Thomas is frozen, watching the scene unfold in front of him. Brenda has joined Minho and Jorge outside, but Thomas gets detained by the Flare tester wearing a red shirt. Red Shirt’s backups come and sadistically take away the Flare-infected man. Red Shirt tests Thomas and finds that Thomas is indeed Immune. Threatening Thomas the whole way, he leads Thomas to a car, hoping to sell him for money. Thomas hopes that his friends will come in with a plan, but instead, a WICKED vehicle shoots his captor dead. Janson, the Rat Man, comes to meet Thomas. Janson is, however, only on a screen on the cop vehicle. He says that he more than anyone would love for the cure to be completed, and he pleads with Thomas to come back to WICKED. WICKED has not gone down to Denver because of the crazy infection rates. As incentive, Janson says that Newt is spiraling into insanity very quickly now.
After this exchange, Minho, Brenda, and Jorge find Thomas. Night is beginning to fall and things are getting rather eerie. The friends walk for an hour but cannot find a car or a cab; most people have disappeared, too. Thomas and his friends finally make it to their motel. That morning, they sense that something is up. There are far fewer people on the streets, and everyone is in a quiet hurry. A full-Gone Crank is eating something raw on the far side of their motel lot. The friends hurriedly catch a cab back to the airport. When they go inside the Berg, they find that Newt has left them a note: some Cranks have broken in and taken him in to live with them.
Brenda says that the places where cities put their infected are called 'Crank Palaces'. On Minho’s request, Jorge flies the group there. They are let in by a corrupt guard by offering to pay him off. The Crank Palace is a disgusting and filthy place. The guards help Thomas and his friends find Newt in the bowling alley in the Central Zone of the Crank Palace. The Central Zone is where most of the Cranks are gathered; there is a lot of commotion and violence in this area. Newt tells his friends that they have to go. He is carrying a Launcher and says he will shoot them if they don’t leave him alone. He does not want them to see him go completely crazy. He says that he will be breaking out of Denver soon with a group similar to him, but he will not leave with his friends. As Thomas and his friends turn to go back to the Berg, they are chased out of the Crank Palace by a group of crazed Cranks. They barely make it to the Berg. On board the Berg, Thomas pulls out Newt’s note from his pocket, which asks Thomas to kill Newt if he can. Thomas realizes that this was the reason why Newt was so angry at him specifically: Newt had wanted to avoid becoming a full-blown Crank.
When Thomas and his friends land in front of Denver to enter, they find that a group of bounty hunters is already waiting for them outside their Berg. They are taken captive in an old, beat-up van. They are taken to some place with other captured Immunes. The whole city has exploded into chaos because people have finally realized that the virus is not contained here. Thomas and his friends find Aris, Teresa, and some members of Group B here, too. Teresa and Thomas talk in a corner, privately. Teresa insists that they did not leave Thomas, Minho, and Newt behind at WICKED; instead, she had been told that Thomas, Minho, and Newt were in a surrounding forest somewhere, escaped. With her memories back now, Teresa no longer thinks what WICKED is doing is right. She says that they are gathering more Immunes to run more Trials, until they can get their blueprints. Thomas realizes that he still cares for Teresa, but he also knows that he cannot trust her.
After seeing Hans, Thomas and his friends are in a local coffee shop when a Flare Tester sadistically packages away an infected man for using drugs. Thomas accidentally lingers for too long. He is first “taken aback by Red Shirt’s sudden anger” (143), and realizes that Red Shirt is dangerous. This entire scene is ironic and sad because of how Red Shirt treats his victim, the infected man: he treats him as though the infected are inferior to those who are not. It is a reflection of the corrupt, divided, stratified system that Denver has set up for its city. Furthermore, it is ironic that is it the non-infected man who shows such rage and sadism, which are symptoms of the Flare infection.
Janson saves Thomas from Red Shirt, the bounty hunter, but he also uses this as an opportunity to coax Thomas into coming back to WICKED. There is absolutely no reason why Thomas should go back, and he is worried that the Rat Man will shoot him dead, like he did to Red Shirt. Then Thomas finds out how important he is the WICKED, as some sort of “final candidate.” The game then becomes a game of balances and negotiation, where Thomas now also has something that WICKED wants (although at this point Thomas doesn’t know what that "something" is). The Rat Man, too, has something that Thomas could want: he has information about Newt, who stayed behind on the Berg, and uses this to make Thomas feel urgent about things. While Janson’s words now feel harmless, even subtle statements like these give him control over Thomas. He knows that Thomas and his friends will undoubtedly go to search for Newt; he has basically directed them to do so.
As Thomas and his friends travel to the Crank Palace, he sadly watches the world pass underneath him. It makes him sad to think “that the world would probably recover from the sun flares just fine someday, only to find itself uninhabited” (168). This kind of romantic thought is sad at the moment; however, it is also almost a foreshadowing of a different sort of ending, where the Immunes do end up inhabiting the earth–and a very beautiful part of the earth as well.
Thomas notes that “about half of the trees were dead, but the other half looked as if they’d just begun to recover from years of massive heat spell” (168). The earth needs time to recover from the sun flares. Similarly, Thomas and his friends need time to heal from all of the hurt, pain, and abuse that WICKED has inflicted upon them.
After a painful encounter with Newt in the Crank Palace, in which Newt had wanted Thomas to kill him but Thomas did not know this, bounty hunters capture Thomas and his friends. They are placed in captivity, where they run into Teresa and the rest of their friends. Thomas had thought that Teresa and her friends had left them behind. That belief, based on the real evidence that they had left before them, had further broken Thomas and Teresa’s friendship. However, they realize that WICKED had tricked them, with Teresa receiving incorrect information that Thomas had already escaped. This extra complication of trust drives a wedge between Thomas and Teresa. Teresa also informs Thomas that she no longer believes that anything WICKED does is good: they had good intentions, but their Trials will never end. There is no cure in sight. Thomas, Teresa, and WICKED will never trust each other, at least never fully, anymore.