The Academy:The Other Side of Envy(4)

By: C. L. Stone

“He’s going in alone?” I asked.

“He looks like them,” Kota said. “They might trust him.”

I looked at Silas, who stood tall and broad-shouldered. “Are you sure?” I asked.

The boys shared glances with each other, and then everyone turned to Silas.

Silas shifted on his feet, looking uncertain. “I don’t exactly look their age.”

“You’re big, but you’re fine,” Kota said.

“You’ve known him for too long,” Dr. Green said. “You have to look at him as if you’ve never met him before. Maybe he looks the same race, but he’s still a stranger and if he’s intimidating, they may run. If that happens, we don’t stand a chance to find them again.”

“We’re still taking a risk,” Kota said. “He doesn’t speak Spanish, Nathan does, and he’s just as intimidating.”

“Maybe I should go,” I said.

Kota shook his head instantly. Nathan started to as well. “No,” Kota said.

“Kota,” Dr. Green said, stepping closer. “We don’t have a lot of time, and Mr. Blackbourne thought it’d be useful if she were here.”

“Not when we don’t know if they’ll attack any of us on sight.”

“I think they’re more prone to running than fighting. And they’d be even less prone to fight if Silas is next to her.”

“Luke’s in there already,” Victor said. “He can watch out for her.”

Nathan swung his eyes from the others to me and then shifted from foot to foot. “And I could follow in behind,” Nathan said.

I met with Nathan’s blue eyes, serious and yet unsure now. His decision depended on the others and what they thought. Nathan smiled slightly at me but then glanced again at Kota. I sensed he didn’t like going against Kota. There was a friendship there that probably made it difficult to do so.

Kota’s eyes swept over his team, his green eyes dancing behind his glasses, calculating. He touched gently at the bridge. “There’s more at risk there than that, too. I don’t know if we can afford it.”

Afford what? I waited for more detail, hoping he was going to explain why we couldn’t afford it. I checked with the others. They looked anxious, brows furrowed, lips pursed. They were starting to change their minds. “I don’t understand,” I said.

“It’s complicated,” Victor said quietly. He swept back some of his wavy hair from his eyes and then shifted to unbutton his sleeves and fold the material back toward his elbows. “Academy rules.”

“If Mr. Blackbourne wants her here,” Dr. Green said, “then he thinks we can afford it. No matter what, the job will cover it.”

“We need the favors,” Kota said. “We’re running low.”

“What favor?” I asked. “We need favors?” This was different. It wasn’t just about Kota making sure I was safe. There were reasons beyond what I was seeing; Kota was looking at all the angles.

Their eyes turned to me. Kota made a face. “We need to stop talking about it.”

“Maybe not talking about it with her is the problem,” Silas said.

They turned to him. He was usually so quiet when we were all together, that hearing his voice now was surprising. I looked up at him, and he seemed so much taller since I was sitting on the crate.

Silas met Kota’s eyes, looking calm and composed. “I know this isn’t the place,” he said, “but the reason why she jumps in half of the time is because she doesn’t know what is expected and how this works. Mr. Blackbourne is right. She’s either in or out. We can’t have her in the middle. Not when she’s working with us like this.”

“We need to talk about it later,” Dr. Green said before Kota or Victor could speak. “Right now, there are little lives in there and we need to go get them.”

“Can I go in after Silas?” I asked. “Would that be better? If they respond to him, I don’t have to. I’ll only say something if they’re scared of him.”

“She looks their age,” Dr. Green said. “Come on, Kota. You’ve got to see she can handle this. They are just kids in there.”

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