The Fever Code (The Maze Runner #5)(11)

by James Dashner

Luckily that one ended before he got ripped apart. The next one was much more pleasant.

Thomas, his mom, his dad. A picnic. By a river. He didn’t know if it was a memory or a wish, but he enjoyed it all the same. It created an ache in his chest that he thought might linger for a very long time.

At some point he dreamed about Teresa. The mysterious girl who lived so close—literally next door—and yet only one sentence had ever been spoken between them.

Someday we’ll be bigger.

He clung to those words. Saw her say them over and over in his dreams. There was something so tough about them, so…rebellious. He liked her for saying them. In his dream, he and Teresa were both sitting in the same room—his room, he on the bed, she in a chair. They weren’t talking, just…there. Together. He wanted a friend so desperately that he wished the surgery would go on forever, leave him in this dream.

But then Teresa started saying his name, over and over, only it wasn’t her voice. On some level, he knew what was happening, and his heart melted in sadness. The harder he tried to hold on to the counterfeit moment, the more quickly it faded. Soon there was only darkness and the repeated sound of his name.

Time to wake up.

He opened his eyes and blinked at the bright lights of the hospital room. A woman stared down at him. Dr. Paige.

“Doct—” he started, but she shushed him.

“Don’t say a word.” She smiled then, and everything seemed okay. Dr. Paige wouldn’t have done anything bad to him. No way. “You’re still under a heavy dose of drugs. You’ll be woozy. Just lie there and relax, enjoy the medicine.” She laughed, a thing that didn’t happen very often.

Thomas did feel floaty, peaceful. The whole incident with Teresa seemed almost funny now. He could only imagine what those nurses had thought at seeing this little kid charging down the hallway, leaping into the air like Superman. At least he’d shown Teresa that he cared. That he was brave. He sighed happily.

“Wow,” Dr. Paige said, looking over from the monitor she’d been studying. “I’d say you’re taking my advice to heart.”

“What did you do to me?” Thomas mumbled, each word slurred.

“Oh, now you’re ignoring my advice. I said not to speak.”

“What…did you do?” he asked again.

Dr. Paige turned to face him, then sat down on the bed. The shifting of the mattress hurt something somewhere on his body. But it was a dull, distant ache.

“I think the Psych told you what we were going to do, right?” she asked. “Dr. Leavitt?” She looked around as if to make sure he hadn’t come back into the room. He wasn’t there.

Thomas nodded. “But…”

“I know. It sounds horrible. Putting something inside you.” She smiled again. “But you’ve learned to trust me a little, haven’t you?”

Thomas nodded again.

“It’ll be so much better for you, for everyone, in the long run. We can measure your killzone activity so much faster and more efficiently now. Plus, you won’t have to come to the lab quite as often to extract data. It’ll all be instantaneous, real-time. Trust me, you’ll be glad we did it.”

Thomas didn’t say anything. He wouldn’t have, even if he could speak normally. What she said made sense. Mostly. He just wondered why Minho and Teresa had freaked out so much. Maybe their surgeries hadn’t gone as smoothly.

Dr. Paige stood up from the bed, patted Thomas’s arm. “All right, young man. Time for you to let those drugs pull you back to sleep. You’ll be doing a lot of that in the next couple of days. Enjoy the rest.” She started to walk away, but then turned around and came back. She leaned down and whispered something into Thomas’s ear, but his eyes were already closed and he was fading fast. He caught the words surprise and special.

Then he heard footsteps and the soft thump of the door as it shut behind her.

224.10.07 | 12:43 p.m.

Thomas’s head healed much quicker than he would’ve guessed. Soon he was back in his own room, attending classes as if nothing had changed. Since the day of the operation, he hadn’t seen a trace of Teresa, Minho, or the boy named Newt. Or anyone else, for that matter. Sometimes, as he walked down the hall toward his classes, he heard voices. They were distant enough that he couldn’t quite tell which way they were coming from, but he was sure they were kids. It made him wonder what was wrong with him that others were allowed to interact so much. When was it going to be his turn?

He wondered about it every day. At times he could explain it away as part of the experiments. Maybe some kids were together and some were alone. Maybe they’d switch it soon.

A bumpy line above his ear marked where they’d cut him open, but the hair had already grown over it and he hardly thought about it anymore. He figured soon he wouldn’t even be able to feel it. Sometimes he got a deep, resounding ache inside his skull, as if a magical hand had reached in there and squeezed. Whenever he asked Dr. Paige or his instructors about the implant, they simply told him what they’d told him before—it was analyzing his system—and they were always quick to point out how much less frequently he had to have tests done. That was something he did appreciate.

Dr. Paige constantly reassured him that there were reasons he was so isolated for now, that they wanted to take good care of him, keep him safe. The outside world was a scary, scary place, radiation and Cranks everywhere. And she said they needed to understand the disease better before Thomas interacted with others, that his was a special case—though she never went into much detail. But she brought him books and a handheld entertainment pad so often that he couldn’t doubt her kindness, which reassured him that she wasn’t just making things up to appease him. She always made him feel better about his strange life.

One day he woke up with a blistering headache and a weighty grogginess like he’d never felt before. It took every last ounce of his willpower to get up and slog through the morning routine. He took a nap in his room at lunchtime and felt like he’d barely closed his eyes when someone knocked on his door. It startled him, but he jumped up to answer it, worried he’d slept through his afternoon class. The movement brought another wave of pain crashing through his head.

His heart sank when he saw Dr. Leavitt standing in the hallway, the lights shining off his bald head.