the streets of Centralict
Kato strode down the street, more annoyed than usual with her friends.
At times like this, she felt more like their babysitter than their leader. It was hardly the first time she found herself having to hunt those two down, but this time was totally different. While they were off getting themselves in trouble somewhere, she had hit on the find of a lifetime. Two of the legendary Tri-Medals in one day.
Even in the midst of her irritation, she found she couldn’t help thinking that Chase was gonna shit a brick, and George would be overjoyed.
And to think that Chase was the one who shrugged off the library as a needle in a haystack. So when it was time to make a plan, he was nowhere to be found, and George— who she now believed should have stuck with her for that errand— had tagged along with him. She knew she couldn’t trust either of them to stay put for long, yet she had sincerely hoped they would have found something to do at the library while she was doing all of the dirty work. Now, instead of working on translating the complete set, she was walking all over Centralict Island looking for them. Knowing him, she wondered dryly if she should start with the local jail.
I can’t take that guy anywhere…
On the other hand, these other three she was working with seemed to know how to get things done. Justin was close to being equal in the running-and-gunning department; this Shades had yet to show his true meddle, she suspected, but was quick enough with unorthodox tactics; Max, she couldn’t make up her mind whether or not she wished what she had seen was the limit of his fighting skills. After seeing them in action, she feared her team had become lazy.
And she wasn’t so sure she liked that panther, especially since it didn’t seem to like her.
When she spotted a street café they had seen the day before, she realized just how long it had been since she had last eaten. Her excitement was beginning to wan along with her strength, so she decided to have a bite to eat with her inquiry. If this turned out to be a good spot, they might frequent it while working on their research later. Perhaps that Shades fellow would be willing to treat them.
Deciding to put business first, she asked the waiter, “Excuse me, have you seen my friends?”
“Would you mind being more specific?”
“As I was about to say,” Kato went on, “one’s about this tall, wearing a big coat and a wide-brim hat, and the other’s a short guy with funny hair who doesn’t speak…”
She trailed off, seeing the waiter’s expression.
“Them?” the waiter intoned, and she could tell from the look of disdain on his face that she had the right party. “The rudest people I’ve ever met. The guy with the hat tried to swindle me, and then that little brat with the funny hair flipped me off!”
“He’ll do that.”
Then he finished with one Kato had scarcely heard for the first time: “If you find them, tell them they’re not welcome here anymore.”
Kato decided that the waiter had asked for it, striking her as pretty stuck-up. Then the important part: “Do you happen to know which way they went?”
“How the hell would I know? I don’t care where they go as long as it’s not here.”
“You’re no good,” Kato decided out loud, turning and continuing on her way. So much for lunches at the café during their research… Maybe she should try to find a tourist directory of local “haunted” places; when he wasn’t causing trouble with other people, Chase was usually poking around in strange places. Old houses, abandoned buildings, weird shops— she had no idea where he found them all. “Have a nice day, asshole!”
She flipped him the bird as she walked away.
Even as she did so, a horrid thought crossed her mind. Weird places… No. He didn’t. Don’t even go there. Of course, most of Chase’s destinations turned out to be duds, but every once in a while, he managed to find something real, and those incidents were always the worst. If Chase and George had blundered into Tranz-D behind her, she wasn’t so sure she even could persuade her new companions to venture back into that twisted place.
After seeing Justin and NK-525, she was not sure even she could face the nightmare again.