“Are you sure this will work?” I asked, picking at the clothing I was in.
It was something really uncomfortable. It was a haphazard mix of armor, spikes, and fabric that covered my body. My hair was a mess, and I had smeared just a bit of dirt on my face and body. The thing I was covering up the most was the Perco on my wrist. It was something no one could see.
“You look like a raider,” Jeri spoke appraisingly as she looked me up and down. “However, it won’t be enough. Their group is large enough that there are plenty of faces people wouldn’t recognize. However, first, you need to convince them that you’re one of them. This doesn’t just mean looking the part, it means acting the part as well.”
“I can…” I swallowed as I tried to remember everything I had ever seen from raiders. “I can act…”
“One thing you can’t act out is being on drugs.” She declared.
“Well, drug-use affects even settlements, but it’s especially bad for raiders. They consume a lot of drugs.”
“Are you saying I need to be on drugs?”
“Don’t be ridiculous.” She waved her hands. “If you were on drugs, you wouldn’t be able to function enough to do what needed to be done. Rather, it’s important to simulate the effects of drugs. Dilated pupils, flushed skin… these effects can be simulated with the right drugs. Furthermore, the wrong drugs can be used as a currency. It might be able to get you out of trouble. So, I’ll make a few batches of Krunk and Dret.”
“Krunk? Dret?” I asked.
“Don’t worry about what they are or do. You don’t want to take anything given to you. I’ll say that much. You also won’t want to try to sell that food you bring from your home. They’ll immediately become suspicious if they see something like that.”
“I got it.”
It was nearly dark out by the time she finished making the items needed. These kinds of drugs naturally weren’t nearly as intensive as the ones that improved my 6-status. So, she was able to make them quickly even with her damaged facility. I returned to my world briefly, making sure to take off my disguise and show myself to my family so they wouldn’t expect I had snuck out again. Then, I was back in that world.
Jeri injected me with a drug of her creation. She said it wouldn’t mess with my mind, but it would cause my body to exude a lot of the effects of a raider who has been doing drugs. I didn’t necessarily like the idea of feeling like a druggie, but if it saved me, I’d do it.
She handed me a gun. “This is one I stored away. It’s all I have to protect myself. If you don’t come back… it’ll be even more difficult to flee.”
I held the gun in my hands for a moment, getting a feel for it. It didn’t feel as comfortable as Veronica, but it would have to do. With a nod for her, I put it up.
“You’re going to stay here?”
“If you’re not back in three days, I’ll assume you’re dead.” She shrugged. “Don’t get me wrong. I’ve decided to help you. That doesn’t mean I don’t still think this is foolish and a mistake. I believe my future is brightest with you, but that assumes you remain alive. If you die, my situation won’t change much from how it was before. If you live through… I’m merely hedging my bets is all.”
I smiled and put a hand on her arm. “I understand. If I die, I set it for the slave collar to release.”
“You…” She touched the collar at her neck and then turned her back on me. “Leave now. I don’t like sappy goodbyes. Remember! Three days!”
I nodded and then left her on the third floor of our now ruined base. When I reached the first floor, I could see more bullets and destruction. The door was kicked in and wide open. They hadn’t even bothered to close anything back up when they left, not that the door which was barely hanging from its hinge could close anymore.
I stood at that door, looking out into the darkening street. I recalled Katarina stating that this was the most dangerous time to travel. However, she was out there now. Potentially anything was happening to the pair of them. I had to go. I had no choice. Taking a deep breath, I stepped out into the wasteland. It wasn’t just night, but this was the first time I had ever ventured out alone. Jeri may have offered me a bit of help, but she wasn’t willing to go with me. She had made that clear. This was something I had to do on my own.
I took it one step at a time, working my way down the street. I finally remembered to take cover, and I hid as I slowly made my way to the museum. Was there a better way to reach it? That might be possible, but right now I had to focus on what I could achieve. I knew this way, so I followed the same path that Katarina had led me only a week prior. I was listening closely, and as I approached the front of the museum, I could hear shouting and hoots in the distance. It looked like the bandits were being rowdy at night. They probably partied all night and slept all day. We had been lucky last week to catch them while they were sleeping.
I began to work my way up the steps, and as I reached the top, I could hear voices echoing inside the museum. There were raiders inside. Were they just traveling through or were they there for some other reason? I didn’t have the chance to find out, because I was so busy listening to them, I hadn’t been watching my feet. An upturned broken piece of step, catching my foot on the last step and I went falling forward.
I was just enough under the columns of the museum that the thud echoed through the room beyond. I cursed to myself as I scrambled to my feet.
“Who’s that?” I heard a voice followed by several running steps.
I panicked for a moment, but then reminded myself that I was trying to pretend to be a raider. If I panicked now, I would lose any chance of completing my mission. A group of five people ran into the lobby with their weapons drawn. When they saw me, they pointed them at me? I stared back at them, trying to appear natural, not afraid.
There were two women and three men. The guy in the lead had done up his hair into a purple spiked mohawk. One of the guys behind him looked scrawny and had scars on his face. The other was a large man who was carrying a large hammer on his back. One of the women was surprisingly pretty, with green died hair, and multiple piercings on her face. The other was rather ugly, with pockmarks on her face and yellow stained teeth. They contrasted against each other horribly.
“Who are you?” The leader demanded. “What are you doing here?”
“I…” I bit my tongue to keep from answering him passively. “What the fuck are you all doing here?”
I put on a cocky and reassured expression.
“You want to die?” He demanded.
I was afraid I had acted incorrectly when the girl flashed a light in my eyes.
“Look at the kid’s eyes, he’s baked. Probably ran off to do some Krunk. Leave him be.” The green-haired girl said.
“Kill him.” The ugly girl snapped.
“We can’t just be gunning down members of other gangs. You guys know the orders.” The leader sighed, pulling up his gun. “Who knows which group he’s a part of.”
“He’s got nobody!” The girl who said kill me continued in a raspy voice. “He’s got no tags on? No one would know or care.”
What is with this woman who wants to kill me? She doesn’t even know me, but she was glaring at me like she wanted me dead. None of the others seemed to care all that much.
“I-I have drugs?” I responded, feeling slightly nervous. “Here, for you.”
I tossed a small baggy of Krunk on the floor. I reckoned that this would support the idea that I was on something, and they’d let me go.
“Is this guy an idiot?” The big one said, looking down at the drugs.
The leader bent over and picked up the baggy. He opened it up, stuck a finger inside, and then licked it. His eyes widened.
“This… this is high-grade! This wasn’t made in the shit shops in camp. This had to be a chemist’s work.” He announced, eliciting startled looks from everyone. “Hey, kid, how the hell did you get ahold of such good drugs?”
She had only whipped up these drugs in a few hours, but they were a very good quality compared to the stuff they got. She caused me just as much issue as if I had just brought the fancy food. They were all looking at me now, wanting answers. I had to come up with something, but I was at a loss. If I didn’t say the right thing, I could die right here.