Seventeen jugs. Seventeen jugs of pure filtered water that Doug had spent weeks, if not months collecting, just to pay Wade for the privilege to borrow his right hand man for the day. Doug couldn't decide if the knot sitting at the top of his chest could be attributed to his nerves, or the chalky Nazodone he'd just swallowed that left a sour taste in his mouth, despite his poor choice of chaser.

"You want anything else hun?" the barmaid crooned from behind the pub's counter, seeing that he'd just finished his glass of acrid booze.

"No. Nothing, I'm fine." A beat later he added a quick "thanks" to try to mitigate the natural hostile tone and short attitude he took with everyone.

The plan was to wait around here until Wade's man Jack finished the job and delivered Doug's share. Doug impatiently ran his fingers through his hair, desperate for any activity that could help him feel busy. In a half-assed attempt to distract himself for a moment he ran through what his schedule for the next day would look like. He'd beat the morning sun to the streets of Columbus, make his way to his restaurant, get the day's amalgamation of what he advertised as "fresh" ingredients cooking in his crockpot, prepare the lunch special's side of water-free bread, open the doors and work till they closed at dusk, trek back to his home, and if all went according to plan today, he'd have a supply of his capsules waiting for him on his bedside table before bed. Every moment planned, not a minute wasted to leisure, all intentionally designed to leave him no time alone with his thoughts. And yet despite his best efforts, here he was, waiting alone at some bar in District 6 for this man he'd never met to deliver the one thing he relied on others for.

He hadn't forged many professional relationships in Columbus, his restaurant was pretty self-sufficient, but the agreement he had come to with Wade had nothing to do with business. Doug's youthful appearance and curt demeanor had little to do with his genetics, instead he attributed it to his strict adherence to keeping himself free of the Hydroplauge. Everyone else aged faster because they didn't care for their bodies like he did. He told himself the only factor contributing to his jawline being as strong as it was when he was as young as he looked was his daily dose of Nazodone. Although the pills were far out of his price range, and Doses 4 All would never have the medicine intended for the upper class in stock, Doug couldn't resist doing everything he could to get his hands on them. Including borrowing Wade's personal goon for the day to go searching for more in the ruined factory at the north end of District 6.

In his daily search for finding any possible way to get his hands on tablets, he had considered robbing the Doctor's Guild, sneaking past The Tower to get at the upper class's stores of drugs, or even trying to drop onto an open barge delivering medicine to Columbus from Omaha and grabbing as much as he could carry before getting caught. He didn't have the physical capabilities to do any of those, so he settled for using his intellect instead.

Among stories of the most sought-after items in Columbus, Miriam Bennett's infamous belt, the lost bottle said to be hidden somewhere in the city and Linus Henry's collection of old-world mechanical toys, Doug had heard tell of the archives in the north of the town that held the floor plans of a handful of the major buildings in the area. He'd argued his way into the stacks of papers and spent what little free time he had pouring over them looking for any areas that may have yet been unexplored. In the floor plans of the abandoned factory, he'd seen a faded, but still legible label on a room that read "Medical Storeroom."

His heart rate jumped again, even sitting still at the bar recalling the exact moment when he'd located it on the blueprint. He'd asked a handful of the scavengers who frequented the building about it, and they mentioned they'd seen a set of locked doors with a red cross painted on it, the old symbol for medical goods. None of them could get inside, nor could they spend the time picking the lock knee deep in toxic sludge without adverse side effects.

"Besides," one scavenger added, "it's not like we have any guarantee there's anything in there, why waste our time on that when there's plenty of scavenge elsewhere in those ruins?"

They had a point, but Doug refused to let that doubt sway him. He'd gone ahead and spoke with Wade about Jack, the man with the unique resistance to the Hydroplauge who conveniently had experience burgling. They'd agree that, for a price, Wade could send Jack into the room to try and get a few odds and ends that Wade could sell himself, and if they happened upon his Nazodone, he'd get a healthy supply for funding Wade's business venture. Doug hated how Wade had twisted this job into something that sounded like Wade's own idea, but he went along with it hoping that his patience would be rewarded when Jack found what he needed.

Deep in thought, Doug hadn't been pulled from his internal fuming when the bar went silent. The other patrons stopped talking, drinking and making a general racket to stare at the newest patron. A hulking man with a disfigured excuse for a face lumbered in, oblivious of the dramatic change his presence had caused. He spoke out of the side of his mouth, a heavy slur impeding each syllable of his speech as he asked for Doug.

The feeling of being watched finally brought Doug back to the mahogany scented bar, and he looked over his shoulder to the locus of the bar's attention. The man approached him with three thudding footsteps that made his stool settle on a different set of three uneven legs. With a surprising amount of grace, the man placed a white bottle on the bar next to Doug, making only enough eye contact to confirm the exchange, but turning away before Doug's face could register his disgust at the incredibly malformed facial features this man sported.

The footsteps behind Doug's back left out the front door, echoing in the now silent bar. Doug lifted the bottle, and manipulated it to see the label reading "Nazodone" and shook it expecting to hear a small number of pills clattering around inside. Instead his head sank when shaking the bottle didn't manage to upset the silence in the bar.

Without another word, Doug left the bar, continuing with his daily routine of keeping too busy to consider his losses, too busy to consider what he'd be left to do without the supply he was so sure he'd have. Another pocket of daily consistency gone. He'd have to find a new reason for why his youth never left him, another routine, another compulsive act he could busy his mind with to avoid thinking about anything consequential enough to snap him back to the reality of how little control he had over his daily life.

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