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Everything posted by Bannon

  1. He'd stayed quiet for a moment or two as the others offered their congratulations. If he'd have known, he'd have been amused at how similar Clara's thoughts were to his own, though unlike her he suffered no pangs of guilt or anxiety over what he saw as justifiable concerns. If there was an enemy capable of subtle predatory action, then splitting off the perceived weakest of the herd would be the perfect strategem. Eliminate Cora in an obvious violent fashion, and the emotional balance of Cade and others would be thrown out of harmony as they processed their shock and grief, but would also make them seek a focus and perhaps redouble their determination. Make her just disappear or appear to be the victim of an accident, and the creeping doubt would erode people's courage, distract them, and make them easier prey. If he was the enemy of the Fellowship, it is what he would do. Nevertheless, Cora's achievement was worthy of note, regardless of his scathing words a few days ago. And it was socially relevant to voice some kind of support. "Congratulations on your acceptance." he nodded politely to the tall girl, smiling slightly. "Hopefully today will give you some exercises to take with you to practice during your free time." "Thanks." she smiled back. "So, what have you got planned?" "Meditation." he replied with faint gleam of humour in his eyes. "I've been having some thoughts about how best to proceed, so I'll ask people's patience as we try stuff out. It's a starting point, and if it doesn't work for some, or even most of you then we'll find what does." He motioned to the gear Lilly had brought. "Let's shoulder some gear and go over to the back fields. We'll be out of casual sight of the road there, and it's where I've been practicing some." The teens looked at each other, then shrugged and picked up the equipment, following the stiffly-moving figure of Jason as he, a hard case in each hand, trekked around the side of the house and towards the field he'd mentioned. It was maybe a ten minute walk, and ended in wide, long pasture boundaried by hedgerows of tough scrub. A number of large logs were arranged in a around a bonfire in the field's center, and old farm machinery was dotted here and there: tractor-towed ploughs and threshers. Following Jase's lead, the Fellowship set their burdens down around the logs, and sat in a loose circle. Jason settled down likewise, sitting Indian fashion, and took a sip of water before starting. "The Shine is hard for us to quantify. Some of us can move things or start fires, some of us can heal or harm with a touch, or teleport, and some of us can change our bodies to grow scales and claws. And some of us aren't so dramatic in our manifestations - yet." he said with a smile. "But I think it's all the same energy we're using. Clara can sense it, even manipulate it's flow directly. And we - or at least some of us - can also sense the Shine in the world around us and each other, at least when close. So that's what I want us to work on first, that sixth sense." "The reason I think it's important is this: As some of you know, and others may have surmised, I am not neurotypical. I have missing, or at least severely undeveloped, parts of my brain that are to do with social conditioning, affective empathy and fear. In the literature, I am what is called a 'primary psychopath'. With the tag 'high-functioning' thrown on for good measure." His tone was matter of fact as he explained. "Please do not confuse me with the movie monsters. I have no special compulsions to kill people, or eat them, nor do I gain pleasure only from the suffering of others. I am also not compulsively violent - despite what happened to Liam. What I am is fundamentally, neuro-chemically disconnected from what most people consider humanity - fear, hate, remorse, sadness and a few other emotions are things I cannot feel. Others are muted, or occur in brief flashes." He paused for a moment, studying them all. "I'm telling you this for a few reasons. Firstly, to clear the air and have understanding. I like all of you , to varying degrees. I would not harm you unless you tried to harm me. But my liking has nothing to do with group neurotransmitter bonding and everything to do with conscious appreciation of you as individuals. Make of that what you will." He spread his hands in a shrug, smiling. "And by all means approach me if you want to understand more, or do your own research. I'd advise avoiding studies done before 2005, however. They tend to greatly conflate other personality disorders with primary psychopathy, as well as contain a lot of sensationalist movie-fodder." He made a face, then returned to the point. "The second, and main reason is that due to the Shine, I am able to connect to you all. Most people are fog to me - swirling and irrelevant, not even real - disturbing as that might seem to you. With you all, I have a heightened awareness of you, as though simply clasping hands completes a missing connection that for typical brains is accomplished through those neurotransmitters. Perhaps that is why I was drawn to hang out with most of you before the night of the Party. But since then, it has only gotten stronger. I always disliked physical contact before the party - but now touch, hugs, casual gestures have meaning for me, when they did not before. A simple hand-holding likewise. For me, at least, the Shine connecting us fills in a blank spot in my awareness." He fell silent, trying to gauge the impact of his words. Content that none of them were getting up and leaving, he carried on. "I've been experimenting, expanding that awareness beyond touch. When sitting near you and focused, I can feel you like warm lights in my mind, some of you at least. Others, like Lilly and Cade and Laurie, seem quieter somehow, but there is still that subconscious sense of you as 'real'. So what I want is for each of us to try that. We gather in a circle, sit comfortably. Take the hands of the people next to you, at least to start. Let their presence imprint on your mind, like the sun overhead and the grass under you. And breathe - most of you know at least the basics of meditation, right? Just close your eyes, breath and try to feel each other." He offered his hands to the people beside him, Cassandra and Charlie. "Don't push or force it. Think of it as looking at something out of the corner of your eye. If it doesn't work, we'll tweak it some, or try something else."
  2. Current Taskings Tallahassee Cassie, the Classy Lassie with the Sassy Chassis (I feel no shame!), has assigned taskings to members of the Fellowship as of 'Marking The Trail'. These are all relatively important and should ideally be completed soonish, as they tie into the journal above. Of course, no-one is making you do them. But as of the end of the Interim period, everyone will be advised of the plans. So if you don't do them, we will stand around and judge you with judging stares. Tasking List: · Interrogating Etienne – Clara, Marissa, Sara and Avalon. The purpose is twofold – to establish via telepathy how deep Etienne is in Dr Cook’s project, including whether he was telling the truth about his sole role being to infiltrate the Wright’s Lab. Secondly to see how trustworthy he is now. Questions that need asking: was he aware of how widespread Cook’s surveillance was, and more to the point was he ever part of it more than peripherally? What does he know about the Project? What is his current status with the Project? (And anything else useful we can think of). Completed as of the end of Chasing Rainbows. · Investigating the Reservation – the Fellowship have a theory that the Blackfoot tribe may know more about the Land of Upside Down Thunder and even about the Shine. After Etienne, Jase, Clara and Sara will seek an audience with the elders of the tribe, to try and glean what information they can. · Prison Raid – Devin, Cade and Lona are to work out a way to get into the prison: possibly through having Lona offer to perform for the inmates. With Cade and Devin as roadies, the three should be able to get in, Devin’s teleportation allowing him to be in multiple places in a short space of time and thus perhaps get hands on files showing what is really going on there. · Cassandra and Sean will be working research, covering the company that owns the prison for starters – who are they, who are their backers, any ties to Cook. Plus of course doing a deep background check on Dr Cook himself. In addition, Sean will be testing the coverage of Cook’s surveillance – how invasive and widespread is it exactly? We know the school and med center are wired up – are people’s homes? · Lilly, Charlie and Laurelei – checking out the med center. Investigating who owns it, ask around about it in order to supplement Cass and Sean’s research. Additionally, try to grab some pertinent medical records of the teens and their parents if at all possible, in order to figure out if there’s any particular links or traits Cook is looking for.
  3. "I actually counted on Cook seeing what I did..." Jason had started to say, his expression composed, when Cade and Cora had pulled up to the farmhouse and gotten out of the star athlete's jeep. He studied the pair, noting their subdued attitudes, but Jason put it down to them also having heard about Liam and not being happy to be around him - until Cade's greeting at least, which seemed upbeat enough. So... it wasn't about him, and they were both happy to be here. Probably. "It's going... well." Jase replied, with a slight pause as though considering, a private joke within the silence of his own mind. Psychopaths weren't androids - they had moods - but the muted nature of their emotional responses made them seem alien to most. In truth, he was mostly in a good mood, though to Cadeline he seemed much as he usually did - emotions hidden behind a polite faint smile and gleaming green stare. "Glad to see you both here."
  4. The two of them relaxed, sharing a few more music pieces back and forth as the sun slipped to the horizon until Lona's phone started to flash it's battery indicator and they paused to plug the charger in. Snacks were obtained as the TV played some old movie on one of the satellite dish channels, though both of them had seen it a dozen times and so instead were idly conversing, having settled into a rhythm of back and forth. Lona had been nervous at first about asking the questions she wanted to ask, but realised quickly that Jason, whether he chose to answer or not, was not easily offended at all. In addition to having little problem asking equally sensitive questions... "Okay, so 'love'." Lona chewed on a strip of deer jerky. "Do you feel love?" "Define it." Jason replied with a sly smile, his eyes on the TV. She elbowed his arm, snerking. "Don't be a smartass. I mean... Do you love? Can you love?" "I wasn't being a smartass." he rubbed his arm, nudging her back. "I'll never 'fall in love', go head over heels for someone due to brain chemistry eroding my judgement. I feel lust - desire if you prefer. But love is a conscious thing for me - I make an intellectual choice on who I love, who I care for, who I befriend. Regular neurochemical 'bonding' doesn't take place." He glanced at her. "Wow." Lona studied him as she mulled that over. "So... You like me because you 'choose' to like me? Not because your hormones are telling you to. Hmm." She chewed thoughtfully. "That would make the world a simpler place. Okay, your turn." "Best kiss you've ever had." Jason's lips curled in a grin. "To date." "Oh fuck off." Lona went red, staring fixedly at the TV screen. "Nope. We are not going there." "Quid pro quo, remember?" He prodded. "Devin." she muttered, feeling her face heat up. "Sorry, didn't catch-" "I said DEVIN!" she almost yelled, hiding her face in her hands. She was aware Jase was snickering. "You're the devil, you know that?" she complained as she peeked out over her hands at him. "And don't ask me what it was like, Mr Never Been Kissed - Probably." She narrowed her eyes at him. "My turn - your best kiss to date. And if you've not had one, I get another question." "Clara." he replied without hesitating. Lona froze, staring at him as he lazily turned pale green eyes her way. "I was curious, so I stole a kiss. It shocked her about as much as it seems to have shocked you." He smiled slightly. "When..?" "This morning. We were talking, and I felt the impulse, so decided to see what it was like." He gave her a sly smile. "And I'm not telling you what it was like either." "I bet she freaked the fuck out." Lona mused, trying to imagine uptight Clara being kissed by Jase. Of course, that turned her mind to imagining what it would be like to kiss Jase, so she steered hard-to-port away from those reefs, glancing into her bourbon glass. "This is really good - but I'm not getting a buzz at all." she complained. "My 'Shine' is nifty, but not being able to get a buzz on? That sucks." "You ever tried turning it off?" Jase asked curiously, half-turning on the couch and bringing one leg up as he faced her. "Turning it off?" Lona blinked, then thought. "Devin can feel points in space, but he can choose to ignore those in order to focus on where he is right now. I can feel every book in this room, but likewise can choose not to. The Shine doesn't seem to be completely involuntary, at least once we've got to grips with it." He paused. "Insert pun about Charlie's manifestation here." he added with a playful glint in his eye, before turning serious. "I imagine it's similar to a meditative exercise. Find the part of your Shine that seems autonomic and turn it off."
  5. He paused, cocking his head fractionally to one side before glancing over at her. Lona was getting better at reading Jason's mannerisms and was pretty sure this was 'Micro-expression No. 32: Curious Surprise'. She briefly wondered what expression Liam Day had seen - but shut down that train of thought before it even got out of the rolling stock yard. "Of course it is." he smiled a little. "There's a spare bedroom upstairs. Though there's not much to do here other than read and listen to music." He put the large tupperware container of chili in the fridge, then turned to face her, curiousity still in his pale eyes. "What's your mother's damage, anyway? You get attacked and she goes to the hospital under sedation?" Lona opened her mouth, expression angry, then stopped and her expression softened into pain. "I don't know, honestly. My therapist says she's not dealing with her grief correctly. All I know is that everything I do is about her right now -- her pain, her ego, her anger." Lona dropped into a chair and sighed. "So I really have too much shit to deal with her shit right now, too. I just won't sleep tonight unless I know I'm not going to have to deal with her." Jason considered her for a long moment, his attitude one of study, then nodded. "I do not know how to deal with my father's grief either." he stated quietly. "I tried pouring away all his drink once. He did not get angry or hit me, he just cried. And then went and bought more the next day." He turned and took down a bottle from a shelf, along with two glasses. "At least there is usually some good bourbon around." he said with another one of those wry smiles, holding up the glasses. "Would you like a drink?" "Hells, yes." Lona chuckled. "It's funny, Gerault also offered me alcohol the night of the fair. Are you going to hug me while I cry and tell me I have to go to therapy, too?" "Is there therapy for kids who know monsters exist, and fight them?" He responded with a laugh gleaming in his eyes as he sat down at the kitchen table beside her and poured them both a generous measure before sliding a glass in front of Lona and taking one for himself. "I think the best we can manage is group therapy so we at least understand and appreciate each other, though I have to say I find that to be a hard and painful process." He winked, offering his own glass in a toast. "That said, if you feel the need for someone to hug you while you cry, that bit is easy and not so terrible for me." "Right." Lona raised her glass in a mirror of his and took a sip of the bourbon, nodding appreciatively at the flavor. "You're right, your dad does have good bourbon. I mean, it's the shittiest of silver linings, I guess. So which is the hard and painful part - understanding the group or appreciating us?" There was a twinkle in her eye that suggested she was teasing him -- if he was reading her right. "I'd say... A lot of column A, little bit of column B. Except sometimes the other way around." Jase deadpanned, causing Lona to be glad she hadn't taken another sip of bourbon as she snickered. He took a swallow of the bourbon, relaxing a little, then stood and gestured for her to follow him through to the lounge. It was different in here from how she remembered back when this had been the Wilson Farm. It was more of a reading room than a family room for noisy kids to sit in front of the TV, though there was a TV, she noticed. The easy chair and the couch were of different make, but still so similar to those she remembered - but there the differences ended. There had not been this many books in the Wilson lounge. Shelves had been installed, bookcases moved in, reading lamps set over the seats and the beanbag in one corner by the picture window. Cheap paperbacks, collected periodicals, anthologies of poetry in different languages and alongside them a copy of Grays Anatomy, all the way up to what looked like an incredibly old set of Encyclopedias - and everything had the carefully dog-eared look of being read, absorbed, even loved. This wasn't a sterile show-library for the pretentious, everything behind glass cases in perfect symmetrical order - it lived. It was organised, to be sure, but along more pragmatic lines, and some books had been left out, a small pile next to the beanbag by the window. "You read all of these?" Lona asked, smiling slightly as she took it in whilst sitting on the couch. Jase plopped down beside her, his green eyes studying the shelves as he nodded, taking another sip from his glass. "These, and those in other rooms. I switch them out now and then, trade books at second hand stores or donate them to libraries if I don't want them anymore. Some I keep just because I like re-reading them." He smiled then, a gentle sort of expression as he looked at the room. "Feel free to browse if you want to." he said with a glance at Lona, who smiled back at him with a nod as she settled in, drawing her legs up under her. They sat in comfortable silence for a short while, then Jase spoke. "I'm curious." Lona looked to see his eyes focused on her in that way he had, though it didn't seem quite as unsettling right now. "I mean, I was curious when you asked to hang out on Friday morning - and given everything that's happened, I'm even more curious why you still want to hang out with me." He smiled, appearing to mull that over for a heartbeat, then shrugged. "What did you want to talk to me about?" he asked directly as he took another sip of bourbon.
  6. ((This fic is the last open fiction for this interim period. It takes place on the Sunday afternoon following 'Winning First' and the off-screen self-defence class taught by Lilly. It is assumed all the Fellowship are invited, though not all are expected to show.)) The bath water was cold. That was by design rather than neglect, at least. Jason's muscles ached from the workout Hank had put him through all morning, and the lanky youth had bruises purpling nicely on his ribs, arms, legs and, in one case, his face. After the calisthenics had come the unarmed and armed combat practice, using pads and gloves for the first, followed by dummy wooden knives wrapped in duct tape for the second. Hank had pushed him hard emotionally as well as physically, delivering stinging criticism of his student's technique (which didn't faze Jason) before moving to humiliating and painful takedowns when Jase made a dumb mistake. That did get Jason's attention, and more than once he'd considered hurling his friend and instructor a dozen feet or so. Hank had laughed at the look in his eyes, inviting him to go ahead, or else quit - it'd be the same result either way. And Jase had risen from the floor and resumed his stance without a word. They'd taken a break just before noon, sitting down over a cup of coffee and a sandwich to go over the morning's work. "You're overthinking the moves." Hank had advised. "Don't get me wrong - thinking's good. But it's also why you're a little slow. You're trying to reason out what should come faster: I do this, you do that. And I know why, kid." he'd said, cutting Jason off. "Like I said, you'll learn. You need to fight with some emotion, but to do that you need to keep that temper on a longer leash than you do now. You're either all brain or all instinct." He'd gently punched Jase's shoulder. "We'll get you there." Jason remembered that simple encouragement as he lay submerged in the icy cold bath, now and then feeling a lump of frozen water bump against the side of his face, the only part of him that wasn't numbed by the immersion. He hoped Hank had been right - the fury in his core felt very far away right now as the ice stole all sensation, but he knew that if the right conditions were met, it would come roaring back up from the depths of his soul like a beast. He needed those middle gears, and his somewhat harsh training at Hank's hands was the only way he could think of to learn that kind of control under stress. Groaning softly, he rose from the water and stepped from the bath, examining himself in the mirror with a clinical eye. He ached, but the bruises would fade swiftly enough at his age. Indeed, he felt a certain satisfaction at the stiffness in his muscles and the soreness of the discoloured patches. He had endured, not lost his temper even when provoked, and come through a harsh few hours of training without 'cheating' by using his psychokinetic gifts. He called a towel to his hand and dried off, wincing a little at the pain when he was a touch too rough, then got dressed and went downstairs. There was no food prepared today, unless one counted the pot of leftover chili in the fridge. If people cared to stick around after feeling out what each of them was capable of, powers-wise, then he would provide as a host should. Otherwise, today's meeting was going to be in the large field out back which he used himself for practice. Most of the others didn't have physically-oriented gifts - at least not of the 'moving things' variety, but he was interested to see if Lilly could replicate her astonishing kick, or whether Charlie's shape-shifting could make him stronger, or run faster, or perform in ways other than 'simply' growing claws, teeth and armor plates. Also, he had an idea for everyone to settle and meditate first, try to feel each other through the 'Shine', as he had with Clara yesterday. To feel how the Shine connected them and everything around them in a subharmonic kind of way. He wasn't sure how, exactly, but the Shine let him feel objects at rest or in motion around him, and touch them as though with his own hands, sensory feedback and all. It allowed Devin to be connected to all points in space with only minor concentration. It allowed Lona to sense and heal injury. And so on with all the others, even those whose powers were harder to quantify, such as Lilly. Something sure had allowed her to kick multiple hundred-pounds of beast through a tree. And Clara could seemingly interact on a more fundamental level with the Shine, enhancing it - perhaps nullifying it too? He paused as he got a bottle of water from the fridge, thinking it over. It fit the pattern - Lona had caused pain in Liam and could take it away. He could excite or quiet molecular activity. Hmmm. There was much to be found out about their gifts. Hopefully today would yield some results. He headed outside to the porch, sitting down a trifle stiffly, and waited for people to show.
  7. "I am interested in what Marissa had to say. She might have had suggestions and insights for those of us who are not so football-centered." Jason spoke up from his perch by the window, his voice carrying to where Mari was at the door as his intent gaze fixed on Lilly. "When I ask someone a question, I do prefer that they themselves answer it. I also would prefer manners from people who are my guests." He turned his pale eyes to the girl at the door. "I'm sorry that you were cut off, Marissa. It was rude, and I would appreciate if you would stay at least long enough to answer my question. Not that you owe it to anyone, but call it a kindness."
  8. "Metaphysics." Jason said in his usual quiet fashion. Devin glanced at him with some asperity. "Metawhatsits to you too." he said, eyes narrowing. Jason smiled very slightly. "It means 'we're not dealing with science'. I'm saying I think you're right." he nodded at Marissa and Devin. "We've already theorised that the Dark feeds on misery, violence and terror. The worst crimes have usually been loved ones turning on loved ones, friends falling out, that manner of thing." His brow furrowed. "And if I had thought of that last night, I'd have acted differently." It was not remorse, as such, but it was an acknowledgement that his actions had been unsound. Intellectual regret might have been the best way to put it. "I might not feel fear, but I feel anger when my friends are threatened. I was enraged in the woods yesterday - it's entirely possible that fury - the urge to cause pain, however justified - feeds the Dark as much as misery and fear." Jason glanced out of the window he leaned beside, the light gleaming in his green eyes. "Negative emotions countered with positive emotions..." he mused. "It makes very good sense." He glanced back at the others. "I was going to seek some help with my... issue of having no middle gears. Now, I'm doubly certain it is needed. Because as it stands, I am a hindrance." he admitted with a troubled expression in his eyes. He looked at them all, plainly struggling with something. "I find myself in a unique position of actually needing help. From those of you who wish to extend it, at any rate." His smile was wryly self-deprecating, though his gaze was serious. "I cannot help how I am made, but I can choose how to play the hand I am dealt. And that will be hard." Before those who weren't quite aware of 'how he was made' could speak up, he continued. "As for Marissa's idea: I'm in favour. Cutting off the food source will weaken our foe. Perhaps enough that we can defeat it, or at least drive it into hibernation of some kind." He looked at Marissa. "So how do we begin this campaign?"
  9. Yes, with regards to playing. And aight - I shall start the Training Fic today. There was going to be a small one between Lona and Jase, but that should be easily and quickly done as it is just the two of us. Assuming Dawn is still up for that fic, are we clear to proceed with that too, Nina?
  10. "A smart one, though." Jason said mildly as he plucked a cold slice of pizza from it's box. Steam began to rise from the slice as it made the transition to his mouth, and he bit into the warmed cheese and meat with relish." Mmmf- It'sh a good idea." The small fridge in the corner opened as he walked over, bending down and picking up a can of coke from the shelf inside. The others could see more cans, plus bottles of water and what looked like craft beer of some kind. "If Sara's willing, I'm willing to give Etienne enough benefit of the doubt to allow him the chance to clear his name. Either way, we will learn valuable data - he's either deeper in Cook's dealings than we know, or he isn't and we have a potential ally." Lona nudged him, causing him to look at her. With a smile, the girl held up a cold slice of delicious 'za in mute appeal. Pretending to think it over, Jase smiled very slightly as she felt it grow warmer in her hand. "With that and the Reservation, I think we at least have some starting points for a 'what next'."
