I was a bit hesitant, but I decided to take a few choice bones using the digitizer. I made sure that they worked perfectly on some useless specimens before I finally took the ones I wanted. These were obvious bones from dinosaurs. In particular, I took a complete velociraptor as well as choice bones from a T. Rex and a triceratops.
“I don’t know why you’re so excited about dinosaurs.” Katarina crossed her arms. “If you want to see a real dinosaur, there are a few places out in the wasteland where they established themselves after the cloning parks collapsed.”
“Th-the… the cloning parks?”
She raised an eyebrow. “You don’t know? Mesozoic Park?”
“You’re joking with me!” I nearly jumped up.
I froze for a second, staring at Katarina. A slight smirk appeared on her face.
“You believe we brought back dinosaurs?” She burst into laughter.
Feeling a bit depressed, I finished up putting away everything while Katarina continued to laugh to herself. She was always so serious about everything that I had never even thought to question her words. I did think that dinosaurs existed in this world. I sighed and followed Katarina back up the stairway. We were heading toward the entrance when she suddenly grabbed me and yanked me behind a damaged display case.
“Get down!” She hissed.
She didn’t need to say anything though, as I was able to hear the noise too. It was the sound of three men talking casually.
“Ah, man, Chief is going to be excited by this find!”
“Hehehehe, he might even promote us!”
“Don’t be idiots! Do you think we’ll even be able to meet the Chief? It’ll just be Randall. It’s always Randall. Randall might as well be in charge.”
“Shut up, idiot! Do you want Chief to hear that? He’s got the mech armor. He’s the one who is in charge.”
“Whatever, man. I’m just saying Chief doesn’t leave his suite for anything. Food and women go in, and only scraps come out.”
“I don’t mind the female scraps though…”
“Eh, I don’t like sloppy seconds. After he’s played with them, they don’t have any fight left.”
“Perhaps we should tell Chief how you feel.”
Katarina gave me a serious look before gesturing for me to follow. She waited for the three men to pass, and then slowly snuck out from behind the case. Careful not to step on anything that would make noise, she started moving across the room. However, instead of heading toward the entrance, she started following the men. She kept just out of eyesight, but following them was easy as they talked loudly the entire time.
These guys were raiders. There was no doubt about that at all. They each had guns on them, and they wore an assortment of punk armor that seemed as much for show as it was for protection. I made sure to follow directly behind Katarina. I was concentrating so hard that sweat was pouring from my face. I stopped when she stopped and walked when she walked.
The raiders ascended a long staircase. We followed them to the second story of the museum. We didn’t need to go too far before we discovered a massive hole behind the museum. It was as if a bomb had exploded on the second floor, taking out part of the ceiling and the outer wall. There was a long plank that connected the museum to another building across the street. That building was a full-sized hotel.
We watched from hiding as the three men walked across the makeshift path over to the hotel. Their voices faded away as they disappeared in that building. The pair of us cautiously walked over to the edge and looked out over the hotel. Most of the external walls of this floor had been ripped away, giving a clear view of hundreds of raiders. Some were cooking while others were gambling, doing drugs, or even other things. I immediately looked away, a blush on my cheeks.
“If even watching that is too much for you, then the wasteland isn’t for you,” Katarina said slowly.
“That’s something we both can agree on.” I shot back.
“This is bad.”
“How bad?” I asked, glancing over at her while she still snuck peeks from behind the wall.
“These guys aren’t playing around. They’ve set up shop here. That power supply would have been too heavy for them to lug for very long. Now I know they didn’t lug it very far.”
“You’re saying they’re powering their stuff in the hotel?”
“Yeah, they’ve settled down here. Did you hear what they said earlier?”
“Female scraps…” I shivered.
There were numerous people out in the open fornicating. There was little modesty among the raiders. Some of them were probably male and female raiders, but some of them were probably scraps as well.
“No, I’m talking about the mech armor.”
“It’s something I never want to face in my lifetime.” When I stared at her blankly, she continued. “It’s a protective suit for battle. It’s bulletproof. It’s filled with weapons. It’s a one-man tank. If you wanted to know how people could fight destroyers… it’d be with a mech armor.”
“How do they match?” I asked worriedly.
“If we had a suit of mech armor, we could have taken that entire hospital without the need of your Perco.” She sighed. “That’s how they managed to take over this museum.”
Even with the loss of life we saw, it turned out that taking this museum would probably have been impossible. There had to be something that had emboldened them to do it. That turned out to be a leader with access to mech armor.
“How rare is it?” I asked.
“Mech armor? Very. It not only requires you to have a perco to log into it, but you also need login rights. It’s like my smart rifle. Once it’s been registered to a user, it’s locked. It wouldn’t do well for one of our weapons to be stolen by the enemy, after all.”
So, it was like that. It was even rarer than percos. However, I wasn’t worried about registration locking me out. I was confident that any device I found I could use.
“We know they are there, and they don’t know about us. Why is it bad?” I finally asked the big question that had been brewing in my head.
“They’re big. That patrol we followed? That’s only one of their groups that will likely be scouting the wasteland. We’re only a few blocks away. It’s only a matter of time before they find us. With the firepower they offer, taking us out would be easy.”
She looked up at me, and then looked away. “We have to abandon the building. It’s the only way.”
“We’ll move the mirror. I recommend that we relocate to the Rink.”
“The Rink isn’t much farther. Will they be safe?”
The raiders will happily attack convoys and small targets, but ultimately, they need the settlements, since settlements provide resources. They’ll probably cut some kind of agreement with the Rink. The Rink provides supplies, and the raiders leave them alone. That’s usually how that kind of thing works.”
“Do you think this had any connection to the Syndicate?” I asked.
“What do you mean?”
“I don’t find it a coincidence that the Syndicate made this deal with the Rink, and then a week after they fail to secure the hospital a new threat appears nearly on their doorstep.”
“I didn’t think of that.” She shook her head. “You might be right. The syndicate might be behind this, but that doesn’t matter to us. We’re just unlucky enough to be stuck in the middle.”
“We’ll find a new spot, but it’ll be a spot we choose,” I spoke up. “I won’t go to the Rink.”
“Okay…” She didn’t argue with me.
I looked over at her with a bit of surprise.
“You’ve been in charge since the beginning. I told you that you had my services as long as you keep me fed. You’ve done your side. You point and I’ll shoot. That’s worked out so far.”
I slowly nodded. I had my reasons. If the Rink eventually did sell out to the Syndicate, I had a feeling I’d be sold as part of the agreement. This did put us in a crap position. The two of us left our spot and returned to the base without incident. However, the mood that had been a bit excited before had become somber now.
“Spend the next week scouting. Avoid the raider scouts, but try to find us a place. Maybe, we could take up an area like where the Bling raiders were at. Any place to the east has to be better than where we are right now.”
“I will.” Katarina nodded.
Things felt a bit off now that my plans had fallen through. The girls were in a risky spot right now, and until we moved, they’d be in danger. I disliked that I could only do this on weekends. I wished I could just graduate and get this over with. The one good thing is that I had something I thought the auction might like.
I closed the door to my room and touched the mirror, returning home. I had a lot of work to do.