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WEIRDER STUFF
Bannon

Interim Ep 3: This Ain't The Danger Room.

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((This fic is the last open fiction for this interim period.  It takes place on the Sunday afternoon following 'Winning First' and the off-screen self-defence class taught by Lilly. It is assumed all the Fellowship are invited, though not all are expected to show.))

The bath water was cold.

That was by design rather than neglect, at least.  Jason's muscles ached from the workout Hank had put him through all morning, and the lanky youth had bruises purpling nicely on his ribs, arms, legs and, in one case, his face.  After the calisthenics had come the unarmed and armed combat practice, using pads and gloves for the first, followed by dummy wooden knives wrapped in duct tape for the second.  Hank had pushed him hard emotionally as well as physically, delivering stinging criticism of his student's technique (which didn't faze Jason) before moving to humiliating and painful takedowns when Jase made a dumb mistake.  That did get Jason's attention, and more than once he'd considered hurling his friend and instructor a dozen feet or so.  Hank had laughed at the look in his eyes, inviting him to go ahead, or else quit - it'd be the same result either way.  And Jase had risen from the floor and resumed his stance without a word.

They'd taken a break just before noon, sitting down over a cup of coffee and a sandwich to go over the morning's work.

"You're overthinking the moves."  Hank had advised.  "Don't get me wrong - thinking's good.  But it's also why you're a little slow.  You're trying to reason out what should come faster: I do this, you do that.  And I know why, kid." he'd said, cutting Jason off.  "Like I said, you'll learn.  You need to fight with some emotion, but to do that you need to keep that temper on a longer leash than you do now.  You're either all brain or all instinct."  He'd gently punched Jase's shoulder.  "We'll get you there."

Jason remembered that simple encouragement as he lay submerged in the icy cold bath, now and then feeling a lump of frozen water bump against the side of his face, the only part of him that wasn't numbed by the immersion.  He hoped Hank had been right - the fury in his core felt very far away right now as the ice stole all sensation, but he knew that if the right conditions were met, it would come roaring back up from the depths of his soul like a beast.  He needed those middle gears, and his somewhat harsh training at Hank's hands was the only way he could think of to learn that kind of control under stress.

Groaning softly, he rose from the water and stepped from the bath, examining himself in the mirror with a clinical eye.  He ached, but the bruises would fade swiftly enough at his age.  Indeed, he felt a certain satisfaction at the stiffness in his muscles and the soreness of the discoloured patches.  He had endured, not lost his temper even when provoked, and come through a harsh few hours of training without 'cheating' by using his psychokinetic gifts.  He called a towel to his hand and dried off, wincing a little at the pain when he was a touch too rough, then got dressed and went downstairs.

There was no food prepared today, unless one counted the pot of leftover chili in the fridge.  If people cared to stick around after feeling out what each of them was capable of, powers-wise, then he would provide as a host should.  Otherwise, today's meeting was going to be in the large field out back which he used himself for practice.  Most of the others didn't have physically-oriented gifts - at least not of the 'moving things' variety, but he was interested to see if Lilly could replicate her astonishing kick, or whether Charlie's shape-shifting could make him stronger, or run faster, or perform in ways other than 'simply' growing claws, teeth and armor plates.

Also, he had an idea for everyone to settle and meditate first, try to feel each other through the 'Shine', as he had with Clara yesterday.  To feel how the Shine connected them and everything around them in a subharmonic kind of way.  He wasn't sure how, exactly, but the Shine let him feel objects at rest or in motion around him, and touch them as though with his own hands, sensory feedback and all.  It allowed Devin to be connected to all points in space with only minor concentration.  It allowed Lona to sense and heal injury.  And so on with all the others, even those whose powers were harder to quantify, such as Lilly.  Something sure had allowed her to kick multiple hundred-pounds of beast through a tree.  And Clara could seemingly interact on a more fundamental level with the Shine, enhancing it - perhaps nullifying it too?  He paused as he got a bottle of water from the fridge, thinking it over.  It fit the pattern - Lona had caused pain in Liam and could take it away.  He could excite or quiet molecular activity.  Hmmm.

There was much to be found out about their gifts.  Hopefully today would yield some results.  He headed outside to the porch, sitting down a trifle stiffly, and waited for people to show.

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Clara's car rumbled up the gravel with staid dependability. She'd ducked home long enough to take a shower - figuring she shouldn't make a habit of showing up at Jase's dirty and stinky from one kind of PT or another. She smiled at Jase as she pushed her door shut, walking up to him and taking a seat next to him. "I went home last night and did a little reading. I have an idea I'd like to try with you, if you don't mind. Not powers related. Liam and that sort of thing related."

He'd greeted her with a companionable nod and shuffled to make a little space on the bench seat, though his eyes remained distant on some internal vista until she'd spoken, whereupon the icy green focused on her in that unblinking, calm predatory way that, after her reading last night, Clara recognised for what it was.  Not a threat or conscious menace, despite the common reaction of more sensitive souls to such a look in a person's eyes.  I see you, you have my interest. that stare said, with a touch of warm humour preventing it from being completely cold.

"Therapy?" his voice was a murmur, one corner of his mouth twitching in a wry smile over the bruise on his jaw, his tone making it obvious he was teasing rather than mocking.

"Sort of?" Clara ventured. "I suppose it could be considered cognitive behavioral therapy. I thought we could talk about scenarios we think up or have happened, and talk through various responses to them. Give you someone to bounce ideas and your instinctual reactions off of to create a framework for actual behavior later on." 

She gave him a sideways smile, "We could play chess while we do it. Stretch mental, moral, and ethical muscles in both of us."

"Interesting." The reply came after a moment's thought as he studied her.   "Though, I confess, I am not certain I even have ethical muscles - ethics are determined by an outward source - expected codes of behaviour, whereas morals are internally imposed.  I may pretend to ethics, but they are at best a flow that I'd go along with so long as it doesn't interfere with my internal code- and my own needs or wants."  He fell silent for a moment more, then nodded.

"That said, I'd be happy to sit and talk such things over with you over chess, or indeed any game." he decided, before his head tilted slightly in curiousity.  "You feel the need to stretch your own moral and ethical muscles?" he asked with a hint of intrigue.

"I find that muscles you don't stretch atrophy. Even if I don't feel a need, I probably should." She returned his look with her own direct one and shrugged, "And really, what harm comes from talking things out? We get an interesting conversation and learn more about ourselves each other."

After a beat, she added truthfully, "I'm also hoping that if you can understand the practicality behind moral and ethical codes - the great selfishness at the center of most - that it will make them more understandable to." She pursed her lips, looking for a better way to explain. "To understand why working within their context, even when you don't want to in the moment, can help you accomplish far more in your life. And accomplish far more in regards to other people than taking the quick fix to make you feel better in the moment."

"I've done some reading on the matter." he nodded in agreement.  "And they certainly do seem born of practicality, much as my own code is.  I am far from impulsive, usually.  In fact, before this summer my greatest violation of society's mores was growing and selling weed."  He sighed, shrugging.  "But it is easy for an alcoholic to abstain when there is no liquor, and it is easy for me to behave peacefully when there is no conflict.  And the powers..."

"I disregarded killing Liam almost immediately, you know.  Mostly because I was concerned it would touch of an unavoidable conflict with you all.  But I wanted to, and not just out of outrage over what he attempted, but to see what it was like."  He glanced at Clara.  "Not that the second would have stirred me to action by itself - that would be base, by my standards.  But getting back to my point - the powers.  They made it so easy to hurt him.  I wasn't even sure what I was going to do until we saw each other and he sneered at me.  That was when I lost control - when I saw he displayed no regret or guilt over hat he had done, only bravado because he felt secure."

"You were punishing him for thinking he got away with it with no consequences." She nodded, understanding the impulse. "Perhaps the first thing, what chess itself might help with, is to see down the timeline. Cook likely knows what you did. Either from his cameras or from the strangeness of the crime scene. You realize that gives him a measure of leverage, right? Most especially if it was by camera. Then he has proof. Proof that would require the exposure of our powers to be believed, but I'm certain he could do that if he was pressed hard enough in one direction or another. A moment of self-satisfying violence has likely given a man that's made an experiment of our entire existence another stick to prod you by." Her tone was carefully neutral as presented these observations while staring down the gravel driveway; she watched him from the corner of her eyes for a reaction.

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It was at that point that Cade's tan jeep pulled up the drive parking besides Clara's car, and both Cade and Cora got out, looking more subdued.   Something had definitely happened, but it couldn't be bad from the quiet smiles on both their faces.  Clara and Jase were on the porch, and Cade smiled.   

"Hey guys, how's it going this afternoon?"   Cade was in a good mood and it showed, despite the negative aspects of Cora's news.  After the previous day,  he was looking forward to this, though he didn't really feel he had any special powers, he still wanted to support his friends, and spend time with them. It was also a good idea to get a handle on just what, if anything, they could all do now.    Other things had come up, but this afternoon was for all of them.   He wondered silently when Cora'd decide to tell everyone about her news.


 

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"I actually counted on Cook seeing what I did..."  Jason had started to say, his expression composed, when Cade and Cora had pulled up to the farmhouse and gotten out of the star athlete's jeep.  He studied the pair, noting their subdued attitudes, but Jason put it down to them also having heard about Liam and not being happy to be around him - until Cade's greeting at least, which seemed upbeat enough.  So... it wasn't about him, and they were both happy to be here.  Probably.

"It's going... well."  Jase replied, with a slight pause as though considering, a private joke within the silence of his own mind.  Psychopaths weren't androids - they had moods - but the muted nature of their emotional responses made them seem alien to most.  In truth, he was mostly in a good mood, though to Cadeline he seemed much as he usually did - emotions hidden behind a polite faint smile and gleaming green stare.  "Glad to see you both here."

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Lilly's pickup came ambling down the gravel paved road, the music emanating from the truck gradually becoming clearer as the truck drew near, making the trek from the school gym where Lilly had held her first self defense class, thanks to Mr. Burr unlocking it for her. The school had the best athletic facilities for miles, so with Lilly's training she had developed a relationship with him since he was the one who would unlock the gym, weight room, equipment lockers and so on for her and over the years built up a good amount trust. After what had happened Friday night, it was not difficult to convince him to open the gym for Lilly and a few friends, mostly girls, to teach them self defense.

The others had seen Lilly wrestle, or at the very least knew she was one the school team, but had never seen in a real fight. Usually she was able to diffuse the situation, or others did not wish to push it to see what she did know of if she would win with pure athleticism. When the class go going though, they came to see she was farm more practically skilled than they had even realized, or at least looked and sounded like it. Though not a trained instructor, Lilly did certainly seem to know her stuff and did her best to pass it along, falling back on how she was taught for the most part, cutting out things that she felt were extraneous due to their unique situation as the bulwark against the Dark..

The class itself had gone well enough, with Lilly making it a little bit of a crash course in order to get them to a useful level as fast as possible. Through it all she stressed mentality though, and keeping one's head in a fight, as operating off of pure emotion, especially anger or fear, was a surefire way to make big mistakes. She explained that it would take time to develop a cool head under fire and to simple get over their flinch reflexes and the 'moral fail-safe' for lack of a better term, about truly hurting another person. It was one thing to be red-faced angry and hit with all your might. It was quite another to do so with clear intent when level-headed and not full of anger. It was something that most people had an honest problem with. It would take some time.

Lilly pulled up next to Cade's jeep and let the small cloud of dust that had been trailing the truck blow past it before she killed the engine (and music) and hopped out, along with Lona, Cass, Charlie, Laurie, some of them with a bruise here or there, but none of them worse for wear. Lilly waved toward the porch as she walked around to the back of her truck and lowered the tailgate. She hopped up onto it with catlike grace and slid a couple of large equipment bags, hard cases, targets and a few other things toward the tailgate for easier access. Lilly unzipped one of the bag and pulled out an aluminium water bottle, popping the top and taking a drink before she turned and walked toward the porch

"I brought a few thing that we might able to use." she said, motioning over her shoulder with a thumb toward the bed of the truck.

"Some gear from the fight class we just did, stopwatches, targets, stuff like that." she elaborated as she stepped up onto the porch and leaned against the railing, adding, "Just try to not destroy anything except maybe the targets." with a grin.

Lilly was wearing black, athletic leggings, a black sports bra and a unzipped hoodie, which did little to hide her incredibly toned physique. Physically, she was near amazonian perfection with washboard abs, an athletic, yet still feminine form and was far more beautiful than she realized. She had removed the mma gloves and put on some slip on jogging shoes, but still had her ankles and hands taped, while her long, dark hair was in it's usual high pony.

"So any ideas on how we're gonna do this? I mean, I've kinda discovered a few things about myself, but, like, how do we even find out what all we can do, especially if we don't know what to look for?" she asked.

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Cora had said hi to Clara and Jason the sat net to Cade on the porch swing. She had asked Jase when the rest of the Fellowship would be arriving and thanked when he replied that they should all be there in a little while. Cade made a little small talk with Jase and Clara while Cora held his hand but was relatively quiet, he did avoid any mention of Liam and his suspicions.

When Lilly arrived with everyone and greetings were exchanged but before  Jase, whom everyone was expecting to take the lead, got started, Cora stood up. "Excuse me. " she smiled at Lilly and gave her I'm sorry shrug, "Guys, before we get started I need to tell all of you something."

Once she had everyone's attention. she took a deep breath. "I'm going to be leaving. I was accepted at Julliard early and their semester starts this week. We're going in tomorrow to start my transfer. This is my dream, and while i'm torn about leaving for a lot of reasons, I can't pass it up. But I want to thank all of you for excepting me for the time I have been here and in this little circle even if we didn't and don't always see eye to eye.

I also want to let you know that I'm not going to forget about this," she  makes a circle with her hand encompassing all of them, " and what i'm leaving you guys to face. Your not alone you have each other, and if you need me, Cade will know how to get a hold of me and I will come back."

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Clara smiled at Cora, though there was a bit of worry to it. "Congratulations! You must be so excited." She hesitated and then added the question, "Are your parents going with you to Julliard to get you settled in?" 

She didn't want to dampen Cora's victory, but that little voice inside her that was always so 'helpful' with worst-case scenarios and unending suspicion for any beneficial happenstance also wondered if this wasn't just too convenient for her. Pulling her away from the relative safety of the rest of the Fellowship, a lone person easy to pick off by the Dark or Cook or whomever. If her parents were going, then even if there was something odd on the other end of the flight, at least she'd have some adults with her - people that would be missed quickly and not just thought safely ensconced in the intense New York school. What is wrong with me? Why can't I just be happy for her for five minutes without....whatever I'm doing?

This didn't much register on her expression, just the quizzical bland look most people knew from Clara as she waited for Cora's answer. 

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Lilly's eyes widened a bit and a smile grew on her lips at Cora's news.

"I'm so happy for you!" Lilly said, offering Cora a hug. "I mean, we'll miss you, but Julliard? That's *huge!* You should be proud."

Lilly thought for a moment and frowned a little.

"Hmm.. It's not much notice, but maybe we can do a little, impromptu going away party for you at Bunnee's or something tonight, if you have time. If you need to pack or whatever, it's totally understandable. Lets face it though, you *will* be missing a Bunnee's Burger in no time once you are gone." she said with a friendly smile.

 

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Cora beamed, "That would be great, I probably won't be back until Christmas break. "

Looking positively happy  she nods at Clara, " Yeah my dad is taking the week and we're flying out Tuesday. They'll get me settled in and then come back. I'm so excited.

Before we leave I want to make sure I have everyone's number okay?"

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He'd stayed quiet for a moment or two as the others offered their congratulations.  If he'd have known, he'd have been amused at how similar Clara's thoughts were to his own, though unlike her he suffered no pangs of guilt or anxiety over what he saw as justifiable concerns.  If there was an enemy capable of subtle predatory action, then splitting off the perceived weakest of the herd would be the perfect strategem.  Eliminate Cora in an obvious violent fashion, and the emotional balance of Cade and others would be thrown out of harmony as they processed their shock and grief, but would also make them seek a focus and perhaps redouble their determination.  Make her just disappear or appear to be the victim of an accident, and the creeping doubt would erode people's courage, distract them, and make them easier prey.

If he was the enemy of the Fellowship, it is what he would do.

Nevertheless, Cora's achievement was worthy of note, regardless of his scathing words a few days ago.  And it was socially relevant to voice some kind of support.

"Congratulations on your acceptance."  he nodded politely to the tall girl, smiling slightly.  "Hopefully today will give you some exercises to take with you to practice during your free time."

"Thanks."  she smiled back.  "So, what have you got planned?"

"Meditation."  he replied with faint gleam of humour in his eyes.  "I've been having some thoughts about how best to proceed, so I'll ask people's patience as we try stuff out.  It's a starting point, and if it doesn't work for some, or even most of you then we'll find what does."  He motioned to the gear Lilly had brought.  "Let's shoulder some gear and go over to the back fields.  We'll be out of casual sight of the road there, and it's where I've been practicing some."

The teens looked at each other, then shrugged and picked up the equipment, following the stiffly-moving figure of Jason as he, a hard case in each hand, trekked around the side of the house and towards the field he'd mentioned.  It was maybe a ten minute walk, and ended in wide, long pasture boundaried by hedgerows of tough scrub.  A number of large logs were arranged in a around a bonfire in the field's center, and old farm machinery was dotted here and there: tractor-towed ploughs and threshers.  Following Jase's lead, the Fellowship set their burdens down around the logs, and sat in a loose circle.  Jason settled down likewise, sitting Indian fashion, and took a sip of water before starting.

"The Shine is hard for us to quantify.  Some of us can move things or start fires, some of us can heal or harm with a touch, or teleport, and some of us can change our bodies to grow scales and claws.  And some of us aren't so dramatic in our manifestations - yet." he said with a smile.  "But I think it's all the same energy we're using.  Clara can sense it, even manipulate it's flow directly.  And we - or at least some of us - can also sense the Shine in the world around us and each other, at least when close.  So that's what I want us to work on first, that sixth sense."

"The reason I think it's important is this:  As some of you know, and others may have surmised, I am not neurotypical.  I have missing, or at least severely undeveloped, parts of my brain that are to do with social conditioning, affective empathy and fear.  In the literature, I am what is called a 'primary psychopath'.  With the tag 'high-functioning' thrown on for good measure."  His tone was matter of fact as he explained.  "Please do not confuse me with the movie monsters.  I have no special compulsions to kill people, or eat them, nor do I gain pleasure only from the suffering of others.  I am also not compulsively violent - despite what happened to Liam.  What I am is fundamentally, neuro-chemically disconnected from what most people consider humanity - fear, hate, remorse, sadness and a few other emotions are things I cannot feel.  Others are muted, or occur in brief flashes."  He paused for a moment, studying them all.

"I'm telling you this for a few reasons.  Firstly, to clear the air and have understanding.  I like all of you , to varying degrees.  I would not harm you unless you tried to harm me.  But my liking has nothing to do with group neurotransmitter bonding and everything to do with conscious appreciation of you as individuals.  Make of that what you will."  He spread his hands in a shrug, smiling.  "And by all means approach me if you want to understand more, or do your own research.  I'd advise avoiding studies done before 2005, however.  They tend to greatly conflate other personality disorders with primary psychopathy, as well as contain a lot of sensationalist movie-fodder."  He made a face, then returned to the point.

"The second, and main reason is that due to the Shine, I am able to connect to you all.  Most people are fog to me - swirling and irrelevant, not even real - disturbing as that might seem to you.  With you all, I have a heightened awareness of you, as though simply clasping hands completes a missing connection that for typical brains is accomplished through those neurotransmitters.  Perhaps that is why I  was drawn to hang out with most of you before the night of the Party.  But since then, it has only gotten stronger.  I always disliked physical contact before the party - but now touch, hugs, casual gestures have meaning for me, when they did not before.  A simple hand-holding likewise.  For me, at least, the Shine connecting us fills in a blank spot in my awareness."  He fell silent, trying to gauge the impact of his words.  Content that none of them were getting up and leaving, he carried on.

"I've been experimenting, expanding that awareness beyond touch.  When sitting near you and focused, I can feel you like warm lights in my mind, some of you at least.  Others, like Lilly and Cade and Laurie, seem quieter somehow, but there is still that subconscious sense of you as 'real'.  So what I want is for each of us to try that.  We gather in a circle, sit comfortably.  Take the hands of the people next to you, at least to start.  Let their presence imprint on your mind, like the sun overhead and the grass under you.  And breathe - most of you know at least the basics of meditation, right?  Just close your eyes, breath and try to feel each other."  He offered his hands to the people beside him, Cassandra and Charlie.  "Don't push or force it.  Think of it as looking at something out of the corner of your eye.  If it doesn't work, we'll tweak it some, or try something else."

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Cassandra stared at Bannon, then looked around at everyone else.

"Okay," she said, holding a hand out palm outward. "I get that we can't linger on it, but can I just say how fucked up it is that Jase just said he was a psychopath...and that is the least fucked up thing we're dealing with right now? We're going to have to have some kind of ground rules here, because at this point, in theory, we're practically accessories if..." Cass waved that hand at the window. "You know. If there's another Liam. I mean, I guess technically we're accessories to that too, you know what? Lets get on with the moving on thing now? This is really uncomfortable."

She assumed a cross legged sitting position and closed her eyes, resting her palms on her knees.

A little crease of anxiety appeared on her forehead as she tried to take Jase's words to heart. She could feel her heart rate increasing, and her mouth drying out. It wasn't just this revelation about a friend that was making her anxious. The harder she tried to relax and 'open' herself, the worse it got.

"This isn't working," Cassandra whispered. "I don't want to do this...I don't know why."

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Cade tried not to think about what-if's regarding Jason, this wasn't the time for it, though he was somewhat concerned, espeically give his own ties to law enforcement.   Cade took a seat between Cora and Lona, and took Cora's hand with his right, and offered his left to Lona, who took it, and He looked at Jason, his admission to being a high functioning psychopath, well that was definitely a mark in the disturbing column, but he'd become abit numb to this with all the shocks that had come since the party. He couldn't help but feel some relief that He mentioned that he was changing, from the sound of it for the better, becoming abit more normal through continued socialization with the rest of the Fellowship.   

As Cade tried to meditate, he found his mind focusing on the Image of a deep lake, above and to his right, he could feel and see a storm, the sort he loved as he'd always loved the brilliance of the lightning, and the way things smelled after a good rain..  To his left, it was A vibrant forest, teeming with life.  It was the sort of woodlands he found alluring, as he loved nature.  Seeing the forest be so robust and healthy made him smile, despite the focus of meditation.

The winds of the storm did nothing to the surface of the lake, and it remained smooth, like a perfect pane of glass, reflecting both the storm and the forest, and hills beyond.  His breathing was slower than normal, and Still he couldn't help feeling that he was missing something here.

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A brief ripple of shock flowed across Charlie's face upon hearing Jason's reveal, before it vanished. He'd always known Jase thought differently from everyone else, but never something like this! His mind moved back to the breakfast with Marissa, and wondered if she'd known about this already. It didn't matter though, Charlie quickly decided. Obviously the overlap of terms represented a confusing welter, but what Charlie recalled about the garden-variety sociopath/psychopath was that they were unable to truly empathize or care about others.

Jason did and he was a friend. So whatever things like Liam had happened, Charlie was sure there were lines he could trust in, that Jason would not cross. So having reassured himself, he took Jason's hand and assume the cross-legged sitting position.

Breath in, breath out. Empty the mind. At the edge of his awareness, that glow-sense that detected life picked up but Charlie tried to shut that down. Just the Shine. Just the Shine.

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Clara watched the others as Jason laid his hidden self bare to them. No one had run screaming, though there was a near instinctual pulling back from several. She glanced at Jason, trying to gauge his reaction, but ultimately trusting that he'd handle the fall-out with his particular (pretty much neurologically enforce) muted stoicism. 

She had sat on the other side of Cassie and gave the girl a concerned frown when the reporter spoke up. Clara climbed to her own feet and held out a hand for the other girl. "Don't try to force yourself, if that's just making you more anxious. How about you and I just go for a short walk right now instead? Maybe that'll help and then we can try again or just move on if the group has to by then?"

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Clara climbed to her own feet and held out a hand for the other girl. "Don't try to force yourself, if that's just making you more anxious. How about you and I just go for a short walk right now instead? Maybe that'll help and then we can try again or just move on if the group has to by then?"

“Clara.” Jason’s tone was firm but quiet as he spoke up. “That’s not going to work, for a couple of reasons. One, you need to practice this too. Two, Cassie isn’t always going to have the luxury of going for a walk when things seem tough.”
Oddly he didn’t project scorn or say this with a belittling tone, rather possessing a patient, reassuring air as he removed his hand from Charlie’s and moved to sit in front of Cass, facing her. “Go ahead and sit down, try to focus.” He advised Clara, before he turned his pale eyes on the blonde reporter.

“Cassie.” His voice was calm, almost soothing. “Relax, and examine that reluctance. You’re smart enough to be self-aware of ‘why’ you don’t want to do something, so tell me: is it born of distaste - or fear?”

Cassandra gave Clara an apologetic look and nodded. "It's okay, Clara. I think...this time he's right. I need to power through this. We're going to need everyone at a hundred, you know?"  She then looked back at Jase and took a deep breath. "It's fear. I'm...terrified. It feels like..." she shakes her head. "I don't know. Maybe like how you'd feel if you were at the beach, and saw a tidal wave way out there. Getting bigger."  She opened and closed her hands a few times and rubbed her palms together.

He considered her for a long moment, head tilted and eyes gleaming in the outdoor sunlight, then nodded. "You're attempting to touch something far greater than yourself. It would daunt anyone - this gift's sheer potential scope is amazing." He gave her a small smile. "It's okay to be scared."  The elephant in the room - that he did not get scared - passed without remark.  Instead he spoke casually, his eyes on hers as he recounted a memory.

"Freshman year. Home room. There was a visiting official from the school supervisory office for the district. You stood up during the end part of the talk and asked him some very awkward questions about recent accusations of nepotism in the district office. No hesitation at all, I remember." His smile warmed, reaching his eyes. "It was a Wednesday, in October." Then he offered her both his hands, holding them out to her palm-up. "Start small. Take my hands, and allow your awareness of the Shine to just encompass me, to start."

Cassie chewed her bottom lip; a childish nervous tic she had yet to outgrow, then nodded and reached out to put her hands in Jase's. Then she closed her eyes...and a second later she yanked her hands back, pale faced, shaking her head. "Shit. Shit. Jesus." She covered her mouth for a second and just tried to breathe through the sudden nausea that rose up in her. "It's like trying to touch a ball of alligators. I just...ugh, there's this..."

She patted her heart. "This thing, like I just know it's going to be bad. Immunization shots, when you see the needle for the first time. I don't know. God."

"Okay. Okay. Lemme get my breath back. Before we try again." She sucked in a breath and let it out slowly.

"It's okay." he nodded, hands still outstretched and his green eyes on hers. "Take your time, I'm not going anywhere."

Cass closed her eyes. "I have to do this," she said softly to herself. "I have to do this. I have to do this." Her voice trailed off, but her lips kept moving around those words as she reached out to take Bannon's hands again. A moment later her grip tightened, even became painful...or as painful as her strength could make it.

"Oh motherfucker I hate this," she whispered shaking her head. "I have to do this. I have to do this."

"You're Cassie Allen. You risk all sorts of trouble to get answers, to find truth." He kept his voice even, but his tone had a quiet force to it. "You can do this."

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As well-intentioned as they were, Cassandra never heard Jase's words of encouragement. Her eyes opened, and Jase immediately realized her pupils were insanely dilated; she looked like someone in the throes of an OD on something. Her breath came in rapid, irregular puffs. Only her grip was encouraging...her hands remained locked around his, tightly enough to be uncomfortable. If she'd been stronger, she'd probably have broken something.

Much later that night, Cass would try to find the right words to describe what she'd gone through in those first few seconds. Cracking dictionaries, thesauri, books of literature and poetry, trying to find the exact right combination of words so she didn't have to just say 'overwhelmed.' She would fail.

A sense she'd never had before was blasting into her mind, and the circuitry to interpret it wasn't there. So her mind...improvised. It was, she would think later when thought was possible, like being in a glass room that was suspended inside the sun, surrounded by jet engines going at full throttle on all six sides, with the air pressure cranked up to a hundred atmospheres. Oh, and there were like thirty dead skunks in there too. In the absence of mental context, her brain tried to interpret the mysterious signal as if it was an existing sense.

The intensity was just too much though. She tried to stop it, to close whatever door she'd opened in herself to let the cacophony in, but it was impossible to concentrate, impossible to focus. That which was her was picked up by the raging torrent and carried away.

And mercifully the blast began to ease. The light, the noise, the smell the press...it began to ease. She found herself staring down at something that looked like a star...the sun perhaps...viewed from a fairly close orbit. Blindingly bright, but not completely filling her awareness anymore. Behind her was inky darkness. She could make out the falloff of an enormous sphere curving away from her. Carefully Cassandra risked a look at this vast burning ball, and realized that it wasn't really 'hurting' to look at. She didn't have eyes. In fact, in that moment she realized she didn't have anything at all. Her vantage point was disembodied, like a camera in a movie.

It took a little time for her to figure out how to 'squint' without eyelids. It obviously wasn't the same, but remembering what squinting felt like and how it worked seemed to help. Her senses could be voluntarily curtailed, just a little. When Cassie did that, she realized there were details on the surface of the ball under her. The light wasn't uniform. Variations dappled across it in broad swathes. It wasn't flat either...she could spot contours in it, like elevation changes. A thick diffuse glowing haze in which brighter, sharper lights moved...pressed so thickly that they almost looked like a carpet in some places. In others, dimmer. And some of the dimmest spots were long 'river' looking areas. Aside from the constant hazy glow, there were just brief pockets of light hurtling along those dark rivers. They almost looked like...

Headlights.

Sweet Jesus.

The paradigm in her mind suddenly twisted, exploded, reformed. Those weren't spikes, they were trees. The carpet of light covering so much area was grass. The dark rivers, roads. Cassandra abruptly realized she had been slowly falling back down all this time. Or, zooming in maybe, like with a camera. The dark rivers led to a very strange looking place full of thick bright dots swimming among darker pools.

Shelly, she realized. Home sweet home.

It looked like it was full of stars. The whole world looked like some crazy NASA image of nebula or the Milky Way.

There was so much.

Jase felt Cassandra's hands loosen slightly, her fingers shift position a little. Her eyes, when he met them again, looked less dilated and more focused...though still pretty tripped-out.

"Cass?" he ventured, unsure if she could hear or not.

She nodded, though her eyes were still clearly not seeing him. "It's like the shine," she said softly. "But...we all have it."

Bannon wasn't sure what to say to that, so he just asked the obvious question. "What is?"

There was an eerie feeling then. Cassandra was looking at him, but he could clearly see that her eyes were unfocused and aimed a bit to his left. Her attention was on him though, and it was such an intense feeling that it almost seemed to tangibly press against him.

"We're so bright," she said aloud. Her hands tightened their grasp around his again.

The world exploded.

Jase had two advantages over Cassandra as his mind was opened. The first was that his mind was innately more analytical. He realized very quickly that the 'pain' was an instinctive response of his mind, not something actually in his nerve endings. The second was that he had Cassandra there with him. How he knew was unclear...he couldn't feel his body anymore. But she was there, and her presence was calming.

She took him high, high up...where the flood of information attenuated with distance, to let him get accustomed to it as she had. Then brought him down in stages.

"Everything shines," Cassandra explained...and this wasn't spoken aloud, but rather through whatever connection she and Bannon had forged. "Every single thing."

As they descended, Jase took stock of just how far away the blaze of light, that seemed to represent a tapestry of every living thing, could be seen from. It did dim out at the edges, but...far out to their left, he spotted an area where all the irregularities smoothed out, and the light became very uniform. Instinctively he realized what it had to be, even as he struggled to believe it.

The Pacific Ocean. A like area extended in every other direction, blanketing what had to be hundreds of miles. Maybe a thousand or more all the way across.

Even as he realized it he could feel Cassandra realizing it with him. Their minds were separate, but tightly entwined. It was, he/they thought, maybe a little like those experiments where they cut someone's brain in half (the patients with the cut corpus callosum Jase supplied). Usually the two halves of the brain communicated so effortlessly that they became one. In this case though, that communication was cut off and they became effectively separate individuals co-existing in one person's skull.

What would it be like to have that damage repaired? To suddenly have those two individuals reconnected? To share each thought, emotion, perception, memory, in real time?

Cassandra pulled back then, and as her hands left Bannon's, the moment of communion crumbled away. The connective tissue parted and they were individuals again.

She didn't say anything, it still felt like she didn't need to. Like he'd just realize what she realized the moment she realized it.

With a cough, Cassie remembered to breath then.

"Okay." Her voice was thin, her throat dry. "I definitely am going to get some water. Someone else's turn to blow their brains up."

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"Here."  Jason said almost automatically, realising h'ed called the bottle of water to his hand already and was offering it.  Cass took it with a small smile of thanks, her eyes meeting his.  He was calm, but it there was a sense of wonderment she saw in his eyes, their gaze distant as he processed everything.  She'd felt his mind - not the way Sara did, probably, but felt it nonetheless through that connection - and it hadn't been bad, the way she might have imagined.  Fast and sharp as a blade, clear and cold as ice, focused, intent on the moment he was in and the sensory input he was receiving.  There was nothing twisted or malevolent there, however odd it was.

For Jason, it had been a revelation as well.  That sense of... everything.  All life, everywhere.  And Cassie, too.  It was like the subconscious sense of connection he got through touch, turned up to eleven.  She'd felt warm to him, a warm emotional consciousness wanting him to see what she saw, sharing it with him through the Shine itself and then staying with him as he adjusted.  And through her, he'd felt everything living for thousands of miles.  And after that... Under that.  He'd felt his own power respond to hers, for a brief moment he'd felt he could reach further, touch objects he could not see with his eyes.

He blinked, focusing on Cassie as she drank water, and smiled at her.  "Thank you."  he said softly.  Then he laughed, a giddy, happy sort of laugh that made the others look at him.  Even Cass, who at least understood why he might laugh, was surprised to hear such a... boyish sound coming from him.  He glanced around at their faces, and laughed again as he let himself fall back from sitting position so that he was laying on the grass.  And he laughed.

"And what's so funny?"  Lona asked, peering at Cassie, then at Jase as if afraid he'd been broken.  

"It's beautiful.  And it's everything.  It connects everyone, every living thing, every object.  It's the key to the Holy Grail of physics - a Grand Unifying Theory.  And we can touch it.  It's like - hell, it IS the Force."

"More movie references?"  Clara smiled a little, shaking her head.  Jase waved a hand in the air.

"I can lift things, Cassandra can sense things - at huge distances.  Lona can encourage muscle and bone to knit back together without scarring.  Charlie can sense life, and change the flow of it in his own cells - no... To manifest the sort of changes we saw would mean changing things below the cellular level."  He closed his eyes, smiling.  "Devin can transmit himself from one spot to another.  Creating a gravitic wormhole would lead to him being turned into spaghetti, so it has to be something under the quantum layer as we understand it.  Sub-cellular, and then sub-quantum?  The CERN boys and girls will shit bricks.  It's the only reasonable explanation!"  He sat up suddenly, wincing as his bruised ribs complained, but his eyes blazed.

"What we do has to be operating on a layer under what science currently understands.  Cassie showed me, though... The Shine is life, or rather, manifests most strongly in living things.  And those of us who have it more so."  He turned to Clara pointing at her as his mind jumped to another thought he'd had earlier.  "You can boost it in us, I felt that in the woods.  You loaned Avalon what she needed to effectively heal Devin's leg.  Can you do the opposite?  Can you diminish our ability to use our gifts?"

"And Charlie."  He whirled and stabbed another finger at the young actor.  "You can change your outward shape. Can you do more subtle things?  Adapt to hostile environments, metabolise toxins - that's easy to test: you get drunk and then try to sober up.  Hah."  He half turned and pointed at Lona.  "You can heal, and you caused pain in Liam when he attacked you.  Can you do more than cause pain?  Hard to test, admittedly.  But if your power operates under the cellular and atomic levels, you could re-write DNA.  Possibly."  He rubbed his bruised chin thoughtfully, turning back to Cassie.  "And your sensory abilities... Formidable.  What can you sense, what can you see?  So much to learn here..."

He got to his feet, somewhat stiffly, and looked around at everyone.  "Who wants to go first?"

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Charlie watched as Jason exulted. He was happy. Not in his normal dry Jason way, but with a surprisingly innocent glee. A childlike pleasure at discovering the secrets of the universe. And it brought a smile to Charlie's face. This - something like this was why he didn't believe Marissa, why he had faith in Jason. Well, carpe diem, cry havoc and let loose the testing of Shine!

Charlie raised a hand. "I'll play ball. Bring out the booze." Jason nodded and got up. "There's some inside the house. I'll be right back." After a short while, Jason was back with the good bourbon, and proffered it to Charlie. Charlie popped the cap... and suddenly started gulping down the bottle's contents like there was no tomorrow.

"Charlie?" Jason asked with a tad of chiding, and Charlie stopped, sheepishly. "Well, I figured this way we won't have to wait too long to begin the test." He handed back the bottle but there was only a thin line of booze left at this point. A sudden worry struck him that he might have to pay for it. On top of covering Marissa's breakfast bill, this might be a problem. Charlie stepped back and sat down.

"So... who wants to go ahead while my blood alcohol content skyrockets?"

Spoiler

Automatic activation of Resist: Details:[6d10 (2 4 7 1 10 6)]

And success! The base reduction is more than enough to negate the alcohol!

 

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Clara pulled herself up, dusting off her pants where dirt and leaves had clung. "I'll go, but I think I'm at least second at this point," she said with a nod and grin to Cassandra. "I'll need someone else to actually be doing something, though." 

She gestured to Jase with a lift of her chin. "You seem to have a pretty good handle on your abilities. What do you say? Want to see if I can shut you down?"

He smiled faintly, nodding assent.  "That would be the best test, at least right now.  We'll start with my telekinesis, then if you can manage that we'll move onto the fire and ice."  His eyes gleamed with interest and some amusement/challenge. "If you can handle it."

As she absorbed that, there was a creak as one of the large logs arranged in a ring around the firepit began to lift off the ground.  Jase wasn't looking at it, and hadn't gestured at all, and yet a mass that would take machinery or a gang of four large men to move was rising into the air, stopping as it reached a clearance of four feet from the ground.

"Everyone stay clear of the log.  If Clara can shut me down, it might bounce and roll a little."  Jason stated calmly, his eyes on Clara's. He smiled at her, eyes glinting like a cat's.  "Your move."

Jason using his powers always felt a little invasive to her - like he was touching her even if he was across the room. She reached out for that imagery now, mentally picturing Jase holding the log up with phantom hands of power. She thought about just trying to bat his 'hands' away from the log, which she felt like she might also be able to do, but that wasn't the challenge he'd posed. He'd wanted to know if she could dampen their entire gift, not just push it away from whatever they were using it on. 

She focused on Jase, her face scrunching up as she imagined pushing those phantom hands back into him, telling his power it wasn't allowed to affect the world anymore. She frowned deeply as the thought occurred to her that it was like putting a psychic straight jacket on him and the draining tug Jase was feeling on his grip on the log wavered for a moment. Clara took a deep breath and pushed all imagery from her mind, focusing instead on a simple mental command at his Shine: No.

It took mere moments, but the struggle was in earnest.  Jason wasn't making it easy - he'd focused enough of his telekinetic gift that he could have lifted a truck, never mind a log.  But nevertheless Clara's gift subverted his with ease, dampened it down and ended his control over the floating piece of timber as, with a mighty thwump it came crashing down onto the grass once more.  The teens jumped a little as the log rolled a foot or two, then stopped.

Jason smiled lopsidedly at Clara.  "Awesome. That barely felt like a struggle on my end.  It was like you just blew out my telekinesis like a flame."

She grinned, looking a flushed and on the edge of sweat herself. "It's honestly really weird. I...I think I might be able to just...sort of....do it differently." She let out a half-laugh, realizing she sounded silly. "I mean, I think I could have done that a couple of ways, not just-" She waved at the log, indicating the way she had just used. "Here, try to pick it up again." 

This time she focused on the log itself, mentally making it 'slippery' to Jase's touch. She started and blinked at the odd sensation of 'slippery' being applied to herself and the area in general as well. She colored slightly at the poor choice of mental words.

He focused as before, but this time found his heavy lifting 'hands' unable to touch anything nearby.  Frowning, he pushed harder, testing - it wasn't like before, when his power had just been flicked off.  This time it was as though objects close to Clara just couldn't be touched, as if they were fog - but only when he tried to focus on them with intent to lift.

"Hmm."  He thought for a moment, then reached out with the lesser touch - his light hand capable of only lifting a football.  Nothing. "That is disturbing. And impressive. I can 'feel' the objects, and my own power working, but you are shielding everything close to you."

"So," she said, looking thoughtful, "I can give people extra energy? Shine? I can also make it hard to use the Shine. I'm like a Shine transistor." She shrugged and sighed, "Still seems like it'd be more fun to be able to get pizza from Athens whenever I want or heal people or set Courtney on fire. Just a little bit. Her hair, maybe?" The last was clearly said in jest. "At least I can help other people, especially if we're going to be doing a bunch of stuff today. I'm feeling a little....less Shiny right now. If people get tired while others aren't, maybe I can flush energy from one person to another."

He nodded, looking around at the others.  "I know that while Cassandra and myself were linked, I could feel a conduit between us, as though I could loan her my energy.  Perhaps, as you are a more specialised transistor, you could accomplish that without needing the link."

He smiled slightly, looking back at Clara.  "Take break, and then we'll try linking you up to a lucky volunteer.  It's like riding sidecar and being part of the engine at the same time."

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Lona watched the others play with their powers, dampening down on her mild jealousy that Jase got to throw shit across the yard and Cassie got to see all the Shine on some head-trip, or that Clara could turn people’s Shine off. She could heal and harm, but she had limited venues in which to act.

“I don’t think I should push my powers just for fun, not unless someone gets hurt,” she said. “I mean, I don’t know what I actually did to Liam, if there’s permanent damage to him. I don’t want to hurt one of you.” She glanced at Charlie and back to the group. “But he’s not drunk. I can see that the alcohol is having no effect. Maybe try something stronger?”

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"Well, you and Charlie seem to be all about altering the body, one way or another. How about you try to sync up like Jase and Cass did? Maybe that'll give you guys some ideas or better awareness of what you can both do?" Clara asked, getting that look to her eyes that Lona knew - and groaned about. It usually meant the living room of the pool house turning into a meticulous disaster zone of paper, dry erase boards, and whatever else Clara deemed necessary for whatever project she was obsessing over now. "And on hurting people - well, you can heal, too. Maybe try doing small things with a volunteer and then seeing if you can heal that? Our abilities seem to be reflexive, or at least some of them. You can heal and harm, I can boost or impeded. Jase can freeze things or set them on fire." 

She scanned over the group, thinking on what they'd talked about in the past week with the Shine and what had happened with them. She picked out the three there that'd been different from the rest of them, to focus on the outliers for a minute. "Lilly, you kicked that monster across a clearing so hard it broke a tree. Can you do something like that again? Maybe your abilities are just more focused, like giving you boosts to what you can do normally instead of making your body malleable like Charlie's. You could trying kicking things and see if you can make them go ridiculously far - though I'd try not to hit the trees, just out of politeness to the forest.  Cade, you said you can talk to animals. Can you call some here? Is it like Dr. Doolittle and they can hold a conversation or more like just being able to give them simple directions? Laurie, anything weird going on on your end?" 

She was talking fast, clearly getting into the spirit of discovery and maybe a little manic from messing around with her own abilities. She stopped herself, though, making room in the conversations for others to respond or take up the lead with their own experiments. 

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Laurie had been silent since earlier but looked up at Clara with a looked that screamed i am really trying not to be a smart-ass, but still she spread her arms hand up to the sky and gestured at the members of the fellowship standing around and in front of her.

"Just the bunch of you."

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Cade shook his head.  "No way anything's going to come anywhere near this many of us out in the open, but I'll take a little walk, and see if anything happens."   With that he took off towards this jeep, grabbing a bag of trailmix then to the woods, walking straight in.   He walked for several minutes before he found a small glen, noting signs of different animals, and he even saw a few squirrels in the trees.

"Alright, let's see if this is gonna work."  He took a seat, and drew the bag of trail mix, which was predominately various nuts.  he set them out carefully, leading towards him, and put his back against a tree at the edge of the glen.  He still had about half the bag left, and waited, his hands palm up on his knees with a few peanuts in each hand.
 

He'd seen his grandfather feed squirrels before, so he was imitating that, though it wasn't with pecans or anything larger, and these were squirrels that were probably unused to it.   Still after ten minutes or so, Curiosity and the smell got the better of a couple of them.  they started taking and eating the nuts furthest from him, but after another five minutes, they drew near to Cade, who'd remained perfectly still. 

One squirrel, a smaller grey one, obviously somewhat young, was brave, hungry, foolish, or all three, but it hopped up first onto Cade's left foot, and slowly, still very alert, made for his upturned hand, sitting there on his calf as it ate the nuts from his left hand.   Even when the whiskers brushed his hands, and he could feel the tiny claws, he remained still.   The sqirrel turned to the other hand, and another had come up, and was eating from it.  Both turned and climbed up his torso, and then on his shoulders.   

When his hands moved, they both scrabbled up the tree, but soon returned, as the nuts were back.  They descended cautiously, and ate the nuts again.   Once more when he moved, they ran, but not nearly as far.  After the third time, they didn't run from his shoulders, waiting for the nuts to reappear.  Twice more after that, and they didn't leave his lap, one, the first to come up, even nuzzled his thumb after eating the nuts, and allowed Cade to pet it.   

He couldn't really explain it but he remained there abit longer.  He couldn't understand the squirrel save in the most basic of ways, but he'd managed to get this small animal to trust him with a little patience and minimal efforts.  Not a super power like controlling fire, moving things without touching them, or shapeshifting, but it was something different for him.

He was about ready to head back to the others, and thought that as long as he kept the nuts coming, he'd be bringing a small furry guest.

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Lilly watched at the other used and tested their abilities; lifting logs, shutting down another's abilities, sharing their strength and seeing, or at lease sense, everything around them for miles. She knew Jase could also create fire and ice from thin air, Charlie could shapeshift or at least reshape parts of his body, and Lona could knit flesh and bone together, or do the opposite, with just a touch. She was more then a little envious of her friends' abilities. They were so grand and seemingly effortless, on call whenever they wished, which was not quite how she was discovering it worked for herself.

"Yeah. I don't think my Shine works the same way as mota of y'all's." she said with an almost sigh.

"I have done some testing on my own during my workouts, and at home, and stuff, and discovered a few things, I think. I mean, I didn't want to draw attention or anything, since I can test safer here, but that aside, there are a few more obvious things, at least to me, that I have noticed." she explained, though remained seated.

"Like what?." Clara encouraged.

"Well, I think my Shine, I dunno, 'activated' or whatever the morning of Devin's assault on Chet at Bunnee's. I dunno if that fight, or my interfering in it, was a catalyst or trigger or whatever, but as I sat in the booth and looked over and Devin and Chet, before he even threw the phone, I could see the fight and different outcomes.

Hmm.. 'see' might not be the best word. It was more like a combination of see and just knew. Like, as things were going, if had not done anything, (and I am not talking about just pulling Devin off of Chet either), Chet would have been dead. I could... I dunno.. I could see, like, all the possibilities. Well, maybe not all the possibilities, but a lot of them at least. As things were going to happen, Chet would be dead and I could even get a glimpse of the terrible impact it would have on Devin's life in the future. I couldn't let that happen, and I sure as Hell couldn't just let anybody, even Chet, die." Lilly said and shook her head.

Sooo... the only way I can describe it is that I picked one of the other outcomes, like, even before I began to move. I mean, it's not like I sat down and carefully examined each and every possibility and picked the absolute best one or whatever. It was more... instinctive.. intuitive... and it happened in a flash. Like, a literal flash. It was a fraction, of a fraction, of a second." Lilly tried to explain as best she could. 

"And in the cafeteria, Cook told me that I have some sort of perception that allows me to move and react just a bit before I even know what’s going to happen. And yeah, that's prolly how it looks from the outside. He even said he had video of it, which I can only guess if of the fight at Bunnee's." she recalled.

"Was the only time you've done it? Used that ability?"

"No. I did it the night of the party too, when I went running off toward the gunshot and needed a path to that sound through the friggin' 'Great Wall of Trees'. And so as I moved down them, looking for a way through in the dark, I could see/sense/know or whatever other possibilities, and there was one where a tree fell in a storm, knocking over another and another, making a way through the trees if ran atop the logs. It was not the best or clearest, or safest route to follow... running break neck... in the dark... especially, but it was good enough for me. Again though, it happened in a flash and I might not have picked the best of all possible options, but I found one that was good enough, one that worked, and went with it, and sure enough, the downed tree came into view. It was not really even a conscious thing, more like a impulse, a want or need, like in the back of my head or a sub-conscious level.

