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Sean Cassidy

Interim Ep. 3: Wheels and Deals (Saturday - Sunday)

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The morning still held some of night's chill, but the sky was blue and clear, and with the sun just a little above the horizon, it already promised to be a warm day. A good day for a drive down to Helena, a good two-and-a-half hours away from Shelly, the site of the big, annual government auction in Montana. It was a chance to get a decent to great vehicle at a massive discount, if you knew what wanted and what you were looking at, since all sales were final, sold as is, and where is. Sean had been looking at the listings of vehicles being auctioned the last few weeks, and did what research he could online, so had a good idea of what his choices should look like.

But he wanted someone more familiar with vehicles than he was with him when he went down to Helena to inspect the vehicles today before he bid on any of them tomorrow, someone who had a better idea of how much wear and tear there was, if anything needed to be replaced, how much any needed repairs would cost, and the like. And if that someone had their own vehicle to get down to Helena, that would be a big bonus. Sean's dad was busy this weekend on a contract, and while he could have asked his mom, she wasn't who Sean had in mind when he went out to buy his first car, even if his parents were subsidizing the purchase, putting in a dollar for every two he put in. They'd paid half of Teagan's car, but with his online computer work and the modest sales of his first video game, his car fund was considerable bigger than Teagan's had been, and his parents couldn't afford to match it entirely.

At Bunnee's last night, Sean had shared the table with an ideal candidate for his car-buying excursion. So when the talk around the table had died down, the guy dressed up as Shelly High's bustiest cheerleader had caught up with the undeniably strongest girl in School, and likely in Shelly, at the counter, and asked her if she'd go with him to Helena for the weekend to be his car guru to look over any set of wheels he was interested in bidding on. He offered to pay for the gas, motel, and meals in exchange for the favor - he had factored in for incidentals when the idea of going to the government auction to get a vehicle came to him after reading about it last year.

Sara had regarded the short(ish), remarkably pretty and curvaceous redhead for a long moment, asked him a few questions about the auction and what he had in mind, then nodded in agreement. Sean hadn't thought about it at first, but taking a wrecker to Helena was an excellent idea, in case he could get a ludicrous deal on a fixer-upper, though he was intended on getting something he could drive off the lot.

There was another redhead by the counter, there to pick up a called-in order, who couldn't help but overhear Sean and Sara's conversation. After the absolutely insane and impossible day she had, Autumn could so go for a weekend away from Shelly, at least a day and night, anyway. Before she could even consider if she was being too forward or not, Autumn asked Sean and Sara if she could go with them, belatedly adding that she'd like to take a look at the auction too, to see if it might be something she'd look at again when she was serious about getting a car of her own.

Sean had been surprised by Autumn's request, but he had no objections, mentally tacking on a bit more to the incidentals bill - he was offering to cover the costs for Sara, he wouldn't do less for Autumn. He would have to make sure he didn't get too involved in bidding and ended up going over-budget. Sean had looked up at Sara to see if she had any issues with another coming on the road trip, and when Sara had shrugged a massive shoulder, Sean had welcomed Autumn along, totally understanding wanting to get out of Shelly after being thrown into the Weird so suddenly today.

Sara pulled up to Keane residence in the wrecker, giving the horn a quick beep just as Sean texted Autumn that they were there. Knowing they would be early, Autumn was ready and was out the door in a moment. Being the smallest of the three, Sean slid over on the bench seat so he would be sitting in the middle on the drive. After Autumn climbed in the passenger side and got settled, Sean offered her a cardboard tray holding three cups - the fourth cup was already in Sara's hand.

"I didn't know if you drank coffee or not, so there's a coffee or a hot chocolate, if you want it," Sean offered with a grin. "And if you don't want, neither will go to waste."

Sara pulled out back onto the road and headed for the I-15 S to take the three Shelly natives down to Helena.

"I know we're starting out early, but it's a good drive to Helena," Sean said, cheery and eager to be on the road on the way to get his own car. He glanced at the radio, but Sara was driving, it was her choice of music or if any music played at all. "You guys wanna stop off for a bit in Great Falls to grab a quick breakfast, or just wait until we get to Helena?"

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Sara pulled onto the entry ramp to the interstate and put the gas pedal to the floor, she noticed Sean eyeing the radio but said nothing as she shifted through the gears. She did glance at Autumn who was looking out the window. Funny, she reflected the two had known each other pretty much their whole lives but outside of hellos and how are yous, had probably never had a real conversation, at least not one she could remember, had never had a sleep over or been invited to each others birthday parties. God my life has sucked, she thought.

Now up to cruising speed the big wrecker rolled down interstate 15 at 60 mph, the ride was smoother than than the teens expected and there were few cars on the highway this early on a Saturday, "Radio doesn't get much reception but it has an auxiliary port if you want to hook you phone in for music," she said to Sean, "We'll fuel up in Great Falls and get breakfast there if you guys like."

Nods of agreement from the other two teens as Sean pulled out his phone and a cord and started scrolling to pick some music. "So Autumn, welcome to the club, you figure out what you can do yet?" Sara checked her mirrors and glanced at the red head, "Me, I read minds."

