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Status Quo - Chapter 81

Written by: Paullell

 Lana touches her own metal reminder of her time with Turin.  “I understand completely.  After this is over, if you don’t mind, I would love the name and information of the person who removed them for you.  I hadn’t minded them so much.  After all he never managed to completely sway me and we got away before he could do anything that would have bothered me more than what he had done to Daray.  But I can’t say that I want to be wearing the reminder forever.  Plus they are never going to look right with my fashion tastes.”  Lana grins and attempts to lighten the mood with her joke.  

 

Just before Riana returns Lana’s eyes fade from green to yellow and her hair resets to its normal blue.  She braids the length in one long rope and puts on her low heeled combat boots.  It takes some maneuvering to get them on underneath the ankle shackles so she is still struggling with it when Riana walks back through the door.  Lana’s stomach is twisting in knots but she nods her head at the announcement that Kat is almost here.  “Good.  I’ll be ready to go when you all are.”

 

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“It wouldn’t be so bad if he didn’t use such tough materials. I mean, hull armor for ring piercings? Who does that?” Alina sticks out her tongue.

 

Within ten minutes, Willhelmina comes up to the door and, once Lana clears her with SEAN, drags two large, hard-sided cases through with her, setting them on the floor and grinning widely at the assembled group. “Heyas everybody! Did I miss any of the fun stuff?”

 

“Kat please. There are lives on the line here,” Riana admonishes, then crouches down to open the cases. In one of them are four very high-tech looking assault-rifles and a dozen replaceable energy-clips. “Plasma rifles. Nice haul Kat. We get to keep them right?”

 

“You wish,” Willhelmina snorts. “Xavier wants them back in the armory post haste.”

 

In the second case there is a disassembled rifle that looks like it will be more than six feet long when put together, and a half dozen energy pistols with three energy clips for each. “And Ion pistols as well.”

 

“Yeah. Apparently, we are supposed to put a stop to this jerk once and for all,” Willhelmina shrugs as she steps over the mess and gives Lana a welcoming hug and a happy smile. “How’re you holding out?”

 

“APRIL? Can you please charter us a VTOL for use and file a flight plan that takes us over Turin’s estate?” Riana asks as she pulls out one of the rifles and inspects it, slapping a clip in and charging the weapon. She repeats with one of the pistols, and Melissa quickly dives in and helps herself as well.

 

After greeting Lana, Willhelmina moves to the second case and begins assembling the long rifle, loading several magazines with bullets that look like they belong in some kind of tank cannon.

 

-I have made the necessary arrangements for an appropriate craft. It is available at the local VTOL pad on the other side of the crater wall.-

 

“Wow, I didn’t feel a thing,” Alina jokes before passing the news on to the others. “So, when are we doing this?” She adds, looking at the others pointedly.

 

“Not before you put on some protection,” Willhelmina chuckles, and tosses Alina a rolled up black mass which Alina unrolls to find is a reactive armor body suit. She steps toward the bathroom to give herself some space and begins pulling the garment on as the planning continues.

 

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Lana watches with awe as the other women pull out, handle and strap on the various equipment that Kat has brought with her.  She doesn’t even attempt to touch a single piece of it, content simply to watch and listen as they discuss the things they are handling.  

 

She laughs when Alina returns wearing a bodysuit that seems to match hers.  “I’m tempted to touch you again and go in matching, except for my tail I think our builds are close enough to pull it off and possibly cause some extra confusion for Turin.”  More seriously she adds.  “What hour does he usually put his girls to bed? We want to go in after that so we know where most of them will be.  Should we ride over with Riana and Melissa or charter our own transport?”

 

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“I don’t mind if you want to try it, especially if you think it will help in some way,” Alina answers Lana. “He has them chain themselves up around ten. So our best time of approach will be after that. Maybe eleven or eleven-thirty?”

 

“You should probably secure your own transport just to keep things smoother, and make it something you can get the other girls out in if you manage to free them,” Riana responds.

 

Willhelmina takes the barrel off of her rifle and slings it and the rifle body separately beneath her jacket, then picks up one of the energy pistols and stuffs it in a pocket. “Alright, I’m going to go scout roosts in the area of engagement. Can someone please have APRIL forward me the location and what plans we have?” She says, before smiling and disappearing again.

 

“And we should get to our VTOL and scout the area as best we can from altitude before the big jump,” Riana smiles, ears folding back from her head as she stand up, hefting the plasma rifle. You want some help stowing this extra gear before we go?”

 

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Lana looks at the unclaimed artillery still laying on the floor and nods her head.  “Yes please.  If I handle this stuff by myself I'd probably shoot my own foot off.”  Lana works carefully with the others to lock the things away where they will be safe she then hugs Riana and Melissa.  “Be safe you two.  We'll be as fast as we can.”

 

-I too wish to offer my support and encouragement on your mission.  Should any of you ladies need me I will do my utmost to aid your endeavor.-  Sean Pips up before Riana and Melissa also head off.  

 

Lana looks at Alina and gives her a hesitant smile.  “Are we all set?  Stunner... “  Lana pats the holster she has secured on her belt. “Check...Oh did you bring any Psy-Null?  Do we have time to stop for some?  We will need it at least for Daray.  I have some resistance and I'm hoping that with enough craziness going on that will be all I need.”

 

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Riana and Melissa help to move and secure all of the weapons, then move off after saying their 'goodbyes' and 'good lucks'.

 

Alina pulls her jacket on over her armored suit, then experimentally rotates and flexes all of her joints and muscles to get a feel for how the getup is affecting her mobility. She sits down and pulls on her boots as Lana talks, breaking open the breech of her tiny little our-barreled derringer and checking the chambers before snapping it shut again and making it vanish smoothly into her right sleeve. "I have one dose of Psy-Null. I try to always have one, just in case. Ever since he got hold of me the first time. If we need more than one though, we'll need to stop somewhere."

 

"I'm loath to do this, but I'm thinking about carrying a bigger gun for this. My little derringer is nice in a pinch, and it can put down some serious hurt, even on cyborgs, but I only get four shots, and reloading isn't exactly speedy." She looks up at Lana hesitantly, hoping for some encouragement one way or the other. Her face is stoic and resolute, but her emotions are a tempest of anxiety, uncertainty, and raw determination.

 

"I don't mind telling you Lana. I'm scared as hell. I've never gone into a place looking for trouble like this before. I've always tried to calculate every possible angle and cover them all with contingencies before heading into danger. There are so many unknowns here, and so much is at stake. I almost envy the others for being in the serious combat. They'll have fewer collateral targets to deal with, fewer variables. Are we ready for this?"

 

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Lana nods her head in understanding.  “I’m scared too but mostly just because of how many people are involved.  I’ve turned myself over to him once before and managed to get away.  This time I’m better prepared and going in with backup… and this time Daray will be savable if we can get her injected.  Last time he had broken her mind so badly that it was like dealing with a wild animal.  We can do this.  Don’t change out your gun.  The fighting is not our job; we just want to get out as many people as we can.”

 

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“You’re right,” she nods, standing up and testing the range of motion her armor provides her again. “I just hope I’m able to keep up with you lot.” Now she’s grinning. “So, do you think we should go scare up another shot of Psy-Null? Or just find some other way to burn a couple of hours before the big moment?”

 

A thought seems to occur to her then, and she screws up her face as she asks, “APRIL? Isn’t Daray’s metabolism enhanced?”

 

-It is. Several times human maximum potential.-

 

“Will Psy-Null even effect her?”

 

-Unknown. The drug’s mental effects are barely quantifiable by modern science. However, if it were a regular pharmaceutical, my answer would be an emphatic no. Her body has been specifically designed to destroy foreign chemicals the instant they are encountered. I would suggest that, if you are able to inject her directly in the carotid artery, there may be a slight possibility of the drug having the desired effect before her body destroys it. The duration of effectiveness will depend upon how high up the artery you can inject her, but even the slightest disruption in Turin’s influence might be enough to shake her out of it.-

 

Alina looks at Lana with concern. “You think we can do that? That’s a pretty small target…”

 

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Lana listens to April’s description, the worry in her stomach growing stronger.  She has always figured that the backup plan would be to inject her if she needed it.  but she had inherited so many of Daray’s abilities, and her metabolism was definitely one of them, so that meant there was a good chance the drug wouldn’t work on her now.  She nods her head.  “We can hit that target, I’m sure of it.  An extra dose would be a good idea.  If we cant’ take Daray then you won’t be able to get me as a last resort if I’m unable to resist.  You’ll need to pick the next most competent looking female solder he has and dose her instead.”

 

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“Alright,” Alina nods. “I know a guy not too far from here who can get us some. Do you have any platinum handy? I’ve only got a few bars on me and Psy-Null isn’t exactly over the counter.”

 

She pulls her voluminous amounts of acidy green hair back to the back of her skull and ties it in place with a few deft motions, then slips a pair of wrap-around sunglasses out of her jacket pocket and snaps them open, giving Lana a wide smile before donning them. “Alright. Let’s be off.”

 

She leads Lana out of the Kitsune and through the winding hallways of the spaceport. Once they are on the street, she turns left, away from the penthouse and leads the way a few blocks up the street and around a few twists and turns until they reach a small, run-down motel. Along one wing of the motel, she heads into a little alcove where a couple of vending machines sit, tucked out of public view. Digging in one of her jacket pockets, Alina produces a small, copper disc with a raised image of a bearded man on one side, and some kind of ancient, pillared temple on the other, and with a wink at Lana, drops it into one of the decrepit vending machines, pressing an actual, physical button for a kiwi-flavored carbonated beverage of some kind.

 

With a silent, smooth operation that belies the machine’s appearance, it slides back into an alcove, revealing a door that Alina leads Lana into. The machine promptly slides back into place, leaving them in darkness for a moment before another door opens, revealing a room that looks much like a small department store. There are shelves and tables filled with every conceivable kind of item, and there seems to be no distinction between weapons and groceries. There are old, paper books and magazines, computers, and storage discs. data crystals, old toys, videos, clothes, guns, and yes, even some food.

 

A young man sits behind a small counter near the door and smiles at the women as they enter, setting a small energy pistol of some kind back under the counter as he recognizes Alina. “Hello Alina! Haven’t seen you in a while. How are things?”

 

“Not bad Zem. How’s your world?” She smiles at him, leaning on the counter cordially.

 

“I’m hanging in there. So did you ever manage to get back in with Niko? Rumors are saying she’s back in the saddle again.”

 

“She is, and yes I did. Thank you. We’re working things out. This is my friend Lana. Lana this is Zem. Zem’s a man who can get things.”

 

Zem offers a hand to Lana, along with a friendly smile, “nice to meet you Lana, welcome to my little slice of heaven. So, what can I help you lovely ladies with? Guns, ammo, some black-listed reading material? Maybe a good shag?” He grins playfully, obviously not having said anything he hasn’t said to Alina before.

 

“Thanks for the offer Zem, but you know I don’t swing that way any more,” she sticks her tongue out at him.

 

“Yeah I know, but you can’t blame a guy for trying right?”

 

“No. I certainly can’t. Especially when you take such good care of me,” she grins. “We are on a big operation and could use a shot of Psy-Null to even the odds. And a couple tangler’s if you have them handy…”

 

Zem nods and moves out from behind the counter. He rummages through his shelves for a moment and returns with two fist-sized objects, each bearing a large, red button on one end. He sets them on the counter then ducks down behind the register. The sound of a heavy, metal door can be heard opening and then closing again, locking with a quiet but authoritative clicking noise, and he stands up again, setting a tiny, disposable hypo-spray on the counter with the other objects. “Here you go ladies. That’s ten plat for the hypo and the grenades are one each, but I’ll give them to you for half that.”

 

Alina pulls a small, felted pouch form her pocket and upends it on the counter. six platinum bars tinkle out, landing on the counter, and she looks up at Lana hopefully.”

 

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Lana grabs a few more things out of her bag and shoves them into her belt pouch before following Alina out onto the street.  She grins and shakes Zem’s hand in greeting.  “It’s very nice to meet you Zem.  With the way my life has been going recently I may very well end up a frequent customer.”  Lana pulls the platinum out of her pouch that she had pocketed weeks ago from the home that Daray had first taken her to.  There are only three bars left and then the beautiful Ruby necklace that she had worn when pretending to be a Dominatrix before April had learned how to walk upright.  “I’ll be honest.  I’m not certain how much the necklace is worth.  But I can tell you the gems in it are real and if you let me use it as collateral on the rest I’ll do my best to come back with the remaining two plat within the next couple days.”

 

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Zem picks up the necklace and examines it carefully, making sure to hold it up to the light so that it can shine through the stones. After a moment, he sets it back down and smiles, pushing one of the platinum bars back toward the women, and producing two more of the little copper discs that Alina had used to get inside.

 

“The necklace is worth at least three platinum. So if you are willing to part with it, I will accept it as three. And here are two more entry tokens for you. But you must be told, since you are new, that any trouble entering here on your heels will see you never welcomed again,” he pauses for a moment, then smiles at her and adds, “and not seeing you again would be torture for the both of us.”

 

Alina rolls her eyes at him and snags one of the grenades off the counter, pushing the hypo and the other grenade toward Lana as she jammed her own into a pocket. “These are kind of like instant nets Lana. Push the button and throw them. They pop on impact and cover a wide area with an adhesive-covered webbing that is strong enough to bind up cyborgs and enhanced people. The adhesive turns to dust after about an hour of oxygen exposure so there’s no need to look back after you use one.”

 

Turning to Zem she leans over the counter and kisses him on the cheek before moving to the door. “And our next stop… hell… did you remember the hand-basket?” She grins as she waits for Lana to catch up.

 

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Lana nods at the instructions for the admittance tokens and then laughs at his flirting.  “Flattery will get you nowhere.  You should see me when I’m actually dressed up nice.”  She grins and waves goodbye to him.  “It was nice to meet you Zem.”  

 

She then trots to catch up to Alina and follows her out the door.  “Webbing Grenades, check… extra injection… check… Hand-basket… sorry I forgot to make it.  Would you settle for a purse?”  Lana jokes along with Alina as they head through the streets.  More seriously she takes a deep breath and states,  “Lets go over a little early and pick our infiltration point.”

 

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“Something about going to hell in a purse just sounds much less ominous to me…” Alina chuckles back. “We need to get hold of some kind of transport, and we should get at least something light to eat before hand. You should never infiltrate an enemy stronghold on an empty, or a full stomach. Rule number three of the rogue-operator’s hand-book!” She announces. “So. What’s your poison? There’s this great little Asian place around the corner here, where Daray and I had our one and only date…”

 

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Lana chuckles, “There’s a handbook?  I need a copy then.  Food is my preference.  I’ll eat everything…  That sound’s nice.  I’d like to see where you two had your date.”

 

Lana follows Alina to the quaint little restaurant and, like Daray, when it comes time to order she has finally gotten enough of a handle on her new appetite that she knows how much she needs to order, and it is enough to make the waiter’s eyes widen.  Once the are seated and alone Lana wracks her mind for conversation.  “Sooo.  I believe I overheard you say that you were with someone?  Tell me about her?”

 

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“I suppose there isn’t really a handbook, but I’m seriously considering writing one. Too many in’s and outs’ in this strange, world-between-worlds that I constantly find myself living and working in.”

 

She thanks the host for seating them and orders a simple dinner, with mostly starch and protein. Smiling at Lana’s copious order she talks between bites, cognizant of the fact that Lana will likely be eating more than talking, based on how much she has to consume. “Her name is Niko. She helped me get clear of Turin and Tor a couple years back. It’s kind of a sordid tale of human trafficking. Believe it or not, I actually sold myself to her in exchange for her buying off Turin. Tor had ‘freed’ me from Turin’s hold the first time, and helped me escape, only to chain me up again. Turned out he just wanted whatever Turin saw as a status symbol. So I worked a deal with Niko to turn Tor over to Turin, since he was the one more in Turin’s sights at the time. My deal with Niko was for a year of indenture, but she only accepted it because she’d fallen for me the first time Tor had shown me off to her at a meeting,” she shrugs.

 

“Anyway, while I was ‘with’ her, I applied myself to learning her business, which is basically just shipping, and helped her establish herself as the major operator in Ceres. Before the year was out, we were head-over-heels and the indenture was more-or-less forgotten. I stayed another year, made a tone of money and established contacts all over the system. I was doing pretty well, you know, for a kid just out of high school. I had everything a person should ever want, really. But it wasn’t enough. I had to find out what happened to my dad. Niko said no good would come of my investigations, and she wouldn’t have any part of me seeking revenge, and I went anyway.”

 

“I found out Turin had arranged everything. He framed dad for sabotaging a Conglomerate military cruiser on the ring station, just so he could get me. I set down a bunch of plans and infiltrated his house here in Tranquility, freed all his girls, and we turned on him, destroyed his shipping operations, and escaped. In the end, I couldn’t bring myself to kill him. Not in cold blood. Even when he visited me in the hospital after those muggers tried to kill me in that alley. He tried to kill me, and I still couldn’t kill him back. Niko was right, and dad wouldn’t have wanted that for me.”

 

She drinks some tea and thinks for a minute before adding, “So anyway, it took a monumental effort, and more Turin in my life, to get Niko to open the door again. But we’ve been back together for a month or so now, and I can’t imagine anything better. I’m really looking forward to putting this crap behind me and just getting back to being a regular business woman again. It’s really scary to think how much this one asshole has affected so many lives if you think about it. How does one person insinuate himself into so many people’s lives so effectively?”

 

She thinks for a moment then smiles and adds, “but then, if he hadn’t,then all of us never would have met, and I think that might actually be a larger tragedy in the end.”


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