As best as I understand it at the moment, I can't change the past either. Like if Cade showed me a bat he broken yesterday, I couldn't just pick an option where it wasn't broke and fix it on the spot, after the fact. But if I was there when the bat broke, I could probably pick a reality where it didn't break. It seems like the more improbable the outcome, the harder it is for me to find it and pick it. Like, if the bat was old and already had a split and everything, so the odds of the bat not breaking was literally one in a million, then I think I would have to try and sift through the million realities where it did break to find the one where it didn't." she tried to explained.

"Ugh. I'm not sure if any of this is even making sense to any of you." she sighed. 

"Relax. You are doing fine." Jase said reassuringly. "Have there been other times you have done it since then?"

"Yes and no. I mean, the night of the party was the last time I really used it in a major way. It's like I know it's there, all the time, but it's not so much as a conscious choice to do it though, as much as it is, like, reflexive or instinctual.

And, like, even when we moved to the Griddle to eat, after Devin assaulted Chet, I could still see different outcomes. I kinda thought that it was just me thinking about the fight and how bad it was and what could have been, but I think it was more like my mind trying to get a grasp on what I just did and process what I had seen." she suggested.

Jase thought for a moment, considering Lilly's explanation as he mind was already exploring the implications of their abilities on the Grand Unified Theory. What she described fit another theory he was familiar with.

"It sounds like the Multiverse Theory. In simple terms, as the theory goes, for every decision or outcome, there is a divergent reality where a different decision or outcome happened, making reality fork again and again, with each of those realities forking again and again, and so on and so on, into infinity. The Multiverse.

Most of the alternate realities are virtually imperceptibly different from one another, with the difference being so minor as to go unnoticed by observers from another reality. Such at the reality where you chose to grab your green hoodie this morning would be indistinguishable from this one where you chose your black hoodie for the billions of people not sitting here right now.  

It appears that you have the ability to peer into these divergent realities at junctions where other realities would diverge, just a moment before they do, and then select which of the realities you wish to experience, literally guiding reality." Jase suggested. 

"And that is... whoa." Jase said with a happy, almost giddy smile as the ramifications hit him. GUT. Multiverse theory. The teens were not just moving things with their mind or even reading thoughts, but they were tapping into, altering and even guiding reality itself. The realization was awe-inspiring. 

"The thing is," Lilly continued, "I know I can't just walk around doing it for every outcome all day long. It's, well I'm not sure 'taxing' or 'tiring' is the right word, but I know I can only do it  just a few times before I need... hmm.. that's not the right way to explain it. I am not sure how to explain it, really. It's like... It's like after I do it a time or two, it is not so easy unless I stop and kinda lay off it for a bit. Like, I kinda know I could still do it, but at that point it becomes actually physically taxing unless I lay off it for a bit.

In a way, I kinda think that is how my other abilities, or at least some of them, kind of work, because after I use them, I feel the same. Not actually tired or anything, and I know I could still do them, but at that point it actually does affect me physically. At least when I am stressed." Lilly relayed from her own experience.

"You mean like kicking vagi-saurus so hard that it flew thirty feet through the brush and broke a tree in half when it hit?" Jase asked.

"Yeah. That. And other stuff too. Like, there is kinda two categories. On one side there are my abilities that take, I guess 'effort' might be a close enough word, to use. And on the other are the physical changes." Lilly said with a nod.

"Physical changes? Like what?" Jase asked, urging her on.

"Well, there's the stuff that takes effort, like the 'picking' and the hitting hard, both of which I still need to test them more, but there have also been physical changes I've noticed. Like, I know this will sound out there or whatever, but I am, like, super in tune with my body now. I'm aware of every pull, sprain, injury or whatever. Even when I got singed walking up to that thing to kick it. And I am not just talking about just feeling the pain. It's like I just know exactly what is wrong and also how long it it will take to heal. It's not guessing or experience either. I can straight up sense what's wrong with my body and how long it will take me to recover. I am guessing it would work with toxins and poisons too, since they harm the body, but haven't tried those yet." she explained and then her face lit up as she remembered something else.

"Oh, and that's another thing. I've always been healthy and in good shape and everything, pretty tough I might even say, but I now heal fast. Not like Deadpool, or like Lona can do, or anything like that, but I heal easily twice as fast as I used to a month ago. Maybe it is because I can sense exactly what is wrong with my body now so I can my body can better address it or something? I dunno. But I do clearly heal much faster now.

Also, and this just happened the other morning too, but it's like all of my senses got heightened. Sight, hearing, touch, taste, smell.. the whole shebang. It's not like 'crippling sensory overload' or anything. Well. I guess it was kinda like that when I woke up after it first happened. I just had to get used to it, think, but now I am, so it's all good. Oh, and it's not like I can track by scent like Wolverine or have the hearing of Daredevil or whatever. It's just that everything is better, or maxed out for a human maybe." Lilly said as she thought about it more.

"Anything else?" Jase asked.

"Umm... recently, my memory has gotten way better. Like, maybe not to your level, but certainly much closer. And things seems like they are, I dunno, making more sense now. Oh yeah, one more thing that I have at least noticed, but it took me a while. I don't seem to be actually right handed any more. I mean, I have a tendency to use my right, since I have been favoring it all my life, but I have noticed I can use my left just as well now, so even that is fading and I kinda have to force myself to use my right, or people might notice. I can even do fine stuff, like writing and drawing

And I have not really tested it yet, but during my worked I did a little. It's like... I dunno... It feels like I am not even at my limit physically. Like I can still push it just a bit more. When I run all out, I feel like I if I dig down, I can go faster. Or when I am lifting, if I dig down, I feel like I can lift a lot more, even though my muscles are saying I am at my limit. It's.. hard to explain. I just feel it.

And these changes have been happening over time, ever since that morning at Bunnee's when my Shine trigger or whatever, I think. Some things took me a while to notice, like the ambidextrous-ness. Ambidexterity? Yeah, ambidexterity. Others I did not even know I could do. Like I didn't know I could kick that thing and send it flying like that. I was just so pissed off at my friends being hurt that without thinking really, I just walked up and kicked that thing in it's cooche-face as hard as I could, and it went flying. I still want to test that more too.

Oh, and in training with my dad, even with pads on, he thought I was pissed off or something because I was hitting him so hard. I wasn't though. I wasn't even trying really, but it seems that I just hit harder now. Like, it might be tied back to my body sense thing? Like maybe my technique is improving because I am using the muscles better, making them fire at the rights times and stuff like? I dunno." she sighed.

"Hm. It would seem that your brand of Shine, being more subconscious, was reacting to your desire for physical excellence and perhaps to a desire to be mentally more proficient also." Jase posited after considering all she had revealed, as remarkable as it was.

"Are you calling her dumb?" Laurie asked.

"Not at all. I am just suggesting that it seems to respond to what may be subconscious desires. Which, if that is the case, could lead to her literally forging who she wants to be, if her desire for it is great enough." Jase suggested.

"Huh." Lilly said, considering Jase's words. "Regardless, I still wanna do some physcial tests and stuff. And maybe find a way to practice picking or something."

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Sean stopped off at his place to pick up his drones - which he intended to use for his own practice - and endured his parents' congratulations and questions about his new vehicle, his dad promising that if he got stuck in the snow, he was calling Sean to tow him out with the winch. Sean affected his escape by mentioning his friends were waiting on him, nodding pointedly at Autumn who was waiting with good grace, and he wanted to show off his Grand Cherokee to them too, worn and beaten as it was.

He picked Sara up at the garage, where she'd returned the wrecker, then drove them to the Bannon Farm, let the music cycle through the regular, if still ecletic, playlist on his phone instead of potential video game soundtracks. At the moment, Disturbed's cover of The Sound of Silence was playing, and Sean drove with a wide smile on his face, fingers tapping rhythm on the wheel. You saw the road differently when you were the one driving, and in Sean's case, it wasn't only because he was driving a SUV that rode higher than most other vehicles on the street, let alone a bicycle. When you were a passenger, you just didn't pay attention to where you were going compared to when you were the driver.

Still, he'd been to Jase's before, so he knew the way and it was well past noon when he drove down the dirt road to Jase's home and parked in the row with all his other friends' vehicles and climbed out Cherokee with a hop and swung the door closed in time with Autumn and Sara on the passenger side. Sean opened the door into the back and pulled out a pair of drones, when he had made himself and another his parents had gotten him for Christmas one year of fairly substantial quality - it had been his only gift that year. They didn't see anyone else, and when they followed the sign to the kitchen, they didn't see anyone there either.

"Well, I guess considering what Jase can do, and what Charlie apparently did, they didn't want to be anyplace they could easily be seen by accident or might break stuff Jase rather they didn't," Sean mused.

"I can locate them if they're nearby," Sara assured him.

"I might be able to track them," Autumn added glancing around the ground."

"I can too," Sean countered with a grin, waggling one of the drones. "Either way, we all get practice."

Sara reached out mentally, seeking the mindsparks of the Fellowship, while Sean extended his own supernal senses, following the slumbering currents of digital life in his DJI drone. With a completely unnecessarily dramatic exhalation, Sean tossed the drone into the air and the quad rotors spun to life, the drone rising smoothly into the air under the control of Sean's will. Tapping into it's systems, Sean could see what the drone was seeing through the gimbal-mounted camera> It was bewildering at first, his normal vision being overlaid with the video transmission from the drone, but a few moments effort, he was able to switch more smoothly from one to the other, instead of having them conflict. It bit like watching where he was going and looking at what his drone was seeing on his phone... y'know, just without actually using a phone. Or a remote control of any sort.

Awesome.

"Found them," Sara drawled as Sean played with his toy. Autumn rolled her eyes and huffed a lock of red hair out of her face.

Sean blew a raspberry as his drone rose higher and panned around, the excellent camera giving him an excellent view of the area. "Okay, I have too," Sean said after a moment. "And I see the way to them too."

Sara headed off, Sean have to step briskly to keep up with Sara's longer strides. Sean sent his drone ahead and had it circle the Fellowship with joyful little swerves - his sister gave it the finger. Then he set it on auto when he almost tripped over a rock he hadn't seen and would have probably landed on his face is Sara hadn't caught him with a strong hand.

"Oops."

Soon, Sean, Sara, and Autumn were approaching the group of psionic and otherwise truly exceptional teens. Sean gave them a small wave as they reached them.

"Hey, guys, sorry we're late. But I have my own set of wheels now. And I so have something to share about the Shine," Sean said animatedly as he brought the drone back to him to hover over his shoulder.

"We found some things out about it too." Jason said, looking up and giving the them a wave of greeting. "For instance, it seems to be everywhere, concentrated in living things, but everywhere." The normally stoic teen's eyes were shining.

Sean nodded excitedly, almost bouncing on his toes, and tapping his fingers together. "Yeah, we figured that out too, almost by accident. We had some time to kill and stopped off at the Montana Historical Society Museum. Get this, there were these 15,000 year old artifacts - arrow heads and spear heads - from a Clovis site - the Clovis were the first civilization to settle North America. And they burned with the shine, almost as bright as we do!"

"Items imbued with the Shine?" Jase rubbed his chin, musing as his pale eyes rested on Sean. "That... could make sense actually. After all, if we can connect with objects, feel them, alter them." He looked at Sean. "You know what this means, of course? It's keyed into the Grand-"

"Unifying-"

"Theory." the two finished together, Sean laughing and Jase smiling and nodding. "There's more too." He explained about Lilly's seeming ability to choose which possibility became 'real' at the moment of most impact. "...which would also prove the Multiverse theory." he finished.

Sean cocked his head to the side, assimilating the information, adding it to his own conjectures. "I've always considered Multiverse Theory a valid assumption. There's also this -despite what we might think of what Cook did or has done, those artifacts highly suggest we aren't the first - by a long shot - to have abilities like these."

"No indeed. We figured that the elders on the Reservation might have tales. They did call this place the Land of Upside Down Thunder." Jase went on, looking excited which was itself an odd sight. "There's even more though. We found that our Shine interacts with each other. Like, we can affect and boost each other if touching. We're just scratching the surface of that right now." He smiled wide, looking intrigued at the possibilities.

"Hmm, interesting," Sean mused, rubbing his pointed chin with a thumb and forefinger as he pondered the possibilities. "Interacting effects that build on--"

"Whoa! Okay, super cool, love the shirt, bro," Laurie interrupted, holding up her hands in agitated exasperation "But he's a PSYCHOPATH! DID YOU KNOW THAT?!"

Sean stepped back, startled at his sister's vehemence, then looked up at Jase, his brows furrowed. His friend didn't look different, but he had been acting different since just before school started. "So... not Asperger's then?"

Jason sighed, glancing at Laurie without any particular rancor, though the focus of his stare folded her arms across herself in a hug and stepped back. He looked back at Sean.

"No. Not Aspergers. I have a missing - or rather undeveloped - part of my brain. Primary psychopathy, not secondary, which is down to abuse, mental illness or trauma. I don't feel fear, or remorse, or sadness, or shame, or embarrassment. I don't form chemical bonds with people." He evinced no particular defensiveness or impatience, his eyes flicking from Sean, to Autumn and Sara, then back to his friend.

"I found out when I was eight. It was the reason my mother abandoned me to my grandparents - or perhaps the final straw. Who knows? The Aspergers act - the bad one - was me trying to present somewhat normally. I don't feel compulsions to kill or torture people or small animals, or commit cannibalism. In fact, no convicted serial killer has ever been a primary psychopath. They were all secondaries."

He paused, glancing at Laurie. "This came out because I was illustrating how the Shine seems to let me 'connect' to you all in a way that previously was an intellectual effort, rather than instinct. And... Since you're going to hear it anyway... I put Liam Day in hospital following his attack on Lona. Words have already been said on the matter, feel free to add yours."

"I-- hm, uh," Sean said succinctly, folding his arms across himself in near mirror to his sister, his eyes going from Jason, to Laurie, then back. "Right. Words. I have those, and I'm processing more. But..." Sean looked around the group. "We're here for another reason and if the Shine is letting you connect... Let's save the words for later, and we'll talk it out ourselves, since you've already did so with the others."

Sean arched a brow at Laurie. "In all the time he's been over to our place, have you ever felt or even considered Jase might hurt you, me, or mom or dad?"

Laurie pursed her lip and gave her brother the side eye, then lowering her brows her eyes skirted to Jason. "Nooo..." it was obvious she was going to say more but was cut off.

"And I never would." he said calmly, smiling a tiny bit at Laurie, then Sean "I'd not harm anyone who didn't threaten me or those I consider my friends. For what it's worth, your family are important to me too." He sighed. "I have a code - a set of rules for avoiding my worst impulses. It takes the place of a conscience. Liam crossed that line - and Lona has already asked me not to do something like that again without talking to her first. I agreed."

"Not gonna lie, it's a lot to take in," Sean admitted. "And I'm not sure of everything I feel about it right now. But I'm a freak of nature, and that's not even counting the whole, y'know, psionic stuff. You've handled that fine enough, Laurie, what's one more freak of nature - if in a different way?"

"I guess..." Laurie said as she crossed her arms again letting both her brother and his friend not to approach her, and from then on she kept a wary eye on Jason Bannon.

"Tell you what." Jason said levelly, a gleam of humour in his eyes. "Let's get on with some powers practice, and if you notice me eyeing up your liver you can leave."

"Fair enough." There was a crook of black humour to Sean's grin, while Laurie's tone was both more serious and more uncertain.

Spoiler

Written with addition input from GDB

 

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It had been over half an hour that Cade had been gone, but when he came back he wasn't alone.  He walked slowly, with his rest hand raised to his shoulder.   As he neared the others, there was something of a lull in the use of powers, and he smiled.  "I'm back, and I brought a friend."

He pulled away his left hand and revealed a small grey squirrel.   Not the first time any had seen one, they were all over Shelly, but this was one riding the shoulder of one of their friends, munching on a peanut.   Cade lowered his hand and came back up with more nuts from the bag, and they watched him bring it up and the squirrel took one and ate calmly.

Perhaps it wasn't too unnatural, there were plenty of videos of people feeding squirrels, but none had the squirrel riding on the person as they moved and eating calmly without a care in the world.   What's more the general consensus was that he'd not been gone an hour, and already he had gained this animal's trust to this degree.   The whole scene was almost surreal, as given that Cade was an avid hunter and outdoorsman, here he was having seemingly tamed a wild squirrel.   

provided they do not crowd around too much, the squirrel will allow the others to pet it, though it will not leave Cade's person.  It will move around though.

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Cassandra shook her head as she fished her phone out, then hesitated, not wanting to scare people off. If she started taking pictures or movies, a lot could happen to them.

"Have you guys thought about going public with this?" She held up a hand quickly, "And I'm not exactly advocating for it, I'm just...have we thought about it? This is a really big deal."

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"I'd considered it."  Jason said as he came to stand next to her, Sean, Sara and Autumn joining the loose knot of teens as people watched Cade with his new friend.  It was impressive, earning the trust of a wild creature in such a short space of time.  Something that perhaps Sara could duplicate, assuming her telepathy worked on animals.  That sent part of the genius's mind down another path - with their abilities, so much could be learned about how the mind and body worked.  They could erase disease (perhaps - Lona couldn't be everywhere at once, after all), perhaps even retard aging.  And his mind forked again - Charlie and Avalon, both controlling biological cellular activity.  Could they become functionally unaging?

"It is huge. The scientific ramifications of what we've found out this weekend are staggering."  he spoke calmly to Cass.  "And I was seriously tempted to go public for no other reason than to out Doctor Cook.  And I would like you to chronicle this, for future release when we need."

"But...?"  Cassie glanced sideways and up at his profile.

"Firstly, it's not just my decision.  Secondly, I plan to make use of Cook and his black budget funding.  Whilst he can be of use, while the project can be of use to us- and by extension me - I will play along with his desire for anonymity."  Jason's eyes turned to meet her gaze.  "And third-"

"Here we go."  grinned Sean.

"- while we are still learning to control our powers it would be a distraction - parents, authority figures, the government, the media - even once we got past the skepticism it would be a circus, and we have work to do: to master ourselves and to combat the Dark"  Jase said with a tiny smile at Sean's aside.  "Going public right now removes options from us and places a spotlight on us all.  Plus there's the Liam matter to consider.  With that incident fresh in people's minds, it wouldn't take much to spark a witchhunt - literally."

Sean looked assessingly at his friend from one side, whilst Cassie likewise narrowed her eyes.

"Y'know, I noticed that you always have more than one reason for doing things."  The reporter said conversationally.  Did he plan that..?   a stray thought whispered in her mind.

"I find it helps me control my impulse-driven nature.  If I cannot find three reasons to justify a course of action, it's probably not sound."  Jason replied blandly, though his pale green eyes gleamed as they met hers, his gaze steady.  "It's the difference between being high-functioning and merely a creature of whim."  He held her gaze for a moment longer, then turned to watch Cade with the squirrel.

"Has anyone else been reminded of Kronk from 'The Emperor's New Groove'?" he asked the group at large, with a wry, amused smile that reached his eyes.

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Spoiler

The post was written with input from Mala, Sean, Noir and Vivi. 

No censorship will have been made to ensure the movie will be allowed in China.

Cade’s trick, despite the humorous comparisons, was impressive and, in addition, served to break up some of the tension caused by fresh discussion of Jason’s... unique outlook on things.  People took a break for a soda and, in Jase’s case, a smoke before continuing.  The breakthrough of the psionic teens ability to ‘tune in’ to each other’s Shine through touch proved important, not least of which for  being able to assess whether someone had ‘Psi-Shine’ or the ‘Hero-Shine’, as Jason labelled Lilly and Cade’s gift.

“With you two, it’s as though you are becoming idealised human beings – figures from story and myth.  They are not usually outside the scope of human experience – great strength, speed and so on are still ‘human’ traits, which makes the Hero relatable.  The Hero’s actions have massive ramifications, for good or ill.”  He explained.

“Heroine.”  Lilly grinned, though she liked the term.  “So our ability to ‘choose’ realities is us being able to steer the story.”

“For good, or ill.”  Jason repeated.  “King Arthur was a Hero.  He became king, established order and enlightenment, and then was brought low by his own failing and the failing of another Hero he trusted, Lancelot du Lac.  The result was a dark age following the golden.”  He smiled slightly.  “A cautionary tale for all of us.”  He tossed the butt of his rollup into the firepit and glanced around.  “We know Sara is telepathic, so she’s definitely psionic.  If you’re willing to sit down with me, Autumn, we can get you placed in the right weight class.”

Autumn looked doubtfully at the Effing Bannon.  He was clothed, at least.  And a psychopath, a word that conjured all sorts of nightmares – and yet...  He’d looked after them, in the woods.  He’d stood and fought a monster (something she’d wished she’d done at the time).  And although he was odd and had a way of smiling that made her tense up, he hadn’t ever threatened her.  Finally, he seemed to know what he was doing.

“Right.”  She said slowly, watching as he moved to sit on a clear patch of grass, gesturing to her to sit opposite him.  “Is this going to hurt?” she asked as she sat down, shuffling closer with some reluctance, eying the hands he held out to her in invitation.  He smiled slightly, but it wasn’t amusement at her expense this time.  Well, mostly.  It was even, in the right light, reassuring.

“Not a bit.”

= = = = =

Autumn had psionic Shine.  Jase could feel it within her through their link, a similar vitality to that shared by Lona and Charlie.  Power over life, over cellular matter.  It was a rich cascade of sensation and vibrancy that made him feel stronger just by proximity to it.  It had taken maybe five minutes of careful coaching, but finally he felt the field of her Shine interacting with his own as she relaxed, her sea-hued eyes on his icy green ones.  She was warm and emotional, like Cassie, but restless where Cass was focused, her energy pacing back and forth waiting to be unleashed.  He marvelled at the simple, yet profound insight this link could provide.

For Autumn, it was an odd experience.  Intimate, yet not too invasive – There were no thoughts exchanged, nor could she read his emotions like she might have imagined.  Instead she was aware of Bannon’s energy – his Shine- and how his psyche reflected upon it.  He was control, focus and crystalline icy clarity over a simmering, banked furnace that waited and wanted to be called upon.  Like Cassie earlier, she noted he didn’t feel twisted or evil, just odd.  Alien.  A matter of his intelligence, or his ‘condition’, or both?  Oddly, she found his focus to be stabilising, taking on a fraction of his calm fearlessness for herself while they were linked.

“You feel it?”  she heard him ask as she swam in the cool green of his eyes.  She nodded.  “Now focus on your own Shine.  Be aware of it.  You feel somewhat like Lona.  She can heal, has an awareness of life around her and it’s relative health.  Focus on the Shine, feel it.”  He said calmly.

Autumn focused, drawing on the calm clarity of Bannon’s energy to still her own restlessness.  She felt the pale glow of the Shine... and then under it something else.  The redhead’s eyes widened as she realised she could feel the life-force in her own body and, with only minor concentration, that of those around her, being able to focus on each in turn.  Charlie there had a couple of minor bruises, Cassie ached a little as if from intense exercise, Lona fairly glowed with good health – as did she herself, she realised.  Lilly and Cade likewise were pictures of health, whereas Bannon...

“You’re hurt.” She said, blinking as she regarded him with this new sense.  She had spotted the faint purple bruise on his jaw earlier, but now she could feel all the bruises under his baggy shirt and pants.  He was in painful discomfort.  “What the hell happened to you?”

“Training this morning.” He said calmly as if that explained everything.  “Don’t heal me, please.  I’m learning to work through it.  It’s a self-discipline exercise.”

“Jesus, Jase.”  Lona said as she, too focused on his vital aura, alerted by the conversation.  “You could have said-“

“I know.” He interrupted with that same calm tone, smiling a little at his friend.  “But it’s part of my personal training, Avalon.  My choice.”

“But-“

“Do I have any broken bones?  Or internal injuries?” he asked rhetorically.  “They’re just bruises.  Bruises fade.”  He met her eyes.  “When the day’s training is over, I’ll ask you or Autumn to heal me so I don’t turn up to school bruised.” He said quietly.  “Fair?”

Lona didn’t like it, that much was obvious, but she nodded silent assent.

“Thank you.”  He said softly, then turned back to Autumn.  “Alright, now we’ve gotten your feet wet, let’s get up and see what you –and we all - can really do.”

= = = = =

Sean had a pretty good handle on following and controlling the flow of electrons that gushed like blood within the wires and microchips of electrical devices. He demonstrated again by making his pair of drones dance in the air in an intricate ballet. But doing so had spurred him on to consider how else he might manipulate electromagnetic energy. He could change how it reacted inside devices, could he do it to all the other such energy about them. When he focused, he could see all the threads and fireflies of visible and invisible light, various frequencies of radio waves, and more....

"Hold on guys, I'm gonna try something, don't freak out," Sean warned them, as he inhaled and reached out with his mind, grasping all the strands of visible light and... twisted them, turning them into sourceless radio waves. The practice area was plunged into utter darkness, pitch black to all but his eyes, which could still perceive in the ultraviolet and infrared spectrum. It made his friends look very odd to his perception and took a while to get too. He could still perceive the threads of visible light he had twisted, see them starting to unravel into their true forms, but slowly. "I turned the visible light into harmless radio waves. I think, unless I did something, it'll stay like this for a few hours. But I think that'll make practicing harder than is has to be."

Sean twisted the strands again, changing the frequency of the ambient photons, and as he did so, the darkness faded away, a bubble of light encompassing the clearing shifting through the hues of a rainbow. Sean grinned, everything tinted faintly green. "Pretty sure I can put on a decent light show."

The light shifted to a pale indigo and Sean cocked his head to the side, considering. He could twist strands of electromagnetic energy, but could he combine them? He tried, holding his hands about a foot apart, fingers waggling as through playing with a cat's cradle. The purplish-blue light seemed to be pulled between his fingers, growing brighter, harder. The entire area seemed to grow slightly dimmer as he twisted the threads of light together in an ever tighter rope, the light shifting to blue then green...

Sean felt it just a moment before it happened, eyes going wide and lips peeling back in excited panic, as he felt the tightly bound braid of light snap together.

"Look away! Look away!" Sean shouted, as a searing, razor thin line of blinding green light blazed into being, forming between his hands to a point just pass one of the abandoned pieces of farming equipment, severing it in half, the edges glowing orange and the acrid scent of burnt steel in the air. The unexpected intensity of his personal laser made his stumble back and land on his plush behind. A trickle of blood trickled down Sean's nose, staining his upper lip as he tried to brush is away while he climbed back to his feet. He had pushed himself hard with that, too hard.

"Um, oops? I didn't think it would be that big."

“Phrasing.”  Jason said dryly as he offered a hand and helped Sean up.  The others snickered, tension released as laughter.

= = = = =

Perhaps the biggest discovery was that when Sara linked multiple psionicists in a mental network of sorts, they could tune into each other’s Shine (provided the other allowed it) and perform the same boosts as though they were touching.

“This implies that the subquantum layer is one point in space – or rather than space doesn’t exist there.  Cassie can see and sense over massive distances.  Devin can teleport to Greece for pizza.”  Jason mused.  “They don’t literally project their senses or body through space, they dive down into the subquantum, then back up again where they want to be.”  He snapped his fingers as a thought occurred to him.

“Cassie.  You said at Bunnee’s the other night that you saw what had happened in the past, with the bear and the tree?”  he looked at her intently.  The pretty blonde nodded, curious why he was bringing it up.  “Time as well.”  He said with a firm definite tone.  “Time doesn’t exist down there, which makes sense because space doesn’t.  So you send your senses down to the subquantum, then bring them up not just where you want, but also when.  Within reason, I suppose.  I wonder if Devin could teleport through time...?”

“Oh, come on.”  Sean looked askance at his friend.  “Time travel now?”

“Why not?  We’re all travelling through time anyway.  I can walk across the field in ten minutes.  Devin can teleport across it in an eyeblink.  Time and space are linked – if he can dodge one, then there’d have to be some kind of special law that stops him dodging the other.”  Jase looked thoughtful for a moment, then shrugged.  “It would go towards explaining the smilodon and other weirdness.  Something to consider.”

That set aside for now, people got back to learning the extent of their gifts and how they interacted with one another.  Jase’s emphasis seemed to be on the physical – objects became easier to affect, sense or manipulate when he was assisting in a link.  Lona and Autumn, by contrast, had an affinity with living organisms that made affecting those more easy when they were part of a link.  In addition when the pair of them linked their Shine grew stronger, something Jase and Sean theorised to be the sympathetic wavelength of their Shine reinforcing each other.

Charlie (who still was not at all drunk – the test had been a success) seemed to make tasks more effortless when he was lending assistance, whereas Clara and Cora brought the effect of massively increasing the Shine of whomever they linked with.  Cassie extended the reach of a person’s powers, allowing Lona to heal Charlie’s bruises from his training with Lilly from a dozen feet away, rather than having to touch him.  Sean seemed to be an extender of a different sort – rather than extending the range of a power, he extended the time it could be maintained.

They all learned together, sometimes serious and sometimes playing as the afternoon wore on.  The Shine seemed to replenish itself swiftly enough, provided one didn’t completely exhaust it.  Some discovered power they didn’t realise they had, such as Cassie exhibiting some small psychokinetic ability – a defensive reaction to slow incoming attacks similar to that possessed by Jason.  Or Clara realising she could work with the subquantum to produce and manipulate energy in a manner similar to Cora.

= = = = =

Sometimes linked by Sara, sometimes touching hands the psionic Fellowship members played, practiced and learned.  And the ‘heroic’ ones too.

Lilly and Cade were both highly athletic, somehow increased by their own brand of Shine.  The two put this to the test, racing each other in sprints from one end of the field to the others at speeds that the other teens couldn’t get close to.  Cade displayed uncanny aim with throwing or projectile weapons, though Lilly seemed able to drive an arrow through slim steel plating with the force of her draw.  Cade’s empathy with wild creatures was perhaps not as flashy as some abilities being displayed, but nonetheless was unusual, to say the least. 

Arguably somewhat more impressive was Lilly’s straight right.  Focusing on how she’d kicked the burning monster through a tree, she set up a roughly man-sized log and, pausing to wrap her hands, began to tentatively jab at it.  After the first few impacts she stopped, unwrapped her hands, then began once more to box at the log.  Her fists slammed home with more force, the bark splintering but leaving her hands unmarked, something that Sean, currently taking a rest nearby, remarked on.

“Go on, Captain America.”  The feminine boy grinned as he took a swig of water.  “Stop tickling it.”  Lilly smirked at him, but furrowed her brow as she turned back to the log.  Okay.  Let’s do this.

The psionic teens paused in their practice as the sound of hammers splintering wood filled the air.  Lilly unleashed a flurry of blows into the solid log as though it were a hanging bag, focusing her will through each contact, imagining the fishasaurus in front of her.  The bark where she had been hitting the log was all gone now, her fists having started to deform and crack the solid pine underneath when, with a final explosive impact, the log flew twenty feet into the already abused farm machinery that people had been using for arrow and (impromptu) laser practice.  There was a horrendous crash, then the log fell forwards with a thud.

There was a pause, then Jason gave his strangely happy laugh.

“Whoa.”  Charlie breathed.  He went over to inspect the fallen log, noting the cracked and dented condition it was in.  “You pounded the shit out of it.”

“Really went to town on that wood, huh?”  Cora said with a giggle, her cheeks reddening as the others stared at her. 

“Phras-  No.  No, it’s too easy.”  Cade deadpanned, causing another round of snickering and laughter.

Spoiler

Montage ends here.  Normal social posting and conversation can follow.  The main purpose of the first powers training was for people to learn what they can do, the intricacies of Attunement, the difference between Talents and Psions, and to bring Autumn up to speed with Psi-life.

I am aware not everyone got a highlight in the Montage.  I tried to show everyone taking part, doing stuff, etc.  The highlights came from direct input I received from players.  If I missed someone, let me know.  If I didn't showcase all your abilities, that was likely deliberate.  Feel free to have your character mull over what they learned personally in future posts, here or elsewhere.

= = = = =

The sun was getting lower, the sky darker as the teens called a halt more by common consensus than anything else.  A flicker of Jase’s power caused the bonfire to bloom into life as people settled down on or leaning against the logs around it as sparks crackled and flew like fireflies in the purpling sky.

“Right.  Deal’s a deal.  Let me heal you.”  Lona said, laying a hand on Jason’s shoulder.  He sighed as the aches and pains he’d suffered through vanished, first with a weird pulling sensation and then were gone, replaced with a sense of wellbeing.  He smiled up at her from where he sat.

“Thank you.”  He said softly, then turned to look at the fire.  He was content, in this moment.  Tomorrow was a new week of school, and fresh problems, and old stale ones too.  He wondered if the Fellowship’s experience today had bonded them at all.  He didn’t feel it but then, he wouldn’t.  He thought perhaps people were working better together, having an improved awareness and appreciation for one another. 

But he was outside that, and for a moment briefly regretted not knowing what it was like.  Perhaps something like the link through the Shine, he mused, only not requiring touch or Sara’s power to access.  He’d been very careful when in the mental network to guard his thoughts, which was easy enough – nothing went out over the network that the individual didn’t want to.  He was aware, though, that his mind was likely not like any of the others, even the more cerebral teens like Clara and Sean.  He was isolated, and yet did not register it as a pang or negative feeling.

“Hey.”  Autumn said from her spot by the fire, regarding him with a little more warmth than she had at the start of the afternoon.  “Earth to Bannon.  I’ve got a question for you.”

“It’s already laundered and back at the house.”  Jase replied without missing a beat, causing her to blush.

“Not that.” She scowled as some of the others snickered.  “You can lift a lot with your telekinesis, right?”

“Right.”  Jason tilted his head, curious.

“And you don’t slip – like, you don’t lose your grip suddenly.”  She pressed, clearly working up to something.

“Not unless Clara makes me by damping my power.”  He replied steadily.

“Right.  So, I want an airplane.”  She said, her attitude somewhere between challenge and request.

“An airplane.”  He replied levelly.

“Yep.  Fly me.”  Autumn got to her feet and regarded him.  “C’mon.  Up, up and away.  I want to fly.”  She was gratified to actually see him blink, taken aback for the first time she could remember.

“You want me to fly you around?” he asked in a careful tone.

“What, you don’t want to?”  Autumn put her hands on her hips and stared at him.  “C’mon, Bannon.  I loaned you my hoodie-“

“I’m fine with it.” He said.  “I’m just surprised you asked.”

“So that’s a yes?”  Autumn smiled wide.

“It won’t be very fast.” He warned, but an answering smile was playing around his lips.  “Running speed, tops.”

“I don’t care.  I’ve been freaked out, chased by monsters, visited the effing underworld and seen us all do some weird and wonderful shit these last few days.”  Autumn said defiantly.  “So I want to flyyyyyyyy-“  Her words turned into an excited yelp as she suddenly rose into the air and began to drift about ten feet above the ground.

Some of the Fellowship laughed, others whooped or yelled encouragement as Autumn circled the fire at a safe distance, Jason’s invisible grasp on her a gentle impersonal pressure.  She wasn’t motionless as she flew – Autumn found she could move her arms and legs and did so, alternating between the classic Superman flying pose and the arms outstretched like a bird pose as she banked, rose, dove and whirled, a grin on her face.  She never went too high, nor did she dive too fast.  He didn’t pretend to drop her or do anything to scare her, rather he just watched from where he sat, a smile on his face and his eyes reflecting the firelight.

The sun was above the horizon still, it’s rays turning everything red-gold and causing her hair to flame crimson as the girl spun and danced in the air, finding that Goddamn Jason Effing Bannon was responding to her arm and leg movements and steering the way she wanted, rather than flopping her around like a rag doll.  She made as if to dive and, obediently, the force lifting her made her dive in a swoop above Charlie’s head.  She whooped as Bannon put her through a slow loop, then another, before he brought her gently back to touch down just outside the circle of log seating.

“How was that?”  Jason asked the Fellowship’s newest member, his gaze on hers.

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Lilly sit back and watched as Jase flew Autumn through the air, smiling at the sight. They had been testing and pushing their abilities all afternoon and still it was no less spectacular to see when she just sat back and watched. Telekinesis, pyrokinesis, cryokinesis, healing, shapeshifting, far seeing... it was all amazing.

Her own abilities were, for the most, a bit less showy and unbelievable, but still remarkable. "Hero-Shine" he had called it, and it certainly did seem to be as he described. She was becoming an idealized version of a human being, or "Peak Human" as Sean as described. Her sense where sharper, and her minds seemed to be going along the same route. She was was so in tune with her body that it was actually kind exhilarating. She could feel each nerve and muscle and somehow just knew hot to use them to move, spin and contort her body, pulling off feats of agility that Olympic gymnasts would be envious of.

Then it hit her.

