35. The Shopping Trip - Part 2

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‘That’s close enough,’ said one of the guards when they were within ten feet. The trio stopped and Gadget spoke up.

‘We’re here to trade. We need some trans-lithium Mark Five power cells by Excelsior Power.’

‘Haven’t seen you three around here before.’

‘We live some distance away but we heard about the store. We’re unarmed.’

‘Really?’ said the other guard with a smirk. ‘That’s brave.’ He turned and shouted into the store. ‘We got trans-lithium Mark Five?’

‘Perhaps we could go in,’ said Gadget, who could clearly see several other people surveying the store’s shelves.

‘They’re regulars,’ said the first guard.

‘None of this stuff is yours anyway,’ said Thug, who was clearly not intimidated by the two guards.

‘It is now,’ said the second man with a grin.

They both made way as a third man emerged from the store. He was very broad and muscular and at least ten years older than the guards. Clad entirely in black, he was puffing enthusiastically on a hefty cigar. Upon his forearms were numerous red and green tattoos.

‘Who are you?’ asked Thug, rather rudely for Gadget’s liking.

‘Name’s Rhino. I run this place. And if I were you, I’d watch my tone.’ He turned to Gadget. ‘Graphite Mark Five. We have some. But only ten cells. What have you got to trade?’

Sergiy opened his pack and showed Rhino some of the rations from the bunker.

Rhino took a long draw on his cigar. ‘Nah. We’ve got plenty of food – just turned over a National Guard base. Got ration packs coming out of our ears.’

‘We have eighty here,’ said Gadget. ‘You can take them all for the ten cells of Mark Five.’

‘Not a chance,’ said Rhino after another long puff. ‘Honestly, I didn’t used to know a whole lot about tech stuff. But these last few weeks have been a real revelation. I know how useful that Mark Five can be. And if you really want it, you three are going to have to do a whole lot better. Have a nice walk home.’

Gadget realized they weren’t going to make any progress here; they would have to find another way to revive the power-cells. He could see Sergiy was getting angry but the Ukrainian followed when Gadget turned away. Thug, however, did not.

‘People need this stuff,’ he said.

Rhino eyed Thug as he continued.  

‘They need it to survive. And all you’re thinking about is making a profit.’

‘Yep,’ said Rhino. ‘American dream, right?’

‘You should open the doors, let people in. Help them. We have to work together. What you’re doing is wrong.’

Rhino nodded then dropped his cigar. ‘Feng.’

One of the guards handed Rhino his assault rifle. The Red Dragon leader aimed it between Thug’s eyes.

‘And you my friend, should get out of here before I put a bullet in your head. Or two. Or three.’

Thug didn’t move an inch.

‘You heard the man.’ Gadget placed a hand on Thug’s arm and was highly relieved when he turned away. The three of them crossed the parking lot in silence.

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Feng didn’t much like being out on his own but if the boss gave you a job, you did it. He watched as the trio filed into an auto-shop called Auto Technology Solutions. They seemed to Feng a strange group – and not worth worrying about – but Rhino always liked to know who was who in the local area. Ducking back around the corner, he made a note of the location on his map and headed home.