I didn’t know at what point I had fallen on my knees. My way home, this mystical mirror, had been destroyed. I suppose it was my fault. The second I took the gamble with that guy Marshall, I knew the risk. No, every time I came over to this world, I knew there was a chance that I might never return. I still took the risks anyway. The promise of profit was too great. I wanted to finally make something of myself. I wanted to become something more than I was.
Without that mirror and the resources beyond, I was just another Waste lander. I had never been clear how meaningful that mirror was to me. Raven’s group thought it was a simple communication device. It would be inconvenient if it was destroyed, but they wouldn’t understand what level I was screwed. The other girls knew it was some kind of teleportation device, but they didn’t know the extent of it. At some level, Katarina and Kiera likely still believed that it led to some supercolony that had established itself.
If it was destroyed, there had to be some way I could still get a message to them. Then, they would send me another mirror. That’s what I saw them thinking. As for what I was thinking, my mind was numb and lost.
“This building isn’t safe. We can protect the girls to an extent, but we need to get moving soon. It’d be best if we didn’t stay another night here.” Raven spoke up, taking the lead since I wasn’t saying anything.
Everyone other than Jeri and Feather was outside in the hallway, having followed me up the stairway. I
“The raider camp,” Katarina spoke up.
“That’s what I’m saying.” Raven nodded. “Without Ascension, the camps will start breaking up and we won’t be safe anywhere near here.”
“That might not be necessarily true,” Katarina responded thoughtfully. “Even if Ascension is gone, their stuff is still there. I’ve been up in their suites. There are turrets aimed to kill anyone who gets in their way.”
“Which is why going that direction is a death sentence!” Raven narrowed his eyes at Katarina.
“For you, maybe, but we will still have admittance.” Katarina declared. “Ascension is dead… so all of that stuff is just sitting there. No one in the raider camp knows Ascension has been wiped out yet. At best, they know that Chief went on the fritz. If we sneak in there now, we could hold that area.”
“Hold it?” Raven replied in disbelief. “Once the bigger clans know to learn the truth about Chief, they’re going to move in on their area.”
“Which is why we must move swiftly! We’ll make it seem like we’re the new power in town.” Katarina explained.
“You’re talking bluffing? You want to bluff?”
“All we have to do is make it more difficult to take us down. As long as we make it not worth the cost, they’ll back down. Remember, there are nearly a dozen turrets under Ascension’s control. If they become under our control, the big clans would be suicidal to move on us.”
“That’s Ascension control, not ours.” Raven declared insistently, a scowl on his face.
“Daniel can do it.”
“Daniel is a hacker. He can bring the turrets under our control. He can take everything that was Ascensions and make it ours.”
I wasn’t truly a hacker, but it was as close as Katarina could come to understanding my seeming ability to break through any technology without flat out discussing the unusual Perco on my wrist.
“The mech armor is gone.”
“The mech armor was about keeping the big clans in line. We’re not trying to control them. We’re just trying to take what is ours. As long as they think we’re just a raider group that took advantage of the vacuum first, no one will know.”
He shook his head. “That’s insane. You’re a crazy woman!”
“We should do it.” Every eye turned to me. “What other choice do we have? We have few defenses, no supplies. If we don’t do this, we’ll have nothing.”
Raven kneeled next to me, his expression pleading. “We’ll have our lives. I’ve started from nothing before. Nothing, I can live with.”
I looked over at him. “I can’t.”
Raven gave me a long hard stare. I never told him to come here. I never said he had to follow me. He was welcome to go on his own. He’d also take the only weapons are small band had with him. I wouldn’t blame him. However, just as I was planning to make a real difference, it was all taken from me. I was unwilling to just give everything up. I had already bet too much and lost. Now, I just had to go all in.
“There are weapons and food up there.” Katarina declared. “It’s defendable. It’s safe.”
Raven stood up, running his hand through his mohawk. “This… fine, if we’re going to do it, we might as well do it.”
“You’re seriously considering this?” Hunter demanded.
“You can do what you want,” Raven responded stubbornly, his eyes flickering to me. “I’ll do what I want. Hasn’t that always been the agreement?”
Hunters also glanced at me and then rolled his eyes. “You’re putting a lot of faith in him.”
“I’ve already said I’ll go.”
“Stubborn.” Hunter hissed, glancing at Husk. “And you?”
“I’m sticking with boss.” He shrugged as if it was a given.
After a few minutes, I stood up and wiped the glass off of my knees. The girls went and grabbed whatever else was remaining of value. That wasn’t much. We then set out and left the building. At this point, it was getting dark. I could hear the cries and screeches of the local mutants. I suppose we had been fortunate. The proximity of raiders had sheltered us from having to deal with too many of them.
