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Status Quo - Chapter 34

Written by: Paullell

 Lana turns his words over in her mind as she tries to understand their implication. After only a moment she smiles at Joe, world weary yet sincerely.  “Thank you Joe.  I hope the rest of your afternoon is profitable and less eventful,” she nods a goodbye and then hurries out to Daray.  

 

Lana scoots into the cab and then waits for Daray to get in as well before speaking her thoughts.  “I assume April relayed what was said.  Does this mean that the clairvoyant is not working with the hacker?  Does that mean someone wants to help me or is another faction entirely out to get me?”  She puzzles over this for a moment. Her teeth worrying at her lower lip as she thinks.  “If it was someone that wanted to help me why wouldn’t they have stopped the hacker before he started to erase my records?  Or contacted me directly?  Why leave information for me here before it even started to happen?”  Lana looks at Daray and shares her worried expression with her.  “Do we head to see the hacker now?”

 

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Joe offers Lana a polite nod as he collects her glass and watches her leave.

 

Daray climbs into the vehicle behind her and folds her arms across her chest after setting her baston on the seat. Her look is brooding and grumpy. “He shouldn’t have spoken to you like that…”

 

The vehicle begins to move as soon as she’s in and the door is closed. “I’ve already punched in his address.” She glares over her shoulder at the cafe as the vehicle moves off. “Speaking of punching…”

 

-I relayed the information Lana. Thank you for keeping a level head and asking the pertinent questions.- APRIL offers.

 

“Honestly Lana, I don’t know what’s going on here. Just because the guy may be psychic doesn’t necessarily mean he is trying to help you. He could still be the asshole in charge of this whole operation. He may have hired the hacker and then left his information here for us as a ruse, to throw us off the scent. Vincent and Riana might be right, we may have to go after Turin, or Almon before this is over. Turin is supposed to be psychic, at least to some extent, and Almon could certainly afford to keep a good clairvoyant on staff…”

 

Her shoulders hunch forward and she stares out the window with her forehead pressed up against the glass as she speaks. “All I know is that someone’s out to get you, and they know that I’m involved. We have no idea who it really is, and this hacker feels like a red herring to me, especially since he’s being handed to us on a silver platter. This isn’t right Lana.”

 

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Lana smiles at Daray’s grumpy mood in regards to how the café employee had addressed her.  She hadn’t even noticed anything untoward in his manner but she found it to be kind of sweet how protective Daray was behaving.  Lana listens as Daray voices her concern about learning that a precog is tracking them.  She finally leans over and links her arm through Daray’s and then leans her head against her shoulder with a heavy sigh.  

 

“I agree.  There is nothing right about this. But without more to go on than a description of a tall, skinny, forked tongue precog we have no choice other than to continue on with the little information we have, even if we think it is a red herring.  Hopefully we can get him to tell us who hired him.  Or at least find a way to trace the payments he received for services rendered.  Hey! That’s a good idea.  April, this guy has been working probably exclusively on me for the past three weeks.  Have there been any recent bank transactions on his account that we would suppose were payments for services?” 

 

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Leaning her head against Lana’s, Daray warms up to the touch, sighing with contentment. She had no idea how, or why Lana had come to mean so much to her in such a short amount of time. Further, she was positive that it wasn’t healthy, at least not in regards to how she found herself getting worked up over how other people treated her. With her temper, and abilities, she could easily hurt, or even kill someone, just for saying something rude.

 

-I have checked all financial activities for Nathan Tennant’s accounts. I have detected nothing unusual or untoward in terms of transactions in the past six months. I suspect he may have been paid in cash, as seems to be the custom with much of Daray’s work activities.-

 

“Yeah, still, we didn’t loose anything by checking.” Daray chides APRIL as she grabs Lana’s hand with her own and squeezes it comfortingly. “We’ll get the bastards Lana. I swear we will.”

 

The vehicle pulls to a stop in front of a five story building and the door opens to allow them to climb out, which Daray does, after turning her head to face Lana and giving her a light kiss on the lips, dragging her fingers across Lana’s cheek gently.

 

The building looked fairly mundane from the outside, but once they get through the door, they quickly realize it’s more of a slum. The hallways are carpeted in a thin, industrial pile that has obviously not been cared for in a good long time. The walls are dirty, and there are little piles of dirt and refuse in the corners.

 

They make their way up to the fifth floor, and to a scuzzy door with ‘Tennant’ printed on it in large, friendly letters.

 

“Are you ready?” Daray looks at Lana lovingly, shifting her baston on her back.

 

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Lana’s shoulders slump a bit when her idea yields no results.  “Of course April, I should have realized.  Thank you for checking.”  She gives Daray a wan smile at her words of comfort.  “I don’t really want to ‘get’ anyone.  I just don’t like knowing that someone is out to ‘get’ me.”

 

When the cab stops she follows Daray out and into the misleading building.  Her nose wrinkles in disgust at the filthy walls and rubbish covered floors. Her neighborhood wasn’t the cleanest but at least it was in an area that passed for ‘outside’ instead of in the buildings directly.  She shudders when she sees movement from one of the piles and she realizes it is a dingy brown rat.   She curls her tail around her body so she can hold it close to her, concerned about her clean blue fur brushing up against the walls or floor.  When they reach the room and Daray asks if she is ready she nods her head in a jerky motion, her stomach rolling with nervousness as she silently prays that this wont turn out to be a dead end.

 

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Daray Leans in and hugs Lana before turning to the door. “OK. Let’s see Mr. Tennant.” She presses the call button on the panel next to the door, and a tone can be heard within. There is a moment of silence, followed by some rummaging, a couple muffled curses, and finally the door opens to reveal Nathan Tennant.

 

He stands about six feet tall, and weighs in well over 200 pounds, most of it around his waist. He has dark eyes, greasy hair, and is dressed like a villain from a nineteenth century detective serial.

 

“Yeah, what can I…” He stops in his tracks when his eyes come to rest on Lana, a spark of recognition flits across his face. He takes a nervous step back, raising his hands defensively. “Look, it wasn’t… I didn’t… You’re…”

 

Finally, he seems to give up entirely and attempts to bolt between the pair, the look of surprise returning in force when Daray snatches him by the collar of his duster and flings him bodily back into his cluttered living room, where his feet clip on a coffee table and he pinwheels, crashing off the wall and landing in a heap on his filthy sofa.

 

“We just have a couple questions Mr. Tennant. Then we’ll be on our way and you can get back to your…” Daray looks around his apartment as she steps over the threshold, raising an eyebrow and brushing her hand off on her skirt… “life…” she wrinkles her nose at the smell as she beckons Lana inside so the door can be closed.

 

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There is no question that he is the right person when he tries to bolt after seeing her.  Lana steps into the filthy apartment and closes the door behind her.  The walls in this place are cheap so most likely they won’t block much noise, but if the prevalent attitude of apathy that the building has matches the attitude of the rest of the tenants, they shouldn’t have too much trouble as long as this doesn’t take too long.

 

Lana wants to burst out with the question, ‘Who hired you to ruin my life!’ but she refrains.  This isn’t her area of expertise so she just stands back to give Daray room to work and nods her head to let the other woman know that she gets first shot at the slime wriggling on his couch. 

 

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Seeing Lana’s confirmation that she is ready to begin, Daray picks her way through the mess, surprised by the level of depravity that people are willing to sink to, let alone live in.

 

As she approaches Nathan, he scrambles to right himself, but ends up slipping in some discarded food containers and falling off the couch. By the time she gets to him, he is crab-crawling away from her on the floor, backing into a corner as she reaches down and grips him by the lapels of his jacket.

 

“This isn’t my regular line of work Nate. Can I call you Nate?” She raises an eyebrow as she hoists him off the floor and suspends him in mid air. He nods nervously in response to her question, very obviously not used to being treated this way. “Good. Although you’re going to have to find your voice here in a second, or things are going to get really difficult.”

 

Taking a step forward, she pins Nathan’s back against the wall, then tangles the fingers of her left hand up in his lapels, letting go with her right and turning slightly so she can see him and Lana at the same time. “Now, normally, I’m sort of a sneak in, sneak out kind of person. I only deal with other folks when absolutely necessary, and then, my usual methodology is rather abrupt, and most assuredly final. As such, I’m not entirely sure that I am capable of fine enough control to guarantee your safety in the event that you get me too upset with your responses.”

 

To illustrate her point, she swings her right arm around, making a fist with her hand, one of the spots on her forearm glows for a second before an arc of blue-white energy fires off, slamming into the cooking unit in the kitchen and causing a shower of sparks and damaged components to erupt from the appliance.

 

Turning back toward him, she points her fist toward his face and another patch begins to glow. “So the rules are thus. We ask you questions. You answer them. If my friend here doesn’t like your answers, then I do my very best to cause you pain, without permanent damage. Although, as you can see, my level of control is not all that great, so I don’t know how many times you can upset her without suffering serious consequences. Are we on the same page so far?”

 

Nathan nods vigorously, his arms and legs dangling uselessly against the wall and his breath coming in short ragged gasps.

 

“I’m sorry Nate. I didn’t hear you. I thought we talked about you finding your voice…” She puts on a sort of feline snarl, curling back her upper lip and extending the index finger of her right hand.

