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Status Quo - Chapter 50

Written by: Paullell

 Lana drifts easily in the gel, the experience surprisingly soothing.  If not for the conversation she could easily see herself drifting off to sleep.  As the gel drains she realizes that Dr Braddock is correct, she has a little trouble stabilizing herself on her legs for just a moment.  She laughs “April, I have a little more sympathy for you now.”  She rubs herself briskly under the jets of water, hurriedly washing away the gel.  She steps out and wraps the proffered towel around herself.  “Thanks Kat.  I feel fantastic!”

 

Lana shakes her head at the odd echo of the speaker in her ear.  She takes it out and shakes it before using the towel to dry her ear and put it back in.  “That’s weird; the reception on this thing has gone wonky.”  She turns when Dr Braddock makes his statement, her good mood decreasing somewhat as she notes his serious expression.  “Ok.  I’ll be right there.”  She finishes drying herself and dresses quickly, mentally blessing whoever invented the tanks when her movements cause no pain.  

 

Once dressed again she turns in front of the camera Daray is using currently.  With her now hip length black hair complete with white highlights and the bright red pants and her own amber yellow eyes and pale skin she almost looks like a classical vampire from the twenty first century.  She touches up her lips with a bright red lipstick that she had brought along and blows a kiss at the camera.  With a wink she asks.  “Well, how do I look?”  Only the twitching of her tail ruins the confident look.

 

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“Well my vision is pretty weird right now. I think this is an infrared camera… but you look amazing to me.” Daray’s voice resonates through Lana’s head. It isn’t painful, but it it is different than before. “APRIL, I need a color camera!”

 

-You just need to switch it to color mode Daray.-

 

“Crap. OK, I’m working on it Lana. Give me a sec…”

 

“Lana, I think you should see this.” Dr. Braddock looks over at her with a serious expression. “Did you have that in your ear while you were in there? May I have a look at it please?” He takes the transceiver from Lana and holds it in his open palm for a moment, then he gives it a quick squeeze, at which point it falls open, empty inside. He looks up at Lana, then picks up a scanning device and runs it over her head a few times, then plugs the scanner into his computer.

 

A holographic image of Lana’s head appears. He manipulates the image with his fingers, turning it around, then peeling away the hair, skin, and muscle tissue to reveal an image of the inside of her skull. Twisting around the image again, he points to a small section at the side, near her ear, where a series of wire-like lines have spread across a small area, winding around her ear canal, and extending down into her jaw. 

 

“I’ve never seen anything quite like this before.” Pointing at the bundles of wire and the spiderweb they create just beneath her skull, “It looks like your boy has absorbed the bio-mechanical circuitry of this transceiver. I can’t really explain how Lana, I’ve never seen anything quite like it before.”

 

Flicking the image aside, he pulls up the DNA helix he’d been looking at earlier and points to a few of the rendered proteins. “Im still not sure what these are, but they could be responsible in some way. It seems like something that was passed on to you from one of your parents has introduced a certain… pliability to your DNA. Somehow, the combination of this mutation, along with the RNA recombinant fluid in the tank has convinced your body to absorb the bio-circuitry of the sub-space transceiver and integrate it into your body.”

 

“So, she turned herself into a cyborg?” Willhelmina pipes in with a strange grin quirked across her face.

 

“WHAT?!” Daray shouts in surprise.

 

-Technically she absorbed the transceiver, creating an internal bio-mechanical implant. She is no more a cyborg than you are Daray.-

 

“No. If anything, she just managed to somehow self-generate an implant, but because this sub-space transceiver was a bio-tech model is the only reason she was capable of doing so. Although I still have no idea how this aberrant DNA allowed her to do that. Lana, I’ve never seen anything like this before, but I want you to know that it doesn’t appear to be dangerous. In fact, it’s almost completely benign. I think the only reason it was able to happen was the confluence of circumstances we have here in the lab, the DNA, the RNA recombination, and the bio-tech of the device.”

 

He offers Lana what he seems to hope is a comforting look as he rolls the hollow shell of the tiny device over in his palm.

 

“Are you OK Lana?” Now Daray’s voice is full of concern for her friend.

 

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Lana was busy shaking her head again when Dr. Braddock asked for the device.  With a confused expression she takes the device out of her ear and hands it over.  When he reveals what has happened Lana is stunned silent.  She reaches out as if to touch the holographic image of her ear.  She traces the pattern of the biological implant in the air with her fingertips.  “That…. is just bizarre.”  She gives Kat a withering look which is quickly replaced by a grin as she sees the reason for the amusement.  “I’m fine Daray.  It’s a little odd. But it just means that if I ever have reason to go into one of those tanks again I’ll have to remember to take out any non-me devices.  Are you ok?  This means I will always be able to hear April communicating with you when we are together.  You’ll have to be some distance away from me to speak with APRIL privately again.”

 

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“APRIL’s as much a part of me as you are now Lana. I’m sorry this happened without your knowledge, or consent, but I’m not sorry that it happened.” Daray’s tone is sincere, but turns amused as she adds, “Oh, and I figured out how to control the color mode on this camera. You look absolutely amazing Lana. I love the outfit. And what the hell are you wearing APRIL?! You look like some sort of bondage faerie!”

 

-I am aware of my appearance Daray, Unfortunately it seemed the best ‘cover’ to use under the circumstances. I still seem to be unable to master the peculiarities of your physiology. I must admit that humans take a great deal for granted concerning the operation of their bodies.-

 

Willhelmina arches an eyebrow in Lana’s direction, not being privy to any of the conversation going on between the three of them. “So, are we done here Doc?” She says, without actually looking at him.

 

“Well, there is the matter of payment, and a warning I suppose. This dormant genetic material seems to be able to affect your body under the correct circumstances Lana. As we’ve discovered, those circumstances must be pretty specific, but you should be aware that they are out there, and I can not even begin to tell you what sorts of things might develop if this happens again. If you can secure original DNA samples from your parents, I should be able to give you a much better picture of what to expect, but under the circumstances, this is the best I can really offer you. I’m sorry.”

 

“Hey, don’t sweat it Doc. She’s tough as starship armor this one! She’ll be just fine!” Willhelmina chimes in as she tosses a few platinum bars on his desk and begins to usher APRIL and Lana from the room. She takes off the wrist computer and hands it to Lana as they move toward the door.

 

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Lana grins at Daray’s compliment and the conversation between Daray and APRIL.  She realizes at Wilhelmina’s look that she has to remember that not everyone can hear the conversation going on in her head.  She gives her a grateful smile and reaches for her bag at the doctor’s mention of payment.  Wilhelmina beats her to the payment and Lana makes a mental note to pay her back as soon as they have a moment.  The warning does give her a moment of pause and she asks for clarification.  “Are you saying this could happen again in other circumstances besides being in another tank?  I’m afraid my parent’s aren’t around any more so that won’t be possible, I’ll just have to be careful about what I expose myself too.”

 

Lana grins happily at Wilhelmina’s compliment.  “I’ve never had anyone think I was tough before.  Thank you Kat.”  Lana picks up her bag again and nods that she is ready to leave any time.  “Thank you again for all your help Dr. Braddock.”

 

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“Well I can’t say for sure Lana. A lot of things can affect a person’s DNA, especially when they have something unusual waiting in the wings like this, as it were.” He shrugs unhelpfully. “A large energy discharge. Electricity. Contact with mutagenic substances. Radiation. It could be as simple as a hard slap across the face while touching something your DNA is somehow compatible with, but I doubt that. I’m sorry Lana, I just can’t be much more specific than that. Chances are just as good that you could live the rest of your life and never have an issue.”

 

-But your father is alive and trying to find you Lana. If we can track him down, we should be able to secure a sample of some kind.- APRIL looks up at Lana with wide eyes. The look comes off something like an animal begging for table scraps.

 

“Yeah! Wait, what? Your father?! That’s great isn’t it? If he was wealthy enough to engage your mother on a long-term basis, maybe he can help get Turin off your back!” Daray chirps. “But why would he be ‘trying to find you’ and you still aren’t with him? Especially if APRIL knows about it… What the hell happened while I was out of it you two?”

 

“Listen,” Willhelmina begins, “I don’t really know you. But I do know how your back looked, and that you you pulled through and got moving again when a normal person would just lay in bed and try to sleep it off. You’ve been keeping up with Dare for a week, and Ree says she likes you. All of that adds up to ‘tough enough’ in my book, girl. Not to mention the fact that your body just ate a radio transceiver because it apparently felt it wasn’t connected enough, or something… I don’t know… but that has to count for something!”

 

She waves to Dr. Braddock as he calls after them on their way out, “You’re very welcome Lana, and Kat! You owe me dinner, remember!”

 

“Yeah yeah Doc. Next time I’m in town alright?” She replies with a dismissive wave as she leads the way toward the street. “So. Where do you want me to drop you off damea?”

 

Before Lana can work out the translation of the strange word, APRIL responds with, -Russian: Ladies. I feel that Dr. Hakiro Yamato should be our first priority. The sooner Daray’s consciousness is returned to her body, the more efficient we will be.-

 

“Seconded! This is pretty strange.” Daray adds in.

 

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Lana takes the computer back from Kat as soon as she can and reattaches it to her arm.  “It’s a long story Daray, I’ll tell you once we are on our way, alright?”  Lana is not exactly looking forward to having to confess that she turned herself over to Turin to help her.”  

 

Lana tries to make a negating motion when Wilhelmina begins speaking about her back but is too slow so all she can do is cross her fingers that Daray hadn’t picked up on it.  She starts to turn and ask about the odd word that Wilhelmina used but APRIL’s sudden switch to Russian distracts her.  Languages come so naturally to her that she automatically responds out loud in the same language without even realizing she had switched. “I agree.  I want Daray back to normal as soon as possible.”

 

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“That’s great, you agree!” Willhelmina beams, then suddenly changes tack and offers Lana a questioning look, “You agree with what exactly? You’re talking to them again aren’t you? Man, this is the weirdest thing…”

 

She leads the way out of the office where a transport is waiting for them already. Pulling the door open for Lana and APRIL to climb in, she moves to the back and shoves Lana’s luggage in, then moves to climb in the other side.

 

APRIL continues to amble along beside Lana on all-fours. The leash attached to the ring at her throat dangling limply between her and Lana. A few people point and giggle at the sight, but it’s not much different from when they had seen just Lana previously. Inside the vehicle, she sits on the seat, leaning heavily against Lana’s body, whether for balance, or some need for physical contact is unclear.

 

“So uh, is this a bad time to talk about whatever happened to your back?” Daray asks tentatively.

 

“I’ve sent ahead to the spaceport. They’re getting ‘The Vol’ fueled up and ready to go. We should be able to get underway within the hour, once you tell me where you’d like to go that is.” Willhelmina speaks casually, rising an eyebrow at the end as she thinks of something, then adds, “Unless you already told me that and I mistook it for you talking to someone else?”

 

-Willhelmina Orlova is just as annoying as I remember her being the last time we met.- APRIL observes.

 

“Let her be APRIL, she’s just trying to cope with a weird situation. Usually it’s me talking to you that causes trouble, but now Lana has both of us essentially in her head, and she doesn’t seem to be able to just think to us the way I can with you.” Daray chides, then adds, “besides, if you could figure out how to use my mouth and tongue, you wouldn’t have to further confuse the issue!”

 

-I know how to use your oral attributes Daray.- APRIL turns to look at Lana briefly, as if considering something, then leans in close to her and licks her face from her jaw to her ear in a long, slow stroke. -See?-

 

“No! I didn’t see! What did she do?! I didn’t hear anything! Lana! What did she do?!”

 

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Lana sighs.  “Sorry, Sorry.  This is harder to keep track of than I had expected.  Kat, we want to go find the doctor that can fix Daray before we do anything else at all.  I don't remember where April said he was though.” Lana bows her head, looking embarrassed and guilty.  “Uh, actually Daray.  Why don't we wait till we're on the ship and on our way.  It’s sort of involved and I think you might be a little mad at me.”

 

When April taunts Daray Lana stands stunned for a moment.  The feeling of Daray's tongue sliding along her cheek is not entirely unwelcome.  It's Daray's body and her smell as she leans in close.  But knowing that  Daray was not the one running her body causes a flurry of conflicting feelings and emotions to rise inside of her.  “Um... She licked me, Daray. From my jaw to my ear.”  Lana puts her fingers to the spot that APRIL had licked and her expression is beyond baffled.

 

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“She did WHAT?!” Daray hollers.

 

“OK, that was odd and unexpected…” Willhelmina quirks an eyebrow at the pair on the seat, then waves her hand over the payment sensor in the vehicle and they start moving toward the space port.

 

“APRIL! That wasn’t cool at all.” Daray whines.

 

-Actually she tastes quite good. I think I could get used to the sensation.- APRIL teases. -Our destination is Tranquility Lana, on the moon.- She adds with a mirthful tone.

 

“I’ll call in for a flight plan to the moon while you… do whatever it is you three are doing.” Willhelmina says, as if she had heard what APRIL said.

 

-You know, this situation presents an opportunity for me to experience a bevy of new sensations. Perhaps Lana would be willing to help educate me before we put things back the way they were previously.- She carries on with her teasing.

 

“APRIL! That isn’t fair! That’s my body your in! Those are supposed to be ~my~ experiences with Lana!!” Whether it was APRIL’s intent or not, Daray seems to have completely forgotten about discussing Lana’s injuries or actions. “You know I’ve never been with anyone before Lana APRIL. Don’t steal those experiences from me!”

 

Although there is a hint of true panic creeping into her tone as she carries on, panic seems close, as if she is banging uselessly on the walls of a cell.

 

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Lana winces at the volume level of Daray's yell.  “Ouch Daray, not so loud.  April.  Stop teasing her.  Kat, once we get there if you will show me where our bunk is going to be I would be ever so grateful.  All this bickering in my head is giving me a migraine.  Honestly, you two are worse than sisters with the way you argue.”

 

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-I am merely attempting to make the best of my situation. It is not my fault that Daray refuses to see the logic in such a line of thought. I may never have another opportunity to experience these sensations again.- 

 

“Yeah, sure.” Willhelmina chuckles at Lana as APRIL leans in even closer to her, pressing their bodies together firmly. “Are you OK? YOu need to tie that leash off to the front of the vehicle or something?”

 

“Fine! But only if Lana agrees! If you do something to her without her permission I’ll… It would destroy me APRIL…” Daray’s tone changes from angry to defeated in an instant. “Just be careful. My body is a lot stronger than a normal person’s. It took me a long time to learn to control my strength… You could easily break her, or even kill her…”

 

A moment of silence falls over them before APRIL finally responds in her usual, level tone, -Daray, I would never take advantage of your trust, nor your mate. Lana is, and always will be, safe in our company.-

 

The ride to the spaceport is pretty quick, and once they are there, the disgusted looks of the locals resume as they trio make their way through the facility to a tiny customs counter where Willhelmina presents a set of credentials to the clerk that sees them all ushered through without so much as a second glance at them, or their luggage.

 

They move down a series of increasingly smaller tunnels until finally stepping into a small hanger with a tiny, sleek, brand new shuttle sitting on the pad like a bird of prey waiting to attack. “Welcome aboard ‘The Vol’,” Willhelmina announces as she steps through the open airlock into the tiny ship. “She isn’t much for interior space, but what she lacks in creature comforts, she more than makes up for in speed. We should have y’all in Tranquility inside a couple of days.”

 

She is still carrying Lana’s suitcase as she ushers them onboard, moving quickly through the tiny airlock and into a small ready room that is decorated with racks and bins filled with weapons, armor, explosives, and a host of other, unknown to Lana, items.

 

“The head is straight this way,” she points through the door opposite the airlock, “Bunks are in the back. Beyond them is the engine room, and up this direction is the bridge.” She jerks a thumb in each direction as she explains the layout of the tiny vessel, then turns left and heads toward ‘the bunks’.

 

The next room is tiny, especially compared to the bedroom Lana had recently awoken in after the incident at Turin’s home. It is about ten feet long and eight feet wide, with two bunks lining each wall and a set of cupboards at either end. The bunks are sort of cubby-holes set into the walls, with curtains that can be drawn across their openings to allow for some semblance of privacy, and a comfortable, if simple, set of bedding.

 

Willhelmina deposits Lana’s suitcase in one of the cupboards, then turns to her and smiles, holding her arms out wide. “As I said, she isn’t much for comfort, nothing like how we’ve got ‘The Kestrel’ decked out, but she’s quick. Please, make yourselves at home.”

 

At that, she steps over and around APRIL after a few awkward starts, takes a few moments to unload all of her artillery into the staging area’s various hangers and bins, then moves forward into the bridge and begins powering up the ship. The airlock doors close, and within fifteen minutes, the ship is moving out of the hanger and hurtling away from the surface of Mars.


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