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  1. ( Collab w/ Dave) Lilly stood at her locker, having parted ways with Sean as they each made their way to their lockers to get ready for class. The athletic brunette stood there, looking at the text books leaning against one another in her locker, and for a moment could not remember which she needed to grab. It had been a long night, one which she would not care to remember, and she was certainly tired for the lack of sleep for a few days now. She certainly could have stayed home today, but a small part of her was determined to not let Enterich 'win', as it were, and hide in bed all day. Finally she remembered which books to grab and slipped them into her pack, closing the locker door with a sigh. As the door closed she caught sight of Marissa walking town the hall, strangely alone and... quiet? Subdued? Lilly managed a weary smile and a small, wave to Mari. Lily's brunette counterpart, the evil to Lily's purity, the dark to her light, certainly appeared to care less today than she ever had previously. Still, instead of just passing Lily by in the hall she opted to instead, narrow her eyes and then roll them in either frustration or irritation. Marissa didn't wave back at the sheepish attempt Lily had made to greet her. Instead she walked up to her and simply curled an eyebrow upward in her usual mocking appraisal. Still, she said nothing. Finally, she reached out and grabbed Lily by her arm and pulled her along, cueing her to follow. "Wow." She said lazily. "You look like hell." Lilly blinked in surprise as Marissa pulled on her arm, leading her by it. Be it the lack of sleep, the anxiety, mental fatigue or any other factors of combination of thing, Lilly's usual more friendly and diplomatic speech was nowhere to be found. "No shit. I haven't haven't slept, no real sleep, for days." she replied, her initial indignant tone quickly fading. "My head's still so messed up." "Seeing my sarcasm and raising me sass," the evil brunette almost grinned, but she wasn't in the mood for it, not today. "I like you better without sleep." She led her into one of the female restrooms where a few of their classmates has chosen to get ready for classes in front of the large mirror. There was a pause the two ladies entered, like it must be some manner of prank for Shelly High's star athlete and it's Goddess of Cruelty to be both be blessing their rest room at exactly the same time. After a slight pause to allow them a moment to marvel at the blessing of their presence, Marissa tightened her jaw line and authoritatively demanded. "Vacate plebs." "Now," she demanded a forcefully a moment later and the two watched as lower classmates practically stumbled over one another to get the hell out of there as quickly as possible, some letting their faces remain half finished of makeup, and filtered passed them in a hurried line that refused to make any more eye contact than was humanly possible. "You didn't have to be mean to them," Lily added, he voice echoing slightly in the newly emptied school restroom acoustics. She led her over to the mirror and set her bag on the surface by on one of the sinks. "No, I didn't." She admitted. "Nor do you have to look like you just rolled out of bed without sleeping a wink for several night, yet here we are." She produced some concealer, a soft brush and a neutral colored headband and without asking simply began dabbing the dark rings under Lily's eyes. "People are always looking for weaknesses, Lily. No matter how defeated we appear, always look like you're winning." She dabbed away, prepping the concealment of her weariness with a light application. "This might take a second," She said after a few moments of silence. "It's not much but it will help, for today, anyway." "Thanks." Lilly simply sighed in unfiltered sincerity. She was caught off guard by the random act of kindness from Mari, not because she could not be kind though, a Lilly had seen that Marissa could be kind and was kind, her her own way, more often than it seemed the others recognized. In this case it was simply so unexpected. Here she was in the bathroom with Mari doing her makeup to try to help her look better. Some would say it was just Mari protecting her own image by making sure those she was around looked their best, or at least 'good' as it were, and to be be fair, that probably was a small part of it, but in the moment it just felt more like a genuine act kindness shared between the two young women. Lilly glanced at the mirror and then did a double take. "That's.. You're really good." Lilly said as she leaned close to check her seemingly refreshed eyes. "I mean, I shouldn't be surprised. Just look at you, not that you need makeup though." "More than you think," she replied coldly. She still, for all intents and purposes was dealing with her own issues and wasn't much for going into soul-searching with Lily in the freshman bathroom. "From the makeup to the work outs, beauty is not a maintenance-free gift. Like athleticism, neglect it and it neglects you. Still, my brother hasn't been getting much sleep either. He's still randomly jaunting about the house in panicked fits in his sleep trying to escape whatever it was that chased him for hours in that... place. I sympathize, I suppose. It messed him up pretty bad, and Enterich has been in my head too, to a lighter degree, I suppose as most things that make you revile in horror probably turn me on." Lily wasn't sure if that was humor or not, as Marissa's deadpan tone and expression were currently impossible to read. She handed her the brush and slid the hairband to her. "Fix yourself." As Lily began grooming Marissa placed the other items back in her bag. "I know it's just words, Lily, and I won't claim to understand what you went through, that's yours and yours alone to come to terms with, but everyday people are looking for weaknesses. In you. In me. Your problems? Twenty percent don't care, and eighty percent are glad they're yours, so no matter how bad it gets in your head always carry yourself like you're winning." "Get a boyfriend or something," she added suddenly, allowing herself a devilish smirk as personal topics like who Lily was dating she knew would make the prudish athlete flush in all manner of roses. "What about that guy you're going to homecoming with? He might cheer you up. Get you some, girl. Can't say 'happiness' without saying 'penis'. "Will?" Lilly asked as she stopped for a moment and turned from the mirror to Marissa, he cheeks flushed. "He's a decent guy I guess," she said with a shrug, "but there's just nothing there." Lilly turned back to the mirror as as she continued talking, "and besides, there's not exactly a line to date me, not after all rumors and crap that's been spread. I mean, yeah, they cheer me when i bring home a win on the football field, but it's like, I dunno, only because I'm useful to them. at least, that's part of what Enterich said, and to be honest, there's more than a little truth to it." Lilly lowered her hand with the brush and looked at herself in the mirror for a moment, meeting her own gaze before shaking her head, not wanting to dwell on it if she could avoid it. "Anyways," she sighed, "there's only a people I have any interest in, and the girl's bathroom is not the place to be sharing it." "Of course there is some truth to them, Lily," she rest her hip against the counter top, arms folded in constant appraisal of Lilly both physically and mentally. She'd read all of her mother's books on psychology and scarily understood more of how the the mind worked than most young women her age ever should. "If there wasn't then they wouldn't have any power over you." She didn't didn't preach the topic, she knew Lilly was smart enough to understand how her own head worked. She'd trained for the Olympics and more than anyone in Shelly knew the power of self-discipline and the mantra of 'just one more'. Still, like Autumn, a handful of Lilly's were born from Marissa's cruel pranks and selfish desires. "This, however, is high school, Lilly. Popularity and public opinion are mercurial, at best. I suppose a portion of that is my fault." Lilly knew that probably as close to an apology as she was going to get. "I can handle the rumors for you, I can squash the public option and fix your reputation by week's end." "The rest is on you, girlfriend." She was silent for a moment before narrowing her eyes and finally saying. "You know what? My afternoon schedule cleared up. Jacob would rather play twenty questions instead of coming to have a burger with me, so why don't you fill his place. Getting out might do you some good. Talking, even if it's about nothing in particular, might help. We will find Enterich, we will beat him, and we will show him why they name storms after women, but until that time comes we need to eat and talk shit about boys, so burger later?" "Well then he sounds like a dumbass." Lilly said with a faint hint of a smile tugging at the corners of her lips for the first time all morning. "Sure. These last couple of weeks have been..." she said, her voice trailing off a bit as she thought about things, but then shook her head, as if she were tossing them from her mind. "Chillin' with you over burgers and fries sounds great." Lilly looked at herself in the mirror and nodded. "And thanks for this too. What you said, the help, all of it. It really helps. Seriously." "Idiocy is not something this town lack in," she dismissively shrugged. "I'm friends with Jacob's friends and it's obvious he doesn't like me at all. I figured us getting to know each other better might help to clear the air. Oh, well. We miss a hundred percent of the shots we don't take, and he blew his." Lilly finished her hair and slid the band in place to keep her bangs out of her eyes. Marissa drooped the brush back in her bag as her athletic counterpart handed it to her. "I've only told you what you already know, but," she seemed to hesitant to express the next piece of her mind, but after a moment of hesitation she continued on. "You're welcome." She glanced at her phone and slid several messages aside. "We're going to be late." “What are you talking about? Marissa Jauntsen is never late, nor is she early. She arrives precisely when she means to.” Lilly said with a faint smile, looking for any sign of recognition of the quote she played off of from Marissa and then reached down, slung her bag over her shoulder and gave herself one last look over in the mirror with an exhale, as if she were steeling herself to step back out into a battle once more. Lilly wanted to say a little more, but with time being an issue, she set it aside for not. At the moment, there other things she needed to try and focus on to make it through the school day and make up for her prior absence. "Shall we?" Lilly asked as she walked over toward the door to open it for Marissa.
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  2. The grey of predawn was broken by a pale sun rising above the horizon, a faint breeze keeping the morning cool still. Despite the chill, Sean's rich red hair had already darkened with effort, sweat stains beginning to spread at the small of his back and the pits of his shirt. Sean's huffing breath was the only sound beyond the rustling of the leaves behind the Barn as he strained to finish one last push-up. He could barely remember the last time he'd done a push-up, but he'd certainly been carrying less weight on his chest then. Lilly had told him to just do as many as he comfortably could, and while having no illusions about how athletic he was - or nonathletic, rather - he didn't want to come across as a complete wuss. Slim arms trembling, he finished one more. Gasping, heavy chest heaving, Sean sat back on his heels and shook out his arms before grasping a water bottle and chugging it, wishing it was coffee or an energy drink. It was way too early to be this active. He looked up at the taller, far more physically gifted teen. "I... lost... count. How many was that? Twenty-nine? Thirty?" He dumped some of the water on his head, brushing it through his damp hair with his fingers. "Just tell me whatever's next doesn't need my arms." It had been another difficult night for Lilly. For the last couple of nights she had actually begun to dread falling asleep, because sleep did not offer the, restful, peaceful respite it usually did and instead would drag her back down into a pit of her fears which Mr. Enterich had so expertly drawn to the surface and magnified. Eventually though the long fingers of fatigue would grip Lilly and she and drag her back down until she inevitably would startle awake once again, heart racing, body covered in sweat, tears racing down her cheeks, or some combination there of. Finally, early in the morning, she showered, packed her backpack, dressed and waited for her mother who, after she had instead on going to school today, relented but only if she drove Lilly herself. Begrudgingly, Lilly had agreed and eventually the pair had made there way into town to Sean's house, after Lilly had explained she had agreed to help him improve his fitness. Now she was here, at least physically, if not all together mentally. She was much more subdued as well, her usual smile gone for now, replaced with an almost passionless mask. "Eleven." she stated simply as she brought her full attention back to the present and her friend. At Sean's frown she shook her head and raised her hand. "Relax. We all start somewhere, so don't concern yourself with what others can do or feel bad about where you are. You've already taken the biggest step, and that's deciding to address your personal fitness. So you run your own race and don't concern yourself with others." she reassured him before continuing, "The goal for now is to just get you functionally fit, so nothing crazy to worry about. Most of that will be simple circuit training. Essentially simple cardio and exercises in small reps, and no real equipment is even needed, so you can do it here or anywhere. And nothing I am gonna give you is gonna to destroy you, but it will be a workout." "For example, Sprint here to there," Lilly said as she pointed a fence post a distance off, "and come back, plank for fifteen seconds, then do fifteen squats, then sprint there and come back again, then fifteen crunches and fifteen push ups. That is one full circuit. Try to do the fifteen of each exercise, but if you can't, then don't kill yourself trying. Just move on to the next one and keep going. With time and reps you will do better and better." Sean nodded his understanding, though with the distant look in his eyes as he recovered from his push-ups, Lilly at first wasn't sure if he had heard her. But he had, and was all for not needing any extra equipment and being able to to do the workout and exercises pretty much anywhere. "Okay, I got it," he said, nodding again and steadying his ragged breathing. If he noticed Laurie giving him a long pointed look as she walked to the Corolla with their mother, he gave no sign of it. Sean looked up at Lilly, arching a put upon brow. "And I'm suppose to do this every day?" Lilly lips curved minutely with wryness. "Well, sure, you can have a cheat day here or there, or a regular rest day, but yeah, pretty much every day, Sean. Look, how often do you write code, software, any kind?" "Every day," Sean admitted. "Some, at least, barring any sort of exceptional circumstance." "This is the same. You just need to make it into a routine. It'll get easier, you'll get better at it, and eventually, it'll just be a part of your day. But until then..." The superhuman athlete nodded towards the fence post. "... it starts as hard work. Now run." Sean gave a shirt straining sigh. "I hate the running the most." But gamely, he sprinted towards the post and back, and worked his way through the circuit. His form started out rather terrible, Lilly giving him suggestions and sometimes using a hand to correct him. He couldn't quite prevent himself from stiffening when she touched him, despite knowing she was helping him, especially when she was still working through her own troubles. Asking her to demonstrate was way more enlightening, even if it was blindingly obvious he'd never be in Lilly's league no matter how much he worked at it. He wouldn't even reach Teagan's level, and maybe not Laurie's - not without out a lot of chemical aid and perhaps psionic cheating, perhaps. But being able to see the bioelectric activity through Lilly's nervous system, that awareness seeming to expand to better understand the play of muscle and tendon, certainly helped. He had to adapt of course, his body just couldn't move the way Lilly's did, it was basic mechanics. But by the time he finished his circuit to Lilly's satisfaction, he didn't feel like a fish flopping around on land anymore. He didn't push himself as much as he had at first, just getting the hang of the movements and exercises, keeping his sets balanced and planning on gradually increasing them. Still, when he was done, he was tired, and they were almost running late. Sean barely had time to clean up a little, change his clothes, fill a thermos of coffee and offer Lilly one,, and grab a banana for breakfast before they had to go. Loose and leaden limbed, it took more effort than usual to climb up behind the wheel of his Grand Cherokee. The pair of unlikely friends were quiet on the drive to school, Sean glancing at Lilly covertly from the corner of his eye as he pushed the speed limit. She'd been uncharacteristically somber this morning. He understood way, some, and felt another pang of guilt. "I never thought you had abandoned us, Lilly," Sean said when the silence became too overbearing. "I just figured something came up that you believed needed your attention more. And I never thought you might have been in trouble, like, real trouble. I mean, you're... you. Even before all this..." He waved an encompassing hand, "it seemed like you could handle anything." Sean frowned in contemplation and self-recrimination. "But after Charlie, and now what happened with Jase, and Enterich, any of us are vulnerable. We - I - should have checked on you. Even to just say hi and see if you could make it to gaming. And I'm sorry for that." He exhaled tiredly. "Dunno if our weekly gaming sessions are even going to continue now, with everything that's going on." Lilly, who had been looking out the passenger side window as they drove, turned to look at Sean for a moment. "What could've possibly just 'come up' that was more important than a battle against the Darkness for the soul of Shelly, or reality, or whatever, that I wouldn't call or text one of you to let you know what came up and why I wouldn't be there, and that I could handle by myself? Like, seriously dude." Lilly let that question soak in for a moment and shook her head. "I'm not angry with you or the others. At least, I don't think I am, but right now I'm so worn out that almost don't know if I am coming or going, so who knows? It just... hurt. I mean, we all kinda thought the same about Charlie. None of us really checked up on him either, me included." she explained, adding, "But we also hadn't just heard about one of being killed right before either." Lilly sighed. "Anyways..." Lilly said, refocuses her thoughts as best she could. "I believe you. It's fine. It was a mistake. They happen." she said to ease her friend's fears. "We just need to do better, all of us, me included. So don't worry about it. We'll do better."
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  3. The following takes place during the Labor Day celebration... Lilly watched the exchange between Marissa and the adults at the table and sighed to herself. Things were clearly not well between Marissa and Jase, and did have a point, even if it was not brought up in the most tactful of ways. 'It's often not what you, but how you say it.' appeared to be a lesson that Marissa had never learned, or was choosing to ignore for any number of reasons. In the end, just Lilly and Hank were let at 'Camp Bannon' as it were as Lilly watched Marissa walk off. "She means well, even if she does not show it in the best of ways. I think she's just not used to caring about people so she gets a bit overly protective or something. I dunno." Lilly said to Hank. "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions." Hank responded, to which Lilly nodded. "Yeah. I know. We all have issues. I just hope we can get some of them worked out before it's too late." she replied. "You mean like you and throwing your tryouts?" Hank asked. "Yeah, that's one, at least." Lilly said, lifting up her sunglasses to sit on her forehead, holding her hair back and out of her face. "I just didn't know how to tell them. I mean, yeah, it's been weeks since we started getting these... abilities, but it's still happened really fast, you know?" she said, almost looking for some agreement. "And before I knew it, it was time to leave for the tryouts and I still didn't know how to talk to them. It's like, I didn't want to disappoint them for giving up or whatever." "But you didn't give up, did you? I don't know too much about you, but from what I do know it's pretty clear that you're no quitter." Hank said as his calm, some might say cold or calculating, eyes looked her over. "Yeah, I guess, but I couldn't tell my parents that I am dropping a dream I've had, and worked so hard toward, for years because it's nowhere near a level playing field anymore because I can... because of what I can do , you know, now. It's cheating." Lilly said and then added, "Or at least it is to me." with a shrug. "Probably not a fair competition, no." Hank drawled, shrugging. "Cheating might be a strong word - there's people at the top of their game who can go into a competition pretty much guaranteed to win. Are they cheating because they started with an edge, then worked hard to improve it? Like that Phelps guy, the swimmer who won all those gold medals. I read that the dude was something of a freak of nature even before all his hard work. Something about his bones or some shit. I dunno. For what it's worth, I agree that you did the right thing not competing. If it was a life-or-death matter, then things would be different - screw the other guy. But in a sport?" He shrugged his shoulders again. "I think you made the right call." "Thanks." Lilly said, finding at least some solace in his evaluation of her choice. "But yeah, I tanked them because I didn't know how to talk to my mom and dad about everything. I knew I should, and I even wanted to, but I didn't know how to or where to start. I didn't want to disappoint them, which I guess I did anyways, though they took it better than I expected when I finally did." "But that is totally different from tell them about the other stuff. I mean, my dad is a Lt. Col. and head of base security. His reaction... Like, I don't think he is in on anything that's been going on, but I suppose there is a slight chance that he could be. I dunno. And even if he is not, I really, really, really doubt he would be on board with, uh, our plans for the evening, and I don't what to have to defy him. I tell myself that it is best to just do what we planed and then ask for forgiveness later rather than permission now, but even that doesn't sit too well with me. Sometimes you just got to suck it up, I guess." Lilly said with a shrug. "Part of growing up." Hank took a swig from his beer, then gave Lilly a serious look. "And kid, some advice from one who knows. Don't go tellin' all and sundry who your daddy is and what he does. People who know, know. People who don't, don't need to. Hell, even some of those who do know don't need to. Now sure, I'm just friendly ol' Hank, your buddy's dad's buddy. But there's people with no sense of humor who'd pitch a shit fit if they knew you were talking to me, let alone talking about who your dad is. When you're dealing with O5's and base security issues, there's no such thing as innocent conversation. You could cost your father his clearance, get him transferred to some career-killing out of the way posting where it doesn't matter what his big-mouthed daughter says." He sighed. "Look, I'm not being a hardass for the hell of it. You're still a kid, but with all this secret conspiracy stuff you've got to grow up fast. Grown-ups rules. People get killed or get their lives ruined for this shit. Like little Miss Sunshine there threatening to burn down the village if people won't play her games. Pretty sure she's just blowing air because she's pissed Jase shacked up with Red - if she was really scared of him she'd run a mile, not sit down across from him, eat lunch and talk shit, let alone want him to talk to her. But if she gets pissy enough to actually start trying to blow things up in the press - that's escalation. And she won't control where the shrapnel lands." "As for your problem?" He sighed again, checking his bottle and finding it empty. With a grunt, he tossed it into the trash, then fixed Lilly with a stare. "Think on this - if you die tonight, your folks will never know what happened to you. They'll never know how dangerous things are here. And you won't be able to help them after the fact." He spread his hands. "Don't they deserve to know? No matter how hard it is?" "And if he forbids me to go? Or even worse, goes sticking his nose into things and draws the attention of the wrong people? Because of his position he has a much greater chance of doing so. I mean, he's a very smart guy, but judgment has a way of being clouded when it comes to family and I don't think he'd take well to his little girl being experimented on." Lilly said, shaking her head. "And even if he is cool and takes and well and all of that, I'm not so sure I even want to bring my parents into this. I 'm not sure any of us should, to be honest. Telling them changes things and, I dunno, exposes them... pulls them into something so much bigger... ugh. The whole thing is just a big damned mess." Lilly groaned in frustration as she lifted her hand to run her fingers through her hair, but found the sunglasses that she had forgotten about on her forehead, which she promptly pulled off and tossed onto the table. Lilly closed her eyes and ran her fingers through her hair, pushing it back from her face as she sighed. Her brow then furrowed for a moment and she looked up at Hank. "And Mr. Graskle, My father already told talked to me about security and all of that. I don't go telling everybody who my dad is and what he does. I know better than that. I told you to give you a better since of my situation, and only because you are a marine, since 'there's no such thing as a former marine', right? And you are 'in the know' with us and, on top of all of that, Jase seems to trust you and, for whatever reason, he's always seemed to been a pretty good judge of character." "But I do honestly appreciate you looking out for me though." she said as she looked up at him. "There's just not many people I can to about all this. Like, there are some things I wanted to ask my dad, but it would have seemed really odd, so I didn't" she sighed. "Dunno about Jase being a good judge of character." Hank snorted with a smile. "Look, Lilly. I'm not sayin' you don't have reasons for keeping this from your parents. Seems you have thought about it. I don't agree with your reasons, but it's not my parents or my life. You think none of the other dads or moms are going to try and forbid these kids from going? You think that'll stop them? The way Jase tells it, you guys have a duty. You are literally the only ones who can do what needs done. You can't control what your dad does." He pointed at her. "You can only control what you do, and trust that if you give him the right information he'll make the right choice and not be a dumbass. You know: treat him like an adult." "And if you can't trust him to be that way... Maybe you're right in a practical sense not to tell him. But it's still not right in a moral sense, kid." Hank sighed. "Or at least, I don't think so. Look. If I had all the answers to all of life's hard questions I wouldn't be living alone in the woods." He grinned wryly. "Treat him like an adult? But he's my dad." Lilly said with a roll of her eyes and a small grin peeking through, which faded quickly. "No seriously. I get what you are saying. I do. I just... I dunno." she sighed. Lilly picked up her sunglasses and fiddled with them a bit idly, looking down at the them for a moment as she thought to herself. "I'm gonna go with them tonight. That's non-negotiable." Lilly said with conviction. "I just don't want to have to do it in defiance of my parents. And yeah, I guess that is a bit selfish, probably in several ways. Call duty or whatever, but I'm gonna be there for my friends and do what needs to be done." Lilly looked up at Hank, regarding him as she chewed on the corner of her bottom lip for a moment before speaking again. "But even that kinda bring up other stuff. Like... I assume you have seen some action on deployments. I mean, you got that look and demeanor. It's that or a front, and I doubt Jase would be big on somebody frontin' like that. So, like, if it's okay, and you don't might talking about it, like, in generalities or whatever, not anything about any actual specifics or operation stuff, do you mind if I ask you question about it?" she asked, somewhat