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Bannon last won the day on April 28 2012

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  1. It did, even with them all pitching in, take a lot of trips. The initial trips up and back were tense as well as sweaty, every bird call and rustle in the undergrowth causing Jase, Marissa, Cassandra and Clara to go on alert and grip their cans of bear mace. Their tension was infectious enough that Lona and Charlie picked up on it and even Lilly, ensconced as she was in her healthy skepticism, could not quite shake it off. She had never seen Jason - well, the only word was spooked, though he wasn't freaking out at all, merely hyper-alert - and although Marissa might be a Grade A Prime B-AI-TEE-CEE-AITCH, even Lilly had to acknowledge that the normally composed young woman was not exactly an excitable hysteric, and even though she didn't know her well, Clara also came across as a collected, together person. Lilly had more or less come to the conclusion that they had seen something, and though she still wasn't buying the sabertooth story she also kept a keen eye on their surroundings. They stayed together, locking the trailer between trips as they ferried the contents back to the truck and cars. As they relaxed somewhat into the work, they travelled a little faster, were not quite so cautious and silent, and the task became less oppressive, even though it was no less hot and sweaty. "So I can't help but notice you and the Mantis get along well." Charlie probed as he and Jase brought up the rear of the next procession carrying file boxes to the transport. Jase glanced sideways, dappled sunlight from above the trees dancing in his gaze before it shifted to scan the woods and the trail ahead. "Yes." he said simply, not volunteering anything more. Charlie frowned a little - he'd always found Jase to be a hard read, and for an actor that was frustrating. Aspergers, or something like that had been his not-so professional diagnosis. That would explain the detachment and apparent lack of caring for social norms, right? But at the same time, he'd studied the way Bannon expressed and found it weirdly muted, like he just didn't feel right to the other boy. Before, with Jase slouching around and not meeting anyone's eyes, it could have been put down to chronic shyness... But now he seemed different. "Well, she's not the easiest to get along with, is all I'm saying." he ventured after making sure the Mantis was not in earshot, not willing to give up. This time he was heartened by a faint smile curving the edge of Bannon's lips as the taller boy glanced sideways at him once more. "Nor am I." he stated with a simple elegance to the shrug that followed. There was a pause, then: "You are an actor. A good one. I've seen you on stage and at the game table. I envy you your skill to become whoever you wish." He remarked calmly, inclining his head with a nod to the thespian. "Tell me, can you read someone's actions and ignore their words?" Charlie blinked at the apparent tangent, then narrowed his eyes and fell silent as he thought for a few minutes, concentrating on where he put his feet. His first thought was to say Of course! but really, could he say that honestly? "Yeees..." he said slowly. "If I concentrated on that and ignored what they were saying, I guess I could. Never thought about it before, though." "I don't trust words." Jase said simply. "Words that are spoken in the heat of a moment especially. People lie, or conceal, or even fool themselves by repeating aloud their delusions or insecurities. Actors speak words to entertain and spin an illusion. Words are worth very little. Actions - actions I trust. Actions have verisimilitude." "So you're saying you like her for how she acts?" Charlie furrowed his brow in confusion, then saw Jase shake his head. "No, I like her for what she does, despite her attitude or words. Important distinction." "Hunh." Charlie digested that, nodding slowly, thinking of how fake and false his dad was, how he'd lied and acted like everything was okay whilst being a philandering dickhole. "I guess so." He glanced at Bannon again, smiling. "You know, this is the most we've ever talked." His companion chuckled softly. "I'm trying something new." he repeated what he'd said earlier. Charlie blinked as something else occurred to him as they exited the trail and started loading the truck up with their burdens. He didn't mention it to anyone else, or even to Jase, but something about the tall loner had struck his detail-oriented mind. Jason Bannon didn't seem to sweat under the late morning summer heat. Or even appear hot, despite the fatigue on his face as he shook out his arms from carrying the file boxes. = = = = = It took maybe an hour for the seven of them to load up the truck's flatbed, the loose maps going into the back seat and trunk of the Mercedes. Locking the trailer for the final time, the teens, tired but triumphant, re-embarked and headed back to the Bannon Farm. Pulling up near to the barn, they all piled out and waited as Jase unfastened the two padlocks keeping the door shut. "I'll show you where to go. Please don't touch anything on the ground floor unless I say it is okay." he said, for all the world seeming like a mother cat about to let someone into where she kept her kittens. Opening the door, he stepped inside, the others following past a hanging plastic curtain, beaded with moisture. The first thing that struck the teens was the humidity, somewhat higher than the Montana summer outside. The second was the smell of rich earth and growing things. But by far the most striking sensory impression was the sight of rows upon rows of... flowers? It was a indoor garden, the interior of the barn having been turned into a greenhouse, subdivided into varying microclimates. Roses of a variety of hues were the first to greet them, hanging baskets of brightly variegated smaller blooms overhead filling the air with their scent. Jase pulled the door closed behind them, then pushed through the silent teens and led the way past lillies, chrysanthemums, small flowering shrubs, honeysuckle and jasmine, and into a second curtained partition. Here the heat and humidity were higher, occasional sprays of mist from overheard creating dew on the riot of colorful orchids and other tropical plants, flowering creeper vines criss-crossing overhead. There was deadliness here as well as beauty. Here and there pitcher plants filled the air with their scent, now and then a Venus flytrap closed or opened amidst the seemingly chaotic tangle. Somewhere there was a trickle of water into a small pond, off amidst the rows of plants, but Jase was already leading them on to another door at the far end. "Holy shit." Lona muttered, stopping and blinking at the sight. Clara nodded silently. It was unexpectedly beautiful, something utterly at odds with the outer appearance of the farm... and incongruous with their perceptions of it's inhabitant, who was opening the door before him to reveal a staircase leading up. "So long as people don't hold the curtains back and move through quickly, we can keep the doors open." he said, looking at them, all business. The facade slipped a little as he saw their faces, and he smiled a little. "Do... you like it?" he asked, seeming unsure what their expressions meant.
  2. "Remember." Marissa fixed Jase with a look across the roof of her car as Charlie hopped into Lilly's truck a dozen yards away. "This is a Mercedes, not the Roid-Rager Hay-Mobile. Try not to touch anything." "I could always ride in the back of Lilly's truck." Jason offered calmly, meeting her eyes, his relaxed demeanour clearly showing that he was not offended. Mari's dark gaze softened just a fraction of a hair's breadth, but her delicate snort as she thumbed the lock release on her key fob was vintage Marissa. "Just get in already - and keep your boots off the dash." she retorted with a ghost of a smile as she ducked into the driver's seat. A few yards away, Sean was not feeling copacetic as Devin handed him the spare helmet. "...and when the bike leans, lean with it like you've got a stick up your ass that keeps you at the same angle. Don't try to stay upright." Devin finished. Sean looked at the helmet unhappily, then at Devin, who just swung his leg over and settled into the bike's seat. "Hey, you want to get to Great Forks and back today, we better get going, Sean." He patted the pillion seat, and Sean muttered a curse as he pulled on the helmet, noticing it smelled of girly shampoo, probably from Tawny. Meanwhile Lona and Cass bundled into Clara's car, engines started up, and the convoy got on the way to the campsite and trailer, Sean wishing he was going with them as he swung his leg over and settled behind Devin. = = = = = = "So?" Jase looked over at Marissa in the air-conditioned luxury interior of the Mercedes, his previously distant gaze coming back into focus at her question. They had been driving for a few minutes and hadn't spoken, Mari concentrating on the road and Jason's attention somewhere inside his head - or more likely somewhere in the woods on the reservation. "So...?" he echoed, causing the lovely brunette to make an exasperated female noise. His brow furrowed in puzzlement, then he ventured "It's a very nice car." causing Marissa to laugh. "Not the car! The dating thing!" she giggled, demonstrating the admirable(?) quality of being able to put a pin in a conversation when it was interrupted, only to take it out and poke someone with it later. "I was asking why you were scared of dating, remember?" "Yes" Jason nodded, turning his gaze to look out the window again as he considered. "I'm not scared, though. Just..." he searched for the word. "Reluctant. I guess 'shy' would work." "Okay." Marissa nodded, glancing sideways at him then back to the road. "Shy. But you're not shy around girls because they're girls. I've seen that. You don't get tongue-tied, blush or stammer or any of that stuff virgin introverts usually do when anything in a skirt walks by." Her elegant nails tapped the steering wheel. "You also don't check girls out. Like, really check them out. I've noticed." "You noticed, hmm?" Jason said without looking at her, smiling faintly. "Yes." she asserted. "Like, my rear in these jeans is killer, but you didn't do more than glance while I was walking around your kitchen. Lilly can bounce quarters off any part of her body (the bitch) and you don't stare. There was all sorts of premium country hottie at the party and you didn't treat them any differently than the guys." She narrowed her eyes. "Are you gay? Is that it?" Now Bannon laughed, and her lips tightened. "Asexual, then. I heard that's a thing." "No." Jason shook his head, still smiling as his laughter faded. "I'm neither gay nor asexual. I suppose I might be bi, but I've not met a boy who does that for me." He added with a complete lack of self-consciousness. "I have, to my knowledge, all the usual heterosexual drives of a normal teen male." "Way to sex up the conversation." Marissa rolled her eyes and smirked. "Okay. so why aren't you a leering pervert like everyone else? Including, and especially, my brother." "Two reasons." Jason shrugged. "Firstly, it's rude to stare, and my stare in particular might creep people out. Secondly..." and he smiled slyly. "I have an excellent memory. So every hot girl I see and the attendant emotional response is stored in my mind. Every bounce, every sway of their hips, every step. Every stretch, every glimmer of sunlight in their hair, every tonal inflection of their voice - I take it in with a glance, and I just need to close my eyes to relive it. Whether it's Lilly at training, Tawny smiling at me, Clara's hand in mine at the fair, or watching you silhouetted against the kitchen window as you look outside my house. It all stays with me in super 4K." He leaned his head back against the seat-rest. "Plenty of time to leer." There was a silence in the car for a few more miles, as they crossed the bridge to the party site and drew near to where they'd need to disembark. Marissa was dealing with the faint heat in her face at the unexpected frankness of her passenger, and Jason was apparently content to remain silent. As they pulled up in the clearing where the old logging camp had been, Marissa realised something. "Hey, you still didn't say why you were shy about dating." she accused him as the engine shut off. "You noticed." Jason said as he opened the door to get out. He met her gaze with a faint smile on his lips. "Exciting, isn't it?" he asked, a chuckle in his voice as he exited the car. = = = = = Cans of bear mace in hand, the teens trekked up to the trailer, which seemed much closer in the daylight than in a night-time woods filled with terrors. The plan was simple enough - get all the files and maps down to Lilly's truck and the cars, resecure the trailer, then get back to the Bannon Farm and set up an operations center in Jason's hayloft. What could go wrong?
  3. The twin's hands stayed down, Devin shaking his head as Marissa shot a sharp glance at the departing Lilly's back. "I'm cool with looking and maybe faking it being out of order, but property damage is not my bag." Devin said simply, his twin nodding agreement. "But yeah, we need to get the papers and shit down here so Beautiful Mind can do his- Hey, where is Bannon anyway?" The six teens remaining in the kitchen all looked at one another, then Marissa went to the doorway leading into the hall and peered out. "Jason?" she called quietly, the sound being absorbed by the metric shitload of books lining everything. Distantly she heard Lilly's truck leaving down the dirt road, and there was the ticking of a grandfather clock filling the lazy summer silence of the house's interior. She looked over her shoulder at the others. "Okay, that's not creepy at all." Lona muttered. Charlie cupped his hand over his mouth and made a muffled 'tch-tch-tch-hah-hah-hah' sound. Lona backhanded him on the shoulder. muttering "Don't. Just don't." Marissa narrowed her eyes at the smirking thespian in annoyance, then started to turn back to look up the staircase only to come face to - well, chest with their gangly host. "Jesuszombiechrist!" she cursed as she recoiled, then pushed with both hands against him as she realised that it was just Jason. "Asshole!" she snapped up at him, furious dark eyes meeting his pale ones as Jase tilted his head to one side and gave her a faint smile. "That was so not funny." "Eh, was kind of funny." Devin said, smiling. "Whatcha got there, rain man?" He said, pointing at the duffel bag over Jase's shoulder. "Tell me you raided the armory. I want a phased plasma rifle in the forty-watt range." "No guns." Jase said firmly as he approached the table and set the bag on it. Unzipping the sturdy canvas, the teens saw canisters of some kind of aerosol. Peering in, Devin recognised it immediately. "Bear mace? Oh, good call!" he nodded approvingly. "Dad has some of this stuff in his four-by-four for work." He held up a canister and examined it. "Frontiersman Bear Attack Deterrent." he read off the can. "An excellent vintage." "I figured it would be useful. Cats have very sensitive noses and eyes, and if this will stop a charging grizzly at thirty feet, it will do for a smilodon. Nine ounce can, sprays a continuous jet at just under two ounces a second, range of thirty-five feet.." Bannon remarked, scanning the label with his eyes. "About twice to four times stronger than normal capiscum-based sprays carried for self-defence." He looked up at them. "And is completely legal to carry, though using it on a human being might be considered aggravated assault." "But it's better than a bunch of teenagers loading up for Desert Storm." Marissa said with a smile, forgetting she was annoyed with Jase at least for now. "I'll take two. Kitty comes back, it's going down." "We should probably head up there, then." Clara said, feeling a bit more secure with a can of bear mace than with her smaller personal defence pepper spray, the others likewise taking one or two cans as the mood took them. "Daylight's wasting." Lona agreed. "Anyone got anything to add before we go?" "Yeah, what are we going to do if the cephalogina shows up?" Charlie asked. Bannon frowned in thought. "Watch for a black cloud - it will be daylight, so easier to see. If you see it, run." he suggested, then glanced around. "Anything else before we get going?"
  4. "Taking it out of commission sounds better than destroying it totally." Jase shrugged, nodding at the 'decommission' camp. "Less questions, less mess, less everything. I do want to protect the camp site, because, well, it was Sara's proposal and preserving it is important to her. I also agree that destroying the bridge completely means questions, because we aren't the only ones who know about it, regardless of how dark it was or how drunk people were. Someone will try to get back to the 'cool party site' and wonder what gives." "When we head up there, we should take a look and see what it will take to sabotage the bridge while making it look like it just gave up the ghost. As a last resort, we total it." he finished, turning off the stove and setting the skillets aside to cool. "There's enough technical know-how and brain power, plus straight up deviousness in this room to see it done, and done well... If we work together at it rather than wrestle for control. Sara and Lilly would beat most of our asses at the wrestling anyway." He gave them a faint smile, then fell silent, letting others have their say. As they spoke, he slipped silently from the kitchen. The house was dim and quiet away from the bustle of the kitchen, Jase's bare feet making little noise as he made his way up the staircase, past the rows of bookshelves. Part of him was eager to get going, to get back to studying the materials in the filing boxes, sorting through them with Marissa's, Clara's and, he guessed, Cass's help. Plus whoever else had the patience to wade through all the paper. As he opened the door to his room and stepped inside, part of him turned to another reason he'd invited his friends here today. His room was neat, though not scrupulously so, and clean, though not obsessively so. The most marked feature was the books. Everywhere one looked, books lined shelves on the walls, were stacked in rows on the desk, and even piled four high on the nightstand and the floor next to the bed, covering topics from biochemistry to Russian poets to automobile-repair textbooks. A few band posters were on the walls, along with a map of the world that took up most of the wall over his desk and an old, yellowing periodic table poster by the window which he never looked at, these days. It hung pinned to a backing board, and it was this he now took down, turning it over and regarding the folder clipped to the back of it with a frown. It was part of his medical records, but a part he'd never let his father know existed. He'd had hopes he could drop this bombshell, but the chemistry in the kitchen was all wrong right now - at least he thought so. The good mood in the room had been fleeting, the push-and-pull was already starting up. How well did he know some of these people, anyway? Sean could handle the folder, probably. So could Lilly. The others...? Well, Marissa already knew and hadn't seemed fazed in the least. Lona? Perhaps she'd be okay - she seemed comfortable around him, at least in part. Devin would probably either not care or else care a whole lot - and that could be a problem. Sara, Clara, Charlie... There were just too many variables. With a sigh he set the folder on the desk, then sat on the end of his bed to pull on socks and boots as he stared at the blue-card envelope like the insoluble problem it, in fact, was.
  5. As Marissa shot Jase and Devin both an elegant manicured bird before turning back to the sink to hide her smile, Clara frowned in thought. "If we want that kind of thing, we'll need a camera of some sort. If there's always one of us missing school, that's going to be noticed." She nodded to Cass, "It's a good idea, though. Might tell us a lot more, if someone does come checking up on the trailer. Or if it gets moved or anything else, we'd have a chance of know who." She took her own key, slipping it onto her keyring somewhere in the middle of the dozen or so keys she already had. There was a new small and sleek thumbdrive of her own keeping the keys company as well. "Thanks, Sara. This was a good idea." "As a matter of fact," Jase mused, lips twitching slightly. "I agree as to keeping watch and the camera." He nodded to Cass and Clara, then turned his gaze on Sean. "But there's no need to risk personal exposure when we can set up remote surveillance, is there?" "You want to set up cameras..?" Sean blinked, then frowned as he considered, nodding. "We could set up one or two, and mics too... yeah. Lemme think that over." The weirdly-pretty (at least to the guys) redhead's lips pursed in a pout as he chewed some bacon, deep in thought as he mulled the logistics of the situation. "Q-Division." Devin nodded, looking triumphantly at Marissa, who snickered, shaking her head. "I tell ya, sis. I'd rather be King of the Nerds than King of the Retards." "I am so not curtseying to you." Lona snarked, but her smile was tentatively friendly. "Didn't know we had a king. I thought we were an autonomous collective." Charlie piped up, smirking. "No, we're an anarcho-syndicalist commune. We take it in turns to act as sort of executive officer for the week." Sean joined in. "But we'd better stay on topic, or Jase is going to show us the violence inherent in the system." "When Sean comes up with a solution, we should probably bring all the papers and maps back here." Jase went on as though Monty Python had never happened, though a faint crinkling at the corners of his eyes betrayed mirth. "The loft above the main barn is large enough for us to use as a research center with only a little clearing out. My dad never bothers with the farm side of things and pretty much lets me have the run of it. I've already turned it into a private study area of sorts, so it should suit us." He paused. "Getting there will mean going through the barn, and I ask that nobody blabs about what they see in there." "Weed plantation staffed by Oompa-Loompas." Lona muttered with a grin at Jase. Devin snickered. "Meat freezer filled with dead cats and missing hikers." Marissa echoed the tone and the grin. "Fifty Shades-style playroom!" Cass giggled, then blinked as Jase's bright gaze swept the three of them, face expressionless save for a single slightly-raised eyebrow. He radiated a patient 'Y'all done yet?' demeanour, though as the three scamps settled down he smiled enigmatically. "So to sum up." Clara said in a businesslike fashion. "We're going to plant some bugs watching the trailer, then bring everything from there down here, and then get to work sifting the data?" She looked at Jase, who shrugged and nodded, then glanced around the room. "Anyone have any issues with that plan?" she asked.
  6. There was a stunned silence as everyone absorbed the twins revelation. Charlie, blinking as he realised that Devin was being friendly, had a look of bafflement on his face. Sean was torn between frowning at being called 'sister' and exchanging a 'what the hell?' look with Sara. Lona was staring at the Jauntsen twins, but not in anger or resentment - her gaze was pensive as she absently chewed a strip of bacon she'd plucked from the plate in the center of the table. Lilly's expression was a study in the term 'poker face', and Jason... A sudden strange sound filled the silent kitchen. It was as out of place as a sabertooth in the modern Montana woods, as weird and eerie as a giant flying starfish that ate men and disappeared. It took a moment for everyone to realise what it was: Jason Bannon was laughing. Not "chuckling dryly". Not "giving an amused grunt". Laughing, a rich, happy and above all merry sound that seemed to come from his belly as he turned back from the fridge, closing the door and regarding their stunned faces. Whatever he saw made him laugh harder. It wasn't harsh and mocking, per se, but those present definitely got the impression they were part of the joke. "And what are you laughing at, hayhook?" Marissa snapped, her own lips twitching despite the frown knitting her sculpted brows. Jase's eyes were bright, his smile radiant, and his laughter infectious. "Everything." he managed, between chuckles. "Most of all you, knowing what a beholder is." The expression on Marissa's face at that sent him off into another fit of laughter. "It sums up this situation perfectly!" There was a snort from the table, and eyes swiveled as if on stalks to see Clara bury her head in her hands, shoulders shaking. Lona stuffed the bacon she was nibbling into her mouth and moved to rest her hands on Clara's shoulders, seeking to comfort her sister, only to realise that Clara, too, was laughing fit to burst. That made Lona's eyes widen in concern, even as the laughter's next victim was Charlie, who chuckled good-naturedly, followed by Sean, whose girlish lips twisted in an effort to restrain himself, but the whole situation was too strange not to be funny and soon he, too, was giggling. He hated his giggle - it was so damn feminine, but right now that seemed such a small thing. Sara smirked and chuckled, shaking her head. It was then that Cass arrived, sweating and somewhat confused about the laughter, but she was happy to take advantage of the confusion to grab breakfast and settle in while whatever madness she'd stumbled into worked itself out. Jason had fallen silent as his fit of mirth passed, but was still smiling as he watched the room's occupants. Devin was smiling slightly, shaking his head as though rueful. "See, I told ya we'd break them." he said to Marissa, who smirked as she folded her arms and gave Jason a measuring look. "You got something to say about me knowing about beholders?" she challenged with a toss of her head. "Just one thing." Jase said as he spread his hands in a shrug. His next word was not, in fact, his alone, coming as it did from Devin as well, the two youths chorusing "Nerd!" before Devin turned and offered Jase a high five, which the lanky young man took only a fraction of a second in responding to, despite it being unexpected. "And one other thing to say." Jase finished. "You two are, of course, welcome here." He nodded at Devin and Marissa, then glanced at the others. "As welcome as anyone else here." he stated calmly, making his position plain. "We all bring something, not just to this mystery we've fallen into, but to this group. Or perhaps the term should be-" "Don't say it!" Sean warned, pointing at Jase, who grinned and shrugged. "What? Fellowship? Was 'fellowship' the word you didn't want me to say, Sean?" He asked disingenuously.
  7. "Sure." Jase said, glancing Sara's way with a nod as he slapped some more ingredients on the skillet. "Coffee's there, orange juice is there. Standing room only for now, but at least there's space to lean." Sara felt the still calm of his presence as a counterpoint to the frantic energy of Devin's fear and remorse as their host glanced at Lilly, one eyebrow quirking. "I said breakfast, Pryor. Bacon is implied." He smiled faintly as he added more bacon to the skillet as well. At the sink Marissa turned sharply, and for a moment Jason thought she was going to fly into Clara's face, but instead she was mouthing 'No-no' and waving her hands in a warning-off, cease and desist fashion. "Drugs!?" Devin's head came up out of his hand as he fixed bloodshot eyes on Clara's hand, then her face. "Is that everyone's answer? Get wasted?! Most of the school are wandering around like zombies anyway, so what's one more sleepwalking moron, right? Can't sleep - take drugs. Junior is getting into fights - take drugs. Need something to sharpen you up or mellow you out? Freakin' Bannon is supplying weed and an Adderall derivative- which, I just found out yesterday, he produces himself! Probably in the barns along side the bodies hanging from hay hooks!" Devin got up from the table, waving his arms as he paced whilst Marissa pinched the bridge of her nose, actually giving Clara a sympathetic look and shrug. She took advantage of Devin's movement to grab his empty plate and take it to the sink, weaving around the moving male Jauntsen with ease. "Okay, fine, you need those sometimes." Devin pointed at Clara's hand. "I get it. They were prescribed by someone with letters after their name and shit. But you don't just go around offering them to people, people! There could be contrafibulations-" "Contraindications." Jase corrected quietly, Marissa shooting him a Look which he just shrugged off as he loaded up some plates. "Yeah! Those!" Devin agreed, winding down a little as he leaned against the wall. "I just think there's too much drug culture. Really, guys. Try flying straight for a fucking change!" he said almost plaintively. "Not fucking likely." Marissa snorted under her breath, smirking as she rinsed Devin's plate. Turning back to the table, she gave Clara a nod of acknowledgement as the other girl slowly put the pills away. "Thanks for the thought, but my brother is a prude." "It was the thought that counted." Bannon said calmly as he came to the table with plates of pancakes and bacon, setting one down for Sara at Devin's vacated spot and another in the center for people to pick at. "And there's not much wrong with Devin that won't be fixed once the energy drinks he's hopped up on flush out of his system." He picked up the sheet of paper with Devin's drawing on and set it down in front of Lilly, Clara and Charlie. "That's what Devin and Cass saw - what are your impressions?" he asked them, plainly measuring their responses.
  8. Devin didn't jump so much this time as Marissa and Jason both chorused "Kitchen!", but he did glare at them both as he drained his glass of water and poured another. The food was settling him, the water already diluting the vitamin B he'd all-but OD'd on, and the comfortable friendly air of the kitchen was such a departure from the madness of the woods and the tense atmosphere at home that it was a balm to his troubled mind. The arrival of Clara, then Charlie and Lilly passed without comment as he finished shoveling pancakes into his mouth and discreetly belched, grinning at the muttered 'gross' from Marissa, who leaned over and checked his forehead with her palm, then checked his eyes like a concerned mother. "Feel better?" she asked quietly. Devin was still jittery, his eyes restless as they attempted to track everyone at once, but at least he didn't seem on the edge of a panic attack. "Mmhm." He grunted, nodding. "Good pancakes. You have some?" Marissa blinked as she realised he hadn't noticed her eating as well, casting a glance at Jason, who shrugged one shoulder and shook his head, a faint smile indicating that this was not a concern right now. "Yeah, I did." she said with a warm smile for her twin. "And yeah, they are." "I shall." Jase deadpanned, a glint of sly humor in his eyes as he plopped more batter out on the skillet while his guests relaxed. Charlie wandered around the kitchen, cup of coffee in hand as he examined the bookshelf filled with cookbooks on one wall, all of which looked well-thumbed. He cast a gaze at Jason, who was occupied, then poked his head briefly out of the kitchen into the hallway, blinking at the sight of an assortment of bookshelves in a variety of styles, all heavily laden, lining the walls. "Feel free to explore if you want." Jase said calmly as he glanced around. "Bathroom is along the hall on the left. I ask that you stay out of any room with a closed door. Those will be bedrooms upstairs." Charlie jerked at little, feeling like he had been caught prying, but Jase didn't seem to care at all, plating up some breakfast for Clara and Charlie and sliding it onto the table before setting up another plate for Lilly. "I just realised I've known you for, what, a few years we've been gaming? And never been inside this place." Charlie commented as he took a seat and began eating. Lilly nodded agreement. "I'm a private person." Jason shrugged. "Perhaps to the point of hiding myself for the sake of hiding, I've recently had cause to consider." he added without looking at Marissa, who smiled slightly as she kept an eye on Devin. "That's part of why I invited people today. I'm trying something new."
  9. "Kitchen!" came a female shout from inside, followed by a quieter "Sorry." as Marissa once more demonstrated what she considered to be her boundless take-charge talent and a lot of other people, Devin included at times, considered her predilection for being a bossy cow. As a bemused Clara followed the porch around to the open kitchen door, she could hear the twins gently wrangling. "...didn't have to shout like that. I felt like my heart was gonna jump out my chest!" Devin could be heard complaining. And then the screen door opened to show Jase on the other side, gesturing her to come in as his pale eyes studied her without the usual drop or glance to the side that had, before Thursday night, been his most identifiable idiosyncrasy. His lips curved in a faint smile as he nodded in welcome, the faint crinkling at the corners of his eyes giving the expression genuine warmth. "Pray enter." he said, gesturing to the large kitchen table in the middle of the room where it looked as though Devin and Marissa had already gotten comfortable. His next words surprised Clara. "Breakfast is still on. Coffee and pancakes?" "Uh- sure!" she smiled. She had spaced completely about this get-together, and so after having gone running had found no time for breakfast, having resigned herself to going hungry. Never one for spare pleasantries, Jase nodded once more and turned away to the stove, his usual slouch also having disappeared and making him seem taller as he moved with straight-backed grace around the farm kitchen. He still looked like he dressed in cast-offs one size too large and his hair still looked like a haystack after a storm, but a marked difference was there. "Lona?" he asked Clara over one shoulder as he fetched a box of eggs from the fridge, indicating with his other hand that she should help herself to coffee from the pot with a rack of mugs beside it. Clara shrugged awkwardly. "She's just finishing up a cigarette. We - uh - weren't sure what your rules were about smoking inside." she said as she poured some of the aromatic brew. She could feel his eyes on the back of her head before she took a breath and turned around, smiling. He studied her a moment more, then nodded. "Not in the house. Smoke gets into everything. It's a filthy habit." he said with a trace of ironic tilt in his smile. "Cream and sugar on the table." He turned back to the stove, mixing bowl under one arm as he worked the batter round some more.
  10. Marissa caught up with Jase before he had gone ten paces, grabbing a torch from the several and falling into step alongside him, not huddling close because she was not some goddamn damsel in a horror movie. Jason smiled slightly, his face hidden by the flickering gloom of the woods. The others, not really wanting to stick around this place themselves, followed along with Sara bringing up the rear with her own torch. By the time the unlikely group of intrepid explorers made it back to the campsite, the party was winding down anyway. These weren't city folk who stayed awake all hours - Shelly was a rural community, and most people woke up around dawn out of sheer habit. Devin was nowhere to be seen, but Marissa was not worried, airily explaining that he'd headed home. Some gentle ushering, as well as removing the remaining booze from easy access convinced the partygoers, most of whom were very mellow thanks to the Lucifer's Reserve, that it was time to head homewards. Most, if not all agreed that it had been a 'killer party', a fact loudly proclaimed so many times that the slightly frazzled survivors of the mystery and dangers of the night were sick of hearing it. As the last revelers and stragglers pulled out from the parking area, honking their horns in abandon, those remaining took stock. Cade had to get Cora home, and Charlie gratefully accepted the ride too. Clara, Eddy (as the unfortunate Etienne was forever dubbed), Lona and Luis all headed off when it was made clear that enough people would be hanging back for cleanup. That left Lilly, Sara, Sean, Cassandra, Laurie and Tawny, Jason, and (surprising everyone except Shelly's resident psychopath) Marissa Jauntsen, who pitched in just as diligently as the others in gathering trash and straightening the spot out. Between them, the work was relatively painless and quick, the trash being loaded into the back of Sara's wrecker. They worked in relative peace and calm, chatting quietly with no asides, arguments or snark thrown around, and it genuinely seemed as though the immensity of the night's happenings had rendered previous differences moot. Jase was perhaps the most quiet of the lot, not saying a word as he worked, and other than Lilly briefly checking to make sure he was okay (to which she got a nod) the others left him to the small eye of stillness he seemed to project around himself. Finally, the work was done, all belongings were packed, and with a final last look around the former logging camp, the teens went their separate ways.
  11. "Etienne." Bannon spoke up from his air of intent concentration where he was mulling over Lilly's information. His pale hazel eyes fixed on the graduate's face as he nodded. "The offer is appreciated. And I hope you are not too offended by our reluctance." His lips quirked, head tilting to one side as he smiled wryly at the French-Canadian. "Chacun voit midi à sa porte, inutile de discuter." he quoted in near-perfect French, causing Etienne's eyes to widen before he laughed, shrugging and nodding in agreement. The others stared as though Jason had grown another head. "Il semble en être ainsi." Etienne replied with a chuckle, scrutinising Jason once more. "You are a surprising one." he remarked as he and Clara, and their passengers made to leave. Bannon just shrugged faintly, pretending not to hear Marissa's muttered 'No, duh!' from the trailer doorway as he turned to Lilly. "Lilly, I'd say go with Sara's idea. It's secure from prying eyes, Sara is steady and sensible -" he nodded to Sara, who smiled a little. "-and she'll keep it safe." As Lilly mulled that over, he approached the trailer door, peering inside to make sure everyone was out. Sean was just turning the power back down, and gave his friend a thumbs up as he hurried out of the eerie place past him. Jase closed and latched the door, then hung the padlock in place so it looked secure, at least to the casual glance. That done, he turned back to those still present. "I'm heading back to the party." he shrugged. "A few drinks are in order, after which I'll start ushering people to leave. Then it's cleanup time. Tomorrow we're all going to be varying degrees of wasted, so let's meet up at my place on Saturday. My father is heading off hunting with a buddy for the weekend, won't be back until Monday. We can de-stress, chill and grill, and talk calmly about what we do next." "Wait, your place?" Sean blinked, sounding amazed. Cass looked at Sean warily. "What's wrong with his place?" she asked, glancing sideways at Jason. "Uh... Nothing. Except kiss cell-reception and wifi goodbye. And that he's never invited anyone over before." Sean smiled at Cass wryly, and Laurie peered over her brother's shoulder at this sudden new development. "Can we all come?" she asked, to be met with a shrug from Bannon. "That's between you and Sean how much you get involved." he said calmly. "You are all invited, but you might not wish to accept, and instead choose take the blue pill. Up to you." he finished with a slight smile. "A Matrix reference again?" Cade asked with a grin. "Wasn't that how you got Sean and the rest of us into this?" Jason actually laughed at that, a low quiet chuckle. "It's a useful analogy." he admitted, then thrust his hands into his pockets and stepped away, heading for the path into the woods, and back to the party, whistling a snatch of a tune.
  12. "Deej, they're science nerds just about to start Junior year." Marissa said with some asperity. "Not 'Q' division, any more than you're James Bond." She paused, eyes narrowed, then looked at Jason when he didn't say anything. "Right?" He was studying the picture, his eyes intent. "Jason?" "Hmm? Oh, I guess Devin could be James Bond. Tawny can be Moneypenny." Bannon said with an enigmatic smile. Devin grunted something enthusiastic and affirmative around a mouthful of food, and Jase set the drawing aside and started prepping more pancakes. "I can't do lasers, sadly. At least not weaponised ones. But getting hold of guns will not be a problem. Dad has some downstairs in a coded vault." "And you know the code?" Marissa slowly stated rather than asked, fully expecting the nod that Jason, in fact, did give. "No frag or high explosive grenades, though he has coloured smoke and CS gas. Plus pistols, shotguns, rifles, a couple of 'Ray-kays'." Bannon slapped some more bacon in the skillet then glanced at Marissa's frozen expression. "Chinese knockoff AK-102's." As she continued to stare he clarified. "Assault carbines." "Jeezus!" Marissa shook her head. "People always say you're the most likely to shoot up the school, but I figured that the worst we'd have to worry about was a freaking pistol. Do you know how to use them?" "No." Bannon shook his head. "Hank's promised to train me soon, though. Oh, and I'm good with chemicals and things that go 'boom', and could probably take out the school with the contents of the janitor's closet, if I had to." He gave her a sidelong smile. "Am I oversharing? It's not too late to run." Marissa closed her mouth and recovered her aplomb, tossing her head and smirking at him. "Run? Me? You're not even close to scaring me off." she sassed. "You're just getting interesting." He laughed, a low quiet chuckle, serving up more food onto Devin's plate and flipping a couple of spare pancakes onto hers. She nodded thanks and sat by her brother as Bannon rejoined them at the table with a fresh cup of coffee, planting a glass of OJ next to Devin. "I'm not keen on breaking out my dad's guns, for several reasons. First, so far as I know none of us is range-trained, let alone fit for high powered firearm combat. Secondly if anything goes wrong, it comes back on him. And thirdly, this thing looks like its closer to a starfish than a cephalopod, and that means riddling it with bullets might not slow it down much. Shotguns might do enough massive tissue damage to impair it, and with enough shots put it down, but really we have no idea about it's physiology. This dorsal raised area might house a central nervous system, but other than that I have zero clue." He held up Devin's drawing again, examining it critically as he sipped his coffee black. "If we ever do get hold of it, I'd want you to do the anatomical sketches though, Devin. This is excellent." "Thanks, man. So no machine guns?" Devin said, demonstrating how much of the conversation he had followed so far. His eyes darted around the farm kitchen, but the comfortable surroundings and food seemed to calm him, as did Jason's own stoic manner. "Not yet. You're safe here, Devin. And we have options when we need them. Plus Sean and Sara might be able to expand our bag of tricks as well. They're both quite handy., tech wise." He got up and poured a large glass of water from a pitcher out of the fridge, setting both down in front of the wired teen. "Drink this down, Devin. You're going to be thirsty, and peeing out the crap you've drunk is probably the fastest cure." Marissa mouthed a 'thank you' as Jase settled back down across from the twins. "We need to focus on the investigation side, really. Once we know what we're dealing with, we'll know how to stop it. Hell, for all I know blowing it to bits would end up with each bit becoming a whole new cephalogina." He frowned. "The sabertooth is more mundane - it's a big damn cat and big damn guns should deal with it. Perhaps tranquilisers - capturing it might prove of more benefit." He mused, tugging at his lower lip as he sat back and looked at the ceiling, deep in thought.
  13. "Mmm." Was Jason's noncommittal reply as he plopped precise circles of batter onto the large skillet, turning and fetching packs of bacon and sausage from the fridge and setting them to cooking in the second pan. Marissa narrowed her eyes a little at his back, then moved to lean with one hip on the counter by the stove, far enough back that she wouldn't be in his way as she studied his impassive expression. "Use your words." she said, not un-gently. "You're upset with Lilly still. I get it. It's okay to be upset, you know." "Disappointed." he said simply, shrugging one shoulder. "Not angry anymore." And like that, he was resorting to shorter, terse sentences, shutting down and withdrawing emotionally. Marissa reached out and punched him on the shoulder, causing him to start and look at her in surprise "Stop that." she sniffed. "I know you like Lilly. I mean, I guess you do, or you'd not give a shit. But she ran off and left us, then chased Devin and Cass around the woods with a loaded gun, then showed up too late to help with anything and stood around calling us all nuts. So you'll forgive me if my opinion of her isn't soaring." "She's my friend." he said quietly, flipping pancakes. Mari sighed, then arched a brow. "Just a friend?" she asked pointedly. Bannon shot her a faintly annoyed look, then smiled a little. "Just a friend." he confirmed. "I had a sort of crush on her once. I still like her, but I'm not wasting my time on forlorn crushes and other teenage love drama." He grinned slightly as one stack of pancakes was plated up, bacon and sausage joining it. "For what it's worth, you're my friend too. At least until you do something to disabuse me of the notion." He handed her the plate. "Syrup and butter are on the table - I'll get Devin lined up." He said as he poured out more pancakes, then gave her a sly smile. "And since you asked nicely, I'll go easy on him. What he saw would shake anyone."
  14. "Well now." Hank drawled, trying hard to contain the shit-eating grin and failing badly as he glanced at Jason. He nudged the lanky youth hard enough to make him sway, grinning wider at the cool look he received in return. "We'd best be off, Gar. The weekend awaits." "Yeah, but-" Gareth Bannon started to protest, glancing at the lovely Marissa like she was something completely unexpected - which she was. Jason showed no interest in girls, dating or any of that stuff before. Hank didn't give him time to collect himself, though. Being the most awesome of wingmen that he was, he grabbed Gar's gear in one hand and looped the other around his friend's shoulders. "We'll be off, let Jase treat the young lady to breakfast." he repeated, nodding to Marissa. "Ma'am, it was a pleasure." he said politely as he practically hauled Jason's dad to the truck. Gar blinked, looking over his shoulder as he was towed away, looking from his expressionless son to the wholesomely smiling Marissa. "Uh... Be good!" he managed before the truck door slammed and Hank dumped the hunting gear in the back. As Marissa approached the house, Hank gave Jason another shit-eating grin and a thumbs up from behind her, almost prompting an eye-roll from the taciturn youth, who instead gave Hank a level stare that made the ex-Marine laugh as he, too, jumped into the truck. As Marissa came up the porch steps, Jase shrugged at her, a faint smile on his face. "What's a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?" he asked, humor flashing a fin in the depths of his gaze. "Classy, Jason." Marissa smirked, looking from him to the surroundings, but her smile warmed slightly. "Nice to visit a farm that doesn't smell like pig shit." she quipped back. "We outsource that." Jason returned, deadpan. "You want some pancakes?" Mari's eyes lit up in pleased surprise. "Home-cooking?" she asked in a similar tone to someone saying 'Luxury cruise?!' "Sign me up." Jase led her around the porch to the rear door, Marissa's sharp eyes not missing the kitchen garden out back, nor the grove of young saplings beyond them. Her host opened the door, gesturing her into the kitchen and to a seat at the table as he slid the skillets back onto the stove. She looked around the kitchen, noting that although nothing was particularly designer or shiny, it was neat and well cared for, then smiled a little as Jason slid a cup of coffee in front of her. "Nice place. I was expecting bodies on meat hooks." she teased as she reached for the cream and sugar. "Cleaned them up this morning." Jase said as he busied himself cracking eggs into a bowl. "You know how parents are. Nagging you to pick up your toys all the time." He affected a put-upon air, and Marissa laughed. "You'd better make plenty. Devin's probably not far behind me and Lord knows he can eat." she suggested as she watched him start beating the eggs and flour together. He nodded, reaching without looking for another couple of eggs, cracking them one-handed as he worked. His movements were neat, precise and, as he noticed her watching, with a little flair. So he did sometimes seek to impress or entertain. Good to know.
  15. Saturday, following the events of Ep2 The Bannon Farm (formerly the Wilson Farm) was mostly neglected these days. No cattle grazed, no crops grew in the fields. There was a chicken coop that bustled with feathered life, but that was all. When Gareth Bannon had bought the place from the Wilsons, unmortgaged and payment up front, six years ago, he had seen it as a fresh start after a life in prison, and a place where his strange and baffling son could start over. But something in Gar was defeated by his treatment at the hands of the system. His once brilliant mind was clouded with depression and heartbreak, and despite a token attempt to become a farmer, all he could do was look backwards at his regrets and lose himself in conspiracy theories and anti-establishment rhetoric. He also could not seem to quite reach his withdrawn, emotionally detached son, and his failure as a father weighed on him more than his failure as a husband. He settled for a 12 hour a day shift as a janitor and essentially gave up his fight. The farm lay fallow, except for the house and a few of the outbuildings which Jase used for his projects. As he carefully scraped the stubble from his face, Gar smiled at that. His son was gifted despite being odd, and self-reliant in the extreme. Pride and love, mixed with worry, would be a good summary of Gar Bannon’s feelings towards his son. Not for the first time he pondered getting Jase tested for Aspergers or some other condition, but every time he brought it up Jase remained defiant in his refusal to cooperate. He heard a rattle of pans from below, and smelled bacon and other cooking smells. His boy, making breakfast once again whilst his dad woke up bleary and hung over. It seemed Jase did most of the cooking these days, except once in a while when they hung out and grilled together with Hank. He smiled sadly to himself, rinsing off his face and heading downstairs. The big farm kitchen was an orderly place, as might be expected. Every utensil was in place, every pan hung spotlessly clean from the rack over the central large table. Two pans sizzled on the stove, coffee was dripping into the large pot, and a cooler already sat by the back door next to Gar’s boots, rifle and orange vest. He stared at it for a moment. He makes me a packed lunch every day. What do I do for him? “Dad.” Jase said as he came in from outside, catching his father’s gazing at the cooler and misinterpreting the look. “For you and Hank, remember? You’re heading up north to hunt, right?” he asked casually as he moved to tend the stove. Gar nodded, missing the subtle flicker of relief on his son’s face as he helped himself to coffee. As usual, the coffee was good – Jase had a thing about coffee. And food, for that matter. Not so much fussy as... choosey. Which was odd, because Gar had personally witnessed Jase’s enjoyment of deep fried confectionary and junk food as well. But that, Jase maintained, was snacks. Meals were special, the kitchen was a lab, and labs did not use substandard compounds. Coffee in hand, Gar sat as Jase slid a plate of bacon, pancakes and sausage before him, looking up as he heard the slam of a truck door. “Hank’s early.” Gar noted, frowning. He’d wanted a heart-to-heart with his son over breakfast, and though Hank was an honorary uncle he didn’t feel it was appropriate to try and convince Jase to open up in front of another person. His son smirked, eyes crinkling in good humor. “Really? Seems he arrived precisely when he meant to. Hank knows when breakfast is on weekends.” Jase gave a glance at the door moments before Hank opened it, the craggy features of the ex-Marine creasing in a grin as he sniffed the air. “Hey. I smell breakfast?” he asked – a typical Hank ‘hello’. “Morning to you too, Hank.” Gar gestured with his fork at his plate. “You smell my breakfast. And I ain’t sharing. Cold dead hands is the phrase.” Hank chuckled as he moved to sit, nodding companionably at Jase as the gangly teen slid a plate in front of him too. “No need. Jase got my back covered. Ain’t that right, kid?” he asked with a grin as a cup of coffee was slid to a stop next to the plate. Jase sat down with his own meal then, nodding. He liked Hank. The man was clinical when talking about things that most got tense about, but otherwise projected the air of a friendly St Bernard – sure, he could tear your head off, but he wasn’t inclined to so long as you minded your manners. He also, despite calling Jason ‘kid’, didn’t treat him like one. Hadn’t since their first meeting, in fact. There was a simpatico between them – Jase got the impression that Hank saw something familiar in him. And it was plain Hank was tickled by the precocious eleven year old, quickly becoming a combination of uncle and big brother. “So what you got planned while me and your old man go hunting this weekend?” Hank managed to say around a mouthful of pancake. He swallowed and grinned. “Got the ladies lining up to come over, I bet. Make sure you get the scheduling right, player. Don’t want one meeting the other.” Gar smiled – Hank had a way with Jase, a way of treating him normally that Gar couldn’t, for some reason. As usual when teased this way, Jase just shrugged and gave back a small smile. “Don’t worry, Hank. I’ll make sure your mother doesn’t meet your sister. I’ll even change the sheets between their visits.” He calmly retorted, taking a sip of coffee. Gar winced, but as usual Hank guffawed loudly, slapping the table. “Okay, I asked for that.” He grinned. “Seriously, though. What’s cooking?” “Not much.” Jase shrugged evasively. “Might be hanging out with Sean and the guys today, if they can get the time.” Hank nodded, glancing at Gar to see if he’d noticed Jason’s air of evasion, but Gar was focused on his meal. Breakfast passed companionably, the two older and one younger man chatting about the upcoming hunting season, fishing, the tomato plants Jase was cultivating out back and Junior year. It was a slice of normality that his friends, had they seen it, would not have credited to the strange teen.
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