Book Four: Contemplation
Transcribed by Ben King and Iain Bennett, GBUK, Dr. Fritz V. Baugh and Dr. Jeff Nash, GBWC, and Dr. Vincent Belmont, GBUKGS
GBI Case File GBI-2004-22/001
The door bell rang, and he stopped dancing with the bubbly blonde in front of him. He opened the door to a rather gangly looking man and his squat wife. "Ted! Annette! Hi! Glad you could come! How you doing? Give me your coats. Everybody, this is Ted and Annette Fleming. Ted has a small carpet-cleaning business in receivership, and that's drawing a salary from a deferred bonus from two years ago. They've got fifteen thousand left on the house at 8%; so they're okay!"
He opened the door to the closet and tossed the Flemmings' coats onto his bed..."So, does anybody want to play Parcheesi?"
Something growled very, very loudly. And very, very angrily. It sounded like a lion, but that was a bit ridiculous...c'mon; lions in an apartment complex?
"Okay! Who brought the dog?" he asked.
Suddenly, the door to the bedroom exploded, showering wood and plaster board all over the assembled guests. Something large, evil looking, and horrible flew through the air and landed on the buffet table, crushing it beneath its enormous bulk. It looked like the horrific offspring of a gargoyle and a Doberman Pinscher, It was a hairless horror; horned, and walking on four legs.
He screamed and ran, opening the apartment door and closing it behind him. He wanted as much distance from this monstrosity as possible. He ran down the corridor, quickening his pace as he heard, and saw the door to his apartment explode. The monster hit the hallway wall, stunned momentarily, quickly shaking off its stupor.
He quickly pressed the button repeatedly to call the elevator to the 22nd floor. "Faster," he silently pleaded, "faster!!!" Mrs. Blum, the elderly lady next door, opened her door with an oft repeated scold on her lips and looked out after hearing the noise. She turned and froze. As she saw the monster she shrieked; the elevator doors opened and the terrified fugitive darted in; Mrs. Blum darted back into her apartment, slamming the door.
He burst out of the entrance to 550 Central Park West, scaring a female tenant and the doorman.
"Help! There's a bear loose in my apartment! Help, help! Help!" He yelled, running across Central Park West and causing several cars to brake hard. He then tumbled over the wall bordering with the park.
"A bear in his apartment?" The doorman asked in surprise. Suddenly the monster charged through the foyer of the building, knocking over the door man and causing a couple to jump out of the way. As it ran across the street it caused a blue station wagon and a checker cab to break hard and swerve out of the way.
He ran through the darkened park until he saw the lights of "Tavern on the Green."
"I'm going to bring this up at the next tenant's meeting," he nervously muttered to himself, "There's not supposed to be any pets in the building." He ran up to one of the large windows, and began to bang on it. He then ran around to a glass door, but found it locked.
"There's gotta be in a way in." He crashed into some metal lawn furniture, then quickly got up and banged on the window, causing all of the people in the restaurant to look at him with some mild distaste.
"Somebody let me in!" He banged wildly.
He then sensed something behind him. He turned around slowly as a single bead of sweat curled off his brow and trickled to the end of his nose. Turned. There it was...prowling up on him, like a tiger, ready to pounce on its kill.
"Nice doggie. Cute little pooch. Maybe I got a Milk-Bone..."
He checked his pockets. Nothing. The monster let loose with a terrible guttural roar, a sound that chilled him to the very marrow of his bones. He screamed as he slid down the glass...
He checked the caller ID: 555-1013 Venkman, Dr. Peter...the number to Peter's apartment in the city. "I thought he was still in Los Angeles..." Louis thought, his first idea being that Venkman was bugging him with GBI business in the middle of the night, and not for the first time, either. "Unless..." he thought, and couldn't stop his heart jumping at the thought...
"Hello, Louis Tully, how may I help you?"
"Louis? I'm sorry to be calling so late, but...
It's her... Louis thought excitedly. Dana...
"Oh, no problem, Dana...I...um...wasn't sleeping too well anyway..."
There was a pause at the other end.
"You either? Louis...I don't know...I hope you don't think I'm crazy...but it's been years since this happened. And with Peter in LA I didn't know who else to talk too except you, because..."
"I'm here for you Dana. I always will be you know that."
"I had...I dreamed about Zuul tonight."
Louis dropped the phone. He scrambled to pick it up hurriedly. "I'm sorry Dana, it's just...I had a dream about being chased by the Terror Dogs too..."
"Oh God..." she breathed. "Maybe it's nothing, but maybe it means something..."
"I don't know...maybe we should talk to Ray and Winston tomorrow..." Louis advised. "I'd say Doctor Spengler would be a better person to talk to but he's in England right now so Ray or Winston or even Doctor Jackson would be our best bet on that..."
"Yeah. I think...I think that would be a good idea. It may be nothing, but...well, what if it isn't?" Dana breathed hard, as if she were on the brink of tears. "I'm sorry to bother you...but in a lot of ways this is something Peter and the rest will never understand the way you do--because it happened to us, not them."
"I gotta go now, Louis...I need to call Peter in England...I just need to hear his voice right now." And with that, she hung up abruptly.
Peter...it's always Peter... he thought to himself ruefully as he sat back down on his bed. He sat in silent rage fueled by his feelings of jealousy. He had loved Dana Barrett from the moment they'd met. She was graceful, and refined, and intelligent...and of course, so achingly beautiful; But she was not to be his. The man who hunted ghosts...he swept her off her feet. And no one, not the Czechoslovakian models Louis dated in his "fifteen minutes of fame," could take the edge off of that. Then, Peter Venkman made his error. Dana left him. And now, she could fall into the arms...
...of violinist Andre Wallance.
Louis remembered their wedding with agony...the bittersweet mix of joy for her and sadness for himself when Dana announced her pregnancy...and he genuinely felt sorrow for her when Andre left her shortly afterward. How could a man do that to such a sweet child like Oscar? And he shook his head thinking about Oscar...the "baby" who was now sixteen years old, practically a man. He's a good kid, Louis had to admit, Even though his music gives me a headache..."
There was another woman who'd been part of his world...but hindsight made it more and more obvious there was no real love there; Certainly not from her. And deep down, he knew he never loved Janine Melnitz, either--there was just the unspoken bond of a common experience: pining away for the higher creatures they could never have.
Except Janine won in the end... he reminded himself. She got what she wanted...the happy ending...the marriage to Doctor Spengler...the two kids. And they're absolutely adorable...even if they hate my guts with a passion; And what do I have? Faded memories of a moment of glory...a six-figure stock portfolio. And a life that screams at me in it's savage emptiness.
She walked around aimlessly, staring at the piles of rubble and eventually caught herself again with a sharp breath of air...leaning to one side in the distance, as if it were a parody of the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa, was the scarred, pitted and mangled form of the clock tower more passionately known as "Big Ben," It's white frosted glass clock faces were cracked, and missing panes.
All around her stood the collapsing and degraded ruins of London. The dry Thames in front of her carried the ruins of Westminster Bridge, dust was carried up and sent blowing down from the tangled wreckage of the Millennium Wheel towards her...her home...England. It had been reduced to a smoking waste, and she was the last person alive...
Or so she thought...
She turned around, and there he was the man, Jeremy...he stared at her with a look which made her feel uncomfortable; VERY uncomfortable.
"Now it is the time to join the Gate Keeper and the Key Master." He replied in a voice which sounded much crueler then the one he had spoken with at the dojo.
"No...get away from me!" She hissed and ran.
Once she was showered and dressed, she made her way down to the kitchen where she found several of both the British and American Ghostbusters debating different topics over breakfast.
"It HAS to be that, Fritz, otherwise we'd be dealing with a whole mess of new problems!" she heard from the voice of Dr. Vincent Belmont, who was in a very intense discussion with Dr. Fritz Baugh. She glanced over in that direction, and saw Vincent standing up, waving around a teacup menacingly, while Fritz flopped his left arm down on his paperwork in frustration, pointing at a spot on a map of England.
"Oh, Vincent" Jill had replied, "there's no need to get all upset over..."
Sarah managed to snag a bowl, spoon and a bottle of milk between the people moving about in the room...she was then able to snag a box of decidedly healthy breakfast food and made her way over to the breakfast/lunch/dinner/conference table and sat down next to the man she'd met the previous evening known as Dr. Jeff Nash.
"Morning." He greeted as he studied a copy of the Daily Telegraphbetween bites of breakfast.
"Morning." She greeted in return. She couldn't tell if he'd been up all night, or if he naturally had a pale complexion. Whatever the case he looked like he had had little sleep the previous night. Across the table from her, Iain Bennett, Egon Spengler and Peter Venkman debated what they'd need in order to start searching for the missing Ghostbuster. For several minutes this conversation continued until Egon broke subject in order to inform her of something.
"We would like to perform some more tests on you, Ms. Jones if you wouldn't mind." He asked.
"No." She replied before eating a bite of weetabix. "Just let me know when you need me." She asked.
"We will." Egon replied, he then returned to the discussion he had been taking part in with the Ghostbuster either side of him.
"I should be able to...but I'll grab the A-Z from the garage anyway."
"Understood...Mr. Griffiths." Robert looked at Vincent. "How good is your knowledge of London?"
"I can get by." The blond haired man replied.
"Okay...with Dr. Venkman and Dr. Baugh's blessings, and with Dr. Williams' permission I will be assigning you to help lead him around this point of London." Vincent indicated one third of the centre of the city. "Peter...you will be accompanied by Iain and you will patrol this area." He indicated a second third. "And finally...Adam and Eric...you will patrol this third area...here." He indicated the final third. "You are to make your way to the central point, and if you don't receive any readings to indicate where Mr. Hicks may be, then you are to radio back to HQ and then return in the Ecto-GS...are we all clear on this?" There was a chorus of 'yes's and 'yeah's and then the search teams left the room in the direction of the garage.
"Iain," Peter asked as he walked with Iain out of the war room, "is it just me, or is Spooky a little edgy?"
Iain only shrugged.
"We can hope the 'scanner' picks up his signature...we've programmed in both the PKE data Egon collected from 1983 and the biorhythm data...but either the two signatures have merged, or he's good at hiding his signature."
"It all depends what new power he has, now that he seems to be in the body of a Gozer cult descendant...plus my equipment wasn't as sophisticated in 1983--the readings may be erroneous. We can only hope that the team in London finds him and that he hasn't caused any injury." Egon agreed.
"Well...based on E.C.T.O. Canada's report, he seems to be fond of property damage but not causing injury to people." Tommy added as he studied some topographical charts displaying the country's lay lines.
"Any chance it might be Jeremy inside that thing, still fighting it?" Robert asked.
"Possible." Egon replied. "But that would become less of a factor as time goes by..."
"Whatever happens though..." Ben finished. "We have two days to try and prevent Jeremy from opening the portal..."
"Search team Alpha...nothing to report." Robert's voice replied.
"Search team Delta...no sighting." Eric reported.
"Keep on your toes guys...radio in if you see anything even remotely paranormal.
"Bloody duh..." Robert replied.
"Copy that, Beta." Eric responded, and the radio fell silent once more. With the communication over for the moment Iain, resumed talking with Peter.
"Anyway...you were saying?" Iain asked as they walked down the street. Each of them wore their respective jumpsuits and a black leather jacket with the No-Ghost logo on the right arm. Both were wearing fully charged Proton Packs.
"Yeah...well...I've been talking to Spengs about how well GBUK has been doing since you guys opened shop three years ago...and I'm gonna try for that franchise in Paris again." Peter explained as they walked down past the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square close to the centre of London, attracting some odd stares as they went. Iain studied his PKE Meter while Venkman's, which was programmed to Jeremy's biorhythm, was clipped to his field belt.
"Yeah? I thought the Paris idea would've worked after you saved the Eiffel Tower from blowing up." Iain asked.
"Sometimes things don't work out as well as you plan, the French are just....you know, so 'FRENCH.' Whatever happened before...I'm gonna get some plans scheduled with the French President...see if we can eventually get a Paris franchise off the ground." Peter explained.
"You do realize what they called the movie over there?" Iain asked with a raised eyebrow.
"SOS Fantames...or some crap like that...we can work the name if the talks go well." Peter replied flippantly.
"It wouldn't hurt to have someone watch over the 'tower...just in case." Iain agreed.
Suddenly his meter began to beep wildly.
"Jeremy?" Peter asked, he then studied his meter but it gave him a set of readings he couldn't definitely match with the biorhythm.
"Maybe...even if it isn't him...it's something with a hell of a lot of PKE." Iain replied as he unclipped the radio from his belt. "Search Teams Alpha and Delta...this is Beta...we're registering a large build up of PKE on our Meter."
"Roger...we've got it too." Robert replied.
"We're heading to the source...meet you in about five minutes, over." Eric reported.
"Roger that guys...see you in five." Iain replied as he clipped the radio back onto his belt and both he and Peter took off in the direction of the PKE energy source.
"You'd think they'd make these streets a little bit wider." Peter asked as they both ran through a series of crowded side streets through the centre of London. In the distance, the clock tower famously known as 'Big Ben' rose above the rooftops.
"You should see some of the passages we had to cover in the East End of town." Iain shouted back as the PKE Meter told them to take a left where they nearly crashed into Eric and Adam.
"Whoa!" Adam replied as they ground to a halt. "Where to?" He asked.
"That way." Eric directed and they charged off towards the centre of the city where they found Robert and Joey standing on a street corner consulting their PKE Meter.
"Guys...what are you standing there for?" Adam asked.
"We're trying to find the source of the signal...we should be right on top of it." Joey indicated the PKE Meter. Iain checked his own.
"Mine matches yours." He agreed.
"Guys...maybe you should look up." Peter replied, they turned to look at him and he was gazing at the rooftops above them. They followed his gaze and saw what had made him go a bit pale in the face.
"You've got to be shitting me." Iain swore.
Perched on the rooftop was Jeremy Hicks...his eyes seemed to be glowing bright red behind his glasses and he looked monumentally pissed off. His hair flowed wildly, and snakelike, making him seem much like one of the snake-haired Gorgons of Greek myth. His form seemed to have grown as he arched his back, pointing an accusing finger at the Ghostbusters.
"I cam smell her all over you...heathen...but you shall not have Zuul...she is for one being alone... me!" Jeremy then jumped off of the roof as the six Ghostbusters extracted their Proton Guns.
"Fire at will guys!" Peter shouted and they released the streams of proton energy from their Proton Packs on the possessed form of Jeremy, who quickly vanished through a portal, causing the beams to smash into the building.
"CEASE FIRE!" Iain shouted, and the attack was halted.
"No fair...just being able to portal in and out like that," Eric complained.
"Maybe it's a good thing...do we know we can hit him with the beams and not hurt him?" Robert asked.
"Well...no." Peter replied innocently.
"Okay..." Eric replied.
"What do we do then?" Adam asked as smoking debris tumbled to the street.
"Peter...what's the frequency for knocking a human out?" Joey asked.
"Erm...I can't remember...why?" Peter asked.
"We could try sap his power so he can't teleport out when we're gonna hit him...then, once he's drained, we can then tie him up...or something." Joey explained.
"Sounds like a plan." Peter agreed. "...didn't Egon program in that frequency to these things anyway?" Peter asked.
"Oh yeah." Joey shrugged with a lopsided grin. "That is, if all of our Proton Packs are designed after those models. Okay...everyone...set your beams to the second setting...that should knock him out."
There was a loud "whooshing" sound and Jeremy stepped out of a portal behind them.
"Fire!" Robert yelled, and they all turned and fired. For several moments that seemed to drag on for minutes, they held Jeremy within the confinement of the beams but he managed to summon up enough energy to teleport out again. He disappeared in a flash. The Ghostbusters shut off their beams and looked around.
"This guy's a sneaky bastard." Iain swore.
"He's a lot more clear-minded then when he was in Louis' body...he was downright spaced out in '83." Peter agreed.
"Guys...I'm still picking up a large concentration of PKE...I think he's..." Eric was cut off as a portal opened behind him, Jeremy snatched the gun from his hand and aimed it at Peter. Jeremy shot a proton stream at Peter and then at Iain, knocking them both to the ground.
"Fucker." Robert swore and fired, managing to catch Eric in the beam after Jeremy pushed him in harm's way.
"Oh shit...sorry Eric." Robert quickly disengaged his beam. A moment later, a loud "whoosh" could be heard behind him, and he was picked up and then sent flying onto the roof of a nearby car. Jeremy turned and glared at Joey and Adam, the sole standing Ghostbusters.
"Do not try to stop my master, Ghostbusters." Jeremy spoke. "You will not be so fortunate this time." He then looked up in a direction behind him and sniffed the air. "Zuul awaits." He then opened one last portal, walked through it and both he and the portal vanished.
"Oww...." Robert moaned and both Joey and Adam ran over to help the Morcombe-born Ghostbuster off of the now dented roof. Nearby Peter, Iain and Eric were beginning to stir. "Did we bag him?" Eric asked.
"No...we lost him...what could two Ghostbusters do that six couldn't?" Adam asked.
"I'll tell you what...that Vinz guy is a real wanker when he's in Jeremy's body." Robert managed to crack a smile.
"Ow...too right." Iain agreed as he picked himself up, and then helped Peter up from the roadway. All around people were staring at the Ghostbusters after the short battle with the Key Master. A police officer thought of approaching them, but thought better of it after seeing the mess.
"We'd better head back to the van and report this to HQ...they're gonna want to hear this." Eric spoke as he hooked his Proton Gun onto his pack.
"Definitely..." Iain agreed as they began to walk back to where they'd parked the Ecto-GS.
"Dammit...of course!" He replied and then slid his chair across to the phone on another desk. The book page displayed two photos, the first was of an identical statue of one of the Terror Dogs, placed in an office, the photo next to it depicted it being sold in an auction house, the sign of which was clearly visible.
Ben pulled out a battered but up-to-date copy of the Yellow Pages and started browsing the auction houses in London. He ran his finger down the list until he tracked down the name of the auction house, Alister Crown Holdings. He dialed up the number and waited for a reply.
"Alister Crown Holdings...how can I direct you call?" A female voice asked.
"Ah...hello...I'd like to track down an old auction you had in..." Ben picked up the phone and scooted the chair back across to his research. "1939."
"I'd have to put your through to our records room...Mr. Sampson is head of that department." The woman explained.
"Sure." Ben replied and waited as the line was connected to a different phone.
"Daniel Sampson - Records Department." A much more older, male voice asked.
"Oh...hello Mr. Sampson...I was wondering if you could run a check on an auction you had in 1939?" Ben asked.
"Depending on some circumstances." Mr. Sampson replied. "Who do you work for and why are you looking for a specific archived auction?" He asked.
"Mr. Sampson, my name is Ben King, I work with a company known as Ghostbusters...I was wanting to try locate a specific auction where a statue was sold in 1939. We're trying to identify where it came from." Ben explained.
"I see...do you have a picture of this statue?" Mr. Sampson asked.
"I do...I have a pair of photographs of it in one of my architectural books...that's how I found the auction house which sold it...I also have a set of architectural plans of the statue."
"A copy of the architectural plans should suffice..." Mr. Sampson replied.
"Excellent." Ben replied in turn. "Do you have an email address I can send the copy too? It's just that we're on a tight deadline and I'd be most thankful if you could get me the details of where the statue was found...hopefully before the 8th." Ben asked.
"Well..." Mr. Sampson paused as he cleared his throat. "Usually these things would take more time...however...depending on the quality of the plans...and the fact you knew the year it was sold it...and depending on the uniqueness of the piece...it may shorten the amount of places I'd have to look. Send the picture via fax to our office."
"Thank you Mr. Sampson...I'll send a copy of the plans to that email once I've finished this call with you." Ben replied as he scribbled down the email address.
"Understood...however you must bear in mind that I may not be able to locate the item you're after." Mr. Sampson explained.
"I know...any information you can get is better then none...thank you for your time." Ben replied.
"I hope I can find something...goodbye Mr. King." With the conversation ended Ben placed the phone back on his desk and collected the statue's plans and made his way over to the scanner. Five minutes after the phone call had ended he scanned the plans, cropped them and seven minutes after the end of the conversation Ben was typing up an email. With the explanation given, the plans attached and the address placed in the address bar he clicked on the send message and hope that Mr. Sampson could dig something up.
The buzz died down when Egon cleared his throat, and standing Ghostbusters sheepishly crept to empty seats.
"Is everyone accounted for?" Egon asked over the forest of heads in the room.
"Good. We can't afford to have anyone absent from this meeting. We have gathered here to discuss our findings and to assess the threat of a return of Gozer. As you all know, Dr. Belmont, Dr. Baugh, and myself have been studying the book, and posting bits of it on the bulletin boards. Our news is rather...disconcerting....Belmont?"
Belmont stepped forward clicked a button on a small remote, and the room went dark. A projector lit up the room with a dull luminescence, casting an eerie glow among the faces of the Ghostbusters. The projection was a plethora of diagrams copied from the book. Vincent assisted his explanations with a small laser pointer.
"Without having to go into lengthy detail, the whole book is a ritual diagram and instruction manual, meant to summon two entities...Zuul, and Vinz Clortho....Keymaster and Gatekeeper of Volguus Zildrohar, more widely known as 'Gozer the Gozerian.' These two entities summoned to earth come in the form of pure energy, most likely by ectoplasmic manifestation. When the host is chosen, the posessor takes control, and performs yet another ritual...a rather bizarre ritual intended to bring Gozer to the respective world to consume and destroy it...my guess is that several 'worlds' have similar manuscripts that serve the same function as this one."
The hand of Jeff Nash shot up immediately.
"Is that Enochian? It looks different from the Sumerian the book was written in." Jeff asked.
"Very astute, Jeff," Vincent said with a hint of suprise, "it is indeed Enochian. For those of you who don't know, Enochian is an inherently magical language. The mere utterance of each word in the language manifests power, and each word forms a metaphysical pattern to shape that energy. Spells in enochian are very simple...pairing single verbs with nouns can create a plethora of effects. Before Hermes Trismegistus' time, magi used this language to work magic...however, Enochian is unstable. Every action performed in Enochian evokes a reaction, and those reactions can be catastrophic...that is why I, and fellows like myself use Latin. It is structurally the most sound language on the planet. As always, GBI employees will NOT discuss magic, the Hermetic order, wizards, or any other occult academia with non-GBI employees."
There was a low muttering before the hand of Roger Kennedy raised.
"So what does this ritual do, exactly? How does it bring Gozer here? I thought Gozer was destroyed." Roger asked. He held aloft a handheld audio cassette recorder.
Vincent hesitated slightly before starting the explanation. "Well," he stammered, "Gozer's form has obviously not been destroyed, if Zuul and Vinz are still present, then that means Gozer must still be a presence, albeit most likely dispersed. The ritual creates a beacon of sorts. This beacon calls out to all of the energies that is Gozer, and summons them to one point. What puzzles me is that it would need a 'vessel' to reform with...a phylactery of sorts. My guess, is that Gozer has a 'heart.' Another thing that concerns me is that my associates have seen activity near Stonehenge. Cultists are reconstructing what looks to be a portal edifice, that will open a gateway between one world and another. My only conclusion is that the summoners cannot perform a direct summoning of Gozer here. Gozer may be too weak to make the trip. If that is true, a swift strike may prove effective."
"A portal..." Roger asked, "...like in the movie?"
Vincent grunted with displeasure. "Yes," he mumbled, "like in the movie."
Jill Valentine stood up in the back and interrupted with a question that made everyone turn their heads.
"So how do they summon it? What's with the Keymaster-Gatekeeper" thing? Why do they need bodies to do this?"
Sarah stood up as well. "Yes," she said, her voice nervously wavering, "why me?"
All of the Ghostbusters in the room turned again to face the three men in the front. Vincent's face went even more pale than it was previously. he turned to Fritz.
"I'm not answering this..." Vincent whispered to Fritz. Fritz turned a shade of bright pink.
"Ummm....well," Fritz stammered, "the ritual needs a release of a tremendous amount of psychic energy from them...and there are only a few things that produce such enormous emotional psychic energy....one, is death. The thing is, they can't very well kill each other. Another, and the one mentioned in the texts, is..."
Fritz ran his fingers through his hair and mumbled sheepishly.
The room went deathly silent. Many Ghostbusters either went red in the face, or began to fidget in their seats.
"I'm sorry I asked..." Jill mumbled as she sat down.
Heads started to turn towards Sarah. Sarah was horrified.
"You're telling me that some psychopath is coming to RAPE me to satisfy some crusty ancient babble-balognian god?" she screamed, "Oh, this is NOT happening. I'm fucking OUT of here! I don't need the Ghostbusters, I need the police!"
With that, Sarah, stormed out of the room, slamming the doors against the wall as she went.
"Someone stop her..." Vincent snapped, as several Ghostbusters immediately got up from their seats. Adam Bestler and Rosey Collins set off after Sarah, leaving the other Ghostbusters in the room.
"Bottom line," Egon began again, " is that if worse comes to worse, we need a plan. In case we see a return of Gozer, we need a plan to prevent it from entering our world."
"We're open to any suggestions," Fritz mentioned as he started straightening his notes.
Some of the bewildered Ghostbusters were still taking in the abrupt departure of Sarah before they turned their attentions to the front. Some exchanged looks, and some shrugged their shoulders. Roger stood up.
"We'd offer suggestions, Fritz," he said, hesitantly, "but we're in over our heads now as it is. We have so little info to go on. We'll just go with any plan Egon has, I mean, he's the brains, after all..."
Vincent scowled and slapped his own forehead, looking up to the ceiling, asking God what it was that is wrong with his companions. He then gestured to himself and Fritz.
"Oh, holy mother of mercy...What are we, chopped liver?" he grumbled, "you're all grown up Ghostbusters, now. You're ALL capable of standing on your own two feet, and making decisions for yourselves! If we all thought to ourselves 'Oh Lord, I couldn't possibly be as smart as the great Egon Spengler,' would ANYTHING get done? No! Why in the hell would we call these meetings if we didn't want input?"
Only a couple of Ghostbusters noticed that Egon had blushed slightly as Vincent ranted. A murmuring of voices overcame the room as Roger sat down in his seat; his face slightly red. He sat in slight disgust at being reprimanded by one of his peers. Yeah, and we sign your checks, mate. He thought.
The murmuring turned into a a cacophony of voices rising in volume, with various topics of problem solution in progress. Egon, Vincent, and Fritz then began to discuss things amongst themselves as the noise became louder, as some Ghostbusters shouted to be heard over the others.
The doors to the room opened, and Adam returned to the discussion immediately, as Rosey entered with Sarah crying on her shoulder. Rosey sat Sarah down and ran to fetch her a cup of coffee.
"Hey!" Tommy Simpson shouted over all of the others. Almost immediately, the conversation died down. Tommy Simpson stood up, as well as Robert Griffiths.
"Rob and I had an idea, but..." he stammered.
"Please, go on!" Egon interrupted, "we want suggestions."
"Yeah, but this is kinda a stupid question..." Tommy stated.
"No!" Vincent snapped, "spill it. There are no stupid questions...only stupid mistakes, which we are trying to avoid by discussing things here."
Tommy looked at Robert. Robert nodded.
"Well," Robert began, "question is, does Gozer have enemies? I mean, you mentioned in the briefings of the translations that Gozer fought with this Meketrex thing, and fought with some big crabby thing...uh...."Chur-gar," was it?"
Egon began to pace the room as he scratched his chin. "Yes," he said, "I think I know where you're going with this."
"Well...it seems pretty clear that the primal gods are good at taking each other out, they're like mob bosses, waiting to do the other one over...what if we found a primal god who isn't so...bent on the apocalypse?" Iain shrugged a little hesitantly, not sounding convinced of the idea himself.
Vincent's face went pale, and his eyes grew wide as he stared at Iain in horror silently for a few moments.
"I seriously doubt it," Egon mused, "even if we could find an entity which had enough power to combat Gozer, and if the entity even somehow knew Gozer from the wars when Earth was new...it would take an incredible amount of power to control an entity of that size. Vincent, is there anything out there about contacting something like that?"
"No," Vincent mumbled, "I won't do it. It's a bad idea amongst a long history of bad ideas. What you would be asking, is to make contact with an alien intelligence, and then invite the blasphemous thing to our world. Then, only then, one would have to reign it in, and that is much easier said, than done. That requires a much greater power than any one man can do alone. Magic is dangerous business...one screw up and you condemn yourself. Magic takes its toll, and the only spells I have ever known to do things like that require that I commit the very atrocities in this book that we are trying to prevent."
Vincent leaned against the wall and rubbed his forehead. Peter spoke for the first time during the meeting, and sparked the interest of everyone in the room.
"Uh, I hate to bring this up," Peter began, "but this all sounds really familiar. Wasn't this whole fiasco of 'Clash of the War Gods' thing mentioned by that little cutie that called you 'Spooky'?"
"QUIT CALLING ME BY THAT INFANTILE NICKNAME!!!" Vincent roared.
"No, really, Vinny," Peter protested, "I'm serious this time. What was her name? Allie, Alena, Alexis..."
"Alexandra," Vincent mumbled; his voice now turning to solemn remembrance, "It was Alexandra Roivas. She prevented the coming of a dreadful 'god' in 2000. She performed the same feat when the Roman lich Pious Augustus summoned forth one of those 'things' they call the Great Old Ones."
"Then what's stopping us, Vinny?" Peter asked. For the first time since the trip, Peter looked serious; something that brought the room to complete silence. "You're the greatest wizard we've had the pleasure of knowing since Phineus Eventide. I know that Alex chick wasn't one of those pointy hat folk. I mean, come on! This is like Glenda the Good Witch versus Gandalf the White! If she could do it, it has to be cake for you....or is that, crumpets or something?"
Vincent looked over the whole room, and saw many of his co-workers nodding in agreement. He turned to both Fritz and Egon, who were doing the same.
"Peter," Vincent began, "Alex had access to an apparatus that amplified her personal energy thousandfold, even then, there was a supply of additional energy being pumped through living sacrifices in the..."
"Can it be done?" Egon interrupted, sounding almost impatient, "is there a way to gather the necessary requirements to complete something like that?"
"I would have to..." Vincent began to protest, but was quickly interrupted.
"We can get materials, Vince, GBI would pay for something like this." Fritz said.
"We're all willing to follow any instructions to the letter," Tommy chimed in.
"Yes, but you don't..."
"Is it money, Vince? If you're asking for money, we can pay you for this..." said Egon.
Vincent stared at Egon, furious. "How DARE you? In all of my years, I have served humanity with this job, and you think I do it for the money?!?!"
More suggestions began to roll in, and soon, the room was into shouting again.
"Well--Why don't we cross the streams, seal the gate before Gozer can come through?" Eric Rose asked. This question almost seemed to provoke an adverse and almost completely alien reaction from Vincent...he appeared to be seething and his face had become quite flushed. To add to it, some in the audience could have sworn they saw a dangerous red flash in the wizard's eyes.
"DAMN IT!!!" Vincent roared. His voice seemed to boom and reverberate through the room, and his very presence seemed to grow, shrinking the room. His fury seemed to darken the room, and his anger struck the hearts of all of the audience. "You all put too much stock in a God damned Hollywood film! These are REAL lives were toying with!..." Vincent fumed to everyone's astonishment. "Crossing the streams only worked once. It was a one in a million shot that was never supposed to work, but by the grace of God, they did it...but whenever a problem breaks out, NOOO! We gotta cross the streams!!!"
"Now, wait a minute Vincent...." Roger protested, shocked at Vincent's sudden departure from his usual rationale.
"We have science now, Vincent. Man has come so far since the dawn of time..." Iain replied calmly, attempting to calm the raw emotions that were beginning to take flight in the room.
"So far? God, you people!!! Humans are arrogant...there are some things that weren't meant for human comprehension...there are some things better left to..." Vincent protested, Peter and Egon both shared a worried glance, it looked like they were there for the ride.
"GOD.... is that it?" Iain questioned with a stern voice and a raised eyebrow. Vincent stood still, completely speechless at the podium. As the furious wizard stared at Iain, the air seemed to grow heavy, and the shadows thicker. The very blood in everyone's veins seemed to turn to ice.
In the crowd Adam stood up to be able to get a clear view of Vincent. "Look, get off your high fucking horse, Belmont. You always bring spiritualism and religion into this...."
Vincent turned his glare on the Ghostbusters Independent member. "I will NOT be party to all of your madness...you already imperil me by asking me to summon a demon god..." he growled. In the corner of the room, Rosey, Sarah, Jill and a couple of others cowered in the corner. Other Ghostbusters nervously seated themselves, slouching in their chairs. Jeff Nash stood up, watching Adam and Vincent closely, looking for things to turn sour.
Dammit, this is ridiculous. He's right to be concerned, but you'd think a 'buster with Belmont's amount of experience wouldn't be so self-righteous as to think every ancient "god" is some demonic threat to his personal beliefs. We catalog and categorize these things for a reason. Jeff Nash thought sourly.
"...look at you, you hypocrite...didn't the Bible, YOUR book you hold so dear say 'Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live?' Deuteronomy 18, verses 10 and following: 'Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritualist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord, and because of these detestable practices the Lord your God will drive out those nations before you." Adam retorted.
Vincent considered this for a moment, shortly before his left fist connected with Adam's jaw, the sheer force and surprise sent the younger Ghostbuster toppling backward. Vincent then leaped forward, raising both legs before him in a fan kick that was so swift that many didn't even witness it in the confusion. Adam toppled over Tommy Simpson and and Robert Griffiths, knocking them both over. Vincent then set of after Adam in magnificent fury.
On the podium Fritz and Egon grabbed a hold of Vincent's fists as Jeff Nash and Ben King Sr grappled to hold Adam amid the protests of Iain and Rosey. Adam swung blindly forward, barely missing Jeff as he was held down.
"Stand Down, Dr. Belmont." Egon with a steely firmness.
Vincent shifted his weight, and pulled on his right arm, throwing Egon over his shoulder. Egon cried out in pain as his form collided with the floor.
"What do you fools think you're doing?!" Iain bellowed, the authoritative voice he used during his RAF days having set in, "We have mere DAYS before a demon god comes stomping down on my home, and we're having a sodding fist fight!"
Peter and Roger both tackled Vincent, forcing him to the floor. Vincent's legs connected with Roger and Peters' stomachs, and he rolled backward, kicking them both over him, sending them into a nearby desk.
As Vincent jumped to his feet, he felt the arms of Fritz Baugh enclosing him from behind tightly, his arms locking together. Vincent would have done something, if it hadn't been for another pair of arms grabbing him, and holding him; those of Jill Valentine.
"Vincent!" she cried, "Please! Stop it!"
Vincent relaxed, and he felt Fritz's grip recede.
"What was going on?" she pleaded, "I know you're upset, honey. We're scared, we're all scared. The comments were uncalled for, but those are your friends! They have as much to lose as you do, we all have. I know what you're going through...we all know."
"...and what would YOU know of loss or pain, woman? What would YOU know of spending every waking moment facing the unknown so people can go on with their happy, normal and completely oblivious lives?" Vincent hissed at her. The whole room went perfectly silent. All were in silence, staring at the couple near the front of the room.
That was when Jill slapped Vincent across the face, hard enough to leave a red hand print on the left side of his face, stunning him into silence. The truth was, he instantly regretted it, it was probably the coldest thing he had ever said to her, considering what had happened between them in the past.
"You bastard..." Jill uttered, evidently trying to hold back tears, she then vanished off somewhere in the direction of the kitchen. Vincent stood in silence, as his head turned toward the stunned onlookers. He then glanced at the door to the conference room. All of the people present in the room turned away quickly as if to say it wasn't their business. Damning himself, Vincent muttered something in a dark and unknown tongue and then made his way to the staircase, and from there, the second floor balcony.
"I think we should just probably postpone any further discussion for now." Fritz replied sternly as he adjusted his glasses,breaking the awkward silence. The group muttered a collective affirmative, some nursing their wounds, but there was still a nasty element in the air.
"Are you okay?" Iain hesitated, after what had happened before the meeting broke he wasn't quite sure what could happen, he was briefly reminded of a television catchphrase "Anything can happen in the next half hour!"
Vincent's only response were his eyes moving to acknowledge Iain's presence.
"I am not..." Vincent muttered after what seemed like an age.
"Well...we've been under a lot of stress," Iain shrugged, "what's eating you?"
"...the fact that I am a selfish and foolish man.' Vincent chocked.
"Selfish, eh?" Iain mused, "Well, we're all selfish at times. We all cater to our own whims on occasion, but I also see you as selfless, many times. Why are you selfish, Belmont?"
"That woman waited years to be with me after I selfishly left the country in a fit of rage. She passed up the chance at a life with numerous other men, even keeping a picture of me on her desktop in her office...while I have a sordid and meaningless relationship with a paranormally plagued police detective who decides that her cells are telling her that she doesn't want me and moves off to L.A." Vincent rested his head on the balcony railing.
"Yeah," Iain muttered, "so you had a bad relationship, and she waited forever for you, and it took a zombie-infested city to bring you two together. it doesn't make you selfish OR foolish, Vince."
"No, it makes me a coward..." Vincent scowled.
"Coward?" Iain chuckled weakly, "...the coward who took on evil sorcerers, ghosts, goblins, aliens, demons, the living dead, and evils incarnate? The coward who helped take down a corrupt megacorporation that almost unleashed an undead apocalypse? The coward that will stand and laugh in the face of the Illuminati?! Oh, yeah. Okay. I can't wait to hear you convince me of this one."
Vincent only looked at Iain. He places his glasses on his face and took out a small locket. He popped it open, revealing a picture of Jill on one side, and a small girl on the other. Sitting between the two pictures was a diamond ring. Iain looked up at Vincent, quizzically.
"Who's the kid?" Iain asked.
"Her name is Cher--- no. Heather. Heather is her name now. She's the girl that I..." Vincent explained. Iain's eyes grew wide.
"No way!" Iain exclaimed, "that's the little baby they found you carrying during that incident at...Silent Hill?"
Vincent looked a bit taken back.
"No worries, Mate," Iain assured him, "only a couple of people know...and they don't know the real story."
Iain then quickly looked at the ring, "That's for Miss Valentine, I take it?" Iain said, quickly wanting to change the subject, "C'mon! All men are cowards when it comes to the biggest, scariest question of their lives!"
Vincent only closed the locket and tucked it back in his shirt.
"Look," Iain said, now resting his arms on the railing, as both men stared out at the sunset, "I'm sure Jill will understand by tomorrow, and the rest of them have forgiven you already...well....except Adam, but that's debatable. You just haven't been yourself lately, Belmont. This whole thing has you pent up. The Belmont I know has always been level headed in these "end of the world" situations. We've postponed discussions until tomorrow. We're not giving up, yet."
"I...shall have to speak to Jill before I go to bed...I..."
In the distance, the sky was becoming overcast, but something small moved in the sky amongst the orange and purple clouds. Iain peered at the object for a few minutes before finally deducing what it was. It was a bird, a Red Kite to be precise, hovering easily in the air as it hunted for prey.
"Look at that." Iain replied quietly as he tapped Vincent's shoulder with the backside of his hand. Vincent looked up at Iain and then followed his gaze. He looked out at it for a moment, and removed his glasses again. For the first time since their conversation started, Vincent hinted at a bit of a smile.
"Red Kite..." Vincent muttered.
"It's funny really, it has no idea that it's world might end, all it's doing is what it was born to do." Ian commented wistfully.
Vincent's expression turned solemn for a moment, but his smile became obvious. "We're dangerously close to cliche territory here, Mr. Bennett." Vincent replied dryly. Both men chuckled, quietly.
"Okay..." Iain replied with a smirk. "But there's got to be something...so let's rule out the option of crossing the streams, what about the rival god option? If I remember that case file right, Ms. Roivas did something to cast away the creature that did battle with Pious' god for fear that it would instead bring about ruin."
"Like I said...even if we could find a god, I'm not sure we have the type of power to be able to control that creature to deal Gozer enough of a blow. My only other option is that We could use the summoned creature to keep Gozer preoccupied while someone else were to destroy Gozer's power source...but then the problem is...where is it kept?" Vincent explained calmly.
"What if we're looking in the wrong place?" Iain asked, a little cryptically.
"Even to perform these feats, I would need an energy source. I would also need something that is familiar to Gozer...something with that metaphysical link I would need..." Vincent mused.
"Well...Excalibur has been a godsend since it chose me in Avalon, and here I am. King Arthur, defending England from her foes..." Iain beamed.
"You and swords..." Vincent laughed heartily, he then paused as a expression of thought fell across his face.
"Yeah," Iain laughed as he slapped Vincent on the back, playfully, "but every Arthur needs a Merlin! Look at us...Arthur and Merlin, champions once again!"
"Arthur...and...Merlin?" Vincent mumbled under his breath.
"What is it?" Iain asked, having an unclear message if the wizard was talking to himself or the only other Ghostbuster present on the balcony.
"Iain! You're a GENIUS!" Vincent exclaimed, grabbing Iain's shoulders and shaking him violently.
"'Course I am!" Iain grinned, "now, WHY am I a genius?"
"Think, Iain! Why is the cult building at Stonehenge? Who is rumored to have built Stonehenge? Where is a possible location that Gozer might have tried to enter planet Earth?" Vincent drilled Iain in rapid succession as he fumbled to put his glasses on, "I must speak with Egon, there's not a moment to lose!!!"
"Will this be on the test?" Iain asked, still unsure why Vincent had suddenly become manic.
Vincent wasted no time dashing through the balcony door and down the stairs, leaving a bewildered Iain behind. Iain looked out at the sunset one last time before he went indoors after Vincent.
With a start, she realized there was somebody already out there. One of the Americans.
"Doctor...oh, how was it pronounced? Bog?"
"Baugh, Miss Collins. Rhymes with 'awe'" he responded, just having noticed her there.
"I bet you spent your entire childhood pronouncing and spelling it for people..." Rosey couldn't help but crack.
"Indeed..." he replied. "It's been easier since Rush Limbaugh became popular, but I hate to use that fact for fear of people thinking we're connected--the man is an ass..."
"How long you been doing this then, Doctor?"
"Call me Fritz. A little over a year...April '03."
"Rosey. And I've only been here a few months--since Graveyard Shift started..."
"A pleasure to make your formal acquaintance then, Rosey."
"You look like you have a lot on your mind..."
"How could I not? Barely a month ago I buried one of my teammates...after foiling an Egyptian god...and now all of this..."
"The GBUK guys lost one of their mates last summer....they don't talk about it much..."
"I can't blame them." Fritz shook his head.
There were a few minutes of silence.
"Belmont's got a plan...but I have trepidations about it. Or more honestly, after that show back in the conference room...dare I say, trepidations about him."
Rosey just nodded.
"I agree totally with what he said about the Professor...it's hard not to be a little awed by him and all of the founders, I know...but that doesn't mean we turn our brains off and let him do all the thinking for us."
"But his attack on Bestler..."
"Bestler can be a bit..." Rosey paused. "Abrasive. But they're all close here--I got a brother myself, and we fight all the time. You got any brothers or sisters?"
"Three younger brothers. And yes, there were some definite bad moments growing up..."
"Well, Vincent and Adam are sorta like that."
"Perhaps. But it was Belmont's...for lack of a better term, self-righteous indignation that gave me pause. I grew up in the Mid-West, among very religious people...I have my beliefs, but I could just never fit in to their mold. Too many people that religious shut their brains off...it took the Catholic Church three hundred years to admit that the Earth was not the geographical center of the universe, and they're still arguing about evolution..."
"Vincent is a very intelligent man."
"I know that. And on the whole he's definitely NOT been one of those self-righteous pricks I grew up around. But this whole situation is eating at him--he actually snapped at me when I shared one of my translations..."
She had to blink. It was somehow disjoint from her impressions of him to hear Fritz uttering a description like "self righteous prick."
"It talked about the 'War of the Gods' and the destruction of the 'great lizard beasts'..." he continued. "I mentioned that it showed some parallels to the theory that an asteroid led to the death of the dinosaurs and he practically bit my head off."
"I never understood that kind of belief either, Fritz...but it's a large world out there."
"I'm just worried that his beliefs might blind him at a critical moment."
"I must do this, there is a chance that I might be able to find something that I can use to help us defeat Gozer...I don't know how long it'll take but I'll try keep my time in Arcane Alley to a minimum." Vincent Belmont explained as he drew a series of runes along the doorframe of a small cupboard in the basement of the building with a length of chalk.
"But are you sure there's even such a thing here? I'm surprised if there is one...this place wasn't much before they built the sanatorium." Ben King Sr asked.
"It IS here, and has remained hidden from everyone who have no knowledge of the stuff of wizards," Vincent explained as he consulted a large book which had several pages dedicated to the process he was performing. "Ben...I cannot guarantee that I will be back too long before we need to confront Gozer...I have taken a lot of thought into this issue, but I want you to keep a watch over the Graveyard Shift until my return." He fixed the other Ghostbuster with a serious expression.
"You think that's a good suggestion? I'm gonna be tied up with my research into this thing...surely Eric's good enough to handle things by himself, he usually fills in for you when you're away." Ben replied.
"For short term, as good as Eric is at leadership, I do not believe he has the right amount of experience just yet, I believe you are more then capable of maintaining order within the team until my return." Vincent explained.
"Okay, but you'd better be coming back...last thing we need is another funeral of a former team-member to screw up things."
"The track to Arcane Alley is dangerous and nearly a labyrinth in its own right, but I will be fine. I've already spoken to Egon about the plan, and both he and Fritz are already making preparations," Vincent replied.
"Okay, so if I'm hearing this right, we're conjuring some thing to keep Gozer busy while we look for Gozer's weak spot?"
"Correct." Vincent stated. "Egon knows what to do, now I'm going to get what we need to do it. Good luck, friend, my course shall be sure and swift."
Ben nodded and stepped back.
Vincent's voice echoed slightly as it reverberated through the room. Deflagrate muri tempi et intervallia. Ego ambulo arcanum Viae de Magum accelerare peregrinatio. His voice seemed to waver, and an eldritch chill permeated the room as a sound which seemed to be a chorus of chanters trailed off after Vincent finished speaking.
Suddenly, a purple and gold energy flashed and sparkled around the doorframe for a few moments before dissipating. Vincent then grasped the handle and opened the door, Ben uttered a gasp when he saw what lay beyond the wooden doorway, instead of the broom cupboard lay a vertical silvery blue pool of what looked to be a liquid resembling mercury. Vincent strode in and the door closed itself behind him.
Ben hesitated for a moment, and then grasped the handle and opened the door. Instead of the murky, reflective pool sat the broom cupboard.
"One of these days I think I'm gonna need to take a very long vacation..." Ben muttered as he closed the door and walked away.
"How'd he leave?" Roger Kennedy asked, looking up from a game of poker with Eric Rose. Roger was also playing cards with Robert Griffiths, Joey Williams and at the moment, Dr. Peter Venkman. Strangely unsurprising, Peter held most of the chips.
"Portal..the portal in the basement." Ben explained, standing, and taking a moment to remove his glasses and try ease some of the tension out of his brow.
Ben looked up after what seemed to be a strange silence suddenly overtake the room. He looked at the break room table to find all of the Ghostbusters staring at him as if he had had announced that he was pregnant. Peter was the first to break the tableau by looking around the table at the other confused Ghostbusters.
"What?" Ben asked, breaking the odd silence, "he comes and goes at will...he IS a WIZARD, you know."
The others shrugged as they went back to their game of cards, as the whole notion of Vincent doing strange things seemed perfectly normal, now that they thought of it. Most of them had seen Vincent perform even more bizarre feats in the past. They opened up a seat for Ben and began dealing a new hand for him.
"I don't think we're going to have enough guys here to beat Gozer..." Eric replied as he checked his new hand of cards.
"What do you mean?" Roger asked.
"Well, last time the Ghostbusters took Gozer by surprise."
"Makes sense, the big Goz probably didn't expect us to have unlicensed nuclear accelerators on our backs." Peter agreed with a grin.
"But this time, Gozer's gonna know about us, heck, this whole mess with Jeremy just shouts 'I know about you now!' It's like we're holding a pair of Deuces while Jeremy's letting on that Gozer's holding a royal flush." Eric sighed, arranging his hand, trying not to show his fellows that he was only holding a pair of Deuces.
"Well," Ben interjected, throwing in a red poker chip to the center of the table, "I say right now, we're looking to 'call Gozer's bluff."
"So you think we should get more guys in?" Roger cocluded, seeing all of the others nod emphatically.
"Exactly what I'm saying--" Eric replied. "--I just don't know who we could call in at short notice, most of the other Ghostbusters teams are three hours and three thousand miles away."
"Well, you could always call the Paris branch..." Peter added quietly.
Ben bolted upright, an expression of sheer confusion on his face.
"What?" He asked in bewilderment.
"--then there's the Luxembourg Ghostbusters...though, that's only really a three-man operation...really small country..." Peter mused.
"Peter, what on earth are you talking about?" Ben asked.
"Oh, y'know...the European franchises...though, the French one kind of got shut down after an incident with the French President..." He replied with a smirk.
"Why haven't we heard about these European franchises before?" Ben asked, a small portion of anger creeping into his voice. Peter leveled his gaze and Ben.
"Have you ever cared about anything in Europe before tonight?"
Ben just stared at the elder Ghostbuster.
"Point taken." He replied and collapsed back into his chair. There was silence in the room for several minutes before Peter Venkman finally announced:
"Now, am I the only one who thinks we should get stinking drunk before we need to work tomorrow?"
"Yes," Joey grunted, "call."
Each Ghostbuster threw down the cards in front of them, and sighed with frustration as they saw Venkman's winning hand.
"Isn't that a very bad idea?" Eric asked tentatively, raising an eyebrow at the elder Ghostbuster.
"I have to agree...I don't like the idea of any of us having a hangover when we're working tomorrow." Ben agreed, although he seemed a little uncaring after hearing the info about European competition.
"Oh c'mon..." Peter pleaded playfully, dumping his cards on the table. "The world could be ending in only a number of days, and you don't want to have one last brewski?" He added with a wink.
"You're really giving us confidence to succeed." Robert retorted, sarcastically.
"--Let me get my jacket." Ben muttered before leaving the room.
He walked on, following the dirt path beneath his feet. This odd dirt path looked more like a fine silvery powder, that was even slightly luminescent; though it was not nearly enough so to see.
He heard sounds off in the mist. It was laughter, as if small children were out in the strange fog, playing. Vincent looked off the path again, and stopped. He shivered, and pulled his coat tighter. He looked behind him, but he did not see the door. It had been left far behind him. Again, he heard the tinkling ethereal laughter that came from someone, or something beyond the curtain of mist.
"Great," he thought, "I never did walk to Arcane Alley from Great Britain before..."
He looked at his feet; at the silvery dirt path on which he stood. He looked down the path as far as the fog would allow. He spotted a small flickering glow in the shroud of fog ahead. Vincent quickly doused the light from his wand. He held his breath.
Vincent knew that this was his first time using "The Shining Path" from such a distant location. They are secret roads of magic that wind through the Astral Planes, and link between two objects that serve as "gates" to this strange place. Here, travel is hundreds of times faster than it would be on "earth." It had been a spell that took him nearly a month to decipher, but never did he think that he would find one of the actual gates within the old asylum that served as the Graveyard Shift's headquarters. However, within the text Vincent studied was a warning. It is wholly possible to become lost in the dark world of the astral, for there are no lights; only a thick fog, and a barely visible path to follow. One must know which road to take when a crossroads is encountered. Furthermore, the eldritch dimension is far from benign. Astral beings dwell there, as well as terrifying monsters, and travellers should be wary.
The light grew closer, and Vincent inched his way off the path, hesitating, as he did not want to lose sight of it. He breathed a sigh of relief when he saw a humanoid shape amble into view. It was a cloaked figure. It looked to be an old bespectacled gentleman with a neatly trimmed white beard, and no hair on his head. Instead, he covered it with a wide-brimmed hat. He carried an old oil lantern to light his way.
The figure stopped.
"Evening, friend," said the man. "You lost?"
Vincent found it hard to speak at first, but finally found his voice.
"I may be, sir. What way is it to Arcane Alley in Salem, Massachusetts?"
"Ahhh, just came from there, m'self, lad." the old man laughed as he pointed a bony finger in the direction that he came from, "Just follow the right fork when you come to it, and then the first left. It shouldn't take you more than a few hours' walk. Be careful not to stray from the path...it's dangerous, you know."
"Oh, I will." Vincent chuckled, "Thank you, magister!"
