TOY SOLDIERS
PART TWO

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
Previously
After getting a call about a disturbance at the residence of Matthew "Zagnut" Marshall, a new call comes in from the LAPD: a homeless man staked to the ground surrounded by a force field. Fritz, Kyle, and Jeff can only watch helplessly as the Sun rises and the body bursts into flame. They suspect--but cannot prove--that the vampire problem in LA is about to get worse.
Ghostbusters Central West
Los Angeles, California
July 17, 2009
Ghostbusters Omnibus Timeline Year Twenty-Seven
As Jeremy Hicks walked into the Rec Room, he saw Mike Devicente on the couch, calling up something from the DVR menu.

The Fox News logo appeared, and the handsome--if somewhat shifty, and definitely aging--face of one of the network's biggest stars filled the screen. "Tonight, on Julio Ramanajaan, legal expert and best selling author Grace Adler discusses her new book, I Am A Better American Than You."

"Oh, dear God, Mike, you DVR-ed this?" Mick Nielson, who was sitting nearby, said with horror. "I thought you were over her when she invited you on her show and made a fool out of you."

"I am." Mike replied, a bit defensively. "But you know how it is--we gotta keep an eye on the enemy."

Jeremy sighed and cast a quick glance around, thankful that his boss wasn't in the room. Fritz tended to greet Fox News with a stream of uncharacteristically expletive laden derision.

" Welcome to the show, Grace." Julio Ramanajaan said amiably. He'd been in the journalism business for a good three decades, though for the last two of those he'd been pretty much a joke--from the moment he opened Caesar Caldoni's quite empty vault in 1989, he'd spiraled down to tabloid journalism, sensationalist talk shows, and perhaps inevitably to the armpit of cable news networks.

"An honor to be here, Julio." Grace Adler replied. She was a bony woman with a thin face, permed blonde-ish dyed hair, and red pointed lips. Jeremy noticed her expression wasn't nearly as combative as he was used to seeing her. "Even though you're a Mexican, you're still one of my heroes."

Julio laughed. "Before we discuss your book, I wanted to ask about something that caught me personally: I understand you had one of the Los Angeles branch of Ghostbusters on your show recently."

"Oh God..." Mike whimpered.

Grace cackled, and rolled her eyes. "The very picture of sanity and stability, that bunch is."

Julio nodded. "I had my own little run-in with the original cell back in the day."

" 'Cell'?" Mick spat. "That makes us sound like a bunch of goddamn terrorists!!!"

The screen faded to grainy footage of a much younger Julio; behind him, the ECTO-1 pulled up to a children's hospital in the midst of an uproar. Ramanajaan quickly ran up to grab the attention of none other than..."Dr. Venkman!!"

A twenty years younger Peter Venkman looked around at Julio "Hunh?! Ramanajaan, you pest...what do you want?!"

Young Julio smiled beatifically "Careful, Doctor..we're on the air. Would you care to comment on the situation inside the children's hospital, where these so-called 'ghost gangsters' are on the rampage?"

Grace audibly laughed. " 'Ghost Gangsters'?"

The footage continued. "And do you see any connection to their appearance with my gangster program?"

Young Venkman looked at Young Julio incredulously. "You wanna know what I think? Really?"

"Yes"

At this point, a black bar appeared over Venkman's mouth, and the loud drone of the censor beep blotted out his words.

"They've always been class, haven't they" the present day Ramanajaan chuckled.

Footage from Grace's show, filmed only a few weeks ago, appeared onscreen.

"I'm here with Paranormal Researcher and reservist member of Ghostbusters West Cost, Mike Devicente. Mike, welcome to the show."

"Thank you very much Grace. I'd like to talk to all of you about a re-manifestation of a major ghost during the Ghostbusters' 22nd year of operation, now this entity is well know by us by the name of Gozer, an ancient Mesopotamian God who-"

"Yeah, yeah, Mike...Listen, I was kind of hoping that we'd speak on a slightly different subject."

"Do we have to sit and watch this all over again?" Mike sputtered.

"Who was it who said 'Know your enemy'?" Jeremy countered.

"...What did you have in mind?" TV Mike asked nervously.

"This book was recovered from an attempted assailing of myself at one of my book signings in L.A.," She raised up a copy of her book, which the two Ghostbusters recognized. "It is covered in a mysterious ooze, most likely one of the many trademark plants that you leave at the sites of alleged ghost activity."

"That's a lie!" TV Mike defended. "I-I was just trying to get your autograph...I USED to be an enormous fan."

"Okay, fine, but how do you explain this clip of yourself outside of a nearby fried chicken restaurant?"

"I-" TV Mike was cut off by the clip of him shouting and waving a drumstick wildly in the air outside of the Cluckers.

"Can you even explain this clip which happened just mere moments ago inside of our very own studio?"

Mike was shown on the screen pouring out the breadcrumbs in the middle of the green room.

"Listen, Grace. I understand that all this looks a little dodgy, but I assure you that there's a perfectly reasonable explanation for all of this...I am currently being followed by a small spectral chicken which only I can see, and has been keeping me up at night for 2 days with its constant clucking. I attempted to threaten it with a drumstick while outside of the fast food restaurant, and I poured breadcrumbs all over the green room floor to keep it from following me into your studio..."

"I see," Grace said drolly. "Do you actually expect the viewing public to believe this? Or is this one of your company's usual attempts to bamboozle American citizens into paying for your fallacious services?"

"But, there really is a chicken!" Mike sputtered. "Here, let me see that camera!" Mike hopped over he desk and wrestled a camera away from one of the studio camera man, focusing in on the green room. "See? There! There's the chicken! I can't be the only one out of millions of people who can see it! You gotta believe me!" The camera twisted back to capture Mike being hauled away by two large security guards. "It's the truth, I tell you! There really is a ghost chicken in the green room!"

The camera went back to Grace, who couldn't seem to be happier about the turn-out. "Well, folks, there you have it. Mike Devicente, an average employee of the Ghostbusters, and an obvious dangerous schizophrenic threat to the personal safety of the American public. When we return from commercial, we'll speak with New York EPA adviser Walter Peck about what you can do to abolish Ghostbusting practices in your area."

The shot returned to the present, as Julio and Grace were both barely refraining from cracking up. "I love Walter Peck." Julio said. "He's one of my favorite guests--he appeared here quite a bit when he was running for Vice President in '04"

"Maybe he aught to aim higher!" Grace gushed.

"I don't know." Julio shrugged. " 'Palin/Peck 2012' works pretty well for me."

"Somebody just shoot me now." Mike whimpered.

"Don't tempt me." Mick muttered.

"And Dr. Venkman's coming to town tomorrow!" Jeremy reminded Mike brightly. "Maybe you'll be lucky and he didn't see this."

Shortly After Nightfall
The shadowy room was dominated by a pentagram; surrounding it, bowing, were five cultists. No clothing covered their pale skins. Standing behind them was someone in a dark robe.

A woman walked confidently from behind a curtain, and took the raised seat at the top point of the star. She was a tall, striking woman with long black hair and features showing a Chinese descent.

"The second night has begun." she said.

"The first sacrifice has been carried out as ordered." one of the cultists, a male, said.

"And the ritual?"

"The ritual was completed, as I told you it would." the robed figure spoke, in a smooth voice. "The first seal is broken."

"Much is riding on this." the woman said, her eyes shining red. "It will be over a century before an opportunity like this arises again. The darkness will shriek against the devouring light and drive it back. We must be in readiness."

"Tonight, the second seal will be broken." the robed figure said. "Like the first, the lowliest of lives. Unlike the first, this time it must be of the female."

The woman gestured at one of the cultists. "You." The indicated woman stood, but did not meet the gaze of the leader. "You will be the one to secure the second sacrifice."

"As you command, Milady."

If one could have seen the eyes of the robed man, perhaps they would have noticed him giving the nude female cultist a long, approving leer. The tight curves of her form brought a Cheshire grin to his face.

Elsewhere
"I really don't like this situation, AK." Awesome Davis Spurlock said, yawning as he dropped from the ceiling. He'd hung their upside down for his daytime rest.

The man currently calling himself Sergei Kalashnikov grunted as he checked his Colt .45. "I never said I did. But I never said I liked dealing with you or the Sewer Rat, either. But what we like isn't always what needs to be done."

Davis chuckled. "Cad ain't really a Sewer Rat. But this character we've made contact with...he ain't a vampire. His aura's all wrong. He's certainly got the look down, but he's still alive."

