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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. 12:20, Nuclear-powered Trailer Sean glanced up from his phone towards the sun that was just starting to slide from its zenith. With his gifts, he could look at it without risking damage to his eyes, and to his vision, the sun was far more than just a yellow-white blob in the sky. It was a dancing, coruscating tapestry woven from the gamut of the electromagnetic spectrum. The sight had helped him model alternate types of vision - through technology or mutation - to ReGenesis, instead of just using the standard greenish darkvision. He had it, of course, but he had more, too. The voluptuous boy stood up, hands going to knuckle his back and stretch the strain from sore muscles when he paused, heterochromatic eyes widening in surprise as he looked down at himself. The lingering aches from facing Not-Cody and the deluge of monstrosities in the Blight had faded away unnoticed during his time of self-reflection and under the sun. He interlaced his fingers and stretched his arms over his head, then rolled his shoulders. Nothing, no strain, no pain. What remained was a faint, subtle, almost electric, thrum of health and vitality. It felt somewhat akin to the feeling of increasing and accelerating the bioelectric synapses in his brain when he overclocked it. Much, much, milder, to be sure - he wouldn't even have noticed save for the sudden realization of the absence of pain - but analogous. Were the scope of his powers starting to broaden- - his stomach gave a muted growl of warning hunger. Well, it was pass the start of lunch period. Sean brushed off the seat of his pants, gave one of the watching - but unseen - cameras a small, two-fingered salute, then began strolling back to his car. 1:30ish, Bunnee's A cheek resting on a fist, the crimson-haired electrokinetic dipped a crispy sweet potato fry in the small tub of paprika garlic aioli, his eyes on his tablet sitting on the chipped laminate of the booth table at Bunnee's. He was up to 87 units sold, creeping closer to triple digits. Tiny in comparison to AAA games selling millions of copies at launch, but he didn't have the advertising budget of the big publishers - just his own efforts online, and he was only releasing as digital downloads on PC. He could have cheated, Sean supposed, but he had pushed all his time and unfair advantages on finishing the game and getting it out there, rather than word of it getting out there. Besides, he didn't have shareholders he was beholden to, he didn't mind the game finding its audience over time. As long as it did find an audience. A quarter of a club sandwich remained on Sean's plate, next to the few remaining sweet potato fries he was absently finishing. A wireless earbud was tucked in his ear as he had continued to listen to IrønBjørn's playthrough over lunch, while occasionally responding to questions and comments on Steam and the II pages, YouTube, Twitter, and Reddit. Either he was getting used to IrønBjørn or IrønBjørn was getting used to ReGenesis, but the Streamer seemed to Sean to be far more engaging and entertaining than he initially had been. With perfect timing or perfect serendipity, just as Sean finished the last sweet potato fry, Max showed up to replace his near empty glass of orange-lemonade for a full one. Sean looked up his tablet to nod his thanks, expecting the well-endowed waitress to give his plate a questioning glance, silently asking him if he were done. Instead, she slid herself onto the bench seat across from him. Sean blinked, cocking his head in inquiry. "Shouldn't you be in school, Sean?" Max asked idly. "Probably," Sean admitted in a drawl. He shrugged. "Not feeling it today. Charlie. Other stuff. Skipping a day ain't gonna hurt." He ran a hand through his hair, then frowned in self-recrimination as he picked up his phone. "I should probably tell my mom before the school calls." "I get it," Max agreed with a nod. "I've been hearing things-" "Only half true, at best," Sean interrupted hastily. "I won't ask which half." Max shot him a wry smirk. The busty waitress had always treated him well, treated him as he wished to be treated without ignoring or overlooking how he looked, and for that, Sean was grateful. It did help him accept his appearance rather than be shamed for it, and it helped her with earning bigger tips from him. "Just don't make a habit of it, right? At some point, somebody might end up calling the Sheriff on you for truancy." Sean rolled expressive eyes. That would be something, with what he knew and what the Sheriff knew, coming to get him about truancy. "No promises, Max." Sean smirked back and tapped his tablet with a forefinger, a joking tone in his voice. "I just released a new video game. Might end up a big, fancy indy developer making bank. Who says I need school?" "Yeah, about that. That's why I'm taking a minute to sit down with you, Sean. There's a guy been asking around about you..." Sean froze, almost dropped his phone, and stared wide-eyed at Max, thoughts of the assassination attempt on Jase shoving itself to the forefront of his thoughts. "Wh-who's looking for me? What he look like?" "He looks like he's from California, blond, kind of a surfer dude with a well paying job in tech somewhere. Wears an expensive suit but doesn't look stuffy in it. Drives the kind of fancy, ostentatious car the Jauntsen boy would drive if he drove a car instead of a bike. You can't miss it." "What he want?" For answer, Max pulled a business card from her apron and placed on the table in front of Sean, the rich cardstock making a crisp slap on the laminate. Sean leaned forward to read the card. It stated: Brad Stanton, EA Talent Acquisition, Senior Technical Recruiter, followed by an EA business email and a phone number. The business card looked expensive with a touch of gilding. Very American Psycho. Sean hadn't been sure people even still used business cards. "Huh." "He was looking for 'Sean Cassidy'," Max said, "for a 'mutually beneficial and totally sweet business deal', but I don't think he knows exactly who you are, or what he's expecting." "Why didn't he just email or send a private DM?" Sean wondered, more to himself than to Maxine as he picked up the card. After the debacle that was his attempt at streaming on Twitch, he kept personal information tight online, but he had business accounts for Intersectional Interactive on various social media sites. It might be conceited, but Sean had always assumed he'd get a call from a big AAA video game publisher or developer. He just hadn't thought it would be so soon. Certainly not the day he dropped his second game. He was thinking at least after his third, maybe longer, unless ReGenesis ridiculously blew up. "I got the feeling Brad thinks a personal meeting will make his offer, whatever it is, more appealing." Max gestured at Sean's tablet. "How's the game doing? Think Mr. Brad Stanton is here about that?" "Maybe?" Sean hedged. It's not like he had a ton of viewers and subscribers on his YouTuber channel about the making of ReGenesis and video games in general. He supposed he could have garnered some interest because of Annwn. But there was no way anyone would be interested in a new, untested IP. Then sent Marshalls, like real ones even if they were corrupt, after Jase. It would make sense to send a rep from a big video game publisher after him to put his guard down. "I'll have check this guy out online, see if he's legit. Thanks, Max." Sean waved the card then stuffed it into his satchel. I'll have to talk to mom after, too. Carolyn Cassidy might only work part-time as an account from home, mostly keeping the books for her husband, but she'd also helped her son set up his business. She was the closest thing Intersectional Interactive had to a CFO. Not like he'd ever sell anything to a company like EA. "No problem." Max stood and gave Sean a quick smile before heading back to the counter. "Just when you sell your game or company for big bucks, don't forget your favorite waitress at your favorite diner, okay?" Sean laughed, a genuine, feel good laugh. He hadn't had one of those in what felt like forever. "I won't." He took a sip of his orange-lemonade then picked up his tablet, minimizing the stream. Let's found out who this Brad Stanton really is...
  3. About 1:15pm When Cade got the text, he made a quick reply, and then turned around from heading to class, instead heading to the nurse's office. It wasn't that much trouble to get in to see Marissa, and he smiled. He'd made a quick stop at a vending machine, for another snickers. "Brought you a little something." he said quietly. Marissa was lying back a bit on the small hospital examination table the school had and her eyes lit up at the sight of the Snickers bar. She was sipping Coke from a can with a straw. The small hospital table to her left had several wrappers from tiny Halloween bite bars they'd fed her but her complexion still owned a pale and weakened pallor. The can found a home next to the wrappers and snatched the candy bar. "Ugh, thank you! They had a coke and just these parts... Christ, I had to look up on Google for them how to treat me. They ran to get me a Gatoraide. The military needs to station some medical people here, seriously." She tore into the Snickers and sighed as her eyes closed with pleasure while she chewed. Her mouth filled with chocolate and nougat and in an in a very unladylike fashion spoke while she was nomming half of a Snickers bar. "Don'chu hev claph?" "You're welcome." he grinned at her. "Yes I have class, but I knew I needed to come check on you, and likely, something you'd be wanting." Cade laughed abit. "You were also very explicit on what would happen if I "ghosted" you if something happened. " he shrugged. "It'd look odd to people if something happened to you and I didn't come to check on you." "So..." she slowly stopped chewing and side-eyed him. "You didn't come because you actually cared, just because you were afraid of what I would do if you ghosted me?" Her lips pursed and she nodded. She sucked on her teeth. "Can't say I blame you. You're learning at least, thanks for coming at least." She lifted her phone and set it back down. "Deej's been texting me and my mom is coming down after she finishes a meeting, so she might send me home. If you don't see me the rest of the day, that's where I am. Text me if you like." "You know that I came because I care." he said, his voice quiet. It struck him as odd, her seeming almost bothered that he didn't list that first. He really didn't understand women, least of all, Marissa. "Yeah, I'll text you." he looked at her. "Are you really okay?" his actual concern was evident now. His label-neutral lover relaxed and sighed. "Honestly, I don't know." She shrugged and looked up at him. "Something's not right. Cade, I've torn through two plates of eggs, toast, sausage, two snickers bars, a yogurt, some mixed fruit and veggies for lunch and... I'm still hungry plus, I weighed myself and I'm down three pounds from last night before we went and... you know." "I've watched enough T.V. to know that whenever people get super powers, there's always one persons who just go wrong and... they melt away or they explode, or they break down..." A look of worry spread through out her pallid complexion. "I... I'm kind of freaking out. It's like my body is eating itself, and me, to death. I've seen Thinner, this won't end well for me. Oh... and the school nurse think I might be pregnant, so there's that. Expect my mom to go nuclear." "i'd heard that rumor myself. Crap like that spreads faster than anything. I haven't paid any mind to it, it'll die on its own soon enough. I won't say you collapsing, and your increased appetite isn't concerning, but a heightened metabolism would help you resist poisons and disease too, right? I mean it always does in the comics if we're gonna use that as a basis. You're just always hungry, you could turn out like the Flash and have superspeed too. Just means we have to cook some really big meals, going forward. Maybe ask the others if any of them are experiencing something similar? I'm not, but then we've established I'm not like any of the rest of you. I'm no genius, but I bet your mom will want to take you to the medical center to run some tests, and see just what's going on. You know your mom isn't going to let them do anything shady, she'll be watching like an angry Hawk, I'm sure. You could ask to see my mother, too, if you like. If there's anyone at the hospital you can trust implicitly, it will be her." he'd let his inner nerd out just abit, and he didn't care. Cade smiled. "As for your mom, don't let her get to you. You've got enough stress. I've got your back, and you know Devin does. Hell, the Fellowship sticks together, even if we don't all always get along. Go home get some rest before the meeting. I'm sure it's going to be stressful enough. If you need anything, let me know and I'll get it on my way over, after I go home to get cleaned up." "I'm thinking that might not be a bad idea, I'm a little worried." He was a bit quirky at times, but she knew he cared. She was pretty sure he couldn't help but care, like a Paladin always looking for a Princess in a tower, Cade was always going to be the nice guy, that much she could tell. Still, he was cute when he wanted to be. She mustered a smile and held out her arms, waving her fingers inward to summon him to her. "C'mere. Hug me and kiss me while I still taste delicious." She invited him, referring to the chocolate still on her lips. He smiled and leaned down, holding her gently and kissing her. His neck tingled as her hand slid through his hair and her nails gently tickled his scalp. She was right... she tasted like chocolate. "Hopefully I'll feel better soon, hmm?" she cooed with anticipation and hope in his ear. "Go, get to class... I'll feel guilty if I make you late twice in one day." He couldn't help but smile. "Worth being late for you." he answered her back, before they released each other. "When you're feeling better, I'll be sure to show you how glad I am for that." he added, before drawing himself up. His hand lingered on one of hers she was slow to pull away, his own hands were quite warm, and he finally pulled back. "If you need me, you know how to reach me." He turned and left, looking over his shoulder once at the door, still smiling. He didn't think it was something bad with her powers, as far as he knew, nobody actually had any sort of negative side effects, unless they overused their abilities. (written with Dave)
  4. This really is a strange place to be in, after what happened. What happened? She can't say for sure. She can't... remember? Oh whatever. The music is at least decent. In fact she can't really help tapping her foot to the beat. It's her birthday party. Again. Erwann and Alice did this. Very sweet of them. Now she can remember. "'Cause I'm going to live my life" But something feels... amiss. There is a very odd noise every time she taps her foot. Now that she's looking at it, it makes sense. Rotten flesh, mingled with dirt, and blood, and bone. And she taps her foot. Of course the sound would be weird. She raises her eyes, staring at the horde of chitinous, ravenous monsters charging her. Of course something would feel wrong. She closes her eyes, not able to watch her friends, swallowed by the crowd. It'll be over soon. And the music keeps on going. She opens her eyes, facing an impressive row of teeth, and- If you wanna live your life Live it all the way and don't you waste it Every feelin' every beat Can be so very sweet you gotta taste it Life's a party, make it hot Dance don't ever stop, whatever rhythm Every minute, every day Take them all the way you gotta live 'em You gotta do it, you gotta do it your way You gotta prove it You gotta mean what you say You gotta do it, you gotta do it your way You gotta prove it Let's get loud, let's get loud Turn the music up to hear that sound Let's get loud- Squeaked, sitting straight in her bed. The sun was much higher than before, so high she couldn't see it through the window anymore. It was probably noon. Her heart was drumming fast in her chest, faster than Johnny Rabb on steroids. Her trembling hand grabbed her phone on the nightstand. Almost 1PM. That was enough sleeping for today. She breathed, very slowly, for a couple minutes. I hate nightmares. After staring at her phone for a moment, she remembered. She still didn't get a reply from Courtney. She quickly tapped on the tactile screen. She deployed her mind web, scanning the surrounding of her house. Everything was rather quiet. She sat there for a couple minutes, watching the minature stars moving around. Birds, rodents, even insects. Without her Shine, she probably would've never noticed how crowded the world is. She was busy reflecting on this when her phone dinged. It was Courtney. Kat exhaled heavily, at ease. Ten minutes later, she jumped out of bed, in a rather happy mood. So happy, in fact, that she almost forgot to get dressed on the way out of her room, closing the door she'd just opened, red-cheeked at the thought. Should she have breakfast, or lunch? Now that was a rather hard question to answer. Or rather simple really. She technically had breakfast with her father. Lunch it is. She looked down at her phone while going down the stairs, an excited grin crossing her features. "Ow." Maybe she should check the wound on her cheek first. The house was empty. At this hour it made sense. Of course both the adults are busy adulting. Did that come out wrong? The petite French girl shook her head, setting the sterile compresses, strips and disinfectant on the kitchen table, along with a small mirror she'd found in the bathroom. She sat down and began removing the padded rectangle stuck to her sensitive face, grimacing. The cut was oblique, about one inch long and not so deep now that she took a good look at it, running accross her jawline to the left of her chin, chilling reminder of how close that pointy bone had been to her external jugular vein. She grabbed a compress, spraying it with the antiseptic, and began dabbing the cut, making sure it remained clean. She strapped a couple strips on it, closing the minuscule gap between the edges of the wound. There was no real need to groom it further, she'd read online that a cut of this size was best kept uncovered if you wanted it to heal properly. Kat stared at her reflection for a minute, uncertain of what she was thinking about. Her stomach growled. Right. Lunch.
  5. Cassandra sat through the entire tirade, then said, "Wow, okay. From the top." She closed her eyes and started to recite: "I was feeling off, so I went to the doctor's office. It has nothing to do with any rumors. There's nothing to talk about yet. I don't know what you're hearing from your sources, maybe you should check with them? Mari's trying to set a new trend, she thinks the look'll be hot. Yes I am. No you can't. And...someone doesn't sound like a credible witness?" Leila folded her arms more and more tightly as Cassie went on, then said, "This is bullshit, Cassandra. You report to me. You can't keep secrets from your editor! What's the point of a reporter who doesn't report?!" "Yes!" Cass said abruptly, cutting her off. "It's bullshit! Ask bullshit questions, get bullshit answers! Jesus, Laila, are you actually paying people to follow me around or something?! Look! I've been through some shit lately, and I am still trying to work out what I can hand in, and what will get me arrested for handing in. Who's kissing who is nothing, Laila. It's nothing." She took a deep breath, trying to exhale the sudden tension in her neck and shoulder, and held her hands out in mock surrender. "Alright. Deadlines are good. Deadlines keep me focused. I need two days to untangle all this, and get something printable on your desk. Alright? Two days. That'll give you time to get it out this week if you get the copy in on time." Laila narrowed her eyes suspiciously. "So what, you just fuck off for two days, then put some piece of science fiction down? No, I want to know what this story IS, Allen. What are you working on, and why isn't it...any of those things I was asking about? I'm handing you grade A material here, but you're just...no, I need more time..." Her voice slid up into a mocking falsetto on the last phrase. Cassandra rubbed her temples and said, "Right, well, I can't say much yet because ongoing investigations and all that, but basically a tiny bit of what you said was kind of right in a very roundabout way. Remember when Cody disappeared?" Immediately Laila was sitting down across from Cassie, intently focused. "Yeah." "Well, then around Labor Day some other kids were taken too. A few kids realized something was going on, and pieced enough together to get in way over their heads...but then, against all odds, managed to pull it out at the end and save some lives. That is the story. What I'm going through now is working out how specific I'm allowed to be, who wants to be on record, and all that." Laila was quiet for a moment, studying Cassandra minutely. "Two days?" "Best I can do." Finally she nodded. "Okay. Two days. But it had better be exactly as awesome as you're making it sound." Then Laila stalked away. "Sure," Cassie grumped under her breath. "Because that's what I needed. More pressure."
  6. 1300-ish, Shelly High School The Snickers bar didn't do much, in fact, she was hungry again about thirty minutes later. With eyes closed she stood at her locker, hidden by the small door, taking a moment to collect her thoughts and just relax. She could hear the school all around her, the chaotic garble of too many people talking all at once, the occasional squeak of a shoe across the waxed floors, locker doors slamming closed or popping open. It was almost hypnotic and she felt like she could just curl into a ball fall aslee- "Um, excuse me?" She breathed. If she ignored it, it would go away. Right? "E-excuse me? You're Marissa, right? Marissa Jauntsen?" She opened her eyes and lazily spun about to face whomever it was trying to get her attention. Lunchtime. One hour... just one hour to herself, was that too much to ask? It was, said the cosmos as she tried to guess why Steve Rodgers, before the serum, was trying to flag her down at her locker. Sandy blonde, 90 pounds soaking wet (with a brick tied to his ankle, hopefully), and unpleasant to look at he certainly wasn't anything she'd consider interesting. His teeth were straight and his eyes were a pretty shade of silvery gray. "What," she asked lazily and like she hadn't heard a word he'd said up until now. "Hi, I'm, uh, Garett." He smiled nervously and offered his hand which she just glared at as her eyebrow slowly raised up in confusion. "Great." She slid her book into her locker, having realized just then that she'd been holding the whole time. "Don't care." Garret lowered his hand, his cheeks flushing slightly, "Oh, uh... so, um, you're Cade Allister's girlfriend, right?" "We're not putting a label on it," she said on reflex. She turned from her open locker and looked at Garret. "You're still here... why?" "Yeeaah, why wouldn't I be?" he tried to smile past her attitude. Truth was she intimidated the hell out of him most days, but today she just seemed less like herself and more approachable. "But you two are going out, though, right?" "Yes, no... sort of," Marissa, exasperated let her shoulders collapse and she just faced him, shaking her head in annoyance. "Why? What's it to you, anyway?" "My friend, didn't know if you had a date for Homecoming and wanted me to ask you for him," he pointed across the way and heads of two other students disappeared behind lockers. "Ronnie." "Wilkins?" she said with a disgusted look on her face. "He never bathes. I have a class with him, we can smell him from three seats away... no, nuh uh, no way in hell, ever. Plus, he's a Freshman. Tell Ronnie to stay in his lane. Maybe his pillow is free that night, Gary." "It's uh, Garret." He pointed out. "Don't care." She also pointed out. "Um, what about Sean Cassidy?" Garret added. "Sean is a guy, Barret." "Garre-," he shrugged. "You know, never mind. I'm cool with Barret. No, the reason I was asking was because you hang out with Sean, right?" "Sean hangs with me," she corrected him. Her gaze got as hard as it could, given how miserable she was feeling. "So if you have a problem with him, you have one with my brother and me. Now, why do you want to know about Sean? Hurry up, you're like a little mosquito, and you're starting to bother the hell out of me. I don't even recognize you, are you a Freshman too?" "Wh-what? N-no," this was why she scared the crap out of him. She spoke and flipped to angry faster than he could think of what he was going to say. He swallowed hard, trying to relax and say what he needed to before she went nuclear. "I mean, yes. I am a Freshman, but I don't' have a problem with Sean... we heard he's a gamer and were wondering if he had any open spots in his gaming group? I was hoping you could... um, p-pass my info along to him, please?" He presented her with a torn piece of notebook paper with their numbers written on it in obvious gamer handwriting. "I have a raw damage wizard I've been wanting to try out and was hoping he had the room." She stared at the paper for a good long moment, brow raised in mock appraisal of the weeb specimen so brazenly standing in front of her. What happened to her? When did the nerds and losers of this school decide that she had fallen so far that they could simply just approach her like she was one of them and not their royalty to be worshipped? She sighed deeply and snatched it from him. "Surefinewhatever," and stuffed it into her jean pocket. "Now go away, Glen I we're done." "See? Now you're not even trying anymo-" she forced her past him with a slam of her locker and made it three steps before her world began to spin. She stopped as the walls wavered and the ceiling weft about slowly her eyes rolled back and Marissa fell backwards... Garret yelled for help from won of the teachers and Courtney hazily appeared in her field of vision as a blurry mess right before her world went black.
  7. 1240, Shelly High School The school newspaper office was quiet, a perfect place for Cassie to slip away, to sit down and ostensibly go over material from the classes she'd missed this morning - but more truthfully to wrestle with the revelations shown her by her gift. It certainly seemed like Marissa was in with Enterich, who was definitely a Bad Guy in addition to being a sicko who'd convinced another sicko to murder a child. What had the money been for? Was it anything to do with the murder attempt this morning? She wasn't looking forward to the meeting later, for certain. Well, she was and she wasn't. On the one hand, it needed to happen, and her desire to find the truth at the heart of today's events would (hopefully) be satisfied. On the other hand... It was likely to be acrimonious. Both Jason and Autumn had expressed misgivings about the meeting - the other half of Team Pluck somewhat nebulously and her strange boyfriend with characteristic brutally clinical breakdown. Cassandra was moderately satisfied with her powers of persuasion in getting Jase to attend - she just hoped it wouldn't add to the disaster potential. And thoughts of Jason Bannon naturally led to 'Ellie'. The striking similarities in how they acted - but Ellie was an alien and Bannon was a human psychopath. Or was he? He wouldn't lie about it - from what she understood of him - so maybe he thought he was one. Or maybe Ellie was lying. Or maybe... maybe, maybe, maybe. Another problem for the pile. Just let them get through today before working on tangential stuff, please, the blonde girl grumped to herself as she read the textbook page. Or stared at it anyway, her eyes seeing it but her brain elsewhere. She was saved from disappearing down another rabbit hole of musings when the door flew open and Leila Cross stormed into the newspaper office, closing the door firmly behind her before moving to sit at her desk, opposite Cassandra's. "Okay. What the actual fuck, Allen?" Leila's speared her newsroom partner with a glare and went on without waiting for an answer. "First, where did you go this morning? Second, does it have anything to do with rumors I'm hearing about Jason fucking Bannon being shot? Because if it does, I want to know why you're not already talking to me about the story. And speaking of stories, what the hell is this I'm hearing from my sources that you and a very assorted group of Shelly High's... let's call them 'finest' were at the fucking medical center last night after having rescued two kidnapped girls from a serial killer? Said group also containing Jason 'El Chapo' Bannon, Autumn Keane and the Jauntsens, who were also late in today. Why is Marissa Jauntsen dressed like a monochrome girl next door? Are you part of some weird teenage sex cult and can I join? Someone says they spotted Bannon kissing Keane down the road from the school not long ago - which is pretty damn frisky for a dude who reportedly got shot. What's the fucking story, Cassie?!" All that was missing was the toothbrush mustache and Leila thumping the desk demanding photos of Devin.
  8. 1240, Marias Medical Center "Really, I'm fine." Tawny protested, sitting up in the hospital bed and smiling at the tall, handsome young man who'd come bearing flowers. "They're lovely, though." the golden-haired girl admitted, looking at the vase next to her bed and then at Jacob. "They're sort of an apology." Jacob sat down in the chair by the bedside, smiling at his Homecoming date despite the nasty-looking faded bruise that covered one side of his face. He fiddled with his hands, looking down at them, then at her. "I'm sorry I couldn't-" Tawny leaned over and placed her hand on top of his. "Jacob, there's nothing you could have done." she told him in an earnest, yet gentle tone. "It was... Well, he was out of your weight class." she said, remembering some boxing jargon she'd heard an uncle use once. "I know." The warden's son smiled ruefully, then sighed. "That doesn't make it easier, somehow. I'm not really used to feeling..." he shrugged, looking away. "Helpless." Tawny finished for him, nodding in understanding as he looked back to meet her eyes. "Join the club." Jacob smiled a little at her. "I'm glad that... You know." he said, indicating her. "You're alright. That they were able to save you." The 'they' hung between the two, each trying to decide what the other might know. After all, Tawny was Devin's friend, and Jacob was Autumn's ex, right? Surely, each reasoned, the other was in on 'the Secret'? Jake had been listening last night when Bannon had brought Autumn home, when his dad and the Keanes had sat down with the strange kid and discussed horrors and miracles. It hadn't really been explained why the creature that had been Cody had taken Tawny or Sophia, though. Or killed Charlie Cole. There were answers the stoic young man needed, and he wasn't even sure what the questions were yet. Or who to ask. For Tawny, it was similarly confusing. She knew why Cody had taken her, of course. He'd ranted about it, grinning that mirthless razor-filled grin at her. She'd tried to focus, to use her Shine against him, but her terror had scattered her concentration like leaves before a wind. She knew that Devin and his friends, the Fellowship as they called themselves, had come for her. Deej and Emjay had visited earlier today, Devin being as sweet as always and Marissa... almost kind. "I'm glad too." she said softly. "It was..." she remembered the cold grasp of the Tree on her, not just her flesh but her soul, and shivered. "It's over now, anyway." "Yeah." Jacob nodded, frowning a little. "I guess." = = = = = = = Deep in thought as he left Tawny's room, hands in the pockets of his jacket, Jacob almost missed another tall, though much sparser shape as it strode down a side corridor and turned out of view. Had that been... He hurried to the junction of the two hallways and glanced left, seeing his quarry as it turned another corner, this time into the main lobby. Tall, slender, shaggy hair... "Bannon!" The other stopped, glancing over his shoulder as Jake Crocker caught up with him, not missing the scar that traversed the ice-eyed youth's cheek. That was new - it must have been from the battle last night, Jake reasoned, his gaze focusing on it for a moment before meeting Bannon's eyes. "Crocker." Jason inclined his head, eyes narrowing as he considered. "Visiting Tawny?" "Yeah." Jacob said, falling into step as the two teens continued on their way out of the hospital. "You?" "Had to speak with some people." Jason said by way of reply. Either he didn't want to talk about it, or it wasn't Jacob's business, or both. The warden's son eyed him as they moved into the parking lot. "Some people, huh?" "Yes." Bannon's reply was as informative as the previous one, and his expression was... well, Jacob never wanted to play poker against him. It was like trying to read a wall. He stepped ahead and turned, raising a hand without touching Jason to bring them both to a halt. "Okay... so. Look, I know there's stuff going on." he said. "And I know it's weird stuff. And I want to help. So what can I do?" "I don't know. What can you do?" Jason inquired, fixing the taller boy with a level gaze that was neither hostile nor friendly. In the face of the question, though, Jake paused, his shoulders sagging slightly. "I... dunno." he admitted, thinking, throwing a glance at the twin icy emeralds currently appraising him and finding no succor there. "I mean... I don't even know what's going on, really. Just stories and snippets, and what I overheard. Which sounds... crazy." Bannon didn't say anything, merely looked at him. "Look, Autumn thinks the world of you, that's... uh... pretty obvious. And it's not just a girl-boy thing." he went on hastily. "I just want..." "To understand." Jason said quietly. "You are lost right now, and you're not sure what is real and where you fit into things. Understanding would help you." He paused, considering. "But it is not my place to just dump everything on you. We have a sort of... unofficial rule, I suppose. You are Autumn's oldest friend. As with her family, it would be a trespass for me to tell you what was going on without her consent." "I guess that makes sense." Jacob frowned, considering the angular features of the other youth. "I don't like it though." "Nor did Dana." Jason shrugged slightly, lips twitching in a smile. "She asked me yesterday, before everything happened, to tell her what was going on. I told her the same thing I am telling you - you should speak to Autumn. Possibly on another day." he added, eyes narrowing in thought. "Today is not likely to be a good day." "Right." Jacob wondered at that, but stored it away for later examination. Bannon was still staring at him, and Jake remembered himself. "Oh, right." he said, stepping out of the way. "Hey... Thanks. For talking to me. Or... not talking to me? Listening to me? Whatever that was." "A gift of time." Again, that weird glimmer of humor in those depthless eyes. "You are Autumn's friend. It is the least I can do. See you later." "Right." Jacob shook his head as he watched Bannon head over to the gleaming muscle car he drove. "Shit." he said softly, grumbling as he turned and headed for his own car.
  9. They'd kept him waiting a little while, which he didn't really care about. It was logical to suppose that Annette Giles was a busy woman, and even a member of the Fellowship couldn't necessarily bump her schedule on a whim. Besides, it gave him a chance to sit quietly, alone with his thoughts, spiraling as they did in a loose double-helix of crystalline forms and shapes in the halls of his mind. The murder attempt, the mysterious Enterich, Site B, meeting a member of his species, Marissa's possible betrayal, Devin and Autumn saving his life, the reactions of his various friends, his plans here in the Project... All kept in the air, turning and presenting new facets with each turn as he considered each issue. He sat in a small anteroom obviously meant for visitors - though what visitors he was not sure. Perhaps serious men and women in uniforms and suits, come from D.C to be wowed by their off-the-books project? Worthies from the mysterious Aeon Society, come to nod and chatter as Cook put his show-ponies through their paces. That was almost good for a smile. Cook's best demonstration had been Courtney whose gifts, impressive though they were, were already being rivalled by the couple of telepaths in in the Fellowship's ranks. Right now, Courtney had the edge in experience with using her gift, but her raw power, the strength of her Shine, was lacking. That sent his thoughts down another tangent. What was the connection there? Had the experimentation of the Project actually harmed Courtney and Tawny's natural development? The early interference having somehow stunted them? If so, perhaps that could be corrected, once he had access to Dr Cook's notes and had time to study what the modern-day Mengele had been up to. The door to the anteroom opened and Ellie walked in, moving with the same feline grace with which she'd entered the hospital room earlier, and sat in the comfortable chair next to his, half-turning and drawing her long bare legs up to curl into the cushions as she gazed at him, cheek propped on one hand, her air contemplative. Jase, lounging in his own chair with his arms folded, stared back expressionlessly. She was beautiful, for certain. Clear complexion, wide grey eyes, full lips, and a body that was athletic, hardened even, yet with female curves in what his aesthetic sense deemed the right places. They stared at each other for a long moment, which stretched to a minute, then two, as some silent battle of wills played out between the two of them. Finally, she gave a slight sigh and inclined her head, still regarding him. "You have the eyes of the Draig." she stated, head tilted, considering him as she spoke. "I recognise the name of the clan." he replied. "It was my mothers, before she left El and came here." "She did not teach you about the Teulu." Ellie remarked then, her eyes narrowing. "She abandoned you." "When she realised that I would not be like her, or my father." Jase agreed, nodding. "She is Teulu, but feels fear, shame, regret." "Interesting." The blonde girl pondered. "I have heard of that deformity now and then. She is lucky to have made it to adulthood - perhaps the reputation of the Draig is not earned." This last was delivered with a faint amused look, which Jason returned. "If you seek to push a button, or prick my pride, you will have to do better." he rejoined with a shrug. "I have no investment in my mother's clan. I don't even know of them beyond their name." "You and the one called Autumn seem close." Again the frank studying stare as she looked him over, appraising him. "Does she know you are not human?" "She does." "She has a marvellous gift." Ellie commented. "A good choice, I think. She seems resilient, too. Healthy." "Are you commenting on her as a comrade in arms, a girlfriend, or as breeding stock?" Jason asked, tilting his own head as he stared at her, his emerald eyes narrowing a little. "All three are worthy of consideration." Ellie smiled a little, a sly light entering her gaze. "Does she know how you feel about her?" "I have told her, by word and action, what she means to me." Jason shrugged, glancing at the clock on the wall. Ellie regarded his profile. "Your scar is fetching." she noted, changing topic yet again. "A sign of danger survived, of a tale to be told, of experience. Many females would be drawn to it, I think." "Thank you?" "Not me, of course." Ellie stood and stretched, almost incidentally - he was sure - showing off her body in the sundress. "I am for Devin." "So I gather." Jase's reply was dry, reflecting his own amusement. Ellie glanced at him, a brow raised. "If I were not, though, your redhead would have caused to be nervous. Even if you are skinny and undertrained, and do not know your heritage, your mind is sharp and your Radiance is strong enough to make the warrior Taggart nervous." she eyed him speculatively. "And you are handsome. Handsome counts for a lot." "I am interested in learning more of my heritage." Jase remarked, studying her. Ellie shook her head. "Since your mother has not taught you, perhaps I will." she said in a tone of one thinking it over. "I would be sure to tell Devin what a fine ally you are, if you do." Jason smiled slightly, one corner of his mouth curving. Ellie's eyes sparkled with humor as she looked back at him. "You learn fast." she noted. "Good. You have much to learn." She stepped towards the door, beckoning him. "For now, though, Annette is waiting." = = = = = = = "I thought you'd gotten lost." Annette said pointedly as the two young Teulu entered her office. Taggart, seated in a chair to one side of her desk, studied the pair of them intently, plainly trying to catalogue similarities. "You were observing us." Jason said calmly, taking a seat in front of Annette's desk. "I'm fairly certain if you did believe we'd wandered off the path there would be alarms and soldiers everywhere." The older woman stared at him, then shrugged, looking at Ellie expectantly. "I wanted to speak with him." Ellie said as if that explained everything. "I was curious, and you did not say it was an urgent matter." "She didn't say to dawdle and flirt over coffee, either." Taggart grumbled. Ellie smiled a little at the Major. "I do not work for Annette, or yourself, Major Taggart." she told him. "And I have been without a male for a long time. So if I wish to take a moment to flirt with handsome powerful males, I shall do so. Besides, there was no coffee." She paused, a gleam entering her grey eyes. "Speaking of handsome powerful males, do you have a mate, Major Taggart?" she asked, eyeing him speculatively sidelong through lowered lashes, her manner one of semi-blatant flirtation. "Perhaps a coupling would improve your temper. I am for Devin, but he has a date to Homecoming already, so I am free if you feel the urge." Annette cleared her throat, trying not to laugh as Taggart reddened at being propositioned by a girl who appeared just about old enough to be his daughter. "Ellie." she said with a hint of reproof. "Please." The blonde girl inclined her head and moved to recline on the office's couch, still smiling a little, her gaze resting on the uncomfortable Taggart. Annette studied the young man across from her, noting the cheekbone structure so similar to Ellie's, the scar, and the piercing eyes that studied her right back without giving much, if anything away. "You wanted to speak with me, Mr Bannon?" "Call me Jase." came the calm reply. "Jase, then." Annette smiled, reminding herself she'd dealt with worse characters than the youth across from her. Perhaps not as dangerous in an immediate way, but definitely more malicious. She'd seen and heard the conversation between Jason and Autumn when they'd been alone, and though her heart had been touched by the sight of young love, more important was the knowledge that Jason Bannon was not an unreasonable savage. "What can I do for you?" "Funny." Jase didn't smile, but his eyes did reflect humor. "Once, Cook asked me the same question. And I answered him the same way - I want a job." That got the room's attention. Taggart straightened, glancing at Annette, who went very still, her expression one of intense thought. "You want to work for us?" she asked after a few moments. "With you." Jason corrected. Annette leaned back in her chair slowly, regarding him. "And how do you see that working?" she asked, trying not to fidget. "After all, you are only sixt-" "Please don't tell me that I am only sixteen as though that makes me somehow less worthy." Jason told her flatly. "I have perfect three-dimensional, multi-sensory recall. I can can do advanced calculus mentally at roughly the speed of a computer. I can read, parse and absorb data faster than likely anyone you know. I have taught myself to a post-graduate standard in multiple disciplines. I am learning literally nothing in high school except that teenagers are petty and how to be bored out of my mind." Jason spread his hands expressively. "In addition to which I am not even human, as you no doubt already know, and a psychokinetic of constantly developing potential." "I see." Annette glanced at Taggart. "Do you?" Jason asked rhetorically. "I am bored, Ms Giles. Worse, I am wasted. I am under-utilised and achieving very little forward motion in my current situation. I want to study these gifts, the Shine - or Radiance - and the energies of the Dark. I want to put my brain to use developing new science - because right now, Ms Giles, this cutting edge frontier is still in the realm of witchcraft and quackery. You've got people trying to understand, comprehend, and measure Radiance. But they cannot feel it, cannot use it. I can. I've even got a hypothesis as to how our abilities work - but I need equipment and funding to test it and develop it." "Perhaps you could sit down with some of our scientists-" Taggart began. "Who will listen attentively, be properly impressed, and then I shall be ushered off to school and cut out of the loop whilst they chase the breadcrumbs I give them blindly." Jason interrupted, his eyes glinting. "I'm not interested in a pat on the head, Major. I want to be on the inside of this one. What I don't know, I can be taught. Hell, assess me first if you don't think I can cut it. Give me a trial run assisting whoever is your lead scientist. Because frankly, I'm about as suited to high school as I am to the vacuum of space. I want to be doing, to be challenged, not to waste my damned time in a glorified day-care center." "What about your friends?" Annette asked quietly. "Your girlfriend, even? Socialisation is important, even to... your kind. I assume, anyway." "I don''t plan on cutting off contact with them." Jason retorted. "And, let's face it, you want them to be working with the Project too. I can be a test case, an example that the Project - specifically you two - can be trusted. Look," he leaned forwards slightly. "On paper I will still be going to the school. But pull some strings. Say I've been assigned to advanced lessons - it won't be false, because I will be learning here. I still plan to go to Homecoming, and to hang out with my friends, and live a life outside of the lab. But I have reached my limit with attending lessons that teach me nothing and waste most of my days." "Let's say we give you an assessment... and it your mental gifts are everything you say, and we bring you to come and work for us-" "With you." Jason corrected again. "With us, yes. How much do you see yourself being paid?" Annette asked with a small smile. Jase sat back in his seat again, smiling back at her. "For the initial period of three to six months, something reasonable." he suggested. "Comparable to a STEM graduate in a well-paid entry position. After that apprenticeship is done, perhaps at the end of winter break, we can renegotiate." The elegant brunette glanced at Taggart, then at the intently watching Ellie, then at the youth in the chair before her. "And your father-" "Will be fine with it." Jason said firmly. "Well." Annette steepled her fingers, plainly considering. "You'll need to be tested, of course. And we'd likely identify areas you're not fully competent in yet and set up a training program." "Good." Jason nodded. "I want to learn. Stasis is death." "But we'll need to think about it, too." Annette held up a manicured hand. "That is not a 'no', far from it. But I will need to seek approval for this, and so will the Major. I think, however, on balance, that our superiors will be agreeable." This last was not quite a question as she glanced at Taggart, who shrugged. "Provided Mr Bannon-" "Call me Jase." "-Jase has scores to match his claims, I see no reason why not." The soldier studied the youth. "I'll get a proper test sorted out for him, then we can take things a step at a time from there." "Good." Annette placed her hands on the desk and rose, smiling. "I have to say, this is possibly the oddest job interview I've ever been part of." "It's my first job interview." Jason admitted, standing up. "Not counting Cook, who shut me down fast." He took Annette's offered hand and shook it, then turned to the Major. "Major Taggart." he nodded. "Jase." Taggart offered his own hand for a shake. "Got to say, I like the moxie." The older man smiled wryly. "Good luck, because I won't take it easy with the test." "If I wanted easy, I'd stay in school." Jason replied with a faint smile, then turned to go. "I can see myself out."
  10. Kat yawned as she left the medical center, and began making her way home. The only bright thing in her day was the sun. She was tired, her body was a sack of small, countless itching sores, she couldn't have a proper sleep-in, and now people were shooting at her friends, which wasn't making her feel any safe now. She paced up. I need a distraction. She fished her headphones out of her vest and plugged them in to her phone, music blaring into her ears after she pressed the Play button. Unconsciously, she adjusted her steps to the beat and already, the walk back home didn't feel as long. Why would two guys with badges try and shoot Jason? From what she heard, he wasn't especially a saint, but he certainly wasn't evil incarnate either. And then there was the problem of finding a decent dress for Homecoming. She had less than a week to do so. She still couldn't decide which of Tess or Marissa to ask about that. Or maybe she had asked one of them already. She was too sleepy to remember. Sleeping in the grass wouldn't be too bad, given the temperature and the sun. One thought leading to another, she found herself in front of her front door - That's funny. Or not, she thought - asking herself whether she'd go on a quest for croissants or actually make some pancakes herself when she'd wake up Surely someone would sell croissants in Great Falls. But how am I going to get to Great Falls? Before she knew it, the damn skirt - and the rest of her god damned hooker outfit - were on her room's floor, and she tucked herself into bed, counting her thoughts like sheeps passing in the night till it bored her into slumber.
  11. Sean's Jeep ground to a halt and he blinked, realizing where he was. He pulled the keys from the ignition, a finger through the keyring as he held them in his fist and leaned back in the seat. He'd been driving aimlessly, not sure where to go, sure he didn't want to head back to school or back home yet. But he hadn't expected to end up here. He sighed, rubbed his fingers through his rich red hair, then climbed out of his SUV. His scuffed red sneakers shuffled across the old bridge to the improvised party ground Sara and Jase had cleared what felt like forever ago instead of just several weeks. Sean looked about as he walked through it. It didn't feel so much as abandoned as reclaimed, few signs of the party that had taken place here. A few logs used for improvised seats. Scattered stones that might have been used to ring a fire pit. Very little litter. Summer parties like that hadn't been something Sean had much interest in. Truth be told, he still didn't. He'd come at Jase's urging, mostly. It seemed like all the craziness had started here, this was where it had begun, where the lives of the Fellowship had irrevocably changed. Sean felt his eyes grow tight. Where for at least one of them, it had led to an early end. And it suddenly felt like a really dumb idea that he'd come out here, alone, in the middle of nowhere, just after one of his friends had been targeted for assassination. Well, it wasn't quite the middle of nowhere. He frowned, then shrugged, and began ambling down a faint path through the trees and up the hill, dirt and gravel pattering down behind him on the occasional steeper slope. The technokinetic sensed the recording devices - or rather, their signals - before he saw them, let alone the old abandoned trailer. He could turn them off, or spoof them so they wouldn't even acknowledge him, but what was the point, Sean thought. He didn't particularly care if the Project knew he was poking around about here. He continued up the hill and through the screen of trees into the clearing. A part of him was mildly surprised to find the trailer still there. Shifting his vision into a different spectrum, he could tell the miniature fusion reactor was still there too. Seems like the Project didn't have time to collect this stuff with everything else happening. He paused, then shrugged again, and continued towards the trailer. The metal steps shifted under his weight, the foot biting into the dirt. The door creaked open at a touch. The trailer smelled musty, but not as bad as it first had. It didn't seem to have been disturbed since the others had collected the files. Sean climbed inside, idly looking around, though he didn't expect to find anything that had been missed the first time around. He did have the weird radio back home, still trying to figure out how it worked. He was beginning to suspect its retro appearance was just a false front hiding the real components that gave it seemingly near infinite range. Maybe it worked using quantum entanglement? He was as interested in the fusion reactor, though he would feel better studying that in more controlled circumstances. He could do something about the radioactive rays it was emitting, but still... radioactive. His phone vibrated and Sean smirked to himself as he nabbed the message through the air. His digital chicanery seemed to be working, someone in the Project monitoring the area alerting others that he was there. Good. He pulled out his phone, swiped to a page. 66 total sales for ReGenesis. 69, 70. A slight uptick as the sun climbed towards its noonday peak. After poking about the trailer for a bit, Sean took a break, sitting on the top step. It was funny. Jase had just started revealing his mental acumen at school instead of flying under the radar, and here he was, barely able to care about school. Not just today, it was getting hard to even consider thinking about school for the rest of the year with everything else going on. Even his ideas for college, if he even decided to go, were shifting. It felt like something so far away, especially when it was possible he wouldn't be alive to go. And now, there was potential it wasn't just his own fucked up genetics that might end him. He couldn't see why Enterich would only target Jason, unless Marissa really did have something to do about it.
  12. "Well?" Taggart not-quite-demanded of the slender, athletic blonde in the sun-dress as she stepped out of the elevator into the Project complex main corridor. Her eyes tracked him as he fell into step with her, the grey of her eyes reflecting some manner of wry amusement, from what the Major could pick up. "Quite well, thank you." Ellie replied. "It was generous of you to allow me to meet them." "That's not what I meant." Taggart wasn't going to be brushed off, though he didn't show much frustration at the alien's evasiveness. In the day she'd been there, he'd pretty much come to understand that her people, these Teulu, considered direct questioning - at least from strangers - to be rude, and would therefore respond to it with verbal games. He was also aware that the girl was trained to at least the same standard as his men when it came to combat and survival skills, having killed five men, naked and barehanded, whilst making her escape from Site B, then had made her way across open country to Shelly without being recaptured. Even allowing for the element of surprise and the doubtless underestimation of 'a girl' by the Crossroads mercenaries, that was impressive. "I am sure." Ellie replied, moving with a graceful stride that looked unhurried until you realised that she was eating up the yards. "I prefer not to repeat myself overmuch, Major Taggart." she offered by way of explanation, throwing him another glance. There wasn't really much the soldier could say to that - technically Ellie the Alien was Annette's guest, by way of being Devin's friend, and Taggart's authority over her was strictly limited to ensuring she didn't cause or come to any harm. He was certain she found it somewhat amusing to be protected by 'merely human' guards, too - there was an element of amused condescension that, though never overtly expressed, Taggart was positive existed behind the ageless steel-hued eyes. Almost positive, anyway. She was as hard to read as the Bannon kid. "How did it go?" Annette asked as they entered her office, looking up from her desktop holo-terminal as Ellie moved without being invited to sit in one of the comfortable chairs, crossing one leg over the other without much apparent regard for the shortness of the sundress. "We shall have to get you some more clothes today, too." Annette noted. "Devin's friends recommend a place called Good Will." Ellie responded with a shrug. Annette considered. "I think we can do a little better than that. Great Falls isn't Milan, but there are clothes stores there so you can blend in with the locals a little better." she noted with an appraising gaze. Taggart cleared his throat, and the elegant brunette smiled mischievously. "However, before I take a day off to take you shopping..." "He is Teulu." Ellie stated calmly. "That is what you wanted me to find out, yes? You could see and hear what was being said, so the only reason you would be asking me anything is to determine whether or not Jason is of my people. He is." "How sure are you?" Taggart asked, now taking a seat as they got down to business. "He could just be a human psychopath. In fact, that's what he even told us he was." "Then he believed that to be the case at the time." Ellie responded. "Evidently he's learned differently. As for how sure I am: very. A wolf raised amongst dogs is still a wolf." "But his father is human." Annette noted, picking up a pen and fidgeting with it. Ellie nodded. "Then his mother is not." The Teulu girl replied. "There are no 'half-breeds'. Our genetics will always be dominant - the offspring of a human and a Teulu will be Teulu." "Great." Taggart sighed. "The psychokinetic is an alien killing machine." "Born here, raised here. He is more alien to me than to you." Ellie stated. "He has the instincts but not the training to best employ them. His instincts prevented his death at the hands of those two clumsy killers, but he failed to recognise the ambush until it was almost too late. If he had not been a Radiant, he would be dead." She shrugged eloquently. "It is not a mistake a grown male of my people would make. He is too human." "He's only a teen, though." Annette glanced from Ellie to Taggart, then back again as she toyed with the pen. "And the ambush wasn't as clumsy as you think." Taggart put in. "They were posing as officers of the law - hell, technically they are. There's a cultural imperative here to cooperate if such a person demands it, an implication of trust of the authority they represent." Ellie considered this. "As I said: too human." she said at length, shaking her head. "There is no such imperative for us. The only imperatives are the good of the pride and the clan. No stranger can simply walk up to a Teulu, proclaim their authority, and demand compliance or trust." She smirked faintly. "As amusing as such a sight would be." "Cultural insights aside..." Annette leaned forwards, clasping her hands on the desk. "I'm fairly certain that young Mister Bannon will be a lot more wary from now on. What about the others? What were your impressions?" "Devin's twin has an ill temperament, and does not like me." Ellie shrugged. "Doubtless she likes few females, especially ones close to her brother. Teulu sisters are similarly protective. The seer, Cassandra, is rude. Full of questions, which she fires off like arrows at a foe. The life-witch, Autumn, seems friendly - and fond of Jason, as he is fond of her." "And is that a bad thing?" Taggart asked intently. "It is a thing." Ellie answered smiling faintly, a cryptic amusement in her expression. "I am curious as to whether they are sexually active." She appeared to ignore the discomfort the two human adults evinced at her out loud musing. "I would say they are, given their closeness." "Not really our business." Taggart muttered. Ellie threw him an amused glance, one eyebrow raised. "The one called Sean was largely silent, at least until he tried to barter with me for my people's technological secrets." she went on, returning her gaze to Annette. "Also rude, considering I saved his pride-mate's life and that Devin had already freely offered to aid me." "Right." Annette nodded. "Now, the million dollar question - by which I mean a question which is very important... Are we going to have a civil war on our hands given the revelations Cassandra Allen kicked up? Will Jason take violent action against Marissa?" "How should I know?" Ellie asked with a shrug. "I don't know either of them very well, nor do I know the details of the situation." "You know Teulu. What would your people do in such a situation?" "For a pride-mate to betray the trust of the others - if that is what happened - I suppose it is one of the closest things we have to a 'sin'." Ellie's voice was contemplative. "But to kill a pride-mate is also terrible. It's not just cultural - it's instinctual. Even if Jason no longer considers Marissa one of his friends, so long as he considers Devin to be one there is unlikely to be violence." "In short, you don't really know, but you don't think it'll get messy." Taggart said. Ellie considered that, then nodded. "Yes. Unpleasant and tense, but not violent." = = = = = = = "You didn't have to walk me to school." Autumn said, not really complaining. After the events of the morning, it was kind of nice to walk along with Jase in the sunshine, her hand in his, their fingers entwined. "Probably not." Jason allowed, sharp emerald eyes pausing their study of passing cars and their surroundings to glance at her. "But I wanted to anyway." "Not gonna argue." Autumn grinned back, the sunlight shining in her blue eyes as she impulsively looped her arm through his and resisting the urge to slow down, perhaps to stop off in an idyllic spot, run her fingers through his hair and-. It wasn't a very long walk, after all - maybe fifteen minutes or so - and she knew Jase would be going back to the medical center afterwards. "So Hank's going to bring your car and stuff to Marias?" "Mmhmm." Jason nodded. "Then I'll be at home the rest of the day. I'll text you when I get my phone back." "Good." Autumn looked up at his profile as he resumed his watchfulness, studying the scar on his cheek and how the ends of his hair brushed it, then sighed as she saw the school grounds start to come into view down the road. "Ugh. That walk was too short." "It was." Jason agreed, smiling faintly as he slowed to a stop, turning towards her. "I'll leave you here - don't really want to be seen by a faculty member and have to answer a dozen tedious questions." "Right." The energetic redhead rocked up on her toes, then onto her heels as she tucked her hands into her back pockets and gazed up at his face, noting the way he seemed to be similarly studying her. "So I'll see you- umph" The kiss was sudden, though in retrospect should not have been unexpected, and Autumn's hands shot up and around Jason's shoulders to steady herself as he stepped into her, his lips seeking hers almost hungrily. Lazy heat uncoiled in her belly, arcs of golden lightning energising her nerves as she felt the brush of his Shine on hers, felt the vigorous, vital life of him pulse under her touch, reading his desire almost subconsciously in the dance of chemicals and the surge in his pulse. And then the time for assessment was past, her hands sliding up to lock into his hair as she kissed him back, pressing against the unyielding angular hardness of his lean form. His hands rested on her hips, exerting just enough pressure to keep her close as their mouths and tongues danced together for a long, searing moment. "...later." Autumn breathed as their lips parted, aware of the heat in her cheeks and the tingling of her lips. Dear God... Even his goodbye-for-now kisses were enough to steal the breath from her, though she took some gratification from the darkness of desire evident in Jason's eyes - and other signals of his interest. Refusing to look down, for fear she'd simply drag him into some nearby secluded bushes, she smiled up at him. "Definitely." he replied, giving her another kiss, this one more brief and gentle than the first. "Let me know how it goes today?" "I will." she nodded, sobering a little as she recalled her not-quite-pledge to help Cassandra out. With some reluctance on both sides, the two teens disengaged and stepped apart. "Be safe." she told her impossible Effing Boyfriend with another smile. "I will." he said soberly, before turning and heading back the way they'd come. With a sigh and a straightening of her shoulders, Autumn turned and headed to school. = = = = = = = Jason wasn't really sure this was safe, per se. Though he was reasonably confident that it wasn't dangerous, he wasn't one hundred percent certain. But then, whilst absolute certainty was nice, waiting for it meant that nothing would ever happen. Sometimes, like with kissing girls, one had to take chances. Sometimes you got a Marissa, sometimes you got an Autumn. It'd be a shame to miss out on the latter for fear of the former. He'd met Hank outside, the gruff former Marine handing over his car keys and his satchel before clapping his young friend on the shoulder and heading back to the farm. Jase told him he'd be along soon - he needed to sort some things out. Marias Medical Center was a big place, the size of a city hospital, vastly larger than Shelly or even Toole County required. But Jase remembered last week, and the route Taggart's men had taken escorting the Fellowship down to the complex beneath the medical center, and so he found his way to a distant store-room, shelves half empty but surprisingly dust-free. This, then, was the place he remembered. There was at least one other elevator down to the complex - but that was Cook's private one, in an office in a more populated part of the medical center, with a code lock that had probably been changed. "I know you know I'm here." he said in a conversational tone, looking around the vacant room. "I want to talk to Ms Giles, and I'd prefer to do so by invitation rather than the other way." There was silence for a long moment. Jason waited as the seconds ticked past into minutes, deciding that five minutes would be long enough for them to answer him, one way or the other. It took two. The far wall of the storage room emitted a grinding sound and slid up, revealing a large freight-sized elevator with a gleaming metal panel interior. Taking a moment to sheathe himself in an imperceptible glove of force, Jason stepped in, turning to face the door as it slid shut and the elevator began it's descent...
  13. "Yeah, I'll see you at lunch." Cade smiled, and turned to leave, noticing people pretending hard to have not been watching. He just shrugged his shoulders and head on for his own next class. He wasn't all that concerned with the looks. If Marissa wanted to, she could put an end to any rumor, or start whatever she liked on a whim. Nobody was actually going to say anything out loud in front of either of them, so it wasn't worth worrying about. Even as he sat in his chair, kids were still filing in, he shot off a text to her. "That smile Was worth it." he'd seen only the tail end of it, but that was enough. He'd pay for that later he was sure, but he didn't care, and turned his phone on silent before putting it away, even as the last student took their seat.
  14. "Give," she said deadpan, opening and closing her hand expectantly. "I'll pay you back, swear, I'm just starving right now." If Cade had only known how serious she was being, he would've rummaged faster. She'd tore through two plates of scrambled eggs, toast, and hash browns just a couple hours ago and her stomach was churning like she'd gone days without food and was standing downwind of a pizzeria without a penny to her name. While he dug for the Snickers she allowed herself a momentary weakness to smile at how sweet he was the moment he wasn't paying her any mind. She collected herself as he straightened and handed her the candy bar. "Thanks," she said, almost playfully. "I uh, have to get to," the bell rung loudly in the hall and she smiled, looking down as it interrupted her. As it finished she continued. "Class, yeah. Um, see you later, okay? Text me, just don't get your phone taken away or I laugh at you." "Get to class. Shoo." She tippie-toed up and pecked him on the cheek, before stepping into her own classroom.
  15. "Of course." He smiled back at her, placing a hand atop the one she put on his chest. It sounded so cheesy after he said it, but he was still smiling, he meant it. Her scolding him for not going was a little annoying, but hell it wasn't like he could have done anything. "I imagine it was pretty damn crowded, with everyone showing up." "I'm glad he is okay too. I'm sure it'll be another point of discussion tonight, as if we didn't have enough to go over already. I knew he was in good hands already." That look of concern came back. "If someone came after you like that, rest assured Only your brother would beat me to your side." Once again it sounded cheesy, yet somehow the sincerity in his voice came through. "If you really want one I do have a snickers in my backpack. I was saving it for lunch, but if it makes you smile even a little, having to get another's a small price to pay." His smile was real.
  16. “No,” she said solemnly, sighing a bit. ‘Like shit’ was an amusing turn of phrase that twins kept hearing, either directly or whispered, and since they both looked amazing on their worst day, Marissa was starting to wonder what Shelly’s basis of comparison was. Either way, with no makeup and her hair just kind of doing ‘whatever’, she was obviously not feeling well. The fact that she hadn’t copped attitude yet or even complained was his first red flag. “Not unless you have a Snicker bar, or you can miraculously fix whatever the hell is wrong with me. God,” she complained to the ceiling. “I feel like Jell-O stuck to a skeleton.” Her taloned finger poked into his chest a couple times, it pinched, but it didn’t hurt, telling him she wasn’t actually bothered, or she just didn’t have the strength to care today. “Dick move not going to see Jason this morning,” she reprimanded him quietly, side eyeing someone as they walked past the two of them while they talked outside the class. “But I understand why. Not much you coulda done anyway and it was nothing but the Hot Mess Express wiping Jason’s mouth and baby talking her invalid little doll. Devin’s new alien sex toy showed up, she’s pretty, so if you look at her I’ll kill you. Oh, and Cassie showed up too, but I left before she could lament her father or start prying into everyone’s business like she’s welcome there. All in all, you didn’t miss much. But, I swear to God, if I ever get shot in the face and you ghost me at the hospital, I will find you and I will dislodge your soul and keep in a fucking jar." “He’s fine, by the way.” She bit her lower lip, something she didn’t do very often. He didn't have any real emotion for which to relate it to for her, considering she only really ever showed 'angry', 'angrier', and full blown 'lost her shit', but he was pretty sure it seemed like she was genuinely relieved as well as concerned. “For which, I’m glad. I may not like him overly much, but I don’t want him hurt, or even killed for that matter. Not unless I do it, of course.” Her faux-bae tilted his head and offered her a disappointed look, scolding her with his glare. She smirked evilly and recoiled her head into her shoulders a bit. “I’m kidding!” Shrugging away her grim humor, she half-smiled, looking into Cade’s eyes while resting her palm affectionately on his chest. “Sorry about promising you time together,” he knew what she meant by ‘together’. “With last night going like it did, and now me feeling like this, I’m just really not at a hundred percent, hold out a bit longer for me?”
  17. Cade was abit surprised. Not just the attack on Jason, that was very concerning, something he was sure was going tobe discussed. By the time he'd found out, there wasn't really anything he could do to help. He remained at school, thinking that if everyone of the Fellowship left, it'd be damn suspicious. Clearly, he'd been alone in that thought, because he was the only one who Was at school that morning. "Goddamit guys." he lamented softly, even as he was changing out the books for his next class. He'd overheard someone passing by saying that Marissa was at school and she looked like shit. Both parts of that surprised him, that she'd come to school late, and that she let others see her looking like anything less than a peerless beauty. Part of the whole "Dating" thing they had going on was knowing each other's class schedule, so he knew where she was at the time in general, the same could be said for her regarding him, should she choose. Silently, the massive teen made his way there, noticing the looks he got from others, but ignoring them. He was concerned for Marissa, whatever else was causing the looks was secondary. He imagined Devin was there somewhere too, and he'd follow up with him, with all of them, at lunch if they came back. The only person he didn't expect to see was Jason, for obvious reasons. She was texting on her phone as he saw her near the door of her class, and he called out to her. "I'd say "Good Morning" but it's obvious even to me that you're not having one. Is there anything I can do to help?" he offered, a look of concern on his face.
  18. It was an intense and awkward ride for the twins as they drove back to Devin’s motorcycle. They’d talked at length about what was going on and her brother was not the least bit happy about it, expressing the sense of betrayal he felt over her not letting him in on her plans. Marissa cursed under her breath as she watched him speed off at sixty in record time. She offered an apologetic and mirthless smile towards the Sheriff as she passed him and his men slowly as they were concluding their investigation of the scene. As she pulled into a parking spot at the school not long after, she found him at the school, leaning against his bike and waiting for her in the parking lot. A smile crept to her lips as relieve set in at knowing he was still willing to talk to her. Even after going home, washing up, and changing, they still looked like bums, at least by their standards. Devin hair didn’t have so much as a spritz of product in it, which was almost unheard of and his clothes looked like they were his ‘around the house’ jeans and faded old tee. Marissa was still in jeans and old band tee shirt covered by a black hoodie that made her whole look seem like she’d stolen it from Autumn’s playbook and just palette swapped it. She approached him and they both turned to face the school, walking towards it in perfect stride with the other. “Speed helps me think, and I still don’t agree with it, Emjay.” Devin said calmly as they approached the two doors of the school. “You should have involved us, and now, I have to choose between family or Fellowship.” “And?” she asked evenly. “Which team are you on?” “Family, always.” Devein said confidently as the two pulled open the double doors and were immediately assaulted by the sounds of school kids moving through the halls, yelling, talking, and carrying on. They’d arrived just at a class change and the halls were in their typical state of anarchy. “But the Fellowship is your problem. I’ll keep you safe, but I’m not protecting you. Not this time.” “Fair enough,” she shrugged and smirked as they strolled into their dominion. ---===[@]===--- Even as everyone gawked at her, Marissa strode through the halls like she was the Queen of Shelly high. No one had ever seen her at school, or in public for that matter, without her makeup on let alone dressed like she’d just turned over a Goodwill donation box. Still, her unique powers and impeccable luck in the genetic lottery, would have let her rock a burlap sack and still rock it as a solid nine. Even now, she was ten, sporting a wholesome, natural ‘Montana girl’ look that still had the guys at school wondering who they had to kill to get a date with her. Mumbles were made and she saw a few people cautiously point at her while trying to keep their judgements and opinions private, but it didn’t bother her in the slightest. Everything on her body hurt and she wasn’t in any mood for daily politics, maybe tomorrow. A part of her felt that maybe word had gotten out about her and Fellowship rescuing Tawny and Sophie, who the twins stopped by and peeked in on as they left the hospital and both seemed to be doing okay, only tired and sleeping, a lot. On the other hand, she wondered if somehow rumors of the shooting had gotten out already. Social media was a bitch sometimes. “Oh. My. God.” Courtney said slowly and with no measure of hiding the shock in her voice. “Emjay, you look like shit.” She chuckled nonetheless, glad to see Marissa alive and well at least. She was with Stacey, Tammy and Samantha, the cheer elite of the cheerleaders of Shelly High, which wasn’t saying much considering Shelly High’s cheerleaders and the football team made up almost twenty five percent of all high schoolers in the small down. “Rough night?” She winked with a smirk. “You know it was,” Shelly’s Queen couldn’t muster a smile though. She was too tired, in pain, and was dying for a snack. Why was she so hungry lately? “So, look, I need to get to class, but while I have all of you here, I want to sign up.” “For what?” Stacey asked suspiciously. "And since when do you get to call her 'Emjay, only her broth-" Marissa craned her neck a bit to express how obvious her point should have been, cutting Stacey off in the process. “Cheerleading.” Tammy scoffed and snickered. “Not looking like that,” she laughed, mocking Marissa’s disheveled, no-makeup day appearance. “Besides, we’re full up.” “Okay,” Marissa smirked and nodded as the basic bitches of Shelly High had their fun. Courtney smirked as she looked her fellow cheerleaders, knowing they were a few words away from a shitstorm. “Tammy, you better appreciate this while it lasts,” Marissa motioned down her body. “Because you’re a five on your best day and the moment if I apply so much as a dab of eyeshadow, you’re back to being a basic two and some frat guys better than nothing, whiskey dicked Saturday night. So, stop thinking your witty and edgy, and just make room on the squad for me. Kick the chubby retarded girl off.” “We can’t,” Stacey huffed. “She’s chubby.” “And retarded.” Samantha added. “But, she contributes nothing to it.” Marissa coldly stated, her words laced with scorn. “If she can’t do the routines, and she can’t actually cheer, then why is she on the goddamn squad? If you can’t fly a plane, they don’t let you pilot.” Stacey shrugged. She agreed completely, but it wasn’t her call. She gestured to all the ladies present with a twirl of her finger. “Choir,” she stated. “We’ve all said the same thing, but apparently if people aren’t good at anything but they’re destined to be a financial burden on the rest of society for the rest of their lives, we have to let them be a part of everything. Rules or some shit, like... I guess they're people to? I don't know.” “No, fuck that.” Marissa shook her head. “I want her gone.” “She can still be on the squad,” Courtney said as a devious expression lit up her eyes. “But in the event of an injury, we reserve the right to bench her and replace her. She still gets a uniform and yearbook photo.” “Good, see? Now that’s what I appreciate,” the evil brunette gestured towards Courtney. “Positive problem solving, not handing me excuses.” Make sure these three look like the guilty party. Already on it. Courtney smiled. “Don’t worry, we’ll work something out. In the meantime, I know your size, we’ll get you a uniform ordered.” “So,” Samantha’s brow furrowed in a mixture of confusion and irritation. “Just like that, we just do what she asks? Don’t we vote on this sort of stuff? I don’t recall being asked if I was okay with Marissa being on the cheer squad. She’s not Queen anymore. I mean, look how those nerds have her dressing… it’s like… you don’t even care anymore. What happened to you?” “Sure, we’ll also vote on if that video of you drunk and grinding on Kieran goes viral too,” Courtney chimed up. She sarcastically added. “Let democracy in the eyes of the Lord, reign.” “Oh,” Samantha calmed a bit. “I mean… she’s not that good anyway, and Marissa is an actual trained gymnast. God helps those who helps themselves, and our Heffalump isn’t doing much to help our practices or our team… but nothing serious, I like watching her try to dance.” “Fair enough,” they all said at the same time, nodding in agreement. Apparently, they all enjoyed the special girl’s dances. “Great,” Marissa smiled, her business concluded. “Get on that. Email me the schedule when it’s done.” With that she walked off. To say she didn’t feel right wasn’t quite enough to cover how she was coping. Evil was easy. She had a shitty morning, a shitty evening, and all she wanted was one day without drama where she could sit back, listen to music, get herself off a couple times, and nap… a lot, like every other teenager in Shelly seemed allowed to do. Her usual routine of taking her frustrations out on the general peon populace (read: everyone) wasn’t sitting well with her this time. Why did them hurting the girl to secure her a position on the cheer team seem… heavy? She felt consumed by a some… weight and for a moment thought it might be Jason using his powers to press her into the floor. She sighed and text Courtney. //Let me talk to her first. I’ll let you know what’s up.// A thumbs up ‘booped’ onto her screen and Shelly’s Evil Queen (in transition(?)) marched off to her class, hating the fact Courtney probably knew that Marissa was going to change her mind before she did. //Feelings suck. I hate them already.// She tapped out as she passed by people in the hallway. Courntney smiled and replied as Samantha and Tammy expressed their disgust with how bossy Marissa was. //Try being horny all the time.// //I am.// Marissa smiled, rounding into the doorway to her next class. The redhead covered her mouth, concealing her smile and tapped a reply with her thumb. //LOL// ---===[@]===--- “Hey!” Laurie’s greeting was an energetic one as she approached Devin, happy to see one of the Fellowship had actually made it to class today. When he closed his locker and she saw his arms and neck and eyes darkened by bruises she stopped and lurched away in shock. “Christ… wow. You look…” “Like shit, yeah.” He barely managed a smirk. Between being in constant agony and Marissa bullshit stew she was serving up piping hot, he just was feeling today at all. “Been getting that a lot.” “I was going to say” like Misery beat you with a shit stick and dumped you in the Gutter of Abject Horror where you were sodomized by those who could only described as ‘the stuff woven from pure nightmares.” She smiled and shrugged. “But we can go with ‘like shit’ if you want. Sure.” “Points for creativity, Red.” He grunted slightly as he shifted his weight to support his books. Her cheer softened somewhat as she saw that typically witty and chipper Devin was not present. At. All. “What’s up?” “Nothing,” she shrugged like she didn’t need a reason. “Just was wondering if everything was okay. Sean left out in a hurry and…” “Everything is fine.” Her friend said flatly. “Meaning…?” she pressed. “Meaning,” he looked at her. “Not a conversation for here.” “So, take us somewhere else and we’ll talk, lunch is like right around the corner and-“ “D-Train is closed, darlin’,” he shook his head. “Duty kinda jacked me up for a bit. I’d be lucky if I could open a viewing portal the size of a penny right now. Sorry.” “Oh, sorry,” she winced, now looking concerned. Her green eyes looked him over and shown a light of compassion at his current condition because of what he and the others did to end up that state. “I didn’t know.” Devin didn’t seem particularly bothered. Laurie was just trying to be supportive and by the very virtue that she was treating like a human being these days, and dangerously close to a friend, meant he was getting somewhere with her. “S’cool, soon as I’m back in the game we’ll go chill somewhere, okay?” “Seriously? Where?” her eyes seemed to sparkle like stars and each glimmer was a possible destination. “Wherever you wanna go.” Devin tried to laugh but it sounded forced. He rolled his shoulders to flex the soreness in his body as they kept walking. “Oh, and uh… your brother is a badass. Little dude is a fucking cannon. A glass one, but a fucking cannon, no doubt. He held his own like a champ, be proud of him.” “I am,” she smiled and nodded with measured confidence. “Of all of you, honestly.” She bashfully chuckled and feigned pushing her hair back behind one of her ears. She stopped and thumbed behind her. “This is, uh… my stop.” “Cool, I’ll uh, see you later?” He nodded his head, motioning further down the hall. “I’m further on, but lunch or something… if you want.” “Yeah,” Laurie smiled and sounded more eager than she intended. “S-sure… cool. Well… uh… bye.” Devin laughed softly, even his lungs hurt. Was that even a thing? “Later, Red.” He hobbled on down the hall and towards his next class.
