- The Death Cure
Thomas found Minho sitting with Brenda and Jorge when he returned, and Minho didn’t seem happy to see him. He gave Thomas a nasty look. “So what did that shuck traitor have to say?”
Thomas sat down beside him. Several strangers had gathered closer, and he could tell they were listening in.
“Well?” Minho pushed.
“She said that the reason they escaped was because they found out WICKED plans to start all over again if they have to. That they were rounding up Immunes—just like Gally told us. She swears that somehow they were led to believe that we’d already broken out—and that they looked for us.” Thomas paused—he knew Minho wouldn’t like the next part. “And she’d help us if she can.”
Minho just shook his head. “You’re a slinthead. You shouldn’t have talked to her.”
“Thanks.” Thomas rubbed his face. Minho was right.
“Hate to barge in here, muchachos,” Jorge said. “You can talk all day about this crap, but it means diddly unless we can get ourselves out of this nice little place. No matter who’s on whose side.”
Just then the door to the room opened and three of their captors walked in with big sacks stuffed full of something. A fourth followed, armed with a Launcher and a pistol. He swept the room, looking for trouble, and the others started passing out what was inside the bags—bread and bottles of water.
“How do we always get into these messes?” Minho asked. “At least we used to be able to blame everything on WICKED.”
“Yeah, well, we still can,” Thomas murmured.
Minho grinned. “Good. Those shuck-faces.”
An uneasy silence settled on the room as the kidnappers moved around. People began to eat. Thomas realized that they’d have to whisper if they wanted to keep talking.
Minho nudged Thomas. “Only one of them has a weapon,” he whispered. “And he doesn’t look so bad. I bet I could take him.”
“Maybe,” Thomas answered under his breath. “But don’t do anything stupid—he’s got a gun as well as a Launcher. And trust me, you don’t want to get shot by either.”
“Yeah, well, you trust me this time.” Minho gave Thomas a wink, to which Thomas could only sigh. The odds were not good that what was about to happen would go unnoticed.
The kidnappers approached Thomas and Minho and stopped at their little group. Thomas took a roll and a bottle of water, but when the man tried to hand some bread to Minho, he swatted it away.
“Why would I take anything from you? It’s probably poisoned.”
“You wanna go hungry, fine by me,” the guy replied, moving on.
He had nearly passed them when Minho suddenly leaped to his feet and tackled the man holding the Launcher. Thomas flinched as it slipped out of the guy’s grip and discharged, sending a grenade up toward the ceiling, where it crashed in a display of lightning. The kidnapper was still on the ground when Minho started punching him, struggling to grab the man’s pistol with his free hand.
For a moment, everyone froze. But then movement exploded all at once before Thomas could react. The three other guards dropped their bags to go after Minho, but before they could take a step they had six people on them, throwing them to the ground. Jorge helped Minho drag the guard to the floor and was stomping the man’s arm until he finally let go of the pistol he’d pulled from his belt; Minho kicked it across the floor, and a woman picked it up. Thomas saw that Brenda had grabbed the Launcher.
“Stop!” she shouted, aiming the weapon at the kidnappers.
Minho stood up, and as he stepped away from the man on the ground, Thomas could see that the guy’s face was covered in blood. People were already dragging the other three guards over to lie next to their partner, lining them up so that all four were on their backs in a row.
It had all happened so fast, Thomas hadn’t moved from his spot on the floor, but he immediately got to work.
“We have to get them to talk,” he said. “We have to hurry before backup comes.”
“We should just shoot them in the head!” a man called out. “Shoot them and get out of here.” A few others shouted their agreement.
Thomas realized that the group had turned into a mob. If he wanted information he had to work fast—before things fell apart. He stood and made his way over to the woman with the gun and convinced her to hand it to him; then he turned and knelt beside the man who’d given him the bread.
Thomas put the gun to the guy’s temple. “I’m going to count to three. You either start telling what WICKED plans to do with us and where you were going to meet them or I’ll pull the trigger. One.”
The man didn’t hesitate. “WICKED? We got nothing to do with WICKED.”
“You’re lying. Two.”
“No, I swear! This has nothing to do with them! At least as far as I know.”
“Oh really? Then you want to explain why you’re out kidnapping a bunch of immune people?”
The man’s eyes flickered to his friends, but then he answered, looking straight at Thomas. “We work for the Right Arm.”
“What do you mean you work for the Right Arm?” Thomas asked. It made no sense.
“What do you mean what do I mean?” the man said, despite the gun at his head. “I work for the freaking Right Arm. Why’s that so hard to understand?”
Thomas pulled the gun away and sat back, confused. “Then why would you be out capturing Immunes?”
