[Interlude:] Scholastic Endeavours in Topics Posted July 26 Jason, 0720 He ran laps of the football field, pushing himself as he always did to move that little bit faster, to do that extra lap within the time he allotted for his run. He wasn't the only runner who made a habit of getting in his daily laps at the school before breakfast - but he was the only one not a member of one of Shelly High's various athletics teams. At his ground-eating lope he passed some girls hoping to make first line for the soccer team, encouraging each other, faces red and sweating as they jogged steadily around the field. Then he smoothly overtook two of the football squad, his lean form cutting past them like a whippet past a couple of labradors. He wasn't the fastest or most tireless athlete at Shelly High - before all the weirdness, that honour would likely have gone to a coin toss between Cade or Lilly. Now it was likely Lilly, given the superhuman boost she had acquired to her physique. But even with those titans of athleticism set aside, Autumn had more boundless energy, Devin, with his acrobats training, had more grace in motion. If there was a word to describe Jason Bannon's athleticism, it would be tenacious. There was a determined implacability in how he ran: sure-footed, fleet, focused on what he was doing as though running down quarry, a participant in a chase in which the outcome would be inevitable. Other teenagers trained their bodies for all manner of reasons. As a hobby - something they'd gotten into and enjoyed doing and so kept up. Some trained to take part in prestigious competitions or win places on school teams. Some were just active and energetic, always running, never seeing a river they didn't want to swim or a cliff they didn't want to climb to the top of. Some were tired of being out of condition, weak or fat, picked on by others or wanting more self-respect. And for some, it was their solace against the world, the place where they set the pace and the standards, and didn't have to worry about anyone else. Jason, from early adolescence, had deliberately taken to training his body for the same reason he trained his mind - to sharpen it, to hone it so it would do the bidding of his Will when he desired it to. To be slow, to be stupid, or to be oblivious was to be prey, some deep instinct had informed him early in his life - and having observed the piranha tank of school life, such an instinct was certainly accurate, even if the dangers were not necessarily mortal. Now, though, his innate philosophy had been proven even more correct. If he had been just a little less observant, a little slower in putting the clues together, he would be dead from yesterday's attempt on his life. The only thing that had saved him was the suspicion roused by the marshal wearing gloves in summer. And even then, he'd have died if not for others. And today... Today he'd been very alert on the drive to school. Was very alert now, in fact. Not jumpy, or paranoid, no. Aware would be the best term to use. He could almost feel people's eyes on him, almost hear the buzz of their whispers as he loped around the track. More, he was very aware of... Well, everything. He felt more in tune with things, generally. As he finished his run and stepped off the track, hands on his hips and breathing deeply, out of habit he let his third eye focus on the world around him. As he'd thought, something had changed. Before, he just had a vague sense of Radiance - emanating from every living thing, a warm golden light. Now, he found he could look at a person and see their personal Radiance, that spark of life, soul, whatever one could call it. Anima, perhaps. Interesting. Taking a moment as he put himself through slow stretches, he fell deeper into the semi-trance, extending this sixth sense out. Before, that vague sense of Radiance had only extended outwards so far - perhaps a thousand meters. Now... he blinked, falling out of the trance and stumbling a step mid-stretch. Looking around, he sat down on the grass and closed his eyes once more, focusing more intently. A sea of candle flames spread out for kilometers around him. Each one, he instinctively knew, was a person, each with that life spark. Here and there brighter ones, their steady glow more intense, stood out from the flickering flames around them. The Fellowship, it had to be. Each of them was a small star, almost occluding the flames near them. He narrowed his focus down, recalling when Cassie had shown him how she perceived the world. Yes. Insects, plants - motes of glowing plankton-sized lights in and around the brighter flames and the even more brilliant stars. And there, in the center of Shelly... no flames, scant plankton. The shadow left around the Old Town Hall. Not as broodingly malevolent as once it had been, it was still an unsightly blotch to his new way of seeing. This intrigued him. Some of the others had manifested multiple categories of 'gift' - Cassie and Kat both having telepathy in addition to their main schticks. for example, and Autumn sharing Charlie's ability to sense living things at a distance - so it wasn't strange that he, too, was suddenly experiencing a new development. It was very similar to Cassandra's initial manifestation of power - some manner of clairvoyance or ESP. Something else to evaluate and explore, definitely. For now, though, he stood up, finished his stretches as swiftly as was practical and, turning, headed for the showers. Autumn had texted him saying she'd see him at breakfast, and teasingly poked him to bring coffee. Mysteries of new abilities were all very well, but they could wait in the face of a freckled nose crinkling up in a smile and wide, blue eyes framed by red-gold fire.