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Kenzo shrugs his bag off of his shoulder and empties its contents onto a bench near the CNM– Center for New Materials. We both collapse.
“Good work out there today.” Kenzo offers a tired fist bump.
I oblige. “Same to you.”
We sit in silence for a few moments, catching our breath. Finally I stand up.
“I’ll take the supplies to be inspected this time,” I offer. He begins to protest, but I hold up a hand to silence him. “You do this every day. Let me handle it for once.”
“Chesler won’t make it easy for you,” he says. “He has no particular liking for me, but I’m not the one who has a connection to-”
“It’s fine.” I grab his bag and head toward CNM before he can convince me otherwise.
The Center for New Materials lightly resembles an airport security area, but you’re not the one responsible if the supplies that you find happen to have something dangerous attached. Instead, you can get yourself in trouble for not finding enough of the right things. For example, we’ve had several instances where one person would bring in a large stash of food and clothing when what we really needed was a decent weapon. You can get yourself kicked out of the Elites for mistakes like that, and as much as I despise the outside world, sitting underground and fighting starvation is worse.
The needs of Illuminance vary daily. You have to have a decent understanding of materials and their uses as well as rarity and shortages of objects to keep your position. Kenzo’s more of a fighter than a gatherer, and I didn’t bring back much, so I can only hope and pray that Chesler appreciates the pistol.
I drop the bag on a conveyor belt to be inspected. Once the items prove sustainable for use, I recollect them and wait in line for the general to look them over. After the three people before me have been approved, I open the bag to Chesler.
“One vest, two water containers, and a pistol, sir.” I dip my head in the respectful, submissive way I know he expects from his soldiers.
“Hrmm,” he grumbles. General Chesler turns the vest over, running his hand over the fabric to assume its durability. “Could be better.” He taps the water containers. “Useless for reusing, but we are in need of more portable objects.” Finally, he removes the pistol. “Hrmm.”
I can’t tell if it’s a good ‘hrmm’ or a bad ‘hrmm’. I keep my head down while he decides whether or not I’ve done enough to stay an Elite.
“I suppose-” he places the collection back in the bag- “that you may continue for another day- but only another day unless you bring me back something special.”
I lift my head slightly. “Yes, sir?”
His cold smile cuts across his normally expressionless face, giving me all the more reason to worry. But nothing can prepare me for what he says next.
“I want you to bring the general of Obscurity here.”