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  • Home > James Dashner > Maze Runner Prequel > The Fever Code (Chapter 32)     
  • The Fever Code(Maze Runner Prequel #0.6)(32) by James Dashner
  • “Then what made you worry about it?” Rachel asked. Not for the first time, Thomas wished that WICKED would let the four of them work together more.

    “You’re aware of the Crank pits?” Anderson said, more of a statement than a question. “That’s the riskiest part of our facilities, but a vital one. It’s a trap and a holding facility for Cranks that wander onto our grounds, and it provides biological material for our study regarding the virus.”

    “So what happened?” Thomas asked.

    “We keep a strict inventory,” Ramirez answered. It was always a surprise when the gruff man spoke. “It’s almost like an old-fashioned bee trap down there—they wander in but can’t get back out. The holding facility is constantly monitored—we have cameras everywhere.” He paused, and made an awful phlegmy sound somewhere deep in his throat. “There’s a strict no-contact rule without a containment suit—actually, a twenty-foot-distance rule—unless you’re a Munie, of course. Like you folks.” He sniffed, as if offended by his own words.

    “You still haven’t told us what happened,” Teresa said, not bothering to hide her disgust for this man—Thomas knew full well that she, like he, associated the man with all things Randall.

    “One of the Cranks went missing,” Ramirez said. “Three times a day we take an inventory, accounting for newcomers from the outside forests, less those who are removed for lab needs. There has never been a discrepancy, not once in all my years. Until a few months ago. One up and vanished.”

    Those words settled for a moment, no one speaking. Thomas felt a shivery fear despite being immune. He wasn’t really afraid of the virus—it was the Cranks that terrified him. And to think that one might be hiding somewhere inside the WICKED complex made his stomach feel watery.

    “We don’t want to alarm you or anyone else,” Chancellor Anderson said, “but we’ve brought you in to let you know we’ve made some decisions. Some hard decisions. For starters, we’ve decided to shorten the Maze Trials from five years to two. For all we talk about this being a long, slow process, the possibility of a breakout has given us pause. We might have to be a little more…intense with the Variables.”

    Thomas had never felt so uneasy. Anderson was dancing around something here, but he wasn’t sure what. Teresa didn’t say anything specific in his mind, but she opened up her emotions to him, showing that she shared his ominous feeling.

    “We’ve been working on several possibilities for a Phase Two, even a Phase Three if it comes to that. Once we get past the initial maze insertions, we’ll see how things go.”

    Thomas immediately thought of what he and Newt had seen in the R&D laboratory: the glass-topped container, the veined skin, the bulbous tumors…

    Anderson sighed, then put his head in his hands before looking up again. Thomas had never seen him so frustrated.

    “I feel like there’s too much to do sometimes,” the man continued. He slapped an open hand on the table. “Look, things can be worked out over the next few months as we study and analyze the results within the mazes. Suffice it to say we have Flat Trans technology, we have the potential for more human resources, and we’re even scouting locations for further trials. It can all happen, and it will happen, everything in its own time. Reducing the Maze Trials from five to two years is simply the right thing to do.” He smiled a weak smile. “I think half of my frustration with this change is that it took so much effort to build the damn things that it’s a shame to see them utilized for less than half the time that we intended.”

    He’s stalling, Teresa said in Thomas’s mind. There’s something he has to say that he doesn’t want to say.

    Thomas gave her a barely perceptible nod. She was exactly right.

    “What are you not telling us?” Aris asked.

    Anderson at first acted surprised at the question, but then gave a knowing smile. “Sometimes I forget just how perceptive you kids are. Here’s the thing. I’m just nervous, okay? I shouldn’t show you that, much less admit it, but there’s the truth.” His eyes flicked around the room, then came to rest on the table in front of him before he looked up at each of the kids and let out a breath. “I guess what I’m trying to say is that this is going to be hard, but I know you’re all up to it.”

    More things were said, more information exchanged during the meeting. But Thomas didn’t hear much of it, because it was all dressing. Something had changed. Or someone had chickened out. Somehow Thomas knew that for some reason, at the last second, Chancellor Anderson and his two partners had decided not to tell them everything.

    What’s he hiding? Thomas asked Teresa when they were finally getting up to leave. But then he looked at Dr. Paige, and the odd expression on her face made him realize that he had asked about the wrong person.

    229.11.22 | 8:47 a.m.

    Look at Minho, Teresa said to Thomas.

    It was the morning before the big day—the first insertion into the maze. Forty boys from Group A were lined up along the walls of the hallway, ready for their final medical examinations. Newt, Minho, Alby, Gally—all the boys Thomas had gotten to know over the last few years of his life would be part of the group. Orderlies walked up and down the hall, prepping them to enter the medical rooms—taking temperatures, blood pressures, checking eyes, tongues.

    Yeah, I see him, Thomas replied. He and Teresa were there at Chancellor Anderson’s request—to observe and provide moral support. But all he felt was a heavy, heavy sadness at saying goodbye, and he’d stayed silent since arriving.

    Minho was about ten boys away from where he and Teresa stood, and he’d been fidgeting all morning. But now it had turned into something worse—his body reminded Thomas of a cocked gun, his muscles coiled as if he were about to spring into action.

    Man, Thomas said. There’s no way he’d try something again. Right?

    Although there were plenty of things to upset their friend. Inside the medical rooms, clearly visible from their place in the hallway, menacing devices hung over each bed—they looked like robot masks, metallic and full of wires and tubes. Thomas assumed they were meant to capture every type of killzone measurement imaginable, a foundation from which they could study progress within the Maze Trials.

    Follow my lead, Teresa said. She pushed away from the wall and walked toward Minho. Thomas followed right on her heels. She had an air of authority about her, so the medical attendants barely glanced her way. She stopped when she got to Minho, and put a hand on his shoulder. He flinched, and for an instant Thomas thought he might actually strike out, but then his eyes met hers and a wave of calm seemed to wash over him, relaxing his muscles as it flowed through his body. To Thomas’s surprise, tears formed in the boy’s eyes.

    “It’s okay,” Teresa said to him. “Don’t make it worse by fighting them. Everything will be fine inside the maze. You’ll see.”

    “Aren’t you going in with us?” Minho asked.

    The response took both Thomas and Teresa by surprise.

    “Uh, w-well…,” Teresa stammered.

    “Not yet,” Thomas quickly interjected, leaving it at that. Hoping his friends wouldn’t dig further.

    A hint of anger flushed Minho’s face again, but this time it set firmly. “Seriously? So you’re telling me not to fight them? Are you sure you don’t mean us? What exactly are you doing here, Thomas? I don’t see you being poked and prodded like cattle.”

    Alby, just a few feet down the hall, turned to look at the three. “Yeah,” he said. “He’s got a good point, if you ask me. You’re just gonna throw us into a big experiment, then go back to your cush bed and relax? Were you ever going to tell us? Or just let us think you were going in, then, Surprise!”

    Thomas had no idea what to say. He’d been able to convince himself that he was the same as his friends. That they didn’t care that he’d been separated out, that he had different responsibilities than they did. How could he have ever thought it wouldn’t matter? That it wouldn’t blow up in his face?

    “What? Forget the script you’re supposed to follow?” Alby asked. “Or are you just worried about upsetting your buddies?” He nodded toward the doctors and nurses, who all continued their work as if nothing was happening.

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