After making sure that I stayed put, the woman started to move around the bandits, taking just about everything of value. That turned out to mostly be my food and water. She ended up eating some in the process, closing her eyes and savoring each bite. I don’t think I had ever enjoyed any food as much as she seemed to. Was food so hard to get in this world? I could only sit awkwardly while she finished cleaning up the place, storing everything she felt she needed in a sack.
She grabbed a few choice weapons and pocketed all the ammunition she could find. I saw some of the weapons on the ground and considered grabbing a few for my protection. However, the woman had never once let go of the gun in her hand, looking fully ready to shoot anything that stood out. I had a distinct feeling that if I tried to pick up a gun, I’d be the next thing she shot.
“Do you have a name? I asked as she finally finished up and started approaching me. “My name is Daniel.”
She walked right past me and muttered in a low voice that seemed filled with disdain. “Typical colonist.”
“What’s a colonist?”
She missed a step, and then turned back, shooting me a glare. “What are you saying? What’s a colonist? You are! Idiot!”
“…” I didn’t know what a colonist was, but I was almost certain that I wasn’t one of them.
From what I could gather, anyone who was clean and neat was a colonist. It seemed like the woman before me was once a colonist, but given her seeming dislike of colonists and being called one, I had to assume that this ended badly for her.
She didn’t ask me to follow, but considering I didn’t know where I was and I had nowhere to run, I followed exactly as she asked. She quickly got off the main street and slid into a back ally. As she moved, she kept her gun up and looked around constantly and diligently. I didn’t know what dangers she was on the lookout for, as the entire place seemed dead. However, I strangely felt at peace knowing that she was on the lookout.
After walking for about ten minutes, she stopped for a bit. She grabbed my shoulder and forced me into a kneeling position behind a car. I had been paying close attention before, but the cars in this world looked different than the cars from my world. It was hard to tell given the fact they were covered from head to toe in rust and the majority of them were stripped of basically of everything from the engine to the wheels and even the seats.
That was when I realized that the cars never had wheels, to begin with. There was no depression or arch where the car would have sat. They looked like they had been just hovering, and then collapsed in their spot and then lay there for a decade or so. They gave that kind of impression.
“Shhhh!” She hissed. “Revenants.”
She peaked out over the car, carefully surveying the street ahead with her gun in her hand. I didn’t know what she meant, but I trusted her words and kept quiet. Something seemed to pass by, as she lowered her head and kept quiet. From my view shoved behind the car, I couldn’t see anything, and without wheels, the car had no way I could peak out from under. I cautiously tried to peak up over the window. I only just managed to get a peek before the woman grabbed me and yanked me down, covering my mouth in the process. What I saw appeared to be a group of three people, except something seemed off about them. First of all, they were deathly pale, with red eyes. Second. They had long claws for hands, and their teeth were long and sharp, like teeth of an anglerfish.
The sight shocked me enough that I didn’t move again. The woman seemed slightly afraid of them, and she held me close. I could feel her hot breath against my face, and I could smell the sweet scent of sweat emanating from her body. After a long period, she moved over and checked again. This time, she leaned back with a breath of relief.
“Okay, we can go.” She glanced at me. “My name is Katarina, by the way.”
I nodded, following after her. We didn’t head much farther before she turned and went into a house. It wasn’t one of the shops or larger buildings, but a rather simple house. It was rather barebones. As soon as she got inside, she checked out each room. Then she shut the door and began to use any piece of wood she could find to barricade it. She tried to block or hide every window or door into the place. I helped a little bit, but she seemed to have a method of how she did it, and I could mostly just watch. After that, she headed up the stairs. I followed after her silently, but she plopped down and then pulled out another water and a can of food and started to eat it. I was thirsty and hungry too, having not eaten since that morning, but she didn’t offer me anything.
“That Perco, it’s a 3000, right?”
I reached down and touched the watch on my wrist instinctively. “This… um… I don’t know.”
I did know. They had told me it was a 9000 when I put it on. However, I suddenly felt like keeping this from her, especially when she was guessing incorrectly in the first place. It was best to let her just think what she wanted, even though I didn’t know how that would benefit me.
“It’s probably a 3000, that’s the model all the colonists had, 3rd generation Perco. The 1st generations were more of a prototype. The 2nd generations were popular, but they had been ransacked from all the stores and factories and used up decades ago. Most seen nowadays come from the colonies. The 7000 was their 4th generation. Don’t ask me why. Those supposedly only went to CEOs and top brass.”
“What about 9000?” I asked, realizing my slip the second I said it.
She gave me a weird look. “I heard rumor Allco had developed a new prototype Perco, but it might have never gone into production.”
“Ah… sorry. 9000 seemed like the next logical step.” I tried to explain where I got the number.
She nodded, seeming to buy it. “It was the 90s when the Great Fall began, so I could imagine them calling a new product 9000.”
“How long has it been now?” I asked innocently like I was just making casual conversation.
“Seventy-eight years.” She responded.
I almost made a noise. It had been a lot longer than I had originally thought. Wouldn’t that mean that I was technically in the future? It was abundantly clear the timeline of this world did not match with the timeline of my world.
“Anyway, you should turn your Geiger counter on.”
“My… ah… okay… um… Perco, turn on my Geiger counter.”
“Geiger Counter on, current rads, zero. Warning when the threshold is over 1.”
“Voice commands? I didn’t know the 3000 could do that.” She frowned.
It wasn’t a 3000, but a prototype 9000, a 5th generation Perco.
“Ah, well, it looks like we have no radiation here.”
“We’re lucky. I lost my Geiger while on the run from those bandits. I’ve been walking around blind. For all I know, we could have walked right through a deathly radioactive ally.”
“Really?” I sat up.
“Just relax, scan yourself, if you have no rads, then you’re still clean.”
I did as she asked and scanned myself. I had no rads. She finished up eating, pulled out a blanket, and then lied down in the corner of the room, her hand still on her gun facing me. Taking her cue, I found the opposite corner. My backpack was in shreds and had been discarded, so I didn’t even have my blanket. I just did my best to get comfortable. As I watched her, I raised the watch and then scanned in her direction, 20 rads. When the clock announced it with a beeping alert and a warning, she let out a light laugh.
“You might want to set that threshold to ten rads or you’re going to hear that alarm going off all the time.” She stopped for a moment, and then looked me up and down questioningly. “Why did you leave the colony? You have a Perco, so you must have been important? The colony provides everything, and you don’t seem like someone skilled and trained enough to be allowed on the surface.”
“Ah… that… my… mother.”
I decided it would just be easier to keep pretending I was from this mysterious colony. However, it probably wouldn’t hurt to put a little truth in it. Rather, I didn’t know enough about this world to fake it.
“She… um… has cancer. So, I came here hoping to help with the cure.” Although I had given an approximation of the truth, she stared at me for a bit, and I was beginning to realize I had said something wrong.
“Wastelanders aren’t idiots like you Colonists seem to think. The colonies have full medical facilities. If your mother had gotten cancer, you’d just give her a treatment of anticancer drugs. If you’re going to make up such weak lies, spare them for someone who cares.” She rolled over, showing her back to me.
However, I noticed she had placed a mirror in front of her, so she’d see me even if I moved, while I couldn’t see her. My mind wasn’t focused on that though. Rather, it was what she had said. Anticancer drugs. This world… it had a cure for cancer?