“Okay,” the Director sat down, resisting the urge to spin in her chair, “my team.”
“I’m sorry,” Julian’s voice hissed and echoed in their minds, “what? You’re not seriously suggesting I work with her.”
The Knight’s face was stony.
“For once,” she said, slowly and carefully, deliberating over her words, “I agree with him. I do not associate with criminals.”
“I still don’t understand what’s going on,” Price said.
“Okay, one at a time, one at a time,” the Director waved her hand in a dismissive gesture, “I’ll get to you all. First off Knight, can’t you see I’m doing you a favour? You’ll be taking down one of the greatest super-human conspiracies of all time.”
“Which is another thing I don’t get,” Julian folded his arms across his chest and shifted uneasily in his chair. The Director had diplomatically placed Price between him and the Knight. From the way Julian had physically recoiled when he’d entered the room and she’d gone stiff and clutched at the hilt of her knife it seemed that this had been a good idea. “I always thought your ‘cunning scheme’ was to frame me for the Knight’s murders and make yourself popular with whichever boss you’re trying to impress that way.”
“Oh no,” the Director shook her head, “really Julian, what do you take me for, a fool? I knew perfectly well that however much the police hate you there was no way the case would pass through the court. Not enough evidence.”
“So what’s your great plan then, let’s hear it.”
“It was always this,” the Director couldn’t help a smile of triumph flicker across her features. Was he beginning to see it? She’d always considered Julian one of her few potential rivals, and she surprised herself by being strangely eager to hear his opinion of her masterwork, “I wanted to create a super-human conspiracy. All I had to do was to convince Amadeus to overextend himself, to create a sense of injustice so strong he couldn’t resist standing against me.”
“So you’ve been stringing him along all this time,” Julian was angry. You rarely heard him angry, and it was quite hard to tell when he was. He became quiet and polite and his voice lost its gurgling quality. He started to sound so unusually human it was disconcerting. As though he were making a concerted effort not to sound… otherwise.
“Look,” the Director pouted theatrically. This time it was her turn to fold her arms, “I didn’t ask to have Amadeus dumped on me did I? He was the creation of my predecessor. So when I get dropped into this dead-end job I also have to deal with a bratty show off who some moron decided to give super-human powers.”
She caught Price’s sceptical expression.
“Oh don’t look at me like that,” she said, “I know it sounds glamorous, but Director of Extra-Normal Relations is no-one’s dream job, trust me. It’s the job they give the up and coming rookie, the one they don’t actually want to go anywhere. To get myself a promotion I need to force them to pay some attention to me. So basically I’m killing two birds with one stone. That was what Project Prodigy was all about, getting Amadeus onto the streets, fighting crime. I’m surprised you didn’t see it. Just the first step in the chain, dear Price.”
There was a hush as each of them contemplated this. Julian’s tentacles moved in small, darting motions. The Director suppressed a manic grin. He was beginning to get it. To see her construction at last.
“And the innocents you had the Knight murder,” he said in her mind. Neither Price nor the Knight reacted to his words.
She was going to kill anyway, the Director thought, trust me, she’s a complete maniac. This way I control how regularly and I can make it serve my purpose. Don’t worry, I’ll turn her in to the police before this is all over. As to why I haven’t already… well, she’s useful, and she’s slippery as an eel. I need her to trust me before she makes a slip and lets me betray her.
She saw Julian nod, only a tiny movement of the head. He was satisfied, but he wasn’t happy.
“So why should I help in all this,” he said in all their minds, “the Knight obviously wants to fight her twisted perception of crime. Price works for you, so he has to. What’s in it for me?”
“This is the best bit,” the Director replied, “you’ve always told me you’d like to see a super-human in this job right? Someone actually making some differences about the relationships between super-humans and normals rather than some self-serving bureaucrat like myself who just throws all their resources into getting out of the mud-hole. Well, here’s your chance. Help me out and you can have the job. Or at least I’ll pull all my influence to see you get it. The government’s inclusion program is terrible. They’d jump at the chance to put a super-human in a job none of them actually cares about. Makes them look good, see?”
If Julian had had eyes the Director was certain they would have been boring into her, searching her face to see if her words held any truth. Eventually he shrugged and nodded.
“All right,” he said, “I’m in. What do you want me to do?”
“You need to take down Amadeus and his friends.”
“Have they even done anything wrong yet?”
“Well, they’ve stolen the Source,” the Director frowned momentarily, “which I’ll admit was an unforeseen and unfortunate consequence. You’ll have to make retrieving it your top priority.”
The Knight patted the handle of her knife.
“I trust you have no problem with… harsh justice,” she said, a thin smile gracing her features momentarily.
“I do,” the Director shook her head, “lethal force is permitted only if you are attacked. I can cover it up if it’s self-defence.”
The Knight nodded, unsatisfied. Before she could say anything more there was a rap on the door.
“Come in,” the Director called. The door opened. Emma, Lydia and Rachel walked in, followed by two guards with guns pressed to their captives’ backs.
“We found these three skulking about outside,” one of the guards said, “what do you want us to do with them.”
A slow smile spread across the Director’s face.
“This just keeps getting better and better,” she murmured.