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  1. 3 points
    "Well, we've been in classes together and so on since I moved to Shelly." Jason replied calmly, dextrous fingers and sharp knife making swift work of the tomatoes. "Aware of each other, without really talking." Dana nodded, setting the olive oil on the counter. Jason tilted his head to one side. "Do you have any balsamic vinegar?" he asked casually, causing Dana to think a moment before nodding and retrieving that bottle from the cupboard too as her guest started in on the onions. Dana checked the oven temperature and lightly oiled the potatoes before setting them on a tray. "But we started talking last Friday." Jason went on. "Autumn bumped her head on a door - it swung back into her face, to be exact, and one of my friends noticed the tumble. She grabbed me, because I have a certain level of medical knowledge, and we went to check on Autumn." He glanced up at her, giving a faint smile. "She was fine other than a bruise. Fine enough that she was giving me a hard stare for walking into the girls bathroom and caring more that she didn't have a concussion. I got her some ice for the bruise, then we invited her to sit down with us." The corners of his eyes crinkled slightly as he started arranging neat slices of tomato and even thinner sliced onion in the dish. "Not the best of starts. I really got the impression she thought we were oddballs and that I was up to no good." "I probably would have assumed the same thing if someone I barely knew followed me into the women's restroom," Dana replied a trifle archly, narrowly suppressing a smile. That did sound like Autumn, all right, or at least her propensity for mishaps. "So," she continued, adding a little coarse salt and pepper to the potatoes as she leaned over to examine Jason's handiwork. "You started talking on Friday, last week." With a little hm and a nod of approval at his progress, she turned back to her own preparations. "And, from the sound of it, not necessarily under ideal circumstances. Thank you for looking after her, by the way." Hazel eyes flickered once more in his direction, considering his profile as he worked. There was something unusual about Jason Bannon, though she couldn't quite put her finger on it. He seemed too... mature, really. He didn't give off the impression of being a drug-running miscreant now that she was talking to him in person, but he didn't quite seem like a teenager, either- didn't conduct himself like one, or move with that awkward semi-conscious lack of spatial awareness most of them had, didn't use the same slang terminology. "So how did you two end up getting close enough since then for her to invite you up to the creek?" He made a soft sound of amusement - a proto-chuckle of sorts. "Well, she hung out with a bunch of us at my home on Sunday, and left without her hoodie. On Monday evening she came to get it back, and then stayed to talk." Satisfied with his arrangement of the layers of tomato and onion, he inquired after a bowl and whisk and began mixing some olive oil and balsamic in the bowl, before slowly whisking them together. "I... I was having a bad day. Personal issues. Autumn was able to get me to talk about them - indeed, she was the only one who cared to talk to me about them." He paused, eyes going distant as he recalled the night - her warm hug, the conversation in the kitchen, the teasing and laughter. "I think..." he said slowly. "I think Autumn is the only person who really, really tried - and tries - to understand me." The words were matter-of-factly spoken, but seemed to come from a place of vast distance, or so it seemed to Dana. There was no self-pity there, or sorrow, but there was a sense of alienation, of a young life lived in apart-ness. He looked up from grinding some salt and pepper into the bowl, his gaze direct as he regarded Dana. "Autumn made an impact on me. I think that's when we became friends." He dropped his gaze and considered the bowl of dressing, then raised it to his face and gave it a sniff, pondering for a second before adding a touch more pepper. "And the rest is her defending me at school, then inviting me camping. And... I suddenly realised - we both did, I think - what was there." He chuckled again. "Perhaps it didn't exist until that moment, like Schrödinger's Cat. Until we opened the box and looked." He shrugged his lean shoulders. "I'm not really an expert on this sort of thing. Autumn is the first girl that ever kissed me." Leaning back against the counter, arms folded across her chest, Dana Keane listened quietly as Jason related the very brief series of events that had led, more or less, to finding the pair of them on the front porch. It was gratifying, in a sense, to hear someone- a stranger to herself- praise her daughter's character, as if in confirmation that she'd been raised well by people who loved her. And yet, that same maternal inclination, some completely mundane and yet unfathomable instinct, told her that this polite, well-spoken young man might have no idea what that felt like. The thought didn't lessen her worry for her daughter, necessarily, but his account did reinforce Autumn's insistence that they really had just been friends. ...Which, given the rapid escalation of their relationship, was more than enough to justify a measure of concern. A responsible 16 year-old was still a 16 year-old, after all, with all the dubious judgement that entailed. "Really?" she asked when he'd finished, one auburn brow raised skeptically as a smile tugged at the corner of her mouth. Her keen hazel eyes appraised his height, the faintly Mediterranean cast of his features, the pale green gaze Autumn had remarked on more than once. "I find that hard to believe. You're a nice-looking young man. Surely my daughter isn't the first one to think so." "I never claimed that." A fin of humour flashed in the depths of his eyes, echoed in another of those small but genuine smiles as he glanced back at Dana, meeting her gaze once more without any of the discomfort that should be present in a teenage boy talking about such a subject with an older woman. No blush, no self-deprecating aww-shucks shrug. It was both impressive and somewhat disturbing. "I've known there've been girls that took interest in me, at least according to sources other than my own perceptions. I've not had a lot of luck following up on that, though." Giving the dressing a final whisk, he artfully drizzled it over the dish of layered tomato and onion. "Like I said - Autumn's the first who actually kissed me. And honestly, the fact that it was her meant more than the fact it was a kiss." He picked up the dish and moved over to the refrigerator, opening the door and selected a spot on the shelf on which to place the salad. Closing the door, he turned and faced Dana from across the kitchen, the corners of his eyes crinkling in a micro-smile. "You worry for Autumn." he stated calmly, arms hanging at his sides with a relaxed poise that had nothing of the defensive or bashful about it. "It's good: seeing that love you hold, the way you care. I won't hurt her, Dana. I'm not careless with my friendship... or other feelings." "Can you really guarantee me that?" she replied, head tilted slightly in an attitude of intent curiosity. It was a largely rhetorical question, born of the older woman's objection to what she saw as his naïve optimism. Although Jason Bannon had the manner of an adult, the bearing of someone considerably more mature than his actual age would seem to indicate, he was, she reflected, still a boy, after all. "That you won't hurt her." Dana shook her head slowly as if in answer to her own question, but remained leaning comfortably against the counter. "No," she continued, not unkindly, but with the certainty of one accustomed to promises and the fickleness of both circumstance and human nature. "You can tell me that you'll try not to. You can reassure me that you won't do it intentionally." Her eyebrows drew together in a little frown, an expression of thoughtfulness her daughter unconsciously adopted when considering a problem. "But, eventually, you will. Even if you're not careless. Even if you don't mean to." She was quiet for a moment, glancing past Jason and toward the doorway where Autumn had vanished to go upstairs. "I do worry," Dana agreed, moving to gather up the utensils to be washed and glancing up at her daughter's strange new companion. "She's my child, my little girl, the hardest and the best thing that's ever happened to me. And I know that, even though she'll be my baby as long as she lives, she won't be a baby nearly that long. So, I'd rather you didn't tell me something unrealistic, like the fact that you won't hurt her. Tell me how you'll handle it when you do." He focused on the question, on her words, and his brow furrowed in concentration as he gave the matter his full attention. As Dana kept one eye on him, he paced a few short steps, hands going into the pockets of his sweat pants, then turned and paced back. Then he went motionless, as if all extraneous energy had been turned off and the actual Being of Jason Bannon was elsewhere, eyes staring unseeingly at the counter-top in front of him. He didn't even seem to breathe. And then motion and animus returned, and his head came up, eyes glancing towards Dana once more. "I think..." he said slowly, as if analysing his thoughts as they were verbalised. "That people often hurt each other. Even those close to them, though that seems to be mostly selfishness, mistake or carelessness. I can eliminate carelessness as a cause for Autumn's pain. I can do my utmost to limit selfishness as a cause. But I will make mistakes." He frowned. "You're right. It is not so much a question of whether I will hurt Autumn - probability indicates that even with the best of intentions, I could upset her." He turned to face Dana, nodding as the analysis reached its conclusion. "I think that if I hurt Autumn I would handle it by assessing how, by discussing it with her, and by not repeating the mistake." Dana stared at him for a long moment, warm hazel eyes nearly as wide as her daughter's as she struggled with the conflicting urges to simultaneously laugh and weep. Both teens had said they'd met at school, but she was half-convinced her intrepid daughter had unearthed this increasingly odd boy from a government research lab. ...Something with extraterrestrials or artificial intelligence, maybe, like the television shows the girls at the office watched. The more he spoke, the less he seemed like the slouching thug from the rumors, but that wasn't necessarily reason not to be concerned. "That is an answer," she allowed with a sigh, her expression a strange commingling of resignation and amusement. "Although at least now I know for sure you were serious about never having had a girlfriend before. Speaking of which." Reaching up into one of the cabinets overhead, the svelte redhead pulled down a coffee filter and busied herself measuring grounds from an airtight canister on the counter. "Autumn mentioned you had a few," she paused, the corner of her mouth curving into a wry half-smile. "Quirks. So what should I know about you, Jason Bannon?" "Quirks." He smiled faintly. "I suppose I do." He relaxed, leaning back against the counter on his butt and hands, a lean symmetrical form in repose. "It's always a little odd, to describe yourself to someone else, isn't it?" Dana shot him a warm smile as she heard the wry humor in his tone. "Hmm. Things you should know..." Jason mused, his eyes on his girlfriend's mom as she set the coffee machine up. "I have an acute sense of smell and taste - which is one reason I like to cook and garden - specifically flowers, but I dabble with other growing things as well, like a vegetable and herb patch I've started at home. I tend to be - as you likely noticed - analytical. A lot of nuanced human interaction goes over my head." he admitted with a shrug. "I don't lie." "Really?" Dana raised a brow as she started the coffee to drip and turned to regard him skeptically. He just nodded, a faint smile at the corners of his lips. "Really. Outright lies offend me. I'm perfectly capable of evasion, concealment, half-truths, misdirection and letting someone jump to the wrong conclusion, though." he said with a small grin. "But the thought of categorically stating an untruth revolts me." He shrugged again. "It's just the way I'm made, I suppose. If I say a thing is so, then to the best of my knowledge it is." "Huh. Good to know." Dana wasn't sure she believed it, but other than a wry amusement at how she was reacting, he didn't seem to be playing with her. "Anything else?" "I speak six languages not including English and plan to learn more, because I like languages." he stated with another of his expressive, lean shrugs. "I have perfect recall of every moment of my life, every experience, sight, sound, smell and touch - both good and bad. I've never taken a proper intelligence test, but I imagine I would score fairly high, based on my speed of information absorption and comprehension." He considered. "I think that covers things you should know." "For a narrow definition of 'should,' I suspect," his girlfriend's mother observed dryly, having missed neither the emphasis of the term by repetition nor Jason's candid assessment of truth-telling. "But for now, since this is the first time we're talking, and Autumn will probably shower as quickly as she can to limit my opportunities to either ask something embarrassing or tell you something embarrassing, I'll take it." He seemed sincere enough despite the incredible claims he was making, or at least confident enough in what he was saying that it passed for sincerity, and yet if he was telling the truth it made his involvement with her daughter seem all the more unusual. Neither their interests nor abilities seemed to intersect, she mused, removing a pair of mugs from the rack as the coffee burbled in the machine. And yet, at least one shared interest seemed patently obvious, she remembered, still feeling more than a little voyeuristic at having seen them interacting in the doorway. "I am curious, though." Glancing briefly at the lean, green-eyed youth as she passed, Dana pulled a small container of heavy cream from the refrigerator. "All of that sounds fascinating, and while I'm firmly and unwaveringly convinced that my daughter is essentially perfect... because she's mine," the pretty veterinarian added good-naturedly. "The two of you don't seem to have much in common. Where's the connection?" "I think we have more in common than some might suspect." Jason replied calmly, smiling a little at her. "As I said before, we bonded over a single long conversation, and I find her to be curious, brave and warm. She's restless rather than studious, but she seeks understanding. We both enjoy hiking, camping and outdoor activities, finding the same peace and sense of pitting ourselves against the elements in the pastime." He smiled a little wider at a memory. "Last night-" "Am I going to want to hear this?" Dana said half-seriously. Jason grinned then, actually grinned - a flash of humor that transformed his composed features for a moment, making him seem his age, before fading to a smile with the mirth still dancing in his jade gaze. "I'm not that forthcoming." he remarked somewhat impishly. "No. We were talking, and I mentioned something about quantum theory in passing, and she recalled myself and Sean talking about it on Sunday last week, so she asked what it was all about. So I explained about the current search for the Grand Unifying Theory, the gaps and holes in it, and some theories about what might fill those gaps." He shrugged. "She listened, she asked questions, she was curious. She's not narrow-minded, interested only in what her immediate experiences provide. And nor am I. There's a commonality that goes beyond mere learning." His smile softened, just a fraction of warmth touching the cool shade of his eyes. "I find her amazing." "Do you," Dana observed/inquired quietly, honey-colored eyes narrowing speculatively at the subtle shift in Jason's expression. Autumn and Jacob had grown up together, were fond of each other, had been thick as thieves before the break-up and the rift that grew between them- but the word "amazing" had never entered the conversation. Now, in the span of a few minutes, both her daughter and this strange, moderately unnerving newcomer had each used that specific term- totally independently- to describe the other. It was simultaneously sweet and unsettling, the thought that the tall, spare young man who'd put such a light in her daughter's eyes might himself possess a bit of that same spark... especially when it had flared into existence so suddenly. "How do you take your coffee?" she continued conversationally, considering the way he'd described Autumn, the tone and the phrasing he'd employed. Had he really only known her for a week? Could he actually have drawn such conclusions on the basis of… What had he called it? ...A single long conversation? Most teenage boys, she reflected ruefully, would have used rather different words to describe the athletic young woman. ...Then again, Jason Bannon was evidently not 'most teenage boys.' "In a mug, usually. If I'm really jonesing, I just snort the grounds." Jason said casually as he crouched down and fussed over Lexi, who had come up and was sat at his feet looking up imploringly for attention. Dana noticed how intent and deliberate he was, the long slender fingers gently scritching behind the pit's ears, then down the sides of her neck as Lexi panted happily even as the slender veterinarian let out a snort and a musical chuckle at Jason's comment. He glanced up from the dog and smiled, head tilting to one side and eyebrow raised in wry humor, and a few things clicked into place for Dana as to why Autumn was so into the youth - other than the obvious. He was intent on whatever was before him, utterly present in each moment, took emotional topics seriously rather than deflecting with jokes or embarrassment, and yet was possessed of a curious dry understated humor. His eyes were glacial and icy on first meeting, but as he opened up they took on a richer, warmer expression which was only rarely echoed in his features. When he looked at a person he really looked, and they either felt an uncomfortable sense of being stared at by a wolf... Or they felt like they were the focus of his entire universe. Whoa. "Black and plain is perfect." Jason said as Dana stared at him in that moment, causing the normally self-possessed woman to start slightly and then nod, turning away and letting out a breath. She still wasn't entirely happy with the speed at which Autumn and this young man had evidently fallen into each other - but she understood it a little - okay, a lot better. And this is when he's sixteen and on his first girlfriend. Saints preserve all good women when he 'grows up'. As she poured the coffee, she heard the sound of footfalls on the stairs as Autumn tried to walk - rather than run - back down and prevent the maternal inquisition from squeezing too many uncomfortable facts from her boyfriend. "Apparently, there was a study that said someone who drinks their coffee black is more likely to be a psychopath," Dana teased as the sound of bare feet on hardwood reached her ears, skipping down the last couple of steps to the accompaniment of clawed canine paws clicking on the bright maple floor. She was just handing Jason his mug as Autumn rounded the corner with her Shepherd escort, the young woman's damp red-gold curls loose around her shoulders and her fair skin still faintly pink from the heat of the shower. Nothing was said about the faint purplish smudge at the juncture of the girl's throat and shoulder, just visible over the neckline of her shirt; her mother merely sighed, peering sharply at her daughter's new boyfriend over the rim of her cup as she took a drink. It could be worse, she reminded herself, trying not to think of the rising teen pregnancy rate and finding precious little reassurance in the way Autumn's gaze was drawn by some unerring feminine instinct to her boyfriend's face. "We've got a little while, yet, before dinner," she stated pointedly, glancing at the timer on the oven. "You guys are welcome to watch some television in the living room, or we can play cards..." Her voice trailed off, and a gleam of mischief sparkled in the depths of her hazel eyes. "Ooorrrr, I can bring down your old photo album! You know, Jason, we've got the most adorable pictures of Autumn from when she-" "Mom, come on, not cool!" Autumn protested vehemently, sweeping past both of them to grab a mug from the rack. She'd changed into a pair of dark green running shorts and a slightly oversized t-shirt, which Dana would normally consider a perfectly modest outfit to wear around an interested teenage boy; a quick glance at Jason and the direction of his gaze, however, left her with the unsettling feeling that it might not matter what she wore. "Since you're our guest, Jason, do you have a preference?" her mother inquired, putting the cream away as Autumn finished up. He had indeed been studying Autumn's shape, barely hinted at under the t-shirt but then more clearly outlined by the running shorts and the smooth musculature of her legs as she leaned to grab the mug from the rack. As Dana spoke to him, however the heat faded from his gaze as it shifted back to the older woman, replaced with a faint smile that touched the corners of his eyes. "The photos sound intriguing-" "Ugh!" Autumn glared at him over her shoulder, the pink in her features now nothing to do with the shower. "No. No way. Not unless you bring yours to the table too." she added with a crinkle of her nose as she smiled, imagining a small, grave faced ragamuffin with too-large eyes. Then the redhead blinked, turning back to her coffee as she remembered that she had, as a matter of fact, seen a young Jason - merely ten years old and newly arrived in Shelly - trying to get his hands around a boy's throat with a coldly intent expression in his eyes... and then turn and sink his teeth bone-deep into a teacher's wrist when he'd been pulled off. Before that, he'd been the quiet, shy new kid, and even though afterwards he never so much as got into a scuffle, the memory had stayed with Autumn if only subconsciously, to be pulled up only by the innocent random thought of imagining him as a child. Perhaps it had even contributed to her dislike of him, which seemed likely. Odd, how a fleeting moment of shock and fear could only be undone years later by a seeming random tide of Fate causing the two of them to enter each other's orbits. It did make her wonder, though - had he ever truly been a child, as human beings understood the term? "That seems fair." Jason smiled a little wider at the loose collection of reddish curls as they tumbled down Autumn's back, glinting with pinpoints of golden fire in the light. He wanted to bury his face there, to inhale the scent of her: wanted it so badly it felt like the most gnawing of hungers. "I choose TV, then." Dana hmmed quietly as though in disappointment. "Ah, well. Come by sometime when she's not home and I'll show you," the older redhead smirked, patting Jase lightly on the shoulder as she passed, coffee mug in hand. Although she wasn't entirely comfortable leaving the two young paramours alone for more than a few minutes, she did at least trust her daughter enough to make good choices. ...Or, failing that, not catastrophic ones. Autumn dropped the spoon she'd used to stir her coffee into the sink, nose crinkling as she made a face at her mother's back. "Keep it up, Autumn Rae" the pretty vet called over her shoulder as she headed into the other room. "One day it'll freeze like that." Abashed, the animated young woman took a sip of her coffee, the rose of her cheeks deepening further. Then, with the petulance of a girl half her age, quickly stuck her tongue out and gave a good-humored huff. "I've never figured out how she does that," she grinned, extending her hand. "C'mon. If you don't sit with me you'll have to fight the dogs for a place. They're spoiled." ---------------------------------------------------------------------- The TV chattered and blared as the hero fought the villain, who was extruding a whip of living fire from his hand, the movements of both combatants choreographed to heighten the drama and tension and sense of mortal peril the protagonist was facing. Flips, kicks, somersaults and shouts filled the screen with noise and action. As shows went, Wu Assassins was pretty good, both teens had agreed as they’d settled in to watch some thirty minutes earlier. It was a shame, then, that currently the artistry and action on the screen was being ignored. It was Jason’s fault- at least, that was Autumn’s stance on the matter. He’d put an arm comfortably around her shoulders as they’d nestled together, and then idly toyed with the curls of her glory of red-gold hair, running his slender fingers through it gently to stroke her neck and shoulder, causing tingles of warmth to race through her nerves. So strongly did Autumn feel that it was her boyfriend’s fault that she, in fact, felt the need to tell him between kisses. “It’s your fault.” she murmured softly, her arms resting around his neck, lips grazing his ear before her teeth lightly nibbled at the lobe, gratified to feel his reaction in the sharp intake of breath as well as in another, more tangible fashion. “Nope.” his reply was likewise a murmur as he kissed the curve of Autumn’s neck where it met her shoulder. His hands were loosely tangled in her fall of red hair, the scent of which he breathed in. “You’re the one that moved. And now we’re missing the show.” Autumn grinned as she withdrew a little to look into his eyes. True enough, she had moved first, swinging a bare leg over him and straddling his thighs so she could properly give him her attention - and he could give her his. “You want to watch the show?” she asked with an arch of her brow. “Don’t put words in my mouth.” His eyes were heated, dark with passion even as he smiled slightly. “I was merely observing we were- mmph.” he finished softly as Autumn pressed her body and mouth to his, arms tightening around his neck as though to prevent even the remote possibility he would try to get away - which, to be honest, was so remote as to not be worth considering. “Oh, for heaven’s sake!” Dana wasn’t sure whether to laugh or scowl as she stepped into the lounge and saw the pair of them. At least he didn’t have his hands on her butt this time. Progress! The slender, pretty veterinarian thought wryly. Autumn made a sound that was half gasp, half giggle as she slid off her beau, trying to look contrite and failing miserably. She seemed lively, and happy, and it was good to see. Dana took a breath, counted to ten, then spoke again. “Okay. New rule, you two. None of-” she made a gesture indicating the pair of them and their misbehaviour “-that in the lounge, porch, dining room, kitchen or indeed anywhere in this house except the bedroom when I’m home. I’m not going to try and stop teenagers being teenagers, but I don’t want to walk into my own lounge and see it. Am I clear?” “Yes, mom.” Autumn nodded, somewhat soberly. Jason turned his gaze to Dana and nodded assent, or at least understanding, gravely. “Good! Now, dinner is a few minutes away, so both of you can come and help set the table.” She was unable to resist cracking a smirk, raising an eyebrow at them. “Take a moment to, ah, compose yourselves, and for God’s sake wash your hands first.”
  2. 3 points
    "Yeah," Devin said, already in motion and looking a might bit concerned. "Let's get you spun the fuck up. Certainly sounds like we have time for that as the walls a melting away all Silent Hill up in this bitch." "Devin, get us out of here," Marissa turned to face her brother as she reflexively gripped Cade's hand. "No can do." He replied to his gorgeous sibling. "The Dark emanates raw dimensional interference. It doesn't belong here, and the closer it is, the more my targeting goes all wonky. I can manage small jaunts, but if I try anything farther, it'll rip my guts apart like before." Kat had no idea what the hell he was talking about. "Damnit," she cursed. She looked to everyone else and squeezed Cade's hand. "We need to go." She looked up to her boyfriend and rest her free had on his chest. "You are on Jase duty. He's injured and you are the biggest thing we have right now. Stay with him. The rest of us will look out for each other, and..." she took a concerned breath as she looked at him. She gripped his shirt and pulled his 6'4" self down to meet her 5'8" gaze. For a few moments the hospital faded as her lips pressed against his and her palm cupped his cheek to hold him in place she motivated her soldier. She pulled away and opened her eyes. "Be careful. I mean it." "Cathrine, my brother, Devin, new French girl, now let's get the hell out of here." She urged them. "On it," Devin, with no regard for Kat's presence, jaunted from where he stood in the room to the doorway leading out into the hallway. For the first time all of them, for the briefest of moments were able to see the two apertures in the same place at the same time, the shimmering purple distortions left by his jaunts pulsed and shimmered briefly like oil on water giving off all the various hues of purple from lavender to periwinkle before fading away. "Shit," Charlie muttered. "Sophia. She's in the waiting room!" "Dude, seriosuly?" Devin looked stunned and defeated at once. "Okay, look, I'll go get her, you stay with the girls and help Cade lead everyone out. I'll catch up." "But-" Charlie attempted to protest. After all, he'd brought her here and he felt like she was his obligation to protect. "I get it, bro," Devin smirked a friendly smirk, not his usual sarcastic snigger. "But who's faster? Keep my sister safe, and I'll make sure Sophia is fine. You got this." He raised up his fist and Charlie bumped it. "Head away from the screams of terror, text me locales, I'll find you." He dashed off towards the waiting room. Marissa jogged to the door, the heels of her boots clacking on the tiles. She took up position where he brother just darted from. "Running in those might not be the best idea," Cade offered up to her as he was helping Jason with the last few moments of his preparation to vacate the Hospital of Horrors. "Baby, me running in heels is the least of our concerns right now." Marissa replied to her boyfriend right as she looked at Kat. "So, please don't allow what happens in the next several moments of excruciating madness and horrific terror to put too dark of a mar on your opinion of our little town, it truly is a quaint place to live."
  3. 2 points
    Marias Medical Center: Team Pluck What the fuck. What the actual- No. No no nonononono. This is not happening again, oh fuck me, it is not happening, Autumn insisted silently, as if the simple act of refusing to accept the unfolding nightmare could somehow stave off the madness and horror it brought. But the alarms going off in the hallway were just as loud as the ones in her head, and for all their screeching, neither drowned out the short-lived scream of someone on the other side of the doors who could no longer hear them. And suddenly, the redhead realized she couldn’t think of it as just a nightmare anymore, because she had just... ...listened to someone die. “Fuck,” the terrified young woman breathed as hot tears rolled down her cheeks, her back pressed to the wall near the fire doors. She wanted to throw up, felt her stomach knotting in revulsion at the oily sensation of diseased corruption in the air, at the faint, sickly-sweet smell of burnt-sugar she recognized from the woods, at the sudden realness of what couldn’t- shouldn’t be real, but that would require time she didn’t have. Through the wall, she could sense… something moving. Several somethings, things that she instinctively felt didn’t belong here, and every impulse and instinct she possessed pushed her away from the wall, propelled her forward- first at a jog, and then a dead sprint toward the door Cassie had entered. She couldn’t explain the shift in perception any more than she could explain the rest of what was going on, but she wasn’t about to question its accuracy, not if it helped keep them alive. There was a momentary, irrational pang of regret as she bolted away from the doors and the unearthly terrors behind them, as if she were somehow abandoning people- but the men and women on the other side of those doors had guns and training on their side, and the two teens did not; if they couldn’t hold their own, there was nothing she- unarmed and inexperienced- could do to help them. Survive. Whatever it takes, just keep going. Autumn barely slowed as she neared the office, instead grabbing the door frame to shift her momentum and skittering, breathless and wide-eyed, into the room just as the elevator chimed softly down the hall. “We need to get out of here,” she gasped as she tried to catch her breath and slow the frantic pounding of her heart. Cassandra could see genuine, bone-deep fear in the other girl’s pale features, her eyes a strange green-grey in the unwholesome light as she glanced quickly around the room. “Like, right now. And we can’t go through those doors.”
  4. 2 points
    As Autumn took her position, Cassandra breezed around the room, just giving it a once-over. She took a snapshot from one corner, then the opposite one. At the big print with the mountain and the lake she paused thoughtfully, then took a photo of that as well. She'd seen that before. Might be important. On searching the sports jacket on the rack, Cass found a set of keys...which by the fob went to a car. A Porsche. Her eyes widened and she held them up for Autumn to see...then even took a picture of them in her hand, and put them back. No grand theft auto today. Tomorrow though... Her exploration of the walls yielded a small keypad set into one. At that keypad she hunched over to bring it level with her face, and exhaled onto it repeatedly. When Cass turned to see Autumn staring at her, she blushed a little and said, "It's...supposed to fog up the keys except the ones that have skin oil on them. It, uh, didn't work though." Clearing her throat, she quickly made her way over to the desk. Between the two monitors was something odd. A funny sort of projector that was actually built into the desk itself. She tried wiggling it, but to no avail...it seemed to have been bolted on, or perhaps was poking up through a hole in the desktop. It'd have to be disassembled to get it out, Cass reckoned. She bumped the mouse a little, and the righthand screen awoke to a password prompt. Dr Cook had left his office unlocked, but not his computer, it seemed. In the drawers was a bounty though. The top right one opened to show a notepad upon which was written, 'J.bannon 4oclock meeting. Notes and observations.' In a neat printed script. It was otherwise blank. Her breath caught though when she pushed the pad aside to see what was under it. A gun. She didn't know a lot about guns, so she wasn't sure how big it was, or what make or model it was. She did notice, by chance, that it didn't have the little switch by the handle. The safety. That seemed odd to her. Cass quickly took a picture of the weapon, without touching it, and closed the drawer. The middle drawer of the desk then had just stationary and breathmints and boring stuff. The other drawers were locked. Dead end. Other than he might be planning to shoot Jase. Cass didn't think that'd go well for him. "Find anything?" Cassie looked up at Autumn and shrugged. "He has a gun. And he was planning to see Jase at 4 today. That's like..." she checked her phone, "...a half hour from now? Probably made that plan before the fight though." Autumn nodded, though seemed ill at ease at the mention of a gun. "So what now?" That was the question, wasn't it, Cassandra thought. "I think I'm gonna try something...shiny." She closed her eyes and tried to concentrate. In her mind's eye she built Cook's office, just as it had been while she explored it. Cass let the details seep in, the colors fill out, until it was as good as the real thing. Then the shine took over. She felt more of the roomness entering her mental construct...more detail than she'd been able to see, but that was still there, noticed only subconsciously. The smell of it. The feel of the still air. The slight tension that came with it belonging to someone else. And beyond that, a kind of weird intangible sense that her mind didn't really know what to call, but that clearly identified the space as 'Dr Cook's Office at the Medical Center.' And then Cassandra rotated that space, not along any physical axis, but along the axis of time. thewindowslightenedanddarkenedandlightenedandablurofmovementCookandsomeoneelseandothersandthenemptyand...she managed to slow it down in time to spot Cook at his computer, and let the 'playback' go long enough to look over his shoulder and see where his fingers fell on the keyboard. With a gasp she let the vision go and quickly scrabbled at her phone's Note app, copying the code down into it. Autumn was looking at her again. "Everything okay?" the redhead asked. Cassie nodded. "Yeah. Just...had a lot at once there. Why, what did it look like?" "You were just kinda...standing there for minute, and then did a jumpscare. Sort of jerked and..." Autumn sucked a breath in as if startled. "Like that." "Okay." Cassie squared her shoulders and steeled herself. "I'm gonna try again." This time the mental 'construct' of Cook's office came almost immediately. When she started to 'rotate' it, she did so far more tentatively and carefully...and that caution was rewarded. Days sped past, timed by the light sluicing in through the blinds over the windows. She found resistance after a few days, and didn't push it...instead releasing the image and allowing it to move forward normally. "Holy shit," Cassandra exhaled, her eyes opening wide. "Holy shit, I think he killed Etienne."
  5. 2 points
    Both Jauntsens saw their friend's pale green eyes narrow for a moment, as though he were seriously considering Devin's offer - which, for all they knew, he could well be. Then he shook his head a little, sighing. "Tempting. But they were being pushed and besides, they're already neck deep in shit." "Pushed?" Marissa frowned prettily - she did most things prettily, Jase noted not for the first time in passing. "The Dark." Devin asserted as he plopped into the chair and rummaged through the cold bag next to it. "Oh hey, Bannon's Special Honey Jerky, made from organic locally sourced honey and organic locally sourced hitchhikers." "Go ahead." Jase shrugged. "I'm not up to chewing right now." He gingerly prodded at his jaw, then put a finger in his mouth to feel whether any of his teeth were loose. Apparently satisfied, he glanced at the other two. "I did actually give your idea some thought, Mari. And it's a good one. The only reason I didn't come forward is because popularity doesn't interest me - I am not a social creature and failed to see what clique I could possibly influence... But that was an error on my part. I should have asked you how I could help with your plan, rather than assume there was no place in it for me." He smiled, careful of his split lip. "So, when I'm out of here, show me what needs doing and I'll see it done. Queen or not, you're not on your own." As Devin grunted absent approval around a mouthful of jerky, Marissa's gaze met Jase's, softening slightly even though her arms were still folded across her chest. "You volunteering to be my knight?" she asked challengingly, her smirk a touch coquettish. "I'd hardly aspire so high." Jase retorted deadpan, his eyes gleaming. Devin grumbled something that might have been 'get a room already', but it was hard to say for certain. "There is another thing." Jason stated slowly, considering. Cook and Co knew a lot already, and he was pretty sure Etienne had told them something about the 'Dark'. "I had a black-clad visitor today, before you two got here. Came to tell me that he and the Dark are not on the same side, amongst other things." "You believe that?" Devin asked, suddenly intent. Marissa likewise abandoned the playful demeanour and frowned once more. "I was at his mercy. He's had two chances to kill me that I know of, and I'm still here. All he did was eat my lunch." Jase shrugged. "There's more, and it makes sense with what I've observed... But I'll drop that when most of us are here. Saves repeating myself."
  6. 2 points
    "You're a dingus." Marissa said flatly once Cade had left the room. Her arms were firmly crossed over her chest in the universal sign of distancing herself from whom she she was speaking to. It was obvious that she was both a mixture of irritated with him (when wasn't she), and pleased that he was, at least, alive. Her heels tapped softly on the tiled floor as she two-step paced not from his bedside. "What the hell were thinking? You should have walked away, ran even. This," she motioned to his injuries. "Is nothing more than male ego and pride." She paused long enough to inhale an annoyed breath he knew was laced with a thousand reasons why everything was his fault, despite the odds he was up against. "For what it's worth, I'm glad you're okay. You're still a dingus though." "Duly noted," Jason smirked. "So, what's this?" He pointed his finger to Marissa then shifted it to where Cade was standing. "We're dating, sorta. Kinda." Her faced scrunched. "It's complicated. I got to thinking after you pissed me off-" "Which time," he mused with a smirk. Her eyes locked on him and she pressed on, not finding his jokes humorous in the slightest. "The last time. I tried to get along, I did, but Jason, I'm not designed like they are. Evil isn't born, it's made, and frankly if that's the case, I want to be art. Trying to be a part of the Abstinence by Circumstance Club was seriously damaging my reputation. When I told you guys I would help you become popular and get the school on track, do you know how many approached me and how we were going to do it? None. Because the Nerd Herd doesn't care. I may hate it here, but this is still my town, I worked hard to become the Evil Queen and I'll be damned if I'm going to let something run through and mess that up." "I realized, if I'm going to re-establish my dominance at Shelly High, I'd need arm candy. Chet is now Courtney's thug, so, I found my own. Cade is like my big dumb Rocky, flexing his arms for his innocent damsel, Janet Weiss." She looked at her phone and wedged it firmly back into her tight back pocket. She looked a smidgen more irritated. "My brother is coming. Anyway, I needed to date again, I don't like it, but I can't stay some beautiful princess in a tower my whole life. Cade is weak, malleable and easy to control. Like a puppy. He doesn't talk much, and when he does it makes little sense, he's hot, built like The Rock and as dumb as one too. So, its like dating, with training wheels. He wouldn't know what to do with me if I was naked with tattooed instructions. I feel safe with him. Not too fast, not too slow... I'm in control, you know?" There was a notable shift in the air as it slowly rippled and shifted like a stone being thrown on the surface of a pond, then a sudden purple snap of energy spat out Devin as he appeared in the blink of an eye from nowhere. Teleporting into the medical center was probably not the best idea, but Devin was cocky and at this point was almost living to give Cook the finger every day. "S'up, Douche Strudel." He nodded to Jason. "Where's your girlfriend?" Marissa said with the typical measure of snark involved when she brought up Lona into any conversation. "Where's your puppy?" Devin shot back with a smirk. In unison they both gave each other the finger. It was amusing, but a part of Jason wondered if they shared a noetic link, being twins and all. "So, what? Charlie decide on Stomp the Yard and you just had to audition with your face? How'd that work out for you?" Devin asked Jason. Jason smiled and shook his head. "Don't make me laugh right now." He replied as he tried not to laugh. "Say the word, bro, and they'll wake up in North Korea wearing 'Make America Great Again' t-shirts." Devin offered as Marissa snickered and covered her laughter with her hand. "I gotchu fam."
