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.”
“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.