Status Quo - Chapter 37

Written by: Paullell

 Daray makes sure the computer is secure in the pack and then checks all of the flaps and catches to ensure it is not going to spill its contents all over the place if they have to get fancy. She pulls the shoulder straps over her arms and cinches the pack tightly about herself as Lana responds.


Stepping up to the window next to her friend, she wraps an arm around Lana’s waist and looks out on the fire escape with her. “Well, you don’t have to be a scoundrel, I mean, there are plenty of other available positions in the unseemly underworld lifestyle… You could be a thug, or a hitter, or maybe a brute… I hear there’s a huge calling for Charlatans…”


She squeezes Lana to her as she reaches for the window with her free hand, sliding the casement up and out of the way. Turning more toward Lana, she wraps her other arm around her waist and pulls their bodies together, looking up into her nervous eyes. “You know… There’s nothing to this. It’s just a climb down a few ladders.”


She stands up on the balls of her feet and presses her lips to Lana’s and kissing her deeply for several moments. When the kiss breaks, her eyes, which she hadn’t realized she’d closed, flutter open, her skin flushed and glowing with love and passion. “I just want you to know that I’ve fallen for you. I’m sorry I get all crazy on you. I don’t mean to be co-dependent or anything. And… Thank you… For taking care of me…”


She blushes furiously, then breaks away and ducks through the window onto the fire escape.


Their path is a metal arrangement, with spaced metal slats composing the floor and rungs of the nearly-vertical ladders, creating a feeling of vertigo. It’s a back-and-forth affair, requiring them to move around a ladder and across an open area to get to the next ladder going down, and it’s difficult to tell from above, looking through the rest of the structure, but it appears as if the final ladder doesn’t even reach all the way to the ground.


Daray seems quite unfazed by the entire situation. Once she is out the window, she moves aside to allow Lana through behind her, then presses her stomach into the railing and leans bodily out into the alleyway, looking up and down the length of the building for any signs of their pursuers. As soon as Lana gets out the window, she closes it behind them and almost skips over to the down ladder and swings herself around its structure to the opening leading down, offering Lana a wide grin before beginning her descent.




Bob had very nearly been delayed by customs in Hector. It seemed that his new cybernetic upgrades had not been registered with the public records department, and he’d had to flash his defunct badge in order to get through without causing a scene. Once into the city, he’d jumped on a public transport, heading straight out to the address Chet had given him, which turned out to be a small computer cafe with an ugly little gene-filth piece of man behind the counter.


He almost hadn’t talked. Almost. However, breaking one of his nasty little horns off at the skull and tossing it on the counter in front of him had changed his tune pretty quickly. It had been tough to tell through the sobs, but it sounded like the little bitches had been their earlier that day and had headed out to some piece of shit hacker’s place on the other side of town.


When he pulled up to the end of the block in question, there were emergency and military vehicles all over the place. Armed soldiers were canvasing the area, and it looked a great deal like a bomb had gone off at the address the ugly little man had given him for the hacker.


While he didn’t know all of the little blonde’s capabilities, he did know she was fast, tough, and fairly quick-thinking, so when he noticed the person-sized hole in the building across the street, he knew exactly where to start his own search. 


Reaching under his jacket, he flicked the safety off on his holstered pistol, unhooking the restraining strap so that he could get at it in a hurry when he needed it. ‘Now it’s just a matter of how old the explosion is, and how badly the little fuckers where banged up…’ he said to himself as he made his way around behind the building.




Lana leans into the hug and is surprised when Daray sucks away with embarrassment.  Lana follows her out onto the metal scaffolding.  She looks down and the whole world starts to swim in her eyes.  She grabs onto the nearest ladder and holds on for dear life.  


She forces her breathing to slow and starts to talk as she follows Daray down, using the conversation to distract herself.  “I love you too Daray… I just wish that there was a way to keep you from getting so hurt.  Shot in the head, blown out of a building.  I’m starting to think I should wrap myself in hazard tape.  It’s not fair.”  