  19. She'd been waiting a little while after speaking with her dad. Ian Keane hadn't been exactly happy about leaving his daughter 'alone' - meaning 'with Jason' - at the hospital, but hadn't really been able to find a suitable reason for refusing to do so other than 'because I say so'. And right now, with everything out of kilter, with monsters and mysterious yet undeniable powers, the older man was acutely aware of how much of a distance there was between him and his family. Not so much a distance of affection as a distance of experience, and though he was reasonably certain Dana wouldn't outright undercut his parental authority in front of Autumn, it was a fair bet she'd privately give him hell if he made their little girl miserable without very good reason. So, with a stern injunction for her to go on to school once she'd had coffee with Jase, her dad had headed on home. He had a business meeting in Helena tomorrow to prepare for, and a worried Dana to bring up to speed on what had happened with their daughter's odd boyfriend. So now Autumn sat quietly in the waiting area chair, one foot tapping as she scrolled through TikTok videos, seeking distraction even as her mind nibbled away at the problems of the day. Her reverie was disturbed as the door to Jase's room opened and Gar stepped out, giving her a smile. "He's decent now, at least." The elder Bannon told her as Hank stepped out after him, nodding to the lithe redhead. Graskle was a gruff, hard man by his general demeanour, and tough to read, but Autumn fancied that his manner to her, at least, was friendly. "He's got the packed breakfast and the coffee out, if you're hungry." Gar went on. "It's not fancy, but it's food." The whole situation felt surreal. Unreal, even. After everything that'd happened yesterday, to wake up to this, to murder attempts and conspiracies and beautiful other-dimensional girls and maybe betrayals, seemed almost impossible. At what point, she'd wondered, more or less blindly swiping through the auto-curated 'For You Page,' does this get easier? She'd only just managed to avoid freaking right the hell out when Cassie had starting talking about her vision earlier, and the sheer gratitude in Gar's eyes when he'd hugged her had nearly broken the dam on her own tears right there in the hospital room. Shouldn't there be a break, at some point? Didn't they fucking deserve one? "Starving," she affirmed wholeheartedly as Jason's father and his friend reappeared, an earnest- if fleeting- smile brightening the girl's freckled features for a moment as she tucked her phone away again. "I don't care if it's oatmeal, leftover pizza, or a granola bar, at this point. I'm just glad I still get to eat it with him." She stopped suddenly, eyes widening with sudden horror at the realization of what she'd said. Nice, Autumn. Good job. "Because we missed breakfast, I mean, not because- , ah, fuck," she swore softly, grimacing. "I mean, frick. Sorry. And thanks for bringing it. I know you probably had other things on your mind." Exhaling, Autumn got to her feet, idly hitching up her jeans. "So," the redhead began uncertainly, eyes darting from Gar's open, expressive gaze to Hank's more guarded one. "Are you guys heading out already? I thought you'd wanna take him home." "He was pretty insistent he could get home under his own power." Gar said, making a face which Autumn interpreted as oddly close to her own father's expression, though Gar was more resigned, more used to his son being almost aggressively self-reliant. "We're headed down to the sheriff's office - going to get Jase's car and whatever is in it sprung from their clutches. His phone, school stuff, and so on." "Then we're gonna get his car cleaned." Hank put in. "After which, we've got some prep to start doing up and around the farm. Jase said he didn't know for certain who was gunning for him yet, but anyone comes to the farm looking for trouble they'll damn well find it. Tarnished Federal ID or not." He subsided as Gar laid a hand on his shoulder briefly, then nodded to Autumn. "Go on in now, before he eats all the scrambled eggs." Jase's dad told her with another fond smile, stepping out of the way for her. "Don't have to tell me twice," Autumn agreed sensibly, her nose scrunching slightly as she flashed the two men a grin. "Thanks, Gar. See you later tonight. And you, too, Mr. Graskle. Take care." Her hand twitched upward in a quick, almost-polite wave as the gnawing emptiness in her stomach pushed her back toward the hospital room. The Pop-Tart she'd eaten on the way out the door felt like it'd been days ago, rather than just a few hours, and she guessed Jase himself was feeling similarly ravenous. Leaving both older men in the waiting room, the hungry redhead rapped on the door frame and peeked inside. Wearing a loose-fitting white t-shirt and- Of course, a rueful inner voice noted- grey sweatpants, the Effing One was sitting on the bed with the thermos his father had brought, long legs folded comfortably as he opened the lid of a Tupperware container. She wondered if he owned any other color, and if not, whether they would ever stop being so distracting. This was certainly not the time or the place to think about the way they'd looked after the spar with Devin on Sunday, dripping wet and dipping low around his hips, beads of water gleaming... Nope. Nuh uh. Definitely not. You are in a hospital, Autumn Rae, and he nearly died this morning. Chill. It was a sobering thought, although perversely she felt somehow more aware of him now that he'd gotten dressed. "Hey, again." Hands tucked in her back pockets, the pink-cheeked redhead slipped into the room, her gaze skipping back upward to her boyfriend's face. He seemed alert, and, as usual, largely untouched by the events of the day. She'd been a little worried about his reaction to Cassie's revelations, especially when the temperature had dropped so sharply, but nothing else had happened; a tiny frisson slithered up the back of Autumn's neck as she remembered her previous impression of him, that of something primal and dangerous and aware waiting in the depths of a frozen lake. Was the demonstration of his powers, then, the equivalent of a fin breaking the surface? An instinctive reaction, or a warning? And, if so, to whom? It was impossible to guess, really, since no one that had threatened him was there at the time. Probably for the best, she decided, approaching the side of the bed. "How're you holding up?" "Well enough." Jason glanced up from the still-warm mixture of scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon and salsa in the Tupperware box, indicating the other container which seemed to have something similar inside. "Dad threw us something together." he added, leaning forward and patting an empty spot on the bed in invitation, then setting a spoon atop the box meant for Autumn. As she came over, he poured a some coffee from the Thermos into the lid/cup, setting it on one of those hospital trays on wheels that was nearby, convenient for either teen to reach for it. Autumn settled onto the bed, folding her own legs similarly to him before popping open the container before her. There was plenty of the protein scramble in the clear plastic containers, which was just as well, given the voraciousness with which the pair of them fell to eating. They ate in relative silence for a few minutes, now and then exchanging glances, and there was a curious similarity to last Friday evening, eating by the campfire after an afternoon spent enjoying each others company as friends had culminated in that first searing kiss. Now as then, Autumn found her cheeks warming just from his proximity, and then as now Jase would look up silently from his meal, pale emerald gaze anything but cold as it fell upon her. It was pleasant, the warm mid-morning sunlight still illuminating the room, with the bustle of the hospital seeming miles away, muffled by the door. Just the two of them, it felt like in that too-brief collection of moments. No murderers, no conspiracies, no doubts. Just the happiness of being alive, and sharing a meal with someone special. A plastic rattling noise accompanied both teens scraping the last of the breakfast from the Tupperware into their open mouths. Jase refilled the coffee cup, which both had sipped from during their meal, and set his empty container aside as he regarded Autumn again. "What about you?" he asked softly. "How are you holding up?" Lips pursed thoughtfully, Autumn considered her response as she stacked her empty bowl inside his before leaning forward, chin in hand with her elbow resting on a knee. There was no point in pretending everything was okay when she was pretty sure those piercing green eyes really could see into someone's skull, and no reason to do so when it was just the two of them anyway. "Honestly?" she asked, acutely aware that it was an unnecessary question where Jason Bannon was concerned. "I really don't know. We've barely had time to deal with last night, and now... this." A soft sigh escaped her lips just before they curved into a faint, fleeting smile that faded as she continued. "I'm glad you're okay. Freaked out that you might not have been. Pissed that it happened. Worried that it might happen again, or worse. Frustrated that we have to wait to find out what's going on and who's doing what. Like-" Frowning, the restless young woman leaned back suddenly, bracing herself on her hands and considering Jason's expression as she searched for the right words. "Like, I have a thousand questions, right? And I want to talk to the ones who attacked you, instead of just sitting here until Ms. Giles or whoever decides to update us. But I can't do that. I have to just go to school and try not to think about it, and sit through classes with somebody who might have been working with them." "We don't have to wait on Giles, or anyone." Jason's voice was quiet, calm as he went on. "She has the male in custody. But the female is up here, in the ICU. She's likely sedated to prevent pain, but you could counteract that - if you wished to." He took a sip of coffee, setting the cup down again as he went on. "In all likelihood, she doesn't have anything important to add to Cassandra's information. The man, too, is likely clueless. Who they are and how they came to be in Enterich's employ is not something I really care about. Certainly I doubt they have anything to tell us that would be worth their lives." This last was added casually - without fanfare or any significant expression in the cool jade eyes, but the redhead had been studying Bannonology 101 now for over a week, and very keenly indeed for the last few days. There was a definite air of intent, of finality, in that last statement of his, as though a decision didn't even need to be made. Autumn blinked at that, sea-colored eyes widening slightly at the conversational weight of that sentence as they met his. The absence of a visible emotional response shouldn't have been all that surprising, especially in light of his unnervingly frosty reaction earlier, and she kicked herself mentally for having expected one, for thoughtlessly trying to ascribe typical human behaviors to someone who was really neither typical nor human. Even if he was angry about what had happened, he obviously didn't process those feelings the same way she did; all his empathy and consideration was a conscious exercise, something he had to actually think about. And so... What he said kind of made sense, in the context of what they'd talked about before. 'A lack of nuance,' he'd called it, with little space between the 0 and 11 of his impulses, and not for the first time the earnest redhead felt impossibly out of her depth with the stoic young genius. Just knowing things about him doesn't really help much if you don't actually apply the knowledge, does it? Exhaling audibly, she plucked at the hospital blanket, copper brows knit in thought. "Okay," she began after a moment, straightening to face him more fully. "Then, I want to talk to this woman, whoever she is. Maybe she can't tell us anything Cassie didn't, and maybe she can. We have no way of knowing until we ask. We might be able to learn more about Enterich, stuff her spy-vision couldn't see, and even if you don't care who they are and why they tried to kill you, I do." The last two words bore a subtle emphasis, a variation in pitch and tone that suggested the verbal equivalent of italicized text, an emotional content that provided striking contrast to the neutrality of his own statement moments before. "Why they tried to kill me is obvious." Jase responded, even as his head tilted very slightly, eyes roaming the warm girl's bronze-flecked features curiously. "Enterich told them to. Cassie even said that neither of them were happy with the task - their sole investment in my death was that a man they were afraid of told them to do it. That said..." he paused for a moment as he considered, then went on. "Information they have about Enterich might be useful. Even if it's only observations." "Right." Autumn took a sip of the black coffee in the Thermos cup, nodding agreement as her taste buds assessed the unsweetened, un-creamed brew. It was surprisingly good. She passed the cup to him. smoothing her hands over her jeans as she watched him drink. "I doubt Dale, the woman, will simply offer up information to you, though." Jase said in a reasonable tone as he lowered the cup and set it back on the tray. "To her mind, she's a corrupt U.S. marshal who is facing an attempted murder charge. She will seek concessions for her cooperation, and right now likely doesn't see herself as having anything to lose by refusing to answer." "You sound like you're leading up to something." Autumn remarked, trying not to think the worst. Still, this was Jason. Mercy and restraint, especially towards people who harmed or tried to kill him, was not likely to be one of his virtues. "I am. A question." Pale green pools of ice regarded her, something moving in the glacial depths behind the surface. "What do you plan to offer her?" "A choice," the redhead replied simply as she felt her face growing warmer, resisting the instinctual urge to turn away from the careful scrutiny to which she was being subjected. "I've been thinking a lot about that, honestly, and not just because of today." She took a deep breath to dispel some of the tension gathering in the pit of her stomach, bits of the earlier conversations with her father resurfacing in her memory. Jase was different, but not unreasonable, and as long as he was willing to listen, everything was still fine. ...Right? "Cody made a choice. These two marshals, or whoever they are, made choices. Maybe Marissa, too," she conceded with obvious reluctance, tugging at one of the stray curls snaking over her shoulder. "Maybe what happened with Cody couldn't have turned out any other way, and it really was too late to bring him back. But the others are still people, you know? Fucked up, yeah, but people, and people can be..." Hmm-ing to herself, Autumn frowned as she remembered the two seniors who'd been brought to this same hospital, and for similar reasons. "Pushed. Manipulated. And I know that nothing they do or say un-makes those decisions, but what if they could still make new ones, change things?" She shook her head, finally breaking eye contact and glancing instead down at her hands as they fidgeted, twisting together in her lap. "I don't know what to do about the others, yet. I'm not even sure I can do anything." She shrugged a little, then, an uncertain upward twitch of her shoulders. "This Dale woman, though... I can give her something nobody else can, and that might be valuable enough to her that it'll make a difference. At least, I hope so," she added quietly. "You plan to heal her." Jason didn't sound accusatory, or even particularly upset as he made the connection. If anything, his voice held a faint note of curiousity, underscored by the way he was studying her with his head slightly canted. "You do realise that the Tree is gone, right? That the... active spiritual pollution, one could say, of the Dark is largely gone too? Both of these marshals were fully cognisant of their choice - to the point of being unhappy with it. No dark force was puppeteering them." "I know." Autumn forced her eyes to meet his. "Look, maybe they felt like they had no choice. People can get like that - scared stupid." Abruptly she realised what she'd said, and fresh roses bloomed in her cheeks. On impulse, she reached out and took his hand in hers. "Human people can, anyway. You know what I mean, right?" At his nod, she sighed and looked down at their joined hands, her pale ivory skin dusted with bronze against the slender, seemingly delicate olive-hued fingers. "I forget sometimes that you've never been afraid. Well... not forget - overlook it, I guess. Because it's kind of a huge thing for us - learning to deal with being afraid, to understand why someone might do stupid shit out of fear." "I understand it... somewhat." Jase replied softly. "Survival instinct is something I possess too. And my instinct tells me that letting people who try to kill me live is a bad strategy. Human people, or otherwise." He, too, dropped his gaze to consider their contrasting skin tones, his fingers gently stroking the back of her hand. "I held back during the Crossroads raid because I had promised Devin - having reasoned beforehand that killing would be largely unnecessary anyway. I held back with those two seniors because I could tell they were Shades... and because I was foolishly and, it appears, pointlessly trying to prove to some people that I could hold back. But this is different, Autumn. Two people, pressured or not, reluctantly or not, tried to kill me in cold blood. Along with the seniors, that makes two times in as many weeks. I'm getting tired of being a pinata, whether literally or, in Marissa's case, figuratively. And I'm coming to believe the best way to stop people poking me is to remove their fingers when they do." "That... is an option," she admitted grudgingly. "And I can't even argue that it's totally unjustified. I mean, hell, I was so scared and angry earlier that I didn't bother going to see if they needed help once you were okay, and I wasn't even the one they tried to kill." Even now it was hard to get the words out, to swallow the lump in her throat that heralded an upwelling of emotion. It's over, Autumn, she reminded herself, exhaling slowly. It's fine. He's fine. "But that's kind of the point, right? They tried to kill you." Her eyes sought his, warm, mercurial blue meeting cool, ageless green. "They failed. And," she continued, forging ahead emphatically, "you're right. There are consequences, regardless of why they did it, and there should be. They're responsible for the choices they've made up to this point, and they deserved whatever you did to them back there. And honestly, even if Dale helps us, and even if I heal her arms, it'd take a whole other kind of power to make her forget how that felt." Leaning forward, the redhead carefully folded her other hand around their twined fingers to stop its trembling, the vibration there mirrored in her voice despite her best efforts; she hadn't seen the maimed woman yet, but the descriptions she'd heard were awful, to say the least. "If she lives to be a hundred years old, it'll probably still wake her up some nights. Look, I'm not saying you should just let it go, and if they won't cooperate and they're still dangerous, fine. I-" Autumn drew in a long, shuddering breath, blinking back the sudden stinging of tears as her vision started to ripple and blur. "I get it," she conceded. "I just think they should have the chance to make another choice, you know? I mean, I would want one." Time slowed for him as he took in the shuddering in her breath, the hitch in her voice, and the tears in her eyes. Tears without physical harm - another thing he didn't have in common with those he was closest to. For him, they were usually a physiological response - certain types or intensities of pain would trigger tears. He'd only cried twice in his life over emotional causes - once when he'd realised his mother had abandoned him, and once when he'd seen his father break down and cry from shame. Both times the tears had been almost incidental, without sobbing or hitching of breath or other symptoms he'd observed in others - an echo of pain, somewhat of a curiousity for him as he'd reached up to his cheek and felt the moisture there. As he now reached up with his free hand, a finger gently brushing away the tear that had escaped Autumn's best efforts to blink back and had begun it's slow, shining descent over the freckled rose of her cheek. His other hand squeezed hers, feeling the tremor there, discerning how upset she was as his intense green eyes focused on the glistening bead of saline on his finger's tip. There was something precious here, he sensed rather than reasoned. This warmth of hers that he so treasured - it was intrinsic to Autumn as her red hair and the way her nose wrinkled when she grinned. A hearth fire, attractive and welcoming, by which he could be warmed, by which he could perceive something like happiness. And for her to not show compassion, even to such as the marshals... would be to dim that hearth fire. "Alright." he decided, dropping his free hand to rest atop their entwined hands. She looked at him askance, causing the edges of his eyes to crinkle slightly. "Because you asked. Because ultimately, whether they live or die doesn't really matter personally to me - but it does to you. And you matter to me. So..." he shrugged, as if that explained everything. "You matter to me," he'd said, as if it was the most natural thing in the world. As if it was obvious. As if they'd just been discussing where to eat dinner and he'd conceded to getting Chinese instead of pizza, rather than whether or not the two would-be assassins should face summary execution at his hands. But how did that even make sense? A part of her acknowledged that if he wanted revenge, it would be totally justified, even if only to make sure they didn't get another chance to come after him... And he'd just shrugged it off because she'd asked? Her. Autumn Keane. The girl who'd just started talking to him a week ago. But, why? Was it because they were friends, or maybe even because she was his first girlfriend, or was there something in her argument that had swayed him? She desperately wanted to ask, but ultimately, the reason was less important than the decision itself. "You're serious," the expressive girl stated wonderingly, her fingers tightening reflexively on Jase's as he nodded. With a bodily sigh of relief, one that resounded from the soles of her be-socked feet to the rose-flushed crown of her head, Autumn released his hands, sliding her arms around his torso as she leaned over her folded legs to draw him into a hug. "Thank you," she breathed against the lean youth's collarbone, squeezing her eyes shut as she willed the mingled hope and gratitude she felt to somehow reach him through the shared resonance of their Shine. "That means a lot to me." And now the warmth encircled him, the flicker of her Shine against his matching the clasp of her arms even as he returned the hug, one hand gently stroking the ends of her tumbling red hair as he rested his scarred cheek against the top of her head, his eyes half-closing as he absorbed the simple pleasure of this moment. There was a faint awareness within him of the change she had caused - or, more precisely, of the change she had caused him to cause. More alchemy perhaps, that wry observer-within remarked. He wanted to experience this warmth, and he wanted to spare her unhappiness, and so he was choosing to alter his behaviour towards that set of circumstances. An ephemeral tether, connecting him intimately to another living being, causing him to choose to alter his nature at least temporarily. He kissed her cheek, watching Autumn's expression as she smiled and scooched closer, forcing him to move his legs to allow her to lean more comfortably against him as she looked up into his face, blue eyes studying him anew - or so it seemed to him. Wordlessly, he lowered his mouth to hers almost on reflex at the sight of her lips, drinking a gentle kiss from her. "And you mean a lot to me." he stated softly in the wake of that caress, aware of the clash between the tender warmth and something more demanding and savage within him. He tried not to think about how she felt in his arms right now - whilst at the same time recognising the impossibility of such a task: how could he not? How indeed, he mused, letting his fingers gently stroke her cheek, teasing a couple of errant copper curls as he studied her features. With little more than a touch, the worries and problems of the moment vanished again, retreating like fading rime before the advance of the morning sun that spilled through the blinds. The contrast between this Jason, the one whose kisses sent sparks of delight racing along her nerves, and the one who could casually announce his intent to kill someone who'd wronged him, was stark indeed. And yet, the redhead mused dazedly as the lingering heat from his lips on hers kindled the glowing embers of her desire for him into new life, she was the one who'd agreed to date a psychopath. You realize you've got nobody to blame for this but yourself. "Mhmm." The soft hum combined contentment and agreement with her inner critic as she turned her head, chasing the faint pressure of his fingertips against her skin. And, really, she reasoned, so what if there was a whole world of problems outside the door to this sterile little room? If the universe wasn't going to give them a break from the awfulness and insanity, she'd just have to steal moments like this for herself where she could. "I hope you don't get any more visitors for a little while," she murmured, leaning in to rest her forehead in the curve of his throat. There was still a faint trace there of the vaguely herbal body wash he used, and Autumn nuzzled closer, breathing in the scent of him as she moulded herself against his side. A couple of hours ago, he'd been bathed in blood and unconscious on the side of the road, but now... He was awake, and whole, and warm, and alive, and- perhaps most importantly- firmly wrapped up in her arms.
  20. "Hey, Kat." Autumn greeted the latecomer, smiling briefly if genuinely at her. There was an air of pensiveness over the redhead's mood as she sat on the bed's edge, fingers entwined with Jase's as she glanced at his profile, then at Kat, before shrugging and looking out of the window. "You, uh, missed a lot." The youth in the bed nodded agreement with her, cold jade eyes resting on the petite girl. "Thank you for coming, in any case." he said politely, gesturing to a chair. "You look more exhausted than I am. Have a seat." "Thanks." Kat said gratefully as she sank into one of the room's chairs, her eyes fixed on the bullet scars on Jase's chest and face. They looked like old scars, but that would be down to Autumn's miracle-working, she was sure. Christ, how bad had it been? "Uh, sorry." she stammered, suddenly realising she was staring at another person's boyfriend's torso. "It's just... Wow." she said, indicating his chest, then blushed as she realised how that could be taken. "I mean, that looks like it hurt." "It did." Jase nodded. "I'm lucky to have friends - Autumn and Devin saved my life." There was an oddness to the way he said 'friends', some subharmonic that Kat wasn't sure of the source of, but it made Autumn glanced at his profile again, biting on the edge of her lower lip worriedly even as she gave his hand in hers a slight squeeze. "So what happened?" Kat asked, leaning forward in her seat. Jase gave her a brief accounting of the events so far this morning, leaving out the revelations of Cassandra's oracular abilities which had taken place just before Kat's arrival - for a couple of reasons. One being that, logically, there was no direct proof that Marissa had had a hand in the murder attempt. There was circumstantial evidence up the ass, but that's all it was right now, and poisoning someone unnecessarily against Marissa wouldn't help anything. The other main reason was that Kat was a newcomer to the dramas and tensions of the Fellowship. Though she shared danger alongside them, and Jason appreciated that she was swimming well after having been thrown in the deep end, there was little personal stake for her here as yet. He certainly didn't care to embroil her in whatever shit-tornado was brewing between Marissa and himself - more than half the Fellowship were already involved. So he told of being pulled over, of the guy in the gloves and getting shot, of the woman checking to see he was dead, of dealing with them and making the decision to leave them alive to question. "...and then I blacked out. I came around briefly when Devin slapped me awake, but not for long. Then I woke up in the ambulance just as we were getting here." he finished. "Since when it's been a circus." Autumn added, wrinkling her nose. "Lots of questions, all the same, and that's the third time I've heard that story." she said with a faint smile. "Seriously, though, thanks for showing up. You look like-" "Yeah, I look like shit." Kat agreed bluntly. "Feel like shit too. "Who feels like shit?" came a gruff voice from the doorway as Hank stepped into the room, closely followed by Gar, Jase's dad, carrying a backpack on one shoulder. Hank paused, looking at the petite French girl in the chair. "Girl, you look like-" "I know." Kat said indignantly, scowling at the grizzled older man. "Late night last night. Fighting demons and stuff." She stood up, brushing ineffectively at her vest. Nothing was going to make it work with the ensemble. "Anyway, that's my cue. I'm gonna head out, try to find either breakfast or a bed." she told her... Friends? Fellows? "I'm glad you're okay, Jase." "Thanks again for coming." he replied calmly. She smiled, giving him a final once-over as she let herself out of the room. "I'll let you guys have some time." Autumn said, sliding to her feet and reluctantly disentangling her hand from Jason's, only for Gar to set down his backpack and enfold her in a hug. "Thank you." he muttered. "Thank you for-" "It's fine." Autumn managed to return the hug, smiling despite the situation. "Seriously. It's fine." "Because of you it's fine." Gar gently disengaged, his eyes full. "You don't have to leave, you know." "No, that's okay. Going to let my dad know not to wait on me here. Besides, Jase will need to get dressed." The redhead smiled as she looked over at the boy in the bed. Hank snickered, and opened his mouth as if to say something, but both the older and younger Bannon fixed the former Marine with a stare, and he shrugged and sat down as though he'd never even considered a ribald remark. Autumn fought the urge to grin and glanced at Jason once more. "Don't forget we've got a breakfast date to keep." "I packed some stuff and a thermos, as requested." Gar said, patting the backpack. "We'll leave you two to enjoy it in a bit." "Thanks." Autumn gave the older Bannon another quick hug, then slipped out into the corridor, breathing a sigh of something like relief. She wasn't sure she felt like sitting through another recounting of the morning's attack so soon, and of course Gar and Hank would want to know what happened. Settling herself and taking a breath, she let it out and went to find her dad.
  21. Finally, the Medical Center was in sight. The whole walk had just been her bearing with the itching of the myriad of sores, spread out and healing accross her skin. After twenty minutes of walking, she had concluded that clothes would actually not change anything to her condition. She sighed and passed through the parking lot, dismissing the -odd?- glares of the few people getting in and out of their cars. She wasn't even in the mood for conflict. She just wanted to know what happened, see with her own two eyes that her friend was alright, and then, go straight back to bed. On second thought, that last part might be harder than I thought. Shouldn't have gone for a walk in the first place. She was, in fact, rather awake now, even if a glass of OJ, or even a cup of coffee, might have made the morning brighter. The waking sun was already getting higher above the horizon, rays of groping warmth reflecting on the walls of the large edifice she was headed to. Bet that motherfucker already had coffee to be so bright an hour outta bed. She wasn't going to glare at the sun though. She at least knew better. Then she freezed, a couple steps away from the glass door. Her own reflection was staring at her in the glass, bewildered. God, I look like the argument I had last afternoon was with my pimp and not a bi-dimensional entity of Evil. She swore under her breath, and quickly folded back her vest around herself to hide as best as she could the atrocity she had committed. Fucking skirt. That's what I get for caring about people. The automatic door opened, and entered the small, disheveled, underaged, street-worker look-alike. Kat went straight for the reception, and cleared her throat. "Hey, I'm looking for a, uh, Jason Bannon, please." Two pairs of eyes blinked and stared at her for a moment. Fuck, I could use some advice from this girl with the whole camouflage-the-dark-circles thingie. Mine are still as obvious as a nose on the face... "Uh sorry? Didn't catch that." A couple moments after the receptionist had repeated the directions she gave to the petite and absent-minded French girl, Kat was hurrying through the corridors, to finally reach the room and peak her head in. Yuuuup. That's Jason. In a bed. With Autumn. Not in the bed. Good job, Kat. She mentally nodded, and took a couple steps in, dangling arms suddenly reminded of their duty to keep the vest wrapped around its owner like cellophane. "Hey, guys. What'd I miss?" I really look like shit.
  22. Sean's fingers drummed agitatedly on the wheel as he drove Cassandra back home, his jaw tight with anger as he nodded when she pointed the way or told him where to turn to get to her place. That utter bitch! kept scrolling through his mind. Personally, Devin had been a greater devil to the intersexed boy than Marissa had been, if only because they had interacted more often. But since all the psionic shit in Shelly started, he seemed to be making an effort at making amends. He even seemed to regret his prior actions, some at least. Marissa, not so much, at least from what he'd seen, but she hadn't appeared to be actively hostile. He'd barely recognized her when he'd seen her in passing at the hospital. Sean never even had an inkling Marissa would do something like hire hitmen to target Jase, or make some sort of deal with someone who had sent those Marshals after Jase, or whatever she'd done. Whatever she'd actually done, it was still a betrayal, especially after what the Fellowship had gone through together in facing down the thing Cody had become and the Thing behind him to rescue Sophia and Tawny. Whatever else, the meeting tonight was going to be explosive. She'd better not squirm out of any consequences with her silken words this time. He also couldn't help but feel another spike of guilt. While Jase had been recounting his encounter and Cassie had been doing her thing rewinding time in her mind's eye to find out how the encounter had been incited, Sean had been tapping into the communication network of the Marias campus, and thanks to the listening devices, into that of the Project's base hidden below. Being able to psionically grant himself better than admin access was pretty awesome, way more discrete and efficient than mundane hacking. He should have tapped into all the major authority or emergency agency comm lines. He should have mirrored everyone's phone when he had voodooed them. He might have had a hint of Marissa's duplicity. But digital snooping aside, Sean did believe people had a right to privacy. He didn't want to play Big Brother. More to the point, keeping himself open to every electromagnetic signal and communication flying by would drive him to paranoia and insanity. Then again, was is paranoia if someone was out to get you and your friends? The Grand Cherokee Trailhawk ground to a stop outside the Allen household. The head of a German Shepherd nudged aside the curtains and peered at them through the front window, tongue lolling. Sean smiled tired at Bacon, giving the dog a two-fingered wave. He still preferred cats, himself, but he could understand the appeal of dogs. His smile turned contrite - walking and running with a dog every day would have helped him with cardio. Cassandra hopped out of the Jeep SUV, nudging the door closed with a hip, then giving the hood a rap with her knuckles. "Thanks for the ride, Sean." "No probs, Cass," Sean replied. "If you need another, in case biking it is too far, text me. Might have been good for me to keep up the biking, but, well, car. I... I don't know where I'm going now. Just... I need to puzzle this out, but don't want... y'know?" "I get it, man, I do. Trust me. I'll keep the offer in mind. See you tonight, I guess. Unless, well, something else happens before then." Cassandra gave his car another rap, gave Sean a nod, then turned around, fishing out her keys. Bacon's head disappeared and Cass smiled, almost hearing the skittering of his paws as he raced towards the front door. Sean waited until Cassandra was pushing open the front door before putting his vehicle in gear and driving away. Not that he was sure where he was even going. Home? School? Back to Marias, in case Jase and/or Autumn decided to take pre-emptive action, and whether to help or forestall. He didn't know. For now, he just drove with the potential for the situation improving when he didn't have a destination in mind. Last night, they had won, and not even a day later, it felt like they were already losing.
