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Kiera had appeared on the stage before me. It would have been unlikely for her to spot me among the crowd. The lights were aimed at the middle, effectively blinding her. This was probably so a slave couldn’t deliberately try to attract or reject a winning bidder, or maybe I was thinking about it too hard. Even if she could spot me, she probably wouldn’t notice me in my current dress as a raider. With the loudness of all of those present, the only way I’d even be able to get her attention would be in a way that would get far too many people’s attention.

Katarina wasn’t with her, which was very unfortunate. However, if I found one, that meant that there was a chance to find the other. Kiera had been captured and treated as a special slave because of her Perco. That meant that while the last week she might not have been comfortable, it didn’t look like she had been brutalized either. Only a fool would destroy their opportunity at wealth. Just like the Fire Ravens didn’t eat the murder dragon eggs, these people would use or abuse Kiera.

That left the big question, where did she obtain that Perco? The answer wasn’t difficult to imagine with a bit of thought. I had recovered and unlocked a Perco 3000 which I had left in my bags near my mirror. Before or during the attack, Kiera must have slipped the Perco on her wrist. As to why she did this, I had a few theories. She might have thought she could contact me this way, or that it would allow her to use the mirror to escape.

Then, there was the option that this was done for self-preservation. She just wanted to increase her value to her newest owner. Kiera had been a slave already. She knew what being a slave to a raiding group meant. After Katarina was captured, with raiders storming up the stairway, she took the only option she could think of.  Presumably, she must have stumbled across it already cleaning and had kept her mouth shut.

However, I didn’t think Kiera was so cold and calculating. Rather, I believed that she thought I’d be able to find her if she had it on. That would have been a good theory. I had the Perco 3000 linked to my device, just like the various cellphone signals I had captured. The reason I had never tried to use it to find them was that this option had never occurred to me. I felt slightly bitter that I hadn’t even considered the possibility that with the Perco gone, someone would wear it, and that person would lead me right to Kiera and Katarina. I felt foolish now. All of this work, and I had a tracking device on her the entire time.

No, calling everything I had done useless wasn’t right. Even if I had her location, I wouldn’t have been able to get any closer to her. Everything I had done the last few days would still need to be done for me to have the chance of getting close to her. Plus, after everything, there was the chance the person who was wearing it wasn’t her, but some random bandit instead. Then, I would be in no better situation for it.  

“I will start the bidding at 100 large crystals.” The announcer declared.

Already, Kiera went for such a large amount. It wasn’t just that she had a Perco. There were plenty of people who had Percos. The problem was, most of these people were much older. It wouldn’t be shocking to find Percos on fifty- or sixty-year-olds, but since a Perco couldn’t be reset to someone else, they’re a decreasing commodity. Once someone uses one, that was one less Perco in the world. Of course, my Perco could circumvent this issue, but that wasn’t known to anyone but me. Thus, seeing a young, beautiful girl who had a Perco meant that as long as you could keep her safe, you could take advantage of her device for decades to come. That only made her cost skyrocket.

“200!”

“500!”

“1000!”

My hands tightened on the rail in front of me. Already, Kiera’s bid exploded to a range that outdistanced any previous slave. A young, beautiful woman and access to a Perco? What more could a raiding party want? Of course, all of the people in the courtyard crews could only look on bitterly. The bidding was only coming out from the major clans. Only the Dragon Claws remained silent. The other groups continue to shoot out numbers, trying to one-up each other.

“1200.”

“1300.”

“1500.”

“1550.”

“1600.”

“1620.”

The bidding was finally starting to slow down as even the clans started to worry about whether they could afford this. Most of them already had at least one person with a Perco. However, most of those people were old. When they finally passed away in a decade or two, that could mean the end of the clan. Securing such a woman would mean securing the power of their clans in the future.

Even knowing that a lot could happen in ten years, so these clans had to be realists. The bids slowed more and more, and I started to get control of my breath. I could earn the amounts they were bidding easily with a single trip to the grocer. That black card I had been given with a credit line would make it easy to sell all kinds of stuff. However, at the moment, I didn’t have that much. By my best guess, and based on how I sold food at the Rink, I only have about 600 large crystals worth of food.

It didn’t matter though. I had to win her. Once they saw the quality of the food, I could get them, surely they would accept my bid. I could run to my world and be back in two hours with that much food. Any clan would willingly front me the supplies.

