The Death Cure by James Dashner

Page 11

 

  Newt and Minho had obviously seen the disastrous turn of events and given up on the plan. They were running toward him as they continued firing. Jorge had made it to the Berg and disappeared up the hatch, but he came out again, shooting a different kind of Launcher; its grenades exploded into spouts of raging fire when they made contact. Several of the guards screamed as they erupted in flames, and the others pulled back a little because of the new threat.

  Thomas waited anxiously on the ground next to Brenda, cursing his inability to help. He knew he had to wait for the electricity to die down before he could grab her and start dragging her to the Berg, but he didn’t know if there was time. Her face had gone completely white; blood dripped from her nose and drool trickled from her mouth as her limbs spasmed and her torso seemed to bounce in place. Her eyes were frozen wide with shock and terror.

  Newt and Minho reached him, dropped to the ground.

  “No!” Thomas shouted. “Keep going to the Berg. Take cover behind the hatch door. Wait until we start moving, then cover us. Fire like crazy till we get there. ”

  “Just come on already!” Minho yelled back. He grabbed Brenda by the shoulders, and Thomas’s breath caught as his friend winced—several jagged bolts of lightning arced up his arms. But the energy had weakened considerably and Minho was able to stand and begin pulling her along behind him.

  Thomas hooked his arms under Brenda’s shoulders, and Newt picked up her legs. They backed their way toward the Berg. The hangar was a world of noise and smoke and flashing light. A bullet grazed Thomas’s leg: a hot score of pain, then oozing blood. An inch difference and he might’ve been hobbled for life or bled to death. He let out a furious scream and imagined everyone in black as the one who’d shot him.

  He stole a glance at Minho; the boy’s face was strained with the effort of dragging Brenda. Thomas harnessed his furious surge of adrenaline and took a risk, lifted his Launcher up from beneath him with one hand, firing in random directions as he used the other to help pull Brenda across the floor.

  They reached the foot of the hatch door. Jorge immediately dropped his huge weapon and slid down the ramp to grab one of Brenda’s arms. Thomas released his hold on her shirt and let Minho and Jorge yank her up into the ship, her heels thumping against the raised traction molding.

  Newt started firing his weapon again, releasing grenades left and right until he ran out of ammunition. Thomas shot once more and his Launcher emptied as well.

  The guards in the hangar clearly knew that their time was about to run out, and a horde of them sprinted for the ship and opened fire once again.

  “Forget reloading!” Thomas shouted. “Let’s go!”

  Newt turned and scrambled up the ramp. Thomas was right behind him. His head had just crossed the threshold when something thumped and cracked against his back. In an instant he felt the burning power of a thousand bolts of lightning strike him at once; he fell backward and tumbled end over end until he landed on the floor of the hangar, his whole body convulsing and his vision going dark.

  CHAPTER 19

  Thomas’s eyes were open, but he couldn’t see anything. No, that wasn’t it. Brilliant lights arced in lines across his field of vision, blinding him. He couldn’t blink, couldn’t close his eyelids to block it. Pain washed over his body; his skin felt like it was melting right off his muscle and bones. He tried to scream, but it was as if he’d lost all control of his functions—his arms and legs and torso shook no matter how hard he strained to stop them.

  The crackle and pop of electricity filled his ears, but soon another noise took over. A deep, thrumming hum that pounded his ears and rattled his head. He was barely on the edge of consciousness, felt himself slipping in and out of an abyss that wanted to swallow him. But something in him knew what that sound was. The engines of the Berg had started up, the thrusters burning their blue flames.

  He immediately thought they were leaving him. First Teresa and the others, now his closest friends and Jorge. He couldn’t take any more betrayal. It hurt too much. He wanted to scream, all while needles of pain bit every inch of his body and the burning smell overwhelmed him. No, they wouldn’t leave him behind. He knew it.

  Gradually his vision started to clear, and the white-hot charges of heat diminished in strength and number. He blinked. Two, then three figures dressed in black stood over him, weapons pointed at his face. Guards. Would they kill him? Drag him back to the Rat Man for more tests? One of them spoke, but Thomas couldn’t hear the words; static buzzed in his ears.

  All of a sudden the guards were gone, tackled by two figures that seemingly flew through the air. His friends, had to be his friends. Through a haze of smoke Thomas could see the ceiling of the hangar far above him. The pain had mostly gone away, replaced by a numbness that made him wonder if he could move. He shifted to his right, then rolled to his left, then leaned up on an elbow, woozy and weak. A last few trickles of electricity skittered over his body and disappeared into the cement. The worst was over. He hoped.

  He shifted again, looked back over his shoulder. Minho and Newt were each straddling a guard, beating the living klunk out of them. Jorge stood in between the Gladers, shooting his fiery Launcher in all directions. Most of the guards must’ve given up or been disabled—otherwise Thomas and the others wouldn’t have made it even this far. Or maybe, Thomas thought, the guards were pretending, putting on an act, like everyone else in the Trials.

  He didn’t care. He just wanted out of this place. And escape was right in front of him.

  With a groan he shifted to his belly, then pushed himself up onto his hands and knees. Breaking glass, the crackle of lightning, the booms of weapons firing and pings of bullets hitting metal filled the air around him. If someone shot him now, there was nothing he could do about it. He could only drag himself toward the Berg. The ship’s thrusters hummed as they charged; the whole thing vibrated, shaking the ground underneath him as well. The hatch door was only a few feet away. They needed to get on the ship.

  He tried to yell something back at Minho and the others, but only a gurgling groan came out. On his hands and knees like a wounded dog, he started crawling forward as quickly as his body would allow—he had to fight for every ounce of strength within. He reached the lip of the ramp, pulled himself over it, inched up the slope. His muscles ached and nausea climbed out of his stomach. The noises of battle pounded his ears, put his nerves on edge; something could hit him at any second.

  He made it halfway. Turned to look at his friends. They were backing toward him, all three now firing. Minho had to stop and reload, and Thomas just knew he’d get shot or blasted with a grenade. But his friend finished and started up again. The three of them reached the bottom of the hatch door, so close now.

  Thomas tried to speak again; now he sounded like a wounded dog.

  “That’s it!” Jorge yelled. “Grab his butt and drag him in!”

  Jorge ran up the ramp past Thomas and disappeared inside. Something clicked loudly, and then the ramp started to swing upward, its hinges groaning. Thomas realized he’d collapsed, his face resting against the raised metal traction pads beneath him, yet he couldn’t remember when it had happened. He felt hands pull at his shirt, felt himself lifted through the air. Then he slammed back down just inside the hatch door as it sealed shut and the locks engaged.

  “Sorry, Tommy,” Newt muttered in his ear. “Could’ve been a bit more gentle, I ’spect. ”

  Though he was close to unconsciousness, an indescribable joy lifted Thomas’s heart—they were escaping WICKED. He let out a weak grunt in an attempt to share that with his friend. Then he closed his eyes and passed out.

  CHAPTER 20

  Thomas woke to see Brenda’s face staring down at him. She looked worried. Her skin was pale and marked with streaks of dried blood, and there was black soot on her forehead and a bruise forming on her cheek. As if her wounds reminded him, he suddenly felt the sting of h
is own across his whole body. He had no idea how those Launcher grenades worked, but he was happy he’d only been hit once.

  “I just got up myself,” Brenda said. “How do you feel?”

  Thomas shifted to lean on his elbow and winced at the sharp pain in his leg where he’d been grazed by the bullet. “Like a bucket of klunk. ”

  He lay on a low cot inside a large cargo hold that currently held nothing but a bunch of mismatched furniture. Minho and Newt were taking well-deserved naps on a couple of ugly couches, blankets covering their bodies and tucked in under their chins. Thomas had a sneaking suspicion that Brenda had done that—they looked like little kids, all snuggly and warm.

  Brenda had been kneeling next to his cot; she now stood up and took a seat on a frumpy armchair a few feet away. “We slept for almost ten hours. ”

  “Serious?” Thomas couldn’t believe it—it seemed like he’d just dozed off. Or passed out was probably more accurate.

  Brenda nodded.

