Chapter Forty-Six

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The cafeteria was empty when we walked in.

That should have immediately told me something was wrong.

The tables were clean, like nobody had ever been there, even though I knew Asten and January had both already left to meet us here. The aroma of food drifted in the air like a long-lost memory.

Great. Things were already going horribly. It hadn't even been a day.

"Um...Mace...I feel like something happened here....," I muttered as Mace continued on into the room, looking around at each of the pristine tables. Seconds later, the door burst open, and I turned my head around in panic, scared of who it was. But it was only Jadyn, looking like her usual self until she realized how quiet the cafeteria was.

"Maybe they all went on a field trip?" she suggested. She walked closer to us, keeping an eye on all of the doors in the room.

"Maybe...," Mace replied, but without much conviction.

"Is this even where they serve dinner? Maybe we're in the wrong cafeteria," I commented, trying to offer some form of explanation.

Mace just shrugged. "I guess that's possible. But the screen said this room. Same room number and everything. I can't understand why it'd be different.

"Yeah, probably a field trip. Ugh. I like field trips. I can't believe we're missing out." I honestly couldn't tell if Jadyn was kidding.

There was a long counter with hot food evenly spread out in pots. The fact that I could literally see steam rising off some of the plates made me highly uncomfortable.

There'd definitely been people here. And they'd definitely disappeared mere minutes ago.

Jadyn walked to the counter. Without an ounce of concern, she picked up a metal tray and began layering food onto it. I gave her a look from across the room. She shrugged. "I mean...there's still an entire counter of food laying out here in wait for us. Maybe we shouldn't be so paranoid. For all we know, Asten and January were the first ones here and decided to stop by the bathroom or something."

"Together?" I asked her with raised eyebrows. I didn't even bring up the fact that we already had a bathroom in our room.

She sighed. "Whatever. But still. There's food and I'm starving. I can get used to food just being handed to me like this..." She walked back towards us, already eating one of the many pieces of toasts she had on her plate. It honestly looked delicious. But I wasn't going to trust it until I knew exactly what was going on.

Jadyn sat down and I took the seat next to her. My stomach rumbled. Maybe Jadyn was right and we actually were just the first ones here. I was so used to being untrusting that when an actual miracle occurred it was difficult to believe.

"Seriously, you should try these eggs. They're like...amazing," Jadyn commented as she shoved a forkful of scrambled eggs in her mouth.

"Maybe people will start coming in soon. We could just be early..." Mace was staring at the door, wringing his fingers anxiously.

As if triggered by his words, half the lights in the room shut off. I stood up so quickly my knee banged against the table sending a jolt of pain up my thigh. A door opened, but in the dim light, it was hard to see who walked in.

"Move and you die," threatened a deep voice. I froze, and I could tell both Jadyn and Mace had stopped moving, too. A fork clattered onto the table in the silence.

Slowly, a figure wearing all black stepped away from the door and into a pool of light right by the front of the room. He wore a mask over his face, so it was impossible to tell who it was. Behind him stood three or four other masked figures, and each of them were holding two hostages in their arms. The hostages wore similar masks so I couldn't decipher who they wear, but I inferred they were like us. Other trainees.

I heard a soft rustling, like fabric running against something. My eyes darted to Mace who was now holding a gun aimed at the masked man.

Everything slowed. Within a millisecond, the man whipped out a gun, pointed it at Mace and pulled the trigger without hesitation. The bullet flew through the air, landing perfectly into its targets' skull.

When I screamed, it felt delayed. Everything felt so delayed. I hadn't been fast enough. I hadn't helped Mace. Mace had been shot in the head...

He was dead. There was no doubt about it. His last breath had exited his body before he even hit the ground. A direct hit. No mistakes. This had to be a dream...a nightmare. Mace...the one person in charge of everything at the Snow Society, who'd held the group together for so long... dead in less than a second. Wiped away from the Earth just as quickly as the millions of people who died in the bombings had. Just like all of the humans who'd died in the snow and drowned in the rain.

Just another face to be wiped off the Earth and soon forgotten.

"Mace!" I shouted, almost at the same time as Jadyn let out a distressed scream. Food completely forgotten, she was off the table and leaping in the direction of the man with the gun, not caring that he was aiming at her instead.

"Jadyn, no!" I shouted, but it was too late. The gun went off again, sending Jadyn tumbling to the ground and landing face up, a bloody hole in the middle of her head. She rolled to a stop right in front of her murderer, who at last, was pointing his weapon at me.

I couldn't speak...couldn't move or even breathe. None of this felt like it could be real. A voice in the back of my head scolded me for getting close to these people. I told you so, it whispered, taunting me even in my shock.

"I'm hoping you're at least smarter than your friends...and won't resist. You are coming with me," he growled. I stumbled backwards as he came towards me. My heart raced in my chest as I searched for an escape, but there was none. If I moved an inch, the man would shoot. It was obvious he had near perfect aim.

Finally, he grabbed the collar of my shirt and pulled me back against his chest. "Somebody should really teach you all a lesson...," he snarled into my ear, pressing the gun against the side of my head. I could feel my entire body shaking in his arms.

The lights flicked back, blinding me. I blinked frantically against it. Then I heard quiet yet audible groans from the floor where Mace and Jadyn had fallen. Where I'd just seen them die.

I was released roughly. I turned to face my assailant. It was Agent Mika holding a black mask with his arms crossed.

"Lesson One," he proclaimed. "Always stay on guard."

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