“The meat is definitely a commodity.” The mayor said, “But I’m definitely more interested in where you obtained these vegetables.”
“Ah… that’s a trade secret, I regret to inform you.” I responded sheepishly.
Since I had no plans to return to this world, I decided to trade everything except for Katarina’s share of the food. That meant I was giving him more than just the cans of tuna, which went against my original story of finding an underground water system.
“This food is exceptionally rich and flavorful.” He said. “It will sell extremely well in our markets. It might bring in a lot more merchants. I don’t know which colony you come from that has such a precious greenhouse. It’d be a shame if greedy people came after it.”
My expression turned dark. “Only through me will the food keep coming, if I’m harmed, the wasteland will never see a morsel of food like this again. I guarantee you that.”
He raised his hands. “Relax, relax. That wasn’t a threat. Rather, it was a concern. I’m curious if you’d be interested in signing an exclusivity deal. I’ll continue to buy your product, and in exchange, I’ll provide an armed escort between you and your… facilities?”
“I will… think about it.” I responded.
I didn’t need to think about it. This entire conversation was just for show. Even the extra crystals I was earning, I planned to leave them for Katarina and Keira. I feared Katarina’s love of food would cause her to hoard and eat it all rather than sell it for some wealth. I knew that the less savory food here could probably feed her for months, and I wanted to leave them with a future.
As for the anti-cancer medicine, I wouldn’t know how much it cost until I bought it, but I didn’t want to take any risks. She had helped me out when I needed it, so I wanted to help her out as much as possible.
However, I couldn’t stay here. I felt like this world was starting to make me a harder person. I had only been here for a few days and I had already become responsible for a half dozen deaths, even going so far as to kill someone personally. They were murderers and rapists, but that didn’t make me feel much better about myself.
Kiera was waiting down near the entrance. They wouldn’t bring her up into the mayor’s office. I didn’t understand why, but I didn’t mind. Although she had been following me like a lost puppy since I had fed her, when I asked her to stay put, she sat in a corner facing the wall. I didn’t ask her to face the wall, but she did that automatically.
Once we came to the office, I did the factory reset on the security droid right in front of him. I was worried the factory reset would undo my Master code. Unfortunately, with him and the guards watching, I couldn’t just do change ownership, let alone check to make sure the Master Code was still in effect. Once again, I wasn’t too concerned. There was nothing that needed me to control the robot.
The mayor immediately activated and registered the robot using his slaves Perco. It turned out that without a Perco, you had to use an Allco terminal to program Allco technology. The mayor had one, but I had a feeling he liked showing off his slave with a Perco. He had insinuated a few times that she was his most expensive possession.
After that, we did a trade. I gave him food, and he handed me crystals just as he promised. I also indirectly learned that the crystals dug out from ferals and mutated creatures came in three varieties. Small crystals came out of base ferals and small animals. Large crystals came from mutated and large animals. Great crystals came from certain large and dangerous animals and particularly powerful mutants. They were exchanged as 10 small for a large, and 100 large for a great. However, a place like this didn’t have any great crystals given how hard they were to obtain.
I ended up getting 253 large crystals. This included food, water, and guns. Although Katarina had heard his offer before, her eyes still nearly popped when she saw him hand me that much money. She had told me it was enough to live comfortably in the wasteland for nearly a year. Mind you, the conditions of comfortable for Katarina were far different than my own. Food in her belly, shelter over her head, and a broken mattress were her only aspirations.
“The turret, the smart gun, and the shield.” He gestured to his desk where all three items were on display.
I grabbed each of them, checking them like I knew what I was looking for before nodding. The turret was the most inconvenient. It was a large box nearly the size of a backpack. It was heavy too. Dragging it back with us already felt like it was going to be a chore.
“By the way, that shield can directly interface with your Perco. If you have the 7000, you should have two mod ports. Perco mods are extremely rare, but if you find them, they’re indispensable. When plugged in, the shield can be powered by the Perco. You won’t waste crystals, however, it will take about an hour before the shield reactivates once being hit.”
“Ah, thank you for the advice.”
Perco mods? That did sound very interesting. I thanked the mayor one more time, assured him I’d be back next week with another shipment, and then headed to the elevator. I put the shield into the perco mod. He said I should have two, but I realized that this watch had 4. Adding the shield mod made the watch feel even heavier and bulkier, but I felt safer the second it registered on my Perco, showing some kind of field around my body. I wondered if I could get stronger ones with enough money?
No… that didn’t matter! The anti-cancer drug was what I needed. I had to focus on what was important. As soon as we left the elevator, the guards stopped following us and I was able to enter the market unperturbed. A few merchants who remembered us from the day before had their eyes brighten, but they shot a look at the mayor and didn’t approach us.
He might have told them we no longer had food. He’d be selling it himself in the market at a rate most of them couldn’t afford. Even then, they might still pay from time to time as an indulgence, and there was also the chance of selling it to traveling merchants.
“Excuse me, I need to purchase anticancer medication,” I told the chemist.
He was a wiry-looking man with messed up hair and goggles. He was wearing a leather long coat and gave the perfect feeling of a mad scientist. With dark eyes and sunken cheeks, he didn’t look like the healthiest guy around. The thought of trusting him to make something that would go in my mother’s body made my skin crawl. His back was to me, and he appeared to be pouring something bubbly into something else. There were a sizzling sound and a caustic smell as he did it.
“10 large crystals.” He said simply,
With a feeling of relief, I pulled out the crystals and put them on the table. He didn’t turn to take the crystals. He didn’t even look at the money.
“I don’t have any medication made. It’ll take 3 days to get the supplies to make it.”
“Three days?” I let out a cry.
“I also don’t do special orders for first-time guests. I’ll make your medication, but only if you spend 100 large crystals at my shop first!”
Katarina grabbed my arm and then leaned into my ear. “There is a rule. Don’t piss off chemists. If you ever want that medication, you need to play nice. I’m sorry I didn’t warn you sooner, but they’re all like this. That’s why I didn’t immediately approach him when I came before.”
I took an angry shuddering breath. I would have to return. Just one more week though. Just one more.
“Fine… what do you have for one hundred large crystals?”
“Hehehe…” He laughed, looking in my direction. “A man of tastes, I see. I sell Crunk, Painless, and Skyhigh. Which do you fancy?’
“We don’t need drugs, chemist!” Katarina cut in when she saw my confused face. “Do you have any medicines we can use?”
“Other than the standard immunities?”
“Yes, RegenX, RadZ, RadR, Heal Spray: stuff like that.”
“I can make RadZ on special order. If you want Heal spray, visit a colony!”
“What is the standard immunities?”
“Huh?” Katarina looked at me weird.
“Since you’re a colonist, you would have had them as a baby. It increases radiation resistance permanently. It also reduces the chances of food-born illness, flu, cold, and infections. Just a general cocktail of nanobots.”
“I’ll take three!” I declared, and then let out an embarrassed cough.
“Suit yourself, three large crystals.”
“Th-that’s robbery!” Katarina snapped.
Didn’t she just say that we had to be nice to the chemist?
“Deal…” I slid the crystals over and then whispered to the frowning Katarina. “It’s fine, we need to reach 100, remember?”
He finally took the crystals and then went into a tin that looked like a lunchbox and pulled out three syringes and handed them to me. When I looked at them with a weird expression, he gave an irritated sigh.
“Just inject it into your shoulder muscle. Even a baby can take it.” He snorted.
I nodded and then put the syringes away carefully. The other two were naturally for my sister and my mother. I would take the injection first though and see if anything bad came of it. I had worried that I might be bringing some supervirus between this world and that one. It looked like these people already had some kind of immunity thanks to nanobots. This was another technology that I had no clue how to sell in my world.
“What else do you have?” I asked.
“Since you’re not interested in drugs, there is only one other thing I have that can get you to the hundred large crystals.” He explained. “I have a dose of Allmighty.”
Katarina gasped, “You don’t!”
He nodded. “I do.
I gave a sidelong glance to Katarina, and she responded by shaking her head and muttering something about me being an idiot.
“Allmighty, Allgrit, Allgility, Allknowing, and Allware are five special drugs that the Allco company developed,” Katarina explained. “Each drug increases your 5S permanently. Allmighty would increase strength. It’s the equivalent of working out for a year or so.”
“S-seriously?” My eyes widened at that.
“I’ll sell it to you for 250 large crystals.” He said simply.
“250!” Katarina shouted so loud the entire merchant area quieted for a moment.
“That’s everything I have left,” I admitted.
The man shrugged, not looking even remotely empathetic. Even if he looked greedy, I would have something to work with, but he was acting like he didn’t care one way or the other. Call it a sixth sense, but I had a feeling no amount of haggling would work on this guy, and may even cause him to increase the rate.
I earned 253 large crystals from the mayor just now, but I also have about eleven large crystals worth taken from the pockets of the bandits. It would just about bankrupt me to pay this man for everything. I’d swear the mayor had planned this from the beginning to get me to come back, but there was no way he’d be able to predict how much food I’d sell him and how many guns I’d bring back. I took a breath to relax myself. In the end, it’d all be worth it.