“You think you can make a slave of us?
“Watch out!” Raven grabbed me and yanked me down as several people fired wildly up at the balcony.
I was a bit surprised to see bullets striking the walls and bouncing off the metal beams supporting the structure. I had my shield on, so if I had to take a bullet, I’d be fine, but I didn’t want to bet my life that one person would get a good shot, but not two. I didn’t expect them to like that part of my proposal, but I didn’t expect some of them to immediately start shooting.
“They’re raiders.” Raven had to speak loudly to be heard over the gunfire, “What do you expect?”
I lifted my Perco. “Cecilia, warning shot please.”
The gunfire doubled in intensity, but this time it was our side shooting. Most of these people hadn’t noticed until they started shooting, but there were now four turrets aimed down at the crowd, hanging up in strategic and hard-to-hit places. They fire over the crowds, causing some of the raiders to instinctively duck down. A few even went running. Well, it would be their loss. When the gunfire stopped, they were all a bit quieter.
Normally, a turret wasn’t a remote device. It could be plugged in and set up, but whatever protocol it was given was what it would fire. It could fire on anything that moved, anything that had a heat signature, anything biological, or anything nonhuman. This worked if you wanted it not to fire on robots but kill any trespassers, but it was useless for select targeting.
That was, unless, you plugged a sentient AI into it, who rewrote the firmware. Now, as long as these turrets were in range, they pointed where Cecelia wanted them. I hadn’t spent my entire time last night with Katarina. After she was asleep, I had gone out and acquired all of the nearby turrets and then placed them in strategic places. It was during that time that Cecelia had revealed what she could do and we had implemented such a plan.
“No one is demanding you become a slave!” My voice shouted out over the crowds, although I was still crouching behind the balcony. “That’s only if you wish to work with me!”
It wasn’t the most honorable position to negotiate, but I wasn’t going to bet my life again on these guys being reasonable.
“Who would agree to such conditions?” Someone shouted angrily.
“Those of you on the bottom. Those of you who don’t know if you’ll be alive tomorrow. Those of you who are starving, scared, or weak. If you become my slave, you will be treated well. You will be fed. You will have a roof. You will have safety. All I ask is that you work in my bazaar and do your job, and then I don’t care what else you do. If you work hard and earn my trust, you will be granted your freedom. If you don’t, then I will release you, and you’re on your own again. You only need the slave collar while working for me under my home.”
When I finished, there was still plenty of angry mutters. This wasn’t an offer I was expecting many of them to take. I didn’t care if most of them took it. This was just a bunch of free slave labor. If I couldn’t use them, then I’d be speaking to slave traders next and buying some slaves. The real reason I even bothered with these guys was that I wanted them to know who had control of this plaza, and I wanted them to go out and get resources for me.
Going out on my own was dangerous. I had nearly died more times than I could count. I had suffered greatly. So, it occurred to me, why bother? The rich CEOs weren’t the ones trading the items and risking their lives. That had people for that. The people down there would trade me the goods I could sell back home, and then I would hand them relatively useless goods from my world through here. I wouldn’t have to worry about risking my life at all.
As the mumbling continued, I decided to speak up one more time. “For the rest of you, welcome to the Ascension marketplace. In five days, we will be opening our doors. Gather the resources I want, and I’ll trade you food and water, but come back regularly as I’ll be adding new items every week. We’ll be open for two days during daylight hours. All trades must occur during this period. If anyone who isn’t part of Ascension decides to visit my courtyard during the off-time? Hehe… excuse me if I’m not polite!”
At that point, all of the turrets seemed to shift as one, causing a few of the people to shudder. I had decided to coop the name Ascension. After all, they were well-known among raiders, and borrowing that fame and notoriety wouldn’t hurt. Furthermore, I wanted them to keep the idea that we are dangerous, and perhaps suspect we still have the mech armor. I wished we hadn’t lost the mech armor or any of the rest of that armory for that matter, but what was done was done.
A particularly brave raider stepped forward. “If he has so much to trade, then he must have the supply somewhere! I say we just capture him and make him squeal!”
“Yeah! These guys don’t even have that mech armor. If we attack as one, all of these supplies can be ours!” Someone else took up the yell.
“Ladies and gentlemen, my presentation is over,” I yelled out. “Please vacate the premises. I will allow you until the end of the day to leave the courtyards and adjacent buildings. If you’re staying, be prepared to kneel and have a slave collar put on your neck.”
“He wants us to leave?”
“I’m not leaving! Who do these guys think they are! Let’s make them leave!”
That last part upset a lot of people who had been enjoying the relative safety of numbers. Even with Ascension gone, many of them might have stayed for months or years just because of the turrets and traps. This was going to be the hardest part, getting them to leave. I didn’t want any homeless vagabonds polluting my courtyard. I had some grand plans for this place.
“Come on, guys, let’s go!” A dozen men started charging forward.
The guns went off, but this time they were aiming. The men charging may have seemed foolish, but there was a logic to them. Earlier, when the guns fired over their heads, they probably thought said warning shots were some program. For the turrets to fire on them, they would need to be reprogrammed. This would take some time. Even if a person was standing at each one with their Perco plugged in, that could be ten or twenty seconds to elicit a change.
On top of that, what would they change it to? Attacking everyone would be the only choice a normal turret could take. There was no guarantee who the turrets would aim at first, given that there was an entire crowd out there. Furthermore, if I started indiscriminately shooting at the crowd, this would enrage them, likely forcing everyone to charge and attack or risk being killed.
So, these guys running first were hoping to force a confrontation, one that they hoped to be the victors of. Naturally, thanks to Cecelia’s intervention, things didn’t go their way. They barely managed a few shots before every many who ran forward was riddled with energy bolts. A few burned away into ash, while some collapsed to the ground covered in horrifying burns, they couldn’t hope to survive from.
Those that didn’t run stared in silence. These turrets weren’t like the turrets they were used to handling. Was this Ascension’s big secret? Military-grade Artificial Intelligence run turrets? If I had this much, what else would I have?
In reality, if they did all bum rush us, we’d have no choice but to run away. They wouldn’t get the supplies they were hoping for, but they’d get a fair amount from what was left over with Ascension. If one of the big clans moved, we’d be hard-pressed to stop them. However, the unknown factor left these guys unwilling to throw away their lives on a maybe.
At that moment, they could hear motors moving behind them too. Many of the raider’s faces turned white. There had been a line of turrets at the end of the courtyard pointed outward, the intention being to keep any enemies from advancing on bandits. There was also a field of mines set up there, so even getting close to these turrets was difficult.
I had gone out into that field and moved the turrets. I lined them up along the sides of the minefield now. They could now point inward and outwards. At that moment, they were pointed at the crowds of raiders. In short, the raiders had turrets pointed at them from every side. If they attacked and had to retreat, it’d be a bloodbath.
Lilith had jumped onto my shoulder as I began to stand up. As I looked out over the group, the raiders all turned back and looked at me silently. No one dared raised a gun now. For whatever reason, Lilith let out a screeching roar that carried across the courtyard.