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Status Quo - Chapter 77

Written by: Paullell

 Lana ignores Melissa at first when she rejoins them, not quite ready to open herself up to another emotional battering from her, but at her comment about Turin being imprisoned she cannot set aside so she turns and looks at Melissa directly.  She nods her head in acceptance of her apology.  “Well either he has a twin brother, a clone, or an android duplicate.  That was the most powerful mind that I personally have ever brushed up against and whoever is in jail has to be a stand in.  I refuse to accept that the person I encountered in the flesh was not the real Turin.  The idea of someone being even stronger is frankly terrifying, that fear is surpassed only by the idea that their might be two of him. So what is the hardest part of a mission like this?  Getting in undetected when the enemy knows you are coming or getting out again once you’ve found your objective?  APRIL can you give us a floor plan and a description of the residence you think his is at, also how many staff does he have… can you break that list up by menial staff and security?”

 

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“That’s just it,” Melissa responds. “They’re still getting massive psionic activity from the guy in the cell. He’s still trying to take over their minds and push them around. If the guards didn’t all have brain implants to prevent it, he’d probably own the whole place already. There’s no record of him having any siblings at all, so there’s either an unknown relative, or something else very strange going on here.”

 

She takes a moment to let that sink in, then adds, “and I don’t want to beat this to death, but I really am sorry. Boss has been like a father to me for over a decade now. Even though I’ve never met him in person before. I know it isn’t your fault, I just… anyway, I’m sorry.”

 

“As for the toughest part. If we have floor plans and other security info, then it isn’t impossible, even with someone as paranoid as Turin, there are holes in any defense. And often, the more paranoid they are, the easier the holes are to exploit once you identify them.” Daray resumes picking at her food again as she speaks. “I’ve broken in and out of tougher places than he’s likely to have.”

 

-Which makes my next news more difficult to deliver,- APRIL pipes in. -Aside from an original building permit drawn on the property, there is no record that I was able to find with floor plans, electrical layout, or anything else of use, except for aerial images of the exterior and grounds. I have identified multiple hard defense points on the surrounding wall, and exterior of the estate, as well as numerous hot spots in the grounds that are likely manned security blinds. The approach will be difficult, at best, and we have, as of this moment, no information about the interior.-

 

“Well, that complicates things a bit,” Daray sighs. “I’ve got it. Lana, you convince him to let you in, then while he’s involved in re-indoctrinating you, Riana can fly us over the compound in a rented VTOL and Melissa and I can drop onto the place from above, thereby skipping all of the external grounds defenses.”

 

“They’re likely to shoot down anyone soft-dropping onto the grounds or roof,” Melissa responds.

 

“I’m not talking about a soft drop. No parachutes, gliders, flight packs, or aero-gel,” Daray grins back wickedly.

 

“Can you arrest a fall under your own power? Slow yourself down somehow?”

 

“Nope. But I can land with the best of them!” Daray puffs out her chest with a note of pride. “We either crash through the roof, creating a ruckus and going to work, or we bounce, and make our way in from there, same plan, less property damage.”

 

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Lana shudders at the thought of Daray and their friend’s plan to free fall into the complex, but she has no choice but to nod her head at the plan.  “With the communicator now fused inside me they won’t be able to take it away this time, so you all can use it to guide me while I’m inside, make certain I keep asking questions until I find my father.  I’m betting his place is huge.  I don’t want you all to come to the rescue until we are certain where he is.”  Lana looks more seriously at Daray.  “This means you, tesoro.  There is nothing that he can physically do to hurt me other than to hurt my father or you.  I’m able to withstand damage now and heal anything he might do to me short of death.  If you want to go with this plan you must PROMISE me you will not come and get me until we know where my father is.”

 

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Daray gapes at Lana’s words, looking at her like she’s out of her mind. “Um. I was joking about the skydive. But if you guys think it’ll work, then I’m certainly game. I’ve never done that one before,” her gape changes to a mischievous grin. “I mean, it really would be a heck of a surprise wouldn’t it? Couple of cyborgs and a genetically over-engineered spaz like me dropping through the ceiling all of a sudden.”

 

“Well, I thought you were crazy before… This pretty much clenches it,” Melissa shakes her head. “And although it scares the hell out of me. I think it could work. If we armor up in the best shock-absorbing stuff we can get, the impact shouldn’t jar us too much, and from the top of the dome, we’d be hitting with the force of a tactical missile strike. Riana, you said you’re a cyborg right? How much impact trauma can you absorb?”

 

Riana shrugs in response, “I have no idea. I’ve never been party to a test like that before. If we’re armored up properly, it couldn’t hurt too badly though. I’ve taken some nasty spills. What about the gravity levelers though? How will they affect our descent?”

 

-The lunar gravity levelers have an effective range of ninety feet above ground level. Outside of that, the normal lunar gravity is in effect, which will retard your rate of fall. Calculations indicate that you will not be able to reach terminal velocity during a free fall of this type. Accounting for air resistance, and the increasing effect of gravity as you approach ground level, I estimate you will reach approximately 130 miles per hour, generating nearly eight-thousand Newton seconds of force. Unless the roof is shielded against missile strikes, it should give way. Daray, you will have to either weigh yourself down to generate more kinetic energy, or  jump last and  use a point of entry generated by Melissa or Riana.-

 

“So, are we actually considering this?” Daray is grinning from ear to ear now, as if she’s just received the best news one could imagine.

 

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Lana laughs at Daray’s reaction to her comment.  “You were joking?  You have to tell me these things.  I have no idea what your capabilities are. If you tell me you can walk on water I’ll probably believe you.”  She looks at the serious faces of the other women.  “Yes I believe we are considering it.  At least I haven’t heard any better ideas yet.  You still haven’t made me that promise though.”  Lana gives her a one armed hug and then proceeds to start to think over what to tell Turin and questioning when she should contact him.  “April, for my lies to work they need to be very convincing.  For the next couple days of the trip could you keep track of what searches or web activities his main facility does that relate in any way to Daray or myself?  I especially want to know if he is aware of Daray’s presence either on this ship or at my father’s complex. Was her image recorded at any point?”

 

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“I promise, I’ll wait for your word. Despite the fact that it will kill me, every second you are in there by yourself with that animal,” Daray frowns, but leans into Lana’s hug. “You’d better make sure that comm stays on though, or no force in heaven or hell will keep me from tearing that place down to get to you.” There is no humor in her tone.

 

“We need to decide on a wetworks policy,” Melissa adds, looking from one face to the next seriously, locking eyes with each of them in turn. “Can either of you tell us anything about the composition of his staff? Are the majority of them complicit? How many innocents are there, and what roles are they likely to be in? Our last strike force was on a strict self defense order, authorized to use deadly force against anyone who attacked them with lethal weapons.”

 

“That’s my general policy,” Riana confirms.

 

“Mine too,” Daray nods, then turns her attention to Lana with a serious expression. “Are you going to be okay with us ending people during this fracas? It could get pretty ugly, and I have to be honest, it requires a certain… moral flexibility…”

 

-SEAN and I are currently monitoring all data flowing in and out of the compound. However, there is every indication that enough power is being consumed to operate a high-power sub-space transceiver, which means he could have his own, private sub-space domain for data traffic, and I am not equipped with the hardware necessary to access any domain other than the one used for our comm link and net connections. There is no evidence that any of the systems at Doctor Frederick’s facility were monitored after the computer system was wiped clean, and they do not have any access to the systems on either of these vessels. SEAN assures me that no one came near the Kitsune before, during, or after the assault.-

 

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SEAN pipes in at that point.  “That is correct Lana.  No one accessed any of my systems since my last communication with your father.  Until you came along that is.”

 

Lana nods her head slowly.  “I think I will be ok with the violence.  I don’t want to do it but I think that I have seen justifiable reason for it if my friends or loved ones are in trouble.  We’ll just have to do the best we can.  I can tell you that if there is any attractive female in the place he probably has them completely brainwashed.  So much so that they will be a danger if ordered to attack, but on the other hand he has a tendency to ruin their bodies with the clothing he chooses for them, legs especially. So we have about a week to cram as much training into me as you three can manage.  I’m ready when you are.  At least the Kitsune has more space.  No offense Riana.”

 

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The others nod their agreement before standing up and heading back into the smallish cargo hold of the Kitsune. “No offense taken. he Kestrel is a great little ship, but she’s not built for comfort by any stretch of the imagination.”

 

Daray pushes the huge pallet of supplies into one corner, then turns around and hops up onto it, sitting down to watch and support Lana, “I think this may be better done by those two. My form of combat is generally a little more overt, and requires a lot of space. In quarters like this I am pretty much reduced to brute strength and very, very basic defense techniques.”

 

Riana takes off her combat webbing, setting it and all of her weapons on the pallet next to Daray, then turns to face Lana, “Okay, chances are good that you are going to be up against people that are much stronger than you, likely augmented, and probably well trained. I think we should focus on some really basic leverage and joint control techniques. I understand you’ve absorbed some of Daray’s abilities right? Do you know how strong you are? How much can you lift? Do you know how to control your strength and speed yet?”

 

Turning to face Daray, she beckons her over with a jerk of her head, and Daray hops lightly off the pallet and moves to the indicated spot, facing Riana. “Okay, Daray, grab my wrist, and let’s show her how this works.”

 

Daray reaches out and grabs Riana’s wrist, then very obviously clenches down on it with a great deal of strength. Riana steps forward into her stance, grabs Daray’s wrist with her free hand, then twists her body around slightly, breaking her grip and twisting her arm around behind her back until Daray slaps her own thigh with her free hand, at which point Riana releases her.

 

“The basic idea is to know the mechanics of the human body. Something you should already know pretty well. You need to take that understanding and learn to apply some basic leverage and balance techniques. If you’re doing it right, there is almost no difference in strength that can be made to get around these techniques. However, your physical strength will come into play in terms of how long you can keep someone tied up like this, and what you can actually to with them once they are.”

 

The three of them spend the next few hours walking Lana through a series of techniques, making her practice them again and again, over and over, pounding the movements and mechanics into her head, forcing her to use her strength and agility, her new speed, and her understanding of the human body in ways she’d probably never imagined before. 

 

They press her on into the night and all through the next few days, taking short breaks to eat, and sleeping as little as possible in order to maximize their time, which also puts Lana’s new physical endurance to the test, inducing stress, both physical and mental, in order to further ingrain what they are teaching her into reflexes, rather than conscious processes.

 

Daray tends to serve as the test dummy or recipient of demonstrations, but never so much as whispers a complaint. In fact, she seems to be learning as much as Lana is, but always makes sure that Lana is the focus of the lessons.

 

Riana’s teachings seem to focus around balance, and harmony of motion, using circles and changes in stance to tie up and incapacitate an opponent, or cause them to hurt themselves by manipulating the energy of their attacks. Melissa on the other hand, is a wholly different story. Her combat techniques seem almost completely focused on incapacitating or killing an opponent as quickly as possible. Her movements are short, linear, and based almost entirely on the application of physical strength, brute force applied to specific locations, designed to cripple as quickly as possible, breaking bones, tearing muscles and cartilage, and clawing out soft tissues around the throat, eyes, sides and groin. It is evident that Riana studies the arts of combat to better herself, while Melissa studies the arts to keep herself alive in dire circumstances. Both are extremely effective fighters, and Daray’s abilities means that none of them has to pull punches while demonstrating techniques.

 

Perhaps the most difficult aspect of the training, is that all three of them insist that Lana practices at full strength against Daray, frequently to the point of breaking bones or tearing ligaments, amongst other kinds of damage. Still, she never complains. She just steps up her consumption of the barely-palatable rations, takes a few moments to set and mend her damaged tissues, an then stands back up and gets right back to work, always smiling, and ever encouraging of Lana’s growing skills.

 

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The day before they arrive at their destination Lana calls a halt to the training.   After a few sessions in she had realized what they were about and insisted that Daray also practice at full strength.  Her argument had been, “it’s all well and good to know the theory of being hit but if I don’t learn to actually take the hits I might collapse under the first punch, just from the shock of the pain.”  She hadn’t been kidding.  

 

She might like a little pain in her extra curricular activities but after the first true punch that she failed to deflect she buckled over and just held her ribs wile they repaired themselves.  Once she caught her breath she pushed herself back to her feet, announcing “Again” with tears still in her eyes.   She listened attentively, seeming to absorb Riana’s tactics a little more easily than Melissa’s, and while she kept up with their training schedule she was not nearly as quiet about her aches and pains as Daray was.  Grumbling and bitching but never asking them to lighten up or to stop until the last day.

 

“Ok guys.  I need a day of sleep.  Anything that you haven’t pounded into me at this point I’m not going to absorb in the next twenty four hours and I don’t want to face Turin with my mind as tired and stressed as it is now.” 

 

Lana smiles tiredly at the three of them.  “Thank you all for the crash course.  I just hope I don’t disappoint when push comes to shove.”  She smiles at Daray and then heads for the shower, intending to wash herself and then collapse on the bed and hopefully get some snuggles before they get separated.

 

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When Lana bows out and heads to the shower, Riana bows to her, “you’ve done an amazing job, I’m sure you’ll do fine when the time comes. I am authorized to classify you as a Class 4 practitioner, based upon your performance, and I think yo have a genuine aptitude. If you are willing, I would very much like to further your knowledge when there is time.”

 

Melissa simply nods at her from where she’s leaning up against the pallet of rations, and Daray gives her a huge hug and a kiss, “I’ll be right in. I want to have… a talk, with Riana, before we rest.” 

 

By the time she is making her way into the shower, Lana can hear the sounds of fighting once more. It lasts maybe fifteen minutes before the sounds die way and Daray moves into the tiny shower, grinning happily as she wraps her arms around Lana and kisses her deeply. She backs up then, and starts loosening her hair to wash the sweat from her head before they head to bed.

