The Death Cure by James Dashner

Page 3

 

  He was just about to respond when Rat Man came marching down the aisle clapping his hands. “Everybody take a seat. We’ve got a few things to cover before we remove the Swipe. ”

  He’d said it so casually, Thomas almost didn’t catch it. The words registered—remove the Swipe—and he froze.

  The room stilled and the Rat Man stepped up onto the stage at the front of the room and approached the lectern. He gripped the edges and repeated the same forced smile from earlier, then spoke. “That’s right, ladies and gents. You’re about to get all your memories back. Every last one of them. ”

  CHAPTER 5

  Thomas was stunned. Mind spinning, he went to sit by Minho.

  After struggling for so long to remember his life, his family and childhood—even what he’d done the day before he woke up in the Maze—the idea of having it all back was almost too much to comprehend. But as it sank in, he realized that something had shifted. Remembering everything didn’t sound good anymore. And his gut confirmed what he’d been feeling since the Rat Man had said it was all over—it just seemed too easy.

  Rat Man cleared his throat. “As you were informed in your one-on-ones, the Trials as you’ve known them are over. Once your memories are restored, I think you’ll believe me and we can move on. You’ve all been briefed on the Flare and the reasons for the Trials. We are extremely close to completing our blueprint of the killzone. The things we need—to further refine what we have—will be better served by your full cooperation and unaltered minds. So, congratulations. ”

  “I ought to come up there and break your shuck nose,” Minho said. His voice was terrifyingly calm considering the threat in his words. “I’m sick of you acting like everything is peachy—like more than half of our friends didn’t die. ”

  “I’d love to see that rat nose smashed!” Newt snapped.

  The anger in his voice startled Thomas, and he had to wonder what awful thing Newt had been through during Phase Three.

  Rat Man rolled his eyes and sighed. “First of all, each of you has been warned of the consequences should you try to harm me. And rest assured, you’re all still being watched. Second, I’m sorry for those you’ve lost—but in the end it’ll have been worth it. What concerns me, though, is that it seems that nothing I say is going to wake you people up to the stakes here. We’re talking about the survival of the human race. ”

  Minho sucked in a breath as if to begin a rant, but he stopped short, closed his mouth.

  Thomas knew that no matter how sincere Rat Man sounded, it had to be a trick. Everything was a trick. Yet nothing good could come of their fighting him at this point—with words or with fists. The thing they needed most for the time being was patience.

  “Let’s all just slim it,” Thomas spoke evenly. “Let’s hear him out. ”

  Frypan spoke up just as Rat Man was about to continue. “Why should we trust you people to … What was it called? The Swipe? After everything you’ve done to us, to our friends—you want to remove the Swipe? I don’t think so. I’d rather stay stupid about my past, thank you very kindly. ”

  “WICKED is good,” Teresa said out of the blue, as if talking to herself.

  “What?” Frypan asked. Everyone turned to look at her.

  “WICKED is good,” she repeated, much louder, turning in her seat to meet the others’ gazes. “Of all the things I could’ve written on my arm when I first woke up from my coma, I chose those three words. I keep thinking about it, and there has to be a reason for that. I say we just shut up and do what the man says. We can only understand this with our memories back. ”

  “I agree!” Aris shouted, much louder than seemed necessary.

  Thomas was quiet as the room broke into arguments. Mostly between the Gladers, who sided with Frypan, and the members of Group B, who sided with Teresa. There couldn’t possibly be a worse time for a battle of wills.

  “Silence!” Rat Man roared, pounding his fist on the lectern. He waited for everyone to quiet down before he continued. “Look, no one’s going to blame you for the mistrust you feel. You’ve been pushed to your physical limits, watched people die, experienced terror in its purest form. But I promise you, when all is said and done, none of you will look back—”

  “What if we don’t want to?” Frypan called out. “What if we don’t want our memories back?”

  Thomas turned to look at his friend, relieved. It was exactly what he’d been thinking himself.

  Rat Man sighed. “Is it because you really have no interest in remembering, or is it because you don’t trust us?”

  “Oh, I can’t imagine why we wouldn’t trust you,” Frypan replied.

  “Don’t you realize by now that if we wanted to do something to harm you, we’d just do it?” The man looked down at the lectern, then back up again. “If you don’t want to remove the Swipe, don’t do it. You can stand by and watch the others. ”

  A choice or a bluff? Thomas couldn’t tell by the man’s tone but nonetheless was surprised by his response.

  Again the room was silent, and before anyone else could speak, Rat Man had stepped away off the stage and was walking toward the door at the back of the room. When he reached it, he turned to face them again. “You really want to spend the rest of your lives having no memory of your parents? Your family and friends? You really want to lose the chance to hold on to at least the few good memories you may have had before all this began? Fine with me. But you might never have this opportunity again. ”

  Thomas considered his decision. It was true that he longed to remember his family. He’d thought about it so many times. But he did know WICKED. And he wasn’t going to let himself fall into another trap. He’d fight to the death before letting those people tinker with his brain again. How could he believe any memory they replaced anyway?

  And there was something else bothering him—the flash he’d felt when the Rat Man had first announced that WICKED would remove the Swipe. Besides knowing that he couldn’t just accept anything WICKED called his memories, he was scared. If everything they’d been insisting was true was in fact true, he didn’t want to face his past even if he could. He didn’t understand the person they said he was before. And more, he didn’t like him.

  He watched as the Rat Man opened the door and left the room. As soon as he was gone, Thomas leaned in close to Minho and Newt so only his friends could hear him. “There’s no way we do this. No way. ”

  Minho squeezed Thomas’s shoulder. “Amen. Even if I did trust those shanks, why would I want to remember? Look what it did to Ben and Alby. ”

  Newt nodded. “We need to make a bloody move soon. And when we do, I’m going to knock a few heads to make myself feel better. ”

  Thomas agreed but knew they had to be careful. “Not too soon, though,” he said. “We can’t screw this up—we need to look for our best chance. ” It had been so long since Thomas had felt it, he was surprised when a sense of strength began to trickle through him. He was reunited with his friends and this was the end of the Trials—for good. One way or another, they were done doing what WICKED wanted.

  They stood up and, as a group, made their way to the door. But as Thomas put his hand on the knob to pull it open, he stopped. What he was hearing made his heart sink. The rest of the group was still talking, and most of the others had decided to get their memories back.

  * * *

  Rat Man was waiting outside the auditorium. He led them down several turns of the windowless hallway until they finally reached a large steel door. It was heavily bolted and looked to be sealed against outside air. Their white-clad leader placed a key card next to a square recess in the steel, and after a few clicks, the large slab of metal slid open with a grinding sound that reminded Thomas of the Doors in the Glade.

  Then there was another door; once the group had filed into a small vestibule, the Rat Man closed the first door and, with the same card, unlocked the second. On the other side was
a big room that looked like nothing special—same tile floors and beige walls as the hallway. Lots of cabinets and counters. And several beds lined the back wall, each with a menacing, foreign-looking contraption of shiny metal and plastic tubes in the shape of a mask hanging over it. Thomas couldn’t imagine letting someone place that thing on his face.

  Rat Man gestured toward the beds. “This is how we’re going to remove the Swipe from your brains,” Rat Man announced. “Don’t worry, I know these devices look frightening, but the procedure won’t hurt nearly as much as you might think. ”

  “Nearly as much?” Frypan repeated. “I don’t like the sound of that. So it does hurt, is what you’re really saying. ”

  “Of course you’ll experience minor discomfort—it is a surgery,” Rat Man said as he walked over to a large machine to the left of the beds. It had dozens of blinking lights and buttons and screens. “We’ll be removing a small device from the part of your brain devoted to long-term memory. But it’s not as bad as it might sound, I promise. ” He started pressing buttons and a buzzing hum filled the room.

  “Wait a second,” Teresa said. “Is this going to take away whatever’s in there that lets you control us, too?”

  The image of Teresa inside that shed in the Scorch came to Thomas. And of Alby writhing in bed back at the Homestead. Of Gally killing Chuck. They were all under WICKED’s control. For the slightest moment Thomas doubted his decision—could he really allow himself to remain at their mercy? Should he just let them do the operation? But then the doubt vanished—this was about mistrust. He refused to give in.

  Teresa continued. “And what about …” She faltered, looked at Thomas.

  He knew what she was thinking. Their ability to talk telepathically. Not to mention what came with it—that odd sense of each other when things were working, almost as if they were sharing brains somehow. Thomas suddenly loved the idea of losing that forever. Maybe the emptiness of having Teresa not there would disappear too.

  Teresa recovered and continued. “Is everything going to be out of there? Everything?”

  Rat Man nodded. “Everything except the tiny device that allows us to map your killzone patterns. And you didn’t have to say what you’re thinking because I can see it in your eyes—no, you and Thomas and Aris won’t be able to do your little trick anymore. We did turn it off temporarily, but now it’ll be gone forever. However, you’ll have your long-term memory restored, and we won’t be able to manipulate your minds. It’s a package deal, I’m afraid. Take it or leave it. ”

  The others in the room shuffled about, whispered questions to each other. A million things had to be flying through everyone’s heads. There was so much to think about; there were so many implications. So many reasons to be angry at WICKED. But the fight seemed to have drained from the group, replaced by an eagerness to get it all over with.

  “That’s a no-brainer,” Frypan said. “Get it? No-brainer?” The only response he got was a groan or two.

  “Okay, I think we’re just about ready,” Rat Man announced. “One last thing, though. Something I need to tell you before you regain your memories. It’ll be better to hear it from me than to … remember the testing. ”

  “What’re you talking about?” Harriett asked.

  Rat Man clasped his hands behind his back, his expression suddenly grave. “Some of you are immune to the Flare. But … some of you aren’t. I’m going to go through the list—please do your best to take it calmly. ”

  CHAPTER 6

  The room lapsed into silence, broken only by the hum of machinery and a very faint beeping sound. Thomas knew he was immune—at least, he’d been told he was—but he didn’t know about anyone else, had actually forgotten about it. The sickening fear he’d felt when he’d first found out came flooding back.

  “For an experiment to provide accurate results,” the Rat Man explained, “one needs a control group. We did our best to keep the virus from you as long as we could. But it’s airborne and highly contagious. ”

  He paused, taking in everyone’s gazes.

  “Just bloody get on with it,” Newt said. “We all figured we had the buggin’ disease anyway. You’re not breaking our hearts. ”

  “Yeah,” Sonya added. “Cut the drama and tell us already. ”

  Thomas noticed Teresa fidgeting next to him. Had she already been told something, also? He figured that she had to be immune like him—that WICKED wouldn’t have chosen them for their special roles otherwise.

  Rat Man cleared his throat. “Okay, then. Most of you are immune and have helped us gather invaluable data. Only two of you are considered Candidates now, but we’ll go into that later. Let’s get to the list. The following people are not immune. Newt …”

  Something like a jolt hit Thomas in the chest. He doubled over and stared at the floor. Rat Man called out a few more names, but none Thomas knew—he barely heard them over the dizzying buzz that seemed to fill his ears and fog his mind. He was surprised at his own reaction, hadn’t realized just how much Newt meant to him until he heard the declaration. A thought occurred to him—earlier the Rat Man had said that the control subjects were like the glue that kept the project’s data together, made it all coherent and relevant.

  The Glue. That was the title given to Newt—the tattoo that was etched in his skin even now, like a black scar.

  “Tommy, slim yourself. ”
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