Thomas couldn’t have been more surprised. He hesitated at first but quickly scooted out of the car. The cop machine hovered only a few feet away. A panel had opened on its side, revealing a screen from which Janson’s face stared back at him.
Relief flooded him. It was Rat Man, but he wasn’t in the cop machine—there was just a video feed of his image. Thomas could only assume that the man could see him as well. “What happened?” he asked, still stunned. He tried to avert his eyes from the man now lying on the ground. “How’d you find me?” Janson was as grim-faced as ever. “It took a considerable amount of effort and luck, trust me. And you’re welcome. I just saved you from this bounty hunter.”
Thomas let out a laugh. “You’re the ones paying them anyway. What do you want?”
“Thomas, I’m going to be frank with you. The only reason we haven’t come to Denver to retrieve you is because the infection rate is astronomical. This was our safest means of contacting you. I’m urging you to bring yourself in and complete the testing.”
Thomas wanted to scream at the man. Why would he return to WICKED? But the Red Shirt’s attack—his body only feet away—was too clear in his mind. He had to play this right. “Why would I come back?” Janson’s expression was blank. “We’ve been using our data to select a Final Candidate, and you’re the one. We need you, Thomas. It all rests on your shoulders.”
Not in a million years, Thomas thought. But saying that wouldn’t get rid of the Rat Man. Instead he cocked his head and pretended to consider, then said, “I’ll think about it.”
“I trust you will.” The Rat Man paused. “There’s something I feel obligated to tell you. Mainly because I think it will influence your decision. Make you realize that you have to do what we’re asking.” Thomas had leaned back against the rounded hood of the car—the whole ordeal had exhausted him emotionally and physically. “What?”
The Rat Man’s face screwed up to look even rattier, as if he reveled in telling bad news. “It’s about your friend, Newt. I’m afraid he’s in a tremendous amount of trouble.”
“What kind of trouble?” Thomas asked, his stomach dropping.
“I know you’re well aware that he has the Flare, and that you’ve already seen some of its effects taking place.”
Thomas nodded, suddenly remembering the note in his pocket. “Yeah.”
“Well, he seems to be succumbing to it rapidly. The fact that you were already seeing symptoms of anger and loss of concentration before you left means he’ll be spiraling into madness very soon.” Thomas felt a fist clutch his heart. He’d accepted that Newt wasn’t immune, but he’d thought it would take weeks, or months even, before it got really bad. Yet Janson had made sense—that the stress of everything seemed to be making Newt fall fast. And they’d left him all alone outside the city.
“You could very well save him,” Janson said quietly.
“You enjoying this?” Thomas asked. “Because sometimes it seems like you enjoy it a lot.” Janson shook his head. “I’m just doing my job, Thomas. I want this cure more than anyone else. Except for you, maybe, before we took away your memories.”
“Just go,” Thomas said.
“I hope you’ll come,” Janson replied. “You have a chance to do great things. I’m sorry for our differences.
But Thomas, you need to hurry. Time is running out.”
“I’ll think about it.” Thomas forced himself to say it again. It made him sick to pacify the Rat Man, but it was the only thing he could think to say to buy himself time. And there was the possibility that if he didn’t stal Janson, he could end up like Red Shirt—shot down by this cop machine hovering a few feet in front of him.
Janson smiled. “That’s all I can ask for. I hope to see you here.” The screen blacked out and the panel closed; then the cop machine rose into the air and flew away, its hum slowly fading. Thomas watched until it disappeared around a corner. When it was gone, his eyes fell upon the dead man. He quickly looked away—that was the last thing he wanted to see.
“There he is!”
He whipped his head around to see Minho running down the sidewalk toward him, Brenda and Jorge close behind. Thomas had never been so happy to see anyone.
Minho pulled up short when he saw Red Shirt in a heap on the ground. “Holy … What happened to him?” He turned his attention to Thomas. “And you? You okay? Did you do that?” Absurdly, Thomas felt like laughing. “Yeah, I pulled out my machine gun and blasted him to tiny bits.” Minho’s face showed that he didn’t appreciate the sarcasm, but Brenda spoke before he could come up with a retort.
“Who killed him?”
Thomas pointed at the sky. “One of those cop machines. Flew in here, shot him to death, then next thing I know the Rat Man appears on a screen. He tried to convince me that I need to go back to WICKED.”
“Dude,” Minho said, “you can’t even—”
“Give me some credit!” Thomas yelled. “There’s no way I’d go back, but maybe them needing me so much could help us at some point. What we should worry about is Newt. Janson thinks that Newt’s succumbing to the Flare a lot faster than average. We have to go check on him.”
“He really said that?”
“Yeah.” Thomas felt bad for blowing up at his friend. “And I believe him on this. You saw how Newt’s been acting.”
Minho stared at Thomas, his eyes filled with pain. It hit Thomas that Minho had known Newt for two years longer than he had. So much more time to grow close.
“We better check on him somehow,” Thomas repeated. “Do something for him.” Minho just nodded and looked away. Thomas was tempted to pull Newt’s note out of his pocket and read it right then and there, but he’d promised he’d wait until he knew for sure the time was right.
“It’s getting late,” Brenda said. “And they don’t let people in and out of the city at night—it’s hard enough to keep things under control during the day.”
Thomas noticed for the first time that the light was beginning to fade, the sky above the buildings taking on an orange hue.
Jorge, who’d been quiet until then, spoke up. “That’s the least of our problems. Something weird’s going on around this place, muchachos.”
“What do you mean?” Thomas asked.
“All the people seem to have vanished in the last half hour, and the few I’ve seen don’t look right.”
“That scene at the coffee shop did send everyone scattering,” Brenda pointed out.
Jorge shrugged. “I don’t know. This city is just giving me the creeps, hermana. Like it’s alive and waiting to unleash something really nasty.”
A strange unease crawled up Thomas’s spine and he turned his focus back to Newt. “Can we get out there if we hurry? Or can we break out?”
“We can try,” Brenda said. “Better hope we can find a cab, though—we’re on the other side of the city from where we came in.”
“Let’s try it,” Thomas offered.
They took off down the street, but the look on Minho’s face wasn’t good. Thomas sure hoped it wasn’t a sign of bad things to come.
|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|