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  • Home > James Dashner > Maze Runner Prequel > The Fever Code (Chapter 35)     
  • The Fever Code(Maze Runner Prequel #0.6)(35) by James Dashner
  • I’m in the observation room, he answered. I’ll give you three guesses who’s sitting right next to me, and the first two don’t count.

    Sweet little Chucky-Chuck? He could feel her beaming over the connection. They both had a soft spot for the kid. Care if I come join you guys?

    Are you kidding? It’s never the same without you.

    She didn’t respond right away, and he knew she was about to say something serious. He cringed, waiting.

    I can tell you’re feeling better, she finally said. And that makes me very happy.

    He sighed with relief.

    You and me both, he responded back. Now get your butt over here.

    Teresa showed up at the observation room a few minutes later. She slipped inside without saying anything and pulled up a chair next to Thomas. The whole routine was as comfortable as a well-worn pair of shoes. Chuck looked over at her and winked—flirting with an older girl was his idea of hilarious—then gave a thumbs-up.

    “How are you, Chuck?” she asked. “Been sent to your room yet today?”

    “No, ma’am,” he replied, batting his eyelashes. “Perfect little angel, just like always.”

    “I bet.” She reached over Thomas’s lap and grabbed a piece of skin on Chuck’s leg, then wrenched it hard.

    Chuck screamed in agony and leaped from his chair, hopping up and down as he rubbed at the sore spot. “Not cool!” he yelled. “Not cool!”

    “That’s for stealing the deviled eggs from my lunch tray when I went back for a drink,” she said, one eyebrow raised accusingly. “You know how much I love deviled eggs.”

    “What?” he asked. “How did you…” He looked at Thomas. “She’s some kind of mind reader.”

    “Don’t mess with Teresa,” Thomas said, slowly shaking his head back and forth as if in pure awe of her powers. “If I teach you nothing else in life, my son, it’s that. Don’t mess with Teresa.”

    “Come here, you little deviled egg,” Teresa said, now chasing Chuck around the room, trying to smother him with hugs. For all his flirting jokes, the kid hated when she did that.

    Thomas leaned back in his chair, enjoying every second of it.

    Yeah, he thought. I feel good again.

    230.03.14 | 6:03 a.m.

    Another insertion day.

    The boy’s name was Zart, and it was his turn to enter the Box. It was Teresa’s job to prep the new insertion this time. She’d prepped Zart the day before and he’d gone through the Swipe procedure early that morning. Thomas looked over at him, unconscious on the gurney. Whatever they gave the kids to knock them out seemed like it could fell a rhinoceros.

    He looked up at Teresa and flashed her a smile. They were in the elevator, along with Dr. Paige, two nurses, and Chuck. Once again, Thomas had convinced Dr. Paige to allow his sidekick along, which Chuck loved. He was always excited for a break from his normal schooling and testing. Thomas felt more strongly each day that the boy’s future shouldn’t be hidden from him, that it would be good to prepare his mind, even if much of it ended up being on a subconscious level.

    The car hummed as they descended toward the basement of the facility. No one spoke the entire trip down, not even Chuck, which was a minor miracle. Thomas’s mind wandered.

    What’s it like? he wondered, staring down at Zart’s sleeping face. How weird it must be to wake up with your memories erased. Dr. Paige had explained many times how it worked, but what did it feel like? That was what Thomas wanted to know. To have a completely intact picture of the world and how it was…but with everything that mattered scrubbed out. Friends, families, places. It was a fascinating and terrible thing.

    The elevator chimed and they were there. The basement. It pricked a little at Thomas’s heart. It was where he and his friends had met one night a week for so long. Where he’d turned from a lonely, miserable kid to a relatively happy person with friends.

    The doors opened and the nurses rolled the gurney out into the hallway. Thomas looked at Teresa and they followed Dr. Paige out. Chuck tagged along, his eyes wide with anticipation. If what lay in his future bothered him, he never showed it.

