Claudia screamed, trying to fight back as the artifact tried to suck her in. She had been down in the Stacks with Mrs. Fredrick but then something had activated. Now they were being pulled into a wormhole that led to who knew where.
"Can't you do something?" Claudia asked Mrs. Fredrick. She looked over, but she was already gone.
Shawn Spencer was sleeping on the couch at Psych after a late night on their current case.
Suddenly, he woke up, sitting up. He could hear whispers at the back of his mind that were becoming louder and louder. Someone—or something—was determined to take up residence in his mind. It wasn't aggressive, but it made up for that in stubbornness.
He tried to fight back, but the voice (if he could actually call it that) was very persuasive. Maybe this won't be so bad, Shawn caught himself thinking. He had to admit he wanted to know more.
But he didn't want to share a body with it! Not even close!
The voice whispered about the world's hidden rules, about how seemingly innocent objects can destroy entire cities when charged with enough emotional and psychic trauma, about how there was an organization that dealt with that threat, about how the Warehouse needed someone to bond with, about how it couldn't reach either its current or future Caretaker, about how this was only a temporary measure, about how it needed his skills to bring back both of the women it so desperately missed.
Well, maybe he could deal with it for just a little bit.
He stood. "Gus! Go ask for two weeks of vaca! We need to go to South Dakota!"
Gus looked over from his desk. "What about this current case, Shawn?"
Shawn shrugged. "It's the girlfriend. We'll stop by the precinct on the way out of town, and I'll have another vision."
Gus chased after him as he headed toward the bathroom. "What's in South Dakota?"
Shawn smiled. "You'll see!"
Artie sighed. They weren't even close to cracking what had happened to Claudia and Mrs. Fredrick. They were sure they had found the artifact that had done pulled them into another world, but neutralizing hadn't brought them back.
And apparently the Warehouse didn't feel they would be back anytime soon. It had been extremely upset at first, but now it had settled down, back to a quiet emotional/psychic state. The Regents said it had selected a new Caretaker, but Artie knew best of all that it was just trying to fill a void until its proper Caretakers returned. The Warehouse still missed them, but it knew better than any of them could that it needed someone to bond with during their absence.
They had thought about looking up the new Caretaker, but the Warehouse hadn't given them a name. In fact, apart from making it clear that the new Caretaker was coming, it hadn't said anything on the matter at all.
That worried Artie. As Speaker of the Warehouse, he knew that it was under heavy emotional strain, but it wasn't dealing with it as it should have. It had dealt with Caretakers retiring and dying, and it always remembered them, but it wasn't dealing with this. Maybe it was because it knew they could come back. The Warehouse was still very mysterious after close to fifty years of service.
"I don't know," Pete sighed. "Maybe we could…." He trailed off, searching for an idea that hadn't been proposed.
"What were they doing in the Stacks, anyway?" Myka asked.
Artie shrugged. "Mrs. Fredrick has been working with Claudia so she's ready to be the next Caretaker. I would imagine that was what they were doing."
Adwin Kosan cut in, "Indeed."
The three agents turned and faced him.
"Agent Nielsen," Kosan went on, "We need to find the new Caretaker and get him up to speed."
"I would love to," Artie replied. "But the Warehouse won't give me a name. We'll just have to wait until he gets here."
Kosan didn't reply. He probably thought that was unacceptable, but there wasn't anything they could do. He knew that they couldn't bend the Warehouse to their will on a good day, and today was not a good day.
"Keep me informed," Kosan finally said.
"Will do," Artie said, turning back to his desk for a moment. He turned back. "Do you want us-" But Kosan was already gone. Artie sighed.
"What should we do?" Pete asked.
"Let's just keep tabs on the situation," Artie replied. "The new Caretaker will probably be here in a few hours, if the Warehouse bonded with him this morning."
Shawn hadn't given Gus a straight answer about South Dakota the entire way there. They had landed at the Pierre airport, and Shawn had stopped dead in the middle of the concourse, closing his eyes, before declaring that they needed to go to Featherhead, wherever that was. So they had taken a short flight to the airport in Featherhead and rented a car to go to the even tinier town of Univille. Shawn drove without a map, just feeling his way along. That really freaked Gus out. Shawn could do many things, but that wasn't one of them. Shawn could get lost driving two miles from Psych.
They stopped in Univille for a snack at the diner, and then Shawn had driven them several more miles out into the middle of nowhere. He had taken a farm service road, driving through a field on a path cut by tires, until they saw a small mountain.
Then they saw it.
A huge metal warehouse was built into the side of the mountain, and several cars parked out front showed there was life here.
Shawn smiled. "Here we are!" He parked next to the red jalopy and jumped out. Gus followed, staring up at the monstrous building.
"How did you know this was here?" Gus asked.
Shawn grinned at him. "It told me. Turns out I'm the next Caretaker, whatever that means. The Warehouse hasn't really told me anything."
"The Warehouse?" Gus asked, adding on the capital.
Shawn didn't answer.
The outer door opened with a hiss and swung wide, beckoning them to enter. Shawn led the way in, down the steps and through the sterile corridor filled with explosive bolts. They reached another door, but this one had a retinal scanner.
"Now what, Shawn? We've hit a dead end," Gus hissed.
"The Warehouse means for me to be here," Shawn countered. "This is just something we have to overcome." He looked at the door, trying to determine how to get around it. He couldn't crack the lock. He couldn't pick regular locks, let alone get around something like this.
So he knocked.
"That's your plan?" Gus hissed. "Knock?"
Shawn held up his hand to silence his friend. Then he knocked again.
The door opened suddenly, and Shawn and Gus found themselves staring down the barrel of a ray gun. Shawn smiled widely.
"Shawn Spencer. I'm the new Caretaker."
Spencer didn't seem to be Caretaker material. Talking to him and looking into his background didn't indicate that he should have held the position. Dr. Chapel, the Warehouse contract psychiatrist, disagreed.
"He's perfect," Chapel said on the Farnsworth. "He's got the gift of hyperobservation, or—at least—he's been trained to have it. Not to mention that he's open to the strange. And he's certainly got the temperament for it."
"What about his personality?" Artie asked. "I would think he would clash with the Warehouse."
"You would think so, and he probably does to a certain extent, but the Warehouse also needs some of that from its Caretaker. It's healthy for both of them. But he also genuinely cares about right and wrong and wants to make a difference, even if it's only to the minor people in his life." Chapel paused. "There's also the matter of his sensitivity. He's as sensitive as they come without actually knowing about it. A little further beyond than that, actually. It's fascinating."
"What about his friend?"
"Gus is a familiar face, someone he knows well and will trust to the end of the earth. Keep him around. I would guess that when it starts to get really interesting, Shawn's going to need Gus to keep himself grounded."
"Do you think he'll hand over the Caretakership once Mrs. Fredrick gets back?"
"Absolutely. He wants this experience, but he knows that the Warehouse means only for this to be a temporary measure. He'll be a fine Caretaker, actually, one of the best, but he knows he has a different calling, and the Warehouse doesn't need his particular style of Caretaking right now. He knows that. He'll miss it, but he'll definitely give it up."
Chapel looked at Artie. "Where is our dear Caretaker, anyway?"
Shawn was down with the Eldunari, talking with the Warehouse.
"Why me?" he asked out loud. Gus shrugged, but Shawn wasn't paying attention to him.
Out loud, Shawn said, "Okay, that's not a real answer. How do you know that I'll be able to bring them back?" After a minute, he said, "So you can see the future? That's so cool!" His face fell. "Oh. I see."
"What's the Warehouse saying?" Gus asked in a low voice.
Shawn ignored him.
"So what else can you do?" Shawn asked the Warehouse. "Fine, I suppose now's not the time. So where did they disappear?"
The Warehouse led him to the exact spot in the Stacks. He was examining the artifact that Artie and the others claimed had done it when his cell went off.
"You have got to be kidding me! How do I actually get service here?" Shawn muttered as he pulled it out of his pocket. Great. It was his father.
"Dad, now's not a great time." Shawn wedged the cell between his shoulder and jaw as he turned the kettle over in his hands. He knew that there was something funky about all of this. This kettle couldn't have done it, not by itself. Its energy was all wrong. Besides-
"Where the hell are you Shawn?" Henry Spencer demanded. "We were going to lunch remember?"
Shawn winced. He had totally forgotten about that. As a sign of good will, he had made arrangements to take his father out to lunch.
"I'm sorry, but something came up."
Henry snorted. "Don't tell me it was a case."
It had to be something else in this aisle. Shawn put the kettle back on the shelf and stepped back to look for the second culprit, something that would have interacted with the kettle.
"Like what, Shawn?" Henry asked. Shawn sighed.
"You'll never believe me."
There. That watch. He stood on his tip-toes and pulled the gold watch down from the shelf. This was definitely it.
"Try me," Henry challenged. "You could start by telling where you are."
"I'm in South Dakota," Shawn said distractedly. "Don't ask."
"How about I do? What are you doing in South Dakota?"
The watch shouldn't have been shelved here. It shouldn't have been anywhere near the kettle. The interactions between their energies would have created a volatile balance, but that had to be set off. So what had set it off?
"I'm doing some consultant work for the US government," Shawn said, putting just a hint of truth in it. "Apparently they need my help."
"What's going on?"
Shawn scanned the shelves again. His eyes stopped on an empty spot. A pair of shoes should have been here, but they weren't.
"Too much to explain right now, Dad," Shawn said. "I need to call you back." He hung up. He could suddenly see what had happened. Claudia had reached over and picked up the shoes, and that had set off the reaction. The watch and the kettle had combined energies to sweep off the Caretakers.
Okay…. Now what? As long as Claudia had those shoes, they would be trapped in a parallel reality. They had to go in after them and neutralize them. And how exactly could they do that? Well, if they had another artifact…
He needed to get back to the office.
When he reached the office, the agents were in a shouting match. Pete, Myka, and Steve didn't want to go on a mission, not now, but Artie needed someone to check out the new ping, and Gus was trying to reason with both sides.
That was it! The ping was the solution!
"I'll do it," Shawn interrupted. Everyone else looked at him.
"Are you crazy, Shawn?" Gus demanded.
"I found out what caused the accident, but Claudia still has what truly triggered it. Until we neutralize it, they'll be trapped. We don't have a way in, except for this." He pointed to Artie's computer screen. "We need this to follow them in. I'll take Gus and Myka, and we'll go find it in…." He took a closer look at the screen. "Santa Barbra. How convenient."
"Are you sure that you should be going as Caretaker?" Steve asked.
"Absolutely. It's almost like cheating. We'll find it quickly and bring it back. The Warehouse can deal with me leaving. We're bonded after all. Now, I need you other three to stay here and keep an eye on that spot in the Stacks."
"Fine," Artie growled. "But hurry."
"Of course. Come on." Shawn led the way out of the Warehouse.
They landed in Santa Barbra, and Gus and Shawn picked up Gus's blue four-door. Myka claimed the passenger seat, banishing Shawn to the back seat.
"Now it looks like Max Smith died in the woods," Shawn said. "Our artifact's involved."
"How do you know that?" Gus asked.
"He drowned while skydiving. Now, our friends at the SBPD probably have the case. You know what that means."
"What does that mean?" Myka asked. Shawn grinned.
"It means that the SBPD's psychic is back on the clock."
They reached the scene and climbed out. Lassiter and Juliet looked over.
"Who called him?" Lassiter demanded. Juliet shrugged. She wasn't sure how much of the psychic stuff she bought, but she had to admit it was spooky.
"Who's with them is what I want to know," Juliet replied. The dark-haired woman reeked of authority, and it was clear that Shawn had been given point on this.
Lassiter and Juliet started walking over to meet them. As they drew closer, Shawn staggered, clutching his chest and gasping for air. Gus and the woman immediately stopped, and Gus grabbed Shawn by the shoulders.
"What is it? What is it?" Gus asked urgently.
"Drowning! There was a drowning here!" he gasped. He reached up and gripped the front of Gus's shirt as he dropped to the ground. "But no water," he said hoarsely. "Only air." He gestured. "Rushing, rushing wind. Sky? Diving? Skydiving?"
"Come on!" Lassiter moaned. That just wasn't fair.
Shawn snapped out of, breathing heavily. He pulled himself back up and bushed himself off. The woman raised an eyebrow.
"Who called you here, Spencer?" Lassiter asked with his characteristic warmth.
"Poor Max, of course!" Shawn replied, wounded. "His soul is in pain and wants me to find out what did this to him!"
Juliet turned to the woman. "I'm sorry, who are you?"
"Agent Myka Bering, Secret Service," she replied, taking off her aviator sunglasses.
"And what are you doing with Shawn?" Juliet asked.
"He knew the Service was interested in this case and was kind enough to pick me up at the airport."
"Where's you partner?" Lassiter asked.
"He's approaching this from another angle and couldn't come with me to the scene," Myka responded coolly. "Now might we see the body?"
"There isn't much to see," Lassiter warned as he and Juliet led them over to it. The blue body lay in a crumpled heap just off the path. The parachute was open and caught on the trees above. Shawn stopped and took a covert look at it. The man wasn't married, and he was a professional skydiver; it was obvious from his lack of a wedding band and the fact that he owned his own parachute.
Shawn gasped, squeezing his eyes shut. "I see… a parachute. He's a professional skydiver!"
Lassiter and Juliet looked at each other. They had already pulled some basic information about Max Smith, and that was on there. He ran a popular skydiving academy.
They moved closer to the body to take a closer look.
"It's not here," Shawn whispered to Gus.
"How do you know?" Gus whispered back. Shawn just looked at him.
"Seriously? How lame would it be if the Caretaker couldn't sense artifacts?"
"Point taken," Gus admitted.
"Let's check and see if he had any enemies," Myka said. She turned to Lassiter and Juliet. "Can you get us a list of his known associates?"
