I sat on my bed, not quite able to go to sleep. Today had been a complete bust. We had lost many supplies, and we had absolutely nothing to show for it. In the end, not a single person had bothered to enter the market. I was brought nothing to bring back home either. No gold, no jewelry, nothing…
Sitting outside the building was a list filled with items I could potentially sell back home. The more supplies they brought me, the more money I made at home, and the more I could bring here. It only made sense. My plan was perfect, I just didn’t consider people. In particular, I didn’t consider how resistant people would be to change. The raiders were far too set in their lifestyle, and expecting them to do things in their own best interest was difficult.
It seemed like only those that had hit rock bottom were willing to change. Anyone who was able to keep their bellies full and their lives secure saw no reason to improve things. Even though my offerings would have made their lives better, they just weren’t willing to do it. How was I going to change things?
As I was thinking about such an event, I hear a knock on the door. “Yes?”
The door opened, and it was Katarina who stepped inside. I had been in the mood the previous night, but now that I wasn’t, she chose to come? Well, she didn’t look like she had come for nighttime activities either. She was wearing her typical Wastelander suit with the smart gun strapped to her back. I was surprised she had managed to find it after being kidnapped, but considering it was coded to her and useless to anyone else, it probably wasn’t that surprising. Ascension would have been the only ones with a chance of cracking into it, so they might have ended up buying it.
“Daniel, I’m sorry today went badly,” Katarina spoke softly.
“There is always tomorrow,” I responded; a bit stiffer than I intended.
She made a slight face, and then cautiously walked over to the bed. “It’s possible you’re going after the wrong market.”
“What do you mean?”
“The raiders, Daniel. You’re trying to sell yourself to the raiders. Raiders are criminals. They’d much rather burn everything to the ground than act how you want. These we people that were shown an organized society, and decided they preferred chaos. Sure, there are a few out there like Dragon Claw and the Fire Ravens that have principles, but the vast majority are not. I do not doubt that the ones that sent the ferals are one of the raider clans. They likely believe that we’re sitting on a resource mine.”
“I’ve told them that they could have more resources than they ever dreamed if they just traded!” I growled.
“They’d rather take the resources they can get today than the resources promised tomorrow.”
“Idiots!” I snapped.
She chuckled, giving me a smirk. “I should have said something sooner, but relying on raiders is crazy. Well, I also thought it was crazy to try to hire any. The fact that you’ve managed to find so many willing to work under your terms could be considered an accomplishment. That’s why I chose to keep my mouth shut.”
“Okay… what do you suggest instead? Wastelanders?”
“Wastelanders might be your best bet. I don’t know what it would take to get caravans to risk the visit, but that wasn’t what I was talking about.” She looked down an unhappy expression on her face. “There is another group that may be willing to work with you.”
“What group is that?” I asked before noticing her face looked extremely reluctant. “What is it?”
“I’m sorry I’ve been moody the last couple of days, but just before you returned, I received an emergency broadcast.”
“An emergency broadcast? What emergency broadcast?”
“It’s the Nove Colony. They’re the closest colony to us, inside Argos.”
“Colonists?” I blinked. “I thought the Colonies all shut their doors or something.”
“They did… but as things break down, they’ve all been forced to slowly open them up again. I only know of thirteen that have remained intact. Well, there are probably more, but I’m only aware of thirteen. Of those, only three surviving colonies are near Argo City. One of them has never opened their doors, one trades regularly with Twin Elms. The final one is Nove.”
“What is going on with Nove?” I asked.
“I don’t know…” She responded. “The transmission is encrypted and I don’t know the decryption key.”
“I might be able to help with that.” Another voice spoke up.
“I also have intercepted the transmission. I might be able to descramble it for Master.”
“Why didn’t you tell me about this sooner?” I frowned.
“Because you didn’t tell me a should?” She responded indignantly. “If I reported every random signal I caught, then Master’s day would just be listening to me relay signals.”
“Even so, if they’re emergency signals…”
“Why? Does Master plan to go out and protect random caravans and protect Wastelanders?”
I opened my mouth, and then immediately closed it. Unfortunately, Cecelia had a point. People died every day in the Wasteland. Having her tell me about every random broadcast, even just distress broadcasts, would only cause me to feel down. It was better if such things were left unsent.
Katarina was glancing down at my watch where Cecelia’s voice was coming from with a slightly suspicious look. Those that Cecelia has spoken around all treated her with distrust. To them, such a rogue AI could be a major threat. They didn’t know much about my Master code. Even Katarina only knew that I could do things with my Perco that others couldn’t. The others thought that it was because of Cecelia that I could do those things, which only made them more nervous.
“Fine… well, in this case, can your play it back?”
“I have decoded the message, playing now.”
“Nave to nearby colonies. Nave to nearby colonies. We are currently under siege. A group of unknown assailants has blocked off all trade routes. We are unable to replenish supplies. If this continues, we may only have weeks, months at most before we’ll be starved out and forced to open our doors. I believe this will constitute a threat to the other nearby colonies. Please send assistance. We need replacement parts for the Allcon reactor. Please send assistance. This message will repeat.”
As a male voice spoke, I could see Katarina’s brow furrow, and her hand tightened. As much as she tried to keep it from showing, this meant something to her.
“Katarina, what do you think?” I asked.
“I don’t know what it would take to get reactor parts, nor do I know what it would take to get past this blockade. We don’t know who the ones sieging them are nor what their military strength is. As is, we don’t have any military strength to get past them traditionally.”
I frowned. She wasn’t giving this option a glowing endorsement. Just as I was about to ask her for more, Cecelia spoke up.
“More ferals are coming.”
I stood up, and a few moments later I could hear the sound of the turrets firing. I thought about racing out to go see, but in the dark, there wasn’t much I could see. I could hear more gunfire that must have come from the Dragon’s Claw guards. It lasted for about fifteen minutes. There wasn’t any food out there, nor people, so there wasn’t much issue. When the night plunged into quiet again, I sat down.
“Cecelia? How bad was it?”
“There were as many as the first time. I think they were testing the range of the turrets in the dark to see if the distance was limited. Normal turrets would have a smaller detection distance. However, with me monitoring the turrets directly, I can pin shadows. I don’t think we lost too much, although our accuracy was worse. I used up 35% of the bullets shooting at night. I don’t believe they’ll be able to tell though.”
I nodded slowly. “It seems like we have our own issues to deal with. We’re under siege as well. I’m sure whatever raiders are sending the ferals would also be discouraging any raiders that did want to approach us from doing so.”
It didn’t occur to me until that moment, but these raiders that were testing us could easily apply their own barricade and threaten dissenters. Even if a small raiding band wanted to trade with us, would they be willing to do so if they thought they’d immediately get shook down while leaving? This was becoming a bigger problem by the second. I noticed that Katarina had been silent during the entire firefight. I hadn’t expected her to race out and start fighting on the front lines, but I was expecting some reaction. Instead, she was seemingly lost in her own thoughts.
“Katarina, is there a particular reason you’ve asked me to consider Nove colony?”
She seemed to jerk out of her thoughts. It was rare to see her drift off like that. In the wasteland, such inattentiveness could mean death.
“That voice on the broadcast.” She responded.
I raised an eyebrow. “What about it?”
“That was my father.” She said. “The Nove Colony… was my colony.”