gone_byebye: (President Winston)
Saturday, December 1, 2007
Ben's Kosher Deli
209 W. 38th Street
Manhattan, NY


Ben's wasn't usually Ray's choice of dinner location, but after the day Ray had, it was just about the only place he knew well that he felt reasonably certain wasn't going to play Christmas music at him. He could ignore the usual inane stuff, but looking up and realizing WLTW was cheerfully playing "A Cyclopean Tomb (Down In Deep R'lyeh)" and not "Home For The Holidays" was more than a little twitch-inducing. "Look! Professor Angell Brings" coming from WPLJ hadn't been much better. "It's Mi-Go!", on the oldies station, had been the last straw. He begged off going home from work with the rest of the guys and ran for the kosher deli as fast as his legs would allow. He didn't bother to ask for a menu or place an order; they already knew what he'd be wanting.

"Hello, Raymond," said his dead grandfather from across his table of choice. "Bad day?"

"You have no idea, Grandpa," said Ray. "Between work, the flack we're getting from the DMV about Ecto, and all this crap on the radio- ugh."

Maxim shook his head. "Running yourself a little thin, are you?"

"Hey, you try spending twenty-five years on Mythos Earth and see how many of your nerves are still firing on all cylinders," Ray answered. "... wow. Talk about your mixed metaphors."

"I get the picture. I'm surprised you've held up this long. How come you haven't gone off for about six months of vacation somewhere sunny yet?"

"Haven't been able to get hold of Romana," Ray says. "It's okay. I left her some notes. We'll manage- she's really good about making up for lost time."

Maxim smirked. "I'll bet she- uh oh."

"Uh oh what?" said Ray, twisting in his seat to see what his grandfather was looking at. "What are you- uh oh."

It was Suits- lots of them, men and women both in dark suits suddenly flooding into the deli. One of them was talking to the person up at the cash register, several had pulled aside members of the waitstaff, and one was talking rapidly to the other patrons and gesturing towards the door. Hastily, Ray tried to pull up his collar and pull in his head, but that hadn't worked for him since the Bar turned him into Megatron for Halloween.

"What did you do, Ray?" Maxim hissed.

"Nothing! Nothing, I swear!"

"Then why is one of them headed here right now?"

"Meep!" said Ray, or something like that. "Ahgahd."

"Sir?" came the Suit's voice; it was a woman. Ray looked up from his uncomfortably hunched position. "Are you Dr. Raymond Stantz?"

Maxim had been the one to teach Ray finger-spelling in ASL when Ray was just a boy; Ray caught the flickering of his fingers across the table, spelling out t-e-l-l-h-e-r-n-o. He swallowed. "Um," he said. "Yes?"

There was a sense under the table of someone not as substantial as he might have liked kicking him in the shins.

"Good. We were hoping you would be here. I'm Agent Branney, of the Secret Service. Who's this?"

"Um. That's my- that's my grandfather, Maxim. He's-"

"Shut up, Raymond!"

"-dead."

Agent Branney raised one blonde eyebrow, then nodded. "He can stay," she said. "For now, anyway."

"What? What do you mean, he can stay?" Ray asked. "Where's everybody going?"

"Upstairs, sir. It's a security measure, at least for the moment. The President's coming."

"What??"

Agent Branney started to speak into her radio headpiece, then stopped. "What's that waitress there bringing you, Dr. Stantz?"

"It's... a pastrami sandwich... look, why does it matter what she's bringing me?"

"I've been on duty for eight hours straight and I'm starved. I want one too."

"Go back to the part about the President," said Maxim, but Agent Branney was already talking into her headpiece. A moment later, the front door opened again and a voice Ray knew far better than he had ever intended rang out. "Dr. Stantz?"

Ray swallowed and somehow managed a smile as Agent Branney stepped away from his table. "Hello, Mr. President," he said.

He couldn't have relayed the next few minutes to an interviewer if he tried; mostly what he remembered, afterwards, was wishing he'd just settled for the possibility of being smacked in the ear with a Cthulhu carol instead. There was something about the President being in town for a UN meeting, and an outbreak of dysentery or food poisoning or something at the UN kitchens getting several of the President's other meetings canceled, and a couple of other things, but he wasn't really listening. It wasn't until the words 'and they mentioned your name' that Ray really looked up. "Excuse me," he said. "Could you repeat that?"

"Of course," said the President. "The representatives from Y'ha-nthlei sent us a very nice letter the other day saying they were tired of subpar ambassadors- very politely worded, of course- and offering a list of people they thought would make acceptable alternatives."

"Me?" Ray squeaked. "Why me?"

"Well, Dr. Stantz, they said something about an encounter in the frozen foods section of a Seven Eleven in Ipswitch." The President smiled, interlacing his fingers in front of him. "Seems you impressed the Y'ha-nthlei governor's son. Admittedly, they did name a couple of other people, but Eugenie Clark and Peter Raimondi are a distant second and third..."

Maxim looked from the President to Ray, then back again. "Mr. President?" he said. "Question. How come the State Department didn't just send somebody? Why'd you show up for something like this?"

"Excellent question, Maxim," said the President. "I can see you're pretty perceptive, for a dead man. I'm here because this isn't just about the Deep Ones, you see."

"Uh huh," said Maxim, leaning back in his seat. "Ray, you're looking deader than me. Drink something."

As Ray reached for his glass of soda, the President said, "Let's be honest, gentlemen. This country's about to embark on a wider scope of changes than at just about any other point in its history. The Deep Ones are just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. I don't know about you, but I still remember events on board the Space Station last year, and the fact that those Mi-Go are still out there somewhere gives me the creeps."

"Wise of you," Ray murmured over his soda.

"Why, thank you. I'm glad you approve. The fact is that between the Mi-Go incident, and the rising of the Deep Ones, and the incident with Dr. Mezga, it's become increasingly clear that we're sharing our world with all kinds of things none of us are really prepared for, and I for one intend to be proactive about it. We don't just need an ambassador to the Deep Ones, gentlemen. Are either of you familiar with the diplomatic title of 'Ambassador-at-large'?"

Ray shook his head mutely; Maxim looked blank.

"Didn't think so. Most people don't. An ambassador-at-large isn't posted to any one particular embassy. He or she's given a competence ratione materiae- they're tasked to handle matters pertaining to one thematic problem. We've got a couple at the moment- Ambassador-at-large Borgman's got War Crimes Issues, Ambassador-at-large Losurdo's got Counterterrorism, things like that." He lifted his thumbs a moment, then pressed them back together. "For the creation of an Ambassador-at-large post where the ratione materiae is 'Non-Human Sentients', you can't really send a State Department flunky."

Ray made a small choking noise. The President leaned over to smack him on the back a few times. "I'm all right," Ray managed. "I'm all right- Mr. President, you can't be serious!"

"On the contrary, Dr. Stantz, I'm absolutely serious. There is no one else in the United States of America who's made as much of a practice and habit of interacting with nonhuman beings of every size, stripe, and level of capability as yourself."

"Ghosts don't count!"

"Nope. But Deep Ones do, and so do extradimensional beings, Hortas, little blue things with too many teeth, big growly things with plasma cannons, and giant robots."

"I thought Hortas only existed on Star Trek," began Maxim.

"The NYPD begs to differ," said the President. "That's been checked out very thoroughly. To cut it all short- we know what you've been doing, Dr. Stantz. We'd like to ask you to do it for your country now. Officially."

Ray stared mutely at the President, the soda in his hand forgotten.

"And," said the President, gesturing to Agent Branney, "I believe we can make it genuinely worth your while."

