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“Psst… hey… Jeri?” I whispered as I walked into the lab room.

“Mr. Daniel, you’ve returned?”

I let out a sigh of relief as I heard her voice from outside the window. There was a chance that Jeri had taken off once I rescinded the orders that she had to remain in the building. When I hadn’t seen her, I was seriously starting to worry. I went over to the window and I reached my hand out and helped her climb back into the building.

“We need to come up with a method so you know it’s me.” I sighed.

“You’ve returned.” She responded, glancing around. “The girls?”

My face turned bitter. “I haven’t managed to get them yet. However, I’m getting close.”

“So, you’ve found them then?”

“N-no…” I looked away. “Ahem… but I’ve successfully infiltrated myself as a bandit.”

“I’ll say, you certainly stink like one.” Jeri covered her nose.

“Look, I need drugs.”

“Don’t tell me that you’ve become addicted.” Jeri made a face behind her hand.

“No! Rather, I need the drugs so I can trade for information.”

“What’s wrong with the batches I already gave you?” She demanded suspiciously.

“Ah… that… the Fire Ravens are expecting more. I need to produce it or they are going to suspect something. I’ve been handed a bunch of ingredients to make drugs so they can sell them for food. The more we produce, the more I can find out information.”

“The Fire Ravens?” She raised an eyebrow.

“Ah… that’s our team… group… um… gang?” I actually couldn’t remember what they called groups of raiders.

“Mr. Daniel, you’re there for a particular purpose. I already think it’s too late to save them, but it’s assuredly growing less likely the longer you wait.”

“I know that!” I frowned. “I’m doing the best I can, okay? The guys are trying to sell the murderdragon eggs now, and Raven says I’ll get a good cut of it. I plan to start asking some questions and wetting palms tonight. However, if I don’t get any drugs to sell, then they might go hungry and blame me.”

“Murderdragons? You’ve seen a murderdragon?”

“Two, actually.” I chuckled, trying to laugh it off. “We managed to kill them though and steal two eggs. It was cool.”

Jeri narrowed her eyes again. “Daniel… you’re a young man…”

“Huh?” What does that have to do anything?”

“I didn’t think about this before because of your mysterious background, but a lot of young men get recruited as raiders. Being a wastelander is a long, hard, and boring life. They get excited by the thrill of the raider life.”

“What does that have to do with me?” I blinked.

“Sex, drugs, and no rules? It’s an appealing lifestyle.”

“What are you saying?” I laughed. “I’m not becoming a raider! I didn’t even have sex with Feather. She snuck into my tent last night and even got to my zipper, but then Hunter showed up and kicked her out.”

That wasn’t saying I would have had sex with her if Hunter didn’t show up. She was a cute girl though, and it was exhilarating. I had frozen completely at the time, but I was sure that I would have come to my senses and kicked her out on my own.

Jeri wasn’t convinced. “My brother was tempted by a woman. He left and did a lot of bad things. He eventually had a falling out and ran away. He returned home looking for sanctuary, but the village refused to accept him. My parents had to turn their back on him. A few weeks later our home was attacked and burned to the ground. It was the Syndicate that managed to save us. I’m just giving you a warning. Raiders should be avoided. Do you understand?”

“Yeah… I get it.” I responded, feeling a bit irritated by her accusations.

“These Fire Ravens… they’re not your friends.”

As she said that, I found myself recalling last night when Raven had called me family. I shook my head, feeling even more agitated.

“I got it. You’re the slave. Just make the drugs. Okay?”

She continued to look at me, and I found myself unable to meet her eyes. A moment later, she reached into a drawer and pulled out several more baggies.

“RegenX, two doses.” She declared, “And some other drugs they might be interested in. Krunk and Dret mostly.”

“Can you make some Rad-Z too?” I asked.

She frowned. “Why?”

“I… um… ended up getting a lot of Rads. I had forgotten to take some Rad-R, so I needed two doses to get it out of my system.”

I still had two doses, but you never knew how quickly those could go. I hadn’t expected to fall on a bomb and ended up with 30 rads. Apparently, at 50 rads you started getting radiation sickness, so it left me pretty scared. That bomb was leaking radiation like crazy and I was walking in it. The last thing I needed was to start losing my hair or something.

