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  • Home > James Dashner > Maze Runner Prequel > The Fever Code (Chapter 54)     
  • The Fever Code(Maze Runner Prequel #0.6)(54) by James Dashner
  • A loud buzz made him stand upright; then a shimmering wall of staticky gray filled the space between the rectangular frame of the Flat Trans. It wavered, flashed into and out of existence a few times, then held steady. The soft, continuous pulse of its energy made the skin on Thomas’s arms tingle. He was really going to do this. He was really going to walk through that wall of power.

    “All signs are steady,” David announced, looking at the display screen on the control panel. “Sending a test item now.” Then, like a kid standing beside a lake with a skipping stone, he tossed his flashlight through the Flat Trans. A few seconds later, it popped right back out and he caught it. He laughed. “Guess we’re good.”

    “Who wants to go first?” a woman asked. “Thomas, how about you?” She gave him a teasing smile.

    “Actually, yeah.” Not knowing what had come over him, he squared his shoulders and walked straight for the Flat Trans, trying desperately to show no hesitation or fear. He figured if there were any cause for concern, they’d stop him in the few seconds it took to walk from one spot to the other. But no one said a thing. A couple of them let out a whoop. One person clapped.

    Thomas stepped right into the shimmering wall of gray.

    231.12.11 | 9:32 p.m.

    A plane of cold passed over his body, as if he’d stepped into a deep pool of icy water. But then it was over, as quickly as it took to step through any door. Several people waited on the other side, in a room he’d never seen before. Dr. Paige was there, as were Teresa and some others he didn’t know.

    Teresa reached him first, pulling him into the tightest hug he’d ever received.

    “Thank God,” she whispered into his ear. Then she said it again in his mind.

    He returned the hug, feeling so much relief at her warmth that he trembled as he squeezed. He wanted to tell her about his plans for the maze, and this reception confirmed for him that he would do it soon. He’d need her help if he had any chance of pulling them off.

    “It’s okay,” he said back to her. He noticed Dr. Paige looking at both of them like a proud parent. “Nothing bad happened at all. We were totally safe.”

    “I know. I know,” she said, but she didn’t loosen her hold on him.

    “Hey,” he said as gently as he could. “What’s the matter?”

    She finally pulled away from him. “Nothing. Just…having you so far away. Made me nervous.”

    “I missed you too.” A lame response, but he hoped she could see how he felt in his eyes. We need to talk, he said quickly to her mind. Soon.

    “The results of your long-distance monitoring were very positive,” Dr. Paige said before Thomas could explain anything further. She stepped closer, beaming with a smile that looked forced. “Things are going very well overall, in fact. We’re making progress every day.”

    Thomas nodded, his mind racing, thinking, If you only knew. He looked at the unfamiliar surroundings—it seemed like a huge dormitory, but nothing like the barracks at WICKED. He saw brick and plaster and wooden doors.

    “Where are we?” he asked.

    “A new facility outside headquarters,” she replied. “We’ve been pulling in volunteers for more research and needed a place to keep them.”

    Thomas didn’t believe a word of that. Why would they have a Flat Trans linked to the Scorch if this place was meant to house research volunteers? Could it possibly have something to do with Phase Two and the Gladers? Either way, he had to make sure those plans never came to fruition.

    “We have a shuttle heading back to the main complex,” Paige said. “There’s a lot of work to do.” She seemed to focus this on Teresa.

    “How far is it from here?” Thomas asked.

    “Just a few miles by road. Less than two if you cut through the forest.”

    He sighed in relief. “Good. After the Scorch, I really need a walk through air that doesn’t want to bake my lungs. You guys go on ahead—I’ll meet you there.” His legs ached from walking so much already that day, but he really wanted to be alone. And he needed some time to prepare his speech to Teresa.

    “Well…we haven’t had many Crank sightings lately,” Paige answered, considering. “But it’s dark out. I tell you what. Take a Launcher and I’ll let you do it. And one of our guards. No, make that two.”

    Thomas opened his mouth to argue but didn’t bother once he saw her face. It was too much to think she’d let him go alone.

    A few minutes later, with two nameless guards assigned to him, he left the building.

    “We better get moving,” one of the guards said. To his credit, he and his buddy seemed to respect Thomas’s clear wish to be alone, but they’d also been put in charge of his safety. “Getting late.”

    “Is it true that you haven’t had many Cranks around lately?” Thomas asked him, turning his back to the new building, facing the woods and darkness.

    “Yep. I think the ones around here have either died or wandered into the pits. But being dark and cold and all—I just think we should hustle.”

    Thomas liked that the man hadn’t taken on the role of tough-guy guard. At least, not yet. And the other one seemed like a mute. “Okay, sounds good. You guys leading or am I leading?”

    “I’ll be right behind you.” Mr. Talkative held up his Launcher and pointed in the direction of the WICKED complex, somewhere deep in the forest. Thomas had his own Launcher slung across his shoulders with a strap that dug into his neck. “That way I can see you and scan the forest at the same time. Xavier here will scout out ahead. That sound like a plan?”

    Like he had an option. “Of course. Let’s do it.”

    Without a word, the man named Xavier stomped through the brush and into the woods. Shivering suddenly from the chill, Thomas followed, the other guard right behind him.

    A half hour passed, the forest silent and dark. Branches loomed over them, a canopy of countless wooden arms and fingers, barely visible in the starless night. The heavy silence hung in the air, broken only by the soft crunch of their footsteps in the fallen leaves. Thomas aimed the beam of his flashlight out in front him, every once in a while pointing it up and around, terrified he’d see some unworldly creature from a storybook. Yellow eyes, fangs, a ghostly apparition. He was spooked, and wished he’d just taken a ride with Teresa and everyone else.

    An owl hooted so loud that Thomas jumped. Then he laughed, and so did the guard behind him.

    “An owl?” Thomas said. “Seriously? I feel like I’m in a horror movie.”

    “It’s creepy out here,” the man agreed. “Cranks or no Cranks. Kids had plenty of things to have nightmares about before the Flare ever came around.”

    “Yeah.” Thomas searched the branches above him, looking for the owl. Sometimes he forgot that there was an entire animal kingdom out there that didn’t know or care about a disease called the Flare. The culprit was nowhere to be seen. Thomas continued walking.

    The exercise had warmed him up a little, and his legs had loosened from their stiffness. He was relaxing, just feeling better about the day, when he realized he’d lost sight of Xavier up ahead. The man had made a turn around a huge pine tree, but when Thomas rounded the same tree, he couldn’t see the guard.

    “Xavier?” he called.

    No answer, no sign of him anywhere.

    A sudden flurry of footsteps, crashing through the undergrowth, came thundering up behind Thomas. As he whirled around to see what it was, another sound flew through the air. Followed by a squelching, crunching noise.

    And then he saw it.

    The guard at his back had stopped in his tracks and dropped his weapon. Blood dripped out of his mouth. A long branch had been jammed into the side of his neck, its end—drenched in red—coming out the other side. As the man fell to his knees, Thomas saw who’d done it—the person still gripped the end of the makeshift spear with both hands, grinning at his prey, who choked for air.

    The attacker looked up, straight at Thomas.

    It was Randall.

    231.12.11 | 10:47 p.m.

    Randall didn’t look so well.

    There he stood, battered and bruised and filthy, wearing several layers of ripped clothing. His face was crusted with dirt, his eyes were wild, and his hair was a mangled mess—the nightmare visage Thomas had worried about. But this was no storybook.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire