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Status Quo - Chapter 16

Written by: Paullell

 “I don’t think careful is going to get it this round, but thank you.” She presses her hands tightly into Lana’s arms as they wrap across her front. “I’ll find you, just stay safe, and don’t aggravate them if you can avoid it.”

 

She cycles the door and steps into the hallway, turning to face Lana and smiles. As the door closes between them, Lana can see a trickle of blood at the corner of Daray’s mouth, a look of determination on her face, and the gun held ready in her hand.

 

“This can’t possibly be a crush, can it?” She whispers as she touches her forehead to the door between them. She then takes a deep breath and moves off down the hall toward the sounds of conversation.

 

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From the cabin, Lana can hear a suddenly louder conversation from down the corridor. There are obviously angry voices involved as the words can be clearly made out.

 

“How the hell did you get onboard my ship?!” Tor’s voice grated.

 

“I snuck in with the piles of clean laundry.” Daray shouted back, her voice dripping sarcasm.

 

“So you stowed away! Corporal, run her ident!” An unknown man’s voice said. It gave the impression that it was used to having its orders followed, and it also sounded vaguely familiar, as if Lana had heard it rolling down a pipe earlier in the day.

 

“She’s coming up blank Sergeant, but she is wanted for the break-in at HQ this morning based on video footage sir.” Another voice responded.

 

“Taker into custody!”

 

“Like hell!” Daray spat.

 

“So you’re going to resist arrest then?”

 

“I haven’t even begun to resist yet bucko!”

 

“Don’t be stupid Miss! You have nowhere to go and can’t possibly fight off everyone onboard!”

 

“Maybe not. But I’m sure as hell going to give it my best shot!”

 

Daray’s words were followed by a series of gunshots, wild shouting, and thumping, irregular pounding of boots, all mixed with more weapon fire.

 

Lana can clearly hear groups of people charing around the circular inner corridor of the ship, chasing the lighter foot falls of what she knows to be Daray. At one point it even sounds like Daray’s steps are moving across the wall outside the cabin and are followed by several loud pinging noises as a series of small indentations form in the wall behind the footfalls.

 

Finally there is a terrible silence that lasts for several moments before more voices can be heard, this time right outside the door to Lana’s cabin.

 

“Have you ever seen anything like that shit Sarge?” A panting voice forced out.

 

“Fucking gene-freak.” The familiar voice spits.

 

“What should we do with her?” The other voice was getting under control now, sounding as if the man had just run a mile.

 

“It’s no good to us now. Toss it out an airlock.”

 

“Aye sir.”

 

“And you lot! Start searching the rest of this piece of shit, see if that other girl is around here somewhere.”

 

“Yes sir!”

 

Then the cabin door cycles open to reveal two armed soldiers wearing heavy body armor, rifles at the ready. Behind them, the corridor is filled with an acrid smoke that smells of burnt chemicals. The soldiers’ boots are carefully placed around the various appendages of a couple more soldiers, laying on the floor, apparently lifeless, and to the right, Daray’s body is being dragged down the corridor by its ankles. Her face is blank and there are several bullet holes in her chest shoulders, and legs, plus a gaping hole in her forehead. Her arms trail along the deck over her head as she is dragged away, leaving a wide smear of blood on the metal floor as she disappears around the curve of the corridor.

 

“Hands on your head Miss! You’re under arrest!” The soldiers shout at her in unison.

 

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Lana starts to open the door several times.  The furious battle and the conversations going on outside it had her worried, along with the blood she had seen on Daray’s mouth before the door whooshed closed.

 

By the time the door opens her knees are shaking and tears are in her eyes, almost positive about what she would see in the hallway.  She complies and puts her hands on her head, trying desperately to keep from bursting into gut wrenching sobs.  The soldiers wave her out into the hallway and she falls at the sight of Daray’s body being handled in such an atrocious manner.

 

One of the soldiers roughly grabs her shoulder and hoists her back to her feet.  She has tears streaming down her face but as her eyes fall on Tor there is a hardness in her eyes that she has never acknowledged before.  “I won’t forget this Tor.”

 

She doesn’t say anything else, simply allows the soldiers to take her where they will.

 

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The soldiers drag Lana down the corridor where she is forced to step over a half-dozen more bead or severely wounded comrades, bringing her to a stop in front of Tor and a large, upset-looking man in a sharp uniform. He is about six foot two inches tall, with dark hair and hard, cruel eyes that scan Lana’s body hungrily.

 

Lana’s words actually make Tor balk slightly. He tosses the larger man a furtive glance before looking back at her and shaking his head as if to indicate he had nothing to do with what was happening.

 

The large officer chuckles at her then turns to Tor. “I’m sure you’re well aware of the punishment for smuggling goods and individuals Captain.”

 

“I didn’t know they were on board Sergeant, honestly.” His eyes dart toward Lana for an instant before returning to the imposing form before him. I haven’t had time to clean this ship in the last six months, I’ve been so busy trying to keep up with shipments. I could loose a case of single-malt scotch from Hector in here!”

 

The soldier eyes him critically for a moment, then rubs his chin as if considering something. Then he grins down at Tor. “And where might something like that be set down before it is covered in the mess?”

 

“Probably under the bench in the galley.” Tor scratched the back of his neck idly.

 

The officer motioned to one of his men, who ran off to search the galley, dodging around several other soldiers that were busy dragging their fallen comrades back through the airlock into their own ship.

 

A cursory inspection would reveal that each o the fallen soldiers had been shot with only one bullet, usually in some soft tissue somewhere, like the neck, the back of the knee, even a couple appeared to have been shot in the arm pit. The amount of blood on the walls and floor of the corridor would be disturbing to anyone without a stomach for battle scenes, and the coppery smell is overpowering.

 

The officer, Tor, and the soldier holding onto Lana’s upper arms all stand and wait for news, all of them completely ignoring Lana. Finally, the runner returned with a heavy composite crate in his arms and nods at the Sergeant.

 

“Put it in my cabin.” The Sergeant bellows.

 

“Yes sir!”

 

“And you!” He points at an empty-handed soldier coming back on board for another body. “Organize a detail to confiscate all of the cargo in the ship’s hold.”

 

“Yes sir!” The soldier responds, turning and dashing back onboard the destroyer.

 

Tor makes a squeaking noise, as if he is about to protest, but the Sergeant turns on him and casts him a withering glare. “You know the penalty for smuggling Captain. I would be well within my rights to scuttle this trap for you.”

 

Tor’s mouth seems to freeze halfway between open and closed, and he turns and kicks the bloodied wall as he watches another detail of soldiers tromp past him toward the cargo hold doors. “Let me at least open it for you, so you don’t have to damage the mechanism.” He runs over to the door and keys in the access code.

 

“Smart man.” The Sergeant nods, then turns his attention to Lana for the first time. “Now then. You’ve really managed to piss me off, Lana is it? Too bad about that freak friend of yours. It had quite the body. Not as nice as yours though. However, since it went crazy and made us kill it, I’ll have to take out my frustrations on you.”

 

He then looks up to the man holding Lana and jerks his head toward their ship. “Toss her in the brig. Tell helm to design for Earth Station. I want to be there by tomorrow afternoon.”

 

“Yes sir!” The soldier responds, then jerks Lana toward the airlock.

 

As they begin to move, the distinct sound of the airlock on the other side of Tor’s ship can be heard cycling as it’s cargo is dumped out into space.

 

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Lana takes a steadying breath as she listens to Tor and the Sergeant banter back and forth.  As they talk she takes the opportunity to activate her gift and read the auras of those around her.  Tor’s is a hodgepodge of fear, anger, lust, and greed.  The Sergeant seems to have a swirl of violent satisfaction and lust as the prominent emotions that he is feeling.  She cringes under his attention, her heart heavy as he speaks disparagingly of Daray.

