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  1. 3 points
    Cade’s trick, despite the humorous comparisons, was impressive and, in addition, served to break up some of the tension caused by fresh discussion of Jason’s... unique outlook on things. People took a break for a soda and, in Jase’s case, a smoke before continuing. The breakthrough of the psionic teens ability to ‘tune in’ to each other’s Shine through touch proved important, not least of which for being able to assess whether someone had ‘Psi-Shine’ or the ‘Hero-Shine’, as Jason labelled Lilly and Cade’s gift. “With you two, it’s as though you are becoming idealised human beings – figures from story and myth. They are not usually outside the scope of human experience – great strength, speed and so on are still ‘human’ traits, which makes the Hero relatable. The Hero’s actions have massive ramifications, for good or ill.” He explained. “Heroine.” Lilly grinned, though she liked the term. “So our ability to ‘choose’ realities is us being able to steer the story.” “For good, or ill.” Jason repeated. “King Arthur was a Hero. He became king, established order and enlightenment, and then was brought low by his own failing and the failing of another Hero he trusted, Lancelot du Lac. The result was a dark age following the golden.” He smiled slightly. “A cautionary tale for all of us.” He tossed the butt of his rollup into the firepit and glanced around. “We know Sara is telepathic, so she’s definitely psionic. If you’re willing to sit down with me, Autumn, we can get you placed in the right weight class.” Autumn looked doubtfully at the Effing Bannon. He was clothed, at least. And a psychopath, a word that conjured all sorts of nightmares – and yet... He’d looked after them, in the woods. He’d stood and fought a monster (something she’d wished she’d done at the time). And although he was odd and had a way of smiling that made her tense up, he hadn’t ever threatened her. Finally, he seemed to know what he was doing. “Right.” She said slowly, watching as he moved to sit on a clear patch of grass, gesturing to her to sit opposite him. “Is this going to hurt?” she asked as she sat down, shuffling closer with some reluctance, eying the hands he held out to her in invitation. He smiled slightly, but it wasn’t amusement at her expense this time. Well, mostly. It was even, in the right light, reassuring. “Not a bit.” = = = = = Autumn had psionic Shine. Jase could feel it within her through their link, a similar vitality to that shared by Lona and Charlie. Power over life, over cellular matter. It was a rich cascade of sensation and vibrancy that made him feel stronger just by proximity to it. It had taken maybe five minutes of careful coaching, but finally he felt the field of her Shine interacting with his own as she relaxed, her sea-hued eyes on his icy green ones. She was warm and emotional, like Cassie, but restless where Cass was focused, her energy pacing back and forth waiting to be unleashed. He marvelled at the simple, yet profound insight this link could provide. For Autumn, it was an odd experience. Intimate, yet not too invasive – There were no thoughts exchanged, nor could she read his emotions like she might have imagined. Instead she was aware of Bannon’s energy – his Shine- and how his psyche reflected upon it. He was control, focus and crystalline icy clarity over a simmering, banked furnace that waited and wanted to be called upon. Like Cassie earlier, she noted he didn’t feel twisted or evil, just odd. Alien. A matter of his intelligence, or his ‘condition’, or both? Oddly, she found his focus to be stabilising, taking on a fraction of his calm fearlessness for herself while they were linked. “You feel it?” she heard him ask as she swam in the cool green of his eyes. She nodded. “Now focus on your own Shine. Be aware of it. You feel somewhat like Lona. She can heal, has an awareness of life around her and it’s relative health. Focus on the Shine, feel it.” He said calmly. Autumn focused, drawing on the calm clarity of Bannon’s energy to still her own restlessness. She felt the pale glow of the Shine... and then under it something else. The redhead’s eyes widened as she realised she could feel the life-force in her own body and, with only minor concentration, that of those around her, being able to focus on each in turn. Charlie there had a couple of minor bruises, Cassie ached a little as if from intense exercise, Lona fairly glowed with good health – as did she herself, she realised. Lilly and Cade likewise were pictures of health, whereas Bannon... “You’re hurt.” She said, blinking as she regarded him with this new sense. She had spotted the faint purple bruise on his jaw earlier, but now she could feel all the bruises under his baggy shirt and pants. He was in painful discomfort. “What the hell happened to you?” “Training this morning.” He said calmly as if that explained everything. “Don’t heal me, please. I’m learning to work through it. It’s a self-discipline exercise.” “Jesus, Jase.” Lona said as she, too focused on his vital aura, alerted by the conversation. “You could have said-“ “I know.” He interrupted with that same calm tone, smiling a little at his friend. “But it’s part of my personal training, Avalon. My choice.” “But-“ “Do I have any broken bones? Or internal injuries?” he asked rhetorically. “They’re just bruises. Bruises fade.” He met her eyes. “When the day’s training is over, I’ll ask you or Autumn to heal me so I don’t turn up to school bruised.” He said quietly. “Fair?” Lona didn’t like it, that much was obvious, but she nodded silent assent. “Thank you.” He said softly, then turned back to Autumn. “Alright, now we’ve gotten your feet wet, let’s get up and see what you –and we all - can really do.” = = = = = Sean had a pretty good handle on following and controlling the flow of electrons that gushed like blood within the wires and microchips of electrical devices. He demonstrated again by making his pair of drones dance in the air in an intricate ballet. But doing so had spurred him on to consider how else he might manipulate electromagnetic energy. He could change how it reacted inside devices, could he do it to all the other such energy about them. When he focused, he could see all the threads and fireflies of visible and invisible light, various frequencies of radio waves, and more.... "Hold on guys, I'm gonna try something, don't freak out," Sean warned them, as he inhaled and reached out with his mind, grasping all the strands of visible light and... twisted them, turning them into sourceless radio waves. The practice area was plunged into utter darkness, pitch black to all but his eyes, which could still perceive in the ultraviolet and infrared spectrum. It made his friends look very odd to his perception and took a while to get too. He could still perceive the threads of visible light he had twisted, see them starting to unravel into their true forms, but slowly. "I turned the visible light into harmless radio waves. I think, unless I did something, it'll stay like this for a few hours. But I think that'll make practicing harder than is has to be." Sean twisted the strands again, changing the frequency of the ambient photons, and as he did so, the darkness faded away, a bubble of light encompassing the clearing shifting through the hues of a rainbow. Sean grinned, everything tinted faintly green. "Pretty sure I can put on a decent light show." The light shifted to a pale indigo and Sean cocked his head to the side, considering. He could twist strands of electromagnetic energy, but could he combine them? He tried, holding his hands about a foot apart, fingers waggling as through playing with a cat's cradle. The purplish-blue light seemed to be pulled between his fingers, growing brighter, harder. The entire area seemed to grow slightly dimmer as he twisted the threads of light together in an ever tighter rope, the light shifting to blue then green... Sean felt it just a moment before it happened, eyes going wide and lips peeling back in excited panic, as he felt the tightly bound braid of light snap together. "Look away! Look away!" Sean shouted, as a searing, razor thin line of blinding green light blazed into being, forming between his hands to a point just pass one of the abandoned pieces of farming equipment, severing it in half, the edges glowing orange and the acrid scent of burnt steel in the air. The unexpected intensity of his personal laser made his stumble back and land on his plush behind. A trickle of blood trickled down Sean's nose, staining his upper lip as he tried to brush is away while he climbed back to his feet. He had pushed himself hard with that, too hard. "Um, oops? I didn't think it would be that big." “Phrasing.” Jason said dryly as he offered a hand and helped Sean up. The others snickered, tension released as laughter. = = = = = Perhaps the biggest discovery was that when Sara linked multiple psionicists in a mental network of sorts, they could tune into each other’s Shine (provided the other allowed it) and perform the same boosts as though they were touching. “This implies that the subquantum layer is one point in space – or rather than space doesn’t exist there. Cassie can see and sense over massive distances. Devin can teleport to Greece for pizza.” Jason mused. “They don’t literally project their senses or body through space, they dive down into the subquantum, then back up again where they want to be.” He snapped his fingers as a thought occurred to him. “Cassie. You said at Bunnee’s the other night that you saw what had happened in the past, with the bear and the tree?” he looked at her intently. The pretty blonde nodded, curious why he was bringing it up. “Time as well.” He said with a firm definite tone. “Time doesn’t exist down there, which makes sense because space doesn’t. So you send your senses down to the subquantum, then bring them up not just where you want, but also when. Within reason, I suppose. I wonder if Devin could teleport through time...?” “Oh, come on.” Sean looked askance at his friend. “Time travel now?” “Why not? We’re all travelling through time anyway. I can walk across the field in ten minutes. Devin can teleport across it in an eyeblink. Time and space are linked – if he can dodge one, then there’d have to be some kind of special law that stops him dodging the other.” Jase looked thoughtful for a moment, then shrugged. “It would go towards explaining the smilodon and other weirdness. Something to consider.” That set aside for now, people got back to learning the extent of their gifts and how they interacted with one another. Jase’s emphasis seemed to be on the physical – objects became easier to affect, sense or manipulate when he was assisting in a link. Lona and Autumn, by contrast, had an affinity with living organisms that made affecting those more easy when they were part of a link. In addition when the pair of them linked their Shine grew stronger, something Jase and Sean theorised to be the sympathetic wavelength of their Shine reinforcing each other. Charlie (who still was not at all drunk – the test had been a success) seemed to make tasks more effortless when he was lending assistance, whereas Clara and Cora brought the effect of massively increasing the Shine of whomever they linked with. Cassie extended the reach of a person’s powers, allowing Lona to heal Charlie’s bruises from his training with Lilly from a dozen feet away, rather than having to touch him. Sean seemed to be an extender of a different sort – rather than extending the range of a power, he extended the time it could be maintained. They all learned together, sometimes serious and sometimes playing as the afternoon wore on. The Shine seemed to replenish itself swiftly enough, provided one didn’t completely exhaust it. Some discovered power they didn’t realise they had, such as Cassie exhibiting some small psychokinetic ability – a defensive reaction to slow incoming attacks similar to that possessed by Jason. Or Clara realising she could work with the subquantum to produce and manipulate energy in a manner similar to Cora. = = = = = Sometimes linked by Sara, sometimes touching hands the psionic Fellowship members played, practiced and learned. And the ‘heroic’ ones too. Lilly and Cade were both highly athletic, somehow increased by their own brand of Shine. The two put this to the test, racing each other in sprints from one end of the field to the others at speeds that the other teens couldn’t get close to. Cade displayed uncanny aim with throwing or projectile weapons, though Lilly seemed able to drive an arrow through slim steel plating with the force of her draw. Cade’s empathy with wild creatures was perhaps not as flashy as some abilities being displayed, but nonetheless was unusual, to say the least. Arguably somewhat more impressive was Lilly’s straight right. Focusing on how she’d kicked the burning monster through a tree, she set up a roughly man-sized log and, pausing to wrap her hands, began to tentatively jab at it. After the first few impacts she stopped, unwrapped her hands, then began once more to box at the log. Her fists slammed home with more force, the bark splintering but leaving her hands unmarked, something that Sean, currently taking a rest nearby, remarked on. “Go on, Captain America.” The feminine boy grinned as he took a swig of water. “Stop tickling it.” Lilly smirked at him, but furrowed her brow as she turned back to the log. Okay. Let’s do this. The psionic teens paused in their practice as the sound of hammers splintering wood filled the air. Lilly unleashed a flurry of blows into the solid log as though it were a hanging bag, focusing her will through each contact, imagining the fishasaurus in front of her. The bark where she had been hitting the log was all gone now, her fists having started to deform and crack the solid pine underneath when, with a final explosive impact, the log flew twenty feet into the already abused farm machinery that people had been using for arrow and (impromptu) laser practice. There was a horrendous crash, then the log fell forwards with a thud. There was a pause, then Jason gave his strangely happy laugh. “Whoa.” Charlie breathed. He went over to inspect the fallen log, noting the cracked and dented condition it was in. “You pounded the shit out of it.” “Really went to town on that wood, huh?” Cora said with a giggle, her cheeks reddening as the others stared at her. “Phras- No. No, it’s too easy.” Cade deadpanned, causing another round of snickering and laughter. = = = = = The sun was getting lower, the sky darker as the teens called a halt more by common consensus than anything else. A flicker of Jase’s power caused the bonfire to bloom into life as people settled down on or leaning against the logs around it as sparks crackled and flew like fireflies in the purpling sky. “Right. Deal’s a deal. Let me heal you.” Lona said, laying a hand on Jason’s shoulder. He sighed as the aches and pains he’d suffered through vanished, first with a weird pulling sensation and then were gone, replaced with a sense of wellbeing. He smiled up at her from where he sat. “Thank you.” He said softly, then turned to look at the fire. He was content, in this moment. Tomorrow was a new week of school, and fresh problems, and old stale ones too. He wondered if the Fellowship’s experience today had bonded them at all. He didn’t feel it but then, he wouldn’t. He thought perhaps people were working better together, having an improved awareness and appreciation for one another. But he was outside that, and for a moment briefly regretted not knowing what it was like. Perhaps something like the link through the Shine, he mused, only not requiring touch or Sara’s power to access. He’d been very careful when in the mental network to guard his thoughts, which was easy enough – nothing went out over the network that the individual didn’t want to. He was aware, though, that his mind was likely not like any of the others, even the more cerebral teens like Clara and Sean. He was isolated, and yet did not register it as a pang or negative feeling. “Hey.” Autumn said from her spot by the fire, regarding him with a little more warmth than she had at the start of the afternoon. “Earth to Bannon. I’ve got a question for you.” “It’s already laundered and back at the house.” Jase replied without missing a beat, causing her to blush. “Not that.” She scowled as some of the others snickered. “You can lift a lot with your telekinesis, right?” “Right.” Jason tilted his head, curious. “And you don’t slip – like, you don’t lose your grip suddenly.” She pressed, clearly working up to something. “Not unless Clara makes me by damping my power.” He replied steadily. “Right. So, I want an airplane.” She said, her attitude somewhere between challenge and request. “An airplane.” He replied levelly. “Yep. Fly me.” Autumn got to her feet and regarded him. “C’mon. Up, up and away. I want to fly.” She was gratified to actually see him blink, taken aback for the first time she could remember. “You want me to fly you around?” he asked in a careful tone. “What, you don’t want to?” Autumn put her hands on her hips and stared at him. “C’mon, Bannon. I loaned you my hoodie-“ “I’m fine with it.” He said. “I’m just surprised you asked.” “So that’s a yes?” Autumn smiled wide. “It won’t be very fast.” He warned, but an answering smile was playing around his lips. “Running speed, tops.” “I don’t care. I’ve been freaked out, chased by monsters, visited the effing underworld and seen us all do some weird and wonderful shit these last few days.” Autumn said defiantly. “So I want to flyyyyyyyy-“ Her words turned into an excited yelp as she suddenly rose into the air and began to drift about ten feet above the ground. Some of the Fellowship laughed, others whooped or yelled encouragement as Autumn circled the fire at a safe distance, Jason’s invisible grasp on her a gentle impersonal pressure. She wasn’t motionless as she flew – Autumn found she could move her arms and legs and did so, alternating between the classic Superman flying pose and the arms outstretched like a bird pose as she banked, rose, dove and whirled, a grin on her face. She never went too high, nor did she dive too fast. He didn’t pretend to drop her or do anything to scare her, rather he just watched from where he sat, a smile on his face and his eyes reflecting the firelight. The sun was above the horizon still, it’s rays turning everything red-gold and causing her hair to flame crimson as the girl spun and danced in the air, finding that Goddamn Jason Effing Bannon was responding to her arm and leg movements and steering the way she wanted, rather than flopping her around like a rag doll. She made as if to dive and, obediently, the force lifting her made her dive in a swoop above Charlie’s head. She whooped as Bannon put her through a slow loop, then another, before he brought her gently back to touch down just outside the circle of log seating. “How was that?” Jason asked the Fellowship’s newest member, his gaze on hers.
