“What is it,” Amadeus asked in response to Kyle’s sudden burst of profanity.
Mutely, Kyle passed the phone forward and let the other two men look at it. They both swore as well, and then Richard asked the question Kyle should have thought of, “Does Jessie need extraction?”
“She didn’t say she did, but I don’t know. Ask?”
Richard punched in the text and sent it himself, then handed the phone back to Kyle. It felt like it took forever for the reply to come. Kyle sat in the truck worrying, and trying to distract himself from worry. Jessie routinely kicked his ass and he knew how to handle himself, and had more effective combat magic than most magi. The only way she’d be sending texts if she wasn’t safe was if she was trapped and couldn’t run or fight, but how could the Children trap Jessie in the middle of a city?
At length the reply came:
They don’t know I know. Safe for now.
Kyle read it to the other men and then sighed, “I guess we can just wait until they’re not watching and sneak away.”
“You could,” Amadeus agreed. “I’m not sure you have to.”
Kyle opened his mouth to object, but oddly enough Richard beat him to the punch. “Of course they have to!”
“Yeah,” Kyle chorused and then felt really stupid.
Amadeus shrugged. “They can if they decide to. However, consider, has our situation really changed? Before, we knew that if we wanted to infiltrate the Children of Atlantis we’d have to put forward candidates that could gain their trust in the face of inevitable distrust. Now, we know they distrust Kyle and Jessie but they’re trying to recruit them. It would seem nothing has changed beyond the fact we had assumed they already half trusted Kyle and Jessie and now we know they don’t.”
“That’s some convoluted logic,” Richard said.
“But is it wrong?”
Richard opened his mouth, thought for a moment, and then shut it again. At length he said, “I don’t like it much. This makes everything riskier!”
“Maybe,” Amadeus shrugged again, “maybe not. They know we’re watching now. Doing something to our agents would be exactly the kind of evidence we’re looking for.”
“It’s not the evidence I’m looking for,” Kyle put in.
Amadeus was keeping his voice very calm and even. It was a ‘no pressure’ tone. “Well, no, of course not. Still, you know what I mean. The fact that you’re agents is incentive not to hurt you.”
Kyle thought about that for a moment. It was mostly true, but not entirely. “They’ll have incentive to hurt us if they want to run and they think we’re in the way.”
“Jessie’s message said they were still trying to recruit you. It doesn’t sound like they want to run.”
“What are Jessie and Kyle theoretically taking this risk for,” Richard asked. “This seems like a lose lose situation. If the Children don’t trust them, then they won’t reveal anything, so there’s no risk but no reward. If they do let something slip, then there’s risk.”
“You’re assuming the Children are going to do a perfect job keeping their secrets. Besides, there was always risk.”
“Yeah, but we’re totally off book now. I mean, I never liked this op, Kyle and Jessie aren’t agents, or spies, or whoever should be doing this, and now…” He let the thought trail off, but Kyle could complete it easily enough: and now an already bad situation had gotten worse.
Kyle bit a fingernail and tried to come to some sort of conclusion. This conversation had already taken up too much time. When he got back, the Children would wonder what had taken him so long. Or would they? Maybe they’d just assume he’d been meeting with his secret government contacts and then they’d all drive over to a puppy orphanage to help out there. Or maybe they’d remember they left a copy of the master plan out in their office and they’d give him a Colombian necktie during a moment of panicked stupidity.
What it really came down to, Kyle decided, was just how committed he was to the whole enterprise. On the one hand, he didn’t want the children to hurt anyone with magic, and if he could stop them he would. On the other, he wasn’t a cop, or a soldier, or a spy. He’d never set out to save the world. So was this his moment to be a hero, or was it his moment to step in bear trap he’d never been trained to spot.
Amadeus spoke again, “This is all up to you. We can wait until Jessie is back where we can remove her easily and then run for the hills. No one is going to blame you for that. In fact, there’s a chance that’s exactly what we’ll be ordered to do once we report what’s going on. I’m just saying that’s not our only option.”