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Status Quo - Chapter 47

Written by: Paullell

 Lana groans in pain, the fall down the stairs re injuring her wrists and causing new bruises to form up and down her legs, arms, and ribs.  She coughs at the dust and debris in the air and whines, “Owch! Ohhhh!  Ouch!”  With a great deal of effort Lana pushes herself off of the Sergeant, wincing as she moves.  She stumbles to her feet, and stands there, swaying for a moment.  A weird heavy creaking noise draws her attention to the ceiling.  When she sees the elegant chandelier swaying above her head a look of horror passes over her face.  She takes off towards where Daray is sputtering and coughing but her run has no grace to it as she trips and staggers over the debris in her stiletto heals, desperation being the only thing that keeps her from falling down again.

 

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Lana can hear the Sergeant groaning and debris crunching beneath his armor as he starts to work his way to his feet behind her. Either the sounds the chandelier is making are completely lost on him, or he just doesn’t care, because he makes no real effort to scramble out of its path as the thing gives a final, overly-loud popping noise, then breaks away from the ceiling and falls like a crystal avalanche.

 

The massive thing misses Lana by the barest margin, kicking up a wind that tousles her hair just before it slams into the floor, exploding into a cloud of crystal shrapnel. 

 

Daray lands on her head after being thrown up the stairs and against the wall by the explosion, and it takes her a long moment to gather her wits again, tumbling over onto her face and shaking violently to try and clear the cobwebs before she totters back to her hands and feet. She looks down the stairs to see Lana moving her direction, but is either too slow, or just too dazed to intervene, but she clearly understands what is about to happen, judging by the look of horror on her face. She starts to leap down the stairs in Lana’s direction just as the crystal fragmentation bomb explodes against the floor, a bestial roar escaping her lungs as she tried in vain to get between Lana and the impending pain of a thousand lacerations.

 

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Lana reads the horror in Daray’s eyes as she watches the other woman try to get to her.  She drops to the ground and curls herself into a ball, trying to present as little of herself as possible to the room.  She ends up on her left side, her legs and tail curled up to her chest and her arms wrapped over her head.  There is the swoosh of air as the chandelier falls to the ground and a deceptively soft popping sound before the sound of crystal shattering reaches her ears.  Then fire and pain burst along her back from her pelvic region to her arms over her head, there is not a spot of skin that is not broadcasting pain.  Lana breaths in, her body’s gut reaction is to scream out in pain, but even that simple movement is too much. Her scream is silenced by the overwhelming agony, her vision wavers, growing dark and the last thing she sees is Daray, who has finally reached her. She has a thought, even as she feels a warm wetness gathering on the ground underneath her.   That figures, I’m hurt and she’s brain damaged, what a pair we are.  “Love you, Daray…” she croaks out before her body goes lip as her mind shuts down.

 

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Daray crashes to the floor at Lana’s side, her own body filled with crystal shards from the explosion as well. Her body however, is already pushing the foreign objects out and repairing the damage, while Lana lay bleeding on the floor. The sound of a grunt from near by draws her attention to the Sergeant, who is just getting his feet under him again after the chandelier exploded.

 

She growls at him and leaps over the debris, landing on his chest and driving him back to the ground. In seconds, she has his helmet torn to shreds and discarded on the floor, and his grey eyes are looking directly at her, real fear showing in them at the sight of the feral woman glaring down at him. 

 

“Please don’t hurt me. I’m just doing my job.” 

 

Daray growls, raising a hand over her head and unsheathing her wicked claws for him to see.

 

“I was hired by her father. He’s trying to find her.” His words ring true, and his voice is steady, even though he is obviously concerned about his fate under the circumstances.

 

Daray looks over her shoulder at Lana’s unconscious form, blinking in the waning light, then returns her focus to the Sergeant and growls again, flexing her claws in his face.

 

“I swear it’s true. Her father’s looking for her. He has been for over a year. When he hired Turin to find her, he suspected he might keep her for himself, so he hired us to come in and get her out before he did her any permanent damage. This was a rescue operation.”

 

Daray growls again, then places her palm on his forehead and slams the back of his head into the floor, knocking him unconscious.

 

She slowly moves over to Lana and at a complete loss, or total inability, as to what to do, Daray pokes Lana a few times, hoping to rouse her, then nuzzles up against her a few times.

 

After a few minutes, she seems to decide that something else must be done and grabs Lana’s forearm, lifting it up and over her own shoulder, dragging Lana off the ground and onto her back. She holds here there with one hand and begins an unsteady lope across the wreckage-strewn floor, out the door and away from the wrecked home, sirens approaching from somewhere nearby.

 

She makes it a good 500 yards or so before the powerful stun blast shuts her off like a light.

 

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When Lana comes to, she finds herself laying in a comfortable bed, in a vaguely familiar room. Her clothing is gone, and the wounds on her back have been tended to, although there is every indication, based upon the level of discomfort she experiences when she tries to move, that there will be permanent scarring, unless some sort of cosmetic surgery is sought out later. 

 

Taking a moment to get her bearings, she finally remembers the bedroom of the apartment, and as her eyes sweep the, now much cleaner after her earlier fun, room, they come to rest on the form of Daray, curled up in a little ball, with her back pressed up against Lana’s side. She is sleeping quietly, her hair looks freshly cleaned and has been rebraided into one long rope again.

 

“There you are.” A soft, female voice wafts across the room. Following it to its source, Lana sees a woman of medium height, with long, black hair and sharp, green eyes standing in the doorway of the bedroom. “I’ll go put on some tea. Do you want it up here? Or downstairs?”

 

Her smile is warm and her manner friendly. She doesn’t give the impression that she is anything other than a friend, and the fact that Daray is there, on the bed, clean and unrestrained seems to indicate that there may be some familiarity between the two of them.

 

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Lana stiffens when she wakes, automatically on alert.  Her back protests the sudden movement but the pain is much more manageable.  She finds herself lying on her stomach, a sheet draped lightly over her hips and some kind of ointment and bandages have been layered on her back.  The ointment stings her nose with a pungent medical smell that she had not known since the last time she had visited her mother, right before she died.  Lana glances around and relaxes when she recognizes where she is, she turns her head to look at the person lying on the other side of her and is relived that her instinct had been correct.  It is Daray and she looks clean and cared for.

 

 She turns, only wincing a little to look at the unknown voice. Lana considers panicking at the stranger’s presence but then decides there is nothing that can be done at this time and to give her the benefit of the doubt.  “Up here please,” she croaks through parched lips.  She wonders briefly how long she had been out.

 

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The woman nods, then moves off and down the stairs where she can be heard filling a kettle from the sink and rummaging around in the kitchen  cabinets. 

 

Lana’s movements seem to stir Daray after a moment. Uncurling from her fetal position at Lana’s side, she stretches her limbs, much like a cat would do, claws sliding out of their sheaths as she yawns, her back arched and eyes clenched tightly shut still. As quickly as she began, the stretch stops, claws retracting and eyes opening as she relaxes, then looks up toward Lana, a lazy look of content on her face and cobalt eyes sharp and well rested.

 

She squirms on the bed until she is pressed more tightly up against Lana’s side, a sappy smile spread across her face as one hand reaches out to lay on Lana’s arm. She seems careful not to touch or bump Lana’s wounded back.

 

“She hasn’t left your side for two days.” The woman’s voice calls out again.

 

She enters the room with a tray laden with a steaming kettle, a couple of tea cups, and a few small biscuits or finger cakes of some kind. She sets the tray on a bedside table, then retrieves a silk robe from the back of a nearby chair and hands it to Lana, turning around to give her privacy to get dressed as she speaks.

 

“It took me a few minutes to convince her that we know one another. After that I had to stun her again to get her cleaned up, but I didn’t want her laying in bed with you all covered in shattered crystal and debris while you were healing up, so it had to be done.”

 

Once Lana is done slipping into the robe, Daray still sitting as close to her as she possibly can, while not pressing against her wounds, the woman turns around again and drags the chair over closer to the bed. She sits down and sets about pouring tea.

 

“She seems pretty good about not aggravating your wounds though. My name is Willhelmina. I’m Riana’s sister. Or as close as she has to a sister in this world anyway. She’s on assignment on Venus so when your message came through she asked if I could check on you. I’m sorry I was late. Took me a little while to get here.”

 

She hands Lana a steaming cup of tea, picking up her own and sipping at it. “I cleaned you up as best I could. I’m afraid I’m not much better than a field medic though. You’ll probably have some scars. Unless you get in to have them removed at some point. You can call me Kat by the way, all my friends do.”

 

She smiles softly at Lana, her eyes asking for the story of what happened to them, but her sense of decorum not letting her actually ask.

 

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Lana starts to nod her head in response to let her know she is listening; she winces in pain and stills the natural motion.  “I’m not surprised.  So she is still not herself yet?  Have you tried hooking her up to a computer yet?  I’m hoping that will fix her.”  Lana pushes herself into a sitting position and carefully pulls the robe on, by the time she is done her hands are shaking from the repeated pulling of her wounds and she doesn’t bother to tie it, just wraps it over her front and holds it closed with a hand.  When she tries to settle herself she notices that moving her tail at all also pulls on the torn skin.  

 

Lana accepts her teacup gratefully and leans into Daray to brace herself.  She can’t help but smile at the kindness that she is showing her.  “I’m so thankful you were able to find us at all.  I don’t know where we would be if you hadn’t come along.”

 

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“You’re welcome. Ree said you got on really well with she and Vin, and I had a chance to work with Dare for a little while right after she… Well, a couple years ago anyway. She was in the middle of hauling you out of that battle zone. But based on what I saw of how she was behaving, I thought it best to just stun her and load you both in my transport.” Her face speaks volumes about what she isn’t saying, but she quickly schools it back into a calm expression.

 

She sips at her own tea for a moment before continuing. “I never would have thought to plug her into a computer. She wouldn’t let me pull her away from you anyway though. Do you have any idea how she ended up like this? I’ve never seen anything like it before.”

 

Daray keeps shifting her gaze back and forth between the other women as they talk back and forth, as if she is intently following the conversation, but her expression suggests that she isn’t really understanding most of what is being said.

 

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Lana strokes her hand along Daray’s braid to comfort both of them.  “It’s complicated and the information that I have may not even be entirely accurate.  The most I can say for certain is that she was taken by Turin who I can confirm is an extremely powerful psychic and was tortured in the way that would most disturb her for information she was holding to protect me.  I don’t know if the experience was what shattered her mind or if something else was done in addition. But I have it on hopefully good authority that we need to try and use the connection in her neck and hook it up to some form of computer system.”  Lana starts looking around trying to remember if the bedroom had had such a system in it.

 

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Willhelmina winces at the brief description of Daray’s torture, offering the woman a pitying look. “Well, she never seems to get the easy route, does she?”

 

Daray leans into Lana even more, of such a thing were possible, when her hand touches her hair. She’s almost purring with pleasure at the gentle stroking. 

 

Looking around the room, lana quickly locates a media center with all of the appropriate computer hardware and ODN connections. There is even a small pile of ODN cables standing ready for use on top of the console.

 

“So, is she completely non-communicative to you as well? I haven’t been able to get anything but growls and howls out of her for the last two days.” Willhelmina picks up a finger sandwich and offers it to Daray, who tentatively reaches out and takes it, sniffs at it, offers Lana a hopeful look, then nibbles at it a few times before wolfing i down. She then moves away from Lana with a look of guilt on her face, hopping off the bed and moving over to the tray where she begins to gorge herself, clearing the tray in a matter of moments.

 

When she’s done, she moves back over to the bed and, staying on the floor, leans heavily against Lana’s legs.

 

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Lana looks longing at the food, the smell of the sandwich that Daray had just eaten waking her stomach from its dormancy.  She covers her stomach when it growls and gives Kat an embarrassed grin.  “Yes. She’s been in this child or animal like state since I found her in Turin’s home.  I know she understands because she’ll do whatever I request to the best of her ability.  She objected to me commenting that I was considering cutting her hair. She’s still in there somewhere.  I have to hope that or I don’t think I can continue on.  Could we try hooking her up now?  I see that her entertainment center over there has the necessary devices.”  Lana points eagerly at the coiled cables and looks hopefully at Kat, hoping she will agree to the experiment.

 

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“I don’t see why not.” Willhelmina responds, looking at Daray as she presses herself against Lana’s legs. “Did you want me to get some more food put together? I can order something more substantial too if you like.”

 

She stands up and moves to the media center, picking up an ODN patch cable and plugging it into the console. “Do we need a memory crystal or anything?” She starts rummaging around for an empty crystal.

 

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Lana remembers that there had been a picture of a memory crystal on the skin suit.  “Yes, I think that may be needed as well.  Although I haven’t a clue why.  Yes I’d love something more substantial to eat.  But I want to get this done first.”

 

Lana reaches for Daray, her hand seeking out her neck and encouraging her to lay her head in her lap. “Come here, mi Tesoro.  We’re going to try to fix you.”  Lana runs her fingers along Daray’s skin where she knows the connection is and she gently tries to open the port.  Her left hand reached out for the other end of the cable.

 

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Daray quite willingly lays her head in Lana’s lap, producing soft cooing noises as Lana’s hand moves along the back of her neck. The data port doesn’t present itself for her, and in fact there is no visible, or physical trace of it to be found. When she takes the ODN cable from Willhelmina, the moment the end comes near the back of her neck, the skin melts away from a spot behind her right ear to reveal the ODN port.

 

Locating an empty crystal, Willhelmina plugs it into the media center and smiles at Lana, indicating that she is ready. When Lana clicks the plug home inside the connector, Daray’s body instantly stiffens, her eyes open so wide that they look as if they could pop out of her head and her arms wrap around Lana’s leg with an iron grasp. 

 

She stops breathing for a second as the media center lights up, the holographic screen springing to life and scrolling through pages and pages of densely packed, three-dimensional machine code. After a few seconds, her mouth opens and she starts to pant heavily, squeezing Lana’s leg as if she is in a terrible amount of pain. This goes on for a few minutes before she flings her arms open wide and falls back onto the stone floor, screaming as if she is being tortured. Her hands and feet hit the floor, limbs stiffening to the point that they raise her body off the ground, and her back arches.

 

The code on the display becomes denser, the scroll-back speeding up to the point where it couldn’t be read even if either of the women knew what any of it meant. The scream goes on for about 90 seconds, non-stop before Daray collapses onto the floor, panting as if she’d just run two marathons back to back, eyes bugged out and fingers clutching at the smooth floor. The scroll-back on the screen stops and the display goes idle, a status light blinking idly.

 

After a few minutes, Daray’s voice calls out, “Lana? Are you there? I’m sorry Lana, I didn’t mean to… They had me tied down. I couldn’t stop them. I didn’t want to… Lana are you there?” 

 

It takes a minute to figure it out, but her voice is coming from the media center. Her body lay on the floor, still panting as it rolls over, and struggles back to its hands and feet, her breathing coming under control as she turns her head to inspect the room. When she see’s Lana, she lopes over to her and sits down at her feet, but doesn’t move to lean into or against her as she had been before.

 

“Lana?” Daray’s voice echoes through the speakers of the media center again.

 

“Oh. My. God…” Willhelmina gasps, her mouth falling open.


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