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Status Quo - Chapter 84

Written by: Paullell

 Lana ducks away from the light and its hit the vase with the flowers on it that had been on a table behind her instead.  The vase explodes, splattering the area with melted ceramic shrapnel and giving Lana a good idea of what it would do to her body had she still been standing there.  Lana keeps her eyes on Daray her heart in her throat but she sees more of a reaction from that last comment that she has seen from anything else yet.  She steps a little close to Daray.  The shorter distance will make it harder to dodge but she doesn’t care.  “I love you Daray.”  She repeats herself sincerely.

 

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"You don't love me! You were trying to hold me back! Trying to make me your own little doll to do with as you please!" she shouts. Her forearm begins to glow again as Lana closes the distance between them. 

 

Just as the discharge is about to release, a sharp, electrical sizzling sound can be heard, followed by the brief crack of a projectile plowing through the air. Daray's forearm suddenly erupts in a shower of blood and sinew, followed by a discharge of the blue-white energy. She stumbles to the ground, clutching the bloody stump of her arm and gasping for air as Alina steps toward her shakily, derringer still pointed at Daray. 

 

"Quick Lana. Get her now!"

 

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Lana is already in motion before Alina yells. She had recognized the sound of Alina’s weapon charging and trusted her not to hit anything vital.  She dashes the rest of the way across the room and throws herself on Daray, wriggling and clawing until she has wound her way onto Daray’s back and she has her arms wrapped around Daray’s arms in a wrestling pin.  She has no way to reach her injection vial but at least the back of Daray’s neck is clearly visible from where she is.  Of course it is covered with the body armor-thick skin suit.  Lana hopes Alina will figure out her difficulty and in the mean time tries for a distraction to hopefully get Daray to relax the armor in her neck.  Even if her mind is being effected there is a chance her body will still respond and they have been together long enough that Lana knows most of her sweet spots.  She leans in and nuzzles the back of Daray’s neck underneath her hairline before placing a noisy kiss directly on the back of her armor covered spine hoping that on pure reflex the suit will carry the sensation through it.  “I love you” She states again.

 

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Daray struggles against Lana's attempt to restrain her, but the movement is so fast that, combined with the shock form her wound, the pin is fast and thorough.

 

Seeing Lana's predicament, Alina stumbles forward, staggering as if she's had a whole pint of some serious drink. Collapsing to her knees at Daray's side, she sticks her gun in her teeth, and pulls the hypo-spray out of her jacket pocket. The skinsuit is already armored all over Daray's body, including up her neck and up and around the base of her skull, so Alina does the only thing she can think to do. She presses the tiny device to Daray's temple and pulls the trigger.

 

A faint hissing noise can be heard, immediately followed by Daray's entire body stiffening and her eyes opening wide. A moment later, she lets out a visceral, primal scream of pain and collapses in a heap on the floor. Alina follows her over, panting in pain and discomfort, her derringer back in her right hand, and her left returning to her wounded side as she looks to Lana, still wrapped up and clinging to Daray's back.

 

"If that doesn't do it, we need to find Turin and put him down. Here," she pulls a coiled up ODN cable form her jacket and hands it to Lana, "plug us in... If APRIL goes home, she can help clear Daray's mind..."

 

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Lana looks at Alina reproachfully.  “I didn’t realize how injured you were.  Are you going to be able to keep going?”  Even as she is talking Lana grabs the other end of the cable with one hand while the other stay’s on Daray to keep her still in case she tries anything.  Lana maneuvers the cord to the spot she had seen Daray use previously and presses the tip to it.

 

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As the end of the cable draws near to the spot on Daray’s skull that Lana had seen her use with ODN cables before, the armored surface of the skinsuit seems to come alive, grabbing the tip of the cable and pulling it in without ever revealing the flesh beneath. It’s as if it is programmed to accept the cable, but not expose the wearer to potential harm. A moment later, the subtle ‘click’ of the cable locking home an be heard.

 

Daray continues to just lay there beneath Lana, panting heavily, eyes wide, and tears now streaming down her face at some unseen hurt. The stump of her left arm has stopped bleeding and already there are signs of her body beginning to regrow the limb.

 

“I’ll be fine. I just need a moment. She knocked the wind out of me is all,” Alina replies to Lana’s concern. “Here… can you plug me in too please?” She offers the other end of the ODN cable to Lana and adds, “APRIL, we’re about to plug you into Daray. Time to go to work girl.”

 

-I am ready, as ever, Alina.-

 

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Still untrusting of Daray’s passiveness, Lana scoots up her body until she can press her knees to the fleshy parts of Daray’s upper arms, prepared to bear down with her full weight if Daray suddenly moves;  she has seen her bounce back too many times from injuries not to be cautious now.  Lana then takes the other end of the cable from Alina and gestures for her to turn around.  As she gently moves Alina’s hair out of the way and fits the cable into her jack she offer sympathetically.  “I wish there was I way I could share my healing with you.”

 

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Daray is like putty in Lana’s arms. She makes no movements at all, instead just laying there in a pool of blood and chunks of her exploded forearm and hand, and pooling tears on top of the mess where her face is pressed into the cool stone. She doesn’t even make a sound to accompany her sobbing.

 

Alina presents the base of her skull to Lana with a quiet grunt and responds, “I’m okay. If I healed like you two, I’d never rest. I’m sure that would drive Niko ma….” Her body convulses as the ODN cable clicks home.

 

Daray’s body shudders as well, echoing Alina’s movements and a moment later they both howl in pain, creating a chorus of tortured voices rising up around Lana to accent the sounds of combat and gun-fire outside the house.

 

“So, your the little slut I’m supposed to take care of,” a cruel-sounding, female voice cuts through the cacophony like a knife.

 

Standing in the door of the room is a tall woman with a cut, athletic build that is covered in a suit of reactive armor. She has a pistol strapped to her right thigh and her arms folded across her chest as she lans against the door jamb and watches the proceedings on the floor of the room. Her eyes are an icy blue, and her waist-length hair falls down her back in an unrestrained cascade of dark blue. She has long, tapered ears, the seem to twitch and move as she speaks. She looks for all the world to be identical to Riana, save for the color of her hair and eyes, and her lighter complexion.

 

“Do you want to stand up? Or would you prefer I kill you on your knees like that?”

 

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Lana Catches Alina as she falls and lays her gently next to Daray on the floor, finally confident that she will not be moving anytime soon, she scoots down to straddle her waist and leans over her to brush her hair out of her face and gently stroke the skin of her cheek while she writhes and moans.  She feels a familiar shock and heat jump through her skin at the touch and her fingertips erupt in pain as well as a faint itching deep in her skull.  It is just as she yanks her hands away to look at them that the other voice cuts through to her thoughts.  

 

Lana jerks her head around to look at the newcomer, her eyes widening in surprise.  Her first instinct is to read the other woman’s aura but she refrains at the last moment.  She is hoping that by repressing the abilities similar to Turin’s it will help her keep him out of her head a little longer.  “Actually I prefer the term whore.”  Lana slowly stands up, her eyes focused on the gun as she steps away from the other two women. 

 

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“Slut… Whore… Dead bitch…” The newcomer shrugs as she stands up straight and moves her hands to her hips to meet Lana’s new position, “it’s all the same as far as I’m concerned. You must have pissed this Turin guy off something fierce to warrant my rates for a simple skull crushing though.”

 

She looks Lana up and down, shaking her head as if disapproving of her in some way, or even entirely. “You know, you’re about to die. If you have any last words you’d like me to put down, this would be the time. I also usually give people an opportunity to fall on their own sword, or lay their head beneath my boot. I’ve never had anyone take me up on the offer, but I suppose I should stick with tradition.”

 

Her confidence is nearly overwhelming. That, combined with her physical presence, which is much larger than she actually appears to be, makes her a very imposing figure.

 

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Lana is intimidated.  There is no denying that her heart is racing in a way that it hadn’t been when she was facing Daray.  Not that Daray had been any less deadly, but she knows Daray; knows her capabilities and is even starting to learn her tricks.  This woman is a stranger; a confident stranger who apparently has been hired to kill her… which admittedly is another new twist.

 

“Oh Dead Girl.  That’s even better… let’s go with that one.  Oh, by all means let’s observe the traditions!  If I may?  My formal response at this point I believe is to ask if you are the kind of killer that is loyal until the job is done or until there is a better financial offer?” 

 

Now that she has moved a few feet from Alina and Daray, Lana can see the handle of her stunner underneath a nearby dresser.  She keeps her main focus on the new woman and continues to move in the direction of her stunner, hoping for an opportunity to dive for it.

 

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The new woman grins a sort of twisted, maniacal grin of appreciation at Lana’s response. “Well, at least you didn’t go straight to offering money. In answer to your question, I shall simply respond that there is never, ever, a reason to not follow through on a paid job. And if you want to pick up your little stunner, or even her tiny, but rather impressive derringer,” she points to Alina’s twitching form on the floor, “please, don’t feel that you need to be covert about it. By all means, pick one, or both of them up. Never let it be said that I did not give you at least a fighting chance.”

 

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If her skin wasn’t already alabaster white, Lana would have visibly paled at the other woman’s last comment.  She doesn’t even bother to hide the shiver of fear that quakes through her instead.  She does incline her head in a gesture of recognition for her ability to discern what Lana had been intending to do.  “Well if you would really like to keep this sporting and give me a fighting chance,  what do you say about throwing that gun away and putting us on even footing?”

 

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The woman smiles at Lana’s words, then reaches down and secures her sidearm with the strap on the holster. “That’s the best your going to get. I never surrender my sidearm.”

 

Her words are punctuated by the sound of Alina retching on the floor, to which she simply raises an eyebrow and widens her smile into a menacing grin. “We’d better hurry, I like people to be conscious when I kill them, and it looks like your friend is coming around.”

 

She doesn’t hesitate another instant before leaping forward, extending her leg in a leaping side kick aimed at Lana’s chest.

 

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Somehow, despite the cold pit of fear in her stomach, she doesn’t drop belly up on the floor like a defeated canine.  The insinuation that as soon as Alina regains consciousness she will be next does something to return her backbone to its proper place.  Her body reacts as it has been trained and she steps sideways and towards the woman.  

 

As she moves, she turns, her hands coming up to grab the woman’s ankle and continue the momentum of the kick with some added oomph and a slight twist that should turn her so  that she smacks into the wall behind where Lana had been standing. 

 

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Twisting out of the way and grabbing the blue-haired woman’s ankle, Lana perfectly redirects the energy of her attack, steering her around and toward the wall. Lana notices instantly that the woman is fat heaver than she looks, on the order of three-hundred pounds and change, if she’s a hundred.

 

More surprising is the fact that, as she careens toward the wall, she kicks up her other foot, bracing it against the wall and propelling herself back toward Lana. Her leg still supported by Lana’s hands, she swivels her hips, propelling her free leg around and toward Lana’s temple.

 

The way she moves, with speed that rivals Lana’s and accuracy that screams of Riana’s skills at hand to hand combat, makes her look like some character in a martial arts movie, with actors on wires, or tricks of the camera that make her look faster than she really is. And still, she has yet to make any noise, or even start breathing hard from the exertion.

 

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As the woman's hip rotates and Lana notices that her foot is again heading for her head she has less than a second to react.  Lana drops, still holding onto the woman's leg and, again using the woman's own momentum, attempts to throw her over her head and as far across the room as she can.  Lana lands on her rump, rolls back onto her shoulders and then pushes off with her hands to jump back to her feet.  She spins and faces the woman again, her arms already up in front of her defensively.  Lana is breathing hard, she can't quite tell if it's from exertion or panic.

 

“I've spent the last week training with a cyborg and I must say.  You are very good.”  She isn't dead and she is grateful for that... but neither does she seem to be doing anything more than delaying the inevitable.  Lana can't imaging keeping up much longer in this fight, her luck will eventually run out and she is wise enough to know that fighting on pure guts doesn't get you very far.  She begins to cast about the room, looking for other options.

 

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The woman’s weight and the direction of her momentum make throwing her very far a difficult prospect, but Lana manages to toss her onto the bed, which falls to pieces under her weight and the force of the impact, sending pieces of the furniture in every direction, some of the rather large, heavy pieces of wood landing near Lana’s feet.

 

Not to be put out for long, the woman is almost instantly back on her feet, grinning form ear to ear with a maniacal look in her eyes. “I think you’ll find that I am no ordinary cyborg, not any more. I can see Riana’s influence in your rather basic fighting style. It’s too bad really, there are so many, better teachers out there that could have prolonged your life even a little longer.”

 

She takes a sort of skipping step forward to close the distance between them a bit, and then launches into a flurry of attacks, beginning with a short, front kick to the waist, then spinning around with a back-fist aimed at Lana’s head, a jab to the ribs, and a knee to the side. The flurry comes fast and hard, as fast as when Riana and Daray had been sparring together in the hold of the Neophyte Serendipity not so long ago, and it leaves no doubt that she means to cause as much damage as she possibly can.

 

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Lana manages to block the first attack, but by redirecting the kick away from her body she seems only to have increased the momentum of the fist which connects with her temple.  Pain explodes across her cheekbone, her vision darkens as her head snaps sideways and tears gather in her eyes from the shock. This leaves her more open to the jab to her ribs and the knee to her side. 

 

Bruising pain that leaves her gasping radiates from her chest. She ends up doubled over in front of the woman, breathing labored, and eyes half blind.  At first she thinks she might collapse but somehow her knees never waiver.  She takes a deep breath, leans back and then slams her head forward into the other woman's face.  Even as she is leaning back from that she reaches out, the claws in her fingers extending from under her normal nails like magic, and attempts to grab onto the woman's head, fully intending to slam it down on the knee that she is already raising.

 

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The woman’s blows come fast and hammer into Lana like blows from a heavy weapon. When Lana doubles over, she takes a breath and is obviously about to monologue again, when Lana’s head-butt to her face takes her completely by surprise.

 

Slamming into her face is much like slamming one’s face into a metal wall, but the results are still quite satisfying. Her nose explodes in a shower of blood that lasts all of about five seconds before switching off like a faucet. Still, the action stuns her long enough for Lana to hook her borrowed claws into her face, just behind her jaw bone. Pressing the claws into her flesh feels like she might imagine pushing them into her reactive body armor might feel, tough, very resistive, but the needle points seem to drive their way through, especially when fueled by adrenalin.

 

The quick action of slamming her face into a rising knee has the woman staggering back in recoil, a rapidly disappearing contusion on her nose and forehead coloring her face. “You little fucking bitch!” She screams out. Faster than most people could blink, her pistol is in her hand and she’s already fired three point-blank rounds at Lana’s abdomen.

 

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Her vision has just started to clear when she looks over to see the weapon pointed at her.  She has time to rester that she can feel a tingling heat as her bruises begin to mend themselves where the woman's blows had landed, and to realize that she has drops of the other woman's blood on her face.  She hears the sounds just before the bullets make contact with her abdomen.  

 

Her protective armor does its job, strengthening from fabric to solid from the friction of the bullets striking its weave.  A whole new level of pain makes itself known to Lana and her tail droops as she looks down at her body.  The first two bullets had been stopped by the miraculous material but being fired so close together at the same target has made the armor brittle by the time the third bullet hits it.  A portion of it shatters as the final round buries itself inside her.   She can feel it slide into her skin and lodge somewhere in her intestines like some foreign tick wiggles inside an animal and begins to feed.  Only in this case instead of being fed on,  she she can feel her blood flowing out of the bullet hole and spreading down her belly, wetting the fabric as it travels.  Lana falls to her knees, her left hand reflexively raising to cover her wound as she looks up at the woman standing over her.  “I... I see her training... was good enough to make you forget my request to be beaten to death instead of shot.  At least I surprised you.”

 

Lana draws in another breath and with as much speed as she can, reaches up in an attempt to grab the woman's wrist of her gun hand.  Her intent is to pull her close and then claw her other hand into the   the woman's forearm, trying to damage whatever muscle or mechanical things that are there allowing her to use the gun.  In her own mind, Lana has accepted that she will not survive this fight, but she has to live long enough to give Daray and Alina a chance to recover and fight her themselves.

 

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“Dead is dead, little whore,” She sneers, still stooping slightly from Lana’s attacks on her, although her face is visibly healing itself, just as Lana’s bruises are already fading. “And I’ll deal with the Thorindal child in my own time. Worry not.”

 

Her posturing, combined with the adrenalin-fueled speed of Lana’s movement, keeps her from drawing her hand back quickly enough to get clear of Lana’s ensnarement. Her wrist is caught up, and pulled forward, the tip of the handgun being directed away from Lana’s body in the process even as her claws begin to sink into the flesh of the captured limb. This time, the skin is even more solid than that of her face, however. Lana can feel the flesh tightening up and becoming more solid under her claws, just like her own body armor. Although the pin-point tips of her claws do seem to be gaining some ground, it is slow going.

 

She hisses through her teeth in anger and raises her free hand, forming a fist and bringing it down toward the side of Lana’s face in a hammering blow. 

 

Just as the blow lands, the faint ‘fwip, fwip’ of Alina’s derringer firing in its low-power mode can be heard, and the blue-haired woman staggers to the side, two bullets lodged in the left side of her face like giant pimples.

 

“That’s a friend of mine, bitch,” Alina announces as she quickly breaks open her derringer and uses a speed-loader to replace the four spent rounds.

 

The woman stumbles as she moves away from the bullets, but her hand still being clutched by Lana leaves her little room for retreat and she ends up twisting around to the side, exposing her front to both Lana and Alina.

 

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Lana blinks in surprise as the woman recoils back.  The gunfire from Alina had been a complete... but welcome surprise.  She abandons the attempt to damage the woman's arm and instead continues yanking with the hand around her wrist while her other hand reaches behind her knee, attempting to unbalance her and rip out any important parts that my allow her leg to function.  “Keep going Alina.  She's a telepath at least and can take a hell of a lot of damage.”  

 

Lana tries her best not to vomit as she feels the flesh in her abdomen start to mend, pushing the bullet out of her body a fraction of an inch at a time.

 

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Alina snaps the derringer closed, rolling over onto her hands and knees and raising the weapon to bear. Her index finger snakes out and flicks the switch on the underside of the barrel, causing the gun to charge up the capacitor with the familiar electric whine.

 

The blue-haired woman rolls over backward when Lana shifts her grip to behind the knee. She finds that the flesh there is softer than around her forearm, much more like the more malleable flesh around her face and jaw. Her claws sink in with a little effort, but again seem to find only tissues that, while stronger than one might expect in a person’s body, feel as though they belong. The claw wounds bleed briefly, then stop just as quickly, and she wrenches her limbs free of Lana’s grasp, at the cost of a full set of long, bleeding gashes across her wrist and the back of her leg. Again, the bleeding stops quickly, and she tumbles over sideways, rolling back to a crouching position and looking up with an evil, hate-filled glare, the two projectiles falling free of her face and the large, circular wounds, closing up so rapidly that her healing could be on par with Daray’s.

 

“You little bitches are nothing!” She spits as she pulls a short cylindrical device from a pouch nestled across the small of her back. Holding it in front of her, she activates a switch, and a pulsing mass of roiling energy leaps from the tip of the device, forming a barely-contained line of pure death about three feet long. It looks like a bolt of lightning contained in an invisible jar. “And I’m going to reduce you to just that.”


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