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WEIRDER STUFF

About This Game

Weirder Stuff is a Trinity Continuum game using an re-imagined version of our AWS setting. In Weirder Stuff (henceforth WS) you will play a teenage high school student caught up in the weird happenings and mysteries in the northern Montana town of Shelly. The characters will begin play as normal humans and will have the opportunity to develop into either Talents or Psions. This is primarily a Modern setting with Thriller, Sci Fi, and Supernatural components.

Game System

Other

Status

Active

Full Description

WEIRDER STUFF: TRINITY CONTINUUM EDITION

Weirder Stuff is a Trinity Continuum game using an re-imagined version of our AWS setting. While we will be using the Trinity Continuum Rules (also called the Story Path System) we will be using none of the published setting. Any material I introduce from the published setting will be adapted to our setting and does not imply that the two universes co-exist. As far as we are concerned WS is a self contained Universe.

In Weirder Stuff (henceforth WS) you will play a teenage high school student caught up in the weird happenings and mysteries in the northern Montana town of Shelly. It is a modern setting which will run in a concurrent time line to our own reality i.e. the year is 2019, the president is Trump, Avengers End Game made a billion bucks in its first week, and so on. The game is loosely inspired by Netflix's Stranger Things, the teen dramas of the CW Network, and of course our own canceled Aberrant Weirder Stuff game.

**WARNING: While the game features teens it is an adult game with adult themes of horror, sci-fi, and high school. Consider it rated R to NC-17.**

The game is set in the small town of Shelly Montana. The town is a Fictionalized version of Shelby Montana which can be googled (  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shelby,_Montana   Map https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shelby,_Montana  ). If you want to know something about Shelly, and I am not available, you can look it up and see it for the most part at the Shelby website. I will note in a setting post any concrete differences and changes I make. The general public are not aware of the strange things going on in this area of the state, although if your a nerd and google every weird thing in the world there are stories of... well weird stuff happening, some of which are true.

While the characters are human, this is a game using the Trinity Continuum rules and will feature both Talents and Psions. Talents ( The Inspired from classic Adventure RPG) have always been around and there is no special classification or even understanding that they are anything more than lucky or skilled persons. For all intents and purposes Talents are just people who are good at what they do, maybe even exceptional.

Psions on the other hand are an unknown. Knowledge and understanding of Psioncs in the world of WS is just like it is in our real world, an unproven pseudo-science which is more often ridiculed than taken seriously, a staple of science fiction stories, the subject of hoaxes and charlatans running money grabbing schemes. There are those who think it is real and those who don't and then there are those who want to make it real and to use it for their own purposes. To date in the world of WS there has never been a Documented, Verified instance of actual Psionic activity.

Characters while starting off as normal human can become either Talented or eventually Psionic. Psionic characters will use a some what modified version of the Psion rules found in Trinity Continuum Aeon the modifications to those rules will be detailed later.

I wish to be clear about something, while this game is obviously an iteration of the former AWS game, it is not a continuation of that game nor is it a remake per se. It takes what I had wanted that game to be and has re imagined it into what I hope will be a better and more satisfying experience for all of us. But let me be clear, WS is not AWS. Even though there will be and are similarities with AWS, they are not the same. Internally as far as WS is concerned AWS does not exist. It is not an alternate world, it is not a story written by one of the current characters, it is not a program Sean is working on for a game. As far as WS is concerned AWS isn't a thing.

Characters based on the Original AWS Characters are welcome as are new characters. Those based on the AWS characters may have to alter some of their background to better fit into the new setting but the changes required will not be drastic.

We will be using the new Trinity Continuum Core and the Trinity Continuum: Aeon books. No other published material will be used by you the players although I as Story Teller may use some material adapted from the 1st Edition of Trinity, Aberrant, or Adventure or other non Trinity resources. In some instances I may make these additional resources available to some or all of you as the story demands.

 

  1. What's new in this game
  2. "Leapfrog ahead?" Devin said while Cassie reached for her water whet her throat after part one of the Fellowships epic tale. "You left out the part where you came to my house that evening and totally went all handsy on my abs." Cassie's cheeks swelled like a chipmunks when she choked on her water and her mother turned her head a shot her a look of pure 'excuse me young lady'? Devin flipped his finger about his mouth, calmly advising Cassie. "You got uh... a little something... um, yeah... you two hash that out..." He nodded to the ladies while Devin earned himself baleful glares that demanded blood and pain from Cassie while a few others from the Fellowship, well used to his antics by now, tried to suppress a grin. Devin may have been an irritating guy most times, but he was never short of entertaining, especially in these rather tense moments. He produced his phone and showed it to everyone then looked at Sean. "Dude, you mind?" He then slid his phone into the center of the massive table. "For those of you who don't know, I'm an artist-" "-and here we thought you were some punk who whose only talent was running his mouth and torturing our kids." Sean's father Jack interrupted him. Whatever temporary truce had been struck between them before the Not-Cody battle seemed to have dissipated at the news of Devin jaunting their daughter half way around the world to do God-knows-what, at God-knows-where. Through pursed lips Devin nodded and soaked it up. The Fellowship could tell, just form his poise and tensed nodding that Devin wanted to go balls deep and run a train on Jack's attitude, but instead, he composed himself and smiled politely. "Fair. I do talk a lot. So, I'm going to let that go because your daughter kinda has a thing for me-" "NoIdon't!" Laurie swiftly intercepted the conversation and then looked at her parents like she'd been accused of something she didn't do. She shook her head at her parents. "I don't." "-and," his glance across didn't go unnoticed. "Redheads are all the rage right now." There was an audible 'thump' from under the table as Marissa suddenly shifted, but never allowed her attention to be pulled away from the table. Devin grunted and tensed to one side, the side closest to his sister. "You were saying, Deej?" Marissa asked him, her lips curling into a smirk that falsely told how she was hanging on his every word. "Anyway," he grunted, collecting himself from the stabbing fist that met his side just moments prior. "Sean, you find it?" "I've found a lot, dude." Sean said, his eyes glossed over as a terabyte of data flowed through his mind in a series of 1s and 0s. "Is there any girl at school that hasn't sent you a selfie?" "There's a few I wish hadn't..." Devin added with a hint of sarcasm. "Me too. This whole phone needs to be set on fire and tossed into a volcano afterwards." Sean added with a grin of his own. "I think this is what you meant." From Devin's phone there was a brief upside down pyramid of light that encompassed nearly half of the the table itself. All the angles were visible, though see-thru as in its center Sean pulled the images from Devin's phone and in two dimensions, like large playing cards, the artwork Devin had drawn of all the monsters they'd faced rotated there in the center of the table. Sean's mind manipulated the data while simultaneously manipulating the light waves in the room to turn that data into floating holograms. "I've drawn dozens of them," he continued. He pointed to the one Sean was rotating, a blackened cloud of ink and tentacles with a gruesome jaw of sharp, stiletto-like teeth. "That's what came after us in the forest that night." The artwork scrolled and rotated, lingering long enough for all of them to see. It wasn't just the monsters that Devin had drawn, he'd illustrated entire scenes he was present for, providing a still frame visual of everything the Fellowship had gone through, like a story book others could follow along to as Cassie talked. Every argument was drawn in detail, the Fellowship around the table fighting like cats and dogs, Clara and Devin yelling from opposite sides of the room at one another as Lilly stormed out in frustration. The creature they battled not far from the old trailer, the one that nearly tore Devin's leg off, was brilliantly displayed in a scene where everyone was doing their best to not lose their shit as it's barbed and mouthed tongue was wrapped around Devin's leg as he screamed and frantically tried to crawl away. He'd captured the essence of The Dark wondrously with graphite and charcoal, a monochromatic testament to the visceral beauty of horror. "These are what keep me up at night, Mom, Dad. The night terrors, the insomnia, me spacing out and staring at nothing for minutes on end. We've asked all of you here today because despite our differences we've all managed to do what needs to be done to protect Shelly and it's people. Were you to ask me a month ago if I were to be hanging out with Sean, or Autumn? Hell no. I'd probably be beating up Sean in a bathroom or tipping Autumn's books out of her arms so I could watch her bend over to pick them up." Her glare told him that she was not ammused. "What? You might have been a pleb, but girl, you still got dat peach, hnnng." He flexed his fingers like he was squishing something soft. "Ah, the good ol' days," Marissa added with a smirk as she reminisced. "But we can't do this alone," he continued, shelfing his antics and soberly addressing everyone once again. "We can't carry this burden on our own, we need help and lying to all of you doesn't help us or anyone else. We need you to understand that a few weeks ago we were all punk kids, sure, but now... now we're friends." He chuckled. "Horrible friends who still don't trust each other, but we're getting there... slowly but surely, I think. So watch," he motioned to the pictures then to Cassie. "Listen. And while you may not trust us at first, I think we'll get there, slowly but surely." Annette surprised a smile behind her steepled fingers. There were times she wished she could bottle whatever it was the Jauntsen children had in their words. At only sixteen, they had a knack for working a crowd and she hoped that between Cassie, the twins and the testimony of the others, this night would end on a positive now.
  3. "Okay." Cassandra looked around the room, and felt a little tingle of nervousness and anticipation. This would be the first time all this was laid out for everyone. She was writing the Bible here, and hoped she didn't fuck it up too badly. Look what happened the last time. "Some of us have heard at least some of this before, but I don't know who's been told what...and we need to all be on the same page, so I'll ask everyone to just bear with me. I'll also start off by saying, yes we each have powers that most people don't have, and we very recently used those powers to protect Shelley from a threat no one knew was there. And...I'll circle back around to that, so don't worry." Feeling a little restless, she scooted backwards and stood up. "It all starts with a tale of two parties, back in July. Chet was having one, distributing flyers, and so..." she nodded at Jason, "...Bannon had to get in on the deal and threw together a shindig of his own out on the reservation. More discreet...invitation only. Just kind of, teenage angst playing itself out, normal day. That would have been the eighteenth." "The night of the party, things got wild though. Not in a good 'party-way' but in a...sort of reality is coming apart like wrapping on a Christmas present way. A bunch of us..." Here she indicated the Fellowship at the table, "...basically all of US, plus Clara and Lona and Charlie and...you know...we got separated from the main party. Went out on the paths into the woods nearby. Now, I don't know the details of what everyone else saw. But I bumped into Devin by accident, and he and I saw this crazy guy, naked, run out from the trees. And he had a gun." Cassandra took in a breath here, remembering that moment. "We were freaking out...this guy looked like it'd been weeks since he'd showered, if then, and he couldn't talk...just made noises. Before he could do anything though, there was this cloud behind him. And out from the cloud came...a creature. It looked kind of like a floating octopus, but I only say that because it had tentacles. It wasn't really that much like an octopus other than that." She shook her head. "It grabbed the man, hauled him back into the cloud. Then the cloud vanished again. At the time, we had no idea what was going on. Now we have a pretty good idea, but...that's not going to make sense yet." "Devin and me, we ran. Grabbed the gun he dropped and ran. We finally found the others near this...like trailer? Out in the woods? It was where the guy we'd seen had been living. Most of the rest of us were already there...we found Lona in the woods on the way there...but as I understand it, the ones at the cabin had been attacked by a sabertooth tiger. So...a whole LOT of crazy going around that night." Cassandra held up a hand. "And I know what the adults in the room are thinking. Not...I'm not actually reading your minds, it's just obvious. Drugs. But you have to understand most of us hadn't taken anything that night. Even if someone had, pot doesn't make you see alien monsters or sabertooth tigers. Believe me, we've all been all over that. In the weeks after the party, I know I tried every rational explanation I could think of to deal with it. There's nothing. We learned the truth much later." "Anyway, the trailer was full of maps and writing and...even though he'd seemed crazy when Devin and me saw him, he'd been working on something in that trailer." "That's what kept pulling us back." Cassie shrugged. "Most of us kept going back there over the next few weeks. Kept seeing each other over the summer, talking. Trying to make sense of it all. The trailer was full of files...Jase wound up moving most of it to his place in the end. Even so, it wasn't until after school started again that things started to fit together." "That's when we found out Cody was missing. It's when we started putting pieces together that there was some next-level spycraft going on in Shelly, and it was connected to the Medical Center. It's when I found out about the prison riot on the night of the party, and some coverups related to that." She took a deep breath. "And it's when we learned about what we call the Shine...and the Dark." "We call it the Shine, because that's what it looks like to us. There's this way of looking at the world that's just a little different, it's hard to explain. People have a glow to them, everyone has a little. But we...we have a lot. We're searchlights. I don't know if that was always the case, or if something happened that activated us or something. But when we met at lunch, we started putting all these pieces together in a kind of...random, chaotic way. So we decided to meet up at Jase's place and actually try to organize." With a nod, Cassandra concluded, "And that put us on a long road that led us to where we are now, really. Obviously there's a lot more, but...lets take a breather for a second. First of all," she looked around at the Fellowship, "Am I missing anything important? I know I kind of glossed over a few details, but I'm trying to keep it manageable here. Still, I didn't see or hear everything, so if anyone wants to add something, this is a decent time. Or if there's questions about what I've said so far, this is good too. Just don't leapfrog ahead of me. I know there's still a lot to go over, but we will get there, I promise."
  4. Lilly's entrance - and her somewhat drawn appearance - caused a curious raise of an eyebrow and narrow-eyed scrutiny from Jason, but he returned her wave of greeting with a nod and the merest hint of a smile on his scarred face. He'd wondered if perhaps Lilly's disappearance from the Carousel had been related to the Dark, wondered if perhaps her body would be found as Charlie's had been. The musing had not been particularly welcome - even given their estrangement he still didn't wish the girl ill: like Sean, she'd been a decent friend for too long for him to readily dismiss her simply based on recent changes and actions - but with other more pressing matters at hand, he'd been distracted from following up on his concerns. He'd expected to see her at school this morning, and if she hadn't shown then would have followed up. Events, however, had a mind of their own on such things. Evidently, though, Devin had reached out, and now here she was, looking as though she had gone through her own version of hell if he was any judge. He restrained his questions - Lilly would doubtless have a chance to speak just like the rest of them. As the Pryors settled into their seats, the remote genius's gaze roamed the varied expressions on the faces of the fractious Fellowship. From the affected aloof smirks of the Jauntsens, to Cade's stoic mien, to Kat's nervous yet resolute expression. Beside him, Sean looked uncomfortable, but somewhat reassured with his family about him, giving Jase a rueful smile and a half-shrug as he noticed his friend looking his way. Across the table, Autumn's fingers tapped lightly on the tabletop as the energetic redhead forced herself to sit relatively still rather than pace nervously, flashing him a faint smile that reached her sea blue eyes. Lilly looked a little pale, weary in ways other than physical, but she was here, at least, and whole. And next to Dana, Cassandra sipped the water she'd gotten herself, her own puffy eyes evidence that events had taken a lasting toll on her. Jase kept his gaze on the blonde girl, and as she noticed it, gave her an encouraging nod. She was the reporter, after all. If there was to be a chronicling of events, or at least a commencement of one, it should come from her.
  5. "I think you should start talking." Bill Pryor said as he glanced at his daughter in the rear view mirror while telephone posts slid past the car rhythmically. "It's, I dunno. It's a lot and right now things are still kinda fuzzy." Lilly said, rubbing her head. "How about you try to start from the beginning?" Cassandra Pryor chimed in, putting an arm around her daughter in a side hug. Lilly sighed and ran her fingers through her hair. "From the beginning? You mean, like, the beginning beginning?" she asked. "Wherever you are comfortable from. We just- This is a lot to take in, honey, and I'm still not sure what to make of it." Cassandra offered. Lilly rested her forehead in her hands and signed once more. "It's kind of a long story. and you're not gonna to believe it until you meet the others, I'm sure." she semi-protested, but at the silence from both of her parents, she relented and continued. "Fine. I and my friends we all have... abilities." "There are more like you? How did you get these abilities and why didn't you tell us?" Cassandra asked with some concern. "I'm not entirely sure on the 'how' part, but I didn't tell you, partly, because I think it was due to the exposure to the interdimensional portal or whatever at the secret bonfire party thing we had on the reservation. And, for the record, they are not like me. They go things that I'll never do, like move things with their mind. Conjure fire and ice, teleport, read minds..." "You are not serious." Cassandra said with her voice tinged with more than a hint of disbelief. "As a heart attack." Lilly chimed back. "Oh, and that guy that went AWOL? Captain Cooper? He was there too.. sort of. He was looking almost like some zombie, but we found his uniform and stuff in the trailer we found there. Oh, and there was a saber-toothed tiger and the... monster-thing in the woods. They almost ate some of us." Lilly said with a nod, catching a glimpse of her father's eyes looking at her in the rear-view mirror, though she was unsure what to make of his gaze. "Lilly. Honey. This is jus-" was all her mother got out before her father cut her off, "Let her talk." he said, his once again and coldly calm, making Lilly feel a little more like she was the subject of an investigation than his daughter right now. "That was back in July, and I didn't tell you because what would I say? 'Hey mom and dad, I got these powers from the interdimensional portal that was at the secret bonfire party we threw on the reservation. Thankfully the zombie guy, saber-toothed tiger and monster thing didn't kill any of us.'? You would've though I was high or out of my mind." Lilly explained somewhat matter of factly, which prompted Cassandra to give a faint shrug of her shoulders and roll of her eyes in a 'well, that's true' gesture. "So we found this fortified trailer out there with an interdimensional radio or something," Lilly continued, "...and Captain Cooper's uniform and all these photos of a Cessna's tail. So we go looking into things as best we can and, along with some of us getting temporarily stuck in this really bad dimension, we learn some stuff, like every twenty-seven years Shelly collectively loses its mind. Seriously. Go look in the papers and stuff. It is this cycle of this thing that we call The Dark. It like feeds off of bad emotions and pain and stuff, and it is trying to get from where it is trapped and into our world, and we realize that we are the only ones who have a chance at stopping it. And again, I think you can see why we didn't exactly go telling our parents." "So yeah, we go doing more research and start learning to use our abilities and stuff and that's when I realize that me competing at the Olympics wouldn't be fair. I mean, I could probably beat this car in a foot race and I can run hurdles with high jump bars. It just wouldn't be fair and any victory would be hollow. I still want to go, and wish I could, but it's something I had to let go of. Other things are more important. So, like, I want's lying when I told you why I sandbagged, at least not fully. I just didn't think I could you everything behind it. So I'm sorry for that too. For what it's worth though, I was going to tell you yesterday, after the picnic." "I kept playing football because it would draw more attention if I were to just up and quit, and it seems that, like positive emotions, like hope and happiness work against the dark. So yeah, I kept playing, but I held back a lot and try to not use my abilities, so help bring the town some hope and excitement, and the others have been helping with it too, trying to change the towns attitude and make it better and brighter. "Cody, he got possessed by The Dark or gave into it or something, we found out, and it seems The Dark noticed us too and started coming after us." Lilly said as she turned to look at her mother. "Like the thing at the hospital the other day while we were out of town? That was actually an attack by The Dark, or Cody, or both. The other were there to fight it and now some government agency or something is involved and covering it up to help us. Oh yeah, some of the staff at the medical center are part of it too and had been experimenting on the population of Shelly for, like, decades and using a girl in school, who's a telepath, to help them. Hooray medical ethics." she said sarcastically and then sighed. "Anyways, we had found Cody's like lair, or whatever, and last night we were meeting up and going to go there and face Cody and the Dark head on. It seems we won, or at least everybody survived, so that's good. But I was supposed to be there. I already let them down by not being there to help at the hospital, and then last night too." Lilly said, her voice trailing off a bit. "It's like what he said is true. Why do I even bother? They clearly don't need me." she said in a bout of self pity. "If it's true, then why are we going to this meeting?" Bill asked. "Because their are my friends and I'm not going to abandon them." Lilly replied without so much as a thought. "Exactly. You said that this 'Dark' feeds on stuff like that, so are you going to make your enemy stronger and your side weaker? So you end your little personal pity party." Bill said, his tone firm, but not harsh, as he spoke to his daughter like he knew she needed. "Self pity lies to you about who are and steals from you who you can be. You're stronger than that, and I don't mean physically. Just look at what happened. If all you are saying is true, no matter how hard it is to believe, then you were asked to grow up quite a bit and do the mature and moral thing, and you did. You were asked to put something down so you could pick up something greater... and you did. And for that, we're am proud of you." Bill told his daughter, looking at her in the rear-view mirror again as the car sped down the thankfully straight and low traffic road. "...even if we aren't too thrilled about bonfires with underage drinking and being lied to." Cassandra added, resting her hand on Lilly's knee, giving it pat. Lilly lifted her head, looking to her mother's eyes and then her father's in the mirror as she gave a small nod. It as nice to hear her father say what he did, really nice even, but the faint, momentary smile quickly faded. It was hard to take in what he said, to truly believe it after what she had been through the last twenty-four hours, but she would try. Several minutes later... The meeting room doors opened and in walked Lilly with her parents. Lt. Col. Bill Pryor was calm, neither smiling nor pensive, and gave the room a quick scan, interested in exactly who was at this meeting, as well the usual concerns his training taught him to be aware of, while Cassandra Pryor, who had worked as a head nurse in this very building for years, had a much warmer demeanor, smiling politely and nodding to any of the parents or kids who made eye contact. Lilly, for her part, looked a bit rough. Her eyes were tired and to a keen eye like Marissa's, a bit puffy, even if it had gone down considerably already. Her long, dark, hair was up in a crude bun to try and hide its non-brushed state and she wore dark grey leggings and an oversized, black t-shirt. She smiled, though it was not hard to tell that it was at least somewhat forced, and gave a small wave as she looked to each of her friends, hoping not to find any visible injuries. After a quick exchange of handshakes and simple pleasantries with Ms. Giles, the Pryors took the last remaining seats at the table, filling in the space between Annette and Kat, with Bill nodding to any of the other parents who made eye contact as he looked around the table, while Lilly glanced back over to Devin and brushes a few errant hairs from her face as she give him a less forced smile and softly mouthed, "Thanks." It was not lost on her that he was the only one to try and check on her when she did not show up the previous night.
  6. Ever so slowly Lilly managed to claw back some degree of control over herself and fought to open her eyes. She noticed that sitting beside her bed was her mother, holding her hand with both of her own, her eyes closed tight nd her head down as if in prayer. The same mother she had lied to and made waste precious vacation days because she could not be honest with her, or anything even approaching honesty. Time, money, effort wasted because of her own shortcomings. The thoughts brought tears to her eyes once again as she shut them tight, like she was trying to hide from the truth. "Lilly?" her mother asked in a soft tone tinged heavily with concern. "Honey?" she asked again with her concern growing, but all Lilly could manage was a weak nod. A moment later she could feel her mother's arms around her in a tight, some might say smothering, hug. She could feel the small convulsions of her mother's chest as she tried to silently hide her sobs from her daughter, which only made Lilly feel even worse. She wrapped her arms around her mother, resting her forehead against her mother's neck as she tried to bury her face. "I'm sorry." is all she could sob out, which was immediately met by a soft, tender, "Shhhhhhh" as she felt her mother's hand rest on the back of her head, holding her daughter close. "It's okay, honey. We don't know what happened, but right now all that matters is that you are alright. We can talk about the rest later, whenever you are up to it. Are you okay?" her mother replied, turning her head to kiss to the top of her daughter's head in concern. Lilly nodded weakly, her teary eyes still shut tight. "I'm not hurt." she said, trying to assuage some of her mother's fears. "Not physically, anyway." added without thinking. How much had passed Lilly was unsure of, but it certainly felt like she spent weeks, or even months, engulfed with the questions and sceneries that Mr. Enterich had posed to her, always coming seeming to find the truth of his words, that she was just a ball of inadequacy hidden behind some facade of morals and athletic perfection and her friends simply humored. Her memory was fuzzy in places, especially after speaking to that... guy. She fought to remember where she was right before meeting him, which was strange to her, as even she, and her teachers, had noticed a marked improvement in her memory. In a way it was like the fears and other thoughts were fighting to hold her back as she strained against them as her eyes shut tighter and her brow furrowed, which even her mother noticed in their embrace. "Lilly? Is something wrong?" Cassandra asked her daughter, pulling her head away a bit to turn and look at her Lilly. "Whatever it is, you do not have to face it alone. Your father and I love you and are here for you." she said to her daughter. The sincere words were strangely reassuring to Lilly. The fears and thoughts of inadequacy that had engulfed Lilly were beginning to recede achingly slowly as she was reassured. Then she remembered where she had been just before her world came crashing down; she was talking to Hank Graskle about fear, of all things. 'First thing you've got to realize is that most of the people you're in the shit with are just as scared as you are.' Her friends were just as scared as she was. Her friends were... Her friends... "Oh shit!" Lilly said, releasing her mother and sitting straight up as she wiped the tears from her face. "What time is it?" she asked as her eyes began scouring the room, looking for her phone frantically. "I'm not sure. Five thirty or so. Why?" her mother replied, quite confused. "I.. I got a thing I need to do. It's hard to explain." Lilly said back as she finally found her phone. Then the words of Hank hit her again. 'Think on this - if you die tonight, your folks will never know what happened to you. They'll never know how dangerous things are here. And you won't be able to help them after the fact. Don't they deserve to know? No matter how hard it is?' Mentally Lilly cursed at herself and could not help but begin to fall back into the pit she was barely starting to claw her way out of as she realized yet another thing she had failed to do, and now there really was not time to do. At least not well. "I ne-"was all Lilly got out before her mother cut her off. "You are in no shape to go anywhere right now." said her mother, her voice taking a more firm tone. "You don't understand. I.." Lilly stopped speaking as she looked down at her phone in a bit of horror, her eyes transfixed on the date shown on the lock screen. "Oh my god! It's Tuesday?" she asked in shock. "They went t- I was suppos- I failed them... again." she murmmured as her shoulders slumped and she closed her eyes. "Who knows how many survived." "Survived? What are you talking about? Some big thingy in your D&D game?" Cassandra asked. "No it's not that. It more.. serious." Lilly sighed as she looked down at her phone through blurry eyes and unlocked it. "Lilly. I don't think you need to be concerned with that right now." said her mother as she reached for Lilly's phone, only for her daughter to move it away. "No!" she barked at her mother. "This is serious. Like, life and death serious and I was not there to help protect them." Lilly half-explained to her other as she began to look through her phone. She had, indeed, missed the fight. She was not there for her friends, again, even if it meant she would not be coming back. She was a failure once more. Bleary eyed she flipped through the group text messages. At least it seemed they had survived, which was a relief to Lilly, but she could not help but think about it confirmed what the man, Mr... Enterich? had said to her. Then she came to the most recent text, one from Devin, along with a voicemail from him not that long ago, "Hey, Lills. Haven't heard from you since Sunday, just worried. Hey, uh, look, if you get this, we're uh, meeting up at Marias tonight, seven o'clock. Everyone's a little worried, so, uh, don't be a stranger, yeah? Bring your mom and dad, it's kind of a confession thing... letting all parents know what's up. Neutral ground, no secrets or judgments. Hope to, uh-, hope to see you." She had to tell her parents now if she was going to go on with this, with her friends, no matter how useless she might seem. "Mom, you need to get Dad and we need to go to the hospital." Cassandra Pryor's eyes widened considerably. "No. It's not what you think. I'm not hurt or pregnant or anything. It's... there are some things you need to hear." "Wha?" Lilly sighed. This was it. The point of no return. If she told them everything and took them to the meeting, then they would be exposed and a part of what she had fallen into. But at least they would know. After everything she had done, they deserved that much at the very least. "Come on. I'll show you." Lilly say, flipping the covered off of her bare legs and slipping to her feet. "Lilly. What are you doing?" her mother asked as she hopped to her feet, trying to keep up with Lilly as she made her way briskly to the garage, passing her father who was downstairs on the phone. He hung up the phone and followed the pair in confusion and a bit of concern and relief for his old child. "Lilly. What are you doing?" he asked as she walked into the garage. Lilly had went to garage looking for something else, but there she found her pickup. One of her parents must have backed it in for her. Regardless of how it got there, it ought to do the trick. "I'm not like other people." she said as she walked to the back of her truck, squatted down and reached under the truck with one arm and stood up, lifting the back wheels of the truck several feet off of the ground. Her parents stood there, staring, their minds trying to understand what they were seeing. "My truck is over a ton and a half." she said with a sigh, lowering the truck back down. "I am not like other people, not anymore. And there are others too, and what I can do is nothing compared to what they can do." Lilly set the truck down and walks toward her parents, her hand filthy from the undercarriage of the truck. "I know it's a lot to take in, and this is just the surface. I.. We were supposed to do something last night, something big that was gonna save a lot of people. I guess they managed to do it, without me, but there is still a meeting tonight with these other people. It's for us and our parents, to ask and answer questions." "What? You're? Huh?" Cassandra asked, still confused by it all. "And where is this special meeting supposed to take place?" her father asked. "At the medical center. Well, kinda. We just need to go and you'll see." Lilly sighed. "Lilly, this is... and awful lot and it does not make any sense. You're asking us to-" her father said, somewhat more calm, at least outwardly, than his wife, before Lilly cut him off. "I know! I know it's a lot. They might even know what happened to me yesterday. I dunno, but you just have to believe me. Please." she said, ended with a plea as she looked to her father, letting him look into her bleary eyes. William Pryor looked deed into his daughter's eyes and then down at her hand before bringing his gaze to meet her once more. "Okay." he said calmly, almost emotionless. "Bill? What?" his wife asked in surprise as she took his hand. "We'll go. And then afterwards we are going to have a long talk, little lady." he clarified for his wife though he spoke to Lilly, his voce calm and controlled.
  7. Lilly stared at the man as he spoke, her eyes slowly growing ever wider as his words burrowed into her mind, finding that deep, down place where she buried her fears. A few had come near the surface when she had spoken with Hank, but they too had been sinking back into the depths, only to be dragged back into the light by Mr. Enterich. How he could know of the other things, the fears she had kept buried and never expressed to anybody, was not even a concern to her as the rest of the crowed seemed to fall away, darkened and desaturated into the background leaving just her and Mr. Enterich. "Wha-" was all she managed to stammer before she seemed to choke on her own words. She could call plays over the sounds of the crowds and the other teams' shouting on the field, but now her voice had left her, seeming much to the amusement of Mr. Enterich. She tried to lift her hands to cover her mouth, her face, but she couldn't. Her prodigious strength was stripped from her, Leaving her arms feeling like they were made of lead, while beneath her feet the ground began to feel like quicksand, making her feel ever smaller... weak... insignificant. Somehow she managed to stagger back a step from Mr. Enterich, her legs weak and shaky, but the space seemed to provide a hint of breathing room. She had to get away. Get away from him, from the crowd, from their eyes. She could see it now, how they looked at her and secretly judged her. Sure, they liked the football team winning, and if that meant they had to tolerate her for a couple of years, then they would, and once she had graduated, if she would even graduate, then they could stop giving her polite, forced smiles and fake support, because that is all they did... tolerate her... humor her. Nobody wanted here there, not really, but the backwater, redneck hicks were so obsessed with their stupid teenage football game, then they would bit their tongues for now and deal with the girl who acted like boy and probably wanted to be a boy. Who hadn't heard the steroid rumors? She had to get away. Forcing another backwards step, Lilly backed away a little more, only this time, instead of her foot finding more quicksand, she found solid ground. Wet, slippery, solid ground causing he foot to slip, sending her landing on her backside. A few people looked over, curious at what had happened, but could only see Lilly scrambling back to her feet and walk away briskly, on the verge of running, pushing her way through the people. Once she slipped past the outermost picnickers she scanned the area off to the horizon searching for some bastion of safety or escape route. The faded blue paint of her rusty, '57 Chevy pickup caught her eye almost instantly, even through the blurry wetness that was begging to set in. She found some more strength in her legs and propelled herself toward the tuck. Sliding to a stop beside the pickup, Lilly swung open the door and hopped in here she fumbled in the pockets of her short overalls for her keys and finally fished them out, stuck them in the ignition and brought the truck to life. With a jerk of the stick and a stomp of the gas pedal, the engine revved and the truck sped away. And the truck pulled on the road the usual rattling and bouncing was even more noticeable due to due to the silence coming from the old speakers of what passed for the sounds system in the pickup. Lilly glanced down at the tape deck through her blurriness encroaching her vision. She reached down and twisted with the volume knob to no avail. She ejected the tape and shoved it back in, but it has no effect. Lilly needed the music, or anything else for that matter, to try and distract her, to keep her from dwelling on the thoughts that were swelling in her head, breaking her down bit by bit, moment by moment. Frantically she fiddled the virtually antique tape deck, her panic frustration growing by the second, even resorting to hitting it with her fist, but nothing changed the unending silence that poured from the speakers which only made her own sobs and sniffles that much more pronounced. The lack of perpetually blaring 80's rock and metal made the silence more intense and made the cab of the truck feel even smaller, making her feel even more alone... or more alone than usual if she were honest with herself. Ever since she and her friends got their abilities it seems like they drifted farther and farther from her. Was it because she simply was not on their level and was, instead, more like dead weight to them? When they can red minds and teleport across the world and conjure ice and fire... what use was she to them? Even tonight, what could she really do? Punch The Dark in the face? No. That was ridiculous. The best she could hope for would be to take a hit for one of her friends, to die protecting the actually useful ones. Her abilities were nowhere on par with theirs. Fully exerting to lift a plough is nothing compared to Jase casually lifting his entire car with his mind just to tinker with it. So really, what good was she to them? They would give forced smiles and talk to her when she approached them, but when was the last one of her 'friends' called her to even hang out? She hear of them getting together for things, hanging out a Jase's, or the Jauntsen's, or wherever. But that was the thing. She always heard about later... The more she thought about them, the more Mr. Enterich's words seemed to ring true. The rest of the drive, even the day for that matter, all seemed to blur together. The silence of the drive back to the base made her feel even more isolated and alone and allowed her mind to dwell ever more intensely on Mr. Enterich's words, so that by the time she managed to reach the front gate of the base, she was a sobbing mess with tear streaked cheeks. She could remember the surprised and concern on the guard's face, parking by the shack, sitting in a little waiting room all alone, always alone as a guard made a call...
  8. "Excellent," Misti said with a smile that lacked and and all caring for the proceedings. "Well, as you all know, I'm Misti Jauntsen and this is my husband Carl. He's a Federal Wildlife Officer, and I work for the school's administration department, so I know you all quite well, if only by reputation," no one missed the side-eyed glance she offered to Gar, whose reputation as a drunk was not unknown. "While I'd love to say he and I have been fully able to grasp the happenings of the last few days, I unfortunately cannot. We've agreed to listen with as open of a mind as possible, considering some of the things we've seen," she offered her son a glance. "So, who wishes to start?" As their parents eyes fell on the twins the two looked around the table and smirked evilly and simultaneously. They leaned back in their chairs, Marissa crossing one leg the other and Devin resting an ankle on his knee. Devin shrugged. "Good question," he said. "Who would like to go first? We always used to, but now, it's not our circus-" "-not our monkeys." Marissa finished as the two sat and waited to see who would pick up the mantle of spokesperson for the Fellowship.
  9. Sean stared at his phone, head cocked in curiosity, having just finished a call with Brad Stanton, a rep with EA. The guy had been affable, enthusiastic, and maybe just the teensiest bit cagey with why he wanted to meet. Brad had known about Annwn, and had clearly played it from the way he talked, so his reasons might not just be about ReGenesis. Sean knew his curiosity wouldn't be sated without at least meeting the guy, so he had agreed to his offer of a business dinner at the Shelly Country Club on Friday. The only time he'd been there was a kid, when he'd tagged along with his dad when he'd been on a job. Sean had no illusions about appearing super professional or anything, but he didn't want to look like a complete schlub or the archetypal antisocial neckbeard, as it were. He'd have to see what he could scrounge up, probably reusing most of what he'd gotten for Charlie's funeral. While answering questions and comments on his game page, Sean tracked down Turing to give him a long needed good brushing and clipping of nails. His grey cat had been keeping himself scarce since Sean had used him as a test subject for one aspect of his powers. Turing accepted the brushing with dignified condescension. Sean didn't think he was forgiven yet. On the ReGenesis front, everything seemed to be going okay, though he had to firmly deny answering any questions asking about plot or hints for the game. He did have to walk one guy through the settings on his rig so that he could actually play the game. Sean wasn't even sure how the guy managed to mess up his computer that bad. Dinner was a rushed mish-mash, everyone finishing off leftovers from the last week as Sean went over what was going on. He had actually told his parents, well, his mom, anyway, almost everything, except for Jase's, er, heritage, and what Dr. Cook had told him, and he didn't explain about those now either. But he did add when they'd learned about Enterich. Laurie looked riled and scared and annoyed that she was scared. Carolyn looked concerned, Jack grave. The one bone of contention was when they started debating if Laurie should come to the meeting. Sean mentioned he was pretty sure no one else wasn't bringing siblings who weren't directly involved. Laurie stepped into his brother's personal space to leverage every inch of height she had on him, glowering down at him and grounding out she was directly involved - hell, Devin had even jaunted her to New Zealand. And other than Cade, nobody else even had a sibling who wasn't directly. Jack Cassidy reluctantly admitted Laurie had a point, even if he had to take a calming breath to avoid thinking what his youngest daughter and the Devin boy could have gotten up to in a foreign country. Sean and Carolyn had exclaimed, 'What?!' in various tones of surprise, concern, and totally not envy (Tolkien completely overrated). Laurie blushed, in embarrassment, self-recrimination at her blunder, and determination not to kept in the dark 'for her own safety'. The Dark was the danger in the first place! ~~+~~+~~+~~+~~+~~+~~+~~+~~+~~+~~+~~+~~ The Cassidys rode to Marias Medical Center in Jack's work truck, a drive they had done often enough over the years due to Sean's medical condition. The atmosphere was more somber this time though. Walking through the Medical Center, Carolyn stopped to exchanged words with some of the staff she was friendly with, despite the exigency of the meeting they were there for. Sean slipped away to see how Sophia was doing, feeling a sense of shame and contrition. He was more than glad they'd been able to save her and Tawny. But it hurt that it had taken the depravity she'd suffered at Not-Cody's hands and the lost of Charlie for him to want to get over the painful grudge he'd held onto since she'd turned him down. Tired and wan, Sophia still offered him an exhaustedly snarky smile edged with traumatic experience, mildly surprised it wasn't one of the Jauntsens poking their head back in. "If you ask me out, I'm still gonna say no, Sean." Sean chuckled ruefully. "I'm not here about that." Sean ran his hands through this sun-touched crimson hair. "Just started to realize it's not good for me - or anyone else - to hold onto grudges and bitterness. Not with everything that's, y'know, going on." "Uh-huh." Sophia's sunken eyes brightened as she sat up a bit more in her bed. Smile edged towards a smirk. "And what about Courtney?" "Fuck Court-!" Sean sucked in a sharp sigh. He let it out slowly. "Look, it's a work in progress, okay? Just stopped by to see how you were doing. Not sure how long you'll be here, but thought I'd offer you a copy of my new game to pass the time." He tapped the laptop sitting at Sophia's side, an invisible digital spark passing through his fingers to the machine with a push of effort. "And if you want - not sure how my D&D game is going to go now, what with 'stuff' - I can fill in as guest DM for you for your group-" "My Irregulars. Holmes." "Better than The Fellowship," Sean admitted wryly.. "Anyway, offer's on the table while you recover. And after too, if you just need a break, or want on the other side of the DM Screen. What you running now,?" "I'll think about it," Sophia said, before talking more animatedly about her campaign, grateful for the distraction. Sean interjected with his own questions and comments, unconsciously delaying going to the meeting. There was history between them, and new and not pleasant experiences, but for a moment, it felt almost like old times when they had been friends and co-conspirators in RPGdom. Until his mother found him, giving his shoulder an insistent squeeze. She gave the girl a sympathetic look and regretful look. She knew Sean and Sophia had had a falling out. Though not knowing the particulars, she had a few guesses. "I hope you are recovering well, Sophia, dear, but I'm afraid I've got to steal my son back for something rather immediate." "Thanks, Mrs. Cassidy. I'm getting tired again anyway." She looked back to Sean. "I'll send you a link to my gaming notes. I'll listen to any ideas or suggestions you have, even if I don't take you up on the offer." "Alright. Later, Sophia." Heading towards the meeting, Carolyn idly asked her son, certainly not prying. "Offer?" "Mom!" Sean rolled his eyes. "It's just gaming stuff. God! She was dating Charlie." Carolyn blinked, feeling more than chagrinned at the revelation. That was a blunder. Her chagrin didn't relent when the Cassidy contingent entered the meeting room and found they were the last to arrive. Discomfited, she went around the table, making introductions to any she hadn't met before, Jack Cassidy taking it in his more habitual laconic stride. He worked for all sorts of folk. As long as they didn't try to cheat him on payment and treated his workers with a base modicum of respect, he could deal. He exchanged a few brief words with Ian Keane, seeing if he needed any help with flipping or fixing up a house, while Carolyn remarked on how good Gar was looking, and how trials could bring out the best in someone. Then the Cassidys took their seats between the Jauntsens and the Bannons, Jack next to Carl, followed by his wife, Laurie, and Sean next to Jase. "Apologies for running late," Carolyn said sincerely, though she didn't offer an explanation for why. "If we haven't missed the opening round, how shall we start?"
  10. Attunement, Corruption, & Radiance (Shine) Under the standard rules in Aeon, those with Psi can use Attunement (Psi + Highest Mode) to detect Psi, bioware and Psi powers being used within their radius. The presence of Corruption also causes those with Psi to experience discomfort, described as pressure behind the eyes or an oily, slick sensation in their heads. Attunement cannot detect Talents or Superiors. For Weirder Stuff, the cosmology changes a little and thus so does the way Attunement works. Corruption and the powers of the Corrupted come from the Dark, and the powers of the PCs and those like them come from Radiance (colloquially known as Shine). As a result the following house rules apply: All those empowered by Radiance can feel the presence of Corruption when it is close at hand, even Talents and Superiors, though they will experience it as a feeling of vague unease or wrongness, perhaps easily missed or dismissed as something else, rather than a defined physical sensation as the Psions do. Psions can detect Superiors (who feel like strong unfocused sources of Radiance) and Talents (who feel like more diffuse versions of Superiors) with the same roll they'd use to detect Psi or bioware. Superiors and Talents can detect Psions if they are very close or touching them - it feels like pleasant electricity, warmth or coolness, a prickle on the skin. Superiors and Talents can feel each other’s presence if touching and they know what to focus on - something that comes from practice rather than random discovery. How Talents and Superiors affect Attunement Links: Talents give an enhancement to all Psi uses that reflect their primary Facet, at a rate of +1 enhancement per dot. Each such use of this ability drains 1 Inspiration. Superiors are raw power reserves of Radiance. They affect Psi rolls much as Quantakinetics do when in a link, but can only do this Stamina+ Health Levels times in a given scene before becoming Taken Out and falling unconscious. Superiors and Talents cannot receive buffs through Attunement - the ability to draw on such a link is Psion-only.
  11. By the time Cassandra got in, her mom was already home for a change. She'd taken most of the afternoon off, since she'd have had to have left a bit early anyway. Thus, Cassie was greeted with a distracted, 'Hey kiddo,' from the living room, which startled her for a second. "Hey mom," she said back as she cruised past the living room on the way to her bedroom. Her tone was an excruciatingly well-practiced nonchalance, that formed an almost solid and concrete impression of a perfectly ordinary day, in which nothing particularly important happened and certainly nothing worthy of concern or discussion... And Teresa accepted it at face value largely out of habit. Bacon, however, wasn't having it. The dog was up off the floor in front of the couch like a shot, weaving expertly around the coffee table and interposing himself between Cassandra and the door to her room. His ears perked forward and he wagged his tail...but the whine escaping him was tense and anxious. Cass kneeled down and cooed, "Aww, what's the matter? Mom watching scary movies? Do you need a hug? Animal protective services?" She did reach out to give Bacon a hug; the german shepard being big enough to make such a gesture possible. The moment she touched him though, Cassandra froze. Worried. Bacon was worried about her, worried sick. She wasn't well, she wasn't right, and unbidden in her head she could see...well no, not see...but she could smell something rising up...a smell like sweat, only a little worse. Salty, sour, dank. Her brain instinctively tried to turn it into a picture, and what she came up with was a dark old basement that had been made into a locker room but then abandoned after murders had taken place there. The smell of fear, but not just any fear...the slow kind of fear. The rot that ate you from inside. The sudden realization that it was her smell brought her up short, and she yanked her hands away from the dog. Bacon whined again, his tail thumping the floor, and he pressed the top of his head against her neck and chin. For a second Cassandra was back in the Dark. Skulls crunched under her feet, and it wasn't a dog pressing against her. It was something else, fleshy and tumorous, biting at her with teeth that had no business being where they were... With a horrified yelp she scooted backwards away from Bacon, managing to catch herself on the heels of her hands so she didn't just flop over onto her back. Teresa looked up, and immediately felt a stab of not just unease, but fear...and for some reason, guilt? That made no sense though, so she stuffed that away and got up. "Are you okay? What happened? Did Bacon trip you? Even asking it though she could tell that wasn't it. The body language was wrong. Everything was wrong. "Cassandra?" she asked. "No," Cassie said as her breath returned. "I'm f..." she broke off, unable to say the word she'd intended. She wasn't fine. Bacon's big anxious eyes bored into her, and seeing herself in them she couldn't say the word. "I, uh...I just...had a second there... I felt scared even though there was no reason for it.It was just Bacon though." It was on instinct more than anything that Teresa leaned down to give Cassandra a hug. Instantly she knew it was the right thing to do, because her daughter immediately turned to return it, her arms unexpectedly tight. "Do you want to talk about it?" Teresa asked gently. "Can't right now," Cassie demurred. "Meeting. Maybe later?" "There's still plenty of time before the meeting," pointed out her mother. "No pressure or anything. Just...whenever you want to. Okay?" But when Cassandra decided to let go, she couldn't. So instead she said, "Actually...maybe now's good." Then Cass took a deep, shivery breath and went on, "I need tell you about what happened the other night. And...when I do, I just...just please keep remembering that we made it out okay. It's over, it's done..." A flash of Enterich's face popped into her mind, smirking. Over and done, are we? What a relief. We wouldn't want to have to go through that again. Even with as much time as they had, they were almost late to the meeting. =========== On getting to the conference room, Cassandra realized there wasn't really a place left to sit that wasn't near the Jauntsens. She went up to the seat by Dana, and her mother took the one between her and Misti. Cassie didn't say anything, or meet many eyes as she came in. A sharp eye might have seen a little bit of puffiness around them that implied some tears had been shed. Teresa, on the other hand, gave everyone a reserved smile as she went around to her seat and said, "Hello, I hope we didn't hold everyone up. We got off to a little bit of a later start than we'd hoped to...some last minute family business came up. Under the table she reached over to give Cassandra's hand a squeeze. She'd suggested just canceling, but Cass had been rock solid firm that they had to go to this. There wouldn't be a make-up day if they missed this exam. Cass returned the squeeze and then got up to get some water for herself and her mom just ahead of when the meeting started for real.
  12. The Bannons had retaken their seats as the Keanes settled in across from them, Gar smiling a little over at Autumn's family before glancing at Jase, who'd once more assumed a relaxed, almost deliberately slovenly slouch in his chair, only the faint warming of his eyes as they rested on Autumn opposite him any indication he was paying attention to anything. The door opened again, admitting Captain Williams and Kat. The soldier looked around at the gathering with a professional eye and a tight, in sincere smile and nod as he moved behind his daughter, who herself looked nervy and ready to bolt as she took in the assembled parents and the emotional texture of the room. For a telepath it was tense here, clouds of of suspicion, angst and lingering hostility floating around, flickering with lightning, and she didn't want to advance any further into it than she had to. "Hey guys." she said, giving everyone a shoulder-high wave as she pulled out the seat nearest the door, the one on Annette's right. Between the calm of the Aeon woman and the warm concern of Gar Bannon, and beyond him the utter frozen lake of Jase, she felt that this was likely the least turbulent spot in the room - as well as closest to the door if she needed to bolt. Her dad took the seat beside her, nodding to Gar and offering a handshake and murmured greeting as a message ping went off from the diminuitive French girl's phone. Flushing as she drew stares, she glanced at the message from Courtney, tapped out a reply, and thumbed her phone to 'silent' before tucking it back in her pocket and looking around at faces, waiting for the meeting to begin.
  13. “Is there anything else you want to tell us?” Ian asked soberly, glancing up as the soft, rhythmic sound of bare feet descending the stairway stopped at the sound of his voice. Dana, likewise, looked up from her plate of half-finished spaghetti expectantly. It had been nearly an hour since Jason had brought their daughter home, almost half of which she’d spent in the shower after reminding them about the meeting at the medical center and chasing the dogs around the yard to burn off some nervous energy. “Go Take A Hike!” the pink-cheeked girl’s bright blue t-shirt cheerfully suggested, and knowing more or less which families were meant to be in attendance, the older redhead wondered idly if the choice of attire was deliberate. Autumn paused at the foot of the stairs, her towel and still-damp hair draped over her shoulders, one hand reaching automatically downward to rub the top of Zephyr’s head as the golden-furred Shepherd mix padded over to greet her. It was a loaded question, of course. What her father really meant, she knew from experience, was: “Is there anything you’d like to confess now, before we hear it from someone else?” She’d already told them some things, sure- not about what happened with the Marshal-Formerly-Known-As-Dale, obviously, or the whole Coyote/Man in Black thing, or the fact that her boyfriend was apparently, maybe, an interdimensional alien, or about the Crossroads prison conspiracy- but the immediate stuff. Things they’d actually needed to know. Priorities. And since no one had ever bothered discussing anything specific that they didn’t want discussed, Autumn had a feeling it was going to get pretty tense. “The short answer,” she replied after a moment’s uncertainty, visibly uncomfortable at the quiet scrutiny of her parents from the adjoining room, “is ‘yes.’ Probably,” she amended quickly. “But, honestly, that’s why we’re going to this thing in the first place. So much has happened in the last week or so, I couldn’t cover everything if I wanted to. There’s stuff I don’t remember, or didn’t think was really important, or wouldn’t be able to tell you without getting into a whole other conversation just to explain how we even got to that point. Plus, some of it happened before I even got involved. And… some of it’s not my business to tell you anyway,” the earnest teen hedged, acknowledging the promise she’d made to them at the Carousel. “So this way you get to hear all that kind of firsthand: who everyone is, what’s been going on. Just…” Smiling slightly at the feeling of a cool, wet nose pressed against her palm, Autumn focused for a moment on the dog at her feet, kneeling down to rub a happily squirming Zee’s neck and shoulders vigorously with both hands. “Just try to keep in mind that, um.” That all of this is crazy, and so are most of the people involved? “Some of it’s gonna be a lot to deal with, and I’m not really sure how much everyone else has told their families, you know? So… expect chaos.” “Fantastic,” her father sighed, shaking his head as he tore off another bite of garlic bread and Dana poured herself another half-glass of wine. A little later... “…I’m just saying, we don’t really know what kind of people these-“ There was a moment’s pause as their escorts stepped away and Ian stopped in the doorway of the conference room, blue eyes quickly taking in the measure of the room’s occupants. “Oh.” The conversation he’d been having with his wife ended abruptly on that awkward, monosyllabic exhalation as he realized that some of the people he was referring to were already present. “Evening,” the entrepreneur added after taking a heartbeat to recover, smiling affably and continuing through the door as Dana and Autumn followed him in. “Ah, you must be-“ “Annette Giles,” the poised Aeon representative replied, rising smoothly from her seat as the Keanes approached and the traditional handshakes and parental courtesies were observed. “Of course, of course,” Ian nodded, still smiling. “Autumn’s told us…” The smile turned wry as he glanced over at his daughter, the dry sarcasm of his tone unmistakable. “So much about you. And this is my wife, Dana, and this-“ “Dad,” the younger redhead murmured in bemused exasperation, nudging her father with her elbow. “She knows who I am.” “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Ms. Giles,” the elder Keane woman interjected with a smile, clasping Annette’s hand warmly in her own as Autumn and Ian exchanged a quick flurry of playful nudges and hushed exhortations to quit playing around. “The pleasure is mine.” Her reply seemed genuine enough, as far as Ian could tell, although he couldn’t quite put his finger on the faint accent that marked it. “Please, make yourselves comfortable while we wait for the others.” Ian nodded, turning back to the few other folks arrayed around the table, glancing from the Allisters to the two men sitting with their backs to the door, and then the well-dressed foursome at the far end of the room from Annette Giles. Were there really enough kids involved to require that many empty chairs? he wondered, approaching the older man seated nearby. “Hi, I’m-“ He stood there for half a second, hand extended as he caught sight of the lanky, slouching figure he’d somehow missed before, and realization dawned. “He’s my dad,” Autumn supplied helpfully as she ducked around his arm, smiling at Gar and, beyond him, at the remote youth sitting next to him. “Ian. And this,” she indicated the taller, svelte redhead who likewise offered the Bannons a smile, “is my older sister. Ow!” She complained, grinning even as she rubbed the spot on her side where Dana had pinched her. “My mom. Dana. Mom, Dad, this is Jase’s dad, Gar Bannon.” "Nice to meet you at last." Gar had risen from his seat a trifle awkwardly, as though he hadn't expected the courtesies, but his smile was genuine as he took Ian's hand in a firm clasp and shake. The differences in manner were noticeable between his nervous warmth and his son's composed, though equally genuine faint smile-and-nod of greeting to the Keane clan. "Likewise." Autumn's father said by way of introduction as he returned the handshake. He'd heard around town that Gar was a drunken bum and a bit of a nut, but the hazel eyes were clear and alert, the face was shaved and hair was combed, and he was dressed in standard Montana-casual of plaid shirt and jeans rather than the 'prepper chic' of Army surplus clothing Ian had been half-expecting. Beyond him, Jase unwound from the chair he'd been inhabiting and stood. Ian looked at him. "Good to see you're okay, Jase." he remarked, a heartfelt enough statement. Sure, the kid was odd, unnerving and, worse, was dating his little girl, but Ian didn't actually wish him ill. Dana moved forward and shook Gar's hand, still smiling, as Ian stepped back. "Autumn's told us a little about you." she confided. "Thank you for making her welcome at your place." "She's a real pleasure to have around." Gar replied, his smile widening a little as he winked at the younger redhead, who smiled widely through her faint blush. Dana cast an amused doubtful glance at both of them, but said nothing as she stepped a little past Gar and gave Jase a quick hug. "I'm glad you're okay too." she told the lean young man, studying the scar that ran from over his ear down his cheek. It looked months old - Autumn's 'gift' at work undoubtedly - but was still noticeable against the bronze-olive tan of his face. "Thanks." Jason replied, giving her a slight smile, the corners of his eyes crinkling a little, as Dana stepped back. His pale jade gaze found Autumn, the smile still lingering in his eyes. "Hey." he said to her softly. “Hey,” the freckled vitakinetic replied quietly, the faint rose in her cheeks deepening by degrees, and it was only the light pressure of her father’s hand on her shoulder that reminded her where she was. Tearing her attention away from the frosty green eyes that threatened to swallow her where she stood, Autumn nodded politely at the Jauntsens, her enthusiasm dimming slightly as the older Keanes likewise offered the somewhat infamous family a cordial- if distant- smile and wave of greeting. Carl and Misti reciprocated with the faux-friendliness of experienced socialites; if Autumn hadn't seen their behavior at the hospital first-hand, she realized, she probably wouldn't have known they weren't sincere. Gently, but inexorably, her parents steered her back towards Annette, pausing for a moment to once again observe the obligatory semi-formal ritual of greeting with the Allisters. Ducking away from the guiding paternal hand, Autumn continued around the table a little further before taking the seat directly opposite Jase and settled in, waiting for her less-impatient family to catch up. They were still missing the Cassidys, Allens, and... Barrases? Was that right? Slipping her cell phone from her pocket she frowned a little, scrolling through her contacts as her toes skimmed the floor. “Really?” Ian murmured a trifle archly as he sat next to his daughter, earning a bemused smile and shrug from Dana as she took the chair to Autumn’s left. “Really,” the youngest of the Keane trio confirmed, switching her phone to vibrate and placing it face-down on the table.
  14. "Far as I know, ma'am," Devin answered Cade's mother with one of the first times any of them had heard him sound respectful to an adult. "Apparently, blindly opening a cross-dimensional portal and pulling nine people through it ruptures every blood vessel in my body." He shrugged nonchalantly and chuckled. "Who knew, right? I feel like went an entire practice against everyone on the football team without any pads on, but aside from that I think we're okay." "I'm not sure whether it's stubbornness, our powers or pure tenacity that keeps up all stitched together, Mrs. Allister," Marissa added, looking up from her phone. "Physically, it seems I'm healing faster than I should, so there's that. Mentally and emotionally, however... well, I was almost swallowed whole and torn to pieces by Lovecraft's illegitimate children. But respectfully, how does the medical profession define the term 'healing as it should' after one is almost torn apart by other-dimensional monsters?" "It's a bit stressful," Devin cut in, before his sister's words got to scathing or had a chance to be sharpened to a fine edge. "We've a lot on our plate right now and we've barely slept, let alone had a chance to rest or recuperate for days now. There's always something everyday we have to do or someone we have to save or somewhere we have to be..." "It's called growing up, dear," Misti happily cut in with a honed edge of matronly sarcasm. Marissa rolled her eyes as Devin's narrowed. "Is it?" Davin asked. "Just out of curiosity how many ancient dark gods have you and dad had to take on your professional, adult lives? Hmm?" He leaned in like he was listening for something he wasn't hearing. "Is that a 'none'? Yeah, don't confuse being in the bleachers with a lost of good play ideas for actually being on the field. We're not pulling down nine-to-fives, Mom-" "-we're almost being bitten in half. We're being shot at, we're damn near killing our selves every time we push our abilities because everything out there," Marissa pointed to the door. "Is ancient, powerful and evil and we're a bunch of high schoolers who by all accounts shouldn't even be out there having to do it... but we are," her words were hiding the growing flood of emotions she was keeping in check behind her robust levy of composure. "And we're doing it to keep you and everyone else safe. So please, stop with the patronizing 'growing up' crap." "It's not 'growing up', Mom," Devin's words were calm and compassionate as his voice emulated the caring tones of someone trying to make another understand. "It's duty. We were born for this. We're the only ones who can do it. We don't like it sometimes, sure, or even each other... but if we don't hold the line no one else can. There won't be anyone else who can protect you or Shelly or the rest of the world. It just," he shrugged. "Is what it is."
  15. Ian Allister's eyes narrowed, It wasn't that he didn't agree, there were other things he could be doing as well, but still. He knew about Cade taking Marissa fishing, and looked to his son, who shook his head. That was left best unsaid. Cade looked over at Devin and shrugged. "It's abit annoying, but at least it's fairly predictable. The others will be here." When He met Marissa's gaze after hearing her nickname, he knew with grim certainty that if he ever tried to call her that, or probably even said the word around her, she'd end him in the most painful methods she could devise. He looked at Carl and Gar, and nodded. "Lake Elwell is still probably the best fishing nearby that's not someone's private pond. Though it's a long haul one way if you wanna fish the eastern part of the lake, and most of the west requires an offroad to get near, or you go up the river." He shrugged. "I have a couple friends from the track team that caught some great pike and half an ice chest of bass and bream on their last trip about four days ago." While Mr. Bancroft's pond was the main place he fished, he did go elsewhere, and he tried keeping up with what was being caught. Ian looked to to Cade. "That sounds like a good trip. Maybe it's time we go there." Cade nodded, but it was Miyakko who spoke. "You should take Haruka, she hasn't gotten to go on any of your fishing trips lately." She looked around at the kids, and asked, quietly. "It may be none of my business, so forgive me, but Are all of you alright? You had many injuries before, is everything healing as it should?" As head nurse at the facility, and in general, she was used to caring about the well-being of others. She remembered with a certain horror how they all looked when they got back, and since she'd heard nothing about it, she was taking the chance to at least ask them if they were alright. She knew about Jason's injury, and it at least seemed to have healed, though there was a scar.
  16. In the interim the twins tapped away on their phones, sliding through their social media accounts, and pausing only to lean to the other to angle their phones to smirk or chuckle at each other’s choice of memes. They spoke quietly amongst themselves in hushed tones, sharing with each other their opinions of the content but by and large kept to themselves. While his children made small-talk Carl leaned over a bit and addressed Gar as quietly as one could across the Arthurian-sized round table. “Hey,” he opened, getting Gar’s attention in a voice that was not particularly low. As silent as the room was, even the twins’ hushed conversations about Bebe Rexha, Dua Lipa and the direction of their music. “You and Hank end up with anything over at Verden the other day?” Gar shook his head. “Hank’s good at hearing about the ‘best spots’, not so good at hearing about the ones that actually have fish in them.” Both men chuckled. “I appreciate what you did the other day, by the way. I knew I had re-applied.” Carl offered a dismissive curl of his lip and waved a hand. “Eh, two days is nothing. There are bigger crimes in the world than a two-day expired license. Oh, I talked to Tammy, too, she cleared it all up. Your new application was on the bottom of the stack. They’d bumped several locals down to process al the new licenses for that small mouth tourney coming up.” “That’s right,” the gruff man nodded, his finger bouncing along to the invisible thought in his mind. “Forgot about that. You managed to talk Tammy into bumping up an application? People been trying to get her to do that for years.” He mused. “Her daughter is sweet on Devin,” Carl smirked. “That helped. The rest is smiling despite wanting to unholster my sidearm and end myself.” Gar nodded with another chuckle. “Yeah, she can be a handful.” “Try Holden’s Hollow,” Carl tapped his finger on the table. “Busted a few guys there about a week back and they were dragging in bucket loads. About eleven-hundred in fines all told.” “Was it edible?” He asked. Carl offered a shrug. “Got me. I don’t fish. I’ve kept my interest more in the regulations than the sport-” “-or pulling disgusting, unwashed things from the water when you can get them filleted and clean from the store.” Marissa chimed up with a look of disgust in her expression. Her distaste for nature and things that happened outside the radius of her WiFi connection were nigh legendary. “Thank you, Monkey.” He smiled but didn’t look back his daughter, who wouldn’t have seen him anyways through her phone as she fumed at his calling her his pet name for her that she thought was retired when she was... six. "She’s not really an outdoorsy type.” “I gathered,” Gar politely nodded and decided not to press the matter as Marissa’s eyes darted from Jason to Cade and then narrowed in suspicion as they were the only ones present who knew she’d been taken fishing. “Yes, well,” Misti interjected in a volume that filled the small room swiftly. It appeared that there was warm conversation taking place and that could lead to people possible be cordial and pleasant with one another and the black void that pumped ice-water through her veins just couldn’t cope with that possibility. “We’ve certainly better things to do than sit here in silence all night.” She was addressing no one in particular, but it seemed like Annette was intended to take the brunt of it as this meeting place was what she’d offered. “If the others are not going to bother to show up, I see no reason to waste our time-“ “You get used to it,” Devin mused with an eye roll and a chuckle as he scrolled his phone, never bothering to address anyone specific. “It's like this every time. That’s why I wanted this at the house, so when they ghosted us, we weren’t stuck with a drive home. Cassie’s probably out taking pictures of raccoons in Bunnee’s garbage and in a few moments, she’s going to realize ‘oh my god, that was today?!’ and start peddling as fast as she can. Kat’s was most likely on her way but saw a butterfly and wandered out into the wilderness, and Sean doesn’t show up to anything unless Jason personally drags him to it. Autumn is just late for everything. We’re fairly sure that’s her superpower.” “I thought you were exaggerating, Devin, dear.” Misti sighed in frustration. “But so far, I concur: they do appear hopeless.” “Told you.” Marissa said with a huff, never taking her here eyes from her phone. "'Five more minutes," their mother said calmly, but matter-of-factly. "Then we either begin, or we're leaving."
  17. Cade had stayed long enough to eat pizza with the others who were there, it would have been rude to leave after they'd ordered, at least in his mind. After that, he'd headed home, thanking Devin and Marissa for having them over, even if things hadn't gone smoothly, and for the Pizza. He'd paused a moment, unsure of how to approach things with Marissa, given that the truth of their "relationship" had been outed by Devin, but only for a moment. He enveloped her in a gentle hug. "I meant what I said earlier." He smiled and released her without trying to do anything more. He didn't want to pressure her, she had enough going on right now. Heading home, Cade waited for his parents. Haruka wasn't coming to the meeting, She was staying with a friend of hers. His parents would ride together, and Cade would drive his jeep. It was a fairly major concession. When they parked next to him at the medical center, he met them outside the vehicle. "Mom, Dad, I want say this before we go in. People are stressed already, and I can't imagine that getting any better. You're likely to hear things that are gonna sound crazy, and they're going to make you mad. Yes, I've been doing things I didn't tell you about. I know you're gonna be mad, but please, if you can, save that for when we get home." His parents just looked at him, and his mother nodded. "Cade, I will do my best to hold my peace, so that you can all explain to us everything that's going on. That is all I can promise." She looked to her Husband who nodded. Cade nodded and replied. "All I can really ask is to let us explain." His father put a hand on his shoulder. "That's what we're probably all hoping for from this, son." The Allister family walked in and made their way to the room that had been reserved for the meeting, They took their seats to the left of Annette, with Ian seated the closest to her. Like the Jauntsens, his parents sat to either side of Cade.
  18. "No." Jason's tone wasn't petulant. Indeed, he didn't even raise or project his voice. The simple refusal was delivered with a cold, hard edge, like frozen diamond etching indelibly on glass. Gar and Kaitlin looked at each other, Kaitlin giving Jase's father a faint shrug in response to the somewhat helpless frustration on the other's face. "She's not welcome - not to the meeting, not in this house." "Jase, she's-" Gar began. "Not my mother, except in the crudely biological sense of having once been an incubator for me." Jason cut across his father's words with brutal straightforwardness. "She raised you for eight years." Gar scowled at his difficult son. "And then turned her back on me when she couldn't handle the truth of my nature. Which seems to be a common trope of my life." The lanky youth stood in the kitchen doorway where he'd stopped as soon as he'd seen Kaitlin sitting at the table, coffee in hand, talking in low tones with his father. His head tilted slightly as he considered, then added with scrupulous honesty. "With one or two notable exceptions so far." "Oh, come on, Jase-!" Gar started, then paused, scrutinising his son, looking for some signs in the cold exterior. "Meeting didn't go well, then, I take it?" "It went more or less as expected. Some interesting revelations." Jase moved from where he'd been standing and helped himself to a coffee, ignoring Kaitlin. "I'm half expecting tonight's meeting to be just as stimulating and informative. Which is why it is not the time for family therapy." "Alright." Kaitlin nodded slightly. "I can understand that." Gar started to protest, but the pretty blonde laid a hand on his arm. "No, Jase is right. If he expects a troublesome meeting, he can't afford to be distracted." she told her beloved. "However..." She set aside her coffee cup and stood, moving to stand directly in front of her son, looking up into his eyes unflinchingly. Those eyes, so much like her fathers - cold, calculating, giving away nothing except perhaps wolfish readiness as he studied her in turn. The scar on his cheek added to the impression she was gaining: her son was starting to look and act more Teulu every day. Part of that would have been the attack this morning, she was sure. And the combat he had seen the previous night. He had tasted death, both dealing and surviving it. He had gained a sense of his own power, and his own frailty - the latter of which might make a human more humble but would make a Teulu implacable, more viciously determined not to be so vulnerable again. "You disagree. But I am your mother." she began, looking him dead in the eye. "Yes, I abandoned you, but I was wrong to do so. I hate myself for doing so, Jason. I've told your father the truth of me - and of you." she added, steeling herself not to step back as the pale green eyes narrowed on her face. Jase looked over her shoulder at his dad, who just nodded slowly, then back at Kaitlin. "You might never accept me as part of your family. And I'm willing to live with that as consequence for what I've done. But please, allow me to at least fulfill my duty to you. There are things you need to know, about yourself, about your people. I can at least do that for you." For a long moment, he hesitated. He studied her face, then his father, who nodded encouragingly from where he sat. Finally he breathed out, slowly, and leaned back against the counter. "Alright." he said quietly. "Alright." "Thank you." Kaitlin wanted to reach up, to push his unruly hair back from his face, to stroke his scarred cheek. But she refrained, instead stepping back and sitting down again. "So... Gar tells me you have a girlfriend." "Oh, no." Jase stared at Gar, then at her, his eyes narrowing again. "Really? A birds and bees talk? I think I know how the parts fit together, Kaitlin." He gave them a crooked half-smile. "At least, based on experience so far." His parents exchanged a Look. "You mean-" Gar began, but Jason was already moving towards the hall door. "I'm going to grab a shower, meditate some, and get ready for the meeting." he told them, his eyes alight with faintly malicious humor. "I won't need dinner - I had something with Autumn earlier." "Jason, we need to talk about-" Kaitlin tried, but he was already gone. The two parents could hear his booted feet thumping up the stairs as they looked at each other. "He doesn't usually make that much noise walking up the stairs." Gar said after a few moments. "Or at all." "No. He's acting out like a human teen." Kaitlin sighed, picking up her coffee mug again. They exchanged another look. "At least that's normal, right?" "How do young Teulu normally act out?" Gar frowned, worried. Kaitlin smirked over her coffee. "...do you really want me to answer that?" "No." Gar said after a few moments reflection. "Probably not." He sighed. "I'll be sitting in on the culture lessons though. I need to know this stuff too, I guess." Kaitlin smiled, laying her hand over his fondly. "You've done a good job with him, seriously." she told the worried looking man. "He could have turned out much worse. There's a sort of kindness to him... almost. That's your doing." She paused, then "You'll let me know how the meeting goes?" "Sure." Gar smiled back at her, turning his hand over under hers and returning the clasp. "You can come over for dinner tomorrow." "Are you sure?" she asked, her blue eyes studying his face as he nodded. "Very sure." = = = = = = = The Bannons arrived without fanfare or ceremony, father and son taking the first seats they came to and seating themselves as they murmured greetings to the other people present. Gar seemed a little on edge, gazing around suspiciously at the room and plainly uncomfortable with such a formal setting, whereas Jason merely sat back in an almost indolent slouch in his chair, bright piercing gaze scanning the others before settling on Annette. His scarred face expressionless, he studied her for a long moment before shifting his gaze to rest on the wall opposite his seat, to all intents and purposes content to seemingly stare into space as he waited.
  19. The Juantsen family met at the medical center. The twins meeting up with their mother and father after they had spent some time speaking with Tawny and Sophia, both of which were still tired and frazzled from the previous day’s events. They didn’t press any issues with the two victims of Not-Cody’s violent kidnapping of them and were, thankfully, still unaware of the full extent of the suffering Sophia had endured. Still, they had an opportunity to at least make an appearance and remind them both that they were in their thoughts before leaving them to rest. They hadn’t spoken much to their parents about what powers they possessed or any of the Branch-9, Project/Crossroads, although they had given vague explanations, so they weren’t walking in blindly. Still, as they entered the room it seemed more like a setup for government head hunting than it did an opportunity for the families of the children to speak openly and honestly amongst themselves. The room was bugged, the government lap dog was sitting patiently and professionally at one end of the table, and she even offered false platitudes in her greeting and spouted the obvious ‘I’m just here to observe and mediate’ garbage. The problem Annette faced with the Jauntsens was that they were all very intelligent and proficient manipulators, and to them, this was seen for exactly what it was: an opportunity to observe, collect, and produce intelligence work on the families of the children who possessed extraordinary powers so that could disseminate across the various government agencies. “Thank you all for coming,” Annette said as the Jauntsen family took their seats. She noted how Misti, Devin, Marissa and then finally, Carl, sat, sandwiching their children in between them, a classic ploy to allow the to deliver looks, gestures or even a touch without having to move to far. They weren’t the best of parents, but they were here thinking of the best way to keep their children from saying of doing anything that might be used against them. “The others will be here shortly, I’ve word they’re on their way.” “So, this Proteus organization… you’re what?” Carl asked, craning his head a bit to imply a measure of distrust. “Research, Special Ops?” “Perhaps it would be best if we saved questions for me until the end, after the ‘Fellowship’ has had their opportunity to say their piece.” Annette’s smile was textbook, her words carefully chosen, and she noticed the way Misti seemed to be paying less attention to what she said so much as how she said it, reading micro expressions, measuring the flush in her cheeks, her pattern of eye movement. “Afterwards I’ll conclude with a few words to help alleviate any concerns.” Marissa sighed and rolled her eyes. “Christ. Crossroads and Proteus are essentially the same thing, they look for people like us, study us, find out what makes us tick and-“ “-essentially put a collar around our neck to make sure we’re jumping through the hoops that benefit their agenda.” Devin chimed up to finish his sister’s thought. “The difference is Proteus at least seems to have some manner of moral compass, so in the end, they’re not so much our allies as they are business associates and the lesser of two evils.” “That’s not entirely accurate,” the beautiful liaison said calmly but with still a hint of frustration in her voice. “And a bit unfair.” “From your point of view,” Marissa’s reply was like a swift razor blade seeking a throat to cut. “We did battle with an ancient demon who kidnapped our friends and where were you and Proteus and Branch-9? We had baseball bats and tire irons, where was Proteus and Branch-9? Jason was almost killed today in retaliation for my spying on Enterich at your request. Where was Proetus and Branch-9? We wanted to have a calm meeting of the families to sit and discuss everything that’s happened to us up to this point and tell our parents what we could do and how we wanted to apply these new found talents-“ “-oh, wait… here’s Proteus and Branch-9!” Devin expressively held out his hands placatively towards Annette, feigning trying to convince her of what he was saying. “‘Don’t have it in the comfort of your own homes, please, allow us to escort you to an isolated wing of the hospital by way of military escort and feel free to make use of our most-certainly observed meeting room. Please. All we want to do is help’.” The twins did not seem at all pleased with Branc-9 or Proteus and the hard gaze they both gave Anette spoke volumes beyond their initial appraisal. “I’ll tell you what unfair is, Ms. Giles: when it’s easy not to believe in gods and monsters until you wake up one day and realize you are one. Then spend two months trying to figure out which one you are all-the-while trying to piece together which of these factions wants to be buddy-buddy with you now simply because you can make their lives really complicated if you're not on their side." Annette sighed and cast a glance at their parents while trying not to say any more than she had to. “Don’t look at us, Ms. Giles,” Misti offered a cold smirk. “I assure you, we’re the least of your troubles this evening. Secret installations, meeting with our children without our consent while willfully placing them in danger… irresponsible at best, outright negligent at worst, but as you said, we’ll discuss that later.” “Wait,” Carl interjected, raising a hand while leaning to face his daughter. “Jason was almost killed today?” “Yuuup.” Marissa’s lips popped on the ‘p’, but she didn’t look up from her phone. “Huh.” He nodded. “Well, damn. Poor kid. Glad he’s okay.” Misti rolled her eyes and rubbed the bridge of her nose in frustration.
  20. Tuesday, 3rd September, 1900 Marias Medical Center Annette was good as her word. The conference room was on the second floor of the administrative wing of the Marias Medical Center, a carpeted and soundproofed room dominated by a polished oval table, ringed by chairs with a high-tech speakerphone terminal in the center. Bottles of water and glasses were set on a side table, the only other piece of furniture present. The Fellowship, along with such family as accompanied them, were escorted by curiously fit and watchful hospital security guards to the room, shown inside, and then left to their own devices. Though nobody was standing guard outside the room itself, it didn't escape the more observant visitors notice that this section of the hospital did not have many people in. Other than the guards showing them to the room, the only person present was Annette Giles herself, who was seated at one end of the oval table, her well-manicured hands folded before her on the polished surface and a patient expression on her lovely features as she waited for all to arrive.
