Chapter 5

Firing the guns on the range had been a bit interesting, but honestly, it hadn’t been that exciting for Lilith. She’s fired plenty of weapons while training with Circe, including some that were far more powerful than anything Whispering Darkness had, including his tankbuster and rail gun. The nonlethal weapons had been a little more interesting, but even so, they hadn’t interested her nearly as much as the cafeteria did.

There weren’t many people in the cafeteria when they got there, though there did seem to be an impromptu meeting at one table while the five people ate food. The room was fascinating to Lilith, with round tables, good lighting, and comfortable-looking chairs. More interesting to her was the opposite wall, where she could see two cooks working behind a counter, with a variety of food under heat lamps, as well as the coolers and shelves that held salads, chips, and other things she couldn’t identify from the distance.

“This makes me think of a buffet.” Lilith said, tilting her head slightly as she considered the trays near the entrance of what she assumed was a line, with how there was a woman at a computer on the far end.

“Hm? Well, I suppose it’s similar… have you never been to a cafeteria before?” Nightsinger asked, looking at her with a hint of confusion.

“No, I never had the chance.” Lilith said, then corrected herself quickly. “Wait, I did visit the hospital in Paragon City once, but we didn’t go down to the cafeteria. That’s the closest I think I’ve come to one.”

“Huh.” Whispering Darkness glanced at her, a nonplussed expression on his face, then shrugged. “Well, that being the case, I suppose I’d better explain how it works, since it isn’t quite like a buffet.”

Walking toward the entrance as he talked, the man explained. “It’s simple enough, each item has a price listed, and you take what you want for your meal, then Clarissa rings them up at the end. Each of my employees gets a set budget for food per day that they get for free, anything more than that they have to pay out of pocket. You don’t have to worry about that, though, since I’m taking care of the meal.”

“Ah, that’s simple enough. I’d be willing to pay for my meal, though. It isn’t like I’m that badly off.” Lilith offered, understanding washing through her. It was like buying pre-made food at a grocery store, though the food here looked a little better to her.

“Maybe so, but I’d rather not worry about the credit companies panicking if they notice you bought something here.” Whispering Darkness explained. “This is simpler.”

“Perhaps, but I don’t remember you asking me to pay for anything before. Am I going to have to pay?” Nightsinger asked, a faint edge to her voice, and Whispering Darkness’s head whipped around.

“What? No, of course not!” he protested, raising his hands. “I’ve always taken care of the meals before! Why would I make you pay now?”

“I don’t know, maybe you’re trying to prove a point.” Nightsinger said, and Lilith couldn’t avoid giggling. That drew their attention, and Lilith could feel the gazes of the people at the table as well.

“Sorry about that.” Lilith apologized, bowing her head contritely. “The two of you are just… you seem to get along well.”

Whispering Darkness looked at the heroine, who looked back at him speculatively, then they looked at her. Lilith thought she saw Nightsinger’s expression soften slightly, but that could have just been her imagination. She’d misread cues just often enough that she didn’t want to jump to conclusions.

“You really think so?” Whispering Darkness asked, rubbing his head as he stepped into the line, picking up a tray as he did so. “I sometimes wonder, since this is my first relationship.”

Lilith glanced at Nightsinger, but when the woman didn’t say anything, she picked up a tray and replied, a touch nervous that they might misinterpret what she was about to say. “It isn’t like I have much more experience than you, but I’ve done some research due to that. Everyone interacts in different ways, sure, but the two of you remind me of Morgan and Warden. They banter, they fight a little, at least in playful ways, but the moment someone threatens one of them, the other instantly moves to protect them. They trust each other, and… well, I could be misinterpreting how your relationship works, but I feel like the two of you are the same way.”

While she was talking, Lilith examined the food along the way, taking a green salad in a plastic container off a shelf, along with some dressing, then grabbed a small thing of gelatin that was in the neighboring case. There were plenty of refrigerated goods, and she saw hot rolls, chicken strips, and mashed potatoes in the heated section in particular. While there were plenty of other items, she thought those would work well for her, and—

The sound of dishes rattling cut Lilith’s thoughts short, and she blinked, tensing slightly as Nightsinger spun, setting her tray aside as the heroine asked. “Whisper?”

“That’s not the factory or an earthquake. I—” the former villain began, then flinched as he was interrupted by a high-pitched whine from the outer wall. “Ah, hell! Everyone, get out! Someone’s trying to breach the building! Computer, code I-seven, this is not a drill!”

“Hell, not again.” Lilith said in exasperation, setting the tray on the nearest counter quickly, and she reached for her hip, only to find the pistol that usually adorned it was missing. At the same time, both the cooks and the other people in the room sprang to their feet and vacated the room with astounding speed, at least from Lilith’s perspective. Usually civilians didn’t move that quickly… but they were in a former villain’s employ.

“You insisted on not going to a business meeting armed, Mistress Lilith.” Circe observed mildly, speaking for the first time since Lilith had entered the building. The AI didn’t sound surprised at all. “I believe I advised against it.”

“Not now, Circe.” Lilith replied, drawing a look from Whispering Darkness.

“Went right through my shielding, just great.” He said in exasperation, shaking his head, then glanced at the wall. “Night? You’ve got the lead.”

“Get into your armor and back me up.” Nightsinger said instantly. “We don’t know what we’re dealing with. How long will the wall—nevermind.”

As she was speaking, a section of the wall bowed inward slightly, the tip of a drill piercing through it.

“Hell.” Whispering Darkness spat, and jerked his head toward the doorway. “I’ll be right back!”

Lilith joined him in racing toward the doorway, and as they ran he heard Nightsinger call back. “You’d better be, or you’ll be in trouble, mister! Besides, that looks like a drill to me.” Despite the circumstances, Lilith couldn’t help smiling. Now she just had to figure out why this sort of thing always happened when she was around.

Chapter 4Chapter 6