  7. 2 points
    Cassandra hadn't been especially close, having headed to another class entirely. It was impossible to miss how the 'flow' of students was warped though. People started gravitating towards something out of sight. Cass didn't know what exactly was up, but she'd seen this behavior before. Somewhere there was a spectacle, and awareness of it was rippling outward from its point of origin through the kids. She broke into a run, following the whispers and rumors and other kids being drawn. On hearing the sound of fighting she began sprinting. Cassie burst through the ring around the fight just in time to hear Curtis' scream. For a second she didn't know how to process what she was seeing. Jason over by the lockers, looking beat up. Autumn on the floor like she'd been crawling. Another couple of guys, big ones, sprawled out on the ground. One holding... jesus... Cassandra wrenched her eyes away from his leg to the other one. He looked hurt too, but he was getting to his feet, murder in his eyes. Waves beat against her head, like wind, like a storm. From between the slats of the shutters she saw pain, blinding bright, coming from everyone.The two boys she didn't know the names of had something else, something worse. Cassie struggled to make sense of it, but the image that locked in was one of those documentaries she'd seen about the aftermath of a big oil spill, with volunteers cleaning animals up. That's what they looked like then, in her mind's eyes. Like they were hopelessly gunked up with sticky gobs of oil, somehow both thick and black yet somehow iridescent as well. Tangled, engulfed, choking to death. The Dark. Curtis was clearly out of the fight, physically. No matter how much control the Dark had, it couldn't use him if he was broken that badly. She advanced on Mark, not sure what to do. The iridescent sheen around him, she realized, wasn't the Dark. It was befouled BY the Dark...and as Cassandra watched the colors dance and writhe, she grasped the meaning. It was a little like the graphic equalizer on her dad's old stereo system. The lights flickered and danced with the music. This was for his mind though, for his thoughts and emotions. She could 'see' them playing out in the patterns of color. The Dark was...infecting them. Forcing them towards unthinking rage, violence, resentment...far beyond what a person would normally feel. Without understanding what she was doing, Cassandra 'reached out' with her own Shine towards Mark as she said aloud, "That's enough. You're hurt. You have to stop now." As she said the words, Cass tugged on the 'colors' around him, trying to pull calm, acceptance, dawning realization of what he'd done...out from under the oil-slick of the Dark. Immediately though the sludge seemed to realize something was wrong. It slithered and constricted. Cassandra frowned and dug deeper, looking for a place in Mark's mind that the Dark hadn't sunk into. A place that was still his own. Abruptly the Dark seemed to twist around and flare up, stretch out...angling back at Cassandra herself. She flinched back instinctively, but the light of her Shine seemed to stop it in midair before it could quite touch her. Perhaps, she thought shakily, because it had been aimed at Mark before. Maybe she was just lucky. Either way, the distraction gave her the opening she needed. "Listen to me," she said urgently to Mark as he swayed slightly, struggling with his conflicted emotions. "You have to stop. Ambulances are coming. Police are coming. You're hurt." His colors changed, bubbling up from under the Dark. He didn't throw it off entirely, but with Cassandra's help his natural instincts for self-preservation were able to push the artificial fury aside. "Holy shit," Mark breathed, seeing Curtis and his condition. "Holy shit...what..." Cassandra snapped her fingers, getting his attention. "You want to be here with the cops get here?" He shook his head, suddenly terrified, unaware of the puppeteer's fingers on his heartstrings. "Get out of here. Hurry." Cass watched him turn tail and flee, pushing through the crowd and nearly stumbling in his haste. Then she said, "Are you two okay?" As she asked she was already getting her phone out to call 9-1-1.
  8. 2 points
    "The dog?" Cassandra lamented. "God...damnit..." She got up from her computer and with a couple of violent stomps mushed her left foot into its shoe. She'd yank the heel up later. As she emerged into the living room, the aforementioned dog came running eagerly over, giving her the adorable big brown eyes and floppy ears and slightly down-cast tail wag that bespoke he was perfectly aware of what he'd done and hoped she wouldn't be mad about it. Cassandra leaned down and ruffled his shoulders and scratched between his ears. "You know, Bacon," she said sweetly, "she's only feeding you my breakfasts so you'll get fat and full of nutrition for when we finally cook you up." Bacon thumped his leg happily. Beth poked her head around the corner from the dining room and gave Cassandra a smile and a wave. "Hey." Cass returned the smile and stood up. "Morning. Thanks for the ride. Mom's kind of all hardcore about schedules these days." "Well, she's being a responsible adult," her friend noted with a mischievous smirk. "You could learn something from her." "Uuunnngh yeah, or...I could just keep spinning around in an oblivious, narcissistic haze until my life breaks and I become a homeless bum." Cassandra considered. "Yeah, gonna go with that. Want anything before we go?" With a laugh, Beth shook her head. "No. I actually ate my breakfast before I came over, instead of letting my mom feed it to my dog." Bacon wuffed and went over to Cassandra to butt against her leg with the top of his head. "Laugh it up, fuzzball," she told the dog with faux-irritation. "You're next." --- As they piled into Bethany's very well-used Civic hatchback, a handmedown from her now-college-age brother (and, Cassie suspected, one of her parents' before that), Beth asked, "So...are we going to talk about...whatever there is to talk about right now?" Cassandra dug her plastic spoon into the little carton of yogurt she'd filched from the fridge on the way out and bought time as she stuck it into her mouth. Play dumb? Play dumb. "You're going to have to narrow it down," Cass said as she stirred the yogurt some more. "There's so much to talk about. Climate change, for example. Why is no one talking..." "You know what I mean," Beth insisted. "Yesterday at Bunnee's you were all worked up." Cassie winced a little, then pressed herself back in the threadbare upholstery of the Civic's passenger-side seat. "It's...kind of a work in progress," she said. "I feel like I don't know enough to talk about it yet, and..." She trailed off. Beth stared at her for a little too long, then quickly had to slow down or risk plunging into an intersection. "And what?" she demanded. "...and it involves...things...that maybe you'd be...better off not knowing?" Cassandra managed to say. It wasn't not true, but she'd stumbled getting through it because she knew damn well what Beth's reaction would be. Her friend, now safely stopped, stared at her again. "I'm sorry...better off not knowing?" "A little bit?" "Not knowing. You're saying you don't want to tell me because I'd be better off." Cassandra covered her eyes. "Beeeeeeth..." "No no, because we've had this conversation, only from the other side. Remember when you were bitching about Crossroads and I said maybe your dad knew something and you said he didn't tell you and I said maybe it was for your own good? Remember what you said to that?" "...maybe." Beth glanced at the intersection, put the car into gear and started driving again. "You said that you'd always be better off knowing. And that people who said they were trying to protect someone else by not telling them something important were really just trying to protect themselves. Your words. Not mine." Cass sighed. "I mean, technically paraphrased, but..." "Don't technically me." "Okay! Look. Beth." Cassandra sat forward again and latched her seatbelt, somewhat belatedly. They were almost to school now. "Here's the deal, okay? If it was just me, I'd tell you everything. But it's not just me. It involves other people too, and I can't just...blaaaauugh..." She pantomimed vomit spilling from her mouth. "...everything and drag them in, and drag you in...and all because of something I don't even know if it's REAL or not yet. I just...need you to trust me. I promise, when I'm surer...when I know more...when this whole thing is ready to pop...I will tell you everything. Okay?" The car rattled to a stop in the school lot, but Beth kept her hands on the wheel for a moment. "I just...feel like we're losing touch," she said tightly. "You never used to not tell me things. I had to consciously try to distract you to get you to stop telling me things." Cassie reached over to put a hand on Beth's shoulder. "This is a really really special situation. It's not like when we were...well okay we are kids, but when we were younger kids. The worst thing we used to investigate then was like, who was stealing people's newspapers from their porches, or why your neighbor's cat disappeared. This...has to do with my dad. And if I screw it up, people could get hurt. I have to be careful." Bethany shook her head. "And I guess calling the cops wouldn't work?" "Cops need evidence. And...I have kind of a record just accusing people of things, so I have to work harder, you know?" "And...these people who could get hurt. People like...who? Me? Your mom?" Cass nodded. "Yeah." Beth turned to look at Cassandra. "What about you?" She smiled. "Nah, I'll be fine. Remember? Psychic powers?" Cass tapped her temple. A slightly choked laugh escaped Beth, and she impulsively leaned forward to give her friend a hug. "Just...be careful okay? This isn't a movie." The hug was returned with force. "I know. I will." "And I'll hold you to that promise. There'd better be a Pulitzer or a novel or...or something at the far end of all this." "You can be my editor." Now Beth laughed for real. "Oh my god no. I've read your drafts. Kill me and send me to Hell first." They pulled apart and got out of the car. Cass said, "I'm still hungry...I'm gonna go grab a quick bite at the cafeteria. Coming?" Beth shook her head. "I actually can't. Meet you at lunch?" Cassandra nodded. "Yeah. I'll text you if I can't make it, but should be fine. Seeya then!" They split apart like atoms in a reactor, each going their separate ways. Oblivious to the chain reactions they could set off as they went.
  9. 2 points
    The lanky, somewhat unkempt boy had not noticed her approach. Shaggy hair slightly darker than usual from it's residual dampness, and with his breakfast half-finished, Jason had been staring out of the cafeteria window, his eyes tracking the bustle of the world beyond without conscious effort, marking everything with a predatory alertness. The apparent interest in the world's goings-on was deceptive, a function of deep instinct without conscious effort - for his attention was elsewhere. The walls were a deep red with gold veins, neither marble nor jade but something in between, forming corridors through which his consciousness walked on solid polished floors inlaid with mosaics: abstracts which attracted the eye, conduits to mental processes that seemed to take on life and vibrancy as his feet passed over them, only to fade softly behind him, becoming inert once more as his attention turned elsewhere. Along the pale gold veins in the walls, light pulsed faintly with rainbow glimmers, harmonies of colour which formed patterns in the air containing other sensory information as one passed through them - a puff of perfume, a boisterous laugh, the bite of a freezing winter morning, the taste of sauteed mushrooms. He moved from the corridors through a gallery lined with shelves filled with books and curios, one of many in this place, and from the gallery to a vast central chamber that took the form of a lush indoor garden, adorned with statuary and portraits, the air filled with light from the prismatic crystalline ceiling. There was the faintest of sounds in the air - not quite a rumble, not quite breathing, but possessed of the qualities of both, giving a sense of Something present and watchful. A Something not currently inclined to action, content to abide until called upon. Unleashed. It was an edifice of reason and memory, constructed on foundations laid of Will. There was little gentle or yielding here, little in the way of conventional morality or mercy, merely consciously applied principles of aesthetics designed to contain ruthless drives older than conscious thought. It was beautiful, but it lacked most of what would commonly be considered 'humanity'... Except the central chamber. The central chamber was warmer, held small niches of comfort and peace, the air here filled with faint music that changed as one moved around the garden. He stopped before Marissa's portrait, gazing at it contemplatively as it came to life under his gaze, every image and memory and impression that he associated with the girl surrounding his consciousness as he looked upon her face. He breathed in... And paused. The scent was wrong. It was still pleasant, but it wasn't Marissa. This was less sophisticated, warm juniper mixed with something citrus, a scent he associated with a welcome newer addition to his central garden- "Hi. Do... you mind if I join you?" Jason had been staring out of the window as though looking for someone or perhaps lost in thought, but the way he did not even blink, simply looked around and up at her was somehow so eerie that Autumn was struck by it. There was no blink, or apparent change of mental gears - his attention shifted the way a wild creature's did when you attracted it, as though suddenly you were everything and whatever it had been doing before did not exist. He studied the girl in that brief heartbeat or two, noting the bloom of colour in her cheeks as she shifted her weight from one foot to the other under his gaze, and the way her unruly mane of fiery red-gold framed her blue eyes and freckled ivory features, and then he smiled at her and gestured to the seat across from him, the corners of his cool green eyes crinkling ever so slightly. "Of course you can." Jason told his newest friend, shifting slightly and picking up his fork as he realised he'd not yet finished eating himself. He was aware that a couple of sophomores at the other end of his table were snickering and throwing sideways glances, and turned his gaze on them as Autumn pulled out a chair and got settled. The two girls hushed under that impassive stare, turning their attentions back to their phones, and it was with the faintest flicker of amusement Jason turned his attention back to Autumn. "How's your morning so far?" he asked, swiping some sausage through the syrup on his plate and raising his fork to his lips as he tilted his head at her enquiringly. "Good, I hope."
  10. 2 points
  11. 2 points
    If you don't see me, just turn around. I'm there.
  12. 2 points
  13. 2 points
    So, about Chronokinesis...
  14. 2 points
    Proposal/suggestion for game pacing moving forward. Been enjoying the game a lot so far, but I did want to say the game events have been very densely packed, with just the past several in-game days taking the characters through a HUGE array of incredible events, all of which could serve as a lead for further investigation or following up on. As a result I've been feeling kind of overwhelmed; feeling like I'm not doing enough...even as the posts keep rolling on. The large amount of things to do, coupled with the meticulous hour-by-ingame hour pacing, means that a lot of posting leads to very small amounts of actual movement. What if we took a somewhat more fluid approach to the timeframe the game's events unfolded at? That would free Nina's hand when deciding what happens to who and when...and it would let us abstract some tasks (for example, 'investigating Dr. Cook,' which is not likely to require much RP to do), while focusing on events or tasks that will have moments of high drama or action in their resolution. So, for example, Rainbow is Monday. All of it, just on Monday. Suppose starting Tuesday we give Nina a list of what our characters will be doing in relatively general terms. What classes we have, what are our plans afterschool, etc etc... If we need rolls for anything, we include them. She can then summarize those events that don't need to be RPed out. Meanwhile, those things that DO need to be RPed out will have threads created for them that can just be resolved by whatever PCs are involved in those events. Then we have the big 'group get together' threads on the weekends, and they can cover as much, or little, time as the group activities warrant. That's where we share, in character, the results of the week's activities, both RPed and summarized. Fics or other side stories can fit into that general pattern as well, but would be less formalized I think. All of this is totally open for discussion/dissection/etc...I'm just trying to address an issue I've been feeling where I have a lot of stuff I want Cassandra to do, but feel like I haven't had in-game time to do them...even as real-world time flashes past. What do you guys think?
  15. 2 points
    Well, that was the six-million dollar question. Charlie didn't have feelings for Sophia per say, but he supposed it could happen. Similar interests - and from the teenage male side of things - very attractive. So was he prepared to give this a shot? Sophia was right, there was always going to be something else going on, but she had no idea just what. What did Shakespeare say about romance, Charlie tried to remember - Shakespeare made a great many memorable lines. Never mind, he needed to decide for himself. Charlie hadn't dated before - maybe now was the time to try. Charlie took her hand. "I'm not sure, but I'm willing to give this a try."
  16. 1 point
    Late Monday Night The woman who'd called herself Kaitlin for nearly two decades now closed the door to her cheap apartment with a sigh, clicking a switch to illuminate the dingy accommodation. Setting her knapsack and a large heavy flashlight down, she passed her hands over her face tiredly before heading to the kitchenette and the small fridge therein. There was half a box of leftover Chinese in there, and she wrinkled her nose before shrugging and beginning to scarf it down, using the plastic fork still in there. Wandering back into the main room, she paused in front of a wall, upon which was pinned a large map of Shelly's environs. Regarding it as she ate, she sighed. A marker pen rose from the table as if in an invisible hand and slowly put a cross through a circle she'd drawn earlier before re-capping itself and dropping desultorily onto the table once more. "Someone's frown needs turning upside down." remarked a male voice from behind her. Kaitlin barely blinked, resisting the urge to immediately turn around and continuing to regard the map. She hadn't felt him here, but then she wouldn't, not unless he wanted her to. After a ten-count, she slowly turned to level her blue-green stare at the figure that the children of the Fellowship referred to as 'Mr Black'. That wasn't his name, of course. She knew his name, and barely even allowed herself to think it. She just referred to Him as... Him. "I'd say it's a pleasure, but we both know that would be a lie." she stated with a calmness she didn't feel. Mr Black smiled, a crooked quirk of his lips that would be charming, coming from someone - anyone else. "I knew you'd come back here." He commented, moving to stand alongside her but facing the map, studying it casually. "Knew you'd come looking... but I bet you didn't expect what you found here, though." She remained silent, swallowing the fear that coiled in her stomach at his proximity. Had he engineered these events? "I'm surprised you even care." she said, casually stepping away from him and turning, dropping into a chair as she stirred the cold noodles with the fork. Mr Black turned to look at her, smiling faintly. "Of course I care." he said with a hint of a chuckle in his tone. "Who doesn't want to see a warm mother and son reunion? A touching Lifetime movie moment? Tell me, darlin', was it a shock, seeing him all growed up and Shining so bright?" Kaitlin said nothing, and the Man in Black's smile widened as he regarded her stare of surprise. "You didn't know..." A snort of amusement followed the statement, and Mr Black shook his head ruefully. "You never were one to try and peer beyond the surface. Honestly, if it wasn't for your other qualities I'd not have bothered with you at all. True Shine, little girl far from her home. Not a glimmer such as you possess, but the true unfettered Shine of old. Oh, and he is a smart boy, too. Utterly ruthless, without fear... Your daddy's gonna love him -" The man paused as if pondering something "- well, if your daddy was capable of love, he would. But he isn't, is he? That's why you ran away... Your folks ain't much for 'weakness'." "You can drop the down-home accent. We both know that's an affectation." She snorted, smiling a little as if amused at his quirks- When she moved, it was without even an eyeblink to herald the attack. A slender knife was in her left hand as her right hand tossed the noodle box at the Man in Black's face, forcing him to duck to the side. Her left hand came up in a low, thrusting slash that would have opened him from groin to sternum - if her blade hadn't stopped dead inches from his crotch. She tensed, trying to push forwards, but to no avail. "I see home hasn't rubbed off you completely." Mr Black stated mildly, his dark green eyes dancing with malicious humor. "Oh, don't fret none. I'm not gonna kill you. You're far more entertaining alive." Kaitlin felt a force grip her wrist and twist painfully until, with a gasp, she dropped the blade. Mr Black stepped past her and headed for the door as she rubbed her wrist, eyeing his back. "Circle time is coming soon. Much to do, much to do." Mr Black said as the door opened for him. He stopped in the doorway, not glancing back. "It's too late for you to go home, darlin'. I kept my side of our bargain back then. You had a home here too - a man and a child - but you ran away from them too. Maybe running is all you're good for. Something to consider, hmm?" And with that he was gone, the door closing behind him as the woman who'd called herself Kaitlin for two decades stooped and recovered her knife, blinking through eyes suddenly unaccountably moist. =================================================== Dr Cook was sitting at his desk - not his fake desk in the medical center complex above, but what he thought of as his 'real' desk. Holographic screen projections danced in the air before him, faces of certain Shelly High students moving, rotating alongside written reports from the surveillance center and human assets concerning each face. A beep from his console alerted him, and he glanced down at a smaller screen reserved for only one purpose. //I've read your report on the meeting with the Bannon subject.// "And?" Cook said aloud, knowing he would be heard. //He seems isolated from the others, but I have doubts. He has a long-standing friendship with the Cassidy boy.// "What about my observations?" Cook wanted to know. //You are correct that he seems to be a sociopath. Given such history as we have gleaned along with our re-assessment of his intellect, that simply increases the risk factors of allowing him access to the Project.// "That's what I thought too." Dr Cook sighed, relieved. He'd had to put forward the opportunity presented, but had hoped it would be turned down. //Arm's length protocol. We will observe and do nothing else. Same goes for all the children. Order human assets in place to maintain observation and get close to their subjects, but cease all psy-ops or recruitment measures. We do not have a complete picture of these subjects' capability. For now, we watch. We will wish to avoid precipitating a conflict until we know more.// "Agreed." nodded Dr Cook, relieved when the small screen went black. Frowning, he glanced up at the holo-projections and the enigmas contained within. =================================================== It was dark and dank here, but that was okay. Dark and dank helped things grow. Cody was growing. He could feel it, and the Horned Man had told him he was too. He was Becoming, and the Tree was part of him now. Not physically, but in his mind, in his soul. He could feel the Tree's hunger as his own now, and killing the odd rat or stray cat with his railroad spike was not enough, not anymore. So many out there were Breaking The Rules, and needed to be punished. The Horned Man had shown him. He approached the Horned Man now, a scarecrow of iron and twisted metal with a skull as a head from which branched strong antlers that didn't look like antlers from any deer or elk Cody had seen. He lifted the skull down, a skull larger than a man's, large enough to fit over his own head - which he did as he had done several times before. The Horned Man wanted to tell him things, show him things. He saw Cade Alister and Cassandra Allen at the old mall parking lot. They shouldn't have been there. They were Breaking The Rules. He saw Marissa Jauntsen speaking with her brother, and growled a slobbering noise inside the skull mask. They were Rule Breakers too. They had invoked the Tree falsely. The Tree wanted them punished. Cody did too - they were supposed to have been on HIS side. He saw Jason Bannon sitting, talking with a red-haired girl Cody recognised from somewhere. Autumn... Autumn something. As he watched, she leaned over and hugged him. Unbelievable! Did she not know he was a Rule Breaker? The worst of Rule Breakers, for he did not even care about the Rules - they were nothing to him. The Rules said that popular kids like Cody were the ones who sent unpopular kids like Bannon running. Autumn was hugging the Worst Rule Breaker, and that made her a Rule Breaker too! Just like Sean Cassidy and Laurie, who was on the football team now - more Rules broken. Lona Wilson too, she'd played a part in upsetting Cody's trap a few days ago. It was enough to make Cody retch inside the skull. They were all going to be punished... and the Horned Man knew just how and when it would happen. And the Tree would be happy. That, above all else, was the most important thing.
  17. 1 point
    Marias Medical Center - Team Fucked Sean felt a surge of annoyance, as well as an attendant flush threatening to stain his delicate features, at the lumping-in of him with 'the girls' that could be said to be implicit in Devin's words to Charlie. Charlie was one of 'the guys', like Cade, and therefore a protector for 'the girls' - which included Sean - as well as the wounded Jason who, if he wasn't beaten half to shit, would probably have been equally part of the guardian bro club. Or something. He set his lips in a determined line - last time they had run into a Dark-spawned aberration, he'd run away from the fight. Sure, he'd headed towards the trailer, to try and figure out if he could stop whatever was causing the problems, but at the end of the day he'd been looking for something else to do because he was woefully under-equipped to fight monsters. At least, that had been true then. But they had done some experimentation and training since then, and Sean could feel the zip and crackle of photons and electrons in the air around him. He could amplify and emit photonic energy to such a degree he could vaporise holes in metal. He could enhance his own awareness and reflexes. Sure, he might not be the tankiest of tanks or anyone's idea of a living weapon, but he was far from helpless now. Even so, he wasn't eager to go forth and fight that Cthuloid monstrosity head-on in the middle of the hospital. Taking a breath, he focused his Shine a little, expanding and refining his awareness of the neurological electrical activity of living creatures near him. He'd only toyed with it a little, but if he was right it could help him discern and avoid attacks, so long as he could see them coming. He became aware of the bio-electrical buzz of those nearby, the emotionally-charged reactions of the electrons in their brains to the sudden fright and tension of their situation. Apart from Jason. His brain activity felt like it always did - fast and clear, a little slower than usual right now due to the pain receptor interference from his injuries - but there was no chaotic crackle of emotionally charged activity as he straightened from pulling on his boots, then fished the Rangers shirt out of the bag Sean had brought and, moving stiffly, tugged it on over his head where it hung loosely on his slender torso. He shoved the rest of the clothing into the leather depths of his satchel before shouldering it, then glanced at the door and Marissa. "I don't need guarding." he said without petulance or any real emphasis. The lovely girl scowled, pointing a finger at him. "You are a mess. You're moving like an old man and your eyes still aren't fully focusing a hundred percent. So help me god, Jason: Do. Not. Test. Me." she snapped, brown eyes flashing. Their gazes, the one of pale jade ice and the other of dark fire, locked for a moment in a battle of wills that was as epic as it was instantaneous - before Jason's lips twitched in a faint smile, and he nodded once slowly in silent assent. Her gaze narrowed slightly, resting on his face for a moment longer before, apparently satisfied, Marissa turned with a flip of her hair and peered down the hall. "There's a side entrance leading to the employee car park. If the monster is coming in the front way, we can make it out that way." she asserted to the rest of them. Cade nodded agreement as Sean moved to stand next to Kat. He felt responsible for her, and the shocked fright currently on the tiny French exchange student's face was familiar. He'd felt the same way, back when shit had started getting weird last Friday and a lifetime ago. "Ever see Silent Hill, or play the games?" he asked her conversationally, his tone low. She shook her head mutely and he gave her a smile he hoped was reassuring. "Well, think of it as being in a horror movie. There's a monster coming to eat us. And we're leading it away so hopefully not too many other people get hurt." He took her hand on an impulse. "Stick with me, okay? We've... sorta done this before. And we can answer questions later." "What about Autumn and Cassie?" Jason asked as he came to the door, Cade hovering behind him like a minder. "They're somewhere around too. Probably the treatment rooms near the front." "Shit." Marissa took out her cellphone and tapped on it as she started down the corridor, Charlie moving slightly ahead of her, using his sense of living things to discern if anything was ahead of them that wasn't human. "Let's get moving. We can update them." "Text will be slow." Sean warned, following along on Marissa's heels with Kat in tow. "There's some kind of latency in effect for cellular signals. Just saying it might take a minute or two for them to bounce back." Even as he spoke, he pulled out his own phone and tapped rapidly. "I'm texting the others - the ones not here. Laurie, Lona and Co. If monsters are out Shine-hunting we might not be the only targets." "Double shit." Marissa said, but she didn't stop tapping as the six of them hustled along the hallway. "Slow texts are better than nothing. Hopefully those two will be getting the hell out as well. I've told them and Deej where to find us." Jason and Cade were bringing up the rear, the massive athlete spotting a fire extinguisher on the wall and picking it up. As improvised weapons went, it was better than nothing, he mused when suddenly all of the teens heard gunfire coming from the lobby, followed by a screech of outrage from the monster and a booming male voice shouting above the screams and hubbub. "JASON?". Jase stopped moving, turning towards the lobby. "Dad." he said, a faint tension in his voice and the widening of his eyes the only signs he was alarmed, but for those who knew him, it might as well have been a panicked shout and an expression of abject fear for another. He glanced at the rest of them, but it was not in search of approval or advice, they saw. He needed neither one. "You guys keep going." he said simply, then headed back down the corridor towards the waiting area, breaking into a painful jog, the air around him taking on a faintly distorted heat-shimmer like effect as he tried to wrap himself in a cocoon of telekinetic force... which failed as a stabbing pain in his head announced some manner of feedback. He staggered a couple of steps, then gritted his teeth and continued on his path. Thirty Seconds previously Sophia was staring in panic towards the front of the hospital. Something large, something that roared, had from the sounds of it broken into the lobby twenty feet away. People were screaming, and the world was going twisted like something from a video game or horror movie. Black oily blotches were spreading on the walls, and the overhead lights seemed to be emitting a sickly greenish, purple tinge in addition to their normal radiance. Two burly-looking guys in hard-wearing clothing who'd just come into the waiting area and had been standing by to talk to the nurse at the desk were likewise looking around with a shocked expression, and she noticed one of them already seemed to have pulled a gun from somewhere, holding it low in a competent-seeming grip. She placed him then - Hank Graskle, the loony survivalist gun-nut. Both he and the guy with him were looking towards the front of the hospital too, hearing as she did something large slithering and thumping towards the doors leading into the waiting room. And then it got really crazy. Devin Jauntsen, of all people, appeared in a ripple of purple-blue light that hung in the air behind him for a second, staggering slightly as he materialised and shaking his head like he was getting rid of some disorientation. "Hate that." he muttered, then looked around and spotted her. "Hey, Fingleman. We've got to get outta here. Charlie sent me to getcha. Come on." he grabbed for her hand, and Sophia on reflex pulled it away. "What the fuck, Devin?!" she half-yelled- And then screamed, along with the other people present, as a hideous thing burst through the doors. Part fish, part lizard, with stunted twisted humanoid limbs adorning it's bulbous, oily body, the thing looked as though it had been badly burned at some point, cracked weeping blackened flesh visible under the sheen of whatever sickening fluids seeped from its pores. One dark, shark-black eye focused on Devin, the other eye a puckered burn scar, and the thing's maw unfolded open like the leaves of a toxic alien flower, drool collecting around the many teeth it showed before it issued a terrifying, glottal scream of rage and recognition. "Aw shit." Devin groaned, his face pale. "Hey ugly. Nice to see ya too. Will you come the fuck on now?" he demanded of Sophia, grabbing her arm and tugging her towards the treatment rooms. Behind them, the creature shrieked and started forwards, squalling in pain but it's progress unchecked as a rapid sequence of shots from Graskle tore into it's side, the blubbery mass of flesh protecting it from serious harm. "Fuck." Graskle cursed, backing up with his hand out, moving the other guy with him. Devin recognised Gar Bannon from his visits to Jase's house over the summer. "Let's find Jason." Hank told his friend. "The fuck is that?" Gar demanded, eyes wide and the colour having left his face. Hank didn't seem so obviously shocked, though his face was taut with fear and adrenaline as he reloaded his pistol. "Move!" he snapped, pushing Jase's dad in the same direction Devin was pulling Sophia. Gar turned and ran up the hallway, calling Jason's name...
  18. 1 point
    Autumn and Cassandra The elevator dropped rapidly, but smoothly so. It was sleek and sterile inside the tiny moving room, barely big enough for three adults to squeeze into - obviously a personal conveyance rather than one used for transporting cargo or large numbers of people. The control panel had two buttons arranged vertically - their arrows making their purpose plain - and a red button set further down and to one side, un-emblazoned. Mentally, both girls were ticking off seconds as the elevator travelled - how long for Cook to get into the room, perhaps banter some more with Courtney, and then call for the elevator himsel- The doors hissed open almost before the two of them registered that they had come to a smooth stop. Beyond the doors was a short corridor, a double fire-door at one end and another, single door situated about halfway along. They stared for a moment, then Autumn firmly took hold of Cassie's arm and propelled both girls from the elevator as a soft chime sounded and the door began to close. They looked back at the door closing behind them, then at each other. Someone above had pressed the call code. They had maybe thirty seconds, now. Nowhere to go but forward. They moved along the corridor, Cassie trying the side door and finding it open as Autumn quickly paced up to the double doors and glanced through them in turn. Beyond the single door was another office, only this one had no regular computer monitors on a wood-finish desk as the one above had possessed. The desk here was smooth, glossy and black, the surface underscored with tiny scintillating lights that changed colour in lazy accordance with the holographic displays being projected into the air above. Across the office, on the opposite wall, was another door, currently closed. Autumn, meanwhile, peered through the panels of the double doors at a large, brightly lit hallway beyond. She heard machinery, and voices., and ducked out of sight as two uniformed men walked past. They appeared to be wearing U.S. Air Force BDUs, and though were only carrying sidearms looked tough and competent. The two Airmen turned a corner and went out of sight, and Autumn looked back to catch Cassandra's eye, each girl silently asking the other "Which way now?" Project Argo - Elsewhere "We're ready to go again." a woman in Air Force fatigues reported in a crisp tone. "It took some doing, but the wave-form oscillation matrix has been stabilised. This time the Argo's interference shouldn't throw off the projector and cause a breach elsewhere." Though the woman, a Captain with a double PhD in Astrophysics and Quantum Mechanics, privately mused that she wasn't entirely sure how it had happened last time. It was as though something had reached out and redirected the focal point of the machine - how or why was still a mystery. "Excellent." came the digitised voice of the Doctor from over the speakers. "Proceed with the startup sequencing." "Yes, sir." The Captain said automatically, turning to give orders to the Airmen at the consoles. Beyond the control center's massive observation pane she could see the cavern beyond, containing the Key - the cyclotron-like device which she had helped design and build , currently swarming with techs in radiation suits and, beyond them... A shimmering, white surface that made up one wall of the cavern. A material that defied drills, explosives, or any other means of entry that they had tried over the last decades since it's discovery, it curved slightly between floor and ceiling, continuing into the rock that embraced it. It was just a glimpse, she knew. The thing was larger than the cavern, easily as large as the lake over their heads. No, she corrected herself. Not a 'thing'. A vessel. Caught in some manner of phased-state between the atoms around it, preserved like a fly in amber, outside of normal space and time. The Argo. Cody Sikes / The Horned Man They were trying again. He/they could feel the ripples in the cosmic foundations washing across his consciousness. Good. he/they thought, rising from the grisly remnants of his last meal and staring around in the dark cave-like place which sheltered him, hid him from those who would harm him. The air was redolent with filth and the reek of decomposing meat, buzzing with flies, but Cody paid it no head as he breathed in deeply. When he'd first come to this place, drawn by the Tree in his dreams, he'd been weak, and vomited at the scent of ancient death. But now he was strong, the Horned Man told him. Now he was the Horned Man, and he had to bring home the harvest, water the Tree. He had been chosen, and should be proud of that. The Horned Man had set his eyes on other candidates, but they were blinded by the light that emanated from their own souls and were worthless because of it. No he, Cody was perfect, and strong, and without Light. The Light shone brightly in his minds-eye, a gathering of the brightest currently at the hospital. His pawns had failed, as the Horned Man had thought they might do, but the Horned Man was subtle. The Light that drew them together, the bond they shared, was a weakness. Injure one, and others would come running... And a cluster of stalks of grain were easily reaped and threshed. That was why he had let Cody try his scheme - all ways led to the End of the Path, after all. He felt the ripples strengthen and the Horned Man joined with him - or was he already joined with him, or was he already the Horned Man? It was confusing, but what wasn't confusing was the power. The men in uniform were making a key to a door they ill-understood, but that key could be used... differently. Marias Medical Center - Above AND Below They all felt it at the same time. Cassandra and Devin the most severely, then Kat. But all of them felt it to one degree or another. There was a subtle wrenching in the Shine, the subquantum as Jason and Sean called it. Space from elsewhere was being folded over itself, like a shroud being pulled over a corpse - an apt description as the sensation was accompanied by a bone-deep cold that lasted forever and an instant. The air turned stale within the medical center, the radiance from various light sources seeming... wrong somehow. Muted, throwing odd shadows. The Fellowship looked at each other. "Oh, hell to the fuck no." Devin vocalised what they were all thinking, feeling his stomach dip and roil as space became twisted. Marissa glanced out of the window, noting that the sky seemed to be entirely formed of black, billowing clouds, the leaves and bark on the trees outside taking on a withered look. Charlie glanced out into the hospital lobby, spotting Sophia coming to her feet, looking alarmed. People were milling around uncertainly, looking up at the sky, wondering if this was a storm or a sudden tornado. Dark patches began to appear on the walls, growing from the floor upwards, glistening like oil slicks as they stained the pristine hospital paintwork. Jason pulled off the monitor electrodes he was wearing and sat up, swinging his legs out of bed and grabbing his boots, pulling them on and heedless of his lack of shirt. "We're the target of this." he said tersely. "The Dark wants to kill those with Shine, feed off them somehow." "How do-?" Sean began, but Jase cut him off, his manner curt but calm. "Mr Black told me. Let's move, hmm?" Below ground, for Cassie and Autumn, the effect was much the same, and they quickly realised they were not the only one to notice it. An alarm began to sound in the complex in which they had found themselves. Cassandra clutched at her head for a moment, feeling cold hatred so intense that it made her gasp. Autumn felt a wrongness to the quality of the air, like the air itself was sick, and fought down a feeling of nausea. The sudden change had taken only moments, and the elevator carrying Courtney and probably Dr Cook was likely still on it's way down. That was when the screams started. For Autumn and Cassandra, the first was a high-pitched yell of a man in pain and mortal terror, suddenly cut off, from beyond the double doors Autumn was standing at. For the Fellowship in the medical center's ICU, the screams were of fright, accompanied by a crash of glass from the front of the building and finally, as though punctuating the whole horrible cacophony with an exclamation point, a gargling, shrieking roar that all remembered from the previous Friday.
  19. 1 point
    Cass had been running a little simulation in her head all this time. The "If Cook Gets Back, Here's What We'll Do" simulation. It featured she and Autumn playing it cool, greeting Cook in his office like they'd been waiting a little while and were totally chill about it. They'd say something like, "Hey there you are. About time, we were about to go looking for you." And he'd be confused and maybe a little mad at first, but he wouldn't really suspect them because waiting around wasn't what people did when they were up to no good. But in that simulation, Cook was alone. And also not a murderer. Those things changed the calculation significantly. When Autumn motioned for her to stop talking, Cassandra realized by the clenching of her heart that they were about to be cornered by a murderer in his murder-lair. She immediately went to the keypad and punched in the numbers she'd seen Dr Cook put in during her vision. As the door slid silently open, she waved Autumn over. The redhead's eyes widened and she gave Cass an 'are you nuts' look. Cassie shook her head and gestured around the office, indicating its spectacular lack of hiding places, then back into the elevator as she stepped inside. Autumn hastily followed, and Courtney saying she wanted to get her hands on them was the last they heard as the door slide closed again, and Cassandra pushed the 'down' button within.
  20. 1 point
    Tuesday Afternoon Sean arched a quizzical brow at Kat's insouciant grin, but nodded. "Okay, then. I'd have to go anyway, I have an appointment scheduled with my doctor." Which I can't let you sit in on. Sean glanced around the milling students and faculty one final time, the press of bodies starting to break up now that the action and excitement was over, then shrugged a shoulder down the hall. "It's over for now - we should get to class before we're late." Sean tried to be a good guide during their afternoon classes, explaining the quirks and regulations of Shelly High, formal and informal, as they came up, but Kat to see he was fidgety and eager to get out of school. Only a fraction of his thoughts were on class, though he was able to answer any question when called upon. Kat caught him doodling in the margins of a notebook, strange creatures, some indistinct and amorphous, others with features suggesting features derived from rather explicit anatomy. "What're those?" the new student asked with blatant curiosity, pointed at some of the doodles. "Huh? Oh!" Sean glanced at what he'd been idly drawing. He was much better with graphic programs than sketching, but these were better than most of his drawings and he'd barely been paying attention. "Just ideas for a game." It wasn't a lie, but Kat got the sense there was more to it, especially after Sean closed the book with a snap, flashing her an apologetic smile. "Game's still in development." The bell sounding the end of class had hardly started ringing before Sean was up and out of his seat, his satchel over his shoulder, and with an emphatic, "Finally! Let's get out of here." Sean led Kat to the student parking lot at a brisk pace that made his figure move in interesting ways she couldn't help but notice, nor be aware of others noticing too, though Sean didn't seem to see, or was ignoring it. The vehicle Sean led Kat to wasn't what Kat expected, though if she questioned herself honestly, she'd have to admit she didn't know what she'd expect the dichotomous boy would drive. A jacked up, deep forest green Jeep SUV. Both of them needed the running boards to climb into the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk with any sort of grace. It was almost reversing out of the parking space before Sean got the key in the ignition or Kat got settled in the worn but plush passenger seat. "It's... big," Kat offered, looking around the vehicle, glancing inside the central compartment, scrolling through the preset radio stations. "We can get a lot of snow in Montana, and I'm not exactly built for pushing a stuck car," Sean explained, giving the steering wheel a pat. "'Sides, it was what I could snag at the auction." He grinned, he was still getting used to driving the SUV, compared to when he could borrow his mom's Corolla. "I like it. I like driving so high." Uh-huh. Kat noticed something in the back seat. "What's that? A drone?" "Yup! Built that one myself. I also have a DJI one." Sean enthusiastically talked about his drones and their respective specs, interspersed with pointing out the modest features of the small town of Shelly as they drove away from the school. Sean had a great speaking voice, fluid and animated, but his words suddenly cut off with a pursed frown, considering what he had heard about the fight and how badly Jason was beaten. "Can you hang on a sec, Kat? I gotta make a call." Before waiting for a reply, Sean had pressed a button on the central console. "Call Jase, home," Sean commanded. Do you mean Call Jase, home? came a smooth electronic query. "Yes," Sean sighed, already annoyed with the confirmation, even as he was annoyed when the car asked if he was calling some other random name that didn't sound anything like Jase, so the confirmation was necessary. Calling Jase, home. The sound of a call being made filled the SUV... and continued filling it until the answering machine came on. "This is--" Sean cut it off with a sharp jab of a finger and an irritated, "Harrumph!" His nose scrunched up as he considered, then he quickly glanced over at Kat. "Do you mind if we make a quick stop before heading to the hospital? I just thought of something." "Sure! I mean, of course not," Kat replied. Sean took a sharp turn and soon he had pulled into the small lot in front of a clothing store, Larsons Clothing. Sean hopped out of the SUV, Kat following at his side, and a bell tinkled as they stepped into the last of a breed - a small town family owned merchant with great service and excellent prices. "Good afternoon, ladies," chirped the friendly and matronly woman coming out from around the service the service counter, a warm smile on her face. She was one of the owners of the shop, Sandra Larson, as stated on her name tag. "Can I help you with anything? We sell mostly men's clothing here, which may not be a trouble for your slender friend, but it may be a little trickier for something as, hmm, shapely as yourself, miss. But let's me see what I can do..." "No, no, it's okay," Sean assured the proprietor, blinking. He'd been in here before, and recognized Sandra, but realized the last time was when he looked a great deal more like Kat than he did now. "I know what I'm looking for, shopping for a friend." "Ah, of course." There was a twinkle in her eye as she smile grew a trifle. "I'll be at the counter if you need any help." Sean took a quick look around the modest store, then strode towards one corner, Kat trailing in his wake, looking around with more casual interest. Sean knew why women took longer shopping for clothes, and it wasn't just that they generally had a lot more options to choose from. Women were a lot more varied in shape and what fit one didn't mean it would fit another, even if technically there were the same 'size'. Sean had to deal with it and was reasonably good at estimating what fit. He pictured his friend and with a critical eye, picked out a pair of grey jogging pants, a pair of socks and boxer-briefs, and a heavier shirt, with the local high school sports team, the Rangers, on the chest. It wasn't long before he heading back to the counter with his selections in his armed held to his chest. Kat raised a pair of questioning brows. "I tried calling his place, but his dad didn't answer, and I didn't want to nose about trying to get in with nobody there," Sean explained softly, not adding that Jase's dad was part of a survivalist group or something, and had access to too many guns. "I figure Jase will have been all bloody after the fight and could use a change of clothes." Sean plunked his purchases on the counter and Sandra began ringing him out, making small talk. "Shopping for a friend?" "Yes'm. He's in the hospital and could use a change." Sean usually did his shopping in Great Falls or online, and wasn't paying that much attention to retail small talk. "How sweet, I'm sure he'll appreciate it." "Um-hmm." Sandra folded the clothing neatly and placed in a plastic bag and handed it over to Sean. "You and your friend stop by again sometime soon, y'hear?" "Yes, sure, we will," Sean replied with automatic politeness, then was heading back to his Grand Cherokee, tossing the bag in the back, before climbing back into the driver's seat. "Now, the hospital." Sean was well acquainted with the Marias Medical Center, and even if this was the first time he actually drove there himself, it was with a sense of familiarity. Over the last six years, he'd been to Marias more often than most of the most accident prone athletes in school, and so knew the lay out of the place very well. Or at least, the public layout of the Marias Medical Center, now aware there was much more to the place. And much more to his personal doctor, Dr. Cook. Still, Kat noted the blithe confidence with which Sean walked through the hospital, exchanging the occasional greeting with a nurse or doctor he recognized or who recognized him. At the desk for general admissions, he asked for where Jason was - saying he was a friend - and when after giving him the ward and room number, the nurse went to give him directions, Sean waved the offer away. "I know the way, I've been here enough. Thanks, though." Sean pointed the way down the hall with his chin, the bag of clothes tucked under his arm. "This way, Kat. It isn't that far."
  21. 1 point
    Tuesday Afternoon - Marias Medical Center Directory, directory... Okay, seriously? she grumbled inwardly, pressing the ice pack to her bruised jaw and grimacing as two of the facilities staff rolled past with a cart of cleaning supplies, chatting about the previous night’s episode of “Mindseeker.” It was more or less the same tone the orderlies and deputies had used when talking about the “Bannon kid”- I have no personal investment in this subject, and don’t really care what happens, because it doesn’t affect my life in any real way. It stung, a little, that until recently she’d thought of Jase that way herself, and the realization was enough to quench the nascent flare of indignation on his behalf. Maybe she’d get a chance to check on him before she left, say hi to his dad or something… Jason was in pretty rough shape, and based on their talk at the farm, Gar might not handle it all that well. Autumn mulled that over as they walked, her sneakers quiet on the polished floor. The two girls had been wandering the hallways for several minutes without running into either a reception desk or someone they recognized, and while that meant no one had stopped or questioned them yet, it also meant there was no clearly-designated person to ask directions. It seemed a little odd that, despite the number of people in uniforms busily milling about, no one had offered to help them thus far, or done more than give the teens a cursory glance. Were clueless-looking teenagers such a common occurrence at the medical center that no one noticed them anymore? Maybe everyone was just crazy busy, or just super uncomfortable interrupting someone who was on the phone; for all Autumn knew based on the rumors she'd been told, they were being monitored from a closet stuffed full of computer equipment somewhere, so nobody who worked there cared about underage trespassers. Under the circumstances, it's not that she particularly wanted special attention, but the pointed lack of it seemed either rude, creepy, or both. "Oh, for crying out loud, did they design this place to be confusing, or what?" Autumn muttered under her breath, restlessly scanning the signs and pinboards that occasionally interrupted the otherwise sterile, featureless walls. The whole place was immaculate, clean and contemporary, and if she'd never heard anything about Dr. Cook or the sinister-sounding "Project," she probably would have been impressed with the setup. "Deeefinitely a possibility," the pretty young journalist next to her replied airily, rolling her eyes for dramatic effect and miming a talking mouth with her free hand. The redhead grinned at that, in spite of the twinge of pain it caused, and returned her attention back to scanning the hallway for anything that might help them navigate the maze of white corridors. There was something compelling about Cass's improvised performance, a certain degree of confidence, as well as the aforementioned "pluck;" even if the inquisitive blonde wasn't sure what she was going to find, exactly, she still needed to look, and that was a sentiment Autumn could definitely appreciate. As they approached another intersection, a large, glass-covered rectangle caught her attention and she paused, tapping Cassandra on the shoulder. "Hey, ask if three o'clock is okay," she suggested, meeting the other girl's gaze before darting a glance in that direction: just around the corner was a directory of the ground floor and quick reference of the other areas of the medical center. Holding the ice against her cheek, Autumn took a deep breath and walked over to examine the names and numbers listed there, feeling a tiny knot of anticipation coiling eagerly around itself in her stomach. She was nervous, sure, but it was like the feeling just before getting on a brand new roller coaster, or leaning out to rappel down a ledge- once you started, you were committed, regardless of what happened. And, there it was, near the top of the list, in crisp white plastic letters on a grey background: Dr. J. Cook. Diagnostic Medicine. East Wing. And, conveniently enough, a little further down, Vending. “Think he’s in there?” she asked, slate-colored eyes scanning the board for other useful points of reference as Cass appeared next to her and covertly snapped another pic. “One way to find out,” the intrepid reporter grinned, and the two girls wasted no time heading further into the complex.
  22. 1 point
    "Not tried the food yet." Jase said, settling his head back on the pillows propping him up. "And I guess they'll let me out once they're sure there's no serious damage to my brain." Again that quirk of his lips that heralded a smile. "They've already tried to give me an EEG. The head of neurology here, no less. I'm getting the VIP treatment." "They want to scan your brain." Marissa's eyes narrowed. "Cook behind that?" "Probably." Jason nodded. "I refused it as unnecessary." "What if it is, though?" Cade asked pragmatically. "Necessary, I mean. You did have a couple of seniors dancing on your head." Jason grunted, closing his eyes for a moment. "What I need is rest, though visits from my friends could be an aid to recovery." Both Marissa and Cade nodded as they grasped his meaning. Lona could ensure there was nothing to worry about, and take care of it if there was. Jason paused a moment, considering as he rested his eyes. Though the Man In Black had conversed frankly and openly, Jase was not inclined to discuss the man's visit while under observation. Perhaps Mr Black had a way to take care of listening devices, or perhaps he didn't care. Either way, Jason decided, he would be more circumspect. "I could also go for a soda, if the nurse thinks I can have one." = = = = = = = = = = = = = Liam opened his good eye. He hurt, hurt all over, though the morphine drip was helping to numb the worst of the pain to mere aches. It made everything seem kind of hazy and unreal. He'd woken up this morning knowing that Avalon had been there, having heard her voice. He also remembered, through the haze of chemicals, the face of Jason Bannon as he had- No. -as he had- No, that isn't what happened. There were two attackers, large men as big as the sheriff. They had spoken English with an accent. One of those harsh-sounding languages. As the thought came to him, images likewise came to him. Two men, black leather jackets and gloves, wearing balaclavas. His mind whirled as the memory surfaced, conflicting with the sharp, angular pale features of Jason Bannon and the hellish look in his eyes. Two men, yes. They'd worked him over good. Said he owed them money. He remembered being afraid, so afraid that Ban- that the large men would kill him. I should sleep now. Get better. Then tell the sheriff about the large guys, probably worked for some scumbag in Great Falls. Yeah. Liam closed his eyes. When he was ready, he'd tell the sheriff about the two guys who'd worked him over. = = = = = = = = = = = = = = "Well?" Doctor Cook said to Courtney, handing her a tissue for the blood coming from one nostril. The lovely girl dabbed the blood away, looked at him and sighed, brushing her vibrant red hair back over one shoulder. The two of them sat on a couch in one of the Pedriatric Department offices, currently unused. "He thinks two big guys did this to him, saying he owed them money. No connection between the attack and Bannon in his mind now." she replied, her tone subdued as she rubbed two fingers against her left temple. Cook nodded, giving her a pleased smile, and handed her a couple of Tylenol and some water. "That really goddamn hurts to do that, you know. And his memories weren't a picnic either." she groused, crimson lips twisting in discontent before tossing back the pills and the water. "You're a trooper, Courtney." Cook acknowledged, resting a hand on the girl's shoulder. She smiled a little archly at the handsome older man. "Not tonight, Doc. I have a headache." she teased, though she shifted a little closer to him, leaning into the one-armed hug. Cook merely smiled, a considering look in his eye. "Do you think you could get into Jason Bannon's head?" he asked. Courtney sighed, making a tsk sound. "Men! Only interested in me for my mind." she pouted. "As it happens, I've skimmed most of the minds in that band of freaks, and could maybe at least push their thoughts a little, most of them at least. All except two. Devin Jauntsen seems to be naturally resistant. The few times I've tried to 'push' him emotionally or read him, he either gets a headache or just doesn't react. And the other-" "Is Jason?" "I scanned his thoughts once." Courtney said quietly. "Once. On Friday last week, when you said he and some of the others had shown evidence of talent. I pushed him a little - with conversation - and then with my gift. It was hard to do, too. Like I couldn't feel his emotions at first, and then..." Her voice trailed off, and the doctor was aware that the girl was pressing her legs together and squirming slightly in her seat. "And then...?" he prodded. Courtney turned and looked at him, and he was struck by the expression in her eye. "One word." she said. "Wow. It was like I was prodding fog, and suddenly got hit by a freight train. And his thoughts?" she shivered, and it was not altogether in fear. "I gave my report, what he said to me. You read it?" "Yes." Cook stated, remembering. "It was very... graphic." "Yeah, it was. And he meant every word of it." Courtney's eyes were wide and dream-like. Not for the first time, Cook privately wished that the most gifted of the in-Project psions wasn't a hypersexual teenage girl. Courtney's predilections were not easy to manage, and even though cognitive therapy and drugs were able to take the edge off her disorder she could get distracted, especially by dangerous or taboo prospects. Whilst that wasn't a problem when all she was doing was seducing football players or cheerleaders with equal abandon, it could present a problem if she set her sights on other game. "Courtney." Cook's voice took on a tone of stern command. "Focus, please. Do you think you could get into young Mister Bannon's head the way you did with Liam?" "Not a chance in hell." Courtney shook her head, clarity returning to her gaze. "I was able to get into his surface thoughts that one time, when his control slipped. The rest of the time his mind is like a diamond - I'd have an aneurysm trying. The night of the game I tried to make a connection - I wanted him to know I hadn't deliberately gossiped about his unit and tried to 'push' him to believe me more easily. No dice." She sighed. "He believed me anyway, I think. But yeah... Most of that bunch are pretty independent minded, enough so I wouldn't look forward to trying to do to them what I did to Liam. Might be something to do with them being gifted too, perhaps." "Perhaps." Cook allowed. Privately he mused that the 'Fellowship', untaught and unobserved by the Project, seemed to be manifesting levels of psionic ability beyond what the so-called 'test group' were capable. The test group's psychokinetic could just about move a handgun and light a candle - whereas the Bannon kid could throw a grown man around like a rag doll. Something was off with the science of their Project, regardless of what the all-knowing Doctor who ran the show thought...
  23. 1 point
    Autumn Keane Autumn Keane and Jacob Crocker broke up because they found out they're related. Gross. Autumn has a crush on Lilly Pryor. She broke Curtis Denicott's leg or something because he was messing with Jason Bannon at school. No, there's no punchline. She's only making friends with Marissa Jauntsen so she can get back at her. Autumn's addicted to Adderall. Seriously, the girl can't sit still for 10 seconds. Autumn is either a witch, or part of some weird military training project, or something. Nobody spends that much time in the woods "just because." When society collapses, Autumn and Cade Allister are going to be the last ones from Shelly High to survive. RIP humanity. Her parents were apparently going to buy her a car, but she turned them down. Who does that? She used to party a lot more, but after the Halloween bonfire last year she was up for three days straight and quit taking designer shit completely. Autumn's dad is gone all the time because he has someone on the side, probably another family. Autumn's mom has been sleeping with Nathan Crocker while her husband is away. Nathan is Autumn's real dad. Autumn's grandfather had a secret prepper bunker on his property, which is why her family won't sell it. The Kavanagh and Crocker families are part of a cult going back to the founding of Shelly. Caroline Kavanagh's stroke was a cover-up for the fact that she was murdered. Yasmeen, the movie theater manager, sells Autumn weed at a discount in exchange for favors.
  24. 1 point
    Jason Bannon Bannon is the Quiet Kid from all the Quiet Kid memes. One day he's going to shoot up the school. He sells firecrackers, weed, adderall and meth to people around Shelly. Word is he will get anything you want for the right price. His car, a sweet 1970 Dodge Charger, has secret compartments for carrying drugs and illegal firearms. He rebuilt it himself. Bannon works for a cartel. That's how come he's never been busted for dealing. People he doesn't like disappear or wind up dead. Like that one dude, whatsisname, you know? A few years ago? His dad is a member of a crazy militia group and is friends with Hank Graskle, a dude so crazy dangerous he's on an FBI watchlist. Jason is one of those super-brained autistic types and can divide by zero. The eggplant is real! Courtney told Chloe who told Leigh who was overheard by Lori... so it must be true! Jason and Sean Cassidy are secretly lovers. That's why Bannon doesn't date. Also, Sean is the bottom. Jase sells a brand of weed called Lucifer's Reserve. No-one's heard of it before, no-one can find reference to it anywhere. But those who have tried it insist it's the mellowest, strongest high they've ever experienced. It's expensive as shit, though. Jason's dad killed his mom. That's why he went to jail and can only find work as a janitor at the prison now. He's also an alcoholic. Bannon is crazy. He threatened Chet, Todd and Cody with a knife / sickle / hayhook at the County Fair and if Clara Wright and Avalon Wilson hadn't come along he'd have gutted Cody. The reason Cody is missing is because Bannon finished what he was going to do at the Fair.
  25. 1 point
    Tuesday Lunchtime - The Cafeteria Kat clenched her teeth as they were slowly making their way to the cafeteria, through the crowd of students likely addict to the rumor mill. It was the first time she actually went to a different school, having attended the same for almost all her childhood. Back in France, other students had known her since the youngest age, and despite her sometimes jumpy temper, she was one of theirs. Suddenly having to face school in a different frame, with different people, and not knowing anyone, made her somewhat uneasy, and each stingy comment on her appearance was blowing on a newborn fire, catalyzing a growing wrath asking but to be unleashed. She kept a plain face until they reached the cafeteria, where people were obviously to busy eating/looking at their phones to pay attention to them, and then released a deep sigh. "I'm marvelling at your patience." She replied to Sean, and he could clearly hear in her voice she had almost reached her limit. "Hmm?" Sean replied, glancing over at Kat and over her head at the pair of ambulances and several Sheriff's Department vehicles passing beyond the cafeteria window, still distracted by all the new transmissions. He blinked. "Oh, that." Sean's grin was bland, but Kat could see that shadow of resignation and endured pain cross his delicate features one more. "I've had practice more than patience, I've been dealing with this shit since I was ten. Not gonna say it's easy or that words can't hurt, but words hurt a lot less than what else people can do. Besides, when there's so much else going on," he added obliquely, waving a dismissive hand towards the hall and the comments and rumours that had followed them, "It makes that stuff seem no so big and heavy to deal with, trust me." Shit! Sean thought as he peeked at one of the signals zinging back. It's Jase. Of course it's Jase. Kat's curvaceous guide pulled his phone from his satchel, frowning at it as he pretended to get a text of his own. He gave Kat a not entirely feigned look of worry. "Would you mind if we hurry and head back the way we came? I think that ambulance - or maybe the Sheriff - is here for a friend of mine." Kat silently nodded, grabbing a couple sandwiches, a bottle of water and an apple. "Sure," she added, "let's check on your friend." They both left the cafeteria towards the lockers, the petite redhead almost jogging to keep up with her guide's pace. It was quite a restless day for the French student. Starting with meeting her how surprising guide, to noticing the police cars and ambulances while they walked through the main entrance, accompanied by an obnoxious rumor mill that forgot to conceal itself into texts, and was getting to her nerves. Sean was looking around, seeming somehat worried now, for his friend, and they both ended up following the flow of students revolving around the incident that brought the ambulances she noticed earlier.
  26. 1 point
    His window on the world had contracted to a single white aperture, a spyhole through which he could feel the thudding impacts and hear the grunted cursing of his attackers. The pain was happening to his body, but his mind was clear and aware of what was going on, waiting for the kicks to slow and weaken from within the construct of his mind. And then he heard a yell, a female voice. Autumn. The sounds of a scuffle, the voice of Mark Belcher. And then he heard her whimper in pain, and Something uncoiled from deep under the foundations of his mind, something that rumbled the ground of the garden. His friend, rather than standing by, had gotten involved because he hadn't ended this fight himself. Of course she had, and he felt stupid for not considering it in adopting his 'wait it out' strategy. And now she was being hurt. But he couldn't just cut loose, couldn't rip the boys limb from limb or sear them into greasy spots on the floor. If he did, he told that impulse that was rising, he would be forfeiting freedom, anonymity. It was not practical. Still, there was no excuse for doing nothing. The kicks had stopped, and he heard the pain-wracked scream of Mark as he opened his eyes, seeing the senior staggering away from Autumn cradling his arm, even as Curtis hammered the slender redhead hard enough across the jaw to knock her sprawling. Fury surged up behind the cold rationality of Jason's thoughts as he got his hands under him and started to rise. Icily, he plotted out the next six seconds with computer-like precision. Three seconds to gain his footing and fight off the pain and dizziness. One second to cross the distance between him and Curtis while the senior was looming over Autumn. And two seconds to reach around from behind and hook out both of the meat-sack's eyes with his fingers. Autumn kicked out against the larger youth's shin, causing him to swear but only slowing him for a moment. Jason rose into a semi-crouch, silently and with his face expressionless under the blood from his mouth and nose, green eyes focusing on the back of Curtis's head. Three seconds. His fingers flexed once, claw-like, and he started forward- Autumn's second kick landed squarely on Curtis's knee, and there was a crunching, popping sound that nobody looking on missed. Curtis collapsed, screaming like a pig in a slaughterhouse as Autumn skittered back against the lockers and started to get up. Jason regarded her for an instant - she seemed upset, angry, her face pale other than the ruddy imprint left by the fist of the youth currently filling the air with screams that caused the gawking students to blanch. She seemed otherwise unhurt, and Bannon turned his predatory, glittering stare towards the rising figure of Mark Belcher. Only for Cassie to step in the way, speaking to Mark, her voice sounding odd to Jason, who then realised that was due to the ringing in his ears from the blows he'd taken. He watched Belcher waver in his violent posture, watched uncertainty flood the senior's face as he finally seemed to realise what he had done. Part of Jason didn't feel that was enough. Part of him wanted to reach out and crush Mark's trachea with a telekinetic grip strong enough to bend steel. But the threat was over. The Dark had failed in it's objective now - due to Autumn and Cassie, no one was dead or dying. Mark turned, fear in his expression, and stumbled out past the ring of onlookers leaving his whimpering friend behind still clutching at his leg. Jason sighed softly and sagged back against the locker behind him. He looked as though he wanted to sit but was staying (mostly) upright through sheer cussedness as he glanced over at Autumn, meeting her blue eyes and smiling a faint crooked smile, feeling the pull at his split lip and tasting his own blood in the back of his throat as he did so. Then he turned his gaze on Cassie, nodding. "Thanks guys." he said, then spat bloody phlegm to one side. Remembering something, he looked around and spotted his cooler bag a few meters away where it had slid during the fight. Moving slowly and with great care, fighting waves of dizziness and nausea, he stepped forward and leaned down to pick it up. "My lunch." he explained unbidden to no-one in particular, then sat down on the tiled floor. Dimly, he was aware that he probably had a minor concussion. "Why is it I always get hit in the head when you guys are around?" he asked Autumn and Cassie plaintively, his bloody features creasing in a lopsided grin as, finally, teachers pushed through the throng of onlookers and started to take stock of the situation.
  27. 1 point
    What the actual fuck?! Before Autumn had even managed to cross the few meters between them, before she'd had time to register movement or shout a warning, Jase disappeared behind a wall of man-shaped muscle and rage, and for a moment it felt like all the oxygen had been sucked out of the air. The sound of his body hitting the metal lockers, the shouting, the impact of knuckles and elbows on flesh, the frenetic thudding of her heartbeat in her chest- it was all a dull, strangely distant roar, as if she were hearing it underwater. Stop. STOP IT! She couldn't get the words out, couldn't force them past the almost painful tightness in her throat. It was like a nightmare, trying desperately to scream when she could only manage a whisper that was quickly swept away by the tumult and chaos, the vicious currents of violent geometry. He can't fight them both off, not at the same time! ...And yet, the memory of what he could do- what he had done at the trailer, what he had, by all accounts, done to Liam- blazed into life at the forefront of the terrified redhead's mind as her friend, her friend hit the floor. She had the vague sense of something moving, a torrent surging not behind her this time, but through her, and realized she was running. "Knock it the fuck off!" The lively young woman's voice, choked and angry, was almost unrecognizable in her own ears, and as Mark glanced up, the heels of her hands struck him solidly in the chest, sending him staggering back a couple of steps. The surprise in his eyes at having been hit, having been moved at all, lasted only an instant, being quickly replaced with an unrelenting malice that seemed utterly alien within the structure of a human face. Autumn had just enough time to process that, shock registering on her own freckled features, before he grabbed her wrist in a meaty hand and twisted. A jagged lance of pain shot up her arm and arrowed down into her fingers as she gasped, instinctively moving to alleviate the pressure, but the older boy just grinned and turned it farther, until she was almost on her toes, a sudden wash of tears brightening her eyes. "Mind your own fucking business," he ground out through clenched teeth, and the redhead whimpered, clutching his arm with her other hand as if she could somehow stop him from snapping her wrist through sheer force of will. With her newfound awareness, she could actually feel the strain on the delicate bones and ligaments as they approached the breaking point, the sensation drawing a tortured cry from her lips; just when she thought they would snap, a sudden rush of crimson bloomed in her mind, deep and intoxicating as any wine she'd ever tasted. It sang through her veins as it spread, hot and eager, racing furiously, gloriously, through her fingertips and into the thick forearm of the brute holding her. The sound was quiet at first, lost in the chatter and whooping of onlookers, but gradually grew louder, more intense until it was all she could hear: a quiet, almost girlish moan transmuted into a guttural howl of anguished rage as the nerves in Mark Belcher's arm shrieked in protest and failed, his primitive brain temporarily overwhelmed by its own capacity to experience pain. Flinging Autumn aside, he stumbled, nearly losing his balance as he shuffled, disoriented, across the blood-spattered floor. Dizzy and disbelieving, the redhead regained her footing and blinked down at her hands: apart from some redness that might turn into bruising, there was no perceptible difference, but she could sense it, whatever it was, just beneath the surface of her skin. She glanced in Jason's direction to confirm he was all right, when a flicker of movement out of the corner of her eye reminded her with sickening clarity that there had been two aggressors. An explosion of blinding white agony filled her consciousness, obliterating any sense of coherence or equilibrium the freckled teen possessed as Curtis cold-cocked her solidly in the jaw, his fist nearly large enough to cover the entire side of the young woman's face. She hit the ground, hard, sliding backward on the waxed tiles as the brief moment of silence resolved into a chaotic chorus of distant voices. Her hands scrabbled dazedly for purchase on the cold floor, every survival instinct in her brain warring with the almost total loss of spatial awareness. Get up! it hissed/screamed in some primal, wordless demand, but her vision was all swimming light and dark and smudges of color, and there was no "up" to get to. There was no conscious thought, no plan or consideration when his shadow loomed over her- only impulse, bright and sharp as the taste of blood on her tongue. The lumbering darkness in front of her deepened in warning, and, desperately blinking away the tears clouding her eyes, Autumn planted her palms on the tile and kicked. The first time her foot met with his shin, she was rewarded with a grunt of pain, but little else. Vague shadows resolved themselves into the shape of a face, an arm, a fist- Gritting her teeth, the redhead screamed in defiance and kicked again, her vision washed in scarlet as the sole of her shoe connected with something that shifted unnaturally under her heel. In that split-second, Autumn knew, intimately, the fragility of ligament and bone, felt the upwelling of crimson exhilaration humming through her, and- I want you to know how proud I am of you, the wasted, parchment-skinned figure whispered urgently up at her from his hospice bed, a terrifying whistle beneath his words. Don't ever forget that. Curtis shrieked, a haunting, agonized wail echoing through the crowded hall as he crumpled to the floor not far from his intended victim. As he writhed, howling in helpless anguish and clutching feebly at what he knew were the shattered remnants of his knee, the dishevelled teen's freckled features tightened in grief and anger. Choking back the sob that clawed at her throat, Autumn slid backwards, bracing herself against the lockers as she slowly worked her way back up to her feet.
  28. 1 point
    Tuesday Lunchtime - The Halls Bannon Autumn seemed hesitant for a moment as Jase smiled and nodded at her, then appeared to make up her mind about something and stepped towards the lean youth, causing him to pause in the act of turning to go and wait, head tilted in curiousity as his gleaming eyes studied her. He had been intending to seek solitude over lunch, but the redhead was a friend and politeness dictated he give time if it was required. He took a step towards her... And that was when the attack came, suddenly, as two burly shapes bull-rushed Jason's lean form into the lockers with a crash. He fell to the floor, cooler bag sliding away from him as he lost his grip on it, and was aware of being winded and dazed for a moment as he felt two pairs of hands grab him and yank him upright, shoving him back into the lockers once more. He saw the glazed stare and leering grin of Curtis Denicott and, just beyond it, the similarly-twisted features of Mark Belcher. "That's right, fucker." Curtis slammed a fist into Jase's stomach, causing him to grunt and stagger. The two seniors each outweighed Jase by perhaps a good forty pounds at least, perhaps as much as sixty in the case of the Belcher kid. "Who's cut off now, faggot?" Denicott stepped back, allowing his partner in crime to add his own clenched fist to the argument, the blow catching Jason in the ribs and sending him back into the lockers a third time, clenched teeth bared as he stifled back a cry of pain. He saw students stopping and watching, their expressions ranging between shock, dismay and amusement, and realised none of them would help. Not that he expected help anyway - it was not in his nature, even instinctively. to look outside himself for the providing of solutions. The answer was obvious, and he felt the power within him moving, uncoiling in his veins... and then stopped it. These kids, and they were kids, were being driven, controlled. The Dark wanted him to kill them, or at the least to use his powers publicly, an act which would further split the Fellowship as well as feed the fear and death the Dark loved so much. He was being manipulated, and crudely, a thought that made him smile as his shirt was grabbed once more, straightening him in place. Belcher glared at him. "The fuck is so funny, asshole?" he demanded, then punched Jason squarely across the jaw, the impact of which would have sent the slender boy to the ground if Curtis hadn't caught him. Jason knew that he couldn't outfight them, not without powers. He also knew that to unleash himself would be to play into the hands of the Dark. It didn't care about these two idiots - they were expendable. What it wanted was for him to fight back - expose his gift, draw attention to him, perhaps even put himself in the spotlight for the attack on Liam. "Sometimes you've got to take the punch." Hank had said as he handed Jase an icepack for his ribs. "Sometimes you've got to let the other guy think he's having it all his way. Then he might think he's got you beat, but you're playing the longer game. You might even throw the fight, so he comes to the next one - the more important one - expecting the same shit, and that's when you hammer him good. Winning a fight is easy. Winning a war takes sacrifice." "Oh, I was just thinking I know girls who probably hit harder than you two." Jase said with a grin that pulled at his split lip. As the features of his attackers darkened, he hawked and spat his blood into Curtis's face. As he did so, he wrapped himself in a weak cocoon of telekinetic force. It wouldn't stop a solid blow - that would again draw attention - but might turn it into a glancing one. He wasn't going down without a fight, though his calculating mind told him he was likely going to lose. Curtis flinched, and Jason drove forward and launched an elbow-strike that took the senior squarely on the nose, hearing the crunch of cartilage and feeling a savage exultation fill him - only to catch a hook to his ear from Mark that made him drop to one knee. Teeth clenched, he turned on that knee and slammed his left elbow into Belcher's groin, causing the beefy kid to groan and stagger back. Jason tried to get to his feet, but a clumsy kick from Curtis, who was cursing and holding his streaming nose in one hand, caught him in the gut and sent him to the lino-tiled floor, the wind knocked out of him. And then both seniors started to work him over with clumsily aimed kicks, and it took all of his control not to lash out and turn them into candles of fat and screams as he curled into a fetal position, protecting his head and vitals as best he could, blocking out the pain and waiting for them to get tired.