She doesn't know how far they have made it down, she is concentrating rung by rung on the ladder.  She is just starting to relax a little when her foot slips on a rung and her entire weight ends up pulling on her injured wrist.  She cries out in pain before she can stop herself and she can feel the fingers of her good hand start to slip.




“Well, I’ve never had anyone I’ve cared enough about to actually do those things. I don’t know if it’s you, or me, that’s creating all the fun. Sometimes I make things a little more difficult than they need to be, so don’t beat yourself up over anything that’s happened. I’ll tell you wha…”


At the sound of Lana’s pained cry, Daray bolts back up the ladder, no longer using the rungs, but digging her claws into the metal for faster movement. Within seconds she has moved over Lana, squishing her between her own body and the ladder. Her cobalt eyes have that far-away look in them for a moment before they clear again, but then the look on her face changes from one of adrenalin-fueled rescue, to one of, ‘is that your body heating up like that, or mine?’


“I uh…” She stammers, trying to find words appropriate for the situation, and her feelings. Her face is mere inches from Lana’s as they sort of spoon against one another, and although she is the shorter of them, her position means she can get her chin over Lana’s shoulder and place a kiss on her cheek. Then she goes so far as to nibble on her ear a bit, as if she’s completely unaware of their precarious position. 


“So, have you ever made love three stories above the ground on a fire escape ladder?” She grins as she nuzzles against Lana’s cheek. At this point she’s unsure if she’s just trying to keep Lana’s mind off the climb, and the near-death experience, or if she’s really serious about starting something on a ladder in an alley.




Lana’s heart is beating as though it wants to break free of her chest, but before her fingers can slip Daray is behind her, pressing her into the ladder until she can find new footing.   “Im sorry!”  She whimpers, embarrassed at her clumsiness and her panic.  Once her foot finds the appropriate rung she waits for Daray to move again and looks at her with shock when she presses a kiss to her cheek.  The shock changes to a giggle at the expression in her eyes and then the joking proposition after it.  


“Ha ha ha… No.  And I don’t intend to start now.  Get me home Daray and I’ll make good on that look, but not thousands of feet above the street.”  She knows she’s exaggerating about the height, it’s her attempt to lighten the situation but at the mention of going home and curling up with Daray her pulse speeds up in her veins as her body agrees that notion sounds like a good idea.




Daray grins at Lana’s words, “Promise? It’s been FOREVER!” She throws out her own exaggeration, although her body is screaming out that it agrees with the words. “You’re OK to continue down? That wrist is looking a little the worse for wear.”


Seeing Lana’s affirmation, she begins to descend the ladder again, careful not to disrupt Lana’s position or footing, or catch her with her claws. After she moves a few steps down, her head level with Lana’s rear end, they hear the sharp click of a weapon being cocked.


“Well, imagine my surprise at turning a corner on Mars and finding the very women I’ve been chasing since Venus Station.” Sergeant Killgore’s rough voice rises up to them from the narrow alley below.


Daray’s arms and legs tense, her body pulling up against Lana again as she looks over her shoulder toward the source of the voice. Bob’s cybernetic eye gleams in the twilight of the alley, his new, shiny arm dangles at his side while his other, original arm, points the pistol at them.


“The pair of you have caused me more than a little grief of late, and I’m here to tell you that I am not in the mood to deal with antics. So climb down here, real slow-like, keep your hands and feet visible at all times. I’m afraid there are more than a few soldier-types around here, and they look a bit edgy to me, so you’d best not get me to shooting. First, I may miss your regenerating friend there, and shoot the pretty one in the head by mistake, and second, they’ll probably get here inside a few seconds and make things more than a little difficult for the pair’o you.” 


“Shit!” Daray hisses.




The heart rate that had just been starting to calm as Daray descended down the ladder again comes back with full force at the sound of that voice.  The hair on her tail and the back of her neck stands on end.  Before she even realizes it Daray is covering her again, trying to place her slightly smaller body protectively around her.   


Her body locks with fear at the order to finish their climb down but her mind races furiously.  “There is no way possible that he just happened around a corner to find us.” Lana whispers quietly to Daray.




