The next morning, Thomas was surprised at how rested he felt. He’d tossed and turned all night, it seemed, but at some point he must have gotten some deep and recharging sleep. After a long, hot shower and breakfast out of a vending machine, he was ready to face the day.
He and the others left the motel around eight o’clock in the morning, wondering what they’d find in the city on their way to check on Newt. They saw some people here and there, but far fewer than they’d seen during the busy hours of the day before. And Thomas didn’t notice any strange noises like the ones they’d heard the previous night during their long walk.
“Something’s up, I’m tell in’ ya,” Jorge said as they made their way down the street in search of a cab.
“There should be more folks out and about.”
Thomas observed the few pedestrians around him. None of them would look him in the eye—everyone kept their head down, often with one hand holding their surgical mask to their face as if afraid that a sudden wind might blow it off. And they walked with a hurried, frantic gait, almost jumping out of the way when another person got too close. He noticed a woman studying a poster about the Flare just like the one he’d read the day before while being escorted by Red Shirt. It brought to mind that memory he hadn’t been able to grasp—it was going to drive him crazy.
“Let’s hurry and get to the shuck airport,” Minho muttered. “This place is giving me the creeps.”
“We should probably go up that way,” Brenda said, pointing. “There have to be cabs around those business offices.”
They crossed the street and headed down a narrower one that passed what looked like an empty lot on one side and an old, dilapidated building on the other.
Minho leaned into Thomas and half whispered, “Dude, I’m a little shucked in the head right now. I’m scared of what we’re gonna find with Newt.”
Thomas was scared, too, but didn’t admit it. “Don’t worry. I’m sure he’s fine for now.”
“Good that. And the cure for the Flare’s gonna fly out of your butt any second.”
“Who knows, maybe it will. Might smell funny, though.” His friend didn’t seem to think that was very humorous. “Look, we can’t do anything until we get there and see him.” Thomas hated sounding so insensitive, but things were hard enough—they couldn’t assume the worst.
“Thanks for the pep talk.”
The empty lot to their right contained the scattered remains of an old brick building, weeds filling every square inch. A large section of wall stood right in the middle, and as they passed, Thomas noticed movement on the far side of it. He stopped, and instinctively put a hand out to halt Minho as well. He shushed him before he could ask what was going on.
Brenda and Jorge noticed and froze in place. Thomas pointed at what he’d seen, then tried to get a better look.
A shirtless man had his back to them, and he was hunched over something, digging with his hands like he’d lost something in the mud and was trying to find it. Oddly shaped scratches covered his shoulders, and there was a long scab crossing the middle of his spine. His movements were jerky and … desperate, Thomas thought. His elbows kept popping back like he’d torn something loose from the ground. The tall weeds prevented Thomas from seeing the focus of the man’s frantic attention.
Brenda whispered from behind. “Let’s keep moving.”
“That guy’s sick,” Minho whispered back. “How’s he loose like this?” Thomas had no idea. “Let’s just go.”
The group started walking again, but Thomas couldn’t tear his eyes away from the disturbing scene. What was that guy doing?
When they reached the end of the block, Thomas stopped, as did the others. It was clearly bothering everyone as much as it was him—they all wanted to get one last look.
Without warning, the man sprang up and turned toward them; blood covered his mouth and nose. Thomas flinched and stumbled back into Minho. The man bared his teeth in a nasty grin, then held up bloody hands as if to show them off. Thomas was just about to yell at him when the guy bent back over and returned to his business. Thankfully they couldn’t see exactly what that business was.
“This would be a good time to go,” Brenda said.
Icy fingers crawled along Thomas’s back and shoulders—he couldn’t have agreed more. They all turned and ran, and they’d gone two blocks before they slowed to a walk again.
It took another half hour before they found a cab, but they were finally on their way. Thomas wanted to talk about what they’d seen in the empty lot, but he couldn’t put it into words. It had sickened him through and through.
Minho was the first to speak about it. “That guy was eating a person. I just know it.”
“Maybe …,” Brenda began. “Maybe it was just a stray dog.” Her tone made Thomas think she didn’t believe it for one second. “Not like that’d be okay, either.” Minho scoffed. “I’m pretty sure that’s not something you’re supposed to see during a nice leisurely stroll through a quarantined city in the middle of the day. I believe Gally. I think this place is crawling with Cranks, and soon the whole city’s gonna start killing each other.”
No one responded. They stayed silent the rest of the way to the airport.
It didn’t take long to get through security and back outside the massive walls surrounding the city. If anything, the staff they encountered seemed thrilled that they were leaving.
The Berg was right where they’d left it, waiting like the abandoned shell of a giant insect on the hot and steamy concrete. Nothing stirred around it.
“Hurry up and open it,” Minho said.
Jorge didn’t seem fazed by the curt command; he pulled his small control pad out of his pocket and pressed some buttons. The ramp of the cargo door slowly pivoted down, hinges squealing, until its edge landed on the ground with a grating scrape. Thomas had hoped to see Newt come running down that ramp, a big smile on his face, glad to see them.
But nothing moved inside or out, and his heart sank.
Minho obviously felt the same way. “Something’s wrong.” He sprinted to the door and ran up the ramp before Thomas had a chance to react.
“We better get in there,” Brenda said. “What if Newt’s turned dangerous?” Thomas hated the sound of the question but knew she was right. Without responding, he ran after Minho, entering the dark and stifling Berg. All the systems had been shut down at some point: no air-conditioning, no lights, nothing.
Jorge followed right at Thomas’s heels. “Let me power her up or we’ll all sweat till we’re nothing but a pile of bones and skin.” He moved off in the direction of the cockpit.
Brenda stood next to Thomas, both of them peering into the gloom of the ship, the only light coming from the few scattered portholes. They could hear Minho calling Newt’s name somewhere deep in the ship, but the infected boy wasn’t responding. A cavity seemed to open within Thomas, widening and sucking the hope out of him.
“I’ll go to the left,” he said, pointing toward the small hallway to the common area. “Why don’t you follow Jorge and search up there. This isn’t good—he would’ve been here to welcome us if everything was okay.”
“Not to mention the lights and air would be on.” She gave Thomas a grim look, then headed off.
Thomas went down the hallway to the main room. Minho sat on one of the couches, looking at a piece of paper, his face as stony as Thomas had ever seen it. The holl owness inside him grew even more, and his last ounce of hope faded.
“Hey,” he said. “What is it?”
Minho didn’t answer. He just kept staring at the paper.
Minho glanced up at him. “Come see for yourself.” He held up the paper in one hand while he slouched back on the couch, seeming on the verge of tears. “He’s gone.” Thomas walked over and took the paper from him, then flipped it over. Scribbled in black marker, it said: They got inside somehow. They’re taking me to live with the other Cranks.
It’s for the best. Thanks for being my friends.
“Newt,” Thomas whispered. His friend’s name hung in the air like a pronouncement of death.
|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|