gone_byebye: (civvies)
Thursday, October 9, 2008
Columbus Circle, Manhattan
Mid-afternoon


"Uh," said Ray, stopping mid-stride with an angrily smoking trap dangling from one hands. "Does anyone else see that?"

"See what, Ray?" asked Winston, the only one of the four to not have been vigorously slimed in the face. "Everything's looking pretty normal to me."

"Actually, I'm reading a small, diffuse spike in local PKE." Egon held up the meter. "Something is going on-"

"Okay, so it's not just my imagination that there's a Windows option box floating in midair about a yard in front of me?"

"I wouldn't necessarily say that for certain, but-"

"Wait a second," said Peter. "Windows option box? You're seriously seeing computer messages, now?"

"Well, sort of," said Ray. He made a small, vague gesture towards what gave every appearance of being an ordinary patch of air. "This one's a little specific, though."

"What's it saying?"

"'Warning: A sorceror has engaged a summoning spell protocol whose key phrase is 'the greatest living enemy of the Ghostbusters'. Do you wish to allow'- And then its font changes, like a form letter inserting a personalization, and it says 'Walter Elias Peck'-"

Peter and Egon exchanged glances. Winston just shook his head.

"'-to respond to the summons? Y/n'."

"Say N," chorused all three men.
gone_byebye: (finger slime)
Tuesday, 7 October, 2008
Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station
Center for Experimental Hoofstock
Foran Hall
New Brunswick, NJ


"Thank you for coming, Dr. Stantz," said Bob Castile, the Center's director. "I know how busy you and the other Ghostbusters are at this time of year."

"I can't stay long," Ray warned him. Dr. Castile nodded and gestured for Ray to follow him down the corridor. "I have to be in Elizabeth before sundown."

"That's all right. I don't think this'll take nearly that long," Castile said as they walked. "It's about the aurochs herd."

"Dr. Mezga's animals?" Ray asked. "I'm surprised. I would've thought they'd've gone to dust by now."

"Well-" Castile hesitated. "That would be why I asked you to come here, you see. We did find that their body cells disintegrated within a few minutes of being removed from the animal. I assume that that had something to do with whatever sort of energy Dr. Mezga was using to sustain their body processes. Our studies were completely inconclusive- there were no biological indictors of impending cell death whatsoever. One moment all cellular processes were functioning at normal capacity, and the next-" He jerked his hands apart in a paff! gesture.

Ray nodded, glancing out a window as they passed. Foran Hall's most recently added division consisted of a handful of agricultural zoologists and another handful of very bewildered paleontologists. From the look of things, most of both groups were outdoors in a high-fenced paddock feeding Belle, Dr. Mezga's resurrected Indricotherium. "Have the results you've been getting changed that much?"

"And how," said Castile. "I know you hypothesized that they'd be degrading over time. I can't pretend that I know much about the kind of energies you study in parapsychology- I wouldn't even acknowledge it if it weren't for, well-" He waved towards the window. "No offense."

"None taken. It's a young science."

"Right, well- I can't vouch for energetic degradation, but… here." Castile stopped and unlocked a laboratory door. "This sample was taken from the epithelium of one of the herd bulls. Have a look."

Ray leaned down to peer through the microscope. "They look like perfectly normal cells to me."

"They are, Dr. Stantz. They're about half of the original sample. Most of the rest of the cells we took went to dust an hour and a half ago." Castile fidgeted. "These survived."

"How-"

"I don't know. Our best guess is that as we've been feeding these animals, they've been replacing whatever passed for the original body cells with newly divided cells made from real, life-worthy matter rather than cells dependent on whatever called them into being in the first place."

Ray pondered the prospect, eyeing the microscope thoughtfully. "Is it happening to all the herd, or just this one bull?"

"The whole herd."
gone_byebye: (civvies)
Monday, October 6, 2008
14 North Moore Street
Manhattan
Morning


While Admiral Calavicci was technically in charge of the Paranormal Threat Reduction Agency, in everyday practice, virtually all information relevant to the United States' paranormal defense and response passed through the Firehouse eventually. This being October, 'eventually' meant 'somewhat before the Fulton Fish Market opened in the morning':

- The Harlem Hellfighters unit stationed in northern Manhattan was experiencing poltergeist struggles between two apparent factions of restless spirits in the vicinity of Fort Washington Park, massive levels of PKE activity from the vicinity of the Doomsday Door under Second Avenue, and the birth of a fire-breathing sea lion at the Bronx Zoo.

- The Intangibles unit, in Chicago, was swamped with 'demon baby' calls and haunted municipal offices, and a building on Wacker Drive that only existed if approached from a very particular direction.

- The New Orleans Swamp Rats, under the command of a former state trooper named John Raymond Legrasse III, had been visited by a little old lady who thanked them for being 'such nice young folks comin' to make sure them young rowdies learned some manners' before disappearing. Upon consultation of local records, the little old lady matched the description and existing portraits of the late Marie LaVeau.

- The Galveston Stormwatch, very much on edge given what almost got called out of Galveston Bay in 2006, was faced with rains of distinctly non-standard rain items four days running. Fish, perhaps, they could understand- waterspouts, after all, did that. Red stuff from the sky, too, as there had been red tides in the region before without blood being involved. Even the rain of what appeared to be sea sponges could be understood. The clear, gelatinous substance that splattered into the Galveston area and dissolved into a fine grey dust upon being picked up in sample tubes was something else again.

- The lights in the sky over Alcatraz had nothing whatsoever to do with on-site electric equipment, the San Francisco Miners unit reported. The prison walls were starting to bleed at random intervals, though; that was probably related. At least the ghosts of baseball players the 16th Street Safeway supermarket security cameras caught wandering the aisles were largely behaving themselves.

- Dr. Tsybenko, the ex-cosmonaut who'd signed up for the Paranormal Responder Corps as soon as the announcement was made on the condition that he get an assignment somewhere warm, reported that every single one of the Caribbean hotels he'd been assigned to investigate was plagued with guests reporting nightmares and visions, regardless of prior psychic senstivity and experience or the lack thereof.

- And the satellites aimed at Point Nemo as part of the implementation of the Waller Protocols were reading a peculiar slow, steady rise in local sea temperature, coupled with significantly less oceanic wildlife than usual.

It was enough to make a man wish he'd never gotten out of bed in the morning. Honestly, some days Ray almost wished it was still 1905.
gone_byebye: (cartoon Janine)
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
14 North Moore Street
Manhattan
Early Morning


Janine Melnitz had always prided herself on getting to work early in the day, even when traffic was out of hand and the subways were misbehaving. Bonus points accrued if she managed to reach the Firehouse before the guys were awake. She kept track of how many in the back of her mind; when she reached a thousand points, she felt she was entitled to a little extra snippiness towards Dr. Venkman. Not that she ever needed an excuse, but it gave her a feeling of righteous justification.

She eased the Firehouse door open and poked her head in. "Hey, Ecto," she called, her voice barely above a whisper. "Are the guys up yet?"

"Hi, Aunt Janine," the car answered, equally quietly. "They're all still asleep."

"I hope you realize that I plan on eviscerating you all the first chance I get," interjected a helium-squeaky voice from across the room.

"Mr. Peck's awake, though," said Ecto with a sigh.

"Oh, yeah, big surprise, like he's got eyelids." Janine shook her head and headed for her desk. "You better watch your mouth, Walter. I don't have to give you those tubifex worms you like so much."

"The mere fact that I even have to admit to a fondness for those things is humiliation enough to fuel a lifetime's worth of infinitely worse plans," the betta in the five-gallon tank on her desk answered. "Never bring them up again."

Janine rolled her eyes. "That's what you said last week. Why did you even bother learning to talk again if you're just gonna repeat yourself?"

"Vile wench," muttered the fish, but he went silent.

"That's better," said Janine, and tapped the morning's fish food flakes into the former EPA bureaucrat's bowl. "Okay, now, let's see what we-"

The phone rang.

Normally, early morning phone calls were fairly rare at Ghostbusters HQ. The majority of cases could wait, especially since there were multiple units operating in the five borough area now. This was, however, October. All bets were off. Janine reached for the phone. "Ghostbusters, Manhattan South," she said. "What've we got today?"

She didn't speak again for a while. When she did, she stabbed the Hold button on her phone with astonishing force and stood up. "Ecto?" she said.

The car made an inquisitive beep? sound; she'd been immersed in a data feed from London.

"Get your dad. Right now. It's Mike. And he's gone sane."
gone_byebye: (Default)
The door opens, as it generally does, onto a grey and dingy alley in Manhattan in mid-September. Ray glances up at the sky, then says, "Hang on a second." A few moments later he trots back from the street. "Okay. Had to check the paper- once in a while the door puts me out in the wrong universe, but this is definitely mine."

The newspaper in his hands has a headline involving someone called 'Super Dave', but the paper is folded in half, so it's hard to say what else it's talking about.
gone_byebye: (comment over shoulder)
The door opens from Milliways onto a truck stop somewhere in southeastern Oregon. More specifically, onto the farthest edge of the truck stop's parking lot, away from the gas pumps and the smokers and everything else that goes on outside a truck stop's main buildings. Ray made a point of finding the hardest-to-spot location to access Milliways for this. "Here we are, guys," he calls over his shoulder. "We've still got a long way to go before we reach Mr. Eddings' house."

Interlude

Jul. 22nd, 2008 12:28 pm
gone_byebye: (Arkham)
Ray's done as much as he can do with the Lemurians right now. When he gets back to New York, he's going to recommend one of the OSU scientists as a possible ambassadorial attache, and get a real diplomat to talk to the Lemurians on an ongoing basis. Their physical nature is sufficiently different from human as to keep them well away from the Uncanny Valley, unlike the Deep Ones, who were exactly close enough to human-seeming to disturb the living daylights out of all the candidate ambassadors before Ray. It shouldn't be a problem.

