While Katarina helped direct the flow of people, I had another destination in mind. I left the basement to my new employees who began to carry things up to the market. They were working according to the plan we had agreed on, so I had to trust that everything would be up properly. I had an uncomfortable feeling deep inside telling me to micromanage, but if I did that I wouldn’t have time for anything else.
There was one person who traveled with me as I headed back into our headquarters. Kiera followed behind me, seemingly ready to cater to my needs. In the past, I had never needed a servant. After all, a servant only could work if you had things that needed doing and were too busy to do them yourself. I supposed that given my new position as the head of the Ascension Trading Market, being afforded a maidservant was fitting.
Kiera followed me quite a distance though as if she was afraid to get closer to me. I had pushed things too far when I kissed her. Could I treat her as a maid after everything that had happened? Wouldn’t it be a bit insulting to do things that way? I had to confront her eventually, but today was not that day. With our first market opening the following day, there was just too much to do.
I headed up past the turrets and I found the area on the suite level that Jeri had partitioned off. This was her lab for the foreseeable future, and where our drug production would continue. Of course, I wouldn’t produce any of the illicit drugs. I was more interested in the kind that healed.
As I walked in, I knocked on the door to announce myself. These suites had been surprisingly clean and orderly compared to many of the other buildings I had come across in the Wasteland. Jeri had done further, possibly with the help of Kiera, although she should have been resting this last week rather than working. The room was clean and orderly, and one would struggle to believe they were in another world other than the 90s aesthetic of the place.
“I’m busy…” Jeri didn’t turn around, answering with a sharp voice.
She was sitting at a workbench, various machines buzzing or humming as she worked with various chemicals. It was hard to guess what she was doing, but she was concentrating on it. I shifted my stance awkwardly, wondering if I should speak up. Thankfully, I didn’t have to decide how authoritative I’d be. There was a sigh, and she put down her stuff and turned her chair. When she saw me, her eyes blinked in surprise.
“Hey…” I responded.
“Daniel, you should have told me it was you. I was worried it was those… ahem… friends of yours looking to see if I could hit them up with more drugs.”
My face tightened softly. There wasn’t a single raider that wasn’t on something. The Blood Ravens were no exception. I supposed it was a bit naïve of me to think that in a week they’d be over their issues.
“Has it been bad?”
“Not particularly.” She shrugged. “As you requested, I cut the drugs so that they are weaker, and included some medicines to alleviate the symptoms and wean them off. That said, I think that they’ve been able to get more drugs in the last week than they’re used to finding in a month.”
I chuckled. “I wouldn’t be surprised if your drugs had a better effect too. After all, they were made by a professional.”
We were trying to wean druggies off of drugs by making their supply regular and of higher quality. I could see the problem with that immediately. Well, at the very least they wouldn’t overdose or take something dangerous under Jeri’s care. It wasn’t like drugs were illegal in this world. There was nothing illegal when there were no laws. It was when you started hurting others to fuel your habits that you ran afoul of other Wastelanders.
“I supposed you’re here for your drugs as well?”
“Of course… I see the power is up.”
“Intermittently.” She sighed. “They brought the power generator over two days ago, but right now I have to bring down a generator, charge it for 8 hours, and with that, I have maybe 12 hours of work. No one here is an electrical expert, but anyone could tell you the electrical grid for this building isn’t safe, and plugging it in could break the whole system.”
I nodded. “The fact that it had even survived the destruction of that building was a blessing. I don’t want to tax it either. I decided a while ago we’re going to need to start looking into finding specialists. I have a lot of projects in mind, but I need people with the knowledge to do something.”
As long as I could bring food, I could find people to work with. The problem was finding people who had the experience and knowledge to do the jobs I needed doing. I didn’t want to just survive. I wanted to carve out a piece of this wasteland and turn it into a place that, while maybe not necessarily at the level of a colony, was at least a haven for Katarina, Kiera, and those that became my friends.
“It would be nice to get some specialist help here as well,” Jeri added.
“If you want my productivity to increase at all, I’m only one person. The next natural step would be to get a few assistants.”
“Assistants, huh?” I thought about it for a second for an idea crossed my mind. “Can you train people?”
“Train?” She frowned before pursing her lips. “I suppose… but they’d need a good head on their shoulders.”
“How about some of the women from Dragon’s Claw?”
“Are you trying to insult me, Daniel?” She narrowed her eyes. “You want some of those drug-addled raiders to handle my chemicals?”
“At the moment, they’re all just mouths to feed. If I could train them into useful skills, I could further tie Dragon’s Claw to Ascension. They’d be for it because it would put them in a better situation, and it’d give me more working employees making me money.”
“Can you trust they won’t steal the supplies? I could come back one day to find us stripped free of resources.”
That was true. That could be an issue as well.
“I will talk to Red about it later. Maybe we can give the offer under the pretense that anyone training would need to be under a slave collar. That would bring more of them under my control, strengthening my position, but if they thought they could get a chemist-trained out of it, they may take me up on the offer.”
“I’ll leave it to you then, Daniel.”
“Right… well then, what do you have for me.”
“I have ten doses of anticancer treatment, two RegenX, a Rad-Z, and this…” She held out a familiar syringe to me.
“You’ve been busy… Allgility?”
“Mm… this is the last dose I’ll be able to make without more supplies. As for the likelihood of finding a score like we did when we took the hospital, I won’t hold my breath.”
“Have you prepared a list of ingredients needed with descriptions?” I asked.
“Yes… but the recipe for Allgility is one of the better-known recipes in these parts. Any chemist would have the recipe and be seeking those ingredients.”
I nodded. “I understand, but I want to take a crack at it anyway. I know a few places. In the meantime, one more Allgility isn’t going to do much to change my Agility score. I’m at 5 at the moment. It’s probably best to sell this and see what we can get.”
I had taken my last Agility just before coming here, and the max that would bring me was 5. I felt faster now. I was probably as quick as any human when it came to reaction speed. I’d need several more injections before my speed reached a superhuman level. Thus, selling it would be a good idea. I didn’t expect to sell it this week, but if we put it out there, word of mouth would hopefully reel in bigger fish next week. Maybe I could even get it locked into a bidding war.
Of course, the source of the ingredients I had in mind was Earth. I didn’t recognize any of the ingredients by look. They probably had a different name from my world too. My best bet was to get as thorough of an explanation as necessary. Thankfully, in this world, chemists assumed most people who went searching through old ruins were idiots, so even pictures existed. I would pass those on to Caleb and see if they make a difference.
“Unless I can get my hands on other recipes, I won’t be able to make anything else, even if we did have the supplies.”
It seemed like my ability to upgrade myself had reached a momentary stall. Once I confirmed if I could get the items in my own world needed to make Allgility, I’d also start searching for the other recipes.
“I will take care of everything.”
“You can do as you wish. I’m merely working to keep living.” She responded.
Another girl might have spoken with some bitterness in her voice, but Jeri spoke matter-of-factly about her current status as a slave. She was someone else I had been pushed into a bad situation with. She had been harmed helping protect my mirror and had even stuck around while I rescued the other two girls. Of course, my slave collar hadn’t given her much of a choice, which just made the whole situation muddled and complicated.
I put the drugs into my inventory, and then I got up to leave. “Keep working hard. One day, life will be better for all of us here.”
“You… believe that?” Jeri asked.
“I do…” I nodded. “And it all starts tomorrow morning.”