A chair hit the wall and exploded into hundreds of tiny shards. Rick winced. Amadeus, standing at the centre of the room, staring at the empty spot on the table, howled with fury. The noise woke Sam, who had been comatose on a chaise lounge. For an instant their face shifted into a wild eyed, terrified one with flaring nostrils and freckled cheeks. Then they shook their head, their expression rippling as new features closed over their face like a wave. When they looked up they were implacable as usual.
Amadeus clenched a fist in exasperation and glared at it. Then he seemed suddenly to calm down. Almost as soon as it had arrived, his anger dissipated like a cloud of fog.
“I can wait,” he mumbled, and pulled out his phone. Turning it on, he spent a minute or so tapping something into it. A small smile coloured his features and he nodded.
“They’re headed for a shopping centre,” he said, “A smart move. They know we won’t try and take back the Source in a public place like that.”
He saw their expressions
“I hacked Francis’ phone. A precaution only, but one that payed off.”
“No,” Rick shook his head, “not that… it’s just…why would they betray us?”
“Who knows,” Amadeus shrugged, “stupid people do stupid things. That’s life.”
He stepped over and put his hand on Rick’s shoulder.
“Don’t worry,” he grinned, “we’re going to fix that. There won’t be a place for people like them in the new world. As for the consequences of their betrayal: it’s meaningless. We’ll catch up with them tonight. They can’t hide forever. Until then I have some business to attend to, friends to meet. I’m going to see it that our little plan still gets underway whatever happens. I don’t care what you do. We’ll meet here this evening.”
He turned and left with long purposeful strides, whistling shrilly when he reached the door. Rick looked over at the splinters of chair by the wall. Sam had sat down on the chaise lounge and laid there, head back on the headrest.
“Hey,” Rick murmured, “you ever wonder if we’re in the wrong?”
“What do you mean?” Sam didn’t look at him. They kept their eyes fixed on the ceiling.
“I don’t know…” Rick paused, “it’s just sometimes I wonder whether… Sam, have you ever done anything wrong? Not just anything, I mean something criminal.”
This time Sam did look over at him, their eyes squinting. They studied him for a moment. Then they sighed.
“Yes,” they muttered, “I have.”
“Right,” Rick said.
“But that doesn’t mean they’re right!” Sam snapped, and Rick saw something of the terrified, freckled face in them all of a sudden, “It doesn’t mean they can scorn us and hurt us and mock us all our lives. Just because… just because some of us misuse it.”
They trailed off. Then they shook their head and their face rippled so it was angry and red and bull-like.
“Amadeus is right,” they said, “they’re wrong.”
Rick nodded, but he didn’t say anything.
In the Department for Extra-Normal Relations the Director finished tapping something into a lap-top she’d pulled out of a desk drawer, then looked up.
“I’m sending a little tracker to your phone Price,” she said, “it’ll tell you were Amadeus is provided he stays in the country and keeps his mobile on him. Be careful, I don’t want him to know about it, it was a pain to set up. He may be stupid in some ways, but he’s thorough in others. I used the classic ‘too dumb for you’ trick.”
“I’m almost interested,” the Knight was checking her kit. She’d left her sniper rifle when coming out, but the Department had an assortment of guns and blades that she’d strapped to her person. Price looked at her askance. He’d contented himself with a pair of dusty brass knuckles he’d found with a mix of nostalgia and amusement at the very back of the weapons shelves. They reminded him of the time he’d joined the Department. Julian carried nothing. He sat with his arms crossed. It was impossible to tell what he was thinking.
“The too dumb for you trick,” the Director frowned, “come on, you must have heard of it. He expects me to hack the phone itself, so he sets up every sci-fi hi-tech weirdo defence he can think of. I, product of an older time that I am, simply bug his phone case. Genius, isn’t it?”
Price ignored her.
“I’m not so sure we should be bringing those kids along with us,” he said, gesturing to the door. Emma, Lydia and Rachel waited outside. The Director, in absence of any extra chairs, had ordered them out. She’d also ordered that they’d be going along too, “it could be dangerous.”
“Nonsense,” the Director shook her head, “it will be dangerous. That’s not the point, though. Their friends are mixed up in this. If they can talk them out of fighting you then you’ve just lost a couple of potential enemies. Potential enemies that the government won’t be too happy if you hurt, considering they’re minors. Don’t worry, they can handle themselves. It’s not like they’re defenceless.”
Price shook his head.
“I’m pretty sure none of them have ever been in a proper fight. I took Lydia and Emma on myself and they’re not exactly good in a punch up.”
“And Rachel?” The Director shut her laptop, “I reckon she could break a few faces, huh? I always wondered why you wouldn’t agree to let her join the guards.”
“Rachel couldn’t hurt a person,” Price said, “and you know it. She’s just a normal teenager in that metal carapace. I think she’s even scared of blood.”
“Look,” the Director suddenly looked tired, “they don’t need to fight at all as long as you do your job well enough. You’re a good agent Price, I’ll admit it. That’s why I wanted you on this job, I don’t trust any of the others. You know Amadeus, you’ve seen how he functions. Now you take him down before he does any real damage. Understand?”
Price hesitated. Then he exhaled and stood up.
“Let’s go,” he said.