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Status Quo - Chapter 80

Written by: Paullell

 “Ah Kat.  Yes I know her… and I like her.  Are Melissa and I the only ones that until recently were not involved with Xavier in some manner or fashion?  That man has more pies that he is involved in than fingers I think.”   

 

Lana sits down on the floor and crosses her legs in front of her.  She leans over and rubs her temples as she works with the others to make certain everyone is on the same page.  “Ok… we were planning on gaining access to Turin’s home by literally dropping in on the complex.  Technically I can probably take Daray’s place but I have to confess it truly terrifies me.  This plan may or may not be compromised.  I am currently uncertain as to what brought Turin’s attention back to Daray.  The last information that he should have had was that she was uncontrollable.  It is possible that since apparently my father had something to do with her reconstruction that he may have willingly or unwillingly given Turin some information that made her attractive to him again.  Or he could just be out to make my life miserable since I held a gun to his head and attempted to shoot him.  We either have to split up or wait until we get Daray sorted before Alina can enter the fray.  Alina did you have plans yet for entering the complex?”

 

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“Kat is Xavier’s ward. Her parents were killed in a compartment fire when she was young, and Solidarity Online adopted her as a poster child for their technology and humanitarian efforts. They also own my body, all proprietary technology and organic material cloned from Kat… I don’t really know how Alina fits into things, as Xavier is not one to talk about his business dealings with others,” Riana explains as she continues to chat with APRIL about what the software patch she’d just installed had done.

 

“I made a deal with him to get Daray out of prison after she killed two people in defense of my life. There were also, other provisions, in the deal for her. Things she doesn’t know about… I guess I just felt badly for her about going back to Niko after she moved on. I just wanted to make sure she will always have a home…” Alina adds.

 

“I’ve heard his name before,” Melissa chirps with a grin, raising her hand slightly as if she was answering a question in a classroom.

 

“As for my plan,” Alina adds. “I’m not significantly augmented in any way, just senses, some color, and a computer system similar to Daray’s, but without the AI. I was planning on turning myself over to Turin,” she shrugs noncommittally, as i that was a terrible plan, but the best she had come up with. “One of the augmentations I ~did~ have installed was a psionic dampener. “She raps a knuckle against the side of her head by way of explanation. “Keeps him out of my head, so I can still think, and plan when I’m near him. I was going to pretty much wing it from there. I’m sure he’d have some really bad mojo in store for me though, since my escape from him on Mars a few days before you lot tore that estate to the ground. Nice job by the way.”

 

“As to why he took Daray… All I can say is that he’s an evil bastard, no matter what emotions he exudes directly into your soul. If you cross him, he wants you more than ever, but he also wants you to pay dearly for the affront. If I had to guess, he took her to make you suffer. I’m sure he understands that the more she suffers, the more you suffer. What he likely doesn’t understand at all, is the lengths that we will all go to for a friend of ours. So, that said, what are our assets here?”

 

“Two combat cyborgs with class C weapons and armor,” Riana motions to Melissa and herself, then adds, “plus I have a Class 2 combat rating, and Kat is good in a fight, Class 3, and is a surgeon with a long rifle. If we can get her line of sight on the fight, she can watch our physical backs. If we can get APRIL back in service, then she can watch our digital backs. Lana I know you just learned a lot of your fighting techniques, but how do you feel about arms and armor?”

 

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Lana wrinkles her nose at Alina’s plan.  “I definitely don’t recommend that plan.  Having just attempted it myself and being shut down horribly I can state it’s a little embarrassing.”  She listens to the others list off their capabilities.  “I’m sort of the odd one out.  I’ve absorbed some of Daray’s abilities, we don’t exactly know how many of them.  I’m faster than she is but not as strong.  In theory I could do it again.  I’ve recently learned that I’m supposed to be able to temporarily absorb any genetic enhancements of the people around me... But I’ve apparently not encountered anyone with enhancements or I don’t know how to do it… Oh, and I have the ability to see aura’s and am empathic.”

 

Lana looks horrified when Riana mentions armor and weapons.  “I’m a horrible shot.  Don’t give me anything more dangerous than a stunner.  As for armor… that sounds awful and cumbersome… but I’ll wear whatever I have to, to succeed in this mission.”

 

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“Well, we’ve seen some of your speed and strength, and some of your regeneration. But I’m not sure I’m willing to put you in harm’s way by dropping you out of a VTOL,” Riana replies to Lana.

 

“I’m certainly not willing to let her do that,” Melissa adds in a very serious tone.

 

“Plus, we don’t really know where he might be keeping your father,” Riana says.

 

“Most likely in a cell in the dungeon. He seems to like dungeons. There is a master suite on the top floor, at the front of the house, and his harem is kept in a dungeon-like room in the main basement, it’s stone and they are kept standing, and chained to the wall. Daray is likely to be in one of those three locations as well, depending upon what his intentions for her truly are.” Alina says, she pulls a data crystal from her pocket and plugs it into her wrist computer, calling up a holographic floor plan of the house. It is lacking a lot of finer details, and is incomplete in some areas, but all of the major spaces seem to be covered. “I built this on my flight. I’m sorry it isn’t complete, but it’s from memory, and before my computer/memory implant so recall isn’t as good as it could have been.”

 

Spinning the image around so they can see it from all sides, she points out the main entrance, service entrance. “The problem is that his servants are all mind-slaves. Innocent people who are being controlled by him. Trying to keep collateral damage to a minimum should be a priority. Daray won’t thank us for pulling her out if it costs even one innocent life. This makes night time our best bet, since he locks up his harem at night so he can relax his mind a bit and not have to worry about them getting crazy ideas of revenge while his guard is down.”

 

“If Melissa and I drop into the main room, since it spans the first and second floors, that will ring their bell and keep damage to a minimum,” Riana points to the entry room on the map. “Then we can draw any defenders out the front and work on them, with Kat’s long-range support, while Lana and Alina sneak in the service door to find Daray and the doctor.”

 

“Sounds good to me. As long as Lana’s wearing protection,” Melissa responds, offering Lana a pointed look.

 

“We’ll need some Psy-Null or something to take Turin out. Maybe just your stunner will do,” Alina looks to Lana as well. “If we don’t switch him off somehow, he’ll still have control over Daray. And we might want to think about an exit plan for the rest of his slaves as well. I know a couple of the girls he has in there, and I’d like to see them freed.”

 

“If you’re going in the back way, you’ll need someone watching the security systems and whatever self-defense mechanisms are in place,” Riana looks to Alina.

 

“Yeah. I know. That’s where APRIL comes into play,” Alina looks at the portable computer, then slowly takes an ODN patch cable from her pocket and plugs one end into a tiny port behind her right ear lobe at the base of her skull. “I’ve got the same hardware in my skull as Daray has in hers. In theory, I can get her up to full speed again so she can help us out.” She looks at the faces of the others present for any signs of objection, or other suggestions in the way of a plan, holding the other end of the cable in her hand so they can all see it.

 

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“Oh thank god!”  Lana replies in relief at Riana’s reluctance to air drop her.  “At his other facility he had intended to keep me in the room right next to his. He may put most of his girls away for the night but I’m betting he keeps his special projects closer and Daray is most definitely his current project.”  A pause and then another answer; “That’s how I got him last time.  Instead of injecting myself and Daray I had the opportunity and dosed him instead.  He’ll be cautious against a plan like that this time.  The stunner is probably a better option.”

 

 Lana wants to object, it sounds like a recipe for disaster.  But she can’t seem to offer a better plan.  “Someone should ask April if she is willing to ride along in someone’s head other than Daray’s… Also we’ll still have to take the computer with us.  I’ll need something to put April in while we switch her between you and Daray so that she can disable the bomb in her head.”

 

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“Okay, so if Daray is on the top floor, and the good Doctor is in the dungeon, how do we divide our time and energy?” Alina asks, rolling the ODN connector around between her fingers.

 

Riana types into APRIL’s computer, >Alina is here. She says she has a head full of gear that is basically the same as Daray’s and wants to know if you would mind hitching a ride with her so you can get up to speed and help us out in the rescue operation.

 

After a few minutes of nothing, APRIL finally responds. -Alina, one of the alterations made to Daray’s genetic structure was required for her to be able to be compatible with a program such as myself. Long-term exposure to my software has been proven to cause mental instabilities up to and including psychotic breaks. I can not let you take that risk.-

 

“Tell her she can’t stop me, and we need her in on this or Lana and I will get cut to ribbons by the automated defenses.”

 

Riana passes that on to APRIL, who responds, -You are correct, I can not stop you. Nor can I allow Lana to come to harm, as it will negatively impact Daray’s health. It seems I have no choice in the matter. Please try to limit your exposure time.-

 

Without blinking, Alina jams the ODN connector into the port on the computer, and the instant it clicks home her entire body convulses and she screams in agony as she drops to the floor, twitching and shaking.

 

Riana jumps back form the scene, looking down at Alina as if she is some kind of strange new life, while Melissa  shrugs it off and sets down her duffle bag. As the room begins to cope with Alina, she slowly extricates a suit of heavy, metallic armor form her bag and begins inspecting each piece, setting them on the table one by one.

 

“Um…” Riana looks to Lana, her violet eyes flitting back and forth between her and the twitching form of Alina on the floor. As she bends down to check her vitals she adds, “It looks as if the fail-safe code was a combination of hardware and software. If I read it right, a transmitter in Alina’s skull would trigger the sub-routine in APRIL’s program, which would then put the power capacitor for Daray’s onboard computer in a continuous charging cycle. Without a regulator or charge dissipator installed, the capacitor would then explode, killing both APRIL and Daray in one stroke. With the sub-routine now removed from her program, you shouldn’t need to keep Daray and Alina separate. And since they both have headjacks, you shouldn’t need to haul the computer along. We hopefully we can ask APRIL in a moment, once Alina recovers. Her pulse and respiration are strong, and leveling off again.”

 

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Lana drops to the floor at Alina’s side and reaches out to hold her hands and keep her from hurting herself.  She grips her wrists and presses down, pinning her to the floor as she waits for the convulsing to subside.  After only a few seconds of touching her Lana feels a wave of heat pass over her skin.  She gasps in surprise but doesn’t let go.  Her scalp and the base of her tail start to tingle.  As she watches she can see the hair that has fallen over her shoulders shift to a bright matching green.  She assumes her tail is doing the same and it has, except for her normal patches of white they are a shade that matches Alina’s exactly.  

 

"This is different."  She comments aloud.  Surprisingly her eyes start to burn next.  She closes them, confused by what is happening although she never lets her grip falter.  The heat on her skin fades leaving an itching behind.  When she finally opens her eyes she can’t see it but the others will be able to. Her eyes for the first time are no longer their amber yellow, but an exact match for the bright green of Alina’s.  Lana looks down at her arms and as she watches she can see the tiny hairs fall off of her arms and drift down to cover Alina like trimming dust at a hair salon.  

 

The whole absorption process takes only a few heartbeats and then it is done, long before Alina finally settles and Lana feels she can let her go.  She nods her head when Riana starts to speak and moves to cradle Alina’s head in her lap, gently stroking her cheek and brushing away the fine hairs that cover her. She is worried both about Alina and April, and her expression shows it; she waits until Alina’s eyes open and then she ask eagerly.  “Alina?  April?  Are you both alright?”

 

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Alina’s eyes open slowly, her pupils dilated to maximum and looking more than a little bit glossy. It takes her another moment to stabilize her breathing and heartbeat, then her pupils contract down and she focuses on Lana. Staring up at her for a moment, she finally squints a little and squeaks out, “Your eyes are different.” She slowly reaches up and touches Lana’s hair, gently rolling a few strands between her fingers and then smiling. Her voice is stronger when she adds, “I think it may look better on you.”

 

She slowly sits up, pulling the ODN cable form her skull with a sort of negligent yank. She looks around the room, taking in the details as if everything is new somehow, and shakes her head slightly as she shuffles herself into a chair. “I’m okay. Thank you.”

 

-I am here as well,- APRIL’s voice comes through Lana’s comm unit. -Alina, I must comment that you have an extremely orderly mind. I find it quite different from Daray’s normal clutter and disarray.-

 

“Oh my god,” Alina rests her head in her hands, elbows propped up on her knees. “APRIL. It’s nice to finally meet you. This is the strangest thing I think I may have ever done in my life. And if we were to sit down and talk about my life, especially the last four years or so, you would understand the gravity of that statement.”

 

Riana grins at her as she rolls up the ODN cable and closes down the portable computer. Her wrist computer beeps at her and she looks at it for a second before announcing, “Kat’s about forty minutes out now.”

 

“So, do we like this plan? Or do we have other thoughts?” Alina asks, sitting up straight and pressing a hand into her wounded side experimentally. 

 

“I like that direct approach feel it has,” Melissa responds as she begins clipping her armor plates to her body somehow. The mechanism for doing so is not apparent. She just seems to hold them to her body, then there is a clicking sound and they stay in place. The armor is much bulkier than the flexible, reactive suit that Daray picked up for Lana, but it is also immediately obvious how much more effective it will be. Within minutes, Melissa looks like some kind of high-tech knight in shining armor, except that the armor is a sort of dull grey-black color. She leaves the helmet and gloves on the table, then begins fishing a few rather serious looking weapons out of her bag and examining them. After each of them passes her scrutiny, she clicks them into place on her armor, one on each forearm, and one on each shoulder.

 

“Okay,” Riana responds, after watching Melissa kit out for a moment. “That’s one vote. And I am inclined to agree. Without a month to survey and plan, I’m not sure we’re going to get much better than that, unless you two have anything in mind?” She looks to Lana and Alina each in turn.

 

Alina just shrugs, then stands up and runs into the bathroom, where a moment later, she can be heard retching into the toilet.

 

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Lana startles at the comment about her eyes.  As soon as Alina sits up she makes her way over to a nearby mirror and examines her eyes.  “Ok, now that is just strange.” She touches the corners of her eyes marveling at the change.  She then looks at her hair fingering the green strands of a shade she had not yet tried.  “Actually Alina, I like how this shade looks on you better.  The real question is can I still control my shading?”  She takes a few minutes... As always her skin changes almost immediately, lightening to her normal white.  Her hair follows more slowly but eventually shifts through a few shades before settling back to the green tone.  “Oh… oh I see.  It’s reset my base coloring.  My body seems to always know what my original color is… now it thinks that this shade is my original.”  Lana turns and looks at Melissa, grinning at the armored look.  “Well Mel, the knight in shining armor look is good on you.  I can see individual rivets from all the way over here.   Alina, I think your eyes are even better than Daray’s.”

 

Lana moves over to her bag and digs in it for the armored body suit that Daray bought for her several weeks ago.  She notices more of her fine soft body hairs falling off of her as she moves, including the shorter ones that framed her sex, creating a rather uncomfortable sensation in her underwear.  She brushes at her arms until the last of them have fallen away.  Thinking back, she realizes she had never really noticed, but Alina has no body hair on her exposed skin so she assumes it is yet another trait she has absorbed.  “I hadn’t meant to do this Alina, but I think this will be good.  Now I’ll know how long these changes will last for.  Yes we are all on board for the plan.  I think the longer we are inside, the more difficult this is going to get, we should try to find Daray first.  If we can inject her with the Psy-Nul, that gives us three competent people to help get my father out rather than us trying to keep him safe while we still stay in the complex looking for Daray. Plus we want to get APRIL home as fast as we can.” 

