Lee’s eyes snapped open as he fell backwards. Price jumped to catch him and grabbed him by the shoulders. After a second Lee managed to find his footing and steadied himself.
“Are you alright? What the hell’s going on in there?” Price said, gesturing to Amadeus and Julian, still locked in a motionless embrace. Julian’s tentacles had begun to quiver slightly.
“We’re losing,” Lee grunted. He saw Price’s expression and shook his head, “don’t worry, it’s fine. We were only ever a distraction. You just have to look at that guy’s mind to know there’s nothing we can do there. It’s moving like a runaway train on drugs.”
“He’s inexperienced,” Lee frowned, “he’s trying to do surgery with a sledgehammer. We can slow him down. We were never going to beat him here. It’s cool, just remember the plan.”
Price nodded. Before he could say anything there was a muffled snort of rage from Amadeus. A second later Julian was skidding across the floor.
“Sorry guys,” his voice echoed in their minds, “he’s out.”
“Where… is… the… Source?” Roared Amadeus.
“Okay,” Price cracked his knuckles, “this is my area.”
Amadeus turned and received a punch to the face. There was a snapping sound as his nose broke. Price wound up for a second swing but a bolt of lighting struck him in the chest and he doubled up.
Amadeus stepped forward and brought a fist slamming down towards Price’s skull. Before it could connect, it froze in midair and hovered a few inches above. Lee and Julian stood either side, hands extended. Price smirked and brought a knee up between Amadeus’ legs, making him wince. Twisting his head Amadeus forced Julian to duck out of the way of an arc of lightning and, freed from their psychic grasp, Amadeus sent a fist smashing into Price’s chest. The agent slumped the ground, winded.
Amadeus exhaled heavily and held up his hand.
“Come now guys,” he said, “we all know how this ends. Tell me where the Source is and none of your bones need to get broken.”
“Never,” Lee said.
“Hmm?” Amadeus looked at him. A blur of movement and he was at his side, Lee’s hand held tightly within his own. “Maybe you’ll be more talkative once I’ve broken all of your fingers.”
“No,” Julian shook his head, “don’t, I’ll tell you were it’s being taken. It’s not far.”
“Don’t tell him Julian I’m fine,” Lee grimaced over Amadeus’ shoulder.
“It’s okay kid,” Julian said, “Adelaide and the others can look after themselves. They’re headed for the food court, going to try and defend themselves there until they can call the police.”
Amadeus looked from Lee to Julian and from Julian to Lee again. Then he smirked.
“You seriously expect me to believe that? You’re psychics, you talk without my hearing. There’s no way you’re telling the truth.”
He turned to Price and, with a jerk, hauled Lee into the air by his hand. Reaching up he grasped one of Lee’s fingers and twisted. There was a sharp cracking sound and Lee clamped his teeth together hard, his eyes filling with tears.
“You’ve always been weak of heart Price,” Amadeus said, “tell me where they are or I will break more of Lee’s bones. It won’t be the fingers next time.”
Price had hauled himself to his feet. Smoke rose from the burn mark in his clothes and he wore a pained expression. He raised a hand, curled into a fist, but winced and allowed his arm to drop to his side. Amadeus smiled thinly and stared him down. For a long time neither of them said anything.
“They’re in the health and beauty products store on the floor above,” Price said, “they thought there was an exit there.”
Amadeus nodded and dropped Lee, who landed in a forlorn heap. Rubbing his hands together, Amadeus moved to go.
Diving out from behind the plant pot, Alexis ran in front of Amadeus. He carried a spray can which Amadeus had filled with Source blood, one of the few survivors of Amadeus’ fall into the pile of bottles.
“Oh come on,” Amadeus groaned, “I am so bored of fighting you guys. Come on then Alexis, power yourself up, do your worst.”
Raising the spray can, Alexis shook it and sprayed a fine mist of Source blood into his own face. He inhaled deeply. Then his face constricted with pain and he made a sharp intake of breath. For a moment he just stood there, breathing deeply.
“Was…” Amadeus said, “was that it? Anything else?”
Alexis looked down at himself, as though expecting something to have happened. He stared at his hands, a mixture of bewilderment and horror colouring his expression.
“What?” Panic filled his voice, “But… but…”
“Aww,” Amadeus chuckled, “did little Alexis want to get himself some sweet powers? Well too bad. I guess the spray can doesn’t work, too little blood I suppose. Well, you can always lick some of it off the ground.”
Sinking to his knees, Alexis clamped his eyes shut and rolled himself into a ball. Amadeus shrugged and walked past him, picking up his step to a run as he moved off towards the nearest escalator.
Lee, Price and Julian watched him go. They exchanged weary glances. Then they burst out laughing. Alexis, lying on the floor, uncurled himself and looked up at them.
“What’s so funny?” He said weakly, “Guys, he’s going to find Adelaide and the Source. He’s going to win.”
“Nope,” Lee said, in uncharacteristic hysterics, “he’s going to find team two. A team that consists of Lydia, Rachel and Emma. A team that is going to be very, very angry with him. That guy is really a moron… has he never heard of a double bluff?”
“I think he assumed I was a moron,” Price shrugged, “it’s an impression I like to cultivate.”
“Well you certainly fooled him,” Julian said, “when I become the next Director of Extra-Normal relations Price, consider yourself promoted.”
“You’ll be the least morally questionable boss I’ve ever worked for,” replied Price, giving him a mock salute, “which isn’t a very high bar.”
Alexis watched them laughing and joking and smiled to himself. Then he looked down at his hands again, and felt tears surge to his eyes. Why could things never go his way?