Chapter 20

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Chapter 20

"Hello! Welcome to the Smithsonian Institute! My name is Bailey, and I'll be your guide this afternoon. So, who's ready to explore this amazing museum?"

The kids in Preston's class cheered. Our tourguide, a bubbly red head named Bailey, smiled at the class and led us into the museum. I've been to the Smithsonian far too many times to count. The last time I came here feels like years ago. When Joshua followed me here and we ended up kissing in a closet. The memory made me smile. We stopped in front of an exhibit and Bailey started prattling on about it. I scanned the area, looking in every nook and cranny. Suddenly, my comms unit broke with a loud, high pitched beep in my ear. I jumped in surprised, tugging it out of my ear. Everyone glanced at me.

"You okay, Ember?" Miss Star asked.

I nodded, rubbing my ear. Ouch. I hate it when that happens! My comms unit hung over my shoulder. Suddenly, on of the boys jumped up and grabbed it. I was dragged down.

"Hello! Hello! CIA?"

"Stop it!" I hissed, prying his hands off my comms unit and replacing it in my ear.

"-itty Cat, do you read?"

I sighed while Miss Star pulled the boy aside, silently scolding him. He looked down at his feet, feigning embarrassment. I saw the ghost of a smirk on his lips. Stupid kid.

"Affirmative. Any explanation for why I lost half my hearing just a minute ago?"

"Sorry about that. We had some technical difficulties. Can you hear us clearly now?"

I nodded even though they couldn't see me. We moved on, Miss Star holding the hand of the kid. He didn't glance back at me while I glared at him. Preston took my hand.

"Come on, Ember." he said, smiling,

I smiled back, letting him lead me with the group.

"I can, Alpha." I answered the question through my comms in a hushed tone.

Bailey moved on to another exhibit, prattling on yet again about the history of the dinosaurs. The kids looked at the exhibit in awe, smiling and laughing when she made a joke. Bored parents checked their phones, others listened to Bailey. I adjusted my comms unit yet again, fixing it so it fit into my ear. A steady chatter remained, from the Smithsonian network for walkie-talkies. Somehow, the CIA managed to get me to piggy-back on their network. My phone vibrated in the pocket of my blazer, probably another text from Amber or Stephanie or Amy or Chloe. They haven't stopped texting since I arrived here, wondering where I am. I haven't responded to any of them. Barnaby said the CIA would take care of it. If they don't, I sure as hell will by myself. Secretly, I slipped my phone out of my pocket and skimmed over the message.

Where the hell are you?! Did you get abducted or something! Answer your goddamn phone!

Yup, that's Amber. I slipped my phone back into my pocket, clearing my throat and fixing my messy bun. Bailey chatted on. I tried to listen, but I was far too busy keeping Preston and his classmates safe to worry about the tour. We moved on to another exhibit and I knew it was going to be a while until the lunch break. Great. Wrong day to skip breakfast.

At lunch, the class piled into a group on one of the Smithsonian's courtyards. Sitting on blankets and eating picnic-style, I relaxed. Preston shared his lunch with me, giving me half of his peanut butter and jelly sandwich and half of his Lays potato chips. I have to admit, Pierre can make a mean PB and J. After finishing off my half of Preston's sandwich, I stood up and fixed my suit. Did I mention I hate my new uniform?

Suddenly, I heard a familiar popping sound. Instantly following the pop, a glass bottle shattered next to me. I stood up straighter, immediately at attention, pulling my gun from the holster around my waist. Five seconds later, a man carrying an assault rifle ran into the courtyard. Children screamed as adults tried to hide them. I grabbed the closest kids to me, including Preston, and pushed them safely behind me. The gunman shot into the crowds, causing complete chaos. Murderous fire filled his eyes. I held my gun up steadily, aiming and firing. I missed him on purpose. He whirled on me, firing at random. Fortunately, I hid with the kids behind a stone wall. Everywhere around us, people were being shot down. I looked at Preston. He, just like his classmates, looked terrified. I gave him a quick hug.

"Preston, I need you to be brave. When I tell you to run, you run. Do you understand me? Run as fast as you can. That goes for the rest of you too."

Preston nodded, tears streaming down his face. I sighed, waiting. Security guards rushed out, firing at the gunman. The police will be here any minute.

I'm not afraid to die. I never have been. I need to be brave for the kids. As far as my little ensemble is concerned, I'm the adult. I had picked up five kids in total. I waited a minute longer before I shot up, screaming to the kids to run while I bought them some time. The gunman spotted me, ignoring the children, as he tried to take me down. I looked him straight in the face, determination running through me, and fired back. Bullets hit me and suddenly, everything went blank. I collapsed onto the grassy courtyard ground, seeing what must be my last moments.

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