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  • Home > James Dashner > Maze Runner Prequel > The Fever Code (Chapter 36)     
  • The Fever Code(Maze Runner Prequel #0.6)(36) by James Dashner
  • “Sorry,” he muttered.

    “Is he okay?” Dr. Paige asked, her voice filled with annoyance.

    Both nurses were on their tiptoes, leaning over the edge as they examined Zart down below.

    “Looks fine,” one of them said. “He pulled himself up into a ball—he’s sleeping like a baby.”

    “Why not put a door in the side of the Box?” Chuck asked it in a voice so sweet that it was obviously meant to be the opposite. As in, How could you guys be so stupid?

    “Everything we do is for a reason,” Paige answered, but she didn’t try very hard to make it sound convincing. Had it maybe even been another joke? “Come on, let’s go watch his insertion.”

    “What happens now?” Chuck asked as they walked back the way they came, down the impossibly long hallway. “When will he wake up?”

    Surprisingly, Dr. Paige answered, for once humoring the boy’s wild curiosity. “In about an hour,” she said. “As soon as he does we’ll start the simulated ride up and begin our observations. We should see some new—and very interesting—patterns over the next day or two.”

    Her mood had changed quickly, her tone and light step exuding excitement.

    “Cool,” Chuck replied.

    They kept walking.

    Thomas watched, Teresa beside him. They’d made Chuck go back to his room, not wanting him to see the pure anguish the boys felt upon first waking up in the Box. No need to push it with preparing the boy for his future.

    Together, Thomas and Teresa watched, and imagined what it must be like.

    Zart awoke in darkness, the cameras in the Box barely able to catch his movements. He said nothing at first, stumbling around the metal compartment like a drunkard. But then he became aware of everything all at once. The loss of memory, the strange place, the movement, the sounds. He panicked, pounding on the walls, screaming, “Help me! Help me!”

    The hysteria went on; a cut on his fist burst open, slicking his hand with blood. Finally he collapsed to the floor, then crawled into a corner. There, he pulled his legs in close to his chest and wrapped his arms around them. At first, the tears were only a trickle, but soon the sobs came, his shoulders shaking as he cried.

    The Box came to a stop and a bubble of silence filled the air, like something that might pop and explode at the slightest touch. Zart almost jumped out of his clothes when the ceiling suddenly popped and squealed, two doors grinding as they slid open. The light of ten burning suns blinded him from above. He pressed both hands against his eyes, rolling back and forth on the floor as he groaned.

    He heard rustling, whispers, light laughter coming from the sky. Finally he peeked through his fingers, actually able to see. He saw a square of light, silhouettes of thirty boys wrapped around it, all of their heads bent, looking down at him. Some of them elbowed their neighbor, pointed, snickered.

    A rope dropped, the loop tied at its end landing right in front of him. He stood, put his foot in the loop, held on to the rope with both hands. They pulled him up, dragged him over the edge of the Box, lifted him to his feet. Three or four boys dusted him off, hitting him harder than they needed to, but their whoops and laughs made it all seem okay. Like old friends welcoming home a lost soul.

    A tall kid with brown hair stepped up to him, held out a hand. Zart took it, shook.

    “My name’s George,” the greeter said. “Welcome to the Glade.”

    230.03.15 | 3:15 p.m.

    The day had gone much like the ones before it. Breakfast, a couple of classes, more time in the observation room. Lunch. Observation room. All the while, Teresa by his side. Chuck was allowed to join them once his afternoon classes were done.

    Chuck on the left.

    Teresa on the right.

    Thomas didn’t know exactly what his role with WICKED was developing into. They seemed to let him do whatever he wanted, go wherever he wanted. He usually ate his meals in the cafeteria with the subjects who hadn’t yet been sent into the maze. He didn’t click with them like he had with Newt, Alby, and Minho, but they were mostly cool. Two guys named Jeff and Leo were especially nice, although they were obviously preoccupied with what lay in store for them—they’d heard rumors about what the maze was like and what it might become. Mostly, though, they kept to themselves.

    As Thomas watched the monitors, he decided he was okay. Satisfied with the status quo until something better presented itself.

    “What’s going on over there?” Teresa asked, snapping Thomas out of his thoughts. She pointed at one of the monitors on the right. Thomas threw it onto the large central display to get a better look.

    A group of boys, led by Alby and Newt, were standing suspiciously around a lean-to of lumber scraps against the stone wall near the northwest corner of the Glade. WICKED had started the boys off with a small, simple structure for them to take shelter, with hopes that the subjects would add to it as supplies were sent in, take some initiative and better their living conditions. They’d already started messing around with the idea the last couple of weeks, and they’d collected all the spare wood they had and leaned it against the wall. Some boys had even slept under there the last few nights.

    But now the group standing at its opening nearest the corner of the walls looked…troubled. They stood oddly, for one thing, too close together, as if they didn’t want the beetle blades to catch a view of what was inside the lean-to. Their heads twisted this way and that, scanning the area around them like criminals waiting for a getaway car. Alby and Newt whispered furiously to each other, either arguing or mutually worried about something.

    “What’re they up to?” Thomas said quietly, leaning forward to see if he could make out anything in the shadows. Nothing from that angle.

    Teresa beat him to the punch by pushing a communications button that linked them to the command room—where the important people worked.

    “Any way we can get a beetle blade in there?” Teresa asked whoever was listening.

    “Nope,” replied a man. One of the Psychs, probably. They didn’t interact with the subjects much, if ever, even with Thomas and Teresa. “We want to see this play out before we let them know we’re watching closely.”

    That made Thomas even more intrigued. “Can’t we at least zoom in from where it’s at right now?”

    “We’ll do our best,” the man replied curtly. “Command room out.” There was a loud click that he obviously made audible on purpose. In other words, Leave us alone. They got that way sometimes.

    Movement on the display stole Thomas’s attention. Alby had leaned into the triangular shelter and was struggling with something, his body tense with exertion. Newt joined the effort, and then they were dragging something out of the darkness and into the gray light—the false sun had already been eclipsed by the huge wall on the west side and thrown that area of the Glade into shadow.

    “What…,” Teresa said. “What is that?”

    “It’s a person!” Chuck yelled, making Thomas jump a full inch above his seat.

    But the kid was right. Alby and Newt both held on to one leg each, dragging a person to the junction of the north and west walls. When they got there, Alby knelt next to the boy and punched him in the face. Teresa yelped in shock and Thomas scooted a couple of feet backward without thinking. Alby reared back and punched the boy again, then again. Newt grabbed him by the arm and pulled him away.

    “Can you tell who it is?” Teresa asked.

    Chuck had walked around the control deck so that his eyes were only a few inches from the screen. “I know him,” he said. “That’s George.”

    “The one who welcomed Zart into the Glade?” Thomas asked. “That was barely over twenty-four hours ago. How could everything have gone wrong since then?”

    “What went wrong?” Teresa added. “I mean, what in the world’s going on? Why is Alby trying to beat the hell out of George?”

    Thomas noticed one of the camera views on the left side of the main display blur into motion, the beetle blade scuttling as fast as it could through the growth of vines.

    “Chuck, get back over here,” Thomas snapped. “I can’t see all the views.”

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