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I groaned on the ground. My body switched between numb and burning. If Krux’s goal had been to make me scream, he had succeeded. I had screamed until I was hoarse. I was fortunate that I hadn’t bitten my tongue off. The only reason I was still alive… well, that was something I did not expect. I glanced over at Raven. He was in a position just like me. He was gasping on his back, covered in sweat and burn marks. When they started torturing me, he had spoken up, and then they tortured him too.

He didn’t have to speak up. He could have silently watched and they would have ignored him. However, he had told them to stop, bringing the attention of the cruel leader onto himself. The man hit him with the shock rod too, and from then on took turns alternating between the two of us. In the end, I had only gotten about half of the total damage being delivered. When I thought I would finally die, Krux got bored and left. However, he did leave a word of warning. He said he’d be back tomorrow, so we had that to look forward to.

I injected myself with the last RegenX on me. This would heal the damage, but this was the last time. Maybe, I should have held off until tomorrow, but then there would be the next day and the next day. There would be no end to the torture. I pulled out the last food and water in my digitizer, all while making promises to myself if I ever had another shot, I would keep it filled with all kinds of tools to help me out in these situations.

The Chief was hiding up in his suit, and the Ascension was going to get whatever weapon they thought would convince the raiders to fight with them and conquer Argos city. Meanwhile, I was stuck in this cage, being tortured to death. As I brought the water up to my lips, my eyes turned to Raven one more time. With a sigh, I closed the bottle and then tossed it to his cage. It made it between the bars, but it hit them along the way, creating a distinct ding.

Raven lifted his head upon hearing the sound. His eyes fell on the bottle, and after a few moments of confusion, he lunged for and grabbed it. He opened the bottle and began sucking down the liquid. He had a painful look on his face as he drank. He must have been severely dehydrated. I picked up my last can, a can of beans as it were, and tossed it his way as well. This one landed just outside his cage. He lowered his head, wiping his mouth before staring at the other can.

“This is… the cleanest water I’ve ever tasted.” He said.

“The food is just as good,” I responded.

His hand went out, paused for a second, and then grabbed the can. It had a pop-off lid, so I didn’t need a can opener or anything. At least I had been smart enough to pick those kinds of foods to be in my digitizer. Raven began to eat the beans with enthusiasm, nearly throwing the entire can back down his throat. I leaned back and let the itchy feeling of healing take over. When Raven finished, he stared at me for a bit.

“So, this is how you’ve managed to keep looking so fresh.”

“It’s the last of it,” I responded. “I don’t have anything else in my digitizer.”

He slowly nodded. “I’ve… tasted food from a colonist before. Their food is heavily processed. Most of it barely has any taste. It was designed to last and keep you alive, not to satisfy.”

He looked down at the now empty can, and I understood what he was asking.

“I already said, I am not a colonist. I’m a merchant. I planned to trade food to Argos city.”

“You… can really get more of it?”

“Not in here.”

“Then, where?” This voice wasn’t asked by Raven, but someone who had walked up to us.

The pair of us looked up, but it was Raven who reacted. “It’s you.”

It was a man. There were a dozen others behind him. He had a mustache and a rough face, but there was a certain roguish charm to him.

“Do I know you?” the man grinned showing a gold tooth that gleamed in the light before turning back to me. “The name is Marsh. I’m the leader of Cock and Balls. You’re the colonist with the Perco, right?”

I feared being tortured again, so, despite my desire to tell him off, I nodded my head meekly. “I am.”

“We’re the ones who cleared out that little setup you had going on. I’m the one who captured your pretty little slaves and took the supplies for myself.”

I shot an enraged look his way, but then I quickly hid it. “What do you want?”

“Heh… I’m the one who sold the cute little thing. As for the one that wasn’t a slave, she managed to escape before I could get her and Randall caught her. That bastard stole my catch. I wanted to complain, but you can see why I held my tongue.” He looked up at the armor on the balcony above and shivered. “My gang doesn’t need a Perco. What we’re short on is food. What you had was extremely ludicrous, I have to say. Randall and those foolish Ascension bastards don’t even know what they are missing. They don’t understand the depths of what you had, but I do.”

“What are you saying?”

“Randall goes on and on about power… he wants to rule the wasteland. How dumb.” The man made a face. “It’s still the wasteland, and the wasteland is shit. Who cares about being the king of a pile of shit? Even if he managed to take down a colony, and I can’t say he will, he’s just ransacking it for supplies and then continue to live in this trash hole.”

“What is it you expect from me?” I asked.

“I’ve taken your food. I know that this isn’t something you can get anywhere in Argos city. Also, those mattresses? I’ve never slept so gentle before. If you can get items like that, I wonder what else you can get for me.”

I licked my lips, starting to feel a ray of hope for the first time in days. If this man was looking for supplies, then there was a chance.

“You want to know where I get my supplies?”

He grinned again, his tooth flashing. “You’re a smart man.”

“Wh-what do I get out of it?” I asked.

“Heh, you’re not in a position to bargain.” He snapped his fingers, and then three people were brought out.

I didn’t recognize two of them right away, because they were beaten and bruised, but when I saw the third, it started to click. The one who reacted first though was Raven.

“You bastard!” He slammed into the cage wall.

The two people who were beaten up were Husk and Hunter. The one who was still fine was Feather, except that she had been stripped out of her clothing and she was naked now. I shot a furious look toward Marsh, who laughed.

“Tell me what I want to know, or I’ll kill the two men, and rape the woman. We even brought out one of those mattresses of yours so she can be nice and comfy.”

“No!” Raven shouted. “How did you… how…?”

Marsh turned to Raven. “How did I find them? That’s right, you had an escape plan set up. If things turned bad, you clicked a warning and they’d flee and rendezvous at a location. Not a bad plan. You’d make an alright strategist.”

I looked at Raven. I hadn’t heard of such a plan. Then again, I was new to the group. I didn’t have the right to talk about trust, seeing as it was me who had gotten their entire group in this situation.

“W-who…” Raven asked, but he had a look like he already knew the answer.

I didn’t quite understand his question until I saw Payne appear behind the men. Of everyone, she was the only one who didn’t have a mark on her. She had a frown on her expression, but she didn’t look particularly guilty.

“It was you?” I asked.

“You’re the one who caused all this!” She shot me an ugly look. “I’m not going to take the fall for some outsider. I’m not going to be some fugitive or something. Raven can rot in a cage and the rest of you… that’s what you get for trusting people!”

Raven had a hurt expression on his face as he looked at her, but she snorted and looked away as if it didn’t even matter to him. The other three who had already known about her betrayal merely stared down, saying nothing.

“Well, this little reunion is touching, but I don’t know how long until Randall gets back. Chief barely notices a thing, but Randall might cause some problems. So, I’m going to need an answer right now.” Marsh stared at me. “Tell me who your supplier is.”

I was out of any other options. This was my only choice.

“I can show you… but you’ll need to take me to a mirror.”

It was time to put everything on the line.

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