Thomas couldn’t find any words. Despite all the lies he’d been told, he knew that what he’d just heard was the truth. When placed alongside his recent experiences, it just made too much sense. He, and probably the other Gladers and everyone in Group B, was immune to the Flare. Which was why they’d been chosen for the Trials. Everything done to them—every cruel trick played, every deceit, every monster placed in their paths—it all had been part of an elaborate experiment. And somehow it was leading WICKED to a cure.
It all fit together. And more—this revelation pricked his memories. It felt familiar.
“I can see that you believe me,” Rat Man finally said, breaking the long silence. “Once we’d discovered there were people like you—with the virus rooted inside, yet showing no symptoms—we sought out the best and the brightest among you. This is how WICKED was born. Of course, some in your trial group are not immune, and were chosen as control subjects. When running an experiment you need a control group, Thomas. It keeps all the data in context.”
That last part made Thomas’s heart sink. “Who isn’t …” The question wouldn’t come out. He was too scared to hear the answer.
“Who isn’t immune?” Rat Man asked, eyebrows raised. “Oh, I think they should find out before you, don’t you? But first things first. You smell like a week-old corpse—let’s get you to the showers and find some fresh clothes.” With that he picked up his file and turned to the door. He was just about to step out when Thomas’s mind focused.
“Wait!” he shouted.
His visitor looked back at him. “Yes?”
“Back in the Scorch—why did you lie that there’d be a cure at the safe haven?” Rat Man shrugged. “I don’t think it was a lie at all. By completing the Trials, by arriving at the safe haven, you helped us collect more data. And because of that there will be a cure. Eventually. For everyone.”
“And why are you telling me all this? Why now? Why did you stick me in here for four weeks?” Thomas motioned around the room, at the padded ceiling and walls, at the pathetic toilet in the corner. His sparse memories weren’t solid enough to make any sense of the bizarre things that had been done to him. “Why did you lie to Teresa about me being crazy and violent and keep me in here all this time? What could possibly be the point?”
“Variables,” Rat Man answered. “Everything we’ve done to you has been carefully calculated by our Psychs and doctors. Done to stimulate responses in the kill zone, where the Flare does its damage. To study the patterns of different emotions and reactions and thoughts. See how they work within the confines of the virus that’s inside you. We’ve been trying to understand why in you, there’s no debilitating effect. It’s all about the kill zone patterns, Thomas. Mapping your cognitive and physiological responses to build a blueprint for the potential cure. It’s about the cure.”
“What is the kill zone?” Thomas asked, trying to remember but drawing a blank. “Just tell me that and I’ll go with you.”
“Why, Thomas,” the man replied. “I’m surprised being stung by the Griever didn’t make you recall at least that much. The kill zone is your brain. It’s where the virus settles and takes hold. The more infected the kill zone, the more paranoid and violent the behavior of the infected. WICKED is using your brain and those of a few others to help us fix the problem. If you recall, our organization states its purpose right in its name: World in Catastrophe, Kill zone Experiment Department.” Rat Man looked pleased with himself. Almost happy. “Now come on, let’s get you cleaned up. And just so you know, we’re being watched. Try anything and there’ll be consequences.”
Thomas sat, attempting to process everything he’d just heard. Again, everything rang true, made sense.
Fit in with the memories that had come back to him in recent weeks. And yet his distrust of Rat Man and WICKED still sprinkled it all with doubt.
He finally stood, letting his mind work through the new revelations, hoping they’d sort themselves into nice little stacks for later analysis. Without another word, he walked across the room and followed the Rat Man through the door, leaving his white-walled cell behind.
Nothing stood out about the building in which he found himself. A long hallway, a tiled floor, beige walls with framed pictures of nature—waves crashing on a beach, a hummingbird hovering beside a red flower, rain and mist clouding a forest. Fluorescent lights buzzed overhead. Rat Man led him through several turns and finally stopped at a door. He opened it and gestured for Thomas to go in. It was a large bathroom lined with lockers and showers. And one of the lockers was open to show fresh clothes and a pair of shoes. Even a watch.
“You have about thirty minutes,” Rat Man said. “When you’re done, just sit tight—I’ll come back for you.
Then you’ll be reunited with your friends.”
For some reason, at the words friends, Teresa popped into Thomas’s mind. He tried calling out to her again with his thoughts, but there was still nothing. Despite his ever-growing disdain for her, the emptiness of her being gone still floated like an unbreakable bubble within him. She was a link to his past and, he knew without any doubt, had once been his best friend. It was one of the only things in his world that he was sure of, and he had a hard time letting go of that completely.
Rat Man nodded. “See you in a half hour,” he said. Then he pulled the door open and closed it behind him, leaving Thomas alone once more.
Thomas still didn’t have a plan other than finding his friends, but at least he was one step closer to that.
And even though he had no idea what to expect, at least he was out of that room. Finally. For now, a hot shower. A chance to scrub himself clean. Nothing had ever sounded so good. Letting his cares slip away for the moment, Thomas took off his nasty clothes and got to work making himself human again.
|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|