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“I have to say, I’m a bit surprised. When you had me drone on, I thought you wanted to distract me so you could make a run for it. However, you seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say. Maybe you were telling the truth when you said you didn’t know a thing about your history.”

“I was…”

“That only makes you even more pathetic. You should have never left your colony.”

“You have to realize by now that I don’t come from a colony.”

She blinked, and then shoved me with her gun, forcing me to walk into the building. “Don’t think of trying to fool me! How could you be like that from anywhere but a colony! You have more food!”

“I do…” I said, “But not from a colony. I um… come from a special place. A twenty-sixth colony! It’s why I’m so clueless about all of this wasteland stuff!”

“There is no twenty-sixth colony!”

“It was secret! A… um… government project! Only the highest-ranking officials ended up there. The place was untouched by the disease. We make fresh food, freshwater. We have anything you want, you name it!”

I hated to lie, but there was no way this woman would listen to the truth. I had goals coming here, and I didn’t want to leave without getting something for my trouble.

“That medication! We lost the ability to make anti-cancer drugs. Since our location had no radiation, it never became much of an issue, but then my mother caught cancer, and she’ll die if I don’t get her the cure. That’s why I came.”

“Shut up!”

“If you give me the medicine, I’ll get your food. All the food you want. Any food you want. I’ll give you more food than you can eat!”

She licked her lips slightly, a great deal of temptation painting her face, but then she shook her head. “You’re lying!”

“I’m not!”

She pulled the trigger. There was a blast, but she had pulled to the side, shooting along my right ear. The massive noise disorientated me and I stumbled back. There was a ringing in my ears, but before I could recover, I was slammed into the wall. This woman was quite a bit taller than me, so she was easily able to look down on me.

Her gun pushed up under my chin. “Show me where you’re hiding the food, or I will kill you.”

While she was telling the story, it looked like she had loosened up. I had a feeling of humanity and warmth from her like we might be able to get along. However, she was probably acting that way to see if I’d try to escape. Now, she was looking at me with merciless cold not much different than those raiders. I had no doubt she’d kill me if I didn’t comply. I started to feel fear once again.

“O-okay…” I said, my voice shaking. “It’s upstairs. Let’s go get it.”

She looked down at me with anger filled eyes, only finally taking a step back. I rubbed my jaw. She had jammed the gun up there to the point of pain. She then lifted the gun and pointed it at me with both hands.

“Move…” Her voice was low and filled with malice.

I could only nod, turning and moving with her pointing her gun behind me. I had my hands up because it felt like a stick-up. I realized that there was no way I could work with this woman. She was crazy. All of them might be crazy. I had briefly entertained the idea of creating a trade with her, but now that felt impossible.

Passing the area where the two of us were captured, I reached the dark stairway and turned on my Perco. The pair of us walked up the stairway in silence, but with the acoustics of the hall, I felt like I could hear my heartbeat trying to drum out my head. When I reached the familiar hallways, I had conflicted feelings. I felt like the finish line was right in front of me, but there was also someone hot on my heels. I was both happy, and scared. I decided I didn’t want this woman to come to my world. She might not be as bad as the raiders, but there was no saying what she would do.

“A Neerrat.” She said, stopping and looking down at the rat I had killed. “Dead about a day.”

“Ah… I killed it.” I admitted.

She looked at me with a look of disbelief, but as she glanced at it a second time, she returned a more considering look. She reached behind her and pulled out a large knife.

“Wh-what?”

“You didn’t take out the crystal, idiot.”

She kneeled and started cutting into the day-old rat. She moved with expertise and didn’t even get any blood or gore on her until she reached it and ripped out something. It looked like a piece of crystal, but it was inside the rat’s head, near the back of the neck.

“Crystals were formed by the mutagenesis virus. All mutated creatures have them. They work as a power source.” She said matter of factly. “More importantly, they’re also the wasteland’s currency.”

“I see…”

So, money could be earned by killing mutants. Those crystals then appeared to power certain things. I was less enthusiastic to learn this now. All of my thoughts were on how I was going to get away from this woman. Thus, as she admired the crystal, I took a few steps, turned, and ran.

“The food is in here!” I called out, racing into the room with the mirror.

“W-Wait!’ She let out a curse, following behind me.

I didn’t give her any time to make it here. I spun the mirror around and then touched the symbol. Nothing happened. I touched the symbol again. Then again. And Again. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. I started to feel extreme panic. The mirror didn’t do a thing.

“What are you doing?” A voice demanded from behind me. “Turn around!”

I lifted my hands and turned back around. Katarina was glaring at me with the gun pointed dead center. I felt like collapsing in anguish. Why didn’t it work? What did I do wrong? Was I seriously stuck in this world forever? How long would forever be? It looked like I might die in the next few minutes.

“What is that behind you?”

“It… has the food in it…” I made up a semblance of the truth. “It won’t work now.”

“Move over…” She took a few steps forward and shoved me to the side.

I slammed into the metal shelving with a thud. She ignored me though, dropping her backpack and looking at the mirror with genuine interest.

“This is some kind of Allco product. It must have been in development when the virus broke out.” She muttered. “I haven’t seen anything like it before. It’s… some kind of storage? You! Speak!”

“I get the food from it. But it doesn’t work now!”

“Of course it doesn’t work, it’s out of power!” She snorted, pulling out the crystal. “It’s powered by these.”

She reached to the side and then opened up a small compartment. When she slid the crystal in and closed the door, a red light suddenly flashed on top. I had seen the light before, but I had not really paid attention to it. However, it was dead a moment ago, and now it was lit. That meant… my way home was clear!

“Now, let’s see… how do I get it to open the storage…” Katarina was so excited by almost getting what she wanted, that she had completely dismissed me at this point.

I was terrified. I could barely move. However, this was my only chance. My eyes fell on her bag, lying on the ground. Who knew what technology was in there? She said it herself. It was kill or be killed. I wanted to work with her. I wanted to be good, but she was the one holding a gun to my head! Using every last ounce of willpower I had, I grabbed her bag and rammed into her.

“Ah!’ She let out a cry as she slammed into the other storage rack, stumbling back.

Without sparing her a look, I touched the symbol on the mirror.

“No!”

Her voice screamed out as there was a white flash. I didn’t stop though. I grabbed the mirror and violently shoved it down. It tipped over and landed on the carpeted floor with a thud. It could have broken for all I cared, but it seemed to have not. That wasn’t enough though. I jumped onto the back of the mirror, pressing my body against it. If she tried to come through, she’d have to become one with the floor! This had to block the mirror. It just had to.

I listened to my heart beating in my ears in the silence of my room. Nothing happened. Seconds became minutes. She would have come through by now if she could. Putting it on the floor must have sealed it. Only after five minutes went by did I start to relax.

A loud thud on the door caused me to nearly jump. “Daniel? Are you home?”

The familiar sound of my sister with a worried voice felt like silk to my ears. I started to cry from the stress of the last twenty-four hours. I shed more tears than I knew what to do with.

“B-brother! Ae you crying! S-sister will come to save you! St-stand back!”

“Eh?”

Thump. Thump. Bang!

There was a loud thud on the outside of the door as it shook with a bang, but it didn’t open at all.

“Owwwwwie… Brother… please open the door.”

My tear-filled eyes turned into a smile. I really was home. One thing was certain. I’d never return to that hellish place again.

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