Disclaimer: Psychonauts and all related items belong to Double Fine.
"Tell me, Agent Nein, do you know what fear is?" The man's voice was soft yet sharp, like a lover who hated you and was only there to make you suffer. "You always seem so above everyone else- in a class of your by your lonesome. While most people are proud to bend a spoon, you want to bend a building. Who deemed it necessary for you of all people- some little guttersnipe of a psychic to come out of nowhere and destroy the proverbial wall that separates the powerful from the weak?"
Sasha Nein, poster boy for the Psychonauts, hero to thousands of children and god knows how many else above the age of 10, didn't respond. He just kept his breath steady, unseeing and honestly unfeeling. He knew whatever he said wouldn't change the outcome of this. Sasha felt the man's breath against his neck.
"Just what are you?"
Silence from both the man and Sasha. The Agent was strapped to a chair as he tried to figure out what led him to this situation and so far he was drawing a blank. It made the pressure on the sides of his head increase more so. He couldn't form a full coherent thought as suddenly the man dropped something; it was a light, scraping sound against the concrete.
"Damn it! Already?" he spat out as Sasha felt a hand on his chin. "Don't worry, we'll get back to our game soon enough."
There was the sound of a pair of heavy doors slamming open and then a gunshot and that alone made Sasha sit up and finally see. The gray morning light came filtering in through the topmost windows forming dusty-colored squares on the floor of his bedroom. The German sat up and placed a hand to his forehead as he tried to figure out what was happening in his dream for a moment before reaching over to his nightstand to put on a pair of glasses and pull out a journal from the drawer. Sasha looked up at the ceiling to recollect his thoughts as he went to writing down the events in his dream in order.
Unknown location (concrete or stone floors, double doors), one other participant (Unknown, Early 50s, Male, Hostile) voices only.
Sasha then wrote down what little he could comprehend from the dream, the pen scratching at the paper as he tried to figure out what was going on. He still found it slightly hilarious that the moment you had three dreams come true every dream after must be recorded. Any scientist worth their salt could explain to you the reason why people seemed to have precognitive dreams was simply because their mind was sorting through patterns during the day so of course if someone makes enough shots in the dark they were bound to have something come true. He reached up and popped his back, for a moment feeling painfully captivated with the shadows his hands formed. For a moment curious if everyone in the world at one time or another as a fully grown adult were curious about something they had experienced ever since they had the strength to lift their own hands up into the air.
He spread his fingers before looking down at the clock, blocky red numbers accusing Sasha of wasting his time and the time of everyone around him. It was a simple task to get up in the morning as he waved his hand in a single gesture to get his closet open and his outfit ready as his apartment seemed to move upon itself to help Sasha get ready for the day ahead.
Another swipe of the keycard, once more a loud beep echoing through the entrance hall of the Psychonauts Headquarters, psychics walked by swiping their own cards with no problem as Sasha looked on the back of his to see if the strip had finally given up the ghost . One would figure that the Psychonauts HQ would be drowning in people interested in paranormal activity, but it just had sign on it that said it was the federal government's personal vending machine fillers. So of course no one wanted to stop by unless they wanted to know what was the most ate snacks at the Whitehouse (it was currently Tennis Bars).
Sasha slid the card once more to be given a lovely 'ACCESS DENIED' script flashing on the screen as Milla came walking by. "Sasha?" she asked, her tone airy and bell-like. "What are you doing?"
"Trying to clock in, Agent Vodello." Sasha stated, sliding the card again as if by magic it would suddenly go 'Alright Agent Nein, please come in and work today.' But Milla just plucked the card from Sasha's hand and frowned.
"Darling, you have today off. And tomorrow. I know it is a bit hard for you to understand, but you don't have work for the next forty eight hours."
"I think I would remember when I had work."
