Read Gunner Skale Online

Authors: James Dashner

Gunner Skale


The Mortality Doctrine Series
The Eye of Minds

The Maze Runner Series
The Maze Runner
The Scorch Trials
The Death Cure
The Kill Order

The 13th Reality Series
The Journal of Curious Letters
The Hunt for Dark Infinity
The Blade of Shattered Hope
The Void of Mist and Thunder

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Text copyright © 2014 by James Dashner
Cover art copyright © 2014 by Kekai Kotaki

All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company, New York.

Delacorte Press is a registered trademark and the colophon is a trademark of Random House LLC.

Visit us on the Web!

Educators and librarians, for a variety of teaching tools, visit us at

ISBN 978-0-385-37538-2 (ebook)

First Delacorte Press Ebook Edition 2014

Random House Children’s Books supports the First Amendment and celebrates the right to read.



The sea was hot, the salt like acid against his wounds, burning gloriously as he trudged through the dwindling surf to stand upon the pebbly shore once again. Demonhatch had smacked him a good one with its fifty-foot tail, launching his body toward the ocean, beyond where the mammoth waves showed themselves as more than a brooding swell. And so he’d swum, ditching his heavy breastplate, his helm, his chain mail—all the things that wished to drag him down so the foul water could fill his lungs and silence his heart.

Except his greatsword, Slayer. No, never that.

Gunner Skale had clutched his weapon with one hand and swum with the other, his eyes open to watch the fiery beast, no matter how much the salt stung. And now he was back, exhausted and achy, but ready to finish the job. If he killed Demonhatch today, so soon, Gunner would easily go down as the greatest gamer ever to enter the world of
and its thousands upon thousands of bloodthirsty monsters.

Soaked, muscles scorched, his sword feeling as if it weighed half a ton, Gunner broke into a run once he reached dry ground, sprinting as best he could to where the beast crouched, eating the remains of something that had once been human. Clearly, Demonhatch thought its last blow had finally killed the greatest warrior it had ever faced—and if not, the raging sea would’ve finished the job. And so, ever arrogant, it feasted, its back to the gray-green waters of the ocean and its battered shore.

Gunner picked up speed, holding Slayer’s hilt with both hands, his arms cocked to thrust or swing on a moment’s notice. The pebbles turned to rocks, rocks to boulders over which he bounded without so much as a glance down. He couldn’t afford to take his eyes off the beast. And so he trusted his instincts, his balance, his feet, his peripheral vision. Hell’s glory, he was Gunner Skale, for crying out loud. With a smile, he charged forward, knowing that the biggest, baddest, deadliest monster in
was about to get its head chopped off.

Demonhatch finally heard his approach and whipped around to look at Gunner
with all four of its slitted, red-tinged eyes. Then its mouth opened, a monstrous bear trap of a thing with hundreds of blade-sharp teeth, jagged points with serrated edges, perfect for ripping up its prey. Then came the roar, followed by the burst of fire, an avalanche of liquid flame that poured down on Gunner.

Gunner rolled and ignited the Shield spell for which he’d had to betray his closest comrade-in-arms to gain. It kept off most of the heat, though he knew he’d feel some residual burn when he Lifted back to his Coffin. He landed, spun, leapt back to his feet, hefted the greatsword Slayer up above his head, ignoring the variety of pain that crisscrossed his body. He wanted this to be over.

Igniting an Air spell, he flew thirty feet into the air, vaulting toward the beast’s head. A quick slash of his sword pierced one, then two of Demonhatch’s eyes, black liquid spurting out in streams. But then came the claws and the tail, the beast screeching its roar of agony as it counterattacked. Gunner flipped and dodged, landing on the beast and bouncing off, igniting all the spells he’d saved up—Pouncer and Burst and Waterswell and Fists of Iron—throwing all his power at the creature in one final onslaught.

A final onslaught that took another hour.

An hour of ruthless battle, stroke and counterstroke, three more trips out to the sea, three long trudges back to the shore, spell ignition after spell ignition, sword against claw and tooth, quickness and Shield against liquid fire. Gunner took out the beast’s remaining two eyes, then severed its arms, its legs, its tail. But still Demonhatch fought, and Gunner fought back.

Until Gunner ignited the Air spell one last time, leaping into the sky, far above the wounded, weakened beast. With a raging yell that he knew could be heard throughout all of
, Gunner fell back toward the ground, raising his massive sword above his head in a two-fisted grip, manipulating his descent with the power of his eyes. Demonhatch tried to flee, tried to roar, tried to breathe out flame one last time, but it was too late.

With a scream of fury, Gunner brought the sword down and severed the head of the most feared monster in
with one mighty stroke. The warrior landed on his feet under a shower of Demonhatch’s hot blood. After sheathing Slayer in its home on his back, Gunner ignited a Strength spell and picked up the beast’s head, ready to show it to
the world.

Later, after claiming the ultimate victory with the Game Masters, he Lifted back to the Wake.

Gunner Skale was late for work.


