The Fever Code (The Maze Runner #5)(15)

by James Dashner

“They’re just a bunch of geezers.” She laughed. “You hear that, WICKED?” she shouted. “We’re talking about you. Wake up from your naps and come stop us!”

Thomas snickered through the whole thing, but both of them froze when a knock sounded at the door.

“Uh-oh,” Thomas whispered.

The door cracked open and Dr. Leavitt stepped inside. But any fear of punishment disappeared as soon as Thomas saw the man’s face—he didn’t seem the slightest bit angry.

“Another session over,” he announced. “But before you go back to your normal schedule, we want to show something to the both of you. Something that’s going to knock your socks off.”

Thomas, not knowing what to think, and more than a little suspicious, considering how their session had just went, stood up. So did Teresa, a worried look shadowing her face. Maybe they were heading straight to the chancellor’s office for a reprimand.

But Dr. Leavitt seemed genuinely excited. He opened the door wider. “Okay, then! Prepare yourself for wonder.”

224.10.14 | 1:48 p.m.

Leavitt led Thomas and Teresa to the elevator and all three of them rode it to the basement level—somewhere Thomas had never been before—then escorted them down a long hallway that ended at another bank of elevators. It was an entirely different section of the complex. Thomas and Teresa didn’t say a word along the way, but they exchanged plenty of questioning looks. Finally, when the doctor pushed the call button to go down again, Thomas couldn’t hold back his questions anymore.

“What’s this amazing thing you’re going to show us?” he asked.

“Ah, now,” the man replied. “It’s not my place to ruin the surprise for you. You could say that’s above my pay grade.” He barked a laugh that echoed loudly. “Some very important people are going to show you the…project. I give my opinion on these matters, but I’m not involved in the actual…fulfillment.” He didn’t seem very comfortable talking about it.

The chime of the elevator saved him from further explanation, and the doors opened.

Four people stood inside the car, and Thomas’s breath caught in his throat. He recognized Chancellor Anderson and Dr. Paige. There were another man and woman, each of them dressed very professionally.

“They’re all yours,” Leavitt said; then, without waiting for a response, he turned and retreated down the hallway they’d come from.

Dr. Paige held her arm out to keep the elevator doors open. “Come on in, Thomas. Teresa. We’re really excited about what we’re going to show you today.”

“Yes, we are,” Chancellor Anderson said. He shook Thomas’s hand as he stepped inside the car, then Teresa’s. “We’ve been waiting and waiting for the Psychs to conclude that you two were ready, and here we are.”

“What’s going on?” Teresa asked. “Why all the mystery?”

The elevator doors had closed, and Dr. Paige pushed a button to get them moving. A soft hum filled the air. Thomas wondered how they could be going down instead of up—the other bank of elevators had said they’d exited at the basement. He felt a small trickle of fear.

Chancellor Anderson gave them his warmest smile. “It’s nothing you should be worried about,” he said. “We think the best way to explain what we’re planning is to show you in person. You’ll see what I’m talking about soon.”

“But why us?” Teresa asked. “We know there are lots of other kids—we can hear them through the walls. Why are we separate? Are you going to show them what you’re showing us?”

The woman Thomas had never seen before stepped forward. She was short, with dark hair and a pale complexion. “First, introductions, shall we? My name is Katie McVoy, and I’m an assistant vice president with special oversight of the production you’re about to see. This”—she pointed at the other man, a serious-looking man with darker skin, gray hair, and stubble on his cheeks—“is Julio Ramirez, our current chief of security.”

As hands were shaken and smiles shared all around, Thomas wondered about the word she’d used, current. It seemed weird that she would describe the man’s job that way. Almost as if he wouldn’t be holding the position much longer.

Ms. McVoy continued. “Regarding your questions, several of you have done leaps and bounds better than anyone else in the schooling and testing we’ve conducted here. Now, we’re as pragmatic as anyone, especially in today’s world, and we see the value in your skills and smarts. Today is a reward of sorts. You’ll be the first subjects to see this.”

“That’s right,” Anderson said with a bright smile. “Reward is a good word for it. You two and a few others are off the charts and perfect for what we’re going to need over the next two years to finish what we’ve begun. And we should be arriving…Ah, there we go.”

The car came to a stop, having plummeted to the Earth’s core, for all Thomas could tell. The journey, combined with everything he’d just heard, had him feeling even more uneasy than when he’d stepped into the elevator. Who were these “others” they were talking about? Of all the new things that were apparently about to be opened to him, having other kids around excited him the most by far. The constant loneliness had begun to eat away at his heart. But it also sounded too good to be true. Could he believe it?

The doors had opened while he was lost in thought, and the others had all exited. Teresa stood across the threshold, gesturing for him to follow. She looked as if she was worried the whole thing might be cancelled if he didn’t snap out of it and get moving. Thomas felt the same way. He stepped out of the car into a large room about the size of a gym, its exposed ductwork lit with blue lights. It was empty except for the hundreds of cords and tubes waiting to be connected, countless boxes, and construction materials. One corner held what looked like an office—it was set up with multiple monitors and workstations, all lighting the space with their electric glow.

“Our plan,” Chancellor Anderson said, “is for this to be the command center for what we’re calling the Maze Trials, as advanced a facility as any research institution has ever had. This should be finished within a couple of months, and then the two mazes themselves completed within two or three years. Maybe four.”