TOY SOLDIERS
PART ONE

From the files of Dr. Fritz V. Baugh, GBWC CEO
With the assistance of the entire GBWC team
GBI Case File No. GBWC-2009-27/401

Step by step
Heart to heart
Left, right, left
We all fall down
Like toy soldiers

"Toy Soldiers"
Martika, 1989
Los Angeles, California
July 17, 2009
Ghostbusters Omnibus Timeline Year Twenty-Seven
The water streaming from the showerhead was ice cold, but she was still somehow surprised that the bathroom wasn't full of steam.

It's not as though Chelsea Aberdeen Baugh had never dreamed about sex before. It wasn't as though it was the first time that a dream didn't involve her husband of nearly three years, either. She loved him with all of her heart, but that didn't mean she never fantasized about anybody else.

And it wasn't as though it was the first time she'd dreamed of her childhood love, the one she'd tragically lost. It was impossible for her to not think of him at least once a day, especially as one her coworkers had a given name homonymous to his.

Geoff Sheppard was part of her sexual history, after all. They'd lost their virginity to each other after their Junior Prom; it was fumbling, uncomfortable, and awkward, but it got better after that. They experimented, and talked, and eventually learned...

No. What unnerved her was that it was the hottest, raunchiest, kinkiest, porn-star sex that she didn't even know she was capable of imagining. So intense it shook her awake and made her ache to realize her husband was at work. So erotic she still staggered to the bathroom in hopes of dousing her throbbing hormones in ice cold water.

There was a knock at the bathroom door, and a tiny voice. "Mommy?"

"Just...just a second, Sweetheart..." Chelsea sighed, turning off the shower. It had done it's work; she felt the yearning subside back into her animal brain. She wrapped a fluffy pink towel around her naked body, and opened the door.

"Mommy okay?" the nearly two year old girl asked. Chelsea grabbed her and hugged her tightly.

"I'm okay, Abigail. I just...woke up feeling really dirty."

"Where's Daddy?"

"Daddy's at work. He had the night shift tonight."

"He hates that." Abigail wrinkled her nose.

Chelsea chuckled. "Yeah...well, he does. And I hate it too." Especially tonight...

Chelsea looked at her daughter, standing there in her pink footie pajamas with Hello Kitty on them, and smiled. The little girl's shaggy hair, Chelsea could just about swear, was almost exactly in-between her own strawberry blonde and her husband's slightly reddish brown; a darker, browner red than, say, Janine Spengler or her son Johnathan, but lighter than her father's.

"Now, do you need to use the bathroom while you're here?"

Abigail nodded.

"Then you go do that, and then head back to bed--there's still a couple hours yet before breakfast."

"Krazy's!" Abigail chanted.

Chelsea laughed. "Well, no promises, but we'll see..."

Chelsea sighed as she looked at the collection of stuffed animals by her bed. She picked up the one most precious to her, a teddy bear in a black and yellow football jersey reading "96".

I wonder what kind of baby I would have had with Geoff...

Part of her hated herself for even thinking it--she had a husband she adored and a daughter that would never have been born if Geoff Sheppard had lived.

But it was a wound that was part of her, and always would be.

Almost like she felt like she had to balance it out, she grabbed the one animal in the collection she didn't own--the brown brontosaurus her husband had received on Christmas morning when he was nine years old. She held the jerseyed teddy bear and the brontosaurus tightly as she started to cry.


About 6 AM PDT
The sun was almost up as the Ecto-Cruiser pulled to a stop near the police cars. Dr. Fritz Baugh and Dr. Jeff Nash, both in Ghostbusters West Coast uniform, got out of the car. The familiar face of Detective Zachary Fox nodded to the uniformed patrol officers to let them through the police line.

"Hope I didn't get you up too early." Fox quipped.

"Actually, you're keeping me up." Fritz retorted amiably. "I was about to finally go home before this call."

"Ghostbusters pull all-nighters too." Jeff added. "Not all of them are as good at it as I am, though."

"So what we got?" Fritz asked.

Fox led them over to a clear spot, where a body was laying on the ground, surrounded by a chalk circle. It was wearing dirty clothes soaked in blood. An enormous wooden stake was jabbed through its heart.

Jeff rubbed his chin. "Okay. The stake could mean vampire activity--lot of that lately--but anything else on the body to say that?"

"Don't have the faintest clue." Fox shook his head. "Try to get closer."

Jeff moved toward the dead body, and was suddenly stopped. There was a spark of energy, and for a few seconds a translucent dome of energy appeared around the corpse.

"That's why we called you guys." Fox deadpanned.

Fritz pulled out his PKE Meter. "Definite energy trace here."

"It reminds me of a Hermetic ward..." Jeff mused. "The chalk circle on the ground--Belmont'd know a lot better, though. But he isn't here and I am."

Fritz blinked, as the rising sun reflected off of one of the police cars, temporarily blinding him.

"I might be able to break it by disrupting the circle." Jeff mused, pulling out his neutrona saber.

"Wait. If it's some kind of magic, is that gonna work, or is it gonna blow us all up?" Fox asked nervously.

"There's always a risk." Jeff said blithely, igniting the saber.

Fox and the other cops backed away.

Just then, sunlight streamed into the clearing.

The dome of energy returned for a second, unbidden, and then fizzled out.

The body on the ground began to smolder and sizzle. Then it immolated itself in a blast of fire.

"Holy hell!" Jeff snarled.

"Blowing up in the sunlight sounds like a vampire to me." Fox said. "I mean, assuming the real ones didn't change all their rules like the ones in the movies did?"

"I bet Big Louie in lock-up would just loooooove a sparkly undead." one of the beat cops quipped, provoking nervous laughter from the others.

Fritz looked around. "There was a PK flare just as the body lit up..."

"There's always a micro flare in the ectosphere at sunrise." Jeff pointed out.

"Yes. But I know what that looks like--this was different."

"Great." Jeff shook his head. "Something else that's probably going to bite us in the ass if we don't figure out what it means, right?"

Fritz chuckled ruefully. "Isn't it always?"

Ghostbusters Central West
7:30 AM PDT
The local weatherman, Stanley "Stormclouds" Brown, was blathering on "...Upcoming solar eclipse on Tuesday will the longest anywhere in the world since 1991, and the like won't be seen again until June 13, 2132..."

This provoked a bit of laughter from the young woman stretched out at the reception desk. "Hah! Edie and Johnny's birthday! And they'll only be 133 years old for it!"

"...Making it the longest solar eclipse this century. The Moon will start transiting the Sun at 4:58 Pacific Daylight Time, reach maximum coverage at 7:36, and finally end at 10:12 PM. Unfortunately, the eclipse won't be seen in the Los Angeles area even if the smog co-operates because it can only be seen in Southeast Asia. So unless you're booking a trip to eastern China, Japan, India, Nepal or Bangladesh, you'll just have to watch me replay it the next morning here on KUBN!"

The young African American was dressed in a tan Ghostbuster flight suit, sporting a nametag carrying the word "Rookie"; only sixteen and a half years old, she was only a summer intern--she wouldn't earn a flight suit with her name, and in the blue and orange of the Ghostbusters West Coast franchise until she was at least eighteen, and qualified to be a Reservist.

"Comfy, Miss Zeddemore?" a mischievous voice asked.

"Drop dead, Vernon." she replied.

Sporting a similar outfit to hers, the new arrival was slightly older than her, and dearly wished he could gloat about that and being the adopted son of GBWC member Mick Nielson, but since she had him way outclassed in the pedigree department, he knew it wouldn't impress her.

Because John Vernon may be a former Franchise CEO's adopted son, but Charlene Zeddemore was the full blown biological offspring of one of the four men who defined the word "Ghostbuster".

It wasn't until she heard the sound of the garage open that Charlene swung her feet off the desk and sat up. A few minutes later, Dr. Kyle Stevens (the GBWC field captain) and Jason Knetge walked into the office, both looking tired and a little annoyed.

"How'd it go?" Charlene asked.

"Terrible." Jason shook his head. "By the time we got there, whatever attacked MC Pharaoh was gone. And Zagnut was too high on cocaine to give us much of anything else."

"It still sounds like the Soul Tracker again." Kyle rubbed his temples.

"I thought he'd been leaving the mummy alone." Charlene pointed out.

"He had." Jason agreed. "But from what J and the others have said, it's not a real surprise he tried again. We're actually more surprised he hadn't tried sooner."

"What worries me more is what Zagnut said about someone else, apparently fighting the Soul Tracker." Kyle said. "Described him as looking like 'Dolph Lundgren, but paler'. It sounds like..." He trailed off.

"Like what?" John asked.

Kyle shook his head sternly. "Nothing."

Charlene and John exchanged a quick glance. Nothing you want to talk about with 'children' present, right? was their mutual assumption.

Charlene cleared her throat, deciding to change the subject. "Dr. Baugh and Dr. Nash left about half an hour after you did--they got a call from a Detective Fox in the LAPD."

Kyle and Jason exchanged a look of their own. "They say anything about why?"

Charlene shook her head. "I don't think even Dr. B was clued in--said to Nash 'I guess we'll find out when we get there'."

"Great." Jason sighed.

Almost as though on cue, the garage doors open to allow two more vehicles to enter: the other in-use Ecto-Cruiser, and a red Ford Escort.

"It's like they planned it." Jason rolled his eyes.

Charlene chuckled. "Kinda like Uncle Egon and Aunt Janine finishing each other's sentences."

Fritz dragged his weary body out of the Ecto-Cruiser to be greeted by his wife, and an unexpectedly...passionate kiss from her.

"You all right?" she asked.

"Fine." he replied. "Are you? I get a feeling..."

"Bad nightmare." she shook her head. "Wished you were there when I woke up."

He knew there was more than she was telling, but also guessed (correctly) it wasn't anything that she wanted to mention with Jeff standing right there. Jeff, for his part, was pretending to menace the back seat of her car. Abigail, restrained there in her car seat, was laughing and making faces back

"I hope you had a better run than we did." Kyle said, having walked out to talk with his old friend as Chelsea started to free Abigail from the car seat.

Fritz shook his head. "I doubt it. Someone staked inside a protection circle--burst into flame at sunrise."

"Vampire?" Jason asked.

"Probably." Jeff answered. "The LAPD took the remains, what little of them there were, but we get to go take a look later today."

"I can hope I'd get our authentic MD in on that." Fritz stated as he was accepting an ecstatic hug from his daughter. "But I think we'll both want to get a few hours of sleep, first."

"Oh yes." Kyle nodded.

"Wimp." Jeff teased.

"I remember back when I could pull an eighteen hour shift without raising an eyebrow...but that was before I started to get old." Kyle sighed.

"Aw, man, if they start to talk about how they had to walk through ten miles of snow both ways to fight Anubis, I'm shooting myself." Charlene grumbled. The rest of the room laughed

LAPD HQ
The office was in the basement of the building. The pipes leaked and it smelled like burning sweat socks. It probably hadn't seen a cleaning crew since the Bush Administration--the first Bush Administration.

The sign outside the door read "Occult Crimes Unit"

"This is what we were able to salvage from the mess." Fox said, leading Fritz, Jeff, and Kyle over to a table. "Morgue went ahead and let us have it because there really ain't much worth putting in a freezer."

There was a tiny pile of ash, and some singed clothing.

Fritz turned on his PKE Meter. Kyle and Jeff, both wearing rubber gloves, began to poke through the clothes.

"We found a driver's license in the shirt." Dirkman noted, producing the item. "It was expired, but it gave us a name--Nathan Phillips. Had a couple of Public Intoxication and one arrest for flashing a tourist on his rap sheet, but that was it."

Kyle's eyes narrowed as he looked at a pinch of the ash. "This definitely looks like the kind of ash created when a Kindred is vaporized by sunlight. It's a very granular, dehydrated state--not quite the same as cremation, because the body isn't prepped and dried out first, but more similar than you'd think for something that basically incinerated all of the tissue in a matter of seconds."

"And not even leaving any bone behind." Jeff nodded. "The shit vampires came from is obviously some powerful stuff."

"What do vampires come from?" Fox shook his head. "All this time, all these cases, and I never got around to asking about that. You guys are Ghostbusters--the original guys, Venkman's crew, they must have some idea?"

The three Ghostbusters looked at each other. "Nobody knows for sure." Kyle finally said. "There are a number of different origin stories. But if it makes any difference, the one GBI's heard the most from vampires themselves is that they're the result of a curse that originated with Caine."

"Caine?" Dirk asked. "Micheal Caine?"

"No." Jeff rolled his eyes. "Caine, the guy in the Torah and the Old Testament, the son of Adam and Eve, who killed his brother Abel. The 'Mark' put on Caine by Jehovah was eternal life and a thirst for blood."

"In his sorrow and loneliness, Caine attacked and drank out all of the blood of three others. Then he revived them with blood of his own--creating the first three vampires other than himself." Kyle continued. "They weren't as powerful as Caine, but were still...well...demigods."

Jeff took the next bit. "The three newer vampires, in turn, Embraced at least thirteen more. These vampires were weaker yet, but still massively more powerful than the bloodsuckers we deal with today. These thirteen--who were later known as the Third Generation or the Antediluvians--overthrew the three who sired them--the Second Generation--and Caine abandoned them, hating what he'd unleashed in the world."

"The Antediluvians founded the thirteen Clans--their descendants, who had powers and weaknesses in common with their ancestors. One Clan, for example, becomes ugly and inhuman looking like their Antediluvian sire, who was supposedly cursed by Caine himself. Others have to lie on dirt from their homeland as they sleep, or don't show up in mirrors like in the folklore."

Kyle rubbed his still-weary eyes; his sleep since the morning hadn't been very deep. "Most vampires nowadays are twelve steps removed from Caine--the Thirteenth Generation. As the power of the blood thins with each Generation, they're a lot less powerful than the Antediluvians."

"I am so sorry I asked now." Fox shook his head. "I may have nightmares for weeks. Well, even more nightmares for weeks."

"I take it all with a grain of salt." Jeff said. "That creation myth seems to hinge a lot on the Bible, which also tells us that the Earth is the center of the universe and insects only have four legs."

Fritz sighed and rolled his eyes. Kyle, who was a far more reverent sort, shot Jeff a dirty look.

"The Kindred even have their own version of the Holy Book, the Book of Nod, which is the source of the Caine story." Kyle said. "A franchise back in New York even has an incomplete copy of it."

Fritz cleared his throat. "Might we be able to take some of the ash for an analysis at our end."

"Yeah." Fox nodded. "Just be sure to keep us in the loop on this. We want to get whoever did this as much as you do."

The Ecto-Cruiser glided down the highway back to GBCentral West.

"You guys came awfully close to disclosing some privileged information back there." Fritz said.

"You didn't exactly stop us." Jeff countered.

"No." Fritz shook his head. "Because I think Fox is right--we need to remember to keep them in the loop. And because you didn't tell him anything he couldn't have found in some non-GBI sources."

Kyle was in the driver seat. "You think the Prince is going to be interested in this?"

"I don't know." Fritz shook his head. "It's just one murder, even if it is a little strange. I'm certainly not going to take it to him unless we uncover something that makes it anything more than one weird murder."

"Wise." Kyle nodded.

Jeff's eyes narrowed. "There something you haven't contributed to the class, Dr. Stevens?"

"What?"

"This morning, when you were talking about the Zagnut job." Jeff prodded. "You sounded like you may have an idea about who was hassling the Soul Tracker and Tohnloq."

Kyle shook his head. "Jeff, just like there are some things you wouldn't talk about when it comes to the Lin Kuei, there are some things I can't talk about, because I promised not to."

Jeff's eyes narrowed. "Even if people wind up dead because of it?"

"We're not at that point." Kyle said. "Make no mistake, if it comes down to your lives, or my promises, your lives will win. But until it comes to that..."

"Until it comes to that, do what you have to." Fritz said.

To Be Continued
Questions? Comments? Visit the Ghostbusters West Coast or Ectozone Message Boards
Ghostbusters West Coast Staff: Afterlife Of The Party, Fritz Baugh, Mike Devicente, egon901, Jason Knetge, Miss Janine, Mick Nielson, Kyle Stevens, TheRazorsEdge
Ectozone.com Editorial Staff: Dr. Vincent Belmont, EGB Fan
Additional Beta: Kingpin, OgreBBQ, Brian Reilly, Sinister
Charlene Zeddemore created by OgreBBQ. Development by Fritz Baugh and Rosey Collins

John Vernon created by Mick Nielson

Soul Tracker created by Kyle Stevens; Development and backstory by Fritz Baugh

Zagnut created by Fritz Baugh. As always, any resemblance between Zagnut and another white rapper who's name resembles that of a candy product is a complete coincidence purely for satirical purposes.

Much of the vampire lore in this story is based on Vampire: The Masquerade, created by Mark Rein•Hagen, part of White Wolf's "World of Darkness" (version 1).

Additional Research: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_eclipse_of_July_22,_2009


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