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“What are you doing here?” I snapped, unable to keep a small spark of rage from ignited in me.

“I’m a mercenary. Why wouldn’t I be interested in such an auction? Men like me must spend our money somehow.”

“So, virgin slaves is what gets you off?” The only reason I held back from hitting him was the ever-present turrets looking right at us.

“That hurts, Daniel. How can you say such a thing?” Jacques responded with a chuckle.

“Gentlemen, do you have the proof of your wealth?” Before I could say another thing, the slave woman who was waiting impatiently cut in.

“I do.” Jacques patted his coat pocket.

He didn’t have a Perco or an Inventory. What could he have worth millions? He had to be lying. Once I showed them I could cover any expense, they would leave her to me. He seemed completely at ease though. It was only because I knew him that I knew he was extremely deadly, even when he appeared at ease.

I gritted my teeth and turned away from him, mostly because I was afraid, I’d attack him if I looked at him any longer. “I have it.”

“Then, please, follow me.” She bowed and then led the way, the crowd parting for her presence, mostly because the security bots moved to clear a space for her.

After getting past the crowd, she led us to a door that was unlocked when she approached. I went to enter the room at the same time Jacques tried to enter.

“You first, mon amis.”

“I’m not your friend,” I growled.

“Oh? Is that what that word means?” His eyes widened.

I ground my teeth as the woman continued to stare at us. We were taken into a back hallway which was a hallway for execs. There was an elevator immediately in front of us which she called. The door opened and we entered inside. She then hit the signal for the top floor. After that, there was a long uncomfortable silence as the elevator went up.

“Is that to say the Syndicate is getting involved here?” I asked impatiently.

My words seemed to have affected the slave girl, who jerked slightly, but she didn’t turn to look back at us nor did she say anything.

“How would I know?” Jacques raised an eyebrow.

“You worked with them!” I accused.

“I’m a mercenary, Daniel. Worked is past tense. Once the job was finished, I got paid, and now I have nothing to do with them.”

“Hmm…” I responded noncommittally.

He glanced at me and rolled his eyes. “If you must know, they shorted me significantly. They charged me for the damage to their equipment. According to them, I had botched the mission. We had parted on bad terms.”

“So sad for you.”

Ding! The door opened into a large office. Jacques didn’t respond as I headed out first. There was an empty desk at the end of the office, and a long carpet leading to it. I was halfway to the desk by the time I realized that the woman hadn’t entered.

“Sovereign Gunner will arrive shortly to assess your wealth and decide which offer we will accept.”

The elevator door closed, leaving me alone once again with Jacques. He casually walked around the room, looking at the walls. It seemed casual, but he probably was scoping for exits or something.

“My pockets are deep,” I spoke up. “I can pay any amount. I will pay any amount for her. You won’t get her.”

There was no use beating around at this point. He had already bet 100 million large crystals. I didn’t know what his end game was, but I needed to use every trick in my book. If I had to intimidate him, I would.

“Is that so?” He asked flippantly.

“Do you doubt me?” I took a step forward.

“Not at all, Daniel. I’m very certain you don’t want for anything… well, you want for one thing. That girl… an old flame?”

“Yes.” I declared. “W-we had sex. She’s not a virgin. They lied about that.”

I decided to throw that in just to devalue her in his eyes. Even if it was a lie, he wouldn’t know that. However, he didn’t seem upset. Rather, he let out a chuckle.

“You’re not a great liar. You blink too much, and your cheeks twitch when you lie. If you want to become good at it, you’ll need more practice. Just some advice.”

“I don’t need your advice!” I snapped. “Why are you wasting time? You may be a mercenary with a bit of money, but there is no way you have a hundred million large crystals!”

“You’re right…” He finally turned to me after making his way around the entire room and held his hands out. “I do not have one hundred million large crystals.”

“Exactly! You lied!” I pointed at him angrily. “Your bid is a fraud!”

He leaned back against the wall and crossed his arms, shaking his head. “Daniel, Daniel, Daniel… you’re still far too naïve.”

“You’d be surprised how much I’ve been through since we last met.” I took another step toward him.

“I do not doubt it, Daniel. You and I are a lot alike.”

“I doubt that. You’re a mercenary, right? You betray people for money!”

“And you’re a merchant. You hold life-saving food, medicine, and money for money.” He sighed. “Merchants and mercenaries aren’t so different. I sell a service, you sell goods. We both mind money, and we both must consider the value of things. Many lessons affect both. For example, maximize your profit. Never sell something for less than it is worth.”

“Yes, I know that.”

“Well, another lesson, value is in the eye of the beholder.” He smirked before looking over my shoulder. “Just because you don’t see the value in something, doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable to the right person. To a dehydrated person in a lifeless part of the waste, a gun would be useless, and a drop of clean water could be worth any amount. Put that same person near a water source, and he could hand you any amount of water, but he’d really like a gun to protect it.”

As he was speaking, I heard something moving behind me. I turned to where he was looking only to see the wall was opening up, creating an extension to the office room. Jacques had positioned himself perfectly to watch that area. Had he noticed it was there? When the office room peeled back, my eyes immediately locked onto the cryogenic chamber. Hazel was still lying in it, an untouched beauty that didn’t fit in this harsh environment.

She wasn’t the only person in that room. There was also a woman. She had wild auburn hair with goggles that were pushed up and holding it out of her eyes. She had a mismatched and colorful Wastelander outfit. She had small breasts and a slim physique.

“Sovereign Gunner, I presume?” Jacques immediately spoke up, bowing slightly before leaning back against the wall.

For found myself struggling to bow too. I wasn’t going to lose Hazel because I was accidentally rude.

“That’s not necessary.” She waved her hand. “You boys put on quite the showdown below.”

“You’re really… the head of a slaver caravan?” I asked, a bit surprised.

She quirked an eyebrow. “You’re surprised a woman can be head?”

“N-no! I mean… it’s slavery though…”

She chuckled. “Some people think slavery is evil. My father was in charge of the caravan. He only had me. It’s that simple. I grew up a slaver, and I’ve remained a slaver until now, and that life did alright for me.”

“I see…”

She walked out and stopped in front of us, looking down at our pants. “Well, show me what you’ve got.”

“Food and water.” I declared, immediately using the Perco to summon a digitizer. “It’s fresh, it’s clean, it’s radiation-free, and I can give you as much of it as you want.”

She frowned. “1 billion large crystals would be a lot of food.”

“I can bring other things too! Clothing, personal goods, vehicles, gas…”

“Gas? Which kind?”


“Why would I need gasoline?” She blinked, but then waved her hands as I tried to answer. “I don’t need anything like that. That digitizer on your Perco looks interesting.”

“It’s yours!” I immediately declared. “If… I mean… the trade.”

She gave a nod before turning to Jacques. “What do you get? Can you outdo it?”

“It’s true that food and water are necessary. I’m but a humble mercenary…”

“Don’t bullshit me with that, Jacques.” The woman rolled her eyes. “You did a good job getting people to come. Spreading that lie that the Colony fell was brilliant. It brought three times as many people as would have otherwise come.”

“The Colony falling was a lie?” I jumped.

“Fabricating the distress signal was work I’m particularly proud of. It wasn’t easy getting voice samples from the actual head of the colony, but I aim for authenticity.” He scratched the 5 o clock shadow on his chin. “I’m glad you are satisfied with the job.”

“I may be satisfied, but it doesn’t pay that much, and I’m not going to lower a price as a favor to you.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it.” He smiled as he reached into his coat and brought out what appeared to be a tablet. “I hope this will suffice.”

The tablet was much bigger than what we had back home, and it sort of looked like an old Casio calculator in design. The screen was grey with solid black writing on it. Sovereign Gunner took the document with a frown, looking through it.

After a few moments, her body suddenly shook. “This is real?”

“My dear.”

“This is… this…” She took several steps back. “I’ll be taking this then.”

“What?” I stepped forward. “Why? Is that worth everything I can give you?”

“We have supplies. We have food. This… is priceless.” Her eyes looked slightly feverish before she collected herself. “Ahem… I apologize. I have brought the Perco you ordered up. If you pay for it now, you can take it with you. However, the girl will be sold to Jacques.”

“Wh-what did you sell her?” I turned to him, my mind numb with shock.

He shrugged. “A glass of water.”

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