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The slave auction ended up being inside a large dome observatory which kind of resembled a stage. It was a side building to the science museum. The telescope and anything else that might have once belonged to the building had been stripped away or destroyed, leaving it just a massive dome room with seating around the edges and a stage in the middle. It was already extremely noisy and crowded as we approached. People were shouting, cursing, or even shooting wildly into the air, incidentally causing even more damage to the 360-dome overhead.

“We don’t want to go over there. Those guys are crazy.” Raven whispered before turning directions.

The spot with the most room had a group of skinheads with their bodies covered in tattoos. They had the appearance of people who might be a bit crazy. The other groups were intentionally trying to keep a distance from them, as they sat there in near silence. Compared to the rest of the people who were shouting, cursing, or fighting, their silence was noticeable.

“Who are they?” I asked.

There had taken up nearly a 5th of the observatory just for themselves. Overall, about 300 people could fit in this room, so, 50 of them were from this group.

“They’re the Dragon Claw. You can see, they have a murder dragon as their sigil.” Raven explained.

I stiffened at his words, remembering the murder dragon that I left in the tent with Feather. We hadn’t discussed what we were going to do with the thing at all. I didn’t think Feather would kill it though. How fast did those things grow? Right now, it was tiny, but very soon it’d be massive and murderous. The little thing in the tent was barely recognizable compared to the monsters that nearly killed us.

I put the monster out of my head. It wasn’t my business. I planned to be out of here tonight if everything went according to plan. Instead, I focused on the room around me. Now that he had pointed out the sigil, I realized that each crew seemed to have their sigil representing their group. Since noticing the fire raven sigil on this group, I should have been using such signs to better feel out who was who.

I was able to easily identify the burning fist, the dead brain, and the crackers. I should point out crackers were dynamite. They seemed to be a group that depended heavily on explosives. As for the cock and balls, it was a rooster with balls. That’s not to say that it was a rooster and two random balls, but the far less PG version of such a scene.

With five major raider clans present, they took up the majority of the room. Thankfully, other than the Dragon Claw that seemed to have come out in force, the rest had far more modest numbers, only sending a dozen choice representatives. This gave enough room that we were able to find a spot tucked away in a corner.

I was still looking at other nearby groups and trying to figure out what their crew names were when the entire crowd suddenly quieted down. A man walked into the middle of the group.

Raven nudged me. “That’s Randall.”

Randall, the number 2 of the raider group. Chief and Randall were the entire reason this entire gathering had begun. I immediately took interest in watching him. He was a lot cleaner than I would have expected. If Katarina was beside me, she would have said he had signs of being a colonist. This made it surprising to me that all of these raiders were looking at him with respect. Typically, a guy without piercings and tattoos, dressed in a clean suit with his hair combed, was not the kind of guy that gain the adoration of so many of those present. At least, that’s what I would have thought.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” he declared in a smooth voice that sounded strangely alluring. “In our quest to take over Argos city, we will use whatever resources we can. The wastelanders wish to be tools, servicing the colonists who live in their ivory towers. I want to tear it down, don’t you?”

The crowds burst out into cheering, but I found myself slightly confused. I leaned over to Raven.

“What is it about wastelanders servicing colonies?” I asked.

Raven made a face. “You’ve never heard? How do you think those colony types can live so luxuriously?”

“Zero emissions and recycling?” I blinked.

“Don’t act so naïve. They exploit resources from the wastelanders. Supplies enter into the colonies, waste comes out. That’s why they call this the wasteland.” Raven spoke like this was obvious.

I had a feeling that this was something he believed but was probably a conspiracy theory. To the raiders who committed crimes, it was comforting thinking that they were rebels fighting against the establishment. Even in a world where the establishment collapsed and people were just banding together to survive, some would blame others. They didn’t want to be raiders, they just didn’t want to be under the thumbs of colonies. At least, that’s what they told themselves.

Well, I didn’t know one way or another. I had only been to one wastelander colony and not even a particularly big one from what I understood. I had never been to a colony before.

“Remember, our time is coming, and Chief is watching!” Randal gestured up, where a hole in the dome allowed people to look up to the mech armor on display on the balcony of the nearby building.

This had to have been done on purpose. The raiders didn’t cheer out as much for that. If anything, they all started muttering quietly to themselves. Rather than seeing the mech as a source of strength for all raiders, it seemed like most raiders seemed to see it as how Chief could bully them all. Randall seemed oblivious to the mutterings, continuing with his speech.

“Before the slave auction begins, I will give you one more announcement.” Randall continued. “In one week, we will have a meeting. All leaders must attend. It is time you understand why you’re all here.”

After reminding them of who was in charge, he revealed that they were finally going to learn what the attack plan was. This caused the crowds to begin muttering excitedly to each other. Well, the Dragon Claw continued to say nothing, but everyone else was quite interested. After two weeks of waiting, they’d finally learn why they were summoned here. The move against Argos city was coming.

I furrowed my brow as I thought about such things. If they were going to make some massive move, then we wouldn’t be safe. Even if I managed to save Kiera and Katarina, my only choice was to flee from the city. The Rink would likely fall, and even the northern Twin Elms wouldn’t be able to hold up. This was going to make things very difficult in the future.

“Then, I know you all are more interested in the slaves than me. We have several delectable choices for you. Besides capturing a few colonials and wastelanders, we’ve also had the slave traders bring some of their wares to sell. Thus, we have a prime selection tonight!”

The raiders started clapping to that, as they were finally getting on with the slave auction. I couldn’t see the ladies. They had skillfully placed them in a backroom out of sight. It wasn’t until they emerged on the stage that you would get your look at them. Randall disappeared, and it was an attractive raider woman who wore leather armor that showed more skin than armor and made me wonder how any of it could protect her who began to announce.

“Our first slave for the evening, she is a blonde little crumpet. Her sizes are-” The woman started announcing each slave by giving a full explanation of their status and skills.

Woman after woman came up, most of them looked dirtied and despondent. Some had bruises, and many had vacant looks like their worlds were over. There were also a handful of men brought up. When it was a man, he always had a particularly useful skill. He was either a proven hacker, a locksmith, or had some other sought-after skill that would help a raiding party. As for women, it only seemed to be looks that the men were after.

The bidding occurred wildly, and I was quickly getting a sense of how many crystals things going for. The raider camps didn’t usually exchange crystals like the wastelanders. This was because crystals were far too easy to steal. They’d prefer to keep their wealth in usable items like guns, bullets, and food. At least they didn’t end up like the Rink, which had an abundance of crystals, but no supplies. Thus, although everyone was bidding in crystals, when it came time to pay, it was more likely they’d hand over supplies. That suited me just fine.

As for how much the girls were going, it seemed like 50 large crystals and went up to 200. That was certainly a large amount, but the food I had could cover the cost easily. I just had to wait for one of the women I cared about to come up. When each additional person appeared and it wasn’t one of the people I was looking for, I grew increasingly worried. What’s when the lights in the room suddenly dimmed.

“And now… for my main attraction. She is quiet and extremely submissive. An ideal slave. This woman isn’t simply a beauty, but she is also bonded to a Perco 3000! Rule the wasteland with this slave!”

With such an announcement, a woman with her head down walked onto the stage. I was momentarily stunned. It was Kiera. I had found her.

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