There isn't enough money in the world, Ray thought, but the words weren't coming. The President seemed to understand anyway; he said, "I'm led to understand that you're making a pretty fair income off your patents and licensing fees, so money isn't an issue. The rest of the Ghostbusting operation's doing well enough as it stands- we'll have to work something out with that, of course. You won't be called on for anything official until Congressional confirmation, don't worry about that. With the recent changes at Columbia, I feel it's pretty safe to say that you've got a much wider level of professional recognition than at any point in the past. So we can't offer you that in compensation. What I can offer you-"

Agent Branney held out a briefcase; the President unlocked it, popped it open, and took out a slim maroon folder with several government logos stamped on it in gold. "-is this."

Ray took the folder in one shaking hand and started to examine the contents. A moment later, there was soda sprayed all over the table.
gone_byebye: (President Winston)
"Mr. President," said Fortescue, "I gotta say- in the interests of national security- I don't think any private individual or corporate concern ought to have that kind of combat vehicle at their fingertips. With that kind of combat robot at their beck and call these guys can do things that Blackwater can't pull off."

"So-"

"Mr. President, you gotta confiscate that car."




President Winston steepled his fingers and leaned back in his chair. "Jay?" he said.

"Yes, Mr. President?"

"Exactly how stupid do you think I am? ... don't answer that."

"Uh-"

"Jay, I understand where you're coming from. I really do. I'm aware of the fact that it wouldn't take much more than three days of boredom and a whole lot of Pixy Stix to render the Ghostbusters a nuclear power."

"You've been talking to the Secretary of Defense, haven't you."

"A-yup. A whole lot, in fact." Winston smiled. "Between you and me, I think he might be exaggerating just a little, but that's not important. What's important is that we've got bigger fish to fry." He glanced down at the missive from Y'ha-nthlei and amended himself. "Okay, maybe not the best phrase in the world right now. But the basic idea still stands. This country's got more threats, and bigger ones, than three geeks, an ex-soldier, and a giant robot."

"Sir-" Frustrated, Fortescue reached up to run his hands through his air. "I don't-"

"I know you don't like it, Jay, and neither do I, but let's be honest. New York City gets itself into more and more trouble every single year come October. Chicago's started doing the same thing. New Orleans's been bubbling over with weird happenings every three weeks- do you know how many long-term FEMA workers have to take psychiatric leave to deal with the disturbances that city's been having since Katrina? The city's just this side of dropping out of the American economy entirely. The NPAS boys tell me they're seeing the same kinds of patterns across most of this country. And then there's the Deep Ones-" He picked up the folder. "Unknown beings, unknown power, unknown geographical distribution. The Navy brass is going into collective hysterics."

"Isn't that all the more reason to remove a possible threat, Mr. President?" said Fortescue. "Especially if we can re-purpose it for our own use, or, or reverse engineer new transforming cars into national service-"

"No, Jay, that's not a good reason at all," said Winston. "I admit, I kinda thought that way myself at first. Then I said to myself, 'Randall, think for a minute. Isn't there a better way to get that car permanently on our side than by honking off a man who's probably capable of building twenty more just like it before our scientists have the time to figure out how to make even one?'"

Fortescue blinked. "I, uh..."

"Didn't think I was capable of thinking that far ahead?" Winston suggested. "It's okay, you're allowed to answer that one."

"Yessir. Sorry, sir."

"It's all right." Winston waved one hand. "I understand, Jay. I'm not the smartest President this country's ever had, I'm aware of that. I'm not a stupid man either, though. Even with my people in New York I couldn't have gotten this far if I were all that bad. I'm just a pretty average politician with a pretty good record. I'll be happy if history remembers me in the same breath as Gerald Ford, honestly."

"With all due respect, Mr. President, Ford wasn't that bad of a President."

"My point exactly. I've got ghosts on land, alien beings on the Space Station, and fish-people in the oceans on top of an economy that's flailing around like a Red Devil paint mixer. If I can keep this country together through the end of my time in office and come out smelling no worse than Gerald Ford did I'll retire a happy man. But I can't do it if the single best defense this country has against two out of three of those items of record goes cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs because I declared them a menace to public safety."

