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“Look,” Thomas said, pointing down the line of stacks they’d formed, confused, but happy that the letters were so obvious. “It spells FLOAT and then it spells CAT.”

“Float cat?” Newt asked. “Doesn’t sound like a bloody rescue code to me.”

“We just need to keep working,” Thomas said.

Another couple of combinations made them realize that the second word was actually CATCH. FLOAT and CATCH.

“Definitely not a coincidence,” Minho said.

“Definitely not,” Thomas agreed. He couldn’t wait to see more.

Teresa gestured toward the storage closet. “We need to go through all of them—all those boxes in there.”

“Yeah,” Thomas nodded. “Let’s get on it.”

“We can’t help,” Minho said.

All three of them looked at him. He returned their glares. “At least not me and Thomas here. We need to get the Runners out in the Maze.”

“What?” Thomas asked. “This is way more important!”

“Maybe,” Minho answered calmly, “but we can’t miss a day out there. Not now.”

Thomas felt a rush of disappointment. Running the Maze seemed like such a waste of time compared to figuring out the code. “Why, Minho? You said the pattern’s basically been repeating itself for months—one more day won’t mean a thing.”

Minho slammed his hand against the table. “That’s bullcrap, Thomas! Of all days, this might be the most important to get out there. Something might’ve changed, something might’ve opened up. In fact, with the freaking walls not closing anymore, I think we should try your idea—stay out there overnight and do some deeper exploring.”

That piqued Thomas’s interest—he had been wanting to do that. Conflicted, he asked, “But what about this code? What about—”

“Tommy,” Newt said in a consoling voice. “Minho’s right. You shanks go out and get Runnin’. I’ll round up some Gladers we can trust and get workin’ on this.” Newt sounded more like a leader than ever before.

“Me too,” Teresa agreed. “I’ll stay and help Newt.”

Thomas looked at her. “You sure?” He was itching to figure out the code himself, but he decided Minho and Newt were right.

She smiled and folded her arms. “If you’re going to decipher a hidden code from a complex set of different mazes, I’m pretty sure you need a girl’s brain running the show.” Her grin turned into a smirk.

“If you say so.” He folded his own arms, staring at her with a smile, suddenly not wanting to leave again.

“Good that.” Minho nodded and turned to go. “Everything’s fine and dandy. Come on.” He started toward the door, but stopped when he realized Thomas wasn’t behind him.

“Don’t worry, Tommy,” Newt said. “Your girlfriend will be fine.” Thomas felt a million thoughts go through his head in that moment. An itch to learn the code, embarrassment at what Newt thought of him and Teresa, the intrigue of what they might find out in the Maze—and fear.

But he pushed it all aside. Without even saying goodbye, he finally followed Minho and they went up the stairs.

Thomas helped Minho gather the Runners to give them the news and organize them for the big journey. He was surprised at how readily everyone agreed that it was time to do some more in-depth exploring of the Maze and stay out there overnight. Even though he was nervous and scared, he told Minho he could take one of the sections himself, but the Keeper refused. They had eight experienced Runners to do that. Thomas was to go with him—which made Thomas so relieved he was almost ashamed of himself.

He and Minho packed their backpacks with more supplies than usual; there was no telling how long they’d be out there. Despite his fear, Thomas couldn’t help being excited as well—maybe this was the day they’d find an exit.

He and Minho were stretching their legs by the West Door when Chuck walked over to say goodbye.

“I’d go with you,” the boy said in a far too jovial voice, “but I don’t wanna die a gruesome death.”

Thomas laughed, surprising himself. “Thanks for the words of encouragement.”

“Be careful,” Chuck said, his tone quickly melting into genuine concern. “I wish I could help you guys.”

Thomas was touched—he bet that if it really came down to it, Chuck would go out there if he were asked to. “Thanks, Chuck. We’ll definitely be careful.”

Minho grunted. “Being careful hasn’t gotten us squat. It’s all or nothing now, baby.”

“We better get going,” Thomas said. Butterflies swarmed in his gut, and he just wanted to move, to quit thinking about it. After all, going out in the Maze was no worse than staying in the Glade with open Doors. Though the thought didn’t make him feel much better.

“Yeah,” Minho responded evenly. “Let’s go.”

“Well,” Chuck said, looking down at his feet before returning his gaze to Thomas. “Good luck. If your girlfriend gets lonely for you, I’ll give her some lovin’.”

Thomas rolled his eyes. “She’s not my girlfriend, shuck-face.”

“Wow,” Chuck said. “You’re already using Alby’s dirty words.” He was obviously trying hard to pretend he wasn’t scared of all the recent developments, but his eyes revealed the truth. “Seriously, good luck.”

“Thanks, that means a lot,” Minho answered with his own eye roll. “See ya, shank.”

“Yeah, see ya,” Chuck muttered, then turned to walk away.