  23. Okay, XP awards for the Project are below, along with commentary. Remember, the range is from 3 to 6. Autumn: 6 XP - Cogent explanations of what motivates the character, good examples of each Core Value in play, and the 'synergy' addition was a nice touch. Nicely done! Bannon: 6 XP - In-depth explanation of each Core Value as it relates to the character, along with 'dark' flipsides to most of them, plus examples. I'd give you more XP, but my hands are tied, dude. Cassandra 6 XP - The bulleted 'pros and cons' show that the exercise was understood, and the examination of each Value was coherent, showing us what drives Cass. Good job. Cade 4 XP - I liked the obvious thought you put into this, and the explanations were coherent, and the 'Conflict' bullets was a nice layout decision. My issue comes from some of the listed conflicts not being recognisable as deriving from the Value they accompany. 'Cade likes a challenge, but likes things to be easy now and then' is an example of this - it doesn't hang together and causes the reader to scratch their head a little. Now, if you'd chosen to put which Values conflict with other Values ("Cade's valuing of Leisure conflicts with his Valuing of Achievement" as an example) as well as how each Value causes problems by itself, I'd have no issue awarding 5 or even 6 XP. Nevertheless, good effort, and I feel you understood the core premise. Well done. Jaunt 5 XP - Liked the interview theme, and there was a good insight into Jaunt's makeup there. It wasn't as easy to parse as the others so far - largely because when I'm reading Jaunt's 'voice' I can never be certain if he's telling the truth or not, just like the interviewer. There's a massive instinct for me to just take it with a pinch of salt. How much is him blowing smoke, and how much is genuine? But the interviewer's notes helped there, so eventually I shrugged and decided to take it all at face value. I'm dropping a point because the non-Core Values weren't really explored at all. You listed them, but didn't examine them (even briefly) from the POV of the character. Despite that, a good read. Nicely done. Kat 6 XP - Very good. I enjoyed the insights, sometimes rambling, into the character. It was like Kat was giving us a tour around Kat's head as a third party. Good job. Sean 5 XP - This was a tricky one. I liked your explanations of each item on the list, and you plainly thought about Sean's Values. I think I'd have liked to see a bit more exploration in-depth with the Core Values, perhaps with examples given of them coming into play. It just seemed a bit rushed and brief. Still, very nearly a 6, so well done. Marissa 5 XP - Similar format to Jaunt's, which makes sense and was a good read. I had the same initial problem as with Jaunt - my reader's instinct that if Marissa's lips are moving she can't be trusted - but again, I just set that aside and took everything as if she was telling the truth. You lost a point when it came to the non-Core Values, though. No list or exploration of them. The Project did call for each of the ten Values to be included, however briefly. As with Jaunt, despite all that it was good.
  24. Caring: “I’ve watched so many television shows and read so many books where the hero and heroine live happily ever after and since I was a little girl, I remember thinking ‘why can’t that be me’ but the reason why those shows do so well, and those books sell so many copies is because they’re selling fantasies. I wish I had someone to share myself with. To tell them every secret, to give them every bit of me from my body to my heart and show them the real me, like the real, real, me, but I know I never will. I find a guy who stimulates me mentally and then I see him naked and I’m positive he could stimulate me everywhere else too, but all love is to him is a chemical reaction in the brain. It’s ‘just a thing’ to him, easily explained and therefore easily categorized and controlled, filed away as something the body needs, like sunlight or orgasms. I get a hot guy who can stimulate the hell out of me, but all he cares about is sports, fishing, and doesn’t want to spend time with me unless his sister is with us. I love big, too big, I think because I feel like I’m the only one that ‘gets’ what love is, so I just make people want me and get what I need. Who cares right? It’s just a chemical reaction in the brain.” Assessment: Jauntsen, M (heretofore referred to as Subject TEASE) possess a preternatural attractiveness, pheromone production and neuro-hypnotic vocal stimulation (Analyst Comment: People can fall in love with the sound of her voice.) The psychological effects of knowing everyone desires her seems to have left her with an inability to create legitimate emotional connections, possibly due to her not feeling that no one is capable of legitimately loving her due to her abilities having no sort of ‘off’ switch. Pleasure: “Is this a serious question? Jesus, my parents aren’t going to hear this, are they? No? Oh, well then. My brother [Subject JAUNT] and I have a strict ‘work hard, play hard’ policy. I mean, we’ve earned it right? Seriously, think about it, we’re all addicts. Everything we do is linked to some center in our brain that pumps us full of chemicals. Food? We have a chemical for that. Fatigue? Chemical for that. Sex? Several chemicals for that. After all the things we’ve done for the gaggle of ingrates on this planet some guy is going tell me ‘you can save the world, but don’t drink a shot or sleep with that hot guy until you’re twenty-one or eighteen’? Screw that. I deserve to get lit when I’m not dealing with the four corners of crazy, I’ve started calling ‘my every day’. I need that escape after the shit I’ve seen, lady. Hell, you would be lining up the designer drugs, booze and hot guys for us if you’d seen what we dealt with, and we dealt with it for you. You’re welcome. So, yeah, I’m going to smoke and drink and fuck until the nightmares go away. I think I deserve that much.” Assessment: Obvious PTSD arising from the nightmarish ‘creatures’ the group calling themselves the [FELLOWSHIP] claims to have witnessed. Subject TEASE employs escapist practices as an obvious excuse to allow her to delve into deviant behavior with no guilty repercussions due to her feeling ‘entitled’ to it. Subject TEASE possesses numerous insecurities possibly stemming from how almost everyone she is contact with for too long ends up desiring her or falling in love [Analyst Comment: Do we have an estimated time of how long that takes? I’m in a small, enclosed space with her.]. She doesn’t know true emotion from manipulated emotion, seeing emotional attachments as lies perpetrated by her abilities. Recommend: Psychological evaluation and full tox screening. Power: “Pfft, easy. Do you think anyone actually gives a shit about you? You think your bosses do? You’re a number to them, a replaceable asset and the moment they can get you cheaper, younger and prettier… trust me, sister, you’re out of here. Why? Because they have the power to do whatever they want and no one will call them on it because they own the news, the media, you. Me? I want that kind of authority and control over the world around me so people who haven’t worked as hard as me, or done the time I have, or seen the nightmares I’ve walked through can just walk in and take from me what they didn’t do shit to earn. I know monsters are real, and I also know that I’m one of few people in the world capable of stopping them, so if you want me to keep doing it, you need to learn who’s in charge. I can wait through all the screams and wade through all the bodies while you make up your minds.” Assessment: I honestly can’t tell if she is serious or not. Certainly, though she wants absolute autonomy over her life and possibly feels the only way to achieve that is plant her flag on the hill and dare the world to try and claim it. This ties in heavily with her opinions on money (below) and how it relates to power. Recognition: “I wasted my childhood practicing and training and dieting and all for what? Not even so much as a ‘good job sweetie’ or ‘you and your brother did great’. I’m done with those days, like, so fucking over it. I’m so done with being the good daughter and tag-along friend. I was the good person once and then I realized that in most films, comics, television, it’s the villain who is always more relatable. Everyone talks about Darth Vader, but Luke is reduced to sucking teets on a barren rock. Thanos was only brought down when thousands of Earth’s strongest stood against him. One guy and they needed an army… after they totally made the Hulk a bitch. See what I’m getting at? They say that girls like me only date the guys who treat them like crap and all the nice guys are out there finishing last… well, yeah, loser. The world isn’t a good place anymore, and this princess didn’t get saved, so Evil Queen it is.” Assessment: Her associates have informed me that she capable of being compassionate and kind yet none of that was visible during this session. She holds such scorn for the world like it, collectively, had wronged her in some way. More sessions would be necessary to determine the source of this trauma and deal with it but as it stands, in line with the Project’s directives, she’s exactly what they’re looking for. Wealth: “I’ve read a lot. So many books about that fantasy about the poor hero or heroine who rises from nothing, goes on adventures and finds true love and riches in some faraway kingdom. I, mean, whatever, I guess. Nothing lasts forever, especially happiness. I’m not happy, I rarely, if ever, am. They say money can’t buy happiness, yet, it can buy all the things that make me happy, if only for a while. Endorphins from that meal, they don’t last. The designer drugs wear off, the liquor filters through leaving a hangover. Relationships come and go. People enter your life and soon exit after a few years. Nothing is forever, like happiness. So, what’s the big deal, then? Money is power in this world and if you have it that’s all that matters. Celebrities make murder disappear and the rulers of the world spend and spend while claiming there isn’t enough for the people that really need it. All the examples for me to follow are right there in the world: money equals power, power equals recognition fuels our desires for pleasure and happiness and in the end that’s truly what caring is all about: ourselves. In the end we’re nothing more than a few chemical reactions in the brain. No magic, nothing to discover that holds any wonderment or beauty… just a moment of our brains saying ‘yup, that was a thing’. Look at me and listen to what I’m telling you…” Assessment: Subject TEASE displays all the qualifying traits of an exceptional sixteen-year-old girl who is well on her way to a bright and successful future. While possessed of a few traits that certainly could be addressed, it is the opinion of this analyst that we continue to support and direct the continued growth of her abilities, opening all possible avenues for her to learn, grow and develop.
  25. Cassandra shook her head and worked her shoulders, trying to clear away the heebie jeebies. As always, Devin was mixing creepy and hot together and it was just super weird. "That's not hard," she observed sardonically. "We're teenagers. We're attracted to practically everyone. Puberty is a cruel mistress. Devin is just...Devin. Lets talk about..." here Cassie hesitated, because she wanted to talk about Ellie, but that wasn't why she was here. Not this time. "...Jase." That brought her back with a shock to her friend, momentarily startled out of her head by a stranger in the room. Cassie went to Jason's side and gave him a look up and down, then smiled a wobbly smile. "That text scared the shit out of me," said Cass reprovingly, "You look...better than I was afraid you'd be." Here she looked up and over at Autumn, giving her friend a respectful nod, then hunkered down near Jase. "What the hell happened though? Who would want you dead? I know you're not exactly Mr Popular around school, but I don't think Chet's hiring assassins." "They flagged me down just a couple miles down the road from my house." Jase replied calmly, jade eyes narrowing slightly as he considered her. "Cop lights on the dash. Pleasant, clean-cut looking man. I thought he'd most likely be a Fed, given the kidnapping report yesterday. Perhaps someone a little curious about the cover story, doing some digging." He paused, taking a sip of water, then went on. "Outside chance, I thought he'd be ATF, doing the whole 'we're watching your dad and his friends' schtick." Cassie frowns at that. "What the... And then what? Did they say anything?" The lean young man shook his head, his hair brushing against the new pale scar line on his cheek. "Not a word. He approached, smiling and waving. Then reached into his jacket like he was going for ID. Then I noticed he was wearing gloves on a warm morning." He paused another moment. "I had my forcefield just forming when the first shot was fired. I was jerking my head away on reflex, and the field slowed the bullet enough that it hit me hard, but then deflected down across my cheek. Second shot was right on the heels of the first, and I felt that go into my ribs." Sitting up in bed, and bare chested, it was plain to see the puckered, pale mark when the impact had taken place. "I managed to stay conscious, and the field stopped the third bullet. I played dead and tried not to pass out, hoping he wouldn't check me. Then I heard another car pull up and the woman speak to him, asking if he'd made sure, and I knew I wasn't going to get away with playing dead." "Jesus Christ, Jase," Cassandra breathed, wide-eyed. "Yes." Jason nodded, his expression composed. "So I went on the offensive. Obviously the male wasn't used to such work - he sounded distraught. While he was looking away, she reached in to check my pulse, and I attacked." "So...we don't know anything about them or why they attacked you?" "The man had a U.S Marshal ID. Not sure if it's genuine or not. The woman's jacket got burned... So perhaps she was also a marshal, or posing as one." He thought for a moment, replaying the scene. "They seemed to handle their firearms professionally. Like cops. The man who shot me put one in my head and two in my chest as fast as three finger snaps." That set Cassie back on her heels. "I mean...maybe someone from the prison? Enterich is still a thing, but I didn't think he wanted anyone dead. But he doesn't have authority over US Marshals. And Marshals wouldn't just assassinate a kid either. There has to be something else going on." Jase tilted his head slightly, regarding her. "Wasn't Enterich responsible for the Air Force captain feeding a child to the Tree? It's plain he's able to influence people." "Yeah..." she looks down, the memory looming large again. "But that Air Force guy was a wreck by that time." Cassie took a deep breath. "I can do the same thing with them that I did for that house though. I can follow them back in time, see what they did, where they went, who they talked to. We don't need them to say a word." "We don't know that Enterich didn't make the captain a wreck, push him down the path until he was capable of human sacrifice." Jason said reasonably, his eyes narrowing a little as he assessed Cassie's proposal. "But... yes. If you think it likely you can 'see' what happened, have a go." He considered. "It's interesting, the way your powers interact with space-time, diving down into this theorised subquantum universe where all space is one point and time is just another direction to glance in. Makes me wonder if perhaps Devin, who can physically move through that singular point, could perhaps also move in time." "Anyway." he shrugged, getting comfortable, pale eyes watching her. "I would appreciate knowing whatever you find out, of course." "So, I'd have to follow you back to where you met them," Cassandra says. "Then I can jump over to them. Otherwise I have to over to them, and I don't know if the hospital would let me in to see them unless we explain everything to Annette..." She shrugs at that. "Under the circumstances, I feel like we shouldn't count on them until we know for sure who sent these guys and why." "That seems prudent." Jason considered. "Though if Annette or the Project were behind the attack on me-" "They are not." Ellie said firmly from where she'd been listening at the end of the bed. "At least, Annette and the one called Taggart are not. They were furious and shocked, and their men guard this room and the male assassin, down below. I do not know where the female is - I overheard Taggart say she was in something called an I See You." "Damn, Jase. You must have fucked them up pretty good," Cassandra said, impressed despite herself. She glanced at Ellie. "It means Intensive Care Unit. It's like...emergency life support, kind of. Anyway, are you okay with me tracking back your timeline up to that point?" "Of course." Jase nodded, faint curiousity in his eyes. "Whenever you are ready." Cassandra closed her eyes for a second...then sucked in a deep breath, like the first half of a jumpscared scream. Her eyelids drifted open and the eyes beneath were rolled back so far that only whites showed. She looked blindly off to one side, seeing things only she could see. Her hands tightened on the armrest of Jase's chair as she wobbled, her balance shifting unconsciously as she moved around in the past... Then she flinched, at the gunshots, her face crumpling up to see her friend hurt...and she looked away from his vengeance, quickly pushing the vision backwards...leaping from Jase to the man, Marshall... She calmed down a bit then and said, "They were staking out your farm...watching everyone. Joking around, but they were tense. They kept talking about how they didn't want to do it, but then just went back to planning it all out, step by step." A pause and she added, "Enterich. It was him. I'm going to see if I can see..." Cassandra swayed again, time and space swirling in her eyes... Then, genuinely startled. "What the fuck?" "What is it?" she couldn't see Jase, but his calm voice reached her anyway. "Oh my god," Cassie whispers, and tears start rolling down from the corners of her blank eyes. "That's not fucking possible." She turns her head then to 'stare' at Jason, and even though she's clearly not seeing him, the feeling of being looked at was sudden and intense. "It's Marissa. She was there. Sunday, just before Enterich told Marshall and Dale to kill you, she met with him. Marshall wasn't in there with them so I can't tell what they said, but Enterich gave him a big, heavy bag and told him to give it to her..." The words came tumbling out, faster and faster, a terrible litany as inevitable as gravity pulling more tears down her face. "Marshall started to say no, but Enterich...threatened him, kind of...and Marshall backed right down. He has something on them. They're afraid of him." Jason was still. Utterly, completely still. Not a flicker of an eyelid, not a twitch of a jaw muscle betrayed anything as he listened to Cassandra. But somehow, there was a terrible coldness accompanying that stillness, gathering in the jade ice of his eyes. Cassandra's face reddened, and she pushed it forward slightly, straining against something. She fought, then...shook her head. With a gasp, her eyes rolled back down, and she managed to relax, though was breathing hard. "Shit. I lost it. I tried to switch over to Enterich, but it was stretched too thin." "Jase...we have to talk to her before we do anything," Cassandra said. "It looks bad but I didn't see very much about her. We don't have all the facts." "She tried to steer us away from going after Enterich." Was it the imagination, or was the air in the hospital room actually getting colder as Jason spoke, each word sliding into place like frozen crystal. "Sunday afternoon, at the meeting in the barn." "So we put this in front of her," Cassandra insisted shakily. "We hear what she has to say. I can make sure it's true." She put a hand on Jase's forearm. The psychokinetic was icy cold to the touch. "Please don't do anything until then. Don't make me telling you into something dangerous, okay?" "Hey, guys?" Autumn's voice carried into the room as she rounded the corner, her phone in hand. There was a note of uncertainty there, echoed in the furrow between her brows. "Did you guys see this text from Marissa, earlier? She mentioned that guy, Enterich, from the ritual thing. Apparently the guys who wanted to, um..." Hesitating briefly, she glanced at Jase and forged ahead. "...to kill you, were working for him." Cassandra looked up, her eyes still teary and red. "Autumn...you should probably sit down. I'm guessing Marissa didn't text the whole story." "I mean," she replied, blinking at the seer. "It's in the group chat, but I was here, and not on my phone, so..." Cass shook her head. "I did a reading of one of the assassins. She was working for Enterich too. Marissa. I don't know what she was doing exactly, but...it paid pretty well, from how heavy the bag was." Cassie got up and sat down on the bed. Spying a box of tissues on the end table, she reached out and snagged it, then immediately grabbed three or four tissues out at once. "Go ahead and talk to her, if you want." Jason's voice was cold, clinical, as condensation started to form a coating of frost on the water jug nearby. "She will lie, and dance around the truth, and know we know better, and dare anyone to do anything about it. And even if he was not part of her scheme, Devin will back her, protect her. Just. Like. Always." There was a crack from the jug as the water in it froze solid on the last word, and the breath of the teens present fogged in the air. "She can't lie to me, Jase! Just...we have to give her a chance! She was with us at the Tree! This can't be what she wanted. I can't believe that." The redhead took a deep breath, counting slowly to four, and then exhaled, raking a hand back over the unruly curls framing her face. "And she just left. Right." There was a moment's pause, then- "Hi, Sean," she stated quietly, and walked over to the side of the bed with an air of resignation. "Cassie, would you mind explaining the highlights for me?" Cassandra took a deep breath and nodded. "Thanks," Autumn smiled faintly, idly rubbing her arms against the chill.