- The Death Cure
Then he’s on the carpeted floor of a small room, playing with silvery blocks that seem to fuse together as he builds a huge castle. His mom is sitting on a chair in the corner, crying. Thomas knows instantly why. His dad has been diagnosed with the Flare, is already showing signs of it. This leaves no doubt that his mom also has the disease, or will soon. The dreaming Thomas knows that it won’t be long before doctors realize his younger self has the virus but is immune to its effects. By then they’d developed the test that recognizes it.
Next he’s riding his bike on a hot day. Heat’s rising from the pavement, just weeds on both sides of the street, where there used to be grass. He has a smile on his sweaty face. His mom watches nearby, and he can see that she’s savoring every moment. They head to a nearby pond. The water is stagnant and foul-smelling. She gathers rocks for him to toss into the murky depths. At first he throws them as far as possible; then he tries to skip them the way his dad showed him last summer. He still can’t do it. Tired, their strength sapped from the stifling weather, he and his mother finally head home.
Then things in the dream—the memories—turn darker.
He’s back inside and a man in a dark suit is sitting on a couch. Papers in his hand, a grave look on his face. Thomas standing next to his mom, holding her hand. WICKED has been formed, a joint venture of the world’s governments—those that survived the sun flares, an event that took place long before Thomas was born. WICKED’s purpose is to study what is now known as the killzone, where the Flare does its damage. The brain.
The man is saying that Thomas is immune. Others are immune. Less than one percent of the population, most of them under the age of twenty. And the world is dangerous for them. They’re hated for their immunity to the terrible virus, are mockingly called Munies. People do terrible things to them. WICKED says they can protect Thomas, and Thomas can help them work to find a cure. They say he’s smart—one of the smartest who have been tested. His mom has no choice but to let him go. She certainly doesn’t want her boy to watch as she slowly goes insane.
Later she tells Thomas that she loves him and is so glad that he’ll never go through what they witnessed happen to his dad. The madness took away every ounce of what made him who he was—what made him human.
And after that the dream faded, and Thomas fell into a deep void of sleep.
* * *
A loud knocking woke him early the next morning. He’d barely gotten up on his elbows when the door opened and the same five guards from the day before came in with Launchers raised. Janson stepped into the room right after them.
“Rise and shine, boys,” the Rat Man said. “We’ve decided to give you your memories back after all. Like it or not.”
Thomas was still groggy from sleep. The dreams he’d had—the memories of his childhood—clouded his mind. He almost didn’t catch what the man had said.
“Like hell you are,” Newt responded. He was out of his bed, fists clenched at his sides, glaring at Janson.
Thomas couldn’t remember ever seeing such fire in his friend’s eyes. And then the full force of the Rat Man’s words snapped Thomas out of his fog.
He swung his legs around to the floor. “You told us we didn’t have to.”
“I’m afraid we don’t have much of a choice,” Janson replied. “The time for lies is over. Nothing’s going to work with you three still in the dark. I’m sorry. We need to do this. Newt, of everyone, you will benefit the most from a cure, after all.”
“I don’t care about myself anymore,” Newt responded in a low growl.
Thomas’s instincts took over then. He knew that this was the moment he’d been waiting for. It was the final straw.
Thomas watched Janson carefully. The man’s face softened and he took a deep breath, as if he sensed the growing danger in the room and wanted to neutralize it. “Look, Newt, Minho, Thomas. I understand how you must feel. You’ve seen some awful things. But the worst part is over. We can’t change the past, can’t take back what has happened to you and your friends. But wouldn’t it be a waste to not complete the blueprint at this point?”
“Can’t take it back?” Newt shouted. “That’s all you have to say?”
“Watch yourself,” one of the guards warned, pointing a Launcher at Newt’s chest.
The room fell silent. Thomas had never seen Newt like this. So angry—so unwilling to put on a calm front, even.
Janson continued. “We’re running out of time. Now let’s go or we’ll have a repeat of yesterday. My guards are willing, I assure you.”
Minho jumped down from the bunk above Newt’s. “He’s right,” he said matter-of-factly. “If we can save you, Newt—and who knows how many others—we’d be shuck idiots to stay in this room a second longer.” Minho shot Thomas a glance and nodded toward the door. “Come on, let’s go.” He walked past Rat Man and the guards into the hallway without looking back.
Janson raised his eyebrows at Thomas, who was struggling to hide his surprise. Minho’s announcement was so strange—he had to have some sort of plan. Pretending to go along with things would buy them time.
Thomas turned away from the guards and Rat Man and gave Newt a quick wink that only he could see. “Let’s just listen to what they want us to do.” He tried to sound casual, sincere, but it was one of the hardest things he’d done yet. “I worked for these people before the Maze. I couldn’t have been totally wrong, right?”
