Since our hotel room was compromised and anything we left there would likely be stolen the moment we left, I had to carry my full bag of stuff. It’s pretty heavy and since I wasn’t going to risk my newly damaged shoulder, I had to carry it just by one strap, which was bound to make my other one ache really badly. I got around the problem by carrying the guns and several of the grenades at my waist instead, which had a nice feeling to it, if I was honest. It would be very nice if I could get out of this with some of them left.
Cat seemed relieved. Relieved that we weren’t going to shoot anyone and relieved that she would soon get her brother back. She kept staring at me, alternating from quizzical expressions to ones of pure hatred, so I could tell her emotions were getting messed up inside her. Bah, emotions, they always messed everything up. As long as you planned and used your brain, not your heart, you were fine, but the moment you started caring, this world would get to you.
Yes, I’m dead inside and probably a sociopath. Deal with it.
The mayor’s building was modern, as I already said, with a rare set of intact glass doors on the front and lower floors reinforced with metal bars, painted black. It must have taken up a good section of the city and was probably built as a fortress if ever the undead broke into the town. I realised I had made a big oversight by not checking out the building while I was up on the wall, so I had absolutely no idea what the layout was supposed to be. Better hope my offer went well, because running blind rarely did.
The doors opened when I pushed them, revealing an open atrium with a desk to one side, the whole thing similarly reinforced in case of zombie attack. There was a set of double wooden doors at the far end, across from where we were standing. It was decorated with several big flags on the walls, as well as some obviously looted pieces of art; speaking of which, I wonder who nicked the Mona Lisa.
Anyway, I digress. The person who manned the desk was totally bored and really happy to see someone come through the door, although looked considerably less happy and more worried when he saw what weapons we were packing.
“Hello!” I called, forcing a jolly tone. “Could we talk with the mayor a second?”
The man looked at us, indecision in his eyes.
“Sorry, you’ll have to book an appointment” he told me.
“Bah, appointments” I muttered, disdain filling my voice. I had never really seen the point in them – if you wanted something you did it, before anyone could stop you. “When’s the next one?”
“The mayor accepts visitors between 5pm and 6pm, on weekdays only”
“Eh, screw the appointment system” I shrugged. “Get him down here now, since I’m sure he’ll like what I’m offering”
The man looked kind of nervous, before deciding sacking was preferable to being shot and vanishing through the doors.
“Are you sure that was a good idea?” asked Cat. “He’ll probably be annoyed at being disturbed”
“It’ll be fine” I told her, easy confidence filling my voice. Messing with people was what I did best. That and killing them.
A couple of minutes later, the doors banged open again, this time each one held by an armed guard dressed in the uniform of some kind of organised militia, probably the town guard. Between the two, strode the same portly man we had seen at the slave market, looking all self-important in neatly pressed red robes with a golden chain of office hanging around his neck. Egotistical bastard. Still, I wouldn’t underestimate the guy who had organised and built the best zombie defenses I had ever seen.
“Hello, I’m Fen and this is Cat” I said, by way of introduction. “I’ve got a little proposition for you”
The mayor looked me up and down, his watery eyes strangely unsettling. “It’s odd, I never expected you to be so young, Fenrir”
“Goddammit!” I cursed. “One person finds out my identity and suddenly the whole town knows it. I’m going to say this straight off, I don’t plan on burning your town down. I’ve got another reason for being here”
“I should very much hope not” said the mayor. “You have no idea how long it took to build. Mayor Cornelius Brightstar, at your service. Do come in”
“Sure. We might need to go somewhere private” I told him.
“Yes, well, it’s not every day someone of your fame turns up in our humble abode. Feared throughout the south-west, I hear?”
“Hopefully a bit more than just that” I smiled, following him through the double doors.
Cat didn’t know what to make of the conversation. I think she was gradually realising that she was traveling with someone who was both famous and famous for some pretty nasty stuff. Hopefully, she wasn’t regretting freeing me already. Still, her feelings didn’t matter. No one’s did.
“Well, you do what you want” he said, probably thinking he was humoring an unstable psychopath. Which, to be fair, he was. “I want to show you something”
He led the way down the corridor. The two armed guards followed him, looking at me with the mix of fear and admiration that I lived for. Relax, guys. I wasn’t going to kill their boss… yet. Well, I’d only kill him if it actually helped me, which it really didn’t. I didn’t want the whole town trying to kill me. Being shot was a painful reminder that I wasn’t invulnerable.
The rest of the building was actually quite nice looking, blending the reinforcing struts with tasteful decorations, no doubt looted from all the abandoned houses filling the city. There was quite a nice little figurine of a guy with a bone that I wanted, but I ignored my urge to nick it. After all, I was trying to be nice here. After a couple of similar-looking corridors we reached a courtyard in the middle of the building, a huge white translucent tarpaulin suspended over it to keep the rain out.
And there was a helicopter sitting in the middle of it. Oh heck, this was awesome. I had flown in a helicopter twice, once during a holiday when I was seven and once in a transport helicopter during the initial evacuations. Both times I remember as being incredibly noisy and decidedly sickening, but still. It was a helicopter, you just didn’t see them around anymore.
“Does it fly?” asked Cat.
“Oh yes,” grinned the mayor, “it flies all right. I have a pilot and a mechanic who service it, but we only have a little bit of fuel left so it isn’t used much”
Forgive me if I was a little impressed. But not impressed enough not to wonder about the guy’s motivations.
“Why are you showing us this?” I asked, worried he was showing us because he wasn’t planning on letting us leave to tell anyone.
“Why?” he smiled. “Simply because you of all people will appreciate it. And also because I was hoping to awe you. I guess it also serves as a show of trust, since I’m trusting you won’t fire that rocket launcher strapped to your backpack at it.”
“Eh, fair enough. So, where’d your neat little flying machine come from?” I asked.
“Well, about three years ago the pilot, co-pilot, mechanic and the pilot’s girlfriend all turned up and offered the helicopter in return for permission to live here. Naturally, I let them. They’re living here quite peacefully. Well, apart from the co-pilot, who’s buried in the cemetery”
“Huh” I muttered.
“Oh, no, he caught a fever. Not whatever you’re thinking” the mayor corrected.
You know what, this guy wasn’t half bad. Most people would shoot me on sight. This guy had actually let me into his house and shown me his prized possession. Anyone would think he was trying to win me over... Hehe, good luck with that. I needed him for something – that was it.
“Fever?” asked Cat, obviously not realising how very rife with disease the outside world was. It was a wonder she hadn’t caught anything, now that I thought about it. She must have a strong immune system.
“Yes, fever” the mayor nodded. “We had a bad one about half a year ago that killed some of our weaker residents”
“So, anyway…” I said, stealing back the conversation. “I believe I wanted a deal?”
“Yes” said the mayor. “What is it?”
“It’s quite simple really. The complete banishment of slavery in ‘New Beginnings’, including the immediate freedom of any and all slaves and shutting down the slave market permanently. Oh, and I, Cat here and her brother James, who is one of your slaves, get to walk out of your city with no fear of being arrested, tortured, killed, et cetera.” I told him.
“That is a steep price” he said, gravely.
“What, just doing my moral duty. Slavery is wrong – why does everyone love it so much when we were all busy campaigning for human rights before this shit-storm? I can’t believe it’s that much of your economy.”
“I see your point. You are a strange person, Fenrir. You kill and terrorise across the whole country and yet you still make a point about the morals of the rest of us.”
“Eh,” I shrugged (which I really, really ought not to do!), “I just work with the assumption that all life except my own is worthless and then put myself in the shoes of other people”
“Anyway, you had better have something good to offer in return for such a drastic change to the laws of this city” he told me. I grinned.
“Oh yes, I do”
Then I pulled a pistol from my pocket and aimed it point blank into Cat’s face.
“Terribly sorry about this” I muttered.