"Magister!" the old man said in amusement, "That is something I haven't been called in QUITE awhile...Good day, to ya, lad! I must be home soon, or my daughter will never let me hear the end of it!"
Vincent bowed to the old man, and lit his wand again, continuing down the path again, feeling slightly more confident. He glanced at his pocketwatch and grimaced; there wasn't much time. He broke into a slight jog, kicking up small clouds of the fine silvery powder beneath his feet as he went.
The travelling band's main destination was the nearby village, and the local Pub. Ben smirked as he drove, the Pub was appropriately named considering their main occupation; The 'Bat and Bell' Freehouse, rentable for parties, both birthday and anniversary. Ben steered the ambulance into the Pub's carpark and killed the engine.
"Alright everyone, time to let you guys sample some of the local brew...just don't try the Special Brew." He warned and he then climbed out, followed by the other travelers.
The 'Bat and Bell' Pub was a two story stricture comprising mostly of brick and flint. Ivy crept up one of the sides, and the building itself felt old. On the side that faced the carpark there were two windows, the upper floor was dark but the lower was lit, and appeared lively. The Ghostbusters walked around to the front and stood outside for a moment as a few patrons left. The front of the building had three windows on the top floor, two on the bottom with a door placed where the middle window would have been. Cylindrical black metal lanterns flagged the doors while awnings hung above the windows. Peter looked up. A large, wooden sign swung quietly in the breeze. The Pub's name was spelt out in gold curling script and the lettering was accompanied by a illustration of a church at night, a full moon and a bat flying past the lunar body. With the doorway now cleared, the Ghostbusters entered the building.
"Now this is somewhere I like." Peter Venkman announced enthusiastically. As it happened, usually when a Ghostbuster entered a room all eyes turned to them, their bizarre and eccentric appearance (No doubt undermined by their unusual uniforms), however, the Pub's regulars didn't seem to be too fussed when Ben stepped into the pub, albeit wearing his leather jacket over his blue and red jumpsuit. Several of the regulars studied the large group of newcomers.
"Ben." The Pub's landlord, who was busy cleaning a pint glass, greeted the leading Ghostbuster.
"Evening, Harrison...what's new?" Ben greeted with a smile on his face, it was something that made Peter smirk in surprise, he hardly ever saw the bespectacled Ghostbuster smile anymore.
"Not too much from th' usual, 'though we're gonna be clos'in a little early tonight, me an th' wife need to be leaving for London early tomorrow, we'll be closing at 'leven." Harrison explained. Ben checked his watch, it gave them about an hour.
"We'll keep that in mind, thanks." Ben nodded. He then turned to the other Ghostbusters. "Right, we've got Stella, Grolsch, Bud, Fosters, 'Old Rodger', Kroneburg and Tiger."
"Well...seeing as I've heard of only two of those beers..." Peter began. "I'd say we try a taster session."
"All I say is, be careful of the 'Old Roger', that stuff's pretty strong." Ben warned as he turned back to the Landlord. "A Stella for me."
He stood beneath an antiquated street lamp, on which hung a dented aluminum plate, bearing the name "Arcane Alley" emblazoned in green letters. This "square" was a more of a circular turnstyle, and in the middle was a fountain, with a large statue of a young wizard holding a great staff aloft. Vincent saw numerous shops around the square, and along the alleyways.
The largest building in the square was an old pub called "The Green Dragon." A beautiful young girl in a waitress' uniform emerged from the entrance, and lit the lamps outside of the door. There was laughing, and even singing emitting from the doorway, and Vincent could even see a few rowdy warlocks inside, singing arm in arm, and swinging around great flagons of beer.
It seems that not much has changed in Arcane Alley from the early 1800's. It was almost "cute." The whole place had a "colonial" feel to it.
Vincent strolled off down the alleyway away from the "Green Dragon." He would meet his contact there, but after nightfall. Vincent had a bit of shopping to do before then.
Vincent strolled down one of the darker alleyways, making his way past shipping crates with addresses written in old runic letters. Vincent glanced over at a trash can as he passed, and smirked as he saw a gremlin poke its head out of the trash can, munching on what looked like a glass beaker.
It was growing darker as he left the brightly lit walkways of Arcane Alley proper, and journeyed farther into the seedier side of the alley. He could now barely see where he was going. Vincent drew his wand out of his coat pocket, and struck the tip of it against the brick of the building next to him, as if lighting a match. The tip flared to life with a bright luminescence, and he saw several shadows flee the light of the wand. Drawing in a breath, he stepped out into the street.
The street was dismal, and was lit only by the occasional glass globe in which giant fireflies buzzed around inside. A few cloaked figures looked in Vincent's direction, before walking quickly away in the opposite direction. Vincent saw the myriad of grizzly shops that lined the street, and gulped. A few paces to his immediate left was a ramshackle hotel. He saw the glow of candlelight emitting from a few of the windows. A rickety board hung above the door, and squeaked at its hinges as it swayed in the cool night breeze. The sign read in a simple black scrawl, "Bram's Coffin."
Vincent walked down the street. He looked up at the sky, which was starless, and looming over him was the full moon.
"Strange," he thought, "It was sunset only a moment ago."
Vincent glanced into a few shop windows as he passed. He shuddered at the site of a large steel cage, housing a black spider with legs as long as his arms. He moved away from the window when he stubbed his toe on a large barrel, which housed a collection of human bones.
He walked at a quicker pace down the cobblestone path, and looked up at the signs of the stores. He dare not look in the windows. Not only was he unable to see through the dirty glass, but he had the distinct feeling he was being watched. He paused underneath a shop called "Twilight dreams." He looked behind him, and saw a couple of figures flee, giggling into the shadows. They looked like little children wearing Halloween costumes. Of the glimpse Vincent caught of the bags they carried, he clearly read the words "Trick or Treat."
Vincent looked into the shop window of "Twilight Dreams." The lamps inside provided a dull red illumination, and Vincent saw many figures relaxing on the floors and on couches. He caught a whiff of the pungent smell of Opium, and pulled his turtleneck over his mouth and nose. He spied a couple of women inside. They were attractive, from what he saw, but also realized that they were wearing nothing at all. He couldn't tell whether they were kissing and petting the prone men on the floor, still in their opium-induced stupor, or whether they were sucking on their necks...
What are you doing here, Belmont? He asked himself, get what you need here and get out.
"Hi," a soft, sultry voice called from the doorway.
Vincent quickly turned his head to see a woman standing in the doorway. She was tall , and had a tanned skin and coal black hair that reached down to her ankles. She wore a black cloak, and moved in graceful strides as she glided over to Vincent. She took his hand.
"Come on in, sweetie, I'll make you feel right at home. Whatever you want..."
She wrapped her other arm around Vincent's shoulder, and pulled him close. Vincent caught a glimpse of her nude form under the open cloak, and blushed. He found himself wanting to go in. He couldn't tell whether it was a male weakness, or if it was the smell of the opium, or even the cheesy sitar music emitting from the building that enticed him. He lowered his wand, and the light from it died down and snuffed itself out. His brain screamed at him to run, but his body did not follow.
"I'll be your girl..." she whispered softly into his ear.
Something inside him snapped him back into reality. He thought of Jill. He pushed the woman away, and pointed the wand at her.
"Sacres Flammae!" he spat in disgust, as the tip of the wand burst into bluish white flames. The woman cringed and hissed in an inhuman voice, baring two vicious-looking fangs. She covered her eyes and slinked away from the solar radiance into one of the alleyways. She looked up, and hissed at Vincent as she walked backwards on her hands and feet, and crawled up onto one of the alley walls in spastic movements. She sank into the shadows and disappeared.
Vincent ran down the street, no longer looking in any windows at all. He only glanced at the store signs as he ran past, stopping at one that read "Voodoo Majik." He pushed open the door, that rung a small bell as he entered, and slammed it shut behind him.
He glanced around at the inside of the shop. Numerous small dead animals hung from their necks on the ceiling. Shelves lined the walls, with jars containing foul components, which Vincent would guess were not given up willingly. Shrunken heads lined a glass case in the shop window, and above it on small pillows rested grisly objects, which included a straw doll, a bone necklace, and a mummified hand.
Vincent approached the counter and stuffed his wand in his coat pocket, finding the room to be aptly lit by candlelight. The counter displayed powders and herbs, and many books with tentative titles such as "Finding the Loa," "The Book of Samhedi," and "The Bokor's Black Book."
"Go away, Senor!" called a deep baritone voice from the back, "Ahm closed for de night, ya?"
Vincent knew the voice well, but still never discerned by his accent whether the man was of Jamaican or Spanish descent.
"You hear me, senor?" the voice shouted again, as a man lumbered into view, "Ahm closed! Get odda here or I shrink ye head good!"
The man paused when he caught sight of Vincent. The man was black, and stood over 6 feet tall, being almost as big around as he was tall. He was bald, and had eyes of pure white. He wore only a dirty white shirt and a black vest, and a pair of wide pantaloons that came down to his knees. He wore a miriad of bizarre jewelry that appeared to be made of chicken bones. He pasted on a false grin, showing a gold tooth among the rows of white teeth he had.
"Allo, Ingles..." he grunted, "what brings ye to me 'umble shop?"
"Monsignor Domino..." Vincent scowled, "...do you have what I need?"
"Whatever do ye mean, Ingles?" Domino grinned, "I 'ave no idea what'choo be talkin' bout. Why don'choo refresh ol' Domino's memory, ya?"
Vincent slammed his hands down on the counter and leaned over, spitting out his sentances in harsh whispers.
"The Aglopholis, you idiot!"
Monsignor Domino's fake smile faded.
"Ah know, Ingles." Domino mumbled, "but what's de other stuff for, ya? What'choo be wantin' wit' White Claudia? You....hooked on it, Ingles?"
Vincent's knuckles turned white and his face contorted with fury.
"Don't toy with me, Domino, I am in no mood...I'm in a hurry."
"Yah, yah, Ingles...you an dat band o' monkeys is gonna stop 'dis "Gozer."
Vincent turned white. "H...How did you know..."
Monsignor Domino laughed loud and long. "No secrets here, Ingles. Everybody know about wass' goin' down. Dey all tink dat there's no worries. Fortune tellers be sayin' dat Gozer's never gonna arrive. Baron Samehdi say "Let 'im come."
Vincent was silent for a moment.
"Do you have the merchandise?" Vincent said, still lost in thought.
"My price 'as doubled to fifteen dubloons."
"WHAT?!?" Vincent shouted in protest, "We agreed on seven doubloons and ten reales!"
Monsignor Domino stood up to his full height. "Dat stuff not easy to come by, Ingles! You lucky I even get it for you at all! De only place to get it anymore is de one place dat no sane wizards ever gonna go. Dis is de last I got...my contact no send it no more. Last I 'erd from 'im was over t'ree years ago."
Both men remained silent. Domino drew in a breath, and leaned over the counter, and his massive bulk made the counter creak. "I no like you, Ingles...you deal wit' some wicked wanga. You even beat ol' Mardi Gras Chalmette at 'is own game. You even 'ad Baron Samehdi 'imself choose YOU as 'is horse...but'choo buck 'im off.....Why, Ingles? WHY? Why you do what'choo do?"
Vincent glowered at him. "My business is my own.....Eight doubloons, and ten reales."
"Twelve doubloons!" Monsignor bellowed.
"Nine doubloons, five reales..."
Monsignor glared at him.
"I wonder what de Hermetic Order would tink of you havin' White Claudia in your possession, Ingles...?" Monsignor grinned sadistically, "SIXTEEN doubloons...pay up or get ou'dda my shop."
Vincent pulled a small crystal orb out of his front pocket and waved it in front of Domino's face. Domino saw an image inside the orb...Domino saw himself in a graveyard...digging up graves, and stuffing dead bodies into burlap sacks.
"I wonder," Vincent said, scratching his chin and speaking in a mock Jamaican accent, "what de aut'orities would tink about'choo diggin' up de graveyards of Salem?"
Domino slammed his huge fist into the counter, causing a very large crack to appear in the wood.
"Baron Samehdi take you, you scandelous Ingles warlock!!!" Domino roared.
"Nine doubloons, and ten reales." Vincent sneered, "Hell, I'll even throw in six pieces of eight."
Monsignor stood up to his full height again, and turned to walk into the back room.
"Meet me in de pumpkin patch in five minutes." Domino grumbled.
"...Time Egon got drunk" Venkman was slurring.
"The Prof?" Robert slurred back incredulously. "Hard imagining that, Mate...how'd you manage that?"
"Wasn't me, I swear...." Venkman giggled back. "Some businessman was makin' time with with his wife....course that was twelve years before they got married, but still..."
Ben looked back at his glass and downed the rest of his Stella, he'd decided to simply nurse the drink over the evening as they needed someone to drive them back to the HQ. To Ben's left Eric was taking a drink from his glass of Tiger before resuming his conversation with Joey, they seemed to be debating the principals the Microsoft X-Box versus the Sony Playstation.
Ben smiled as he scanned the pub. It had been some time since he'd really been down the Pub and enjoyed himself. He decided then and there, that whenever the original GBUK line up were operating the 'Day Shift' and were off duty, he'd try head down to the local with Iain, Tommy and Roger more often just to have a few pints and relax. Ben studied his watch, it was a quarter to ten that evening and they had to be finishing up soon. He looked up as he saw Harrison step over to a pillar at one of the corners of the bar and he rang a old brass ship's bell that hung from a metal support mount drilled into the wooden pillar.
"Time, Ladies and Gentlemen. Last Orders."
"Dosh anyone whant anyt'ing elsh?" Peter slurred.
"I think we'd better...hic...jush have a Coke." Robert replied, taking a moment to steady himself.
"I'm fine." Ben replied, watching Peter and Robert with amusement.
"We're..." Eric paused before finishing his glass, which had happened to be his second glass of Tiger. "Done." He set the glass down.
"Me too." Joey replied.
"Okay...I'll be right back..." Peter replied, he then stood up from the table, and to his credit, seemed to work with a lot of stability while sauntering over to the bar. "Two Cokes, pleash." He asked, making sure he actually held up two fingers.
As he took his first sip of the thick, dark beer, he noticed a small sound. it was a sound he didn't even notice until now. It was a sniffling sound, and of labored breathing. It was the sound of a woman gently crying in the dark. He went to turn on the kitchen light, but a voice stopped him.
"No..." said the broken voice of Jill Valentine, "...No lights, please."
"As you wish, hon," Ben mumbled, remembering all too clear the previous events of the evening, "you want to talk about it?"
"No." Jill stated plainly.
"Okay," Ben said in the dark, "well, this old man's just going to sit down, and enjoy his nightcap by candlelight at the table. If anyone should talk to him, he just won't listen."
Ben sat down at the table and lit a small candle, only slightly illuminating the room. He took another sip of his beer and looked across the table at the silhouette of Jill. Small features of her face flickered in the candlelight. He looked away, and rested his arm on the table as he sat "side-saddle" in the chair.
"How could he say that to me?" Ben heard Jill's voice ask him.
"How can you even believe that he meant that?" Ben asked her softly.
"I've seen Vincent become angry, he does it alot...but...never to me...never..." she said with a quivering voice, "...he just...totally..."
"I know Vincent pretty well," Ben mused, "and if there's one thing I learned about him, is that he gets angry with two things...ignorance, and disappointment. He sets people to high standards, and expects them to do their best, and he is often disappointed...especially when it involves people who should know better. He's often said that he doesn't blame people for their mistakes, but he does ask that they pay for them."
Ben sat in silence for only a moment, and continued.
"Another thing that disappoints him, is oddly enough, himself. If he places others to high standards, he places himself to impossible ones. He's disappointed with himself when he loses control of a situation. When he is at a loss to solve a problem, or he feels that he can't protect those who can't protect themselves, he gets angry with himself. He just never really gets that he's only one man."
"Granted, he can come and go at will, and he can do things that most consider unnatural," he chuckled, "but he IS a wizard, you know, but he can't do everything. All he should really focus on is doing what he can, and believe me, that's MORE than enough. He gets angry because he feels responsible...it's his creed that everything is his responsibility, and that is running him ragged."
Jill wiped at her eyes, and her tears renewed.
"I wish none of this ever happened to us," she sobbed quietly, "I wish we could live a normal life, and not have to worry about...."
Ben looked at her and smiled, his eyes shining in the candlelight.
"So do ALL who come to see such times, but that is not for them to decide..." Ben recited in his own "fatherly" tone, "...what is for them to decide is what to do with the time that is given to them."
Jill stopped crying, and dried her eyes. Ben smiled.
"It was Vincent who told me that, Jill, and he's right. I heard it from the lips of another wise but fictitious wizard in a Hollywood film, but when Vincent told me, I actually believed it."
Jill looked up at Ben and sighed. Ben reached across the table and patted her hand, and got up from the table.
"Now, you dry your eyes, and know that Vincent is looking out for you. He's left to seek the answer to our problems." Ben said as he took another sip of his beer and walked to the kitchen.
"Vincent left? He left without saying goodbye?" Jill asked, slightly hurt.
Ben chuckled, "don't worry, hon. He most likely didn't say goodbye because he plans on being back shortly...and didn't want to upset you."
"But..." Jill protested.
"I won't hear another word of it," Ben said as he smiled, "go get some rest. You'll be the first to know when he returns, I promise."
Ben left the kitchen, and walked towards his own room. Jill sat in the kitchen for only moments after she heard Ben's door close.
Thanks, Ben. Jill thought, I think I'll go to bed. I'll be patient, and I'll see him in my dreams.
Jill stood up, and took the candle with her out of the kitchen. The hallways illuminated with a dull glow as she reached the bedroom door. The last thing heard in the building that night, was the audible click of the door to Vincent and Jill's room closing.
"White Claudia," Vincent mused, "this stuff makes cocaine look tame. I'd better not be seen with this."
With that, Vincent wrapped his hands around the bottle, and wrung his hands. The bottle seemed to be swallowed up by his hands and disappeared entirely. He stuffed the bottle of Aglopholis into his satchel.
Vincent pushed open the door of the shop in front of him. He drew in some deep breaths, taking in the sweet smells of the incense wafting out of the shop. He chuckled at the various signs in the shop, which were written in Mandarin Chinese, and underneath in English. He fingered through the various talismans that hung on small displays, and admired the dragon statuettes. The silver, gold, and jade that was in this place was worth a fortune. He passed a shelf with more than a hundred stones, powders, incense candle sticks, and reagents. The smell made his nose sting.
"Well, if it isn't Dr. Belmont!" called a gruff, but aged Asian voice from across the counter.
"How are you, Egg?" asked Vincent, picking up a few incense sticks, and considering picking up a couple of fingers of Jade.
"Things are a bit slow right now," Egg Shen replied. He removed his small black hat and puffed on his pipe. "This Gozer thing has business at a bit of a standstill. Even though all of the fortunes say that Gozer will never step foot on Earth, no one will do any shopping! Mr. Wing next door has closed up entirely and just sits in his private sanctum in his basement with his menagerie."
Vincent approached the counter, carrying some selected items. He even picked up a dragon incense burner.
"Do you know how to use a that dragon intense burner?" Shen asked, pointing at it with his pipe.
"Yeah, you light the end of it," Vincent chuckled, getting a look of stern bemusement from Egg Shen, "Kidding, Egg, kidding...if you'll recall, my first magics I learned were Alchemy and Chinese Black Magic. I was taught those by Master ZhuZhen Liu."
Egg Shen smiled, and his eyes brightened. "Ahhhhh!" he exclaimed, thrusting his index finger into the air. He turned around and walked into the back room. "I almost forgot! Master ZhuZhen left something for you the other day."
Shen returned with a small brown package wrapped in a length of hemp. Vincent eyed it closely, and then placed it in his satchel.
"How is Master ZhuZhen?" Vincent asked, placing his purchase on the counter.
"He's gone with Dr. Lao to Shanghai. It looks like there's a bit of trouble brewing in China. Master ZhuZhen is certain that you will see to the situation at hand. He also tells me to give you this to give to your friend Mr. Inugami..." Shen fished out a small silver crucifix necklace and placed it in Vincent's hand. "Zhuzhen says that it belonged to his ancestor."
"I'll give it to him" Vincent said, slightly befuddled about it. He walked away from the counter to a shelf of vials, and began taking all of the vials off the shelf, loading his arms with them.
"Quick question, Egg," Vincent asked, placing the last vial under his chin as he carefully walked over to the counter again, "Do you know anything about the Staff of Merlin?"
Egg Shen shook his head as he puffed away on his pipe.
"Oh," Vincent said with a tone of disappointment. He opened his arms slowly, allowing the vials to drop safely onto the counter, "I was hoping to find some information on it."
"What is all this?" Shen exclaimed, as Vincent placed a handful of crystals from a nearby bowl onto the counter, "You plan on doing some powerful magic? You plan on taking on all of the Oni in hell?" Shen chuckled, and gestured to all of the items Vincent had on the counter.
"I'm stocking up for the coming days ahead. It's ammunition for the battle. We have to stop Gozer from coming here." Vincent said, more solemnly, "and it looks like I've just bought your entire stock of your special 'elixir'."
Egg Shen scratched his beard and puffed on his pipe. He pushed away the bag of coins that Vincent dropped in front of him, and began to place everything in Vincent's satchel.
"No," he grunted, "this is my donation to your cause."
"But," Vincent protested, "well...thanks...but the incense burner is for me personally..."
Egg Shen walked from around the counter, and placed the satchel on Vincent's shoulder, stuffing in the Jade dragon. Shen chuckled, and pushed him towards the door. "Bah! I'll put it on your tab...get over to the Green Dragon. I hear someone is looking for you."
Vincent turned around as he pushed open the door. "Thanks for everything, Egg."
Egg Shen waved from the door as Vincent walked out into Arcane Alley square. "Give them hell for me, Vincent, and remember me when you run out of Dragon Powder!"
Vincent approached the bar and rapped on the counter loudly. The bartender lumbered out of the back room. He was an ox of a man, standing well over six and a half feet tall, and almost three feet wide, with arms as big as tree trunks. Vincent was unsure of his age, but from the looks of him, Vincent guessed he was approaching 90. His head seemed shrunken, sitting on top of his monstrous shoulders, and his small beard twitched as he smiled.
"The usual, little man?" he grunted.
"You know me, Lucius," Vincent chuckled as he scanned the interior of the tavern, "say, Lucius. Have you seen Gabe?"
Lucius scratched at his beard as his face contorted, as if trying to recall something that happened a decade ago. "Can't say that I have, Slim, but someone left a message for ya." Lucius reached into his shirt pocket and withdrew a black envelope with "Belmont" written in red cursive script. "Looks a might fishy to me, sonny.
Vincent turned over the envelope after it was handed to him and broke open the wax seal on the back. Vincent caught a whiff of Sulphur as he drew out the letter. Lucius raised one eyebrow suspiciously and ambled off, mumbling "I think I'll get you that drink now."
Vincent read the letter silently to himself.
I am waiting for you in the far corner of the tavern. Your request has been heard, and your order has been processed. We may now discuss terms of payment.
Vincent took his drink and wandered past all of the tables and to the dimly lit booths in the back room. As he approached, the chatter of his fellow wizards, the music, the warm light, and the very life of the room seemed to diminish with every step he took towards the darkest of the booths. Vincent slid into one of the far booth seats as darkness engulfed him completely, and the loud and boisterous tavern was nothing more than a smattering of whispers.
Across the table, a face loomed into view. The face could almost be described as plain, except for his cold expression. His facial stubble, as well as the shadows around him, seemed to thicken as he smiled devilishly. His small green bowler sat upon his head, and his mirrored shades never betrayed his sinister nature. He tugged on the collar of his business suit as he spoke Vincent's name, pausing slightly between each word.
"Vincent ... Abraham ... Belmont." he seemed to hiss.
Vincent sat staring, saying not one word.
"Well, I am here, Master Belmont..." his voice oozed. His smile broadened.
"I am not your master, Renon, and you came of your own accord." Vincent growled.
"How very astute, young Master Belmont," he grinned, "nothing gets by you. Yes, I came of my own accord. When I heard that you were in need of something very...rare...I couldn't help but wonder what it is that you were looking for. As for the other thing...well, let's say that everything is all there."
Vincent scowled. "You were listening in, weren't you? You were there the entire time."
Renon took a sip of a thick red liquid from a gold teacup. Vincent didn't even want to know what it was. "I was away on business, Master Belmont. However, I have my sources." Renon sniffed, "the bottom line, is that the Ghostbusters are going...to WAR."
Vincent stared intently at Renon as he sipped away at his teacup.
"Ahhh...still warm..." Renon mused, "I like it like that." He sat back into the shadows, and only his folded hands could be seen on the table. He waved his left hand, and a black briefcase floated onto the table, and opened by itself. Inside, a fist-sized glass orb sat in the black velvet lining of the case. Inside the globe, a multicolored hue swirled within it. Yet, despite its eerie glow, it did nothing to push back the black shadows of the booth. Vincent looked up to see only the orb's light mirrored in Renon's glasses.
"All five Hermetic elements are contained within this crystal orb. I think it contains enough pure matter to suit your needs." Renon explained, his tone becoming friendlier, but no less unsettling.
Vincent touched the orb, and looked up again. "How much?"
"I think 7000 sounds about right...after all, you wouldn't believe the strings I had to pull to get ahold of it." Renon said.
"Seven THOUSAND?!?" Vincent hissed, "that's robbery!"
Renon merely shrugged, and shook his head.
Vincent set a small leather purse on the table. There was an audible jingle of metal coins inside.
"Greedy bastard. You know this is about 5 years of savings..."
Renon chuckled as he snapped his fingers. The bag vanished in a puff of flame, and the sickening odor of sulphur. "The orb is yours, Master Belmont. I appreciate your business. I will have it delivered to England, along with your message."There was a small ringing sound as Renon produced a gold pocketwatch. He opened it, and stared at it.
"Anything else, Master Belmont? It appears I have a brand new customer."
Vincent was silent for only a moment, but spoke up when Renon put away his watch. "Ever hear of the Staff of Merlin?"
Renon looked almost shocked, but sipped again at his drink and smiled. "Why, yes, I have. You have an interest in it?"
"Don't tell me it's for sale.." Vincent stammered, looking quite taken back.
Renon laughed, and his cackle sent a shiver down Vincent's spine. "Oh, mercy, no!" he chuckled, "but what a price THAT would fetch! Seriously, though, I can't get it for you directly, but I can point you in the right direction...you Belmonts have been one of my top customers over the centuries..."
