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  • Home > James Dashner > Maze Runner Prequel > The Kill Order (Chapter 34)     
  • The Kill Order(Maze Runner Prequel #0.5)(34) by James Dashner
  • The Toad makes it, then Darnell, then Misty. All of them but Alec up the short flight of stairs and onto the landing, grouping together in front of the door. The younger boy, Baxter, is struggling. Mark’s suddenly struck by shame as he realizes the kid’s still out there—he’s six feet beyond Alec’s reach, the water slamming into his side, rising and rising, splashing up into his frightened face.

    Mark runs back down the stairs even as Trina is calling his name. He stands next to Alec, wonders what to do. Bodies are shooting past Baxter; Mark sees a stray foot smack the kid in the shoulder. A head bobs up out of the river right next to him, spewing water, then disappears back under.

    “Take a step!” Alec screams at Baxter.

    The boy responds, does as he’s told. Then takes another. He’s almost within reach now, but the water is beating at his back, making it seem impossible that he hasn’t been swept away yet.

    Mark yells encouragement this time. “Just a couple more.”

    Baxter moves forward and is suddenly off his feet, facedown. Alec jumps out at him, grabs the boy’s arm just as the current latches on to both of them, ready to yank them away into the darkness. Marks sees it all happen so fast, reacts before he has time to think. He grips the iron railing with his left hand and lunges forward with his right, grasping the sleeve of Alec’s shirt before he’s swept out of reach. The man’s hand comes up and grips Mark’s arm just as the material starts to rip.

    Mark’s body is jerked into the current but he holds on to the railing; his body is pulled out and then to the side, slamming into the concrete wall next to the track. Alec and Baxter follow, their bodies linked. Mark feels as if his arm is about to be ripped from its socket, his muscles straining, screaming. He can only focus on not letting go to ignore the pain. Water rushes into his mouth and he spits it out. It tastes like dirt and oil and burns his tongue.

    He feels hands grabbing his arm, gripping his shirt and elbow, pulling. From the other side he can tell that Alec is climbing him like a rope, using both hands. Which means Baxter must be gone. Mark can do nothing, his strength spent, every part of his body aching and burning. He can only hold tight, keep the link intact. His head slips under the water and he closes his eyes, forces himself to resist the urge to suck in a breath that would kill him.

    He loses all sense of movement. There is only water and heat and the rush of sound. And the pain, bursting through his body.

    Then he breaks the surface, feels hands on his chest, under his arm. He’s being dragged backward up the stairs. Alec is right in front of him, having caught hold of the railing. Baxter is clasped tightly between the man’s legs, like the winning grip of a wrestling match. Even as Mark looks, Baxter’s face comes up and out of the river and the boy is breathing, spitting, screaming.

    They made it. They all made it.

    Soon they are on their feet, on the landing. All of them. The water has risen to the upper edge of the track’s groove and is beginning to spill onto the landing itself.

    Alec is a man whose every inch speaks of exhaustion. Soaking wet, breathing deeply and raggedly. He lurches forward to the door, opens it. Mark has the thought that it could’ve been locked. Their story could’ve been over and done right then and there. But it’s open, and Alec swings it wide.

    He motions for everyone to go through.

    “Get ready to climb,” the old man says.

    CHAPTER 36

    Mark woke up shivering in complete darkness.

    His body was stiff; he shifted on the cot and it creaked as he tried to get comfortable, find a position in which his muscles didn’t ache. He heard Alec and Anton both snoring loudly. Alec obviously hadn’t lasted long at first watch.

    Mark finally settled on his back. Sleep had officially washed away, and there was nothing to do but wait until his friend woke up. He’d let the man get as much rest as possible—they were probably going to need it.

    The dream had seemed so vivid, so lifelike. His heart was still beating from the rush of the experience, like he’d just relived it for real. He could taste the foul water, feel the burns on his skin. He remembered the exhausting climb up the endless flight of stairs afterward, the winding, the dizzying back-and-forth. Sapped of strength and hurting from the water burn, he didn’t know how he’d kept up with the others. But up and up they’d gone as the water rose below them. He’d never forget the feeling of looking over the railing, down at the roiling, dirty liquid as it slowly ascended, thinking that his life had almost ended in its depths.

    Alec had saved them that day. They’d spent the next two weeks in that skyscraper, realizing quickly that they couldn’t search for loved ones yet. The heat and radiation and rising waters were too much. That was when Mark’s hopes of ever finding his family had truly begun to fade.

    The Lincoln Building. A place that held plenty of its own nightmares. They’d stayed as close to the center of the building as possible, in the structure’s middle corridors, to protect themselves from the sun’s ruthless radiation. Even so, they’d all been a little sick those first few months.

    He heard a groan from the direction of Alec’s cot, and the thoughts floated away, pushed to the back of his mind to torment him later. But that feeling of terror he’d experienced in those last moments in the subtrans tunnel wouldn’t leave, lingering like the smoke from an extinguished fire.

    “Oh … crap,” Alec said.

    Mark popped up onto his elbow, looking in the direction of his friend. “What?”

    “I didn’t mean to fall asleep. Fine soldier I am. And I left the damn workpad on. We can forget using that thing again.”

    “Meh, the battery was probably almost dead anyway,” Mark said. Though in truth, he’d have given anything for five more minutes of the device’s glow right then.

    Alec groaned and Mark heard the sounds of the cot creaking as the older man got to his feet.

    “We need to go find this guy’s coworkers. He said they were meeting farther down in the bunker. So we need to find our way to some stairs,” the man said.

    “What do we do about him?” Mark pointed to Anton, forgetting for a second that Alec couldn’t see him in the darkness.

    “Let him sleep out his sorrows. Come on.”

    Mark took a moment to get his bearings, then got up and felt his way to the end of the cot toward the middle aisle of the room.

    “How long do you think we slept?” he asked.

    “No idea,” Alec answered. “Maybe two hours?”

    They spent the next few minutes slowly making their way through the room and out into the hallway. The light above the door still sputtered a bit, but barely enough to see by. They eventually found the stairwell Alec had been hoping for. Even the dim sight of it, mostly lines and edges of shadow descending into blackness, brought back to Mark the memory of the flood and their mad clamber up the stairs of the skyscraper. It’d been so close that day. If he’d known all that would come after, would he still have fought so hard to survive?

    Yes, he told himself. Yes, he would’ve. And he was going to find Trina and get out of hot water again. He almost laughed at his own joke.

    “Let’s get on with it,” Alec whispered as he started down the steps.

    Mark followed him, determined to stop dwelling on the past. He had to focus on the future or he’d never reach it.

    The flight of stairs only descended three levels, though there was no exit until they reached the final one. They pushed through the door and found themselves in another hallway. They’d finally come upon the section of the bunker that used the raving generators above: a line of lights along the ceiling illuminated the passage. Unlike the hallway they’d come from, this one curved.

    Mark shot a glance at Alec and they started down the hall. There were doors lining the walls, but Alec suggested that they explore the length of the corridor before they tried each one. They slipped along, as quietly as possible, and it wasn’t long before it became clear that the hallway was a giant crescent.

    They’d traversed about half of what they could see of its length when Mark heard voices, then saw their source. Up ahead, on the left, there was a set of double doors, one propped all the way open. The sounds were coming from whatever was happening in that room. A gathering of some sort, men and women talking over each other so that Mark couldn’t make out a single word being said. Anton’s meeting, his coworkers.

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