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Sometime later, a foot kicked me, but rather than a hard kick, it pushed against me gently, nudging me until my body turned over. When I flopped onto my back, my eyes instantly fell on Katarina. There was a surge of excitement, and I sat up, only to instantly regret it. I grabbed my chest, only to feel the shattered piece that was once my armor. I picked out the pieces and pushed them to the ground. Underneath, I found a mass of bruises, but nothing that pierced the skin.

Looking up at Katarina, she didn’t look much better. She had a bandage across her stomach and chest and looked to be wearing a hospital gown over her body. She had pants on but was only wearing a sports bra on top. She was barely standing and her legs were wobbling. It seemed like it was all she could do just to stand there. She was looking down at me with a worried expression on her face.

“What?” I asked.

“I… thought you were dead.” She responded, her lips tightening briefly.

“I thought you died too.” I felt a surge of emotion that I pushed down.

I grabbed the smart gun at my side and held it up to her. She grabbed the other end, and using it, she managed to help me up. The pair of us then began to walk past the two security droids. They had stopped right at the entrance of the garage, but they didn’t take one step out onto the garage ramp. When Katarina noticed me eying them, she pointed down with some effort.

I followed her hand to see some glowing strip on the floor. I had noticed it before, but I had assumed it was some kind of lighting.

“That’s a power strip. Runs through the entire hospital. It powers droids,” she said, her voice coming out raspy and weak.

The pair of us worked our way back through the hospital until we reached the OR room. Kiera was still waiting there for me. Of the three of us, she had only taken a hit in the head and had seemingly already recovered. She watched us anxiously, unwilling to leave and violate my order. I carefully bent down and picked up the slave collar from the ground, then I turned to Kiera.

“Garage. Any medical supplies. Bring them to the security station. Also any guns, supplies, anything…”

Kiera nodded. “Yes, Master…”

She practically ran out of the room, eager to be useful after being helpless for who knew how long. Looking at Katarina, she still looked be in pain, I reached out with my Perco. She grabbed my wrist and stopped me.

“Use the RegenX on yourself.” She said sternly.

“I have someone who can make more. I’ll take the next dose.” I told a partial lie.

Although I did have someone, as for whether the ingredients were among what was left behind, I didn’t know. However, she refused to accept the dose, grabbing my hand, and shoving it into my neck. I was powerless to stop her. As the RegenX entered my body, I found myself instantly able to breath better. I didn’t have more energy, but I did hurt less. Sighing, I led Katarina back to the security room, which I felt was the safest room in the facility at the moment.

When I got there, I was relieved to see the woman still standing there, leaning against the wall, as well as the scout with the gun trained on her.

“Scout, patrol the entrance. Ignore her unless she tries to leave the building.”

“Affirmative.” The scout turned and flew away.

The woman let out a breath of relief and then collapsed on the floor. She had been sweating ever since I left, it seemed. I plugged my Perco into the slave collar, changed the ownership to my name, and then tossed it at her.

“Put this on.”

She looked at it silently at first, but she listened, picked it up and put it on her neck with a snap. There was supposedly a device, one of those handheld things she had, that was connected to this, but the second I plugged it into my Perco, it also had complete control of her collar, so the other device didn’t matter.

“What is your name?” I asked.

“Jericho.”

“Jeri, then, I need you to go through what is left and tell me what you can make. I need RegenX, but I need anti-cancer medication the most.”

“You’re not trusting the Rink?” Katarina asked.

“Can you blame me?” I shot back and then smoothed my face. “Sorry…”

“No… it’s the right decision. They didn’t hold up to their side of the bargain, so they can excuse us if we bypass them a bit.”

“We need to go through and see if they missed any rooms.”

“I also think we should finish our mission here.”

“Mission?”

“Reopen the trade route between the Rink and Twin Elms. Even if you don’t want to work with the Rink, we’re going to need this path open if you want to ever make it to Twin Elms.”

I nodded slowly. “What do you need to do.”

“Time…” She sighed. “I’ll need to collapse hallways, restrict routes, and then put whatever security we have left in the ideal strategic positions.”

“What do you mean?”

“For example… if I put a turret pointing down a hallway, and there is another hallway right next to it, they’ll just go down that one and dismantle the turret. However, if there is only one hallway with multiple turrets covering it, they won’t waste the life trying to retake it. As long as we make this place too difficult for the mutants to take and too costly for the syndicate to claim, then it will remain a neutral ground.”

“The syndicate doesn’t want this building. Why do you think they were packing everything away in such a hurry?” Jeri spoke up.

Katarina took a step toward her, but I lifted my hand to stop her. “What are you saying?”

“It’s how they work. Your supplies meant nothing to them. They just wanted to stop you from having protection and resources. Divide and conquer. A divided Argos City is easier to bully into their outrageous contracts. That’s their end game… to make every settlement dependent on them for survival. It’s protection money, nothing more, nothing less. That’s what they did to my settlement. Went bankrupt in two years. Half the people ended up as slaves. I was just useful enough that they hired me on. Most of my friends and family weren’t that lucky.”

“Those bastards….” Katarina hissed.

“It’s fine… it’s done.” I shook my head. “They won’t be back right now. When you feel you’re good enough, we’ll start sweeping the hospital.”

“I’m good now,” Katarina responded immediately, turning and walking down the hall.

For the rest of the day, we worked on that. I used the security to gather up everything we had left in the hospital, seal down the unnecessary rooms, and then place the remaining guys. In the end, we had 7 functional turrets, three Destroyers, one of them with no guns, and three scouts. I supposed, considering the number of bodies we found, that was quite good.

We dragged the corpses outside for beasts to take, stripping them of ammo, guns, and anything else of value. Once we had finished that job, it was starting to become evening. It was Sunday evening now, and I should be getting home. My mother and sister would be worrying about me. However, I was too close. I couldn’t stop now.

“So?” I demanded.

There were only about three small boxes of medical supplies. The most useful was a medkit with a regenx and a radZ in it. I tried to get Katarina to take it, but even then, she refused. I used it to refill my Perco, so I was back to one dose again. The other two boxes just contained various labeled powders. I was hopeful when Jeri suddenly grew excited.”

“This… these ingredients…”

“You can make them?”

“No, but these are rare. They can be used to mall the Allco brand status enhancers. Their value is a lot.”

“Can you make anti-cancer medication?”

“Not with what I have, but with this, we can be rich-“

“Damn it!” I hit a wall, causing her to jump in surprise.

“Daniel, it’ll be okay.”

“How? Two weeks! Two goddamn weeks in this hellhole? For what?” I screamed.

“The path to Twin Elms is open, we can buy the ingredients there.” She tried to comfort me, but I turned my head away angrily.

Katarina didn’t provide any snarky comment though, surprisingly. She seemed sympathetic, which only made me feel worse.

“So, you’re saying you can make Allmighty?”

“Yes! I mean… no.”

“Do not think I won’t shoot you.” Katarina snarled.

“I mean, I can make any drug if I have the recipe! The problem is, those recipes I don’t have. If you get me the recipe, I could probably make at least ten doses with what we have here.”

“Ten doses…” I could see a flash of excitement in her eyes.

The one dose had been hundreds of large crystals, so ten times that would be a city worth of wealth. It wasn’t that I didn’t see the value. It was that I had other things on my mind.

“None of that matters unless I have my C-Cure,” I said.

“I’m sorry, with the supplies we have here… they cleared everything out.” Jeri looked down and said nothing more.

“Master, I found something!” Kiera came bursting through the door, breathing hard.

I stood up, “Show me.”

If Kiera grew that excited about something that she’d break her usual calm demeanor, just a glimmer of hope shot through me.  The place she ended up taking me was a room labeled the chief of medicine’s office. As to what their name was, it was covered in filth and I couldn’t see. There was a desk and surprisingly a terminal that was on.

I slowed down as I walked to it. “This is what you wanted to show me?”

Kiera’s excited expression grew worried for a bit.

“No, if this is the chief of medicine, and their terminal is working, we might be able to look up inventory. We can see if there is any we missed.” Katarina said, having followed behind us.

“That’s a shot in the dark,” Jeri said, having been dragged along.

Katarina shot her a look and she closed her mouth. Kiera and Katarina were looking at me so hopefully, that I couldn’t help but sigh and plug the Perco in. Getting past the password was easy. Immediately, I saw some kind of file.

Dear Mr. X,

They’re starting to suspect I’ve been siphoning off drugs from the pharmacy. We need to stop this. I might not just lose my career, but I might end up doing time. Tonight will be the last drop off. If I’m not there, I’ve probably already been arrested.

Sincerely,

Dr. Parker

I leaned closer as soon as I read those words. Drugs that weren’t in the pharmacy? My eyes ended up on my Perco, where the term “Release Safe” had appeared. Without thought, I clicked it.

There was a sudden loud clicking noise of a lock opening. The girls jumped at the noise, but I already stood up and walked over to a dilapidated bookcase. With a shove, I moved it aside, the bookcase collapsing into a dozen pieces. Behind it was a hidden vault. With growing excitement, I turned the handle and opened it. However, when I glanced inside, all I saw was a small little device. The entire vault was empty except for this item.

I pulled it out, a feeling of helplessness and loss flowing through me. However, Jeri let out a gasp.

“is that… one still exists?”

“Huh?”

“Plug it into your Perco! It’s a Perco mod!”

“Ah… okay…” I plugged into my third slot.

It loaded up, and I read the name. “Digitizing Inventory Module?”

“Those truly exist? I thought they were just a rumor!” Katarina’s mouth nearly dropped. “Daniel, this mod digitizes matter. Basically, you can take anything non-living and break it down into data, and then reassemble it at will. These only came our just before the apocalypse, and they were exceedingly expensive. Plus, they can only carry like two cubic feet of stuff, making them not much bigger than a backpack. Quick, check the inventory.”

I opened up the digitizing file, and a list of items suddenly appear. Item after item appeared on the holographic screen. Jeri watched from over my shoulder.

“Mr. Daniel… I think I can make you that medication now.”

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