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  • Home > James Dashner > Maze Runner Prequel > The Kill Order (Chapter 29)     
  • The Kill Order(Maze Runner Prequel #0.5)(29) by James Dashner
  • “Then where are they?”

    Alec didn’t answer—something had caught his attention out in the clearing.

    “We might both be right,” he finally whispered. His gravelly voice sounded ominous.

    “What is it?”

    “Stay low and follow me.”

    Alec got on his hands and knees and crawled out from around the tree, keeping under the line of shrubs and bushes. Mark did the same and followed him out into the clearing, certain that a Berg was going to come barreling in with dart guns over their heads any second. They kept to the barely discernible path where Mark assumed Trina and the others had walked. At first he had thought that maybe the Bergs landed in the clearing, but there was no sign of such a spot whatsoever—the vegetation had grown pretty thick.

    Alec hacked his way through it for about thirty feet, then stopped. Mark poked his head around the man and saw that there was a large spot where the bushes had been trampled and crushed. An obvious sign of struggle. His heart dropped.

    “Oh, no” was all he could get out.

    Alec’s head hung low. He shifted to crouch even lower. “You were right. Somebody took them here, no doubt. Look—the bushes are beat to death on the other side. Like twenty people marched across it.”

    Mark had to push down the panic again. “So what do we do? Go back and hide or go after them?”

    “Not so loud, kid. Or they’re gonna be on top of us, too.”

    “Let’s just go back,” Mark whispered. “Regroup, decide what to do.” He had the urge to chase after the trail, but his wiser side told him they needed to think it through first.

    “We don’t have time to—”

    A loud clanging sound cut the man off, a metallic bang that shot through the air like a cannon. Mark dropped to his stomach, half expecting the canyon walls to come crashing down on top of him.

    “What was that?” he asked.

    But before Alec could answer the sound came again. A quick, earsplitting boom that shook the ground, which continued to tremble even after the noise ceased, vibrating so much that the bushes around them danced. Mark and Alec met each other’s gaze, not sure what was going on.

    The noise rocked the air yet again, and the land beneath them suddenly started to rise toward the sky.

    CHAPTER 30

    Mark jumped to his feet, pulling Alec’s arm. The entire area around them shook as it rose, and it took all of Mark’s effort not to fall again. He knew that what was happening had to be impossible, and it made him wonder about his mental state. But the ground at their feet was slowly rising, tilting as it did so. He looked around frantically, so dumbfounded and confused he didn’t know what to do. Alec seemed to be in the same stupor. Mark snapped out of it first.

    His mind cleared and he noticed several things at once.

    First, it wasn’t like the entire valley was vaulting toward the sky because of an earthquake or massive shifting of the earth’s crust. It was only a small area—the clearing where they stood. The trees surrounding them were still and calm, the branches not so much as swaying with a wind. Second, the slow—but steadily increasing—tilt of the moving land made him realize that half of it was actually sinking into the ground. And the whole thing looked to be in the shape of a circle. Third, there was a low, metallic grinding sound.

    “It’s man-made!” he yelled, already on the run with Alec. “Swinging open on some kind of pivot!”

    Alec nodded briskly and picked up the pace—they were both running sideways to the angle of the slope, aiming to make it to a spot where they could jump off the shifting disk of land. It was moving slowly enough that the initial burst of panic left Mark and was replaced by curiosity. They were obviously standing on some sort of massive trapdoor. But why was it so …

    He and Alec ran the last few steps, reaching the side of the rotating section of ground at the point of the pivot, only having to jump a couple of feet to safety. They scrambled away to the line of trees and dropped down, slipping behind the same large oak as before for cover. Mark poked his head out to watch the continuation of the spectacle. The upper edge of the circular cutout was now thirty feet in the air, the lower edge fully sunk into the ground and out of sight. It kept rotating to the grind of the laboring gears, which sounded louder now.

    “Looks like a coin flipping,” Alec muttered.

    “A really big one. Flipping really slowly,” Mark agreed.

    Within another minute or so the round piece of land was exactly vertical, half in the ground and half out, still rotating. Soon the earth and bushes were descending upside down and Mark could finally see what lay on the opposite side of the coin: a flat, gray, concrete-like surface with small grooves cut across it in perfectly straight lines. It wouldn’t be long before the large circle rested flat on the valley floor, facing the sky and waiting for something to land on it. Hooks and chains were scattered across the circle of gray for securing whatever did land.

    A landing spot, Mark thought. A landing spot for the Berg. Or Bergs.

    “Why aren’t the dirt and plants sliding off the other side?” he asked. “Looks like magic.”

    “Probably fake as a rubber glove,” answered the soldier. “Wouldn’t do if they had to come out and resod the whole thing every time they used it, now, would it?”

    “It sure looks real. Or did.” He watched in fascination. The piece of moving land had to be a couple of hundred feet across. “Do you think they saw us? Surely they have cameras out here.”

    Alec shrugged. “You’d think so. All we can do is hope they’re not looking real hard.”

    The coin of land was now at a forty-five-degree angle, and within minutes of completely sealing the hole in the earth. Mark wondered if Alec was thinking the same thing he was.

    “Should we do it?” he asked him. “A Berg might be landing any second—this is our chance.”

    At first the man seemed surprised, as if Mark had read his mind. Then a knowing grin crept across his face. “It might be the only way to get inside, eh?”

    “Maybe. It’s now or never.”

    “Cameras and guards? It’s a big risk.”

    “But they have our friends.”

    Alec nodded slowly. “Said like a true soldier.”

    “Let’s go, then.”

    Mark got to his feet but stayed crouched down, leaning against the tree as he snuck out from behind it. He had to move before he changed his mind, and he knew Alec would be right on his heels. There was still about a fifteen-foot open space between the edges of the moving disk and the real land that surrounded it. After a deep breath to psych himself up, Mark sprinted for the left side, wondering if shots would ring out or soldiers would rise out of the darkness in the gap, waiting for them. But nothing happened.

    They reached the side of the circle. Mark stopped and dropped to his knees a few feet away, then crawled forward to peek over the edge. Alec did the same, the two of them leaning over the opening. It gave Mark a sick feeling, knowing the descending piece of land was right above him. If it suddenly dropped the last bit without warning, it’d cut them both in two.

    It was dark down below, but Mark could see a walkway made of silvery metal—mostly hidden in shadow—that encircled the huge space underneath. There was no light source and no sign of people. He glanced up and was alarmed at how close the leading edge of the circle had come. They had a couple of minutes, tops.

    “We need to hang our feet down and swing onto that,” Mark said, pointing at the walkway—a metal ledge. “Think you can do that?” he added with a grin.

    Alec was already on the move. “A lot better than you, kid,” he answered with a wink.

    Mark rolled onto his stomach and inched his body over the lip of the opening, lowering his feet into the abyss while he held on to the edge. He gripped the edge of the rim tightly, then began to swing his legs. Alec was two steps ahead of him. The man let go, flying forward to land on the walkway; he crumpled to the ground with a grunt but looked okay. Mark fought off the thought that tried to lodge itself in his mind—of him missing or landing awkwardly, tumbling off to disappear into the darkness. He counted to three in his mind, timing it just right with his legs swinging backward, then letting go as they swung forward.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire