I slowly began to open my eyes, only to see bright lights blinding my vision. I started to sit up when I felt something hard press against my chest.
A robotic voice spoke. “Please continue to rest. Your healing service will be finished momentarily.”
I tried to sit up again, but the metallic claw was strong and I wasn’t able to move. The robot merely repeated what he had just said verbatim. I could feel something happening down below, and I carefully looked down to see some kind of machine over my stomach. It was seemingly dancing around quickly, restoring the damage in my stomach. It seemed to not just be stitching me closed but replacing my missing skin.
“Where is Hazel?” I looked over at a large robot that appeared to be running the machine.
It wasn’t quite like a destroyer. The top of its head was a plasma ball, and its body was fairly bulky except for its arms, which could move around freely. When it spoke, the appearance of a face made with plasma showed, the lips moving like it was speaking.
“I am sorry, I do not understand the question.” It responded.
“Oh? Do you have a sister? How wonderful! I do not have siblings. I am a robot.”
“She’s over here.”
I heard a voice, and I looked over. In a bed next to me was Hazel. She was lying with her eyes closed unmoving. Her skin looked extremely white, and for a second, I was afraid she was dead.
“Hazel!” I tried to get up again, only for the hand to hold firm and for the words, he said before to be repeated.
“She’s fine. She’s just suffering from mana depletion. She used more power than she had, and so she’ll be sleeping a while.” I looked up to see the person sitting nearby was Sovereign Gunner.”
I looked at her and then licked my lips. “Everyone else?”
“Your slave and the other girl are fine. Most of my slavers are wiped out, thanks for asking.”
I winced. “I’m sorry…”
She shook her head. “No, if it wasn’t for your sister’s actions, more would have died. She saved a lot of lives today.”
“Where are we now?”
“Underground… under the mall, the security facility. You’re lucky there was an operable medical bot and table down here. Such an item is extremely rare in the wasteland.”
“You should thank me as well.” Cecelia’s voice came from my wrist. “They wouldn’t have been able to activate the facility without me.”
I closed my eyes for a moment and then opened them again. “It seems that I owe you all. Thank you.”
Sovereign Gunner’s cheeks turned pink, and she scratched her nose shyly. “What are you saying? I just did it for my purposes. Acting so grateful toward another Wastelander, you come off too friendly.”
“Hmph! As if I cared about Master’s appreciation.” Cecelia scoffed and then her voice lowered. “I just don’t want to be left alone again if Master dies… so please be more careful in the future…”
I nodded my head. “I will.”
“Your treatment has been complete.” The robot declared. “We strive for the best in healthcare. How would you currently rate your experience?”
I tried to sit up, but the robot’s hand was still on me. I frowned.
“Would you please rate your experience?” He asked again.
“You better answer him. I don’t think he’ll let you go until he gets an answer.” Sovereign Gunner spoke in an amused voice.
“You have answered five, can you please explain why your service isn’t a ten?”
“I thought five was the highest?”
“Invalid answer. You have answered five, can you please explain why your service isn’t a ten?”
“Um, I felt the robot was a dick.” I responded irritably, expecting another invalid answer.”
“Answer acknowledged. Searching for a solution. Solution found. Now calling customer service.” I started hearing a ringing noise.
“Hey! Stop! I don’t want to talk to customer service.”
“Due to abnormally high call volumes, your call will be answered in three hundred and twenty-five years.”
“How are there high call volumes, there are no people?” I snapped, trying to get up again.
“Please remain put until you’ve spoken to customer service.” The robot declared in a chipper voice was coming off as increasingly hostile to my ears.
“That’s not good.” Sovereign Gunner raised an eyebrow.
I pulled the dongle out of my Perco. “Can you plug this into his back for me?”
“Sure…” She reached out and plugged it into the back.
I quickly uploaded the Master code. “Let me go.”
“Yes, Master!” He finally lifted his hold on me, and the other equipment began to pull away too, freeing me from the machine.
“Th-that Cecelia is certainly something.” Sovereign Gunner watched as the robot turned around and moved away.
Well, unlike what I started to call the world gate codex, Cecelia couldn’t control the master code without me directly ordering her. If she could do that, there might be a way for her to circumvent it. As was, only I could activate the code, and any device that had the master code was immediately loyal to me, despite all previous actions. Thankfully, Cecelia was a perfect cover for such actions as a super hacker. I sat up in my hospital bed just as the door opened.