For now, though, he's got to get back to New York. He's not really looking forward to another cross country drive, so he and Jhalak are going to take a stab at Amtrak once they've driven back to Portland from Port St. Helena. Ray figures a train ride that long is a perfect opportunity to help Jhalak increase her English comprehension- it's time for a trip to the bookstore. One of the little independent places, say- the Nye Bookhouse looks about right. He should be able to load up like nobody's business here, since they sell used books as well as new, and the store owner doesn't seem too freaked by the cheerfully yammering Jotok on Ray's shoulder.

The collection of books Ray pulls from the shelves at the slightest sign of interest from Jhalak is wildly eclectic. Pretty nearly every single section of the store yields at least two or three candidate volumes, if not more. "You do realize that I'm going to have to carry all of these with me," Ray warns as they head into the science fiction and fantasy section. "We may have to put a few of them back."

He turns towards the shelves, and a pale blue volume catches his eye. The title, Castle of Wizardry, is almost as generic as it's possible for a fantasy novel to get; the author's name is nothing Ray recognizes. But the tiny note on the book's spine that this is Book 4 of The Belgariad?

".... oooh boy. We have a problem."
gone_byebye: (fence)
The Marine Science Center is no Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, but it's got a decent vehicular budget. Ray, Jhalak, and a team of cephalopod scientists (that is, scientists who study cephalopods- given Ray's background it's important to draw these distinctions early on) are aboard the research vessel Velasco, headed out to the ocean floor drop-off just beyond Yaquina Head.

Ray is probably driving the other scientists crazy, as he's trying to describe all their equipment to Jhalak.
gone_byebye: (Zap!)
Port St. Helena, Oregon, is a small coastal town about a hundred and thirty miles from Portland. The town grew up around Yaquina Bay over the past hundred and fifty or so years. It's got a respectable population, a decent smattering of industries (most of which, admittedly, are related to getting things out of the sea), an excellent aquarium, and a state university-sponsored marine science center. It also has an extremely peculiar cove or two along the sides of Yaquina Bay, and it was in one of said coves that the Port St. Helena police discovered two miscreants, tied up with kelp.

Naturally, Ray is pointing all of this out to Jhalak as they head into town.
gone_byebye: (don't be spooked)
Ray would've preferred to make this drive with Ecto, but the guys needed her too much back in New York. He's therefore rented a car on the State Department's budget for the sake of getting to Port St. Helena, Oregon, without having to deal with some of the nimrods at the airlines and Amtrak. Said nimrods have an issue with the contents of the passenger seat.

"Okay, Jhalak," Ray says to said contents. "Welcome to Boise, Idaho. We're gonna stop here for the night, if you don't mind. I know it's been tough being stuck in the car and all." Mind you, he's made a point of buying several reference books at any bookstore in each of the towns where they've stopped, along with a big honking quantity of fresh fruit. But still.
gone_byebye: (Default)
Ray wound up spending quite a bit of time with Jhalak at Milliways, even going so far as to stay the night in his usual room since the little alien didn't seem to want to leave him. The walls of said room are still covered in insanely complex mathematics, as is the ceiling; it's the legacy of a bout of epic drunkenness a few years ago, when Ray and Garion celebrated a major accomplishment in Garion's world with an awful lot of beer. If Jhalak ever figures out the math, it's the background of a background for a possible theoretical structure for a type of hyperspace star drive.

Come the morning, though, he's got to get back to the New York State side of the door. "Jhalak?" he calls. "Are you ready to go, kiddo?"
gone_byebye: (Ecto Transformer)
Slater State Park is one of the older and better-preserved parts of New York State's Catskill region. While a good deal of the Catskill Mountains were long ago overtaken by inexpensive resorts and kitschy entertainment halls, Slater State Park falls under the umbrella of the New York State Forest Preserve, which by law must remain forever wild. At the most city-remote edge of Ulster County, it's a destination for hikers and campers of the most persistent kind.

Or for one robot car in desperate need of some mostly alone time, accompanied by her father.

"Thank you, Daddy," said Ecto on the morning of their second day at the campgrounds. "I know you didn't wanna come out here."

"It's okay, kiddo," said Ray, resisting the urge to swat at a hovering mosquito. "You'd think I'd be used to this by now."

Ecto smiled a little. Her father was, there was no denying it, the worst Boy Scout ever in the history of Boy Scouting. Some things would never change, no matter how long he spent in low-tech environments. "At least it's not Nyissa?" she offered.

"You know, I give thanks to the universe itself almost every day that I'm not in Nyissa any more," Ray said. "Bad enough that regular nature hates me-"

"It doesn't hate you. There haven't been any bears or raccoons or anything in camp!"

"This is true," Ray had to concede. "On the other hand, the local insect population all wants to say hi, which is really asking just a little bit much. The next time we do this, remind me to invest in something a little bit stronger than citronella and Deet?"

Ecto nodded. I'll remember, Daddy," she promised. "Maybe we can go somewhere different next time, too."

"Like where? Don't say Maine. They have blackflies in Maine."

"I wasn't gonna say Maine!"

"Good. And don't say Canada, either. We can't take you to Canada until Minister Frasier gets the rest of the Government to acknowledge your American citizenship and passport." Ray shook his head. "The last thing either of us need is to wind up at the middle of a reverse Dred Scott situation."

"Ewww." Ecto would have wrinkled her nose if she had the facial servos for it, but Ratchet hadn't given her anything more elaborate than the rest of the Autobots in that regard. "No, not Canada either. I was thinking maybe Pennsylvania." She thought a moment, then added, "Someplace that Peck didn't take the Ark of the Covenant."

"Wise caveat," Ray approved. "We'll have to look into it. In the meantime, do you think you'll be good to go back to the city today?"

"Can I just get a little bit more circuit-su in first?" She'd acquired some of the basic forms and disciplines from her last data exchange with Bumblebee, when she and Ray and Romana had gone to the Autobots' Earth for Memorial Day. Not being able to pursue more than the mental disciplines in Manhattan was a little frustrating sometimes, even if she was only a beginner.

Ray just smiled. "Sure thing, kiddo," he said. "Take your time. I'm just going to get the camp cleaned up."
gone_byebye: (daddy's little girl)
Monday, June 9, 2008
14 North Moore St
Manhattan
Late Afternoon


The Firehouse door opened and Ecto rolled into the garage. Ray, who had been waiting at the upstairs window since his trip up to Hellfighter headquarters, bolted for the nearest pole. "Ecto! How'd it go? Are you okay?"

"It's okay, Daddy, I'm fine," Ecto said. Her voice betrayed a certain amount of fatigue, but she managed a happy flicker of the blue scanner. "I don't have to go back tomorrow."

"The SEC's done with you? That's great! ... at least, I hope it is," Ray added hastily. "That was a 'we're done with you' don't come back, not a 'we'll be seeing you in a month once we have all our lawyers in a row' don't come back, right?"

"Uh huh." The car sagged a little. "It's all done. They couldn't find any American laws that I broke anywhere."

"Good," said Ray. "Very good. Did they say anything else?"

"The one lady said that if I ever changed my mind about working for you guys I could go a really long way working for the SEC directly," Ecto answered. "They don't have a whole lot of investigators who know every single financial law and regulation by heart, let alone remember 'em all."

"Somehow I really couldn't see you working for the Treasury department," Ray said. "Except maybe the Secret Service. You'd make a great bodyguard."

The car's engine revved briefly, a noise almost but not quite equivalent to a laugh. "I guess so," she said. "Daddy?"

"Hmm?"

"Can we have a vacation, please?" she said in a small voice. "Just a couple of days? Those guys were nasty."

Ray thought about it a moment, then nodded. "Let me talk to Venkman and the others, but I think we can arrange something. Wanna go up to the Catskills for a bit, like we did after you first found out you could stand up?"

"'kay."
gone_byebye: (Arkham)
It's the alley. It's always the alley. Ray makes a point of using the side door of the Firehouse so that it's always the same view coming back, just in case something goes wrong. "Everybody with me?" he calls over one shoulder. "Welcome to New York."
gone_byebye: (are you crazy? is that your problem?)
It's early evening in the Republic of the Congo on the other side of the door. The creatures of the forest are making their usual noises; the bugs of the region are competing with one another to see who will survive the night's onslaught of birds and other creatures; and a somewhat wide-eyed, dark-skinned scientist is standing at the edge of a forest clearing, trying- without much success- to communicate with a massive robotic carnosaur half-concealed by the foliage around him.

"Dr. Ndebele? Grimlock?" Ray calls. "We're here..."

Organic and mech alike look up at th at.
gone_byebye: (oh god it's gonna eat me)
Their radio was working, technically. Ray had to admit that. They could raise the pilot of their airplane back at the landing strip.

They had some capacity for self-defense. Dr. Ndebele had brought some conventional firearms along with his tranquilizer rifle, and Ray, while proton packless, had his lightsaber with him.

They even had a reasonably strategic location, in a clearing big enough to give them some warning of anything that might be coming at them out of the jungle in any given direction.

But Ray had been reading the Spates Catalog of Otherworldly Denizens and Designations aloud to Dr. Ndebele once he located an entry on lloigor lifted directly from Seaton's Congo notes, and Ndebele had been telling Ray all the details he could remember of the creature in the darkness, and their radio only really got through in fits and starts. Really, it was inevitable that when the trees in the distance started to crack and crash, the two men would freeze.

They drew straws to see who would leave the tent and see what it was. Ray lost. Ndebele readied his guns. It could, after all, just be an elephant in musth. It might even only be a true Mokele-mbembe. Either of those were dangerous enough without being horrors from beyond the stars. He waited at the tent entrance, tense and ready, and watched as Ray drew one of the meters from his belt. Its little electronic arms hung limply in midair, refusing to move; Ray thumped it with the heel of his hand.

The cracking drew closer. There was a great bellowing cry. Ray dropped the useless meter and reached for the cylinder hanging on his belt instead. Ndebele had just long enough to wonder why he was reaching for a flashlight when the green 'saber blade ignited.

