TOY SOLDIERS
PART THREE

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.

It doesn't take long to be proven correct: the next morning, a prostitute is staked, murdered, and bursts into flames the exact same way. And then the Prince of Los Angeles, the nominal leader of the vampiric community, requests the audience of the Ghostbusters' leader...

Ghostbusters Central West
Los Angeles, California
July 18, 2009
Ghostbusters Omnibus Timeline Year Twenty-Seven
LAX
Noon
"There he is!" Rose said, pointing.

He was wearing sunglasses and a red Hawaiian shirt, but it was undoubtedly Dr. Peter Venkman, one of the legendary founding members of the Ghostbusters International.

Right beside Rose, Mike whimpered.

Venkman looked around a couple of times, just to be sure. "No reporters?" he said in his smooth voice. "I'm not sure whether to be happy or insulted."

"Take it however you will, Dr. V." Rose chuckled. Venkman in turn made an elaborate display of kissing Rose's hand.

"A lot better than last time. Fritz sent Nielson and that kid with the muttonchops to get me. I was half afraid that I was either going to meet a bad end--anything from being attacked by zombies to ending up in a ditch somewhere."

Rose chuckled again. "Mick does bring the trouble to him, doesn't he?"

Venkman took off his sunglasses, looking over Rose's companion. "And you're the new guy, right?"

Mike chuckled nervously. "Miguel Devicente, Doctor Venkman. But everyone calls me Mike."

Venkman shook his hand. Mike felt himself relax a little bit.

"Relax, Mike. Dr. V doesn't bite."

"Well, I do, but only to pretty women who ask nicely first." Venkman quipped. "And not even 'women' plural anymore--just one."

"Does Dana know about her?" Rose jabbed.

The three Ghostbusters got Venkman's bags from baggage claim, and he flirted with some of the TSA ladies there. "I hope some of you are here when I head back to New York! It might almost be worth it!"

Before long, they were in an Ecto-Cruiser, gliding to GBCentral West.

"Sooooo...Mikey..." Venkman said amiably. "I saw you on Fox News the other night."

Mike blanched.

"You watch Fox News?" Rose asked with obvious distaste.

"Aw, c'mon, that's the funniest shit on television." Venkman replied. "Like that mental patient with the chalk board who thinks the President is a Gozer worshipper? Comedy gold there."

Rose's face pinched. "It would be funny if there weren't so many people who actually believed crap like that."

"And Grace Adler, huh?" Venkman grinned his Cheshire grin. "She's cute. Well, okay, she could be cute--if she went out into the sun more, and ate occasionally, and didn't have that pronounced Adam's apple. But she's better looking that Julio Ramanajaan, right?"

"I personally think she doesn't get more sun because sunlight would probably make her burst into flames." Rose rolled her eyes.

"I...er...forgot to PK scan her" Mike said meekly, his face turning red. He really wished they weren't having this conversation. Bad enough he was so nervous from meeting one of his heroes, but to have had him see the most embarrassing moment of his life...

Venkman slapped him on the back. "Loosen up, Mikey. You should have seen Joey Williams the first time he met me--poor guy looked like he wanted to pee himself." Venkman paused. "Or was that Lipsyte? Probably both."

Mike dearly wished the traffic would move faster, so this ride would end.

Luna Consultant Services
The door to the posh inner office opened. As Fritz expected, sitting at the desk that probably cost more money than the Ghostbusters West Coast spent in a year, was the Prince of Los Angeles, Julian Luna.

It wasn't Fritz's first visit to this office--two years before, he'd been basically kidnapped from the street and brought here, unconscious. The discussion had proved cordial, though. "Ghostbusters International is not on a Jihad, Mister Luna. We aren't vigilantes. We're a business. Our main business is simple: we bust ghosts haunting people's houses. If you aren't killing innocents--or at the very least, aren't caught killing innocents--it's of no concern of ours."

"I would ask to what do I owe this honor, Mister Luna, but I think I already know." Fritz said.

Remember what Kyle told you...the Prince is a Ventrue. They have the powers of Presence and Dominate. Knowing that gives you some protection, but keep your wits about you. He thought of Chelsea and Abigail. Focus on what's important

"I think that is very likely, Doctor." Luna stood up, offering a handshake. There was no telling how old he really was, of course, but he had the appearance of a handsome man in his prime, with slicked back dark hair. "What can you tell me about this murders?"

"What could you tell me?" Fritz replied, crossing his arms. "They certainly appear to be vampires. We can't confirm that, though, because we were unable to examine the intact bodies."

Luna steepled his fingertips. "Do they have names? My contacts in the LAPD have yet to come through for me."

"Shannon Black and Nathan Phillips." Fritz told him simply.

Luna shook his head. "These names are unknown to me. They were Embraced without my authority, and all Embraces are, by tradition, supposed to be approved by the Prince."

"Then the Anarchs are involved." Fritz surmised. "Or the remnants of United Darkness."

"Perhaps." Luna said. "Though you indicate some room for doubt about the victims? Why is that?"

"They were definitely staked, and definitely immolated in sunlight, as vampires tend to do." Fritz looked around; there were no windows in this room, no sunlight allowed to enter.

"More powerful vampires can be active during the day" Vincent Belmont had once told him. "With the vampiric Discipline of Fortitude, and fully flush with vitae, they can even stand the light of the Sun for brief amounts of time if necessary."

"When the police found the victims, each time they were enclosed in force fields." Fritz said after a pause. "The fields read as mystic. The first time, sunrise came before we could do anything--the field vanished and the victim burst into flames. The second time, just this morning, my field agents attempted to open the field using standard GBI methodology. Then the Sun rose before they could succeed, and the results ended up the same as yesterday."

Luna mused for a few moments. "I will assume you are aware that the Rosary Bathport was burnt down ten days ago?"

"Yes." Fritz answered simply.

"Even the news became aware that one of the victims of the fire was Giorgio Giovanni. What they are, of course, unaware of is that Giovanni was Kindred. He was, in fact, the most visible surviving member of the United Darkness cult."

Fritz's eyes narrowed. "To my human sense of time, that's too quickly to be a coincidence."

"It's even more quick in my kind's paradigm." Luna nodded. "But Anarchs are young, and have yet to learn the patience that survival for many nights requires."

"If it's some kind of revenge killing, then why choose a couple of nobodies?" Fritz asked aloud. "Kindred you didn't even know were Embraced?"

"A very good question." Luna agreed. "It is even possible that the cult Embraced them solely for this purpose. They are sending a message. Or perhaps trying to blatantly break the Masquerade."

Fritz shook his head. "Then, arguably, it's working. The media hasn't really picked up on it, because they don't have all the details, but the LAPD is already calling it 'vampire murders'."

"And there is something else...a new round of rumors concerning the Necromancer." Luna said.

"I checked into the GBI case files after my last visit." Fritz said. "The name came up in a case back in 1989. Well, almost two cases, really. The first was, as the report phrased it, a 'New Age nut' who wanted to hire the original Ghostbusters to investigate allegations that the government had covered up the success of the Harmonic Convergence in 1988."

Luna chuckled, scoffing.

"Yeah." Fritz rolled his eyes. "But she showed up with $50,000 that the Necromancer had reportedly loaned her. GBNY didn't take the case--for one thing, she was also convinced that LA had already been destroyed in an earthquake, and I think both of us can attest that it's still here."

Luna nodded.

"But the name also came up during a real case, at the exact same time. A friend of the Ghostbusters was kidnapped by three men in ninja costumes. They attempted to cast a ritual to reanimate and control a mummy; Dr. Venkman's report said that the leader claimed to have purchased the spells from 'The Necromancer'."

"Twenty years is a long time in human terms..." Luna said. "That would also be around the same time rumors of this...'Necromancer' started to appear in the LA shadow world."

"It could be a coincidence." Fritz noted. "Though I'm beginning to doubt it. Perhaps he moved because GBNY was aware of him."

"Giorgio Giovanni was part of a Clan of my kind sometimes referred to as Necromancers." Luna said. "I have my doubts that it is Giovanni himself, however. He didn't have the discipline. If he was, of course, the Necromancer is no more."

"I don't think either of us believe we're that lucky." Fritz surmised.

"No." Luna agreed.

"Last night, at about the same time the first victim was being staked, there was an attack at Zagnut's mansion. The mummy there was attacked by the Soul Tracker, and a man in paramilitary clothing." Fritz mentioned. "I'm also beginning to doubt this is coincidence."

" 'Paramilitary clothing'?" Luna repeated. "Resembling, say, Governor Schwarzenegger as he was during the 1980's?"

Fritz cocked an eyebrow again. "Perhaps."

"That was, to paraphrase the surviving witness I interrogated, the description of the man who killed Giorgio Giovanni." Luna cocked an eyebrow of his own. "The witness was convinced the attacker was one of our kind."

"Definitely not coincidence." Fritz nodded. He paused a moment. "Anything else?"

"Not at this time." Luna answered cryptically. "Do you?"

"Not yet." Fritz replied. "I may have a source on the Dolph Lundgren lookalike, but I can't be certain yet. And if you pay any attention to the media, you know Doctor Venkman is arriving in town any time now. I will ask him if he has any further recollections about the Necromancer cases--but it has been twenty years."

"I will look into a thing or two myself." Luna continued. "Arrive again in two days, at the same time."

Fritz nodded, and left. As he exited the vampire's office, he exhaled wearily.

Ghostbusters Central West
"...So after Jess laughed it off, the thing tried to whammy Roland." Venkman continued, relating events from one week before: the marriage of Grace Temple to GBNY's Dr. Roland Jackson. It hadn't gone without incident. "It was something to do with his bride-to-be, but it didn't take--it seemed to make Roland shake it off quicker."

"I still can't believe Roland Jackson is married..." Jeff muttered.

Venkman shrugged. "It happens. Kind of odd how the guy a lot of people consider 'boring' had the most exciting wedding of all, though. I mean, Winston and Kaila and Dana and me all got married right after the ectosphere went kaput, so no demons showing up to crash the party. Egon and Janine were owed a storybook wedding after all the crap they put up with--though I kept waiting for one of those EgonStalkers to pop up...thank God it didn't happen."

"What about Dr. Stantz?" Jason asked.

Venkman, for whatever reason, ignored the question--maybe he was too preoccupied with his own voice to notice. "Kylie and Eddie just had a judge do the honors, no fuss, no muss...That reminds me, I gotta call Eddie and razz him about his thirtieth birthday, too. He probably thinks he's safe just 'cause I'm on the other side of the country..." Venkman's Cheshire leer appeared, and he chuckled evily...

"So how's the anniversary celebration going?" Jason asked. He was now eagar to change the subject.

"A lot better than five years ago, to be certain." Venkman deadpanned.

"Oh yeah...'04 was the Gozer thing." Jason realized.

"You wouldn't forget if you were there." Jeff quipped.

"Yeah, bit I wasn't."

"Anyway, you probably saw the article about it right?" Venkman asked brightly. "More importantly, I hope you all took advantage of your GBI company discount to buy the video game!"

"I just pirated mine from Knetge's copy." Jeff joked.

"I love it." Jason nodded. "I think we all do--except Fritz. He wonít play it. He insists the Rookie might as well just trigger the self destruct on his proton pack. Itíd be a quicker, easier death than Fritz trying to take him through the boards, or so he says".

Venkman chuckled. "That puts him ahead of Egon--he wouldnít even contemplate it."

"So how accurate is that thing? I know nobody said anything about a Ď91 incident when we took on Gozer in '04" Jeff noted.

"Well, it wasnít really Gozer." Venkman explained. "And some stuff was either exaggerated or downplayed for storytelling effect. Ah well...I consider the biggest victory about it the fact that Janine decided to finally call off her vendetta on Ramis."

"At least until a third movie gets made." Rose pointed out. "If he screws that up, itís on again."

"So is that really going to happen?" Jason asked.

Venkman shrugged. "Due to various legal issues, itís all up to Bill Murray. If he likes the script, itís a go. If he doesnít, thereís nothing we can do without him as far as the silver screen goes. Hope for the best, I guess."

Mick Nielson paced. He'd never liked dealing with vampires, and it seemed that ever since he came to Los Angeles he was dealing with them more than ever. It wasn't as personal as it had been with Valek, the self-declared "Viceroy of the Night" who had killed friends of his back in his Ghostbusters South Coast days, but they seemed to be a more constant, if lower-level, aggravation.

And with Fritz taking a meeting with the Prince of the city...like it was some goddamn business transaction...in the middle of everything else, it kept causing fragments of the nightmare he'd had the night before to keep rolling in his mind.

In the nightmare, Fritz was dressed like some kind of Rennaissance dandy with puffy sleeves and breeches and a powdered wig. Chelsea was there in a ornate dress, ruffled and frilled, that both simutaneously covered almost every inch of her body but pushed her exposed cleavage up and out for extra effect. They were having a tea party with Valek, laughing about the "little people" and the 'Kine"

He knew it was stupid. But he couldn't shake it off. It just seemed too...believable.

He was only mildly relieved when Fritz walked in. Mick nevertheless pulled out a PKE Meter and made a quick scan. Fritz had already told them to do that whenever he met with Julian Luna, but Mick would have done it anyway even if ordered not to.

"Clear?" Fritz asked, nevertheless a tad annoyed by it.

"No PK residue." Mick said flatly.

Fritz nodded. "Good."

Mick looked at him seriously. "Anything to share?"

"Not much we didn't know already. One thing I did learn, though, but I can't go into it. Not until I talk to Kyle first."

"He and Jay aren't back from that haunting in Beverly Hills yet." Mick said.

Fritz shook his head. "As long as they're back by sundown..."

"I had to call this meeting of the entire staff for reasons that you probably already guessed at." Fritz told the assembled staff of the Ghostbusters West Coast. Both Client Administrators were present. Venkman sat in. Even Otter and Rachel were there. "And noone has been there for every development--so I need to make sure we're all on the same page."

"For the past two mornings, the LAPD has found bodies staked and contained in mystic force fields. At dawn both days, the bodies both burst into flames and disintigrated in a manner consistant with the destruction, by sunliight, of a vampire."

"I know weird shit like that comes with the job, but I also know that that's just the sort of weird shit that could turn out to be something big later." Venkman sighed. "I mean, who would've thought an out of control baby carriage was the first rumble of an undead Carpathian despot, right?"

"You're scaring me, Sir." Mike said.

Mick, without even being conscious of it, shifted uncomfortably in his seat, and found himself not wanting to look at either Fritz or Kyle.

"I just came back from a meeting with the Prince of Los Angeles." Fritz continued. "He claims he has no awareness of the victims."

"Do you really think he doesn't?" Mick said skeptically.

"My own instinct is that he's telling the truth." Fritz answered, but before Mick could express any disagreement. "But my instincts aren't rock solid proof, either. As far as I'm concerned, there's no reason to rule him out as a suspect."

"LAPD hasn't found anything connecting the two victims except for their social status." Kyle spoke up. "One was a drifter, the other was a prostitute. Both from the lower rungs of society, but so far nothing to indicate they knew each other."

"While two nights in a row could still be a wierd coincidence, I'm assuming right now that it isn't." Fritz said. "We need to beef up the night rotation around here until we--or the LAPD--get this solved. Tonight, at least, I want everyone here."

There were grumbles all around.

"I don't like it either--but I'm going to be here too." Fritz shook his head. "Jeff's putting together some patrol patterns--we need to regularly be in the areas near the murder sites, and some other possibilities, operating under the assumption that there's a pattern to it."

"There might not be, though." Jeff added. "So there'll be some randomness to it."

"Great." Mick said out loud. "I'm not being put with Devicente, am I?"

"Not until you said that." Jeff replied without missing a beat.

"Hey..." Mike grumbled.

