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  • Home > James Dashner > Maze Runner Prequel > The Fever Code (Chapter 51)     
  • The Fever Code(Maze Runner Prequel #0.6)(51) by James Dashner
  • Of course, the Psychs found everything interesting.

    Chuck came in and sat beside Thomas, plopping down in his seat with an exaggerated sigh of contentment. “They sent Frank in today, which means I only have one month left.” The mix of excitement and fear in Chuck’s eyes always broke Thomas’s heart a little. He shared as much blame for the fear part as anyone—it’d been his own selfishness having Chuck in here so often, seeing some of the bad things that happened inside the maze. But the kid was his brother in every way but blood—without him in his life, Thomas would’ve broken long ago.

    “It’ll be here before you know it,” he said.

    “Which means,” Chuck said, “that all of this’ll be over before we know it, too.”

    “Yep. You got it.”

    “What’d you do today?” Chuck asked. “Let me guess—medical checkup, classes, critical thinking, observe the maze.”

    “Yep. You got it,” Thomas said again, making the boy laugh. “Pretty exciting life I lead, am I right?”

    “Just wait until I get to the maze,” Chuck replied. “I’ll liven that place right up.” He said it with an enthusiasm that Thomas could only guess was genuine—kids that young had a knack for remembering only the good parts.

    “Yep. You got it.” The third time made even Thomas laugh. Then he stood up. “Sorry, I have a meeting I’m supposed to go to.”

    “Aw, come on, I just got here! I was hoping to watch the Gladers eat dinner. I think Gally and Alby are finally gonna beat the klunk out of each other tonight.”

    “Sorry, bud,” Thomas said. “And you know you can’t be in here without me, so head to the barracks. Later we’ll grab food, come back here, and do more Glade spying. Maybe the Psychs’ll send a Griever in to dance for them.”

    Chuck paled a little at that but did his best to cover it up. Sometimes, in his excitement to get to the Glade, he forgot about the monsters.

    “Sorry,” Thomas said, wanting to kick himself. “Terrible joke.”

    The meeting was in a small conference room, and Thomas arrived knowing absolutely nothing of its purpose. Dr. Paige sat at the head of the table, with two people to her left who were obviously Psychs. One was from the days before the Purge—a lady named Campbell. The other was a newbie, from Seattle or Anchorage or who knew where. Thomas purposely didn’t bother learning details like that. He couldn’t put his finger on why.

    To Dr. Paige’s right, a middle-aged man with dark hair and brown skin sat with a girl who could have been his daughter age-wise, but not genetically, by the looks of it. She had fair skin and dirty-blond hair, and the man leaned toward her as if he knew her well, as if they’d just been whispering.

    Thomas stood there for a long moment, everyone in the room assessing everyone else.

    Dr. Paige stood up. “Thanks for coming, Thomas. You’ve made yourself scarce lately. Helping Chuck prep for his big trip to the maze next month?” She smiled innocently, as if she didn’t know every single move he made, every second of the day. Thomas didn’t like her nearly as much as he had before the Purge.

    “Something like that,” Thomas said in an even tone.

    “Well, please sit down,” Paige replied, motioning to a chair opposite hers, across the table.

    After he was seated, Thomas asked, “So what’s this all about?”

    Dr. Paige held up a finger, looking annoyed. “Just a moment. Teresa should be here any second.”

    On cue, the door opened again and Teresa came bustling through, offering a few nods of greeting before sitting next to Thomas. She always looked so…busy. So preoccupied.

    Hi, she said to him, sending as much warmth along with her greeting as she could.

    Good to see you, he replied. Truer words had never been spoken. He missed her.

    Dr. Paige got down to business. “I want to introduce a couple of new friends who will be helping with some upcoming projects.” She turned toward the two newcomers to her right, the man and the girl he seemed to hover over. “This is Jorge and Brenda. Jorge is a Berg pilot, a very good one. And Brenda has some training as a nurse, with big plans to become a Psych someday. Isn’t that right, Brenda?”

    The girl nodded, not showing a hint of shyness or awkwardness. “Whatever it takes to find a cure,” she said. It seemed like an odd response, but something haunted hid behind her eyes, something that probably explained exactly why she’d answered that way.

    “Hola,” the man named Jorge said, looking each of them in the eye for a moment. “I’m excited to work with you.”

    “Work with us?” Teresa asked. “What’s going on?”

    He’d gotten Thomas’s attention. He was now madly curious.

    “We’d like you to help us on an upcoming expedition,” Dr. Paige said. “In a few weeks, Jorge, Brenda, and quite a few others will be sent to a place called the Scorch. We’re very interested in what we may find inside a nearby city infested with Cranks. Significant research potential.”

    “A city infested with Cranks?” Thomas repeated. He had a bad feeling he wasn’t hearing the whole truth here.

    “Yes,” she said, offering nothing else. “And we think it will be valuable to have you there. We’d like to test the long-range effectiveness of your implant technology, especially the remote monitoring of your killzone patterns and other measurements. We need to know it can work at long distances. Now, here’s what we have planned….”

    Thomas worked over what she’d just said, tuning her out. Why would they need to know about long-distance monitoring? Was WICKED planning on moving them somewhere? There was more going on here that they weren’t telling him, and he had a bad feeling about it. A feeling he’d had for a while but could only now admit to himself. It made him feel sick.

    WICKED was never going to stop.

    They were never, never going to stop.

    231.11.30 | 8:32 p.m.

    Thomas walked with Chuck down the long hallway, which seemed to stretch out infinitely before him. That was how everything felt today. Long and never-ending. Really, he was just in a sad mood. The day had finally come.

    Chuck was going to be inserted into the maze.

    Thomas had asked for this hour with Chuck to eat a last meal of sorts and talk through things. Their own goodbye. Then Thomas planned to leave Chuck in the hands of the experts and make himself scarce. He didn’t think he could handle watching Chuck get his memory erased, see him handled like a corpse, watch him get thrown into the Box like a heap of trash. They’d have their goodbye, and then Thomas could hide in his room until the next morning rolled around.

    The cafeteria was quiet during the lull between the breakfast and lunch crowds. After grabbing plates of breakfast leftovers, he and Chuck sat down by one of the few windows that looked out over the Alaskan forest. They’d barely talked since Thomas had retrieved Chuck from his room, and now they both picked at their food. Neither had actually taken a bite yet.

    “I might as well get the dumb question out of the way,” Thomas finally said. “You scared?”

    Chuck held up a limp piece of bacon and studied it. “You’re right. Dumb question.”

    “I’ll take that as a yes, then.”

    Chuck chomped on the bacon, his face wincing a little. “Tastes like klunk.”

    “Of course it does. They fried it almost three hours ago. But your one wish for today was to sleep in, so they let you sleep in. Maybe your wish should’ve been for crisp bacon. Or, you know, a one-way ticket to Denver.”

    Chuck gave him a polite smile, the most adult thing he’d ever done.

    “Come on, man,” Thomas said. “Open up here, buddy. Tell me what you’re thinking. What you’re feeling. I’m worried about you.”

    The kid shrugged. “Do we really have to get all cheesy like this? They’re sending me into the maze and there’s nothing I can do about it. I’m going to miss it here, going to miss you guys. But there’s no point whining and crying.”

    “You’ll have to go a while without seeing my beautiful face every day. You better be whining and crying. I’m talking puffy eyes, wet face, snot pouring into your mouth, the whole bit. I don’t see that in the next three minutes, I’m gonna be offended.”

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire