The man who had his arm on my elbow was, needless to say, pissing me off. I mean, yes, I’m generally suspicious of people. If someone tries to take advantage of me in any way, shape, or form, well… it wasn’t really a good thing for them. And I honestly didn’t like punching people in the nose or something like that—even if it might seem like it—so I generally try to “ward off” any sort of questions or offers that virtual strangers seem to want to talk about with me, both for their own benefit and mine.
“No,” I say warily, slowly. “There was nothing out of the ordinary that I saw on my run, but thanks for asking.” I didn’t get a good vibe from this man, so, although that little girl I had seen had been “out of the ordinary”, I wasn’t going to bring it up. I continue to not respond as he tells me all of these things, about how he wants to be part of the head group that ran the mall and that the androids—which I still didn’t know what the hell they were—weren’t as big of a deal as everyone thought. If I had replied, I thought it would get me into something too deep, or maybe I’d even make an enemy out of this man. I really didn’t need an enemy, not now, with the freaking state the world is in at the moment. But his hands, on my own, were something I didn’t really feel comfortable with. But again, I didn’t want to say anything, not yet. I would when I had to.
“Look,” I say finally, “I understand that it’s difficult that the rest of the community has a different opinion on the androids than you do, and that you want to be in charge. But I don’t really think I’m the right person to talk to, alright? I don’t really have, ah, a lot of power in this place. And I won’t be of much help anyway.”
“Oh, right, you’re the girl with the memory loss, aren’t you?” he responded. “You hit your head and stuff.”
“That’s me,” I mutter. “It’s nice to know that that’s the only thing people notice around here.”
He didn’t appear to have heard me. “But that’s what will make it so much better! People will react better to you, because you can’t remember anything.” He was starting to get lost in his thoughts as he spoke. “Maybe you could even bring up the android thing, that they’re not so bad, right? And if they give you a head position, you could then resign and give it to me… Or maybe appoint me to a spot. That could work….”
“Sorry. Not interested.” Power wasn’t really my thing, in all honesty. I’d rather be on my own, which was why I’d probably be leaving soon.
“Strider,” he said, leaning in close to my ear and whispering. “You really want to do this? To completely reject this offer? I don’t think you want an enemy out of me, do you?”
“I don’t,” I say sharply. “But I also don’t want some creep like you to be in power here. Sorry.”
His grip on me tightened, and he leaned in even closer to me. “Don’t do this, Strider.”
“Let go!” I say with more force than I could have imagined I could ever use, and push him off of me. The surprise of it was what got him off balance—I wasn’t all that strong.
He stumbled, and his hands slipped from around my own. “You’ve made a big mistake, haven’t you?” he snarled.
I shrug, my hair moving near my shoulders as I did, and rolled my eyes. “Damn.”
I walked away from him, back towards the center of the cafeteria, where I had been with Andrew.