  21. The Charger's engine started up as Autumn exited the Jauntsen's home, her footsteps crunching on the driveway's gravel as the redhead saw Cassie sit up in the back seat and the passenger door swing open as if of it's own accord at her approach. She got in without a word, and after a sideways measuring glance of his pale eyes, Jason merely nodded, as if in understanding, and put the car in gear. "I'll drop Cassandra off first." he said softly as the gleaming black muscle car rolled out of the Jauntsen's property and turned onto the road into town. "Hey, thanks for the ride," Cassandra said. "I've really gotta get a car one of these days. You guys all live too far apart." "No problem." Jason's laconic reply was accompanied by his habitual here-and-gone-again smile as his eyes found Cass in the mirror briefly before once more glancing at Autumn, studying her once more for a long moment before returning to the road. "Are you okay?" he asked her, his tone soft. "Mm," she nodded, nose crinkling unhappily at the warm, watered-down taste of the soda she'd left in the car. "Mostly." Giving the Effing Boyfriend a brief sidelong glance, she leaned down to shove the half-full paper cup into the crumpled bag at her feet. "Tired. Angry. Frustrated. Disappointed. Worried. So, nothing new. It'd just be nice to have a chance to process the last Awful Thing before the next one shows up. That's all." "People can be a pain," Cassandra sighs. "Compared to destroying an ancient devil-tree that was sucking the life force of a whole town, that's probably not that big a deal." She rests her head against the window then, flattening out a puff of blonde hair. "I'm worried about Enterich though. There's no way he'd stop at Marissa...and now that her cover's blown, who knows what he'll do to her? Not to mention Klein has my dad brainwashed at that fucking prison, and if that's not a playground for Enterich, I don't know what is," she added, and kicked the back of the seat ahead of her. On seeing Autumn glance back at her from the kick, Cassie winced. "Sorry." "Your father was moved to Site B. Crossroads is separate, if I'm remembering correctly." Jase's tone left little room for doubt as he paused the car at an intersection for a moment. "But given there seems to be a connection, Site B is going to be our next stop." "And as for Marissa being in danger..." he shrugged as the lights changed, leaving whatever his thoughts on that were unspoken as he pressed down the gas. "Marissa, her parents..." Cassandra shook her head. "I just don't know what to do about it. Enterich isn't like this other thing we fought. I mean, he looks human...maybe he can just...die or something?" "I've never seen him," Autumn shrugged, glancing briefly at Cassie through the side window and then back at the familiar scenery as it rolled past. "But if gods, or... whatever are real, maybe he can't. We need to know more before we can start worrying about how to deal with him." "Alright, how do we learn more? I'm pretty sure we won't get far googling him," Cassandra griped. "You think Mr Mysterious Alien would know anything? Assuming we can find him again..." "Didn't Marissa say she was working with Annette?" Leaning her head against the seat, Autumn closed her eyes, relaxing into the reassuring rumble of the engine. "Yeah, but..." Cassandra trailed off, finding it hard to put her misgivings into words. It felt like maybe Marissa would have been given false info, and then passed it on? But that was just dumb. They needed to consider every source. "Yeah...should definitely ask Annette, yeah." "She claims she called on Coyote, and he told her what Enterich was." Jase offered as he drove. "If that wasn't a line, then she knows how to contact him and it might be useful to someone else."(edited) "Oh, not just called on," the redhead added. "She went out to a bridge Sara apparently wanted to blow up, and just started screaming his name and stuff, and he showed up out of nowhere. So, maybe that would work, I guess?" Her eyes opened again and she glanced back at Cassie, and then over at Jase. "But Annette, at least, probably has a cell phone, and we'll be at Marias later." "...maybe I'll start with her," Cass says. "I haven't quite gotten to the point I'm ready to scream off a random bridge." "I am," the red-haired girl in the front seat quipped ruefully. "Oh, well, let me know when you go," replied Cassandra with a grin. "Maybe Coyote will show up and I can hijack him." Jason glanced at both girls, amusement flashing a fin in the glacial depths of his gaze, but said nothing. "Seriously, the only reason my internal screaming isn't external screaming right now is because I'm in a car with two other people." Sighing as the remnants of her smile faded, she turned her attention back to the passage of the trees and power lines and buildings outside the window. "Changing the subject. Both of you are coming to this meeting thing tonight, yeah?" "Yeah." Cassandra bonked her head gently on the window again. "And I get you, Autumn. Hell, I stormed out of there. And that was just from Devin. You went and talked to Marissa, which must have been...so much worse." "I'll be coming. Despite my better judgement." Jason replied dryly. "I will be there to listen, not talk, however. Unless directly spoken to." "Wonder if the Jauntsens will be there..." Cassie mused aloud. Autumn nodded again, slowly exhaling. "Definitely. Their parents are the ones who wanted to do it. And... it kind of makes sense? I'm just worried it'll be a repeat of- well," she cut herself off, lifting one hand in a vague, all-encompassing gesture. "Yeah. Well...with the other parents around, I don't think they can really get away with it." Cass said with a tinge of hope in her tone. The redhead pressed her lips together in a thin line, but stayed quiet. "Logically, it would make no sense for them to air everything again in front of relative outsiders." Jase shrugged. "This meeting is purely to bring the parents up to speed so they can feel as though they have some control over a situation where that control is tenuous at best." He glanced at both girls again, then looked back at the road. "Kicking off a civil war at the PTA meeting is not in anyone's interest - hence why I'll be doing a minimum of talking." He paused for a long, significant moment, then said, in a tone dry enough to mix a martini with: "Logically." Cassandra shrugged. "I'm not a hundred percent sure everyone's clear on that purpose though. I have a feeling we'll have more than one person who sees this as a chance to take charge. So that'll be fun." "Of course they will." Jase's lips quirked. "I find listening, nodding noncommittedly, then doing as I please is generally the best way to deal with that." "You would," the freckled girl in the passenger seat agreed with a little shake of her head. "And speaking of doing what we please..." Adjusting her seatbelt slightly so she could turn to face the plucky blonde more fully, Autumn hesitated for a moment. "I did hear a little bit about Enterich from someone else. It's not much, but it is something." "Oh yeah?" asked Cassandra, lifting an eyebrow. "What'cha got then?" "Nothing that needs sharing right now," the red-haired girl replied breezily, flashing her inquisitive friend a brief but bright smile. "Because there isn't time to dig into it, and we can't do anything about it at the moment, and I know it'll drive you crazy. Consider this my revenge for the whole 'moral support' thing you dragged me into." "Oh come on!" Cassandra protested. "I don't deserve that! You walked into this with your eyes open! You could have said no!" She hesitated, then said, "Jase! You've got my back on this, right?!" The eerie young man's eyes glanced back at Cassie, then at his girlfriend, and though his features were composed that curious, wry, silent laughter robbed his gaze of its usual cold impassivity. Slowly, he tilted his head as though listening to her, then nodded blankly before returning his attention to the road. "See? Jase says you have to tell me." "Jase said nothing at all," came the quick reply, accompanied by a broad grin. "And I will tell you," Autumn added slightly more seriously. "I promise. If it was super-important, or something we could deal with right now, I wouldn't be giving you a hard time. I want to hear what Ms. Giles has to say, because- regardless of what happened today- we do need to figure out how to deal with this guy. We knew that before, just..." Glancing at the quiet young man in the driver's seat, her amber-flecked features tightened. "Just now it's more of a priority. So." "He's expressive," retorted Cassandra. "And taciturn. He said it with his face." She sighed and sat back. "Fine. You're the worst, but fine. You're the broccoli of friends, but fine." "I'll be broccoli," the worst-possible-vegetable-given-human-form conceded over her shoulder as she shifted back around. "Kind of an acquired taste, but it's good for you." "I guess it could work, if Jase was a baked potato," Cass decided. "Broccoli with potatoes is not so bad." "Broccoli is fine on its own," Autumn protested, but her friend was already continuing the menu presentation. "Get some cheese sauce on there. Bacon sprinkles." Cass paused. "...is anyone else hungry? I didn't have any pizza." "Did you really want to wait around for it?" Autumn peered into the backseat through the side mirror. "I was originally going to, but my plans changed." Cass shrugged. "We can hit the drive-thru if you want to pick something up." The Effing Potato offered Cass, though his eyebrow was still raised slightly at the turn the conversation had taken. "We did before we came over."" "I can get something at home. I'm good. Thanks though." "No problem." Jase nodded as he turned off the main road and down the side street toward's Cassie's home. His lips twitched in a faint smile as he glanced at Autumn, then. "So... Broccoli is fine on it's own, hmm?" "It is," she insisted stubbornly, her cheeks going pink under the freckles scattered across her skin. "Nobody thinks it's weird to just have a potato, either." "Uh-huh." Was all he replied, but the silent laughter in his gaze was back again as he pulled the Charger up to the curb outside Cassie's home. Killing the engine, he slid out of the car and tilted the seat forward so that the blonde reporter could clamber out. "Alright, thanks again guys. Seeya tonight!" "See ya, Cass," Autumn called out the window. She slid out on the driver's side door, then waved through the windscreen as she stepped around and onto the kerb. She watched as Jase slid back behind the wheel and the Charger drove off, then went into her house, laughing to herself under her breath as she went. There was little conversation on the drive out to the Keane home. Neither teen seemed to need to talk about anything, at least for now, and the banter they'd shared with their friend had dissipated some of the excess tension. Pale, bronze dusted fingers found slender tanned ones almost automatically as Autumn's other hand flicked on the MP3 player, Wardruna filling the car and accompanying the rumble of the Charger's V8. It was relaxed, the two of them driving through the late afternoon, now and then casting glances at each other. Perhaps each felt what Autumn had felt on that drive out to the Reservation - that urge to keep driving together, to see what was beyond the horizon together. But if they did, neither dwelt on it overmuch. As she opened the passenger door, hearing the barking of the dogs from inside the house, Autumn leaned over to give Jase a brief kiss, their lips brushing each others. A pause, as their eyes met and they felt it, that electricity, even in this quiet moment, and the brief kiss became a lingering second kiss before they parted for real. Smiling faintly, her freckled cheeks pink, Autumn closed the passenger side door and headed up the front steps to the porch. At the door, she stopped and cast a glance back over her shoulder, only to find Jason's eyes on her, the gaze anything but cold. And then the front door opened, and her mom was hugging her and the dogs were barking, and the Charger turned and headed back down the track.
  22. "Well, I... did not know that," Sean admitted in a drawn out, nonplussed tone, a hand on his hip. "'Bout her helping me at school with the cheerleader uniform thing, I mean." He turned to look out the patio doors, his pale cheeks pinking faintly. He'd noticed looks at school, irate or disgusted, but they weren't much more than the usual and he hadn't connected it to him wearing a cheerleader's uniform for a few hours. Embarrassing for bit, for him - and he certainly hadn't cared for the skirt - it hadn't occurred to him it would have affronted anyone else, beyond people seeing the over-endowed feminine looking individual who identified himself as a guy in a skirt for the first time. It wasn't fair! He had God-Damned psionic powers, had fought other-dimensional monstrosities - and won! - and still had to deal with this shit! He hadn't even seen it coming, but Marissa had and was already doing something about it. And he had treated Marissa poorly, in her own home. He could say Marissa was doing it for her own benefit. Having to be in proximity to the rest of the Fellowship, she wanted to upgrade their social standing to something worthy of being in her presence, so her own didn't suffer. Or to make it feel like they owed her. Whatever her reasons, she was making an effort. And he wasn't. He let his uncanny eyes linger on the workout and gymnastic equipment beyond the patio doors for a moment. He had followed Devin and Autumn outside, though he had slipped back in before they had turned around when the door bell had rung. If he couldn't bring himself to ask Jase or Cade to help him exercise and get into better, or at least healthier, shape, he could never bring himself to ask Devin. He had had a vague notion of asking Autumn, but inadvertently eavesdropping on the two of them, it seemed almost perverse that it sounded like Marissa would actually be the better one to ask. Ugh! No way! Sean's slender shoulders tightened, then slumped as he turned back to Devin. "You might be..." He sucked in a breath, his nose scrunching up as he grimaced and corrected himself. "You're... right, dude." Anything else was an excuse. Maybe a valid excuse - her actions had led to his best friend being shot multiple times, come on! - but excuses nonetheless. Also... making nice, Marissa might be less inclined towards urging an accident his way, however unintentional. As though dragged out of him, Sean added with a glance up towards the second floor, "I think I owe your sister an apology. A thanks, too, I suppose..." Marissa looked at the door to her room as Autumn, giving a bit of an eye roll at the audacity of Autumn giving her fashion advice… before she looked back to the mirror and put her hair back up the way she had it and gave it her best duck-face to adequately appraise the style. She permitted herself an approving smirk as she side-eyed the door once again. “Don’t tell me that,” Devin said while nudging his head towards the upstairs. “Tell her. It’s been a rough weekend, for everyone. We’re all still a bit on edge and we’re not really at a point where we know how to handle each other… I know you’ve had a shit time in your life, given,” he motioned to Sean as a whole and his combination of feminine and masculine qualities. “All of that. We haven’t been the best people, but we’re trying, dude. We both are… it might not always look like it, but we are. Cut us some slack, yeah? Now, if you feel you owe her something… don’t talk about it, go handle your business.” Sean passed Autumn on the stairs, instinctively turning sideways to give her more, a rueful expression crossing his face as he stopped. The staircase at the Jauntsen Residence was more than wide enough for two to walk abreast. Autumn tilted her head questioningly and Sean sighed. "Don't you hate it when a Jauntsen has a valid point?" Marissa had slid into her boots, put her hair up and was now working on her eye make-up as a painter might meticulously add every color with one graceful brushstroke after another. The knock on her door distracted her from he reflection in the mirror. Devin wouldn’t have bothered knocking, his entrance would have been a theatrical number complete with some of ‘s’up ho’. She sighed, a bit annoyed at the interruption (but then again, she was always annoyed). “Enter.” As Sean entered her eyes narrowed in suspicion as to the reason for his visit. IT seemed largely out place for him to dare venture into the lair of the beast as in the past he seemed to treat Marissa like she was two Not-Cody’s, a swift kick to the junk, and one pants-ing worth of embarrassment all wrapped into one and better left avoided. She turned in her chair to face Sean, crossing a suede sheathed leg over her knee to give him her full attention. “Admitedly I was expecting Cade, or even Cass,” she huffed and rolled her eyes. “Alright unknown quantity let’s hear it. If you’re here to file a complaint about something I’ve done to betray you or your family… the line forms at the bottom of the pool. I’ll be with you as soon as possible. By ‘soon’, I mean ‘never’, by ‘as possible’ I mean ‘I won’t bother’.” A smirk curved Marissa's maroon lips as despite himself and his habitual thoughts about Devin's twin, she caught Sean's eyes flick from her own to her crossing legs and back, clearly disappointed in himself, but not regretting the sight. He slowly raised his hands in surrender. At least she isn't petting a white cat... "No complaints, I swear." Mouth pursed as though he'd just bitten into a lemon suggested more that he did still have complaints, but they weren't for here, not for this moment. "Not here, not now, anyway," he admitted wryly. Letting his hands fall to his sides, his eyes slid from hers once more, to glance around the room. He had entered with his eyes down initially, as though in case he might have caught a look at something he shouldn't have. He had expected Marissa's room to look like something belonging to a Twitch or TikTok Thot, probably messy, maybe with some strategically place brand name accessories scattered about to show off on her streams. Instead, it