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Home > A Mutiny in Time (Infinity Ring #1)

A Mutiny in Time (Infinity Ring #1)
Author: James Dashner

Prologue

DAK SMYTH sat on his favorite branch of his favorite tree, right next to his favorite friend, Sera Froste. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday afternoon, he thought.

Beyond the safety of the tree, there was plenty to worry about. The world was falling apart and the people in charge of things didn’t seem to care. But Dak decided not to let little stuff like that bother him now.

Sera apparently agreed. “Feels good up here,” she said. “Doesn’t it?”

“Yeah, it sure does. Makes me kinda sad I wasn’t born a monkey. Then I could live in one of these things.”

Sera laughed. “You’ve got the personality of a monkey. And the smell. That’s two-thirds of the way there, at least.”

“Thanks,” Dak said, as if she’d just paid him a tremendous compliment.

A soft breeze made the branches sway back and forth, just enough to soothe Dak into a partial trance. He and Sera climbed up the tree every so often when there was nothing else to do. It gave them a chance to talk, away from any distractions — distractions like adults, who complained constantly about taxes and crime rates and, in whispers, about the SQ. With all the mental static, it was a wonder Dak and Sera managed to get any thinking done. Fortunately, they were both geniuses . . . although in very different ways.

“You excited for the field trip this week?” Sera asked.

Dak looked over at her, slightly suspicious. Their class was going to a museum, full of history — which he loved — and not a whole lot of science — which was her passion. But the question seemed genuine.

“Remember my last birthday?” he asked in return. “When I got that replica of Thomas Jefferson’s ascot?”

“How could I forget? You came screaming down the street like a girl who’d just found a bucket full of candy.”

Dak nodded, relishing the memory. “Well, I’m even more excited about this trip.”

“Gotcha. That’s pretty excited.”

They sat in silence for a while, Dak enjoying the breeze and the sounds of nature and the break from the rest of life. Gradually, though, he realized that Sera seemed far less relaxed. There was an unmistakable tension in her shoulders that had nothing to do with tree climbing. He followed her gaze across the yard to his front porch, where his parents had recently put up a new flag. The small flagpole affixed to the side of the house was usually used for seasonal displays — holiday flags in the winter, the forty-eight-starred U.S. flag in the long summer months.

Now, for the first time, Dak’s parents had put up a stark white flag with a black symbol in its center. That symbol was a circle broken by a curve and a thunderbolt — the insignia of the SQ.

“Don’t tell me your parents buy into all that,” Sera said, her voice solemn.

“I don’t think so. They said it’s easier this way. They’re less likely to be bothered if they just put up the flag.”

“The SQ — they make me sick,” Sera said. Dak had never heard such fierceness in her voice. “Someone has got to stand up to them eventually. Or someday it’s going to be too late.”

Dak listened to her as he stared out into the woods beyond his house. All that green, all those animals. There were parts of the world where these kinds of places had disappeared entirely. He’d read enough history to know that where the SQ went, trouble followed. He suddenly felt his own little burst of determination.

“Maybe it’ll be us who stand up,” he said. “You never know.”

“Yeah?” she answered absently.

“There’s an old saying,” Dak told her. “The times, they are a-changin’.”

“Ooh, I like that.”

“Maybe that’ll be our motto. Maybe we’ll change the times someday. Every problem has a solution, right? And our big brains have got to be good for something. What do you say?”

She looked over at him and stuck out her hand. He shook it hard.

Somewhere nearby, a bird chirped excitedly.

1. The Only Hope

BRINT TAKASHI stared at the monitor and tried to remember a time when he didn’t know the world was about to end.

Mari Rivera, his second-in-command, sat next to him, and the way she was slowly shaking her head back and forth, she seemed to be the second most depressed person on the planet. Brint was the first.

“Well?” Mari asked. “What do you think?”

“What do I think? I think we have a global catastrophe on our hands,” Brint replied. “Volcanic eruptions all along the Pacific Rim. Blizzards in parts of South America that have never even seen snow before. If we’re lucky, the tropical storm brewing in the Atlantic might put out the wildfires in the Northeast.”

“Look on the bright side,” Mari said, her voice grim. “At least people believe we’re in trouble now.”

“People still believe what the SQ tells them to believe. Because fear is always more powerful than truth.” He ran his fingers through his dark hair and sighed. “Aristotle would be so proud. Look what the Hystorians have been reduced to! The SQ is going to win — even if it means destroying the world.”

It wasn’t just the natural disasters that had him worried. Or the blackouts. Or the food shortages. There were also the Remnants. Every day when Brint went home and looked at the picture that hung above the fireplace — he and his wife sitting by a river, the sun glinting off the water behind them — he felt a disorienting twist in his head and stomach. A gnawing gap in his mind that made him extremely uncomfortable. Someone — at least one someone — was missing from that photo. It made no sense whatsoever, but he knew in his bones that someone was missing.

He wasn’t alone in suffering these types of sensations. More people experienced Remnants with each passing day. They’d strike when you least expected them. And they could drive you crazy. Literally crazy.

