The Fever CodeJames Dashner
BOOKS BY JAMES DASHNER
The Mortality Doctrine Series
The Eye of Minds
The Rule of Thoughts
The Game of Lives
The Maze Runner Series
The Maze Runner
The Scorch Trials
The Death Cure
The Kill Order
The Fever Code
The 13th Reality Series
The Journal of Curious Letters
The Hunt for Dark Infinity
The Blade of Shattered Hope
The Void of Mist and Thunder
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Text copyright © 2016 by James Dashner
Cover art copyright © 2016 by Philip Straub
Cover typography copyright © 2016 by Stuart Wade
All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York.
Delacorte Press is a registered trademark and the colophon is a trademark of Penguin Random House LLC.
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available upon request.
ISBN 978-0-553-51309-7 (hc) — ISBN 978-0-553-51310-3 (lib. bdg.) ISBN 978-0-553-51311-0 (ebook) — ISBN 978-1-5247-0081-2 (intl. tr. pbk.)
Ebook ISBN 9780553513110
Random House Children’s Books supports the First Amendment and celebrates the right to read.
Books by James Dashner
About the Author
Excerpt from The Maze Runner
Excerpt from The Mortality Doctrine
For all the die-hard Maze Runner fans.
You’re crazy and full of passion and I love you.
It snowed the day they killed the boy’s parents.
An accident, they said much later, but he was there when it happened and knew it was no accident.
The snow came before they did, almost like a cold white omen, falling from the gray sky.
He could remember how confusing it was. The sweltering heat had brutalized their city for months that stretched into years, an infinite line of days filled with sweat and pain and hunger. He and his family survived. Hopeful mornings devolved into afternoons of scavenging for food, of loud fights and terrifying noises. Then evenings of numbness from the long hot days. He would sit with his family and watch the light fade from the sky and the world slowly disappear before his eyes, wondering if it would reappear with the dawn.
Sometimes the crazies came, indifferent to day or night. But his family didn’t speak of them. Not his mother, not his father; certainly not him. It felt as if admitting their existence aloud might summon them, like an incantation calling forth devils. Only Lizzy, two years younger but twice as brave, had the guts to talk about the crazies, as if she were the only one smart enough to see superstition for nonsense.
And she was just a little kid.
The boy knew he should be the one with courage; he should be the one comforting his little sister. Don’t you worry, Lizzy. The basement is locked up tight; the lights are off. The bad people won’t even know we’re here. But he always found himself speechless. He’d hug her hard, squeezing her like his own personal teddy bear for comfort. And every time, she’d pat him on the back. He loved her so much it made his heart hurt. He’d squeeze her tighter, silently swearing he’d never let the crazies hurt her, looking forward to feeling the flat of her palm thumping him between his shoulder blades.
Often, they fell asleep that way, curled up in the corner of the basement, on top of the old mattress his dad had dragged down the stairs. Their mother always put a blanket over them, despite the heat—her own rebellious act against the Flare, which had ruined everything.
That morning, they awoke to a sight of wonder.
It was his mother’s voice. He’d been dreaming, something about a football match, the ball spinning across the green grass of the pitch, heading for an open goal in an empty stadium.
“Kids! Wake up! Come see!”
He opened his eyes, saw his mother looking out the small window, the only one in the basement room. She’d removed the board his dad had nailed there the night before, like he did every evening at sunset. A soft gray light shone down on his mother’s face, revealing eyes full of bright awe. And a smile like he hadn’t seen in a very long time lit her even brighter.
“What’s going on?” he mumbled, climbing to his feet. Lizzy rubbed her eyes, yawned, then followed him to where Mum gazed into the daylight.
He could remember several things about that moment. As he looked out, squinting as his eyes adjusted, his father still snored like a beast. The street was empty of crazies, and clouds covered the sky, a rarity these days. He froze when he saw the white flakes. They fell from the grayness, swirling and dancing, defying gravity and flitting up before floating back down again.
“What the bloody hell?” he mumbled under his breath, a phrase he’d learned from his father.
“How can it snow, Mummy?” Lizzy asked, her eyes drained of sleep and filled with a joy that pinched his heart. He reached down and tugged on her braid, hoping she knew just how much she made his miserable life worth living.
“Oh, you know,” Mum replied, “all those things the people say. The whole weather system of the world is shot to bits, thanks to the Flares. Let’s just enjoy it, shall we? It’s quite extraordinary, don’t you think?”
nbsp; Lizzy responded with a happy sigh.
He watched, wondering if he’d ever see such a thing again. The flakes drifted, eventually touching down and melting as soon as they met the pavement. Wet freckles dotted the windowpane.
They stood like that, watching the world outside, until shadows crossed the space at the top of the window. They were gone as soon as they appeared. The boy craned his neck to catch a glimpse of who or what had passed, but looked too late. A few seconds later, a heavy pounding came on the front door above. His father was on his feet before the sound ended, suddenly wide-awake and alert.
“Did you see anyone?” Dad asked, his voice a bit croaky.
Mum’s face had lost the glee from moments earlier, replaced with the more familiar creases of concern and worry. “Just a shadow. Do we answer?”
“No,” Dad responded. “We most certainly do not. Pray they go away, whoever it is.”
“They might break in,” Mum whispered. “I know I would. They might think it’s abandoned, maybe a bit of canned food left behind.”
Dad looked at her for a long time, his mind working as the silence ticked by. Then, boom, boom, boom. The hard cracks on the door shook the entire house, as if their visitors had brought along a battering ram.
“Stay here,” Dad said carefully. “Stay with the children.”
Mum started to speak but stopped, looking down at her daughter and son, her priorities obvious. She pulled them into a hug, as if her arms could protect them, and the boy let the warmth of her body soothe him. He held her tight as Dad quietly made his way up the stairs, the floor above creaking as he moved toward the front door. Then silence.
The air grew heavy, pressing down. Lizzy reached over and took her brother’s hand. Finally he found words of comfort and poured them out to her.
“Don’t worry,” he whispered, barely more than a breath. “It’s probably just some people hungry for food. Dad will share a bit, and then they’ll be on their way. You’ll see.” He squeezed her fingers with all the love he knew, not believing a word he’d said.
Next came a rush of noises.
The door slammed open.
Loud, angry voices.
A crash, then a thump that rattled the floorboards.
Heavy, dreadful footsteps.
And then the strangers were pounding down the stairs. Two men, three, a woman—four people total. The arrivals were dressed sharply for the times, and they looked neither kind nor menacing. Merely solemn to the core.
“You’ve ignored every message we’ve sent,” one of the men stated as he examined the room. “I’m sorry, but we need the girl. Elizabeth. I’m very sorry, but we’ve got no choice.”
And just like that, the boy’s world ended. A world already filled with more sad things than a kid could count. The strangers approached, cutting through the tense air. They reached for Lizzy, grabbed her by the shirt, pushed at Mum—frantic, wild, screaming—who clutched at her little girl. The boy ran forward, beat at the back of a man’s shoulders. Useless. A mosquito attacking an elephant.
The look on Lizzy’s face during the sudden madness. Something cold and hard shattered within the boy’s chest, the pieces falling with jagged edges, tearing at him. It was unbearable. He let out an enormous scream of his own and threw himself harder at the intruders, swinging wildly.
“Enough!” the woman yelled. A hand whipped through the air, slapped the boy in the face, a snakebite sting. Someone punched his mother right in the head. She collapsed. And then a sound like the crack of thunder, close and everywhere at once. His ears chimed with a deafening buzz. He fell back against the wall and took in the horrors.
One of the men, shot in the leg.
His dad standing in the doorway, gun in hand.
His mum screeching as she scrambled off the floor, reaching for the woman, who had pulled out her own weapon.
Dad firing off two more shots. A ping of metal and the crunch of a bullet hitting concrete. Misses, both.
Mum yanking at the lady’s shoulder.
Then the woman threw an elbow, fired, spun, fired three more times. In the chaos, the air thickened, all sound retreating, time a foreign concept. The boy watched, emptiness opening below him, as both of his parents fell. A long moment passed when no one moved, most of all Mum and Dad. They’d never move again.
All eyes went to the two orphaned children.
“Grab them both, dammit,” one of the men finally said. “They can use the other one as a control subject.”
The way the man pointed at him, so casually, like finally settling on a random can of soup in the pantry. He would never forget it. He scrambled for Lizzy, pulled her into his arms. And the strangers took them away.
221.11.28 | 9:23 a.m.
Stephen, Stephen, Stephen. My name is Stephen.
He’d been chanting it over and over to himself for the last two days—since they’d taken him from his mom. He remembered every second of his last moments with her, every tear that ran down her face, every word, her warm touch. He was young, but he understood that it was for the best. He’d seen his dad plummet into complete madness, all anger and stink and danger. He couldn’t take seeing it happen to his mom.
Still, the pain of their separation swallowed him. An ocean that had sucked him under, its coldness and depth never-ending. He lay on the bed in his small room, legs tucked up to his chest and eyes squeezed shut, curled into a ball, as if that would bring sleep down on him. But since he’d been taken, slumber had come only in fits, snatches full of dark clouds and screaming beasts. He focused.
Stephen, Stephen, Stephen. My name is Stephen.
He figured he had two things to hold on to: his memories and his name. Surely they couldn’t take the first away from him, but they were trying to steal the second. For two days they’d pressed him to accept his new name: Thomas. He’d refused, clinging desperately to the seven letters his own flesh and blood had chosen for him. When the people in the white coats called him Thomas, he didn’t respond; he acted as if he couldn’t hear them or as if he thought they were talking to someone else. It wasn’t easy when only two people stood in the room, which was usually the case.
Stephen wasn’t even five years old, yet his only glimpse of the world had been full of darkness and pain. And then these people took him. They seemed intent on making sure he realized that things could only get worse, every lesson learned harder than the one before it.
His door buzzed, then immediately popped open. A man strode in, dressed in a green one-piece suit that looked like pajamas for grown-ups. Stephen wanted to tell him he looked ridiculous, but based on the last few encounters he’d had with these people, he decided to keep his opinion to himself. Their patience was beginning to wear thin.
“Thomas, come with me,” the man said.
Stephen, Stephen, Stephen. My name is Stephen.
He didn’t move. He kept his eyes squeezed shut, hoping the stranger hadn’t noticed that he’d taken a peek when the man had first entered. A different person had come each time. None of them had been hostile, but then, none had been very nice either. They all seemed distant, their thoughts elsewhere, removed from the boy alone in the bed.
The man spoke again, not even trying to conceal the impatience in his voice. “Thomas, get up. I don’t have time for games, okay? They’re running us ragged to get things set up, and I’ve heard that you’re one of the last ones resisting your new name. Give me a break, son. This is seriously something you want to fight about? After we saved you from what’s happening out there?”
Stephen willed himself not to move, the result only a stiffness that couldn’t possibly look like someone sleeping. He held his breath until he finally had to suck in a huge gulp of air. Giving up, he rolled onto his back and glared at the stranger dead in the eye.
“You look stupid,” he said.
The man tried to hide his surprise but failed; amusement crossed his face. “Excuse me?”
Anger flared inside Stephen. “I said, you look stupid
. That ridiculous green jumpsuit. And give up the act. I’m not going to just do whatever you want me to do. And I’m definitely not putting on anything that looks like those man-jammies you’re wearing. And don’t call me Thomas. My name is Stephen!”
It all came out in one breath, and Stephen had to suck in another huge gulp of air, hoping it didn’t ruin his moment. Make him look weak.
The man laughed, and he sounded more amused than condescending. It still made Stephen want to throw something across the room.
“They told me you had…” The man paused, looked down at an electronic notepad he carried. “…‘an endearing, childlike quality’ about you. Guess I’m not seeing it.”
“That was before they told me I had to change my name,” Stephen countered. “The name my mom and dad gave me. The one you took from me.”
“Would that be the dad who went crazy?” the man asked. “The one who just about beat your mom to death he was so sick? And the mom who asked us to take you away? Who’s getting sicker every day? Those parents?”
Stephen smoldered in his bed but said nothing.
His green-clothed visitor came closer to the bed, crouched down. “Look, you’re just a kid. And you’re obviously bright. Really bright. Also immune to the Flare. You have a lot going for you.”