“Fine. Leave whatever supplies they get. Let me make you another list of useful ingredients. If you can buy from the raiders, we might as well take advantage of that and get the ingredients we need.” Jeri crossed her arms.

I nodded. “Thank you. I’m… I’m going to get them back, okay?”

She didn’t respond. Instead, she quickly jotted down a list in her typical rapid messy writing and then handed it to me.

“You only have two days before you have to return home, right?”


I had prepared three days to find them. It was a three-day weekend, so I had the time. I thought about using the mirror and returning home for a bit. However, I feared if I returned home, that I might lose my drive to return. Already coming to this building left me feeling cold. I had to slip away with a fair amount of difficulty, and feeling the perceived safety of this building only reminded me of how much tension I had been feeling out there, suppressed under the surface and barely contained.

When I learned of Katarina and Kiera being kidnapped, I had immediately been gung-ho about saving them. Anyone would think that way when finding out someone they knew was hurt. However, that was a knee-jerk reaction. Now that some time had passed and the fear set in, I kept having doubts. First, as Jeri urged, it was probably too late. They were mentally broken, and maybe even dead by now. Could I even handle it if I found them in some kind of horrible state?

Kiera had already been a toy of raiders, so she might be able to recover, but Katarina was a proud woman who would rather die than become their slave. What happened to her?

Then, I started having more doubts. How well did I even really know either woman? Were a few women I had known for only a few weeks even worth saving? Maybe I should just take Jeri and go. That was what would be expected of anyone normally. I just wasn’t built for such a thing.

Then, there was the Fire Ravens. They weren’t like the raiders I had built up in my head. I wouldn’t call them normal, but they weren’t evil either. Feather was compassionate. Raven was dedicated. Husk was noble. Hunter was loyal. Even Payne… well, Raven liked Payne at least.

Jeri gave me what she had and I left what I had brought and then we bid farewell. Holding the drugs tightly in my hand, I swore that I would try twice as hard to find out what happened to the girls. I walked downstairs, and I let out a cry as I ended up running face-to-face with the Fire Ravens. Raven was looking up at me with his arms crossed, and Payne was glaring at me.

“What are you doing here?” I cried out.

“Huh? You tried to sneak off while we were out selling those eggs.” Hunter spoke up. “I followed you here and then got the gang.”

“What are you doing here?” Raven demanded suspiciously. “Are you hiding something from us?”

My mind ran a mile a minute. If I gave them the wrong answer, would I end up dying here? Thankfully, the Allgility I had taken had helped keep my mind focused and clear. I had just taken the next dose this morning.

“I need a clean area to work on making the drugs.” I declared. “Someone had set up a lab at some point in this building. I found it and decided to use it to make them.”

Raven blinked, and then he nodded. “Oh, crap. That’s right, isn’t it? I suppose you can’t just make them at that makeshift camp. Damn! Why didn’t I think of that?”

I shrugged. “It’s nothing. I’ve headed here a few times and this area is pretty safe. Some guys cleared it out earlier this week. It’s a great spot. Plus, it’s quiet.”

“Damn… and here I thought you were meeting a girl.”

“A girl!” I stiffened.

“Yeah, I thought you were meeting up with some cute girl to bang.” Raven laughed.

Feather cried out. “It’s not true, is it?”

“It’s not!” I responded in a strangled voice.

“You know, I caught Feather sneaking into the tent last night.” Hunter frowned.

“Damn it, Feather!”

“I was just trying to make the new member of our crew feel welcome!” She responded defensively.

The group and turned around, seemingly taking my lie as fact. Even if they did come up, Jeri would probably be hiding and I would be found to be truthful. However, it still left me feeling a bit odd. As they left, only one person didn’t join them. Payne glared at me suspiciously.

“A lab?” She asked in an angry tone.


“Just be careful with yourself.” She turned and walked out.

Letting out a breath, I realized that I couldn’t keep doing this. That was far too close. If Hunter had followed me up the building, he might have heard Jeri. It was only the morning of my second day, but I felt like I was losing it. I had to find Kiera and Katarina by tonight!

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