Fritz managed a wan smile as he nodded. "All right, all right...I think that's all for now. We should probably all try to get some sleep. It's going to be a long night even if nothing happens."

"Luna knows that 'Dolph Lundgren' was at the destruction of the Rosary Bathport." Fritz told Kyle plainly. At the former's request, they had retreated to the back lab for a quick conference.

"Shit." Kyle shook his head.

"Anything you can tell me yet?"

"No." Kyle answered. "But I'll try to find out more. If I get something pertinent, I'll let you know." Kyle rubbed his eyes. "He hunts vampires, but I will tell you this isn't his style. He'd just flare them and be done with it."

" 'Flare'?"

"Phosphor flares are one of his favorite weapons." Kyle said. "And I couldn't see him using a Hermetic ward, either."

Fritz mused for a few seconds. "Is there any chance he held out on you, though?"

"I guarantee it." Kyle admitted. "But I still don't think this is his handiwork. If that changes, I promise I'll let you know."

Fritz thought about pressing further, but declined. His old friend's promise would have to be enough.

Near Nightfall
Peter Venkman woke with a start.

He didn't used to sleep much in the afternoon; his natural schedule was (and still tended to be) staying up late and sleeping in until close to lunch time; he was a little better in Los Angeles (he often joked that "No wonder I get along in LA--my body's been on Pacific Time for decades without even knowing it!") but as he got older, he found himself dragging by three.

The nightmare was vivid.

Nathaniel Blaque, an old...aquaintance...from a case twenty years ago, was there. He stared at Venkman with his leering, bug-eyed face.

"Oh, c'mon, Venkman...what red blooded American hero doesn't like a little 'stake' with his dinner?"

In the nightmare, Venkman was tied to a table, in full Ghostbuster uniform. Blaque laughed, and pulled out a massive wooden stake and a cartoonishly large mallet.

"Now hold still, and this won't hurt a bit. Well, okay, I'm lying, this is gonna hurt like a son of a bitch..." Blaque chortled. He held the stake to Venkman's chest, drew the giant mallet back, and Venkman had screamed and woken up just as the mallet drove the stake into his chest.

Whoa...last time I have tacos before I nap... Venkman sighed to himself. I wonder what's for...

He stopped, a cold realization pouring over his head.

He moved, smoothly but quickly, to the meeting room, where the files related to the murders were still laying on the table.

"Shannon Black." he muttered. "Nate Phillips." He realized he was breathing quickly. "Shannon Phillips...Nathaniel Blaque."

It's gotta be a co-incidence, right? he told himself. Brains sometimes filter stuff in wierd combination as they sleep...it was just taking these two names, splitting them up, and coming up with a match to an older memory.


But damn if it doesn't give me the creeps...

Elsewhere
Shortly After Nightfall
The shadowy room, the pentagram, the woman, the hooded man, and the five naked cultists were there, just as the night before.

"The third night has begun." the leader said.

"The second sacrifice has been carried out as ordered." the female cultist who had been charged with that task said.

"The second seal is broken." the robed man added.

"Excellant." the leader nodded. "You." she pointed at one of the male cultists, who stood up but did not meet the leader's gaze. The hooded man didn't look nearly as enthusiastic as he had with the previous night's selection. "You will secure the third sacrifice."

"As you command, Milady."

"The third sacrifice will be more difficult." the hooded man said. "Our enemies are now suspicious that something is occurring, and will be more vigilant."

The leader's eyes narrowed. "You have a plan, Necromancer?"

A Cheshire grin appeared on the hooded man's exposed lower face. "Don't I always, Milady?"

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. Mention is also made of events in "The Werewolf!" (RGB#5)

United Darkness cult created by Kyle Stevens

Grace Temple created by EGBFan. Mention is made of EGBFan's story "Smoke and Mirrors", available on Fanfiction.net.

Julio Ramanajan created by LaMorris Richmond and Evan Dorkin. He first appeared in The Real Ghostbusters Vol.1 #4 by NOW Comics. 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"

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

Much of the vampire lore in this story is based on Vampire: The Masquerade, created by Mark ReinēHagen, 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.


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