The nights were no longer quite as dark as they had been, so the shopping centre was neither shadowy nor particularly shrouded with a sinister atmosphere.
All of the shoppers had left and the attendants were just finishing shutting up shop when Adelaide started to feel pins and needles in her legs. She was hiding in the toilets, cramped into the corner of a cubicle and honestly surprised that she hadn’t been found by any of the cleaners who’d been through the place and whom she’d athletically avoided by climbing over the tops of the stalls.
There was the sound of a distant click and the light from the half open door Adelaide could see over the top of her stall went dim. Cautiously she exited the cubicle and headed out into the shopping centre.
Amadeus, Sam and Rick were waiting for her, standing in a circle in the middle of this floor, just by the escalators. Lee and Francis were also making their way towards the centre of the space. Standing next to Amadeus were Alexis and Anna, staring around nervously.
“So glad you didn’t try and run,” Amadeus said, “it makes this next bit easier.”
“I never said I’d hand over the Source,” Francis said, “over my dead body.”
“What about the dead bodies of your friends?” Amadeus gestured at Alexis and Anna.
“We haven’t known each other long,” Anna said, “but you’re already reminding me why I don’t date boys. Francis don’t give him anything, we’ll be fine.”
Alexis’ eyes went wide and he looked hurriedly from Anna to Amadeus. Then he seemed to come to some kind of decision and drew himself up to his full height.
“Yeah,” he said, “we will be fine. I always knew you were no good Amadeus, but I also know you wouldn’t kill anybody.”
A smile coloured Amadeus’ expression and he reached out and ruffled Alexis’ hair.
“I don’t need to kill you to force Francis to dance to my tune,” he said, “good thing is I don’t even need to do that. I took a little time to call some backup.”
Francis, who had been focused entirely on Amadeus, suddenly shouted with alarm. Something, moving in fast from behind, bowled him over and sent him crashing to the ground. Adelaide and Lee sprinted towards him, but it was too late. A figure arose from the floor, clutching the plastic bag in one hand, and moved in a blur of speed towards Amadeus.
Vesper handed the bag to him and he smiled.
“Excellent,” he said. there was a hearty coughing fit from the escalator as Coal came to the top and stepped off. Belching clouds of black smoke he meandered over to Amadeus.
“Well,” Amadeus nodded at him, “if that’s everything, we’ll be off.”
Before he could say anything else the noise of a shot echoed through the space. A bullet flew towards Amadeus and he smirked and twisted his head out of the way. Vesper lunged and pushed Coal to the ground. The bullet thudded into the floor with a crack as it connected with the tiling and sent shards of it flying into the air.
“Good shot, Knight,” Amadeus called, “but you’ll need to be faster than that.”
Agent Price reached the top of one of the escalators and charged at Amadeus, who snorted and gestured to Vesper and Coal who were getting to their feet unsteadily. They came in to meet Price, who ducked under Vesper’s blisteringly fast swipe and smashed a brass-coated fist into Coal’s belly.
“What the hell are you doing Price?” Amadeus shouted to him, “What do you possibly hope to achieve by this silly farce. You know I’m stronger than you, you know we’ll always be stronger.”
He turned and walked away.
“Rick, Sam,” he said over his shoulder, “you know what to do.”
Coal had breathed a cloud of smoke into Price’s face and had him in a headlock. Vesper was sending punches into his head that he only just deflected.
Adelaide hit her and Vesper shrieked and turned away from Price. He gasped and, rolling his body forward, managed to flip Coal over his back and send him crashing into the floor.
“Adelaide,” he said, catching his breath, “I thought you were working with Amadeus.”
“A little help,” she replied, before a blow from Vesper caught her in the cheek and snapped her head around, “and no,” she managed to gasp, “no way… he’s a psycho man.”
Vesper aimed another punch and Price hit her with a stomach tackle and they both went down. Coal rolled over and started to try and get up. Francis and Lee jumped up on his back simultaneously and he sunk back down to the floor.
Rick and Sam moved nervously into the fight. Before Rick could aim his first trembling fist, something seemed to make him freeze. Julian crested the elevator and stepped towards him slowly.
“You don’t have to fight us,” his voice hissed softly, “we’re not the bad guys here.”
Sam ran towards him, but the Knight came up the escalator beside Julian and pointed a pistol at their head. Their hands fell to their sides.
Grabbing Vesper by her arms and holding them behind her back Price hoisted her to her feet. Lee and Francis pulled Coal up in a similar way.
“So glad to see you, man,” Lee said to Julian.
“Good to see you’re safe kid,” Julian replied.
Emma, Rachel and Lydia were the last to reach the top of the escalator.
“Where’s Amadeus?” Rachel asked.
All eyes turned. Amadeus waved. He was standing next to Anna and Alexis, one arm wrapped around their shoulders. In the other hand he held up a syringe. The Source cage was on the floor next to him. The creature inside had wide eyes and was taking deep breaths. It was making little whimpering noises and stared at Francis with an almost pleading look.
“Alexis!” Lydia cried, “Let go of him!”
Emma stepped forward. She growled something and her hands ignited. Her face spoke all the words she needed.
“Oh I’ll let them both go,” Amadeus said, “just after I do this…”
He raised the syringe and flicked it expertly back so that it hovered above the vein of his arm.
“The Source’s blood,” he said, “potent enough once to turn me into this…”
He pushed the syringe into himself.
“…I wonder what will happen now?” He finished.
There was a stunned silence. Then, with a fizzing and crackling sound, Amadeus’ eyes ignited with blue, sparking lightning. He uncurled his arms from around Anna and Alexis.
“Okay,” his voice was filled with an almost blissful tone, “you have my full attention.”