Francis slumped in his chair. He was beyond the point of ‘regretting he’d come’ and had descended into the dark depths of ‘not really being sure whether he’d survive the evening’. In what universe had he even thought this would be a good idea?
Well, he’d been angry. This whole stupid business with the Knight and Adelaide’s betrayal had really infuriated him. He’d needed a place to vent his rage. He’d assumed, not unreasonably he thought, that attending the ‘Super-human solidarity society’ meeting would help. They didn’t put any warnings on the doors telling you just how boring it would be.
“Which is why I think this,” the speaker was saying in a flat monotone, “no matter your powers, no matter your rank, all super-humans should stick together. We should stand up to the people who torment us and say ‘no’. Thank you.”
He stood in silence for a few seconds, staring nervously at his audience. His long and messy hair, which had been moving about in fits and starts throughout his speech, writhed, mirroring his evident discomfort. One of the organisers, sitting in the front row, started to applaud. The rest of the room seemed to rouse itself and joined in, though only half-heartedly. Francis was evidently not the only one who regretted coming.
“Our next speaker,” said the announcer, stepping up to the podium, “is a very special guest. He is, in fact, a rank five, which is a first for us. He has something very important to talk to you about. So, without much further ado, I’d like you to give a big hand to… Amadeus!”
His boredom forcibly expelled, Francis sat upright in his seat and blinked rapidly, shocked and only just willing himself to remain solid in time. Amadeus ascended the steps to the small platform and leaned a casual arm on the stand. He had no written notes, and addressed the audience directly. They were sitting up and visibly taking notice, intrigued by the impressive pedigree of their new speaker. Amadeus looked in his element, and spoke clearly and with excellent pronunciation.
“Ladies and Gentlemen,” he said, gazing around, “all of us in this hall are all bound by one thing. You know what that thing is, otherwise you wouldn’t any of you be here. We are all super-human, and we are all, without exception, victim to society’s prejudice.
“I won’t pretend that I am exactly like the rest of you. I am a rank five, after all. But I know what it is to be different and I know what it is to be shunned like scum. We, my friends, are not scum. We are as good as anyone else, if not better. We have the potential to do great evil, certainly, but our potential for good is even greater.
“You may have heard, recently, of deaths from amongst our numbers. The police are covering up the reason for these murders, but all the evidence points to the attacks being targeted specifically against super-humans. Someone in this city is hunting us, ladies and gentlemen, as if we were no better than animals.
“Until recently I worked for a certain government organisation, one that aimed to protect us and to stop the brutal acts of normals against us. I am sorry to say that this organisation has become corrupt. Rather than try and help us, its new leadership is doing the exact opposite. They have employed the assassin that targets us, these deaths are their fault, all to further their own aims.”
Ripples of movement passed through the audience as they reacted to this news. Shocked murmurs filled the room and the sound started to rise. Amadeus raised his arms in a placatory fashion, gesturing for quiet.
“Naturally I quit,” he said, “as soon as I discovered this fact, and I am working to capture the perpetrator of these heinous crimes. But all this has raised my anger, and I hope it has raised yours as well. The government set up this group to protect us, and instead it insults and attacks us! This cannot be allowed to continue!”
There were nods from the audience, and the murmuring got louder. One of the organisers looked as though he were about to stand up and restore order, but Amadeus caught his eye and shook his head. Waiting for the noise to subside, he drummed his fingers on the top of the podium. The mutterings quickly died and once again all the attention was fixed on Amadeus.
“My plan is to strike a blow against this organisation,” he pumped the air with his fist, “show them we are not to be messed with and ensure that they never again make such a silly mistake as to think they could get away with hurting us so easily. I want to steal something of theirs, something very important to them. I can’t do it alone. I need help, your help. Not many of you, just two or three volunteers. Come to me afterwards if you want to help. You may not be able to assist me, but I want everyone in the room to support me. Who’s with me?”
A cheer rose up from the entire room, surprising in its volume. Amadeus had succeeded in capturing all of their hearts and they made it known raucously. Francis found himself, a little to his own surprise, cheering with them. Amadeus bowed and descended the steps to rapturous applause.
Amadeus was the last to make his speech, and one of the organisers stood up to thank the speakers. His voice was drowned out by shouts of ‘Am-a-deus, Am-a-deus’ from the watching super-humans which lasted for a good five minutes.
When the noise died down everyone stood up and moved en masse to the food tables at the end of the room. Some broke off from this group, though not a huge number, and went to congregate around Amadeus. Francis instinctively moved towards them, Amadeus’ words ringing in his ears.
He reached the edge of the throng, but they were mostly adult and he had to try peer over their heads, fighting the temptation to just phase through them, as this tended to unnerve people.
“Francis!” Cried a voice from the centre of the crowd, “Just who I was looking for!”
The people parted and left Francis standing in front of Amadeus. Two strangers stood on either side of him.
“I could use your help,” Amadeus said with a smile, “are you in?”
“Absolutely,” Francis replied in a heartbeat.