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Status Quo - Chapter 51

Written by: Paullell

 “It’s fine… perfect even,  Kat.  You have a lovely ship.  I’ll just lie down here for a bit.”  Lana unhooks the leash to April, drops her duffel on the floor and crawls into the closest bunk.  She scoots to the back of the bunk, leaving just enough room for April to crawl in next to her if she chooses.  She cradles the wrist computer against her chest and shuts her eyes. Lana can feel when they accelerate but she can’t completely relax until she feels the speed level out and knows they are on their way.

 

Finally after a few minutes of trying and realizing that she will not be able to sleep she speaks into the quiet of the room.  “I got hurt in the escape from Turin’s home.  An explosion went off that knocked a chandelier from the ceiling and when it fell the crystals on it shattered and covered my back.”  Lana waits for the inevitable question that Daray will most likely ask next. 

 

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APRIL watches attentively as Lana disengages the leash, then climbs into the bunk. Once she is settled in, She turns around and lopes out of the bunk room with her awkward gait. 

 

“Where are you going?” Willhelmina asks.

 

-I am going to sit on the bridge so I am not bothering Lana while she attempts to rest.- APRIL replies in Lana’s ear.

 

“You know she can’t hear you right?” Daray snorts.

 

-She will likely divine my intent soon enough.-

 

As she gets comfortable and begins to relax to the point that she opens up to Daray, the response is slow, but careful. “So, you were there. During the fighting… or whatever happened. You don’t want to tell me why you were there to begin with though, do you? Is that what you have been trying to avoid telling me?”

 

She pauses again, as if she’s taking a deep breath or considering her thoughts, then speaks again, her tone level, but full of emotion just the same, “He muscled you into it didn’t he? Told you he’d let me go if you turned yourself over to him? Lana, as much as I would love to tell you that you should have done anything but that, and as much as it is true… I would have done the same thing if the situations were reversed. I know what it’s like to hang everything on a single hope, and do whatever you can to keep it alive. Please don’t worry about it OK?”

 

She pauses again before adding, “besides, now that you’ve agreed to work alongside me, we’ll be teaching you some more skills to help you out in those situations right?”

 

As Lana considers Daray’s words, the entire conversation is suddenly punctuated with Willhelmina shouting out, “Hey! What the hell are you doing?! Did you change my navigational settings?!”

 

-This is 48% more efficient. You’re computations are riddled with errors and of the worst possible discipline. I can not imagine how you manage to get from point A to point B on a regular basis.- The sounds of buttons being pressed and Willhelmina slapping at APRIL’s arm as she goes about playing with the controls can periodically be heard in the background as Lana and Daray talk.

 

“I swear, it’s like having a little sister following me around everywhere I go.” Daray sighs. “I wish I could hold you Lana. I miss being near you.”

 

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Lana relaxes as Daray handles her news so calmly.  In fact she releases so much of her tension that she starts to cry with her relief.  “Oh god Daray.  I’m so glad you’re not upset.  I didn’t know what to do.  He sent me a video of what he did to you.  It went on for quite a while even after April did what she did.  It just killed me.  If it had been me it wouldn’t have been so bad.  It just wouldn’t have effected me as badly as it hurt you.  I would have done anything to stop it.  All I could wish was that he had gotten me instead.  I’m sure you would have come up with a clever plan to get us out of there.  Everything I did just seemed to make it worse, especially with April doing such a bad job of controlling your body and impulses and being unable to communicate.”

 

She wipes away her tears with her free hand.  “I know; I want to be able to touch you too.  At least I can talk to you now.  That day when we were separated was hell.  I just don’t know how good I’ll be at your line of work Daray.  I… I tried to kill him.  April stopped me.  It would have killed something inside of me, I know it. But he’s truly gone crazy.  He’s a danger to every woman around him.  I don’t know about the others but at least three or four other girls escaped because of what we did.”  She adds the last almost proudly.

 

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“Because of what you did Lana. Not we. You may not think you can do what I do, and for some of what I do, you might be right. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I’ve never had a rudder. No moral compass has directed my movements since my parents died. I don’t know how to be anything other than what I am, at least in terms of what I do.” She pauses again, taking a moment to think.

 

“I don’t know if I can stop. But I do know that I can change. If you’re there to guide my hand… pull me back from the brink… I’d be perfectly fine if you just wanted to be at home when I go there, but I don’t know if you’d be happy like that. Hell, I’ve got enough money that neither of us has to do anything, ever again. But I don’t know if ~I~ could give up my work.”

 

“Either way, that strength… What you did for those women at Turin’s place… That was all you. I know the strength is there. You just need to believe it is.”

 

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Thank you Daray, that means the world to me.  Really it does.  I’ll try to keep up with you.  You’re right, neither one of us could be happy loafing around and doing nothing.  God I wish I could cuddle with you right now.”

 

Lana rolls over on the bunk and wraps her arms around her pillow like a child hugging a stuffed animal.  She wipes the tears off of her cheeks and just lets her mind wander.  After a moment she opens her eyes wide as she has an idea.  “Daray… We’ve got some time before we get to Tranquility.  What about one of those Online games?  You’re able to access computer systems now right?  Does Kat have a terminal for one of the MMO’s?  If I could log into the game digitally… it would be almost as real as touching right?”

 

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“The ship’s computer is saying we have about three and a half days until we arrive. How weird is it that I can do that?!” Daray chuckles. “There’s all kinds of stuff in here, it’s like this whole world. But there isn’t any sense of touch. I want you back in my arms Lana. Nothing is worth loosing that over.”

 

She pauses for a moment as she considers Lana’s suggestion. “I honestly don’t know. Although it seems like something we should be able to do doesn’t it?”

 

-Accessing an MMO in your current state is possible Daray, however you hacking skills are likely not up to the task of breeching their firewalls, and without the use of a registered IO port, they will refuse your connection.- APRIL’s words stall the line of thought, but when she continues, there seems to be some hope after all, -If you’d like, I am sure I can help you pull together a rudimentary virtual environment, and I am sure Willhelmina has an Encephalographic Induction Harness on-board somewhere. Your ability to roam would be very limited, but you should be able to interact with one another.-

 

“Well, that sounds good. Let’s do that!” Daray chirps.

 

-Very well. Lana. I will need you to speak to Willhelmina about an Encephalographic Induction Harness, as my pantomime skills are as lacking as my ability to control Daray’s speaking faculties. Daray, I want you to follow my instructions precisely…-

 

By the time Lana can get up and get the headset from Willhelmina, who turns it over with a warm smile and a reassuring hand on the shoulder, APRIL and Daray report that they have finished their preparations, and that Lana simply needs to put on the headset, and plug it into the ODN port on the wrist computer.

 

-Please be aware, that Daray’s lack of understanding of things such as physics and a general, scientific understanding of the world will limit the similarities between this environment and the real world, but we were able to adequately load most parameters concerning physical interaction and sensation. Things may be a little disorienting, but the sensations should transmit well enough.-

 

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Lana thanks Wilhelmina profusely and takes the harness back to her bunk.  She puts it on and then carefully plugs it into the computer.  It seems like only a breath before she opens her eyes and finds a slightly surreal view of the world around her.  Daray and april appear to have pieced the bedroom for her Mars home, either because it is someplace they have all been recently or just because it offers an appropriate level of comfort.  The bed seems a little bigger, the rest of the furniture a little small; but it mostly conforms to reality as she remembers it.  

 

Lana looks down at her own body and is please to notice that her own self image of her body seems to have accurately made the digital transition; including her new colorations and the skintight red outfit she had chosen with Kat’s help.  After examining to make certain all of her fingers have formed properly she looks around the room, anxious to see Daray and finally get a chance to hold her close.  “Daray?” 

 

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By the time Lana appears in their little virtual oasis, Daray is well involved in a hot shower. Her ankle-length tresses are unfettered and dangling in a strawberry cascade down her back, and the skinsuit is completely transparent, visible only as a bit of reflection in the bright light of the bathroom.

 

“Oh my god, this feels amazing!” Daray beams as she drags her fingers through her hair, a cascade of water drenching her from the over-head spray. At the sound of Lana’s voice, she leans far enough out of the shower stall to catch sight of her friend through the bathroom door and raises her eyebrows in appreciation of the sight. “You know, those security cameras just don’t do you any justice!” She calls through the door. “I really want to hang out in here for a minute. I feel like I haven’t showered in a month! Care to join me?”

 

It’s difficult to tell for certain, looking across the gap as she is, but Daray seems somehow more feminine. As if she’s actually sporting a healthy, female glow. This may not be unusual for most people, but Lana knows most of Daray’s history by now, and she knows that this is the sort of thing Daray would have a great deal of trouble with under the best of circumstances. She is positively radiating happiness and grinning widely at Lana as she crooks a finger in her direction, inviting her to climb into the shower with her.

 

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 Lana makes her way to the bathroom with a delighted grin on her face.  She doesn’t think she has ever seen Daray so happy and calm.  She slips into the bathroom and begins to strip.  Her shoes get kicked off first and then her pants and shirt.  Lana is so intent on Daray that she just tosses the discarded clothing aside uncaring about it falling on the floor.

