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.

"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. There was a long counter on one side of the room with black designs covering it and hot food sitting out in trays along it. That must have been where I'd smelt the food coming from.

Jadyn started walking in the direction of the counter and I was expecting her to begin looking around over there for any clues as to what was happening. Instead she picked up one of the metal trays piled on one side of the counter and began layering food onto it. I gave her a look from across the room. She looked back at me and 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, too.

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 did look delicious. But I still wasn't going to trust it until I knew exactly what was going on.

Jadyn sat down at the table next to me and I sat down next to her, close to giving up. The entire room looked perfect. Maybe Jadyn was right and we were just over reacting about all of this. I was so used to not trusting anything 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.

"What if Jadyn's right...?" Mace asked suddenly, from where we stood a couple feet away, staring at the ceiling. "Maybe people will start coming in soon. We could just be early..."

But before he could even finish the end of his sentence, half the lights in the room shut off. The entire cafeteria became dim in the matter of seconds, every other fluorescent light going dark, making it harder to see anything. The sound of a door opening came from where we'd only just walked in, but it was difficult to make out any figures in that direction.

"Move and you will die," a deep voice stated from the direction of the door. 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. I couldn't tell who was being held hostage because of white bags that had been placed over their faces, but judging by their height and their bodies I could tell they looked to be around our age. Likely other trainees at this military camp that had also come from the Wild and been forced into a unit.

I heard a soft rustling, like fabric running against something else. My gaze trailed away from the man and without moving my head, I looked at Mace. He had a gun in his right hand as he began bringing it up in order to shoot the man.

And then everything seemed to stop. The black figured being, before Mace could even get the gun up, pulled out a gun in less than a millisecond. He pointed it at Mace and pulled the trigger without hesitation. And in those same couple milliseconds, the bullet went flying through the air, landing perfectly into its targets' skull.

When I screamed out, 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 had 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 screamed in distress. And then she was up, off the table and leaping in the direction of the man with the gun. Not seeming to care that he was now moving his sights on her instead.

"Jadyn, no!" I shouted at her, 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 ever getting close to these people. I told you so, it whispered, taunting me even in my shock.

"I'm hoping your at least smarter than your friends...and won't resist. You are coming with me," it growled, walking quickly in my direction. I stumbled in an attempt to move back, and he shot the gun, barely missing my elbow. My heart raced in my chest as I searched for an escape, but there was none. If I moved an inch, the man could shoot me. It was obvious he had nearly perfect aim, no matter how far away I was.

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 on in seconds. I blinked frantically against the sudden light, unsure of what had happened. Then I heard quiet, yet still audible groans from the floor where Mace and Jadyn had fallen. Where I thought they had been killed.

The arm holding me, released me, and I turned around, no longer caring about the gun. Agent Mika held the mask he'd been wearing over his head in his hands as he stared at me with crossed arms.

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

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