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Status Quo - Chapter 3

Written by: Paullell

 Lana grins at the bars.  “That’s fantastic.  That will get Bris off my back… and keep him from trying to get me on my back at the same time.”  She chuckles at the thought.  Her tail swishes excitedly as she starts compiling a grocery list in her head.  She stands up and moves over to where Daray is laying, offering her a hand to help her up.  “Well, let’s get you back to the bedroom, It will be more comfortable for you to recover back there while I’m out.” 

 

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Daray assists Lana in getting her off the floor and up onto her one good foot. Together they hobble back to the bedroom where she crashes gratefully across the bed at an odd angle and offers the platinum bars to Lana.

 

-This is ill advised Daray, she could turn you in.-

 

‘I don’t think she will APRIL.’

 

-She could trade you for her record being expunged.-

 

‘I don’t think she will.’

 

-How do you know?- The computer’s voice was testy and almost irritated.

 

‘Just a hunch. She’s got no love for the Conglomerate.’

 

-I am against this line of action.-

 

‘Noted.’

 

Finally, she turns her eyes back to Lana, “There used to be a butcher around the corner, about three blocks north. I could really use some protein for all this healing.”

 

She offered a smile as she started to drift away from consciousness again, her body stealing her energy in order to effect repairs. In moments she was asleep again.

 

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Lana arranges the pillows more comfortably around Daray and throws a blanket over her before getting dressed.  She throws on a pair of tight black pants, yellow boots with three inch heals and a matching yellow top with reflective beads and then heads out of the apartment.  She only takes one of the bars, the other on tucked safely in her closet.  In not time at all she has walked to the butchers shop and purchased some meat and then to the market to get more vegetables and fruit along with some protein bars and other common rations.  She does make certain to make it look like she is buying her normal amount.  Not wanting any odd purchases to show up on the database that the markets keep.

 

In less than fifteen minutes she is on her way back with an full bag of groceries in her arms.  She unlocks the door enters and relocks it for safety’s sake and then proceeds to the kitchen and begins fixing up a high protein meal for her guest.

 

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-Daray, it is time to wake up.-

 

The glowing woman’s voice was calm, almost sing-song as it lilted to him across the vast grassy field he found himself enjoying.

 

‘I don’t want to wake up. Things are never they way they should be.’ He complained.

 

-I am sorry you are having trouble coping Daray, but you are nearly done regenerating and I am detecting Lana’s presence. You should not be unconscious in uncertain company.-

 

‘I don’t like you much, glowey lady.’ Darren sneered at the form. ‘You’re always coming in here, where you aren’t welcome, and screwing up my day.’

 

-Understood, never the less, I must insist that you get up.-

 

She closed the distance between them in a heartbeat, almost as if she didn’t actually cross the distance between them, but rather, ignored it entirely, simply breezing across the gap as if it were nothing more than a crack in a sidewalk.

 

Darren staggered back a step at her sudden appearance next to him, but it wasn’t enough to stop her jabbing her hand through his forehead again. Then came the interminable pressure, followed by a gasping, panting, return to consciousness.

 

‘What the hell?!’

 

-My apologies Daray. I am detecting the presence of Lana in the vicinity. You should remain on vigil.-

 

‘Yeah. Right.’ She sighed heavily, examining the room around her. The furniture was the same crappy fare she recognized from her time living there, but the decorations and little details were much nicer, even if not extravagant, they had a feeling of having been carefully arranged and gave the room a more welcoming feeling.

 

Finally she looked down at her wounded leg to see that most of her foot was restored. All that remained missing were the tips of the toes, which were rapidly sprouting bone and muscle tissue. She stared in wonder at the activity for a moment, not really believing that it was her own body she was looking at, then scooted to the edge of the bed and placed her feet on the floor. She quickly scooped up the spent bullets that her body had expunged while she slept, then stood up and, holding the walls to steady herself against the absence of her toes, hobbled out to the living room and slid into a stool at the breakfast bar.

 

She smiled at Lana, deeply inhaling the scent of her efforts and negligently dropping the handful of armor piercing bullets on the counter as she spoke. “Hey! Thank you again for helping out. How long was I unconscious?”

 

-18 minutes, 27 seconds.- APRIL replied.

 

‘Shut up you. I’m making conversation here.’ She admonished the computer, trying not to let her look falter as she watched Lana buzz around the tiny kitchen.

 

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Lana looks over her shoulder at Daray as she enters the kitchen and smiles.  “Not long, perhaps a little over fifteen minutes.”  She turns back to the pan and chats as she prepares the meat.  “I made certain to buy only my normal amounts of food, it wont last long obviously but the purchase shouldn’t stand out on any databases.”  She grabs a waiting plate on the counter and slides the food from the pot onto it and then sets the plate in front of Daray.  She grabs an apple from her shopping and hops onto the other stool next to Daray, watching her eat as she asks her next question.  “So now my only question is what else can I do to help you… and what did you mean that you could help me beyond the platinum?”

 

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Daray’s stomach starts rolling at the sight and smell of the food, and she dives in the instant the plate hits the counter in front of her. The plate is almost half empty by the time she is able to slow down and chat back.

 

“Thank you for this, I really can’t tell you how much you are helping out.” She takes a moment to hoark down some more food. 

 

-You probably should not tell her that you know her life’s story.-

 

‘Gee APRIL, I hadn’t thought of that. Keep those insights coming!’

 

“Well, I don’t want to be presumptuous. Any more than I already have been anyway. Maybe if you tell me a little about your situation, I can tell you what else I can do for you.”

 

She looks down at her foot idly, wiggling her new toes as the inky black skinsuit finished enveloping them.

 

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Lana nods.  “That makes sense.  Really what I need is an investigator; someone to tell me why it is that I’ve had so many runs of bad luck at once.  One or two things, that’s just karma balancing the scales for good luck. I’ve had enough bad things happen recently I’m almost positive that someone is out to get me.  And really, I’m a nobody.  Why would I be worth the effort is beyond me.” 

 

Lana grows a little morose at the memory of what started her run of back luck; her mother had died less than four months ago of an illness that the medical staff had been unable to diagnose.  She shakes herself, a physical representation of throwing off the depression that threatened to set in on her.  She perks and looks to Daray again.  “That can wait compared to you.  It’s not like anyone is trying to kill me!  So what can I do to help you first and then maybe you have a friend that could help with my problems.”

 

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She listens as she eats the rest of the food on her plate, then looks curiously to Lana with one eye on the rest of the meal, helping herself to more if she receives an OK.

 

She nods at Lana’s words.

 

‘APRIL can you back-trace that hack job on her file and see who was behind it?’

 

-I can try.-

 

“I don’t want to get you any more involved in my affairs than you need to be. You’ve been so amazingly helpful already and my line of work, as I am sure you have guessed, is more than a little dangerous.” She pauses to wolf down more food, her stomach finally starting to calm down after most of two huge helpings have gone down.

 

“I need to get back into Aegis Online’s facility, but they are going to be on guard now, maybe for weeks after my last sojourn. So in the interim, I can try and help you out if you like.

 

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Bob, or Sergeant Killgore as he preferred to be called, loved his job. There was no question about it. And it wasn’t just the carrying and firing of great, high-tech weapons, or the impunity with which he could accost and detain people, often for no reason at all. No, it was, for him at least, all about the shouting. He loved to shout. And shoot, and detain people. Now that he thought about it, he loved it all with equal measure.

 

When he got the order to chase down the saboteur, he hadn’t been initially interested in the assignment, but when the video feeds came through his visor display and he saw the tight body and lithe frame of the woman as she vaulted over parked vehicles and flipped through the air like some kind of circus acrobat, twisting and turning with feline agility, something stirred in his loins and a new energy suffused his gait.

 

His rank meant he could procure soldiers and equipment with near impunity, so he immediately snapped up a squadron of like-minded soldiers and set out after the woman with orders that they were to be the first to capture her, at any cost.

 

As the reports came over the comm that she had been wounded, but escaped the grasp of another unit, he hustled his men over to the area where she had vanished and made sure they were the ones to take over the search. Now he had the security footage of the woman playing in a loop on his helmet visor display as he moved from door to door, with three armed and armored soldiers on his heel, searching homes in the area for the target of his lust.

 

The people on the street did their best to look unimportant and get out of his way, as they should, and the people who’s doors he pounded on dutifully backed away and let his men search their hovels, tossing things around haphazardly and making a general mess of things. 

 

He raised an eyebrow as the blue-haired, fox-like woman scurried past him, and watched with interest as she entered a home a block down the street in the direction he was headed with his search. He made a mental note to find some reason to spend a little extra time in her home as his men searched there.

 

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Lana waves her hand silently approving the request for more to eat. “You must be starving.  My cooking is well enough to get me by, but it’s not false modesty when I say my cooking is barely adequate.”  She thinks about what to tell her since Daray seems interested and in no rush to work on her problem.  “My bad luck started when my mom died.  Her death certificate lists the cause of death as unknown.  In this day and age do you know how rare it is for a cause of death to be unknown?  It’s nearly unheard of.  You really think you can help me?”  She smiles brightly, hope shining in her eyes as she looks at Delray. 

 

Before she can say anything there is a muffled banging coming from one of the walls.  Lana swivels around and her eyes immediately focus on one of the air ducts in her house.  Her expression more annoyed than hostile she lets out an aggravated sigh.  The grate over the vent pops open and a scrawny girl child scoots through.  The child doesn’t even notice Delray, instead launching herself at Lana, warping her arms around her waist and sobbing into her stomach the words pouring out so quickly that they are almost un intelligible.  “Ya gotta help me Lana.. I didn’t do anything… at least not recently… ok well maybe I took a little breakfast without asking… but nothing major I swear and now they’re after me!”

 

Lana pats the child’s back comfortingly.  “Daray, this is Pix.  Pix, this is Daray.  Pix is our local street rat.  Pix, who is after you?”

 

“Police.  They are searching every house on this street and the next four over.”

