‘Ma’am, we’ve got trouble.’
The voice in her earpiece was sudden, panicked and not following proper procedure. Strange for Hewitt, considering he was usually the most reliable of her recruits.
‘Mer, shift me to Hewitt.’
The shift process within a few seconds – at least she hoped it was a shift. There’d been more than a few occasions where she’d needed to be somewhere in a hurry, or away from somewhere in a hurry, and Merlin had made it happen, even quicker than usual.
She had never brought it up with Taylor – Merlin’s powers were such an unknown, such a dangerous factor. They hadn’t proved to be dangerous, so there was no need to treat him as anything more than a weird little tech.
Jones didn’t like that she knew Merlin had powers – though, so far as she could tell, it wasn’t something he had done anything about. There was always the chance he had manipulated her memory, though she had a surety that Taylor would have made an issue of it if the techs had violated her like that.
She immediately ducked and went into a pool of shadow upon reintegration, but saw Hewitt standing calmly beside a blond man.
‘Merlin, increase surveillance. Pre-prep shifts for all my recruits around this building.’
‘No need, ma’amy ma’am.’
She growled a little. ‘Merlin-’
‘Everything is okies. Just trust me.’
Magnolia stepped out from the shadow and strode towards Hewitt, knife in her hand. ‘Report, Recruit!’
Hewitt looked up, gave a small, relieved laugh, then pointed to a figure on the ground. Dead Solstice. The figure groaned. Soon-to-be-dead Solstice, a problem that could be solved soon enough.
The blond man stepped between Magnolia and the groaning figure on the ground. ‘I’d appreciate if you don’t do that.’
The assumption was correct, but the presumption at making the assumption was irritating. ‘I intend on doing my job. Get the fuck out of my way.’
‘Ma’am, don’t-’
She flicked her eyes towards Hewitt. ‘Recruit-’
‘He’s a god, Magnolia.’
She took an instinctive step back and gave the blond man a proper look for the first time. He was dressed like a hippy – a tie-dyed shirt and pants that cut off at the knee. ‘A god?’
The man simply nodded.
God or not, he was getting in the way of her doing her duty.
The man on the ground rolled onto his back and giggled. Colours swirled over his face and he groaned again.
‘I’ll let you take him,’ the hippy said. ‘If you release him tomorrow. If no harm comes to him.’
‘He’s Solstice,’ she snapped. ‘No promises.’
‘He was going to hurt your people, he was breaking the truce of the observation spots, but I will not be responsible for a murder.’
‘Let someone go without hurting them?’ she asked. ‘You obviously haven’t met me.’
‘Actually, Maggie,’ the blond man said, ‘I have. You were cuter back then.’
Magnolia narrowed her eyes, unwilling to acknowledge the comment. ‘Agency process is Agency process. I don’t expect a civilian to understand. If I let him go tomorrow, he’ll live to hurt my people again.’
The cloud of colour brightened above the Solstice’s face.
‘And if I could guarantee that he would never want to hurt anyone ever again?’ the god asked.
‘Then you are a worse person than I am, and that’s saying something.’
‘You’d kill him, Maggie-‘
She ignored the pet name. The childish name. The name she hadn’t answered to in over a decade. ‘And you think fucking with his mind is any kinder? I’d kill him, fine, but I’d kill him; and it’s on his terms because he made his decision when he chose who to fight for. Changing a mind like that…that’s worse than death, far worse.’
A serious look overcame the god’s peaceful face. ‘I didn’t mean to indicate that I was giving you a choice.’
‘Then take him yourself. He’s off this roof in sixty seconds, or my guys will be throwing him in a van.’
The god waved a hand and the Solstice disappeared with a flutter of coloured shapes. ‘The Agency can be kind, Maggie, it’s better when it is.’
Feathers prickled on her back, but she kept her expression neutral. ‘Enjoy your observation, enjoy your evening.’