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Status Quo - Chapter 85

Written by: Paullell

 Lana leaps to her feet, pushing through the pain of her gut wound with a tenacity she hadn’t even known she had.  She stumbles a moment and then straightens, placing herself between Alina and the new weapon that the woman has brought out.  She has never seen such a thing so her fear is really unchanged from before.  Lana straitens herself, breathing heavily as her body finally expunges the bullet and it drops to the floor at her feet.  She waivers and then returns to a ready stance, a little unsteady but clearly she intends to keep fighting.  “The only person who is useless is one who can callously disregard a human life.  Its people like you who ruined Earth years ago.  If anyone should be put down its psychopaths like you.”

 

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“You’re killing me with your bleeding-heart,” the woman sneers as she steps forward, spinning the weapon around her flamboyantly. As she approaches Lana she throws a fairly wide round kick toward Lana’s head and using the momentum of the attack to carry her body into a spin that will bring the new weapon across Lana’s chest in a wide arc.

 

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Lana ducks under the kick and turns, trying to escape the arch of the blade.  She succeeds only partially and the blade slices easily through the bodysuit on her left arm.  A deep gash, nearly to the bone, opens under the sizzling pain of the blade.  Lana backs up further, her arm held awkwardly at her side as her bright red blood splatters onto the carpet.  She reaches out with her right hand and grabs a vase off of a nearby surface and hurls it at her attacker in desperation.

 

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The woman sneers at Lana as her blade bites deeply. She watches Lana stagger back and pick up the vase, then smiles cruelly as she raises her handgun, shattering the projectile with a single bullet as it crosses the distance between them. The water and cut flowers from the vase rain down around the room like wet confetti.

 

“Go to hell, bitch!” Alina hisses as she braces herself and pulls the trigger on her derringer. the faint ‘thwip’ of the previous shots is replaced with a loud ‘crack’ as the higher-speed projectile lances out toward the blue-haired woman.

 

The woman ducks down, rolling forward toward Lana and under Alina’s projectile, which blasts a hole nearly a foot in diameter through the bathroom wall. Coming up from her forward roll with the tip of her glowing blade aimed directly at Lana’s chest, she thrusts the weapon toward Lana’s heart even as Daray slowly lifts herself up from the floor, casting a groggy look around the room.

 

“You first!” The woman hisses back at them.

 

“Lana?” Daray’s eyes lock on the event as it unfolds, her cobalt eyes suddenly focusing sharply on the situation and going wide in shock.

 

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Lana tries.  She can see the whole thing happening almost in slow motion.  Daray finally stirring makes Lana’s heart leap with joy and hope, together they should be able to take this woman down.  Then she sees the woman’s roll and where it will bring her up.  Her retreat is blocked by the wall behind her, she hadn’t realized she had been backing into a corner and there is nowhere left to go.  As the blade pierces her chest her body refuses to respond to her commands to run, jump, anything to avoid the inevitable strike.  She raises her head to look towards Daray and even with Alina’s green hair and brilliant eyes her expression is still all Lana. 

 

Through the white hot pain in her chest she can feel her heart valiantly trying to beat around the weapon that has skewered it.  Sound has ceased, all she can hear is the last few beats of her heart as she chokes out an apology for failing Daray.  “I… sorry… Daray… love… you.” The blade is pulled back out of her chest and finally her legs collapse under her own weight.  The last thing she sees is Daray's expression before her vision goes dark and if it were possible to break her heart further, that look would have done it.

 

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The look on Daray’s face could not have been more pained. Her own body jerks back as the weapon pierces Lana’s chest, and she actually coughs up some bile as tears begin to stream down her face. “Lana! No! Not like this!”

 

Alina looks on in horror from where she landed on the other side of the room after the kick from her gun launched her backward, “No!”

 

The blue-haired woman watches Lana drop to the floor, then crouches down over her and sneers, “Does it hurt? Tell me, little slut, does your soul burn for the sins you’ve committed? Tell me, quickly, before the lights go out.” She presses the side of her gun into Lana’s cheek, turning her face upward so she can look into the fading green of Lana’s eyes. Locking her own eyes on them and staring intently as the life fades. Getting no response, she shakes her head and stands up again, turning around to face the other women, “I guess I’ll have to ask one of yo…”

 

Daray’s foot collides with her face, bouncing her head off the wall and back into her elbow as she rises out of her one-handed cartwheel. The woman’s nose explodes in a shower of blood again, but she ducks under Daray’s foot as she lifts it up over her back, leaning forward to drive the sole of her boot into the woman’s face, instead smashing a hole in the wall as the woman escapes to the side.

 

She rolls away from Daray and Lana’s corpse, coming to her feet facing Daray as she turns and narrows her tear-filled eyes. “Nice to see you again… Daray Bowen, isn’t it? And this time you don’t have some coward covering you from a mile away with a long-rifle.”

 

“I don’t know who you are, bitch, but you just made the worst mistake of your life!” Daray seethes through her clenched teeth. Her left hand is still missing, but that does’t stop her from cartwheeling forward, throwing her legs out at the woman’s head in a deadly strike that she narrowly avoids.

 

“Nice to see your fancy moves still falling on deaf ears,” the woman sneers, raising her sword for a slash at Daray’s head.

 

“Not really,” Daray spits. “I was just setting you up for her!” She jerks her head in Alina’s direction, and the woman turns to look just in time to catch Alina’s projectile in the shoulder.

 

The round sends her heels over head, her shoulder spraying blood and other fluids in a wide arc as she hits the floor. It takes her a second to shake it off and begin to climb to her feet, which allows Daray to get to her with a series of hammering blows that drive her into the floor again.

 

“You’ll pay for killing her! She’s all I had! We just started figuring things out!” Daray picks the woman up by the collar of her armored suit and starts driving a flurry of knee strikes into her kidneys. She punctuates each word with a strike, as tears pour out of her and before she knows it, she is raking her claws back and forth across the woman’s face.

 

She has no idea how long she is kicking and clawing at the woman, who is actually covering herself up against the flurry as Daray cries her heart out in a blind fury. When Alina touches her shoulder, she very nearly turns on her, claws bared and a feral look in her eyes, but they clear up quickly as the sight of Alina’s tear-stained face comes into view.

 

“Alina?” She shakes her head to clear the fog, her attention quickly moving back to Lana’s crumpled form on the floor. She covers the distance in a heartbeat, scooping Lana’s body up in her good arm and the skeletal fingers of her regenerating hand tracing a line down her cheek. “Not like this Lana. Please don’t go. Please don’t leave me alone…” She cradles Lana’s body to her breast and sobs.

 

Alina stands over her, resting a hand on her shoulder sympathetically, and when the other woman moves toward the door, blood covering her front, one deflated eyeball dangling from its socket, and one of her arms twisted around at an odd, broken angle, Alina merely glares over her shoulder to make sure she is leaving. “I’m so sorry Daray,” her eyes fill with tears, “we had no idea Turin would bring in someone like that. We weren’t prepared for anything like that.”

 

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The blackness seems to last for hours, there is nothing to separate it from anything else. No pain, no pleasure, no heat, no cold, and most importantly, no light.  Lana realizes that she can still think… still reason… and she had been expecting light; or a tunnel leading to a familiar person waiting for her... or at least something.  She tries to call out “Mama?” But there is no voice to speak the word; no lips or tongue to shape and no breath to call out.  She just floats in the emptiness, thinking of Daray, of her mother and father, her friends.  

 

Then something changes. She can feel her body again, behind held and rocked.  She can feel her shoulder mending and her un-beating heart closing the wound that had stopped it.  Still, there is no sight or sound, and worst is the stillness of her chest and blood... The lack of the rise and fall of her lungs.  It’s unnatural and makes her feel hollow.  She doesn’t know how, but she can feel the color fade from her hair and tail, knows that if her eyes were open they would be yellow again and the claws once again gone from her fingertips as her body stops wasting its energy on maintaining those changes.  All at once, realization comes to her: Daray’s node… the Lazarus thing.  I’ve got it too...

 

She feels pressure in her skull and her body goes rigid as a burst of adrenaline is forced through her blood.  Everything starts back up at once; her heart, her lungs, sight and sound.  She can hear Daray weeping and begging and feel her body being rocked, the internal sensations she felt before are gone, replaced by the overwhelming feeling of air moving against her skin and tears falling on her face. 

 

The adrenaline finally fades and her body relaxes again as her chest begins to rise and fall regularly.  Lana opens her eyes and looks up at Daray.  She smiles weakly and whispers.  “Oh good.  You’re you again.  I’m starving... is that normal?” Before passing out again from exhaustion.

 

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Sitting there weeping and clutching Lana’s limp body to her, with Alina squeezing her shoulder and commiserating. She is just about to suggest that they move on, that they are in extreme danger and should not be standing still. She’s about to say that Lana would not have wanted Daray to be caught, or killed, because of sentiment. She would have wanted her to free her father, and get clear of the whole mess as quickly as possible. She is just about to say any one of these things, when Lana’s body suddenly stiffens and gasps in a huge gulp of air.

 

Daray tears of dread turn to sobs of happiness as Lana opens her eyes and speaks. She can’t manage anything more than a relieved smile and a nod in answer to the question, even though Lana is already passed out from the monumental effort it takes for her body to bring her back form the brink, snatching her from the abyss.

 

“Come on Dare. We need to get moving. Her father is still in the dungeon somewhere,” Alina says, her voice full of immense relief.

 

Daray nods, wiping the tears from her eyes with the back of her still-regenerating hand. She turns her face back up to Alina and sniffs. “Thank you. All of you. For coming to find me.”

 

“You weren’t that difficult to find Dare,” Willhelmina’s voice comes over the comm.

 

“You have no idea how wrong you are Kat,” she sniffs again, standing up with Lana cradled in her arms. “Let’s go finish this.”

 

Alina nods her head, opening her gun and reloading the spent rounds out of her pocket, then snapping it closed and leading the way out of the room. They make their way along the second floor balcony that overlooks the remains of the entry hall, the sounds of combat still ringing out through the demolished front wall of the home.

 

“Are you guys okay out there?” Daray asks through the comm, “APRIL? Riana is that you out there?”

 

-I am here Daray. It is good to be home again.- APRIL replies.

 

“Present and accounted for,” Riana responds. “Nice to hear your voice again.”

 

“Oh sure. No love for the hard-working new girl in the club I see,” Melissa jokes.

 

“Just concentrate on getting through your first day on the job with us, and we can handle the credit later okay?” Daray’s tone is a bit short, but the edge is taken off by the lingering presence of her sobs.

 

“Deal,” Melissa’s tone suggest that she’s picked up on the tone and understands the seriousness of the situation.

 

The main floor is deserted as they come down the servant’s stairs into the kitchen, Alina leading the way around a few corners and through a few winding hallways until she comes to a locked door. “This leads to the basement, and the dungeon is below that,” she breathes as she fiddles with the lock.

 

Daray simply nods her understanding, then hefts Lana up a bit higher into her grip, hugging her unconscious form to her chest. She raises her right leg and kicks the wooden door off its hinges. The panel exploding into the stairway as it folds over the jamb and the pieces rattle down the stairs like a herd of cattle charging the only fresh patch of grass under the domes of Hector.

 

“Okay. Well that was somewhat less subtle than I was thinking,” Alina says, her hands still held out where the door had been an instant before.

 

“I’m not feeling terribly subtle at the moment,” Daray frowns.

 

“You know, I kind of get that vibe from you,” Alina stands up. Her little gun reappears in her hand, and she leads the way down the stairs, picking her way around the remains of the door.

