I don’t exactly know what woke me, but in the middle of the night, my eyes came open without any of my normal morning sluggishness. Normally, that only happens when danger threatens.
This was not danger, at least not to my knowledge. But the HR Department lady was sitting on the side of my bed, her back ramrod straight and her legs primly tucked together, reading what appeared to be a romance novel. She had a different business suit on, black with pinstripes this time, but it was just as stylish, and a well-made soft-sided leather briefcase sat on the bed next to her.
My room had acquired the same not-quite-reality feeling to it as I remembered from her last visit at the village elder’s house.
She gave me a quick sidelong glance, as if she had just noticed that I was awake, bookmarked her page and tucked the paperback into her briefcase. She then pulled out a folder from the same, removed a sheet of paper from it and turned her head toward me.
Pressing her glasses into place, she stated, “I had an alert concerning you. It appears your identity has been exposed.”
I was incredibly nervous about this situation. “Listen, um… Mother is a crazy powerful person. She might detect you and come here…”
“I agree that her race is unusually powerful and she is an extraordinary example of same. Thus, she might detect something happening, but only for a moment, and she would be unable to come here. What you see around you is what you would think of as an illusion. I have summoned you back into the space between mortality and the afterlife, as it would be dangerous for you if I actually visited you on Huade.”
I remained nervous, but I nodded.
“So, what’s going to happen to me?” I asked.
“I do not have the privilege of granting you any future knowledge, beyond what I was authorized. Which is to say, that you were placed here in order to meet a future need for a Hero.”
“But that means she’s not going to kill me, right? Since I would have to be alive to meet that need.”
The HR lady laid the paper down, took off her glasses and rubbed her eyes. “That’s not a safe assumption to make, Lady Tiana.”
“I’m not Mr. Stewart anymore?”
“Frankly, no. Not since you arrived here. Robert Stewart is your former identity, the origin of the soul that now bears the identity “Lady Tiana”. Anyhow, do not assume you will live just because you are needed. You could die, and the need will go unmet, which will be very bad for some large quantity of people. There are many more needs for heroes then there are heroes to meet them, so needs do go unmet. That shortage is the very reason my department exists, frankly.”
She put the glasses back on, picked the sheet back up and read it. “So, you’re showing signs of better integrating with your identity.”
“When you say that, are you talking about sexual identity or something? Like adjusting to being a girl? I still have a guy’s outlook on that subject, you know.”
“Humans put too much emphasis on that part of identity. It’s part of it, but not the primary part.”
“But for me, it’s a really important part of it, right now! A year and a half from now, I’m going to be expected to sleep with a guy! I seriously don’t swing that way, you know?! What turns me on is someone who looks like this girl sitting right here, you know?!”
“With time, your new body may adjust your outlook. I hope you can work things out.”
“No sympathy at all…” I twisted my lip, decided I wasn’t going to get anywhere on the subject, and changed tacks. “So, why are you here? You started with Mother realizing I wasn’t her daughter.”
“It is a threat to your life, yes, but it is also a threat to the welfare of this nation. If she no longer has a daughter here, then what happens to this nation is no longer her concern and she will leave. It seems if she leaves, it significantly impacts the nation’s chances at some point in the not too distant future.”
“Doesn’t that make Mother the hero you need?”
“She is not a hero. She is more like… defensive geography. A tactical advantage. The lives of at least a hundred thousand people could depend on her presence, but that is the case because she is a deterrent, not a hero.”
This woman just called my mother a nuclear warhead…not wrong, but a little rude?
I shook that thought away. “So, what do I do?”
“I can only tell you if you agree to do it first.”
I thought furiously, and hedged, “Can you even tell me the nature of what I would be doing? I do not want to deceive her anymore.”
The HR lady reflected for a moment, then nodded, “You would be delivering a message for me. And telling her that it was from the ‘minor deity’ you previously mentioned.”
After I had thought for several more seconds, I asked, “The message is the truth?”
“It is the truth, and will neither deceive nor mislead her, Lady Tiana.”
I nodded. “Okay. I’ll do it. What is it?”
“Tell her that despite what she told you, she is in fact carrying the King’s child, and I am the one who told you so. If you think it will help, you may also tell her why we want her to stay.”
“Are you serious?”
The HR lady simply stared at me. Yeah, I don’t think a being like her would make a joke, either. So Mother was pregnant for real?
“I just march up and tell her something like that?”
“No. I want you to wait until it appears she is going to cast you and this country aside and leave. If she never does, then you need not deliver the message at all.”
“What happens if she decides to kill me?”
She pressed her glasses up to the bridge of her nose yet again.
“I do not have the privilege of granting you any future knowledge, beyond what I was authorized.”