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  • Home > James Dashner > Maze Runner Prequel > The Fever Code (Chapter 53)     
  • The Fever Code(Maze Runner Prequel #0.6)(53) by James Dashner
  • “Good glory,” Brenda said. “Imagine what it was like down here when the flares actually hit.”

    “You sure you don’t want to come with us, hermano?” Jorge asked. “We’re going to have ourselves quite the party.”

    He and Brenda both laughed, but Thomas had a hard time finding anything funny about it. This place was terrible.

    The Berg had landed surprisingly far from the Crank city, and the technicians Thomas was supposed to work with were gathering their things as if they intended to go in the opposite direction. He saw nothing that way but a wasteland, which made him more than a little nervous. He found himself anxious to head back to Alaska, and hoped the tests they wanted to run didn’t take terribly long.

    Thomas shielded his eyes and looked toward the city. It appeared to be several miles away. Dirt and rust and shattered glass made up half of it. Ruined skyscrapers reached for the sky like broken fingers. It was hard to believe anyone could live there, even Cranks. Beyond the devastated city, mountains rose. The sun flares might have taken some of its plant life away, but the stone and soil seemed to call out, “We’re still here. What else ya got?”

    Thomas tore his eyes away from the scene and saw Brenda staring at her soon-to-be new home.

    “You sure about this?” Thomas asked. “You sure you want to go into that place?” He’d meant it to be a little lighthearted, but he knew how serious it was as it came out of his mouth.

    “If we had a cure, a lot of people I love would still be alive,” she said, gazing unwaveringly into the distance. “People like my mom and dad, people like my brother.”

    “I know, I know,” he murmured. “Believe me, I know.”

    “That’s why Jorge and I volunteered,” she continued. “Not just in general, but for this.” She nodded toward the broken city in the distance. “I have to do my part.”

    “Yeah,” he said.

    Before he could add something nicer, Jorge yelled that his group needed to get going. He wanted to be in the city well before the sunset.

    “Be careful,” Thomas said, trying to communicate with his eyes that he was sorry. That no one else should have to give up their life for this sickness. “Seriously. Be careful.”

    “I will,” she said. “Hard to believe they’re going to bring your friends out here next, huh? Poor guys. Well, see you later, alligator.”

    She gave him a feeble wave, then hurried after Jorge.

    “Wait, what did you say?” he yelled.

    She didn’t respond, running farther away.

    He stared at her for a long moment, noticed the sands shifting beneath her feet.

    “What did you mean?” he whispered.

    231.12.11 | 4:40 p.m.

    Phase Two.

    That was all he could get out of the WICKED technicians he’d been assigned to. Phase Two. He asked each one of them about what Brenda had said, and those were the only words he got back. Other than things like Go ask Dr. Paige. It’s not my place to talk about it. I’m just doing my job.

    But none of that mattered because Thomas knew exactly what was going on. He should have seen it long before Brenda let it slip.

    WICKED planned to send the Gladers into this wretched place for another phase of trials. That was the reason they wanted to test the long-range monitoring of his implant technology—so they would know how effectively they’d be able to do it with the others once they were there. The lies just stacked up higher and higher. Things were even worse than he’d imagined. Far worse.

    If there’d been the tiniest seed of doubt before, it was now gone completely. No matter what it took, Thomas was going into the maze to save his friends.

    The Scorch got nastier with every step.

    He walked with the WICKED technicians across the hard, dead land, gripping a towel beneath his chin. He’d wrapped the rest of it around his head to shield himself from the sun, which beat down on them, raining pure heat. The only relief was a breeze, though it covered him in sand as well. They were heading for some kind of underground tunnel where they supposedly needed to run tests and set up equipment. And now Thomas knew what for.

    As he and the others trekked across the wasteland, he had plenty of time to think over his budding plan to save his friends. It could happen. It really could. He just needed to convince WICKED of two things—insert him into the maze, and do it without erasing his memories. For any kind of plan to work, he had to have his mind intact. Only then would he know how to get them out.

    There were details to figure out. How, when, and where to get weapons. How to shut down the Grievers. Where to go if they did somehow escape the WICKED complex. But he had time.

    It really could work.

    He tried to stay that positive and kept moving through the desert.

    One foot in front of the other. Sweating profusely.

    On and on they went.

    “Here!” the man leading the group eventually yelled out. The others crowded around him as he dropped to his knees, then felt around in the sand. He swept away a thin layer of dirt and revealed a metal hatch with a simple handle on top. It didn’t even have a lock to secure it—what were the odds of someone stumbling upon the tunnel entrance out here in the middle of a ruined nowhere?

    A woman leaned in and took hold of the handle along with the man, and they heaved the covering up and open. Thomas stood on the tips of his toes to catch a glimpse over someone’s shoulder—a long flight of stairs disappeared into darkness below.

    “Believe it or not,” the woman said, shouting over the wind, “there used to be a prison nearby. This was an escape route built by the cartels. We just adapted it for our purposes. It’ll be about another hour’s walk down there.”

    She didn’t say anything else, just began descending the steps. One by one, the group followed, Thomas going down last.

    It was a long, surprisingly cool, unsurprisingly creepy descent into the depths and down the endless tunnel that WICKED had commandeered. No one spoke much as they walked and walked and walked, but when they did, it was usually in a whisper that echoed like a ghost’s haunting call.

    “Almost there,” a man named David announced, spooking Thomas. He’d become accustomed to the quiet, and the sudden voice jarred him from his thoughts.

    “Almost where?” Thomas asked, his words bouncing back at him off the walls.

    “There’s a Flat Trans up ahead that we installed on our last trip here. It’s finally ready to be activated.”

    “A Flat Trans?” Thomas repeated. Was that how they planned to transport the Gladers to the Scorch?

    “Yeah,” David replied. “Let’s hope it works, because that’s how we’re going to get back home tonight!”

    Thomas almost stumbled when he heard that.

    “You have no idea how much these things cost,” the man continued. “Before the Flares, only billionaires could afford them—there were even some governments who only wished they’d had enough money to get one.”

    “WICKED’s that rich?” Thomas asked.

    David laughed. “They don’t need to buy this stuff. They just steal it from billionaires who are too dead to care anymore. Or too Cranked past the Gone. Anyway, don’t worry, once it’s up and running, there’s nothing to be scared of. It’s a cool way to travel, that’s for sure.”

    “Here we are,” a woman called back. She shined a light on a tall rectangular structure that looked like a large door to nowhere. Or, more accurately, a doorframe that was missing its actual door. A panel of controls, dark at the moment, was attached to the right side of the device.

    David moved forward to stand next to the woman. “We’ve run every test imaginable. All that’s left is to turn the sucker on.”

    Thomas stepped away from the WICKED staff as they pulled out tools and began doing their jobs. He didn’t know any of these people very well, so he felt like a total outsider. He went to the wall of the tunnel, just on the edge of the pool of light, and leaned back against the dirt and stone. He folded his arms, watching the people go about their business.

    A humming sound filled the air that made his bones rattle. A green glow lit up the control panel of the Flat Trans. The hum grew louder. He couldn’t believe that in a matter of minutes he was going to step through a magical wall of engineering and reappear thousands of miles away. It made him nervous, made him worry he’d end up scattered across the quantum universe, nothing but a galaxy of atoms and molecules that had nothing to do with each other.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire