The Fever Code (The Maze Runner #5)(9)

by James Dashner

It seemed as though Dr. Leavitt banged on the door far harder than he needed to, right on schedule. Thomas had finished his breakfast in plenty of time, only wishing he could have another hour. Another half a day. He might as well wish for a month. But he didn’t want to go anywhere with this new guy. If Dr. Paige was gone for some reason, he’d be devastated.

When he opened the door, Leavitt was just as bald and just as droopy as he’d been a half hour earlier.

“Let’s go,” he said curtly.

They walked down the hallway in silence; Thomas gave Teresa’s door a wistful glance as he passed it. 31K. How many times had he seen that plaque on the door, wishing he could open it and meet the girl on the other side? What possible reason did these people have for keeping everyone separate? Surely it wasn’t mere cruelty? How could Dr. Paige be a part of such a thing?

“Look,” Dr. Leavitt said, snapping Thomas’s attention back to the white walls of the hallway, the fluorescent lights above. “I know I’ve been a little unfriendly this morning. I’m sorry. Today’s project has been quite an undertaking, and we have a lot riding on it.” He let out a strangled laugh that sounded like a frog being electrocuted. “You could say I’m under a pretty fair amount of stress.”

“It’s okay,” Thomas replied, not knowing what else to say. “We all have our bad days,” he added nervously. What could possibly have this guy so stressed out? He wasn’t the one taking all the tests.

“Yeah,” Dr. Leavitt grunted more than said.

They got in the elevator and the doctor pressed the button for a floor Thomas had never visited before. Nine. For some reason, that had an ominous feel to it. The ninth floor. Would it have felt so haunting if Dr. Paige were standing next to him? He had no idea.

The doors opened with a cheerful chime, and Dr. Leavitt exited to the left. Thomas followed, quickly taking in a desk in front of glass partitions. Beyond that he could see the blinking lights of monitors and instruments. This floor was some kind of hospital unit, by the looks of it.

Maybe something had happened to Dr. Paige—maybe they were going to visit her.

Thomas tried to sound as nice and as at ease as possible. “So, can you tell me what’s going on today?”

“No,” Leavitt replied. Then added a “Sorry, son” as an afterthought.

Thomas followed Leavitt past the front desk and beyond the glass. They continued down the hallway, passing door after door, but aside from the medical monitors outside each room, none gave up any clues. The doors were all numbered, but they were closed, and the walls of frosted glass were obscured with floor-to-ceiling curtains, firmly drawn. Thomas could swear he heard voices coming from inside one room, and jumped at a sharp cry that left no doubt. He kept walking until an echoing scream came bouncing down the hall behind them. Thomas stopped and spun around to take a look.

“Keep walking,” Dr. Leavitt directed. “There’s nothing to worry about.”

“What’s going on?” Thomas asked again. “What’s wrong with that—”

Leavitt grabbed Thomas’s arm—not hard enough to hurt, but not exactly gently, either. “Everything’s going to be okay. You have to trust me. Just keep walking—we’re almost there.”

Thomas obeyed.

They stopped in front of a door identical to all the others, an electronic chart next to it with a bunch of information too small for Thomas to see from where he stood. Dr. Leavitt studied it for a moment, then reached to open the door. He’d just turned the knob when a commotion down the hall erupted in the silence.

Thomas turned to see a door open, and a boy dressed in a hospital gown, his head bandaged, stumbled out, two nurses supporting him. He was staggering as if heavily drugged, and he fell to the ground. He then struggled back to his feet, fighting off the two people who had been helping him moments before. Thomas was frozen, staring at the boy as he fell again, then drunkenly clambered to his feet and attempted to run away, swerving from side to side as he headed straight for Thomas.

“Don’t go in there,” the boy slurred. He had dark hair, Asian features, was maybe a year older than Thomas. The boy’s face was flushed and sweaty; a tiny red spot blossomed on the bandage wrapped around his head, just above his ears.

Thomas watched in stunned disbelief. Then suddenly Dr. Leavitt was standing between Thomas and the oncoming boy. One of the two pursuing nurses shouted, “Minho! Stop! You’re in no condition…” But the words faded to nothing.

Minho. The boy’s name was Minho. Now Thomas knew at least two other names.

The boy slammed into Dr. Leavitt, almost as if he hadn’t seen him standing there. Minho’s eyes were completely focused on Thomas, bright with dazed fear.

“Don’t let them do it to you!” he yelled, now struggling with Leavitt, who’d wrapped his arms around him. Minho was way too small to break free from the man, but that didn’t stop him from trying.

“What…,” Thomas said, too quietly. He spoke louder. “What’s going on?”

“They’re putting things in our heads!” Minho called out to him, eyes still wild, boring into Thomas. “They said it wouldn’t hurt, but it does. It does! They’re a bunch of lying…”

That last word died in the boy’s mouth as one of the nurses injected something into his neck that made him go slack, his body slumping to the floor. Within seconds they were dragging him down the hallway toward the room he’d exited, his feet trailing along behind him.

Thomas turned to Leavitt. “What did they do to him?”

The doctor, his demeanor wrapped in a surprising calmness, simply said, “Don’t worry, he’s just having a reaction to the anesthesia. Nothing to worry about.”

He seemed to like that phrase.

Thomas thought about running. He thought about it the whole time he watched Leavitt open the door, as he followed him inside the room, as he heard the door close behind him.

I’m a coward, he thought. I’ve got nothing on that Minho kid.

It definitely looked like a hospital room. There were two beds, both with privacy curtains. The one to the left was open, revealing a newly made bed. The one to the right had the curtains drawn, hiding whoever lay there—Thomas could see the shadowy figure of a body through the thin material. Medical equipment filled the room, as state-of-the-art as any of the equipment he’d seen in the labs during his tests. Leavitt already stood at one of the displays, perusing a screen of charts and entering information.