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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. Marissa, Week of Labor Day/Ep. VI: Off-Camera: Marissa will be memorizing and practicing the cheer playbook for the Homecoming game. At school she will be behind the scenes using her special brand of rumormongering to slowly repair the reputations of Sean, Laurie and Lilly. Her plan is elevate their status by the Homecoming game, at the minimum (and if the team wins, it might further help Lilly and Laurie.) School and After-School Vignettes: Wednesday: School. Burgers after school with Jacob Lilly. Thursday: No school. Charlie's funeral. Nothing planned, but Marissa will take to doing her homework down in the Branch-9 facility where it’s quieter and more friendly than her home. Mostly after hours when only the watch staff is on duty. Friday: School. Marissa will be searching for her brother, wondering if anyone has heard anything from him. Homework in the Branch-9 base, where she will stay as late as she can before returning home. Saturday: Marissa disappears. Sunday: Marissa is gone. TBD: Work with both Annette and Taggart on developing a proper training regiment for herself and her brother. Get tested to discover her capabilities and limitations regarding her abilities. Save her post before talking to Annette about the Library of Shadows side-quest so she can reload and learn the most beneficial conclusion.
  3. Devin, Week of Labor Day/Ep. VI: Off-Camera: Devin will dedicate a lot of time to recovery, giving his self time for his injuries from the fight with Not-Cody to heal. He will continue his usual workouts, but at a lighter pace as to not aggravate any of his existing injuries. School and After-School Vignettes: Wednesday: School. After school he will go visit Tawny in the hospital. Thursday: No school. Charlie's funeral. If Cassie’s player is around and able to commit to the time, Devin and Cassie could get together later that evening. If Cassie’s player is not available, Devin disappears right after the funeral. Friday: Devin will be gone. Saturday: Devin will be gone. Sunday: Devin will be gone. TBD: Devin will approach Taggart about proper training. Devin will need more that +1 Harsh Language and Witty Quips to defeat The Dark and if the military isn't smart enough to realize that, then he'll come to accept that they are fucking retarded and seek out Cade's grandfathers in the hopes they will train him in the ways of Murder, Death, Kill. Get the plans for Site B and begin reviewing and memorizing the lay out and working with the other specialists and officers on a plan for breaching the facility. He will also perform distance recon to survey the site and understand it's exterior. Co-Op/Multiplayer with Marissa on the Library of Shadows side-quest.
  4. ( Collab w/ Dave) Lilly stood at her locker, having parted ways with Sean as they each made their way to their lockers to get ready for class. The athletic brunette stood there, looking at the text books leaning against one another in her locker, and for a moment could not remember which she needed to grab. It had been a long night, one which she would not care to remember, and she was certainly tired for the lack of sleep for a few days now. She certainly could have stayed home today, but a small part of her was determined to not let Enterich 'win', as it were, and hide in bed all day. Finally she remembered which books to grab and slipped them into her pack, closing the locker door with a sigh. As the door closed she caught sight of Marissa walking town the hall, strangely alone and... quiet? Subdued? Lilly managed a weary smile and a small, wave to Mari. Lily's brunette counterpart, the evil to Lily's purity, the dark to her light, certainly appeared to care less today than she ever had previously. Still, instead of just passing Lily by in the hall she opted to instead, narrow her eyes and then roll them in either frustration or irritation. Marissa didn't wave back at the sheepish attempt Lily had made to greet her. Instead she walked up to her and simply curled an eyebrow upward in her usual mocking appraisal. Still, she said nothing. Finally, she reached out and grabbed Lily by her arm and pulled her along, cueing her to follow. "Wow." She said lazily. "You look like hell." Lilly blinked in surprise as Marissa pulled on her arm, leading her by it. Be it the lack of sleep, the anxiety, mental fatigue or any other factors of combination of thing, Lilly's usual more friendly and diplomatic speech was nowhere to be found. "No shit. I haven't haven't slept, no real sleep, for days." she replied, her initial indignant tone quickly fading. "My head's still so messed up." "Seeing my sarcasm and raising me sass," the evil brunette almost grinned, but she wasn't in the mood for it, not today. "I like you better without sleep." She led her into one of the female restrooms where a few of their classmates has chosen to get ready for classes in front of the large mirror. There was a pause the two ladies entered, like it must be some manner of prank for Shelly High's star athlete and it's Goddess of Cruelty to be both be blessing their rest room at exactly the same time. After a slight pause to allow them a moment to marvel at the blessing of their presence, Marissa tightened her jaw line and authoritatively demanded. "Vacate plebs." "Now," she demanded a forcefully a moment later and the two watched as lower classmates practically stumbled over one another to get the hell out of there as quickly as possible, some letting their faces remain half finished of makeup, and filtered passed them in a hurried line that refused to make any more eye contact than was humanly possible. "You didn't have to be mean to them," Lily added, he voice echoing slightly in the newly emptied school restroom acoustics. She led her over to the mirror and set her bag on the surface by on one of the sinks. "No, I didn't." She admitted. "Nor do you have to look like you just rolled out of bed without sleeping a wink for several night, yet here we are." She produced some concealer, a soft brush and a neutral colored headband and without asking simply began dabbing the dark rings under Lily's eyes. "People are always looking for weaknesses, Lily. No matter how defeated we appear, always look like you're winning." She dabbed away, prepping the concealment of her weariness with a light application. "This might take a second," She said after a few moments of silence. "It's not much but it will help, for today, anyway." "Thanks." Lilly simply sighed in unfiltered sincerity. She was caught off guard by the random act of kindness from Mari, not because she could not be kind though, a Lilly had seen that Marissa could be kind and was kind, her her own way, more often than it seemed the others recognized. In this case it was simply so unexpected. Here she was in the bathroom with Mari doing her makeup to try to help her look better. Some would say it was just Mari protecting her own image by making sure those she was around looked their best, or at least 'good' as it were, and to be be fair, that probably was a small part of it, but in the moment it just felt more like a genuine act kindness shared between the two young women. Lilly glanced at the mirror and then did a double take. "That's.. You're really good." Lilly said as she leaned close to check her seemingly refreshed eyes. "I mean, I shouldn't be surprised. Just look at you, not that you need makeup though." "More than you think," she replied coldly. She still, for all intents and purposes was dealing with her own issues and wasn't much for going into soul-searching with Lily in the freshman bathroom. "From the makeup to the work outs, beauty is not a maintenance-free gift. Like athleticism, neglect it and it neglects you. Still, my brother hasn't been getting much sleep either. He's still randomly jaunting about the house in panicked fits in his sleep trying to escape whatever it was that chased him for hours in that... place. I sympathize, I suppose. It messed him up pretty bad, and Enterich has been in my head too, to a lighter degree, I suppose as most things that make you revile in horror probably turn me on." Lily wasn't sure if that was humor or not, as Marissa's deadpan tone and expression were currently impossible to read. She handed her the brush and slid the hairband to her. "Fix yourself." As Lily began grooming Marissa placed the other items back in her bag. "I know it's just words, Lily, and I won't claim to understand what you went through, that's yours and yours alone to come to terms with, but everyday people are looking for weaknesses. In you. In me. Your problems? Twenty percent don't care, and eighty percent are glad they're yours, so no matter how bad it gets in your head always carry yourself like you're winning." "Get a boyfriend or something," she added suddenly, allowing herself a devilish smirk as personal topics like who Lily was dating she knew would make the prudish athlete flush in all manner of roses. "What about that guy you're going to homecoming with? He might cheer you up. Get you some, girl. Can't say 'happiness' without saying 'penis'. "Will?" Lilly asked as she stopped for a moment and turned from the mirror to Marissa, he cheeks flushed. "He's a decent guy I guess," she said with a shrug, "but there's just nothing there." Lilly turned back to the mirror as as she continued talking, "and besides, there's not exactly a line to date me, not after all rumors and crap that's been spread. I mean, yeah, they cheer me when i bring home a win on the football field, but it's like, I dunno, only because I'm useful to them. at least, that's part of what Enterich said, and to be honest, there's more than a little truth to it." Lilly lowered her hand with the brush and looked at herself in the mirror for a moment, meeting her own gaze before shaking her head, not wanting to dwell on it if she could avoid it. "Anyways," she sighed, "there's only a people I have any interest in, and the girl's bathroom is not the place to be sharing it." "Of course there is some truth to them, Lily," she rest her hip against the counter top, arms folded in constant appraisal of Lilly both physically and mentally. She'd read all of her mother's books on psychology and scarily understood more of how the the mind worked than most young women her age ever should. "If there wasn't then they wouldn't have any power over you." She didn't didn't preach the topic, she knew Lilly was smart enough to understand how her own head worked. She'd trained for the Olympics and more than anyone in Shelly knew the power of self-discipline and the mantra of 'just one more'. Still, like Autumn, a handful of Lilly's were born from Marissa's cruel pranks and selfish desires. "This, however, is high school, Lilly. Popularity and public opinion are mercurial, at best. I suppose a portion of that is my fault." Lilly knew that probably as close to an apology as she was going to get. "I can handle the rumors for you, I can squash the public option and fix your reputation by week's end." "The rest is on you, girlfriend." She was silent for a moment before narrowing her eyes and finally saying. "You know what? My afternoon schedule cleared up. Jacob would rather play twenty questions instead of coming to have a burger with me, so why don't you fill his place. Getting out might do you some good. Talking, even if it's about nothing in particular, might help. We will find Enterich, we will beat him, and we will show him why they name storms after women, but until that time comes we need to eat and talk shit about boys, so burger later?" "Well then he sounds like a dumbass." Lilly said with a faint hint of a smile tugging at the corners of her lips for the first time all morning. "Sure. These last couple of weeks have been..." she said, her voice trailing off a bit as she thought about things, but then shook her head, as if she were tossing them from her mind. "Chillin' with you over burgers and fries sounds great." Lilly looked at herself in the mirror and nodded. "And thanks for this too. What you said, the help, all of it. It really helps. Seriously." "Idiocy is not something this town lack in," she dismissively shrugged. "I'm friends with Jacob's friends and it's obvious he doesn't like me at all. I figured us getting to know each other better might help to clear the air. Oh, well. We miss a hundred percent of the shots we don't take, and he blew his." Lilly finished her hair and slid the band in place to keep her bangs out of her eyes. Marissa drooped the brush back in her bag as her athletic counterpart handed it to her. "I've only told you what you already know, but," she seemed to hesitant to express the next piece of her mind, but after a moment of hesitation she continued on. "You're welcome." She glanced at her phone and slid several messages aside. "We're going to be late." “What are you talking about? Marissa Jauntsen is never late, nor is she early. She arrives precisely when she means to.” Lilly said with a faint smile, looking for any sign of recognition of the quote she played off of from Marissa and then reached down, slung her bag over her shoulder and gave herself one last look over in the mirror with an exhale, as if she were steeling herself to step back out into a battle once more. Lilly wanted to say a little more, but with time being an issue, she set it aside for not. At the moment, there other things she needed to try and focus on to make it through the school day and make up for her prior absence. "Shall we?" Lilly asked as she walked over toward the door to open it for Marissa.
  5. Morning practice was cut short, The Coaching staff cutting the team loose just after seven fifteen. It was hardly worth suiting up for, but he figured it had to be important if they were doing it. He arranged to meet with Marissa and got a shower, changing back into regular clothing before grabbing his pack to meet Marissa. He got there a few minutes before he'd said to meet, so he stood waiting for her. There'd been a part of him that had wondered if she'd come to school today, but it seemed he needn't have worried on that front. Everywhere else, though, he wasn't sure of at all. She approached, looking like a million bucks, as always. In a black, knee-length pencil skirt with a white turtleneck black suede wedge-heeled ankle boots and her long hair kept from he face by a matching black hairband, Shelly's Queen of Mean looked fairly out of place amongst the other early gym-goers who were exiting the locker rooms and preparing for class. This close to the gym, or the locker rooms, for that matter, were really not her preferred place to be this early in the morning, but thankfully she wasn't the one who had to be up at 6am doing push-ups and running back and forth on the field. Still, she was a cheerleader now and would be representing their school at the Homecoming game, so she figured it was about time she got used to the various... smells. She approached him, holding the straps of her bag that was slung over her shoulder in both hands. "Hey," she said to him, her voice low and her overall demeanor seeming akin to a sloth on tranquilizers. He smiled slightly at her greeting. "Even when you're not feeling your best, you still manage to find time to look great Marissa." It was a real compliment, not just idle flattery. He drew closer to her, but didn't try to put his arm around her, seeing her so "sedate" seemed to be a warning in and of itself. "I'm glad you're here today though. The way things were going when I last saw you, I wasn't wholly sure." His own mother had had serious words for both Cade and his father. It was easily the most angry he'd ever seen his step-mother. "Is there anything you'd like to do before class?" He wanted to talk, but at the same time, somewhere public probably wasn't the best place, considering. He silently wished he'd thought about that before having asked her to just meet him here. "No." She replied flatly. Her phone vibrated and she slipped it from her bag and glanced at it before turning her perfectly shadowed eyes back upon him. "Is there anything you'd like to do before class?" He nodded. "Yeah, there is, but thinking about it, here's probably not the best place to have that conversation. Do you mind walking with me abit? I figure there's nobody in the bleachers, we can have abit of privacy there." "Sure," she said somberly as she ticked off a reply to whomever had texted her. Following him to the bleachers it seemed like a typical morning of school as most they passed the other students save that today everyone was abuzz with rumors and whispers about all the daring-do and heroics the mundanes knew absolutely nothing about. A part of her felt sickened in a sense, that she was superior to these people in every possible way and yet... she was tasked to save them. Why? They just just go on to fuck everything up all over again anyways. yet, Coyote had assured her that there were reasons for everything and if she just held out for as long as possible, everything would make sense. Doubtful, but aside from a funeral, she had nothing else going on this week. As they arrived at the bleachers she refused to sit (not in her skirt). Phone in hand she looked at him as he took a seat. "So?" The Direct approach it would be. "So your brother outed the "truth" about our relationship to everyone. Where does that leave the two of us? Neither of us denied it, and while other things were certainly going on, you can bet that wasn't missed by Jason. I'm not asking because I want out. I did enjoy what time we did get to spend together. What I want is to know what you'd like to do about it, if anything. I don't need an answer this second, or expect one. Maybe this seems a minor thing to be concerned with, but to me it isn't." "I was actually looking forward to going to Homecoming with you, and was planning on actually asking you to go with me before this all blew up like it did." "It's not your fault my brother is an asshole." she inhaled deeply and relaxed a bit, still she showed no sign of real emotion or concern for anything he'd just said. She wasn't mad or angry or even the slightest bit frustrated with Cade at all. He'd seen her irritated and this was not that, this attitude was something else entirely. "Jason doesn't concern me," she continued. "Nor the others. "We agreed 'until Homecoming' and it would look bad if the Quarterback got dumped just a few days after we started dating. Who I fuck and fake-date is no one's business but mine and the person I'm fucking and fake-dating." "I'll admit, I wasn't planning on attending Homecoming, but you reminded me that we had an agreement and I'll honor it." She raised a hand to stem any forming retorts before they could begin. "Do not tell me I 'don't have to do this if I don't want to' and all that nonsense. I know. If I didn't want to, I simply wouldn't. So, yeah, Homecoming. Sure." Cade's smile grew, showing he was actually happy with that response. "Cool then. I'll do my best to make sure we both have fun." She did have him pretty well figured out, he wasn't looking to force her into anything, but if she was game for it, then so was he. She'd made it sound like a business deal, reminding him exactly where they stood. He'd probably misread things before, certainly wasn't like he'd had alot of experience in this. "So that gives me at least a small bit of peace of mind. Is there anything I can do to return the favor?" This calm and Sedate Marissa was a new thing, and while it was far more bearable than Raging Bitch mode, it was still concerning nonetheless. Cade wanted to help her if he could. "No." She said after a small pause to consider his offer. "I'm fine." He knew she was anything but fine, but pressing his luck was a bad idea he felt. "Okay, Marissa. You know how to reach me if that changes, any time." He got up, and offered her his hand. "I can at least walk you to class today. As for Lunch, I brought mine today, so if you'd like to eat together, we can." It was his way of saying he'd like to eat with her today, more than he would like to sit at the same table he usually did with the Fellowship. "Thank you, but I can see myself there," she said while glancing at her phone. "There's still something I need to do and Courtney is blowing up my phone. I'll see you in class." Without a 'bye' or a kiss or... anything, she just walked away like the conversation was forgotten didn't really matter, or even happen. His assumption was right, she was far from okay, but obviously wasn't in the mood to discuss it. If she had lunch plans, she sure didn't share them before walking off. Cade put his hand down, and watched her go, and could only wonder what else had happened after they'd all parted last night. "Damn." he muttered softly once she was gone, and made his own way to class. ( Collaboration with Dave)
  6. If people were talking Shelly’s Queen couldn’t hear them. The sullen melody of music that played through her iPods all but drowned out those of lesser she status she passed by in the halls but she still noticed how they pointed, whispered and watched her as she walked past. The battle with Not-Cody had placed a lot of things into perspective for the gorgeous starlet of the small Montana town and the fight with her mother last night had certainly cemented more and more of her changing ideas as she retreated to her bedroom last night wracked with anger. She had argued with Devin last night too, she was certainly still mad at him, but regretted some of the things she’d said and knew that the two of them would need a few days to calm down. She loved her brother and while he was never against her he was also never truly on her side either, always willing to give her the tough love she needed to crack the crystalline blur of her own spite and pettiness. She loved him for it, but that didn’t make him any less of an asshole. She swiftly keyed the combo to her locker using the school combo keys she and her brother bought of Amazon. Students were not allowed to own them, obviously, but they were a hell of a time saver. Benjamin Burnley continued to sing in her ears as she selected first few books and accessories, she’d need for the first few hours of classes as she hated making continuous stops to her locker. “So,” Tammy slithered up to Marissa’s locker. “Guess who stood down from the Cheersquad last night? Katie’s mom called and told my mom that she’d decided that cheer leading might be a bit too dangerous for her and that leaves us an opening. I thought I’d be the first one to tell you.” Marissa plucked the iPod from her ear that closest to Tammy. “What?” With a sigh and a roll of her eyes Tammy repeated herself. “Guess who stepped down from the cheersquad?” “Katie did.” Marissa said simply, having already known the answer. “I spoke to her yesterday and she agreed to step down from performing any of the more complicated cheers.” “Wait, what?” Tammy sneered. “In return, I get her spot on the squad, and she is still an honorary member of the squad, goes with us to all the games and is permitted to cheer the team on, in uniform I might add, keeps her accreditations in the chance she wants to attend a university later.” The Ice Queen of Shelly’s voice was to monotone and matter-of-fact that it sent a chill down Tammy’s spine. There was something off about Marissa today, her composure was on point but her words, her posture… her everything, just seemed hollow and empty. “Um,” she pressed her palm into her chest, addressing herself as she spoke. “I don’t recall agreeing to any of that. If deals are going to be made, as the head of the cheer squad, I have a right to know and frankly, I say no way. No offense, but if you want to cut deals, you should have come to me first. We’re not-“ “Already done.” Marissa replied with all the mirth of Wednesday Addams. “I spoke with the principal and the coaches already. They think it’s a great idea. It shows the school is accommodating to students with special needs, allows Katie to keep participating in something she enjoys, and avoids any unfortunate lawsuits should she attempt to perform beyond her capabilities.” She closed her locker, having slid the last few books she needed within her designer school bag, plucked the other iPod from her opposite ear and slipped them back in their charging case before dropping them right in the bag along with everything else. “Oh, and she sits at the cheer table during lunch with us for the rest of the season.” Tammy’s jaw dropped in abject horror at the notion of allowing Uggo-Katie sit with the cheer team at lunch times. “Why are you doing this!? She’s a fucking freak, Marissa and-“ “And what?” The empty, icy glare in Marissa’s eyes carried the same weight of certain tall, lanky junior at their school who was fond of hay hooks and wonton violence. She leaned towards Tammy causing the cheer leader press backwards into the lockers until she couldn’t press any further. He head hazy, heavy almost as Marissa’s voice seemed to vibrate in her skull instilling her with doubt, worry and fear. “I’m a freak too? Because I don’t want the crown anymore? Because I hang with nerds? Katie is alone and surrounded by people that, no matter what, are always going to hate her. I know what that’s like. Now,” she slung her bag up over her shoulder and turned away. Tammy was too shaken to notice he pinkish-violet shimmer the cascaded through Marissa’s eyes. “I’ve something to go take care of. If anything about that deal doesn’t strike you as acceptable, just pick a hill to die on and I’ll meet you there.” With that Marissa was already on her way to meet up with Cade, leaving her mojo to swirl and stew in Tammy’s mind.
  7. The grey of predawn was broken by a pale sun rising above the horizon, a faint breeze keeping the morning cool still. Despite the chill, Sean's rich red hair had already darkened with effort, sweat stains beginning to spread at the small of his back and the pits of his shirt. Sean's huffing breath was the only sound beyond the rustling of the leaves behind the Barn as he strained to finish one last push-up. He could barely remember the last time he'd done a push-up, but he'd certainly been carrying less weight on his chest then. Lilly had told him to just do as many as he comfortably could, and while having no illusions about how athletic he was - or nonathletic, rather - he didn't want to come across as a complete wuss. Slim arms trembling, he finished one more. Gasping, heavy chest heaving, Sean sat back on his heels and shook out his arms before grasping a water bottle and chugging it, wishing it was coffee or an energy drink. It was way too early to be this active. He looked up at the taller, far more physically gifted teen. "I... lost... count. How many was that? Twenty-nine? Thirty?" He dumped some of the water on his head, brushing it through his damp hair with his fingers. "Just tell me whatever's next doesn't need my arms." It had been another difficult night for Lilly. For the last couple of nights she had actually begun to dread falling asleep, because sleep did not offer the, restful, peaceful respite it usually did and instead would drag her back down into a pit of her fears which Mr. Enterich had so expertly drawn to the surface and magnified. Eventually though the long fingers of fatigue would grip Lilly and she and drag her back down until she inevitably would startle awake once again, heart racing, body covered in sweat, tears racing down her cheeks, or some combination there of. Finally, early in the morning, she showered, packed her backpack, dressed and waited for her mother who, after she had instead on going to school today, relented but only if she drove Lilly herself. Begrudgingly, Lilly had agreed and eventually the pair had made there way into town to Sean's house, after Lilly had explained she had agreed to help him improve his fitness. Now she was here, at least physically, if not all together mentally. She was much more subdued as well, her usual smile gone for now, replaced with an almost passionless mask. "Eleven." she stated simply as she brought her full attention back to the present and her friend. At Sean's frown she shook her head and raised her hand. "Relax. We all start somewhere, so don't concern yourself with what others can do or feel bad about where you are. You've already taken the biggest step, and that's deciding to address your personal fitness. So you run your own race and don't concern yourself with others." she reassured him before continuing, "The goal for now is to just get you functionally fit, so nothing crazy to worry about. Most of that will be simple circuit training. Essentially simple cardio and exercises in small reps, and no real equipment is even needed, so you can do it here or anywhere. And nothing I am gonna give you is gonna to destroy you, but it will be a workout." "For example, Sprint here to there," Lilly said as she pointed a fence post a distance off, "and come back, plank for fifteen seconds, then do fifteen squats, then sprint there and come back again, then fifteen crunches and fifteen push ups. That is one full circuit. Try to do the fifteen of each exercise, but if you can't, then don't kill yourself trying. Just move on to the next one and keep going. With time and reps you will do better and better." Sean nodded his understanding, though with the distant look in his eyes as he recovered from his push-ups, Lilly at first wasn't sure if he had heard her. But he had, and was all for not needing any extra equipment and being able to to do the workout and exercises pretty much anywhere. "Okay, I got it," he said, nodding again and steadying his ragged breathing. If he noticed Laurie giving him a long pointed look as she walked to the Corolla with their mother, he gave no sign of it. Sean looked up at Lilly, arching a put upon brow. "And I'm suppose to do this every day?" Lilly lips curved minutely with wryness. "Well, sure, you can have a cheat day here or there, or a regular rest day, but yeah, pretty much every day, Sean. Look, how often do you write code, software, any kind?" "Every day," Sean admitted. "Some, at least, barring any sort of exceptional circumstance." "This is the same. You just need to make it into a routine. It'll get easier, you'll get better at it, and eventually, it'll just be a part of your day. But until then..." The superhuman athlete nodded towards the fence post. "... it starts as hard work. Now run." Sean gave a shirt straining sigh. "I hate the running the most." But gamely, he sprinted towards the post and back, and worked his way through the circuit. His form started out rather terrible, Lilly giving him suggestions and sometimes using a hand to correct him. He couldn't quite prevent himself from stiffening when she touched him, despite knowing she was helping him, especially when she was still working through her own troubles. Asking her to demonstrate was way more enlightening, even if it was blindingly obvious he'd never be in Lilly's league no matter how much he worked at it. He wouldn't even reach Teagan's level, and maybe not Laurie's - not without out a lot of chemical aid and perhaps psionic cheating, perhaps. But being able to see the bioelectric activity through Lilly's nervous system, that awareness seeming to expand to better understand the play of muscle and tendon, certainly helped. He had to adapt of course, his body just couldn't move the way Lilly's did, it was basic mechanics. But by the time he finished his circuit to Lilly's satisfaction, he didn't feel like a fish flopping around on land anymore. He didn't push himself as much as he had at first, just getting the hang of the movements and exercises, keeping his sets balanced and planning on gradually increasing them. Still, when he was done, he was tired, and they were almost running late. Sean barely had time to clean up a little, change his clothes, fill a thermos of coffee and offer Lilly one,, and grab a banana for breakfast before they had to go. Loose and leaden limbed, it took more effort than usual to climb up behind the wheel of his Grand Cherokee. The pair of unlikely friends were quiet on the drive to school, Sean glancing at Lilly covertly from the corner of his eye as he pushed the speed limit. She'd been uncharacteristically somber this morning. He understood way, some, and felt another pang of guilt. "I never thought you had abandoned us, Lilly," Sean said when the silence became too overbearing. "I just figured something came up that you believed needed your attention more. And I never thought you might have been in trouble, like, real trouble. I mean, you're... you. Even before all this..." He waved an encompassing hand, "it seemed like you could handle anything." Sean frowned in contemplation and self-recrimination. "But after Charlie, and now what happened with Jase, and Enterich, any of us are vulnerable. We - I - should have checked on you. Even to just say hi and see if you could make it to gaming. And I'm sorry for that." He exhaled tiredly. "Dunno if our weekly gaming sessions are even going to continue now, with everything that's going on." Lilly, who had been looking out the passenger side window as they drove, turned to look at Sean for a moment. "What could've possibly just 'come up' that was more important than a battle against the Darkness for the soul of Shelly, or reality, or whatever, that I wouldn't call or text one of you to let you know what came up and why I wouldn't be there, and that I could handle by myself? Like, seriously dude." Lilly let that question soak in for a moment and shook her head. "I'm not angry with you or the others. At least, I don't think I am, but right now I'm so worn out that almost don't know if I am coming or going, so who knows? It just... hurt. I mean, we all kinda thought the same about Charlie. None of us really checked up on him either, me included." she explained, adding, "But we also hadn't just heard about one of being killed right before either." Lilly sighed. "Anyways..." Lilly said, refocuses her thoughts as best she could. "I believe you. It's fine. It was a mistake. They happen." she said to ease her friend's fears. "We just need to do better, all of us, me included. So don't worry about it. We'll do better."
  8. Jason, 0720 He ran laps of the football field, pushing himself as he always did to move that little bit faster, to do that extra lap within the time he allotted for his run. He wasn't the only runner who made a habit of getting in his daily laps at the school before breakfast - but he was the only one not a member of one of Shelly High's various athletics teams. At his ground-eating lope he passed some girls hoping to make first line for the soccer team, encouraging each other, faces red and sweating as they jogged steadily around the field. Then he smoothly overtook two of the football squad, his lean form cutting past them like a whippet past a couple of labradors. He wasn't the fastest or most tireless athlete at Shelly High - before all the weirdness, that honour would likely have gone to a coin toss between Cade or Lilly. Now it was likely Lilly, given the superhuman boost she had acquired to her physique. But even with those titans of athleticism set aside, Autumn had more boundless energy, Devin, with his acrobats training, had more grace in motion. If there was a word to describe Jason Bannon's athleticism, it would be tenacious. There was a determined implacability in how he ran: sure-footed, fleet, focused on what he was doing as though running down quarry, a participant in a chase in which the outcome would be inevitable. Other teenagers trained their bodies for all manner of reasons. As a hobby - something they'd gotten into and enjoyed doing and so kept up. Some trained to take part in prestigious competitions or win places on school teams. Some were just active and energetic, always running, never seeing a river they didn't want to swim or a cliff they didn't want to climb to the top of. Some were tired of being out of condition, weak or fat, picked on by others or wanting more self-respect. And for some, it was their solace against the world, the place where they set the pace and the standards, and didn't have to worry about anyone else. Jason, from early adolescence, had deliberately taken to training his body for the same reason he trained his mind - to sharpen it, to hone it so it would do the bidding of his Will when he desired it to. To be slow, to be stupid, or to be oblivious was to be prey, some deep instinct had informed him early in his life - and having observed the piranha tank of school life, such an instinct was certainly accurate, even if the dangers were not necessarily mortal. Now, though, his innate philosophy had been proven even more correct. If he had been just a little less observant, a little slower in putting the clues together, he would be dead from yesterday's attempt on his life. The only thing that had saved him was the suspicion roused by the marshal wearing gloves in summer. And even then, he'd have died if not for others. And today... Today he'd been very alert on the drive to school. Was very alert now, in fact. Not jumpy, or paranoid, no. Aware would be the best term to use. He could almost feel people's eyes on him, almost hear the buzz of their whispers as he loped around the track. More, he was very aware of... Well, everything. He felt more in tune with things, generally. As he finished his run and stepped off the track, hands on his hips and breathing deeply, out of habit he let his third eye focus on the world around him. As he'd thought, something had changed. Before, he just had a vague sense of Radiance - emanating from every living thing, a warm golden light. Now, he found he could look at a person and see their personal Radiance, that spark of life, soul, whatever one could call it. Anima, perhaps. Interesting. Taking a moment as he put himself through slow stretches, he fell deeper into the semi-trance, extending this sixth sense out. Before, that vague sense of Radiance had only extended outwards so far - perhaps a thousand meters. Now... he blinked, falling out of the trance and stumbling a step mid-stretch. Looking around, he sat down on the grass and closed his eyes once more, focusing more intently. A sea of candle flames spread out for kilometers around him. Each one, he instinctively knew, was a person, each with that life spark. Here and there brighter ones, their steady glow more intense, stood out from the flickering flames around them. The Fellowship, it had to be. Each of them was a small star, almost occluding the flames near them. He narrowed his focus down, recalling when Cassie had shown him how she perceived the world. Yes. Insects, plants - motes of glowing plankton-sized lights in and around the brighter flames and the even more brilliant stars. And there, in the center of Shelly... no flames, scant plankton. The shadow left around the Old Town Hall. Not as broodingly malevolent as once it had been, it was still an unsightly blotch to his new way of seeing. This intrigued him. Some of the others had manifested multiple categories of 'gift' - Cassie and Kat both having telepathy in addition to their main schticks. for example, and Autumn sharing Charlie's ability to sense living things at a distance - so it wasn't strange that he, too, was suddenly experiencing a new development. It was very similar to Cassandra's initial manifestation of power - some manner of clairvoyance or ESP. Something else to evaluate and explore, definitely. For now, though, he stood up, finished his stretches as swiftly as was practical and, turning, headed for the showers. Autumn had texted him saying she'd see him at breakfast, and teasingly poked him to bring coffee. Mysteries of new abilities were all very well, but they could wait in the face of a freckled nose crinkling up in a smile and wide, blue eyes framed by red-gold fire.
  9. Devin had barely said two words to his sister after the arguments from the night before. Marissa and their mother were shouting at each other for a couple hours and when that was over the younger twin retired to the upstairs and started on her brother. It was probably the loudest they’d been with each other since they were, ten? Twelve, maybe? They didn’t fight often but when they did it was obvious in the telling behavior that both seemed ‘off’ in some way. The usual ‘synched’ nature by which they, as twins always seemed to move in, think in, talk in, just wasn’t there and they seemed like two totally different people let loose from a hive mind; confused and overwhelmed by the world around them, alone and exposed. That was how Devin felt now, alone and exposed as he walked down the halls of the school towards his locker taking in the gossip about the week’s events. He was a hero in one tale, Jason and Autumn were the hero in another and somewhere in it all he just stopped listening… or caring… he wasn’t sure which happened first but by the time he got to his locker he felt like the only person in the school, just alone and uncaring. “Wow,” Courtney’s voice broke the melancholy silence and deepening void of his empty locker. “So much hate and anger. Are you going all darkside, Devin? You would be so hot as a goth. I will personally buy you your first pair of leather pants and mesh shirt, I swear to God.” His shoulders slumped and he sighed, rolling his eyes as he turned to face her. “What’re you talking about?” She waved her palms in circles all around his space. “This, dude, woah. You are all kinds of out of whack. What the hell happened?” The lovely redhead meant his aura, the emotional state that she easily read from people that only her and an exceedingly rare few others could read. She saw emotions like colors and waves of heat or coolness that wafted from an individual. “Are you okay? C’mon, it’s Courtney, talk to me. I even have black eyeliner if you want to borrow it.” “Nothing to talk about, I’m fine.” He lied with the select choice of words that told the listener everything was far from fine. “And I don’t want any eyeliner, Christ. My parents had a meltdown after the meeting last night. Marissa and I are not to be involved in any thrilling heroics and can only,” he paused and looed around, noticing that they were really the only two in ear shot. Still, he lowered his voice and leaned closer to her. “Use the Project’s facilities to test our abilities to make sure there are not physical or mental drawbacks.” Courtney raised an eyebrow and looked at him like he was delusional. “Seriously?” “Yeah,” she thinks we’re going to teleport to Fiji and get cancer from the trip or something, I don’t know.” He turned back to his locker and began setting his things for the day inside. “I don’t know, she’s crazy, hon. Probably just looking for some way to turn royalties from us, who knows?” “Shit.” She curled her nose pouted her lips a bit. “Sorry, Deej. Wish there was something I could do. Hey, cuddle therapy later?” She gleefully giggled in his ear. “Always works for me.” “I’m not sleeping with you, Courtney,” he smirked, shaking his head at her persistence. She shrugged and backed away, grinning herself. “Today.” She corrected him. “I’ll wear you down.” She nudged him with her elbow. “Kidding… kinda, but hey if you need someone to talk to, I’m here. Where’s Em?” “Dunno,” he shrugged, still placing his books in his locker. “We’re not talking right now.” “Oh, shit,” she took a step back and placed her fingertip on her chest to express her shock. “God damn, what the hell is going on in this school? You two are thick as thieves.” “After the fight with our mom last night she came in and started on me. We fought.” He didn’t look at her but stopped his organizing of the day and shook his head. “Like, really had it out. We’ve only done it a few times in our lives, but we’re getting older. The words are harsher, the buttons we’re going for are easier to press. It was bad Courtney, I mean bad.” “You want me to go talk with her?” She showed more care and concern in her voice than usual. With the excising of the tree and the cancer that it brought to Shelly, she’d felt like a haze had been lifted, a weight from her shoulders, so to speak. She could think clearer, and generally had felt better about her mental health in the last forty-eight hours than she had in years. “No, it’s fine,” finally he turned to face her, his tone was still barely more than a groan. “She needs a day or so to calm down, I do too, I think. Things are just,” just then another redhead approached. Laurie Cassidy looked rather basic and plain by comparison to the fiery goddess of fashion and popularity that was Courtney Adams. Her jeans didn’t stack up to the expensive skirt Courtney wore and her tee shirt was laughable in the presence of the designer red top Shelly’s second-hottest student was wearing… and she wasn’t even going to consider the designer push-up lingerie underneath it all that made every curve of her body pop and got her into all the college parties. Devin offered the new arrival a nod to acknowledge her. “Messed up, right now, you know? Probably best to leave it be for now.” “As you say,” the beautiful redhead said with an uncaring shrug. She side-eyed Laurie and permitted herself an evil smirk at the sophomore’s expense. “Seems someone wants to talk to you, so I think I’ll go find your sister and do the exact opposite of what you suggested.” “Thaaanks,” he replied with a slow drawl. “Appreciate that.” “Cassidy,” Courtney smiled to Laurie after her acknowledgement and offered Devin a ‘mwah’ before strutting off. “Adams.” She shared her brother’s dislike of Courtney. After years of bullying and torment from Shelly’s equivalent of aristocracy, she harbored no positive opinions of her fellow redhead. Still, a part of her was anxious and even envious of the entitled little tart. She was good friends with Devin and was an example of the sorts of women he hung around with. Although she hated to admit it, over the last few weeks Laurie had found herself developing a small crush on Devin and despite knowing how ludicrous that sounded (even in her head), still, she knew what an attraction felt like, and this was it. It sucked too. Now she couldn’t help comparing herself to all the other women Devin hung around with and keep making comparisons of them to herself. Courtney was beautiful and although lacking in kindness possessed a link with Devin on flirtation level that made her uncomfortable just listening to. She knew they weren’t serious, but also knew she could never flirt with him, or any guy like they did, oh, and she was beautiful. Tawny? Although very down home like Laurie was also so beautiful and was so alive and had a connection with Devin on an emotional and personal level that seeing them together laughing and joking it was almost impossible to think they weren’t already dating. Autumn, Lilly, Cassie… the list went on and Devin always around attractive women and no matter the forum was always carefree and unphased; always capable of being himself and owning a room. He was handsome, charming, athletic (God was he athletic…) the list went on and, in the end, like most times she’d thought like this her brain eventually reminded her of the very simple truth: he was out of her league. Men weren’t the only ones who went through dating anxiety when is came to those were attracted to being ‘better than’ or ‘out of their league’, and when it came to Devin, he was on a level she couldn’t hope to reach, and, in part, some of that anxiety was the fault of her own insecurities. Laurie, however, wasn’t any of those things. She wasn’t beautiful by the standards Devin surrounded himself with, she certainly did not have superpowers, save being invisible to the guys she was attracted to, and didn’t possess that connection to him that the other women in his life did. Like his sister had pointed for the last several years: Laurie was a nobody. A saving grace in her favor was: it was Devin. Crush on him or not, attainable or not, Devin wanted to hook up with any woman who gave him more than half a second’s notice, making him not the sort of guy she should, or would want to date anyway. It would end horribly so it was fortunate that he was so far out of her league. Still… he was certainly good looking and being seen with him did wonders for her popularity at the school. Win, win. Hey, the Twins weren’t the only one’s who could play The Game at Shelly High. “S’up, Red?” Devin asked her. He’d noticed the way she seemed lost in thought in as Courtney was walking away and felt she needed a jostling into the present. He looked at Courtney as she walked away, her hips swaying in that practice manner Marissa taught her, and then looked back at Laurie. “She’s trying. I know that’s hard after all she’s done, but she’s trying.” “What?” She asked, suddenly realizing Devin was talking to her. “Oh, no, I’m not thinking about that. Still, it is kind of weird, her being decent to me and Sean now. Her and Marissa are trying, so I’m willing to be civil.” “I think Marissa is done with people for a while, so don’t expect too much.” She couldn’t help but notice his dispirited tone. “You okay?” “Not really,” he shrugged, blowing off her question with an answer that just begged for more questions. “But no amount of talking is going fix it. IT’s one of those things you just have to ‘get through’, you know?” “Yeah,” the sophomore nodded through pursed lips. “I won’t interrupt your brooding for too long then,” she managed an awkward smile that seemed bolstered slightly by Devin finding that amusing and smiling along with her, though it was short lived. “I just wanted to say thank you for the text last night. Sean filed me in everything, but still, it felt nice to be included. You guys have been really chill with me, letting me in on all the secrets and I appreciate it.” “No sweat,” Devin offered her a compassionate smirk. “I’m glad he filled you in too. Secrets are like cancer around here and all those older and wiser than us seem to think they’re protecting us from ourselves by making sure we’re kept in the dark about things we need to know to protect them. It makes no sense to me, honestly, but look, we’re all in this together so don’t ever hesitate to come to me if you need to, okay?” “Thanks,” mentally she scolded her brain, absolutely forbidding it from making her cheeks redden, but it didn’t listen, and she could feel warmth flush her freckled features. Why did he have to be the nicest jerk in the world? “Um, probably not my business… but, uh… things were pretty heated in there last night. You guys hash that out? You all cool with each other again, or…” she used ‘or’ as some used ‘so’ as punctuation, hoping he would fill in and end her sentence for her. “How many guys on the football team are you friends with?” he asked. “Uh,” taken off-guard by the question she simply shrugged out her first thought. “None, I guess. They’re all immature assholes. Compounded that my brother and I are kinda on their shitlist at the moment hasn’t help my opinion of them much either.” “But for an hour you’re legion. Dedication and motivated towards victory because you’re a team. Your personal issues are put aside because winning is more important than pettiness.” He stated. “That’s kinda EmJay and me with the Fellowship. All of us were chosen to do a job, so we’ll be there, we’ll be legion, and we’ll win, because what’s at stake is more important than our differences. That’s what a team is.” She frowned. That wasn’t exactly the answer she wanted, but she heard hope somewhere in all of that. “Sorry to hear that, but surprisingly deep coming from you. I’m impressed.” “Yeah,” he managed a smirk. “I’m…” “I know, I know,” she rolled her eyes, giggling. “’All kinds of impressive’. Legend in your own mind, more like.” She managed a laugh, but noticed he didn’t do more than smile and seem to silently agree with her jokes. He must have been in a bad place, she thought. Devin was supposed to be the happy, go-lucky, comic relief… how bad were the issues with the Fellowship, she had to wonder. “Hey, um… walk me to class?” “Yeah, sure.” Her crush’s morose tone didn’t instill much confidence in his willingness. “Come on,” Laurie huffed. “Quit being so glum. Walk with me, talk with me, and I’ll try to boost your popularity a bit. Y’know, given what I have to work with and all…,” she shot him a smirk. “Oh, well,” he swept his arm out for her to lead the way. He seemed accommodating and open to the humor, but his voice and body language told her that his heart really want into it. “By all means, lead the way. Whatever I can do to repay such a kindness, do let me know.” “Oh, I will, no worries.” Freckled cheeks flushed as the enamored sophomore led Devin down the hall. She did most of the talking while they talked and they did their best to ignore the inane rumors and hushed whispers of typical high school politics…
  10. Wednesday, 4th September Saving the world ought to come with more fanfare than this. That might not have been the thought running through every member of the unlikely Fellowship's head as they went about getting ready for the day, but it wouldn't have been surprising if more than a couple considered it as they brushed their teeth, staring at themselves in the mirror as if trying to see a world-saving badass rather than... well, themselves. Most had scars and bruises still, remnants of the battle with Arawn/Cody that lingered despite the kick in the ass that Autumn's gift had given their healing. Some were back to full health, others still ached in every joint and sinew from the stress they'd undergone. And here they were, born to be kings, princes of the universe or some shit, being hassled by their parents to stop hogging the shower and get ready for school. Discussing the merits of toast versus pancakes for breakfast. Dealing with the fact that, in their parents eyes, most of them were kids in over their heads. It manifested in different ways. In the Jauntsen house there was frosty silence punctuated by pointed slamming of doors and drawers and the occasional sharp look and sharper word. Autumn found that her dad was insisting on driving her to school before he headed to Great Falls for business, brooking no refusal - she could ride back on her bike this afternoon but she wasn't to go anywhere else but straight home. Sean's parents were extra solicitous, asking how he was more than once and enquiring about his plans for the day. Teresa Allen spontaneously hugged her daughter over breakfast, murmuring how proud she was of her in a voice that contained a wealth of fear as well as pride. Cassandra Pryor was driving Lilly in to school - her daughter had suffered severe night terrors for the second night in a row, had woken up screaming and crying, and the dark circles under her eyes were a testament to that. Despite which, she was still insisting on going to school. In the Alister home, Cade's dad had slept on the couch last night, and the shouting had gone on well past midnight. As the two men of the house got ready for work and school, Miyako remained in the bedroom, the door locked. And Gar Bannon, for his part, found he didn't know what to do or say. "Be careful" was about the limit of it - his strange, baffling son didn't need any more than that, and that was the frustrating part of the whole thing. Perhaps he'd talk to Hank, see if there was any practical measures he could take to help keep Jason safe that the boy wouldn't reject as overly restrictive. It wasn't that Jase was defiant of Gar's parental authority so much as Gar wasn't sure how much authority he actually had, when push came to shove. It was an ephemeral thing: governance with the consent of the governed, and all that would need to happen would be for Jason to decide a different direction, to say "No" and the authority would dissipate like fog in sunlight. So far, things were working with just the two of them talking stuff over like adults, though, so that was something at least. The halls and cafeteria of Shelly High were abuzz with rumors as the day got started. Shelly was a small town, a lot of people either worked at or knew people who worked at the sheriff's department and medical center. Sophia and Tawny had been kidnapped and then rescued by the odd assortment of friends. There'd been some manner of weird serial killer, who'd killed Charlie Cole and Cody Sikes then kidnapped the girls for God-knew-what fate only for Devin to lead a daring rescue. No, that wasn't right, whispered another gossip. The serial killer had attacked Jacob in the woods - Autumn Keane and Jason Bannon had been seen helping the warden's son to safety. No, Jacob and Bannon had fought over Autumn. The serial killer had been killed by Cade Alister with a baseball bat. The serial killer was on the run, being chased by the State police and Nathan Crocker. The serial killer was someone in Shelly. Someone had seen Devin disappear in a flash of purple light. Charlie had been found with Satanic scripture carved on his back. And so on, and so on. Rumors, half-truth, weird conglomerations of truth and sensationalism. The halls of Shelly High were a swirling chaotic mess of conflicting information. No doubt about it - today was going to be interesting.
  11. The rest of the parents - and their children - filtered out of the conference room shortly after. They were largely silent as they made their way through the hospital and out to the parking lot: only once car doors were closed and A/C engaged did any conversation start up regarding what had transpired in that meeting. To the west, the sun was setting behind the mountains beyond the reservation, turning the sky shades of purple, red and orange above those peaks as, to the east, a curtain of darkness swept towards Shelly on velvet wings. To those that noticed such things, it was hard not to shiver slightly at the symbolism.
  12. "Always," Devin replied to Teresa. Again it wasn't that he said it was in the how he said it. Devin could make anything sound like he was any girls next Prince Charming. He turned his attention to Cassie, that million dollar, child-star actor, smile looking handsome as ever on his features. "I'll, um, give you a call or a text, kay? If you're up for it, I could really use a shoulder to vent on." Whish she knew he meant 'neck to hickey on', but it was Devin so you had to take it for what it was worth. "I uh, I gotta get going," he looked towards the door where his parents had already filtered out in pursuit of the furious Marissa. "I have a feeling things are about to go nuclear when we get home, so... y'know... if you've been saving some dank memes to lighten my mood, tonight would be a good time." "Keep us posted, okay?" His homecoming date asked with some concern in her voice. "Sorry again." "No, it's fine," he shrugged in an attempt to maybe shake off the invisible monkey on his back. "Had to happen eventually, so... sooner the better, right?" He smiled at them both. "G'night Mrs. Allen, Cass."
