Catching up at school was torture, and even though I wanted to return Friday night, I couldn’t get out under my family’s eyes. I naturally couldn’t spend the night anywhere after that last weekend. They’d be convinced I was going to fight in the underground arena again. My only choice left was to wait until Saturday. At least, I could spend the entire day away without causing them any suspicion. As long as I was home by night, it’d be fine.
During those days, I had made one more retail stop and splurged some money that I really couldn’t afford. However, I was confident that if I could get to a museum my money problems would be solved, and for the girls who would help me solve them, I wanted to give them something back. Thus, before returning to the apocalyptic world this time, I packed so many things on my body that I felt like I was going to tip over. Only then did I touch the mirror, and transfer over to the apocalypse side.
“Master!” My legs were hugged as Kiera nearly leaped on me.
“Easy…” I cried, nearly tripping on her.
“S-s-sorry!” She cried out, but it was too late.
I ended up in the ground, creating quite a noise in the process. This naturally brought Katarina and Jeri to the room. Katarina wore a placid expression on her face, while Jeri only looked on curiously. I wasn’t sure if she knew about the mirror’s teleportation. All she knew is that I suddenly appeared and fell over. It probably left her plenty of questions, but I didn’t intend to answer any of them.
However, when I started bringing out everything I had brought, they both ended up with shocked expressions on their faces.
“What is this, food?” Jeri asked excitedly as she picked up some of the cans that had spilled out of my bag.
I looked over at her in confusion, but it was Katarina who spoke up, talking a bit stiffly. “Considering Jericho’s situation, she’s been eating the leftover rations that we acquired from the supplies left by the Syndicate. She hasn’t had anything you brought over yet.”
“Hmm? There is another source of food?” Jeri asked. “Good! I have almost eaten through all of the rations, and I was afraid that held up here in this place as we are, we’d end up starving to death!”
“I brought plenty of food this time,” I said. “Let’s fill up the pantries, and then look at seeing what you can take to trade with the Rink.”
“You really won’t go with me?” Katarina asked, biting her lip softly.
“Are you any safer with me there?”
She snorted. “Actually, it’s much slower and more dangerous.”
I frowned, but since she was basically agreeing with me, I decided not to argue with her. It was odd she wanted me to go despite finding me a burden.
“Master, what are these large boxes about?” Kiera asked, having finally gotten over her groveling apologies for knocking me down.
“Ah… these are gifts. I got three of them. One for each of you.”
I wasn’t planning on getting Jeri one, but it was apparently a buy two, get one free deal, which was a deal I couldn’t pass up. Katarina was the first to grab one of the boxes and start ripping it open, never one to say no to something freely given.
Once she got it open, it popped out and unrolled, revealing a long, thin piece of soft foam. Her nose wrinkled at the strong chemical smell. She looked at it questioningly and then up at me.
“It’s a bed mattress,” I explained. “Just a cheap full memory foam. Ah… I don’t have a bed so you’ll have to lay it on the ground.”
She poked it, making a face. “Thanks?”
“Well, it looks like that now, but let it out overnight and by tomorrow it will be very comfy to lie on. I also bought you a set of sheets, and it comes with a pillow too. Since you have to sleep here, it’s time to start turning this place into a home.”
“Fascinating!” Jeri said as she grabbed her box. “After 77 years, these products should have been all but degraded, but they look almost in perfect condition.”
“Well…” I scratched the back of my neck. “My employer… I mean, my colony, we have access to things like this, so I figured…”
“Thanks, Master, I love it!” Kiera said, her eyes wide and filled with enthusiasm.
I appreciated the sentiment, but I also had a feeling she’d act the same way if I presented her with a rock.
As for Katarina, she pulled the bed out and took it to her room, still seeming a bit unsure as she left it next to her decrepit, soiled couch. If I could get her to stop sleeping on that thing, I’d be ecstatic. I helped Kiera move her bed still in the box, even as she tried to resist. We quickly found the closet she was using as her room wouldn’t even fit a full mattress. I ordered her to find a room that was big enough, which she tearfully agreed to do.
Then, I wondered about where Jeri was. It turned out she had taken the floor above this one as her own. She said the holes in the roof allowed chemicals to escape up into the air. I supposed that made sense. As soon as I entered the floor, my nose was assaulted by various chemical smells. She had secured one room as her bedroom, and several others were serving as labs for various purposes. She had really been busy and settled down here over the last week more thoroughly than either of the other girls, pulling out and placing the stuff she had taken from the hospital.
“Ultimately, my biggest setback is a lack of power,” Jeri explained as I glanced around the rooms. “If you wish for me to increase my output, we’ll need to get power back on in this building. We need to find a fusion generator.”
“The problem is more than just her medicine.” A voice came from the door.
Katarina had finished sorting supplies and had come up to talk to me.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“The turrets are dead. So is that droid you brought. I’ve only been willing to keep one turret going at the entrance. It costs a continuous use of crystals, and while we still have quite a few, they won’t last more than a week or two. If we can get a generator, then that can provide power to the turrets, her supplies, and the droid. Once that happens, we can truly call this a defensible building.”
“What would it take to find a power generator?” I asked.
“A lot of luck.” She responded. “Or a lot of money.”
“Then, I guess you’ll need to make a trip to the Rink soon.” I sighed. “But first, are you aware of any museums nearby?”
Tatatatata! The sound of gunfire from down below interrupted whatever she was going to say. Before I reacted, she had already pulled out a gun from her belt and had taken off down the stairway. I glanced once back at Jeri, but it was clear she had no intention of being part of the exploration team. I ran down to the floor under us, grabbing Veronica which Kiera had left hanging near the mirror after I left. I saw Kiera as I ran to the stairway. She had a concerned look, but she didn’t appear afraid. It looked like she wasn’t truly a combat person either.
A single woman and a turret were all that was protecting us right now, and I had thought they were safe. We really did need to get a power generator as soon as possible. As I ran down to the first floor, I heard more gunfire, and then a shout.
“Wait! We’re not a threat!” A person shouted.
They were at the entrance, having pried open the wooden doors, but they were still standing outside and behind cover. The turret had taken several shots, and there were bullet holes in the wooden frame. As for Katarina, she was standing by the turret, her smart gun carefully aimed at the entrance while her pistol was sitting on the counter so she could grab it at a moment’s notice.
“Identify yourselves!” She shouted as I came to join her, trying to take a defensive posture similar to hers.
“We’re the Roxford caravan! We just came from the Rink. The mayor sent us down here. He said it’d be profitable opening up trade with your co-community.” His words tripped on community, and I could hear him muttering under his breath. “Now, I think that bastard was just screwing with me. This place is tiny, this was a waste of time.”
I glanced at Katarina, trying to see if she had anything to say about the people outside. She only responded with a shrug, but she looked like she had relaxed a bit. Even so, she didn’t move from her spot. It was clear that she was waiting for my orders. Why did she always defer leadership to me during times like this? This was when I needed her expertise the most!
With a sigh, I reached out and shut off the turret. “Come in, just one of you. We’ll talk.”
Caravans meant money, and money was what this was all about.