“Hand over your Tri-Medals. Now.”
Kato and her companions had their weapons drawn, covering the three of them.
Justin simply stood there, fists quivering.
“Don’t try anything,” Chase told them, “and no one gets hurt.” Retraining his sawed-off disrupter rifle for emphasis.
“Hey! What gives!?” Justin demanded, seeing Benton all over again.
“I believe it’s called a double-cross,” Shades muttered. He had seen this scene in so many books and movies, on TV… I should have seen this coming… Of course, he had meant to keep an eye on her from the start; instead, he and his friends ended up becoming so preoccupied with their predicaments in the Building… “You never really meant to team up with us, did you?”
For his part, Max stood there silently. For the first time in his life, he felt the between-the-shoulders sting of betrayal.
“I should have known…” Justin muttered. He should have remembered that he was dealing with a fellow opportunist. She had what she wanted, had her Triad at her back; she had her end of the deal. He resented her for even having friends to back her up, but also felt bad about dragging Max down with him. “Only a Cyexian would kick you when you’re down…” Then again, now that he thought about it, all three of them somehow managed to get out of the Building ahead of him, apparently far enough ahead of them to recover and get their act together. “Bitch. You used us…”
Kato held out her hand as she stepped in front of Shades. Who cautiously removed his medallion and handed it to her, careful not to make any sudden moves. “The card too,” she added, remembering the mysterious card he had paid off their damages at the Library with the other day, and he handed her that, as well. She then turned to Max, who stared at her in unflinching defiance.
As she glared at him, Max refused to budge, so she took the medallion by the chain, giving it a good hard yank.
“We trusted you…” Max said quietly, contemptuously.
“I didn’t want to fight you guys…” Kato muttered, trying to ignore the awkwardness she now discovered in betraying someone she had fought and risked her life alongside of, just kept telling herself this was for the Triad. “But I already have my own crew.”
“And to think, we saved your ass back at the library…” Shades hissed, then turned on Justin, saying, “I thought you said we could trust these guys!”
“And you said to give her the benefit of the doubt!” Justin couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “You bastard! Don’t you dare try to blame this all on me!”
“Don’t you try to weasel your way out of this!” Shades shot back. “And you even told her about my fuckin’ card!”
“Uh… guys…” Max looked back and forth between his friends, trying to figure out what to say. “Don’t you think—”
“Shut up, asshole!” Justin didn’t like to admit that this was partly his mess, which was usually his cue to duck out, but he was not going to let Max’s new friend lay all of the blame at his feet. “If you hadn’t taken so long—”
While Max fumed, and Justin ranted, and the Triad just gaped, taken aback by this heated argument, Shades lashed out and shoved Justin, who stumbled back, then lunged at Shades with a snarl of rage.
Before Max could make a move to break it up, Shades sidestepped and tripped Justin. From out of his jacket pocket he produced one of the “laser tonfa” he found in the Building, snapping it out and taking the barrel off of Kato’s power pistol. Max blinked at Shades’ new weapon, then decided this was their only chance to act. While Chase re-aimed his sawed-off disrupter rifle, George stood blank, and Bandit sprang at Chase, knocking him down. Just as George was recovering his initiative, Max jumped in and kicked him down even as he made his belated move.
When Chase lashed out with his rifle butt, knocking Bandit back with a snarl of pain, Max rounded on him with another vicious kick.
Meanwhile, Justin stood with his fists clenched, glaring back and forth between Shades and Kato, unable to decide who he wanted to kill more. Before he could make up his mind, though, Kato threw what was left of her pistol at Shades and bolted.
“Come on, guys!” she shouted over her shoulder as she ran, “We got what we came for!”
Even as Justin drew, Chase rolled over, pulling a grenade from his coat of arms, then scrambling away. Max turned belatedly from George to find himself caught in an expanding cloud of smoke. George stumbled out of that smokescreen and joined his friends as they ran, his two companions laughing wildly.
“Dammit!” Justin coughed, no longer able to see where to aim.
As they staggered out from the smoke cloud, the Triad already had more than a block’s lead on them, a strong head start.
Before anyone could think of a plan, they found themselves hot on the Triads’ heels. Shades held the lead with Bandit, closely followed by Justin. Max, who would ordinarily be in front, hung back, his wounded ankle sore and aching, yet he kept on anyway.
Bandit was pressed back at the corner when Chase started firing over his shoulder. In spite of this, they were gradually gaining on their quarry. Chase quickly gave up shooting and focused on running, but it made little difference.
Just when Kato and her crew were starting to flag, and it looked like Max and the others might catch up, she changed tactics. Signaling her friends, she jumped out in front of a passing car. When the driver slammed on the brakes, Chase hardly gave the poor man a second to bitch her out, opening the door and throwing him out on the sidewalk, holding him at gunpoint while the others hopped aboard. Then he jumped in and they peeled out, only seconds before their pursuers could reach the car.
“Shit! They’re gettin’ away!” Justin drew.
“Taxi!” Shades called, waving to a green car approaching them, emulating Kato. As they all piled in, he didn’t give the driver a chance to comment on Bandit, telling him, “Follow that car!”
Bandit found himself scrunched on the floor, and Max sandwiched in the middle. Justin rolled down the window on his side, as Shades did his, commenting, “I always wanted to say that…”
“Hurry up!” Justin shouted at the cabby, again pulling his double-barrel power pistols. “If you lose ’em, you won’t get anything!”
“Justin…” Max looked at his friend strangely.
“I’ll double your fare if you step on it,” Shades cut in.
And the driver did, beginning to close the gap. At least their driver was a good one, weaving through traffic while hardly even touching the brakes, as well as knowing the streets of Centralict better than the Triad. Still, Kato drove with reckless abandon, pushing the limits of both drivers’ legality.
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Chapter notes: double-crossed