The boys go through the Flat Trans in a hurry. Aris tries to communicate with Thomas telepathically, but Thomas refuses to do so. They all find themselves in a dark tunnel, and they count off to make sure everyone has come through. The darkness is complete, without any hint of light. As they continue shuffling forward, an ominous voice whispers to them that they should go back, or else they will be sliced. Believing that this is a test, they go forward. After a while, one of the boys screams. The boy continues to scream and convulse on the ground, and Thomas tries to stop him from thrashing about. When the boy finally lies still, they discover that his head has been chopped off and replaced by a ball of metal. No one is sure what has happened.
The boys start running through the tunnel now. The death ball gets one more person, but the boys keep pushing on. Minho, having assumed his position of leader, reaches the end first. A trapdoor opens and reveals bright sunlight. As they move to get out of the tunnel, Winston looks at a giant glob of silver liquid coalescing on the ceiling of the tunnel. When it becomes a ball, it defies gravity and flies straight into Winston’s face. The boys watch in horror as they see what the death ball really is. The silver coalesces around Winston’s head, leaving scars and heat wherever it touches. With Thomas’s help, Winston is able to throw the mass of gel off of his head. The ball of silver goop flies down the tunnel. Winston is physically and mentally scarred, and whimpers in a corner.
The heat and brightness outside are almost unbearable. The boys wrap themselves in sheets to prevent sunburn and step outside. They see a wasteland in every direction. In the distance they see a line of jagged and barren mountains. Halfway to the mountains is a cluster of buildings resembling a town. They realize that this wasteland exists because of the sun flares that have ravaged the world. Their plan is to push towards the town as much as possible, and continue even after nightfall. Aris and Thomas converse quietly about the death of Aris’s friend, Rachel, and the death of Thomas’s friend, Chuck. They are interrupted when they see two runners coming towards them, one is a woman and one man. They are wrapped in cloths as well, except for their hands, which are red and scabbed. They introduce themselves as Cranks, and say that they came to see if the boys were also Cranks. This pair is a very high-functioning pair of Cranks, as they are not zombie-like in the least bit. The man talks about Cranks being ‘past the Gone’; this indicates that there are different stages of Flare disease onset. Before the pair dashes off again, the woman leaves makes a strange statement: she mentions another group that is supposed to kill this group of boys.
Shortly after dark, Thomas thinks he hears the sounds of a girl screaming. Soon, everyone hears it. The wailing continues into the next day as the boys continue to advance towards the town. Thomas and Aris converse about their Maze experiences. It turns out that they were in parallel experiments. Aris wonders if WICKED means to weed people out through these trials, or possibly breed the surviving young men and women. Suddenly, the screaming stops, and a girl steps out from a building in front of them. She looks just like Teresa. Thomas volunteers to go alone to meet her by the shack, hoping that she really is Teresa. He insists that the other boys do not come with him. The other boys are worried about potential danger. Thomas finds out that the girl is indeed Teresa. Just before he reaches her, she turns and reenters the shack. Thomas notes that speaker-like devices are in the shack, probably broadcasting the wailing. Teresa lights a candle and won’t respond to Thomas. Finally, unable to resist, the two of them kiss for a bit. Then Teresa pulls away, telling Thomas that they must leave–they must run. Thomas leaves, promising her that he will find her eventually. When he returns to the group, Thomas is very upset and will not tell the other boys what happened. Instead, he makes them all run furiously through the desert. When they are about to collapse from exhaustion, he finally tells them that Teresa had acted strangely and needed to be left there. After the furious running, the boys stop to rest. Thomas has a dream about him and Teresa attempting to communicate telepathically, a memory from when they were about ten or eleven years old.
When Thomas wakes up, he finds that his sheet has blown away. The source of the wind is a storm. Clouds are gathering overhead. About a half-hour’s travel away from the building, the boys find an old, withered man lying in blankets on the ground. Thomas speaks to him, asking him whether it’s safe to go into the town. The old man says something about the coming storm, bad people, and needing to stay away. Despite this ominous warning, the boys still head towards the town because a storm has started. Violent winds scatter their possessions. As they get to the town, lightning begins. The lightning strikes the scorched earth and heaves it all over the place. The lightning then begins to strike people as it falls—boys fall left and right as the lightning burns them to shreds. As they finally find shelter, the rain begins to fall in torrents. The boys stay huddled there for a few hours, recovering. They realize that there are now only eleven of them left. Newt berates Minho for not caring about the human lives lost, and instead thinking of what might lie ahead. The two bicker a bit before quieting down. Suddenly, they hear a voice from overhead. A face looks down at them before jumping through the jagged hole in the ceiling. He introduces himself as Jorge, the Crank in charge. Minho is belligerent towards Jorge, and even beats him up, until Jorge’s Crank crew reveals itself. The Cranks are also all armed. Thomas pleads with Jorge to talk alone with him for ten minutes. Thomas hopes Minho will not do anything rash or stupid again.
Thomas tells Jorge everything that has happened to them. He tries to convince Jorge to help them so that Jorge can receive the cure, too. While still threatening, Jorge finally agrees to Thomas on that deal. However, Jorge insists that Minho must die in the process.
Minho begins taking his leadership role quite seriously. He is the first one to walk through the Flat Trans. Then, he leads the group through the following tunnel. Even through the terrible head-slicing balls in the tunnel, Minho puts on a brave front, making the group move forward. He knows that there is nothing they can do about the people who have been sliced. Thomas, on the other hand, is the one who originally checked on the boys who died in the tunnel. This already demonstrates one of the general differences in Thomas and Minho’s leading styles.
When the Gladers finally emerge into the sun, they are almost blinded by its brightness. The sun is personified: it is almost like a character. It is described as “waiting just outside the open door” (91). The sun, like the barren wasteland environment of the Scorch, is almost like an active presence. This makes sense given the premise of the book’s near-apocalyptic world. The sun flares were the cause of all the trouble in the first place; thus, the sun is almost like an antagonist, especially in the hot Scorch.
Teresa shows up randomly in these chapters, and leads Thomas into a shack. Teresa’s behavior is very bizarre, confusing, and seemingly forced. This is reflective of how she will act in the majority of the story. Thomas can tell that Teresa is not in full control of her own body, but is still confused about what is going on. There is also no explanation for why there were speakers that broadcasted the girl’s screaming noise. The Gladers are still being kept in the dark from WICKED’s true dark motives, just as they were in the Maze.
As they move into the city, Minho makes fun of Thomas, and Thomas realizes that he has no sense of humor left. He wonders, almost humorously, if the memory Swipe had taken his sense of humor away, if he had been funny in his “old life” (129). This small consideration, although trivial, is a sad demonstration of how much WICKED has taken from Thomas. Thomas is not even a complete person: he has a gap in his memory, and does not even know who he really is—he does not even know if he has or had a sense of humor.
After the terrible lightning storm, Minho and Thomas see that there are only eleven Gladers left. There had originally been about forty in the Maze, just a few weeks before this. Minho is concerned about numbers and manpower for getting through the city. Newt criticizes him for thinking only about people as numbers (143). This is a harsh criticism, since it is a reminder of the way WICKED treats them. Ultimately, however, Newt apologizes, knowing that Minho is not someone who acts like WICKED at all. Yet Minho’s leadership abilities are again called into question when he and Jorge, the leader of the Cranks, get into a fight almost instantlyv upon meeting each other.