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     CASSIE HAD NEVER SEEN the mall so empty in her life

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     CASSIE HAD NEVER SEEN the mall so empty in her life. There was absolute stillness in the atmosphere. No air conditioner whirring up above. No music playing softly from the speakers. No buzz of conversation. Not even the sound of footsteps could be heard nearby. Even her own breath seemed to disappear as soon as it left her mouth. It was an eerie sort of peacefulness, so instead of being soothed by the quiet atmosphere, Cassie's anxiousness increased. 

She felt as though the group was being hunted. Like they were the prey in those wilderness TV shows. Even though there was no predator in sight, the girl couldn't help but feel that someone...something was here watching them.

"Come on." Jonathon quietly spoke, tilting his head to the stairs. "Let's go to higher ground."

Cassie turned back to her friend, who's leg was still in the process of healing, and wrapped her arm around her torso. 

Eleven shook her head innocently, "Oh, Cassie. You don't need to-"

"Let me stop you right there." Cassie interrupted, holding her tightly as she began to help her up the steps. "You think I'd let you walk up the stairs by herself? I don't think so."

"Thank you, Cassie." Eleven spoke with a soft smile.

Cassie smiled in reply, "I always got you, girl."

Stealthily, the group began to approach the center of the plaza from the second floor. As they grew closer, they were soon able to hear voices from below. Perhaps it was their friends who were down there. But, as they listened more intently, the group soon realized that it couldn't be them. 

They weren't just any voices. They were unfamiliar...foreign

As they crossed to the hall and made their way to the railing, the group clearly was able to make out the voice of a Russian man. Everyone immediately backed away from the railing, hiding in the shadows so they wouldn't be seen. 

Before she backed away, Cassie was able to catch a glimpse of his appearance. His black boots made a thumping noise against the tiled floor, solid, like a soldier. His face was stern, and he held a gaze more fearsome than a tiger. In his right hand a gun lay loosely, his finger gently pressed just beside the trigger, ready to shoot on command.

Then, just out of the shadows, came another soldier. Then another. And another. There must have been at least five or six of them roaming the mall. But why?

And then it hit her. As soon as she caught a glimpse of a blue and red Scoops Ahoy uniform from behind the counter below, she knew exactly who they were looking for. 

Turning to her friend, Cassie frantically spoke, "El, we have to help them."

Nodding once, Eleven released her grip on Cassie and made her way closer to the railing. Raising her right arm, Eleven shut her eyes and began to focus. 

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