“Not likely. Someone seems to be playing both ends against the middle here.” Daray whispers back. “We’d better start moving though, or he’ll probably start shooting. He seems a little unstable.


‘APRIL, can you relay communications please?’ She thinks to her cranial cohabitator.


Daray begins to slowly move down the ladder as APRIL speaks. -I would be happy to relay communications Daray.- APRIL’s voice rings out in Lana’s ear, then continues, -His weapon is a small caliber pistol, most likely ten millimeter. At this range it is unlikely that it will penetrate your armor. When we descend to the next landing, Daray will distract him so that you may use your stunner on him. The range is long, maybe two-hundred feet, but you should be able to make it.-


There is a pause before she adds, -Daray asks you to hold your tail to the left if you find this plan acceptable. I believe she means if you think you are capable of making the shot under pressure.-


Another pause as Daray continues to move, then -I am aware of the concept of people’s feelings Daray, I simply do not see any reason to be ambiguous, most especially under such circumstances as these.-


Daray can be heard growling as she approaches the next landing, but she is looking up toward Lana’s posterior expectantly, and with a slight blush as other thoughts occur to her about the view.




Lana tries to hurry after Daray but she has to force her fingers to uncurl from the rungs with each step.   She is relieved to hear April relaying Daray’s plans to her but the idea of letting go of the ladders and railing to fire the stunner at their enemy has her heart beating too fast yet again.  


Her palms are sweating and she is preparing to flick her tail to the right; to tell her no, she couldn’t possibly make that shot when she is so scared, an then she hears the one sided semi bickering of April and she relaxes.  There is something about their interplay that Lana can’t help but laugh at.  She imagines it is what sisters sound like, knowing each other intimately and yet with distinctly different personalities that constantly clash despite their obvious affection for each other. 


 She wants to smile, to shake her head and laugh.  Some of the tension eases from her shoulders and she flicks her tail to the left instead.  She will do it, she’s not going to let her fear keep her from helping when they get into trouble like this because Lana currently sees no end to the mystery in sight.  She concentrates on the rungs beneath her hands and the feeling of the stunner holster’s weight against her hip, ready to grab for it when Daray makes her move.




-Do not hesitate. If he fires, soldiers will be seconds away. If that happens, do not attempt to follow us. We will meet you back at the apartment, but you must not go directly there. Make sure you are not being followed. I have reprogrammed the door to respond to your RFID, and the entry code has been changed to the date you and Daray met.- APRIL goes on to relay the address of the apartment, finishing up just as Daray reaches the next landing.


She holds her hands up passively, stepping back from the ladder to allow Lana space to dismount before moving around to the other side of the metal platform where the next ladder awaits.


-Daray says she loves you, and that she knows you will be fine… She does not need to hear that Daray, it will be distracting… I do not see the relevance… ‘I love you’ is a perfectly acceptable… Very well, but I do not see the point in creating distractions at a time like this… Lana, Daray also wishes for me to add that she fully expects you to be ready to make good on your promise.-


At that, Daray lifts her right leg, placing her foot on the ladder near Lana’s waist as she nears the platform, then uses it to kick off, throwing herself over the railing, backwards. The strength of her kick causes the ladder rail to bend slightly, and the entire metal fire escape shudders from the force, but holds strong. 


Arching her back, she reaches with her already outstretched hands, grabbing the railing and pushing off again, vaulting up into the air, thirty feet above the ground.


“What the fuck?!” Bob curses as he trains his weapon on the suddenly airborn target, forgetting completely about Lana as Daray’s shadow merges with his own on the ground. ”Crazy bitch!”


As he prepares to fire his pistol, Daray reaches out with one hand, dragging her fingertips along the nearby wall, then extends her claws, catching the surface and jerking her body around and against the building. She hits the surface with her arms and legs pulled under her, claws extended for grip and facing the ground with a feral grin on her face and her long cord of braided hair dangling from her head like a rope.


