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Status Quo - Chapter 60

Written by: Paullell

 “Alright. If you’re going to twist my arm, I ~guess~ I’ll go along with this whole punishment thing. I still want to protest though. I saved you two a lot of poking and prodding at the hands of AO, and they already don’t like me much, so I know it would have been uncomfortable!”

 

As they stand and begin moving toward the door, APRIL’s reply to Lana’s admonishment is as it could only be expected to be, -Lana, I am not certain if anyone could ever eat enough to satiate the constant hunger that Daray’s body seems to suffer from. However, I think it unlikely that her mass has changes to any significant degree recently.-

 

She does her best to stay upright under her own power as they move, and seems to be getting herself under control, both emotionally and physically. By the time they reach the door, she is standing more or less on her own, simply holding Lana’s hand in case something happens with her balance and she needs buttressing. When Lana rips the door from its frame as abruptly as a gunshot, every muscle in APRIL’s body tenses in anticipation of an attack, which is the only reason they don’t both tumble over one another on the ground. She manages to somehow adjust to Lana’s sagging form and yanks her up again, shifting her arm around the woman’s waste to support her. 

 

Meanwhile, Daray is freaking out again, “Lana what was that? Are you okay?!”

 

Casting an inquisitive look over the mangled door, she helps Lana move away from the scene o the crime and toward the waiting transport at the curb a few dozen feet away. -That was certainly unexpected, but it does help validate my suspicion concerning your other change Lana.-

 

The women make their way to the transport, the door opening automatically at their approach, and APRIL helps Lana into the back seat, only barely keeping herself from toppling in after her. -Please try to remain calm Lana, and make small, controlled movements, any sudden actions may be grossly over-interpreted by your body and cause damage to you, or your surroundings. Concentrate on your heartbeat and breathing while we head home.-

 

The trip back to their home is a quick one, the transport dropping them off fifty feet from the front door of the glass tower, its door opening automatically again for them to exit. Lana and APRIL support one another like a couple of inebriated party-goers as they shuffle up the sidewalk, past the security guard in the lobby, and into the elevator. When the door opens into their home, they are greeted by the orange-mohawked Doctor Yamato, who seems to be in a much better state now. He looks to be showered and refreshed, and is just setting out tea for three at the living room coffee table in the center of the round, sunken couch.

 

“Welcome! I must thank you for saving me!” He moves over to them and takes each of their hands in turn, bowing his head  to them and then motioning to the couch and trying to help in any way he can, “are you injured? Can I help? I brewed hot tea while I spoke with your friend, Daray about your situation. Are you alright? You both seem a bit out of sorts…”

 

He does whatever he can to be of assistance, getting in the way of their mutual support, but only a little, as he tries to help.

 

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Lana leans gratefully into the support that April offers, her eyes wide and confused.  “I have no idea what that was Daray, I just ripped a damn door off of its hinges, ciò è pazzesca.  You knew this would happen April?  Why on earth would you have expected this?”  

 

Lana climbs into the cab and sits very still, working diligently on calming her breathing.  She remains tense the entire ride, worried that she will break something.  Once she is inside her new home again she makes her way with April’s help as quickly as she can to the couch.  “Thank you, Dr. Yamato. Things did not go as smoothly in your rescue as hoped but I believe we will eventually be fine.  Please sit down yourself.  Are you all right?  Will you be able to help us?”

 

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“You did what?! Holy crap, I didn’t know you could do that!”

 

-I was not expecting it, as such, Lana. However, this revelation, combined with your skin condition, confirms that the over-loaded stunner, combined with the virus code, your genetic condition, and your proximity to Daray’s body has somehow imprinted some of her genetic traits onto your DNA. Even going so far as to assimilate DNA from the X-07 Bio-Mechanical Skinsuit. I can’t explain how your body so quickly altered itself to conform to the new pattern, although I suspect it may have something to do with Daray’s regeneration. Doctor Braddock warned that it would be a specific confluence of events and conditions that would trigger your recessive DNA, and we appear to have discovered exactly the correct recipe.-

 

Helping get her to the couch, Doctor Yamato pours Lana a cup of tea and sits down opposite her as APRIL falls in next to her, placing her hand over Lana’s and twining her fingers through her friend’s. “Please, call me Hakiro. I am sorry if I’ve caused you any undue trouble. The man never even told me what he wanted. I was quite confused until your Daray explained what happened to bring the brute to my door. I must say, that is a scary man. As for helping you, I will do what I can, but I have to say that this is not a situation I have ever encountered before. I will have to investigate very thoroughly before I can even begin to work on a solution. APRIL, how are you adjusting to the body? Are you gaining control?”

