25. “I want an answer, goddammit!” 👀
ooh 25 for blupjeans? (“I want an answer, goddammit!”)
The most beautiful woman Barry has ever met introduces herself by slamming his back against the wall in a spaceport alley, and his life flashes before his eyes. Honestly?
It’s kind of boring.
Much more important is figuring out who she is and what she wants from him (and how she so easily picked him up, because Barry Bluejeans is not a small guy, and she’s dangling him a good six inches off the ground, which is doing wild things to his heartbeat).
“What-” he chokes out, but it isn’t his turn to speak, apparently, because she practically growls at him.
“Who do you work for?? I want an answer, goddammit! Don’t you try to pretend you don’t know what’s going on here!”
That’s going to be a problem, namely because Barry doesn’t know what’s going on here.
“I- um- I’m an independent researcher?” he stammers, glancing at the mouth of the alley where androids and aliens and assholes walk past without even acknowledging this altercation underway. They probably think he’s getting mugged. Is he getting mugged? Maybe not. He doesn’t have a lot of credits to his name, but he’s going to be a lot poorer if he gets his ass killed.
“You’re following me! You were staring at me in the marketplace!”
Barry blushes fiercely.
“I wasn’t following you, I really did have to go that way, but- I was. Um.” How to defend himself. The truth, unfortunately. “I was staring at you because you’re beautiful?”
She blinks, and her eyes flicker, glowing purple for a brief second, and Barry comes to a stark realization–the glowing eyes, the strength, her weird behavior in the marketplace, afraid of being followed, certain he was someone else– she’s an android, and, he doesn’t like to throw around what-ifs without serious evidence, but she may be a rogue one at that.
She squints at him.
“You’re trying to catch me off-guard.”
“I’m really not,” Barry protests. “I would mostly just like to be on the ground again, please.” This is partially true, but if he lives to dream about it later, he definitely, definitely will.
She considers this for a moment, and unceremoniously drops him. He staggers, but he’s careful not to touch her. That could lead to some real problems. He dusts himself off and looks at her properly, tall as an ancient goddess and striking even in a plain grey unaffiliated uniform. She’s staring at him like she’s trying to figure out a puzzle that will shoot her if she doesn’t put the pieces together in the right order.
“Are you on the run?” Barry asks, tentative but bold as he can manage. “I mean- are you avoiding people who are after you?”
The woman startles, and glares at him.
“So what if I am? Who’s asking?”
“Barry Bluejeans,” he says, because he can’t think of anything else to say. She’s so gorgeous, his own circuits are misfiring. You know, the organic ones. “At your service.” He holds his hand out. It’s archaic, but he can’t help it. He used to be a gentleman, a long, long time ago. Now he’s a roughboy fighting for his stupid life.
She cocks her head, and takes his hand, shaking it once, firmly. Her grip is too strong, but he doesn’t say a word about it.
“Lup,” she says. “That’s all you get to know.”
“I’ll take what I can get.” Barry smiles at her in a way that he hopes is charming and not, you know, pained, or terrified. “Listen, if you want to travel with me…I know it can be hard, traveling alone. I’ve been trying to hire a research assistant. I don’t have a lot of credits, but-” he trails off.
Lup considers him at length. He wonders if she’s scanning him, analyzing his erratic heartbeat, noting how sweaty he is under his jumpsuit. Maybe even assessing the very, very dangerous alien artifacts in his pack that he’s carefully wrapped so they wouldn’t be crushed in the bustling thrum of the market–or set off radiation warnings.
“Research and security. You’re lucky, Barry Bluejeans. I could have killed you where you stood.”
Barry flushes brightly and hopes she’s not reading his heartbeat now, because that certainly made him feel some type of way. But if he’s going to solve not one but two mysteries now, he’s going to have to keep those feelings to himself. There’s no world in which someone as incredible as her would want something like him, so he won’t even bother to dream about it.
Funny thing about dreams, though. You don’t exactly get a choice in the matter.