"I don't bloody believe this," Amy breathed. "Do more, to make sure it's not a coincidence." They grabbed the maps from the following days, and soon they got the letters F, L, O, A, and T.
"Float," Harriet read aloud.
"That's not a coincidence," Aris said.
"Do more," Amy ordered. Rachel felt a blurry of excitement, relief, and even happiness that her idea had worked. She sat down to work, but Nia tapped her shoulder.
"Not us. We're going out. Can't miss a day."
"What?!" Rachel leaped to her feet furiously.
"Come on. There might be something out there anyways."
Rachel glared at Amy, who shrugged. "I'd go myself, but the Med-jacks won't let me." She rolled her eyes and tapped her head, which was wrapped in fresh bandages, something Rachel hadn't noticed herself. "Be careful out there, and good luck."
"But why? You said it yourself! Nothing ever changes-"
"Bullshit." Amy glared at her. "Out of all the days, today might be the one day there's something different out there. Besides, we were talking about having people stay out there all night."
That peaked Rachel's interest. "Really?"
"Yeah. there's no point, really, in coming back anyways. Don't get caught by Grievers. You two had better come back. Got it? Or else I'll go and kill you both a second time."
"Can you do that?"
"I'll find a way. Don't worry. We'll be working on the bloody code. And we'll keep your shucking boyfriend safe. Now go."
They stuffed their packs with more supplies than usual. They didn't know exactly how long they would be out there, so Nia had them stuff as much as they could possibly carry just in case. They headed out quickly, not wanting to attract attention.
Nothing had changed within the Maze. Not a bit.
After a few hours, Aris spoke into her mind.
Rachel was slightly startled, but decided that she'd try to talk back.
Can you hear me?
No response. She concentrated a bit harder.
Can you hear me?
You can speak! Aris said into her mid, his voice full of pleasant surprise.
Yep. Have you made any progress?
Yeah. We found a few words.
Speaking of words, I wonder how we can do this.
I don't know. There's a distant memory I can't grasp. But it gives me a headache.
Hmmm. Well, since you're going to be running all day and night, I don't think you need more pain. Signing off.
Soon Nia stopped at yet another dead end, and plopped down with a sigh. They ate a modest lunch of sandwiches silently, then got going again. At the end of the day, they'd found nothing.
"This is it-the end of the section. We've found nothing."
They scoured the entire section, rerunning it, climbing the ivy, cutting away the ivy, tapped random places of the wall, searched the ground, for anything, anything out of the ordinary. At one point, a few Grievers raced past, not even slowing as they passed them.
"Did they even notice us?" Rachel whispered. Nia shrugged.
"I guess they'll be taking someone else," She said unemotionally. "Come on. Let's keep running."
They ran for a few more hours, ate another short meal, took a few more breaks, and kept searching. Finally, Nia said, "Let's go home." Rachel was exhausted from physical exertion and lack of sleep, and gladly followed.
Amy ran up to them and hugged Nia, then, to Rachel's surprise, hugged Rachel too.
"The Grievers came last night. Took Joanne."
Rachel felt a flash of grief for the girl. She'd never really talked to Joanne, but just knew that the girl had been the girl who'd come up in the Box a month before herself. But the sight of Aris running towards them from the Homestead distracted her.
"Did you get the rest of the code?" She demanded.
"Come and see. We don't know what it means."
Six words were written on a piece of paper.
"We don't know." Michelle came into the room. "The Keepers had to go back to work, so Amy went to get me to help work," She added to Rachel's questioning work.
"That's the order. We figured it out because after push, there's a week with no letter, and it just goes back to float, then catch, then bleed, then death, then tiff, then push, and another week in between with nothing, over and over and over again," Cleo said.
"Oh." Rachel blinked and rubbed her eyes. Amy put a hand on her shoulder.
"You've been out running for twenty-four hours. Go get some sleep. You too, Nia."
"Sure." They started out of the door, when Rachel halted, an idea forming in her head. A terrible idea, but also a terrific one.
"What is it, Greenie? You just turned white as a ghost," Michelle said worriedly, putting a hand on Rachel's arm.
"Yeah. I-I'm good."
"Go get some sleep."
"Yeah. Okay." She started walking blankly to her sleeping spot, thinking about her idea. They needed clues, they needed memories. And the only way they could get memories back was to get stung by the Grievers.
She had to get stung by a Griever.