 

APRIL sits up a little straighter and looks at him, then responds, “Yes… doctor…”

 

He nods solemnly, “as I feared. Whatever we do, we must do it soon as the longer APRIL occupies this body, the more her program will expand and change in order to acclimate itself to its environment. The more that happens, the more difficult it will be to extract her, and then put her back in her normal environment.”

 

“But I’m doing alright in this computer thing… where APRIL used to live…” Daray interjects.

 

Doctor Yamato nods, then adds, “Yes you are Daray, but you are also altering your consciousness in order to better accommodate your new environment. You are in danger of being damaged as well, if this condition lasts too long. Moving back to your body will likely be very traumatic, and will require a good deal of time in order to re-acclimate. As it stands now, I need to get APRIL hooked up to a computer so I can look at her program, but it will take me several hours to configure the computer here to handle the work. I would suggest we go to my home and use my equipment, but that brute did a good deal of damage to it before dragging me out.”

 

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Lana’s heart rate shoots through the roof, adrenaline rushing through her body as she processes the programmer’s words.  “What you are telling me is that we need to reverse this as soon as possible or risk them being stuck like this however we have a choice of wasting several precious hours here trying to modify this equipment or taking time to travel to your home where you have the equipment you need but it may or may not be damaged, there by wasting both the time to travel there, as well as back and then still needing the time to modify the equipment here?  Unacceptable!  I refuse to waste a dios maldecido minute on either option.  Where else can we go?  Someplace that is garantizado to have the equipment you need; a rival technician, a hospital, a research lab.  I will beg, borrow or steal to give you the best chance of success. Just tell me what you need.”  

 

As she speaks she grows more impassioned and her skin begins to fluctuate in color again, glowing with a mild bio-luminescence even in the well lit room, her hair shifts in shade from navy blue to violet to red.  Her fingers curl into the couch as she tries to keep herself from leaping up and pacing the room,  There is a minor tingle in warning and then familiar razor sharp claws shoot out of her fingertips and rip into the cushioning on the couch.  She raises her hands to look at what she has done with an expression of mild horror.  “Madre un Dios!  What else can go wrong?”

 

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Doctor Yamato stares at Lana, blinking wide-eyed throughout her tirade, then finally seems to shake himself out of it. “You don’t understand. APRIL’s program is so complex that only a few computers can run it under normal circumstances. The kind of equipment I will need only exists in one or two places in Tranquility outside of this house and my apartment. We’re not talking about a case where a couple hours will make that large of a difference in the end result here. I didn’t mean to panic you.”

 

The doctor sort of shrinks back into the couch at the sight of Lana’s visual outburst, and he actually jumps when she rears her claws and damages the couch. “I’m really sorry. Really. Please don’t hurt me! Look, I can get this place set up in ninety minutes or so, and in that time I can make sure that your friend, Daray is safe and secure, and ready to go back into her own body.”

 

-Please Lana, try to remain calm,- APRIL comments, her hand squeezing Lana’s to try and keep her grounded. -Doctor Yamato is a foremost authority on Artificial Intelligence and a loyal employee of Solidarity Online. He was a close, personal friend of my father’s and I feel certain he would not risk my destruction for any personal reasons. We should defer to his judgment as much as possible.-

 

“Lana, APRIL’s never been wrong about things like this before. Maybe you two should go take care of that meal for APRIL while the Doctor gets set up here. I’ll keep an eye on things here.” Daray’s voice is reluctant, but she doesn’t really sound worried, more jealous, left out.

 

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Lana looks over Dr. Yamato’s form when he jumps up from his seat.  The bright yellow of his aura in nearly painful to look at as it reflects the intensity of his fear.  When she feels April’s… Daray’s, hand reach out to touch her she yanks her hand away from April and puts them both behind her back as though being cuffed, too afraid of hurting her and not sure what else to do to show that she will behave.  “No… nyet… please do not crainte.  I would never hurt another.  I am effrayé.  I worry.  If you say it is fine I will trust you.”  

 

Lana listens to Daray’s suggestion but shakes her head.  “April I’m, so sorry but I can’t see going out in my current condition.  Please let me see what I can do about having a meal delivered….”

 

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APRIL releases Lana’s arm, somewhat reluctantly, then looks down at her own hand with wide eyes. The claws in her own finger tips are slowly retracting, each one bearing a slow trickle of blood. It takes her a minute to come to terms with the sight, at which point she slowly looks up at Lana, arms still clasped behind her back, then drops her eyes down to look at the pool of blood forming on the couch behind her. -Of course, ordering food is acceptable Lana, however I think you may wish to inspect your arm. I fear I may have damaged you by mistake.- She raises her hand and turns it around, fingers spread wide, to show Lana the blood on her fingertips.

 

“What are you two doing now?!”

 

Doctor Yamato quickly moves out of the living room and to the kitchen where he grabs Daray’s computer and heads toward the office with her, “I’m going to start setting up on the terminal back here while you two… uh… sort yourselves out. APRIL, please try not to do too much as the more you do, the more you adjust to that body, and the more difficult it will be for you when we start changing things around again.” He then disappears into the office, muttering to himself about crazy color-changing women with claws.

 

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Lana looks in surprise at the blood on April.  It is only when she sees the blood that she can feel the pain in her flesh from where the claws had raked her skin when she jerked away from April.  She brings her hands around to her front again and stares at the small gashes for only a moment before clamping her good hand over them to staunch the flow of blood.  The result is puncturing her skin again with her own claws even as her palm covers the gashes. 

 

“Oh dear,”  she comments surprisingly calmly, and then gets to her feet and proceeds to walk sedately into the kitchen.  She sticks her hand under the sink’s faucet and proceeds to turn the cold water on, washing the blood away. 

 

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APRIL quickly follows Lana into the kitchen, a look of childlike wonderment writ across her face, cobalt eyes open wide as she watches the spectacle before her. She is still holding her own bloodied hand out in front of her as she moves, as if she is trying to preserve the evidence for later examination.

 

-Lana I’m very sorry. I did not intend to harm you, are you alright?-

 

“What the hell are you two doing in there?!” Daray shrieks through the link. “Doctor Yamato said to take it easy APRIL. You stop whatever you’re doing in there with my body and leave Lana alone! Lana are you alright?”

 

-Calm yourself Daray, if my suspicions are correct, she may not be injured for long. Lana, is the tingling sensation you described occurring again? Around the wounds specifically?-

 

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Lana winces at Daray’s shouting through the speaker.  “Ow, Daray.  You’re hurting my ears.  I’m afraid I ruined your couch, you’ll have to take the repair cost out of my share of our earnings.”   She considers April’s question.  “Maybe.  It’s under cold water now so all I’m feeling is numb.”  She pulls her arm out of the water to better asses her injuries and notes that neither set is bleeding any longer.   Under the kitchen lighting the redness fades from looking like a scratch received just five minutes ago to an injury that is at least 12 hours old.  As she watches the injury healing Lana calms somewhat until her hair settles into a range of blue hues similar to her original coloring although her skin is another complimentary blue shade instead of her normal pale white.  She looks at a stray strand of her hair in disbelief.  “Wow, what a way to find out that you have wasted several thousand credits on a gene treatment. On the other hand I’ll be very good at disguises…” 

 

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“My couch?!” Daray hollers, but then quickly reigns in her tone and volume, “Lana, I don’t give a crap about my couch! What is going on in there?”

 

-The final piece seems to have fallen into place Daray. If my supposition is correct, the interaction of the damaged stunner, the virus code, Lana’s aberrant DNA, and our proximity during the incident, have transferred some of your DNA to her. She seems to have acquired your ability to regenerate, which is likely what made it possible for her entire body to take on these other traits so quickly. Now that she can regenerate in similar fashion to your body Daray, she was able to very quickly alter her own structure to be in line with her new, altered DNA.-

 

“So… Are you okay with all of that Lana? You suddenly sound pretty calm. In fact, you’ve been sounding calmer and calmer the further you’ve gotten from that warehouse,” she pauses for a moment, then continues in a much quieter, sheepish tone, “I know you don’t want to hear this, but I am so sorry that I dragged you into all of this Lana. A week ago you were fine and now you’re being chased around by crazy cyborgs and having your DNA altered by over-juiced stunners with computer viruses in them!”

 

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Lana shakes her head even though Daray probably can’t see her.  “For asking that incredibly stupid question more than once, I’m adding to your punishment.  You now owe me an hour of kisses, a back rub and a foot rub.”  Her teasing tone dies and returns to a sort of monotone as she tries to explain how she is feeling.  “I’m kind of numb.  It’s not like it is entirely your fault.  You didn’t change my genes.  It’s something my parents did that I’m just learning about.  Circumstances have just lead to the right domino effect to wake up a suppressed ability.  This could have happened anyway, or it could have been much worse.  I could have starved to death in that dinky little apartment.  I could have been picked up by Turin alone and friendless and without the knowledge that I had to help you I would not have had the mental fortitude to resist him.  I would have been another mindless drone.  I’m not sure how I feel about it Daray.  It was never anything that I coveted.  On the other hand I’ve found someone to love rather than being alone.  I’ve made a friend in April… and Riana and Kat and several others.  And I cant deny that if we can just get you fixed this will make it a lot easier for me to keep up with you on your job…”

 

While Lana talks she makes her way to the kitchen terminal and browses the local delivery services.  After a frustrating few minuets she tries a different tactic.  She emails a local posh restaurant a copy of the contents of their kitchen and an outrageous offer for a chef to come over immediately and bring whatever else he needs to cook a seven course meal of their choice for five as soon as possible.  The amount she offers is the same as that caliber of chief’s pay for a week, it seems a reasonable incentive.  Now she just waits to see if anyone will respond to the outrageous offer.

 

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Daray sounds a little hurt, but it’s fairly obvious that she is acting, “Fine. Be that way! I’ll give you your foot rub, and your back rub, and I’ll even kiss you for an hour straight. But there is no way in heck that I am going any further than that… if you ask me not to…”

 

-Indeed, if you intend to continue joining us in the field, this development could in fact be quite fortuitous. Although we will need to evaluate your new abilities quite thoroughly so that we know what you are capable of. It wouldn’t do to put you in harm’s way without understanding your abilities.-

 

It takes less than thirty minutes for the security guard in the lobby to call up to the apartment, and when Lana answers the comm, he gives her a suspicious look that doesn’t really let up until APRIL steps up beside her and leans into her. Finally, he shakes his head and says, “Miss Bowen, there is a woman here with a load of groceries that says you called for a chef. I checked her and her parcels and she is alright to come up if you’re expecting her?”

 

APRIL looks at Lana for a second with a raised eyebrow, then turns back to the image of the man and nods, “okay.”

 

The guard eyes her for a second, then says, “alright, I’m sending her up. Please let me know if there is anything you need Miss Bowen…” He looks at the pair for another long moment, then the image winks out and seconds later, the door bell chimes.

 

-The blue compliments your hair nicely Lana,- APRIL says as Lana heads toward the door to admit the woman, who looks her over, sweeps her gaze across the massive space and licks her lips slightly before she introduces herself with a slight curtsey.

 

“Good evening, my name is Melissa. I was sent over from Ambrosia to prepare a meal for you and your party.” She has a small cart with her that is laden with groceries, and she is wearing a chef’s smock under a light jacket. Her brown hair is pulled into a bun on the back of her head and her eyes are a vibrant hazel. Her ears a slightly pointed, her teeth are slightly long and a little sharper than normal, and she has no less than a dozen different piercings in her ears.

 

APRIL looks at her across the room, then dampens a rag, picks up a towel and moves to the couch to start cleaning up Lana’s blood. When Melissa sees it, she looks a little concerned, but holds her ground, and looks to Lana expectantly. “I’m not technically allowed to be on sight if any criminal activity is being perpetrated. If you’d like, I can leave my things here and go for a walk while you clean things up.”

 

Her lack of concern seems a bit odd, although she is a little nervous, or is it just a state of heightened awareness? The fact that the guard okayed her to come up means she is not carrying any obvious weapons, but that doesn’t necessarily rule out all danger. She could be an assassin in disguise, or simply a chef that works on call and has seen one to many atrocities.


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