“That’s our target right there.” Raven gestured to a building.
We had been walking down several streets before the party stopped abruptly. They moved at a much brisker pace than I ever had with Katarina. They also did not attempt to take cover or watch where they were going. It felt more like they were taking a stroll through the city. They had their guns out, and if anything made a noise they pointed at it with their finger on the trigger, but otherwise, they made no attempts to avoid the sight of others.
This method of travel made me extremely nervous. We were announcing our presence to anyone out there who wished us ill will. Then again, I seemed to remember that the Perry Mercenary Group also moved this fast. However, they had a bit less of a relaxed feel. They moved as if they were a military group, and that inspired a feeling of safety. I suppose once you had a good 5-6 armed people, most predators avoided you.
I finally looked in the direction the rest of the party was eyeballing. It was a building about four levels high, built in a rectangle. It looked a lot like the Perco office building that I had taken up residence in, but it had fewer windows and it looked like it had taken more damage. It was difficult to tell how bad the inside was, but the outside was crumbling.
“An office building?” I asked. “For food?”
Payne glared in my direction. “Office buildings are often overlooked. People leave all kinds of snacks in the break rooms and hidden in their desks from back when they worked.”
“Yeah, but those snacks would be decades-old…” All of the bandits looked at me, and I immediately stiffened.
In this world, you ate what you could get your hands on. Honestly, I didn’t know how these cans of food survived that long. This world’s canning and food processing must have been years beyond my world. Even if that wasn’t the case, when it was a matter of survival, people would even boil their shoes if they felt they could gain sustenance from the leather. I wasn’t interested in eating anything we found in this apocalyptic world. I just hoped nobody questioned me too closely on why I wasn’t eating when the time came.
“Come on, let’s go?”
He stood and started walking directly for the front door. The others began to follow. I remained in my spot, a small frown on my face.
“What now?” Payne hissed, the first to notice me not moving.
“Wouldn’t it be better if we scouted it out first? I mean, there could be anything in there.”
After having traveled a few times with Katarina, I had gotten used to her way of doing things. She had always remained hidden and checked everything twice. Wandering into an abandoned building like that was a risk that she would rarely take.
“Coward.” She huffed under her breath, not for the first time.
“If you’re scared, just stay behind me.” Feather encouraged.
“It’s not a matter of fear…” I muttered.
It was a matter of not wandering into danger that wasn’t necessary. At the very least, we could peek through the windows, or enter through a side door. Walking straight through the front door of such a place seemed stupid.
“We’ve been doing this for a while,” Raven explained. “No wastelanders are living here, and any mutants would have been scared away by the sound of such a large camp so close by. Our biggest worry is that some other group has already cleared out this building. Allegedly, you’re supposed to put an X on the door once you’ve cleared a place, but other crews like to use a hidden symbol for themselves that no one else would recognize or look for, that way they can waste everyone else’s time while not losing track themselves.”
He was probably right about that. We hadn’t seen a single enemy. The noises of a few hundred raiders were enough to send anything threatening running. That gathering wasn’t quiet, with the firing of arms and the noise of merriment deep into the night.
“So, even such a system is in place. Won’t such a large camp of raiders quickly strip the city of resources? How long can it possible remain there?”
“We only started gathering under Chief’s call two weeks ago.” Raven shrugged. “Most of them brought food. Even we’d be fine if we didn’t need to sell it. As for how long, Chief’s planning on making a move on the locals fairly soon. Once we crack the spoils of the nearby settlements, food won’t be a problem for any of us.”
“If he was smart, he’d just hold the colony ransom. Make them risk their lives getting food for us.” Hunter muttered.
“That’s a possibility as well.” Raven chuckled. “Come on, let’s get going. I don’t want to be stuck out here once the sun falls.”
He shoves through the front door, lifting his gun and looking around the somewhat dark room beyond. The rest of us follow. I keep my gun in my holster. It doesn’t quite fit right, but Veronica had been taken, so it was the best I had at the moment. I wasn’t going to draw it unless I had to, though. I had a fear that I’d be too jumpy, and accidentally shoot something or someone I shouldn’t.
“Fan out. If you need help, shout.” Raven ordered.
So much for sticking together. I guess it would speed the search for food up, but it also increased the danger. In this world, even rodents were massive. They likely wouldn’t flee no matter how much noise people made and a single one would be enough to kill me if I was caught unaware.
“We’ll search together.” Heather shot me a flirtatious grin.
“Hehe… someone is going to become a man.” Husk chuckled.
I missed a step as I realized who he was talking about. Feather’s smile tightened, but she didn’t say a word to deny it. Was she seriously going to take me away and do that? To this point, I was still a virgin, so the thought of having sex interested me. Furthermore, she was a pretty girl with a punk vibe.
However, the second I pictured it, the face of Katarina appeared in my mind. I shook my head. There was no way I could play around with a raider while she was potentially in trouble. In fact, I should do my best so that we didn’t have to stay here even a moment longer.
“Daniel’s going with me,” Raven spoke sternly.
Payne shot Heather a gloating smile as she became pouty, but no one went against Raven’s orders. Raven nodded to me and then started heading down a certain hall. Unlike where I had set up base, this building had much more depth to it that I hadn’t been able to see from the front. Where the building I was in just had a single hallway lined with rooms on each floor, this one had a spiderweb of hallways that left from the main atrium.
Payne and Heather went down one path while Husk and Hunter went down the opposite path. Raven was walking down a third, so I quickened my step to join him. The hallways were covered in filth and garbage, and there wasn’t much present to draw the eye. It was only a little bit before we were completely alone, slowly walking down the hallway. When he reached a door, he’d peak in, then enter and quickly scour any drawers or closets. Most of it appeared to be empty.
As we progressed, we went up a flight of stairs, and then another. We took so many turns that I was completely lost to where we were in the building at this point. I mostly just focused on following Raven.
I wasn’t particularly optimistic about touching charged, burned, and possibly radioactive objects. Everything in this world had a low level of radiation that exceeded anything I’d experience in my own world. If I wasn’t being fortified by this world’s drugs, and also had access to anti-cancer medication, I would likely be sweating every second I was in this world. That’s why I didn’t bring back very much from the other world.
I did find an interesting trick though. When an item got digitized and then pulled out of digitization, it lost all of its radioactivity. So, I didn’t need to remove radiation on anything anymore. I just had to store it in my watch and then take it back out and it was scrubbed. It saved me a lot of time and worry. It wouldn’t work on any object too large to be digitized, and digitizers in this world, let alone Percos to run them, were so rare that it was not surprising no one else capitalized on this trick.
“It’s best if you don’t sleep with Feather.”
I jumped as Raven suddenly spoke up. I had been trying to look busy, opening dirty drawers with my sleeves so I didn’t have to touch anything directly. That’s when Raven spoke, standing right behind me.
“N-no!” I protested. “I wasn’t planning on anything like that!”
It was the truth. Although Feather was pretty, she was also a raider. There was no way I would do something like that.
He nodded. “It’s not that I’m interested or anything, it’s just that, before joining us, Feather used to sell herself to get by. She’s been with more men than you can count.”
“Although, if you touch Payne, I’ll break your arms.”
“Payne!” I coughed.
“I think she’s warming up to me.” He blushed. “A little longer and she’ll let me share her bed willingly. I mean, I’d just force her, but she has a lot of knives on her and I might be bound to lose something trying. Then again, it might be worth it!”
He chuckled as if he was making a joke, but I was completely floored. He was talking about the ugly goth wannabe who was always looking down her nose on everyone and couldn’t say a single nice thing to save her? I guess, in the world of the apocalypse, there was no accounting for tastes, especially when you were a guy in leather with a purple mohawk.