Previously: Eye of Gold
Themesong: Going Under by Evanescence
The note posted on the circus tent surrounding the VMoD alcove said “A decade long vacation? Hope you rested your brain. What do you think this is? Summer Camp?” I groaned.
Zane mmmed? “What’s up?”
“I just recognized this tent.”
“It’s a tent.”
“It’s from the final level in Psychonauts… The Meat Circus… that’s why it looks like marbled meat.”
I stepped inside and was unsurprised… and a little terrified, to be honest, to see the Psychonauts logo hanging over the machine. I read the premise and winced… 10 years… 10 years at Psychic Summer Camp. It wasn’t that big a camp. Maybe there’d be field trips? It did promise crazy psychic adventures.
There wasn’t an age die or a location where, so I checked the origins… Camper, Instructor, Random Drop-In. It wasn’t even a close choice. I had to have two of the three capstones, but Campers got 2 companions free… and if I bought a third, all three of them would have 900 each. Oddly enough, it wasn’t Choice Points this time… but rather “Cranial Points”.
Basic Braining was free for everyone “You have training in mental obstacle courses, an ordeal that instructed you in the basics of acrobatic feats (jumping, trapeze, and the art of the double jump), psychically-assisted hand-to-hand combat, sorting another’s mental baggage, and accessing someone’s mental vaults. As an added bonus, you are less disoriented by astral projecting or entering someone’s mind.” as was a Merit Badge Belt “This camp sash will allow you to display your Jumper powers/skills as merit badges. This has only a cosmetic effect, but might impress some people if you explain that each one is a superpower, area of science/magic/martial arts, or other skill. Despite being properly fitted to you at all times, it always has space for each badge.” So that was nice.
In the free with purchase for Campers  (900/1000) category was a Dowsing Rod “This will help you find buried deposits of psitanium buried around the world of Psychonauts and, out of this universe, it will point to large concentrations of psychic energy.” which could certainly be useful, as well as one Psychic Specialty ”You are really good in a particular area of psychic powers. You might be able to go Invisible for a full day before having to recharge, Telekinetically wrestle the bears at camp, telepathically talk to plants (a rare ability), or your Oarsmanship might be strong enough to let your treat a canoe as a speedboat with nothing but the push of your mind! Keep in mind you’re not the best at your specialization, and to keep your area reasonable (use the cast of Psychonauts as an example). Can be taken more than once (doubling up a specialty will put you among the top 3 in that area with little practice) for a maximum of two ranks per specialty. Remember, this is just your baseline in that field and that with the amount of time you have as a Jumper to practice (not to mention learning and training perks) you will notice you have further to go to reach your limit than most.” I selected “Precognitive Invisibility”… i.e. resistance to being anticipated with Precognitive abilities.
The two Must Have Abilities, and thus the lion’s share of my CP, were the Drop-In Capstone “Astral Layers”  (300/1000) (Every version of you, at least one from each jump, resides in your mindscape, as an independent layer of who you were and who you are. Within your mind they are able to act as independent Psychonauts, defending your mind and dealing with any disturbances that arise. Outside of your own personal mindscape the only effects of this perk is the increased mental fortitude from the bolstering of your identity. Within it, however, your mind is a fortress garrisoned by the many aspects of yourself. These aspects have their own unique perspectives that could prove to be a valuable source of advice and insight, although not without their own biases. Speaking with your Id would prove impossibly useful to resolve any repressed issues you might have, but less so when seeking aid in dealing with the nuances of high society.) and the Camper Capstone “Three Pounds of Dreams”  (0/1000) (Your mind is that special one in a million psyche destined for mental greatness. Your mental defenses compare favorably to a tank’s armor, its strength to a battering ram, but it all pales in comparison to its pure potential. Learning and mastering new psychic abilities and skills takes less than a few days. Given sufficient motivation, challenges, and training to push your development could see you mastering eight different psychic abilities within one. Your mind never seems to lose its ability to change and evolve, meaning that even after years you’ll find yourself able to make noticeable improvements as long as you’re putting in the effort to push your limits) A psychic learning boost and a psychic defenses boost and a psychic strength boost. I wasn’t passing this up… but I wondered… if I jumped to Babylon 5 next… just how close to transcendence would I be? Could I fight a Vorlon head to head? That’s for later, but still I had to wonder.
As I locked in Astral Layers, I could feel my mindscape coming alive as more than 30 Jumpselves and 169 Magi Manifested, as well as a double handful of beings I recognized as aspects of my original psyche… my sense of justice, my rage, my lust, my competitiveness, and others… coalesced out of the various clouds and populated the once empty halls of my Mental Palaces. Librarian of Memories, Cataloguer of Dreams, Conservator of the Mental Gallery, Custodian of the Forgotten… they formed slowly but deliberately, establishing a hierarchy before the Throne of Me… a throne awaiting a future self who was not yet come. It was a throne for she I was becoming. And the hierarchy had room to grow, since it would clearly be doing so for the foreseeable future.
And speaking of planning for later, some of the gear was incredible… a regenerating cache of Psitanium, a mental cobweb duster and psychic loom two pack, and my very own psycho-portal? Collectively they’d cost me 400… which I didn’t have… and I really wanted to buy a third companion import. At 2, Zane and Velma would get 600 apiece… but with 3, Zane, Velma, and Francy would each get 900. But all that would cost 500. I could aim for 600 points of Drawbacks and take the Instructor Capstone… but while that would improve my brain-diving to the point where I wouldn’t need the Psycho-Portal, I’d have to pass on importing Francy and the Psitanium… I certainly wasn’t willing to go too crazy on this jump, even though the Molotov Milk sounded awesome… I already had a regenerating supply of grenades.
Still, I was going to have to dip into the well of suck to afford anything else. “Let’s hear it for Jumper! Yay!” (+100), which would saddle me with two eternally upbeat psychic cheerbrats, was merely annoying. I could cope with annoying… I was a middle school teacher.
“One-Jumper Camp Staff” (+200) was almost certainly a bad idea, (as it would fragment my mind into a set of alternative, job specific, personalities… but the text specifical said that as long as I have a large chunk of Psitanium I’d be able to remain stable and cohesive… and I would be using the points to buy a giant lump of Psitanium… which instantly respawns in my warehouse if I lose it or it’s destroyed… I suspect it can’t be that easy… but it’s there in green and yellow. Will have to experiment with how much Psitanium is enough… then use more.
And for the last bit I took “And Now I Have to Wear this Special Hat” (+200)… any Drawback that requires a hat, tinfoil or otherwise, was a taker in my book. Hats are cool. Limited psychic control when not wearing a hat made of tinfoil. I can do that.
And that was 500… now back to my regularly scheduled shopping. Psitanium  (400/1500) “A 50 lb. chunk of Psitanium (also available in arrowhead collection form), an extraterrestrial psycho-reactive metal that makes psychics more psychics (and unstable people more unstable) over prolonged exposure, appears in your Warehouse each year. If not worked into a new item and instead carried around, it will instantly return to the Warehouse if it has become lost or destroyed. Arrowheads can be spent at the Camp Store.” Cobweb Duster  (300/1500) “This device allows you to collect mental cobwebs while inside another’s mind. This has the benefits of clearing up their mind and memory, not improving their mental faculties as much as dusting off old skills and uncovering old memories. Includes a Psychic Loom attachment for the Warehouse.” and Psycho-Portal  (100/1500) “You get a personalized Psycho-Portal of your very own! This miniature doorway to the mind assists in diving into the mental world and allows for multiple users to enter a single target at the same time. You could place it on your own forehead and draw willing subjects into your mindscape (typically for training purposes) or you could attach it to others to dive into theirs. Note that it does come with built-in blocks preventing you from entering the minds of minors (due to laws protecting underage minds) and it is possible to establish mental blocks preventing access with this device.”
Which left 100 to import Francine, Zane, & Velma. I’d briefly considered Ziggy instead of Francy… but a psychic ferretoid would be… is bad news too mild a descriptive? And Francine was a psychic… sure, so where AJ and Petra… but both of them had physical skills too. Francine was the purest Psyker on the team. With their 900 points, the three of them would each get an origin free of cost. Hell, when you tossed in Ahab and Joy I could practically restaff the camp if I wanted to.
