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“So much money, gone…” Katarina sighed.

“You think we should have haggled?” I asked.

I didn’t want to haggle with my mother’s life on the line, and I didn’t feel like I’d get anywhere if I did haggle with him.

“No… a dose of Allmighty for 250 large crystals is worth it.” She sighed. “Haggling with chemists is also a risky business. If you offend them, it can be a problem. However, that was just about everything you earned. After risking our lives so much, it feels like you got nowhere.”

We were standing outside the Rink, still within the coverage of the turrets for protection, but somewhere we could get some peace and privacy. Kiera was quietly sitting with her head down as the pair of us went through the items we bought.

“There is always more food,” I responded, pulling out the immunities syringe and pulling up my sleeve.

“I still don’t understand what place you could live that doesn’t inject you with nanobots on birth. You’re lucky you didn’t pass a high radiation area or you’d be dying from poisoning already. Maybe you did grow up in a cave.”

“Yeah, maybe,” I responded, stabbing my arm and injecting it with a grimace.

I didn’t like needles. I didn’t know anyone who did. However, I wasn’t going to be squeamish about it now. I still had two doses in there for my mother and sister. Katarina even offhandedly mentioned that the nanobots would help with some symptoms of cancer, buying her more time, although it wouldn’t cure it. How was I going to convince my sister and mother to take shots from a mysterious syringe? Well, I hadn’t thought of that yet.

“It’s best if you take the Allmighty now too.  It is like putting a target on your back otherwise. Make sure you take it in full view of the building so no one gets tempted to follow us. Someone may be watching.”

That was just one more reason we were stopping here to do this. I gulped, once again thinking about just how scary this place was. With a 250 large crystal Allmighty on me, someone might kill me just to get to it. They had seen us buy the item. I had even recalled quite a few jealous and ugly looks. To think that some of those people wouldn’t hesitate to kill me in a heartbeat just for that, it left me feeling quite fearful. I pulled out the Allmighty, which was a much, much thicker needle.

“The needle must be directed in your heart. You must thrust with enough power to get through your sternum.” Katarina explained.

“Wh-what!” I nearly dropped the needle. “W-wait!”

“I’m joking.” She said, although she didn’t smile at all. “It needs to be injected in your butt. Pull down your pants and bend over, I’ll do it.”

“That’s even worse!”

“How is that worse?” She asked incredulously.

“I-it just is!”

“Just show me your ass!”

“I won’t! I-I’ll do it myself with a mirror!”

“There are no mirrors around here, and you can’t do it back at the base, remember?”

“Even so… how about you take it! You can show your ass to half of the Rink!”

She rolled her eyes. “I don’t need Allmighty, quit being a baby. Just bend over and take it!”

“Your wording is making it worse! Give it to Keira then.”

“I’m not wasting it on a slave!”

Keira stood up suddenly and then started pulling down her pants. I leaped forward and grabbed her pants, trying to keep her from pulling them off. As I wrestled her pants back on, Katarina grabbed the needle and slammed it into my buttcheek, right through the pants.

“O-o-ow….” I cried out, as she depressed the plunger, and then yanked it out with just as little mercy.

“You big baby!” She sniffed.

While I was rubbing my butt, she had a slight smirk on her face, which was the first time I had ever seen her smile when food wasn’t involved. That didn’t make me feel better, it only meant she enjoyed my pain.

“That really hurt…” I complained.

“Just check your 5S now.”

Name: Daniel Miller

Strength – 4

Stamina – 1

Speed – 3

Smarts – 3

Sense – 2

Sorcery – 1

“It went up by two!”

“Two strength with a single dose?” She responded in disbelief. “Just what was your strength before?”

“Uh.. two… it’s four now.”

“Below average…” Her excited expression grew flat, “Why am I not surprised?”

“Why, what is your strength?”

“Six.”

“Geh! Wh-what about you, Keira?”

I used the device and scanned her without asking.

Name: Keira

Association: Slave

Strength – 4

Stamina – 5

Speed – 3

Smarts – 4

Sense – 6

Sorcery – 4

She didn’t have a state lower than 3. Her strength was 4, the same as mine after I used Allmighty. She was an emaciated slave! Why was she so strong?

“Those units were developed during normal times. After the apocalypse, with everyone fighting to live, only the strong are able to survive. You could call 3 the lowest limit acceptable in this world. You’d only find under a 3 among soft colonists.”

“I see…” I vowed not to tell her what any of my other status looked like.

“It’s no wonder you gained two. The higher your status, the less the gain. Getting from 8 to 9 would take like ten Allmighty.”

“Wow…”

“Well, a ten is as strong as the status goes, and anyone with a ten would be the strongest man alive, no, the strongest man who could ever live.” She shrugged. “Oh, that reminds me. You’ll want to take it easy the next week or two. You’re on borrowed strength right now. Your body is remodeling at the moment, but if you attempt to use more strength than a few bursts of activity, it will harm your body. Once your body has caught up, then you’ll be fine to use your full strength as much as you want.”

I thanked her for her explanation and then returned to the last two things we had gotten. The final two items were the turret and the gun. I changed the turret ownership to myself. Then, I pulled out the smart gun.

“What is so fancy about this gun, anyway?” I asked, trying to adjust myself so I sat on the cheek that wasn’t sore.

“This gun locks to the owner. If anyone else tries to use it, the gun won’t work. It also has four types of fire: single-shot, burst, volley, and impact, all have their uses. However, the best thing about this gun is it has a seed generation technology. Essentially, there is a special allowance in the gun that acts like a seed. It gathers nanoparticles and dust in the area, and then used the seed to build a bullet.”

“I scrunched my forehead. “What does that mean?”

“It means, the gun is capable of making bullets. It regenerates the clip once it uses it. You’ll never run out of ammo.”

“Oh, wow!”

She nodded. “The regeneration is slow, only like a bullet an hour, but it has its uses. Ammos not that valuable in the wasteland, but with a smart gun you can save a lot of time, money, and resources.”

I held the gun up in my hand and then plugged it in. This time, I did the factory reset. When it was finished, I looked up at Katarina.

“You have to push that button while holding the gun. It’ll then become locked to you.”

I nodded, pulled out the plug, and then pushed the gun into her hands. Before she could protest, I pushed the button. There was a flashing light, and then a light beep.

“A-ah! What are you doing?” She cried out.

“This gun sounds like you,” I said. “You can call it… I don’t know, a tip? Just keep it. I won’t reset it again so you can forget it!”

I put my hands down so she couldn’t push it back into my lap. She stared between the gun and me in stunned silenced for a few moments. Finally, she took the gun and hooked it onto the back of her backpack.

“Thank you.” She responded. “No one has…”

She stopped, talking, covering her face for a bit. When she finally pulled it away, she went straight into her backpack. After a moment, she handed me some kind of handle.

“So, we’re even!” She responded stubbornly. “You can have that! You seem to like the machete after all.”

The item she gave me was a small handle. I didn’t know what it was at all. However, I saw a button and clicked it on. There was a sudden buzz, and a blade appeared attached to the handle. It was light blue but mostly transparent, and as thin as paper.

“Watch out! That will cut just about anything!” She cried out.

I stabilized my hand on the handle and she relaxed a bit. “Ah, I see, sorry.”

“It’s a phase knife. They use a lot of crystals. One large crystal will only power it for 10 minutes. However, it’s light, and you can cut an enemy’s throat easily if he’s not looking for it. We’ll call it a trade.”

“It’s yours?”

“Yes, it’s mine!” She responded indignantly. “Those bandits you met saw me use it in town. Sliced off the finger of a guy who tried to touch my ass. That’s why they were chasing me when you found me. It brought me nothing but bad luck. However, maybe you could get some use out of it.”

“Then… thank you.” I responded, causing her cheeks to redden just a bit.

I didn’t feel like I had earned this. After all, I had touched the Master Code before unplugging the gun and giving it to her. In other words, I’d have the authority to use the gun anyway. I wasn’t going to tell her that though. I wanted her to have the gun. It wasn’t like I knew how to use guns anyway.

With our business finished, we left the Rink and started our trek back to what Katarina called the base. One thing that caught me off guard was how much easier it was to carry the turret. I really had gotten stronger. What was something I could barely carry I could now sling over my shoulder with ease.

Despite that, the trip back to the building was exceptionally slow. We had to stop many times for passing groups, some animals, others people. She’d stop even if they looked like other wastelanders. She didn’t trust anyone.

In the end, it was a race against the clock as the dark was descending on us. Finally, we made it just as the sun was setting. I was never happier to see that dilapidated building again. We got inside, and she closed the door and then locked it.

“The turret, put it up there. Yes, like that. Activate it!”

I put the turret on what was probably once the reception desk and then activated it. The box opened up and out popped a gun. It was targeted toward the front door and windows of the first floor. Anything that came in would be greeted to automatic gunfire.

With that, we headed back upstairs. I had school tomorrow, and it was very late. Mom and my sister were probably very worried about me.

“I’ll be back in one week. I’ll have the food I promised you,” I said.

“L-leaving?” Both of us looked in surprise as Kiera spoke the first words we had heard.

I gave her a smile and a nod.

“Listen to Katarina, and stay safe.” I told her before I turned to Katarina. “You’ll be alright?’

She snorted. “How couldn’t I be? I have all this food, a gun, and infinite ammo. I could hold out here for a month at least. By the time you come back, this place will be even more fortified.”

“Then… I’m sorry I’ll have to hire your services for one more week.”

She blushed, scratching the back of her head. “It’s fine… I’m just doing it for the food, you understand?”

I nodded and smiled. “I got it. See you then. I’ll bring you something extra tasty for my last visit, okay?”

“It’s a promise.”

I looked the two girls over with a smile. The smile wasn’t really for them, but for my relief that I could finally go home. Strangely, I also felt a bit of sadness deep down, like I was reluctant to go. I hadn’t expected that, and I didn’t really know what it meant. With a breath, I touched the mirror, and a white light flashed as I was teleported away.

Thus, I didn’t hear some words that came from Katarina, which sounded a bit sorrowful. “Last… visit…”

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