  “We’ve been flying that long? Where are we going, the moon?” Thomas swung his legs out and sat on the edge of the cot.

  “No. Jorge got us a hundred or so miles away, then landed in a big clearing. He’s actually snoozing, too. Can’t have a tired pilot. ”

  “I can’t believe we both got shot by Launchers. I liked it a lot better being the one who pulled the trigger. ” Thomas rubbed his face and let out a big yawn. Then he examined some of the burns on his arms. “Do you think these will leave scars?”

  Brenda laughed. “Of all the things to worry about. ”

  He couldn’t help but smile. She was right. “So,” he started, then continued, slowly. “It sounded great to escape from WICKED when we were back there, but … I don’t even know what the real world … It’s not all like the Scorch, is it?”

  “No,” she replied. “Only the regions between the Tropics are a wasteland—everywhere else has extreme swings of climate. There are a few safe cities we could go to. Especially being immune—we could probably find jobs pretty easily. ”

  “Jobs,” Thomas repeated, as if the word were the most foreign thing he’d ever heard. “You’re already thinking about getting a job?”

  “You do plan to eat, don’t you?”

  Thomas didn’t answer, felt the heavy weight of reality. If they were truly going to escape into the real world, they had to start living like real people. But was that even possible in a world where the Flare existed? He thought of his friends.

  “Teresa,” he said.

  Brenda pulled back a little in surprise. “What about her?”

  “Is there a way to find out where she and the others went?”

  “Jorge already did—checked the Berg tracking system. They went to a city called Denver. ”

  Thomas felt a prick of alarm. “Does that mean WICKED’ll be able to find us?”

  “You don’t know Jorge. ” She had a mischievous grin on her face. “He can manipulate the system like you wouldn’t believe. We should be able to stay a step ahead of them for a little while, at least. ”

  “Denver,” Thomas said after a moment. The name sounded weird in his mouth. “Where’s that?”

  “Rocky Mountains. High elevation. One of the obvious choices for a quarantine zone because the weather’s recovered pretty quickly there since the sun flares. As good a place as any to go. ”

  Thomas didn’t care so much about the location, he just knew that he had to find Teresa and the others, be reunited. He wasn’t quite sure why yet, and he certainly wasn’t ready to discuss it with Brenda. So he stalled for time.

  “What’s it like there?” he finally asked.

  “Well, like most big cities, they’re pretty ruthless about keeping the Cranks out, and the residents have to be tested for the Flare randomly and often. They actually have another town set up on the opposite side of the valley where they send the newly infected. Immunes get paid a lot of money to take care of them even though it’s extremely dangerous. Both places are heavily guarded. ”

  Even with some of his memories back, Thomas didn’t know a whole lot about the population that was immune to the Flare. But he remembered something the Rat Man had told him. “Janson said that people really hate the Immunes—call them Munies. What did he mean by that?”

  “When you have the Flare, you know you’re going to go crazy and die. It’s not a matter of if but when. And as hard as the world has tried, the virus always finds its way through the cracks of the quarantines. Imagine knowing that and then knowing that the Immunes are going to be okay. The Flare does nothing to them—they don’t even transmit the virus. Wouldn’t you hate the healthy?”

  “Probably,” Thomas said, glad he was on the immune side of things. Better to be hated than sick. “But wouldn’t it seem valuable to have them around? I mean, knowing they can’t catch the disease. ”

  Brenda shrugged. “They’re definitely used—especially in government and security roles—but the others treat them like trash. And there’s way more people who aren’t immune. That’s why the Munies get paid so much to be guards—otherwise they wouldn’t go through it. A lot of them even try to hide their immunity. Or go work for WICKED, like Jorge and I did. ”

  “So did you guys meet before going there?”

  “We met in Alaska, after we’d found out we were immune. There was a gathering place for people like us—kind of a hidden camp. Jorge became like an uncle to me, and he swore to be my guardian. My dad had already been killed, and my mom pushed me away once she caught the Flare. ”

  Thomas leaned forward, elbows on knees. “You told me WICKED killed your dad. And yet you still went and volunteered to work for them?”
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