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Status Quo - Chapter 55

Written by: Paullell

 Lana shakes her head at April’s acerbic comments.  “If you don’t understand humor April then make a note.  Your current processing configuration is producing a dialog glitch that sounds much like sarcastic jesting.”  Lana smiles at Daray’s hesitant tone.  “I don’t know Daray.  I don’t know what is going to happen from one day to the next now.  Are we on our third adventure or still on our first?  I’ll promise to try to keep up… And I promise I’m telling you the truth when I say I love you.  Other than that can we just take it a day at a time and see how it goes?”  Lana walks quickly towards the noise in the kitchen and deftly swipes the package out of April’s hands, opens it, and deposits it back into her still open hands.  “April, it’s ok to ask for help.”

 

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“I’m sorry Lana. I guess I’m just feeling a little inadequate under the circumstances. You’re doing great, and I believe you. I love you too.”

 

APRIL blinks at the open container that Lana has thrust back into her hands before she had a chance to even close them in protest, then fishes out the block of tofu and begins eating it like an apple as she talks through the comm link. -Apologies Lana, I am unused to having to perform physical tasks, and I am also unused to being unable to perform basic tasks on my own.-

 

After munching on the block of protein for a moment she looks up at Lana again, quirking her head to the side, -Do you really think I am being humorous?-

 

“APRIL, you’ve been sort of subtly funny for as long as I’ve known you, but recently it seems as if you’re actually doing it on purpose.”

 

APRIL takes another bite from the tofu block and chews it thoughtfully for a moment before responding, -I do not think I am intentionally being humorous, but reviewing my memory seems to indicate a higher degree references to me being humorous since the events at Turin’s estate. I can not determine root cause however. Perhaps Doctor Yamato will have some insight into the matter.-

 

“Maybe. But I don’t think the answers will be as technical as you might hope,” Daray chuckles, “Hey Lana, do you want to take a few minutes to decompress before we head out again? I could use the time to work with APRIL on some more computer skills. We might need them before we get things back to normal, and with APRIL stuck in my body, it sort of falls to me.” Her tone is concerned, a bit timid, but she sounds determined to be of use to them.

 

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Lana smiles as her love and … well, her friend, chat back and forth.  “Sure.  I go explore this small city that you call an apartment while you two work.  It seems if your going to be learning computer hacking, April should make an effort to learn to balance your body on two feet.”  Lana sticks her tongue out impishly at April before setting the computer down on the table for April to move wherever she needs it to go and then leaving the kitchen entirely.

 

She spends the next half hour or so poking around the house grinning at the treasures that she finds from real seashells that must have been hundreds of years old saved by someone from old Terra firma to the lovely artwork that has been used to decorate the house.  Lana does end up in the bedroom and after a moment’s hesitation stretches out across the bed and closes her eyes for just a moment…

 

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As she explores, Lana can hear APRIL and Daray chatting back and forth about how to access computer systems and write basic programs for infiltrating other networks and systems, along with a lot of laughing and giggling about APRIL's ability, or lack thereof, to walk on two feet. 

 

The house is huge, to say the least. Although Turin's place was much larger. The decor in Daray's home is very modern, with lots of glass and metal, but the little accents like the seashells and small pieces of real, carved wood make it feel more comfortable, less antiseptic than it appears at first glance. The bedroom is huge, but a few throw rugs and some art make it feel warm and inviting. The bed is larger than king-size, but isn't gaudy or gross, just large and extremely comfortable. A fact that Lana discovers the instant she sits down on it, and is fully reinforced as she reclines. 

 

The voices of her friends create an excellent backdrop for her to tune out as white noise and settle in to her own thoughts. After a few minutes, she realizes that the voices have stopped entirely, silence truly enveloping her for the first time since they had bolted from the bomb on Mars. The voices in her head are truly gone, but if she listens intently, she can still hear the sounds of Daray's body moving around, quite clumsily, downstairs in the kitchen. 

 

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Lana smiles at the quiet until she realizes how profound it is to not have any other voices in her head.  Her eyes snap open as she realizes something is wrong.  Ever since the receiver bonded with her ear she has been able to hear both Daray and April through it.  Her heart pounding she leaps out of the bed and rushes downstairs, concerned by the lack of sound and needing to see that her friend and her love are both alright.

 

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Bursting into the kitchen in a near-panic, Lana comes face to face with APRIL, who is standing, unsupported, in the center of the kitchen, legs a couple shoulder widths apart, and arms held out to the sides like ballasts. The look of sheer, concentration on her face is almost comical, as is the fact that Lana’s sudden appearance on the scene causes her to tumble over backward. She falls straight back, and seems to make no effort at all to arrest the fall, landing flat on her back with a loud flesh-on-stone smacking sound.

 

She growls a bit as she finally starts moving again, rubbing the back of her head where it impacted the floor and offering a cross look in Lana’s direction as she rolls over onto hands and knees and starts walking her hands up the refrigerator in order to get back to a standing position.

 

Silence still reigns in her head however, as no sound of either APRIL or Daray’s voices can be heard throughout the incident.

 

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Lana gasps as April falls, guilt washing over her for startling her in such a manner.  “OhmygoshI’msosorryApril!”  She moves to help her back to her feet but steps back when she sees her already moving on her own.  Lana realizes almost immediately that except for her own rushed apology the exchange remains silent.   Tears begin to leak from her eyes as she forces herself to take a calming breath.  “Guys, something has gone wrong.  I can’t hear either of you anymore.”

 

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“What do you mean you can’t hear us?” Daray’s voice rings through in Lana’s ear after a quiet clicking noise. “APRIL, why would she not be able to hear us?”

 

-Unknown Daray, perhaps her body has somehow rejected the absorbed transceiver.- APRIL’s voice also comes through now, as if nothing had happened. She stood up again, slowly releasing the refrigerator and returning Daray’s arms to the ‘balancing’ position. She stands there for several moments, teetering on her feet precariously before adding, -Or perhaps she inadvertently stumbled on the power switch…-

 

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Lana relaxes as Daray’s voice clicks into her ear again, mid conversation.  “Oh, you’re back in my ear.”  She says with relief in her voice.  At April’s comment about an off button she nods her head.  “That makes sense.  The original could be turned on and off.  I’ll just have to learn what triggers it so I know not to panic when it happens.  Sorry for startling you April.”  Lana moves to take one of the seats in the kitchen; her recent panic has her heart pounding in her chest and the thought of trying to rest sounds abhorrent.

 

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“Wow, you had me a little concerned there Lana,” Daray’s voice reflects her words, although it bears that tint of getting better after a fright.

 

-My money is on the off switch.- APRIL pipes in as she scoots tentatively away from the refrigerator and back into the center of the kitchen. -Do not concern yourself with my well being Lana. Daray’s body is more than capable of dealing with a bump on the head.-

 

“Hey! That’s my head your talking about APRIL!”

 

-Technically it is ~our~ head Daray, not just yours. And please do not be melodramatic, it suffered no lasting damage form the impact with the floor.- She then begins drawing her feet together, and within moments is standing up straight, although her arms are still held out to the sides to add balance. - I think I may have discovered how to access the equilibrium center in our inner ears.-

 

APRIL takes a few careful, tiny steps toward the refrigerator, then opens the door, reaches in, and withdraws another tofu package. Closing the door as she slowly turns around, she shuffles slowly across the kitchen to the opposite side of the counter Lana is sitting at watching her, and slides the package across the counter to her. -Lana, would you mind assisting me in the opening of this package please?-

 

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Lana takes the package with a smile.  She turns it in her hands and runs her finger along the edge of it until she feels the rougher texture of the side that is meant to be opened.  “Here April, if you look this side is textured differently and you can feel the difference with your fingers.  This side is the one that is meant to be torn open.”  Lana demonstrates for her showing how easily the package tears when gripped correctly.  “It’s one of those things that we pick up intuitively as a child and don’t really think about, sorry for not realizing how confusing it could be.”  Lana walks over to the refrigerator and digs herself out the fixings for a sandwich.  “I have to confess, despite the excitement, I’ve eaten more fresh food with you Daray than ever before in my life.  It’s possibly been the nicest non emotional change.”  She adds with a grin.

 

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-Thank you Lana. I know Daray’s body has the strength to open these without much trouble, but I did not want to create a mess by doing it the wrong way.- Taking the package back from Lana, she inspects the indicated edge, running Daray’s fingers along it gently. Eventually she fishes out the tofu block and starts eating again, standing on two feet the entire time. -Is it just me, or does this sustenance have a rather unpalatable texture to it?-

 

Daray giggles at APRIL’s comment, then replies to Lana, “Well, I’m glad I could help out in some positive, non-life-threatening way Lana. With my metabolism, I can eat pretty much anything, and junk food tends to provide more calories, which I need, so it can be tough to make sure there is good food around. That and I’m out so much that I tend to eat away from home more often than not. Maybe, once all of this settles down, I can change that. If there was someone for me to be with at home it would be a warmer, more inviting place.”

 

-It does not carry much flavor either, does it?- APRIL interjects, seemingly oblivious to the non sequitur. She is holding the half-eaten, apple-sized block of pasty white protein at eye level, peering at it as though she can see some treasure buried inside and she appears to be swishing a small bite of it back and forth in her mouth. -Aside from it’s protein content, which is significant, I can think of no reason to consume this material. It is bland to the palette, unpleasant to masticate, and creates odd sensations while it is being digested. Although it does seem to contain a high level of estrogen, so a woman seeking to increase the volume of her mammaries might do well to regularly consume it.-

 

APRIL’s pontification is interrupted by the sound of the comm system announcing an incoming call, the small computer console on the kitchen counter between Lana and APRIL flashes its announcement, silencing the room. After the third tone, APRIL looks at Lana and says, -I can not answer the comm in Daray’s body, and unable to speak, and Daray can not access the comm network yet. Lana, you will have to take the communication.-

 

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Lana grins widely at Aprils acerbic observations regarding tofu which was not a food that she had any fondness for either.  After being unable to slip a word in edgewise after two attempts she simply sits back and enjoys the tirade, giggling and then laughing until tears form in her eyes.  Her laughter stops at the sound of the computer announcing an incoming call.  She sits up in surprise and looks around until April reminds her that she will need to be the one answering the call.

 

“But who could it be.  They won’t know me, what if they think I have no right to be here?”   She comments nervously even as she makes her way over to the computer.  She fidgets with her appearance for a moment, not certain if the call will include video or not and then press the key to accept the call.  

 

“Hello…. Um… Daray’s residence.”

 

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“Anyone calling me should know that no one would be in here without my knowing,” Daray replies to Lana’s concern.

 

-The home is equipped with sensors and alarms that alert us wherever we are if someone enters the residence,- APRIL adds as she shuffles around to Lana’s side of the counter to be visible on the call and support Lana.

 

The instant Lana keys open the comm line, she is greeted with an all-too familiar individual. The dark hair and hard lines of the man’s face seem to match perfectly with the massive scar and traumatized tissue surrounding the low-tech cybernetic eye that twisted and turned as it focused on Lana through the link. Most of his jaw seems to have been replaced with an ungainly, unattractive metal that created a stark, jagged line across the lower portion of his face. His upper lip met directly with the metal lower jaw and when he spoke, it lifted strangely, revealing a set of ceramic teeth that were too white to look anything other than artificial.

 

“So, we meet again,” Bob Killgore’s voice is a grating, wholly unpleasant sound, made worse by the various whirrs and clicks that his increasingly cybernetic visage issues as his artificial eye focuses, or his jaw moves. “I bet you thought you wouldn’t be seeing me again, didn’t you? Little bitches. Left me for dead in the middle of a Conglomerate raid. Jaw smashed to pieces, and chest caved in. Well, I’m not so easy to kill am I?”

 

“Oh. My. God. Is that the ex-Conglomerate guy that chased us off Venus Station?!” Daray’s tone is somewhere between laughter and deadly concern.

 

-It appears to be so Daray, although he has had several, somewhat sophomoric cybernetic implants installed to replace damage to his body. He appears to be in a terrible state of mind.-

 

“I see by your reaction that I have your complete attention,” Bob tells the room, his face contorting into something resembling an evil grin. The mechanical portions of his face make it impossible for him to truly mimic the expression, creating a horrible parody of a man.

 

Raising his new, clawed, cybernetic hand, he taps his temple a few times, eliciting a metal-on-metal sound and adds, “one of my more recent upgrades included a subspace receiver, and wouldn’t you know it, I started picking up some of your communications.”

 

His camera pans back, expanding its field of view to reveal that a large portion of his chest is also metallic beneath his open, ratty shirt, and that he is holding a man next to him, with his other hand wrapped around the captive man’s neck. The new person is a short man with Asian features, and a tall, orange mohawk bisecting his head. He looks haggard and scared out of his wits, but is otherwise alive and well.

 

“Now this is how it’s gonna go down. You two are going to come to the address I am sending along, alone, and unarmed. Once you’re here, you’re going to let me take what I’ve been trying to get since we first met. After that, you can have you fucking scientist, and you shitty gene-filth, lesbo, lives, and we can all go our separate ways. Fuck this up, and your scientist dies a horrible, screaming death, and whatever bullshit you need him for goes right down the reclamation chute.”

 

He narrows his one organic eye and stares hard at them, “any questions?” He stands, waiting for their response, clawed hand playing at Hakiro Yamato’s bare neck threateningly.


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