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  • Home > James Dashner > Maze Runner Prequel > The Kill Order (Chapter 4)     
  • The Kill Order(Maze Runner Prequel #0.5)(4) by James Dashner
  • No one said a word until they were all outside, the bright morning sun beating down. Mark squinted, hand shielding the glare, as he searched the sky for the source of the noise.

    “It’s a Berg,” the Toad announced needlessly. “What the …”

    It was the first time Mark had seen one of the enormous airships since the sun flares happened, and the sight of it was jolting. He couldn’t think of any reason a Berg—one that had survived the disaster—would have to come flying through the mountains. But there it was, big and shiny and round, blue thrusters burning hot and loud as it lowered toward the middle of the settlement.

    “What’s it doing here?” Trina asked as their little group jogged through the cramped alleys of the village, following the path of the Berg. “They’ve always left supplies in the bigger settlements, like Asheville.”

    “Maybe …,” Misty began. “Maybe they’re rescuing us or something? Taking us somewhere else?”

    “No way,” Darnell scoffed. “They would’ve done that a long time ago.”

    Mark didn’t say anything as he ran along at the back of the group, still a bit stunned by the sudden appearance of the huge Berg. The others kept referencing some mysterious they, even though no one knew who they were. There’d been signs and rumors that some kind of central government was organizing itself, but no news that was even close to reliable. And certainly no official contact yet. It was true that supplies and food had been brought to the camps around Asheville, and the people there usually shared with the outlying settlements.

    The Berg stopped up ahead, its blue thrusters pointing downward now as it hovered fifty feet or so above the Town Square, a roughly square-shaped area they’d left bare when building the settlement. The group picked up their pace and arrived in the Square to find that a crowd had already gathered, the people gawking up at the flying machine as if it were a mythical beast. With its roar and its dazzling display of blue light, it almost seemed so. Especially after such a long time since they’d seen any signs of advanced technology.

    Most of the crowd had gathered in the center of the Square, their faces pictures of expectation and excitement. Like they’d all jumped to the same conclusion as Misty—that the Berg was here for rescue, or at least some spot of good news. Mark was wary, though. After the year he’d just been through, he’d been taught many times over to never get his hopes up.

    Trina pulled on his sleeve, then leaned in to talk to him. “What’s it doing? There’s not enough room here for it to land.”

    “I don’t know. There aren’t any markings or anything to say whose Berg it is or where it came from.”

    Alec was close and somehow overheard their conversation over the burning snarl of the thrusters. Probably with his superpowered soldier hearing. “They say the ones that drop off supplies in Asheville have PFC painted in big letters on the side. Post-Flares Coalition.” He was practically shouting. “Seems strange that this one has nothing on it.”

    Mark shrugged back at him, not sure Alec’s information really meant anything. He realized he was sort of in a daze. He looked back up, wondered who could possibly be inside the vessel and what their purpose might be. Trina squeezed his hand and he squeezed hers back. They were both sweating.

    “Maybe it’s God inside,” the Toad said in a high-pitched voice—it always came out that way when he shouted. “Come to say he’s sorry for all the sun flare business.”

    Out of the corner of his eye, Mark noticed Darnell taking in a breath, his mouth opening, probably to say something smart and funny back at the Toad. But the action was cut off by a loud wrenching sound from above, followed by the groan and squeal of hydraulics. Mark watched in fascination as a large, square-shaped hatch on the bottom of the Berg began to open, pivoting on hinges to lower like a ramp. It was dark inside, and little wisps of mist came swirling out as the gap grew wider.

    Gasps and shouts rippled throughout the crowd; hands raised and fingers pointed upward. Mark tore his gaze from the Berg for a moment to take everything in, struck by the sense of awe surrounding him. They’d become a desperate, desperate people, living each day with the weighty feeling that the next one could be their last. And here they all were, looking toward the sky as if the Toad’s joke had been more than that. There was a longing in many of the eyes he saw, like people truly thought they were being saved by some divine power. It made Mark feel a little sick.

    A fresh wave of gasps spilled through the Square, and Mark snapped his head to look up again. Five people had emerged from the darkness of the Berg, dressed in outfits that sent a chill racing down Mark’s spinal cord. Green and rubbery and bulky—one-piece suits that covered the strangers from head to toe. The suits had clear visors in the headpiece through which the wearers could see, but the glare and distance made it impossible for Mark to make out their faces. They stepped carefully in big black boots pulled up over the green material until the five of them lined the outer edge of the lowered hatch door, their tense body language showing the effort it took to maintain balance.

    Each of them held a black tube in their hands as if it were a gun.

    But the tubes didn’t look like any guns Mark had ever seen. They were thin and long, with an attachment at the end that made them resemble plumbing parts someone had ripped out of an industrial pump. And once the strangers settled into their positions, they held up the tubelike things and aimed them directly at the people below.

    Mark realized that Alec was screaming at the top of his lungs, pushing and shoving people to move them away. Everything around them was erupting in chaos—shouts and panic—yet Mark had fallen into a trance, watching the strangers with their odd outfits and their menacing weapons come out of the Berg as everyone else in the crowd finally woke up to the fact that these people weren’t there to save anyone. What had happened to the Mark who could act fast? Who had survived the year of hell after the flares ravaged the earth?

    He was still frozen, watching, as the first shot was fired from above. A blur of movement, a quick flash of something dark and small and fast bursting from one of those tubes. Mark’s eyes followed the trajectory. He heard a sickening thunk, his head twisting to the side just in time to see that Darnell had a five-inch-long dart sticking out of his shoulder, its thin metal shaft planted deep within the muscle. Blood trickled down from the wound. The boy made a strange grunt as he collapsed to the ground.

    That finally snapped Mark out of it.

    CHAPTER 4

    Screams tore through the air as panicked people fled in every direction. Mark bent down, grabbing Darnell by hooking his elbows under the boy’s arms. The sound of flying darts cutting through the air to his left and right, finding targets, urged him to hurry, erasing any other thoughts from his mind.

    Mark pulled on Darnell, dragging his body along the ground. Trina had fallen but Lana was there, helping her up. Both of them ran over to help, each grabbing one of Darnell’s feet. With synchronized grunts they hefted him up and moved away from the Square, away from the open space. It was a miracle no one else in their little group had been struck by a dart.

    Swish, swish, swish. Thunk, thunk, thunk. Screams and bodies falling.

    The projectiles kept coming, landing all around them, and Mark and Trina and Lana shuffled as quickly as they could, awkwardly carrying Darnell between them. They passed behind a group of trees—Mark heard a few hard thunks as darts buried themselves in the branches and trunks—then they were in the open again. They hurried across a small clearing and into an alley between several haphazardly built log cabins. There were people everywhere, knocking frantically on doors, jumping through open windows.

    Then Mark heard the roar of the thrusters and a warm wind blew across his face. The roar grew louder, the wind stronger. He looked up, following the noise, to see that the Berg had shifted position, pursuing the fleeing crowds. He saw the Toad and Misty. They were urging people to hurry, their shouts lost in the Berg’s blast.

    Mark didn’t know what to do. Finding shelter was the best bet, but there were too many people trying to do the same thing and joining the chaos with Darnell in tow would only get them trampled. The Berg stopped again, and once more the strangers in their odd suits lifted their weapons and opened fire.

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