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Status Quo - Chapter 83

Written by: Paullell

 Lana notices Alina reaching for her and is able to move her hands so that Alina grips her covered wrists rather then her skin.  She tisks at Alina, they had just had a conversation about touching skin to skin.  She nods when Alina makes the leap as to how they had been taken last time.  Her eyes grow moist as she recalls how hopeless that situation had seemed.  “He sent me a video of it being done to her.  He didn’t have to.  I would have come just because he had her.  Her mind shut down, she became like a feral animal.  I only had a little bit of time to prepare myself to go in after her.  All I could do was meditate beforehand and try and implant certain triggers that would make me wake up and take notice, specifically anything that would be a danger to myself or Daray.  Then when I got in there she was impossible to communicate with or control, operating on some sort of auto pilot with neither Daray or April in complete control.  She kept doing things that made him want to get rid of her.  That’s when he tried to make me think that the best thing would be to have her put down like a dangerous animal.  That’s what finally triggered me enough to wake up and threaten to hurt myself if he ever tried to make me hurt her.  The attack on the facility happened then and that is when we escaped.”

 

Lana thinks about what they are discussing.  “I really don’t know this time.  He claims he doesn’t want me anymore… And if he did wouldn’t it have been easier to pick me up when I tried to turn myself over to him?  He claimed he was keeping her as punishment for me and he did seem to insinuate that she was going to be his new favorite this time.  I still don’t know how he found out that we had her mind fixed; last thing he should have known was that she was still an uncontrollable animal.  I guess it is that precog thing that you talked about.”

 

Lana gulps nervously as Alina announces the time until the plan is launched.  “I’m ready.  Actually, why don’t we go ahead and touch deliberately this time.  It still might surprise him to see me looking at him with your hair and eyes.”  Lana holds out her hand, waiting to see if Alina will touch it willingly. 

 

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“The bastard,” she repeats after hearing Lana’s words. “I don’t know where he’s getting his information, but I suspect it is a combination of his own abilities, and a large network of spies and informants. It’s like the jerk is everywhere at once.”

 

“And he told me we were through once before. Then kidnapped me and tried to re-indoctrinate me. His methodology seems to be getting more sophisticated though. Each time he gets one of us and we get away, the next scheme is even more convoluted. He wants us to want to be with him. And he seems to think that making life miserable will force us to see him as a better alternative…”

 

When Lana offers her hand, Alina accepts it, gripping her hand tightly and squeezing reassuringly. She holds it there for as long as Lana wants, smiling as she says, “I’ve called a good friend of mine. A Doctor from the Ring Station. She has a practice in Neo-Tokyo and does a lot of cybernetic work. She’s patched me up more than a few times. She’s en route now, should be in town by the time we’re done here. Just in case we need a discrete doctor. If everything works out well enough then we can just have dinner or something before we all go our separate ways, but I thought it could be handy to have someone available.”

 

-Alina, I have just received word from Riana and Melissa, they are beginning their approach. ETA is T-minus sixty seconds,- APRIL interjects.

 

“Thank you APRIL, how are the defense systems coming along?”

 

-I have just entered Turin’s systems and am working to deactivate remote defense systems and alarms. I estimate forty-five seconds until the approach is clear.-

 

“Okay. Forty-five seconds. You ready Lana?”

 

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“That’s a good idea.  A doctor is something I haven’t had yet and, considering how often Daray gets hurt, would not be a bad idea to have as a backup.”  At Alina’s touch her hair and tail shift and change to match and she feels the now familiar burning sensation in her eyes as they shift from yellow to green. Lana counts down until twenty seconds in her head and then lets Alina go with a final squeeze and a nod of confirmation.  She quietly opens the door on her side of the van and slips out onto the street.  The wall in front of them is short enough that she could jump it; but she waits to see how Alina chooses to approach before committing to the more noticeable scaling.

 

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“It was an after-thought, but Sam will be just as happy to see Turin take a loss as any of us will. He had her leveraged into being not much more than a chop-shop for the mafia in Neo-Tokyo.”

 

Slipping out the opposite door of the vehicle, Alina joins Lana against the wall, looking up at its ten-foot height doubtfully, then over at Lana who appears to be of a mind that she can clear it on her own and is waiting for confirmation. Alina simply shrugs her head and whispers, “APRIL. How about the back gate?”

 

-Thirty-three feet to your left Alina. I am accessing the lock now,- APRIL responds.

 

Alina looks to Lana and nods, then moves over to the small gate, which pops open at their approach. The gate is constructed of heavy, armor-quality chunks of metal that provide just enough in the way of gaps that a person could see who is standing in front of it while safely ensconced away on the other side. It looks as if it could easily repel an anti-tank weapon, and still function perfectly afterward. 

 

As they move through the opening they can see that the wall is about two feet thick, and appears to have a metal core, sandwiched between the inner and outer layers of masonry. On the other side of the wall is a veritable cornucopia of plant life. The grounds are arranged in large sections of themed plantings. With groups of large coniferous trees here, and deciduous trees there. Large swaths of flowers, hedges, fruit-bearing trees, and vegetables, all divided by beautiful paths that offered subtle, indirect lighting so as to keep people on the walkways.

 

Quietly closing the gate behind them they move into the garden and begin to sneak toward the house at the center of the huge grounds. The paths seemed to be arranged in such a way that the house was always visible no matter what path they were on, and more than once they rounded a corner to come face-to-face with a small, automated weapon of some kind, just barely discernible as it stuck out from under a plant, or next to a tree.

 

Rounding the final corner before the wooded areas gave way to the much shorter gardens, the women come upon a figure dressed all in black, and wearing an all-concealing mask and hood over their head. The person’s reaction is instant and wholly unwelcoming, a fist lashing out toward them even before the exclamation of, “how’d you get in here?”

 

Alina ducks under the fist, which is then on target toward the side of Lana’s face. She tucks into a ball and rolls backward, coming up in a crouching position with her derringer in hand and trying to find some indication of a soft spot to shoot at on the black-on-black figure.

 

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Lana chuckles when she realizes that Alina has no intention of heading over the wall and quickly moves into pace behind her.  She is actually surprised by the beauty of the lands around them she realizes belatedly that she should not be, Turin was the type to enjoy the finer things in life and in this age of spaceports and metal, flowers and trees are the best commodity of all.  

 

When Alina ducks Lana realizes that the week of practice has done its job; before she can even blink she takes in the figure and the fist coming towards her face.  She steps back even as she raises her hands to intercept the fist.  Her right hand warps around the figure’s wrist and pulls in the same direction that the figure is already punching, hoping to pull them off balance.  Her left arm moves as if by rote and she attempts to slam her elbow into the attacker’s shoulder joint, intending to dislocate his or her arm and end the fight quickly.

 

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Lana's attack, which would doubtless be a crushing blow against a normal human being, comes up a bit short in the way of dislocating the figure's shoulder. She seizes the advancing wrist and yanks forward, pulling her foe off balance easily enough, but her elbow collides with metal, not flesh, at the shoulder. The figure gives off a decidedly male grunt of surprise, before listing over to the side and spinning around, landing on his back with a solid thud that seems to indicate that the rest of him is probably not flesh either.

 

Dazed by the sudden reversal of the situation, he looks up at the pair, Alina's tiny derringer pointing directly at his face from less than a foot away, and Lana still holding onto his right arm, twisted around at an odd angle by his sudden trip to the ground.

 

"No second chances," Alina hisses in the darkness, "Walk away, or I'll put you down."

 

"With that little pea-shooter? Do your worst bitch!" He sneers back from behind his masked face.

 

"Fine," Alina replies. Her index finger leaves the trigger of the weapon for just long enough to activate a switch on the underside of the barrel, causing the weapon to emit a low, electronic wine, like a capacitor charging up. Her finger returns to the trigger and she leans in closer, obviously about to end the man's life.

 

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Lana follows him to the ground too keep her pin of his arm secure as soon as she realizes her attack hit metal instead of flesh and bone.  Not realizing that Alina is serious about shooting their assailant when he sneers his response Lana twists his arm further and then drops the weight of her knee directly on the back of his elbow while pulling up on his wrist, trying to break what she assumes will be a weaker metal joint.

 

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Using her weight, the leverage provided by her position, and a considerable amount of strength, Lana manages to break the arm at the elbow. Although the sound is definitely one of metal wrenching and bending, rather than any sort of human tissues being damaged. The sound of the limb coming apart is punctuated by a loud, electric zapping sound, followed by the man’s head caving in, the back of it spilling across the path in a mess of machine fluids, mechanical bits, and brain matter.

 

Alina’s whole body lurches back as the weapon discharges, its tiny frame lifting her nearly off the ground as it discharges, then the same electric wine can be hard as the capacitor charges back up again. “No second chances,” she repeats.

 

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Lana’s eyes widen in horror both at her own act of violence and the sight of his head exploding and the visceral liquids splattering over the path.  There is an emotional shock as, even attempting to squash down her empathy, there is a moment of anguish that bursts inside of her that is all darkness and shock and pain.  She stands up and staggers over to the side of the path before leaning against a tree as the remaining lunch in her stomach empties itself violently on the rhododendrons.  She stays there until her body’s heaving stops and then wipes the back of her mouth with her hand.  She looks at Alina with tears in her eyes, there is no argument or chastisement, as she cannot refute the necessity of what she has done, so with a shaky voice Lana announces.  “Lead on.”

 

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As Lana staggers away, Alina gives her a quick looking over to make sure she is not injured, then proceeds to rifle the dead man’s body for anything of use. She comes away a moment later with a machete-like blade that has a full hand guard arching over the handle. She eyes it, flicks a switch on the hilt which causes a faint hum to issue from the weapon. Clicking it off again, she stuffs the blade into her belt and moves over to Lana, gently touching her shoulder as she finishes retching.

 

“I’m sorry Lana, I had no idea. I thought you had more experience at this sort of thing, hanging out with Daray and all. We’ll try to keep this sort of thing to a minimum.”

 

Moving toward the house, along the path, Alina’s wrist computer beeps at her, and she quickly ducks down by a hedge, encouraging Lana to do the same as she looks up into the night sky. “It’s time,” she says, then points up at a set of lights drifting lazily over the estate.

 

Focusing her augmented vision on the lights, Lana can just make out the tiny craft in time to see the side door open and two armored figures step out into thin air. They both curl up into the fetal position as they drop, gaining speed until, seconds later, they both slam into the roof of the house, sending debris in every direction and making enough noise to wake the dead, on Mars.

 

The instant they collide with the structure, Alina is up and moving again, running full speed toward the back door of the house. As she draws near, the door pops open for them, with a little nudge from APRIL, and they slip inside just as the fighting breaks out at the other end of the house.

 

The house is even more opulent than the one Lana had been in while on Mars, with simple paintings looking as if they could cost millions. “Where do we check for her first?” Alina whispers to Lana, “the bedrooms, or the dungeon?”

 

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Lana shudders again and shakes her head.  “Sort of.  She has killed around me before, usually when our lives are in imminent danger… but I have never… helped.  I’m empathic, touching him at the moment of his death was something of a shock… If possible I would rather never repeat the experience again.”

 

She looks up when Alina announces that it is time and watches as the two figures fall.  She breaths a quick prayer for their safety and then follows Alina inside.  She pays little attention to the grandeur around them, her entire mind focused on the current mission.  She hates it because the direction is most likely to take them right into Turin’s living quarters but jerks her head towards the stairs.  “Up, just like we discussed.”

 

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“If we ramp up the juice on your stunner, it might be able to knock down cyborgs, for a little while anyway. That will save you the shock, and me the deed. Just keep in mind that all his thugs are willing minions, not mind slaves.”

 

Nodding at Lana’s direction, Alina leads the way down a few corridors to a set of servant’s stairs, trying to keep them away from the sounds of combat as much as possible. There is a great deal of gunfire and small explosions echoing around the house, and as they move off the stairs onto the top floor, the sound of a wall collapsing can be heard. As they move toward the front of the house, they catch sight of the entryway. The ceiling has caved in, many of the columns in the grand hall are toppled over and the floor is littered with the bodies of similar cyborgs to the one they’d just met in the garden. The front door, and a large portion of the wall around it, has been caved in, and the fighting seems to have moved out into the driveway.

 

They can see glimpses of Riana and Melissa, nearly dancing around with a dozen or more opponents, with the flash of weapon fire lighting up the night and a constant staccato of fists and feet impacting bodies. The occasional, deep, resounding boom can be heard, and a sharp eye can detect a brief flash coming from the top of a building more than a mile away, just before one of the enemy cyborgs explodes in some gruesome shower of machine parts and bodily fluids.

 

“Just through here,” Alina calls to Lana as she reaches out to open a door. As it swings open to reveal the master bedroom, they are greeted by Daray, standing in the center of the room, with her baston in her hands. She is wearing her thick, black, combat armor over her entire body, with the exception of her head, which just has the black material lining the base of her skull, up to her ears, and the back of her head. Her hair has been cut down to a length shorter than it was when Lana first met her, and her ark eyes seem entirely devoid of any sort of emotion.

 

“It’s about time you got here,” she announces. “And you brought the master’s other toy with you as well.” She indicates Alina as she speaks, then charges them both, baston raised to strike, and patches on her forearms glowing brightly, ready to unleash her strange bio-energy blasts.

 

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To say that seeing Daray that way was disturbing was akin to saying that the oceans on old Earth were wet, a vast understatement;  but as heart wrenching as she found it, Lana is not surprised and so, is able to react quickly.  She Charges at Daray, trying to keep her main attention away from Alina, who doesn’t have the same physical capabilities that they do.  

 

At the last minute she ducks under Daray’s weapons and uses all of her momentum to carry herself into Daray’s knees.  She is hoping to knock her feet out from under her and wrestle her to the ground in a pin so that Alina can scoot in with the injection.

 

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Daray grins at Lana’s maneuver, jumping at the last second, so that Lana’s impact with her lower legs carries her feet over head in a lightning-fast, one-handed cartwheel. As she spins over, she lashes out with her free hand, aiming the baston squarely at the back of Lana’s skull, and bringing a foot down onto Alina’s shoulder.

 

For her part, Alina manages to squeak back enough to avoid the full force of the attack, and the fact that Daray had little leverage due to the nature of the attack meant it was weaker than she was capable of normally. Still, the tiny impact is enough to drive Alina to the ground with a loud thump and a sharp exhale. Her free hand immediately moves to her wounded ribs as she works at sucking in enough air to stay conscious.

 

Daray comes up standing, facing Lana and sticks at the ready, a wide grin plastered across her face as she stands prepared for more action, “you shouldn’t have come. But then, you never did want me to be successful, did you? Figures, when I finally get my chance to be something, you come ‘round and try to smash it. Not that it matters though, you’ll both be brain-dead living artwork by morning anyway.”

 

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As soon as she realizes that her attempt to grab Daray’s legs has failed Lana is already changing her tactic, continuing her roll so that she can get herself right back to her feet.  This means that instead of hitting her on the base of the skull she takes a glancing blow to her ear.  The side of her face lights up with heat and pain and she hears a ringing sound that partially deafens her for a moment, but it is not the debilitating blow that it would have been had it landed where it was supposed to.  She does manage to roll back to her feet in time to see Alina stagger underneath the kick.  

 

She watches as Daray turns and glares at her, but to Lana her words make no sense and she has to grin, almost finding the contradictory words amusing.  “Blah blah blah.. You make no sense… You finally showed up.. you shouldn’t have come.  Which one is it?  Never mind.  It’s useless talking to you right now anyways. All you are is a puppet.  Alina, why are we bothering with this again?”  Lana asks sarcastically before narrowing her eyes and answering her own question.  “Oh ya.  Because I love the woman whose body you are inhabiting.”

 

Lana wants to end this quickly but she holds herself in check, everything that her friends have taught her about fighting has been defensive and she is well aware that she is not trained to launch an offensive attack, so instead of charging forward she raises her arms in a ready position and waits for Daray’s next attack.

 

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Daray grins maliciously at Lana then, her eyes narrowing as she replies, “There’s no one in my head but me Lana. Turin opened my eyes. He made me realize the truth. You didn’t want me to know about my past. You didn’t want me to be aware of what I was, because you’re afraid of me! He knew you would come, that’s why it’s about time. But you shouldn’t have come, because now you have to die. Not physically mind you, just your stupid, selfish, mind. Your body will continue to go on, serving us day and night in any way we want!”

 

As she finishes her monologue, she launches herself forward into another, much more solid flip, aiming her heavy, booted feet at Lana’s face, and ready to follow that attack up with a pair of baston to the same spot after she catches her feet once more.

 

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Lana scoffs at Daray’s statement, “Opened you eyes… my ass.  He opened your brain like an illithid.”  Lana takes the advice she got days ago from Riana to heart.  The best way to avoid an injury is not to be there when the attack lands. She knows that she is no match for Daray’s strength head-on, so she uses her extra speed to give her the edge she needs.  She dodges Daray’s foot easily, and then jumps back, narrowly avoiding the baston.  She wobbles for a moment on the edge of the dais that the bed is raised on before throwing herself backwards onto the bed itself and rolling to her feet again.  

 

“Serve him as a mindless doll.  You know that just figures.  When he had me before he never stuck it in me then either.  Has he had sex with you yet?  I’m starting to get the suspicion that Turin keeps so many brainless dolls around because he is embarrassed about something.  How about you Alina?  Any memory of him ever actually cavorting with you?  I bet he keeps us mind wiped so we can’t share stories about how tiny his poor little winkie is.”

 

She is expecting nothing from her words, she’s using her own banter to keep herself motivated in the fight. As she talks Lana is assessing Daray’s movements; comparing them to when they had fought before, trying to determine if she is using her full skill or holding back at all. She is also looking for an opening that she can take advantage of.

 

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Daray presses her attack, leaping through a forward flip onto the bed behind Lana and striking at her again with the baston. She doesn’t bother with a response, instead focusing on the attack.

 

By Lana’s estimation, she is not holding back anything, and is quite intent on winning the fight. It is likely that the only thing keeping Lana’s skull in one piece, is her superior speed and a bit of good fortune.

 

Alina starts to pick herself up off the floor with a groan and replies, “to be honest, I don’t remember. So if he did, it can’t have been that impressive.” She’s leaning heavily against the door frame as she stands up, very obviously in a good deal of pain.

 

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When Daray lands on the bed Lana drops herself to the mattress, ducking underneath and kicks her legs out, attempting to tangle them with Daray’s and then rolling as hard as she can to the right.  If she is successful this should unbalance Daray and pull her down on the bed and make her easier to grapple with.  As she rolls, Lana is also reaching for her stunner knowing that an electric charge has worked in the past to stun Daray.

 

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Landing on the mattress and spinning around to strike Lana with her baston, Daray isn’t quite quick enough to avoid the entangling legs twining around her ankles. She quickly shifts her weight as Lana rolls to the side, slipping one leg free as she cartwheels over to the side, lashing out at Lana’s head again with her metal sticks even as she misses her feet and slams into the floor.

 

Alina shakes her head, trying to clear the cobwebs of pain winding their way through her, clutching her hand to her wounded ribs and lifts her derringer, pointing it at the fighting couple and blinking repeatedly, trying to clear her vision for a clean shot as Daray rolls back to her feet, ready for more action.

 

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Lana raises her right hand in reflex as she sees the baston coming at her head and she succeeds in keeping it from hitting her skull. However, she hears a sharp crack as her radius breaks under the pressure of Daray’s blow.  The resulting lash of pain causes her stunner to fly out of her hand and spin across the room to some unknown location.  Her tainting words fail her in the presence of so much pain even as she feels the heat from her injury starting to repair itself.  She cuddles her arm to her chest and rolls off the other side of the bed away from Daray.  She looks over at her across the tousled sheets with tears in her eyes.  “One way or another, we always manage to rumple the sheets don’t we?  I love you Daray.”  She puts every bit of emotion that she can into her voice, even as she balances on the balls of her feet, waiting to react to whatever action Daray may take next.

 

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Coming to her feet again after her tumble, Daray looks at Lana as she speaks, then wrinkles her nose as if she’s just swallowed something foul. She slowly raises her hand, the metal baston still held firmly as she points her index finger at Lana. “You can never give me what I truly need. What I really want. The master told me how you lied, made me remember how you broke my mind the last time you stole me away from him. You don’t care about me. All you’ve ever cared about is hurting him. And for no reason other than your own selfishness!”

 

As she speaks, the splotches on her forearm begin to glow more brightly. Looking at her, Lana can see the faintest glimmer of a tear forming in the corner of one of her eyes as the blast of blue-white energy leaps from Daray’s forearm, lancing across the room at her chest.


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