Chapter 13:

Ch. 13: shopping district Part 2

Neo Discadia: Rise of the Sewer Rats

“You two are absolutely disgusting.” Erika said Bookmark here

Neo and Johnny both looked at Erika dismayedBookmark here

Johnny said with his mouth still full “what do you mean?”Bookmark here

“you know what I mean! Why are you dipping your french fries in ice cream?!”Bookmark here

Johnny and Neo looked at their food then back at ErikaBookmark here

“why wouldn't you dip your french fries in ice cream? It’s all going to the same place.” Neo saidBookmark here

“Ewww french fries and ice cream just don't go together. The dry crispy fries juxtaposed with the cold drippy ice cream, I just wasn't meant to be.”Bookmark here

“first of all, where are you going that your fries are dry and crispy? These things are soggy as hell”Bookmark here

“that's even worse!” Erika saysBookmark here

“look, French fries are dry salty, and starchy. Ice cream is wet, sweet, and creamy. French fries and ice cream are the perfect compliments to each other. Sweet and savory all in one.” Neo saidBookmark here

“Hmmmm I wanna try” Wendy saidBookmark here

“Wendy noooooo!” Erika tried to reach for the fry to stop her but it was too late. She had already eaten it. “Mmmmm that IS good” Bookmark here

“and just like that, another covert, am I the only one with taste around here?” Erika said lamenting her suffering. Bookmark here

too far away from the residential buffet, and too hungry to wait until they got home, the gang decided to eat out at one of the chain restaurants in the shopping district. Bookmark here

“So what do you say? You ready to go back” Neo saidBookmark here

“go back? we've barely gotten started!” Johnny said “we've gotta see what this town has to offer”Bookmark here

“I don't know, I'm worried” Neo saidBookmark here

“worried about what?” Johnny saidBookmark here

“you know what” Neo saidBookmark here

“don't you think if they were gonna show up, they would have shown up by now?” Johnny saidBookmark here

“he’s got a point” Erika said “our faces are in the airways, if they were gonna find out, then they probably already have. Which is to say, why haven’t they done anything yet.”Bookmark here

“it’s not like them to do things out in the open. they operate in the shadows. When no one’s looking, when you least expect it, that's when they strike.”Bookmark here

“that, oooooor, they gave up on hunting us down.” Erika saidBookmark here

“Yeah I like that one better” Johnny saidBookmark here

“yeah of course you would” Neo saidBookmark here

“relaaaax Neo, you know what they say, the bigger the party, the less eyes on you.” Johnny said gesturing towards the crowded streets “who’s gonna find us in this ocean?”Bookmark here

Neo let out a sigh. “well… I guess you’re right”Bookmark here

“yay! No more fighting!” Wendy saidBookmark here

“We weren’t fighting! We were merely arguing” Johnny saidBookmark here

“isn’t that just a different form of fighting?” Wendy saidBookmark here

Johnny tried to think of a counter but couldn't find any…Bookmark here

“she’s got you there Johnny boy” Erika saidBookmark here

“whatever! Let’s just go already my butts numb” Johnny saidBookmark here

“yeah, these chairs are not great” Neo saidBookmark here

the gang walked out of the fast food joint into the flowing river that was the city's consumer populace. it was so many people the ambient temperature around them felt like it went up 10o. but it wasn't so dense that they couldn't get around. They just had to squeeze on through every so often. They went from shop to shop looking at all the different styles of clothes and fabrics coming from the Hodge podge of cultural exchange the city went through during the great congregation after the war. When the world ended, governmental infrastructure fell apart. It was chaos. No restriction, regulation, laws nor punishments. The ones remaining no longer held the power and were quickly taken over by bandits outlaws and power-hungry tycoons like Marcus. It was the wild west back then. but as the wide expanse of land was left mostly vacant and civilization spread thin across a massive continent. People started to crowd around the biggest cities as the last beacons of civilization left. And word began to spread of those last bastions of order. Which led to more and more people appearing from the woodworks and making the track to those cities hoping to return to some level of normality. Whatever that means. it was in one of those shops that the sewer rats got recognized…Bookmark here

they burst in breaking away from the ever-growing crowd. With A bell ringing as the door opened, the owner greeted them but the gang didn't hear “it's getting crazy out there. maybe we should start making our way back” Erika saidBookmark here

“what? you too? but there’s so much left to do!” Johnny saidBookmark here

“says you! look at all these bags! I’ve done my shopping! You’re the one that can’t decide on anything!” Erika saidBookmark here

“because I can’t find anything that speaks to me” Johnny said waving his arms around like an Avant guard poetBookmark here

“I wasn't aware you had Objectum clairvoyance.” Neo saidBookmark here

“that's a made-up word and you know it” Johnny saidBookmark here

“all words are made up” Neo saidBookmark here

“they are?!” Wendy saidBookmark here

“ahem” the store clerk said to get their customer's attention “Welcome! Welcome to my store! I see you’re having difficulties finding something to your liking my good sir. May I be of some assistance?”Bookmark here

“uhhhh yeah sure” Johnny saidBookmark here

“excellent! Come! come right this way” the clerk ushered Johnny away from the group to show him all the different clothes “did you have something particular in mind or just browsing?”Bookmark here

“ummm not sure, nothing specific, but I’ll know when I see it. I want something that screams me, you know?” Johnny saidBookmark here

“I know exactly what you mean sir. I have just the thing” the store clerks said trying to act like what he said wasn't the most unhelpful thing ever. But no problem, He would just have to rely on the intuitive people reading skills he’s honed for years to bring him the perfect outfit.Bookmark here

“how about something like this?” he picked up a rough looking jacket to gauge his reaction like a sort of litmus testBookmark here

“hmmmmm not quite but I like where your heads at. Maybe a little more colour?” Johnny saidBookmark here

“right away sir!” the clerk diligently ran to find something that would fit that description. Bookmark here

Meanwhile, Erika Neo and Wendy were perusing around looking at all the different clothes on display. Picking them out and making faces to each other to communicate their thoughts. Neo would grab a shirt look at Erika make a face and Erika would do the same right back to say she agreed with his assessment. Some would be faces of approval, some would be faces of disaproval, and others would be plain bewilderment as to how a particular garment came to existence. Wendy looked back and forth between them watching how they interacted and joked around with each other. Once Neo noticed her gaze, he looked onto her to gauge her reactionBookmark here

“what do you think? pretty badass huh?” Neo said hovering over his chest a brown rugged leather jacket with black patches around the elbows and shoulders with a red stripe along the zipper.Bookmark here

Wendy took one look and couldn't help but smile “I love it! it suits you”Bookmark here

Neo didn't expect such a positive reactionBookmark here

“Yeah, I think so too” Erika saidBookmark here

Neo looked at the jacket again. trying to see what quality the jacket had that made it suit him. but he couldn't quite point it outBookmark here

“you think I should get it?” Neo saidBookmark here

“I mean, it’s not like we can’t afford it” Erika said “at the very least you can give it to her when you’re done with it”Bookmark here

Neo looked at Wendy as she was looking through the clothes as well. then down at the jacket in his hands. Bookmark here

“yeah, I think I will.”Bookmark here

Looking at Wendy innocently looking at clothes in public, he couldn't stop thinking about how far they've come... and where they came from... If he had his way, they’d all still be slumming it in the sewers. He’s glad he’s let them take the lead on this. After all they've been through, and all they had to do. seeing Wendy smile without a care in the world, almost made it all worth it. no matter what, he thought, he would make sure Wendy didn't have to go through what they went through.Bookmark here

“where are you at?” Erika saidBookmark here

“what?” Neo saidBookmark here

“your body is here by your mind is a thousand miles away” she saidBookmark here

“oh nothing, I was just thinking”Bookmark here

“you know, I worry about her too.” she said “it’s not like you’re in this alone, we’re a team for a reason. You can rely on us too. you don't have to go at it alone.”Bookmark here

“yeah… I know.” Neo saidBookmark here

“Sometimes it feels like you don't” Erika said. one thing should be made clear. They were not talking about fighting.Bookmark here

“ta-dada-daaaaaaaa” Johnny said coming from around the corner dawning his new threads.Bookmark here

“what… are you wearing?” Erika saidBookmark here

“I know, I know, Amazing isn’t it? Rasheem showed me a tun of pieces but none of them stood out like this one.” he said wearing something that looked like it came straight out of a hip hop music video from the 90’sBookmark here

all three of the onlookers looked at each other with the same exact face of disprovalBookmark here

“WHAAAAAAAAT???? Well it's fine, you’re not the one that has to wear it”Bookmark here

“yeah you’re right, I have it much worse because I’m the one that has to look at it.” Erika saidBookmark here

Neo laughedBookmark here

“what- ever. I don't need your approval to express myself.” Johnny saidBookmark here

“very well sir, well said. in any case the cost will be this much” Rasheem the clerk showed Johnny to total. Johnny looked at the total… and kept looking. Counting the zeros over and over again to make sure he wasn't mistaken.Bookmark here

“Is this for real? I think you might have two or three too many zeros there”Bookmark here

“nope that's the bill” he saidBookmark here

“WHAAAAAAAAAAAT?!?!?!?!? BUT WHY SO MUCH?!” Bookmark here

“This is a pre-war item, they’re exceedingly rare and are extremely expensive.” the clerk saidBookmark here

“c’mon Rasheem, pal, can’t you bring the price down just by a little?”Bookmark here

“no way! I have a business to run. A family to feed. I can’t be giving away merchandise for less than they are worth”Bookmark here

“c’mon Johnny just pay the man already, stop haggling.” Neo saidBookmark here

“you wouldn't be saying that if you saw how expensive this was…” Johnny said as he took the cash out of his pocket. He took out 6 bills and then handed over the rest of the stack. Basically cost him his entire earnings.Bookmark here

“Jesus Johnny! Way to save some for later!” Erika saidBookmark here

“you said to pay him!” Johnny saidBookmark here

“I thought you were just being stingy!” Neo saidBookmark here

“ugh, hey I misunderstood, can I-” Johnny began to say but the clerk cut him offBookmark here

“all transactions are final no take backsies” the clerk said before gleefully making his way to the back to store his months’ worth of profits in his safe.Bookmark here

“oh by the way, how much for this one?” Neo said Bookmark here

“oh that? ehhhh I give it to you for 200.” The clerk saidBookmark here

“200!?!?! Is this some kind of joke?!?! Are you kidding me?!?!” Johnny saidBookmark here

“what? it suits him, and besides, I’m feeling generous!” the clerk saidBookmark here

“was it too much to ask to feel generous with me?” Johnny said to himself on the verge of tears.”Bookmark here

“Think it’s about time we head back…” Neo said placing a hand on Johnny's shoulderBookmark here

the gang left the store all set and ready to call it a day. they were clasped hand and hand as they tried to make their way out of the shopping district. It was too many people it felt like they couldn't breathe but Wendy more so than everyone else.Bookmark here

“Neo, I cant see anything”Bookmark here

“don't worry Wendy, we're almost out just don't let go of my hand.”Bookmark here

Bookmark here

“I’ll try” she said squeezing through the crowd with the rest of them. they were all tired of the crowd and exhausted from the heat. All They wanted to do was get home. The yearning for peace and quiet grew ever stronger. That was… until Neo could no longer feel Wendy’s hands…Bookmark here

"not funny wendy.... wendy?" neo said turning around to see she was no longer there...Bookmark here

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