Adelaide moved through the shopping centre cautiously, glancing around to make sure she wasn’t being followed. They’d split up, Lee and her each carrying identical plastic bags to the one Francis held. He had the Source, which started to growl whenever anyone else carried it, for some reason.
They’d been in the shopping centre nearly all day. Their tactic had been to split up, loiter around a given shop until they were told to move on by someone from behind the counter, and then head somewhere else. They’d divided the money they had and had lunched in separate places. They had been very careful.
In the distance Adelaide spotted Francis coming up an escalator. He waved. She nodded to him, and walked off towards a video store. Adelaide, who had been eyeing up the place to be his next loitering spot, groaned. He looked around. Clothes, clothes, clothes, underwear, café, clothes. Shrugging, Adelaide headed for one of the clothes shops.
Stepping in she nearly bumped into Francis, who was coming down an aisle.
“What-” she stopped, “Francis what the hell are you doing here? I just saw you go into that film store over there.”
Francis gave Adelaide an odd look.
“Are you okay?” He asked, “I’ve been here for the last three quarters of an hour. I’m only just starting to get odd looks from the staff.”
“So how did I…”
Her eyes widened and she stiffened. Francis saw her expression and realised what she was thinking.
“Sam!” They said in unison.
“So they’re here,” Adelaide nodded, “okay, here’s the plan…”
She trailed off, then looked up at Francis again.
“Hey wait a second,” she said, “how do I know that you’re not Sam and the one I saw earlier was the real deal.”
“Remember that time we got beaten up by a super fast woman and that guy who breathed black smoke out of his mouth?” Francis said, “Sam wouldn’t know that happened to us.”
“Good, you’re definitely you then,” she said, “okay if Sam’s here then Amadeus won’t be far behind.”
“Oh, hey you guys,” said a voice behind them.
They turned. Anna and Alexis were walking towards them. Alexis was carrying a large bag filled to the brim with clothes and wearing a nervous expression and colourful shirt that didn’t go together.
“What are you two doing here?” Anna said, “Have you seen Emma? I’ve been trying to find her.”
“No,” Adelaide said, “we’ve -uh- been having crazy adventures and stuff, so we haven’t seen any sign of her. What are you doing here.”
“I’m just improving Alexis’ wardrobe,” Anna said, “if he’s going to look good for Lydia he’ll need some new kit. No offence, dude, but you’re not exactly the peak of style.”
“None taken,” Alexis murmured.
“I think you should probably leave,” Francis said, “some serious crazy stuff may well go down here pretty soon, it might be a good idea to keep your distance.”
“No no,” a voice interjected, “the more the merrier I say. None of you is going anywhere.”
Amadeus strode up to them, flanked by Sam, who still looked like Francis, and Rick. He swept the hair back from his eyes, grinned and cracked his knuckles.
“Francis,” he continued, “good to see you after your betrayal. You have something that is mine. Care to give it to me?”
“Here we go,” Adelaide offered her plastic bag.
“Nice try,” Amadeus snorted, “but the Source won’t get close to you without growling its head off. Francis, I told you to give it to me.”
“With pleasure,” Francis drew back his fist.
“Uh-uh,” Amadeus shook a finger, “we’re surrounded by people, remember. A fight breaks out between us dear boy and you’ll be spending the night in a cell.”
“So let’s take this outside,” Adelaide stepped forward.
“You want to?” Amadeus seemed pleasantly surprised, “great, knock yourself out. Let’s go.”
Adelaide saw his smile and hastily reconsidered that proposal. She stepped back and looked at Francis. He was staring at Amadeus with a mixture of hostility and fear. Slowly he shook his head.
“Really?” Amadeus sighed, “fine. We’ll just have to wait until this place clears out. Then we can really get down to business, huh? Until then, none of you are leaving. That includes you Alexis and… whoever you are.”
“Rude,” Anna frowned.
“We’ll be covering the exits,” Amadeus smiled, “don’t think of trying to escape us. See you later then, I suppose. I’m looking forward to it.”
He turned and moved off through the isles. A gaggle of teenage girls gawped as he went past. Rick hurried off after him and Sam turned to go as well.
“Wait,” Francis said, “sorry, it’s just… seeing myself is super weird.”
Sam looked back at him and nodded. They rippled and shifted into a short woman with a wild frizz of hair before wandering off down the isle. Francis swallowed hard and Adelaide saw that he had gone incredibly pale.
“Sorry,” he mumbled, “it’s just the sight of yourself shifting into somebody else is hugely disconcerting. You have no idea.”
“It was pretty weird,” Anna folded her arms, “who the hell were those guys anyway? What are you two mixed up in?”
“It’s pretty complex,” she replied, “basically that guy wants to get hold of the thing Francis has in that bag there, and if he gets it he’s going to do some weird and nasty things with it. We, the heroes, want to stop it. Speaking of the Source, how’s it doing Francis.”
“It’s pretty quiet,” Francis held up the bag and stared through the thing plastic at the dark shape of the creature within, “which is super weird considering it’s an animal we’re carrying around in a small enclosed space. I think it must be used to this or something.”
“It likes you,” Adelaide said, “maybe that’s got something to do with your blood reviving it. Maybe it’s got a taste for you now.”
“Don’t,” Francis shivered. He looked in the direction that Amadeus had gone, “I’m worried about enough stuff as it is.”