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Everything posted by Sean Cassidy

  1. Type: Unearthed ArcanaSubtitle: Unearthed Arcana 2021Banner: Text: Last time, Unearthed Arcana presented creatures of the night: the dhampir, hexblood, and reborn. Now that you’ve had a chance to read and ponder these options, we’re ready for you to give us your feedback about them in the following survey. This survey will remain open for about two weeks. This Is Playtest Content The material in Unearthed Arcana is presented for playtesting and to spark your imagination. These game mechanics are in draft form, usable in your campaign but not refined by final game design and editing. They are not officially part of the game. For these reasons, material in this column is not legal in D&D Adventurers League events. Publication date: 02/02/2021Introduction: Take our latest Unearthed Arcana survey.Tags: Unearthed Arcanaexternal_urls: External url: https://media.wizards.com/2021/dnd/downloads/UA2021_GothicLineages.pdfExternal url description: UNEARTHED ARCANA: Gothic Lineages External url: https://survey.alchemer.com/s3/6169400/D-D-UA-Survey-54-Gothic-LineagesExternal url description: SURVEY: Gothic Lineages Texture banner: ShowBlack text:
  2. "When I said I wanted to travel someplace outside the US, this isn't quite what I meant for my first time," Sean said, sweet voice hushed, but still echoing oddly in the dark, charged atmosphere, portal of amethyst and ruby rippling with every sound. He pulled back from the electrical system of the Old Town Hall, letting the lights go dark, their immediate area dimly illuminated by the portal and their bracelets. Exhaling slowly, he refocused his psionic senses, sharpening his awareness on bioelectric activity, both that which flowed through living brains and nervous systems, and the traces that lingered behind for some time after someone's or something's passing. Sean was surprised when he had first learned that bits of bioelectric activity were left behind. Sean's friends, the Fellows of the Fellowship, shone even greater to his senses, both to sight, and sensation. He could see the fireflies of thought and action racing through them, and he could feel them too, like subliminal magnetic fields opposing his own, giving him an intuitive idea of what they were doing, how they were moving, and how to slide out of their way. And then like a scent laid by electrons, he could see/feel - rather than smell - where they had been. In moments, the trails piled upon themselves in the area before the portal, yet he could distinguish each one. If Sophia or Tawny had come this way, or if he got close enough on the Otherside, he should be able to pick them up. He frowned, considering Cody, or rather Not-Cody. He had changed so much, he wasn't sure he'd be able to recognize his specific bioelectric signature. On the other hand, it might now be so twisted and corrupt, that it wouldn't be mistaken for anything else. He should be able to track down the missing girls, should be able to get out of the way of danger if he saw it coming. Now to see if he could do something to eliminate that danger. He rubbed his arms, feeling the tactile something of Jase's shield, as he pictured the Hospital, the terrors galumphing down the halls, and the living, burning lights he had called up and welded to his will. It was still a strain to call them once more - his psionic discoveries had travelled down other paths since that day. He remembered how he had blundered when he had first used them, fear and anxiety stressing his control. The stakes were even higher this time, he - they, all of them - couldn't afford the same mistakes. He sampled the different flavours of the Fellowship through the link, then gave Kat an entreating look, dark red brows and slender shoulders raised. "Help?" "'Kay," Kat responded, giving Sean a tight nod. Kat grabbed hold of the formless, ephemeral potential inside her and threw it Sean's way. Sean accepted it, collected it, and focused it, like a prism, like a magnifying glass, directed to a specific function. The first time he had summoned his pet lasers, they had been spikes of light. Then he had formed them into rings. This time, they were three tight, concentrated balls of compacted, coherent photons, no bigger than marbles, pure red, blue, and green, respectively. Even from a distance, their heat and destructive potential could be felt. Sean gave Kat a sharp, grateful nod, feeling the finer, more precise control he had over the photonic weapons and tools, even as his skin prickled and his head felt tight with the rush of energy he had bent to his will. Kat felt the effort she had expended flow back into her from the buxom boy, her psionic reserves back to brimming. "Thanks, Kat. I needed that." He squared his shoulders, the incandescent marbles floating above his left one, and taking a deep breath as though he was going underwater, he followed Devin and Jase through the portal. "Just a heads up, stepping through to the Otherside, I better not hear Silent Hill's air raid siren. Just sayin'."
  3. Hands stuffed in the front pockets of his hoodie, Sean paced restlessly as the Fellowship gathered at the Bannon table. His naturally pale face seemed almost tinged with grey from fear and worry about Not-Cody and the missing girls, the lost of Charlie, though his eyes were tight, but dry - he'd been bullied enough, he'd learned not to show tears in public. He wasn't a stranger to fear, even fear for his life, but not like this. Around bullies and bigots, a healthy fear and cautious wariness was only sensible, especially when he was usually smaller than them. Not-Cody was something else entirely, literally. He wasn't human anymore. And he - it - and the Dark behind him could do worse than just kill them. And they were going to take it on, because they were the only ones who could. Sean gritted his teeth, because it was better than hearing them chatter. He couldn't affect a cool stoicism like Jase or Cade, brewing fatalism or no. As each one of the Fellowship showed up, he asked for their phones, to give them the same voodoo he'd given Jase's and his own. It wouldn't help them in the Land of Upside Down Thunder, but it gave him something to do as he waited. He should have done this as soon as they got to Champion's field for Labor. He should have done it yesterday as the training sesh at Jase's place. Before scurrying to the Bannon table, he'd gone to his SUV to grab his go-bag and surreptitiously, but quickly, change in the backseat. Grey cargo pants for his jeans. Rugged hiking shoes for his red sneakers. Autumn could tell at a glance his hiking shoes were so new they couldn't have touched dirt before and hoped they were good enough quality that they didn't need much in the way of breaking in. He'd replaced Autumn's green button-up with one of his older hoodies, the black faded and the grey Skyrim sigil on the front cracked and pocked from many washes. His vibrant hair was mostly hidden under a black cap, 'I Paused My Game To Be Here' written in blocky letters on the front. His snug, heavy duty travel pack, nylon web belt, and molle pouch on one hip looked as new as his hiking shoes, but the multitool on the other hip looked well used and well cared for. Though despite how sharp the blade might be, it's use as weapon was dubious at best, especially compared to Cade's hunting knife, baseball bats, and rifle. Though if it came down to Sean fighting hand-to-hand, he'd wouldn't be fighting with a physical weapon. Also, if it came down to Sean fighting hand-to-hand, they were doomed already. His multi-hued eyes widened in surprise at Marissa's seeming vulnerability as she spoke with Autumn, then with Cassandra. They were about to go toe-to-toe (hoof?) with a monster that was planning on eating their Shine, their Souls, and probably their meatbags of mostly water. Sean wouldn't have minded some of Marissa's usually unlimited self-importance and uncompromising bitchitude at the moment, and it's now she chooses to be human? Ish, she was still wearing four inch heels, hiking or not, on this foray. "Did she get a mood lift, or something?" Sean muttered to no one in particular. "She's sounding almost like a real person." "I'm as ready as I'll ever be," Sean said, his voice a touch higher than usual from the danger they were throwing themselves in willingly. "Let's get going before I start reconsidering just how ready I am." He stood next to Kat, giving the shorter redhead a nod and wry grin that had a hint of quease to it. "As your Shelly Sherpa, I never intended on a tour of an otherdimensional terror realm to face off with creature made of nightmares and angsterone, but here we are. Want a lift?"
  4. I feel like I say this every month, but what a wild month this has been. Crossroads Continent: Peoples of the Crossroads Continent (advance PDF)Scarred Lands: Yugman’s Guide to Ghelspad (advance PDF)Scion: Storypath Tasty Bits: Annie X (PDF)Trinity Continuum: A Quantum Leap: A Jumpstart for the Trinity Continuum Core Rules (print)Trinity Continuum: A Quantum Leap VTT TokensTrinity Continuum: Æon: Trinity Continuum: Æon VTT TokensVampire: The Masquerade: Cults of the Blood Gods (PDF/print) Sales Storytellers Vault is having a Dark History sale, with special offers on Onyx Path’s Dark Ages and Dark Eras titles! DriveThruComics is having an Art of/Making of Sale, which includes four from Onyx Path: V20: The Making of the Art of Children of the RevolutionW20: The Art of Werewolf: The ApocalypseW20: The Art of Changing Breeds: A Visual Guide to the FeraM20: The Art of Mage: 20 Years and More Kickstarter Update Our Kickstarter for Scion: Dragon and Masks of the Mythos for Scion 2nd Edition launched last week, and we funded within 66 minutes! We’re already at 349% with $122,167 of our original $35,000 goal, thanks to our 1522 backers! We’ve currently hit a healthy 15 stretch goals, with more to come over the next month: Dragon Companion: Creating your own Flight, The Bearers (giant turtles), Greater WyrmsMythos Companion: Additional Mythos creatures, Great Old Ones, Legacy characters, new fiction, Y’ha-nthleiDragon Reference ScreenDragon Ready-Made Characters, x2Mythos Reference ScreenDragon backer shirtMythos backer shirtDragon desktop wallpaper Did you miss one of our previous Kickstarters? The following Kickstarted products are still open for preorders via BackerKit: Scarred Lands: Dead Man’s RustScion: Scion: DemigodThey Came from Beyond the Grave!: They Came from Beyond the Grave!Trinity Continuum: Trinity Continuum: Aberrant Legendlore: LegendloreWorld of Darkness: WoD: Ghost HuntersVampire: The Masquerade: Cults of the Blood GodsMage: The Ascension: Technocracy ReloadedChronicles of Darkness: Deviant: The RenegadesChronicles of Darkness: Hunter: The Vigil 2nd EditionChronicles of Darkness: Mummy: The Curse 2nd Edition Community Spotlight The following community-created content for Scarred Lands has been added to the Slarecian Vault in the last month: Ghelspad: The War WagonGhelspad: Pages of the Demigods Your product could be here! Have you considered creating your own to sell? The following community-created content for Realms of Pugmire has been added to Canis Minor in the last month: Your product could be here! Have you considered creating your own to sell? The following community-created content for Storypath has been added to the Storypath Nexus in the last month: Scion: VampireScion: The Spiritual Hierarchy of the Ascended MastersScion: Divine Battles: Massive Combat Rules for Scion 2nd Edition Your product could be here! Have you considered creating your own to sell?
  5. Sean rode the Carousel, , sitting astride his favourite steed, the one with that looked like a nightmare with a unicorn horn, its mane, hooves, and eyes lacquered a fiery orange. Wistful melancholy etched his fine features as he held onto the pole with both hands, his eyes closed, letting the rollicking music washing over him as his mount reared up and down as the Carousel spun round and round. He had helped his dad, some, in refurbishing the Carousel several years back. Mostly just wiring the lighting and screwing in light bulbs. He knew he is dad once had expectations, aspirations that his son would join him in his contracting business. Once, Sean had wanted nothing more. He liked building things, putting things together to make something better, grander. But even before puberty had sent his development careening in different directions, Sean's dreams had going in different directions as well. He certainly still liked electrical work, but his interest in landscaping and house renovations waned in favour of software programming, computer assembly, and cobbling together gadgets and devices. His father had never faulted him his interests, and was even proud of his eccentric son and designing and programming a full, indie video game - two, in fact, though Jack Cassidy didn't know his son had completed his second with the tremendous help of his developing electokinetic prowess. Still, Sean could help but feel a bit of regret, a sense that he was abandoning his dad in a way. Both Teagan and Laurelei had help their father too, but Teagan had gone off, joining the army with the goal to become a Ranger, and while Laurie was still searching for what she wanted to do, it had always been clear she would be joining Jack in the contracting business, eventually to take it over. Sean's goals had been to make it big enough in the video game industry to let his parents retire early, with enough so they could enjoy their time, while not himself falling into the same miasma of greed and short-sightedness that the AAA game studios and publishers seemed stuck in. It seemed like that would be a long-shot now... When he caught the text from Marissa, Sean felt like Lilly had just kicked him in the sternum. He could hardly breathe while at the same time, the urge to vomit was almost overwhelming. One hand slipped from the pole, the back of his wrist going to his mouth, as though the physical motion itself could keep everything from coming up. He didn't even bother pulling out his phone to send his reply, barely restraining himself from yanking on the flow of electrons coursing through the Carousel to bring it to a sudden halt. Instead, he swung one leg up and over the carven saddle and timing it well, jumped off the nightmare unicorn when it rode low with an unexpected show of grace he would have been proud of if he hadn't been so distressed and scampered away from the Carousel. With a genetic sword of Damocles hanging over his head, potential doom weighing on him from Not-Cody, from storming Site B, from the idea that there wasn't actually a solution for him there, still in a way, it hadn't felt entirely real to him, it felt almost like one of his roleplaying games. Yeah, bad stuff had happened, but they had always pulled through. He hadn't been burned in a way, like Devin had been. Sean might have been forced to face his mortality like someone his age should never have to, but there wasn't a visceral immediacy to it. Not like finding out Charlie was dead and Sophie missing, and in all likelihood, it was Not-Cody's doing. If Charlie wasn't his best friend, he was still a good one. He had helped out Charlie, filling in for part in a play at the last minute when the girl dropped out. Charlie had been in the first D&D game he'd ever run, and been in practically every game and campaign he'd run since. The idea that he wouldn't be there anymore, was gone, seared deep. Other than his grandfather, Sean hadn't lost anyone that close to him, definitely not someone his own age. Sophie. She was missing, possibly dead, too. They had been friends once. She'd been the first girl he had ever asked out. He didn't think anyone besides the two of them knew. She'd turned him down. Hard. Cruelly, even. That had hurt. Bad. Bad enough that he hadn't even considered really asking another girl out. Not until Kat, anyway. He had hated her, too, for a while, if not to the degree he held for Courtney, but it had faded quickly, an emotional scar, instead of a psychic wound he kept picking at, and he had never wished her harm. Dead. but maybe not dead. Maybe a chance to save her from the monster Cody had become. Sean had started towards his sister and parents, to warn them, to send them home, to whatever safety home could offer, but redirected himself to the parking lot at a pace just short of a jog. He didn't know what the plan was now, if they were going to try to hunt Cody down now or not. With Devin able to blip around and take them along, they might be going as soon as they gathered and he wanted the go-bag he had stashed in his Grand Cherokee. <<<To: Laurie>>> [From: Sean] <Pack up. Get Mom and Dad and get home. Now.> Sean sent to his sister as his sneakers skidded on gravel, one arm over his chest as he hustled towards his SUV. <<<To: Sean>>> [From: Laurie] <What's going on?! I thought 'stuff' was happening when it was dark.> Even through text, Sean caught a hint of his sister's worry. <<<To: Laurie>>> [From: Sean] <Not-Cody hit us first. He - No, IT - got Charlie and Sophie.> Sean debated for only an instant to before telling his sister the truth, glad he had had the foresight to voodoo her phone. Okay, it hadn't really been foresight, she'd just wanted unlimited data, text, and phone, with a zero dollar phone bill. <Who knows who else it might go after. Tell the 'rents it's something like what happened at Marias.> <<<To: Sean>>> [From: Laurie] <Love you.> Short, trite, even, but the sentiment came through. <You guys stay safe. Okay, safe as you can while doing what you guys have to do. I'll look after our parents. You better come back, bro, or I'll kick your ass. And I can do it, shorty.> Laurie stared down at her phone, willing Sean and the rest of the Fellowship success in taking down the fucker who was working for the Dark, or was a part of now, or whatever. Then she shoved her phone in a pocket, squared her shoulders, then turned towards her parents, hands balled into fists and eyes hard with determination. Watch. Study. Analyze. Act now. Breakdown later. She looked over Champion's Field. Was the news out already? Were people rushing around, was there a subliminal panic growing the crowd. She saw the Sheriff, but he strode in the same brisk lope he always did. "Mom, Dad, we gotta go," Laurie said with a firmness she had never directed at her parents before. She waggled her fingers in a way suggesting something ephemeral and then started bagging stuff up, throwing other things in the cooler. Work economically. No need to rush. A few minutes now will save more later. "Some stuff, voodoo stuff, is happening. Stuff like at the hospital Sean told us about. You understand?" Jack's hand tightened on the tongs he was holding, his knuckles going white. Carolyn stared at her youngest child, who was an inch taller than she was now, and looked to have some growth left to her yet, then slowly nodded. "We don't like it, but we understand. Enough, at least, hon. What does Sean want us to do?"
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  7. Sean watched Kat's slight form disappear into the crowd, then stood up from the picnic and helped starting putting the leftover food away, in plastic wrap and plastic containers as he replied to Autumn's text with a thought. He bounced another back after her response then gave Laurie a nod. "I wrapped the food up, you get to haul it to the car, Laurie," he informed her with a smirk. "I'm getting ice cream." "Get me one?" the taller Cassidy pleaded. "The peach one?" "Who said I'd be coming right back?" Sean countered with a wave as he started sauntering over to the Wilcoxson booth. "It might be melting before I swing by again, then I'd have to eat the other one I paid for." Laurie blew a raspberry and Sean laughed as he turned around and headed off to get his ice cream and Autumn's tea. He slowed his pace as he was passing by the Finglemans - he recognized them, having been over to Sophia's place before when they used to be friends - when he caught sight of Devin there with who he presumed was 'Ellie.' He glanced at her covertly, wondering if he could see any similarities between her and Jase. From where he was, he couldn't really tell, other than she was tall. Of course! New girl in Shelly, likely an alien, and she's nearly six feet tall. There's a higher percentage of girls taller than average in town than there's red heads. Sean snorted to himself and continued on his way. It wasn't that being short for a guy - average for a girl - really bothered him that much. The ones who had teased him the most about his height were his sisters and friends. Puberty had given him other attributes to worry about and with the help of Dr. Cook, his therapist, and other specialists, he was finally starting to accept them, in his own way. It totally sucked they were killing him. Sean caught a text zipping by from Autumn's phone and idly read it though it wasn't meant for him. Then he tripped over nothing when he read the words. Scrambling back to his feet and brushing himself off, people would presume his pink cheeks were for embarrassment for his fall, not what he was reading. His flush deepened when replies continued bouncing back and forth between her and Jase and he couldn't prevent his curiosity from peeking. It wasn't like they were the worse texts he had peeked ever peeked on, not even close. Way more dick pics than he ever expected or was comfortable with. But they were between one of his best friends and his best friend's girlfriend, and that made feel it extra explicit. He stopped, he had to stop. And he did! Totally coincidental that when he stopped peeking, texts between Autumn and Jase also stopped. Sean got to the Wilcoxson Booth beside the Carousel, flush fading with his good fortune at finding only one person ahead of him. Wilcoxson had been making ice cream in Montana since 1912 and it was so good. Even better, the person ahead of him, a tallish, older fellow with a broad brimmed hat and a drawl from Texas didn't dither about his choice. "Miss," the fellow said politely, doffing his hat to Sean as he stepped aside. Sean just nodded back, keeping his face neutral as he refrained from correcting the guy. It was a battle rarely worth fighting, and even less now to him with the fight the Fellowship had ahead. He stepped up to the counter and ordered the Mountain Berry Ice Cream in a waffle cone he'd been yearning for and Autumn's blackberry ice tea. Matilda - horrible name for a pretty blonde in her early twenties, she'd crossed out the name on her name-tag with a sharpie and wrote 'Tilly' under it - handed him his order then nodded at him and gave him a wave. She'd been working at the Wilcoxson booth since he had spent some time with his dad fixing the place up a few years ago and had gotten ice cream pretty much every time he'd been there. "There you go, Sean. No charge." "What? Why?" Sean said, raising his head from taking a lick from his ice cream. Y'know, to make sure there wasn't anything wrong with it. Tilly nodded over his head. "Texan feller before you laid down a hundred dollar bill. Said I ain't have change for a hundred. Said he weren't expecting none, just to let it cover the next orders 'til it runs out. Now, don't go be telling every one, Sean, just let it go and be fair." "I won't," Sean assured her. Sean hustled off to the parking lot, giving the Texan a less neutral nod of acknowledgment in pass, who tipped his hat towards him, the crinkling about his eyes the only shift in his expression of laconic geniality. Sean's brisk pace made his scuffed red sneakers kick up loose gravel in the parking lot, as he looked down rows of parked cars until he caught sight of Autumn's red hair. Licking the ice cream - a delicious mix of blueberry, huckleberry, and bilberry - around the rim of the waffle cone, so any melt would take longer before getting to his fingers, he quirked a brow in surprise that no one else was there. The buxom boy silently held up the cardboard cup to the other redhead, multi-hued eyes wincing at the spine-tingly cold crawling down his throat from the bite of ice cream he had taken. "Coooold," he rasped, taking several deep breaths as the cold faded. "Blackberry ice tea, as requested." "Nice," Autumn nodded, smiling appreciatively as she took the cup. "Thanks. I owe ya." Swallowing a mouthful of the tart, slightly sweet beverage, the outdoorsy teen considered the rather more curvaceous tech-wizard thoughtfully. She knew of Sean - no one who'd lived in tiny, rural Shelly for very long could avoid hearing about him - but it wasn't as though they'd ever had a real conversation. There'd never, she realized, been a reason to before. "Did you see the smol one on the way here? I was expecting her first, honestly." The freckled redhead smiled a little and took another sip as she opened the rear passenger side door of the Jeep. "I thought she'd be here, or already here and gone too," Sean admitted, considering Autumn right back. Yeah, Jase had opened up, or at the very least, started asserting himself since the end of summer. But what was it about Autumn that had broken right through to him? He shrugged and hoped his face wasn't reddening again when he recalled their private texts. "She probably just got distracted by something shiny. Or someone. Also, er, 'shiny'." Fucking Courtney! He gave a contrite smile. "Okay, that might be a bit mean. I like her, but man, does her mind bounce around. She'll show up, I'm sure. Or you can pass me her bracelet and I'll make sure she gets it." "Sorry," Autumn grinned in an almost-apology, setting her drink on the ground to lean inside and grunting softly as she reached under the seat. "Limit of one per customer. She can get her own. Personal accountability, and all that." Her voice was muffled by the bench seat of the Jeep and the miscellaneous dog toys, cooler bags, and plaid flannel blankets scattered throughout. She hummed quietly, shimmying a little and all but crawling through to the back of the vehicle before pausing with a loud "Ha!" of triumph. Backing out, her cheeks flushed and hair dishevelled, the energetic young woman thrust an open metal lockbox in Sean's direction as she beamed at him. "Take your pick. You're the first, so it's only fair." There was a momentary pause, a trickle of berry-colored ice cream welling up at the rim of the crisp cone; Sean hadn't been there over the weekend. He probably didn't know what he was getting, or why he was getting them from her. The smile on her lips faded. "Did, ah, anyone tell you what these are, out of curiosity?" Sean hadn't been staring at Autumn's ass as she climbed half in the Jeep. But he had noted it with purely academic interest. He wanted to see what Jase saw in her, and as they hadn't ever hung out or anything, he couldn't help but notice the physical first. Sean collected the ice cream starting to run down the cone along with a bit of cone with a bite. He shook his head, then leaned forward to look in the box, fingering the bracelets with his free hand. There was a tingle to them, something reacting to his Shine, like the artifacts he had seen in Helena. "Jase gave me an update on the training session yesterday - along with a light excoriation for not being there - but didn't mention the bracelets," Sean admitted as pulled out one of the not-copper bands to give it a closer look. The swirling patterns on them were so faded to be almost indiscernible, felt more easily than seen. He arched a brow at Autumn. "These like the thing Devin got, er, on the 'Otherside'?" "Mmm." Autumn nodded, the box shifting slightly as she leaned over to retrieve the tea he'd brought her; the circular bands of oddly weathered metal chimed softly, the faintly musical sound muted by the cloth in which they'd been wrapped. "Probably? Honestly, I'm not sure," she admitted as another, clearer note sang out from her pocket like a bell of cool glass. Recognition flickered across her bronze-flecked features, eyes widening slightly as the smile that had vanished suddenly reappeared- along with a subtle brightening of the pink suffusing her cheeks. Without actually talking to her, or being able to read her expression or body language, would Jason know what she'd meant by the invitation to go for a walk, or would he just assume she meant an actual walk walk? Her fingers were practically twitching with the urge to just hand the lockbox over to Sean while she checked her phone, but... No. If she was going to do this, she'd have to take it seriously. Texts could wait for a second, even if they were from him. "They're supposed to be 'protections for warriors,' but we don't really know much about them. TLDR version: they're old, and we don't know who made them, or whether anyone else had them before, or how they're supposed to work. Cass has decided they bond to one person and lock everyone else out of using them, since Devin's nearly killed her, but..." She shrugged, a gesture that simultaneously suggested a lack of practical knowledge and a lack of confidence in the claim. "We don't know. We'll have to test that later, I guess." She paused for a moment, wondering how much Sean knew about the whole Teulu thing, and whether she should mention her grandfather... and then remembered the group text, copper brows knitting together. Probably better not to say anything else, just in case. Grandpa always said being smart didn't mean you had any sense. "Anyway, they seem to respond to Shine, so... maybe tuning, like to a person, activates it. Could also explain what happened with Devin's, if Cassie just tried using her powers or whatever." Nudging the lid carefully closed with her thumb, Autumn set the lockbox on the back seat as Sean turned the not-quite-copper band over in his hand, the worn etching catching the late afternoon sun. Sean focused on the band of metal in his hand, studiously avoiding the pulse coming from Autumn's phone that was practically begging him to look at the message it portended. Nope! Not now, not with Autumn standing right here. The band wasn't a machine, it didn't contain any ancient, super advanced tech he could fathom, not as he and his voodoo senses understood it. It just felt... alive in some fashion to his basic awareness of Shine. Was it brighter than it should be under the afternoon sun? "Maybe we should've swiped one of those psionically active arrowheads when we were at the Montana Historical Society Museum, after all," Sean admitted, glancing up from the band to flash Autumn a wry grin. "We might've figured out how to test things like this. Though a felony for convenience's sake could be asking a bit much." Sean's two-toned turquoise and jade eyes went back to the band. Then without further consideration and some finagling with his ice cream cone, he slipped the band over his slim wrist. He stared at it expectantly. Nothing. No pulse, vibration, mental or audible tone, anything to suggest it was 'activated.' Just warmed by the sun and the ambient temperature while in the metal lockbox. "Huh." He twisted his wrist one way, then other, eyeing the patterns on the band again. "That's it then. Would have been convenient if it had told me all about itself, or given me a pop menu with its stats at least." Sean closed his eyes for a moment, picturing his brief foray to the Historical Society Museum. "Wished I had paid more attention when we were at the Museum, but with some research we should be able to determine a rough estimate of how old they are. At least to tell if they are pre or post Clovis era." Autumn nodded in response, very deliberately not grabbing at her phone as she took a slow, appreciative drink from the cup Sean had brought. It seemed strange that she'd gone on a day-trip with him, spent at least as much time in his company recently as some of the others, and still knew painfully little about the petite young man. But... "Tomorrow, maybe." There was a wealth of subtext contained within that final pair of syllables despite the superficially casual tone: hope, fear, resignation, and uncertainty, and all of it was writ plain in the curve of her smile, the subtle shift of her feet in the dirt, and the squaring of her shoulders as the Girl Scout exhaled. Yeah. Tomorrow. "Thanks again for the tea, Sean. See you later?" "Yup. Later." Autumn could see all she was feeling mirrored in the other youth, in the sharpness of his nod, the tentativeness in returning her smile with his own, the tenseness of his shoulders. There was perhaps less hope and more determination in the tightness about his eyes. Sean tilted his ice cream cone towards the tea in Autumn's hand in a sort of salute. "And no problem 'bout the tea. Grab me a coffee sometime." Sean turned, intending to amble his way to the Carousel, licking at his cone and suddenly, it was like he was in slow motion. He made a noise, not a grunt of pain, a softer exhalation, as a... a sensation, akin to whacking your funny bone (Yes, Sean knows it's not actually a bone) hard, except it didn't hurt. And instead of going up from his elbow, it went down from his fingertips. His fingers twitched. He tried to stop it, tried to catch it, but only made it worse, and watched as he lost his grip on his ice cream cone. Maybe, if he had just let it fall, if he had been built like a boy rather than a very well developed girl, it would have landed on the ground. Instead, ice cream practically exploded across his chest, the white and black of his hoodie painted with pale lavender. His shoulders slumped as he stared down at himself. "Fuck me," he muttered, in disgusted resignation. Gingerly, he plucked the slider between the thumb and forefinger of his right hand and unzipped his hoodie and shrugged out of it. Revealing he was wearing a femininely cut, dark grey shirt, the modest scoop neck offering up a discrete amount of cleavage. Autumn could see red blooming across Sean's face as spun the hoodie to roll it up in a ball, but his attention on was his left hand. The red didn't seem like embarrassment, but barely subdued fury, as though his hand had betrayed him. First the lemonade, then tripping over nothing. Now this! "What the fuck is happening?" "Whoa, hey. Hang on a sec." The decidedly less-developed redhead reached back, set her drink on the floorboard without glancing at it, and came up alongside him. "You okay?" Concern replaced conviction in her wide, clear eyes as they studied Sean's delicate, feminine features. Why do guys always get the prettiest eyelashes? she wondered distantly, a part of her grousing inwardly about the seeming unfairness of it all even as she scrutinized the angry scarlet flush burning beneath his skin. Was he just pissed he ruined the hoodie? Mad that he lost the ice cream? 'Cause that'd ruin anybody's day, honestly. All she had were guesses, though the shock and exasperation of his last question gave her pause. "C'mere." It wasn't quite mom-voice, and it wasn't quite Marissa's signature hauteur, either, but there was a firmness in Autumn's tone that brooked no argument and left no room to decline as a hand on his elbow turned him back toward the Jeep. "We always keep stuff for emergencies, because..." She gave him a little smile over her shoulder and waved a hand vaguely, expansively at the interior before climbing in. "Dogs. Paper towels, Tide pens, that kinda stuff." After a few moments of rummaging and muffled curses as she leaned over the back seat into the rear of the vehicle, Autumn re-emerged, napkins and stain-removing travel wipes in hand and with a slightly crumpled green flannel over her arm. "Here," she insisted, giving him a chance to clean up the worst of the purple smears on his jacket while she shook out the oversized button-down shirt. Although even if it did stain it wouldn't look terrible tie-dyed, she decided privately. Not really his aesthetic, though. "Just bring it back tonight, yeah?" "I will. Thanks for this," Sean said, dealing with the worse of the mess with the napkins and stain-removal wipes. He nodded at the flannel Autumn held in her hand. "And for that." He held up his hoodie, giving a grunt at the result, then folded it up and held it between his knees. He took the proffered shirt and slipped it on, rolling up the sleeves before buttoning it up. The colour in his cheeks softened to a diffuse pink as he noticed Autumn's gaze unconsciously drift downwards for an instant. With girls and women who know about him, about his condition, even if only in a general way, they usually treated him in one of two ways. As just another one of the girls, or as some perverted spy trying to sneak his way into sacred feminine spaces. The former was way better than the latter in his experience, but holy shit, girls could be so frank and explicit in what they talked about. "Just been clumsy all day. Getting all my ones outta way before tonight, yeah?" Sean explained, though not convincingly. Still, from the stubborn set of his jaw, Autumn knew Sean wasn't going to explain more. "'Til tonight." He gave her a nod, tucked his hoodie under his arm, then ran a hand through his red hair. "Think I'm gonna take a last ride on the Carousel. Later Autumn." His tone left the meaning of 'last' ambiguous, even to himself, as he turned around and ambled off towards his Grand Cherokee to drop off his hoodie. It could have meant that he wouldn't ever have a chance to ride the Carousel again, through death or injury. Or that it would be behind him at this transitioning point between adolescence and adulthood. Or a number of other inferences he wasn't introspective enough to dwell on. He could dwell on them on another day. Or not.
  8. The question was obvious in Kat's tone and look. Sean shot his parents a covert glance, considering how to circumspectly answer, when the parental Cassidys gave him the perfect opportunity. He wasn't sure if it was coincidence or if they they had picked up on something or if it was something else. "Laurie, your turn to keep on eye on the grill," Jack Cassidy called out. He finished the rest of his beer with a single pull then nodded at Sean as he plonked the bottle in the small blue bin they had brought for the purpose. "Sean, take care of the baked goods we still have on sale for the Carousel fund." It was a knock on his son's masculinity or lack thereof that Jack asked him to look after the baking while his younger, yet taller, sister took care of the grill. Sean had made or help make most of the pies and pastries while Laurie needed more experience with the grill. "Your mother and I are going to take a spin on the Carousel before people slow down on the food and it gets even more crowded and the lines get longer." Laurie stood up to man the grill while Sean shifted seats on the picnic table to he was sitting next to the side table they had set up to display the baked goods. When Jack and Carolyn Cassidy had wondered off hand-in-hand, Sean turned back to the others, though his heterochromatic eyes were directed at Kat. "They know about me and figured it out about Jason. They know there are others - and probably have some suspicions about who - but I haven't told them. Don't feel it's my place. Up to you guys if you want them to know. And I haven't told them about what happening tonight. I'll tell them some when its over. Laurie will if we don't come back." Fire flared with a hiss at the grill, Laurie's lips a tight line, not liking Sean's assertion any better hearing it a second time. "How about you guys?" "Not anything in particular," Sean said, giving his hoodie a small tug as it began to stick to his back slightly, sun and rising warmth starting to make his sweat slightly through his layers. "Just enjoying the sun and the company, y'know, before..." He shrugged a slender shoulder. A grin spread across his fine, feminine features. "Despite everything, I'm practically vibrating out of my skin waiting for tomorrow. I might be, I dunno, two, three years ahead of schedule--" Sean waggled the fingers of one hand, "thanks to my Voodoo, but I still can't wait for ReGenesis to drop tomorrow." Sean frowned faintly when Devin made his exit, as he exchanged a pair of pies for several bills. He couldn't read thoughts or emotions, but he could sense the electric impulses dancing through nervous systems and the various parts of the brain. He was still deciphering what they sometimes meant, but could see something similar in Devin and his parents, mostly his mother. It wasn't animosity, not quite distrust. Even if he hadn't told his mom everything Devin had done to him, and even if he was well on his way to forgiving the exasperating, arrogant, gymn-ass, maybe even considering him a friend - of sorts - his mom still considered Devin very suspect. Sean couldn't quite tell what Devin thought about his parents. Sean arched a brow as Cade mused aloud. Whatever reconciliation he might have going on with Devin barely extended to his glamorous, devilish twin as yet. Still, he couldn't help feel a slight pang of envy. Another one of his disparate friends who had formed a relationship that was based on something other than friendship - or only friendship, at least. "Then don't keep her waiting, man," Sean said. He couldn't tell where Marissa was, but he could tell where her phone was, and that was practically the same thing. "You can do better, but I get it." "Pfft! As if!" Laurie scoffed, having reclaimed her seat at the picnic table. Sean snorted in rebuttal. "Go surprise her before she answers." He pointed off to the side. "She's that way."
  9. Sean rolled his expressive, two-toned eyes in exasperation. He wasn't sure if Devin muddled up his words on purpose to be funny or actually did it by accident. Knowing for sure would probably be worse, and likely no less exasperating. He shook his head, and gave Kat a wide, genuine smile in greeting. "Kat. Great to see you here." He arched a questioning brow at Devin. "If you want to be involved in our hobbies, you should come around to gaming night." He blinked. D'oh! Did I just invite Devin to gaming?! Well, it at least meant he was thinking beyond the final showdown of final destiny with Not-Cody tonight, even if gaming nights had been spotty at best, lately. "Baby steps, brah," Devin said. "One bit of nerdery at a time." "He does have a point though," Sean said, sidling up beside Kat, lips curving coyly at he glanced at his sister. "'Bout the double-date thing." "He does?!" Laurie exclaimed, just as Devin said, "I do?" "Yeah, I asked Kat to Homecoming. She said yes." Sean sounded nonchalant, but his eyes gleamed. Kat looked surprised for a moment as Sean made the declaration then beamed widely. There was barely an instant of surprise in Devin's face before an enthusiastic, "Dude!" and a fist bump, which Sean returned after a brief hesitation of unexpectedness. "Get!" Laurie slammed the heels of her palms against her short brother's shoulders, nearly knocking him out of his scuffed red sneakers. "Out!" Slam! "Are you serious?" "Ow..." Sean muttered, rubbing his shoulders. "Yes, I'm serious. Even your poor freak of a brother can find a date to Homecoming." "I would say... exotique, rather," Kat added. "And as Sean has been showing me around Shelly, I figure this is one thing more to show me. Homecoming, we did not have its like in France." Laurie's face scrunched up. "I didn't mean it like th-" "No, no, it's okay," Sean continued, playing up the drama. "I just thought, since all I've suffered, the least you could do is, while me and Kat go, you could take Devin-" "NO! Absolutely not! I-" "Sorry, Red! I'm already taking Cassie to Homecoming." Devin considered for a rare moment. "Though, there's totally some cray inside that girl. If I ask the right way, she mi-" Hands on her slim hips, Laurie turned her grey-eyed glare from her brother to the boy Jauntsen. "Finish that thought, Jauntsen, and I'll jaunt you into a lake of fire. And I already have a date, thank-you!" Her glare returned to her brother. "I can't believe you're trying to pull the freak card. Now." Sean smirked, pressing a hand to his chest. "You wound me. I would never. But it should work for me, some time, at least. But really, you didn't let me finish. I just meant you could bring Devin over to mom and dad, y'know, provide a bit of distraction when I tell mom 'bout Kat and Homecoming." Sean looked over at Devin and Kat. "We have plenty to share, without Teagan here." "Oh!" Baleful regard eased, then relented. "Oh, that's fine. I guess." She gave Devin a sidelong glance. "If you're hungry." "I could eat," Devin agreed, not at all opposed to being in company of three redheads - four, if you counted Mrs. Cassidy. "Fine!" Laurie didn't quite scowl, roughly hooking her arm with Devin's and leading him to the Cassidy table. "I could eat too, and would like to meet your parents," Kat agreed. More graciously, Sean lead Kat after Laurie and Devin. "Just wait 'til I tell you Marissa's plans for you, Sean," Laurie shot back over her shoulder. "Wait. What?" Laurie stuck out her tongue but said no more. Sean and Laurie introduced their guests to their parents, though Devin was known to them already, if not officially. Jack Cassidy was easygoing as he kept to the grill, even towards Devin. If his gaze sharpened a bit, there wasn't the cinematic Dad Vibe of 'hurt my little girl, and I will end you!'. Carolyn was more scrutinizing. Devin had hardly been kind to her younger children. But that seemed to have been changing of late. She had idle suspicions as to why, seeing him here, now, with her son and daughter. "I am so glad to finally meet you, Catherine. Sean has talked quite highly of you," Carolyn said warmly. Experienced with Jason, so some degree, instead of acting instinctively, she asked. "Would you mind if I give you hug?" Kat dithered for moment, before nodding her accent. "That would be okay. And Kat is fine." Carolyn gave the slight girl a firm embrace. Devin grinned brazenly, holding out his arms. Carolyn Cassidy was quite fine for her age. "I'd be fine with a hug, too, Mrs. Cassidy." Carolyn eyes were cool as she regarded him. Jack's gaze was a mite more warning than they had been. After a long moment, she sighed with more exasperation than her son and nodded. "Laurie has said you've been working hard on mending your ways, and that is quite commendable, Devin." She gave him a hug, if a good deal more lightly and brief than the one Kat had gotten, then took a step back, collecting some paper plates. "Now, what would y'all like? We have some salads and grilled veggies for sides, we have water, lemonade and some sodas in the cooler, and what kind of sausages do you favor, we have a variety?" Both Laurie and Sean gave Devin pointed looks, which yelled at him not say anything that could be construed as dirty or sexual in response to their mother asking him about sausages. Assembling plates, Laurie waited patiently for her mother to take a sip of her lemonade before casually mentioning that Sean was taking Kat to Homecoming. Carolyn choked on her drink in surprise, and Devin found out where Laurie learned to glare. Laurie seemed inordinately proud of herself. Sean sighed. "That's wonderful, hon. I'm happy for the both of you," Carolyn said, restraining herself from gushing. Sean had his tight group of friends, and though she readily understood his reasons, she had feared Sean might end up too insular, hiding behind his electronics, rather than even attempting to socialize some. "I certainly hope you'll take some pictures." "We so totally will," Laurie promised. <Dude. I've never gone to any dances or Homecoming. Think you can give me some pointers on how to dress?> Sean thought at Devin's phone, his expression bland even if his face reddened as Carolyn and Laurie bantered about Homecoming. It kind of killed him to have to ask Devin for advice. <Certain accommodations notwithstanding, you have a certain style and it's not like I can ask Jase. Or Cade. Don't think jeans will cut it.>
  10. "Eee-yeaaah..." Sean hedged, juggling the extra Fresca back into his satchel as he looked up at the other two. "I was gonna tell her today, y'know, after this. Ain't your fault, man." He gestured around Champion's Field with his drink in one hand, bun and sausage in the other. "I was gonna tell you, Laurie, honest." Sean couldn't really blame Devin. It was getting hard to remember who knew what, and what you could tell to whom, and what you didn't mind others knowing. And as much as he might still be leery of the interest Laurie was showing in Devin - Devin interest in Laurie was less of concern, since he showed the same interest in practically every female in Shelly, and probably out of it too - there was far worse that Laurie could have making a mistake with. And through all that was happening, even Sean had to admit Devin had really stepped up his game. "Tell me what?" Laurie reiterated, folding her arms huffily, eyes hard on both her brother and Devin. "Mhmphmer," Sean mumbled around a bite of sausage to give himself a bit of time. Picking up on his mistress' irritation, Rascal when to butt Sean in the butt, who just managed to scoot out of the way at the last moment, almost dropping his drink. He glared at the goat. Devin looked like he wanted to give him a high five. "Msstsrd." Sean took a sip of Fresca to help put down his last bit of sausage, then quickly finished the rest of it, then his Fresca, wiping his hands on his pants. He casually looked around to make sure no one seemed to be eavesdropping on them. "Okay, the Cliff Notes. Cody got infected with an evil... thing, entity --- Remember that episode of TNG, with the Skin of Evil? Anthropomorphic evil, abandoned on a planet?" "Yes..." Laurie admitted dubiously, giving Devin a slightly self-conscious glance. "Okay, something like, but in a dimension next to ours. But able to reach into ours at certain points and time. That got inside Cody and now Cody ain't Cody anymore. The Big Bad. At least one of them. He's on the Other Side. If he gets on this Side, stuff gets bad, like super bad, super pandemic bad, maybe zombie apocalypse bad. People acting on their worse impulses is just the start. So, we're going to stop him. Tonight." Sean gave his sister a pointed look, trying to impress on her the seriousness of what he was trying to convey. Laurie didn't seem to be buying it at first, then she shifted her weight, considering what her brother could do. What Jase could do. What Devin, of all people, could do. "Okay... right. But like, there has to be somebody else who can go do that, right? I mean, I know you guys can do all these incredible things, but you're all still in high school for fuck's sake." Sean shook his head, a bit reluctantly. "They can't get to Not-Cody, not where they can stop him before it's too late." He nodded towards Devin. "With our help, Devin can get us there, and together, Voltroning our powers, we can stop Not-Cody." Laurie shivered, hugging herself tighter. This was insane. "This is insane. You all kn - why didn't you tell me before?" "I was still trying to figure out how to tell you that we're to the land of Upside-Down Thunder to face off against an entity of unmitigated and seemingly immortal evil, and we might not win." And we might die. The last part might not have been said, but Laurie heard it. She'd seen her brother scared before, but he'd always toughed it out before, fought his way through it. But he was struggling now, and didn't want to show it. She didn't stop hugging herself, but she straightened her shoulders and stood up tall, giving Sean and Devin a determined nod. "Okay. Okay," she repeated. She took a deep breath, unfolding her arms, her hands balling into fists. She nodded again. "You guys gotta go what you gotta do. So, what do I do? How do I help?" "If we don't come back, you get mom and dad out of Shelly, Laurie," Sean said with somber seriousness, sending shivers of scare sweat sliding down Laurie's spine. Sean looked over at Devin. "That about cover it?"
  11. Out and About Shelly Sean dropped Jason off then started heading for Champion's Field to meet up with his parents and sister, when his Jeep chimed, indicating it was hungry. Not surprising he'd gone to Great Falls and back twice this weekend. He huffed and switched lanes to stop off at the gas station to fill up rather than heading to The Carousel directly. He loved his Trailblazer, no doubt, with its height and capabilities on and off road, but he still regretted being outbid on the Tesla. With his powers, he was sure he could keep an electric vehicle running indefinitely - well, almost, he would get tired eventually rather than having to gas up his vehicle. He'd been looking at electric conversion kits, but they were pricy and he didn't have the savings after buying his Grand Cherokee. He believed he could do the conversion himself, with help, but he would still need a garage and the right tools. Sean pulled in to Simons Petroleum and hopped out of his vehicle. He sauntered around it, reached up and unscrewed the cap to the gas tank and stuck the nozzle of pump inside. He frowned at the pump for a moment when it asked him to preauthorize an amount. It would be so easy to spoof the system, to make it think he'd payed when he hadn't, but he resisted the urge. He tapped his debit card on the reader then pulled the trigger to let the gas start filling the tank. Tapping his foot in time with the music coming from his car, Sean grew aware at being stared at. Sean glanced over between the pumps to see two men looking at him as they spoke, standing by a F-250 even more jacked up than his Grand Cherokee. The younger of the two was Jared, a member of the Shelly High Football team, the older, presumably his father. The fireflies of bioelectric impulses danced inside them both, showing a rising agitation, but not so much Sean thought violence was imminent. He shifted so his back was mostly towards them, but was still able to keep them in his peripheral vision. "In my day, boys had the decency to look and dress like boys and play football and girls to look and dress like girls and be cheerleaders. None of this tranny shit or identifying as this or that from one day to the next, making mock of God's plan for 'em." Jared the Elder was speaking to his son, but was being loud enough to make sure Sean heard him. Sean's shoulders tightened even as he sighed. It felt like a year ago since he made that silly bet with Laurie. A bet he was pretty sure he'd lose, a bet he'd made to force himself through his own hang-ups to see what something felt like. He'd known he would get comments, but he hadn't thought it would be this big of a deal, didn't think it would alter the opinions people already had about him. He feigned not hearing them, as he pulled the trigger a few more times to make sure the tank was full, then settled the pump in its cradle and completed the transaction. "You hear that, titboy?" Jared the Younger called out, taking a step towards the feminine boy. "You'll get your comeuppance. You ain't had no right dressing up and pretending you're a cheerleader, even if your sister is on the football team, travesty as that is." Sean could barely make out Jared mutter something about Lilly before he raised his voice again. "You're making The Coyotes a laughing stock." Sean just stared at the rangy jock. You're doing that on your own, bud, he thought, but no one else around was laughing. The attendant was looking on through the window of his kiosk. "I'm sorry, just because I was wearing the uniform, you think everyone thought I was a cheerleader?" Sean's sweet voice was full of scorn. "Did any of you see me on the field cheering? Or even stand next to another cheerleader?" "It don't matter none. You ain't earned that uniform. And none claiming to be a boy would be caught dead in it." Sean barely bit back the laugh. Earned? Right. Yeah, skill made the team, football or cheerleader, but especially among the cheerleaders under Courtney's reign, it was nearly as often made by nepotism and sycophancy. "Sorry I confused you, Jared." He spared a scathing glance for his father just before climbing up into the Jeep. "And in my dad, we're smart enough not to smoke when we pumping gas." The ashy cigarette dropped from Jared the Elder's mouth as Sean drove away. He slammed the steering wheel with the palm of his hand, furious at himself for taking the bait, furious that others were making a big deal out of something he thought so small in the grand scheme of things, even if privately, it had been a big deal to him. Furious that he and his friends were facing a goddamned monster on these goddamned people's behalf. He made a sharp turn away from the direction of Champion's field, needing time to cool off. He didn't want to die. He had bloody super powers, and it felt like death was waiting for him everyway he turned. Cody and the entity that was inside him, or part of him, tonight. His own genetic abnormalities in an uncertain amount of months time if he didn't find a longshot answer at Site B, where he might also end up getting killed trying to infiltrate. Or even something as mundane as turning into another glossed over hate crime statistic, which could happen pretty much anytime, practically anywhere. Sean drove down Shelly's main street and had the almost overwhelming urge to just... keep driving. He'd seen so little of the world. In a few months, he could see some portion of it, more than Montana and a few hospitals in some of the bigger cities around the US. He could get by, as long as he could find an ATM or had access to the internet. Cryptocurrency was practically made for someone like him. Everyone else in the Fellowship was pairing off, but there was no one for him. They might have been his friends, but nothing more to the freak, despite Jase's assurances earlier in the day. He glanced in the rearview mirror and angrily scrubbed away a tear he hadn't felt on his cheek. But they were his friends, and he still had family here, and that was the tether that stopped him from abandoning Shelly altogether and just continuing down the highway. He turned and drove home. In the barn, he stopped to wash his face in cool water, then checked in on his Matrix Trio, getting the updates on ReGenesis. Everything looked like it was checking out, the last bugs exterminated, Steam page and the direct site ready to go. He hit a key, a physical key for added poignancy, and started the countdown for release tomorrow morning. Then he found his cat, Turing, and coaxed him from his dresser. Turing had been none to pleased with him since he experimented with what he could do with electromanipulative control on the grey cat. But Turing magnanimously relented to his touch and let Sean pet him for a while. Calmed by the near silent purring, Sean picked Turing up on his shoulder and carried him into the main house. Just in case he didn't come back tonight. Then he got back in his car and drove to Champion's Field, parking next to his dad's truck, a spot miraculously still open on the gravel lot. Sean collected his nearly ever-present satchel and slung it crosswise over his shoulder as he slid out from his vehicle. Squinting against the noonday sun, he looked over Champion's Field, finding his parents among the scattered trees by the picnic area with the other families, more or less in the same spot they claimed every year. Just like most of the other families who usually attended each Labor Day, in an unwritten but still understood accord. The buxom boy strolled over to his parents, hands stuffed in the pockets of his white hoodie with its spreading tree graphic. His father gave him a nod and pointed at the grill with a pair of tongs, assuring him that he'd have to take his turn cooking. His mom turned from placing a half dozen muffins in a paper bag and accepting a few bills in return, giving her middle child a motherly smile. "There you are, hon." Carolyn swept a lock of strawberry-blond hair behind her ear in a mirror of her youngest daughter as she looked over her shoulder to where she'd last seen Jason. "Everything okay? I thought you'd show up with Jason - oh!" Carolyn's brows rose in surprise at finding Jason in a close and public embrace with the Keane girl. Her lips creased with a private smile, pleased for the boy who had spent so much time at their place. She hoped her own son found someone someday, even if it didn't last, and regardless where his inclinations lied. She and Jack had discussed talking with Sean about it, but had decided to leave it alone for now. Sean followed his mother's glance then looked away, gemstone eyes darkening with a hint of envy. Instead he prepared himself a Polish sausage on a bun with all the trimmings and grabbed a canned drink. After an instant of consideration, he took another can and stuffed it in his satchel. He tended to go through the first can quick. "I'm fine. Jase just wanted to get his car and then I had to gas up, then check on something back home. It's all good." Carolyn gave Sean a sharp look, well aware that wasn't the whole of it, but deciding not to call him on it. "Okay... If there's anything you think we should know, about, well, you know, please, Sean, don't keep us in the dark." Sean hid a shiver under his hoodie, looking for an excuse to leave before he inadvertently revealed more than he would prefer. He saw Laurie and Devin talking a ways off and nodded towards them. "I won't, I promise. There's Laurie. She texted me when we were out. I should go, um, apologize." Drink and sausage in hand, Sean hustled over to his taller sister and the even taller Devin. "Hey, guys. Hope I ain't interrupting, just have to escape the 'rents for a bit." He shuffled his drink into the crook of his arm and fished out the other can from his satchel, offering it to Devin first, though he held it out somewhere between Devin and Laurie. "Want a Fresca?"
  12. Champion's Field, after Noonish Rascal scampered about, alternately munching on a pair of cored apples Laurie had given him as a treat, and flinging them about while her dad showed how to grill, starting her out with bratwurst, kielbasa, and other varieties of sausage. Jack Cassidy manipulate fork and tongs like a maestro's baton, taking the occasional sip of a local microbrew stout and giving his youngest daughter laconic instruction. Carolyn got out the buns and condiments and a pair of jugs of pink lemonade, lemonade ice cubes thunking against the plastic before setting out a wide selection of baked she and her son had made leading up to Labor Day, pies, cookies, muffins, and breads. Some to eat, some to give away, some to sell, the proceeds split with the fund that maintained The Carousel. Carolyn stretched, fists knuckling the small of her back and noticed someone she'd only seen rarely in passing at Shelly High when she was there for a PTA meeting. Jason's father. Garreth, yes, that was it. She had to admit to herself, she hadn't thought particularly highly of him. But now, he was clear eyed, clean shaven, and wore a clean shirt - it made for a surpassing improvement. He noticed her attention and tipped his bottle her way, giving her a nod. Carolyn brushed strawberry blond hair from her face and nodded back. Then on a whim, she picked up a pie, strode over to where he was minding his own grill by his lonesome, a pleasant smile creasing her pleasant features. "It's nice to see you out and about," and sober and clean, went unsaid, though understood. It wasn't unkind, Carolyn had a suspicion to what had encouraged Jason's father to apparently change his ways. "Garreth Bannon, and joining the rest of Shelly at The Carousel this year. I'm Carolyn, Sean's mother. Just wanted to introduce myself and say you have a fine young man in Jason and it's been our pleasure to have him visit over the years." "Gar," the elder Bannon corrected, his nervousness easing somewhat, allowing himself a faint smile and nodding his greeting. "I wish I could take credit for the man Jase has become, but... " He shrugged self-deprecatingly, but there wasn't the bitterness there would have been even just a few days ago. "Gotta thank you folks for having him over so much and your boy being a friend to mine ever since we moved to Shelly." Carolyn laughed lightly. "That goes both ways, I think." She gestured at the grill. "Jason has always been helpful in the kitchen, but I didn't know if you brought more than meat to eat, so I thought I'd bring over a pie, cherry and blueberry." She set it to side of the grill, and waved her hand over it. "There's a little bit more in there, punching up the flavor while mellowing the sweetness. Jason has been fond of it... once Sean worked out the kinks in the recipe." "Thanks kindly, Mrs. Cassidy." Carolyn waggled a finger. "If you insist on Gar, I have to insist on Carolyn. Perhaps someday, we can have both Bannons over for dinner. Considering, we have heard so little about you."
  13. Champion's Field, The Carousel - Before Noon Jack and Carolyn Cassidy strode through Champion's Field, their fingers interlaced with easy camaraderie, giving off the vibe of a pair of high school sweethearts who had made it through the hump of time and experience to find their affection had grown deeper without having to show it with feigned or overabundant PDA. They hadn't been high school sweethearts, though they had known each other in high school. Rather, they had gotten together when Carolyn was in college and Jack had been finishing his carpentry apprenticeship, after a messy falling out with a mutual loved one they hadn't talked about since that time. The sky was clear, the sun was bright, early morning chill already long faded with the promise of greater warmth throughout the day. Jack wore a Billings Bulls cap with a deeply curved brim to keep the sun off his head, sandy blond hair buzzed short ever since he started balding. Carolyn let her hair hang loose, once as rich a red as her son's and youngest daughter's, now faded to a strawberry blond with sun and age. They had a quiet sense of pride about the Carousel as they idly wandered the grounds with no concrete destination or path in mind. Jack had donated labour and materials to built several of the food stalls, designed for easy set-up and take down, and for the siding that protected The Carousel during the off season. And Carolyn had donated time with managing the finances for one of Toole County's non-profits that organized funds to maintain the restored the classic 1936 Carousel. The Carousel hadn't been their dream, but they were glad to have helped make it come true. It helped alleviate their concern for their odd son and all they had he revealed to them. There was something going on with him, they could tell, but not precisely what. Sean was a private sort, and they had generally left him to his own devices as much as he could. Lately, they had noticed a change in Sean, an easing acceptance to his condition, rather than the discomfiture, dissatisfaction, and resignation that he used to vacillate between, even if there was an edge to that acceptance they couldn't quite define. Jack exchanged nods or a few words with various students and ex-students he had hired to work with him during the summers over the years. One, who had graduated three years ago tried to hand him a resume, which Jack refused with a good natured laugh. Salt of the earth he might be, but even he usually only accepted resumes online and had a standard form to fill out. He did arrange an on the job interview in a few days time for him though. He'd been getting more work of late and could use more all year help with his general contracting business. Carolyn chatted with several friends she saw in passing, a few who were also reasonable parents on the PTA. Laurelai, her hair a deeper red than her mother's, her face less freckled, stalked ahead of her parents wearing her football jersey and a leash wrapped around her left hand, an irritated energetic bounce to her steps. Sean had taken off to Great Falls with Jason this morning before she had the chance to tag along, and Teagan had cancelled - Again! - saying she couldn't make it off base. And she knew the Fellowship had something going on today or tonight - she'd been practicing her observational skills - but not what. Laurie's spritely mahogany and white pygmy goat Rascal pranced along at his mistress' side with cheerful mischievousness, snagging bites of lavender cotton candy whenever Laurie let her arm swing low. A few wisps of it clung to the side of his mouth, which only served to draw even more attention than his adorableness already did and which Rascal accepted as his due. The youngest Cassidy sibling stopped to speak with the Heath sisters for a while, finding out that Lilly had returned, and making a mental note as to why Sean hadn't mentioned it. When she jogged to catch up to her parents, she got interrupted by Ryan Andersen. He was a guy in her grade, about her height, but if anything, even skinnier. And it seemed like he had never shaved yet, wisps of blond hair as fine as the cotton candy in her hand curling around his lips and chin. He was kinda awkward, kinda obliviously entitled, but not really a bad guy, even if any girl with at least a modicum of good looks knew he had a tendency to stare. "Oh! Hey! Hey! Laurie?" He called out as he rushed from between a pair stalls as he saw her passing by. "Yes, Ryan?" "Hi." Social greeting completed to his satisfaction, Ryan immediately proceeded to what was really concerning him. "ReGenesis looks awesome. Can you get a game key for it from your brother and give it to me?" "I probably can," Laurie admitted with an exasperated roll of her eyes. "But Sean isn't giving out game keys to anyone, not even reviewers, and especially not anyone who claims to be an influencer or who boasts about his five hundred subscribers on YouTube." Laurie gave him a pointed look. Ryan blinked, Teflon to her snark. "Jim Fines got a test copy, only because Sean is friends with him online." "So.... yes?" "No." "Oh." Ryan blinked again, then nodded. "That's okay. I'll just pirate it when they break the protection." Laurie's lips curved in a private smirk. She seen Sean's coding, even if she couldn't make any sense of that. "You do that, bud. He calls his game data protection and encryption Keelhaul. Make sure you read the user agreement. Later, Ryan." Laurie skipped adroitly around Ryan and Rascal gave him a headbutt to the knee which nearly buckled the fifteen year old to the ground, sticking his tongue out at him as he trotted after his mistress. As Laurie caught up to her parents, the Keanes were arriving to Champion's Field. Jack gave Ian a nod in greeting as the Cassidys ambled over. Jack and Ian were acquaintances, Jack having been hired by Ian or on his clients' behalf to fix up property for living or flipping. The Cassidy women waved. "It's been a while, Ian," Jack said. "You and your ladies need any help unloading?"
  14. Act 1 - End of Day: Sean This must be how a god feels, Sean thought as he slipped free from the bonds of the flesh to inhabit the digital landscape of ReGenesis directly, where he was able to create and destroy with but a thought. Where he was able to be anything he could imagine. He had swum through the streams and rivers of cyberspace before, no need of a computer as an interface, but that had been like using top of the line VR. Over the last week though, he’d learned how to Enter The Matrix, a universe that could be contained inside something smaller than a fingernail, yet was near as infinite as reality itself. It was a place he could go that even Devin couldn’t jaunt off too, and it felt like total liberation. It had also scared the complete crap out of Laurie when she’d come into the Barn to ask him about some books Jase had suggested and she’d found her beautiful, busty brother comatose in the engulfing embrace of his computer chair, his pale face illuminated in a patina of colours by the soft glow of his array of monitors. He wasn’t dead, she’d been sure, still able to detect he was breathing, but he hadn’t roused when she’d roughly hauled him to the couch over her shoulder, when she’d shook him, given him a slap, or even threw a glass of water at his face. Laurie had been about to call Jason to ask what she should do when Sean had returned to himself with a deep breath, a brief sense of disorientation and finding his face, hair, and shirt wet. There followed frantic - and at times too loud - questions and explanations. That was when he found out when he was in cyberspace, he had absolutely no sense of his body. He was still tethered to it - when he stepped out of cyberspace, he went directly back to his body, regardless of where it was, but otherwise, couldn’t tell what was happening to it. It was more than a touch of frightening, and meant he’d have to be really careful when being a Ghost in the Machine while out in the field. It also percolated an idea that in case of a worse case scenario at Site B, he might have a last ditch escape plan from his failing genetics. It wouldn’t be ideal, if it even worked, but it might still be life. Of a sort. Finishing his video game would also give him a sense of continuation, if the solution he hoped to find at Site B proved to be a failure. Before the onset of the weird and his electrokinetic abilities, he figured he had at least two more years of development time. He didn’t have a publisher or executives mucking stuff up, or other creatives redirecting progress, but he was still only one guy, regardless of how skilled a programmer he was. With digital voodoo, Sean had at first believed he could get the time to under a year. But now, with the growth and expansion of his powers, especially with all the mundane work he’d already done, he was pushing for release next week, since he was only going digital download. It went beyond the vast and delicate control he had when jumping into cyberspace. With practically supernatural coding skills, he managed to program semi-autonomous proxies or agents that could act without his direct oversight. Figuring that out naturally led to the idea that when he was completely in cyberspace, and thus, essentially just a digital construct himself, why he couldn’t make copies of himself? He could… after a fashion. The copies didn’t have his full capabilities, but they were close, similar to the semi-autonomous agents he could create but with a semblance of his personality and psionic technokinetic mojo. Working on Regenesis was turning out to be about the best training he could get for most aspects of his psionic array of powers. It also meant he’d gone from a one man game developer, to a team - admittedly of variable size, since it took distinct neotic effort to create the copies and proxies. But he could trust them implicitly, and they worked the way he wanted them to, without the distractions and biases inherent to meatbag programmers. The video game was basically done at this point, Sean’s flock of digital minions running quality control now, looking for bugs and fixing them, which he’d look over after they reported back to him. At the moment, he was working on social media for Intersectional Games - his game studio - and the Steam page, preparing for release day, and tweaking the algorithm, so that ReGenesis would get noticed a little better through all the trash. It was an ongoing battle, the Steam algorithm seeming to have some manner of perverse sentience. It didn’t, he was sure, but it sure seemed that way. Over the last week or so, Sean had noticed an odd… irregularity, first on Steam, but then on other sites he frequented online. At first, he chalked it up to bad code, propagated when linked back to his Steam page. But the irregularities weren’t random. He found a sort of pattern to them, something almost akin to Morse code, like someone hiding a message in the code of a program, a message that they definitely didn’t want just anyone finding. When Sean really turned his attention to the regular irregularities and tracked down the source to a kernel in the hidden messages section of the comment thread on his Steam page, it wasn’t what he expected. “Todd Asper?!” It wasn’t talking, it wasn’t texting, but it was digital communication, that seemed to include both, along with emojis, gifs, and code itself. “It’s about time, Titboy.” The insult seemed instinctive rather than intentional, as were the gifs of overly generous, bouncing cleavage - there was a distinct sense of desperation in Todd’s ‘voice’. “I’ve been trying to get your attention for almost a week now. I need your help.” “My help.” Sean’s tone was a flat as the blank faced emoji was… well, blank. He could recognize Todd’s digital signature now. And was considering scrubbing it from the internet with extreme prejudice. “It was you who skimmed my place. And at Crossroads?” He was more doubtful about the latter. When he Ghosted, he was considerably stronger than he’d been at Crossroads, but this Todd wasn’t the electronic juggernaut he’d contended with there. “You don’t seem to have the same oomph.” “Yeah, yeah, that was me at your place. Surprisingly little porn, by the way. And at Crossroads.” There was something like an envious grumble coming through Todd's evident desperation. “They plugged me into a… a thing, to overclock me. I shoulda had you…” “Uh-huh, right. So, Cerebro?” “Sort of? Except it’s more like electric amphetamines. A boost, a rush, no subtlety or fine control. And not pleasant. Anyway, that’s why I need your help. I made a deal, except it’s not what I thought and now I can’t leave.” “That seems like a you problem, Todd.” “Well, if the assholes here get their way, it’ll turn into a you problem, Cassidy, and problems for you and all your friends. Look, I’m sneaking online here and I’m not sure how long I have. The shit they’re doing here at Site B… I don’t want to be the next experiment. I saw what you guys did at Crossroads - I didn’t tell them all of it. I want out.” Sean was about to write Todd off. If he’d gotten himself into a bad situation due to his own actions, that was on him. But the mention of Site B changed the dynamics a lot. He needed Site B, and learning all he could would only help his - their - chances of success. “Site B, hmm? Tell me what you can - especially about their security and defences - and I’ll see if I can talk my friends around to help your sorry ass.” “You are so full of shit, Cassidy,” Todd retorted. Even online, Sean wasn’t the best dissembler and Todd could sense the eagerness in the freak hacker and electrokinetic. “But if it’ll help… think about all the stuff you’ve heard about Roswell and Area 51, and just believe me, it’s worse and crazier than that. They…” Todd began ‘talking’ very fast, only the electronic medium allowing Sean to keep up with the information being spewed at him. Sean could barely get a word or question in edgewise before Todd was off at a desperate gallop once again. At least the medium also let Todd add pictures and video - even if they were jumbled at times in his haste - and let Sean save them to show the others. Todd suddenly stopped, given the sense of looking over his shoulder, before ‘saying’, “Help me Oboobi Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope.” Then he was gone, as suddenly as though the plug had been pulled, which Sean supposed it was, and Todd clearly didn’t have an UPS. Sean scrubbed any traces of Todd or himself from where they had communicated, then stepped back into his body. He stood up, knuckled his back, stretched, ran a hand through his rich red hair, then began pacing, considering what to do about Todd and Site B, only paying cursory attention when his proxies Neo, Trinity, and Morpheous pinged him to report on their activities and progress with polishing up ReGenesis for release. When there was a knock at his door, thinking of Site B/Crossroads death squads, Sean practically jumped out of his enviously smooth and fair skin - there were side benefits of apparently subconsciously manipulating the electromagnetic spectrum, such as never having to worry about sunburn or UV-based melanoma, or even developing freckles. Visible rings of lethal photons began to congeal into existence when Jason poked his head in. Sean let the nascent incandescent chakrams disperse in a soft flash of prismatic light, a hand went to his chest as he caught his breath. “Surprise?” Jason drawled. “Get a phone for fucks sake, so you can call or text,” Sean complained for not the first time. Worry about Death squads abated, Sean offered his taller friend a grin - though to be fair, all his friends except Kat were taller. “So, how did training day go?” Jason updated him on the antics of the Fellowship - and Courtney - that day, and in turn, Sean shared what he’d learned about his own abilities. But when Jason mentioned going to talk with the Project, Sean sucked in an audible breath. “I think I have to talk with them too, dude,” Sean said, thoughts on why he had to go to Site B high in his mind, but unable to voice them yet, even to one of his, if not his closest, friend. “I was just in contact with Todd - he’s like me, I think, like how Tawny is like you. He’s trapped at Site B, and wants out. I learned some things. It might end up being a ‘Kitty’ type situation, except y’know, people.” “Hmm.” Jason mused aloud - more for Sean’s benefit, the digital wizard knew, than out of some mannerism that was automatic to him - as he stared blankly out of the loft’s large open window. “Ms Giles has already said that she can’t talk to us about Site B - yet. Not until she gets permission from her higher-ups and Branch 9. Going in there and asking about it before she’s ready to talk could be a wasted effort - and besides, you need to get your head into the game for tomorrow evening.” “Tomorrow evening?” Sean blinked, then understanding dawned as Jason glanced his way with a calm expression. “Ohh, shit. We’re going in tomorrow evening?” “There is no point in delaying further.” Jason shrugged. “The longer we take to confront what Cody has become, the worse we make things. It’s why you coming today would have been a good idea.” “I know…” Sean reluctantly conceded “I just figured I could practice my schtick as well here and-” “And the dark spirit and the tree aren’t likely to have computers or machines for you to subvert. It will be a battle such as at the climax of one of your GM’d adventures, the disparate heroes working together in direct confrontation with a foe.” Jason’s tone was mildly critical. “Today would have helped you to figure out your best placement in such a fight.” He shrugged slightly, head cocked to one side as he regarded Sean. “It is done now. As your friend, I urge you not to miss any more team activities - or I will have to come and fetch you.” “To drag me there kicking and screaming, huh?” Sean smirked, then blinked as Jason slowly nodded. “If that is your preferred manner of travel.” the eerily composed youth said… and then smiled very faintly. Sean was pretty sure that this was a Jason idea of a joke - but then, like all Jason jokes, there was a kernel of truth in the deadpan delivery. “Right. Got it.” Sean muttered, smiling a little as he shook his head. Jason nodded again, then turned to go. “Don’t forget to pick me up early tomorrow.” he said as he reached the door, looking back at Sean. “There’s more to fill you in on, but time is short at the moment. We can do it on the drive.” And with that he was gone, the tread of his boots on the stairs making as usual less noise than they should as he headed down.
  15. Kat scampered to the bottom of the stairs and already had the front door open before Sean was even half way down, taking the steps at a more sedate, decorous pace. Practically buzzing with impatience to begin devouring the pizza, Kat huffed in good natured annoyance at how long it took Sean to join her, even though it was less than a minute. "Oh, hey, Ralph," Sean said when he looked up to meet the pale eyes of the lanky delivery guy nearly as tall as Cade as he handed over his share. "Hey, Sean," Ralph replied with a grin, blond brows rising faintly as he gaze flitted between the two red heads, one svelte, the other voluptuous. "You two know each other?" Kat asked with a curious tilt to her head. "A bit," Sean admitted. "Ralph knew my older sister Teagan and I built him a PC." "And I've delivered pizzas to The Barn often enough on gaming nights," Ralph added, grin widening as he held up the cash he'd collected from Kat and Sean. "They usually tipped pretty good, like tonight. Gonna be a good shift. Miss." He nodded at Kat. Then nodded at Sean. "Sean." Kat arched her brows at Sean as she led him to the kitchen. Sean shrugged. "He used to be a bit of dick to me. After Teag 'talked' with him, he turned out to be decent enough guy. Absolutely terrible at first-person shooters, though." Kat bustled about the kitchen, grabbing plates and such. Sean would have offered to help, but it was his first time here, and it was easier to let Kat do everything and just stay out of the way, so he took a seat on a stool at the island. "Are we eating here, or upstairs or...?" "Whatever works for you," she replied, "if we go upstairs we can keep check on the operating system installation. We'd just need to get the plates back here once we're done. I'd hate to pile up dishes in my room." After a brief shrug, she opened the cardboard box and glared at it. "I'm still amazed at the size of these. Twice as big as French pizzas. We might need to bring the box with us if we eat upstairs." She added, after comparing with the size of her plate. She tilted her head and turned to her friend, an eyebrow sky high. Sean's lips quirked into a small smirk at Kat's disbelief at the size of American pizzas. "Well, this is Big Sky Country, and everything is bigger in the United States. The cars, political strife, the people... " Despite herself, Kat's eyes darted downward from Sean's face for an instant and a faint pinkness rose tinted Sean's cheeks. "... especially the food. It's why we have an obesity problem. We don't serve those tiny, fancy meals like in high-end French restaurants or Taco Bell. Not unless you pay a real lot." Kat's other eyebrow followed the first. She might not have been that familiar with American fast food chains, but she was well aware that fancy and Taco Bell didn't belong in the same sentence. "Taco Bell?" "Let me tell you about the grand potential future of Demolition Man as we grab some plates, eat some pizza, and update a new PC," Sean proposed, using his DM Storyteller voice, panning a hand in front of them to paint a scene as Kat collected some plates and a knife, then started leading them back towards the stairs. "In a false Utopian Future, they'd forgotten what real crime was and when it came back, they needed a cop who know what it was to fight it. So, they got Sylvester Stallone..." And up the stairs they went, their hands full with plates, pizza, and drinks. "Wait, are you gonna spoil me a movie I didn't watch yet ?" She asked as she pushed her room's door with her foot. The scent of pizza was omnipresent in her mind, making it hard to focus on anything else seriously. "God I'm hungry!" They entered the room and dumped dinner material on her desk, careful not to push anything off it as much of the space was occupied by... cables, keyboard, mouse, microphone, external DAC, screen, that short of things. The rush building a PC had provided them with now cooled down, and Sean couldn't help but notice only now Kat's most recent painting, still leaning against her easel, brown balls of fur fooling around a dark but space-like background, punctuated by what looked like shining celestial bodies. In the dim and late sunset light, the whole image gave off a strange vibe, mixture of joy and sadness, brought together by strong motion. "The movie's been out for over twenty-five years. The embargo on spoilers is way over. 'Sides, it's an action flick - spoilers don't really matter that much," Sean said with a chuckle. "It's still a fun movie." Eating pizza in Kat's room and idle chatting with her about what other pop cultural touchstone movies she might have missed, and listening to movies she suggested, Sean's multihued eyes kept drifting to a painting. A new one, he supposed, still on the easel. He painted as well, but mainly miniatures for gaming and the occasional prop or costume piece for Halloween. He didn't do stuff on canvas, really, other than a few attempts a while back with oils, trying to emulate Bob Ross. There had been 'much room for improvement', his happy little trees looking sad. Kat's painting was very good, very evocative, especially illuminated by the setting sun. Sean casually plucked up an olive that had fallen from his slice of pizza onto the projected shelf of his bosom, then glanced over at Kat, nodding towards her painting. "Space squirrels, hmm? I like it," he said with a grin, waggling the fingers of his free hand. "You do it by hand, or try it using your mental voodoo?"
  16. Sean gave a wry chuckle as he lead Cade back to the main room of The Barn, who returned the firearm to the gym bag, along with the modified gloves. "Do we really need any more insanity in our lives right now, Cade?" Sean pursed his lips in thought, then gave his friend a shrug. "I'll give it some thought, but no promises."
  17. "Maybe not a Danger Room, but I might be able to manage some kick ass VR that would be nearly as good, especially if the Project will share their tech with me - us," Sean countered as he neatly replaced the needle, thread, and glue, and gathered up the unused RFID chips. "Not quite X-men, but likely a lot more convenient and less potential collateral damage." Sean returned the microchips to their cubby, then arched a nonplussed brow up at Cade when he asked him about Homecoming. "Since when have I ever been big on going to school events unless Mom and Dad dragged me to something Teagan or Laurie were doing?" Sean shook his head in apparent exasperation. "Haven't really given Homecoming a thought." That wasn't strictly true. With his friends starting to pair off, the idea had on occasion skirted the edge of his thoughts. He could go stag, but he hadn't ever been one to go to school Dances. And especially with his mates taking their own dates instead of them going as a group, he'd feel like an extraneous wheel. There might have been one person he'd consider asking, but knowing her for only a couple of days, it felt presumptuous to him. Besides, he didn't have anything to wear to something like Homecoming. Last time he'd worn something... suit-ish, it had been at his grandfather's funeral, when he was about eleven. "How 'bout you, Cade? Marissa, hmm?"
  18. 2019 - Monday, Labor Day noon, lunch They settled on burgers for lunch, and were seated in the Roadhouse Diner waiting for their orders. Jason had been quiet since Sean’s revelation, and Sean likewise had been chewing over Jason’s. “You know that I’m going to see you get to where you need to go.” Jason stated rather than asked, causing Sean to smile faintly. There were worse allies to have when mounting an assault on a shady secret laboratory site than Jason. “Yeah. I know.” he nodded, sipping at his drink through a straw. “Just… don’t do anything precipitous, okay? We’ve got to deal with the other matter first, like Cassie said.” Jason nodded calmly, and Sean grinned as a thought struck him. “Hey. Maybe if what we find can sort out my problem, perhaps it could restructure your DNA too.” “Why would I want to?” Jason smiled slightly. Sean chuckled. “Yeah. After all, you’re ‘superior’.” he smirked, teasing his friend a little. “Yes. But that has nothing to do with being an alien.” Jason replied with a faint flash of teeth as he grinned. Sean made a rude noise as the server brought their well-stacked burgers over. Sean squirted ketchup over his fries and after the server left to see her other patrons, he looked up at Jason, his eyes twinkling in mirth, defiant of their respective issues. “Y’know, you can’t tell Cass you’re an Alien. She won’t be able to resist the headlines.” “‘They Walk Among Us!’” Jason intoned, hand sweeping to indicate a blazoned headline. “‘Shelly Coronet Exclusive: Genetically-engineered love god walks the earth, by ace reporter Cassandra Allen!’” “‘Love god’?” Sean sniggered around a mouthful of fries. “Dude makes out in the woods and now he’s Casanova. Sheesh.” Jason smiled faintly at him, eyes glinting with good humor. “Got to say, though,” Sean admitted, finishing his mouthful and gesturing towards him. “You seem different ‘cause of it.” He was going to say ‘softer’, but the memory of the counter exchange in Walgreens stifled that word. ‘More relaxed’, maybe? A thought occurred and he leaned forward as much as his bust would allow. “What about Autumn? Does she know about…?” He indicated Jason with a wave of a hand. “Yes.” Jason nodded gravely, eyes going distant for a moment as he then smiled a fraction. “I thought it only fair, considering she’d agreed to date me.” “How did she handle it?” Sean asked, fascinated, then blinked as Jason’s eyes took on the gleam he associated with a smirk from anyone else. Sean rolled his eyes and sighed. “Yes, I know. Phrasing. Now spill.” “Didn’t seem to faze her at all.” Jason said matter-of-factly, shrugging before picking up his burger and taking a bite. “Wow.” Sean blinked, again feeling a surge of envy that Jason had found someone who accepted him peculiarities and all. But stronger than that was a sense of happiness for his friend. “That’s some girl. To think she didn’t like you much last week, huh?” Jason nodded, chewing steadily as he examined Sean with his usual, uncomfortably direct stare. It reminded Sean of how Jason had used to look at everyone when he first came to Shelly, before he’d adopted mannerisms and a mask to try and hide himself. “You will have a chance, too.” Jason said quietly after washing down his mouthful with a gulp of soda. “We will get you fixed, Sean. If the technology exists to correct your DNA, then it can feasibly also help you settle on a gender. You might be able to choose male or female, and live and love accordingly.” He tilted his head a fraction, examining his friend. “It would be good to see, I think. This acceptance, the warmth in the cold places I experience - I’d like you to know what it’s like too.” 2014, October 30th, Bunnee’s “I don’t understand why.” Jason was quietly insistent, the closest he got to expressing real worry, it seemed. He was even frowning slightly, lips in a straight line as he peered at Sean from under the messy fringe of his hair. He was sitting in what had become his customary slouch, bent over a burger which he was eating with both hands, chewing steadily between speaking. “I just don’t wanna.” Sean shrugged, trying not to meet that green stare and instead looking out the window. “Halloween is your birthday. You love Halloween.” Jason wasn’t leaving it alone, doggedly hanging on like a quiet pit bull in a death-grip. “You don’t want to have a birthday?” “I’ll be having a birthday.” Sean forced a smile, looking back at his friend. “I just won’t be trick or treating. I… don’t feel like it this year.” Jason stared hard at him, actually lifting his head from it’s lowered slouch and glaring directly at Sean, who shifted in his seat. Jason’s glare wasn’t hostile, but it was definitely a lot. “No.” he said after a moment. “No?” Sean was confused. “No.” Jason reiterated. “You did not want to go swimming. You have been avoiding going outdoors ever since the summer. You avoid sports and PE class with a note.” He pointed his burger at Sean accusingly. “Something is wrong.” Sean scowled, his appetite gone, and let the rest of his burger fall with a plop, a ketchup speckled french fry jumping from his plate and rolling across the booth table. He glowered out the window and went to cross his arms defensively before hesitating, then balling his hands into fists and thumping them on the table. Sean was silent for a long moment, his jaw tight, but he was tired and angry and scared and hadn’t been able to talk to anybody who wasn’t family. Finally, he turned back to Jason, glanced towards the bathroom, gave his head a minute shake, then nodded at the burger in his friend’s hand. “Fine,” Sean ground out in his high, clear voice. “Finish your burger, and I’ll show you. At the barn.” Jason simply nodded, undeterred by his friend’s evident turmoil and finished his burger and fries with quick, economical bites. Sean just stirred his fries with a fork and took a few desultory bites, before pushing his plate to the side and finishing his soda. The boys finished their meal, leaving cash on the table. Jason counted out exacted change and a precise percentage for a tip, while Sean just slapped down enough bills to cover his share without caring about getting any change back. They waved at Bunnee and Max in passing, and then reclaimed their bikes locked up at the bike rack out front of the diner. The boys pedaled back to Sean’s home, dirt and gravel crunching under their wheels the only sound between them. Sean was still using the same bike he had since he was nine, but Jason had a new one - well, new to him, it was secondhand - he’d gotten for his birthday. At the Cassidy residence, Sean led Jason past the rambling, one story farmhouse to the barn that was being converted into a playroom and den for Sean and his siblings, though so far, only Sean was really making much use of it. Sean hopped off his bike before coming to a full stop and let it fall, the back wheel continuing to spin with a slowing clicking sound. Jason was more fastidious, coming to a complete stop and using the kickstand. The sun was an orange ball, still its own height above the horizon when Sean barged into the barn, Jason following at a more sedate, even-tempered pace. The front half of the barn was one big room, but the rear half still had sections separated by half walls, repurposed stalls, though not all the former stalls had found new purposes yet. Sean closed the blinds on each of the newly installed windows as he stalked past them towards the rearmost left stall. Sean reached up on his tip toes and pulled the string descending from the bare bulb. Harsh white-yellow light flooded the stall, their short shadows shifting at the hanging lightbulb swung gently. Sean took a deep breath, then spun around to face his friend. “What do you see when you look at me?” Sean asked. Jason tilted his head slightly, then gave Sean a cursory once over. Sean had hit his growth spurt early and had been one of the tallest boys in class. But now, he was at best only average in height, and that was changing each year, with the other boys in his grade matching and then surpassing him. He had been slim, but seemed to have put on notable weight in the last year, perhaps from being less active. “I see you, Sean. With your recent lack of physical activity, you are getting fat,” Jason replied with blunt honesty. Sean snorted bitterly. “I’m not fat. Look closer.” Jason did. Sean’s hands and forearms were slim, the fingers delicate, his complexion uniformly pale. His bright red hair was less than an inch long, but didn’t disguise the fineness of his features or the attractiveness of the lines of his face, the large, strange eyes with their long, dark lashes. Jason pictured Sean’s sisters, contrasted them with his friend and noted the resemblance between them was more than familial. Where the voices of the other boys in their class were beginning to warble and crack, Sean’s voice stayed smooth and sweet. More than once, he was asked to join the choir. “You have distinct phenotypically feminine features.” It was an open truth, but few ever actually openly remarked upon it except to be mean or cruel. Jason didn’t mean to be either, he was only stating a fact. Sean blinked. He knew what phenotype meant, because of the doctors, but he was surprised Jason knew it. “It’s sooo much worse than that,” Sean didn’t quite wail, squinting his eyes tightly as he always did to keep them dry and tear free when there was anyone to see. He shrugged out of his baggy, zip-up hoodie, then his loose flannel shirt, then the shirt was wearing under that. With each layer removed, Jason could see his friend getting slimmer and slimmer… mostly. Sean’s jeans hung off hips that were noticeably wider than what appeared to be a notably thin waist. And there was something strange about his chest. When Sean pulled off his tight undershirt, Jason found his chest bound tight with ace bandages, but they didn’t hide the white straps going over Sean’s slender shoulders. Sean was almost gasping as he unwound the bandages, hiccuping in his self-consciousness. It was bad enough showing his parents and the doctors. Laurie had spied on him once, and Teagan had made one teasing comment before getting grounded. But this was his friend, the first time he was showing somebody who didn’t need to know. He tossed the lengths of elastic bandages aside and locked his eyes on a point just over Jason’s shoulder as he let him get a full look. Sean was wearing a plain, white bra, and it wasn’t a training bra, as it was filled out with the unmistakable, if unfamiliar, bulges of breasts. Jason had been intensely aware of the growing and developing physical changes of his fellow classmates, especially the girls. Some girls were developing faster and more dramatically than others. Sophia Fingleman, for example, had been receiving particular attention, lately, from both girls and boys, both good and bad, for being as well endowed as most of the underclassmen, and several of the upperclassmen. Remarkably - and for most other people, disconcertingly and/or disgustingly - Sean had been hiding a figure at least as curvaceous. “I’m turning into a girl!” Sean wasn’t sure what he expected. From any other boy his age, shock. Or snickering. Or disgust. Or a mixture of all three. He held his gaze at that point on the far wall past Jason’s shoulder, not wanting to see his friend’s eyes when- “That seems biologically unlikely.” “Huh?!” Sean blinked and looked at Jason’s face. The green eyes were calmly appraising his body and features, and Jason’s own face, as devoid of youthful softness at the age of twelve as it had been when they first met, was smooth save for a slight furrow of concentration on his brow. Jason’s gaze met his. “I said-” “I heard you.” “Because it is unlikely that you would suddenly turn into a girl.” Jason said with the firm authoritativeness of a boy who knew how development was supposed to go. "Gaah! It's not sudden, it's still happening, day after day. It's not really turning into a girl, just looking like one and having the same hormones and stuff." Sean huffed, a little piqued that Jason had, characteristically, totally ignored the dramatised interpretation and gone right for the crux of the matter. “The doctors say it’s called Chapelle Syndrome, or something. Like, my body is producing girl hormones more than boy ones, but it’s still also producing boy ones.” Jason was staring at him, curiosity in his eyes. “That’s interesting.” “It’s really not!” Sean huffed, trying to cross his arms over his chest and having to opt for folding them under his protuberances. “It sucks, and it’s scary. I don’t want to be a girl, Jason!” “But you’re not. You’re neither, and both.” “I want to be me.” Sean felt tears start up, and tried to ignore them even as he felt their wetness trail down his cheeks. Jason’s head tilted to one side, brow furrowing again as he considered something, then he stepped forward and put a hand on Sean’s shoulder. “You are still Sean. What you look like doesn’t change who you are. Not to me.” he said quietly and firmly. “You are, and always have been my friend. I look at you and that is what I see.” The hug was awkward as it was sudden. Sean was torn between returning the hug and keeping his arms folded across his lower chest and opted for returning the hug, regretting it almost immediately as he felt his breasts press against his friend’s skinny torso. Still, for Jason to offer a hug was a major concession, and so Sean endured it for the brief moment it lasted. “Okay.” he smiled wanly as they parted, Jason stepping back without seeming at all perturbed. “One, never do that again.” he joked, smiling so Jason would be sure to get it. His friend smiled fractionally in return. “Two, you can’t tell anyone.” “Won’t they find out eventually anyway?” Jason asked with his usual coldly brutal logic. “Yeah, maybe. But I’m not ready for that yet.” Sean sighed. “And three… can you help me re-wrap these things? My mom usually does.” “Aren’t they sensitive? Doesn’t that hurt?” Jason inquired calmly. “Yeah. It hurts.” Sean admitted ruefully. “But… It’s better than people knowing. And don’t give me the ‘logically that seems flawed, Captain’ treatment.” he pointed at Jase, doing an impression of Spock. “Kirk didn’t have breasts.” Jason replied, a glint of humor in his eyes as he moved to pick up the bandages. “I won’t tell anyone. But I think this is something you need to accept.” “Yeah. Maybe one day I will.” Sean sighed.
  19. Sean pushed off from leaning against his car, giving Kat an apologetic shrug. "I think this is cooler. Like one of those flameless lighters. More efficient, all the heat without the flame" Sean nodded down the length of the strip mall towards Sulli's Electronics at the end, then shifted to Kat's side so the cigarette smoke wouldn't blow in his face. He glanced casually about as they started walking, making sure nobody was paying undue attention to them. "So, it looks like you can do something like Jase, just in a different way. Instead of making flame directly, you might have to agitate molecules to combust." He pointed at the cig dangling from her lips. "And make flame that way." They reached Sulli's and stood a bit away from the door to let Kat finish her cigarette before heading in. A frown appeared on Kat's features as she asked, "Isn't it what Jason is doing ? If I heard correctly," she puffed, "he uses telekinesis, right ? So he'd be agitating the molecules to heat them up. What I did didn't feel like... telekinesis. One moment, the air was cool, and a moment after, it was hot. It almost felt like I had an energy reservoir and I tapped in it to allow the combustion. Took me a while to figure it out..." She rubbed the back of her head, before adding, "Thinking about it, if I had tried too hard, I might have burnt the cigarette to ash." She drew a last time on her cigarette before stubbing it out against the floor, her eyes scanning her surroundings to stop on a public trash. She got rid of the butt and nodded at her friend, who opened the door of the shop. There was an electric chime as the door opened. Sean waved Kat ahead and followed her in to Sulli's Electronics and Computers with a sense of familiarity. The shop was probably the place he had visited most often outside of Shelly and had that aura of welcoming clutter that the best mom and pop stores held, despite it being neat and tidy. Behind the counter at the back the facing the door was a somewhat short man, only two or three inches taller than Sean, somewhere between stocky and rotund, who had probably crested forty years of age. He looked away from the monitor he was looking and seeing Sean, he smiled, crows feet at the corners of his grey eyes creasing his smooth face. "Oh! Sean, good afternoon," he called out cheerily. "What brings you out today? I wasn't waiting on a build from you to put out on commission was I?" "No, not this time, Sulli," Sean replied, with a relaxed ease Kat noticed was rare from Sean. "But I am looking at putting together a gaming rig." He put a slender hand on Kat's slight shoulder. "This is Kat, a new friend and student at Shelly High. She heard I had a thing for computers and decided she needed a new setup. And you're the best for parts, Sulli, so I brought her here." "Sean's too kind," Sullivan said, offering Kat a boyish grin that belied his age. "I'm just diligent and a little compulsively thorough when looking for suppliers. Pleased to meet you, Kat. What do you need?" After greeting the man back, Kat pursed her lips into something close to a cute pout while she thought about what she exactly wanted. If she picked her components carefully, she might get an even better rig than the one she left in France, and for a better price. "I'm looking for at least 4 GB of video memory, a solid processor, 16 GB of RAM, and a soundcard decent enough for music recording. For that last thing, I really don't know if I can get that integrated to a computer or if it has to be external, but I need it either way." As she spoke she raised a finger for each demand, waving her hand when specifying how important the sound card was to her. "I never really liked how my recordings sounded with a laptop, so I wanna make sure I get something nice." With an amused smirk, Sullivan began taking short notes, then his eyes met with the petite redhead's as he asked : "Do you have any... brand preferences ?" Kat shook her head. "I don't really know better than both of you would," she replied, "I'm open to suggestions." "Well, if you're willing to trust us, I'm sure we can get you everything you'd like, and under budget," Sulli with a smile as he began pulling up his inventory on the computer. "Especially with the employee discount, hmm?" Sean said with a grin, arching a brow. "I suppose if I don't, you'll just coincidentally buy the same components, Sean?" Sulli replied with an exasperated tone, but his pale blue eyes twinkled. Sean nodded. "Fine then. Let's start with what I have on sale and clearance and go from there. It was almost like another language, as Sean and Sullivan debating the merits and specs of various brands of components, versus what Kat needed, and what she wanted. Sean was clearly in his element, but made the effort to explain to the more petite redhead what he was talking about. "You could get a better soundcard, but overall, you'll probably be better of with an external DAC," Sean said. "Especially for recording. You'll also want to invest in a good mic or two - that'll help a lot and save you time in sound editing. And baffling for wherever you end up recording - that'll stop echoes. I learned that the hard way." So in his element, Sean completely shut down a guy who had seen the two attractive redheads and tried to mansplain computer builds before Sullivan could intervene. The guy looked to be in his twenties, some sort of tech-bro. He'd given Kat a look that suggested he thought she was cute, but too young, before turning his attention to Sean, or more often, his chest, as he tried to impress him with his knowledge of video games and computers. It didn't take long before Sean had him retreating out of the store with his tail between his legs. In less than an hour, Kat had all the components for a PC, with better specs than she had asked for, and under the budget she had set for herself, giving her leeway to get a new microphone. The components made a surprisingly compact pack, fitting inside a box easily handled by either Kat or Sean. Thankfully, Sean already had a spare computer case, so Kat didn't need to a new one. "Thanks, Sulli," Sean chimed as Kat paid. "And just so you know, I'll probably have Regenesis done sooner than later. Been making amazing progress lately" Kat put her wallet away, and box of unconstructed computer held protectively in her arms, sidled up to Sean, mouth spread wide in pleasure. "Ready to head back and put your new PC together?"
  20. 2019 - Monday, Labor Day morning, on the road “Yeah, that seems good.” Jason mused, taking a swallow of Coke. “Perhaps we can persuade the Aeon people to share that communications tech with us.” He smiled in his usual wry fashion. “At least the stuff they were handing out to Etienne and their other agents - that not-quite-a-phone we found of his.” “I wonder if they work on the same basic principles as the weird radio from the trailer,” Sean added, flicking on the turn signal and shifting lanes with a quick glance in the mirror for the upcoming off ramp to Great Falls. “But what I really want…” There was a lustful burr to the shapely boy’s dulcet voice, “... is some of that holography tech. Gaming night and video games would be so sweet.” As the music changed to a minimalist composition of soft percussion and what sounded like singularly drops of something into some manner of liquid, Sean went off on a tangent about the progress he was making on his video game. Jason let his friend babble on, long familiar with how Sean’s particular brand of genius benefitted from jumping from one topic to another. With greater understanding of his own abilities and how they manipulated software, the coding on FBG (Fallout-But-Good, codename), was taking an exponential leap forward, in efficiency especially. He could get more using less memory, which drastically eased rendering and loading times, and would mitigate crashes and errors - also helped by him not being a lazy coder. “... do away with zoning, and don’t even need to use cinematic cutscenes anymore. I can get it all done using the game engine, just zooming and playing with the camera angles to get the best shots,” Sean explained, sounding almost giddy, as he wove through Great Falls on the familiar route to Sullivan’s Computers & Electronics. Sean had a great deal of respect for what the gaming industry had accomplished, but believed now, imagination and innovation had taken a backseat thanks to the executives and sales folk for the sake of the investors. Games from the biggest publishers were coming out nearly half finished - if that in some cases - and riddled with bugs. He was just one person, he couldn’t write, code, and test as fast as they could, or at least, he shouldn’t have been able too. On the other hand, he didn’t have stakeholders to answer to and publisher executives medling to squeeze every bit of money from the game at the expense of the game and the players. And he now had an insight into the digital world they just didn’t have. He could see a game forming that could be a turning point in the industry, one that could rank in the greatest and most influential game lists for years. One of those games that remained pristine and flawless in nostalgic eyes. “... and picture that in 3D holography, yeah?” Sean finished as he parked in the lot of the small srip mall. “I can,” Jase replied, forming the scene in his mind palace. “Evocative. But do you believe you’ll have the time to work on this with all that is happening with Proteus and Crossroads?” “You still make time for your flowers, Jase. I can make time for this,” Sean countered, his forearms on the steering wheel as he stared out the windshield thoughtfully. “I’m still looking at what comes after Proteus and Crossroads, Cody and Kline and all that stuff. Making video games might be a small thing in the grand scheme of things, but it’s a dream that isn’t lost me with everything that’s going on with us. A dream that has actually grown with it instead.” “I get it, Sean.” Jason looked over at his friend with his inscrutable gaze, and enigmatic grin. “Just wanted to know how important it was to you.” Sean rolled his eyes with familiar exasperation, but grinned. Jason had changed since summer, but then again, they’ve all had. Still, Sean was about the most used to him. “You could’ve just said that, man,” Sean groused. “But then, where would have been my fun?” Jason said, the bare curve of his lips deepening faintly, verdigris eyes glinting. The boys exited the Jeep, Jason with economical grace, Sean with more of a hop, due to his modest height. A pair of women, two or three years older than the Shellites leaving a yoga studio gave Jason a casual glance of interest, the blonde giving a shudder when she noticed his eyes. When their attention slid over Sean, who was straightening his hoodie and was once again considering the graphic on it being a little too on point, the blonde scowled, while the snorted a giggle, something sounding like ‘udders’ drifting over to the boys on the air. The hoodie was loose, but not shapeless, and regardless, Sean’s curves were much too pronounced to hide. He didn’t even try anymore. He just shot the girls an arched brow, then led Jason into Sullivan’s. “Hey, Sean!” the pudgy Sulli called in friendly greeting to one of his best customers, and occasional subcontractor for computer builds. “And friend,” Sulli added somewhat more neutrally when he noticed the lanky boy who was clearly accompanying Sean, guessing he wouldn’t have much time to geek out to pop culture and electronics with the intersexed youth. “What can I do you guys for?” “Phone shopping.” Sean told his tech-savvy friend with a grin. “My man Jase here has decided to join the 21st century and leave behind smoke signals and semaphore.” A slight bit of ribbing at Jason’s expense - Sean knew his friend was far from incompetent with technology, circuitry, electronics, computers and the like: he simply didn’t share Sean’s fascination with them to the same degree. Jason merely smiled at the good-natured teasing, his cold eyes crinkling a little at the corners as Sean went on. “I’m his spirit guide on this quest.” “Well, if Sean’s your guide, I’m guessing Android?” Sully smiled at Sean as he got his keys and moved along to the phone display cases. He gave Jase a professional shopkeeper’s appraisal. “What’s your budget look like?” “Money is no obstacle, within reason.” Jason responded calmly as he moved to examine some of the sleek-looking phones. 2013 - March, Weekend, Cassidy Home Sean busied himself with washing the lettuce as a quiet argument went on behind him. Outside, the grill was heating up as the family took advantage of an unseasonably warm early Spring day to properly cook steaks and burgers. Inside the kitchen, things were also heating up. “He bit that boy, and Mr Polanski. They both needed stitches.” Mom said with low, worried severity. “He was defending Sean, Mom.” Teagan said with a dismissive snort. “Mr Polanski lets Chet and his cronies do whatever - either because he’s blind or because he doesn’t care. Jason stepped up, you know what I’m saying?” “Alan’s mother said he still has bruises on his neck and has woken up with nightmares several times.” Carolyn fretted. “You can’t tell me that’s a normal scuffle between boys.” “Good. Alan should keep his hands to himself!” “Teagan Cassidy!” “What?! It’s true, mom. Chet and his friends are little shi- bullies.” Teagan moderated her words, if not her tone. “I don’t care if Sean’s friend gives them all screaming night terrors. Hell, I’ll hug him when I see him.” Sean’s older sister was fiercely protective of her little brother, and it showed. “Heh. He might bite you.” Laurie giggled. “Oh, don’t even joke.” Carolyn said severely. “What if he has serious problems?” “He does, mom.” Sean turned around, facing his sisters and mother, his father at the far end of the kitchen staying out of the discussion. “He’s got no mother, no siblings, his dad is a drunk. He acts like he doesn’t expect any kindness from anyone, but he always sits with me, and talks with me about all sorts of stuff. He’s super smart, just quiet. And he’s not mean at all.” “Tell that to Mr Polanski.” “That was an accident. Jase said he thought it was Chet.” “Oh, so he thought he was biting into a boy’s artery. That makes it so much better.” Carolyn’s tone was heavy with irony as she turned to her husband. “Jack, talk to your children please?” Sean’s dad looked up from the marinade he was mixing, considering his wife, then looking at Sean. “Our son invited his friend to our cookout.” he said in a level tone. “I see nothing wrong with that. Whatever you heard from other moms doesn’t count for much, Carolyn. I trust Teagan and Sean when they say those boys are bullies. Maybe Jason does have issues - but denying him our son’s friendship won’t help with that.” Carolyn let out a small sigh. “I know, I know. I’m just worried about-” “Trust Sean, sweetheart. He knows good eggs from bad.” Jack looked round as the front doorbell rang. “Speaking of…” “I’ve got it.” Sean dried his hands off on a dishtowel and scampered to the door. Opening it he saw Jason on the porch, a plastic container under one arm and with his satchel slung around his narrow shoulders. He gave Sean a tiny smile as the redheaded boy greeted him. “Heya Jase. What’s in the box?” “A gift.” Jason said enigmatically. Sean chuckled and swung the door wider, letting his friend in and leading him to the kitchen. “How’d you get down here? Dad give you a ride?” “My father’s sleeping. I walked.” Jason said as he followed Sean into the large family kitchen, noting the surprise on everyone’s face as his words registered. “You walked?” Carolyn sounded mildly aghast. “That’s..” “Three and a half miles, roughly.” Jason supplied helpfully as he put the blue plastic container on the table at one end. “These are for you, Mrs Cassidy.” “But that’s dangerous!” Carolyn said concernedly. “I’m careful.” Was all Jason replied, with a slight shrug. Teagan came round the table and popped off the lid from the container. “Oh hey, brownies.” “My first batch.” Jason told her with a smile. Teagan shot her mom a meaningful look, then turned and leaned over, giving Jason a hug. Sean saw his stoic friend’s eyes widen a little in surprise, swivelling towards Sean as though seeking answers for this strange behaviour. “Uh. Thanks. But they’re only brownies.” Teagan giggled, giving the skinny boy a slight squeeze, then released him. “No, that was for protecting Sean.” She hesitated, then gave him a kiss on the forehead, making him blink. “That was for the brownies.” “Say, these look good.” Jack peered into the container. Carolyn came forward then, shooing away her husband’s reaching hand. “Off, you. Jason said they were for me. Right, Jason?” she asked him as she put the lid back on the container and moved it to the fridge. “That’s right. And whoever you choose to share them with” he asserted with a faint smile. Carolyn came back over, giving him a slightly awkward one armed hug. “Thank you, sweetie. We’ll share them after dinner.” “If we’ve got any room.” Laurie grinned. Jason glanced around at the various tasks the family were doing, contributing to the meal, and frowned a little in consideration. “Can I help?” he asked. Jack and Carolyn exchanged a glance, and Sean smiled as he saw his mom’s expression. Whatever doubts she had about Jason or his issues, his mom had a huge heart. And it had gone out to his friend. “Sure. Ever grilled before?” Jack asked, getting off the stool he was seated on and bringing over a tray of steaks to set beside the bowl of dry marinade. “I need someone to coat these thoroughly. You up for that?” “I have seen it done.” Jason replied as he clambered up onto the stool and rolled up the sleeves of his sweater.
  21. 2019 - Monday, Labor Day morning, around 7 am There had been a mist hanging low over the fields an hour or two earlier, when he’d first sat down on the porch seat with his satchel and a cup of coffee, watching the rising sun and smiling slightly to himself as it turned the sky a vivid red-gold with hints of rose. Now the mist had been burned away, the sky taking on a richer blue as the sun ascended, and the cup was cold and empty at his side. An observer would have not seen the youth move since he’d set the empty mug down, instead resting his hands on his thighs with his gaze turned inwards, so perfectly still he seemed to withdraw from the present. In truth he was meditating on the energies of Radiance, or Shine, feeling the tickle of it from the tall grass in front of the house, the occasional brighter sense of his father asleep upstairs in the house, the rich glow that permeated himself. The weekend had come with revelations, and the slow-moving moments of quiet reflection allowed him to re-examine them all. Including the shimmer from the bracelet around his left wrist where Autumn had fastened it yesterday before his duel with Devin, like a sign of courtly favor from a maiden on the arm of her knight. He'd studied it intently, trying to determine what it was made of but, lacking spectroscopic equipment or similar tools, could do little but guess. It was too light in hue to be copper, too lightweight to be gold or brass. He wondered if perhaps it was some otherworldly alloy - given it's origin that was possible. It would remain, by necessity, a mystery for now. The other bracelets Autumn was safeguarding would be handed out tonight before battle was joined. Perhaps, after the fight against the Tree was done, there would be time for proper study. The sound of an engine - not the growl of his own Charger, but the whisper-like purr of a car made for more modern sensibilities, intruded on his reverie. Jase turned his head, seeing Sean’s Trailhawk rolling up the dirt track to come to a stop in front of the farmhouse, and raised a hand in greeting as he stood, gathering his satchel and loping down from the porch. His friend smiled at him and waved him round to the passenger side, grinning as the door clicked open and the lanky teen slid into the Jeep Grand Cherokee. Some ambient flute and string music Sean was experimenting with for his current design project filled the car unobtrusively, and a bag of snacks and drinks was tucked down just behind and between the front seats. “Jason Bannon, getting a phone!” Sean’s smile was wide as he glanced at the naturally composed features of his friend. Girlish lips twisted in a smirk. “Anyone else, I’d say it has to be a girl behind such a radical move. For you? God knows. Something nefarious, probably.” “Perhaps it is also a girl - or a boy.” Jason replied softly, one corner of his mouth quirking as the edges of his eyes crinkled, though he didn’t look at his friend, instead regarding Trailhawk’s interior curiously as Sean turned the Jeep around and started back down the track. “Many things may be true at the same time, after all.” “Philosophy before eight am. Great.” Sean mock-grumped, side-eying the inscrutable one. “So is it a girl?” “Perhaps I just feel the need to be able to connect.” Jason returned Sean’s gaze with one of his own fathomless stares, though he was still smiling a little. “Secrets and philosophy before eight am.” Sean pouted, though he smiled as well. There seemed something… relaxed about Jase this morning. More so than his usual unflappable calm. Has to be a girl. Or else he’s developed that bio-plague he’s always ‘joking’ about… “Are you going to tell me at all?” “Perhaps.” Jase sighed as he got comfortable in the plush seat, playing with the reclining controls. He glanced sideways at Sean, lips curving in another sly smile. “Nice car, this.” “I like it.” Sean radiated self-satisfaction, possessiveness and delight in having his own vehicle filling the jacked up SUV in a way his modest stature couldn’t. He turned onto I-15 and headed towards Great Falls, his slender fingers drumming on the steering wheel. “And there was never a chance I’d snag the Tesla. ‘Sides, no way this baby is getting stuck in a Montana winter, unlike that roadster or some other cars I can care to think of…” He flashed his friend a quick, teasing grin. If the Grand Cherokee wasn’t as pristine as Jase’s restored classic muscle car, and wasn’t the latest model, it still had decades of motorive advancement on the Charger. Sure, the interior was kind of worn and it could stand to be repainted after Sara had helped him - okay, he had helped her, at little - with the obvious repairs, but it had most of the modern conveniences, like heated seats, and rearview camera - admittedly, after-market - that Sean had wanted. Most of. He hadn’t been looking for something that could off-road like a beast, but now that he had it, he rather enjoyed it, even if he needed the running board to be able to climb inside it. Jase smiled slightly, shrugging one shoulder even as he let his slender fingers play over the upholstery on the inside of the door, making a tactile connection to add to his other sensory impressions. “If my car gets stuck in the snow, I’ll move it.” It was a great day for driving, the sky was clear but the sun wasn’t glaring, and the wind was light or non-existent. After having to beg or deal for rides or cycle around town on the same bike since he was eleven, Sean loved driving, and took whatever opportunity he could to do so, despite having had Little Bigfoot hardly more than a week. “I know I just got her, but I have looked a bit at what it would take to convert her to electric.” The shapely boy glanced over his shoulder, then shifted into the left-hand lane and picked up speed to pass a languorous landboat going ten under the speed limit, the 5.7L Hemi V8 rising from a whisper into a powerful purr. “It’s pricey, especially for the specs I’m looking at, but considering...” Sean snapped his fingers and an actual actinic spark crackled, “... certain considerations, there would be some great advantages. But I’ll have to finish Regenesis or Annwn will need to go viral before I can afford it.” Jason nodded occasionally as his friend spoke, his sly smile widening just a bit. “Her, hmm?” “Pshaw!” Sean scoffed with a roll of expressive, exasperated, exotically hued eyes. “Appearances to the contrary, I ain’t into riding dudes.” He gave the steering wheel a slap. “Little Bigfoot is simply a big girl.” “So, phone?” He arched an angled brow at his friend, changing the subject “You looking for some ancient Nokia flip phone that can barely find the internet and takes a thousand years to type a text, or something more current, like, from the last decade?” 2012 - November, Morning, Shelly Elementary “We have a new student joining us today, children,” Mrs. Durham said in her gentle, infinitely patient voice. “I’d like you all to say hello to Jason Bannon, who has just moved to Shelly with his father.” Next to Helen Durham’s stocky, solid form stood a slight figure with a mop of brown and downcast eyes dressed in well-worn, oversized clothing. Helen was going to place a comforting hand on the new boy’s shoulder, but she could sense the taut tension in the boy and caught the sudden, watchful intensity in his eyes whenever someone invaded his personal space, and so relented. There was a chorus of obliging Hi’s and Hello’s of various enthusiasm, and a few waves. Sean was one of the ones who waved. In the last few months, he’d had a big growth spurt, and now he was one of the tallest kids in grade four. Unfortunately, despite his vivid red hair cut short, he still looked more girlish than boyish, though his parents promised that he’d start filling out soon. Some of the other kids were starting to tease him about it. It didn’t help that most of the other taller kids in his grade were also girls, like Sara Hutchins, who at least could boast being more solidly built than he was. “There’s an open desk next, Sean. Why don’t you take it, Jason? Sean is a smart boy, and he can show you where we are in the lessons for today?” The skinny figure in the oversized clothing cast one glance at the teacher, then moved without a word towards the empty desk. The rest of the fourth grade class regarded him with the curiosity due to all new things as he passed several rows in a head-down slouch. Todd Asper, from the row behind Sean, snickered. “Watch out he doesn’t think you’re a girl and fall in love, Cassidy.” “Todd Asper! Am I going to have to move you up here again to stop you whispering?” Mrs Durham’s voice rose a little. “Eyes on your book, please. The only people who should be talking are Sean and Jason right now. And if your quiz results aren’t better than last week, Mr Asper, you will be moved to the front of the class for the rest of the school year.” Amidst a chorus of ‘oooh’ from the other kids directed at the luckless Todd, the Bannon kid slid into the seat next to Sean’s, setting a worn-looking leather satchel on ground after extracting a dogeared, second-hand copy of the textbook, a couple of pencils and a notebook from it’s recesses. Sean studied the new kid for a moment as he got situated, finding him odd somehow, beyond the oversized army-surplus clothes and the dire need of a haircut or, failing that, a comb. He was skinny, sure, but his features even lacked the residual childish softness of a normal ten or eleven year old’s, seeming severe and drawn by comparison. Even his mouth was severe - a straight line with no expressiveness to it, as if he never smiled or laughed. His ethnicity was likewise enigmatic - sharp cheekbones and narrow eyes, olive skin and dark hair. “Hey. I’m Sean, but I guess you already figured that out.” Sean essayed a greeting as he leaned over, meaning to break the ice with the apparently shy kid. He wasn’t sure if it was the greeting or the movement, but Jason lifted his head from contemplating his desk then, turning and meeting the effeminate boy’s eyes. Sean had been about to offer his hand, but paused. There was nothing shy in the stare currently scrutinising him. Wariness, perhaps. Watchfulness, definitely. But no nervousness, no shyness, no ‘oh hey someone’s being cool to me’ relief. It was strange, an effect heightened by the icy pale green of Jason Bannon’s eyes. They were reflective, giving nothing away except, as the stare continued, mild interest and curiosity. “You have central heterochromia. Oddly vivid colours.” Was perhaps the strangest introduction one fourth grader ever made to another. It was, however, the first words any student in Shelly Elementary had ever heard Jason say. The accent was also hard to place - American but at the same time not - possessing a sharp precision as if every word was considered for a microsecond before being spoken. The angular features tilted slightly, a flicker of something behind the green eyes indicating a remembrance of correct behaviour. “And I’m Jason.” “Pleased to meetcha.” Sean offered his hand, feeling the bony slender fingers grip it, shake once, then release. “And you know what heterochromia is.” He stated rather than asked, regarding Jason in an assessing manner for a moment as the skinny boy shrugged non-committedly. “Well, let’s get you caught up.”
  22. "Hello there !" Kat's soft voice rang through the kitchen. She was all jeans, blouse and booties, her leather jacket under her left arm, and a discreet layer of make-up adorned her smiling features. She waved at Sean before scooting over the fridge, grabbing the orange juice and pouring herself a large glass. "Sorry for taking so long, I only realized it was 2PM when I, uh, heard your car." She rubbed the back of her head, then swallowed a large amount of her OJ. Tess glanced at the petite redhead, curiosity and mild amusement in her eyes. "When should we expect you to come back? This evening ?" She asked, hiding a mischievous grin behind a sip on her coffee. Still ashamed about the evening before, Kat first looked at her feet, then glanced at Sean, asking for help. "Hey there yourself, Kat," Sean replied, raising his mug of coffee in a greeting salute to the svelte French girl. Sean finished his coffee with a couple of quick sips then slipped off the kitchen stool. He reclaimed his plastic bag and tucked it a bit awkwardly under his arm, his turquoise and jade eyes flicking between Kat and her father's girlfriend. He got the sense there was something going on between them, though didn't know enough to even guess at what. "Weeeell, we're only going to Great Falls to pick up a few things. An hour there, an hour at most to shop, and an hour back, we should be back by five, six at the latest," Sean answered Tess, with a slight bit of hesitancy. "A few hours afterwards to put it all together and run a few tests, we should have it done by this evening." His uncanny gaze shifted back to Kat. "Is that alright? If you have something to do with the family this evening, I can put it all together at home and drop it off tomorrow morning, Kat. No probs." Tess shook her head negatively, hmm-ing over her mouthful of coffee. She swallowed and replied, "It's alright. I was teasing the little damsel over here about last evening, when she arrived two hours late for dinner. Take your time, but please Kat, this time, text me when you're on the way back from Great Falls, a'ight ?" The smaller teen rubbed the back of her head. "Yeah, I'll try not to forget this time..." She finished the rest of her OJ, then turned to her curvaceous friend. "Let's go? Laters, Tess!" "If she does, I won't," Sean assured the dark-haired beauty Kat's dad was dating, giving her a small, two fingered wave. "Later." Sean lead Kat outside to his SUV, unlocking the doors with a thought rather than the fob in his hand. He put the plastic bag of parts behind the driver's seat, then climbed up behind the wheel. Kat climbed up into the passenger seat with more athletic grace than Sean had. Sean brought the Grand Cherokee to life, put it onto gear, and carefully manoeuvred out of his parking spot on the side of the street, since someone had decided to park right behind him instead of using practically anywhere on the rest of the block. Starting on the way to Great Falls, he arched an amused brow at his passenger. "Damsel, hmm? What were you doing last night that you were a damsel? in some sort of distress, I presume, and who saved you?" "Ugh..." The petite redhead sighed. "I was having a great time with Courtney, and at one point, I just... lost track of time, I guess..." The delicate pink coloring her cheeks told there was more to it, but she didn't go on the details, except... "Oh, yeah, right. At first, we were talking about telepathy. She made me a deal: she'll share her insights on... stuff, 'cause she was part of the Project, right? So she maybe trained her abilities a different way than you did, et caetera, but in exchange for her help, I'd get her in the group training session, including the one on Sunday... Would that be... possible ?" "Ask Jason," Sean said a touch sharply, turning his attention fully on the road. "I'm doing something else, tomorrow." He hadn't made definite plans, but he suddenly decided what he was doing tomorrow, so it wasn't really a lie. He could even claim it as a personal training session. Despite himself, noticing Kat's soft blush, he couldn't help but wonder what Kat meant by a great time with Courtney, and why'd she lose track of time. "I'm sure Jase will take your reasoning into consideration, and see the logic in allowing Courtney to attend." His lovely tone turned grudging, his lips pursed in something dangerously close to a pout. "If you want, I'll ask Jason myself on your behalf." The French girl took a moment to compose herself, cherry-red lips still haunting her thoughts. "I'd ask him myself, but I don't have his number..." She'd sensed her friend's change of attitude more than she'd noticed it, as her telepathy was more and more becoming a part of herself rather than a tool. She glanced at Sean, wondering. "Is there... something? Between you and Courtney? I mean... she didn't seem to like you much..." Her curiosity was piqued. "If I'm out of bounds, sorry for asking, but if I'm ever to throw a party some day, it could help to know who hates who. I've had my lot of drama back in France," she added, a hint of weariness seeping through her soft tone. Kat saw Sean's hands tighten on the wheel, his abundant chest rise and fall as he took several deep, calming breaths. His silence was telling, as were the pings of emotion Kat couldn't help but catch radiating off him. "It's... It's okay, you're new here, to the dynamics of Shelly High," Sean said coolly. Kat could tell the coldness wasn't meant for her, just the history. "Yes, there is 'something' between me and Courtney. It's because of her everyone at school found out I was growing these!" Sean arched his back, making the very obvious even more obvious. Not like I could've kept them secret for much longer. "She didn't like me much before, she hated me after, and her and her goons just got worse as time went on. And I haven't grown to like her any over that time either." Getting on I-15, and passing the outskirts of Shelly, Sean gave Kat a level glance when he had a moment. "Look, I have no right to say or even suggest who you want to be friends with, Kat. Just be careful with her. Just because she's part of the weird too, doesn't mean you can trust Courtney. She's always been about herself and her own gratification first and foremost. I haven't seen anything to change that." Sean clearly had emotional wounds, and while they were scarring, they were still tender. Sean's mouth tightened into a thin line. "I'll still call Jase for you and make the request on your behalf, if you want, though." The petite redhead glanced at her friend in realization. She would have never guessed. Teens can be utterly cruel. Still, Sean offering to call Jason and ask if Courtney could join the training session meant something. She offered an apologetic smile to the driver. "I'm sorry they gave you hell." She meant it. The car remained devoid of conversation for a minute, then Kat broke the silence. "You could call him now and put him on speakers. How's that sound ?" "Sure, that's fine," Sean said, only having to feign a little bit of the cheeriness, before shifting the pitch of his voice to make a hands-free call. "Call. Jason. Home." <Did you say Call Jason Home?> "Yes." <Calling Jason Home.> As the phone dialed, Sean returned Kat's apologetic smile with a wry grin. "And thanks, but you don't have anything to be sorry for. You weren't there or involved." "Gar," came a gruff voice through the speakers. "Hello, Mr. Bannon. It's Sean. Is Jason there?" "Gar," Jason's father reiterated for his son's strange, feminine friend. "Jason's out." Pause. "He'll be back this evening. Six. Seven." "Thanks, Mis - er, Gar. I'll try back around then." There was a click as Gar hung up, then a softer blip as Sean's smartphone ended the connection. Sean gave Kat a one-armed shrug. "Guess, we'll call back." Wanting to shift the talk about from Courtney and almost anything Courtney adjacent, Sean switched to something Tess had mention. "So, Tess mentioned you paint and draw? I do a bit too, but mostly work digitally and with animation myself. I've made one game and am almost done another."
  23. "Heh, yeah. We could have Interdimensional Cable for real," Sean chuckled as he threw the pop cans in the garbage. "Aiming a bit high with a Danger Room. The holography stuff didn't look that good. But for video games and gaming? Sweeeet." Instead of bringing the dishes back to the house, Sean set them into the deep, multipurpose sink in the small bathroom in the barn. Adding an actual kitchen to the barn was all that was really needed to make the barn into an actual viable apartment, but with everything going on, it was only a 'would be nice' rather than any sort of imminent priority. He washed his hands than rejoined Cade. "You have a pair of gloves we can use, or do we need to head out and get something?" "I have something in my Jeep," Cade assured his voluptuous friend as he removed the magazine from the gun and emptied the chamber. "Back in a minute." While Cade went out to his vehicle, Sean awkwardly cradled the large firearm in his arms, the gym bag with the ammunition slung over his shoulder and headed over to the former stall that he used as his workshop. At least it was out of easy sight. Cade returned and found Sean in the ordered clutter of his workshop, sifting through a rack full of drawers of various sizes. On the table to Sean's side was what appeared to be a drone in some percentage of assembly or disassembly. "Will these work?" Sean glanced quickly over his shoulder and nodded at the pair of black, half-finger gloves in Cade's hands. "Those look perfect." Sean spun around, one hand cupping something or several somethings very small. He pointed by jutting his chin. "Next stall, over." The two of moved to the other stall, which tended to change purpose with whatever Sean seemed to be interested in at the moment. Currently, it seemed to be passing for as a sewing room. Skeins of thread, yards of cloth, various bits of various grades of foam and other assortments were held in cubbies. There was a sewing machine that looked way more complicated than Cade was expecting. In one corner, there was a hunched-shouldered... something without a face perched on a stand. "Didn't know you were so into fashion, Sean," Cade said with an amused smirk. Sean scoffed, but there was a slight pinkness to his cheeks as he ran his free hand through his rich red hair. "I make my Halloween costumes here and, uh, I've been trying my hand with alterations, so stuff fits better." Sean set the things he had been holding in his hand on the table next to the sewing machine. They were roughly the size of a grain of rice, one half of each one transparent, the other half holding what Cade assumed was some sort of microchip. "Half of this stuff is mom's anyway, we share the room." "What are you going as this year?" Cade asked, pointing at the thing on the stand. "Not done yet, bud, not gonna say just now," Sean unanswered with a grin. "Put the gloves on, gotta see how they fit, so I can determine the best place to put in the RFID tag." Cade slipped on the gloves, then held them up to display to Sean, twisting them front to back to front again. "Trigger hand?" Sean asked. Cade waggled the fingers of his right hand, and Sean grabbed it brusquely with both of his deft, delicate hands, kneading various points with his thumbs, looking for the best place to insert the chip where it wouldn't irritated Cade and was unlikely to get broken. He tapped at the space between thumb and forefinger. "Here, I think. People who've actually inserted chips like these under the skin usually putting them in the webbing between thumb and forefinger. Okay, you can take them off, now." Sean claimed the right hand glove and sat on a stool, giving the glove a closer inspection, studying the seams more than anything. He turned them inside out and nodded in satisfaction, and reached for a tool, a seam ripper. With practiced motions, he undid several stitches. "Made a lot of mistakes at first," Sean admitted, setting aside the seam ripper then sorting through the various types of RFID tags he had assembled. "I'm surprised you already have those things on hand," Cade commented. "Eh, I've been toying around with putting an electronic lock on The Barn and making fobs to unlock the place. Then started considering what I could with them and my drones..." Sean made his selection then reached for some super glue. "Glue?" "Glue. Much easier than trying to sew in a tiny pocket for the tag than restitching the seams. Glue's good enough to keep the tag in place." With one hand, he held the small hole he had made in the glove open, then carefully, placed the tag inside. He pinched the fabric over the tag, letting the glue set. He could feel the nub of plastic, but only just. Cade, or anyone else wouldn't even notice it unless they knew to look for it and where. A few small stitches by hand, and the glove was done. Then he repeated the process with the other glove. At Cade's questioning look, Sean just said, "Back up. In case the main one gets damaged." Done with the gloves, he handed them to Cade, then spun around on the stool to stare intently at the firearm, his eyes nearly aglow with psionic power. He could have programmed the tags and the gun the mundane way, of course, he had the hardware and software to do it, but psionic technokinesis made things so much easier and more efficient. Sean let out a breath and nodded, giving Cade a thumbs up. "Gun set to read only those tags and the receiver has been disabled, so remote access - by 'normal' means anyway - shouldn't be possible. Give it a test." Safety conscious, Cade made sure the chamber was still empty, and inserted an empty magazine. Stock braced against his shoulder, gun up in a firing position as he aimed at the far wall, Cade pulled the trigger. Click.
  24. Sean sat at the table once more, eyeing the assault rifle. "Not much to do left, except to set you up with a responder tag so you can actually use the damned thing. Unless you want to go with deactivating that system entirely." He took a sip of his Pepsi, his nose scrunching up as it had gotten warm with they'd tested the taser rounds and Cade recovered. He gestured with the nearly empty can at the firearm and the magazines sitting on the table next to them. "Not much to check on the rest of the ammo. Bullets that go through things and people and other bullets that go through things and people better." Sean stood back up and started collecting the plates and empty cans, arching a brow up at his much taller friend. "I don't want to say it's aliens... but. It's aliens." He felt a little bad not revealing everything, but Cass had given some cover with her meeting at school. "You heard what Cass was saying. They must've gotten their hands on some sort of advanced or alien tech, and reversed engineered some of it to help them make stuff like this, that sweet, so sweet, holography tech at we saw at - or rather under - the hospital, the radio from the trailer and who knows what else. Totally aliens." Sean nodded back to one of the converted stalls of the renovated barn he used as a workshop. "Let's see what we can do to get you set up with your new Halo Assault Rifle. Also, maybe pack it back into the gym back, in case someone else drops by unexpectedly, hmm?"
  25. Instinctively, Sean moved forward to catch his collapsing friend, immediately regretting the decision, but too late to get out of the way. Cade had more than a foot on him and probably like a hundred pounds and while Sean was many things, strong wasn't one of them. Sean grunted managing to cushion Cade at his own expense, air escaping his lungs, as he was pinned to the ground by Cade's spasming mass on top of him. I am so glad he is unconscious right now, Sean thought as he squirmed out from under Cade, who finally went still. Sean checked on his friend, to make sure he was still breathing and that his pulse felt okay - which was about the limit of his first aid skills. Then he brushed himself off and straightened his shirt, looking around to make sure no one else saw what happened. Cade groaned and slowly opened his eyes, to find Sean leaning over to look down at him, a glass of water in one hand and a small bottle of Advil in the other. "You've been out for 'bout five minutes, dude," Sean said, proffering the water and pills to Cade. A wry grin curved one side of his mouth. ""So, would now be a bad time to tell you I can make myself or someone else immune to electrical discharges? I mean, if I had, we wouldn't have found out how effect the tase rounds were. Probably." Cade sat up, bracing himself on an elbow, giving Sean a long, nonplussed look. He shook a couple of Advil into his hand, threw them in his mouth, then took the glass of water and gulped it down. He looked at Sean again, his expression level. Sean's grin began to waver. "You're despicable..." Cade said with a fair Daffy Duck impression.
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