Thomas had imagined it happening, countless times. What he would do, what he would say. How he’d rush forward and tackle anyone who came in, make a run for it, flee, escape. But those thoughts were almost for amusement more than anything. He knew that WICKED wouldn’t let something like that happen. No, he’d need to plan out every detail before he made his move.
When it did happen—when that door popped open with a slight puffing sound and began to swing wide—
Thomas was surprised at his own reaction: he did nothing. Something told him an invisible barrier had appeared between him and the desk—like back in the dorms after the Maze. The time for action hadn’t arrived. Not yet.
He felt only the slightest hint of surprise when the Rat Man walked in—the guy who’d told the Gladers about the last trial they’d been forced on, through the Scorch. Same long nose, same weasel-like eyes; that greasy hair, combed over an obvious bald spot that took up half his head. Same ridiculous white suit. He looked paler than the last time Thomas had seen him, though, and he was holding a thick folder filled with dozens of crinkled and messily stacked papers in the crook of one elbow and dragging a straight-backed chair.
“Good morning, Thomas,” he said with a stiff nod. Without waiting for a response, he pulled the door shut, set the chair behind the desk and took a seat. He placed the folder in front of him, opened it and started flipping through the pages. When he found what he’d been looking for he stopped and rested his hands on top. Then he flashed a pathetic grin, his eyes settling on Thomas.
When Thomas finally spoke, he realized that he hadn’t done so in weeks, and his voice came out like a croak. “It’ll only be a good morning if you let me out.”
Not even a flicker of change passed over the man’s expression. “Yes, yes, I know. No need to worry—
you’re going to be hearing plenty of positive news today. Trust me.” Thomas thought about that, ashamed that he let it lift his hopes, even for a second. He should know better by now. “Positive news? Didn’t you choose us because you thought we were intelligent?” Rat Man remained silent for several seconds before he responded. “intelligent, yes. Among more important reasons.” He paused and studied Thomas before continuing. “Do you think we enjoy all this? You think we enjoy watching you suffer? It’s all been for a purpose, and very soon it will make sense to you.” The intensity of his voice had built until he’d practically shouted that last word, his face now red.
“Whoa,” Thomas said, feeling bolder by the minute. “Slim it nice and calm there, old fell a. You look three steps away from a heart attack.” It felt good to let such words flow out of him.
The man stood from his chair and leaned forward on the desk. The veins in his neck bulged in taut cords.
He slowly sat back down, took several deep breaths. “You would think that almost four weeks in this white box might humble a boy. But you seem more arrogant than ever.”
“So are you going to tell me that I’m not crazy, then? Don’t have the Flare, never did?” Thomas couldn’t help himself. The anger was rising in him until he felt like he was going to explode. But he forced a calmness into his voice. “That’s what kept me sane through all this—deep down I know you lied to Teresa, that this is just another one of your tests. So where do I go next? Gonna send me to the shuck moon? Make me swim across the ocean in my undies?” He smiled for effect.
The Rat Man had been staring at Thomas with blank eyes throughout his rant. “Are you finished?”
“No, I’m not finished.” He’d been waiting for an opportunity to speak for days and days, but now that it had finally come, his mind went empty. He’d forgotten all the scenarios he’d played out in his mind. “I … want you to tell me everything. Now.”
“Oh, Thomas.” The Rat Man said it quietly, as if delivering sad news to a small child. “We didn’t lie to you.
You do have the Flare.”
Thomas was taken aback; a chil cut through the heat of his rage. Was Rat Man lying even now? he wondered. But he shrugged, as if the news were something he’d suspected all along. “Well, I haven’t started going crazy yet.” At a certain point—after all that time crossing the Scorch, being with Brenda, surrounded by Cranks—he’d come to terms with the fact that he’d catch the virus eventually. But he told himself that for now he was still okay. still sane. And that was all that mattered at the moment.
Rat Man sighed. “You don’t understand. You don’t understand what I came in here to tell you.”
“Why would I believe a word that comes out of your mouth? How could you possibly expect me to?” Thomas realized that he’d stood up, though he had no memory of doing so. His chest lurched with heavy breaths. He had to get control of himself. Rat Man’s stare was cold, his eyes black pits. Regardless of whether this man was lying to him, Thomas knew he was going to have to hear him out if he ever wanted to leave this white room. He forced his breathing to slow. He waited.
After several seconds of silence, his visitor continued. “I know we’ve lied to you. Often. We’ve done some awful things to you and your friends. But it was all part of a plan that you not only agreed to, but helped set in place. We’ve had to take it all a little farther than we’d hoped in the beginning—there’s no doubt about that.
However, everything has stayed true to the spirit of what the Creators envisioned—what you envisioned in their place after they were … purged.”
Thomas slowly shook his head; he knew he’d been involved with these people once, somehow, but the concept of putting anyone through what he’d gone through was incomprehensible. “You didn’t answer me.