 

Nathan looks on in horror as the hooked claw unfolds itself from her fingertip and she moves it slowly toward him, brushing the tip past his nose, and running the back of the curves talon along his cheek until it slips behind his ear. She pulls her finger forward again, and Nathan screams as the claw slowly pierces the lobe of his ear, popping out the front with a small trickle of blood.

 

“I hope you understand how serious I am Nate. This is a close friend of mine, and she is very upset because of what you have been doing. And when she is upset, I am upset.”

 

She removes her claw from his ear lobe, leaving a tiny hole and a trickle of blood, then shows him the talon, blood dripping from its point. “Now Nate, here’s your first real question…” She turns away from him again, looking pointedly toward Lana.

 

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Lana watches with amazement as Daray terrorizes the man who was hired to ruin her life.  It makes her realize, possibly for the first time, how very dangerous Daray truly is.  She is an amazing contradiction of softness and harnessed violence.  

 

As she watches she realizes she ought to be scared.  The sheer level of capabilities that Daray has so outnumbers her own small talents that she could be in danger just by being with her.  She searches deep inside herself, poking and prodding at her inner emotions, trying to find even the smallest vestiges of fear, and comes up lacking.  

 

The world can be hard and scary, as she learned with her near abduction.  Deep inside, watching Daray chase Nathan around the room, Lana realizes that she feels even safer.  She find herself blushing at the pure poetry of Daray’s movements and has to shake herself when Daray turns to her and includes her in the conversation.  

 

She clears her throat and tries to determine what the best line of questions will be.  “What exactly were you hired to do with my records and who hired you?”  

 

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Daray watches the strange swirl of emotions play across Lana’s face for a brief moment before her attention snaps forward and she narrows her eyes, asking her question of Nathan.

 

The man flails his limbs uselessly against Daray, who stands there, unmoving, as his hands and feet hammer at her unyielding body. She may as well be wearing a full suit of body armor for all the good his efforts are producing. When Lana asks her question, he suddenly deflates, limbs going limp.

 

“I don’t know who he was. I’ve never met him before, and he always kept covered up with a jacket and hood. He asked me to delete all your records. Everything I could find. Didn’t say why, just dumped a pile of platinum on me and told me to erase you.”

 

He raises his hands and grips Daray’s forearm, squeezing and wrenching at her arm with all his strength. When he gives up again, arms going limp but hands remaining on her forearm, she leans in a little closer to his face and says, “Are you through?”

 

Nathan’s face breaks into a wicked smile and replies, “Not by a long shot bitch!” Curling his fingers into her arm, there is a loud, mechanical spring sound, followed by a wince from Daray, and a stream of blood begins to ooze from her forearm around each of his fingertips.

 

Her arm falters a bit, allowing him to slide down to the floor, and the instant his feet touch the filthy carpet he twists his hands around, carving a series of deep, almost to the bone, furrows in her arm. Daray screams out in pain for just a second, but the distraction is sufficient to get her to let go of him.

 

“Fucking cunts! What?! You think I’m helpless?!” He takes a menacing step toward Lana, but then turns around and kicks Daray in the back of the knee, causing her to drop to her knees, then kicks her again, this time in the throat, and she folds over backward, coughing and wheezing, hands clutching at her crushed larynx.

 

Nathan then turns back toward Lana and sneers, brandishing his ten bloody claws, each extending an inch or more out of his fingertips. “Now get the fuck out of my way or I’ll cut you up like your bitch friend over there.”

 

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Lana yelps with fear as she hears Daray’s scream.  She starts to rush forward when he turns on her threateningly.  Her vision narrows as she sees the bright red blood dripping from his claws, Daray’s blood.  Her mind tells her that Daray will be fine, she will heal but her heart is pounding with worry.  She wraps her arms around herself and backs away from him with fear naked in her eyes. 

 

“Please don’t hurt me.  You can go.  I’m not a combatant.  You’ve read my files, you know that.”  As she talks her arm inches into her jacket until she can wrap her fingers around the handle of the stunner that Daray had bought her.  She makes whimpering little mewls as he begins to move.  She backs away and watches, hoping that he will turn his back on her.  She will wait until he does so or until he is almost to the door and then she will fire on him. 

 

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Nathan snarls at Lana, obviously getting a heady feeling from her immediate cowing. “S’right bitch. Cut you up, just like your stupid dog.” He side-steps across the room, careful to keep facing her as she backs away from him. 

 

Daray lay on the floor, clutching at her throat and rasping for air through her caved-in wind-pipe, blood from her disfigured arm washing over her throat in a small river. She doesn’t seem to be in any shape to be of help.

 

“Fucking bitches come’n in here an’thinking they can work me like some second-rate street-thug.” He speaks more to himself than anyone else in the room, keeping his eyes on Lana as he leans over and pulls the cushion out of a chair by the door. T knew what he was doin’ when he came to me for this shit.”