Most people hated the transition from the Sleep to the Wake. The disorientation, the retraction of the NerveWires pricking out of your skin, the strange discomfort until you were finally up and out of the Coffin. Not to mention the disappointment that came every time—no matter how long you’d done it—in realizing that the vast world of the VirtNet wasn’t real. That
real life
was real, and eventually you always had to go back to it.

Gunner relished the transition. He wanted the reminders, the discomfort. As great a gamer as he was, and as much as he loved the VirtNet—and no one loved the Sleep like Gunner Skale—he was too smart to let it take over his life. He’d seen it happen to too many of his friends. The line between what was real and what wasn’t became blurred, then disappeared. After that, there could be no happiness.

How can you enjoy ice cream if you never eat broccoli?

That was something his grandma used to say to him. And even though it didn’t stand up if he thought about it too much—Gunner was pretty sure he could eat ice cream and only ice cream for the rest of his life and be just fine—the point had been taken and never forgotten. To fully appreciate the Sleep, you had to embrace the Wake and all its drudgery.

Once the devices of the Coffin had fully retracted, the blue light came on and the lid rose on its hinges, showing him the sparse office in which he kept this most treasured possession of his. There was a desk and a couch, nothing else outside of the NetBox. Groaning, he sat up and dragged himself out of the Coffin. Wearing nothing but a soggy pair of boxers, he stretched and yawned, felt the weariness, the soreness, from head to toe.

Dawn’s pale beginnings shone through the window, just starting to light up the city beyond. Gunner headed for the shower.


Rachel was sitting at the kitchen counter, sipping tea and eating a bagel, when Gunner walked in, all spiffed up and ready to go for another day in the jungle of real life. Her eyes lit up when she saw him, reason number one that he loved her so much. Because
, and had since the day they’d met in high school, way before Gunner Skale became the most famous gamer in history. She was way too pretty to love someone with an ugly mug like his, but she hated it when he said that out loud.

“Gee, what a shocker,” Rachel said after swallowing a bite of her breakfast and taking a sip of orange juice. “You never came to bed last night.”

Gunner leaned in and kissed her. “Sorry, babe. I figured I might as well finish off
while I had all my ducks in a row. Plus, that way I can spend more time with you this weekend! See how it all works out?”

“Good try. I’ll give you that much.” She pulled out a stool and motioned for him to sit. “You made breakfast yesterday. Let me get you a bagel.”

“If you call runny eggs and black toast breakfast. You ate three bites, tops.” Gunner was more than happy to be waited on, though. He sat down, trying not to wince, but Rachel saw the pain on his face.

“Wow, a little rough with the monsters, eh?” she asked as she went for the cupboards. “Maybe you should bring me along so you don’t get hurt so badly next time.”

“And let you get any credit for my sheer dominance of the Sleep? No way.” He smiled, but they both knew that deep down he meant every single word. Rachel was an excellent gamer—one of the best—which was why he couldn’t ever let her come along. People really
discredit him for having such a talented partner.

She placed a bagel, a tub of cream cheese, a knife, and a huge glass of OJ in front of him. “Eat up, warrior.”

“Gladly. Thanks.” He dug into the cream cheese with the knife and started spreading. He felt like he hadn’t eaten in a month.

“You ought to be a real charmer at work today,” Rachel said, “running on zero
sleep and whining every time you take a step. Maybe you should just call in sick. I will, too, and we can chill at Paradise Alley in the Sleep. Throw ice at the old-timers.”

Nothing had ever sounded so appealing to Gunner, mostly because he knew he couldn’t do it.

“Sorry,” he said. “Not today. I’ve got a big consulting gig with Virtual Solutions. All I have to do is impress them, and they’ll start printing money to pay me”—he winked at her—“ ’cause I’m so smart, ya know?”

“Pretty much a genius.” Rachel rolled her eyes and gave him a kiss on his cheek, ignoring that he’d just stuffed a quarter of a bagel in his mouth.

He guzzled his orange juice in one long, sweetly satisfying swallow, then stood up to go. “I just wish the rest of the world loved it like you do. And me. Everyone hates me.”

“They always hate the guy at the top. Always. And remember—the teenagers love you still. There’s that.”

“Yep. There’s that.”

After a long embrace with Rachel—much longer than he had time for—Gunner headed out the door.


He always hoped for five minutes. Every day he swore that if he could just make it five minutes, he’d be happy and not complain the rest of the day.

Once again, he was disappointed.

Approximately thirty-three seconds after exiting the front door of his apartment building, a group of teenagers engulfed him, asking for his autograph. He obliged as cordially as he could for a minute or so, enduring the inevitable barrage of compliments and requests for advice or interviews as one voice ran into the next.

Other books

Good Karma by Donya Lynne
A Real Cowboy Never Says No by Stephanie Rowe
Blindman's Bluff by Faye Kellerman
Tower of Silence by Sarah Rayne
THE BRO-MAGNET by Lauren Baratz-Logsted
The Houseguest by Kim Brooks
(1969) The Seven Minutes by Irving Wallace
Her Wedding Wish by Hart, Jillian Copyright 2016 - 2024