Renon grinned from ear to ear. Vincent's hand slowly reached for his pocket. Before Renon could speak, Vincent slammed a silver coin onto the table.
"What's THAT for?" Renon asked.
"Payment," Vincent said in a cold voice, "I would never risk an I.O.U. to someone like you. I trust you as far as I can throw you with a lame arm."
Renon's eyes pierced the darkness with a bright red hue. His hands folded tightly, and Vincent could see his knuckles go white. Renon's voice grew inhuman for a moment, and the fury in his voice was unmistakable.
"Very...astute...Belmont..." he hissed. Vincent only smiled.
Renon's voice was friendly as ever, as if the last words to leave his lips were never spoken. "Visit the owner of Henson and Hurt's arcane booksellers," Renon said with a bright smile, "Mr. Hurt is known for being quite the storyteller. He might know where the Staff may be."
Renon placed a hand on the briefcase, and shut it. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have another customer waiting...it has been a pleasure, as always." With that, Renon disappeared, and the darkness left with him. The light, the noise, and the warmth of the tavern returned, placing Vincent at ease. He looked around him, and saw Lucius standing over him. A very frightened waitress was cowering behind him, glancing at Vincent with accusing eyes.
Lucius glared at Vincent. "I think it'd be best if you left for awhile, son." Lucius said, coldly, "Just get out, and I won't tell the Quaesitors what you were just talking to...you missed your friend. He said he'd talk to you later. He just left you this." With that, Lucius handed him a large paper package, by the feel of it, Vincent guessed it was his great grandfather's jacket inside.
Vincent took the package and nodded, quickly leaving the bar.
Vincent hastily ripped off the paper wrap on the package and donned the long black duster, he threw his black fedora on hastily and stopped only momentarily to look at himself in the reflection of the Green Dragon's windows. He was startled by the sounds of heavy footsteps marching down the alleyway. They were perfect, and rhythmic, as if a platoon of soldiers were marching towards the tavern.
"Quaesitors..." Vincent mumbled to himself.
Five tall wizards dressed in black flowing robes, and wearing black cowls that hid their faces came into view, marching in perfect formation quickly towards the tavern. Vincent pulled down the brim of his hat, hiding his features as they strode past and into the front doors.
"Hit wizards?" Vincent thought to himself nervously, "Why hit wizards?"
He quickly strode down the streets, and broke into a jog. He neared the end of the alleyway and looked out into the main street. All of the shops were abandoned and empty. The windows were shuttered, and signs hung on the doors in clear red letters: "Closed."Vincent's heart began to race when he saw another group of black-clad wizards standing in the streets, their staves lit up radiantly at their tips, scouring the streets; looking for someone...for him.
Vincent nearly lept out of his skin when he felt something nudge the back of his leg. He whipped his wand out of his jacket and pointed it at the offender, with an oft-repeated spell about to leave his lips. He found himself staring at the frightened face of...
"Hey!" the dog hissed, "Watch it with that thing! You could have done some real damage to me, and the Quaesitors would have you for sure!" it whispered.
Vincent was speechless. It took him a few seconds to register "talking dog" into the long catalogue of weird things he'd encountered over his lifetime, and he lowered the wand.
"Come on," the dog whispered again, "my master sent me to get you. He's waiting for us right now. We need to get you indoors, before..."
Vincent's heart skipped a beat as he heard one of the black clad wizards speak. "Did you hear that?" one of them spoke, "over there..."
The dog began running down the opposite end of the alleyway. Vincent wasted no time in following the strange dog through the twists and turns of the back alleys, some of them being no wider than a few feet. Vincent could hardly see through the darkness, but he ran anyway, trying to make his footsteps as soft as possible. He dared not risk using any form of light for fear of being found.
The dog stopped at the end of an alley leading out to the main road. It peered out sheepishly, walking out slowly, it's tail curled up between its legs. Vincent followed suit, and looked out into the main street. It was completely abandoned. Across the street, stood a very large antique storefront. A large sign hung from the second floor, reading "Henson and Hurt Arcane Booksellers" in colorful, flowery lettering.
"This way" the dog whispered as it darted across the street. Vincent looked both ways again before running to the storefront across the street. Vincent almost stopped short when he realized that the door to the shop was opening. An elderly face peeked out from behind the door. The door opened, and the dog ran inside. Vincent saw the old man behind the door ushering him in. He was a man in his late seventies. His thin and jowled face was pale and drawn. His large knobby nose, and feathered cloak made him appear to be some enormous bird. The creases of his face illuminated with the small candle he held in his hand. His eyes were intense as he stared at Vincent, as if he were a hawk, sizing up his prey. Vincent wasted no time stepping inside.
The old man locked the door behind him. He turned around to look Vincent eye to eye. The old man's face twisted into a smile. "Good," the old man said, "you're here."
"Mr. Duncan Hurt, I presume?" Vincent asked in a voice barely audible.
"The same," Duncan said, "and I see that you've met Brian."
"Who is Brian?" Vincent asked as Duncan led him through the shop. Duncan turned to Vincent, staring at him as if Vincent had just said something absurd.
"The dog." Duncan stated as he and Vincent continued their trek through the shop.
Henson and Hurt's Arcane Booksellers was a store that put most bookstores to shame. The store seemed even larger on the inside. All of the woodwork in the store was of finely-polished oak, and the upholstery was of the finest red velvet. The bookshelves were so high that Vincent could not see the top of them in the candle's dim illumination. Stacks of tomes piled up high on small carts, some of them stacked sideways and diagonally, defying the laws of physics. Vincent walked past hundreds of tomes, shelved alphabetically by title, some of the names written in foreign languages. Small black signs in gold lettering marked the sections of the shelves, with subjects such as "Alchemy" and "Magical History." They walked past glass cases with numerous scrolls, some of them appeared to be hundreds of years old.
Beyond the store, Duncan led Vincent and his dog through the laquered and decorated hallways and up a grand set of winding stairs. On the second floor hallway, he led them to a small sitting room lit by a crackling fire. Duncan took off his feathery cloak and hung it on a rosewood coat hanger. He replaced the cloak that hung over him with a red velvet smoking jacket. Vincent followed suit by taking off his coat and hat and placed them on the coat rack. Duncan sat down in a very large chair, and waved for Vincent to sit in the chair next to him.
"Well?" Duncan said, expectantly, "sit!"
Vincent took a moment to admire the opulence of Mr. Hurt's sitting room. It was quite obvious that he was a VERY rich man.
Duncan clapped his hands twice, and a small silver tea set floated over to the table next to him and started preparing tea on its own. Vincent almost forgot that he was fleeing the Quaesitors, and admired the small wonders of Duncan's home. Duncan handed Vincent a small ceramic teacup. Vincent sipped at it, and his body relaxed as the sweet nectar he tasted warmed his body.
"Now," said Duncan, bringing Vincent out of his trance, "down to business."
"Why are hit wizards after me?" Vincent blurted out.
"Why?" Duncan asked, surprised that Vincent could be so oblivious, ''Good Dr. Belmont, you should KNOW why. You consorted with one of the damned this night, and that is a crime...oh yes....very bad indeed. Now, even though you did so for a greater good, now they have something on you."
"They?" Vincent asked as he took another sip.
"Yes, they." Duncan said as he grabbed a poker from a metal basket near his chair and prodded the logs on the fire. The dog, Brian, curled up on a rug in front of the fire."We all know about the movement of that deplorable cultus of Zildrohar. The problem is, that there are a couple members in our order whom we've suspected of being part of it. The problem is, we have no proof."
"Why the hit wizards?" Vincent asked again.
"They mean to take you out, Vincent, and they're doing so legally. They have you for a crime, and if they can arrest you, and subject you to a tribunal, then you are out of the way."
"How did they know so quickly?" Vincent asked.
Duncan sipped his tea as he sighed. "They've been watching you for a long time. The Quaesitors are not supposed to spy on each other, but...someone's given the orders to spy on you, and now they have you for a crime. Until we find out who's on this cult's payroll, all we can do is hide you."
Vincent set down the cup. He lowered his head, shamed at what he's done. "Look, I know what I did was wrong, but why are you even hiding me? I committed a willing crime, regardless of intent."
Duncan set down his cup and leaned over to Vincent, speaking in hushed whispers, as if they were being watched.
"Now that's the trick, isn't it?" Duncan whispered, "your family has been nothing but a boon to battling evil for centuries, when Lord Leon Belmont commited his line to battling the children of the night during the Crusades. When he took that blood oath with his beloved, Sarah, he empowered the Belmont clan with that special something....that edge. All of his descendants; Trevor, Simon, Christopher, Juste, Richter, and countless other Belmonts have followed in his footsteps. You, my young friend, have followed, as well. You have a wonderful track record, Vincent, and the Magus Dominus has overlooked your more "shady" dealings with that demon, Renon. After all, it wasn't even YOU that signed that hellish contract. It was one of your family before you, though, once removed from the Belmont name; Reinhardt Schneider. I find it almost humorous that you also have wizard blood ties, as well. Young Carrie Fernandez, who fought alongside Reinhardt against Dracula in 1852, married a Belmont. Now, she was a descendant of Sypha Balnades, a powerful sorceress that helped Trevor Belmont defeat Dracula in 1476...."
"This is all interesting, Duncan," Vincent protested, "but what's that got to do with..."
"Oh, sorry," Duncan chuckled, "I do go on with my stories....anyway, the point is that the Magus Dominus has overlooked all of that because of who you are, and who your family is. We know that your intentions are pure, and we are willing to aid you."
"Why doesn't the Magus Dominus contact me himself?" Vincent mused, "what's stopping him from from stepping in?"
"He too, is being watched," Duncan said, with his voice carrying an ominous tone that almost seemed like he was embellishing for show, "he doesn't want to endanger you by contacting you directly, that's why he left that job to others. Now, what I'M wondering, is why you're here...the rumor mill is spinning that you are in search of something important."
"Yes....the Staff of Merlin."
The room was quiet, as Duncan sat back in his chair. he mused for a moment.
"Why would you need such a powerful artifact?" Duncan inquired, "and even if you found it, what would you do with it?"
Vincent looked at Duncan. The old man's face went stern, as if Vincent were being scrutinized. Duncan folded his hands, silent; expecting an answer, of which Vincent had none. He thought long and hard, thinking about his plan, and of his friends. He thought about his outburst at the England headquarters, and of his injuring Adam in anger, and his harsh words even to his beloved.
"I wish I could do many things with it," Vincent answered, solemnly, "but all I can do with it is do what I can."
"Then, let's hope that is enough."
Duncan prodded at the logs in the fire again.
"Truth is, young Belmont, that no one knows exactly where the Staff of Merlin resides...because no one knows where the man himself passed on. I only remember a poem about Merlin, and that is the only possible clue I could give you. The tricky part is, figuring out that clue."
"So, Merlin died in Avalon?" Vincent asked."Across the sea of dreams, lies a castle of Gold,
where the circle of justice, a council will hold.
Beyond the forest of Oberon, to Camelot's gates,
The guardian and councellor, Merlin awaits.
Deep in the mountain, the enchanter doth sleep,
Awaiting a brother to office, keep.
His sign of office, he shall give,
That in selfless valor, others may live.
To fight the shadow that seeks to defile,
To keep the safety of the emerald isle."
"Perhaps," Duncan mused, "but many people have tried to reach Avalon, and they have failed. No one knows where it is."
"Well, obviously, it's an island," Vincent said, "the only question is where it might be."
"Well," Duncan said as he rose from his chair, "there might be a way to do that...if you are willing to risk it. Other wizards have had the foolish idea to go off searching for Merlin's fabled wand, but many have never been heard from again."
Vincent stood as well. "The safety of Earth is at stake again, and it's my job to take risks to ensure its safety."
"Very well," Duncan sighed, as he strode to one of the room's bookcases. He plucked out a scroll from one of the shelves and handed it to Vincent. "This contains a spell of travel upon the waters. It is a very dangerous spell, as you must know how to word it. Unfortunately, many wizards have become lost, and never seen again due to this spell."
Vincent took the scroll, and looked at it nervously.
"How could a spell like this get you lost if you state clearly where you want to go?" Vincent asked.
"Perhaps," Duncan thought aloud, "just perhaps that it is a spell that doesn't take you to where you WANT to go, but rather where you NEED to be..."
Vincent looked at the fire, and stood in silence. He looked down at the ancient parchment in his hands and made his decision. Vincent grabbed his hat and coat from the hanger, and put them on. Duncan, following Vincent's lead put on his cloak and grabbed a walking stick from behind the door, and turning around only to tell the dog, "Stay, boy." Without so much as an exchange of words, Vincent and Duncan left the building.
The form of Roger Kennedy flew past Iain in a blur. Looking down the hall, Iain saw that Roger was, in fact, following Egon. Both looked as though they too, were rudely awakened from their slumber. Iain stopped Ben King Sr, who had also joined the chase.
"What's going on?" he asked frantically, "are you reading this?" Iain gasped. "Yeah," Ben stammered as Fritz Baugh, Jeff Nash, and Peter Venkman ran past them, "I don't know what's going on, but it looks like it's coming from Belmont's office!"
Iain and Ben joined in the chase down the hall. Their hearts racing almost as fast as their feet as they sped down the dark hallways.
