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Status Quo - Chapter 59

Written by: Paullell

 

 

“Oh my god! Lana are you alright?! Oh my god, oh my god, oh god, LANA!!!” Daray’s voice echoes through the link before going suddenly silent, and seconds later, the door to the reception area and several loading dock doors explode inward, belching streams of armed and armored soldiers.

 

The new arrivals quickly move into the room and surround the quietly steaming form of Bob Killgore, enough weapons pointed his way to occupy Mars Station for a month. One of the soldiers, a smaller person with a red cross emblazoned across their left breast, leans down and waves a small device over APRIL’s form for a moment, then looks up at another soldier and nods. There is every likelihood that they are actually conversing over a comm link, but it can not be heard by the room at large.

 

Presently, the other soldier stoops down and wrenches Bob’s hand off of APRIL’s form, and the first soldier rolls her over onto the floor and sets about scanning her front side with the little device while the rest of the group begins preparing to move Bob. It is obvious they aren’t taking any chances as they produce several sets of extremely heavy shackles that they proceed to bolt around his wrists, ankles, knees, and elbows. Bob himself, has yet to make a noise, or even twitch.

 

Nobody seems to have noticed Lana as yet, so focused on the center of the room are they, and backed against the front wall between a couple stacks of crates, it is possible nobody will notice her, except for the fact that she seems to be all but glowing in every spectrum of visible light imaginable. 

 

The medic shakes their head a couple of times as they manipulate some of the controls on their scanner, and even through the featureless faceplate of their armor it is plain to see that their results are confusing them. They have doubtless discovered some of the peculiar operational conditions of Daray’s body, although they seem unsure as to what course to take.

 

At last, Lana can hear some actual communications as the soldiers begin to speak off their comm net. “Damn! She fried his ass good ne?” One of them says as he stands up from securing one of the shackles on Bob’s ankle.

 

“Yeah,” another agrees, his assault rifle still trained on Bob’s head, “Must have been some stunner to do that. Looks like his entire motor control system is fried. I bet he doesn’t so much as twitch until a cyber-engineer can get in there and rejigger the whole deal.”

 

“Serves the bastard right if you ask me,” a woman’s voice adds in, “he killed six of us on Mars. Fucker!” One of the standing soldiers kicks Bob in the ribs as a sort of punctuation mark.

 

“Secure that shit O’Connell!” An authoritative voice hollers.

 

“Yes sir! Sorry sir!” The woman, O’Connell responds, snapping up straight.

 

“It’s alright O’Connell, we all wanted this one pretty badly,” a largish man wearing tactical armor and no helmet moves into view and pats the woman’s shoulder briefly before moving over toward APRIL and looking down at the medic, “Sit. Rep. Jones. How’s she looking?”

 

The medic yanks off his helmet, and looks up into the officer’s dark eyes, then shrugs helplessly, “I don’t know what to make of it sir. She’s alive. That’s about all I can tell you. Her metabolic rate is off the charts, I can’t find her heart, let alone a heartbeat. Half her organs aren’t where they are supposed to be, and the other half are either too small, or too large to be human. I don’t know what to make of her.” He sounds utterly exasperated by his findings, casting a doubtful, unbelieving eye back down at APRIL.

 

“I don’t see a stunner on her.” It wasn’t a question.

 

“No sir, and no evidence that there was one on her either. Whoever did this, got them both at once and then managed to move off somewhere. I’ve never seen a stunner do something like that before though sir,” Jones pointed to Bob by way of explanation.

 

“The contractor said they would be coding a special virus to knock out his motor systems. Does that jive?”

 

Jones shrugs again, “I’m a combat medic sir, not a cyber-engineer, but off hand, I’d say that is part of what happened. Honestly, I’d have to say something went wrong with the stunner. Even if they knocked out his motor control, he should be conscious by now, guy his size. A contact stunner wouldn’t put him down more than a couple minutes.”

 

“He’s still alive though?”

 

“Oh yes. His life support is keeping him with us. Looks like they managed it, whoever they are.”

 

At this point, two interesting things occur, almost at once. First, Lana hears what she is quite sure to be a comm signal, although it does not sound quite like what she is used to hearing. Something about the acoustics is different, although the sound of Daray’s voice is quite distinct. “Unit Alpha, this is AO unit command, please report situation.”

 

The officer cocks his head to the side before tapping his earpiece and responding, “Command, this is Sergeant Alonzo, on site. The target is down and it looks like our registered contractor is as well. We’re trying to sort things out now. It looks like we may have a vigilante rabbit on our hands though. We’re searching the area now to see if we can locate them. It’s possible they were injured by a malfunctioning stunner and need assistance.”

 

“Understood Sergeant. Please be advised that the contractor’s action plan indicates two female operatives, one short blonde, and one medium height, black and white hair. Any of that sound right?” Daray’s voice sounds authoritative, although there is an edge of barely-contained panic to it. If she had lungs, the ruse probably would not have come off well at all.

 

“Roger command, we’ve got the blonde here, she’s down but not out, med tech is on it. We’ll let you know when we find the other one, Alonzo out.” The Sergeant raises his right arm, pointing to the ceiling, and then circles it around a couple of times. Almost instantly, the majority of the soldiers there turn and begin to fan out into the warehouse, moving carefully, but quickly, very obviously searching for Lana.

 

The second interesting thing that Lana may take notice of, is the fact that the patterns of color running over her body seem to be responding to her heart beat, and the touch of her hand to her skin. When she runs her hand along her forearm, a single, solid patch of color seems to appear beneath it and follow the pressure of her touch as it moves along her arm. The color seems to be random when she does it, but the fact that it happens may be indicative of some kind of control. Maybe if she can get the rest of her body under control…

 

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Lana observes the flow of colors and when she notices the touch response as well as the synchronization with her heart beat she forces herself to breath more slowly.  As she over hears the conversation she attempts to call out but her throat is raw.  She rubs at her skin more slowly and gently.  With each heartbeat her pain is dying away and becoming more manageable, the itch in her skin changing to a tingle.

 

As she overhears Daray’s voice and the other com becomes audible she calms even more, Daray needs her to hold it together here, especially if April is unconscious in Daray’s Body.  Come on... White skin, black hair… white skin, black hair…

 

The first thing she notices is her white streak returning, apparently something about her genetics wants that streak in her hair.  Lana is relieved to notice her skin turning pale if a little pink and her hair settling into a dark navy blue.  Hopefully in this lighting they will consider it black and not question her too much.  She pushes away from the wall and staggers out from between the boxes with her hands raised non threateningly.  “I’m here.”  She tries to say, but it comes out as a whisper.  At least with her bodice gaping and her shaky legs she shouldn’t be considered dangerous looking.

 

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Lana is seen almost immediately. Two soldiers run over to her, lowering their weapons and reaching out to take her hands and assist her. As they escort her back to the center of the room, a blanket is produced from somewhere and draped over her shoulders to cover her up and within moments she is face-to-face with Sergeant Alonzo.

 

The stern, fatherly figure eyes her for a moment, then offers her the chair with its mangled sides as a place to get off her feet, before she falls over. His quick inspection of her quickly identifies the burned-out husk of the stunner dangling uselessly from her wrist, and it takes him less than a second after that to paint a mental picture of how things proceeded.

 

“My name is John Alonzo. You can call me John. You are an associate of Miss Daray Bowen here?” He turns slightly and looks down at APRIL with a raised eyebrow, where Jones is helping her sit up. APRIL’s eyes are large as saucers and glazed over as she slowly swivels her head around to take in the room.

 

Her survey seems to stop when she identifies Lana, and within seconds, she is at her side, arms wrapped around Lana’s shoulders and cheek resting against her. “Lana!” She manages to make her forth verbal word quite impassioned, emphasizing it with the addition of a few tears; a stark contrast to the three armed men she carelessly tossed aside while trying to get to her.

 

“I take it things didn’t go quite the way you two planned, eh?” Sergeant Alonzo comments as he waives off the angered soldiers. “Can you tell me what happened?”

 

“Sergeant Alonzo, this is AO Unit Command, over.” Daray’s voice squawks over the comm, her tone now a barely contained giddiness.

 

John stands up straight and taps the earpiece irritably, “Alonzo, go Command.”

 

“Have you located the second contractor yet Sergeant?”

 

“We have command, I was just about to start getting the straight story here.”

 

“Negative Sergeant. The operation is complete. Contract fulfilled. Get the traitor on a transport, call the contractors a cab, pay them and come home. We don’t want to know how their day went.”

 

The sergeant looks up at Lana and APRIL, then down at his feet, frustration evident on his face. Finally he shakes his head and gestures with his hand, then points at Bob. His troops immediately set about hauling Bob out of the warehouse, two of them approaching their commander and standing by. “Understood command, beginning extraction. ETA, fourteen fifty-two. Alonzo out.”

 

He then points to one of the stragglers and adds, “pay them.” Then turns to the other and says, “get them a transport please, they’ll be out presently.”

 

“Yes sir!” The two chorus, one of them running toward the front door while the other one pulls out a computer and moves toward Lana. “I’ll need to scan you miss, to transfer the funds,” he holds out the computer for her to see.

 

“I don’t know what happened here ladies, but I suspect that this game may be one you should consider not playing. You don’t seem well-suited to it. Leave the war games to the professionals, please. Private?” He waits for the other man to finish the transaction, then starts to move toward the door, hands clasped behind his back, the private in tow. “Thank you for your assistance, there will be a transport for you in front of the building.”

 

And then he is gone, leaving them alone in the warehouse, which is suddenly very quiet.

 

-Lana, I am so very sorry. I had no idea what it would be like. I thought I could handle it, but these sensations were too much for me. I’ve no idea how to properly assimilate these feelings into my program. are you alright Lana? I thought I heard you screaming…” APRIL sounds like a scared teenager, her words running together as she squeezes Lana to her and cries on her shoulder.

 

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Lana allows her wrist to be scanned.  She holds April tightly and nods when appropriate and the whole place is cleared in no time at all.  

 

In the quiet she whispers to April, cautious of her rough voice.  “I screamed because it hurt. I’m feeling better now.  Can Daray hear us again?  Daray, how were you talking to the strike team?  I swear to god if you got yourself on the net somehow I will… do something drastic as a punishment that I will figure out at a later date...  April it’s alright. Remember what happened at Turin’s how her body reacted despite being forced.  It’s the same thing here; our bodies have a natural defense mechanism to that situation.  If we remain tense while being raped it causes additional tearing and damage.  If the body forces itself to become aroused there is lubrication and less damage.  It’s a biological defense not an emotional one.”  

 

Lana looks down at April where she is hanging onto her and notices two things. First, her weight is far more negligible than it usually is and second where their bodies touch Lana’s skin is glowing again, fluctuating through different colors.  “Oh god... April, something strange is happening to me.” 

 

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-I’m sorry Lana, I should have known better. I have assimilated every available text on the subject of sexual relations, both consensual and forced. I thought I would be able to handle the situation, given my logical nature. These feelings are significantly more intense than I ever would have imagined. I overreacted, and I am sorry to have upset you.-

 

When Lana looks down at where their bodies are touching, APRIL follows suit, raising an eyebrow at the sight of the fluctuating colors playing across her skin. -That is highly unusual. With the exception of the X-07 Bio-Mechanical Skinsuit, I have never seen that effect before. Is there any physical discomfort?-

 

“Okay, I think I’m back now. Can you guys hear me again?” Daray’s voice came over their comm line in a sudden burst. Is everything alright? I couldn’t get into any cameras over there so I had to high-tail it. I know you’re going to be mad at me, but I just couldn’t sit here and do nothing. After I heard both of you screaming I had to do something, so I reprogrammed this narrow-band subspace transceiver to work broad-spectrum and jumped to the AO net. I figured it wouldn’t be as open and confusing as the public net, and it would be easier to find you since they were backing up your play. Are you okay?”

 

There is a brief pause before APRIL respones with a bit of pride in her tone, -Daray I’m extremely impressed at the level of ingenuity you displayed, and your level headed, cool under pressure approach to the situation. However, I still maintain that we should have locked you in the house safe. Q.E.D. For this, Lana and I shall be forced to divine a suitable punishment to reinforce the peril you put yourself in. Say… a seven course gourmet meal at an expensive establishment before we put things right inside our cranium?- She offers Lana a knowing look as she speaks, -unless Lana has anything else in mind?-

 

“Hey! I did it to help you two! Don’t go plotting against me now, that’s just not fair!” Daray grouses. “Besides, Lana just made her first big payday, I think dinner should be on us APRIL!” Then her tone turns more serious, “so, are you two really alright? It sounded pretty bad in there…”

 

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Lana shakes her head at Aprils question.  “Not pain exactly, more of an itching tingling sensation, like sitting on your foot until it falls asleep and then standing up and feeling the blood rushing back to the nerves.”

 

Lana listens to April and Daray converse when she switches back to their normal speaker system.  “We had a complication Daray.  I think you will find April far more sympathetic to your emotional confusions now; having gotten a taste of what it feels like to have your body react in a way you don't expect at the time.  I think a seven course meal is a good apology for you, April.  As for me, I will insist on an hour of kisses and a back rub in repayment for breaking a promise.  After all, it was I that risked leaving her out of the safe because I didn't want her to worry herself, and she risked herself anyways, although it was very clever mi tesoro.    Physically I'm alright, Daray. Although, do you remember how the geneticist said that there was something off about my DNA?  I think something else has been activated by the stunner.  I might be a little shocking when you see me again.”

 

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“Doctor Yamato just arrived, he’s taking a few moments to get himself back together in the bathroom.” Daray whimpers a bit when her friends start talking about punishment, and plays the part of the chastised party well enough in response, “I think deluging APRIL’s new-found sensations and de-stressing you might be a bit much Lana, but if that’s what you two think is fair, I will go along with it.”

 

-Your response seems less than apologetic to me Daray.- APRIL sounds concerned.

 

Ignoring APRIL’s response, Daray’s next words are about Lana’s warning concerning her appearance, “Lana are you alright?! Honey, I don’t care what you look like as long as we can be together and it doesn’t keep you from being happy with yourself. What happened? APRIL, you were watching her work on the stunner, did you see anything wrong with how it went?”

 

-I saw nothing to indicate that there might have been a problem with the stunner. However, its effects did seem to be much stronger than usual for one of its make. Lana still has its remains so we can inspect it more closely when we return.- APRIL reaches out and touches the burned-out device tentatively. -I suspect that the discharge, combined with the virus and the proximity of Daray’s body may have caused a spontaneous mutation, but we will need time, and possibly a professional opinion to determine the extent and nature of the changes.-

 

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Lana laughs at Daray’s not exactly reticent attitude.  “It’s perfectly fair and reasonable Daray, and I insist on my share of your punishment as soon as we get you back in your body.”  After a short pause she adds with a grin.  “I guarantee you will enjoy it as much as I will.”  

 

Lana begins to maneuver herself and April towards the door.  “April, I’m not sure that you’ve been eating enough.  Daray feels lighter than normal,”  she comments with concern at the lack of weight from the other woman leaning on her.  She gets to the outer door and remembers it sticking a bit on the way in so she grips the knob firmly and gives it a good hard shove, and then stands in shock at the sound of metal tearing as the hinges give way and she ends up with the door hanging entirely from the crumpled knob in her hand.  Her knees buckle in surprise and she drops the door. Lana is now hanging on April for support rather than the other way around.  “What is going on?”  Her voice quivers with uncertainty.


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