Milla slid the card and once more ACCESS DENIED appeared. "I think your mind has been too much on the Levi case." She put Sasha's card in her Tiffany lamp-equse purse and placed her hands on his shoulders. "So, I want you to go home and put on your jammies and watch some TV."
"Milla, I am not a child."
"Exactly, which is why I want you to be able to go home and act like one for a little bit. How about you just relax for a day? No science or files or anything like that."
"You do understand with you saying that, you have jinxed me where on my way home I will come upon Levi and then spend the next 12 hours in a running battle with him, and then I will need to spend the next 36 hours filling out paperwork and claims correct?"
"Why do you always have to be so negative?"
"Why do we have to have this conversation every time you think I work too much?"
Milla sighed and ran her hand through her hair, deep brown hair falling back into place looking as wonderful as it did before. "Because, you're not a machine, you must have a life outside of work, interior design and science."
"Agent Vodello, I think you summarized me quite well with 'Machine, work, interior design and science' but I think that 'science' and 'machine' would go hand in hand." The look that Milla gave him easily expressed her feelings on the situation. AKA that he was clinically stupid for thinking in such a way and that he needed common sense beaten into him. But she also felt she was the only person in the agency that felt like that; therefore, her opinion was considered nothing more than an over concerned mother hen pecking at a chick. Sasha held a gloved hand, demanding his access card back and instead Milla just turned on a heel and headed to the door to get inside.
"Sorry, you have today off. I want to make sure you can't force yourself to work, much less come in. Alright?"
"Milla, you're impeding progress."
"Only in your mind. We're given days off for a reason. That reason being a well rested Agent is a good agent." She looked over her shoulder, her deep green eyes focusing on his face for a moment. "So please, consider it a job if you have to? It isn't like you're having money taken away for resting some." She then went inside the secured area of the building, leaving one Sasha Nein standing in entrance hall sans way to go any further. He knew she was right, and he hated it. Sasha also knew that if he were to go do one of his research projects or investigate the case anymore she would find out too fast and he would be left with her yelling at him for it. And even though he honestly didn't care if he was scolded for working, he never liked the idea of being scolded by her.
So, with that, Sasha turned and headed out of the building into the gray morning of the city. The scent of fog and smog overwhelmed him at first for a second; the sudden blast from the filtered and refrigerated air inside the building was something much purer than was offered out here. Much like the shadows from this morning, he wondered if he was the only person who preferred the smells of the city in the raw to that of nature or the inside. Or perhaps it was his dream that made him feel like this? So disconnected at the moment and maybe he need a moment to rest and sort himself out. He walked down the cracked sidewalk from the building as he lit a cigarette and headed down the street to the bus stop.
The damp in the air stuck to him, clinging to his skin and clothes as he looked about. It was all different at this time of day, he usually only saw the street heading to work in a rush are heading home in a rush. He never had a chance to move along the street at a leisurely pace of not having rush so he could eat or pack. Pigeons cooed at each other flying off once they decided they had stayed still long enough leaving their feathers behind, instead of the natural beauty, Sasha could only think of the germs the birds were leaving all over the place and why quite honestly he hated the creatures.
"Something interesting, Mr. Nein?"
Sasha was jerked from his train of thought at that comment and turned to see who it was. It was a teenager, someone who should have been in school and not sitting on a bench as if she was waiting for her boyfriend to show up. But she did seem to fit into the atomosphere around them, her face was all angles and her hair was cut short as if trying to soften how she looked.
Sasha went through his mental registry to see where he had seen her before but nothing came up. She smiled as she tucked a chunk of blue-black hair behind her ear. "I'm a big fan."
The agent looked at the young woman, knowing that nine times out of ten whenever someone told him that they were a big fan of his either he would be attacked or one of the Zanottos would end up kidnapped and held for ransom. It was quite an unfortunate thing actually. But she didn't seem to know what he was thinking as she looked up at him, glassy blue eyes meeting his sunglasses, her smile seemed weak and her teeth were an unfortunate shade of off-white as if she drank one too many cans of cola and didn't brush her teeth before rushing out into the damp weather. "A very big fan, I read about you in all the comics you know."
"You do know that I gave them permission to use my face for their comic, so I only have the vaguest of ideas what goes on in those rag magazines. There are no such thing as psychic abilities." It was a lie of course, a comforting lie until people were fully ready and willing to grasp the idea that the only reason the waitress always knows what you want isn't because she memorized your face but instead is reading your mind and that your child could catch the house on fire if they went out of control. True Psychic Tales and Whispering Rock working together helped keep the agency hidden by publizing it to the limit that like Area 51 it was considered fake due to popularity.
But, unlike Area 51, the Psychonauts were real.
Sasha took a drag from his cigarette as the young woman kept on talking, "But I also know they are exaggerated, after all, we don't have the technology for robotic dinosaur-sharks just yet."
"Well, Miss-" Sasha started wanting to correct her about what could be considered a dinosaur and tell her the 'official' statement about the reality of the Psychonauts.
"Miss Luka, sharks are considered prehistoric so they could be considered 'modern dinosaurs' much like alligators and crocodiles. Also, the Psychonauts were something created by the 'Swollen Eye' comic company in an attempt to make a comic that could be real via incorporating real people and events."
Her pale face formed a pout at being shot down so quickly. "Well, humor me." she said after a few moments, "I read all the issues, including the new arc. Sasha and Milla versus the Dream Eater. It is a terribly clichéd name if you ask me, but I think this issue might not have one of the best endings. After all, if you reference True Psychic Tales issue 458 where Milla has to face that one demon who posses someone then moves onto another host-"
Sasha pinched the bridge of his nose as the woman rambled about things that were impossible to do. For one, it was impossible to truly have another entity fully take control of your body. But Luka was rambling on as if it were gospel sent down from the heavens. The girl stopped talking for a moment and looked up at him.
"You have the day off." She stated in an airy way. "Why don't we go have coffee?" Sasha was still pinching the bridge of his nose, he had said all of four sentences to her and she was inviting him to coffee. "I could tell you more about my theories." Theories from a comic that exaggerates everything. "You can also pick the place so you know I am not part of a psychic terrorist group that wants to take you, rape you and hold you for ransom. I'll treat."
Sasha pondered this for a moment, because one) when someone said that they were a big fan of his something bad happens (such at a certain summer camp where everyone got their brain stolen within 24 hours of one aquaphobic child sneaking into camp) or two.) he has no idea what they are talking about.
Now there were also pros to the list of cons he made, for one if he picked the location- he could pick a place he knew Psychonauts frequented often so in case of situation one the agency would be alerted in under 45 seconds and in case of situation two, he would have witnesses to prove to Milla he did something more than sit around his house organizing his files.
But, he could also simply walk away. Now if she was a psychic terrorist, she would be bound to give herself away somehow and thus the pro for situation one would come into effect.
She would be arrested in under 50 seconds and that would be one less person they would have to worry about in the long run and incase of situation two. Well, he could always direct Razputin to her and they could talk about comic books together and see if somehow Raz develops new ideas from her crazed ramblings.
So far, the stats leaned to coffee. Besides, it was cold out and she might follow him home if he refused. Thus in case she was a stalker she could be arrested quicker. "Alright, there is a coffee place near here."
She kept up her watery smile as she stood up, the cold breeze ruffling her long black and brown scarf.
"Lead the way, sir." She had the kind of voice that Sasha hated, it was something that reminded him of someone holding up the line at a place that served only one thing because they couldn't decide if they wanted a small or a large in the 10 minutes it took them to get to the register. Luka was looking up at the sky, as if enthralled with the shades of gray floating a mile above their heads. The place in question wasn't too far, and it was a safe distance from the HQ. Stepping inside, they were greeted by warmth, something asking you to fall asleep in here. The girl walked to the chalkboard that had the menu for the day scratched onto it.
"Teas have odd names, I'll take the 'Dar-glee-ing'."
"Darjeeling." Sasha corrected as she pulled out her wallet and pulled out a bank card. She was leaving a trail.
"Sure you don't want Tea. Earl Gray. Hot?"
Sasha just cast Luka a glare for that joke as he told the woman at the counter he wanted just normal black coffee as she went to prepare their drinks, one thing Psychonauts enjoyed about this place was that they could watch their drinks be prepared in front of them to keep anyone from slipping arsenic or some sort of psychic repressive medication into it.
"Now, as I was saying, in issue 476."
"I thought it was 458."
"I was using that one as a bare bones basic reference for the entire theory I have."
Of course, how stupid of him. He should have known one would have to reference comic books for crackpot ideas.
"Well, in issue 476, there was a group of psychics who wanted to take the president's brain, blend it and make it into a fine mixture of 'powerful world leaders' brain soup to create the ultimate leader to create 'world peace' in their eyes."
"Of course." That wasn't anything like how it happened but then again, they were using comic books to prove theories here. The woman at the counter came back with their drinks, Sasha took his before Luka even had a chance to look at it. Luka seemed unoffended as she took her own cup of tea and led the way to a table in-between an old married couple and an Agent and her child having breakfast.
"Well, in that issue, Sir Jonas' brother- remember Sir Jonas was in issue 458- was the leader. Therefore I think that Sir Jonas was actually a body surfer using his brother for his own cause! Because Sir Jonas said that he was the only psychic in his family."
Sasha now had to open his mouth to disprove her theory. "The Jonas brothers were also clinically insane and were raised to hate their own abilities."
"Sir Jonas was!" Luka quipped in. The agent at the other table was just staring at Sasha and Luka for a few moments, most likely pondering what Sasha was doing talking to a fangirl who was flailing about the comic books arguing with Sasha over the case that he worked on himself. "I think that Sir Jonas possessed his brother." she said leaning forward, as if that would make Sasha more receptive to her theory.
"'Body Surfing' as you call is impossible." Sasha took a drink of his coffee; the taste was much less soothing than the young woman agitating. "Sure, there is Astral Projecting where someone could enter someone else's mind and make them do what they want, but in the case and method you described it would have been impossible . Sir Jonas killed himself once he was arrested."
"What is to say he couldn't have stored a back up version of himself in his brother?"
"Because Lord Jonas survived, and most likely had his consciousness picked apart by psychics with sticky fingers."
"For someone who doesn't care about the comics you sure know a lot about them."
"Only the vaguest of ideas, Miss Luka."
The girl finished her tea in a single gulp, taking in a loud, deep breath of air to cool down her throat. "It was good telling you my theories Agent Nein." She said still panting and trying to cool off her throat. The teenager stood up, coat and scarves flapping around her making her look a bit like a child in clothes too big.
"Theory." Sasha corrected once more. Luka gave him a devil-may-care smile as she reached into her overly large purse and pulled out a small stack of True Psychic Tales comics and placed them on the table.
"You should read over these and tell me what you think."
"I don't read comics."
"Ciao!" she said turning around, and headed out the door. Sasha downed his coffee and went after her, he didn't want to be responsible for some random person's comics, but by the time he made it to the door she had vanished, leaving him with a burning throat and comic books. He flipped through the comics real quick to make sure there was nothing he really needed to worry about such as some sort of tracking device and alas all he found was a return address label with a star on it that said:
"Damn it." He mumbled to himself putting the comics inside his briefcase, wondering what he got himself into and why would someone write out at on a sticker instead of just drawing the sign, it wasn't as if some bot would send her spam if they found her comic books.
It seemed like he was stuck with these books until he could throw them back at the girl, mostly because it would be in bad taste to throw away someone else's property even if they were just short of thrown at him. And with that, he headed went out once more into the morning fog to the bus stop so he could go home.