Author's Note: Psychonauts is the property of Tim Schafer. I know I have had an extended hiatus, but that's what college and writer's block does to ya. Thanks for your unending patience, folks! -Farce
Agent Nein, I have located Zanotto and I am returning to the designated rally point.
Good work, Razputin. We'll see you soon.
The barren, concrete warehouse was silent, but Raz could barely hear Sasha's reply. Adrenaline had taken over completely, and it was a dose of life that he would remember forever. There he was, approaching his eleventh birthday, and he was creeping through the makeshift abode of the Psychonauts' most dangerous enemy, Bombay Ellison.
The man was a demon, a genius, and he was solely responsible for Ford Cruller's mental annihilation. A cocky, younger Ford had traced his movement like a starving predator, and after so many years spent on one target, he wanted the catch all to himself, though he knew it was far too dangerous to work alone. Within minutes of detainment, Ellison escaped arrest, challenged Ford to a duel, and left his psyche permanently shattered. It was a lesson that Truman Zanotto took worse than Cruller himself. The Grand Head respected him more than any other Psychonaut, but he wasn't about to compromise the Agency's fragile image. Even when Ford had recovered enough to resume duty, his only work with the Psychonauts was done under the table, through Sasha and Milla at Whispering Rock. Of course, Ford couldn't go anywhere without the psitanium, which is a major handicap in the field, but to incorporate him in any part in the Agency would raise more than a few eyebrows. It was well know that Ford was damaged goods, off his rocker. So what else could the remaining agents who respected him do but keep him at the campsite? It was the only way to keep him a part of the psychic world, a world in which he was once a god.
Raz had asked him why he had come along for the mission. From his post, Ford was in control: of his mind and the missions he assigned to the agents he trusted. The Psychonauts had written him off after his encounter with Ellison. He had given his life to them, and after one stupid move, he was no longer an idol but, instead, a raving fool, no longer welcome as a part of the Agency? It wasn't fair.
"Razputin, listen to me. It's true that I can't work as an agent anymore. We live in trying times. The Psychonauts have enough problems of their own. Dealing with all of my complications is hardly on their priority list. See, Truman Zanotto is a good Grand Head, and he is a good man. He did all he could for me, and turning a blind eye to what I do at Whispering Rock allows me to contribute to the same cause through assigning my own cases. They do what they can, as a government agency with government red tape to follow. It's not always fair, Razputin, but with time I have let a lot of my anger go, and I know that Truman tries his best to stick to the Psychonauts code of never turning on their own. In order to call myself a true Psychonaut, I have to follow that code, too."
Ford's words always meant more to Raz than anyone else's, simply because he followed them with his actions without fail. As the boy left his thoughts fade and slid gracefully through the dark, his resolve was even stronger. He was going to save the Grand Head of the Psychonauts, no matter what! His clairvoyance caught sight of five metal bars, which he bent with little trouble. The extraction seemed too simple, but Raz was busy freeing the Grand Head from a stiff pair of psitanium handcuffs and didn't entertain the thought for long.
"Sir, I know this isn't the best moment to introduce myself, but it is an honor to finally mee-"
The lights flickered. Raz's hands twitched, and he could feel the Grand Head's anxiety on his skin. He quickly returned to the lock and blasted it open.
"That can come later, boy! Let's move!" The Psychonauts cloaked their auras in invisibility and made their way through a hallway tattooed with graffiti. A bloated henchman turned to look at Truman's cell after an extended nap, but after noticing the missing body, he rushed to the makeshift prison and tried to sniff out the prisoner's aura. Several more cronies followed, and suddenly, the two found themselves sprinting from the approaching group.
Shit, why didn't I think of this before? Raz yanked a confusion grenade from his mind and knocked the gang down like a set of misshapen bowling pins.
The rally point was close by, but Ellison was nowhere to be seen. Was he waiting for them to taste the first solid thought of freedom, only to catch them there, two feet from the door, and drag them back into the murky silence?
He could be around the corner, Sir. Please let me check the perimeter before we go further.
Raz pounced forward with his usual acrobatic grace. He scanned left, then right, and he checked the psychic energy traces and movement from the ceiling and from behind.
There's nothing. Let's get outta here. He led Zanotto outside, though the Grand Head was sure in his own steps. In image, though, he was a mess: his typically slicked-back, grey hair was hung haphazardly near his tired, brown eyes. His suit jacket was missing and the matching pants were soiled with what looked like rusty water and grease. Sasha's sharp whisper from the rally point cut through their anxiety.
The ride home was a refreshing breath of relief. Lili was thrilled to see her father safe, and even more so to see her boyfriend as the hero. Sasha, Milla, Ford, and Oleander watched proudly as the Grand Head finished thanking them for the rescue and moved on to their star pupil.
Razputin was nervous; the flinch back in the warehouse was still on his mind, and he was having a hard time preparing himself as Truman Zanotto approached, almost as if in slow motion in his overwhelmed mind. He looked to Sasha to gain some composure, but his stomach unraveled when he received a smile that was intended to reassure. Next to him, Milla beamed with motherly love. Raz used all of his energy to shove down his nerves and smile without looking like an idiot. He was losing that battle, without a doubt.
"You may be young, Razputin, but you have ability far beyond your years. Congratulations for your achievements, and I hope to see you develop further as a Psychonaut. I know your teachers are all very proud of you." It wasn't his words that made Raz grin from ear to ear. It was the kindness and earnestness in which he spoke that made Raz feel as if all his hard work, and all of the rejection he had to fight to prove wrong had actually paid off. It was all real now.
As Raz thanked the Grand Head, Ford turned to Oleander, who fiddled with his badges to avoid the budding awkwardness between them.
"You see that? Maybe going off like that and stealing everyone's brains wasn't that bad of an idea after all." The stout man raised an eyebrow, not yet understanding Ford's logic.
"What are you smoking, Cruller? Of course it was a bad idea. Never regretted anything more." The elder shook his head and pointed to Razputin, who was nearly bursting at the seams with joy.
"There's your reason, Morry."
Oleander watched intently. Without the incident, Milla would have never let the kid join at such a young age. She was always protective of children, Morceau thought with some puzzlement. He didn't know her well enough to know her secret. Since he did not work on the field as often as Nein or Vodello, especially with Whispering Rock to look after, he felt like a stranger to the Psychonauts. Although Cruller was friendly, gave him advice, called him by a nickname, and stood up for him to Sasha and Milla after the meat circus debacle, it was only because Morceau looked after him and the campground so diligently.
I'm no use to anyone here, anymore. This soldier's been stripped of his honor; he deserves no respect, and so he receives none.
"Let me know when we've landed. I have some work to finish." Oleander parted from the group, his thoughts depressing him. Sasha scratched his head, and Ford shrugged his shoulders before Milla could ask if something was wrong.
"Hey, don't ask me! Maybe he had to go to the bathroom." Milla smiled nervously and decided to leave her fellow agent alone. After losing control of his mind, he had been very professional in his reaction to the disciplinary measures resulting from the incident, including demotion in his rank, a leave of absence, and an assignment to a counselor. After fulfilling his tough-guy image, Milla pondered, he probably left to process the whole series of events alone. Sasha thought likewise, and he did not want to insult Oleander's pride with concern.
The immediate high from the rescue was soothing, but in their descent to HQ, tension had built along with the air pressure. Sasha and Milla began a private telepathic conversation. Raz watched with boredom, at first, but then he felt it. There, between minds, was the unfortunate purification of meaning, feelings undiluted by the muddling sounds and shapes of words. It was uncomfortable, sad and almost solid amongst the stillness. Though he couldn't understand exactly what it was that he was intercepting, he felt sorry for them both.
They arrived, at last, and dispersed for the night. After sharing a few final words with Ford, Truman took Lili home with his hand on her shoulder, grateful for the end of this day. Oleander gruffly said good night and headed for his office on the tenth floor of the impressive, modern high-rise building that was the Psychonauts Headquarters' American branch. Razputin was in awe despite his fatigue. His wide, green eyes scanned past the glass elevators and tall, bustling corridors. Before he was nearly lost in the frenzy, Sasha reached for the collar of his turtleneck.
"Careful, Razputin. We'll give you the full tour soon. You wouldn't want to get stuck in this traffic at this time of night." He smirked at Milla, who seemed distracted but smiled back with her usual cheer.
"I'll show you around, darling. You'll sleep on one of the cots, downstairs. All the offices are towards the top, and the…" Milla took Raz by the arm as she led him towards the elevators. Sasha was about to leave, but Ford grabbed him firmly by the arm.
"Sasha, I have something to show you. We can't talk here. "
Author's Note: I accept anonymous reviews because I love free speech and have had only one hostile comment in my long time on this site. Thank you, and I truly appreciate all the friendly and sincere feedback I have received over the years.