    The wheels of the gurney clacked against the tile floor as they made their way down the long hallway to where the Box waited.

    “Why are you guys so quiet?” Chuck asked. Every few seconds he had to trot for a couple of steps to keep up with everyone else.

    “Because it’s the butt-crack of dawn,” Teresa replied. “Before the usual wake-up, and we haven’t had breakfast.”

    “Or coffee,” Dr. Paige added, showing a rare spark of personality. “I’d kill a Griever with my bare hands for a cup of coffee.”

    Thomas and Teresa exchanged looks of surprise, then amusement. The woman had just made a joke. Maybe the world was ending.

    It scares me, Teresa said out of nowhere.

    What scares you? he asked.

    The idea of the maze. Insertion. But it also kinda excites me, too. Sometimes I envy the boys in the Glade. Yeah, they rough it pretty hard, but they have fun.

    Thomas shrugged, acting like he’d never given it any thought. The truth was, lately he’d been thinking about it a lot. I don’t know, Thomas said. You know the Psychs aren’t going to let the fun and games last for very long in there.

    Teresa didn’t respond at first. They walked on down the hall in silence.

    The crap’ll hit the fan soon enough, she finally agreed.

    Finally they reached the wide double doors that led to the chamber holding the Box. With all the sophistication surrounding WICKED and their trials and experiments and technological wonders, there wasn’t much fanfare to the Box itself. It sat in a wide, dusty room at the bottom of a shaft that led up to the Glade, connected to enormous gears on the surface by chains and pulleys. A magical lift to a brand-new world.

    Thomas shuddered to think what it must be like to wake up in that dark box of metal, memories gone. It had to be terrifying.

    “Here we are,” Dr. Paige said as the nurses wheeled the gurney toward the looming wall of silvery steel. “I know we’ve spent the last few weeks getting more subjects into the maze as the Psychs make adjustments to the program, but after Zart we’re going to become a little more regimented. We’ll be sending one boy a month into the Glade, same day, same time. Like clockwork. Unless something changes.”

    They always keep their options open, don’t they? Thomas said to Teresa.

    They sure do. Somehow she projected the image of her sticking her tongue out and crossing her eyes. Made no sense, and yet seemed the perfect response.

    The nurses stopped right next to the Box, which was about ten feet high. One of them went around the corner and came back dragging a large, sturdy stepladder on wheels.

    “Where’s the door to the thing?” Chuck asked, examining the seamless wall closest to them, then venturing around to the other sides. No one answered until he rounded the entire container and ended up back where he started.

    “Just watch,” Teresa said, not hiding her disdain for the process.

    “It’s not what you’d call glamorous,” Thomas added.

    “Can’t wait!” Chuck said, a little too cheerfully. Sometimes Thomas thought the boy had a drier sense of humor than anyone knew.

    “Okay,” Dr. Paige said. “Let’s get him up the stairs. Everything should be set. They’re all ready in the command room.”

    The nurses grabbed Zart—one by his legs, the other lifting him by curling his arms underneath his chest—and lifted him off the gurney. Then they slowly and carefully walked up the rolling stepladder, which shifted under their weight precariously. They reached the top, and then it became an exercise in awkwardness as the nurse holding Zart around the chest hefted him to the top edge of the Box, struggling until he could flap the boy’s arms over the lip of the metal to keep him in place. He waited, made sure the boy wouldn’t fall, then leaned down to help the other nurse lift Zart by the legs.

    So lame, Thomas said to Teresa. They really couldn’t come up with a better way to do this? They have implants in our brains, Flat Transes, little robot bugs with cameras on them. And this is how they—

    He cut off when the nurses accidentally released Zart’s body too early and the boy toppled over and vanished from sight, crashing into the bottom of the Box with a rattling boom that echoed off the high ceiling. Chuck snickered, then looked ashamed when Dr. Paige gave him a nasty glare.

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