“Because we want to,” he said, eyeing the lowered weapon. “You ain’t got no business knowin’ nothing else.”
“Shoot him and move on to the next one,” someone in the crowd called out.
Thomas leaned back in, pressed the gun against the man’s temple again. “You’re awfully brave considering I’m the one with the gun. I’ll count to three one more time. Tell me why the Right Arm would want Immunes or I’ll just have to assume you’re lying. One.”
“You know I ain’t lying, kid.”
“You ain’t gonna kill me. I can see it in your eyes.”
The man had called his bluff. There was no way Thomas could just shoot some stranger in the head. He sighed, pulled the gun away. “If you work for the Right Arm, then we’re supposed to be on the same side. Just tell us what’s going on.”
The guy sat up, slowly, and so did his three friends, the bloody-faced man groaning with the effort.
“If you want answers,” one said, “then you’ll have to ask the boss. We seriously don’t know anything.”
“Yeah,” added the man next to Thomas. “We’re nobodies.”
Brenda stepped closer with her Launcher. “And how do we get to this boss of yours?”
The man shrugged. “I have no idea.”
Minho groaned and snatched the gun from Thomas’s hands. “I’ve had enough of this klunk.” He pointed the weapon at the man’s foot. “Fine, we won’t kill you, but your toe’s gonna be smarting something real awful in three seconds if you don’t start talking. One.”
“I’m telling you, we don’t know nothin’.” The guy’s face was pinched in anger.
“Fine,” Minho replied. He fired the gun.
Thomas watched in shock as the man grabbed his foot, wailing in agony. Minho had shot him right in the pinkie toe—that part of the shoe and the toe itself were completely gone, replaced by a bleeding wound.
“How could you do that?” the guard next to him on the ground yelled as she moved to help her friend. She pulled a wad of napkins from her pants and pressed them against his foot.
Thomas was shocked that Minho had actually done it, but he had to respect the guy. Thomas couldn’t have pulled the trigger, and if they didn’t get answers now, they never would. He looked over at Brenda, and her shrug showed that she agreed. Teresa was watching from a distance, her face unreadable.
Minho kept at it. “Okay, while she’s working on that poor foot of his, someone better start talking. Tell us what’s going on or we’re going to lose another toe.” He waved the pistol at the lady, then the other two guys. “Why are you kidnapping people for the Right Arm?”
“We told you, we don’t know anything,” the woman answered. “They pay us and we do what they ask.”
“And you?” Minho asked, pointing the gun at one of the men. “You wanna say something—save a toe or two?”
He held up his hands. “I swear on the life of my mom I don’t know anything. But …”
He seemed to regret that last part immediately. His gaze shot to his friends and his face paled.
“But what? Spill it—I know you’re hiding something.”
“Do we really need to keep playing this game?” Minho moved the gun directly up against the man’s foot. “I’m done counting.”
“Stop!” the guard yelled. “Okay, listen. We could take a couple of you back with us to ask them yourselves. I don’t know if they’ll let you talk to the one in charge, but they might. I’m not getting my toe shot off for no good reason.”
“All right, then,” Minho said, taking a step back and gesturing for the guy to stand up. “See, that wasn’t so bad. Let’s go visit this boss of yours. Me, you, and my friends.”
The room burst into a rush of voices. No one wanted to be left behind and no one was going to be quiet about it.
The woman who’d brought in the water stood up and started yelling. The crowd went silent. “You people are a lot safer here! Just trust me on that one. If all of us tried to make it to where we’d need to go, I can guarantee half wouldn’t get there. If these guys want to see the boss, then let them risk their necks. A gun and a Launcher aren’t going to do a bit of good out there. But in here we have a locked door and no windows.”
When she finished, another chorus of complaints filled the room. The woman turned to Minho and Thomas and spoke over the noise. “Listen, it’s dangerous out there. I wouldn’t take more than a couple of people. The more you have, the more likely you’ll be seen.” She paused and scanned the room. “And I’d go soon if I were you. From the looks of it, these people are only going to get antsier. Pretty soon there’ll be no way to hold them off. And out there …”
She pursed her lips together tightly, then continued. “There are Cranks everywhere. They’re killing anything that moves.”
Minho pointed his gun at the ceiling and fired, making Thomas jump. The noise of the crowd collapsed into complete silence.
Minho didn’t need to say a word. He gestured to the woman to speak.
“It’s crazy out there. It’s all happened really quickly. Like they’ve been hiding and waiting for a signal or something. This morning the police were overpowered and the gates were opened. Some Cranks from the Palace joined them. They’re everywhere now.”