Rather than go out there, I demanded that they send someone in here. That put all the risk on them. I wasn’t sure they’d do it until the guy who had been at the entrance slowly moved around the corner, his hands up. When he saw the turret, he tensed for a moment, but when it didn’t react to him, he calmed down. Katarina still had her gun trained on the entrance, and I had Veronica tightly in my hand too, although I had it down at my side.
The man who entered was wearing shorts that went past his knees, a Hawaiian shirt, and he had aviator goggles in his hair. If he was trying to give off any feeling of professionalism, he didn’t have it at all. I looked at his feet expecting him to be wear sandals, but I guess that was one step too far in the wasteland. He wore boots, but they contrasted badly with the khaki shorts.
“We’re traders. Once a month we make a circuit around Argos. Last week, we heard the pass to the Rink was open again, so we made our way there. As I said, the mayor told us you’re the guys who cleared that pass, and you had a lot of valuable items to boot. He made it sound like a colony here, but how many of you are held up in this building? Ten max?”
“Fifteen.” Katarina lied.
“Ah… I see…” He looked like he didn’t believe her.
“My name is Daniel. This is just a satellite location. We get regular runs of supplies from a much bigger colony.”
“What kind of things do you get?” He asked.
That depends on what you offer.” I shot back.
He gave a weak smile. “I have with me a fair amount of food and personal items.”
“We don’t need any of that,” I responded sharply.
Katarina cleared her throat and then leaned over to me. “Actually, we do need some personal items.”
I blinked. “Ah… if that’s so, just let me know what you want and I’ll get it for you.”
“Feminine… personal items.” She said, stiffly.
I blushed. “Ah… right, of course… I can get that too, no problem.”
I lived with two women. Getting those kinds of things would be simple for me. I only felt bad that I hadn’t thought about that. Food and water had been my only concern. I didn’t know what they had regarding soap and other such things, but they had to be running out after staying here for several weeks. Maybe they found some stuff at the hospital, but we had left a lot of unnecessary stuff behind because of our carriage limits, and there were now three women who needed such supplies.
“You seem resourceful.” The caravanner held out his hands. “That’s good. We can get you other things too. Guns. Ammo. Slaves.”
“A generator?” I asked.
“A gen…” He stopped a gulped. “Ah… yeah… I mean… I might take some time, but when we head here next month, we can bring a generator.”
“Next month…” I made a face. “Too long.”
He shrugged helplessly. “The Rink is as deep in the city as anyone would go. Securing the hospital made that area much safer, but it’s still a place no caravan but us are brave enough to walk. As for you, you should consider yourself lucky we went this deep at all. You live near a few mutant nests, and there is a big raider camp just twenty blocks away too. If any of them knew you were here…”
He left those words to hang in the air, and Katarina lifted her gun menacingly. “Is that a threat?”
“N-not at all! I’m just saying that unless our profits are unimaginable, I don’t see a reason to make this journey!”
“Right now, I want herbs for chemists and crystals,” I responded. “I might have an interest in slaves in the future, but that is it.”
“What do you have to trade?” He asked.
I reached behind the counter, but then I activated my inventory and brought out a can of food. Lifting it up, I tossed the can to him. He caught the can in his hand. Curiously, he opened it up. This particular can was beans and chili. As soon as he popped off the lid, the smell filled the room. He let out a noise of surprise instantly, his eyes glued on the food. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a spoon he seemed to have sitting at the ready. He took a bite, his eyes closing as he savored it. I could see Katarina’s mouth-watering next to him, making me wonder why she didn’t just eat more if she was still hungry.
“This is meat!” He said, pulling out another device and then waving it over the can. “No radiation! And are those legumes?”
I nodded. “More nutrients than you’ll find in any standard ration.”
I had no clue if that was true, but it sounded like the right thing to say, and the man’s eyes seemed to brighten at that. However, after a moment, he cooled his expression. He was a professional, after all, and he was able to get control of his facial features quickly.
“How much of this can you provide?” He asked.
“How much I can provide isn’t the question, it’s how much you can buy.”
He gulped, and after taking three more bites, he finally placed his hand out the door, handing it to the people out there. I could hear shouts of surprise and excitement as other people tasted the food.
“Good food is hard to find in the wasteland,” he said. “It’s even harder to find in the city. I’m very curious where you’re getting this from.”
“Isn’t there such a thing as protecting my sources?” I shot back.
“There is.” He responded. “I just want to make sure your sources are legitimate. If you’re stealing from some kind of settlement…”
“How can that be?” I asked. “If you’re all over Argos city, have you heard of any settlement with food like this?”
“No… I haven’t,” he shrugged simply.
“Then, are you prepared to do business?”
“Bring what you want to sell down, we’ll wait.”
Katarina remained, keeping her gun on the caravan, but the man wandered back outside and the atmosphere seemed to relax a bit. I went upstairs, and with Kiera’s help, brought down as much food as I could carry on me and in my inventory. I ordered Jeri out of her lab as well, since I needed her to identify the medicines.
When I reached the lobby, I created a large pile of food right in front of the door, as well as in front of the turret. In reality, that food was probably only a single grocery shopping trip for me and my family and was only two-thirds of all the food we had, but to them, it was a mountain.
“This is quite a lot of food.” He licked his lips. “You said there is more.”
“I said I could get more.” I corrected him. “It’s not in this building.”
He blinked and then nodded. “Don’t worry, we’re legit. Even if we’re captured, my men won’t talk under torture.”
“Now that’s a tall tale, I’ve never seen a man not break under enough torture.” Katarina cut in, causing his friendly smile to wane just a bit.
“Well, either way, we’re honest traders. A rarity in the wasteland, I know.” He told her. “In fact, as an act of good faith, I have a few things to tell you.”
“What is it?” I demanded, crossing my arms and not allowing his friendly demeanor to lull me into a false sense of security.
The last friendly guy I had thought I’d get close with had shot me and nearly killed Katarina. I wasn’t going to make the same mistake twice
“First off, when it comes to the mayor. He left me a message to send you. I was debating not delivering it. No offense to you, but I’m not a courier. He says he understands why you didn’t return after the incident at the hospital. He does wish to open up full trade, and in the future is willing to send his own caravan to your location weekly.” The merchant sniffed at that.
I could see why. He was essentially advertising his replacement. He could only make it out once a month, so someone who came once a week would have the pick of the cream of the crop. Of course, they could still buy the stuff from the Rink, at a much higher price. That was probably the Mayor’s intent all along.
“I’ll also tell you this. There is an abandoned underground metro in Argos city.”
“Everyone knows that! Most of it is collapsed.” Katarina snorted, but then she looked at me and shut her mouth without saying anything else.
The merchant glanced at her and then over at me. “It’s true, it is collapsed, but with the right labor, you could dig it out. With fifty slaves and maybe two weeks of hard labor, you could open a path only a block from here which comes out right behind the rink. It would be a way to move goods completely free of danger.”
“Fifty slaves…” He had said that like it was a simple thing, but I had to wonder how many slaves there were in this world.
“Well, I’m not saying you need to do it today. I’m just talking if you want to build your community up more than what it is.”
“Is there anything else?”
He nodded. “There is. The only reason I’m even mentioning it is that Perco on your arm.”
I made a noise and pulled my sleeve down, feeling a bit irritated. I kept forgetting to hide it around new people, and I ended up exposing myself too much.
“What is it?” I asked.
“You wanted a fusion generator. I happen to know a building that contains one. It’s not even very far from here.”
“The museum.” He responded. “If you want a fusion generator, you need to visit the museum.”