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Authors: James Dashner

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BOOK: The Kill Order
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A faint light source appeared a few feet ahead, and as they got closer their surroundings began to come into focus a bit. They seemed to be in some sort of storage room, with shelves along all the walls and straps or chain-link doors to keep everything in place. But at least half of the shelves were empty.

The light was a glowing panel above a squat metal door with bolts lining its edges.

“I wonder if they locked us in,” Alec said as he finally stood. He walked over to the door and tried the handle. Sure enough, it wouldn’t budge.

Mark was relieved to stand up—the floor was hard against his knees—but his muscles complained as he pulled himself to his feet. It’d been a while since he’d exerted so much energy, and getting the tar beaten out of him by a bunch of trees was an absolute first.

“What’s going on, anyway?” he asked. “What does anyone want with our little nothing of a village? And shooting us with
darts
? I mean, what
was
that?”

“I wish I knew.” Alec pulled at the door harder, yanking on the handle, still to no avail. “But those people sure dropped like flies once
those suckers stuck in ’em.” He turned away from the door with a frustrated look, then put his hands on his hips like an old lady.

“Dropped like flies,” Mark repeated quietly. “One of them happened to be Darnell. You think he’s okay?”

Alec shot him a look that said
You’re smarter than that
. And Mark knew it was true. His heart sank a little. Everything had been such a mad rush since the Berg had arrived that it registered only now: Darnell was probably dead.

“Why are we up here?” Mark asked.

Alec pointed a finger at him. “Because it’s what you do when someone comes to
your
house and attacks
your
people. You fight back. I’m not going to let these bloodsuckers get away with that crap.”

Mark thought about Darnell, about all those people hurt and confused, and he realized that Alec was right. “Okay. I’m in. So what do we do?”

“First, we’ve got to get this blasted door open. Help me look, see if we can find something to make that happen.”

Mark wandered around the room, though the light was pitiful. “Why are we just hovering right now anyway?”

“You sure like to ask questions I got no way of answering. Just peel those eyeballs and get searching.”

“Okay, okay.”

At first Mark only saw junk and more junk. Spare parts, tools, boxes full of supplies—everything from soap to toilet paper. Then he saw something strapped against the wall that he knew Alec would like: a sledgehammer.

“Hey, over here!” Mark shouted. He lifted the thing out of the straps, weighing it in his hands. “It’s nice and heavy—perfect for you to beat the door down with your gargantuan soldier arms.”

“Not as strong as they used to be.”

The old bear grinned, the faint light glinting in his eyes, as he took the wooden shaft of the hammer. He marched over to the sealed door and started whacking at it. The thing had no chance, but Mark figured it might take a good minute or two of work to break it down. He just hoped that when it opened there wasn’t an army of green-suited thugs waiting on the other side.

Clang. Clang. Clang
. Alec kept at it, the dents getting bigger.

Mark poked around more, hoping to find some kind of weapon for when that door finally came open. At least Alec had a huge sledgehammer to swing. Something in the darkest corner of the room caught Mark’s eye, a section full of hard-cased boxes maybe two feet long and a foot high and deep that looked like they were made to protect something important. Some were open and empty; others were sealed.

He hurried over and strained his eyes to see, but it was too dark to make anything out. He picked up one of the sealed boxes—it was lighter than he would’ve guessed—and moved back into the light, then set the box down on the metal grate of the floor. Leaning over, he finally got a good look.

There was a warning symbol plastered across the top, the kind that indicated the contents were some sort of biohazard. A label below the symbol said:

Virus VC321xb47
Highly Contagious
24 Darts, Extreme Caution

Mark suddenly wished he hadn’t touched the thing.

CHAPTER 7

Mark straightened up and moved a few feet away. He couldn’t believe he’d handled the box. He might even have opened it if he hadn’t brought it into the light first. For all he knew, those darts had broken during the flight of the Berg. Maybe the virus had even seeped through the small cracks in the container. Not to mention there were open boxes on the shelves, though they appeared to be empty.

He wiped his hands on his pants, stepped away even farther.

Clang. Clang. Clang
.

Alec stopped, breathing heavily. “One or two more whacks and I think this baby will bust open. We need to be ready. Find any weapons?”

Mark felt sick. As if microscopic bugs had leapt from the box to his skin and were burrowing their way to his blood even as he stood there. “No, just a box holding darts filled with a deadly virus. Maybe we can throw some at them?” It was meant as a joke but somehow made him feel even worse as the words came out.

“What? A virus?” Alec repeated in a doubtful tone. He walked over and peered down at the box on the floor. “I’ll be … So
that’s
what they were shooting at us? Who
are
these people?”

Mark panicked. “What if they’re waiting on the other side of that door?” he asked. “Waiting to put darts in
our
necks? What are we even doing up here?” He could hear the rising alarm in his own voice and was ashamed of it.

“Calm down, boy. We’ve been in a lot tougher situations than this,” Alec answered. “Just find something—anything—you can get your
hands on and bang away at somebody’s head if they come charging. You wanna let these people get away with dart-gunning some of our friends? We’re up here now. There’s no turning back.”

The fight in Alec’s voice made Mark feel better, more sure of himself.

“Okay. I’ll look.”

“Hurry!”

Mark had seen a wrench strapped to the wall near the sledgehammer. He ran over and grabbed it. He’d been hoping a real weapon might reveal itself, but the foot-long piece of metal would have to do.

Alec had the sledgehammer in his hands, ready to slam it against the beaten-up handle of the door. “You’re right that they might fire at us as soon as this pops open. Let’s not charge through like a couple of dumb gorillas. Get over there and wait for my command.”

Mark did as he was told, pressing his back against the wall on the other side of the door, holding the wrench tightly. “I’m ready.” Fear pulsed within him.

“All right, then.”

Alec lifted the sledgehammer high, then brought it crashing down against the handle. It took two more hits for the whole thing to finally break off with a crunch. One more swing and the door swung open, shooting outward and slamming into the wall on the other side. Almost immediately three darts cut through the air,
swoosh, swoosh, swoosh
, clanging off the far wall. Then there was the sound of something clattering against the floor, followed by footsteps running away. Just one person.

Alec held up a hand as if he thought Mark would go charging after the guy. Then he peeked around the edge of the doorframe.

“All clear. And the rat must’ve run out of darts, because he threw his gun on the ground. I’m beginning to think this Berg only has a few people on it. Come on, let’s go catch that weasel.”

Alec leaned out into the open a bit farther, sweeping his gaze back and forth one last time. Then he moved into the dimly lit area beyond. Mark took a deep breath and followed him into the hallway, kicking the dart gun away in disgust. As it clattered across the room and hit a wall, he pictured Darnell, that dart sticking straight out of his shoulder. Mark wished he had more than a wrench in his hands.

Alec held the sledgehammer in both fists, cocked at an angle as he crept through the narrow hallway. It was slightly curved, as if it followed the circular outer edge of the craft. Glowing panels like the one they’d seen in the hatch room were spaced about ten feet apart, providing the only light. They passed several doors, but each was locked when Alec tried them.

Mark battled his nerves as they walked, trying to be ready if anything jumped out at him. He was just about to ask Alec about the layout of a Berg—he remembered that the man had once been a pilot—when he heard a door slam up ahead, then more footsteps.

“Go!” Alec yelled.

Mark’s heart lurched and he broke into a sprint, following Alec down the curved passage. Mark could only catch a glimpse of a running shadow up ahead, but it looked like someone in one of the green suits they’d seen earlier, without the headgear. The person yelled something, but the words were indecipherable as they echoed off the walls of the hallway. It was definitely a man. Most likely the one who’d shot at them.

Engines revved all around them and the Berg jerked into motion, blasting forward in a rush of power. Mark lost his balance and crashed into a wall, bounced off, then tripped over Alec, who was sprawled on the floor. The two of them scrambled to their feet, grabbed their weapons.

“Cockpit’s right up there,” Alec yelled. “Hurry!”

He didn’t wait for a reply—the man bounded down the passage and
Mark followed. They reached an open area with chairs and a table just as the man they were chasing disappeared through a round hatch into what had to be the cockpit. He started pulling the door closed, but Alec threw the sledgehammer just in time. It hit the wall next to the hatch and fell to the floor, blocking the door from closing. Mark hadn’t stopped—he ran past Alec and reached the cockpit first, leaning inside without letting himself stop to think about it.

He caught a quick glance of two pilot chairs, windows above wide panels full of instruments and dials and screens flashing information. One of the chairs was occupied by a woman frantically pressing buttons as the Berg shot forward, trees disappearing below them at an increasing rate. Mark had barely taken it all in when someone tackled him from the right, both of their bodies crashing to the floor.

Mark’s breath was knocked out of him as his attacker tried to pin him down. Then the man was whacked in the shoulder by Alec’s sledgehammer and was sent flying. He landed with a grunt of pain and Mark scrambled to his feet, struggling to suck air into his lungs. Alec grabbed the man by his green shirt and pulled him up close to his face.

“What’s going on here?” the former soldier shouted, spit flying.

The pilot continued to work the controls, ignoring the chaotic scene behind her. Mark stepped up to her, not sure what to do. He steadied himself and put all the authority he could into his voice.

“Stop this thing right now. Turn it back, take us home.”

She acted like she hadn’t heard him.

“Talk to me!” Alec was yelling at his man.

“We’re nothing!” the guy said through a pitiful moan. “We were just sent to do their dirty work.”

“Sent?” Alec repeated. “Who sent you?”

“I can’t tell you.”

Mark was listening to what was going on across the room. He was
annoyed that the pilot had ignored his directions. “I said to stop this thing! Now!” He held up his wrench but felt completely ridiculous.

“Just following orders, son,” the lady replied. Not a hint of emotion in her voice.

Mark was searching for a comeback when the sound of Alec punching the man on the floor tore his attention away.

“Who sent you?” Alec repeated. “What was in those darts you shot at us? Some kind of virus?”

“I don’t know,” the man said through a whimper. “Please, please don’t hurt me.” Mark’s attention was fully on the man in the green suit now, and a sudden gray tinge washed over the man’s face, as if he’d been possessed by some ghostly presence. “Do it,” he said, almost robotically. “Take her down.”

“What?” Alec said. “What is this?”

The pilot turned her head to face Mark, who stared back, perplexed. She had the same flat, dead-looking eyes as the green-suit guy. “Just following orders.”

She reached out and pushed a lever, slamming it forward until it couldn’t go any farther. The entire Berg lurched and plunged toward the ground, the windows of the cockpit suddenly full of greenery.

Mark flew off the floor and smashed into the control panels. Something huge shattered and the roar of engines filled his ears; there was a loud crash, followed by an explosion. The Berg jerked to a stop and something hard came flying across the room and smacked Mark in the head.

He felt the pain and closed his eyes before the blood could ooze into his vision. And then he slowly faded from consciousness as he heard Alec calling his name down a dark, endless tunnel.

A tunnel; how appropriate
, he thought before he blacked out completely. That was where it had started, after all.…

CHAPTER 8

Mark leans his head back against the seat of the subtrans as it speeds along. He closes his eyes, smiles. School was a load that day, but it was over. Over for two weeks. Now he can relax and chill—just veg. Play the virtbox and eat outrageous amounts of food. Hang out with Trina, talk to Trina, bug Trina. Maybe he’d just say adios to his parents and kidnap her, run away. There you go.

He opens his eyes.

She’s sitting across from him, completely ignoring him. She has no idea that he’s daydreaming about her, or even that he’s mad for her. They’ve been friends for a long time, by circumstance more than anything. When you live next door to a kid, that kid is your buddy by the rules of the universe. Male, female, alien—doesn’t matter. But how could he have known she’d turn into this beautiful thing with the hot body and the dazzling eyes? Of course, the only problem with that is that every other dude in the school likes her, too. And Trina likes being liked.
That
is obvious.

“Hey,” he says. The subtrans bullets through the tunnels beneath New York City, whisper quiet, its movement almost soothing. It makes him want to close his eyes again. “What’re you thinking about over there?”

BOOK: The Kill Order
13.21Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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