  11. "Don't be." Lona smiled a little, then schooled her expression somewhat at Clara's hurt glance, though she rolled her eyes. "Come on. Everyone's thinking the same thing except you." It was plain that this was a bone of contention between the two tightly-knit almost-sisters. "I doubt that Etienne was in on the widespread and invasive surveillance." Jason remarked absently, his eyes still on the string board. "By what both he and Cook said, born out by the evidence of his GPS device, his only task was to inveigle himself into the Wright's genetics lab, for which he was brought in specifically. The cameras and microphones everywhere were in place long before Etienne got here." Pale green eyes flicked across to Marissa. "You're right that Clara is one reason he hasn't had an accident. I have one or two more - one being that attacking Doctor Cook's hireling might rope us into a war on two fronts. We can't deal as effectively with the Dark if we're also fighting against the mundane pressures Cook's black project can bring to bear, and we might need Cook at some point." He shrugged, going back to studying the board. "What, so you don't want to fuck him up?" Devin asked, narrowing his eyes. "I didn't say that. I'm saying: fuck him up for the right reasons, and in the right way. Clara knows my conditions regarding Etienne - he does not come to this farm, and if I catch him spying on me or us here, all bets are off." Jason met Devin's eyes, his own expression glacial. "But your anger - and it is justified anger - about the spying on yourself and your family should be aimed at Cook. Etienne only spied on the Wrights - and intended to use Clara's affection to assist him. She and her family are the injured party where he is concerned. For the rest of us, he's a convenient but undeserving target." "So we don't tar and feather him?" Marissa glanced quickly at Jason, but not long enough for her to meet those eyes. She couldn't deal with that, not right now. "Because I hate to agree with 'Rule 63 Carrie' here, but he's right: going after Cook is going to be trouble we don't need while we're fighting monsters from Beyond." she said to her brother and the others present. "He's literally got the town in his pocket." "The Dark is more important, I'd say." Cassie piped up. "I mean, at least Cook doesn't want to cause mass slaughter and terror." "I never thought I'd ever hear you defend Eddy." Lona stared at Jason, who smiled slightly and shook his head. "I'm not. By all means, get the tar and feathers if you all wish. I just want everyone to be certain why he deserves punishment and not mix his crimes up with Cook's, as well as understand what taking action against Etienne might trigger. Personally, I was considering extending Cook some cooperation - as I said in the clearing yesterday. I plan to attach conditions to my cooperation, one of which is Etienne being let go from his mercenary employment and advised by his employer to move on - without a good reference. After all, he's pretty much a failure and useless to Cook's project as things stand. Punishment that fits the crime." He glanced at Clara. "I'm just inclined towards giving Clara a chance to untangle her emotions before I act." He paused for a significant beat. "Currently inclined, I should say." "On the Blackfeet matter, I am in complete agreement. Clara's theory about epigenetic expression is sound. They have oral traditions, as she and the twins pointed out. And demonstrating the Shine to them will help when it comes to convincing them we are genuine." "Epigenetic?" Cassie asked curiously. "The theory that a lot of genes only express - or activate - under the right stimuli: what Clara called stressors - and are dormant the rest of the time through the family line. Such as MAOA-L, the so-called 'warrior genes' that dictate aggressive reactions to perceived threats or offenses, albeit most strongly in males. Not everyone has the same number of them, and most of the time these will activate due to environmental factors: abuse, abandonment, neglect, growing up in violent or harsh conditions. The reverse is true of some genes: the right environment - removal of the stressors or more positive environments - can cause them to de-activate." Jason explained. "The rising presence of the Dark may be a stressor for those in adolescence with the right genes. Perhaps there are some teens on the Reservation similarly undergoing changes - or perhaps not. It is hard to say." A thought occurred to him and he paused his eyes going distant. "Was that why she was there?" he asked no-one in particular. "Who?" Laurie looked at him warily. His pale eyes re-focused. "There was a girl from the Rez, at the Fair. I was sneaking a smoke and she happened to come into the same spot behind some vendors. Something about her seemed - odd. I assumed she might be a plant from the sheriff, trawling the fairground to catch dealers, and so I brushed her off and left. But what if she was actually looking for kids with the Shine?"
  12. He'd taken it well, after the initial shock. Hank had remained quiet as Jason laid it all out. The party, the sabertooth tiger, the trailer, the weird starfish-monster (the adopted name of 'cephalogina' got a snort of amusement). Then the growing weirdness since - Jason's discovery of his telekinesis, the fact that some of the others had been showing gifts, the uncovering of a conspiracy with Etienne as it's apparent spy and the secret history of Shelly with it's twenty-seven year cycle of violence and horror. The naming of the Dark, the presence of the Tree. The increase in power, Jason's discovery that he could freeze or excite molecules... The hunt for Cody, the fight with the beast, the other teens exhibiting powers of teleportation, healing, shapeshifting and other weirdness a mere two days ago. "You set yourself on fire?" Hank blinked then. "Not really. I set the air around me on fire. And I might even be able to do the reverse - create a frozen protective barrier." Jason had explained. "I think I can control it so that the protective sheathe goes over my clothing next time, though." "Bet that caused some red faces." Hank said with a slight smile. Jason smiled back, nodding, then continued. He explained about the secret Project under the control of Doctor Cook, and the presence of another player - Mr Black, who seemed to be tired to the Dark itself more directly. He told of the attack on Liam. And finally he relayed the general overview of what the Fellowship had tracked during their brainstorming session the previous day. "I'm telling you this for three reasons." Jason said at last, meeting Hank's eyes. "Firstly, so you can keep yourself and Dad safe. You know enough now to steer clear of trouble and watch for it. You see Mr Black, avoid him. You see Cody Sikes, probably best to avoid him too. You don't Shine, I don't want you getting hurt." "I'm not helpless, kiddo." Hank protested mildly. Jason shook his head. "Hank, if Mr Black has my gifts, he could kill you without thinking. I'm assuming he's at least on my level, if not way beyond it. Best you do too. You don't Shine, he's not likely to bother with you unless you get on his radar. Same with Cook and his black project - you probably could make life hell for a black ops team, but why risk it?" Jason explained calmly, his eyes still on Hanks. "If I need you, I will call. You know that. But I don't have many friends, and you... you're the only one I feel gets me. Second reason is so you know why I want you to train me. I need to learn to fight, not school bullies, but as a warrior who is part of a small elite team, or even finds himself on his own." "And the third reason?" Hank asked soberly. "Because I need guidance. Hurting Liam felt good to me, righteous, like..." Jason hunted for the words. "He deserved punishment, and it felt good to give it to him." "Do you think you'd have enjoyed hurting him if he hadn't hurt your friend?" Hank studied Jason calmly. "No. No, I'd have seen it as pointless, cruelty for it's own sake. Beneath me. But the others-" "Kid, people are always going to have a problem with you being you." Hank interrupted. "You have rules you live by, and it doesn't seem like you broke them. People got upset - Lona got hurt because she felt you didn't consider her feelings on the matter, right?" "Right, only I did. That's why I didn't kill him." Jason answered, causing Hank to nod and put a large hand on his shoulder. "Right. Let's address that first, kid. What that punk did, it didn't warrant death. Got that? A beating, sure. The beating you gave him? Ehh, I wouldn't have gone that far." he said levelly. "You've got to cut in some lines of proportion to that code we've been working on. Cause it does feel good, administering a deserved ass-whupping, but you've got to make sure you keep it relative. He roughed Avalon up, so break a bone or two and leave it there. What you did was over the line, and not because it was 'wrong', because it was too much energy being wasted on a rat. You're better than that. Smarter. So be smarter." "And if he'd raped her?" Jason had asked. "Kid, we don't, we can't, punish people based on 'what they might have done'. We deal with them based on what they did, with maybe a little extra for the intent. Lona was hurt and shaken, but she was otherwise fine. All that extra you did - it scared the fuckin' bejeezus out of people who need to trust you." Hank's hand squeezed firmly on his shoulder. "If he'd have raped that sweet girl, then you bet I'd not give a single shit about what you did - but killing him would've still been too far. Bottom line - keep it proportional. That rage you have, the instinct - I know it too, Jase. People aren't gonna like it, but you can at least not scare the shit outta them with it." Jason nodded, his eyes on his cold coffee. With a flicker of an eyelid, steam began to rise from the mug once more and he took a sip. Hank chuckled, dropping his hand from Jason's shoulder and offering his own mug, which likewise started to steam. "That's better than settin' fire to monsters or tossing shitbags around." Hank smiled as he took a sip, then sat in silence for a long moment, thinking. "Alright. I'll train you." he said at length. "We'll work on your sense of proportion too. Sounds like your control extends only until you let yourself off the leash, rather than controlling yourself after. So we're going to teach that instinct of yours to come to heel rather than run itself tired." "Great." Jason said, standing. "Where do we start?" Hank had looked up at the lean, gangling figure and laughed. "Discipline, conditioning, and strength." he'd said with a grin. Jason looked at him flatly. "You mean PT." "I mean PT." Hank grinned. "You run, it should be a breeze for ya. We need to get some muscle on those arms though." He set the mug aside and stood himself, stretching. "First rule, no powers unless I say. You pull any of that Jedi whupass on me without my say-so, and we are done. Save that X-Men shit for when you're playing with your Fellowship. Got it?" "Got it." Jason nodded with a small smile. Hank sized him up once more. "Alright. We've got some fucking work to do, and no mistake, kid. Lets get to it."