 

Her eyes drink in Daray through the spray of water.  “You look positively amazing.”  Lana steps into the shower and moves to warp her arms around Daray in a loving hug.”

 

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Daray grins at Lana as she enters the bathroom, her eyes shining and smile wide and inviting. As soon as she steps into the shower with her, Daray wraps her arms around Lana in a loving embrace. “I can’t tell you how much I missed you. It feels like it’s been years.” 

 

She just holds Lana there under the stream of hot water, squeezing their bodies together and asking for nothing more than just being together. After several minutes, or maybe an hour, it’s impossible to tell from the shower, especially since they are in a virtual world where time may have no correlation to reality, she breaks the embrace and holds Lana at arm’s length, still smiling happily.

 

“I love what you did with your hair. Can I wash it for you?” Without really waiting for an answer, she plants a tender, lingering kiss on Lana’s lips, then turns her around and begins working a hefty volume of sweet-smelling shampoo into her hair, rubbing her fingers across Lana’s scalp and working them in little circles for several minutes before she begins to work the lather through her cascade of black and white hair. There is no rush, no pressure, and certainly none of the aggressive, sexual tension she had always displayed during all of their previous naked encounters.

 

“Is it OK if I wash your tail too? I don’t want to cause you any discomfort…” She asks as she reaches the ends of Lana’s newly-long hair.

 

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Lana is slightly surprised at the lack of sexual tension but she simply melts under the tender attention.  She closes her eyes and sighs happily at the feeling of Daray’s fingers running so very gently through her hair.  “Mmmm.  That feels wonderful.”  She relaxes into the warmth of the water and the subtle floral scent of the shampoo.  “If you really want to, go ahead.”

 

She peaks over her shoulder at Daray and smiles at her.  “You’re so calm right now.  Should I risk asking what’s happened to make you so balanced?”

 

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“Balanced?” Daray asks as she begins lathering up Lana’s tail, taking special care not to bend it harshly or pull at the soft, fluffy hairs. “I’m sorry, I don’t follow. How else would I be?”

 

She finishes scrubbing Lana’s tail then drags her fingers through the hair of her head, and her tail to help the clean water rinse them out completely. When she’s finally satisfied that it’s all as clean as she can make it, she takes up a bottle of body-wash, lathers it up on a soft  loofa, and sets to work on Lana’s back.

 

“I just love the way your body feels. Your skin is so soft and smooth, and your hair is like silk. God I missed you so much Lana!” She leans in and plants a few gentle kisses on Lana’s shoulders while gently moving her long, wet rope of black and white hair over one shoulder and then traces more kisses down her spine as she works the loofa across her body once more, working to rinse the soap off.

 

“I can hardly wait to get you into bed and cuddle up next to you. Maybe we could even make love later if you’re feeling up to it!” Her tone is bright and chipper as she worships Lana’s body, finally standing up again and leaning against her back, wrapping her arms around Lana’s waist and squeezing her tightly. “I can’t believe how much I missed just being near you, smelling your scent, feeling your warmth…”

 

She turns her head to the side and rests her cheek between Lana’s shoulder blades, just holding her tight and breathing long, deep breaths, as if she’s never tasted fresh air before in her entire life.

 

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Lana wraps her arms around Daray’s and leans back against her happily.  “I know, I feel the same way.”  She is content to stand that way, being spooned by Daray and letting the water wash over them both for several minutes.  Finally she pulls away and opens the door, reaching for a towel.  “Come on, let’s get dried off and move to someplace that we don’t have to worry about slipping and falling.  I want to cuddle you on that big bed finally with no interruptions.”  She hands over one of the fluffy white towels to Daray after she has shut off the shower water. 

 

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Daray grins her approval to Lana, accepting the towel and quickly chasing the water from her body, most of it having sheeted off the skinsuit already anyway. She deftly wrings out her long cascade of hair, then folds it over and wraps it up in the towel, wrapping it around her head and securing it with a quick tuck of its corner.

 

With a wink at Lana and an actual giggle, she skips out of the bathroom and leaps halfway across the bedroom, landing on the huge bed with a gentle ‘fwump’ sound. She rolls over and throws her arms out wide, laying spread eagle on the bed, appearing for all the world to be completely naked and splayed open. Again, her comfort with the situation seems at odds with her normal reserved shyness, but she gives no indication that there is anything wrong or bothering her in any way.

 

“Come on girl.” She offers, sitting up and crooking her finger at Lana again. “Come over here and lay down with me. We can watch a movie or something if you want. APRIL helped me locate a few on the net and download them. I even managed to find a couple that are still in the holo-parlors!”

 

She then offers a much more sultry look, and a sly smirk, “Or we can just lay here and cuddle. That would be absolutely fine as well.”


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