Kalashnikov grunted again. "Living or not, he knows the Tremere I met in Prague."

"So you trust him?"

"Absolutely not." Kalashnikov replied. "But I don't trust you, either."

"Probably wise." Davis nodded. "I don't trust myself either--especially not after that time I stole my Count Chocula and ate it without asking myself first, and blamed it on the dog. I mean, sheesh, what a liar I am--I don't even have a dog. How could I fall for that?"

"If Blaque isn't a Tremere, then he's one of several other things." Kalashnikov continued, ignoring Davis's ramblings--since he knew if he paid attention and thought about it, blood would start to shoot out of his ears. "He doesn't have the feel of an Inquisitor, especially not if he's on good terms with vampires. Inquisitors tend to be, with only minor exception, zealots who kill anything 'unGodly' on sight."

"On the other hand, no one would expect Inquisitors." David said breezily.

Kalashnikov groaned despite himself. "He could be at the other extreme--an Infernalist, or some other kind of demon cultist. If so, he's got a patron, some demonic hordeling or a Wyrm spirit or another who's using him, or being used by him. The main thing against that is the Soul Tracker--if it wants to destroy vampires and mummies, why not a demonic minion?"

"Good dental benefits?" Davis asked brightly. "The zombie union has terrible dental benefits, and you know where it got them..."

Kalashnikov's eyes narrowed. "My best guess right now? A wizard. I've dealt with them before. In some ways, they're the weakest possibility--they're still essentially human, with all the human vulnerabilities. On the other hand...they can control dangerous and powerful energies. As someone once put it, and I can't remember where, 'One wrong word and you'll find yourself emptying chamber pots for the Lord of Hell'."

"I bet Lord of Hell normally gets their roadies to do that." Davis quipped. "I mean, there has just got to be a heavy metal band by that name, right?" He switched to a mock announcer voice. " 'Now opening for Dethklok--LORD OF HELL!!!' " This was followed by an impression of an audience screaming with glee.

"Just shut the f*** up for a minute." Kalashnikov snarled, pointing his .45 at Davis.

Davis grinned agreeably, then used Sign Language to say "Shutting up!"

"I don't trust Blaque." Kalashnikov said. "But he gets the benefit of the doubt." He stroked his firearm. "For now."

Jason stood in a large, decrepit building. He looked around for a few minutes before he noticed another person standing about twenty yards away from him. The brown afro and white skin told Jason who it was. "Jay, dude, don't tell me you and I are the only ones here."

Jeremy's face was partially covered in shadow, but Jason could tell when he opened his eyes because they were blood red and glowing with no pupil. Jeremy smiled as he took a step forward. "There is no Jeremy, only Vinz." The teeth in the smile were all pointed as the head shifted down as he started running.

Jason had started to run about the time Jay smiled, and didn't look back until he tripped on some debris.

Jeremy was now in full Terror Dog mode, teeth bared and running full tilt toward Jason. Jason, on the other hand, was up and trying to run again, not quite up to full speed yet, but doing his best.

He tripped again, but this time there was no time for him to get back up as Vinz lept onto his chest, the dog-like smile giving way to the pointed teeth, then the open maw of the other-worldly creature. Jason stared on in horror as the Terror Dog bit down on his head. It didn't stop there, but as Vinz kept ripping Jason's body about, Jason could see it all happening from a third-person perspective.

He started screaming before he opened his eyes and found himself back at GBCentral West, drenched in sweat.

"Knetge!" he was startled to hear his name being shouted. He was even more startled to realized that it was Jeremy--the real Jeremy--calling it.

"Yeah!" Jason shouted at the intercom in his room, perhaps a little more loudly and eagerly than he should have. "What?"

"Kyle says get suited up." Jeremy replied. "LAPD just called with another staked body."

The nightmare retreated from his consciousness. "Oh shit." he breathed.

July 18, 2009
About 6 AM PDT
Two Ecto-Cruisers skidded to a stop outside the police barricades. In addition to Jeremy and Jason, Kyle and Jeff were there. The latter pair immediately went to the police lines while the former pair grabbed proton packs.

"Stop me if this starts to sound familiar." Detective Fox quipped.

The Ghostbusters were led to a scene that Jeff, indeed, found sickeningly familiar. A chalk circle. A staked body.

"Yeah. This is sorta a reprise of a melody I heard before." Jeff nodded. "Except yesterday it was a dude. And he had clothes on."

Jason gulped. The naked woman lying comatose on the ground couldn't have been any older than he was.

Kyle looked at the sky, and his watch. "We don't have much time." He looked at J and Jason, arming their proton packs. "Go low dispersion. We don't know how strong the field is, and we don't want to cook the victim if she's still alive."

"Fire!" Jeremy barked, and he and Jason thumbed the triggers on their neutrona blasters. Two proton beams splashed against a now visible dome of energy.

"Just like last night..." Jeff said through gritted teeth. He spared a glance at the PKE Meter he was holding. "Go to 50%!"

Jeremy and Jason dialed up the throwers. The bubble began to buckle and distort.

Then the clearing was filled with golden sunlight.

Just as with the day before, the staked body smoldered, then burst into flames. Within seconds, there was nothing left.

"Shit." Jeff growled. He spared another glance--a PK spike, much like the one that Fritz had noticed the previous day, had been detected by the meter.

Fox sighed wearily. "I guess I'll be seeing you boys this afternoon again..."

Kyle looked ready to scream. "That's two."

"One might have been an isolated incident." Dirkman said. "But two..."

A uniformed patrolman came up to Fox, holding a bag. "Well well well..." Fox said, gesturing to Kyle. "He found what looks to be the victim's clothing in a dumpster over there." He pulled on a rubber glove and stared rooting through the plastic bag.

"Driver's license says Shannon Black. Alameda." Fox shook his head. "Only twenty four."

Jason felt ready to hurl.

A few minutes later, a check on the ID gave back several arrests for solicitation. "First one back when she was only seventeen." Dirkman informed them.

"Gross." Jeremy shook his head.

"Still, it's part of a pattern other than the method of murder." Kyle pointed out. "First guy was a homeless bum, this one was a hooker. Someone's targeting...shall we say...some of the lower ends of society."

Fox nodded. "I'll talk with a couple buddies of mine in Vice. Maybe Ms. Black had some known clients with kinks of a...supernatural flavor." He chuckled. "They made sure to tell me all about the call girl in the Ghostbuster costume they pinched last month. Darn inaccurate flight suit though--bare midriff, mini-skirt, and the proton pack was upside down."

Only Jeff managed a rueful laugh.

Ghostbusters Central West
One Hour Later
The drive back to headquarters had been quiet. While some of them had been in the Ghostbusting business for over six years, watching someone burst into flame in front of you is not something that most human beings will ever get used to, never mind comfortable with.

As the Ecto-Cruiser pulled into its parking spot, Kyle looked at Jeff. "Well, any chance I could get you to call Fritz about this?"

Jeff shook his head. "Team Captain responsibility."

Kyle chuckled ruefully.

"May not be easy getting him awake." Jeremy said. "Seemed like Chelsea could barely keep her hands off him yesterday."

"Must be nice." Jason sighed.

Jeff walked to the reception desk, where Rose Prevost was sorting some papers. "Any more calls?"

She shook her head. "No. But Peter called to remind us he's now over the Great Plains."

Jeff rubbed his forehead. "Shit. I forgot Dr. Venkman was arriving today. Too much else going on." He looked at her. "Any chance we could get you to handle this? We got a lot going on here."

"Give me double mileage." Rose said, mostly (but not entirely) jokingly.

"Done." Jeff replied. "But you have to take Devicente with you. He's been all excited about this for weeks."

Rose sighed. "The things I do for this job. Is he even awake yet?"

Elsewhere
The Soul Tracker was startled by the return of his master, the Necromancer. The man had barely been home since their fateful meeting with Sergei Kalashnikov the night before

"I am...troubled, Master." The Soul Tracker spoke up. "This alliance with...the undead."

The Necromancer chuckled. "You are an undead yourself, my friend. Just of a different sort."

"I am the Soul Tracker." the Tracker almost bristled. "It is my sacred duty to hunt down the creatures of the night, and correct the imbalance of their undeath." He shook his head. "Even if I don't know why."

"I fear your resurrection was imperfect." the Necromancer shook his head. "Even with the sword, the source of your power and focus to this plane, it became obvious that much of your old life is lost."

"I keep having...visions..." the Soul Tracker said hesitantly. "A dream, almost...when I slumber to regain my energy...there's...there's someone there. A woman. And I...I feel like I know her."

"That's good!" the Necromancer said. "Perhaps your old life is not as gone as I'd feared!" He placed his hand on the Soul Tracker's shoulders. "You will have your answers soon, I guarantee it!"

"You've been telling me that for almost three years now!" the Soul Tracker said, definitely bristling this time. "You already know more than you have told me, that is obvious! Why are you keeping it from me? Why are you letting me suffer?!"

"Because me telling you does no good." the Necromancer replied. "Your answers must come from within, or they will mean nothing." Under his glare, the Soul Tracker felt his anger fading. "And you will get your chance to deal with the undead soon enough. I have been arranging this...my enemies are moving into the positions I need them in...and soon, Soul Tracker, your blade will feast on the vitae of the Kindred. And not just anarchs and thugs--some of the rarest vintage in all of North America will soon be yours."

Part of the Soul Tracker wanted to scream. Wanted to take his sword and chop the Necromancer's leering face from his body. But he knew he couldn't. He owed the Necromancer his very existence. If he destroyed the Necromancer, he would never have the answers he sought.

"Yes, my enemies are moving into position." The Necromancer repeated. "One of whom I've been looking forward to seeing again for a very, very long time."

A copy of the LA Times lay open on his desk. The inside page had a small article with the headline "Famous Ghostbuster to be in LA for 'Eclipse Party'." Under the headline was the Cheshire grin of Dr. Peter Venkman.

The Baugh Household
9 AM
Fritz pulled out of the driveway. He'd been in such a good mood when he woke up that morning...he and Chelsea left Abigail with her grandfather, step-grandmother, and half-uncle, and the evening had gone quite pleasantly. In fact, the original plan to catch a movie fell by the wayside once the couple got home without their daughter; she could barely keep her hands off him. A phrase attributed to Venkman drifted unbidden into his mind "I think we can get her a guest spot on Wild Kingdom."

Most of that good mood was dispelled by the call from Kyle.

Once could be an isolated incident, but twice, one day after another...something is up with that.

He sighed. This wasn't what he originally signed up for; when the Ghostbusters West Coast formed, he had been hired to use his knowledge of science and history. He'd even fantasized some about trying to get his studies on temporal physics back on track--the study that had been derailed by the lab accident that he still couldn't form complete, concrete memories of.

Instead, the original CEO had turned out to be a bit of a slacker; he'd pushed more of the work of running the franchise onto Fritz, naming him "Co-CEO" and then, finally, when the climactic battle with Ashram had left the team in shambles, Joey Williams' last act as CEO was to name Fritz his successor.

On top of running the business, his relationship with Chelsea (eventually leading to marriage and Abigail), and his own disability (his left leg amputated below the knee after a mystic infection had destroyed it) had left precious little time for science, even when his appearances on the field were mostly at his discretion.

Maybe Joey had the right idea... he thought to himself. Am I on the right course? Is it fair to me and everybody else running the show from a desk? Kyle can lead from the field. Mick is experienced at it. Maybe even Jeff or Jeremy... He shook his head. Any one of them would probably be better than a cripple with a wife and daughter to distract him.

He heard his phone ring.

Luna Consultant Serv.
555-1991

"Oh f***..." he muttered aloud.

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
Nathaniel Blaque created by James Van Hise and John Tobias; he first appeared in The Real Ghostbusters #9 by NOW Comics.

Julio Ramanajan created by LaMorris Richmond and Evan Dorkin. He first appeared in The Real Ghostbusters Vol.1 #4 by NOW Comics, and part of that story is excerpted here. Any resemblance to Geraldo Rivera is intended for satirical purposes.

Grace Adler created by Mike Devicente. Grace and Mike's interview excerpted from Mike's story "His Own Private Chicken"

Anatole Vashnivski/Sergei Kalashnikov created by OgreBBQ.

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

Awesome Davis Spurlock created by Fritz Baugh.

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). Julian Luna loosely based on a character from the WoD-based tv series Kindred: The Embraced.


#3992-41511f
Established 42512w
122