Another week passed by, and I did an inventory on all of the stuff I had bought. I really didn’t know how much I could carry through the ring. The inventory had limited space, and I wanted to take as much as I could. I reckoned I might have to take several loads. It shouldn’t matter. The value of the things I was taking far exceeded the value of those crystals I’d be using to cross dimensions.
I had come up with several ways to try to maximize what I could carry. I had several backpacks, luggage, and even boxes. It didn’t just contain food either. I included just about every amenity I could think of. It only ended up coming to about a thousand dollars worth of stuff, but compared to the chunk change I bought before, it was quite a lot.
With a breath, I picked up a full load, and then touched the mirror. I let out a grunt as the entire weight of my backpack collapsed on my back. I fell forward, slamming into the mirror, the box in my arm jamming into my stomach. With a groan, I rolled off of the mirror. The sudden change in position had caught me off guard. I realized I was lying on the ground, and the mirror was lying on the ground as well. I dropped everything to my side and then stood up.
I reached for the gun that I left on a hook, only to find that it wasn’t there. Feeling panicked and nothing thinking too much, I shoved through the door which was ajar, and looking around desperately. The rooms were empty. They weren’t just empty of the girls, but they were empty of everything. The mattresses were gone, as was everything else.
I finally reached the kitchen and found that it had been completely raided. All of the stored food was taken and the doors were all left open. I ran to the stairway, only to see the turret molten wreck. There were bullet holes in the walls. Rather than run downstairs, I ran up to the third floor. I looked from room to room. Jeri’s lab was still there, but it had been smashed to pieces. The entire place had been destroyed.
Just when I turned back around, I heard a thump. I had no weapon on me, so it was probably stupid, but I immediately opened the door where I heard the noise. A form suddenly leaped at me. I took a fist to the face, stumbling back into the wall.
“Ahh!” I cried out as I stumbled back.
I shook my head to get rid of the white spots and then looked up to see a frumpy looking Jeri. Her hair was a mess and she was dirty. She didn’t look like the clean and crisp scientist that she usually presented herself.
“Jeri? Wh-what happened?”
“The raiders. They found us. Two days ago.” She explained.
My face turned white. “Th-the raiders? Where is everyone?”
“Katarina and the slavegirl were both captured. I-I hid when I heard them coming up to the third floor. I had to hang out the third story window for two hours to avoid being seen.”
“Katarina and Kiera are gone?”
“I’m sorry. They just blew blast the turrets. Katarina didn’t even have time to get everything on before they had already captured her.”
“What did they do with them?” I grabbed her, even though I was still practically on the floor.
“I-I don’t know!” She responded. “Th-they’re probably captured as slaves!”
“Slaves…” I fell back onto my butt as I let go of her.
“I’m sorry. This kind of thing happens, Master. You have my condolences. The best thing we can do is move somewhere else and rebuild. With your ability to get resources, and my pharmacological ability, I’m sure the Rink would take us. However, I believe it’s only inevitable that those raiders encounter the Rink. We should head all the way north to Twin Elms. That’s the only place where we could find true safety.”
“L-leave… what are you saying?”
“Master, this place is no longer safe. The only reason I haven’t left already is because of this.” She touched the collar. “I was ordered to stay here, so I can’t leave until you order me. I honestly feared you wouldn’t return. I haven’t even eaten in two days!”
“We’re not leaving! We’re getting them back?”
Jeri looked at me in disbelief. “These are raiders that were well-armed enough to take out the museum! How can you do anything? I even heard they have a mech armor! Even Twin Elms wouldn’t be able to take them out. The Syndicate is probably the only group in the territory…”
“The Syndicate are the ones who armed them in the first place!”
I didn’t know this to be true, but it made more sense than anything else. Jeri froze for a second and then nodded as if she accepted it as well. It did seem like the only real explanation on how so many raiders could group up in such a short time with such firepower. They had been given resources by the Syndicate so that the nearby colonies felt pressured into joining their alliance.
“That’s all the more reason that we need to get out of here! There is just one of you now. I’m no fighter! Even if you ask me to give my life, I’d rather let the collar kill me. I won’t become one of their sex toys.”
“S-sex toys…” I immediately remembered the conversation I heard between the raiders traveling through the museum.
They called them scraps. I had even seen some of them, wildly tasting women who had practically no hope or sanity left in their eyes. They were literally being treated like dumpsters, where man after man lined up and had them. That was the most likely fate for both Kiera and Katarina. In fact, two days had already passed. There was a good chance that fate had already happened.
A wave of hopelessness shot through me. How could things go from good to bad so quickly?
“So, as I was saying, most of my supplies are salvageable…”
“We’re not leaving,” I spoke up before she could say anything else.
“Master…” she shook her head. “We need to…”
“I’m not leaving them!”
“Life is cheap-”
“Not their lives!” I stood up and shouted, causing her eyes to widen. “Not any of your lives.”
“I’ll release your collar. You can go now.” I lifted my Perco.
“You’re only here because you’re a slave, right? You don’t care about them, or me. You probably had a much better life under the Syndicate. Feel free to go to the Rink, or Twin Elms, or wherever the hell else you want to go. I have a closet downstairs. Take any supplies you want to carry. It’s fresh un-radiated food. Its value can easily buy you protection to anywhere you want to go.”
I opened up the menu with her information in it. One of the options I could click was unlock. Just as I reached for it, a hand covered my watch, blocking my hand.
I looked up at her and was surprised to see her eyes wet, and a stubborn, angry expression on her face.
“I said no.” She stated. “I am your slave. You will not free me.”
“You seem to not understand the part about being my slave. You can’t tell me what to do.” I responded wryly.
“I never said I was a good slave.” She shrugged.
“The future.” She made a complicated face. “I have lived in this world that has been unable to recover since the virus. Mutants, raiders, dictators, radiation, and monsters have kept this world from ever moving past a world of rubble. With you, for the first time, I saw a future. I tasted fresh food, and I slept on a clean and soft bed. If you must ask about my life in the syndicate, it was a life of servitude. I’ve had more freedom to do what I love as your slave than I ever did as their servant. So, if it comes to a choice, I will remain your slave, no matter what!”
“I… I can’t promise I can keep you safe.”
“Anyone who promises certain safety in this world is a liar,” she replied.
“I can’t even promise I won’t die tomorrow.”
“Then, tomorrow, I’ll worry about it. However, as long as you’re there with me, I will be yours. That is what I’ve decided.”
I shook my head and then sighed. “You are a bad slave.”
“Don’t worry about me. The question is what will you do next?”
“I need to get them back.” I bit my lip. “I need to free them. It doesn’t matter if they are enslaved. With my Perco, I’ll be able to remove their slave collars at will. I just need to get to them and then escape.”
“How do you plan to do that?” She asked the big question.
“A… Stealthco?” I asked.
“Even if I could make it freely, it would never be enough.” She shook her head. “They aren’t robots or dumb ferals. They will notice you if any light bounces off of you, and then you’re dead. Plus, that place is far too large to search in five-minute spurts.”
“Then, what do you suggest?”
She looked me up and down, a thoughtful expression on her face. “How good is your acting?”