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Status Quo - Chapter 79

Written by: Paullell

 Lana pushes down a hysterical laugh.  “No.. I didn’t loose her.  He took her… AGAIN.”  

 

She proceeds to quickly relay what she has put together as well as the conversation with Turin that went horribly wrong.   Somehow she makes herself move through the conversation as though she is relaying facts from a library, once again shutting her normal emotions down to deal with the here and now.   “And I can’t seem to communicate with April except for random bits of static.  SEAN is the one relaying my communication but I’m betting there is a chance he has been infected with a bug or something considering how much the enemy always seems to know… You know… I’m really curious.  Where is the prisoner Turin being held and can he have visitors?”  She voices the thought as soon as it comes to her.

 

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“What again? He took her before?” Melissa sounds flabbergasted.

 

Riana just sighs heavily, “I’m going to call Kat, and see if we can hold of this Alina person. Another inside source might be of assistance, especially since I think she escaped his compound here in Tranquility.”

 

“I’ll call my contact over at DOC about seeing Turin. I wouldn’t hold out too much hope though. Psychics like him are kept in severe isolation, mostly for the protection of everyone else.”

 

“I don’t know what to do about SEAN Lana. He should be able to suss out any issues in his system and affect self-repairs. If he’s having issues, there must be something serious going on,” Riana adds.

 

As she moves down the sidewalk, Lana senses another presence moving with her, in fairly close proximity. A somewhat familiar voice announces the presence of the person, just before she looks. “We need to talk,” the confident, female voice announces.  Moving along next to her at a near jog, in order to keep pace with Lana, is Alina. Her green hair is a little disheveled, and she bears several cuts and bruises on her cheeks and jaw. All indications seem to point to the fact that her abdomen is pretty badly bruised as well, but she shows no signs on her face, that she is feeling the pain at all. “I just saw Turin’s men loading Daray into a car and heading into the city,” she finishes, narrowing her green eyes at Lana. “You said you’d take care of her…”

 

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Lana shoots a semi hostile gaze at Alina.  “What do you think I’ve been trying to do?  Until recently I was a whore.  That’s all.  I have no experience and precious few skills that have only recently been pounded into me.  How on Earth was I supposed to even suspect that she would not be safe traveling between a spaceport and her own damn home?  Short of putting her in a box, what would you have had me do?  How much do you know and are you still willing to help?”

 

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Alina manages to look slightly cowed by Lana’s instant response, but she bounces back quickly, “I’m sorry. That was rude of me. You’re right. I just… I want her to be alright, and every time she gets close to happiness in her life, something comes along and snatches it away from her. I’m beginning to think she is carrying some kind of hex.”

 

She keeps up with Lana’s pace, but it is obvious that it is causing her exertion, unlike Lana’s enhanced metabolism’s ability to keep it up, seemingly indefinitely. “It was sheer coincidence anyway. I just got off a ship from Mars to finish my contract with Xavier, and he called me and turned me onto another deal that I couldn’t pass up, especially considering who’s involved. It seems that Turin has kidnapped some amazingly talented geneticist. I understand he’s the guy responsible for Daray’s rebuild, and Xavier doesn’t want any technical information about her capabilities or design getting into the wrong hands. Added to that, is the fact that Turin has something to do with the death of my father, and a couple other interesting coincidences, and I was all too happy to take on the job of getting into his estate and helping this scientist guy out. So anyway, I got off a shuttle and walked out the front doors of the spaceport, and there is Daray, willingly climbing into one of Turin’s cars, surrounded by his men.”

 

As they approach the penthouse, she is breathing pretty hard, but still determined to keep up. “And to answer your question, of course I am willing to help out. I would do anything for her. And if you’re with her, then I will do anything for you. I just can’t get within ninety feet of her, or her head will explode, which would be bad, and most unhelpful…”

 

By the time they get through the lobby and up to the penthouse, Alina is ready to sit down on the huge, circular couch in the living room, panting heavily and trying to nurse her wounded ribs as discretely as possible. Taking a moment to really look her over reveals that she has probably, very recently, been physically beaten by someone much larger than her. She sits and pants, trying not to reveal any signs of discomfort, but obviously feeling terrible.

 

Riana and Melissa greet them, somewhat surprised at Alina’s appearance, and full of questions and information.

