The Death Cure by James Dashner

Page 16

 

  “You gonna kill me, slinthead?” Minho asked. “Gonna throw that thing just like Gally did to Chuck? Do it, then. Throw it. ”

  For one second Thomas was terrified that that was exactly what he’d do, but instead his body turned back around to face the opposite direction. Just as he did, Hans came through the doorway, and his eyes widened. Thomas guessed Hans was his main target—that the fail-safe would attack whoever was attempting to remove his implant.

  “What the hell is this?” Hans asked.

  “I can’t … let you … do this,” Thomas replied.

  “I was worried about this,” Hans murmured. He turned to the group. “You guys get over here and help!”

  Thomas pictured the internal workings of the mechanism in his brain as minuscule instruments operated by minuscule spiders. He fought them, clenched his teeth. But his arm started to rise, the knife gripped tightly in his balled fist.

  “I ca—” Before he could finish, someone slammed into him from behind, knocking the knife from his hand. He crashed to the floor and twisted to see Minho.

  “I’m not letting you kill anybody,” his friend said.

  “Get off me!” Thomas yelled, not sure if they were his own words or WICKED’s.

  But Minho had pinned Thomas’s arms to the ground. He hovered over him, heaving to catch his breath. “I’m not getting up until they let your mind go. ”

  Thomas wanted to smile—but his face couldn’t follow even a simple command. He felt the tension in every single muscle.

  “It won’t stop until Hans fixes him,” Brenda said. “Hans?”

  The older man knelt down next to Thomas and Minho. “I can’t believe I ever worked for those people. For you. ” He almost spat the word, looking directly at Thomas.

  Thomas watched all this, powerless. His insides boiled with the desire to relax—to help Hans do what he needed to do. Then something ignited inside him, making his midsection arch upward. His body bucked and fought to free his arms. Minho pressed down, tried to get his legs in position to sit on Thomas’s back. But whatever was controlling Thomas seemed to release adrenaline inside him; his strength overcame Minho’s and he threw the boy off.

  Thomas was on his feet in an instant. He grabbed the knife off the floor and dove toward Hans, lashing out with the blade. The man deflected it with his forearm, a red gash appearing there as the two of them collided and rolled across the floor, struggling against each other. Thomas did everything he could to stop himself, but the knife kept slashing as Hans kept dodging it.

  “Get him!” Brenda yelled from somewhere close.

  Thomas saw hands appear, felt them grabbing his arms. Somebody gripped him by the hair and yanked back. Thomas screamed in agony, then slashed blindly with the knife. Relief flooded through him—Jorge and Minho were gaining control, pulling him off Hans. Thomas crashed onto his back and the knife was knocked from his grip; he heard it clatter across the floor as someone kicked it to the far side of the kitchen.

  “I can’t let you do this!” Thomas yelled. He hated himself even though he knew he had no control.

  “Shut up!” Minho shouted back, now in his face as he and Jorge fought against Thomas’s attempts to get free. “You’re crazy, dude! They’re making you crazy!”

  Thomas desperately wanted to tell Minho that he was right—Thomas didn’t really believe what he was saying.

  Minho turned and yelled at Hans. “Let’s get that thing out of his head!”

  “No!” Thomas shouted. “No!” He twisted and flailed his arms, battled them with ferocious strength. But the four of them proved too much. Somehow they ended up with one person holding tightly to each of his limbs. They lifted him from the floor, carried him out of the kitchen into a short hallway and down its length as he kicked and squirmed, knocking several framed pictures off the walls. The sound of shattering glass followed them.

  Thomas screamed once, then again, over and over. He had no more strength to resist the internal forces—his body fought against Minho and the others; he said whatever WICKED wanted him to. He’d given up.

  “In here!” Hans shouted over him.

  They entered a small, cramped lab with two instrument-filled tables and a bed. A crude-looking version of the mask they’d seen back at WICKED hung over the empty mattress.

  “Get him on the bed!” Hans yelled. They slammed Thomas down onto his back, where he continued to struggle. “Get this leg for me—I need to knock him out. ”

  Minho, who had been holding the other leg, now grabbed both legs and used his body to press them against the bed. Thomas’s thoughts immediately went back to when he and Newt had done this same thing to Alby when he’d woken up from the Changing back in the Glade Homestead.

  There was the clatter and clanging of Hans going through a drawer, searching for something; then he was back.

  “Hold him as still as possible!”

  Thomas erupted in one last flurry of effort to get free, screaming at the top of his lungs. An arm sprang loose from Brenda’s grip and he smacked Jorge in the face with his fist.

  “Stop it!” Brenda yelled as she reached for it.

  Thomas arched his torso again. “I can’t … let you do this!” He had never felt such frustration.

  “Hold him still, dammit!” Hans shouted.

  Somehow Brenda got his arm again, leaned against it with her upper body.

  Thomas felt a sharp prick in his leg. It was such an odd thing to be fighting against something so violently and yet wanting it to happen so completely.

  When the darkness started to take him and his body stilled, he finally regained control of himself. At the very last second he said, “I hate those shucks. ” And then he was out.

  CHAPTER 28

  Lost in the dark haze of drugs, Thomas dreamed.

  He is fifteen years old, sitting on a bed. The room is dark except for the amber glow of a lamp on the desk. Teresa is there—she has pulled a chair out and is sitting close to him. Her face is haunted—a mask of misery.

  “We had to do this,” she says quietly.

  Thomas is there but isn’t there. He doesn’t remember the details of what happened, but he knows his insides feel like rot and filth. He and Teresa have done something horrible, but his dreaming self can’t quite grasp what it was. A ghastly thing that is no less repulsive because they were told to do it by the people they did it to.

  “We had to do it,” she repeats.

  “I know,” Thomas responds in a voice that sounds as dead as dust.

  Two words pop into his head: the Purge. The wall blocking him from the memory thins for a moment and a dreadful fact looms on the other side.

  Teresa starts talking again. “They wanted it to end this way, Tom. Better to die than spend years going crazier and crazier. They’re gone now. We had no choice, and no better way to make it happen. It’s done and that’s that. We need to get the new people trained and keep the Trials going. We’ve come too far to let it fall apart. ”

  For a moment Thomas hates her, but it’s fleeting. He knows she’s trying to be strong. “That doesn’t mean I have to like it. ” And he doesn’t. He has never hated himself with such intensity before.

  Teresa nods but says nothing.

  The dreaming Thomas tries to invade the mind of his younger self, explore the memories in that unfettered space. The original Creators, Flare-infected, purged and dead. Countless volunteers to take their place. The two ongoing Maze Trials, running strong over a year in, with more results every day. The slowly but surely building blueprint. Training for the replacements.

  It’s all there for the taking. For the remembering. But then he changes his mind, turns his back on it all. The past is the past. There is only the future now.

  He sinks into a dark oblivion.

  Thomas woke up groggy and with a dull ache behind his eyes. The dream still throbbed in his skull like a pulse
, though its details had grown fuzzy. He knew enough about the Purge, about its being the shift from the original Creators to their replacements. He and Teresa had had to exterminate the entire staff after an outbreak—they’d had no choice, were the only ones left who were immune. He swore to never think about it again.

  Minho was sitting in a chair nearby, his head lolling as he snored in fitful sleep.

  “Minho,” Thomas whispered. “Hey. Minho. Wake up. ”

  “Huh?” Minho opened his eyes slowly and coughed. “What? What’s going on?”

  “Nothing. I just want to know what happened. Did Hans get the thing switched off? Are we fixed?”

  Minho nodded through a big yawn. “Yeah—both of us. At least, he said he did. Man, you wigged out big-time. You remember all that?”

  “Of course I do. ” A wave of embarrassment made his face flush hot. “But it was like I was paralyzed or something. I kept trying, but I couldn’t stop whatever was controlling me. ”

  “Dude, you tried to slice my you-know-whats off!”

  Thomas laughed, something he hadn’t done in a long time. He welcomed it happily. “Too bad I didn’t. Could’ve saved the world from future little Minhos. ”

  “Just remember you owe me one. ”

  “Good that. ” He owed them all.

  Brenda, Jorge, and Hans walked in, all three of them looking serious, and the smile fell from Thomas’s face.

  “Gally stop by and give you guys another pep talk?” Thomas asked, forcing a lighthearted tone to his voice. “You look downright depressed. ”

  “When did you get so cheerful, muchacho?” Jorge responded. “A few hours ago you were stabbing at us with a knife. ”

  Thomas opened his mouth to apologize—to explain—but Hans shushed him. He leaned over the bed and flashed a little light into both of Thomas’s eyes. “Looks like your head’s clearing up pretty well. The pain should be gone soon—your operation was a little worse because of that fail-safe. ”

  Thomas turned his attention to Brenda. “Is it fixed?”

  “It worked,” she said. “Judging from the fact that you’re not trying to kill us anymore, it’s deactivated. And …”

  “And what?”

  “Well, you shouldn’t be able to talk to or hear from Teresa or Aris again. ”

  Thomas might’ve felt a pang of sadness at that even the day before, but now he felt only relief. “Suits me fine. Any sign of trouble yet?”

  She shook her head. “No, but they can’t take any chances—Hans and his wife are going to leave, but he wanted to tell you something first. ”

  Hans had stepped back to stand by the wall, probably to give them a little space. He came forward now, his eyes downcast. “I wish I could go with you and help, but I have a wife, and she’s my family. She’s my first concern. I wanted to wish you luck. I hope you can do what I don’t have the courage to try. ”

  Thomas nodded. The change in the man’s attitude was marked—maybe the recent incident had reminded him of what WICKED was capable of. “Thanks. And if we can stop WICKED, we’ll come back for you. ”

  “We’ll see about that,” Hans murmured. “We’ll see about a lot of things. ”

  Hans turned and walked back to his position by the wall. Thomas was sure that the man carried around many dark memories in his mind.

  “What next?” Brenda asked.

  Thomas knew they didn’t have time to rest. And his mind was set on what they needed to do. “We find our other friends, convince them to join us. Then we go back to Gally. The only thing I’ve accomplished in life is to help set up an experiment that failed and tormented a bunch of kids. It’s time to add something else to that list. We’re going to stop the entire operation before they do it to new Immunes all over again. ”

  Jorge spoke for the first time in a while. “We? What’re you saying, hermano?”

  Thomas shifted his gaze to the man, his resolve solidifying. “We have to help the Right Arm. ”

  No one said anything.

  “Okay,” Minho finally said. “But first let’s get something to eat. ”

  CHAPTER 29

  They went to a coffee shop nearby, recommended by Hans and his wife.

  Thomas had never been in such a place before. At least, not that he remembered. Customers lined up at the counter, getting coffee and pastries, then heading for a table or back out the door. He watched as a nervous older woman kept lifting her surgical mask to sip her hot drink. One of those red-shirted guards stood at the door, randomly testing people for the Flare with his handheld device every couple of minutes or so; an odd metal apparatus covered his own mouth and nose.

  Thomas sat with Minho and Brenda at a table in the back corner while Jorge went to get food and drinks. Thomas’s eyes kept coming back to a man, maybe thirty-five or forty years old, who sat at a nearby bench in front of a large window onto the street. He hadn’t touched his coffee since Thomas and his friends had arrived, and steam no longer rose from the cup. The man just hunched over, elbows on knees, hands loosely clasped, staring at a spot on the other side of the shop.

  There was something disturbing about the look on his face. Blank. His eyes were almost floating in their sockets, and yet there was a hint of pleasure there. When Thomas pointed it out to Brenda, she whispered that the guy was probably on the Bliss and would be jailed if he got caught. It gave Thomas the willies. He hoped the man would leave soon.

  Jorge returned with sandwiches and steaming cups of coffee and the four of them ate and drank in silence. Thomas knew they all realized the urgency of their situation, but he was grateful to rest and get some strength back.
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