Z9 lead the way. "The sky is full of stars," he called back to the others.
"That's nuts. It's daylight," said Donk.
"The sky is the world, the stars are souls," said Miss Glamour. She followed Z9 out of the confined space somewhere below Todd Munson's consciousness.
"Our best choice for optimal results is to swim up to the sky and become a star," said Dr. Domino.
"After you, you freakin' poet-pansy," said Donk.
Dr. Domino also left.
"Well, I ain't stayin' here alone, wait up you guys," said Donk and he left, too.
A woman's voice called to them, "Goodbye, goodbye, I tell you three times, God-be-with-you, goodbye."
* * *
Z9 burst out of darkness into a room with maps and charts on the wall and a view out the window that he recognized as Torino, Italia. A handsome middle-aged woman wearing stylish but severe make-up smiled at him. "Zetanove! Alejandro, it's been years. How are you?"
The room looked as it had always looked, though its location had changed from time to time: Bristol, England; Quang-dong, China; Archangel, Russia; Montevideo, Uruguay, Tel Aviv, Israel. The view out the window might change but not the furnishings or the woman.
"I'm dead, I think," said Z9. "And you?"
"Benissimo. Well, your last assignment did not work out so well, did it? I'm sorry."
"No worries, camerata mia. But I hear the Cold War is over."
"Ah, well, yes. But the conflict between good and evil goes on and the world still needs warriors in that gray area between, unflinching humanites like yourself. Are you ready to accept a new assignment?"
"I believe so, though I may be a little rusty with some of my weapons and tactics."
She made a mark on a piece of paper. "Have you ever trained with a pom-pon?"
* * *
Miss Glamour walked until darkness became a corridor and a curtain. She pushed aside the night-colored cloth and found a dressing room. Several girls in different stages of undress busied themselves putting on various costumes.
"Sam!" one of them exclaimed. "Sam Terry, we're on in five minutes and you're dressed like that?"
Someone else threw her a costume and she began to get undressed, musing that it all seemed so strangely familiar, too uniquely mundane, such a common miracle. How odd that her costume appeared to be nudity. Naked as the day she was born, she left the dressing room and entered her new life, stage center.
* * *
Dr. Domino swam upward into the light.
"John," said the light.
"Yes," said John Domingues.
"Have you found out what you wanted to know?"
John thought about it. "Not everything."
The light danced a chuckling dance. "No one knows everything, John. Do you think you know enough?"
"I don't think there can be enough to know to satisfy me," he said.
"And that is the end of knowledge, the beginning of wisdom," said the light. "Come, you are done with learning, now you must teach."
And John Domingues entered into the light.
* * *
The darkness knew his name. "Donk," it said.
"That's me," said Paul Doncaster.
"You have lied, cheated, stolen and killed. What have you done to redeem yourself?" the darkness asked.
"Well, I felt bad about most of that," Donk said.
"That's true and it's worth something, but unshed tears cannot balance blood, deceit, violence and hate."
"Hey! I never hated anyone! Sometimes it was just business and sometimes I was just drunk. But I never hurt no one because of no hate I had on."
"And you never did." The darkness spoke as if it had found a diamond tiara in a sewage tank. "You were kind to the weak, brave when frightened, loyal according to your own codes, generous whether you had much or nothing. Your virtues cancel out your crimes in the eternal scale."
"You could go either way, Donk." The darkness had become an even gray field under a featureless gray sky. "Into the light or back into the darkness, forever." The voice now came from an enormous silver-black figure standing on the horizon.
Paul would have licked his lips if he'd had any. "I get to choose?"
"No. You are here, in limbo, until someone comes to claim you. The deeds you have done in life will work out to their ends, and one day tip the balance."
"Oh, shit." He couldn't imagine anything he'd started in life having a good ending. "What can I do now?"
"I can spin the wheel for you," offered the Lord of Limbo.
"You do that," said Paul. "Can I double my bet?"
"You wish to learn more virtue through more opportunity to sin?"
"Very well, double or nothing, Paul-Doncaster-who-was."
The wheel spun, sucking Donk into a new life.
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