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Posts posted by Bannon


  1. "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.

    • Like 2

  2. "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?"


  3. 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?"


  4. 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."


  5. "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."


  6. 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.

    • Like 1

  7. 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?"


  8. "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?"

    • Like 1

  9. "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."

    • Like 1

  10. "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?"

    • Like 1

  11. 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.


  12. Jason nodded agreement with Marissa's expressed sentiment, expressionless but for the predatory intensity of his gaze.  "She's right.  We are the only ones that can stop what is going on, and more importantly what is going to happen.  We're not sure what part the Project here is playing in current events, but I get the impression that you really don't have much of a clue.  So it's probably best you follow the lady's advice and get out of our way - for your own good."  His tone was calm,  matter of fact, lacking the bantering delivery of Marissa's injunction.

    "That could be taken as a threat, Mr Bannon."  Cook replied, not meeting the teen's eyes and instead glancing at the papers in front of him.  "I'm sure no-one here wants to be making threats."  A subtle tension had come over the two men sitting at the head of the table, Taggart eyeing the youth the way one might eye a coiled rattlesnake.  The woman, by contrast, seemed soberly curious, her dark eyes wide and watchful.  Autumn and Cassie drifted over from the couch, the redhead having scooped up her snacks in an armload which she dumped on the table as she pulled out a chair next to Gar Bannon, smiling at him as she sat, then continued eating.

    "When my father is present, he is 'Mr Bannon'.  And how you choose to take it is a matter of extreme indifference to me."  Jason's voice never changed from it's level calm tone and his stare never wavered.  "I don't make threats.  There's rarely any point.  'For your own good' was meant in the sense that one would use when advising a slow child to stop playing football on the highway."  He paused for a moment as though reflecting.  "An unlikable slow child.  The kind whose birth certificate was an apology letter from a condom manufacturer, but you still don't want to be washing them out of your radiator grille days later."  There were snorts of amusement from both Jauntsens as well as one or two others present and Autumn, who'd just taken a delicious mouthful of cool soda, suddenly found herself choking as a shocked gasp met the urge to laugh and both reflexes mixed catastrophically with the Dr Pepper.  Graskle winced and tried not to laugh, Jase's dad blinked at his son in astonishment and then at the choking Autumn in alarm, reaching out and patting her on the back, and Sheriff Allister looked like he wasn't sure whether to laugh or scowl.  Cook's face went red, and Taggart shifted in his seat... and then the dark-haired woman leaned forwards.

    "Annette Giles."  Her accent was brisk, educated, a trans-Atlantic mixture of British, American and Continental.  She sounded expensive and refined in a way that made Marissa take notes.  Cook and Taggart both looked at her in surprise, as though she had gone off-script.  "I am a representative of the Project's current sponsors, and I was only recently informed of... how things have been developing.  I think I've seen enough to make this call:  as of right now, all Project activities are paused pending a full review."  She glanced at Cook as she said this, who went from red at Jason's insult to pale from shock.

    "But we- I mean-  I-"  he started several times, each nascent protest meeting a slightly higher arch of a well-shaped brow.  Finally, he subsided.  "Very well." he muttered with an air of defeat.  "I shall issue the orders.  The Doctor won't be happy, though."

    "To borrow a turn of phrase from the younger Mister Bannon - that is a matter of extreme indifference to me."  Ms Giles said with a pleasant smile.  "The Doctor will understand that he who pays the piper calls the tune.  Or 'she', in this case."  She waited a heartbeat or two, arching a brow at him.  "I did say 'as of right now', Doctor Cook.  Everything on hold, no further tests, no progressing of experiments, all sub-projects paused.  I'm sure you will make sure that the wishes of the sponsors are carried out in this matter.  Come back when it's done."  Cook blinked, then slowly stood up and, walking like a man whose joints were made of string, left the room.  "Major Taggart - I cannot issue you direct orders, but I would take it as a kindness if you would send your men with Doctor Cook to ensure he can carry out his instructions."  She smiled at the teens and adults at the other end of the table.  "I'm reasonably confident we won't need protection here."

    "Ma'am."  Taggart nodded at the two Airmen, who turned and left the room on Cook's heels.  Annette Giles reached for a cup and poured herself some coffee, sitting back in her chair and ignoring the recently vacated seat left by Cook.

    "Alright then."  Ms Giles glanced at Marissa, then Jason, then the other teens.  "I trust as a demonstration of good faith that will suffice for now?  Before I start talking, does anyone have any questions?"

    • Like 1

  13. His eyes opened slightly as she sat by him, focusing easily (she was happy to see) on hers as he mechanically chewed potato chips on one side of his mouth, then swallowed.  "Tired." he replied in typically laconic fashion, one corner of his mouth quirking in an answering smile.  "Odd how that wasn't important with monsters and the Dark all around, but without immediate danger I just want to eat and sleep."

    "Yeah, not sure I'll be able to sleep, myself."  Autumn responded, noting how he was sitting and the bruises on his face, then glancing over at where Gar Bannon was sitting hunched over in contemplation of his folded hands, deep in thought.  She looked back at Jase, realising he'd followed her gaze over to his dad.  "But how are you holding up?" she repeated with slight emphasis, trying not to look away or turn red when his pale eyes once more flicked to stare into hers.  How was it so hard to talk to him without feeling like her face was going to catch flame?  She'd have thought that hanging out, laughing and talking last night would have built up an immunity to the strange and terrible Bannon, but no.  Even battered, tired, and wearing a replacement Rangers jersey and - ohgod - grey sweatpants, there was something about the way he focused entirely on her that was uncomfortably incendiary.

    "Jaw is bruised.  Feels like some teeth are a little loose.  Bruising to the ocular region on the left side.  Bruising to the ribs and stomach.  Sore and stiff." he said quietly, almost dispassionately reporting on his injuries.  "No fractures that they detected, and my concussion seems to be mostly faded, though I have a headache."

    "Mmhmm," she agreed, nodding thoughtfully as she caught the inside of her lower lip between her teeth. "Sounds like what I saw earlier, at least, so it's good to know that's accurate." There was a moment's pause, then, Autumn's gaze dropping to the pale, amber-flecked fingers drumming restlessly on her thighs. If she'd gotten involved earlier, would she have been able to prevent him being hurt? Maybe. All she could do now was try to repair some of the harm done, or at least make him more comfortable. Resolved, the worried redhead moved, shifting one knee up onto the couch and determinedly turning to face her friend, the unintentional arsonist. "Hey, listen," she began, her eyes moving over his face again, studying the bruises blooming dark and florid over his angular features, the tape they'd used to close the small lacerations around his eye and cheekbones, and noting the bone-deep weariness in his expression that, implausibly, remained absent from the piercing, glacial green of his gaze. "I was thinking- and, if you want to wait for Lona, I totally get it... I just thought maybe I could try to help. If you want," she added, more quietly, searching his expression for some clue to the content of his thoughts.

    Jase regarded her for a moment, examining the warm concern in her sea-hued eyes and the hesitation in her manner.  She wanted to help, but wasn't sure whether the help would be accepted - or perhaps wasn't sure she could help?  He wasn't certain on the details there.  What he was certain of was that he would need to be on better form than this to deal with Cook - or whoever came to represent the Project.  His friends needed him to be in better shape, and that couldn't wait for an eventual meeting with Lona.  Autumn seemed to have the same biologically-based gift as Avalon - at the very least, she might be able to remove the tiredness and pain, let him bring more of his resources to bear on any problems that came up.  He smiled at Autumn, nodding as the corners of his eyes crinkled slightly in humor.

    "I'm in your hands."

    • Like 1

  14. "Cody."  Jason spoke up from his seat, gesturing with his soda can in acknowledgement of Autumn's words.  Ordinarily he would stand, but right now he felt sore and tired.  "The Man In Black said we had to find Cody Sikes."

    "The who to the what now?"  Kat spoke up.  "This is what you guys were talking about when Sean and I arrived, isn't it?"

    "But isn't the Man In Black part of the Dark?"  Cassie interjected, brow furrowing in confusion.

    "Apparently not.  At least, when he visited me right before Cade and Marissa arrived he said he wasn't."  Jase shrugged stiffly.  "He said, and I quote, that he didn't want any of us hurt by the Dark 'any more than I'd want to go around my garden tearing up flowers'."

    "Jesus.  That guy was visiting you right down the hall from us.  What else did he say?"  Autumn asked, one eye on the door.  Jason focused for a moment, then spoke with the Man in Black's cadence.  It wasn't a perfect mimicry, merely a replay of what he'd heard.

    "The Dark hates those who Shine, boy.  It's in the name.  I know you've spotted the pattern in the killings over the decades and centuries here.  Every generation or so, right?  Just enough time to harvest those with Shine or the potential for it.  See, you and your buddies are food to the Dark, and flowers to me.  I want to see you guys win."  The pale-eyed youth then looked at the others.  "Then I asked him to tell me about the Dark, and he said: "Can't do that, kiddo.  Can't just give you everything, or you won't grow.  But you children need to find Cody.  And don't let the Dark kill you!  It's not just death it wants to eat, it's Shine."  Jase smiled wryly.  "He also ate my mutton casserole I'd brought for lunch.  I was hoping to eat that when I felt better."

    He paused, thinking for a second.  "If Mr Black is an agent of the Dark then he had me dead to rights, and could have killed me there, then ambushed you all.  He's had opportunities to harm us, and hasn't done so.  I'm not saying I trust everything he's saying, but I have to ask what benefit he gains by lying about this.  I think if the Dark has a physical agent, it's Cody."  He glanced at them all.  "The cycle of death - Mr Black knew about what we found out through research.  It makes sense - if there's something here that encourages Shine, that explains why once a generation or so there's a harvest of those with unusually high levels."

    "Okay, what's Shine?"  asked Kat.

    "The Force." Jason said with a small smile.  "Technically everything that lives gives off a faint amount of it.  In most of us here, it seems to be stronger somehow, focused.  It's how we do what we do.  If you want to get scientific - the current theory myself and Sean have worked out is that it seems to be the Grand Unifying Principle, a sub-quantum layer of reality that binds everything together.  It explains how Devin can warp through space without turning into spaghetti from the gravity distortion that would entail if he did it on the quantum layer.  It explains how Cassie can see into the past as well as the present and future - time wouldn't exist the same way there - it'd be just another direction."  He looked at Kat, then Sophia.  "You, Kat, have the Shine.  Sophia does not.  There's a sensory aspect to it that some of us can use - we can feel others when they're close.  Cassie can feel them at much higher distances."  Sophia frowned at the lean, bruised youth, plainly unhappy - though whether with the diagnosis of being normal or the source of the diagnosis was hard to tell.

    "As for the Dark - what Devin said, mostly.  It seems to be some parasitic force local to Shelly.  Every twenty-seven years it wakes up and causes a rash of murders and disappearances.  We're currently halfway through year twenty-six of the current cycle.  We've observed that it can amplify negative personality traits in normal people - cause boys harassing a girl to move to rape her, or cause an argument over household bills to turn into a beating, or a misunderstanding to become a brawl.  It seems to be a corrupting parasite - it has to work through proxies."  Jason frowned in thought.  "Which explains why Cody is probably still alive and we need to find him.  He was always a bit of a slimeball - someone like that is an ideal champion for the Dark.  If it needs eyes and ears, then that could well be what its using Cody for."

    "Okay." Sean nodded.  "So far, it makes sense.  So do you think Cody is where Cassie felt that knot, the - what did you call it Marissa?"

    "The taproot."  The prettier, smarter Jauntsen said as she sat back down by Cade, leaning a little against him.

    "Taproot, right."  Sean nodded again.  "Is Cody there?"

    "It's probably the best place to start looking."  Cassie tugged at her lower lip thoughtfully.  "When we're ready to, that is.  That place feels dangerous to me."

    "Readiness.  Yes." Jason half-closed his eyes, leaning back into the couch seat.  "Those of us with psionic gifts have practiced tuning to each other.  Devin wasn't there, neither was Kat.  It doesn't seem to be inherently dangerous, though it is intimate.  You become very aware of the other persons in the link - not like mind reading, just a sense of their aura, if you will."  He opened his eyes, looking at Devin and Kat.  "The way it works is simple enough - one person acts as a... lens, I suppose, and the others in the link focus their power into the lens.  They can move Shine from themselves into the lens, allowing them to use their powers more, and the lens also gets a buff depending on who else is in the link.  In our tests, we found that Cassie can amplify range, Charlie boosts the signal of the lens-person's powers, Autumn and Lona could increase the effectiveness of the lens against living creatures, and so on.  There's likely other effects to discover, but we can do that later.  Devin's effect on a link would be interesting to categorise, for instance."

    "Right now, though, we need to focus on dealing with the Project. Thanks to Sean, they don't know what we've been talking about.  So we talk a little, and let them talk a lot: see what they have to say, see how they are approaching us.  That will tell us how smart they are, or whether they are letting their sense of importance and authority do the thinking."  Jason paused, his eyes sweeping the group.  "We don't tolerate threats or intimidation, though.  We need to establish from the outset that we will not be pushed around - if they indeed try to do so.  As for Marissa's concerns about Devin...  I think we can count on Devin being naturally contrary-"

    "Hey!  I am not!"  The teleporter objected with a grin.  Jason arched a brow at that, spreading his hands wide in a 'there you are' gesture that caused a few chuckles at the interplay.

    "-And indeed, if the Project are trying to keep up with his antics it means they will pay less attention to the rest of us 'good kids' by comparison."

    "Cool."  Devin said, glancing at his phone once more.  "So what do I do?  Just keep being me?"

    "As easy as that, yes."  Jason smiled at his friend.  "Frustrate and infuriate.  Be by turns difficult and impossible.  Make them work a little."

    "The major, Taggart?  He seemed reasonable."  Autumn said after taking another swallow of water.  "A hard-ass, but not a bully.  We might be able to work with him rather than treat him as an enemy."  Cassie nodded agreement.

    "Yeah." the blonde seer spoke up.  "He listened when we warned him about the creatures, and I got the impression he doesn't altogether respect Doctor Cook."  Jason nodded at that, eyes closing once more.

    "Let's hope we're dealing with reasonable people then."  he said.  "Charlie, Sean.  I don't know how much more time we've got right now, but this is a good time to bring Sophia and Kat up to speed - give them the 'story so far'.  Fill in the gaps so they're not constantly scratching their heads and saying 'what?' when we're talking about something."  He opened the bag of chips on his lap and slowly started to eat them, favoring the unbruised side of his mouth when chewing.

    • Like 2

  15. "...and then today, two guys were influenced to attack me over some minor grievance."  Jason's voice was low as he finished quietly explaining to his father, the elder and younger Bannon sitting a little way back from the rest of the room on a couch.  "It seemed that the Dark - or whoever makes the decisions for it - decided to move on us all here at the hospital: a preemptive strike to take us all out."  Gar Bannon was staring at the floor as his son explained most of the events of the summer and the first week of Fall semester.  Whilst a genius - or at least, once a genius before he'd crawled into a bottle - Jase's dad was struggling, trying to find rocks to latch onto in the torrent of horror and eeriness that had reached out and enveloped his son during the last months.  And in one particular, even before that.

    "Since you were eight?" he murmured quietly, turning perhaps the largest personal revelation over.  He looked up into his son's clear, pale stare.  "You've known since you were eight, and didn't tell me."

    "There never seemed to be a good time."  Jason said, unmoved.  Gareth examined the boy - the young man - seeing now the removal of the mask and desperately trying to find some shred of evidence that the inhuman calm was itself a pose to shield some deeper vulnerability.  "The information would only have caused you more worry, and to no good purpose."  A small fracture showed in the mirror-shine of his glacial gaze, though his tone was still matter-of-fact as he added.  "You might even have given me up."

    "Jesus!  How could you think that?!"  Gar hissed, reflexive outrage warring with the awareness that others were present, if not actually part of the conversation.  Jason's head tilted slightly, his stare examining his father's reactions.

    "My own mother did.  How could I expect more or better from anyone else?  You were fresh out of jail, heartbroken, and drinking."  He replied in a tone that was entirely logical, irrefutable in it's simple truth.  "I don't have intuitive empathy to go on when I trust people.  Leaps of faith are alien to my nature.  I go on observed behavior: what people do, what they say, and how those contrast.  I extend trust bit by bit, from necessity and to test those around me as well as myself.  Those I cared for most learned latest, since they were the ones I least wanted to drive away."

    Gar had always carried guilt that he had somehow been responsible for what he perceived as Jason growing up too fast, never being a normal kid.  A loser drunk for a father - of course the kid would learn to cook, clean, do the dozen and one things that kept the household in order.  But now, looking at his son, he saw that perhaps Jason had never been a 'kid' in anything but physical development.  He'd always been a serious-eyed child even when learning to walk.  When he fell down, even if it was a nasty bump, he'd just get up and try again.  Kate had wanted to get him tested, but Gareth had resisted that, wanting to let Jase just develop naturally.

    "I wish I had known."  he said, as much to himself as to Jason.  "I should have-  I dunno.  I could have been there for you, perhaps.  If you even need that.  Do you?"  he looked up into his son's eyes again.  "Do you need people to be there for you?"

    "I.." Jason hesitated, examining his father, then glancing around at the room, at his friends.  He remembered Marissa taking his hand in the trailer, Devin hanging out and talking a million miles a minute in the vehicle barn, Sean and his family welcoming him into the fold, Autumn hugging him despite her own nervousness around him, Cassie lightly poking him, teasing him about his lack of pluck, Charlie trying to understand him even as the experience terrified him.  "Need isn't the accurate word.  But I like some people being there for me.  It enriches my life - usually."  He looked back at his father. "You have been there for me, dad.  Don't think you haven't."

    "Not enough, I haven't been."  Gar frowned, wiping his face with a hand.  "I need a minute or two, Jason.  I just...  Need a moment.  It's a whole lot."

    "Sure."  If Jason felt any worry, or concern, he didn't show it in an obvious sense.  His gaze followed his father as Gareth stood, resting a hand on his son's shoulder for a moment, then wandered off to the far side of the room to sit down again.  Jase looked at Hank, who nodded silently and went to sit near Gar, leaving Jason alone.  He sat back, gesturing and floating a can of Sprite and a couple bags of chips over to himself as he tuned in to the ongoing conversation.

    5 hours ago, Marissa Jauntsen said:

    "No," he shook his head.  "We have to do this on our own.  The more they know, the more they'll take control, use what we gave them, and then shut us out.  In the end, we'll be stuck cleaning up their mess, we all know it.  It's only a factor how big do we want their mess to get before we step in."

    "Facts."  Marissa piggy backed Devin's comments, agreeing with her brother.  "But, we have nothing to go on, Deej.  They've technology, research, hell, protection.  We're flying blind out here.  We all know they'll screw us in the end, but at this point, what choice do we have?"

     

    "We cannot rely on the Project unless we run the Project."  Jason said calmly from where he was seated, popping the tab on his soda.  "And the only way to do that is to get inside and become indispensable to the Project.  If we get involved now, we can at least try to head off any disasters they might cause.   My recommendation is to play along guardedly, never showing too much at once.  Treat it like a game of poker.  They have some cards, we have some cards - and I'm pretty sure ours beat theirs - but it doesn't hurt to see how they bluff."  He took a long sip from the can, then lowered it and regarded them all.  "Don't think like teenagers - at the whims of adult laws and supervision.  Teenagers don't have real power - we do.  Teenagers don't have real knowledge - we do.  Teenagers don't kill nightmare beasts - we do.  Oh, and they probably have all the DNA they need from us over the last few years, so that horse has bolted."  he added with a slight lopsided grin at Devin before wincing and gingerly touching his jaw.

    "Just consider our assets: Sean can get into any computer system, Marissa can wrap people around her little finger, Cassie can see, sense and feel things they try to hide.  That's just the most obvious intelligence gathering talents we have.  Then there's the muscle side of powers equation, and that's formidable enough that I'm pretty sure the bunch of us could give Major Taggart and his men shit-fits in a straight fight.  So we play it cautious, we give the appearance of cooperation, and we try not to spook them into doing something stupid while we figure out what exactly they're all up to."

    "And if it all goes south, we at least will have better information to use when shutting them down and kicking over their sandcastle."

    • Like 2

  16. Marias Medical Center - Team Fucked

    "They're moving around, trying to get in our path."  Kat squinted, trying to focus this new sense.  "I can't really tell this far from them.  It's more like a... a..."  Marissa put a hand on the tiny girl's shoulder, gentle pressure reassuring her.

    "Chill.  The warning's enough.  Looks like you're experiencing- what do you call it, Jason?"  She threw a glance back past Sophia and Gar at the shimmering ice-coated specter behind them.

    "Primary sensory awakening.  Or if you prefer classic language, her Third Eye is opening."  Came the glacially calm reply.  He felt cold to Kat's new senses, too, like an ice-cube being run down her spine, as though the chill he radiated was more than merely physical.  Of course, cold did not radiate, the exchange student corrected herself.  What was actually happening was that Jason Bannon was sufficiently cold that he was drawing in thermal activity from the air around him whilst not himself being warmed by the process, small ice-crystals of frozen moisture forming a barely perceptible sleet in his wake.  The tangent to thermodynamic principles oddly helped.

    "Third eye."  she said levelly.  "I'm psychic now?"

    "Psionic."  Sean corrected from up ahead as they moved steadily together to the next corner.  "Psychic is all ouija boards and tarot cards and crystals and talking to the dead.  You're feeling energy from the subquantum stratum, and as you get stronger you'll be able to shift it around."  Sophia had been silent for a few minutes, absorbing the shock of Charlie's outlandish and monstrous appearance, the way Sean was throwing around laser-chakrams and the casual manner in which Jason Creepazoid Bannon had just looked at a fish monster and deep-frozen it.  But there was only so much a girl could take.

    "Wait - who are you people, the bizarro X-Men?!"  she said a trifle shrilly.  "I mean - laser ladyboy, ice creep back there, talking about third eyes, and that's Charlie the lobster lord, and nobody thinks any of this is weird?"  There was a fwoop as Devin appeared next to her, making her eep and flinch.  The teleporter held a fire-ax in one hand and a broom handle in the other, having evidently done some scrounging for usable weapons.

    "Naw, that's not weird."  Devin had obtained a donut from somewhere in his wanderings and currently spoke around a mouthful of it as he handed the fire-ax to Cade.  "Weird is when Chuck lets slip that he's actually the last descendant of Zoidburgthu, and it is vital for the survival of his species that he snargle your garthog.  Something to bear in mind when you're blowing  his squid dick later - just don't get ink in your eye."  He grinned at the bewildered girl.  "Just remember this phrase:"  And the irrepressible Jauntsen did a warbling, back of the throat gurgling sound that was a dead ringer for a murloc warcry from WoW.  "That's Charlie-speak for 'fertilise my eggs, big boy'."

    Sophia stared at him as there were some snorts and one or two short laughs of amusement from the rest of the Fellowship, even Hank cracking a grin as Jason's frosty lips quirked in a smile.  Charlie sighed from up ahead of the column.  "Thanks, Devin." came his very normal, Charlie-like voice from within the chitinous shell.  "That helped. Really."

    "Just being an awesome wing-man."  Devin said, handing the rest of his donut to Kat and blipping to the front of the group next to the shapeshifter.  "She'll be okay, dude.  Just remember to-" another murloc noise "-her-" and another gurgling warble "-and she'll be putty in your hands."  With a grin, a pat on Charlie's armored back and a fwoop he was gone again.

    "Jase."  Charlie called back over his shoulder.  "Can you freeze his vocal chords?"

    "Probably."  came the wry, matter-of-fact reply.  "But where's the fun in that?"

    Spoiler

    Weapon stats for Fire Axe and broom-handle.

    Fire Axe: (Edged)  Enhancement 3, Deadly, Melee, Brutal, Two-Handed.

    Makeshift Bo-staff: (Impact) Enhancement 2, Melee, Reach, Two-Handed, Non-Penetrating, Shield

    See p 123 of the Trinity PDF for information about the tags and what they do.

     

    • Like 1

  17. Marias Medical Center - Team Fucked

    "Stick to the plan."  Marissa spoke up, pointing down the hallway in the direction they'd been headed.  "Charlie, you lead."  The brunette's eyes were wide with a mixture of excitement from the action and concern that they weren't out of this yet.  Charlie glanced back over one carapace-clad shoulder and nodded, moving up the corridor.  His laser discs hovering over his shoulders, poised to lend fire-support, Sean followed.

    "That's Charlie?"  Sophia asked, hurrying to catch up with Marissa, Cade and Kat, taking care only to step over the gooey remnants of the creatures on the floor with a grossed-out expression on her face which once more turned to confused with that icky obstacle navigated.  Marissa smirked at the busty girl's tone, though she could feel a trace of empathy for her too.  This was all weird as hell, after all.  She'd just had longer to process it.

    "Hidden depths, Fingleman."  The Queen Mantis said by way of explanation.  "Everyone has them - some depths are just deeper.  We'll explain more later - give you the blue pill-"

    "Red pill."  Jason from behind, Cade from next to her, and Sean from ahead all corrected, almost in chorus.

    "Whatever, nerds!"  Marissa snapped, but her glower was fond as she glanced at them, then took in the adults present.  "Hi Mr Graskle, Mr Bannon."

    "Miss."  Hank nodded as he and Gar followed along behind, the icy shape of Jase bringing up the rear again.  Gar was looking over his shoulder at his son, and Hank nudged him.  "Later, Gar.  Let's get outta here first."  There was a fwoop as Devin reappeared next to Marissa, who to her credit barely jumped.

    "It's clear up around the corner."  Devin reported.  "I'm still feeling that fucked-up oily sense though.  Pretty sure there's more uglies lurkin'.  We should mo-"

    There was a splintering crash from behind them back at the T-junction as the icy wall finally gave way under the assault of the massive abomination trapped beyond it, which shrieked in anger and pain as it forced past the jagged frozen shards that ripped at its rubbery hide to emerge into the corridor.  Spotting it's prey escaping once more, it screamed and began to lumber towards them, picking up speed.

    "-move."  Devin finished, and the group of teens and the two adults began to run.  All but one.

    Jason turned, head canted to one side as he considered the beast with a gaze that was frosty in more ways than one.  The gashes caused by the ice were knitting, he realised.  But the blackened areas of flesh where his fire had seared the creature on Friday were still raw and cracked, and the frost-bitten patches of ripped-off flesh where it had bashed against the unearthly chill of his wall were likewise not healing.  This monster, this thing of the Dark, had plagued him and his friends long enough.  The role of monsters was to die, which was one reason the young psychopath worked so very hard not to be one:  all monsters eventually were vanquished.  This one's time had come.

    The creature was lumbering at a running pace now, maw opening wide, the stunted ruin of it's tongue visible as it roared.  And then, between one thunderous footfall and the next, it went silent.  Its limbs slowed, then stiffened as Jason stilled all molecular activity in the creature, sucked all thermal energy from its atoms, vapor visibly wreathing into the air around it as Jase's Shine drove the heat out.  Its tissues, muscles and organs froze, the lashing tail becoming as rigid as a board, the oily rubbery skin became stiff and coated with ice as the red glare of life left its remaining eye.  Between eye-blinks, the horse-sized monstrosity charging towards them became a frost-etched sculpture of frozen flesh that slid to a halt a few meters from where its killer stood, trailing tendrils of steam in the air as he turned back to his friends.

    "Let's go."  he suggested calmly, walking towards them.  Ahead of them somewhere in the hallways, they could hear hoarse, whistling calls increase in volume as more hunters closed in on their prey.

    Spoiler

    Spent 2 Psi:  10/14 to activate Temperate Extremes.  Rolled 6 succs total, monster got 1 on the resistance roll.  Five health levels of damage, ignores armor = Coochicicle.

    Combat is currently over / between rounds.  Feel free to post continuing to move towards the side exit, which is about five minutes hustle from where you guys are.  The Medical Center is still semi-dark and lit by emergency lighting.  Nice and spooky.

     

    • Like 1

  18. Marias Medical Center - Team Fucked

    "Ohfuckohfuckohfuck!"  Sophia was not particularly athletic, but her gym coach would have been impressed at the turn of speed she was making right now as she fled headlong down the hall towards the T-junction at the end, hanging onto Devin's hand for dear life.  She was making a couple of classic errors a lot of horror movie fans would have called her on, and those were glancing back and wasting air talking and/or screaming rather than running, but other than that her performance was a solid 'eight' apart from the East German judges, who were harsh graders and didn't go above 7.6.  Devin, by now, felt he was an old hand at fleeing from monsters - no looking back, no wasted breath, and keep your eyes on where you were putting your feet.  Parallel to the two fleeing teens, Gareth Bannon and Hank Graskle were both making good time for old guys, actually pulling ahead of Devin somewhat since they weren't towing a panicking Junior.

    Then Jason appeared at the corner, stepping well out from the left hand corridor and stopping in the middle of the T at the top of the hallway, his appearance giving pause to two of the fleeing people.  He appeared to be made of ice, glittering starkly in the overhead lights, the frozen substance covering him from head to foot and causing him to trail vapor as though he had stepped from a bath of liquid nitrogen as the ambient temperature air encountered the sub--zero chill of his body, and his eyes were a gleaming frosty blue-green.  He moved unhurriedly, turning and planting himself in plain view, the sight of him encouraging the Fishasaurus to shriek and redouble it's efforts to close the distance.  Hank and Devin, experienced and focused on survival, didn't let the eerie sight sway them.  Gar and Sophia were not so lucky and the surprising sight, followed by the sudden gloom as the main lights died and the emergency lights flickered to life, caused near-disaster.

    Gareth gaped at the sight of his son, the shock causing him to stumble and fall headlong, sliding along the tiled floor as the air at the point where the hallway met the junction began to haze up, ice crystals forming on the walls, floor and ceiling.  Hank also slid, but it was the slide of a baseball player stealing home base as he slid on his knees to the corner and then righted himself, turning to look back down the hall.  Jason's dad found himself being lifted by unseen, impossibly strong hands then half-pulled, half-thrown to the end of the hallway, sliding enough distance that Hank was able to catch him and pull him to safety around the corner, the elder Bannon shivering from his passage through the strength-sapping cold of the forming wall.

    Devin saw the frosty shimmer in the air, gauging the distance, and realised that he wouldn't be able to cross the line in time, not towing Fingerbang.  He saw the calm inexorable expression on Jason's frozen features, his friend nodding to him as the buzzing, chittering sound of Ugly's equally ugly swarm of bugs bore down on them from behind.  Jase would hold off closing the wall to the last second, but he would close it.

    Spoiler

    Jase is spending 1 Psi point to Build The Wall (no roll necessary), but he's drawing it out as much as possible to give everyone a chance to get through the closing 'door'.  The air where he's forming it is frigid, but not dangerously so yet.

    He used Remote Hands (always on - Invested power) to yank/throw his dad to safety.

    Once the wall is up, the swarm bugs will shatter on it like hailstones as they encounter the freezing cold then the solid ice (each swarm sub-unit has 1 health level).  Ugly the Coochisaurus will be blocked off, at least for a short while.

