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  1. 3 points
    "Well, we've been in classes together and so on since I moved to Shelly." Jason replied calmly, dextrous fingers and sharp knife making swift work of the tomatoes. "Aware of each other, without really talking." Dana nodded, setting the olive oil on the counter. Jason tilted his head to one side. "Do you have any balsamic vinegar?" he asked casually, causing Dana to think a moment before nodding and retrieving that bottle from the cupboard too as her guest started in on the onions. Dana checked the oven temperature and lightly oiled the potatoes before setting them on a tray. "But we started talking last Friday." Jason went on. "Autumn bumped her head on a door - it swung back into her face, to be exact, and one of my friends noticed the tumble. She grabbed me, because I have a certain level of medical knowledge, and we went to check on Autumn." He glanced up at her, giving a faint smile. "She was fine other than a bruise. Fine enough that she was giving me a hard stare for walking into the girls bathroom and caring more that she didn't have a concussion. I got her some ice for the bruise, then we invited her to sit down with us." The corners of his eyes crinkled slightly as he started arranging neat slices of tomato and even thinner sliced onion in the dish. "Not the best of starts. I really got the impression she thought we were oddballs and that I was up to no good." "I probably would have assumed the same thing if someone I barely knew followed me into the women's restroom," Dana replied a trifle archly, narrowly suppressing a smile. That did sound like Autumn, all right, or at least her propensity for mishaps. "So," she continued, adding a little coarse salt and pepper to the potatoes as she leaned over to examine Jason's handiwork. "You started talking on Friday, last week." With a little hm and a nod of approval at his progress, she turned back to her own preparations. "And, from the sound of it, not necessarily under ideal circumstances. Thank you for looking after her, by the way." Hazel eyes flickered once more in his direction, considering his profile as he worked. There was something unusual about Jason Bannon, though she couldn't quite put her finger on it. He seemed too... mature, really. He didn't give off the impression of being a drug-running miscreant now that she was talking to him in person, but he didn't quite seem like a teenager, either- didn't conduct himself like one, or move with that awkward semi-conscious lack of spatial awareness most of them had, didn't use the same slang terminology. "So how did you two end up getting close enough since then for her to invite you up to the creek?" He made a soft sound of amusement - a proto-chuckle of sorts. "Well, she hung out with a bunch of us at my home on Sunday, and left without her hoodie. On Monday evening she came to get it back, and then stayed to talk." Satisfied with his arrangement of the layers of tomato and onion, he inquired after a bowl and whisk and began mixing some olive oil and balsamic in the bowl, before slowly whisking them together. "I... I was having a bad day. Personal issues. Autumn was able to get me to talk about them - indeed, she was the only one who cared to talk to me about them." He paused, eyes going distant as he recalled the night - her warm hug, the conversation in the kitchen, the teasing and laughter. "I think..." he said slowly. "I think Autumn is the only person who really, really tried - and tries - to understand me." The words were matter-of-factly spoken, but seemed to come from a place of vast distance, or so it seemed to Dana. There was no self-pity there, or sorrow, but there was a sense of alienation, of a young life lived in apart-ness. He looked up from grinding some salt and pepper into the bowl, his gaze direct as he regarded Dana. "Autumn made an impact on me. I think that's when we became friends." He dropped his gaze and considered the bowl of dressing, then raised it to his face and gave it a sniff, pondering for a second before adding a touch more pepper. "And the rest is her defending me at school, then inviting me camping. And... I suddenly realised - we both did, I think - what was there." He chuckled again. "Perhaps it didn't exist until that moment, like Schrödinger's Cat. Until we opened the box and looked." He shrugged his lean shoulders. "I'm not really an expert on this sort of thing. Autumn is the first girl that ever kissed me." Leaning back against the counter, arms folded across her chest, Dana Keane listened quietly as Jason related the very brief series of events that had led, more or less, to finding the pair of them on the front porch. It was gratifying, in a sense, to hear someone- a stranger to herself- praise her daughter's character, as if in confirmation that she'd been raised well by people who loved her. And yet, that same maternal inclination, some completely mundane and yet unfathomable instinct, told her that this polite, well-spoken young man might have no idea what that felt like. The thought didn't lessen her worry for her daughter, necessarily, but his account did reinforce Autumn's insistence that they really had just been friends. ...Which, given the rapid escalation of their relationship, was more than enough to justify a measure of concern. A responsible 16 year-old was still a 16 year-old, after all, with all the dubious judgement that entailed. "Really?" she asked when he'd finished, one auburn brow raised skeptically as a smile tugged at the corner of her mouth. Her keen hazel eyes appraised his height, the faintly Mediterranean cast of his features, the pale green gaze Autumn had remarked on more than once. "I find that hard to believe. You're a nice-looking young man. Surely my daughter isn't the first one to think so." "I never claimed that." A fin of humour flashed in the depths of his eyes, echoed in another of those small but genuine smiles as he glanced back at Dana, meeting her gaze once more without any of the discomfort that should be present in a teenage boy talking about such a subject with an older woman. No blush, no self-deprecating aww-shucks shrug. It was both impressive and somewhat disturbing. "I've known there've been girls that took interest in me, at least according to sources other than my own perceptions. I've not had a lot of luck following up on that, though." Giving the dressing a final whisk, he artfully drizzled it over the dish of layered tomato and onion. "Like I said - Autumn's the first who actually kissed me. And honestly, the fact that it was her meant more than the fact it was a kiss." He picked up the dish and moved over to the refrigerator, opening the door and selected a spot on the shelf on which to place the salad. Closing the door, he turned and faced Dana from across the kitchen, the corners of his eyes crinkling in a micro-smile. "You worry for Autumn." he stated calmly, arms hanging at his sides with a relaxed poise that had nothing of the defensive or bashful about it. "It's good: seeing that love you hold, the way you care. I won't hurt her, Dana. I'm not careless with my friendship... or other feelings." "Can you really guarantee me that?" she replied, head tilted slightly in an attitude of intent curiosity. It was a largely rhetorical question, born of the older woman's objection to what she saw as his naïve optimism. Although Jason Bannon had the manner of an adult, the bearing of someone considerably more mature than his actual age would seem to indicate, he was, she reflected, still a boy, after all. "That you won't hurt her." Dana shook her head slowly as if in answer to her own question, but remained leaning comfortably against the counter. "No," she continued, not unkindly, but with the certainty of one accustomed to promises and the fickleness of both circumstance and human nature. "You can tell me that you'll try not to. You can reassure me that you won't do it intentionally." Her eyebrows drew together in a little frown, an expression of thoughtfulness her daughter unconsciously adopted when considering a problem. "But, eventually, you will. Even if you're not careless. Even if you don't mean to." She was quiet for a moment, glancing past Jason and toward the doorway where Autumn had vanished to go upstairs. "I do worry," Dana agreed, moving to gather up the utensils to be washed and glancing up at her daughter's strange new companion. "She's my child, my little girl, the hardest and the best thing that's ever happened to me. And I know that, even though she'll be my baby as long as she lives, she won't be a baby nearly that long. So, I'd rather you didn't tell me something unrealistic, like the fact that you won't hurt her. Tell me how you'll handle it when you do." He focused on the question, on her words, and his brow furrowed in concentration as he gave the matter his full attention. As Dana kept one eye on him, he paced a few short steps, hands going into the pockets of his sweat pants, then turned and paced back. Then he went motionless, as if all extraneous energy had been turned off and the actual Being of Jason Bannon was elsewhere, eyes staring unseeingly at the counter-top in front of him. He didn't even seem to breathe. And then motion and animus returned, and his head came up, eyes glancing towards Dana once more. "I think..." he said slowly, as if analysing his thoughts as they were verbalised. "That people often hurt each other. Even those close to them, though that seems to be mostly selfishness, mistake or carelessness. I can eliminate carelessness as a cause for Autumn's pain. I can do my utmost to limit selfishness as a cause. But I will make mistakes." He frowned. "You're right. It is not so much a question of whether I will hurt Autumn - probability indicates that even with the best of intentions, I could upset her." He turned to face Dana, nodding as the analysis reached its conclusion. "I think that if I hurt Autumn I would handle it by assessing how, by discussing it with her, and by not repeating the mistake." Dana stared at him for a long moment, warm hazel eyes nearly as wide as her daughter's as she struggled with the conflicting urges to simultaneously laugh and weep. Both teens had said they'd met at school, but she was half-convinced her intrepid daughter had unearthed this increasingly odd boy from a government research lab. ...Something with extraterrestrials or artificial intelligence, maybe, like the television shows the girls at the office watched. The more he spoke, the less he seemed like the slouching thug from the rumors, but that wasn't necessarily reason not to be concerned. "That is an answer," she allowed with a sigh, her expression a strange commingling of resignation and amusement. "Although at least now I know for sure you were serious about never having had a girlfriend before. Speaking of which." Reaching up into one of the cabinets overhead, the svelte redhead pulled down a coffee filter and busied herself measuring grounds from an airtight canister on the counter. "Autumn mentioned you had a few," she paused, the corner of her mouth curving into a wry half-smile. "Quirks. So what should I know about you, Jason Bannon?" "Quirks." He smiled faintly. "I suppose I do." He relaxed, leaning back against the counter on his butt and hands, a lean symmetrical form in repose. "It's always a little odd, to describe yourself to someone else, isn't it?" Dana shot him a warm smile as she heard the wry humor in his tone. "Hmm. Things you should know..." Jason mused, his eyes on his girlfriend's mom as she set the coffee machine up. "I have an acute sense of smell and taste - which is one reason I like to cook and garden - specifically flowers, but I dabble with other growing things as well, like a vegetable and herb patch I've started at home. I tend to be - as you likely noticed - analytical. A lot of nuanced human interaction goes over my head." he admitted with a shrug. "I don't lie." "Really?" Dana raised a brow as she started the coffee to drip and turned to regard him skeptically. He just nodded, a faint smile at the corners of his lips. "Really. Outright lies offend me. I'm perfectly capable of evasion, concealment, half-truths, misdirection and letting someone jump to the wrong conclusion, though." he said with a small grin. "But the thought of categorically stating an untruth revolts me." He shrugged again. "It's just the way I'm made, I suppose. If I say a thing is so, then to the best of my knowledge it is." "Huh. Good to know." Dana wasn't sure she believed it, but other than a wry amusement at how she was reacting, he didn't seem to be playing with her. "Anything else?" "I speak six languages not including English and plan to learn more, because I like languages." he stated with another of his expressive, lean shrugs. "I have perfect recall of every moment of my life, every experience, sight, sound, smell and touch - both good and bad. I've never taken a proper intelligence test, but I imagine I would score fairly high, based on my speed of information absorption and comprehension." He considered. "I think that covers things you should know." "For a narrow definition of 'should,' I suspect," his girlfriend's mother observed dryly, having missed neither the emphasis of the term by repetition nor Jason's candid assessment of truth-telling. "But for now, since this is the first time we're talking, and Autumn will probably shower as quickly as she can to limit my opportunities to either ask something embarrassing or tell you something embarrassing, I'll take it." He seemed sincere enough despite the incredible claims he was making, or at least confident enough in what he was saying that it passed for sincerity, and yet if he was telling the truth it made his involvement with her daughter seem all the more unusual. Neither their interests nor abilities seemed to intersect, she mused, removing a pair of mugs from the rack as the coffee burbled in the machine. And yet, at least one shared interest seemed patently obvious, she remembered, still feeling more than a little voyeuristic at having seen them interacting in the doorway. "I am curious, though." Glancing briefly at the lean, green-eyed youth as she passed, Dana pulled a small container of heavy cream from the refrigerator. "All of that sounds fascinating, and while I'm firmly and unwaveringly convinced that my daughter is essentially perfect... because she's mine," the pretty veterinarian added good-naturedly. "The two of you don't seem to have much in common. Where's the connection?" "I think we have more in common than some might suspect." Jason replied calmly, smiling a little at her. "As I said before, we bonded over a single long conversation, and I find her to be curious, brave and warm. She's restless rather than studious, but she seeks understanding. We both enjoy hiking, camping and outdoor activities, finding the same peace and sense of pitting ourselves against the elements in the pastime." He smiled a little wider at a memory. "Last night-" "Am I going to want to hear this?" Dana said half-seriously. Jason grinned then, actually grinned - a flash of humor that transformed his composed features for a moment, making him seem his age, before fading to a smile with the mirth still dancing in his jade gaze. "I'm not that forthcoming." he remarked somewhat impishly. "No. We were talking, and I mentioned something about quantum theory in passing, and she recalled myself and Sean talking about it on Sunday last week, so she asked what it was all about. So I explained about the current search for the Grand Unifying Theory, the gaps and holes in it, and some theories about what might fill those gaps." He shrugged. "She listened, she asked questions, she was curious. She's not narrow-minded, interested only in what her immediate experiences provide. And nor am I. There's a commonality that goes beyond mere learning." His smile softened, just a fraction of warmth touching the cool shade of his eyes. "I find her amazing." "Do you," Dana observed/inquired quietly, honey-colored eyes narrowing speculatively at the subtle shift in Jason's expression. Autumn and Jacob had grown up together, were fond of each other, had been thick as thieves before the break-up and the rift that grew between them- but the word "amazing" had never entered the conversation. Now, in the span of a few minutes, both her daughter and this strange, moderately unnerving newcomer had each used that specific term- totally independently- to describe the other. It was simultaneously sweet and unsettling, the thought that the tall, spare young man who'd put such a light in her daughter's eyes might himself possess a bit of that same spark... especially when it had flared into existence so suddenly. "How do you take your coffee?" she continued conversationally, considering the way he'd described Autumn, the tone and the phrasing he'd employed. Had he really only known her for a week? Could he actually have drawn such conclusions on the basis of… What had he called it? ...A single long conversation? Most teenage boys, she reflected ruefully, would have used rather different words to describe the athletic young woman. ...Then again, Jason Bannon was evidently not 'most teenage boys.' "In a mug, usually. If I'm really jonesing, I just snort the grounds." Jason said casually as he crouched down and fussed over Lexi, who had come up and was sat at his feet looking up imploringly for attention. Dana noticed how intent and deliberate he was, the long slender fingers gently scritching behind the pit's ears, then down the sides of her neck as Lexi panted happily even as the slender veterinarian let out a snort and a musical chuckle at Jason's comment. He glanced up from the dog and smiled, head tilting to one side and eyebrow raised in wry humor, and a few things clicked into place for Dana as to why Autumn was so into the youth - other than the obvious. He was intent on whatever was before him, utterly present in each moment, took emotional topics seriously rather than deflecting with jokes or embarrassment, and yet was possessed of a curious dry understated humor. His eyes were glacial and icy on first meeting, but as he opened up they took on a richer, warmer expression which was only rarely echoed in his features. When he looked at a person he really looked, and they either felt an uncomfortable sense of being stared at by a wolf... Or they felt like they were the focus of his entire universe. Whoa. "Black and plain is perfect." Jason said as Dana stared at him in that moment, causing the normally self-possessed woman to start slightly and then nod, turning away and letting out a breath. She still wasn't entirely happy with the speed at which Autumn and this young man had evidently fallen into each other - but she understood it a little - okay, a lot better. And this is when he's sixteen and on his first girlfriend. Saints preserve all good women when he 'grows up'. As she poured the coffee, she heard the sound of footfalls on the stairs as Autumn tried to walk - rather than run - back down and prevent the maternal inquisition from squeezing too many uncomfortable facts from her boyfriend. "Apparently, there was a study that said someone who drinks their coffee black is more likely to be a psychopath," Dana teased as the sound of bare feet on hardwood reached her ears, skipping down the last couple of steps to the accompaniment of clawed canine paws clicking on the bright maple floor. She was just handing Jason his mug as Autumn rounded the corner with her Shepherd escort, the young woman's damp red-gold curls loose around her shoulders and her fair skin still faintly pink from the heat of the shower. Nothing was said about the faint purplish smudge at the juncture of the girl's throat and shoulder, just visible over the neckline of her shirt; her mother merely sighed, peering sharply at her daughter's new boyfriend over the rim of her cup as she took a drink. It could be worse, she reminded herself, trying not to think of the rising teen pregnancy rate and finding precious little reassurance in the way Autumn's gaze was drawn by some unerring feminine instinct to her boyfriend's face. "We've got a little while, yet, before dinner," she stated pointedly, glancing at the timer on the oven. "You guys are welcome to watch some television in the living room, or we can play cards..." Her voice trailed off, and a gleam of mischief sparkled in the depths of her hazel eyes. "Ooorrrr, I can bring down your old photo album! You know, Jason, we've got the most adorable pictures of Autumn from when she-" "Mom, come on, not cool!" Autumn protested vehemently, sweeping past both of them to grab a mug from the rack. She'd changed into a pair of dark green running shorts and a slightly oversized t-shirt, which Dana would normally consider a perfectly modest outfit to wear around an interested teenage boy; a quick glance at Jason and the direction of his gaze, however, left her with the unsettling feeling that it might not matter what she wore. "Since you're our guest, Jason, do you have a preference?" her mother inquired, putting the cream away as Autumn finished up. He had indeed been studying Autumn's shape, barely hinted at under the t-shirt but then more clearly outlined by the running shorts and the smooth musculature of her legs as she leaned to grab the mug from the rack. As Dana spoke to him, however the heat faded from his gaze as it shifted back to the older woman, replaced with a faint smile that touched the corners of his eyes. "The photos sound intriguing-" "Ugh!" Autumn glared at him over her shoulder, the pink in her features now nothing to do with the shower. "No. No way. Not unless you bring yours to the table too." she added with a crinkle of her nose as she smiled, imagining a small, grave faced ragamuffin with too-large eyes. Then the redhead blinked, turning back to her coffee as she remembered that she had, as a matter of fact, seen a young Jason - merely ten years old and newly arrived in Shelly - trying to get his hands around a boy's throat with a coldly intent expression in his eyes... and then turn and sink his teeth bone-deep into a teacher's wrist when he'd been pulled off. Before that, he'd been the quiet, shy new kid, and even though afterwards he never so much as got into a scuffle, the memory had stayed with Autumn if only subconsciously, to be pulled up only by the innocent random thought of imagining him as a child. Perhaps it had even contributed to her dislike of him, which seemed likely. Odd, how a fleeting moment of shock and fear could only be undone years later by a seeming random tide of Fate causing the two of them to enter each other's orbits. It did make her wonder, though - had he ever truly been a child, as human beings understood the term? "That seems fair." Jason smiled a little wider at the loose collection of reddish curls as they tumbled down Autumn's back, glinting with pinpoints of golden fire in the light. He wanted to bury his face there, to inhale the scent of her: wanted it so badly it felt like the most gnawing of hungers. "I choose TV, then." Dana hmmed quietly as though in disappointment. "Ah, well. Come by sometime when she's not home and I'll show you," the older redhead smirked, patting Jase lightly on the shoulder as she passed, coffee mug in hand. Although she wasn't entirely comfortable leaving the two young paramours alone for more than a few minutes, she did at least trust her daughter enough to make good choices. ...Or, failing that, not catastrophic ones. Autumn dropped the spoon she'd used to stir her coffee into the sink, nose crinkling as she made a face at her mother's back. "Keep it up, Autumn Rae" the pretty vet called over her shoulder as she headed into the other room. "One day it'll freeze like that." Abashed, the animated young woman took a sip of her coffee, the rose of her cheeks deepening further. Then, with the petulance of a girl half her age, quickly stuck her tongue out and gave a good-humored huff. "I've never figured out how she does that," she grinned, extending her hand. "C'mon. If you don't sit with me you'll have to fight the dogs for a place. They're spoiled." ---------------------------------------------------------------------- The TV chattered and blared as the hero fought the villain, who was extruding a whip of living fire from his hand, the movements of both combatants choreographed to heighten the drama and tension and sense of mortal peril the protagonist was facing. Flips, kicks, somersaults and shouts filled the screen with noise and action. As shows went, Wu Assassins was pretty good, both teens had agreed as they’d settled in to watch some thirty minutes earlier. It was a shame, then, that currently the artistry and action on the screen was being ignored. It was Jason’s fault- at least, that was Autumn’s stance on the matter. He’d put an arm comfortably around her shoulders as they’d nestled together, and then idly toyed with the curls of her glory of red-gold hair, running his slender fingers through it gently to stroke her neck and shoulder, causing tingles of warmth to race through her nerves. So strongly did Autumn feel that it was her boyfriend’s fault that she, in fact, felt the need to tell him between kisses. “It’s your fault.” she murmured softly, her arms resting around his neck, lips grazing his ear before her teeth lightly nibbled at the lobe, gratified to feel his reaction in the sharp intake of breath as well as in another, more tangible fashion. “Nope.” his reply was likewise a murmur as he kissed the curve of Autumn’s neck where it met her shoulder. His hands were loosely tangled in her fall of red hair, the scent of which he breathed in. “You’re the one that moved. And now we’re missing the show.” Autumn grinned as she withdrew a little to look into his eyes. True enough, she had moved first, swinging a bare leg over him and straddling his thighs so she could properly give him her attention - and he could give her his. “You want to watch the show?” she asked with an arch of her brow. “Don’t put words in my mouth.” His eyes were heated, dark with passion even as he smiled slightly. “I was merely observing we were- mmph.” he finished softly as Autumn pressed her body and mouth to his, arms tightening around his neck as though to prevent even the remote possibility he would try to get away - which, to be honest, was so remote as to not be worth considering. “Oh, for heaven’s sake!” Dana wasn’t sure whether to laugh or scowl as she stepped into the lounge and saw the pair of them. At least he didn’t have his hands on her butt this time. Progress! The slender, pretty veterinarian thought wryly. Autumn made a sound that was half gasp, half giggle as she slid off her beau, trying to look contrite and failing miserably. She seemed lively, and happy, and it was good to see. Dana took a breath, counted to ten, then spoke again. “Okay. New rule, you two. None of-” she made a gesture indicating the pair of them and their misbehaviour “-that in the lounge, porch, dining room, kitchen or indeed anywhere in this house except the bedroom when I’m home. I’m not going to try and stop teenagers being teenagers, but I don’t want to walk into my own lounge and see it. Am I clear?” “Yes, mom.” Autumn nodded, somewhat soberly. Jason turned his gaze to Dana and nodded assent, or at least understanding, gravely. “Good! Now, dinner is a few minutes away, so both of you can come and help set the table.” She was unable to resist cracking a smirk, raising an eyebrow at them. “Take a moment to, ah, compose yourselves, and for God’s sake wash your hands first.”
  2. 3 points
    "Yeah," Devin said, already in motion and looking a might bit concerned. "Let's get you spun the fuck up. Certainly sounds like we have time for that as the walls a melting away all Silent Hill up in this bitch." "Devin, get us out of here," Marissa turned to face her brother as she reflexively gripped Cade's hand. "No can do." He replied to his gorgeous sibling. "The Dark emanates raw dimensional interference. It doesn't belong here, and the closer it is, the more my targeting goes all wonky. I can manage small jaunts, but if I try anything farther, it'll rip my guts apart like before." Kat had no idea what the hell he was talking about. "Damnit," she cursed. She looked to everyone else and squeezed Cade's hand. "We need to go." She looked up to her boyfriend and rest her free had on his chest. "You are on Jase duty. He's injured and you are the biggest thing we have right now. Stay with him. The rest of us will look out for each other, and..." she took a concerned breath as she looked at him. She gripped his shirt and pulled his 6'4" self down to meet her 5'8" gaze. For a few moments the hospital faded as her lips pressed against his and her palm cupped his cheek to hold him in place she motivated her soldier. She pulled away and opened her eyes. "Be careful. I mean it." "Cathrine, my brother, Devin, new French girl, now let's get the hell out of here." She urged them. "On it," Devin, with no regard for Kat's presence, jaunted from where he stood in the room to the doorway leading out into the hallway. For the first time all of them, for the briefest of moments were able to see the two apertures in the same place at the same time, the shimmering purple distortions left by his jaunts pulsed and shimmered briefly like oil on water giving off all the various hues of purple from lavender to periwinkle before fading away. "Shit," Charlie muttered. "Sophia. She's in the waiting room!" "Dude, seriosuly?" Devin looked stunned and defeated at once. "Okay, look, I'll go get her, you stay with the girls and help Cade lead everyone out. I'll catch up." "But-" Charlie attempted to protest. After all, he'd brought her here and he felt like she was his obligation to protect. "I get it, bro," Devin smirked a friendly smirk, not his usual sarcastic snigger. "But who's faster? Keep my sister safe, and I'll make sure Sophia is fine. You got this." He raised up his fist and Charlie bumped it. "Head away from the screams of terror, text me locales, I'll find you." He dashed off towards the waiting room. Marissa jogged to the door, the heels of her boots clacking on the tiles. She took up position where he brother just darted from. "Running in those might not be the best idea," Cade offered up to her as he was helping Jason with the last few moments of his preparation to vacate the Hospital of Horrors. "Baby, me running in heels is the least of our concerns right now." Marissa replied to her boyfriend right as she looked at Kat. "So, please don't allow what happens in the next several moments of excruciating madness and horrific terror to put too dark of a mar on your opinion of our little town, it truly is a quaint place to live."
  3. 2 points
    Before they'd left, Cade approached Taggart. "I noticed that Cassandra and Autumn had armor before, is there a chance I can get something similar, and some sort of weapon. I may not be able to find a fire extinguisher." The Military man looked at the much younger man, who'd largely remained quiet in all the discussions. "I'll get you a flak Jacket, and a stun gun. No way in hell I'll give you more than that." "That will work fine, thank you sir." Cade answered, and soon enough the stun gun and jacket were brought in, and he donned them in silence. His Father helped ensure it was fit properly, and he nodded, saying nothing. "Don't worry, Dad. We'll be in and out." After that it was time to go, and he said goodbye to his father, and then Marissa, smiling after yet another kiss. He followed the others and took his place, and waited as energy enveloped them all, Then flung them through space to another location. It was rough, more trippy than anything he'd ever experienced, and damn close to making him hurl. Cade felt a weight atop him, and felt something brush his thigh, "Wha?" followed by a few unintelligible syllables, as Cade opened his eyes, finding Autumn and an assortment of wire rack remnants on him. His eyes narrowed. "You Okay?" he asked his teammate?" He heard Jason and Devin talking, so obviously they'd made it. So he turned his attention to Autumn again, who looked to be very uncomfortable, and it was then that he realized his left hand felt really warm His right arm was out to the side, and felt cold. He instinctively curled his fingers, and felt the cold floor with the right hand, and felt something soft but firm, and covered in fabric with the left. "Oh hell."
  4. 2 points
    One defining characteristic of Jason could be described as this: that he always knows exactly who he is, and usually what his immediate circumstances are. Even before the awakening of his Shine, that self-possession, that solidity of personal identity was a trait that he worked to hide, rather than to attain and display as many teenagers do. His mind usually did exactly as he wished it to, focus and will coming easily to him without the temperamental upsets of hormonal storms. It was one of the things that made him both daunting and insufferable. Relatively few external forces could disrupt the smooth, clockwork-precise workings of his brain. Even concussed or stoned, he felt mostly in control of himself and indeed was sharper than most sober people. Devin's mass-teleportation was pure hell. It upset his kinetic awareness of the objects and people around him. Worse, it upset his very personal kinaesthetic awareness of his own body and how it fit into space. He'd formulated a theory that Devin's teleportation involved breaching the quantum barrier down into the subquantum where space and time were malleable, then breaching the layer back up into the 'real' world once more when the link to the destination was made. The smoothness with which Devin popped himself from known location to known location, barely causing more than a temporary ripple in space, seemed to bear that out. The blind jump, though, carrying four other people to a destination Devin only knew by a map layout... That involved disruption of space-time on a wrenching level. If Devin's normal 'blip' was a pro-diver smoothly breaking the surface of the water like a knife, poetry in motion and form, this had been an 500lb Walmart-scooter-jockey with terminal diabetes belly-flopping naked into a hot tub full of screaming Girl Scouts. In short, it hurt. And left Jason feeling more than a little violated and nauseous, much like the Girl Scouts would feel. He lay still for a moment, briefly dipping into his memory palace and making the spinning world go away as he contemplated a memory of the sun rising over the fields of the farm when he'd first moved to Shelly, his dad talking about how they'd have a good life here. It was a soothing memory, dating from before his father had succumbed to despair and alcohol, and it briefly occurred to Jason that maybe now his father would have the impetus to make changes. Then he sighed, steeled himself, and emerged back into the world which, whilst not spinning anymore, was still painful. "Devin." he said quietly as he sat up, feeling muscles protest as though he'd just gone ten rounds with Hank at a practice session. Had it only been two days since that? "Yeah? Ow." Devin's voice was a groan as he weakly plucked some cleaning supplies from his body and tossed them aside. "That. Fucking. Sucked." Jason said in a precise and succinct manner, grabbing a mop that had fallen over his legs and trying to use it to stand. He succeeded on the second try, fighting down nausea as he straightened up slowly, forcing his legs to obey his commands and support him. "Got us here, didn't I? Ow. Owow." "You need to practice that." Jason somewhat unsteadily, and with the aid of the mop, walked over and offered Devin a hand up. "Yeah... Well... You gonna volunteer? Ow." Devin grabbed the proffered hand and let himself be pulled somewhat upright, leaning on the wall and looking like he was also trying to hold onto his lunch. "Ask me again when I don't feel like cutting my own head off to stop the aching." Jase replied with a slight crinkling at the corners of his eyes as he let go of Devin's hand, then looked around at the others. "Anyone hurt - Scratch that. I mean, anyone seriously hurt?"
  5. 2 points
    As the fabric of space began to twist and fold around Autumn in ways that defied her rudimentary understanding of physics, there was a moment of primal terror, an inkling that if this didn't work- if her hand slipped, or they'd miscalculated, or Devin was distracted, or any of a hundred other possible disasters- she would be unwoven from the tapestry of existence, a lost thread cut from the whole. Would it hurt? she wondered, her fingers tightening reflexively around the wrists of the two nearest her as they all clasped hands, waves of violet and indigo tugging at them in irresistible cosmic tides. Would she even be aware of it, or would she just... not be at all, anymore? Almost simultaneously, a separate thought occurred: what if it did work? What would that kind of freedom be like, to move through the world without regard for walls, or highways, or artificial borders of any kind? And, suddenly, a kind of wrenching queasiness contracted the muscles of her abdomen, and there was no more time for thinking. No more time. No more thought. There was no sensation of movement or inertia; she was standing in the loading bay with the others, head swimming with vertigo and feeling for all the world as if she was about to be physically ill- And then she wasn't. Wasn't travelling, wasn't holding anyone's hand, wasn't worried about her parents. Just... wasn't. Until, just as suddenly, as if the laws of reality were so repulsed by the group's defiance they simply flung them back into the world again, she was. Was in a storage room. Was lying half under a collapsed shelving unit. Was absolutely miserable, her ears ringing from the concussive shockwave and every muscle complaining loudly that this had not been the best decision she'd made this week. "Fuuuhuhuck meeee," the redhead groaned, briefly opening her eyes to blearily assess the situation and immediately regretting it. The demolished room swam, spinning dizzily in her field of vision, and she lowered her head again, waiting to either pass out or for the world to right itself. There was movement nearby, voices she vaguely recognized, but Autumn felt absolutely zero compulsion to process them at the moment, instead just concentrating on reorienting herself in her body and quietly taking inventory of the assorted contusions and scrapes she'd received in their violent expulsion from... wherever they'd been. It hurt to breathe. It hurt to think. Beneath her cheek, the floor felt oddly warm, although not unpleasantly so, and whatever cleaning chemicals they had in here smelled kind of nice. Her nose crinkled slightly as the athletic young woman shifted uncomfortably atop the debris she'd landed on. Kind of like... I dunno, body wash...? Cologne, maybe? That couldn't be right. Frowning, she tried lifting her head again, reaching up to push the hair back from her face, and froze as the "debris" under her stirred. Charlie was nearby, slowly getting up to his feet. Devin was in the corner, giggling like a crazy person. That only left two other options, and with a creeping sense of dread, she realized she could see Jason a little further away. Process of elimination left only Mari's- Cora's- somebody's boyfriend. Fuck, she mouthed silently, squeezing her eyes shut in a grimace. Gingerly, Autumn shifted her weight, resolutely ignoring the fact that just a few seconds before, her hand had been way closer to Cade's Louisville Slugger than possibly even Marissa's had at that point; if she didn't extricate herself from the awkward tangle of limbs and wire racking real fucking quick, this was going to become another "Friday Snapchat" situation. Her face hot enough to ignite kindling, the red-haired teen began the cringe-inducing process of trying to crawl out from under the shelving and from on top of Shelly High's star athlete. ...And then into a dark, deep hole, if she was lucky.
  6. 2 points
    The teens all gathered around Devin, waiting for his instructions. While they did so they could see where people from inside the compound were all gathering behind the Major. Some of them had dedicated their lives to the study of this noetic science and still had barely scratched the surface but today these kids had come along and were about to prove to them that none of their time had been wasted. These kids were going to defy the laws of physics and laugh in the face of the modern sciences. There was a small army gathering in the small square windows of the loading bays double doors. At the commands of the Major, none of them dared enter any closer. "Okay," Devin started. "Last time I did this it was like trying to control a plane while it was going down in a hurricane. There will be a lot of shaking. There's nothing you can do. As the energy surrounded me last time, I can only assume, since you're going with me, it's going to do the same to you. You're only job is to not let go." He held out his hands and like a football team calling a play everyone reached in the center of the circle they'd formed and locked wrists with whomever they could. "W-what if we let go?" Autumn asked. She really didn't want to know, but like everyone else, so also really wanted know... "Then your individual energy will be hurled away from the whole," he shrugged, completely guessing. "You could probably end up anywhere. Like, inside a mountain." "There a seriously more encouraging ways to get me to hold your hand," she joked with him, trying to brush away the cob webs of doubt being spun in her mind. He silently laughed took in a deep breath. "Maybe I like the chase." He said as he exhaled. As the team formed a '*' Devin began to focus, finally closing his his eyes and picturing Etienne in his mind. In the center of them all was a sight that left them at a loss for words. The small jump-scars that Devin always seemed to leave behind temporarily after he jumped began to waver and shimmer in front of them. Like three dimensional oil on water, with a vaguely violet hue, a rift in space began to enlarge and surround them. As predicted the energy was volatile, warping and wefting them as it consumed them in its cloak they all began to twist and distort like animated funhouse mirrors. They felt only mild discomfort, not unlike motions sickness as one moment they felt like they were frozen in place and another they pulled off at light speeds. Parts of them 'smeared' in random, impossible directions and as the anchor to it all they felt Devin trying with all his will to hold them all together. They coudl feel the pull as his power wanted to slingshot them off into somewhere, because that's what Devin's power was 'programmed' to do, but this time, it had no destination. It had no target, and the laws of the universe dictated that if you are to go... it must be somewhere. 'Guessing' was not part of that natural order. You ither knew where you were going or you didn't and Devin, currently, didn't. So his power tried to send them somewhere, anywhere, just like he was telling it to. He convulsed as he explained to the laws of universe that 'anywhere' whether you knew it existed or not, was relative. Wider and wider the scar extended, consuming them like a violet, gelatinous, tangible energy. They gripped each other for dear life at this point, wondering if maybe this wasn't such a great idea. Droplets of blood dribbled from Devin's nose as the stress of this many passengers was pushing him to his physical and mental limits. Finally Devin opened his eyes and within them they saw infinity. Black with shimmering nebulas and a trillion glimmering stars just as the energy around was suddenly sucked in to their center, and exploded outward like one of Jango Fett's sonic charges going off. The sounds was unlike anything the spectators had ever heard. The team, however, was gone. The storage room they arrived in exploded with the concussive force of air punching into the room not unlike the pistol shrimp's natural defense. The sound ruptured the walls and shelving in the room flinging toiletries and cleaning agents, and mops and anything not nailed down, all over the place. The team was no exception. They arrived in a boom that pushed and pressed outward from their entry in a perfect, spherical 'crater' in all directions. The floor caved in, the walls pressed outward and the ceiling was threatening to collapse. The team lay all about the room, feeling like they'd just been kicked off a ten story building and belly flopped into an ocean. They were knotted around shelving, covered in loose debris and definitely having a bad trip. Except Devin who was lying in one corner, riddled pain but still managing to giggle like an idiot while being covered in loose rolls of toilet paper and paper towels with one of his legs resting up on a fallen shelf. "That..." He giggled with madness. "Was awesome!" He tried to move beyond laughter and decided that was a poor idea as he collapsed back into the bed of loose paper rolls. "Ow."
  7. 2 points
    "Long enough that is has something to do with this," Devin showed them the copper bracelet on his wrist. It was the only relic they had at this point that seemed to have any connection with the strange energy The Dark manipulated. If it could disrupt its abilities to pull Devin through to other worlds, what other powers were hidden within it. He didn't like the idea of them having access to it, but it killing them if they tried to take it was a definite deterrent for thievery. "It's... how would you guys put it? Aether infused. We call it shine, but you get the gist." "What is it?" Ms. Giles asked as she reached a finger to trace along it's surface. "Don't touch it!" Cass shouted in a panic, extending her had to Ms. Giles and prepared to pull her arm away. "For some reason it only works for Devin." Ms. Giles recoiled her hand, curling her fingers into her delicate palm. "It's a dimensional stabilizer," Devin added. "Near as we can tell. It's stabilizes me, anchors me here so The Dark can't yank me back to the Land of Upside Down Thunder." Taggart fumed, shaking his head. "Every time one of these kids opens their mouth they give us another page or questions. What the hell is an Upside Down Thunder?" "Uh... it's sort of... it's hard to explain," Cade interjected. "It's where The Dark was banished to and the place is all sorts of messed up." "Like a dark mirror of our world." Charlie piggy-backed. "Not a pretty place, and until that bracelet, it could swipe Devin and steal him away to its realm." "Why you?" Taggart asked. "Because," Devin sighed. "...I can travel between dimensions." He didn't want to tell them per se, but, it gave the eggheads something to faun over while the others looked around the Project. 'Dazzle the with a light show and all that', seemed to be his plan. "Extraordinary." Ms. Giles said softly. "You kids are... generations ahead in anything we've researched so far." "Yeah, that's great," Devin smiled softy. "My point in showing you this... was... maybe you have the technology to analyze it. Perhaps date it? Knowing roughly how old this is, might give us a starting point for a timeline. Cass is great at timelines, she can arrange the data, Autumn can help or go forage for berries or something. Marissa can organize the intel and Sean can source historical reporting using the interwebs. Jason can hang out and be all expressionless and morose until we need something smart said or done. If you wanna fight something, you start at the beginning. Search for clues in the past, work to the now. This thing was banished, this much we know. Which means someone kicked its ass once." "What about you, Charlie and Cade?" Autumn rested a fist on her hip as she glared at him, knowing he was up to something. "Uh," the teleporter looked at her like she should know better than to question the great and powerful Devin. "My idea, Aykay. I don't have to help, I thought of it. Since I'm such a nice guy, and we've already established this in the past... I am on pizza duty. You're welcome. These guys are gonna help me carry, because we'll need drinks too. And no, I'm not getting you granola on your pizza, Hippie."
  8. 2 points
    He stood silent as a few of the assembled looked at him after the touching embrace he and Autumn had just shared. He knew his mind was resistant to Sara's prying, like Jason he possessed such a strong sense of self that reading his thoughts and feelings was borderline impossible for someone like them. His thoughts raced with a thousand and one whys and hows but through it all he came up with nothing. Autumn shouldn't have some ability to read his thoughts and feel his fears. The possibility that he wore it on his face and she'd reached out and connected with him emotionally with something as simple as basic empathy never occurred to him. The Jauntsen twins had never had much in the way of practical experience in the realm of empathy, aside from their bastardized applications of it to suit their own needs. "What?" Devin said a bid harshly, looking at everyone as he projected his mild embarrassment of Autumn getting the emotional one-up on him this time. "Woman can't can't keep their hands off me. We all know this. Shows over," he paddled his hand out to shoo them all away like they should be looking somewhere else. "Go back to being losers." "Well, as my bae has pointed out," Marissa spoke up as she gripped Cade's arm and snuggled up close to him, interrupting her brother before he had the chance to start a brawl over a veiled symbol of peace of acceptance. She side eyed him though, a bit bothered by the fact that Autumn had seen something she hadn't when she was supposed to be the closest person to him. "Let's look on the bright side: the paramilitary contingent of soldiers and scientists who have been conducting unsanctioned collection on U.S. citizens and conducting decades long genetic experimentation on children... isn't going to bother us as long as our parents don't sign the permission slip they are no doubt going give us at some point. We're saved!" Her voice was perky and energetic like one of the cheerleaders back at school. It was obvious how her appraisal was nothing more than a tactical nuke of sarcasm directed towards her 'bae'. She splayed open her hands, fingers wide apart and got a super happy smile on her face. She shook her hands and very quietly celebrated. "Yaaay." Cade slowly turned his head towards her, his eyes narrowed in that 'really' expression. Around the room everyone's lips were pursed, tightened into a line that made them all wonder if Marissa was intentionally using her powers of persuasion or if it was a voluntary response. The faces they were making were all Kodak moments as they all turned various shades of red to keep from doing the inevitable until Devin finally broke the silence. His lips were pursed so tight in an awkward smirk that he eventually snorted a soft nasally sound that only rose up when trying to hold in a laugh. Like a snowball down a mountain peek they all just burst into laughter. For a moment they were teenagers who may have come from all corners of society, all with their own problems, but in those few seconds there was just the laughter. It was possibly the only thing they could all say they had in common, but it was enough. For now, it was what they needed. It something to remind them that their light burned brightest when they were simply together, being themselves, and making each other miserable in their own fun and special ways. Cade nodded slowly with his face twisted in a tense frown trying not to laugh but still giving in with a few chuckles. "Okay. Okay, I deserve that. Sounded better in my head." "Aww," Marissa cooed all pouty as she cuddled his arm. "You still have me." Her boyfriend looked at her with no expression in his eyes. With a dead pan splaying of fingers she shook them and quietly celebrated. "Yaaay." Marissa smiled playfully and slugged him in his thick bicep as another round of laughs made its way through the room.
  9. 2 points
    "Cody." Jason spoke up from his seat, gesturing with his soda can in acknowledgement of Autumn's words. Ordinarily he would stand, but right now he felt sore and tired. "The Man In Black said we had to find Cody Sikes." "The who to the what now?" Kat spoke up. "This is what you guys were talking about when Sean and I arrived, isn't it?" "But isn't the Man In Black part of the Dark?" Cassie interjected, brow furrowing in confusion. "Apparently not. At least, when he visited me right before Cade and Marissa arrived he said he wasn't." Jase shrugged stiffly. "He said, and I quote, that he didn't want any of us hurt by the Dark 'any more than I'd want to go around my garden tearing up flowers'." "Jesus. That guy was visiting you right down the hall from us. What else did he say?" Autumn asked, one eye on the door. Jason focused for a moment, then spoke with the Man in Black's cadence. It wasn't a perfect mimicry, merely a replay of what he'd heard. "The Dark hates those who Shine, boy. It's in the name. I know you've spotted the pattern in the killings over the decades and centuries here. Every generation or so, right? Just enough time to harvest those with Shine or the potential for it. See, you and your buddies are food to the Dark, and flowers to me. I want to see you guys win." The pale-eyed youth then looked at the others. "Then I asked him to tell me about the Dark, and he said: "Can't do that, kiddo. Can't just give you everything, or you won't grow. But you children need to find Cody. And don't let the Dark kill you! It's not just death it wants to eat, it's Shine." Jase smiled wryly. "He also ate my mutton casserole I'd brought for lunch. I was hoping to eat that when I felt better." He paused, thinking for a second. "If Mr Black is an agent of the Dark then he had me dead to rights, and could have killed me there, then ambushed you all. He's had opportunities to harm us, and hasn't done so. I'm not saying I trust everything he's saying, but I have to ask what benefit he gains by lying about this. I think if the Dark has a physical agent, it's Cody." He glanced at them all. "The cycle of death - Mr Black knew about what we found out through research. It makes sense - if there's something here that encourages Shine, that explains why once a generation or so there's a harvest of those with unusually high levels." "Okay, what's Shine?" asked Kat. "The Force." Jason said with a small smile. "Technically everything that lives gives off a faint amount of it. In most of us here, it seems to be stronger somehow, focused. It's how we do what we do. If you want to get scientific - the current theory myself and Sean have worked out is that it seems to be the Grand Unifying Principle, a sub-quantum layer of reality that binds everything together. It explains how Devin can warp through space without turning into spaghetti from the gravity distortion that would entail if he did it on the quantum layer. It explains how Cassie can see into the past as well as the present and future - time wouldn't exist the same way there - it'd be just another direction." He looked at Kat, then Sophia. "You, Kat, have the Shine. Sophia does not. There's a sensory aspect to it that some of us can use - we can feel others when they're close. Cassie can feel them at much higher distances." Sophia frowned at the lean, bruised youth, plainly unhappy - though whether with the diagnosis of being normal or the source of the diagnosis was hard to tell. "As for the Dark - what Devin said, mostly. It seems to be some parasitic force local to Shelly. Every twenty-seven years it wakes up and causes a rash of murders and disappearances. We're currently halfway through year twenty-six of the current cycle. We've observed that it can amplify negative personality traits in normal people - cause boys harassing a girl to move to rape her, or cause an argument over household bills to turn into a beating, or a misunderstanding to become a brawl. It seems to be a corrupting parasite - it has to work through proxies." Jason frowned in thought. "Which explains why Cody is probably still alive and we need to find him. He was always a bit of a slimeball - someone like that is an ideal champion for the Dark. If it needs eyes and ears, then that could well be what its using Cody for." "Okay." Sean nodded. "So far, it makes sense. So do you think Cody is where Cassie felt that knot, the - what did you call it Marissa?" "The taproot." The prettier, smarter Jauntsen said as she sat back down by Cade, leaning a little against him. "Taproot, right." Sean nodded again. "Is Cody there?" "It's probably the best place to start looking." Cassie tugged at her lower lip thoughtfully. "When we're ready to, that is. That place feels dangerous to me." "Readiness. Yes." Jason half-closed his eyes, leaning back into the couch seat. "Those of us with psionic gifts have practiced tuning to each other. Devin wasn't there, neither was Kat. It doesn't seem to be inherently dangerous, though it is intimate. You become very aware of the other persons in the link - not like mind reading, just a sense of their aura, if you will." He opened his eyes, looking at Devin and Kat. "The way it works is simple enough - one person acts as a... lens, I suppose, and the others in the link focus their power into the lens. They can move Shine from themselves into the lens, allowing them to use their powers more, and the lens also gets a buff depending on who else is in the link. In our tests, we found that Cassie can amplify range, Charlie boosts the signal of the lens-person's powers, Autumn and Lona could increase the effectiveness of the lens against living creatures, and so on. There's likely other effects to discover, but we can do that later. Devin's effect on a link would be interesting to categorise, for instance." "Right now, though, we need to focus on dealing with the Project. Thanks to Sean, they don't know what we've been talking about. So we talk a little, and let them talk a lot: see what they have to say, see how they are approaching us. That will tell us how smart they are, or whether they are letting their sense of importance and authority do the thinking." Jason paused, his eyes sweeping the group. "We don't tolerate threats or intimidation, though. We need to establish from the outset that we will not be pushed around - if they indeed try to do so. As for Marissa's concerns about Devin... I think we can count on Devin being naturally contrary-" "Hey! I am not!" The teleporter objected with a grin. Jason arched a brow at that, spreading his hands wide in a 'there you are' gesture that caused a few chuckles at the interplay. "-And indeed, if the Project are trying to keep up with his antics it means they will pay less attention to the rest of us 'good kids' by comparison." "Cool." Devin said, glancing at his phone once more. "So what do I do? Just keep being me?" "As easy as that, yes." Jason smiled at his friend. "Frustrate and infuriate. Be by turns difficult and impossible. Make them work a little." "The major, Taggart? He seemed reasonable." Autumn said after taking another swallow of water. "A hard-ass, but not a bully. We might be able to work with him rather than treat him as an enemy." Cassie nodded agreement. "Yeah." the blonde seer spoke up. "He listened when we warned him about the creatures, and I got the impression he doesn't altogether respect Doctor Cook." Jason nodded at that, eyes closing once more. "Let's hope we're dealing with reasonable people then." he said. "Charlie, Sean. I don't know how much more time we've got right now, but this is a good time to bring Sophia and Kat up to speed - give them the 'story so far'. Fill in the gaps so they're not constantly scratching their heads and saying 'what?' when we're talking about something." He opened the bag of chips on his lap and slowly started to eat them, favoring the unbruised side of his mouth when chewing.
  10. 2 points
    "...and then today, two guys were influenced to attack me over some minor grievance." Jason's voice was low as he finished quietly explaining to his father, the elder and younger Bannon sitting a little way back from the rest of the room on a couch. "It seemed that the Dark - or whoever makes the decisions for it - decided to move on us all here at the hospital: a preemptive strike to take us all out." Gar Bannon was staring at the floor as his son explained most of the events of the summer and the first week of Fall semester. Whilst a genius - or at least, once a genius before he'd crawled into a bottle - Jase's dad was struggling, trying to find rocks to latch onto in the torrent of horror and eeriness that had reached out and enveloped his son during the last months. And in one particular, even before that. "Since you were eight?" he murmured quietly, turning perhaps the largest personal revelation over. He looked up into his son's clear, pale stare. "You've known since you were eight, and didn't tell me." "There never seemed to be a good time." Jason said, unmoved. Gareth examined the boy - the young man - seeing now the removal of the mask and desperately trying to find some shred of evidence that the inhuman calm was itself a pose to shield some deeper vulnerability. "The information would only have caused you more worry, and to no good purpose." A small fracture showed in the mirror-shine of his glacial gaze, though his tone was still matter-of-fact as he added. "You might even have given me up." "Jesus! How could you think that?!" Gar hissed, reflexive outrage warring with the awareness that others were present, if not actually part of the conversation. Jason's head tilted slightly, his stare examining his father's reactions. "My own mother did. How could I expect more or better from anyone else? You were fresh out of jail, heartbroken, and drinking." He replied in a tone that was entirely logical, irrefutable in it's simple truth. "I don't have intuitive empathy to go on when I trust people. Leaps of faith are alien to my nature. I go on observed behavior: what people do, what they say, and how those contrast. I extend trust bit by bit, from necessity and to test those around me as well as myself. Those I cared for most learned latest, since they were the ones I least wanted to drive away." Gar had always carried guilt that he had somehow been responsible for what he perceived as Jason growing up too fast, never being a normal kid. A loser drunk for a father - of course the kid would learn to cook, clean, do the dozen and one things that kept the household in order. But now, looking at his son, he saw that perhaps Jason had never been a 'kid' in anything but physical development. He'd always been a serious-eyed child even when learning to walk. When he fell down, even if it was a nasty bump, he'd just get up and try again. Kate had wanted to get him tested, but Gareth had resisted that, wanting to let Jase just develop naturally. "I wish I had known." he said, as much to himself as to Jason. "I should have- I dunno. I could have been there for you, perhaps. If you even need that. Do you?" he looked up into his son's eyes again. "Do you need people to be there for you?" "I.." Jason hesitated, examining his father, then glancing around at the room, at his friends. He remembered Marissa taking his hand in the trailer, Devin hanging out and talking a million miles a minute in the vehicle barn, Sean and his family welcoming him into the fold, Autumn hugging him despite her own nervousness around him, Cassie lightly poking him, teasing him about his lack of pluck, Charlie trying to understand him even as the experience terrified him. "Need isn't the accurate word. But I like some people being there for me. It enriches my life - usually." He looked back at his father. "You have been there for me, dad. Don't think you haven't." "Not enough, I haven't been." Gar frowned, wiping his face with a hand. "I need a minute or two, Jason. I just... Need a moment. It's a whole lot." "Sure." If Jason felt any worry, or concern, he didn't show it in an obvious sense. His gaze followed his father as Gareth stood, resting a hand on his son's shoulder for a moment, then wandered off to the far side of the room to sit down again. Jase looked at Hank, who nodded silently and went to sit near Gar, leaving Jason alone. He sat back, gesturing and floating a can of Sprite and a couple bags of chips over to himself as he tuned in to the ongoing conversation. "We cannot rely on the Project unless we run the Project." Jason said calmly from where he was seated, popping the tab on his soda. "And the only way to do that is to get inside and become indispensable to the Project. If we get involved now, we can at least try to head off any disasters they might cause. My recommendation is to play along guardedly, never showing too much at once. Treat it like a game of poker. They have some cards, we have some cards - and I'm pretty sure ours beat theirs - but it doesn't hurt to see how they bluff." He took a long sip from the can, then lowered it and regarded them all. "Don't think like teenagers - at the whims of adult laws and supervision. Teenagers don't have real power - we do. Teenagers don't have real knowledge - we do. Teenagers don't kill nightmare beasts - we do. Oh, and they probably have all the DNA they need from us over the last few years, so that horse has bolted." he added with a slight lopsided grin at Devin before wincing and gingerly touching his jaw. "Just consider our assets: Sean can get into any computer system, Marissa can wrap people around her little finger, Cassie can see, sense and feel things they try to hide. That's just the most obvious intelligence gathering talents we have. Then there's the muscle side of powers equation, and that's formidable enough that I'm pretty sure the bunch of us could give Major Taggart and his men shit-fits in a straight fight. So we play it cautious, we give the appearance of cooperation, and we try not to spook them into doing something stupid while we figure out what exactly they're all up to." "And if it all goes south, we at least will have better information to use when shutting them down and kicking over their sandcastle."
  11. 2 points
    The Project Facility - The Fellowship Studying the holographic display and the embedded device projecting it with avid interest, Sean stood with his hands clasped behind his back to hide their trembling. With the danger - okay, immediate danger anyway - and the fight with the Dark-spawn over, Sean was realizing just what he, they, had done, and how it could have gone seriously sideways. He'd backed up the hulking Mantis-Shrimp-Charlie with circular laser-blades, at the time ignoring the fact if he'd been hit by one of the Darkspawn Choker things, he didn't have Charlie's shell or Jase's Ice Armor to protect himself. Devin had been blipping here and there, Cade batted one of the damn things into the wall with a fire extinguisher, and Jase had frozen the big one solid. In a role-playing game or a video game, all that would be awesome. In real life, after the fact and without adrenaline pumping through your veins... it was still still awesome, but also damned terrifying. There were no restarts or respawning in real life. "Psionic," Sean corrected absently, "Psychic is all oui--" He chuffed in irritation as Charlie and Sophia clearly didn't care about the distinction, and then turned away with a slightly sour expression when he saw Sophia squeeze Charlie's hand and smile at him. Laser Ladyboy, indeed! "Oh, never mind." Sean sidled over to the refreshments, cracking open a Pepsi and grabbing a wrapped, dubious looking egg-salad sandwich. It wasn't so much mistrust or that they might get his DNA - they had that plenty already from all the visits with Cook and the tests he'd taken - but rather concerned he'd bring up anything he ate or drank while still dealing with the shakes. "Ugh! Warm!" Sean protested with a scowl after taking a sip of his Pepsi. The can suddenly got colder in his hand, the cola almost verging on slush. He took another sip, sighed in satisfaction, and nodded his thanks at Jase. "Not exactly what I had in mind when I wanted to show you around, Kat," Sean admitted dryly while asking her with a pointed glance at the refreshment table if she wanted anything. "But it seems like you fit right in with weird and wonder of Shelly." For the moment, he'd leave it up to the smaller redhead if she wanted to talk about her own psionic potential, if she'd known about it before or if it was a new thing cropping up from exposure. Though if her dad had been stationed at the base before... "Couple things with the plan," Sean added. "One, we still need to find out what Cook and the Major and their lot know about the Dark and all this, us, and we need to share too, so we can help each other. I had an appointment to meet with Cook at five. We're running kinda late on that, but it sure would be nice if he'd keep that appointment. We all have a lot to talk about." Like the rest of the Fellowship - still need a better name - Sean assumed they were being observed. With a minor bit of effort and recalibrating how he perceived the electromagnetic spectrum, it had been easy to figure how and from where they were being watched. An enigmatic grin tugged at his full lips as he reached out with his will, and began to play with the digital transmissions of the cameras about them. "Two, I've just given them an incentive to come talk with us instead of just watching and listening for who knows how bloody long," Sean admitted. "How's that?" Autumn asked. Sean's smile widened, inordinately pleased with himself. "I'm Rickrolling them. At least, through what they have watching us here." Devin barked a laugh, clinking his can with Sean's as he passed by pacing. "Classic. Actual Rick roll, or...?" "That's getting kinda old, so updated it a bit. I Allstarred them instead." The Project Facility - Security Office Somebody once told me the world is gonna roll me I ain't the sharpest tool in the shed She was looking kind of dumb with her finger and her thumb In the shape of an "L" on her forehead "What the hell is happening?" a gruff voice demanded. "We don't know," replied a younger woman, trying to keep her tone professional, rather than frustrated. "Something, someone, has taken over the feed." Well the years start coming and they don't stop coming Fed to the rules and I hit the ground running Didn't make sense not to live for fun Your brain gets smart but your head gets dumb "Get the damn feed back!" "I can't! I can't even change to the feed to another camera." A huff of annoyance. "Rather, I can, but this shit is still showing, overlaying whatever we're supposed to see and hear." So much to do, so much to see So what's wrong with taking the back streets? You'll never know if you don't go You'll never shine if you don't glow "Is it one of the kids? An outside hack?" "Yes? If it's outside intrusion, it's like nothing I've seen before." "Isn't the guy from Smash Mouth dead or something?" "Just turn it off, then," the gruff voice sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose evident through tone alone. Hey now, you're an all-star, get your game on, go play Hey now, you're a rock star, get the show on, get paid And all that glitters is gold Only shooting stars break the mold "I can't!" There was choking laughter and frustrated tears in the admission. The Project Facility - The Fellowship "Anyway, three, we aren't the first these powers, not judging by the psionically active artifacts we saw at the museum, and the tales of the Land of Upside Down Thunder," Sean continued. "If the Dark is trapped there, it was because they couldn't find a way to kill it the first time. I don't think killing it is going to be as easy as levelling up couple of times. And four, assuming we have to get to the taproot itself to Raid it or pull it out or whatever to get rid of the Dark," Sean nodded at Marissa, continuing her analogy, we don't have a reliable way to get there. The Dark or its minions seem able to pull us in." Sean pointed a finger at Devin. "And there was the time at the trailer with coochiesaurus round one. Not sure yet if that was purely outside influence, or something to do with the trailer and the radio that we might be able to use to our own ends."
  12. 2 points
    Marias Medical Center - Team Fucked The creature lashed and struck out for Devin and every time simply shifted to the side in a shimmering purple haze. When the LumiDisc sliced his critter in half he stood straight up and looked at Sean. "Hey! That was mine! KSer!" The two beasts on Jason backed away, howling and lamenting their mistake of touching the frost rimed, pallid teen. They were not keen in the brains department, but where they couldn't get to Jason they saw an opportunity for his father and Hank, splitting off in a 'Y' around Jason to strike at his loved ones. Swiftly they leapt for the two men, and as Jason prepared himself a defense help was already inbound. Devin appeared in mid air, already halfway through a round house that connected with the side of the monster's head and he disappeared the moment he transferred force only to bamf out and reappear, standing at the second one's flank where he delivered a solid kick to the still frozen tissue, chipping off flakes of solid flesh. The first one staggered a few steps but continued on only to find Devin there to kicking it in the frozen bits. Three, four, five... Hank and Gar lost count of how many times Devin blipped in and out between the two beasts until his sneakers were covered in black goop from where he'd whittled past the frozen tissue and kicking away organs. When the two beasts fell over from pain or whatever they felt, the two stepped up and stomped on their heads, ending their time in this world. "Y'sure can move kid." Gar said, slapping Devin on the back. Devin caught his breath and offered a return on the nod he'd received earlier. "Yeah, I'm all kinds of impressive." He said more to the halfway than to anyone in particular. He teleported to Marissa and hugged his sister. "Stick close, stay down." He turned to the others. "We're not out of this yet," he motioned to Jason. "Do like Elsa and stay frosty, I'll scout ahead. We need a game plan, we coming or going, or what?" He strolled past Charlie's monstrous, nightmarish form and just patted him on the 'shoulder', thunking chitin and completely unafraid of what Charlie had become. He fist bumped Cade. "We got this. Keep doing what we're doing. I'll be back in a jiff." Devin disappeared. "That boy ever stay still," Hank asked as him and his father approached Jason. "You get used to it," Jason replied quietly.
  13. 2 points
    Under Marias Medical Center - Team Pluck Cassandra had to trot to keep up, and when the Major asked for help she almost dropped step for a second. Autumn had told him as much as she could sense of the situation herself...but was that true? She'd recently felt something new in herself, an ability to see the Shine that went deeper than what most of the Fellowship seemed able to do. It was still a little scary, thinking of turning that loose...especially here, now. But lives were on the line, and some of those lives were her friends. As they came into the operations and control center she was still mulling over the situation, too distracted even to take in the happenings on the holoscreens. Finally she made her decision. She took a deep breath and opened her mind... ...immediately it was a struggle, a war. Something thick and viscous and vile pushed in on her, smelling like sewage, like dead animals, like...somehow like despair, or terror or hate so cold and frozen it was like a vast icicle sharpened to a hooked edge... She stopped where she was in the hall, struggling with her body's instinctive reaction to the sensation of ingesting filth. But in the filth was knowledge. Amidst that noisome black goo were people, tangled and twisted up in it. And other things, not people, that seemed to be knots in its fabric. Then she realized what she was sensing. "It's like the shine," Cassie breathed, letting her breath out and swaying. "Like the opposite of it. Jesus, it's...it's everywhere." She turned around in a circle, eyes wide but unblinking, unseeing. "It starts here, and...it's covering pretty much all downtown and a little farther." Cass grimaced and focused in . "There's...like twenty, almost two dozen...but only nine of them are down here. They're made of it, like we're made of shine....and there's a big one upstairs." Flashes of shine refracted in her mind, and she could sense not just powers being used, but what powers they were. Focusing light? Ice and fire... Charlie's body consumed in the light of the shine as he remade himself... "Most of them are upstairs," she said. "The others are fighting them, but...there's a lot. They're going to need help!" She shook her head, forcing the vision back enough that she could see and hear around herself again. It was the opposite of waking up from a dream, the memory of it kept clinging to her, trying to push its way back in, to pull her away again. Instead Cass forced herself to meet the Major's eyes, who had paused in the middle of turning to lead his men to the elevator. "Your men are heading towards nine of the smaller ones. That's all there are on this level. The rest...fifteen or sixteen, plus the big one...are upstairs in the hospital. Our friends are fighting them, but I don't know if they can get them all. So far, there's none outside the medical center though. Whatever's going on here, we have to stop it. So far this...anti-shine...isn't hurting us, but I think if it goes on too long that's going to change."
  14. 2 points
    Under Marias Medical Center - Team Pluck Cassandra startled as Autumn followed her into the office and she nodded shakily. Whatever had happened had hit her head like the world's biggest hand scraping the world's biggest chalkboard with its massive, massive fingernails. She'd felt as if her skin would literally peel itself off of her body for a second there, and it was kind of a relief having a distraction from the memory of it. She could still feel that sensation...tingling all over her, a feeling of desperate dissonance inside and out. The universe was ringing like a gong, and it wasn't making a pretty sound. Her eyes fixed on the hologram hovering over the futuristic desk for a second. She recognized the double helix of a DNA molecule, but didn't really understand what the words next to it meant. Maybe some kind of scientific notation? With a trembling hand she got a snapshot, then crossed the office to the opposite door and pressed the side of her head to it. No screams was a good start. No footfalls or talking. Autumn was right, they had to move. That meant taking some risks. "This way," she urged Autumn, and opened the door. Beyond was what looked like a laboratory, all white-paneled and well-lit, with a row of equipment neatly lined up along one wall, and a bunch of cabinets along half the adjoining one. A couple of tables occupied the center, with yet more equipment on them. Cassie moved in, looking around. She couldn't make head or tail of most of it, but took a picture of the equipment so Sean could have a look later. The far right wall seemed equipped with a pressurized environment, maybe like those clean rooms they made computers in...on the left was a set of double doors. She waved at Autumn and headed for the double doors. "Did that come from here?" Cass asked as they went, "Is this something they're doing?? It must be...what the hell is it?" Autumn could only shake her head. As they crossed the lab, she scanned the various instruments and racks of test tubes and such...seeking some kind of weapon. Short of trying to rip apart a stool though, there was nothing light or wieldy enough to satisfy. Cass cracked the doors open and peeked through, then opened them and scooted into the corridor beyond. It was fairly long, stretching the same direction that the big commotion had been coming from only a minute before. Cassandra hesitated, then shook her head and pressed forward. The only way back was the elevator and coming face to face with Cook and Courtney. And if they didn't find out what had happened here, then no one would ever know. She couldn't stop now. At the T-junction at the end of the corridor, Cassie looked back to verify that Autumn had followed and nodded. She pushed up to the wall, leaned out just enough to peek right, then left...hoping not to be noticed while doing so.
  15. 2 points
    Marias Medical Center: Team Pluck What the fuck. What the actual- No. No no nonononono. This is not happening again, oh fuck me, it is not happening, Autumn insisted silently, as if the simple act of refusing to accept the unfolding nightmare could somehow stave off the madness and horror it brought. But the alarms going off in the hallway were just as loud as the ones in her head, and for all their screeching, neither drowned out the short-lived scream of someone on the other side of the doors who could no longer hear them. And suddenly, the redhead realized she couldn’t think of it as just a nightmare anymore, because she had just... ...listened to someone die. “Fuck,” the terrified young woman breathed as hot tears rolled down her cheeks, her back pressed to the wall near the fire doors. She wanted to throw up, felt her stomach knotting in revulsion at the oily sensation of diseased corruption in the air, at the faint, sickly-sweet smell of burnt-sugar she recognized from the woods, at the sudden realness of what couldn’t- shouldn’t be real, but that would require time she didn’t have. Through the wall, she could sense… something moving. Several somethings, things that she instinctively felt didn’t belong here, and every impulse and instinct she possessed pushed her away from the wall, propelled her forward- first at a jog, and then a dead sprint toward the door Cassie had entered. She couldn’t explain the shift in perception any more than she could explain the rest of what was going on, but she wasn’t about to question its accuracy, not if it helped keep them alive. There was a momentary, irrational pang of regret as she bolted away from the doors and the unearthly terrors behind them, as if she were somehow abandoning people- but the men and women on the other side of those doors had guns and training on their side, and the two teens did not; if they couldn’t hold their own, there was nothing she- unarmed and inexperienced- could do to help them. Survive. Whatever it takes, just keep going. Autumn barely slowed as she neared the office, instead grabbing the door frame to shift her momentum and skittering, breathless and wide-eyed, into the room just as the elevator chimed softly down the hall. “We need to get out of here,” she gasped as she tried to catch her breath and slow the frantic pounding of her heart. Cassandra could see genuine, bone-deep fear in the other girl’s pale features, her eyes a strange green-grey in the unwholesome light as she glanced quickly around the room. “Like, right now. And we can’t go through those doors.”
  16. 2 points
    As Autumn took her position, Cassandra breezed around the room, just giving it a once-over. She took a snapshot from one corner, then the opposite one. At the big print with the mountain and the lake she paused thoughtfully, then took a photo of that as well. She'd seen that before. Might be important. On searching the sports jacket on the rack, Cass found a set of keys...which by the fob went to a car. A Porsche. Her eyes widened and she held them up for Autumn to see...then even took a picture of them in her hand, and put them back. No grand theft auto today. Tomorrow though... Her exploration of the walls yielded a small keypad set into one. At that keypad she hunched over to bring it level with her face, and exhaled onto it repeatedly. When Cass turned to see Autumn staring at her, she blushed a little and said, "It's...supposed to fog up the keys except the ones that have skin oil on them. It, uh, didn't work though." Clearing her throat, she quickly made her way over to the desk. Between the two monitors was something odd. A funny sort of projector that was actually built into the desk itself. She tried wiggling it, but to no avail...it seemed to have been bolted on, or perhaps was poking up through a hole in the desktop. It'd have to be disassembled to get it out, Cass reckoned. She bumped the mouse a little, and the righthand screen awoke to a password prompt. Dr Cook had left his office unlocked, but not his computer, it seemed. In the drawers was a bounty though. The top right one opened to show a notepad upon which was written, 'J.bannon 4oclock meeting. Notes and observations.' In a neat printed script. It was otherwise blank. Her breath caught though when she pushed the pad aside to see what was under it. A gun. She didn't know a lot about guns, so she wasn't sure how big it was, or what make or model it was. She did notice, by chance, that it didn't have the little switch by the handle. The safety. That seemed odd to her. Cass quickly took a picture of the weapon, without touching it, and closed the drawer. The middle drawer of the desk then had just stationary and breathmints and boring stuff. The other drawers were locked. Dead end. Other than he might be planning to shoot Jase. Cass didn't think that'd go well for him. "Find anything?" Cassie looked up at Autumn and shrugged. "He has a gun. And he was planning to see Jase at 4 today. That's like..." she checked her phone, "...a half hour from now? Probably made that plan before the fight though." Autumn nodded, though seemed ill at ease at the mention of a gun. "So what now?" That was the question, wasn't it, Cassandra thought. "I think I'm gonna try something...shiny." She closed her eyes and tried to concentrate. In her mind's eye she built Cook's office, just as it had been while she explored it. Cass let the details seep in, the colors fill out, until it was as good as the real thing. Then the shine took over. She felt more of the roomness entering her mental construct...more detail than she'd been able to see, but that was still there, noticed only subconsciously. The smell of it. The feel of the still air. The slight tension that came with it belonging to someone else. And beyond that, a kind of weird intangible sense that her mind didn't really know what to call, but that clearly identified the space as 'Dr Cook's Office at the Medical Center.' And then Cassandra rotated that space, not along any physical axis, but along the axis of time. thewindowslightenedanddarkenedandlightenedandablurofmovementCookandsomeoneelseandothersandthenemptyand...she managed to slow it down in time to spot Cook at his computer, and let the 'playback' go long enough to look over his shoulder and see where his fingers fell on the keyboard. With a gasp she let the vision go and quickly scrabbled at her phone's Note app, copying the code down into it. Autumn was looking at her again. "Everything okay?" the redhead asked. Cassie nodded. "Yeah. Just...had a lot at once there. Why, what did it look like?" "You were just kinda...standing there for minute, and then did a jumpscare. Sort of jerked and..." Autumn sucked a breath in as if startled. "Like that." "Okay." Cassie squared her shoulders and steeled herself. "I'm gonna try again." This time the mental 'construct' of Cook's office came almost immediately. When she started to 'rotate' it, she did so far more tentatively and carefully...and that caution was rewarded. Days sped past, timed by the light sluicing in through the blinds over the windows. She found resistance after a few days, and didn't push it...instead releasing the image and allowing it to move forward normally. "Holy shit," Cassandra exhaled, her eyes opening wide. "Holy shit, I think he killed Etienne."
  17. 2 points
    Both Jauntsens saw their friend's pale green eyes narrow for a moment, as though he were seriously considering Devin's offer - which, for all they knew, he could well be. Then he shook his head a little, sighing. "Tempting. But they were being pushed and besides, they're already neck deep in shit." "Pushed?" Marissa frowned prettily - she did most things prettily, Jase noted not for the first time in passing. "The Dark." Devin asserted as he plopped into the chair and rummaged through the cold bag next to it. "Oh hey, Bannon's Special Honey Jerky, made from organic locally sourced honey and organic locally sourced hitchhikers." "Go ahead." Jase shrugged. "I'm not up to chewing right now." He gingerly prodded at his jaw, then put a finger in his mouth to feel whether any of his teeth were loose. Apparently satisfied, he glanced at the other two. "I did actually give your idea some thought, Mari. And it's a good one. The only reason I didn't come forward is because popularity doesn't interest me - I am not a social creature and failed to see what clique I could possibly influence... But that was an error on my part. I should have asked you how I could help with your plan, rather than assume there was no place in it for me." He smiled, careful of his split lip. "So, when I'm out of here, show me what needs doing and I'll see it done. Queen or not, you're not on your own." As Devin grunted absent approval around a mouthful of jerky, Marissa's gaze met Jase's, softening slightly even though her arms were still folded across her chest. "You volunteering to be my knight?" she asked challengingly, her smirk a touch coquettish. "I'd hardly aspire so high." Jase retorted deadpan, his eyes gleaming. Devin grumbled something that might have been 'get a room already', but it was hard to say for certain. "There is another thing." Jason stated slowly, considering. Cook and Co knew a lot already, and he was pretty sure Etienne had told them something about the 'Dark'. "I had a black-clad visitor today, before you two got here. Came to tell me that he and the Dark are not on the same side, amongst other things." "You believe that?" Devin asked, suddenly intent. Marissa likewise abandoned the playful demeanour and frowned once more. "I was at his mercy. He's had two chances to kill me that I know of, and I'm still here. All he did was eat my lunch." Jase shrugged. "There's more, and it makes sense with what I've observed... But I'll drop that when most of us are here. Saves repeating myself."
  18. 2 points
    "You're a dingus." Marissa said flatly once Cade had left the room. Her arms were firmly crossed over her chest in the universal sign of distancing herself from whom she she was speaking to. It was obvious that she was both a mixture of irritated with him (when wasn't she), and pleased that he was, at least, alive. Her heels tapped softly on the tiled floor as she two-step paced not from his bedside. "What the hell were thinking? You should have walked away, ran even. This," she motioned to his injuries. "Is nothing more than male ego and pride." She paused long enough to inhale an annoyed breath he knew was laced with a thousand reasons why everything was his fault, despite the odds he was up against. "For what it's worth, I'm glad you're okay. You're still a dingus though." "Duly noted," Jason smirked. "So, what's this?" He pointed his finger to Marissa then shifted it to where Cade was standing. "We're dating, sorta. Kinda." Her faced scrunched. "It's complicated. I got to thinking after you pissed me off-" "Which time," he mused with a smirk. Her eyes locked on him and she pressed on, not finding his jokes humorous in the slightest. "The last time. I tried to get along, I did, but Jason, I'm not designed like they are. Evil isn't born, it's made, and frankly if that's the case, I want to be art. Trying to be a part of the Abstinence by Circumstance Club was seriously damaging my reputation. When I told you guys I would help you become popular and get the school on track, do you know how many approached me and how we were going to do it? None. Because the Nerd Herd doesn't care. I may hate it here, but this is still my town, I worked hard to become the Evil Queen and I'll be damned if I'm going to let something run through and mess that up." "I realized, if I'm going to re-establish my dominance at Shelly High, I'd need arm candy. Chet is now Courtney's thug, so, I found my own. Cade is like my big dumb Rocky, flexing his arms for his innocent damsel, Janet Weiss." She looked at her phone and wedged it firmly back into her tight back pocket. She looked a smidgen more irritated. "My brother is coming. Anyway, I needed to date again, I don't like it, but I can't stay some beautiful princess in a tower my whole life. Cade is weak, malleable and easy to control. Like a puppy. He doesn't talk much, and when he does it makes little sense, he's hot, built like The Rock and as dumb as one too. So, its like dating, with training wheels. He wouldn't know what to do with me if I was naked with tattooed instructions. I feel safe with him. Not too fast, not too slow... I'm in control, you know?" There was a notable shift in the air as it slowly rippled and shifted like a stone being thrown on the surface of a pond, then a sudden purple snap of energy spat out Devin as he appeared in the blink of an eye from nowhere. Teleporting into the medical center was probably not the best idea, but Devin was cocky and at this point was almost living to give Cook the finger every day. "S'up, Douche Strudel." He nodded to Jason. "Where's your girlfriend?" Marissa said with the typical measure of snark involved when she brought up Lona into any conversation. "Where's your puppy?" Devin shot back with a smirk. In unison they both gave each other the finger. It was amusing, but a part of Jason wondered if they shared a noetic link, being twins and all. "So, what? Charlie decide on Stomp the Yard and you just had to audition with your face? How'd that work out for you?" Devin asked Jason. Jason smiled and shook his head. "Don't make me laugh right now." He replied as he tried not to laugh. "Say the word, bro, and they'll wake up in North Korea wearing 'Make America Great Again' t-shirts." Devin offered as Marissa snickered and covered her laughter with her hand. "I gotchu fam."
  19. 1 point
    "Sean will be watching us." Jason said, turning towards Cass, holding out a hand. "May I?" She hesitated, then divined his intent and offered the plastic envelope to him. Jase reached out, then paused, his lips curving in a slight smile before he walked over and gently took the protected photograph from her fingers. It took a second before she realised what had happened, but by then he'd already turned away and was heading over to Sean. "Jase... the power generator for this place? It's atomic, advanced - way smaller than a normal reactor. Hell, it could probably power most of Shelly. It reminds me of the trailer- What's this?" Sean asked, looking up from where he was busy pulling up schematics as Jason held the photograph in front of his face. "Cassandra's father. You've got eyes in the complex and it's a high tech place - check and see if his face is in their security logs, and then if he's in the building at all." "Sure." Sean nodded, studying the picture and then, with a touch of his Shine, digitising a reproduction of it on the screen before him, then adding some three-dimensionality. "Might take me a few." "You've got a few." Jason turned and walked the photo back over to Cassie, offering it to her in an almost courteous manner. The pretty blonde smiled despite herself, shaking her head as she tucked the photo away. "You know I meant no using your powers on people, or against people." she said, looking up at the impassive features and the gleaming jade eyes. His lips twitched a little, that wry, ageless reptilian amusement back in his expression. It was hard to remember that he was only sixteen years old, looking into that gaze. That gaze was ancient. "What is perceived to have been said, what is actually said, and true intent are often not the same things, even for me. Regardless, I gave my word, and I keep it to the letter." he said with just a hint of pointedness that was not so much addressed to her as it was to the room in general. Cassie regarded him, blue eyes full of wary curiosity. She opened her mouth to say, or ask something when Sean spoke up. "Found him." He pointed at the holo-display and a security file image appeared. "Says here he's part of some experiment - no name, just a serial number, and no details what it's about." "I bet Etienne is probably undergoing it right now." Devin said darkly. "Some MK-Ultra mind-jacking shit. Ms Giles said Kline was involved with that stuff." "Logs say he's currently offsite at somewhere called 'Site B'. Checked out a day ago with a bunch of others." Sean said, looking at Cass. "We can always go back for him once we figure out more." "Site B?" Taggart asked sharply, looking at Giles. "That's our other project site." Annette nodded, standing. "While our brave friends here attempt a rescue, I'm going to go and seek permission to discuss Site B. I think it's best done sooner rather than later." So saying, she made to leave the room, stopping at the door. "Major, have your men place Dr Cook under arrest, please. Don't harm him unduly." She left, and a few moments later Doctor Cook was escorted from the room by two Airmen. Taggart looked at the three other adults in the room, nodding once, then at the unlikely-looking strike team. Or perhaps not so unlikely looking, he mused. The Charlie kid seemed mild as milk, but had carried himself pretty well in the fighting upstairs, the Jauntsen boy was mouthy and annoying as hell, but damned if he couldn't get a herd of cats moving in one general direction, and the Bannon kid - Okay, the Bannon kid was chilling to the point of terrifying, and yet had acquiesced readily to a promise not to use his powers in this room or to kill any opponents on the raid without quibbling or raising objections. That was just plain weird. One thing did not match up to the other thing. Taggart cleared his throat to get their attention. "Time to go." said Devin, giving Marissa a hug then walking over to the door. "Chuckles, snargle her garthog later. Cade, Jase... Granola - I mean," he corrected as Autumn scowled. "Autumn. You in?" Autumn nodded before she even really thought about it. Jason had said she'd be of use, and while she still held some doubts, she had healed him up. Besides, it just wasn't in the restless redhead's nature to sit on the sidelines while friends went into danger, even if said friends were best described as walking hell waiting to be unleashed. "Yeah, I'm coming." she said, tugging once at the drawstrings of her hoodie before thrusting her hands in the pockets and moving over to the group by the door. She threw a considering glance at the pair on the couch as she passed them: the new girl, Kat, seemed to be a little unglued and, of all people, it seemed Courtney was offering aid. Personally, knowing the girl was a telepath with megalomania and narcissism was not reassuring, but there was nothing to be done about it right now. Behind her, Charlie gave Sophia one more kiss and practically swaggered to the door like he was ready to take on Tyson in the ring and win. Cade stood up, hugged his dad, then turned to Marissa who threw her arms around his neck and gave him a fleeting kiss before pushing him mock-playfully in the direction of the waiting group. And Jase... Was standing right next to them, having moved over to where Taggart was waiting in a neat, unobtrusive and almost silent fashion. He radiated none of the tension or excitement felt by the others, even the phlegmatic Cade - a harmonic like the faint whisper of a lightly-struck tuning fork passing between them, each member of the team picking up a little of the others' excitement - except for Jason, who seemed impervious to it, a calm pool of ice cold water whose mere presence muted the tension just a little, like a finger pressed to the vibrating metal. "You're going to miss me, I know you are." Devin said to Cassandra with his best devil-may-care smirk. Cassie rolled her eyes. "Not near as much as Lona will. So be careful." she shot back, ignoring the kiss he blew as they left the room. Taggart led the five of them down the corridor, past the control room and into a large, open space that was currently uninhabited. There was a roll-down door at one end large enough for a van or truck, and the room was plainly meant as a loading bay. He turned to them, looking at Devin as he backed up some. "This is it." he said. "I''ll keep it free for your return and have an EMT team standing by. How far back do I need to be?" Devin glanced around, then shrugged. "Hell if I know, dude. Best be outside the doors, in case. This is breaking new ground, feel me?" Taggart nodded. "Good luck." he said, then turned and hustled from the room, leaving the five of them looking at each other.
  20. 1 point
    As Charlie and Sophia talked quietly in the corner, everybody politely ignored the pair, though one or two smiles were shared at the kiss. One set of eyes, however, rested on the pair a little longer than propriety dictated - hardly a surprise, since the eyes in question belonged to a person to whom propriety was more of a suggestion than a rule. Courtney smiled a little, a mysterious and somewhat cynical curve to her lips as she observed Charlie and his girlfriend, her crimson nails tapping on the table very lightly, then shifted her gaze to the others in the room with an attitude not-dissimilar to that of a lioness watching the traffic at a watering hole. She watched the interplay between personalities, felt the warm flow of emotions between the group, and her smile became somewhat less predatory and more thoughtful as she did so. Kat's thoughts were spinning as she sat down, her emotions chaotic as the events of the day piled up behind her consciousness like a traffic jam. As she fought through the surging, clashing feelings, she became aware that she was not alone, that the glamorous-looking girl who seemed to be largely detested by most present had walked over and sat down beside her. Courtney, she remembered this one was called. The telepath who had just switched sides. "Girl, your head is a mess of static." Courtney said quietly, her gaze warm and sympathetic as she made a slight wincing expression. "Listen, don't pay too much mind to what others say. You've got the gift, same as them. I know what it's like to have a head full of fucking noise." She lifted a hand and placed it on Kat's shoulder. "Look, I'm a bitch, sure. Ask any of them. But Devin welcomed me to your club and I want to help, if only a little. I can't throw down in a fight like those guys, but I might be able to help you focus a bit... If you want me to. Nothing serious, just like a little calm-you-down."
  21. 1 point
    Cook's misery was not at all abated when he glanced to either side of where he sat. Taggart looked as though only strict professionalism and discipline were keeping the special forces solder from leaping out of his seat and throttling Dr Cook with his shoelaces. Even the composed, elegant Ms Giles radiated anger from her dark eyes as they, like Autumn's, fixed on the wretched fellow. Taggart reached over and yanked a file from the stack in front of Cook, sitting back and opening it. "Courtney Adams. Not yet eighteen years old, I see. 'Subject exhibits symptoms of extreme antisocial behaviour and poor impulse control, including sexual mania, passive-aggression, panic attacks, mood swings, megalomania and narcissism.'" The major fixed Cook with a gimlet stare as he turned a couple of pages. "Subject showing very promising telepathic talents, capable of influencing emotional states and even affecting memories in tests." He snapped the file shut and all-but slammed it down on the table. "And you gave her the run of the project." It wasn't a question. "And you had her 'testing' these other minors." Ms Giles also stated. "How, exactly?" Cook shifted in his seat, then reached for the file Taggart had set down, pulling it in front of him and opening it. "We observed on Thursday morning that several persons of interest - labelled as such because of their involvement with the finding of Dr Kline's trailer-" "The trailer was Kline's?" Jason looked sharply at Cook. "And everything in it?" Cook merely nodded, and Jase looked down at Sean, both of them thinking about the micro-nuclear reactor and the radio, two devices apparently placed there decades before but in terms of advancement being decades ahead of even 2019. "It was his initial research station, back before we obtained funding." Cook cleared his throat. "And no, I've never been there. Etienne didn't know what it was you found when he reported it. Kline just said it was outdated, done with and closed down. Anyway... we observed that several of you were exhibiting powers that, as has been said, you shouldn't have exhibited. At least, not as a result of our work. Upon realising that our spy had been uncovered in that same meeting, we put into place several other steps to keep observation on the group. One of which was Courtney Adams, who was set the job of gathering telepathic information and lightly probe at the interpersonal bonds between you all. She was only supposed to feel out who felt what towards whom, where loyalties lay, and so on. Matters began to get out of hand on Friday, however, when she fixated on Jason Bannon and decided to test him in more extreme ways, trying to provoke emotional responses in some game of her own devising. That was not what she was ordered to do." Cook clarified, frowning a little. "She went well beyond what she was supposed to be doing, culminating in an attempt to force a confrontation between a member of the football team and young Mr Bannon, to push him into using his powers defensively." "Why?" Annette looked at Jason, frowning, then back at Cook. "Some kind of power game - apparently she sees Marissa Jauntsen as a rival and sees Jason Bannon as a useful pawn." "Pshh." Marissa snorted with elegant disdain. "Someone has a high opinion of themselves." She would have doubtless said more, but at that moment the door swung open and Courtney walked in minus her usual sway and bounce, her face drawn and weary but taut with anger as she stalked to the table. Cook went pale - okay, paler. "Sorry." the crimson-haired bombshell said without meaning it as she pulled out a chair, seating herself. "I was looking for the Greyhound terminal and must have gotten confused by hearing the sound of bus brakes squealing as I got thrown under one." She fixed her honey-brown eyes, currently hard as agates, on Dr Cook. "You are so totally fucking lucky I'm worn out from adjusting all of Sheriff Allister's poor deputies or I'd give myself an aneurysm reverting your toilet training level to five months old." "You should be resting." Cook started, but Courtney made a dismissive gesture as she reached for a coffee. "Why? So I can wake up in restraints and be cleared off to site C like Etienne?" she asked with a smirk. "Site C being the prison, or rather the complex underneath it. You didn't know that, Cookie Monster, but I did. Those toughs that Kline sent - not nice men at all, but not much in the upstairs department. Disciplined, but not strong or imaginative." She looked at Ms Giles and Major Taggart. "Cook is full of shit. At least about what my orders were. He specifically told me to push Jason to try and get an idea of the extent of his powers, and perhaps push him into an incident that would give the Project a chance to swoop in, clean up, and net themselves a Bannon." She glanced at Jason, her crimson lips thinning apologetically. "That's what I wanted to tell you on Friday night outside Bunnees. But I couldn't, because this fuckbag would have found out and I'd have been disappeared." "What about the 'you're friends with the Jauntsens, and that's not good, join me and we can rule the galaxy' speech?" Jase asked, fixing her with a level gaze. Courtney shrugged, unabashed. "Totes sincere. As was my statement that I didn't orchestrate your junk being the subject of the school snapchat." She appraised him up and down through her lashes with a smile. "We can take that conversation up again after all this is sorted out, if you like. You've got potential." Her expression turned from sultry vixen to all business as she focused her gaze back on the three adults-in-charge. "For now, consider this my switching sides. Doctor Douche, I quit. Ms Giles, Major Taggart, assorted losers with powers - I'm now on Team You. Isn't that wonderful?" "Yay." Charlie uttered in a voice devoid of joy or excitement, the sentiment apparently shared by Taggart and pretty much everyone else present. Ms Giles was the only one who didn't immediately look at the telepathic redhead as though she were a scorpion in a skirt. "And what do you bring to the table, my dear?" "Everything Cook knows, unfiltered." Courtney shrugged. "To be fair, he's mostly told the truth. But those files there are the cooked books to trot out for inspection, for instance. The real files are on his computer." She fixed Cook with another glare. "If you'd been loyal, I would have kept quiet and gone along with the changing of the guard. For a man who was all holy about not having sex with me, you're certainly quick enough to try and fuck me when your neck is on the line."
  22. 1 point
    If Jason heard any of what had been said by Cook, or any of Devin's plan to rescue Etienne, he gave no sign of it or of anything else. That sense of withdrawal hung about him, an utter stillness that in the buzz and hum of the Fellowship as they exchanged glances and murmured words made him almost invisible. He did not fidget, or tap his fingers, or even blink: face immobile and eyes unfocused - or rather focused inwards - he appeared almost inanimate but for the faint rise and fall of his breathing. "So... wait, are you kids going to do what I think you're going to do ?" Sheriff Allister asked, frowning at Cade. "They're going to find Etienne, then free him as quickly and quietly as we can." Marissa said soothingly. "If he's still alive, anyway. If you or Major Taggart roll up wherever he's being held, they'll probably just kill him and take their chances." She made a face. "Much as I think it's nuts and think Etienne's a dog, Devin's right. He doesn't deserve whatever Kline will do to him." "And what if he's being held in the prison? Or somewhere worse?" Allister demanded. "What if you bippidy-bobbity over there and it's a trap and you're staring down the barrels of a dozen guns?" "That's why we have Charlie, Cade and-" Sean glanced at Exhibit C. "Jase?" "Hmm?" "Earth to Jase. You in for the Eddy rescue?" "Sure." The lean youth's voice was quiet, distant. "O-o-okay. You alright?" Sean narrowed his eyes. "Sure." came the reply in the same tone. "To be clear: we're rescuing Eddy, the guy you wanted to leave in a ditch?" Now Jason's eyes brightened as he was jogged out of whatever reverie he had fallen into, moving to focus on Sean in that eerie way that was, for him, normal. "I know what we're doing, Sean. And I don't have a grievance with Etienne anymore." He said with mild asperity that was oddly comforting after the distant tone. "Jase, you don't have to do this." Gar said in a low, urgent voice. "It could be dangerous." "And my friends could be in more danger without me there." Jase said simply. "If they need me, I'm going." His lips twitched minutely. "You can ground me later, if you want. I've often wondered what that is like." "Never needed to before." His dad snorted, shaking his head. "Not sure this is a grounding matter." Jason stood, giving his father a brief hug. "I'll be fine." He told him. "We'll talk more later, I promise. Right now I'm going to sit quietly and wait." Suiting action to words, he turned and headed over to one of the couches and stretched himself out along it, staring up unseeing at the ceiling and once more becoming utterly still.
  23. 1 point
    Cook had been regarding the consternation and acrimony between the powered teens with a watchful eye, one hand still absently rubbing at his throat. With Autumn's words and Devin's affirmation, however, he swallowed as he once more became the focus of unfriendly eyes. His gaze flicked to Jason, who was possibly the only person in the room not looking at him right now, instead staring into the middle-distance expressionlessly, the gleam of his eyes dim and his focus apparently turned inward. "Doctor?" Annette's voice did not have the same inhuman iciness as the silent youth, but her tone and gaze were definitely frosty, as was Taggart's. "What is this about seducing a sixteen year old girl, and who is Etienne?" "He wasn't supposed to seduce her." Cook protested. "He was supposed to become close, but he was posing as a Senior when she was a Sophomore, for crying out loud. The idea was for him to act as a mentor figure for her... Dammit." He sighed, massaging his neck. "I should start at the beginning." "Do so." "Right. So, it was a couple of years ago. We found out that the Doctors Wright - both brilliant scientists in the field of genetics - were doing some work on and around the Blackfoot reservation. Some digging revealed they had obtained a grant and permission from the state health board to do an in-depth analysis of genes in the native American population and how those transferred through intermingled families with roots in Montana, with a focus on isolating genes associated with congenital defects, cancer, and the like." Doctor Cook glanced at the folders in front of him, obviously collecting his thoughts. "Doctor Kline, though, suspected they might have other motives and be perhaps trying to analyse the same thing we had theorised - a predisposition for paranormal gifts genetically present in the local populace. So he tasked me to gather intelligence covertly." "Tasked you?" Taggart asked sharply. "Intelligence and counter-intelligence was my responsibility. Why was the Branch not informed of this operation?" "Or the Society, for that matter." Annette Giles stared levelly at the now-sweating Cook. "Doctor Kline was very insistent that the intelligence be gathered covertly. He claimed that the Wrights may have friends connected to the Society, and be tipped off if proper channels were employed." The doctor stammered. "And you believed him?" Giles' raised eyebrow spoke volumes of her skepticism - apparently well-founded skepticism, as Cook said nothing and just looked down uncomfortably at his papers. "Totally fucking busted." Devin sneered, then "Pardon my French, of course." as Annette glanced his way with an air of patient reproof. She smiled slightly then looked back at Cook, her lips once more forming a straight line. "So... I hired a corporate intelligence specialist." Cook admitted, straightening his shoulders. "A civilian asset." Taggart said levelly. "An uncleared, unvetted civilian asset." "He knows nothing about the involvement of Aeon or Branch Nine. And his resume was solid!" The doctor said defensively. "Several jobs in Canada and the U.S, recently downsized, looking for work. And he looked like he could pass for seventeen to eighteen. So we cooked up a cover, inserted him into the school as a senior finishing his education in Shelly prior to interning at the medical center, and tasked him with getting close to the Wrights." "Specifically Clara." Marissa 's dark eyes were hard as she found a fresher target for her ire than the still unresponsive Jason. "A girl so lonely and buttoned-up she would qualify as vulnerable even if she wasn't a minor." "No statutory laws were broken-" Cook began, but was cut off by Cassandra. "Age of consent might be sixteen, but I'm pretty sure even if he didn't do the nasty with her before that, it still counts as 'grooming'." She shook her head in disapproval, even as several others present, the sheriff included, nodded in agreement. "And as I said, he wasn't supposed to get that close." Cook protested. "Jesus. He was supposed to be a star student that she would look up to, then become friends with. But something went wrong. He developed actual feelings for her. At first we decided-" "'We' being you and Doctor Kline?" Taggart's face was stony, but his fingers tapping on the table's surface betrayed his anger. "Yes. At first we decided that, so long as Etienne would still go through with the mission, that it could be a benefit. He snuck into the Wright's property several times, tried to break into their private lab building, but claimed he was unable to bypass their security. Then he and the girl broke off the relationship" Cook shrugged. "The mission was pretty much a bust, then. Kline gave the order to terminate his contract, and I was about to when everything changed, and he attended a party thrown by the high schoolers on Reservation ground and witnessed strange things happening. That, plus his rekindled closeness with the Wright girl, made him of use again... until his cover was blown and these kids found out he was a spy." "We have our ways." Sean's girlish features were somber as he regarded the doctor he'd trusted most of his life. "Yes, you do." Cook sighed, rubbing his hand over his face, glancing Sean then at Ms Giles. "That was last week. Late last night, he comes into my office without knocking, wild-eyed and loudly telling me he quits, he's not going to do it anymore, and that we'd better leave Clara and the other teens alone. I didn't have a choice, then. I had to contain him." "Contain him how?" Taggart demanded. Cook shifted in his seat, and the Major leaned forward. "What did you do, Doctor?" "I... handed him off to Kline's men." Cook stammered, then spoke in a rush. "I didn't know what to do at first. So I pulled out the gun I had in my desk for - uh - protection." He glanced at at the still-motionless, inward-turned Jason for a moment, who didn't even appear to hear the words. "And brought him down here. I called Kline, told him what had happened, and he sent some people." "What people? Whose people were they?" "Some private security force. Uh... Doctor Kline has used them a couple of times for, um, off the books things. They bundled Etienne into an armored van and took him away." "Mercenaries. Doctor Kline is employing goddamn mercenaries on American soil as part of a black project." Taggart looked like he was fit to spit nails. "Where did they take him?!" "I don't know!" Cook nearly wailed. "I didn't want any of this. You have to believe me." "I should call my superiors and have you renditioned to a black site in goddamn Siberia for the rest of your natural life, you-" Taggart bit back a stream of profanity with some effort backed by solid professionalism. "Think. Did they say anything to each other?" Cook screwed up his face in thought, starting to shake his head negatively... then paused. "Wait... Wait! One of them had a blue shirt on under his jacket. It looked like the uniform shirts the guards wear at the prison!" He looked from Taggart to Ms Giles, desperate hope in his eyes that he'd bought a reprieve. "That's all I can think of, I swear!"
  24. 1 point
    Skrrrrrnnnggggkkk. The dissonant sound of a chair scraping awkwardly over the floor cut through the tension with all the elegance of a dull kitchen knife as Autumn brushed a few stray crumbs from her chest and pushed back from the table, getting slowly to her feet and glancing speculatively around the room. Kat's speaking up was a reminder that there were quite a few people present who knew even less about the current situation than she did, and even Friday- when this madness had all started for her- seemed like a lifetime ago, now. Apparently, as she'd wondered back then, there really was no maximum threshold for impossibility, no upper limit on the number of things that couldn't happen in a single day. Sometimes multiple days in a row. There was so. freaking. much. she wanted to say to Jason, to the twins, to Cade, to the poor bystanders and the new girl who'd gotten dumped in the middle of things the way she had, and the conflicting thoughts weren't doing much for the dull ache behind her eyes, but none of those thoughts were exactly helpful either... and if they didn't get their shit together as a group, they were going to completely waste this chance to get the information they needed. "So, hi," she began, in a voice that was surprisingly steady despite the awkward little wave that accompanied it in violation of Basic Public Speaking 101. "If we haven't been introduced, I'm Autumn, nice to meet you. I hope it's cool that I'm interrupting, because, hooo. This is, um..." She spread her freckled hands briefly, indicating the room as she winced and shook her head, nose crinkling slightly. "This is a whole lot, and it's definitely been a bit of a day. So. Before anyone storms off, or any declarations of war are signed in blood, there are just a couple of things I want to bring up, and then I think we need to give Dr. Cook a chance to answer Cass before this crazy train goes completely off the rails. First." Her gaze moved first to Jason, and then to Devin and Marissa, and though it lacked the frigid incisiveness in the eyes of the former or the imperious challenge in the mien of the latter, it was clear, direct, and unwavering. "Bylaws and accountability, right? 'Order.' We deal with our own. That means nobody who isn't one of our own needs to be involved, so all of this..." She gestured again, more expansively, as if to encompass the incomprehensible vastness of the growing rift between them. "Needs to happen at some other time and place than when we're exhausted and sitting in a secret government facility with reps from secret government projects- and the freaking Sheriff who knows all of our parents- hours after having nearly been eaten by whatever the hell those things were from some... messed up Wes Craven mirror world." Pausing to actually inhale, the animated redhead ran her hands back through the tousled mess of her red-gold hair, holding them there for a moment in frustration as she continued. "Look, we can do all the yelling and threats and all that on our own time, and if you guys want to strip down and go at it bare-knuckle in a field somewhere, I promise I'll split the ticket sales, but Cass gets the media rights." Glancing over at her plucky counterpart, the redhead managed a slightly crooked grin that just reached her eyes, and quickly faded. Her voice was almost imperceptibly softer, all the levity dissipating as the earnest young woman regarded the twins, hands dropping back to her sides. "But if you two don't want to be here right now, cool. I feel that. Seriously. Things are pretty fucked right now, and not likely to be any less fucked any time soon. Marissa's got my number, I can fill her in later. Go home, take a shower, light up...." Autumn paused, eyes darting warily in the elder Allister's direction, "...a candle, do a sheet mask, align your chakras, destroy someone's hopes and dreams, y'know. Self-care. Whatever you need to do." "Second. I'm holding my questions until we get some answers from the doctor here, because not all of us are freaking savages," she glanced disapprovingly around the table in a reasonably accurate imitation of her mother before addressing the officer present, "but... Major Taggart? I wanted to say thank you for earlier, for at least trusting the two of us enough to let us help. You took us seriously, and you didn't have to. So, thanks." "And, third. I didn't say it before, and I know we're not all friends here, but I'm really glad everyone's okay. Okay? Okay. Cool." She didn't give anyone time to respond, instead just nodding and moving ahead as if her cheeks weren't burning from the admission. "That's it. Dr. Cook, you have the floor," the restless young woman stated tersely, the warm blue of her eyes fading to an unwelcoming grey as she sat down again, the chair once more screeching into place. "Let's try this again."
  25. 1 point
    "And you wonder why I don't want to be alone in a room with you," Marissa sneered at Jason, obviously irritated and beyond upset with his speech and admission of being capable of unspeakable acts of torture upon another human being and not even show any sign of concern for them. Yet all of his friends were supposed to sit around believe that he would never do that to any of them were he suddenly rubbed the wrong way. "You're a lunatic, Jason and frankly I'm afraid of you. Not that it matters, since my being afraid of you means less than nothing to you. If the others in this room aren't scared of you, then they are either stupid or have no sense of self-preservation." "No," she raised her hands in surrender. "I've no further concerns other than the fact that we're all locked in a room with that," she pointed a perfectly manicured nail at Jason. "So can we please wrap this up before he decides to regale us with more bragging about the levels of barbarity the great and powerful Jason Bannon is capable of?" "Not cool, dude." Devin shook his head. "We've been over this, and apparently you don't listen or just don't care. We are not here to threaten, harm, and intimidate people. If all you can think of to do with your abilities is throw people around homes and threaten to inflict harm on others, then say the word, bro. We can start dancing right now. That shit though?" He pointed to Cook, unconcerned with the people in the room at the moment. He looked to Hank and Jason's father. "That shit isn't gonna fly. Get your house in order, because this boy need Jesus or Tony Stark, or something, because we all know he's one hundred percent in control of everything he says, and he doesn't lie. Which means there no excuse for this sort of behavior. Every few days he's either scaring the shit out of us going off on some power fueled rampage that ends up with people getting hurt." It was Devin's turn for an icy stare directed at Jason. He could handle a few passive threats but Jason always took shit too far, like he was some kind of a super badass, but he wasn't. He seemed to be nothing more than a bully, like Devin not long ago, so he understood the mindset. He could tolerate a lot of antics, but keeping his sister living in fear from day in to day out all the time... that shit needed to stop. "Unfuck yourself, Jason. Or just say the word and we can start the war right now. Because this shit is like every fucking day with you, man." Marissa stood up, standing near her brother. "Devin, don't. Let it go. Just... it's just not worth going over it with him again. He doesn't get it, and never will. That's the sort of person he is, and it's not our fight, let the military deal with him. He's not your problem anymore." "Yeah, fine." Devin nodded, never breaking gaze with Jason who just glared at him like that damn cat in the memes. Jason didn't care. He never cared. He couldn't care. Sure he'd tell everyone differently and swear up and down that 'he would never [fill in the blank]' but he'd also be ding it with a straight face, a steady heart rate, and a smile while he was unraveling someone's organs. "Good luck, people. Just think, you're trapped six stories underground with him." He looked to the Sheriff and smirked. "Enjoy."
  26. 1 point
    "For the record - you do not have government backing." Major Taggart addressed Devin and the other teens, some firmness entering his tone. "For several reasons - not least of which being you are legally minors and so cannot be employed by the U.S. government, least of all in a black operation such as this one." "Good." Charlie spoke up. "That means we're not bound by any official secrets act, either." "Espionage Act of 1917, currently codified under Title 18, Sections 791 through 799 governing espionage, makes it a criminal offence to disseminate information regarding classified military or government projects in such a way that could be injurious to the security and safety of the United States or interfere with the running of its military operations. There's currently some debate as to how that interacts with the First Amendment, but suffice to say whistleblowing doesn't end well for the person blowing the whistle, usually." The words were spoken quietly, matter of factly. Jason's icy stare fixed on Taggart, who was nodding. "That said, I would greatly enjoy the sight of the U.S. government trying to prosecute super-powered minors, who gained said powers as part of an illegal eugenics experiment and wide-scale surveillance conducted on American citizens on U.S. soil. I think that would be a landmark media circus that might even get them to stop talking about Trump." Taggart's face froze as surely as though Jase had turned him into ice. "In your face." Devin smirked at Taggart. "Or wait... was that also in our face? Whose face are you in right now, Rain Man?" "Merely making observations." Jason shrugged, smiling a little. "In my opinion, it doesn't suit either side currently at this table to be at odds. I don't particularly want my face splashed all over the news or journalists digging into my life - at least currently." "And besides, I'm calling dibs on the exclusive." Cass interjected, mock-glaring at everyone. "Anyone talking to any journalist except me is off my Christmas card list and I'm never talking to you again." "Also that" Jase nodded slightly, the corners of his eyes crinkling in amusement. "Cassandra gets the Pulitzer." The good humor faded from his pale eyes as the door opened and Dr Cook returned, looking harried, with the two Airmen in tow. "Doctor, please take a seat." Annette said smoothly. "We've been having a most interesting discussion." There was a slight edge to the word 'interesting', her eyes boring into the doctor for a moment before she turned back to Jason. "So how do you see this relationship moving forward, Mr Ba- Jason." "Just call him JayBee." Devin grinned at the elegant woman. "If you're not a pile of ash afterwards, he's okay with that." Annette looked at the smirking Jauntsen, then at the glint in the jade depths of the young psychopath's eyes, and shook her heard, smiling a fraction. "I'll stick to 'Jason' for now." she decided, immediately giving the rest of the Fellowship a good impression of her common sense. "Smart." muttered Charlie with a sly smile. "You can tell why she's in charge." Sean grinned. "If you are being truthful," Jase spoke over the snickering. "Then we have aligning aims. You don't want Shelly to be eaten by a metaphysical shadowy parasite, nor do we. You don't want every detail of this project or our lives splashed all over the internet - nor do we. You want to find out what Crossroads has to do with all this - so do we. And finally, you are interested in us: our abilities specifically. And I, at least, am interested in the Aeon Society and how it can benefit me." He glanced at Cook. "Before I knew about Aeon or Branch Nine, I approached the doctor here with an offer of cooperation: to let me help him. He was less than enthusiastic." "You also lied about how you felt alienated and set apart from your friends. That you felt they were treating you - how was it you said it? 'Like a bomb about to go off or an abusive drunk parent'." Cook replied, a hint of triumphant accusation in his tone as he saw a chance to sow discord. "That you felt your efforts were unappreciated and that all you got from them was 'petty ingratitude and fear'." "Which is indeed how I felt yesterday." Jason nodded slowly, not at all discomfited by Cook's 'j'accuse' moment. "Indeed, I was close to leaving Shelly altogether by the time school was out yesterday. It seems, in light of events since our talk, that I was mistaken - or at least mostly mistaken. Perhaps my friends do struggle to understand and accept me, but no less than I struggle to understand them. I did not lie to you, doctor. Lies are your stock in trade, not mine." "You're a sociopath-" "High functioning psychopath." came a chorused mutter from the other teens. "-lying is all you do." Cook finished with defiant vitriol - and then the vicious satisfaction in his gaze turned to fear as an invisible grip closed around his throat, terrifyingly strong. His hands came up, but there was nothing to struggle against as he was pulled bodily out of his chair and onto his toes. "I can do many things." Jason's voice was calm, a contrast with the predatory gleam of his eyes. "I can reach down your throat and pull out your heart. I could twist your head clean off your shoulders, burn you slowly to ash as you scream, sizzling in your own fat. I could freeze parts of your body and shatter them, starting with your reproductive organs. I could do all that, and my heart rate would not climb even a fraction." Cook's breath came in gasping wheezes now, his face turning dark red. "Am I lying?" "Dude..." Devin said warningly. Gar reached out and put a hand on Jase's shoulder, his expression tense with worry for his son. "Am. I. Lying?" Jason repeated, each word sliding into place like knives into sheaths. Cook managed to shake his head and croak something that sounded like 'no'... and then collapsed heavily, catching himself on the table and falling back into his seat, gasping for life-giving air. "Next time you feel like insulting me, Doctor Cook, bear that in mind." Jase stated in the frozen silence. "Your discomfort, fear, pain and life mean less than nothing to me. You extend your safety by minding your manners and cooperating." He held out a hand, a donut drifting into it as a cup of the admittedly terrible coffee was poured from pot and likewise floated down to the end of the table where he reached out and took it, taking a sip and making a face. "So you see, Ms Giles, I am willing to cooperate in the achieving of our mutual goals, taking one day at a time. Right now I think the best thing for us to do is find out all we can about the legends of the Dark, then confer with you about what aid we might possibly need." "Yes." Annette nodded, recovering her aplomb admirably - though looking a little wide-eyed as the gasping Cook rubbed at his bruised throat, his eyes downcast. "That seems sensible." She looked at the others. "Does anyone else have any further concerns?"
  27. 1 point
    "Totally not going to do the prison thing..." Devin shook his head slowly then slyly winked one eye and nodded very slowly to Cass. "Go near that prison, Mr. Jauntsen, and yes, you will be doing the 'prison thing'." Sheriff Allister smiled ruefully in the young annoyance's direction. "You're not my supervisor." Devin smirked. "We got government backing now, dude," suddenly his eyes swelled with a thought. "Holy crap, Taggart, dude, when do we get launch codes? Because the Target in Great Falls is total shit. I got a new game from there and it was scratched, and I was like what the hell, dude? So I took it back and they told me they couldn't even exchange it for the same copy because I'd already opened it. What kind of crap is that? So, yeah, I wanna ghost the whole place, can we do that?" "You can't be serious." Taggart huffed, already massaging his temple with his thumb. Sheriff Allister smiled for the first time since they entered the room. "They're all yours, Major. You think whatever is coming from this thunder place is bad, spend a week with the Jauntsen twins and you'll be begging for it all to end." "Aw, Sheriff," Marissa pouted. "What's wrong? Knowing two people who aspire to more than screeching their lives to a halt at mediocrity like you did make you feel uncomfortable?" Again the Sheriff looked at Taggart, seemingly unphased by the adolescent troublemakers. "Enjoy."
  28. 1 point
    "As close as my research can tell, the Dark has been active in Shelly since the beginning. Possibly before the beginning - but for that we'd have to consult the local Blackfeet and hope their oral history has some reference to it. The Land of Upside-Down Thunder is a Blackfoot term for this area, though, as is 'Dawning Dark Light'. So it's safe to say that they have some knowledge of it." Jason spoke quietly, addressing Ms Giles and Major Taggart. "I'm not going to give the full presentation I gave to everyone else right now, but the short version is this: every twenty-seven years there is a spate of killings, disappearances, and violent assaults that would lead to death if they weren't interrupted. People go crazy - mothers kill children, drunken friends pull knives on each other... you get the picture. After talking with the Man in Black earlier when he visited me in the hospital, and combining it with what you've said about the high count of 'aether' in this area, I think that something in this area produces people with Shine - weak, isolated, but harvestable. And once a generation or so, the Dark wakes up and eats, feeding on the deaths of those with gifts. Only this time, several things have changed - we're stronger than the previous ones for some reason." He paused, thinking for a moment. "Mr Black did say that he regarded us like I regard my flowers. It's possible he was blowing smoke - or he might have something to do with whats different this time, why we've manifested gifts beyond what the project was capable of cultivating." "So we're his eugenics experiment?" Cassie asked, wrinkling her nose. "We know he's old. He can afford to think in terms of generations, centuries of nudging the course of events, searching out bloodlines with the best chance of producing us. Then he takes the best seeds he can find, and plants them in the best ground for them to bloom." Jason looked at everyone. "Hell, maybe he even steered the Project here. Ms Giles did say that Kline's a geneticist, not a quantum physicist, yet he suddenly stumbled on the concept of 'aether'. What if someone helped him?" "Shit." Marissa said softly. "That makes sense. Chess played over decades." "If I had a goal like 'defeating the Dark', and needed people like us to do it, and had time on my hands... It's how I'd operate." Jason shrugged. "Back to the Dark - we know it has some kind of intelligence to how it acts. We know that Mr Black has said we need to find Cody Sikes. We know, thanks to Cassie, that it's heart seems to be in downtown Shelly. We know Devin can potentially flip us over to it's side of the mirror to fight it. But..." "But what don't we know?" Sean finished, nodding. "We should talk to the Blackfeet before we go charging in."
  29. 1 point
    "I don't like it." Allister said, though in a much calmer manner as he absorbed what his son and the other teens were telling him. "Not the dating thing - I mean everything else." "You think the kids asked for it?" Hank inquired in blunt fashion. "Any of them? I know for a fact that Jase here ain't hurt anyone that hasn't hurt someone else first. And if you're worried about him being a loose cannon, think of the two shitheels that jumped him at school. He could've turned them inside out." "But I didn't." Jason said quietly. "Because I saw they were being pushed by the Dark. Like Mari said, it can get in peoples heads. Those without Shine, at least. It can't exactly make them do stuff they wouldn't normally, but it can push them into acts from their darker sides and turn it up to eleven. For instance, it couldn't make a loving father kill his kid with a snap of it's fingers, but it might be able to push an angry man into beating a loved one and then just... going too far. Marissa pointed out that maybe Liam was pushed by the Dark when he attacked Lona. If that had been something I'd considered at the time, I'd have acted differently." He didn't sound guilty, per se, but it was at least an admission that his actions were not altogether something he took pride in. "You saying he was innocent?" Allister peered at the slender young man. Jason slowly shook his head, frowning a little. "I don't know if he was or not. I am pretty sure that if he wasn't capable of the act, the Dark couldn't have pushed him to it." "Liam 'Hey girl, here's a drink that's totes not spiked' Day?" Marissa snorted. "He's totally capable of it." "Amen." Sophia chimed in. "The guy's a sleaze who hangs around hitting on Juniors and Sophomores because Seniors are too wise to his shit. No tears shed here." As the Sheriff looked at her she squirmed a little, shooting a glance at Jason. "Like, I don't think it's cool that Bannon 'Carrie'd' his ass, but if he's graduating from sleaze to full-on rapist, I feel safer that he's limping rather than running." "Also... If it wasn't for Jase, most of us wouldn't really be understanding our abilities the way we do. He put a lot of brain work into figuring out what exactly the Shine is, how it lets us do the things we do, and so on." Charlie admitted with a slight grin. "He was the one that put the idea of the Mantis Shrimp in my head for a 'combat shape'. He's helped us out, Sheriff. A lot. And for the record, in case it wasn't clear: he's not a monster. He stopped three guys from assaulting Cora at the fair." "He saved some of us from a sabertooth in the woods." Marissa put in. "I know, I know. Yes, a sabertooth. Don't ask me how it got there." "He helped fight the vagisaurus in round one, too." Devin said. "He could've run, but didn't." The teleporter smirked at Jase. "He's crazy, but that shit was awesome. Apart from my junk almost getting eaten." "You should see his garden." Cassie chirped. The others looked at her askance, some of them slowly considering even as Autumn nodded firm agreement. "What? It's beautiful. Seems to me a monster couldn't grow flowers like that. Even if he does lack pluck." Jason smiled faintly at the teasing, inclining his head towards the blonde girl. "Yeah - the garden is awesome." Autumn said with a warm smile, trying not to blush as pale green eyes flicked her way. She grabbed a donut and hastily bit into it to stop herself saying anything more. "He might not be normal." Sean said quietly. "But none of us are normal, and Jase? He's our not-normal. He's got our backs." Ian Allister looked at them all, then at Jason, and huffed quietly, his manner thoughtful. Cade put a hand on his shoulder. "Dad, they're right. You know what Gramps is always saying about judging people before walking a mile in their shoes." "Hmm." The sheriff grunted non-committedly, then looked at Jason again, then at his son. Settling back in his chair, he appeared deep in thought, apparently having nothing further to say. Ms Giles, who had watched the interplay avidly as the Fellowship spoke up and gathered around one of their own, was wearing a slight smile. "It appears the sheriff has some things to think about. As, indeed, perhaps so does Jason." she remarked gently. "To sum up the answer to the last question Devin asked: we're not sure why people have different affinities and abilities. Though I imagine some of you-" she glanced around at the Fellowship "-might be working on figuring that out yourselves." "In the meantime," Taggart spoke up for the first time in a while. "There seems to be a large paranormal threat in Shelly. I'd appreciate any intelligence you could give us on it. I know, for example, that Miss Allen here can sense where it seems to be based. But what exactly is this Dark and how long has it been here?"
  30. 1 point
    Jason nodded agreement with Marissa's expressed sentiment, expressionless but for the predatory intensity of his gaze. "She's right. We are the only ones that can stop what is going on, and more importantly what is going to happen. We're not sure what part the Project here is playing in current events, but I get the impression that you really don't have much of a clue. So it's probably best you follow the lady's advice and get out of our way - for your own good." His tone was calm, matter of fact, lacking the bantering delivery of Marissa's injunction. "That could be taken as a threat, Mr Bannon." Cook replied, not meeting the teen's eyes and instead glancing at the papers in front of him. "I'm sure no-one here wants to be making threats." A subtle tension had come over the two men sitting at the head of the table, Taggart eyeing the youth the way one might eye a coiled rattlesnake. The woman, by contrast, seemed soberly curious, her dark eyes wide and watchful. Autumn and Cassie drifted over from the couch, the redhead having scooped up her snacks in an armload which she dumped on the table as she pulled out a chair next to Gar Bannon, smiling at him as she sat, then continued eating. "When my father is present, he is 'Mr Bannon'. And how you choose to take it is a matter of extreme indifference to me." Jason's voice never changed from it's level calm tone and his stare never wavered. "I don't make threats. There's rarely any point. 'For your own good' was meant in the sense that one would use when advising a slow child to stop playing football on the highway." He paused for a moment as though reflecting. "An unlikable slow child. The kind whose birth certificate was an apology letter from a condom manufacturer, but you still don't want to be washing them out of your radiator grille days later." There were snorts of amusement from both Jauntsens as well as one or two others present and Autumn, who'd just taken a delicious mouthful of cool soda, suddenly found herself choking as a shocked gasp met the urge to laugh and both reflexes mixed catastrophically with the Dr Pepper. Graskle winced and tried not to laugh, Jase's dad blinked at his son in astonishment and then at the choking Autumn in alarm, reaching out and patting her on the back, and Sheriff Allister looked like he wasn't sure whether to laugh or scowl. Cook's face went red, and Taggart shifted in his seat... and then the dark-haired woman leaned forwards. "Annette Giles." Her accent was brisk, educated, a trans-Atlantic mixture of British, American and Continental. She sounded expensive and refined in a way that made Marissa take notes. Cook and Taggart both looked at her in surprise, as though she had gone off-script. "I am a representative of the Project's current sponsors, and I was only recently informed of... how things have been developing. I think I've seen enough to make this call: as of right now, all Project activities are paused pending a full review." She glanced at Cook as she said this, who went from red at Jason's insult to pale from shock. "But we- I mean- I-" he started several times, each nascent protest meeting a slightly higher arch of a well-shaped brow. Finally, he subsided. "Very well." he muttered with an air of defeat. "I shall issue the orders. The Doctor won't be happy, though." "To borrow a turn of phrase from the younger Mister Bannon - that is a matter of extreme indifference to me." Ms Giles said with a pleasant smile. "The Doctor will understand that he who pays the piper calls the tune. Or 'she', in this case." She waited a heartbeat or two, arching a brow at him. "I did say 'as of right now', Doctor Cook. Everything on hold, no further tests, no progressing of experiments, all sub-projects paused. I'm sure you will make sure that the wishes of the sponsors are carried out in this matter. Come back when it's done." Cook blinked, then slowly stood up and, walking like a man whose joints were made of string, left the room. "Major Taggart - I cannot issue you direct orders, but I would take it as a kindness if you would send your men with Doctor Cook to ensure he can carry out his instructions." She smiled at the teens and adults at the other end of the table. "I'm reasonably confident we won't need protection here." "Ma'am." Taggart nodded at the two Airmen, who turned and left the room on Cook's heels. Annette Giles reached for a cup and poured herself some coffee, sitting back in her chair and ignoring the recently vacated seat left by Cook. "Alright then." Ms Giles glanced at Marissa, then Jason, then the other teens. "I trust as a demonstration of good faith that will suffice for now? Before I start talking, does anyone have any questions?"
  31. 1 point
    "Yeah. No pressure," she murmured, more to herself than anyone else. "Just let me know if anything starts to feel worse, or uncomfortable, or... weird, I guess. All right?" He nodded, and Autumn took a deep, steadying breath and leaned forward, gingerly reaching up to rest her fingers against Jason's temples. She didn't need to remind him to keep still or stay focused; if anything, composure seemed to be his default state. He watched her eyes, so near his own, go strangely distant, pupils expanding slightly as she looked not at him, or through him, but into him, her awareness extending from the gentle pressure of her fingertips through the glittering pellucid framework of his being. There was a growing awareness of his shine interacting with hers, the refractive precision of his focus helping to direct and shape the essentially restless, eager intensity that was immediately recognizable as Autumn. “Okay.” The redhead drew in another breath, then exhaled slowly, half-conscious of the cool, pale green of his eyes, their clarity oddly soothing- fixed points by which she could keep herself grounded amid the wash of unfamiliar sensations. She had a fleeting impression of winter, the vague sense of standing atop a frozen lake etched with crystalline fractal shapes like splintered glass, beneath the surface of which- fathoms below, in the shadowy emerald depths- something unseen and unknowable moved with predatory vigilance beneath her feet. It lasted only for a moment before she was once more aware of the physical presence of her friend, his essential vitality, and all the imperfections and flaws mortality entailed. As she concentrated, she became conscious of the rhythm of his breathing, of his heartbeat as faint echoes beneath her own, and, then- more keenly- of the jagged edges of pain that interrupted the otherwise smooth flow of energy through his frame. The colors and textures weren’t truly visible or tactile, but nonetheless seemed and felt very real to Autumn’s enhanced perception. Her mind recoiled from the injuries as she brushed against them, the near-physical experience of shared discomfort a reminder why she was doing this in the first place. Refocusing, she directed her thoughts to the connections between them, the open pathways forged by the contact of her fingertips against Jason’s brow, and allowed the power that shimmered in restless streams through her veins to flow through them. It wasn’t like the fight in the hallway- there was no sharp blossoming of sanguine energy in response to a threat, no vicious hunger uncoiling in scarlet ribbons beneath her skin, but rather the warm red of the sun at the horizon, the flickering edges of smoldering golden flames, the visceral glow of life itself that stretched outward and into the very marrow of his bones, the heart of the cells that sustained him. And then, for a brief, terrifying second, it waited, humming through the pair of them in a single current of potential, and she realized that this power came with a choice. His injuries and frailties, his strengths, the workings of his very corporeal existence were laid bare, vulnerable to the inexorable suffusion of vitakinetic energies throughout his body. In that instant she knew, somehow, how to relieve or exacerbate his pain, to further rend the bruised and lacerated tissues or encourage their mending, to alter the course of chemicals or the functioning of synapses to suit her intentions for good or ill. She’d never felt anything like it, the sense of being so intimately and fundamentally linked to another person on an almost cellular level, and as her focus wavered, the redhead blinked, finding Jase regarding her with that same incisive stare he’d worn the day before. She swallowed hard as a ripple of uneasiness passed through her, unsure how to proceed- before, everything had been almost automatic, but this was different. She’d been hurt, afraid, and instinctively lashed out to protect herself. Now, she was trying to deliberately use that same power not to hurt, but to heal. Breathing in, the uncertain redhead centered her attention on that implacable jade gaze and again got the sense of something inescapable and vast rushing towards her, around her, through her, an almost audible sensation this time- the susurration of wind through leaves, a river surging around stones, blood coursing through veins- -and that energy, the essence of Autumn extending within him responded, gently drawing the pain and fatigue away as discomfort ebbed and a sense of ease replaced it, coaxing greater efficiency from his body’s own inherent ability to heal itself. A slow smile of almost childlike wonder spread across her lips as she felt that shift, and yet, for all that she’d done what she’d meant to do… It wasn’t quite enough. They had no way of knowing how the Project would respond, and they couldn’t afford to be at any less than their best. Regardless of her own residual discomfort around him, or how others within the group perceived him, there was no denying that Bannon’s intellect and abilities were critical to their success… and, she reflected, feeling more than seeing the actual injuries he’d suffered, friends should be willing to do whatever was necessary. Whatever they could. Her smile faded by degrees, the line of her jaw hardening with resolve. She could do more. Autumn’s fingers slid into his hair as she exhaled/gasped with the almost instantaneous response to the thought alone, as if whatever power was contained within her had only been waiting to be freed. Heat and almost-light flowed out of her until she was dizzy with the sensation of being emptied, the rushing surge of energy swelling, rising as it poured through her fingertips. It swirled and eddied through his skull, spiralling beneath his skin in ardent lines to seek out the damage the two seniors had done, then expanding to envelop the wounded tissues, knitting them together again with a precision no surgeon’s tool could be fine enough to match. Nerves and capillaries, muscle and tendon and bone all stirred, resonating with the warm currents singing through every atom of his frame: loosened teeth tightened obediently in their sockets; the ugly split in his lip sealed neatly, leaving only a faint pink line that would be gone by morning; the swelling and bruising evaporated as blood vessels were woven delicately back together, and a dozen other tiny hurts and ailments were simply erased, carried away on that current as if they had never been. It was intoxicating- there was no other word for it- like the perfect buzz, the ultimate high, hovering just on the edge of being totally obliterated and incoherent, and... ...She could do more, which didn’t seem possible. It wasn’t, was it? Jase was fine, he was whole, he- No. He could be better. She could make him better, she realized, perfect those little mortal frailties and improve on them. She could do so much more- Reality wavered in front of her eyes and she felt her hands drop, unbidden, to her lap as a vaguely uncomfortable tingling fizzed and bubbled through her face and fingers, a weird, fuzzy feeling that drained the color from her features and- -Oh. Fuck, the suddenly exhausted young woman thought dimly as a wave of vertigo rolled over her, carrying her bodily backward onto the cushions with the force of it as it passed. Maybe I shouldn’t have skipped lunch? Her field of vision shifted as the room tilted and she saw Jase's eyes, no longer bruised or tired but bright and sharp, focusing on her as a gentle force she remembered from the training day grasped her body as she fell, lifting and steering her so that she didn't sprawl gracelessly on the seat cushions or slide to the floor, but instead came to rest sitting back on the couch, head back and unfocused eyes staring at the ceiling.
  32. 1 point
    "Sean, it's the same the same plan, you're recommending less 'fuck with them' and more 'wait for them to screw us over." Sean's ex-bully pointed out. "See, you're use words tells me more than I need to know. 'Allies' is not a thing with these types. They are going to screw us over. They are not 'friends', or 'allies', or 'Saturday poker buddies'. The moment you think of them as 'allies' is the moment you're programming your brain for trust, and that's when they blindside you. We are here to use them. They are a tool to be used and cast back in the box to be forgotten when we're done." They all knew the Jauntsens were messed up and Devin's appraisal wasn't something that overly shocked any of them. He was a decent enough guy most of the time, but he was still a bully who enjoyed the torment of others to amuse himself. To hear it out loud though. To hear him put into words how callous and cruel they could be or how they could simply consider people nothing more than carved figures on thier personal chess board of fun and games... well, it wasn't easy. Whether it was something all of them had considered at one point, or whether or not others were as in touch with their own personal levels of cruelty was all on them. As always however, Devin had a way of saying what some were already thinking... they just lacked the lack of filters and moral decorum to voice their thoughts. Like trying to live with and raise lions, the twins were perfectly reasonable... until one forgot they were both evil and rotten to their cores. That's how people ended up mauled and the twins' well fed. "It's true," Marissa cut in. "Look, we specialized in manipulating people at the school. Make them think a few trusting thoughts, implant certain buzzwords, a few polite gestures, and in no time people were ready to do our homework, buy our lunches for us, give us the answers to quizzes. Look, Sean, I know what you mean, and I know my brother does too, but he's right. Never think of these people as anything more than what they are: people who want to use you, experiment on you, and exploit your abilities. You guys practically burst into tears and threw fits and cried as you sped away on motorcycles over just a few of my more scathing comments, I assure you that I have little to no faith in your ability to properly gauge the mental or emotional level of fuckery that these people are capable of. Trust my brother and I on this. Being manipulative, dishonest, and horrible people is sort of what we do. Handle it however you like, but never make the mistake of building any sort of bond with these people. Believe it or not, we're looking out for you guys."
  33. 1 point
    "Copper," Devin said suddenly. All eyes were suddenly on him, waiting for him to finish that train of thought. "Okay, so, we go along with this project thing, right? Fine, but do you guys remember in that Mastermind movie? What did the Metroguy do? He claimed copper was his weakness and faked his death, right?" "This had better be good," his sister said flatly. "We know they're going to screw us over, but we need a means of measuring the how and when. Copper. All of us can easily 'let slip'," he air quoted. "That there is something; a stimuli a mineral, a frequency that that keeps our powers from working. Maybe I can't teleport into a place lined with asbestos... maybe Jason can't use his powers in certain extremes, maybe Cass can sense things through copper... maybe Sean can't focus at a certain frequency... maybe Cade can't commune with pit bulls, then we wait and see how they adapt. If the walls are lined with asbestos all of a sudden... we know their planning containment. If Sean keeps hearing the same frequency pitched through the air... or suddenly their safes are lined with copper we know what rooms they don't want us in and what safes have the loot in them. When they start having more pit bulls on the security team..." He felt his point was being made. "Everything they do will be subtle and calculated. We need to be no different. The battlefield is a scene of constant chaos. The winner will be the one who controls that chaos, both his own and the enemies." "Napolean," Jason looked up nodded slowly at his friend. "Didn't know you knew who he was." "Everybody does, dude." Devin shrugged, giving Jason the 'duh' face. "He was like, in the Canadian army or something then retired and made that ice cream." "Thus the expert in battle moves his enemies, and is not moved by him. I see where you're going with this. Plus, you get to fuck with them and see them lining their walls with asbestos..." Marissa finished with the real reason Devin proposed the plan. She gently rubbed Cade's arm with her thumb and seemed to cuddle closer to him the closer Autumn got to Jase. "Well, no, that shit'll kill, but you guys get the gist. Fucking with them is just the bonus, I see no reason we can't have fun with this." He smirked. "The point is we need to look out for each other," he glared at Cass, opening his eyes wide to make sure she knew he was talking to her. "And control the environment."
  34. 1 point
    "Oh, I think it'll help foster some goodwill," Sean countered with smirk. "How they react will see if they are planning on showing us some goodwill." Sitting next to Kat a little to the side of the refreshment table, Sean shifted on his seat, organizing his thoughts, then starting giving her the quick rundown she'd requested and Jase had suggested. "So, it all started - for us - during a late summer party with a disappearing tiger and an angry, flying starfish that ate a man..." His grin faded as he recounted the tale to Kat, turquoise and jade eyes cool as he regarded Devin's scar and heard his plea to Cass and Autumn, to all of them really. Not all monsters were literal ones, and not all scars were on the surface. He might have a new regard for Devin, but it was still new. Making sure Devin knew where he - or any of his friends - were or what they were doing wasn't a natural consideration. And Sean couldn't help but note Devin hadn't mentioned doing likewise. "... at school. Autumn got clobbered by a door - I'll explain later - but our powers were starting to grow. This is when Dr. Cook first..." Sean raised his can of Pepsi in acknowledgement and nodded, while he held up an apologetic finger towards Kat, putting their conversation on pause for just a moment. His strange eyes seemed to flash with their own light for a moment, then he took a bite of his sandwich. Despite appearances, it wasn't bad. "Done." "That's it?" Cass asked dubiously, just started to reach for her phone. Sean arched a brow. "That's it. C'mon, this is child's play. Even without psionic voodoo, it wouldn't have taken much longer using NFC. I got it - keeping it secret, keeping it safe." Sean took a deep breath, plunked his empty soda can on the edge of the refreshment table, then turned back to Kat, keeping his voice low. "Cody Sikes and Liam, the Dark is no joke, but it has to have something to work with, and, well..." Recalling the darker aspects of human nature, and the Dark, and the consequences, Marissa's teasing and the laughter it brought was a relieving weight. It made talking about what had gone on before, leading into where they were going, less wearying, and even seemed to make it an easier burden for Kat to bear. "... and that pretty much brings up to now. There's more, here and there that we can go into detail later, but you have all the major points now, I think." Sean leaned back and slouched in his chair, Kat mirroring him. It was a lot in a short time, and both saying it and hearing it took something out of the red-heads. Eyes heavy lidded, Sean finished his sandwich as Kat cogitated on what he had revealed. Sean cracked an eye when Cade addressed him. "I still control the horizontal, I still control the vertical," Sean affirmed, paraphrasing the intro to an old Sci-Fi series, "but I can't tell if they're still at their TV sets. You're right, it probably isn't going to be much longer before they decide they've given us enough private time."
  35. 1 point
    His eyes opened slightly as she sat by him, focusing easily (she was happy to see) on hers as he mechanically chewed potato chips on one side of his mouth, then swallowed. "Tired." he replied in typically laconic fashion, one corner of his mouth quirking in an answering smile. "Odd how that wasn't important with monsters and the Dark all around, but without immediate danger I just want to eat and sleep." "Yeah, not sure I'll be able to sleep, myself." Autumn responded, noting how he was sitting and the bruises on his face, then glancing over at where Gar Bannon was sitting hunched over in contemplation of his folded hands, deep in thought. She looked back at Jase, realising he'd followed her gaze over to his dad. "But how are you holding up?" she repeated with slight emphasis, trying not to look away or turn red when his pale eyes once more flicked to stare into hers. How was it so hard to talk to him without feeling like her face was going to catch flame? She'd have thought that hanging out, laughing and talking last night would have built up an immunity to the strange and terrible Bannon, but no. Even battered, tired, and wearing a replacement Rangers jersey and - ohgod - grey sweatpants, there was something about the way he focused entirely on her that was uncomfortably incendiary. "Jaw is bruised. Feels like some teeth are a little loose. Bruising to the ocular region on the left side. Bruising to the ribs and stomach. Sore and stiff." he said quietly, almost dispassionately reporting on his injuries. "No fractures that they detected, and my concussion seems to be mostly faded, though I have a headache." "Mmhmm," she agreed, nodding thoughtfully as she caught the inside of her lower lip between her teeth. "Sounds like what I saw earlier, at least, so it's good to know that's accurate." There was a moment's pause, then, Autumn's gaze dropping to the pale, amber-flecked fingers drumming restlessly on her thighs. If she'd gotten involved earlier, would she have been able to prevent him being hurt? Maybe. All she could do now was try to repair some of the harm done, or at least make him more comfortable. Resolved, the worried redhead moved, shifting one knee up onto the couch and determinedly turning to face her friend, the unintentional arsonist. "Hey, listen," she began, her eyes moving over his face again, studying the bruises blooming dark and florid over his angular features, the tape they'd used to close the small lacerations around his eye and cheekbones, and noting the bone-deep weariness in his expression that, implausibly, remained absent from the piercing, glacial green of his gaze. "I was thinking- and, if you want to wait for Lona, I totally get it... I just thought maybe I could try to help. If you want," she added, more quietly, searching his expression for some clue to the content of his thoughts. Jase regarded her for a moment, examining the warm concern in her sea-hued eyes and the hesitation in her manner. She wanted to help, but wasn't sure whether the help would be accepted - or perhaps wasn't sure she could help? He wasn't certain on the details there. What he was certain of was that he would need to be on better form than this to deal with Cook - or whoever came to represent the Project. His friends needed him to be in better shape, and that couldn't wait for an eventual meeting with Lona. Autumn seemed to have the same biologically-based gift as Avalon - at the very least, she might be able to remove the tiredness and pain, let him bring more of his resources to bear on any problems that came up. He smiled at Autumn, nodding as the corners of his eyes crinkled slightly in humor. "I'm in your hands."
  36. 1 point
    "Be there for us? Are you fucking kidding me?" Her reply was an incredulous near-hiss, the faint flush of rose beneath Autumn's freckles having deepened to a bright, angry scarlet that only served to accentuate the livid bruise on her cheek. She stared at Devin for a long moment through narrowed eyes the color of ocean-born storms, had been staring since Cass addressed him in her own diplomatic way, frustration graven into the tense outline of her frame; it wasn't enough that he'd actively worked to make her life hell, now he was criticizing her for not calling him? What kind of fucking joke was this? The irate redhead inhaled sharply, resisting the urge to whip her water bottle at his stupid, entitled face only because she knew he'd end up teleporting out of the way, and someone else would get hit. "Jesus fuck, Devin," she breathed, half-disbelieving the sheer enormity of his ego as she raked one hand through her disheveled hair and glanced briefly skyward. Did he seriously just not understand that maybe there was a reason his name didn't spring immediately to mind when people- when she needed help? When neither answers nor a well-aimed lightning bolt seemed forthcoming, she sighed, her sharp grey-blue eyes once again fixing on his. "You-" she began fiercely, fully prepared to tell the obnoxious teleporter exactly what she thought of him and wipe that goddamned smug, smarmy expression off his face... but stopped short. It took a moment to register that right then he wasn't being arrogant, that the familiar broad, sweeping gestures and bravado were different somehow- more fragile, more brittle- forced, it seemed to her, almost desperate. Autumn recognized that look: the wide, darting eyes, the pallor of his skin and the tiny beads of sweat forming across his forehead, and the shock of that recognition left her momentarily stunned, dissolving the self-righteous fury she'd been ready to unleash and leaving in its wake an uncomfortable, less volatile emotion she'd never consciously associated with a Jauntsen. "You're really not okay, are you?" she asked quietly, wonderingly, and before Devin could respond, almost before she realized she was doing it, Autumn closed the distance between them. A dozen alarms went off in her head, shrilly screaming that he didn't deserve to be treated kindly- that he'd just laugh in her face and humiliate her, or make some stupid joke like he always did, that he wouldn't appreciate it- but her body was already in motion, arms sliding around the gymnast's waist as she pulled him wordlessly into a hug. Nervous as she was, she could feel his heart racing, pounding against the confines of his rib cage in remembered panic as her hands pressed gently, insistently against his back; there was the vague impression of movement, flickering energy and expansive spaces beneath her fingers, and she realized that what she was feeling was something intrinsically Devin. It was the second time she'd voluntarily hugged someone who wasn't a relative in less than a week, and both occasions involved someone she hadn't especially cared for, but... if someone was suffering, and she could help, wasn't she supposed to try? Even if it blew up in her face, it still felt, as she held the taller boy silently, like the right thing. She felt Devin freeze, sensed the coiling of confused tension in his body as he hovered on the threshold of pulling away or bamfing to another part of the room, or another part of the country, maybe; all he had to do was want to be somewhere else, anywhere else, and he'd be gone... but this was Autumn, who hated him, and the shock as he tried to process that fact was enough to delay his retreat. He wasn't used to being touched, not casually, and for a moment he just stood there awkwardly, arms hovering uncertainly at his sides as if he had forgotten they were there. It was an odd experience for him, to be embraced with compassion but not desire, to feel the quiet, grounding presence of another person transmitted through physical contact- a connection, of sorts, that hadn't existed a few minutes before. Slowly, and somewhat uneasily, he gingerly returned the hug, his arms going around her shoulders, and, for the first time all afternoon, Devin Jauntsen had nothing clever to say. ...for all of ten seconds. "You, uh, know I have a girlfriend, right?" he quipped, unable to tolerate the stillness any longer. The redhead holding him sighed audibly, drawing back to regard him with a rueful expression that almost, almost suggested a smile, or was at least the closest to a smile he'd gotten from her thus far. "Yeah, and she has a better chance with me than you do, so don't get it twisted, DeeJay," she retorted, pulling away with a huff and taking another drink of water as the fact that she'd just hugged Devin Jauntsen in front of everyone started to sink in. Eventually, they were going to need to have a conversation, at least if he was serious about wanting people to rely on him, but for now he seemed a little calmer, and he wasn't hurt- at least not in any of the ways she could do anything about. Focusing on that, rather than the surreality of what she'd just done, Autumn took a few steps away, putting physical and metaphorical distance between them as she allowed her awareness of the people around her to shift- an exercise that was gradually getting easier as she put it into practice. It was still... Well, weird, to be able to touch someone, or look at them and see the energy that animated them, the dynamic almost-light that moved in scintillating currents through their bodies, but it was fascinating, too, and kind of exciting. As she glanced around the room, it occurred to the restless teen that there really was a difference in how brightly its occupants "shone:" the new student, Sean's elfin friend, seemed vibrant to her altered perceptions in a way that, say, Sophia did not. Gareth Bannon and his friend, the infamous Hank Graskle, were likewise only faintly luminous, their pale incandescence as candle flames next to the brilliant flame of Cassandra, or even Jason himself, but there was still an undeniable brightness suffusing their physical being, a radiance whose ebb and flow she intrinsically understood as their essential vitality. With a slight frown creasing her freckled brow, Autumn returned her attention to the tall, quiet youth sitting alone on the other side of the room, her clear, sea-colored eyes re-assessing his condition; she wasn't Lona, and didn't have the other girl's gift for making people whole again, but if she could inflict pain, as she had on the two seniors in the hallway, maybe it was possible to also take that pain away...? As the others discussed plans for the future and relayed the events of the past to those who needed catching-up, Autumn herself focused on the present. With a crinkle of plastic, she finished off the last of her water and set the empty bottle on the table before heading to the couch where Jason was resting. "Hey," she offered by way of greeting as she took a seat next to him, lips curving into a faint smile that didn't quite erase the worry from her eyes. "How're you holding up?"
  37. 1 point
    "No one's saying we just rush in," Cassandra replied, still annoyed, even if not exactly with Cade. She looked back at Devin. "Look, we went to the hospital when Jase did. We were pretty much done, and it occurred to me, lets have a look around. This is like the one time no one will be surprised to see us here. I figured we'd just do a little snooping, maybe get eyes on Cook's office. Which we did, by the way. We didn't know we'd wind up taking a secret elevator to Conspiracy Central or we'd definitely have called first." She sighed. "I get it. You're...concerned, and that's good. I really appreciate it. But sometimes opportunities come fast and furious, and we won't always have a chance to call. Like this time, things went from 'is the heat on' to 'boiling hot' in like ten seconds flat. We took some serious risks, but it paid off. Speaking of which..." Her eyes went to Sean, and she asked, "Can you copy the videos and photos off my phone? Just in case someone around here comes to their senses and realizes I've had it all this time?"
  38. 1 point
    Marias Medical Center - Team Fucked "They're moving around, trying to get in our path." Kat squinted, trying to focus this new sense. "I can't really tell this far from them. It's more like a... a..." Marissa put a hand on the tiny girl's shoulder, gentle pressure reassuring her. "Chill. The warning's enough. Looks like you're experiencing- what do you call it, Jason?" She threw a glance back past Sophia and Gar at the shimmering ice-coated specter behind them. "Primary sensory awakening. Or if you prefer classic language, her Third Eye is opening." Came the glacially calm reply. He felt cold to Kat's new senses, too, like an ice-cube being run down her spine, as though the chill he radiated was more than merely physical. Of course, cold did not radiate, the exchange student corrected herself. What was actually happening was that Jason Bannon was sufficiently cold that he was drawing in thermal activity from the air around him whilst not himself being warmed by the process, small ice-crystals of frozen moisture forming a barely perceptible sleet in his wake. The tangent to thermodynamic principles oddly helped. "Third eye." she said levelly. "I'm psychic now?" "Psionic." Sean corrected from up ahead as they moved steadily together to the next corner. "Psychic is all ouija boards and tarot cards and crystals and talking to the dead. You're feeling energy from the subquantum stratum, and as you get stronger you'll be able to shift it around." Sophia had been silent for a few minutes, absorbing the shock of Charlie's outlandish and monstrous appearance, the way Sean was throwing around laser-chakrams and the casual manner in which Jason Creepazoid Bannon had just looked at a fish monster and deep-frozen it. But there was only so much a girl could take. "Wait - who are you people, the bizarro X-Men?!" she said a trifle shrilly. "I mean - laser ladyboy, ice creep back there, talking about third eyes, and that's Charlie the lobster lord, and nobody thinks any of this is weird?" There was a fwoop as Devin appeared next to her, making her eep and flinch. The teleporter held a fire-ax in one hand and a broom handle in the other, having evidently done some scrounging for usable weapons. "Naw, that's not weird." Devin had obtained a donut from somewhere in his wanderings and currently spoke around a mouthful of it as he handed the fire-ax to Cade. "Weird is when Chuck lets slip that he's actually the last descendant of Zoidburgthu, and it is vital for the survival of his species that he snargle your garthog. Something to bear in mind when you're blowing his squid dick later - just don't get ink in your eye." He grinned at the bewildered girl. "Just remember this phrase:" And the irrepressible Jauntsen did a warbling, back of the throat gurgling sound that was a dead ringer for a murloc warcry from WoW. "That's Charlie-speak for 'fertilise my eggs, big boy'." Sophia stared at him as there were some snorts and one or two short laughs of amusement from the rest of the Fellowship, even Hank cracking a grin as Jason's frosty lips quirked in a smile. Charlie sighed from up ahead of the column. "Thanks, Devin." came his very normal, Charlie-like voice from within the chitinous shell. "That helped. Really." "Just being an awesome wing-man." Devin said, handing the rest of his donut to Kat and blipping to the front of the group next to the shapeshifter. "She'll be okay, dude. Just remember to-" another murloc noise "-her-" and another gurgling warble "-and she'll be putty in your hands." With a grin, a pat on Charlie's armored back and a fwoop he was gone again. "Jase." Charlie called back over his shoulder. "Can you freeze his vocal chords?" "Probably." came the wry, matter-of-fact reply. "But where's the fun in that?"
  39. 1 point
    Marias Medical Center - Team Fucked "Stick to the plan." Marissa spoke up, pointing down the hallway in the direction they'd been headed. "Charlie, you lead." The brunette's eyes were wide with a mixture of excitement from the action and concern that they weren't out of this yet. Charlie glanced back over one carapace-clad shoulder and nodded, moving up the corridor. His laser discs hovering over his shoulders, poised to lend fire-support, Sean followed. "That's Charlie?" Sophia asked, hurrying to catch up with Marissa, Cade and Kat, taking care only to step over the gooey remnants of the creatures on the floor with a grossed-out expression on her face which once more turned to confused with that icky obstacle navigated. Marissa smirked at the busty girl's tone, though she could feel a trace of empathy for her too. This was all weird as hell, after all. She'd just had longer to process it. "Hidden depths, Fingleman." The Queen Mantis said by way of explanation. "Everyone has them - some depths are just deeper. We'll explain more later - give you the blue pill-" "Red pill." Jason from behind, Cade from next to her, and Sean from ahead all corrected, almost in chorus. "Whatever, nerds!" Marissa snapped, but her glower was fond as she glanced at them, then took in the adults present. "Hi Mr Graskle, Mr Bannon." "Miss." Hank nodded as he and Gar followed along behind, the icy shape of Jase bringing up the rear again. Gar was looking over his shoulder at his son, and Hank nudged him. "Later, Gar. Let's get outta here first." There was a fwoop as Devin reappeared next to Marissa, who to her credit barely jumped. "It's clear up around the corner." Devin reported. "I'm still feeling that fucked-up oily sense though. Pretty sure there's more uglies lurkin'. We should mo-" There was a splintering crash from behind them back at the T-junction as the icy wall finally gave way under the assault of the massive abomination trapped beyond it, which shrieked in anger and pain as it forced past the jagged frozen shards that ripped at its rubbery hide to emerge into the corridor. Spotting it's prey escaping once more, it screamed and began to lumber towards them, picking up speed. "-move." Devin finished, and the group of teens and the two adults began to run. All but one. Jason turned, head canted to one side as he considered the beast with a gaze that was frosty in more ways than one. The gashes caused by the ice were knitting, he realised. But the blackened areas of flesh where his fire had seared the creature on Friday were still raw and cracked, and the frost-bitten patches of ripped-off flesh where it had bashed against the unearthly chill of his wall were likewise not healing. This monster, this thing of the Dark, had plagued him and his friends long enough. The role of monsters was to die, which was one reason the young psychopath worked so very hard not to be one: all monsters eventually were vanquished. This one's time had come. The creature was lumbering at a running pace now, maw opening wide, the stunted ruin of it's tongue visible as it roared. And then, between one thunderous footfall and the next, it went silent. Its limbs slowed, then stiffened as Jason stilled all molecular activity in the creature, sucked all thermal energy from its atoms, vapor visibly wreathing into the air around it as Jase's Shine drove the heat out. Its tissues, muscles and organs froze, the lashing tail becoming as rigid as a board, the oily rubbery skin became stiff and coated with ice as the red glare of life left its remaining eye. Between eye-blinks, the horse-sized monstrosity charging towards them became a frost-etched sculpture of frozen flesh that slid to a halt a few meters from where its killer stood, trailing tendrils of steam in the air as he turned back to his friends. "Let's go." he suggested calmly, walking towards them. Ahead of them somewhere in the hallways, they could hear hoarse, whistling calls increase in volume as more hunters closed in on their prey.
  40. 1 point
    Marias Medical Center - Team Fucked "Ohfuckohfuckohfuck!" Sophia was not particularly athletic, but her gym coach would have been impressed at the turn of speed she was making right now as she fled headlong down the hall towards the T-junction at the end, hanging onto Devin's hand for dear life. She was making a couple of classic errors a lot of horror movie fans would have called her on, and those were glancing back and wasting air talking and/or screaming rather than running, but other than that her performance was a solid 'eight' apart from the East German judges, who were harsh graders and didn't go above 7.6. Devin, by now, felt he was an old hand at fleeing from monsters - no looking back, no wasted breath, and keep your eyes on where you were putting your feet. Parallel to the two fleeing teens, Gareth Bannon and Hank Graskle were both making good time for old guys, actually pulling ahead of Devin somewhat since they weren't towing a panicking Junior. Then Jason appeared at the corner, stepping well out from the left hand corridor and stopping in the middle of the T at the top of the hallway, his appearance giving pause to two of the fleeing people. He appeared to be made of ice, glittering starkly in the overhead lights, the frozen substance covering him from head to foot and causing him to trail vapor as though he had stepped from a bath of liquid nitrogen as the ambient temperature air encountered the sub--zero chill of his body, and his eyes were a gleaming frosty blue-green. He moved unhurriedly, turning and planting himself in plain view, the sight of him encouraging the Fishasaurus to shriek and redouble it's efforts to close the distance. Hank and Devin, experienced and focused on survival, didn't let the eerie sight sway them. Gar and Sophia were not so lucky and the surprising sight, followed by the sudden gloom as the main lights died and the emergency lights flickered to life, caused near-disaster. Gareth gaped at the sight of his son, the shock causing him to stumble and fall headlong, sliding along the tiled floor as the air at the point where the hallway met the junction began to haze up, ice crystals forming on the walls, floor and ceiling. Hank also slid, but it was the slide of a baseball player stealing home base as he slid on his knees to the corner and then righted himself, turning to look back down the hall. Jason's dad found himself being lifted by unseen, impossibly strong hands then half-pulled, half-thrown to the end of the hallway, sliding enough distance that Hank was able to catch him and pull him to safety around the corner, the elder Bannon shivering from his passage through the strength-sapping cold of the forming wall. Devin saw the frosty shimmer in the air, gauging the distance, and realised that he wouldn't be able to cross the line in time, not towing Fingerbang. He saw the calm inexorable expression on Jason's frozen features, his friend nodding to him as the buzzing, chittering sound of Ugly's equally ugly swarm of bugs bore down on them from behind. Jase would hold off closing the wall to the last second, but he would close it.
  41. 1 point
    Marias Medical Center - Team Fucked She was breathing fast, holding her head, trying to get through the intense pain moving its magma-hot hooks into her brains. Kat was on her knees, almost cowering next to Sean, in the dazing reddish light painting the Medical Center's hallways with doom. What had happened ? When Kat first had seen the moving horrors closing in on them, her heart had missed a heartbeat. Then something had happened. In her urge to protect herself, she had become... lucid ? Would that be the word. She could feel the very atoms in the air between the monsters and her - she had felt the very bonds between the air molecules, and with a little manipulation, somehow she knew that she could probably have stopped the monsters, or slowed them down to the least. She couldn't do it. Everything went so fast, the lights were shut down, and suddenly, her fear took over and broke her focus, an arrow of pain crossing her mind and leaving her panting, unable to move. But her attempt didn't go unnoticed to the members of the Fellowship, and Sean turned a worried eye to the kneeled shape behind him. "Kat! Get up!" Sean exhorted the smaller redhead, getting an arm under her shoulder while trying to keep his attention on the monsters and shoving her towards Marissa. "This isn't over and you're not alone." "Girl," Marissa gripped Kat tight, holding her close and offering her a cheeky smirk. "I need you to get your shit together, because it's only Tuesday. Trust me, you last until Friday, and our parties are just as wild as our weekdays. Stay with me, now." Kat took a deep breath in, sweeping her humid cheeks. "My head fucking hurts." Her chest was still heaving at a fast pace, but she was standing on her feet, the ghost of the painful experience she just lived turning into an annoying headache.
  42. 1 point
    Marias Medical Center - Team Fucked Charlie shrimped out and waded into the fray like a Mongol thirsting for blood Marissa was, for once, impressed. She'd not admit to it, and thankfully he couldn't hear the muffled 'wow', under her breath, but she also knew he wouldn't last long. He was one, they were many. The laser trick, it was a cool idea, but it needed refinement. Through pursed lips she swallowed her pride. "Sean," she spun the pretty redhead to look at her, clasping his shoulders tightly. "Listen to me. Charlie needs help, and we need to help him, okay? I know you're scare and it's hard to focus, but I'm scared too." She smiled. "I know things aren't easy for you, they're not easy for me sometimes too. Use it. Every time you've been bullied. Every time some jerk on the street has name called or made you feel like less than person and more like just a piece of ass to make cat calls at. Every insult, every rumor, every beat down... they are right right behind you, and they are about to make dinner out of one your friends. "It's time to stand up to those bullies, Sean. Take control of your life and stop letting the monsters in our lives run our lives. You are brilliant, talented, all kinds of bad ass... and Charlie needs you." Her voice was pure sincerity laced with the slightest quiver of worry for Charlie being in there all by himself. The typical sarcasm and venom she naturally spewed seemed to be set aside for the duration of the hellish situation they always seemed to find themselves in. Her prefect brown gleamed slightly with a violet sheen. "We are not victims. The Dark has no power over us, Sean. We are light. You, more than any of us understand that. So, shine."
  43. 1 point
    Marias Medical Center - Team Fucked They looked like some undersea nightmare, in Charlie's opinion. If these four were charging them, he shuddered to imagine what might be heading for Sophia. No, he had to trust to Devin, and focus on the ones in front of him. Charlie took a breath and tried to find the positives. He'd grown since the encounter with the Coochiesaurus, being little more than instinctive claws and feral swipes. No. Since then, Lilly had taught him self-defense. It probably didn't mean more than knowing how to throw a punch, but that was fine. Because Charlie's real asset was the ability to shapeshift, and transform his body beyond human bounds. Jason had taken care to give Charlie some useful inspiration from the world of real life zoology. Like, for example, the mantis shrimp. Charlie did some more internet research and agreed. In another life or death throw-down against the supernatural, the mantis shrimp was a very good model to work off of. Now, he stepped up with Sean to the front, took the mental image and concentrated. Muscles and flesh contorted and twisted. Skin mottled and then warped itself into hard plating, a carapace engulfing his body. Next, they stretched out, a second set of limbs, ending not in hands, but in sharpened points. Emerging from behind the shoulders, these showed evidence of joints somewhat like elbows, giving them definite flexibility. Sean's ill-aimed lasers blew out the lights, but Charlie felt his bio-sense would give him enough to gauge. One, two, three... The monster that had dared to get closest to Charlie didn't see it coming. It couldn't have, as the pincers lashed out with the speed of a high-powered rifle and skewered deep into the Deep One-like creature's guts. It could barely let out a cry before the piercers lifted it up and dashed it to the ground. It lay still, burst like a goopy rubber tire, pungent dark fluids tinged crimson by the red emergency lighting spattering across the walls and floor.
  44. 1 point
    Under Marias Medical Center - Team Pluck Autumn exhaled slowly, willing her hands to unclench and counting to four as she bit back the angry retorts and refutations that sprang to her lips; she needed to focus right now, which was hard enough without the sarcasm of the 1st runner-up in the Queen Bitch pageant. She took another breath; the athletic young woman could practically taste the adrenaline flooding her system, bitter and sharp on the back of her tongue, even as it elevated her normal level of restless energy to a near-visible vibration in her limbs, a noticeable tension in her posture just on the cusp of motion. Whatever had happened down there was apparently happening upstairs too, where Jason- where her friend was still injured... and, the plain redhead of Shelly High reasoned that if Cook and Courtney had made it down the hall from the elevator unscathed, whatever she'd sensed on the other side of the doors hadn't come through them yet. She hoped that was good news. Glancing at the Major, and then back toward the departing Captain Williams, Autumn hesitated, weight shifting on the balls of her feet. Did they know what they were walking into, the repulsive mockeries of life that were waiting for them? Would ten people, even well-armed ones, be enough? Maybe, if they'd dealt with them before... Fuck. How the hell did this even happen? At the trailer, it had seemed like the teenagers themselves had been transported when they'd adjusted that radio-or-whatever-the-hell-it-was, but what would it take to move an entire hospital? What the fuck did they do?! "Excuse me, sir?" she turned, her gaze direct and alert amid the flashing blue lights as she addressed the man who seemed to be in charge. "I don't know if this will help them, but there were about a half-dozen... things on the other side of the fire doors." With a sidelong look at Cassandra, she added, "Maybe more."
  45. 1 point
    Marias Medical Center - Team Fucked Sean gulped audibly at the sight of the creatures that belonged in one of his campaigns - a part of his mind filed away the wet, stagnant stench preceding to add verisimilitude for his next game - resisting the urge to run. One, he'd only be running into whatever Jason and his father were facing with these things still behind him, and without the excuse that he was ostensibly trying to find another way to help. And two, he didn't want to run again, when now there was something he could do to help his friends and Kat, even if it left him in danger. He firmed his resolve and his stance, hands balling into small fists at his side as he took a step forward to interpose himself between the aberrations and Kat's slight figure. Sean heard an odd squelching beside him, and thinking another one of the things was there, he glanced to the side, his jaw dropping open for a moment as he saw Charlie contorting and shifting into something that was definitely not a talking head from TV. Refocusing himself, he gritted his teeth, his turquoise and jade eyes blazing, his attention back on the crawling, skittering, tentacled creatures, trying to not to picture any number of anime. The inhuman flow of their neural activity - or what passed for it - was nauseating. The strange light permeating the hallway fractured into panoply of rainbow luminescence, then solidified into three smooth, distinct shafts of light, red, yellow, and green, hovering about Sean's tight, slender shoulders. The three arrows of almost tangible incandescent tinted his pale complexion, picked out incongruous highlights in his hair. His expression was a rictus of terror and fury. Always, there seemed to be something after him, after them. "Not this time!" he promised, soft, but emphatic. Sean's pet lasers zipped, curving through the air as swift and graceful as Yondu's arrow, leaving ionized trails as they streaked towards the three closest creatures... ... and missed, overshooting their slick, rubbery hide, not even singeing them, nor even causing them to swerve the volley. "Fuck," Sean cursed, having misjudged their alien gait. "You missed?!" Marissa exclaimed in disbelief. "It's my first time!" Sean retorted, voice rising sharply in protest and panic, his face almost as red as the laser beam he had made. The Yellow laser scored a scorched furrow in the ceiling. The Green laser simply stopped, hovering in mid air several meters down the hall. But the Red laser had sunk deep into the wall. There was an electric snap, the acrid scent of burnt rubber, red light seeping balefully from where it had sliced into the wall... ... Then the lights went out, Red having found something critical inside that wall, instead of something critical inside the guts of one of the creatures as Sean had intended. The Hallway went black, save for the constrained light of Sean's lasers. "Seriously?!" Marissa shouted. "Oops?" Sean added apologetically. Reddish emergency lighting came on, weird and flicking, granting light enough to see, barely, and far too many ominous shadows dancing around the hallway.
  46. 1 point
    Marias Medical Center - Team Fucked Sean felt a surge of annoyance, as well as an attendant flush threatening to stain his delicate features, at the lumping-in of him with 'the girls' that could be said to be implicit in Devin's words to Charlie. Charlie was one of 'the guys', like Cade, and therefore a protector for 'the girls' - which included Sean - as well as the wounded Jason who, if he wasn't beaten half to shit, would probably have been equally part of the guardian bro club. Or something. He set his lips in a determined line - last time they had run into a Dark-spawned aberration, he'd run away from the fight. Sure, he'd headed towards the trailer, to try and figure out if he could stop whatever was causing the problems, but at the end of the day he'd been looking for something else to do because he was woefully under-equipped to fight monsters. At least, that had been true then. But they had done some experimentation and training since then, and Sean could feel the zip and crackle of photons and electrons in the air around him. He could amplify and emit photonic energy to such a degree he could vaporise holes in metal. He could enhance his own awareness and reflexes. Sure, he might not be the tankiest of tanks or anyone's idea of a living weapon, but he was far from helpless now. Even so, he wasn't eager to go forth and fight that Cthuloid monstrosity head-on in the middle of the hospital. Taking a breath, he focused his Shine a little, expanding and refining his awareness of the neurological electrical activity of living creatures near him. He'd only toyed with it a little, but if he was right it could help him discern and avoid attacks, so long as he could see them coming. He became aware of the bio-electrical buzz of those nearby, the emotionally-charged reactions of the electrons in their brains to the sudden fright and tension of their situation. Apart from Jason. His brain activity felt like it always did - fast and clear, a little slower than usual right now due to the pain receptor interference from his injuries - but there was no chaotic crackle of emotionally charged activity as he straightened from pulling on his boots, then fished the Rangers shirt out of the bag Sean had brought and, moving stiffly, tugged it on over his head where it hung loosely on his slender torso. He shoved the rest of the clothing into the leather depths of his satchel before shouldering it, then glanced at the door and Marissa. "I don't need guarding." he said without petulance or any real emphasis. The lovely girl scowled, pointing a finger at him. "You are a mess. You're moving like an old man and your eyes still aren't fully focusing a hundred percent. So help me god, Jason: Do. Not. Test. Me." she snapped, brown eyes flashing. Their gazes, the one of pale jade ice and the other of dark fire, locked for a moment in a battle of wills that was as epic as it was instantaneous - before Jason's lips twitched in a faint smile, and he nodded once slowly in silent assent. Her gaze narrowed slightly, resting on his face for a moment longer before, apparently satisfied, Marissa turned with a flip of her hair and peered down the hall. "There's a side entrance leading to the employee car park. If the monster is coming in the front way, we can make it out that way." she asserted to the rest of them. Cade nodded agreement as Sean moved to stand next to Kat. He felt responsible for her, and the shocked fright currently on the tiny French exchange student's face was familiar. He'd felt the same way, back when shit had started getting weird last Friday and a lifetime ago. "Ever see Silent Hill, or play the games?" he asked her conversationally, his tone low. She shook her head mutely and he gave her a smile he hoped was reassuring. "Well, think of it as being in a horror movie. There's a monster coming to eat us. And we're leading it away so hopefully not too many other people get hurt." He took her hand on an impulse. "Stick with me, okay? We've... sorta done this before. And we can answer questions later." "What about Autumn and Cassie?" Jason asked as he came to the door, Cade hovering behind him like a minder. "They're somewhere around too. Probably the treatment rooms near the front." "Shit." Marissa took out her cellphone and tapped on it as she started down the corridor, Charlie moving slightly ahead of her, using his sense of living things to discern if anything was ahead of them that wasn't human. "Let's get moving. We can update them." "Text will be slow." Sean warned, following along on Marissa's heels with Kat in tow. "There's some kind of latency in effect for cellular signals. Just saying it might take a minute or two for them to bounce back." Even as he spoke, he pulled out his own phone and tapped rapidly. "I'm texting the others - the ones not here. Laurie, Lona and Co. If monsters are out Shine-hunting we might not be the only targets." "Double shit." Marissa said, but she didn't stop tapping as the six of them hustled along the hallway. "Slow texts are better than nothing. Hopefully those two will be getting the hell out as well. I've told them and Deej where to find us." Jason and Cade were bringing up the rear, the massive athlete spotting a fire extinguisher on the wall and picking it up. As improvised weapons went, it was better than nothing, he mused when suddenly all of the teens heard gunfire coming from the lobby, followed by a screech of outrage from the monster and a booming male voice shouting above the screams and hubbub. "JASON?". Jase stopped moving, turning towards the lobby. "Dad." he said, a faint tension in his voice and the widening of his eyes the only signs he was alarmed, but for those who knew him, it might as well have been a panicked shout and an expression of abject fear for another. He glanced at the rest of them, but it was not in search of approval or advice, they saw. He needed neither one. "You guys keep going." he said simply, then headed back down the corridor towards the waiting area, breaking into a painful jog, the air around him taking on a faintly distorted heat-shimmer like effect as he tried to wrap himself in a cocoon of telekinetic force... which failed as a stabbing pain in his head announced some manner of feedback. He staggered a couple of steps, then gritted his teeth and continued on his path. Thirty Seconds previously Sophia was staring in panic towards the front of the hospital. Something large, something that roared, had from the sounds of it broken into the lobby twenty feet away. People were screaming, and the world was going twisted like something from a video game or horror movie. Black oily blotches were spreading on the walls, and the overhead lights seemed to be emitting a sickly greenish, purple tinge in addition to their normal radiance. Two burly-looking guys in hard-wearing clothing who'd just come into the waiting area and had been standing by to talk to the nurse at the desk were likewise looking around with a shocked expression, and she noticed one of them already seemed to have pulled a gun from somewhere, holding it low in a competent-seeming grip. She placed him then - Hank Graskle, the loony survivalist gun-nut. Both he and the guy with him were looking towards the front of the hospital too, hearing as she did something large slithering and thumping towards the doors leading into the waiting room. And then it got really crazy. Devin Jauntsen, of all people, appeared in a ripple of purple-blue light that hung in the air behind him for a second, staggering slightly as he materialised and shaking his head like he was getting rid of some disorientation. "Hate that." he muttered, then looked around and spotted her. "Hey, Fingleman. We've got to get outta here. Charlie sent me to getcha. Come on." he grabbed for her hand, and Sophia on reflex pulled it away. "What the fuck, Devin?!" she half-yelled- And then screamed, along with the other people present, as a hideous thing burst through the doors. Part fish, part lizard, with stunted twisted humanoid limbs adorning it's bulbous, oily body, the thing looked as though it had been badly burned at some point, cracked weeping blackened flesh visible under the sheen of whatever sickening fluids seeped from its pores. One dark, shark-black eye focused on Devin, the other eye a puckered burn scar, and the thing's maw unfolded open like the leaves of a toxic alien flower, drool collecting around the many teeth it showed before it issued a terrifying, glottal scream of rage and recognition. "Aw shit." Devin groaned, his face pale. "Hey ugly. Nice to see ya too. Will you come the fuck on now?" he demanded of Sophia, grabbing her arm and tugging her towards the treatment rooms. Behind them, the creature shrieked and started forwards, squalling in pain but it's progress unchecked as a rapid sequence of shots from Graskle tore into it's side, the blubbery mass of flesh protecting it from serious harm. "Fuck." Graskle cursed, backing up with his hand out, moving the other guy with him. Devin recognised Gar Bannon from his visits to Jase's house over the summer. "Let's find Jason." Hank told his friend. "The fuck is that?" Gar demanded, eyes wide and the colour having left his face. Hank didn't seem so obviously shocked, though his face was taut with fear and adrenaline as he reloaded his pistol. "Move!" he snapped, pushing Jase's dad in the same direction Devin was pulling Sophia. Gar turned and ran up the hallway, calling Jason's name...
  47. 1 point
    Autumn and Cassandra The elevator dropped rapidly, but smoothly so. It was sleek and sterile inside the tiny moving room, barely big enough for three adults to squeeze into - obviously a personal conveyance rather than one used for transporting cargo or large numbers of people. The control panel had two buttons arranged vertically - their arrows making their purpose plain - and a red button set further down and to one side, un-emblazoned. Mentally, both girls were ticking off seconds as the elevator travelled - how long for Cook to get into the room, perhaps banter some more with Courtney, and then call for the elevator himsel- The doors hissed open almost before the two of them registered that they had come to a smooth stop. Beyond the doors was a short corridor, a double fire-door at one end and another, single door situated about halfway along. They stared for a moment, then Autumn firmly took hold of Cassie's arm and propelled both girls from the elevator as a soft chime sounded and the door began to close. They looked back at the door closing behind them, then at each other. Someone above had pressed the call code. They had maybe thirty seconds, now. Nowhere to go but forward. They moved along the corridor, Cassie trying the side door and finding it open as Autumn quickly paced up to the double doors and glanced through them in turn. Beyond the single door was another office, only this one had no regular computer monitors on a wood-finish desk as the one above had possessed. The desk here was smooth, glossy and black, the surface underscored with tiny scintillating lights that changed colour in lazy accordance with the holographic displays being projected into the air above. Across the office, on the opposite wall, was another door, currently closed. Autumn, meanwhile, peered through the panels of the double doors at a large, brightly lit hallway beyond. She heard machinery, and voices., and ducked out of sight as two uniformed men walked past. They appeared to be wearing U.S. Air Force BDUs, and though were only carrying sidearms looked tough and competent. The two Airmen turned a corner and went out of sight, and Autumn looked back to catch Cassandra's eye, each girl silently asking the other "Which way now?" Project Argo - Elsewhere "We're ready to go again." a woman in Air Force fatigues reported in a crisp tone. "It took some doing, but the wave-form oscillation matrix has been stabilised. This time the Argo's interference shouldn't throw off the projector and cause a breach elsewhere." Though the woman, a Captain with a double PhD in Astrophysics and Quantum Mechanics, privately mused that she wasn't entirely sure how it had happened last time. It was as though something had reached out and redirected the focal point of the machine - how or why was still a mystery. "Excellent." came the digitised voice of the Doctor from over the speakers. "Proceed with the startup sequencing." "Yes, sir." The Captain said automatically, turning to give orders to the Airmen at the consoles. Beyond the control center's massive observation pane she could see the cavern beyond, containing the Key - the cyclotron-like device which she had helped design and build , currently swarming with techs in radiation suits and, beyond them... A shimmering, white surface that made up one wall of the cavern. A material that defied drills, explosives, or any other means of entry that they had tried over the last decades since it's discovery, it curved slightly between floor and ceiling, continuing into the rock that embraced it. It was just a glimpse, she knew. The thing was larger than the cavern, easily as large as the lake over their heads. No, she corrected herself. Not a 'thing'. A vessel. Caught in some manner of phased-state between the atoms around it, preserved like a fly in amber, outside of normal space and time. The Argo. Cody Sikes / The Horned Man They were trying again. He/they could feel the ripples in the cosmic foundations washing across his consciousness. Good. he/they thought, rising from the grisly remnants of his last meal and staring around in the dark cave-like place which sheltered him, hid him from those who would harm him. The air was redolent with filth and the reek of decomposing meat, buzzing with flies, but Cody paid it no head as he breathed in deeply. When he'd first come to this place, drawn by the Tree in his dreams, he'd been weak, and vomited at the scent of ancient death. But now he was strong, the Horned Man told him. Now he was the Horned Man, and he had to bring home the harvest, water the Tree. He had been chosen, and should be proud of that. The Horned Man had set his eyes on other candidates, but they were blinded by the light that emanated from their own souls and were worthless because of it. No he, Cody was perfect, and strong, and without Light. The Light shone brightly in his minds-eye, a gathering of the brightest currently at the hospital. His pawns had failed, as the Horned Man had thought they might do, but the Horned Man was subtle. The Light that drew them together, the bond they shared, was a weakness. Injure one, and others would come running... And a cluster of stalks of grain were easily reaped and threshed. That was why he had let Cody try his scheme - all ways led to the End of the Path, after all. He felt the ripples strengthen and the Horned Man joined with him - or was he already joined with him, or was he already the Horned Man? It was confusing, but what wasn't confusing was the power. The men in uniform were making a key to a door they ill-understood, but that key could be used... differently. Marias Medical Center - Above AND Below They all felt it at the same time. Cassandra and Devin the most severely, then Kat. But all of them felt it to one degree or another. There was a subtle wrenching in the Shine, the subquantum as Jason and Sean called it. Space from elsewhere was being folded over itself, like a shroud being pulled over a corpse - an apt description as the sensation was accompanied by a bone-deep cold that lasted forever and an instant. The air turned stale within the medical center, the radiance from various light sources seeming... wrong somehow. Muted, throwing odd shadows. The Fellowship looked at each other. "Oh, hell to the fuck no." Devin vocalised what they were all thinking, feeling his stomach dip and roil as space became twisted. Marissa glanced out of the window, noting that the sky seemed to be entirely formed of black, billowing clouds, the leaves and bark on the trees outside taking on a withered look. Charlie glanced out into the hospital lobby, spotting Sophia coming to her feet, looking alarmed. People were milling around uncertainly, looking up at the sky, wondering if this was a storm or a sudden tornado. Dark patches began to appear on the walls, growing from the floor upwards, glistening like oil slicks as they stained the pristine hospital paintwork. Jason pulled off the monitor electrodes he was wearing and sat up, swinging his legs out of bed and grabbing his boots, pulling them on and heedless of his lack of shirt. "We're the target of this." he said tersely. "The Dark wants to kill those with Shine, feed off them somehow." "How do-?" Sean began, but Jase cut him off, his manner curt but calm. "Mr Black told me. Let's move, hmm?" Below ground, for Cassie and Autumn, the effect was much the same, and they quickly realised they were not the only one to notice it. An alarm began to sound in the complex in which they had found themselves. Cassandra clutched at her head for a moment, feeling cold hatred so intense that it made her gasp. Autumn felt a wrongness to the quality of the air, like the air itself was sick, and fought down a feeling of nausea. The sudden change had taken only moments, and the elevator carrying Courtney and probably Dr Cook was likely still on it's way down. That was when the screams started. For Autumn and Cassandra, the first was a high-pitched yell of a man in pain and mortal terror, suddenly cut off, from beyond the double doors Autumn was standing at. For the Fellowship in the medical center's ICU, the screams were of fright, accompanied by a crash of glass from the front of the building and finally, as though punctuating the whole horrible cacophony with an exclamation point, a gargling, shrieking roar that all remembered from the previous Friday.
  48. 1 point
    Cass had been running a little simulation in her head all this time. The "If Cook Gets Back, Here's What We'll Do" simulation. It featured she and Autumn playing it cool, greeting Cook in his office like they'd been waiting a little while and were totally chill about it. They'd say something like, "Hey there you are. About time, we were about to go looking for you." And he'd be confused and maybe a little mad at first, but he wouldn't really suspect them because waiting around wasn't what people did when they were up to no good. But in that simulation, Cook was alone. And also not a murderer. Those things changed the calculation significantly. When Autumn motioned for her to stop talking, Cassandra realized by the clenching of her heart that they were about to be cornered by a murderer in his murder-lair. She immediately went to the keypad and punched in the numbers she'd seen Dr Cook put in during her vision. As the door slid silently open, she waved Autumn over. The redhead's eyes widened and she gave Cass an 'are you nuts' look. Cassie shook her head and gestured around the office, indicating its spectacular lack of hiding places, then back into the elevator as she stepped inside. Autumn hastily followed, and Courtney saying she wanted to get her hands on them was the last they heard as the door slide closed again, and Cassandra pushed the 'down' button within.
  49. 1 point
    Tuesday Afternoon Sean arched a quizzical brow at Kat's insouciant grin, but nodded. "Okay, then. I'd have to go anyway, I have an appointment scheduled with my doctor." Which I can't let you sit in on. Sean glanced around the milling students and faculty one final time, the press of bodies starting to break up now that the action and excitement was over, then shrugged a shoulder down the hall. "It's over for now - we should get to class before we're late." Sean tried to be a good guide during their afternoon classes, explaining the quirks and regulations of Shelly High, formal and informal, as they came up, but Kat to see he was fidgety and eager to get out of school. Only a fraction of his thoughts were on class, though he was able to answer any question when called upon. Kat caught him doodling in the margins of a notebook, strange creatures, some indistinct and amorphous, others with features suggesting features derived from rather explicit anatomy. "What're those?" the new student asked with blatant curiosity, pointed at some of the doodles. "Huh? Oh!" Sean glanced at what he'd been idly drawing. He was much better with graphic programs than sketching, but these were better than most of his drawings and he'd barely been paying attention. "Just ideas for a game." It wasn't a lie, but Kat got the sense there was more to it, especially after Sean closed the book with a snap, flashing her an apologetic smile. "Game's still in development." The bell sounding the end of class had hardly started ringing before Sean was up and out of his seat, his satchel over his shoulder, and with an emphatic, "Finally! Let's get out of here." Sean led Kat to the student parking lot at a brisk pace that made his figure move in interesting ways she couldn't help but notice, nor be aware of others noticing too, though Sean didn't seem to see, or was ignoring it. The vehicle Sean led Kat to wasn't what Kat expected, though if she questioned herself honestly, she'd have to admit she didn't know what she'd expect the dichotomous boy would drive. A jacked up, deep forest green Jeep SUV. Both of them needed the running boards to climb into the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk with any sort of grace. It was almost reversing out of the parking space before Sean got the key in the ignition or Kat got settled in the worn but plush passenger seat. "It's... big," Kat offered, looking around the vehicle, glancing inside the central compartment, scrolling through the preset radio stations. "We can get a lot of snow in Montana, and I'm not exactly built for pushing a stuck car," Sean explained, giving the steering wheel a pat. "'Sides, it was what I could snag at the auction." He grinned, he was still getting used to driving the SUV, compared to when he could borrow his mom's Corolla. "I like it. I like driving so high." Uh-huh. Kat noticed something in the back seat. "What's that? A drone?" "Yup! Built that one myself. I also have a DJI one." Sean enthusiastically talked about his drones and their respective specs, interspersed with pointing out the modest features of the small town of Shelly as they drove away from the school. Sean had a great speaking voice, fluid and animated, but his words suddenly cut off with a pursed frown, considering what he had heard about the fight and how badly Jason was beaten. "Can you hang on a sec, Kat? I gotta make a call." Before waiting for a reply, Sean had pressed a button on the central console. "Call Jase, home," Sean commanded. Do you mean Call Jase, home? came a smooth electronic query. "Yes," Sean sighed, already annoyed with the confirmation, even as he was annoyed when the car asked if he was calling some other random name that didn't sound anything like Jase, so the confirmation was necessary. Calling Jase, home. The sound of a call being made filled the SUV... and continued filling it until the answering machine came on. "This is--" Sean cut it off with a sharp jab of a finger and an irritated, "Harrumph!" His nose scrunched up as he considered, then he quickly glanced over at Kat. "Do you mind if we make a quick stop before heading to the hospital? I just thought of something." "Sure! I mean, of course not," Kat replied. Sean took a sharp turn and soon he had pulled into the small lot in front of a clothing store, Larsons Clothing. Sean hopped out of the SUV, Kat following at his side, and a bell tinkled as they stepped into the last of a breed - a small town family owned merchant with great service and excellent prices. "Good afternoon, ladies," chirped the friendly and matronly woman coming out from around the service the service counter, a warm smile on her face. She was one of the owners of the shop, Sandra Larson, as stated on her name tag. "Can I help you with anything? We sell mostly men's clothing here, which may not be a trouble for your slender friend, but it may be a little trickier for something as, hmm, shapely as yourself, miss. But let's me see what I can do..." "No, no, it's okay," Sean assured the proprietor, blinking. He'd been in here before, and recognized Sandra, but realized the last time was when he looked a great deal more like Kat than he did now. "I know what I'm looking for, shopping for a friend." "Ah, of course." There was a twinkle in her eye as she smile grew a trifle. "I'll be at the counter if you need any help." Sean took a quick look around the modest store, then strode towards one corner, Kat trailing in his wake, looking around with more casual interest. Sean knew why women took longer shopping for clothes, and it wasn't just that they generally had a lot more options to choose from. Women were a lot more varied in shape and what fit one didn't mean it would fit another, even if technically there were the same 'size'. Sean had to deal with it and was reasonably good at estimating what fit. He pictured his friend and with a critical eye, picked out a pair of grey jogging pants, a pair of socks and boxer-briefs, and a heavier shirt, with the local high school sports team, the Rangers, on the chest. It wasn't long before he heading back to the counter with his selections in his armed held to his chest. Kat raised a pair of questioning brows. "I tried calling his place, but his dad didn't answer, and I didn't want to nose about trying to get in with nobody there," Sean explained softly, not adding that Jase's dad was part of a survivalist group or something, and had access to too many guns. "I figure Jase will have been all bloody after the fight and could use a change of clothes." Sean plunked his purchases on the counter and Sandra began ringing him out, making small talk. "Shopping for a friend?" "Yes'm. He's in the hospital and could use a change." Sean usually did his shopping in Great Falls or online, and wasn't paying that much attention to retail small talk. "How sweet, I'm sure he'll appreciate it." "Um-hmm." Sandra folded the clothing neatly and placed in a plastic bag and handed it over to Sean. "You and your friend stop by again sometime soon, y'hear?" "Yes, sure, we will," Sean replied with automatic politeness, then was heading back to his Grand Cherokee, tossing the bag in the back, before climbing back into the driver's seat. "Now, the hospital." Sean was well acquainted with the Marias Medical Center, and even if this was the first time he actually drove there himself, it was with a sense of familiarity. Over the last six years, he'd been to Marias more often than most of the most accident prone athletes in school, and so knew the lay out of the place very well. Or at least, the public layout of the Marias Medical Center, now aware there was much more to the place. And much more to his personal doctor, Dr. Cook. Still, Kat noted the blithe confidence with which Sean walked through the hospital, exchanging the occasional greeting with a nurse or doctor he recognized or who recognized him. At the desk for general admissions, he asked for where Jason was - saying he was a friend - and when after giving him the ward and room number, the nurse went to give him directions, Sean waved the offer away. "I know the way, I've been here enough. Thanks, though." Sean pointed the way down the hall with his chin, the bag of clothes tucked under his arm. "This way, Kat. It isn't that far."
  50. 1 point
    Tuesday Afternoon - Marias Medical Center Directory, directory... Okay, seriously? she grumbled inwardly, pressing the ice pack to her bruised jaw and grimacing as two of the facilities staff rolled past with a cart of cleaning supplies, chatting about the previous night’s episode of “Mindseeker.” It was more or less the same tone the orderlies and deputies had used when talking about the “Bannon kid”- I have no personal investment in this subject, and don’t really care what happens, because it doesn’t affect my life in any real way. It stung, a little, that until recently she’d thought of Jase that way herself, and the realization was enough to quench the nascent flare of indignation on his behalf. Maybe she’d get a chance to check on him before she left, say hi to his dad or something… Jason was in pretty rough shape, and based on their talk at the farm, Gar might not handle it all that well. Autumn mulled that over as they walked, her sneakers quiet on the polished floor. The two girls had been wandering the hallways for several minutes without running into either a reception desk or someone they recognized, and while that meant no one had stopped or questioned them yet, it also meant there was no clearly-designated person to ask directions. It seemed a little odd that, despite the number of people in uniforms busily milling about, no one had offered to help them thus far, or done more than give the teens a cursory glance. Were clueless-looking teenagers such a common occurrence at the medical center that no one noticed them anymore? Maybe everyone was just crazy busy, or just super uncomfortable interrupting someone who was on the phone; for all Autumn knew based on the rumors she'd been told, they were being monitored from a closet stuffed full of computer equipment somewhere, so nobody who worked there cared about underage trespassers. Under the circumstances, it's not that she particularly wanted special attention, but the pointed lack of it seemed either rude, creepy, or both. "Oh, for crying out loud, did they design this place to be confusing, or what?" Autumn muttered under her breath, restlessly scanning the signs and pinboards that occasionally interrupted the otherwise sterile, featureless walls. The whole place was immaculate, clean and contemporary, and if she'd never heard anything about Dr. Cook or the sinister-sounding "Project," she probably would have been impressed with the setup. "Deeefinitely a possibility," the pretty young journalist next to her replied airily, rolling her eyes for dramatic effect and miming a talking mouth with her free hand. The redhead grinned at that, in spite of the twinge of pain it caused, and returned her attention back to scanning the hallway for anything that might help them navigate the maze of white corridors. There was something compelling about Cass's improvised performance, a certain degree of confidence, as well as the aforementioned "pluck;" even if the inquisitive blonde wasn't sure what she was going to find, exactly, she still needed to look, and that was a sentiment Autumn could definitely appreciate. As they approached another intersection, a large, glass-covered rectangle caught her attention and she paused, tapping Cassandra on the shoulder. "Hey, ask if three o'clock is okay," she suggested, meeting the other girl's gaze before darting a glance in that direction: just around the corner was a directory of the ground floor and quick reference of the other areas of the medical center. Holding the ice against her cheek, Autumn took a deep breath and walked over to examine the names and numbers listed there, feeling a tiny knot of anticipation coiling eagerly around itself in her stomach. She was nervous, sure, but it was like the feeling just before getting on a brand new roller coaster, or leaning out to rappel down a ledge- once you started, you were committed, regardless of what happened. And, there it was, near the top of the list, in crisp white plastic letters on a grey background: Dr. J. Cook. Diagnostic Medicine. East Wing. And, conveniently enough, a little further down, Vending. “Think he’s in there?” she asked, slate-colored eyes scanning the board for other useful points of reference as Cass appeared next to her and covertly snapped another pic. “One way to find out,” the intrepid reporter grinned, and the two girls wasted no time heading further into the complex.
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