  13. "Things got heated earlier and I was a complete jerk. I just wanted you to know that I didn't mean to hurt your feelings. I was wrong and I'm sorry." Cassandra was quiet as she let Devin lay out his confession and tried to decide how to handle it. On the one hand, despite a certain performative quality, it was rare to get any kind of mea culpa from Devin, so she didn't want to shove it back in his face. On the other hand...she wasn't exactly sure what he was apologizing for. Running back over the meeting in her head, there was only one time that Devin had specifically annoyed her, and that was when he been...well...himself after the first part of her telling the story. And it had been annoying, but not especially annoying. Not out of proportion to his normal interpersonal style, which he'd never thought merited an apology before. There was one thing though. One other thing that she was pretty sure he wasn't referring to, but maybe he should have been. "Look," Cassie said, "the only thing that really hurt my feelings was when Marissa decided you two weren't in the Fellowship, and that we are apparently all terrible human beings...and you just stood there and seemed to agree. Whatever else you did..." she shrugs, "next to that, it doesn't matter." "So, assuming you don't feel bad about that, then I guess we're cool." Cass hesitated, then added, "Sorry about the situation with your mom though. If you want to talk about it sometime, let me know. I know a thing or two about dragon moms..." Teresa swatted her on the shoulder with faux outrage. "Okay," she said, "I think that's enough of that." She looked at Devin then, and her expression was complex. There was sympathy for the boy yes, but also a bit of motherly wariness. She knew they were going to Homecoming, of course. She also knew Cassandra kept assuring her that they were just friends, but she also also knew that those sentiments could change in a hurry at this age. Beyond all that though was something else, something softer. The gratitude in her voice was genuine when she said, "Thank you for being there for Cassie when she needed you." There wasn't time to really talk though. The Jauntsens were on their way out, and Devin's stunt only bought him seconds at best.
  14. Jase nodded to the Keanes as they turned to go and collect their daughter, then exchanged glances with his dad. Gar, having just glanced around himself to take stock of who was left, nodded once in acknowledgement. "Ready to go?" It was as much a statement as a question - Gar was not good at large gatherings at the best of times, and this one had him itching to crawl back into a bottle. "Almost." Jason replied. "Just going to have a word with Lilly, see how she is." "Alright, yeah. Guess she's been through it hard, from the sound of it." Gar nodded thoughtfully. "Want me along to run interference with her folks?" "It's okay, dad." Jase's lips quirked in a faint smile. "I am what I am, I did what I did. It's not your responsibility - whatever the Misti's of the world think. I'll catch up with you in the parking lot." "Alright. I'll get Teresa Allen's number, then I think I've got the whole set and the complementary binders." Gar quipped, patting his son on the back. "See you outside." The Pryors were themselves just done exchanging numbers with those closest when the tall, spare figure of Jase approached them. Both of Lilly's parents were wary, their smiles tighter as they met the unconcerned, cold green ice of the young man's stare, and it didn't escape him that they moved almost unconsciously to form up protectively either side of their daughter. He didn't let it concern him: they didn't know him well and what they'd heard here tonight wasn't salutary - at least by civilised human standards. Their protectiveness was understandable behaviour, that was all. "Lilly." he said in his usual quiet tone as he came to a stop before them. He studied her, eyes calm in a scarred face as he took in her appearance. "I'm glad you're... here." he said, substituting the last word at the last second. His head tilted slightly. "How are you, other than the obvious?" As the teens spoke the elder Pryors listened them, Cassandra trying to not be too terribly overt about it by feigning interest in something or someone across the room, while her father was much more clear in his monitoring of the conversation. "I... I dunno." Lilly sighed as she diverted her gaze to the ground for a moment. "I'm tired, for one. Well, I guess 'worn out' is more accurate." she said, and largely looked the part as well. Her eyes were tired and shouldered were slouched. Her usual smile was replaced with a weak frown and the usual energy and light seemed absent from the athletic teen. "I dunno what he did to me. I mean, I kinda know, but I dunno how to explain it. I mean, I know he was using his darkness or whatever, but he reduced me to..." Lilly shook her head, not wanting to recall or maybe describe the state she was in so she switched thoughts a bit. "Marissa's got nothing on him. Anyways, he took me out of the fight. So I was not there for you guys... again." She raised a hand to stop Jase from responding for the moment, regardless of if he was going to. "I know everybody said to forget about it, not being here when you all were attacked and did the other stuff, but it's not that easy. I..." she said, almost holding her breath for a moment before sighing out, "I'm just glad you all made it back." The young woman lifted her gaze as she spoke and her prow furrowed slightly. "I guess it wasn't 'unscathed' though." she said, lifting a hand toward Jase's new scar, but withdrawing it before she touched him. His lips twitched wryly at that. "We all got a bit banged up. Oddly, this wasn't from the fight against Arawn. It was from Enterich's cronies this morning. After everything we went through, I just wasn't expecting a human being to walk up and pull a gun on me in broad daylight at a traffic stop." He shrugged, his gaze still on her face. "Lesson learned." He paused for a moment, considering. "It's not my place to volunteer others, but you may wish to talk to Autumn about what Enterich inflicted on you. Her ability to heal is not limited to bodies - she can also soothe mental and emotional traumas. It's not that she makes you forget: from what I have observed, she simply helps the mind to deal with things. It might be worth talking to her at school tomorrow." "Yeah. It's one thing to keep an eye for monsters, but now anybody could... joy." she finished sarcastically. "I'm sorry that happened to you, but I am glad you are okay." she said, forcing a weak, though sincere, smile for a moment. "As far as talking Autumn? I dunno. And you know what? I am getting really tired of saying that, but I don't see it stopping anytime soon." she vented "Anyways." Lilly sighed. "I dunno." she said as she began to speak and the closed her eyes for a moment, cursing silently that she had said it again. "Autumn has seemed... distant, I guess, since I got back. Has she said anything to you about me?" she asked and then raised her hand, shaking her head again. "Nevermind. I don't want to get you involved if there's some issue." "I just... I dunno what to do." she said, shutting her eyes tight. "It's like, after hearing about what happened to..." she cut herself off, the name catching in her throat as her face contorted to a pained mask, "it's.. it's like am still in it and this is just part of it, you know?" Lilly shook her head again and lifted her hands, running them through her long, dark hair as she exhaled. "It's been days and I don't wanna be like this anymore." she confessed, blinking back tears. There was no empathy in the cool gaze which rested on hers, no shared experience of fear and grief to create a sense of fellow-feeling. Nor was there discomfort at her expressing of emotions such as some might show, nor was there pity or disdain. But there was a glimmer of comprehension, a sense of him trying to understand, trying to help, in whatever way he could. He reached out with slow deliberateness and placed a hand on Lilly's shoulder. "Autumn has never indicated to me that she has any issue with you." he said with calm authority. "And given that she repaired the hands of the person who shot me, I don't imagine she would refuse to help you if you asked." His lips twitched in a smile. "She has a large heart, whatever distance you might feel there is between you." Lilly closed her eyes and nodded, trying to keep a modicum of composure. Jase's gesture, both verbal and physical, were not lost on her either. To say that their friendship had been strained a polite understatement, but here he was, the seeming cold, unfeeling Jason Bannon, was trying to help or comfort her, even if it was in his own way. It was still more than she had expected. "I'll see if she can help. I hope she can." Lilly opened her eyes to look to her friend once more and forced another weak smile. "And thanks." she said as she stepped closer and hugged him close telling him, "Deal with it." with the faintest hint of amusement to her voice. "It's not totally objectionable." he replied deadpan as, after a split-second's pause, he returned the hug. As she gave a small laugh and drew back, she didn't miss the flicker of wry amusement in the depths of the ageless cool stare which met hers. It wasn't like 'old Jase', the friend she'd thought she knew before: quirky scruffy slouching Bannon with his odd, quick smiles and the way he wouldn't meet your eyes for longer than a split second before looking away and the hints, here and there, of the fierce intelligence that now shone clearly from his gaze. He'd set aside the mask he'd worn - but perhaps what was underneath wasn't that terrible an adjustment. As he stepped back, he nodded to Lilly and her folks, the corners of his eyes crinkling slightly in a micro-smile. "I'll see you at school tomorrow, then." "Yeah." Lilly smiled back, watching as he turned away without further ceremony and, falling in step with his father, left the conference room.
  15. Cade listened to the meeting end, and sighed. He didn't want to speak with Marissa, The twins were high on his "people I don't feel like speaking to" list at the moment. Having listened to their parents, Misti in particular, he saw where their attitudes came from, and was very glad his own parents weren't anything like them. Though looking at his mother, he knew she was angry. She wasn't one to normally show it in public, but he and his father both knew they were in for it. Cade rose, and she looked at him. "I'll be back, I've got to speak to Ms. Giles before we go." She nodded almost imperceptibly, and Cade left the room. When he was heading out he could see Annette still there, and he called out to her. "Ms. Giles, can I have a moment of your time?" She stopped and waited for him to come to her. Cade smiled , and nodded. "I wanted to ask about setting up that visit..." He looked at Annette, who just smiled back at him. "I may not be able to heal, but I can at be there when he wakes up, help him remain calm." It was clear the athletic teen wished only to help, and that he felt a certain responsibility for the animal. Annette's smile widened a little. "I just set up something with Ms Keane, as well. I'll extend you the same arrangement - with the approval of your parents, you can come in with Ms Keane to visit the complex and assist with the animals. A parent can come with you if that makes them feel better about the whole thing, but you have to ask approval first. I don't want to risk angering or alienating anyone's family more than is necessary at this stage." She tilted her head, regarding the large teen intently. "If your parents agree, you can coordinate with Ms Keane. Is that acceptable?" 'Yes ma'am, of course it is, thank you." Cade would smile, and turned to head back, only to find his parents waiting for him outside the room. Clearly it was time to go home, and have a much more private Talk. He typed out a quick message to Autumn, seeing if she wanted to coordinate their visits, as he went to leave with his parents.
  16. Sean, Week of Labor Day/Ep. VI: Off-Camera: Working on his video, and now the follow-on support stuff now that it's released. Possibly exercising more, working out some. School and After-School Vignettes: Wednesday: Thursday: No school. Charlie's funeral. Friday: Meeting with EA Rep Brad Stanton after school at the Country Club Saturday: Sunday: TBD: As discussed in Discord, a story or scene involving Cass and Autumn talking to Sean about the physiological and sociological realities of his unique, uh... "circumstance" would be awesome (Wednesday, possibly, maybe Cass has the idea for a story for the paper?) Talk with someone, current idea is Autumn or Lilly, about getting into shape, or at least somewhat more athletic, so sudden wild exertions aren't quite the strain. Get Devin's help with prepping for Homecoming (Saturday or Sunday?) Talk with Sophia again, and meet her RPG players Get the Fellowship (and Devin and Marissa) together - sans parents - at some point to admit the severity of his genetic conditions and why he thinks he has to go to Site B.
  17. As the Jauntsens stood they produced business cards, much like Annette. Why an administrator at a school would need a business card wasn't particularly clear, but then, the parents didn't know that Misti, despite being a total bitch, was a PhD in Behavioral Sciences with a Masters in Psychology. "We're going to make sure the rest of these people have our information since Mrs. Giles made it abundantly clear that her organization in completely inept at keeping its assets safe and incapable of providing us any measure protection, it appears we are all we have." "No, Mom," Marissa sneered as she collected her large designer bag and stuffed her phone and note pad back in it. "They are all you and dad have. We're done with you. And if you think for a second you're going to find some way to profit from our abilities, you're gravely mistaken." "Marissa," their mother glared at them, keeping her voice low. "You and your brother are already on thin ice tonight. Don't push your luck." "Or what?" Her daughter glared back. "You'll send me to a military academy? Do it. In eighteen months they have to let me go and I'll not only have my abilities, but I'll have the rest of my life to dedicate to ruining yours." Misti seemed taken off guard by the sudden hostility but was also fully aware that her own daughter was a borderline sociopath, after all, she (sort of) raised her. "I'll meet you at the house, let me know if I need to start packing." With that their daughter simply scooped up her bag, tossed it on her shoulder and stormed out like one would expect and angry teen to do, her heels thumping on the carpet before clacking loudly and echoing in the hall outside. Misti sighed. "Unreasonable, as always. Devin, talk to your sis-" "Nope." Devin chuckled and shook his head. "This is your mess. Like she said, we're done. We put up your bullshit all our lives. Controlling us, trying to profit from us. Never once letting us just be kids and now this? You clean it up. Excuse me, I have something I need to say to someone." He was still an obscene amount of pain, like every muscle was pulled and aching all at once, but he felt he could he might be able to pull off one good, short distance hop. Besides, all the parents were in the know now and Devin loved to show off. Before his mother could enact a reply his eyes shimmered purple and his form broke down into lavender and purple motes of millions of atoms and... he was gone. Popping out of sight of his mother and reappearing in front of Cassie and her mother in a violet shimmer and soft, audible *bamf*. Mrs. Allen jumped with a start, even Cassie flinched, closing her eyes and flexing her fists tightly until her nails were digging into her palm. All the parents, at least those who'd never seen what Devin was capable of, couldn't help but stop and just stare in silence for a moment, unsure of what to say or even do after seeing something like that. Fists clenched, Cassie took a breath and glared at Devin. "I hate when you do that." His shit-eating grin didn't calm her mood at all. "Just wanted to catch you before you left," he said, dismissing her complaint and dodging her being mad at him like he usually did. "Hey Mrs. Allen," he nodded and smiled at her. She didn't say anything, just awkwardly smiled and nodded back. "Look, Cassie... I know you're mad at me and you're right, you totally should be." The son-of-a-bitch went and turned on his charm, taking special care to make sure that anyone could hear him if they were interested in listening could hear him paint himself as the cavalier willing to swallow his pride and apologize to his Homecoming date without a care as what others thought about him. "Things got heated earlier and I was a complete jerk. I just wanted you to know that I didn't mean to hurt your feelings. I was wrong and I'm sorry."
  18. Jesus fuck, Autumn swore mentally, raking a hand back through the tousled remnants of what had, perhaps an hour ago, been a ponytail. No more meetings. That's it. I'm so fucking over it. Sure, they'd have to get together to make plans for Site B eventually, but as with so many other things, that was a problem for Future Autumn to worry about, because it clearly wasn't happening tonight. Tonight had, unfortunately, more or less lived up to her expectations, and the biggest difference was that Lilly had actually shown up, which... maybe was a positive thing? It was hard to say. The situation was weirdly convenient, yeah- especially since Enterich was apparently involved- but it was at least better than reading about pieces of her being found all across Toole County. That was a grim thought, for sure, and the redhead shivered a little in spite of herself. As chairs slid back from the table and people began casting about for some clue on how to proceed, she glanced down at the Jauntsens: defiant, arrogant, and- to the earnest, straightforward young woman- largely incomprehensible. They'd said themselves they weren't part of the group, and now their mother had reinforced that notion with a parental edict. And maybe they were being influenced by the Dark, and... Nothing. Blinking, Autumn realized she felt nothing at all about their attitude, their insults, or their potential exclusion. And that, more than all the frustration and disappointment, bothered her. It felt weird to just not feel, especially when dealing with people whose mere existence all but demanded some kind of reaction. Then again, maybe it would be weirder if she wasn't completely emotionally exhausted after everything that had happened since the ride to school that morning. Getting to her feet, the red-haired teen stretched as she stood, folding her arms behind her head with a soft huff. "I need to go talk to Annette before we go," she murmured, addressing her parents. "Give me just a minute?" "Sure," Dana agreed quietly, reaching up to smooth the stray curls back from her daughter's face with a faint, wistful smile. "That'll give us time to make sure we have everyone's numbers. Go ahead." "Thanks," the younger Keane girl replied gratefully, leaning over to hug her mom with one arm before heading off around the table in pursuit of the Aeon representative. "'Scuse me, Miss Giles? Hey, have you got a sec?" Annette paused at the open door and turned, smiling a little as her dark eyes met Autumn's sky-blues. "Ms Keane." she acknowledged, her tone friendly enough as she pursed her lips slightly, considering for a heartbeat before nodding. "Yes, I have moment or two. How can I help you?" she asked with polite warmth. Behind Autumn, back at the table, Dana was quietly speaking with Teresa Allen and Ian was likewise murmuring with the Allisters as the meeting started to break up. "Cool. So, listen. Uh, that was a mess." A grimace etched faint lines in Autumn's bronze-flecked forehead and around her eyes as she regarded the older, more sophisticated woman somewhat self-consciously. It was hard to tell if Annette was sincere in her desire to help, or whether she was moving them all around like pawns on a chess board in the way Dale had ascribed to Enterich, or even both simultaneously; knowing she'd potentially had information about the attack on Jase wasn't exactly a mark in her favor. "Sorry about that, and thanks. For setting this up, I mean." Rocking back on her heels, the energetic teen considered all the plans they'd made already that hadn't worked out, and wondered idly whether these would be any different. Taking a deep breath, she glanced back over her shoulder, watching as several of the parents studied the cards Annette had placed on the table and exchanged contact details. The meeting had been a massive disappointment, of course, but it was over, and that was that; no take-backs, no do-overs. Not that she had the mental energy to work out what she'd have done differently right now, anyway. The only thing left to do was look forward, focus on the practical. Everything else could be handled later. Tomorrow, maybe, she allowed cautiously, shifting her weight from one foot to the other. "Anyway, you mentioned you thought I might be able to help with the cats we brought back. Or with the big one, at least. When could we set something like that up?" Annette's smile widened a little as she studied the young woman. "As soon as is convenient for you, I'm certain. Understand, please, that I don't want to get you - or myself - into trouble with your parents. Assuming they agree, you can contact me and come in whenever you are free to do so - giving me a day or so's notice would be best, of course. If one or both of your parents wish to accompany you to observe, that is also fine." "Oh." The girl's wide, expressive eyes widened further at the suggestion. Having her folks come along was a good idea, definitely, and the fact that she hadn't actually considered it beforehand was writ plain across her face. Not only would it help her parents get a better grasp on what she could do, and- more specifically- what she was trying to do, they'd be a lot more chill about the whole situation if they could actually be there with her. Well, she conceded, remembering her father's one-hundred-percent not chill reaction to Jason's powers at the Field. Probably more chill. Maybe. "Yeah, sure. That sounds good. I mean, there are other things I want to ask you, but honestly, I'm kind of over today already and I'm guessing you are, too, so I'll talk to Mom and Dad and see if they're okay with coming out this weekend, and we can deal with it then." Her features scrunched slightly again- not quite a grimace, this time, and not quite a smile. "If that's cool with you." "Perfectly acceptable, Ms Keane." Annette inclined her head, lips quirking warmly. "It's not an exaggeration at all for me to say I shall be looking forward to it." "Same," Autumn replied succinctly, a note of enthusiasm adding color to the otherwise monosyllabic response. Back at the table, the Bannons had gotten to their feet and were sliding their chairs back under the polished conference table. In contrast to Jason's glacial calm, Gar looked like he was ready to chew up barbed wire and spit nails. "I should be giving them a piece of my mind." he muttered under his breath to his son, casting a dark sideways glance at the Jauntsens. "Here and now, it'd be wasted." Jase replied phlegmatically, his own voice an undertone. "Serving only to attract their spite to you, at which point things would simply escalate. Save your energy for those who are worth it." He straightened up slightly as Ian and Dana Keane, done with the other parents, approached. "Hey." Gar said, half-turning to regard the Keanes with a mixture of friendliness and wariness. Neither of Autumn's parents missed the tight expression around the older Bannon's eyes, though he made an effort to relax as he smiled wanly at them. "Heck of a meeting, huh? Lots to process, for sure." "That's one way to put it," Ian agreed dryly, acknowledging the understatement with a faint, crooked grin. "I'm not sure if I need a physics degree to work through what I just heard, or one in psychology." "Maybe both." Arching an auburn brow bemusedly at Gar and then her husband, Dana's expression softened a little as she turned to Jase, once more studying the new-old scar along his cheekbone. "I'm sorry about what happened this morning. I knew you'd been attacked, but I had no idea you'd been-" Exhaling, the pretty veterinarian licked her lips, her mouth going dry at the idea of someone doing to her, or to Ian, what the two marshals had done to Jason. "That you were shot," she added a little more quietly, studying the laconic young man for any sign of distress and, disconcertingly, finding none. "Autumn didn't mention it earlier. I suppose she didn't want me to worry about something that had already been resolved." Her mouth curved in a gentle, slightly rueful smile. "...And I didn't think it was my place to say." Rubbing the back of his neck, Ian had the good grace and presence of mind to look uncomfortable, and rightly so. He'd had ample opportunity to share the gory details over the course of the afternoon, but... how could he? He'd seen what Jason Bannon had looked like lying there by the roadside, and special powers or no, it was hard to reconcile that image burned into his memory with the lanky, composed teenaged boy standing before him now. "Which, in hindsight," he admitted grudgingly as his wife's warm hazel eyes swung sharply in his direction, "might not have been the best call." "It's okay, Ian." Jase said in a quiet, matter-of-fact tone, bright green eyes regarding both adults with that air he had of someone studying, of learning how people were, how they reacted. "I imagine it'd be hard to broach as a topic of discussion at the best of times." "Yeah." Gar nodded, his own voice thickening slightly as he glanced at the still-composed youth. "It's a lot. Cassie Allen's vote of confidence in Jase's resilience is all very well, but..." He didn't finish the thought and, picking up on some indefinable parental harmonic, neither Dana nor Ian needed him to. My child was the silent, uniting unspoken thought between the three. "But anyway, he's here. And alive." Gar said gruffly as he fought back the urge to hug his strange son to him, simply reaching up and patting Jason on the shoulder. "Much to some people's dismay, I am sure." Jason said calmly, something unpleasant glimmering for a second in the depths of his cold eyes. "Don't, boy." Gar shook his head, the hand on Jason's shoulder becoming a firm grasp. "Don't mistake angry, ignorant and scared-stupid people with enemies. Nobody needs that right now, hear?" "If you say so." Jason glanced at his dad, shrugging as his expression settled back into its usual mask of calm contemplation. "And," Dana interjected, her smile warming by degrees as she regarded first the elder Bannon, and then the younger. "There are plenty of people who'd rather see you well and happy than not- one of whom I've raised, so on that basis alone I'd say it's a pretty great group. I... may be biased," she allowed, her tone light and musing as she looked pointedly at the others around the room and then nodded in the direction of the door, where Autumn and Annette were talking. "You're right, though." Shifting back to the more pressing topic, the svelte Shelly native sobered a little. "It really is a lot to process, even with Autumn filling us in about a lot of this. Spaceships, gods, other dimensions..." A quick shake of her head and a brief glance skyward provided a wordless summation of her feelings on the utterly unbelievable revelations of the evening. Maybe Dad wasn't completely wrong, after all, she reflected, considering Owen Kavanagh's odd blend of pragmatism and superstition. "We've been catching up with some of the other parents, just making sure everyone has our contact information, and thought we could exchange phone numbers. You know," she added unnecessarily, her long, slim fingers twining together. "Just in case." Her meaning required no additional explanation- not after all that had happened, and might still in the days to come. "Well, yes," Ian put in, gingerly resting a hand on the small of his wife's back, and although she didn't pull away, neither did she lean into the tentative embrace. "That, too. We were talking earlier, and since we didn't have a chance to get together at the picnic yesterday, Dana and I also thought it might be a good idea for the five of us to meet up for coffee, dinner... That kind of thing. Y'know, since our kids are-" He took a deep breath, his cool blue eyes roving around the room before settling on Jason's impassive features again. "Spending a lot of time together. Obviously, we don't know much about you guys, and I'm guessing the reverse is true." "Sure. That actually sounds like a good idea." Gar nodded as the notion sank in, smiling at both Keanes as he rubbed at the back of his neck, thinking it over. "So when-?" "How about tonight?" Jase suggested straightforwardly, causing all three adults to blink and exchange glances as he went on, unfazed. "It's not exactly late. You could come up to the farm for coffee and a talk - just a getting-to-know-you thing." "Uh..." Gar looked at his son for a moment, then at Ian and Dana. "I dunno... I don't see a problem with it on my side. How about you guys?" "I..." Clearly taken aback, Autumn's father flailed about for a response, blinking in surprise. "No?" He hazarded, glancing down at his wife, who shrugged and smiled, as if to say, 'Why not?' "No, I guess... I guess there's no problem with that. We weren't sure how late this thing was going to run, so the two of us have already eaten. What time were you thinking? We, uh. Don't want to impose." "We've already eaten as well. And it's no imposition." Gar replied with a shrug of his own, smiling at Dana self-deprecatingly. "Being a bachelor household, it's not like we run to a schedule." He glanced at Jason, who whilst appearing mostly calm was examining all three grown-ups expectantly. "And it'd be nice to have company over." he added, returning his gaze to the Keanes and smiling once more. Nodding, Ian Keane checked his watch, momentarily lost in thought. It was still early, even if it was technically a school night, and it wasn't as if Autumn would be out on her own... No. Not anymore, she won't be, he decided. Not until this is all over. "Why don't we follow you guys out, then?" Dana proposed to the Bannons, frowning a little at the expression on her husband's face and nudging his side gently in a silent bid for input. "Hm?" He blinked, his gaze moving from face to face as her suggestion finally penetrated the grim depths of his thoughts. "Oh, right." With an abashed smile, the canny entrepreneur shook his head. "Sorry, I was somewhere else for a second there. I think that's a solid plan, yeah." It took only a few moments more to finalize the arrangements: they'd meet in the medical center parking lot, and the Keane family would trail Jason and Gar out to the farm. After a few brief goodbyes, Ian and Dana escorted their daughter out of the room and into a quieter- ostensibly saner- evening.
  19. "Mrs Jauntsen." Annette clicked the remote in her hand as she resumed her seat, the holographic display dying as the lights came back up to their previous levels. "Your opinion of other people present notwithstanding, how do you know your children are not already in the sights of Klein and his people?" She gestured at Jase. "We know, for a fact, that the attack on Jason was a premeditated, planned action by Enterich, who we have reason to believe is working with or for those behind Crossroads, who in turn are the people we believe are funding and backing Professor Klein. I hate to be alarmist, but it is reasonable to assume that these people have taken an interest in your children, and it is wise to assume they know at least as much about everyone here as we do. They had access to all the Project files for a long time before we were able to secure them." "Now we will, of course, do our utmost to protect your families. You need to understand what we are up against, however." Annette's tone was crisp and no-nonsense. "Professor Klein is a genius with access to resources and technology on par with the U.S. military. He is also ruthless and, we believe based on the profile we've constructed, narcissistic to the point of being megalomaniacal. Despite the fact that your children were not part of the test group for Proteus, from the communiques we recovered between him and Cook we learned that Klein regards himself as the reason for their extraordinary powers. He also believes that these young people are the key to unlocking the vessel - particularly Devin and Sean, doubtless due to their particular abilities." "So, to sum up: Aeon and Branch 9 have no particular wish to place your children in danger; we want to help them to understand their gifts, and for them to help us in turn. Klein regards your children as a resource to which he is entitled, and has shown no compunctions about using kidnapping and murder to get his way. The people backing him have as much money and influence as we do. We can't get to him without launching a major military operation for which we have neither the budget, manpower, nor the authority. So you have a limited pool of options on how to deal with this, Mrs Jauntsen. None of which are safe." "You can proceed as you have outlined: we will help scientifically and medically evaluate Devin and Marissa - indeed, everyone who wishes to be evaluated similarly. While that's going on, you can hope that Klein doesn't send anyone to come and collect - or kill - any more of these young adults." The Aeon woman's tone hardened. "You can, of course, try to cause an official fuss. Go public. Write to your congressman. The FBI. The media, even. You will cause a lot of trouble to the Project, certainly. We will likely be shut down, have to close up shop and disappear. As for our enemies... well, at best you will inconvenience them. As you've learned here tonight, our enemy is connected on all sorts of levels and has no problem whatsoever in cutting off loose ends to avoid exposure. Simple fact is, the longer we wait, the longer it takes to recover Site B and oust Klein, the more danger we are all in." Annette looked around at the gathered parents and teens. "The more danger the world is in, frankly. Whoever these people are behind Crossroads and Klein we, as in 'everyone who is sane', don't want them getting their hands on an alien vessel." "Or you can let your children help us to help put together a plan which minimises risk and loss of life and puts an end to Klein's grip over Site B and the shadow he is casting over your life right now. We might be able to accomplish this without Devin's unique contribution. But not as cleanly, not as quickly. Same goes for all of these remarkable young people present." Annette spread her hands to the sides, encompassing all those at the table. "Obviously you all have to think this over, so I'm going to call my part in this meeting to a close." She stood, smoothing her skirt with her palms as she smiled faintly. "I'll leave you the room. Talk among yourselves as you like. I'd avoid using phones or emails to discuss this in future, however, for security purposes. Please understand that whatever course of action you choose, normal life is over. Your children have found themselves with gifts which make them incredibly valuable and important to whomever knows they have them. The Aeon Society's sole goal is to understand those gifts, and to help those who have them make the most of them. Others are less benign, I assure you." She set down a small stack of cards on the table before her. "My number for those of you who don't have it, should any of you wish to contact me." With that, the representative of the Aeon Society nodded formally to those assembled, smiled once more, and turned to go.
  20. “Well,” Misti’s voice rose after Lilly’s with that ever present, condescending sneer. “That’s a very impressive speech, young lady, but rest assured my husband and I will keep our own counsel as to what manner of activities our children will be participating in.” “Hostage rescue is best left to those with proper training and authorities,” she looked at Cassie’s mother without a single expression of compassion in her features. “It is regrettable that your family is going through this sort of experience, it truly is. As Ms. Giles already pointed out, these people already opened fire on soldiers, once. What do you think they’ll do when your daughter is in their sights?” She looked to the other parents and continued. “Or your son, Miyakko. Or your son,” she looked to the Cassidys. “Regardless of how confident they believe themselves to be they are still children. Whether they choose to accept that or not is not the issue. The actions of the Bannon kid alone and his blatant disregard for the law is proof enough that they are not responsible enough to bear the burden of these abilities. The boy is a high functioning psychopath, and you want to turn him lose on people? American people at that?” “This is, without a doubt the most difficult thing to process in all my years, and I’m not saying I don’t believe it. I’m saying that until Devin and Marissa are eighteen their welfare and well being are our responsibility, and I’m permitting them to run off into some dank mountain cave to fight demons or monsters or whatever the hell-“ she rolled her hand a bit, over and over, to express her uncertainty. “That we simply just cannot allow.” “Mom!” Devin protested. Marissa craned her head, fuming. “You can’t be serious! We’ve already-“ “Enough,” was all she said as her glare reminded everyone who Marissa’s mentor was in the Evil Queen department. They way the twins lost their fire in a heartbeat made it obvious that despite all their rule breaking and do-a-they-please mannerisms, they were still beholden to the rule of their parents. “This is bullshit.” Devin raged with enough attitude to remind his friends that he was the guy who tackled Chet and broke his nose for no apparent reason. “Another word,” she rose her finger to silence them. “And I will have you both in a military academy by weeks end.” Both of her children glared and squirmed like they wanted to burst with expletives. “Try me.” “That out of the way,” she composed herself and continued as her children stared daggers at her. “Mrs. Giles your facility seems to be the only in existence that specializes in these sorts of phenomenon and so I’m willing to let the past be the past, since it’s obvious no one really seems to be aware of their children are doing or where they are.” The slight jab she took at the competency of the other parents didn’t go unnoticed. “These abilities do need to be understood as well any possible detrimental effects they could have on their bodies in the long-term. We can arrange times for them to meet with your staff and assess their potential and an any possible side effects, but they are, under no circumstances, to take place in military, or para-military endeavors they may place their lives or the lives of others at risk.” “If you truly wish to help our children understand these strange new abilities, then prove it by helping them, not sending them off to be slaughtered.” Misti and Annette locked eyes and it felt like a comic book where both parties were shooting eye lasers and the strength of the beams just kept shifting slightly in the favor from one of them to the next, but neither said anything at first, they just stared and postured as they prepared their next argument.
  21. Lilly had been listening to the conversation, if it could be called that, off and on a bit as she tried to push certain thoughts from her mind with varying degrees of effort. The talk of saving Cassie's dad brought things into focus more clearly in her head, giving her something to latch onto and push the rest of her feats, thoughts and questions aside. Finally she lifted her head that had been resting on her hand and opened her eyes. Her expression was calm, even thoughtful for a moment, but there was a glimmer of intensity in her eyes as she finally spoke up, her gaze shifting around the table, making eye contact with friends and parents alike, each for a moment, before moving to the next, "When we are ready, be that in minutes, hours, days or weeks, we are going to Site B. We're not going as some act of teenage rebellion, to be defiant of any of you, either. We are going because we are really the ones that can go. We know this. We are going to go and do this for Cassie's dad and Todd, just like we would go and do it for any of you at this table, and others. They need our help and we have been given the ability to help them, in ways some of you don't even grasp right now." "Yes, we're your daughters and sons, and your worries, concerns, even fears are valid, and nobody is discounting that. We know it's dangerous. We've know that every time any or all of us have faced the the Dark or it's avatars, or corrupted minions, or whatever. We've been given these gifts though, weather on purpose by Coyote, or by accident, or by fate, or some combination thereof, and so, like it or not, we have the best chance of success with the least amount of risk. So we are going." Lilly sighed and then sat back in her chair, giving a single shrug as she continued, "Yeah, maybe it's not fair for this, I dunno, responsibility I guess, to be thrust upon the shoulders of teens, but I think we all pretty much made peace with that some time ago. Your sons and daughters have stepped up, time and again, and done it on our own in secret, more or less. With your support... your trust... your faith... we can do, and be, sooo much more." "So as hard as it might be right now, please just try to have faith in us. Faith that we are the people you've raised us to be, or even better." Lilly sighed softly... somberly to herself, "...even if we haven't always been in the past."
