The Fever Code (The Maze Runner #5)(8)


by James Dashner

“Cool indeed.” Another grin that seemed as genuine as Ms. Denton’s. “There are a lot of good things on your horizon. Our horizon.”

He barely stopped himself from saying “Cool” again.

She motioned toward the rolling tray at her hip. “Now, how about some breakfast?”

He didn’t know how she did it, but when Dr. Paige took Thomas’s blood, he didn’t even feel the prick of the needle piercing his skin. Usually one of her assistants did the deed, but every once in a while she took care of it herself. Like today.

As he watched the blood slide down its tube, he asked, “So, what’re you learning about me?”

Dr. Paige looked up. “Pardon?”

“With all these tests you run. What’re you learning? You never tell me anything. Am I still immune? Is my information helping you? Am I healthy?”

The doctor sealed off the vial and took the needle out of Thomas’s arm. “Well, yes, you’re helping us a lot. The more we can learn about how your body, your health…Just by studying you and the others, we’re discovering what to study. Where to focus our efforts on finding a cure. You’re as valuable as they say you are. Every one of you.”

Thomas beamed a little.

“Are you just telling me this to make me feel good?” he asked.

“Absolutely not. If we’re going to stop this virus, it’ll be because of you and the others. You should be proud.”

“Okay.”

“Now, let’s get you on the treadmill. See how quickly we can get your heart rate over one fifty.”

“This drastically changed people’s everyday lives, connecting society in a way that had never…”

Ms. Landon—a small, mousy lady with perfect teeth—was describing the cultural impact of cellular technology when Thomas raised his hand to get her attention. He was desperately bored. Everyone knew the cultural impact of cellular technology.

“Uh, yes?” she asked, stopping midsentence.

“I thought we were going to talk about the invention of the Flat Trans soon.”

“Did I say that?”

“I think you did. Anyway, it just seems a little more interesting than…this stuff.” Thomas smiled to take away the sting of his words.

Ms. Landon folded her arms. “Who’s the teacher here?”

“You are.”

“And who knows best what we should talk about each day?”

Thomas smiled again; for what reason, he had no idea. He liked this lady, no matter how boring she got. “You do.”

“Very good. Now, as I was saying, you can imagine how much the world changed when suddenly every person in the world was connected by…”

Ms. Denton had the patience of a snail. Thomas had been analyzing the forty odd-shaped blocks on the table in front of him for over thirty minutes. He’d yet to actually touch one. Instead, he gazed at each separate piece in turn, trying to build a blueprint in his mind. Trying to approach the puzzle the way his teacher had taught him.

“Would you like to take a break?” she finally asked. “You need to go to your next class anyway.”

Even her patience could run thin, he supposed. “I can be late. Mr. Glanville won’t mind.”

Ms. Denton shook her head. “Not a good idea. Once you run out of time, you’ll start rushing things. You’re not ready to rush things. For now, it’s okay to take as much time as you need. Even over several days. Give your brain a solid workout, visualize what you’ve been analyzing while you lie in bed at night.”

Thomas forced himself to look away from the blocks and leaned back in his chair. “Why do we do so many puzzles anyway? Aren’t they just games?”

“Is that what you think?”

“Not really, I guess. Seems like it works my brain more than any of my other classes.”

Ms. Denton smiled as if he’d just told her she was the smartest teacher in the school. “That’s exactly right, Thomas. Now, off to Mr. Glanville. You shouldn’t make him wait.”

Thomas stood up. “Okay. See you later.” He started for the door, then turned back to face her. “By the way, there are seven extra pieces—they don’t belong.”

Impossibly, her smile grew even wider.

Sample after sample.

Class after class.

Puzzle after puzzle.

Day after day.

Month after month.

224.9.2 | 7:30 a.m.

The knock on the door came precisely at the correct time, maybe a few seconds off. Thomas opened it to find a stranger staring at him. A bald man who didn’t seem very happy to be there. Maybe not very happy to be alive. He had puffy red eyes and a frown that seemed to be reflected in every wrinkle on his wilting face.

“Where’s Dr. Paige?” Thomas asked, a little crestfallen. As much as he sometimes hated the routine, disrupting it made him uncomfortable. “Is she okay?”

“May I please come in?” the man replied, nodding down at the tray of food he’d brought. His voice had none of the warmth of Dr. Paige’s.

“Um, yeah.” Thomas stepped aside, opening the door wider. The stranger rolled the food cart past him and up to the small desk.

“Make sure you eat it all,” the man said. “You’re going to need a lot of strength today.”

Thomas really didn’t like his tone. “Why? And you didn’t answer my question—what’s wrong with Dr. Paige?”

The man straightened, as if trying to make himself taller, and folded his arms. “Why would anything be wrong with Dr. Paige? She’s perfectly fine. Make sure to speak with kindness and respect to your elders at all times.”

Thomas had his response on the tip of his tongue—the sharp words that always felt as though they came easy—but he stayed quiet and willed the man to just go away.

“You’ve got a half hour,” the stranger said. His eyes never left Thomas, a dark, unnatural gaze. “I’ll be back for you at eight o’clock sharp. You can call me Dr. Leavitt. I’m one of the Psychs.” He finally broke eye contact and left, gently closing the door behind him.

I’m one of the Psychs.

Thomas had no idea what that meant, though he’d heard the term Psych before. He had zero appetite. He sat down and ate anyway.