Psyche Out.

Disclaimer and Author Notes: Right then, I really, really wish I owned these characters I name below, but unfortunately I don't. One day though, one day, Sega Team will be mine! The other disclaimer will be at the end of the fic.

Aside from that, this short little number will be the sixth in the series of fanfics I've written so far; there's a bit of a plotline now and, as it's normally better to start at the beginning, this is the order you should read them in: Angel of Darkness and Ice - The Best Medicine - A Bloodstone Rose - Iron Skin, Golden Heart – Lose Your Illusions and lastly now, Psyche Out. Really hope you enjoy this one; it's short, but important to get the 'whole picture' of the series so far – it's also my first attempt at a songfic. For those readers who liked my other work, hope you enjoy this as well. Just to be clear:

"---" – Speech

Italics – Thoughts/lyrics.

The show takes a break for a brief musical interlude…

XXX

For a place with only one station of radio; the occupant of this rather large workroom, a small building he'd discreetly rented for 'office work' but was now having to rapidly evacuate, clicked on the power for his old model of radio, already attuned to the correct frequency, and paused for a second as the presenter just finished a round up of the news; they really get a good mix on.

With a sight, Renfield trooped back to his solitary desk, at the head of this empty room where no-one had sat for a long time; the desks like silent flanking sentinels as they were crewed only by shadows. No-one had ever been requested to work here since Renfield had rented the place; there had been no adverts, no posters displaying this new opportunity because, contrary to his smooth explanations at the renting office, his business, while it operated on a large scale, was very discrete; the less people working in it, the less chance there was of very private and secret details being misplaced. With a snarl as he pulled out his seat, the Mobian shook his head; and I would have got away with it if it hadn't been for that bloody old bill in Station Square.

The more he though about that, the more it rankled, culminating in the fine whiskers on the end of his long, pointed nose quivering in a rage, his sharp front incisors bared as he realised that, though he'd squirmed his way through Station Square's scene clean as a whistle, someone down there, probably that old coot Crane, had taken the liberty of circulating the few details they had of him all over the shop. As such, he was lucky to even be here at all; here at least he had a shot at clearing all the incriminating evidence that now resided in the briefcase on the desk in front of him; he remembered vividly packing it in a rush before jumping out his rented apartment window and high-tailing it here before a pursuit could be mustered. Even then it had been touch and go, and not all of him had escaped unscathed; his skinny tail still throbbed after the clumsy ministrations of a decent size eight by some fool on the street. As he sat down, he pulled his appendage up, examining it before shaking his head; it'd heal, but right now he had more important things on his mind.

Renfield, or as those that knew him on a professional level called him Mr Rodent, was a rat in every sense of the word. He'd been lucky to get the best of both worlds from his parents; his father's easy charm and sharp, decisive looks had secured him a lot of contracts that might otherwise have turned sour, while his mother's savvy business sense and keen eye for details and deals had often made those deals possible in the first place. He'd been in the game since before he left school; he'd graduated from renting bent properties, enforcing, had clawed his way up over the bodies of his opponents to become an accomplished player, playing as he was now for high stakes. In the underworld, his reputation for being able to get anything, anywhere and anytime had got him several very powerful friends, including the one who was funding this failed expedition into virgin territory. Still; Renfield shrugged, recalling the phone conversation he'd just had and accepting it; she knew the risks, she took the chance, she gets the stick – she's got me a ride out of here and a place to lay low, so I'm in the clear.

Well, that wasn't quite true; he flipped over his official looking case which, when combined with his decisive choice of power suits and immaculate grooming suspended an aura of official power around him; image was everything in the games he played and a decent suit could be the difference between getting a sweet deal and getting a bullet in the back. Banishing such thoughts, he unlocked the case and brought out a small mirror he had there; holding it up and raising the small desk lamp, the only source of light in the room, to get a clearer view. Nothing a little session can't cure; tucking it away and making a mental note to book in at a reputable hair salon the second it was appropriate, he lifted the lid all the way, exposing the whole content of this latest, busted activity.

It had been ingenious; this virgin territory could have been buried in a flurry of pure snow as easy as you pleased; the baroness he'd been working for had used her not inconsiderable influence to secure a route to Angel Island for her favoured trading substance. The next consignment traded up to the waiting echidna population would have contained something an awful lot sweeter than sugar and, more importantly to Renfield's eyes, a lot more profitable into the bargain. The white stuff had been reaching this new world in dribs and drabs but this could have been something else; this one great shipment could have given a stranglehold on the drugs trade up here, but no. Someone, somewhere along the line had squealed, or something else had gone wrong and the whole thing had done to the dogs, or, more accurately, to the cops who, in Renfield's most esteemed opinion, were one and the same thing. The Mobian rat snarled again; if I ever catch the guy who blew the whistle, I'll…

His hand whipped back into the briefcase, unlatching the catch at the back and drawing out the gun hidden there in one practised movement, tracking it around as though seeking a target. For a firearm, it was definitely old compared to the weapons now available, some may have even called it antiquated, but it still worked and was still loaded, all six chambers of the six-shooter capable of unloading leaden death. The extra-long barrel, ordered by Renfield specially, acted as a silencer; essential for a quiet take-down in a noisy gambling den or an off-the-cuff assassination if the opportunity presented itself. He'd been offered a better, more effective weapon more times than he could count but, at heart, he was a bit of a sentimentalist; the gun had been his fathers, well, it had up until the point the old rat had gone down for most of his remaining natural life, ironically for a crime he hadn't committed. Renfield had always been an exquisite forger when the situation called for it and hadn't really felt like killing his family, so that was as good a way as any to get the oldster out of the picture; he had been losing his touch and putting the family business in jeopardy. In his father's absence, the eldest and only son had stepped up to the challenge and look where he was now – so far in front of his father he couldn't be seen for the dust.

Look at this; he blinked back to full wakefulness, replacing the gun with a wry smile; I'm getting too sentimental – business before pleasure now old boy. That was definitely true; there was a sudden bang from behind him and turned around, seeing only the door to this office room swing shut in the breeze, before shaking his head and getting back to the matter in hand. He had a little time to clear any of this paperwork that could in some way be used to link him to the scuttled shipment, he had his work ahead of him and, as he listened with a contented smile, he heard the chimes from the radio that meant he was about to get his favourite programme as well. The DJ's voice, a firm but warm sort of affair, helped to heat up the nippy air, letting Renfield relax slightly as he pulled out a pen and a lighter from his jacket pocket and pulled out the large wad of paper bound together with a long elastic band, tuning in with half an ear as he read the top sheet,

"Greetings all you listeners out there; welcome to the Echidnopolis RTT Hour; you name it, we play it", the slogan made the rat smile as it always did; in many ways those six words were a pretty accurate reflection on his own life, "now, this is an interesting one to start off; most people phone, some mail us, but I think we've got a first here. Someone out there wrote in a request and", there was the sound of ripping as it sounded like a letter was opened; Renfield shook his head and reached for the lighter for this first sheet, it gave far too much away, "whoa, they even sent in the track too. Never heard this one before, so Renfield Rat, wherever you are, you got a dedicated fan; this one's for you with the message; see you soon".

It took a second before the implications of that last sentence filtered in through his head; the rat at the desk stopped dead, the flame in his hand sputtering out as shock paralysed him for a second. Someone knows I'm here; that was a very bad thing in his eyes, it cut down the time he had here by a large factor even as he ran the message back through his mind; see you soon – that's not right, who would…oh no, surely not.

A laugh broke the silence as the radio was for the moment quiet, the DJ working with the disc to get the track to play; Renfield shook his head as he shut down the red alerts he'd had going. They just wanted to rattle him, get him to come out into the open so they could nab him; the EST were really pulling out all the stops here, he actually felt quite honoured they'd go to so much trouble for him. It was an old cop trick and it wouldn't work with him; his fine eye for details had allowed him to see the very curious loophole in the law of Angel Island. Apparently the EST, what counted as the old bill in these parts, needed a separate search warrant for each property they wanted to ransack, unlike Station Square where one warrant covered you for all properties owned or rented under a single name. These warrants could be given more quickly than they were downstairs, but there was still a little window where a pro such as himself could take advantage, as he was doing now. The fact the EST had coerced the local radio to try and rattle him enough to come out really was a sign of desperation; as long as he was inside, he was safe until that next warrant reared its ugly head. Still, as he listened and heard the muted thumps of a disc being inserted into the radio station's machinery, the rat sat back; time to see if they've got any taste at all.

A couple of heavy guitar rips sounded out from the radio and he sighed; it was always the same, they tried to flood you out with sound and heavy metal, something he had no time for. Shame, I liked the entertainment up here – just wanted one last night of it before I had to blow the joint; sadly, it seemed, it wasn't to be – he moved to switch the radio off when suddenly the sound died away, leaving a faint strumming behind it, quiet but somehow eerie at the same time. Renfield paused, halfway towards the radio, cocking his head as the first words, sung in a soft, haunting voice, ghosted towards him:

I am a man who walks alone.

And when I'm walking a dark road.

At night, or strolling through the park…

His whiskers twitched and he moved backwards, raising his eyebrows in appreciation; this was music he could get used to. He definitely knew it was from the land below, but he couldn't place it; have to get the band at the end. He smiled at the thought; if the EST thought music like this little ballad were going to make him crack, boy they didn't know Renfield Rodent, naming him as Renfield Rat on air was just petty; he hated the name, made him sound sneaky and sly and there was no point giving the game away. He tapped the back of his chair, hearing the next couple of lines with the same attention:

When the light begins to change,

I sometimes feel a little strange

A little anxious when it's dark…

He looked over his shoulder at a sudden sound, seeing nothing and chiding himself for it; he had to admit the music so far was pretty good compared to some of the other crass screaming that counted as music on the world below:

Fear of the dark, fear of the dark.

I have a constant fear that something's always near…

The rat chuckled slightly, a whim possessing him as he made to go over to the nearest window, the curtain drawn to protect his privacy; he'd have bet, maybe not his last cent, but certainly his bottom dollar that the EST had a watch stationed out the front there. He resolved to see if that was true and, if so, give them a wave even as he questioned their tactics:

Fear of the dark, fear of the dark.

I have a phobia that someone's always there…

He reached the curtain edge and peeled it back, a slight smirk on his lips as he saw the car on the front; believe me boys; he shook his head and made to give a cheery wave; there are a lot of things scarier than just darkness. Even as the thought crossed Renfield's mind, it never occurred to him that in a few scant seconds, as a knife descended behind him, he'd be meeting one of them.

It happened just as the first rip tore through the speaker; the desk lamp that had served Renfield faithfully for so long was extinguished and the room was plunged into blackness. The rat leapt around startled, frigid blood pumped around his body even as the music, the voice heavy, charged with excitement and instilling dread to those who listened, attempted to undermine his attempts to remain calm:

Have you run your fingers down the wall?

And have you felt your neck skin crawl.

When you're searching for the light…?

All that had happened was the lamp had blown; he calmed himself with an effort – it was just a bad coincidence; that was all. He just needed to get back to his desk; he wished the song would shut up; it was getting louder in his ears making it difficult to think clearly. It was then, when he thought about that volume increase, that he realised he was right; it wasn't in his head, the lyrics were actually, audibly getting louder:

Sometimes when you're scared to take a look,

At the corner of the room…

There was someone in here with him; a bead of cold sweat began trickling down his snout; someone was in here and slowly, deliberately, turning up the volume knob on his old radio, making the song even louder. He tried to believe it was the EST but couldn't; as far as he knew they couldn't employ terror tactics like this – he broke off the thought, flinching as a strange, disturbing sensation whipped over his skin, like a gust of phantom wind:

You've sensed that something's watching you…

It happened again, and again, that alien tapping feeling on his front, and now, it moved! Renfield gasped, the sensation was moving, tracking him, it was circling around to his left side and, the breath lodged in his throat, already high metabolism straining to keep pace with his heart rate, it was getting stronger. I gotta get back to the desk; he needed his gun, if he could get that the ball would be in his court. Slowly and with deliberation, trying hard to show no fear in the face of this new danger, Renfield began to walk back to the central desk of this room, shadowed every step of the way by the chorus to this tormenting song:

Fear of the dark, fear of the dark.

I have a constant fear that something's always near.

Fear of the dark, fear of the dark.

I have a phobia that someone's always there…

The strange tapping sensations had followed him, magnified somehow, stronger, each one making him that little bit more nervous before, suddenly, the stopped altogether; the suddenness was unexpected, cutting his thoughts off with a blaze of hope, even if he knew the hope was false. His nerves were jangling still, he didn't know how far he had to go to the gun, the one chance he had of safety now, wishing more than anything that the lyrics would stop, prevent his unseen stalker using them as cannon fodder:

Have you ever been alone at night?

Thought you heard footsteps behind…

He almost screamed as from just behind him came a bang, the sound of a single booted foot slamming into the ground; he jumped and whirled, arms up to guard against the attack that was coming, eyes seeing nothing in the pitch black:

And turned around and no-one's there…?

Stop this now; panic was welling up within him; it was taking every ounce of his cool to avoid snapping and running in a blind panic – that would be fatal. Whoever was doing this wanted that, he'd become disorientated in the dark, bump into things, fail to get away – easy meat. He span back around, and took a long step forwards, only to bring his crotch into contact with the corner of one of the desks at high speed as he over-estimated the turn. He grabbed himself, just about avoiding collapsing on his knees as he tried to stumble on faster, the words that boomed out from the blackness mocking his efforts:

And as you quicken up your pace,

You find it hard to look again…

He was nearly there, he could feel it; his safety with his gun would be assured soon…he gasped as suddenly, his tail, trailing behind him on the floor, touched something, something hard and cold:

Because you're sure there's someone there…

His teeth chattered as he pulled his fifth limb away, revolted by the sensation and ashamed by his helplessness – here he was nothing, he needed to get away and the sensation of hard wood under his fingertips was such a relief he almost broke down and cried. No time for that now; in a paroxysm of fear-induced relief he scurried his hands along the table, touching his briefcase; his hands plunged in, scattering papers like chaff as they were suddenly worth nothing in the face of this new fear. His hands gripped the gun butt and he closed his eyes, recounting a second's prayer before spinning, brandishing his weapon, releasing the tension through anger:

Fear of the dark, fear of the dark.

I have a constant fear that something's always near…

"Come on then", Renfield laughed like a loon, his pistol wavering in the air as it pointed in six directions at once due to his shaking arm, "come on; let's have you". I've got a gun; with so much provocation, he knew now he was invincible, he could never be beaten, not when he had this; he's run off – too scared to take me on now. Adrenaline is a potent drug and now he was suffering the side-effects of an overdose; a crazed laugh bubbled on his lips as he randomly sent a shot into the darkness, the silent bullet a challenge to the booming words:

Fear of the dark, fear of the dark.

I have a phobia that someone's always there…

The quietness of the shot made him even more reassuringly deranged; he sent another bullet whizzing into the darkness as the lyrics were forgotten for a moment, a long musical backing to a guitar solo directing the song for now as Renfield laughed, a loud, braying noise that contained strong undercurrents of hysteria; the only reason he wasn't in a wreck on the floor was that the gun was holding back the threat of attack, a sense of power and control in his hand. Then the most unmanning thing that had ever happened to him, in a life of vice and anarchy, the most naked sensation of utter helplessness and despair, was brought into play.