  22. "Okay, okay," Carl waved his hands about, shaking his head. "Coyote, bubbles, protection, magic powers... I am so lost. If this Coyote guy is a god, how come he doesn't just do something. Why give our kids magical powers?" "Are we really supposed to sit here and swallow that 'aliens' are real and they trapped a demonic in an alternate world or some such nonsense?" Misti scoffed at the idea, shaking her head and dismissing the idea. "Because he's tired, Dad." Marissa answered her father while looking at him, then turned her gaze to the rest of the assembled parents. "Imagine a long time ago. Humanity is still understanding fire and down from the sky come these people. Aliens, to you and me, sure, but to those back then these people manipulated fire, lightning, were stronger, faster, and wielded technology that would even seem magical by our standards today-" "-now read a few myths groups of these people settle in various corners of the world and lo' and behold, civilizations springs into being." Her brother picked up on the heels of his sisters line of thought. "At the center of each civilization appears to a pantheon or cloister of ancient, powerful beings who strangely enough almost all possess the scarily similar origin stories and their 'people' all seem to build surprisingly similar structures all across the world, despite never having met. They all have magical tools and weapons that defy explanation. Magical smoking mirror portals, hammers the explode with lightning, helmets that made them invisible." "Devin has taken to calling them 'Antes'. Short for antecedents, but he can't use words that big." With a playful grin Marissa slapped down the middle finger her brother put up to her face. "Or precursors, or forerunners, whatever they were, Coyote was one of them a long time ago. Whether there were hundreds or just Coyote and his brother a long time ago, we don't know. Fact remains, that the Dark has grown powerful with age and by feeding on all the suck in the world. Apparently humans don't mesh well with Ante DNA, it's a slow process but over generations he introduced Ante-genes into the populace and kept them deluded to prevent things like birth defects. An immortal I can only assume that took like, a hundred generations, maybe? Once saturated, he brings those populations together and effectively controls the allele frequency, forcing genetic mutation among humans." "And how did he do that?" Carl asked, still trying wrap his head around his daughter speaking so intelligently. "Sex, Dad." Devin happily provided the answer. "Lots of sex. Like sooo much sex. Sex on sex. Breakfast? Sex. Lunch? Sex. Peanut butter and jelly? Not before sex. Walk to the Seven-Eleven? Prolly gonna involve sex," he shook his head sighed. "Man, it is so cool being a god." He took a moment to wink at Annette. "Anyway," Marissa smirked at her brother. "Coyote needed more Antes to battle the Dark and it's taken him years to foster us, but we're imperfect, at best. Failures at worst. Rest assured that there are answers on that ship, but we can't do anything with it if it's out of phase like that." "Piece of cake." Devin scoffed. "Dimensions are my specialty, and I already have a plan. Which comes after we rescue the people trapped in there. Since the facility was built by Aeon and the government a long time ago, I'm assuming you guys have access to the blueprints? I mean, I would hope. All those people there need to eat and sleep and to their research, so it can't just be a cave in a mountain with a ghost ship in it. We'll need those." "Absolutely not," Misti shook her head scoffing and laughing at once. "You two are not running off to assault some government funded terrorist organization. You are all forgetting that you are minors and what this organization has been filling your head with and having you do is highly illegal." Devin nodded, pursing his lips in understanding. "Sorry, Cassie, Ms. Allen. We'd love to help you rescue your father," he gestured to Cassie's mother. "Your husband and bring him home safely so you can be a family again, buuut our mom says we can't help make that happen for you. Sorry." His mother scowled at him with a look that said she might evolve laser vision right there o the spot. "That is emotional blackmail, Devin." "Don't tell me," he shrugged. "Look them in the eyes and tell them that. Oh, and I learned from the best." "Aww," Marissa hugged her brother, smiling lovingly. "You said a nice about me." The teenage teleporter relaxed in his chair and met his mothers glare with matched intensity and gestured for her to look in the direction of the Allen's and deny them assistance from the Jauntsen family in front of all of Shelly's other parents. Devin certainly played at being dumb, but it was moments like these that showed he an incredibly proficient grasp on how the Game was played, all he needed was the proper setting and the right reason.
  23. "So that's the ship," Cassandra said quietly. "The one they came on." At the quizzical looks from the table she added, "Coyote and the other one, the one who turned into the Dark. This whole thing, with the Darkness poking into our world...that ship is what made the 'crack' that let that happen. The world has some kind of protection, like a shell sort of." Cassie hesitated, then said, "Okay, protection is a little misleading. It's not there to protect us specifically, though it sort of does by accident. It's there to keep us in, more than keep other stuff out. In the end it does do both though. And by 'keep us in,' I don't mean on the planet. It's more like we're not supposed to get these powers, and definitely not supposed to go out into whatever's beyond. So this shell stops all that from happening." "Until it was cracked. That let the Darkness in, but it also meant people around here could grow in ways they don't in other places." She shrugged. "At least, that's what I think he meant when he explained it to me. There's room for interpretation when Coyote talks, you know?"
  24. "It's certainly not our intention to stay back and let a collection of teenagers, however gifted, do all the work, no." Annette replied dryly, smiling a little at Sean as the door to the room opened and Autumn returned, freckled features paler than usual and her lips in a tight line as she made her way back to her seat. "You okay?" Dana murmured to her as she settled back into her chair. Autumn threw her a small smile and a nod, mouthing "I'm fine." in response as Annette got to her feet, dimming the lights with a remote in one hand. "Just before the dawn of the twentieth century, the Aeon Society was formed from a conglomeration of like-minded and, broadly speaking, philanthropic men and women. Most came from to various clubs and secret societies beforehand, but all shared a common interest - the exploration of and the unlocking of our cosmos and of human potential, whether through philosophical, economic, or scientific advances." Annette's voice was smooth and calm, little in the way of hesitation or stammering in her delivery. "There have always been mysteries in our world - whether in the depths of the sea or earth, or the reaches of space, or locked away in atoms and molecules, or hidden in the human mind. And there have always been those wanting to discover them. The Aeon Society's aim was to be a central sharing of such knowledge, which would then be disseminated out into the world." The conference call unit in the center of the table sprang to life, light shimmering from it's top to present a three-dimensional projection in the air that rotated slowly so that all assembled could watch as Annette's presentation continued. Various faces in black and white, newspaper article headlines, newsreel recordings of events and people filled the air. "We were not always successful. Some of our efforts to advance industry led to abuses, some of our efforts to advance technology led to disasters. And some of our efforts to improve humankind led to moral failing. As always, the best of intentions does not always guarantee the best of results. But we persevered." "We weren't the only people investigating mysteries, however. President Theodore Roosevelt, himself a sometime ally of the Aeon Society, formed Branch 9 as an arm of U.S. law enforcement and intelligence gathering, with the specific mandate to police the 'unseen world'. Strange happenings, super-science falling into or being developed by the wrong hands, aliens and poltergeist events - anything and everything the Aeon Society researched, Branch 9 also studied - but with more of an focus on containment, to preventing danger to America and the world, than to research for discovery's own sake. Our goals were not always aligned, and on several occasions our two organisations clashed because of these differing philosophies." "We made a peace compact during World War Two, when we realised that Nazi and Communist organisations with similar focuses to ours existed and, indeed, presented a threat to both world security and to the progress of humanity as a whole. Since that time, we have endeavoured to work together." Annette looked around at them all in the gloom. "That concludes the quick history of the organisations behind the Project. Now for the Project itself. Most of us here have heard of projects such as MKULTRA and various spin-offs, designed to brainwash people for purposes of interrogation and even programming them to turn on their nation. When these programs were shut down, one of the scientists associated with them came forward to Branch 9 with some findings of his own. Findings which, he claimed, could lead to the development of human potential in the arena of psychic powers." "In accordance with our pact, Branch 9 sought Aeon's input and advice on this project, and so Proteus was formed in the eighties. We pumped money and research into Professor Klein's theories, and began running tests on a control population - Shelly's. Klein's theories postulated that it would take several generations for results to show, and so we settled in, upgrading Shelly's educational and medical infrastructure so as to give us the best chance of detecting and studying changes over time." She gestured at those present. "Your children, despite exhibiting powers, were not part of Klein's test group, but a result of the meddling of another person." "Coyote." Cassie said, sighing. "Or Troy Lucero. Or the Man in Black." "Grandpappy." Marissa said with a sly grin. "Who?" Carl looked at his daughter askance, then at Annette. "What?" "A seemingly-immortal alien-slash-god who has played a chess game spanning generations on generations, playing matchmaker and mover." Jason said quietly. "For reasons of his own, but which we think are benign to humanity as a whole, he is behind each and every one of us not only having powers, but being here in Shelly. He advised us against the Dark, and also revealed to Cassie that her dad is still alive." "It's a whole thing, dad." Devin put in. "But yeah. Dude's up to something, and we're not sure what his end game is." "He says it's to rest." Marissa said softly, remembering her encounter with Coyote out by the bridge. "He's tired, I think." "At any rate, Project Proteus had one goal. There was, however, another project set up under Klein's direction sometime after Proteus was started. Project Argo." Annette's voice was accompanied by the display switching to show a glacial lake that several people present, Carl, Cade and Autumn amongst them, recognised as being from the mountains on the other side of the Blackfoot Reservation. "We're not sure how, exactly, but Professor Klein discovered something buried deep below Upper Two Medicine Lake. So deep, in fact, that it was buried in the bedrock of the mountains themselves. We began excavation and discovered... well..." The image shifted to a recording, showing a large open cavern, littered with lights and safety and digging equipment. Figures moved, showing the scale of the place to be on par with a giant aircraft hangar at least. Most of the walls were flat gray excavated granite except one, which was a shimmering white and silver pearlescent wall that seemed almost translucent one moment, then solid the next before again becoming somewhat insubstantial. "We think it's a vessel." Annette said into the silence. "We think it's somehow stuck out of phase with everything around it, neither solid nor completely ghostlike. We think it's as big as a modern U.S. aircraft carrier, but it's hard to tell because it throws off all our instruments when they try to measure it. Current theory is that it could be as large as a city for all we know. We know that when we first found it, it allowed several of our teams to come aboard, but then something changed abruptly and they were all expelled. The cat and the smilodon were taken from this thing in the early days - apparently there's some manner of on-board park or nature reserve." "After the lock-out by the vessel, we've spent a couple of decades now trying to get back into it, with no success. The authorities lost interest and urgency, and so Project Argo, like Project Proteus, was largely left to it's own devices until very recently. When we took over Proteus from Cook and jailed him for going beyond his remit last week, we sent a team to Site B to investigate, only to have them fired upon. It seems Professor Klein - with the aid of his allies in Crossroads Incorporated - has phased out all staff loyal to the Project and replaced them with his own people, or those whom he can control. He is conducting experiments to 'crack open' the vessel, one of which is called the Quantum Key, some manner of dimensional generator which, if I understand correctly, is designed to bring the vessel back into phase with everything else. It's this Key, we believe, that has caused the crossover events where the Void has been brought somewhat into our world. We also have a report that there is a steady, solid portal there in Site B into the Void - from someone who came through it." "Ellie." Devin said. Annette nodded before looking around at the others. In the air above the table, the shimmering wall of the alien vessel faded in and out of reality. "That's the overview of Site B." she told them all. "Any questions at this point?"
  25. Sean's face screwed up in anger as he jumped to his feet and glared at the Jauntsen twins, his chair skidding behind him. "Wow! Really?! Telling everyone earlier would have changed exactly what, guys? We know as much about Todd as we do Cassie's father, which is they're at Site B. That's it!" With turning away from them, he pointed emphatically at Annette. "Until we actually knew where Site B was, maybe a floorplan, it didn't seem-" Sean cut himself off, went to slump down in his chair, but caught himself right before falling on his ass. He pulled his chair back and plopped down into it, crossing one arm and pinching the bridge of his nose, trying to collect himself, knowing he was getting worked up. The Jauntsens sure weren't going to be happy when he told them his personal reasons for needing to go to Site B, away from the parental units. But he didn't want this meeting to devolve into the same mess as at the Jauntsens' place. "Look. I just learned about Todd Sunday night. Monday, we had Not-Cody to deal with. I could have mentioned it Tuesday at your place, but well, we know how that went. So I'm bringing it up now, when it looks we're actually going to make progress on going to Site B." Carolyn placed a comforting hand on her feminine son's shoulder, but Sean wasn't in the mood to be mollified. He turned his large, jade and turquoise eyes on the representative from the Aeon Society, but if Annette was disturbed by the outbursts, she gave no sign of it, simply giving Sean a nod. He tried to fight down the dubiousness he couldn't help but feel and turned back to Devin and Marissa. "And something else, why do you think going to Site B is just going to be a rescue mission? As your fond to point out, there are proper authorities here. Yeah, we have our reasons for going, but I'm pretty sure Aeon and Branch-9 want their Site back that Dr. Klein - or whoever he might actually work for or with - stole from them. We're a force multiplier, sure, and a counter for whatever super stuff they might have there, but we don't have to go alone this time." His eyes cut back to Annette. "I hope."
  26. "Seriously?" Marissa head dipped in absolute wonderment that Sean waited until now to bring up the Todd information. "Christ Sean, that would have been nice to know around the same time we decided Site B needed to happen." She raised her hands up in surrender. "You know what? Fine. I-I don't even care. I can't even care at this point. We are going to end up dead, or worse at this rate. We're an absolute hot mess." Devin sighed deeply, obviously irritated (some more). He just shook his head and like his sister raised up his hands in absolute surrender. "Just tell us what your plans are for Todd and we'll work them into the rescue, I guess. Now, instead of infiltrating and locating one individual, we need to scour the facility for a second one, which Cassie could have been doing already, and hope we can make it to them. Great." He chuckled as he leaned back. "I give up. I just... I plain give up. Maybe I just don't comprehend the intricacies of your dizzying intellect, but you win. You guys officially win. I have given up."
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