 

He reaches into a hollowed out space beneath the cushion an retrieves a heavy looking pack that he slings over his shoulder, then he reaches back in an begins to retrieve what looks like a pistol of some kind as his hand begins to exit the concealed compartment again. For the briefest of seconds, his gaze flickers to the weapon, as if to check its condition, or insure that it’s loaded. Either way, it is a tiny window of opportunity that might be taken advantage of…

 

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Lana’s plan backfires when he doesn’t head immediately for the door but for a chair.  Her fear grows when she sees him pull the pistol out of its hidden compartment.  She almost lets go of the stunner, ready to abandon her plan.  Then she sees the opportunity, just a shifting of attention.   She pulls the stunner as quickly as she can, aims and fires.  Her heart is in her throat and she is too terrified to do anything else as the seconds slow down and she waits to find out if she hit or if she is about to get shot.

 

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Nathan’s arm jerks upward when he catches Lana’s quick movement out of the corner of his eye. The pistol he grabbed raises up, pointing toward her at the same time she gets her stunner pointed in his direction.

 

The weapons discharge at the same time, his in a sharp crack of thunder, and hers in a sizzle of electricity. The stun blast arcs into Nathan’s gun hand, causing his arm to seize up. The pistol drops to the floor with a clatter and he screams out in pain as the high voltage blast throws him against the wall.

 

In a sudden flurry of movement, Daray kips up off the floor and dives toward Lana. The bullet tears into her chest, just above her right breast, spinning her around and causing her to lurch toward Lana, her balance obviously lost and throat still crushed in by Nathan’s well placed punt.

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Lana cries out in pain as she watches Daray throw herself in front of the bullet.  Her arms reach out automatically to catch Daray, uncaring of the blood that is freely flowing form her arms and chest.  She is off balance and it is all she can do to make them slide slowly to the ground instead of hitting it hard.  She quickly tries to cover Daray’s wound with her left hand and hold her precious blood inside while she moves her other hand to point the stunner at Nathan again.  

 

After she assures herself that he is no longer an immediate threat she lifts her hand up and pulls at the bullet hole in Daray’s suit, widening it so that she can watch and verify that her healing abilities are acting as they should.  “Mio Tesoro.  I keep getting you hurt.” She whispers with tears in her eyes.

 

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Daray slumps into Lana’s arms with, of all things, a goofy smile on her face. When they settle on the floor, she shakes her head at Lana’s words, wincing against the prying open of her fresh wound.

 

“Ouch!” She croaks through her rebuilding wind pipe. Raising her hand she pokes Lana in the chest with an extended finger. “Forgot about your armor…” She grins again as she leans forward and kisses Lana affectionately.

 

“This is nothing. Little peashooter.” Her voice is still rough, but getting better by the moment. Holding up her damaged arm, Lana can see that it is already almost completely healed. Not much more than a few angry, red lines criss-crossing her forearm.

 

“That was a nice shot by the way. Not bad at all for your first gun battle. We’ll have to celebrate later. Just the two of us. Alone. With that big bed. Maybe a bottle of champagne…” She kisses Lana again between each sentence as a punctuation mark.

 

A pained groan from the other side of the room causes her shoulders to slump and her playful smirk to change to a frown as she turns to look at Nathan, who is  starting to come around a little, his limbs twitching slightly.

 

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Lana smiles through her tears as Daray kisses her and at the end she returns the kisses with fervor.  At the groan from across the room her body tenses and her head snaps up.  She is tempted to shoot him again for good measure but she has a suspicion that might kill him.  

 

She scoots away from Daray and searches the room for any sort of cording or rope.  She finally ends up with what looks like old fashioned computer network cables.  She walks over to Nathan, rolls him on his stomach and proceeds to very thoroughly hog tie him.  Her knots are downright professional and she blushes a little as she hopes that Daray’s doesn’t ask where she learned the skill.  Once she is done she picks up the bag he dropped and his weapon and walks back over to Daray. 

 

She puts them down next to her and asks.  “Do you want me to go see if he has anything edible in his kitchen?”

 

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Daray watches with no small measure of satisfaction as Lana goes about the business of securing Nathan.

 

“You know. You could make a career out of tying people up.” She beams. Her voice has returned to normal by now and the bullet hole in her chest is not much more than a blemish.

 

Pulling her feet into a cross-legged position, she picks up the bag and peeks inside, then whistles appreciatively. “Some food would be great. Although I’m not sure I want to eat anything Nate might have laying around.” She pulls a portable computer from the bag and sets it on the floor next to her, then reaches in again and pulls out a handful of platinum bars, letting them slip back through her fingers and rain down into the pack, where they make little clinking noises as they tumble into a veritable lake of them. “Although, I do think Nate should buy lunch…”


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