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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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