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  • Home > James Dashner > Maze Runner Prequel > The Kill Order (Chapter 10)     
  • The Kill Order(Maze Runner Prequel #0.5)(10) by James Dashner
  • “You got it.”

    Half an hour later, Mark was back inside the Berg, kicking through debris, only now he was walking on a wall instead of the grated floor.

    The Berg being on its side was disorienting—it played tricks on his mind and upset his already queasy stomach and throbbing head—but he was as determined as Alec to find something to tell them who the Berg belonged to. They were obviously no longer safe in their little mountain abode.

    The biggest score would’ve been the computer systems, but Alec had tried that route to no avail. They were shut down, dead. Though odds were that he and Alec would find a portable phone or workpad somewhere in the wreckage—and if they got lucky it wouldn’t be broken. It had been an age since Mark had seen technology like that. After the flares struck they’d been left with only whatever they had that hadn’t fried, and batteries only lasted so long. But if you had a Berg, chances were you probably had batteries, too.

    A Berg. He was inside a Berg. It was all really starting to hit him how much his world had changed in just over a year. At one time, seeing a Berg had been as exciting as seeing a tree. And just yesterday he would’ve guessed he’d never see one again. Now here he was rummaging through one that he’d helped wreck, looking for secrets. It was exciting even though all he’d seen so far was garbage, clothes, broken ship parts and more garbage.

    And then he struck gold. A fully functioning workpad. It was on; the bright display was what caught Mark’s eye. It was lodged between a mattress and the bottom of a bunk in one of the small cabins. He turned it off as soon as he pulled it out—if the battery drained on the sucker, there’d be no way to recharge it.

    He found Alec in a different cabin, leaning over a personal trunk, cursing as he tried to break into it.

    “Hey, lookie what I got,” Mark announced proudly, holding up the workpad for the man to see. “What about you?”

    Alec had straightened, his eyes lighting up at the discovery. “I didn’t find a damn thing and I’m just about fed up trying. Let’s go have a look-see at that.”

    “I’m worried about the battery running out,” Mark said.

    “Yeah, well, all the more reason to study it now, don’t ya think?”

    “Let’s do it outside, then. I’m sick of this hunk of junk.”

    Mark and Alec huddled over the workpad together, sitting under the shade of a tree as the sun continued to trudge its way across the sky. Mark swore that time slowed down when that thing was up there, beating down on them with its abnormally powerful rays. He had to keep wiping the sweat off his hands as he controlled the screen functions of the workpad.

    Workpad. It seemed anything but. Games, books, old news programs that predated the sun flares. There was a personal journal that could provide a ton of interesting information if it had been updated recently. But there wasn’t much work-related stuff on the device.

    Until they finally found the mapping feature. It obviously wasn’t functioning from the old GPS satellites—they’d all been destroyed in the radiation holocaust of the sun flares. But it seemed to have a link to a tracer on the Berg, maybe controlled by old-school radar or other shortwave technology. And there was a log of every trip the now ruined ship had taken.

    “Look at that,” Alec said, pointing to a spot on the map. Every line tracking the Berg’s flights returned to it eventually. “That’s obviously their headquarters or base or whatever you want to call it. And judging by the coordinates and what I know about this ridge of hills we call home, it can’t be more than fifty or sixty miles away.”

    “Maybe it’s an old military base,” Mark offered.

    Alec thought about it. “A bunker, maybe. Having something like that would make sense up in the mountains. And we’re going there, boy. Sooner rather than later.”

    “Right now?” Mark knew his brain was still jumbled up from being hit during the crash, but surely the old man didn’t want to hike all that way before going back to the settlement.

    “No, not right now. We need to get home and sort out what happened there. See if Darnell’s okay. And the others.”

    Mark’s heart sank at the mention of Darnell. “You know what we saw on that Berg? The boxes of darts? There’s no way those people went to all that trouble to do a flyby flu ambush.”

    “You’re right. I hate it, but you’re right, kid. I don’t expect much good news upon our grand return. But we need to get our butts there all the same. So come on.”

    Alec stood up and Mark followed suit, slipping the workpad into the back of his pants. He’d rather return to the village than search for a bunker any day.

    They set off, Mark’s head still woozy and achy. But the farther they went, and the more his pulse quickened, the better he felt. Trees and sun and bushes and roots, squirrels and bugs and snakes. The air was warm but fresh, smelling like sap and burnt toast, filling his lungs.

    The Berg had taken them a lot farther from home than they’d thought, and they ended up camping in the woods for two nights, resting just long enough to feel strong again. Small game hunted by Alec and his knife provided their only food. They finally got close to the settlement in the late afternoon of the third day after the Berg attack.

    Mark and the old soldier were about a mile away from the village when the stench of death hit them like a fresh wave of unbearable heat.

    CHAPTER 10

    The sun was just a few hours from setting when they arrived at the base of the hill below the outlying shacks and huts.

    Mark had ripped a wide strip of cloth from the bottom of his shirt to wrap around his nose and mouth. He pressed his hand against it as they came up the last rise before the village. The smell was awful. He could taste it on his tongue—dank, rotten, moldy—all the way to his stomach, as if he’d swallowed something that had begun to decompose. Fighting the urge to throw up, he took one step after another, breathlessly waiting to see what horrors lay in the aftermath of the attack.

    Darnell.

    Mark had no expectations there, had accepted, with a heavy heart, that his friend might be dead. But what about Trina? Lana? Misty and the Toad? Were they alive? Or sick from some crazy virus? He stopped when Alec reached a hand out and touched Mark’s chest.

    “Okay, listen to me,” the old man said, his voice muffled behind his own swath of fabric. “We need to set some things straight before we get up there. We can’t let our emotions rule everything. No matter what we see, our number one priority has to be saving as many people as possible.”

    Mark nodded, then moved to resume walking, but Alec stopped him.

    “Mark, I need to know we’re on the same page here.” Alec spoke with a stern scowl—a look that reminded Mark of an upset schoolteacher. “If we go up there and start hugging people and crying and attempting things that make no sense with people who have no chance—all because we’re distraught … it’ll just hurt more folks in the long run. You understand? We need to think long-term. And as selfish as it sounds, we need to protect ourselves first. You get me? Ourselves. Saving the most people means we can’t help anybody if we’re dead.”

    Mark looked him in the eyes and saw something rock hard in them. He knew Alec was right. With the workpad, the map and the things they knew about the people on the Berg, it was clear there was something bigger going on.

    “Mark?” Alec said, snapping his fingers to get the boy’s attention. “Talk to me, buddy.”

    “So what’re you saying?” Mark asked him. “If people look sick—if those darts really made people sick—stay away from them?”

    Alec took a step back, his face pinched with an expression Mark didn’t quite get. “When you say it like that, it doesn’t sound so brotherly, but you’re dead-on. We can’t risk getting sick, Mark. We don’t know what we’re going to find up there—what we’re dealing with. I’m just saying that we need to be prepared … and if there’s any doubt about someone …”

    “Leave them behind to be eaten by animals,” Mark said with a coldness that he hoped would hurt Alec.

    The former soldier just shook his head. “We don’t even know what to expect, boy. Let’s just get up there and see what we see. Find our friends. But don’t be stupid, that’s all I’m saying. Don’t get close to anyone, certainly don’t touch anyone. Keep that cloth wrapped around your pretty little head. Do you understand?”

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire