The Death Cure by James Dashner

Page 8

 

  Thomas nodded. “I’ll crouch. Minho, you lean over my shoulder. Brenda to the left and Newt to the right. ”

  Thomas got down and stuck the point of his weapon right where the doors met in the center. Minho hovered above him, doing the same. Newt and Brenda got in position.

  “Open on three,” Minho said. “And guard lady, you try anything or run away, I guarantee one of us will get you. Thomas, you count off. ”

  The woman pulled out her key card but said nothing.

  “One,” Thomas began. “Two. ”

  He paused, allowed himself a moment to suck in a breath, but before he could yell the last number an alarm started blaring and the lights went out.

  CHAPTER 14

  Thomas blinked rapidly, trying to adjust to the darkness. The alarm rang in shrill, deafening bursts.

  He sensed Minho stand up, then heard him shuffling about. “The guard’s gone!” his friend shouted. “I can’t find her!”

  As soon as he said the last word, that sound of power charging filled the gaps between the whines of the alarm, followed by the pop of a grenade exploding against the ground. The bolts of electricity lit up the room; Thomas saw a shadowy figure running away from them back down the hall, gradually disappearing in the gloom.

  “My fault,” Minho muttered, barely audible.

  “Get back in position,” Thomas said, fearing what the alarm might mean. “Feel for the crack where the doors open. I’ll use the Rat Man’s key card. Be ready!”

  He felt around on the wall until he found the right place, then swiped the card; there was an audible click, and one of the doors began to swing inward.

  “Start shooting!” Minho shouted.

  Newt, Brenda and Minho began to launch grenades through the doorway into the darkness. Thomas carefully got into position and followed suit, shooting into the fray of dancing electricity that now crackled on the far side of the doors. It took a few seconds between rounds, but soon they had created a blinding display of light and explosions. There was no sign of people anywhere, no answering fire.

  Thomas let his gun drop to his side. “Stop!” he yelled. “Don’t waste any more ammunition!”

  Minho let one last grenade fly, but then they all stood and waited for some of the energy to die down so they could safely enter the room.

  Thomas turned to Brenda, speaking loudly to be heard over the noise. “We’re a little short on memories. Do you know anything that’ll help us? Where is everyone? Why the alarm?”

  She shook her head. “I have to be honest—something definitely feels off. ”

  “I bet this is another one of their bloody tests!” Newt yelled. “All of this is meant to happen and we’re being analyzed all over again. ”

  Thomas could barely hear himself think, and Newt wasn’t helping.

  He held his Launcher up and walked through the doorway. He wanted to get somewhere safer before the light from the grenade blasts disappeared entirely. From the shallow pool of his few returned memories, he knew he’d grown up in this place—he just wished he could remember the layout. He realized again how important Brenda was to their freedom. Jorge, too—if he was willing to fly them out of there.

  The alarm stopped.

  “What—” Thomas had started too loud, and quieted himself. “What now?”

  “They probably got sick of their ears bleeding from the noise,” Minho answered. “Just because they turned it off doesn’t mean anything. ”

  The glow from the electric bolts had disappeared, but the room on this side of the doorway had emergency lights that cast everything in a red haze. They stood in a large reception area with couches and chairs and a couple of desks. Nobody was in sight.

  “I’ve never seen one person in these waiting rooms,” Thomas said, the space suddenly familiar. “The whole place is empty and creepy. ”

  “It’s been a long time since they allowed visitors here, I’m sure,” Brenda responded.

  “What’s next, Tommy?” Newt asked. “We can’t just stand here all day. ”

  Thomas thought for a second. They had to find their friends, but ensuring that they had a way out seemed the first priority.

  “Okay,” he said. “Brenda, we really need your help. We need to get to the hangar and find Jorge, get him prepping a Berg. Newt and Minho—you guys can stay with him for backup and Brenda and I will search the place for our friends. Brenda—do you know where we can stock up on weapons?”

  “Weapons depot’s on the way to the hangar,” Brenda said. “But it’s probably guarded. ”

  “We’ve seen worse,” Minho offered. “We’ll start firing till they drop or we drop. ”

  “We’ll cut through ’em all,” Newt added, almost with a growl. “Every last one of those buggers. ”

  Brenda pointed down one of two hallways that branched off the reception room. “It’s that way. ”

  Brenda led Thomas and his friends through turn after turn, the dull red emergency beacons lighting the way. They met no resistance, though every so often a beetle blade skittered by, click-clacking across the floor as it scurried along. Minho tried firing a shot at one of them, missing badly and almost scorching Newt, who yelped and wanted to fire back, judging by the look on his face.

  After a good fifteen minutes of jogging, they reached the weapons depot. Thomas stopped in the hallway, surprised to find the door swung wide open. From what he could see, the shelves inside seemed fully stocked.

  “That does it,” Minho said. “No more doubt. ”

  Thomas knew exactly what he meant. He’d been through too much not to. “Someone’s setting us up,” he muttered.

  “Has to be,” Minho added. “Everyone suddenly disappears, doors are unlocked, weapons sitting here for us. And they’re obviously observing us through those shuck beetle blades. ”

  “Definitely fishy,” Brenda added.

  At her voice, Minho turned on her. “How do we know you’re not in on it?” he demanded.

  She answered in a weary voice. “All I can say is that I swear I’m not. I have no idea what’s happening. ”

  Thomas hated to admit it, but what Newt had hinted at earlier—that this whole escape so far might be nothing but an orchestrated exercise—was looking more and more likely. They’d been reduced once again to mice, scuttling about in a different kind of maze. Thomas hoped so badly that it wasn’t true.

  Newt had already wandered into the weapons room. “Look at this,” he called.

  When Thomas entered the room Newt was pointing to a section of empty wall space and shelves. “Look at the dust patterns. It’s pretty obvious that a bunch of stuff was taken recently. Maybe even within the last hour or so. ”

  Thomas inspected the area. The room was pretty dusty—enough to make you sneeze if you moved around too much—but the spots Newt pointed out were completely clean. He was dead on.

  “Why is that so important?” Minho asked from behind them.

  Newt turned on him. “Can’t you figure something out yourself for once, you bloody shank!”

  Minho winced. He looked more shocked than angry.

  “Whoa, Newt,” Thomas said. “Things suck, yeah, but slim it. What’s wrong?”

  “I’ll tell ya what’s bloody wrong. You go all tough-guy without a plan, leading us around like a bunch of chickens lookin’ for feed. And Minho can’t take a bloody step without askin’ which foot he should use. ”

  Minho had finally recovered enough to get ticked. “Look, shuck-face. You’re the one acting like a genius because you figured out some guards took weapons from the weapons room. I thought I’d give you the benefit of the doubt, act like maybe you’d discovered something deeper than that. Next time I’ll pat you on the freaking back for stating the obvious. ”

  Thomas looked back at Newt in time to see his friend’s expression change. He seemed stricken, almost teary.

  “I’m sorry,” Newt mu
rmured, then turned and walked out of the room.

  “What was that?” Minho whispered.

  Thomas didn’t want to say what he was thinking: that Newt’s sanity was slowly being eaten away. And luckily he didn’t have to—Brenda spoke up. “You guys were missing his point. ”

  “Which was?” Minho asked.

  “There had to have been two or three dozen guns and Launchers in this section, and now they’re all gone. Very recently. In the last hour or so, like Newt said. ”

  “Yeah?” Minho prodded, just as it clicked for Thomas.

  Brenda held her hands out as though the answer should be obvious. “Guards only come here when they need a replacement or want to use something besides a Launcher. Why would they all need to do that at the same time? Today? And Launchers are so heavy, you can’t fire them if you’re carrying another weapon, too. Where are the weapons they would have left behind?”

  CHAPTER 15

  Minho was the first to offer an explanation. “Maybe they knew something like this might happen, and they didn’t want to kill us. From the looks of it, unless you get it right in the head, those Launcher things just stun you for a while. So they all came and got those to use with their regular guns. ”

  Brenda was shaking her head before he even finished. “No. It’s standard for them to carry Launchers at all times—so it doesn’t make sense that they’d all come at once to get a new one. Whatever you think about WICKED, it’s not their goal to kill as many people as possible. Even when Cranks break in. ”

  “Cranks have broken in here before?” Thomas asked.

  Brenda nodded. “The more infected there are, the more past the Gone, the more desperate they get. I really doubt the guards—”

  Minho interrupted her. “Maybe that’s what happened. With all those alarms going off, maybe some Cranks broke in and took whatever weapons were here, stunned people, then started eatin’ their shuck bodies. Maybe we’ve only seen a few guards because the rest of ’em are dead!”

  Thomas had seen Cranks past the Gone, and the memories haunted him. Cranks who had lived with the Flare infection so long that it had eaten away at their brains until they were completely insane. Almost like animals in human form.

  Brenda sighed. “I hate to say it, but you might be right. ” She thought a moment. “Seriously. That would explain it. Someone came in here and took a bunch of weapons. ”

  An icy chill filled Thomas. “If that’s it, our problems are a whole lot worse than we thought. ”

  “Glad to see the guy not immune to the Flare isn’t the only one with a brain that still works. ”

  Thomas turned to see Newt at the door.

  “Next time just explain yourself instead of getting all snippy,” Minho said, his voice empty of compassion. “I didn’t think you’d lose it so fast, but glad you’re back. We might need a Crank to sniff out these other Cranks if they really broke in. ”

  Thomas winced at the cutting remark, looked at Newt for his reaction.

  The older boy wasn’t happy—that was clear by his expression. “You never have known when to shut your hole, have ya, Minho? Always gotta have the bloody last word. ”

  “Shut your shuck face,” Minho replied. His voice was so calm for a second that Thomas could have sworn Minho was losing it himself. The tension in the room was almost palpable.

  Newt slowly walked over to Minho and stopped in front of him. Then, quick as a striking snake, he punched him in the face. Minho staggered back and slammed into the empty weapons rack. Then he rushed forward and tackled Newt to the ground.

  It all happened so fast, Thomas couldn’t believe it. He ran over and started pulling at Minho’s shirt. “Stop!” he screamed, but the two Gladers continued flailing at each other, arms and legs everywhere.

  Brenda stepped up to help and she and Thomas eventually got solid-enough grips to yank Minho to his feet, his fists still swinging wildly. A stray elbow smacked Thomas in the chin, sending a burst of rage through him.

  “How stupid can you get?” Thomas yelled, pinning Minho’s arms behind his back. “We’re running from at least one enemy, maybe two, and you guys are gonna brawl?”

  “He started it!” Minho snapped, spit spraying on Brenda.

  She wiped her face. “What are you, eight years old?” she asked.

  Minho didn’t answer. He struggled to free himself for a few more seconds before giving up. Thomas was sickened by the whole thing. He didn’t know which was worse: that Newt seemed to be slipping already or that Minho—the one who should have been able to control himself—was acting like such a slinthead.

  Newt got to his feet, gingerly touching a red spot on his cheek where Minho must’ve connected. “It’s my fault. Everything’s just tickin’ me off. You guys figure out what we should do—I need a buggin’ break. ” And at that he turned and walked out of the room again.

  Thomas blew out a breath of frustration; he let go of Minho and adjusted his own shirt. They didn’t have time to dwell on petty arguments. If they were going to get out of there, they had to pull together and work as a team. “Minho—find a few more Launchers for us to bring, and then get a couple of the pistols on that shelf over there. Brenda, can you fill up a box with as much ammo as possible? I’ll go get Newt. ”

  “Sounds good,” she replied, already looking around. Minho didn’t say a word, just started searching the racks.

  Thomas went out into the hall; Newt had taken a seat on the ground about twenty feet away and was leaning back against the wall.
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