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  • Home > James Dashner > Maze Runner Prequel > The Fever Code (Chapter 40)     
  • The Fever Code(Maze Runner Prequel #0.6)(40) by James Dashner
  • Outside the huge enclosure of their home, the walls of the maze began their process of changing positions. The ground trembled, and the distant roar of stone against stone filled the air. Alby had something close to a smile on his face.

    “Thunder,” he whispered.

    “What?” his visitor asked.

    “Thunder. I remember thunder.”

    A tear trickled its way down his cheek. He didn’t wipe it away.

    Thomas sat in his chair, silent and sullen as Dr. Paige worked on measuring his vitals. He had a full load of classes today, and he dreaded it with a heaviness that made him want to cry.

    “You’re quiet this morning,” the doctor said.

    “I need to be,” he replied. “Please. Today, I need to be quiet.”

    She whispered her response. “Okay.”

    Thomas pictured his friends going about their various activities in the Glade. Tried to imagine what they were doing that very second. And he thought about something he’d been thinking for a while: Someday he should probably join them there. It would be the right thing to do.

    Dr. Paige stuck a needle in him, and this time he felt it.

    Thomas went along in his weird, boring, sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes uplifting life. Watching his friends tough it out inside the Glade and the maze. But also watching them prosper, work hard to make it a better place. Rules were established, jobs assigned, routines worked out. The Homestead was three times bigger than when they’d started, and Minho had been named Keeper of the Runners.

    All these things and much more happened as the days turned into weeks turned into months. Teresa and Chuck were his constant companions, and he loved having them around. They made his life bearable, even fun at times. But it was hard to get too flippant when the place where you lived constantly reminded you of two things: your friends were in an experiment, and that experiment existed because an awful, hideous disease rampaged in the outside world.

    And so, he lived. Day in, day out. Getting his body monitored, attending classes, doing as he was asked. Like helping Teresa prep the new boy each month for insertion. The basement, where he’d made so many fond memories, was now a place he visited only once a month. It seemed darker and danker than it ever had before. He did whatever he could to find time for the observation room, taking his own notes on what he saw, sharing those with Dr. Paige. The better the analysis, the more sessions he got.

    Mostly, it was a life of boredom, interrupted by sweet times with Teresa and Chuck. Made tolerable by the ever-increasing kindness of Dr. Paige, who seemed to be the only member of WICKED with a heart, the only one who remembered what it was like to be a kid. She didn’t shy away from repeating what she’d said that day, about loving them like her own children. But it was always laced with a sense of danger, as if she knew on some level that letting herself feel that way might be the biggest risk she’d ever take.

    It was a strange world. But Thomas was alive, and he lived.

    230.08.21 | 10:32 a.m.

    His crazy day started with a knock on his door, during a morning break.

    When he opened it, a boy he’d never seen before stood there, with Randall, of all people right next to him. The man had been scarce lately—in fact, Thomas was pretty sure he hadn’t seen him since the day George had died. And he didn’t look so good. He was thinner than before, and his complexion looked gray. As for the new boy, he was a touch taller than Thomas, with blond hair, and his eyes were as wide and curious as a baby’s.

    “This is Ben,” Randall said. “He’s one of the new subjects we picked up the last few days, and he’s the perfect age for insertion. Dr. Paige wants you to prep him before you run through your daily checkups and tests.”

    Randall turned away without waiting for a response, walking quickly down the hallway, as if late for an appointment. Poor Ben stood there, blinking nervously.

    “Don’t worry about that guy,” Thomas said, opening his door wider. “He’s always been a weirdo. Come on in. Believe it or not, I can remember what it feels like to be brand-new here.”

    “Thanks.” Ben entered the room timidly and sat down at the desk when Thomas motioned to the chair. “They found me in Denver.”

    And then the kid transformed in an instant, bursting into tears. He put his hands over his face, and his shoulders lurched with each sob.

    Denver? Thomas had studied plenty about the city—how it was a safe zone, a gathering place for those who didn’t have the Flare. They evidently had put extreme precautions in place to make sure no infected ever entered, and it was surrounded by heavily fortified walls. The fact that Ben came from there struck Thomas as…odd. Didn’t this mean that his parents had been healthy? And yet WICKED had taken him away?

    Thomas realized the boy was still crying. “What happened?” he asked, not sure how to act. “I mean, take your time, but I’m here to listen.” He almost rolled his eyes at the lame choice of words.

    “We’d finally found a place to live,” Ben said through his tears. “Somewhere nice. And neither one of my parents had the Flare—I know it! They wouldn’t have let us in if they did.” It was all coming out in a flood now, his tears evaporating into anger. “They asked if I would join their study and my dad said no and they grabbed me and took me anyway. They pushed my mom down and threatened to shoot my dad. Who are these people? Why am I here?”

    Thomas sat on his bed, frozen. He had absolutely no idea what to say. He’d always wondered about everyone’s parents, and it seemed like his suspicions had been true. WICKED said they all came from families with two sick parents and no other care available. Was this some anomaly or one of many lies?

    Ben started crying again, burying his head in his arms on the desk.

    “I’m sorry, man,” Thomas said, feeling the boy’s sadness deep within himself. “They’re trying to find a cure for the Flare, and they’re desperate.” That was all he had. He didn’t have the heart or words to try anything else. “But hey, things aren’t so bad, I promise.”

    Ben picked up his head, wiped his tears, then nodded.

    “Come on, let me show you around.” Thomas stood up and walked to the door, opened it, and escorted Ben into the hallway. Calling himself a big fat liar the whole time.

    After giving Ben a tour of the complex, Thomas sat with the new kid in the observation room, introducing him to the maze. He didn’t have the heart to come right out and say that he’d be sent in shortly, not after the tearful display earlier. But he was sure the kid wasn’t stupid.

    He tried to keep it positive.

    “Most of the guys love it. Sleeping in the outdoors with their friends.” It wasn’t lost on Thomas that here he was, telling lies as easily as WICKED seemed to. It bothered him, but he didn’t know what else to do. He wanted the boy to feel better.

    His thoughts fizzled away as something developed on the right side of the main display. On one of the screens, a beetle blade was following Gally, who kept looking over his shoulder as if he were up to no good.

    “Uh-oh,” he whispered, placing the view of Gally on the huge screen in the middle.

    “What’s wrong?” Ben asked.

    For a few seconds, Thomas had completely forgotten that Ben existed, much less that he was sitting right next to him.

    “Um, nothing,” Thomas answered absently. “Just, uh, I want to see where my friend is going.” Worried something bad might happen to traumatize Ben on one of his first days, he quickly escorted him into the hallway. He made him stand several feet from the door. “Listen, wait here, okay? I’m going to call a friend over to finish up your tour. It was great to meet you.”

    “Okay,” the boy said, obviously feeling stupid.

    Thomas felt bad but rushed back into the room, leaving the door open a crack so he’d hear when Teresa arrived. He found his seat again.

    Gally had made it all the way to the south door and was just now turning back toward the Glade, searching the area, obviously wondering if anyone was watching him. Evidently he didn’t care about the beetle blades, just the other boys. Looking confident that he hadn’t been noticed, he focused his attention on the left side of the enormous door itself, the row of protruding spikes towering above him.

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