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  • Home > James Dashner > Maze Runner Prequel > The Kill Order (Chapter 32)     
  • The Kill Order(Maze Runner Prequel #0.5)(32) by James Dashner
  • Mark slowed as he neared the slumped man, felt an icy tingle across his skin. The stranger was broad-shouldered and thick-chested, but his demeanor made him look frail and pathetic. Mark steered clear a few feet as he reached the man’s side, saw a face covered in shadow and hanging low.

    “What did you say?” Mark asked when he was in front of the man. Alec reached his side and held the workpad up to cast light on the visibly depressed stranger. The man sat forward with elbows on knees, hands clenched together, his entire visage appearing as if it might melt and drip onto the floor.

    The man slowly raised his eyes and looked at them, his head tilting on his neck like rusty machinery. His face was grave and long and wrinkled more than it should have been. His eyes were dark caverns that the light seemed unable to penetrate.

    “I didn’t want to give her away,” he said with a raspy edge. “Oh, dear God, I didn’t want to. Not to those savages.”

    CHAPTER 33

    Mark had so many questions, he couldn’t get them out fast enough.

    “What do you mean?” he asked. “Who was given away? What can you tell us about this place? What about a virus? Do you know anything about two women and a little girl, maybe captured outside?” He paused to swallow the golf-ball-sized lump in his throat and slowed down. “My friend’s name is Trina. Blond hair, my age. There was another woman and a girl. Do you know anything about them?”

    The man lowered his gaze to the floor again and heaved a sigh. “So many questions.”

    Mark was so frustrated that he had to compose himself for a second. He took a deep breath and walked over to sit down on the cot facing the raspy-voiced stranger. Maybe the old man was dotty. Bombarding him with questions probably wasn’t the smartest approach. Mark looked up to see that Alec was a little astonished at his outburst, but then he shook his head and came over to join Mark on the cot. Alec placed the workpad on the floor so that its glow shone up and gave everyone that slightly monstrous look you get when you place a flashlight under your chin.

    “What can you tell us?” Alec asked in one of his gentler tones. He’d obviously reached the same conclusion as Mark—this guy was on edge and needed to be handled with care. “What’s happened here? All the lights are out, no one’s around. Where is everybody?”

    The man merely groaned in response, then covered his face with both hands.

    Alec and Mark exchanged a look.

    “Let me try again,” Mark said. He leaned forward, inching to the edge of the cot and putting his forearms on his knees. “Hey, man … what’s your name?”

    The stranger dropped his hands, and even in the dim light Mark could see that his eyes were moist with tears. “My name? You want to know my name?”

    “Yeah. I want to know your name. Our lives are just as crappy as yours, I promise. I’m Mark and this is my friend, Alec. You can trust us.”

    The man made a scoffing sound, then had a short bout of racking coughs. Finally he said, “The name’s Anton. Not that it matters.”

    Mark was afraid to continue. This man could hold so many answers to so many questions, and he didn’t want to screw it up. “Listen … we came from one of the settlements. Three of our friends were taken in the canyon above this place. And our village was attacked by someone from here, we think. We just want to … understand what’s going on. And get our friends back. That’s it.”

    He sensed Alec about to say something and shot him a glare to shut up. “Is there anything you can tell us? Like … what is this place? What’s happening out there with the Bergs and the darts and the virus? What happened here? Anything you got.” A heavy weariness was starting to weigh on him, but he forced himself to focus on the man across from him, hoping for answers.

    Anton took a few low, deep breaths and a tear trickled out of his right eye. “We chose a settlement two months ago,” he finally said. “As a test. Not that the disastrous results changed the overall plan in the end. But the girl changed it for me. So many dead, and it was the one who lived who made me realize what a horrible thing we’d done. Like I said, I didn’t want them to give her back to her people today. That’s when I was truly done. Officially done.”

    Deedee, Mark realized. It had to be Deedee. But what about Trina and Lana? “Tell us what happened,” he urged. He felt guiltier with every passing second that they weren’t actively searching for their friends, but they needed information or they might never find them. “From the beginning.”

    Anton began to speak in a somewhat distant tone. “The Post-Flares Coalition in Alaska wanted something that spread fast, killed fast. A virus that some monsters had developed back in the good old days before the sun flares burned it all out. They say it shuts down the mind. Instant comas, they said, rendering the bodies useless but causing massive hemorrhaging that would spread it to those nearby. Transmission is by blood, but it’s also airborne when the conditions are right. A good way to kill off the settlements that are forced to live in close quarters.”

    The man’s words spilled out of him without a hitch or a change in volume. Mark’s mind was growing numb from exhaustion, and he found it hard to follow the details. He knew that what he was hearing was important, but it still wasn’t fitting together. How long had he been awake now? Twenty-four hours? Thirty-six? Forty-eight?

    “—before they realized they’d screwed up big-time.”

    Mark shook his head again. He’d just missed part of what Anton had been saying.

    “What do you mean?” Alec asked. “How’d they screw up?”

    Anton coughed, then sniffled and wiped a hand across his nose. “The virus. It’s all wrong. It didn’t work right on the test subjects over the last two months, but they went ahead with the plan anyway, saying what’s left of the planet’s resources is being depleted. All they did was up the dosage in those darts. Those bastards are trying to wipe out half the population. Half!”

    “What about the little girl?” Mark almost shouted. “Did she have two women with her?”

    Anton didn’t seem to be hearing a word that Mark or Alec said. “They said we’d be taken care of once the deed was done. That they’d bring us all back to Alaska and give us homes and food and protection. Let half the world die and we’d start over. But they screwed up, didn’t they? That little girl lived even though she was struck with a dart. But it’s more than that. The virus isn’t what they thought. It spreads like wildfire, all right. Too bad it’s got a mind of its own. Pardon the pun.”

    He let out something that was vaguely like a chuckle, but it soon transformed into a hacking cough. Suddenly he was sobbing freely. The man finally slumped over onto his side and pulled his legs up onto the cot, curling into the fetal position, his shoulders shaking as he cried.

    “I’ve got it,” he said through the sobs. “I’m sure of it. We’ve all got it. You’ve got it, too. Have no doubts, my friends. You’ve got the virus. I told my coworkers I didn’t want anything to do with them. Not anymore. They left me up here by myself. Suits me just fine.”

    Mark felt like he was observing the whole scene through a fog. He couldn’t concentrate. He tried to snap out of it. “Do you have any idea where our friends could be?” he asked, more calmly this time. “Where are your coworkers?”

    “They’re all down below,” Anton whispered. “I couldn’t bear it anymore. I came up here to die or go crazy. Both, I guess. I’m just glad they let me.”

    “Down below?” Alec repeated.

    “Farther down in the bunker,” Anton answered, his voice getting quieter as his crying subsided. “They’re down there, planning. Planning to revolt in Asheville, let them know we’re not happy how things ended up. They wanna take it all the way to Alaska.”

    Mark looked at Alec, who was just staring at Anton. It seemed like everything the poor stranger said was a little more bizarre than the statement before it.

    “Revolt?” Mark asked. “Why Asheville? And who are these people?”

    “Asheville is the last safe haven in the East,” the man replied, his words barely perceptible now, nothing but dry, faint rasps. “Walls and everything—ramshackle as they may be. And they are my coworkers, all hired by the PFC—the almighty Post-Flares Coalition. My esteemed associates want to bring their bosses down before they pull out. Before they head back to Alaska through the Flat Trans.”

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire