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Bannon last won the day on March 6

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  1. He was characteristically quiet as he walked out of the hospital between Hank and his father, the red and blue lights of various emergency vehicles and the brighter lights set up by the 'FEMA' personnel - actually Project personnel - playing over his lean, angular features. The day had been eventful, and even for him there was a processing period as he ordered and categorised the events of the day, both mundane and weird, exciting and merely interesting. He had been attacked. Autumn had come to rescue him at her own risk, and even Cassie had stepped into a dangerous situation ostensibly on his behalf - though he wondered if some of that hadn't just been some natural peacemaker's instinct to quell the fighting. Fifty-fifty, he decided, was the most likely answer. He had restrained himself from cutting loose with his power... only to use it later against monsters and mercenaries. He and his friends had uncovered the roots of the Project, and discovered that even within shadows there were deeper patches of darkness. He had menaced Dr Cook... and been threatened with death by someone he had considered a friend. That last had made him pause, retreating from the conversation, restraining his impulse to treat the threat as real and immediate and thus respond appropriately. Because the appropriate response for him, the one that came easily and first to the forefront of his mind was 'neutralise the threat'. Intimidation was a lost cause on Jason - either he assessed someone as incapable of carrying through on a threat, or he assessed them as being capable - which meant they had to be taken out of the picture. Devin had teetered for a heartbeat on the edge of receiving what military minds liked to call a 'preemptive strike', and likely hadn't even known it. It was that last realisation that had stayed Jason's hand. Devin had threatened him out of fear and anger, not considering - perhaps just not having the understanding to consider - how that would be perceived by someone like Jase. Devin had pointed a loaded gun at him, and in Jason's world view someone didn't do that without intent to pull the trigger. But, he realised, Devin might not see it that way. He might not have thought that through, strange though that concept was to the detached young man. And the truth was he didn't want to kill Devin. But now he wasn't sure he could trust him, or Marissa. He'd never offered either of them so much as a harsh word, and yet they turned on him with threats, insults and ridiculous assertions the moment he so much as showed teeth to someone else - an enemy at that. They'd done it over the Liam fiasco, and now again with his rattling of Cook. That volatility made for unreliable fellows. Perhaps polite distancing of himself from them was the best policy. "So... gonna use that number?" Hank said. Jason, his inner train of thought quieting for a moment, glanced at the former Marine questioningly. Hank pointed at his pockets and mimed a telephone gesture with his thumb and finger. "The redhead's number. Gonna use it?" he asked with a grin. "Oh, fer Chrissakes Hank." Gar sighed, shaking his head as they climbed into the pickup. "Don't you think there's more important things to talk about?" "Yes... and no." Graskle shrugged as he slid behind the wheel. "Girl likes him. Sure, there's this Dark, and evil scientists, and mercs, and secret societies, and all sorts of shit. Jason and his pals have got super powers, and your boy is different from how you thought he was. Keene girl's right though - he's no different from how he's always been. And... she seems to like him anyway." Gar Bannon mulled that over as he turned his hazel eyes on his son. "Is there something more there?" he asked Jason, half-expecting a 'geez, dad' or a roll of the eyes or some other teenage boy behaviour when the subject of girls came up. But his son just shrugged. "We get along." he said with a faint smile as he glanced out of the passenger side window, watching as Autumn hugged a slender woman who must be her mother, as Sean got into his Grand Cherokee with Laurie, and as Marissa smiled and talked with her parents. "She doesn't seem to judge me. And she's fun. But no, dad, we're not dating. Until yesterday evening she was terrified of me - well, at least very scared." he amended. "Because you're a psychopath?" "In part. Also because she's never heard anything good about me, plus her first actual conversation with me involved me sticking a door closed with telekinesis, then freezing some water into ice-cubes and telling her all about the weird stuff going on." Jason smiled faintly. "And that was last Friday. So yeah, it's logical to surmise she sees me as a friend at best, and I'm perfectly fine with that." "Really?" Hank couldn't contain his skepticism. Jason's face was composed as he looked round at his friend. "Me? Doing the 'high school dating' thing? Probably not." he stated without any discernible bitterness. "Firstly, I don't 'crush' on girls. I literally can't. Secondly, unless I want a love life filled with pretense and deception, the girl would have to know what I am. And let's face it, no normal and very few abnormal people want to date a psychopath." "You say so." Hank steered his pickup into the school parking lot. "But I say she looked interested. Not 'tongue-hanging out' interested, but probably wouldn't say no to a movie and burger." "I bow to your vastly superior knowledge." Jason's tone was more dry than the Sahara in drought season. "After all, it's well known what a ladies man Hank Graskle is." "Hey." Hank sounded hurt. "I don't have to play the field anymore in order to be a coach." "You say so." Jase replied, mimicking Graskle's earlier noncommittal tone with a wry grin as he slipped from the pickup and headed over to his Charger. "I'll see you back home. If you get a head start you might make it back a little behind me." ============================= The three of them sat up late that night over their coffees as Jason filled in the details that his earlier, hasty explanation to his father hadn't been able to include. For once, Gar Bannon didn't so much as reach for his hip flask, not even to add a shot to his coffee as he sat across from his peculiar, strange and baffling son. Hank just listened as Gar and Jason talked, watching father come to a true understanding of his son. "I imagine it's like realising you've been raising a stranger." Jason said, pale eyes studying his father's face as he came to the end of the long tale. "If it is any consolation, it was hard for me to not tell you. About me, and later about the strangeness in Shelly. But I was protecting both of us in different ways." "So...The flowers..? Are they part of a mask?" Gar asked intently. Jason shook his head. "No, I like to grow things." he admitted simply. "Flowers especially. I like beautiful things." He paused, eyes narrowing as he considered. "Beauty is amoral. Storms, coral reefs, the void of space, a fire. All beautiful, all dangerous in their way. They are neither good nor evil, but they are beautiful. Truth is beauty - it can be cruel, and unkind, and harsh. But it is real. Lies are ugly - even when they seem kind or gentle, they are still false. I don't think good and evil are real things - I think they're illusions that those unlike me need in order to make sense of life." "So what about this Dark?" Hank spoke up. "Seems pretty evil to me." Jason shrugged. "I think it's a corruption of natural forces. Something that is not Meant To Be - the opposite of beauty. There is beauty found