Ahead of him, at the edge of the clearing, the upper trees began to part. Ndebele lifted his rifle, making ready to aim at whatever might emerge. Twin pinpoints of blue peered through the shadows of the trees, and something rumbled-

"!" said Ray, as nearly as Ndebele could tell- and dashed forward to meet the creature. Ndebele swore and ran out of the tent in time to see a monstrous thing that resembled a predatory dinosaur in the way that a tank might resemble an ankylosaurid peering down at the man.

"Dr. Stantz," called Ndebele quietly. "Dr. Stantz!"

The grey-sided thing (all armor plate and gleaming segments, its head as huge and terrible as he remembered it) turned to look his way.

Ndebele stood his ground. "Dr. Stantz, stop hugging the monster's leg."

The creature's blazing blue eyes narrowed as it turned to peer at Ray again, and it rumbled something that Ndebele recognized as very badly pronounced Baka. Ray looked up. "Thank you," he said, all the relief in the world in his voice.

"I didn't do any-"

"Not you, Dr. Ndebele," said Ray. "I'm talking to him." He backed away from the monstrous thing's leg and pointed to its head instead.

"…what." Judging by the look on the monster's face, it was entirely possible that it felt the same way.

"For not being a Cthulhian horror," Ray said, almost cheerfully. "Hey! Grimlock! Bah-weep-Graaaaagnah wheep ni ni bong!"

The creature lifted one forearm, exposing the shining bits of metal that lay under the armor plating, and did a very creditable imitation of a human dragging one hand over his face.
gone_byebye: (oh god it's gonna eat me)
As Ray returned to the camp in the Lake Tele jungles, Dr. Ndebele looked up. "Dr. Stantz. We have visitors," he said.

"People visitors, or claws and snarls and fire visitors?" Ray asked immediately. On jobs like this it never hurt to be sure.

"People visitors," said Ndebele. "And the kind without guns, at that. But there is a problem."

He stepped aside to indicate two men of a little under five feet tall each. They were both considerably darker-skinned than Ndebele himself, with equally short hair, but they wore fairly Western-looking clothing. Their footgear appeared handmade, though, and they carried well-worn knives. One of them, who looked somewhat older than his companion, leaned on a walking-stick as he glanced, unimpressed, at Ray. The other tilted his head expectantly and said something in French.

"… um. Malheureusement? Je suis seulement un American?" Ray tried. "Dr. Ndebele, please tell me you can translate-"

"That would be the problem," said Ndebele dryly. "These are Mokoloba and Dondolo, of the Baka people of this region. They had been following us through the jungle to see what your intentions were. Mokoloba says that Dondolo can tell you of the creature who attacked the bushmeat men… but Dondolo speaks no French, and I speak no Baka."

"Huh boy."

Judging by the Baka men's responses, that translated well enough on its own.

Several hours later, Dondolo's information was finally hashed out. It ran something like this:

"There has been a creature in these jungles larger than any elephant since a hundred years ago. A thunderstone fell from the skies in midsummer. My grandfather's father first heard the creature after that, when he was young. It howled like a mad thing, driving the game away; he went to look for it. The beast that he saw was caught in the mud, thrashing, and its eyes burned like fire. It tore at the trees but could not pull itself free, and it sank from sight."

"My grandfather's father saw it again years later, when the hunters came from England to find the Mokele-mbembe and shoot it-"

"The creature wasn't the Mokele-mbembe, then?" Ray interrupted.

Dondolo shook his head. "No. It was not. He would have known the river beast on sight. This was something else."

Ray glanced at Ndebele, who only lifted his shoulders a little. "Go on," Ray said.

"The hunters asked my grandfather's father to help them find the river beast. He brought them to the place it was last seen, but he found no sign of it. Only strange tracks, like something that walks upright, but huge. He remembered the creature in the mud, and tried to tell the Englishmen, but they did not listen. When they drew close to where the creature had sunk he asked them to turn back, but they would not. It came at them out of the forest then, and they shot at it, but it shouted at them."

"Really."

"Yes." Dondolo fingered his stick. "The creature spoke to them in Baka. It wanted to know why they were shooting at it. But they were so afraid that they ran off before he could translate, and did not come back."

"Huh." Ray considered this. "What did your great-grandfather do?"

"He was afraid of the creature too," said Dondolo, "but he stood where he was, and it only looked at him. It said it wanted to sleep and grow strong, or else it would chase him too. Then it turned and went back into the jungle, and he did not see it again in his lifetime."

Ray started to nod at that, but there was something about the phrasing that bothered him. As he turned the possibility over he said, "Has anyone else seen it?"

"My father's second wife," said Dondolo. "She came of the Bangombe tribe. When she was a young woman the men of the Bangombe had built a fence in their river to keep Mokele-mbembe from interfering with their fishing. A river beast broke through anyway, and the men killed it. There was a great feast of victory afterwards, but she did not take part, because she did not feel well. She was gathering firewood when she heard the creature in the forest, and saw two burning blue eyes far, far overhead. It started to bend down to look at her, but she was afraid, and she ran. She says it called to her in Lingala, asking her to return, but she did not listen. When she returned to the spot with the men who were willing to come away from the feast, it was gone. It left only wrecked trees and burned growth where it walked. All the men who came with her grew sick and died afterwards."

Ray glanced at Ndebele, then back at Dondolo. "How quickly?"

"Within a week," was the answer. "As if all their insides were trying to escape."

"Eew. What about your father's second wife?"

"She did not take sick," Dondolo said, "though she was so frightened at the creature, and at the falling of the men, that she was only too happy to marry my father and leave that place."

"Sensible of her," Ray murmured. "Thank you, Dondolo. Anything else?"

"It has been awake lately," was the answer. "I have seen it moving, myself. Something great and shining grey, its back like a wet lizard-"

That was when the memory hit him, of a small, slender volume squashed into the Miskatonic library, a book by an explorer named Seaton who had visited the Congo in the 1850s. The Sleeping Gods are vortices of power in natural form, and may not be seen by human eyes, ran the Seaton account. On rare occasions they can draw together bodies for themselves, to lure men to them for service. These bodies are monstrous and bear some resemblance to enormous reptiles, though inspection reveals their utter dissimilarity to any reptiles that ever walked the face of the earth. Such close inspection is not advised, however. . .

Ray shivered a little, nodded, and thanked the men. He'd never been so glad that he'd packed the Spates Catalog along with him in his life, but he was pretty sure he wasn't going to get any sleep tonight.
gone_byebye: (reach)
As the Piper Cub skidded to a stop, Ray privately resolved never, never, ever to complain about the final approach to La Guardia Airport again. This close to the Lake Tele Community Reserve, airstrips were on the distinctly tiny side; you built where you could find solid enough ground to maintain your work. The La Guardia approach just dropped you over Jamaica Bay. This? Put you within smash-into range of trees that were probably older than the United States of America.

"It's all right," said Dr. Ndebele, catching sight of the look on Ray's face. "I hate small planes too."

"Was it that obvious?"

Ndebele pointed to Ray's hands; he'd gouged some neat little half-moons out of the seat, and there were bits of foam stuck under his fingernails.

"Whoops. Sorry."

Ndebele laughed. "It's all right. Come on, it's not far from here. . . Congratulations, by the way."

"On what?"

"On dressing like a sensible person. You have no idea how many travelers I've seen who had all the wrong ideas about how to prepare for swamp forest."

"I have a certain familiarity with the biome," said Ray, who'd never in his life imagined that he'd be thankful for his time in Nyissa. "There were more snakes last time, though."

"Hah. No, not so much of that here," said Ndebele. "The occasional water cobra or mamba, and some pythons. Though I would watch out for crocodiles, if I were you."

"That's all right. I get along pretty well with reptiles."

Ndebele gave him an odd look. "If you say so," he said. "Come. From here we have a great deal of walking to do."

'Walking' wasn't the right word for it. 'Slogging' was probably closer. The route Ndebele took passed through areas that hadn't seen dry ground in years; the forests were permanently flooded here, with the only variations being seasonal levels of muck. Ray had spent long enough in Nyissa that he'd packed along all kinds of insect repellents for the trip, but he couldn't avoid the thought of Nyissan river leeches, and whether they had any analogues here on Earth. Those suckers were nasty. As he tried to push the thought out of his mind, something brushed against his shoulder.

"Dr. Stantz," said Ndebele quietly, "don't move."

Ray froze. Sliding his eyes sideways, he spotted a blunt, reptilian head resting comfortably on his backpack strap. He'd have reached for Garion's amulet if he could, but… Well, at least it was next to his skin, anyway. It should still work. "Hey there," he said, very quietly.

Hey, the snake answered back amiably enough.

"Do you mind? We're just passing through."

Oh? Where're you going? inquired the snake. It didn't lift its head, but it flickered its tongue briefly.

"Dr. Stantz-"

"I'm working on it," Ray said. Then he turned his attention back to the snake as best he could without moving his head. "We're headed for the lake. Hey, you haven't seen anything the size of a couple of elephants stacked together lately, have you?"

Oh, the one who shakes the ground? the snake answered. Sure. I make a point of avoiding him, but he's come out of torpor. Be careful, he's dangerous.

"Thanks," said Ray, and the snake lifted its head and returned to the tree branch. Ndebele was staring at him. "What?"

"That," said Ndebele, "was a forest cobra. They don't like humans."

"I told you," said Ray, "I get along with reptiles. Lots and lots of practice. Shall we go?"

Ndebele shook his head, still eyeing Ray, and turned back to the path before them.

A few hours later Ray had had about as much of Earth's jungles as he ever really wanted to deal with. At least one of the Nyissan compounds had no discernible effect on the local insects. Nature, it seemed, still felt that he belonged in the city and was going out of her way to make that clear to him. Ndebele took it with amusement and a murmur of "You get used to it after a while. We all do," but it wasn't much comfort. "Are we almost there?" Ray asked.

"Oh, yes. Do you hear that?" Ndebele cocked his head in the direction of a low, grunting noise. "That would be the swamp monkeys. The bushmeat men go after them often- they had killed several the night of the encounter. . ."

Ray wasn't listening. He was peering up into the canopy at a tree that gave every impression of having been set aflame twenty feet above the ground, but doused by rain thereafter. Ndebele nodded. "There was fire that night," he said soberly. "It did not come from me, and it did not come from the hunters. And there was no lightning. The mokele-mbembe does not breathe fire, Dr. Stantz. None of the stories have ever made that claim."

If Venkman were there, he would've said something on the order of we're gonna need a bigger boat. Ray just gulped and nodded.
gone_byebye: (civvies)
Ray stepped out of Milliways and back into the Laico Hotel Maya Maya. The Bar didn't generally grab him randomly, but it happened from time to time if something important enough was happening. K's getting nabbed and his memory mangled probably counted. He'd have to think about that later, though; there was a man on the other side of the lobby who rather nicely matched the descriptions and photographs the State Department had given him. Ray stuck up an arm and waved. "Dr. Ndebele?" he called, hoping he'd pronounced it right. "Dr. Joseph Ndebele? Over here, sir."

Dr. Ndebele was a dark-skinned man with close-cropped hair, a broad face, and round, wire-rimmed glasses. He wore a blue linen suit that buttoned up neatly around the neck like a Nehru jacket, and he carried a steel briefcase. At the sound of his name he looked up and smiled. "Ah," he said in English, "Dr. Stantz, is it? Or do I call you Ambassador for this?"

"Honestly, sir, the Ambassador title kind of gives me the bahoogies when it comes from anybody who hasn't got gills," Ray said apologetically. "Dr. Stantz is fine. It's an honor to meet you, sir. I'm told the restaurant here's good- did you want to talk there or in one of the meeting rooms?"

"The restaurant will do nicely. Thank you." Dr. Ndebele adjusted his glasses. "I'm sorry to have kept you waiting."

"Not at all, sir, not at all. I'm sorry I couldn't have been here to meet you sooner myself." A waiter in yellow and red led them to a small table in the next room. "Although I hope you speak better French than I do."

"How on Earth did you get into the diplomatic corps without being taught French?" asked Dr. Ndebele, one eyebrow slightly raised.

"It wasn't my idea," Ray answered. "I’m a parapsychologist and an engineer by training, not a diplomat. I got called on for the position after four better-qualified people in a row quit the job. Not to mention that-"

"-fish-people don't speak French," Dr. Ndebele finished for him. "Yes, I see."

"I did spend most of the trip here plugged into a Berlitz course, for what that's worth."

"Not very much, to be honest. The dialect here isn't so easy to assimilate as that." Dr. Ndebele glanced at the menu briefly, then set it aside and reached for his briefcase instead. "We shall see… Dr. Stantz, I'd like to get straight to the point, if I may?"

Ray spread his hands. "By all means," he said. "The sooner the better."

"Thank you." Ndebele slid his glasses back up his nose again. "How much has the State Department told you about my situation?"

"Well, to start with, three weeks ago you were on a research expedition in the Lake Tele area sponsored by the University of Cape Town," Ray said. "Primatology, specifically."

"Correct. My specialty is rare and endangered primates of the Congo basin."

"Which, it said, brought you into conflict with a group of bushmeat hunters-"

Ndebele muttered something under his breath, which Ray was rather grateful not to understand. "Too kind a word for them, Dr. Stantz. These men were trappers and thieves. Their prey would have gone to the European market and no one but them would have been the better for it. I've known hunters. These men were nothing like."

Ray nodded. "They sounded like a thoroughly nasty piece of business," he allowed. "I saw in the reports that they threatened to- well, I won't repeat what they threatened, but that's an awful kind of thing to say. Was there a specific reason for that?"

"When a man with a university at his back, and the scientific community watching him, reports on the faces and operations of a group of slaughterers, it becomes very hard for the local government not to take action," said Ndebele dryly. "I could not hurt them then. I could only hurt their operation if I escaped, and told the story."

"So you weren't particularly famous, or known to them, or some kind of long-standing nemesis of theirs?"

"Only in the way that the best sniffer dogs are known to smugglers," said Ndebele. "They knew my name, but we had never met."

"Gotcha," Ray said. "Okay, then. They threatened you, you refused to back down, aaaand…. That's the point where everything went to hell, right?"

"Aptly put, Dr. Stantz." Ndebele interlaced his fingers on the table in front of him. "The vegetation began cracking somewhere behind the thugs, as if a very large animal were coming through. I have heard such noises before; you take them seriously in the deep jungle country. Elephants, hippos… you don't take chances with hippos. Nasty beasts."

"So I hear," said Ray. "The description gets a little short on details after that."

