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Status Quo - Chapter 64

Written by: Paullell

 Lana groans at the two options.  “Oh god.  I don’t know.  I would have said pure reaction but she had enough attention to detail to shut off our communication link, which Daray and I hadn’t even known was possible.  Daray, did you hear those options?  You’ve known her longer than me, what do you think?  Also Melissa believes my chosen course of action to be misguided and I’m starting to think she might be right.  If I can find her again do I stand a chance of taking her down?  If you think I could then the next question is, do you think I should?  It’s your body that she has run away with.  If we just let her go once she calms down would she come back to us?  Does she have the knowledge necessary to make it on her own in a body without our help?”

 

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Daray’s tone is just as scared as Lana’s when she responds, “Lana if you’d have asked me even ten minutes ago if I thought APRIL was capable of running of with my body, knowing what all was at stake, I would have laughed at you. At this point I’m not sure I could even begin to guess what she might be capable of. She’s super smart, but not very worldly. She used to have access to nearly every iota of human knowledge and history, but I don’t think she can access it directly as she is, and I don’t know what she retains from before. She’d probably have to use a terminal. As for attacking her… I have no idea. I don’t know what you’re capable of now. I know what I could do in my body, but I have years of fighting experience. She has memories, and left-over knowledge, but no real physical experience. I know you don’t have any training, so I have no idea what would happen…”

 

She pauses for a moment, then speaks very quietly, her voice measured and on the verge of panic, “Maybe we need to call for help. Maybe Xavier can help us. He probably had a tracking device of some kind installed in my skull anyway. And his people probably know a dozen different ways to sedate me despite my resistance to toxins…”

 

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Lana is pretty sure she knows that name.  If she remembers correctly that is the person that Alina had mentioned as being one of the people who likes to manipulate Daray and others to keep them working and dependent on the company.  “No... Not yet Daray.  I want to try before we start owing anyone any favors.  Besides, Melissa is helping me so its not like I’m doing this alone.  You scan the news for any uproars that she might have caused, I’m going to pick a direction and go with it.” 

 

Lana picks the street route and ducks around the corer, she has her see aura ability active and is scanning the crowd for patterns of anger or annoyance that might be people that were recently bumped into or interrupted by someone running past.  Hopefully she’ll be able to see a pattern in the crowd’s aura like a current of water that gives away the direction April took. 

 

When Melissa catches up to her again she asks in an aside note.  “So, considering your current contract.; had we proven resistant, did you have any plans for incapacitating her?”

 

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“I don’t know what to do Lana. I’m feeling a bit lost, and a lot overwhelmed here.” Daray responds, “I’ll watch the news reports, and see if I can tap into official communications. I don’t even know where to begin looking for half this stuff though. It could take me hours, or even days, without her help.” She is still just holding herself back from the edge of hysteria.

 

Melissa falls in behind Lana, eyeing her curiously as she inspects the people on the street for emotional signs of APRIL’s passing. “Well, to be perfectly honest, I was planning on taking a bit of a beating while she danced around me with her crazy fighting style, eventually getting a lucky punch in, then using the opening that created to pin her down and beat her senseless. Then I was going to put her into these reinforced manacles I brought along,” she opens some sort of concealed compartment in her right thigh and pulls out a set of heavy looking manacles for Lana to see. The things look as if they could be used to land-lock a capital ship they are so solidly constructed. She quickly tucks them back into the compartment, which closes up and seals away again, leaving no sign of its existence, just like the grapnel in her forearm. “I mean, I’m pretty good in a throw-down, and I can take a beating with the best of them, but I had no illusions bout being able to keep up with her, and I was expecting substantial collateral damage. What with you taking a liking to her and all, I wasn’t looking forward to it, to tell the truth. I was fair sure you’d do everything you could to get in the way, which would have made me beating her down all the harder.”

 

The auras of the people around them on the street are fairly normal for what Lana is used to seeing, although there seems to be a bit more in the way of frustrated individuals across the street and to their left about a block. 

 

“Lana, we have a problem,” Daray broke in again. “I used the same program I hacked before, to get on the AO comm net, since I already had it and knew it worked. It sounds like there is a problem at the local AO security facility nearest the warehouse where you guys waylaid Bob. The radio chatter is tough to interpret, but it sounds a lot like they are saying a little girl is decimating their forces about six blocks from where I last saw you before our private line went dead. News reports are just coming in that a little blonde girl tried to stop a mugging, hurt the mugger, refused to cooperate with authorities, and then went berserk when they tried to restrain her.”

 

There is a long pause before she adds almost in a whisper, “Lana, they’re calling for a Class C weapons unit. Energy weapons and explosives. They’re not trying to apprehend her any more. They’re just trying to stop her by any means available.”

 

“I’m getting some radio chatter about a little blond girl tearing up a bunch of soldiers a few blocks away Lana. I think she could have covered the distance by now, and if she’s really been cooped up in your friend’s head for any length of time, I’m fair sure she’ll have a similarly over-inflated hero complex… We may want to check this out.” Melissa says, obviously totally unaware of what is passing between Lana and Daray.

 

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“Let’s go.”  After pausing to verify it is indeed the direction she suspects Lana dashes ahead.  The more she runs the more she grows used to her new speed, luckily she had always had good reflexes from dancing and she is able to dart through the crowd with surprising grace.  Except for a few startled glances she even manages to do it without disturbing the people around her too terribly.  

 

Even when she gets ahead of her companion, whenever she pauses Melissa manages to catch up to her.  Lana is able to continue using the general aura’s of the people around her to guide her and after a few turns she is as confident of her accuracy as she is of Melissa and Daray’s direction.

 

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It takes the pair mere moments to cover the distance of a few blocks, and it quickly becomes apparent that they are heading in the correct direction as the sounds of conflict become clearer and clearer. Lana’s agility, combined with her now-extreme running ability put her far and away ahead of Melissa, who takes to running in the street with the cars, rather than trying to move around pedestrians on the sidewalks, but she keeps a steady pace and quickly catches up any time Lana pauses to catch her bearings.

 

As they round the final corner, they are met with a scene that could only be imagined in a movie of some kind. There are a few wrecked vehicles, smoking away at the edges of a clearing in the center of an intersection. In the center of the clearing stands APRIL, or crouches rather, as she is coiled low, ready to leap, one hand on the ground and the other raised up and ready to be brought to bear. She is still wearing the thick, black armored version of the skinsuit, but her head remains uncovered, the thick rope of strawberry blonde hair is frazzled and dirty, and the bulk of its length is wrapped around her waist some how.

 

Surrounding her are no less than a dozen armed and armored soldiers, all with weapons pointed at her, but standing back as if they are afraid to approach her, and littered around the ground of the clearing must be the reasons why this is. Several damaged and broken weapons, torn pieces of body armor, broken helmets and scorch marks liter the street around APRIL. There do not appear to be any bodies, although there are several soldiers hanging back from the clearing, nursing injuries of one form or another.

 

As they pair approach the scene they can hear APRIL addressing the masses in a very clear, and well-articulated voice, “Please let me go. I don’t want to hurt anyone. I was just helping that woman and I want to go in peace.”

 

“That may be, but you openly attacked someone on the street and when questioned about it, you attacked a duly-appointed officer of the Conglomerate. Now come with us willingly and we will note your compliance on our report. Maybe they’ll shorten your sentence…” Someone says back over a loud speaker. It’s impossible to tell who it was due to the fact that they are all wearing full helmets.

 

Something happens and two of the soldiers advance slowly into the neutral zone surrounding APRIL, causing her to hunker down lower in anticipation of an attack. “That man touched me in an inappropriate place. I was defending myself, and you are using some form of unspoken camaraderie to cloud that fact from the public at large. I will not submit to corrupt officers of the law.”

 

As she speaks, the soldier that is more behind her pulls his weapon’s butt tightly into his shoulder and fires a short burst which APRIL impossibly avoids by kicking her legs upward into a one-handed handstand. She stays like that, balancing her entire body motionlessly, steady as a rock, balanced on one hand with her legs up in the air, for a few seconds as the crowd tries to digest what they just saw. The silence is broken by a scream from the massed crowd of on-lookers as a man starts screaming hysterically about his partner having been hit by the stray bullets. APRIL narrows her eyes at the soldier, staring at him angrily from her upside-down position and says, “and now you are guilty of harming an innocent!”

 

Without warning, APRIL flips over, landing on one foot and swinging the other around in a wide arc that positions her extended foot directly on the soldier’s helmeted temple. The impact spins the armored figure over in mid-air, arms spread wide in surprise. Before they can fall to the ground, APRIL has shifted position, grabbed the soldier by the combat webbing strapped to their armor, and flung them bodily across the clearing, over the crowd and into the metal wall of a building, just above the front window. The person slumps to the ground and doesn’t move after the impact.

 

Trying to take advantage of her distraction, the second soldier moves up behind her with what looks like the larger contact stunner Lana had seen at the house, but this one was on the end of a metal rod, about six feet in length. With her back turned, the soldier moves to jab the stunner into her spine, but without looking, APRIL reaches around behind her, and palms the business end of the device, stopping it cold. The contact sets the thing off, causing arcs of visible electricity to race up and down her arm as she slowly turns to face the startled soldier, offers him a sweet smile, and then crushes the stunner with the one hand. A shower of sparks leap from the device as she quickly folds the rod over three times and is standing mere inches form the soldier’s armored body.

 

“Please do not force me to injure you,” she says as she yanks the remnants of the stunning rod form their hands and tosses them casually over her shoulder. The soldier quickly scrambles backward and disappears into the line of compatriots surrounding the scene, clearly addled by the experience.

 

“Looks like she’s adjusted to her new body pretty well…” Melissa comments as she moves up beside Lana. They are standing about a block from the scene after having rounded the last corner. “So uh… you got a plan here? It can’t be long before those thugs call in the heavy artillery and just vaporize her. Their egos can’t likely take much more of that kind of bashing…”

 

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Lana grits her teeth at the chaos in front of her, the law is involved and now the mess is several times bigger.  At least she seems to have calmed down enough to be speaking.  Lana’s hair brightens away from brown and shifts into deep red color, reflecting her determination to end this nonsense.  With the same determination she makes her skin lighten to its normal white.  Lana holds her left hand out to Melissa indicating that she wants the restraints that she is still holding.  “Daray.  I don’t know how good your hacking skills are but you need to protect your name and give me a good reason to get her out of there without her being arrested by the police. If you can’t do it, find someone who can.  I’m sure Riana or Kat or any number of your friends can help. Just make certain you listen to what I’m saying so you can back it up on the ‘official’ paperwork.”  

 

“Melissa, if she tries to leave the area; get in her way and slow her down.  You are right, this has to end.”  With that last comment and the cuffs in her hand Lana takes a running leap at another nearby streetlight.  Finally beginning to get a feel for her jumping distances she actually executes this one perfectly.  She swings herself over the bar, gaining momentum, and then lets go when she feels she has enough energy to hurl herself over the crowd and soldiers. She tucks herself into a red white and blue ball until her own body insists she uncurl, which luckily is just in time to land in a slightly unsteady crouch between the soldiers with guns and April.  Not wasting any time she straightens to her feet, throwing her shoulders back and calling out loudly and confidently despite her odd outfit, bright red hair and tail.  She mimics the old superhero stories she used to read as a child “I see I’ve gotten here just in time.  April, you know whenever you escape they just contract me to bring you back in.  You are a danger to yourself and others.  Now are we going to do this the easy way or the hard way?”

 

Lana hopes April realizes that she is offering her a way out where she won’t put civilians at risk, however she is on full alert and prepared to try to tackle her if she tries to run.  Lana hopes that if they make enough of a spectacle of this Daray will have time to work up a cover story that the police will buy.

 

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Melissa hands the manacles over and nods at Lana’s instructions, moving off into the crowd and pushing her way through to the front line, where she can better see and react to the coming events.

 

“I’ll do what I can Lana. It helps that I’m already in AO’s comm net. I’mm working on their data net now. See if you can draw things out for a bit, give me some time,” her tone is al business now, events having washed away her feelings for the time being and focusing her energy on the matter at hand.

 

When Lana lands in the clearing, every weapon there instantly moves to train on her form. One of the soldiers moves to make a protest of some kind, but is cut off by APRIL’s panicked cry as she stumbles back from Lana, arms raised defensively, “No! I don’t want to go back! You can’t make me! It hurts too much. I won’t let you do that to me again!”

 

As she staggers backward, her heel catches on a broken assault rifle and she stumbles, landing on her rear and continuing to back away from Lana for a few more feet before she twists around onto all-fours and starts to scramble away, trying to get her feet under her again.

 

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Lana’s heart breaks as she hears April’s panicked and painful protest.  She doesn’t let that slow her down for a moment though.  “I’m sorry to hear you say that April but I cannot let you harm the police here in your attempt to escape again.  They are hard working men and women who are here to keep people safe.”  

 

Lana chases after April who has reached the edge of the crowed and the civilians are starting to part to let her through.  As soon as she can she reaches for one of her scrambling feet.  When she catches it she pulls back with all of her strength, spinning her body in the process.  Her hope is to lift April off of the ground and swing her into one of the nearby cars back in the middle of the fray.  She is fairly certain that slamming into a non moving car will barley faze April, she is just uncertain of her own ability to pull the maneuver off.

 

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APRIL’s weight is as nothing to Lana’s new musculature. As she gains a tenuous grip on her Ankle, the crowd parts due to her proximity, revealing Melissa, standing there, fist cocked back. She lunges forward, connecting with APRIL’s jaw as she looks up in confusion. The impact twists her body around again, knocking her head and shoulders against the pavement and allowing Lana to reinforce her grip.

 

When she shifts her stance and rolls her shoulders forward, the reaction is somewhat unexpected to Lana, who hasn’t had a chance to really test the limits of her new strength yet. APRIL comes off the ground like some kind of toy and is flung bodily across the open space where she smashes into a wrecked vehicle, caving in the material of its side wall.

 

It takes a few seconds, seconds in which the entire scene grows quite in various form of stunned amazement, before APRIL begins to extricate herself form the wreckage of the vehicle, shortly dropping to her feet and looking up at Lana and Melissa, who is now standing with her arms folded under her breasts, feet planted a shoulder width apart and a look of triumph writ across her face.

 

“You! You came to hurt us! You came to take Lana and hurt Daray!” Her cobalt eyes narrow for a moment before they are swallowed up beneath the skinsuit as it forms into Daray’s familiar helmet and featureless faceplate. A second later she is charging at Melissa, fist cocked back and ready to strike, and Lana completely forgotten.

 

“Lana! I’ve got into their data net. I just dropped a communication to them about an escaped Nuala-Quatno, from a genetics lab near the space port. You and Melissa are listed as the contractors hired to bring her in. And I’ve sent and ERV to deal with the gunshot victim. You have to hurry though, the heavy weapons team has been dispatched from Sector Four and will be there in less than five minutes,” Daray announces. “News coverage is beginning to go out, but I’ve been able to isolate the video streams and blur her...my face out. It’s the best I could do on short notice, but it should be alright for anyone who isn’t there.”

 

APRIL’s punch is truly thunderous. She leaps into the air at the last moment, and as she drops back to the ground, she swings the clenched fist downward in a tight arc, using the combination of gravity, her own deceptive weight, and the strength of her muscles to drive the punch home. Melissa doesn’t even try to move, just shifting her eyes ever so briefly toward Lana before the impact. It sounds like a gunshot, and APRIL ends up in a crouching position on the ground at Melissa’s feet, as if posing for some movie montage. Melissa’s head turns slightly, and she takes a half-step back from the impact, but that’s about the extent of her reaction. When she lifts her face up again to look at APRIL, the left check has been torn away, revealing a metal jaw and perfectly formed, perfectly white teeth beneath the slightly bloody wound.

 

Melissa shakes her head solemnly for a moment, causing the loose flap of skin to wave beneath her jaw like a flag, then cocks back her own arm and drives her fist toward the top of APRIL’s skull. At the last second, APRIL rolls backward, kicking her heels up and extending her legs, driving them into the underside of Melissa’s chin and picking her up off the ground with a surprised grunt.

 

Carrying her feet over backward, APRIL alights on her feet again, mere inches from where Lana stands, and attention still fully focused on Melissa, where she is picking herself up off the ground, more of her skin dangling from her chin where APRIL’s feet had impacted. “Do you have any idea how much it costs to have this kind of damage repaired?” She asks forcefully, but with a note of amusement, as she tears away a large chunk of the damaged flesh and tosses it on the ground at her feet. She quickly takes a fighting stance and nods subtly at Lana.

 

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Lana was already darting forward before Melissa even nodded.  She wants to process what she had just observed but is far more concerned with ending this quickly before the more dangerous weapons get here.  She slaps one of the cuffs around her left wrist and then dashes forward to snap the cuff around April’s left wrist as well.  In the same motion once the link clicks securely she grabs April’s hand and upper arm and pulls April into a throw over her shoulder.  Luckily she had a client that liked to wrestle and this is one of the moves she actually learned.  She slams April into the ground and pounces on top of her.  Lana’s tail flicks furiously as she bends in close to April’s ear.  She whispers hurriedly.  “April, The police sent out the call for heavy weapons.  If you don’t let me pretend to arrest you they are going to try to kill you.  Please, love”  the pin is a poor one and Lana knows it, luckily even if April breaks it they are now linked together, it will be very hard for her to actually run away.

 

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Melissa grins widely as Lana springs into action, unintentionally tipping APRIL off that something is going on. She begins to move forward, but Lana is already moving, and seems to be the faster of them. The heavy manacle closes around her wrist, locking with a resounding click, and for the briefest of moments, APRIL pauses…

 

This opens the window for Lana’s Ju Jitsu, twisting around and flinging APRIL over her shoulder again, this time slamming her into the ground with a resounding thud that actually jarred the smashed vehicles a few feet away.Twisting her arm around again and perching on her back, the angle seemed just right to keep APRIL form moving her manacled arm to dislodge Lana. Her body shuddered as she began to raise up, using her other hand and legs to lift both of them off the ground, but Lana’s words gave her pause, and a moment later, she relaxed, and collapsed back to the ground beneath her friend.

 

“Lana… I’m scared…” APRIL sobbed quietly as the black helmet retracted itself back into the rest of her outfit. Her ears were filled with tears and her entire body shuddered with sobs. “It hurt so much… But I don’t want to hurt you and Daray either… This world is so confusing… I tried to help someone… I tried to help her… And Daray too… I’ve done so much damage…”

 

Her body becomes pliable, the skinsuit melting back into its natural, black, form-fitting state as she seems to just give up and cry beneath Lana.

 

“Well. That was naughty…” Melissa comments, moving up beside the pair. She was picking idly at the damaged flesh of her cheek, tossing little bits of the bloody flesh away as she spoke. “And oh look!, here comes our ride…”

 

Pointing over the assembled crowd toward a plain white van with a familiar-looking orange mohawked head behind the wheel. The soldiers began to move in on the trio, weapons still at the ready and anticipating trouble from the little blonde woman.

 

“You there! Identify yourself!” One of them shouts at them.

 

“Gene-Systems,” Daray announces in Lana’s ear, “You’re still attached to my license if they need to scan you.”

 

Melissa turns to face the group, raising her hands as if getting ready to fight them off, but looking down to Lana for direction, since she seems to be handling things pretty well thus far.

 

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Lana motions for Melissa to stand down.  “I know April.  We'll talk where it’s more private, try to keep your face turned away, we don't want a record of this on the vids.”  

 

She raises her chipped arm towards the soldiers.  My Name is Lana Maxalis, I'm with Gene-Systems and this is my target.  I apologize for the trouble that has been caused to your unit but I am responsible for apprehending this woman and delivering her back to her containment.”  Lana climbs off of April and moves to help her to her feet, all the while keeping her hand on the back of April's neck, reminding her to keep her head down. 


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