All Systems Down
Lili was walking down a strange corridor. The walls were made out of some kind of metal and were emanating a strange purplish glow, as if the light were being squeezed from them. The corridor was packed with doors that seemed to have melted into the wall. There were windows in the doors, but they were foggy, so that the only thing one could see were indistinct shapes. Lili also found that as she progressed down it, the hallway twisted sickly. If Raz had been there he might've compared it to the way the floors twisted in Thorney Towers, or the streets in Boyd's sick mind. Because of this distortion she was sometimes walking on the walls or the ceiling.
There was a sound too; a low irritating sound, like faulty electric, a distant humming. It was driving her crazy.
Lili halted after walking for what felt like hours. The hall split into two separate directions. She eyed them both quizzically, but could see no distinct difference between them.
It's like House of Leaves or something. She thought with some annoyance. Finally she picked one at random and started down it. Her selection was rewarded after she trekked down another half a mile of corridor. There was an open door. It looked as if it had been forced open. The frame of the doorway was cracked and damaged and wires spat in the hall.
The inside of the room made Lili think the words 'electrotherapy' and perhaps more frightening 'dentists office.' Although this thought may have come because it reminded her of Dr. Loboto's tower, at a second glance it was very clearly not a dentists office. There was a bed in the center and someone was occupying it, but a good portion of their upper body was concealed by a large helmet, which looked a bit like a ladies hair dryer in a fancy spa, but probably would have gotten the place shut down immediately, had anyone actually try to use it to dry there hair. It looked as if, at one point dozens of wires had been attached to the weird hairdryer thing. Now they were lying in tangles on the floor. There was only one still attached, and it was chewed up to the point where touching it would probably result in a nasty shock.
Lili approached the figure carefully, and with steady hands, pulled the helmet up enough to get a look underneath. She stood back a little.
"Raz." She said, before reaching forward to touch his face. His eyelids flickered open and she met his gaze. She moved her hand from his face to the single wire still attached to the helmet, intending to pull it loose, but before she could he reached up and took her hand gently. He pulled it back towards him.
"You can't do anything right now. You aren't here for real."
"Where are we?" She asked.
"You'll find out soon enough." She opened her mouth to argue, but was cut off when a loud alarm sounded.
"What's that?" She asked, as she pulled her hand away from his.
"It isn't part of the dream." He responded wearily. "You'd better wake up, something's happened."
Lili opened her eyes in darkness, the only light was faint and red and it was flashing madly. She could also hear the alarm from her dream. For a moment she wondered if she was still asleep. Then she started hearing movement from beyond her door and the inquiring voices of agents coming from their rooms and shouting confusedly. She sat up and threw off her covers.
After getting dress and tying her hair up hurriedly she exited into the hall.
"Hey, what's going on?" She asked as an agent hurried past her, for a moment he looked annoyed, but after identifying her as Truman Zanotto's daughter he halted.
"The security just shut down all of the sudden and all of the power is out."
"What about the backup systems?"
"Haven't kicked in yet." He said with concern. "You may want to stay in your room, Miss Zanotto. This could be dangerous." He added before hurrying off and fortunately not seeing Lili's returned expression. She saw Sasha and Milla further down the hall and headed toward them. Sasha appeared to be talking to someone telepathically. Beside him, Milla was eyeing him with unease. Lili noticed that despite not having much time to get ready, the older woman still looked fabulous.
"Hey." She said. Milla smiled worriedly at her.
"Looks as if I won't be getting that beauty sleep after all, eh darling?"
"This is very serious." Sasha said, to whoever he was speaking to. "I don't recall ever losing all of our security at once before and with the regularity fence down, anyone could teleport into the facilities."
"How long have the systems been off?" Lili asked.
"Not long, but no one can figure out why they went off in the first place." Milla said. "All of a sudden, poof, no power."
"Where's the alarm coming from?" Lili asked.
"It's connected to an outside source. Truman set up a digital frequency for emergency situations. If we could reach the controls we could get some of the systems back on, but when the power went out all of the big safety doors shut us out of the control room. I guess it's supposed to be a safety measure, but to be honest, darling I think there are a few flaws with the idea."
"Our security system shuts us out of the security room when it's on the fritz?" Lili asked bewilderedly. "Who designed that for us? Isn't there a way to overrun it or something?"
"It isn't supposed to shut us out." Sasha said with some frustration, apparently finished with his conversation. "If more then one of our systems goes down due to outside tampering the room shuts itself off to keep the perpetrator inside long enough for us to retrieve them, but we're supposed to have three or four backup systems. For some reason they all went out at once, it should be impossible. Believe me, if we get it turned back on, I'll have a word with Truman about the design."
"Okay, what do we do now?"
"I think you should return to your room. There's no telling who could get in here now. Let us sort this out…"
"Hey, I'm not a Psychadet anymore." Lili returned angrily. "You can't leave me out of all of the good stuff." Sasha sighed.
"Miss Zanotto, for now, we don't even know what's going on. You may be a Psychonaut, but you have very little experience in the field. Let us get our bearings and then, if we need you, you will be notified." He said. He nodded to Milla and started down the hall.
Milla placed her hand on Lili's shoulder.
"I know it's hard to sit around with all of this excitement going on, but it is for your own good. You'll be able to join us soon. Until then, you must be patient." She said before following Sasha. Lili tightened her jaw. She eyed her bedroom door with a frown.
Yeah right. She thought before heading down the hallway in the opposite direction towards the GPC.
"Why is it so dark." Stephen asked a little shakily. He couldn't see a thing. He couldn't even make out the outline of his own hands.
"I don't know. There's an alarm going off too." Raz's voice said from somewhere nearby. "It's kind of faint in here though."
If Stephen thought it was claustrophobic in here before, it was nothing compared to how it was now. One time when he had been much younger he'd gone with his family to Niagra Falls. There had been a tourist attraction, some sort of haunted house, but rather then being filled with scary stuff it had been pitch black apart from a tiny red light on the ceiling, which marked the various corridors. It was hard to tell how big it was or how long the halls were, for all he knew it might have just been leading people in a circle, but in the dark it was only to easy to imagine a room of impossible size.
His father had led him in and then, for whatever reason had left him, whether it was to toughen him up, or just because Stephen had pissed him off that day. Around him, people were making noises and grabbing at him, presumably to add to the experience. Eventually someone had to come in and get him because he had backed up against the wall and was hyperventilating. Right now the GPC reminded him of that place.
"Hey! Is anyone out there?" Stephen jumped as Raz's voice cut through his memories. Although he couldn't be sure, Stephen assumed that Raz was standing at the door. "Hello?" The older boy sighed. Stephen got to his feet shakily and attempted to head in the direction of his voice. He bumped into Raz a moment later.
"Are you two still in there?" Came a muffled voice from the other side. It sounded like it belonged to an older man and Raz didn't recognize it.
"Uh yeah, what's going on? Why is the power out?"
"Just stay put, the situation is under control."
"Hey, Mr. Zanotto said we're not prisoners here, if something's going on…"
"I said stay put! For all I know you had something to do with this."
"From in here?"
"All I know is nothing like this happened before and I'm not about to…" There was a brief crashing sound and then a grunt and silence.
Raz frowned as the door made a loud clicking noise and began to swing open. Stephen was yanked back by the older boy and in the faint red light that entered the doorway he saw Raz had raised his hand to his forehead and was wearing a very focused expression.
"If you shoot me, I'll set you on fire." Lili said pointedly as she pushed the door open the rest way. Raz relaxed.
"What did you do with the guy who was watching us?" He asked as he straightened and motioned for Stephen to precede him through the door, which the younger boy did gratefully.
"He'll be fine." She responded casually. "All of the power in Psychonauts Headquarters is off. No one knows how and there's no way to get it turned back on unless we can figure out how to get into the security room. Right now anyone who can teleport can get into HQ."
"Then Kellen's behind this." Raz said, suddenly serious.
"I think so too. Listen, Raz, I think I know how to get into the control room, but I need your help. And we need to get Cruller. They set him up in the Infirmary." Raz nodded. "Um, maybe he should stay here." She added, while indicating Stephen.
"Nah, he'll be fine. More minds are better." Raz said while clapping a hand on Stephen's shoulder and causing the boy to jump a little. Lili looked at him doubtfully for a moment before shrugging.
"All right. Come on." She said before heading down the hall.
Back at TCLC, Andrea was standing in Kellen's office, looking down at the cafeteria where all of the children were sitting at the tables, slack jawed. Behind her were Kellen's other top agents.
Andrea's earpiece gave out a faint whine. She pressed a button on the side of it.
"I'm here, Kellen."
"It's all set, the security is down, go ahead and pull the switch. Call me back when you're finished."
"Yessir." She said. She opened a small metal door on Kellen's wall, which to the untrained eye would have looked like a fuse box. Inside were two levers. One was labeled Wake Up Call, the other was labeled Cathexis. She flipped the second and watched as an eerie glow overtook the cafeteria. After a few moments she flipped the switch off again.
"All finished, Kellen." She said, talking into her earpiece once more.
"Very well, preparing for mass extraction."
When the power had gone out, Cruller had still been awake. He'd been moved down to the Infirmary at Truman's insistence and since he didn't have a sanctuary to go back to, he'd conceded grudgingly. The setup felt too much like a nursing home to him and the nurses treated him as if he might suddenly take to wearing his underpants on his head.
There was no one there now because everyone had panicked when security had gone down. Ford was lying with his eyes closed, but he wasn't trying to sleep. Currently he was sending his mind out to see if he could detect Kellen.
Before him, Raz and Lili had come back to headquarters he'd managed to get a small amount of psitanium that he could carry with him. So far it seemed to be working, but he wasn't sure how much longer it would be before he reverted to one of his other personalities.
Ford was a pro when it came to mind reading. He'd been doing it for decades, but when he was this far away from the psitanium mother load his psyche faltered a little. It didn't help that he was in a place with hundreds of other psychics, all of whom were in some state of awareness or panic.
Through his concentration, Ford became aware of the door to the infirmary sliding open. He opened his eyes and sat up. There was no one in the room and he couldn't sense anyone. Ford frowned.
"Who's there?" Raz and Lili let their invisibility drop. Ford relaxed.
"You two scared the bejeezes outta me." He said. "Hey, I heard they threw you in the GPC. Kind of figured it wouldn't hold you for long." He added while nodding to Raz, who smiled a little.
"Lili got me out. We need to go before someone comes back to check on you." Ford stood.
"Gladly, this place is driving me crazy." He pocketed his Psitanium and followed them back out into the hall. Stephen was standing there nervously.
"Who's the youngun?"
"This is Stephen. He's from Kellen's school. Well, he was. He's a Psychadet now. Stephen this is Agent Cruller." Raz said.
"Ah, Sasha and Milla said they caught a spy. I'm assuming that was you. How do you do, son?"
"H-hello." Stephen said, wide eyed.
"No need to be nervous, I don't bite. I might set you on fire if you get on my nerves, but you seem like a nice enough kid for now." He turned back towards Raz and Lili.
"I assume you didn't come get me because you like my company, so what's the plan?"
"I think I can get into the control room." Lili said. "But I don't know how to work the controls."
"All the big doors are shut."
"There's a ventilation system that runs through the whole building. I can go through that."
"You know the way?"
"Not yet." Lili said, while shaking her head. "But I can find out."
Actually a bit shorter then I would have liked, but I wanted to update in a reasonable time, considering how long the last one took me. Thanks for the reviews ^^ I'm glad some people are still reading this.
Also, back when I was first writing this story I really wanted to do character sheets for it, but never managed to do anything I really liked. When I decided to start updating again, I finally drew them out, so if you want to see all of the characters from Cerebral Soldiers I have put the links up on my profile page. (I can't include links in the actual chapter.)