Shifting away some of the basketballs, Adelaide and Francis carefully lifted Anna onto the rack. Francis placed a rolled up rugby shirt as a cushion under her head.
“I feel like we’re probably going to get convicted of serious property damage even if we do somehow manage to stop Amadeus,” he said with a grim smile.
“Focus on the matter at hand,” Adelaide replied, “if we can beat him, that will be great. We can think about other stuff later. We just need to think of how.”
“You mean you don’t have a plan?” Francis stared at her, wide eyed, “I thought you had a plan. Wasn’t splitting us up into little teams the plan?”
“That’s just to slow him down,” Adelaide said, “thing is, we can’t actually fight him. He showed us we can’t. The others are getting at him by taking him on in ways that he doesn’t expect and can’t respond to. They’re using every trick in the whole damn book of tricks. But as long as he can find how punch his way out there’s nothing we can actually do to get him. We’ve just got to hope he keeps on falling for it so we can come up with what to do.”
The Knight was leaning against a shelf of sports shoes. She swung a pistol around idly around on one of her fingers. She hadn’t helped lift Anna on to the ball rack, instead observing her wings with a mixture of fascination and horror. Now she smiled.
“Go on,” Francis said cooly.
“I’m willing to bet a bullet to his brain still brings him down,” the Knight replied. She met his gaze.
“How did that work out last time?”
“I was too slow,” she scowled, “I won’t be if I get another chance. His new powers fluctuate I think. Sometimes he moved faster than my bullets ever could be, but other times he was as slow as before his injection. Besides, he’s still getting used to them. He’s still vulnerable. Now we can take him out. All I need is a distraction. You’ll do.”
“Oh I’ll happily be the punchbag for an insane psychopathic super-human god thing… or whatever the hell he is now,” Francis flung his arms wide.
“I was being sarcastic!” Francis clenched his fists in exasperation. The Knight snarled and stepped over to him. There was something wolf-like about her gait. She prowled. Leaning down so that she was at eye level with Francis, she spoke in a hushed tone.
“Listen you,” she hissed, spittle almost flying from her mouth, “I will not be drawn into an argument with a upstart little sub-human.”
Francis’ expression was stony.
“How dare you,” was all he said, his voice very quiet.
“Guys!” Adelaide moved between them and pushed them apart, “this is really, really not a good time to be arguing. Amadeus could be baring down on us any minute now.”
Francis ignored her. He stuck an accusatory finger out at the Knight.
“What is your problem?” He said, his voice rising, “I’m on your side, I’m on your freaking side. How can you keep regurgitating this… this… rubbish? I’m just like anyone, I’m just like you. No… no, I’m better than you’ll ever be. How can you be like this?”
For a moment, it looked as though the Knight might relent. A strange expression came into her eyes, a sadness that seemed to make her stop short. Then she hardened and was granite once more.
“If you’ve seen the things I’ve seen,” she shook her head, “you’d know that no super-human can ever be good. That kind of power always corrupts. I’ve seen it corrupt even those with noble intentions. No one is safe. No one is ever safe. Surely you can see this? Look at Amadeus. What has power done to him? You’re right, we’re on the same team, fighting the same enemy. An enemy bloated on his own might, engorged with this dreadful, hateful strength.”
“Just because we’re fighting the same foe doesn’t mean I agree with you,” Francis said, “look, you’re right, power corrupts, I know. Trust me, I’ve seen it just as much as you have. But we don’t all embrace our power, some of us don’t want any of it.”
“Ridiculous,” the Knight turned away. For a second it looked as though Francis was about to run at her. Adelaide reached across and put a restraining hand on her shoulder. He looked back, saw her expression and seemed to haul his emotion under control. He nodded and brushed her hand off.
When they looked up the Knight had crossed over to the cage containing the Source. Adelaide had placed it on the floor when Francis had helped her to lift Anna on to the basketball rack. The Source was beginning to wake up, shaking itself off.
“We should put a bullet into this thing,” the Knight said quietly, “end all the trouble it’s caused.”
She picked up the cage. The creature inside saw her face and suddenly started to growl. Its eyes flared suddenly and it began to thrash around wildly, scratching at the Knight’s face. She snarled and dropped the cage. It landed with a crash on the floor, startling its contents into silence.
The Knight took a step back and aimed her pistol at the cage.
“Wait!” Adelaide cried.
The Knight looked back at her.
“Come on,” she said, “even you have to admit this thing’s caused a lot of trouble. Better to remove it from the picture before anyone else can drink its blood or do whatever bizarre experiments they want on it.”
“No, forget that.” Adelaide waved her hand impatiently, “I just had a thought. In fact, I think I might have a plan. One that’s much more likely to work than shooting Amadeus.”
Francis and the Knight each moved towards her. Adelaide grinned and her excitement was infectious.
“We need to ask ourselves one important question,” Adelaide said, looking over at the Source, “why the heck is that thing so small?”