Heavy Material


owain_icon.gif squeaks_icon.gif

Scene Title Heavy Material
Synopsis Owain and Squeaks get to know each other.
Date June 19, 2018

Lighthouse Kids Safehouse

It’s true. The group of teens consisting of Lance, Brynn, Joe, and Squeaks hasn’t been spending quite so much time at The Lair — even though details on how renting will work is still being figured out between the elder teenagers and Caspian. There’s still talk happening about what to do and how to make sure everyone’s getting a fair deal. However. That hasn’t stopped any of them from making visits. In fact, the youngest of them comes and goes as she will, usually to ferret away something that might have some value to her, or add to any of the small caches of foodstuff.

And it’s one of those errands that’s brought Squeaks around today.

The girl has weaseled herself into the house by some means that wasn’t the front door. It’s been a while since she’s needed to use those skills that let her into places — usually she saves them for getting into other people’s places — but today she decided to flex those muscles because she might need them. Better to be prepared, which is a thing she’s picked up from living with the older teenagers.

Once inside, she doesn’t try too hard to stay unfindable. She’s not expecting to find anyone else inside, so Squeaks walks from one room to another and eventually into the common living area completely like she owns the place. Things are rearranged as she goes around. Some food stores are adjusted in quantity or moved to another location completely. But once she’s reached the main living space, she has nothing except a half eaten cereal bar.

Owain has been in the main living space this entire time; he came in the normal way, and has been quietly working on his schoolwork here. The lack of people in general has made it much easier to get his studies done, since there’s not the distractions he finds in the dorms, and disturbances are rare enough to make this place the best choice for studying.

He’s sprawled out a bit on the couch, with a book in his lap; a guitar rests against the couch next to him, on reserve for a bit later once he’s finished this particular assignment. The cap of a pen rests between his teeth, his hand holding the pen that it belongs to, occasionally jotting down some answer or another as he studies the thick chemistry textbook in his lap.

He heard Squeaks’ entrance, though, and while he hasn’t moved an inch from his spot, his eyes currently resemble mirrors, reflecting the rest of the room; a dozen copper ball bearings of various sizes orbit in lazy circles over his head, ready to be used if someone means to do anything sneaky or underhanded.

However, once Squeaks finally makes her way into the living room, the tension visibly fades from Owain’s long and lanky frame. His free hand, holding a canvas pencil bag with a copper zipper, raises up, and the ball bearings slowly float in. Once all contained, the bag zips itself up and floats back into his backpack, the copper zipper raising up just enough to admit the bag, before closing itself.

“Hey, Squeaks,” he murmurs, dipping his head toward the girl.

Finding Owain in the living room probably isn't as much of a surprise as it could have been. She's seen him around, even since that day she caught him smooshing faces with Brynn. What does surprise Squeaks is the orbiting copper bearings. She pauses, halfway into a bite of cereal bar, and stares at the older teen. And when the bearings are magically put away, she tracks those also, with no idea that she may have been mistaken for a bad guy.

Without a word for what she just saw, blue eyes dart back to the young man when the pouch disappears into the backpack. Squeaks’ eyebrows lift a little, because that was kind of cool to see. That bite she'd interrupted to watch is finished before she even offers a garbled, “Hi.”

The mirrors that are Owain’s eyes suddenly seem to crawl into pinpoints that eventually become Owain’s pupils, and eventually his brown eyes. The pen is recapped, the textbook closed with the chemistry homework holding his place. He places the pen atop the book, and moves to sit like a normal person, rather than sprawling on the couch. He sets this on the ground next to his backpack.

He’s honestly rather glad he’s never had to use those copper bearings on anyone other than the straw dummies that his dad set up by the lake.

“Sorry about the ability,” he apologizes, tipping his head toward the girl. “Didn’t know it was you when you came in.” He stands, moving over to his backpack and pulling out a bag of chips that he had stowed away. The bag crinkles as he pops it open; then, he reaches in, grabbing two cans of cola. One is quietly offered out to Squeaks. “How’re you?”

“Why are you sorry?” This time, the words aren’t muddled up by food, because Squeaks uses the time Owain takes to clean up to finish her snack. And it’s a solidly honest question. She saw nothing wrong with his using his ability inside the house. Nothing was broken that she could see. “I can’t do anything like that. I’m just… normal.” The word is chased with a shrug.

The soda is looked at when it’s held out to her, but she doesn’t reach for it right away. Unsure if it’s okay to have it, or if it’s a trick of some kind, Squeaks looks up at Owain then makes a slow reach for the can. “I’m okay.”

There’s no trick; Owain gladly hands over the soda. He might have been smashing his face against Brynn’s, but he’s a good kid — and he likes helping out younger kids, too. It’s a side effect of being a protective big brother.

“I thought you might be someone who was breaking in to rob us or something.” He gestures toward the bag. “That wasn’t for fun.” He pauses. “Those ball bearings can do some damage. It looks cool when I make them float, but they’re kind of…well, I’m better at shooting those at people than I am with a gun.” Though he’s good with a gun, too.

Once Squeaks has her soda, Owain pops the tab on his, settling back onto the couch and taking a long swig. “So, what’s your story? I know the other people here, mostly. You’re new, though.”

There’s a touch of wariness anyway, like she’s waiting for something — maybe for Owain to change his mind about sharing, Squeaks doesn’t know him that well, after all. But there’s a little bit of nervousness until the young man is settled back on the couch again and drinking out of his own can. That’s when she lets herself relax. Sort of. Her soda is popped open and she takes a good and long drink. Old habits die hard.

“I wouldn’t rob us,” she points out, a little hurt that it would even be suggested. This is her place too, and besides she doesn’t want to hurt Brynn or Lance or Joe. They’re her family now, she thinks. That’s a confusing topic right now. The rest of it, that the bearings could be used as a weapon — like a gun — brings a small frown to her face, but she lets the subject change without dwelling too much.

“My story?” Squeaks thinks about that while she pushes the tab around her can. “I don’t know? I used to live in the Underneath. Now I live with Lance and Brynn and Joe.” Is that the story he means?

“I know you wouldn’t rob us. But I didn’t know it was you until you walked in here.” Owain flashes a smile to the girl. “I was just ready to protect this place, that’s all.” He takes another swig of the soda, letting a satisfied sigh out once that is gulped down.

These people are his family, too, and he’ll definitely protect them and their property. Like his asshole of a father before him, Owain was gifted with an ability that could easily be used as a weapon, and he’s not afraid to use it — though he may be a little wobbly to start.

“I mean tell me about yourself. What happened before? What did you do in the Underneath? Why did you live there in the first place? Were you orphaned like the rest of us?” Owain isn’t technically an orphan — he has a stepmother. But all of his blood family, save for his grandparents in Indiana, are dead.

“Tell me about yourself. I know the others, knew them back when I was ten. You’re new, and I’d like to get to know you, if you’re open to talking about yourself.” Again, Owain smiles.

The questions are met with slightly widening eyes. Squeaks usually asks a lot of questions, but it’s different being on the other end of it. When Owain finally stops talking she grins, but it’s an unsure sort. She thinks about the questions, but covers her stalling by taking another drink of her soda.

“I lived with some grown-ups,” she begins slowly. It’s not exactly a touchy subject, but she’s cautious about sharing anyway. “But they weren’t my real mom and dad. After they died I ran away for good.” And to Squeaks, that seems like a good explanation for things, like how she ended up living in the Underneath.

“I heard Caspian was making a feast for him and some friends,” Squeaks adds on after a couple of seconds. “So I showed up for food. And that’s when I met Joe, Brynn, and Lance too.”

“Can I ask what happened to your parents?” Owain sips his soda, watching the girl thoughtfully. “How’d you get to live with the grown-ups? And how’d you end up in the Underneath after that?” He smiles again, holding out the bag of chips to offer her a few.

“Caspian seems cool, though I haven’t officially met him yet.” The teen tilts his head toward Squeaks. “Squeaks can’t be your real name. What is your real name, if I can ask?” He sips the soda again.

“I don't know.” Squeaks’ answer is matter-of-fact. “I only knew Dad and Carolyn. They told my real mom and dad didn’t want me and that’s why they got me.” She shrugs a little, shoulders popping up and dropping, because it’s a thing that happened a long, long time ago. “Dad died after we moved to avoid the fighting. Then Carolyn died a while later. Since she was dead and couldn’t stop me anymore, I ran away for good. But there was still all the fighting going on so I hid where there wasn’t fighting. Underneath.”

“Caspian is okay.” As far as grown-ups go. Squeaks hasn’t really formed an opinion about him, except that he’s probably safe enough to go to if she needed something. “And Squeaks is what everyone calls me. It’s how people know me.”

Owain listens carefully and thoughtfully, taking a chip and popping it into his mouth as Squeaks reluctantly regales him with her tale. “That sounds rough,” he replies once she’s finished, nodding understandingly.

Then, he takes the initiative, taking a turn to tell her about himself. Balancing the can between his knees, he gestures to himself. “When I was a baby, my dad’s power manifested. It came in a really horrible way, and my mom was killed because of it, and he was taken away by The Company.” He’s assuming at least that part of his history is real. “My Aunt Marjorie raised me, but she raised me to think that I was hers — she was my Mom, more than anyone else has ever been.”

Here is where he starts looking a little on the sad side. “She moved me out here so she could find my dad, after a PI tracked him here. I met my dad, and found out what had happened, and that my mom wasn’t my birth mom…and then, Colonel Leon Heller killed her while I was hiding in my room.” A pause. “I think he knew I was there. I heard it all.”

He takes a measured breath. “My dad took me to Pollepel, and that’s how I met the other kids,” he says with a gesture around. “…But during the war, we moved to Devil’s Lake out in North Dakota.”

He doesn’t go into the part where his dad destroyed Pollepel and betrayed his people and his own kind with her, yet.

“Do you like being called Squeaks?” is his final question, the teen lifting his soda to his lips and taking a swig.

If it’s a rough way of life, Squeaks wouldn’t know. So she shrugs. It’s just how things were. And when Owain takes his turn to explain his life she’s attentive. She even sits on the floor, criss-cross style, and rests her chin in her hands while he speaks. Of course, she isn’t sure what to say about it. “That’s rough,” is what she offers, echoing his earlier sentiments, even though she sounds kind of awkward about it.

It’s a relief when the subject is changed, even if it is a weird question. Squeaks’ head tilts to one side as she considers. But she answers with, “Do you like being called Owain?”

“I’ve learned to live with it,” Owain replies, smiling faintly to the girl. “Seems to be my lot in life. Trouble childhood and all that — I’m trying to turn it around, though.” He gestures to the textbook. Some complicated chemistry stuff. “Trying to get a college degree so I can help change the world, or something like that. Chemistry is right up my alley, because my ability lets me sense a good…oh, seventy-five percent of most elements, because I can sense all of the elements that are considered metallic.”

He smirks. “Boring stuff, I know.” He takes a swig of the soda. “But it’s also neat to feel out what metal feels like what.”

“I like to read,” is Squeaks’ response. “I read all kinds of things. But I don’t go to school. Haven’t for a long, long time.” She picks up her soda can and takes a long drink before offering another thought. “There’s a guy who knows a lot of stuff — Joe and I met him in the ruins one time — he said us three were all Children of the Eclipse. Joe thinks that means I can do things too, like your metal magic.” She shrugs to that because she doesn’t know if she can or not. “It was really weird.”

“That’s a good thing,” Owain replies, smiling to the girl. “I can borrow books from the college library for you, if you want. Just treat ‘em right and have them back on time for me to return them.” He pops another chip into his mouth, chewing thoughtfully.

“You could be SLC-E, yeah. Happens to everyone. Did you never get a test?” He tilts his head toward his shoulder. “I got my test when I was a little kid, back when I still lived in Indiana.”

“I took tests in school,” Squeaks answers. But something in her expression says she’s not sure if that’s what Owain means. “I didn’t get very good marks even though I tried real hard. School was really hard and… I’d rather just learn what’s in books.” She leans forward a little then, nodding. “I take real good care of all the books. Does your library have stuff on ghosts?”

That is indeed not what he meant. “I meant the slice test. You never took one?” Owain tilts his head to one side. “It tells you if you’re evolved or not.”

“I’m sure they do.” He pauses briefly, reaching down and grabbing his backpack to rummage through it. He could do his metal magic, as she calls it, but that’s a waste of time and concentration when he can just grab it with his own hands. He pulls out Catch 22 by Joseph Heller, turning it over in his hands; then, he offers it out to Squeaks. Probably heavy material for a normal fourteen year old, but Squeaks isn’t exactly normal.

“Here. It’s a library book, so be careful with it. I’ve already read it through once. You can read it until I can get you some more books, okay?” He smiles to the girl. “I’ll make sure to look up books on ghosts next time I’m there.”

Squeaks’ shoulders bounce with a quick shrug, but answers more slowly with, “I don’t know? Is like answering questions on a math test?” Those tests she’s done. “I don’t remember ever taking a slice test before.” She taps her chin to think about it while Owain rummages around in his backpack.

When the book is offered to her, Squeaks peers at the cover for a few seconds then takes it quickly. “I know this one!” She turns the book over in her hands, going from front cover to back to inside flaps. “I wanted to read it once, but Carolyn didn’t let me. I’ll be very careful with it. I promise!”

“It’s a special test that checks your blood to see if you have the genetic marker that sets Evolved apart from normal people.” He holds up a finger. “They poke your finger with a tiny needle, barely even hurts. It’s just enough to make you bleed a few drops. It turns one color if you are SLC Expressive, and another if you’re not.” He tips his head toward the girl. “If you want, I think I can get you one.”

Her reaction to the book prompts a smile. “Well, now you can. It’s kind of heavy material, but something tells me you can handle it.” He laughs softly, finishing off his soda. “Next time I come back here, I’ll have a bit more variety for you.”

Taking blood to test for anything does not sound like something she’d like to do, and Squeaks’ face reflects that in vague fear and slight disgust. “No, I think I’m good.” Pencil and paper tests were bad enough, but needing to stab a needle into you as a test? No thank you.

Luckily, there’s a book in her possession that demands more attention than dwelling on the nope-ness of blood and needles. Squeaks twists and sprawls onto the middle of the floor with the book. Her head is cradled in one hand and the other leafs through the pages until she comes to the beginning of the story.

“Totally understandable.” He’ll probably grab one for her anyhow, just in case she changes her mind and gets curious. A warm smile makes its way across Owain’s face as he watches the girl leaf through the books.

He likes Squeaks. To him at least, she seems like a bright girl who could have a good future ahead of her. And being an older brother already, Owain kind of instinctively flocks to kids like her.

He might be a little bit excited to have a book buddy, too.

With that warm smile on his face, he opens the chemistry textbook up once again, and goes back to his studies, letting Squeaks enjoy her new book.

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