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  • Home > James Dashner > Maze Runner Prequel > The Fever Code (Chapter 44)     
  • The Fever Code(Maze Runner Prequel #0.6)(44) by James Dashner
  • The elevator came to a stop, the familiar chime dinged, and the doors opened. Thomas and Teresa followed Dr. Paige out and down yet another hallway.

    “But I started noticing symptoms recently,” she continued. “Even the chancellor himself is showing signs of infection. I’m almost certain now that our beloved leader has been fudging the reports. I saw Randall on the security feeds tonight. And if Randall is sick…well, it’s impossible he’s the only one.”

    Dr. Paige stopped in front of a door that Thomas had only seen once before. The time he’d been invited there to meet the chancellor himself.

    “But why haven’t we noticed anything?” Teresa asked. “I mean, besides Randall, we haven’t seen any signs people are sick.”

    Dr. Paige nodded as if she’d anticipated the question. “It may be early for some. Others further along may be in hiding somewhere. Makes me wonder if Randall got out from wherever that is. What happened tonight with him made me realize how serious our situation has gotten. If the results are being faked like I think, I need to initiate the safety protocol to ensure we remain healthy and we can continue our work. I have to take charge. Tonight.”

    Thomas couldn’t believe how quickly things were escalating.

    The doctor had never looked so grave, so determined. “First we have to get every last one of those results from the blood tests—from the original results, not the summary report. We’ll find out who’s sick and who isn’t. And then we’ll deal with things.”

    Thomas was trying to sort through the whirlwind of information. “How do we get into his office? Aren’t the security feeds following us?”

    She smiled, a brief break in the clouds. “Which question should I answer first?”

    “The second one,” Teresa said for him. “Security.”

    Paige nodded. “Let’s just say there are many people who owe me favors here. That and everyone is so scared about getting sick, they’re depending on us to guarantee their health. Ramirez is terrified of succumbing to it, and he thinks I’m best suited to make sure the cure actually happens. The sad truth is that Chancellor Anderson’s time leading WICKED has to come to an end.”

    Thomas didn’t know what to think of that. “And…this office? How do we get in without Anderson knowing about it?”

    At some point, Dr. Paige’s smile had completely vanished. “Oh, he’ll know about it. He’s in there right now. Shall we go in?” She reached into a pocket and pulled out a surgical mask, slipped it onto her face. “I guess you guys don’t need one of these, eh?” Her eyes showed the smile had returned.

    Dr. Paige opened the unlocked door and stepped inside the office of the chancellor.

    Another room was attached to the back of his office, a private space to relax or hold more intimate meetings. They found Anderson in there, asleep, half of his body draped on a couch, the other half hanging precariously toward the floor.

    “How did you know?” Teresa whispered, so quietly that Thomas barely heard her.

    The doctor motioned for them to go back into the main office, and then she gently closed the door to the private room where the chancellor slept.

    “You can’t imagine the precautions I’ve taken to avoid catching the Flare,” the woman said, her words muffled through her mask. “Extreme. I wear this mask almost twenty-four-seven now, and always when I’m in a confined space like this with others who are potentially infected. I wash my hands and face every half hour. I prepare my own food….” She looked down at her hands. “I have to take some risks, of course. Every day. I could hardly call myself a doctor if I didn’t.”

    “But what about…this?” Teresa asked, pointing over her shoulder in the direction of Anderson’s private room.

    “He’s one of the reasons I’m so cautious. I’ve come here to visit him once a week or so for months. We’d developed a…friendship…even before all this started. We’ve talked for hours upon hours. About our former lives, WICKED, the blueprint’s progress. He stopped bothering to lock the door over a month ago. But my point is, over that time he’s changed.”

    “Who else do you think might have it?” Teresa asked.

    “We’re about to find out—if he hasn’t destroyed the original test results.” She went to the chancellor’s desk—scattered with the framed photos of his lost loved ones they’d seen on their previous visit—and opened up his display screen. “For all his security fears, he hasn’t been very original with passwords.” She smiled at that, then got to work, using the keyboard as well as the touch functions on the screen itself. A blue glow filled the room with a ghostly pall.

    “Shouldn’t take too long…,” she said absently.

    Thomas was struck with a sudden thought: what if he wasn’t really immune like they’d always told him? He did worry about that every once in a while, but surely he would’ve gotten the disease by now. A memory of the horrible Crank pits flashed through his mind.

    Dr. Paige maneuvered her way through several layers of security on the chancellor’s computer until she finally got to a spreadsheet listing the full roster of WICKED employees in the complex, from cafeteria workers to doctors and Psychs to the test subjects themselves. She scrolled through a few records until she got to a tab for administration; she clicked on it and an image of Chancellor Anderson’s face flashed onto the screen. His beaming smile couldn’t have been more incongruous with the situation at hand. Dr. Paige dove deeper into the data and found the test results from the end of the day before. Although he’d basically already accepted what it would be, when Thomas saw the verification literally flashing right before his eyes—in red, no less—it sent a chill to every corner of his body.

    Chancellor Kevin Anderson had the Flare.

    And, as it turned out, so did a few others at WICKED.

    231.05.05 | 3:42 a.m.

    Nineteen of the one hundred and thirty-one doctors, Psychs, scientists, technicians, nurses, and other staff inside the WICKED complex turned out to be sick. All high-ranking officials, mostly in Anderson’s circle. No wonder they’d conspired to keep it from everyone else.

    Dr. Paige had whisked Thomas and Teresa back to her room and locked them inside, explaining that she now had to fully initiate the Purge protocol and make sure everything was in motion. That she’d return soon. Two hours later she came back, and she had Aris and Rachel with her. As they came in from the hallway, Dr. Paige dropped four loaded backpacks onto the floor.

    “What are those for?” Teresa asked.

    “I’ll explain everything,” the doctor answered. “I’m going to need the four of you desperately today.”

    Thomas gave them a friendly nod, which was returned. Aris seemed to have grown older, lines crossing his face like little marks of worry. Rachel had cut her hair even shorter, and there was a sadness in her dark eyes. But she stood confidently, and something about these two encouraged Thomas.

    Dr. Paige showed no signs of wearing down. She’d taken charge with gusto.

    “This is what my people have figured out,” she said. “Anderson has all the infected hidden away in Sector D, and judging from their symptoms, a few of them appear to be pretty far along. It explains why we haven’t seen their faces around lately. I’ve locked down that entire wing of the complex.

    “I’ve checked and rechecked the original medical tests from yesterday. Other than Anderson, who’s still in his office, and Randall, somewhere out in the forest, it seems that we have all the infected contained. Everyone outside of Sector D is clean.”

    She paused for a couple of deep breaths. “But we can’t waste a single second. We need to clear those people out, and we need to do it fast. I have some brave guards who are willing to risk infection, but I just can’t bring myself to lose another life to this disease. Which is where you come in.”

    She stopped speaking, letting her words hang in the air, and the realization of what she was saying suddenly hit Thomas like a lightning bolt.

    “You mean…”

    She nodded, her expression showing how hard it was to say what came next. “You’re all immune, and you’re the oldest and strongest of those not in the maze. We’re dealing with people who are very sick and weak—more important, though, is that most of them are asleep, which is why we have to act right now. These backpacks have syringes filled with a solution that’s been prepared for this task—all it takes is a quick plunge into their necks and the job is done. You should be able to do it with no problems.”

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