everywhere in nature, if one knows how to look at it - but the Dark destroys that beauty: violates it's precepts. I suppose if the principle of beauty is my version of 'good', then the Dark is my version of 'evil'." He shrugged again. "It's not a perfect philosophical model, but it works for me. And I tinker with it as I develop and learn, as my breadth of experience grows." He smiled wryly. "I'm not yet seventeen, after all." Gar made a short, guttural noise in the back of his throat, then stood up and walked around the table before catching his son in a fierce hug. "Promise me you'll make it to seventeen, son." he said in a muffled tone, his face against Jason's hair. "I can't." Jason said simply. "I might die. And then I'd die breaking a promise." His arms came up and he slowly returned his father's hug. "But I can promise that I will be as careful as my responsibility to my friends and our struggle allows. We have to fight the Dark, dad. There's no-one else that can. And it has to be fought." "Because it's ugly?" Gar smiled, his eyes wet with tears as he drew back a little, looking into the composed, wry gaze of his boy. Jason smiled a little, and nodded. "Because it's ugly." He tilted his head to one side. "So... Am I grounded?" Hank guffawed, and Gar stared for a second before chuckling despite himself. "Would you even let me ground you?" he asked with heavy irony. "You are my father." Jason's answer was simple and calm. "If there is anyone I love, it is you. If you levy a punishment on me while I live under your roof, I will abide." The answer to that was another heartfelt hug. "No, you're not grounded. How the hell can I punish you for... Damn, no parenting manual covers this. You are staying home from school tomorrow, though. You're supposed to be battered and bruised, so it's probably best you not turn up looking fresh and healthy. So you can help me with some overdue straightening up around the farm." In answer to Jason's quizzical gaze, his dad smirked. "Yeah. No way I'm going back to janitor at the prison now I know what's going on under it. So it looks like I'm going to have to fall back on being a farmer." He poked Jason's shoulder. "And your punishment is going to be helping me get started and figure out how we're going to do this." For the first time in awhile, both men saw Jason smile properly, a wide genuine smile as he nodded assent. "I have some ideas about that."
  2. Seeing that Cade had brought the smilodon under control, Autumn let out a breath she hadn't even been aware she was holding and moved into the cage containing the smaller feline. The warm-hearted redhead dropped to her knees next to where it lay motionless, feeling a deep well of horrified sadness mix with the rage directed at whomever had done this. "You poor little thing..." she murmured, focusing on the animal as a whole, on it's life-force as read by her Shine in order to avoid focusing too hard on the bandages and small wires protruding from the skull. "It's okay. Nobody's going to hurt you." she said, unsure whether it- no, she- could even consciously register the soothing voice. Gently, she laid a hand on the cat's flank, feeling the warmth of her fur and the faint rise and fall of her breathing. She was in pain, and that at least Autumn could do something about right now almost as easily as thinking. As soon as the soothing noetic balm washed over the traumatised creature she felt her relax, the sick terror in her mind easing somewhat even as the pain of her wounds disappeared. The cat took a deep, slow breath, and let it out, then again, and although she was still paralysed from whatever hellish chemistry they had used to pacify her for surgery Autumn could feel peace settle over the unusual feline. She let her fingers gently stroke it's fur. *Gratitude.* Autumn blinked, looking down at the soft golden shape she was petting. The voice - or not a voice exactly, but 'voice' was the closest she could describe it as right now - had come right into her head. Not so much words, but an emotion projected as communication. She had felt the animal - was it an animal? - essentially thank her. At the door to the lab, both a chitinously armor-plated and a cold-eyed slender youth conferred. "Ten of them. Six coming up from the left - from where we jumped in, and four from the direction we found Eddy." Charlie told Jason, his eyes half-closing as he focused his biological senses. "How far?" Jase asked with his habitual calm. Charlie tapped his armored fists together nervously as he considered. "Not far. Maybe twenty feet. Moving slow." Jason absorbed this, then nodded, looking back over his shoulder at the shimmering purplish disc beginning to form in front of Devin, considering the other three. "Aggressive defence." he stated. "We take them down and out, then pull back here. Buys Devin more time." He gave Charlie a sharp grin as he pulled a coin from his pocket. "Flip you for who gets to take on the party of six?" "I'm not coin-flipping with a telekinetic." The metamorph snorted. Jason's grin widened. "I win by default then." He said as he put the coin away and patted Charlie's exoskeleton. "You're going right." "We're going to have to establish more ground rules for this shit." Charlie grumbled as he and Jase made ready to burst out of the room. He glanced back at the others. "We're going to take out the advance party. Be right back guys." "Uh-huh." Devin grunted the teleporter's features tight with the strain as he tried to control the ride this time, to do something smoother than merely hurling the entire group through the ether. His Shine reached out, tying a stable bridge-like connection between two points in space. "Don't be gone long." he warned the pair. "When it's time to go, it's time to fuckin' go." "Got it." Jason nodded as, with an faintly musical crackling sound, his body was coated in strong sparkling ice which scintillated under the lab lights as ambient moisture became armor. With a nod to Charlie he yanked the door open, and the two of them burst out into the hall like the wrath of God. The armed men outside reacted instantly, their guns tracking the faster-moving shape of the bug-boy and filling the air with the chatter of automatic fire as Charlie closed on the smaller group of mercenaries, with bullets careening off his shell in dangerous ricochets. Jason, moving more slowly, did not immediately register as a threat to the six-man team he moved to confront, but as he interposed himself between them and Charlie's back they refocused their attention on the frost-covered slender young man. Bullets filled the air, most slowing to a dead stop an inch from Jason's body before dropping to the floor, devoid of inertial force. Some made it past his forcefield, only to super-cool and shatter against the solid ice covering him. While they fired, his eyes searched their equipment rigs, and a tight smile curved his frost-lined lips as he found what he was looking for. He reached out a hand and a number of grenade arming pins whizzed to his grasp from the webbing belts worn by the guards. Then he raised his other hand, a wall of solid ice springing up between him and them as six flashbangs went off in such rapid succession that it was almost one explosion, filling the corridor beyond his barrier with searing light and thunderous, deafening noise that were cause to close his eyes even beyond the shielding wall. Afterwards, dimly through the ice he could make out six prone shapes, a couple of which moved as though rocking back and forth in agony. No deaths, he thought with grim humor as he opened his hand, letting the pins fall to the floor. But those mercs would not be field-ready any time soon.
  3. Jason moved up while the others were talking, and was silently examining the occupants of the two cells as Autumn outlined her plan. Behind him, the other three boys glanced at one another. "Well, I know the target point now." Devin said with confidence. "I'm pretty sure the ride will be smoother going back. And fuckin'-A I'm not going to leave these guys here in Mengele's veterinary clinic. Though..." He looked dubiously at the sabertooth. "I dunno what we're going to do with Cuddles there." "Cade can handle it." Jason said, turning back towards the others. His face was calm, as composed as ever, but his eyes held a sombre gravity that was at odds with their usual wry, inscrutable gleam as he stared at the star athlete, then glanced at the others. "He can?" Charlie asked sceptically, peering at Jase for a moment before going back to watching the corridor outside. "I can?" Cade's scepticism was almost an echo. Jason's mouth quirked in a small smile, though the grave expression never left his eyes as he nodded. "You can communicate with wild animals, calm them, earn their trust." The teen genius stated. "I've seen you do it. It'll need some kind of containment on the other end, but you are the means by which we will get it there." "He's half-mad." Autumn said softly, her blue eyes growing wet. "From pain and trauma. He might never get better." Jason glanced at her. "We might need to put him down." he said softly, his tone almost gentle. "But only after we try to help him." The redhead nodded grateful agreement, and Jase looked at Devin. "We move on for now. We secure Etienne, and you take him and only him back to HQ. The rest of us will then come back here, and you rejoin us for the extraction. Cade and the sabertooth have to go together. Autumn and the smaller cat will go next. Charlie and I will go last - we'll keep the room secure. That seem workable?" Devin rubbed his chin, looking at the caged, tortured animals, then nodded. "Yeah. It'll be easier for sure, and the ride won't be as rough because I've got both places fixed." Devin glanced at Cade. "Better let Sean and the soldier-boys know that we're going to need somewhere to keep a sabertooth." Cade nodded, quickly relaying the change of plans to Sean through the radio as the five teens turned and made their way out of the lab of horrors, heading for the room containing Etienne.
  4. One defining characteristic of Jason could be described as this: that he always knows exactly who he is, and usually what his immediate circumstances are. Even before the awakening of his Shine, that self-possession, that solidity of personal identity was a trait that he worked to hide, rather than to attain and display as many teenagers do. His mind usually did exactly as he wished it to, focus and will coming easily to him without the temperamental upsets of hormonal storms. It was one of the things that made him both daunting and insufferable. Relatively few external forces could disrupt the smooth, clockwork-precise workings of his brain. Even concussed or stoned, he felt mostly in control of himself and indeed was sharper than most sober people. Devin's mass-teleportation was pure hell. It upset his kinetic awareness of the objects and people around him. Worse, it upset his very personal kinaesthetic awareness of his own body and how it fit into space. He'd formulated a theory that Devin's teleportation involved breaching the quantum barrier down into the subquantum where space and time were malleable, then breaching the layer back up into the 'real' world once more when the link to the destination was made. The smoothness with which Devin popped himself from known location to known location, barely causing more than a temporary ripple in space, seemed to bear that out. The blind jump, though, carrying four other people to a destination Devin only knew by a map layout... That involved disruption of space-time on a wrenching level. If Devin's normal 'blip' was a pro-diver smoothly breaking the surface of the water like a knife, poetry in motion and form, this had been an 500lb Walmart-scooter-jockey with terminal diabetes belly-flopping naked into a hot tub full of screaming Girl Scouts. In short, it hurt. And left Jason feeling more than a little violated and nauseous, much like the Girl Scouts would feel. He lay still for a moment, briefly dipping into his memory palace and making the spinning world go away as he contemplated a memory of the sun rising over the fields of the farm when he'd first moved to Shelly, his dad talking about how they'd have a good life here. It was a soothing memory, dating from before his father had succumbed to despair and alcohol, and it briefly occurred to Jason that maybe now his father would have the impetus to make changes. Then he sighed, steeled himself, and emerged back into the world which, whilst not spinning anymore, was still painful. "Devin." he said quietly as he sat up, feeling muscles protest as though he'd just gone ten rounds with Hank at a practice session. Had it only been two days since that? "Yeah? Ow." Devin's voice was a groan as he weakly plucked some cleaning supplies from his body and tossed them aside. "That. Fucking. Sucked." Jason said in a precise and succinct manner, grabbing a mop that had fallen over his legs and trying to use it to stand. He succeeded on the second try, fighting down nausea as he straightened up slowly, forcing his legs to obey his commands and support him. "Got us here, didn't I? Ow. Owow." "You need to practice that." Jason somewhat unsteadily, and with the aid of the mop, walked over and offered Devin a hand up. "Yeah... Well... You gonna volunteer? Ow." Devin grabbed the proffered hand and let himself be pulled somewhat upright, leaning on the wall and looking like he was also trying to hold onto his lunch. "Ask me again when I don't feel like cutting my own head off to stop the aching." Jase replied with a slight crinkling at the corners of his eyes as he let go of Devin's hand, then looked around at the others. "Anyone hurt - Scratch that. I mean, anyone seriously hurt?"
  5. "Sean will be watching us." Jason said, turning towards Cass, holding out a hand. "May I?" She hesitated, then divined his intent and offered the plastic envelope to him. Jase reached out, then paused, his lips curving in a slight smile before he walked over and gently took the protected photograph from her fingers. It took a second before she realised what had happened, but by then he'd already turned away and was heading over to Sean. "Jase... the power generator for this place? It's atomic, advanced - way smaller than a normal reactor. Hell, it could probably power most of Shelly. It reminds me of the trailer- What's this?" Sean asked, looking up from where he was busy pulling up schematics as Jason held the photograph in front of his face. "Cassandra's father. You've got eyes in the complex and it's a high tech place - check and see if his face is in their security logs, and then if he's in the building at all." "Sure." Sean nodded, studying the picture and then, with a touch of his Shine, digitising a reproduction of it on the screen before him, then adding some three-dimensionality. "Might take me a few." "You've got a few." Jason turned and walked the photo back over to Cassie, offering it to her in an almost courteous manner. The pretty blonde smiled despite herself, shaking her head as she tucked the photo away. "You know I meant no using your powers on people, or against people." she said, looking up at the impassive features and the gleaming jade eyes. His lips twitched a little, that wry, ageless reptilian amusement back in his expression. It was hard to remember that he was only sixteen years old, looking into that gaze. That gaze was ancient. "What is perceived to have been said, what is actually said, and true intent are often not the same things, even for me. Regardless, I gave my word, and I keep it to the letter." he said with just a hint of pointedness that was not so much addressed to her as it was to the room in general. Cassie regarded him, blue eyes full of wary curiosity. She opened her mouth to say, or ask something when Sean spoke up. "Found him." He pointed at the holo-display and a security file image appeared. "Says here he's part of some experiment - no name, just a serial number, and no details what it's about." "I bet Etienne is probably undergoing it right now." Devin said darkly. "Some MK-Ultra mind-jacking shit. Ms Giles said Kline was involved with that stuff." "Logs say he's currently offsite at somewhere called 'Site B'. Checked out a day ago with a bunch of others." Sean said, looking at Cass. "We can always go back for him once we figure out more." "Site B?" Taggart asked sharply, looking at Giles. "That's our other project site." Annette nodded, standing. "While our brave friends here attempt a rescue, I'm going to go and seek permission to discuss Site B. I think it's best done sooner rather than later." So saying, she made to leave the room, stopping at the door. "Major, have your men place Dr Cook under arrest, please. Don't harm him unduly." She left, and a few moments later Doctor Cook was escorted from the room by two Airmen. Taggart looked at the three other adults in the room, nodding once, then at the unlikely-looking strike team. Or perhaps not so unlikely looking, he mused. The Charlie kid seemed mild as milk, but had carried himself pretty well in the fighting upstairs, the Jauntsen boy was mouthy and annoying as hell, but damned if he couldn't get a herd of cats moving in one general direction, and the Bannon kid - Okay, the Bannon kid was chilling to the point of terrifying, and yet had acquiesced readily to a promise not to use his powers in this room or to kill any opponents on the raid without quibbling or raising objections. That was just plain weird. One thing did not match up to the other thing. Taggart cleared his throat to get their attention. "Time to go." said Devin, giving Marissa a hug then walking over to the door. "Chuckles, snargle her garthog later. Cade, Jase... Granola - I mean," he corrected as Autumn scowled. "Autumn. You in?" Autumn nodded before she even really thought about it. Jason had said she'd be of use, and while she still held some doubts, she had healed him up. Besides, it just wasn't in the restless redhead's nature to sit on the sidelines while friends went into danger, even if said friends were best described as walking hell waiting to be unleashed. "Yeah, I'm coming." she said, tugging once at the drawstrings of her hoodie before thrusting her hands in the pockets and moving over to the group by the door. She threw a considering glance at the pair on the couch as she passed them: the new girl, Kat, seemed to be a little unglued and, of all people, it seemed Courtney was offering aid. Personally, knowing the girl was a telepath with megalomania and narcissism was not reassuring, but there was nothing to be done about it right now. Behind her, Charlie gave Sophia one more kiss and practically swaggered to the door like he was ready to take on Tyson in the ring and win. Cade stood up, hugged his dad, then turned to Marissa who threw her arms around his neck and gave him a fleeting kiss before pushing him mock-playfully in the direction of the waiting group. And Jase... Was standing right next to them, having moved over to where Taggart was waiting in a neat, unobtrusive and almost silent fashion. He radiated none of the tension or excitement felt by the others, even the phlegmatic Cade - a harmonic like the faint whisper of a lightly-struck tuning fork passing between them, each member of the team picking up a little of the others' excitement - except for Jason, who seemed impervious to it, a calm pool of ice cold water whose mere presence muted the tension just a little, like a finger pressed to the vibrating metal. "You're going to miss me, I know you are." Devin said to Cassandra with his best devil-may-care smirk. Cassie rolled her eyes. "Not near as much as Lona will. So be careful." she shot back, ignoring the kiss he blew as they left the room. Taggart led the five of them down the corridor, past the control room and into a large, open space that was currently uninhabited. There was a roll-down door at one end large enough for a van or truck, and the room was plainly meant as a loading bay. He turned to them, looking at Devin as he backed up some. "This is it." he said. "I''ll keep it free for your return and have an EMT team standing by. How far back do I need to be?" Devin glanced around, then shrugged. "Hell if I know, dude. Best be outside the doors, in case. This is breaking new ground, feel me?" Taggart nodded. "Good luck." he said, then turned and hustled from the room, leaving the five of them looking at each other.
  6. "Why?" Jason's question was blunt as he fixed his cold eyes on the slight, petite girl. "And I don't mean 'why do you want to', though I am vaguely curious. No, I mean why should we take you along?" "Jase..." Sean said, narrowing his vividly-shaded gaze on his friend, obviously concerned that another Cora incident was in the works. The lean, angular young man glanced at Sean, then emitted a slight frustrated sigh. "I'm not intending cruelty." he stated calmly. "I'm pointing out the obvious. Our strike team is Charlie, Cade - who will need a weapon and armor - and myself. Our transport is Devin, who is going to have to conserve his energy in order to bring us back." He glanced at Autumn. "If Autumn wishes to come along her abilities will be useful, both for detecting guards and for helping with the wounded and perhaps helping take care of whatever they've injected into Etienne." He turned his gaze back to Kat. "Sean, Cassandra and Marissa will all likely be staying here, as will Courtney. We're not exploring the place - we have a defined goal: get in, secure Etienne, buy time for Devin to refocus and then come back." "You are new to your powers. We're not even sure what your Shine does. We also don't know you well - whatever differences I have with Devin, or Charlie, or Cade, I know I can count on them not to freak out and go off-plan under fire, just as they know I will have their backs and keep my word about not killing anyone who gets in our way. Similarly, I know and trust Autumn." He didn't look at the others, keeping his eyes on Kat. "You are an unknown quantity to us. So... why should we take you along?"
  7. Courtney had stayed silent through Devin's voiced support and Sean's naked hostility, throwing the former a grateful glance and the latter a neutral one before settling down to observe the team gradually - and with some bickering - coalesce back together, Hank and Jason's dad were watching with wary astonishment that matched Taggart's, while Cook looked as though his stomach was giving him problems again. "Thirty armed security on duty. Not prison guards - military equipment or slightly better." Jason said with about as much tension in his voice as he'd have talking about the weather. He was looking over Sean's shoulder as the technokinetic pulled up security feeds. "You can blind them and silence their comms?" he asked Sean, who nodded. "Okay, do that as soon as we're in. Without the ability to coordinate it'll give us extra time before they can move against us properly." He squinted at the display thoughtfully. "Place seems to be an armory and barracks for the most part. Underground vehicle garage here. They have a couple of labs there - Etienne seems to be held in one of them. And some cells." He looked at Annette. "What are the odds that Crossroads are involved in human experimentation?" The pretty older woman shrugged. "Based on reports I've seen, I would not put it past them. They've run highly unethical drug trials in third world countries before. Why do you ask?" "It's the most logical reason for them to build a huge prison overhead. Plenty of experimental stock, not many people on the outside that would care about them." Jase went back to looking at the floor plan. "Corridor outside the room Eddy's in. I can seal that off with a couple of walls to buy us time once we're there." He studied the map one more time, committing it to memory. "Okay. I'm ready to go when you all are." He straightened and looked at Devin, then Taggart. "We'll need a large open room to jump from and back to." Taggart nodded, getting to his feet. "Follow me. We've got an underground loading dock. It should be big enough." He glanced at the teens, curiousity warring with his stoic professional demeanor. "Who's going?"
  8. Neither twin's glare seemed to affect Jason at all, his pale green eyes glittering as he regarded Devin with something akin to curiousity. "Is that your condition for accepting my offer of help?" "Yeah." Devin said. "Not gonna lie - we could use the help. But not if you're going to paint the walls with whoever even looks at us funny. It's not worth that." Jase considered a moment or two longer, then shrugged. "No killing, then. My word on it." His lips twitched in wry humor. "Should be an interesting challenge."
  9. "Jase?" Sean's disturbingly (to some) melodious voice intruded on the lean youth's thoughts, the tone floating ethereally through the air of the vast library he was currently sitting in, reading a leather-bound copy of Tacitus' Histories. Sighing, he looked up- And then out, turning his head where it rested on the arm of the couch to look over at his friend. After volunteering his two cents regarding Devin's talent for drawing and the challenges of the teleport rescue, he'd once more retreated into his sanctum. "Yes?" "Going to try and get into the Crossroads security systems - it strikes me that this is a good time to try the whole 'lens' thing, since your powers boost effects on physical objects. Lets see if that goes for machines." "Good call." Jason swung his legs off the couch and stood in a smooth, neat motion. Ms Giles, Major Taggart and Dr Cook looked on in puzzlement, as they had when Cassie and Devin had held hands, trying to fathom what was going on. "Wait, you kids can boost each other?" Taggart asked first, his eyes narrowing. Cook looked astonished, and Giles thoughtful. Jason merely stared at the three of them wordlessly as he came to stand behind Sean, resting a hand on the androgyne's shoulder. The other teens, noting this, likewise schooled their expressions into variations on the theme of 'poker face'. "It seems there are more secrets to be uncovered." Ms Giles said lightly with a hint of a smile as she sat back. "Perhaps later, when trust has been established." "Perhaps." was all Jase said as he focused with ease, letting his Shine flow up against Sean's, imbuing the literal technomancer with a chilly, precise awareness of the chair he was sitting on, the laptop under his fingers, the wifi routers broadcasting to and from this room. The attunement performed, Jason glanced over at Devin. "I'll be coming along once Sean's cracked into their security." he told the teleporter quietly. "I should be able to give you the time you need to re-focus once we're there, regardless of what they have waiting."
  10. If Jason heard any of what had been said by Cook, or any of Devin's plan to rescue Etienne, he gave no sign of it or of anything else. That sense of withdrawal hung about him, an utter stillness that in the buzz and hum of the Fellowship as they exchanged glances and murmured words made him almost invisible. He did not fidget, or tap his fingers, or even blink: face immobile and eyes unfocused - or rather focused inwards - he appeared almost inanimate but for the faint rise and fall of his breathing. "So... wait, are you kids going to do what I think you're going to do ?" Sheriff Allister asked, frowning at Cade. "They're going to find Etienne, then free him as quickly and quietly as we can." Marissa said soothingly. "If he's still alive, anyway. If you or Major Taggart roll up wherever he's being held, they'll probably just kill him and take their chances." She made a face. "Much as I think it's nuts and think Etienne's a dog, Devin's right. He doesn't deserve whatever Kline will do to him." "And what if he's being held in the prison? Or somewhere worse?" Allister demanded. "What if you bippidy-bobbity over there and it's a trap and you're staring down the barrels of a dozen guns?" "That's why we have Charlie, Cade and-" Sean glanced at Exhibit C. "Jase?" "Hmm?" "Earth to Jase. You in for the Eddy rescue?" "Sure." The lean youth's voice was quiet, distant. "O-o-okay. You alright?" Sean narrowed his eyes. "Sure." came the reply in the same tone. "To be clear: we're rescuing Eddy, the guy you wanted to leave in a ditch?" Now Jason's eyes brightened as he was jogged out of whatever reverie he had fallen into, moving to focus on Sean in that eerie way that was, for him, normal. "I know what we're doing, Sean. And I don't have a grievance with Etienne anymore." He said with mild asperity that was oddly comforting after the distant tone. "Jase, you don't have to do this." Gar said in a low, urgent voice. "It could be dangerous." "And my friends could be in more danger without me there." Jase said simply. "If they need me, I'm going." His lips twitched minutely. "You can ground me later, if you want. I've often wondered what that is like." "Never needed to before." His dad snorted, shaking his head. "Not sure this is a grounding matter." Jason stood, giving his father a brief hug. "I'll be fine." He told him. "We'll talk more later, I promise. Right now I'm going to sit quietly and wait." Suiting action to words, he turned and headed over to one of the couches and stretched himself out along it, staring up unseeing at the ceiling and once more becoming utterly still.
  11. Jason was exchanging glares with Devin - or rather, Devin was glaring and Jase was trying to figure out what, exactly, the Jauntsens were on their high horse about. Firstly, Cook was smug slime and needed some of the air letting out of him. Secondly, didn't the Twins realise Jase wasn't actually intending to do any of those things, but merely rattle the composure out of the man so he wouldn't be thinking about disgrace or jail, but rather simply staying alive and whole. And thirdly, for a pair who'd terrorised a high school full of (relatively) blameless children, for a youth who'd nearly caused another boy to drown in his own blood over a perceived slight, to have a problem with a human-experimenting eugenicist getting the Vader treatment... Seemed somewhat hypocritical to him. In short, he saw their problem with the whole situation simply as being that they didn't have the whip in their hand, and it scared them. His eyes glittered as he considered that, and Devin's threat of war. They were frightened, lashing out, showing their teeth. Marissa once more establishing fear as her motive force - she didn't date because she was scared, she dated Cade because she was scared, she was apparently afraid to be in the same room as him. Neither even paused to consider he'd never threatened either of them, even remotely. Neither paused to consider that he'd stated categorically that he'd not harm a friend, and didn't lie. There was no true rationality in the reaction, he realised. Merely unthinking emotionality justified by the semblance of logic. It bothered him - but what bothered him more was that he found it vaguely contemptible. It was an ugly sensation to feel towards two people he still regarded as friends and peers. He didn't like it, and set some of his mental processes to work breaking it down, dissecting it, understanding it. He was distracted as Cass spoke up, turning his gaze on her and considering her words for a moment. "I promise that I won't use my powers again in this room at this time, or against Dr Cook - unless in self-defence, and then proportionately." He cocked his head to one side, narrowing his eyes at her. "Is that satisfactory?"
  12. "For the record - you do not have government backing." Major Taggart addressed Devin and the other teens, some firmness entering his tone. "For several reasons - not least of which being you are legally minors and so cannot be employed by the U.S. government, least of all in a black operation such as this one." "Good." Charlie spoke up. "That means we're not bound by any official secrets act, either." "Espionage Act of 1917, currently codified under Title 18, Sections 791 through 799 governing espionage, makes it a criminal offence to disseminate information regarding classified military or government projects in such a way that could be injurious to the security and safety of the United States or interfere with the running of its military operations. There's currently some debate as to how that interacts with the First Amendment, but suffice to say whistleblowing doesn't end well for the person blowing the whistle, usually." The words were spoken quietly, matter of factly. Jason's icy stare fixed on Taggart, who was nodding. "That said, I would greatly enjoy the sight of the U.S. government trying to prosecute super-powered minors, who gained said powers as part of an illegal eugenics experiment and wide-scale surveillance conducted on American citizens on U.S. soil. I think that would be a landmark media circus that might even get them to stop talking about Trump." Taggart's face froze as surely as though Jase had turned him into ice. "In your face." Devin smirked at Taggart. "Or wait... was that also in our face? Whose face are you in right now, Rain Man?" "Merely making observations." Jason shrugged, smiling a little. "In my opinion, it doesn't suit either side currently at this table to be at odds. I don't particularly want my face splashed all over the news or journalists digging into my life - at least currently." "And besides, I'm calling dibs on the exclusive." Cass interjected, mock-glaring at everyone. "Anyone talking to any journalist except me is off my Christmas card list and I'm never talking to you again." "Also that" Jase nodded slightly, the corners of his eyes crinkling in amusement. "Cassandra gets the Pulitzer." The good humor faded from his pale eyes as the door opened and Dr Cook returned, looking harried, with the two Airmen in tow. "Doctor, please take a seat." Annette said smoothly. "We've been having a most interesting discussion." There was a slight edge to the word 'interesting', her eyes boring into the doctor for a moment before she turned back to Jason. "So how do you see this relationship moving forward, Mr Ba- Jason." "Just call him JayBee." Devin grinned at the elegant woman. "If you're not a pile of ash afterwards, he's okay with that." Annette looked at the smirking Jauntsen, then at the glint in the jade depths of the young psychopath's eyes, and shook her heard, smiling a fraction. "I'll stick to 'Jason' for now." she decided, immediately giving the rest of the Fellowship a good impression of her common sense. "Smart." muttered Charlie with a sly smile. "You can tell why she's in charge." Sean grinned. "If you are being truthful," Jase spoke over the snickering. "Then we have aligning aims. You don't want Shelly to be eaten by a metaphysical shadowy parasite, nor do we. You don't want every detail of this project or our lives splashed all over the internet - nor do we. You want to find out what Crossroads has to do with all this - so do we. And finally, you are interested in us: our abilities specifically. And I, at least, am interested in the Aeon Society and how it can benefit me." He glanced at Cook. "Before I knew about Aeon or Branch Nine, I approached the doctor here with an offer of cooperation: to let me help him. He was less than enthusiastic." "You also lied about how you felt alienated and set apart from your friends. That you felt they were treating you - how was it you said it? 'Like a bomb about to go off or an abusive drunk parent'." Cook replied, a hint of triumphant accusation in his tone as he saw a chance to sow discord. "That you felt your efforts were unappreciated and that all you got from them was 'petty ingratitude and fear'." "Which is indeed how I felt yesterday." Jason nodded slowly, not at all discomfited by Cook's 'j'accuse' moment. "Indeed, I was close to leaving Shelly altogether by the time school was out yesterday. It seems, in light of events since our talk, that I was mistaken - or at least mostly mistaken. Perhaps my friends do struggle to understand and accept me, but no less than I struggle to understand them. I did not lie to you, doctor. Lies are your stock in trade, not mine." "You're a sociopath-" "High functioning psychopath." came a chorused mutter from the other teens. "-lying is all you do." Cook finished with defiant vitriol - and then the vicious satisfaction in his gaze turned to fear as an invisible grip closed around his throat, terrifyingly strong. His hands came up, but there was nothing to struggle against as he was pulled bodily out of his chair and onto his toes. "I can do many things." Jason's voice was calm, a contrast with the predatory gleam of his eyes. "I can reach down your throat and pull out your heart. I could twist your head clean off your shoulders, burn you slowly to ash as you scream, sizzling in your own fat. I could freeze parts of your body and shatter them, starting with your reproductive organs. I could do all that, and my heart rate would not climb even a fraction." Cook's breath came in gasping wheezes now, his face turning dark red. "Am I lying?" "Dude..." Devin said warningly. Gar reached out and put a hand on Jase's shoulder, his expression tense with worry for his son. "Am. I. Lying?" Jason repeated, each word sliding into place like knives into sheaths. Cook managed to shake his head and croak something that sounded like 'no'... and then collapsed heavily, catching himself on the table and falling back into his seat, gasping for life-giving air. "Next time you feel like insulting me, Doctor Cook, bear that in mind." Jase stated in the frozen silence. "Your discomfort, fear, pain and life mean less than nothing to me. You extend your safety by minding your manners and cooperating." He held out a hand, a donut drifting into it as a cup of the admittedly terrible coffee was poured from pot and likewise floated down to the end of the table where he reached out and took it, taking a sip and making a face. "So you see, Ms Giles, I am willing to cooperate in the achieving of our mutual goals, taking one day at a time. Right now I think the best thing for us to do is find out all we can about the legends of the Dark, then confer with you about what aid we might possibly need." "Yes." Annette nodded, recovering her aplomb admirably - though looking a little wide-eyed as the gasping Cook rubbed at his bruised throat, his eyes downcast. "That seems sensible." She looked at the others. "Does anyone else have any further concerns?"
