In the tiny Rocky Mountain Psychonautical Headquarters facility - wedged into a crack of the world somewhere, within a day's levitation of Whispering Rock Psychic Summer Camp but still a bit tricky to find if you weren't one hundred percent sure of what you were looking for - a typical afternoon went by rather slowly. You might find Howie Greissmeyer frantically trying to outbid someone in Canada over a limited-edition True Psychic Tales collectable tin lunchbox. You wouldn't be surprised to see that Noreen Pate was playing computer solitaire, or that Reggie Doom had fallen asleep altogether by the end of the work-day. And the office's youngest employee, probably the youngest employee of the entire organization, was typically steadfastly trying to break his paddle-ball record, with the toy levitating psychically a few inches in front of his face. Just because he was a full-fledged Psychonaut with three hectic, ridiculous field missions under his belt did not put Razputin Aquato above cheating at mindless kids' games.
But three-fifteen this Friday - the last day of Whispering Rock's summer session before camp was over altogether - was not a typical afternoon.
Noreen's office phone rang.
"RMPH, this is Agent Pate. Uh-huh....uh-huh....yeah let me write this down..."
Raz's office phone rang.
"Rocky Mountain Psychonauts, Razputin speakin' - Dad? Hey, what's so important that you're calling me at work?"
"Uh-huh...what?! How much psytanium?"
Howie's cell phone rang.
"Hello? No, I'm sorry, you uh, have the wrong number...."
"The circus? Here? Yeah, of course I will!"
"You should probably send all of your telekinetics and maybe an astral projector or two - to clear up any issues you might have with non-psychics - "
Reggie's office phone rang.
"Agent Doom, RMPH. No, sir, I'm sorry, we stopped manufacturing those years ago..."
"Yeah, maybe! Camp just got out today, so...."
"No, there's no Howard Greissmeyer at this number. Please stop calling."
"Oh, well, I'm flattered. I'm no expert. No, really."
"Yes, you might try the New England branch, but they'd be the only ones that'd still have something outdated like that - "
"Okay, you too Dad. See you there!"
"No problem, sir."
All four of them hung up - but then Noreen's office phone began ringing again.
"RMPH, this is Agent P - oh, Rebecca, how many times have I told you not to call me here?"
Then Reggie's cell phone rang.
"Hello? Oh, hey sis, yeah, I know camp is over - "
"You could get in serious trouble with the agency, I'm not supposed to give out this number to non-psychics!"
Raz's office phone rang.
"Rocky Mountain Psychonauts - oh, hi Sasha. I mean, Agent Nein."
"No, you can't go home with the Sweetwinds, I don't care if you and Chops are in love - "
"No, I never really went into her brain, I guess..."
"Hang on, Rebecca, I can't hear you, Agent Greissmeyer's phone is ringing - "
Howie's cell phone rang.
"Hello? Ma'am, you have the wrong number. This is not Howard Greissmeyer!"
"Because you're only asking me because Mom and Dad said no!"
"Uh...with the turtle? I don't really know, Sasha..."
"No, listen, I promise I'll call you back when I leave the office - I love you too - "
"No, it's not, I swear! Now stop calling this number!"
"No, just stop asking. No. No, Elka. I don't care! Okay?"
"Yeah, hope you get that worked out."
All four of them hung up.
And then Raz's cell phone rang.
The other three agents popped up over the sides of their cubicles to glare at him, but Raz was so beyond caring, because this was no ordinary phone call. This was a call he'd been waiting for all day.
This was Lili's ringtone.
He dove into his backpack for the phone, rummaging past a strange sort of pink candy, a vial of smelling salts, and a gross, molding piece of bacon stored in a plastic baggie. Old habits died hard. Meanwhile, apparently Raz wasn't the only one who recognized the ringing.
"Ooooh, it's his girlfriend," teased Noreen, sinking back down to her own desk.
"His girlfriend's got her own ringtone on his phone?" Reggie said with a snigger. "How very whipped of you, Aquato."
"Hey, shut up. At least I have a girlfriend." He found the phone and answered it as quickly as possible. "Lili?"
"I DID IT!!!" screamed the other end of the line. "Raz, I finally did it. I totally nailed Ford's invisibility test!"
Raz leapt to his feet, joining in her excitement, only to realize that his leg had fallen asleep where it had been propped up on his desk. He ended up catching himself awkwardly by levitating. "Lili, that's great!"
"I finally have all these stinking merit badges!" There was a pause, and Raz imagined her smiling confidently to herself. When it went on too long for her tastes she chastised him. "Well come on, Raz!"
"Sorry," he said honestly. "I'm just trying to come up with a way to say 'I'm so proud of you!' that doesn't sound like an overenthusiastic soccer mom."
"Dork," she said. "I guess that's fair."
"I'm also desperately trying to avoid gloating about how I got all my merit badges and got promoted to full Psychonaut over a roughly 36-hour period."
"Okay, now you're just being a jerk!" said Lili, a sentiment that Noreen echoed (in fewer and less polite words) from the next cubicle over. "You better be planning to take me out somewhere to celebrate or I don't know if I'm gonna forgive you for that."
Raz paused again, and thought about it. His thoughts eventually looped back around to his earlier conversation with his father, and his face lit up even brighter.
"The circus is in town."