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TheAbsurdist

Nature versus Nesting

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December 18th.

10:30ish AM.

 

Winter break for Claremont.  And Alumni Elias Silvestri was asked to do a thing.  Which meant they were desperate, or they didn't know how to related to Jann.

 

Given Elias was viewed with... less than stellar perspective, he didn't understand how he could help.  Other than the telepath and outsider thing.   But there he was sitting in a little camp in Wharton, arms folded, as he was perched in a folding camp chair, near the fire.  In a bit of an makeshift sort of shelter he was proficient in making, and in his heavy, reinforced jeans, and green flannel shirt, he waited for Jann.  His eyes locked on the fire waiting.

 

Talk, he supposed, help.  Or something.  Not that they gave him much to work from, so it was probably as much a lesson for him, as it was for the student.  F***ing Summers always playing these little games.  Even when it didn't objectively help as much as hinder.  So he waited.

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Jann didn’t quite understand what this meeting was for. He’d just been told to go there, and seeing how reliably little was happening at the moment, he did not have any reason not to. So, after his training session he grabbed the proper equipment and set off.

 

He arrived almost exactly a minute before the scheduled time, flying in and landing close-by. He was wearing his usual outfit for when he visited Wharton, a brown jacket with fitting pants, all providing a bit of stealth in the forest. Of course, below he was wearing his armour. As always, he was carrying a variety of equipment in a duffle bag, putting it down onto the ground after landing, before walking up towards Elias.

 

“Greetings. Have been told to meet somebody here by the Academy, presume that is you?”

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There was no surprise on Elias' face.  His bright eyes somehow managing to be both dim, and piercing at the same time.  There was a slow nod.  "I am.  You are Jann?"  Though he did mispronounce it, with a hard 'j' sound in the front.  "You can change if you want.  There is a bathroom over on the other side of this camp ground, or you can go in the van."  His voice low, flat.  Deeper than his size would indicate, slow as well, the way he sounded things a bit off compared to the people in FC that Jann knew.

 

Still there was a sense that despite how settled Errant seemed, it was a cunning ruse.  Or just simply incgruous..  

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Jann seemed to be alright with the current atmosphere, as his response was similar in tone. “That is who I am, yes. Have already changed before coming here, am ready for whatever this will turn out to be. “

 

Over a year in FC has helped reduce Jann’s accent somewhat, but it was still clearly audible, and while he didn’t seem to have much issues recalling the right words, his sentence structure still showed that he clearly was a foreign speaker.

 

He approached a bit closer, moving across the ground without making any sound, and always ready for any surprise attacks. He’d learned much from previous mentors. And while he didn’t know what this one was about, the atmosphere suggested it may just go that way too. “What will this be about, then?”

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He watched him, carefully, and he leaned to the side, and poured himself some coffee.  "Don't think you are.  But, that's debatable."  He nodded towards the percolator by the fire and the other tin cup for him to drink from.  "If you want some."

 

He looked away from Jann then, but the sense of him watching the Avian the whole time.  "You always being hunted?"  It was without much preamble, he just launched into the question he felt he needed to start.  Though he was familiar with the sensation, as well as being the odd one out.  Though he imagined that it was worse than his experience, given that Jann was a different species.

 

Still, Elias wasn't just blunt, he was a hammer, though his power was far more insidious.

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Jann was quiet at first. He struggled to find a proper answer, it hadn’t been a question he’d expected. Then, after some stumbling over how to begin the sentence, he finally said something. “Do not know. Possibly. Have no reason not to stay cautious, and have been followed and attacked before.

 

Jann looked at the percolator for just a moment, but didn’t act on it, staying where he’d been, nearly unmoving. Jann had had coffee before, but he’d found it only made him less focused. And in this current situation, he did not feel he could afford that.

 

So far, he did not understand what was happening. But he would not show that, instead relaxing his body just ever so slightly, even if he still expected some kind of surprise to happen at any moment.  

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His head tilted, and he nodded.  "I am a telepath.  Or was.  Close enough that it doesn't really matter.  They didn't tell you that.  People's face get scrunched when they know, as if that keeps me out.  Not that it was really noticeable when we ran across each other... But I am not wearing my mask, so hard to say, if you remember."

Slowly he go up to his feet.  There was no touches to Jann's mind, or at least no evidence to it.  But the way Elias looked at him, it was like he was being read by him like he was an open book.  "But that's not why you are here.  I am a refugee, and a political target."

He sipped at his coffee as he stared off into the distance of the pines.

  

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Jann had heard of telepaths. From all he’d been told one had to be wary around them, as it was not only the visible face that they could judge. He didn’t know how to react to it. There was not much he could do if Errant were to use his powers, but with him openly announcing it, it was not entirely likely of course.

 

Jann didn’t spend too much time thinking about it, clearly whatever Errant needed to know would be revealed one way or another, he could tell as much. Instead Jann focused on what else he’d said. He’d been sent here by the Academy, but was this related to something else? He looked directly at Errant, then spoke.

 

“Understood. So I am here to offer assistance?”

 

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There was a roll to Elias' shoulders.  "Not entirely.  Other way around, I am here to help you.  Or not, that is really your call."  He finished his coffee, and then slowly stood.  "We were going to do some trail busting.  How do you feel with a brush axe?"  He moved to the van, and started to pull out the gear.

 

"You are helping me, but in a different capacity."  Zen and the art of trail maintenance was on the agenda today.  Elias talked like Jann, in a sort of closed manner, like English was his second language, and in ways, it was. No one was comfortable with him speaking to them as he felt comfortable doing.  Even if he never intruded into people's minds.

He put on the heavy coat, and then a tool belt, before he pulled out a polaski, and a big brush axe.

 

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Jann didn’t understand all of it, but he could understand the basics of what Errant meant. He didn’t need the full context, some things communicated across even without the words. He nodded. “Will gladly use it.”

 

Jann watched with interest as Elias began took out the equipment and geared up. Jann had never used a brush axe before, but he could already see similarities in it’s shape, enough that he would not have to worry. He ducked down to take a hatchet he then stored on his belt out of his dufflebag, before closing it and picking it up, and moving it closer to the van. There, he put it on the ground, before turning back towards Elias.

 

“Ready, lead the way. “

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He belted on a brush machete, and he glanced at Jann.  "If it's easier, you can just think at me, I promise to only listen to what you want me to.  Also, this excursion will count as community service, and credit.  So this isn't entirely useless."

He moved along, fairly quietly in his movements, despite the bulky gear, having the polaski over one shoulder as he moved down.  Of course, Elias didn't really have compunctions broaching topics that were sensitive or taboo.  "So, who's hunting you?"  He said before arrived at the trail head they were going to be working on.

"Simple really, we clear the trail.  Get rid of overgrowth."  And he moved, giving some space, to start using the hoe side of the polaski, hacking at the ground to pry out the roots of plant in the middle of a trail

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Jann nodded. “Think I prefer speaking.” Jann did not quite trust the thinking. He didn’t trust himself, and he didn’t entirely trust Errant either. Speaking gave Jann the chance to consider his words more properly, to reveal only what he wanted to.

 

He followed, not doing much beyond keeping pace, and keeping an eye on his environment. There were birds in the trees, and their presence could tell a lot about a situation. Even if Jann was not capable of what his mother could do. Then, when the question came, Jann did not wait long with answering.

 

“There are some. A former teacher, who speaks of the academy having made me grow weak, who has stated he will make sure I do not forget about what he has taught. Who may have contacted others. One, who supposedly attends an academy much like this one, one I had heard of in whispers before. Some others who may be inclined to, for reasons I am restricted from explaining. “

 

All the while, Jann followed, and once they’d arrived at the destination, began to tear into the brushes obstructing parts of the path with some calculated swings.

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Errant frowned, though it was about what he was doing, wearing a high visibility vest and hard hat, in addition to the rest of the gear.  Not that he was worried about hunters, this was official volunteer work.  "So, then it is wise to clear.  To remove clutter.  See the path."  He stopped and looked at Jann, "It's not like a weapon, when you swing down, you start hands wide, and then bring the higher one down to the lower hand and let the weight carry it through.  You feet need to be wider than your shoulders, and lean into it."

And he slammed his polaski down, to bury the axe head into the dirt, before he worked at some stuff hanging over the trail with the machete.

 

"Elias isn't the name I was given when I was born either.  But then, false trails always help, don't they?  Still, means you end up making it so you're alone.  For whatever reason.  Protecting yourself, others.  Whatever."

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Jann followed Errant’s instructions, swinging the weapon tool in a way that felt off to him. It took a bit of getting the feel for it, he could start to see the effect. Not that he mentioned anything. In general, Jann went silent after what Elias had said.

 

What was he hinting at? What had the school told him? Or did he know through some other way? Perhaps it had nothing to do with him at all, but for that it had been a bit too obvious.

 

Jann’s grip on the brush axe grew tighter. It was a minor change, something that only somebody with a lot of experience would notice. But it was there. And before striking into the brushes the next time, Jann seemed to hesitate ever so slightly, to look around his surroundings a bit. At that point, he responded, his accent heavier than before, his speech slower.

 

“Cannot protect others if they do not make the first step towards protecting themselves. “

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Errant hummed a little, as he shifted, and continued what he was doing.  His attention always seeming both elsewhere, and precisely on Jann.  "Stock response, heard it before.  Have you ever been powerless?"  He moved along after saying that, wiping his brow with the back of his hand, before resuming his efforts.

 

Of course Errant had a low-bulls*** threshold.  It was a common thing with telepaths.  Though, Errant's tolerance was even lower, and beyond that, he had little to no concern over social niceties.  But then, he didn't expect to change Jann, he was just going to get him to see things.  That was the hope.

 

If he noticed the change in the behavior of him though, Errant said nothing, and continued with his efforts, a steady swinging of the machete.

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“Have not. Have been too weak, but not powerless.”

 

The response came quick, while Jann continued to tear into the bushes. He did not place all of his attention on his movements, instead always scanning the surroundings, even if he didn’t move his head any more than he had to because of the swings.

 

“There are limits, but many do not even attempt to get close to them, they cherish their weakness, where strength would be achievable. And then demand others protect them when they can’t do it themselves.

 

As he said it, he separated the last parts of the bush that were obstructing the path, picking up the large section and then walking further down the path, towards the next bush.

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Once he was done clearing the overhanging limbs and such, he put the machete in the belt sheath, before switching to the polaski, tearing out the roots and such that had invaded.  After a few moments he stopped swinging, dropping the tool so the head was against the dirt, his breathing a heavier than it had been. "You are attributing motives to others without the ability to know, so you don't know that is the case.  You assume that is the case, but you don't know.  So you are projecting your thoughts, your feelings, your fears into a gap of your understanding of them."  Errant wasn't a psychologist, he didn't care if his language was attacking, or could be taken harshly.

"Besides, the Israeli's found that it was the soldiers who broke first under torture, generally.  The people you would call weak, tended to hold out longer.  Just like how engineers are the ones who tended to be radicalized."  He stopped, and pulled something out, "Here, catch."  And he lobbed a water bottle to Jann.

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“May not fully understand them, correct.  Same applies to them, however. Can only try to convince them to change their ways, but seeing how they do not make an attempt, there is not much reason to. Do not understand why they would prefer weakness. There is nothing they have that I do not. Yet they seem to not understand that, to assume that there is more to it. “

 

“Am not talking about military, or about full-time change. To be fully defenceless is a choice, it does not take much to gain enough powers to not negatively affect others. Those you mention are not weak, they have done something to not be a weakness. There is more to it than combat knowledge. “

 

At this point, Jann was mainly saying whatever came to mind at any point in time. He was not entirely sure what was happening, so the short break was all the more welcome, as Jann caught the bottle with ease and began to unscrew it.

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Errant was methodical in his efforts, going back through the area after the hacking and lopping.  There wasn't anything missed, like he knew where the roots were, and where to stop them.  At his next rest, he set the head of the polaski down to the ground, and leaned on the handle.  His eyes, and really all of his attention, fell onto the boy.

"I apologize, I did not realize that you are a master of the human condition through all it's vagaries of cultural relativity."  And with that, there was no doubt to the ironic note, even if Jann might miss notes normally, he just wouldn't this time.  There was...

 

Something, a tickle, a flicker of annoyance across Errant's features.

 

Then a pressure that surrounded Jann before it collapsed in on itself.  There was nothing on Errant's face.  "Then why are you here?  Why are you at Claremont?"

 

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Jann didn’t respond at first. He didn’t have a reason to, this entire discussion was likely to lead nowhere, and he was reaching the limit of his vocabulary rather quickly. Instead, he put the bottle on the ground and walked over to another brush, axe in hand and ready to use it.

 

He stopped dead in his tracks as he felt some sort of presence, his entire stance changing without him actually moving. His grip was tighter, and his expression looked like he’d just woken out of some sort of delirium, his vision clear and focused. His breathing stopped, as he began to size up the environment, to listen for any sort of noise, before turning over to Errant.

 

Jann didn’t sound particularly happy, speaking in hushed tones. “Do not have to say it, you are already aware, correct?”

 

Which wasn’t entirely wrong, as Errant could tell from what he got. Gruesome training, physical pain. Snapshots of combat, ritualistic or brutal, from a young age upwards. Knowledge of futility, of weakness, of having your life decided for you. But also that of luxury, that of adoration. Adoration of subjects, of those who looked up to one as a prince.  And the image of Talona, the somewhat prominent ruler of the Aerie, speaking with multiple members of the Freedom League, sometime in the mid 00s judging by their appearances. A deal involving Claremont, and her youngest son.

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"I'm not..."  He started to say, before Jann opened up.

 

Then he did.

 

'That isn't an answer to the question posed.'  Came the simple response, as he slung the polaski across his shoulders and grapevined his arms over it, as his focus came down onto Jann.  The feeling that the avian could shut the door was there, but the scrutiny of the slightly older young man was invasive, pervasive. 'You told me how you arrived here.  Why are you at Claremont?'

 

The feeling was... restraint, from the side of Errant, like he was carefully not touching anything other that was sent roiling at him.  That, something was lurking under the calm, tranquil surface he tried to present, to show everyone else.  It was a mask.  

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Jann just looked at Errant and crossed his arms, still holding the brush axe. It was a piercing look, that of somebody who was ready to jump forward at a moment’s notice. Even if Jann’s current stance made that rather unlikely.

 

What followed on another layer were fairly clear pictures, likely only a few months old. A strange room, seemingly carved into rock, with most of the furniture also made of rock.

 

First, what clearly was a throne room. A feeling of familiarity, of respect, of parentage. But also disappointment, uncertainty. Talona in the middle, talking, even if the sound did not make it’s way to Errant. Then, suddenly a change. An arena of some sort, with Jann brawling with a woman slightly older than him, similar to Talona in appearance. Competitiveness was added into the stew of emotions. Pictures of some festivity, with hundreds of Avians looking up at Jann, with a lavish banquet, and a proper sense of belonging. And then one more sudden cut. Pain, with his eyes suddenly opening, and a feeling of helplessness. Scenes of combat, of humiliation.

 

Then, there was a sudden cut. Jann was sitting in his room, at his desk, looking down at some book, the letters unreadable and warped in his memory. This time, there was no real emotion, just an empty void.

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There was a head tilt, and then a blink, and he looked away, at the underbrush.  His eyes narrowing slowly, "Hm, so that's why."  Then he smiled a bit, and he moved his hands, throwing the polaski to the ground, so the blade was embedded into dirt.

 

*

 

"Hm."  Errant said, holding the brush axe in his hands, looking back to Jann carefully.  Before he steps back,  and turns to look at Wound-Maker, as he was/is, over Jann, holding that knife.  "He's bigger here, in the memory, which is less about him, more about you.  Here, let me fix that."  Errant reached up and pressed a hand against Wound-Maker and corrected him.  Made him his right size.  "Now the lighting, the lighting is off too." A snap of the fingers and it happened, the lighting re-adjusted, a bit brighter than he remembered.  As Errant put him in a front row seat of his own memory.

 

"Now what a lot people don't remember is how unreliable they are as a narrator. Or..."  And he frowned looking at what he was toying with, and he waved a hand, and things started to rewind.  Until the moment the knife was stuck into Jann's shoulder.  "Now this is interesting.  Who are they, Jann?  No one here made you party, did they?  You wanted to.  But relaxing isn't weakness.  So why is what he saying a greater truth than anyone else's?"  

 

Then it shifted to the moment of the elbow that Jann took.  "Generally one can lay the failings of a student equally at the feet a teacher."  Then it continued one, and he paused again, and then he tapped on Jann's nose, even if wasn't there.  Wound-Maker's words play out again, though this time there is a forced removal between them, Jann wasn't the target now, as he had been before.  Though he could see the process, see what was happening, there was a layer of division that didn't happen in the memory of the thing.  "Forcing codependency on you, and shame, what does it do beside infect you with him?  Does he teach you, or is he trying to make you just in his image?  A receptacle for his rote."

He paused.  

 

They weren't there anymore, they were back in the woods, and Errant was holding the brush axe in his hands and looked at Jann.  "The good mentor never forces himself on the unprepared.  Instead, he opens a door, and waits for the rain to push them into his warm embrace."  His head tilted a little bit, "I think if you are making it rain though... that is missing the point, hm?"

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Jann did not know what was happening. It was a sensation he’d never felt before, something that chilled him to the bone. It was strange, to relive it all again, a moment he’d nearly forgotten at this point. Yet here it was again, with Elias making adjustments.

 

Jann could understand what he was trying to say, what he was explaining. He listened to what he heard, thinking about the words, which came to him a lot clearer now, inside his thoughts, without language to disrupt them. He felt more in control, like something had come back to him, if only for just a moment. Something he’d not had in quite a while at this point.

 

Then, silence, as he was returned to where he really was, inside the forest. Jann’s arms were open now, hanging off to the side and the brush axe had dropped to the ground. He breathed heavily and looked at Elias, before speaking a few words, louder than before. “There are challenges ahead, opponents I will face. Will not be able to do that without help, whether I like it or not.”

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