(edited) Jason remained silent, staring at nothing in particular, eyes narrowed as his minds eye replayed past events. Ellie, too, remained silent, watching the lean youth in the bed intently, more than curiosity in her grey eyes.(edited) "They were US Marshals. Real ones. The woman's last name was Dale, and the guy was...actually Marshall." She took another tissue, then put the box out on the bed. "Last Sunday, Enterich had a meeting with Marissa that he finished out by having Marshall give her a big bag of almost-definitely money. Not five minutes after she left, Enterich called Marshals Dale and Marshall into his office and told them to kill Jase. Marshall resisted, and Enterich put him in his place with like...a sentence." "Then they staked out the farm, planned out what they'd do...and then they did it." Cassandra wiped her nose. "Mhmm." Autumn nodded, wide blue eyes clear and attentive as Cassie explained what she'd seen, one hand snaking over to rest on the cool flesh of Jason's arm. She flinched at the sensation, glancing at his profile, then back to the blonde clairvoyant.(edited) "Enterich told them what to expect from Jase too. Not in a lot of detail, but they knew he was telekinetic, and dangerous. They hated it. Marshall especially. It was giving him nightmares...but he didn't hesitate when the time came. I don't know what the fuck this Enterich had on them, but..." she shakes her head. "All right. Well, then they deserved what they got," the red-haired girl nodded. "At minimum. And they're here, somewhere, so it's not like the information's getting out. That's a plus." Cassie nods numbly. "I can try again," she said softly. "Maybe go back farther, or jump onto Enterich's timeline..." "Do you think that would help?" Autumn asked curiously. "I mean, I don't know how all that works for you. But if the problem is Enterich, then he's the one we need to deal with. If he pushed these marshals, he might've done the same for Marissa." "She wasn't acting afraid of him. But maybe that's just because she wasn't telling him 'no,'" Cassandra shrugged. "Pushed her with money." Jason said too softly. "And considering the evidence, I can see Marissa perhaps wanting to be rid of me." He turned his cold eyes on Autumn. "She thinks I would hurt you - she said as much to me yesterday at the Carousel. Said I have a history of violence and abuse, and I am sick." "I could have sworn she had a thing for you though. Am I insane? Was that just in my...fanfic of us?" Cassie looks at Autumn. "Why would she-?" Autumn frowned at Jase's comment, and shook her head. "Wait, no... She did say on Sunday that she was worried, because you scared her. So maybe..." Glancing up at Cassie, she shrugged. "She said she used to be interested, but wasn't anymore because I stole her ice cream, or something. Anyway, it was a whole thing, and not really relevant. Listen," she added, regarding Jase levelly. "I don't think you would. None of that is true, so ignore it." "Of course it is not true," replied Jason. "But that isn't relevant - what matters is that she believes it's true. And then two people try to kill me after she meets with their boss." "Does she believe it, though? She kissed you earlier. She said in the text that those two were with Enterich." "We can't just jump to conclusions," Cassandra stresses. "We HAVE to hear her side of this." "Holy fuck," Autumn sighed, sitting back down on the edge of the mattress. "Perhaps she is simply insane." Jason suggested with a shrug. "Her actions haven't made sense to me since last week." "I mean, maybe," the red-haired vitakinetic breathed, catching her lower lip pensively between her teeth. "Is this a teenage girl versus teenage boy thing though? Because that's a whole different level of crazy than we'd be talking about." "What do you mean?" "I mean...just, a lot of Mari's issues seem to me to be just...an insecure, antisocial teenager being insecure and antisocial, you know? But this thing with Enterich is way past that. And now the situation with Jase...that's not just schoolyard bullshit anymore. I just think we have to be sure." "You're right." Autumn nodded, slowly. "So we talk to her. We find out what happened, and exactly why and how she's involved in someone trying to kill Jase." She paused for a moment, taking another deep breath and letting it out in a rush. "And, worst case scenario, there's about 3 and a half million acres of open wilderness in Montana." "Jesus," Cassandra sighed and covered her eyes. The chill permeating the room began to slowly lift, warmth gradually seeping back into the lean young man's skin as he re-established some manner of equilibrium. "If we act against Marissa, we must consider that we will have to act against Devin. I want to avoid that. I was starting to consider him a friend." he said softly. Cass nodded at that. "I still can't believe it. I saw it with my own eyes and I still can't. Even if she didn't have anything to do with him trying to kill Jase, this is Enterich. It's not like we didn't know what kind of guy he was." "I said worst. Look, I'm tired and freaked out," she scowled, raking a hand back through her hair. "She's supposed to be my best friend. I want to trust that she's not working with somebody who's trying to kill us." "We didn't know about Enterich before the meeting on Sunday afternoon." Jason's tone was thoughtful. "Maybe, just maybe, she was involved with something else. I want to allow for that possibility." "Yeah. Me too. I mean, I don't think I'd call her my best friend, but...I thought we understood each other." Autumn shrugged at that and glanced out the window. "So." Jase looked at Cassie. "Go ahead, talk with her. Get her side, verify she's telling the truth. Until then, I'll be keeping my distance from her. For everybody's good." "Shit," Cassie muttered, but she nodded. "Okay. I'll talk to her. Autumn, do you want to be there too?" "Yes, but no," she sighed. "I do want to know what she has to say, because I think you're right about being fair. There could be a lot going on, and none of this makes sense right now. But on the other hand I also know if she starts talking shit, I'm gonna lose mine. ...So, tentatively yes?" Cassandra nodded. "Okay. Full disclosure, I'd feel better having some backup. Marissa can be scary to deal with one on one. Strict confidence on that." "Fair," the redhead conceded. Jase reached over and gently took Autumn's hand, letting his fingers twine in hers. "All right." With a quick glance at Jase and a brief squeeze of his hand, Autumn nodded at Cassie. "So, you talk to her, figure out what you need to know. I'll back you up." "I'll call you or text you when I have the details," Cassie agrees. Then, reading the room, she gets to her feet and says, "I'll...we'll leave you guys alone. Jase, I'm glad you're okay." "I mean, she told us who they were working for," Autumn added, "She had to know we'd ask, right?" "Yeah. And it follows I'd be the one to push her on it." Autumn nodded again, chewing at her lower lip. "Yeah. Yeah, it does." As an afterthought, she added, "Oh, don't forget. Meeting tonight." Cassie can't help but utter a short, sharp laugh at that. "Shit, that's going to be an awkward one." "Right?" The redhead grinned crookedly, shaking her head. "See you at school?" Ellie pushed off from where she was leaning and nodded to the teens present. "I will keep my own counsel about what has been discussed here." she said softly. "But you should know that Taggart has listening devices here." "Seeya." Cassandra goes over to where Sean is busying himself and says, "C'mon man. We should go." Then she pauses and grimaces. "Maybe next time lead with that." "I thought you understood where you were." The taller blonde shrugged. "Yeah, well, I didn't come in here thinking I'd be...fuck, whatever. It's done now." "Honestly, I don't even care at this point," Autumn laughed quietly. "Voyeurism is way down on the list of my worries this week." Ellie gave the redhead a slight smile, then nodded to Jason. "It is a terrible thing for a Pride to be riven. I hope the resolution is swift." "No, I just...I didn't want to tip off anyone about any of this. This is Fellowship business, you know? But yeah. Alright, c'mon Sean." She gives Sean a chance to say his well wishes and goodbyes, then hauls him out to give Jase and Autumn some time. Nodding agreement, Sean rose and followed Cassandra from the room, Ellie leaving on their heels before turning and walking away down a side corridor. "Hey, Ellie? Do you work for Taggert? What's your deal, anyway?" She stopped, half-turning with that same predatory grace and regarding the journalist. "I am a visitor." she said simply. "Visitor. Like, from what, the Aeon Project? Government?" Cassandra presses. "You know a lot about what's going on here." "I am currently living below." Ellie replied. "Since yesterday, as a guest of Annette, who is doing so as a favor to Devin. I keep my eyes and ears open." "You remind me a lot of Jase. Are you related?" There was a pause as the grey eyes focused on her, then the girl shrugged. "Perhaps closer related to him than yourself. But he is not my family." "Right," Cassie said, then shook her head. "And now I nod like I understand what you mean and walk off, making a mental note to follow up about it later, except no. I'm not playing riddles with you. All of this..." she waved a hand at Jase's door, "...is very personal, and very painful, and you saw and heard some deeply messed up shit and you're acting like you've heard it all before. So I'm being a hundred and ten percent serious now, because I am fully overloaded on bullshit today. Who are you, and why are you here?" "I have not heard it all before." Ellie responded, turning more fully now to face Cassandra. "How you perceive my behaviour is therefore in error. However... I am called Ellie. I am here because I am stuck here, and Devin has agreed to help me get home. I am stuck here because I saved Devin's life in the Void, and in so doing lost my means to navigate home. I blundered out, was captured by some men, escaped from where they were holding me, made my way here, and so here I am, answering rude questions with far more patience than they warrant." "You know, I don't have to ask," Cassandra retorted. "I can just go look. So I'm sorry if this sounds rude to you, but as far as I know you're this complete and total stranger, wedging your way in out of nowhere in the middle of a really really stressful moment, and every time, up until now, I even tried to ask you anything you just wiggled away without saying anything. So thank you for at least trying to actually say something this time. Even if I don't completely understand your answer...it is at least an answer." She thought, then said, "You rescued Devin, wait. Wait, wait, no he did say something about meeting someone in the Dark world... The bracelet, right?" "Yes." Ellie nodded, holding up her wrist. "He has returned it to me now." She let out a breath. "Wow...okay. I'm sorry then. Thanks for helping him. How did you wind up in there anyway? And how did you get out? Devin just about blew up his brain getting us in there." "There are holes that lead to the Void. I entered one at my home, and exited at the place you call Site B." Ellie explained. "For those that know how, navigation is possible between such places. Without my bracelet, I was lucky to find an exit." She glanced down the corridor in the direction she'd been headed, then looked back at Cassie. "You likely have more questions. You seem like one with endless questions." she commented with a faint quirk of her lips. "For now, though, I have to go." Cassandra hesitated, then nodded. "Okay. Yeah, thanks. Maybe we can pick this up again later." She watched Ellie turn and start to leave, then asked Sean, "So...can I bum another ride off of you?" "Hmm, huh? What?" Sean muttered, wrenching his eyes off the taller blonde to look at Cassandra. He'd taken a step or three back when she'd been grilling Ellie and Sean really hoped Cassie hadn't noticed the expression on his face when she'd asked Ellie if she and Jase were related. "Yeah, sure, of course. Wherever you need to go, Cassie," Sean assured her, "Just, gimme a sec? Ellie!" He took two quick steps after Ellie before she had completely turned around. She spun back with a smooth economy of motion to eye the buxom figure with cool appraisal. Sean dropped his raised hand, fingers curling into a contrite fist behind his back. "Can I ask one quick question of my own before we part ways?" Barely waiting for a minute nod, Sean continued, "These holes in the Void, can you teach us how to find them and pass through them?" She studied him for a long minute, considering his question - he hoped at least, given what he knew of the species. She might have been thinking anything, and the intersexed young man realised just how much he'd gotten used to subconsciously reading Jase's little cues and tiny expressions, how very 'human' Jason was by comparison, at least as far as his friends were concerned. Socialisation? Cultural difference? Or did his oldest friend simply make an effort where Sean was concerned, whereas Ellie didn't care to put him at ease. "I cannot." Ellie said finally. "My equipment has instruments which can detect them, but that is in the possession of the men at Site B. The scientists of my home know of ways to find them, but I am no scientist. Just a scout." Sean's pretty face scrunched up in disappointment, but he nodded his acceptance of Ellie's answer. Considering what the fallout could be with Marissa, or even other circumstances, he would have liked knowing he - they - had another way of escaping the Void - if they ever ended up there - that didn't solely rely on Devin. It also might have been another way to infiltrate Site B. "Fair 'nough," Sean replied with no acrimony. "If we liberate your equipment from Site B, would you consider that a fair trade to shown how it works?" He grinned ruefully. "Sorry, that's two questions, now." "Devin has already offered his aid, so I was not aware a trade was required." Ellie said, her eyes narrowing a little. "However... I will consider it." Fucking Devin! But there wasn't any real anger in the thought, only exasperation at the non-furry Nightcrawler messing things up without even trying or being there. "Fair 'nough," Sean repeated. "I guess we'll see you 'round. Later." Minimal expression he couldn't read nearly as well as he could Jase's, Sean assumed a mutual dismissal, nodded a farewell, and stepped back to join Cassie. "Where do you need an Uber to, Cass? School, or somewhere else?" Cassandra thought, then said, "My place. If I need to go anywhere from there today, I can bike it.Thanks, man." They set off then; that night's meeting suddenly looming large and uncomfortable in the new light it was cast in.
  26. Devin offered the the redhead a quiet 'no problem', comfortingly rubbing her shoulder while she was near them. His smile told her that he had her back anytime she needed it. "No need to thank us," Marissa's voice was a soft series of whispered, treating Jason like he was asleep when he wasn't. "After last night, this was a cake walk. Together, we can handle anything. Things are just going to get weirder around here, I have a feeling. We have to stick together." In typical bestie fashion she hugged Autumn, letting the fragrance of her body lotion and lip balm adopt the energetic redhead's orbit as she stepped out to speak with her dad. "Speaking of," she backhanded her brother's arm. "We need to get going and at least get to school at some point. We still need to change to get you your bike, so with the crowd, it might be a good time to vacate. So," she looked to Ellie and Cassie and saw an opportunity to be, well, her. "Say goodbye to your girlfriend or, girlfriends... or however the three of you are working this out." With that she stepped out of the room, surprisingly devoid of her usual clacking heels, her soft-soled Chucks were virtually silent on the hospitals floors. "She's right," he said looking to Ellie. "I do have to get to school, but after I'll come visit you and we can get you those clothes we were talking about, okay? Sorry I can't sty longer." Ellie nodded in agreement of clothes shopping. The concept of a 'makeover' didn't sit well with her, as she felt she was fine how she was and what could they possibly make her into? "I understand. Later then, I look forward to seeing you again, Devin." "Hey," he said softly to Cassie as he moved in behind her on his way out. He leaned over her shoulder slightly, to talk in her ear, and the way he placed his hand on her hip in passing seemed far more than friendly. "Hell of a morning, huh? I'll get you spun up later, I know you have ten thousand questions." His words were a tickle on her neck, dancing along her until it finally sent a faint chill down her spine. "Call you later, okay?" The way he slid his hand across her lower back, letting his fingertips glide all the way across so as to not have to stop touching her until the last possible moment. The shiver down her spine became a jolt of electricity that woke up a few sleeping parts of her brain. She hadn't ever really had a crush on a guy before, but... Devin (of all people) was certainly making a strong argument for candidacy. "Jase, we're heading out," Devin pointed at his friend, and as always, he was loud. "Only shots I wanna hear about are the Jell-O ones you're doing from the cleavage of these hot nurses, alright?" Just then an attractive nurse was passing by the door and she smirked at the young mans statement. He noticed and pointed to her, smirking. "Yeah, I'm talking about you. You know I am. She gets it! Later peeps." He stepped out with his hand in the air to bid farewell to everyone. "He's incorrigible." Jason said as shirtless Devin faded off into the hospital halls. "Yet," Ellie pointed out. "The body language of the females he's addressed so far have all shown signs of their attraction to him. There is something to be said for boldness."
  27.  

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