Chapter 2 The Mediator

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Simon Withers was very nervous sitting in the backseat of the Empire-assigned car. After all, it was his first day and not exactly the ideal job for anyone who happened to enjoy living. The inside of the car gave off that new car scent. He wondered if his driver had also driven the former Mediator. The former Mediator managed to stick it out for a whole six months. Simon was sure he would beat that. He always thought of himself as a save-the-day kind of guy. Nervous as he was, he would get over his fear and be the one to do it for the long haul. He looked out the car window at the dark abyss he knew would be sand as far as the eye could see by the light of the sun. Then he looked ahead at the blurry glow of garish neon signs that marked one of the most famous cities of all time. After the Empire cleaned up the mess left from the second civil war, the Emperor made an example of this city. Since it had flourished so deeply in sin before, now it would be the place of death for all who sinned.

Simon smiled, relishing his part in such justice, and the tension lifted from his shoulders. What was there to fear when he stood as a representative of the American Empire of Almighty God? His smile grew, nearly wrapping around his head. A large, bright neon sign filled the top half of the windshield as the car began to slow. The sign said:

"Welcome

To Fabulous"

The next two words, once written in bright red paint, were scribbled over with white, flaking spray paint but still faintly visible. In place of the scribbled-out city name in dark red, one word stood out written in sloppy letters: Necropolis, the name given to the city upon its rebirth by the vampires. Underneath, the final word was still mostly intact and lit up. It said Nevada. Their power taken by the Empire, names and borders were all that remained of the former states. Democracy could go, but you couldn't go taking away people's state pride. Simon was running his hands down the smooth leather of his seat when he felt the car come to a stop. Confused, he looked around outside. He had to lean way back in his seat to see the welcome sign that was now towering above the car.

"Excuse me, driver, why are we stopped? We're not even in the city yet," he inquired.

The driver tipped his hat to Simon in the mirror. "I'm sorry sir. Didn't anybody tell you? The Mediator alone is allowed access to the city… unharmed," the driver explained.

Simon gripped at the seat, his nails digging into the leather, and sighed.

"You mean I'm going to have to walk the rest of the way?" he said through his teeth.

"Yes sir, I'm afraid so," the driver said, attempting to hide a smile.

Simon gave the driver a nasty look in return. He opened his door slowly in a gesture of implied superiority. Then he got out, slamming the door and almost knocking himself backward in the process. He brushed at his clothes as if to clean himself of the car's filthiness and headed toward the city.

"Um, sir? Aren't you forgetting something?" the driver’s scratchy voice said behind him. He turned to see the driver hanging his head out the window and looking smug. Simon stared at him with a blank expression. His patience for the driver had vanished hours before. The driver sighed and leaned over the passenger seat and opened the glove compartment. He pulled a thick folded white paper from within and sat upright, offering it to Simon through the open window. "Take it, it's the map to where you have to meet them," he said.

Still angry, Simon stepped over to the car. He snatched the folded map from the driver without a word, turned, and started walking again. He staggered as he went, his leather dress shoes unwilling to accommodate him in such rough terrain. When he crossed the city line, he gritted his teeth as he heard the driver snickering behind him. He was beginning to wonder if his new boss, Ted Chambers, director of Vampire Negotiations, knew whom he was dealing with. Simon decided when the night was over, he would make sure he did.

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