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"Mmmm," Autumn nodded in agreement, swallowing a sip of coffee almost as black as her grandfather had made it. She'd taken loads of cream and sugar in the stuff, as a little girl- more like coffee-flavored milk, Owen had always teased, while her grandmother chided him about the caffeine stunting her growth. "Yeah. I run, and try not to scream." There was an awkward pause, and she leaned around Sean a bit to regard the well-built young woman driving with a somewhat abashed smile. "Sorry, it's just... I'm still not sure how I feel about all this, y'know?" Sinking back into her seat, the plainer of the two redheads present blew lightly across the tiny opening in the plastic lid of her coffee cup. It was her first time in a wrecker, for sure, and it was cleaner inside than she'd expected, for some reason; she could see her own image reflected in the windshield. There was faint yellow-purple bruising that discolored the smattering of freckles around her eye, a small but angry-looking line running through her eyebrow, and swelling on one side of her lip from her meeting with the cafeteria door roughly 24 hours prior. "It's like it's not real, like if I never thought about it again, just erased yesterday from my mind, everything would go back to the way it was." She shook her head, dismissing the thought. "I can't though, and it won't. I just don't feel like it has anything to do with me, to be honest. I'm not like that. I'm not like you guys. I'm just me."

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"I don't think you're going to get out of the weird and terrifying as easy as that," Sean said wryly as he plugged in his phone and narrowed down on a playlist. He gave Autumn a crooked, understanding grin. "I'm still figuring out how I feel about all this too, Autumn. And it doesn't take 'powers' to be involved." Sean hooked his fingers in actual air quotes to emphasize the word. "Don't sure if others have mention the Shine around you, but not only those of us with obvious - if not glamorous - psionic abilities have it." He tilted his head towards Sara on the other side of him. "Sara showed us. Laurie has it, and Lilly. And Cade. And you do, too. Welcome to the club."

"The Shine..." Autumn muttered, plopping her head back against the headrest. "What's the pay like?"

"Couple hundred units of crazy a week, and several dozen questions without answers so far," Sean replied. "But there's several of us who aren't bad at cooking or baking, though, so the catering is decent." Sean held up his phone, waggling it a little, selections sliding on the screen without him touching it. "You guys mind if I try out some of the music I'm considering for the the video game I'm working on? It's mostly for ambience, so there might be some adaptation I still have to do."

Sara shrugged. Autumn nodded her ascent. "Go ahead. What kind of game?"

"Open world, post-apoc setting. With psionic powers as an option." Sean's lips twisted in a smirk as he set his phone in a dip on the dash and cued up the first song with a thought. "Since Bethesda shit the bed with Fallout 76, I'm looking to fill that void."

They drove down I-15 for a while, listening to Sean's playlist for several songs. Autumn looked over at Sean, sitting slightly squished between the two girls. "You do all this yourself, Sean?"

"I did some," Sean admitted with self-deprecating pride. He took a long sip of the hot chocolate before continuing. "Lots you can do with computers and synthesizers and enough time. Others are open source or royalty free, that I left as is or played with a bit, some I commissioned. Looking for stuff that's a bit rock, or a bit metal, or kinda country, depending on the area. Good music really adds to a game.

I add music and sounds at gaming night too. Gaming night really does help me with video game design," Sean explained. "At least in plot management and in considering what the players might do. The music is a bonus."

"Cool," Autumn commented with honest non-commitment. She could tell it was a very big and dear interest to Sean, but it wasn't much to her.

They made it to Great Falls in good time with the traffic being light so early in the morning. They stopped at the Roadhouse Diner for breakfast, being served by an older, blonder, more jaded version of Max. The disparate young women and young man that looked like a young woman drew some attention from some of the other patrons, mostly a group of grey-haired retirees and former fields hands and men who used to work the oil derricks, but none of them said anything to them that they could hear.

Sean didn't rush his plate of crepes and fruit, but it was clear he didn't want to linger and was eager to be on the road once more, wanting to have as much time as possible to look over the vehicles he was interested in before the bidding tomorrow. Sean covered the bill, the ladies covered the tip, and soon they were back on the road, travel cups of coffee in hand for those who still need to be more caffeinated.

Sean changed the playlist to a varied and eclectic collection of music instead of his video game music - the girls had been kind enough to indulge as much as they had - as they settled back in the wrecker. "Well, at least my entirely selfish and personal reason to get out of town for a day and a night gives us an reason to not think about the strange for a while."

 

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It was a long hour and a half drive to Helena, and a quiet one. Sara let the other two handle the small talk and if required she grunted a single syllable answer, she only took her eyes off the road ahead to check her mirrors. Neither of the others had any idea of how to shield their thoughts and didn't even try so that Sara had to contend with their stray thoughts, which was often in contrast to what they were actually saying.

It was funny she could block it out in a crowd, the mind voices, but here in the cab of the truck she had to make an effort to keep from reading her companions. She wondered if it was because of what Jase and the others had started calling the Shine or just the proximity and that these were the only other minds available to touch.

