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  • Home > James Dashner > Maze Runner Prequel > The Fever Code (Chapter 34)     
  • The Fever Code(Maze Runner Prequel #0.6)(34) by James Dashner
  • “Alby.” He said it almost like a guess.

    “Well, shouldn’t we start trying to figure things out?”

    “Yeah, we should.” Alby looked as mean as the night they’d been caught outside the WICKED complex.

    “Well then?” Newt asked.

    “Tomorrow, man. Tomorrow. Give us a day to mope, for God’s sake.”

    “Right.”

    Newt walked away, kicking a loose stone to scatter across the dusty ground.

    Late that afternoon, Minho tried to climb the wall.

    The vines were tempting enough, beckoning those who dared to scale the leafy ivy. Minho did just that, gripping it with white-knuckled fists, finding perilous footholds as he inched his way up. Hand over hand, shifting his feet carefully, he climbed.

    Ten feet.

    Fifteen feet.

    Twenty feet.

    Twenty-five.

    He stopped. He looked toward the sky, then craned his neck to look back down at the ground. A crowd had gathered, cheering him on. Another couple of boys had tackled the vines as well, trying to follow their fellow prisoner’s lead.

    Minho looked up again. Down. At the wall. At his hands. Up to the sky again. The ground. The sky. The wall. His hands. Then, without any explanation, despite the abundance of ivy above him, he started back to the ground. He jumped the last few feet, then brushed his hands on his pants.

    “Can’t be done here,” he said. “Let’s try another spot.”

    Three hours and all four walls later, the sky almost dark, he gave up.

    So did everyone else.

    That evening, when Dr. Paige came to get him, Thomas couldn’t believe the day was over already.

    “Time to go back to your room,” she said gently.

    She’d had his meals brought to him throughout the day, so Thomas thought to take advantage of her accommodation by asking a favor. And he didn’t want to risk upsetting her by asking about the apparent memory loss—he’d save that for another time.

    “Can I come back here in the morning?” he asked. “I feel like I need to see their reactions when the doors open for the first time. It’s important.” He tried to insinuate that he meant its importance to the study.

    “Okay, Thomas. That’ll be fine. You can have breakfast in here.”

    He stood up, his heart so heavy it felt as if it stayed in the seat. After one last look at his friends—settling down for the evening, talking in small groups, eating some of the food they’d been provided—he turned away.

    The next morning, he got into the observation room just in time.

    The entire maze shook and he flicked on the sound. The room he sat in was suddenly filled with the rumbling sound of thunder and the giant doors began to slide open, an impossible sight to anyone who had never witnessed it before. It was still an impressive sight to Thomas, who had helped build those doors.

    Thomas’s friends gathered, confused. Some crying in fear. Some of them with such bright expressions of hope on their faces that it just about broke his heart. It seemed pretty obvious that their memories were still lost to them.

    He watched as they filed out into the corridors of the maze proper and began to explore its vast array of halls, twisting and turning along their patterns. Thomas wondered what they would think the first time the walls out there moved, re-forming into a new pattern. He imagined the terrifying times that lay ahead for his friends, and then he remembered the gelatinous creature crouching over Minho, and what would happen the day WICKED decided to unleash that into the maze for the first time.

    “Thomas?”

    He turned, startled out of his thoughts, to find Dr. Paige behind him.

    “There will be plenty of other opportunities to watch your friends,” she said. “But your responsibilities here take priority, okay? You still have a full schedule. Let’s go.”

    He went, leaving his friends behind.

    230.03.13 | 2:36 p.m.

    Thomas sat in the chair, staring at the bank of monitors across from the control deck, feeling a little better than he had in months. Which wasn’t saying much. At least he actually wanted to take his next breath instead of wishing that maybe it wouldn’t happen, that some mysterious illness would strike him dead on the spot. It had been a long time since he’d felt…okay. And today he felt okay.

    Dr. Paige continued to let him observe his friends in the maze as long as he kept up with his normal schedule of classes, tests, checkups, and everything else. He no longer had workdays since the maze had been completed, so he had extra free time and, even though he knew they were observing him as he sat and watched, this was the only place he wanted to be.

    The techs had installed a new display system, and maybe that was part of the reason he’d finally been able to snap out of his doldrums, even if it was only for a fraction of each day. Now he could choose any of the beetle-blade feeds and throw it onto a much-improved center screen, which was a full six feet across and had spectacular color and detail and improved audio. He loved it, seeing and hearing his old friends in the maze close-up, almost as if he were there with them. The entire system was a hundred times better, and he knew that his whole life would now revolve around finding more and more excuses to be in this very room, watching. Observing. Digging for something to give him insight. Sadly, their memories had never returned, a thing that still galled Thomas to no end.

    He chose beetle blade number thirty-seven and swiped it onto the main viewing screen. The display showed Alby and a kid named George standing at the east door of the maze, talking and laughing, both of them eating peaches they’d just plucked out of the trackhoe’s scoop. Thomas had never even spoken to George before, but these were the kinds of scenes he craved. Shots of the Gladers actually enjoying life. It always gave him hope, helped him forget for a while the terrible theft they’d experienced. And with nothing that interesting going on anywhere else, he sat back and watched, wishing he could be there. Just for a visit.

    Someone knocked on the door.

    “Come in!” Thomas called, not bothering to check who it was when the door opened, then closed. He knew by the sound of the person’s steps. He definitely knew. “Hi, Chuck,” he said without looking.

    “Hey, Thomas!” the young boy said, his voice filled with the usual enthusiasm. He pulled a chair over and put it right next to Thomas, barely an inch away, and jumped up into the seat with a jovial grunt. “Anything exciting happen yet?”

    “You’re looking at it,” Thomas replied. “See that? Look really close. Look at what Alby and George are eating. You won’t believe it.”

    Chuck leaned forward, his hair a wild eruption as usual, and squinted at the screen, searching with all the seriousness he could muster.

    “Looks like peaches,” he finally said.

    “Bingo,” Thomas replied, slapping Chuck on the back. “You might be the best analyst in all of WICKED.”

    “Hardy har har.” That was the kid’s favorite response when Thomas teased him. “You so funny.” That was his second favorite.

    Thomas had begged Dr. Paige to let Chuck serve as his assistant for an hour or two each day. It had become clear that WICKED appreciated the insights Thomas provided and he insisted that he needed someone to bounce ideas off during these work periods. Teresa was often too busy learning computer systems on top of her normal schedule to help him.

    He claimed he was grooming Chuck to do great things, but the truth was that Thomas needed him. Being alone often brought his memories crashing in, and Chuck was a beacon that lit the darkness. Dr. Paige seemed more than happy to acquiesce, considering the value of studying Chuck’s reactions to the things he witnessed. It was pure selfishness on Thomas’s part, but he couldn’t let it go. He flat out needed Chuck, like a kid with a security blanket.

    Chuck was a constant bright spot in what had been a miserable couple of months since sending the first batch of subjects in, after stealing their memories. If it weren’t for Chuck and Teresa, Thomas didn’t know how he would have survived.

    As if the thought had summoned her—which it very well might have—Teresa spoke in his mind.

    Hey, what are you doing? she asked. I just finished prepping the next kid to go in. It’s Box time for him tomorrow morning. Poor guy.

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