 

She glanced around at the other soldiers and saw that many of them were feeling lust.  It didn’t necessarily mean that they would act on those impulses, but she didn’t want to lay money on it.  So, despite the fact that her heart felt broken she made the decision to save herself as much pain as possible, hoping that Daray would have approved. 

 

After the order comes to take her to the brig she makes her move.  She ducks out from below the solder’s grip, spins and runs to place herself in front of the Sergeant.  She doesn’t have to fake her fear as she addresses him but she does force a healthy level of respect and pleading into her voice.

 

“Please, Sir.  I didn’t know what I was getting into.  Before you have me tossed in the brig, there might be something that I have that you will want kept in... safer quarters, like the case of Scotch…”  

 

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The soldier that Lana shakes off turns to grab her again, but she slips out of his reach and forces him to change his stance in order to give pursuit, giving her plenty of time to get in front of the Sergeant.

 

He looks down at her with an air of smugness as she speaks, his aura positively pulsing with lust now, and a swirl of satisfaction. He holds his hand up to the pursuing soldier, stopping the man in his tracks, then grins at Lana.

 

“What would this thing be, that I might want?”

 

Tor’s aura on the other hand, turns quite envious as he moves back into Lana’s field of view, although he doesn’t dane to speak without permission in front of the Sergeant.

 

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Lana licks her lips and shifts her position so that she is showing off her body to its best advantage, without seeming prideful.  She represses her own feelings of worry and dismay and projects an image of someone who is aroused despite herself.  “My willing participation in helping you to… relieve your frustration.  Some of your boys look like they have thoughts in their head of doing a little frustration relief of their own and I’d rather belong to one man who is worthy than ten who aren’t.”  She glances around looking at the others that have the highest levels of lust in their aura’s and does get a few guilty looks from them before she returns her attention to the Sergeant.  “I’m worried they won’t leave me alone in the brig until you have time to deal with me personally.”

 

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The Sergeant stares at Lana for several long moments before he finally breaks into a malicious sort of grin, his aura pulsing with barely-contained desire. “Damn fucking straight I’m worthy. But don’t you worry kitten. I’ve had my eyes on you since this morning. Chased you and that gene-freak friend of yours halfway around Venus Venus Station and out into space. I won’t let any of the troops get their hands on you before we get a chance to roll in the sheets.”

 

He then looked up at the soldier and jerked his head toward their ship again. “I hope you don’t need help with this little thing soldier. Get her in the brig and make sure nobody else gets in there with her.”

 

“Yes Sergeant Killgore!” The man salutes and then roughly grabs at Lana’s upper arms again, this time intending to keep an iron-clad, painful grip on her.

 

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Lana’s eyes tear up as the soldier grabs her arm, she had misjudged again.  The fact that the Sergeant didn’t care if she was willing or not scared her all the way down in the pit of her stomach.  The solder leads her though so many twists and turns on the new ship that she couldn’t begin to find her way back out again.  She makes no sound as she cries, the only evidence of her inner turmoil the occasional tear that she can’t stop from trickling down her face.  She follows obediently, trying not to draw any additional attention to herself as she is lead to the brig.

 

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The Methuselah is an extremely different sort of vessel from 'The End'. It's corridors are gleaming silver and white, well lit, to the point that there are no shadows of any appreciable size anywhere to be found. There isn't a speck of dust, debris, trash, or any other undesirable material anywhere to be seen, and every person they pass on their way through the winding corridors is wearing a clean, pressed uniform. Further, the instant anyone else sees the soldier escorting Lana through the vessel, they step out of the center of the corridor and press themselves tightly against the wall, facing out. This allows the soldier and his prisoner to pass by with the minimum possibility of interaction between Lana and anyone else on the ship.

 

The man's grip is like iron, and it is a foregone conclusion that there will a mark of some kind on her arm once her releases her. The vessel, while not huge, is easily ten times the size of 'The End', and the pair pass literally dozens of others as they move through the corridors, traveling down several decks in a lift, and then back into the middle of the ship somewhere before stopping in front of a massive, metal door that splits in the middle and retracts into either side of the frame when the soldier passes his hand in front of the reader panel.

