Amadeus emptied the syringe into the water bottle and screwed the lid on. He placed it on the ground in front of him in a pile with the other bottles, canisters and needles he’d been preparing for the past half hour. Looking up he caught Anna’s confused and terrified eye and smiled.
“All in the spirit of experimentation,” he explained, “I need to know the best way of administering this stuff, you see.”
They were on one of the lower floors of the shopping centre, the space a lot darker now that night had fallen completely. Amadeus had encountered a security guard coming down the escalator. His prone form lay a few metres away, arms spreadeagled.
Alexis and Anna were tied to the pot of a large ornamental plant. They sat on either side of it, arms wrapped around the pot and held in place with phone charger cables that Amadeus had taken from a phone shop. He seemed to have a somewhat blasé attitude to just stealing whatever he wanted.
“Have you ever heard of Alistair Romero?” Amadeus said. He looked over at them, his eyes glowing in the dark. Anna shook her head. She heard Alexis struggle against his bonds and try to turn around to look at Amadeus.
“Oh of course you’ve heard of him, Alexis,” Amadeus nodded, “The erstwhile Director of Extra-Normal Relations. Your uncle, my father. A genius if ever there was one.”
“He was insane,” Alexis murmured, “he experimented on his own kid.”
“Hah,” Amadeus strode around the plant pot and bent down so that he was looking Alexis in the eyes. “you’re just jealous. Jealous that it was my father who discovered the Source and that it was I who received its blessing. Jealous that your own parents’ piddling experiments never achieved anything.”
Alexis was silent for a few moments. Then he spat at Amadeus’ feet.
“No,” he said, “I’m glad I never turned out like you.”
With a growl of annoyance Amadeus kicked Alexis, making him shriek and whimper in pain.
“Well not for much longer,” he said, “my father’s legacy is soon to be continued by you two. I have worked for this for so long, to have it finally come to fruition in this, it’s… well it’s glorious. My father was a man of vision, his imprisonment a travesty. When that… that… idiot new Director took the helm, she set about destroying everything that he had made. I vowed that nothing he had worked for would be in vain. She treated his work like it was madness, serving only herself and nobody else. She allowed the Department to stagnate.”
Stepping over to the pile of objects on the floor he selected a water bottle and held it up. The blood of the Source inside had started to congeal. On the floor next to him the Source slept in its cage, its breaths coming small and fast. Amadeus had taken a lot of blood from it in the past half hour, only stopping when it had started to whine pitifully at the very sight of the needle.
Kneeling down, Amadeus flipped the cap of the water bottle and extended it to Anna.
“Drink,” he said, “drink and seal your fate. Become a part of the glorious revolution. Carve your name forever into history.”
Seeing Anna’s hesitance, he grasped her around the throat.
“Drink,” he hissed, “and have a future.”
He shoved the bottle forward and, eyes wide, Anna drank. The blood was thick and sweet. It didn’t taste of iron, but it had a strange aftertaste, like burnt wood.
“We must see whether this way is more or less effective than injection,” Amadeus said, straightening up, “I rather suspect it will be less potent, but experimentation is important.”
A moan drifted up from Anna. She was doubled over, groaning in pain. Her body felt as though it were on fire, her every vein burning as though her blood had been drawn out and replaced with liquid metal. She felt as though she were being scoured from the inside.
“Pain is unusual,” Amadeus observed, “not a good sign. Ah well, that is why we test things, I suppose. Locate problems, smooth out inconsistencies. It could well be that this brings out better results.”
The agony that seared in Anna’s veins suddenly seemed to withdraw, funneling itself into two points on her shoulder blades. Anna gritted her teeth, tears brimming in her eyes. Her breath came in gasps.
Finally, with a terrible spear of white hot torment juddering through her, Anna let out an agonised scream. Instantly relief washed over her, a soothing balm. She exhaled slowly and breathed in raggedly.
“Remarkable,” Amadeus said. He extended a hand and helped Anna to her feet. She realised that her bonds lay on the floor, broken apart. Slowly, she became aware of an odd sensation in her back.
“A mirror, perhaps,” Amadeus said. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a little hand mirror. Flipping it open he angled it towards Anna, “observe your beauty, my dear.”
Staring at the tiny surface of the mirror, Anna’s eyes widened in shock. Behind her, throwing her into shadow, two large wings sprouted from her back. The feathers were as white as snow and speckled with the crimson red of her blood. She exhaled slowly.
“I have… wings?” She said, “I have freaking wings!”
“Stunning,” Amadeus mused, “and unexpected.”
After a few moments, sensation surged into the muscles of Anna’s back and she could feel them there, like an extra pair of arms. With a grunt of effort, she spread them. Then she fell to the ground. Damn it, they were super heavy. Amadeus smirked.
“Oh, yes,” he said, “I see your problem. Your shoulder muscles aren’t really strong enough to flap those things with sufficient force to get you off the ground. Sorry about that.”
Anna glared at him.
“So,” she breathed, “your stupid experiment gave me wings, but didn’t let me fly. You moron. You absolute moron.”
“Nothing another dose of blood can’t fix,” Amadeus smiled, “welcome to the new generation of super-humans, by the way.”
Clenching her fists Anna snarled. Tilting her body slightly she shot out her left wing. It smashed into Amadeus, knocking him off his feet. He fell into the pile of bottles and containers, many of which shattered as he fell into them, spurting blood everywhere.
“Hey,” Anna grinned, “at least they have one use.”