Thomas stared at Brenda, eager to hear what she had to say.
“You know what’s in your brain,” she said. “So what’s our biggest concern?” Thomas thought about it. “WICKED tracking us or controlling us.”
“Exactly,” Brenda said.
“And?” Again, impatience filled his gut.
She sat back down across from him and leaned forward on her knees, rubbing her hands together in excitement. “I know a guy named Hans who moved to Denver—he’s immune like us. He’s a doctor. He worked at WICKED until he had a disagreement with the higher-ups about the protocols surrounding the brain implants. He thought what they were doing was too risky. That they were crossing lines, being inhumane. WICKED wouldn’t let him leave, but he managed to escape.”
“Those guys need to work on their security,” Thomas muttered.
“Lucky for us.” Brenda grinned. “Anyway, Hans is a genius. He knows every little detail about the implants you guys have in your heads. I know he went to Denver because he sent me a message over the Netblock right before I was dropped into the Scorch. If we can get to him, he’ll be able to take those things out of your heads. Or at least disable them. I’m not sure how it works, but if anyone can do it, he can. And he’d do it gladly. The man hates WICKED as much as we do.”
Thomas thought for a second. “And if they control us, we’re in big trouble. I’ve seen it happen at least three times.” Alby struggling against an unseen force in the Homestead, Gally being controlled with the knife that hit Chuck, and Teresa straining to speak to Thomas outside the shack in the Scorch. All three among his most disturbing memories.
“Exactly. They could manipulate you, make you do things. They can’t see through your eyes or hear your voice or anything like that, but we need to get you fixed. If they’re close enough to have you under observation and if they decide it’s worth the risk, they’ll try it. And that’s the last thing we need.” It was a lot to sort out. “Well, it looks like we have plenty of reason to go to Denver. We’ll see what Newt and Minho think when they wake up.”
Brenda nodded. “Sounds good.” She got to her feet and moved closer, then leaned in and kissed Thomas on the cheek. Goose bumps broke out down his chest and arms. “Ya know, most of what happened in those tunnels was not an act.” She stood and looked at him for a moment, quietly. “I’m going to wake up Jorge—he’s sleeping in the captain’s quarters.”
She turned and walked away, and Thomas sat there, hoping his face hadn’t flushed bright red when he remembered her being close to him in the Underneath. He put his hands behind his head and lay back on the cot, trying to process everything he’d just heard. They finally had some direction. He felt a smile crack his face, and not just because he’d been kissed.
Minho called their meeting a Gathering, just for old time’s sake.
By the end of it, Thomas had a headache, the pain throbbing so badly he thought his eyeballs might pop out. Minho played devil’s advocate on every single issue and for some reason gave Brenda dirty looks the entire time. Thomas knew that they needed to go over things from every possible angle, but he wished Minho would give Brenda a break.
In the end, after an hour of arguing and going back and forth and coming full circle a dozen times, they decided—unanimously—to go to Denver. They planned to land the Berg at a private airport with the story that they were Immunes looking for a government transport job. Luckily the Berg was unmarked—WICKED
didn’t advertise when it went out into the real world, apparently. They’d be tested and branded as immune to the Flare, which would allow them access to the city proper. All except Newt, who—because he was infected—would have to stay on the Berg until they figured something out.
They ate a quick meal; then Jorge went off to pilot the ship. He said he was well rested and he wanted everyone else to take a nap since it would take a few more hours to reach the city. After that, who knew how long it would be before they found a place to stay for the night.
Thomas just wanted to be alone, so he used his headache as an excuse. He found a little reclining chair in an out-of-the-way corner and curled up in it, his back to the open area behind him. He had a blanket, and he pulled it up and around him, feeling cozier than he had in a long time. And even though he was scared of what might come, he also felt a sense of peace. Maybe they were finally close to breaking the bonds of WICKED forever.
He thought about their escape and all that had happened along the way. The more he went through it, the more he doubted that any of it had been orchestrated by WICKED. Too much had been done on the spur of the moment, and those guards had fought furiously to keep them there.
Finally sleep took him from all of these thoughts, and he dreamed.
He’s only twelve years old, sitting in a chair facing another man, who looks unhappy to be there. They’re in a room with an observation window.
“Thomas,” the sad man begins. “You’ve been a little … distant lately. I need you to come back to what’s important. You and Teresa are doing well with your telepathy, and things are moving forward nicely by all estimations. It’s time to refocus.”
Thomas feels shame, and then shame at being ashamed. It confuses him, makes him want to run away, back to his dorm. The man senses it.
“We won’t leave this room until I’m satisfied with your commitment.” The words are like a death sentence handed down by a heartless judge. “You’ll answer my questions, and the sincerity better bleed from your pores. Do you understand?”
“Why are we here?” the man asks.
“Because of the Flare.”
“I want more than that. Elaborate.”
Thomas pauses. He has felt a sense of rebel ion lately, but he knows that once he recounts all the things this man wants to hear, it will dissipate. He’ll fall back into doing what they ask of him and learning what they set before him.
“Go on,” the man pushes.
Thomas lets it all out in a rush—word for word, as he memorized it long ago. “The sun flares pummeled the earth. Security in many government buildings was compromised. A man-made virus engineered for biological warfare leaked from a military center for disease control. That virus hit all the major population centers and spread rapidly. It became known as the Flare. The surviving governments put all their resources into WICKED, who found the best and the brightest of those who were immune. They began their plans to stimulate and map the brain patterns of all known human emotions and study how we operate despite having the Flare rooted inside our brains. The research will lead to …” He keeps going and he doesn’t stop, breathing in and out with the words that he hates.
The dreaming Thomas turns and runs away, runs to the darkness.
|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|