As Bob moves his aim toward her, ready to fire once more, she pushes off the wall, pinwheeling through the air across the alley toward the adjacent building, still more than twenty feet in the air. When he moves to track her arc through the air with his gun, he leaves himself completely open to a shot from Lana’s weapon.




Lana bites her lip to keep from grinning; the next time she has opportunity she needs to remember to tell April to stop making her laugh in situations like this.  She enjoys being included in the camaraderie and if they escape she has every intention of living up to her promise at the first available opportunity.  


As soon as Daray moves Lana reaches out to grab a hold of the railing on the landing at the same time that she reaches for the stunner.  Her foot slips on something, she doesn’t have time to ascertain what when she trips and falls rather heavily against the railing and jars her wrist.  The pain radiates through her arm and loosens her grip on the stunner. Almost in slow motion she watches the green plastic handle slip from her fingers.  She gasps and lurches forward to grab at the falling handle.  She catches it but is now seriously off balance.  She feels her body slipping and with her heart in her throat she twists herself and manages to bend her knees and catch her weight so that she is hanging off of the railing by her knees.  


She looks over and sees Daray launching herself off of the wall of a building.  Their enemy is following her with his gun, preparing to fire so it is now or never.  Lana aims her gun and squeezes the trigger her eyes wide with fear but she doesn’t let it stop her.  She forgets to breath as the first shot misses.  In desperation she lowers her aim just a fraction and squeezes again, praying in four languages at once that this time, this shot will make it.




Lana’s first shot goes wide, slamming into a dumpster near Bob and sending an impressive array of sparks and lightening playing about its surface. The sharp crack of the discharge isn’t as loud as a gunshot, but the three of them would be hard-pressed to tell the difference in the sudden quiet of the alley.


As Daray alights on the opposite building, still upside down, hair dangling from her like some kind of vine, she shifts her attention toward the ruckus on the fire escape, as does Bob, and his gun.


The weapon swings toward Lana and her precarious position menacingly, the look on his face one of sheer absurdity, as if he can’t believe he was just shot at, and missed, by some little girl. 


Seeing the situation, a feeling of complete helplessness overcomes Daray and she does the only thing she can think to do, since she can’t shoot the man while holding onto the wall, she pushes off with all her strength, aiming for Bob with her body, but she knows there is no way she’ll make it in time.


Bob may be a lot of things, most of which are not complimentary, but one thing he does very well, is a soldier’s work. His movements are fast, and his aim is true, born of thousands of opportunities to use it. His pistol fires at the same time Lana’s second shot is loosed, her one possible saving grace is that center mass is the easiest target to hit on a quick-draw shot.


The second stun blast slams into Bob’s chest and he staggers back under the electrical assault on his nervous system. His weapon clatters to the ground as he moves, then he begins to convulse and shake as the arcs of blue lightning corse around and through him.


Daray spins in mid-air at the last second, landing on her feet, in a low crouch, right where Bob had been only an instant before. Not wasting any time, she propels herself into a back hand-spring, lashing out with her feet and catching his chin with a powerful double kick that sends his stuttering body sprawling out into the street where it is nearly struck by a passing vehicle.


Instantly, the sounds of commotion, and the tromp of boots can be heard from the direction of the street, and Daray turns to look at Lana, eyes wide.


-Run. We will distract them. Stay safe. Watch your back. We will meet you in twenty-four hours. Daray says she loves you.-


As APRIL speaks, Daray’s clothing begins to flow and morph again, this time, the globular mass of the skinsuit flowing up over her head and enveloping her rope of hair, pulling it tightly to her body as the familiar, dark mask forms over her head and face. Her body bulks up a bit and all color fades until only a shiny black remains.


She immediately turns away from Lana and leaps out into the street, landing on all-fours near enough to Bob’s body that she looks like some wild animal about to gorge itself on a fresh kill. She looks up from his body, toward the sound of approaching boots, then raises an arm and fires off a blue-white blast of energy from her forearm before leaping after it. It’s obvious that she is doing whatever she can to keep the soldiers from looking into the alley and afford Lana the best possible chance she can get for a clean escape.

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