From the files of Dr. Fritz V. Baugh, GBWC CEO
GBI Case File No. GBWC-2005-23/201
His most recent girlfriend thought he was having to work an overnight shift at his job--when the truth was, he'd spent his Happy New Year with a local hooker. He laughed at the thought that the bitch would be all sympathetic because "You poor baby, you had to work on the holiday again..."
He fumbled with his car keys, thinking he needed to get home soon. She'd be waking up within the hour, and would probably call him. She wouldn't believe his fake excuse of "Sorry, I was so tired I slept through the phone" forever.
He dropped his keys, and uttered an obscenity as he leaned down to find them, fumbling on the dark ground, his eyes bleary from intoxication. "Damn it all to hell..."
He realized there was a shadow over him.
"I don't suppose you got a good eye? I can't find my keys..."
"I have many good eyes..." a voice like rusty nails answered. "Let me see yours..."
"Now what the f*** does that supposed to..." Arvin's voice trailed off as he raised his bleary gaze at the source of the voice.
The scream of terror would be the last sound he ever uttered.
"You think you have it bad? I was having a Happy New Year, thank you very much, with a quite stunning actress." his partner, Vance Dirkman, whined. He was a younger man, quite good looking--and he knew it.
"Well, aspiring actress..."
"It's LA, Dirk--you want a challenge, find a woman who isn't an aspiring actress. And let me guess--it wasn't the same aspiring actress you spent Happy New Year 2004 with?"
"Now that really hurts, Zack. The fact that you're right doesn't make that comment hurt any less..."
"Victim's name, according to his ID, was Arvin Smith." the uniformed patrolman reported. "Had a worker ID from the S-Mart up on 38th Street...wallet still had fifty bucks and an S-Mart SuperCard in it..."
"Don't get murdered without it..." Dirk quipped.
"Sounds like it wasn't robbery..." Fox shook his head. "I can rule out my ex-wives--they'd pick the money and card clean..."
The crime scene forensic specialist looked a little pale. That worried Fox--she was a pro, and had seen dead bodies in various states of mutilation before. If the state of this body was making her look ready to hurl...
"Well, let us see it." Dirk said brightly, trying to fight off the same conclusion Fox was.
"Sweet mother of God..." Fox exhaled when she pulled the sheet back.
"Wow...looks a lot better than it did the last time we were here..." Dr. Kyle Stevens whistled as he and the other three occupants of the car disembarked. He was well-built man with dark, neatly-kept hair, and tall.
"Well, last time we were here Ashram trashed it, so yeah, I'd say this is an improvement." Dr. Andy Harness agreed. The youngest of the group, he sported a Notre Dame hat that hid his unruly sandy hair.
"So...you think they changed the lock?" Jeremy Hicks asked. Older and less wiry than Andy, he had brown hair that formed a widow's peak, and wore a pair of round eyeglasses.
"I'm pretty sure he said they didn't--if he wanted to keep us out, he wouldn't have tried so hard to get us all back here." Dr. Will Ketcham replied. He was even taller than Kyle, but much less muscular. His long black hair looked, to all the world, to almost always be covering at least one eye.
All four were wearing flight suits in the familiar GBI cut, with their last names sewn into patches above their left chest pockets. The suits were grey, with green trim around the shoulders and the legs, and the Ghostbuster logo on each right shoulder marked them as members of Ghostbusters Tennessee.
Jeremy shrugged, and put his key into the doorway. He really shouldn't have been so surprised that it sprung open--as it always did.
"Whoa..." Andy remarked as they entered the reception area. There was the distinctly fresh smell of new construction. The desk, which for over a year had been occupied by Client Administrators Chelsea Aberdeen and Rose Prevost, was empty--though the computer monitor was on, and sported a bouncing screen saver icon that looked like the Ghostbusters logo. Albeit in the neon orange color that was the custom identifier of the Ghostbusters West Coast Division.
Formed almost two years before, when the monster called The Ravisher attacked and murdered director Jon Dennison, the GBWC had become--despite being the largest franchise in GBI history--a close-knit group. Until one of them died defeating the primal god who had created the Ravisher in the first place. And another was posessed by an eldrich horror. And then from there it only got worse...
After dealing with Gozer (a battle that involved not only the legendary founding Ghostbusters but four other units of GBI) the GBWC was torn to bits. The entity Ashram--obsessed with destroying Andy since the formation of the East Tennessee Ghostbusters in 2002--played a part in that. But other stresses, personal issues, and even fatigue from all that had happened took their toll.
And thus, Kyle, Jeremy, and Will had spent much of the fall with Andy. The ETGB and another team realigned into Ghostbusters Tennessee.
"About time you guys got here..." a female voice called out. They turned to see Rose Prevost coming out of the garage.
Rose was more youthful looking than the birthdate on her driver's license would lead you to expect--she was actually only about six months younger than Ray Stantz. She had shoulder-length blonde hair, and wore a blue vest over a white shirt, with purple slacks and tennis shoes. A badge sporting her name, the phrase "Ghostbusters West Coast Client Administrator", and a small orange strip that turned blue in the presence of strong PKE was clipped to the vest.
"Nice to see you again, Rose." Kyle said, giving the woman a friendly hug.
"So, any impressions on the new Boss yet?" Jeremy asked with just a hint of mischief.
"He's certainly more organized than his predecessor." she replied. "I tell you, I was about ready to throw something at Joey if I heard the phrase 'I'm too busy supervising to do the paperwork' one more time..."
"I managed to get out to Maryland over Christmas." Will offered. "I brought a few newspapers from Baltimore--I thought you might be interested..."
"You're a smart man, Doctor Ketcham." she smiled. "But hey, you're from the same home turf I am, so that's to be expected."
Andy laughed. "So has the new Lord and Master made it in yet?"
"Right this way--they're in the garage with Otter..." she replied, rolling her eyes.
The ECTO-1S was a converted former SWAT van that had been used by the GBWC's South Team.
"It's not only not trashed..." Jeremy whistled. "It looks..."
"Different..." Kyle finished for him.
"If you want to get technical about it..." an even, if slightly tenor-pitched, voice broke in. "It's now registered as 'ECTO-WC'"
They turned to the source of the voice, and in the process saw the team's other vehicle, the ECTO-1N. Other than the orange in it's logo and trim, it was was effectively identical to the "ECTO-1A" version of the New York Ghostbusters' legendary auto.
Standing there was a diminuative man wearing overalls emblazoned with the GBWC's logo, and high-top sneakers. Dr. Nathaniel Masterson was nicknamed "Otter", and had been the team's cheif engineer ever since two members of the team ran into him (in a fairly literal sense).
Also present was a woman younger than Rose; attractive, if not glamorous. Her strawberry blonde hair just reached her shoulders, and she was dressed in a purple sweater vest and skirt. A badge virtually identical to Rose's bore the name "Chelsea Aberdeen"
Between the two was the man who'd talked a moment ago. In his early thirties, he had an unruly mop of brownish-red hair and a pair of eyeglasses perched on his nose. He was dressed in a short-sleeve red shirt with a Mickey Mouse tie.
He was sitting in a wheelchair. Only one foot--his right--extended from the cuff of his black pants.
"Fritters!!!" Andy whooped and went over to shake the man's hand vigorously.
"Wow, Man..." Will said. "You look great..."
"I'll say." Kyle nodded, studying his old friend. "You've put back on some weight--you were looking awful skinny right before all...well, you know."
Dr. Fritz V. Baugh chuckled. "Well, part of it has to be Mrs. Zeddemore's cooking..."
"We had Christmas dinner with the Zeddemore's." Chelsea explained. "Vincent Belmont and his new wife were there too..."
"Belmont finally got hitched, yeah, I heard" Jeremy laughed.
"Happy Birthday, by the way..." Chelsea added.
"Thanks." Jeremy beamed. "Everybody forgot last year..."
"Last year somebody had stolen a mummy from the museum. We were busy." Fritz quipped. "My grandmother's birthday was on Christmas, so I can imagine what having yours on New Years is like..."
Jeremy laughed. "Yeah...'Well, we'll just give you one or two extra presents instead of waiting until your birthday next week' Pain in the butt, sometimes..."
Fritz had been the team's official historian and science expert from the very first. He'd quickly proven himself capable as "Co-captain" of the North Team, and eventually became more and more the de facto lead man of the entire franchise.
A position he now held officially as the CEO of the Ghostbusters West Coast.
"I'm glad you all could make it today." Fritz finally said, clearing his throat. "I know a lot's happened since we last all got together face to face."
"No doubt." Andy rolled his eyes. "I'm gonna guess you didn't cut any rugs at the GBI Christmas party this year. But that's only a wild guess."
"I saw the reports on the injury--they should be on file here by now, of course." Kyle said. "Any time table on fitting for a prosthetic?"
"I have an appointment at amputee clinic later this month." Fritz replied. "They wanted to make sure the infections were gone and the wound completely healed before moving forward on that. Amputation due to supernatural effects is quite an unexplored field, you know..."
"You just gotta be first in everything." Jeremy smirked. "I bet you gave him plenty of Tender Loving Care though, eh, Miss Aberdeen?"
"Nice to see you again too, Chelsea." Kyle nodded.
She smiled. "I did my best. I guess all things considered I owed it to him considering..."
"Let's not have any of that nonsense again." Fritz cut her off gently.
"I did finally get to meet his mother in the hospital, though." Chelsea continued. "Wonderful lady, very friendly. Wish more of that'd rubbed off on this kid of hers..."
Fritz rolled his eyes as she laid an affectionate hand on his shoulder.
"Er, okay...so, Fritters, what did you do to our SWAT van? It looks, all, pumped up and stuff..."
"Well, I remembered Jeff talking about how ugly the white and orange paint job looked on it, and I realized it was kind of true. Otter and some GBI tech guys have put in some state-of-the-art tech on this one, and it's better than before. It'll be our--or, well, I guess for now your is a better word--primary vehicle from now on."
"What about this baby, then?" Jeremy asked, pointed at the ECTO-1N.
"We're definitely not getting rid of it, if that's what your worried about." Chelsea replied. "The Miller Meteor replivehicle is a Ghostbuster icon..."
"We're keeping it around for more, well, I guess the best way to put it is 'ceremonial' purposes." Rose added "Parades, promotional appearances, that sort of thing. In fact, Tully booked you an appearance at one of the local S-Marts the weekend before Valentine's Day"
"Well, then, since Fritters and Chelsea have the retail experience AND are sickening lovebirds, they'll be in for that one." Andy quipped, provoking laughter from the whole room.
"So is this it, Fritz?" Will asked after the laughter died down. "Four active Ghostbusters is quite a step down...especially as Andy and I both kind of have other obligations..."
"I know. But for one, I don't expect to be wheelchair bound forever." Fritz answered. "Two...I've hired a couple more Reservists--Dr. Zach LaVoy, who moved to LA over the fall..."
"GB Chicago Division, right?" Kyle asked.
"Correct. The other is a parapsychologist that Dr. Venkman recruited--a Dr. Jennifer Thompson."
"Hrm...I'm sure I've heard that name somewhere before..." Otter piped up.
"You're probably confusing her with someone else." Rose snorted. "Just don't use that same lame line you used when they hired me..."
"Of course not!!!" Otter replied indignantly. "I'll use a totally different lame line..."
"Erm, anyway..." Fritz coughed. "Dr. LaVoy and Dr. Thompson will be on call for large cases or to cover days off. Robert and Joey are still in LA too--they're also on our Reserve list. And even Peter, Chad, and Leon have said they'll come if we really need them."
"Besides." Chelsea added. "Four active Ghostbusters only seems like a small team compared to what we were used to. Remember---four was all the guys in New York had for most of the last twenty years, and I think they've done all right."
"Good point." Jeremy agreed.
"I take it you like the ECTO-WC then?" Fritz asked.
"I know I do." Kyle said admiringly.
"Good. I hope you'll be as enthused about my other surprise..."
"Other surprise?" the other four asked in unison.
But before Fritz could go any further, there was a buzzing sound from the cel phones he and Rose were wearing.
"What the?" Andy asked.
"I'll go get it, Fritz." Rose answered, and walked briskly out of the garage.
"There's been some upgrades in the internal intercomm system. It can be linked into these company cel phones--right now, we only have two, but we should get more shortly." Fritz explained, showing the phone. "Right now they're indicating that someone is ringing the doorbell..."
"Sorry to bother you, Ma'am..." the younger one started.
"Zach Fox, LAPD" the older man cut him off, flashing a badge. "This is my partner Vance Dirkman..."
Rose sighed. "Dropping off or picking up?"
"Niether. We need to talk to somebody here..."
"Forget to pay all Joey's parking tickets, Fritters?"
Fritz ignored Andy. "We'll be right out there." He cut the line. "Well, guys, looks like we have a case. Already."
Jeremy realized Chelsea had noticed him noticing her scratching her head. "Well?"
Jeremy looked too and fro. "Er, I guess we better go find out what the cops want, right?"
She rolled her eyes.
"This may be the easiest twenty dollars I ever made..." Will heard Fritz mutter aloud, with an odd smirk.
"Understood." Fritz replied. "But what makes you think this case is...under our area of expertise?"
Dirk was too busy leering at Chelsea Aberdeen to pay any attention. Until Fox poked him. "Er, Earth to Dirk, hello?"
"Sorry...I wasn't expecting a Miss America contestant in this place..." Dirk smiled facetiously.
"Give it up, Dude." Jeremy told him. "She's happily involved with someone."
"Look...I..." Fox paused. "Maybe it'd be better if you guys came down and saw it for yourself. Nothing else would do it justice..."
"Give the team a few minutes to get suited up, Detective Fox, and that shouldn't be a problem."
"Aren't those Ghostbuster outfits?" Fox asked.
"During our hiatus they were employed by Ghostbusters Tennessee." Chelsea answered. "Those are GBTN's uniforms."
"We'll meet you there." Fox nodded. "Thanks..."
"Here's my card if you need anything." Dirk grinned as he passed his business card to Chelsea.
After Fox and Dirk left, she pitched it into a trashcan. "What an asshole..."
"Thinks he's Dr. V's second coming, I guess..." Will rolled his eyes.
"Now then...time for the suprise I was about to mention..." Fritz smirked.
"Okay, I'm worried."
"Go get into uniform, Jeremy. I think you'll like this one..."
"I gotta admit...this is kinda nifty..." Kyle said approvingly.
"Definitely like the cut--it's basically the GBTN look with different colors, isn't it?" Andy added.
The object of their scrutiny were the newly-hewn flight suits they were wearing. Whereas before, the GBWC had utilized the uniform tan/khaki flight suits the original Ghostbusters had worn when they first formed (and were immortalized in the two movies based on GBNY's adventures) the new uniforms were dark blue in color, with orange trim around the shoulders and the legs. The familiar neon orange "no ghost" logo stared from the right shoulders as always.
"Indeed." Fritz answered Andy. They noticed that, though still sitting in his wheelchair, he was also wearing one of the new uniforms "One thing I've wanted to do for a very long time is give us our own distinctive look--not quite like the founders, with their individual uniforms, but more like the other franchises. GBUK and their different shade of blue...Nightsquad and the black and purple..."
"I'm with you there, Fritters. I remember sayin' something back when Leon joined and that guy was there to take pictures..."
"I don't remember that." Jeremy interjected.
"You were posessed at the time." Kyle replied. "I like it--orange is 'our' color, but only using for a trim against the dark background keeps it from looking too garish."
"We're in LA. Nobody'd notice even if it was garish." Will quipped.
"Anyway...this was the one thing I always wanted to change." Fritz finished his earlier sentiment. "And since I now have the authority--I changed it."
"Suits me just fine." Andy quipped. "C'mon, somebody had to say it..."
Fritz went with them for this part ("This is fact finding, not a bust" he said) and rode in the passenger seat, his wheelchair stowed in the back. When they arrived he stood by the door on one foot until Kyle brought it over to him.
They went inside, and drew more than one quizzical look as they asked for Detective Fox
He went over to the row of metal shelves and pulled one open.
"Get ready..." he warned them as he unzipped the bag.
Only Kyle, a former surgeon, didn't look completely nauseated at the sight before them. Fritz looked about ready to hurl his lunch...
"That's..." was all Will could choke out.
The body had been mutilated pretty badly--but the most shocking state was the face. Or more accurately, the eyes--which were completely missing, the head and skull looking like they had been literally ripped apart to take them out.
"Work ID and credit cards peg him as Arvin Smith, an overnight worker at one of the local S-Marts. We interviewed his girlfriend, who was at home on the other side of town from where he was found--phone records verify she made a call from there around the same time he was murdered. She has an ex, and by some accounts the break-up was kind of nasty--the late Mister Smith's fault, actually--but his alibi checks out too."
"But frankly...call it a gut instinct, this just didn't feel like the work of your normal serial killer. That's why I followed that gut and called you guys."
Fritz pulled out his PKE meter. "If a paranormal entity was involved, then there should be some PK residuals..." He flipped it on.
"Get anything?" Andy asked.
"No..." Fritz answered after a few seconds. "In fact, the PK level is strangely...suppressed...almost like..."
He pushed some buttons, and the meter began to make a new noise. A loud, staticky series of clicks.
"What's that?" Fox asked.
"Sounds like a Geiger counter." Jeremy shrugged.
"It is." Fritz answered. "The radiation level isn't hazardous, but it's abnormally high. Radiation and PKE cancel each other out--the main reason the proton pack is built around the use of charged particles."
"So what the hell does this mean, then?" Will asked.
"Whatever is responsible for this probably isn't a paranormal entity in the classic sense. But it's definitely dangerous."
"Correct." Fritz nodded.
"Well, we can rule out Godzilla. He's radioactive, but a little too big to not be noticed. Even in LA." Jeremy cracked.
"Find anything yet?" Will asked Chelsea, who was keying descriptions into the TOBIN's search engine.
"There was one case with some similarities to this---GBI Case File GBNY-1997-15/110. A creature called Tinnebraug materialized every time somebody looked at the Eye of Muldova, and plucked their eyes out magically. But they weren't killed by the experience, and the Eye of Muldova has been safely locked away in it's vault ever since."
"Still, that's our only lead so far." Fritz nodded. "We'll keep looking for something on this end--possibly related by the same mythos. Detective Fox is still on the case from the 'mundane' end, just to be sure."
"So...what do the rest of us do in the meantime?" Kyle asked
"I'll show you how to activate the Geiger counter mode in the meters. Patrol the area Arvin Smith was attacked, and maybe we'll get lucky."
"Finding the radioactive monster that eats eyeballs ain't exactly my definition of 'getting lucky' Fritters..." Andy rolled his eyes.
"Homey, I tell you for a [white boy]* that Zagnut guy sure can rap"
"Yeah...did you see his latest video, and that [dude] dressed like a [f-bombing] mummy?"
"That is so dope. Hey, you still got that 2 Crew tape?"
"M'Man, classics like 'Jump That Ho' never go out of style..."
The radio started to make some staticky noise.
"What the [f-bomb]? I thought this was a tape."
"It IS a tape, [person with inordinate fondness for donkeys]..."
"Then why does it sound like it's losin' a station or somethin'?!"
"How the [yep, f-bomb again] should I know?!"
"Dude, in Episode 3 he finally becomes Darth Frickin' Vader. Not even George Lucas could possibly screw that up..." Andy replied.
"It'll work out." Fritz's voice came out of the radio.
"Fritters, you liked Episodes 1 and 2. You're about the only guy I know who doesn't hate Jar Jar Binks..."
"He wasn't any more annoying than the droids...and the argument about racism was beyond reaching."
"Don't even get into that one, Andy" J chuckled. "John liked Jar Jar too..."
"That doesn't mean he shouldn't have had a gaffee stick stuck up his..."
"Whoa." Will broke in before Andy could finish the thought. The swing arms on his PKE meter were blinking, and rising slightly, the staticky clicking sound of the Geiger detection mode getting louder. "We got somethin'...turn left, here..."
Kyle swerved the vehicle abruptly, spilling Jeremy onto the floor. "OUCH!!!"
"Be careful...remember, you don't know what you're dealing with. And don't get any closer than you have to..."
"Easy for you to say, Boss. You're back at the warehouse. We're the ones risking not having children to fight a radioactive monster."
"Nobody's gonna ever sleep with you anyway Harness..." Will quipped.
Andy flipped him off. "Jess only does you out of pity, you know..."
"I'm still ahead of you." Will flipped him back, still concentrating on the meter.
"Yes..." a voice like rusty nails broke in. "Look...look with those pretty eyes of yours..."
"What the hell did you say, [Homosexual]?"
"It wasn't me, [One having fecal matter for brains]!!!"
The two gang-bangers turned, and what they saw made them crap their low-riding pants.
The place he had been was so very very cold.
That was part of why he had to be there...Feel the cold...Embrace the cold....Become the cold...
But Los Angeles was warm, even in January. He missed that...
With less than a blink of an eye, he was in motion.
"[Repeated references to defecation]"
"Where is it?" a quiet voice came from the shadow.
The gang punk didn't even have the presence of mind to speak, as he was too busy emptying his bladder and intestines in his pants. He jabbed a panicked finger in the direction he'd just ran from.
There was a chilly breeze, and the shadow was gone.
The other gang banger lay on the ground, his fluids spraying everywhere...a smoking Tec 9 lay next to him.
"Such pretty eyes..." the voice like rusty nails purred as it finished cutting the young punk's out of his head.
Before the creature knew it, it was sent reeling back with a jump kick. The source of it was a man in a black body suit, with a hood, a padded vest of midnight blue, and the two-toed tabi boots favored by ninja. He assumed a fighting stance, fists ready to strike.
"Son of a bitch..." the ninja breathed, bile rising in his throat. He'd seen more than one atrocity of a supernatural nature in his time, but this was making him more disoriented than he thought possible.
His opponent was tall, and pale, dressed in shabby, tattered dark clothes. A pouch was slung over its shoulder, and a bloody carving knife was gripped in its right hand. Its face was strangely indistinct, with phosphorescent green eyes glowing from under the foul-smelling fluids dripping from it. "Perhaps your eyes belong in my collection too..." the creature quipped menacingly.