Thomas felt a pang of sadness—it was possible he might never see Chuck or Teresa or any of them again. A sudden urge gripped him. “Don’t forget my promise!” he yelled. “I’ll get you home!”

Chuck turned and gave him a thumbs-up; his eyes glimmered with tears.

Thomas flipped up double thumbs; then he and Minho pulled on their backpacks and entered the Maze.


Thomas and Minho didn’t stop until they were halfway to the last dead end of Section Eight. They made good time—Thomas was glad for his wristwatch, with the skies being gray—because it quickly became obvious that the walls hadn’t moved from the day before. Everything was exactly the same. There was no need for Mapmaking or taking notes; their only task was to get to the end and start making their way back, searching for things previously unnoticed—anything. Minho allowed a twenty-minute break and then they were back at it.

They were silent as they ran. Minho had taught Thomas that speaking only wasted energy, so he concentrated on his pace and his breaths. Regular. Even. In, out. In, out. Deeper and deeper into the Maze they went, with only their thoughts and the sounds of their feet thumping against the hard stone floor.

In the third hour, Teresa surprised him, speaking in his mind from back in the Glade.

We’re making progress—found a couple more words already. But none of it makes sense yet.

Thomas’s first instinct was to ignore her, to deny once again that someone had the ability to enter his mind, invade his privacy. But he wanted to talk to her.

Can you hear me? he asked, picturing the words in his mind, mentally throwing them out to her in some way he could never have explained. Concentrating, he said it again. Can you hear me?

Yes! she replied. Really clearly the second time you said it.

Thomas was shocked. So shocked he almost quit running. It had worked!

Wonder why we can do this, he called out with his mind. The mental effort of speaking to her was already straining—he felt a headache forming like a bulge in his brain.

Maybe we were lovers, Teresa said.

Thomas tripped and crashed to the ground. Smiling sheepishly at Minho, who’d turned to look without slowing, Thomas got back up and caught up to him. What? he finally asked.

He sensed a laugh from her, a watery image full of color. This is so bizarre, she said. It’s like you’re a stranger, but I know you’re not.

Thomas felt a pleasant chill even though he was sweating. Sorry to break it to you, but we are strangers. I just met you, remember?

Don’t be stupid, Tom. I think someone altered our brains, put something in there so we could do this telepathy thing. Before we came here. Which makes me think we already knew each other.

It was something he’d wondered about, and he thought she was probably right. Hoped it, anyway—he was really starting to like her. Brains altered? he asked. How?

I don’t know—some memory I can’t quite grasp. I think we did something big.

Thomas thought about how he’d always felt a connection to her, ever since she arrived in the Glade. He wanted to dig a little more and see what she said. What are you talking about?

Wish I knew. I’m just trying to bounce ideas off you to see if it sparks anything in your mind.

Thomas thought about what Gally, Ben and Alby had said about him—their suspicions that he was against them somehow, was someone not to trust. He thought about what Teresa had said to him, too, the very first time—that he and she had somehow done all of this to them.

This code has to mean something, she added. And the thing I wrote on my arm—WICKED is good.

Maybe it won’t matter, he answered. Maybe we’ll find an exit. You never know.

Thomas squeezed his eyes shut for a few seconds as he ran, trying to concentrate. A pocket of air seemed to float in his chest every time they spoke, a swelling that half annoyed and half thrilled him. His eyes popped back open when he realized she could maybe read his thoughts even when he wasn’t trying to communicate. He waited for a response, but none came.

You still there? he asked.

Yeah, but this always gives me a headache.

Thomas was relieved to hear he wasn’t the only one. My head hurts, too.

Okay, she said. See you later.

No, wait! He didn’t want her to leave; she was helping the time pass. Making the running easier somehow.

Bye, Tom. I’ll let you know if we figure anything out.

Teresa—what about the thing you wrote on your arm?

Several seconds passed. No reply.


She was gone. Thomas felt as if that bubble of air in his chest had burst, releasing toxins into his body. His stomach hurt, and the thought of running the rest of the day suddenly depressed him.

In some ways, he wanted to tell Minho about how he and Teresa could talk, to share what was happening before it made his brain explode. But he didn’t dare. Throwing telepathy into the whole situation didn’t seem like the grandest of ideas. Everything was weird enough already.

Thomas put his head down and drew in a long, deep breath. He would just keep his mouth shut and run.

Two breaks later, Minho finally slowed to a walk as they headed down a long corridor that ended in a wall. He stopped and took a seat against the dead end. The ivy was especially thick there; it made the world seem green and lush, hiding the hard, impenetrable stone.

Thomas joined him on the ground and they attacked their modest lunch of sandwiches and sliced fruit.

“This is it,” Minho said after his second bite. “We’ve already run through the whole section. Surprise, surprise—no exits.”