pensively. When she mentioned action and deployments, Hank's expression of jovial, folksy humour altered somewhat, the grin fading away to a smile as his eyes took on a wary expression she knew well. Her dad used to get a similar look when she was a little girl, whenever father-daughter conversations strayed towards active service he'd seen, before gently and deftly changing the subject or insinuating that some topics were better saved for when she was older. Hank's eyes were flintier and more guarded, and the teen suddenly got an intense feeling that the hard, calculating look in the dark eyes was closer to the 'real' Hank, not at all softened by however many years he'd been out of the Corps. It wasn't a mean stare, or cruel. But there was a clinical coldness to the look that reminded Lilly keenly of Jase, measuring and weighing her in some balance. But the smile was still on his lips as he shrugged, eyes not wavering from hers. Whatever calculation was performed behind the rough-hewn features was evidently in her favor, for when he spoke his tone was calm. "Generalities, perhaps I can help with, for someone standing shoulder to shoulder with a kid who's practically my nephew. So have at it, Lilly. I don't mind you asking the questions, so long as you don't mind me picking and choosing which ones I answer." "Well, there's really only one, really. Or to start, I guess." Lilly said as she fiddled with her sunglasses again, looking down at them as she worked to give a voice to her concerns. Screw it, just ask. "How do you handle the fear?" she asked, looking back up at Hank again. "I mean, it's always got to be there right? Because you know that you are heading into mortal danger. And, like I said, I'm going to be there tonight and do my part, regardless, but how do you handle it?" "Like, what you and Mr. Bannon saw was bad enough. But we're going into the lion's den, to pick a fight on it's turf. I'm not sure if the others have thought much about what we're going to do. You know, like really thought it through... or maybe they have and they just try not to think about it... or maybe it is just the 'invulnerability of youth' or whatever. Hell, maybe I am overthinking it. I dunno. It just seems... I dunno." Lilly sighed, looking back down at the sunglasses she was fidgeting with in her hands. "You're overthinking it, alright." Hank held up a knife. "Pie?" At Lilly's mute nod, he cut a slice, plated it, and slid it across the table to her. "First thing you've got to realise is that most of the people you're in the shit with are just as scared as you are. You think Marissa's not even more tightly wound than normal? Shit - her being a raging bitch just now could be at least fifty percent cope. That Cassie girl? She focusing on her mom to push her personal fears out of the spotlight. Pretty sure same applies to all of you. Well, almost all." he amended with a shrug. "Soldiers drill to counteract the effects of fear and panic. They're still scared, but they've done the actions over and over so much in training that the body knows what to do even while the brain is flipping out. You don't have that luxury, not really. So you're going to have to be more intuitive about it." Hank leaned back and fished himself out another beer. "Talk about your fear to your friends. They ain't gonna laugh at you. It doesn't need to be a group therapy session: just bring it up over a drink or in a quiet moment during a card game. Fear is worse when everyone thinks they're the only one feeling it. Dark jokes are good, too. Gallows humor, they call it. Sitting with some guys I knew waiting for the green light, the talk would raise the hairs on your head. Laughter kills fear." "Sounds a bit..." "Sociopathic?" Hank grinned mirthlessly. "Yeah. A bit. Fluffy sensitive feelings don't win battles or wars, though. Being able to drive down the fear, to face it and laugh at it, and then focus on what you are doing in the moment: that's what keeps you alive longer. Final piece of advice, though..." He raised a finger. "Right before the action starts, take a moment and breathe deep, in and out, nice and slow. Your heart will be racing - slow it down, steady your nerves. It helps prevent the panic from too much adrenaline at the wrong moment." Lilly slowly pressed the tines of the fork into the edge of the slice of pie as she watched the crust flake and crumble beneath the pressure and thought about what Hank said until the fork finally separated the narrow corner from the rest of the slice. "I understand what you are saying. I'm sure it'll help." she said with a nod as she slipped the pie-clad fork into her mouth and tasted it, letting the flavors roll over her tongue, picking up on small nuances that most would miss. "We'll just have to play it by ear, kinda like a busted play in football." she added through the corner of her mouth with another nod. as she thought about it. "Like you said, we don't have the benefit of training and repetition to develop muscle memory, as it were. The thing we do have though, is each other. We've know each other for years, and some of us all of our lives, so as long as we can stay together, unified in task and purpose, the team will be greater than the sum of it's parts." Lilly said as she broke off another piece of pie with the side of the fork. "Though that also... I mean, I have another question, but I totally understand if you don't want to ans-" Lilly said, stopping herself mid sentence. She had already soured Hank's at least somewhat jovial mood somewhat, and did not want to do anymore damage for the time being. "You know what? Nevermind." she said, shaking her head with a pleasant, if subtly forced, smile. "So now I have, what? ..a few hours to figure out how and where to tell my parents about me and this stuff, sneak out of needed, and finish my prep?" she thought aloud and took another bite of the pie. "Do you have any advice on any that, or anything else for that matter?" she asked, looking up from the pie to Hank. "Everything's easier with backup. Teamwork has many uses." Hank pointed out. "Getting grounded shouldn't slow down a girl who has a friend who can teleport. Demonstration of strange powers is a good way to cut through the disbelief. Corroboration from a second source helps add weight to what you tell them." He smirked. "High school teens can arrange a party under the parents radar with less notice than a few hours. Technically, this ain't much different." Lilly could not help but grin a little at Hank's comment. "Actually, throwing together a party under their noses is kinda how all of this started in the first place." she mused and took another, larger bite of the pie. "But I see what you saying." she sighed with a nod. "So I guess I need to go find them and figure out how to tell them and who is free to help. I'd be lying if I said I was looking forward to it, but I guess it will also be a weight lifted from my shoulders too, and they might help tonight too." she added, nodding to herself as she stood up and finished the pie with a couple of rather un-ladylike bites before tossing the paper plate and plastic fork into the trash. "Thanks Mr. Graskle, for the pie and the advice. It's really helped." she said to Hank with a wave and strode off back into the crowd to find her parents or any of the Fellowship who might be able to help with her 'talk'.
    1 point
  4. Lilly stared at the man as he spoke, her eyes slowly growing ever wider as his words burrowed into her mind, finding that deep, down place where she buried her fears. A few had come near the surface when she had spoken with Hank, but they too had been sinking back into the depths, only to be dragged back into the light by Mr. Enterich. How he could know of the other things, the fears she had kept buried and never expressed to anybody, was not even a concern to her as the rest of the crowed seemed to fall away, darkened and desaturated into the background leaving just her and Mr. Enterich. "Wha-" was all she managed to stammer before she seemed to choke on her own words. She could call plays over the sounds of the crowds and the other teams' shouting on the field, but now her voice had left her, seeming much to the amusement of Mr. Enterich. She tried to lift her hands to cover her mouth, her face, but she couldn't. Her prodigious strength was stripped from her, Leaving her arms feeling like they were made of lead, while beneath her feet the ground began to feel like quicksand, making her feel ever smaller... weak... insignificant. Somehow she managed to stagger back a step from Mr. Enterich, her legs weak and shaky, but the space seemed to provide a hint of breathing room. She had to get away. Get away from him, from the crowd, from their eyes. She could see it now, how they looked at her and secretly judged her. Sure, they liked the football team winning, and if that meant they had to tolerate her for a couple of years, then they would, and once she had graduated, if she would even graduate, then they could stop giving her polite, forced smiles and fake support, because that is all they did... tolerate her... humor her. Nobody wanted here there, not really, but the backwater, redneck hicks were so obsessed with their stupid teenage football game, then they would bit their tongues for now and deal with the girl who acted like boy and probably wanted to be a boy. Who hadn't heard the steroid rumors? She had to get away. Forcing another backwards step, Lilly backed away a little more, only this time, instead of her foot finding more quicksand, she found solid ground. Wet, slippery, solid ground causing he foot to slip, sending her landing on her backside. A few people looked over, curious at what had happened, but could only see Lilly scrambling back to her feet and walk away briskly, on the verge of running, pushing her way through the people. Once she slipped past the outermost picnickers she scanned the area off to the horizon searching for some bastion of safety or escape route. The faded blue paint of her rusty, '57 Chevy pickup caught her eye almost instantly, even through the blurry wetness that was begging to set in. She found some more strength in her legs and propelled herself toward the tuck. Sliding to a stop beside the pickup, Lilly swung open the door and hopped in here she fumbled in the pockets of her short overalls for her keys and finally fished them out, stuck them in the ignition and brought the truck to life. With a jerk of the stick and a stomp of the gas pedal, the engine revved and the truck sped away. And the truck pulled on the road the usual rattling and bouncing was even more noticeable due to due to the silence coming from the old speakers of what passed for the sounds system in the pickup. Lilly glanced down at the tape deck through her blurriness encroaching her vision. She reached down and twisted with the volume knob to no avail. She ejected the tape and shoved it back in, but it has no effect. Lilly needed the music, or anything else for that matter, to try and distract her, to keep her from dwelling on the thoughts that were swelling in her head, breaking her down bit by bit, moment by moment. Frantically she fiddled the virtually antique tape deck, her panic frustration growing by the second, even resorting to hitting it with her fist, but nothing changed the unending silence that poured from the speakers which only made her own sobs and sniffles that much more pronounced. The lack of perpetually blaring 80's rock and metal made the silence more intense and made the cab of the truck feel even smaller, making her feel even more alone... or more alone than usual if she were honest with herself. Ever since she and her friends got their abilities it seems like they drifted farther and farther from her. Was it because she simply was not on their level and was, instead, more like dead weight to them? When they can red minds and teleport across the world and conjure ice and fire... what use was she to them? Even tonight, what could she really do? Punch The Dark in the face? No. That was ridiculous. The best she could hope for would be to take a hit for one of her friends, to die protecting the actually useful ones. Her abilities were nowhere on par with theirs. Fully exerting to lift a plough is nothing compared to Jase casually lifting his entire car with his mind just to tinker with it. So really, what good was she to them? They would give forced smiles and talk to her when she approached them, but when was the last one of her 'friends' called her to even hang out? She hear of them getting together for things, hanging out a Jase's, or the Jauntsen's, or wherever. But that was the thing. She always heard about later... The more she thought about them, the more Mr. Enterich's words seemed to ring true. The rest of the drive, even the day for that matter, all seemed to blur together. The silence of the drive back to the base made her feel even more isolated and alone and allowed her mind to dwell ever more intensely on Mr. Enterich's words, so that by the time she managed to reach the front gate of the base, she was a sobbing mess with tear streaked cheeks. She could remember the surprised and concern on the guard's face, parking by the shack, sitting in a little waiting room all alone, always alone as a guard made a call...
    1 point
  5. -< Previous Night >- Lilly stepped off the porch and headed, the dirt and gravel crunching with each step she took. Her strides were neither meandering nor purposeful as she headed toward her truck, thinking about the day and the one to come. Reaching her truck, Lilly tossed her iPod and gloves onto the passenger seat and then opened the the door which, as usual, protested at the motion. She took a seat and pulled it shut, slipping the key into the ignition and giving it twist causing the old engine to roar (or maybe cough) to life. The old pickup headed down the long driveway of the Bannon farm as Lilly thought to herself about the life, especially that since the night of the bonfire when their lives were irrevocably changed. Since then they had discovered the strangeness of Shelly and it's cycle and everything that came with it, from secret government experimentation to the presence of other... entities... with a vested interest in Shelly. And now it was on them to take care of Cody, or the Horned Man or whatever he was now and The Dark or whatever, breaking the cycle. They were just teens, teens with amazing abilities right out the MCU movies, but still just teens, and upon their shoulders a lot was resting. Before she knew it, Lilly's truck was heading down the long, stretch of road cutting through the countryside to connect Shelly proper and Bullwark AFB. She had been lost in thought, driving more or less on autopilot, but the buildings, or lack thereof, pulled her focus back to the moment. She clicked off what passed for the sound system in the pickup. The old, crackling speakers, which were not helped by the usual volume she listened to her music at, fell silent as she drove down the solitary road, the rhythm of the engine and the whistling of the wind through the rolled down windows replacing her usual music for the rest of the trip as she thought about tomorrow night. As usual she pulled up to the gate, pulled out her military I.D. and held it out for the guard with a smile. It was barely even a formality seeing as she was Lt. Col. Pryor's daughter and she had, over the course of a few years, met most, if not all, of the security personnel under her dad's command. That, combined with the fact that there were very few spouses or children on base made her stand out. Still though, they did take their job seriously, so protocols had to be followed. "You have a good night, Lilly." the guard said as he handed the card back to her, waving her through. "Thanks. You too, Roy. You going to the Labor Day thing at Champion Fields tomorrow?" she asked as she tucked her I.D. in her pocket. "Is there anything else to do around here?" he replied with a grin. Lilly let out a small laugh and shrugged. "Touche." she responded adding some flare to the pronunciation and then put her truck in gear, driving through the gate and following the familiar route to her home. "I'm hooome." Lilly announced as she came in the door and jogged up the stairs to her bathroom. After a quick shower, she reappeared downstairs to find her parents watching the late game and eating some dinner with a plate waiting for her. "Thanks mom." Lilly said as she grabbed the plate from the kitchen counter and walked over to join them, plopping down on the sofa and folding her legs to cradle the plate as she cut off a bit of the lemon pepper chicken. The trio watched the game, riding the ups and downs of it as they ate their dinner and caught up in between. It was a fun time with her parents, and made Lilly realize just how little time she had been spending with them as she got older. Yeah, that was only natural, she figured, but reflecting on it now, it was not something she liked. Bill Pryor glanced over and could see the faint expression on his daughter's face and, like usual, decided to just rip the band-aid off. "So why'd you sandbag at the tryouts." Bill asked simply. The question caught Lilly by surprise, her gaze snapping to her father who was still watching the game. "What?" she asked. "Come on Lilly. Don't play games with me. I know your times and distances. You under-performed. I want to know why. Was it the pressure?" he replied, meeting her gaze as he spoke. "It wasn't the pressure." Lilly sighed, her shoulders slumping as she looked at the floor. "Okay. Then what's his name? Is it that Jason we met at the game?" her father asked. "There's no boy, dad." she answered as she rolled her eyes and looked at her dad with smirk. "Okay. Okay. Her name then?" he asked unsure, prompting Lilly to throw one of the small pillows on the sofa at him. "There's nobody, okay?" "Is that the problem then?" he asked cautiously. Lilly rolled her eyes in the overly dramatic fashion common to teenagers. "I would rather not sit here and discuss my love life, or lack thereof, with my parents on the living room sofa, especially when it had nothing to do with the tryouts." Lilly sighed. "Okay, then what happened?" he asked again, then time pausing the game. Lilly set her plate aside on the coffee table and pulled her legs to her chest, wrapping her arms around them and frowned. "I just... I dunno. I guess it's not what I want anymore." she finally let out. "For months know I've been feeling this way, but, I dunno. I didn't know how to tell you. I mean, at one time I really did want it, but now, not so much. I just, I dunno, kept doing it and going through the motions because it's what I've done for so long and what was expected of me, what I was supposed to do and be. I needed some time to figure how to and then BAM! there was the tryouts and I still didn't know how to tell you." "Soooo you just made the whole trip a waste of time and money?" he asked, his expression a bit more serious now. Lilly clutched her legs a little more tightly to her chest as she tried to hide behind them. Despite all her newfound abilities, nothing was a match for the disappointment in her parent's voice. Lilly nodded and looked at her knees, feeling rather small and powerless at the moment. "I didn't want to do it, I just didn't know to tell you that it's what I wanted anymore. I didn't want to disappoint you. But I guess that's what I ended up doing anyways." she finally said, letting out. In a way it felt good to finally say it, but that was small solace in comparison to what she said. "I'm sorry. I really am." she said, almost sobbing as she closed her eyes and rested her forehead on her knees. Cassandra scooted closer on the sofa and slipped her arms around her daughter, holding her close. "Honey, changing your your mind it not a disappointment to us. Feeling like you couldn't tell us is a bit disappointing, I'm not gonna lie, but we're your parents. We want the best for you, and we love and will support you in whatever you do, whenever you figure out what that is." Cassandra explained as she gave her daughter a squeeze with her hug, feeling some of the tension leave Lilly as she did so. "You can always talk to us. Always." Bill added as he got up and sat on the arm of the sofa, reaching down to rub Lilly's back. "Take some time and figure out what you want to do. But, you know, being the first woman NCAA quarterback would not exactly a bad thing. Just saying." he added, finishing with a bit of humor. Lilly could not help but let out a laugh. "Yeah, no pressure." she said as she lifted her head, resting it again her mother's as she looked up at her dad. "Of course. No pressure." he reaffirmed with a faint grin tugging at the corners of his lips. -< Labor Day, 2:30-ish >- Lilly's pickup pulled in not long behind her parents' car, parking beside it. She hopped out and walked around the back, lowering the tailgate and hopped up into the bed, sliding the small grill, cooler and other things the family had brought to the tailgate for easier access,. Bill took the loaded cooler, Cassandra gathered the umbrella and large bag while Lilly grabbed the small grill. Thankfully it did not take them long to find a decent spot to set up in the large field. "I'll go get the chairs." Lilly offered, not particularly waiting for a response from her parents as she took off back toward the truck at a jog and grabbed the folding, aluminum chairs. Cradling the chairs in her arms she headed back toward her parents, catching sight of Coach Meyers who nodded to her as she passed by. "Hey Coach." she greeted with a smile as she jogged past. "Have a good day, Pryor." he responded. Lilly turned around, jogging backwards to face Coach Meyers. "Sure thing, Coach. You too!" she said as she turned around and barely caught the glimpse of a couple walking across her path behind her, causing her to spin to avoid them as she continued on, turning back around and never slowing. Coach Meyers watched the teen's evasive action with some interest, totally avoiding the couple, the small scene bringing some ideas to mind... Lilly trotted up and set down the chairs as her parents were busy setting up the grill and doing a little bit of last minute prep to some of the food to be grilled. One by one she unfolded the chairs and set them out in a semi-circle under the shade of the umbrella. "So how long till the food's ready?" Lilly asked half jokingly, already teasing her dad a bit. "Grilling is an art, and art cannot be rushed." Bill retorted, causing Cassandra to roll her