Soon they were all sitting together. The goal was to talk over what should come next, but the reality was they had nothing to say. The group of four just stared at the floor and said nothing. For some reason, Thomas couldn’t get Janson out of his head. Could going back really be a way to save Newt? Every part of him rebelled against the idea of returning to WICKED, but if he did go back, and was able to complete the testing …
Minho broke the sull en silence.
“I want you three to listen to me.” He took a moment to look at each one of them, then continued. “Ever since we broke out of WICKED, I’ve basically gone along with whatever you slintheads ended up saying we should do. And I haven’t complained. Much.” He gave Thomas a wry grin. “But right here, right now, I’m making a decision and you’re going to do what I say. And if anyone pushes back, to hell with you.” Thomas knew what his friend wanted, and he was glad for it.
“I know we have bigger goals in mind,” Minho continued. “We need to connect with the Right Arm, figure out what to do about WICKED—all that save-the-world klunk. But first we’re going to find Newt. This isn’t open for discussion. The four of us—all of us—are flying to wherever we need to go, and we’re getting Newt out of there.”
“They call it the Crank Palace,” Brenda said. Thomas turned to her and she was staring off into space. “It has to be what he was talking about. Some of those Red Shirts probably broke into the Berg, found Newt and saw that he was infected. Let him leave us a note. I don’t have any doubt that’s what happened.”
“Sounds fancy,” Minho said. “You’ve been there?”
“No. Every major city has a Crank Palace—a place where they send the infected and try to make it bearable for them until they reach the Gone. I don’t know what they do to them then, but it’s not a pretty place to be, no matter who you are, so I can only imagine. Immunes run things there, and get paid a lot for it because a non-Immune would never risk catching the Flare. If you want to go, we should think long and hard about it first. We’re completely out of ammunition, so we’ll be unarmed.” Despite the ominous description, Minho had a glimmer of hope in his eyes. “Long and hard thinking done. You know where the closest one is?”
“Yeah,” Jorge answered. “We passed over it on the way here. It’s just on the far side of this vall ey, right up against the mountains to the west.”
Minho clapped his hands once. “Then that’s where we’re going. Jorge, get this piece of klunk up in the sky.”
Thomas expected at least a little argument or resistance. But none came.
“I’ll be glad for a little adventure, muchacho,” Jorge said, standing up. “We’ll be there in twenty minutes.” Jorge was true to his word on the timing. He landed the Berg in a clearing along the beginnings of a forest that stretched up the surprisingly green mountainside. About half of the trees were dead, but the other half looked as if they’d just begun to recover from years of massive heat spells. It made Thomas sad to think that the world would probably recover from the sun flares just fine someday, only to find itself uninhabited.
He stepped off the cargo ramp and took a good look at the wall surrounding what had to be the Crank Palace just a few hundred feet away. It was made of thick planks of wood. The closest gate was just beginning to open, and two people appeared, both of them holding huge Launchers. They looked exhausted, but wearily they took a defensive stance and aimed their weapons—they’d obviously heard or seen the Berg’s approach.
“Not a good start,” Jorge said.
One of the guards shouted something, but Thomas couldn’t hear what he’d said. “Let’s just go over there, talk to them. They must be immune if they have those Launchers.”
“Unless the Cranks took over,” offered Minho, but then he looked at Thomas with an odd grin. “Either way, we’re going in, and we’re not leaving without Newt.”
The group held their heads up high and slowly walked to the gate, making sure not to do anything that would cause alarm. The last thing Thomas wanted was to be shot by a Launcher grenade again. As they got closer, he saw that the two guards looked worse up close. They were filthy, sweaty and covered in bruises and scratches.
They stopped at the gate and one of the guards stepped forward.
“Who the hell are you people?” he asked. He had black hair and a mustache and was taller than his partner by a few good inches. “You don’t look much like the science goons that come in sometimes.” Jorge did the talking, just as he had at the airport when they’d arrived in Denver. “You wouldn’t have known we were coming, muchacho. We’re from WICKED, and one of our guys got captured and taken here by mistake. We’ll be picking him up.”
Thomas was surprised. What Jorge had said was technically the truth, when he thought about it.
The guard didn’t seem too impressed. “You think I give a crap about you and your fancy WICKED jobs?
You’re not the first uppity-up to drop in here and act like you own the place. You wanna come hang out with Cranks? Be my guest. Especially after what’s been going on lately.” He stepped to the side and made an exaggerated sweeping gesture of welcome. “Enjoy your stay at the Crank Palace. No refunds or exchanges if you lose an arm or eyeball.”
Thomas could almost smell the tension in the air, and he worried that Minho would add some smart remark and send these guys over the edge, so he spoke up quickly.
“What do you mean ‘what’s been going on lately’? What’s happening?” The guy shrugged. “It’s just not a very happy place, and that’s all you need to know.” He didn’t offer anything more.
Thomas already disliked the way things were going. “Well … do you know if any new”—saying Cranks didn’t feel right to Thomas—“people were brought here in the last day or two? Do you have a register?” The other guard—short and stocky, his head shaved—cleared his throat, then spit. “Who you lookin’ for?
A he or a she?”
“A he,” Thomas answered. “His name is Newt. A little taller than me, blond hair, kinda long. Has a limp.” The guy spit again. “I might know somethin’. But knowin’ and tell in’ are two different things. You kids look like you got plenty of money. Wanna share?”
Thomas, daring to let himself hope, looked back at Jorge, whose face had tightened in anger.
Minho spoke before Jorge could. “We’ve got money, shuck-face. Now tell us where our friend is.” The guard jabbed the Launcher toward them a little more fiercely. “Show me your cash cards or this conversation is over. I want at least a thousand.”
“He’s got it all,” Minho said, jabbing a thumb at Jorge as his eyes lasered in on the guard. “Greedy slinthead.”
Jorge pulled his card out and waved it in the air. “You’ll have to shoot me dead to take this, and you know it won’t do any good without my prints. You’ll get your money, hermano. Now show us the way.”
“All right, then,” the man said. “follow me. And remember, if any of your body parts become detached due to an unfortunate encounter with a Crank, I highly advise you to leave said body part behind and run like hell.
Unless it’s a leg, of course.”
He turned on his heels and walked through the opened gate.
|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|