How can you possibly expect me to believe anything you say?” He recalled more than he let on, of course.
Though the window to his past was caked with grime, revealing little more than splotchy glimpses, he knew he’d worked with WICKED. He knew Teresa had, too, and that they’d helped create the Maze. There’d been other flashes of memory.
“Because, Thomas, there’s no value in keeping you in the dark,” Rat Man said. “Not anymore.” Thomas felt a sudden weariness, as if all the strength had seeped out of him, leaving him with nothing. He sank to the floor with a heavy sigh. He shook his head. “I don’t even know what that means.” What was the point of even having a conversation when words couldn’t be trusted?
Rat Man kept talking, but his tone changed; it became less detached and clinical and more professorial.
“You are obviously well aware that we have a horrible disease eating the minds of humans worldwide.
Everything we’ve done up till now has been calculated for one purpose and one purpose only: to analyze your brain patterns and build a blueprint from them. The goal is to use this blueprint to develop a cure for the Flare. The lives lost, the pain and suffering—you knew the stakes when this began. We all did. It was all done to ensure the survival of the human race. And we’re very close. Very, very close.” Memories had come back to Thomas on several occasions. The Changing, the dreams he’d had since, fleeting glimpses here and there, like quick lightning strikes in his mind. And right now, listening to the white-suited man talk, it felt as if he were standing on a cliff and all the answers were just about to float up from the depths for him to see in their entirety. The urge to grasp those answers was almost too strong to keep at bay.
But he was still wary. He knew he’d been a part of it all, had helped design the Maze, had taken over after the original Creators died and kept the program going with new recruits. “I remember enough to be ashamed of myself,” he admitted. “But living through this kind of abuse is a lot different than planning it. It’s just not right.”
Rat Man scratched his nose, shifted in his seat. Something Thomas said had gotten to him. “We’ll see what you think at the end of today, Thomas. We shal see. But let me ask you this—are you telling me that the lives of a few aren’t worth losing to save countless more?” Again, the man spoke with passion, leaning forward. “It’s a very old axiom, but do you believe the end can justify the means? When there’s no choice left?”
Thomas only stared. It was a question that had no good response.
The Rat Man might have smiled, but it looked more like he was sneering. “Just remember that at one time you believed it did, Thomas.” He started to collect his papers as if to go but didn’t move. “I’m here to tell you that everything is set and our data is almost complete. We’re on the cusp of something great. Once we have the blueprint, you can go boo-hoo with your friends all you want about how unfair we’ve been.” Thomas wanted to cut the man with harsh words. But he held back. “How does torturing us lead to this blueprint you’re talking about? What could sending a bunch of unwilling teenagers to terrible places, watching some of them die—what could that possibly have to do with finding a cure for some disease?”
“It has everything in the world to do with it.” Rat Man sighed heavily. “Boy, soon you’ll remember everything, and I have a feeling you’re going to regret a lot. In the meantime, there’s something you need to know—it might even bring you back to your senses.”
“And what’s that?” Thomas really had no idea what the man would say.
His visitor stood up, smoothed the wrinkles out of his pants and adjusted his coat. Then he clasped his hands behind his back. “The Flare virus lives in every part of your body, yet it has no effect on you, nor will it ever. You’re a member of an extremely rare group of people. You’re immune to the Flare.” Thomas swallowed, speechless.
“On the outside, in the streets, they call people like you Munies,” Rat Man continued. “And they really, really hate you.”
|Chapter 1||Chapter 2||Chapter 3||Chapter 4||Chapter 5||Chapter 6|
|Chapter 7||Chapter 8||Chapter 9||Chapter 10||Chapter 11||Chapter 12|
|Chapter 13||Chapter 14||Chapter 15||Chapter 16||Chapter 17||Chapter 18|
|Chapter 19||Chapter 20||Chapter 21||Chapter 22||Chapter 23||Chapter 24|
|Chapter 25||Chapter 26||Chapter 27||Chapter 28||Chapter 29||Chapter 30|
|Chapter 31||Chapter 32||Chapter 33||Chapter 34||Chapter 35||Chapter 36|
|Chapter 37||Chapter 38||Chapter 39||Chapter 40||Chapter 41||Chapter 42|
|Chapter 43||Chapter 44||Chapter 45||Chapter 46||Chapter 47||Chapter 48|
|Chapter 49||Chapter 50||Chapter 51||Chapter 52||Chapter 53||Chapter 54|
|Chapter 55||Chapter 56||Chapter 57||Chapter 58||Chapter 59||Chapter 60|
|Chapter 61||Chapter 62||Chapter 63||Chapter 64||Chapter 65||Chapter 66|
|Chapter 67||Chapter 68||Chapter 69||Chapter 70||Chapter 71||Chapter 72|
|Chapter 73||Book 1: Maze Runner||Book 2: Scorch Trials||Book 3: Death Cure||Prequel: Kill Order|