All four dogs stampeded down the driveway in a cavalcade of barks. Margritte followed, wondering who would send such a courier. Few people contacted her anymore, aside from the Consulate. Her throat tightened at the thought.
"Greetings, Fraulein Inge-Margritte Helmrich." A debonair programmed voice buzzed through the eagle's speech replicator.
Fraulein? How presumptuous. She answered calmly, trying to suppress her German accent--a futile effort. "Good evening."
"Congratulations!" The robot angled its head with the words, though its beak moved out of time. Tiny cogwheels whirred and spun along the sides of its face. Its optical orbs shifted from glowing white to gold. "You have been chosen for the Labyrinth Of Time."
"What?" Margritte scoffed. "You must be joking."
"No. By decree of the Party Consulate and the nominations of the American people, you were elected in the official telenet poll."
The Consulate. Of course. They'd denied her citizenship, and now they wanted her as their next victim to psi-space. She threw back her shoulders and glared at the robot. "And what if I refuse?"
Electronic laughter warbled. "The Consulate demands your cooperation. You will submit to the Psychometer or report to a deportation tribunal. The choice is yours."
Going back to Germany would be Hell. The Reich would surely execute her for treason if she returned, though the Party here in America was about to symbolically do the same. She'd never convince a Consulate tribunal with her troublesome reputation. Perhaps the Psychometer could prove her innocence.
She closed her eyes, already regretting the decision, but there was no better solution. "Very well. I accept."
The eagle's wings flexed outward and clicked into flight position. "Report to the Singularity Dome in Pittsburgh at the scheduled hour. We look forward to your journeys through psi-space."
In a burst of Teslectric power, the eagle launched skyward and disappeared. Off to tell the Consulate what they wanted and to seal Margritte's fate.
July 17, 1934
Thousands of spectators crowded into the Singularity Dome to see a fallen star reborn. Lights and music shimmied over the stands. Giant zeppelins glided through the night sky, their tickers flashing Margritte's name and the star-and-sword insignia of the People's Triumph Party across steel-plated hulls. In the center of the field loomed a broad stage platform. A backdrop telescreen at least five stories tall displayed clips of past contestants and their trials
Margritte peered from behind a sequined curtain. She adjusted the neckline of her high-slit velvet gown, her rhinestone bracelets flashing in the spotlights. Long chiffon sleeves trailed from filigreed silver bands attached to her wrists and forearms. Platinum blonde spit curls spiraled against her cheekbones, a pale contrast to her dark-smudged eyes and painted bow lips. A scalloped diadem fanned around her head, each triangular point atop it decked with a wispy black ostrich feather.
Show time arrived, and the audience cheered. The judges claimed their positions at the panel desk--Consulate officials dressed to the nines in their military-style uniforms. Though the Party was only a grassroots socialist movement, they favored the aesthetics of a makeshift army. It was yet another trait reminding Margritte of her own misguided country.
The orchestra played the marching anthem of the People's Triumph Party. All screens flashed with patriotic imagery and the official insignia of the new American fascism. The crowd stood and saluted in unison. Margritte followed suit, though she despised it. She had to appear as a Party loyalist when her citizenship depended on it.
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