  2. 3 points
    "She's right," Devin thumbed to Clara while addressing Lilly. "Hate to admit it, but Clara is right. It's about priorities. The Dark is a priority." He leaned in to Lilly to make himself clear. "You. Are not. Don't wanna eat? Don't. More for me. Wanna bust my balls over shit I said a couple days ago? Couple days ago I wasn't ass deep in Upsidedown Thunder with a vagina tongue trying to eat my dick. So save it. I'm not interested and I don't care. I'm not taking it back. We're not cool. I'm not cool with any of you right now. So suck it up buttercup. I do know though, that all of us? As messed up and hateful and spiteful and neurotic as we are... were brought together for a reason. We Shine and there is beast called The Dark coming our way. Do we need to get Cade's sister in here to do that math for us, or can you figure it out?" He stood and looked at all of them. "I don't have to like you to have your back when the sun sets. I don't have to like you to help you protect those you love. I don't have to like you to stand with you as a bastion of light between our world and a world of misery, despair and fear. I may hate this town, but it's still my town. I may not like you, but your still my people. So if that bastard wants Shelly? I say we get our asses in gear, stop with the bullshit, have another slice of pizza and do what angst ridden teenagers who all need to get over themselves do best..." he leaned onto table, resting on his arms as he looked around to all them. His face curled into a grin. "...let's go get our misbehave on."
  3. 2 points
    "Here." Jason said almost automatically, realising h'ed called the bottle of water to his hand already and was offering it. Cass took it with a small smile of thanks, her eyes meeting his. He was calm, but it there was a sense of wonderment she saw in his eyes, their gaze distant as he processed everything. She'd felt his mind - not the way Sara did, probably, but felt it nonetheless through that connection - and it hadn't been bad, the way she might have imagined. Fast and sharp as a blade, clear and cold as ice, focused, intent on the moment he was in and the sensory input he was receiving. There was nothing twisted or malevolent there, however odd it was. For Jason, it had been a revelation as well. That sense of... everything. All life, everywhere. And Cassie, too. It was like the subconscious sense of connection he got through touch, turned up to eleven. She'd felt warm to him, a warm emotional consciousness wanting him to see what she saw, sharing it with him through the Shine itself and then staying with him as he adjusted. And through her, he'd felt everything living for thousands of miles. And after that... Under that. He'd felt his own power respond to hers, for a brief moment he'd felt he could reach further, touch objects he could not see with his eyes. He blinked, focusing on Cassie as she drank water, and smiled at her. "Thank you." he said softly. Then he laughed, a giddy, happy sort of laugh that made the others look at him. Even Cass, who at least understood why he might laugh, was surprised to hear such a... boyish sound coming from him. He glanced around at their faces, and laughed again as he let himself fall back from sitting position so that he was laying on the grass. And he laughed. "And what's so funny?" Lona asked, peering at Cassie, then at Jase as if afraid he'd been broken. "It's beautiful. And it's everything. It connects everyone, every living thing, every object. It's the key to the Holy Grail of physics - a Grand Unifying Theory. And we can touch it. It's like - hell, it IS the Force." "More movie references?" Clara smiled a little, shaking her head. Jase waved a hand in the air. "I can lift things, Cassandra can sense things - at huge distances. Lona can encourage muscle and bone to knit back together without scarring. Charlie can sense life, and change the flow of it in his own cells - no... To manifest the sort of changes we saw would mean changing things below the cellular level." He closed his eyes, smiling. "Devin can transmit himself from one spot to another. Creating a gravitic wormhole would lead to him being turned into spaghetti, so it has to be something under the quantum layer as we understand it. Sub-cellular, and then sub-quantum? The CERN boys and girls will shit bricks. It's the only reasonable explanation!" He sat up suddenly, wincing as his bruised ribs complained, but his eyes blazed. "What we do has to be operating on a layer under what science currently understands. Cassie showed me, though... The Shine is life, or rather, manifests most strongly in living things. And those of us who have it more so." He turned to Clara pointing at her as his mind jumped to another thought he'd had earlier. "You can boost it in us, I felt that in the woods. You loaned Avalon what she needed to effectively heal Devin's leg. Can you do the opposite? Can you diminish our ability to use our gifts?" "And Charlie." He whirled and stabbed another finger at the young actor. "You can change your outward shape. Can you do more subtle things? Adapt to hostile environments, metabolise toxins - that's easy to test: you get drunk and then try to sober up. Hah." He half turned and pointed at Lona. "You can heal, and you caused pain in Liam when he attacked you. Can you do more than cause pain? Hard to test, admittedly. But if your power operates under the cellular and atomic levels, you could re-write DNA. Possibly." He rubbed his bruised chin thoughtfully, turning back to Cassie. "And your sensory abilities... Formidable. What can you sense, what can you see? So much to learn here..." He got to his feet, somewhat stiffly, and looked around at everyone. "Who wants to go first?"
  4. 2 points
    There was a long pause, quiet pause after laid out the plan. The twins listened and Devin offered up a roll of the eyes as Cass announced him to team up with Cade... who once again, couldn't be bothered to show. "Finished?" Marissa asked. Cass looked at the board and noticed a few new bullet points. "Well there is the matter of-" "Good," Marissa cut her off and stood to face everyone, addressing the group as a whole she stood with the poise of someone bred for public office. "I wanted to talk about yesterday. Despite completely losing my shit and somehow asking Autumn to hang out with me sometime," she shuddered visibly. "My brother had a long talk-" "-what she saw, what I saw," Devin cut into the verbal dance the twins excelled at. "And all the screaming and yelling and near loss of a national treasure aside," no one missed the way he adjusted himself at the mention of 'national treasure'. "Emjay came up with a sound theory. It's just theory... but we have fuck all else at the moment." "I saw the tree." She continued. "It is Shelly. Meaning, spirituality, that it and Shelly are connected. It didn't dawn on me until I was eating breakfast with Charlie this morning. He's miserable. All of you are miserable in some fashion. We all have problems. All of Shelly has problems... this place is where happiness goes to die." She stood straight and started to communicate as much with her hands as she did her words. "Shelly isn't a town, it's a trough. This entity is feeding on our misery and most of all, our fear. When we were attacked Jason and Deej were doing pretty well, but when we freaked out, it moved faster, recovered swifter, it *healed*. Then everyone else shows up and now we're all freaking out, and rightfully so-" "-big vagina faced monster. First for all of uss," Devin shook his hands to symbolize fear. "Very scary. Not faulting anyone, we can't all be the heroes like stoic Jason and Cade... one who can't be bothered and another who celebrated with shakes and attempted murder! Yaaaay!" Marissa scowled at Devin and cocked her head with an insulting smile. "Do mind?" "No, no... not at all..." Her stepped backed and swooped his arms forward for her to retake the stage. "Please, continue." "Thank you. Asshat." She sighed and composed herself before looking back the crowd. "The more of us who were there,scared as hell, the faster it healed. Our fears made it impossible to beat that thing. Except Jase, but for those of us who are normal, functioning members of society and not part of Dexter fan club, we're screwed... unless." She paused for effect, then continued on. "We beat that thing at it's own game. Shelly is miserable and bland because this parasite is attached to it, seeping out all the decency and joy. We have one year-ish. We need to fix our town. We need to engage it's people and get this place living again. Turn it back into a community where people aren't afraid to live in fear of what's lurking in the shadows waiting to murderdilate them and throw them through plate glass windows. We need to make..." she looked away like she was going to be sick. "...and I can't believe I'm about to say this... a happier place live." Devin stepped forward. He patted his sister on the back. "I know, I know... sunshine and rainbows... your poison, take it slow... breathe." He addressed the group. "Essentially, we poison the tree at its roots. With a bit of community gatherings, fund raisers, events... all things to keep the city a bit less moodier." "Start with the school," Marissa sighed. "You all, believe it or not, are respective leaders in one of the various cultures or subcultures within our school... come on, its 300 people big, we're not proposing rocket science. With my clout and popularity I can raise you god like status so you can remove the Courtneys and Chets and Liams from being a problem to other students. Defend the weak, shelter the sad... all that dumb morality shit you nerds are into. With the quality of life improved, we should be able to pick out the poisoned minds among us. Then, the work begins on Shelly. 3,000 people are not hard to manipulate if you know how... I interned with the mayor so thankfully, I know how." "It won't beat this thing, but it might weaken it. We have a year to break a centuries old cycle... and time's ticking." She stepped from the table and sat back down, crossing her legs the CEO she believed she would one day be. Devin applauded. "Still has my vote for 'who never accept an apple from', folks. Woo!" She flipped him off and smirked. "It's all theory, but it might work. We're not dealing science, we're dealing... with something else. We're trying to think outside the box, here."
  5. 2 points
    He'd taken it well, after the initial shock. Hank had remained quiet as Jason laid it all out. The party, the sabertooth tiger, the trailer, the weird starfish-monster (the adopted name of 'cephalogina' got a snort of amusement). Then the growing weirdness since - Jason's discovery of his telekinesis, the fact that some of the others had been showing gifts, the uncovering of a conspiracy with Etienne as it's apparent spy and the secret history of Shelly with it's twenty-seven year cycle of violence and horror. The naming of the Dark, the presence of the Tree. The increase in power, Jason's discovery that he could freeze or excite molecules... The hunt for Cody, the fight with the beast, the other teens exhibiting powers of teleportation, healing, shapeshifting and other weirdness a mere two days ago. "You set yourself on fire?" Hank blinked then. "Not really. I set the air around me on fire. And I might even be able to do the reverse - create a frozen protective barrier." Jason had explained. "I think I can control it so that the protective sheathe goes over my clothing next time, though." "Bet that caused some red faces." Hank said with a slight smile. Jason smiled back, nodding, then continued. He explained about the secret Project under the control of Doctor Cook, and the presence of another player - Mr Black, who seemed to be tired to the Dark itself more directly. He told of the attack on Liam. And finally he relayed the general overview of what the Fellowship had tracked during their brainstorming session the previous day. "I'm telling you this for three reasons." Jason said at last, meeting Hank's eyes. "Firstly, so you can keep yourself and Dad safe. You know enough now to steer clear of trouble and watch for it. You see Mr Black, avoid him. You see Cody Sikes, probably best to avoid him too. You don't Shine, I don't want you getting hurt." "I'm not helpless, kiddo." Hank protested mildly. Jason shook his head. "Hank, if Mr Black has my gifts, he could kill you without thinking. I'm assuming he's at least on my level, if not way beyond it. Best you do too. You don't Shine, he's not likely to bother with you unless you get on his radar. Same with Cook and his black project - you probably could make life hell for a black ops team, but why risk it?" Jason explained calmly, his eyes still on Hanks. "If I need you, I will call. You know that. But I don't have many friends, and you... you're the only one I feel gets me. Second reason is so you know why I want you to train me. I need to learn to fight, not school bullies, but as a warrior who is part of a small elite team, or even finds himself on his own." "And the third reason?" Hank asked soberly. "Because I need guidance. Hurting Liam felt good to me, righteous, like..." Jason hunted for the words. "He deserved punishment, and it felt good to give it to him." "Do you think you'd have enjoyed hurting him if he hadn't hurt your friend?" Hank studied Jason calmly. "No. No, I'd have seen it as pointless, cruelty for it's own sake. Beneath me. But the others-" "Kid, people are always going to have a problem with you being you." Hank interrupted. "You have rules you live by, and it doesn't seem like you broke them. People got upset - Lona got hurt because she felt you didn't consider her feelings on the matter, right?" "Right, only I did. That's why I didn't kill him." Jason answered, causing Hank to nod and put a large hand on his shoulder. "Right. Let's address that first, kid. What that punk did, it didn't warrant death. Got that? A beating, sure. The beating you gave him? Ehh, I wouldn't have gone that far." he said levelly. "You've got to cut in some lines of proportion to that code we've been working on. Cause it does feel good, administering a deserved ass-whupping, but you've got to make sure you keep it relative. He roughed Avalon up, so break a bone or two and leave it there. What you did was over the line, and not because it was 'wrong', because it was too much energy being wasted on a rat. You're better than that. Smarter. So be smarter." "And if he'd raped her?" Jason had asked. "Kid, we don't, we can't, punish people based on 'what they might have done'. We deal with them based on what they did, with maybe a little extra for the intent. Lona was hurt and shaken, but she was otherwise fine. All that extra you did - it scared the fuckin' bejeezus out of people who need to trust you." Hank's hand squeezed firmly on his shoulder. "If he'd have raped that sweet girl, then you bet I'd not give a single shit about what you did - but killing him would've still been too far. Bottom line - keep it proportional. That rage you have, the instinct - I know it too, Jase. People aren't gonna like it, but you can at least not scare the shit outta them with it." Jason nodded, his eyes on his cold coffee. With a flicker of an eyelid, steam began to rise from the mug once more and he took a sip. Hank chuckled, dropping his hand from Jason's shoulder and offering his own mug, which likewise started to steam. "That's better than settin' fire to monsters or tossing shitbags around." Hank smiled as he took a sip, then sat in silence for a long moment, thinking. "Alright. I'll train you." he said at length. "We'll work on your sense of proportion too. Sounds like your control extends only until you let yourself off the leash, rather than controlling yourself after. So we're going to teach that instinct of yours to come to heel rather than run itself tired." "Great." Jason said, standing. "Where do we start?" Hank had looked up at the lean, gangling figure and laughed. "Discipline, conditioning, and strength." he'd said with a grin. Jason looked at him flatly. "You mean PT." "I mean PT." Hank grinned. "You run, it should be a breeze for ya. We need to get some muscle on those arms though." He set the mug aside and stood himself, stretching. "First rule, no powers unless I say. You pull any of that Jedi whupass on me without my say-so, and we are done. Save that X-Men shit for when you're playing with your Fellowship. Got it?" "Got it." Jason nodded with a small smile. Hank sized him up once more. "Alright. We've got some fucking work to do, and no mistake, kid. Lets get to it."
  6. 2 points
    Shelly High Girls Locker Room (Before the game) There were things Lilly liked and disliked about no longer being alone in the girls locker room when getting ready for a game. She could play her music as loud as she wanted, did not need to worry about pleasing anybody with song choice either, and the solitude helped her focus on the upcoming game. Now with several other girls in the locker room there were other considerations, but they are minimal to Lilly and a trade-off she would make any day for the camaraderie she was feeling as they all got ready for the game For her part, Lilly helped others who needed getting suited up and shared some helpful advice here and there. When they were suited up Lilly called the girls together, each them holding or cradling their helmets under an arm as she addressed them for a quick moment. "What you went through at tryouts here is nothing compared to what you're about to see out there. The guys on the other team are gonna talk all kinds of shit to you, about a girl being on the field and Shelly being so small they have to let girls play to fill out a team, and anything else they can think of. Ignore it. Water off a duck's back. Let your playing do the talking and you'll shut them up pretty damned quick. Some of them will underestimate you. If they do, that's their problem, but they will learn soon enough. Others will hit you even harder, trying to make you quit. Don't. In a scrum your are feel hands on your ass and trying to grab your hair, so make sure you you keep it up. Guys can be petty, scared a-holes, and will look for any advantage they can to throw you off your game. Don't let them. Every single one of us earned our place on this team, beating out boys for it. We beat out those boys, so we can beat these out of towers too!" she said and then held out her helmet. "Helmets in. Coyotes on three." she said and the other girls held out there helmets, touching them all together. As one they all chanted, "Three! Two! One! Coyotes!" Shelly High Football Bleachers William and Cassandra Pryor made their way up the stairs at the side of the bleachers, stopping to say hi to other parents and families on their way to their seat. Though they lived in base housing, the locals had gotten to know them both to varying degrees over the years. Mrs. Pryor was the head nurse at the medical center, so a good number of residents had got to meet her and benefit from her care. She was pretty with a warm smile, long, dark hair and a bit of an olive complexion, hinting as her Mediterranean roots. One look at her and it was clear where Lilly got the majority of her looks from, and after a moment of speaking with her, where Lilly got her compassion. She was a kind woman, smiling and hugging friends and acquaintances, often going well out of her way to do so as the couple moved up the bleachers. Mr. Pryor, on the other hand, worked on base as a Lt. Col. in charge of security for the installation. That being the case, he was not seen day to day in Shelly like his wife was, but she made sure send well wishes and so forth on his behalf. Shelly was still the closest town, so he would be found there shopping with his wife or buying supplies in preparation of hunting season. He was a bit of an imposing man, radiating confidence and authority, even in his pink 'Throw Like A Girl" t shirt he was wearing, matching the one his wife wore. His wife and Lilly would say that he is not nearly as stern or serious as he looked though, and he had a laugh that could shake walls. Together, the couple balanced each other out quite nicely and over the years had gotten to know other parents and families , which they were greeting and taking a moment to catch up with now before the game started, including the Cassidy's, who were sitting with the son, Sean, and and their nearly de facto son, Jason Bannon. "Hi! How are you? Lilly said Laurie made the team. You must be so proud!" Mrs. Pryor said to Mr & Mrs. Cassidy as she moved down the line of Cassidys, giving them each a hug. "We are. I think she's a bit nervous though, first game and all." Mrs. Cassidy replied. "Oh, don't you worry. I'm sure she'll do great!" Mr.s Pryor assured her as she broke her hug with Sean and moved on, giving Jason a warm hug too. "You must be Jason." she said with a smile, to which he nodded. "Yes ma'am." he replied politely with a small smile. "I don't think we've ever met." came Mr. Pryor's voice as he extended a hand to Jason. "No sir. But I game with Lilly and the others at the Cassidy's usually." he answered, shaking the man's hand. "I've heard mixed things about you. But if you are a friend of Lilly's, then I think I know what to believe and what not to." he said to Jason which weirdly seemed like a mix of a compliment, but seemed to have a hint of a warning to it too, without really sounding like one. "Why don't you sit with us?" Mr. Cassidy offered as he scooted over a a little on the blanket they had put down to soften their seat on the bleachers. "We couldn't. We don't want to intrude." Mrs. Pryor responded. "Nonsense." Mr. Cassidy say, waving off the notion with his hand. "Have a seat. It'll give you girls a chance to catch up anyways." he said, patting the blanket. "Thanks. This looks like a good vantage point." Mr. Pryor said as he took a seat by the other father while the woman sat together. * * * * * * * * * * * * * The announcer came on over the loudspeakers ,making a few quick announcements about the next game and upcoming events before introducing the marching band who, after their performance, took their seats in a marked off area of the bottom rows of the bleachers. Once seated, the visited Simms High Tigers were welcomed, having already been on the other side of field in front of the visitors bleachers. After a moment the marching band began to play another song, "Seven Nation Army" as the spectators in the bleachers began to stomp their feet in time with the music. The cheerleaders ran out and unrolled a large banner. Two of them held it while the others stood and cheered, shaking their pom-poms. Then the announcer spoke again as the song was about to reach a climax, "Ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the field your twenty nineteen! Shelly High! Coyo-teeees!" The team came bursting through the banner, running onto the lighted field as cheers filled the air. Shelly was a small town, and it seemed like nearly the entire entire town was there to root on their team judging by the noise they made, adding an electricity and excitement to the air. It was a feeling that Lilly loved, and one, when she thought about, she might not be able to feel for very much longer... Shelly High Coyote's Sideline "Field goal! On the field." Coach Meyers called out as the regular offense left the field and the field goals special team ran on. The Tigers had somehow managed to stall out the Coyotes first scoring drive, inside the red zone, and Coach Meyers was not going to take a chance and go for it on a fourth down. "Pryor!" Coach Meyers called out, causing her to turn and jog up to him. "Did I make a mistake starting you, Pryor?" he asked with all seriousness and intensity. "It's been painful to watch you claw out yardage against these guys. You should be running roughshod over them. Do I need to bench you?" he asked, grabbing her facemask. "No coach." she said, shaking her head, "I'm sorry. I-" "I don't need 'sorry' Pryor. I need performance. So you go out there, spot that ball, and then spend Simms' possession getting your head on right." she barked at her and released her facemask. "You got it, coach." she said, nodding and then jogged away, catching up to Laurie. "You okay?" Laurie asked. She was showing concern for Lilly, but her own nervousness was very apparent.This was her first field goal attempt and if successful, she would put points on the board and give Shelly the lead. "Yeah. I'm good." Lilly said, noting the nervousness in Laurie. "And look. If you are too nervous or don't think you can do it, just let me know and I'll improvise a fake. We're inside the ten though, so this is no different that a point after. Just kick high so they can;t block it and you're good. I know you can do it Laurie. It's just like practice." she said as she took her spot. Laurie nodded. "I'm good. I'm good. I got this. Just like practice." she said, more or herself than Lilly as she got into position. Lilly knelt down and looked to Laurie, waiting for her nod. She then turned and nodded to the long snapper who was looking at her between his own legs and over the top of the ball. In under two seconds the ball was snapped to Lilly, who placed it point down and held the top point with one finger as Laurie took her strides, swung back and leg and kicked the ball in a high arc, over the heads and outstretched hands of the defenders, splitting the uprights. The crowd erupted in a cheer as Shelly scored first, giving the lead. Lilly did as the coach said though and sat on the bench while the Tiger's offense moved down the field. She had a lot of things on her mind, from the events last night, this morning, day and afternoon and the ramifications of things. She thought she had set it aside, but their first possession of the game showed different. She was part of a team and they needed her. She had a responsibility to them, one made long ago and that she intended to keep. She sat on the bench, closed her eyes and mentally shoved aside the pile of uncertainty, confusion and messy thoughts she had, locking it away until it could be dealt with later. It was Friday night, and they had a game to win. * * * * * * * * * * * * * The game itself was a blowout. 39-18. The Coyotes scored five touchdowns, two of which Lilly ran in herself. She did not particularly celebrate though, just tossed the ball to the referee in a casual, 'yeah, this is nothing special. I do it all the time' manner each time before her teammates would swamp her with high fives, hugs and slaps to her helmet and pads. Laurie was on point as well, making four of her five point-after kicks, having only missed one to a bad snapped that threw off the timing, after her one and only field goal attempt in the beginning of the game to give Shelly the lead, which they never yielded back. Even Chet got in on the action, getting his first Safety as he sacked the Tigers' quarterback in their own end zone after a penalty placed them back in it. The Tigers were not scoreless though, having found the end zone three times, though it was not their kicker's night, as he missed two point-after attempts while the third was blocked, and missing both attempted field goals. It was Friday night in Shelly, Montana, and the town was alive with good cheer and excitement for the season to come...
  7. 2 points
    Unfortunately Marissa's booth was close enough for Sara to turn around and speak plainly to her. I small fact she was hoping would go unnoticed by the gaggle of geeks and freaks. It's not where she wanted to be sitting, but after a game she had to make due with what was available. Still, she couldn't fault Sara for trying. With a roll of her eyes and a huff she snapped her head around (dramatic hair whip and all) and met Sara's eyes with her own derisive sneer. "If I expected an apology from you, Sara, you'd know. That whole thing at the house is last week. Let it go already. Gawd." Sara smirked inwardly, realizing that was about as good of an 'apology accepted' she would get from the resident fashionista. He hands went up defensively. "Okay, cool, whatever. I'm just saying...," she turned around and slid back in place, now taking a moment smile at the absurdity of someone actually being mad about an apology. For the better part of several minutes she tapped away at here phone, some of it was arguing with Devin, a bit was reminding Tawny it was never going to happen between her and her brother and on one strange occurence, Lona's phone beeped. //He talks about you. A lot. I won't pretend to understand why, but don't be stupid and let a movie night with Tawny keep you from something you want. If you want it, that is.// As the Fellowship blathered on she ate and kept to herself. As always it was one more emotional dramatic roller coaster for the Murder Sisters until the reason for it all dropped like a bomb in her ears (not that she intentionally listening, of course). Her fork dropped to her plate with a loud clamor, enough that everyone close took a moment to see what had happened. She smiled awkwardly and collected her things, dropped a bill on the table and hurried out like she'd left the iron on at home. Several minutes later the door jingled and the office was practically vacant. She'd phoned ahead and the man she'd come to see was thankfully already there waiting. As she approached he stood and cast a massive shadow over her. She extended her hand and he shook it with practiced diplomacy. "Are you going to tell me what this all about, Marissa?" He asked. She inhaled and put on her best diplomatic smile, the one that won over the mayor and now was going to win over... "Of course, Sheriff Allister. I'm sorry to call you on your personal line, but, there is something I really need to talk to you about. It's about Liam Day, can we perhaps... talk in your office?" "Liam?" That wasn't the name he was expecting hear. "Yeah, of course. Please, right this way." The small town glass pane in his door rattled as the door closed. Marissa sat down and began to explain to the Sheriff what she knew about Liam and his 'jumping' Lona.
  8. 2 points
    The Game - Marissa The roar of the crowd was like a wave of adrenaline washing over her, but she jumped at it nonetheless. She'd gone home, gotten cleaned up, hid her crazy after a few more hours of crying and decided the air of the game would do her some good. She was all adrenalined out for one day. The spikes of emotional states she'd been through today were good and plenty and somewhere out of it all she thought maybe it was time to change her diva ways... Her maroon lips curled into a half smile as she walked into the 'stadium' area of Shelly high and with each step up the entrance way more and more of her glorious kingdom was revealed to her. She was dressed like a cheerleader, in a manner. With a skirt slightly longer to preserve modesty, and a stylish, but fitting sweater cut to reveal more midriff than school policy allowed. She stood at the railing that split the halves of the bleachers and gazed upon the cheerleaders, reminding them silently that they were only allowed to be objects of popularity and desire because she allowed them to be. Were she down there... they'd be talentless hags by comparison, and tonight, she thought it time Courtney was reminded of that. With an approving smile that said 'carry on' she moved her way to the stands. Maybe it was time she changed her diva ways... ... ... Nah. Marissa had decided long ago that if she were to live in Hell, she might as well sit on its Throne. The Fellowship were okay enough, but the rest of these water headed monglets? It was time their knees ached in reverence. She'd noticed Jason sitting with the Cassidys and offered him a smile but didn't invite herself to join them. She was uneasy around Sean and something about him bothered her. It could have been the way he tried so hard to claim he was a boy and took offense to people saying or thinking otherwise then turned around and styled his hair in femenine colors and styles, making himself look like a girl to garner unwanted attention so he could pity up later. Or it could be the way he'd offered up his cock and balls to guys in his classes... either way, she did her best avoid contact with the little femignome. Thankfully, she wasn't trying to sleep with Laurie, so she didn't have to be nice to the little brat. Besides, if she were, she'd have already done so by now. Why were men so stupid and slow at everything? Jason dismissed himself and she saw it from the corner of her vision and when Stacey Collier scurried off after him she knew there'd be trouble there. It wasn't her problem, though. Stacey was nice, Jason needed nice, God knows he was surrounded by enough smothering, emotionally unstable, insane females already. Good thing he had her to keep him stable. Around halftime she took a moment to mingle. After the cheerleaders did their little show (which she found poorly choreographed) she crossed the track to the playing field. It took Courtney all of two seconds to swoop down on her. "Well, look who decided to grace us with her-" "Christ, do you ever stop being a bitch?" Marissa cut her off. The squad all silently giggled under their breath. "Ladies, Courtney, just wanted you to know that I loved the show. Doing a great job, we're killing them and it's you girls out here keeping them going. So please, keep it up." The cheers quad all offered up woos and jumped a bit. Marissa smirked as Courtney was slapped in the feels with eight, happy, pretty, ladies worth of real leadership, right to her fake sweet sixteen boob job. "What are you doing," Courtney fumed, leaning in and lowering her voice. Unthinkingly she gripped Marissa arm, mistaking her for one of her play things. "Cheering is mine, you're out of line, Mari." The Mantis slowly looked down at the redhead's hand squeezing her arm. Her glare slowly rose to meet her aggressor's eyes. Courtney let go. "You have the cheerleading team only because I allow it. You will have Homecoming Queen, because I'll allow it, you have so many things Courtney. So. Many. Things." Her voice was Malificent cold. She was on a villain high and riding straight to Arkham. "So why are playing with my things? Hmm? You're like a thug with a gun, waving it around so everyone see." Courtney pursed her lips and exhaled in a silent rage. "When you have a gun," she offered. "You can rob a banks." "When you have a bank, you can rob everyone." Marissa smirked impishly, halting her logic before it gained traction. "I have the bank. Your grades, your test scores, the faculty, your choice of colleges, hell, the fucking Mayor is in my pocket. So wave your gun, it's only a matter of time before someone sees it and you cause a panic. Now let me be clear: this Snapchat shit, stops. Those nerds, especially Jason are my little toys and if you go near them again you will quickly understand why in a world of locked doors, the bitch holding the key is queen." She leaned away and put on her best smile. "Woo! Great job girls! Get our boys a win!" She winked at Courtney and turned to leave. "Do so love these chats, Court! Tatty-bye!" She watched the rest of the game, silently and alone making sure everytime Courtney looked in her direction she saw the eyes of Boss, CEO, her Queen (if you were feeling dramatic), glaring disapprovingly at her. She put up a good front, but she knew without backing, she couldn't hold the school's popularity vote and Courtney knew it. If only she had an army of her... She slowly tilt her head to look at Sean and Jason cheering for Lilly... maybe Cade too, if he actually showed up, and she had an idea. The Mantis had a wonderful, awful idea...
  9. 1 point
    The redhead stared at him in stupefied amazement, cheeks still flushed from the sheer, uninhibited, unadulterated thrill of whoosh!ing through the air around the campfire like a toddler at an amusement park. Was he... was he serious? "Are you serious?" she asked as soon as the thought crossed her mind, utterly incredulous that he could possibly not know that it had probably been the coolest-to-date thing that had happened to her. Seriously. Like, better than finding out the best way to use the handheld showerhead. "Wait." Regarding him through narrowed eyes, Autumn reconsidered. He was... weird, maybe, but not stupid. He had to be fucking with her. "You're not serious." Right? The unspoken question, one merely suggested by the tentative nature of her declaration, received an equally unvoiced answer: a twitch of the lips that might have been a smirk, but could also have just been the flickering of the firelight. "You really- UGH!" she huffed loudly, rolling her eyes and pushing the unruly tangle of curls back out of her face as she spun on her heel. "Fucking Bannon, I swear!" As she turned, the newest, still uncertain addition to the group saw Lilly curled into herself, shaking, with Clara nearby and dropped all pretense of being annoyed. She wasn't crying, was she? As she approached, the other two girls were talking, and she shoved her hands into her jeans pockets; keeping them out usually meant she was expected to offer or receive hugs, or consoling shoulder rubs, and she still wasn't sure about the whole physical-contact thing with people she had to admit she didn't really know. "Hey," she began, interrupting as politely as she knew how. "You okay?" Her gaze darted first to Clara, who always seemed to have her shit together, and then back to Lilly, unsure whether things were already being resolved.
  10. 1 point
    i dont know what your talking about gdp (i copied the wrong one, my bad)
  11. 1 point
    As well-intentioned as they were, Cassandra never heard Jase's words of encouragement. Her eyes opened, and Jase immediately realized her pupils were insanely dilated; she looked like someone in the throes of an OD on something. Her breath came in rapid, irregular puffs. Only her grip was encouraging...her hands remained locked around his, tightly enough to be uncomfortable. If she'd been stronger, she'd probably have broken something. Much later that night, Cass would try to find the right words to describe what she'd gone through in those first few seconds. Cracking dictionaries, thesauri, books of literature and poetry, trying to find the exact right combination of words so she didn't have to just say 'overwhelmed.' She would fail. A sense she'd never had before was blasting into her mind, and the circuitry to interpret it wasn't there. So her mind...improvised. It was, she would think later when thought was possible, like being in a glass room that was suspended inside the sun, surrounded by jet engines going at full throttle on all six sides, with the air pressure cranked up to a hundred atmospheres. Oh, and there were like thirty dead skunks in there too. In the absence of mental context, her brain tried to interpret the mysterious signal as if it was an existing sense. The intensity was just too much though. She tried to stop it, to close whatever door she'd opened in herself to let the cacophony in, but it was impossible to concentrate, impossible to focus. That which was her was picked up by the raging torrent and carried away. And mercifully the blast began to ease. The light, the noise, the smell the press...it began to ease. She found herself staring down at something that looked like a star...the sun perhaps...viewed from a fairly close orbit. Blindingly bright, but not completely filling her awareness anymore. Behind her was inky darkness. She could make out the falloff of an enormous sphere curving away from her. Carefully Cassandra risked a look at this vast burning ball, and realized that it wasn't really 'hurting' to look at. She didn't have eyes. In fact, in that moment she realized she didn't have anything at all. Her vantage point was disembodied, like a camera in a movie. It took a little time for her to figure out how to 'squint' without eyelids. It obviously wasn't the same, but remembering what squinting felt like and how it worked seemed to help. Her senses could be voluntarily curtailed, just a little. When Cassie did that, she realized there were details on the surface of the ball under her. The light wasn't uniform. Variations dappled across it in broad swathes. It wasn't flat either...she could spot contours in it, like elevation changes. A thick diffuse glowing haze in which brighter, sharper lights moved...pressed so thickly that they almost looked like a carpet in some places. In others, dimmer. And some of the dimmest spots were long 'river' looking areas. Aside from the constant hazy glow, there were just brief pockets of light hurtling along those dark rivers. They almost looked like... Headlights. Sweet Jesus. The paradigm in her mind suddenly twisted, exploded, reformed. Those weren't spikes, they were trees. The carpet of light covering so much area was grass. The dark rivers, roads. Cassandra abruptly realized she had been slowly falling back down all this time. Or, zooming in maybe, like with a camera. The dark rivers led to a very strange looking place full of thick bright dots swimming among darker pools. Shelly, she realized. Home sweet home. It looked like it was full of stars. The whole world looked like some crazy NASA image of nebula or the Milky Way. There was so much. Jase felt Cassandra's hands loosen slightly, her fingers shift position a little. Her eyes, when he met them again, looked less dilated and more focused...though still pretty tripped-out. "Cass?" he ventured, unsure if she could hear or not. She nodded, though her eyes were still clearly not seeing him. "It's like the shine," she said softly. "But...we all have it." Bannon wasn't sure what to say to that, so he just asked the obvious question. "What is?" There was an eerie feeling then. Cassandra was looking at him, but he could clearly see that her eyes were unfocused and aimed a bit to his left. Her attention was on him though, and it was such an intense feeling that it almost seemed to tangibly press against him. "We're so bright," she said aloud. Her hands tightened their grasp around his again. The world exploded. Jase had two advantages over Cassandra as his mind was opened. The first was that his mind was innately more analytical. He realized very quickly that the 'pain' was an instinctive response of his mind, not something actually in his nerve endings. The second was that he had Cassandra there with him. How he knew was unclear...he couldn't feel his body anymore. But she was there, and her presence was calming. She took him high, high up...where the flood of information attenuated with distance, to let him get accustomed to it as she had. Then brought him down in stages. "Everything shines," Cassandra explained...and this wasn't spoken aloud, but rather through whatever connection she and Bannon had forged. "Every single thing." As they descended, Jase took stock of just how far away the blaze of light, that seemed to represent a tapestry of every living thing, could be seen from. It did dim out at the edges, but...far out to their left, he spotted an area where all the irregularities smoothed out, and the light became very uniform. Instinctively he realized what it had to be, even as he struggled to believe it. The Pacific Ocean. A like area extended in every other direction, blanketing what had to be hundreds of miles. Maybe a thousand or more all the way across. Even as he realized it he could feel Cassandra realizing it with him. Their minds were separate, but tightly entwined. It was, he/they thought, maybe a little like those experiments where they cut someone's brain in half (the patients with the cut corpus callosum Jase supplied). Usually the two halves of the brain communicated so effortlessly that they became one. In this case though, that communication was cut off and they became effectively separate individuals co-existing in one person's skull. What would it be like to have that damage repaired? To suddenly have those two individuals reconnected? To share each thought, emotion, perception, memory, in real time? Cassandra pulled back then, and as her hands left Bannon's, the moment of communion crumbled away. The connective tissue parted and they were individuals again. She didn't say anything, it still felt like she didn't need to. Like he'd just realize what she realized the moment she realized it. With a cough, Cassie remembered to breath then. "Okay." Her voice was thin, her throat dry. "I definitely am going to get some water. Someone else's turn to blow their brains up."
  12. 1 point
    Marissa stopped. Right now she hated Jason, not for what he did to Liam (though she'd not admit it), but for he did to her to get to Liam. Their problems would have to wait, however. "I could leave," she said without turning around. "I'm not wanted, and I assure you that's not a complaint on my part." She spun around slowly and faced everyone again. "We're not friends. Remember? I think that's the disconnect here in that you think I'm shooting for friendship. I made it clear, to all of you, that this was my brother's idea and I was just along for the giggles. Bet a few of you forgot that along the way, didn't you? Shame, you're supposed to be such a smart, attentive bunch. I guess that's just on your Saturday night character sheets, huh? My only hurt in all this is that you disappointed my brother, because he really did like all of you, why, I've no idea, and now? It doesn't matter." "This isn't about me, or how I feel about all of you. It's about a monster coming to feed on our identities and frankly, even if you don't like me, you have to agree with me when I say, that plain sucks." She approached the table slowly. "All of you are direct ins to every clique in the school. Lona, the music crowd. Charlie, the drama kids. Sara the impoverished," she raised her hand to halt complaints before they started. "It's not a shot, it's an actual demographic. Jason, the outcasts. Cade, sports. Sean, technophiles... and cross dressers." There was an awkward silence... "Okay, that was a shot. Clara, the overachievers. My brother, the mysoginist bros who think they're funny, but not." She raised a finger. "Aaand, shot." "We can't kick down the doors and beat Courtney at her own game. We need to be subtle. I honestly hate the bitch, but she's gotten bad, people. Real bad. I think she might be a Shade." "A Shade?" Jason asked. "What Devin and I call people who are... infected, for lack of a better term, by The Dark. I'll back all of you. Essentially I can make you popular by proxy. The result will be you becoming kings and queens in your respective domains, overnight. That means you can begin to shift the social paradigms subtly. Be more inclusive, be leaders, be people others can look up to and respect. In essence," she sighed and let her persistent evil smirk fade to a mournful frown. "Be everything Devin and I weren't. Courney will be forced to either conform to the new popularity standard, or she'll wig the hell out and we'll know she's a Shade." "Athletes are already popular," Jase offered. "True, but even their popularity can be bolstered. Just as mine can by the support of other cliques. We're not talking me ruling the school while you serve the queen, I'm proposing helping you all get your foot in the door, then once there I let other see me supporting you, then you work together to unify Shelly and its students. It'll take time, maybe later than Valentine's Day... but we can control the school and stop Courtney and her goons before they hurt someone else." She straightened and crossed her arms. "No promises, but we might be able to manage a slow motion walk down the hall looking like bad asses while everyone on the sidelines looks like they wish they were us. If you control the cliques, you control the school. It'll be messy and all out war, but for those of you who don't know how... I can teach you to be popular... and stylish. Concessions will have to be made, like getting some of you prettier." Her gaze turning to Clara didn't go unnoticed. "Ten percent of Shelly's population is the High School class. Twenty percent are their parents, another ten percent are younger siblings in lower grades... we pull this off and set a standard, we can have thirty or fourty percent of people willing to listen and help their kids make their neighborhood a nicer place to live... and if I repeat that, I may vomit." She paused and exbaled slowly. "That said, the thought of you guys being in charge of anything makes me dryer than Cass's ashy elbows," she looked at Cass. "Seriously, girl, it's called lotion, look into it, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Now, my brother is waiting for me, so think it over. Oh, and Lona, you've been eyeballing me all night. I'll be in my car for five minutes checking my social media. The passenger door will be unlocked. The rest is on you. I'm really leaving this time." She turned to leave and slid her slid her phone from the thigh pocket of her leggings. Tapping away at keys as she left.
  13. 1 point
    Dave, it's not the job of anyone else to run after you or your characters. You could have talked about your story arc with people at any time, most especially after the behavior of the twins started causing issues. I did come to you, multiple times, about ways to bridge the gap between Clara and the twins. You accused me of trying to "steal your character's only powers" and then continuously belittled Clara and eventually made an OOC demand that Clara apologize for agreeing with Devin. I suppose that is a kind of communication, but not the kind I'm going to constantly throw myself in front of. I made an effort and got socially smacked in the face for it. That's not okay. And yeah, I've talked to Nina about issues because talking to you, trying to work things out OOCly not only didn't go anywhere, but you were rude and aggressive on top of that. You wouldn't put up with how you treated me coming at you from someone else, so why should the rest of us put up with it from you? Why do you get to dish out and then throw a hissy fit when it comes back to you for behavior you have previous listed out as being totally unacceptable to you? As for the "I didn't ask you to change anything" that was thrown around last night, that's not the point. Constantly having to deal with your passive-aggressive or just aggressive comments in Discord is exhausting. It makes me want to avoid the game in general because who wants to constantly deal with that? You have a plot arc for the twins. Great. That plot arc literally requires the people that have been abused by them to continue willing letting them abuse them more because Marissa has issues. Without having hashed that out beforehand with more than just Bannon, why should the rest of us have to be able to read your mind and think that's fun? Either that or put up with constant OOC put-downs of our characters because they stand up for themselves in the face of abuse and aren't trained suicide hot-line operators - the parallel you made last night? You made abusive characters. You put in a history of abuse of the other PCs in the game. Then you had issue with Clara because she told Devin to go if he wanted to go (his own words) and to take his sister that constantly belittles people with him. You turned this into an OOC fit because....honestly, from where I'm sitting because these are two characters are tied up in your head in a way that has you hopscotching IC and OOC when people aren't willing to run after them with hugs and hot chocolate and a willingness to be emotional punching bags. When that didn't happen you pinned the blame on that to the PC in the game most outspoken against the abusive words the twins use to push everyone away. The other PCs have no reason to do so. One could have been written in before hand, but you didn't talk to cast at large. The twins could've had some thicker skins on taking some flack for their words, the same thing you keep hammering on for Clara. You rag on her for "listening to the words and not seeing her actions." And yet, Clara's actions have been ignored and you've demanded actions from her for her words (which still floors me since her words at that point were agreeing with Devin). Clara being there for the twins is immaterial because she said they were abusive. Or told them to go ahead and got if that's what they wanted when they had just said that's what we should all do. Or told them not to talk to her if they were just going to constantly put her down every time they did. You've created a rather steep double-standard from your expectations for how people see/interact with your PCs and your view and comments on my PC. Clara's actions don't matter because she calls the twins out on their words. To Bannon's point about story vs. Real Life: I don't want to tell that story with my character. I do deal with it enough in my really real world with children in my care that it is emotionally exhausting to have to chase after a fictional version of it - most especially when, after the whole thing has caused issues, the player is rude and aggressive about it. That doesn't feel like telling a story then. It feels like being told that everyone else's character is to be an unpaid therapist, emotional punching bag, and general doormat because that's what one player wanted. Dave says we all could have come talked to him. By that same logic, he could have come talked to me when Clara and the twins really started to have issues. I did go to him, and he put me down for it. There is a lot of "standing on the hill, expecting everyone else to climb to him" coming from Dave. He could have reached out when his two characters became a hugely disruptive element to the game. Instead, he threw an OOC fit about my character because she told his characters to do what they'd just said. Because she's not willing to ignore their abusive behavior...just because? To Nina about being a GM: From my experience as a storyteller, boundaries are key. Set up your expectations of what kind of characters you are looking for in your game (tone, genre, Big Damn Heroes or Gritty Heroes), that sort of thing, beforehand. Set out your expectations of the behavior of your players and how you plan to handle conflict. You are the authority here and likely in the course of the game you'll have to exercise that authority, which includes what actually happens when players violate the boundaries you have set up. You're saying that you won't ask players to leave the game because you regretted it once. What that translates to without other means of control, is that when there is conflict whomever can exhaust, intimidate, or socially out-punch the others wins. So the largest personality(ies) among your player-base have the option of dominating all the others because you will not exert authority over them. When those more intense personalities have conflict, it boils over into everything without clear direction and boundary enforcement by you. Without consequence, there will be times that any given person simply won't behave and will make the game unpleasant for others. And the more conflict-averse, quieter players will leave the area of play if it happens enough because who wants to be constantly stressed out over fictional crap? I'm not saying booting people from the game is the only way to stop this. That is one tool and the most extreme one because it just removes the player without any other recourse. Other boundary-enforcement can be making the player and their characters sit out the game for time to get them to cool off (this could be a certain amount of real-world time, a number of threads, some combination of the two: can't be in threads that begin from now to then). Another idea is asking them to write a particular breakthrough with their character to speed up the resolution of problematic behavior: Marissa learning how to talk without being a catty bitch, dictating that I must give Clara Empathy and ramp down her stress level by some measure (getting her laid or killing Etienne in a "freak car accident", let's say), or asking Bannon and Dawn to run a storyline about adjusting Jase's brain at least a little so he starts feeling to curb his hay-hook responses to things. Players will likely grumble, some may even say "nope, make me do that and I'm scrapping the character, maybe the whole game". :shrug: It's still your game and you can still say "the character is too disruptive as-is/doesn't fit the game I want to run/is irritating the hell out of me to the point that I'm avoiding running the game to avoid dealing with that character, I'm requiring you to adjust". Another way of dealing with things is to tell players in conflict via characters "figure it out or you're both out, I'm sick of this shit". Put them in the "get along" shirt and let them sink or swim together. Either way, the game smooths out. Honestly, after this, I'm debating have players in my games put a blurb at the bottom of their character sheet about their intended character arcs. Seems like it would go a long way to collaboration over conflict in games. I actually really like that idea, as it also signposts for those that don't want to be involved in story arcs that deal with certain material to be able to opt of deep connections to those characters until that arc is resolved. I know some players don't want to deal with extreme violence, themes of abuse, or sexual story arcs, just to name a few that crop up more regularly than others. As for the specific issues between the twins and Clara, at this point I'm at a loss. I've suggested several ideas to Dave that got rather aggressively rejected without any attempt at figuring out an acceptable adjustment to my suggestion or any other actual resolution. The two statements from him that I can recall were "ignore what they say" (which is "just take the abuse and run after them anyways" to my point of view) and "Clara's ghosted so it doesn't matter". Neither of these are a compromise and neither actually solve the issue. I'm not willing to go back to Dave in any private correspondence at this point because I'm tired of being aggressed at over abusive characters. I'll talk here and see if something can be hashed out, or I'm willing to go through a mediator on Discord.
  14. 1 point
    I'm personally glad that you will be remaining in the game, Dave, and hope that you'll at least consider side threads with my character. On Nina's concerns regarding bullying: I know I'm guilty of taking the piss at times - if anyone takes personal issue with how I poke fun or tease, please understand that the intent is not bullying. If anyone does feel I'm picking on them too much, please address me in PM, let me know it's causing you upset, and I will tone it down. It's usually meant in good fun.
  15. 1 point
    there has been a lot of drama lately. I have even been the cause of some of it. the way people play their characters is not something i am going to dictate. and It is not within my power to do anything about how players act outside of the game. however what happens inside a game needs to stay in the game. you are people playing these character, like or dislike the other players don't project what happens in game onto the player outside and don't project your personal feelings outside into actions in the game. as you can see I am reluctant to remove anyone from the game. I did that once and have regretted it ever since. the only reason i will remove someone is if i find that a player is intentionally sabotaging or disrupting the game. some of you may think that this has already happened and are questioning my judgment and that's ok too. but in the end for better or worse that judgement for my games is my call. Like wise I will not try to stop anyone from leaving. i may offer advice or not, but i don't have all the answers most of you have been doing this a lot longer than i have. each and everyone of you are adults and you know what it is that you want and need out of these games if you arn't getting it then I understand wanting to leave and i am not going to stp you though i will look upon it as a failure on my part. also imo there has been a lot of bad behavior outside of the game... some of it caused by actions inside games some of it is just bad behavior being perpetrated under the guise of joking. everyone here is an adult and picking and bullying is not adult behavior and being on the internet is not an excuse for acting like an ass. and before everyone points there finger at one person, don't, because there are several people here who do this or join in when it is done. I can't make any of you stop but i can ask you to tone it down and think of the other person as a person instead of a pixle.
  16. 1 point
    https://strangerthingsintrocreator.kassellabs.io/#!/ALpnUpQ-57ZQvD6_eHDT I did a bad thing. And I am not sorry!
