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Weirder Stuff Episode V - Rainbow Weave

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"I don't like it."  Allister said, though in a much calmer manner as he absorbed what his son and the other teens were telling him.  "Not the dating thing - I mean everything else."

"You think the kids asked for it?"  Hank inquired in blunt fashion.  "Any of them?  I know for a fact that Jase here ain't hurt anyone that hasn't hurt someone else first.  And if you're worried about him being a loose cannon, think of the two shitheels that jumped him at school.  He could've turned them inside out."

"But I didn't."  Jason said quietly.  "Because I saw they were being pushed by the Dark.  Like Mari said, it can get in peoples heads.  Those without Shine, at least.  It can't exactly make them do stuff they wouldn't normally, but it can push them into acts from their darker sides and turn it up to eleven.  For instance, it couldn't make a loving father kill his kid with a snap of it's fingers, but it might be able to push an angry man into beating a loved one and then just... going too far.  Marissa pointed out that maybe Liam was pushed by the Dark when he attacked Lona.  If that had been something I'd considered at the time, I'd have acted differently."  He didn't sound guilty, per se, but it was at least an admission that his actions were not altogether something he took pride in.

"You saying he was innocent?"  Allister peered at the slender young man.  Jason slowly shook his head, frowning a little.

"I don't know if he was or not.  I am pretty sure that if he wasn't capable of the act, the Dark couldn't have pushed him to it."

"Liam 'Hey girl, here's a drink that's totes not spiked' Day?"  Marissa snorted.  "He's totally capable of it."

"Amen."  Sophia chimed in.  "The guy's a sleaze who hangs around hitting on Juniors and Sophomores because Seniors are too wise to his shit.  No tears shed here."  As the Sheriff looked at her she squirmed a little, shooting a glance at Jason.  "Like, I don't think it's cool that Bannon 'Carrie'd' his ass, but if he's graduating from sleaze to full-on rapist, I feel safer that he's limping rather than running."

"Also...  If it wasn't for Jase, most of us wouldn't really be understanding our abilities the way we do.  He put a lot of brain work into figuring out what exactly the Shine is, how it lets us do the things we do, and so on."  Charlie admitted with a slight grin.  "He was the one that put the idea of the Mantis Shrimp in my head for a 'combat shape'.  He's helped us out, Sheriff.  A lot.  And for the record, in case it wasn't clear: he's not a monster.  He stopped three guys from assaulting Cora at the fair."

"He saved some of us from a sabertooth in the woods."  Marissa put in.  "I know, I know.  Yes, a sabertooth.  Don't ask me how it got there."

"He helped fight the vagisaurus in round one, too."  Devin said.  "He could've run, but didn't."  The teleporter smirked at Jase.  "He's crazy, but that shit was awesome.  Apart from my junk almost getting eaten."

"You should see his garden."  Cassie chirped.  The others looked at her askance, some of them slowly considering even as Autumn nodded firm agreement.  "What?  It's beautiful.  Seems to me a monster couldn't grow flowers like that.  Even if he does lack pluck."  Jason smiled faintly at the teasing, inclining his head towards the blonde girl.

"Yeah - the garden is awesome."  Autumn said with a warm smile, trying not to blush as pale green eyes flicked her way.  She grabbed a donut and hastily bit into it to stop herself saying anything more.

"He might not be normal."  Sean said quietly.  "But none of us are normal, and Jase?  He's our not-normal.  He's got our backs."

Ian Allister looked at them all, then at Jason, and huffed quietly, his manner thoughtful.  Cade put a hand on his shoulder.  "Dad, they're right.  You know what Gramps is always saying about judging people before walking a mile in their shoes."

"Hmm."  The sheriff grunted non-committedly, then looked at Jason again, then at his son.  Settling back in his chair, he appeared deep in thought, apparently having nothing further to say.  Ms Giles, who had watched the interplay avidly as the Fellowship spoke up and gathered around one of their own, was wearing a slight smile.

"It appears the sheriff has some things to think about.  As, indeed, perhaps so does Jason."  she remarked gently.  "To sum up the answer to the last question Devin asked:  we're not sure why people have different affinities and abilities.  Though I imagine some of you-" she glanced around at the Fellowship "-might be working on figuring that out yourselves."

"In the meantime," Taggart spoke up for the first time in a while. "There seems to be a large paranormal threat in Shelly.  I'd appreciate any intelligence you could give us on it.  I know, for example, that Miss Allen here can sense where it seems to be based.  But what exactly is this Dark and how long has it been here?"

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"Long enough that is has something to do with this," Devin showed them the copper bracelet on his wrist.  It was the only relic they had at this point that seemed to have any connection with the strange energy The Dark manipulated.  If it could disrupt its abilities to pull Devin through to other worlds, what other powers were hidden within it.  He didn't like the idea of them having access to it, but it killing them if they tried to take it was a definite deterrent for thievery.  "It's... how would you guys put it?  Aether infused.  We call it shine, but you get the gist."

"What is it?"  Ms. Giles asked as she reached a finger to trace along it's surface.

"Don't touch it!"  Cass shouted in a panic, extending her had to Ms. Giles and prepared to pull her arm away.  "For some reason it only works for Devin."  Ms. Giles recoiled her hand, curling her fingers into her delicate palm.

"It's a dimensional stabilizer," Devin added.  "Near as we can tell.  It's stabilizes me, anchors me here so The Dark can't yank me back to the Land of Upside Down Thunder."

Taggart fumed, shaking his head.  "Every time one of these kids opens their mouth they give us another page or questions.  What the hell is an Upside Down Thunder?"

"Uh... it's sort of... it's hard to explain," Cade interjected.  "It's where The Dark was banished to and the place is all sorts of messed up."

"Like a dark mirror of our world."  Charlie piggy-backed.  "Not a pretty place, and until that bracelet, it could swipe Devin and steal him away to its realm."

"Why you?"  Taggart asked.

"Because,"  Devin sighed.  "...I can travel between dimensions."  He didn't want to tell them per se, but, it gave the eggheads something to faun over while the others looked around the Project.  'Dazzle the with a light show and all that', seemed to be his plan.

"Extraordinary."  Ms. Giles said softly.  "You kids are... generations ahead in anything we've researched so far."

"Yeah, that's great," Devin smiled softy.  "My point in showing you this... was... maybe you have the technology to analyze it.  Perhaps date it?  Knowing roughly how old this is, might give us a starting point for a timeline.  Cass is great at timelines, she can arrange the data, Autumn can help or go forage for berries or something.  Marissa can organize the intel and Sean can source historical reporting using the interwebs.  Jason can hang out and be all expressionless and morose until we need something smart said or done.  If you wanna fight something, you start at the beginning.  Search for clues in the past, work to the now.  This thing was banished, this much we know.  Which means someone kicked its ass once."

"What about you, Charlie and Cade?"  Autumn rested a fist on her hip as she glared at him, knowing he was up to something.

"Uh," the teleporter looked at her like she should know better than to question the great and powerful Devin.  "My idea, Aykay.  I don't have to help, I thought of it.  Since I'm such a nice guy, and we've already established this in the past... I am on pizza duty.  You're welcome.  These guys are gonna help me carry, because we'll need drinks too. And no, I'm not getting you granola on your pizza, Hippie."

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"As close as my research can tell, the Dark has been active in Shelly since the beginning.  Possibly before the beginning - but for that we'd have to consult the local Blackfeet and hope their oral history has some reference to it.  The Land of Upside-Down Thunder is a Blackfoot term for this area, though, as is 'Dawning Dark Light'.  So it's safe to say that they have some knowledge of it."  Jason spoke quietly, addressing Ms Giles and Major Taggart.  "I'm not going to give the full presentation I gave to everyone else right now, but the short version is this:  every twenty-seven years there is a spate of killings, disappearances, and violent assaults that would lead to death if they weren't interrupted.  People go crazy - mothers kill children, drunken friends pull knives on each other... you get the picture.  After talking with the Man in Black earlier when he visited me in the hospital, and combining it with what you've said about the high count of 'aether' in this area, I think that something in this area produces people with Shine - weak, isolated, but harvestable.  And once a generation or so, the Dark wakes up and eats, feeding on the deaths of those with gifts.  Only this time, several things have changed - we're stronger than the previous ones for some reason."  He paused, thinking for a moment.  "Mr Black did say that he regarded us like I regard my flowers.  It's possible he was blowing smoke - or he might have something to do with whats different this time, why we've manifested gifts beyond what the project was capable of cultivating."

"So we're his eugenics experiment?"  Cassie asked, wrinkling her nose.

"We know he's old.  He can afford to think in terms of generations, centuries of nudging the course of events, searching out bloodlines with the best chance of producing us.  Then he takes the best seeds he can find, and plants them in the best ground for them to bloom."  Jason looked at everyone.  "Hell, maybe he even steered the Project here.  Ms Giles did say that Kline's a geneticist, not a quantum physicist, yet he suddenly stumbled on the concept of 'aether'.  What if someone helped him?"

"Shit."  Marissa said softly.  "That makes sense.  Chess played over decades."

"If I had a goal like 'defeating the Dark', and needed people like us to do it, and had time on my hands... It's how I'd operate."  Jason shrugged.  "Back to the Dark - we know it has some kind of intelligence to how it acts.  We know that Mr Black has said we need to find Cody Sikes.  We know, thanks to Cassie, that it's heart seems to be in downtown Shelly.  We know Devin can potentially flip us over to it's side of the mirror to fight it.  But..."

"But what don't we know?"  Sean finished, nodding.  "We should talk to the Blackfeet before we go charging in."

Edited by GDP_ST
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"Oh my god!"  Devin huffed, rolling his eyes and thrusting hands out to the rest as if offering them a fresh plate of 'what the hell'.  "I said that like a week ago.  You guys were supposed to go visit the Wumpum people while Cade, Lona, Cass and I were breaking into the prison, aaaand I probably should not have said that out loud..."

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"We talked about it," Cass clarifies quickly, shooting Devin a glare. "We haven't done anything."

"And a lot's happened since that discussion," she adds to Devin. "Stuff we didn't plan on. So...yeah, we still need to do that. The, uh, reservation, I mean. Not the prison."

She nods at the Sheriff. "We are definitely not going to do the prison thing."

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"Totally not going to do the prison thing..." Devin shook his head slowly then slyly winked one eye and nodded very slowly to Cass.

"Go near that prison, Mr. Jauntsen, and yes, you will be doing the 'prison thing'."  Sheriff Allister smiled ruefully in the young annoyance's direction.

"You're not my supervisor."  Devin smirked.  "We got government backing now, dude," suddenly his eyes swelled with a thought.  "Holy crap, Taggart, dude, when do we get launch codes?  Because the Target in Great Falls is total shit.  I got a new game from there and it was scratched, and I was like what the hell, dude?  So I took it back and they told me they couldn't even exchange it for the same copy because I'd already opened it.  What kind of crap is that?  So, yeah, I wanna ghost the whole place, can we do that?"

"You can't be serious."  Taggart huffed, already massaging his temple with his thumb.

Sheriff Allister smiled for the first time since they entered the room.  "They're all yours, Major.  You think whatever is coming from this thunder place is bad, spend a week with the Jauntsen twins and you'll be begging for it all to end."

"Aw, Sheriff,"  Marissa pouted.  "What's wrong?  Knowing two people who aspire to more than screeching their lives to a halt at mediocrity like you did make you feel uncomfortable?"

Again the Sheriff looked at Taggart, seemingly unphased by the adolescent troublemakers.  "Enjoy."

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"For the record - you do not have government backing."   Major Taggart addressed Devin and the other teens, some firmness entering his tone.  "For several reasons - not least of which being you are legally minors and so cannot be employed by the U.S. government, least of all in a black operation such as this one."

"Good."  Charlie spoke up.  "That means we're not bound by any official secrets act, either."

"Espionage Act of 1917, currently codified under Title 18, Sections 791 through 799 governing espionage, makes it a criminal offence to disseminate information regarding classified military or government projects in such a way that could be injurious to the security and safety of the United States or interfere with the running of its military operations.  There's currently some debate as to how that interacts with the First Amendment, but suffice to say whistleblowing doesn't end well for the person blowing the whistle, usually."  The words were spoken quietly, matter of factly.  Jason's icy stare fixed on Taggart, who was nodding.  "That said, I would greatly enjoy the sight of the U.S. government trying to prosecute super-powered minors, who gained said powers as part of an illegal eugenics experiment and wide-scale surveillance conducted on American citizens on U.S. soil.  I think that would be a landmark media circus that might even get them to stop talking about Trump."  Taggart's face froze as surely as though Jase had turned him into ice.