  29. 1 point
    "Pluck?" Jason turned his gaze to the pretty blonde as she pulled up a chair. His gaze was almost exactly the same shade as some of the curious jade icebergs Cassie remembered from a National Geographic article she'd read, and unblinking as he studied her. The rest of his face was expressionless still, but the girl thought she detected a flash of something in the depths of his eyes that didn't seem hostile despite the eerie intensity which, she was coming to realise, was normal for him. Finally one corner of his mouth quirked in a faint smile as he regarded her, which could mean anything but she chose to take as an encouraging sign. "Pluck. Totally. It's okay though, not having pluck." she forged onward. "No shame to it. You've got other stuff going for you. Like... Umm..." She hesitated for a moment as his eyebrow lifted a fraction in amused curiosity, then saw salvation come through the classroom door out of the corner of one eye. She glanced quickly around and saw that, with the addition of the new girl paired with Sean, the class had an odd number of students now. "Hey, Autumn." Cassie waved the freckled girl down even as she was regarding the dearth of empty bench spaces with some trepidation, indicating the bench she was sharing with Bannon. Jason, following Cassie's glance, had noted the same thing and simply nodded at Autumn in silent agreement with the other girl's invitation. He didn't mind sharing a bench with either of the two - they weren't likely to irritate him and, indeed, were welcome distractions. He was also fairly sure Ms Lafferty would be cool with the idea - after all, he was unlikely to learn anything revelatory from the existing curriculum so he might as well assist friends who weren't so adept. Also, Cassie had now twice mentioned a cat as though it were something significant. Besides, he might not possess pluck, but he liked it as a quality... provided it didn't overstep into presumption.
  30. 1 point
    As Kat's was peering at each new face entering the class, her attention had been brought back to the rather pretty girl the Counselor just had called... Sean ? Although she was familiar with a couple syndromes affecting the human phenotype, having read the correct books, it was her first time seeing a person such as her local guide, and she simply stood there dazed at the sight, absentmindedly listening to the boy. Surgery at this age ? She didn't think it was that. It had to do with her - his genes, but she could not quite put a name on it. Not remembering it was almost teasing. Once she'd got back home, she had to open those books her mother had offered her last Christmas. The answer would probably lie in there. Wait, no, she could still ask him ! But how could she bring the subject without being clumsy ? While her brains slowly grasped the concept, she came to realize a couple seconds of awkward silence had passed, a faint blush shading her pale cheeks. "Truly wonderful..." She muttered for herself, out of sheer amazement. Her eyes rose to meet Sean's, and another short moment passed. She had never seen such eyes before, and as she spoke, she could not help but stutter. "H... Hi, I... guess... wow, those eyes !" Contact lenses ? That would be a hell lot of trouble for a girl - a guy - it was so disturbing to think of him as male. Her last thought suddenly lost any interest and she mentally slapped herself. She had to focus on what was happening right now. School ! Most of the students had taken their seats already, except for a few - Kat suddenly felt like she wanted to rush into a dense crowd and disappear, and headed towards the desk Sean had pointed out, her head firmly tucked between her shoulders.
  31. 1 point
    Tuesday Morning - Shelly High Cafeteria "It seems like Mr. Black isn't the only one testing others," Sean added, shrugging as he tugged on his shirt to shake free the crumbs from his toast off his chest. He glanced around at the others. He had the same assessment as Jase about Mr. Black and Not-Dylan. "I had a visitor at the Barn last night, and he penetrated my hard drive." "Phrasing," Cassandra said, lips twitching in a smirk. Sean rolled his exotic turquoise and jade eyes in exasperation. "Yes, yes, they found the back door and all that. But seriously, they penetrated the security on my gaming rig and the PC I use for most online stuff. And it wasn't just a hack. Whoever they were, they were like me." Sean nodded his head at his friends. "Like us, and like Not-Dylan, too, I presume. They could do at least some of what I can do." Sean's pink, cupid-bow lips quirked in a half-grin, as each person's phone at the table dinged with a text message simultaneously. // LIKE THIS // "My visitor works for a different faction than Mr. Black, I think," Sean continued, glancing at the time on his phone to see how much time they had left before the bell rang for first period. "Don't know enough if they and Not-Dylan are working together, or if they are working at odds with Mr. Black. But I did manage to track them down to their... lair, I suppose." Sean's lips tightened into a thin line. Even after learning about Dr. Cook's involvement, after finding evidence on his own, it still felt like a betrayal. "I followed my intruder to a node somewhere at the Marias Medical Center. I haven't seen digital security like this anywhere before, never even heard of anything like it except in science fiction or Shadowrun." He pursed his lips for a moment, then gave his head a shake. "Actually, I did see something like this before. When I was tracking now my visitor all matrix style - I'll try to explain later, if you guys want to know - I found a similar digital fortress at Bulwark Air Force Base. A para-rescue training center shouldn't have that sort of protection. Nor should a Medical center, no matter how serious HIPAA violations are." "Were you able to circumvent their defences?" Jase asked, gold-flecked green eyes calm and direct, adding what Sean was saying to everything else revealed so far. "Are you nuts?" Sean hissed. "I wasn't about to try to enter a dragon's den, when I wasn't expecting a dragon or a lair in the first place or having a clue what's on the other side. Especially not from my personal network connection. I gotta make a plan first."
  32. 1 point
    "Occam's Razor." Jason's voice was it's usual calm, even tone, containing an almost-patient air as he resumed eating his breakfast once more. He'd paused to listen to Cassie, his icy jade gaze on her face as she told the tale and then peering past her face and elsewhere for a moment. Whatever thoughts had been provoked were swift, for he was now once more mopping up syrup with a piece of pancake calmly. Autumn looked over at him, gaze narrowing. "Occams what?" The redhead frowned. Cassandra also spared the slender youth a glance, considering his words. "He means the simplest likely solution is probably the most accurate." The blonde journalist replied, receiving a slow nod from Jase and a grunt of agreement from Sean. "The simplest solution being..?" "That the Dark and whoever impersonated Dylan are not on the same side, for one. Perhaps someone with Shine, making you think you saw Dylan. Perhaps with a gift like Charlie's, disguising themselves as Dylan. But their motive appears to be separate from the Dark and someone we assume is the Dark's agent - Mr Black. Just because two weird things happen doesn't mean they originate in the same place." Jase pushed his empty place aside, narrowing his gaze a little. "Okay, so why did Mr Black just walk up all spooky like? If he's our enemy, why didn't he just get us when we were far from the car like I said? Why didn't he chase us?" "Obvious enough. He wanted to spook you, not catch you. At least, not at that time." Jason's tone was still unperturbed. "He's testing, seeing how you react - whether you react intelligently or panic, whether you're bold or timid, aggressive or defensive in posture. If you'd made it easy for him, by being dumb or panicky, then he might have done more. This is the opening feints." "What makes you so sure of that?" Sean asked after swallowing his mouthful of toast and bacon. "Not that I question the theory - it's plausible." "He did the same to me, after the meeting at the bleachers." Jason remarked casually. "I was driving home and the Cadillac leveled alongside me, Mr Black beside the wheel. His attitude was one of challenge, at least that's how I read it, so I sped up. We raced a little, though my car was never going to be able to beat whatever is under the hood of his, then he disappeared after trying to make me wreck." The others stared at him. "And you didn't mention this till now because..?" Autumn demanded. Jase's eyes met hers. "I didn't know he was testing others. Obviously it is not a personal issue between me and him, as I thought it might be, so I think it's best to share the experience."
  33. 1 point
    Cade's eyes narrowed. His first thought was that Marissa was messing with him, but her eyes showed him she was actually serious. Marissa, in her own way, was asking him for help. It wasn't something he was accustomed to. Largely he'd remained under her radar, despite his own star athlete status, and he didn't really care for or about the social games she played. They didn't have any bearing on him, so it was at least in his mind, a live and let live scenario. With all the craziness leading into this year, they had at least some minor tangential connections, but this, what she was proposing would be a whole new level. He was still seeing Cora, and he knew that him saying yes would definitely get back to Cora. That would definitely have "Results." He couldn't tell the others the truth of this, and it would probably expose him to some real negative pushback. Jason knowing and acknowledging the "Bro Code" was something that was completely unknown. He'd never heard of Jason dating anyone, so he wasn't sure how he'd react. The fact he had concerns about Jason, how he thought and saw things, and what he'd already done using his powers, and now Marissa had exposed her own concerns, he knew he wasn't going to say no to her here. Telling her no would bring its own problems, not the least of which is earning her ire and attention. "I am not so sure he knows about the "Bro Code" or cares. He's shown himself to be fairly single-minded in his pursuit of what he wants, and direct in how he reacts to things." He looked at her still holding her gaze. "You're asking me to do alot Marissa, not the least of which is lie to my friends and betray my girlfriend. I won't lie, this is going to be hard for me to do. Still, I'll do it, Not because you're some prize, but because I share some of your concerns." He sighed. "We're going to have to work hard on selling this. The others are not going to believe this at all at first. How exactly are you planning to start?" Through the conversation, he of course had to look down, as he towered over nearly everyone at school, including Marissa. There was no denying she was the most attractive girl at school, but this was business. He did his best to not think about it, to just treat this as business, but to fool everyone, they'd really have to work at it. Perhaps it wouldn't be physically painful, he was pretty sure she'd see to that, but there were other forms of pain, and that was likely something they'd both end up having to deal with.
  34. 1 point
    Tuesday Morning - Shelly High Cafeteria "How's your morning so far? Good, I hope." It was a decent start, she decided as she sat down- no laser eyes, no smirks, no sly comments that made her feel like she was standing too close to a bonfire. This was real life, right? Jason Bannon was acting like a normal person, like someone she’d gone to school with for six years, and maybe had the occasional conversation with in the hall. ...Not like someone who definitely wasn’t normal, whom she’d given a more-than-wide berth for the last six years, and had only finally spoken to a few days prior because he and Clara had cornered her in the bathroom after she’d gotten slapped in the face by physics. But, even that was only because of the Shine, wasn’t it? If not for that single incident, she never would have gone with them to the trailer, would never have ended up in that nightmare place, would have never seen that- that- whatever the hell it was that tried to eat them, wouldn’t have needed to loan- bloody, on fire, ohmygod he’s naked ohgod cannot unsee -Goddamn Jason Fucking Bannon her hoodie, wouldn’t have gone to his house on Monday to get it back. Wouldn’t have told him she was afraid of him. Wouldn’t have made a second friend, in as many days. Autumn glanced across the table at the Impenetrable One, unsure if she should now be more, or less wary of him after their talk yesterday. Especially since she almost- Nope, no, nuh uh. Hard pass on the 1000-degree face today, thank you. We are focusing on the now, and right now you have french toast to eat. With your friend. Because that’s what he is. ...Probably. Just like Marissa is also probably your friend. Don’t be a weirdo, weirdo. “Yea-” she began, vaguely aware that the corners of her mouth were curving upward in response to the greeting- "Hey guys! Hope it's okay if I join you." The redhead blinked as Cassandra, clearly not all that concerned about whether it was actually okay or not, quickly made herself comfortable… followed by Sean at the other side of the table, and any answer she could've given was rendered pointless. Seriously? Autumn sighed inwardly, regretting having even opened her mouth in the first place, and just nodded in response. Should have stuck to the plan, her brain smugly opined as she peeled back the corner of her syrup container and busied herself making a loose spiral out of the sugary stuff over her meal. But… it wasn’t like they’d done anything wrong, really, they were probably like this all the time. What, rude as fuck? No! Friendly, I guess. …? Just, different. “Here,” she offered after a moment’s consideration, turning the end of her tray with the still-untouched buttered toast and bacon toward Sean. “Yours if you want it. Some actual food might help.”
  35. 1 point
    In which we…play Mario Kart while attempting to talk about books. We are very distracted in this; there are occasionally pauses and also more cursing than usual. Our history with Mario Kart We talk about what we’re working on while cursing at each other What we’re doing for the holidays Combining birthdays and other holidays: Don’t do it. What we’re looking forward to in the new year! Let the Streets Run Red Ludwig von Koopa wins a tournament Dixie gets indignant about The Music Man Links: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe: https://www.nintendo.com/games/detail/mario-kart-8-deluxe-switch/ They Came from Beneath the Sea!: https://they-came-from-beneath-the-sea.backerkit.com/hosted_preorders Aberrant: https://trinity-continuum-aberrant.backerkit.com/hosted_preorders Pugmire: https://www.realmsofpugmire.com/ Scion: https://studio2publishing.com/search?q=scion Fetch Quest: https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/262120/Fetch-Quest The Music Man: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Music_Man Onyx Path Twitch: https://www.twitch.tv/theonyxpath Onyx Path Discord: https://discord.gg/5uckcBk Dixie wrote this post, so this is the image we’re going with.
  36. 1 point
    Monday Night - Sean Sean was up late. When Laurie had revealed the depth of her intelligence and asked for his help in learning to apply it, for just an instant, he had felt a pang of pique and dismay. It hadn't been long that he had to accept that he would be shorter, less athletic, less strong that both of his sisters, the older and the younger, but he told himself that was okay. He was the smartest of the Cassidy siblings. But if that wasn't true, what did he have left? That he was bustier than both sisters combined? Not the tag he wanted. It was an unworthy thought. Initially, he'd been pissed when he found out just how much Jase had been hiding his smarts, but he got over it. Sean still excelled with computers - even more so now, considering the nature of his powers - and math and puzzles, innate intelligence couldn't completely overcome skill and experience. And he didn't want to downplay Laurie's own revelatory Shine. It was clear she wanted to contribute however she could and he wanted to help her with that. But how could you help someone be smart? People learned in different ways. He spent two hours doing the best he could, giving Laurie guideline and advice on how he learned. Like working out to build your body - like Laurie was doing since - or even before - joining the football team - you had to work out your brain too. Reading, watching, listening, were excellent start points, but for Sean, he also needed to apply that knowledge, use it, work with it, and make mistakes to really understand it. He might have always had a talent with electronics and computers, but it he hadn't taken them apart, and yes, made a few mistakes that his parents had been less than pleased about, he wouldn't be as good with them as he now was. Laurie would need to find out what worked best for her. But he did give her access to his Curiositystream and Skillshare accounts to start, learning something, anything, was better than not learning at all. Laurie didn't seem entirely satisfied as she was leaving, not even when he gave her all the references he had looked at on Psionic powers, but it was what he had. Lets see what she can puzzle together. "You might want to talk with Jase, about this too, sis," Sean said when Laurie had opened the door to the converted barn. Laurie scowled at him over her shoulder. "He's a psychopath." "But not the people-eating kind." Laurie didn't appreciate the sally and Sean sighed. "He can give you logical and objective advice. I learn stuff better one way, Jase does it a different way. Getting more than one point of view, more than one kind of advice can only help you. And really, does a simple word make him that much different? More than bloody real, actual psychic powers?" "The word and the psychic powers definitely makes him scarier, Sean." "And he can still help you." Laurelei gave her overly buxom brother a long stare, then sniffed. "I'll consider it." Then she left the barn, closing the door behind her. And then there was the other thing. The intruder, the one who had invaded the sanctity of his sanctum. The one that had to be like him. He could sense the traces of the invader's presence, like digital fingerprints smudged all over his stuff. They hadn't taken anything, hadn't changed anything, that he could tell, just... looked. But it was a violation all the same, an infuriating one - they might as well have been peeping on him when he was taking his bra off. He didn't think they were lingering in his system or network, but all the same, he taped over every camera he had. He didn't lie to himself - even with his firewalls and cybersecurity, if the NSA or CIA or other alphabet soup wanted in, they would get in, but he'd like to think that even they would have trouble. This was different. His defences had been broken or bypassed. They had been ignored. How did you stop someone like him from doing what he willed with your data, digital footprint, online presence? It was something he had been considering already, and so far, all he had really come up with was keep your shit offline and out of sight. If he didn't know where the trove was, and didn't have a wired or wireless connection leading him towards it, he couldn't hack it. But his intruder had found a way in. Sean's fault, he hadn't been paranoid enough, or at least, had believed in his own digital supremacy. But that meant he should be able to follow the intruder back. True, the intruder might have raised the drawbridge - Sean might not be able to get inside the Intruder's defences, but at the very least, he'd have a better idea of where the bastard had come from. Sean changed into something more comfortable, an old, oversized soccer jersey, worn smooth and comfy, and a pair of baggy shorts, stoked up the fire in the fireplace, then curled up in his gaming chair in front of his gaming computer. He stared at it, the screen saver flipping through screen shots and concept art from the video game he was working on. Cold fury rose up inside him. The Dark was out there, threatening his town, threatening his friends, and now this fucking voyeur. He had built his computer himself, this one and others. He had overclocked the processor into an inch of its life, liquid cooling keeping everything running in top trim. Electric synapses, in synthetic or biological media, it was all the same, when you get right down to it. What worked in one should work in the other. Unconsciously, the electrical impulses in Sean's brain began firing faster, stronger, in greater density, forming greater and deeper connections. He wasn't going to let this bitch get away. He had played at dipping his hand into the vast digital ocean, grasping at signals pulsing like fireflies, reading them, barely bothering to use an interface anymore when using his phone, or tablet, or computer. But he was going to go deeper this time, far deeper, far further than he had ever gone before. Sean took a deep breath, then dived in with barely a ripple, imagining as though he was diving into his monitor and into the world on the other side, though he never left his comfortable, encompassing chair. The internet is a series of tubes... Sean let out peals of unmitigated laughter and the virtual world about him rippled in sympathy. The movies had it so wrong. It wasn't their fault, they were limited by the medium, and only being able to imagine the experience, rather experiencing it for real. It wasn't a series of tubes or highways leading to towering skyscrapers of a seizure inducing Time's square. It was infinitely branching and merging streams and rivers of bits and bytes, leading to and from two sided pools, lakes, seas that plunged into unknown depths and enticing heights in a virtual reality as vast as outer space, yet as packed as when the doors opened for Black Friday and there was that must have toy or gadget for the season. There was the neon lights portrayed by Shadowrun and Tron, but so much more as well. Pastels, muted and dark shades of colour, matte finishes, glossy, vistas drawn with the absence of light, intermingled incandescence and a variety of darkness. The scrolling numbers of the Matrix were there too, in a fashion, if you could look close enough. Sean had seen them when perusing the comm transmissions flying about him. Here, the numbers were in an infinite palette, tight and close, to form photomosiacs, art and knowledge in one, for those who could decipher it. There was sound too, music, hums and basses in a collage of frequencies and amplitudes. It was the sound the sound of the busiest city, the thickest crowd imaginable, that gave rise to incredible symphonies and counter melodies that clashed or challenged. Sean vibrated with sheer force of the encompassing sound. There was physical sensation there too that the screen could never convey. The coolness, searing cold, pleasant warmth, biting heat.... smoothness, coarseness, things that prickled, bit, engulfed, stuff that clung and stuck and had to be scraped off (Pop-up Ads?). And there was smell, tasted as well, the bitter and sweet, acrid and arousing. Every sense, and the extra ones he possessed, was being assaulted, challenged, teased, and caressed. It was bewildering, terrifying... and fantastically wondrous. Sean had manipulated this place, had rowed about on its surface, but now he was a part of it. He had no form here save that which he conjured. He wasn't male, female, something in between here. He wasn't old or young. He just was, a self of will, bits and bytes of memory forming a core identity, and power. And someone had gone poking in where they didn't belong - Sean conveniently overlooked the fact he had done so more than once himself. He was going to find them. The digital world was incredibly dynamic, ever flowing and changing, yet it was static too, everything leaving near indelible tracks, if you knew how to find them and follow them. The hunt was on... ... Sean didn't get the satisfying conclusion to the hunt that he wanted. Someone had left neotic spoor all over the digital networks about and around Shelly - at least some of those networks must be part of Dr. Cook's surveillance system. There wasn't a single trail, but many. They didn't converge on a single point - his intruder was too wily for that, or at the least, minimally competent - but they did suggest a common point of interest in the virtual world. Two points. One was Bulwark Air Force Base, light-eating darkness laying over parts of the para-rescue training center. The other was a shadow under the bright pool of the Merias Medical Center. With what he and Sara had learned about Dr. Cook and who was really behind the program, that drew his interest and curiosity more. Sean swam cautiously closer, the psychic miasma growing stronger. A tentatively probe at the indistinct node and he recoiled. Whatever that network node was, it was beyond SOTA, it was next-gen's next-gen level stuff. And had absolutely no reason to be in Shelly, clinging like a parasite to the underside of the Merias Medical Center, however seriously the Medical community took HIPAA. For a moment, an instant, an iota of time, Sean considered trying to worm his way in, or even break through digital defences he had never encountered before, or even heard tell of. Then his better judgment got a hold of him. Suddenly, he was back in his gaming chair, blinking his eyes, his chair rolling across the floor as he kicked away from his desk. His screen saver merrily continued flipping from pic to pic before him. He'd been in there for nearly two hours, when it felt like barely minutes. He brushed his red-gold hair from his face finding it damp with sweat. What had he been thinking? If he was going to try and penetrate firewalls like that - especially if they were backed by someone like him, he wasn't going to do it from home. And if he did manage to get in, what would he find on the other side. He stared at his computer, stared beyond it, thinking, considering, as he breathed slowly, trying to calm a racing heart he hadn't realized he had. Then he got up, full lips pressing into a tight line, and pattered across the hardwood floor in his socks and manually turned off his router/modem. It wasn't full proof, but it would make things a little more inconvenient if his intruder decided to try and visit again. It took Sean a long time to fall asleep, pondering who had spied on him, what they knew, and what they could do, and what he could do about it, as he lay on his bed in the loft, petting his grey cat Turing who had nestled herself against his breasts.
  37. 1 point
    Tuesday Morning - Autumn “Shit,” Autumn grumbled to herself, annoyed that not only had she not managed to get more than a couple hours of sleep the night before, she'd completely forgotten about meeting up with Clara and Lilly to run the track this morning. ...And she was probably going to miss breakfast, yet again. She turned the handlebars away from the main road and toward the school parking lot, half-consciously reaching for the elastic band around her wrist- and finding none. "Really?" she sighed rhetorically, bike coasting slowly toward the rack out front as she raked a hand back through the still-damp tangle of curls settling around her shoulders. I swear, one day, I will get my life in order. One day. Her phone had chimed several times in the pocket of her hoodie as she'd pedaled to school; fishing it out with one hand, she swiped the lock screen with her thumb, chewing her lower lip thoughtfully as she checked her notifications. Absent-mindedly, the redhead rolled her bike into an empty space and clicked the cable lock into place as she scrolled through the list. Just nooooot today. There were three messages from Clara and one from Lilly (which Autumn grimaced at, but silently resolved to answer in person), and the infamous Snapchat group (now called “Cereal v Milk Deathmatch”) was still showing activity even as she walked toward the building. The familiar sounds of conversation, shouting and doors slamming rang in her ears, and she glanced up just in time to narrowly sidestep two young-looking guys- Freshmen, maybe?- as they raced out laughing through the double doors of the cafeteria and past her, down the sidewalk. Blinking after them, the redhead felt the frown that had knit her freckled features dissolve, replaced by a slow, easy grin. Maybe the day hadn't gotten off to the greatest start, but it was still early yet, right? She tucked the phone back into the pocket of her faded red jacket and stepped inside. It wasn't instinctive yet, the idea of searching for the faces of the Fellowship all gathered around a table; it didn't occur to her to seek them out until she was in line for french toast and happened to catch sight of them assembling. Well. Most of them. "Can I trade one of these syrups for extra butter, please?" Autumn asked the lady behind the counter with a smile. "Thank you!" Craning her head around the rest of the queue, she tried to figure out who was missing, her clear blue eyes scanning the crowd for people moving toward the group- people who moved with purpose because they were supposed to be there. No sign of the twins, or Cade's girlfriend, no Sara... No Jason Freaking Bannon, either, but after the Monday he'd described, that maybe wasn't so weird. Maybe the meeting that went wrong had something to do with the other latecomers, too? The idea twisted into a tiny knot of uncertainty in the pit of her stomach, and her gaze kept skimming the room restlessly as she swiped her meal card and headed out into the chaos of the cafeteria proper. She had almost decided to just go eat outside and count her blessings that she hadn't gotten stuck with oatmeal when she caught sight of another familiar face. Oh! ...and, without any prompting whatsoever, felt her cheeks get a few degrees warmer. Mother. Fucker. Exhaling through clenched teeth, the redhead paused, squared her shoulders, and wove through the milling bodies to the mostly-vacant table where Jase was currently sitting. Alone. It's fine, she reminded herself. Totally fine. We talked, and it's fine, and we're friends, and I'll just say hi. "Hi," Autumn began, suddenly conscious of the fact that she was getting sidelong glances as she stood across from the solitary/misanthropic/dangerous/impenetrable teen. "Do... you mind if I join you?" No, no, no. This was not the plan. 'Just say hi' was the plan!
  38. 1 point
    Reminding all remaining players - if you haven't already, now is a good time to get book-keeping, XP spending, and Aspiration overhauls done. If you've completed any, let me know. If you're at a loss with them or indeed with anything, hit me up in Discord for a brainstorm session. I'm here to help.
  39. 1 point
    HEX is on hiatus until January 5th as I get through the holidays, work out how to move forward with two less PCs than planned (not upset, just saying I need to adjust), and dealing with moving. Yes, finally, we plan to move the 2nd and 3rd, so I'm giving time for that to pass as well. Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!
  40. 1 point
    Always. Remembers he's not supposed to be a happy smiley character and schools expression to a dour nod
  41. 1 point
  42. 1 point
    "We need to go." Cass looked at Cade, who nodded. He'd already said he would help however she needed. Beth let her go, promising to catch up with her the next day. She paused to give Cade a look, that said "keep her safe" which drew another nod, before the athelete and journalist left, their strange cat in tow. As soon as he opened the door, it hopped up into the jeep, onto the back seat as the two got in, and Cade drove off. While it wasn't somewhere he frequented, he knew the skaters hung out mostly in the abandoned Sunwood shopping center. Nobody really cared about what happened there, as it was near the outskirts of town, and there weren't any open shops there anymore. He didn't remember what had happened exactly, some sort of electrical fire, either by a storm, or bad wiring had gutted the place, and no buisness had ever come back. "Are you okay, Cass?" "Yeah," she replied. "Turn...left up here at the light. I saw where he is, I think. It was a vision. Just...hit from out of nowhere. Lots of weird stuff. Just little shots, like a movie trailer almost. But the last one, I saw Dylan. If it's not something in the past or future, I know where he is now. I need to ask him about this video." She looks at Cade and says, "I also saw a guy's face. Really green eyes, dark round sunglasses. I think he's 'carrying' the Dark, or...or...is the Dark? I don't know exactly." Cade followed her instructions, driving and turning where she indicated. "I'll grab the bat then." He hadn't gotten around to keeping a different weapon in the jeep, as it was pretty logical with his athletic leanings that he'd always have a bat, ball, and glove in the jeep. "I don't recall seeing anyone like that here in town. Could be from out of town, or just someone we don't know. We stick together and we'll be fine." When they got where they were going, he reached back to grab the bat, and handed Cass a flashlight. It was one of the heavy metal maglites, though it was only one of the smaller ones. "Just in case." "Bat?" Cassandra looked at Cade warily. "What are you talking about?" She made no move to take the flashlight. Cade pulled out an old wooden baseball bat. "Better than my bare hands, and I don't keep a gun in here." "What the hell? Dude, it's just Dylan. He's not dangerous. Relax." "Fine I'll leave it. I'm not worried about Dylan per se, more anything else that might be out here." he answered quietly. Cade was completely calm, and thought he was simply being cautious, given the level of strange they'd been dealing with. Still perhaps it was too much, and he got out of the Jeep, the Cat following suit. Cassandra got out as well and shaded her eyes as she surveyed the parking lot. The strip mall's last business had closed a year ago, and the place was just sitting fallow now. The pavement in the parking lot was still mostly intact, and no one cared enough to watch the place now and stop kids from skating at it. Several were there even now. A few more sat against a nearby wall, watching, smoking and talking. Cass nodded at those kids and said, "That way."
  43. 1 point
    Session 4 of Weirder Stuff is coming to a close, and in commemoration I am issuing a community project. Naturally, participation will lead to XP awards. What is the project, I hear you cry! Or I would, if you were within earshot. The Project leading into Session 5 is this: Present me with ideas for future Projects! Yes, that is sneaky. I have a handful of ideas of my own, but as with your NPCs being your contribution to the enrichment of the game, so will your ideas for fun bonus Projects extend the number of these there will be. That means you will get more XP and hopefully have more fun getting it! Aren't I generous? And now, the rules: You will get 1 XP for each sensible Project idea, up to five. You can submit more, but you won't get anything except an honorable mention for it when and if I choose to use it. Lists for Project ideas are to be sent in PM here, to GDP_ST. The Project will run until Saturday 21st December, 2019. Have fun!
  44. 1 point
    Thank you, Nina. Okay, I'd like to get things moving with WS reasonably promptly over the weekend. Rainbows ideally I'd like to wrap up tonight. I'm happy to do this with an ST post if no-one has anything in particular they want their characters to say or do in the various interactions. PM me on Discord - I don't bite much - if you have something you want included in said ST post, but don't feel it's enough for a full post by itself. Once that is done, we'll commence execution of the next phase. I call it 'Order 66'- Wait, no. These are the wrong notes... *mutters* Ahh, found them. I want people to make use of the Character Development Ideas and the Quest Journal threads. Figure out what your character wants to do that's plot related, what side-fic personal development or bonding exercises you want them to take and with who, get the consent if it involves another PC and post it up: Bannon's example is a decent template to use, feel free. It shouldn't take long, and will give me a general road map of what people want to compare with what I'm planning to happen. Something to note: From this point, I will be rewarding effort, not just with XP but with my attention. I'm a firm believer in character-driven narrative. If you aren't proactive in planning and playing your character, they're likely to miss out on anything other than major plot events they can't possibly avoid (a meteor hitting Shelly, for example). They will be little better than NPCs and the narrative will stop revolving around them. They are your characters, your babies. If you don't care enough, why should I? You want to be a mover and shaker, then shake it and move it, even if it's something small like "Hey, I think it'd be cool to involve my character's mom in a fic. Can you help please ST?" I will work with, and act as a sounding board for, any ideas you want to pitch. But you have to pitch them. Evil, I know.
  45. 1 point
    Ok GDB and ViVi will be my new co-gms i will fill them in on things and get this organized and back on track
  46. 1 point
    I'll throw my hat into the ring here as co-GM. Ask not what your GM can do for you, but what you can do for your GM, and all that. If I had to describe my management style it would be 'Vetinari crossed with Vlad Tepes and a healthy dose of Edward Teach'.
  47. 1 point
    One clarification, one question, and one thought: 1. I know you were just using it as an example of how the system might work, but I just wanted (for sake of chronology) to clarify that the camping trip isn't intended to be the weekend after Rainbows (Labor Day weekend), but the following one. Autumn is showing Jase the campsite on that Friday/Saturday and getting it cleaned up for company. If there's a reason it needs to happen that weekend specifically, let me know so that I can adjust the proposal post before it goes up. 2. Would it be easier, for development/drama/relationship stuff to keep them out of task threads, and let people start them on their own? These are things people are doing on their own initiative, after all, although they could easily be tagged to help keep them organized ("non-plot," "character development," "side story," "solo," etc.) along with the episode to which they belong. I ask because a lot of these options begin with, "I will create a thread," which isn't really a simplification or lessening of the work load for you. The requirement to have them finished by a certain time could still be applicable, but it wouldn't require you to create literally every thread that might crop up, or for players to wait until you're available to do that. 3. We're all doing this because we enjoy it. We're having fun with the game, and we love to write. When you need help, and you're overwhelmed, please tell us. Some of us have been playing and writing together on this site for well over a decade; we understand being frustrated, not knowing where to go with a narrative arc, or just needing some objectivity to help put things in perspective. We want you to have fun with us, because telling stories is an amazing way to connect with other people and create something together. If you're having trouble with something, let us help you- even if you just send a PM in Discord. We want the game to succeed, and for everyone to have a good time.
  48. 1 point
    I will not lie WS has become somewhat unmanageable for me. Too many Characters, both pc and npc, too many side stories that are drifting further and further away from the main story so much so that with RL and everything else even i am lost half the time. Max came up with an idea to help and GDB expanded on it. I have thought a bit about it and here is what we are going to do. Using the quest and task post I will create separate Task threads for those things there that need to be played out in some manner, I will assign characters to that specific thread. each thread will be set to occur at a certain time/day during the week and will need to be completed within a set amount of Real Time which will be measured in days not weeks. When these Task Threads are complete I will then create a story tread where general rp can take place that may or may not be related to the plot. if anyone has any personal development / relationship-building / drama thread ideas: Sara and Jase try to settle their differences over a drink and smoke / Charlie goes on a date with Sophia / Sean helping Cade with Calculus, etc., Let me know and i will either add them to one of the task threads or create a separate one for those characters that would be involved. In both cases these small side threads will need to be completed before the next general thread. for instance Rainbows will be over on monday night the following weekend will be the camping trip. The camping trip while not a plot episode will be a general RP episode. I will create a couple of task threads which occur during the 4 days between rainbows and the camping trip I will add any character arcs or threads that you request as well. we will do the short threads over the remainder of this week and probably next week and then the camping trip thread will be started. I also would like some assistants, co-gms, whatever we want to call them who can take some of the pressure off of me for guiding the task threads and and non story line character arc threads. I will give these co-gms a bit of a clue in to what is going on and where I am going with things. Anyway that is my idea for how to do this mashing max's and GDB's suggestions together. If anyone else would like to suggest something or can refine or has any questions this feel free to do so here if there are no suggestions I will begin implementing this. I need two volunteers for the co-gm spots
  49. 1 point
    the suggestion has merits, we can try it
  50. 1 point
    Thirded! I think that would go a long way toward letting people actually accomplish tasks/goals and not feel stuck while waiting for things to resolve elsewhere.
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