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  • Home > James Dashner > Maze Runner Prequel > The Fever Code (Chapter 55)     
  • The Fever Code(Maze Runner Prequel #0.6)(55) by James Dashner
  • “Randall,” Thomas whispered, as if pleading for the person who used to be Randall to come back. But that man was no more. The Crank standing before him had passed the Gone a long time ago.

    Randall said something unintelligible, then wrenched the spear out of the guard’s neck, letting the man finally tumble to the ground, the life drained out of him. He lay still, blood pooling on a bed of pine needles.

    “Xavier!” Thomas yelled. Still no answer.

    Trying not to make any sudden movements, he reached for his Launcher, slowly settled it in both hands, placed his finger on the trigger. Randall stood there looking at the gore on his own weapon as if he was pondering licking it clean. Then he looked back at Thomas.

    “Once upon a time,” the Crank said, his words slurred but understandable this time, “I was a tasty treat. Tasty as can be.”

    In a blur of movement, Randall sprinted for the trees, disappearing into the darkness before Thomas could do anything. He aimed the Launcher in that direction, pulled the trigger, heard the charge and the shot. But the grenade hit a tree and exploded in a burst of electricity. When it died out, complete silence enveloped the woods. No sight or sound of the Crank.

    Thomas gripped his weapon so hard it hurt his fingers. Holding it out in front of him, he spun in a slow circle, searching the darkness between the trees. He’d dropped his flashlight and now picked it up, shut it off. He didn’t want to be a sitting duck and he didn’t want his eyesight to be worthless. Anxious for his eyes to grow accustomed to the dark, he continued turning slowly around and around, finger itching to pull the trigger again.

    He couldn’t believe Randall was still alive. How had he survived out here? Survival aside, it seemed impossible that the disease itself hadn’t killed him yet. The Flare didn’t just drive you crazy; eventually it shut your brain down altogether.

    He thought of the guards then. A wave of sadness and guilt crashed over him. The men were dead because Thomas needed to take a walk, like some overprivileged spoiled brat. More lives on his hands. How many more would there be?

    His foot came down on a branch, broke it. The crack echoed through the night and he froze. His eyes had indeed gotten used to the darkness, the trees almost seeming to glow, their many branches silhouetted against the sky. Thomas didn’t see anything out of the ordinary, but he was certain Randall hadn’t gone far—his retreat would have made more noise. The Crank was close, probably following him.

    Then Thomas remembered.

    Teresa! he called out. Teresa! Randall attacked us. He killed the guards. I don’t know what to do. How can he possib—

    Tom! Her response cut him off. Where are you? Paige says she’ll send someone out. Do you still have your Launcher?

    Yeah.

    Just stay there. Don’t try to make it back. Someone will be there soon.

    Thomas thought he heard a noise to his left, swung his weapon toward it. Saw nothing.

    Tom?

    Yeah, okay. I’ll just keep turning in circles until I puke. Hurry.

    Keep talking to me.

    No, he replied. I need to stay focused. I know he’s close.

    Fine, but call out to me the second something happens.

    I will.

    The dark forest loomed over him, seeming almost to float, the trees uprooted from the ground, stretching out. His senses started to play tricks on him. He kept seeing something out of the corner of his eye, kept thinking his own breaths were someone else’s. Finally he broke.

    “Randall!” he yelled. “They’re coming! They know we’re here!”

    No response. He didn’t know why he’d called out—Randall had no more capacity to reason than one of the trees surrounding him. His eyes had shown him past the Gone like no other Crank Thomas had ever seen.

    “I miss the tasty treats.”

    Thomas sucked in a breath. Randall spoke quietly, yet his words seemed to boom through the air. Thomas swung left, then right, then turned in a complete circle, his weapon held out before him.

    “Randall!” he screamed.

    Then something hit him, forcing the air from his lungs. It was on top of him, pressing his head and neck in a weird direction, driving pain like nails through his tendons and muscles. To protect himself he collapsed to the ground. He lost his grip on the Launcher. The strap dug into his neck as he reached for whatever had attacked him, and fingers found wet skin and greasy hair.

    “Tasty,” Randall’s voice whispered directly into his ear.

    Thomas screamed, twisting his body, struggling to get out from under the monster pinning him down. An arm slipped around his face, covering his mouth in the crook of an elbow. It smelled of sweat and rot; Thomas gagged. Randall squeezed, cutting off Thomas’s air. He managed to get his mouth open, bite down with all the might of his jaws. An acrid, sour taste filled his mouth.

    Randall roared, a horrible sound that was far from human. He loosened his grip just enough that Thomas could twist out of the man’s hold, throwing elbows wildly, connecting with a couple. The Crank staggered backward as Thomas struggled to his feet, panic transformed to sheer adrenaline. He grappled for his Launcher, which had flipped all the way onto his back. He grabbed it, slung it around to the front of his body, got it in position.

    He almost had it when the Crank charged him, scuttling across the leafy ground like a monstrous spider, leaping at the last second to crash into Thomas’s chest. It slammed the hard edge of the Launcher into his sternum, knocking the wind from his lungs again, and he fell to the ground, the Crank on top of him. Randall started pounding on Thomas with both fists like some rampaging gorilla, shrieking with every punch.

    Thomas couldn’t fight back against the wild creature attacking him. He thought of Chuck and Teresa and Alby and Minho and Newt. If he died now, he’d never have the chance to save them.

    He forced himself to relax and focus. He closed his eyes and gathered his strength. As Thomas stilled, the blows had slowed. He took his opportunity. He lashed out with his right hand and grabbed Randall by the ear, twisted, and yanked the Crank’s head to the side. Randall lost his balance just enough that Thomas could thrust his chest out and kick him away. He jumped to his feet, backed up as he fumbled for his Launcher, got it, found the trigger, pressed it.

    The static sound of its charge filled the forest as Randall ran at him once again. But a grenade hit the Crank’s chest, throwing him to the ground, and tendrils of white heat danced across his body as he convulsed on the ground, shrieking in agony.

    Thomas ran to him, held up his Launcher like a club. He slammed it down into the face of the man who’d once been Randall. A sickening crunch cut off the Crank’s inhuman yells. Now the thing’s body twitched in a different way, as if its internal communication system had shorted out.

    Thomas, heaving every breath, lifted his Launcher one more time and brought it down with all the strength left in him.

    This time, the Crank went completely still.

    Teresa found him kneeling next to the dead body, staring down at it, transfixed. A man he’d once known, a man he’d never really liked. Never liked at all, actually. But no one deserved an ending like that. No one.

    She practically had to carry him to the transport. He was as dazed mentally as physically. Spent in every way. He planned to sleep for a week.

    Teresa, he said with his mind on the way back to the complex.

    Yeah?

    After a long pause, he finally said it.

    They’ll never find a cure.

    231.12.13 | 6:11 a.m.

    Thomas woke up before his alarm went off. He didn’t want to wake Teresa before she got a full night’s rest, so he forced himself to wait. He inspected his body, gingerly touching each bandaged spot in turn, wincing as he did. Time ticked by at a snail’s pace.

    He’d given himself a full day to recover, gather his thoughts, and make a precise plan to convince Teresa. And with every passing minute, his resolve had strengthened.

    The kicker had come in a conversation he’d overheard in the infirmary yesterday. Something about “bulb creatures.” Thomas didn’t hear much, but he was pretty sure it had something to do with the weird, glowing vats filled with veiny limbs and tumorous growths he and Newt had seen in the R&D lab. Creepy as hell.

    Yet more evidence of what he already knew—WICKED would never stop.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire