Rat Man returned before Newt or Minho could respond. But judging by the looks on their faces, Thomas was sure they were on board. One hundred percent.
More people were piling into the room, and Thomas turned his attention to what was going on. Everyone who’d joined them was dressed in a one-piece, somewhat loose-fitting green suit with WICKED written across the chest. It struck Thomas suddenly how thoroughly every detail of this game—this experiment—
had been thought out. Could it be that the very name they’d used for their organization had been one of the Variables from the beginning? A word with obvious menace, yet an entity they were told was good? It was probably just another poke to see how their brains reacted, what they felt.
It was all a guessing game. Had been from the very beginning.
Each doctor—Thomas assumed they were doctors, like Rat Man had said—took a place next to one of the beds. They fidgeted with the masks that hung from the ceiling, adjusting the tubes, tinkering with knobs and switches Thomas couldn’t see.
“We’ve already assigned each of you a bed,” Rat Man said, looking down at papers on a clipboard he’d brought back with him. “Those staying in this room are …” He rattled off a few names, including Sonya and Aris, but not Thomas or any of the Gladers. “If I didn’t call your name, please follow me.” The whole situation had taken on a bizarre taint, too casual and run-of-the-mill for the seriousness of what was going on. Like gangsters yelling out roll call before they slaughtered a group of weeping traitors.
Thomas didn’t know what to do but go along until the right moment presented itself.
He and the others silently followed Rat Man out of the room and down another long, windowless hallway before stopping at another door. Their guide read from his list again, and Frypan and Newt were included this time.
“I’m not doing it,” Newt announced. “You said we could choose and that’s my bloody decision.” He exchanged an angry look with Thomas that seemed to say they better do something soon or he’d go crazy.
“That’s fine,” Rat Man replied. “You’ll change your mind soon enough. Stay with me until we’ve finished distributing everyone else.”
“What about you, Frypan?” Thomas asked, trying to hide his surprise at how easily the Rat Man had relented with Newt.
The cook suddenly looked sheepish. “I … think I’m going to let them do it.” Thomas was shocked.
“Are you crazy?” Minho asked.
Frypan shook his head, bearing himself up a little defensively. “I want to remember. Make your own choice; let me make mine.”
“Let’s move along,” Rat Man said.
Frypan disappeared into the room, hurrying, probably to avoid any more arguments. Thomas knew he had to let it go—for now, he could only worry about himself and finding a way out. Hopefully he could rescue everyone else once he did.
Rat Man didn’t call for Minho, Teresa and Thomas until they were standing at the final door, along with Harriet and two other girls from Group B. So far Newt had been the only one to say no to the procedure.
“No thanks,” Minho said when Rat Man gestured for everyone to enter the room. “But I appreciate the invitation. You guys have a good time in there.” He gave a mock wave.
“I’m not doing it, either,” Thomas announced. He was beginning to feel the rush of anticipation. They had to take a chance soon, try something.
Rat Man stared at Thomas for a long time, his face unreadable.
“You okay, there, Mr. Rat Man?” Minho asked.
“My name is Assistant Director Janson,” he replied, his voice low and strained, as if it was hard work to stay calm. His eyes never left Thomas. “Learn to show respect for your elders.”
“You quit treating people like animals and maybe I’ll consider it,” Minho said. “And why are you goggling at Thomas?”
Rat Man—Janson—finally turned his gaze to Minho. “Because there are many things to consider.” He paused, stood straighter. “But very well. We said you could choose for yourselves, and we’ll stand by that.
Everyone come inside and we’ll get things started with those willing to participate.” Again, Thomas felt a shiver pass through his body. Their moment was coming. He knew it. And by the expression on Minho’s face, he knew it, too. They gave each other a slight nod and followed Rat Man into the room.
It looked exactly like the first one, with six beds, the hanging masks, all of it. The machine that evidently ran everything was already humming and chirping. A person dressed in the same green clothes as the doctors in the first room stood next to each bed.
Thomas looked around and sucked in a breath. Standing next to a bed at the very end of the row, dressed in green, was Brenda. She looked way younger than everyone else, her brown hair and face cleaner than he’d ever seen them back in the Scorch. She gave him a quick shake of her head and shifted her gaze to Rat Man; then, before Thomas knew what was happening, she was running across the room.
She grabbed Thomas and pulled him into a hug. He squeezed back, completely in shock, but he didn’t want to let go.
“Brenda, what are you doing!” Janson yelled at her. “Get back to your post!” She pressed her lips against Thomas’s ear, and then she was whispering, so quietly he could barely hear her, “Don’t trust them. Do not trust them. Only me and Chancel or Paige, Thomas. Ever. No one else.”
“Brenda!” the Rat Man practically screamed.
Then she was letting go, stepping away. “Sorry,” she mumbled. “I’m just glad to see he made it through Phase Three. I forgot myself.” She walked back to her post and turned to face them once again, her face blank.
Janson scolded her. “We hardly have time for such things.”
Thomas couldn’t look away from her, didn’t know what to think or feel. He already didn’t trust WICKED, so her words put them on the same side. But why was she working with them, then? Wasn’t she sick? And who was this Chancel or Paige? Was this just another test? Another Variable?
Something powerful had swum through his body when they’d hugged. He thought back to how Brenda had spoken in his mind after he’d been put into the white room. She’d warned him things were going to get bad. He still didn’t understand how she’d been able to do that—was she really on his side?
Teresa, who’d been quiet since they left the first room, stepped up to him, interrupting his thoughts.
“What’s she doing here?” she whispered, the spite evident in her voice. Every little thing she did or said now bothered him. “I thought she was a Crank.”
“I don’t know,” Thomas muttered. Flashes of all that time he’d spent with Brenda in the broken city filled his head. In a strange way, he missed that place. Missed being alone with her. “Maybe she’s … just throwing me a Variable.”
“You think she was part of the show, sent to the Scorch to help run things?”
“Probably.” Thomas hurt inside. It made sense that Brenda could’ve been part of WICKED from the beginning. But that meant she’d lied to him, over and over. He wanted so badly for something to be different about her.
“I don’t like her,” Teresa said. “She seems … devious.”
Thomas had to force himself not to scream at Teresa. Or laugh at her. Instead, he spoke to her calmly.
“Go let them play with your brain.” Maybe her distrust of Brenda was the best indication that he should trust Brenda.
Teresa gave him a sharp look. “Judge me all you want. I’m just doing what feels right.” Then she stepped away, awaiting the Rat Man’s instructions.
Janson assigned the willing patients to beds while Thomas, Newt, and Minho hung back and observed.
Thomas glanced at the door, wondered if they should make a run for it. He was just about to nudge Minho when the Rat Man spoke up as if he’d read Thomas’s mind.
“You three rebels are being watched. Don’t even think about trying anything. Armed guards are on their way as we speak.”
Thomas had the unsettling idea that maybe someone had read his mind. Could they interpret his actual thoughts from the brain patterns they were so studiously collecting?
“That’s a bunch of klunk,” Minho whispered when Janson returned his attention to getting people settled on the beds. “I think we should take our chances, see what happens.” Thomas didn’t answer, looked over at Brenda instead. She was staring at the floor, seemingly deep in thought. He found himself missing her terribly, feeling a connection he didn’t quite understand. All he wanted was to talk to her alone. And not just because of what she’d said to him.
The sound of rushed footsteps came from the hallway. Three men and two women burst into the room, all of them dressed in black, with gear strapped to their backs—ropes, tools, ammunition. They were all holding some sort of bulky weapon. Thomas couldn’t stop staring at the weapons—they tugged at some lost memory he could just barely put his finger on, but at the same time it was like seeing them for the first time.
The devices shimmered with blue light—a clear tube in the middle was filled with shiny metal ic grenades that crackled and fizzed with electricity—and the guards were pointing them at Thomas and his two friends.
“We waited too bloody long,” Newt snapped in a low, harsh whisper.
Thomas knew an opportunity would present itself soon. “They would’ve caught us out there anyway,” he answered quietly, his lips barely moving. “Just be patient.” Janson walked over to stand beside the guards. He pointed at one of the weapons. “These are called Launchers. These guards will not hesitate to fire them if any of you cause trouble. The weapons won’t kill you, but trust me when I say that they’ll give you the most uncomfortable five minutes of your life.”
“What’s going on?” Thomas asked, surprised at how little fear he felt. “You just told us we could make this choice ourselves. Why the sudden army?”
“Because I don’t trust you.” Janson paused, seeming to choose his words carefully. “We hoped you would do things voluntarily once your memories were back. It would just make things easier. But I never said we don’t still need you.”
“What a surprise,” Minho said. “You lied again.”
“I haven’t lied about a thing. You made your decision, now live with the consequences.” Janson pointed at the door. “Guards, escort Thomas and the others to their rooms, where they can dwel on their mistakes until tomorrow morning’s tests. Use whatever force is necessary.”
|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|