“1720… going once…”

“2000!” I called out.

It had been the Burning Fist who had been winning the bid. The people there shot me a murderous stare, while all the other raiders started to whisper in shock. A courtyard crew was able to put together 2000 large crystals worth of supplies? They wouldn’t even have the ability to protect a Perco girl. Anyone could walk by and swipe them. It wasn’t just a matter of buying something, but having the power to keep it.

“What are you doing?” Raven hissed, his eyes filled with disbelief. “Are you looking to get killed?”

In his mind, I must have gone crazy. Betting that much when I didn’t have it was the move of someone looking for death. A few who were paying close attention also seemed to notice that when I called out, Kiera had jerked visibly. She barely moved, but her eyes were now frantically searching toward the source, looking into the bright lights so hard that tears were in her eyes.

“2000. Going once, twice… sold!”

After jumping the cost up by this much, it looked like none of the clans was willing to put more in it. Most of them weren’t looking at me with defeat. Rather, they were looking with ridicule. It would be far cheaper to just rob us once we made the purchase, that’s if we had the resources to buy her at all. Unlucky for them, I planned to get her out of there as soon as I bought her.

“We’re dead…” Raven gulped.

I didn’t wait for him, instead, leaving my seat and immediately going to where they were I would make the exchange. This table was just outside the observatory, giving me a bit of privacy from the curious and prying eyes. Some of the clans still nodded, sending someone out to spy and try to find out what was happening. At this point, I would need to move fast.

“Daniel! What the hell are you doing?” Raven demanded angrily.

I ignored him, walking up to the table and putting my bag on it. “I’m here for the girl.”

The man looked up at me and raised an eyebrow. “You think you have 2000 large crystals worth of product in that backpack?”

“This is just the down payment. I can get you the rest in under two hours.”

“The payment is supposed to be provided upon sale.” He narrowed his eyes.

“2000 large crystals worth of food is heavy.” I held out my arms. “You think any clan has that in their pocket? They’d need to go back to their clan strongholds to pay, and you’d wait until they could deliver it, right? It’s the same here.”

He stiffened slightly. I had him on that point. Even if a clan one, they’d need to get the payment. That payment also likely wouldn’t be here in one of those buildings. It’d be in the main bases, scattered around the city. Depending on the clan, it could be days before that many supplies were able to be moved that distance. Asking for two hours should be nothing.

“First… I must confirm that your supplies even have value.”

“Daniel, I know you’re good at making drugs, but you aren’t going to make that kind of money off drugs in 2 hours,” Raven whispered in my ear, half panicked.

I didn’t pay attention to him though, because at that moment Kiera had been brought out from the observatory. Our eyes met, and her entire body shook for a moment. Her eyes began to swell with tears, and I felt like I wanted to cry as well. I would have her out of here soon.

“Check then.” I unzipped the bag and pulled out a can, slapping it in front of him.

The guy frowned, taking a knife and stabbing the can. He cut it open and then sniffed. As soon as he took a whiff, his entire body spasmed exaggeratedly. He shot a look up at me with shock, then back down at the food. He had opened it in a way that no one else could see into the can, but his exaggerated expression had caught several eyes. He cautiously took a finger, dipped it in, and then in his mouth. His eyes flashed in ecstasy.

“So, we good?” I asked. “Just tell me the amount.”

“Here’s the man of the hour!” A voice erupted before he could answer.

“Randall!” Several people nearby hissed.

My spine tingled as the man name Randall approached the table. Before I could move, he reached into the bag and pulled out a can of food. He looked down at it, and then a strange smile formed on his face. This smile immediately alarmed me, because it didn’t seem to touch his eyes at all.

“So, you wish to buy her with food.”

“Is there a problem?” I tried to keep my voice strong and steady, but I felt my back sweating.

“Problem? No problem.” He responded, reaching out and stopping the guy from downing the food in his opened can. “Except, recently, a score of food was found at the same location as that Perco lady over there. Fancy food, canned exactly like this.”

I froze. That was right. They would have seen this kind of food already. After all, they stole it all out of my kitchen. Someone trying to pay with the same product from the slave. In my haste, I had completely screwed up.

“What are you saying?” Raven demanded, feeling more confused than anyone.

“You’re a colonist. Throw him in a cell. Throw them all in a cell.” Randall grinned.

The gig was up, and I had lost.

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