eyes. "Yeah. Well we're getting a late start thanks to the breakdown and we haven't eaten, so step on it, Picasso." Cassandra said walking up behind her husband, resting her hands on his shoulders and giving him a peck on the cheek. "So a little less 'Picasso' and a little more 'paint by numbers', eh?" Lilly quipped causing her mother to laugh. "Exactly. See? She gets it." Cassandra said with a grin to Bill, who just shook his head. "Everybody's a critic." he muttered. "Love you, Dad!" Lilly said, giving Bill a quick hug. "I'm gonna go scope out the vendors real quick as we can work out a plan of attack." "Okay. Don't take long." Lilly moved through the crowd, waving or offering a quick hug to friends and teammates here or there, occasionally getting tips on some of the best vendors and generally carousing. It was a beautiful day, the atmosphere was vibrant and jovial so Lilly was doing her best to soak it all in while she could. She finally spotted Cass, Marissa, Jase and his dad along with his friend, Hank. Lilly bit the side of her bottom lip for a moment as she thought about he Fellowship's plan for that night. She had wanted to ask her dad some things, but it would have been more than a little odd and she was not ready to raise suspicions, much less lay everything out on the table to her parents right now, despite what they had told her the night before and did not want to deal with her dad's reaction to the plan to walk into the lion's den. Hank though, was a veteran, and from what she gather, had seen and been through some shit. Not only that, but he was 'in the know' when it came to the Fellowship, so he could probably offer the best advice. Gar was in on it too, for that matter, maybe he could help out too. With a nod to herself, as if making up her mind, Lilly stepped out from the crowd and approached the small group. For her part she had her long, brunette hair down and was wearing sunglasses, short, denim overalls which showed off her legs rather well, with a black crop top underneath and her feet were her seldom seen Chuck's. Lilly smiled and waved as she walked up."Hey guys." she said, greeting her friends and then lifted up her sunglasses to look to the two adults. "Mr. Bannon. Mr. Graskle." she said, greeting each of them with a respectful nod as well, as she was taught. "Happy Labor Day everybody."
    1 point
  6. Lilly inwardly sighed as the trio excused themselves. I wasn't unexpected, and in fact with was a slightly better reaction than she had anticipated. She had hoped for better though, but it had only been a week, a week that Lilly had to reflect on the past events while, she supposed, the others had things that kept them busy. Both sides had their part in the bad blood, even if the twins had not seemed to ever acknowledge their part. It was utterly irrelevant to Lilly now though. Nothing good was going to come from digging in heels and trying to lay blame on each other. Nothing was going to be resolved either if they kept running way from or, at best, avoiding each other. Still, it was better than the twins lobbing insults. So at least they seemed to be trying to preserve some sense of unity for the sake of the group and that was a change that did not go unnoticed. The thought made Lilly a little more hopeful, but only time would tell. Lilly shrugged, setting things aside for the moment and took another bite of her pizza before moving to sit by Cassandra at her beckoning. Lilly ate her slice of pizza as her plucky blonde friend filled her in on the events of the past week, though the eating of the stopped rather quickly as she sat there, just holding the pizza and listening in a mixture of surprise, shock and at times disgust, among others. "I think I'm gonna be sick." Lilly said, clutching one arm across her washboard abdomen while she dropped what was left of the pizza slice in her lap, her face a mask of discomfort. "Dude, I am sooooo sorry I wasn't here." Lilly said, dropping her head and closing her eyes with a frown."I just..." she sighed, her voice trailing off. "It doesn't matter." she stated with a shake of her head. "You needed me and I wasn't there. I will do my best to make sure it never happens again. I mean, we only have each other in this mess. I'm just glad everybody is okay." There was nothing that any of her could say to admonish Lilly any more that she was already doing herself, despite her absence being (largely) out of her control. Her friends had stepped up though, putting an crap aside and working together as a whole, even going so far as to rescue Etienne. Lilly was a little surprise to hear that Devin, of all people, was the one who was so adamant about it too. He showed the kind of man he was that day, by all accounts. Lilly allowed her hope to grow ever so slightly at the thought. Even Mari had stepped up and help in her own unique way, which though it made Lilly happy to hear and even a bit proud, she was also disappointed. Not in Marissa though, but herself. She had let herself be too caught up in past to see what was right before her. The twins were honestly trying. 'Don't judge people by their worst mistakes.' was something her grandmother had told her. Lilly hoped others would share that sentiment and that she could set things right. "Okay. Okay. Okay." Lilly said, changing her focus and trying to organize her thoughts about what Cassandra had told her while still trying to process it all. "Well... Has anybody went looking for, or tried to approach, Todd Asper? Do you think he might be the cyber-empath that Sean was dealing with in the system?" she asked Cass before continuing, "I mean, from what you've said, Crossroads would certainly put a kid with those abilities to work." "And how much do you trust This Ms. Giles and Aeon? I know how they might seem legit, but how much do you think we can trust them? What does you gut tell you?" she asked her plucky friend.
    1 point
  7. "Well, then why are you two pissed off at us? Seriously. No BS and from your own point of view." Lilly asked honestly. "Because us putting shit aside to work together is fine in the short term, but it still leaves a wedge between us, even if it is not presently being pushed on. We've seen today that it looks like the Dark is messing with us now, probing us for weaknesses and such, so sooner or later the Dark will probably find that wedge and begin beating on it like it owes it money." she explained as she adjusted the strap of her backpack over her shoulder. "Separated as we are, even working together, means we do not have full access to each other's resources as we would if we were on one team. Freaky mind powers or reality warping abilities or not, you still have some great ideas and have most of the school wrapped around your finger." Lilly complimented. "We, as a whole, need to get our shit together for us to have the best chance possible of winning this fight. And yeah, we might not ever be friends who braid each other's hair or whatever, but we can still get along a lot better than we are now." she offered. "We've pretty much all had some part it making the situation so fucked up, me especially. and I own that, but I'm also trying to get past it and make it right. So how about us honestly working toward un-fucking it? I know we are not going to get this all worked out, here and now, in just a few minutes, or probably even a few days or hours, but it needs to start somewhere. So if not now, then how about getting together to start talking this stuff out and see if bridges can't be mended, or even built?" Lilly asked.
    1 point
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