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Status Quo - Chapter 56

Written by: Paullell

 Lana’s jaw drops open in shock and horror at the twisted visage of the man before her.  Her stomach twists in revulsion and it is only by sheer determination that she resists revisiting the sandwich she had eaten earlier. Her fingers curl in to the counter to brace herself as she remembers the fairly average looking man he had started out as.  A part of her feels guilt, wondering if she had anything to do with the twisted thing he has become.  This whole thing started because he looked like the rough type who wouldn’t pay for services rendered.   At the mention of communications she glances at April, her eyebrow raised.  Not being tech savvy herself, she is immediately concerned that he means the intimate and personal communications which is the only way she has to talk to them right now.  

 

When the camera pans out and she can see the poor little Asian man he is holding hostage she is baffled until he explains who he is.  The puzzlement turns to horror as he states his terms for the scientist’s release.  She bites down on her tongue to protest, the idea of any physical interaction with him is abhorrent to her but she doesn’t want that poor man to suffer.  “What location do you want to meet at?”  She forces herself to ask. Her voice hardly trembles which she takes as a good sign.

 

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-Lana, there is no way he can access our private communications, the sub-space domain allocation and rotating encryption algorithms are far too complex for any off-the-shelf equipment to tap into. He more than likely intercepted communication attempts to Hakiro Yamato from the apartment in Hector, or from Willhelmina’s vessel.- APRIL obviously had either seen something in Lana’s face, or merely anticipated her thoughts.

 

“Is that the bastard from the military? He survived that last encounter?!” Daray’s voice was incredulous. “We need to do a better job this time APRIL.”

 

-Agreed Daray. The human race can only be made stronger by his destruction.-

 

“I’m sending the address now,” Bob’s grating voice interrupted the silent conversation. “No authorities, no corporate bullshit. Just the two of you. Fuck with me, and your little techno-geek here is dead meat.” His mechanical hand squeezes Hakiro’s neck by way of explanation, eliciting a squeak from the man.

 

“Please, I don’t know anything. I don’t know what you want…”

 

“Shut the fuck up!” Bob gives him a violent shake which seems to daze Hakiro, silencing him instantly. Looking back at Lana, he narrows his biological eye at her. “You have one hour to get over here. Any longer than that and I’m tossing this little piss-ant off the balcony. I don’t know what you want him for, but whatever it is, you won’t get it if he’s spread all over the sidewalk.”

 

The comm went dead in a small flash of light, leaving them alone again. A few moments of silence reigned as the trio digested the interaction before Daray spoke, “Lana, we can’t give him what he wants. He’ll never be satisfied with it, and he’ll never let Hakiro, or us, go.”

 

-Daray’s assessment is correct Lana. While I am unfamiliar with the true depths that psychosis can plumb, my understanding of criminal behavior, hostage negotiation tactics, and sexual predation indicates that this man is seriously damaged, and unlikely to hold to any conditions he sets forth. Daray, can you access the net and locate floor plans for the address he has sent?-

 

“I’m working on it now. This isn’t anywhere near as easy as you make it look APRIL, but I’ll have something soon. Lana, it’s time to weigh in. What are you thinking?”

 

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Lana sinks to the ground, her arms coming up to wrap around herself as she tries to stave off shivers of revulsion.  She sits on the floor and rocks herself as she speaks “I know that.  He’s as crazy as Turin, but in his own separate way.  Honestly, I’d rather have touched Turin. He may have been twisted but at least he was clean.  I can’t believe all this started because I didn’t want to let an aggressive solder have a freebie.  How can a person become that warped?  I really don’t understand what makes a person like that.  Hell, it’s not even like it’s all that expensive to pay for a companion for a few hours.  I was dirt cheep after I was kicked out of my brothel and couldn’t get hired into a new one.”

 

Lana shakes her head sadly.  “We have to go help Mr. Yamato I couldn’t bear it if anything were to happen to him because of us.  I’m willing to be bait or a distraction, I don’t know what else to recommend.  You two are the professionals, what should we do?”  She realizes something.  “You know, he forgot the cliché don’t tell the police.  We could always turn a copy of this over to them and let them handle it.  Mr Yamato has the look of an upstanding citizen.  If he is then he is entitled to the protection of the authorities.  What’s their response time here on kidnapping and ransom threats?”

 

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“He was damaged goods before he ever met us Lana. Don’t beat yourself up over this, it isn’t your fault.” Daray’s voice is full of concern for her friend, “We will help him, we just need a pan. I’m finding that we’re about fifteen minutes away from this address by public transport, that gives us forty-five minutes to put something in place. I’m getting the floor plans now. It looks like a largely empty warehouse not too far down the road. Some kind of shipping facility.”

 

-Lana, I am hesitant to suggest this, but my lack of control over Daray’s body puts me at a severe disadvantage in any sort of physical confrontation. It may be better if I present myself as the bait while you and Daray take steps to free Hakiro Yamato. Unfortunately, the local authorities are all Conglomerate personnel. And Hakiro Yamato is an employee of Solidarity Online, which means that my program requires me to render assistance at any personal cost. I am afraid that calling local authorities is not possible under the circumstances, as his work is highly confidential in nature.- APRIL’s hand lowers to Lana’s shoulder, her grip is firm, but not uncomfortable, but it seems to be the best she can do under the circumstances, almost as if she is unsure how to respond physically.

 

“Lana, he has to be stopped. This can’t continue as it has been going. Especially if he continues to rebuild himself. The more artificial, and stronger he becomes, the more he’ll loose touch with what little humanity he had to begin with. This guy is serious bad news. His personnel file from Aegis says that he was fired just after the incident on Venus Station. He’s listed as a rogue element and there is an APB on the wire for his capture, or destruction. You said you’d be willing to take a shot at working with me. Doing what I do. Are you still?”

 

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Lana nods her head and works to pull her chaotic emotions under control.  She looks up in surprise at April’s statement about being bait, her gaze moves to the hand on her shoulder, the idea of a computer program realizing that it needs to offer physical comfort is an amazing leap in perception.  Lana covers April’s hand with her own, squeezing gently in recognition of the contact.  “I want to try Daray.  I guess I had always thought that I’d be your girl Friday; doing the research and the backup stuff while you did the heavy lifting.  You killed all those soldiers in Turin’s compound, April.  I’m a little confused, why would you be at a disadvantage here?  Is he more dangerous?  Are you saying he needs to be killed Daray?  I tried to kill Turin and April stopped me; how is this different?”

 

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“I don’t know what our dynamic will be like, if this becomes our modus operandi Lana, but I do know that, right now, you’re the only one here who has complete control of all her faculties. Does he need to be killed? Maybe, but I don’t think that’s something we should plot. I don’t like the judge and jury monicker. I’m not some vigilante out for justice for all at any cost. Really I just want to get along in life without being hounded constantly,” Daray’s voice is a bit forlorn, sounding truly wistful at the thought of just living a regular, uncomplicated life.

 

-I agree with Daray Lana. I am sorry, and I would not normally choose to put you in such a situation, but you are the most well-equipped to think, and react, on your feet at the moment. What happened in Turin’s home was actually still mostly Daray’s doing. Her basal instincts were still in control of her body. I was able to influence her actions to some degree, but what you saw could best be described as her primal nature. At this point, I am only barely in control of her body, and doing anything like what she did there, would be well beyond my capabilities. Also, had I been in control then, I would have let you destroy Turin.- The admission from APRIL is more than a little telling; despite any emotions she may be learning to understand, or show, she is still, at her core, a computer program, driven by a simple (even if it was technically, wildly complicated) difference engine.

 

After a moment’s silence, Daray piped up again, with a slight chuckle to her voice, “Hey guys, I just found something interesting ‘in here’. It seems Aegis has put a bounty out on Mr Killgore’s head. A fairly substantial one too. It seems he killed several of their people while fleeing the scene in Hector. Lana, we can use my credentials to organize an operation with them. If you are willing, and we can work out a plan, then we can subdue him, and turn him over to Aegis. That way we don’t have any moral side-stepping to do, and you can earn your first payday. I’m pushing the building schematics to the counter console now, so we can try and put something together. Do you want me to put in a call to Aegis?”

 

As she speaks, the computer terminal on the counter lights up again, this time the holographic emitters offer a slowly spinning wire-frame model of the warehouse that Bob Killgore had indicated they should meet him in. The building has a simple front office area with a reception room and two small offices, plus the restrooms, a maintenance room, and a small computer server room. Behind that shallow front area is a huge, open expanse, with two more small offices in the very back that sit on either side of a large airlock that leads out through the crater rim of Tranquility’s outer wall into the vacuum of the moon’s surface. The airlock leads through into a small hanger that is easily large enough for the shuttle they had just come in on. Aside from that, they can see a couple of large loading-dock style doors on either side of the warehouse, and that is the extent of the information. “Unfortunately I am still trying to hack their computers to see if I can get some real-time information on the current layout and what sort of stuff is stacked up in there. Right now these as-built blueprints are all I can access. But I’m still working on it.”

 

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Lana relaxes at the reassurance that neither one of them were encouraging her to kill the man that had caused them so much trouble.  “Oh thank god.  I was worried that was what you were asking of me and I don’t think I could do that again.  It was hard enough to bring myself to that point with Turin.”

 

Lana ponders it briefly and then smiles.  “Yes.  Go ahead and make us official….”  Lana stops again as she realizes another problem.  “Wait… April how can I be made official?  My records don’t exist.  We haven’t had time to replace my identity yet.  They should still be registering me as deceased.”

 

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“Actually, you’re not registering at all. At least, not that I can find,” Daray’s voice is now a bit pained. “I’ve been looking for information on you as practice, and there is nothing out here.”

 

-Whoever hired Nathan to erase you must have had a contingency in place,- APRIL added.

 

“Don’t sweat the ‘official’ thing Lana. I’m licensed as an independent corporate contractor, which authorizes me to run this kind of operation. The authorities don’t really care about names, just numbers. So if you scan yourself here at this terminal, then I can take your ID and attach it to my license as an authorized partner, then when they scan you for payment or whatever, they’ll see your ID attached to my license and you’ll be fine. Of course, that means the funds will go into my work account, but we can get you paid out of there once it’s all over with and we’re out of the fire.”

 

-That is a reasonable plan. We must consider the best way to subdue Bob Killgore without damaging Hakiro Yamato however. None of the logistics will make any difference if Doctor Yamato is unable to render assistance.

 

“Let’s not put our own problems in front of a man’s life APRIL. So, any suggestions on how to incapacitate this guy?”

 

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Lana does as Daray instructs, scanning her chip into the terminal so that Daray can link her id.  She settles down in a chair and examines the blueprints that have been pulled up.  The movies always show special agents finding lines of sight and alternative entrances to places like this, but no matter how she tries she doesn’t see how this helps them.  “I’m a really bad shot, even with the stunner.  We’ve all seen that.  Maybe if we do something similar to what I did with Turin.  If we have an injection of a tranquilizer I could hide it on myself until he is suitably distracted…  less chance of missing and a tranquilizer won’t run the risk of accidentally killing him.”

 

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“That might be doable. Although I don’t know if we have anything like that in the house armory,” Daray replies. “Let me see if I can access the inventory somehow.”

 

-There should be a hidden database query called Jambalya under the refrigerator inventory Daray. That query will access the armory inventory. Lana, I have concerns about Bob Killgore’s cybernetic systems. If his reconstruction has gone as far as making cranial alterations, as well as moving into his chest cavity, there is every likelihood that he will be resistant, if not immune to any form of sedative we could hope to administer.- APRIL shuffles over to the waste receptacle and deposits the empty tofu container before returning to the refrigerator and pulling out several more food items, seemingly at random. She lays them all out on the counter, after successfully shuffling back across the kitchen with laden arms, arranging them by food group, then largest to smallest, with sub-groups of color gradients from darkest to lightest. The entire process takes mere moments, at which point she simply stares at the arrangement as she speaks again, -I have never tasted before. This is a truly unique opportunity for me to explore beyond the bounds of my program.-

 

Picking up the first item in the arrangement, what appears to be a raw steak, and taking a bite from it, she speaks again as she chews the meat, -I think we may need to use a somewhat more complicated line of attack. Perhaps a contact stunner, with voltage output specifically regulated to disable the electronics in his motor systems, without affecting higher functions such as critical organ functions. We could also use the voltage as a carrier for a computer virus that will scramble the input/output signals from his motor cortex to his cybernetic limbs. This would be something he could not overcome on his own, but would still be repairable by any qualified cybernetic engineer.- She scarfs down the last bit of the raw steak and licks her fingers as she adds, -that tasted much better than the tofu!- She then picks up the next item on the counter, a raw pork chop, and eyes it hungrily.

 

Meanwhile, Daray responds with, “Okay, I found the file and there are some tranq’s in the armory, but none of them are listed as being potent enough to handle this guy. He’s kind of an ox. There are a half-dozen contact stunners though, if we want to go that route, although if we do, then you’ll have to be careful Lana, if he’s got hold of you when you use it, the discharge will bridge the gap and get you too.”


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