 

Lana freezes at Pix’s words, her eyes searching out Daray immediately.  “Looks like you won’t be able to help me with my problem after all.” She comments regretfully.

 

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Daray takes in Lana’s commentary with interest, smiling at Lana’s description of her cooking.

 

“Well, nothing personal, but when I am dealing with this crap,” she rakes her fingers through the handful of spent bullets on the counter by way of illustration, “I don’t tend to be too picky about what I’m eating. Not to mention the fact that I grew up here, on my own for the most part, so I can sympathize.”

 

At the description of Lana’s mother and her mysterious passing, she makes a note, ‘APRIL can you add that to your query please?’

 

-I already have Daray, it seems that the facility where she was treated has no records of her ever having been there. I was only able to find the name of the hospital by tracking the IP address of the hacker that seems to have made the alterations. It appears to be the same individual who altered Lana’s own public file. They are not a talented hacker when it comes to hiding their tracks, although they are skilled enough to breach hospital security.-

 

Daray nods as she listens to APRIL, then snaps her head around, facing the sound of the disturbance, coming most of the way off her stool and reaching for her baston as the young girl drops lightly to the floor in the living room.

 

Listening to the girl’s story, Daray’s mood sours, and she grunts at Lana’s words as she crosses the living room to peek out the front window.

 

‘Anything on the wire APRIL?’

 

-No Daray. In fact, I intercepted a communication about twenty minutes ago from Aeon Online, recalling their troops from the search. I am using traffic sensors in the street outside to track six armed individuals in body armor. They are searching door to door, three down this street and three down the side street. I am also picking up on their comm chatter. You may want to share this with Lana.-

 

Daray peeks through the window to catch a brief glimpse of the three soldiers moving up their street. They are about two doors down now, heading toward the apartment.

 

“Shit!” She turns away from the window to look at Lana and Pix, then glances toward Lana’s entertainment center. “Do you mind if I use this for a second? I’ve caught something I think you should hear.”

 

She only half waits for Lana’s approval before striding over to the equipment and picking up an ODN patch cable, which she plugs into an input on the machine, then reaches over her shoulder and plugs the other end into a tiny port that opens up at the base of her skull.

 

Firing up the electronics and changing inputs to match where she is plugged in, she adjusts the volume so as not to alert anyone outside of the room.

 

‘Fire away.’

 

The speakers report, in the voice of a rather slimy sounding man, who appears to be addressing his troops. His tone is at once commanding, and full of malice. “Hurry it up here boys, I want to get to that house on the corner and get me some of that blue-haired cat-bitch I saw earlier. Our little spy can wait a half hour more I think, especially with this tasty piece of ass on stand-by and unawares!”

 

Daray grimaces at his words, knowing full well that Lana wouldn’t have been out and about for the soldiers to see her, if she herself hadn’t been laying broken on her floor.

 

“Crap Lana… I’m so sorry about this…”

 

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Lana watches curiously as Daray hooks herself up to the entertainment center.  “Gene therapy and tech implants?”  She whistles in appreciation.  “I may not know who exactly you are but I know that is some serious equipment that you are sporting.”

 

Lana sighs with exasperation at the speakers after the solder gives his orders.  “Well that doesn’t sound like a customer that is planning on paying.”  She shakes her head negating Daray’s words.  “No, it’s my fault.  I should have worn something more somber when I went out it’s something I’m having trouble learning now that I’m no longer working somewhere safe.”  Her tail flicks as she tries to think of a solution to their troubles.  “I’m at a loss.  I could try to distract him when he gets here but it sounds a bit painful.  I’m an empath and I’d rather not touch that unless we have no other options.  Suggestions?  I assume this is more up your alley anyways.”

 

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Daray snorts at Lana’s comment. “If you only knew the half of it…” She does her best not to sound too upset about it as the bad news spills over the speakers.

 

After the recording is finished, she pops the ODN cable from her headjack and turns to face the room’s other occupants. She cast Lana a hard eye, trying to decide what it was OK to say to her, especially with Pix in the room.

 

Finally she shrugs. “I don’t know if I can take them all. I probably can, but this place will likely get shot to hell in the process. My usual tactic is to run, fast.” She fans her fingers out to indicate that she’s not sure that will work under the circumstances.

 

“Pix, you should definitely get the heck out of here. There’s no reason for you to get involved in any of this, and if they see you with me, then you’re really in for it. Lana, I’ll do what I can, either way. You can try and distract them, get them in here and close the door behind them, then get behind cover. Or we can try to make a break for it. I have a place in Tranquility where you can stay as long as you want, but I don’t think it will be safe for you here for a long while either way, these guys sound pretty intent on doing harm.”

 

She cocks her head to the side as if listening to something.

 

-Street sensors indicate the closer group is entering the house next door Daray. And the rest of their unit is around the corner. We may not have more than two, maybe three minutes.-

 

Daray’s face sours as her cobalt eyes focus back on Lana and Pix. “Crap, APRIL says we are moments from receiving company. We need to figure this out. If you want to bolt, I set up an emergency escape route out of here when I lived here, so we may be able to get out undetected, but it could be close…”


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