The smile quickly faded from Lilly's face, the upturned corners of her mouth gradually inverting as she closed her eyes and gritted her teeth, bringing her hands up to rest her head in them, covering her eyes as she fought to hold back the tears she could feel welling up as the realization grew and set in.

"What's wrong Lilly?" somebody asked, but Lilly didn't even seem to hear the question.

"Damnit." she sighed."Damnit. Damnit. Damnit. Damnit!"

Lilly lifted her head, her eyes blinking quickly in a futile attempt to fight back the tears that were slowly finding their path down her cheeks.

"No more Olympic dream for me..." she managed to sob out, shaking her head.

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Clara gave Lilly a sympathetic look. "You could, but if you got outed for having Shine, there would probably be a lot of people saying your wins shouldn't be kept. You can do things other people can't. So can really any athlete competing at the Olympic level. Yours is just nearly unique."

She said this while staring at a rock weirdly intently, then shrugged and sat down next to her, setting the rock aside. "The more important thing to think about is do you think you shouldn't compete anymore? Think of it this way," she pointed to Sean. "There are competitions for hacking that have big prizes and can lead to all sorts of job offers for the government and international businesses." She pointed to Charlie, "Like you, he could probably win at every Olympic sport if he can morph is body for the perfect set of characteristics for each sport. Should they not participate in any of that? Do they have to cut themselves off from anything where they have a Shine-related advantage because.....others don't?"

She sighed. "I'm not talking about if they should when we're all still hiding what we can do from the world, but it's something to be thinking on. Just because we can do things others can't, do that mean we have to not when it gives us an advantage on something mundane." She grinned, "I bet Lona could win any off those hands-on-prize competitions. She can make you feel like you've had a full night's sleep even if you haven't closed your eyes in for 48 hours. Heck, should Cassie never use her abilities when investigating things because other journalists can't do the same thing?

"I thought the same thing, by the way. I was making up the list of all the careers I couldn't have because of this. Now?" She took a deep breath and looked around at her burgeoning group of friends. "I think the scarier things is that we can do all those things and more. People are going to want to use us. We're going to always wonder 'Could I have done this or that without the Shine?' and we'll drive ourselves crazy if we obsess over it. So. The better question for you would be: Knowing that it won't be much of an actual competition, do you still want to go to the Olympics? You certainly can qualify."

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16 hours ago, Bannon said:

“How was that?”  Jason asked the Fellowship’s newest member, his gaze on hers.

The redhead stared at him in stupefied amazement, cheeks still flushed from the sheer, uninhibited, unadulterated thrill of whoosh!ing through the air around the campfire like a toddler at an amusement park. Was he... was he serious?

"Are you serious?" she asked as soon as the thought crossed her mind, utterly incredulous that he could possibly not know that it had probably been the coolest-to-date thing that had happened to her. Seriously. Like, better than finding out the best way to use the handheld showerhead. "Wait." Regarding him through narrowed eyes, Autumn reconsidered. He was... weird, maybe, but not stupid. He had to be fucking with her. "You're not serious."

Right?

The unspoken question, one merely suggested by the tentative nature of her declaration, received an equally unvoiced answer: a twitch of the lips that might have been a smirk, but could also have just been the flickering of the firelight.

"You really- UGH!" she huffed loudly, rolling her eyes and pushing the unruly tangle of curls back out of her face as she spun on her heel. "Fucking Bannon, I swear!" As she turned, the newest, still uncertain addition to the group saw Lilly curled into herself, shaking, with Clara nearby and dropped all pretense of being annoyed. She wasn't crying, was she? As she approached, the other two girls were talking, and she shoved her hands into her jeans pockets; keeping them out usually meant she was expected to offer or receive hugs, or consoling shoulder rubs, and she still wasn't sure about the whole physical-contact thing with people she had to admit she didn't really know.

"Hey," she began, interrupting as politely as she knew how. "You okay?" Her gaze darted first to Clara, who always seemed to have her shit together, and then back to Lilly, unsure whether things were already being resolved.

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Lilly shrugged, but also shook her head, at Autumn's question. She was clearly not okay though as her life's goal was crashing down around her in her mind as she sat there on the log with Clara trying to offer some comfort.

"That's the thing though.." she said to Clara, managing to speak clear enough and force some composure to return, "I know I could qualify now and have a place on the team without a doubt, probably in a bunch of events if I really wanted. But it *wouldn't* be a competition. Like, at all. It'd be like competing against elementary school kids."

Lilly shook her head, somehow hoping she could make the situation or maybe realization go away.

"I... I get what you are trying to say." she said to Clara, turning to her and trying to force a small smile through her despair to show her appreciation, "But there is a difference between being born with athletic talent..." Lilly made a sweeping gesture at herself, from head to feet, "...and this. I have an unfair advantage now. I can do things that are beyond the norm, even for the best athletes in the world. And I can't just choose to not use my gifts the way you guys can. My body is fundamentally altered." she explained as she held out her toned arms and opened her hands wide, looking them over.

"I mean, I could hold back, but I would never be sure if it was enough or too much, so any victory would just be hollow, because if I went all out, then it would not even be a competition, and if I held back and still won, then I'd always wonder if I held back enough. Hell, the 'Shine' might be why me and Cade were so athletic and stuff to begin with, and it's just that now we are finally getting to the point where we're exceeding human norms or potential or whatever.

And, like, at the Olympics I'd be representing my country. If it was then discovered that I had Shine, and therefore an unfair advantage, I'd accused of cheating and it would be a big, international scandal and bring disgrace to me, the US, and the entire team, casting doubt on any other victories too. That's something I would NEVER want to do. Ever." she stated emphatically.

"Now I have to give it up, because it is the morally right thing to do, at least for me. So this thing I have been training for most of my life is now forever out of my reach. Hell, maybe it was all along and I just didn't know it." she said with a shrug as he dragged the sleeve of her hoodie across her cheeks, wiping away tears.

"Maybe that's not what you were training for." Clara offered.

"Huh?" Lilly replied as Clara's suggestion seemed to come out of left field.

"Knowing what we know now, about our shine and such, have you considered that maybe the Olympics is not what you were training for in the first place? Maybe this is. With your 'Hero-Shine', maybe you have been subconsciously preparing for what we are doing now and just told yourself it was for the Olympics because you were not mentally ready, especially years ago when you began training so hard, to handle the truth. In literature, going back millennia, when the protagonist is on 'the Hero's Journey', they have to suffer some big loss or something, passing through 'the Abyss', but that also brings about a revelation in them, and a rebirth. Maybe this is yours. " Clara suggested sincerely.

Lilly blinked several times, wide-eyed, at Clara and sniffled as she considered what Clara had just said, calming down considerably. Could Clara be right? If her athletic talent had come from her Shine to begin with, then maybe she had been preparing to stand against the Dark and didn't even realize. It certainly made a certain sense. Whether it was the actual truth, did not even matter right now. It did make quite a bit of sense though, and was something for Lilly to latch onto and for her refocus on, washing away all self-pity and despair.

"You know..." Lilly said, sniffling one last time as a new calm and resolve washed over her, "... I hadn't though about it that way." she admitted with a and then leaned over, giving Clara a full, warm hug in gratitude. "Thanks. I needed that. Like, really, really needed that." she said sincerely and then broke the hug with a small smile on her face.

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Autumn had nodded along as Clara had soothed the other girl, and caught up in the weirdness of it all missed the bonding moment.

"Hey," she interjected quietly. "So, maybe I’m not the best person to talk about dreams and big life goals and all that, but don’t heroes, “ here she nodded at Clara, “usually only show up in stories when they’re needed? Almost like they didn’t even exist before that. I mean, they weren’t always heroes, right? They probably had stuff going on before the villain started doing their thing and wrecking people’s shit, and then- bam! Hero. Congratulations. Great power, great responsibility, and so on.”

Lilly’s brow furrowed at Autumn’s comment while Laurie wandered over closer to the other three girls and folded her arms looking at Lilly while Autumn continued.

"Seriously. You’re physically perfect," she pointed out, a hint of awe coloring her voice. “And according to what I’ve heard, you can basically mess with reality so that even when something bad happens, it goes in your favor. That’s… That’s crazy awesome! Look, I know I’m not really good at trying to make people feel better, but, Lilly... “ The redhead sighed and glanced skyward for inspiration, opening her hands in an emphatic, sweeping gesture as she did so. “The people who compete in the Olympics are amazing not because they get a ton of medals, but because they spend their whole lives trying to be the absolute best they can be, to be just… More. Y'know? You’ve done that. How much more can you be now, when the world needs you?”

 "Like Clara said, it’s kind of like you were born for this," she concluded with a shrug and a faint smile.

 “I don’t think it works like that,” Lauri finally said something. “First of all, if Doctor Cook is to be believed all of us were born for this. But in Lilly’s case I think we are confusing things.

For one thing, we don’t know if there are any others like you and Cade, what did Bannon call you, Hero-shines. The only reason we even know about the three of us being different is because of the mind powers the rest of you have sensing the shine. For all we know every single Olympic athlete shines.”

Jason had wandered over by this time as well and listened as Laurie spoke.

“What about her changing reality at the diner and in the woods?” Cora asked as she and Cade and the squirrel  joined them.

“I don’t think Lilly is altering realities, if she were I would imagine even the smallest change would have large, even serious repercussions, most notably that, aside from Lilly, the rest of us would be different people now, we would be different versions of ourselves that inhabit the new reality. Or if we use the multiverse theory of Jason and my brother an alternate version of us from the alternate universe.

But, see if Lilly is seeing alternate universes and choosing the best one. Why didn’t she see or choose the one where there was no fight in the diner at all? Or one where the saber tooth cat didn’t exist or that the gunshot was car at the party backfiring.

I think what she is seeing isn’t alternate realities but probabilities.

Look, from what all of you described Jauntsen had already committed to hitting Chet at the diner so the fight was going to happen, what I think Lilly saw was the probable outcomes and that the action she chose is what determined which outcome came true."

 

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"Multiverse theory states that every probability becomes a reality, somewhere.  We're just not directly aware of them.  So when Lilly sees probabilities, she is glimpsing potential alternate realities."  Jason said quietly, nodding at Laurelei.  "In the diner fight, the 'past' was already set.  Even if it was only a couple of seconds in the past, it's fixed.  Lilly can't undo Devin's decision to hit Chet.  All she could do was 'pick' - subconsciously - what outcome she preferred."

"That said, she is also altering which branch of reality we hurtle down.  And yes, it does change us, just as all choices we make change us."  he went on.  "In a sense, we all do that, every day.  It is the essence of the human condition - choices leading to consequences.  Lilly and Cade just have a more... direct impact and can choose more solidly, making them - to the outside observer - absurdly 'lucky'.  She could pull the lever on a slot machine and win the jackpot by choosing the reality where that happens."  He smiled faintly.  "But addressing your point that we would all be different versions or ourselves, that happens already."

Laurelei looked at him askance.  Jason met her gaze somberly.

"I made a choice on Friday night. I made a choice today, telling you all my secret.  And now you are different people - you are treating me differently because I am different in your eyes, though objectively I am the same as I was on Friday, indeed the same as I have always been."  he said quietly.  "Now you all have choices to make - whether to be my friend, how much to trust me, whether to go to the authorities, perhaps even whether or not to put me down, as Devin suggested."  His voice was utterly calm, as was his expression.  "And from those choices will come other changes, for good or ill."  He spread his slender hands.  "Voila - I have altered your realities.  And my own."

"Lilly, for what it is worth you are beyond Olympic competition now.  As the others have already said far more ably than I.  If you wanted to compete, to win glory and acclaim then I would of course support you.  I also agree with you that it would not be a competition, any more than what I did to Liam Day was a fight."  He shrugged slightly.  "I am sorry your dream will need altering.  I know the Olympics meant a lot to you."  It was perhaps as close an expression of empathy as he was capable of - conscious sympathising with another.

He stepped back and went over to his previous seat by the fire, settling on the ground with his back to the sturdy log.  The lanky teen's eyes gleamed and flickered as he leaned his head back on the wood and watched the bonfire burn.  Though he was still close by, still physically part of the gathering, in that moment there was something remote about their strangest member, as though he had turned his fierce intelligence inward and retreated from the world.

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this thread is on hold while we wait to rework the part associated to Autumn. It will remain open for a time to allow comments on the added material by other characters but you may wish to hold off until i have made corrections above.

This will not impact the beginning of session IV which may happen later today (no promises)

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