Barbara continued speaking before anyone could say anything. “I am the official emissary of the God of Toast,” she said. “In point of fact, I am his daughter.” At this, there were murmurs of surprise and awe. “The fish in the sky, as I’m sure you’re aware, are anathema to the God of Toast,” Barbara went on. “His power began to dwindle the moment they appeared. The fish were brought about by your coworker Harold, whom we now know to be the Anti-Toast.”
“Used to be,” said Binks with a grim smile.
Barbara nodded an acknowledgement. “As you say. In any case, when the Anti-Toast made his move, you, Andrew, were chosen to be the Champion of Toast. You were summoned to the One True Toaster Factory and tested. You did well, but our efforts were thwarted by the power of the Anti-Toast. I was therefore dispatched to guide you on the path that was chosen for you.
“I like to think I was of some assistance, but as the situation with the God of Toast grew more dire, I became careless. Through unscrupulous means, I had learned the secret identity of the Anti-Toast. I tried to reveal this information to you, but was taken out of play (and rightly so) by the Deity Governance Committee before I could deliver the message.”
“So that’s what happened when you popped out of existence back at the hotel,” said Heather.
“Yes,” said Barbara. “I behaved imprudently, and was brought to task for it.”
“But what’s the Deity Governance Committee?” I asked.
“That is a topic for another time,” said Barbara. “For the nonce, it is my duty to offer, on behalf of both myself and the God of Toast, our supreme thanks for the service you have done for us, Andrew Millik.” She bowed to me.
“My pleasure,” I said.
A glowing disk of light appeared beneath Barbara and lifted her from the bed. “Now, if you will excuse me, the fate of the God of Toast is again in the balance, and I am needed elsewhere.”
“What? But isn’t Harold dead?” asked Heather.
Barbara’s disk rotated until she faced Heather. “My child,” she said, “Harold was merely this plane’s incarnation of the Anti-Toast. When one Anti-Toast fails, another always appears somewhere else. I must go. Farewell, Andrew Millik and companions. It was an honor to work with you.” With that, Barbara shimmered and was gone.
There was a long silence as we pondered the implications of what Barbara had told us. The silence was broken by Gertrude. “Hey, who the hell are you?” she said.
The rest of us now noticed that an unassuming man in a brown suit and bowler hat had come among us by some means. He regarded Gertrude imperturbably.
“Easy, Gertrude,” said Carver. “That’s Telzock Dimsho.” To me, he mouthed, “Tier 1.”
So this was a member of the mythical League Management. He stepped forward and addressed me. “Andrew Millik,” he said, “it is my pleasure to inform you that your professional relationship with the League of Heroes has ended. Your employment is terminated, effective immediately.”