  13. "As close as my research can tell, the Dark has been active in Shelly since the beginning. Possibly before the beginning - but for that we'd have to consult the local Blackfeet and hope their oral history has some reference to it. The Land of Upside-Down Thunder is a Blackfoot term for this area, though, as is 'Dawning Dark Light'. So it's safe to say that they have some knowledge of it." Jason spoke quietly, addressing Ms Giles and Major Taggart. "I'm not going to give the full presentation I gave to everyone else right now, but the short version is this: every twenty-seven years there is a spate of killings, disappearances, and violent assaults that would lead to death if they weren't interrupted. People go crazy - mothers kill children, drunken friends pull knives on each other... you get the picture. After talking with the Man in Black earlier when he visited me in the hospital, and combining it with what you've said about the high count of 'aether' in this area, I think that something in this area produces people with Shine - weak, isolated, but harvestable. And once a generation or so, the Dark wakes up and eats, feeding on the deaths of those with gifts. Only this time, several things have changed - we're stronger than the previous ones for some reason." He paused, thinking for a moment. "Mr Black did say that he regarded us like I regard my flowers. It's possible he was blowing smoke - or he might have something to do with whats different this time, why we've manifested gifts beyond what the project was capable of cultivating." "So we're his eugenics experiment?" Cassie asked, wrinkling her nose. "We know he's old. He can afford to think in terms of generations, centuries of nudging the course of events, searching out bloodlines with the best chance of producing us. Then he takes the best seeds he can find, and plants them in the best ground for them to bloom." Jason looked at everyone. "Hell, maybe he even steered the Project here. Ms Giles did say that Kline's a geneticist, not a quantum physicist, yet he suddenly stumbled on the concept of 'aether'. What if someone helped him?" "Shit." Marissa said softly. "That makes sense. Chess played over decades." "If I had a goal like 'defeating the Dark', and needed people like us to do it, and had time on my hands... It's how I'd operate." Jason shrugged. "Back to the Dark - we know it has some kind of intelligence to how it acts. We know that Mr Black has said we need to find Cody Sikes. We know, thanks to Cassie, that it's heart seems to be in downtown Shelly. We know Devin can potentially flip us over to it's side of the mirror to fight it. But..." "But what don't we know?" Sean finished, nodding. "We should talk to the Blackfeet before we go charging in."
  14. "I don't like it." Allister said, though in a much calmer manner as he absorbed what his son and the other teens were telling him. "Not the dating thing - I mean everything else." "You think the kids asked for it?" Hank inquired in blunt fashion. "Any of them? I know for a fact that Jase here ain't hurt anyone that hasn't hurt someone else first. And if you're worried about him being a loose cannon, think of the two shitheels that jumped him at school. He could've turned them inside out." "But I didn't." Jason said quietly. "Because I saw they were being pushed by the Dark. Like Mari said, it can get in peoples heads. Those without Shine, at least. It can't exactly make them do stuff they wouldn't normally, but it can push them into acts from their darker sides and turn it up to eleven. For instance, it couldn't make a loving father kill his kid with a snap of it's fingers, but it might be able to push an angry man into beating a loved one and then just... going too far. Marissa pointed out that maybe Liam was pushed by the Dark when he attacked Lona. If that had been something I'd considered at the time, I'd have acted differently." He didn't sound guilty, per se, but it was at least an admission that his actions were not altogether something he took pride in. "You saying he was innocent?" Allister peered at the slender young man. Jason slowly shook his head, frowning a little. "I don't know if he was or not. I am pretty sure that if he wasn't capable of the act, the Dark couldn't have pushed him to it." "Liam 'Hey girl, here's a drink that's totes not spiked' Day?" Marissa snorted. "He's totally capable of it." "Amen." Sophia chimed in. "The guy's a sleaze who hangs around hitting on Juniors and Sophomores because Seniors are too wise to his shit. No tears shed here." As the Sheriff looked at her she squirmed a little, shooting a glance at Jason. "Like, I don't think it's cool that Bannon 'Carrie'd' his ass, but if he's graduating from sleaze to full-on rapist, I feel safer that he's limping rather than running." "Also... If it wasn't for Jase, most of us wouldn't really be understanding our abilities the way we do. He put a lot of brain work into figuring out what exactly the Shine is, how it lets us do the things we do, and so on." Charlie admitted with a slight grin. "He was the one that put the idea of the Mantis Shrimp in my head for a 'combat shape'. He's helped us out, Sheriff. A lot. And for the record, in case it wasn't clear: he's not a monster. He stopped three guys from assaulting Cora at the fair." "He saved some of us from a sabertooth in the woods." Marissa put in. "I know, I know. Yes, a sabertooth. Don't ask me how it got there." "He helped fight the vagisaurus in round one, too." Devin said. "He could've run, but didn't." The teleporter smirked at Jase. "He's crazy, but that shit was awesome. Apart from my junk almost getting eaten." "You should see his garden." Cassie chirped. The others looked at her askance, some of them slowly considering even as Autumn nodded firm agreement. "What? It's beautiful. Seems to me a monster couldn't grow flowers like that. Even if he does lack pluck." Jason smiled faintly at the teasing, inclining his head towards the blonde girl. "Yeah - the garden is awesome." Autumn said with a warm smile, trying not to blush as pale green eyes flicked her way. She grabbed a donut and hastily bit into it to stop herself saying anything more. "He might not be normal." Sean said quietly. "But none of us are normal, and Jase? He's our not-normal. He's got our backs." Ian Allister looked at them all, then at Jason, and huffed quietly, his manner thoughtful. Cade put a hand on his shoulder. "Dad, they're right. You know what Gramps is always saying about judging people before walking a mile in their shoes." "Hmm." The sheriff grunted non-committedly, then looked at Jason again, then at his son. Settling back in his chair, he appeared deep in thought, apparently having nothing further to say. Ms Giles, who had watched the interplay avidly as the Fellowship spoke up and gathered around one of their own, was wearing a slight smile. "It appears the sheriff has some things to think about. As, indeed, perhaps so does Jason." she remarked gently. "To sum up the answer to the last question Devin asked: we're not sure why people have different affinities and abilities. Though I imagine some of you-" she glanced around at the Fellowship "-might be working on figuring that out yourselves." "In the meantime," Taggart spoke up for the first time in a while. "There seems to be a large paranormal threat in Shelly. I'd appreciate any intelligence you could give us on it. I know, for example, that Miss Allen here can sense where it seems to be based. But what exactly is this Dark and how long has it been here?"
