“Miss Bruce,” the Director exhaled wearily and for a long time, “I’d ask you exactly what you were doing breaking into my facility this morning, but really I feel I’d rather not know.”
Adelaide stared defiantly across at her, she struggled against the grip of the man that held her, but he clamped his arms around her wrists. She looked across at the others. None of them seemed willing to meet her eye.
“Incidentally Mr Allen,” the Director looked up at Francis, “any attempt to use your power to try and escape will end badly for your friends. Have you ever watched someone’s legs being broken?”
Francis shook his head mutely. The Director nodded.
“I thought as much,” she said, there was none of the usual dry wit in her voice, “well, as someone with personal experience I recommend you keep it that way. It’s not fantastically pleasant.”
There was a grunt from Francis. The Director sighed again and leaned back as far into her chair as she could.
“Honestly,” she murmured, “sometimes I wonder why I bother. I gave you a chance to help me, to get into my good books and prove Price’s little enterprise wasn’t completely pointless. Instead you decided to completely go against my orders. Well done, you’ve officially annoyed me.”
“It’s not like it’s that important,” Adelaide said, “I just wanted to have at a look at the Source before I trusted you with more knowledge of it.”
“Do you kids ever listen?” The Director mused, “I said I’d let you see the Source didn’t I? Just give me your grandfather’s notes and you can have a look at it.”
“I don’t have them,” Adelaide replied sullenly, “anyway, I don’t trust you. How do I know you aren’t going to misuse the Source?”
“You don’t,” the Director was almost snarling, she really was angry, her fingers curled into fists, her lips a thin white line, her tone chilly. Shouting and fiery rage would have been less terrifying, but the Director didn’t give such respite, “trust isn’t a luxury that you can afford to have anymore. Much as I joke with Price about it, this facility is top secret. You can’t just break in, and your presumption cannot go without punishment.”
“You can’t punish us,” Adelaide said, “you need us. Or at least you need me. And if you hurt any or all of us you can’t have my grandfather’s notes whether I find them or not.”
The Director made a noise in the back of her throat that sounded like she was tutting. She looked up at Price, who was standing next to her behind the desk.
“Doesn’t anyone get it? No one seems to understand that no matter how indispensable they may think they are I can and will replace them?” He shrugged. She shook her head, “Send in the Knight will you?”
Price stepped over to the door, opened it and beckoned to somebody standing outside. There was a moment of silence. The Director caught Adelaide’s eye, her gaze was hard and without its usual amused glitter. It was like staring down a serpent.
There was the sound of footsteps and a woman walked into the room. She was young, in her early twenties, and dressed in a jacket and jeans. She had a heavy looking case strapped to her back and a suspicious looking sheath at her belt. Scanning the room, she caught sight of Adelaide. Their eyes met for a moment and the woman started strangely. Adelaide also felt a chill settle on her. There was something about this newcomer that made her feel nervous. She was like a predator. Looking towards the others she noticed that Lee looked particularly agitated. As did Lydia, who was squirming about, her tongue flickering in and out of her mouth, tasting the air.
“Ah,” the Director finally let a smile slide onto her features, “Knight, so glad you’re here. I have a job for you.”
“Director,” the woman looked around, “I’d heard that you’d sent Amadeus after me.”
“Goodness no,” the Director widened her eyes with mock horror, “whoever could have possibly told you such a thing?”
“Word travels fast if you know where to listen,” the Knight muttered.
“Yes, well,” the Director pouted dramatically, “don’t you want to know your assignment? Do this for me Knight and I promise, cross my heart, I’ll make no more attempts to meddle with your ‘righteous cause’ or whatever it is that you’re doing.”
The Knight, who had been looking idly around the room, snapped into focus.
“Go on,” she said.
“I want you to find the notes of one Henry Bruce concerning his discovery of the Source,” the Director smiled her cunning smile.
“What?” Adelaide said. The Knight turned to look at her, her eyebrow raised. The Director laughed, a harsh, barking cackle.
“You know this is really cheering me up,” she said, “and trust me, it gets better. The notes are in the possession of Miss Adelaide Bruce, whom you see before you, Knight, or at least her family. If you want to get your hands on them you’re going to have to work fast, as I imagine a little competition will make her step up her own efforts. I don’t care what you do or how you do it, I just want the notes. This is your mission if you choose to accept it. Do you?”
The Knight nodded curtly. Her usual shark’s smile restored, the Director extended her hand over the top of the desk. They shook, then the Knight marched out. There was a click as the door swung shut behind her. A hush fell.
“Well,” the Director said, “I think that went well, don’t you?”
“What are you doing?” Adelaide said, “Who was she?”
“You’ll find out,” the Director fiddled with her fingers, “now that you have the same goal in mind. My offer still stands, by the way. Bring me the notes and you can see the Source. But if the Knight finds them first you’ll never see it. I hope this little bit of healthy competition makes you step up your efforts rather than waste your time breaking into my facility.”
Adelaide opened her mouth, about to say something. The Director waved an idle hand at the men holding them. Hands were clamped around their mouths and they were pulled from the room. Price re-entered and moved over to the Director’s desk.
“Is it just me?” She said, “Or does it feel like Christmas?”