He felt pressure on the gun's elongated barrel and, before he could react to it, there was a yank and a twist and…he was no longer holding his firearm. The shock deadened the message screamed at him by his fingers; he had just been disarmed as though it were nothing; new horror washed through him in time with the heavy rock beat:

Fear of the dark…Fear of the dark.

He swung wildly, moving forwards, striking nothing but air as the thing, the nameless, shapeless terror that was stalking him, was no longer there, vanished like wind in the meadow. He heard a sudden snap, over and through the music and then a small pause before, in three separate, heart-stopping seconds, three small clinks pierced the veil of silence. His nerves were at breaking point; as there was a low whirring sound, followed by a second snap, Renfield, tears beginning to pour down his face in a tortured paroxysm of anguish, screamed over the gulf of enshrouding night,

"What are you?" There was no answer, the lack of sound other than the guitar and drums from the radio cutting him more deeply than the silence as he again pleaded from the impassive shadows,

"Why are you doing this?"

Fear of the dark…Fear of the daaaaarrrk!

He heard the sound and, burned hollow with terror, he turned to see his fate. There was a sudden movement, light crept in and he wept with joy before, in a single instant that joy was crushed utterly; Renfield screamed a loud, long scream in the deserted building as he beheld the master of his torment.

Framed by the light of the streetlamp, the curtain thrown back to allow the imposing silhouette to be seen for the barest second, there stood a congealed nightmare, a demon made flesh. Renfield felt the world pitch, struggling to cling on to consciousness as his eyes rebelled, his stomach churning as the outline burned into his mind, paralysing his reactions that were screaming for him to fly, run and never look back. Pupils dilated through sheer horror, the Mobian rat whispered four words, the only words he could find in his suddenly dry tongue,

"What do you want?" Oh God, I'm going to die; there was no sweeping sense of calm at the realisation, only yet more mind-chilling fear as the figure thrust forwards one arm, aiming at Renfield with his own weapon; there was an infinite second of stillness, for the rat a tortured eternity of waiting for death before the finger on the trigger pulled backwards and three things happened at once.

The hammer slammed down on an empty chamber.

Renfield Rodent lost control of his bladder, his bowels and, temporarily at least, his mind; with a strangled gargle, he threw himself away, nothing in his fright-crazed mind save the need to get out, get away from this monster.

Unperturbed by any other event, the radio cried out again with it's lamentation of despair:

Watching horror films the night before.

Debating witches and folklore

The unknown troubles on your mind…

All his motions were keyed for flight; he registered nothing else but the need to get away from this place, away from him, whoever it was that hunted. He slammed into desks, crashed into and over chairs, scrambled to his feet, fell again, the only noises he could make whimpers of piteous fear as he dare not look back, dare not see how close the shadow at his shoulder was to him. He ran into the wall with a sickening force but ignored it, body fuelled by panic and adrenaline, the flight response in full flow as he slid along the wall as though all the hounds of Lucifer's kennels were on his heels:

Maybe your mind is playing tricks

You sense, and suddenly eyes fix.

On dancing shadows from behind…

There were no shadows here; Renfield knew he was fleeing for his life; that if he didn't get out of here now, he was going to be killed by this monster. His hand attacked the brick wall, fingernails straining for purchase, bleeding as he scrabbled for the door. A jolt of pain shot through his hand, though it was quickly drowned by need for more speed as he ran past the revealed hinge, hearing another click in the darkness, knowing another empty chamber was the only reason he was still alive. There!; the handle – he wrenched the door open, bent his breast and ran, ran blindly with the full intention of never stopping.

XXX

It had been a quiet night for those two on patrol; all that had been keeping the two officers occupied was listening in to see if the warrant had come through, sipping cups of increasingly cold coffee and the sort of general, idle chit-chat that bored people tend to come up with for these dull situations. Nothing was happening and, both had rapidly drawn the same conclusion, their target had beaten them to the punch on this one; the rat was a slick mover – he was getting rid of the evidence right under their noses so that when they got there, he'd be away scot-free. Yes, it was a dull, depressing state of affairs.

Right up to the point the doors to the deserted office building were thrown open and their target, screaming at the top of his lungs, rushed out.

"Holy spirits"; the driver, an older cop by the name of Dari-Ke, burst out the door, unclipping her seatbelt in the same motion and hammered over the pavement towards the fleeing rat, her partner Kissenger, disadvantaged by position, could only watch after her, keeping his eyes trained on the building in case of any more surprises. He still kept half an eye on his partner, however, a hiss of triumph escaping him as she tackled the other Mobian to the floor,

"Got him Dari?"

"Yeah", there was a pause as she hauled him upright; when she spoke again her tone was a little more uncertain, "geez, something's rattled him; looks like he's seen a ghost".

"You have that affect on people; it's a gift".

"So's my left hook; guess which one you're getting Kiss"; he smiled – one of the reasons he liked working with Dari was the fact they did get on so well, but throughout the banter he'd never dropped his gaze from the door. And as something small and black sailed out towards him and he threw himself behind the car, he was grateful for his training like never before.

"Kiss, you okay?"

"Yeah, something was thrown", he approached it, stun gun ready; due to the dark night it was only when he was within ten feet that he realised it was a briefcase; stooping and popping it open, his eyes widened as he beheld the first page alone. After a second of reading, he stood again,

"Book and bag him Dari; I'm going inside, there's someone else around".

"Go but be careful; I'm not comforting a grieving widow this time of night". He smirked as he slid to the door and nosed it open with his stun gun barrel,

"I'm not married".

"I'm not surprised"; okay, that one was yours; purging the fun from his mind, becoming solely business again, Kissenger darted into the darkened building.

The echidna didn't need to be particularly careful; after all, whoever was in here had just delivered both their original target and a motherload of information that would put him away fro good, so he was reasonably sure whoever it was was on their side. Something caught his ears and he followed, jogging along with his gun still ready; no harm in being prepared – as he moved through, up a couple of flights of stairs in quick time, he became aware of words; no, not words; he corrected himself; lyrics:

Fear of the dark, fear of the dark.

I have a constant fear that something's always near…

Increasing his pace, he followed his ears to the source of the noise; from his side he could see the door had been flung open hard; there was damage to the plaster on the side of the wall from the force that had opened it. He sidled up to the opening, glancing around, only to find the room lightless; it was black as pitch in there, but that was definitely where the music was coming from. Luckily, the solution to that problem was only an arm's length away; he quickly hit the light switch, gave his eyes a second to adjust and the span, bringing his gun up, legs braced in the shooter's stance as he shouted,

"EST, freeze".

Fear of the dark, fear of the dark.

I have a phobia that someone's always there…

There was no-one in that room; it was deserted; with a sigh, dropping his side-arm. Kissenger realised their mystery accomplice was by now long gone. The question was how; the general detritus of this place showed that this was where it had kicked off, you didn't have to be in forensics to figure that out, but that was a storey drop at the very least, and there was only one way in and out of this room; whoever had done this must have had some way of getting out of here like a pro. He scratched his head, wondering how he was going to write this one up as the music began to soften, a ballad once more.

Perhaps it was understandable; Kissenger hadn't met many Mobians from the land below and so never even considered looking at the open window. As he missed that, he also failed to see the small carving, gouged into the paintwork of the sill with the point of very fine blade.

As the arrest was made formally, in the darkness of the night sky, a one-track mind was already running through the next plan to repay the EST for their assistance in repaying a debt; information was the key, and there was one place it could be obtained easily enough.

When I'm walking a dark road

I am a man, who walks…alone.

A/N: And we all know where that place was, and what happened when it was being obtained, don't we?

The lyrics were taken from the track Fear of the Dark by Iron Maiden; if you haven't heard it, try and get hold of it now and listen to it in a deserted house on your own; that was the reason I chose it for this fic. Coming next, the fall-out from the Dark Legion's failed kidnap becomes clear and the people at the centre of it find out just who their Friends and Lovers are.