"In your face."  Devin smirked at Taggart.  "Or wait... was that also in our face?  Whose face are you in right now, Rain Man?"

"Merely making observations."  Jason shrugged, smiling a little.  "In my opinion, it doesn't suit either side currently at this table to be at odds.  I don't particularly want my face splashed all over the news or journalists digging into my life - at least currently."

"And besides, I'm calling dibs on the exclusive."  Cass interjected, mock-glaring at everyone.  "Anyone talking to any journalist except me is off my Christmas card list and I'm never talking to you again."

"Also that"  Jase nodded slightly, the corners of his eyes crinkling in amusement.  "Cassandra gets the Pulitzer."  The good humor faded from his pale eyes as the door opened and Dr Cook returned, looking harried, with the two Airmen in tow.

"Doctor, please take a seat."  Annette said smoothly.  "We've been having a most interesting discussion."  There was a slight edge to the word 'interesting', her eyes boring into the doctor for a moment before she turned back to Jason.  "So how do you see this relationship moving forward, Mr Ba-  Jason."

"Just call him JayBee."  Devin grinned at the elegant woman.  "If you're not a pile of ash afterwards, he's okay with that."  Annette looked at the smirking Jauntsen, then at the glint in the jade depths of the young psychopath's eyes, and shook her heard, smiling a fraction.

"I'll stick to 'Jason' for now." she decided, immediately giving the rest of the Fellowship a good impression of her common sense.

"Smart."  muttered Charlie with a sly smile.

"You can tell why she's in charge."  Sean grinned.

"If you are being truthful," Jase spoke over the snickering. "Then we have aligning aims. You don't want Shelly to be eaten by a metaphysical shadowy parasite, nor do we.  You don't want every detail of this project or our lives splashed all over the internet - nor do we.  You want to find out what Crossroads has to do with all this - so do we.  And finally, you are interested in us: our abilities specifically.  And I, at least, am interested in the Aeon Society and how it can benefit me."  He glanced at Cook.  "Before I knew about Aeon or Branch Nine, I approached the doctor here with an offer of cooperation: to let me help him.  He was less than enthusiastic."

"You also lied about how you felt alienated and set apart from your friends.  That you felt they were treating you - how was it you said it?  'Like a bomb about to go off or an abusive drunk parent'."  Cook replied, a hint of triumphant accusation in his tone as he saw a chance to sow discord.  "That you felt your efforts were unappreciated and that all you got from them was 'petty ingratitude and fear'."

"Which is indeed how I felt yesterday."  Jason nodded slowly, not at all discomfited by Cook's 'j'accuse' moment.  "Indeed, I was close to leaving Shelly altogether by the time school was out yesterday.  It seems, in light of events since our talk, that I was mistaken - or at least mostly mistaken.  Perhaps my friends do struggle to understand and accept me, but no less than I struggle to understand them.  I did not lie to you, doctor.  Lies are your stock in trade, not mine."

"You're a sociopath-"

"High functioning psychopath." came a chorused mutter from the other teens.

"-lying is all you do."  Cook finished with defiant vitriol - and then the vicious satisfaction in his gaze turned to fear as an invisible grip closed around his throat, terrifyingly strong.  His hands came up, but there was nothing to struggle against as he was pulled bodily out of his chair and onto his toes.

"I can do many things."  Jason's voice was calm, a contrast with the predatory gleam of his eyes.  "I can reach down your throat and pull out your heart.  I could twist your head clean off your shoulders, burn you slowly to ash as you scream, sizzling in your own fat.  I could freeze parts of your body and shatter them, starting with your reproductive organs.  I could do all that, and my heart rate would not climb even a fraction."  Cook's breath came in gasping wheezes now, his face turning dark red.  "Am I lying?"

"Dude..."  Devin said warningly.  Gar reached out and put a hand on Jase's shoulder, his expression tense with worry for his son.

"Am.  I.  Lying?"  Jason repeated, each word sliding into place like knives into sheaths.  Cook managed to shake his head and croak something that sounded like 'no'... and then collapsed heavily, catching himself on the table and falling back into his seat, gasping for life-giving air.

"Next time you feel like insulting me, Doctor Cook, bear that in mind."  Jase stated in the frozen silence.  "Your discomfort, fear, pain and life mean less than nothing to me.  You extend your safety by minding your manners and cooperating."  He held out a hand, a donut drifting into it as a cup of the admittedly terrible coffee was poured from pot and likewise floated down to the end of the table where he reached out and took it, taking a sip and making a face.  "So you see, Ms Giles, I am willing to cooperate in the achieving of our mutual goals, taking one day at a time.  Right now I think the best thing for us to do is find out all we can about the legends of the Dark, then confer with you about what aid we might possibly need."

"Yes."  Annette nodded, recovering her aplomb admirably - though looking a little wide-eyed as the gasping Cook rubbed at his bruised throat, his eyes downcast.  "That seems sensible."  She looked at the others.  "Does anyone else have any further concerns?"

Edited by GDP_ST
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"And you wonder why I don't want to be alone in a room with you," Marissa sneered at Jason, obviously irritated and beyond upset with his speech and admission of being capable of unspeakable acts of torture upon another human being and not even show any sign of concern for them.  Yet all of his friends were supposed to sit around believe that he would never do that to any of them were he suddenly rubbed the wrong way.  "You're a lunatic, Jason and frankly I'm afraid of you.  Not that it matters, since my being afraid of you means less than nothing to you.  If the others in this room aren't scared of you, then they are either stupid or have no sense of self-preservation."

"No," she raised her hands in surrender.  "I've no further concerns other than the fact that we're all locked in a room with that," she pointed a perfectly manicured nail at Jason.  "So can we please wrap this up before he decides to regale us with more bragging about the levels of barbarity the great and powerful Jason Bannon is capable of?"

"Not cool, dude."  Devin shook his head.  "We've been over this, and apparently you don't listen or just don't care.  We are not here to threaten, harm, and intimidate people.  If all you can think of to do with your abilities is throw people around homes and threaten to inflict harm on others, then say the word, bro.  We can start dancing right now.  That shit though?"  He pointed to Cook, unconcerned with the people in the room at the moment.  He looked to Hank and Jason's father.  "That shit isn't gonna fly.  Get your house in order, because this boy need Jesus or Tony Stark, or something, because we all know he's one hundred percent in control of everything he says, and he doesn't lie.  Which means there no excuse for this sort of behavior.  Every few days he's either scaring the shit out of us going off on some power fueled rampage that ends up with people getting hurt."  It was Devin's turn for an icy stare directed at Jason.  He could handle a few passive threats but Jason always took shit too far, like he was some kind of a super badass, but he wasn't.  He seemed to be nothing more than a bully, like Devin not long ago, so he understood the mindset.  He could tolerate a lot of antics, but keeping his sister living in fear from day in to day out all the time... that shit needed to stop.  "Unfuck yourself, Jason.  Or just say the word and we can start the war right now.  Because this shit is like every fucking day with you, man."

Marissa stood up, standing near her brother.  "Devin, don't.  Let it go.  Just... it's just not worth going over it with him again.  He doesn't get it, and never will.  That's the sort of person he is, and it's not our fight, let the military deal with him.  He's not your problem anymore."

"Yeah, fine."  Devin nodded, never breaking gaze with Jason who just glared at him like that damn cat in the memes.  Jason didn't care.  He never cared.  He couldn't care.  Sure he'd tell everyone differently and swear up and down that 'he would never [fill in the blank]' but he'd also be ding it with a straight face, a steady heart rate, and a smile while he was unraveling someone's organs.  "Good luck, people.  Just think, you're trapped six stories underground with him."  He looked to the Sheriff and smirked.  "Enjoy."


Devin will stick around for one fair reply, then him and Marissa are teleporting out of there.  Jason has, once again, managed to alienate himself from the twins.


Edited by Jaunt
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"Jesus, Jase," Cassandra muttered, burying her face in her hands. Then she looked up and held her hands out.

"Okay, everyone...just calm down for a second." She threw a glare at Jason. "And before you tell me that 'you are calm,' let me just say that that isn't what calm people do. Okay? Yeah, he called you a liar...because he's a liar and that's what people do. They...accuse other people of doing the things they do. But you have to get a fucking grip, man. Someone trash talks you doesn't mean you get to go Hannibal Lecter on their ass."

She waved a hand at Dr Cook. "And don't you go thinking I'm on your side either, because I know what you did to Etienne. You're not getting off that hook. I'm just...ugh."

Cass abruptly turned and pointed at Jase. "You have to promise me no powers. No matter what, in this room right now, or...against Dr Cook. Because otherwise I won't say anything more and he'll get away with it, and it'll be your fault."

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Jason was exchanging glares with Devin - or rather, Devin was glaring and Jase was trying to figure out what, exactly, the Jauntsens were on their high horse about.  Firstly, Cook was smug slime and needed some of the air letting out of him.  Secondly, didn't the Twins realise Jase wasn't actually intending to do any of those things, but merely rattle the composure out of the man so he wouldn't be thinking about disgrace or jail, but rather simply staying alive and whole.  And thirdly, for a pair who'd terrorised a high school full of (relatively) blameless children, for a youth who'd nearly caused another boy to drown in his own blood over a perceived slight, to have a problem with a human-experimenting eugenicist getting the Vader treatment... Seemed somewhat hypocritical to him.  In short, he saw their problem with the whole situation simply as being that they didn't have the whip in their hand, and it scared them.

His eyes glittered as he considered that, and Devin's threat of war.  They were frightened, lashing out, showing their teeth.  Marissa once more establishing fear as her motive force - she didn't date because she was scared, she dated Cade because she was scared, she was apparently afraid to be in the same room as him.  Neither even paused to consider he'd never threatened either of them, even remotely.  Neither paused to consider that he'd stated categorically that he'd not harm a friend, and didn't lie.  There was no true rationality in the reaction, he realised.  Merely unthinking emotionality justified by the semblance of logic.  It bothered him - but what bothered him more was that he found it vaguely contemptible.  It was an ugly sensation to feel towards two people he still regarded as friends and peers.  He didn't like it, and set some of his mental processes to work breaking it down, dissecting it, understanding it.

He was distracted as Cass spoke up, turning his gaze on her and considering her words for a moment.  "I promise that I won't use my powers again in this room at this time, or against Dr Cook - unless in self-defence, and then proportionately."  He cocked his head to one side, narrowing his eyes at her.  "Is that satisfactory?"

Edited by GDP_ST

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Cassandra wanted to try to wring more out of him. She wanted to explain the whole 'social contract' thing more, get him on board with it more...but really didn't know how to do that. She only had a kind of vague idea of how it was all supposed to work herself. It was endlessly frustrating to her that someone who seemed as smart as Jase couldn't seem to grasp something that was so easy for most other people.

She was tired of fighting though.

"All right. Okay. So... You want to tell Ms Giles about it, Dr. Cook? Let me set the stage for you, just so we're on the same page. Etienne and you in your office. You're talking. You get in a fight. He's upset with you, with the Project, with what you're having him do. He tells you he's done." She jabs a finger towards the scientist. "You realize that you can't just let him go. He knows too much, and if you lose track of him who knows who he'll talk to." At this, Cass glanced at Giles. "Or who it'll get back to."

"You take him down your super-cool little office elevator. Oh, at gunpoint, I should add. A while later you come back up. Alone. With the gun still in your hand. The same one that's in your desk drawer right now."

Cassie sat back in her chair and gestured at him. "You want to fill in the missing time there? Might go easier on you if you do it yourself."

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"Jason."  Cade's voice was low, he couldn't believe he'd say those sorts of things while trying to get the cooperation of the Society and Government.  "Sure Cook's an slimeball for all the underhanded shit he's been pulling, but you can't say those sorts of things, even in jest."  

He continued, trying to maintain his calm.  "It's not that you weren't planning to do it, but that you'd openly admit you could, and would if you thought the situation warranted it, and that such acts would make you feel nothing.  That's the sort of thing that makes people afraid, not just of you, but Anyone who has powers. That's what makes them look for ways to control us, or if they can't, kill us, Jason."   He was just about done with the proceedings here, and he thought they needed to call it a day.  Sure there were more questions, but after that scene, it would be best to take a break in his mind.

"You just gave Cook a win, and you don't even realize it."  He turned his gaze to Cook, who'd gotten even paler as Cassie leveled her accusation against him, and shook his head.  "I saved his life you know, Ettiene's.  You sent him into combat against monsters and told him nothing, and he nearly died for it.   Then he had a crisis of Conscience, and only you walk out after it.  I didn't like him, Dr, especially after we found out the truth, but I still saved him."

His voice was cold.  "Is that the kind of ally you are?  Is that how you'd have treated all of us, or any of us, who had a second thought about working with you?"


Edited by Cade

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"Look, maybe this was all just a bad idea."  Marissa said, staying close to her brother now in case Jason decided to start being the man he really was instead of the promises he thought they were all believing.  "Perhaps it's best if we just tell these people everything they need to combat The Dark and we go on about our lives, especially if Jason is involved in this.  He's already made us an accessory to attempted murder."

"I think manslaughter would be more apt," Charlie attempted to correct her.

"No," she crossed her arms.  "Through Jason's own admission to me,  everything he does is done while he is in full control of his faculties.  He could kill us all and his heart rate wouldn't climb, even a fraction.  You guys are welcome to trust him, but I don't.  It's tiring explaining to him why he shouldn't say or do certain things, and it's only a matter of time before he does kill someone, maybe even one of us.  I'm sorry, everyone, but I can't be in a room with him and not feel like I'm trapped with some cannibal, rapist, or murderer."  She looked to Jason's father, practically pleading with the man.  "He needs serious help."

"I've tried."  She said calmly.  "We have all tried.  We all know he's too smart to not 'get it', which means," she motioned to Dr. Cook in referring to the litany of threats he rattled off a moment ago.  "Those sorts of things that he just said.  The heart, the burning, the freezing, the not caring one iota about Dr. Cook, or you, or anyone else.  That's Jason Bannon.  If you're smart, you guys will distance yourselves as soon as possible."

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"Why would you be scared of him?" Kat's voice rose from the other side of the room. She had been thinking a lot on what she heard, first from what Sean had told her, then from the conversation. A whole universe had been unraveled to her and she was just about done processing it. 

" You do believe he acts a hundred percent in control of himself, and think about it : from what I understand, he is one of us. Why would he choose to hurt you unless you give him a reason to? His attitude doesn't look like one with uncontrolled dementia crisis. I don't think you should consider him as dangerous... towards any of us. It would not fit any logical pattern outside of direct aggression. " The petite redhead looked at Marissa, then at Jason, bearing his icy gaze with a chill on her back. It was the first time she actually addressed them a fully elaborated thought, and she suddenly felt uncomfortable being the target of so many eyes, her pale cheeks coloring themselves with a delicate shade of red.

"I think he is... Interesting." She added, her head burying itself between her shoulders, and her features turning crimson.

Edited by Catherine 'Kat' Barras

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"Do you now?"  Marissa's lips twisted in a vile smile.  She crossed her arms and glared as her posture shifted to something akin to a snake preparing to strike.  "Good.  The he's all yours."

"You guys can delude yourselves into thinking anything you like, but Jason has shown constant abusive and violent tendencies since we've started hanging out with him.  Maybe he's messed up, maybe he just enjoys putting hay hooks to people's throats or smashing them around their own homes while masquerading it under altruistic intentions, I don't know."  She shrugged, shaking head.  "Frankly, I'm done caring.  I'm not required to stay around, nor can I be forced to be around him.  I choose to be as far from him as possible because I don't want to be in the room when he finally does decide to start ripping out people's hearts and freezing their genitals.  I choose not be associated to a person who thinks, acts, and talks that way."

"Picking on people is one thing," she said.  "It wasn't until hanging out with Autumn that I realized how horrid of a person I am, but I've never wished anyone the level of pain and misery that Jason finds casually amusing.  He's sick and needs help.  You do what you want, live your best, but I'm done with him.  I've talked to him I've tried to understand him and he always goes right back to this... what you just saw and heard.  That's his baseline, and frankly it's demented.  So, he's all yours New Girl.  Have at it."

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The dissonant sound of a chair scraping awkwardly over the floor cut through the tension with all the elegance of a dull kitchen knife as Autumn brushed a few stray crumbs from her chest and pushed back from the table, getting slowly to her feet and glancing speculatively around the room. Kat's speaking up was a reminder that there were quite a few people present who knew even less about the current situation than she did, and even Friday- when this madness had all started for her- seemed like a lifetime ago, now. Apparently, as she'd wondered back then, there really was no maximum threshold for impossibility, no upper limit on the number of things that couldn't happen in a single day. Sometimes multiple days in a row. There was so. freaking. much. she wanted to say to Jason, to the twins, to Cade, to the poor bystanders and the new girl who'd gotten dumped in the middle of things the way she had, and the conflicting thoughts weren't doing much for the dull ache behind her eyes, but none of those thoughts were exactly helpful either... and if they didn't get their shit together as a group, they were going to completely waste this chance to get the information they needed.

"So, hi," she began, in a voice that was surprisingly steady despite the awkward little wave that accompanied it in violation of Basic Public Speaking 101. "If we haven't been introduced, I'm Autumn, nice to meet you. I hope it's cool that I'm interrupting, because, hooo. This is, um..." She spread her freckled hands briefly, indicating the room as she winced and shook her head, nose crinkling slightly. "This is a whole lot, and it's definitely been a bit of a day. So. Before anyone storms off, or any declarations of war are signed in blood, there are just a couple of things I want to bring up, and then I think we need to give Dr. Cook a chance to answer Cass before this crazy train goes completely off the rails. First." Her gaze moved first to Jason, and then to Devin and Marissa, and though it lacked the frigid incisiveness in the eyes of the former or the imperious challenge in the mien of the latter, it was clear, direct, and unwavering. "Bylaws and accountability, right? 'Order.' We deal with our own. That means nobody who isn't one of our own needs to be involved, so all of this..." She gestured again, more expansively, as if to encompass the incomprehensible vastness of the growing rift between them. "Needs to happen at some other time and place than when we're exhausted and sitting in a secret government facility with reps from secret government projects- and the freaking Sheriff who knows all of our parents- hours after having nearly been eaten by whatever the hell those things were from some... messed up Wes Craven mirror world."

Pausing to actually inhale, the animated redhead ran her hands back through the tousled mess of her red-gold hair, holding them there for a moment in frustration as she continued. "Look, we can do all the yelling and threats and all that on our own time, and if you guys want to strip down and go at it bare-knuckle in a field somewhere, I promise I'll split the ticket sales, but Cass gets the media rights." Glancing over at her plucky counterpart, the redhead managed a slightly crooked grin that just reached her eyes, and quickly faded. Her voice was almost imperceptibly softer, all the levity dissipating as the earnest young woman regarded the twins, hands dropping back to her sides. "But if you two don't want to be here right now, cool. I feel that. Seriously. Things are pretty fucked right now, and not likely to be any less fucked any time soon. Marissa's got my number, I can fill her in later. Go home, take a shower, light up...." Autumn paused, eyes darting warily in the elder Allister's direction, "...a candle, do a sheet mask, align your chakras, destroy someone's hopes and dreams, y'know. Self-care. Whatever you need to do."

"Second. I'm holding my questions until we get some answers from the doctor here, because not all of us are freaking savages," she glanced disapprovingly around the table in a reasonably accurate imitation of her mother before addressing the officer present, "but... Major Taggart? I wanted to say thank you for earlier, for at least trusting the two of us enough to let us help. You took us seriously, and you didn't have to. So, thanks." 

"And, third. I didn't say it before, and I know we're not all friends here, but I'm really glad everyone's okay. Okay? Okay. Cool." She didn't give anyone time to respond, instead just nodding and moving ahead as if her cheeks weren't burning from the admission. "That's it. Dr. Cook, you have the floor," the restless young woman stated tersely, the warm blue of her eyes fading to an unwelcoming grey as she sat down again, the chair once more screeching into place. "Let's try this again."

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"No," Devin said calmly.  "We'll settle up later."  They all knew referring to taking Autumn's advice and handling their affairs on their own time.

"For now, however," he held his sister close and she sort of fell into him with the piece of mind of knowing they could leave in a heartbeat if they needed to.  "I'd like to hear Cook's point of view as to why he thought sending a twenty four year old to seduce a sixteen year old high school student in order to get access to her parent's research, or records, or whatever was a such a great a idea.  Not that I'm frowning on getting involved with an older women, just throwing that out there," he shot Ms. Giles a wink.  "But the girl you targeted was already damaged, dude.  That was just cruel."

"I mean, seriously Cook, what's your deal, dude?  How messed up is you?"

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Cook had been regarding the consternation and acrimony between the powered teens with a watchful eye, one hand still absently rubbing at his throat.  With Autumn's words and Devin's affirmation, however, he swallowed as he once more became the focus of unfriendly eyes.  His gaze flicked to Jason, who was possibly the only person in the room not looking at him right now, instead staring into the middle-distance expressionlessly, the gleam of his eyes dim and his focus apparently turned inward.

"Doctor?"  Annette's voice did not have the same inhuman iciness as the silent youth, but her tone and gaze were definitely frosty, as was Taggart's.  "What is this about seducing a sixteen year old girl, and who is Etienne?"

"He wasn't supposed to seduce her."  Cook protested.  "He was supposed to become close, but he was posing as a Senior when she was a Sophomore, for crying out loud.  The idea was for him to act as a mentor figure for her...  Dammit."  He sighed, massaging his neck.  "I should start at the beginning."

"Do so."

"Right.  So, it was a couple of years ago.  We found out that the Doctors Wright - both brilliant scientists in the field of genetics - were doing some work on and around the Blackfoot reservation.  Some digging revealed they had obtained a grant and permission from the state health board to do an in-depth analysis of genes in the native American population and how those transferred through intermingled families with roots in Montana, with a focus on isolating genes associated with congenital defects, cancer, and the like."  Doctor Cook glanced at the folders in front of him, obviously collecting his thoughts.  "Doctor Kline, though, suspected they might have other motives and be perhaps trying to analyse the same thing we had theorised - a predisposition for paranormal gifts genetically present in the local populace.  So he tasked me to gather intelligence covertly."

"Tasked you?"  Taggart asked sharply.  "Intelligence and counter-intelligence was my responsibility.  Why was the Branch not informed of this operation?"

"Or the Society, for that matter."  Annette Giles stared levelly at the now-sweating Cook.

"Doctor Kline was very insistent that the intelligence be gathered covertly.  He claimed that the Wrights may have friends connected to the Society, and be tipped off if proper channels were employed."  The doctor stammered.

"And you believed him?"  Giles' raised eyebrow spoke volumes of her skepticism - apparently well-founded skepticism, as Cook said nothing and just looked down uncomfortably at his papers.

"Totally fucking busted."  Devin sneered, then "Pardon my French, of course."  as Annette glanced his way with an air of patient reproof.  She smiled slightly then looked back at Cook, her lips once more forming a straight line.

"So... I hired a corporate intelligence specialist."  Cook admitted, straightening his shoulders.

"A civilian asset."  Taggart said levelly.  "An uncleared, unvetted civilian asset."

"He knows nothing about the involvement of Aeon or Branch Nine.  And his resume was solid!"  The doctor said defensively.  "Several jobs in Canada and the U.S, recently downsized, looking for work.  And he looked like he could pass for seventeen to eighteen.  So we cooked up a cover, inserted him into the school as a senior finishing his education in Shelly prior to interning at the medical center, and tasked him with getting close to the Wrights."

"Specifically Clara."  Marissa 's dark eyes were hard as she found a fresher target for her ire than the still unresponsive Jason.  "A girl so lonely and buttoned-up she would qualify as vulnerable even if she wasn't a minor."

"No statutory laws were broken-"  Cook began, but was cut off by Cassandra.

"Age of consent might be sixteen, but I'm pretty sure even if he didn't do the nasty with her before that, it still counts as 'grooming'."  She shook her head in disapproval, even as several others present, the sheriff included, nodded in agreement.

"And as I said, he wasn't supposed to get that close."  Cook protested.  "Jesus.  He was supposed to be a star student that she would look up to, then become friends with.  But something went wrong.  He developed actual feelings for her.  At first we decided-"

"'We' being you and Doctor Kline?"  Taggart's face was stony, but his fingers tapping on the table's surface betrayed his anger.

"Yes.  At first we decided that, so long as Etienne would still go through with the mission, that it could be a benefit.  He snuck into the Wright's property several times, tried to break into their private lab building, but claimed he was unable to bypass their security.  Then he and the girl broke off the relationship"  Cook shrugged.  "The mission was pretty much a bust, then.  Kline gave the order to terminate his contract, and I was about to when everything changed, and he attended a party thrown by the high schoolers on Reservation ground and witnessed strange things happening.  That, plus his rekindled closeness with the Wright girl, made him of use again... until his cover was blown and these kids found out he was a spy."

"We have our ways."  Sean's girlish features were somber as he regarded the doctor he'd trusted most of his life.

"Yes, you do."  Cook sighed, rubbing his hand over his face, glancing Sean then at Ms Giles.  "That was last week.  Late last night, he comes into my office without knocking, wild-eyed and loudly telling me he quits, he's not going to do it anymore, and that we'd better leave Clara and the other teens alone.  I didn't have a choice, then.  I had to contain him."

"Contain him how?"  Taggart demanded.  Cook shifted in his seat, and the Major leaned forward.  "What did you do, Doctor?"

"I... handed him off to Kline's men."  Cook stammered, then spoke in a rush.  "I didn't know what to do at first.  So I pulled out the gun I had in my desk for - uh - protection."  He glanced at at the still-motionless, inward-turned Jason for a moment, who didn't even appear to hear the words.  "And brought him down here.  I called Kline, told him what had happened, and he sent some people."

"What people?  Whose people were they?"  

"Some private security force.  Uh... Doctor Kline has used them a couple of times for, um, off the books things.  They bundled Etienne into an armored van and took him away."

"Mercenaries.  Doctor Kline is employing goddamn mercenaries on American soil as part of a black project."  Taggart looked like he was fit to spit nails.  "Where did they take him?!"

"I don't know!"  Cook nearly wailed.  "I didn't want any of this.  You have to believe me."

"I should call my superiors and have you renditioned to a black site in goddamn Siberia for the rest of your natural life, you-"  Taggart bit back a stream of profanity with some effort backed by solid professionalism.  "Think.  Did they say anything to each other?"

Cook screwed up his face in thought, starting to shake his head negatively... then paused.  "Wait... Wait!  One of them had a blue shirt on under his jacket.  It looked like the uniform shirts the guards wear at the prison!"  He looked from Taggart to Ms Giles, desperate hope in his eyes that he'd bought a reprieve.  "That's all I can think of, I swear!"

Edited by GDP_ST
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Devin was as quiet as Devin could possibly be while Cook finished digging himself a hole.  Finally he looked at his assembled 'friends'... they were a complete mess, the Society was a complete mess, and this Kline guy seemed to be the equivalent to their Jason: scooping people up and eating them to fuel his own mystery.  He sighed, letting go of his sister and leaning on the table.  "We can't leave Eddy to Kline."  His own personal sense of 'protect everyone' began creeping to the surface as his fears of The Dark and what it was like to be alone and trapped with evil hardened his expression.  Devin didn't have many positive qualities...

...but damn could the kid lead.

"No one deserves that, we all know it."  He looked around.  "We can't go home yet, we need to rescue eddy, and in order to do that we need to know where he is."

"Devin," Marissa huffed in protest, unable to grasp why he, or any of them, should care about the near rapist.  When her brother's hard stare caught her and she realized he was as serious as a heart attack, she sighed as well, and calmed herself.  Her words and tone shifted dramatically.  "How can I help?"

"The prison is a lead, but we don't know for sure.  Cassie," he looked at the pretty blonde reporter and she was almost moved by his sense of urgency.  "I need you to go to the last room Eddy was in, concentrate, focus and do your read thing.  Follow their route, listen to every word.  From the room to the van, we need to know everything.  Sean, I'd put money on these all having their cell phones with them.  Ping their IMEIs.  They arrived here at a certain time, they left at a certain time, and they subscribed to every tower along a particular route within that time.  If they went to the prison, then their IMEIs will be pinging off the towers near the prison."

Everyone offered a blank stare at Devin as to how he suddenly became an expert on espionage.  "What," he shrugged.  "Has nobody seen the Mission Impossible movies?"  He clapped his hands.  "C'mon people, move like we have a life to save."

"Devin, my powers don't work like that."  Cassie tried to explain.

"Make them work like that," he replied with a tone of confidence not commonly possessed by the snark pot.  "They're yours.  MAke them work how you need them to.  Adapt.  We need to find Eddy before Kline adds parts or melts his brain, or... makes him a brony.  You're our best shot at the moment, CeeAy."

"Devin," Sean stood up and glared at his tormentor, crossing his arms under his ample [insert descriptive for breasts here].   He sternly protested Devin's idea.  "What you are asking me to do is highly illegal."

"So?"  Devin shrugged.  "Which laptop will you need?"

"My blue one.  With the bull horns sticker on it."  He said without missing a step.

"I'll have it to you in five," Devin nodded.

"You have three," Sean smirked.

"What about us?"  Cade asked Devin.

"We're the acquisition team.  We can't do anything until these two do their work.  Jason, you're our artillery.  Cade, muscle.  Charlie, you're our tank.  Autumn, you're our compass.  I'm the ride."  Devin smiled wide, his adrenaline was pumping like mad as the thrill-seeker in him was rattling the bars of its cage.  "All kinds of impressive, people.  That's what we are.  So let's show up and show out."

Marissa gripped Devin's arms and spun him to face her.  She was not talking quietly.  "Devin, this is nuts.  You're talking about possibly breaking into a maximum security prison over Etienne?  They guy almost slept with Clara.  Please tell me you're not doing this just to impress Ms. Giles?  Your sixteen, she's like, forty, she's never going to sleep with you.  You don't have to impress her."

"Uh, first, I don't have to impress her, because, well... look at me."  He motioned down his body, demanding the assembled take it all in.  He leaned back to get Ms. Giles in his field of vision where he promptly winked, smirked and gave her one of those 'how you doin'' nods, before turning his attention back to his sister.  "Second, look, Eddy was kinda rapey, sure, but not a bad guy.  None of us are perfect and it's not our place to judge.  Hell, you were blowing a nineteen year old last summer,"  Marissa raised her hand and massaged the bridge of her nose, already furious at her brother spilling her personal dealings.  They'd never seen Marissa embarrassed before, but at this moment her composure was completely shattered as her her cheeks flared red with fury and embarrassment.  "...and that's no one's business but yours and his.  That shouldn't stop us from helping him, he didn't do anything wrong except poorly choose his employer, but that shouldn't mean he's out of allies.  Besides, Clara loves the guy, who are we to take that away from her?"

"Do you even hear yourself sometimes?"  She fumed, her breathing was slow and her chest heaved as if she was going to choke him out.  He was right though.  The hopeless romantic that lie caged deeply in the frozen caverns of her heart knew he was right.  Who were they to take love away from someone?  She met his eyes but the rage never left the expression on her face. "Go.  This isn't over."

In a hazy blur of violet Devin shimmered out and was gone with a 'bamf' as the air filled the vacuum left by his sudden departure.  She turned and faced her 'associates'.  Her glare was stern and empirical.  It was obvious she was not playing games.  "You will all forget you ever heard my brother say that, or they will never find your bodies."

"You mean the part about-"  Autumn said with a poorly hidden smirk.

"Ah, tut-tut..."  Marissa cut her off, flailing a hand to swat away the words Autumn was speaking.

"About the-" Cade folded his lips inward trying to hide his smile.

"Shh!"  Her fingers all touched the tip of her thumb as she poked in Cade's direction, giving him the Dr. Evil treatment.  "Zip it!"


Devin will get Sean's super shady laptop (we all know he has one) and return to get things rolling.  Let's go do something heroic people!


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"Uh uh, no way I'm staying with these three." Kat's voice chimed as she waved a delicate hand towards Ms Giles, Dr Cook and the Major. 

She somehow jumped down from her chair and approached Taggart who didn't look especially happy about the situation. As he was about to protest, Devin fwooped away and the words remained stuck in his throat. He instantly rose to his feet, anger in his eyes, but two things washed his intents away.

First, Ms Giles shook her head, a reproving hint in her eyes, and he stopped mid-motion, sitting back on his chair. "This should be interesting." She spoke softly. She then motioned with her chin towards the elfin figure gently pulling on his sleeve. "Would you happen to know Captain Barras' schedule? I'd really like to have my father drive me home..." Kat asked, the expression of weariness painted on her childish features. The daze in his eyes only lasted for a second as he composed himself, thinking. "I'm afraid your father is busy at the moment." After a short while, he added : "If that is what you want, I can have someone take you home as soon as possible." Kat frowned and gave the offer a nod, then walked back to her bag, grabbing a pen and a small piece of paper. A couple seconds later, she approached Sean, pulling on his sleeve, and he turned a probing eye towards the spindly teen. "Here's my number, beautiful." She said in a caustic tone.

Sean looked at her with mild surprise, his eyebrows reaching to the ceiling, then a pleased grin drew on his features. This was unexpected, but with the afternoon she had been through, he couldn't fault her from trying to escape the insanity of the situation. She discreetly winked, then added "Y'all look like a fun lot, but I had enough action for one month. Besides if I'm caught raiding a fucking prison, I'm gonna hear from my Dad, and he's gonna hear from his superiors. I don't want him to get in trouble because his offspring is a psionic vigilante." A yawn escaped her lips as she stretched cat-like. "If you guys feel like having fun, dinner, whatever, when you're done beating up the bad guys, gimme a call. I'd appreciate one normal evening as a teen in this town."

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If Jason heard any of what had been said by Cook, or any of Devin's plan to rescue Etienne, he gave no sign of it or of anything else.  That sense of withdrawal hung about him, an utter stillness that in the buzz and hum of the Fellowship as they exchanged glances and murmured words made him almost invisible.  He did not fidget, or tap his fingers, or even blink: face immobile and eyes unfocused - or rather focused inwards - he appeared almost inanimate but for the faint rise and fall of his breathing.

"So... wait, are you kids going to do what I think you're going to do ?"  Sheriff Allister asked, frowning at Cade.

"They're going to find Etienne, then free him as quickly and quietly as we can."  Marissa said soothingly.  "If he's still alive, anyway.  If you or Major Taggart roll up wherever he's being held, they'll probably just kill him and take their chances."  She made a face.  "Much as I think it's nuts and think Etienne's a dog, Devin's right.  He doesn't deserve whatever Kline will do to him."

"And what if he's being held in the prison?  Or somewhere worse?"  Allister demanded.  "What if you bippidy-bobbity over there and it's a trap and you're staring down the barrels of a dozen guns?"

"That's why we have Charlie, Cade and-"  Sean glanced at Exhibit C.  "Jase?"


"Earth to Jase.  You in for the Eddy rescue?"

"Sure."  The lean youth's voice was quiet, distant.

"O-o-okay.  You alright?"  Sean narrowed his eyes.

"Sure."  came the reply in the same tone.

"To be clear: we're rescuing Eddy, the guy you wanted to leave in a ditch?" 

Now Jason's eyes brightened as he was jogged out of whatever reverie he had fallen into, moving to focus on Sean in that eerie way that was, for him, normal.  "I know what we're doing, Sean.  And I don't have a grievance with Etienne anymore."  He said with mild asperity that was oddly comforting after the distant tone.

"Jase, you don't have to do this." Gar said in a low, urgent voice.  "It could be dangerous."

"And my friends could be in more danger without me there."  Jase said simply.  "If they need me, I'm going."  His lips twitched minutely.  "You can ground me later, if you want. I've often wondered what that is like."

"Never needed to before."  His dad snorted, shaking his head.  "Not sure this is a grounding matter."  Jason stood, giving his father a brief hug.

"I'll be fine."  He told him.  "We'll talk more later, I promise.  Right now I'm going  to sit quietly and wait."  Suiting action to words, he turned and headed over to one of the couches and stretched himself out along it, staring up unseeing at the ceiling and once more becoming utterly still.

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Cassandra worked her shoulders a little as Devin vanished and Kat had her say.

"We don't even know where we're going yet," she said. "Prison just seems like a good place to hide mercenaries. But we can find out."

She looked at Dr Cook, cowering across the table. "Did you take anything off of Etienne?"

The scientist shook his head dolefully. "No. Kline's men would have done anything along those lines." Then, with a touch of suspicion, "Why?"

"I need something that belonged to him. Or, like a comb or something would be ideal."

He sat back in his chair for a moment, then said, "His office is upstairs in the Imaging Department."

With that Cassie was up out of her seat. "Okay, which office?"

Major Taggert spoke up at that point, pointing at one of the two armed men that had escorted him and Giles in. "Airman, escort her to that office and back here when she has what she needs." Then he turned his gimlet gaze on Cassandra. "No side trips, and stick with your escort. He's there for your safety."

And to make sure I don't do any more snooping, thought Cassie with a wry smile...but she nodded. "Won't take but a minute."

Then they were off, following Dr Cook's hasty directions, with his passcard in her hand. When they arrived and beeped in, Cass found the office looking like it had barely ever been used. Fitting, since his 'job' in Imaging was certainly just a cover. Even so, he HAD been there before. Cassandra closed her eyes, 'feeling' around the room for echoes of his presence. In one of the drawers was a pack of playing cards...but no...the trash can.

She hunkered down a bit. The bin was empty, but on the floor under it was a bit of dust and grit...probably spilled by accident the last time it had been taken out.

In that was a little white half-moon shape. A fingernail clipping. Cass scraped it up off the floor and gave the airman a smile. "That'll do."

He gave her a disgruntled, somewhat grossed out look. "All this for that?"

"I know. It's mysterious. Imagine what I could do with a whole finger."

The airman frowned, then waved her ahead of him. "All right, lets move it."

They arrived back in the conference room with everyone else in it and Cassandra put her prize on the table. Everyone else leaned forward a little to get a better look.

The Sheriff asked, in a tone clearly communicating that he hated that he had to ask this, "Is that a fingernail?"

Cassandra shook her head. "It's Etienne. I mean, okay it's his fingernail, yes, but until pretty recently, it was him. It's still kind of him. I can use it to find the rest of him."

"You realize that made absolutely no sense,"  replied the lawman, his bushy brows beetled together.

"Yeah, pretty much." Cassie leaned over the clipping and cupped her hands around it. There was a sudden feeling of vertigo sweeping over her, and she swayed precariously for a second. The conference room fell away and the town whickered past, then the countryside, until she was hovering over familiar terrain...the Crossroads prison facility. She let out a started 'eep' as the ground rushed up at her, concrete walls and inmates and guards all rising around her then vanishing as she plunged straight down past the paved courtyard and the dirt beneath...to where stone replaced dirt and suddenly she was in a cold white room lit by a buzzing florescent bulb. In the room there was a chair...the kind of full-body chair you saw in dentist's offices. Creepy dentist's offices.

And in the chair was Etienne. His eyes were closed, his breathing regular and slow. There was a little metal stand by the bed with a plastic bag full of clear fluid at the top, connected to his arm with a tube.

She let her breath out with a gasp and opened her eyes.

"Jesus Christ, this thing..." Cass muttered. "It's like a fucking roller coaster in my head." She cleared her throat. "Okay, I got him. He's under the prison, in a room...very clean, maybe a lab? He's alive, in like a surgical bed? With an IV in his arm."

Getting her phone out, she started putting Devin's numbers in. "I'll let Dev know. I think maybe we can get there if we work together."

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He slid his thumb across the screen as he rummaged through Sean's room, forgoing the text Sean sent so he could answer his phone.  "What's up, Cass?"  He pinched the phone between his ear and shoulder as he opened the bottom drawer at Sean's work desk.  "Nice.  Sounds like a gamble since I wasn't there for all your happy hand holding fun time, but we can give it a shot.  Let me get this laptop to Sean and we can give it a go."

He spun around, laptop under his arm when he came face to face with Laurie Cassidy who'd come to inspect why there were strange voices coming from her brother's room.  "Because," he continued without giving the redhead much notice.  "He can still monitor security for us and unlock doors."  He laughed.  "Yeah, you're assuming I can hit the bullseye.  Always have a plan 'B'."  The Cassidy sister pursed her lips and scowled at him, fists resting at the ready on her hips.  "I gotta let you go, Laurie is looking at me like she wants something."  She raised her brow at his audacity.

Devin tapped his screen, ending the call then looked like Laurie like she had broken into his house.  "What?"  He asked.

"The fuck you mean 'what', Jauntsen.  This is my brother's room, what the hell are you doing here?"  She pushed him, knocking him back a few steps.

"Slow you're roll there, Ginger Cringer," she tried to push him a second time but he blinked out and violet stream of noetic energy traced to where he reappeared in an instant.  "Sean needed this, he sent me to get it.  So chill.  We're in the middle of something important and I really don't have time to explain.  We'll fill you in later."

"What do you mean-" he vanished in a purple splash that shimmered slightly dull in light of Sean's room.  Her eyes narrowed and her fists clenched tight at her side.  "Ugh!  That's getting annoying!"

The air seemed to 'pull' near Autumn and in an instant Devin filled the area near the pull, suddenly pushing out all the air in the space he now occupied.  The noetic 'scar' around him sealed itself instantly as his body settled into its new space.  Autumn jumped slightly.  Yes, the popping in and out was getting very old, not that Devin minded the look on their faces, and they wondered if he was doing it on purpose (duh).  Devin set the laptop in front of Sean, whose phone beeped with an incoming message at that precise moment.  "Here, and that's Laurie I'll bet.  Tell her I'm in a relationship and to stop being such a try hard we're still on for this weekend, underwear is optional.  Get set up while Cass fills me in."

"Christ Jauntsen," the Sheriff looked at Devin like he was some sort of freak show in a circus as his mind tried to wrap around absurdity of what these teenagers were capable off.  Even after witnessing it, it just didn't seem real.

"That is impressive," Ms. Giles said politely to the young teen.  "How far can you go?"

Devin smirked and simply replied, "How far do you wanna go?"  The master of innuendo retorted before he broke away from everyone to settle his business with Cass.  Give them a show, but don't tell them anymore than they needed to know.

"Will Devin ever stop flirting?"  Cass asked with a soft smile decorating her lovely features.  "Now there's a headline."

"But a short article.  'No'." He mused.  "So, how's this work?"

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"Okay," Cassandra said and scooted over to get closer. She held a hand out. "When Jase and I tried it, we had to touch, so take my hand."

Devin opened his mouth, and Cassandra...with perfect prescience...repeated herself sternly, in time to cut him off, "Take my hand."

With a long suffering sigh, Devin plopped his hand over Cassandra's and aimed a smirk at Ms Giles, intending to tell her that this meant nothing, he was still saving himself for her...but those words never found their way out of his mouth. The room was too busy exploding around him.

It took a second, a heartbeat, an eternal indrawn breath, for him to realize that the room wasn't blowing up. His awareness was. He was already no stranger to being able to sense time and space around him, but focused through the lens of Cassandra's Shine it felt as if that sense suddenly had no limits. The curvature of the Earth spread under him, and the ceiling above was where the air scraped the edge of vacuum. Shelly wasn't even a speck on his mental map, yet he could feel the town in excruciating detail, a livid map of psychic connections forged by his own emotions and the emotions of those he was familiar with.

Cassandra was there with him, astride the world. She was, he realized, as surprised as he was...their concert extending her own senses well beyond their usual scope.

Stay focused. The imperative she conveyed was not a voice, it was more like a memory he'd just recalled, almost indistinguishable from his own thoughts. Shelly. The prison.

It was there, squat and stony and oppressive. As Devin focused his awareness, the fidelity of it increased until every crack in the concrete and every creeping lichen stood out to him. Then he realized there was more. A sense of presence, someone known to him, an echo or reverberation of a song he'd heard before. He knew the title.


He was below the ground, and here again the information from Cassie was refined by Devin's acute sense of distance and space. The room peeled open, limited by the momentary psychic glimpse she'd gotten. White ceiling with strips of light. Checkered floor. A hint of cabinet. The bed-chair with the unconscious Etienne.

Anyone else in there? Devin's question occurred to Cassandra, and he felt it through her in a weird kind of feedback loop.

I don't know. I didn't get a good look.

I thought you were supposed to be all seeing? Somehow the tinge of snideness was conveyed even in that voiceless communion.

Their connection shivered as Cassandra tugged slightly away. It was harder working through an object...this is still new to me. Do you have what you need?

Devin considered. Teleporting blindly into a room he'd never seen before wasn't normally his favorite thing to do...but Cassandra's vision was enough to give him the location of safe spaces to appear in. Or the location of Etienne himself, if it came to that.

In the conference room, Cassandra and Devin stood silently for a couple of minutes, his hand loosely grasping hers on the tabletop. It was perhaps the longest period of time anyone had ever seen Devin keep his mouth shut.

Then he wrecked it.

"Yeah. I got it."

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"Was it good for you?"  He said softly as his senses recoiled back into the bland and certainly not as interesting, limited expanse of the underground room.

Cass managed a soft smile.  Devin wasn't so bad, he had his moments, sure, but she was just as quick witted and outgoing in her ways so he really wasn't that big of a mystery to her.  His jokes never really amused her much but he was almost charming when he wanted to be.  There was a slight tinge of rose in her cheeks as the two teens once again shared a moment of awkward, personal contact.  "My hand?  Please?"  She asked, sliding it out from under his.

"Right," he offered her a grin.

Marissa gave them both a vile glare and a pursed grin that told them both she was only looking to stir up trouble.  "You two need a moment?  It always seems like us girls are never interested until the guy is taken, huh, Cass?"

"Knock it off Mari,"  the teen teleporter stepped in, defending his blonde friend.  He sighed and tried to focus back on the room.  He shook his head.  "Trippy."

Cass laughed quietly as  she totally understood what he was feeling.  She knew his senses had to be quirky, given his ability to know all the space and distances around him, but he wasn't kidding when he said he had Google Maps in his head and until now Devin had only experienced the cold, lifeless world of objects and how they related to to one another by distance and landscape... he never knew how beautiful the world was when you added the myriad of emotions and thoughts and how they interconnected on top of that.  For the first time since acquiring his abilities, Devin saw the world as a living thing, not an object that was simply in his way as he tried to move from one place to the next.  "You guys have to try that,"  she chuckled.  "It's a whole new dimension compared to when we did it without him."

"I-," he paused, lost in thought as he tried to hold onto the image in his head.  He motioned to no one in particular, holding up his hand and moving it like he was writing something.  He reached for the small stack of loose manila folders Dr. Cook entered with and as the doctor tried to stop him Ms. Giles stopped him and slid the folder to Devin.  He promptly opened it and discarded the papers, spreading the folder open and laying it flat to award him as much space as it could offer.  His hand still motioned like he was writing.

"Pen..."  Marissa said, her eyes widening with urgency.

"Get him a pen," Autumn interjected swiftly.  "He's an artist.  Get him something to write with!"  The room quickly devolved into a small panic as a pen was a lot less common these days than people realized, but thankfully the Sheriff slid on from his shirt pocket and slammed it down on the manila folder.  Devin scooped it up, silently and in focus as he tried his best to hold the image of Eddy in his mind.

"He do this often?"  Ms. Giles asked the group.  Everyone just shook their head.

"Devin can draw anything he's seen with almost perfect clarity," Jason added with the analytical prose of a born genius.  "But the image fades if he doesn't quickly enough.  The more intense the stressors, the longer the image lasts.  I assume he's trying to hold that thought and show us something."  Devin's hand was moving a mile a minute as the black ink began to take form into some sort of picture.  He didn't speak up, he just kept the pen moving, tapping the table twice with his knuckle and pointing to Jason.

He doodles and disappears to places," the sheriff said as he watched the drawing form with an almost insatiable curiosity.  He looked to Marissa and nodded at her.  "What do you do?"

"I could show you," she purred like cat up to no good.  "But then you'd have to arrest yourself, Sheriff."  Sheriff Alister promptly gave her a quick once-over, cleared his throat and let the question rest unanswered.

A few minutes later Devin slapped the table and stepped backwards.  There, on the folder was a near-perfect image of what he and Cass saw... with a lot less color.  "Got him.  I... think I can get us there."

"Think?"  Charlie asked.  Devin was the picture definition of 'can do' spirit.  He never thought about doing anything, he just did it and let the laws of nature pitch a fit about it afterwards.  "This means there's good news and bad news."

"Wouldn't be an adventure if there wasn't right?"  Devin smiled and waggled his eyebrows at the shapshifter.  "Good news.  With Autumn's help, I can make Eddy our fulcrum, allowing me converge my jump onto his location.  Easy day."

"The bad news?"  Cade asked.

"It's a blind teleport."  Devin said calmly.

The collective D&D nerds all sucked their teeth at once.  "That's bad, Devin."  Sean added.  "If you miss... if you're off by a fraction of an inch..."

"We're jelly."  Jason added.   "There's more, isn't there?"

"Well, I've jumped with one person, but two is a bit tricky.  Six?  Well... I'm going to need to prime up the juice."

"Meaning?"  Autumn pressed.

"He'll need to 'charge up'.  While Devin is focusing on gathering the power to get us out of there, we're not going anywhere."  Jason folded his arms, already contemplating alternative options.

"Typical 'protect the NPC' mission," Sean shrugged.  "Hold down the fort, make sure the zombies don't get in while the NPC is doing whatever they need to do.  You guys can handle that, especially with me monitoring things from here."