The path we took was the same path I had walked a half dozen times now. We went to the museum. We followed it through, taking the upper story path. Even if we were seen from a distance, Raven’s group still appeared as raiders, so it helped hide the rest of us. We made it across into the derelict building and then headed up a long staircase toward the top of the building. We came out into a hallway that appeared to be carpeted.
The walls were discolored from age, but they weren’t peeling or cracked like many other places. In a lot of ways, this was a nicer place than we had been staying.
“Stop here.” Katarina ordered, “There are two turrets at the end of the hallway around this corner.”
This was the only way to reach the upper suites other than climbing the outside of the building and was the main reason that this was such a protected area.
“Alright, how are we getting past?” Raven asked.
“Since my slave collar was removed and lost in the explosion, only Kiera’s Perco has the no-shoot signal.” Katarina declared.
“M-me!” She jumped.
Most turrets didn’t have a sentient interface. They could target the difference between mutants and humans, but they couldn’t target the difference between two sets of humans. The turrets on this floor and the turrets in the front of the courtyard were set to shoot anything. The only exceptions were targets broadcasting a signal. The people of ascension likely had some kind of item on them that let off this signal. It had also been put into the slave collars as well as Kiera’s Perco.
“Kiera, I know this is difficult, but you will need to get behind the turrets and disable them,” Katarina explained to the slightly worried Kiera.
Even if I could hack a turret, I had to get close enough to plug into it. My Perco was able to catch signals, which is used to look at text messages and call logs as well as geolocate, but it wasn’t like I could just take control of an object from a distance. Perhaps such a thing would be possible with Cecelia. More testing would be needed. Thus, since I would be shot if I walked down the hallway, in Katarina’s mind, our only option was to use Kiera.
Still, this wasn’t without danger. The turrets might go off if Kiera attempted to sabotage them. Hopefully, she’d be on the other side of the turret though, and would thus be unharmed. If push came to shove, she might be able to help us scale the building from that side. Well, that was assuming any of this was necessary. I didn’t have a Perco like any they had ever dealt with. It was able to do a large array of things that I had never seen any other Perco do.
I reached out and grabbed Kiera’s arm. Given my current mood, I wasn’t feeling like explaining myself. She let out a startled surprise but didn’t resist as I plugged my Perco into hers.
Copy signal? Y / N
I copied the signal from her Perco onto mine. I wasn’t sure if a Perco 3000 could do this, but mine definitely could. Since I had master-coded her Perco already, I basically could make it do whatever I wanted.
Once the code was uploaded, I unplugged myself, and with a breath, I walked out into the hallway. I heard several cries of surprise, but no one dared jump out to follow me. I walked down the path of the hallway, looking down the barrel of the two turrets the entire time. However, they didn’t suddenly go off, and I was able to make it to the end without harm.
Once I got behind the turrets, I plugged them in, loaded up the master code, and then took ownership of them. I quickly reset them so they wouldn’t target humans, and then called out to the others. It was Kiera who poked her head out first, but she was never in danger in the first place. One at a time, the others began to walk down the hallway too. Once they passed the line of the turrets, I turned them back on to kill just in case.
“You… really are a hacker…” Raven responded uncertainly.
“I’m something like that.”
“Tomorrow is supposed to be Ascension’s big unveiling,” Katarina explained. “Although the people below are confused about what happened earlier, many will wait until this to decide what to do.”
“I understand,” I responded. “I’m taking this room.”
Katarina gave me a worried look, but I ignored her as I picked the first bedroom we found and went inside. The reason I didn’t want to speak with them anymore was that I was very nearly breaking. If we didn’t need to find a new place to call home, I already would have collapsed. At the moment, I just wanted to deal with the fact that I would never see home again.
Just as I was about to throw myself on the bed, a voice spoke up. “What was that mirror earlier?”
It was Cecelia. The last thing I wanted to do was explain anything to her.
“Hmmm…” She responded thoughtfully. “It was emitting a strange resonance with this Perco.”
“The Perco and the mirror. They seem to function together like a lock and key. You didn’t know they were linked?”
“No… I didn’t.” I sighed. “Well, the lock is destroyed now.”
“The lock wasn’t contained in the mirror itself. Rather, it was within the broadcast frequency. Well, calling it a doorway isn’t right either. It’s more like a geolocating signal. I skimmed it off the mirror while we were in the building.”
I blinked. “Skimmed it… what do you mean skimmed it.”
“I mean, I used the connect and then copied the device firmware. The hardware wasn’t destroyed, just the mirror. I’m currently in a blank-slate mod, so I emulated the function of the mirror within the module. I’m not sure what it does when activating…”
“Seriously!” I yelled, nearly collapsing in surprise.
“What does it do?” She asked.
“Can you activate it?”
“If you say so… huh?”
A white light suddenly wrapped around us, and then I felt the familiar switch. When my eyes cleared again, I was standing in front of a familiar mirror in my room. I was home.