They arrived on the outskirts of Helena and Sara was about to turn on the GPS unit that her dad had mounted on the dash, when she noticed it was already on. She didn't remember starting it up though, maybe Sean had, "Sean can you type in the address of the place we're going to, please.  I'm not at all familiar with Helena"

Sean looked over at Sara who had been moody and quiet after breakfast and then at the bulky old GPS on the dash, "Sure," he answered and complied.

Sara took the appropriate exit off the interstate and followed the GPS directions to their destination.

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Sara drove them past the Wal-Mart Supercenter and onto Billings. They drove past a strip mall that already had more cars filling up the parking lot than would be typical this early in the morning, if ever. They could see people getting out of the cars hitting 18th street and heading north. Sean suggested they do the same, guessing any closer parking spots were already taken and the girls agreed. Sara found a good spot near one of the exits of the strip mall parking lot, in case they needed the wrecker to haul away Sean's find.

The three of them joined the flow of people heading up 18th Street and very quickly, they decided they were lucky they had found a parking spot so close, as the crowd of people and parked cars grew thicker and thicker. There were bi-monthly auctions in Helena, but the big one for Montana was only annual and people came from all across the state, and some of the neighboring ones. There had to be nearly as many people there for the vehicle auction as there were people living in Shelly.

Even such a crowd, the three Shelly natives stood out, and it wasn't only because Sara was the most muscular girl - and just about the most muscular person, period - there, Sean one of the most well-endowed, or that two of them were vibrant red-heads in a sea of mostly brown and black hair, speckled with shades of blond. They got questioning looks for being three (apparent) girls with no men accompanying them, as well as being relatively young. If they weren't the youngest, they saw, they were the youngest unaccompanied by someone else clearly older.

Still, there was an almost festive air to the auction, like a livestock fair, though business was still paramount. They crossed Livingston Ave. and followed the flow of people into the massive, fenced on lot filled with close packed vehicles, arranged in some basic sense order. Most vehicles showed some damaged - to the front bumper or rear end for the most part - all showed at least some to a lot of wear, and they weren't nearly all just civilian vehicles.

Even from where they were near the entrance, they could see Construction Vehicles rearing over the lot, a section of RVs, some Crown Victoria and Dodge Charger Police cars, what might be a SWAT van, and a number of motorcycles. Sean's gaze lingered there for a moment before he gave his head a shake. The fun stuff could wait until he made it big. For now, something practical for all seasons in Montana.

"Okay, I got most of the stuff for the auction done online, but I still have to sign in to be allowed to do inspections," Sean said nodding towards a small outbuilding set off a ways to the side of the entrance. There was a relatively long line heading, but it seemed to be moving fast. "Hopefully this won't take too long."

Surprisingly, it didn't, though Sean, Sara, and Autumn all three had to endure being chatted up some by men in line with them, and in one case when two fairly obvious older lesbians’ made Sara blush, though whether it was the looks they were giving her or what she picked up that they were thinking Sean and Autumn didn’t know and Sara didn’t say. Then there was Chris, a guy who chatted amiably with Autumn, and at least looked like he was still in high school. Sean seemed to take it all in stride without embarrassment, brushing off the attention by being coolly non-committal. And while Sean didn’t notice, Autumn saw Sara position herself and flex her muscles a couple of times when certain males started to get too close to all of them , and scared them away. When they got inside the registration hut, the man manning this the desk - Ralph according to his name-tag - gave them a doubtful look that added at least two more chins to his face. He had a handle-bar moustache and a fringe of hair about his head, both brown fading to grey, and had to be in fifties at least.

"You girlies have your fathers here?" Ralph asked them brusquely. "Everything auctioned is sold as is, where is. A young face and a pretty smile ain't gonna change that."

That made Sean, and not only Sean, bristle. "Why would they be here? They aren't buying something. I am," Sean said sharply, pulling out several forms and his tablet from his satchel, and placing them the counter, the tablet already queued up to a site. "Any maybe my friends, if they see something that catches their eye. And I brought her," Sean nodded over at Sara, "because she knows cars better than me or my dad."

Ralph harrumphed, giving Sara a quick glower under lowered, bristly brows, and none of them needed telepathy to know what he was thinking. But he backed off when Sara leaned over planting her fists on the desk top her arms straining the short sleeves of her t-shirt, “Ralph,” she said with a level tone, “why don’t you just do your job and let us worry about how we make our purchases with our money after all the sign does say all purchases final so why do you give a fuck.” Ralph flinched when the muscle-girl stood up to her full near six-foot height and flexed. “Okay, okay. Like you say it’s your money and all purchases are as is and final. Let me have those forms. Please?” He took special care going through Sean's forms and the entry on his tablet - enough that the people behind the Shellites were beginning to grumble - but couldn't find anything out of order. He stamped one of Sean's forms with more force than necessary and waved them away with a dissatisfied, "Next!"

"Dick," Sean muttered as they went down the short flight of stairs, pulling up a map of the auction grounds on his tablet, that showed were each lot number was located for inspection. "At least that's done. I have my eyes on a couple of SUVs that looked to be still in running condition, including a Grand Cherokee that I think only has some minor body damage and a couple of sedans, some of which are hybrids. Oh, and Tesla Roadster that looks near mint - it was impounded from a bro who was street racing. While drunk. Who somehow didn't kill himself." Sean snorted in regretful bemusement. "No way is the bidding on that going to stay under my budget, not that it would survive a winter in Montana, anyway. Sara, if you could, point out anything you think might be good, y'know, superficial damage that won't be hard or costly to fix up. I only looked at things that looked like they could be driven off the lot."

Sara shrugged, her eyes panning over the see of vehicles in all stages of mechanical life. "Sure. Why don’t we start with the ones you have picked and then after looking at those we can move on to browsing." Sara glanced over at Autumn, “If there’s anything you want me to look at just point it out okay?”

Sean clapped his hands eagerly. Soon, so soon, he would no longer require his bike or have to rely on his friends to get about town, or out of it. "Okay, let's get going. I don't want to be inspecting cars all day. Maybe we can catch a movie afterwards or something." Sean pursed his lips and cocked his head slightly to the side, considering. "Or maybe check out the Montana Historical Society Museum. See if there's anything interesting there that might mean something to us after what Jase found out."

 

Spoiler

Sorry about the lack of dialogue, wasn't sure what to write for Sara or Autumn.

 

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The three teens headed into the large fenced in area adjacent to the fairgrounds. The vehicles were packed in fairly tightly and there was no real order to how they were parked except by type. Each vehicle was listed by lot number which was either written in colored marker on the windshield or if the vehicle in question didn't have a wind shield was written on a laminated card which was tied to the vehicle in plain sight. There was no details attached to any of the cards either, with the advent of the internet all information was available online you just had to log in with a password and put in the lot number voila there was all the information known about the vehicle. and that wasn't saying much.

Luckily the prospective buyers could look at the vehicles and while they couldn't test drive them or even start the engines they could do pretty much anything else during their inspection. Starting with the SUVS, they read the lot number entries and Sara looked them over checking the engines visually, fluids belts all the things you could check by looking and touching and she looked at the undercarriage and drive trains. She advised skipping on the older Subaru and said that the ford explorer was a possible candidate for reconditioning, depending on how high the auction price went. Next up was the Jeep

It had been confiscated a couple of years ago in a drug raid and was then put into use by the state police until the outcome of the trial, at which point the vehicle was slated to be auctioned. It had a lot of aftermarket addons already but almost all of them showed terrible wear and lack of upkeep. The body itself was in relatively good shape except for  a few cosmetic injuries. Autumn had stopped at one point and pointed at a small hole near the spare, "Is that a bullet hole," she had asked? All three girls looked at it in silence for a few seconds. Engine wise, it had been used hard but Sara said it would probably require less upfront work than the Ford, but after looking at the suspension and drive train was more worried about them.

"Okay Sean, it's a jeep and it hasn't been treated with love and care like Cade does his. This thing has seen a lot of off road use I think, and there are several mismatched parts which tells me that it's had the suspension worked on a lot. Which is not unusual after all it is a jeep. On the plus side it is a model year that was pretty good for jeep so it probably isn't a lemon." She shrugged as she wiped her hands on a cloth Autumn handed her, "It's probably going to go pretty high in the auction so don't get caught up in the excitement. But even with the work it needs its a better get than anything else I've seen."

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Sean's enthusiasm to check out the vehicles started out strong, but was starting to fade some by the time they got to the Grand Cherokee. He had read up and studied the vehicles he was interested in, so he had a good idea at what he was looking at, but he had no experience at judging what was purely cosmetic damage compared to something more serious, or how just how extensive the wear and tear on the components was, or how much more they should be able to endure.

Sara was a godsend, pointing out the pros and cons to him, and taking the time to explain what was what. Unfortunately, there invariably seemed to be far more cons than pros. The Subaru didn't make the cut, and the Explorer would only be a good deal with if the bidding didn't go to  high. There was a 35 year old Ford F-150 that looked promising at first, but Sara nixed that one, noticing a distinct flaw in the engine. The Grand Cherokee Trailhawk would require more work on it than Sean had initially thought, though Sara still said it was the best of the SUVs they had looked at.

He'd looked at the specs online, knowing it had a lifted suspension and bigger tires than standard, but seeing it with his eyes, the Grand Cherokee with the Trailhawk package and extra off-roading mods looked awfully big. Sara had had to support him with a strong hand when he balanced on one of the red tow-hooks to get a better view of the engine to see what Sara was pointing at. At least the thing had running boards to help him climb inside and he'd never have to worry about getting stuck in the snow or seeing over traffic.

48 minutes ago, Sara Hutchins said:

"It's probably going to go pretty high in the auction so don't get caught up in the excitement. But even with the work it needs its a better get than anything else I've seen."

"This was the one I really had my eyes on originally," Sean admitted with a sharp nod, arms folded as he eyed the forest green beast. "Though it needs more work than I expected. I was worried about getting caught up in the bidding, that's why I was looking at more options. There's the Explorer, I guess. I'd at least one more option among the SUVs or crossovers though." He looked up at the tall mechanic girl, as he fully unzipped his hoodie and rolled up the over long sleeves. It wasn't quite warm enough for him for just a t-shirt, though Sara seemed completely at ease with her bulging biceps stretching her short sleeves. "You'll help me out, tuning up whatever I end up with, Sara?"

"Yeah, sure," Sara replied succinctly.

Maybe a telepath needs few words, Sean thought bemusedly. "Cool. Let's see if we can find me one or two more options, so I have a couple of choices to bid on tomorrow."

It wasn't just his initial prospects largely being let downs that was getting to Sean, it was the all the people. He wasn't used to crowds this thick, pressing so close. He was grateful for Sara's presence, not just as a mechanic. Her size and physique gave them a wider berth that Sean was sure he would have gotten alone or with Autumn.

Autumn found a Rav4 Sara deemed passable, if bare bones, and it had over 200k miles on it. When they turned to the cars, Sara was non-committal about the Corolla and a Camry that could pass for the near twin of Sean's mom's car. The Honda Civic hatchback needed a lot of work, including replacing both bumpers, but Sara admitted that getting parts for a Civic was easy and relatively inexpensive. Still, Sean preferred buying something he could drive off the lot, and the what Sean thought was a College Douche-Bro that turned from inspecting the car to inspecting him a little too luridly turned Sean off from really considering the Civic. At least his fingers didn't even twitch towards zipping up his hoodie.

As they finished the inspections, Autumn took a look at a few and got Sara's advice at what to look for, Sean had wanted to a pass at the Tesla Roadster, but there were way too many around it and he decided to pass with a bit of regret. Tesla might have some issues with supply and autonomous driving functions, but by all accounts, they were well crafted vehicles.

The trio left the lot and returned to the Wrecker, sometime past noon. Getting a bit hungry, they stopped off at Wendy's to grab something to eat before checking in at the Days Inn where Sean had booked a room. It was for two beds. Sean had at first only been considering Sara accompanying him, but when Autumn had come aboard, he had called back and been assured a cot could be moved into the room.

"Hello, I've reserved a room. Under Cassidy," Sean said, when it was their turn up at the service desk, pulling out his phone with the reservation and his credit card.

The desk clerk looked over the information and then typed on his computer. He gave the three of them a professional look, his smile friendly, his eyes appreciative though not leering at what he thought were three attractive young women. Sara caught him wondering if they were just friends or if two of them were a couple, idle thoughts, and surprisingly, not salacious in the less.

"Here we are, Ms. Cassidy." Sean gave Sara and Autumn a minute shake of his head, considering it not worth the hassle of correcting the clerk, especially not with more than a few others to overhear. "A ground floor room, two beds." He entered Sean's credit card info, then handed him three keycards.

Sean collected them and his phone and credit card, then arched a brow in inquiry. "I called yesterday, asking if it would be possible to get a cot rolled into the room?"

"Let me see." The clerk type on his computer once more, then gave Sean an apologetic smile. "I'm afraid not, all our extra cots are in use. The evening clerk should have reserved one for you. And unfortunately, we don't have anymore rooms available. If it was an issue about double booking a room, I'd be authorized to book you a room at our expense at another hotel, but..." The clerk - Denis - gave them a sincere shrug at the trouble. "The beds are queen size, and I can make sure there are extra blankets and pillows. And for the trouble, in addition to breakfast, I can comp you for dinner. Would that be acceptable?"

Sean spoke with the others softly - there were enough people at the auction, Sean wasn't sure if they could find another room or rooms for a reasonable price - then he turned back to the clerk. "Thank you, that's fine. And thank you for doing what you could."

Denis printed off three vouchers for the onsite restaurant and handed them to Sean. "I always try to do what I can for our guests. I hope you have a good stay with us. Your room will be down that way, and the restaurant it just over there."

Sean gave the girls a slightly chagrined look as they headed towards their room. "Well, free dinner at least, right?"

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As they made their way to the room and found a fairly nice accommodation, very clean, the small wall mounted AC had been running so while not frosty it was cool enough, the bathroom was small and contained only a shower. The beds themselves were large doubles with soft mattresses. Sara and Autumn spoke up at the same time, "I'll sleep on the floor,"said Sara, and "I don't mind taking a spot on the floor, " from Autumn. Both teens looked at each other. Seean feeling bad threw his own hat in the ring. "I can sleep on the floor guys after all it's my trip. I should have double-checked. "

For the next five minutes the three teens played like they were a monty python act trying to decide who should sleep on the floor. In the end Sara suggested a compromise.

"Look, these beds a big enough to share, nobody wants anybody else to sleep on the floor so two of us can just sleep together."

The room fell silent as Autumn and Sean glance at each other then at Sara.

"Okay," Autumn spoke up first, "I guess that means you and me," she nodded at Sara who looked puzzled, then it dawned on her.

"Oh, yeah," she looked at Sean, "I forgot."

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"Heh heh, oh, right," Sean tried to laugh it off, the faintest blush crossing his fair cheeks as he gave Sara an awkward shrug. "I kinda did too."

He hadn't really considered they might be uncomfortable sharing a room, let alone a bed, with him. He and his sisters had shared rooms when they had gone out of town for family trips - which hadn't been often, beyond when they had been looking for second opinions on Sean's condition - and this hadn't actually felt that different to him, Sara filling in as an even more buff Teagan and Autumn as a less teasing version of Laurie with even redder hair. He had been thinking Sara should get the solo bed on the basis of being by far the largest of them, but the issue was rather obvious now that it had been conspicuously left unsaid.

"We'll make it work, I'm sure. If we can deal with stuff back in Shelly, we can deal with a litt- with this."

Sean was aware of it, but with Sara's admission, she and Autumn noticed the subtle change in Sean, a slight shift in his gait, somewhat more feminine gestures and inflection in his voice. Maybe it was because they knew him, had grown up with him in Shelly, but Sara and Autumn could see the slight difference in how Sean was in a familiar environment like Shelly, compared to how he presented himself out of town. In Shelly, he was the boy built more like the girls in his video games and RPGs. Out of Shelly, he was perceived as a somewhat tomboyish, remarkably attractive girl, and didn't even seemed annoyed or resigned about it.

Sara could sense the lingering traces of such emotions, but they were overlaid with a bolstering self confidence and acceptance. Sean couldn't determine how others decided to see, but he could work on how he much he was affected by their perceptions and how comfortable he was in his own skin. Being confrontational about his issues, especially with someone he'd never see again, hadn't usually gone well for him. Not worrying (as much) about what others thought helped a great deal with that, and almost surprisingly, it seemed in return, he didn't get as much targeted attention. They didn't need to know about him. If a passing contact with someone developed into something a little more substantial, then he could decide if he would tell them or not.

Sean left his bag with his change of clothes between the end tables separating the beds, making no claims, and then turned to his companions. "I know we've had a long car ride, then a few hours on our feet, but either of you up for anything this afternoon instead of staying cooped up in the hotel?" Sean had mused on the Montana Historical Society Museum, but now, that seemed like homework for the shit going on in Shelly. They'd be back down in the muck soon enough, they could take a day off. The Dark bided every twenty-seven years, after all, what was one more day? "Maybe a movie or something? There's an Cinemark, more selection then we get in Shelly."

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After freshening up the three teens headed out. A movie was their ultimate destination but after deciding on a feature they found they had a couple of hours before the next showing so the reserved their tickets online and headed over to the Museum, Sean had mentioned, where they could kill a little time.

History was one of Sara's better subjects in school and something she enjoyed reading about, just not Montana history, so much of what was on display at the museum was new to her and she suddenly found it much more interesting than she would have thought.

They had wandered the museum not following the tour but going it on their own Sean had actually become less interested in things as they continued, one he didn't know what he had really expected to find and two, it was mostly Native- American artifacts and  19th century , pieces with a few innovative farm machines and some railroad things thrown in for good measure. So he had started playing with the museums actual modern electronics the lights camera's alarms and things using his psionic abilities using his own senses to feel the currents of electricity his powers to read the code. Almost by accident he stumbled onto the same thing Bannon would be trying to teach the rest of the Fellowship  a day later. He had paused as Autumn and Sara were looking at an exhibit which showed the the various dresses of Native American women through out the prehistoric and historic periods. Sean had noticed Sara several times looking at individuals and small groups of tourists who were coming close to them and almost always they those people had seemed to lose interest in what the girls and himself were looking at and wandered away. She wondered if Sara was doing that with her shine. She watched closely the next time Sara did what ever Sean suspected her of doing and concentrated hard and suddenly the whole room exploded in psionic energy.

It startled Sean and he made a little gasp but not loud enough to  alert her companions. She could sense them all and everyone had the shine at least a little, it was like what Sara had shown them but different too, but he instinctively knew what it was because he could see it in Sara as she used her shine to push a family that was getting too close to them away.

Sean turned around and around he could sense the psionic energy of everyone within the nearby vicinity and could even see the differences in their individual signatures. Autumn and Sara were much more powerful than anyone else and he assumed he was as well but the fact that all of them had a shine was surprising then he noticed another shine but this was different.

It took a moment or two before Sara noticed that Sea had wandered off. She touched Autumn on the arm, "Sean's wandered off, poor guy is bored to death and this was his idea. Let's go find him.

Sean was a few rooms over when they did find him standing in front of a glass case full of arrow and spear heads made of flint and other stone material. Several of which Sean could sense had psionic signatures of their own.

 

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Sean stared at the spear heads and arrow heads in intense wonder, his multi-hued eyes almost seeming to glow from the reflected shine he could sense radiating from them. His fingers twitched in unconscious want as he leaned in towards the display, swiftly reading the placards and committing the artifacts' providence to memory. He wasn't really considering... borrowing one of the artifacts, despite desperately wanting to get his hands on one of them - it would be impractical too, each artifact had its own placard, and they all came from the only Clovis site where human remains had been found, so any missing would be noticed almost immediately. But he - the Fellowship - could sense the psionic energy resonating from these, perhaps they could find others--

"Sean!" Autumn hissed again with more urgency, placing a hand on his shoulder.

Sean gave a start, a reaching hand flinching back to his chest as he looked to his left and right, finding Autumn and Sara flanking him, his turquoise and jade eyes wide. "Whuh...? You don't see it? The shine?"

"What are you talking about?" Autumn asked in confusion, just as Sara said, "What shine?"

"It's like what you showed us at school, Sara, when we noticed the other brightness that was you, Autumn," Sean explained softly so he wouldn't be overheard, his words rushed with excitement. "But different. Everyone has some degree of Shine, I think - maybe everything does, if you can sense it closely enough. Some shine more brightly, like you guys... and those things." Sean nodded at the display of fifteen thousand year old artifacts from the people who first settled in North America. "They're shining almost as much as you both are."

"Sean, you aren't making sense," Autumn said. "They aren't shining, they're just old rock, maybe reflecting the display lights a little."

"No, not... " Sean sighed and tore his eyes off the artifacts and turned around to form at triangle with Sara and Autumn so he could address them both at the same time. "I was following the currents in the electrical system, following the flow of data from the security cams and then I noticed how some of the other patrons were reacting. I was wondering if it was something you were doing, Sara, and wanted to see if I could see, sense... a current flowing between you and them. And then I could... sort of. I could see the shine in everyone, and sense the pulse of shine you directed at those folks, Sara. And the shine coming off those."

Sean flicked a hand over his shoulder at the Clovis arrow heads and spear heads on display behind him. "Okay, we all - those of us with psionic powers anyway, I don't know about Laurie, Lilly, or Cade, or you, yet, Autumn - can detect specific phenomena. Electromagnetism, Minds, Health, Life Force - which might be the same thing, I suppose - Spatial Distance, feel stuff at range. But I think we can all sense, on some level, something else, something more general, more pervasive, that... interconnects everything else. Maybe its the medium our powers work through? Not as distinct as the other stuff we can sense, but its still there, you almost don't notice it unless you try to. Like breathing..."

Sean pursed his lips, then shook his head. "Not like breathing, you don't need it to live. More like... the warmth of the sun. Or gravity. I went with the sun thing because of, well, y'know, 'shine'. But the allusion works well enough. Sometimes, you don't even notice the feel of sunlight, and other times, you can practically feel it burning your skin, but the its always there, even when hidden by clouds - except of course during night time. It's not a perfect analogy. But what I'm saying is, I think we can all sense the shine, this psionic energy..."

This has to have an impact on determining a true, valid Grand Unifying Theory...

"How?" the girls asked in unison.

Sean tried to explain as best he could, how it felt sensing/seeing electrical currents and then trying to do the same for a different type of current when he'd been trying to see what Sara was doing and then the pop of the shine in everyone lighting up. It was easier for Sara to follow what Sean was saying, switching out electrical current for the sensation of minds all around her and then going from there. For Autumn, it was much harder, without a starting reference point. Continuing with the shine-sunshine/sunlight analogy, Sean used a window in the climate controlled museum, having Autumn stand nearby with her eyes closed. And then he subtly bent the sunlight - or at least the none-visible portion of it - towards Autumn, waiting, urging, her to feel the difference, to give her some sort of reference for what he was trying to convey.

Sara got it first, Autumn several minutes later, but she did manage it, and both gasped in near mirror to how Sean had. They could see how brightly the other two shone, the much dimmer brightness of other people... and the shine from the artifacts in the display case, a shine that shone near as bright as the Shellites did.

"You know what this means, right?" Sean said gently. "Regardless of what Cook might claim or believe - to be fair, we don't actually know what he might believe, we so need to talk with him - we are almost certainly not the first with powers like these. Not when things that old resonate so strongly to us. And it gives us something else to investigate in regards to The Dark and the Land of Upside-Down Thunder."

He had the hat and the whip from an old Halloween Costume, but it had been quite a while since Sean had entertained the idea of being an adventure archaeologist like Indiana Jones. He snorted wryly. Or in his case, like Lara Croft.

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They had looked at the ancient weapons for longer than was necessary absorbing it all in that and the fact that they all had another sense to work with. Then it was time to go.

After the movie and dinner at the attached diner at the motel it was too late for any more sight seeing and most of the cultural places were already closed and while they considered sneaking into a club they also with a few giggles quickly discarded that idea in favor of TV in the motel room.

When it was time to get some sleep Sara simply grabbed a pillow from each bed and the extra blankets the management had supplied, tossed them on the floor and with a gruff “Don’t argue.” Settled between the two bed and made herself comfortable. In the dark the three teens quietly made small talk until one by one they drifted off to sleep…

Morning came and after coffee and copious amounts of free eggs and waffles the kids were heading back to the auction  and to get Sean a car.

 

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The atmosphere at the auction was more intense today. Yesterday had just been for inspections. Today, people were focused on buying, on getting a great deal on a vehicle they could drive off the lot, on parts, or a fixer-upper they could turn around for a good profit or drive themselves. Sean was almost bouncing on his toes, barely constraining his eagerness to finally getting his own vehicle. He could have gotten a shitbox of a car earlier, like his sister Teagan had, but he had saved up to get something better... Hopefully he didn't get screwed on any auction he won and ended up with a lemon.

When they got to the lot, the auctions were already going by fast, sometimes as quick as a vehicle every two minutes. Sean grunted, finding out he'd already missed out on one of his selections. Irritating, it at least it hadn't been one high on his list. Sean got into the bidding for the Rav4, but the bids ran over his self-imposed limit in a blink and he barely stopped himself from going over. He skipped over the Honda Civic, then again lost out on the Ford Explorer. He put in a cursory bid on a 2009 Corolla, but tapped out before hitting his limit, the bids going higher than he was willing to shell out for that particular car, especially one that was powder blue.

It was nearing eleven in the morning when the bidding on the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk finally started and Sean wanted it, after losing out on his other bids. He tried to keep his expression calm and bland, as though it was just something he'd like, not something he wanted. He hissed silently when the auctioneer opened up well above what he had to spend, even though that had usually been the case with all the other bids he'd participated in, but the price dropped drastically when nobody bid. When it had gone down to a fifth of the opening bid, Sean was a hair behind someone else, and then the bidding started climbing again at a steady rate, then slowing.

It seemed the cosmetic damage was enough to deter some bidders and not that many people were interested in a vehicle modded for off-roading, since there hadn't been a huge crowd for the Grand Cherokee and as the price rose, more left. Sean and one other guy appeared to be the most interested in it. The guy was about as tall as Cade and as broad across the shoulders as Sara, maybe in his early thirties, with a bushy orange beard and an easygoing smile on his face, wearing flannel, worn jeans and work boots, and a cap.

"I see Montana ain't just Big Sky country," the man drawled in good humour between bids as laughing blue eyes flicked over Sean and Sara with idle appreciation,

Sara's physique was obvious, but Sean tried to take the comment nonchalantly, refraining from fiddling with his neckline, not for the first time this morning. He was wearing black jeans, and an open flannel shirt as well - checked black, grey, and white - but under it, he wore a woman's scooped neck maroon shirt that revealed just a bit of cleavage. There were plenty of women in the crowd wearing lower cut shirts then him, but it was the lowest cut he'd ever worn.

Autumn's brows had risen in surprise when she'd seen the top Sean had chosen to wear. He'd tried to be cool about it as he explained he'd been reading blogs and reddits about dressing figures like his. They claimed moderately low necks made boobs look smaller because it broke up the space between the neck and the rest of the chest. It was true the last time he'd worn a turtleneck, he'd looked like his torso was all boob. The shirt wasn't hiding his boobs, to be sure, but nothing really did anyway, and honestly, they did look less prominent than they had in the too tight cheerleader's outfit, at least from the front. And he didn't feel as self-conscious about wearing the shirt as he had the outfit either, at least not in Helena where people didn't know him.

"You do you, Sean," Autumn had replied bemused, glad she didn't have to lug those things around when she ran. "You wear it well."

"Montana is also Big Snow country," Sean replied to Orange Beard, "I want something that won't get stuck in it."

The man chuckled. "Fair 'nuff, fair 'nuff. First car?"

"I hope so," Sean admitted. The guy seemed friendly without being a creep, but Sean kept most of his attention in the bidding, in case this was a ruse to distract him.

"Going big, I like that. I already bought three today. I'll step back and let you ladies have a go at this one." He tipped his had at Sean and Sara and like he said, he took a step back.

"Uh, thanks," Sean said with an awkward smile, realizing he thought he and Sara were a couple.

With Orange Beard taking himself out of the bidding, Sean had the highest bid. He was determined to get it this time, and he wasn't above at little cheating himself. With a bit of whispering to Sara, when she sensed the next person was about to bid, Sean made that person's phone go nuts. He only did it once, feeling a bit of guilt and more than a bit of thrills, and then he ended up the proud owner of his own vehicle!

Sean claimed the keys, filled out all the paperwork, and winced when he transferred the funds. It was by far the biggest purchase he had ever made and he couldn't help be hesitant for a moment spending that much. With Sara's help, he started up his not-brand-new forest green Grand Cherokee Trailhawk, and tested out the various systems. Everything seemed to work, though the winch sticked at first, and Sara said some stuff would need to be looked at to make sure what shape they were in, and the brake pads would need replacing in a few months at most.

It was good enough for Sean. He hadn't even capped out his car fund, though he had come close.

"Thanks, guys for coming along with me. Now lets head back to Shelly. We should be able to make the gathering at Jase's, even if we show up late. We can tell them about those artifacts at the museum."

Sean had read all he could about the artifacts and the Clovis culture when at the museum, then online back at the hotel room in the evening. Autumn elected to ride with Sean, while Sara took the wrecker, Sean suggesting staying in contact telepathically on the drive, as a bit of practice, to see how far she could keep the connection, and whether she could maintain the effect while doing something else. In turn he would do the same with Sara's phone. Sean encouraged Autumn to practice attuning to them like she had in the museum, to see if she could perceive some part of what they were doing, to try and jump start her own yet unknown psionic potential.

The sun shone brightly as it headed towards its noon zenith while the three Shelly natives drove back home.

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