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Ep. V Intermission: Sean

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Wednesday 28th August

"So you're going to have the Talk with them tonight?"  Laurie asked as she and her brother sat together on the bleachers.  The now-taller redheaded Cassidy (and how Sean resented that!) was wearing her players jacket, complete with team logo and colors and her name with 'Kicker' under it, with some pride.  Sean nodded as he chewed on his burger, already planning it like a presentation - or a GM's game script.  His mind fairly hummed with the touch of Shine - or psionic energy to be exact - that he used to enhance it, and he was pretty sure he could relay everything they needed to know - which was a lot - without them freaking out.

Laurie gave her brother an assessing glance.  "You know they're going to freak out, right?"

"Some freaking out is definite."  Sean agreed, sighing.  "I mean, look how freaked out you were."

"That would have been less freaky if Jason Goddamn Bannon hadn't been the one giving me the red pill."  Laurie shot back.  "I swear, he was laughing his crazy ass off behind that robotic mask he calls a face."

"First: yeah, he has a flair for the dramatic."  Sean smiled a little.  "You should've seen what it was like when he showed all of us what he could do right at the beginning.  Lilly just about bust a gasket.  Second: he's not crazy."

"He's a psycho."  Laurie snorted, rolling her green eyes.

"Psychopath.  And he's still my friend."  Sean's voice was stern, an unusual tone from him and one which made his kid sister blink.  "He's not killed anyone, doesn't torture kittens, doesn't lie.  Jase trusted us all with his secret, and yesterday his dad finally found out, and then he went on a dangerous rescue mission to save a guy he doesn't even like.  Is he scary?  Sure - he can't help that any more than a... a tiger or wolf could if they were super-smart and telekinetic.  Do I think he would ever hurt me, or any of us?  Not unless we try to hurt him first.  He's stood by me all through school, never cared about or laughed at my condition, never belittled me or made me feel foolish for how I'm made.  So sis, and believe me I say this with love, don't call him a 'psycho' in front of me again."

"Whoa!"  Laurie raised her hands, eyes wide at the vehemence in Sean's tone.  "Chill.  Chill!  Okay!  I'm sorry."  She watched Sean un-bristle and glance away, watching the dudes tossing a ball around down below on the field.  "It's just...  Liam, and-"

"Liam was a creep and a rapey one."  Sean said more calmly, but still with some force.  "He might have gone after you someday.  Drugged your drink at a party, or just flat attacked you like he did to Lona."  He rubbed face in his hands, then looked at Laurie.  "Seriously, has Jase ever done anything to scare you?  Fucks sake, Laurie, he let you comb his hair just a couple months or so ago, and tease him about braiding it."

"That's what bothers me."  Laurie said quietly, glancing away from him.  "For years he's been like this..."

"Stray dog we adopted."  Sean finished for her, nodding as she looked back at him, startled.  "Yeah, I felt the same way at first.  A stray dog, a puppy, who'd come around and eat what he was offered and play puppy games - a little odd because of how he's raised, but nice, doesn't bite, basically a harmless puppy, right?"  Sean went back to following the game of catch on the field as he spoke, his tone thoughtful.  "And then he grows a bit, and you see he's not a puppy, he's a cub, and he's playing nice not because he has any instinctive need to please and belong, but because he's choosing to play nice so we won't be afraid."

"But why?"  Laurie shivered a little.

"Because he likes us."  Sean shrugged, smiling.  "Simplest explanation is usually the right one, even with Jason.  In his way, he enjoys our company, or he just wouldn't subject himself to it."  He raised a hand. "And don't ask me 'how can a guy without emotions like anyone?' because A: he has emotions, just not normal ones and B: I don't know."  He gave Laurie a sideways glance.  "Maybe you can ask him when you go talk to him about brain-training."

"Uh, whoa there horsey."  Laurie raised both hands defensively.  "Slow that roll."

"We talked about this."  Sean said calmly.  "I'm a genius, but I'm also your brother.  I might lack objectivity, or miss something due to my own intellectual biases.  I can code, hack practically any system even without Shine, and build a computer from the circuit boards up.  I'm good at other brain stuff, but I'm technically focused - I'm a digital mind by inclination.  Jase thinks about thinking.  About how to think, how to apply logic ruthlessly, how to learn.  Philosophy, language, rebuilding a car, building a computer, learning to cook, critiquing literature by long-dead dudes...  He sees something and he learns about it, because to him there's very little that's irrelevant - apart from possibly fashion and mainstream pop culture."  Sean grinned at that.  "Could I do what he does?  Sure - but it's not my bag.  My passion is tech, and all things computer related.  Jason's passion is learning itself for it's own sake."

"You think it's learning for learning's sake."  Laurie said sourly.  "I say that one day he's going to put together a master plan that involves haut cuisine, Russian poetry, and V8 engines that nobody will see coming and will wipe out the human race."

"Look on the bright side."  Sean said with a smirk.  "At least we won't see it coming."

"Ugh.  Fine!"  Laurie sighed, crossing her arms.  "I'll go and talk to him after school.  If I get killed and eaten, my ghost is going to totally haunt you."

"You'll be fine."  Sean smirked again.  "Probably fine, anyway."  He laughed as Laurie stuck her tongue out at him.

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

He'd dropped his sister off at the foot of the road leading up to the Bannon Farm for the simple reason that Laurie had decided that she didn't want her brother to act as a 'golden ticket' to get Jason's help, a principle that Sean privately agreed with.  Though he was protective of her, some things a person had to do for themselves as much as was reasonable, and Laurie trekking up there by her lonesome would probably garner at least a modicum of regard from Jason and would set up her request for aid as coming from her, rather than Sean.  He briefly considered cautioning Laurie to be polite - but held off from that.  Firstly, it was highly improbable Jason would hurt her even if she was rude to him - he'd more likely just give her the Cora Sandblasting treatment and send her packing: which was bad, sure, but also a life-lesson in why manners matter.  Secondly, Laurie was rebellious enough that cautioning her to be polite might have the opposite effect.

Sean put those concerns from his mind for now, though.  Laurelei would succeed or fail on her own merits - he had parents to clue in on what was going on.  Putting the Grand Cherokee in gear, he headed for home, his mind already preparing mental 'slides' for talking his parents through the situation at hand...

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Sean parked his deep green Grand Cherokee in the driveway of interlocking bricks that he and his two sisters had helped their father lay down several years ago, staring contemplatively at the old farmhouse that had been the Cassidy residence since pretty much there ever was a Shelly. For a moment, he reconsidered whether he should tell his parents everything - okay, almost everything - then gave his head a vehement shake before hopping out of his vehicle, locking it with a directed thought.

Since he had developed as he did and more or less moved into the Barn, his parents had largely left him to his own devices. Laurie had mentioned it before, but Sean had known it for truth, even if he hadn't consciously admitted it to himself. His interactions with his dad in particular had shifted as he had entered his tweens and teens, and it wasn't just his interests being more in computers and video games instead of home renovations. His parents were supportive, loved him nonetheless, but even to them, he was strange, weird. And after this evening, he would be even stranger, weirder, to them, if he could make them believe.

Sean went into the Barn and got his laptop - not the blue one, the red one he used for gaming and multimedia projects - then slipped into the rambling, single story farmhouse that had accreted additions over generations of Cassidy's. Sean found his mother in her office, either working on their finances or a client's.

"Hey, mom."

"Oh!" Carolyn Cassidy gave a surprised start and spun around to find her son standing in the doorway. "I didn't hear you there, Sean." She noted the uncharacteristically sombre expression on his face. "What's wrong? Bad news."

"News. Not necessarily bad," Sean said. "I have to tell you and dad something, something big. Where's dad?"

"He's at the Dobsons, finishing up the new shed and fencing," Carolyn replied with a faint hint of concern in her warm voice. She'd felt there had been something going on with Sean and his friends lately, and then there was the false alarm quarantine yesterday. "He should be back in time for supper. What is it? Should I call Laurie, make sure she's here to hear this too?"

"Laurie already knows," Sean admitted, giving his mom an apologetic shrug. "Most of it, anyway., and I just dropped her off as Jase's - he's helping her out with something. I didn't want to worry you and dad, but now, I think you should know."

"I... see," Carolyn said, her concern hardly ameliorated. Other than with his few close friends, Sean was rather introverted, not that she blamed but this was starting to worry her. She turned back to her laptop for a moment to save her work and shut the computer down, then spun back and stood up. "Well, then, let's get supper ready, so that's out of the way for when your father returns and you can say... what you have to say while it cooks. How do stuffed peppers sound?"

"Sounds great, we can make some bacon stuffed mushroom caps to go with them."

Sean preferred baking - it was all math to him, A + B at X heat for Z time = delicious - but enjoyed cooking just fine, which was good, since his parents insisted all their children help around the house and Sean preferred cooking to doing the dishes. Sean prepared the red and yellow peppers and the portabello mushroom caps, and cut up the veggies and gathered the herbs and spices, while Carolyn squeezed out the innards from the casings of Italian sausages and prepped the brown rice and bacon. Son and mother worked with experienced familiarity in the kitchen, neither of his sisters having much deftness with making food beyond toast, cereal, and coffee.

Sean and Carolyn just put the stuffed peppers and stuffed mushroom caps in the oven, when, almost as though it was perfectly timed, Jack Cassidy entered the house, work boots thudding on the carpet in the front vestibule.

"Smells good already, guys," Jack claimed as he made into the kitchen with a smile on his face, opening a post work beer from the fridge in the garage with a twist of his strong, calloused hands. He glanced over the island as he took at seat at the worn but well maintained oak kitchen table that was almost as old as the house. "What's in the oven?"

"Stuffed peppers and stuffed mushroom caps," Carolyn said with subdued serious and a caring smile as she squeezed his strong shoulder and bent over to kiss his balding head. "Sean has something he wants to speak to us about."

"Does he?"

"I do," Sean said firmly, turning from the sink where he'd just finished washing the pans and mixing bowls. He dried his hands with which and green checked towel, and nodded towards the living room. "There's a lot, but we can start while supper is in the oven."

Sean walked briskly, plucking up his laptop in passing, his parents following more slowly with concern and curiosity. Sean could hear his mom say she didn't know what this was about either in response to his dad's muttered inquiry.

His laptop was already opened and turned on on the coffee table, as was the TV, before his parents took a seat together on the couch. Some visuals aids might help besides the demonstration he was planning on making. Sean pursed his lips and spread out his awareness, very keen about any possible voyeurs or interlopers after the events of yesterday.

"So... this is going to be a lot, and at first, unbelievable," Sean began, standing before his parents as though giving a presentation at school. "But bear with me. I'm going to start with Shelly itself as a bit of background. You know how there seem to be some rather... unconventionally dark and violent events in our town's history?"

"Every small town in America has it secrets and shames, hon," Carolyn ventured uncertainly.

"Perhaps, but Shelly has more than its fair share," Sean continued. On the TV appeared clippings of many such events Jason had collected in his research and Sean had digitized, along with some that Sean had dug into on his own. "It goes back to the beginnings of Shelly, and well before that. And it's not mere coincidence or happenstance. It's affected our directly too, before now, I believe. That's why we're the only Cassidy's left in Shelly, when we used to be one of the biggest families around. You see, these... events occur on a regular cycle, every 27 years."

"Violence ain't like a swarm of locusts, of cicadas, Sean," Jack said with a frown.

"In this case, it is," Sean countered with unflagging certainty. "I have an uncle you guys never talk about, your brother, dad, who left Shelly, when was it?"

Jack's frown deepened as he shared a look with his wife Sean couldn't quite decipher. "I'd say it was about 26 years ago and that is about all I'm prepared to say on the matter."

"Mm-hmm, hold on to that thought. 26 years, and the cycle that we've found is scheduled to start in about a year, from what we can tell. There's a reason for these events, a darkness to Shelly, a Darkness behind, beneath the land where Shelly is. But there is also a Light that has been bred here, a Shine, a... Radiance that can fight against the Darkness."

Sean took a deep breath, then walked pass the point of no return, for himself and his parents. "It all started, for us, at least, during a party a few weeks before the start of school..."

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The spiced and savoury scent of baking stuffed peppers and stuffed mushrooms wafted into the living room. Sean's pale face was shaded into mixing hues of red, green, and yellow as orbs of condensed, deadly photons hovered about his head. Like Ioun Stones, now that Sean considered with a wan grin. His parents hadn't noticed he'd been manipulating the images from his laptop to the TV without an interface or had just thought it some big of technological trickery.

So he had made some other, more flamboyant demonstration. His mom had gasped and his dad's eyes had widened in surprise, but they hadn't really believed. His dad still didn't, trying to figure out how he'd done what he had. His mom seemed to have reluctantly come around after he had asked her to trust him and tuned up the efficiency of the electrical impulses in her brain. She believed, but it didn't make her happy.

"So, you're psychic? What does that mean, exactly?" Carolyn asked her son with tense interest. "Does is have something to do with this 'Dark' you mentioned?"

"Psionic," Sean absently corrected.

"Pardon?" Carolyn said, while her husband folded his arms and glowered, trying not to humour his son and wife, though doubt was seeping in.

"Psionic, not psychic, it's a minor distinction, but one I'm keeping," Sean explained. "And it means I, and others like me have a means to manipulate or influence specific underpinnings of reality, in certain ways."

"Harrumph!' Jack Cassidy groused.

"Hey! I didn't say we were breaking the natural laws of the universe, it just looks that way," Sean protested. "Actually, I think we're actually still bound by them. It's just... we're able to read the super fine print and have access to, um, clauses and sub-articles, others don't." The slim, curvaceous boy nodded towards the kitchen. "Supper smells ready. Can we continue this over food?"

~~+~~+~~+~~+~~+~~+~~+~~+~~+~~+~~+~~+~~

"So, who else is psy - excuse me, who else is psionic?" Carolyn queried casually, blowing gently on a forkful of red pepper, rice, and sausage to cool it. "All your friends who were quarantined with you at Marias, I suppose?"

Sean stiffened, then swallowed down the stuffed mushroom he had in his mouth with a hard gulp. "I'd... rather not say, mom. I'm telling you what I can, because shit has gotten serious and I think you'll be safer if you know what's going on. But I don't know everything others may have said to their parents or what they want others to know 'bout them." He took a sip of water then worried at a lip, before nodding to himself. "He's been over a lot over the years, and I don't think he'll mind much, but Jase is psychokinetic."

"Which is... he can move things with his mind?" Jack ventured, giving his head a small shake that he was even indulging this fantasy. "Handy, that."

"Among other things. Fly, for one. He can move, slow, or speed up atoms, I think," Sean expounded. He saw the looks on his parents' faces." I can shock things and shoot them with lasers. He can freeze them or set them on fire." Sean took several quick bites of his own stuffed pepper, then cocked his head to the side in thought. "Wasn't quite as weird as Jase revealing that he is a psychopath."

"What? Don't say such a thing, Sean," his mother scolded him. "Jase is a perfectly nice and polite boy, despite having such a hard life."

Sean ran his fingers down his face from hairline to chin in frustration. This should have been another conversation. "Okay, about psychopathy..."

~~+~~+~~+~~+~~+~~+~~+~~+~~+~~+~~+~~+~~

"Aliens, now? Government conspiracies and black ops agencies and secret bases under the hospital and prison? And Dr. Cook is all part of it?" Sean's father didn't quite bellow, pacing agitatedly through the living room, and running a hand through his thinning hair. "Sean, this sounds like one of the games you and your friends play."

"It does," Sean admittedly, perching on the arm of the recliner to stay out of his dad's way. "I mean, I'm living it, and I wouldn't believe it is I hadn't seen it for myself, heard it from Dr. Cook himself. But it's real." He nodded at the TV, where he had shown them some - specifically edited - scenes he had captured from the Crossroads escapade and the events at Marias. "I wouldn't take any jobs at the prison, hospital, or on base, if I were you. Y'know, just in case."

Jack gave his son a disgruntled look. He contracting business was a small one, so he didn't get many contracts from that group, and not big ones, and while he would miss the income, if what he son said was true, he had no intention on bidding for those contracts, let alone work for them.

"I find it hard to believe Dr. Cook was part of this, has done all you say he has, hun," Sean mother said once again, with a sad shake of her hair, twisting a curl of pale, strawberry blond hair in an old habit that only cropped up when she was stressed. "He seemed so nice, and did so much good for you."

"He did," Sean agreed with a sad, resigned grin. "But I think the good he was doing for me was really for him, to assuage all the guilt he felt for the bad he'd done, what lengths he's gone through in the pursuit of discovery." Site B... "He has helped me, but it doesn't make up for everything else he's done."

"... Does this psionic ability, or did Dr. Cook, have anything to do with... well, with, you, Sean?" Carolyn's voice was gentle, but she couldn't help but ask, her blue eyes bright with unshed tears.

"No, that's all me." And it's gonna kill me.

Sean's grin turned brittle and tight, hurt to see the pain in his mother's eyes, the guilt that she hoped his awkward, unconventional development was due to another's influence and not something she'd done, even if was only contributing to his messed up genetics.

~~+~~+~~+~~+~~+~~+~~+~~+~~+~~+~~+~~+~~

Sean sat on the porch swing under the covered veranda, rocking slightly. The old quilt his grandmother had stitched that usually rested on the swing, he pulled about his shoulders against a cool night breeze as he watched the stars, as he gave his parents some privacy to discuss what he had disgorged upon them. Turing, his grey cat, prowled out from under the swing and leapt up onto his lap. Green-yellow eyes regarded him impassively, head tilted slightly as he chirruped questioningly, then Turing began to purr as Sean absently pet him, brushing his cheeks and stroking him under the chin.

There was supposedly a crashed alien spacecraft at Site B. Was there another, others, up there watching Earth?

There was a soft footfall on the hardwood planking of the veranda and Sean recognized as his mother's gait, but didn't turn to look. Wordlessly, she joined him on the porch swing. Carolyn wanted to put her arms about her middle child, but Sean had grown reticent with being touched as he'd grown into his teens, so she contented herself with just bumping his shoulder with her own.

"You know, when you said you had something to talk about with us, Sean, neither I nor your father even suspected it was something like this," she said, a bit of exhausted humour leavening her tone.

"Yeah?"

"Mmm-hmm. We thought you were going to tell us you were planning on a more... drastic, or surgical option to deal with condition, one way or another."

Sean slowly craned his neck to look at his mother. She looked back, brows raised, expression patient and concerned, and judgement-free. There was the barest curve to one side of her mouth, bemused at her own jump to conclusion and being so blindsided by what Sean had actually told her.

Sean laughed. It started as fitful, stifled giggles, then grew into full blown, full bellied guffaws. He laughed so far his cheeks hurt and it started to hurt to breathe.

"All this stuff is happening," Sean hiccuped, trying to regain his breath. "And while I still don't care much for how most people who know treat me, or the comments they make, I'm actually starting to be okay with how I am. I can even see maybe liking it, someday."

And it might kill me.

Edited by Sean Cassidy
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Intermission wrapped:  3XP - good posts, nice dialogue, good characterisation of PC and NPCs.  A believable and warm normal family discussion - rare in Shelly :D

 

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