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Status Quo - Chapter 7

Written by: Paullell

 Lana could tell that Daray was still depressed despite having shut off her ability to see aura’s.  She seemed to want to move past the incident as quickly as possible so Lana obligingly complied and sat down on the cushion next to the table and accepted the food and chopsticks.  “There are tons of legends about them, some are contradictory which is probably why the conglomerate hasn’t bothered to document them in the data base.  Some say they are pranksters who trick humans for fun, some say they are guardians.  Almost all agree that if the human they have come to passes their test, accepts the pranks with good graces, or shows a generosity of spirit, they bestow good fortune upon them.  The older and more powerful Kitsune will have multiple tails, the most powerful being the nine-tail Kitsune.  I will have to remember Ito-Sama and make certain to send him a gift when I can.  Since I took advantage of his cultural beliefs I feel some responsibility to make certain they come true.”  She grins at Daray,  “One of the best things about my line of work is getting to learn about so many cultures, despite the Conglomerate’s attempts to wipe them out there are still many languages spoken in privet and different cultural customs that are still practiced.”

 

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Daray listens attentively as she wolfs down food with all the grace and decorum of farm animal. Although she manages to not make a mess on herself or anything else, it is small consolation when compared to the sheer volume of food she takes in within the space of a few moments.

 

“So, you just have the one tail then. Does that make you the prankster or the guardian variety?” She smiles as she transfers more of the food from the platters to her plate. But before she started eating again she set the plate down and looked seriously at her companion.

 

“Look, Lana. I wanted to say that I am truly sorry. I shouldn’t have got you involved in all of this. It’s turned out to be quite a bit more than just harboring a fugitive for an hour, and it wasn’t right of me to impose on you. I’m afraid I don’t really see any way to get you into the clear yet, but I’ve got APRIL working on it, and I just wanted to let you know that I am truly sorry for any sacrifices you’ve made because of me.”

 

She paused for a moment before adding hastily, “And for my behavior in the bathroom, just to reiterate, it wasn’t anything you did. This is all just, so new to me...” She indicated herself with a sweeping gesture of her hands, then cast Lana a hesitant, strangely hopeful look, “I sincerely hope I did not cause you any more undue stress with my overreaction.”

 

Her emotions were in a whirl as she tried her best to keep her eyes locked with Lana’s. The man in her kept wanting her eyes to rove over Lana’s fit body, but the woman she seemed to be becoming was largely of the opinion that there was much more to this other woman than an attractive package. The really scary part was that she’d never thought of women in the stereotypical male sense, that is, as objects of beauty and not much more, when she had been a man. If she had to be honest with herself, she hadn’t really thought much about women at all though. She’d always been too wrapped up in work, and pursuing her parent’s killers. Which wasn’t to say that she didn’t like women, because she did, she’d just never really had time to explore those likes. Now here she was, a woman herself, despite any desire to the contrary, with her mind and body constantly quarreling over The sorts of people she should be attracted to.

 

-You should simply accept the fact that it does not matter.-

 

‘What doesn’t matter?’

 

-To rephrase my statement, you are the only person who is bothered by this. Do not base your thoughts upon what others might think of your outcomes.-

 

‘I love women. And Lana is very attractive, and intelligent, and seems to be very nice.’

 

-Then what is the problem?-

 

‘Well there’s the problem that I still feel guilty about Alina.’

 

-There is no evidence to suggest that Alina survived that attack.’

 

‘Then there is the fact that I still feel awkward about being a woman.’

 

-It has been more than 500 years since the open legislative acceptance of homo-sexual relationships.-

 

‘But I have urges when I look at men as well. Do you have any idea how disturbing that is for me?’

 

-Daray, I may be the only individual in your life who knows the full extent of how these feelings affect you. If I may offer some advice as a somewhat less than impartial observer?-

 

‘Please do…’

 

-Stop worrying about it, and let yourself feel good for a while. It may change your entire outlook.-

 

‘Maybe you’re right APRIL.’

 

-98.8% of the time, yes.-

 

‘And modest too.’

 

-You should not have asked me to learn from you the things that you have, if you wanted a companion of meeker countenance.-

 

‘Touche.’

 

Daray offers a warm smile across the table to Lana, truly looking deeply into the other woman’s eyes for perhaps the first time since they met. They really were beautiful, and seemed much deeper than they had any right to be. She was obviously a woman that had long ago fully accepted who and what she was, and had learned to be happy in her life. She wondered what that must be like, to be truly accepting, and happy with her life…

 

‘You think she likes me?’

 

-Her pulse and respiration are both calm, I see no indication that she does not like you.-

 

‘That’s something I suppose.’

 

Finally she spoke aloud again, trying to keep her voice from breaking up. “Anyway, I just wanted you to know. I’ll do whatever I can to set things right. You can stay at my place for as long as you want, or I can get you a flight to wherever you want and some money to get you settled. I know quite a few people, and once we get this business with your mother and your own records sorted out, you should be able to go anywhere you want…”

 

Her skin flushed as she spoke, and she found herself suddenly very interested in the food on her plate again, stabbing at it idly with a chop stick as she spoke, her tone filled with trepidation and uncertainty.

 

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Lana giggles at the question.  “One tail, technically it probably makes me more the trickster variety.  But my temperament is most definitely guardian.”  

 

When Daray’s eyes met hers Lana practically ached in sympathy for the confusion that was rolling in them.  If she hadn’t reacted so badly to her physical contact earlier, Lana’s first instinct was to throw her arms around Daray and try to sooth her; she resisted, but just barley. “No!!  It’s fine.  Really…”  Lana paused as she suddenly realized that Daray’s words hadn’t made any sense. What was all new to her?  Adventure didn’t seem to be new… rescuing someone that had been caught up in the wake of her adventure?

 

Lana took a few bites of her food while Daray paused and seemed to be thinking hard about something.  When she spoke next, continuing her apology, Lana waved her hand dismissively.  “No.. don’t worry about it.  I think you may have been the best thing to happen to me in a while.  My life had been like a wide river.  It was heading straight for a waterfall and no matter how fast and hard I paddled backwards I was being swept along by the current anyways.  Now you have opened up a split in the river.  It’s narrower and rockier but the end is no longer obvious and I’ve been given an opportunity to steer instead of only resisting.  With no clients and so many road blocks, I was probably headed for starvation or ending up the kept woman of some petty thug.  Now I don’t know where I’ll end up, but I won’t get there with my spirit broken.”  

 

She had to wonder why some of her clients had not looked her up.  She had thought one of them might look for her when they found out that her brothel had been closed.  What she didn’t know and APRIL would be able to see in the system is that her 10 most frequent clients had been sent letters informing them of Lana’s death in a tragic street shooting.  That list included both the pilot and the oriental client that she had spoken so fondly of.

 

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Daray smiled at Lana’s words, and while they sounded sincere, she had a difficult time believing that anyone would see these sorts of developments as anything other than disastrous, cataclysmic even. But then, when her world had been raining chaos, she supposed it had been the opportunity for a completely fresh start that her reconstruction had offered her that had really sort of turned her life around. Although she really wasn’t accustomed to her new life yet, but she felt more at ease with it every passing day.

 

“Well, I have to say, you’re handling things pretty well. My offer still stands though. You can get off this ride any time you want, all expenses paid. Solidarity set me up, after they messed me up, so money is no issue. But I’d like to see about straightening out your records first, if you still would like the help.”

 

-I have information about that subject.- APRIL interjected.

 

‘What’s up APRIL?’

 

-It seems there have been some messages sent to several of the clients of Lana’s previous place of employment. These communications seem to indicate that Lana has died as a result of street violence. The perpetrators are reported as having escaped the station and the case has been closed by the authorities.-

 

“Um…” She almost dropped her plate of food as APRIL’s words sunk in, then she looked up and met Lana’s eyes again. “APRIL just found out that you appear to have been slain in some sort of street shooting, according to some messages that were sent to a few of your regular clients. The messages were sent from the brothel, but that may have just been a proxy, she’s looking into it now. Whatever’s going on with your records may not be quite as simple a thing as we originally thought.”

 

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“Yes, I would love the help….”  She paused as Daray did waiting for her to communicate with her APRIL.  She looked stunned and then a little happier when Daray informed her of what her clients had been told.  “Oh!  That’s wonderful!  That means that they didn’t abandon me!... Wait… Why would someone tell them that?”  Her ears droop as confusion settles over her features.

 

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Daray presses her lips into a hard line as she watches Lana’s features change with her mood. “That’s what we’re going to find out. APRIL’s trying to back trace the hacks now. They’re kind of sloppy so it may not take too long. Do you know of anyone who would want to make you disappear from the grid? Maybe someone who wanted to engage your services privately but you refused? They could be trying to force you to seek them out. But that doesn’t really explain what happened to your mother, or her official records.”

 

She began eating again as she spoke, her appetite seemingly back to normal again after her emotional moment. It was fairly clear that she preferred to think about other people’s problems than whatever was going on in her own world.

 

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Lana shakes her head.  “No can’t think of anyone.  I had a girl a few years back that wanted to ‘rescue me from my servitude’ but I explained to her that I happened to like where I was and enjoyed variety in my partners. We had a nice rousing romp in the sheets and she went on her way satisfied as far as I am aware.  Most of my clients couldn’t afford a full time mistress anyways.  I mean come on.  The Starsheen Saloon was hardly a high class brothel.  Occasionally we still had to remind our clients to bathe before they could touch the girls.”  She laughed ruefully.  “Of course we were high class enough that we were allowed to insist they bathe…”  She waves her hand dismissively.  “Besides, it’s not like I was even the headliner of the group.  Cloris was… I just happened to appeal to a specific clique of clients.”  As Lana is gesturing so emphatically the tie on her towel slips a bit, loosening its grip on her body but she doesn’t seem to notice.

 

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Daray feels her blood surging through her when Lana mentions offhandedly, as if it was really nothing at all, that she had slept with a woman before. “That… doesn’t sound like it would be a person to look into, but we can check anyway if you remember her name?”

 

As Lana’s towel begins to slip, Daray blushes furiously as another surge of blood rushes through her, making her head light and her skin tingle. She drops her eyes to her food and begins picking at it again, trying not to loose control again.

 

-Daray, I am tracking the hacker back to a cyber cafe in Hector. However, I am not able to access personal information for node usage. We will need to speak with the proprietor.-

 

‘Thanks APRIL.’

 

“OK, APRIL just tracked your hacker to a cyber cafe in Hector. Apparently there are no records on the net for computer usage there though, so we’ll have to go speak to the owner about it.”

 

She kept her eyes averted as Lana’s towel continued to unravel from her body.

 

‘Why does this bother me so much?’

 

-I don’t know Daray. By all rights, it should not.-

 

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Lana notices that Daray seems to be feeling uncomfortable again.  She looks down and sees that her towel has loosened and grabs the knot before it slips completely.  She blushes also at the nearly disastrous social gaff.  Standing she make her way over to where her dusty clothes are piled.  “Sorry, I’ll go ahead and get dressed then.  Did Ito-Sama mention if it was ok to leave yet?”  She walks into the bathroom and shuts the door enough to block herself from view but keeps it open so that she can still talk while she shimmies back into her underwear and clothing.

 

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Daray silently chides herself for forcing Lana off as she watches her go, still at a complete loss to determine why the situation was so disturbing to her.

 

“He said the soldiers had gone by the time he brought the food up and that we might want to give it an hour or so before we left. We should be OK to leave in the next 30 minutes or so.”

 

She toyed with an egg roll on her plate, poking and prodding at it with a chop stick, driving it around the plate and trying to sort out her damaged feelings. 

 

‘APRIL, can you locate any ships heading to Mars that might be willing to take on a couple unregistered passengers?’

 

-Of course Daray.-

 

Her poking and prodding of the poor egg roll turned into a more forceful jabbing as her frustration began to get the better of her. There just didn’t seem to be any reason for her to be so bothered by these situations. If anything, she should be like this about men, not women! 

 

“If you prefer something clean, I have some clothes in my pack here. They’re not really cut for your figure, but…” She suddenly remembered that she had packed that stuff years ago, back when she was male. She’d always worn loose clothing to keep her agility up for free-running, but there would be no mistaking the fact that they were men’s clothing. Of course, it was too late now, she’d already opened her mouth without thinking first… “you can have them if you want.” She finished.

 

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Lana peaked around the door at Daray, running a critical eye over her cat suit covered form.  Doing a quick calculation in her head she determined that the pants would be too short and probably not fit her hips no matter how loose Daray may have worn her clothing two years ago.  “I’ll keep my pants but if you’ve got a clean shirt I might be able to make that fit.”  She finishes buttoning her pants and leaves the bathroom in her bra, hoping that would be more comfortable for Daray than the towel had been.  She smiles as she runs her fingers through her hair, trying to catch all the tangles.

 

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Daray flushes again at the sight of Lana’s nearly-topless form reentering the room, but she manages to meet the woman’s eyes for a moment before turning her attention to the pack she’d tossed on the futon earlier.

 

Opening the pack, she tried to rummage through it without letting Lana catch sight of the men’s briefs and shaving products. She tried digging down to the bottom of the bag where, apparently, she’d stuffed the outerwear, supposing it made sense to have things stacked in the order they’d be used. Still it was damned inconvenient at the moment.

 

Her hands trembled slightly as she rummaged through the things representative of her past life, her nervous energy causing her to loose her grip on the edge of the pack as she reached to the bottom in an attempt to grab the shirt she’d spied there. The pack slipped from her hands and fell to the floor, spilling most of its contents at Lana’s feet.

 

Daray’s face turned crimson, heat suffusing her body. She looked away from Lana, focusing her eyes on some spot of interest on the floor and wrapping her arms tightly around her body.

 

“I… I’m sorry. I just…” She hopped to her feet and headed for the stairs, trying to hold back the tears that seemed suddenly desperate for release.

 

 

‘Damn these hormones!’

 

“Help yourself to whatever you need. I’m sorry.. I… I’ll go check with Ito-Sama while you finish up in here…”

 

-Daray, I found a ship bound for Mars in the next hour. It’s the only one leaving for Mars in the next six hours.-

 

Daray stopped halfway to the stairs to listen to APRIL, her back still turned to Lana and tears creeping down her cheeks.

 

‘Thanks APRIL, can you send a message to the Captain that we’d like to meet with him please?’

 

-You are not going to like this Daray.-

 

‘Like what?’

 

-It is ‘The End.’-

 

Daray’s shoulders slumped. Tor. That nasty piece of crap would be all over Lana in an instant and they’d both have to be on guard for the week it would take to get to Mars…


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