Zussie wandered aimlessly. Jeff practiced. Sallyforth strutted.
Zussie looked down the hallway at the door to Councilman Chief’s office. She brought her hand to her belly and pursed her lips in determination.
She took one step down the thirty-meter hallway and she was at the door. Space was funny here. The world was moving at speeds and rotations, moving away from the epicenter of the universe, with a strange undulation which affected the movement of time. It was as though her single step covered a wide distance in a short time. Her leg was stretched down the hallway for just a moment, but she knew she might have problems with the leg earlier in her life if she walked up and down this hallway too many times. Her leg was experiencing slightly more time than the rest of her. She planted her foot in front of the door and leaned forward, passing through the thin, fast, long layer of reality.
She was at the door and she knocked. She wondered if space and time travel affected unborn babies. She had never seen any literature on the subject, but supposed she would have time for it now.
“The door swung open,” a voice said, and the door swung open. Chief was sitting behind a desk made of light and Zussie had to squint a few of her eyes to see him.
“You are with child?” Chief said as she entered. “The door shut behind her.”
As the door shut, Zussie replied, “Yes.”
“That is a shame, you were just coming into your own on the field. Why did you try to take it upon yourself to singularize your status?”
“I guess because I don’t really want to Zapsnatch anymore. Maybe because I was looking for a way out, and I was granted my hope.”
“Action grants wishes. Teapot was an easy target?”
“The male ego is not hard to predict, the libido less so.”
Chief smiled. “And now you come away with new life in your belly and no blood on your hands. Sallyforth has a knack for those kinds of situations.”
“He is a brave and effective servant.”
“Are you aware that we are setting up a passageway from our dark world back toward the center? To be frank, we are looking for volunteers to travel to reality and send back reports.”
“I was just coming to resign my station. I have full right under Article 70. Sole providers need not participate.”
“And what do you plan to do instead. That is the topic under discussion. You have been on the field ever since you reached age, have you not?”
“Then what is your alternative. Mercenary? As a mother? Would you collect souls for the old council?”
“I hadn’t much thought of it. It all happened so fast. All I know is that I want to be present for my child and I don’t want to play the game anymore.”
“Do you think you would have the approval of the decider? Of Jennings?”
“Absolutely,” Zussie said with a smile.
“I suppose you are right,” Chief sighed. “Would you consider an assignment to observe and report? It would be safe, easy. With your skills, you could do very well, provide a good life, in a safe place, for your posterity to thrive. Their world is so simple and direct.”
He was making sense. He had not said this, although he could have and it would have been true. She was happy he was not inflicting his will upon her. “I will certainly consider it.”
Chief reached down and pulled out a panel of light. He drew out a token, a small coin, purple, with a picture of Councilman Astapha on one side and a triangle on the other. The coin came out hot and bright but quickly cooled to a shiny purple hue. Zussie had seen on such token before, when Hercules had gone away. She knew he never remembered this place.
“This is a universal,” Chief said calmly. “Use it on any door you want. If you send back reports, we will make sure you are provided for.”
This was going better than expected. Zussie had thought herself important enough to be denied exemption. She was glad her ego had deceived her.
Chief farted loudly, then he grinned. “BOO-YA!” he hollered as he flipped the coin to Zussie. She caught it with a fast flip of tentacle. “I know what you’re thinking. You could sell or trade that thing for a fortune right here on Tandum. I’d advise against it.”
Zussie hurried down a hall, ready to evacuate. She didn’t know how the doors worked, and she didn’t know of any resource to ask for help. She did know where several were located, but she had only ever seen them used by people who had local tokens. She had a universal, and that was much more dangerous and had much more potential for great things. She supposed she just had to take a shot and hope her intuition, her will to survive, and adventure would keep her safe.