The Death Cure by James Dashner

Page 12


  “Survival, Thomas. ” A dark look passed over her face. “You don’t know how good you had it growing up under WICKED’s wing. Out in the real world, most people will do anything to survive one more day. Cranks and Immunes have different problems, yeah, but it’s still about surviving. Everybody wants to live. ”

  Thomas didn’t respond, didn’t know what to say. All he knew of life was the Maze and the Scorch and the splotchy memories of his childhood with WICKED. He felt empty and lost, like he didn’t really belong anywhere.

  A sudden pain squeezed his heart. “I wonder what happened to my mom,” he said, surprising himself.

  “Your mom?” Brenda asked. “You remember her?”

  “I’ve had a few dreams about her. I think they were memories. ”

  “What came back? What was she like?”

  “She was … a mom. You know, she loved me, cared about me, worried about me. ” Thomas’s voice cracked. “I don’t think anyone’s done that since they took me away from her. It hurts to think of her going crazy, to think of what might’ve happened to her. What some crazy bloodthirsty Crank might’ve …”

  “Stop it, Thomas. Just stop. ” She took his hand and squeezed, which helped. “Think how happy she’d be, knowing you’re still alive, still fighting. She died knowing that you were immune, and that you’d have a chance to actually grow old, no matter how crappy the world is. Plus, you’re totally wrong. ”

  Thomas had been staring at the floor, but at that he looked up at Brenda. “Huh?”

  “Minho. Newt. Frypan. All your friends care and worry about you. Even Teresa—she really did do all those things in the Scorch because she thought she had no choice. ” Brenda paused, then added in a quiet voice, “Chuck. ”

  The pang Thomas was feeling in his chest tightened. “Chuck. He … he’s …” He had to stop a second to compose himself. When it came down to it, Chuck was the most vivid reason that he despised WICKED. How could any good come from killing a kid like Chuck?

  He finally continued. “I watched as that kid died. In his last few seconds there was pure terror in his eyes. You can’t do that. You can’t do that to a person. I don’t care what anyone tells me, I don’t care how many people go crazy and die, I don’t care if the whole shuck human race ends. Even if that was the only thing that had to happen to find the cure, I’d still be against it. ”

  “Thomas, relax. You’re going to squeeze your own fingers off. ”

  He didn’t remember letting go of her hand—he looked down to see his own hands gripping each other tightly, the skin completely white. He eased off and felt the blood rush back to them.

  Brenda nodded solemnly. “I changed for good back in the Scorch city. I’m sorry for everything. ”

  Thomas shook his head. “You don’t have a single reason more than I do to apologize. It’s all just one big screwed-up mess. ” He groaned and lay back down on the cot, staring at the metal grid of the ceiling.

  After a long pause, Brenda finally spoke again. “Ya know, maybe we can find Teresa and the others. Join up. They broke out, which means they’re on our side. I think we should give them the benefit of the doubt—maybe they had no choice but to leave without us. And it’s no surprise at all that they went where they did. ”

  Thomas shifted to look at her, daring to hope she was right. “So you think we should go to …”

  “Denver. ”

  Thomas nodded, suddenly certain and loving the feel of it. “Yeah, Denver. ”

  “But your friends aren’t the only reason. ” Brenda smiled. “There’s something even more important there. ”


  Thomas stared at Brenda, eager to hear what she had to say.

  “You know what’s in your brain,” she said. “So what’s our biggest concern?”

  Thomas thought about it. “WICKED tracking us or controlling us. ”

  “Exactly,” Brenda said.

  “And?” Again, impatience filled his gut.

  She sat back down across from him and leaned forward on her knees, rubbing her hands together in excitement. “I know a guy named Hans who moved to Denver—he’s immune like us. He’s a doctor. He worked at WICKED until he had a disagreement with the higher-ups about the protocols surrounding the brain implants. He thought what they were doing was too risky. That they were crossing lines, being inhumane. WICKED wouldn’t let him leave, but he managed to escape. ”

  “Those guys need to work on their security,” Thomas muttered.

  “Lucky for us. ” Brenda grinned. “Anyway, Hans is a genius. He knows every little detail about the implants you guys have in your heads. I know he went to Denver because he sent me a message over the Netblock right before I was dropped into the Scorch. If we can get to him, he’ll be able to take those things out of your heads. Or at least disable them. I’m not sure how it works, but if anyone can do it, he can. And he’d do it gladly. The man hates WICKED as much as we do. ”

  Thomas thought for a second. “And if they control us, we’re in big trouble. I’ve seen it happen at least three times. ” Alby struggling against an unseen force in the Homestead, Gally being controlled with the knife that hit Chuck, and Teresa straining to speak to Thomas outside the shack in the Scorch. All three among his most disturbing memories.

  “Exactly. They could manipulate you, make you do things. They can’t see through your eyes or hear your voice or anything like that, but we need to get you fixed. If they’re close enough to have you under observation and if they decide it’s worth the risk, they’ll try it. And that’s the last thing we need. ”

  It was a lot to sort out. “Well, it looks like we have plenty of reason to go to Denver. We’ll see what Newt and Minho think when they wake up. ”

  Brenda nodded. “Sounds good. ” She got to her feet and moved closer, then leaned in and kissed Thomas on the cheek. Goose bumps broke out down his chest and arms. “Ya know, most of what happened in those tunnels was not an act. ” She stood and looked at him for a moment, quietly. “I’m going to wake up Jorge—he’s sleeping in the captain’s quarters. ”

  She turned and walked away, and Thomas sat there, hoping his face hadn’t flushed bright red when he remembered her being close to him in the Underneath. He put his hands behind his head and lay back on the cot, trying to process everything he’d just heard. They finally had some direction. He felt a smile crack his face, and not just because he’d been kissed.

  Minho called their meeting a Gathering, just for old time’s sake.

  By the end of it, Thomas had a headache, the pain throbbing so badly he thought his eyeballs might pop out. Minho played devil’s advocate on every single issue and for some reason gave Brenda dirty looks the entire time. Thomas knew that they needed to go over things from every possible angle, but he wished Minho would give Brenda a break.

  In the end, after an hour of arguing and going back and forth and coming full circle a dozen times, they decided—unanimously—to go to Denver. They planned to land the Berg at a private airport with the story that they were Immunes looking for a government transport job. Luckily the Berg was unmarked—WICKED didn’t advertise when it went out into the real world, apparently. They’d be tested and branded as immune to the Flare, which would allow them access to the city proper. All except Newt, who—because he was infected—would have to stay on the Berg until they figured something out.

  They ate a quick meal; then Jorge went off to pilot the ship. He said he was well rested and he wanted everyone else to take a nap since it would take a few more hours to reach the city. After that, who knew how long it would be before they found a place to stay for the night.

  Thomas just wanted to be alone, so he used his headache as an excuse. He found a little reclining chair in an out-of-the-way corner and curled up in it, his back to the open area behind him. He had a blanket, and he pulled it up and around him, feeling cozier than he had in a long time. And even t
hough he was scared of what might come, he also felt a sense of peace. Maybe they were finally close to breaking the bonds of WICKED forever.

  He thought about their escape and all that had happened along the way. The more he went through it, the more he doubted that any of it had been orchestrated by WICKED. Too much had been done on the spur of the moment, and those guards had fought furiously to keep them there.

  Finally sleep took him from all of these thoughts, and he dreamed.

  He’s only twelve years old, sitting in a chair facing another man, who looks unhappy to be there. They’re in a room with an observation window.

  “Thomas,” the sad man begins. “You’ve been a little … distant lately. I need you to come back to what’s important. You and Teresa are doing well with your telepathy, and things are moving forward nicely by all estimations. It’s time to refocus. ”

  Thomas feels shame, and then shame at being ashamed. It confuses him, makes him want to run away, back to his dorm. The man senses it.

  “We won’t leave this room until I’m satisfied with your commitment. ” The words are like a death sentence handed down by a heartless judge. “You’ll answer my questions, and the sincerity better bleed from your pores. Do you understand?”

  Thomas nods.

  “Why are we here?” the man asks.

  “Because of the Flare. ”

  “I want more than that. Elaborate. ”

  Thomas pauses. He has felt a sense of rebellion lately, but he knows that once he recounts all the things this man wants to hear, it will dissipate. He’ll fall back into doing what they ask of him and learning what they set before him.

  “Go on,” the man pushes.

  Thomas lets it all out in a rush—word for word, as he memorized it long ago. “The sun flares pummeled the earth. Security in many government buildings was compromised. A man-made virus engineered for biological warfare leaked from a military center for disease control. That virus hit all the major population centers and spread rapidly. It became known as the Flare. The surviving governments put all their resources into WICKED, who found the best and the brightest of those who were immune. They began their plans to stimulate and map the brain patterns of all known human emotions and study how we operate despite having the Flare rooted inside our brains. The research will lead to …”

  He keeps going and he doesn’t stop, breathing in and out with the words that he hates.

  The dreaming Thomas turns and runs away, runs to the darkness.


  Thomas decided he needed to tell everyone more about all the dreams he was having. About what he suspected were memories coming back to him.

  As they sat down for the second Gathering of the day, he made them all swear to keep their mouths shut until he was finished. They’d grouped the chairs near the cockpit of the Berg so Jorge could hear it all. Thomas then began to tell them about each dream he’d had—memories of his life as a kid, being taken by WICKED when they found out he was immune, his training with Teresa, all of it. When he got out all that he could remember, he waited for a response.

  “I don’t see what that has to do with anything,” Minho said. “Just makes me hate WICKED even more. Good thing we left, and I hope I never have to see Teresa’s shuck face again. ”

  Newt, who’d been irritable and distant, spoke for the first time since they’d sat down for the Gathering. “Brenda’s a bloody princess compared to that know-it-all. ”

  “Um … thanks?” Brenda replied with an eye roll.

  “When did you change?” Minho blurted out.

  “Huh?” Brenda replied.

  “When did you become so shuck crazy against WICKED? You’ve worked for them, you did all those things they wanted you to do in the Scorch. You were all ready to help them put that mask on our face and mess with us all over again. When and how did you come so strongly over to our side?”

  Brenda sighed; she looked tired, but her words came out laced with some anger. “I have never been on their side. Never. I’ve always disagreed with how they operate—but what could I ever do on my own? Or even with Jorge? I’ve done what I needed to do to survive. But then I lived through the Scorch with you guys and it made me realize … well, it made me realize that we have a chance. ”

  Thomas wanted to change the subject. “Brenda, do you think WICKED’ll start forcing us to do things? Start messing with us, manipulating us, whatever?”

  “That’s why we need to find Hans. ” She shrugged. “I can only guess what WICKED will do. Every other time I’ve seen them control someone with the device in their brain, that person has been close and under observation. Since you guys are running and they have no way of seeing exactly what you’re doing, they might not want to risk it. ”

  “Why not?” Newt asked. “Why don’t they just make us stab ourselves in the leg or chain ourselves to a chair until they find us?”

  “Like I said, they’re not close enough,” Brenda answered. “They obviously need you guys. They can’t risk you getting hurt or dying. I bet they have all kinds of people coming after you. Once they get close enough to observe, then they might start doing things to mess with your head. And I have a pretty good feeling they will—which is why getting to Denver is a must. ”

  Thomas’s mind had already been made up. “We’re going and that’s that. And I say we wait a hundred years before we have another meeting to talk about stuff. ”
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