“What are you going to do with her?” I demanded as two men grabbed me and dragged me away.
“That’s not your concern.” He shrugged.
I narrowed my eyes but I didn’t say anything. Wherever they put me, I’d escape. They had no clue what my Perco could do. I could hack any technology! As soon as their eyes were turned, I would escape in a second.
“A… mechanical cage…” I stared helplessly.
All of the technology in the world, and I was thrown in a simple metal cage. There were bars on all six sides, and one such side had a door with a standard lock and key. Furthermore, we weren’t tucked away or hidden. We were outside, directly under the tall unfinished building claimed by the Chief. I could see the mech armor thirty meters above my head, but it might as well have been a million. At any given time, there were a hundred eyes on us. There couldn’t have been a worse situation.
I was speaking in plural because, in the cage adjacent to mine, Raven was tossed in just as rudely. He had been silent ever since I had revealed my bag full of fresh food. I hadn’t gotten a good look at him, and after being thrown into the cage, his eyes were away from mine. I looked around the courtyard helplessly. There was a hundred-meter stretch before the tents began for the courtyard crews. About ten meters away from me, a guy hung up the keys. As I looked at them, he grinned knowingly.
“Anyone could give you these keys at any point. No one will though.” He chuckled. “That’s power, alright.”
Ultimately, it was a show of strength. Chief and Randall were so confident in their power, that they could leave a prisoner with a Perco lying with the key ten meters away, and no one would dare get greedy and try to take him. Yeah, they had ripped off my shirt and stripped me of everything except my underwear too. I was completely exposed. He had glanced at my Perco with interest but had otherwise not commented on it.
Once the man who locked us away left, I had been expecting Randall or someone else to show up. However, that sort of thing was fantastical wishes. No one came, and the night started to fall on us. What happened to the rest of Raven’s crew? Were they alive or dead? Did they run or were they caught? I didn’t get an answer.
“What are they doing?” I finally whispered.
“Making examples of us.” Raven sighed. “Let us suffer from starvation and exposure for a few days.”
He had lied down on his cage, looking away from me, for several hours now. This was the first time he had said anything as he rolled onto his back uncomfortably.
“This Perco… I’m valuable to them. That food too…”
Why would they leave me out here to rot? I was expecting him to throw a slave collar on me. I’d be able to remove it easily, and then escape. I figured, at worst, I’d have to get kicked around for a day or two. This was why I hadn’t been that frightened to push my luck. You’d have to be an idiot not to see my value. The Perco alone should have made me a protected commodity. When you added my ability to get fresh food, there was no way that they’d just leave me to die.
“You know you’re valuable.” Raven sighed. “So, they’re going to make you realize you’re not.”
“It’s a tactic. I guess a colonist like you has had too soft of a life to understand.” His expression turned bitter. “You need to be broken for them to be willing to use you. You’re far too aware of yourself. Who would use someone with a Perco that could betray them? Even with the threat of a Slave Collar, what could they do if you suddenly turned a turret on them, or a defensive robot? So… they will ignore you. They will starve you. They will make you feel like you’re worthless. Only when you’re begging for relief… when you’re eating out of their hand, then, they will give you just enough to keep living. In time, you will become their loyal dog.”
I didn’t know what to say. That was messed up? These were raiders. They did brutality a dozen times worse. What did I expect? I had been thinking that because they were drug-fueled animals, that they were also stupid. I was convinced I was smarter than them, and now I was in a cage waiting for death.
“Look at the bright side. They’ll eventually try to keep you alive. Me… I’ll end up like that guy.”
He nodded to a third cage. I hadn’t even realized there was someone in it. That’s because there wasn’t… someone living at least. It was just a skeleton. Someone had been put in there and left to rot until they were nothing but bones. There wasn’t even meat to pick off anymore. The bones themselves had been bleached by the sun.
“I’m not from a colony,” I said after a moment of silence.
“A colonist… I’m not one.”
There was another moment of silence. “Whatever, you haven’t told the truth so far. Why would I expect you to tell it now?”
“I am telling the truth. The place I come from… is different. You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”
“I had a base near here. The one you went to. I had friends there. Raiders attacked it and took my friends. That’s why I came. I was trying to get them back.”
“I don’t care.”
“Don’t you?” I raised my head toward him.
“Heh, maybe not.” I dropped my head back down, hitting the bars with a clunk. “I just… wanted to be able to take care of my family. Now, I’ll probably never see them again, and they won’t even know why.”
Boom! There was an explosion and then shouting and the sounds of gunfire. I sat back up, looking with interest.
“What’s going on?”
“It’s… the Dragon Claws,” Raven spoke up. “What the hell are they doing?”
One of the three buildings that surrounded the courtyard was on fire, and there was a ton of fighting going on. A man appeared in one of the windows.
“Dragon Claws! We’re taking this place for ourselves! Kill them all!”
Screaming broke out as dozens of raiders raced out into the tents, setting fires and killing. Raiders who were just settling for the night peacefully were suddenly gunned down. It appeared to be some kind of coup. I straightened up, hoping that whatever was happening now would allow me to escape. These Dragon Claw guys, maybe they would be more reasonable than the current leadership.
Well, they were a bunch of skinheads covered in tattoos. I’m not sure if that was exactly who I wanted to be my next master. It was clear that they had slowly snuck in more of their clans though. Where the other clans only had some fifty people, there were at least 150. They must have cleared out their main base in secret and built up for this attack.
“Get to the main building!” A man roared, pointing an ax that happened to have a shotgun built into it.
Screaming skinheads ran past our cages and continued into the building. One who seemed to be one of the leaders, albeit not the main guy in charge, was walking near me.
“Hey!” I hissed at him.
“I wouldn’t do that…” Raven sighed.
“Hey! Psst! Over here!” I ignored Raven.
The man looked over at me.
“Let me out of here. I can help you guys! I can get you supplies. Food. Water. Whatever you want!”
He smiled, and I had a moment of hope inside me. Then, he lifted his gun at me. Seriously! I let out a shout just as he went to pull the trigger. Boom!
He didn’t even make a noise as a massive metal foot slammed down on him. I jumped back, hitting the back of the cage. A person in a massive metal armored suit had slammed into the ground, landing on this guy. I looked up instinctively to see that the mech armor on display had disappeared. Well, it didn’t disappear. Someone was in it and then jumped down.
In his hands was a massive Gatling gun. I wasn’t sure where he had got it from. It would have been far too heavy for a normal person to carry, but the armor carried it with ease. Upon seeing the mech armor there, dozens of skinhead raiders started screaming and running at it. It started firing. I covered my ears at the sound of explosive gunfire.
Every raider that came toward the armored man died. They were turned into blood meat and mist. Bullets were fire, but those that hit it just bounced right off. The man who had run into the building earlier had come back out. This was the one with the shotgun ax. He walked up behind the armored man, sneaking. I considered yelling to warn him, but then I shook my head, wondering if I was already suffering from exposure.
The man lifted his ax and slammed it into the back of the armor. It bounced right off. The armored man stopped firing, put his gun down, and turned out. The other man lifted his ax and slammed down again. The armored man caught it by the shaft with ease. He pulled the trigger, and shotgun blast struck the armor right in the face. The bullets bounced right off.
The man with the ax stared wide-eyed as the armor lifted his hand, and then smashed down. There was another boom, causing dust to erupt up. There was a crater now, and half of the man’s body was gone.
The fight continued for another twenty minutes, but in that time, the armor killed nearly half of everyone who died by itself. It was like an unstoppable tank. Soon, the Dragon Claws called a retreat and started desperately fleeing from the courtyard. That had lost completely, 2/3rds of their numbers wiped out. Most of the other deaths came from the tents and the crews. As for the other clans, they weren’t even touched.
The armor climbed back up the building. A few people clapped and cheered, but most looked on with fear. That was what true power looked like.