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Status Quo - Chapter 57

Written by: Paullell

 Lana wrinkles her nose at April’s decision to eat the meat from the refrigerator raw.  “If you really want to experience flavor April, we need to find a way to get those things seasoned and cooked.  If it’s ok with Daray we’ll take you out to a real restaurant before we fix things.”

 

Lana turns her head to the computer that Daray is residing in, and ponders her words.  “I don’t have any cybernetics. Would the stunner hurt me?  I mean a regular stunner would only put me unconscious for about five minutes right? As long as April could secure him while we are both unconscious it would work out alright.”

 

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-That sounds wonderful. I would relish the opportunity to taste anything at all before our situation changes.- APRIL sounds truly appreciative of the suggestion even as she begins to eat the raw pork chop, -this one has a much different texture. I’m not sure I like it as much as the red one. What was that? Beef?”

 

Ignoring APRIL’s pontification, Daray responds to Lana’s question with a little concern in her voice, “I guess that’s true, although if we adjust the frequency of the discharge, it could have some unforeseen side-effects. Most of these things are pretty well adjusted for specific tasks.”

 

-The odds of the adjusted wave-form causing Lana any lasting damage are, to use the colloquialism, astronomical.- APRIL has moved on to an uncooked chicken breast and is reaching for the next item on the counter, a very large eggplant. -We are running out of time however, Lana if you will retrieve a contact-stunner form the armory, I will help you adjust it while I assist Daray with assembling the virus to attack his motor-control sub-systems. This chicken meat is very bland and slimy. I hope it is better when properly prepared. Daray, on the house server you will find a folder labeled ‘base code’, there are several files inside that we will need to access in order to assemble the virus. Please be careful not to execute any strings as we assemble the final code however, we don’t want to get locked into the house or something. Lana, the contact-stunners are in the armory on the right wall, about halfway back, at the top of the rack. The armory is located in the left walk-in closet and your ID was added to the house access list back when I added you to the house on Mars.-

 

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Lana leaves the room and follows April’s instructions to access the armory.  When the door opens with a gentle whoosh she walks in and looks around curiously.  The layout looks very similar to the one in the house on Mars and Lana finds the shelf that had been described.  Unfortunately April had not thought to describe to her what exactly a contact stunner looked like so Lana grabs the three different objects that she thinks may be the thing she has been sent to find.  She walks back out to the kitchen and lays them out on the table.  She is careful with the objects not wanting to twist, jar, or potentially detonate something that might be a weapon.  

 

“I wasn’t sure which of these things it is.  Could you tell me what I’m looking at?”  She is determined to learn about the weapons that Daray has stored, not wanting to continue to be such a useless companion.  She realizes that her lack of knowledge in this area is a weakness.

 

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APRIL moves over to the counter and rearranges the objects Lana has retrieved, lining them al up neatly and turning them to meet some unknown placement criteria. Once she is satisfied with their orientation, she points at the left-most object, a fist-sized, conical object with a cylindrical nub sticking off the center of the fat end, and four narrow prongs sticking off the blunted tip.

 

-This is a ballistic stunner. It is designed to be attached to arrow shafts, or other such low-velocity projectiles and will release a concentrated, sustained, electric shock upon impact.-

 

Next she points at a device about the same size and shape as Lana’s own stunner, except this one has four metal prongs sticking off the front of of it instead of the emitter assembly Daray had pointed out on Lana’s weapon. -This is a large contact stunner and will work for our purposes.-

 

The third device is a much smaller device, about the size of a pack of cigarettes. She picks it up and presses it to her forearm, then touches a button on the device, causing a pair of curved legs to spring out of it, circling around to form a wristband. She then makes a fist and folds it forward, as if trying to touch her inner forearm with her knuckles, and four metal studs spring out of the top of the device. -This is a compact contact stunner, which will be more easily moved past his defenses since,- she relaxes her fist, causing the studs to retract, then waves her other hand over the top of the device, which causes a holographic interface to appear over it, -it is concealed within a functioning micro-computer, although nowhere near powerful enough to handle Daray’s, or my programs. The drawback of this device is that it is only capable of delivering one, perhaps two full-power attacks before it needs to be recharged. Unfortunately, our time permits us to modify only one of these devices, so we need to know which one you’d prefer to use.”

 

“APRIL, did you just say ‘you’d’?” Daray asks.

 

-I do not think so, Daray, my programming has never allowed me to use contractions previously.- She turns to look at Daray’s computer, sitting on the counter.

 

“Well I’m pretty sure you did. And now that I think about it, you’ve used a few contractions before as well.”

 

-That seems unlikely Daray. That behavior is simply beyond my programming.-

 

“Well, who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?”

 

-I find your comparing me to a canine to be somewhat demeaning Daray-

 

“Sorry APRIL, that’s not really what I…”

 

-It’s fine. Have you completed the code we were building?-

 

“You just did it again! You said ‘it’s’!”

 

-Do you think it possible for us to discuss my verbal aberrations at a later date Daray? I must assist Lana with the modification of her stunner, and we need that code to do so.-

 

“Sure APRIL, I’m sorry. I just need a crystal in the computer to transfer the file to, since the stunners aren’t on the network. Hey, I think I’m getting better at this whole, disembodied life-form thing!”

 

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Lana only half listens to the other two as she ponders her choices.  She really wants to take the full sized contact stunner but she seriously doubts her ability to keep it hidden from him.  With a worried sigh she points to the compact one.  “This one.  Where do I need to put it to make certain that the full charge is being delivered to the most vulnerable spot? I want him out for the count.”  She waits for their answer and also for instructions on how to begin the modification process.

 

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APRIL moves the clandestine stunner closer to them, pushing it more toward Lana before letting go and beginning her instructions on how to modify the device, -there is a set of precision tools in that cabinet there,- she points across the kitchen.

 

-You will need to open the device, and remove the primary capacitor in order to access the frequency regulation hardware. You must be careful not to contact the terminals on the capacitor, as it is charged, and doing so would be extremely dangerous, if not fatal, as it is unregulated power once detached from the regulator circuits beneath.-

 

As Lana retrieves the tools and sets about making the modifications, APRIL describes the steps in detail, and points at the appropriate pieces, parts, and adjustments, walking her through the process in as much detail as possible. Once it’s all apart, there is a very logical order o the parts, and what they do, once described by APRIL, is also quite simple really, although the computer functions, located deeper into the device, on the other side of a shielded partition, are doubtless much more complex.

 

As Lana gets into the process and is being led more by APRIL’s pointing than her speaking, she answers the question that no one should have wanted the answer to, -ideally, the shock should be delivered to the base of his skull, where the vertebrae connect. After that, the spine is the next best target, the higher up, the better off we will be. If you get him anywhere else, I can’t guarantee results. It should work, but if the attack isn’t maintained long enough, it may not have the full, desired effect. Next we need to lug the device into the kitchen terminal so Daray can download the virus code to the main processor, then we will need to connect the processor to the voltage regulator, and then reassemble the device. You’re doing excellent work Lana.-

 

“Clock’s ticking ladies. We have eighteen minutes left before we have to be on the street getting transport to the warehouse. Any later than that and we’ll miss his deadline,” Daray’s voice chimes in with a mild tone of worry to it.

 

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Lana works quickly under April’s instructions but still cautiously. She does find that disassembling the device is easier than she had anticipated.  Her mother had not enrolled her in any schooling but she had been taught the basics by her mother and had picked up sporadic things from her mother’s clients, and then her own when she got older, so April will discover that despite the lack of book knowledge there is a surprisingly cunning mind behind her yellow eyes.  After placing the opened device on the kitchen’s computer terminal and waiting for April to talk Daray through the process of downloading the virus to the stunner’s processor Lana begins to reassemble the device.

 

Several times as she is working she finds herself paranoid about the connections and backs up to redo the work she had just done.  As she works she is concentrating so diligently she doesn’t even realize she has the tip of her tongue sticking out of the side of her mouth as she bites gently on it. No matter what she does, the voltage regulator seems off but at Daray’s diligent time keeping she forces herself to finish.  She leaves the stunner on the counter and runs to their packages.  Digging in them she looks for something else to wear, something that will be a distraction for Bob that will keep him from looking at her accessories too closely.  She finds the blue outfit she had worn when escaping Turin’s home.  Apparently Kat had the thing cleaned and repaired.  Lana smiles at the good luck.  She throws off her cloths and shimmies back into the vinyl and gauze thing there in the living room.  As she changes she asks the one question she had been puzzling over. 

 

“Ok, April and I are going in to confront him.  Daray; you currently are saved on that computer, it is the only thing holding your consciousness safe.  When April used to go with you her ‘self’ was always housed safely in your head.   What are we going to do with your terminal while we go in?  I think it would be safer for you to stay here.”  Lana runs her hands down her body to settle the scarves of the skirt over her legs.  After a brief turn and a quick look in a nearby mirror she adds,  “well this should certainly distract him.  I need the stunner to look like a bracelet to match and a cloak to cover myself with until we get to the warehouse, then I’m ready to go April.”

 

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“I don’t want to stay behind. What if you need me to hack something? I don’t want you two getting stuck somewhere or something because you didn’t have me there!” Her tone was vehement, although there was an undercurrent that suggested she had already suspected this was going to happen.

 

-I’m afraid I must agree with Lana Daray. While in that device, you no longer have any regenerative abilities, as I do when we co-habitate your body. The safest place for you, is here,- APRIL’s tone is sure, but after a brief pause, she adds, -in the house safe,- and gives Lana a very meaningful look with Daray’s dark, cobalt pools.

 

“But the safe will block all of our communications!” Daray’s protest is emphatic.

 

-I am aware of this. As I am aware of the fact that, despite anything we might say to the contrary, you would attempt to follow us through the net, thereby putting yourself in danger of being lost, potentially forever.- As she speaks, APRIL reaches across the counter, grasps the wrist computer that Daray’s mind is stored within, and clicks off one of the several attachments she’d had Lana add to it initially. 

 

This action elicited an instant complaint from Daray, ”Hey! What the hell APRIL!”

 

-Apologies Daray, I have spent a great deal of time with you, and I know your mind, at least in part. I can not allow you to get into the open net and potentially lose yourself to us. I’ve caused enough trouble for you already. I computed a better than ninety percent likelihood that you would already be trying to access the external net, so I removed the broadband subspace transceiver. Lana, would you mind locking Daray in the safe before we depart please?- She offers the computer to Lana as if making an offering to deity, cradling it gingerly in her outstretched hands.

 

“Lana, please don’t lock me in the safe. I want to help! I…” she pauses for a moment, as if taking a deep, steadying breath, then adds, “I’m afraid of being alone… I’ve had APRIL, and now you, in my head for so long… I… I don’t know how to be by myself any more, and now I can’t see, or hear anything… Lana?” It is immediately obvious, that if she’d still had a body, she would be sobbing uncontrollably. She sounds truly terrified of her impending fate.

 

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Daray’s panicked voice almost breaks Lana’s heart.  “Mio Tesoro. Calm down.”  She looks to April.  “I think putting her in the safe is extreme. Let’s leave her here, hooked up to a pair of speakers in case anyone comes in. That way she can still talk to us and hear us for reassurance.  Isolating her completely is just cruel April.  The human psyche can’t handle it for very long and she already went through that when you took over for her before.”  

 

Lana puts the terminal back down on the counter and runs to the closet where she is able to find a cloak.  She snaps the stunner around her wrist and adjusts the settings on it until it looks like a tight gold bracelet.  She looks to the clock, they have one minute to spar.  “I’m ready April.”


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