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  • Home > James Dashner > Maze Runner Prequel > The Fever Code (Chapter 30)     
  • The Fever Code(Maze Runner Prequel #0.6)(30) by James Dashner
  • And for a little while, things like sun flares and Cranks were all but forgotten.

    Weeks passed, and the official start of the trials grew closer and closer. Thomas found himself in the maze as often as possible, seeing it as a sanctuary of sorts. He especially loved the central living area, with its wide-open spaces, its little forest; it was meant to become a place of rest and safety for those sent there. WICKED wanted most of it to be built by the subjects themselves—the farm, the gardens, the living space—probably a good opportunity to analyze their killzone patterns during such a productive time.

    Thomas felt a significant sense of pride when it came to the maze, and he wondered if he would ever be sent inside. He was madly curious about what it would be like, and every day he grew a little more eager for the actual trials to begin. Their lives needed a shot of change.

    But as the day of insertion grew closer, he remembered he had a promise to keep. And one night he told himself tonight was the night. Although he had more clearance than before, he still felt a little mischievous as he made his way through the halls to the Group A barracks. He hadn’t told anyone what he was about to do, figuring it would be better to seek forgiveness for something so harmless than to ask for permission in the first place. Most people were so busy, even during the evenings, that he doubted they’d be noticed anyway.

    Newt was waiting for him by the door.

    “You actually came, Tommy!” Newt exclaimed, probably only half kidding. Thomas always worried people were suspicious of him and Teresa because of their “elite” status.

    “Yep,” he replied. “I’m a man of my word.”

    They shook hands, and then the two of them set off, deep into the bowels of the WICKED complex.

    229.10.28 | 11:04 p.m.

    “You probably know this place better than I even do,” Thomas said as they made their way around a corner and quietly set off down another long hallway. “With all the sneaking around you guys have done.”

    “Yeah, probably,” Newt agreed.

    “Well, I think I found a quicker way to get over to the Group B barracks. And less chance of being stopped by security.”

    Everything still look good? Thomas asked Teresa in his mind. She was helping out by guiding them through the least likely places to get caught. She’d studied video feeds earlier, and had made it very clear that Thomas would owe her big-time.

    Yeah, she replied. Go through that R&D lab I told you about and you should be totally fine. There’s an emergency escape tunnel at the far end that goes right by the barracks.

    Got it, he said.

    After a few more turns they came to a secured door marked RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT, one of the many to which he’d never been granted access.

    It should be open now, Teresa said to him. It was as if she were watching them in real time. And you should be fine on your way back. I’m going to my room and to bed. If someone arrests you or shoots you, too bad. She cut off the connection before he could respond, but not before sending one last little mental image of a kiss on the cheek that she knew would embarrass him.

    “Tommy,” Newt whispered. He’d hunkered down next to the R&D door. “Wipe that bloody look off your face and let’s keep moving.”

    Thomas ignored him and pushed open the door, then quickly stepped inside the room, motioning for Newt to follow. Once the door was closed, they started to make their way across the lab. It was a large space, full of countertops cluttered with equipment and desks set up with workstations and monitors. The room was filled with glass containers and unusual machinery covered in an assortment of tubing and wires. The walls were hung with tools that looked like they belonged in a torture chamber from the Middle Ages: gleaming silver metal, and lots of it was sharp. Thomas and Newt stayed low as they made their way down the aisle that cut through the middle of the huge room.

    “What’re they doing in here?” Newt asked, his whisper sounding like a small explosion in the eerie silence.

    Thomas jumped at the sound, then stumbled. Newt tripped over him, and then they were both laughing, legs and arms tangled in a pile on the ground. They were either stressed or starting to crack up.

    “Are you sure WICKED knows what they’re doing with you?” Newt joked as they picked themselves up and brushed themselves off. “You seem a little more clown than elite.”

    Thomas was searching for something smart to say when his eyes caught an unusual sight. Hidden back in the darkness of the room was a glowing green mass. It was mesmerizing and strange, and he couldn’t look away.

    Newt’s smile faltered, then disappeared. “What is it?” he asked, looking in the same direction. There was a misty fog surrounding the lime-green light.

    Thomas knew he should walk away, keep moving and find the hidden passage to Group B. But there was no chance of that.

    “Let’s check it out,” he whispered, as if he might wake up whatever monster swam in the glowing goo.

    Together, he and Newt slowly walked past several desks and workstations, step by step, getting closer to the eerie light. As they approached it, Thomas saw that the glow came from a large green plate of glass, maybe ten feet by ten feet, covering a container that stood chest-high. Wisps of white mist spilled out the edges and curled into the darkness of the room.

    Thomas leaned over the glass, its top beaded with drops of water, and looked over at Newt. His friend’s face was illuminated by the green light, and for a moment he looked sick. Thomas shook the thought away.

    “We probably shouldn’t mess with this,” Newt said, looking up from the vat. “Looks bloody radioactive to me. We could wake up with three extra fingers and one less eye in the morning.”

    Thomas smiled, only half hearing him, looked back at the otherworldly container below, feeling almost hypnotized. Mist churned beneath the surface, swirling in little whirlpools. But there was something underneath that. He could just barely make out a dark outline. He almost felt that if he just kept staring at it, whatever it was would reveal itself.

    “Tommy?” Newt said. “Let’s move on, yeah? This thing gives me the creeps.”

    Thomas couldn’t move on. He desperately wanted to know—

    A lumpy object moved in the container, bumping against the glass with a heavy thump, and Thomas jumped back. The object squeaked along the container’s side for several seconds before vanishing into the fog again. The thing had been tan-colored, with lines like veins running through it. An arm. It had looked like an arm.

    Thomas shivered, and the hairs on his neck and arms stood straight up. He looked over at Newt, who met his gaze with one of horror.

    “Why are we still standing here?” Newt asked.

    “Good question.”

    Thomas moved to leave when another lump of flesh pressed up against the glass. It appeared to be the torso of whatever creature was being held in the tank. It too had veins, and something like mucus covered its skin. Thomas had to fight his stomach not to send dinner up his throat.

    “Look, Tommy,” Newt said, leaning closer to the glass, pointing. “It has…things growing out of its skin.” He stepped back from the container, shaking his head as he glanced away.

    Thomas couldn’t look away until he saw what his friend was talking about. With a sudden surge of bravery, he leaned on the edge of the container and wiped off some condensation. The meaty mass pressed against the window had large, bulbous growths—several of them. They looked like tumors or gigantic blisters. And unless his eyes were tricking him, Thomas could swear the growths were where the glowing light was coming from.

    Finally he stepped back and rubbed his eyes. He’d seen a lot of strange things in his life, but this took the cake.

    “What…,” he said, drawing out his words, “in the world…is that?”

    “No bloody idea,” Newt replied, refusing to look back. “Have we had enough yet?” Tendrils of mist cascaded up his shirt and parted around his head.

    “Plenty,” Thomas agreed. “Let’s go.”

    He’d had yet another peek behind the mysterious curtain of WICKED, and he didn’t like what he’d seen.

    A somber mood hung between them as they made their way across the rest of the R&D room, the security tunnel Teresa had told them about, and then finally to a false wall behind a closet that led to the barracks of Group B. Every time Thomas thought he’d kind of gotten used to things around WICKED, he came across something like a glass container in which a hideous monster with glowing tumors grew like a fetus in a womb.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire