“Here, Mr. Daniel… I have finished.” Jeri handed me a baggy with seven pills in it.
“It takes seven doses?”
“Ah… no… they will only need to take one of those pills. However, I can’t make such small quantities as to make only one pill. The rest are extras.”
“RegenX is more complicated. It will take three days to make a batch of that. As for the Allco status boosters, I only have the recipe for Allgility. I can make three doses of it, but it will take a week and require a great deal of care. In other words, I’d need to be able to create a clean working space. I’ve managed to collect all the tools I’d need for small-scale medical products in the hospital.”
“However…” Katarina spoke up. “We’d need a fusion generator to hire the building. The one in the hospital is impossible to take.”
“Y-your settlement doesn’t have power!” Jeri looked aghast.
Katarina shared a look with Kiera, but the pair remained silent. Jeri seemed to have the impression that we were living in proper conditions. She would likely not be pleased if she found out we had been hiding in a derelict office downtown guarded by a single turret.
Speaking of which, after gathering everything, it was far more than we could carry by ourselves, so I found a cart with wheels and deep sides and then strapped it to the back of one of the Destroyers. I had practiced using the digitizing inventory. When you touched an item with your hand, it would disintegrate and enter the Perco, and then when I selected it and held out my hand, it would appear again.
It was a bit tricky. If my hand didn’t have room for it, it wouldn’t form, and if my hand was too high, it would fall to the ground unless I grabbed it the second it formed. It required practice. In the end, it didn’t have much space. It couldn’t fit anything large. The shape didn’t matter, so I reserved it for the pricy, bulky, and awkward items. Everything else went on the cart. This included two of the turrets, mark 1s. I wanted to take the Mark IIs, but Katarina said that we couldn’t power them, so I took her word for it.
“Are you sure about taking this Destroyer back?” Katarina asked as we finished up packing. “It’ll cost plenty of large crystals.”
“This guy saved my life,” I responded, patting the armless destroyer with the cart strapped behind him. “Besides, we should have no shortage of large crystals with what we have here and, didn’t you say that Destroyers were a major deterrent?”
This Destroyer may not have any fighting ability, but anyone looking at a distance wouldn’t notice that. It even has its arms, so they wouldn’t know it was useless unless they attacked us.
“True, but you want to travel at night, and our supplies are extremely valuable.”
“The supplies are covered, and as you said its night. They won’t be able to see clearly.” That will also add to making the destroyer seem menacing. I wanted to set the turret up on a second cart to further demotivate people from attacking, but Katarina warned that the turret AI was too stupid and would shoot if anyone appeared, even in windows. It’d be likely to start fights more than protect us. The Destroyer, at least, could take specific orders, like do not fight. This led me to want to take one of the scouts too, just in case, but she said if we took too much security, it’d only convince them we had something worth taking. They might not attack, but they could follow us back to our building and attack at a later date.
It seemed like being safe in the wasteland was complicated. The Perry Merc Group had pushed through with such ease, I had started to lose my sense of caution. Thankfully, Katarina always remained cautious. Between them, she was the one I felt I could trust. With a breath, the out-group left the hospital behind. I had given it my final orders, and soon the four of us were walking down the street, heading the opposite direction that the Syndicate had fled.
Katarina led us, with the robot following close behind. She had the smart gun, but she also had several nice rifles taken from the syndicate, which made her look armed to the teeth. Kiera was in the rear, watching the cart and making sure that it didn’t tip or lose any items. Jeri and I walked in the middle on either side of the rope, staying just behind the droid. I was depending on it to block any bullets since my armor was broken and my shield was down. I still wore the helmet though, so I could avoid a headshot.
I had recovered Veronica and was holding it. My phase knife was also back in my pocket. I had a second rifle slung over my back, but I didn’t keep it in my hands. It was too big and just a bit intimidating to use. At this point, it was dusk, and as we walked, it quickly turned to night. I pulled out a certain item I had been holding in my pocket. There was still a bit of blood on it, putting a bitter expression on my face.
“Percos can’t be factory reset by the 7000,” Katarina told me. “If you reset the Perco, you need a reactivation code, and that can only be provided by Allco, which doesn’t exist anymore, I might add. So, they’re a one-time use item. Allco said it was so that every Perco was personalized to its owner, but I heard that this was just a marketing ploy and they wanted to just sell more units by removing the second-hand market.”
“Still, I’d like to look at it,” I said, standing over the body of Punk.
I didn’t watch as I handed her the phase knife and she cut off his hand to recover it. After that, I hadn’t been in the mood to look at it. Now, I was looking for anything to take my attention off the dark and foreboding streets. She had wanted to stay the night at the hospital, but I convinced her that it was best if we moved when they didn’t expect. The syndicate might lay an ambush for us otherwise. She reluctantly agreed. In truth, I was supposed to be home six hours ago, and my family was probably extremely worried. I had the medication now, and I was anxious to leave this world.
I plugged my device into the Perco 3000. There was a factory reset, but as Katarina said, on reset, it’d demand a reactivation code. I guess this code wasn’t needed on the first-time activation, or it came in the box with the Percos. Mine didn’t have one, but I had a feeling that had to do with the strange way I found this particular one. I also saw the Master code, which when I sent it, the icon change ownership appeared. I clicked, and then set it to owner less. It worked without a problem.
I let out a breath upon seeing that. Jeri looked over at me curiously, so I shoved the device back into my pocket. The main reason Perco’s was rare was that they couldn’t be reset. I now had a means of resetting them. That was an ability alone that would cause waves throughout the wasteland. For not the first time, I wondered just who this guy was and where did he find this Perco.
“Help…” A woman walked out in front of us. “Help!”
Her dress was torn and she was bloody. She had a veil around her face, but she appeared extremely distressed.
Katarina raised her rifle, but I stepped forward and held out my hand. “Are you okay?”
“R-raiders!” She gasped. “Please… save us.”
“M-my sister… she’s wounded. Please… come over here! Save her.”
“I will!” I took a step forward.
Katarina shot me a warning look but I ignored her. The girl gave a happy expression and then spun around. As soon as her back was to me I raised the gun and fired. Since I had closed the distance enough, I was able to hit her dead center. She jerked a step with the shot, but instead of collapsing to the ground, she spun around. The veil fell from her face, revealing a mouth filled with long spindly teeth. She let out a shrieking hiss. There was another shot, striking her in the forehead. This was done by Katarina. With that, the woman collapsed to the ground, dead.
I looked down at her, slightly shaken as Katarina casually walked forward and pulled out a knife. “I was going to say, she’s a revenant, you need to hit the brains if you want her to go down for good.”
“I see…” I responded, keeping my voice from shaking.
She plunged the knife into the woman and cut out a large crystal, pocketing it and then kicking the woman to the side. Whoever was part of her ambush, if it had been more than just her, didn’t show themselves after we broke their ambush so easily. Our group started moving once again. We avoided passing by the Rink, taking a parallel street just out of sight, and then ended up back at the building sometime later.
Looking at the Perco, it was a four-hour walk. It was much faster than when we came. It was also possible that the explosions and gunfights the previous night had kept things relatively quiet. There was a feeling in the air that a big battle had just happened, and most things were smart enough to know that right after a big change, it wasn’t wise to be too greedy. At least, those were my thoughts as we finally pulled up to our building.
We entered inside, and I was feeling practically dead on my feet. There were bags under my eyes and I was stumbling with every step. I was glad there were no more attacks, or I didn’t know if I would be able to handle it. Even still, we had to make sure the building was secure. Since the Destroyer couldn’t go upstairs, I set him to patrol the bottom floor, his job being to signal an alarm if there was anything dangerous, and then lead it to the turrets.
We set up a second turret on the first floor, and then a third on the stairway of the 4th floor, which had seemingly become our home. Although Jeri had a look of disappointment in her eyes, she had the good sense not to say anything. At the moment, other than deferring to me, she hadn’t reacted much to having a slave collar on. Perhaps, her life under the syndicate was already so bad that she didn’t think it could get any worse. Perhaps, she saw her value and thought that there was no way I’d abuse her.
Finally dropping all of the supplies, I ordered Kiera to sleep. Even though she always wanted to prove herself, she was too tired and went to bed without a word. A room was found for Jeri, whom I ordered to follow Katarina’s orders as if they were mine. Katarina had gotten the device and linked it up to Jeri’s collar, and seemed a bit more wary of Katarina than me. I saw Katarina collapse as well, lying in her room.
With that, my eyes locked on the mirror. Finally, it was all done. I didn’t think I would make it for a while. I had been convinced I would die at least a dozen times. I took off every supply. The armor, the weapons, I left them all on the ground next to the mirror. The only things I kept were the phase knife, a few crystals to power it, the medication, and the Perco. The other Perco was hidden in one of the packs I was leaving behind. I closed my eyes and lifted my fingers to the mirror.
“You’re coming back… right?”
I spun around like a child caught with his hand in a cookie jar. Katarina had woken back up and was now standing at the door. She had a somewhat concerned look on her face.
“Katarina…” I could only say that much.
“You have what you came for, right?” I was shocked to see her eyes shine a bit with wetness. “So, why wouldn’t you leave?”
“Katarina,” I repeated.
“Kiera needs you. She has nothing else in this wasteland. She’s your slave. Jeri thinks she can go back to being a pharmacologist again with you.”
“I’ll be coming back,” I said after a moment.
“Daniel, don’t.” She took an angry step forward and then stopped herself, lowering her head. “Don’t make promises you won’t keep.”
“As long as you stay by this mirror, I’ll… keep bringing food. You can make the trades with the rink. I need you to bring me things. Gold, gemstones, toys… if it looks like I can sell it, I need it. Those drugs too… I want her to make them.”
“Y-you really mean it?” She looked up, just a hint of hope in her expression.
“I won’t be going out into the wasteland again… but here… in this place, if you keep it safe, I will return.”
She bit her lip and then gave a small nod. “Fine, I will.”
“I’ll be seeing you again,” I assured her. “Next week.”
She nodded, wiping her cheek. “Fine, one week.”
Without another word, I touched the mirror and returned home. As soon as I walked out into the hallway, there was a shout, causing me to nearly jump. I was going to get a glass of water since I hadn’t eaten or drunk much since I had been in the wasteland. I was tired, and I hadn’t even been thinking about the filthy clothing I was wearing. There was even blood on it, and numerous rips and tears.
“Daniel! Where have you been! What have you been doing?” Mom shouted, grabbing my shoulders.
“Brother is that blood! Daniel!” My sister cried out right behind her.
My mind was numb and I couldn’t help but get shaken back and forth in my mother’s frantic hands.
“Mom stop, you’re killing him!”
“If he doesn’t tell me why he stayed out all night and looks like that, I will kill him!”
“M-mom…” I said in a hoarse voice.
My hand had reached into the baggy in my pocket and I pulled out the capsule pill that Jeri had made. “I need you to take this.”
“What is this? Is this drugs? Daniel, are you on drugs? Tell mommy!”
“Just take it!” I screamed, causing both women to jump, and me to look on desperately. “Please… swallow it.”
Mom’s expression went blank, but then she leaned forward and put her lips around my fingers, taking the pill. I saw her throat contract as she made a gulping noise, swallowing the pill without asking a single question.
Like a dam, I burst into tears. My legs stopped working, and I found myself collapsing. The two women let outcries as I collapsed into their arms. However, their bodies were warm and they had such nice pillows to catch me in. I didn’t even mind the boob sweat. I passed out in their embrace, feeling more relief than I had in weeks. I had done it. I won.
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