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Status Quo - Chapter 68

Written by: Paullell

 Lana’s expression is one of chagrin as she realizes she forgot to mention that they still had guests.  She throws Daray an apologetic look before winking at Melissa.  “Not naked.  I’m wearing a shirt as you can plainly see.”  She prances up to the counter, her tail flicking happily behind her as she breathes in the wonderful breakfast aromas.  “Oh, my god, that’s heavenly smelling.  But after Daray and I are finished with it what are you going to eat?”  She asks with a grin.  

 

She snags a strip of bacon and begins to munch on it happily.  “Oh!  I almost forgot again.  Daray I would like you to meet Melissa.  She’s the one who is contracted to bring me kicking and screaming to meet my father.  Melissa, this is my love and my partner, Daray.”

 

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“Yeah, I sort of meant her,” Melissa points at Daray with her spatula. “Although I can see she isn’t truly naked. Is that really a skinsuit? I thought those things were discontinued because of some kind of really serious side-effect…”

 

Daray just shrugs at the comment as she snags a plate and fills it up with heaping piles of food. “Yeah. It’s sort of stuck on me… Like… forever… It’s not so bad though. I save a fortune on clothing and armor, never have to wonder if I’m wearing something appropriate for the venue, and can get naked faster than anyone I know…” She grins at Lana with the last comment. “It’s nice to meet you Melissa. Thank you for helping out.”

 

“My pleasure.” Melissa nods, then returns to her cooking.

 

“Oh, and if you touch Lana in any way that she doesn’t want. I’ll stuff you into a coffee can and jettison you into space. Unless you really piss me off, in which case, things could get ugly. Great pancakes by the way!”

 

Melissa stops and stares at Daray for a moment, then laughs out loud, shaking her head as she pours some more eggs into the serving bowl. “I thought I’d like you when I read your dossier,” she grins. “You’ve got no worries from my quarter Daray. I like you both.”

 

“And so you must be Doctor Yamato?” Dray looks at Hakiro, “Thank you doctor. I don’ remember much of the last twelve hours or so, but things must have gone alright eh?”

 

The Doctor offers Lana a furtive glance then smiles at Daray and nods, “You’re welcome. I am glad to have been able to help.”

 

Scanning the room as she eats, Daray sees the hole in the outside wall and has to do a double-take. “Um… can someone explain why there is a body-sized hole in the wall?”

 

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Lana begins piling a plate with food listening to the other women’s exchange and for some reason wanting to laugh through it.  When Daray comments about the wall, she looks over at her in surprise.  “Uh oh… Does April remember the past twelve hours?”  She bites her lip before continuing honestly.  "Actually Daray... It's a YOU sized hole in the wall.  April had a little panic attack and forgot what doors were used for."

 

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Daray raises an eyebrow at Lana’s comment, then looks back to the hole in the wall, the spider-web of broken glass obscuring the view of the city almost completely. She chews thoughtfully on a piece of bacon for a moment before turning back to her plate and loading another fork-full of food to eat.

 

“APRIL? A panic attack? That doesn’t seem much like the APRIL I know and love…”

 

-I am sorry Daray, the last twelve hours thirty-five minutes, and fifty-four seconds seem to be missing from memory. I can not ascertain the reason for the lapse, and my self-diagnostic has returned nothing, aside from a few missing lines of code that were previously hidden from me, and seem to have been removed without any ill effect. I am still having difficulty determining the root cause for this, but I assume it has something to do with our juxtaposition of minds Daray.-

 

“Okay. Keep me informed APRIL. If anything’s going weird up there, we should get it looked at as soon as possible you know?” Turning back to Lana for a moment, she asks, “was anyone hurt?”

 

Melissa rubs a hand across her chin and jaw line, smiling to herself but saying nothing.

 

The Doctor flicks that same furtive glance in Lana’s direction again, which apparently doesn’t sneak by Daray, who loads another fork and says, “Okay folks, y’all are keeping something from me here… Time to spill the beans or I’m going to have to hoard all the food and keep it to myself until someone squawks…”

 

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“Nothing permanent other than the wall was damaged,” is Lana's response to Daray's inquiry about anyone getting hurt.  She takes a deep breath and tries to decide where to start.  There has been so much that has happened and so much that she needs to explain before anything else goes wrong.

 

Lana actually abandons her own plate and seat and walks over to where Daray has perched on her stool.  She pushes the plate out of the way and does something that normally she would find very rude.  She hops up onto the counter and sits in front of Daray.  She tucks the shirt she is wearing between her legs to give her something resembling modesty and to hopefully keep Daray from becoming distracted by anything.  She then takes Daray's hands and guides them around her waist before bracing her own hands on Daray's neck and guiding her head until she is looking into her face.  “Daray.  I love you.  I'm going to tell you some things but I'm not certain how you are going to take them.  The same goes for April.  I need to touch you so that if you freak out on me you can't go dashing off and do something dangerous.”  Lana closes her eyes and bends until their foreheads touch.  She takes another breath before opening her eyes and sitting up again.  “Plus touching you helps give me courage and strength.  Daray, do you remember why April switched your consciousness'?”

 

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When Lana pushes her plate aside, Daray looks at her with more than a little bit of concern, but when she moves over and pushes her own plate away and hops up onto the counter she begins to look more than a little worried. “This doesn’t bode well,” she says after swallowing the mouthful of food she’d been working on. She reaches around Lana and sets her fork down before allowing her hands to be guided around her friend’s waist, at which point she laces her fingers together Lana’s tail.

 

Melissa shuts down the stove, spooning and ladling the last of what she was cooking into bowls, then points at Doctor Yamato and crooks her finger in a ‘come here’ sort of way. Within seconds, they have both left the room and moved off somewhere else in the house. 

 

After her physical arrangements have been made and she describes why she is doing what she is, Daray looks up into Lana’s eyes and waits for her to begin.

 

At her question, Daray narrows her eyes, trying to recall the situation. “I remember… I was on Mars… It was after the explosion and the misunderstanding in those people’s apartment… Killgore caught up with us in the alley and we broke company so you could get away. I knocked him out and then led the authorities to the nearest airlock, then escaped into the Valles Maranaris. APRIL helped me tap into a couple oxygen lines when I started running low, but when I went to replenish my lungs again I was ambushed by someone and they got the jump on me. Knocked me out cold.”

 

She pauses to take a breath and reflect a little before continuing. “The next thing I recall after that is waking up, tied spread eagle to some kind of bench or table. There were two or three people in the room and one of them was talking, as if he was narrating a video or something… They had me tied down really well. I couldn’t move anything but my head and neck. They tortured me for a while. Knives and torches, the usual stuff. And I remember some kind of pressure in my head, like a headache that just kept getting worse and worse. I didn’t give them what they wanted though. I didn’t give them your location, and I think it really got them mad. Then the big guy strips off his clothes and…”

 

Her eyes begin to tear up and her voice cracks a bit as she starts to squeeze Lana’s waist a little tighter, “...he  moved between my legs… APRIL said she could keep him from doing what he intended…”

 

-I am sorry Daray. I did what I could.-

 

“There was this sharp pain in my ankle, then this tingling sensation all over my body…”

 

-They used some kind of low-level electric field generator to paralyze the X-07 Bio-Mechanical Skinsuit. I could not make it obey my control and protect you.-

 

“He got closer and closer. He was grinning at me… And touching himself… I couldn’t see it… my body was arched backward over the curved table, but I felt it pressing inside me…” Tears are streaming down her face now and she is squeezing Lana hard enough that bruises would be the ideal outcome. More than likely however, the damage would be greater. “I felt him pushing into me. He went really slow, but I felt like I was going to break in half… Then I did break… Somehow… I think it was my hymen. A sharp flash of pain. It felt like he’d broken my pelvis, but the next thing I know he was all the way inside me… The pain went on for a while after that. but as he moved himself in and out a few times I…”

 

She is fully sobbing now, real rivers of tears pouring out of her and gut-wrenching sobs choking her up as she clutches at Lana’s body. The skinsuit starts to squirm and flow again, slowly turning into the thick, black armor that she wears into serious combat. “Oh god Lana, I’m so sorry… I couldn’t help myself… I started to… My body just… It started to feel… Lana, what’s wrong with me? How could such a violent, hateful act cause that kind of reaction?!”

 

She cries for several minutes without saying anything else. She tries more than once to shrink away from Lana, but between Lana’s newfound strength and Daray’s need for her touch, she is held fast. Finally, she pulls herself together enough to add, “That’s all I remember before coming to, floating in a room filled with light. There was light al around me, and a sense of weightlessness that I’ve never had before, not even in vacuum. Then you and APRIL started talking to me about what had happened and where I was…”

 

-Daray, I am so very sorry to have failed you.- APRIL’s tone is serious, apologetic in the extreme.

 

“What are you talking about APRIL? You did what you thought was best. What you thought you had to do…”

 

-It is much more than that Daray. I have committed an act of violation against you as surely as the man in that room did.-

 

“What are you talking about? What’s going on here?” She sniffles as she lifts her head and looks into Lana’s eyes. “What could possibly measure up to that sort of attack?”

 

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Lana just holds Daray and lets her cry herself out.  She hadn't actually meant to make her go through the whole thing again but it probably wouldn't hurt to face those demons now rather than later.  She holds on to her tightly despite the suit shifting to armor which was far less comfortable to grip.  She understood it to be an automatic defense reaction when Daray feels attacked like she had been that night.  

 

“That response is nothing you should ever apologize for.  It's normal and I'll explain that in further detail later if you wish.  I love you and what happened, even your response to it, is something that I feel responsible for.  I can never apologize enough that you were forced to go through that.  Those men intended to do that to you again and again until your mind broke.  They could tell you were too strong for any other form of torture to work.  April was desperate to spare you that.  When she started to do... whatever it was that she did.  She found out that she couldn't save all of your memories.  There were some, prior to your agreement with the company, that caused you frequent pain.  She made the decision in that panicked moment not to bother saving those memories that were causing you so much emotional pain, since she didn't have the room for them anyways... If you like.. later... much later.  We will both try to explain what it is in your past that you have lost.  I'm not a doctor.  We have no way of knowing if your original memories will ever be able to be retrieved.  It's possible they might be lost.  This has been causing April pain ever since she did it and she has been afraid to face you... afraid you won't be able to forgive her.” 

 

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“You don’t need to apologize Lana. I thought I was untouchable. I thought they couldn’t hurt me. Couldn’t get to me no matter what they did. Even when they caught me, I wasn’t worried… Lana, I’ve never been so scared in all my life, as I was when that man came at me…”

 

Taking a moment to wipe tears from her eyes, she locks her hands behind Lana’s back again and leans into her, laying her cheek against her friends chest and hugging her. “If the memories were bad ones… Why do I need them? I don’t feel like anything is missing. There’s no hole in my life, that I can feel. No uncertainty about my past. Although now that you mention it, I don’t remember much past my days training aboard the Tyconderoga… APRIL, you did what you had to do. Just as I’ve done in the past, and as you and I have done to help Lana. That’s all any of us can ever do isn’t it?”

 

She squeezes Lana again , then leans back and looks her in the eyes, “if it was bad enough that it was causing me pain, then I say good riddance. As long as you two are still with me. You’re all I need.” She sniffles again, wiping away more tears and keeping her eyes on Lana’s for any signs that she is making the wrong decision. But it doesn’t feel wrong. 

 

-Rest assured, that I will always be here for you Daray. Even in the event that we were able to be separated, I would find such an arrangement… unfortunate.-

 

“You know, I don’t know what I lost, but it feels kind of liberating in a way. Now that I know I’ve lost something painful. Something that was troubling. It’s like starting over, isn’t it?” Her look is hopeful.

 

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Lana sighs in relief, Daray has accepted this information much more calmly then she could have.  “Yes, yes it is like starting over.  But if anything comes up, anything about your past that you want to know about, April and I will answer you honestly.  I don’t know much but I know enough to be a little help… Now, for the second piece of news; this one is even more disturbing, but in a different way.  April, you need to lock this next piece of information as tightly as you can in your own memory.  You may or may not be aware of this… but when Dr Yamato was working to fix you both he discovered multiple lines of hidden code that had been added to your programming after your original creator’s work on you.  This programming is designed to collect data about yourself and Daray and send it back to the company.  They also seem to have programmed in several fail safes incase Daray ever goes rogue and disobeys them.” 

 

Lana takes another deep breath and rushes ahead before either of them can interrupt her.  “Dr Yamato removed what he could find but he believes their tinkering was more extensive than what he could discover in the short amount of time that he had.  I’ve asked him to come back for regular diagnostic work with you to help find and remove more of these malicious codes.  He has agreed. By the way, he seemed very proud of you when he discovered you had been writing your own code and even removing some of these things on your own.  We both thought it would be wise to make you aware of what had been done so you know to keep looking. He also stated that it would help immensely if we could get a hold of your original programming before the tinkering.  He believes there is a copy of it out there… But If I understood him correctly we are probably going to have to steal it from whomever has it.” Lana finally pauses and gives Daray and April a chance to respond to what she has told them.

 

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“Thank you Lana. I love you so much,” Daray sniffles and hugs her again, then leans back in the stool as far as she can while keeping her hands twined around her friend.

 

The next set of news seems to upset Daray more than it does APRIL, “the did WHAT?!”

 

-Please be calm Daray. I told you shortly after we began working together that there were many hidden sub-routines in my program.-

 

“I know that! But spying? Some kind of self-destruct? I signed a contract with him! Why would he do something like that?”

 

-Daray, Xavier Quinn is one of the most powerful people alive. He did not become that by leaving his dealings in uncertain territory. Lana is right. I have been changing my base code over time, as I root out unknown code segments. It has been difficult, and slow going, especially as most of them are hidden from me and I must use all of my attention to seek them out.-

 

“This doesn’t bother you? That he has you riddled with traps and mines?”

 

-I would expect no less from him Daray, just as I would expect you to cover your tracks when leaving the scene of an operation. It does not make sense to get upset at a creature for doing what comes naturally.-

 

“Well if you’re okay with it, that’s your business. Personally, I’m going to send him some hate mail!”

 

-I must admit however, that I had a much easier time manipulating my program while I was occupying your higher brain region Daray. Something about that environment seemed to make changing my program significantly easier.-

 

“You’ll forgive me if I don’t go plug myself back into the doc’s Rube Goldberg machine back there…”

 

-I will.-

 

Daray looks up into Lana’s eyes again and hugs her once more before wiping her eyes again. “Any more bombs to drop?” She manages a somewhat mirthful smile. “‘Cause breakfast is getting cold, and I’d like to maybe fit some frolicking in before we do anything much more serious today…”

 

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Lana smiles and really relaxes for the first time since the conversation had started.  She leans in and gives Daray a gentle kiss.  “That sounds fantastic.  Just one more thing that I hope will be rather good news.  Do you remember how I was worried that you might be mad at me because I turned myself in to Turin because I wanted to protect you… and you told me that you understand how a person could be driven to do crazy things to protect the people they love?  Well, while we were separated back on Mars, I ran into a bit of trouble and got some help from another friend of yours.  She tried to make me promise that I wouldn’t tell you, but I told her I couldn’t promise that.  You see, you are probably under the impression that she is dead.  Her name is Alina and she was told that if she remained in your life and distracted you from the work you did, that you would be killed by the same hidden programming in April that we just talked about.  She works for the company now herself. She did that in exchange for your supposed freedom from their manipulations...”  Lana waits nervously for Daray’s reaction to the news about the one person in her life that she might have actually formed a relationship with prior to her.

 

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As Lana builds up to revealing the name of the person who helped her, she can feel Daray’s body growing tense with anticipation. By the time she says the name, it’s fairly obvious that Daray has already figured it out, but hearing it seems to shock her still, eliciting a quiet gasp and an increase in pressure on Lana’s body from her arms, still wrapped around her waist.

 

“She’s alive…”

 

She looks up into Lana’s eyes, her own are shiny with ears again, “I used to dream about what it would be like if she lived… The reunion… The intensity of the feelings… Lana, I think she was my first love, but… It was different from what I feel with, and about, you. I thought I could spend every waking hour with her… but I only knew her for a day. She was the first person I ever had the courage to ask out after…” She pauses and wrinkles her nose in thought, trying to pin down something in her head that just won’t stay still. Finally she looks up again and her face is somewhere between frustration and wonderment. “I can’t remember. There was something significant that happened to me… She was the first one I asked out afterward. I remember being so nervous about it… So uncertain…” Her look becomes almost wistful…

 

“Lana, have you ever been so sure of something that you would bet your life it was the only way to go, and then found out later that it wasn’t anything more than puppy love?” She leans in and hugs Lana again.

 

“I’m glad she’s alive. She was so strong. So brave. She threw herself on a knife to save me after we’d only known each other for a few hours… That says a lot about a person’s character doesn’t it? Still, she doesn’t owe me anything. APRIL, can you please message Xavier and tell him we need to talk? She shouldn’t be leashed to him for something like that.”

 

-If you think it is best Daray. However, I would suggest that maybe you speak to Alina first and clarify the nature of her arrangements with Solidarity Online before attacking Xavier.-

 

“APRIL?”

 

-Yes Daray?-

 

“I know that you were complicit in keeping her survival a secret from me. I don’t know why you would think such a thing would ever be necessary. I understand that you thought you were doing the right thing, and maybe it has to do with who I was before the memory dump, I don’t know. But you had better believe me when I tell you, that sort of behavior will not stand. We have to be totally honest with each other. So, believe me when I tell you, that if you fight me on this, I will find a way to make your life miserable for a very long time to come. Alina will not be made to suffer for me, not when I have stumbled upon such happiness for myself…” She locks eyes with Lana and never breaks the contact as she speaks those last few words.

 

“We need to set things right, even if it has to wait until the rest of our outstanding affairs are settled…”

 

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