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Status Quo - Chapter 20

Written by: Paullell

 Lana shakes her head when he starts to reach to help with Daray.  Her weight wasn’t enough that it would trouble her unless for some reason they had to run.  She also knows that Daray doesn’t like to be touched by strangers and she is trying to honor that preference.  She averts her eyes when the conversation that he has with the boss gets private ,trying not to use her ability to intrude when he was obviously one of the good guys.

 

She follows Leif as he leads them into the office and then into the back room.  After a quick evaluation she determines this is a bolt hole similar to the room above the restaurant and not the owner’s private quarters.  She shuffles Daray over to the bed and gently helps her into it, making certain her head ends up on the pillow.  She gives her a reassuring smile before she sees her eyes close and then walks over to where Leif is standing, watching them. 

 

Lana smiles brilliantly, her voice is soft as she speaks, “Thank you Lief.  I overheard and I know things are stressful right now.  It’s a sign of the kind of person you are that even through your own troubles you recognized that we needed help.  Whoever she is, she’s a lucky girl to have your interest.”  Lana reaches out and gives his hand a gentle squeeze; both because she is that kind of person, one who is comfortable touching anyone, and because it is the kind of thing that most working girls do.  They offer physical comfort to those who need it.  She lets his hand go when the moment passes and then takes a seat on the sofa, getting comfortable while she waits for lady Vash to arrive.  When she gets there Lana will get to her feet to show respect for her as she enters the room.

 

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Lief pats Lana’s hand when she touches him, and offers her a wan, tired smile, not even hinting that he might be upset, let alone curious as to how she knew anything at all about his situation. “Thanks.” He replies, then nods toward Daray’s reposed form. “I’m thinking you have an emotional investment of your own to deal with here though. I’ll pul through alright.”

 

A few minutes later, the secret door opens again and admits a small woman wearing expensive, but elegant clothing. Despite her diminutive stature, she has a presence about her that seems to announce that she will accept no foolishness. Her eyes are appraising, caring, but still hard. She might be in her late twenties, although it is difficult to tell because everything else bout her screams of a lifetime of experiences.

 

Her hair is dark, almost black, with faint streaks of royal purple running its length, and is tied into a loose, flowing cascade down her back. There is a ring of short, upward-curving horns around the crown of her skull and her ears come to slight points. 

 

She nods politely to Lana in response to her greeting, then touches Lief by the elbow and steers him back toward the door where the two converse quietly for a moment. Watching them will reveal a hint of longer, sharp canines protruding from her upper jaw, although very subtly, and a slight twitching at the hem of her long skirt suggests there may be something other than her legs beneath its light, flowing fabric.

 

They converse for a moment, then Lief casts a wary eye back toward Lana and Daray before he nods, and disappears through the panel, closing it again behind him. 

 

The woman glides back over to stand in front of Lana, offering her a warm smile. “Now then. It seems the two of you have had a rough evening. What seems to be the trouble? Anything I can help with aside from a place to stay out of the open for a while?”

 

Her complete lack of questions, or even a hint of concern about why they were there, or what they might be running from, suggests that she is accustomed to these sorts of situations, and that she is willing to take quite a bit on faith, or at least let professional courtesy carry them for a while before getting an explanation. 

 

“Should we be denying entrance to anyone in particular?” She asks as she examines the pair more closely, her eyes seem to stop on each of Daray’s visible weapons, the vibro-blade hanging from the strap at her waist, and the sheathed sticks protruding from beneath her prone form on the bed. While she says nothing, it is obvious that she has them both fully assessed and knows volumes about them, and their situation, before anything is explained to her.

 

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Lana relaxes as she takes in the familiar demeanor of Lady Vash.  There is something about her that reminds her of Seara, her previous employer; just a way that she carries herself, confined and powerful.  She smiles gratefully at her immediate offer of help.  “Before you agree to help us I think you should know there were warrants out for us on Venus station.  She should be listed as dead now.  The solder that caught me said he would make me disappear so most likely my warrant has been canceled as well but I want you to know what you are getting into before you help us.”  April might protest but to Lana this is a matter of professional courtesy.  There is a complex culture to the lifestyle she was raised in.  Many may consider what they do immoral, but there are many levels of courtesy and tradition to the world’s oldest profession.

 

“I’m not sure if you need to deny anyone admittance.  My...” Lana pauses as she tries to decide what to call Daray; friend, lover, companion.  She shakes herself and goes with the simplest answer for now.  “My friend needs time to heal, she suffered some sever injuries when we were betrayed by our transporter.  She rescued me from The Ether-Bean where I was being delivered.  I’m not certain how much trouble that establishment may cause you.  We also killed several bullies on the way here.  The remainder decided to run and live so they shouldn’t be a problem but you might like to know about the change in competition.”  Lana proceeds to give a description of the ones Daray had killed as well as the one who called the others off.  Lana has the suspicion that that kind of bully would be the type to beat up a prostitute for fun and they may have already done this establishment a favor with his removal.

 

She finishes by thanking her profusely.  “You are being incredibly magnanimous just by giving us shelter for a time.  How may I return the favor?” She waits patiently for Lady Vash to process everything she has said.

 

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Lady Vash listens to Lana’s story patiently, nodding and occasionally narrowing her eyes. At last she folds her arms under her breasts and nods. It sounds as if the pair of you have had a long day. The thugs in the street shouldn’t be a problem. We’ve had trouble with some of those punks in the past. You may have bought us a couple weeks of peace and quiet while they figure out who’s in charge now.”

 

She slowly glides over toward the bed and looks down at Daray’s unconscious form, raising an eyebrow as she watches the black material covering her body occasionally pulse, or twitch. “We’ll have to look out for Genlo’s goons, but they don’t usually come around here. Thank you for the warning. As for your warrants, if they are still outstanding, I’m not terribly concerned about those. We’ve never been what you would call sympathetic to the Conglomerate around here.”

 

She crouches down low, getting to eye level with Daray’s body and narrowing her eyes, watching Daray’s body pulse and move in places a body should never move. She then looks up toward the featureless black mask and the fan of long dreadlocks, like rubber cables, spread beneath her, and finally back up to Lana.

 

“Your friend here is quite the specimen.” She comments as she stands back up and floats toward Lana. She’s obviously been successful for a very good reason. She reveals nothing of her emotions, and moves like some kind of ethereal creature, every motion a study in grace and economy, never too much, never too little.

 

“I saw your face on the feeds this morning. Harboring a fugitive in the french quarter of Venus Station?” It wasn’t a questions despite the upturn of her voice at the end of the statement. “You were one of Seara’s girls weren’t you?” This time she is dangerously close to making it sound like a question, although there is an undercurrent of she-already-knows-the-answer to her voice.

 

Finally, she motions toward the couch, sitting down herself, with legs folded beneath her and a long, skin-colored tail with a thick, fleshy, spade-like lobe at the tip of it protrudes from beneath her skirt and wraps around her. She’s sitting, facing the middle of the couch in anticipation of Lana joining her. She drapes one arm over the back of the couch and smiles sweetly. “In payment you can do two things for me dear. First you must not let those bastards catch either of you. I don’t know what she has done.” She turns her attention briefly to Daray’s body, “but she seems to have taken a liking to you, and is no friend of the Conglomerate, so she can’t be all bad. Secondly, you must tell me what happened to Madame Seara and her girls. There has been no news since her doors were forced down and any information we can get may help us be forearmed in case something similar comes our way.”

 

“Now, before we begin, can I get you or your friend anything?”

 

APRIL’s voice comes almost before the last question is asked, and there is a tone of something that might be considered panic to it. -Daray requires approximately five liters of hydrated raw protein. She has consumed too much of her body mass to properly regenerate and most of her water mass was expunged into space before I could seal the skinsuit due to my own damage. Please hurry Lana, I am not sure how much longer she can survive without raw materials to fuel her regeneration.-

 

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Lana nods in recognition of Aprils words and tackles that situation first, running back over to where Daray is twitching on the bed.  “She needs five liters of protein and either a lot of drinking water or any saline that you have, she needs to be re-hydrated quickly.”  Lana’s eyes are pleading while inwardly she wants to yell at Daray.  Surly she could have waited until she was healed to rescue her.  Lana could have handled anything they could have dished out for a day or two.

 

She waits until Vash sends for the needed supplies before she begins to speak about her other question, filling the time while they wait for the protein and liquids.  She notices the tail under Vash’s skirts but doesn’t give it a second thought “Yes I was one of Seara’s girls.  She was a wonderful Madam.  She took my mother in years ago and I was raised with several of her other girls.”  Lana sits nervously on the bed and her eyes move back and forth between the door and Vash as though they are pacing on her behalf.

 

“The charges were a complete sham.  Seara would never have risked her business or her girls to funnel money to a rebellion.  If she had done it she was smart enough that she wouldn’t have been caught.  And if she had been she would have gotten us away before the raid came.”  Lana feels tears heating in her eyes as she remembers Seara being marched out of the brothel, cuffed and with a bruise forming on her temple.

 

“I had always assumed it was Theidra that had arranged it.  She had the rival business in the area and she got a majority of the girls under her wing afterwards...” Lana trails off, no longer entirely certain what had happened to cause such an upset in her life.