  17. 1 point
    Partially cocooned in a heavy, crocheted blanket she'd snuck out of her grandparents' house before the sale, Autumn leaned out the "window" of the half-finished tree house that looked toward Shelly proper, slowly exhaling a plume of smoke from between pursed lips. It tasted earthy, like fresh dirt and chocolate as it coiled out into the darkness, and the small stone pipe was warm in her hands- another ward against the cool night air. As she listened to the dull, distant roar of the crowd, gazing down the gentle slope of the hill to see the glow of the bright stadium lights against the black, fathomless sky, the normally restive redhead waited. She waited for anything to make sense, waited to wake up, waited for the bowl she was smoking to carry away memories of blood and fire and monsters like the remnants of a nightmare banished on that waking. But... It didn't. The showers, the hysterical crying, the bouts of vomiting in between- they'd just left her feeling numb and empty, an awful ache that hollowed out her insides. At least her face had stopped throbbing- small comfort- although she wouldn't know how bad it would look until the next morning. Taking another hit from the smooth, green bowl, she continued to wait, letting the smoke gently soften the sharp edges of the day as it rolled across her tongue. If she tried to talk to anyone about what had happened, they'd think she was crazy. Hell, she mused, slow ribbons of silver trailing lazily around her head. She probably was. The thought made her giggle, in spite of herself, and she left the pipe to cool on the framed-out opening in the wooden tree house wall, folding her arms across her chest and pulling the blanket tight. The collective voice of the crowd rose up in another cheer, and her eyes- tonight a brighter, Caribbean blue against the red of so many tears- focused on those distant lights. Everything had been so awful, so frightening, so chaotic, and yet life was carrying on without pause or consideration. It had been the same when her grandfather died, just… moving on. Moving forward. It was easier to think about it, now, with the soft, knotted strands of woollen yarn wrapped around her body and the insulation afforded by a little herbal refreshment wrapped comfortably around her brain. I could have died. Another cheer, an air horn. Whatever was going on down there, the crowds were eating it up. ...But I didn’t. The three people at Shelly High that she liked least, that she avoided as if their delinquency and bad reputations might somehow be contagious diseases, had protected her. Had made sure she got home. And because, unlike the nightmare Courtney-monster or the creepy lookalike teddy bear or the Shelly-tree, that fact still existed in their side of the horrorverse, she was forced to acknowledge it. Fucking… Jason Bannon, and the Evil Twins, had probably saved her life. Had saved her life. It wasn’t just some bizarro world delusion; Marissa, of all people, had cried on her shoulder. What was she supposed to do with that? The breeze picked up, rustling the leaves around her in reassuring whispers. She dragged a finger across the screen of her phone where it lay on the window ledge, idly chewing her lower lip as her brain lazily sifted through her options and condensed them into something like a plan. Hey, she tapped slowly. You said to come see you, about the hair thing. If you’re not busy Sunday- Autumn sighed, the air escaping her lungs in a long, soft exhalation- would you maybe want to hang out, or something? She tapped again. [Message Sent.]
  18. 1 point
    “Don’t you ever tame your demons, but always keep them on a leash.” ((This takes place shortly after Jason leaves Atomic Aftermath. Warning: The following contains scenes of violence some may consider extreme.)) Liam had come home after the pain of his stricken stomach had faded and whatever that fucking bitch Lona had done to him had seemed to wear off. He was certain she’d done something… Maybe she’d kicked him harder than he thought, and ruptured something inside. Pulling up his sweater, he examined his stomach in the mirror – no marks. No bruising or weird lumps. He prodded tentatively, then harder, and felt nothing. He sat down and lit up a joint, turning the TV on to help him think, and pondering for a while, but came up with no decent reason why a touch of Avalon’s foot should make him hurt so damn bad. Weird. One thing wasn’t hard to understand. She’d told him to leave town like some crazy psycho woman, pressing a sharp stick to his throat like she was going to use it… but she hadn’t. Why’d she been so intent on making him leave town? Liam was sure she was probably going to run straight for the sheriff, but maybe she wouldn’t. Maybe, he considered with a small smug grin, she couldn’t. After all, it was her word against his, and he could establish an alibi easily enough. His mom was upstairs, dosed out of her mind on pills and booze, but she’d swear blind to the sheriff that she’d heard him come in shortly after the game had ended, just as she’d done for him over a dozen other mishaps. Liam nodded as he considered. Yeah. He’d gotten away with it, and just needed to make sure that none of Little Lona’s little freak friends tried anything. Not that they’d be able to do much – he was a couple years older and bigger than most of them, even the glamazon quarterback. And Cade Allister, though huge, was too much a daddy’s boy to go all baseball-Batman on a guy. He recalled something he’d heard, about Jason Bannon nearly gutting Cody Sikes with a hayhook back at the fair, and experienced a moment’s disquiet which he shook off easily enough after a brief chill. The same booze that had fuelled his attack on Avalon was also buoying his courage. Bannon was sixteen years old, a Junior. Smart, and his dope was, well, dope. But seriously, fuck that gangly piece of trash. Yeah. It was all coming up Liam. He went through to the kitchen of the small home, peering into the fridge to see if there were any leftovers. Straightening up with a box of half-eaten noodles, he closed the fridge door and turned to look straight into the pale eyes of Jason Bannon. The teen was standing outside his kitchen window looking in, his face pale in the fluorescent light of the kitchen. His expression was that of someone considering a curiosity under glass, head tilted slightly to one side. “Th’ fuck do you want, freak?” Liam called mockingly. “Gonna stare at me while I piss, too?” He snerked, forking a mouthful of noodles between his lips. Then he noticed the look in Bannon’s eyes. It was a look that didn’t belong in the eyes of anything human. The eyes blazed as though backlit by the fires of hell. Something grabbed him and slammed him up against the refrigerator, causing him to drop the box of takeout as his head cracked against the appliance. Then the same something picked him up like a toy and hurtled him into the kitchen table, cracking his head against that too. It was as though someone had looped a long scarf around his head and was using the tether to bash him off the furniture. A third surge of force, and he flew straight up into the light fitting on the ceiling, the cheap strip bulb and it’s plastic cover shattering against his back. He felt fragments digging painfully into him even as he registered he was falling back towards the table below. He landed, smashing the thing to pieces, splinters gouging his face even as a hand grabbed his hair and pulled him upright once more. He flailed for purchase with his feet barely touching the floor, his own hands going up to grab his attacker’s hand. But there was no hand. There was no-one in the room. Even as he realized this, through the haze of blood over one eye he saw Jason staring at him with that intent, hellish predatory fury. Blood was trickling from the lean youth’s nostril, but his concentration did not waver as he smiled a thin, merciless smile. Liam tried to understand what was happening, but through the chaos if his thoughts it seemed clear that it was Jason doing this, somehow. And it was because of Lona. And there was no sign of remorse or restraint in that stare. He pissed himself, then. Dangling by a painful invisible grip on his hair, Liam pissed himself while Bannon watched. “Nuuhh…” he whined softly, shaking his head as best he could. He realised dimly that his jaw had been broken, it hurt when he tried to speak. A thought came. His mother! She was sound asleep, bombed out on pills… but surely If he screamed the neighbours would hear and- Even as he opened his mouth to scream a second invisible, intangible hand clamped on his throat, hard enough to stifle his cries as he was sent slamming into the wall, then the floor, then dragged through the splintered remains of the table with terrific force. It felt like Cade Allister was working him over – fuck, it felt like Cade and Cade’s dad were working him over. Mostly senseless, his face was pressed up against the glass of the kitchen window inches from Bannon’s. “If and when you wake up, you will confess what you tried to do.” Jase told him calmly, green eyes boring into Liam’s single open one. “You’ll say nothing about me. Nothing about my being here. Blame two big guys… a gang of Nepalese midgets… I don’t care. Because if you try to finger me, or avoid confessing… I’ll know. And then I will finish the job, and take my time over it.” He leaned forward so his nose was almost against the glass, his voice a hiss. “There will be nowhere to run. Nod if you understand, cockroach.” Liam slowly nodded. Jason stepped back from the window. “You’ll live tonight because I think it might actually distress my friends if I kill you. Even Lona. Something that baffles me, but perhaps I will understand one day. You won’t speak to her again, but in your heart you will thank her for your life, every day.” Jason paused, then gave Liam a direct look. “Nod if you understand.” Liam nodded again, feeling consciousness slipping away. He was jerked away from the window to slam into the wall opposite. He felt something snap in his right shoulder, and then was tugged away from the cracked plasterwork and forwards with terrifying force. As he hurtled through the air, his last conscious sight was the pane of the kitchen window rushing towa- The loud splintering, tinkling crash was enough to wake Mrs Day from her slumber, making her sit up with a small shriek. It was also sufficient to alert the neighbours, at least those that weren’t out celebrating Shelly High’s win tonight. When they came to investigate, they found Liam day laying face down on the grass amidst the ruins of the window some five feet away from the kitchen. He looked as though someone had beaten him within an inch of his life, and the kitchen was a blood-smeared wreckage. As a few neighbours tried to calm Liam’s mother down, others called the sheriff and the paramedics, then stood around and tried to reason who could have wanted to do so much damage to a man while the one neighbour who worked as a nurse at the med center tried to make sure Liam was still breathing.
  19. 1 point
    *Facepalms* Well, so much for joining the SAS. Covert ops troopers are no use when everyone knows what they look like half naked. Also, the sheer amount of shit his mates in the unit are going to give him is unbelievable.
  20. 1 point
    "It's..." The redhead paused abruptly, shooting Devin a weary glare at his use of the new nickname, involuntarily glancing in Jase's direction, and immediately regretting it. Why? Why did I give Mother. Fucking. Jason. Goddamn. Bannon my favorite hoodie to cover his junk? I mean, because it would've just been out there if I hadn't but, still! My hoodie! What was I even thinking?! ...Fuck my life. He looked for all the world like an extra from some porno version of Lord of the Flies, and the blood rising in her cheeks wasn't the least bit interested in how exhausted or miserable she was. It was a completely inappropriate thing to be (NOT) thinking about, and it wasn't like she'd never seen a naked guy before, but just, like... casually naked? No. Casually mostly naked. ...Which, somehow, was worse, especially with the look he gave her when she accidentally flinched and met his gaze. It was difficult to read: not quite a smirk, almost expectant, but also a bit like he was laughing at her, just behind the forest-canopy hues of his slightly narrowed eyes. The male Jauntsen twin wasn't any easier to gauge, for all that he seemed superficially open and carefree, and she had heard more than a few stories about his exploits. She was just glad that at least Devin's clothes were basically intact, or she probably wouldn't be stringing words together at all; it seemed somehow unfair to average-looking guys that a place like Shelly existed. Helpfully, her brain reminded her that she already wasn't stringing words together, which she was supposed to be doing, because three people were currently staring at her. Oh. "Um, yeah, no. Not exactly. It's in the other place." There was a faint quaver in her voice, one not born of weariness and neurochemicals, on the last two words. Licking her lips, she looked from Marissa back to her less patient sibling, scrupulously avoiding the final member of the dysfunctional group of high-school antagonists. "About 15 miles that way." She jerked her head in the direction of town, and Devin, for all his idiotic bravado, actually blanched slightly. "Bullshit," the handsome young hotshot muttered darkly, shaking his head. "No fucking way. It's in Shelly?!" "Deej," his sister interjected, tugging on his arm. "It gets worse." Autumn exhaled. "It's not in Shelly. We didn't see town at all. Honestly, uh... We were thinking maybe it is Shelly." She let the words hang in the air, folding her arms across her chest like a shield, a subconscious attempt to either ward off whatever that meant, or to shore up her emotional walls enough to keep moving long enough to get home. Maybe both.
  21. 1 point
    By the time the trailer came into view, Cassandra was either feeling better or shock was finally starting to numb her to the horror and surreality of what she'd witnessed. It felt like cotton was packed into her skull, cushioning her mind but also making it sort of soft and unable to grasp things. It was comfortable, but it wasn't right. She couldn't leave it like that. Treat it like a story, something she was investigating. Maybe that'd help wrap her mental fingers around it. How did that go again? To really break a story, you have to understand the causality of it. Find the first causes, and document them. Everything you build will be on that foundation. First causes. Where had it all started? The bear, nailed to a tree. Except no because...who nailed the bear to the tree? She pulled her hand out of Clara's, making the other girl pause and look back at her with a mix of confusion and concern. "I'm okay," Cassie said, "I...I just realized something.I have to go back." Then she turned and ran back towards the tree the bear had been staked to, the place it was still on the ground where she'd dropped it in shock and horror. And yet 'going back' had more than one meaning, Cassie felt. Not just back to the right spot, but back to the right time. The first cause. At the foot of the tree, propped against the bole of one of the roots just before it plunged underground, was the teddy bear. Dirty and battered, now with a hole in the midsection where stuffing leaked out like wispy white entrails. Cassandra leaned over to pick it up, half expecting it to writhe and moan. For the moment though, it contained its agony and simply stared at her with scuffed black glass eyes. The stake. Lilly had pulled it free...did she still have it? Cassie wasn't sure, but it seemed like a good place to start since it wasn't on the ground. She went over to where the other kids were gathered, to where Lilly was staring dazedly off at something maybe only she could see. She went up to the athlete, feeling a little awkward. She didn't have words of congratulations or comfort or anything a normal person should have at a moment like this. Just a weird request. "Hey, uh...Lilly? Do you happen to still have that thing? The metal thing that the bear was stabbed on?" Lilly looked confused for a second, more at the utter left-fieldedness of the question than at the meaning of it, then nodded. "Yeah, why?" Cassandra nodded, encouraged. "Can I have it for a second? Borrow it. You can have it back if you want. I just need to see something." The metal spike...some kind of climbing piton or something? Cassie wasn't sure...tingled in her hand as Lilly shrugged and handed it over. A circle was closing; she had all the pieces, she just needed to...arrange them properly. With a grateful nod, Cassie ran back to the tree and found the deep notch that the spike had carved into it when hammered home. She held the bear up to that hole, then held the spike up to the bear. ...the tree, clouds racing past overhead as the sun crawled visibly across the sky...there was a flicker of squirrels in the branches, then nothing....and then some kids went past; the Fellowship kids who'd gone to the trailer first...the sun tracked further...and abruptly time slowed down...something indistinct moved to the tree trunk and the bear was pressed to the old, rough bark...the spike driven in with a sound like breaking glass...then it was gone, and the sun tracked further...and then Cassandra saw herself and the others who'd come with her arrive at the tree, and Lilly put her hand to the spike... No. First causes. She followed the Bear, back through time, unraveling it to a thread and hauling herself along it as if rappelling up a cliffside...until it was in the dark...the dark that stretched off into history like the impenetrable gloom at the bottom of the sea...then the dark was breached by light; a lid opening, hands reaching inside to lift the bear out...out of a lockbox...a lockbox in...the trailer?! The hands were shadowy, indistinct, like the figure that had nailed the bear into the tree...with the stake! Cassandra unraveled the stake as she had the bear, making it from an object into a string of events, then tracing those events back and back...until it lying half-embedded in the ground, almost covered by old growth grass...in the background was the campsite that marked the spot that Bannon's party would one day be...one day soon...and then a hand reached down, shifting, shimmering, occluded by shadows, and pulled the stake up from the earth. It hadn't searched first, Cassandra realizes. It hadn't hunted. It had known precisely where the stake would be...she quickly spooled back out, to the tree, to the bear being hammered in...and tried to see the face of this person...all she saw was dark and cold though, rising up, flaring out, trying to swallow her.... With a startled gasp, Cassandra's hands flexed open, and the stake and bear fell to the ground. The vision...or...whatever it had been...broke immediately, leaving her pale and breathing hard. Suddenly dizzy, she leaned against the tree to hold herself up. She had to tell them...but there was something she wanted to do first. And everyone was still dealing with this truly messed up situation. Maybe after the game? Give her time to dot her I's and give them time to recuperate before hitting them with yet another big huge Weirdfish right in the face? Okay.
  22. 1 point
    Sara let the weights down gently, closed her eyes and listened to the other s working out in the small weight-room. Her heart wasn't it. She had gone straight home after they had returned form the to find her mom gone taking a weekend trip to Great Falls, Sara had gleaned from the note her oh so loving mother had left her along with orders to clean the trailer and twenty dollars for food. She shoved the money into the pocket and left the trailer mess and all and gone tot he gym. Art saw her come into the training room and came over to her. “So, you come to train or what?” “Yeah I thought maybe a couple of rounds“ she said tossing her gym bag on the floor by the bench. While she grabbed some shorts from and a bra and t-shit from the bag she looked up at the two boys in the ring sparring. Both were students at school but a year behind “Hmm, I figured you'd be out at the game.” “Nah, maybe if dad were home, football is more his thing.” “Yeah I remember when he played...he was good. But no, I thought you'd be out with your new friends.” Sara stopped and then slowly faced Art. The old man had a stern look on his face. “You know I don't have any friends, Art.” “Well, I don't know you been dodging training since July and some of the other kids they tell me you been hanging out with some kids at school. I mean friends are good but if you want to compete, be a champion, you gotta train. Your that age where you might want to do other things. I understand...” Sara cut him off. “Your right Art I should have just come clean with you but a lot has been going on and I can't really explain it to you. But yeah I don't think competing in the boxing league is gonna happen now.” Art shook his head. “I just don't want you to give up on something that could make a difference in your life, a way out of this place. You can have that social life anytime but right now your young your and strong if you stop training now, it will be that much harder to come back too later.” “Art, I don't need to train anymore not to box, but I can't compete anymore either that won't ever happen now. I'll train to stay in shape. And I'll always come to you for advice about all sorts of stuff. Your like a second dad to me you know.” Art shook his head sadly not understanding. “But Sara hun, why?” “Because I can't lose. Not any more.” She started calling the fight happening behind her softly so that only Art could here. That in it self was enough to make the old man awestrruck but when he realized she was telling him whatthe boys boxing were doing before they did it, that was almost too much. Sara rested her hands on his shoulders, “Art, I can't explain it right now, but I will okay when I can. Just trust me okay.” Art nodded, “Yeah sure whatever you say Sara. Did you want to spar?” “I better skip tonight looks like you have your hands full with these guys. I'll just go do some weights.” That had been an hour ago and Sara was feeling guilty about using her powers on Art but it was for the best. After today she knew that boxing wasn't something she was going to do as a career not unless she was going to become the biggest cheat in the world.. She got up wiped down the bench and hit the showers then after dressing walked over to the bowling ally to pass the time waiting for the Fellowship to come to Bunnee's after the game. After getting a basket of cheese fries and a Dr pepper she went into the arcade lounge and played video games while she listened to the game over the ally's radio. She smiled when she heard that Laurie Cassidy had made her first field goal. “Good for her," she said outloud as she feed more quarters into the hungry machines.
  23. 1 point
    Project #4 - The Game: Sean Sean sat in the bleachers with his parents and Jason, the roar of the crowd washing over them as they joined in the cheering. Sean didn't have much interesting in football, or sports in general, but he'd come out to support Lilly. But there was something more to it this evening, with his sister on the field. And after the absolutely crazy and disturbing afternoon, something as normal as cheering on a friend and family at a high school football game seemed all the sweeter. Over the field, Sean piloted his drone, filming Laurie's first football game for posterity, a private grin gracing his lips. The remote in his hands was just for appearances sake. He was controlling the quadcopter with his mind, which gave him far more precise mastery of the drone than his fingers ever could. Even better, he found out he could not only perceive the electromagnetic spectrum, he could convert it to some degree. Twisting just a few threads of photons, he was able to power his drone, giving it far greater flight time. Sean jumped to his feet as quickly as the others when Laurie made the field goal, pumping his fist exuberantly and cheering, though his slender shoulders tensed. Laurie was jumping excitedly on the field, getting celebratory slaps on the back and hugs from her teammates. Laurie turned to the crowd, and finding Sean and her parents, with a wide grin on her face, she waved and pointed at her brother. With a put upon sigh, Sean smiled ruefully back at his sister and waved. Shortly after Jase got up to get more snacks, Sean stood up too. He stretched surreptitiously, then picked up a pack he had stuffed under his seat, and assured his parents he'd be back soon before he headed off to the bathroom. ~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~ Sean stepped out of the stall and walked up to sink. Hands on the porcelain, he stared at himself in the mirror, turning this way, then that. He thought of himself as a boy, a young man, but the person in the mirror looked like anything but. And yet, he didn't totally hate what he saw, even if he didn't usually appreciate the attention he drew. He knew what he looked like, but he had tried imagining what he'd look like as a 'normal' young man - whatever that meant - more than a few times. The image that came to mind however, was always unfinished, amorphous, or ended up looking like someone else, someone he'd seen elsewhere. Taller, bulkier, but hardly more defined than that, the face, if it didn't belong to his father or an actor he seen somewhere, would be square and hard, speckled with a coarse five o'clock shadow. It didn't look like him at all, didn't feel like him. He was still figuring out what being a boy meant, meant for him, challenging his preconceptions from growing up as a reasonably regular - if still delicate looking - boy during his formative years. And with reality warping, monsters looming, conspiracies conspiring, and psionic powers unveiling, Sean was not only being forced to adapt to how to saw the world, but how he saw himself. He had thought of himself as a boy cursed with a woman's body and looks, could he reinterpret that to being a boy who happened to look like a woman, and that there wasn't anything wrong with that, that it was just different? He was figuring out who he was, but his friends seemed to accept him already, quirks and all. Why should he worry about how others saw him? The more he worried about it, the worse it seemed to get. But other people, girls, like Marissa, got as much attention as he did or more, but it hardly seemed to phase them. Let them think what they want, say what they wanted, as along as they didn't act on it without invitation. It did seem a lot of it was all about attitude - he conveyed a sense of being a victim, and so he was. Devin might be right about that, and that was an insufferable thought. So when Laurie had proposed her bet, Sean had only hesitated for a moment before agreeing. He'd known it was a sucker's bet, but Laurie had been very fidgety during supper, and he could see her nerves getting to her, first game jitters. He was sure Laurelei had the skill, he just didn't want her psyching herself up for failure, so he agreed to her teasing request to give her something extra to strive for. And if he did lose the bet, it gave him the excuse to claim - to himself at least - that it wasn't something he had wanted to do, but was a push he needed to at least start getting over his hangups. Hiding didn't help - and didn't work, denying didn't work, it was time to embrace it, just a little. He knew that was what Laurie was trying to do, in her teasing way, and others had suggested it to him, in one way or another. This was it. He cooled his face with some water, dried it off, took several deep breaths and rolled his shoulders. Then he grabbed his white and yellow pom-poms, plastered a grin on his face, and strutted out of the bathroom, the pleated skirt of the Coyote cheerleader's outfit swishing about his hips. He was doing this for Laurie and for himself, to see what it was like. Let others think and say what they wanted, he would endure. There were much harder things he was being forced to contend with compared to being intersexed.
  24. 1 point
    The Wright Poolhouse The poolhouse door closed behind Lona with a loud click and Etienne turned to face Clara, his expression somber. “Are you able to talk now?” he asked, his voice gentle. She nodded. Everyone else was at the game tonight - Felix loved football nights, and Lisa had taken the excuse to get the other adults out of the house and socializing for the night. There wasn't going to be a better time, especially if things got loud. She took a deep breath. “Yeah, we should.” She just stood there staring at him for a minute though, completely at a loss for how to start. Her hand gripped the back of the couch nervously. “The most important thing to say is that I, I care about you deeply.” He sat down in a chair, then stood in a nervous rush. “I didn’t start out to hurt you, and I regret that I have. I’m sorry.” She hadn’t followed him into the sitting area at first and when she moved now, her eyes caught on the large binder still sitting out on coffee table. Her Plan. She’d finally put it back together with her revised class and activity schedules just before school started again. In all the crazy of the past two days, she’d forgotten to put it up. A self-deprecating laugh escaped her at the absurdity of it all now. Having a plan in a world of Etienne’s and Cook’s and monsters and psychic powers and creepy Blackfeet Upside-Down-Thunder worlds. How the hell did any of that fit into a plan? She flumped onto the couch, scooping the large binder onto her lap. She tapped the cover with her fingertips to let out some of her tension and frustration. “‘Didn’t start out to hurt’ me. Just use me?” “When Cook’s previous attempts to get into your parents’ lab didn’t work, he hired me.” Etienne stopped and ran his hands through his hair, then sat himself down on the other end of the couch. “My training is as a spy, one that acquires assets. That means I’m good with people and convincing them to do things or hand over things. I lost my first job.” He sighed with a touch of bitterness, “Not because of anything on my end, but politics and money. Anyways, I still needed work but I couldn’t be particularly...discriminating...about what jobs I take. Friends in the community would find me interested parties, and I’d say yes or no. Some things I won’t do, but once I agree to a contract, if I ever want another, I have to see it through.” He leaned back, closing his eyes. “Cook implied that you were college age. I should have checked, but I honestly didn’t think the man that...Feh, doesn’t matter. I found out the truth and went ahead with it anyways. That’s my failing and I am sorry.” He covered his face with his hand and laughed. “Sort of. I’m sorry I was willing to do it, but. . .” He glanced over at her, his expression conflicted and rueful. “But I’m not sorry I met you. An idiot, but not sorry.” “And I just lost myself in the past couple of months.” He flushed, looking abashed. “I knew I needed to finish the contract, but it was easy to just let you set the pace of things and not worry about it. Tell Cook that I didn’t want to scare you off or tip off your parents. Given how he sees this place as some sort of...what’s the American saying? Fort Knox, some sort of Fort Knox, it wasn’t hard to convince him that I needed more time. A lot of time.” Clara had watched him closely, her hands still fiddling with the binder. She’d flipped over the top cover, her hand splayed out on the first subject cover. “What-how, how did you think this was going to end, Etienne?” “I wasn’t thinking, Clara,” he said softly. “I fell in love and I was just trying to hold everything together as long as I could.” The stiff purple paper crumpled under her hand, ripping away from the binder. Clara started, staring at the creased and torn remnant in her hand. She laughed again, tears falling down her cheeks. “Jesus, Etienne.” Her shoulders shook and she stared down at the binder, little hysterical laughs bubbling out of her. She crumpled another page. And another. And another. She was halfway through her senior year schedule, the already-written college entrance essays next in line for destruction, when she felt Etienne’s arms around her. “Clara,” he murmured softly into her hair, “hold on, don’t-” “Don’t what?” she barked. “It’s a joke! It’s just-just-” She bent over the binder, her fingers scrambling and scratching at the edges of the thick stack of paper. “None of it matters anymore and it was just a stupid joke all along. I just didn’t know it!” He pulled her in closer to him, cradling her head against her chest and letting her cry. When she relaxed against him, he snaked the binder out from her lap and tossed it onto the floor away from her. He kissed the top of her head, repeating to her. “We’ll figure it out, ma trésor; we’ll figure it out.”