Time had gone wrong — this is what the Hystorians believed. And if things were beyond fixing now, there was only one hope left . . . to go back in time and fix the past instead.

Mari did what she always did when he was inclined to whine. She ignored him and moved on to the task at hand. “What’s the latest on the Smyths?” she asked. Of all the scientists the Hystorians tracked, they were the only ones who hadn’t been shut down by the SQ . . . yet.

Brint pulled up their file and pointed out the latest developments. All of the Smyths’ experiments, findings, data — every little thing they did in their lab each and every day — it was all being monitored by the Hystorians. Without the Smyths’ knowledge, of course. Brint would be sure to apologize for that after they saved the world.

They both fell silent for a minute, staring at the data on the screen as if hypnotized. The Smyths were so close. If only they could figure out the missing piece in their calculations. If only they could give the Hystorians a fighting chance at carrying out Aristotle’s two-thousand-year-old plan to save the world.

“It’s coming, you know,” Mari whispered. “Sooner than I ever thought.”

Brint nodded as dread squeezed his heart. “I never would’ve guessed it would be in our lifetime.”

Mari continued, her words like a prophecy of doom from a wrinkled old oracle.

“It’s coming, all right. The Cataclysm is coming, and we’ll all wish we were dead long before it kills us.”

2. Old Man in a Coffin

DAK SMYTH was a nerd.

He’d been called worse, no doubt. Dork, geek, wimp, brainiac, pencil-pusher, dweeb, you name it. But the word that most often floated out of people’s mouths when they mentioned him was nerd. And did he mind? No. When all those dummies who poked fun were working their tails off in thirty years, living paycheck to paycheck to buy doughnuts and milk, he’d be laughing it up in his private jet, drinking cream soda till he puked. Then he’d laugh again as his butler cleaned it up, and when that was done, he’d count all his money and eat big blocks of cheese.

(Dak Smyth was a nerd who also loved cheese. Unnaturally so. Not a winning combination, which he was the first to admit.)

On the day before the big school field trip to the Smithsonian Museum in the nation’s capital of Philadelphia, Dak had to put aside his nerd-powered excitement to attend the most boring of events — an uncle’s funeral. Make that great-uncle, as in Great-Uncle Frankie, a man he’d laid eyes on all of twice if you included the viewing before the funeral, which Dak certainly did. He’d looked down on an old, grizzled man who had his eyes closed, hands crossed over his chest, looking like he’d just settled down for one of the twenty naps a day the geezer was probably used to. But, according to Dak’s mom — and supported by the fact that the man was lying inside a coffin — Great-Uncle Frankie was dead as a doornail.

The funeral service had been slightly boring and lasted roughly one hundred and thirty hours, but now they were finally at the family dinner that came afterward. Dozens of people who’d been boo-hooing their eyeballs out an hour earlier were laughing like overcaffeinated hyenas, stuffing their faces with a whole week’s worth of SQ-rationed food. Dak wondered whether funerals for old people always ended up being such festive affairs.

He sat at a table with a bunch of cousins, none of whom he’d ever met. They were talking about all kinds of things that he didn’t care about. Like that lame show where they crown the next SQ intern. Or game five of some sports championship that was so dull Dak didn’t even know which teams were playing (or what sport it was). Then some kid with a pimple the size of President McClellan’s face on Mount Rushmore started talking excitedly about the latest fashion trends, namely those jeans with the pockets that made your rear end look like it was upside down. Seriously? Dak thought. These people couldn’t possibly share the same genetics with him, could they?

Just as he decided he couldn’t take any more, a sudden feeling came over him — a familiar itch that he’d learned long ago was impossible to ignore.

He had to share his tremendous knowledge of history, and he had to do it now.

Dak stood up and cleared his throat. When no one paid him any attention, he picked up his glass and tapped it loudly with his spoon until everyone in the room finally shut their yappers and looked at him.

“I just have something I’d like to say to everybody,” he announced. He heard a few groans in response, but he assumed those were the old fogies, feeling aches and pains as they shifted in their seats. A quick glance at his mom showed that she’d put her head in her hands, and his dad was looking at him wide-eyed, slowly shaking his head back and forth. There was something like panic on his face.

Dak hurried to continue before somebody forced him to stop. “I know we’re gathered here for a very solemn occasion. Poor Great-Uncle Frankie has gone the way of the dodo bird, soon to rot in peace. Um, I mean, rest in peace. But, um, I wanted to share something to help you all realize that things aren’t as bad as they seem.”

He paused to gauge people’s reactions. They all seemed enraptured.

“You see,” he continued, “our dear relative could’ve gone out the same way as Rasputin, the grand Russian mystic, in the year 1916. That poor man was poisoned, shot four times, clubbed over the head, then drowned in a river. Drowned in a river, for crying out loud! After being poisoned, shot, and clubbed! Poor fella.” Dak let out a little chuckle to set the right mood. “So, as you can clearly see, Great-Uncle Frankie got off pretty easy when all is said and done.”

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