     

    • Like 1

  19. Marias Medical Center - Team Fucked

    Sean felt a surge of annoyance, as well as an attendant flush threatening to stain his delicate features, at the lumping-in of him with 'the girls' that could be said to be implicit in Devin's words to Charlie.  Charlie was one of 'the guys', like Cade, and therefore a protector for 'the girls' - which included Sean - as well as the wounded Jason who, if he wasn't beaten half to shit, would probably have been equally part of the guardian bro club.  Or something.  He set his lips in a determined line - last time they had run into a Dark-spawned aberration, he'd run away from the fight.  Sure, he'd headed towards the trailer, to try and figure out if he could stop whatever was causing the problems, but at the end of the day he'd been looking for something else to do because he was woefully under-equipped to fight monsters.

    At least, that had been true then.  But they had done some experimentation and training since then, and Sean could feel the zip and crackle of photons and electrons in the air around him.  He could amplify and emit photonic energy to such a degree he could vaporise holes in metal.  He could enhance his own awareness and reflexes.  Sure, he might not be the tankiest of tanks or anyone's idea of a living weapon, but he was far from helpless now.  Even so, he wasn't eager to go forth and fight that Cthuloid monstrosity head-on in the middle of the hospital.  Taking a breath, he focused his Shine a little, expanding and refining his awareness of the neurological electrical activity of living creatures near him.  He'd only toyed with it a little, but if he was right it could help him discern and avoid attacks, so long as he could see them coming.  He became aware of the bio-electrical buzz of those nearby, the emotionally-charged reactions of the electrons in their brains to the sudden fright and tension of their situation.

    Apart from Jason.  His brain activity felt like it always did - fast and clear, a little slower than usual right now due to the pain receptor interference from his injuries - but there was no chaotic crackle of emotionally charged activity as he straightened from pulling on his boots, then fished the Rangers shirt out of the bag Sean had brought and, moving stiffly, tugged it on over his head where it hung loosely on his slender torso.  He shoved the rest of the clothing into the leather depths of his satchel before shouldering it, then glanced at the door and Marissa.

    "I don't need guarding." he said without petulance or any real emphasis.  The lovely girl scowled, pointing a finger at him.

    "You are a mess.  You're moving like an old man and your eyes still aren't fully focusing a hundred percent.  So help me god, Jason: Do. Not. Test. Me." she snapped, brown eyes flashing.  Their gazes,  the one of pale jade ice and the other of dark fire, locked for a moment in a battle of wills that was as epic as it was instantaneous - before Jason's lips twitched in a faint smile, and he nodded once slowly in silent assent.  Her gaze narrowed slightly, resting on his face for a moment longer before, apparently satisfied, Marissa turned with a flip of her hair and peered down the hall.  "There's a side entrance leading to the employee car park.  If the monster is coming in the front way, we can make it out that way."  she asserted to the rest of them.  Cade nodded agreement as Sean moved to stand next to Kat.  He felt responsible for her, and the shocked fright currently on the tiny French exchange student's face was familiar.  He'd felt the same way, back when shit had started getting weird last Friday and a lifetime ago.

    "Ever see Silent Hill, or play the games?" he asked her conversationally, his tone low.  She shook her head mutely and he gave her a smile he hoped was reassuring.  "Well, think of it as being in a horror movie.  There's a monster coming to eat us.  And we're leading it away so hopefully not too many other people get hurt."  He took her hand on an impulse.  "Stick with me, okay?  We've... sorta done this before.  And we can answer questions later."

    "What about Autumn and Cassie?"  Jason asked as he came to the door, Cade hovering behind him like a minder.  "They're somewhere around too.  Probably the treatment rooms near the front."

    "Shit."  Marissa took out her cellphone and tapped on it as she started down the corridor, Charlie moving slightly ahead of her, using his sense of living things to discern if anything was ahead of them that wasn't human.  "Let's get moving.  We can update them."

    "Text will be slow."  Sean warned, following along on Marissa's heels with Kat in tow.  "There's some kind of latency in effect for cellular signals.  Just saying it might take a minute or two for them to bounce back."  Even as he spoke, he pulled out his own phone and tapped rapidly.  "I'm texting the others - the ones not here.  Laurie, Lona and Co.  If monsters are out Shine-hunting we might not be the only targets."

    "Double shit."  Marissa said, but she didn't stop tapping as the six of them hustled along the hallway.  "Slow texts are better than nothing.  Hopefully those two will be getting the hell out as well.  I've told them and Deej where to find us."

    Jason and Cade were bringing up the rear, the massive athlete spotting a fire extinguisher on the wall and picking it up.  As improvised weapons went, it was better than nothing, he mused when suddenly all of the teens heard gunfire coming from the lobby, followed by a screech of outrage from the monster and a booming male voice shouting above the screams and hubbub.

    "JASON?".

    Jase stopped moving, turning towards the lobby.  "Dad." he said, a faint tension in his voice and the widening of his eyes the only signs he was alarmed, but for those who knew him, it might as well have been a panicked shout and an expression of abject fear for another.  He glanced at the rest of them, but it was not in search of approval or advice, they saw.  He needed neither one.

    "You guys keep going."  he said simply, then headed back down the corridor towards the waiting area, breaking into a painful jog, the air around him taking on a faintly distorted heat-shimmer like effect as he tried to wrap himself in a cocoon of telekinetic force... which failed as a stabbing pain in his head announced some manner of feedback.  He staggered a couple of steps, then gritted his teeth and continued on his path.

    Thirty Seconds previously

    Sophia was staring in panic towards the front of the hospital.  Something large, something that roared, had from the sounds of it broken into the lobby twenty feet away.  People were screaming, and the world was going twisted like something from a video game or horror movie.  Black oily blotches were spreading on the walls, and the overhead lights seemed to be emitting a sickly greenish, purple tinge in addition to their normal radiance.  Two burly-looking guys in hard-wearing clothing who'd just come into the waiting area and had been standing by to talk to the nurse at the desk were likewise looking around with a shocked expression, and she noticed one of them already seemed to have pulled a gun from somewhere, holding it low in a competent-seeming grip.  She placed him then - Hank Graskle, the loony survivalist gun-nut.  Both he and the guy with him were looking towards the front of the hospital too, hearing as she did something large slithering and thumping towards the doors leading into the waiting room.

    And then it got really crazy.  Devin Jauntsen, of all people, appeared in a ripple of purple-blue light that hung in the air behind him for a second, staggering slightly as he materialised and shaking his head like he was getting rid of some disorientation.  "Hate that." he muttered, then looked around and spotted her.  "Hey, Fingleman.  We've got to get outta here.  Charlie sent me to getcha.  Come on."  he grabbed for her hand, and Sophia on reflex pulled it away.

    "What the fuck, Devin?!" she half-yelled-

    And then screamed, along with the other people present, as a hideous thing burst through the doors.  Part fish, part lizard, with stunted twisted humanoid limbs adorning it's bulbous, oily body, the thing looked as though it had been badly burned at some point, cracked weeping blackened flesh visible under the sheen of whatever sickening fluids seeped from its pores.  One dark, shark-black eye focused on Devin, the other eye a puckered burn scar, and the thing's maw unfolded open like the leaves of a toxic alien flower, drool collecting around the many teeth it showed before it issued a terrifying, glottal scream of rage and recognition.

    "Aw shit."  Devin groaned, his face pale.  "Hey ugly.  Nice to see ya too.  Will you come the fuck on now?" he demanded of Sophia, grabbing her arm and tugging her towards the treatment rooms.  Behind them, the creature shrieked and started forwards, squalling in pain but it's progress unchecked as a rapid sequence of shots from Graskle tore into it's side, the blubbery mass of flesh protecting it from serious harm.

    "Fuck."  Graskle cursed, backing up with his hand out, moving the other guy with him.  Devin recognised Gar Bannon from his visits to Jase's house over the summer.  "Let's find Jason."  Hank told his friend.

    "The fuck is that?"  Gar demanded, eyes wide and the colour having left his face.  Hank didn't seem so obviously shocked, though his face was taut with fear and adrenaline as he reloaded his pistol.  

    "Move!" he snapped, pushing Jase's dad in the same direction Devin was pulling Sophia.  Gar turned and ran up the hallway, calling Jason's name...

    Spoiler

    Sean has activated Precision Understanding with 4 net succs.  This will give him +4 defense against any attack he can perceive coming.  Spent 1 Psi.

    Jason is on +1 Difficulty to most physical actions due to his injuries, and also on -1 Defense. He has also botched his Perikinesis roll to activate his shields, so that power is unavailable for now.

    Devin is on +1 Complication to any Teleportation (bear in mind Complication is not the same as Difficulty) due to the spatial fuckery that is taking place.  His bracelet shields him from the worst of the bio-feedback, but short jumps are the best he can safely do, and taking anyone along for the ride is risky.  The Complication factor will go up the more he pushes the envelope.

    Sophia is not currently resisting and Devin can easily drag her along after him.  Gareth Bannon and Hank Graskle are heading up towards the ICU treatment rooms with them, the monster is in hot pursuit.  Luckily it's still a bit messed up from the last time it met the Fellowship, so isn't as fast or mobile as before.

    In case anyone had forgotten - this is the monster:
    Goemul.jpg

     

    • Like 1

  20. Both Jauntsens saw their friend's pale green eyes narrow for a moment, as though he were seriously considering Devin's offer - which, for all they knew, he could well be.  Then he shook his head a little, sighing.  "Tempting.  But they were being pushed and besides, they're already neck deep in shit."

    "Pushed?"  Marissa frowned prettily - she did most things prettily, Jase noted not for the first time in passing.

    "The Dark."  Devin asserted as he plopped into the chair and rummaged through the cold bag next to it.  "Oh hey, Bannon's Special Honey Jerky, made from organic locally sourced honey and organic locally sourced hitchhikers."

    "Go ahead."  Jase shrugged.  "I'm not up to chewing right now."  He gingerly prodded at his jaw, then put a finger in his mouth to feel whether any of his teeth were loose.  Apparently satisfied, he glanced at the other two.  "I did actually give your idea some thought, Mari.  And it's a good one.  The only reason I didn't come forward is because popularity doesn't interest me - I am not a social creature and failed to see what clique I could possibly influence...  But that was an error on my part.  I should have asked you how I could help with your plan, rather than assume there was no place in it for me."  He smiled, careful of his split lip.  "So, when I'm out of here, show me what needs doing and I'll see it done.  Queen or not, you're not on your own."

    As Devin grunted absent approval around a mouthful of jerky, Marissa's gaze met Jase's, softening slightly even though her arms were still folded across her chest.  "You volunteering to be my knight?" she asked challengingly, her smirk a touch coquettish.

    "I'd hardly aspire so high." Jase retorted deadpan, his eyes gleaming.  Devin grumbled something that might have been 'get a room already', but it was hard to say for certain.

    "There is another thing."  Jason stated slowly, considering.  Cook and Co knew a lot already, and he was pretty sure Etienne had told them something about the 'Dark'.  "I had a black-clad visitor today, before you two got here.  Came to tell me that he and the Dark are not on the same side, amongst other things."

    "You believe that?"  Devin asked, suddenly intent.  Marissa likewise abandoned the playful demeanour and frowned once more.

    "I was at his mercy.  He's had two chances to kill me that I know of, and I'm still here.  All he did was eat my lunch."  Jase shrugged.  "There's more, and it makes sense with what I've observed... But I'll drop that when most of us are here.  Saves repeating myself."

    • Like 2

  21. "Not tried the food yet."  Jase said, settling his head back on the pillows propping him up.  "And I guess they'll let me out once they're sure there's no serious damage to my brain."  Again that quirk of his lips that  heralded a smile.  "They've already tried to give me an EEG.  The head of neurology here, no less.  I'm getting the VIP treatment."

    "They want to scan your brain."  Marissa's eyes narrowed.  "Cook behind that?"

    "Probably."  Jason nodded.  "I refused it as unnecessary."

    "What if it is, though?"  Cade asked pragmatically.  "Necessary, I mean.  You did have a couple of seniors dancing on your head."  Jason grunted, closing his eyes for a moment.

    "What I need is rest, though visits from my friends could be an aid to recovery."  Both Marissa and Cade nodded as they grasped his meaning.  Lona could ensure there was nothing to worry about, and take care of it if there was.  Jason paused a moment, considering as he rested his eyes.  Though the Man In Black had conversed frankly and openly, Jase was not inclined to discuss the man's visit while under observation.  Perhaps Mr Black had a way to take care of listening devices, or perhaps he didn't care.  Either way, Jason decided, he would be more circumspect.  "I could also go for a soda, if the nurse thinks I can have one."

    = = = = = = = = = = = = =

    Liam opened his good eye.  He hurt, hurt all over, though the morphine drip was helping to numb the worst of the pain to mere aches.  It made everything seem kind of hazy and unreal.  He'd woken up this morning knowing that Avalon had been there, having heard her voice.  He also remembered, through the haze of chemicals, the face of Jason Bannon as he had-

    No.

    -as he had-

    No, that isn't what happened.  There were two attackers, large men as big as the sheriff.  They had spoken English with an accent.  One of those harsh-sounding languages.  As the thought came to him, images likewise came to him.  Two men, black leather jackets and gloves, wearing balaclavas.  His mind whirled as the memory surfaced, conflicting with the sharp, angular pale features of Jason Bannon and the hellish look in his eyes.  Two men, yes.  They'd worked him over good.  Said he owed them money.  He remembered being afraid, so afraid that Ban-  that the large men would kill him.

    I should sleep now.  Get better.  Then tell the sheriff about the large guys, probably worked for some scumbag in Great Falls.  Yeah.

    Liam closed his eyes.  When he was ready, he'd tell the sheriff about the two guys who'd worked him over.

    = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

    "Well?"  Doctor Cook said to Courtney, handing her a tissue for the blood coming from one nostril.  The lovely girl dabbed the blood away, looked at him and sighed, brushing her vibrant red hair back over one shoulder.  The two of them sat on a couch in one of the Pedriatric Department offices, currently unused.

    "He thinks two big guys did this to him, saying he owed them money.  No connection between the attack and Bannon in his mind now."  she replied, her tone subdued as she rubbed two fingers against her left temple.  Cook nodded, giving her a pleased smile, and handed her a couple of Tylenol and some water.

    "That really goddamn hurts to do that, you know.  And his memories weren't a picnic either."  she groused, crimson lips twisting in discontent before tossing back the pills and the water.

    "You're a trooper, Courtney."  Cook acknowledged, resting a hand on the girl's shoulder.  She smiled a little archly at the handsome older man.

    "Not tonight, Doc.  I have a headache."  she teased, though she shifted a little closer to him, leaning into the one-armed hug.  Cook merely smiled, a considering look in his eye.

    "Do you think you could get into Jason Bannon's head?" he asked.  Courtney sighed, making a tsk sound.

    "Men!  Only interested in me for my mind." she pouted.  "As it happens, I've skimmed most of the minds in that band of freaks, and could maybe at least push their thoughts a little, most of them at least.  All except two.  Devin Jauntsen seems to be naturally resistant.  The few times I've tried to 'push' him emotionally or read him, he either gets a headache or just doesn't react.  And the other-"

    "Is Jason?"

    "I scanned his thoughts once."  Courtney said quietly.  "Once.  On Friday last week, when you said he and some of the others had shown evidence of talent.  I pushed him a little - with conversation - and then with my gift.  It was hard to do, too.  Like I couldn't feel his emotions at first, and then..."  Her voice trailed off, and the doctor was aware that the girl was pressing her legs together and squirming slightly in her seat.

    "And then...?" he prodded.  Courtney turned and looked at him, and he was struck by the expression in her eye.

    "One word."  she said.  "Wow.  It was like I was prodding fog, and suddenly got hit by a freight train.  And his thoughts?"  she shivered, and it was not altogether in fear.  "I gave my report, what he said to me.  You read it?"

    "Yes."  Cook stated, remembering.  "It was very... graphic."

    "Yeah, it was.  And he meant every word of it."  Courtney's eyes were wide and dream-like.  Not for the first time, Cook privately wished that the most gifted of the in-Project psions wasn't a hypersexual teenage girl.  Courtney's predilections were not easy to manage, and even though cognitive therapy and drugs were able to take the edge off her disorder she could get distracted, especially by dangerous or taboo prospects.  Whilst that wasn't a problem when all she was doing was seducing football players or cheerleaders with equal abandon, it could present a problem if she set her sights on other game.

    "Courtney."  Cook's voice took on a tone of stern command.  "Focus, please.  Do you think you could get into young Mister Bannon's head the way you did with Liam?"

    "Not a chance in hell."  Courtney shook her head, clarity returning to her gaze.  "I was able to get into his surface thoughts that one time, when his control slipped.  The rest of the time his mind is like a diamond - I'd have an aneurysm trying.  The night of the game I tried to make a connection - I wanted him to know I hadn't deliberately gossiped about his unit and tried to 'push' him to believe me more easily.  No dice."  She sighed.  "He believed me anyway, I think.  But yeah... Most of that bunch are pretty independent minded, enough so I wouldn't look forward to trying to do to them what I did to Liam.  Might be something to do with them being gifted too, perhaps."

    "Perhaps."  Cook allowed.  Privately he mused that the 'Fellowship', untaught and unobserved by the Project, seemed to be manifesting levels of psionic ability beyond what the so-called 'test group' were capable.  The test group's psychokinetic could just about move a handgun and light a candle - whereas the Bannon kid could throw a grown man around like a rag doll.  Something was off with the science of their Project, regardless of what the all-knowing Doctor who ran the show thought...

    • Like 1

  22. The nurse had brought him two Tylenol, smiling sympathetically and turning the room's lights down at his request before heading out to the nurse station.  Jason gave the pills a cursory examination then shrugged before tossing them back with a swallow of water.  Though he might suspect Cook and Carter, he couldn't hold every nurse and orderly in the medical center under suspicion.  Or rather, he could, but it would achieve nothing.  Right now he was within the sphere of people who, whilst they might not be allies, were at least not mortal enemies.  Yet, at least.  And he needed something to reduce the swelling and bruising to his brain.  He closed his eyes against the faint nausea and throbbing ache of his head, pushing the world of the senses aside and withdrawing into his mind.

    Pain fell away, nausea fell away.  Yet even here, in the halls and garden of his memory palace, the damage to his grey matter had a perceivable effect.  There was a haze in the air, a faint blurriness to the edges of things.  The colours of the flowers seemed by turns too vivid or too dull.  The faint subsonic, rhythmic breathing that was always present now occasionally caused vibrations in the structure.  He wandered the halls, assessing the damage dispassionately, and was satisfied that nothing had been severely upset, no images or experiences or knowledge had been removed.  Finally, he descended a set of broad stairs and found himself at the mouth of the Well.

    It was a great, dark void, it's depths endless and falling away out of sight below the rough circular edge he stood upon.  The breathing was louder here, the exhalations causing the air to move in warm currents.  He stared down into the blackness for a long while that, in objective time, would perhaps only be a couple of heartbeats, feeling some satisfaction at having restrained what lay beneath his feet.  His capacity for violence was unfettered by fear, remorse, guilt, or even normal human physical limitation, yet his icy reason had contained it.

    But had that been the right move?  What if the two pawns of the Dark had killed him?  What if that had been their goal as Autumn had suggested?  If she had not intervened, would he now be dead?

    "I'm too pretty to keep crying over you."  Marissa said from behind him, and Jason turned, putting the Well at his back as he regarded the stunning brunette.  She was dressed as she had been when she'd come to his home that Saturday morning, and stepped forward to wrap her arms around his waist and hug him.

    "It seems that you have found a way to stem your tears."  Jason replied, stilling the impulse to embrace her in turn, feeling the warm breath of the Well on the back of his neck stirring his anger.  "You could have just told me you desired Cade.  It would not have stopped me being your friend."  Marissa looked up at him, smiling a little mockingly as she shook her head and opened her mouth to speak-

     

    "This is tasty."

    The voice intruded on his thoughts, along with the faint sounds of tapping plastic.  Jase's eyes flicked open to see the Man in Black seated next to his bed, fork in hand as he dug mouthfuls of food from a plastic container Jason recognised as being his lunch.  Mr Black smiled as the youth's pale eyes met his, helping himself to another mouthful with relish.  "Really good.  What is it?"  

    "Provencal mutton casserole."  Jason replied, quieting the urge to lash out immediately.  Now he was back in the world of the physical, the pain and nausea had returned, though the Tylenol was working already.  Focusing through the pain, he contemplated the black-garbed figure in the chair.

    "You got a knack, I'll say that."  The man nodded approvingly, sitting back in the chair with the container still in hand as he regarded Jase critically.  "You look like shit, boy."

    "You should see the other guys."

    "Hah!  Yeah.  That li'l redhead busted that boy up good."  Mr Black forked up more casserole, speaking around the mouthful.  "Dunno why she had to, though.  You could have smeared those two all over the halls."

    "And played right into your hands."  Jase retorted.  Mr Black's head tilted slightly, then he smiled.

    "Mine?  You got me confused with someone else, Jase - you mind if I call you Jase?"  He went on without waiting for an answer.  "Jase, my boy, I don't want you hurt by the Dark.  You or any of your Shiny friends.  Any more than you'd want to go around your garden tearing up flowers."

    Jase was silent, regarding the Man in Black for a long moment as he chewed on Jason's lunch.  "You're not working for the Dark."  he stated rather than asked, though there was some skepticism in his tone.  The Man in Black shook his head, then leaned forward.

    "The Dark hates those who Shine, boy.  It's in the name.  I know you've spotted the pattern in the killings over the decades and centuries here.  Every generation or so, right?  Just enough time to harvest those with Shine or the potential for it."  He gestured with the fork.  "See, you and your buddies are food to the Dark, and flowers to me.  I want to see you guys win."

    "So tell me about the Dark, then."  Jason invited with a smirk as Mr Black shook his head, tsk-ing.

    "Can't do that, kiddo.  Can't just give you everything, or you won't grow."  He rose, setting the empty container and it's fork back in the cooler bag.  "But you children need to find Cody.  And don't let the Dark kill you!  It's not just death it wants to eat, it's Shine."  He turned and headed for the door.

    "And what do you want?"  Jason asked as the lean figure in black paused at the doorway, turning slightly and grinning back at him.

    "Why, I aim to cause upset to the established order."  Mr Black said before stepping out of the room.


  23. Jason Bannon

    • Bannon is the Quiet Kid from all the Quiet Kid memes.  One day he's going to shoot up the school.
    • He sells firecrackers, weed, adderall and meth to people around Shelly.  Word is he will get anything you want for the right price.
    • His car, a sweet 1970 Dodge Charger, has secret compartments for carrying drugs and illegal firearms.  He rebuilt it himself.
    • Bannon works for a cartel.  That's how come he's never been busted for dealing.
    • People he doesn't like disappear or wind up dead.  Like that one dude, whatsisname, you know?  A few years ago?
    • His dad is a member of a crazy militia group and is friends with Hank Graskle, a dude so crazy dangerous he's on an FBI watchlist.
    • Jason is one of those super-brained autistic types and can divide by zero.
    • The eggplant is real!  Courtney told Chloe who told Leigh who was overheard by Lori... so it must be true!
    • Jason and Sean Cassidy are secretly lovers.  That's why Bannon doesn't date.  Also, Sean is the bottom.
    • Jase sells a brand of weed called Lucifer's Reserve.  No-one's heard of it before, no-one can find reference to it anywhere.  But those who have tried it insist it's the mellowest, strongest high they've ever experienced.  It's expensive as shit, though.
    • Jason's dad killed his mom.  That's why he went to jail and can only find work as a janitor at the prison now.  He's also an alcoholic.
    • Bannon is crazy.  He threatened Chet, Todd and Cody with a knife / sickle / hayhook at the County Fair and if Clara Wright and Avalon Wilson hadn't come along he'd have gutted Cody.
    • The reason Cody is missing is because Bannon finished what he was going to do at the Fair.
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  24. His window on the world had contracted to a single white aperture, a spyhole through which he could feel the thudding impacts and hear the grunted cursing of his attackers.  The pain was happening to his body, but his mind was clear and aware of what was going on, waiting for the kicks to slow and weaken from within the construct of his mind.