 

The brig is just as clean and gleaming as the rest of the vessel, although nowhere near as friendly. It consists of a wide, short corridor, maybe twenty feet wide and thirty feet long, with a series of narrow doors bearing tiny windows and narrow slots for passing food trays in and out. The man stops in front of one of these doors, keys it open and makes to push Lana inside.

 

The cell itself is no more than ten feet deep and four feet wide, with a narrow bunk firmly fixed to one wall, and toilet, sink, and polished surface resembling a mirror in the corner at the far end. The bunk is topped with a thin, but new, pad, a stiff pillow, and a thin blanket that is folded up and set atop the pillow in the center of the bed, next to the rolled up mat.

 

As the soldier releases Lana inside the tiny room, he attempts to lift her arm and discretely press a tiny object into the palm of her hand, offering her a look resembling the sort of sympathy one might expect a parent to give up whilst in the midst of disciplining a child.

 

The door closes faster than any door should have a right to, and the sounds of the man's boots receding from the brig can only just be heard through it.

 

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Lana is baffled when her arm is lifted and something is pressed into the palm of her hand.  Her fingers close around it reflexively before she steps into the cell and away from the soldier.  The first thing that she does is pace the cell and look for a camera.  Her experience on ‘The End’ has stuck with her.  Then she sets up the bed and lays down on it, discretely looking at what she had been handed.  Her initial inclination had been to cry until she was exhausted but the action of the solder had distracted her enough to gain control of her emotions.  She would deal with her grief later.

 

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There seems to be no overt signs of any form of monitoring equipment, but it is a safe bet that there is something in the cell to keep track of its occupant.

 

While not luxurious by any stretch of the imagination, the mattress/pad is not entirely uncomfortable, if a bit on the firm side.

 

The object the soldier had pressed into Lana’s hand is a tiny thing, about the size  of a regular pill. It is made of some kind of plastic and one side of it is covered in  a perforated membrane that looks much like an in-ear speaker for a portable media player.

 

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Lana brings her hand holding the device up as if she is shifting to a more comfortable position and slides it under her head so that she can press the small object into her ear.  She closes her eyes, pretending to be trying to fall asleep as she listens, wondering what on earth this could be about.

 

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The object fits perfectly into her middle ear and she is fairly certain that without a serious, in depth inspection, possibly with tools, the device won’t be found by anyone who doesn’t know it’s there.

 

For a long time, as she lay on the bunk, she doesn’t hear anything, but as she relaxes a little bit she thinks she hears a faint clicking noise. She isn’t even sure she’s heard it as she focuses her senses and listens for something else. It’s several long moments before she begins to think it was a fluke, but then it happens again. The faintest, barest sound, almost as if the thing is dying. Several long minutes later, it happens again.

 

She has no idea how long she is there before she feels the Methuselah’s engines hum to life. There is  faint sound of the docking clamps releasing ‘The End’ and the hum of the engines changes pitch as they climb into a higher power band. The deck, walls, and even the bunk take on a subtle but constant vibration as she vessel sets off for its destination.

 

After another indeterminate time period, the slot on the door flicks open and a small, plastic tray slides through. On the tray is a meager meal consisting of a couple protein bars in sealed packages and a packet of water.

 

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Lana is just about to take the piece out of her ear and throw it away in frustration when the meal arrives.  The illusive clicking means nothing to her, no discernible pattern to it;  no tone change or anything that she can interpret.  She sighs as the tray slides thorugh the door.  She gets up and grabs the packet of water; her stomach is to upset for anything else.  She leaves the piece in her ear just in case something happens later, but no longer gives it her main attention.  Instead she starts trying to determine how much trouble she is in.  The idea of rape doesn’t really upset her much.  The idea of the abuse that may accompany it on the other hand does.  She shivers as her mind flashes back over the Sergeant’s expression as he laughed at her and she tries to figure out how best to handle him to cause her the most minimal amount of pain. 


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