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Delta sighs.

She sighs countless times every day, and so this specific sigh is nothing special in the slightest. Still, for some reason she notes it and holds it in much higher regard than any of the other times today.

It might be the sigh that broke the camel’s back. The first of the day to truly make her feel like this was going to be another one of those days...

Today is Saturday. Today is supposed to be her one real, true off day. But instead, she’s up early at the office, in even earlier than usual.

She walks through the entrance to the Bustable Lemons headquarters, greets the janitors finishing off their nightly duties, and takes the elevator to the sixth floor.

Another sigh.

Julie is going to kill her if she ever finds out what she’s doing. Delta knows deep in her heart that she is already a dead woman, a walking corpse who will face righteous retribution no matter what else she does. Continuing to commit even more egregious offenses won’t make her MORE fucked, so she may as well keep doing it.

The car crash was tough enough to explain. The pink-haired moron with magic powers was impossible to explain. Doing what she is about to do is outright moronic to explain.

All to help this helpless, low-IQ young man who is a bit too dull to figure out his own way around the world, she is about to lie to her wife, lie to her bosses, and lie maybe even to herself. Why? All out of some sense of loyalty to Francis Bacall, her closest friend since childhood? Some sense of duty to help those less fortunate and much dumber?

Or maybe, deep inside her, there is some sense of adventure boiling up that begs her to indulge in Eryk’s delusional fantasies about becoming a hero? Maybe, in her heart of hearts, she wants to explore and fight and try new things? Is that what Delta feels?

...Maybe not.

Delta is probably just a pushover.

The elevator stops and the door opens to her floor: Bustable Lemons, Marketing Department. Ugh.

Yes, Delta works in one of the most shameful professions in all of modern society. She is the one who comes up with the subway advertisements, the focus-tested limited edition flavor variants, the jingles that play incessantly on the radio, before movies, during Hulu commercial breaks...

Delta has signed her soul to the devil for $80,000 a year.

She’s so much of a pushover that not only did she take the most morally repugnant job available, she has even sucked up to her boss and made herself a favorite employee of the higher-ups. Everything she stands for as a human has been excised from her being since she began her tenure at Bustable Lemons, the seventh most-popular soft drink company in the Western United States.

“Hiya, Delta,” the secretary Yancy greets. He is sweet and soft-spoken, exactly the qualities that makes Delta forget he ever existed every time she walks past him in the mornings.

“Oh, are you in this morning?” asks Jimmy Chung, the coworker in charge of mailing list data analysis who hits on her practically every day, even after he attended her own wedding three years ago. And is twenty years older than her. “Always the hard worker, Ms. Rafati.”

“Nope, just popping in,” Delta politely responds. She puts on the fakest smile she can muster just to drive him off a little bit more before he can get another creepy compliment in.

“Oh, well, take care. Congratulations about the you-know-what.”

She doesn’t respond.

Sunbeams shoot in through the windows, because this office was designed specifically to allow as much natural light in as possible. It’s “conducive to a healthy work environment” or something, though it mostly means during this early in the morning it’s just bright as shit and hurts her eyes.

Delta knocks on her boss’s door.

Her boss doesn’t respond.

She waits exactly fourteen seconds, then knocks again.

Another non-response.

Another knock.

Finally, the door opens and a very sleepy looking woman gazes at her. “Delta...?” she asks. “Why are you here...?”

Looks like she’s been sleeping at the office again. How the hell a woman in her position be a workaholic for something as irrelevant as marketing for Bustable Lemons, Delta will never know. Though it is more likely to be something like a saucy affair with a coworker.

“Ms. Hausen,” Delta says. “I’d like to talk to you about something a little important.”

“Uh, um, yeah, sure,” Ms. Hausen says. “Come on in.” She groans and opens the door wider.

Unlike the rest of the floor, Ms. Hausen’s corner office is dim and has only one window, currently shuttered. The woman is pouring herself a glass of orange juice and wobbling a little bit, suggesting at least a small hangover. Delta suspects it’s more than just alcohol that’s running through her system, if the rumors are true.

“Ms. Hausen, I’m sorry to bother you,” she says as a mere courtesy.

“No, no, it’s alright. You’re always such a good employee. One of the best. You got three reports done in three days! In fact, I need you to do a fourth one since my boss is really riding my ass about—”

Before she can get thrown yet another idiotic task when it’s not even her day to be at work, she interrupts, saying, “I need to take time off.”

“You... Huh?”

“I need an extended break from work for, um, reasons,” Delta says. Reasons that involve a pink-haired magical being from another universe where video game stats are the norm, but obviously she was never going to indulge that. “Starting Monday.”

“But you took yesterday off, too...”

“I’m sorry. It’s...”

Ms. Hausen tilts her head to the side. “Are you and Julie...?”

“Uhh...”

“Oh, that’s right! The baby!” Ms. Hausen exclaims. “When is it due?”

The better question is when it will be conceived, but it’s clear that Julie’s near-reality bending powers have convinced the entire world that their discussion about a baby is already a done deal and Delta is already six months pregnant or something. This could play to her benefit.

“Um, all I can say at the moment is that I will be gone for a few weeks or more. Probably.”

“Oh, that’s wonderful. Of course you can have the time off. Get ready for your family, Delta! Then take your maternity leave and go get’em.”

“Hm.”

“I took six years off work back when I had my twins,” Ms. Hausen says. “Don’t be like me. Keep on trucking by being prepared for everything that’ll ever come your way. Work and family are insperable aspects of human life!”

“Yeah...”

Delta rolled her eyes, but only on the inside.

“So you won’t be able to do the report? The deadline is tomorrow morning...”

“Sorry, Ms. Hausen. I’ll be out of town by then.”

“For... what?”

Ah, shit. “For, um, a really good doctor in Sacramento my wife and I have chosen,” she lies.

“Oh, that’s nice. Well, have a good time and be right back here the absolute moment your maternity leave is over, and not a second later.”

“Yes ma’am.”

Delta refuses a glass of orange juice and takes her leave from Ms. Hausen’s office. She declines to help with the copy on the new Bustable Limes website mockup, and then passes Yancy once again without remembering to take in his existence for more than five seconds.

As she leaves the Bustable Lemons headquarters and heads on the train back home, Delta is struck with the feeling that all the constant lies are going to come back to bite her in the ass in the very near future. But, honestly, she doesn’t particularly care.

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A note from Thedude3445

And there's the third bonus chapter, as well as the second of two daily updates today. Hope you enjoy them!

The poll about the fifth bonus chapter has closed, and it's looking like a tie between "Otters (not sentient)" and "Eryk's First Adventure on Mystix" as the side story you'd like to see most. That's cool. Not sure which one I'll pick, but maybe I'll pick the other one as well if we get a sixth bonus chapter someday.


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About the author

Thedude3445

Bio: I like to watch movies.

Avatar art by Mikayla Buan https://twitter.com/mikayla_buan

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