 

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Lady Vash produces a comm link from somewhere on her person, tucking it into her ear, she taps it and speaks quietly for a moment as she stands up again,moving to Lana’s side. Moments later, another girl appears through the hidden door with a tray bearing a bowl, some glasses, several bottles of water, a couple of medical saline pouches, and several sealed protein packs.

 

Vash thanks the woman, takes the tray and sets it on the bed, then sets about opening protein packs and squeezing the pasty yeast and soy derivative into the bowl. She nods as Lana speaks about what had happened on Venus Station. 

 

“How does she need this delivered?” She asks as she goes about her task, then adds, “I knew Seara, and I have to agree with you. Something very strange happened there, and I’m not sure that even Theidra would be able to stoop to those depths.”

 

APRIL’s voice comes though even as a strange sort of flap forms around Daray’s neck. -Please just pour it all in the pouch. Her body will take care of it from there.-

 

Inside the weird, marsupial pouch, part of Daray’s neck can be seen, and it is very sickly, withered, almost skeletal, with thick chords of muscle wrapped around the back and sides. Veins can be seen pulsing slowly, and the flesh is pulled tight across her her trachea and esophagus, the two pipes crushed down against her spine.

 

Vash catches a glimpse of the scene and turns her head with a strange look on her face that isn’t quite disgust, but could easily go that direction. “Interesting friend you have here. Am I to assume this all goes in there?” She asks as she reaches for one of the saline packs.

 

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It isn’t disgust on Lana’s face; it is pure worry and fear.  She reaches for one of the other saline packs and tears it open quickly.  She doesn’t bother to answer, considering her action of pouring the pack into the strange pouch eloquent enough.  She is careful not to spill a drop of the precious liquid as she rushes to get it into the pouch.  Once she is done she moves back to give Vash room to pour her pouch while she reaches for the bowl with the protein in it.

 

“I confess; I haven’t known her long but interesting is likely the most banal possible description for her.  I’ve met a lot of people, but she is probably the most unique I’ve ever come across.”

 

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Lady Vash follows Lana’s example with a nod, helping her pour in all of the ingredients and then raises an eyebrow as the suit seals itself back up again. The lump created by the addition of all the material seems to be quickly absorbed, or spread out beneath the thick, black suit.

 

-Thank you Lana.- APRIL’s voice sounds relieved, but still concerned.

 

Lady Vash takes a moment to clean up the discarded packaging and set the tray aside, then makes another quick call, and within moments another tray appears, laden with hot tea, cups, sugar, cream, and a few different types of finger food. She takes the tray, thanks the woman who brought it in, then leans in to whisper something in her ear before turning back to Lana with a warm smile.

 

“Would you like to move to the couch while she…” She quirks her head and looks at Daray’s body curiously, “...regenerates?” She finishes, then she motions to the bed with a nod, “Or do you wish to stay by her side?”

 

Depending upon Lana’s answer, she sets the tray in the appropriate location, so that Lana can reach everything, and sets about pouring tea. “So. Where are you and your mysterious friend headed? I can see about arranging transport for you if you wish. I know a few Runners that would be willing to take on passengers, or I can pass along a message to someone for you if there is anyone you need to get word to.”

 

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Lana touches her finger’s to Daray’s cheek gently, stroking along her skin softly for a moment before pulling away.  She grins at Vash and voices her contradictory feelings.  “I want to stay by her side; but I’m going to go sit on the couch and pretend that I’m not scared silly about her recovery.  Plus I don’t want to bump or jostle her in any way that may slow down the healing.”

 

She makes her way over to the couch again and sits down gracefully. Her back is perfectly straight and her tail curls along the sofa with a poised flick.  She takes the teacup in her hands and sips from its rim without slurping.  One thing her mother had taught her was how to eat and drink graciously.  You could always tell a classy brothel.  There were a few out there that didn’t care about manners or culture, but the really successful ones had workers that could pass for elite society with their manners.  Almost like the old geisha training, poise grace and beauty were valued highly and Vash would be able to see that she had those qualities in spades despite her tattered appearance.

 

Lana nods as she listens to Vash’s questions.  “I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your offer of help.  We had been heading to her home on mars station.  I hope you understand that I don’t want to make any additional plans until she is conscious again or unless I speak with her contact April.”

 

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Vash nods her understanding as she sips at her own tea. “Of course. Please just let me know if I can do anything to be of assistance. I’ll do whatever I can for one of Seara’s girls.” She takes another sip of her tea before setting the up back on the tray and raising her eyes to Lana’s again, “Oh, and if you wouldn’t mind providing the name of the man who betrayed you to the Conglomerate, I’ll make sure to add him to the house’s black list.”