"So."  Devin looked at ll of them, then the folder.  "That's the deal.  Eddy needs an assist, we have the tools and the talent and frankly it's been a messed up day... so, what say you guys?  You down to misbehave?"

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"Jase?"  Sean's disturbingly (to some) melodious voice intruded on the lean youth's thoughts, the tone floating ethereally through the air of the vast library he was currently sitting in, reading a leather-bound copy of Tacitus' Histories.  Sighing, he looked up-  And then out, turning his head where it rested on the arm of the couch to look over at his friend.  After volunteering his two cents regarding Devin's talent for drawing and the challenges of the teleport rescue, he'd once more retreated into his sanctum.


"Going to try and get into the Crossroads security systems - it strikes me that this is a good time to try the whole 'lens' thing, since your powers boost effects on physical objects. Lets see if that goes for machines."

"Good call."  Jason swung his legs off the couch and stood in a smooth, neat motion.  Ms Giles, Major Taggart and Dr Cook looked on in puzzlement, as they had when Cassie and Devin had held hands, trying to fathom what was going on.

"Wait, you kids can boost each other?"  Taggart asked first, his eyes narrowing.  Cook looked astonished, and Giles thoughtful.  Jason merely stared at the three of them wordlessly as he came to stand behind Sean, resting a hand on the androgyne's shoulder.  The other teens, noting this, likewise schooled their expressions into variations on the theme of 'poker face'.

"It seems there are more secrets to be uncovered."  Ms Giles said lightly with a hint of a smile as she sat back.  "Perhaps later, when trust has been established."

"Perhaps."  was all Jase said as he focused with ease, letting his Shine flow up against Sean's, imbuing the literal technomancer with a chilly, precise awareness of the chair he was sitting on, the laptop under his fingers, the wifi routers broadcasting to and from this room.  The attunement performed, Jason glanced over at Devin.

"I'll be coming along once Sean's cracked into their security."  he told the teleporter quietly.  "I should be able to give you the time you need to re-focus once we're there, regardless of what they have waiting."

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Neither twin's glare seemed to affect Jason at all, his pale green eyes glittering as he regarded Devin with something akin to curiousity.  "Is that your condition for accepting my offer of help?"

"Yeah."  Devin said.  "Not gonna lie - we could use the help.  But not if you're going to paint the walls with whoever even looks at us funny.  It's not worth that."  Jase considered a moment or two longer, then shrugged.

"No killing, then.  My word on it."  His lips twitched in wry humor.  "Should be an interesting challenge."

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While the twins were placing down the rules to Jason - which Charlie was secretly unsure of whether Jason would follow or circumvent in a rules-lawyering fashion (he still was trying to get a handle on Jason's psychology), Charlie got up and joined Sean, placing his hand on Sean's other shoulder. "You'll need the boost." Charlie softly said, focusing his Shine into a pulsing rhythm, giving Sean a sudden sense of the sheer life around, even in such a sterile environment.

Charlie caught the look on Sophia's face, weirded out and still overwhelmed, and he winced. I am so gonna make it up to you.

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"Yeah, sure, rescue Clara's boyfriend. Got it," Autumn replied distractedly, reconsidering her initial plan in the wake of Typhoon Jauntsen. She'd planned to just ask Cook outright about what she and Cass had heard in the hall, but with so many distractions and interruptions, that didn't really seem viable. Besides, it wasn't like she had Marissa's ability to manipulate people, or Devin's bravado, or Jason's capacity to inspire fear, so coaxing answers out of the doctor was going to be a lot harder for her. Even if she could come up with a convincing lie, it'd still be all over her face, and intimidation wasn't exactly one of her strengths, either. As she chewed on the inside of her lower lip, part of the Jauntsens' conversation with Bannon caught her attention, and she turned in her chair to watch the trio.

Wait. Hang on a sec.

...I might not be intimidating, but Jase is.

He'd already put the fear of Bannon into Cook, as well. She wasn't sure if he'd be willing to help, but it was kind of hard to gauge what he was thinking anyway, so it couldn't hurt to ask. ...Right? Well... Autumn glanced surreptitiously back in the doctor's direction. Probably not. She'd helped Jason out, not deliberately provoked him, and they'd talked a lot yesterday, and he'd been really cool about answering her questions and all that. He'd even said he was her friend, and shown her that incredible garden, which was why there was still something else she wanted to ask him- but, that could wait. Rising from her chair next to Bannon senior, she walked over to the three bristling creatures nearby.

"Hey, listen do you have a minute?" the redhead interjected quietly, glancing at the twins before turning back to Jase and frowning a little as her gaze travelled slowly over his features; he'd had a concussion, and even a mild one was reason for concern. "I saw you lying down earlier, and I've never tried helping someone like that before, so I wanted to check... Everything good? All parts still in the right place, and all that?"

The expression in his eyes was still one of cold, reptilian amusement as he looked from Devin to her, his lips parting for a second to deliver some offhand reply - then he paused as he studied her face, his eyes narrowing slightly before the surface layer of frost, at least, thawed a little. "I'm fine." he said quietly, his hand still resting on Sean's shoulder. "I was collecting my thoughts." His lips twitched in a more genuine smile, the corners of his eyes crinkling. "And my parts all seem to be functioning perfectly normally. You did a good job." His gaze examining her blue eyes, he added. "Thank you."

Autumn exhaled, the concern in her expression dissolving into a smile of relief as she nodded, clearly pleased. "Cool, I’m glad it helped. I, um, also wondered if I could ask for a little favor? Super small one, I promise!” She stepped a little closer and leaned up on her tiptoes, silently willing herself not to blush as she raised one hand to block the adults’ view of her mouth, and whispered, “I want to ask Cook something, and I want to make sure he tells the truth, maybe thinks we know more than we actually do. When I mention Courtney’s name, could you just, like… look at him for a couple of seconds?” Settling back on her heels and tucking her hands into her back pockets as she did so, the earnest young woman fidgeted as she peered expectantly up at the stoic telekinetic, shifting her weight restlessly from one foot to the other.

To his credit, Jase didn't let his eyes flicker anywhere but the redhead's freckled ivory features.  His eyebrows arched as though in mild surprise, and the smile curving his lips deepened a little. "I'd be delighted to."  he said softly, the sincerity in his tone as well as the glimmer of mischief in his gaze lending themselves to the impression that she had, perhaps, asked him to go to Bunnees for a shake and burger later.

There was no willing away the flush of rose that stained her cheeks that time, despite knowing he was just playing along; the directness of his gaze wasn't a threat to her physical well-being, after all, but to her sanity. Well, maybe to her physical well-being, she decided, conspicuously avoiding glancing in Marissa's direction. "Cool," she was fairly sure she replied, and probably "thanks" as well, though the lithe young outdoorswoman didn't give herself an opportunity to reflect on it, instead turning quickly back to the adults and setting her mind to focusing on what she'd wanted to ask. 

“So, I said I was holding my questions, but... I think pretty much everybody else is done, at this point, so I’ll try to make it quick. I may not get a chance once the worst spy in history gets here,” Autumn sighed, sinking into one of the chairs closer to Taggart, Cook, and Giles. “So. Dr. Cook. While you were gone, Ms. Giles talked to us a little bit about the test group for the project you’ve been working on, and we know one of them has gone missing and-” She hesitated, lips compressed into a thin line of worry. “And might be in trouble. How much do they know about all of this?”

"You mean Cody Sikes?"  Cook's expression was wary.  "He knew he was special and that a couple of doctors were interested in running tests on him.  He disappeared before we could though."

The red-haired teen nodded, eyes widening with interest as she leaned forward in her seat. "Yeah, Cody. Did he know about the others, or did they know about him, or anyone else? We think he might have been targeted because he was special, which means the others are all vulnerable, too."

Cook shook his head.  "Project protocol ruled against letting test subjects know of each other to prevent conflict in the early stages.  Cody knew nothing about the others." He hesitated, then added "The telepath, the Adams girl, she found out about the project from my mind.  She was the only one that knew of the others."

"Perfect," Autumn muttered bitterly, copper brows knitting together in thought. "How much does she know, exactly?"

"Courtney knows about the project, the government involvement, the other test kids and most of you - at least as much as I do."  Cook admitted slowly, wincing a little. "I was sort of forced to take her on in a more active role to contain and distract her from trying to make more serious use of the information, so she was also keeping an eye on you all at school."

"Are you fucking kidding me."  It was a question, to be sure, but the flat, uninterrogative tone in which it was uttered suggested otherwise. Even if it wasn't anything she hadn't already considered as a possibility, Cook's admitting the enormity of his failure still came as a bit of a shock. Weren't professional adults supposed to have their shit together? "Jesus fuck," she swore quietly, incredulously as her slate-grey eyes narrowed slightly in disgust. "'Forced?' You gave a vicious teenage nympho with daddy issues an active role in a secret government project to distract her, insuring she'd get even more information and that it would be almost impossible to get her out again?! I don't know which of you is worse at your fucking jobs, Cook, you or the Canadian Casanova." The visibly agitated teen inhaled, counting to four as she’d been taught, and exhaled again, drumming her fingertips on the table in a sharp, staccato rhythm to dissipate some of the angry tension coiling its way through her limbs. "Was that it?" she asked tersely. "Was that all Courtney did? The limit of her involvement?"

Cook hesitated at that, glancing reflexively not at his superiors but at the lean, spare form of Jason Bannon... who was returning the gaze with a flat, emotionless stare that pinned the hapless doctor's eyeballs to the back of his skull.  He swallowed, tongue moistening lips suddenly dry, and after a false start, spoke up.

"Not-  Not exactly.  She was assigned to test several of you."  The words fell into the silence like the crash of broken glass.  "She was the one with the best grasp of her powers, you see. And we needed to assess the emotional ties and stability of certain members of your, uh, Fellowship.  So she was told to manufacture certain incidents, to test your responses."

"You used her as the driver of a behavioural experiment.  On us." Jason's tone was frosty enough that people were relieved when their breath didn't condense in the air.  Cook nodded, unwilling to meet anyone's eye.

"She reported limited success, but then it seems she was focusing on those of you she has a personal vendetta or obsession with.  The Jauntsens, the Cassidys, and Jason Bannon. When that became clear we pulled the plug on the experiment."

We.” Autumn repeated pointedly, making a mental note to thank Jason later. Cook was still lying, but now she had a better idea what, exactly, he was lying about- namely, that he had Courtney under control. “Not that I care, honestly, if you had permission or not, or if your high school side piece started misbehaving. That’s their problem,” she jerked her head slightly toward Taggart and Giles, her voice low and slightly unsteady as an angry flush of crimson crept slowly up her throat from beneath the collar of her t-shirt. “My problem is that you’ve been deliberately and actively fucking with people I care about, and now your problem, Doctor Cook, is convincing all of us that you’re competent enough to fix it.” If the cool grey of her eyes earlier had been merely unwelcoming as she regarded the attractive older man, their turbulent depths now held the roiling fury of an approaching tempest.

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Cook's misery was not at all abated when he glanced to either side of where he sat.  Taggart looked as though only strict professionalism and discipline were keeping the special forces solder from leaping out of his seat and throttling Dr Cook with his shoelaces.  Even the composed, elegant Ms Giles radiated anger from her dark eyes as they, like Autumn's, fixed on the wretched fellow.  Taggart reached over and yanked a file from the stack in front of Cook, sitting back and opening it.

"Courtney Adams.  Not yet eighteen years old, I see.  'Subject exhibits symptoms of extreme antisocial behaviour and poor impulse control, including sexual mania, passive-aggression, panic attacks, mood swings, megalomania and narcissism.'"  The major fixed Cook with a gimlet stare as he turned a couple of pages.  "Subject showing very promising telepathic talents, capable of influencing emotional states and even affecting memories in tests."  He snapped the file shut and all-but slammed it down on the table.  "And you gave her the run of the project."  It wasn't a question.

"And you had her 'testing' these other minors."  Ms Giles also stated.  "How, exactly?"  Cook shifted in his seat, then reached for the file Taggart had set down, pulling it in front of him and opening it.

"We observed on Thursday morning that several persons of interest - labelled as such because of their involvement with the finding of Dr Kline's trailer-"

"The trailer was Kline's?"  Jason looked sharply at Cook.  "And everything in it?"  Cook merely nodded, and Jase looked down at Sean, both of them thinking about the micro-nuclear reactor and the radio, two devices apparently placed there decades before but in terms of advancement being decades ahead of even 2019.

