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Ep. VI Intermission: Fallout

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"Give," she said deadpan, opening and closing her hand expectantly.  "I'll pay you back, swear, I'm just starving right now."  If Cade had only known how serious she was being, he would've rummaged faster.  She'd tore through two plates of scrambled eggs, toast, and hash browns just a couple hours ago and her stomach was churning like she'd gone days without food and was standing downwind of a pizzeria without a penny to her name.

While he dug for the Snickers she allowed herself a momentary weakness to smile at how sweet he was the moment he wasn't paying her any mind.  She collected herself as he straightened and handed her the candy bar.  "Thanks," she said, almost playfully.  "I uh, have to get to," the bell rung loudly in the hall and she smiled, looking down as it interrupted her.  As it finished she continued.  "Class, yeah.  Um, see you later, okay?  Text me, just don't get your phone taken away or I laugh at you."

"Get to class.  Shoo."  She tippie-toed up and pecked him on the cheek, before stepping into her own classroom.

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"Yeah, I'll see you at lunch."  Cade smiled, and turned to leave, noticing people pretending hard to have not been watching.  He just shrugged his shoulders and head on for his own next class.  He wasn't all that concerned with the looks.  If Marissa wanted to, she could put an end to any rumor, or start whatever she liked on a whim.   Nobody was actually going to say anything out loud in front of either of them, so it wasn't worth worrying about.   Even as he sat in his chair, kids were still filing in, he shot off a text to her.   "That smile Was worth it."   he'd seen only the tail end of it, but that was enough.   He'd pay for that later he was sure, but he didn't care, and turned his phone on silent before putting it away, even as the last student took their seat.

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"Well?"  Taggart not-quite-demanded of the slender, athletic blonde in the sun-dress as she stepped out of the elevator into the Project complex main corridor.  Her eyes tracked him as he fell into step with her, the grey of her eyes reflecting some manner of wry amusement, from what the Major could pick up.

"Quite well, thank you."  Ellie replied.  "It was generous of you to allow me to meet them."

"That's not what I meant."  Taggart wasn't going to be brushed off, though he didn't show much frustration at the alien's evasiveness.  In the day she'd been there, he'd pretty much come to understand that her people, these Teulu, considered direct  questioning - at least from strangers - to be rude, and would therefore respond to it with verbal games.  He was also aware that the girl was trained to at least the same standard as his men when it came to combat and survival skills, having killed five men, naked and barehanded, whilst making her escape from Site B, then had made her way across open country to Shelly without being recaptured.  Even allowing for the element of surprise and the doubtless underestimation of 'a girl' by the Crossroads mercenaries, that was impressive.

"I am sure."  Ellie replied, moving with a graceful stride that looked unhurried until you realised that she was eating up the yards.  "I prefer not to repeat myself overmuch, Major Taggart."  she offered by way of explanation, throwing him another glance.  There wasn't really much the soldier could say to that - technically Ellie the Alien was Annette's guest, by way of being Devin's friend, and Taggart's authority over her was strictly limited to ensuring she didn't cause or come to any harm.  He was certain she found it somewhat amusing to be protected by 'merely human' guards, too - there was an element of amused condescension that, though never overtly expressed, Taggart was positive existed behind the ageless steel-hued eyes.  Almost positive, anyway.  She was as hard to read as the Bannon kid.

"How did it go?"  Annette asked as they entered her office, looking up from her desktop holo-terminal as Ellie moved without being invited to sit in one of the comfortable chairs, crossing one leg over the other without much apparent regard for the shortness of the sundress.  "We shall have to get you some more clothes today, too."  Annette noted.

"Devin's friends recommend a place called Good Will."  Ellie responded with a shrug.  Annette considered.

"I think we can do a little better than that.  Great Falls isn't Milan, but there are clothes stores there so you can blend in with the locals a little better."  she noted with an appraising gaze.  Taggart cleared his throat, and the elegant brunette smiled mischievously.  "However, before I take a day off to take you shopping..."

"He is Teulu."  Ellie stated calmly.  "That is what you wanted me to find out, yes?  You could see and hear what was being said, so the only reason you would be asking me anything is to determine whether or not Jason is of my people.  He is."

"How sure are you?" Taggart asked, now taking a seat as they got down to business.  "He could just be a human psychopath.  In fact, that's what he even told us he was."

"Then he believed that to be the case at the time."  Ellie responded.  "Evidently he's learned differently.  As for how sure I am: very.  A wolf raised amongst dogs is still a wolf."

"But his father is human."  Annette noted, picking up a pen and fidgeting with it.  Ellie nodded.

"Then his mother is not."  The Teulu girl replied.  "There are no 'half-breeds'.  Our genetics will always be dominant - the offspring of a human and a Teulu will be Teulu."

"Great."  Taggart sighed.  "The psychokinetic is an alien killing machine."

"Born here, raised here.  He is more alien to me than to you."  Ellie stated.  "He has the instincts but not the training to best employ them.  His instincts prevented his death at the hands of those two clumsy killers, but he failed to recognise the ambush until it was almost too late.  If he had not been a Radiant, he would be dead."  She shrugged eloquently.  "It is not a mistake a grown male of my people would make.  He is too human."

"He's only a teen, though."  Annette glanced from Ellie to Taggart, then back again as she toyed with the pen.

"And the ambush wasn't as clumsy as you think."  Taggart put in.  "They were posing as officers of the law - hell, technically they are.  There's a cultural imperative here to cooperate if such a person demands it, an implication of trust of the authority they represent."  Ellie considered this.

"As I said:  too human."  she said at length, shaking her head.  "There is no such imperative for us.  The only imperatives are the good of the pride and the clan.  No stranger can simply walk up to a Teulu, proclaim their authority, and demand compliance or trust."  She smirked faintly.  "As amusing as such a sight would be."

"Cultural insights aside..."  Annette leaned forwards, clasping her hands on the desk.  "I'm fairly certain that young Mister Bannon will be a lot more wary from now on.  What about the others?  What were your impressions?"

"Devin's twin has an ill temperament, and does not like me."  Ellie shrugged.  "Doubtless she likes few females, especially ones close to her brother.  Teulu sisters are similarly protective.  The seer, Cassandra, is rude.  Full of questions, which she fires off like arrows at a foe.  The life-witch, Autumn, seems friendly - and fond of Jason, as he is fond of her."

"And is that a bad thing?"  Taggart asked intently.

"It is a thing."  Ellie answered smiling faintly, a cryptic amusement in her expression.  "I am curious as to whether they are sexually active."  She appeared to ignore the discomfort the two human adults evinced at her out loud musing.  "I would say they are, given their closeness."

"Not really our business."  Taggart muttered.  Ellie threw him an amused glance, one eyebrow raised.

"The one called Sean was largely silent, at least until he tried to barter with me for my people's technological secrets."  she went on, returning her gaze to Annette.  "Also rude, considering I saved his pride-mate's life and that Devin had already freely offered to aid me."

"Right."  Annette nodded.  "Now, the million dollar question - by which I mean a question which is very important...  Are we going to have a civil war on our hands given the revelations Cassandra Allen kicked up?  Will Jason take violent action against Marissa?"

"How should I know?"  Ellie asked with a shrug.  "I don't know either of them very well, nor do I know the details of the situation."

"You know Teulu.  What would your people do in such a situation?"

"For a pride-mate to betray the trust of the others - if that is what happened - I suppose it is one of the closest things we have to a 'sin'."  Ellie's voice was contemplative.  "But to kill a pride-mate is also terrible.  It's not just cultural - it's instinctual.  Even if Jason no longer considers Marissa one of his friends, so long as he considers Devin to be one there is unlikely to be violence."

"In short, you don't really know, but you don't think it'll get messy."  Taggart said.  Ellie considered that, then nodded.

"Yes.  Unpleasant and tense, but not violent."

= = = = = = =

"You didn't have to walk me to school."  Autumn said, not really complaining.  After the events of the morning, it was kind of nice to walk along with Jase in the sunshine, her hand in his, their fingers entwined.

"Probably not."  Jason allowed, sharp emerald eyes pausing their study of passing cars and their surroundings to glance at her.  "But I wanted to anyway."

"Not gonna argue."  Autumn grinned back, the sunlight shining in her blue eyes as she impulsively looped her arm through his and resisting the urge to slow down, perhaps to stop off in an idyllic spot, run her fingers through his hair and-.  It wasn't a very long walk, after all - maybe fifteen minutes or so - and she knew Jase would be going back to the medical center afterwards.  "So Hank's going to bring your car and stuff to Marias?"

"Mmhmm."  Jason nodded.  "Then I'll be at home the rest of the day.  I'll text you when I get my phone back."

"Good."  Autumn looked up at his profile as he resumed his watchfulness, studying the scar on his cheek and how the ends of his hair brushed it, then sighed as she saw the school grounds start to come into view down the road.  "Ugh.  That walk was too short."

"It was."  Jason agreed, smiling faintly as he slowed to a stop, turning towards her.  "I'll leave you here - don't really want to be seen by a faculty member and have to answer a dozen tedious questions."

"Right."  The energetic redhead rocked up on her toes, then onto her heels as she tucked her hands into her back pockets and gazed up at his face, noting the way he seemed to be similarly studying her.  "So I'll see you- umph"

The kiss was sudden, though in retrospect should not have been unexpected, and Autumn's hands shot up and around Jason's shoulders to steady herself as he stepped into her, his lips seeking hers almost hungrily.  Lazy heat uncoiled in her belly, arcs of golden lightning energising her nerves as she felt the brush of his Shine on hers, felt the vigorous, vital life of him pulse under her touch, reading his desire almost subconsciously in the dance of chemicals and the surge in his pulse.  And then the time for assessment was past, her hands sliding up to lock into his hair as she kissed him back, pressing against the unyielding angular hardness of his lean form.  His hands rested on her hips, exerting just enough pressure to keep her close as their mouths and tongues danced together for a long, searing moment.

"...later."  Autumn breathed as their lips parted, aware of the heat in her cheeks and the tingling of her lips.  Dear God... Even his goodbye-for-now kisses were enough to steal the breath from her, though she took some gratification from the darkness of desire evident in Jason's eyes - and other signals of his interest.  Refusing to look down, for fear she'd simply drag him into some nearby secluded bushes, she smiled up at him.

"Definitely."  he replied, giving her another kiss, this one more brief and gentle than the first.  "Let me know how it goes today?"

"I will."  she nodded, sobering a little as she recalled her not-quite-pledge to help Cassandra out.  With some reluctance on both sides, the two teens disengaged and stepped apart.  "Be safe."  she told her impossible Effing Boyfriend with another smile.

"I will."  he said soberly, before turning and heading back the way they'd come.  With a sigh and a straightening of her shoulders, Autumn turned and headed to school.

=  =  =  =  =  =  =

Jason wasn't really sure this was safe, per se.  Though he was reasonably confident that it wasn't dangerous, he wasn't one hundred percent certain.  But then, whilst absolute certainty was nice, waiting for it meant that nothing would ever happen.  Sometimes, like with kissing girls, one had to take chances.  Sometimes you got a Marissa, sometimes you got an Autumn.  It'd be a shame to miss out on the latter for fear of the former.  He'd met Hank outside, the gruff former Marine handing over his car keys and his satchel before clapping his young friend on the shoulder and heading back to the farm.  Jase told him he'd be along soon - he needed to sort some things out.

Marias Medical Center was a big place, the size of a city hospital, vastly larger than Shelly or even Toole County required.  But Jase remembered last week, and the route Taggart's men had taken escorting the Fellowship down to the complex beneath the medical center, and so he found his way to a distant store-room, shelves half empty but surprisingly dust-free.  This, then, was the place he remembered.  There was at least one other elevator down to the complex - but that was Cook's private one, in an office in a more populated part of the medical center, with a code lock that had probably been changed.

"I know you know I'm here."  he said in a conversational tone, looking around the vacant room.  "I want to talk to Ms Giles, and I'd prefer to do so by invitation rather than the other way."  There was silence for a long moment.  Jason waited as the seconds ticked past into minutes, deciding that five minutes would be long enough for them to answer him, one way or the other.

It took two.  The far wall of the storage room emitted a grinding sound and slid up, revealing a large freight-sized elevator with a gleaming metal panel interior.  Taking a moment to sheathe himself in an imperceptible glove of force, Jason stepped in, turning to face the door as it slid shut and the elevator began it's descent...

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Sean's Jeep ground to a halt and he blinked, realizing where he was. He pulled the keys from the ignition, a finger through the keyring as he held them in his fist and leaned back in the seat. He'd been driving aimlessly, not sure where to go, sure he didn't want to head back to school or back home yet. But he hadn't expected to end up here. He sighed, rubbed his fingers through his rich red hair, then climbed out of his SUV.

His scuffed red sneakers shuffled across the old bridge to the improvised party ground Sara and Jase had cleared what felt like forever ago instead of just several weeks. Sean looked about as he walked through it. It didn't feel so much as abandoned as reclaimed, few signs of the party that had taken place here. A few logs used for improvised seats. Scattered stones that might have been used to ring a fire pit. Very little litter.

Summer parties like that hadn't been something Sean had much interest in. Truth be told, he still didn't. He'd come at Jase's urging, mostly. It seemed like all the craziness had started here, this was where it had begun, where the lives of the Fellowship had irrevocably changed. Sean felt his eyes grow tight. Where for at least one of them, it had led to an early end.

And it suddenly felt like a really dumb idea that he'd come out here, alone, in the middle of nowhere, just after one of his friends had been targeted for assassination. Well, it wasn't quite the middle of nowhere. He frowned, then shrugged, and began ambling down a faint path through the trees and up the hill, dirt and gravel pattering down behind him on the occasional steeper slope.

The technokinetic sensed the recording devices - or rather, their signals - before he saw them, let alone the old abandoned trailer. He could turn them off, or spoof them so they wouldn't even acknowledge him, but what was the point, Sean thought. He didn't particularly care if the Project knew he was poking around about here. He continued up the hill and through the screen of trees into the clearing.

A part of him was mildly surprised to find the trailer still there. Shifting his vision into a different spectrum, he could tell the miniature fusion reactor was still there too. Seems like the Project didn't have time to collect this stuff with everything else happening. He paused, then shrugged again, and continued towards the trailer. The metal steps shifted under his weight, the foot biting into the dirt. The door creaked open at a touch.

The trailer smelled musty, but not as bad as it first had. It didn't seem to have been disturbed since the others had collected the files. Sean climbed inside, idly looking around, though he didn't expect to find anything that had been missed the first time around. He did have the weird radio back home, still trying to figure out how it worked. He was beginning to suspect its retro appearance was just a false front hiding the real components that gave it seemingly near infinite range. Maybe it worked using quantum entanglement? He was as interested in the fusion reactor, though he would feel better studying that in more controlled circumstances. He could do something about the radioactive rays it was emitting, but still...  radioactive.

His phone vibrated and Sean smirked to himself as he nabbed the message through the air. His digital chicanery seemed to be working, someone in the Project monitoring the area alerting others that he was there. Good. He pulled out his phone, swiped to a page. 66 total sales for ReGenesis. 69, 70. A slight uptick as the sun climbed towards its noonday peak.

After poking about the trailer for a bit, Sean took a break, sitting on the top step. It was funny. Jase had just started revealing his mental acumen at school instead of flying under the radar, and here he was, barely able to care about school. Not just today, it was getting hard to even consider thinking about school for the rest of the year with everything else going on. Even his ideas for college, if he even decided to go, were shifting.

It felt like something so far away, especially when it was possible he wouldn't be alive to go. And now, there was potential it wasn't just his own fucked up genetics that might end him. He couldn't see why Enterich would only target Jason, unless Marissa really did have something to do about it.

Edited by Sean Cassidy

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Kat yawned as she left the medical center, and began making her way home. The only bright thing in her day was the sun. She was tired, her body was a sack of small, countless itching sores, she couldn't have a proper sleep-in, and now people were shooting at her friends, which wasn't making her feel any safe now. She paced up.

I need a distraction.

She fished her headphones out of her vest and plugged them in to her phone, music blaring into her ears after she pressed the Play button. Unconsciously, she adjusted her steps to the beat and already, the walk back home didn't feel as long. Why would two guys with badges try and shoot Jason? From what she heard, he wasn't especially a saint, but he certainly wasn't evil incarnate either. And then there was the problem of finding a decent dress for Homecoming. She had less than a week to do so. She still couldn't decide which of Tess or Marissa to ask about that. Or maybe she had asked one of them already. She was too sleepy to remember. Sleeping in the grass wouldn't be too bad, given the temperature and the sun.

One thought leading to another, she found herself in front of her front door - That's funny. Or not, she thought - asking herself whether she'd go on a quest for croissants or actually make some pancakes herself when she'd wake up Surely someone would sell croissants in Great Falls. But how am I going to get to Great Falls?

Before she knew it, the damn skirt - and the rest of her god damned hooker outfit - were on her room's floor, and she tucked herself into bed, counting her thoughts like sheeps passing in the night till it bored her into slumber.

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Spoiler

GM's note:  Morning time stamp is now over.  We're moving into 'Lunchtime' - roughly from 1130 to 1300.  These are not exact, but as long as people's posts try to follow a loose continuity it will not be a problem.

They'd kept him waiting a little while, which he didn't really care about.  It was logical to suppose that Annette Giles was a busy woman, and even a member of the Fellowship couldn't necessarily bump her schedule on a whim.  Besides, it gave him a chance to sit quietly, alone with his thoughts, spiraling as they did in a loose double-helix of crystalline forms and shapes in the halls of his mind.  The murder attempt, the mysterious Enterich, Site B, meeting a member of his species, Marissa's possible betrayal, Devin and Autumn saving his life, the reactions of his various friends, his plans here in the Project... All kept in the air, turning and presenting new facets with each turn as he considered each issue.

He sat in a small anteroom obviously meant for visitors - though what visitors he was not sure.  Perhaps serious men and women in uniforms and suits, come from D.C to be wowed by their off-the-books project?  Worthies from the mysterious Aeon Society, come to nod and chatter as Cook put his show-ponies through their paces.  That was almost good for a smile.  Cook's best demonstration had been Courtney whose gifts, impressive though they were, were already being rivalled by the couple of telepaths in in the Fellowship's ranks.  Right now, Courtney had the edge in experience with using her gift, but her raw power, the strength of her Shine, was lacking.

That sent his thoughts down another tangent.  What was the connection there?  Had the experimentation of the Project actually harmed Courtney and Tawny's natural development?  The early interference having somehow stunted them?  If so, perhaps that could be corrected, once he had access to Dr Cook's notes and had time to study what the modern-day Mengele had been up to.

The door to the anteroom opened and Ellie walked in, moving with the same feline grace with which she'd entered the hospital room earlier, and sat in the comfortable chair next to his, half-turning and drawing her long bare legs up to curl into the cushions as she gazed at him, cheek propped on one hand, her air contemplative.  Jase, lounging in his own chair with his arms folded, stared back expressionlessly.  She was beautiful, for certain.  Clear complexion, wide grey eyes, full lips, and a body that was athletic, hardened even, yet with female curves in what his aesthetic sense deemed the right places.  They stared at each other for a long moment, which stretched to a minute, then two, as some silent battle of wills played out between the two of them.  Finally, she gave a slight sigh and inclined her head, still regarding him.

"You have the eyes of the Draig." she stated, head tilted, considering him as she spoke.

"I recognise the name of the clan."  he replied.  "It was my mothers, before she left El and came here."

"She did not teach you about the Teulu."  Ellie remarked then, her eyes narrowing.  "She abandoned you."

"When she realised that I would not be like her, or my father."  Jase agreed, nodding.  "She is Teulu, but feels fear, shame, regret."

"Interesting."  The blonde girl pondered.  "I have heard of that deformity now and then.  She is lucky to have made it to adulthood - perhaps the reputation of the Draig is not earned."  This last was delivered with a faint amused look, which Jason returned.

"If you seek to push a button, or prick my pride, you will have to do better."  he rejoined with a shrug.  "I have no investment in my mother's clan.  I don't even know of them beyond their name."

"You and the one called Autumn seem close."  Again the frank studying stare as she looked him over, appraising him.  "Does she know you are not human?"

"She does."

"She has a marvellous gift."  Ellie commented.  "A good choice, I think.  She seems resilient, too.  Healthy."

"Are you commenting on her as a comrade in arms, a girlfriend, or as breeding stock?"  Jason asked, tilting his own head as he stared at her, his emerald eyes narrowing a little.

"All three are worthy of consideration."  Ellie smiled a little, a sly light entering her gaze.  "Does she know how you feel about her?"

"I have told her, by word and action, what she means to me."  Jason shrugged, glancing at the clock on the wall.  Ellie regarded his profile.

"Your scar is fetching."  she noted, changing topic yet again.  "A sign of danger survived, of a tale to be told, of experience.  Many females would be drawn to it, I think."

"Thank you?"

"Not me, of course."  Ellie stood and stretched, almost incidentally - he was sure - showing off her body in the sundress.  "I am for Devin."

"So I gather."  Jase's reply was dry, reflecting his own amusement.  Ellie glanced at him, a brow raised.

"If I were not, though, your redhead would have caused to be nervous.  Even if you are skinny and undertrained, and do not know your heritage, your mind is sharp and your Radiance is strong enough to make the warrior Taggart nervous."  she eyed him speculatively.  "And you are handsome.  Handsome counts for a lot."

"I am interested in learning more of my heritage."  Jase remarked, studying her.  Ellie shook her head.

"Since your mother has not taught you, perhaps I will."  she said in a tone of one thinking it over.

"I would be sure to tell Devin what a fine ally you are, if you do."  Jason smiled slightly, one corner of his mouth curving.  Ellie's eyes sparkled with humor as she looked back at him.

"You learn fast."  she noted.  "Good.  You have much to learn."  She stepped towards the door, beckoning him.  "For now, though, Annette is waiting."

 

= = = = = = = 

"I thought you'd gotten lost."  Annette said pointedly as the two young Teulu entered her office. Taggart, seated in a chair to one side of her desk, studied the pair of them intently, plainly trying to catalogue similarities.

"You were observing us."  Jason said calmly, taking a seat in front of Annette's desk.  "I'm fairly certain if you did believe we'd wandered off the path there would be alarms and soldiers everywhere."  The older woman stared at him, then shrugged, looking at Ellie expectantly.

"I wanted to speak with him."  Ellie said as if that explained everything.  "I was curious, and you did not say it was an urgent matter."

"She didn't say to dawdle and flirt over coffee, either."  Taggart grumbled.  Ellie smiled a little at the Major.

"I do not work for Annette, or yourself, Major Taggart."  she told him.  "And I have been without a male for a long time.  So if I wish to take a moment to flirt with handsome powerful males, I shall do so.  Besides, there was no coffee."  She paused, a gleam entering her grey eyes.  "Speaking of handsome powerful males, do you have a mate, Major Taggart?" she asked, eyeing him speculatively sidelong through lowered lashes, her manner one of semi-blatant flirtation.  "Perhaps a coupling would improve your temper.  I am for Devin, but he has a date to Homecoming already, so I am free if you feel the urge."  Annette cleared her throat, trying not to laugh as Taggart reddened at being propositioned by a girl who appeared just about old enough to be his daughter.

"Ellie."  she said with a hint of reproof.  "Please."  The blonde girl inclined her head and moved to recline on the office's couch, still smiling a little, her gaze resting on the uncomfortable Taggart.  Annette studied the young man across from her, noting the cheekbone structure so similar to Ellie's, the scar, and the piercing eyes that studied her right back without giving much, if anything away.  "You wanted to speak with me, Mr Bannon?"

"Call me Jase."  came the calm reply.

"Jase, then."  Annette smiled, reminding herself she'd dealt with worse characters than the youth across from her.  Perhaps not as dangerous in an immediate way, but definitely more malicious.  She'd seen and heard the conversation between Jason and Autumn when they'd been alone, and though her heart had been touched by the sight of young love, more important was the knowledge that Jason Bannon was not an unreasonable savage.  "What can I do for you?"

"Funny."  Jase didn't smile, but his eyes did reflect humor.  "Once, Cook asked me the same question.  And I answered him the same way - I want a job."

That got the room's attention.  Taggart straightened, glancing at Annette, who went very still, her expression one of intense thought.  "You want to work for us?"  she asked after a few moments.

"With you."  Jason corrected.  Annette leaned back in her chair slowly, regarding him.

"And how do you see that working?"  she asked, trying not to fidget.  "After all, you are only sixt-"

"Please don't tell me that I am only sixteen as though that makes me somehow less worthy."  Jason told her flatly.  "I have perfect three-dimensional, multi-sensory recall.  I can can do advanced calculus mentally at roughly the speed of a computer.  I can read, parse and absorb data faster than likely anyone you know.  I have taught myself to a post-graduate standard in multiple disciplines.  I am learning literally nothing in high school except that teenagers are petty and how to be bored out of my mind."  Jason spread his hands expressively.  "In addition to which I am not even human, as you no doubt already know, and a psychokinetic of constantly developing potential."

"I see."  Annette glanced at Taggart.

"Do you?"  Jason asked rhetorically.  "I am bored, Ms Giles.  Worse, I am wasted.  I am under-utilised and achieving very little forward motion in my current situation.  I want to study these gifts, the Shine - or Radiance - and the energies of the Dark.  I want to put my brain to use developing new science - because right now, Ms Giles, this cutting edge frontier is still in the realm of witchcraft and quackery.  You've got people trying to understand, comprehend, and measure Radiance.  But they cannot feel it, cannot use it.  I can.  I've even got a hypothesis as to how our abilities work - but I need equipment and funding to test it and develop it."

"Perhaps you could sit down with some of our scientists-"  Taggart began.

"Who will listen attentively, be properly impressed, and then I shall be ushered off to school and cut out of the loop whilst they chase the breadcrumbs I give them blindly."  Jason interrupted, his eyes glinting.  "I'm not interested in a pat on the head, Major.  I want to be on the inside of this one.  What I don't know, I can be taught.  Hell, assess me first if you don't think I can cut it.  Give me a trial run assisting whoever is your lead scientist.  Because frankly, I'm about as suited to high school as I am to the vacuum of space.  I want to be doing, to be challenged, not to waste my damned time in a glorified day-care center."

"What about your friends?"  Annette asked quietly.  "Your girlfriend, even?  Socialisation is important, even to... your kind.  I assume, anyway."

"I don''t plan on cutting off contact with them."  Jason retorted.  "And, let's face it, you want them to be working with the Project too.  I can be a test case, an example that the Project - specifically you two - can be trusted.  Look," he leaned forwards slightly.  "On paper I will still be going to the school.  But pull some strings.  Say I've been assigned to advanced lessons - it won't be false, because I will be learning here.  I still plan to go to Homecoming, and to hang out with my friends, and live a life outside of the lab. But I have reached my limit with attending lessons that teach me nothing and waste most of my days."

"Let's say we give you an assessment... and it your mental gifts are everything you say, and we bring you to come and work for us-"

"With you."  Jason corrected again.

"With us, yes.  How much do you see yourself being paid?"  Annette asked with a small smile.  Jase sat back in his seat again, smiling back at her.

"For the initial period of three to six months, something reasonable."  he suggested.  "Comparable to a STEM graduate in a well-paid entry position.  After that apprenticeship is done, perhaps at the end of winter break, we can renegotiate."  The elegant brunette glanced at Taggart, then at the intently watching Ellie, then at the youth in the chair before her.

"And your father-"

"Will be fine with it."  Jason said firmly.

"Well."  Annette steepled her fingers, plainly considering.  "You'll need to be tested, of course.  And we'd likely identify areas you're not fully competent in yet and set up a training program."

"Good."  Jason nodded.  "I want to learn.  Stasis is death."

"But we'll need to think about it, too."  Annette held up a manicured hand.  "That is not a 'no', far from it.  But I will need to seek approval for this, and so will the Major.  I think, however, on balance, that our superiors will be agreeable."  This last was not quite a question as she glanced at Taggart, who shrugged.

"Provided Mr Bannon-"

"Call me Jase."

"-Jase has scores to match his claims, I see no reason why not."  The soldier studied the youth.  "I'll get a proper test sorted out for him, then we can take things a step at a time from there."

"Good."  Annette placed her hands on the desk and rose, smiling.  "I have to say, this is possibly the oddest job interview I've ever been part of."

"It's my first job interview."  Jason admitted, standing up.  "Not counting Cook, who shut me down fast."  He took Annette's offered hand and shook it, then turned to the Major.  "Major Taggart." he nodded.

"Jase."  Taggart offered his own hand for a shake.  "Got to say, I like the moxie."  The older man smiled wryly.  "Good luck, because I won't take it easy with the test."

"If I wanted easy, I'd stay in school."  Jason replied with a faint smile, then turned to go.  "I can see myself out."

Edited by GDP_ST
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1240, Marias Medical Center

"Really, I'm fine."  Tawny protested, sitting up in the hospital bed and smiling at the tall, handsome young man who'd come bearing flowers.  "They're lovely, though."  the golden-haired girl admitted, looking at the vase next to her bed and then at Jacob.  

"They're sort of an apology."  Jacob sat down in the chair by the bedside, smiling at his Homecoming date despite the nasty-looking faded bruise that covered one side of his face.  He fiddled with his hands, looking down at them, then at her.  "I'm sorry I couldn't-"  Tawny leaned over and placed her hand on top of his.

"Jacob, there's nothing you could have done." she told him in an earnest, yet gentle tone.  "It was...  Well, he was out of your weight class."  she said, remembering some boxing jargon she'd heard an uncle use once.

"I know."  The warden's son smiled ruefully, then sighed.  "That doesn't make it easier, somehow.  I'm not really used to feeling..."  he shrugged, looking away.

"Helpless."  Tawny finished for him, nodding in understanding as he looked back to meet her eyes.  "Join the club."  Jacob smiled a little at her.

"I'm glad that... You know."  he said, indicating her.  "You're alright.  That they were able to save you."  The 'they' hung between the two, each trying to decide what the other might know.  After all, Tawny was Devin's friend, and Jacob was Autumn's ex, right?  Surely, each reasoned, the other was in on 'the Secret'?  Jake had been listening last night when Bannon had brought Autumn home, when his dad and the Keanes had sat down with the strange kid and discussed horrors and miracles.  It hadn't really been explained why the creature that had been Cody had taken Tawny or Sophia, though. Or killed Charlie Cole.  There were answers the stoic young man needed, and he wasn't even sure what the questions were yet.  Or who to ask.

For Tawny, it was similarly confusing.  She knew why Cody had taken her, of course.  He'd ranted about it, grinning that mirthless razor-filled grin at her.  She'd tried to focus, to use her Shine against him, but her terror had scattered her concentration like leaves before a wind.  She knew that Devin and his friends, the Fellowship as they called themselves, had come for her.  Deej and Emjay had visited earlier today, Devin being as sweet as always and Marissa... almost kind.  "I'm glad too."  she said softly.  "It was..."  she remembered the cold grasp of the Tree on her, not just her flesh but her soul, and shivered.  "It's over now, anyway."

"Yeah."  Jacob nodded, frowning a little.  "I guess."

=  =  =  =  =  =  =

Deep in thought as he left Tawny's room, hands in the pockets of his jacket, Jacob almost missed another tall, though much sparser shape as it strode down a side corridor and turned out of view.  Had that been...  He hurried to the junction of the two hallways and glanced left, seeing his quarry as it turned another corner, this time into the main lobby.  Tall, slender, shaggy hair...

"Bannon!"

The other stopped, glancing over his shoulder as Jake Crocker caught up with him, not missing the scar that traversed the ice-eyed youth's cheek.  That was new - it must have been from the battle last night, Jake reasoned, his gaze focusing on it for a moment before meeting Bannon's eyes.

"Crocker."  Jason inclined his head, eyes narrowing as he considered.  "Visiting Tawny?"

"Yeah."  Jacob said, falling into step as the two teens continued on their way out of the hospital.  "You?"

"Had to speak with some people."  Jason said by way of reply.  Either he didn't want to talk about it, or it wasn't Jacob's business, or both.  The warden's son eyed him as they moved into the parking lot.

"Some people, huh?"

"Yes."  Bannon's reply was as informative as the previous one, and his expression was... well, Jacob never wanted to play poker against him.  It was like trying to read a wall.  He stepped ahead and turned, raising a hand without touching Jason to bring them both to a halt.

"Okay... so.  Look, I know there's stuff going on."  he said.  "And I know it's weird stuff.  And I want to help.  So what can I do?"

"I don't know.  What can you do?"  Jason inquired, fixing the taller boy with a level gaze that was neither hostile nor friendly.  In the face of the question, though, Jake paused, his shoulders sagging slightly.

"I... dunno." he admitted, thinking, throwing a glance at the twin icy emeralds currently appraising him and finding no succor there.  "I mean... I don't even know what's going on, really.  Just stories and snippets, and what I overheard.  Which sounds... crazy."  Bannon didn't say anything, merely looked at him.  "Look, Autumn thinks the world of you, that's... uh... pretty obvious.  And it's not just a girl-boy thing." he went on hastily.  "I just want..."

"To understand."  Jason said quietly.  "You are lost right now, and you're not sure what is real and where you fit into things.  Understanding would help you."  He paused, considering.  "But it is not my place to just dump everything on you.  We have a sort of... unofficial rule, I suppose.  You are Autumn's oldest friend.  As with her family, it would be a trespass for me to tell you what was going on without her consent."

"I guess that makes sense."  Jacob frowned, considering the angular features of the other youth.  "I don't like it though."

"Nor did Dana."  Jason shrugged slightly, lips twitching in a smile.  "She asked me yesterday, before everything happened, to tell her what was going on.  I told her the same thing I am telling you - you should speak to Autumn.  Possibly on another day." he added, eyes narrowing in thought.  "Today is not likely to be a good day."

"Right."  Jacob wondered at that, but stored it away for later examination.  Bannon was still staring at him, and Jake remembered himself.  "Oh, right."  he said, stepping out of the way.  "Hey... Thanks.  For talking to me.  Or... not talking to me?  Listening to me?  Whatever that was."

"A gift of time."  Again, that weird glimmer of humor in those depthless eyes.  "You are Autumn's friend.  It is the least I can do.  See you later."

"Right."  Jacob shook his head as he watched Bannon head over to the gleaming muscle car he drove.  "Shit."  he said softly, grumbling as he turned and headed for his own car.

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1240, Shelly High School

The school newspaper office was quiet, a perfect place for Cassie to slip away, to sit down and ostensibly go over material from the classes she'd missed this morning - but more truthfully to wrestle with the revelations shown her by her gift.  It certainly seemed like Marissa was in with Enterich, who was definitely a Bad Guy in addition to being a sicko who'd convinced another sicko to murder a child.  What had the money been for?  Was it anything to do with the murder attempt this morning?  She wasn't looking forward to the meeting later, for certain. Well, she was and she wasn't. On the one hand, it needed to happen, and her desire to find the truth at the heart of today's events would (hopefully) be satisfied.  On the other hand...  It was likely to be acrimonious.  Both Jason and Autumn had expressed misgivings about the meeting - the other half of Team Pluck somewhat nebulously and her strange boyfriend with characteristic brutally clinical breakdown.  Cassandra was moderately satisfied with her powers of persuasion in getting Jase to attend - she just hoped it wouldn't add to the disaster potential.

And thoughts of Jason Bannon naturally led to 'Ellie'.  The striking similarities in how they acted - but Ellie was an alien and Bannon was a human psychopath.  Or was he?  He wouldn't lie about it - from what she understood of him - so maybe he thought he was one.  Or maybe Ellie was lying.  Or maybe... maybe, maybe, maybe.

Another problem for the pile.  Just let them get through today before working on tangential stuff, please, the blonde girl grumped to herself as she read the textbook page.  Or stared at it anyway, her eyes seeing it but her brain elsewhere.  She was saved from disappearing down another rabbit hole of musings when the door flew open and Leila Cross stormed into the newspaper office, closing the door firmly behind her before moving to sit at her desk, opposite Cassandra's.

"Okay.  What the actual fuck, Allen?"  Leila's speared her newsroom partner with a glare and went on without waiting for an answer.  "First, where did you go this morning? Second, does it have anything to do with rumors I'm hearing about Jason fucking Bannon being shot?  Because if it does, I want to know why you're not already talking to me about the story.  And speaking of stories, what the hell is this I'm hearing from my sources that you and a very assorted group of Shelly High's... let's call them 'finest' were at the fucking medical center last night after having rescued two kidnapped girls from a serial killer?  Said group also containing Jason 'El Chapo' Bannon, Autumn Keane and the Jauntsens, who were also late in today.  Why is Marissa Jauntsen dressed like a monochrome girl next door?  Are you part of some weird teenage sex cult and can I join?  Someone says they spotted Bannon kissing Keane down the road from the school not long ago - which is pretty damn frisky for a dude who reportedly got shot.  What's the fucking story, Cassie?!"

All that was missing was the toothbrush mustache and Leila thumping the desk demanding photos of Devin.

Edited by GDP_ST

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1300-ish, Shelly High School

The Snickers bar didn't do much, in fact, she was hungry again about thirty minutes later.  With eyes closed she stood at her locker, hidden by the small door, taking a moment to collect her thoughts and just relax.  She could hear the school all around her, the chaotic garble of too many people talking all at once, the occasional squeak of a shoe across the waxed floors, locker doors slamming closed or popping open.  It was almost hypnotic and she felt like she could just curl into a ball fall aslee-

"Um, excuse me?"

She breathed.  If she ignored it, it would go away.  Right?

"E-excuse me?  You're Marissa, right?  Marissa Jauntsen?"

She opened her eyes and lazily spun about to face whomever it was trying to get her attention.  Lunchtime.  One hour... just one hour to herself, was that too much to ask?  It was, said the cosmos as she tried to guess why Steve Rodgers, before the serum, was trying to flag her down at her locker.  Sandy blonde, 90 pounds soaking wet (with a brick tied to his ankle, hopefully), and unpleasant to look at he certainly wasn't anything she'd consider interesting.  His teeth were straight and his eyes were a pretty shade of silvery gray.

"What," she asked lazily and like she hadn't heard a word he'd said up until now.

"Hi, I'm, uh, Garett."  He smiled nervously and offered his hand which she just glared at as her eyebrow slowly raised up in confusion.

"Great."  She slid her book into her locker, having realized just then that she'd been holding the whole time.  "Don't care."

Garret lowered his hand, his cheeks flushing slightly, "Oh, uh... so, um, you're Cade Allister's girlfriend, right?"

"We're not putting a label on it," she said on reflex.  She turned from her open locker and looked at Garret.  "You're still here... why?"

"Yeeaah, why wouldn't I be?" he tried to smile past her attitude.  Truth was she intimidated the hell out of him most days, but today she just seemed less like herself and more approachable.  "But you two are going out, though, right?"

"Yes, no... sort of," Marissa, exasperated let her shoulders collapse and she just faced him, shaking her head in annoyance.  "Why?  What's it to you, anyway?"

"My friend, didn't know if you had a date for Homecoming and wanted me to ask you for him," he pointed across the way and heads of two other students disappeared behind lockers.  "Ronnie."

"Wilkins?" she said with a disgusted look on her face.  "He never bathes.  I have a class with him, we can smell him from three seats away... no, nuh uh, no way in hell, ever.  Plus, he's a Freshman.  Tell Ronnie to stay in his lane.  Maybe his pillow is free that night, Gary."

"It's uh, Garret." He pointed out.

"Don't care." She also pointed out.

"Um, what about Sean Cassidy?"  Garret added.

"Sean is a guy, Barret."

"Garre-," he shrugged.  "You know, never mind.  I'm cool with Barret.  No, the reason I was asking was because you hang out with Sean, right?"

"Sean hangs with me," she corrected him.  Her gaze got as hard as it could, given how miserable she was feeling.  "So if you have a problem with him, you have one with my brother and me.  Now, why do you want to know about Sean?  Hurry up, you're like a little mosquito, and you're starting to bother the hell out of me.  I don't even recognize you, are you a Freshman too?"

"Wh-what?  N-no," this was why she scared the crap out of him.  She spoke and flipped to angry faster than he could think of what he was going to say.  He swallowed hard, trying to relax and say what he needed to before she went nuclear.  "I mean, yes.  I am a Freshman, but I don't' have a problem with Sean... we heard he's a gamer and were wondering if he had any open spots in his gaming group?  I was hoping you could... um, p-pass my info along to him, please?"  He presented her with a torn piece of notebook paper with their numbers written on it in obvious gamer handwriting.  "I have a raw damage wizard I've been wanting to try out and was hoping he had the room."

She stared at the paper for a good long moment, brow raised in mock appraisal of the weeb specimen so brazenly standing in front of her.  What happened to her?  When did the nerds and losers of this school decide that she had fallen so far that they could simply just approach her like she was one of them and not their royalty to be worshipped?  She sighed deeply and snatched it from him.  "Surefinewhatever," and stuffed it into her jean pocket.  "Now go away, Glen I we're done."

"See?  Now you're not even trying anymo-" she forced her past him with a slam of her locker and made it three steps before her world began to spin.  She stopped as the walls wavered and the ceiling weft about slowly her eyes rolled back and Marissa fell backwards...

Garret yelled for help from won of the teachers and Courtney hazily appeared in her field of vision as a blurry mess right before her world went black.

Edited by Dave ST
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Cassandra sat through the entire tirade, then said, "Wow, okay. From the top." She closed her eyes and started to recite:

"I was feeling off, so I went to the doctor's office. It has nothing to do with any rumors. There's nothing to talk about yet. I don't know what you're hearing from your sources, maybe you should check with them? Mari's trying to set a new trend, she thinks the look'll be hot. Yes I am. No you can't. And...someone doesn't sound like a credible witness?"

Leila folded her arms more and more tightly as Cassie went on, then said, "This is bullshit, Cassandra. You report to me. You can't keep secrets from your editor! What's the point of a reporter who doesn't report?!"

"Yes!" Cass said abruptly, cutting her off. "It's bullshit! Ask bullshit questions, get bullshit answers! Jesus, Laila, are you actually paying people to follow me around or something?! Look! I've been through some shit lately, and I am still trying to work out what I can hand in, and what will get me arrested for handing in. Who's kissing who is nothing, Laila. It's nothing."

She took a deep breath, trying to exhale the sudden tension in her neck and shoulder, and held her hands out in mock surrender.

"Alright. Deadlines are good. Deadlines keep me focused. I need two days to untangle all this, and get something printable on your desk. Alright? Two days. That'll give you time to get it out this week if you get the copy in on time."

Laila narrowed her eyes suspiciously. "So what, you just fuck off for two days, then put some piece of science fiction down? No, I want to know what this story IS, Allen. What are you working on, and why isn't it...any of those things I was asking about? I'm handing you grade A material here, but you're just...no, I need more time..." Her voice slid up into a mocking falsetto on the last phrase.

Cassandra rubbed her temples and said, "Right, well, I can't say much yet because ongoing investigations and all that, but basically a tiny bit of what you said was kind of right in a very roundabout way. Remember when Cody disappeared?"

Immediately Laila was sitting down across from Cassie, intently focused. "Yeah."

"Well, then around Labor Day some other kids were taken too. A few kids realized something was going on, and pieced enough together to get in way over their heads...but then, against all odds, managed to pull it out at the end and save some lives. That is the story. What I'm going through now is working out how specific I'm allowed to be, who wants to be on record, and all that."

Laila was quiet for a moment, studying Cassandra minutely. "Two days?"

"Best I can do."

Finally she nodded. "Okay. Two days. But it had better be exactly as awesome as you're making it sound." Then Laila stalked away.

"Sure," Cassie grumped under her breath. "Because that's what I needed. More pressure."

 

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This really is a strange place to be in, after what happened. What happened? She can't say for sure. She can't... remember?

Oh whatever. The music is at least decent. In fact she can't really help tapping her foot to the beat.

It's her birthday party. Again. Erwann and Alice did this. Very sweet of them. Now she can remember.

"'Cause I'm going to live my lifeBut something feels... amiss. There is a very odd noise every time she taps her foot.

Now that she's looking at it, it makes sense. Rotten flesh, mingled with dirt, and blood, and bone. And she taps her foot.

Of course the sound would be weird. She raises her eyes, staring at the horde of chitinous, ravenous monsters charging her.

Of course something would feel wrong. She closes her eyes, not able to watch her friends, swallowed by the crowd.

It'll be over soon. And the music keeps on going. She opens her eyes, facing an impressive row of teeth, and-

If you wanna live your life
Live it all the way and don't you waste it
Every feelin' every beat
Can be so very sweet you gotta taste it

Life's a party, make it hot
Dance don't ever stop, whatever rhythm
Every minute, every day
Take them all the way you gotta live 'em

 

You gotta do it, you gotta do it your way
You gotta prove it
You gotta mean what you say
You gotta do it, you gotta do it your way
You gotta prove it
Let's get loud, let's get loud
Turn the music up to hear that sound
Let's get loud-

 

Squeaked, sitting straight in her bed. The sun was much higher than before, so high she couldn't see it through the window anymore. It was probably noon. Her heart was drumming fast in her chest, faster than Johnny Rabb on steroids. Her trembling hand grabbed her phone on the nightstand. Almost 1PM. That was enough sleeping for today. She breathed, very slowly, for a couple minutes. I hate nightmares. After staring at her phone for a moment, she remembered. She still didn't get a reply from Courtney. She quickly tapped on the tactile screen.

She deployed her mind web, scanning the surrounding of her house. Everything was rather quiet. She sat there for a couple minutes, watching the minature stars moving around. Birds, rodents, even insects. Without her Shine, she probably would've never noticed how crowded the world is. She was busy reflecting on this when her phone dinged. It was Courtney. Kat exhaled heavily, at ease.

Ten minutes later, she jumped out of bed, in a rather happy mood. So happy, in fact, that she almost forgot to get dressed on the way out of her room, closing the door she'd just opened, red-cheeked at the thought. Should she have breakfast, or lunch? Now that was a rather hard question to answer. Or rather simple really. She technically had breakfast with her father. Lunch it is. She looked down at her phone while going down the stairs, an excited grin crossing her features. "Ow." Maybe she should check the wound on her cheek first.

The house was empty. At this hour it made sense. Of course both the adults are busy adulting. Did that come out wrong? The petite French girl shook her head, setting the sterile compresses, strips and disinfectant on the kitchen table, along with a small mirror she'd found in the bathroom. She sat down and began removing the padded rectangle stuck to her sensitive face, grimacing. The cut was oblique, about one inch long and not so deep now that she took a good look at it, running accross her jawline to the left of her chin, chilling reminder of how close that pointy bone had been to her external jugular vein. She grabbed a compress, spraying it with the antiseptic, and began dabbing the cut, making sure it remained clean. She strapped a couple strips on it, closing the minuscule gap between the edges of the wound. There was no real need to groom it further, she'd read online that a cut of this size was best kept uncovered if you wanted it to heal properly.

Kat stared at her reflection for a minute, uncertain of what she was thinking about. Her stomach growled. Right. Lunch.

Edited by Catherine 'Kat' Barras

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About 1:15pm


When Cade got the text, he made a quick reply, and then turned around from heading to class, instead heading to the nurse's office.  It wasn't that much trouble to get in to see Marissa, and he smiled.  He'd made a quick stop at a vending machine, for another snickers.   "Brought you a little something."   he said quietly.

Marissa was lying back a bit on the small hospital examination table the school had and her eyes lit up at the sight of the Snickers bar.  She was sipping Coke from a can with a straw.  The small hospital table to her left had several wrappers from tiny Halloween bite bars they'd fed her but her complexion still owned a pale and weakened pallor.

The can found a home next to the wrappers and snatched the candy bar.  "Ugh, thank you!  They had a coke and just these parts... Christ, I had to look up on Google for them how to treat me.  They ran to get me a Gatoraide.  The military needs to station some medical people here, seriously."  She tore into the Snickers and sighed as her eyes closed with pleasure while she chewed.  Her mouth filled with chocolate and nougat and in an in a very unladylike fashion spoke while she was nomming half of a Snickers bar.  "Don'chu hev claph?"

"You're welcome."   he grinned at her.  "Yes I have class, but I knew I needed to come check on you, and likely, something you'd be wanting."  Cade laughed abit.  "You were also very explicit on what would happen if I "ghosted" you if something happened. "  he shrugged. "It'd look odd to people if something happened to you and I didn't come to check on you."

"So..." she slowly stopped chewing and side-eyed him.  "You didn't come because you actually cared, just because you were afraid of what I would do if you ghosted me?"  Her lips pursed and she nodded.  She sucked on her teeth.  "Can't say I blame you.  You're learning at least, thanks for coming at least."

She lifted her phone and set it back down.  "Deej's been texting me and my mom is coming down after she finishes a meeting, so she might send me home.  If you don't see me the rest of the day, that's where I am.  Text me if you like."

"You know that I came because I care."  he said,  his voice quiet.   It struck him as odd, her seeming almost bothered that he didn't list that first.   He really didn't understand women, least of all, Marissa.    "Yeah, I'll text you."   he looked at her.   "Are you really okay?"   his actual concern was evident now.

His label-neutral lover relaxed and sighed.  "Honestly, I don't know."  She shrugged and looked up at him.  "Something's not right.  Cade, I've torn through two plates of eggs, toast, sausage, two snickers bars, a yogurt, some mixed fruit and veggies for lunch and... I'm still hungry plus, I weighed myself and I'm down three pounds from last night before we went and... you know."

"I've watched enough T.V. to know that whenever people get super powers, there's always one persons who just go wrong and... they melt away or they explode, or they break down..." A look of worry spread through out her pallid complexion.  "I... I'm kind of freaking out.  It's like my body is eating itself, and me, to death.  I've seen Thinner, this won't end well for me.  Oh... and the school nurse think I might be pregnant, so there's that.  Expect my mom to go nuclear."

"i'd heard that rumor myself.   Crap like that spreads faster than anything.  I haven't paid any mind to it, it'll die on its own soon enough.    I won't say you collapsing, and your increased appetite isn't concerning, but a heightened metabolism would help you resist poisons and disease too, right?  I mean it always does in the comics if we're gonna use that as a basis.   You're just always hungry, you could turn out like the Flash and have superspeed too.   Just means we have to cook some really big meals, going forward.   Maybe ask the others if any of them are experiencing something similar?   I'm not, but then we've established I'm not like any of the rest of you.    I'm no genius, but I bet your mom will want to take you to the medical center  to run some tests, and see just what's going on.  You know your mom isn't going to let them do anything shady,  she'll be watching like an angry Hawk, I'm sure.   You could ask to see my mother, too, if you like.  If there's anyone at the hospital you can trust implicitly, it will be her."  he'd let his inner nerd out just abit, and he didn't care.

Cade smiled.  "As for your mom, don't let her get to you.    You've got enough stress.   I've got your back, and you know Devin does.   Hell, the Fellowship sticks together, even if we don't all always get along.   Go home get some rest before the meeting.   I'm sure it's going to be stressful enough.    If you need anything, let me know and I'll get it on my way over, after I go home to get cleaned up."

"I'm thinking that might not be a bad idea, I'm a little worried."  He was a bit quirky at times, but she knew he cared.  She was pretty sure he couldn't help but care, like a Paladin always looking for a Princess in a tower, Cade was always going to be the nice guy, that much she could tell.  Still, he was cute when he wanted to be.

She mustered a smile and held out her arms, waving her fingers inward to summon him to her.  "C'mere.  Hug me and kiss me while I still taste delicious." She invited him, referring to the chocolate still on her lips.  He smiled and leaned down, holding her gently and kissing her.  His neck tingled as her hand slid through his hair and her nails gently tickled his scalp.  She was right... she tasted like chocolate.

"Hopefully I'll feel better soon, hmm?" she cooed with anticipation and hope in his ear.  "Go, get to class... I'll feel guilty if I make you late twice in one day."

He couldn't help but smile.  "Worth being late for you." he answered her back, before they released each other.  "When you're feeling better, I'll be sure to show you how glad I am for that."  he added, before drawing himself up.  His hand lingered on one of hers she was slow to pull away, his own hands were quite warm, and he finally pulled back.  "If you need me, you know how to reach me."  He turned and left, looking over his shoulder once at the door, still smiling.   He didn't think it was something bad with her powers, as far as he knew, nobody actually had any sort of negative side effects, unless they overused their abilities.

(written with Dave)

Edited by Dave ST
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12:20, Nuclear-powered Trailer

Sean glanced up from his phone towards the sun that was just starting to slide from its zenith. With his gifts, he could look at it without risking damage to his eyes, and to his vision, the sun was far more than just a yellow-white blob in the sky. It was a dancing, coruscating tapestry woven from the gamut of the electromagnetic spectrum. The sight had helped him model alternate types of vision - through technology or mutation - to ReGenesis, instead of just using the standard greenish darkvision. He had it, of course, but he had more, too.

The voluptuous boy stood up, hands going to knuckle his back and stretch the strain from sore muscles when he paused, heterochromatic eyes widening in surprise as he looked down at himself. The lingering aches from facing Not-Cody and the deluge of monstrosities in the Blight had faded away unnoticed during his time of self-reflection and under the sun. He interlaced his fingers and stretched his arms over his head, then rolled his shoulders. Nothing, no strain, no pain. What remained was a faint, subtle, almost electric, thrum of health and vitality.

It felt somewhat akin to the feeling of increasing and accelerating the bioelectric synapses in his brain when he overclocked it. Much, much, milder, to be sure - he wouldn't even have noticed save for the sudden realization of the absence of pain - but analogous. Were the scope of his powers starting to broaden-

- his stomach gave a muted growl of warning hunger. Well, it was pass the start of lunch period. Sean brushed off the seat of his pants, gave one of the watching - but unseen - cameras a small, two-fingered salute, then began strolling back to his car.

1:30ish, Bunnee's

A cheek resting on a fist, the crimson-haired electrokinetic dipped a crispy sweet potato fry in the small tub of paprika garlic aioli, his eyes on his tablet sitting on the chipped laminate of the booth table at Bunnee's. He was up to 87 units sold, creeping closer to triple digits. Tiny in comparison to AAA games selling millions of copies at launch, but he didn't have the advertising budget of the big publishers - just his own efforts online, and he was only releasing as digital downloads on PC. He could have cheated, Sean supposed, but he had pushed all his time and unfair advantages on finishing the game and getting it out there, rather than word of it getting out there. Besides, he didn't have shareholders he was beholden to, he didn't mind the game finding its audience over time. As long as it did find an audience.

A quarter of a club sandwich remained on Sean's plate, next to the few remaining sweet potato fries he was absently finishing. A wireless earbud was tucked in his ear as he had continued to listen to IrønBjørn's playthrough over lunch, while occasionally responding to questions and comments on Steam and the II pages, YouTube, Twitter, and Reddit. Either he was getting used to IrønBjørn or IrønBjørn was getting used to ReGenesis, but the Streamer seemed to Sean to be far more engaging and entertaining than he initially had been.

With perfect timing or perfect serendipity, just as Sean finished the last sweet potato fry, Max showed up to replace his near empty glass of orange-lemonade for a full one. Sean looked up his tablet to nod his thanks, expecting the well-endowed waitress to give his plate a questioning glance, silently asking him if he were done. Instead, she slid herself onto the bench seat across from him. Sean blinked, cocking his head in inquiry.

"Shouldn't you be in school, Sean?" Max asked idly.

"Probably," Sean admitted in a drawl. He shrugged. "Not feeling it today. Charlie. Other stuff. Skipping a day ain't gonna hurt." He ran a hand through his hair, then frowned in self-recrimination as he picked up his phone. "I should probably tell my mom before the school calls."

"I get it," Max agreed with a nod. "I've been hearing things-"

"Only half true, at best," Sean interrupted hastily.

"I won't ask which half." Max shot him a wry smirk. The busty waitress had always treated him well, treated him as he wished to be treated without ignoring or overlooking how he looked, and for that, Sean was grateful. It did help him accept his appearance rather than be shamed for it, and it helped her with earning bigger tips from him. "Just don't make a habit of it, right? At some point, somebody might end up calling the Sheriff on you for truancy."

Sean rolled expressive eyes. That would be something, with what he knew and what the Sheriff knew, coming to get him about truancy. "No promises, Max." Sean smirked back and tapped his tablet with a forefinger, a joking tone in his voice. "I just released a new video game. Might end up a big, fancy indy developer making bank. Who says I need school?"

"Yeah, about that. That's why I'm taking a minute to sit down with you, Sean. There's a guy been asking around about you..."

Sean froze, almost dropped his phone, and stared wide-eyed at Max, thoughts of the assassination attempt on Jase shoving itself to the forefront of his thoughts. "Wh-who's looking for me? What he look like?"

"He looks like he's from California, blond, kind of a surfer dude with a well paying job in tech somewhere. Wears an expensive suit but doesn't look stuffy in it. Drives the kind of fancy, ostentatious car the Jauntsen boy would drive if he drove a car instead of a bike. You can't miss it."

"What he want?"

For answer, Max pulled a business card from her apron and placed on the table in front of Sean, the rich cardstock making a crisp slap on the laminate. Sean leaned forward to read the card. It stated: Brad Stanton, EA Talent Acquisition, Senior Technical Recruiter, followed by an EA business email and a phone number. The business card looked expensive with a touch of gilding. Very American Psycho. Sean hadn't been sure people even still used business cards.

"Huh."

"He was looking for 'Sean Cassidy'," Max said, "for a 'mutually beneficial and totally sweet business deal', but I don't think he knows exactly who you are, or what he's expecting."

"Why didn't he just email or send a private DM?" Sean wondered, more to himself than to Maxine as he picked up the card. After the debacle that was his attempt at streaming on Twitch, he kept personal information tight online, but he had business accounts for Intersectional Interactive on various social media sites. It might be conceited, but Sean had always assumed he'd get a call from a big AAA video game publisher or developer. He just hadn't thought it would be so soon. Certainly not the day he dropped his second game. He was thinking at least after his third, maybe longer, unless ReGenesis ridiculously blew up.

"I got the feeling Brad thinks a personal meeting will make his offer, whatever it is, more appealing." Max gestured at Sean's tablet. "How's the game doing? Think Mr. Brad Stanton is here about that?"

"Maybe?" Sean hedged.

It's not like he had a ton of viewers and subscribers on his YouTuber channel about the making of ReGenesis and video games in general. He supposed he could have garnered some interest because of Annwn. But there was no way anyone would be interested in a new, untested IP. Then sent Marshalls, like real ones even if they were corrupt, after Jase. It would make sense to send a rep from a big video game publisher after him to put his guard down.

"I'll have check this guy out online, see if he's legit. Thanks, Max." Sean waved the card then stuffed it into his satchel. I'll have to talk to mom after, too. Carolyn Cassidy might only work part-time as an account from home, mostly keeping the books for her husband, but she'd also helped her son set up his business. She was the closest thing Intersectional Interactive had to a CFO. Not like he'd ever sell anything to a company like EA.

"No problem." Max stood and gave Sean a quick smile before heading back to the counter. "Just when you sell your game or company for big bucks, don't forget your favorite waitress at your favorite diner, okay?"

Sean laughed, a genuine, feel good laugh. He hadn't had one of those in what felt like forever. "I won't."

He took a sip of his orange-lemonade then picked up his tablet, minimizing the stream. Let's found out who this Brad Stanton really is...

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