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Catherine 'Kat' Barras

Sean and Kat - Saturday : Power-Gaming [Ep. V Sidefiction]

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Posted (edited)

Saturday : Power-Gaming

 

Introduction

 

Waking up before the alarm goes off. Sliding the alarm off right when it goes off. Yawning. Sitting on her bed. Standing up on the wooden floor. Opening the window. Staring at herself in the wardrobe mirror. Down goes the shirt. Down go the shorts. More staring. Panties on. Sports bras on. Sport shorts on. Sport shirt on.

Kat went down the stairs, ready to meet her daily fate. The grim shadow of her tormentor casted a strange shape on the hall, projected by the tall and athletic figure of her father.

“Hey, Dad.” Said her hoarse and sleepy voice.

The man who was her father seemed well awake, alert and on the lookout, as he was every morning. “Hey, baby girl. Ready for some scouring ?”

“Whatever.” She replied, with a cute yawn revealing a cuter set of white teeth firmly aligned on her maxillary and her mandible, half-hidden behind soft pink lips neither too slim nor too thick for her heart-shaped warmly-toned features.

His daughter was definitely getting some tan, with the beautiful weather they had had these last weeks, Josh thought. He would not be surprised if enough sun exposure would reveal her mother’s freckles on his daughter’s for now smooth skin. He knew too well how the weather was generally, in Brittany, far enough from the sea like Rennes was. A grey sky punctuated by timid periods of cowardly sun. He also knew too well how much time his daughter spent inside, rather than being out there, enjoying the weather. This was partly the reason why he insisted on this morning jogging. To instill a bit more life in Kat.

Since that incident with the Jaffré boy, she had progressively closed in on herself. Each time he visited, his daughter only seemed more and more the ghost of herself. She had never been much of an outside person, always much of a pale little girl who abhorred the sun, but it was getting worse. When Isabelle had called him and asked for him to take care of Kat this year, he had seen an opportunity to put back a smile on her sweet face. And according to him, there was only one good way. Action, rather than words.

“Oh, I’m gonna wake you up.” He said with a grim smile, and his daughter shuddered.

Then both of them went into the sunny morning.

 

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Running. Panting. More running. More panting. Death. Rebuff. Surpassing.

She was bent, hands on her knees, butt against tree, spitting the lungs out of herself. Blood was pumping hard and loud from her heart to her face, her limbs, everywhere, on and on.

“Top.” Her father snapped, and she reached for her throat, her pulse, and began counting, mimicking her father as he stared intently at his wristwatch.

“Stop.” He snapped, fifteen seconds later. “How much ?”

“Forty,” she replied in a wheezing voice.

“Better than yesterday. And on a little more than one and a half mile.” He nodded approvingly. “See ?” He added with a wink. He stared at her for a moment. She progressed faster than any runner he had trained with, even if it was on a smaller scale. Something in her strides was… off. Lighter. Graceful. Even when tired and hammered by the effort, his daughter found a way to move those legs that felt… light. Maybe that had to do with what those kids were able to do. He remembered Major Taggart warning him that his daughter had shown abilities, ‘yet unquantified’.

“So, I’m making progress ?” Kat gasped out, pulling him out of his thoughts.

“We’ll see after the sprint…” He replied, and his daughter rolled her eyes, leaving the tree and following him on the way back home.


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Sighing.

A gentle moan under the caress of the warm water, streaming from her hair down to her shoulders, sliding along the bend of her back, the curve of her butt, warming and relaxing the growing muscles in her butt and legs. Her body was adapting rather well to the treatment it endured every morning, partly thanks to the teenager’s voracious appetite, and partly thanks to the teenager’s mindset. After every torture session, she felt alive. Tired, but alive. And after each breakfast, she felt a newfound surge of energy. It felt good. She wanted more of that.

Kat lifted her chin to meet the shower flow face to face while it washed away the thin layer of sweat covering her body.

Relaxation.

 

--------------------

 

Today, she decided that this morning, she would focus on the other side of her powers. Knowing she was a telepath, and having received a couple pointers was for sure a couple steps forward, but there was this other thing. Thanks to her getting used to telepathy, she had a rough idea of where to dig for the other side of the coin

She was sitting on her bed, cross-legged, controlling her breathing. It was easy to find, really. The world turned darker, but nothing really changed, and she blinked, surprised. She felt like something had been turned on, but she could see much difference. She turned it off. Then on, then off again. She rubbed the back of her head, perplex. She retreated in her jungle-mind, and opened the chest casually, fumbling around, occasionally dismissing parasite thoughts buzzing around her like mosquitoes.

Suddenly, her vision turned darker, once again, but this time, something else was there. Like juxtaposed to reality. Like water rippling into matter. She frowned. That was a third Third Eye. Confused, she shook her head and turned it off, rising to her feet to take notes.

On her desk, her phone buzzed, and as she reached for it, she accidentally bumped it off. “Shit !” Time seemed to slow down as the mobile phone fell to its inevitable demise, the word slowly forming on Kat’s lips, and she reached for the device.

Dull slapping noise.

Kat blinked twice as she straightened up, rising her hand in front of her eyes, staring at the phone, stuck to her open hand. She shook it. The device remained immovable. She shook it again, swearing in a low voice. Still there. Then she realized something was actually happening. Intuitively, she turned the second version of her Third Eye on, looking at her hand.

Information flooded her, and she gasped, slowly recoiling and sitting on her bed, puzzled. “That’s awfully convenient,” she muttered to herself. She understood a couple things. First, the sensory stuff she had used in the hospital was actually what she was using right now. She could feel it. Second, it seemed to actually work on powers. Third, if she focused on a detected power, it gave her a rough understanding of what was happening. Fourth, she actually had changed gravity’s pull on the phone from the Earth to her hand. Roughly. It felt more complex than that, but she didn’t have the words to even explain it to herself.

She extended her hand palm down above the bed, then turned the thing off, and the phone fell onto the bed. It confirmed her second postulate. She had to take notes. Things were getting sooooo much more interesting.

 

--------------------


 

Spoiler

This is merely an introduction to the sidefiction.

I felt like getting bored, so may this entertain you the same way it did for me.

 

Edited by Catherine 'Kat' Barras
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She was lying on her bed, like a starfish, once again fiddling with telepathy while quietly digesting lunch. She was amazed at how far her perception of minds could extend to. She was currently stretching it to a rough hundred and fifty feet, but felt like she could do double, with some effort. She now made sure to be very delicate with her handling of minds, after Courtney had given her pointers, the day before. She retracted the immense web her mind had become to focus on the neighbor, the one with the oak and the squirrels. He wasn't currently home, but his wife was. Boredom, tranquility, and... was she listening to some music ? That had to be blues. The loud purr of an engine distracted her from her mind analysis, and she reinstalled her spying web, catching the familiar scent of the driver's mind. Sean. Shit, what time is it ? 2PM already ?

Sean came to a gentle stop as he parked on the side of the road, then clambered out of the jacked up Grand Cherokee Trailhawk. He loved his vehicle, knicks and scrapes and all, but even he had to admit it was awfully high for someone of his modest height and was eternally grateful for the solid running boards it was equipped with. Kat could hear the knocking on the door and the soft footfalls heading towards it, recognizing the gait as Tess'. Tess opened the door to find a very striking figure standing there, a redhead with an undercut hairstyle and odd eyes, wearing a black t-shirt, faded olive cargo pants and an unzipped blue hoodie with yellow trip with 101 imprinted high on the left, that did nothing to conceal a remarkably curvaceous figure.

"Hi, I'm Sean," the teenager said in a rich, sweet melodious voice, switching a heavy plastic bag holding various computer components from one hand to the other. "I'm here to see Kat. I'm helping her build a gaming rig - a computer - for her."

"Oh." Tess' eyes widened in astonishment as she realized this was the boy Kat had mentioned. This was far from what she was expecting however. "Oh! Yes, of course, please, come in, Sean. I'm Tess. I'll go let Kat know you're here."

The dark-haired woman went up the stairs, gently knocking at the teenager's door. "Honey ? Your friend, Sean, is here." She could hear some fumbling, and opened the door, curious. "Is everything alr-" Kat was standing in front of her wardrobe, wearing nothing but slim blue jeans, and bras. In one hand, she held a white and bronze sailor top, and in the other, a flowered blouse in chocolate tones. Tess chuckled. "The blouse will do fine..." She rolled her eyes and added : "I'll tell him you're getting ready." She was already halfway down the stairs when she heard a yelled "Thank you !", and chuckled once more. "Kat's getting ready upstairs, she shouldn't be long. Would you like anything, a drink maybe ?" She told the young boy once she reached the hall.

Tess caught Sean glancing up the stairs, then hid a grin as he shifted his weight from one foot to the other with a hint of boyish impatience with the female 'getting ready' comment. That was the same, at least. "Yeah, sure, I'd like that. Tess," Sean said, still just a tad uncomfortable using an adult's name, even if Tess didn't look that much older than him. "A cup of coffee with too much sugar would be great if it's not too much trouble, but water is fine."

"Oh, I can make you some coffee, no problem." With a short gesture inviting him to follow her, she went to the kitchen and proceeded to make some coffee, throwing a quick glance back at her guest. "So, you... share some classes with her ?" She asked, busy with a filter.

Sean took a seat at the island, turning on the stool so he was sitting sideways to the island, so he didn't have anything 'personal' pressing into the edge or plopped on the surface. He sat his bag by the base of the stool. "We share Chemistry and Art in the morning," Sean said, trying not to feel slightly self-conscious. Tess was young, not all that much older than him or Kat. He was used to how most adults reacted to him when they knew, their obvious and not so obvious tells about what they really thought about him. Tess was being very polite and gracious that when he caught the occasional slip up and noticed the wondering in her eyes or posture, it was a little jarring. "But I've also been showing Kat around the school, making sure she knows where everything is, knows how things are done, officially and unofficially, and has the little extra bit of paperwork. That kinda stuff."

The dark-haired woman turned back towards the teenager, leaving the machine to drop water onto the coffee by itself, and flashed a charming smile to the strangely shaped boy sat by the island. "How nice of you !" Of course, she already knew that, she remembered very well the conversation she had in the car with her boyfriend's daughter. "Oh, speaking of Art, did she tell you she draws and paints in her spare time ? I've seen some of it a couple days ago, and it looks pretty good." She added with an approving nod, before grabbing a mug from a cupboard, and setting it in front of Sean, along with the sugar. "You'll dose it the way you like it, eh ?"

"Thank you," Sean said with a smile and nod, dumping in enough sugar that most coffee connoisseurs would call it a felony. Sean took a sip, and smile in satisfaction as the sweetness and heat of the coffee. "I didn't she drew and painted. I draw some and paint miniatures, but most of my artwork is done digitally." "Interesting," Tess murmured, making her self a cup of coffee. "Just art to share, or to sell?" "Sell, sort of. I mean, I'm on several sites. And I have done some concept art. But it's more for my roleplaying games and the video games I've made. I've done one, and am almost done with another." Sean's grin widened in private delight and amusement. "I've made a lot of progress lately."

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"Hello there !" Kat's soft voice rang through the kitchen. She was all jeans, blouse and booties, her leather jacket under her left arm, and a discreet layer of make-up adorned her smiling features. She waved at Sean before scooting over the fridge, grabbing the orange juice and pouring herself a large glass.

"Sorry for taking so long, I only realized it was 2PM when I, uh, heard your car." She rubbed the back of her head, then swallowed a large amount of her OJ.

Tess glanced at the petite redhead, curiosity and mild amusement in her eyes. "When should we expect you to come back? This evening ?" She asked, hiding a mischievous grin behind a sip on her coffee.

Still ashamed about the evening before, Kat first looked at her feet, then glanced at Sean, asking for help.

"Hey there yourself, Kat," Sean replied, raising his mug of coffee in a greeting salute to the svelte French girl.

Sean finished his coffee with a couple of quick sips then slipped off the kitchen stool. He reclaimed his plastic bag and tucked it a bit awkwardly under his arm, his turquoise and jade eyes flicking between Kat and her father's girlfriend. He got the sense there was something going on between them, though didn't know enough to even guess at what.

"Weeeell, we're only going to Great Falls to pick up a few things. An hour there, an hour at most to shop, and an hour back, we should be back by five, six at the latest," Sean answered Tess, with a slight bit of hesitancy. "A few hours afterwards to put it all together and run a few tests, we should have it done by this evening."

His uncanny gaze shifted back to Kat. "Is that alright? If you have something to do with the family this evening, I can put it all together at home and drop it off tomorrow morning, Kat. No probs."

Tess shook her head negatively, hmm-ing over her mouthful of coffee. She swallowed and replied, "It's alright. I was teasing the little damsel over here about last evening, when she arrived two hours late for dinner. Take your time, but please Kat, this time, text me when you're on the way back from Great Falls, a'ight ?"

The smaller teen rubbed the back of her head. "Yeah, I'll try not to forget this time..." She finished the rest of her OJ, then turned to her curvaceous friend. "Let's go? Laters, Tess!"

"If she does, I won't," Sean assured the dark-haired beauty Kat's dad was dating, giving her a small, two fingered wave. "Later."

Sean lead Kat outside to his SUV, unlocking the doors with a thought rather than the fob in his hand. He put the plastic bag of parts behind the driver's seat, then climbed up behind the wheel. Kat climbed up into the passenger seat with more athletic grace than Sean had.

Sean brought the Grand Cherokee to life, put it onto gear, and carefully manoeuvred out of his parking spot on the side of the street, since someone had decided to park right behind him instead of using practically anywhere on the rest of the block. Starting on the way to Great Falls, he arched an amused brow at his passenger.

"Damsel, hmm? What were you doing last night that you were a damsel? in some sort of distress, I presume, and who saved you?"

"Ugh..." The petite redhead sighed. "I was having a great time with Courtney, and at one point, I just... lost track of time, I guess..." The delicate pink coloring her cheeks told there was more to it, but she didn't go on the details, except... "Oh, yeah, right. At first, we were talking about telepathy. She made me a deal: she'll share her insights on... stuff, 'cause she was part of the Project, right? So she maybe trained her abilities a different way than you did, et caetera, but in exchange for her help, I'd get her in the group training session, including the one on Sunday... Would that be... possible ?"

"Ask Jason," Sean said a touch sharply, turning his attention fully on the road. "I'm doing something else, tomorrow."

He hadn't made definite plans, but he suddenly decided what he was doing tomorrow, so it wasn't really a lie. He could even claim it as a personal training session. Despite himself, noticing Kat's soft blush, he couldn't help but wonder what Kat meant by a great time with Courtney, and why'd she lose track of time.

"I'm sure Jase will take your reasoning into consideration, and see the logic in allowing Courtney to attend." His lovely tone turned grudging, his lips pursed in something dangerously close to a pout. "If you want, I'll ask Jason myself on your behalf."

The French girl took a moment to compose herself, cherry-red lips still haunting her thoughts. "I'd ask him myself, but I don't have his number..." She'd sensed her friend's change of attitude more than she'd noticed it, as her telepathy was more and more becoming a part of herself rather than a tool. She glanced at Sean, wondering.

"Is there... something? Between you and Courtney? I mean... she didn't seem to like you much..." Her curiosity was piqued. "If I'm out of bounds, sorry for asking, but if I'm ever to throw a party some day, it could help to know who hates who. I've had my lot of drama back in France," she added, a hint of weariness seeping through her soft tone.

Kat saw Sean's hands tighten on the wheel, his abundant chest rise and fall as he took several deep, calming breaths. His silence was telling, as were the pings of emotion Kat couldn't help but catch radiating off him.

"It's... It's okay, you're new here, to the dynamics of Shelly High," Sean said coolly. Kat could tell the coldness wasn't meant for her, just the history. "Yes, there is 'something' between me and Courtney. It's because of her everyone at school found out I was growing these!"

Sean arched his back, making the very obvious even more obvious. Not like I could've kept them secret for much longer.

"She didn't like me much before, she hated me after, and her and her goons just got worse as time went on. And I haven't grown to like her any over that time either."

Getting on I-15, and passing the outskirts of Shelly, Sean gave Kat a level glance when he had a moment. "Look, I have no right to say or even suggest who you want to be friends with, Kat. Just be careful with her. Just because she's part of the weird too, doesn't mean you can trust Courtney. She's always been about herself and her own gratification first and foremost. I haven't seen anything to change that."

Sean clearly had emotional wounds, and while they were scarring, they were still tender. Sean's mouth tightened into a thin line. "I'll still call Jase for you and make the request on your behalf, if you want, though."

The petite redhead glanced at her friend in realization. She would have never guessed. Teens can be utterly cruel. Still, Sean offering to call Jason and ask if Courtney could join the training session meant something. She offered an apologetic smile to the driver. "I'm sorry they gave you hell." She meant it.

The car remained devoid of conversation for a minute, then Kat broke the silence. "You could call him now and put him on speakers. How's that sound ?"

"Sure, that's fine," Sean said, only having to feign a little bit of the cheeriness, before shifting the pitch of his voice to make a hands-free call. "Call. Jason. Home."

<Did you say Call Jason Home?>

"Yes."

<Calling Jason Home.>

As the phone dialed, Sean returned Kat's apologetic smile with a wry grin. "And thanks, but you don't have anything to be sorry for. You weren't there or involved."

"Gar," came a gruff voice through the speakers.

"Hello, Mr. Bannon. It's Sean. Is Jason there?"

"Gar," Jason's father reiterated for his son's strange, feminine friend. "Jason's out." Pause. "He'll be back this evening. Six. Seven."

"Thanks, Mis - er, Gar. I'll try back around then."

There was a click as Gar hung up, then a softer blip as Sean's smartphone ended the connection. Sean gave Kat a one-armed shrug. "Guess, we'll call back."

Wanting to shift the talk about from Courtney and almost anything Courtney adjacent, Sean switched to something Tess had mention. "So, Tess mentioned you paint and draw? I do a bit too, but mostly work digitally and with animation myself. I've made one game and am almost done another."

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"Yeah, I've been drawing and painting for ten years. I started with stick figures and then my mom made me take classes, because my stick figures were way too pretty." She snorted, then added, "I can show you when we get back." Sean nodded in agreement, and the conversation went on about Sean's games, the one he had already made, and the one he was currently working on. The two teenagers took back the short conversation they had had in Art the last Thursday from where it stopped, discussing concept arts Kat was currently looking at on her phone, commenting what Sean's new monsters could look like.

Later on, the petite redhead discovered, with interest, that Sean actually did all the voices and a large part of the music for his games, and the conversation turned towards editing softwares.

"Since you got this... crazy voodoo stuff, do you actually use any editing software ? Or do you crack yer whip n tell the bits where to go ?" She asked with a half-mocking grin.

"A little from column A, a little from column B." Sean pursed his lips, head tilted slightly, then amended with his own self-deprecating grin. "Okay, a lot from column B, especially the last few days. I've been working on the game engine for the last two years. Not to brag, but I think it's pretty good and robust, with variable applications. I saw what Unity and Unreal were doing and made my own version.

And I've programmed a modified autoencoder and a generative adversarial network to better modulate my voice for different characters. And since my little recording area in the barn isn't the best, I have to do a lot of post production stuff to clean up the music and voice work. But now?"

Sean glanced at Kat sidelong, his grin widening as he made a whipcrack motion before his hand went back to the wheel and he shifted lanes in early preparation to get off the Interstate. "The software is still there, I can just exponentially make it do so much more, so much more efficiently. Look at my phone"

Kat looked down at the smartphone in her hand. The concept art for something Giger-esque with too many legs faded away to be replaced by a string of black zeroes and ones on a white field.

"Assume that is what the coding for any software I use looks like," Sean said. "Now, I can make it do this. Same software, just able to bend it into new shapes." The ones and zeroes, shifted, melted, tightened and writhed into new patterns and shapes. They were still strings of ones and zeroes, but were now being used like a continuous strand of paint to form gorgeous representations of Julia sets, ordered chaos. Kat blinked, just realizing it had taken her a moment to notice that the image on the phone wasn't just black and white, but was a panoply of complementary colour, which added another layer to the complexity of the coding.

"It's sorta like that. Has your own psionic awakening helped you with your art? And I would like to see it when we get back."

"Uh..." The petite redhead stared amazed at the screen before her eyes. "Can't tell yet. But holy shit, that's cool !" Hearing about a power and seeing it in action was totally different, she mused. "I did learn more about the... non-telepathic stuff. Remember about how I talked about molecular structure ?" Her curvaceous friend nodded, focused on the road.

"Well," she went on, "I think it's waaaaaaay more than that. I have a theory, but it's batshit crazy, and needs a little bit of context." The svelte French girl closed her eyes, massaging her temples, then took a deep breath and fumbled in her bag, pulling out her notebook. "First -and I'll keep on using that term until I find a cooler one- I have three Third Eyes. One is telepathy stuff, like... your mind is unique -in several ways -" she added with a chuckle, "and I was able to tell you were in the street before you parked your car, earlier. The second one is weird to describe."

She closed her eyes for a moment and turned the one she was talking about on, glancing at her friend. "Like, if I use it right now, you're like... shining, and there's this weird feeling of something all around." She turned it off and went on. "But that's not the most interesting one. The last one, from my conclusions, allows me to see when and where people do stuff related to Shine. If I focus on one of them, I can tell what they're actually doing. And that's how I discovered that I can manipulate energies. Earlier, I litterally bumped my phone off my desk and Magneto-ed it right back to my hand."

Kat was getting excited just by talking about it, and she reached for her jacket, pulling out a lighter and a pack of cigarettes, before turning to Sean, doubt in her eyes. "Uh... Can I ? It's your car so... I feel like I should ask."

There was the faintest crinkle to Sean's nose. "Would you mind waiting until we get to Great Falls? It's only about another twenty minutes. It's just, y'know...?"

She nodded and stuffed lighter and cigarettes back into her jacket, reaching instead for a pack of chestnuts coated in chocolate from her bag, ripping the top open and stuffing a couple of these in her mouth. "These will do for now, then." She said after swallowing her snacks. "Right, so my theory is : this... other power I got is just about breaking the laws of physics, as in, the physics we're taught in high school. That's my wild guess. Hell, I changed how gravity applied to my phone for a moment, a couple days ago I tried to densify air ! That's lit !"

Sean chortled at Kat's wondrous enthusiasm, his slim, strong fingers drumming on the steering wheel.

"Funny you should mention breaking the laws of physics. Jason and I have been working on a grand unified theory. We suspect our psionic powers operate on an underlaying, er, layer of physical reality as we know it, a subquantum stratum, one that's more... malleable to conscious influence. We aren't breaking physics, I think, so much as being able to trick it."

The two redheads leaned to the side as Sean pulled onto the curving off ramp, coming back upright as they entered Great Falls proper. Sean rolled to a stop at a stop sign, then turned right.

"At a guess, it seems like like you're able to manipulate fundamental forces and molecules? Atoms, maybe?" His dark brows furrowed, considering what Kat had told and what he knew of how the powers of the rest of the Fellowship functioned. "More generalized compared to specialized like me, where I can only manipulate the electromagnetic spectrum. Broad instead of deep. Hmm."

Sean had his car only for a little over a week, yet he drove through Great Falls with a sense of familiarity. He'd been going to Sulli's for years, first for video games, then for computer components, and finally to sell his own PC builds on commission.

"I wonder what else you could do. Clara - she's kinda sisters with Lona - has powers sort of like yours. She's able to... kinda buff or debuff how well others can use their own powers. I wonder if you can do that too, Kat."

The car parked close enough to the shop Sean had in mind, and they both got out, Kat grabbing her bag and her jacket. She pulled out a cigarette from her pack, tucking it between her lips, then stopped her motion before lighting it up. She looked left and right, then glanced at Sean with a childish grin. "Combustion ?" She had to try, after the talk they had had. She set her lighter back to the pocket where it belonged, then placed her thumb and index finger around the cigarette's tip, much like one would hold a coin to show it. With a bit of focus... There we go. She could feel the air she 'held' between her fingers, the thing she called her powers flooding her brains with molecular structures. The cigarette is the fuel, air is the oxidizer, all I need to do is to give it a little nudge...

After a moment of watching Kat staring at her nose like it insulted her, Sean was about to tell her they should probably start walking, but suddenly the tip of the cigarette began glowing red, producing a thin line of smoke. Kat's hand fell to her thigh, then she took a draft. "Hey, you did it !" Sean tried, but the petite redhead seemed disappointed. She picked the cigarette between two delicate fingers, and grunted after a puff. "I was expecting a flame... So much for boasting about it..."

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Sean pushed off from leaning against his car, giving Kat an apologetic shrug. "I think this is cooler. Like one of those flameless lighters. More efficient, all the heat without the flame"

Sean nodded down the length of the strip mall towards Sulli's Electronics at the end, then shifted to Kat's side so the cigarette smoke wouldn't blow in his face. He glanced casually about as they started walking, making sure nobody was paying undue attention to them. "So, it looks like you can do something like Jase, just in a different way. Instead of making flame directly, you might have to agitate molecules to combust." He pointed at the cig dangling from her lips. "And make flame that way."

They reached Sulli's and stood a bit away from the door to let Kat finish her cigarette before heading in.

A frown appeared on Kat's features as she asked, "Isn't it what Jason is doing ? If I heard correctly," she puffed, "he uses telekinesis, right ? So he'd be agitating the molecules to heat them up. What I did didn't feel like... telekinesis. One moment, the air was cool, and a moment after, it was hot. It almost felt like I had an energy reservoir and I tapped in it to allow the combustion. Took me a while to figure it out..." She rubbed the back of her head, before adding, "Thinking about it, if I had tried too hard, I might have burnt the cigarette to ash."

She drew a last time on her cigarette before stubbing it out against the floor, her eyes scanning her surroundings to stop on a public trash. She got rid of the butt and nodded at her friend, who opened the door of the shop.

There was an electric chime as the door opened. Sean waved Kat ahead and followed her in to Sulli's Electronics and Computers with a sense of familiarity. The shop was probably the place he had visited most often outside of Shelly and had that aura of welcoming clutter that the best mom and pop stores held, despite it being neat and tidy.

Behind the counter at the back the facing the door was a somewhat short man, only two or three inches taller than Sean, somewhere between stocky and rotund, who had probably crested forty years of age. He looked away from the monitor he was looking and seeing Sean, he smiled, crows feet at the corners of his grey eyes creasing his smooth face.

"Oh! Sean, good afternoon," he called out cheerily. "What brings you out today? I wasn't waiting on a build from you to put out on commission was I?"

"No, not this time, Sulli," Sean replied, with a relaxed ease Kat noticed was rare from Sean. "But I am looking at putting together a gaming rig." He  put a slender hand on Kat's slight shoulder. "This is Kat, a new friend and student at Shelly High. She heard I had a thing for computers and decided she needed a new setup. And you're the best for parts, Sulli, so I brought her here."

"Sean's too kind," Sullivan said, offering Kat a boyish grin that belied his age. "I'm just diligent and a little compulsively thorough when looking for suppliers. Pleased to meet you, Kat. What do you need?"

After greeting the man back, Kat pursed her lips into something close to a cute pout while she thought about what she exactly wanted. If she picked her components carefully, she might get an even better rig than the one she left in France, and for a better price. "I'm looking for at least 4 GB of video memory, a solid processor, 16 GB of RAM, and a soundcard decent enough for music recording. For that last thing, I really don't know if I can get that integrated to a computer or if it has to be external, but I need it either way." As she spoke she raised a finger for each demand, waving her hand when specifying how important the sound card was to her. "I never really liked how my recordings sounded with a laptop, so I wanna make sure I get something nice."

With an amused smirk, Sullivan began taking short notes, then his eyes met with the petite redhead's as he asked : "Do you have any... brand preferences ?"

Kat shook her head. "I don't really know better than both of you would," she replied, "I'm open to suggestions."

"Well, if you're willing to trust us, I'm sure we can get you everything you'd like, and under budget," Sulli with a smile as he began pulling up his inventory on the computer.

"Especially with the employee discount, hmm?" Sean said with a grin, arching a brow.

"I suppose if I don't, you'll just coincidentally buy the same components, Sean?" Sulli replied with an exasperated tone, but his pale blue eyes twinkled. Sean nodded. "Fine then. Let's start with what I have on sale and clearance and go from there.

It was almost like another language, as Sean and Sullivan debating the merits and specs of various brands of components, versus what Kat needed, and what she wanted. Sean was clearly in his element, but made the effort to explain to the more petite redhead what he was talking about.

"You could get a better soundcard, but overall, you'll probably be better of with an external DAC," Sean said. "Especially for recording. You'll also want to invest in a good mic or two - that'll help a lot and save you time in sound editing. And baffling for wherever you end up recording - that'll stop echoes. I learned that the hard way."

So in his element, Sean completely shut down a guy who had seen the two attractive redheads and tried to mansplain computer builds before Sullivan could intervene. The guy looked to be in his twenties, some sort of tech-bro. He'd given Kat a look that suggested he thought she was cute, but too young, before turning his attention to Sean, or more often, his chest, as he tried to impress him with his knowledge of video games and computers.

It didn't take long before Sean had him retreating out of the store with his tail between his legs.

In less than an hour, Kat had all the components for a PC, with better specs than she had asked for, and under the budget she had set for herself, giving her leeway to get a new microphone. The components made a surprisingly compact pack, fitting inside a box easily handled by either Kat or Sean. Thankfully, Sean already had a spare computer case, so Kat didn't need to a new one.

"Thanks, Sulli," Sean chimed as Kat paid. "And just so you know, I'll probably have Regenesis done sooner than later. Been making amazing progress lately"

Kat put her wallet away, and box of unconstructed computer held protectively in her arms, sidled up to Sean, mouth spread wide in pleasure.

"Ready to head back and put your new PC together?"

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"Yes." The reply came swiftly, carrying all the satisfaction Kat felt after getting something done. "I can't wait !" The sun was casting a generous and warm light upon the rather pale features of the pixie-ish French girl as they got out of Sulli's and made their way to the car, Kat carrying the box containing her computer components with the care a mother would have carrying her baby. Sean nodded, a perceivable grin stretching his lips. Soon, the two of them were back in the car, and the ride back to Shelly began. Time flew fast, busy as they were arguing about bands, as Kat did want to listen to some music while on the road. By the time they arrived at the petite redhead's place, seven rang the clock.

With exasperated magnanimity, Sean had graciously allowed Kat to select some of the music on the way back to Shelly. Sean was surprised it was seven o'clock when he came to a stop outside of Kat's home. With the music and conversation, it felt like they had barely spent any time on the road. They must've taken longer at Sulli's than he thought.

Kat collected her case of computer components, while Sean climbed into the back of Little Bigfoot, retrieving the computer pieces had already had, along with the few tools he would need and the computer case. It wasn't particular heavy, but between the size of the case and the size of his chest, it was a bit awkward for Sean.

Kat scampered ahead to hold the door for Sean while he very carefully navigated the front steps, the small bag of tools almost sliding off the computer case box where he had balanced them.

"Dad! Tess! We're back!" Kat called out. She closed the door behind Sean, who set down his burden as soon as he got inside before he managed to drop anything. He let out a deep satisfied breath. They had everything they needed for the build, nothing broken or forgotten.

"That's good. You find everything you needed?" Tess called back from somewhere in the house.

"Yup! And more, for a great deal, since Sean has a friend who has a computer shop," Kat explained. "We're going to bring everything up to my room and get started putting it together."

"Okay."

With Kat helping him, they managed to get everything up to her room in one trip. Kat cleared her desk and Sean set out all the computer components with meticulous precision. With boundless, almost cloying, curiosity, Kat stuck close to the generously endowed, intersexed computer genius as he started putting her PC together.

Sean didn't consider himself a particularly good teacher, and having assembled so many PCs already it was second nature, he had to consciously slow down what he was doing so he could explain what he was doing to Kat as he did it.

He was privately pleased she was taking such an interest in his explanations though, rather than being impatient to get her new PC. Still progress was going swiftly, even with testing as they went along so they would know what was causing an issue, if any. With Sean's techno-senses, it was almost trivially easy to notice if anything was going awry.

It was just after eight when Sean heard his stomach audible rumble. So engrossed in assembling the computer - far more entertaining to him then putting together a mere puzzle - Sean hadn't notice how hungry he was getting. He wasn't the only who heard his stomach, Kat glancing at him in amusement.

"Heh, I usually have supper much earlier..." As though his rumbling stomach was a summons, Tess rapped her knuckles against the door frame to announce her presence before peeking inside Kat's room.

"I don't know if you guys have eaten yet or had plans, but I thought I should ask, just in case."

"Er, I hadn't thought about it 'til just know," Sean admitted, standing up from the chair and giving his back a stretch after being hunched over the desk for the last hour. "I guess I could just order a pizza or something..."

Kat's eyes shone with interest at the mention of pizza. "Pizza sounds veeeery nice indeed!" She flashed Tess an impish smile before adding: "We'll be fine." The dark-haired woman gave them a nod. "Alright, then. Enjoy your pizzas!" She replied, before closing the door.

The petite redhead turned to her friend: "I take it you know which places make the best pizzas, better than I would, right ?" She fell silent for a moment, and right before Sean was about to reply: "Oh I almost forgot ! We also have to call Jason !"

"Right," Sean said, straightening up from unboxing the new monitor Kat had also gotten at Sulli's. "Better to do that before pizza." Sean reached over and fished his phone from his hoodie, which he taken off before starting to assemble Kat's PC. A few flicks of his fingers, and he was dialing Bannon's home. As he listened to it ring, he took the phone from his ear and held it between himself and Kat, putting it on speaker.

They could both hear the ringing tone as it went on five... six... seven times and then, just as Kat was giving Sean a quizzical look and opening her mouth to ask a question, tbe phone was picked up.

"Hello?" It wasn't Jason, Sean knew right away. The voice was deeper, and had more inflection, more expressed curiousity than his friend traditionally answered with.

"Hi, Mr. Ba - Gar," Sean quickly corrected himself, not forgetting, just struggling against ingrained habit. He flashed Kat a small, self-deprecating grin. "Is Jase around, now? You said he should be back after seven or there abouts."

"Oh, yeah Sean. He got back a short while ago. Gimme a second and I'll get him on the line." The teens could hear the receiver being moved, some footsteps, then some murmured conversation before Jason's crisp, precise tones came from the speaker in his habitual one-word greeting.

"Sean."

"Heya Jase," came Sean's standard response. "I have Kat here on speaker." His usual emotive tone turned curiously neutral to Jason's ears. "She has something she wants to ask you. Not quite a favour, but, well... I'll let her ask it. You're up, Kat." Sean nodded at the slimmer, somewhat shorter redhead and held out his phone a little closer to her.

"Uh, hi!" Kat said, her hand mechanically travelling to the back of her head to rub it. "Yesterday I had a chat with... Courtney, and as I learned today, you guys might be cats and dogs with her but... Well, she offered to help me with telepathy, but only if she gets to attend the training sessions with the others - I quote "I'm tired of being on the outside of the Shine group." Now, I'd really like to have her give me pointers, cuz, well, she knows what she's doing, and I also think we need all hands on deck." The flow of her request was fast, her voice clear but with a note of uncertainty carried through the microphone.

"What do you say ?"

There was a momentary pause before he replied, his voice coldly analytical. "Sure. She could be useful, and Devin has already expressed she's one of us. Better to include her than give her reason to work against us. Bring her along."

A relieved smile flashed on the petite redhead's features for a brief moment. "Alright, thank you!" She said, and although the smile had deserted her face it could still be heard. She glanced at Sean questioningly.

Sean just shrugged, trying to keep his very biased opinions to himself for Kat's sake. On one hand, Kat was new to the Weird and needed the extra help of someone who knew to catch up. On the other hand, it was Courtney.

"Thanks, Jase. Seeya 'round. And get a bloody smartphone like a normal person. Even if it's only as a disguise to fit in." There was just a bare hint of resignation in the most stacked of Cassidys teasing banter.

"Okay." Jason said agreeably - well, agreeably for Jase. "Want to come with me on Monday and advise me on one?"

Jason could practically feel Sean's blink of surprise. His surprise was very apparent to Kat. There was a distinct moment before he could respond, but when he did, there was a wide grin on his face.

"Finally! Yeah, I'd love to get you updated to the current century, Jase, even if the Cherokee is guzzling gas with all these trips to Great Falls. We'll figure out the exact details later. Kat and I haven't eaten yet, and I want to get her PC assembled and tuned up tonight. Later, dude."

"Later." Blip! Sean switched off speaker and pulled up his contacts.

"That's done. Now, we gotta order pizza, 'cause if it ain't on it's way in, like, ten minutes, I'm gonna see if I can survive on computer pieces, and then we'll have to drive back to Great Falls. There's only three places for pizza in Shelly, Kat, and only two deliver. Bunnee's doesn't deliver, Pizza Hut is cheap but barely... suffices, I suppose. The best pizza in town is from Alibi Lounge, if you want to split the cost."

He pulled up their menu on his phone and handed it to Kat to look over. "I like The Gritz and the Cowgirl myself, but willing to try just 'bout anything, if you prefer something else. Just not pizza with Alfredo sauce. That's unnatural."

She shot him a smile that was all dimples, as she replied: "So... you like cowgirls, eh ?" Her giggle rang through the room as Sean rolled his eyes in exasperation. "Okay, what about the Coyote ? I love olives!"

"Sure," Sean said agreeable, "though do you mind if we switch them from black olives to green? I just prefer green."

Kat waved a hand in assent and Sean called in the order, adding a side of onion rings. Then he went back to putting the PC together, elegant fingers swift and sure, keeping all the cables neat and tidy and clipped into place.

Windows was installing - the most updated version Sean saved to a flashdrive - when they heard the doorbell ring, presumably their pizza.

"Yeehee! Pizza!" Kat clapped her hands with childish delight as she went to leave her room and to hurtle down the stairs, only to run back up to her room and grab her wallet. Sean was staring at her, amused, as she fought with her jacket, trying to get the wallet out as fast as possible. "What?" She asked. "Pizza!"

The somewhat taller redhead shook his head and stood up from the chair, grabbing his own wallet and following an impatient Kat down the stairs to the main door.

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Kat scampered to the bottom of the stairs and already had the front door open before Sean was even half way down, taking the steps at a more sedate, decorous pace. Practically buzzing with impatience to begin devouring the pizza, Kat huffed in good natured annoyance at how long it took Sean to join her, even though it was less than a minute.

"Oh, hey, Ralph," Sean said when he looked up to meet the pale eyes of the lanky delivery guy nearly as tall as Cade as he handed over his share.

"Hey, Sean," Ralph replied with a grin, blond brows rising faintly as he gaze flitted between the two red heads, one svelte, the other voluptuous.

"You two know each other?" Kat asked with a curious tilt to her head.

"A bit," Sean admitted. "Ralph knew my older sister Teagan and I built him a PC."

"And I've delivered pizzas to The Barn often enough on gaming nights," Ralph added, grin widening as he held up the cash he'd collected from Kat and Sean. "They usually tipped pretty good, like tonight. Gonna be a good shift. Miss." He nodded at Kat. Then nodded at Sean. "Sean."

Kat arched her brows at Sean as she led him to the kitchen. Sean shrugged. "He used to be a bit of dick to me. After Teag 'talked' with him, he turned out to be decent enough guy. Absolutely terrible at first-person shooters, though."

Kat bustled about the kitchen, grabbing plates and such. Sean would have offered to help, but it was his first time here, and it was easier to let Kat do everything and just stay out of the way, so he took a seat on a stool at the island.

"Are we eating here, or upstairs or...?"

"Whatever works for you," she replied, "if we go upstairs we can keep check on the operating system installation. We'd just need to get the plates back here once we're done. I'd hate to pile up dishes in my room." After a brief shrug, she opened the cardboard box and glared at it. "I'm still amazed at the size of these. Twice as big as French pizzas. We might need to bring the box with us if we eat upstairs." She added, after comparing with the size of her plate.

She tilted her head and turned to her friend, an eyebrow sky high.

Sean's lips quirked into a small smirk at Kat's disbelief at the size of American pizzas. "Well, this is Big Sky Country, and everything is bigger in the United States. The cars, political strife, the people... " Despite herself, Kat's eyes darted downward from Sean's face for an instant and a faint pinkness rose tinted Sean's cheeks. "... especially the food. It's why we have an obesity problem. We don't serve those tiny, fancy meals like in high-end French restaurants or Taco Bell. Not unless you pay a real lot."

Kat's other eyebrow followed the first. She might not have been that familiar with American fast food chains, but she was well aware that fancy and Taco Bell didn't belong in the same sentence. "Taco Bell?"

"Let me tell you about the grand potential future of Demolition Man as we grab some plates, eat some pizza, and update a new PC," Sean proposed, using his DM Storyteller voice, panning a hand in front of them to paint a scene as Kat collected some plates and a knife, then started leading them back towards the stairs. "In a false Utopian Future, they'd forgotten what real crime was and when it came back, they needed a cop who know what it was to fight it. So, they got Sylvester Stallone..."

And up the stairs they went, their hands full with plates, pizza, and drinks. "Wait, are you gonna spoil me a movie I didn't watch yet ?" She asked as she pushed her room's door with her foot. The scent of pizza was omnipresent in her mind, making it hard to focus on anything else seriously. "God I'm hungry!" They entered the room and dumped dinner material on her desk, careful not to push anything off it as much of the space was occupied by... cables, keyboard, mouse, microphone, external DAC, screen, that short of things.

The rush building a PC had provided them with now cooled down, and Sean couldn't help but notice only now Kat's most recent painting, still leaning against her easel, brown balls of fur fooling around a dark but space-like background, punctuated by what looked like shining celestial bodies. In the dim and late sunset light, the whole image gave off a strange vibe, mixture of joy and sadness, brought together by strong motion.

"The movie's been out for over twenty-five years. The embargo on spoilers is way over. 'Sides, it's an action flick - spoilers don't really matter that much," Sean said with a chuckle. "It's still a fun movie."

Eating pizza in Kat's room and idle chatting with her about what other pop cultural touchstone movies she might have missed, and listening to movies she suggested, Sean's multihued eyes kept drifting to a painting. A new one, he supposed, still on the easel.

He painted as well, but mainly miniatures for gaming and the occasional prop or costume piece for Halloween. He didn't do stuff on canvas, really, other than a few attempts a while back with oils, trying to emulate Bob Ross. There had been 'much room for improvement', his happy little trees looking sad.

Kat's painting was very good, very evocative, especially illuminated by the setting sun. Sean casually plucked up an olive that had fallen from his slice of pizza onto the projected shelf of his bosom, then glanced over at Kat, nodding towards her painting.

"Space squirrels, hmm? I like it," he said with a grin, waggling the fingers of his free hand. "You do it by hand, or try it using your mental voodoo?"

Edited by Sean Cassidy

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The French girl pointed at the different paint jars lying not far from the easel. "Hand." She said between two bites of her pizza slice. Damn this is good. "I'm too afraid of setting the paper on fire by mistake." She turned towards her painting, and the chair she was sitting on protested with a faint noise. "This is what it looks like... Telepathy stuff. What it feels like..." She glanced at her friend between two rebel locks of hair. "It's... scary."

"Imagine yourself in Great Falls, busy hour, and everyone around you is full of their little problems, and all that shit just surrounds you, smashes you and..." Her voice broke for a while as her memories from Tuesday flooded in, and she fought the sudden urge to cry growing up inside her throat while trying to keep a composed face. Another bite in her pizza slice momentarily solved it.

Sucking on a full, upper lip, Sean set down his slice of pizza on his plate, then slid the plate onto the edge of Kat's desk. He used a fingertip to push it further when it still seemed precariously balanced.

For a variety of reasons, Sean wasn't a physically, tactilely demonstrative person, but the pain and the appearance of being overwhelmed and the smaller girl's delicate features tugged on his emotions. It still felt presumptuous after only knowing Kat for a few days, but after a moment's hesitation, Sean leaned over and gave Kat's slender shoulder a comforting squeeze.

His hands might have been slim and feminine, but they had the sure strength of someone who worked with them often, and Kat leaned into the pressure.

"I can understand, some," Sean said soothingly."Not 'bout being hammered by others' thoughts and memories, maybe." He took a deep breath, then let it out in a long sigh. "But walking through school or town, I see all the signals - texts, phone calls, whatever - flying by like a swarm of fireflies, practically yelling, 'look at me, look at me.'"

Sean leaned back in his chair, glanced at his pizza, but left it aside for now, a wry smile curving his lips. "And despite promises to myself, I've looked. People will say anything, send anything, when they think it's private. It must be worse for you, able to glimpse inside the sanctity of their minds, but I get, a little, what you're saying."

He ran a quick hand through his vibrant red hair, nodded at the painting. "It's not gonna help directly with the telepathy, perhaps, but for me at least, I've found practicing a... er, mundane skill alongside a psionic one helps. We can set up some canvases somewhere, make it safe for you to try some, um, 'hands off' painting, if it ends going, hmm, flamingly."

Sean arched a brow at Kat, offering her an encouraging smile.

She finished her slice, mulling on something. "Sure, what do you want me to paint?" She asked, turning to her friend, who blinked twice. "What, right now?" He replied.

"Why not? Windows just finished installing, we could download some painting software, you do your mumbo-jumbo and I try to reproduce it on paper with my mumbo-jumbo. Sounds fun?" She grabbed another slice, and considered it for a split second. Then she took a bite with forced zest. She hoped he'd say 'Yes', feeling like she could use some fun of that kind. It had been a while since she didn't have a real good time with a friend, fact that her brains tried to ignore by bringing back the memories of the rather good time she spent the evening before, setting her cheeks on fire.

Sean gave a rueful shake of his head as Kat started on another slice of pizza. Cade and Jase he understood, but he didn't know where Kat or Marissa or Laurie, even, put it all without getting fat. Two pieces of pizza was his usually his limit at one sitting.

He glanced at his phone, checking the time. He'd intended to work more on ReGenesis, but he could do it later, maybe pull an all nighter. He was having fun spending time with Kat, and wanted to keep up her encouragement with testing her powers.

"Sure, I can stick around for a while," Sean agreed with a smile. He didn't have his Wacom tablet and stylus, but he had brought over some art and music programs to load up on Kat's rig. And he could cheat. "But let's have the painting exchange be reciprocal, hmm? I do something, you try to reproduce it, then you paint something, and I try to reproduce it."

"Fair!" Kat boasted around a mouth full of pizza.

While Kat set up some new canvases, Sean downloaded several painting and drawing programs onto her computer. The boyish girl and the buxom boy chatted animatedly as they painted, manipulating their respective media more with their minds than with their hands.

It had been a long time since Sean had been so comfortable with someone he had known for such a short while. With what Cook had revealed, it made feeling so self-conscious about his issues seem so... inane. He might not have much time left, time that was wasted feeling sorry for himself or concerned what others thought.

During a lull in their conversation, Sean spun around in Kat's desk chair, watching her svelte figure speculatively as she focused on a canvas. Colour flowed across the surface under her pure concentration, hands balled into tiny fists at her sides.

"Y'know, I'm your Shelly Sherpa, as it were," Sean said with affected nonchalance. "I should be showing what Shelly offers, even stuff I'm not really into. Homecoming is coming up and I dunno if you've had time to, if someone has..." He trailed off as Kat looked over her shoulder with guileless eyes. Sean blew out a sharp breath, trying to ease the tightness in his chest. His uncanny turquoise and jade eyes met her unruly grey.

"I mean, if you'd like to go, I'd like to take you."

--------------------------------------------

Spoiler

Dun dun dun! 🥁

 

Edited by Catherine 'Kat' Barras

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Spoiler

Fic wrapped and locked.  +2XP each.  Nice fic, with some good characterisation and showing the growing bond.  

 

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