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  • Home > James Dashner > Maze Runner Prequel > The Kill Order (Chapter 23)     
  • The Kill Order(Maze Runner Prequel #0.5)(23) by James Dashner
  • He turned to face the man and had to restrain himself to keep his voice low. “You scared the crap out of me.”

    “Sorry. Look, I have a bad feeling about these people. Whether they’re a threat or not—the people at this bunker we’re headed for have surely noticed them by now and are going to be on high alert.”

    Mark wondered if maybe that would be a good thing. “But if they’re a distraction, it’ll be easier for us to sneak up on the place. Don’t you think?”

    Alec seemed to consider his words. “Yeah, I guess. We should probably—”

    “Who’s up there?”

    Mark froze, as did Alec. They stared at each other with open mouths now. Mark could see the light from below flickering in the reflection in Alec’s eyes.

    “I said who’s up there?” It was a woman, calling from the group at the fire. “We mean you no harm. We just want to invite you to join us in our praises to nature and the spirits.”

    “Hoo boy,” Alec whispered. “I think not.”

    “I definitely think not,” Mark said back.

    There was the crunch of footsteps and before they could do anything two people were standing over them. Their backs were to the fire, so Mark couldn’t make out their faces. But it looked to be a man and a woman.

    “You’re welcome to dance and sing with us,” the woman said. Her tone seemed way too … calm for the circumstances. In this new world, strangers should be met with more caution.

    Alec stood up straight—there was no point in crouching there like kids spying—and Mark did the same. Alec folded his arms and stuck his chest out like a bear trying to defend its territory.

    “Look,” he began with his typical bark, “I’m flattered you came here with an invite, but we’ll have to respectfully decline. No hard feelings, I’m sure.”

    Mark grimaced, thinking these two people were far too unpredictable—maybe even unstable—to risk being sarcastic or rude to them. He wished he could see their faces for a reaction, but they were still hidden in shadow.

    “Why are you here?” the man asked, as if he hadn’t heard the comments from Alec. “Why are you here, spying on us? I would think you’d be honored that we offered an invitation.”

    Alec sucked in a short breath, and Mark sensed him tensing up.

    “We were curious,” Alec said evenly.

    “Why did you leave Deedee behind?” Mark suddenly blurted out, having no idea where it came from. He didn’t even know for sure if these people really were from the same village or not. “She’s just a little girl. Why did you leave her behind like a dog?”

    The woman didn’t answer his question. “I have a bad feeling about both of you,” she replied. “And we can take no chances. Seize them.”

    Before Mark could process her words, there was a rope around his neck, cinched tightly, yanking him off his feet. He croaked and threw his hands up to try to relieve the pressure as he fell on his back and the wind was knocked out of his lungs. Alec had been restrained the same way; Mark could hear him cursing through his choking sounds. Mark kicked and twisted his body, trying to turn and face his attacker, but strong hands gripped him under the arms and yanked him off the ground.

    They started dragging him down the slope of the mountain.

    Toward the fire.

    CHAPTER 24

    Mark finally stopped struggling when someone punched him in the face, sending a burst of pain through his cheek. The effort to escape was pointless, he realized. He relaxed and let them drag him wherever it was they wanted to take him. He saw Alec struggling against two large men and watched as they tightened the rope further around his neck. The old man’s choking sounds made Mark’s heart want to break open.

    “Stop it!” he yelled. “Alec, just stop! They’re going to kill you!”

    Of course the old bear paid no attention, just kept fighting.

    Eventually they were dragged into the clearing where the fire still roared. Even as Mark saw it he noticed a woman step up and throw two more logs on top of the inferno. It flared and spit out glowing red sparks. His captor dragged him around the bonfire and dumped him in front of the two rows of people. They stopped chanting, and all their eyes focused on Mark and Alec.

    He coughed and spit, his neck burning from the rope, then tried to sit up. A tall man—probably the guy who’d dragged him down there—put his big boot on Mark’s chest and pressed him back to the ground.

    “Stay down,” he said. Not angry or upset; he just said it matter-of-factly, like he didn’t think Mark would even consider disobeying.

    It had taken two men to bring Alec down the mountain, and Mark was shocked they’d succeeded even then. They dumped him next to Mark. The soldier grunted and groaned but didn’t resist because they still had the other end of the rope that was tied around his neck. He went into a long coughing fit, then spit a wad of blood into the dirt.

    “Why are you doing this?” Mark asked no one in particular. He lay flat on his back and stared up at the canopy of branches and the reflection of the flames on the leaves. “We’re not here to hurt you guys. We just want to know who you are, what you’re doing!”

    “That’s why you asked about Deedee?”

    He looked and saw a woman standing a few feet away. By the shape of her body he could tell it was the lady who’d spoke to them higher on the mountain.

    Mark was incredulous at her lack of emotion. “So it was you who left her. Why? And why are we prisoners now? We just want some answers!”

    Alec suddenly burst into a flurry of movement, grabbing the rope and pulling it as he leapt to his feet. It came loose from the men holding it and Alec jumped at them, hurtling forward with his shoulder out like a battering ram. He slammed into the side of one of the men, tackling him to the ground. They landed with a heavy thump and Alec punched away, landing a couple of shots before two other men were on him, jerking him off the guy’s body. Another one came in as well, and between the three of them they were able to throw Alec on his back, pin his arms and legs down. The guy he’d tackled scrambled to his feet and came at the old man, kicked him in the ribs three times in a row.

    “Stop it!” Mark yelled. “Stop it!”

    He jerked on his own rope and started to get up, but the boot came back, slamming him into the dirt once again.

    “Do not, I repeat, do not move again,” his captor said, once more using that flat monotone.

    The others were still punching and kicking Alec, but the former soldier refused to give in, struggling to fight back despite his odds.

    “Alec,” Mark pleaded. “You need to stop or they’re really going to kill you. What good will you be to us if you’re dead?”

    The words finally got through the man’s thick, stubborn skull. He stilled, then slowly curled into a ball, his face set in a fierce grimace of pain.

    Almost shaking with rage, Mark turned his attention back to the woman, who was just standing there, watching it all with that maddening lack of emotion.

    “Who are you people?” he asked. It was all he could get out, but he tried to inject as much anger as he could into the words.

    The woman stared at him for a few seconds before answering. “You are unwelcome intruders. And now you’ll tell me about Deedee. Is the girl with you? At your camp somewhere?”

    “Why do you care? You left her behind! What, are you scared she’s going to sneak into your camp and make you all sick? She’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with her!”

    “We have our reasons,” the woman replied. “The spirits speak and we follow their orders. Since the rain of demons from the sky, we’ve left our village, seeking holier places. Many of our people broke away, refused to join us. They’re out there somewhere, probably scheming with the demons themselves. Perhaps you are a spy for them.”

    Mark couldn’t believe the absurd words coming out of this lady’s mouth. “You’d leave a sweet little girl to die because she might be sick? No wonder the other people from your village didn’t stick with you.”

    The woman looked genuinely confused. “Listen, boy. The others are much more dangerous than we are—they attack without warning, kill without conscience. The world is beset with evil in many forms. And we can take no risks, especially since you invoked the name of Deedee. You are prisoners, and you’ll be dealt with. To release you would risk alerting those who wish us harm.”

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire