“I cannot believe you asked me on a date!”
“It’s not a date,” Amadeus replied calmly, looking at her over his menu, “like I said, I just want to talk.”
“Yeah, while on a date,” Adelaide rolled her eyes, “I trusted you, you know. I genuinely trusted you. I didn’t think for a moment that you would betray me like this.”
“Betrayal?” Amadeus laughed, “How is this betrayal?”
Adelaide muttered something under her breath but did not reply. A waiter stepped over to them.
“What can I get you two lovebirds?” He inquired with an oily, obsequious smile.
“Et tu Brute?” Adelaide glared at him. Then she ordered anyway, because while he was annoying she was also hungry.
“I thought we were going to a café anyway,” Adelaide stared around when she had finished, the restaurant was filled, mostly, with couples, “I mean there’s literally nothing quite as date-like as taking a girl to a restaurant. Did that cross your mind at all? Not even a little bit?”
“It did occur,” Amadeus shrugged, “but I rather assumed that you’d see to the bottom of my intentions. I just wanted a place where we could discuss without being overheard. Where better than here? It would be downright rude to ‘overhear’ what two people are saying.”
“Oh okay,” Adelaide said, mollified a little but not entirely satisfied, “so it just seems like a date? Because let me just get this out of the way quickly. If for some reason you still think that you have any chance in hell of dating me and try any other sneaky, underhand tricks to try and ‘woo’ me, like buying me lunch in a swanky restaurant, at any point in the future, be warned I will not react well.”
“No,” Amadeus nodded, “the cricket bat that you brought with you rather hinted towards that line of thinking. Rest assured any romantic thoughts I may have had, and I must repeat that there were none in the first place, involving you are well and truly abandoned.”
Adelaide appeared to think about it for a few seconds. The waiter returned with their mains. He looked as though he were about to say something, but then Adelaide fixed him with a withering stare. He seemed to consider his chances of survival, then thought better of it and walked away. Adelaide, who realised with sudden and horrible clarity what it must feel like to be Francis, decided to change the subject.
“So, anyway,” she said, leaning forwards, “tell me, are you really a rank five?”
Amadeus let out a short mirthless laugh. His smile, however, was genuine. He slumped back a little in his chair and gestured expansively with one hand.
“People are always asking me that,” he said, “all I can say is that the government seems to think so. In the end it’s all rather arbitrary isn’t it? I mean each power is so different that to somehow try to put them into any kind of order is an impossible task. Take your friend Lydia for example.”
“What about her?”
“She’s rank two,” Amadeus scratched his nose, “but what does that mean? It doesn’t mean she’s more powerful than your average rank one, because she clearly isn’t. It doesn’t mean she has more powers than them either, as she has only one. At the end of the day what is the ranking system but a measure of weirdness? A measure of how different you are from everyone else? The ranking system’s just another way to mark super-humans out for persecution.”
Adelaide sat a little straighter. There had been something about Amadeus’ voice that made her suddenly serious. He was clearly… passionate about the whole super-human injustice thing. Adelaide had to admit she hadn’t been exactly a huge proponent for change before Price had pulled her into this. Even now that wasn’t what this was really about for her. For Amadeus though it seemed to be an open wound.
“I’m interested in what motivates you,” Amadeus said, “and honestly impressed that a normal like you would want to stand up for the likes of us. I’ve got to admit not all super-humans are good people. It’s the likes of Mr Hex that make people hate us. Where there’s power there’ll always be those willing and able to abuse that power, and it would be a lie to say that many super-humans don’t do that. But normal humans are wrong to hate all of us when only some are responsible.”
Adelaide nodded, though she’d only listened to about half of what he’d said. She’d been watching the movements of his jaw. He really was genuinely angry about all this.
“Listen,” Amadeus finished, “I think your team and I could start up a very beneficial relationship,” he saw Adelaide’s expression, “what?”
“Oh sure,” Adelaide said, “I’m sure we could be of great help to you. Are you joking? You can punch through walls! Half of my team can’t even throw a punch without falling over.”
“Yes,” Amadeus mused, “but you’re certainly coming forward in leaps and bounds. You’re clearly a very competent leader.”
“Don’t patronise me,” Adelaide snarled. God, she was beginning to sound like Francis. It was weird. Something about Amadeus… it rather annoyed her. It wasn’t so much that he was full of himself. If he had he might have been a little more, well, human.
There was an awkward silence. Adelaide was getting good at these. Eventually she reshuffled her chair underneath her and looked straight at Amadeus.
“Okay,” she said, “let’s cut the rubbish. Why haven’t I heard of you before? You’re a rank five, we studied all the rank fives in Biology. I tell a lie, we listened in Biology as the teacher explained repeatedly that we don’t know what causes rank fives. Anyway, point is you definitely weren’t one of them. So tell me, what’s your deal?”
Amadeus’ face fell. Before he’d mostly been smiling, a smile that flickered between confused and amused. Now he frowned. Without taking his eyes off Adelaide he sat forward in his chair, leaning his elbow against his knee.
“Thing is,” he said, “and you won’t believe this but I tell you it’s true. I haven’t always been a super-human.”