"Yes, well-" Ndebele shifted in his seat. "Dr. Stantz, I told the authorities that the trees themselves were smashed aside, and that something in the darkness began shouting words I could not understand. I said this because it was the very limit of what I thought I could say and still have them believe me. Respect for academics only goes so far, here."

Ray waited.

"Dr. Stantz… I saw the creature with my own eyes. Not much. Not for long. But it was not the Mokele-mbembe of the legends." Ndebele shifted again. "The creature was too big for that. Too big by far. The Mokele-mbembe is a beast as big as two elephants; this was larger. I saw only the head, but not one of the stories of the riverbeast say that its head was as long as a man…"

Ray whistled. "What did it look like?" he wondered.

"Like nothing I have ever seen," confessed Ndebele. "Its skin was shining, the way a hippo looks when it emerges from the water. Grey skin, or green- I could not say. The creature's very eyes were glowing- not reflecting. Glowing. I have seen enough animals by the light of a campfire to know the difference. "

Ray frowned a little, thinking. "This sounds oddly familiar," he mused. "What color were its eyes, anyway?"

"Blue, and slanted," said Ndebele. "Why do you ask?"

"Were you aware of the reports of the Frashingly-Smalth expedition to the Lake Tele area in 1922?"

Ndebele shook his head, his forehead creasing. Ray dug into his own briefcase. "According to the reports of the expedition, Lord Frashingly-Smalth set out to snag a Mokele-mbembe for his trophy wall and encountered something else. Still dinosaurian in bodyplan, mind you, but not the classical sauropod form. The one he shot at was bipedal, not unlike some of the larger species of theropod, with glowing blue- are you all right?"

Wordlessly, Ndebele unlocked his briefcase and handed Ray a sheaf of photographs. Several he'd already seen- the wrecked, burned trees, the slashes too high and too deep on the trees to be the work of machetes alone- but the last few were of the forest floor itself. Specifically, of footprints sunk into the leafmould that covered the soil.

If the measuring stick next to the three-toed impression were anywhere close to accurate, Ray was looking at a footprint left by something the size and approximate shape of a Carcharodontosaurus.
gone_byebye: (insomniac)
( The thing about dreams is that they don't really care about Earth logic. The Naked In Public dream doesn't bother providing an explanation for how you got to Times Square before realizing that you should probably consider shoplifting a souvenir pair of boxer shorts. The In Your School, Failing Your Exams dream never explains why the school has the authority to grab you and put you through finals again long after the fact, let alone why they're doing it with subjects you never studied in the first place. The Running Away Dream seldom bothers to give a reason why you're running from the horror, but starts with the hot pursuit already under way. The Flying Dream doesn't indicate why you can suddenly fly. )

( Well. Sometimes it does. )

( Ray's at Columbia, although the campus looks funny- there are renovations he doesn't remember, and buildings missing. The grassy spaces between the buildings look about right, though. Except that they're not covered in students, which you'd expect on a day like this. In fact, there's hardly anyone around. They're indoors, maybe. He's not thinking about that, in the way that you don't think about air, or about the absence of clouds on a sunny day. That's just how it is. )

( Although. Speaking of clouds... )

( This has happened before, so many times that he doesn't even need to think about it. It has a long familiarity to it, like tying your shoes or opening a can of soda. It starts with looking to the sky and wanting to check the clouds out up close. Then comes the running, because it's easier to do if you're already going as fast as you can. )

( Then comes the footstep that pushes off extra hard. )

( Then the one that lands on air. And the next one that lands on air. )

( Then, before physics can reassert itself, comes the third step, and the leg that's stepping on air is metal- cables and plates and sensors and servos, just like all the rest of him. )

( There is no fourth step. Everything
folded first. The fourth step is a roar instead, as engines powerful beyond belief roar into life and he takes off into the sky- )


"Ray? Ray, wake up." Janine's voice. "C'mon, Ray-"

"Hngh?"

"Ray, the State Department's on the phone. Again."

"... thirty seconds," he managed. Snapping into wakefulness straight out of REM sleep was hard.

Half a minute later he still wasn't entirely awake, but could at least muster a semblance of coherency. Enough, at least, to recognize the voice on the other end of the phone. "Morning, Mr. Flaherty," Ray mumbled. "What's up?"

"Ray. Hey there." Flaherty's reedy voice was far too cheerful. Ray entertained a brief unkind thought involving an IV feed and a supply of Queequeg's Extra Dark Roast. "Listen, I know you're busy with the gameshow and all, but we kinda need you to change gears for a while."

"I'm negotiating the Atlantic swordfish thing with the Deep Ones as fast as I can," Ray said, rubbing the crud out of one of his eyes.

"No, no, you're doing great on that," Flaherty hastened to reassure him. "Fantastic job there. This is something else."

"Did SETI pick up a signal or something?" Really, it was the only thing Ray could think of that would justify an emergency call like this.

"Uh. No. This is terrestrial." Flaherty hesitated. "Are you up to date on all your vaccinations? We've got a doctor on standby if you're missing anything."

"... what?"

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gone_byebye: (Default)
Raymond Stantz

February 2014

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