Zane went with Drop-In, which, in addition to Basic Braining & Merit Badge Belt, got him Ran Away From The Circus “You have the skills of an exceptional circus acrobat, having mastery of the trapeze and tightrope with juggling thrown in for good measure. Beyond the agility, balance, reflexes, and strength you gain from that experience, you also have a better knowledge of showmanship.” and Complete Collection of True Psychic Tales Magazine “Every issue ever printed, with a subscription for any new ones as they come out. Out of universe, you will continue to get new issues with articles based on the current universe’s Psychic events and community. This may include articles involving your adventures. Somehow the mail-in orders in the back of the magazine still work as long as you follow the mailing and payment instructions. In the event one gets damaged, simply burn it and a replacement will appear in the Warehouse.”
With his points he picked up Psychic Speciality Mental Shielding, Psychic Speciality Precognitive Invisibility (figuring it was a good idea), and Astral Layers because more Zane is always a good thing, right? He also picked up the Molotov Milk Crate , since, as he put it, it would complete the collection. He was right. This was the first time we’d ever managed to buy every item of gear available in a jump. “You have a basket from which you can pull bottles of milk that can ignite into Molotov cocktails. It is fortified with what the world wants. What the world deserves. When not ignited, it is very delicious and healthy to drink. The basket never runs out and you can share the milk, however only you can ignite it.” Nutritious and destructive. What more could we want?
Velma, ever the pedant, went with Instructor snagging the tetrafecta of Basic Braining, Merit Badge Belt, Department of Paranormal Education “You are fully trained in the art of educating young psychics. This gives you better methods of developing the present psychic abilities within your students (no matter how small), the ability to set up psychic training grounds within your mind, improved control over your mental censors (wouldn’t do to have your censors trying to evict your students, at least until combat practice), and the willpower to deal with a summer camp full of hormonal kids. Note that control over your censors is something you should pay attention to, as they are your mind’s immune system”, and Cobweb Duster…
“You know, Ess… You should cash your Duster out and take something else.”
“Dusters can be bought with arrowheads, right?”
“You’ve got a rod to find them, a block of Psitanium, and can theoretically borrow one of ours… and we don’t need two.”
“Three,” interjected Francine.
“You’re going Instructor too, Francy?”
“Yes, they get a discount on Psy Specialities.”
“True. Anyway, we don’t need three Psychic Looms, which is the major point of buying this item.”
“You sold me.”
Since I couldn’t afford a second Psychic Specialty to boost me to the top tier, I decided to trade in my Cobweb Duster [-100] for “Department of Paranormal Education” … if nothing else, it would give me better mental health and willpower.
As for purchasing power, she picked up Psycho-Science “You are familiar with everything from the cutting edge to the earliest tests of the Psychic Sciences. You know how a Brain Tumbler works, how to construct a Geodesic Isolation Chamber, how to make your own Psycho-Portal (most available ones will include a built-in block to protect underage minds from being entered), how to build Psychic Death Tanks (and properly store brains so they stay alive and can be easily transported), and how to make people sneeze out their whole brains and stay alive using nothing but a pepper mill! That last one doesn’t work on people with a stuffy nose though. Also comes with knowledge of how to put brains back inside a person’s head.”, Psychonautics “Your skill at diving into the psyche is unparalleled, with the insight to truly understand the mind at its core levels. You have the full training of a Psychonaut and the field of Psychonautics in general. You know how to truly explore the human condition, the various methods of achieving the altered states of consciousness to do so (and in your case can do it through will alone), and you make connections through the Collective Unconscious easier allowing you to visit the minds of those you have a connection to over any distance. You can even explore the Collective Unconscious itself as well as Crowd Psychologies! As an added bonus, you also have an increased ability at understanding truly alien, inhuman minds.”, and 4 Psychic Specializations… Levitation twice, Psychic Transparency (mental attacks and scans might simply pass through her), and Psy-Suppression… a general dampener.
Francy as promised also went Instructor, Basic Braining & Merit Badge Belt, Department of Paranormal Education, Cobweb Duster… yada yada yada… but she grabbed 9 Psychic Specializations… Psychoportation twice, Psychic Void (the ability to absorb psychic attacks and probes), Instance Heightening twice (the ability to make people do what they’re already doing, only more so… focus on watching sports, sleep, look for the source of a noise, etc.), Domination twice, Telekinesis, and Psy-Stun. Ouch.
“Are you sure you don’t want Three Pounds of Dreams? It’ll cost you six of your picks, but might be worth it in the long run. It guarantees you’ll never stop growing.”
“You doubt my ability?”
“Not doubting you, Spoongirl. I’m saying that biology hits a limit of diminishing returns. Three Pounds removes that limitation.”
“You’re thinking that quantity is better than quality. But you’ve got three doubles, you’re already a TK and Stun master, and can Dominate with the best of them. That’s six. Toss those and all your psychic powers, not just the ones you get here, will be able to improve as long as you make the effort.”
“Don’t trust your old trainer?”
That earned me a hard stare, then she sighed and nodded. “Very well. You are probably right. I shall put my trust in your judgement.”
“I’m sure the camp has some lovely spoons. And maybe we can make you some out of psytanium.” That cheered her up.
Ahab and Joy decided to join me and Zane in the ranks of the Camper Elite, thus getting themselves Basic Braining, a Merit Badge Belt, and a Dowsing Rod… with Ahab picking Psychic Specialty (Sensory Invisibility) and Joy picking Psychic Specialty (Technopathy). That all squared away nicely, we dropped in.
What can I say about Whispering Rock Summer Camp? It’s Summer Camp… deranged teens and tweens doing hokey things like wrestling bears, assassinating squirrels, and performing psychic surgery on mental patients… what do you mean that’s not normal for Summer Camps? What the hell kind of summer camp did you go to?
I’d like to claim it was all fun and games. I’d like to say it was fun in the sun and hijinks all the way… but… I… I made a mistake. I… shit. I killed them all. Well, not all. Not Clem and Crystal, little psychopaths cheering as I obliterated the camp and its staff.
My companions had a place to go, a place to hide until the storm passed… Curse that Loboto… can’t hold a Psitanium Chunk when you’re a brain in a tank. Can’t wear a tinfoil hat when you’re a brain in a tank… Brain in a Tank Me had only one mission, one task… destroy… obliterate… no controls. Nothing… all my powers unleashed by a single sneeze. Fucking Loboto, stole my Psitanium / tinfoil helmet, then hit me with a pepper bomb. Probably just wanted to see what would happen. Fuck him so much.
And fuck me. All this power… and all it took to take me down was a pepper grinder. The worst part about it? Part of my mind is trying to tell me that they were little psychopaths, too dangerous to be allowed out into the wider world, that the camp was a production facility for psychic weapons… maybe the voice is right. Maybe I did the… necessary thing… but I didn’t do it for the right reasons. They may have been weapons, but they were also kids… and even if I didn’t willingly kill them… I failed to save them.
My friends tried to come for me, to put me back in my body, but I was too out of control. All they could do was try and keep me from doing too much damage. I have hundreds of conflicting memories of that period, each persona doing its own thing… or at least thinking they were, and the primary persona trapped in a mechanical mindscape of pain and induced paranoia, gunning down abominations and computerized targets, no way to differentiate reality from unreality.
After the jump ended and I found myself whole, collected, me… and in my own body, I spent the next week or so doing my impression of curling up into a ball and sobbing uncontrollably. Too many years, too many layers, too much shielding for me to break down completely, but there was a guilt I could not shake, could not without discarding the memories… And the worst part of it was… I didn’t know if I’d have been as deadly without the drawbacks… I suspect I would have, but can’t be sure. I guess it was a part of me I’d have to either come to terms with, or not. At least I hadn’t killed them knowingly or willingly. That was something… A thin branch to hang one’s sanity on, but when that’s all there is, that’s all there is.
Next: World 35 – War & Remembrance
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