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Ep. V Intermission: Jason

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Posted (edited)

Wednesday 28th August

Insects buzzed, birds called back and forth to one another as sneaker-shod feet scuffed the summer-dry ground.  Much like a diminutive redhead less than ten miles away was doing, Jason was out for a run - albeit with less throwing up and panting than the unfortunate Kat.  Dawn on the farm's acreage was peaceful - his father had gone to Great Falls to see about getting some equipment hired to get the farm in shape and Jason had the place to himself.

His father was trying hard, the lean youth noted as he finished his circuit and slowed to a jog, then a walk.  He'd not had a drink last night, though his gaze had often traveled to the bottle on the shelf he'd seemed to be telling himself 'no' each time.  Jase pretended he didn't notice, wondering if all along all he'd needed to do to 'fix' his father had been to reveal the simple truth to the man.  It was possible, he conceded as he stripped off his clothes and showered, relishing the cold spray's initial contact before the water warmed up.  It was also possible that his father would relapse - it all hung on how dependent on alcohol Gar was.  Jason was no expert - but perhaps Autumn could tell with her life-sensing powers.  Could they detect a physical or mental dependency?  Better, could they treat one?  Musing on that, he fixed himself a quick breakfast and headed out to the barn.

Hid dad had floated the idea of perhaps using some of the farm's land to set up larger versions of Jason's barn hothouse, growing certain commercially in-demand flowers for sale to florists.  Jason hadn't seen anything wrong with the idea, as such, though something in him protested the turning of his peaceful aesthetic hobby into a business, no matter how pragmatic an idea it was.  Sensing a measure of faint reluctance Gar had let the subject lay unresolved for now, instead making plans to grow standard farm crops.  Jason was happy to let his dad take the lead on this - farming commercially was not really his interest, though he would of course help out as he could.  It was too bad Montana still forbade the growing and distribution of marijuana, or else he'd be in a position to make his father and he incredibly rich.  But such was life - Montana was where he lived, and so his weed business had to remain underground.

As he finished tending his plants and emerged from the barn, blinking in the sunlight, his gaze was immediately drawn to a blue sedan that was coming slowly up the dirt road.  He walked slowly towards the house, eyes narrowing as they caught a flash of blonde hair behind the driver's side window, and when the car stopped and the driver got out, the narrowed eyes took on a warning glitter that would have dissuaded all but the most driven - or the most stupid.  He waited by the steps leading up to the broad porch, his attitude one of stillness as his mother donned a pair of sunglasses and walked towards him.

Kaitlin Forster sighed as she spotted that glitter in her son's eye.  It was dangerous coming here - she was under no illusions that, if he felt the need, her son would and could readily kill her and dispose of the evidence.  He had no reason to like her or love her - in fact he had plenty of reason to distrust and hate her, and his nature meant that the least indication of a threat would be all the excuse needed to strike.

"Jason."  she said, coming to a halt six feet from him.

"Ms Forster.  My father called the school.  As you can see, I am convalescing at home."  Jason's tone was clipped, cold.  "Is there a reason for your visit?"

"I want to talk."

"What a shame that I don't."

"Is it not possible that I might have something useful to say?" she asked quickly as he started to turn away.  The old methods, learned as a child.  Logic.  Appeal to rationale.  Appeal to emotion meant that his resentment and anger towards her would color the response.  But appeal to his intellect...

"You might." he conceded.  "You have thirty seconds."  He turned back towards her, watchful as a mongoose staring at a snake that had wandered into it's den.

"Can we sit?"

"Twenty five."

"You're in danger."

"Nothing I don't already know.  Twenty."

"From my family."

That made him pause.  "Go on."

"I ran away from them, years ago.  They are, mostly, like you."

"A family of psychopaths."  he didn't look as though the idea was ridiculous, at least.

"Yes... and no.  That's not strictly what you are.  I mean, it's what medical knowledge here would call you, but that's because they don't know enough."

He absorbed that, mulling it over.  "Are they here in Montana?"

"Not yet."  Kaitlin paused.  "They are- I am from... elsewhere."

That got his interest.  "The Land of Upside Down Thunder?"

"What?"  Kaitlin looked puzzled.  Jason hesitated, pondering that.

"This elsewhere you're from - is it a dark place, looks burned and corrupted, and east and west are backwards?"

"No."  Kaitlin shook her head.  "That's a pocket realm, sounds like.  Our realm is like Earth, I suppose.  Only different."

Jason stared hard at the woman who had given birth to him.  "You look human."

"I am.  Sort of.  Close enough to mate with one and produce you."  Kaitlin felt a thrill of nervousness as he studied her anew.  "It's a long, long story."

"If you lie to me, and I find out..."  Jason began, his pale eyes taking on a dangerous glitter once more.

"I don't lie."  Kaitlin snapped, not at all timid as she met his stare.  "Any more than you do." she added more softly.  "That's something we all share."  Slowly, she drew a long, slender knife from inside her jacket sleeve and offered it to him hilt first, it's thin blade glinting like silver in the sun.  Jason took it, hefting the weight of it, taking a moment to examine the metal.  "I surrender my fate to you."  Kaitlin said in a formal manner.  "In trust that you will return my fate to me when you see fit."

He considered her for a moment more, his face inscrutable, then swept a hand towards the house.  "You'd better come in.  But you have to be gone before dad gets home.  I won't let you hurt him again."

"That's the last thing I want."  she said softly as she followed her son up the porch steps.

Edited by GDP_ST
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"We call ourselves Teulu."  Kaitlin began, cradling a mug of coffee between her palms.  "It means 'the family', or 'the kin'. As the name suggests, blood ties are important to us."

"I suppose there's an exception to every rule."  Jason's eyes were hard as he regarded his mother, who shifted in her seat.

"I was afraid of you.  I'm a... a runt amongst my- our people.  Not physically, or mentally, but emotionally I am 'weak'.  A throwback to our 'animal' roots, as they would say."  Kaitlin leaned forward, hand shifting as though to reach out, but obviously thought better of it.  "When I saw the test results, I didn't need to go for a full genetic test - I knew you were Family.  I panicked.  I actually thought because I was a throwback that you would be too, that I could have a mostly-human child with Gareth.  I'm... I'm sorry, Jason."

"How non-human am I?"  he asked, ignoring her apology and the heartfelt look in her eyes.  Kaitlin sighed, taking a sip of the coffee.

"You share ninety-nine point two-two percent of nucleotide sequences with Sapiens Sapiens."

"That's quite a large difference.  Neanderthal man shared ninety-nine point seven."  He remarked.  Kaitlin nodded, glancing around the neatly-kept farm kitchen, then back at her son.  Naturally, he seemed to be completely composed, but a lifetime of reading her family informed every small gesture, ever microscopic tick of the eye.  He was intrigued, and suspicious.  "What are the notable differences?"

"Primarily neurological, though there are a few anatomical ones.  Most Teulu are psychopaths, by human standards, though they have certain hard-wired differences.  They tend to be clannish rather than strictly solitary, choosing a group as an extension of themselves, and regarding everything outside that group as expendable and irrelevant.  They lack fear, or remorse, or shame, capable of any action if it furthers their personal goals and strengthens, or at least doesn't weaken, the clan.  Apart from lying."

"Lying.  Yes."  Jason regarded her curiously.  "Is that a cultural taboo?  Because I have always hated it myself.  It..."

"Feels wrong?"  his mother finished.  "Like a perversion of reality.?"

"Yes." Jason nodded, his head tilting slightly.  "Where does that come from?"

"From our gods."  Kaitlin raised an eyebrow at the skeptical look in Jason's eyes.  "Seriously."

"Gods."  he stated, the word a study in doubt expressed in a single syllable.

"Not some ephemeral spirits floating around, imagined by delusional old shepherds who ate too many of the wrong mushrooms.  I mean the elder beings who took us, in ancient times, and changed us.  Once we were human, but the gods - two beings of great power and cunning and patience - wanted warriors.  Smart warriors, ruthless and aggressive yet capable of teamwork and loyalty.  They took some humans and improved them.  One of the changes they made was an instinctive anathema for lies.  We can obfuscate, or keep secrets, or hide our intent, or dance around the truth with word games, but we cannot outright lie, or deliberately break our word."

"Hmm."  Jason pondered that, gazing down at the black swirl of the coffee in his cup.  "What other changes did the gods make?"

"Developmental speed was increased: mentally generally, physically as well for females.  We're generally more intelligent on average than humans - not dramatically so, but enough to matter, and like you, most Teulu don't get distracted by emotional concerns.  A female Teulu is of child-bearing age at the age of ten - and looks like a human girl of sixteen or seventeen.  We also have four ovaries, and often give birth to multiple children at once.  Twins are the norm.  We're also fertile longer - menopause does not start until the fifth decade of life at the earliest.  Males age at a more human pace - perhaps a touch faster, enough to be considered 'early bloomers' by human standards.  We live longer, barring accidents or violence a Teulu can live healthily well past a hundred.  Violence, however, is common on our world.  Clans war against each other over resources, or simply to raid one another for mates and children."

"That sounds wasteful."  Jason noted clinically.

"It is."  his mother agreed.  "Each clan has a male and female pairing leading it, and it is not in the nature of any Teulu to easily submit and follow.  Even the most capable and strong leaders are constantly alert for challenges to their supremacy, within and without.  If a younger pairing desire and have support, they can even strike out and form their own clan, taking warriors and females with them.  Even within clans, fights and contests happen often - females will compete over a male who is considered viable mating material, males will compete over station, or to court a female they desire, or to reinforce their claim to a particular offspring.  There is a code to prevent Teulu simply murdering each other over differences, but it is still a bloody, Darwinian existence.  Personal cunning and ruthlessness are the most prized traits, with learning, strength, looks and fertility coming a close second.  Value and loyalty to the clan is also praised."  She paused, a look of distaste on her face.  "We have knowledge and technology far in advance of this place.  We should be doing more than endlessly quarreling the way we do.  That's one reason I left."

"Where is their- our I guess- world?"  

"Sideways."  Kaitlin met his eyes as she sipped her coffee, then explained.  "It's between dimensions.  Sort of a large pocket, created by the gods to house us.  Every so often, it's possible to cross the boundary, and our hunters range out looking for resources, or breeding stock."

"Define 'every so often'."  Jason asked immediately.

"Every two hundred years or so, maybe.  It's called Circle Time, and it's the one time when the clans don't fight each other.  They hunt humans, and other intelligent species - for sport, for trophies, for food or for breeding stock."

"We can breed with humans, then... Of course we can."  Jason flicked a finger as he dismissed that question.  "And the offspring is always Teulu?"  As Kaitlin nodded, he 'hmmed' and sipped his coffee.  "Did you come here during a Circle Time?"

Kaitlin sighed.  That was a question she'd hoped he wouldn't ask.  "No.  I made a deal with... one of the gods."

"You've actually met these gods?" he leaned forward, fascination now in the gleam of his eyes.  

"One of them."  she corrected.  "He's called 'the Trickster'.  He's a figure like the Native American Coyote, or the African Anansi, or Loki from the Norse myths on this world.  It's from him we get our cunning and intelligence, so it's said, but he's also where we get our stubbornness and desire for freedom from."

"What deal did you make?"

"That is my business."  she said, lifting her chin defiantly.  Jason studied her, eyes narrowing.

"Was it-" he began, but she interrupted.

"Listen.  You could ask hundreds of questions, and we could be here all day.  I came here to warn you that Circle Time is coming, and my clan is likely going to want to trace down what happened to me.  They will probably find you, and you have something they want."

Jason paused, thinking for a moment, then stated rather than asked "Shine."

"Radiance.  Yes.  The Teulu have a trace of it, a bare trace.  Enough to make our trackers excel at tracking, our mind-speakers able to talk without words, and our healers instinctively able to diagnose ailments and injuries."  She raised a hand, and a spoon rose slowly from the sugar bowl, turned once in the air, then settled again.  "That is the limit of what I, or any psychokinetic amongst us can do.  You are far beyond that, aren't you?  I can feel the Radiance pouring out of you, just like it pours out of your friends."  She leaned towards him, placing a hand on his.  He didn't pull away, but his stare was steady as he returned her gaze.

"The clan will want that gift.  They will probably want your friends, too. It's a valuable resource, a genetic gold mine.  And Circle Time is maybe two years away, perhaps less.  I made a deal with the Trickster, and I think he knew what would happen when I did it, young and foolish and thinking I could escape.  You have to be ready, Jason.  I don't know if you can hide from them, or run from them.  But I don't want you to be taken unawares."

"Why?"  he asked simply.  "Why warn me?"

"Because you are my son."  she said with feeling.  "Because I am so sorry that I ran from you.  And I want to make amends.  I owe you at least this warning."  She studied his cold gaze and, greatly daring, lifted her hand to touch his sun-darkened cheek.  He didn't slap her hand away, or draw back, but nor did his expression soften.  "I don't expect this to square us."  she said.  "But please, accept it as an apology from your foolish mother."

He slowly reached up and took her hand in his for a moment, holding it gently, then let go.  "Alright.  I accept the apology."  He took a slow, deep breath and let it out, the only sign of inner turmoil she could perceive.  "Mother."

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He'd given her back the knife, understanding that it's surrender to him had some formal significance and it's return likewise, and stood motionless as she'd once more touched the stoic, immobile plane of his cheek, meeting her eyes.  As she turned to go, he'd asked the one question he'd set aside so far.

"Is your name really Kaitlin Forster?"

She'd paused, then turned back to him with a faint smile and a hint of sadness in her eyes.  "It is the name I chose for myself, so it is 'my name' in that regard.  But no, it is not the name my mother gave me."  She had hesitated, seeing the question in the gleam of his jade eyes.  "Catheen."  She'd swallowed, feeling the old words surface.  "Catheen of the Ddraig, born from Elssbett by Iskand.  That is how my full name would translate, spoken in our tongue."

"So I would be Jason, born from Catheen by Gar?"  he inquired.  She'd nodded, a sudden chill seizing her as she heard her son refer to himself in the traditional way.  

"Technically, unless you had another clan name, you would use your mother's."  she said.  "But you aren't of the clans, Jason.  You don't have to be.  You were born outside them, and you were not raised like a normal Teulu male."  She had stepped back close to him, looking up at his face.  "You've never killed-"

"I have."  he corrected quietly.  "I killed a monster.  Yesterday."  She'd shaken her head and reached up, cupping his face in her palms.

"You didn't let me finish.  You've never killed a thinking, feeling opponent, face to face, and watched the light fade from their eyes with satisfaction.  You've never hunted down a sapient creature, like a human being or a rival Teulu, for sport and taken a trophy from their body, or eaten their flesh.  You've not had your aggressive instincts honed and encouraged as a marker of your superiority and innate right to dominate those around you.  That capacity for all that violence and aggression is in you, a sleeping beast that stirs now and then.  But you've not lived the life that would nurture your savagery - and I don't want that for you.  And I bet your friends wouldn't, either.  Or your father."

He'd pulled back slowly from her familiar embrace, his warning gaze at the invocation of his father and friends a wall of green ice, a reminder that, whilst there had been progress today, there was still a barrier between them  Perhaps there always would be.  She'd nodded acknowledgement, then spoke again, her voice soft.  "I will be staying in Shelly.  You will have more questions - you know where to find me."  She hesitated a second.  "Your... father.  Is he well?"

"Do you care?" came the reply, cool and matter of fact.  Kaitlin had nodded slowly.

"I do."  Her son had studied her face, her eyes warily, then shrugged.

"He just learned yesterday that I am a psychopath with psionic powers, and I'm not sure how he really is doing now.  I think he might be getting better, or at least have been jerked from his sadness."  Jason had looked across the farm fields, overgrown grass and scrub swaying in the morning breeze, then back at his mother.  "I think I will save the revelations of today for awhile.  And the fact that you are in town."

"Don't hold back the information too long."  she'd advised.  "When Circle Time comes, there won't be time for him, or your friends, to sit around and digest it."

And then she had left, without seeking to touch him or express further familiarity despite the urge to hug him.  Even if he had been a regular human boy and she his human mother, the gulf between them was still not bridged.  But perhaps it would be, one day.  As she'd driven away, heading for the school and her human existence, the woman who called herself Kaitlin Forster allowed herself to experience a human sensation unknown to the Teulu: that of hope.

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Intermission is wrapped here.  2XP for writing and characterisation, +1 for Short Term Aspiration (Find out why his mother is in Shelly) = 3XP


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