The Death Cure by James Dashner

Page 18


  Thomas noticed that Red Shirt was looking at him, and he finally met the guard’s gaze.

  “What?” Thomas asked.

  “Quite the show, huh?” Red Shirt replied. “Enjoy it while it lasts. When this is over, you’re coming with me. ”


  Thomas’s heart sank. There was something sadistic in Red Shirt’s eyes, and he looked away, focused back on the infected man just as the blue gel reached his feet and solidified around them. The guy now lay completely motionless, wrapped in the hard, plasticky coating. The woman with the gel gun stood up, and Thomas saw that it was now nothing but an empty bag. She folded it up and stuffed it into a pocket in her green coverall.

  “Let’s get him out of here,” she said.

  As the four workers reached down and lifted up the infected man, Thomas’s eyes flickered back to Red Shirt, who was watching the others carry off their captive. What in the world had he meant that Thomas would be going with him? Where? Why? If the man hadn’t had a gun, Thomas would have run.

  When the others had made their way out the door, Minho appeared again. He was just about to step inside when Red Shirt pulled out his weapon.

  “Stop right there!” the man yelled. “Get out!”

  “But we’re with him. ” Minho pointed to Thomas. “And we need to go. ”

  “This one’s not going anywhere. ” He paused, as if something had just occurred to him. He looked at Thomas, then back at Minho. “Wait a second. Are you guys Munies, too?”

  Panic flared in Thomas, but Minho was fast. He didn’t hesitate, just bolted.

  “Stop!” Red Shirt yelled, sprinting for the doorway.

  Thomas lurched over to the window. He saw Minho, Brenda, and Jorge just as they made it across the street and disappeared around a corner. Red Shirt had stopped right outside the coffee shop; he gave up on the others and came back in. With his gun pointed at Thomas.

  “I ought to shoot you in the neck and watch you bleed out for what your little friend just did. Better thank God above that Munies are so valuable, or I’d do it just to make myself feel better. Been a crappy day. ”

  Thomas couldn’t believe that after all he’d been through, he was stuck in such a stupid situation. He wasn’t scared, only frustrated. “Well, it hasn’t been so great for me, either,” he muttered.

  “You’ll bring me a good hunk of cash. That’s all there is to it. And just for the record, I don’t like you. I can tell by just lookin’ at ya. ”

  Thomas smiled. “Yeah, well, the feeling’s mutual. ”

  “You’re a funny guy. Just full of laughs. We’ll see how you feel by the time the sun goes down tonight. Come on. ” He gestured to the door with his weapon. “And trust me, I’m out of patience. Try anything and I’ll shoot you in the back of the head and tell the police that you were acting like an infected and ran. Zero-tolerance policy. Won’t even get questioned about it. Not so much as a raised eyebrow. ”

  Thomas stood there, sorting through his options. The irony wasn’t lost on him. He’d escaped WICKED only to be held at gunpoint by an average everyday city worker.

  “Don’t make me say it again,” Red Shirt warned.

  “Where are we going?”

  “You’ll find out in time. And I’ll be one rich sucker. Now get moving. ”

  Thomas had been shot twice already and knew how badly it hurt. If he didn’t want to go through it again, it looked like going with the guy was his only option. He glared at the man, then walked toward the door. When he reached it, he stopped.

  “Which way?” Thomas asked.

  “Go left. We’ll walk nice and easy for about three blocks, then another left. I’ve got a car waiting for us there. Do I need to warn you again what’ll happen if you try something?”

  “You’ll shoot an unarmed kid in the back of the head. Got it, crystal clear. ”

  “Oh, man, I hate you Munies. Start walking. ” He pressed the tip of the gun into Thomas’s spine and Thomas headed down the street.

  They made it to the end of the third block and turned left without saying a word to each other. The air was stifling, and sweat had moistened every last inch of Thomas’s body. When he reached up to wipe his forehead, Red Shirt whacked him in the head with the butt of the gun.

  “Don’t do that,” the man said. “I might get nervous and put a hole in your brain. ”

  It took every ounce of Thomas’s willpower to stay silent.

  The street was abandoned and there was trash everywhere. Posters—some warning about the Flare, others images of Chancellor Paige—covered the lower portion of the buildings’ walls, and everything was spray-painted, layer on top of layer, by the looks of it. When they reached an intersection and had to stop to wait for a few passing cars, Thomas focused on an unmarked poster right next to him—a new one, he guessed from its lack of graffiti. He read the words of warning.

  Public Service Announcement

  !!! Stop the Spread of the Flare !!!

  Help stop the spread of the Flare. Know the symptoms before you infect your neighbors and loved ones.

  The Flare is the virus Flarevirus (VC321xb47), a highly contagious, manmade infectious disease that was accidentally released during the chaos of the sun flare catastrophe. The Flare causes a progressive, degenerative illness of the brain, resulting in uncontrolled movements, emotional disturbances and mental deterioration. The result has been the Flare pandemic.

  Scientists are conducting late-stage clinical trials, but there is no standard treatment for the Flare at this time. The virus is generally fatal, and can be spread through the air.

  At this time citizens must unite to prevent further spread of this pandemic. By learning how to recognize yourself and others as Viral Contagion Threats (VCTs) you will take the first step in the battle against the Flare. *

  *Any suspicious subjects should be reported to the authorities immediately.

  It went on to talk about a five- to seven-day incubation period and the symptoms—how such things as irritability and trouble with balance were early warning signs, followed by dementia, paranoia and severe aggression later on. Thomas had witnessed them all firsthand, having crossed paths with Cranks on more than one occasion.

  Red Shirt gave Thomas a slight shove and they continued walking. As they made their way, Thomas couldn’t stop thinking about the poster’s dire message. The part about the Flare’s being manmade not only haunted him, it tickled something in his brain, a memory he couldn’t quite latch on to. Even though the sign didn’t say it outright, he knew there was something else, and for the first time in a while he wished he could access the past for just a moment.

  “It’s right up here. ”

  Red Shirt’s voice pulled him back to the present. A small white car waited at the end of the block, just a few dozen feet down the street. Thomas desperately tried to think of a way out of this—if he got in that vehicle it might all be over. But could he really risk getting shot?

  “You’re going to slide nice and easy into the backseat,” Red Shirt said. “I’ve got some cuffs in there, and I’m going to watch you put them on yourself. You think you can handle that without doing something stupid?”

  Thomas didn’t respond. He hoped desperately that Minho and the others were close, making a plan. He needed someone or something to distract his captor.

  They reached the car and Red Shirt pulled out a key card and pressed it to the front passenger window. The locks clicked and he opened the back door, his gun trained on Thomas the whole time.

  “Get in. Easy does it. ”

  Thomas hesitated, searching the streets for anyone, anything. The area was deserted, but out of the corner of his eye he noticed movement. A hovering machine almost as large as a car. He spun to look and the cop machine swerved onto the street two blocks down and started heading their way. A humming sound grew louder as it approached.

  “I sai
d get in,” Red Shirt repeated. “The cuffs are in the console in the middle. ”

  “One of those cop machine things is coming,” Thomas said.

  “Yeah, so what? It’s just patrolling, sees this stuff all the time. The people controlling it are on my side, not yours. Which is tough luck for you, big fella. ”

  Thomas sighed—it had been worth a shot. Where were his friends? He scanned the area one last time, then stepped up to the open door and slipped inside. Just as he looked up at Red Shirt the air filled with the sound of heavy gunfire. Then Red Shirt was stumbling backward, jerking and twitching. Bullets tore into his chest, sparks flying as they hit the metal mask. He dropped his gun, and his mask fell off as he slammed into the wall of the closest building. Thomas watched in stunned horror as the man slumped onto his side.

  Then it stopped. Thomas was frozen, wondering if he’d be shot next. He heard the steady hum of the machine as it hovered just outside his open door, and he realized that it had been the source of the attack. The things were unmanned but heavily armed. A familiar voice rang out from a speaker on its roof.

  “Get out of the car, Thomas. ”

  Thomas shivered. He would know that voice anywhere.

  It was Janson. The Rat Man.


  Thomas couldn’t have been more surprised. He hesitated at first but quickly scooted out of the car. The cop machine hovered only a few feet away. A panel had opened on its side, revealing a screen from which Janson’s face stared back at him.

  Relief flooded him. It was Rat Man, but he wasn’t in the cop machine—there was just a video feed of his image. Thomas could only assume that the man could see him as well. “What happened?” he asked, still stunned. He tried to avert his eyes from the man now lying on the ground. “How’d you find me?”

  Janson was as grim-faced as ever. “It took a considerable amount of effort and luck, trust me. And you’re welcome. I just saved you from this bounty hunter. ”

  Thomas let out a laugh. “You’re the ones paying them anyway. What do you want?”

  “Thomas, I’m going to be frank with you. The only reason we haven’t come to Denver to retrieve you is because the infection rate is astronomical. This was our safest means of contacting you. I’m urging you to bring yourself in and complete the testing. ”

  Thomas wanted to scream at the man. Why would he return to WICKED? But the Red Shirt’s attack—his body only feet away—was too clear in his mind. He had to play this right. “Why would I come back?”

  Janson’s expression was blank. “We’ve been using our data to select a Final Candidate, and you’re the one. We need you, Thomas. It all rests on your shoulders. ”

  Not in a million years, Thomas thought. But saying that wouldn’t get rid of the Rat Man. Instead he cocked his head and pretended to consider, then said, “I’ll think about it. ”

  “I trust you will. ” The Rat Man paused. “There’s something I feel obligated to tell you. Mainly because I think it will influence your decision. Make you realize that you have to do what we’re asking. ”

  Thomas had leaned back against the rounded hood of the car—the whole ordeal had exhausted him emotionally and physically. “What?”

  The Rat Man’s face screwed up to look even rattier, as if he reveled in telling bad news. “It’s about your friend, Newt. I’m afraid he’s in a tremendous amount of trouble. ”

  “What kind of trouble?” Thomas asked, his stomach dropping.

  “I know you’re well aware that he has the Flare, and that you’ve already seen some of its effects taking place. ”

  Thomas nodded, suddenly remembering the note in his pocket. “Yeah. ”

  “Well, he seems to be succumbing to it rapidly. The fact that you were already seeing symptoms of anger and loss of concentration before you left means he’ll be spiraling into madness very soon. ”

  Thomas felt a fist clutch his heart. He’d accepted that Newt wasn’t immune, but he’d thought it would take weeks, or months even, before it got really bad. Yet Janson had made sense—that the stress of everything seemed to be making Newt fall fast. And they’d left him all alone outside the city.

  “You could very well save him,” Janson said quietly.

  “You enjoying this?” Thomas asked. “Because sometimes it seems like you enjoy it a lot. ”

  Janson shook his head. “I’m just doing my job, Thomas. I want this cure more than anyone else. Except for you, maybe, before we took away your memories. ”

  “Just go,” Thomas said.

  “I hope you’ll come,” Janson replied. “You have a chance to do great things. I’m sorry for our differences. But Thomas, you need to hurry. Time is running out. ”

  “I’ll think about it. ” Thomas forced himself to say it again. It made him sick to pacify the Rat Man, but it was the only thing he could think to say to buy himself time. And there was the possibility that if he didn’t stall Janson, he could end up like Red Shirt—shot down by this cop machine hovering a few feet in front of him.

  Janson smiled. “That’s all I can ask for. I hope to see you here. ”

  The screen blacked out and the panel closed; then the cop machine rose into the air and flew away, its hum slowly fading. Thomas watched until it disappeared around a corner. When it was gone, his eyes fell upon the dead man. He quickly looked away—that was the last thing he wanted to see.

  “There he is!”

  He whipped his head around to see Minho running down the sidewalk toward him, Brenda and Jorge close behind. Thomas had never been so happy to see anyone.

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