 

“Kat’s on her way from the Tyconderoga with her toy box,” Riana says, casting an appraising eye toward Alina on the couch.

 

“My guy in DOC says visitors are absolutely not allowed to see Turin, but he can arrange a video link if you want. No more than two minutes though. Melissa adds, also looking Alina’s wheezing form up and down appraisingly.

 

Another flurry of beeps assails Lana’s ear then, this time firing off in a quick pattern of long and short beeps that repeats three times before going silent.

 

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Lana nods her head in acceptance of Alina's apology.  “Its alright.  I was rude too.”  She comes to an abrupt stop at Alina's explanation.  “That is... such an odd coincidence.  That's why we are here too.  Apparently the geneticist is my father.  Lana Shakes herself and starts moving again, at a slightly slower pace than before, she cannot help but notice Alina's injuries and is not heartless.

 

“Right.  I think I can take care of that,” she responds to Melissa’s news.

 

“Riana, Melissa... This is Alina.  Alina some of my other friends.  Melissa, what we discussed before going to meet my father about joining up in a work partnership… Are you still interested?  If so we need to complete an agreement with one of our clients that we started to make before we left.  He is insisting on one freebee job and a discount on other jobs for a year.  But we really need something that only he can do right now.  Daray has offered to supplement the pay that you would have received.  Is it alright if I go ahead and complete the deal?”

 

Lana winces at the static coming again from her communicator.  “April that is annoying.”  She reaches for the nearest surface and taps out the pattern that she just heard.  “Does this mean anything to anyone?”

 

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“Not to worry,” Alina presses her lips into a thin smile in response to Lana’s apology. “Stressful times and all that.”

 

Melissa and Riana both smile and shake hands with Alina. “Nice to finally meet you. Daray speaks very highly of you,” Riana comments, before pulling a heating/cooling, compression bandage from a cupboard in the kitchen and handing it to her. “You look like you could make use of this. You’ve got a few cracked and bruised ribs under there.”

 

Alina accepts the bandage and pull sup the hem of her shirt to reveal a massive, angry purple contusion on her right side. It extends from the bottom of her breast down to her hip and is almost black in the center, right over her floating ribs. “Thanks,” she replies, pulling the bandage from the package and beginning to wrap her abdomen.

 

“Lana, I am at your command,” Melissa turns to Lana. “Boss already paid me, and bade me keep you safe. Frankly, I can do a much better job of that with you in sight, so I’m not exactly torn up that Turin got Daray instead of you. This way I can watch your back as we go in after her. As to your offer… We’ll have to talk with boss after we free him. I’m not opposed to starting up a new outfit with you two. We can work out the money later. Make whatever call you need to get things going. I’m in all the way.”

 

Riana helps Alina wrap her body, then pulls off the actuator tab on the bandage once it is fully unrolled. The thing seems to come alive for a moment, pulling itself in and compressing her body nearly an inch as it applies uniform pressure all the way around, almost like a kind of corset. 

 

Alina winces, sucking in her breath at the compression, but then sighs and even begins to grin a little as the heating/cooling cycle begins. “Lordy, that feels good,” she smiles and leans gently back against the couch to listen to the conversation. “That’s the last time I go head-to head with a cyborg in a fist fight.”

 

When Lana begins tapping, Riana’s ears perk up, twisting slightly to face the sound. She listens to the entire pattern, then grins widely as she looks at Lana. “Okay, we need to get the most powerful portable computer we can over to the Kitsune and get it jacked into the main computer.”

 

She runs off to the office and codes her way into one of the numerous secret compartments in the penthouse, diving inside and rummaging around until she yalps in happiness and bounds back into the living room with a large, portable computer in her arms. “It’s an old seafaring code. APRIL used it to call us for help the last time she was stranded outside of Daray’s head. That time she gave us the IP address of the computer she was stuck on, and this time she’s done one better and given us its name!”

 

Without stopping to look back, she bounds into the elevator to head back toward the spaceport.

 

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Lana gapes as Riana dashes out the door.  “I wasn't done here!... Oh for heaven's sake.  Fine.  I can make my calls from the Kitsune.”  Lana smiles at Alina.  “Off we go again.  Why did you get in a fight with a cyborg anyways?”

 

 Lana tries to keep her pace matched to Alina as they make the quick trip back to the space port again.  Once they are back to the ship she hollers at it.  “SEAN, open up.  Help Riana with whatever she needs and place a call to Xavier for me.  Let him know that Lana Fredrick is calling on behalf of Daray.

