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“Wake up!”


I gasped as a liquid was dumped on my head. I jerked up and looked around while I hoped that foul-smelling stuff was water. A bandit had dumped a canister of something on me. It was morning now. Somehow, I had managed to fall asleep.

“Stay the fuck up!” The man burst into laughter before turning around and walking away.

“Expect these kinds of rude awakenings from now on,” Raven muttered next to me before nodding. “Check it out, something is happening.”

I looked in the direction he pointed until my eyes settled on Randall. Other than when he used his armor last night, I had yet to see Chief. Randall was the guy who would be in control. After last night when they wiped out an entire clan, I’d say that control was absolute. Randall didn’t approach us, but he was walking some distance away from our cages with a group following him. One such member of that group caused me to nearly jump to the edge. It was Katarina. She had a slave collar on her neck and had a serious expression on her face, but was otherwise fine.

“Ka-” I stopped myself just as I was about to call out to her.

Instead, I sat back down. If I called out to Katarina, it wouldn’t go well for either of us. Just knowing she was alive made me feel better. It was a shame I didn’t know what was happening or where they were going. I wished the guy was a typical villain who monologued all of his worries. If only I could track…

“Of course. I’m an idiot!” I hissed under my breath.

“No argument here.” Raven snorted.

I lifted my Perco. I had been feeling so helpless last night that I had done nothing, but they had left me with my Perco and they didn’t bind my hands. That meant there were several things I could do. The first thing I did was scanned for nearby signals. The wasteland wasn’t nearly as noisy as my world, so it was very easy to find it. Katarina’s slave collar appeared on my Perco map. I instantly marked it. I could only locate her collar though; I couldn’t connect with it.

It made sense, what was the point of a slave collar if you couldn’t track the slaves that ran away? A signal being released that allowed them to be located was the least such a device could have. I had been right in my assessment because I was able to lock on her the same way I had locked on to Kiera’s Perco.

Her Perco! All a slave collar could give me was a general direction, but I wondered if a Perco could provide me with more. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to think that two Perco’s near each other would be able to communicate. This isn’t suggesting that there is some kind of wireless network. Even a peer-to-peer connection or some kind of radio-like broadcast might be enough. Knowing that Kiera had a Perco, one that my own Perco had logged into and inserted the Master code… didn’t that mean that I can complete control of her Perco?

I pulled up her Perco profile on mine and low and behold, I was able to access the data. She was in the main building and it looked like she was on the top floors where the ascension clan was. Now, how could I send her a message? I needed to send a message that she would notice, but no one else would, all while not knowing the situation that she was in. It was not something I could guarantee. I looked helplessly at her Perco, and after considering things for a bit, I finally settled on sending a text message. Once I made that decision, it came to creating a message. I started and deleted the message I wrote a dozen times. I wasn’t satisfied with what I came up with.

I needed to explain everything in as concise a way as possible, but it needed to be at a level where if someone else saw the message, they wouldn’t realize it was me. Furthermore, I needed to make sure when she responded, that I knew it was her response. I also

Kiera. What’s up? -Mirrorboy

I cringed as I looked at the message. I needed her to know the message was for her. I needed her to know that I was looking for information. I needed her to know it was me. I also wanted it to be short so she could read it quickly without being seen. This accomplished all of that. I took a deep breath and then I clicked send.

I waited for ten minutes, and nothing happened. Sighing, I leaned my head back. Either she hadn’t seen it or it didn’t work. I had thought that I had figured out a way to do something. Then, my Perco buzzed, and I jerked up my wrist. Only then did I remember to look around and make sure no one was around. Raven wasn’t paying attention to me, so I was free to check the return message.

They want to use us.

I was just about to write her back asking what they wanted to use them for when the Perco buzzed again. I quickly checked the message as a third message came.

They think we can get them into a colony.

They want to steal it all.

I dwelled on her words for a bit. Did they plan to use Kiera and Katarina to break into a colony and attack? How could they allow them to do that? If anyone had the ability, it’d be me. After all, I had the Perco that could hack into anything, but they didn’t know that. That could still mean Kiera could be useful to an extent, but what about Katarina? Wait, wasn’t she from a colony? She had denied it many times, but she had once let it slip, and I believed it to be the truth. She may live as a wastelander now, but at one point she belonged to a colony.

Since she was from a colony, then that meant that they probably thought she could help them take it. Maybe she had access codes or knew someone from the inside. They were trying to exploit her. With Katarina who knew the tricks and Kiera who had the Perco, it might just be possible for them to get the doors open. After that, the bandits would just raid the colony like any other settlement. When they were done, everyone would be slaves or dead.

The colonies supposedly had tons of resources that seemed infinitely renewable. Furthermore, they likely had defensive abilities as they’ve been able to resist mutants, raiders, and anyone else who might want to do them hard for a decade. If someone could crack their tough shell, they’d truly have the backing to be lords of the wasteland. At least, that’s what I was thinking. Thinking about that, it mostly left me worried. If Katarina was forced to betray the people who raised her, that’d be truly tragic.

Keep me posted.

That was ultimately what I responded with. I had been hoping that if I could contact her, we could work some way for me to escape this cage, but I was still drawing blanks. They hung the key right in front of us, but it might have been a hundred miles. If Kiera even wanted to grab the key, she’d have to do it in the middle of camp without being seen, and even then that likely would violate some part of her slave collar and risk her life. That was something I wasn’t willing to do.

I fell back and sighed. Hours passed by, and I saw Randall’s group returning. This time, they passed closer by our tent. I had been able to watch where they had gone. It was a place a good distance away. It’d be at least the distance that I had to take to get to the hospital but in the opposite direction. They stayed there for a bit and then returned. Was this where the entrance to the colony was? I hadn’t realized that we were living so close to one. There were supposed to only be a dozen or so in the entire country.

Well, this was all just guessing. All I had now was time to think. I should be returning tomorrow, yet here I was, trapped in this world again. My family would go ballistic this time. Could I even really worry about such a thing? I was looking at being a slave for the rest of my life. I already felt sunburned, my butt ached from these bars.

I only had one convenience, and that’s that I had digitized some food and water. I was very careful about taking it out and eating. If I ever did make it out of this, I’d digitize a lockpick and then learn how to pick locks. No, I’d digitize a blow torch. A gun would also be nice. How foolish had I been to only digitize food, water, a change of clothing, and med supplies? I couldn’t even put on the clothing, because if they saw it, they’d just rip it off me again. I was even afraid to share any with Raven because it wouldn’t last for long.

I watched as Randall’s group entered the camp, a group of six with Katarina following behind them, her head still down. I felt like I had sunk to my lowest. I had promised to save them, but who was going to save me?

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