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WEIRDER STUFF
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Weirder Stuff Episode V - Rainbow Weave

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The kiss took Sophia by surprise at first, causing the girl to emit a squeak, but her eyes closed a little and she relaxed into the embrace, her arms going around Charlie in turn before the kiss broke.  She looked up at him, then over her shoulder at the planning committee, then back at Charlie.  "You trust these guys not to get you killed?  I mean..."

"Sophia, you saw us in action in the hospital  That was us caught off guard, not expecting trouble, without a prior plan or a clue what we were up against, and with Bannon sporting a concussion.  And like Devin would say - we kicked all kinds of ass."  Charlie projected confidence - hell, he even felt confident.  Compared to drooling nightmare hell-beasts, some mundane dudes with guns were childs play.  "Now we're going in prepared.  They won't know what hit them."  Sophia examined his face, then nodded, eyes narrowing.

"Okay then.  Cajun."

"Cajun?"

"Cajun food.  There's a fancy place in Great Falls - I'll text you the details so you can get us a reservation."  She leaned up and kissed him once more.  "That's for luck, and you'd better come back in one piece or I'm going after Jauntsen and Bannon with a fire axe."  She glanced over her shoulder doubtfully.  "Well, maybe Jauntsen.  Not sure I'd be brave enough to go after Bannon." she added with a self-deprecating smirk.  

"He'd probably think you were flirting with him."  Charlie grinned.  Sophia repressed a giggle.

"Jauntsen or Bannon?"

Charlie waited a beat then said, in his best deadpan voice: "Yes."

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As Charlie and Sophia talked quietly in the corner, everybody politely ignored the pair, though one or two smiles were shared at the kiss.  One set of eyes, however, rested on the pair a little longer than propriety dictated - hardly a surprise, since the eyes in question belonged to a person to whom propriety was more of a suggestion than a rule.  Courtney smiled a little, a mysterious and somewhat cynical curve to her lips as she observed Charlie and his girlfriend, her crimson nails tapping on the table very lightly, then shifted her gaze to the others in the room with an attitude not-dissimilar to that of a lioness watching the traffic at a watering hole.  She watched the interplay between personalities, felt the warm flow of emotions between the group, and her smile became somewhat less predatory and more thoughtful as she did so.

Kat's thoughts were spinning as she sat down, her emotions chaotic as the events of the day piled up behind her consciousness like a traffic jam.  As she fought through the surging, clashing feelings, she became aware that she was not alone, that the glamorous-looking girl who seemed to be largely detested by most present had walked over and sat down beside her.  Courtney, she remembered this one was called.  The telepath who had just switched sides.

"Girl, your head is a mess of static."  Courtney said quietly, her gaze warm and sympathetic as she made a slight wincing expression.  "Listen, don't pay too much mind to what others say.  You've got the gift, same as them.  I know what it's like to have a head full of fucking noise."  She lifted a hand and placed it on Kat's shoulder.

"Look, I'm a bitch, sure.  Ask any of them.  But Devin welcomed me to your club and I want to help, if only a little.  I can't throw down in a fight like those guys, but I might be able to help you focus a bit... If you want me to.  Nothing serious, just like a little calm-you-down."

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"Devin, Jase...everyone who's going," Cassandra said, "Be careful. If they're doing experiments they might have people who have powers there. I know there's no one like US there, but we've seen some people have abilities that don't...shine the way we do. We need...radios or something. So we can talk while you're there. I may be able to help, even at a distance. Also, one other thing."

She pulled her wallet out of her pocket and plucked out a small plastic packet with a photograph secured inside. Showing to Devin and Jason, Cass said, "This is my dad. He may be there somewhere. Please...if you see him...I don't know if you can pull him out, but at least don't hurt him, okay?"

Then something occurred to her, and Cassie looked around at Dr. Cook.

"Actually..." She showed him her father's picture...the little wallet-sized one in a stiff plastic envelope. "Have you seen him around?"

Though he was understandably a little distracted, Cook squinted at the photo a little and shook his head. "No. Bu...but if he's at the prison, I was never involved in anything there. I didn't even know..."

Cassandra nodded. "Okay, thanks." She gave Charlie and Sophia a passing glance, then Courtney, and finally back to the 'team' that was shaping up.

"You guys watch yourself."

Edited by Cassandra Allen

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"Sean will be watching us."  Jason said, turning towards Cass, holding out a hand.  "May I?"  She hesitated, then divined his intent and offered the plastic envelope to him.  Jase reached out, then paused, his lips curving in a slight smile before he walked over and gently took the protected photograph from her fingers.  It took a second before she realised what had happened, but by then he'd already turned away and was heading over to Sean.

"Jase... the power generator for this place?  It's atomic, advanced - way smaller than a normal reactor.  Hell, it could probably power most of Shelly.  It reminds me of the trailer-  What's this?"  Sean asked, looking up from where he was busy pulling up schematics as Jason held the photograph in front of his face.  

"Cassandra's father.  You've got eyes in the complex and it's a high tech place - check and see if his face is in their security logs, and then if he's in the building at all."  

"Sure."  Sean nodded, studying the picture and then, with a  touch of his Shine, digitising a reproduction of it on the screen before him, then adding some three-dimensionality.  "Might take me a few."

"You've got a few."  Jason turned and walked the photo back over to Cassie, offering it to her in an almost courteous manner.  The pretty blonde smiled despite herself, shaking her head as she tucked the photo away.

"You know I meant no using your powers on people, or against people."  she said, looking up at the impassive features and the gleaming jade eyes.  His lips twitched a little, that wry, ageless reptilian amusement back in his expression.  It was hard to remember that he was only sixteen years old, looking into that gaze.  That gaze was ancient.

"What is perceived to have been said, what is actually said, and true intent are often not the same things, even for me.  Regardless, I gave my word, and I keep it to the letter." he said with just a hint of pointedness that was not so much addressed to her as it was to the room in general.  Cassie regarded him, blue eyes full of wary curiosity.  She opened her mouth to say, or ask something when Sean spoke up.

"Found him."  He pointed at the holo-display and a security file image appeared.  "Says here he's part of some experiment - no name, just a serial number, and no details what it's about."

"I bet Etienne is probably undergoing it right now."  Devin said darkly.  "Some MK-Ultra mind-jacking shit.  Ms Giles said Kline was involved with that stuff."

"Logs say he's currently offsite at somewhere called 'Site B'.  Checked out a day ago with a bunch of others."  Sean said, looking at Cass.  "We can always go back for him once we figure out more."

"Site B?"  Taggart asked sharply, looking at Giles.  "That's our other project site."  Annette nodded, standing.

"While our brave friends here attempt a rescue, I'm going to go and seek permission to discuss Site B.  I think it's best done sooner rather than later."  So saying, she made to leave the room, stopping at the door.  "Major, have your men place Dr Cook under arrest, please.  Don't harm him unduly."  She left, and a few moments later Doctor Cook was escorted from the room by two Airmen.  Taggart looked at the three other adults in the room, nodding once, then at the unlikely-looking strike team.  Or perhaps not so unlikely looking, he mused.  The Charlie kid seemed mild as milk, but had carried himself pretty well in the fighting upstairs, the Jauntsen boy was mouthy and annoying as hell, but damned if he couldn't get a herd of cats moving in one general direction, and the Bannon kid - Okay, the Bannon kid was chilling to the point of terrifying, and yet had acquiesced readily to a promise not to use his powers in this room or to kill any opponents on the raid without quibbling or raising objections.  That was just plain weird.  One thing did not match up to the other thing.  Taggart cleared his throat to get their attention.

"Time to go."  said Devin, giving Marissa a hug then walking over to the door.  "Chuckles, snargle her garthog later.  Cade, Jase... Granola - I mean," he corrected as Autumn scowled.  "Autumn.  You in?"

Autumn nodded before she even really thought about it.  Jason had said she'd be of use, and while she still held some doubts, she had healed him up.  Besides, it just wasn't in the restless redhead's nature to sit on the sidelines while friends went into danger, even if said friends were best described as walking hell waiting to be unleashed.  "Yeah, I'm coming."  she said, tugging once at the drawstrings of her hoodie before thrusting her hands in the pockets and moving over to the group by the door.  She threw a considering glance at the pair on the couch as she passed them: the new girl, Kat, seemed to be a little unglued and, of all people, it seemed Courtney was offering aid.  Personally, knowing the girl was a telepath with megalomania and narcissism was not reassuring, but there was nothing to be done about it right now.  Behind her, Charlie gave Sophia one more kiss and practically swaggered to the door like he was ready to take on Tyson in the ring and win.  Cade stood up, hugged his dad, then turned to Marissa who threw her arms around his neck and gave him a fleeting kiss before pushing him mock-playfully in the direction of the waiting group.  And Jase...

Was standing right next to them, having moved over to where Taggart was waiting in a neat, unobtrusive and almost silent fashion.  He radiated none of the tension or excitement felt by the others, even the phlegmatic Cade - a harmonic like the faint whisper of a lightly-struck tuning fork passing between them, each member of the team picking up a little of the others' excitement - except for Jason, who seemed impervious to it, a calm pool of ice cold water whose mere presence muted the tension just a little, like a finger pressed to the vibrating metal.

"You're going to miss me, I know you are."  Devin said to Cassandra with his best devil-may-care smirk.  Cassie rolled her eyes.

"Not near as much as Lona will.  So be careful." she shot back, ignoring the kiss he blew as they left the room.

Taggart led the five of them down the corridor, past the control room and into a large, open space that was currently uninhabited.  There was a roll-down door at one end large enough for a van or truck, and the room was plainly meant as a loading bay.  He turned to them, looking at Devin as he backed up some.

"This is it."  he said.  "I''ll keep it free for your return and have an EMT team standing by.  How far back do I need to be?"

Devin glanced around, then shrugged.  "Hell if I know, dude.  Best be outside the doors, in case.  This is breaking new ground, feel me?"  Taggart nodded.

"Good luck."  he said, then turned and hustled from the room, leaving the five of them looking at each other.

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The teens all gathered around Devin, waiting for his instructions.  While they did so they could see where people from inside the compound were all gathering behind the Major.  Some of them had dedicated their lives to the study of this noetic science and still had barely scratched the surface but today these kids had come along and were about to prove to them that none of their time had been wasted.  These kids were going to defy the laws of physics and laugh in the face of the modern sciences.  There was a small army gathering in the small square windows of the loading bays double doors.  At the commands of the Major, none of them dared enter any closer.

"Okay," Devin started.  "Last time I did this it was like trying to control a plane while it was going down in a hurricane.  There will be a lot of shaking.  There's nothing you can do.  As the energy surrounded me last time, I can only assume, since you're going with me, it's going to do the same to you.  You're only job is to not let go."

He held out his hands and like a football team calling a play everyone reached in the center of the circle they'd formed and locked wrists with whomever they could.  "W-what if we let go?"  Autumn asked.  She really didn't want to know, but like everyone else, so also really wanted know...

"Then your individual energy will be hurled away from the whole," he shrugged, completely guessing.  "You could probably end up anywhere.  Like, inside a mountain."

"There a seriously more encouraging ways to get me to hold your hand," she joked with him, trying to brush away the cob webs of doubt being spun in her mind.

He silently laughed took in a deep breath.  "Maybe I like the chase." He said as he exhaled.

As the team formed a '*' Devin began to focus, finally closing his his eyes and picturing Etienne in his mind.  In the center of them all was a sight that left them at a loss for words.  The small jump-scars that Devin always seemed to leave behind temporarily after he jumped began to waver and shimmer in front of them.  Like three dimensional oil on water, with a vaguely violet hue, a rift in space began to enlarge and surround them.  As predicted the energy was volatile, warping and wefting them as it consumed them in its cloak they all began to twist and distort like animated funhouse mirrors.

They felt only mild discomfort, not unlike motions sickness as one moment they felt like they were frozen in place and another they pulled off at light speeds.  Parts of them 'smeared' in random, impossible directions and as the anchor to it all they felt Devin trying with all his will to hold them all together.  They coudl feel the pull as his power wanted to slingshot them off into somewhere, because that's what Devin's power was 'programmed' to do, but this time, it had no destination.  It had no target, and the laws of the universe dictated that if you are to go... it must be somewhere.  'Guessing' was not part of that natural order.  You ither knew where you were going or you didn't and Devin, currently, didn't.  So his power tried to send them somewhere, anywhere, just like he was telling it to.

He convulsed as he explained to the laws of universe that 'anywhere' whether you knew it existed or not, was relative.  Wider and wider the scar extended, consuming them like a violet, gelatinous, tangible energy.  They gripped each other for dear life at this point, wondering if maybe this wasn't such a great idea.  Droplets of blood dribbled from Devin's nose as the stress of this many passengers was pushing him to his physical and mental limits.  Finally Devin opened his eyes and within them they saw infinity.  Black with shimmering nebulas and a trillion glimmering stars just as the energy around was suddenly sucked in to their center, and exploded outward like one of Jango Fett's sonic charges going off.  The sounds was unlike anything the spectators had ever heard.  The team, however, was gone.

The storage room they arrived in exploded with the concussive force of air punching into the room not unlike the pistol shrimp's natural defense.  The sound ruptured the walls and shelving in the room flinging toiletries and cleaning agents, and mops and anything not nailed down, all over the place.  The team was no exception.  They arrived in a boom that pushed and pressed outward from their entry in a perfect, spherical 'crater' in all directions.  The floor caved in, the walls pressed outward and the ceiling was threatening to collapse.  The team lay all about the room, feeling like they'd just been kicked off a ten story building and belly flopped into an ocean.  They were knotted around shelving, covered in loose debris and definitely having a bad trip.  Except Devin who was lying in one corner, riddled pain but still managing to giggle like an idiot while being covered in loose rolls of toilet paper and paper towels with one of his legs resting up on a fallen shelf.

"That..." He giggled with madness.  "Was awesome!"  He tried to move beyond laughter and decided that was a poor idea as he collapsed back into the bed of loose paper rolls.  "Ow."

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Charlie found his head was throbbing like crazy, there was a severe ache in his leg, and his throat felt like it was coated in a combination of phlegm, acid, and the essence of 'noxiousness'. No, wait, that was the bottle of cleaning agents. Somehow, by freak chance, the bottle had a sharp tear in it, and everything was positioned just so that a portion of its contents had gotten into Charlie's mouth and throat.

Already, the autonomic portions of his psionic powers had kicked in to prevent it from actually harming him, but now Charlie went ahead and hocked it up. The terrible mixture of fluids arced and landing on the shaking form of Devin. Equally purely by chance. Nothing to do with Charlie considering the merits of the humble camel. Then those processes clamped down on the nervous system, so Charlie could move to sitting, then on his knees, and then push up off the floor.

"All my hate right now."

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As the fabric of space began to twist and fold around Autumn in ways that defied her rudimentary understanding of physics, there was a moment of primal terror, an inkling that if this didn't work- if her hand slipped, or they'd miscalculated, or Devin was distracted, or any of a hundred other possible disasters- she would be unwoven from the tapestry of existence, a lost thread cut from the whole. Would it hurt? she wondered, her fingers tightening reflexively around the wrists of the two nearest her as they all clasped hands, waves of violet and indigo tugging at them in irresistible cosmic tides. Would she even be aware of it, or would she just... not be at all, anymore? Almost simultaneously, a separate thought occurred: what if it did work? What would that kind of freedom be like, to move through the world without regard for walls, or highways, or artificial borders of any kind? And, suddenly, a kind of wrenching queasiness contracted the muscles of her abdomen, and there was no more time for thinking.

No more time. No more thought.

There was no sensation of movement or inertia; she was standing in the loading bay with the others, head swimming with vertigo and feeling for all the world as if she was about to be physically ill-

And then she wasn't. Wasn't travelling, wasn't holding anyone's hand, wasn't worried about her parents. Just... wasn't.

Until, just as suddenly, as if the laws of reality were so repulsed by the group's defiance they simply flung them back into the world again, she was.

Was in a storage room. Was lying half under a collapsed shelving unit. Was absolutely miserable, her ears ringing from the concussive shockwave and every muscle complaining loudly that this had not been the best decision she'd made this week. 

"Fuuuhuhuck meeee," the redhead groaned, briefly opening her eyes to blearily assess the situation and immediately regretting it. The demolished room swam, spinning dizzily in her field of vision, and she lowered her head again, waiting to either pass out or for the world to right itself. There was movement nearby, voices she vaguely recognized, but Autumn felt absolutely zero compulsion to process them at the moment, instead just concentrating on reorienting herself in her body and quietly taking inventory of the assorted contusions and scrapes she'd received in their violent expulsion from... wherever they'd been. It hurt to breathe. It hurt to think. Beneath her cheek, the floor felt oddly warm, although not unpleasantly so, and whatever cleaning chemicals they had in here smelled kind of nice. Her nose crinkled slightly as the athletic young woman shifted uncomfortably atop the debris she'd landed on. Kind of like... I dunno, body wash...? Cologne, maybe?

That couldn't be right. Frowning, she tried lifting her head again, reaching up to push the hair back from her face, and froze as the "debris" under her stirred. Charlie was nearby, slowly getting up to his feet. Devin was in the corner, giggling like a crazy person. That only left two other options, and with a creeping sense of dread, she realized she could see Jason a little further away. Process of elimination left only Mari's- Cora's- somebody's boyfriend. Fuck, she mouthed silently, squeezing her eyes shut in a grimace. Gingerly, Autumn shifted her weight, resolutely ignoring the fact that just a few seconds before, her hand had been way closer to Cade's Louisville Slugger than possibly even Marissa's had at that point; if she didn't extricate herself from the awkward tangle of limbs and wire racking real fucking quick, this was going to become another "Friday Snapchat" situation. 

Her face hot enough to ignite kindling, the red-haired teen began the cringe-inducing process of trying to crawl out from under the shelving and from on top of Shelly High's star athlete.

...And then into a dark, deep hole, if she was lucky.

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One defining characteristic of Jason could be described as this: that he always knows exactly who he is, and usually what his immediate circumstances are.  Even before the awakening of his Shine, that self-possession, that solidity of personal identity was a trait that he worked to hide, rather than to attain and display as many teenagers do.  His mind usually did exactly as he wished it to, focus and will coming easily to him without the temperamental upsets of hormonal storms.  It was one of the things that made him both daunting and insufferable.  Relatively few external forces could disrupt the smooth, clockwork-precise workings of his brain.  Even concussed or stoned, he felt mostly in control of himself and indeed was sharper than most sober people.

Devin's mass-teleportation was pure hell.  It upset his kinetic awareness of the objects and people around him.  Worse, it upset his very personal kinaesthetic awareness of his own body and how it fit into space.  He'd formulated a theory that Devin's teleportation involved breaching the quantum barrier down into the subquantum where space and time were malleable, then breaching the layer back up into the 'real' world once more when the link to the destination was made.  The smoothness with which Devin popped himself from known location to known location, barely causing more than a temporary ripple in space, seemed to bear that out.  The blind jump, though, carrying four other people to a destination Devin only knew by a map layout...  That involved disruption of space-time on a wrenching level.  If Devin's normal 'blip' was a pro-diver smoothly breaking the surface of the water like a knife, poetry in motion and form, this had been an 500lb Walmart-scooter-jockey with terminal diabetes belly-flopping naked into a hot tub full of screaming Girl Scouts.

In short, it hurt.  And left Jason feeling more than a little violated and nauseous, much like the Girl Scouts would feel.

He lay still for a moment, briefly dipping into his memory palace and making the spinning world go away as he contemplated a memory of the sun rising over the fields of the farm when he'd first moved to Shelly, his dad talking about how they'd have a good life here.  It was a soothing memory, dating from before his father had succumbed to despair and alcohol, and it briefly occurred to Jason that maybe now his father would have the impetus to make changes.  Then he sighed, steeled himself, and emerged back into the world which, whilst not spinning anymore, was still painful.

"Devin."  he said quietly as he sat up, feeling muscles protest as though he'd just gone ten rounds with Hank at a practice session.  Had it only been two days since that?

"Yeah?  Ow."  Devin's voice was a groan as he weakly plucked some cleaning supplies from his body and tossed them aside.

"That. Fucking. Sucked."  Jason said in a precise and succinct manner, grabbing a mop that had fallen over his legs and trying to use it to stand.  He succeeded on the second try, fighting down nausea as he straightened up slowly, forcing his legs to obey his commands and support him.

"Got us here, didn't I? Ow. Owow."

"You need to practice that."  Jason somewhat unsteadily, and with the aid of the mop, walked over and offered Devin a hand up.

"Yeah...  Well...  You gonna volunteer?  Ow."  Devin grabbed the proffered hand and let himself be pulled somewhat upright, leaning on the wall and looking like he was also trying to hold onto his lunch.

"Ask me again when I don't feel like cutting my own head off to stop the aching."  Jase replied with a slight crinkling at the corners of his eyes as he let go of Devin's hand, then looked around at the others.  "Anyone hurt - Scratch that.  I mean, anyone seriously hurt?"

Edited by GDP_ST
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Before they'd left, Cade approached Taggart.  "I noticed that Cassandra and Autumn had armor before, is there a chance I can get something similar, and some sort of weapon.  I may not be able to find a fire extinguisher."

The Military man looked at the much younger man, who'd largely remained quiet in all the discussions.   "I'll get you a flak Jacket, and a stun gun.  No way in hell I'll give you more than that."

"That will work fine, thank you sir."   Cade answered, and soon enough the stun gun and jacket were brought in, and he donned them in silence.   His Father helped ensure it was fit properly, and he nodded, saying nothing.   "Don't worry, Dad.  We'll be in and out."   

After that it was time to go, and he said goodbye to his father, and then Marissa, smiling after yet another kiss.   He followed the others and took his place, and waited as energy enveloped them all, Then flung them through space to another location.  

It was rough, more trippy than anything he'd ever experienced, and damn close to making him hurl.  Cade felt a weight atop him, and felt something brush his thigh, "Wha?" followed by a few unintelligible syllables, as Cade opened  his eyes, finding Autumn and an assortment of wire rack remnants on him.   His eyes narrowed.  "You Okay?" he asked his teammate?"   

He heard Jason and Devin talking, so obviously they'd made it.  So he turned his attention to Autumn again, who looked to be very uncomfortable, and it was then that he realized his left hand felt really warm  His right arm was out to the side, and felt cold.   He instinctively curled his fingers, and felt the cold floor with the right hand, and felt something soft but firm, and covered in fabric with the left.  "Oh hell."

Edited by GDP_ST
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"Oh hell."

"Oh god," the red-faced redhead groaned along with him, in almost perfect unison. It couldn't have just been cleaning supplies, or a Wet Floor sign or something lying over her. Oh, no, no. That would be too easy. It had to be Cade Allister's hand, contoured perfectly to the curve of her ass while she lay sprawled over him, because that's just how this day was gonna go. Obviously. She'd overslept, been called out by her ex, gotten punched in the face by a Dark-possessed senior, flipped into Nightmare World and back again, and had now achieved the distinction of being bitch-slapped by physics on the way to rescue someone she didn't even like; getting accidentally groped by her friend's boyfriend was just the icing on the cake. To his credit, after that initial squeeze the sports prodigy jerked his hand away with the alacrity of a child who'd just touched a hot stove, but by that point Autumn had already started trying to disengage from the uncomfortably compromising position in earnest.

Cursing under her breath, the girl whose freckles had been completely obscured by the bright scarlet of her blush tensed, bracing her palms on the floor and hauling herself across the athlete's prone form with a grunt of effort. She tried not to think about the fact that not only was there was a guy underneath her, it was Cade, or that at some point in her life she might not have minded being pressed quite so close to the even-tempered young man, or that Marissa was likely to hear about how she'd been "all over" her boytoy during the rescue mission- a probable death-sentence, even if it was obviously intended as a joke. Cans of air freshener, jostled loose as the debris shifted and toppled forward where she'd been lying, bounced haphazardly across the floor, accompanied by boxes of disposable nitrile gloves and commercial rolls of trash bags. "Not a word," she breathed, rolling over to stare up at the ceiling with an anguished expression as she waited in vain for the floor to swallow her.

"And no," she grumbled when no merciful oblivion seemed forthcoming, tilting her head back to glance at Bannon, for all that he was currently upside-down. "Just my pride."

 

Edited by Autumn Keane
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Jason's head tilted slightly at Autumn's admission, and she was pretty sure even from her upside down perspective that her strange friend was smirking at her, though the expression was so microscopic that it would take a Bannonology 101 graduate to tell.  A few telekinetic touches helped move aside fallen supplies and storage racks so that Cade could likewise extricate himself with a minimum of fuss and bother, and a glance across at Charlie showed that the metamorphic young man was staggering to his feet with a surly expression on his face.

"Hrrgh.  Fucking aftertaste."  Charlie grumbled as Jason handed the mop-handle off to Devin and moved to give Autumn a helping hand getting off the cold floor.  Her face still uncomfortably red, and careful not to look in Cade's direction, she grabbed the slender hand and pulled herself up, groaning as her inner ear realigned mercifully swiftly, the faint surge of nausea damped down by her Shine's natural healing tendency.

"Don't drink it then."  Devin snarked.  "Dude, why is it every time we have a party you gotta get off your face on some strange shit?"  He snickered as Charlie shot him the bird, then winced.  "Ow."

= = = = = = =

With Sean subverting the underground complex's automatic intruder alert systems, the four heat-blobs that represented warm bodies being where they weren't supposed to be without accompanying electronic tags did not set off the alarms.  The snatch team's arrival, however, had not gone unnoticed.  Two armed guards, wearing slick-looking black mil-spec armor and carrying an assortment of weapons, had been traversing the corridor outside the storage room as part of their patrol route, and had heard the muffled *crump* and the clatter of supply racks being knocked over.  On the camera feed Sean and the others were watching, the guards looked at each other sharply and, raising their carbines to ready position, moved to cover the door, one up against the wall next to it, the other across the corridor at an angle, crouching and with his weapon aimed.  The guard at the door keyed his radio-headset, murmuring into it.

"Control, this is Zodiac 3-2.  Disturbance in east corridor, storage room J-4.  Moving to investigate."

Spoiler

Alright then.  Let the shenanigans commence.

Sean, you are currently in their systems.  You can attempt to block the comms with a Cunning and Technology roll - Diff 2, with a Complication of 2.  Getting 2 or 3 succs will block future transmissions, but allow at least part of this one to go through.  Four succs means you were fast enough to block the whole thing.

People inside the room: to hear the guy speaking outside will take a Cunning + Larceny / Survival (your choice) roll with a Diff of 3.

Anyone else back at the conference room watching, feel free to chip in with ideas / reactions / plucky banter.

 

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"So, uh,"  Devin limped about, holding his side trying to shake away the disorientation.  "You think they heard that?"

Slowly everyone just looked at him in silence as chips of brick from the walls fell loose and the light fixture on the ceiling fell with a clang and its sheet metal construction made them all close their eyes in an attempt to not strangle their ride home.

"I'm uh... I'm pretty sure Lona's uterus is looking this room about now, oh, by the way, we're dating now."  he snarked.  He crossed his arms and shook his head as he admired his work.  "I am all kinds of impressive."  He smiled, pleased with himself.  "C'mon, let's go save Canada."

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As Devin turned for the door, ready to go be a big damn hero, Autumn's hand shot out, grabbing instinctively at his arm to pull him back. "What, Cade not enough for you?" the quick-witted teleporter teased, but she just shook her head in silent warning, looking not at him but at a point roughly six inches in front of the threshold, just above the floor. Was that...? The ensuing silence was deafening, muting even the rapid pounding of her heart as the alert redhead focused intently. Her eyes narrowed slightly in concentration as she turned, angling an ear toward the doorway; she knew she'd just heard someone outside, speaking unintelligibly in a low, masculine voice.

"Guys, I think we have company," she murmured unsteadily, her mouth suddenly dry.

 

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"That was less than subtle," Sean muttered, watching the sudden appearance of the infiltration team inside the storage closet, wincing as he could practically see the exclamation points appear over the heads of the passing guards, who suddenly stopped, alerted to the sounds and moved to cover the doorway.

He gave Courtney a warning glare as she went to offer Kat 'help' but he didn't have time to deal with her with his friends in danger, his vivid eyes jumping back to the series of holographic displays giving him an overview of the Secret Crossroads Complex. He harrumphed crossly as he went to warn them about the guards outside, and realized they hadn't established a secure means of communication, and cellular transmissions were blocked - of course - so he couldn't send a simple text.

"Weeeellll... shit."

A telepath would be useful just about now...

Sean figured he could use the PA system, it wouldn't be a discrete as he'd like, but it was something. Also of course, the storage room didn't have a speaker for the PA system he could purloin.

8 hours ago, GDP_ST said:

"Control, this is Zodiac 3-2.  Disturbance in east corridor, storage room J-4.  Moving to investigate."

"Oh no you don't!" Sean retorted to the guard who couldn't hear him, nor even knew he was being overheard.

The transmission went out, but died before it could reach its destination as Sean shut down the entire comm network, finagling it through HVAC subsystem to make it more difficult for them to regain control. Sean believed he couldn't have disrupted the system entirely, but he might need it to warn his friends, so didn't burn down that bridge, just yet.

"C'mon guys, move it, move it, move it," Sean urged insistently, gaze flicking from reddish-orange-yellow blobs his friends in the storage room and the guards outside to the corridor outside the Control and Security rooms, ready to lock down any doors reinforcements would have to go through to reach them or the room Etienne supposedly was tied up in.

Spoiler

Used 4 successes from his Hacking Pool to block all comms, and another 2 successes to add a level 2 complication for them to trace him or try to regain control of them.

Hacking Pool 5/11

 

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18 hours ago, Autumn Keane said:

As Devin turned for the door, ready to go be a big damn hero, Autumn's hand shot out, grabbing instinctively at his arm to pull him back. "What, Cade not enough for you?" the quick-witted teleporter teased, but she just shook her head in silent warning, looking not at him but at a point roughly six inches in front of the threshold, just above the floor. Was that...? The ensuing silence was deafening, muting even the rapid pounding of her heart as the alert redhead focused intently. Her eyes narrowed slightly in concentration as she turned, angling an ear toward the doorway; she knew she'd just heard someone outside, speaking unintelligibly in a low, masculine voice.

"Guys, I think we have company," she murmured unsteadily, her mouth suddenly dry.

 

Devin tilted his head as his eyes met those of the pretty redhead holding his arm.  "Get back."  He said softly to her.  He was suddenly very serious and a part of Autumn told her she could almost like Devin is he could act more like whomever this  serious persona of him was.  "Stay down, stay out of the way."

"Charlie," he whispered loudly.  "Small corridors.  Something simple, something your size.  You and Cade are the muscle, I'm the distraction.  Jase will keep them off balance.  And Jase-"

"No killing."  Jason finished his sentence for him.  "I got it.  I gave my word."

Devin still glared at him for a moment, like a part of him didn't trust Jason as far as he could throw him.  The teen pulled his hood over her head and plucked airpods out from his pocket.  "Bixby, let's show these mercenaries how we roll."  He picked up a mop handle, solid and thick and reached for the door knob.  "Hope your watching Granola, in case me and Lona don't work out, prepare to be impressed.  On three.  One... Two..."

Spoiler

Initiative: 3

The door will open, Jason will pull in the first poor slob and Devin will literally baseball bat him in the throat with the mop handle (clothes line).  After that, his plan is to teleport outside the room (he has the immediate vicinity attuned so he can blip about for very short distances), be all ninja like with his staff and be an absolute nuisance and distraction while the big boys do their thing.  Any of the 'injured' ones he'll blip in and whack them, finishing them off.

In case I'm not around to post, you know what's up.

 

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"I'd be really surprised if they didn't detect us somehow."  Cade answered even as he got ready, shaking off the last dregs of nausea from the successful teleportation, and reaching out to take up the fire extinguisher that had somehow survived their entry.   "Sure, it worked before."  He said mostly to himself.  He was still embarrassed about what happened, but he had to tamp that down, they had to get in and get out, and the plan was already in danger. He moved up in front of the others, ready to take a swing should something go awry, barring that, he'd charge out and take a swing at anyone else out there.

 

Edited by Cade

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Autumn stepped back- and hesitated a moment, considering something as Jason stepped back similarly.  A faint prismatic shimmer springing into the air around the slender youth indicated that he was not as unprotected as he seemed, though she'd never seen this particular manifestation of his ability.  Forcefields now? she mused distantly, but her attention was more focused on another, more important fact.  Jason was protected from harm.  Cade had body armor.  Charlie was also protected- a fleshy rippling sound drew her attention to the metamorph growing a chitinous shell and other alterations which, while fascinating in the abstract, were good for a shudder.  But Devin had only his teleportation as a defense from harm, and he needed to conserve that as much as possible.  Biting her lip and making a decision, she leaned forward and rested a hand on Devin's shoulder.  "Wait a sec."

Abruptly Devin felt more hearty, more solid somehow, as though Autumn's touch had knitted skin and flesh into something more resilient.  His noetic awareness could feel what she was doing, and he spared her a quick smile of thanks before pulling his game face on once more, glancing at Cade on the other side of the door, at the now battle-ready Charlie, and finally (and with narrowed eyes) at the imperturbable figure of Jason.  Reaching out, his hand touched the door handle just as it began to turn from the outside and, grabbing it, he pulled the door open as fast as he could.

The guard outside was caught off-balance, slow to release the doorknob and bring a steadying hand back to his assault carbine, his mind registering the sight of what looked like teenagers and some bug-like creature seconds before a powerful force yanked him into the room hard enough that his feet left the floor.  Devin's mop-handle caught him across the jaw as he started to yell, cutting the sound off with a *crack* of wood on flesh and arresting his forward momentum suddenly enough that the guard's legs swung up and into the air before he landed flat on his back, unconscious, his weapon flying from his hand with a clatter.

Devin vanished and reappeared in the corridor outside, blindsiding the guard who'd been covering the door.  The man made a hoarse sound of surprise and began swinging his weapon towards the teleporter when Charlie barreled out of the storeroom with astounding speed, covering the couple of meters in an eyeblink and hitting the man with clublike arms reinforced with bone-plates.  One punch was enough, the ballistic armor worn by the mercenaries not designed to withstand impacts comparable to a speeding car.  The guard flew three meters and slid a further ten along the polished tile floor, coming to rest motionless.

Cade knelt to check the guard downed in the storeroom.  Noting that the man was still alive, though likely not going to be singing or chewing solid food anytime soon, he grabbed the man's firearm, a deadly-looking stubby assault rifle, and with an afterthought the radio and earpiece too.  Jase stepped around the fallen guard and out into the corridor, Autumn following him and both looking in the direction they had to go.

"Smooth.  No alarms."  Devin said as he blipped back to them from where he'd been checking the guard Charlie had pummeled.  "Hundred yards that way.  Let's go."

Charlie at the fore and Cade bringing up the tail, the unlikely team moved down the corridor quickly, eyes and ears alert.  The facility they were in seemed oddly oppressive to the psionic sensitives amongst them, and even Cade felt the hairs on his neck prickle.  This wasn't a 'Dark' place, per se, but it was certainly a dark one, the seeping feeling of callous wrongness being all too human, with no encouragement from other-dimensional demons necessary.

They had gone maybe fifty yards when a door opened ahead of them in the southern corridor wall with a beep and the click of a magnetic lock disengaging.  The teens froze as three figures - two men and a woman - in white jumpsuits emerged from the room, talking quietly amongst themselves as they turned and headed away from the team without even looking in their direction.  Behind them, the door they had exited swung slowly closed.

Spoiler

Small choice: peek into the room and see what they were up to, or wait for them to get out of sight and then carry on to Eddy's location.  Feel free to write reactions, thoughts, dialogue etc.

Sean, you can now communicate with the team through the earpiece Cade lifted.

Cade, the gun you took has the following properties:

Advanced Assault Carbine:  Enhancement +4;  Ranged, Automatic, Tactical Sight, Variable Ammo 3: Currently loaded with slugs that give the Brutal tag.  60 shots in a magazine.  (This is a highly advanced piece of weaponry.  A quick check will show that the rounds are caseless and that the guard had two other magazines on him with different ammo types)

 

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Spoiler

Fuck it.  😀

The graceful gymnast swiftly moved up behind the three who exited the room.  He crept and tiptoed until he got the doorway, sliding him foot to jam the door just inches before it closed and, he assumed, locked itself tight.  If he were a cat he would have been dead 9 times over, as the boys natural curiosity and penchant for poking his nose into any situation that would inevitably lead to causing trouble, was nigh legendary.

The team looked at him, their eyes swelling wide with warning and low, soft whispers in a jumble of 'no', c'mon', 'don't' and a variety of other appropriate warnings that the teenager undoubtedly ignored.  He shushed them and offered them all the 'I'll be one second', finger and poked his head into the door.  He slid his phone from his pocket, swiping the camera on to snap a clicks.  If Annette was going to fall madly in love with him and throw herself at him in lustful inappropriate ways, he was going to need to impress her.  Snagging some intel on this place could certainly do that.

Distracted by maneuvering into the room and looking at his phone to prep it for pictures, the young man finally raised his head and took a look at what he'd stepped into...

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The sight that met Devin's eyes took him a moment to process, and the teen's eyes left the screen of his phone for a second as he glanced around the room.  The room was sterile - white floor, white ceiling, and white walls lined with consoles and holographic screens.  To the right of the door was what looked like some kind of operating table, large and sturdily constructed, trays of gleaming implements nearby, but what drew Devin's gaze as the others silently caught up with him and peered in likewise was the cells.

There were two of them dominating the center of the room, constructed of what he presumed to be some manner of impact-resistant glass or plastic.  Both were occupied, the first by a hulking, slope-shouldered and powerful feline shape that prowled back and forth, balefully glaring at the intruders and opening it's mouth wide in a silent snarl.  The incisors were massive, jutting down well below the level of the great cat's jaw, and it's head was easily on a level with Devin's chest.  The four of them stared for a moment, three in astonishment and one in recognition, as the sabertooth paced its cell, the giant beast's hide marked with straight, neat scars that seemed anything but random.

The other cell's occupant was also feline, but far smaller, perhaps the size of an ocelot, with golden sand-coloured fur and with ears that seemed overlarge for it's skull.  This cat, either the one Cade and Cassie had met before or one that looked precisely like it, lay motionless in the center of its own cell, white bandages swathed around it's neck, shoulders and the top of it's head, from which tiny red wires protruded like antennae.

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Cassie paced restlessly behind Sean, already questioning and cursing her decision not to go. Despite asserting there might be things she could do to help, the reality was that she didn't really know what those things were. And knowing her dad WAS there, and was some kind of prisoner...

"Sean," she said, "I know I'm not a tech wiz like you, but there's gotta be something I can do. Anything. I'm dying over here."

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Autumn was following Devin in like it was practically a requirement. Jase was entering too, though he at least had the sense to keep a 'hand' so to speak on the door to keep it open. Charlie was about to protest, before his life-sense pinged two more people coming around the corner. Both of them guards, whom paused as their attention shifted from chatting to the figures down the hallway - the chitinous form hurtling at them...

Charlie slammed both into the floor hard, sending them out cold. Nobody else coming, but that was close. Huffing, he began dragging the two - with Cade's help as Cade caught up - into the open room. Charlie sighed as he saw the sabertooth tiger and ocelots. "Guys, yes this is interesting but we're on a time limit and you're lucky I got these two before they could call the alarm. We can break in another time."

Well, not until Devin learned how to make those long-distance jumps less explosive and painful. But Devin didn't need to know that right now.

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Cade had taken the Guard's assault rifle and the spare clips he'd had as well, noting that the ammunition wasn't the same, and that the gun had so many bells and whistles, it could probably fire itself.   Still, it was better than a simple stun-gun in here, if this is what they were all packing.   He helped Charlie drag the bodies into the room and when he saw the smaller cat, hooked up like that, and the scars on the larger smilodon, his features seemed to darken.   

Few things in the world angered him more than the torture of animals.  Sure he was a sportsman, but he killed because he planned to eat it, and didn't let the animal linger and suffer.  Seeing the smaller cat, how it didn't react to him, He sighed, doing what he could to tamp down his own rage.  He hoped that somehow it wasn't the same one he and Lona had rescued, that Cass and he had followed.    He wanted nothing more than to free it, hell free them both at this point, but that would jeopardize the reason they were there, and he couldn't do that.  "We have to take these fuckers down.  If I could get them out of here safely and quickly, I would, but Charlie's right.  We have to get Etienne out of here first.  Then we come back, and put an end to this."

The only thing keeping him from suggesting they turn the Smilodon loose was that looking at it, and the scars, they'd definitely kill it, and he didn't want that.  "Nothing deserves to be treated like this."  

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Posted (edited)
On 3/1/2020 at 2:49 PM, Cassandra Allen said:

"Sean," she said, "I know I'm not a tech wiz like you, but there's gotta be something I can do. Anything. I'm dying over here."

Sean nodded without looking away from the monitors he was monitoring, keeping eyes on any approaching bogies while the Exfiltration Team did... whatever they were doing in the kitty room.

"How about this? I'm swiping what I can from their network to look over later, but if you want to start skimming now, in case there is something more specific I or they should look for..."

Sean fingers danced over the keyboard of his laptop like a master pianist's over the ebony and ivories -  though he hardly needed to use them - and one of the Holographic displays shifted over in front of Cassie, showing mostly text, with certain words highlighted. "I set up a keyword search for you dad, the experiment he was in, and Site B, if you want to skim the files to look for the ones that are actually pertinent."

Sean's melodious voice was tight and focused, at he kept the majority of his attention on his friends, who were still in the middle of a dangerous situation. Looking from where they were, Etienne was, and where the guards were, he started priming certain doors in between to lock them down with a thought. He could burn them out, so it they couldn't be unlocked, but didn't want to block off any options yet for his friends.

"What are you guys doing?" Cade heard Sean insistently demand through the earpiece. "Get Etienne. Get out. You guys have incoming from the East... The left... Your left."

Edited by Sean Cassidy

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Conference Room, Site A

"Oh, this is bad."  Marissa said softly, looking at the holodisplays of the lab's occupants and feeds from other cameras nearby.  "This is so, so bad."

"Yeah, it's gross."  Sophia muttered, staring at the smilodon as it paced back and forth.  "And is that a sabertooth tiger?"

"Probably the same one that tried to make a meal of us the night of the party."  Marissa said, almost absently as she fiddled with her sweater's hem, chewing on one corner of her lower lip.  "But I didn't say 'gross', I said 'bad'.  I know my merry band of freaks, and at least two of those present are going to vote for changing the plan, and one of them's going to be my bestie, and I'll bet the other will be my idiot brother."

"Change the plan?  What?"  Sheriff Allister asked, coming over with Gar and Hank in tow, the three grown men staring at the displays with varying degrees of stoic concern.  "Why the hell aren't they getting Etienne and getting out?"

"Hell if I know."  snapped Marissa.  "Autumn's one of those girls who has a soft spot for all animals, even feral ones - probably why she jumped in to help Jason at school."  Even worrying about her brother and friends, Marissa was not beyond a sly cut or two.  "Too much Disney, that's the problem."  said the girl whose room was a study in hues of pink and various princess-like paraphernalia.  "I hope to high heaven she doesn't try to bring the sabertooth home."

"They better decide what they're gonna do fast."  Hank said in a low voice as he peered at the holographic display of the complex layout.  "It won't be long before someone stumbles over the two guards they KO'd."

"Shit."  Sean muttered quietly as something registered on his noetic awareness of the complex's systems.  "Something's wrong."

"What?"  came the reply from several quarters.

"There's a... presence here.  I mean there.  In the network.  Like living code that changes and shifts."  The abnormally pretty young man looked alarmed, his vivid eyes widening.  "It's kind of like me, I guess, but different.  Just came in via a connection and whoever it is knows something's amiss.  They tried to access the communications grid and my lockout blocked them, so they're feeling around the edges, trying to access other systems."  He narrowed his eyes, seeing nothing now but the dizzying neon pulses and whirling numbers of electronic space.  "I don't know how strong they are or how much time we have."  He accessed Cade's radio once more.

"Guys.  We're not burned yet, but hurry the hell up.  I've got company in the network and they're probing.  They know something's up!"

Spoiler

There is another cyberkinetic presence in the Crossroads underground network.  Sean currently has a solid foothold and can stave off any attempts by this other super-hacker to regain control of the system with ease... for now.

:D You're welcome.

 

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Layed on a couch, by the far end of the room, a fragile shape was staring at the ceiling, a less fragile and more glamorous shape sat by her head. Kat closed her eyes. 

"Sure, go for it..." 

Echoed in her head, bouncing on the walls of her inner prison, an army of thoughts opening the way to the ball, the gaps closing one by one as the lone thought lost itself in the maze. 

Solidity is a lie, an illusion, everything is fragile. By accelerating the vibrations of any given element, you can play with this illusion. Combustion is but a state of extreme excitement, caused by a sudden increase in the speed of said vibrations-

Slowing down. 

A gentle caress. 

"Smooth." 

Calm. 

Comforting. 

Friendly. 

Sigh. 

Kat opened her eyes to meet the girl's. "Real smooth." Courtney's hand gently stroked over Kat's brow. "There. Feeling clearer?"

The smaller redhead crossed her legs rested on the armrest. "Hmm hmm. Clearer than the last ten years probably." She breathed deeply. "Thank you!" She added on a joyful tone. She felt relieved. Slightly tired. And goddamn hungry. As if it only had been waiting for her to notice it, her stomach released a doledul growl, and she could not help but softly giggle. "Sounds like the beast woke up." 

"There's plenty of stale donuts and sandwiches." The crimson-haired beauty next to her gave her a wry smile, glancing over at the conference table where everyone else was clustered, watching the holodisplays and feeds.

"Then I guess I'll watch the show with the others." Kat swiftly stood up, hands on her waist, and spun her upper body to each side till her spine emitted a succession of crackling noises, while she rolled smug eyes to the ceiling with a satisfied moan. "Come on." She added for Courtney. 

She quickly crossed the distance separating her from the food, her stomach warning the others, sat by the table, of her arrival, Courtney following her with an amused grin. Then food began disappearing from the table, Kat's aroused appetite always asking for more while she silently listened to the comments made around her. When the count of sandwiches present on the table reached four, she turned to the donuts with a faint but joyful : "Dessert!" She grabbed three of them and began giving them what they deserved. As her hand reached for a Pepsi, she turned to Sean and asked him "Kitties?" 

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"We've got incoming from the left in the hallway.  Much as I want to put a stop to all this, one mission at a time.  We've got to get to Etienne, and get the hell out."  Cade said, relaying the information Sean was feeding him.  

"They're aware something's going on, evidently Something's there, and knows about us.  We've got to keep moving."  He took up position to cover the door, just in case.

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Pain.
Rage.
Fear.

Autumn didn’t share Cade’s gift for communicating with animals, but in this case, it wasn’t necessary. What was meant to be an exploratory use of her gift, an assessment of the felines’ general well-being to see if it even worked on animals at all, had erupted into an explosive maelstrom of helpless anguish and impotent fury that threatened to drag her, clawing and screaming, into the tortured abyss they shared. Everything was jagged and raw, her own abject horror all but drowning out the admonitions of her comrades- there was so much that was wrong, so much damage, so much pointless cruelty, it was utterly overwhelming. Grimacing at the bitter, acrid taste of bile as her Shine brushed against the ragged edges of their pain and instinctively recoiled, she grit her teeth and tried to focus on seeing, not feeling, but it was so. fucking. hard. Hot tears spilled silently down her pale cheeks even as she trembled, struggling to orient herself in the torrent of sensory impressions, to process exactly what had been done to them.

The smaller cat, though motionless, was still perfectly, horrifyingly conscious; it was obvious that the sedative they’d given her served only to keep her from thrashing around, not to blunt the pain. Just to make it more convenient for them. She’d been cut open, probed, ruthlessly explored, numerous tiny intrusions made into her unusually well-developed brain where they’d implanted whatever those awful wire things were. The surgery was incredibly recent… Probably the ones who’d just left the room had done it, and her stomach twisted at the thought that if Devin hadn’t been quick enough to stop the door from closing, they might never have known this was even happening. Swallowing hard, Autumn tore her eyes away from the traumatized, terrified animal and turned instead to her more volatile companion.

The larger one, the silent, half-mad terror, would always be so, she realized- they’d removed his vocal cords, altered his throat to prevent him ever again giving so much as a growl of warning. Probably to stop him from roaring while they carved him up. Fucking sadists, she raged internally, fists clenching at her sides. The oldest of his scars- and there were many- were roughly a month old, and the internal damage pointed to physical manipulation of his organs, as if he’d been taken apart numerous times and put back together again. Vivisected. ...Judging by the state of the smaller one, probably also without anesthesia. Worse still, there was something embedded in his skull, some kind of device whose purpose she couldn’t identify, but whose unnatural presence was abhorrent to the red-haired vitakinetic.

The suffering they’d inflicted was deliberate. Intentional. A completely unjustifiable and unacceptable violation. Tiny flickers of scarlet danced behind her eyes, at the edges of her vision. Never in her life had she wanted so much to hurt someone, to find those responsible and-   

“...Much as I want to put a stop to all this, one mission at a time.  We've got to get to Etienne, and get the hell out."  Cade said, relaying the information Sean was feeding him.  "They're aware something's going on, evidently Something's there, and knows about us.  We've got to keep moving.”

“No.” Autumn replied with uncharacteristic intensity as she stared fixedly at the pair of cells, a faint tremor in her voice that, coupled with the subtle vibration of her frame- the tension of a bowstring drawn to its limit- could easily have been mistaken for nerves, or fright. “There is no ‘coming back.’ There is no ‘breaking in again.’ By the time we do, all of this will be gone.”

“Autumn,” Cade shook his head, his tone as even and reasonable as ever as he regarded her from his position by the door. “I understand, and I don’t like it either, but Etienne is-”

Of course. Leave it to the sheriff’s kid to play good soldier.

“Fuck. Etienne,” she replied, turning abruptly and taking a step toward the tall young athlete. Her response was sharp, succinct, a blade whose edge had been honed by fury. “You really want to put an end to this, we do it while we’re here.”

“Devin can’t take all of us, plus Etienne, plus the cats, we barely got through that jump as it is!” Charlie protested.

The mercurial teleporter looked affronted at Charlie's implication that anything he'd done was somehow less than amazing, though how much of that outrage was sincere, and how much pretense, was anyone’s guess. “Hey, I got you here in one piece, didn’t I!?”

“And he doesn’t have to take everybody. Jesus fuck,” she breathed, an undercurrent of exasperation in her voice. “Who said we all have to go at once? We go find Etienne. Devin takes him- and whoever wants to leave- back with him. Mission accomplished,” the angry redhead added, with slightly more vehemence than was strictly necessary. “He can come back for the rest. Fewer people and a better connection means he can go back and forth faster, without wasting as much energy." Autumn gazed intently at each of her three still-human companions in turn. "Satisfied?"

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Jason moved up while the others were talking, and was silently examining the occupants of the two cells as Autumn outlined her plan.  Behind him, the other three boys glanced at one another.

"Well, I know the target point now."  Devin said with confidence.  "I'm pretty sure the ride will be smoother going back.  And fuckin'-A I'm not going to leave these guys here in Mengele's veterinary clinic.  Though..."  He looked dubiously at the sabertooth.  "I dunno what we're going to do with Cuddles there."

"Cade can handle it."  Jason said, turning back towards the others.  His face was calm, as composed as ever, but his eyes held a sombre gravity that was at odds with their usual wry, inscrutable gleam as he stared at the star athlete, then glanced at the others.

"He can?"  Charlie asked sceptically, peering at Jase for a moment before going back to watching the corridor outside.

"I can?"  Cade's scepticism was almost an echo.  Jason's mouth quirked in a small smile, though the grave expression never left his eyes as he nodded.

"You can communicate with wild animals, calm them, earn their trust."  The teen genius stated.  "I've seen you do it.  It'll need some kind of containment on the other end, but you are the means by which we will get it there."

"He's half-mad."  Autumn said softly, her blue eyes growing wet.  "From pain and trauma.  He might never get better."  Jason glanced at her.

"We might need to put him down." he said softly, his tone almost gentle.  "But only after we try to help him."  The redhead nodded grateful agreement, and Jase looked at Devin.  "We move on for now.  We secure Etienne, and you take him and only him back to HQ.  The rest of us will then come back here, and you rejoin us for the extraction.  Cade and the sabertooth have to go together.  Autumn and the smaller cat will go next.  Charlie and I will go last - we'll keep the room secure.  That seem workable?"  Devin rubbed his chin, looking at the caged, tortured animals, then nodded.

"Yeah.  It'll be easier for sure, and the ride won't be as rough because I've got both places fixed."  Devin glanced at Cade.  "Better let Sean and the soldier-boys know that we're going to need somewhere to keep a sabertooth."  Cade nodded, quickly relaying the change of plans to Sean through the radio as the five teens turned and made their way out of the lab of horrors, heading for the room containing Etienne.

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Posted (edited)

Conference Room, Site A

"Shit.  Okay."  Sean's voice was tense as he acknowledged Cade's message, but to be fair he didn't really fault his friends for wanting to save innocent (if not exactly harmless) creatures from a ghoulish bio-lab chopshop.  He looked up as both Major Taggart and Ms Giles re-entered the room.  "Major, we're going to need a cage big enough for that."  he told the officer, pointing at the display.  Neither Taggart nor Giles seemed amazed at the sight of the smilodon - surprised, sure, but not flabbergasted or speechless.  Giles looked at the Major, her gaze serious.

"Are those the missing specimens from Site B?" she asked him.  Taggart nodded, his face thunderous.

"They must have sprung them, then scooped them up."  he muttered, coming to the table and leaning over to look at the holo-screen.  "Kline's definitely playing for two paymasters."

"Site B?"  Cassie narrowed her eyes at the pair of them, momentarily distracted from the data-stream regarding her father.  "What, is it some kind of menagerie for prehistoric monsters and talking cats?"

"Wait, talking cats?"  Marissa asked, staring at Cassie like she'd grown an extra head.  Then the Queen Mantis rolled her eyes and smirked. "Of course talking cats.  Why the fuck not?  What am I doing even questioning the concept?!"  she said with a great deal of irony, throwing up her manicured hands.

"We didn't know the smaller cat talked-"  Giles' began, only for Sean to cut in. 

"You mean the big one can?" he asked, semi-seriously.  The Aeon representative blinked at the interruption, then smiled slightly, shaking her head before continuing.

"We knew it was highly intelligent, however.  Kline wanted to run tests on it and the other subjects at Site B, but we forbade such things... and then some of them started disappearing, his reports claiming that they had 'escaped'."  She tapped her nails on the conference table, quiet anger in her eyes.  "Major, I think we need Site B locked down and brought under control as soon as this rescue mission is done with."

"But what is Site B?"  Cassandra pressed as Taggart nodded.  Annette shook her head, looking a little annoyed, though not at the lovely blonde reporter.

"I'm sorry, Miss Allen, but we have to follow Society protocols.  I've given my immediate superiors on the council my report and personal recommendation, but they will have to meet and discuss this matter, and get the okay from Branch Nine, before I can tell you anything more than you already know.  If it was just the Society, I might be tempted to, as you say, 'cowboy up' and just tell you.  But if Branch Nine disapprove of such a security breach, they have the power to kick the Society out and take over for themselves."  She pursed her lips, shrugging apologetically.  "Politics.  We have to step lightly when dealing with two organisations with such differing primary agendas."

"Meanwhile, there's a containment area here in Site A."  Taggart said briskly.  "How are your team going to handle the big cat, though?"

"Cade's going to wrangle it."  Sean told him distractedly, his mind already diving back into the Matrix-like streams of data that were noetic cyberspace.

"Cade has a way with animals."  Marissa explained.  "Like, a special way with animals."

"So he can calm down a huge ravening carnivorous pussy?"  Sophia smirked.  Courtney snickered as Charlie's busty girlfriend went on. "No wonder you're dating him."  Marissa's eyes narrowed dangerously as her imperious gaze swept over the two girls, then her maroon lips curved in a malicious smile that caused Sophia's smirk to fade.  That smile didn't bode well for someone.

 

Behavioral Adjustment Lab, Site C - Etienne

Etienne floated up to half-awareness of what was going on, hearing voices talking in low, efficient tones around him.  There was bright light, and a funny haze over everything, and an awareness that he was in some kind of danger.  He tried to focus, but it was hard, and there was a weird metallic taste in the back of his mouth, and the light shining into his eyes hurt.  Dimly, he heard a brief high-pitched whirring whine, as if someone was testing the charge on a small power tool, and the clink of metal on metal.  He licked his dry lips with a tongue that felt like sandpaper and tried to speak, but only a croak came out.

"Ah.  The patient is awake."  The voice was accented, but not heavily, speaking good English with a twist - perhaps German or Scandinavian? he thought fuzzily, his training picking up the hard consonant sounds.  "Good."  A face filled his vision, dressed in green scrubs with a mask over the lower part of his face.  "Apologies for the dry mouth, my young friend, but the drugs, they have their side effects.  Not to worry, not to worry.  I am Doctor Koskinen, and I am here to help you, Etienne."

"Help me?" Etienne asked confusedly - or tried to, the words coming out as another dry croak.  Still, it seemed the doctor understood.

"Why yes, my friend.  You have faltered in your calling, wandered from the path, turned your back on your benefactor."  The doctor's voice was sorrowful, almost.  "Normally, that would mean... liquidation.  But I have persuaded Doctor Kline to let me try and redeem you.  Adjust you."  Seeing the confusion in the young Quebecois' face, the dark eyes above the mask crinkled as the man smiled.  "You see, you have a divided loyalty.  Your heart belongs to a girl - but once I am done with you, my young friend, you will happily kill her if we ask it.  You will be reborn pure."

Etienne's eyes widened in terror, and he tried to move his head, to look around the room for some manner of succor, only to find that his head was held fast by some kind of padded clamp.  The doctor patted his chest in a gesture which, in other circumstances, would have been comforting.  "There, there.  Soon that fear will be a distant memory - if you remember it at all."  He motioned with his hand, and someone outside Etienne's view handed Koskinen a small drill with a slender, needle-fine head.  "I wish I could say that this won't hurt, Etienne.  But the drugs... they do not react well with anesthesia.  I am sorry."  He didn't sound sorry.  He looked up at another figure in scrubs that appeared on Etienne's right.  "Ready the probes"

And then there was a buzz and a click, and all hell broke loose.

= = = = = = = 

Charlie burst into the room first as Sean released the coded magnetic lock.  Seven figures, two guards and five dressed in surgical scrubs, turned sharply as the metamorph came through the door.  Taking advantage of their surprise, he sprang for the first guard, hitting him with a one-two from his clublike hands and sending the man crashing through several wheeled trays of instruments.  The second guard started to raise his gun, only to find it yanked from his hands by some terrific force which then reversed it's course and smashed the butt-stock of the rifle into the man's face, catapulting him from his feet as Jason came into the room, pale eyes scanning for fresh threats.

Chaos ensued, the five figures in surgical gear crying out and yelling in surprise as two broke for a side-door, one grabbed what looked like a stun baton from a hook on the wall, and one dived for a console at the back of the room.  Only the one next to Etienne remained still, frozen in surprise and amazement as he watched the teens demolish the guards.

"Runners."  Jason called to Charlie, pointing.  With a nod and a grunt of acknowledgement, Charlie bounded with terrifying speed across the length of the room in less time than it would take to tell it, falling on the two lab personnel and bringing them down.  The man with the stun baton lunged for Jason, the crackling head of the weapon stopping a few inches from the lean young man as though it had hit an invisible wall.  The assailant stepped back, confused, but his confusion only lasted a moment before Cade, moving in next, hit him across the jaw: a straight right so hard that the scrubs-wearing man spun on the spot  before collapsing.

The figure that dived for the console reached for a large red button, only for the air to ripple and for a hooded figure to emerge from nowhere with a makeshift staff, bringing it down on the reaching hand with a crack then, as the stricken man in green recoiled clutching broken fingers, whipping the other end of the stave across his face, silencing the scream of pain before it had even gotten started.

The guard Jason had felled was not quite out, staggering to his feet and drawing a sidearm.  Even as he lifted it, blood streaming from his mashed lips and nose, the glittering jade gaze fell on him and his arm was abruptly twisted up, out and back with a wrenching force that made him yell, the pistol falling from nerveless fingers as his shoulder separated with a loud cracking sound.  Something hit him then, an invisible force clubbing him across the side of the head, and this time he stayed down when he hit the floor.

"Clear?"  Devin looked up from ensuring his alarm-happy target was out cold as Autumn entered the room, her eyes flinty as they looked at the still-frozen figure next to Etienne.  It had taken maybe five or six seconds for the four teens to secure the room.

"All good here."  Charlie announced, dragging two limp forms back towards the center of the room.  Cade nodded as he made sure both guards were relieved of their weapons.  Jason also nodded, stepping over to the operating table Etienne was strapped to and quickly examining the monitors.

"Shibby."  Devin looked at the figure of Doctor Koskinen.  "Dude, put down the drill.  My boy there doesn't need dental work.  At least," he amended "Not with your idea of co-pay arrangements."

"Young man."  the doctor began.  "You have no idea what-"  Abruptly he stiffened and dropped, spasming, as Autumn - who'd scooped up the stun baton - poked him with enough juice to power an X-Box for a week.  She considered the twitching figure, her lips taut, then prodded him again for good measure.

"Fucking sadist."  she muttered in a low, venomous tone, then looked up at the others, blinking as she realised they were looking at her.  "What?!"

"Boring conversation anyway."  Jason said with a slight smile.  Charlie, Cade and Devin snickered.  Autumn shook her head, lips twitching, then moved to Etienne's side, examining him with her Shine.

"He's drugged.  It's doing something to his brain, making his mind pliable, but shouldn't be permanent."  she said, narrowing her eyes as her noetic senses informed her.  "It'll wear off in a few hours.  Other than that, he's good to go."  Jason nodded, gently removing the I.V. needle from Etienne's arm as Devin moved over.

Spoiler

Apologies for the narration, but I figured it was time to move things on a little and two guards and some lab rats weren't going to require combat turns and play-by-play.  If anyone wants to take different actions or have their character react differently, let me know.

Over to Devin to blip him and Eddy out of there.  Everyone else, feel free to add some dialogue or reaction poasts as the teens head back to the lab with the cats.  So far, the complex is not alerted because Sean is keeping the other cyber-ghost at bay, but it's only a matter of time before whoever it is tries another method to contact the complex's personnel.

 

Edited by GDP_ST

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Etienne disappeared in a flicker of distorted space, making nothing more than a 'pop' sound.  Devin's hand glowed a soft violet light as he lowered it, no longer focusing the energy of the cosmos through it.  They paused and look at him, like they expected something more.  "What?"  He shrugged.  "Really, it's that easy.  The familiarity makes the difference, trust me.  Now come on, let's go get the cat."

"You were supposed to go with him,"  Autumn said.

"Your horrible assessment of how my powers work aside, Granola," he smiled at redhead.  "You said 'and whoever wants to leave'.  Well, I don't wanna leave.  We ride together, we die together.  I'll get us all out of here, kitteh included."

"You're already looking a little worn out, are you sure?" Asked Jason.  "If you don't have the strength-"

"-then I'll find it."  Devin said flatly, but calmly.  "No one gets left behind."

"Good enough for me, let's go," Cade nodded and stormed out of the room with the entire team in tow.  They made it back to the vivisection room and Devin jaunted to the other side of the locked door, opening it from the inside.

"Same deal as before, give some time to muster up the juice."  Devin nodded to the others as he approached the poor, suffering animal.  "Good kitteh..."

"Muster quick," Charlie said.  He rolled his shoulders like he felt a change coming on.  "Lots of people coming this way.  I think security is on to us."

Devin cursed under his breath as he looked at Autumn.  "The things I do for a make out sesh.  Remember his shit when I'm single again.  I'm not sayin', just sayin'."  With that he began focusing his energy.  "Cade, need you to whip the pussy, please.  I don't she's too keen on me helping them out."

The area around the teens began to waver and distort.  The process had begun, but if Devin was summoning up the strength to send them home, he was going to need time... more time than they had it seemed...

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Posted (edited)

Cade looked to the two Cats, and moved calmly to the cage for the largest.  It couldn't make a sound but its mouth open, teeth bared in a snarl that would chill anyone to their core, except for Cade.

He was afraid, make no mistake, but nothing in his body language, or his features betrayed this.   He knew well Jason was ready, behind him.  Still nobody made any moves, save for him.   

Quietly, he pressed the manual release on the cage, as the massive cat moved to the back of the cage, still snarling silently, holding his gaze.   When the release engaged, Cade reached out, and pulled open the door, just a bit.  That done, he stepped back, still between the Smilodon and the others, his gaze locked with the smilodon, who was no longer snarling.  

Tentatively, a complete opposite of its previous state before, the smilodon moved to the slightly ajar door, and nudged it open with its muzzle.  The door to the cage swung wide, and the massive Cat took its first step into freedom, breathing deeply before its head turned to Cade, and those jaws opened again, ears flattened against its head, and Cade remained still, his grey eyes narrowed, yet accepting, his features without a trace of fear.   

It stalked over to him, and those watching held their breath.  It was more than capable of killing him, and his rifle was slung over his back.  He stood defenseless against this prehistoric monster.  It came to a halt, towering mountain of feline muscle, massive fangs that would end his life in a single bite in front of his face.  Yellow eyes narrowed and met the fearless Steel grey eyes again, and slowly, the mouth began to close.  Ears rose from being flat and aggressive, and finally the massive head lowered. The big cat's breathing became slow and steady, and with a serene calmness, Cade reached a hand under the massive jaw and began to scratch gently.  The large cat after a few moments, butt its massive head against the teen's shoulder, a gesture of acceptance and friendship he knew well enough.

The entire exchange was done in silence, not from fear, but consideration.  It couldn't answer with its own voice, and so Cade didn't use his.  He communicate only with his body, with his eyes, the same as the smilodon.  It wasn't pity, it was respect.

Edited by Cade

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Posted (edited)
On 3/5/2020 at 3:46 PM, Catherine 'Kat' Barras said:

"Kitties?"

 

On 3/7/2020 at 3:46 AM, GDP_ST said:

"So he can calm down a huge ravening carnivorous pussy?"  Sophia smirked.  Courtney snickered as Charlie's busty girlfriend went on. "No wonder you're dating him." 

Sean couldn't suppress a smirk of his own at Sophia's burn, though he didn't notice the look on the equally busty redhead's face after Marissa smiled at her. His awareness focused more on cyber space, he waved a negligent hand in the air, and one of the holographic displays shifted to move into line with his gesture.

"The team is coming back with a pair of rescues in addition to Eddy," Sean said for Kat's benefit, a tightness to his sweet voice, large vivid gem-hued eyes focused elsewhere.

"Mother. Fucker! It's the same guy," Sean suddenly cursed, banging the table with a small fist, sitting taut and straight in his chair.

"Who is?" Ms. Giles asked with affected cool calmness as she shared a glance with Taggart.

"The guy, girl, thing, whatever they have trying to regain control of the system," Sean explained, as he swam and dove around digital streams of prismatic light and multi-hued shadows, skirting around the other presence in the system, evading it's notice as he tried to find out where it came from, trying to get a hint of what it was. "It paid my place a visit once while I wasn't there... just looked around from what I could tell, like a damned creeper trying to sneak a peek."

"And he is like you, Miss...ter Cassidy?" Taggart asked, slipping slightly, at the sight of the striking, shapely Sean straining in conflict with an unseen opponent. "Has the same capabilities?"

"Yes. No," Sean replied tersely. "He can do something similar, but in a different way. This isn't just a hacker with super special gear and codes. He's in the system, like me. Sort of." Sean sighed in frustration, trying to explain a phenomena that really needed to be experienced to understand. "He's... strong. This is going to sound conceited, but think of it this way. I'm an artist here, subtle and, uh, elegant. This guy? He's in demolitions. I'm dancing around him, but soon, there isn't going to be anything left for me to dance on, and he's gonna take control of what's left."

For a moment, Sean's awareness flicked from the digital realm to the realm of meat and blood, his gaze going to Giles and Taggart. "Do you guys have any idea of what the hell Kline was doing over there?"

Annette Giles shook her head, her expression tight with anger as she calmly answered "Until today, we didn't even know of the existence of a Site C."

Taggart was less restrained verbally as he muttered "Fucking Kline." even as his eyes tracked the action going on on the monitors.

Edited by GDP_ST

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Cassandra had her own screen of information to look at; the data about her father passed to her by Sean. It was incredible, but also very dense, with lots of scientific and medical jargon in it. Making sense of it required focus. Unfortunately, that was in short supply with the drama going on with the team going into the prison. She kept having to look over at Sean's screen, listen in on the conversation, and each time she did she had to start over on the files for her dad.

Finally she just drilled down, shutting her gob and trusting everyone to know what they were doing. Sean was probably recording it, so she'd still get a chance to look at it. This was her dad.

In the end, that determination paid off. Cassie still had to just skip past page after page of jargon that would require bigger brains than hers to decipher...but hidden among those pages were pearls of value to her. For example, the project her father was associated with currently was called Project 328-MK.79CBA. Cass didn't miss the 'MK' in there. Given the origins of all this, it stuck out.

That was borne out last on when she started seeing terms like 'drug assisted conditioning' and 'operant loyalty re-distribution,' and even...at one point...'cybernetic-assisted behavioral modification.' Nightmare stuff, even if she still wasn't sure how it all worked yet. Near the end of one of the files was a caveat that got her attention. They noted that maintaining the conditioning was easier if they were isolated from outside social bonds. The more intense the bonds, the more 'stress' was put on the conditioned responses. They then suggested a series of countermeasures, such limiting candidates to those who lacked familial or romantic attachments, or using the conditioning to eliminate such bonds early...either by driving those individuals away, or even physically attacking them.

Or, Cass thought hollowly, faking their deaths.

"They're brainwashing him," she said softly, paging past file after file of details technical information she couldn't make head or tail of. She needed an engineer to look at this, or a doctor. Preferably both at once.

"What the hell..."

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Kat sighed as she stood by the table, watching Sean's screen with interest. She never had been much of a genius in this field, but she kept on thinking it might be fun to try some simple hacks for the thrill. But for that she would need some equipment. She took a mental note of buying a real computer ASAP, having only been able to bring her crappy old laptop to the States.

13 hours ago, Cassandra Allen said:

"They're brainwashing him," she said softly, paging past file after file of details technical information she couldn't make head or tail of. She needed an engineer to look at this, or a doctor. Preferably both at once.

"What the hell..."

She scooted towards Cassandra, curiosity shining in her eyes. "Brainwashing ? Can I have a look over your shoulder ?" The blonde teen quickly glanced at her, then came back to decrypting the small characters on her screen, too focused on not losing the thread. "Sure." She softly replied after a moment.

She took a few steps to stand behind Cassandra, making sure she was not breathing on her hair. God knew Kat hated when people did that. Then she began reading.

At first, she struggled to keep up with Cassandra's speed, a lot of the concepts evocated in the file requiring her to concentrate, but thanks to Courtney's mental hug earlier, she slowly began to understand what she was reading and her features went from her happy food face to her horrified oh-my-fucking-god face. She stood there appaled for a couple minutes, unable to do anything but read and hardly breathe. "Oh my fucking God !"

"What is it?" Annette Giles asked, tearing her attention from the action in the labs to look with a mix of alarm and puzzlement at the petite teen.

"C'est incroyable." She shook her head, then got back to the wall of text on Cassandra's screen. "No fucking way. Just how many laws are they breaking ? This is insane !" Her breath suddenly accelerated, and she ran to the table, grabbing another Pepsi. She popped the can open and downed it in an instant, before scooting back to Cassandra's side, her eyes swallowing loads of information and her brains analysing at lightning speed.

"Quite a lot already." Giles said as she came to stand beside Cassandra and Kat. "What have you found?"

"Some Herbert West x Dr. Hal Raglan mad genius stuff !" She looked at the taller woman with worry in her eyes, then shook her head again and began explaining herself. "So, here is what I roughly understood. Whoever they are, they are brainwashing people. These guys are real geniuses. The procedure has three stages. First, the subjects undergo brain surgery which implants highly advanced micro-probes and a small monitor/regulator device in the subject's brain. The probes go to several areas, notably the pre-frontal cortex, amygdala, and hypothalamus." She closed her eyes for a moment, muttering to herself.

"Then a drug named "Compound MK857" is given to the patient intravenously. This makes the patient's mind pliable and plastic, open to suggestion. Aaaaand..." She sighed with frustration, her lips running up against syllables.

"Finally, while the drug is in effect, they use a series of hypnotic and sub-hypnotic processes, together with impulses from the probes, to 'overwrite' a person's loyalties -litterally crazy- and social conditioning like, like... like overwriting data on a hard-drive, making them... utterly loyal to their new master -or masters- and removing inhibitions to the point that the subject is willing to steal, lie, kill and die for them. Their memories are mostly intact, making this a great way of turning hostile actors into allies and much easier and more reliable than interrogation."

She blinked for a moment, taking her breath, little red stars dancing in her eyes.

"The risk factors are primarily that the patient, if introduced back into old lives with strong emotional bonds, may find those over time breaking down the conditioning, the brain restoring itself to it's prior state. There have been attempts to stop that by having the subjects undergo the conditioning repeatedly, but that simply extends the effect for a few months whilst causing severe damage to the subject's psyche, which will end in massive psychosis."

She suddenly sat on the ground, her face in her hands. "This is mental !"

Edited by Catherine 'Kat' Barras

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Seeing that Cade had brought the smilodon under control, Autumn let out a breath she hadn't even been aware she was holding and  moved into the cage containing the smaller feline.  The warm-hearted redhead dropped to her knees next to where it lay motionless, feeling a deep well of horrified sadness mix with the rage directed at whomever had done this.  "You poor little thing..." she murmured, focusing on the animal as a whole, on it's life-force as read by her Shine in order to avoid focusing too hard on the bandages and small wires protruding from the skull.  "It's okay.  Nobody's going to hurt you." she said, unsure whether it- no, she- could even consciously register the soothing voice.  Gently, she laid a hand on the cat's flank, feeling the warmth of her fur and the faint rise and fall of her breathing.  She was in pain, and that at least Autumn could do something about right now almost as easily as thinking.  As soon as the soothing noetic balm washed over the traumatised creature she felt her relax, the sick terror in her mind easing somewhat even as the pain of her wounds disappeared.  The cat took a deep, slow breath, and let it out, then again, and although she was still paralysed from whatever hellish chemistry they had used to pacify her for surgery Autumn could feel peace settle over the unusual feline.  She let her fingers gently stroke it's fur.

*Gratitude.*

Autumn blinked, looking down at the soft golden shape she was petting.  The voice - or not a voice exactly, but 'voice' was the closest she could describe it as right now - had come right into her head.  Not so much words, but an emotion projected as communication.  She had felt the animal - was it an animal? - essentially thank her.

At the door to the lab, both a chitinously armor-plated and a cold-eyed slender youth conferred.

"Ten of them.  Six coming up from the left - from where we jumped in,  and four from the direction we found Eddy."  Charlie told Jason, his eyes half-closing as he focused his biological senses.

"How far?"  Jase asked with his habitual calm.  Charlie tapped his armored fists together nervously as he considered.

"Not far.  Maybe twenty feet.  Moving slow."  Jason absorbed this, then nodded, looking back over his shoulder at the shimmering purplish disc beginning to form in front of Devin, considering the other three.

"Aggressive defence."  he stated.  "We take them down and out, then pull back here.  Buys Devin more time."  He gave Charlie a sharp grin as he pulled a coin from his pocket.  "Flip you for who gets to take on the party of six?" 

"I'm not coin-flipping with a telekinetic."  The metamorph snorted.  Jason's grin widened.

"I win by default then."  He said as he put the coin away and patted Charlie's exoskeleton.  "You're going right."

"We're going to have to establish more ground rules for this shit."  Charlie grumbled as he and Jase made ready to burst out of the room.  He glanced back at the others.  "We're going to take out the advance party.  Be right back guys."

"Uh-huh."  Devin grunted the teleporter's features tight with the strain as he tried to control the ride this time, to do something smoother than merely hurling the entire group through the ether.  His Shine reached out, tying a stable bridge-like connection between two points in space.  "Don't be gone long."  he warned the pair.  "When it's time to go, it's time to fuckin' go."

"Got it."  Jason nodded as, with an faintly musical crackling sound, his body was coated in strong sparkling ice which scintillated under the lab lights as ambient moisture became armor.  With a nod to Charlie he yanked the door open, and the two of them burst out into the hall like the wrath of God.

The armed men outside reacted instantly, their guns tracking the faster-moving shape of the bug-boy and filling the air with the chatter of automatic fire as Charlie closed on the smaller group of mercenaries, with bullets careening off his shell in dangerous ricochets.  Jason, moving more slowly, did not immediately register as a threat to the six-man team he moved to confront, but as he interposed himself between them and Charlie's back they refocused their attention on the frost-covered slender young man.  Bullets filled the air, most slowing to a dead stop an inch from Jason's body before dropping to the floor, devoid of inertial force.  Some made it past his forcefield, only to super-cool and shatter against the solid ice covering him.  While they fired, his eyes searched their equipment rigs, and a tight smile curved his frost-lined lips as he found what he was looking for.  He reached out a hand and a number of grenade arming pins whizzed to his grasp from the webbing belts worn by the guards.

Then he raised his other hand, a wall of solid ice springing up between him and them as six flashbangs went off in such rapid succession that it was almost one explosion, filling the corridor beyond his barrier with searing light and thunderous, deafening noise that were cause to close his eyes even beyond the shielding wall.  Afterwards, dimly through the ice he could make out six prone shapes, a couple of which moved as though rocking back and forth in agony.  No deaths, he thought with grim humor as he opened his hand, letting the pins fall to the floor.  But those mercs would not be field-ready any time soon.

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Charlie was a kindly, empathetic person. All who knew him knew this was beyond question. At the same time, the Fellowship knew that he, just like the rest of them, had been made to learn how to deal with the new reality thrust upon them. A reality of unearthly powers, literal entities of malice, and corrupt quasi-governmental and corporate organizations. They'd already seen him turn into a thing of shells and spikes and mercilessly butcher alien hell-creatures.

Unlike those things, these were human beings, and Charlie, being the kindly, empathetic person he was, respected human life. Yet, the various mercenaries, guards and staff had demonstrated they did not respect human life in the slightest, by the work going on here. Even if they were unaware of the specifics going on in this underground complex, the men and women could easily have discerned that these activities were illegal, immoral, unethical, totally wrong.

The men at his back trying to shoot him had chosen to help aid and uphold Crossroad's crimes, as were the four mercs in front, raising their guns ever so slowly in Charlie's vision. Charlie had innate control, enough to ensure that nobody was going to die...

...But after the armored blur finished his work, the scene was not pretty. One left an imprint in the wall, another had been struck in the gut so hard he appeared to be trying to remember how to breath. A third's legs were projecting at the wrong angles. The last was reducing to a slow crawl on his stomach, and his ears were bleeding. None of them would likely walk normal again, if at all. That was plenty punishment enough.

Charlie turned and raced back to rejoin the others. Maybe this would unnerve Crossroads enough to make them hesitate, or at least wait to collect a bigger force, giving Devin the time to port everyone out.

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The three teens still in the lab waited tensely as gunfire sounded outside - or at least Autumn and Cade did: Devin was deep in concentration as he spun the threads linking two points in space.  Blood seeped from his nostrils, and his head throbbed, but the young teleporter kept his mind from his pain and focused intently, seeing his efforts rewarded as a window began to expand in space, showing the loading dock area back at the complex under the hospital.  "I think I got it..."  he grunted.  There was a loud explosion from outside, causing Cade, Autumn and the smilodon all to flinch as the screams of wounded men punctuated the silence following it.  Devin hoped to hell neither Jason or Charlie had gone off the reservation and killed - a worry that tied with his fears that one or both were lying out there wounded.  He pushed harder with his Shine, feeling the pathway opening up further.  "I definitely got it."  he said triumphantly as a portal formed and stabilised in the lab, limned in purplish light and showing the Site A loading dock beyond.

"That will get us home?"  Autumn asked, carefully scooping up the golden cat and cradling it to her in both arms.  Devin nodded, keeping his attention mostly on the doorway through space he'd created.

"I know.  I'm amazing, right?  No explosions, no rough ride."  He grinned at her, wiping blood from his nose.  "Hurts like a beeyotch though.  Cats and cat-ladies first."

Cade nodded, leading the distrustful smilodon past Devin.  The massive predator paused, it's hesitation obvious as Cade approached the threshold, but a calming word and a beckoning soothed it's reluctance and it stepped forward, ears flattening against it's skull as it and Cade passed through the portal and emerged on the other side.  "You might want to stay back and not make loud noises."  he advised the wide-eyed soldiers in the loading bay.  The sabertooth cat bared jaws that could crack open a man's head, helmet or not, and the soldiers nodded agreement.

"We've prepared a containment area for it." a sergeant spoke up.  Cade nodded.

"We'll take it there in a few.  I want to make sure my friends get out safe first."  he asserted as Autumn, blinking in pleased astonishment, stepped through with the golden cat in her arms.

"Hey, that was a smooth ride." the redhead noted, turning to smile through the portal at Devin, who waved back.  He turned as Charlie and Jase trotted back into the room, relieved that neither seemed worse for wear, though Charlie's shell had some bullet nicks.

"Kill anyone?"  he asked the ice-coated Jason.

"Not today."  the other shrugged as his cold eyes considered the portal  "They might wish that I had though.  That's an interesting twist on your spatial abilities."

"Can we 'science' later?"  Charlie chimed in.  "Next team they send is going to have mini-nuke launchers or summat."

"Bugs Life is right."  Devin nodded.  "Get to the choppa."  Without further ado the three of them moved through the portal, Devin bringing up the rear, and emerged into the Site A loading dock.  As Charlie dropped his armored shell and Jason let the ice de-coalesce from around his body, Devin turned and, with a frown of faint concentration, collapsed the tunnel linking two points in space.   The teens looked around at each other, smiling a little as the team in the conference room relaxed a little.

They had made it.

Spoiler

Freeform time:

Cade and Autumn, facilities are on hand for taking your charges off your hands.  Feel free to detail the process of getting both safely situated.  The wires in the little cat's head are brain probes - they were trying to figure out and measure it's cognitive processes.  They will be easy enough to remove - this time with proper anesthesia.  The sabertooth will be provided a large, sealed room, with an airlock door for safely feeding it.  A temporary measure for now, until they figure out what to do with it going forward.

The Branch 9 and Aeon folks are going to want to get all the kids out to their waiting parents now.  The 'decontamination' has taken a long time, and the locals are getting antsy out there.  Annette promises that as soon as she gets authorisation, she *will* tell you all about Site B and why it is so important, but for now to please be patient.

Everyone, feel free to write your release from the hospital to waiting parents, etc.  If you want to engage in more dialogue with the project folks, or each other, then work on that in the IC chat on in PMs.  The 'adventure' part of the thread is over - I will award XP individually once everyone has had ample time to wrap their part up.  It's been a long thread, stretching over some time, with some good RP.  So well done to all.  For those that have forgotten - the rumors project is still in effect UNTIL xp for this thread is awarded, at which point it will close.  So feel free to make some rumors, about your PC or perhaps about an NPC of yours for delicious XP.

 

Edited by GDP_ST

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It was a joyous sight as the families of those trapped within the confines of the hospital were set free to be with their families once more. Misti and Carl Jauntsen had been waiting patiently outside and the kids came filtering out Misti pushed herself from where she was leaning on the hood of her BMW and scanned for her children. Carl continued to lean, not committing himself to caring until he was sure his kids had been released.

Marissa walked slowly to greet her parents, faking a smile for the public as her mother worriedly wrapped her arms around her daughter and embraced her lovingly. Carl joined them a moment later, offer one of those soft dad smiles as he hugged her and kissed her head. “We're fine, it was no big deal, really.” Marissa laughed and played it off, wriggling free of her parents. To the public of Shelly, they looked like one big, happy family.

“Where's your brother?” Carl asked, looking over the head of his daughter to the entrance.

The Queen of Shelly gave her parents a snide look and let her lip curl into a soft smirk. “Where do you think? As far away from you two as possible.” She pulled her hair back, brushing it over her shoulder with a gentle stroke of the back of her fingers. “Now let's go. I'm hungry.”

The Devin's parents expressed their disappointment and resentment for their sons disappearance with a simple glance at one another. “Where did he go?” Mist asked.

“It's Devin, Mom,” Mari shrugged and coyly avoided any serious conflict. “He goes where he wants.”

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Lona's fingertips gently glided down the strings of her guitar as a melody of boredom and confinement filled the air of the pool house her and her 'sister', Clara lived in away from the main house. She'd only been grounded for 24 hour hours, but it had to have been the longest day of her life.

The 'bamf' sound behind her brought an immediate smile to her face and she stood and spun about in a single motion to wrap her arms around her boyfriend, Devin. It still hadn't sunk in yet when she thought about it. Not only had she lost her virginity to him, she was now dating the one guy in all of Shelly that she positively hated just a few weeks ago. Underneath the mask of cruelty and bullying he seemed genuinely kind and decent... if still an incorrigible flirt. Life didn't make sense sometime.

“Hey there beautiful,” he laughed as he hugged her back. A brown paper sack crumpled in his hand as he waved it about. “Micky D's? Thought you might be hungry.”

“What did you do?” She pulled away and crossed her arms, giving him a playful smile.

The teenage teleporter raised his hands in defense. “Nothing, yet, I swear.”

“Yet.” Her grin widened as she snatched the bag.

“Sorry you got grounded,” his words seemed sincere enough, but it wasn't until he kissed her gently on the lips that she decided she'd believe him. “I Missed you.”

Avalon opened the bag and looked inside, grabbing out the hot fries (one advantage of having a boyfriend who travel instantly, was your food was never cold) and walking over to the coffee table to spread out her meal of fries and a burger. Walking away helped her hide the soft rose color her cheeks were adopting. “Deej, does,” she paused looking for the right words. “I don't know... does this seem weird to you? Us, I mean. ”

“Hell yeah it does,” he laughed. “I totally way to good for you and yet I find myself seriously liking you, like, a lot. It's almost surreal.”

“Such a romantic,” she replied in a monotone voice. “I know it sounds dumb, I don't know, I just... I'm genuinely, moderately happy for the first time in a long time. Don't take this the wrong way, it's just you're not really the guy I expected to be happy with. But all day... I missed you too. Make sense?”

“It's kind of awkward, I know,” Devin sat down across from her as she nibbled her fries while trying to maintain her attention on him too. “But it's only been twenty four hours, trust me, I'll disappoint you soon enough.” He smirked.

“Oh, no, it's not that, you've been disappointing me for three years now.” Lona laughed at him as he took on a hurt expression and gripped his wounded heart. “Thank you. For the food.”

He waved her off. “Eh, you don't have to think me, just taking care of my girl.”

Her cheeks flushed a bit redder as she added to her statement. “...and turning out to actually be a decent guy.”

“I just needed a reason,” he said with that irresistible charm of his. “I should be thanking you.”

She rolled her eyes, not buying his charm for a moment. Thankfully she knew Devin well enough to know that while he was sincere, he was also a consummate flirt. Still, she knew he was serious and for having him as a boyfriend for only one day so far... eh, he wasn't bad.

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Josh's heart grew heavier and heavier as his steps led him towards the room the Major indicated him, a while ago.

"Captain, your daughter is waiting for you in the conference room. I did not tell her you were here. Yet. I understood from the chatter the teenagers had, that she manifested powers. How, why, I cannot tell you, they themselves have no idea what hers are." Major Taggart's face softened a little. "She probably needs her father. She and her friends encountered... creatures in the hospital corridors." He paused for a moment, then added : "You can sign your gear off to Lt. Keighley. Go home, Captain. That'll be everything."

Josh rubbed the back of his head, confused, as he stopped in front of the conference room, and stared at the closed door. What next ? What would Branch Nine do about her ? A frustrated yet silent sigh escaped his lungs, and he slowly pushed the door open.

"Papa !" The shout came from the opposite side of the table, and already the small teen was hugging her father. "What are you doing here ?" She asked, looking up to meet her father's eyes.

"Well, I got word that my baby girl was teaching a lesson to Satan's spawn. I had to see that for myself !" He gave her a wry grin as she genuinely giggled. The grin widened as he added : "How was your first day at school ?" He then looked around, recognizing the teens he had been shortly briefed about the previous weekend. "Are those kids your classmates ?"

Kat turned towards the other teens, her gaze first falling on Jason's... grey sweatpants. It took her a couple seconds to realize what she was staring at, and her jaw slightly dropped. Oh God, he's looking at me. Fucking grey sweatpants ! Her cheeks colored themselves with a soft tinge of rose as Jason raised an eyebrow, cold amusement in his eyes as if to silently say "Well? What?" The rose on her cheeks turned to red, and she closed her mouth, replying : "Uh... Nothing..." She could feel the questionning look of her father weighing on her. "Yep, classmates. This is Jason Bannon." She turned to her father and whispered to him : "He's a... high-functionning psychopath, or whatever. He's one of the cool ones." Josh raised an eyebrow, but did not make any comment, as his daughter rapidly presented him the rest of the teens gathered in the conference room.

"Dad, here is Sean Cassidy. He's been really nice to me. Ms. Kyleson asked him to be my guide in the school, and I'm actually glad she did ! Sean, this is my dad." The teen said as they approached the rather feminine redhead, sat on a chair by his blue computer. He ? Josh thought as he tried to remember what little of the teen he knew. Ah, right. The Cassidy kid. Josh had overhead a few comments about the boy who looked like a girl on base. Even considering that, the Cassidy boy wasn't what he expected. Sean's hoodie couldn't hide a pronounced, top-heavy hourglass figure that very few teenaged girls could boast. His face was free of any cosmetics, but was fine featured, delicate and striking, with large and uncanny eyes - an inner, spiky ring of jade green encircled by turquoise blue. His hair was a shade close to his daughter's, and a little shorter, but a more feminine style, with a shaved undercut. It was strange to see a boy that looked distinctly more... womanly than his daughter.

"Hello, Mr. Barras," Sean said politely, his voice sweet velvet and melodious to match his appearance. "I'm glad to show her around, though I wasn't expecting this." Sean shrugged and gestured about them as he closed his laptop. "Still, at least she didn't have to deal with this alone."

"That was very nice of you to look after my daughter." Josh replied, unexpected amusement in his eyes as he threw a grin at Kat and thought about his next words. "Williams. Josh Williams. You can call me Josh if you want." He added with genuine amenity, to which Sean arched a brow and nodded in agreement. "Feel free to stop by our place someday. I'm glad to know Catherine's making new friends, but the house might feel empty during my work hours, for a lone teenager."

"I'll see what I can do," Sean said with a ghost of smile, reflecting on Kat giving him her number and calling him beautiful. He stood up, tucking his laptop under his arm, and Josh saw Sean was only modest of height, though still a few inches taller than Kat. "With everything that's going on, nobody should be alone or feeling lonely." Both Kat and Josh gave him an appreciative nod, and the former dropped a quick "See you, Sean !" before dragging her father towards the other redhead who had entered the room earlier.

"I didn't talk much to her," Kat whispered to her father as they approached the freckeled teen, "But she seems really nice. Hey, Autumn ! This is my father." Josh glanced at Autumn for a brief instant before recognizing her. Right. Earlier in the corridor, with the blonde girl... Allen ? He quickly looked around and caught a sight of Cassandra, sat by the table. All these kids have guts. His attention shifted back to the tousle-haired teen. "Hey, there."

That other redhead turned at the sudden, unexpected sound of her name, her sea-colored eyes wide (and not a little startled) as she glanced at the man standing next to the petite newcomer. Surprise quickly gave way to a smile of pleased recognition as she caught sight of the nametag on his uniform and replied, “Nice to see you again, Mr. Williams. I’m glad you made it back okay. I wasn’t sure-” Whatever she was about to say next was cut off as Devin swooped in, interrupting her mid-sentence. "Hey, Granola!" he called out, and when Autumn glared at him, the puckish playboy teleporter just blinked at both Kat and her father. "Oh, hey," he amended with an indifferent shrug, his brown eyes briefly flicking over their faces before returning his attention to his sister's best-friend-apparent, a mischievous grin spreading slyly over his handsome features.

A corner of his lips curved in a smile for a moment as Josh shook his head softly. "Hey, baby girl. It's about time we went home, what do you think ?" Kat made a face, but at the same time, she was excited at the idea of finally getting out of the hospital. "Yeah, let's go..." She replied. "See you tomorrow, Autumn. Goodbye, everyone !""

Father and daughter took their leave. Once outside, Kat took a deep breath of fresh air with satisfaction. She had had enough of that room. " So... How do we get home ?" She asked. Josh raised an eyebrow, then realized his car was 8.5 miles away, parked in the AFB's parking lot.

"Well, I guess I'll have to call Tess."

Edited by Catherine 'Kat' Barras

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