  13. "Mr Black goes by the Tree, the Dark and Cook." Jason said from where he stood slightly apart from the others, his quiet voice breaking the silence after Lilly left. He'd registered Marissa's arrival with a faint smile, only for her to studiously avoid looking at him, to which his reaction was little more than Ahh. So he was officially disapproved of - good to know, he'd thought with a certain wry amusement at the fact that of all the kids present, the two most openly judgmental were the two who had used a mixture of intimidation, lies, social manipulation and violence to crown themselves King and Queen of Shelly's youth. Perhaps it was because, for all of their savoir faire rebelliousness and ruthlessness, they still mentally operated within the bounds of civilised human social behaviour and had suddenly realised that he did not, and in fact never really saw it as of any use except as camouflage. Or perhaps they were softer-hearted than they let on - which he knew to be a fact, judging by Marissa's treatment of him following the smilodon attack. Which begged the question why arguably 'good' people behaved in such a fashion, but then... He found most if not all of the Fellowship alternately amusing / confusing as hell in their contradictions. "Also, we need to examine several chains of causality. The major one being: Is the black project here because of the location of this place - because of the anomalies and history of weirdness? I mean, why Shelly? The aerial photos were taken mid-eighties, which was also the time Doctor Cook was an intern at the freshly-overhauled Marias Medical Center. But if what he told us was right, the money that started being pumped into Shelly around that time was due to the Project." Jason stepped over to the board, tapping the 'Eugenics Project' card. "So here is a *possible* version of events." "Someone - Doctor Cook's mentor - hears about the Land of Upside Down Thunder. The dimensional / temporal anomalies. Perhaps they do the same research I did into Shelly's history. They come here, perhaps building that trailer. with the atomic generator and the radio that picks up frequencies that it should not... They take aerial photos of the area, and they learn something. In the process, they recruit Cook - arguably an intelligent young man - into a project geared towards human enhancement and start pumping millions of dollars into Shelly. Cook leaves, becomes a celebrated diagnostician elsewhere, but is kept in the loop on the Project. He returns, officially at least, ten years ago to take up a post at Marias, but as we know he now runs the Project." Jase had been staring at the board as he spoke, then turned to Cassie and the others. "The Project is because of that other dimension, or perhaps another dimension - there might be more than one. Someone with a vast array of scientific knowledge decades ahead of even where we are now was studying that and perhaps saw a way to make use of it's energy to make us what we are. But, and here is the important thing if I am correct so far, he didn't tell Cook about the trailer. Etienne wanted Cook's people to find it, left his device there. He knew it was important and that Cook wanted what was there. So whoever recruited Cook might not have shared everything with him - or perhaps did not get the chance to." "How do you know he didn't tell Cook?" Cassie asked, staring at the board with narrowed eyes, then glancing at Jason. "I'm extrapolating, based on the fact that all the photos and files, plus the tech, were still there. There's no reason for Cook to leave them laying around unguarded." Jason moved back across the room to where he had been standing before. "Of course, it could all be coincidence and there might have been TWO parties studying The Land of Upside Down Thunder at the same time... And the presence of other-dimensional energy might have nothing to do with the rise of a dozen teenagers with the Shine. But I dislike coincidence as an explanation. There's gaps because we just don't know enough, but the simple chain is: Presence of the Dark leads to someone studying Shelly leads to someone starting a project to create humans with powers. Now Cook said he didn't want to use us as weapons, but he's not the man who started it all. What if the originator saw the need for... well, us. As protectors."
  14. The barn was much as everyone who'd been there before remembered it. Rising rows of exotic and not-so exotic flowering plants, the greenhouse divided into differing climes ranging from temperate to tropical. A riot of colours and greenery, the air rich with their scent and alive with the trickling of water. Bearing the pizza boxes, most of the teens moved through without more than a casually appreciative glance, perhaps now and then pausing a moment to examine some rich hue or sneak an appreciative sniff of a fragrance. Laurelei hadn't been here, though she'd heard of it from Sean and the others. Though her reaction was not quite as blissed-out as, for example, Marissa's first introduction to the beautiful barn interior, the girl's eyes were wide as she trailed a little behind, her gaze trying to take it all in. It was yet another jarring paradox about her brother's friend - from the conversation about callously injuring a man to... this. Though she didn't know it, she was by far the only person in the Fellowship that had difficulty reconciling what they saw as Bannon's Jekyll & Hyde nature. But then the Fellowship, for all their talent and power and being forced to come of age in the most dangerous of ways, were still human: there were more things in heaven and earth than could be readily conceived of. Even by he himself, Jase mused as he pushed open the door at the far end leading onto the stairs heading up. Devin was right: there was no need for people to like one another in order to associate. Which had shifted Jason's world view a little - he'd thought the other boy a friend, and friend's liked one another. It didn't upset him, as such, merely required him to readjust. Perhaps 'comrades' would be a better term? He'd listened to enough veterans talk to know that they could not stand some of the guys in their units, but they'd stood by them, gotten drunk with them, and trusted them wholeheartedly. Because to do otherwise was to die. When this 'war' was done, the survivors would likely drift apart. And perhaps that would be for the best. The Jauntsens would go and be fabulous and successful somewhere - they all would, really. All of them had a spark of something great: perhaps a function of the Shine. He could see Avalon happy, perhaps pursuing a career in music. Clara would find a Plan that was less of a religion and more flexible. Cassie would go and be an investigative reporter, or maybe even a cop or FBI agent. Lilly had a bright future as an athletic prodigy and, he reflected wryly, probably UN goodwill ambassador somewhere. And what would he do? The answer was easy - with his powers, intellect, and a modicum of imagination - why, he could do whatever he wanted. So what did he want? A challenge? Power? Respect? Love? All of it? What indeed? The loft was orderly as always, a small potting table with tools over in one corner but now with several folding tables and plenty of chair set up in the large center of the room. The red-herring file boxes had been stuffed to one side, only the aerial photographs remained out, pinned to a corkboard propped above them. Several more large corkboards were set up along the walls, with a couple of whiteboards on stands completing the nerve-center. One table to the side had a printer and a couple stacks of paper readied, along with his Chromebook and several packs of markers. "There's no internet still, but people's phone services will work." he said tersely as a couple of windows swung open under his telekinetic direction. "For today, at least." He turned at the far end of the loft, a lean tall silhouette against the large window there. "Cassandra - you're the conspiracy-tracking expert. Ready to get started?"
  15. Disagreements over comparative morality, the ingratitude of lesser mortals, and pizza etiquette forgotten, Jason stepped over to Cassie and leaned forward, peering at the phone intently. "Now that is interesting." he murmured, taking another bite of the slice in his hand. He straightened and moved back, allowing others to look in turn as he finished chewing. With a faint click, the slow-cooker on the counter turned to 'Low Heat'. He swallowed and glanced at Cass. "Very interesting. A herald, an avatar, or a personification - or else someone trying to pass himself off as one. I have a printer up in the loft and some photo paper - we can definitely put Mr Dark there on the wall." He fell silent then, turning away from the others and staring out the kitchen window as he ate, deep in thought.
  16. "I'm touched by your faith in me, and stand in awe of your insight into my motivations." Jase smiled a little at Devin to soften the faint sarcasm of his tone, though he did set the plate aside before picking up the slice of pizza, raising it in salute to the teleporter. "Causing pain is not my drive, but you are right in one thing - Liam's suffering does not bother me at all. He hurt a friend, and now he is hurting. He will not do what he did again, and that is all I care about." With that he took a bite, chewing a couple of times before swallowing, and continued. "Avalon, on the other hand, has asked me not to take such action again - should someone harm her - without at least first discussing the matter with her." His eyes swept the small group present. "I promised her I would do so. Any of my friends is likewise able to ask such a thing of me, but it is a matter of individual request - not a blanket policy. Like Devin, I choose who I answer to." "So you talk to us about it, then do what you're going to do anyway." Devin snerked around a mouthful of pizza. "Way to have your pizza and eat it, Rain Man." "Perhaps. Nothing is certain - maybe in talking about it with Lona, we could have found a middle ground acceptable to both. Perhaps I would have abided and allowed the law to attempt justice." He took a sip of Coke. "At the very least, there would be true understanding of each other rather than -" he gestured with his can at Devin. "-dramatic predictions and nebulous threats from good, decent people." There might have been a slight touch of irony in his voice as he continued - or maybe more than a slight touch. "After all, it's not like anyone in the Fellowship has ever attempted strangulation out of frustrated rage, or moved to attack someone because they didn't like what they said, or broken a person's nose over heated words... Perhaps one day, causing a man to drown in his own blood won't be enough." He took a bite of pizza. "Something to think about." "It's not exactly the same, dude." Lilly said pensively, regarding Jason. "No. It's not. Firstly, it takes more than words to make me attack someone. And secondly, because I was in perfect control of my actions and fucking own them." he said with quiet force. "Just like when I protected Cora from rape. Just as when I protected my friends from the smilodon. Just as when I protected my friends from the Courtney-Coochiesaurus. Liam was a threat, now he is not. The only regret I have is that Avalon was hurt by my apparent disregard for her wishes regarding the vermin." He drained the can of Coke with some vehemence, then tossed it towards the recycling can. The metal container crumpled en route, landing inside the trash receptacle with a clang. "Devin is right about one thing, other than that the pizza is excellent. The Dark is the most important thing right now, closely followed by Doctor Cook's black operation to create the 'Truman Show featuring experimentation into human enhancement'. I've set up several whiteboards and pin-boards in the barn loft. We brainstorm. We form what connections we need to form to find the root of what's going on. We practice with our gifts, not just for our individual benefit but so that we know what each other is capable of. We train. And then we burn the Dark, and we deal with Cook." Another slice of pizza floated across the room to his hand. "I said hands only!" Devin protested. Jase smiled around a mouthful. "Y'or notsh my shupervishor!" he replied.
  17. "Powers practice will be tomorrow - giving Sean and Sara a chance to get back from the auction, if they make good time." Jason said as he stepped towards the fridge. A slice of pizza lifted from the open box under Laurelei's reaching hand, causing the girl to let out a stifled yelp and draw back even as the fridge opened, a can of Coke sailing out, tab popping with a small hiss. "Everyone is invited, as with today. Today is mainly about setting up the string board Cassie suggested, letting us keep easy track of what we know and who is part of what is going on." Taking a plate from the rack by the sink Jase turned and leaned against the counter, holding the plate out with one hand as the slice of pizza came to land as his other hand grabbed the can of soda from the air. "Thanks, Devin. This smells good." he said with a small smile to his friend. The pizza lifted a little from the plate, Jason leaning forward and taking a bite with obvious enjoyment, if perhaps not as thought-provoking as Lona's. "Um.. So is anyone going to talk about Liam?" Laurie asked, torn between timid and exasperated, her blue eyes not quite able to meet Jason's. "We just did." Lona told her around a mouthful of pizza. Laurie frowned slightly, fiddling with the edge of the pizza box. "Yeah, and great and all but... Jason hospitalised a man." she blurted. "And it was bad, from what Lilly said. Right, Lilly?" she looked at her mentor-figure for support, then at Jason whose pale gaze was on her as he chewed, seemingly unconcerned. "It... It was wrong, Jase. I don't know what's up with you lately. This isn't you." Jase remained silent, taking a sip of soda before once more taking a bite from his slice of pizza. "Thish- Excushe me..." he swallowed. "This is very good, Laurie, Lilly. You should try some."
  18. "Hey." Jason said, looking up from his botanical reading and closing the slim book as he gave a faint, but genuine smile at the sight of the others. Clara, who'd been occupying herself in her own thoughts, likewise glanced around and smiled as she saw the four newcomers. "Not much is up right now - just relaxing as we wait." The lean young man said as he stood and moved towards the fridge. "It's barely lunchtime, but food is ready now or can keep for when you're hungry. Iced tea if anyone wants it, OJ or coffee if they don't." He paused with a hand on the fridge door handle, head tilting slightly as his cool pale gaze examined each of the four in turn.
  19. Sunday Morning, early. Hank’s cabin was on a large plot of acreage, mostly undeveloped scrub and sparse woodland about an hour’s drive north of Shelly, close to the town of Milk River. If you didn’t know where the turn off was on the backroads once off the highway, you’d sail right past the track leading to his home. Assuming you found the track, you weren’t home free yet. A large steel gate crossed the track roughly a quarter mile up, with an intercom mounted on a post and a large red sign that stated very clearly that the land was privately owned, unannounced trespassers would be considered hostile, and warning against straying from the track. Hank liked his privacy and security. It was part of his charm. Even friends had to buzz the intercom before coming up to the house, and even then only during the daytime were they allowed to come in without express permission, to prevent accidents. Did we mention that Hank really liked his privacy and security yet? He also didn’t have many friends. Acquaintances, yes. People who listened to and respected him when he spoke, sure. Friends? Not so many. As Jason’s Charger, rumbling like a contented lion, came to a stop outside the cabin, the teen could see Hank sitting on the porch step, pulling on a pair of boots. The yard, boundaried as it was by the treeline, was neat and tidy. Workshop over there on the left, a shelter beside it under which was parked Hank’s pickup. To the right was a makeshift range with targets set back amongst the trees, a sandbag wall in the distance to prevent stray rounds going too far. Hank took range safety seriously: one of the only times you’d see him be anything other than relaxed at the militia get togethers was when someone was clowning with an unsafe fiream. The kind of dressing down the ex-Marine gave the offender was, in part, where Jason had learned his own acid brand of critique. “Hey kid.” Hank called as Jase shut the Charger’s door. The burly soldier stood up, stamping his feet into his boots, and regarded the gleaming car. “She’s a beauty. And I see you’re not letting the dust build up on the black. How’s she running?” “Like a dream.” Jason smiled slightly. “Thanks again for helping me get her put together.” He walked over to his friend, who handed him a cup of coffee. “Not as good as your gourmet shit, but it’s black and it’s got caffeine in.” Hank nodded toward the step. “Tell me what this is about?” he not-quite ordered. Jason sat down, cradling the mug between his hands, and pondered where to start. “I nearly killed a man on Friday night.” He got right to the point. “Deliberately.” “Deliberately?” Hank studied him levelly. “You mean you attacked him on purpose, or you deliberately ‘nearly killed’ him.” Hank was sharp, and years of talking with Jason gave him a certain insight into the way the kid used language. “I mean I purposefully left him with a pulse and breathing. Probably brain activity too.” Jason clarified, as though discussing sports scores. He met Hank’s dark eyes with his own pale gaze. The older man nodded slowly. “You have a reason for it?” he asked calmly, eyes narrowing a little. He’d always suspected this might happen someday, ever since he’d come to assess the kid back when he was scrawny little nothing with eyes too large and grave for his young face. He’d tried to encourage positive outlets for that fierceness, but with young adulthood arriving… “He attacked a friend. Hit her a few times, tried to rape her.” Jason relayed calmly. Hank slowly sucked in a breath over his teeth, then let it out. Jason studied the man, trying to read the craggy face. “Yeah, that’s a reason.” He muttered, sitting down next to Jase. “Not legal, maybe not wise, but it’s a reason. Is your friend okay?” Jase thought about Lona, how she’d been yesterday. He wasn’t sure he wanted to talk about that yet. “No permanent harm done, I think. She’s tough, though.” He hedged, then went on. “My friends all know I did it. Most of them at least, by now.” “Right.” Hank said, gazing out into the trees. “You worried they’ll turn you in?” “No.” Jason admitted. “They can’t, really. There’s no evidence, and it’d be their word with nothing to back it up.” He pondered. “I don’t think they would, though. They are pretty pissed… I might even have lost some friends over it.” He said without much more than a twinge of regret in his tone. “How’d you hospitalize a man without leaving evidence?” Hank enquired, looking sideways at the skinny youth. “No bruises – he didn’t fight back?” “I guess he tried to.” Jase stated after a moment’s thought, picturing Liam clawing at intangible hands. “That’s another thing I wanted to talk to you about. It’s strange, but I want you to not freak out.” Hank have him a quizzical glance, and Jason took a breath then held up his mug of coffee. Without using either hand. “So.” Jase began, as Hank stared at the floating mug, then reached out and waved a hand around it. “Seems puberty isn’t the only change that I'm going through right now…”
  20. 'Doubt, indulged and cherished, is in danger of becoming denial; but if honest, and bent on thorough investigation, it may soon lead to full establishment of the truth.' The Bannon farmhouse kitchen was much as Clara remembered it from her last visit. Neat, orderly and clean, a shrine to mealtimes. The air was full of the smell of chili from a large slow-cooker, and the proper young woman sat nursing a glass of iced tea Jason had poured her before tending to the crockpot, her thoughts still turning over the conversation with her host and pushing the memory of the stolen kiss to the back of her head, easy enough to do in lieu of the other matters to think about. Psychopathy, monsters, psychic powers, other dimensions, the Tree, Cody Sikes, Etienne... all these things demanded her attention in addition to the insights into her own issues. She was grateful that Jason didn't seem to need to make conversation, leaving her be in companionable silence, her eyes roaming the room without really seeing as she processed her thoughts. Jason finished added a few touches to the pot and covered it once more. Expecting a few people to come, he'd folded out the extendable table and gotten more chairs around it, allowing for a comfortable seating of eight or so, if necessary. He had also prepared in other ways - the kitchen door was propped open behind the screen, and around the front of the house he'd taped a large sign to the front door with one word written on it: 'KITCHEN' Details taken care of, he sat down across from Clara and picked up his current kitchen reading material - a treatise on the care and cross-genetics of Orchidaceae. Pages turned relatively swiftly, but quietly, interrupted only by the occasional pause for a sip of tea or glance at his guest to ensure she was comfortable. Sitting in the hazy warmth of the last of summer's rays from the window, he radiated comfortable stillness and calm.
  21. As per WS ST's post in "Fury":
  22. OOC Note: Bannon will be at home after the events in 'Fury'. If anyone seeks him out on Friday night, he'll be up till around midnight-ish, tending his plants then reading and smoking on the porch.
  23. “Don’t you ever tame your demons, but always keep them on a leash.” ((This takes place shortly after Jason leaves Atomic Aftermath. Warning: The following contains scenes of violence some may consider extreme.)) Liam had come home after the pain of his stricken stomach had faded and whatever that fucking bitch Lona had done to him had seemed to wear off. He was certain she’d done something… Maybe she’d kicked him harder than he thought, and ruptured something inside. Pulling up his sweater, he examined his stomach in the mirror – no marks. No bruising or weird lumps. He prodded tentatively, then harder, and felt nothing. He sat down and lit up a joint, turning the TV on to help him think, and pondering for a while, but came up with no decent reason why a touch of Avalon’s foot should make him hurt so damn bad. Weird. One thing wasn’t hard to understand. She’d told him to leave town like some crazy psycho woman, pressing a sharp stick to his throat like she was going to use it… but she hadn’t. Why’d she been so intent on making him leave town? Liam was sure she was probably going to run straight for the sheriff, but maybe she wouldn’t. Maybe, he considered with a small smug grin, she couldn’t. After all, it was her word against his, and he could establish an alibi easily enough. His mom was upstairs, dosed out of her mind on pills and booze, but she’d swear blind to the sheriff that she’d heard him come in shortly after the game had ended, just as she’d done for him over a dozen other mishaps. Liam nodded as he considered. Yeah. He’d gotten away with it, and just needed to make sure that none of Little Lona’s little freak friends tried anything. Not that they’d be able to do much – he was a couple years older and bigger than most of them, even the glamazon quarterback. And Cade Allister, though huge, was too much a daddy’s boy to go all baseball-Batman on a guy. He recalled something he’d heard, about Jason Bannon nearly gutting Cody Sikes with a hayhook back at the fair, and experienced a moment’s disquiet which he shook off easily enough after a brief chill. The same booze that had fuelled his attack on Avalon was also buoying his courage. Bannon was sixteen years old, a Junior. Smart, and his dope was, well, dope. But seriously, fuck that gangly piece of trash. Yeah. It was all coming up Liam. He went through to the kitchen of the small home, peering into the fridge to see if there were any leftovers. Straightening up with a box of half-eaten noodles, he closed the fridge door and turned to look straight into the pale eyes of Jason Bannon. The teen was standing outside his kitchen window looking in, his face pale in the fluorescent light of the kitchen. His expression was that of someone considering a curiosity under glass, head tilted slightly to one side. “Th’ fuck do you want, freak?” Liam called mockingly. “Gonna stare at me while I piss, too?” He snerked, forking a mouthful of noodles between his lips. Then he noticed the look in Bannon’s eyes. It was a look that didn’t belong in the eyes of anything human. The eyes blazed as though backlit by the fires of hell. Something grabbed him and slammed him up against the refrigerator, causing him to drop the box of takeout as his head cracked against the appliance. Then the same something picked him up like a toy and hurtled him into the kitchen table, cracking his head against that too. It was as though someone had looped a long scarf around his head and was using the tether to bash him off the furniture. A third surge of force, and he flew straight up into the light fitting on the ceiling, the cheap strip bulb and it’s plastic cover shattering against his back. He felt fragments digging painfully into him even as he registered he was falling back towards the table below. He landed, smashing the thing to pieces, splinters gouging his face even as a hand grabbed his hair and pulled him upright once more. He flailed for purchase with his feet barely touching the floor, his own hands going up to grab his attacker’s hand. But there was no hand. There was no-one in the room. Even as he realized this, through the haze of blood over one eye he saw Jason staring at him with that intent, hellish predatory fury. Blood was trickling from the lean youth’s nostril, but his concentration did not waver as he smiled a thin, merciless smile. Liam tried to understand what was happening, but through the chaos if his thoughts it seemed clear that it was Jason doing this, somehow. And it was because of Lona. And there was no sign of remorse or restraint in that stare. He pissed himself, then. Dangling by a painful invisible grip on his hair, Liam pissed himself while Bannon watched. “Nuuhh…” he whined softly, shaking his head as best he could. He realised dimly that his jaw had been broken, it hurt when he tried to speak. A thought came. His mother! She was sound asleep, bombed out on pills… but surely If he screamed the neighbours would hear and- Even as he opened his mouth to scream a second invisible, intangible hand clamped on his throat, hard enough to stifle his cries as he was sent slamming into the wall, then the floor, then dragged through the splintered remains of the table with terrific force. It felt like Cade Allister was working him over – fuck, it felt like Cade and Cade’s dad were working him over. Mostly senseless, his face was pressed up against the glass of the kitchen window inches from Bannon’s. “If and when you wake up, you will confess what you tried to do.” Jase told him calmly, green eyes boring into Liam’s single open one. “You’ll say nothing about me. Nothing about my being here. Blame two big guys… a gang of Nepalese midgets… I don’t care. Because if you try to finger me, or avoid confessing… I’ll know. And then I will finish the job, and take my time over it.” He leaned forward so his nose was almost against the glass, his voice a hiss. “There will be nowhere to run. Nod if you understand, cockroach.” Liam slowly nodded. Jason stepped back from the window. “You’ll live tonight because I think it might actually distress my friends if I kill you. Even Lona. Something that baffles me, but perhaps I will understand one day. You won’t speak to her again, but in your heart you will thank her for your life, every day.” Jason paused, then gave Liam a direct look. “Nod if you understand.” Liam nodded again, feeling consciousness slipping away. He was jerked away from the window to slam into the wall opposite. He felt something snap in his right shoulder, and then was tugged away from the cracked plasterwork and forwards with terrifying force. As he hurtled through the air, his last conscious sight was the pane of the kitchen window rushing towa- The loud splintering, tinkling crash was enough to wake Mrs Day from her slumber, making her sit up with a small shriek. It was also sufficient to alert the neighbours, at least those that weren’t out celebrating Shelly High’s win tonight. When they came to investigate, they found Liam day laying face down on the grass amidst the ruins of the window some five feet away from the kitchen. He looked as though someone had beaten him within an inch of his life, and the kitchen was a blood-smeared wreckage. As a few neighbours tried to calm Liam’s mother down, others called the sheriff and the paramedics, then stood around and tried to reason who could have wanted to do so much damage to a man while the one neighbour who worked as a nurse at the med center tried to make sure Liam was still breathing.
  24. Many, including some of his friends, considered Jason Bannon to be dysfunctional, perhaps less than capable when it came to interpersonal matters. Those who knew his secret perhaps considered him to be more so. And there was a lot of justification for that. He possessed zero 'affective empathy' - the fancy term for being able to pick up on people's moods without conscious thought, which was a subset of the part of the human experience called 'intuition'. But what he did have in spades was pattern-recognition, reasoning powers that were on the upper end of human capability, and keen observational skills backed by a hi-def, VR replay memory. Lacking the usual hubris of the very smart, he was also willing to credit people with intelligence and reason of their own, especially those who had displayed it in the past. Marissa had fumbled her fork. Loudly enough to cause a clatter. It had been right after Lona had dropped her news about being almost raped by Liam Day. He knew Marissa well enough to know that the 'hide a body' comment was flippancy, something said off the cuff. He replayed the number of times he had ever seen Marissa lose her composure, outside of mortally dangerous situations, and that integer came back a big fat zero. She was grace under fire itself. She had perhaps assumed that there had been a rough prank, something relatively harmless, and then sent him over to care for his friend. Attempted rape was more than a rough prank. Marissa knew him. She knew he'd been ready to stab Charlie with a fork over the accidental strangling incident. She knew that his response to Liam's offense was likely to be... somewhat grave. To say nothing of Devin's. Additionally, Marissa was female and thus likely took a very dim view of attempted sexual assault anyway. She was unlikely to take matters into her own hands personally with regards to Liam. Therefore she would be seeking another to intercede, to get to Liam before Devin, anyone of the Fellowship, and particularly Jason, could. Conclusion: Marissa was likely going to call the sheriff's department on Liam Day, with the objective of both punishing the offender and protecting both her brother and (probably) Jase. He wasn't definite, but was fairly sure that Marissa would protect a friend from acting dangerously so long as it wouldn't endanger her brother to do so. The sheriff's department would want to talk to Lona first. Persuade her to press charges and make a statement, then go looking for Liam. That gave him a lead of maybe an hour. Call it a lead of thirty minutes to be pessimistic, assuming he did not waste it. He finished his shake, giving little outward sign of haste, then reached into his pocket and drew out his keys. "I need to get home soon. Dad's heading out early tomorrow and will need waking." he said calmly as he uncoiled from his comfortable slouch and stood. "We can meet tomorrow to go over the weird stuff, if anyone likes? Set up one of those string boards Cassie mentioned in the barn loft at my place?" There were murmurs from several quarters, Sean demurring, saying something about going to pick up a car from an auction. Jase nodded, smiling slightly. "Noon then, anyone that wants to come along." he asserted, then glanced at Lona. "If you want to make a statement against Liam, best time would be tonight." he advised, giving her another one-armed hug before turning and making his way for the door. He wasn't nervous - he couldn't get nervous - but he did feel a thrill of excitement, racing against the clock this way whilst appearing to be in no great hurry. Liam was not going to get away with merely sitting in a cell being fed at the taxpayer's expense. Not for this.
  25. Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win. – Sun Tzu Early Saturday Morning, before ‘Unusual Request’ Gareth Bannon was still abed when Hank came by to pick him up for the weekend get-together. Jason had gone upstairs with a mug of coffee and woken his dad, then come back downstairs. There was no breakfast cooking today – the two men would be stopping at a place on the way to the militia campsite. And so he and Hank were hanging out on the porch as the dawn mist slowly evaporated over the fallow fields, lean youth and grizzled veteran alike nursing a mug of black coffee against the rail. “You got more honeys comin’ round?” Hank asked with a sly smile. “Or the same one, perhaps?” He glanced sideways at Jase, who sipped from his mug as his eyes roamed the dawn landscape. “I mean, whooo, I’d invite her around more than once – if I was twenty years younger.” He paused a beat. “Eh, mebbe ten years.” “She’d chew you up and spit you out.” Jase deadpanned, a faint gleam of amusement in his eyes. Not for the first time, Hank assessed the collected youth. Jason’s lips twitched as something funny occurred to him. “Apart from the head.” “She’s a spitter, then?” Hank prodded, trying to see if he could faze his verbal sparring partner. “I wouldn’t know. And if I did, wouldn’t tell.” Came the response. Hank laughed. “Good for you, kid. Good for you. Watch it, though. Girl like that – that’s a lot of trouble for a young man.” “Lot of trouble for any man.” Jase agreed, smiling a little. “I like her, though. She’s interesting. And jokes aside, we’re just friends.” “Just friends, or just friends.” Hank inquired as he rested both elbows on the rail. “I mean neither of us date, and we share some interests and a sense of humor. I’m not even sure if she likes me in the way you mean.” Another teen would have said that line with perhaps a downcast air – Jason stated it in the same way he would give a report that the weather was uncertain. “Eh. Friends is good, kid. No need to read more into it, or less either.” Hank shrugged his burly shoulders, then laughed. “Fuck, don’t listen to me anyhow. If I was an authority, I’d not be hanging out with your dad this weekend.” “Well, I do have four or so girls coming round later.” Jase stated with a sly sideways look. Hank blinked and looked at him. “Group project.” Jase clarified, smiling a little. “No hanky or panky. At least, not unless I’m completely reading them wrong.” “Guess the whole ‘take the brakes off, let the world see you shine’ thing is paying off, huh?” “Guess so.” Jase was silent a moment. “Hank, I need a favor. You going to be staying at the Sons camp, or at your cabin as usual?” “Cabin as usual. Some of those boys like to stay up late and drink and party – I like my quiet. Your dad will be staying at the camp though.” Hank studied the lanky teen anew. “What do you need?” “To talk to you about some stuff.” Jase stated calmly. “And, if you agree, training.” “What kind of training?” Hank narrowed his eyes, Jason turning his own gaze to meet the older man’s without any sign of hesitation. “The kind I’d only come to you for.”
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