"It was his initial research station, back before we obtained funding."  Cook cleared his throat.  "And no, I've never been there.  Etienne didn't know what it was you found when he reported it.  Kline just said it was outdated, done with and closed down.  Anyway... we observed that several of you were exhibiting powers that, as has been said, you shouldn't have exhibited.  At least, not as a result of our work.  Upon realising that our spy had been uncovered in that same meeting, we put into place several other steps to keep observation on the group. One of which was Courtney Adams, who was set the job of gathering telepathic information and lightly probe at the interpersonal bonds between you all.  She was only supposed to feel out who felt what towards whom, where loyalties lay, and so on. Matters began to get out of hand on Friday, however, when she fixated on Jason Bannon and decided to test him in more extreme ways, trying to provoke emotional responses in some game of her own devising.  That was not what she was ordered to do."  Cook clarified, frowning a little.  "She went well beyond what she was supposed to be doing, culminating in an attempt to force a confrontation between a member of the football team and young Mr Bannon, to push him into using his powers defensively."

"Why?"  Annette looked at Jason, frowning, then back at Cook.

"Some kind of power game - apparently she sees Marissa Jauntsen as a rival and sees Jason Bannon as a useful pawn."

"Pshh."  Marissa snorted with elegant disdain.  "Someone has a high opinion of themselves."  She would have doubtless said more, but at that moment the door swung open and Courtney walked in minus her usual sway and bounce, her face drawn and weary but taut with anger as she stalked to the table.  Cook went pale - okay, paler.

"Sorry."  the crimson-haired bombshell said without meaning it as she pulled out a chair, seating herself.  "I was looking for the Greyhound terminal and must have gotten confused by hearing the sound of bus brakes squealing as I got thrown under one."  She fixed her honey-brown eyes, currently hard as agates, on Dr Cook.  "You are so totally fucking lucky I'm worn out from adjusting all of Sheriff Allister's poor deputies or I'd give myself an aneurysm reverting your toilet training level to five months old."

"You should be resting." Cook started, but Courtney made a dismissive gesture as she reached for a coffee.

"Why?  So I can wake up in restraints and be cleared off to site C like Etienne?" she asked with a smirk.  "Site C being the prison, or rather the complex underneath it.  You didn't know that, Cookie Monster, but I did.  Those toughs that Kline sent - not nice men at all, but not much in the upstairs department.  Disciplined, but not strong or imaginative."  She looked at Ms Giles and Major Taggart.  "Cook is full of shit.  At least about what my orders were.  He specifically told me to push Jason to try and get an idea of the extent of his powers, and perhaps push him into an incident that would give the Project a chance to swoop in, clean up, and net themselves a Bannon."  She glanced at Jason, her crimson lips thinning apologetically.  "That's what I wanted to tell you on Friday night outside Bunnees.  But I couldn't, because this fuckbag would have found out and I'd have been disappeared."

"What about the 'you're friends with the Jauntsens, and that's not good, join me and we can rule the galaxy' speech?" Jase asked, fixing her with a level gaze.  Courtney shrugged, unabashed.

"Totes sincere.  As was my statement that I didn't orchestrate your junk being the subject of the school snapchat."  She appraised him up and down through her lashes with a smile.  "We can take that conversation up again after all this is sorted out, if you like.  You've got potential."  Her expression turned from sultry vixen to all business as she focused her gaze back on the three adults-in-charge.  "For now, consider this my switching sides.  Doctor Douche, I quit.  Ms Giles, Major Taggart, assorted losers with powers - I'm now on Team You.  Isn't that wonderful?"

"Yay."  Charlie uttered in a voice devoid of joy or excitement, the sentiment apparently shared by Taggart and pretty much everyone else present.  Ms Giles was the only one who didn't immediately look at the telepathic redhead as though she were a scorpion in a skirt.

"And what do you bring to the table, my dear?"

"Everything Cook knows, unfiltered."  Courtney shrugged.  "To be fair, he's mostly told the truth.  But those files there are the cooked books to trot out for inspection, for instance.  The real files are on his computer."  She fixed Cook with another glare.  "If you'd been loyal, I would have kept quiet and gone along with the changing of the guard.  For a man who was all holy about not having sex with me, you're certainly quick enough to try and fuck me when your neck is on the line."

Edited by GDP_ST
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"Welcome aboard."  Devin welcomed her with no air of ulterior motives or locked and loaded snark ready to be fired.  Courtney narrowed her amber eyes, studying him for signs of a sudden, but inevitable, betrayal.

"You can not be serious, Deejay."  Marissa protested, turning her brother to face her while motioning towards the ginger in question.  "You just witnessed how quickly he sold Cook down the river," he smiled at Courtney, lacing her contention with mean girl diplomacy.  "No offense, we all get he totally deserves it, but she is loyal only to herself.  Given the first opportunity she will stab us all in the back and leave us for dead."

"Says Shelly's number one, self-centered bitch."  Courtney hissed across the table that was, thankfully, separating the two alpha females.

"Symptoms of extreme antisocial behavior and poor impulse control, including sexual mania, passive-aggression, panic attacks, mood swings, megalomania and narcissism." Devin repeated before the cat fight began.  As he rolled off the list of Dr. Cook's assessment of the young redhead she recoiled only slightly as the adage of the truth hurting gave her mind and body pause.  It was always hurtful to hear the truth out loud.  "Have you met us, lately, Em?  Any of us?  Look around this room.  Sean can't go one day without begin reminded he's different.  Jason is one bad day away from murdering and cooking hikers in his basement.  Cass has so many issues in dealing with her own problems that she has to go write articles about everyone elses'.  Then there's us, sis.  Our family is so fucked up, our parents have messed us up so bad that we have to around to other people and ruin their joy and happiness just so we can feel something other than this emptiness that is churning in our gut."

"And now we have super powers?  We're the freaks."  He said.  He motioned to Courtney.  "She's no worse off than any of us.  Just one more powered teen being used and lied to and stuck in a world where no matter how she tries to find herself her family or friends just fuck her up more.  We're all we have guys.  We're a ll quirky and we all have something about us that annoys, or scares or frankly just creeps the rest of us out... but we're still a Fellowship. So, if Red needs a side that's gonna have her neurotic, nympho back then we need to stand with her.  It just seems like there's a whole lot of lies, conspiracies and planning been going on and the only we can trust right now are the people under eighteen who don't have agenda."  He offered Courtne one of those smiles that moistened panties.  "Regardless, Red.  I got yer back."

Marissa sighed, waving her hand as if swatting away her thoughts with a roll of her eyes.  "Fine.  Whatever.  When you wake up with an STD, Lona hates you, and everyone else won't talk to you because this was your idea, remember that I went on record by stating: 'she's a triflin' ass ho'."  She looked to Courtney and smiled.  "Welcome to the Nerd Herd.  Thankfully, I'm not with them.  Enjoy being one of the losers, Courtney.  It's about time you accepted your place."

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Cade had largely remained quiet, there was little he could do to help at this stage.  Of course the revelations, the fact Jason was on board for the prison raid, which would be a combat situation, it was all sorts of weird, and through it all, he remained calm, collected, no sign of his earlier outburst at his father evident in his features.   

As some of the abilities were revealed, and other questions posed, Cade took a moment to look to his father.   "So you have these powers too, son?"

Cade nodded.  "Mine aren't big show-stopping abilities like the others, more like "unusual knacks."   I'm probably a better shot than anyone here, and I'm able to tame animals with much less difficulty than is normal."

"That damn squirrel..."   "Yeah.  That one's on me."  He'd of course brought it home, and it had been something of a pest to his dad, though it quickly managed to get on Haruka's good side, as calm and playful with her as it was with Cade himself.  His step-mother had kept Ian from doing anything to it, as it was friendly with her as well, and didn't really bother her.  

Courtney's entrance, and shift in loyalty was abit unexpected, and turned his attention from his father back to the proceedings.  The Jauntsens were being themselves, but he said nothing.   Both were justified in his opinion, Courtney HAD admitted to spying on them, using her powers on them, testing them effectively, so trusting her fully would be something that'd take time.   All the same, we'd welcome her in as Devin did, because no one should have to stand alone against the powers that were in play here.

"I knew we'd have a Telepath before this was all said and done."   he mused, remembering a discussion they'd all had early on, and how that was about the only thing they'd been missing at the time.

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Sean's slender shoulders shifted under his friends' hands as he interlaced his fingers and stretched out his arms, cracking his knuckles. His blue laptop - sequestered from his other devices, as he used it for more... greyhat activities - flickered to life with a mere glance, his fine fingers hovering over the keyboard.

He didn't really need the laptop for psionic chihackery, but it was familiar and comfortable, providing him a convenient path to his destination even though he could fly overhead. It also gave him a second, more conventional avenue of penetration, so he could go one way or the other, or even both, or use one route to benefit the other. Plus, he could use the laptop to show others the feeds he was tapping into, and store any paydata for later review and exploitation. Y'know, just in case.

Sean dove back into the panoramic and prismatic streams and rivers of data that his mind perceived as cyberspace, the Matrix, whatever you wanted to call it. The experience was as exhilarating as every other time he had done so, under the influence of Jase's and Charlie's personal Shine, it was also... heightened. The landscapes that stretched up and down from the pools the streams and rivers flowed into and out of seemed to have more... structure, more detail readily apparent. And Sean was far more intuitively aware of himself and his place and connection to this digital Wonderland.

It didn't take the voluptuous redhead long to find Crossroad Prison's network, and he barely slowed as he seeped unobtrusively through it's conventional firewalls. Its digital protections were more than decent, but still, Sean expected they would be way better than there were, when so much of the Prison Complex was controlled and automated electronically. He could cause plenty of chaos right now, before they had a chance to flip any manual overrides.

As he skulked confidently through the Crossroad Prison Network, various feeds bloomed on his laptop monitor. He shared a look with Jase when it was mentioned that the trailer was Kline's. That needed a lot of followup, but right now, what Sean really wanted was those holographic displays. Well, there were some right there, embedded into the table, not even being used at the moment.

"Mind if I borrow your fancy holo-projectors?" Sean asked somewhere between Taggart and Giles. "By the way, I totally want to take a look at those, later. And if you have any extras laying around... "

"Pardon?" Annette said, with an immaculate raised brow.

"Never mind. I got this, give you guys a look at what you're dealing with."

Sean made a gesture as though grabbing something from his laptop and throwing it over the conference table. The holo-projector switched on with a muted hum, holographic screens shivering into existence above the table, blown up feeds from his laptop.

He continued his digital strutting through the network, learning over his laptop with his eager intensity, even though he wasn't really using it. When he found the backdoor into the Secret Complex below, he slammed the table with a small fist in victory.

"Found you, motherfuuu..dger," he crowed, adjusting his victorious curse for all the adults in the room out of habit.

The security about the backdoor was considerably more sophisticated than that of the Prison Complex above. CIA/NSA/whatever Alphabet agency you wanted to name - level, at least. He'd taken a look at such before, out of unbridled curiosity, but hadn't dared tried penetrating something of that level before, just lower key government systems. Sophisticated and robust as it was though, it was still designed to deal with conventional electronic shenanigans, not Psi-hackery.

Sean had looked at coding after manipulating things technokinetically. At first, it had looked normal, but on closer inspection, it was so much more, and beautiful. Like a Mandelbrot set, that revealed ever finer recursive coding the closer you looked, fantastic fractal patterns hidden in plain sight if you didn't know how to perceive them.

The best digital protection could slow him down, but it was blind to what he was actually doing.

"I'm in. "

Many more holographic projections appeared with the plethora of info Sean now had access to. He leaned back in his chair, considering them. This place was state-of-the-art, maybe even beyond what was commonly believed to be SOTA in most cases. And yet, it seemed to be a weakness when there was someone like him that could do what he could do.

Thermal sensors, Ultrasonic detectors, Infrared cameras... It let him pinpoint practically everyone in the complex. And he could control access to nearly any section of the place, not mentioning what he could do with fucking around with the safety systems in place required for an hidden, underground complex.

"Halon fire suppression..." Sean mused idly. He wouldn't really, but if things went super sideways, and it was the only option.... Could he?

"Technically Halon is banned. People use FE-13 now - but it works the same way: interrupting the chemical process of combustion. It's non-lethal," Jason commented offhandedly. "If the system does use Halon, then it was probably installed before 1989." Several teenagers and adults turned to look at him. Jason returned to looks with reptilian blandness. "Which, considering Crossroads was constructed in the 90's, raises some interesting questions."

Autumn huffed. "...You could have led with 'Hey guys, I think the underground complex is older than the prison and here's why'. But no, you have to give a lecture."

"Learning is a process." There was tiniest curve to one side of Jason's lips.

"There's a lot we're learning," Sean growled, which didn't sound nearly as disgusted as he'd like with his decidedly feminine voice.

Across the table and through the holographic displays, Sean shot daggers of hate at Courtney, not at all comfortable with Devin playing white knight to the malicious turncoat. Even before the advent of psionic aptitude - And when did Courtney first develop her own powers? - she had made his life hell, and Sean wasn't nearly ready to offer any hint of forgiveness. If she was a telepath, it's not like the Project could really lie to her. She was just switching sides because it was convenient.

He didn't trust the bitch an inch, since he was eleven and she'd pulled his layers shirts off in the middle of gym class.

"Being a freak like the rest of us, doesn't give that... Courtney a pass for everything she's done," Sean said adamantly.

The look he sent towards Dr. Cook however was mostly of disappointment and betrayal. He couldn't even hate him. Dr. Cook had really helped him, when most other doctors he had seen had been more interested in 'fixing' him, and not even able to promise that they could. He hadn't felt quite as disgusted as the others about the surveillance - Cook had watched him and tested him for years, even writing a paper on his combination of genetic anomalies - so it hadn't hit him as hard.

And while it might have been in truth a eugenics program, it didn't seem he had forcefully directed the pairings of their parents, or grandparents, or anything like that. And if it had granted them psionic powers, he wasn't sure how angry he could be about that. If it had led to his condition on the other hand...

But the man who was scrambling to defend how he had dealt with Etienne, and deflecting blame to Courtney - if that was what he was doing - seemed so small and petty, compared to the kind, intelligent, and empathetic doctor he had known.

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"Yay, more infighting."  Marissa slowly pumped her arms in a monotone, heartless cheer at Sean's input on the Courtney situation.

"There,"  Devin pointed at the display of the prison, a small map of the underground complex with a series of colors and blinking icons that represented doors, whether they were locked or not, what level access was required to open them and the variety of security and safety measures in place on a small scroll to the side. Touching the door or security/safety feature opened an icon describing the condition of the selected object.  "There's where Eddy is.  That room."

"You're sure?"  Sean asked.

"Mostly," Devin shrugged.  "So, I've only done this once before and only with me.  Trying to pop in somewhere I'm not supposed to be and that I've never seen takes," he paused searching for the words as he let out a deep exhale.  "Focus, and it's disorienting, at least for me.

Autumn folded her arms and glared daggers at Devin.  Accusingly she inquired, "And just where did you go that you weren't supposed to be?"

In the sudden silence everyone's heads slowly turned to Devin as he felt every eye upon him.  He looked at everyone, suddenly at a loss for words.  Finally he offered Autumn one of his puckish rogue smirks.  "...we're gonna need some room."  He went on, evading her question.  "Last time, with just me, there was feedback, a lot of it."

"What sort of feedback?"  Jason asked.

"The trip happens in an instant.  It's like flying a plane that crashing to the ground though.  I want to go somewhere, but the energy required to do so is fighting me because it doesn't know where 'somewhere' is.  It lacks data."

Cade nodded, remain stoic as tumbled through a million phrases of internal dialogue.  "Like home, or school, places familiar to you."

"Exactly," Devin pointed to him, giving him props.  "Me building up the energy to make the jump is like the pilot wrestling with the controls to keep the plane on target so I can land it safely.  As you may imagine, the landing isn't pretty.  I'm collecting and holding that energy, sheathing us in it, and bulleting us through space with it.  The release when we arrive, well, with just me, it was like setting off a concussion grenade.  Like if Jase did a TK blast in a small sphere around him.  With all of us?"

"So it won't be quiet, and dropping in on Etienne might put him in danger."  Charlie massaged his chin as he looked at the map.  "Here," he pointed to the map.  "There's a large room here, possibly storage, looks like a large enough landing site.  From there to Etienne's room it's maybe, what?  A hundred yards?"

"Ninety one, in a straight line.  Hundred and three if we include all the turns."  The teleporter added.

On the far side of the room Taggart looked up to Annette and quietly expressed his feeling on everything that was transpiring.  "Are these children seriously planning and executing an operation to extract an HVI from a maximum security hard target, in seven minutes?"

"I know Major," she watched intently as everything continued to be planned around them.  "I'm just as intrigued as you are.  These children are amazing."

Sophia stood from her seat and approached the teens looking and and pointing at the holo-map.  "So, if I'm hearing you guys right, you'll arrive with the force of a bomb going off, and have to make it a hundred and three yards into a locked cell while elite paramilitary mercenaries are closing in on your location with orders to terminate with extreme prejudice?"  Sophia buried her face in her hand,  "You guys are un-fucking believable.  You'd have to be legally insane to think for a second that any of this is going to work."

Devin and Jason just looked at each other, barely concealing their grins.

"They have an army," Sophia protested.

"We have a Charlie."  Devin rebuked her argument flatly.  "Fighting The Dark, surviving Shadow hordes from other planes, and doing the shit that no else thinks is a good idea or even possible?  That's just our everyday, baby.  Just kick back, let the magic happen."  Devin motioned to Charlie while offering a nod to Sophia.  "Feel free to use that later, bro.  Now... where can we get some room around here?"

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Courtney had stayed silent through Devin's voiced support and Sean's naked hostility, throwing the former a grateful glance and the latter a neutral one before settling down to observe the team gradually - and with some bickering - coalesce back together,  Hank and Jason's dad were watching with wary astonishment that matched Taggart's, while Cook looked as though his stomach was giving him problems again.

"Thirty armed security on duty.  Not prison guards - military equipment or slightly better."  Jason said with about as much tension in his voice as he'd have talking about the weather.  He was looking over Sean's shoulder as the technokinetic pulled up security feeds.  "You can blind them and silence their comms?"  he asked Sean, who nodded.  "Okay, do that as soon as we're in.  Without the ability to coordinate it'll give us extra time before they can move against us properly."  He squinted at the display thoughtfully.  "Place seems to be an armory and barracks for the most part.  Underground vehicle garage here.  They have a couple of labs there - Etienne seems to be held in one of them.  And some cells."  He looked at Annette.  "What are the odds that Crossroads are involved in human experimentation?"

The pretty older woman shrugged.  "Based on reports I've seen, I would not put it past them.  They've run highly unethical drug trials in third world countries before.  Why do you ask?"

"It's the most logical reason for them to build a huge prison overhead.  Plenty of experimental stock, not many people on the outside that would care about them."  Jase went  back to looking at the floor plan.  "Corridor outside the room Eddy's in.  I can seal that off with a couple of walls to buy us time once we're there."  He studied the map one more time, committing it to memory.  "Okay.  I'm ready to go when you all are."  He straightened and looked at Devin, then Taggart.  "We'll need a large open room to jump from and back to."

Taggart nodded, getting to his feet.  "Follow me.  We've got an underground loading dock.  It should be big enough."  He glanced at the teens, curiousity warring with his stoic professional demeanor.  "Who's going?"

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Taggart nodded, getting to his feet. "Follow me. We've got-"

I'll fly. I'll try. Through the sky, and above this alcove, where are lying, underlying, my hopes, the ropes, of a day without rain. A day with a plain feeling of exalting silence, innocence of my mind, and behind, in the past, the live blast of my thinking noise, failing poise, thrusting wind, the sting twinned to a blank spot, swank rot, wild spark, stack piled up my cortex, down the vortex spiraling through my dislocated shelves, dancing, drowning shallow shunts, derivated thoughts thwarting the natural flow, nowhere near the fundamental forces forraging among the abated alloys busting, boasting, blustering from the books, their pages stringy, washed, torned, thorns rising from the wound, whispering willows dropping glittering tears -


Concentric circles spreading afar the lone willow.

Is it Night ?

Drifting nigh, the shallow shadow of my own consciousness. Roaming the lake, the bass.

I am the willow, I am the lake, I am the bass. What was that ?

Breathe in, breathe out.

I am the willow, I am the lake, I am the bass.

Breathe in, breathe out.

I am the willow, I am the lake, I am the bass. Should I stay ? Should I go ? Am I not going to... feel alone ?

Breathe in, breathe out.

I am the willow, I am the lake, I am the bass. Who's going ?

"Who's going ?"

Kat jumped, taken back from surreal thoughts to real present, her eyes suddenly humid laid on Devin's near-perfect drawing, a faint sob taking a grasp of the air hiding in her lungs. She exhaled violently and raised her hand.

"I changed my mind. I wanna !"

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"Why?"  Jason's question was blunt as he fixed his cold eyes on the slight, petite girl.  "And I don't mean 'why do you want to', though I am vaguely curious.  No,  I mean why should we take you along?"

"Jase..."  Sean said, narrowing his vividly-shaded gaze on his friend, obviously concerned that another Cora incident was in the works.  The lean, angular young man glanced at Sean, then emitted a slight frustrated sigh.

"I'm not intending cruelty." he stated calmly.  "I'm pointing out the obvious.  Our strike team is Charlie, Cade - who will need a weapon and armor - and myself.  Our transport is Devin, who is going to have to conserve his energy in order to bring us back."  He glanced at Autumn.  "If Autumn wishes to come along her abilities will be useful, both for detecting guards and for helping with the wounded and perhaps helping take care of whatever they've injected into Etienne."  He turned his gaze back to Kat.  "Sean, Cassandra and Marissa will all likely be staying here, as will Courtney.  We're not exploring the place - we have a defined goal: get in, secure Etienne, buy time for Devin to refocus and then come back."

"You are new to your powers. We're not even sure what your Shine does.  We also don't know you well - whatever differences I have with Devin, or Charlie, or Cade, I know I can count on them not to freak out and go off-plan under fire, just as they know I will have their backs and keep my word about not killing anyone who gets in our way.  Similarly, I know and trust Autumn."  He didn't look at the others, keeping his eyes on Kat.  "You are an unknown quantity to us.  So... why should we take you along?"

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Kat froze, unable to answer immediately. In her haste, she did not consider the hurting fact that she only had half-listened to the rescue plan, busy - that she was - chasing butterflies, listening to the whispers in her head, her own thoughts polluting what should have been a weighed decision. She, who enjoyed rethorics, could not chain two linked concepts one after another without strolling away, her own thinking tools as versatile as a weather cock. 

She winced and replied, after a moment : "You... You shouldn't." The fragile teen's enthusiasm had been showered cold, but thinking back on it, she probably would've been a dead weight.

I didn't wanna miss the fun! 

Fun will be for the next time. If next time there is. As far as you know, you might be dead before the next time ever happens. What's keeping the Dark from eating you alive in your sleep? 

Kat shivered, making her way to a couch where she lied down, lost to the others, diving deep into her own world of blinking thoughts. 

Where the sky is dark and the land is sore. 

The elm had been struck by lightning and went to cinders, ash and cinders. 

The willow remained alone, spine bent, its hair softly caressing the lake's surface. 


Concentric circles spread from several spots, reaching for the lone clod bearing the willow. 

Breathe in - breathing? 

I am the willow, I am the lake -

The mental image shattered as she lost focus, lost herself, her chest heaving slowly as she leapt from thought to thought, her eyes, haggard, fluttering around. 

Edited by Catherine 'Kat' Barras

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Charlie walked over to Sophia and gestured to a far corner in the room. "Come on, let's talk." Sophia followed him, but it was very clear she was getting to the bursting point. So in the corner there, they could get some semblance of privacy - or at least a respectful lack of eavesdropping (maybe). The question was how to go about this. Devin would probably make some grand, crass gesture. Of course, that was Devin Jauntsen, who shared 50% of the DNA of Marissa, so that was right out. Yes, Lona was dating him, but that still didn't make his suggestions sound ones, considering he'd labeled Charlie's new, unexpected girlfriend as 'Fingerbang.'

Charlie ended up pulling Sophia into a deep hug, resting his head on her shoulder. "I get it." He softly whispered into her ear. "It''s ridiculous, it's crazy, and you got tossed in at the deep end. We'd probably all be like you - except Jase - if we'd gotten thrown in the same way. What happened is we wound up getting drip-fed in, bit by bit. And I didn't tell you any of this, because I didn't want to freak you out. But trust me Sophia: we know what we can do. Crossroads doesn't. We're gonna go in, laugh at what Crossroad tries to do, come back, and then I'm going to take you out on a date. Your favorite food, the movie you want to see most and I'll explain to you how this all happened."

Charlie finished it up with a deep kiss on the lips and then pulled his head back. "How does that sound?"

Ok, a dramatic gesture then. But Charlie was an actor. How could he do less?

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