 

Lana lifts her dress over her head, slips on a clean pair of underwear and shimmies into the black bodysuit.  She notices the texture and feel of it is different with her body now completely smooth.   

 

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“Sounds good to me,” Melissa smiles. “We’ll keep them busy out front as long as we can, but once they realize what’s going on, there will be some people heading back through the door. Riana, if you and I stay between the door and anyone we can force outside, that will make things easier for us on that score. How good a shot is your sister with her long rifle?”

 

“Agreed, and she is a very good shot. She’ll also give directions from time to time. So if she says to move in a particular direction, you’d best do so, as she’s both watching our backs, and picking targets,” Riana responds. “I’m going to have to run back to the Kestrel to get my gear. I should be back in fifteen minutes or so. I’ve cleared a pad for the Vol next to this one, so Kat sill be setting down there when she gets here.” SHe stands up form the floor and nods to everyone as she moves out of the Kitsune.

 

“Thanks for saying so,” Alina comments from the head. The sound of her voice is reverberating out of the toilet, but shortly, she can be heard moving around, and then running the faucet. She gargles some water, steals some mouthwash, gargles some more water, and finally returns to the common room looking like she’s just woken from an hour’s sleep after an all-night bender. “It was a gift to myself, after graduation. Always wanted green hair and eyes. Mom flipped out and left us over it. Then Turin framed my father to get hold of me, and he started making other changes while I was his mind-slave,” She drags her foot through the dusting of Lana’s bodily hair on the floor, sure that her meaning is understood. “I had my senses tuned up as part of my deal with Xavier. I figured I could use the advantage, he could cover the bill, and since I wasn’t au-natural any longer, why should I keep pretending to be? Didn’t tweak anything else though. Just the senses.”

 

“If you don’t like what Turin did to you, why didn’t you have it undone when you were under for the other work?” Melissa asks.

 

Alina looks at the other woman and smiles, with a quiet chortle resonating through her lungs. “I’ve made peace with what he did to me. I’m a stronger person for it, as terrible as it was. I hated what he did to me, for a long time. I had a couple of the rings removed, mostly the facial ones,” She points to her nose. Looking closely, especially with her tuned-up eyes, Lana can see several light pink, circular scars dotting Alina’s face around her eyebrows, lips, and nose, all places where she still has a few rings. “In the end, I learned to look past it, and find that there were some benefits to what he did, as long as I can keep it in a positive context.”

 

“I guess that makes sense,” Melissa nods. “And now you work for Xavier Quinn?”

 

“No,” Alina replies, looking sharply at Melissa. “I work for myself. I did one job in exchange for some favors for Daray. After that, he asked about this geneticist, and I took the job only because it meant I could get to Turin. Not for what he did to me, but to find out what happened to my dad.”

 

She stops and rubs her temples, then says, “APRIL? Are you getting on okay in there?”

 

-I am doing well Alina. I have re-calibrated your sub-space transceiver and disabled its continuous broadcasting function that seems to have been set up to cause a cascade power build-up in the power capacitors in Daray’s brain implants. We should not be completely safe near one another.-

 

“That’s good news. I hate when my presence causes friends’ heads to explode…” Alina groans. “Now, can you tell me why I am so nauseous?”

 

-That is likely a by-product of my presence. Research indicates that the feeling should pass in an hour or so, as your body acclimates to the presence of another consciousness.-

 

“Looking forward to that…”

 

About fifteen minutes later, Riana returns, wearing a reactive armor bodysuit similar to Lana’s, with a few more heavy plates in certain, vital locations. She is carrying a veritable arsenal of small arms and a rather wicked-looking sub machine-gun under her right arm, and has covered herself in a fitted duster that is dark, but doesn't’ seem to be one color, changing in the light like an oil slick. “Kat’s ahead of schedule. She must be really pushing the Vol. Said she’ll be setting down in a few minutes and hauling our care package over to us.”


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