Thomas stepped into a wide lobby with a few couches and chairs, fronted by a large, empty desk. It was different from the ones he’d seen the last time he was there. The furniture was colorful and bright, but it did nothing to perk up the dreary feel of the place.
“I thought we’d spend a few minutes in my office,” Janson said, and pointed down the hallway that branched off to the right off the lobby. They started walking that way. “We’re terribly sorry about what happened in Denver. A shame to lose a city with such potential. All the more reason we need to get this done and get it done quickly.”
“What is it you have to do?” he forced himself to ask.
“We’ll discuss everything in my office. Our lead team is there.” The device hidden in his backpack weighed heavily on Thomas’s thoughts. Somehow he had to get it planted as soon as possible and get the clock ticking.
“That’s fine,” he said, “but I really need to use the bathroom first.” It was the simplest idea he could come up with. And the only sure way to get a minute alone.
“There’s one just up ahead,” the Rat Man replied.
They turned a corner and continued down an even duller corridor that led to the men’s room.
“I’ll wait out here,” Janson said with a nod toward the door.
Thomas went inside without saying a word. He pulled the device from his backpack and looked around.
There was a wooden cabinet for storing toiletries above the sink, and the top of it had a lip just tall enough that Thomas could slip the gadget in and it would be concealed. He flushed the toilet and then turned on the water at the sink. He activated the device as he’d been taught, wincing at the slight beep that sounded, then reached up and deposited it on top of the cabinet. After shutting off the water, he calmed himself while the hand blower ran its course.
Then he stepped back into the hallway.
“All finished?” Janson asked, annoyingly polite.
“All finished,” Thomas replied.
They continued walking, passing a few crookedly hung portraits of Chancel or Paige just like the ones on the posters in Denver.
“Am I ever going to meet the chancel or?” Thomas finally asked, curious about the woman.
“Chancel or Paige is very busy,” Jansen answered. “You have to remember, Thomas—completing the blueprint and finalizing the cure are only the beginning. We’re still organizing the logistics of getting it out to the masses—most of the team is working hard at it as we speak.”
“What makes you so sure this will work? Why just me?”
Janson glanced at him, flashed his rodentlike smile. “I know, Thomas. I believe it with every ounce of my being. And I promise you’ll get the credit you deserve.”
For some reason Thomas thought of Newt just then. “I don’t want any credit.”
“Here we are,” the man replied, ignoring Thomas.
They’d reached an unmarked door and the Rat Man let him inside. Two people—a man and a woman—
sat facing a desk. Thomas didn’t recognize them.
The woman wore a dark pants suit and had long red hair, and thin-framed glasses were perched on her nose. The man was bald, angular and skinny, dressed in green scrubs.
“These are my associates,” Janson said, already moving to sit behind the desk. He motioned for Thomas to take the third seat between his two visitors, which he did. “Dr. Wright”—he pointed at the woman—“is our lead Psych, and Dr. Christensen our lead physician. We have a lot to discuss, so you’ll pardon me if I’m short on introductions.”
“Why am I the Final Candidate?” Thomas asked, cutting to the chase.
Janson gathered himself, needlessly moving things around on his desk before sitting back and folding his hands on his lap. “excellent question. We had a handful of—pardon the term—subjects slated in the beginning to … compete for this honor. Recently it was narrowed to you and Teresa. But she has a way of following orders that you don’t. Your tendency toward freethinking is what ultimately determined that you are the Final Candidate.”
Played to the end, Thomas thought bitterly. His own attempts to rebel had turned out to be exactly what they wanted. Every ounce of his anger was directed at the man sitting in front of him. At the Rat Man. To Thomas, Janson had come to represent WICKED from top to bottom.
“Let’s just get this over with,” he said. He did his best to hide it, but he could hear the fury in his own voice.
Janson seemed unfazed. “Some patience, please. This won’t take long. Keep in mind that collecting the kill zone patterns is a delicate operation. We’re dealing with your mind, and the slightest mishap in what you’re thinking or interpreting or perceiving can render the resultant findings worthless.”
“Yes,” Dr. Wright added, tucking her hair behind her ear. “I know A.D. Janson told you about the importance of coming back, and we’re glad you made the decision.” Her voice was soft and pleasant and somehow exuded intelligence.
Dr. Christensen cleared his throat, then spoke, his voice thin and reedy. Thomas immediately disliked him. “I don’t know how you could’ve made any other decision. The whole world’s on the verge of collapse, and you can help save it.”
“So you say,” Thomas responded.
“Exactly,” Janson said. “So we say. Everything is ready. But there’s still a little more to tell you so you can understand this decision you’ve made.”
“A little more to tell me?” Thomas repeated. “Isn’t the whole point of the Variables that I don’t know everything? Aren’t you going to throw me in a cage with gorillas or something? Maybe make me walk through a field of land mines? Dump me in the ocean, see if I can swim back to shore?”
“Just tell him the rest,” Dr. Christensen answered.
“The rest?” Thomas asked.
“Yes, Thomas,” Janson said through a sigh. “The rest. After all the Trials, after all the studies, after all the patterns that have been collected and scrutinized, after all the Variables we’ve put you and your friends through, it comes down to this.”
Thomas didn’t say anything. He was barely able to breathe because of a strange anticipation, the simultaneous desires to know and not know.
Janson leaned forward, elbows on desk, a grave look shadowing his face. “One final thing.”
“And what’s that?”
“Thomas, we need your brain.”
|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|