Part 2

“Hey Zeke! How’re you doing?” Chris asked extending his hand as he stepped out of the third airlock chamber to see his old friend.

“Never been better, Sanctuary’s been treating me well.” Zeke replied, grinning as he gave Chris’s hand a brief shake, then wrapped him in a tight hug, speaking brightly. “I’ve heard some things about your life getting exciting, though. Decided to give up the life of a villain, eh?”

Chris gasped at the hug, then chuckled as he stretched a little, shaking his head ruefully at his friend. Zeke was a big man, with light brown skin, short dark hair, and lively brown eyes. The man was wearing a set of oil-stained overalls and a work shirt. He almost looked like a plumber in Chris’s mind, which might not be far wrong considering they were in Sanctuary.

“Yup, that’s right. It was getting kind of old, and I’d realized that finding someone to settle down with was a bit more difficult than I’d like in the underworld.” Chris said, shrugging in mild discomfort.

“Right, so are you planning to go full hero, or were you going to apply to the council for immigration?” Zeke asked, then nodded at Janice as he smiled. “And who might this be? Nightsinger?”

“Neither at the moment. I’m in negotiations with the Feds right now, but my intention is to become an independent supplier of gear. Turning hero would just be like painting a massive bullseye on my back, with all the people I’ve sold things to.” Chris replied, then nodded as he introduced Janice. “That’s right, though. Nightsinger? This is Zeke, short for Ezekiel, an old friend of mine who’s now the head mechanic for Sanctuary. Zeke, this is Nightsinger.”

“Hello, Zeke, it’s nice to meet you.” Janice said, nodding politely and giving a friendly smile. “You don’t mind if I call you that, do you? And please, call me Janice.”

“Not at all, I prefer it.” Zeke replied, looking amused. “I was a bit surprised when I heard about you two, and more surprised when Chris called me up to ask for approval to bring you along for the supply run. I’m glad the Council agreed, though.”

“As am I. So how did you two meet? I don’t think I’ve heard anything about you before.” Janice asked, studying Zeke carefully. “I’ve heard of a lot of supers, but you don’t ring a bell.”

“Ah, that’s because we met when I was taken in by a neighbor of Chris’s way back in 2009.” Zeke explained, moving out of the center of the hallway as he shrugged. “Nothing too big, though I very briefly got into the ‘biz. I got out just as quick, though.”

Chris snorted loudly, shaking his head as he retorted. “Geez, way to undersell yourself, Zeke. Janice, Zeke is the only known survivor from the core of Megadeath’s blast in 2008. The authorities kept it quiet since he was only a kid and they didn’t want people going after him, but he was taken in by relatives in my area after that.”

“You what?” Janice demanded, looking at Zeke in shock. “I didn’t think anyone survived that! How could you live through Megadeath’s explosion?”

Zeke sighed, giving Chris a mock glare before answering, his tone resigned. “Chris is telling the truth, though he’s being overly dramatic. My best guess is that Megadeath triggered my power to manifest, and my power is weird. I’m pretty much immune to damage if it’s over a broad area, as well as radiation. A bullet or needle will go right through me, but a blast front, or even the water pressure outside of here? It won’t leave a mark. When Megadeath blew his top, he sent me bouncing across the city like a ping pong ball. I got knocked out in the process, and it took a while for anyone to realize where I’d been. The one job I had in the villain world… let’s just say that I decided I didn’t like being used as the delivery boy for explosives without being told.”

“Oh my… yeah, I can understand that.” Janice said, her both slightly open as she shook her head. “I’m impressed, though. You’ve got a hell of a story there, and I can see why you’ve gone underground.”

“Yeah, well, not quite underground enough. I’m still on the UN’s list of people to contact when they need an emergency nuclear warhead disarmament.” Zeke grimaced, shaking his head. “I know it won’t kill me, but damn if it isn’t nerve-wracking.”

“That being said, here’s the manifest for you, Zeke. I have everything you ordered except for the magnetic bottle spares. Those I didn’t have in stock, and the lab that makes them is in St. Petersburg, and it got hammered in one of the super-brawls last month.” Chris interjected, handing over the folder with the invoice. “I’ve got a couple of alternate versions you can look at in the bay, but they aren’t exactly the model you wanted.”

“Alright, that makes sense to me. I hate having to go with unfamiliar equipment, but I’ll look them over. Everything else good, then?” Zeke asked, taking the folder and opening it to examine the part list.

“Everything should be. I’d appreciate it if you’d look the parts over and let me know if there’re any problems, but you know the drill as well as I do.” Chris replied.

“I have to ask… why do you buy stuff from Chris?” Janice asked, glancing at Chris as she added. “No offense, Chris, but I have to wonder why they purchased from a villain to begin with.”

“None taken.” Chris assured her, smiling broadly as he added. “I’m fairly confident that I know the answer anyway.”

“Oh?” Janice said, raising an eyebrow skeptically.

“Whispering Darkness may be a villain, but he has a reputation for quality that a lot of other suppliers we’ve dealt with can’t match.” Zeke told her, ignoring the byplay as he flipped to the second page of the invoice. “I’ve dealt with about twenty suppliers for this sort of equipment over the years, and he’s the only one who’s had both an acceptably low number of flawed components and who’s replaced them with functional parts promptly. His prices may be about the middle of the lot, but the reduced headaches and lack of attempts to spy on us made him our favored supplier. I’ll admit that’s been my biggest worry about him changing roles.”

Chris breathed on his fingernails dramatically and buffed them on his shirt, puffing up slightly as he grinned. “See? I’m just that good.”

“Get over yourself, twerp.” Janice retorted, elbowing Chris in the side and making him yelp slightly. “Do we need to help unload, or can we go get through security and tour the city?”

“No, go on and head for Security. I’ve got robots that’ll help me unload everything. Once I’m done I’ll transfer the payment, Chris.” Zeke said. “See you at dinner, maybe?”

“We’ll see, I’m leaving that up to Janice.” Chris replied, nodding in return as he looked at the heroine. “Shall we, then?”

“Go ahead and lead the way. You’re the one who knows where we’re going.” Janice retorted, gesturing ahead of them.

“True enough.” Chris chuckled, then headed down the hall at a brisk pace.

Part 3