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Status Quo - Chapter 49

Written by: Paullell

Lana glances at Kat in surprise.  “She’s eaten like this for as long as I have known her.”  She then looks over the selection of styles available and grabs a nice loose dress out of the closet that will accommodate her tail and her back.  When she sees the outfit that April chooses she changes her mind and puts the normal dress back.  “Nope, can’t do that one.  We would never look like we are supposed to be traveling together.  And for the record April, after my latest experience, not particularly a fan of that look.  Used to love it.  Not so happy with it anymore.”  Lana digs back into the closet and comes out with a pair of tight red leather pants and a red silk shirt that will wrap around her body, it will display a lot of cleavage but it shouldn’t constrict against her back too much.  

 

Lana has to lie down on the bed to shimmy into the tight pants and it takes some help from Kat to get them on as well as to rip a hole in the seat for her tail.  The look, once she is done, is sort of a debutante playgirl; except for the fact that it looks awful with her blue hair coloring. Lana looks at herself in the mirror and wrinkles her nose in distaste at the clashing colors.  “This will work, once I get my hair color changed.  Is there any jewelry around here April, that will help pull this look off?”

 

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-My apologies Lana, I am open to suggestions, if you have any. I still seem unable to properly operate this body at anything approaching its actual capacity, and I could think of no other way for me to pass as acceptable in public. Although, I must admit that here in Hector, we will still appear fairly out of place.-

 

Willhelmina is all for the look however, “we should get you into a bustier , maybe add a nice, tight choker and some leather on the forearms.” She offers with a grin. “There’s some jewelry in the safe over in the other closet, if APRIL set you up with house access you should be able to get in there. Other trinkets are in the drawers in the same closet.”

 

-There is jewelry in the house safe.- APRIL choruses.

 

“Jewelry’s in the safe in the closet.” Daray adds. “It’s nice to know there are some things that are beyond APRIL’s capabilities too by the way. So, how do I move around in here APRIL? I want to get to a camera or something… This is the weirdest thing I think I’ve ever experienced in my life…”

 

“You should change your hair to red. Bright, flaming, obnoxious, red! With a purple streak!” Willhelmina offers with a grin. “I know a guy in town that will do it genetically if you want. There’s also a great hair gal over on Hope and Washington if you want.”

 

“Red and purple? Jeeze, I need a camera APRIL!!” Daray shouts.

 

-I can not describe it very well Daray, you must simply reach out for the appropriate system. Your terminal is equipped with everything you need. You may just be having trouble acclimating yourself to your new environment, as I am.-

 

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Lana pictures the outfit that Wilhelmina is recommending and nods in agreement that the look would be striking and go well with April’s choice of outfit for Daray.  But the bustier would cause way too much pain for her back.  “I might try that sometime later, but for now I think this will be good.”  After grabbing one of the suitcases she found in the closet she tosses it on the bed and spends a few minutes tossing her recently purchased clothing into one. She makes her way to the house safe and places her hand on the scanner.  She is still somewhat surprised when it clicks open just because of the novelty of being in a house that even has a safe, let alone that she has access to it.  

 

She sorts through the pieces and finds a ruby and diamond choker with a matching bracelet.  The bright gold settings are striking against her pale skin.  She looks at herself in the mirror, her expression one of unease as she ponders the cost of such beautiful pieces before shaking herself and turning to the others again.  “I think we are ready.  Let’s go to the geneticist.  This look is causing me way too much trouble.  I think I’ll hold off on the red and purple though.  We’ve been involved on far too much notice recently.  I want something a little less striking, color wise.”  

 

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Willhelmina chuckles at Lana’s backpedal from the suggest look, then gives her an appreciative smile and nod of agreement at her look after she adds the jewelry. “Not bad lady. Not bad at all.” Then she giggles at the  color comment. “Maybe, but I think it would be amazing, especially with Dare all gimped out like that.” She points at APRIL, sitting on the floor in her bondage outfit, waiting expectantly.

 

She moves over to the media center and calls up a transport screen, ordering a ride for them and keying in a destination. “OK, so my friend runs a legal mod-shop, but he does black market mods as well. Just make sure you have some platinum, or a couple more pieces of that jewelry, so we can keep things nice and under the table.”

 

As she talks, Willhelmina moves to the closet with the armory in the back and loads herself up with a combat webbing and belt, laden with two pistols, several small metal discs, numerous magazines, and a small, bull-pup submachine-gun, which she clips to the webbing so that it dangles beneath her right arm pit. She then pulls on a dark, full-length jacket that makes it all disappear in a heartbeat.

 

“Dare will want these once we get this all sorted…” She adds as she picks up a long, narrow sheath that Lana recognizes as the container for the metal sticks that Daray uses as weapons when she gets into serious fights. She tosses the baston into Lana’s suitcase before she closes it up.

 

Lastly, she pulls a length of material from a hook on the wall and walks out of the closet again, making sure the secret panel closes up properly behind her. She reaches down and clips a metal hook to the ring on APRIL’s neck, then hands the loop on the other end of the lead to Lana. “Here ya go babe,” she grins as she hands the lead over.

 

Moving to the bed, she picks up the suitcase and heads for the front door. “A hair job should just take an hour or so. If you want anything else done, it shouldn’t be a problem, but if it takes more than a couple days, you may have to find another ride out of here. “I have another assignment early next week and I need to get under way in the next 72 hours. Inside that window, you have myself, and one of SO’s fastest shuttles at your disposal. It isn’t the Kestrel,” There is a derisive snort added to this comment, “Ree always seems to get her before I do… But it’s a good, fast ship. It’ll be a little cramped, but we’ll manage.”

 

By the time they get to the front door, there is already a vehicle waiting outside. Willhelmina loads the suitcase into the trunk and holds the door open for the others. As they move, APRIL pads along on all-fours at Lana’s side, trying not to impede her movement, but still staying protectively close to her at all times.

 

The ride is fairly short and brings no unfamiliar sighs to Lana’s eyes now that she has walks much of the small urban space on her own. They come to a stop in front of a small, clean, and fairly new looking facility that, once they are inside, is actually quite impressive. There are several alcoves in the front area that contain computers with large, holographic displays and DNA scanners that seem to allow people to sample their genetic material and then make adjustments to their appearance using the computers, which then render the changes in real time on the displays.

 

With the reactions Lana had been getting from the locals, it is kind of a surprise to find such an elaborate genetics facility here, but it is obviously doing well as there are several people using the terminals, and chattering amongst themselves quietly. 

 

Willhelmina hauls the suitcase again, and leads the way up to the counter where a young woman with long, dark blue hair and a pair of even longer, dark blue, tentacle-like appendages mixed in with the hair, smiles a fanged, but pleasant smile at their approach. “Good morning ladies, how can we help you today?” She beams. “Something for your pet maybe?” She smiles down at APRIL, who has come to a stop and sat down again at Lana’s feet, without batting an eyelash.

 

The tentacle appendages in her hair witch as she speaks, raising up slightly as if smelling the air around the new arrivals, then relaxing again, almost disappearing into her cascade of blue locks.

 

“We’re here to see Dr. Braddock.” Willhelmina smiles back at her.

 

“Of course. Let me just get him for you.” She beams back, then keys a button on her desk and speaks into her computer, “Dr. Braddock, your rush appointment is here.”

 

“Please send them in.” A male voice responds.

 

The woman keys off the intercom and stands up, revealing a fleshy tail of about eight feet in length that unwinds itself from her chair as she moves to a door that slides open to permit the women through to the back of the office. Her tail snags a computer pad off her desk as she greets them again through the door and welcomes them to the back. “Just this way ladies,” her head tentacles twitch a little as APRIL sniffs at them curiously. She takes the pad from her tail and hands it to Lana as she walks with them to a door in the back of the office.

 

“Here are some basic cosmetic services we can do for you in an hour or two, anything more and it will take some extra time, but the doctor has cleared his schedule for you so I’ve also loaded some other options in for you to look at, nothing too extreme.” As she talks, her tail punches in a code next to the door, which then opens to admit them into what looks like a combination of a computer lab, a doctor’s office, and a vehicle shop. There are large tubes, big enough for two people to stand abreast in, what looks like an operating table with some sort of complicated, multi-armed, rig looming over top of it, and a myriad of other computers and hardware strewn about the room.

 

As the door opens, a small young man stands up from a computer and strides over to meet them. He grins and hugs Willhelmina, “Kat! It’s been ages! Where’ve you been?”

 

“Sorry Wayne, I’ve been swamped with work. These are my friends, Lana, and Daray.” She smiles back at him, returning his hug, then motioning to Lana and APRIL.

 

“Welcome ladies, any friend of Kat’s is welcome here. What can I do for you?” He offers them both an appraising look, nodding at Lana as if he’s already sequenced her DNA and could read it back by rote, then gasping slightly when he gets a good look at APRIL in Daray’s body. “Wow. That’s some amazing work. You can hardly even tell she’s had anything done at all.”

 

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Lana’s eyes are wide as she takes in everything.  She has actually never been to a place like this before; her genetics had been carried over from her mother so it had never been necessary until now.  She smiles as she looks at all the options displayed on the walls and books as well as the other customer’s choices.  Lana grins at the young man in greeting and offers her hand when Kat introduces them.  “Hello Wane.  It’s nice to meet you.” A subtle blink is all the indication she gives of her surprise at his abrupt assessment of Daray.  “Yes well, she told me it had been professionally done a while ago.  We’re actually here for me today.  Just a color shift, if you don’t mind; hair and tail.  I need the blue to be replaced with a nice dark black.  I’m turning over a new leaf in my life and don’t want the reminder anymore.”

 

She shuffles the bag she has in her arms, comforted by the weight of the platinum that she had snagged out of the house safe before they took off.

 

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Wayne beckons the trio into the room and closes the door behind them after thanking the Blue-haired receptionist. “Just the hair then?” He asks as he picks up a small piece of equipment and moves back toward Lana with it.

 

APRIL growls at him and begins to move between Lana and Wayne, which causes Wilhelmina to chuckle slightly before turning and moving off to examine some esoteric piece of equipment or other. Before she causes a real problem, APRIL seems to get herself under control and retreats back to Lana’s side, sitting down on the floor again. -My apologies. It seems that even in the absence of Daray’s mind, her body still has certain protective instincts that I must learn to reign in.-

 

“What’s happening?” Daray’s voice calls out. She sounds more than  a little concerned.

 

-Dr. Braddock is approaching Lana with a DNA sequencer. He will be taking blood Lana.-

 

Dr. Braddock pauses for a moment at the growl from APRIL but when she moves away and sits down, he simply raises an eyebrow and then holds out the device for Lana. “I’ll uh… need you to put a finger in here so I can get a blood sample. Just a drop is all it will take… If…. that’s OK?” He eyes APRIL questioningly.

 

The device quickly pricks Lana’s offered finger, causing barely even a noticeable pain, then he takes the device back to his desk and slides it into a housing. Almost instantly, a full body, three dimensional image of Lana appears in the air over his desk, slowly rotating, arms and legs spread slightly, but not in an obscene fashion. Next to the rotating image of Lana is a body-length DNA strand, which he studies thoughtfully for a moment before turning back toward Lana.

 

“You’re second-generation I see. Whomever worked on your parents did a good job. There shouldn’t be any problems or complications.” He moves to take a step toward Lana again then stops and turns back toward the DNA helix with a raised eyebrow. “Although… here is something odd. There’s an odd string of proteins here. It shouldn’t cause any problems though. It’s almost invisible.”

 

He moves his hands around the rendered helix a few times, rearranging a few proteins here and there, and within seconds, the floating image of Lana is sporting a jet black and china white hair do, head, tail, and in the valley between her legs.

 

“If this is all you want, it should take about ninety minutes. Although I’d like to break down this odd protein chain in the meantime, if you don’t mind?”

 

He raises a welcoming arm toward Lana, motioning toward the large tube. “The fastest possible way to do this is in the RNA slurry tank. Otherwise, the best I can offer is a quick re-sequence to get your hair growing that color, and a dye job to make it match. Did you want to go any longer or shorter, or add or eliminate any hair anywhere else while we’re working? As a friend of Kat’s, you are eligible for the friends and family discount of course.” He smiles warmly. “You’ll need to strip down and step into the tank of that’s the way you want to proceed.”

 

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Lana raises her eyebrow at April/Daray… Daril… Apray… She can’t help a snort of laughter at the attempt to assign a name to the combination of Daray’s body and April’s mind.  She breaths a sigh of relief when April manages to control herself and settle again without injuring the doctor.  She can’t stop the expression of shock at his comment about her parents.  “Wait.  I thought only my mother had work done.  You are telling me they both had?”  

 

She pauses in confusion as she tries to understand who on earth her mother had fallen in love with. She nods when he asks for permission to investigate the proteins. “Yes please.  I was unaware of any modifications other than appearance had been done.  I would like to know what they are.” 

 

She shakes her head at the offer of additional work.  Her hip-length hair is quite long enough.  “No thank you on any lengthening as tempting as it is to grow it to match hers, we lead far too active lifestyles for that to be reasonable right now. Just show me where to put my things while I’m in the tank…”  Lana has a sudden thought… “can you do any healing?  I’m afraid I’ve injured my back and it would be helpful to have it healed.  I should have enough to cover it.” Lana carefully hands the wrist computer containing Daray to Kat and waits to be shown where to disrobe.

 

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Dr. Braddock indicates a privacy screen in the corner where Lana can change, moving back to his computer to investigate his discovery as Willhelmina accepts the computer from Lana, strapping it to her wrist for safe keeping and offering a calming nod to let her know that Daray is safe with her.

