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  • Home > James Dashner > Maze Runner Prequel > The Kill Order (Chapter 21)     
  • The Kill Order(Maze Runner Prequel #0.5)(21) by James Dashner
  • “I know, I know. Me too.”

    He reached out and patted her on the knee, which seemed stupid in that situation, but Alec and Lana were just returning from getting fresh water from the stream.

    “How’s she doing?” he asked Trina, shooting a glance at Deedee.

    “Really well, I think. She hasn’t opened up yet about much, but at least she seems comfortable around me. I can’t imagine the terror that poor thing was going through after she was left behind.”

    That stirred up the anger once again inside Mark. “How could they? I mean … what kind of losers …”

    Trina nodded. “Yeah … but I don’t know. Desperate times and all that.”

    “Yeah, but she can’t be more than four years old!” He was doing that combination of whispering and shouting at the same time. He didn’t want Deedee to hear, but he couldn’t help it. It made him so angry.

    “I know,” Trina said softly. “I know.”

    Lana stepped up to them, her eyes showing that she understood how he felt.

    “We better get on the road,” she said. “We’ll figure things out.”

    The day dragged and dragged.

    At first Mark was wary of the people from Deedee’s village, still worried about the direction she’d pointed when they’d asked her where they went. If the girl had been right, that meant they were out here somewhere, doing who knew what. He had no real reason to fear them—they were just people like anyone else. Running from an attack, running from a disease. There was just something ominous about the way Deedee had spoken of them. And he could see so clearly in his mind her pointing at her wound with such an accusatory glare. It all unsettled him.

    After a few hours of not seeing any sign of them, he relaxed into the drudgery of walking, walking and then more walking. Through the forest, crossing streams and pushing through the brush. Wondering if there was any purpose in going to this place they sought.

    It was midafternoon and they’d stopped for a break. They were eating granola bars and drinking water from a nearby river. Mark thought constantly about how there was one thing they always had. Plenty of water sources. At least there was that.

    “We’re getting close,” Alec said as he ate. “We might have to be more careful—they could have guards surrounding the place. I bet there’s a lot of people who’d like to have a nice bunker or whatever it is as their new digs. I bet the place was packed with food for emergencies.”

    “We sure did have an emergency,” Lana muttered. “Whoever these people are, they better have some good explanations.”

    Alec took another bite and pushed it to the side of his mouth. “That’s the spirit.”

    “Do they not teach manners in the army?” Trina asked. “You know, it’s just as easy to take a bite after you say something as right before it.”

    Alec chomped on his bar. “It is?” He croaked a laugh and little pieces of granola shot out. Which made him roar even harder. He choked out a cough, composed himself, then was laughing all over again.

    It was such a rare sight to see Alec acting like this, Mark didn’t know how to respond at first. But then he soaked it in, chuckling right along even though he’d forgotten what was funny in the first place. Trina had a smile on her face, and little Deedee was giggling heartily. The sound of it filled Mark up and washed away the doldrums.

    “You’d think someone farted, the way you’re all getting on,” Lana said with a deadpan look.

    That sent everyone into an even bigger fit that went on for several minutes, resparked every time it began to die down by Alec making gassy noises. Mark laughed until his face hurt and he tried his best to stop smiling, which made him laugh even harder.

    Finally it did settle down, ending with one big sigh from the former soldier. Then he stood up.

    “I feel like I could run twenty miles,” he said. “Let’s get moving.”

    As they headed off, Mark realized that the dream from the night before seemed like a distant memory again.

    CHAPTER 22

    Alec and Lana were much more cautious during the next part of their journey, stopping every fifteen minutes or so to listen intently, looking for telltale signs of guards or traps, keeping more to the cover of the trees whenever possible.

    The sun was sinking, maybe two hours from fully setting, when Alec stopped and had everyone huddle around him. At some point it seemed like the two adults had decided to stop worrying about people keeping their distance from each other. They were all in a small clearing completely surrounded by thick oak trees and towering pines—older ones that hadn’t been completely consumed by the sun flares—standing on dry, brittle undergrowth. The clearing was in a little valley between two midsized hills. Mark was still in a good mood and was curious about what the older man had planned.

    “I’ve tried to do this as little as possible,” Alec said, “but it’s time to look at the workpad and make sure my scribbled map is still accurate. Let’s hope my aging brain hasn’t failed us.”

    “Yes,” Lana added. “Let’s hope we’re not in Canada or Mexico by now.”

    “Very funny.”

    Alec powered on the device and pulled up the maps feature, finding the one that had the Berg’s voyages documented, all the lines converging in one spot. He also retrieved his compass. While everyone else stayed quiet and observed, he spent a minute or so studying the workpad, running his finger this way and that, comparing it to his handwritten copy, pausing every once in a while to close his eyes and think. Mark thought he was probably retracing their path in his mind, trying to match it to what he was reading on the maps. Finally he stood up and turned in a full circle, looking up at the sun, then checking his compass.

    “Yep,” he grumbled. “Yep, yep.”

    Then he crouched back down and studied the maps for another full minute, making some small changes to the paper version. Mark was getting impatient, mainly worried that the man had concluded they were way off course. But his next words put that to rest.

    “Oh, I’m good. Seriously, after all these years, you’d think I would stop amazing myself. But here I am, still doing it.”

    “Oh, brother,” Lana moaned.

    Alec tapped the map just to the left of the spot that marked the center of the Berg routes on the workpad screen. “Unless I’ve got that virus eating my brain and don’t know what I’m talking about, we’re standing right here. Probably five miles from the place this Berg parks every night.”

    “Are you sure?” Trina asked.

    “I know how to read maps and I know how to read the lay of the land. And I know how to read a compass and the sun. All these mountains and hills and valleys may seem exactly the same to your pretty little eyes, but trust me. They aren’t. And look here.” He pointed to a dot on the map. “That’s Asheville, just a few miles east. We’re close. I think the next few days could be very interesting.”

    Mark had a feeling his good mood wouldn’t last much longer.

    They moved about a mile closer, heading deep into one of the thickest areas of woods they’d crossed yet. Alec wanted the cover in case the people they were planning to confront sent canvassers out at night. They settled in, had a quick dinner, then sat around an empty spot in their tight quarters—no fire for fear of being seen. There’d be no chances taken of being discovered so close to the Berg’s headquarters.

    So they sat in a circle, staring at each other as the light faded into dusk and the crickets began chirping out in the forest. Mark asked about plans for the next day but Alec insisted they weren’t ready yet. He wanted to think, then talk things through with Lana before laying it out for the others.

    “You don’t think we can contribute?” Trina asked.

    “Eventually,” he responded gruffly. And that was that.

    Trina let out an exaggerated sigh. “Just when you started getting likable again.”

    “Yeah, well.” He leaned back against a tree and closed his eyes. “Now let me use my brain for a while.”

    Trina looked to Mark for consolation, but he just smiled in return. He’d gotten used to the old bear’s ways a long time ago. Plus, he kind of agreed with him. Mark didn’t know the first thing about what they should do in the morning. How were they going to gather information from a place—and people—they knew nothing about?

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire