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Status Quo - Chapter 9

Written by: Paullell

 Lana does her best to be unobtrusive and stay out of Daray's way while she is scanning the crowds.  She shudders slightly as Daray describes the man that they are about to go meet up with, having encountered those like him a time or two.  “Are you sure we need to take this trip?  We could see if there is any way to contact Thorm, my pilot friend.  If he's one of the once that was sent notice of my death that could be why he didn't come back.  Or if you think its safer we could try to pick up another pilot.  I'm OK with a detour somewhere else rather than head straight for your home...”

 

While she is talking, Lana is trying to watch what Daray does and attempts to mimic the way she is searching the crowds. 

 

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Daray nods at Lana’s words. “I’m certainly open to alternatives. This guy isn’t worth hating, but he comes pretty close. My concern about using your friend is that if someone is going to the trouble to make you disappear, then we could be endangering his life by involving him.”

 

She stood up and set about stretching her limbs. “My place is on the moon by the way, this cafe we need to visit to check up on your mysterious hacker is on Mars.” 

 

She then lowered her voice a little and moved closer to Lana so they could speak more privately, despite the fact that they were thirty feet from anyone else on the lift platform. “The problem we are facing here is that if we use registered transportation, then Aegis and the rest of the Conglomerate will hold the flight and come get us. So we need a ship, and more specifically, a pilot, that is willing to take us on as unofficial passengers. APRIL found Tor’s boat, and a couple more that leave later tonight, but we need to move quickly since this trail is already getting cold, and Mars is a week away.”

 

She paused for a moment and considered something. “We could divert through some other location in order to catch another flight, but that could reduce our chances of finding this hacker even more…”

 

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Lana shakes her head emphatically.  “Nonono.  I don’t want to get him in trouble.  You are right.”  She ponders the options before them for a few moments.  “Well if you think that trail is in danger of growing colder then let’s go with the pilot you know.”  She squares her shoulders and gives Daray a nod to let her know she is ready.  Out of the corner of her eye she spots a security camera that had been motionless beginning a sweep of the crowd.  Where they are standing is in danger of being caught on the sweep.  Lana quickly point to the camera in case Daray hadn’t seen it.

 

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Daray can’t help but grin as Lana points out the camera, nodding her head in the opposite direction toward another camera, also sweeping across the platform. “Good eye, before too long you’ll be just as paranoid as I am.” Her grin widens at the sheer ridiculousness of the statement. As if anyone would WANT to be paranoid.

 

She knew the only way to not have their faces scanned by the camera was to cover them up, but if anyone was watching, they would certainly raise alarms about people wearing masks or hoods. She couldn’t have APRIL shut them down because it would take too long to hack them, and it would look suspicious for both of the lift cameras to shut down at the same time. 

 

Her mind raced as the cameras panned closer and closer. At the last second, the memory of how Vincent had distracted a room full of onlookers flashed through her mind and, blushing crimson, she quickly launched herself off the railing toward Lana, attempting to grab her by the upper arms, spin her so that her back was against the wall, and engage her in the sort of kiss that could hide both their faces from the cameras as they swept past.

 

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Lana didn’t resist when Daray grabbed her but she was completely surprised when their lips came together.  It only takes her a moment to understand what Daray is going for and even less time to relax into the embrace.  She lets Daray push her against the wall and her limbs relax, becoming willing and supple against her.  Reflexively she closes her eyes and returns the kiss, her lips warm and welcoming against Daray’s.  Despite the situation Lana finds her body heating and reacting like the well tuned tool that it is to the stimulation of another body pressed against hers.  She takes a moment to enjoy the knowledge that the person is someone she trusts and she notices in that moment that Daray has a very alluring scent. 

 

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The nervousness melted away almost as soon as Lana gave herself over to the kiss. She couldn’t believe she’d actually done it, but now that she was in the middle of the doing, she found herself quickly not thinking about it any more. The last conscious effort she made was to plant her palms on the wall at either side of Lana’s head in order to further obscure their faces from the cameras, after that, conscious thought just sort of ceased altogether.

 

Daray’s body grew warm from head to toe, with a strange tingling washing back and forth through her core, centering between her legs. The base of her skull, beneath her curtain of strawberry blond hair, began to almost vibrate under duress from the barrage of sensations.

 

Her eyes had long since closed, and the heat in her body long ago transitioning from the heat of embarrassment, to the burning of a physical desire. She was suddenly aware of an emptiness she’d been ignoring for more than a year now. Some hollow spot in her life where an unknown element had gone missing, and had been missing so long that she no longer remembered the shape of the piece that was supposed to fit there.

 

The kiss went on for much longer than was necessary to fulfill its original purpose. Daray had lost all track of not only time, but where they were, and what they were doing. Having given herself over entirely to the sensation of Lana’s amazingly soft lips on her own, and the gentle but insistent dance of their tongues. 

 

She slowly became aware of a new sensation, that of a gentle pressure on her chest. A soft, pliant pressure that squashed her breasts in toward her chest and had her nipples turning hard in response to the combination of the pressure and the subtle vibrations of the lift. 

 

‘Wait, the lift?’ Her consciousness snapped back like a taut rubber band, her eyes popping open and senses focusing again. Her body  was pressed fully against Lana’s, pinning the other woman against the back wall of the lift, nearly from head to toe. Their lips were still locked together, tongues sparring a friendly match, and what had begun as Daray’s palms against the wall, had turned into her forearms, which is how they had ended up so closely pressed to one another.

 

Just then, the lift stopped, and Daray almost leapt backward, leaving the engagement even more suddenly than she had begun it.

 

“I’m sorry.” She sputtered. Spinning her head around to take in their surroundings, she saw at least half of the people on the lift staring at them, even as they all began to disembark. The cameras were back at their furthermost positions in their scanning of the lift, and they had arrived at the level they needed to be on in order to catch Tor before he left.

 

She looked back at Lana, worry in her dark blue eyes, face scarlet with embarrassment and arousal, and mind reeling from the experience. “I am SO sorry Lana… I… I didn’t mean… I mean, I shouldn’t have… not without…”

 

She couldn’t seem to string together anything coherent as she lowered her head in shame and watched Lana through the wall of hair that fell in front of her eyes, obscuring the forming tears from view.

 

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Lana opens her eyes slowly, feeling bereft at the absence of Daray’s warmth against her.  Her arms start to raise, her hands intending to grasp Daray and pull her back into the embrace and the only thing that stops her is the look of worry and embarrassment in Daray’s eyes and the apologetic tone of her voice.  “Mon dieu ! C'était si passionné. Et vous êtes désolé ?”

 

Lana hasn’t worked in weeks and her body chooses this time to remind her that she likes this... a lot.  She can still feel the memory of their tongues sparring and their breasts pressed together until breathing became a challenge.  Her heart is beating faster in her chest and her breathing is lightly accelerated.  She closes her eyes to block out the reaction of the people around her and most especially Daray’s confusion, needing just a moment to bring her body back under control.  Finally after several breaths she opens her eyes and smiles at Daray.  Lana walks over to her and leans in, giving her a quick peck on the cheek and whispers.  “Don’t worry so much.”  She then turns and makes her way off the lift walking smoothly into the crowd, confident that Daray will be close behind.

 

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Daray watches Lana move past her into the crowd with a swirl of confusion and emotion frothing inside her. “Wha?” She mumbles at the other woman’s words.

 

-She said, ‘My god! It was so passionate. And you are sorry?’.- APRIL intoned.

 

‘Passionate?’

 

-So it would seem. I told you that it didn’t matter Daray.-

 

‘That what didn’t matter exactly?’

 

-Anything. As you have repeatedly demonstrated to me, there is no predicting the reactions of others. Not with any acceptable margin of error. Therefore, you can not, and should not, make assumptions about behavior based upon preconceptions of gender roles.-

 

‘So you’re saying I’m stupid?’

 

-Not as such. All I am attempting to illustrate is the simple fact that, if you are attracted to someone, and they are mutually attracted to you, then physical gender should not make any difference in how you choose to interact with one another.-

 

Daray felt the lift start moving again and was forced to dash across the space and leap over the rail in order to catch up with Lana.

 

‘Then why does it still feel so wrong?’

 

It only took her a moment to catch up to Lana. The sight of her companion made her blood rush through her veins. If her heart was still assembled as one organ in the center of her chest, she was certain it would be trying to pound its way through her rib cage, and she couldn’t decide if that was a good thing or not. 

 

“Look…” she began as she moved up next to Lana. “I’m really confused, as I’m sure you can imagine, about a lot of things in my life just now.” She ran her fingers through her hair as she walked and spoke, trying to organize her thoughts.

 

“I just… I don’t want to hurt anyone. Physically, or emotionally. And laying one on someone like that is not the sort of thing I would normally do.” She eyed Lana from the side as they moved toward the docks, watching they way she carried herself with such confidence, such comfort in just being. She wished she could even begin to feel that way again. The way she used to walk, head up, shoulders squared off, confident even in the face of the unknown. Never letting on that she might be scared…

 

She supposed she was still that way to some extent. When the chips were down and action was required, she seemed to still react in kind and do what was necessary, but just walking down the street with a new friend, she found herself slouching forward, hunching her shoulders and dropping her head. Why was she so damn miserable?

 

“I wish I could be more like you…” She breathed as she jammed her fists into a pair of pockets that suddenly appeared on the front of her blouse, which then slowly changed into a loose hoodie that completely hid her feminine features from the world at large. Her skirt followed suit as well, slowly morphing into a pair of baggy pants that completely covered her legs and boots, down to their souls. She hunched forward even more, kicking at a pice of debris in the street as they walked.

 

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Lana smiles when Daray catches up to her but she can see that the other woman is depressed even without using her empathy and her mood grows more somber to match.  She blushes when she catches the whispered words.  ‘I wish I could be more like you.’

 

“Wow.  What a compliment.  But I really don’t think you would like to be me.  I’m flighty.  I don’t give much thought to the future.  And have I mentioned that I’m a prostitute?”  She keeps her tone light but she is truly shocked that someone like Daray could envy her.  Daray is obviously well equipped to handle adventures, her life is probably rarely boring and she is used to making decisions for herself.  Lana has had trouble deciding what to eat since her brothel was closed.  

 

Lana mutters back, keeping their conversation quiet so that it can’t be overheard by the pedestrians around them.  “I’m not sure you understand how bad my situation was when you stumbled into my apartment.  I have no skills, besides the obvious, and I can’t protect myself from a flea.  Do you realize what would have happened to me if you had stumbled into a different house and that solder’s squad had searched mine with me still there?”  She shudders at the mere thought, her tail flicking in agitation.

 

“That is being hurt, I honestly cant imaging that you could do anything to hurt me.  I’m perfectly happy to be your friend if that is all you want from me.  Someday, if you are interested in something more, when things aren’t so confusing for you; I could be interested in more too.”  She aims another grin at Daray.  “I enjoy being what people need; be it a lover or a shoulder to cry on.”

 

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Daray blushes even deeper at Lana’s words of offered companionship. It’s been years since she’d had a friend of any kind, discounting the few people she’d met and trained with after her reconstruction. Maybe part of her problem was that she hadn’t had people close to her for so long that she no longer had any idea how to let them get close.

 

“Well, I’m a thief. You may be a prostitute, but at least you’re honest. And you’re so comfortable with yourself. I can’t imagine how that must feel, it’s been so long since I even knew who I was, let alone was comfortable with that knowledge.”

 

As they walked and talked, they walked into the docks district of the station, stepping out into a massive, open shaft with a strong wind that blew fresh air around in gusts and torrents, creating navigational hazards for any of the hundreds of ships buzzing about. The docks were bustling with activity of all kinds, vehicles moving cargo around the wide open spaces that led up to the sheer drop-off connecting the core ship-yards of the station to the space outside. 

 

Thousands of open platforms hung out into the open shaft, accommodating ships of all kinds and passengers, workers, merchants, and crew wandered the space, going about their daily lives. The docks lined the entire shaft, running almost its entire length, and its various levels were connected by a series of smaller lifts, shafts, and stairways. In short, it was a zoo.

 

Daray pointed up a level and around the curve of the shaft a bit at a platform bearing an ugly, round, black lump of a ship that was being loaded by a few surly thugs. “That’s our boat there.” She led the way toward a near-by staircase and continued speaking as they moved, “You may have been fortunate to have me drop in on you this morning, I don’t know. But how long do you think you, or anyone else for that matter, can keep themselves safe in my line of work? I don’t know who I am, or where I’m going Lana. What kind of life is that?”

 

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Lana winces at the sight of the ship they will be traveling on for at least a week.  If the ship is anything like its captain then his personality is most likely even worse than Daray had described.  

 

“Where you are going is not nearly as important of a question as who you are.”  Se looks Daray over critically.  “Before you can learn who you are you have to be comfortable with the idea of being yourself, no matter who that might be.  You need to be able to sit quietly in a room and let your mind wander without feeling worry or guilt or shame for where your thoughts might take you.” Lana blushes.  "Im sorry.  I'm yammering on and you didn't really ask for my advice."

 

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Daray offers a smile to Lana as they mount the stairs. “It’s OK. It’s weird, but OK. I haven’t really had anyone to talk to about these sorts of things before.” She then looks thoughtful for a moment before adding, “So what happened when you sit quietly in a room by yourself, and yours isn’t the only mind in your head? See, I’ve got this annoying, mother-like voice in my head that keeps speaking to me about the facts of life as it SHOULD be in a perfect world, but she doesn’t seem to understand that things are rarely so textbook…”

 

-That was unnecessary Daray. I merely attempt to keep your thoughts grounded and your mind focused on important matters.-

 

‘No offense APRIL, I love you and everything, but a little family counseling couldn’t hurt could it?’

 

-Suit yourself. The port authority system reports that ‘The End’ has just requested for preflight power-up. We need to make haste if we are going to get on board.-

 

‘Understood, thanks mom.’ Daray grinned as she thought at the computer, then turned to Lana and jerked her head toward the top of the stairs. “We need to get moving, he’s cycling up his engines.”

 

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Lana looks concerned for a moment and it is on the tip of her tongue to ask for  an explanation.  Daray doesn’t seem crazy but if she is just communicating with a companion, the companion shouldn’t be in her head all the time unless she has a mental disorder and the voice isn’t real.  She nods at Daray and quickens her pace, keeping at her side as they hurry towards the stairs. Her blue hair flies in her face and briefly she wishes she had thought to secure it as she brushes it out of the way.


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