The bus drives quickly through deserted towns and cities, and at one point a group of people like the oozing woman storm the bus, pounding on the sides as if they want it to stop.
Thomas and Teresa finally get up the courage to beg a woman sitting across from them to explain what is happening.
She says that it started with sun flares that were unprecedented in size and scope, and by the time they were detected they only had minutes before their heat burned out satellites and killed millions of people.
Then the ecosystem fell apart, and a sickness developed that was impossible to contain. Only the richest people can be treated, but no one can be cured. She alludes to rumors coming out of the Andes, but doesn't say what they are.
She explains that the boys were chosen out of millions of orphans. They had tested thousands of others, but this group was selected for the big test—all to try to find people capable of helping them find a way to beat the Flare.
The Flare manifests first with delusions, and then animal instincts begin to overpower the human ones. It lives in the brain and destroys the person's humanity.
She reveals that the group the kids are with has pledged their lives to fighting WICKED in order to protect the children and their humanity.
They live in the north and are separated from the Andes by thousands of miles of what they call the Scorch: land filled with heat, dust, and Flare victims. They think the cure might be in the Andes, but until they find a way to cross the Scorch they are fighting WICKED instead.
After driving for about three hours the bus stops at a nondescript building. Inside is a dormitory with bunk beds, dressers, and tables.
Compared to the Glade, this place is a rainbow of colors. It all looks so cheerful and—above all—normal.
They are assigned beds and given pizza for dinner. Mmm… pizza.