The room lapsed into silence, broken only by the hum of machinery and a very faint beeping sound. Thomas knew he was immune—at least, he’d been told he was—but he didn’t know about anyone else, had actually forgotten about it. The sickening fear he’d felt when he’d first found out came flooding back.
“For an experiment to provide accurate results,” the Rat Man explained, “one needs a control group. We did our best to keep the virus from you as long as we could. But it’s airborne and highly contagious.” He paused, taking in everyone’s gazes.
“Just bloody get on with it,” Newt said. “We all figured we had the buggin’ disease anyway. You’re not breaking our hearts.”
“Yeah,” Sonya added. “Cut the drama and tell us already.”
Thomas noticed Teresa fidgeting next to him. Had she already been told something, also? He figured that she had to be immune like him—that WICKED wouldn’t have chosen them for their special roles otherwise.
Rat Man cleared his throat. “Okay, then. Most of you are immune and have helped us gather invaluable data. Only two of you are considered Candidates now, but we’ll go into that later. Let’s get to the list. The following people are not immune. Newt …”
Something like a jolt hit Thomas in the chest. He doubled over and stared at the floor. Rat Man called out a few more names, but none Thomas knew—he barely heard them over the dizzying buzz that seemed to fill his ears and fog his mind. He was surprised at his own reaction, hadn’t realized just how much Newt meant to him until he heard the declaration. A thought occurred to him—earlier the Rat Man had said that the control subjects were like the glue that kept the project’s data together, made it all coherent and relevant.
The Glue. That was the title given to Newt—the tattoo that was etched in his skin even now, like a black scar.
“Tommy, slim yourself.”
Thomas looked up to see Newt standing there with his arms folded and a forced grin on his face. Thomas straightened back up. “Slim myself? That old shank just said you’re not immune to the Flare. How can you
“I’m not worried about the bloody Flare, man. I never thought I’d still be alive at this buggin’ point—and living hasn’t exactly been so great anyway.”
Thomas couldn’t tell if his friend was serious or just trying to seem tough. But the creepy grin still hadn’t left Newt’s face, so Thomas forced a smile onto his own. “If you’re cool with slowly going crazy and wanting to eat small children, then I guess we won’t cry for you.” Words had never felt so empty before.
“Good that,” Newt responded; the smile disappeared, though.
Thomas finally turned his attention to the rest of the people in the room, his head still dizzy with thoughts.
One of the Gladers—a kid named Jackson who he’d never gotten to know very well —was staring into space with blank eyes, and another was trying to hide his tears. One of the girls of Group B had red, puffy eyes—a couple of her friends were huddled around her, trying to console her.
“I wanted to get that out of the way,” Rat Man said. “Mainly so I could tell you myself and remind you that the whole point of this operation has been to build toward a cure. Most of you not immune are in the early stages of the Flare, and I have every confidence that you’ll be taken care of before it goes too far. But the Trials required your participation.”
“And what if you don’t figure things out?” Minho asked.
Rat Man ignored him. He walked over to the closest bed, then reached up and put a hand on the odd metal ic device hanging from the ceiling. “This is something we’re very proud of here—a feat of scientific and medical engineering. It’s called a Retractor, and it will be performing this procedure. It’ll be placed on your face—and I promise you’ll still look just as pretty when everything is done. small wires within the device will descend and enter your ear canals. From there they will remove the machinery in your brain. Our doctors and nurses will give you a sedative to calm your nerves and something to dull the discomfort.” He paused to glance around the room. “You will fall into a trancelike state as the nerves repair themselves and your memories return, similar to what some of you went through during what you called the Changing back in the Maze. But not nearly as bad, I promise. Much of that was for the purpose of stimulating brain patterns. We have several more rooms like this one, and a whole team of doctors waiting to get started.
Now, I’m sure you have a million questions, but most of them will be answered by your own memories, so I’m going to wait until after the procedure for any more Q and A.” The Rat Man paused, then finished, “Give me just a few moments to make sure the medical teams are ready. You can take this time to make your decisions.”
He crossed the room, the swish-swishing of his white pants the only sound cutting the silence, and disappeared through the first steel door, closing it behind him. Then the room erupted with noise as everyone started talking at once.
Teresa came over to Thomas, and Minho was right behind her. He leaned in close to be heard over the buzz of frantic conversations. “You shanks know more and remember more than anybody else. Teresa, I’ve never made a secret of it—I don’t like you. But I want to hear what you think anyway.” Thomas was just as curious to hear Teresa’s opinion. He nodded at his former friend and waited for her to speak. There was still a small part of him that foolishly expected her to finally speak out against doing what WICKED wanted.
“We should do it,” Teresa said, and it didn’t surprise Thomas at all. The hope inside him died for good. “It feels like the right thing to me. We need our memories back so we can be smart about things. Decide what to do next.”
Thomas’s mind was spinning, trying to put it all together. “Teresa, I know you’re not stupid. But I also know you’re in love with WICKED. I’m not sure what you’re up to, but I’m not buying it.”
“Me neither,” Minho said. “They can manipulate us, play with our shuck brains, dude! How would we even know if they’re giving us back our own memories or shoving new ones inside us?” Teresa let out a sigh. “You guys are missing the whole point! If they can control us, if they can do whatever they want with us, make us do anything, then why would they even bother with this whole charade of giving us a choice? Plus, he said they’d also be taking out the part that lets them control us. It feels legit to me.”
“Well, I never trusted you anyway,” Minho said, shaking his head slowly. “And certainly not them. I’m with Thomas.”
“What about Aris?” Newt had been so quiet, Thomas hadn’t even noticed that he’d walked up behind him with Frypan. “Didn’t you say he was with you guys before you came to the Maze? What does he think?” Thomas scanned the room until he found Aris talking to some of his friends from Group B. He’d been hanging out with them since Thomas had arrived, which Thomas figured made sense—Aris had gone through his own Maze experience with that group. But Thomas could never forgive the boy for the part he’d played in helping Teresa back in the Scorch, luring him to the chamber in the mountains and forcing him inside.
“I’ll go ask him,” Teresa said.
Thomas and his friends watched as she walked over, and she and her group started whispering furiously to each other.
“I hate that chick,” Minho finally said.
“Come on, she’s not so bad,” Frypan offered.
Minho rolled his eyes. “If she’s doing it, I’m not.”
“Me neither,” Newt agreed. “And I’m the one who supposedly has the bloody Flare, so I have more stake in it than anybody. But I’m not falling for one more trick.” Thomas had already settled on that. “Let’s just hear what she says. Here she comes.” Her talk with Aris had been short. “He sounded even more sure than us. They’re all for it.”
“Well, that settles it for me,” Minho answered. “If Aris and Teresa are for it, I’m against it.” Thomas couldn’t have said it better himself. Every instinct he had told him Minho was right, but he didn’t voice his opinion aloud. He watched Teresa’s face instead. She turned and looked at Thomas. It was a look he knew so well —she expected him to side with her. But the difference was that now he was suspicious about why she wanted it so badly.
He stared at her, forcing his own expression to remain blank—and Teresa’s face fell.
“Suit yourselves.” She shook her head, then turned and walked away.
Despite everything that had happened, Thomas’s heart lurched in his chest as she retreated across the room.
“Ah, man,” Frypan’s voice cut in, jarring Thomas back. “We can’t let them put those things on our face, can we? I’d just be happy back in my kitchen in the Homestead, I swear I would.”
“You forget about the Grievers?” Newt asked.
Frypan paused a second, then said, “They never messed with me in the kitchen, now, did they?”
“Yeah, well, we’ll just have to find you a new place to cook.” Newt grabbed Thomas and Minho by the arms and led them away from the group. “I’ve heard enough bloody arguments. I’m not getting on one of those beds.”
Minho reached over and squeezed Newt’s shoulder. “Me neither.”
“Same here,” Thomas said. Then he finally voiced what had been building inside him for weeks. “We’ll stick around, play along and act nice,” he whispered. “But as soon as we get a chance, we’re going to fight our way out of this place.”
|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|