"Get the packs!" he heard Roger bark ahead. Iain heard the sounds of scuffling and dragging equipment from behind them, as several other Ghostbusters joined them.
Iain and Ben rounded the corner to Belmont's office, and stopped short as they saw the others gathered outside of the office door. All of them were breathing heavily. They listened to the last few chimes of Vincent's office clock through the door as the clock struck midnight. Iain looked again at his PKE meter. It was silent, as if there wasn't a ghost around for miles. Ben looked at him, at a loss for words. A few questioning glances were exchanged among the crowd of sleepy pajama-wearing Ghostbusters.
"Anybody else reading anything?" Roger whispered back.
Everyone shook their heads.
Egon hesitantly opened the door and looked inside cautiously. He strolled into the room, bewildered. Vincent's office was untouched, save for a small crystal orb sitting on the desk, with a brown package underneath. A note was attached to the side. As the rest of the Ghostbusters filed in, Egon looked around suspiciously, and grabbed the note. He read it aloud.
"Who's 'R'?" Jeff asked.
"I don't know," Egon mused, uneasy.
"Boy, is it cold in here..." Roger muttered as he folded his arms.
"Yer wearin' boxers, mate..." Iain stated, matter-of-factly. Roger only shrugged. "It is a might chilly in here, though," Iain muttered, finding himself agreeing with Roger after all.
"What's that smell?" Ben asked, sniffing the air.
"Wasn't me..." Adam Bestler said immediately, squeezing himself into the now crowded office. "Sulphur?" Fritz wondered aloud, looking around the room. Everyone stared back at him, all of them shared the same uneasy expressions.
"Are you sure you want to do this?" Duncan asked.
"Certain," Vincent said, "every moment I waste here is a moment that could bring us closer to doom."
Vincent kicked the boat out into the water and quickly hopped in. He grabbed the oar fixed to the rear of the gondola and immediately started rowing out further into the waters. he turned around for one last look at Mr. Duncan Hurt, standing on the docks. Mr. Hurt was waving at him.
"God speed, young Belmont!" he shouted, "may the waters fare thee well!"
Vincent waved back to Duncan as he disappeared from view. The small craft cut through the waters, and the fog weaved around Vincent and his boat as he heard the waters slap lightly against the gondola. He rowed several times, alowing the boat to drift out into the open waters. He could barely see the front of his own boat let alone anything beyond it. It was growing dark...gone was the comfort of Arcane Alley's street lamps, and renewed was the bitter eldritch cold he felt traveling through the astral roads to Arcane Alley itself. He breathed deeply, and pulled out the scroll to examine it. He squinted through his quickly fogging glasses and picked apart what he needed from the fading ink of the Latin scrawled on the scroll.
He breathed deeply, and spoke his spell aloud: "Vocate venti fortunate ex rege Oberonis et hic navis flugem regate ad orae Avalonis."
His voiced echoed, and trailed off into the gloom.
"Hmm." Ben mused and opened the email, the message read:
Subject: GBI Chat request
We need to hold a web conference tonight...around 12 our time...some stuff's come up concerning Louis and Dana...stuff that you guys need to know...we're aiming to get onto the system at around 12:00-12:20...so that'll be something like 5:00-5:20 this afternoon...email me if that time is no good because I will be taking no reply as a sign that you can get on then.
-Talk to you guys soon.
With the message read, Ben got up from his seat and ran to Iain's Lab.
"Iain...Professor Spengler...Dr Stantz has sent us a message...he wants to hold a conference over the new chat software from GBI." Ben King Jr reported.
"When?" Egon asked.
"Tonight." Ben replied.
Roland, having just opened the door to Ghostbusters Central, rolled his eyes and set his duffel bag down on the floor of the firehouse. Eduardo and Kylie, who'd been trying to provoke a smile out of Rose, looked up and signaled their own greetings.
"Muchacho..." Eduardo said, high-fiving him. "So how were things in Tahiti? Lots of chicas, huh?"
Kylie rolled her eyes and told her daughter "Ignore your father, Rose. He's off in Macho Land again..."
Just two weeks before, Roland had attained his PhD in Electrical Engineering. Venkman had surprised him with a vacation in Tahiti to celebrate. "Even though I won't be there with you, and of course Tahiti without Venkman is disgusting..."
"I won't complain. Eddie, is the Professor here?"
"He's in England on business." Garrett responded. "Don't change the subject."
Roland made a dismissive noise of his own, and went over to the reception desk. "Where's Janine?"
"The lights flashed a few minutes ago, so she ran up stairs to see what the gremlins were doing..." Garrett replied simply.
Janine appeared, dragging her son by the arm, her daughter close behind. "How may times has your father told you not to try and put aluminum in the microwave?! This reminds me of the time you tried to blow yourself up!!!" Winston was behind the Spenglers, looking like he couldn't decide whether to laugh or offer his own parental advice.
"That would've worked if you hadn't stopped me!!!" John replied with defiant sulkiness.
Eden saw an opportunity to redirect the conversation: "Doctor Jackson!!!"
It worked. Janine looked up. "Hey! Look who's back! Roland, I'll talk to you later in the afternoon--I'm taking these two over to get some lunch. And some Ritalin." She added with sarcastic exasperation.
"I'll see you in a little while, Mrs. S." Roland nodded as the threesome left.
Winston waved goodbye to his old friend and turned to look at his newer comrades. "I'll be upstairs if you need me--Ray will be by later to compare notes with Egon and the other guys in England."
"You're...on duty tonight?" Roland asked, suddenly wary.
"Yeah. Problem with that, Doctor Jackson?"
"Of course not, Sir. Just...jet lag, I guess..."
Winston shrugged and went upstairs.
"How's little Rosey today?" Roland said, going over to Kylie and Rose. "Gonna smile for Uncle Roland?"
"Good luck." Kylie sniffed.
"We're not happy today?" Roland said in his best cutesy-wutesy voice. Rose just looked back at him like he was deranged.
"That kid's a lot grumpier than Chita was..." Roland noted, turning to Eduardo.
"Different kid. I mean, none of your like, what, three dozen brothers and sisters are exactly like you, right?"
"I only have six, Eddie. And calm down, it wasn't an insult--or intended as one, anyway. I was just saying Rose doesn't smile as much as Conchita did...and where is Conchita, anyway?"
There was the sound of the toilet flushing, and little Conchita came out of the restroom at the front of the garage.
"Ready for lunch, Chita?" Eduardo asked. Her face lit up.
"Yo quiero Taco Bell?" she asked, provoking a chuckle out of her mother.
"Now remember, Chita..." Eduardo said, picking her up. "Never say that around Yaya...she considers it a negative stereotype..."
"You guys think you can hold the place down for an hour?' Kylie asked them.
"Yeah." Roland agreed.
The assembled Rivera family left the building, leaving the two old friends alone.
"You were worried that Charlene was gonna be here, weren't you?" Garrett said, teasingly.
Roland's face darkened. "Listen, I told you before I left...she does not like me. In fact, she thinks I'm a flaky, nerdy spazzball..."
"Now what makes you say that?"
"Oh, I dunno...maybe the part where she called me a flaky, nerdy spazzball?"
"And you believed it?"
"She threw a basketball at my head!!!"
"Hey, I've hung around with a lot of athletic chicks, remember? That's how they show their affection..."
"She's my boss's daughter and she's not even twelve!!!"
Garrett laughed. "Okay. Now there's a problem..."
"I could ask you how things went with your rock climber while I was gone..."
"Don't change the subject!!!"
"What? You can tease me about twelve year-olds but your love life is off limits?"
"It was just one little date...it's not like we're gonna get married next week."
Roland adopted his own impression of Dr. Venkman's grin. "That sounds an awful lot like things went well..."
"Well, all I'm gonna say is that it wasn't our last date...and it didn't take me about, like, a year or two or seven to take her on it." With that, Roland Jackson and Garrett Miller laughed hard.
"I know...I know, Man...I'm sorry." Roland apologized. "I guess...I guess I look at Eduardo and Kylie, and their girls and...well, I feel just a little jealous."
"I know what you mean, Roland." Garrett agreed. "But don't forget you have something they don't--you stayed in school. You got a frickin' Doctorate, Jacko! You're Roland Jackson, P-H-D."
"And let me tell you, I think Eddie and Kylie are a little jealous of that. Kylie might have earned hers if not for the motherhood thing derailing her...so believe me, the 'grass is greener' feeling is mutual." Roland nodded.
"And the Professor...Dude, I don't think it will be until his own kids get their doctorates that he'll be any prouder of anyone. So...you know...for the two or three more years it takes for that to happen, bask in it..."
Another deep belly laugh was provoked.
"We're doing all right, aren't we?" Roland had to agree. "We don't have all the drama Eddie and Kylie did...or the Professor and Janine...or even Doctor Venkman and his wife...but we're doing pretty well."
"Yeah, my Man, we are." Garrett high-fived him.
Winston Zeddemore poked his head down the hole around the fire pole. "You guys okay down there? With all the laughing I was afraid the vampire clowns had come back..."
Garrett and Roland laughed again.
Back in New York, Ray Stantz, Winston Zeddemore, Louis Tully, and Dana Barrett-Venkman sat in the laboratory of Egon Spengler, watching a similar video setup. They could clearly see the faces of Egon Spengler and Peter Venkman, and what looked to be Ben King and Fritz Baugh. The other scenery seemed to be a whole cadre of Ghostbusters, milling around, most cut out by the size of the video screen. Louis tried not to think about how much this endeavor was costing the company.
"...And then, well, I remembered the arms coming out of the chair. And being dragged into the kitchen, where it was waiting for me..." The uneven voice of Dana Barrett-Venkman recalled.
"What was waiting for you?" the even voice of Egon Spengler asked.
"Zuul..." Dana replied. "The Gatekeeper. The Terror Dog..."
"And then?" Peter Venkman prodded.
"I woke up screaming. I called Louis, and he had the same dream with Vinz Clortho...and then I called Peter."
"Ray...did Dana and Louis register any PK variances?" Egon asked.
"None that I could detect...but it was several hours ago..." Ray Stantz replied with a slight hint of annoyance. He knew that he did not have time to be able to collect some data.
"If I'd known I'd have come right away, but..." Dana began to say.
"Don't." Venkman said to his wife simply. "You did the right thing letting me know then...if it's anybody's fault it's mine for not telling you to hustle over there."
"So what are you saying?" Louis asked, worry beginning to show on his face. "There really is something going on?"
"Yes." Fritz responded. "The material we've been translating all pertains to Gozer. The main book in Sumerian, the Latin excerpts Vincent and I've been working on, all about Gozer."
"Dr. Baugh's teammate, Jeremy Hicks, vanished a couple of weeks ago. He was sighted on May 27 in Toronto by Dr. Walker and Dr. Davis of ECTO Canada..." Egon began to explain.
"He'd been acting...strangely ever since our battle with Lord Atrocity in April. We thought it was because of what happened to John, and Ron leaving, but then we found out Wednesday about his sighting in Toronto. He's possessed by something..." Fritz explained. "Thus, our trip to England."
"The same place the bloody Book of Gozer resurfaced." Ben added.
Egon and Peter looked at each other. "And Walker's report... Egon said with just a tinge of hesitation. "...did have Hicks calling himself 'The Keymaster' "
Louis' face went deathly pale.
"It's happening again, isn't it?" he asked, fighting off the urge to pee himself. "Gozer is coming back..."
"Not if we can help it," Egon said.
The woman looked at her with an intense stare. "Is...Professor Spengler here?"
"I'm afraid he's on England on GBI business..." Janine responded, her instincts starting to shout warnings to her. She tried to nonchalantly move closer to the fire bell button on her desk. "May I take a message?"
"Not necessary. Is Doctor Venkman here? I've spoken to him once before..."
I bet you have... Janine found herself thinking It better have not been at any time after 1992...and if was before that you would've been underage... "Doctor Venkman is also in England."
The woman seemed to struggle with something for a few seconds. "Doctor Stantz, then?"
"May I ask why you are asking?" Janine hesitantly asked, all of her instincts telling her to run.
"I want to know whether I should expect any of them to come to your aid--as I kill you!!!" With that, the woman vaulted over the desk, her hands reaching for Janine's throat.
If Janine had been taken completely by surprise, it might have worked, but some instinct had put her on her guard. She'd been in many a schoolyard brawl back at PS 47 after all...she rolled and managed to kick her attacker in the midsection, driving her back. Long enough to ram down the fire bell.
"A call?" Winston said, exasperated.
"Let Roland and the kids get it..." Venkman shook his head.
"RAAAY!!! WINSTOOON!!!" a loud, angry female voice called out from downstairs in the New York headquarters.
Egon suddenly changed demeanor from concentrated scientist to concerned husband at the sound of Janine's voice.
On-screen the gathered Ghostbusters in England could see Ray and Winston charge off in the direction of the open door to the lab as both Dana and Louis exchanged a worried glance. A few moments later the screen began to display static.
"Peter?" Dana asked...worried that the static might mean something bigger.
"Dana! Take Louis and get downstairs...help the others if you can..." Peter could only look his wife in the eyes for a moment before the video link broke into complete static. Two words were now being displayed in the video link window:
"Dammit!" Peter shouted as he slammed his fist into the desk.
Extreme Ghostbusters Created by Fil Barlow
Ghostbusters West Coast Division Created by Andy Harness and Vincent Belmont