 

“Any physical damage your body has suffered will be haled as a by-product of the process. Also, any infections, viruses, arthritis, basically anything that isn’t part of your starting DNA plus whatever changes we’ve made here.” He smiles happily, clearly impressed with his equipment and its abilities.

 

Once she gets out of her clothes and steps into the tube, she can see that there are several metal bands wrapping around it to preserve a little bit of whatever modesty any patients might have. The door of the tube closes behind her, sealing shut with a mechanical hiss, and then Dr. Braddock’s voice comes over a speaker in the small space.

 

“OK Lana, this may feel a bit weird, but you will remain conscious throughout the process. I’ve fed your DNA, and your desired DNA into the system and it is going to start the process by filling the tank with an RNA recombination fluid. It’s kind of a gel, and it’s warmed up to your body temperature, but most people find to be a rather odd sensation. Above your head there you’ll find a respirator. You just need to pull it down and put it in your mouth. After that, just breathe normally through your mouth. You’ll feel a gentle tingling across your entire body as it absorbs the retrovirus and the changes begin. Once the tingling starts, so does the timer. You should be in there about ninety minutes. Any questions before we begin?”

 

With her confirmation, he waits for her to put in the respirator, then starts the process. It takes just a couple minutes for the slimy gel to fill the tube completely. The fluid is thick enough that it provides a great deal of buoyancy and within moments she can feel a tingling sensation spreading across her entire body. The tingling quickly moves down through her skin and suffuses her entire body.

 

Through the slimy, mostly clear gel, she can see APRIL crouched on the floor at the foot of the tube looking up at her defensively.

 

-The process has been described as being quite pleasurable by the majority of people who undergo it.- APRIL offers.

 

“I can’t imagine what it must be like. You’re braver than I am Lana, to climb in there and let them tweak your DNA like that. And by the way, why didn’t you tell me your back was injured?!” Daray’s tone is quite serious through the link.

 

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Lana pulls the respirator down and fits it over her mouth.  It makes a soft whooshing noise as she begins to breathe through it, which is a little strange to get used to.  The air feels more metallic than she is used to breathing, not exactly recycled, although she is certain it is, but something about the process of compressing it for this use gives it an artificial taste that the regular open air doesn’t normally have.  

 

“Um, it’s just a scratch Daray.  I didn’t want you worrying about it when you’re having to deal with so much already.  As for climbing in here.  Honestly it feels a little liberating.  I don’t know if I could ever bring myself to change the tail or my eyes.  But I consider it a first step to having a clean slate to start my new life with you.  I don’t care about my past anymore.  It seems to be nothing but trouble. Once we get you fixed I want to see about getting a new identity entirely.  Something that wont cause you problems.”   

 

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“Cause me problems? I think that’s sort of backwards, lady. As I recall, it was me who blasted my way into YOUR life! I really can’t imagine things being any different for me. Especially now that I have you with me.”

 

The tingling continues throughout Lana’s body as they chat, and Dr. Braddock works way at his station, monitoring Lana’s progress and plunking away at the mystery of his discovery within her DNA.

 

“APRIL? Can you help me access a camera or something while we wait?”

 

-Of course Daray.-

 

Over the next hour, Lana, Daray, and APRIL chat about life, the universe, and everything, with APRIL chipping in little tips and hints about how to navigate cyberspace for Daray. Before long, she claims to be able to see Lana, with no small amount of excitement.

 

Being fully awake and aware, Lana watches as her hair slowly changes, the light blue fading into a dark, jet black, and the white brightening to a pure, stark white line that seems to perfectly bisect her, head. She can feel the pain in her back easing and before long, any discomfort is completely gone, a sure sign that her wounds have closed, and knitted quite well.

 

“Alright Lana, I need you to brace yourself for the tank to drain. It won’t be too fast, but the change of buoyancy and weight distribution can be disorienting after an hour or so of floating.” Dr. Braddock speaks through the intercom as the fluid starts to slowly drain out of the tank. After it is completely empty, the gel is quickly replaced with a shower of warm, clear water for a few minutes, allowing her to rinse off the slimy gel. 

 

Once she’s cleaned off, Willhelmina moves over to the tube and offers her a towel. “Looking mighty fine there lady!” She grins.

 

“You do look amazing Lana.” Daray agrees, although the sound of her voice is now quite a bit different to Lana. It sounds more like it is resonating around inside her skull rather than originating from a speaker in her ear.

 

-I concur. I think Dr. Braddock has done a fine job.-

 

“Lana, once you are dressed, we need to sit down and have a good talk.” Dr. Braddock says with a serious look on his face. He is focused entirely on the rendered image of Lana’s DNA over his console.

 

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