 

“She’s just given me my class 2 rating!” She beams before sticking her head under the stream.

 

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She had been about to get out of the shower when Daray caught up with her and Lana returns the hug and kiss with a happy wiggle.  “Thats fantastic… I think.  You all never actually went into the rating system with me.  What do the different ranks mean? I should have asked when she announced that she was giving me a rating but I was so anxious to get clean I couldn’t be bothered to ask right then.”  Lana picks up the soap and waits to hand it to Daray when she is ready for it.

 

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Grinning, and taking the soap from Lana to work it through her hair, Daray explains. “Essentially, class 5 is untrained, class 4 is some training, but not quite a blackbelt. Class 3 is a blackbelt, or several blackbelts in different systems. That’s as high as most people ever get. Class 2 is for people who not only hold several advanced ranks, but also sort of fully integrates the philosophies and spirituality of the arts into their every-day lives. It’s sort of a zen thing that she said I was always very close to before, but for some reason, something seemed to be holding me back. She says I’m a lot calmer. More focused. She says she thinks you’ve had a very positive influence on me.” 

 

She grins again as she places another kiss on Lana’s lips, then goes back to scrubbing the sweat and grime from her hair. “Anyway, a class 1 is so far beyond that it isn’t even something that can be truly classified. These are the people that can take down cyborgs and people like me with their bare, unaugmented hands. There’s almost no way to explain it scientifically. So, she won’t be officially filing your classification or anything. It’s all strictly off the record with us lot. But she wanted you to know that you’d made appreciable headway in just a few days time.”

 

Finishing up her hair she turns back around to face Lana again and smiles, “so what do you say,dear heart? Are you ready for a good night’s rest and some serious snuggling?”

 

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Lana grins and steps out of the shower, proceeding to dry herself.  “They need a rank for untrained?  Well I supposed that in two weeks, progressing up a whole rank is not too shabby.”  As her hair dries Lana reverts it back to its original blue color, the blue and white being the most natural tones for her.  She doesn’t even bother with a nightgown, just slides into bed totally naked and opens her arms in invitation for Daray to join her.  

 

Her mood isn’t really sexy and when Daray joins her she pulls her close and just holds her like a frightened child holds a stuffed bear.  “I’m really scared Daray.  I’m doing this to us.  My father gave us permission to just go home and live a happy life.  If you or Riana or Melissa get hurt it will be my fault this time.”

 

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“The class 5 tier is used primarily for suspect descriptions over comm channels. Sort of tells responders what to expect in the way of resistance. Technically anyone with any training is supposed to be registered with the Conglomerate, but people in our sort of business try to avoid that kind of activity at any cost.” Daray does her new hair-wringing trick again, to get most of the water out of her hair, then towels the rest off normally and slinks into bed next to Lana, melting into the embrace, and wrapping her own arms around Lana to give, and receive comfort. “I know. But it’s the right thing to do. We’re all here, with you, willingly. We know the risks. But more importantly, you wouldn’t be able to live wit yourself if you didn’t try, and I for one, am not about to let you go it alone.” 

 

Snuggling up against Lana, she hums her contentment for the here and now, trying to push anxious thoughts to the side for a few hours and just enjoy the presence of this wonderful person who has come into her life. “I want you to know. I’m scared to death of what’s going to go on in there before you can find your dad and call us in. Please don’t put yourself in any more danger than you have to. I can’t even imagine trying to live without you any more. It’s almost like you’re all I’ve ever known.”

 

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Lana nods her head at Daray’s description.  “That makes a lot of sense.  After all.  I’m hoping he won’t be aware of my new strength and speed.  It will be better to be considered helpless and not a threat.”

 

 

Lana relaxes to the sounds of Daray’s humming and is nearly asleep when she voices her own fears.  She chuckles and holds her tighter, giving comfort even as she takes the opportunity for a little ribbing.  “Well of course I seem like all you’ve ever known.  Right now you have a goldfish brain.  Frankly I’m impressed whenever your memory lasts more than thirty seconds,”  Lana teases.   

 

Growing more serious again after a few seconds she answers gravely, “I promise I’ll do my best to keep myself out of harm’s way.  It really all depends on how crazy he is and if he wants to hurt me or not.  Being a plaything is … easy isn’t the right word…. It’s something that won’t hurt… physically any way.  If he wants to use me as a punching bag for his frustration.; that will be harder.  I’ll just have to hope your regenerative ability will keep me going through anything he might do.  Just remember, no matter what I say.  I’m trying to make him think I’m broken.   I love you.  Anything he may make me say or do isn’t real.”


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