“Oh, please.” Newt rolled his eyes, but he moved toward the door, and Thomas smiled inwardly at his small victory.
“You’ll all be heroes when this is over,” Janson said as Thomas followed Newt out of the room.
“Oh, shut up,” Thomas replied.
Thomas and his friends followed the Rat Man down the mazelike corridors once again. As they walked, Janson narrated the journey as if he were a tour guide. He explained that the facility didn’t have many windows because of the often fierce weather outside, and the attacks from roaming gangs of infected people. He mentioned the severe rainstorm the night the Gladers been taken from the Maze, and how the group of Cranks had broken through the outer perimeter to watch them board the bus.
Thomas remembered that night all too well. He could still feel the bump of the tires running over the woman who’d accosted him before he boarded the bus, how the driver didn’t even slow down. He could hardly believe that had happened only weeks ago—it felt like it’d been years.
“I really wish you’d just shut your mouth,” Newt finally spat. And the Rat Man did, but he never wiped the slight grin off his face.
When they reached the area they’d been in the day before, the Rat Man stopped and turned to address them. “I hope you will all cooperate today. I’m expecting nothing less.”
“Where is everybody else?” Thomas asked.
“The other subjects have been recovering—”
Before he could finish Newt had pounced, grabbing the Rat Man by the lapels of his white suit coat and slamming him against the nearest door. “Call them subjects again and I’ll break your bloody neck!”
Two guards were on Newt in an instant; they pulled him away from Janson and threw him to the floor, aiming their Launchers at his face.
“Wait!” Janson yelled. “Wait.” He composed himself and straightened his wrinkled shirt and jacket. “Don’t disable him. Let’s just get this over with.”
Newt slowly got to his feet, arms raised. “Don’t call us subjects. We’re not mice trying to find the cheese. And tell your shuck friends to calm down—I wasn’t gonna hurt you. Much.” His eyes fell on Thomas, questioning.
WICKED is good.
For some inexplicable reason, those words popped into Thomas’s mind. It was almost as if his former self—the one who’d believed that WICKED’s objective was worth any depraved action—was trying to convince him that it was true. That no matter how horrible it seemed, they must do whatever it took to find a cure for the Flare.
But something was different now. He couldn’t understand who he’d been before. How he could have thought any of this was okay. He’d changed forever … but he had to give them the old Thomas one last time.
“Newt, Minho,” he said quietly, before the Rat Man could speak again. “I think he’s right. I think it’s time we did what we’re supposed to do. We all agreed to it just last night.”
Minho broke into a nervous smile. Newt’s hands balled into fists.
It was now or never.
Thomas didn’t hesitate. He swung his elbow backward into the face of the guard behind him just as he kicked the knee of the one in front. Both fell to the floor, stunned, but recovered quickly. Out of the corner of his eye Thomas saw Newt tackle a guard to the ground; Minho was punching another. But the fifth—a woman—hadn’t been touched, and she was raising her Launcher.
Thomas dove for her, knocked the end of the weapon toward the ceiling before she could press the trigger, but she brought it around and smashed it into the side of his head. Pain exploded in his cheeks and jaw. He was already off balance, and crumpled to his knees, then flat onto his stomach. He put his hands under him to get up, but a crushing weight fell on his back, slamming him to the hard tile and knocking the breath from his lungs. A knee dug into his spine and he felt hard metal press against his skull.
“Give me the word!” the woman yelled. “A.D. Janson, give me the word! I’ll fry his brain.”
Thomas couldn’t see the others, but the sounds of scuffling had already stopped. He knew that meant their mutiny had been short-lived, all three of them subdued in less than a minute. His heart ached with despair.
“What are you people thinking!” Janson roared from behind Thomas. He could only imagine how enraged the man’s weaselly face must look. “You really think three … children can overpower five armed guards? You kids are supposed to be geniuses, not idiotic … delusional rebels. Maybe the Flare has taken your minds after all!”
“Shut up!” Thomas heard Newt scream. “Just shut your—”
Something muffled the rest of his words. Imagining one of the guards hurting Newt made Thomas tremble with rage. The woman pressed her weapon even harder against his head.
“Don’t … even … think about it,” she whispered in his ear.
“Get them up!” Janson barked. “Get them up!”
The guard pulled Thomas to his feet by the back of his shirt, keeping the business end of the Launcher pressed against his head. Newt and Minho were being held at Launcher-point as well, and the two free guards were training their weapons on the three Gladers.
Janson’s face burned red. “Completely ridiculous! We absolutely will not allow this to happen again.” He spun on Thomas.
“I was just a kid,” Thomas said, surprising himself.
“Excuse me?” Janson asked.