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  • Home > James Dashner > Maze Runner Prequel > The Kill Order (Chapter 9)     
  • The Kill Order(Maze Runner Prequel #0.5)(9) by James Dashner
  • “Malfunction, I guess.” He pulls out his palmphone—he’s not rich enough for one of those fancy wrist things—but strangely, there’s no service. He puts it back in his pocket.

    Soft yellow emergency lights come on, strips that run down the roof of the train. They’re dim but still a welcome relief after the blindness of before. People are standing up all around him, looking up and down the train, whispering furiously to each other. Whispering seems like what you’re supposed to do in such a situation.

    “At least we’re not in a hurry,” Trina says. In a whisper, of course.

    Mark has lost that initial sense of panic. Now all he wants to do is ask her what she meant when she said, “I really would, ya know.” But that moment has been shot down and killed for good. Of all the rotten timing.

    The train shakes. Just a little. Trembling more than anything, like a heavy vibration. But it’s unsettling and people scream again, move about. Mark and Trina exchange a look full of curiosity with a spark of fear.

    Two men stomp over to the exit doors, working to force them apart. They finally slide open and the men jump out onto the walkway that runs the length of the tunnel. Like a bunch of rats fleeing a fire, the rest of the passengers follow them, pushing and shoving and cursing until everyone is out. In a matter of two or three minutes, Mark and Trina are left alone on the subtrans car, the pale lights glowing above them.

    “Not sure that’s really what we should do,” Trina says, for some reason still whispering. “I’m sure this thing will flip back on soon.”

    “Yeah,” Mark says. The train continues to quake slightly, and that’s beginning to worry him more. “I don’t know. Something seems really wrong, actually.”

    “You think we should go?”

    He thinks about it for a second. “Yeah. If we just sit here I might go crazy.”

    “Okay. Maybe you’re right.”

    Mark stands up, as does Trina. They walk to the open doors, then climb out onto the walkway. It’s narrow and has no railing, which makes it seem really dangerous if the trains start again. Emergency lights have come on in the tunnel as well, but they barely do anything to break the almost tangible darkness of a place so far underground.

    “They went that way,” Trina says, pointing to their left. And something in her tone makes Mark think she means they should go in the opposite direction. He agrees with her.

    “So … to the right, then,” he says, giving a nod.

    “Yeah. I don’t want to be near any of those people. Can’t even say why.”

    “Seemed like a mob.”

    “Come on.”

    She pulls him by his arm as she begins walking down the narrow ledge. They both run a hand along the wall, almost leaning into it to make sure they don’t topple onto the tracks. The wall is vibrating, but not as strongly as the train. Maybe whatever caused the power outage has finally begun to calm. Maybe it was just a simple earthquake and everything will be okay.

    They’ve been walking for ten minutes, not saying a word to each other, when they hear the screams up ahead. No. Not just screams. Something beyond screams. Pure terror, like people being slaughtered. Trina stops, turns to look back at Mark. Any doubts—or hopes, rather—vanish.

    Something horrible has happened.

    Mark’s instinct is to turn and run in the opposite direction, but he’s ashamed of himself when Trina opens her mouth and shows how brave she is.

    “We need to get up there, see what’s going on—see if we can help.”

    How can he say no to that? They run, as carefully and as quickly as they can, until they reach the wide platform of a substation. And then they stop. The scene before them is too horrific for Mark’s mind to compute. But he knows that nothing in his life will ever, ever be the same.

    Bodies litter the floor, naked and burned. Screams and cries of pain pierce his eardrums and echo off the walls. People are limping about, arms outstretched, their clothes on fire and their faces half melted like wax. Blood everywhere. And an impossible surge of heat washes through the air, like they’re inside an oven.

    Trina turns, grabs his hand, a look of terror on her face that he thinks may be seared into his mind forever. She pulls him once again, running back to where they came from.

    All the while, he thinks of his parents. His little sister.

    In his mind he sees them burning somewhere. He sees Madison screaming.

    And his heart breaks.

    CHAPTER 9

    “Mark!”

    The vision was gone, but the memory of the tunnel still darkened his mind like some kind of seeping sludge.

    “Mark! Wake up!”

    That was Alec’s voice. No doubt. Yelling at him. Why? What had happened?

    “Wake up, dammit!”

    Mark opened his eyes, blinked against the bright sun breaking through branches high above him. Then Alec’s face appeared, cutting the light off, and he could see more clearly.

    “It’s about time,” the old bear said through an exaggerated sigh. “I was starting to panic, kid.”

    That was when Mark was hit with the bolt of pain in his head—it had just been slower to wake than he had. The pain raged inside his skull, felt as big as his brain. He groaned and put his hands on his forehead, touched the slickness of drying blood.

    “Ow” was all he could say before he groaned again.

    “Yeah, you took quite the hit when we crashed. You’re lucky to be alive. Lucky to have a guardian angel like me to save your hide.”

    Mark thought it might kill him, but he had to do it. Bracing for the agony, he sat up. He blinked back the spots in his vision and waited for the pain in his head and body to subside. Then he looked around.

    They were sitting in a clearing surrounded by trees. Gnarled roots wove their way through pine needles and fallen leaves. About a hundred feet away, the wreckage of the Berg lay cradled between two giant oaks almost as if it had grown there like some sort of giant metal flower. Twisted and bent, it smoldered and smoked, though there was no sign of fire.

    “What happened?” Mark asked, still disoriented.

    “You don’t remember?”

    “Well, not since whatever it was smacked me in the head.”

    Alec threw his hands up in the air. “Not much to it. We crashed and I dragged your butt out here. Then I sat here and watched you roll around like you were having a bad dream. Memories again?”

    All Mark could do was nod. He didn’t want to think about it.

    “I rummaged around in the Berg as much as I could,” Alec said, changing the subject. Mark appreciated him not digging any further. “But the smoke from the engines got to be too much. Once you can walk around without going eyeball up, I want to search some more. I’ll find out who these people are—and why they did what they did—if it’s the last thing I do.”

    “Okay,” Mark answered. Then a thought hit him, followed by a surge of alarm. “What about that virus stuff we saw? What if the containers and darts were broken and it’s all over the place now?”

    Alec held a hand out and patted Mark’s chest. “I know, I know. Don’t worry. Had to go through that hatch room to get out and saw the boxes—still sealed and safe.”

    “Well … how does a virus work? I mean … is there a chance we caught it? Would we be able to tell?” He didn’t like the uncertainty. “What kind of virus do you think it is, anyway?”

    Alec let out a small chuckle. “Son, those are a lot of good questions that I don’t have answers to. We’ll just have to ask our expert when we get back. Maybe Lana’s heard of that strain before. But my guess is unless you get a bad case of the sniffles, I wouldn’t worry too much about it. Remember, it knocked the others out immediately and you’re still standing.”

    The words from the box flashed through Mark’s head and he tried to relax. Highly Contagious. “I’ll keep that in mind,” he said warily. “How far from the settlement do you think we flew?”

    “No idea. Might be a pretty piece gettin’ back, but not too bad.”

    Mark lay back down on the ground and closed his eyes, put his arm over them. “Just give me a few minutes. Then I think we should search the ship. Who knows what we might find.”

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire