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In the Wasteland, the two cheapest things were bullets and human lives. That was a saying I had heard before. When it came to bullets, they could be replaced easily. Cells could be recharged and bullets could be regenerated. I had several turrets that could regenerate new bullets with ease. Katarina’s smart gun could also regenerate bullets.

It was true that most guns couldn’t do this, but bullet generators weren’t the rarest thing. The Rink had access to a futuristic printer called a compositor which they used for bullets and guns when they needed them. I wanted to get my hands on one of those. If I brought one back to earth, that alone would be enough to push our technology forward several decades.

Yet, finding a functional compositor wasn’t any easier than finding the fusion generator. We were still trying to figure out how to hook that up and to use it to its fullest. It’d be far better if we just hired specialists. Raiders and slaves weren’t the best people to get unique skillsets out of. Well, slaves could have any specialty you wanted, and it was in that respect that Tom was advising me.

I could buy all kinds of slaves with specialties, and then I could take advantage of that knowledge to strengthen my base. A strategist could help deal with the raiders in ways I never considered. A merchant like Tom could have prevented many of the mistakes I had already made. We could use electricians, construction workers, diggers, security guards, and more… The one thing I was lacking most was people.

I had dreams of being able to bully the raiders into working for me, and while I had a little bit of success, why was I so caught up in working with those that were untrustworthy by nature? I could hire slaves instead. I’d be giving them a better life, and be fixing a lot of my problems at the same time. Of course, with more people meant I needed more guns, more supplies, and more room, but all of those things were plentiful. Ascension already had a decent amount of guns, and buying more would be easy.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that this was what I’d need to do. I wasn’t looking to be some slave baron, but it was the only way I could get people I trusted to do the job in such a short time. This was merely the world this was, and the more often I found myself applying the values of my world to this one, the more often I’d find myself being disappointed.

“Alright, so how do I get about doing this?” I had only spent a few moments thinking about it before coming to my conclusion, but the silence had hung in the air after Tom’s proposal.

He gave a nod. “Although you can obtain a few slaves up north, the majority can be obtained through the slavers.”

“Is it safe working with them?” I asked.

I had thought about the slavers myself, but if the idea behind them was that they captured people and enslaved them, then who would ever deal with them? You could come to them only to end up enslaved yourself. When I voiced my concern, he was already shaking his head.

“The slavers do have several codes. They only buy/sell certain people as slaves. Although I wouldn’t say they are in any way good people, they don’t grab those off the street and sell them. First off, the only ones they enslave are those that don’t pay their debts. As far as buying from raiders, they have strict guidelines that they only buy individuals. If someone belongs to a family or a group, they won’t buy or sell, and they will also punish whatever group tries to sell them bad goods.”

“That doesn’t sound that great,” I frowned.

He shrugged. “It’s true that they don’t catch every act. Also, a raider group can be lead to kill off an entire group just so they can sell the survivors. In a way, the slavers benefit from this because it means there isn’t any loose baggage. If you have no one that survives, then you have no one seeking vengeance or undermining slave sales.”

“Alright, then what do I need to get these slavers to visit me?”

“That’s just it… you’ll need to go to them. The slavers are indeed a migrant group that doesn’t stay in any one location long enough to overstay their welcome, they also won’t come to you. They prefer to remain on the outskirts of cities and towns, traveling from one to the next.”

“I take it by your recommendation that there is currently a group of slavers outside of town?”

He nodded. “Yes. Although I haven’t dealt with them personally, they usually send a representative to every colony to advertise what they offer. They don’t do trades, um… they’re one of the slaves, but I do have an invite.”

He reached into his pocket and pulled out a card, placing it on the table. “This will get you in for a meeting. It also has a locator chip on it. If you scan it, you’ll be able to locate them on your Perco.”

“I’m going to assume this isn’t free?’

He chuckled. “I don’t deal in slaves, so it doesn’t have much value to me. You don’t need to worry, I’ll give you a good bargain.”

After that, we negotiated for a bit. He revealed to me the supplies he had brought. He had done as I asked and fought various ingredients used in chemistry. Jericho would be excited about that. In the end, they hadn’t brought much, and I was only able to trade away about a tenth of my goods. In exchange, I too the items I had originally requested, although more than half of them were redundant after those two weeks. I either didn’t need the stuff anymore or Ascension already had them. I still did the trade anyway to help establish a good relationship with this merchant who dared to venture out here without knowing if we were even alive.

My initial instinct had been to just hand him all of the supplies we had in excess. This stuff didn’t have much value to me, and the more we stored the more we were at risk. However, I realized that if I set things at such a rate, then he would come to expect that cheaper amount. I realized I’d still need to negotiate hard, as in the future things wouldn’t be so cheap. Yet, even with me trying to keep my prices up, he still bought more than he could pay for items I ordered and ended up using crystals for the rest of it.

When we had come to a deal and were shaking hands, a thought occurred to me. “Can you pass a message on for me back to the Rink?”

He frowned slightly. “I’ve said before that I’m not a courier, but if it’s convenient for me, I will send a message.”

I nodded, realizing this was as politely as anyone in the Wasteland would do a favor for someone else. “Tell the Mayor I’ll take him up on his offer. We’re going to open up the metro and create a path to the Rink.”

A small smile formed on his face. “You’re learning quickly. I anticipate a profitable future between us.”

I left the rest of the linguistics of the trade to Red and her people, and then I left the museum. As we were leaving, I glanced at Raven who was walking behind me. She stopped, shooting me a glare.

“Is it possible to… bolster their security? At least make sure they get a distance away without being attacked?”

She blinked and then shook her head. “Not without weakening our security. Given the stream of attacks, this wouldn’t be the best time.”

I let out a long sigh. “I was afraid of that. I guess they didn’t ask for such support, so I’ll just have to trust that Tom knows what he is doing. I’m similarly going to have to leave this place without being seen.”

She gave me a side glance. “So, you plan to get slaves then?”

“Will this be a problem for you?” I asked.

She looked away. “Why would it?”

“Wasn’t your place destroyed and you sold into slavery?”

“I was never put through a slaver. Raiders only use slavers to protect themselves. It’s far easier to exchange them out, getting a slave that has no attachment. You see, slaves hold resentment to the ones that enslave them. Maybe, they act proper and nice until it’s too late. Maybe… the one time you depend on them, you find them cutting your throat.”

I stiffened. “Um, you don’t think Red and her group resent me for putting slave collars on them, right?”

Raven turned to me, a small grin on her face. “I don’t know. However, if I were you, I’d be more careful when I sleep. You never know who might slip in during the night…”

“You mean like you?” Husk cut in as he passed by. “Although, considering what you were going to give him, shouldn’t he leave his door unlocked from now on?”

As Husk broke into laughter, Raven’s dark expression turned red and she fled ahead so quickly that she was gone in a moment.  

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