The Eye of Minds

From James Dashner, the author of the New York Times bestselling Maze Runner series, comes an edge-of-your seat adventure. The Eye of Minds is the first book in The Mortality Doctrine, a series set in a world of hyperadvanced technology, cyberterrorists, and gaming beyond your wildest dreams . . . and your worst nightmares.

For Michael and the other gamers, the VirtNet can make your wildest fantasies become real. And the more hacking skills you have, the more fun. Who wants to play by the rules anyway?

But some rules were made for a reason. One gamer has been taking people hostage inside the VirtNet with horrific consequences.

The government needs Michael to track down the rogue gamer, but the risk is enormous and the line between game and reality could be blurred forever . . .

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The moment of pain was short but intense. Everywhere, all at once, bursting and exploding through Michael’s every nerve. He didn’t even have time to make a sound before it ended; neither did Tanya, because he heard nothing but the distinct and horrific crash of hitting the water’s surface. And then it all dissipated and his mind went blank.

Michael was alive, back in the NerveBox—what most people called the Coffin— Lifted from the Sleep.

The same couldn’t be said for the girl. A wave of sadness, then disbelief, hit him. With his own eyes, he’d seen her change her code, rip the Core from her virtual flesh, then toss it away like nothing more than a crumb. When it ended for her, it ended for real, and being a part of it made Michael’s insides feel twisted up. He’d never witnessed anything like it.

He blinked a few times, waiting for the unlinking process to be complete. Never before had he been so relieved to be done with the VirtNet, done with a game, ready to get out of his box and breathe in the polluted air of the real world.

A blue light came on, revealing the door of the Coffin just a few inches from his face. The LiquiGels and AirPuffs had already receded, leaving the only part Michael truly hated, no matter how many times he did it—which was way more than he could count. Thin, icy strands of NerveWire pulled out of his neck and back and arms, slithering like snakes along his skin until they disappeared into their little hidey-holes, where they’d be disinfected and stored for his next game. His parents were amazed that he voluntarily let those things burrow into his body so often, and he couldn’t blame them. There was something downright creepy about it.

A loud click was followed by a mechanical clank and then a whooshing gust of air. The door of the Coffin began to rise, swinging up and away on its hinges like Dracula’s very own resting place. Michael almost laughed at the thought. Being a vicious bloodsucking vampire loved by the ladies was only one of a billion things a person could do inside the Sleep. Only one of a billion.

He stood up carefully—he always felt a little woozy after being Lifted, especially when he’d been gone for a few hours—naked and covered in sweat. Clothing ruined the sensory stimulation of the NerveBox.

Michael stepped over the lip of the box, thankful for the soft carpet under his toes—it made him feel grounded, back in reality. He grabbed the pair of boxers he’d left on the floor, put them on. He figured a decent person probably would’ve opted for some pants and a T-shirt as well, but he wasn’t feeling so decent at the moment. All he’d been asked to do by the Lifeblood game was talk a girl out of suicide for Experience Points, and not only had he failed, he’d helped drive her to do it for real. For real, for real.

Tanya—wherever her body might be—was dead. She’d ripped out her Core before dying, a feat of programming, protected by passwords, that she only could’ve done to herself. Faking a Core removal wasn’t possible in the VirtNet. It was too dangerous. Otherwise, you’d never know if someone was faking, and people would do it left and right for kicks or to get reactions. No, she’d changed her code, removed the safety barrier in her mind that separated the virtual and the real, and fried the actual implant back home, and she’d done it with purpose. Tanya, the pretty girl with the sad eyes and the delusions that she was being haunted. Dead.

Michael knew it’d be in the NewsBops soon. They’d report that he had been with her, and the VNS—VirtNet Security—would probably come and talk to him about it. They definitely would.

Dead. She was dead. As lifeless as the sagging mattress on his bed.

It all hit him then. Hit him like a fastball to the face.

Michael barely made it to the bathroom before throwing up everything in his stomach. And then he collapsed to the floor and pulled himself into a ball. No tears came—he wasn’t the crying sort—but he stayed there for a long time.

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