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  • Home > James Dashner > Maze Runner Prequel > The Kill Order (Chapter 27)     
  • The Kill Order(Maze Runner Prequel #0.5)(27) by James Dashner
  • Mark looked around and saw nothing that distinguished that part of the woods. “How do you know? All I see is a bunch of trees.”

    “Just because I know.”

    Strange noises filled the night, mixed in with the steady roar of the fire. Screams and laughter. It was impossible to tell which direction they were coming from.

    “Looks like those crazy buggers are still runnin’ around looking for trouble,” Alec said through a groan.

    “Crazy buggers is right—I was hoping they’d all die in the fire.” Mark said it before realizing how terrible it sounded. But the side of him that wanted to survive at all costs—that had become ruthless over the last year—knew it was the truth. He didn’t want to have to worry about them anymore. He didn’t want to spend the rest of the night and the next day looking over his shoulder.

    “If wishes were fishes …,” Alec said. He took a deep, long breath. “Okay. We better hurry and meet back up with the three ladies.”

    They started jogging, a little slower than earlier, but not much. The return of those sounds, even though they didn’t seem too close at the moment, obviously had them both on edge.

    A few minutes later, Alec changed course, changed again. He stopped at one point, got his bearings, poked around a bit, then pointed down a slope.

    “Ah,” he said. “It’s right down there.”

    They set off that way, slipping and sliding as the descent got steeper. The wind had shifted, blowing back toward the fire, filling their lungs with fresh air and easing that concern—at least temporarily. Mark had grown so used to the light from the flames that he’d failed to notice that dawn had crept up on them—the sky through the branches above him was now purple instead of black, and he could faintly see where he was going. The landscape grew familiar and suddenly they were back at the camp. Their things were still laid out exactly as they’d left them.

    But there was no sign of Trina or the others.

    A little seed of panic sprouted inside Mark’s chest. “Trina!” he yelled. “Trina!”

    He and Alec quickly combed the surrounding area, calling their friends’ names as they did.

    But all was quiet.

    CHAPTER 28

    Mark could barely contain himself. Of all the crap they’d been through, at least he and Trina had never really been separated before. It had only taken ten minutes of her being missing for the most sinking feeling of helplessness to hit him.

    “There’s no way,” he said to Alec as they searched in widening circles around the camp. He heard the desperation in his own voice. “There’s no way they’d just march off while we were gone. Not without at least leaving us a note or something.” He ran a hand through his hair, then yelled for no reason other than anger and frustration.

    Alec was doing a much better job of keeping his cool. “Calm down, boy. You need to remember two things: One, Lana is as tough as I am and a whole lot smarter. And two, you’re forgetting the details.”

    “What do you mean?” Mark asked.

    “Yes, you’re right, under normal circumstances they would’ve stayed here until we got back. But these circumstances aren’t normal. There’s a forest fire raging nearby and crazy people running through the woods making horror-movie noises. Would you just sit here and twiddle your thumbs?”

    That didn’t make Mark feel better at all. “So … you think they went looking for us? What if we passed them on the way back here?” He squeezed his hands into fists and pressed them against his eyes. “They could be anywhere!”

    Alec marched over to him and grabbed his shoulders. “Mark! What’s come over you? Calm down, son!”

    Mark dropped his hands and looked into Alec’s eyes, which were hard and gray in the low light of dawn, but also filled with genuine concern. “I’m sorry. I’m just … I’m freaking out, here. What’re we going to do?”

    “We’re going to keep our wits about us and we’re going to stay calm and we’re going to think. And then we’re going to go out there and find Lana and the others.”

    “They have a little girl with them,” Mark said quietly. “What if somehow those people who attacked us got here first? Took them?”

    “Then we’ll get them back. But I need you to pull yourself together or that’ll never happen. You got it?”

    Mark closed his eyes and nodded, did his best to slow his racing heart and dampen the panic that flared in him. Alec would figure things out. He always did.

    Mark finally looked at the soldier again. “Okay. I’m okay. Sorry.”

    “Good. That’s better.” Alec took a step back and studied the ground. “It’s getting light enough now. We need to find any sign of what path they took—broken branches, footprints, cleared undergrowth, whatever. Start searching.”

    Mark did, desperate to get his mind occupied with something other than imagining every horrible scenario possible. The sounds of the fire and the occasional scream or laugh still floated through the air, but they seemed distant. At least for the moment.

    He swept the area, carefully studying every spot before he dared take another step, his head swiveling up and down, side to side, like some kind of robotic scavenger unit. All they needed was one major clue and then they could probably pick up the trail more easily. Mark felt an almost competitive vibe take over him—he wanted to be the one to find something first. He had to, to make himself feel better, to feel like they’d been set on a path to relieve his panicked thoughts.

    He couldn’t lose Trina. Not now.

    Alec was working about twenty feet farther outside the camp, actually on his hands and knees and literally sniffing along like a dog. He looked ridiculous, but there was something about it that touched Mark. The old grizzly bear rarely showed the slightest hint of emotion—unless he was yelling or screaming or pounding on something … or someone—but he often showed how much he genuinely cared. Mark had no doubt the man would give his life today if it meant saving one of their three missing friends. Could Mark say the same about himself?

    Both Mark and Alec came across obvious signs of passage—broken twigs, shoe impressions in the dirt, shifted branches on trees or bushes—but each time they concluded that they’d been the ones who’d caused it. After a half hour or so, this made Mark realize that they were combing the area between the camp and the direction they’d gone last night. He stopped and stood up straight.

    “Hey, Alec,” he said.

    The man was on his hands and knees, leaning his face into the middle of a bush; he grunted something that kind of sounded like a “Yeah?”

    “Why are we spending so much time on this side of where we left them?”

    Alec pulled himself out of the bush and looked back at him. “Seemed logical. I’d think they either followed us out of here to find us, or they were taken by the same yahoos who attacked us. Or … maybe they went to investigate the fire.”

    Mark thought that was all barking up the wrong tree. “Or they ran away from the fire. Not every person on earth is as wacky-brained as you, good sir. Most people see a huge roaring inferno coming at them? They decide to cut and run. Just saying.”

    “No, I don’t think so.” Alec had shifted all his weight to his knees, stretching his back. “Lana’s not a coward. She wouldn’t save herself and leave us to die.”

    Mark was shaking his head before the soldier even finished. “You’ve gotta think this through. Lana has the same worship complex of you that you have of her. She’ll think you are safe and taking care of yourself just fine and dandy. She’d also consider the circumstances top to bottom and decide the best course of action to take. Am I right or am I right?”

    Alec shrugged, then glared at him. “So you think after all that, Lana would leave us to die at the hands of some crazies and run for her life?”

    “She didn’t know we were in the hands of people like that. We told her we were just going to take a look, remember? Then she probably heard more sounds, heard and saw the fire coming. I bet she went monster logic on us and decided she better run toward the Berg headquarters and that we’d decided the same thing. Rendezvous there. You did point out the general direction we needed to go.”

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