The Fever Code (The Maze Runner #5)(17)

by James Dashner

“What did you mean about us helping you to build the place?” Teresa asked.

“Exactly that,” McVoy replied with a genuine smile. “We’ve decided to use you and Thomas, as well as two other children your age, to assist us. Perhaps others. But the four of you are just so…beyond what we’d expected from people so young. We’re going to utilize that. As I’ve said before, we’re pragmatic people with limited resources. We don’t plan to waste your talents. The planning, design, execution of these mazes…it’s all going to be tricky.”

Thomas’s shortage of words continued. He just sat there, stunned. Teresa was quiet as well, maybe feeling the same.

“You do want to help us, don’t you?” McVoy asked.

Dr. Paige, who had been quiet throughout the afternoon, chimed in here. “It’s an honor and a fantastic opportunity, you guys. I know things are dire in the world right now, but this project could even be fun for you. A challenge. We have a lot of faith in you both. And in the others as well. Aris and Rachel are their names.”

After a long silence, McVoy said, “Well? What do you think?”

Thomas knew they had no choice in the matter. And that it might be a lot of hard work. But the whole idea was exciting. And something new to take up his days.

“Of course,” he said, barely able to contain his happiness.

“Yes,” Teresa added, sounding more serious.

McVoy stood up, then shook both Thomas’s and Teresa’s hands. “This will be a fun project. You’re becoming more a part of WICKED every day!” She said it as if it were the biggest compliment she could give.

As they left the conference room and headed back to their rooms, winding through the hallways, stairs, and elevators of the complex, McVoy’s parting words echoed through Thomas’s mind. A part of WICKED.

He wasn’t sure how he felt about that.

Dr. Paige told Thomas that he had the rest of the day off to rest, relax, and think about things. He lay on his bed and stared at the ceiling. What he really wanted to do, though, was hang out with Teresa, to talk through it all. His mind spun with the life-changing things he’d heard and seen that day, and he needed Teresa’s help to process it all.

He looked at his door. It was closed, as always. And for as long as he could remember, it automatically locked upon closing. But he couldn’t remember the last time he’d tried it. For months, maybe even a year or two, he’d just always assumed it was locked and didn’t bother. Well, now he had a reason to give it a shot.

He rolled out of bed and went to the door. Slowly, he reached out, as if it might electrocute him upon touch. He grabbed the handle and turned.

The door popped open.

Thomas pushed it closed and ran back to his bed, his heart thumping in his ears. He looked around, wondered about the many, many ways they kept tabs on him. Cameras, microphones, sensors, who knew what else—some were in plain sight, some he couldn’t see at all. The fear he suddenly felt wasn’t rational—all he’d done was open the door a crack and then close it. WICKED had treated him well, for the most part. He hadn’t even seen Randall in a long time. Why the sudden chill icing his bones?

They watched his every move—he was sure of it. Maybe that was why they’d stopped locking the doors. For all he knew, they wanted him to leave, to observe him, to see what happened. Or it was possible that his obedience in staying put all these years was what had ensured his rise to the top along with Teresa and those other two kids. Could that be it?

It took a while, but his heart finally calmed, and the sweat that had dampened his face and arms evaporated. He stared at the door, pretending, even to himself, that what would happen next was actually up for debate. It wasn’t, and he knew it. Something would have to strike him dead to prevent him from exploring.

But he had to be smart about it. He would wait until nighttime.

The fear turned to pure anticipation.

The hours dragged.

He desperately wanted to sleep so that he’d be rested for his planned excursion, but it took forever to finally doze off, and then dinner came and ruined it. He ate, rested, finally fell asleep again.

He came awake with a start to a darkened room. Worried he’d wasted the entire night, he quickly checked the time—just a few minutes past midnight. He took a quick shower to wash away the grogginess, got dressed, then found himself standing in front of his door again, hesitant, full of doubts. He could ruin everything by wandering the hallways. Ruin the chance to work on WICKED’s crazy, insane project to build giant mazes underground. Ruin his chance to be with Teresa and others.

He sighed, angry at the dent in his enthusiasm. Maybe there was a time mechanism and the door would be locked. Oh well. They weren’t going to punish him for opening a stupid door, or even for venturing into the hallway. He could always take a peek and then come back if it felt wrong.

Something clicked and then the door swung several inches toward him.

At first he didn’t understand what had happened—he actually looked down at his hands to see if they’d acted on their own and turned the handle. But they were at his sides, palms sweaty. No, someone had opened the door from the other side.

He leaned his head around the edge of the frame and his heart leapt when he saw a complete stranger staring back at him. A boy about his age. No, not a stranger. The kid just looked different because his blond hair wasn’t covered with a bandage and he was a little older.

“Hey, I’m Newt,” the boy whispered. “And I know bloody well who you are. Which is why we’ve decided to finally snag you. Come on, I want to show you something.”

224.10.15 | 12:58 a.m.

Thomas had never had to think so fast in his life. A thousand things went through his mind in the two or three seconds before he answered Newt. Should he actually go with the boy or slam the door in his face? How could Newt have possibly showed up on the very night that Thomas had discovered his door unlocked and planned to go out on his own? In a place like WICKED, he didn’t believe in coincidences—anything might be a test of some sort. What did this kid want to show him? Was it a trap? Should he invite him into his room and grill him about it? What if—

“Okay,” he finally said, stepping into the hallway. He closed the door behind him, then quickly checked to make sure it didn’t lock on him. It didn’t. He turned to Newt and asked, “Can we take Teresa with us? She’s right next to me.”