"Already on it," Lassiter replied. "We can drop it by your hotel, if you would like."
"I would appreciate that. I'm staying at the Grand downtown."
Lassiter and Juliet headed to their car, leaving the three at the scene. They decided that Shawn could pester the Secret Service to get in on this case.
"So we're looking for a drowning artifact?" Myka asked. Shawn shook his head.
"No. This is something about what could have been, sort of a probability thing."
"Then we could be looking at all kinds of things," Myka replied.
"Except this is very specific," Shawn said. "It's hard to explain." He paused. "We need to check out the academy."
"What were the last few weeks like with Max?" Shawn asked. The girl, Nicole, shrugged.
"The usual. He was really intense, but that was just him." She thought about it. "Although, recently he got really excited. He said he had found something really cool."
"Did he ever mention what it was?" Myka asked.
"Yeah. He said he found an old backpack at some British dude's garage sale. He was thinking of getting into backpacking."
The others looked at each other.
"Did he ever bring it in?" Gus asked.
Nicole shook her head. "No, but that was just a few days ago."
They went to Max's apartment. Gus knocked on the door, but no one was home. Suddenly he frowned.
"We've got to get in there! It's on fire!"
Myka backed up and kicked in the door, her gun at the ready. The room was indeed on fire.
"What are the odds?" Gus muttered as he searched for and found the kitchen fire extinguisher.
"Not good," Shawn replied, trying to stamp out the fire as it creeped closer. He looked up and saw the backpack on the sofa. "There it is!" He danced over the burning floor until he could just barely pull it toward him. Myka tossed him a large static bag, and he stuffed the bag inside, turning away as the bright sparks flew everywhere.
Gus got the fire under control, and they left before the fire department got to the scene.
"It's the bag Douglas Adams used when he was hitch-hiking across Europe," Shawn explained as they climbed into the car. "According to legend, it was on that trip when he came up with the idea for Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Guess what the major form of transportation in there relied on?"
"Probability," Gus smiled. "The Infinite Improbability Drive."
"Bingo" Shawn said. "And this is Claudia and Mrs. F's ticket home."
They returned to the aisle where it had all begun. Pete, Artie, and Steve were already there. Dramatically, Shawn shook the backpack out of the static bag.
"I give you Douglas Adams's backpack," he said. "Now what do you think the odds are of Claudia and Mrs. F getting back?"
Steve shrugged. "Close to zero."
"Exactly! And what do you think the odds are of Claudia still holding the missing pair of shoes?"
"Even closer to zero," Pete replied. "What does all of this have to do with it?"
"Everything," Shawn replied with his best mysterious smile. He looked at the backpack. "You better have heard that," he told it. It started to glow in his hand, and they heard crackling as the portal started to open again. Suddenly, Claudia and Mrs. Fredrick stepped back into the Warehouse. Sure enough, Claudia still held the pair of shoes. Artie grabbed them from her and stuffed them into a static bag. It sparked, and it was over.
Shawn wrapped one end of the green Caretaker's ribbon around his wrist as Mrs. Fredrick did. The ribbon glowed brightly, and Shawn bid the Warehouse goodbye. He knew he was going to miss it, but he wanted to go back to Santa Barbra.
He felt the Warehouse's bond fading, and he found himself surprisingly upset about it. He loved the Warehouse, and its possible absence was extremely upsetting. For a fleeting moment, he thought about taking off the ribbon and telling the agents that they were going to have to just deal with it.
But that wasn't what the Warehouse needed. It didn't need him at the helm. He would be good at it (obviously), but the Warehouse needed Mrs. Fredrick in his place. If things had gone differently at some point, it would have needed him, but that wasn't the case.
And then it was over. The Warehouse was gone. It had transferred its allegiance back to its original Caretaker.
"Thank you, Mr. Spencer," Mrs. Fredrick said, unwrapping the ribbon.
"No problem," he said, standing up, swallowing. He headed to the door.
"Are you okay?" Gus asked quietly.
"Yeah. Why wouldn't I be?" He laughed thinly and just continued on.
Artie stopped him. "Listen, I know that this wasn't easy. You've had to come to terms with something very strange very quickly only to have it taken away. We just want to thank you. Without Mrs. Fredrick and Claudia, this Warehouse wouldn't be the same."
"No, it wouldn't," Shawn agreed. "The Warehouse was desperate to get them back. So desperate that it selected a man it had never met as Caretaker."
"Listen, you're welcome back whenever you're back in town," Artie said.
"Thanks. For everything." He went to the door. He stopped and turned to Gus. "Do you smell apples?"
Gus shook his head. "No."
Shawn shrugged. "Let's go."