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Status Quo - Chapter 29

Written by: Paullell

 Lana almost laughs at Vincent’s advice about caring how people see her.  Luckily that’s a skill she has already mastered for the most part.  She recognizes the admission of where he grew up as a sort of sharing and she wonders if she should tell these people about what she does... or did for a living as the case may be.  She decides now is as good a time as any, if they are going to worry about Daray getting emotional over a working girl, best not to hide it.  “I know what you mean about not caring Vince.  I grew up in a brothel and worked there until it was closed a few months ago.  So I’m quite used to social stigma.”

 

Lana frowns at Daray’s sudden guilt and worry over something so natural to her.  “Don’t fret Daray.  That level of connection takes time and we have plenty of it.  I have no intention of going anywhere unless you send me away.  I’m sure we’ll get there.”  She grins and adds teasingly.  “It just means we need to practice more.”  She grins and gives Daray a quick kiss before continuing as an afterthought, “I’m sure the more you get used to these emotions and sensations the better you’ll get at keeping control.  For heavens sake, I hadn’t even noticed it was an issue until before lunch.  So no worrying about this.” Lana scolds but smiles to show she is not upset.

 

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Daray seems to be comforted once again by Lana’s words, relaxing a bit, although she still seems slightly uncomfortable at the line of conversation, but it is obvious that she is starting to acclimate to it.

 

If either Vincent or Riana is in any way bothered by Lana’s admission about her trade, neither of them shows it. “Well the important thing is that you keep working at it. As long as you are both willing to meet in the middle, and keep at it…” Riana begins.

 

“And remain patient as a saint…” Vincent cuts her off.

 

“Yes, that as well.” Riana narrows her eyes at him and punches him in the shoulder playfully.

 

Daray leans into Lana, wrapping her arms around Lana’s, and interleaving their fingers. She snuggles her cheek up against Lana’s shoulder and sighs deeply. “Well, I’m willing to give it as long as it takes.” A sappy smile crosses her face as she speaks.

 

Riana smiles at her, then her face changes to a more serious look. “Is it alright if I ask what mission has you needing to get to Mars in such haste? Is there anything more we can do to be of assistance?”

 

Daray looks up at Lana to see what her reaction is before she answers, not wanting to spread her personal business around any more than she wanted to. “Well, I’m sort of on the lam from AO in Venus Station, but that isn’t really anything new…”

 

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Lana relaxes completely at Riana’s and Vincent’s apparent acceptance of her past.  She grins at their suggestions and takes them to heart.  Their relationship seems to be working for them and to Lana that is proof that their advice is probably good.  Lana leans back into her embrace as though it is the most natural thing in the world and has an equally devoted look on her face. 

 

With the next question she catches Daray’s look and gives her an approving nod.  She is not embarrassed at all about her trouble.  In fact she is finally starting to get angry and any help along the way she will be grateful for.  “And I’m apparently being erased from existence by an unknown person.”  She shrugs her shoulders indicating that she can’t think of any other way to explain the predicament that she has found herself in.

 

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Daray sits up, keeping her fingers twined through Lana’s, and begins picking at he food again, munching as they talk. 

 

“Can you be more specific?” Riana asks.

 

“APRIL says there are at least two hackers. One of them not so great. They are systematically deleting all records of Lana’s existence from the net. She’s tracked the one hacker to a cafe in Hector, which is where we are headed now. If we can get a line on this hacker, we might be able to track them down and figure out who hired them.”

 

“Why would someone do such a thing?” Riana looks toward Vincent, her ears laying back in annoyance at the very thought that someone might even consider such a thing.

 

“Could be anyone.” Vincent shrugs, then looks thoughtfully at Lana. “Maybe a past client? Someone who expressed an interest in an exclusive arrangement and you turned them down? I would probably start there, then move on to other clients. People with money first, this kind of hacking, even done badly, is going to cost money.”

 

-Her mother’s records are being eliminated as well.- APRIL reminds them.

 

“Oh yeah. Her mother’s records are being erased too. She died in a hospital on Venus Station, right Lana?” She looks to Lana for confirmation as she chews on some vegetables. “It seems the erasure started there. The cause of death was never listed, or listed and then immediately recanted, then her stay there was deleted, and its sort of spread from there.”

 

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Lana sits and thinks and really ties to imagine if any one of her clients would do this.  “Alright, my most prominent clients have been Jas Daavis, he’s a pilot for one of the major food import companies.  There is Caliope Avanasis, she’s a doctor on Venus station and one of the few that did try and get a more permanent arrangement with me but she seemed fine when I last saw her, my rejection of her offer was over a year ago and I’ve seen her ten times since.”

 

Lana pauses, thinking some more, it clearly disturbs her to have to think of any of her clients as potential enemies that may have done this to her. “Alen Jorstad is a miner on Venus, he keeps… kept a monthly appointment with me five days every month to help him relax from his job.  He’s been mining on Venus for three years now so he’s fast approaching that hermit stage, but he’s always been sweet with me.  The rest of my clientele were mostly engineers and mechanics.  All of them reasonably happy go lucky people.  It’s not like I worked anywhere prestigious, I can’t imagine any of them having enough money to arrange something like this… Well perhaps Caliope, but she wouldn’t!”

 

Lana sighs and pushes her plate away, unable to eat any more.  “My mother’s name is Sookie Maxalis.  And yes Daray, you have a good memory, this all started after her death.”

 

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The room listens to Lana’s breakdown of potential perpetrators, nodding and sharing looks amongst themselves. Daray shakes her head at the mention of Caliope, “I don’t think so either.” She offers their friends an understanding look. “She’s a surgeon in little Tokyo, patched me up a couple times before I ran in with you lot. She was very kind, and caring, and I don’t think she’d have something like this in her.”

 

Vincent shakes his head in understanding, but Riana narrows her eyes, “maybe, but the fact that she fits the criteria means she should still be checked out.”

 

-Looking into her now.- APRIL chimes in.

 

“APRIL says she is looking into her now.” Daray frowns, but her tone suggests that she knows they should. “We should check on Alen Jorstad as well. Venetian miners can get a bit eccentric, and they tend to rack up some serious bankrolls over the years.” She adds, then looks back to Lana sympathetically, “just to be on the safe side, Miss Maxalis.” Her look turns into a wide grin at the learning of Lana’s last name.

 

“Still though, it seems like you’re on the best trail, heading after the hacker. It is a little concerning that there are two different hackers involved though, that seems a bit odd.” Vincent rubs his chin in thought as he speaks. “Are they going after the same records?”

 

-No. The better of the two seems to be eliminating Sookie Maxalis’ records from the system. The majority of Lana’s records seem to be under attack by the lesser hacker, although the more important and permanent records seem to be much more thoroughly eradicated, indicating the involvement of the better hacker.-

 

Daray listens in, then translates for the group. “No.”

 

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Lana starts to ask Vincent why that would make a difference and then stops when she comes up with a reason on her own.  “If the better trained hacker is after my mother’s records, does that mean her records are more important than mine to erase?  Does this mean everything has to do with my mother and not me?”  She shakes her head.  “No that can’t be it, if it was only important to erase mom they would have stopped with her records and not have bothered with mine.  And they would have had no need to shut down my employer. I don’t understand, this just seems like too much work to acquire a simple working girl, its not like there aren’t thousands of us out there, many quite happy to create a formal arrangement.”

 

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Daray puts on a confused expression as Lana puzzles through her thoughts. “All we know is that both of your records are being targeted, and that your employer, also your mother’s former employer before she made an arrangement, has been run out of business on trumped up charges.”

 

“So they either want you both to disappear for some reason, or they are more concerned bout you, and are just erasing her to make your erasure that much more complete.”

 

“Shutting down the brothel is a way of eliminating any trace of you there as well. You say you grew up there, then worked there when you were old enough, so you’ve never had another job, or any other employment records. It’s probably easier for whoever is behind this to trash the establishment, and cut you from their records while the military boys are doing their computer forensics. In one fell swoop, they clean out a brothel, and erase any employment records you may have. Probably even worked a deal with another local brothel before hand to make some money on the deal too. Maybe we should check out their records to see if any significant payments have been made from their accounts recently?” Vincent’s words would seem to indicate that he has a fairly keen understanding of underhanded politics and shady deals, but his face is sincere as he speaks. His concern seems very much in ernest.

 

“We’re definitely looking for someone with a specific interest in you Lana.” Daray continues. “I think they are using two hackers as a ruse. Trying to lead us in the wrong direction. One, really good one to erase your mother, and thus, any ties you have to the real world, and one that we can find, to work on your less important information and draw us to him, while the better hacker attacks your more significant records in the interim. They’re trying to isolate you, eliminate any ties you have.”

 

Suddenly she sits up straight, eyes wide. “Gossa! Lana they tried to sell you to Almon Genloe! He doesn’t buy slaves! He sells them, and then only to one person! And her certainly has the hook-up in the Digerati community to be able to find the digital muscle he needs!”

 

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Lana just blinks at first as the conversation continues around her and then she smiles, grateful that she had discovered a group of people who are willing to help her through her trouble.  She shakes her head, still not understanding why she would be worth all of this trouble to anyone.  Lana feels a flicker of nervousness in her when Daray sits up straight and has her epiphany.  She bites her lip, for a moment considering not asking but she has to know.  “Who Daray?  I’d never heard of Almon Genloe so I wouldn’t know his associates.”  She waits with wide and worried eyes for Daray to share her thoughts.

 

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Daray wrinkles her nose at the thought, but she needs to get all the information out on the table. “Almon Genloe is rumored to have extensive dealings with a man named Turin Glastnost. He’s a kind of gangster robber-baron who runs most of the illegal shipping in and out of the Earth Ring Station, and Earth’s moon.”

 

“Oh lordy…” Vincent mutters, dropping his forehead into his hands and leaning on the table.

 

Riana squeezes his arm and Daray presses her lips into a hard line before continuing. “It is also rumored that Turin maintains several estates around the Sol System. Estates where he maintains pretty extensive stables of slave women. Rumors say he only takes the prettiest, most exotic women he can find, and that he only takes them from Almon’s place in Neo-Tokyo. I don’t know what arrangement they have between them, and bear in mind that these are all just rumors, but I do know that they have a very high turnover rate at ‘The Ether-Bean’.”

 

“So you think this Turin person wants to add Lana to his harem?” Riana asks.

 

“Well, I know that Almon has access to hackers, of every caliber, and that he deals regularly with Turin, who collects women. I wouldn’t put it past either of them to put a plan like this in place to get someone who has somehow caught Turin’s fancy…”

 

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Lana’s stomach tightens with nervousness at the serious expressions of the people around her.  “I don’t understand.  I’ve never met this person, how would he even know about me?  And more importantly how do we go about getting my life back?  I don’t want to live the rest of my life looking over my shoulder worried that I’ll be snatched off the street.”  Lana starts to panic again.  Her breathing speeds up and she bends over, clutching her stomach, trying to keep her lunch inside her.  “I’ve heard of girls getting grabbed before, street pimps and the like, but I’ve never heard of their lives being destroyed like this before hand.  It’s surreal.”

 

Ironically, with all the time she had spent in her business she had never really considered herself in danger, not like this, and she realizes that her worst nightmare is happening.  Not being raped, that she could handle and honestly is almost impossible to do.  No, her real fear is the idea of being owned, kept.  That is what truly terrifies her. 


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