Lydia felt warm. That was good. It had been such a long time since she’d been able to put her hood down and truly bask in the heat of the day. Covering up all the time, hiding herself from the humans… it grew so wearisome. Skulking in the shadows she became lethargic, slow on the uptake and constantly tired. Here, in the summer holidays, there were no crowds, just lots of time for her to be alone and glory in the sun’s rays, warming her blood and quickening her reflexes.
“Hey you!” Lydia froze. Not good. She quickly checked the air. Behind her, harder to detect because of the general warmth but still letting off heat like a furnace. Her muscles tensed. What was her strategy again? Oh yes, run away. How nuanced of her.
“If it isn’t the lizard weirdo from school,” damn it, another. This one in front, blocking her escape. Great. As usual Lydia’s primary tactic had betrayed her. She readied herself. Hopefully these ones wouldn’t actually beat her up.
“What are you doing here?” Sneered the first, coming up behind her and speaking over her shoulder, “This is a human neighbourhood. What do you think we should do with her Ed?”
“Please… leave me alone,” Lydia said quietly.
“What are you going to do,” Ed laughed, “scratch us?”
This was the part where Lydia totally pulled out all the stops and beat the hell out of both of them. Or it would have been if she’d been any good at fighting. Instead the conversation was interrupted by a shout from behind them. All three turned. A girl that Lydia had never seen before was storming towards them from across the street.
“Stop that!” She shouted angrily, waving a fist at them.
“Adelaide?” Said one of the boys in confusion. Her eyes widened.
“Simon? What the hell are you doing here? Mum is going to be so angry with you. Leave her alone.”
“That your little sister Si?” Ed leered at her.
“Yeah,” Simon’s was a little shaky all of a sudden.
“Well listen up squirt,” the other one leaned forward, “this is a human town, so if we want to bully a creepy little sub-human we can. They’re in our territory.”
The punch he received from Adelaide knocked him backwards and sent a small fountain of blood spurting from his nose. He grunted with pain and lowered his head. As he went to charge forward however someone jumped at him from behind and fell through him, landing on the other side and pitching onto the floor.
“Damn,” the newcomer said, “that wasn’t supposed to happen.”
The boy went to make a grab at Adelaide but something caught his arm in mid-air. His splayed fingers hovered, unmoving, and his face creased with confusion, unable to reach forward.
“Okay,” Lee walked over, hands in pockets, “you’re outnumbered two to one. I bet the odds suddenly don’t look so good. Not forgetting of course that we have powers.”
“Not that that’s ever helped us before,” Francis got to his feet unsteadily.
“I suggest you back off,” Adelaide’s hands were fists, “don’t think this is the last you’ll hear of this by the way Simon.”
Simon looked guilty, unable to meet his sister’s angry gaze. His friend nodded at him and they began to walk away as quickly as they could, glancing around to make sure no one had seen that little display. Meanwhile Lydia looked around at her rescuers, her scaly face rippling into a smile. Up close Adelaide had to admit she was a little… unsettling. Her head was entirely hairless, her eyes unblinking and her nose small slits in her face. Her mouth continued at the end of her lips, the line of it snaking up either side of her jawbone.
“Thank you,” Lydia said, “you saved me.”
“Our pleasure,” Francis shrugged as if it were nothing, “look we’re really here to offer you a proposition.”
“Anything I can do to help you,” Lydia said, “really.”
“We’d like you to join our team of heroes and fight crime,” said Adelaide quickly. There, she’d said it, it was over and done with. Still didn’t make it sound any less stupid. The huge circular pupils of Lydia’s eyes shrunk down to tiny vertical lines.
“When I said anything…” she trailed off.
“Oh come on Lydia,” Lee patted her on the shoulder, she flinched and he withdrew, “it wouldn’t be anything dangerous. Honestly Adelaide bigs it up way too much. Look we’d like to be your friends. The crime fighting stuff… that’d be on the side.”
Lydia shrunk away from them, reaching for the hood of her coat so that she could pull it over her head.
“Sorry guys,” she said quietly, “I would love to help but… it’s just not really… I can’t. I’m sorry.”
“No, don’t worry, it’s fine,” Francis shook his head, “we’re sorry we asked.” He turned and looked behind him at the alleyway that they’d come out of. “You can come out now, she says no!” He shouted, “good job fighting against those bullies by the way, we’re all really impressed. Way to go standing up for your fellow super-human.”
Emma stepped out of the shadows. She scowled at Francis but didn’t reply to his taunt.
“Look there’s no way we’ll find a fifth member,” she said to Adelaide, “why don’t we just all go home and forget this ever happened?”
Adelaide stared back at her, her eyes narrowed. Emma looked bored.
“Wait a second,” it was Lydia, she was staring at Emma, her head to one side, “uh… I… I just thought about it and… well, maybe… maybe… maybe I can help you. Just as long as it isn’t too… you know… such an obvious role.”
“It doesn’t have to be,” Lee grinned like a mega-watt lamp, “right Adelaide.”
Adelaide, who had been watching Emma’s scowl with a tiny little bit of satisfaction sparking in her heart, turned and nodded absentmindedly.
“Oh yeah sure,” she said.
“Then it’s settled,” Francis rubbed his hands together gleefully, “and the team comes together.”