“Daniel!” Katarina ran to me.
It looked like she was about to throw her arms around me, but seeing the other girls present, she managed to stop herself just in time. Red walked in behind her, followed by Jacques.
“Your women were very worried about you.” Jacques grinned.
Katarina jerked, her cheeks turning red. “You could have died.”
“Master’s girl…” Red put her fingers together. “Are we that far yet?”
“You’re not!” Katarina shot back at her.
“Is there any use fighting?” Jacques asked. “It’s clear that the woman that dominates Daniel’s heart is lying on that table.”
The three girls turned to look at Hazel, who was still asleep.
“Wh-what are you saying?” I shot up. “She’s just my sister!”
“How did she end up in that cryo-chamber?” Red asked.
“Marsh… he came and took my sister in retaliation…”
“The leader of the raider band, Cock and Balls?” Sovereign Gunner asked.
“You don’t know? I thought you were selling her for them?”
She gave a helpless shrug. “Most raiders use a broker for such items. I was told she was a prewar asset fished out of some research lab.”
“She came from a lab,” I responded. “The Allco R&D lab is where the Cock and Balls have made their home.”
Jacques tensed when I said those words. When my eyes fell on him, he gave a helpless shrug.
“Remember that I needed your ability to hack into a place? The place that I am interested in getting into is the Allco R&D lab. I found its location, but I hadn’t imagined the Cock and Balls had set up their location there.”
“Why do you want to get into the R&D lab?” I asked.
“Money.” He laughed. “Is it that surprising? Knowledge is power. Can you imagine the number of secrets that would be in such a lab? Even the location isn’t officially registered on a map.”
“I only knew their base was the R&D lab because one of his men was drunk and bragging about it one night,” Red explained. “As soon as he mentioned it, the others dragged him away, and I never saw him again.”
“They are there, I’m certain of it,” I added.
“Well, that will make things more interesting.” Jacques scratched his chin.
“You intend to still try to break into it?” Sovereign Gunner asked.
“That depends on my friend here.” He gave a cautious look my way. “Without your Perco, we have no chance of infiltrating the lab. I offered you Hazel to try to coerce you, but I won’t hold that over your head now. Too much has happened, after all.”
I thought about it for a minute and then gave a small sigh. “It’s not that I’m not interested, but we’re currently under a lot of stress. I originally wanted to come here so I could hire enough people to guard our merchant bazaar. We’re under constant attack from those who want to see us fail. I can’t even guarantee that in my absence, the place hasn’t already fallen. I became wrapped up in saving my sister, but now that I saved her, I’m back to my original dilemma.”
Jacques glanced at Sovereign Gunner and then smirked. “That might not be much of a problem.”
I frowned. “What do you mean?”
“Come, you may want to see this.” Sovereign Gunner spoke up.
I followed her as she left the small room. We appeared to be in a small hanger underground. There were a dozen other people, some wounded, who were busy cleaning up after the battle. I had a feeling as if this place was somewhat familiar to me, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. As we walked, Sovereign Gunner began to speak, her voice echoing in the strangely expansive underground room.
“In truth, we were surprised when we found this underground facility. We co-opted everything that our hackers could take control of, and then set them toward their original protocol of protecting the mall. We were able to gain control of some of the turrets and a hand full of bots, but the main bulk of the security forces could take months to crack, or so my people told me. We didn’t plan to stay long enough for that to matter.”
As she walked, she came up to a door with a small little computer with a pad and a place to plug in a Perco. I immediately recalled what felt familiar about this place. It reminded me of the underground military facility that Cecelia had come from.
“This is their security storage hanger…” I spoke in disbelief.
“The mall had to have been used by the military at some point during the outbreak.” Sovereign Gunner explained. “The protocol for this door is much stricter than the force we were able to activate, but I have a feeling that wouldn’t be a problem for you and that Perco.”
Licking my lips, I walked up to the terminal and plugged the adapter into it. I immediately uploaded the Master code, and a few seconds later, the door began to flash red and slowly open. As it revealed the contents inside, Jacques let out a whistle.
“This…” I smirked. “This could work.”