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VI

Maddies ears were ringing as she crouched under the table. Her father was kneeling behind the wall only three feet away, but the open door between them prevented her from crossing the distance to be closer. He peeked around the doorway and then turned to her, motioning wildly with his hands. She held up her hands questioningly and shook her head to advise him that she didnt understand his hand signals. She wished desperately that shed taken more interest in his work when she was younger. Exasperated, he stopped motioning and pointed his finger like a gun, pointed to her and then pointed out the door. She nodded her understanding. Then he held up a hand indicating he wanted her to wait. She nodded again. Smoke and dust were beginning to filter into the room, making visibility out into the

entryway limited, but she could still make out shapes when she dared to sneak a peek. Anthony surveyed their situation, quickly realizing they were going to need some help. They were in a room with no viable exit, and the three strangers were closing in quickly. It was only a matter of time before they found them, and the more distance between them when that happened, the better their odds would be. He reached up and grabbed the cloth that was covering the golden bowl. He listened for a moment as footsteps moved through the entryway, crunching on debris as they progressed through the building. Grasping the cloth tightly, he pulled hard, causing the object to topple loudly to the floor right in front of Maddie. She jumped back in surprise as the item clamored to a stop on the floor. The noise worked. The footsteps from all three men stopped as they focused their attention in the direction of the commotion. Anthony kicked the bowl hard, sending it skittering loudly out of the conference room toward the men. Then he pointed at Maddie. Two of the men made the mistake that Anthony was betting on. As the bowl slid out into the lobby, their eyes followed it, giving the trapped duo the opening they needed. Leaning around the door, Anthony fired his shotgun straight into the chest of the nearest man, dropping him like a rock. From her position under the table, Maddie fired two shots toward the only figure she could see through the haze. She knew her shot was wide, but hoped it would be enough to slow him down. She watched

his body wheel to her right as her bullet tore through the flesh of his upper arm. He let out a yelp and jumped to his left, out of firing range. Only the man in the center maintained his view of the conference room, and returned several short bursts of fire in their general direction. It was apparent he expected them to be standing, as the bullets whizzed over their heads and tore through the back wall. Maddie and her father dove back behind the cover of the walls and tables, and crouched down as the two remaining assailants sent several rounds of return fire toward their makeshift bunker. Anthony gave Maddie a quick thumbs up, confirming they had just evened the odds a little in their favor. They could hear shouts in a foreign language between the bursts, but could not make out anything that was being said. Without warning, the shooting stopped. Anthony looked at Maddie and wrinkled his brow questioningly. As he peeked around the corner of the door, his eyes widened and he spun back quickly. His head spinning back into the room was followed closely by a grenade that had been lobbed in their direction. It landed on the floor with a hard thud and skidded to a stop at the back wall. Maddie rolled to her right and curled into a ball, bracing for impact. Anthony kicked the edge of the table hard, tipping it over on its side between them and the grenade.

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