

    They won’t let it go that far, Thomas replied. There’s no way.

    Teresa cut off their connection without an answer.

    229.06.12 | 10:03 a.m.

    Thomas couldn’t believe the people who sat around the table. Every important person he knew or had heard about, and then some. Psychs, doctors, technicians. Randall and Ramirez and Leavitt. Dr. Paige sat next to Thomas and Teresa. Chancellor Kevin Anderson at the head of the table, Katie McVoy by his side. There were only two other teenagers in the room—Aris and Rachel. Even though they’d never met, Thomas knew exactly who they were.

    Are they ever going to let us hang out with them? Teresa asked in his mind.

    Thomas sent an image of himself shrugging. I was just thinking that maybe it’s a contest or something. Maybe they’re hoping the two groups will do better if they’re trying to…do it first. What if there’s a prize!

    A lifetime supply of WICKED T-shirts!

    Thomas snickered under his breath.

    Chancellor Anderson cleared his throat to get the meeting started.

    “I’d like to welcome our lead candidates to their very first meeting of the Chancellor’s Committee, an important step in their continued progress. Thomas, Teresa, Aris, Rachel…we’re really proud of you. The work you’ve done during the maze projects has been phenomenal. Just phenomenal. We pegged the four of you early on in this process as standouts, and we weren’t wrong. Congratulations.” He beamed a smile that seemed about three orders too strong to be genuine, but Thomas imagined the man was under a lot of stress.

    Thomas looked at Aris—olive skin, brown hair, eyes sharp with awareness—then Rachel—dark skin, tightly curled hair, smiling. Nothing stood out about them, but they were instantly likable. Their faces were kind, and they had none of the arrogance or haughtiness that Thomas would have expected.

    “Now,” Chancellor Anderson continued, “it’s been ten years since the first inkling of WICKED was conceived by John Michael, and we’ve come a long way in our research since we began gathering those who are immune to the Flare. The progress in those first years was slow, of course. Trying to understand the disease itself, testing our subjects to ensure that they were actually immune, learning about the virus and how it interacts with your bodies and your brains. Slow but steady. Not a year has passed when we didn’t have some kind of significant achievement, and I’d say that’s better than anyone could have hoped for.”

    Ten years, Thomas thought. That seemed like such a long, long time to him. And they obviously weren’t close to a solution, or they wouldn’t be bothering with this whole maze thing.

    “Thomas?” the chancellor said. “You have the biggest look of doubt on your face I think I’ve ever seen.” He offered another one of those goofy smiles.

    “Oh…um…” Thomas shifted in his chair. “No, I just…it seems like such a long time you guys have been working on this. I don’t know. I guess it just hit me that it’s not going so well.”

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