The Kill Order (The Maze Runner 0.5) by James Dashner
Teresa looked at her best friend and wondered what it would be like to forget him.
It seemed impossible, though she’d now seen the Swipe implanted in dozens of boys before Thomas. Sandy brown hair, penetrating eyes and a constant look of contemplation—how could this kid ever be unfamiliar to her? How could they be in the same room and not joke about some smell or make fun of some clueless slouch nearby? How could she ever stand in front of him and not leap at the chance to communicate telepathically?
And yet, only a day away.
For her. For Thomas, it was a matter of minutes. He lay on the operating table, his eyes closed, chest rising and falling with soft, even breaths. Already dressed in the requisite shorts-and-T-shirt uniform of the Glade, he looked like a snapshot of the past—some ordinary boy taking an ordinary nap after a long day at an ordinary school, before sun flares and disease made the world anything but ordinary. Before death and destruction made it necessary to steal children—along with their memories—and send them to a place as terrifying as the Maze. Before human brains were known as the killzone and needed to be watched and studied. All in the name of science and medicine.
A doctor and a nurse had been prepping Thomas and now lowered the mask onto his face. There were clicks and hisses and beeps; Teresa watched as metal and wires and plastic tubes slithered across his skin and into the canals of Thomas’s ears, saw his hands twitch reflexively at his sides. He probably felt pain on some level despite the drugs, but he’d never remember it. The machine began its work, plucking images from Thomas’s memory. Erasing his mom and his dad and his life. Erasing her.
Some small part of her knew it should make her angry. Make her scream and yell and refuse to help for one more second. But the greater part was as solid as the rock of the cliffs outside. Yes, the greater part within her was entrenched in certainty so deeply that she knew she’d feel it even after tomorrow, when the same thing would be done to her. She and Thomas were proving their conviction by submitting to what had been asked of the others. And if they died, so be it. WICKED would find the cure, millions would be saved, and life on earth would someday get back to normal. Teresa knew this in her core, as much as she knew that humans grow old and leaves fall from trees in autumn.
Thomas sucked in a hitching breath, then made a little moaning sound, shifted his body. Teresa thought for a horrifying second that he might wake up, hysterical from the agony—things were inside his head doing who knew what to his brain. But he stilled and resumed the soft and easy breathing. The clicks and hisses continued, her best friend’s memories fading like echoes.
They’d said their official goodbyes, and the words See you tomorrow still rang in her head. For some reason that had really struck her when Thomas said it, made what he was about to do all the more surreal and sad. They would see each other tomorrow, although she’d be in a coma and he wouldn’t have the slightest idea who she was—other than an itch in his mind that maybe she looked familiar. Tomorrow. After all they’d been through—all the fear and training and planning—it was all coming to a head. What had been done to Alby and Newt and Minho and all the rest would be done to them. There was no turning back.
But the calmness was like a drug inside her. She was at peace, these soothing feelings keeping the terror of things like Grievers and Cranks at bay. WICKED had no choice. She and Thomas—they had no choice. How could she shrink at sacrificing a few to save the many? How could anyone? She didn’t have time for pity or sadness or wishes. It was what it was; what was done was done; what would be … would be.
There was no turning back. She and Thomas had helped construct the Maze; at the same time she’d exerted a lot of effort to build a wall holding back her emotions.
Her thoughts faded then, seemed to float in suspended animation as she waited for the procedure on Thomas to be complete. When it finally was, the doctor pushed several buttons on his screen and the beeps and hisses and clicks sped up. Thomas’s body twitched a little as the tubes and wires snaked away from their intrusive positions and back into his mask. He grew still again and the mask powered down, all sound and movement ceasing. The nurse leaned forward and lifted it off Thomas’s face. His skin was red and marked with lines where it had rested. Eyes still closed.