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Status Quo - Chapter 86

Written by: Paullell

 If Lana hadn’t gained Dray’s strength she never would have caught the larger man.  She doesn’t spare him a glance yet, keeping her eyes on the man who has caused so much trouble in her life.  He’s a little crazy to believe that attacking them again later won’t cause the same level of devotion to his destruction in her, but since things seem to be going her way for once she refrains from commenting on that, as well as the quibbling argument she would otherwise have over the term ‘master’.  Instead she backs away, her eyes never wavering from Turin until she is again standing next to Daray. 

 

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Turin simply watches Lana back away, a strange look of amusement on his face as she moves through the crowd again. Daray reaches out to assist Lana as she draws near, but Alina redirects her weapon, still staring directly into Turin’s eyes. She presses the little derringer into the neck of the man Lana is supporting and says, “no second chances.” 

 

The sharp ‘thwick’ of her electro-magnetic pistol firing off in its low-power mode can be heard as the projectile tears out the man’s throat and sprays blood and gore all over the three of them, the wall, and any of the near-by women.

 

The dying man sags in Lana’s grip, suddenly becoming much heavier as he gasps a few times, gurgling up blood and bile as he slides down her body, his legs no longer capable of supporting his weight. 

 

Daray gasps, stepping back from the mess and wiping her hand across her face to remove some of the gore as she turns a disbelieving, amazed face in Alina’s direction, “What the hell Alina?!”

 

But Alina is already pointing the weapon at Turin again, her eyes narrowed and lips pressed into a hard line. “Did you really think we wouldn’t notice, Turin? You must be slipping. Or maybe you’re just having trouble predicting my future now eh?” She gently taps her temple with her free hand, “Almost as if something is keeping you out of my head…”

 

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Lana staggers in shock at the increase in weight and the sudden gore.  Looking at Alina, Lana can read her expression easily.  She drops the weight of the man who is not her father and turns on Turin with her eyes narrowed.  “That certainly explains why he was willing to cut into him so cavalierly. Where is my father Turin? Even if you had managed to give us a substitute, we would have turned right back around and come back for the real one.  Why waist our time?"

 

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Daray’s face turns to one of understanding, although she still looks upset about the mess on her face, and she got the worst of it by far, standing opposite Lana from Alina.  She growls loudly, flexing her fingers and baring her claws as she narrows her own eyes.

 

The troupe of mind-controlled women quickly step back in front of the trio, eyes glazed over and attention as unfocused as a person's could be. “Oh dear. It seems you’ve discovered my ruse,” he says with a melodramatic tone, rolling his eyes slightly. “Now the threats and posturing must undoubtedly continue,” he sighs.

 

“To tell you the truth Lana, I haven’t decided what to do with you. I want you with me. And Alina as well…”

 

“That’s never going to happen Turin,” Alina interrupts him with a growl.

 

Turin stares at her for a moment, then takes a dramatic breath and continues, “I certainly wouldn’t mind having your little trans-gendered friend there as a bodyguard or enforcer. But this is where I run into the problem of free will. If I force you to be compliant, it destroys most of the qualities I cherish you all for. But if you continue to fight me with such aplomb, you will leave me with no choice. So now I will try the least-palatable of my options. Blackmail.” He pauses for a moment to let his words filter through their various minds, then smiles sweetly and adds, “I will keep your father in an undisclosed location, allowing him to continue his work unhindered, for as long as you three agree to be cooperative. The moment any of you betray me,” he raises his left arm and turns it so the inside is facing them so that they can see a dark, circular patch on the inside of his wrist, “this sub-space transmitter will stop transmitting in the event of my death, or its separation form my body, which in turn, will fill his new home with a deadly nerve gas.”

 

His smile widens as suddenly the mind-controlled women standing around the room begin to morph and change, until the trio is standing amidst a dozen or more perfect copies of Turin. The closest one to Lana smiles and leans in a little closer to her, raising his hand to touch her chin, and to allow her to see the same, dark circle on his wrist. “And to further dissuade your disobedience, you should understand that you will never, ever know, who I am…”

 

“Or who I am not,” another of the copies finishes, grinning at Alina.

 

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Lana listens in horror as Turin speaks, her eyes wide as the bodies around her shift and morph into his form.  When the nearest figure reaches for her chin, her skin crawls in revulsion but she does not jerk away.  She glances back at the other two women and can read the murder in Alina’s eyes and the confusion in Daray’s.  All this time she has been blocking her own psychic abilities, worried that their use may give Turin an extra toe hold into her own mind and heart, but she sees no other options.  She won’t leave here if it risks her father and Alina will never stay.  Lana lowers the barriers in her mind.  Her empathy and aura ability uncurl like a pile of napping kittens that have been nudged awake; reluctant to do anything not in their own time and a little sulky from having been put away napping in the first place.  Even so she feels the strength gathering in her mind and opens her eyes to look with her abilities.  

 

All around her are swirls of his depraved aura and emotions.  Dark reds, oranges and violets indicating Turin’s own special brand of disturbed lust and near violent insanity.  As her eyes travel through the clones Lana notices two things that make her heart leap happily.  First, all the aura’s except one are thin, like a coating over another layer, only one is thick and solid with nothing underneath but more of the same depraved swirl of colors.  The second, and even happier fact, is that the main puppet’s aura is pulsing with nervousness, letting her know more accurately than any machine could that Turin is lying. 

 

Lana jerks back from the hand on her chin and crouches down before launching herself into the air and over the heads of the drones in her way.  She lands right next to her target her arms out and reaching and her fingers curled into claws despite the lack of true claws under her fingertips. Her intent is to grab him by the shirt and hurl him directly at the other two women, knowing both of them are trained for violence in ways that she is not.  

 

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The look on Turin’s face as Lana makes her revelations is one of spreading horror. The smug satisfaction of victory is slowly replaced by the understanding that she is, somehow, looking right through him. 

 

When she finally looks him directly in the eyes, him, not one of his copies, her look distills to one of absolute determination, and he shrinks back even before she leaps over the crowd. As she reaches for him, he tries to escape, but ends up backed into a wall and is helpless to prevent her getting hold of him.

 

His body is comparatively light, especially considering Lana’s new strength. He careens through the air, knocking several of his clones aside even as they begin to melt away into the mind-controlled zombie women they had previously been. He collapses to the floor and slides the last foot or so, coming to a stop at Daray’s feet, and looking up at her with true terror in his eyes.

 

Daray reaches out and snares his hand, lifting him bodily off the ground by the one suspended limb and staring at the spot on his wrist as he dangles limply in fear, looking up at her with wide eyes. 

 

“APRIL? Are you detecting any radio or sub-space transmissions coming from Turin?”

 

-No Daray. I detect no such emanations. It is unlikely that he would have such a transmitter anyway, as there are only four sub-space transceivers small enough to be implanted in a human body known to exist, and two of them are in this room.-

 

“Right,” Daray replies, lifting Turin up higher so she can look him in the eyes. “Did you know that I was fully conscious and aware of all the things you made me do? Those horrible things you made me say to the woman I love?”

 

“Those were thoughts in your own head. All I did was let them out!” He howls back.

 

“Everyone has doubts Turin,” Alina responds, stepping closer to him and fishing in her pocket for something, “What makes us human is how we handle them. What we do to stay our course.” She removes the hypo of Psy-Null from her pocket and shows it to him before pressing it into Daray’s free hand with a smile on her face.

 

“And I’ve learned a lot recently, about how to be more human. So I’m not going to kill you. But I am going to make you suffer,” Daray sneers as she presses the hypo to his throat and presses the button. 

 

The hypo discharges with a quiet hiss, and instantly, Turin stars to scream out in horrendous pain. His body contorts and stiffens as it is wracked with shooting fire across all of its nerves, and almost instantly, all of the women in the room start to blink and shake their heads, clearing cobwebs that have been there for who knows how long. Some of them begin to stumble as they suddenly struggle to deal with their unfamiliar foot-wear and realizations about where they are and what they are wearing.

 

Daray drops Turin’s writhing body on the floor and she and Alina look on as his form slowly melts away into that of another person entirely.

 

“It wasn’t even really him,” Alina comments, snorting derisively.

 

-Lana. I am detecting the presence of a restrained man in  the next cell over. House computer records tie his arrival with the timeline of your father’s arrival in Tranquility,- APRIL announces as they watch the man who was Turin’s puppet struggle on the floor, clutching his head in pain and confusion.

 

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Lana walks back to where Daray has dropped Turin’s puppet.  “Well, I don’t know if he can still hear me now but I’d say he lost out with his attempt at subterfuge.  Now we get to rescue everyone, not just Daray and my father...  Ok Ladies.  For those that are confused, you are currently being held in the prison of a sick deranged psychic megalomaniac.  All those that do not wish to stay should form a line behind this lovely green-haired woman.  You may have trouble balancing, take off those ridiculous shoes now if you need to and help each other so we can all get out of here together.”  

 

Lana walks over to Daray and reaches for her hand, giving and receiving a gentle squeeze of reassurance.  “Don’t worry about me Daray. I knew better than to believe what he was making you say.”  

 

At April’s announcement some of Lana’s clam demeanor flees her.  She grows nervous and jittery as she walks towards the cell April had indicated.  She brushes her hand over her hair and tail trying to rub away the blood and gore even as she shifts her color's back to their normal deep blue.  This wasn’t exactly how she had imagined this meeting but she is determined to go through with this.  She waits anything but patiently while April deals with the cell’s lock and as soon as the light switches from red to green she opens the door.  Inside is the man from the holograph over a week ago.  Lana offers him a hesitant smile and announces.  “Hello Dad, It’s nice to finally meet you.”

 

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Daray’s skin tingles at the touch of Lana’s hand, a brief wash of Turin’s forced thoughts going through her head. She has to shake them off and consciously work through them, which causes tears to form in her eyes as she looks into Lana’s loving gaze. She squeezes Lana’s hand and replies, “thank you. For believing in me. I can’t even describe the thoughts he had going in my head…”  Sniffing away the tears and straightening up to her full, five foot height, she presses a smile to her lips and squeezes Lana’s hand once more before letting it go. “You go get your dad. I’ll help Alina with this lot so we can get out of here.” At that, she bends to help some of the women that are struggling with their balance while trying to remove the en pointe footwear.

 

It takes APRIL a moment to work out the door lock, saying she has to switch networks and hack through a few firewalls since the cells seem to be a self-contained computer environment within the already autonomous house network, but finally the light changes, and the bolts can be heard sliding out of their housings, and the door swings free.

 

In the tiny cell on the other side of the door, Doctor Emil Frederick sits staring at the door as if he is expecting a rousing game of ‘what torture can you visit upon me now’, and it takes several long seconds before he seems to realize who he’s looking at and what has happened.

 

Finally, he leaps up off the bed and covers the distance to the door in a single bound, wrapping his arms around Lana as if she were the most precious thing in all creation. “Oh my god! I told you not to come after me! Didn’t you get my message? You stupid girl! How could you possibly be so much like your mother?! Lana I…” He releases her from his embrace and stands back, gripping her by the shoulders and giving her an appraising once-over before locking eyes with her and smiling. “I guess I expected as much. Or should have at any rate. You couldn’t be any more your mother’s daughter. And despite my message, and how cross I am for you risking yourself like this… I’m very happy that you did. This Turin fellow is quite the nutter. I think I’d rather have been jailed by my family…”

 

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At first Lana is rather stiff in his embrace.  His absolute joy at seeing her is still something of a shock to her but his obvious concern for her wellbeing melts her nervousness; when he pulls back and looks at her there are tears of happiness in her eyes.  “Well, if it makes you feel any better, she never had much success making me mind either.” 

 

Lana steps away from his embrace and waves her hand for him to follow.  “This really isn’t the best place for a reunion anyways, would you like to come to my house for a visit?”   She asks casually as she leads him out to the pandemonium going in in the hallway.   

 

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“Of course,” he smiles at her, releasing her shoulders and following her into the hallway that is rapidly filling with nearly-naked women who appear to be completely in shock over their situation. “I’m sorry Lana I just… I never… Well it’s the first time I’ve ever met you isn’t it?” He beams proudly, adding, “see? I told you this guy was out there. I think his cheese has slid off his cracker.”

 

In the hallway, Daray and Alina are organizing the women, doing whatever they can to help them find their bearings. Several of them are now barefoot, and in tears at the stretching of the muscles and tendons in their feet and ankles after so long in the terrible en pointe boots. Many of the others are still wearing them, laces half done as if they tried to take them off and then hastily put them back on again, their feet no longer able to flatten out properly.

 

Daray is helping a woman stretch her feet out as the pair returns to the hallway. She looks up at them, smiling at Lana who is positively glowing as she leads her father out of his cell. “Doctor Frederick, I presume?” She quickly stands up and offers a hand to the doctor, who looks down at her from his six foot height, then takes her hand, shaking it slightly as a curious expression comes over him. 

 

After a moment his face lights up and he grins from ear to ear and he exclaims, “you’re the young, eh, woman, that I had the pleasure of working on aboard the Tyconderoga! How are you finding your modifications? Is everything working as you hoped?”

 

“Er… Yeah doc. Everything seems to be working just right. Thanks,” Daray gives Lana a cross-eyed glance as he shakes her hand enthusiastically. “Look, I don’t want to be anti-social or anything, but I think we’d better get moving if you two are up to it? Mel and Ree are probably more than ready to call it quits out front.”

 

Receiving an affirmative from the pair, she hooks one of the recently-freed women’s arm over her shoulders and helps her stand up. Alina does the same with another, and then heads out, leading the troupe up the stairs, through the basement, and into the house proper. Their escape path is blocked by some fallen debris, so they are forced to move through the main room on their way to the back door, and when one of Turin’s cyborg guards leaps out in front of them, they whole procession tenses for a moment before the thing’s head explodes in a shower of sparks and grey matter.

 

‘You’re clear again,’ Willhelmina’s voice calls over the sub-space comm, and Alina is forced to shout at the group in order to get them moving again, stepping gingerly around the fresh corpse as they follow along.

 

The garden behind the house is clear and they make quick time down the path to the gate, with only a couple of unexpected stops as Willhelmina’s rifle peppers unseen targets hiding in trees, waiting for escape attempts just such as theirs.

 

By the time they get everyone loaded into the cargo vehicle, it is very cramped, with standing room only, and many of the women begin to finally break down under the stress and realization of what is going on around them, and to them. It’s everything Lana and Daray can do to keep them all calm while Alina drives the vehicle back to the penthouse, and by the time they get them all ferried up the elevator and into the house, many of them have completely broken down.

 

Daray immediately sets about getting blankets, towels, and anything else she can find for them to lay on, cover up with, or just cry into, then starts moving them all through the showers, and the closets and wardrobes, letting them take whatever they want to wear. About thirty minutes later, Willhelmina, Riana, and Melissa come in form the elevator, both Riana and Melissa looking as if they’ve been run through a sand blaster. Armor coming off of them in pieces and weapons still hot from continuous use. 

 

Willhelmina sets herself to breaking down and cleaning her rifle while Riana does what she can for the women, and Melissa seems ecstatic to see the Doctor and Lana are alive and well. She briefly confers with the Doctor, and then strips off her armor and starts cooking for the masses.

 

It takes several hours to get all of the women squared away, but by sun up, they’ve gotten them all showered, clothed, fed, and into a transport back to their homes. Daray purchases half a dozen tickets on spaceships to get some of them home. By early morning, Riana and Willhelmina are conversing quietly on the couch, Melissa is cleaning the kitchen, and Daray is hoarking down any food she can get hold of, while Lana and her father catch up.

 

“Well Lana,” he says, “if the measure of a person is best made by the people they keep as friends, then I have to say it looks as if you’re doing quite well for yourself.”

 

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After exiting the cell Lana immediately sets about helping others, using her abilities to see who is in the most emotional distress and offering soothing words of comfort and encouragement as they escape the facility… At least until they get home and she can run to the kitchen and perform a reenactment of the many times she has seen Daray stuff her face after a massive bout of healing.  The last of her nervousness dies away as she finally fills the cavernous beast that her belly has become.  At that point her normal caring and empathic nature can really shine as she helps settle and care for the emotionally battered women until they can be escorted to their homes.  

 

When the last woman has left the premises and the others settle into their own modes of de-stressing Lana collapses on another couch and leans her head back with a sigh as she closes her eyes.  When her father sits down next to her she raises her head again and looks at him with a smile and nods her head at the compliment. “Thank you….”  She pauses for a moment, an awkward silence building between them as she tries to think of where to start.  “This is… unusual.  I have so many questions to ask you; about yourself, about my mother… about me.  She died recently… and I don’t know why.  The death certificate never listed a reason.  Did it have anything to do with the genetic changes?  Is there any reason I need to be worried about?”  Lana asks that first question as she looks across the room to where Daray is eating in the kitchen.  After what had happened the evening before, she is feeling her own mortality more keenly than ever and she worries more than she should about what would happen to Daray without her.

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