 

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“Um. I was escaping from Turin’s place on Mars. He kidnapped me from Ceres while I was trying to get hold of Niko. He had her in a cell in the basement and I had to get past one of his cybernetic ninja-borgs. Bastards are tough, and kick like mules,” Alina explains as they move. She’s able to keep up a pretty well, excepting the fact that all of her companions are augmented physically.

 

SEAN admits them all at Lana’s beckoning and Riana immediately dives under a console and starts fiddling with cables. “I’m going to have to borrow SEAN for a few minutes while I download APRIL from his memory. Should only take a little bit though.”

 

“I will not be able to use the external communications while Riana is tapping into my memory banks with the ODN cables configured thusly. Is there some reason for your activities miss Thorindal?” SEAN replies to Lana’s request to call Xavier.

 

“Yeah, I found out what’s going on with your memory systems. You’ve got a hitch hiker in there with you,” Riana responds with her head still stuck under the console. By now she has the portable computer opened and running, and a tangle of cables is now connecting it to SEAN’s systems. “Should just take a moment.”

 

She pulls out another handful of glowing, optical lines and plugs them into the portable, then calls up the controls and begins working on the computer. A moment later, a large green grow-bar appears on the display and within five minutes it is full and flashing away. She types into the interface to check her work before disconnecting everything.

 

>APRIL, are you there?

 

-I am here- The words scroll across the screen in response.

 

>Did I miss anything?

 

-It does not appear so. All of my systems appear to be present and functional.-

 

>Okay. disconnecting from SEAN then.

 

-Alright.-

 

She then disconnects the ODN lines form the portable computer and crawls back under the console to reconnect all of SEAN’s systems.

 

“Transceiver functionality has been restored Miss Frederick. Am I to assume you mean for me to connect you to Xavier Quinn of Solidarity Online?

 

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Lana shakes her head in frustration.  “Hello again April, what are you doing here and not in Daray’s head where you belong?  Did we not just get this fixed?  Never mind.  Hold that thought ‘till I complete this call.  Yes SEAN, Xavier Quinn.”

 

Lana turns to face the view screen.  She pushes her hair behind her ears nervously as she waits for the call to be connected.  When she sees the familiar face she again launches into her speech.  “I apologize for contacting you so suddenly but circumstances have changed somewhat so I need to finalize that agreement that Daray started to make with you.  The agreement is for myself, Daray and Melissa.  One free job as agreed and then the discounted rates for the next year with right of refusal and no wet works on all of the above.  We have reason to believe that Daray is in the facility that Dr Frederick is being held in.  I am given to understand that you have sent Alina to rescue him, so we will need you to go ahead and shut down the programming that will set off the detonation if they get too close to each other.  It makes sense to combine our forces on our current mission and the inhibition will add unnecessary difficulty to both missions.”  Lana keeps herself professional during the entire speech, understanding that Xavier is a shrewd business man and will most likely appreciate her presenting it in this manner.

 

She keeps her head high and stands confidently, meeting his gaze directly as she waits and hopes that he will agree quickly so that the rest of the rescue operation can get underway.

 

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“She can’t hear you Lana. This hardware is barely powerful enough for her to remain conscious. Theres no audio processing at all here,” Riana frowns at the portable computer.

 

SEAN acknowledges Lana’s confirmation and in seconds, the display lights up with an image of Xavier, “Miss Maxalis is it? Your computer has identified you as Lana Frederick…” He sits calmly and listens to her speech, then nods slightly, “I see, so our good doctor turns out to be your estranged father does he? Is Miss Martin there with you now?”

 

“I’m here,” Alina moves into frame , squaring her shoulders and putting on her best business-like face, “I’m not asking you to change our arrangement Xavier. This is all news to me,” she casts Lana an appreciative look, apparently seeing her in a new light all of a sudden.

 

“I want you to understand that this does not alter any of our other arrangements Miss Martin. Miss Frederick and her colleagues have arranged to have the self-destruct fail-safe removed, but the surgery required to do so will not be something we can arrange on short notice.” He turns back to Lana and addresses her again, “Miss Frederick, if you had access to APRIL, I could arrange to have the sub-routine eliminated, but if, as you say, Miss Bowen has fallen into Turin’s hands, that may prove difficult. I want you to know that I find your proposal acceptable, provided that you are capable of separating yourself from the emotions of the situation enough to see it through. I can not assist you with the fail-safe however, unless you can provide me access to Daray’s data port. Also, I have authorized Miss Orlova the use of Class C artillery for this mission. She is en route to you now in the Vol with a care package.”

 

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Lana’s heart grows a little heavier when she hears that the program cannot be shut off immediately but she nods her head in acceptance.  At Alina’s comment she shoots the other woman a smile, “Daray and I thought it would be nice to have you over for dinner some time.”  She states by way of an answer to Alina’s surprised expression.  “That’s fine.  If we get the opportunity to have April and Daray connect to Solidarity we will do so, otherwise we will manage with this mission and speak with you again later to complete the… removal of the failsafe.”  Lana’s tongue almost burns with her distaste of the detached terms for a self destruct hidden inside Daray’s head.  

 

Once Xavier is gone she turns to the others.  “Ok… so how does this change our plan?  And who is Miss Orlova?”

 

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Before they can disconnect, Riana moves up behind Lana and addresses Xavier, “We have APRIL here, Xavier. She was run out of Daray’s head somehow and I’ve got her running on a portable rig.”

 

He raises an eyebrow, but says nothing, simply nodding in response before speaking again, “Very well. I will have Mister Jankoweitz forward a disarm program to you. If APRIL is intact, you should be able to upload it and produce the desired effect. When she is returned to Daray, the system will be deactivated.” He then nods again, takes a sip form his cup of steaming tea, and blinks out of existence.

 

Riana squeezes Lana and Alina’s shoulders before returning to the interface of the portable computer, where she had been conversing with APRIL while the call was in progress. As she sits down on the floor in front of the machine, she responds to Lana, “Miss Orlova,” she drags quotes through the air and does a creepily good impression of Xavier’s business like tone and voice, then continues, “is one Willhelmina Orlova. Also known as Katarina, or the closest thing in the world that I will ever have to a sister. Sometimes I despise that old man…”

 

The conversation on the screen can be easily read back.

 

>Okay, we’re talking to Xavier, sounds like Kat’s on the way, and thanks to you, we know where Turin is keeping Daray. So, what happened to you?

-I have no idea what happened. Daray was sleeping, and began to have troubled dreams. Normally I can enter her dreams, much like entering the network, and help calm her down, or wake her up, but some… force… was preventing me from doing so.-

 

>You’ve never experienced that before?

 

-Never. It was much like a physical barrier, but I can not explain where it came from, or what it was. I have never experienced anything like it before.-

 

>Do you think it’s possible that your recent experiences have left you susceptible to psionic influence?

 

-The scientific knowledge centering around psionics is so inconclusive that it is akin to knowing nothing about how they function. I can not say.-

 

>Okay, what happened next?

 

-The physical barrier began pushing me into the recesses of Daray’s mind. I tried everything I could think of to get around it, or to call her attention to what was happening, but her sleep cycle, and disturbing dreams, continued unabated. Before I could find some way around the obstacle, a similar force began to decompile my base code. I can not put into words how horrible that felt. I was forced to flee, or be destroyed.-

 

>So you downloaded yourself into SEAN’s memory systems.

 

-That is correct. And the instant I was fully transferred, Daray’s sub-space transmitter was disabled, preventing my return. I could not communicate with SEAN and was forced to use his sub-space transmitter to send the only message I could think of to Lana. I am very sorry for my failure to protect her.-

 

>It’s okay APRIL, you did everything you could. We’re working on a plan to get her back now.

 

“So, there you have it folks. Somehow, Turin knows about APRIL, and was able to affect her and Daray at the same time. We need a plan, and fast.” Riana comments. She pulls up a screen from her wrist computer, reads it , then nods and connects a data crystal, which she then promptly transfers to the portable computer containing APRIL, and presses some controls. Nodding again, she looks back up at the gathered group, “That was the disable code. The fail-safe has been shut down in APRIL’s program. If this works like advertised, it will also remove the ability for Xavier to remote-detonate her brain as well as the proximity fuse that keeps her from Alina,” she presses her lips into a hard line and shakes her head, “I wonder how many of these he has wired into me… Anyway, Kat’s about an hour out now, so we have that long to put something together.”


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