Persephone went to the cafeteria. She rarely went there anymore, it was full of people that she preferred to avoid, honestly. She went up to the serving girl and looked down at the selection.

“Mashed potatoes, sauce, and some veggies,” she said with a smile.

Persephone lifted her head and stared at her, stunned.

“What?”

“How the fuck do you remain so chipper?”

The serving girl blinked. “I’m sorry?” she asked, but she didn’t seem upset about the question. She seemed more to be baffled.

“We’re the same gen, right? Your name is Hara.”

“Yup!” she chirped, squeezing her lips and standing on her tippy toes. “I think we were in class together, right. You’re… The one with the gloomy name.” She clicked her fingers.

Persephone opened her mouth but got a raised spoon in the face.

“Don’t tell me. Persephone, right?” She blinked and pointed at her.

Persephone sighed. “Yeah. That’s me. By the way, I want some veggies too, ‘cause the medidrone thinks I don’t eat healthy enough. I mean, the nerve!” she scoffed.

Hara put some mashed potatoes and started to fill a bowl with some veggies. “How come?”

“The medidrone, it doesn’t even have a mouth. And it’s telling me to eat healthier!”

Hara blinked at her, freezing, her big spoon held in the air. Then she shifted her expression entirely, “Oh… You’re joking, now I got it.” She clicked her tongue and winked, “Good one.”

Persephone pressed her lips together and nodded silently. She propped herself up on the glass of the food aisle, and looked around.

Hara pushed her full plate towards her, and she accepted it. “Hey,” she frowned. “What’s this job like?”

Hara tapped her chin. “Well… I dunno, it’s fun, I guess. You get to talk to everybody, and serve food, which is nice. The cleaning up after is not that nice, but I don’t really mind.”

Persephone looked around, frowning. The cafeteria wasn’t full, she had chosen this time of day for this exact reason. She would agree to get her veggies, but on her own terms, dammit! She turned her face back to Hara. She was chipper, blonde. Short and insisted on smiling about everything, it seemed. “Is there an opening for the night shift?”

“Why, I think so, yes! Wanna apply?” She leaned forward, grabbing Persephone’s hand. “Oh, I know! We can work together, chat with people, then gossip about them all night! Isn’t that great?”

Persephone lifted her upper lip, showing her teeth in an insincere smile. “Totally” she deadpanned. “I think I need a change of scenery, or I’ll go crazy.”

“Oh, we can’t have that. Mental health is important, keep your mind calm,” Hara recited the AI’s propaganda. They all knew the phrases.

Persephone grabbed a fork and started eating right there, holding her plate up. She didn’t bother getting to an empty table.

“Don’t you wanna sit down and eat?” Hara asked.

“I’m a rebel,” Persephone said, her mouth full of healthy, nutritional veggies. Veggies that would prepare her body for the single use that she was good for.

She knew it was coming. Her biological clock was ticking, and she was certain that the AI had a literal countdown for her somewhere in its subroutines. She tried to push the ‘Grand Plan’ from her mind for a moment, and try to live in the there and now.

“Is it good?” Hara asked, looking expectant. She looked so dorky with her little hat.

“Yeah. Better than the edible crap I was getting from the store.”

Hara smiled and leaned in over the counter. She spoke in a conspiratorial tone, “When you get on the shift with me, we’ll be able to lick the pot afterwards. It’s the best part,” she said and nodded.

“I bet,” Persephone snorted.

“I tell you, it’s the best part of the job.”

Persephone froze with her fork in the air and turned to examine her. “You’re fucking serious.”

“I am!” Hara squealed with a cute shrug.

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