  25. 1 point
    That night at the game was something he had to do. Seated with his mother, Cade smiled. Cora had volunteered to go get concessions, and Haruka went with her leaving him with his stepmother, who seemed abit preoccupied. "Something up mom?" She looked up to him, and smiled. "Not really, just wishing your father was here. He misses far too much these days, and I worry that he's working too much." Cade nodded. "With his responsibilities, it's just how things are. I don't see that changing all that much." She seemed abit disappointed with that answer, but nodded. "I know, but I worry that he's not spending enough time with you two." Cade shrugged slightly, "I'm used to not seeing him much. I think it's abit harder on Haruka honestly." His step-mother stiffened slightly and he knew he'd not made the situation better with that comment. Downstairs, waiting in line for concessions, Haruka waited with Coraline. "So, you finally got your wish, dating my brother." The precocious twelve year old was seemingly wise beyond her years, and had always been abit teasing of Coraline, but in that way one would expect little sisters of being. She approved of Cora, as she added some acceptable culture to Cade's live outside of sports and his secret hobby. Coraline looked down at the girl and shook her head. She liked the younger girl, she really did. "Let's see how long it takes you to work up to confessing to your crush, and then you can gloat. But then again, you've always been a bright one," she snarked back with a chuckle. Her eyes shifted to scan the crowd quickly, a flicker of alertness looking for... Something she didn't quite have word for. Danger was too acute. Threat too vague. Hazard too impersonal. Menace? Yes. Menace. That was close enough to what she was looking for. It had been her stated idea to go to the game first after the... Happening... Happened, figuring a crowd would be safer. But safer from what? Monsters, spies, Bannon or someone going Carrie on the first person to nudge them wrong? "...Cora? Cora, they moved," Haruka verbally poked the taller girl out of her impromptu mini fugue with the revelation that, indeed, the line had just inchwormed forward again with the exception of themselves. Coraline flashed a quick smile of apology and moved forward a step. "Sorry. Thinking about what your Mom wanted," she responded to Haruka's raised eyebrow of disbelief based on the simplicity of everyone's order, realizing too late the transparency of the deflection, "'Long day. Always not fun shifting gears from summer to school. Anyway, I've been looking up concerts and there's a few you could probably convince your Dad to let you go to..." *That* Haruka could get behind enough to quell any further problems for now, and three popcorns and four sodas later, the two returned to their seats. "Miss me?" she replied, settling down next to Cade and handing over their shared popcorn. Cade helped pass the food out and smiled. "Yeah, and the food too." He was obviously teasing her a little, his smile spoke of nothing of his previous conversation with his mother who took her food and drink quietly. She wasn't a fan of american football, prefering baseball, especially watching Cade play. Back in Japan, she couldn't help but feel that Cade would be a star of the diamond, and maybe that would make him abit happier. She quashed that quickly as Cade really never seemed unhappy now, save where his father was concerned. It was a sore spot but tonight wasn't about that. Cade chuckled as they watched the game. He supported the football team because he was friends with alot of them, and they supported the other athletic teams. Hell some ran track with him and even played baseball. Haruka looked up at Cora "So, what concerts were you thinking of?" Coraline took a moment to get comfy and nestle in close to Cade as she could with his mother sitting right there, claiming her first bite of popcorn as she scrolled through her eclectic list of research and pruned about a third of it immediately. Nooope. "Well... Just in Great Falls alone coming up through November, off the top of my head.. We have Hozier, Avril Lavigne, Carrie Underwood, the Black Keys, and Bob Dylan even. Though I could see my Mom making that a 'Hess Family Outing'," she lingered on that last one, having run out of fingers, smiling amusedly at the fruits of her research. It was less what was playing, as the experience of it, the wave of human emotion blasting from the band or singer at the beating center of the gathering. Speaking of which, The Coyotes must have scored as the crowd around them exploded in screaming celebration, a wave of chaotic emotion rippling across the bleachers at the speed of thought. Haruka nodded. "You pick one. i'm sure Cade will go too, that way even Dad will agree." She'd already gotten her mother's approval and Cade just sat there, suppressing a chuckle. "They just scored again. I think Lilly's got them all pretty fired up. That play-call was pro-level perfect." He said. He'd agreed to let them plan that concert date, since it was more for Haruka to finally get to go to a concert, though he did think to offer his personal preference "My pick would be the latter too." Haruka smiled as he spoke. "You would like the old man music." The quartet turned their attention to the game as the point after kick sailed perfectly through the goalpoasts, and Cade smiled.
  26. 1 point
    “It’s okay,” Lona said for the third time to a worried Clara. She double-checked her safety gear again: reflective vest, cellphone in the armband carrier, her flashlight, and mace on the waistband. “I just need to clear my head.” “Are you sure?” Clara asked, glancing out the window. “It’ll be dark soon.” “Yeah, it will.” Lona patted her hip, where the canister of mace rode. “It’s Shelly, everyone’s at the game, and I have protection.” She nibbled on her lip ring. “Clara, please, I really need to be alone, to decompress. To think about all this shit. And running, as much as I hate to admit it, really helps me burn off energy.” With a sigh, Clara nodded. “Fine, but call me the second you get to Bunnee’s. Do you hear me? The second.” “Yes, Mom,” Lona said with a smile. She’d had a good hard cry on the way home in the back of Etienne’s Urban Assault Tank, which had helped some. Pizza with everyone else had pushed back the nervous energy, but once they’d gone home to wait for the post-game gathering, it had come back. Everything felt hot and sharp, like she walked constantly on a live wire. She couldn’t play her guitars; she could barely listen to music. Everytime she sat down, she found it impossible to stay in one place. Food earlier hadn’t settled her, and she was down to trying running. She entertained calling Jase and seeing if he could help her with medicinals, but he’d be headed to the game, and she wasn’t sure he had anything that would work on her now. The high she got from running seemed to be the only one she could enjoy now. She set out on the usual run Etienne and Clara took her on. The steady pounding of her feet against the ground settled her almost immediately, and she fell into the easy stride that would carry her past the school and all the way to Bunnee’s. Of all the things that Clara had talked her into taking up, jogging was the best. Of course, it hadn’t been just Clara. The weirdness at the Party had scared the fuck out of her, and if something like that happened again, Lona wanted to be able to handle it. ’Course, shit did happen today, and you froze up until it was over. Lona scowled as she dodged an oversized rock, pissed at her actions today. You’ll just have to do better. Training. Practice. More running. Whatever it takes. The path had been mostly downhill but now it sloped up, and Lona slowed accordingly. Clara wasn’t there to push them to keep up the pace, so Lona didn’t force it. At the top of the hill was the road, and Lona looked both ways before crossing. Headlights danced over her as she scurried over the far edge but Lona didn’t pay much attention to it. It wasn’t until the car stopped at the path that she took a quick glance over her shoulder. In the deepening twilight, it was just a shadow, but the shape tugged at her memory. She had to turn back to the path before she brained herself on a log, and by the time she could glance back again, the car was screeching away up the road. “That was creepy,” she muttered, even as she told herself that it wasn’t anything important, just some busybody trying to figure out who she was. That was one of the best and worst things about small town life: everyone knew when bad shit happened to you, and everyone knew when you’d done bad shit. The path wound on before her as Lona continued her run. Step by step, she ran toward the game, already seeing the glow of the Friday night lights through the trees. She felt a little bad that she hadn’t gone to the first game, but she couldn’t deal with the crowds tonight. She wasn’t Jase, to just roll with anything life tossed to her. The roar of the crowd grew in the distance, the occasional whistle a sharp, piercing scream. A sudden loud blat of sound made her jump a little and laugh at herself. Yeah, you would have been fine at the game, dork. That was just the end of a quarter-- Something hit her right side and drove her into the earth. Lona hit hard, her breath purged from her body as a heavy weight collapsed on her. “I wanted to play nice,” Liam breathed in her ear. He grabbed at her, flipping her; she heard cloth rip as she struggled to breathe. “I was even willing to let you think you could get away.” “Off,” she gasped, fighting against tight chest muscles, able to only draw in short, sharp breaths.. “Oh, I’m gonna,” he told her, standing over her. In the near darkness, he was a menacing shadow -- one that blurred with tears of pain and fear. “That shit with Coraline Hess at the party was over the line.” His hands dropped to his crotch and she heard a zipper. “You made an enemy, and now you get your punishment.” “No,” she gasped, trying to roll over and get up. He grabbed her hips and she weakly kicked at him, her breathing rasping loudly. She could feel her muscles healing, feeling them loosen and start to allow her breathe even as he pushed her onto her back and grabbed her shorts. When she felt them slide to her knees with her underwear, she found a renewed fight in her. Frantic, she pushed at him, then remembered what Arthur had shown her last year. With a growl, she grabbed his face and tried to drive her thumb into his eye. She heard him yelp and he jerked back from her. Lona sat up and grabbed her undergarments, trying to get them back on. Liam punched her and she sprawled into the dirt, head spinning. He dropped to the ground behind her and shifted her legs, folding them into the position he wanted. She gasped, and realized she could breathe again when she inhaled dirt. With a scream, she kicked backwards blindly and frantically. Her foot barely connected but she felt a spasm of power when she did, pulling deep on some instinctive need. It felt like when she healed, only instead of pushing gentle power out to help, she meant to hurt. Liam jerked away from her, retching. “Oh god, my stomach!” he screamed. “It’s on fire!” She staggered to her feet and yanked her clothing back on, then turned back to him, panting. He rolled on the ground, crying, arms clenched tight around his midsection. “Bitch! What did you do?” “Less than you deserve,” she said, her voice cracking with fear. Straightening, she tried to channel Jase’s icy cold demeanour. She’d used a power on him; if he told anyone, she was fucked -- her friends, too. Their secret would be out. “You’re going to leave town. No notes, no goodbyes, just gone,” she demanded, her voice high and shrill. Be like Jase! Her mace was gone, lost somewhere in the dark but her flashlight glowed dimly from the underbrush. She grabbed it, then found a stick with a sharp end and pressed it to his throat. “Because if I see you again, you’ll die!” She sounded insane, hysterical, and his face was too twisted with pain to see if he’d taken her seriously. It didn’t matter; either she’d succeeded or not; either he’d leave, or Jase would hunt him down like a dog once he found out. Lona didn’t want to tell him, but they had to know, all of them. Liam could expose them, or at least expose her. For a second, she considered stabbing him with the branch but she couldn’t. Her body locked up at the very thought; she didn’t have it in her. “Leave or die,” she said again before throwing down her stick and running away. This was no easy jog; she ran flat out, her flashlight bouncing on the path aided by the occasional pool of light from the halogens of the game. She didn’t slow until she was on a main road in town; then she collapsed against a wall and wheezed, waiting for her pulse to slow. As she waited, she felt the bruise on her cheek slowly fade. She stayed there, shaking, until the adrenaline drop had passed and she could stand without swaying. She didn’t want to run home; she didn’t even want to walk back to the game. Bunnee’s was ahead, and soon it would have Jase and Devin, Lilly, Cade, and all her friends. Soon, she would be safe again. You’re safe already. Lona stared at the bright lights of Bunnee’s, the aberrant thought stopping her in her tracks. You stopped him. You alone. You didn’t need the others. You didn’t freeze up. It was a start. A small start, but it was hers. Inside, Bunnee did a double take at her ripped shirt and the dirt on her skin. “You okay?” he asked, keeping his eyes politely away from where she held her shirt together. “Yeah.” She forced a light laugh, swallowing her discomfort at lying to him. “I fell running in the dark. Can I get a Bunnee’s shirt and pay for it when Clara gets here?” “Not smart,” he observed, digging under the counter and drawing out a neon pink shirt with his logo on it. “Running in the dark. Especially when you have a flashlight.” “Yeah, I know.” Lona nodded sheepishly, edging toward the bathroom. “Can I get a Kit Kat milkshake, too?” He grinned. “Coming right up.” Lona ducked into the bathroom and cleaned herself up, then changed shirts. The sight of blood on her thumb stopped her, and she realized she must have scratched Liam. Good. I hope it scars. By the time she’d come out, Bunnee had her shake ready. “The whole crew coming?” he asked. “Yes,” Lona said, taking the treat and sitting down at the big booth. “Jauntsen, too?” Bunnee asked with a frown. The adult disapproval rang clearly in his voice. “I think so.” Lona glanced up at him. “Before you ask, a nice girl like me hangs out with a guy like him because he’s a true friend. There’s more to him than he shows the world.” Bunnee held up his hands. “Your life, kid. I was just trying to get an idea of head count.” “Okay,” Lona said, pulling out her phone and turning her attention to her music blogs. Patiently, she started to wait for the others to join her.
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