Lydia stopped. She was a little out of breath. Even she hadn’t known that she could run that fast. Entering the sports shop hurriedly she scanned the shelves for the staircase to the floor above, the one Adelaide had told her about. Spotting it between the rows of racks of sports clothing and shelves of boots, she rushed for it.
Reaching it, she skidded to a stop. At the bottom of the stairs a figure sat, chin resting on his knees. Alexis.
“What are you doing here?” She asked, voice filled with sudden panic. He looked up and smiled to see her.
“I ran here as fast as I could,” he said, “the others tried to stop me… they’re all pretty beat up. But I have to see this through.”
Amadeus walked up behind them, examining a fingernail idly. He grinned at their expressions.
“Oh come on?” He said, “You’re not actually surprised are you? Now, I assume Adelaide and the others are headed upstairs with the Source, right? Trying to flee, huh? Well they had quite the head start but I’ve caught up. They’re pretty slow, I’ll be honest. It’s a big centre, I suppose, and they had to deal with the weight of an unconscious winged human.”
“Right,” Lydia nodded, “you know that’s super interesting? Why don’t we -uh- talk about it? How does it make you… feel?”
“Heh,” Amadeus didn’t bother to inject any amusement into the chuckle, “nice try. Get out of my way.”
He stepped forward and raised a fist. Lydia cringed and stepped back. Then she glanced behind her and saw Alexis. Turning back to Amadeus, she drew back her lips into what she thought might be a convincing snarl.
“Bite me,” she said.
There was a brief silence.
“On second thoughts,” Lydia said, “don’t worry. I’ll bite you.”
She lunged. Amadeus swatted her out of the way. With a bored expression he marched towards the stairs. Reaching the bottom he looked up them and stopped in his tracks.
Standing at the top of the stairs were Adelaide, Francis and the Knight. The latter pointed a pistol at his head, the former held a cricket bat at the ready. Francis had tight hold of the Source, out of its cage. It didn’t seem too bothered about being held by him, though it growled under its breath whenever he moved too close to the Knight or Adelaide.
“Hey sucker,” Adelaide called down, “did you just walk right into our trap?”
“If you have a trap I don’t see it,” Amadeus replied.
“You followed Lydia expecting to find us unprotected and vulnerable, instead you found…”
“You, unprotected and vulnerable,” Amadeus shrugged, “big whoop. Don’t think shooting me will work, it didn’t the first time. Really Adelaide, you should know better than to take me on with a cricket bat. As for Francis… he’s going to, what? Walk through me to death? Truly, I’m trembling in my boots.”
“Man, it’s always me me me with you isn’t it?” Adelaide sighed, “You can’t think about anyone else, can you? Who’s got to be the first guy to try out Source blood? Who’s got to be the bringer of the new dawn? Who’s got to beat us all up without any help? Goodness, is it you? You do shock me.”
Stepping over to Francis she gestured to the creature he held in his hands. It looked up at her and growled suspiciously.
“I used to be like you,” she said, “but being a leader does weird stuff to you. You learn that it’s not you that’s important, it’s the whole damn team. You have to care about what they care about, worry about what they worry about. You have to understand them and you have to like them.”
“Nice speech,” Amadeus rolled his eyes, “can we get to the me beating you up part? I love that bit.”
“No one said you couldn’t,” Adelaide smiled, “your only reason for not attacking us is so you can listen to me talk and feel superior, which is sad on so many levels. Besides, you want to know my big plan, don’t you? Just so you can mock it.”
“We have a plan?” Lydia said.
“Yeah,” Adelaide frowned, “the plan we always had right from the very start, that I absolutely didn’t just come up with on the spot, Lydia.”
“Just tell me,” Amadeus stepped forward, placing his foot on the top step, “this is painful enough as it is.”
“Remember how I found the notes that my great-great-something-grandfather made on the Source?” Adelaide said, “No, I know, neither did I until a few minutes ago. They turned out to be basically useless since Francis figured out how to wake up the Source by accident. The thing is, I read them. Don’t imagine I’d just hand over such powerful stuff to the Director without taking a look myself.”
“So my ancestor gave a detailed description of the creature,” Adelaide pointed to it, “and it certainly wasn’t that tiny little thing. Or at least not the second time he encountered it. See he described how the thing could grow and shrink, get huge and dangerous or tiny like this. He said he thought the more threatened the creature became the more powerful it got. That creepy picture on the front of the notes was his rendition of the monster, I can’t believe I didn’t think about it before. It means that something is stopping it from going all crazy rage mode. A little more reading revealed what it is. My ancestor shot it: there’s a bullet lodged in its skull that we didn’t notice. That’s somehow inhibiting its crazy Source-y powers.”
Amadeus nodded. He tried hard to hide the fact that he was slightly impressed.
“So what are you going to do?” He said. Adelaide made a theatrical bow and pointed at Francis. He stepped forward and placed one of his hands on the back of the Source’s head.
“Francis here is going to attempt a never before performed procedure,” Adelaide said, “he’s going to reach into the Source’s head, grab the bullet while still phasing and pull it out.”
Gritting his teeth, Francis shoved his hand into the Source’s head. The creature’s eyes widened and it squirmed in discomfort. A bead of sweat trickled down Francis’ forehead.
“You can do this,” Adelaide whispered to him.
“Woo! Francis! Go Francis!” Called Alexis simultaneously.
“Please don’t distract me,” Francis muttered.
“That’s all very well,” Amadeus started to mount the stairs, getting closer and closer to them, “but what are you going to do with the thing once you’ve taken the bullet out of its head?”
With a grunt of effort, Francis wrenched his hand from the creature’s skull. The Source squawked in pain and confusion. Flicking the bloody bullet over his shoulder, Francis looked down at approaching Amadeus with a condescending grin.
“This,” he said, and threw the Source at him.