  15. Annette managed to shake off her shookedness at the sight of the photograph Cassie had shown her of the Man In Black, focusing on Devin and his question with a soft frown of concentration. "In all honesty, Devin. I don't know. The Society's knowledge of psionic abilities is limited to random occurrences of telekinesis, telepathy and clairvoyance in the past, none of which have been proven reliable or studied in lab conditions. Just like we can't explain why Jason - for example - is capable of throwing a fully grown man around whilst Miss Roberts can barely lift a softball." "Wait." Sheriff Allister leaned forward, grasping something from the dizzying whirl of talk about powers. "Throw a man around?" The Fellowship, practically as one, tensed as the large man turned his gaze on the one teen who wasn't tense at all. "You're the one that attacked Liam Day." He half-guessed, half-stated, eyes narrowing. "It's the only thing that makes sense - no sign of a break-in, no fingerprints, no hair, no sign that he even fought anyone." "That last might be to do with attitude." Jason said quietly, ignoring the sheriff and focusing on Annette's words, as though an accusation of aggravated assault was nothing to concern himself with. "You mentioned Tawny was intimidated by her powers. One or two of us had that problem as well, at first." He mentioned no names. "The bolder among us made the most rapid apparent progress, the ones that saw it as something to be pushed at, explored, played with. We shared what we learned with the others, and learned from them in turn. As for why Devin, Marissa and Cade are different... I'm not sure. Devin's power is definitely psionic in nature, but perhaps doing what he can do excludes someone from being able to do anything else. Marissa and Cade don't share that commonality with us - they're different in how their Shine manifests." "In other words, you don't know either." Marissa said with a smirk. "Yet." Jason corrected with unruffled calm, smiling faintly at her - and then the Sheriff slammed his hand down on the table. "Don't ignore me." He growled, pointing at Jason. "You put the Day boy in a coma. He looked like he'd been in a damned car wreck without a seatbelt. He attacked Avalon Wilson so you went all vigilante on him with your power." Jason stared at him, face expressionless and a fathomless cold humor in his gaze. "Prove it." he said at last, with a shrug. Allister came to his feet, face turning red. Gar and Hank likewise stood, plainly intending to defend Jase, though Gar's hands were raised in a warding off gesture. "Steady on now, Sheriff. We've all had a long day and don't need any more trouble right now." Jason's dad said with as much calm as he could muster. Ms Giles and Major Taggart looked on, somewhat concerned. "Trouble?! That boy of yours is trouble. Goddamn criminal sociopath with psychic powers!" "High-functioning psychopath." Jason said, looking a little surprised as Sean, Devin and Marissa all muttered it in chorus with him. Flashing them a brief smile, he turned his gaze to the sheriff once more. "What's the plan, sheriff? Lock me up and ask me nicely to stay put while you find a judge willing to hear the case or a prosecutor willing to carry it? And assuming you're lucky in that regard, and my defense lawyer is both asleep and drunk, are you going to send me to juvie and, once again, rely on my goodwill to keep me caged." Jason's voice dripped scorn. "Or maybe just whip up a posse and have a lynching party like the good ol' days? No moral high horse there, I'm afraid." "We have laws for a reason, Bannon." Allister growled. "Yes, to reassure people that the government is in control and has the monopoly on all use of force other than in self-defense." Jason sighed, rolling his eyes. "Tell me, Sheriff. How law-abiding would you be if your friend was the one assaulted? Or your daughter, perhaps? Would all of Liam's rights and protections be observed scrupulously?" "Gentlemen, perhaps we could all sit down?" Ms Giles said soothingly. "Sheriff, I am certain that you will find that Liam is in much better health than he was first thing this morning. It seems that Avalon Wilson used her gift to speed the healing of the damage Jason caused." She cleared her throat. "Also, I think if you question him he will completely exonerate Mr Bannon. I understand he believes that two burly men with foreign accents attacked him." "Great. More mind-fuckery." The sheriff was unmollified as he re-took his seat, glaring at Jason as Hank and Gar likewise sat. "And what happens next time your star pupil here decides to take the law into his own hands?" "Planning to read the Dark its rights?" Jason fired back without even a pause. "Want due process for monsters?" "The only monster I see here, Bannon," Sheriff Allister said with great deliberation "Is you." The silence that followed filled the room for a long moment, as Gar Bannon went pale, Hank looked grim, and Jase merely smiled a thin, cold smile.
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