was pristine, and very, very Disney Princess. It could probably cause cavities. He straightened his shoulders and strained for every fraction of an inch of his modest height, meeting her eyes once more. "I came to... to apologize," he said, forcing it out in a rush. "Devin mentioned, sort of, what your doing for me at school. I didn't know, but thanks for that. And while you were not an ungracious host, I was an ungracious guest. Whatever else you did, intentional or not, that's the truth." A deep inhalation. Of all people, her?! At least she ain't Courtney! "I'm sorry for how I acted today and towards you, when it seems you've been trying help me, in your way. If there's a favour I can do you in turn, just ask. Er..." His jaw tightened in an uneasy grin at what he had just offered and to who. "Please don't make it too embarrassing or painful please." Marissa listened, even giving him a look that dared the young man to judge her choice of bedroom decorations. Throughout the bookshelves in her room, ended by a cute plushie animal of some sort, were all manner of novels. The Shannara Chronicles, the Wheel of Time series, All manner of R.A. Salvatore novels, all the Percy Jackson books and even the Shadow Hunters series all lined her walls on high shelves, well outside his reach, and even she needed to tippy toe to reach them. While she never claimed to be a nerd, she possessed a serious love for high fantasy and supernatural romance literature. “Sean,” she started. Her voice was soft and calm now, devoid of the initial defensive sarcasm she was quickly becoming known for. “Look, don’t worry about it, okay? It’s not like I was the greatest to you in the past, so for what it’s worth, I understand. Does it irritate me? Sure, a bit, but only because you are surrounded by people who were willing to die with you and you still seem to refuse to let yourself trust us, at all.” “You don’t owe me any favors,” she said plainly. “We’re supposed to be friends, right? I know, I suck at this whole friends thing, I don’t trust easily, I’m defensive, opinionated, gorgeous,” she waved her hand in a gesture to swat away all her words. “We both know I could go on, the point is, you don’t owe me anything for helping you with the school thing. According to the internet, friends are supposed to get one another’s backs, right?” “I know it’s easy to think I’m some ice queen who would slit my mothers throat to be the next Kardashian. That’s simply not true, well, maybe her hammies or something, I don’t know… again, the point is, Sean is that I have limits to my cruelty. I’m mean, yes. However, there are lows that even I will not stoop to, for example: destroying someone’s life simply because they are gay, or fat, or a particular ethnicity… or are a transvestite, to name a few.” She smirked at him and winked. “This town is full of closeminded bigots and religious bible thumpers who have spent their lives making yours a living hell.” “Marissa,” Sean interjected. “You and Devin made my life a living hell.” “Well, certainly,” she admitted freely with almost a tone defensive pride. “But we didn’t’ single you out, is my point and it wasn’t because of who you were, we just needed you and others to remember that we were better than you because we were more popular… and prettier… with money.” “I… can’t,” Sean tried to formulate a response to that, but Marissa wasn’t infallible as it was just hard to grasp how she could grasp it. “You know you almost pushed Connie Vasquez to commit suicide last year, right?” “Of course, but it wasn’t because she was fat or gay, which she obviously is,” the lovely brunette pointed out. “Wait,” Sean interjected. “Connie’s a lesbian?” “Duh,” she rolled her eyes at Sean. “Sean, you can only get so big and to the point where no man is going to want you that you’re eventually forced to try your own brand. Don’t you pay attention to anything at school? I did it because she bumped my shoulder in the hallway and didn’t say she was sorry, so rude.” She scoffed and accompanied an eyeroll with a disgusted shake of her head. “I digress… what I’m trying to say is that we’re friends now, maybe not particularly good ones, but friends. That means Devin and I have your back. You don’t have to worry about bullies anymore or dealing with the crap this town shovels at you. You want to wear women’s clothes, I’m all for it, help yourself to my closet, whatever Tawny hasn’t looted and pillaged you’re welcome to give it a go, I support you.” She stood from the chair she was sitting in and approached him, her heels making her even taller than her usual five-foot eight height. Autumn had hit the target though, between the sweaterdress, the thigh high suede boots that left only a few inches of leg visible, and her hair up, she looked like some Bond girl… or villain. Looking down at him she cupped his cheeks in her hands and held his head to face up to her in a usual show of jovial friendliness and familiarity. “So, stop being an asshole, kay?” Several quotes about riding tigers and what could happen when trying to get off them ran through Sean's head. Marissa was a tiger. And she certainly didn't have man-hands - she lacked the skintone, but with the sweaterdress and boots, he couldn't help but think, Lana. Thank the Gods he was wearing loose jeans. It was a testament to her charm and presence that he hadn't flinched away when she'd cupped his face, having grown reserved with physical contact and affection as he'd developed, but he slipped free now. Easier to talk and he was starting to get a crink in his neck with her so close, is all. Really. Why did all his friends have to be taller than him? "I'll try," Sean drawled. "I've been burned too many times to not be wary. Like you, I don't trust easily either. It's gonna take me a bit to get used to the nicer sides of you." "Bitch." Friendly smirk. "All my sides are my good sides." Sean snorted, but it wasn't in denial of her claim. "If I have to stop being an asshole, you have to stop being a bitch." Marissa's eyes narrowed and Sean blushed, taking a step back. "I mean, you aren't being a bitch now, at this moment, not really, not towards me, anyway. I meant, in general, turn down the dial, some, on the bitch meter. It'll help make this friends thing go smoother." Marissa didn't precisely harrumph, but she gave the impression she did without making an sound. He considered mentioning Jase, but thought better of it. All things considered, this had gone much better than he imagined it would. "Right. Anyways. Not sure 'bout raiding your closet," Sean remarked dryly, "we don't exactly have the same body type, but maybe I'll ask for some fashion tips some time." He might still think of himself as a guy, but he had grown to accept his appearance. Could even take pride in it, at times. Losing the 'bet' to his sister had been a way to force himself to see what it was like to present himself another way and show that he accepted what he looked like to others. Marissa shrugged nonchalantly, smirk widening a trifle. "Depends how much attention you want, Sean." "Not that much," Sean assured her. Though imagine the looks at Homecoming... Would Kat prefer something like that? I have more than Courtney to- He shook the idle thought away and held out his hand. "Pass me your phone." An imperiously arched brow. "Please?" Marissa snatched her phone from her vanity and handed to the boy. Sean stared at it, his multi-hued eyes almost seeming to glow and after a long moment, he gave a self-satisfied nod and handed it back to Marissa. "There. You have an app called Elbows now." "Elbows?" "Gets you to the front of the line, online, when something new and in limited quality drops. It only lets you get one, though." Marissa studied him, phone in hand tapping her thigh. "I said you didn't owe me a favour." "It wasn't a favour," Sean replied, rocking on his heels, hands stuffed in the pockets of his hoodie. "I have the same app on my phone. Wrote it before all this psionic and terror mojo. Just thought you'd like it." “Very cool,” she nodded her head while looking at the screen of her phone. “Thank you.” She leaned down and he found her lips pressed to his cheek in a soft kiss to show her appreciation. She turned to inspect her lipstick in her mirror, looking back at Sean through his reflection. “But no go on the ‘stop being a bitch’. It’s sort of my thing. I’m willing to offer you a ‘less of a bitch’ deal, but only when I’m not fuming angry at the lot of you because I know somewhere out there is a tree tirelessly producing oxygen for you and I feel you all owe it an apology.” She sat back down, setting her phone on the vanity’s surface and returned to doing her eyes. “The offer doesn’t extend to your bestie, however…” she added as she carefully applied her eyeliner. Sean's mouth opened to protest on Jase's behalf, but closed it before voicing a word. Marissa wasn't going to budge on this and he knew Jason, at least well enough, that he most definitely wasn't right now either. Lips pressed into a tight, crooked line, he nodded as he lifted one shoulder in a shrug. "Fair enough, that's between you and Jase. I'll take deal with the condition I can be a bit of a butthole when you are being more rather than less of a bitch. Unwarranted, of course." "Acceptable," Marissa murmured, not turning away from inspecting her efforts at touching up her applied glamour. "Done and done." There was silent pause that discomfited Sean while seeming to not affect Marissa in the least, but he didn't really have more to say. "Later then. Guess I'll see you this evening. Hopefully it won't be as bad." "Hope." There was something suspiciously like a grunt. "Don't be absurd. Good-bye, Sean." Sean turned to go, but right before he slipped out her bedroom door, he added softly, "Real or not, try not to hurt Cade too much, 'kay?" He closed the door behind him with a gentle click before Marissa could respond, and hustled down the stairs. Faced the tigress in her den and came out with all limbs and protuberances intact. Huzzah. After that, how bad could Site B be? He gave Devin a short wave as he sauntered pass the kitchen. "Later, man. Your sister and I are good now. I think. Hit me up if you want a copy of ReGenesis, and I'll hook you up." Then he was out on the veranda and shuffling towards his car. On the way, he pulled out the card Max had handed to him and flicked it against his palm. He had a call to make before the meeting between the Fellowship, the Parents, and the Project. With a bit more positivity, he was planning with success at Site B.
  23. "Come now." Mr Enterich's smile was thin and wry, his dark eyes on her face. "False humility, Miss Pryor? I think we are both aware that your performance on the college level would be as embarrassing for the opposition as it is here in high school. And yet you have this fascinating adherence to the concept of 'good sportsmanship'..." His head tilted slightly, his eyes widening as some import or thought occurred to him. "If that is indeed what it is. I ask you - is it good sportsmanship to deliberately throw a competition, Lilly? Or is it something more base?" "It's been fun, hasn't it? Being the girl who can compete with the boys. Being the girl who can beat the boys. Fun... and lonely, too, I imagine. Lonely enough to make you doubt your femininity, perhaps. You play the game, you lead them to victory, and then at the end of the day your team-mates go off to enjoy the fruits of victory, with their dates on their arms, free to slip away to a secluded spot and fumble in each other's clothing as Billie Eilish sings and you... you are alone, are you not?" Lilly was frozen, her mouth partly opened to argue, to shoot back a quip, to point out the flaws, to ask him what the hell he knew about it. But she was held by those eyes, noting how they shone despite their dark brown hue. How they seemed to gleam with a cold light from within, light that moved... "And it's the same even away from the field. Your other friends... your special friends. All growing up, all pairing off. You go away to disappoint your parents at the Olympic tryouts and then come back to find that, it seems, everyone has someone. Even Jase has someone. And tonight you all go into hell together. Brave young heroes, off to fight the monsters in the Dark. But you're not even sure you're one of them anymore, are you? Who is your friend there, Lilly? Where was Sean when you turned up to the adorable little training session? He wasn't there. Jase looked at and talked to you like you were a stranger. Devin and Marissa were... Devin and Marissa. Cassandra talked to you a bit, didn't she? Welcomed you back, gave you the lowdown - how she loves to gossip, after all." The cold lights in Enterich's eyes were spinning slightly now, fractured slivers of reflections, like circles made of broken mirror shards in which Lilly could see herself reflected over and over again, lots of tiny solitary Lillys, spinning into infinity... "And what do you really bring to them? Your fears? Your sense of inadequacy? Devin can step through space. Jason can call down fire and ice. You watched them at play, practice fighting and realised that you could not even begin to come close. They can heal, see the future, be one with the machine - you can run really fast and lift weights." The scorn in Enterich's voice matched Lilly's own inner doubts - so much so that for a moment she wondered if she'd simply voiced them aloud. "They're going to depend on you, right up until the point they realise that they don't need you, Lilly. Right up to the point where one or two of them die and they realise that the vaunted quarterback cannot lead them to any sort of victory. And you will see that realisation in their eyes - those that still somewhat believe in you, anyway - and you will watch them all die, helpless as you scream in self-hate and terror." Enterich's voice had taken on a rasping growl on the last sentence, his eyes now bright circles of broken mirrored glass that wheeled and shifted slowly as Lilly stared into them. She wasn't even really conscious of what he was saying anymore. The words ran together into a wash of doubt and fears made manifest. She was insignificant, really. A phony. She had let down her dad at the trials and would let down the coach when she asked to be moved to a less important position on the team, and she would let down her friends. No-one would miss her. She had no special person to hold her, to take comfort in like the others all did. Even amongst the weird outsiders, she was alone.
  24. Pointing out that Jase not really being capable of caring had more to do with biology than courtesy- or reminding Marissa that the "other priorities" she'd mentioned basically consisted of everyone trying not to go crazy or get murdered- wasn't going to get her anywhere, Autumn conceded with an inward sigh. And since Marissa seemed more than capable of shifting a given conversation to her benefit, even a simple, straightforward statement about any of the topics she'd raised could be twisted and transformed in the beautiful socialite's flawlessly-manicured hands as she moulded truth and fiction like a sculptor with so much clay. It didn't help that no matter how much she claimed to not want to talk about him, Shelly High's teen queen kept adeptly turning the subject back to Jason Bannon, almost as if she were daring the redhead to contradict her, or to bring him up herself. Is she? Autumn wondered, copper brows arrowing together briefly in a frown. Marissa could be low-key trying to pick a fight, or to restart the conversation/argument from the training session, or to figure out whether Autumn was going to completely bail on her. Or... none of those things. Or all of them. "If you're going for Lana, try putting your hair up, maybe? The way you just had it. Draws attention to your eyes, I think," she noted as Marissa tested out various hairstyles in the mirror, having averted her eyes politely as she'd finished changing clothes. Even if neither of them was embarrassed, it still felt weird to just watch. It would've been easy to hate the girl for her wealth, her beauty, the sheer enormity of her presence; it was easier to hate her for her personality, though, her best friend acknowledged with a mixture of guilt and resentment. In moments like this, when Marissa was being honest, that seemed unfair. Maybe she really did consider Autumn her only friend. And that just made it harder to tell if the girl she'd seen behind the mask at that sleepover was the real Mari, or if the selfish, self-centered Mantis was. But after the attack that morning, Cassie's revelations, Dale's recovery, and this absolute shitshow of a "meeting," it was kind of hard to find the energy to care. Even being angry had mostly subsided into impotent frustration, and obviously, Marissa felt more or less the same way. Or didn't feel. Or whatever. Hell, maybe they were all... not coping. Maybe that was okay. Or, maybe it was better to just keep moving forward, even if it meant some things got left behind. "And, yeah," she agreed finally, half-consciously reaching for the drawstring of her hoodie before she caught herself and sighed; that was gonna be hard to get used to. "Yeah, I'll text you. I was thinking of doing a thing this weekend, like a camping trip for everybody, but..." With a rueful half-smile tugging at one corner of her mouth, the restless red-haired girl shrugged again. "I guess we'll see. Anyway." She glanced toward the window, through which the late afternoon sunlight filtered in a hazy golden glow. "You need to get ready, and my ride's waiting, so... See you at the next catastrophe." The crooked smile faded, replaced with a slightly more genuine, if taut one, as Autumn gave a quick wave and headed back downstairs.
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