“Hey Francis, what’s up?”
Francis looked up absent-mindedly. Placing her tray down opposite him Adelaide sat and leaned an arm on the table top.
“You look morose,” she said, “more so than usual, I mean.”
“Thanks,” he rolled his eyes. “You’re not wrong, though. I’m having a moral quandary.”
Adelaide picked up her knife and fork and started eating. Francis eyed her plate, irritated.
“Hey,” he said, “if you didn’t want to know you didn’t have to ask.”
Adelaide widened her eyes and shook her head, mouth full of spaghetti. After a few seconds she finished chewing and was able to reply.
“No, I’m listening,” she said, “I just don’t want to get stuck listening to you moaning on an empty stomach. Do continue.”
“I’m really being smothered by this charm offensive you’re trying,” Francis snorted. He stared sullenly at his packet of crisps for a few moments before he continued. “I’m having problems with my power.”
“Like what?” Adelaide said, twisting her fork around so the spaghetti wrapped around it, “Is it not working? Is it working too much? You don’t seem like you’re falling through the table right now.”
“No,” Francis shook his head, “during the fight we had with Amadeus I was able to reach into the Source’s head and remove a bullet from its brain. I’m just thinking about the implications of that. That’s all.”
“What implications? Did you get brain juice on your hands?”
“No,” Francis looked exasperated. Adelaide grinned and he punched her on the arm lightly, “No I was just wondering whether I’d be able to do it again, that’s all. Because if I could regularly use my power to remove bullets, shrapnel and other stuff from people… does that mean I have to?”
“Ohhhh…” Adelaide nodded, “I see. Right. If you could do your thing with that kind of certainty you could become the world’s greatest surgeon. That would be great though, right?”
“Not if I want to spend my life as an accountant,” Francis said, “don’t laugh, I’m serious. I don’t like… medical stuff. The very idea of putting my hand into someone makes me deeply squeamish. I mean you might as well have been right about that whole brain juice thing considering how I felt after I took that bullet out.”
There was a pause. Adelaide sipped her glass of water and eyed Francis contemplatively.
“Well,” she mused, “let’s think this through. I mean, could you do it again if you wanted to?”
“I don’t know,” Francis shrugged, “my power is like any super-human ability. It fluctuates all the time. Sometimes I can barely control it, other times, rarely, it does exactly what I want it to.”
“Could you improve it? Could you practice until it was more reliable.”
“Probably,” he replied, “I wasn’t always able to phase with my clothes or carrying small objects. Back in primary school I wasn’t able to control it so well, so my uniform would completely fall off whenever I got startled. I had to learn to phase with my clothes. That was super embarrassing.”
Adelaide nodded, eyebrows raised.
“I can imagine.”
“Please don’t,” Francis frowned, “the thing is I know that if I practiced hard enough I could probably get to the stage where I was able to pretty much take bullets out of people at will. Does that mean I have an obligation to? Does my ability to better society mean I’m obliged to use my power?”
“Okay, okay,” Adelaide tapped the side of her glass with her fingernails and took a deeper draft of water, “think about it like this. You don’t have an obligation to steal from people’s houses, do you?”
“No,” Francis shook his head, “but that’s not really the same. Besides my power isn’t that useful when it comes to stealing from people. I mean, sure, I can get in through locked doors, but they’re not really the main problem for a criminal. The problem is getting caught, not getting in. In fact, it would probably be better if I didn’t use my powers. It doesn’t take Jonathan Creek to figure out that if a robbery’s been committed and there’s no sign of forced entry then it’s probably the guy who can walk through walls.”
“Who’s Jonathan Creek?”
“Doesn’t matter,” Francis sighed, “you see my problem, right?”
“Yeah,” Adelaide nodded, “yeah. Sorry, I’ve been messing with you. I do see your difficulty. I can’t say it’s easy but… think about it like this. Sure, sure you could do good to society by using your power to help people in surgery. You could save lives, fix broken relationships, all that stuff…”
“Get on with it,” Francis said, “you’re making it worse.”
“Well,” Adelaide continued, “surely you could do great good as an accountant as well? Honestly, I don’t know whether that job in particular provides great societal good but I’m sure if I did some research I’d be surprised. Really whatever path you take, as long as you work hard enough at it and you’re not directly doing bad, that’s good. This makes sense right?”
“Yeah,” Francis nodded, “I see, I think, anyway.”
“Forge your own destiny,” Adelaide punched the air, “do good whatever you are. Change the world!”
“That’s nice,” Emma sat down next to them, “what’s up, morons? Having problems reconciling yourself with your weird-y power Francis?”
“Uh,” Francis groaned, “don’t.”
“Moral quandaries are fun,” Emma grinned, “for example every morning I get up, look in the mirror and think to myself ‘should I be using my power for good? Does my duty to society mean I have to become a fire eater?”
“That’s not the same,” Francis practically bristled. Emma laughed and slapped him on the back.
“I know,” she said, “but check this.”
Picking up a cocktail stick from her lunchbox that had been used to pin a piece of tinfoil shut, Emma set it alight, glancing around to make sure no-one noticed the brief flash of flame that leapt up her fingers. Lifting it she popped the burning cocktail stick in her mouth and swallowed it. Adelaide and Francis both applauded.
“Nice,” said Francis.
“Does that solve your problem?” Emma said.
“No,” Francis smiled, “but don’t worry, I’m feeling pretty good.”