 

Daray follows her into the basement, where they find a small horde of nearly-naked women huddled in a corner behind a wine rack. “This guy is a fucking sicko,” she mumbles as she follows behind Alina.

 

“You’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg,” Alina responds, stopping in front of another locked door. This one is metal, and has an electronic lock on it, and Alina looks up at Daray from where she is crouching to inspect the panel. “APRIL? Can you do anything with this?”

 

-It is not on Turin’s network, and that model does not have an ODN service port. I am very sorry, but there is nothing I can do with it,- APRIL responds.

 

“I’ll get it,” Daray growls. “Here, hold Lana for me.”

 

Alina stands up and moves to take Lana from Daray’s arms. She has trouble, wincing as the woman’s body adds stress to her damaged ribs, but she holds her steadily and steps back from the door to give Daray access.

 

Looking the door over for the barest of moments, Daray raises her right hand and fires three quick blasts of blue-white energy at it. The first blast causes the door to distort in the center and take on a subtle, orange glow. The second shot creates a small hole in the center, and changes the orange flow to a bright white, and the final blast sends a shower of molten, white-hot metal spraying down the rough-hewn stairs on the other side.

 

She then turns and takes Lana back from Alina, who takes  a moment to catch her breath, stand up straight, and then leads the way down the stairs. At the bottom, there is a short hallway with metal doors similar to the one Daray had just blasted lining both sides. The last door on the left stands open, and as they approach it, they can see Turin standing inside, looking out at them.

 

In front of him is a man, ties to a chair, with a blindfold and gag secured to his head. It’s difficult to tell through the straps and other material covering his face and head, but it looks very likely that he could be Doctor frederick.

 

“I’m surprised you made it past Anja,” he says, his look is quite serious. “I suppose I shall have to discipline her now as well. No matter,” he sighs, making a show of presenting an empty hand to them, and then tightening his fingers into a fist. 

 

Almost immediately, they can hear the sound of the mind-controlled women’s en pointe boots coming down the stairs. The mass of ten or so women begins to move toward them, not showing any signs of aggression, but they could certainly make fighting anyone else down there extremely difficult.

 

“To the task at hand,” he adds, wrapping the fingers of his other hand over the tied man’s shoulder. “Since Lana is obviously still alive, I will trade you her, for her father. Alina, you will become my informant within The Dregs, feeding me shipping and structural information, and ~Miss~ Daray Bowen, you will do the same for me within Solidarity Online.”

 

“I’ve got a better idea,” Daray responds, shifting Lana’s body around so that she is suddenly face down, slung over her right shoulder, and raises her now-regrown left hand, pointing it at Turin. The patches on her forearm begin to glow as she adds, “How about you drop dead, and the rest of humanity lives in relative peace for the loss of you.”

 

Alina points her gun at him as well, but they are both put to the test as the mind-controlled women begin squeezing themselves between and around them, positioning themselves between Turin and his attackers, and standing there with blank looks on their faces, simply providing living cover for the man.

 

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Lana grunts at being unceremoniously slung over Daray’s shoulder and she opens her eyes to Daray’s taut butt cheek rubbing against her nose as she sways with her movement.  “This is undignified.  Nice view… but undignified.  Where are we?”  She asks as she wiggles until Daray sets her down.  She stumbles, falls to her knees and then looks around; taking in the tableau around them. Her eyes grow wide and she scrambles to her feet, ignoring the cavernous demanding pit that her body calls a stomach.  “You couldn’t have woken be before we headed into more trouble?”  She grumbles under her breath at both of the women she is with even as she leans on Daray to asses the situation.

 

“We’re not killing each other?  What is he asking for now?”

 

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“Sorry. You looked like you could use a nap,” Daray responds to Lana’s admonishment, constantly trying to get a line on Turin as through the shifting crowd of women as she helps Lana to the floor, and then tries to support her in standing up. Her short stature makes it more or less impossible fro her to shoot him from where she is standing, especially since Turin seems to prefer taller, more statuesque women in his mindless harem.

 

“Yeah, and you’re very cute when you make that little snoring sound through your sinuses,” Alina adds, narrowing her eyes at Turin between a few scantily-clad figures.

 

“He says he’ll let your dad go if we all become his willing servants, or some shit like that…” Daray catches her up as succinctly as possible.

 

“Yes, and if you act now, I’ll make sure he leaves with all of his limbs and digits intact. However the longer you delay…” Turin cuts in, then pulls a rather wicked looking vibro-blade from his pocket, flicking the sheath off of the blade with his thumb and clicking on the harmonic generator that causes the weapon to vibrate at a frequency that makes the super-hard metal blade capable of slicing through starship armor as if it were mashed potatoes. He points the blade at the restrained man’s splayed out fingers and inches its tip toward the pinky finger of his right hand.

 

“And there you have it,” Daray punctuates.

 

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Lana shakes her head and tries to think, a prospect which is increasingly difficult through the rumbling of her stomach.  “I don’t understand.  You wanted me dead only moments ago or you wouldn’t have sent the cyborg after me.  Why should I turn myself over to you just so you can try again?  And why aren’t you trying to take over my mind like you did before?  You make no sense.  None at all.  If the only reason that you wanted my father was to make me suffer than you would keep him like you tried to do with Daray and put me out of the house, not trade me for him.  And if that wasn’t the reason that you took him then you wouldn’t turn him over to us anyways, and in that situation he will probably need all of his fingers for whatever you want him to do for you. Not to mention there is a good chance he might prefer to die than to have me in your control again… that is if he really is anything like the brief message he left for me seems to indicate.”

 

Lana takes another breath, lets go of Daray and begins to push her way through the women, not fast enough to be an attack but stubbornly not allowing them to keep her back.  Her skin occasionally burns as she picks up a random genetic change here and there as she touches the skin of one woman and then another.  At one pint her hair sifts to a bright pink and then another minute her eyes to an aqua but she doesn’t stop her progression forward.  “So please… Enough.  Enough with the damn women who I am starting to care less and less about as you threaten the only family member that I have left who gives a damn about me.  If you hurt him I promise I will destroy every single person in my way to get to you and then I will devote my life to hunting down every last puppet you control, up to and including the one in the prison cell.  You’re a precog from what I understand.  I bet the way things are playing out in your head right now I make a real nuisance of myself in your life.  Now if anyone can think of a way to get us out of here without anyone dead… I’m willing to listen… otherwise I’ll be playing the part of random violence for this evening.  Turin, think about it.  Wouldn’t it be better to retreat now and come at us again when we aren’t together and united in our purpose?  I’m willing to take my father and my friends and leave without any further violence or damage to your house or person.”

 

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The whole room seems to stop and listen to Lana’s words as she presses her way through the mass of living shields Turin has arrayed between himself and his attackers. As she pushes past the last of the women and stands with nothing but the captive man in the chair between herself and Turin, he shakes his head and sighs heavily. “You’re right Lana,” he finally musters. “Your betrayal, compounded with her’s,” he points at Alina with his free hand, “has left me upset, and reactionary. I don’t want a world full of looking over my shoulder at every turn.” He sighs again, then quickly flicks the knife a few times, cutting through the bonds that hold the captured man down. Switching off the little knife, he roughly hauls the man out of the chair and pushes him toward Lana, “take him and go. And take all of your friends with you. But don’t think this is over. Where I come from there are penalties when a woman betrayed her master and this will be no different, for either of you.” His eyes flick back and forth between Alina and Lana.

 

The man sort of falls into Lana’s arms with a grunt, and he raises a hand to strip off the blindfold, so he can look into her eyes. The gag seems a little beyond his dexterity at the moment though, so he simply smiles with his dark brown eyes and leans on her for support as the mind-slave women begin to move out of the way to permit their exit.


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