    And then he heard a yell, a female voice.  Autumn.  The sounds of a scuffle, the voice of Mark Belcher.  And then he heard her whimper in pain, and Something uncoiled from deep under the foundations of his mind, something that rumbled the ground of the garden.  His friend, rather than standing by, had gotten involved because he hadn't ended this fight himself.  Of course she had, and he felt stupid for not considering it in adopting his 'wait it out' strategy.  And now she was being hurt.  But he couldn't just cut loose, couldn't rip the boys limb from limb or sear them into greasy spots on the floor.  If he did, he told that impulse that was rising, he would be forfeiting freedom, anonymity.  It was not practical.  Still, there was no excuse for doing nothing.

    The kicks had stopped, and he heard the pain-wracked scream of Mark as he opened his eyes, seeing the senior staggering away from Autumn cradling his arm, even as Curtis hammered the slender redhead hard enough across the jaw to knock her sprawling.  Fury surged up behind the cold rationality of Jason's thoughts as he got his hands under him and started to rise.  Icily, he plotted out the next six seconds with computer-like precision.

    Three seconds to gain his footing and fight off the pain and dizziness.  One second to cross the distance between him and Curtis while the senior was looming over Autumn.

    And two seconds to reach around from behind and hook out both of the meat-sack's eyes with his fingers.

    Autumn kicked out against the larger youth's shin, causing him to swear but only slowing him for a moment.  Jason rose into a semi-crouch, silently and with his face expressionless under the blood from his mouth and nose, green eyes focusing on the back of Curtis's head.  Three seconds.  His fingers flexed once, claw-like, and he started forward-

    Autumn's second kick landed squarely on Curtis's knee, and there was a crunchingpopping sound that nobody looking on missed.  Curtis collapsed, screaming like a pig in a slaughterhouse as Autumn skittered back against the lockers and started to get up.  Jason regarded her for an instant - she seemed upset, angry, her face pale other than the ruddy imprint left by the fist of the youth currently filling the air with screams that caused the gawking students to blanch.  She seemed otherwise unhurt, and Bannon turned his predatory, glittering stare towards the rising figure of Mark Belcher.

    Only for Cassie to step in the way, speaking to Mark, her voice sounding odd to Jason, who then realised that was due to the ringing in his ears from the blows he'd taken.  He watched Belcher waver in his violent posture, watched uncertainty flood the senior's face as he finally seemed to realise what he had done.  Part of Jason didn't feel that was enough. Part of him wanted to reach out and crush Mark's trachea with a telekinetic grip strong enough to bend steel.  But the threat was over.  The Dark had failed in it's objective now - due to Autumn and Cassie, no one was dead or dying.  Mark turned, fear in his expression, and stumbled out past the ring of onlookers leaving his whimpering friend behind still clutching at his leg.

    Jason sighed softly and sagged back against the locker behind him.  He looked as though he wanted to sit but was staying (mostly) upright through sheer cussedness as he glanced over at Autumn, meeting her blue eyes and smiling a faint crooked smile, feeling the pull at his split lip and tasting his own blood in the back of his throat as he did so.  Then he turned his gaze on Cassie, nodding.

    "Thanks guys." he said, then spat bloody phlegm to one side.  Remembering something, he looked around and spotted his cooler bag a few meters away where it had slid during the fight.  Moving slowly and with great care, fighting waves of dizziness and nausea, he stepped forward and leaned down to pick it up.  "My lunch." he explained unbidden to no-one in particular, then sat down on the tiled floor.  Dimly, he was aware that he probably had a minor concussion.  "Why is it I always get hit in the head when you guys are around?" he asked Autumn and Cassie plaintively, his bloody features creasing in a lopsided grin as, finally, teachers pushed through the throng of onlookers and started to take stock of the situation.

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  25. Tuesday Lunchtime - The Halls

    Bannon

    Autumn seemed hesitant for a moment as Jase smiled and nodded at her, then appeared to make up her mind about something and stepped towards the lean youth, causing him to pause in the act of turning to go and wait, head tilted in curiousity as his gleaming eyes studied her.  He had been intending to seek solitude over lunch, but the redhead was a friend and politeness dictated he give time if it was required.  He took a step towards her...

    And that was when the attack came, suddenly, as two burly shapes bull-rushed Jason's lean form into the lockers with a crash.  He fell to the floor, cooler bag sliding away from him as he lost his grip on it, and was aware of being winded and dazed for a moment as he felt two pairs of hands grab him and yank him upright, shoving him back into the lockers once more.  He saw the glazed stare and leering grin of Curtis Denicott and, just beyond it, the similarly-twisted features of Mark Belcher.

    "That's right, fucker."  Curtis slammed a fist into Jase's stomach, causing him to grunt and stagger.  The two seniors each outweighed Jase by perhaps a good forty pounds at least, perhaps as much as sixty in the case of the Belcher kid.  "Who's cut off now, faggot?"  Denicott stepped back, allowing his partner in crime to add his own clenched fist to the argument, the blow catching Jason in the ribs and sending him back into the lockers a third time, clenched teeth bared as he stifled back a cry of pain.  He saw students stopping and watching, their expressions ranging between shock, dismay and amusement, and realised none of them would help.  Not that he expected help anyway - it was not in his nature, even instinctively. to look outside himself for the providing of solutions.

    The answer was obvious, and he felt the power within him moving, uncoiling in his veins... and then stopped it.  These kids, and they were kids, were being driven, controlled.  The Dark wanted him to kill them, or at the least to use his powers publicly, an act which would further split the Fellowship as well as feed the fear and death the Dark loved so much.  He was being manipulated, and crudely, a thought that made him smile as his shirt was grabbed once more, straightening him in place.  Belcher glared at him.

    "The fuck is so funny, asshole?"  he demanded, then punched Jason squarely across the jaw, the impact of which would have sent the slender boy to the ground if Curtis hadn't caught him.  Jason knew that he couldn't outfight them, not without powers.  He also knew that to unleash himself would be to play into the hands of the Dark.  It didn't care about these two idiots - they were expendable.  What it wanted was for him to fight back - expose his gift, draw attention to him, perhaps even put himself in the spotlight for the attack on Liam.

    "Sometimes you've got to take the punch."  Hank had said as he handed Jase an icepack for his ribs.  "Sometimes you've got to let the other guy think he's having it all his way.  Then he might think he's got you beat, but you're playing the longer game.  You might even throw the fight, so he comes to the next one - the more important one - expecting the same shit, and that's when you hammer him good.  Winning a fight is easy.  Winning a war takes sacrifice."

    "Oh, I was just thinking I know girls who probably hit harder than you two."  Jase said with a grin that pulled at his split lip.  As the features of his attackers darkened, he hawked and spat his blood into Curtis's face.  As he did so, he wrapped himself in a weak cocoon of telekinetic force.  It wouldn't stop a solid blow - that would again draw attention - but might turn it into a glancing one.   He wasn't going down without a fight, though his calculating mind told him he was likely going to lose.  Curtis flinched, and Jason drove forward and launched an elbow-strike that took the senior squarely on the nose, hearing the crunch of cartilage and feeling a savage exultation fill him - only to catch a hook to his ear from Mark that made him drop to one knee.  Teeth clenched, he turned on that knee and slammed his left elbow into Belcher's groin, causing the beefy kid to groan and stagger back.  Jason tried to get to his feet, but a clumsy kick from Curtis, who was cursing and holding his streaming nose in one hand, caught him in the gut and sent him to the lino-tiled floor, the wind knocked out of him.

    And then both seniors started to work him over with clumsily aimed kicks, and it took all of his control not to lash out and turn them into candles of fat and screams as he curled into a fetal position, protecting his head and vitals as best he could, blocking out the pain and waiting for them to get tired.

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