 

She stops and tilts her head slightly as her comm beeps. “My apologies Lana. Let me just see what this is.” She taps the device and speaks quietly, “Hal, what is it?”

 

There is a long pause, during which time she turns to look at Lana, then at Daray, narrowing her eyes as she listens. “Very well. Let them in, but keep them up front. I’m coming now.”

 

She taps the device again, then pulls it off of her ear and it quickly disappears into her clothing somewhere as she turns back toward Lana. “I’m sorry dear, I need to go take care of this. It seems that Almon’s boys are here looking for a couple of ladies that went missing from his club a little while ago.”

 

She stands up, straightens out her clothing and smiles sweetly. “Do you have any messages you’d like me to pass along before I have them thrown out on their asses?” It’s the first time she has said anything ‘unlady-like’, and she breaks a quirky grin across her face as she does so. Turning toward the secret door, she adds, “There is a shower in the bathroom and some clothing in the dresser. If you stick to the skirts, you may be able to fit into some of my things. Feel free to freshen up, and make yourself at home. I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

 

She pauses to acknowledge anything Lana might say, then disappears through the doorway, leaving Lana alone in the room with Daray’s unconscious body.

 

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Lana stands politely when Vash rises and shakes her head.  “Tor was the name of the captain that turned me over to the soldier.  I think his ship was called The End.  I don’t really have any message for Almon, I hadn’t yet met him when I was liberated.  Perhaps rather than telling him anything you could see if he gives any information up?  The soldier had implied that he planned to keep me for himself so I was very surprised when we ended up at an establishment like that instead of private quarters.”  Lana starts to let her go and then reaches out to put her hand on her shoulder to stop her.

 

“Don’t let us be a danger to you or your people.  If you need to give me up I understand, just make certain Daray can stay here until she is healed.  Please.”  Lana’s eyes are full of worry when she asks this and it is obvious as she glances to the bed who she is most worried about. 

 

Lana makes her way to the shower and strips off her dirty clothing with pleasure.  She relaxes in the warm flow of water for only a few moments before hurriedly cleaning her skin, hair and fur.  The lather is an aromatic vanilla bean smells and she grins at the decadent aroma.  Finally she dries herself off and makes her way to the dresser, careful not to drip on the carpet or cause any damage that might inconvenience her gracious host.  

 

Lana has trouble choosing between all the beautiful outfits and costumes that are available.  Her criteria are more selective than usual.  First of all, she eliminates anything too expensive; in case she has to leave quickly she doesn’t want Vash to be out any money.  Next she eliminates anything too flashy, knowing that when they leave they will need to keep a low profile.  She ends up finding a blue bodysuit that covers all the bits a swimsuit would.  It has holes for her neck and shoulders and tail with just a bit of stretching.  She finds a short skirt that is loose with a ruffle that ends just above her knees which is just a shade or two lighter than the bodysuit, also with allowances for her tail.  She runs a brush though her damp hair and then climbs onto the bed, opposite Daray and reaches out to hold Daray’s hand as she watches her body twitch and heal.

 

“Thank you for giving me advise, April.  I would have made a very different decision if you hadn’t intervened.”

 

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Vash nods her agreement with Lana’s suggestion and says, “Don’t worry, we’ve dealt with Almon before, and regularly, I don’t think there will be any real trouble, and if there is, we have contingencies planned.”

 

Once she moves to the bed and picks up Daray’s hand, it closes around hers snugly, but not painfully, and Daray squirms a bit, but doesn’t really stir. The featureless black faceplate on her head slowly begins to melt back, forming a perfect, form-fitting black mask, revealing all of the details of her face. The skin is tightly drawn and a bit skeletal, her eyes bulging slightly and cheeks sucked in, but over an indeterminate amount of time, in the quiet of the room, her features start to slowly fill back in and resume their normal shape.

 

As this is happening, APRIL responds to Lana’s thank you. -You are most welcome Lana. I am sorry I could not intercept Lady Vash’s communication for you, most of my systems are down while Daray’s higher brain functions are restored.-

 

The computer pauses for a moment, as if considering something before adding, -I am afraid I must apologize to you Lana. My initial estimation of your trustworthiness was none to high, and I spoke out against Daray associating with you, quite vehemently. You have proven yourself trustworthy on more than one occasion, and I wanted you to know that.-

 

Lana can feel Daray’s claws flexing in and out of her fingertips slightly as her body continues to regenerate damaged tissues. It isn’t painful or even uncomfortable, just a feeling that is very atypical while holding someone’s hand, to have these hard lines pressing out from the pads of someone’s fingers against the hand they hold.


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