Fortescue sighed, seeming almost to deflate. "Okay, Mr. President, I get the point. So what are you gonna do?"

Winston smiled, and set the folder back down on the desk. "You'll see. I promise you'll hear about it before it hits the newspapers. Okay?"

"Okay, I guess."

"Great. Come back soon, Jay, I always enjoy our little chats." He leaned over and touched the intercom on his desk. "Margo?"

"Yes, Mr. President?"

"Are the Canadians still here?"

"Yes, Mr. President. All of them."

"Fantastic. Send 'em in."
gone_byebye: (President Winston)
Another ambassador down. President Randall M. Winston, Jr., slid his hand under his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose with a sigh. The Deep Ones were behaving pretty congenially for an unknown foreign power, considering that there had yet to be an American ambassador who lasted more than about a week and a half, but the President was pretty sure that the situation couldn't last. At least they'd nominated a couple of acceptable candidates themselves, this time. Scientists, not diplomats. Maybe someone who spent her or his life staring into the faces of bug-eyed things with too many teeth and the wrong color skin would be a better idea. You could probably train them up to act like diplomats better than you could train a diplomat to sit across the table from a fish-person and behave as if everything were perfectly normal.

His musings on the subject were interrupted by a rap at the door. "Come in," said the President.

The man who slipped into the Oval Office was about halfway between Mike Flaherty and Winston himself in height, his dark hair going widely grey at the temples and lines around his eyes starting to etch their way into his skin in earnest. "Mr. President," he said with a nod.

"Morning, Jay," Winston answered. Jay Fortescue was the closest thing the administration had to a technological advisor right now. "What've you got for me?"

"Well, Mr. President, I've gone over everything that the Foliage Census gang had on the subject, and I have to say- if the Ghostbusters weren't working in conjunction with the boys and girls at FLAG, they sure as hell thought along the same lines. That car of theirs was boosted in every possible way, at least as much as the two Pontiacs that we know of, and that was before FC went dark."

Winston nodded. "So it was dangerous even then?"

"Sir- Mr. President- that car was one step shy of being the Defense Department's dream tank of tomorrow. The only thing that kept it from reaching that status was the fact that they never installed any of their weapons in it. If they had, I really don't think the FC boys were too far off when they said the Ghostbusters could probably have conquered a few West African countries with it."

"Gotcha. Big scary car, big scary capabilities. What about now?"

"Now-" Fortescue riffled his papers. "Well, sir, we haven't seen it demonstrate any built-in weaponry yet, either on satellite or on the Internet. We did catch a few shots of it handling one of their proton packs, though. Looks like the fingers might just be up to working the controls. Not to mention that it's got that walker drone, and that thing's everything the Advanced Defense Initiative's been dreaming about in terms of both a cargo walker and a hunter-seeker. Stantz knows about domestic satellite surveillance, and he's been going out of his way to keep the car's transformation sequence away from the public eye whenever possible. I'm gonna have to assume that there is built-in weaponry and they just haven't been using it yet because they don't wanna get spotted."

Winston compared this to the mental image he would always have of the Ghostbuster- a man doing his best to listen attentively and answer questions coherently despite being made to meet with the President in his sweatpants and Mr. Stay-Puft slippers- and nodded anyway. "All right," he said, since Fortescue seemed to expect agreement with his assumption. "And your suggestion?"

"Mr. President," said Fortescue, "I gotta say- in the interests of national security- I don't think any private individual or corporate concern ought to have that kind of combat vehicle at their fingertips. With that kind of combat robot at their beck and call these guys can do things that Blackwater can't pull off."

"So-"

"Mr. President, you gotta confiscate that car."
gone_byebye: (squee!)
When the door opens from Milliways, Ray very nearly does the White Boy Dance of Uncoordinated Flaily Joy. It's the alleyway. It's the alleyway between the Firehouse and the Bubble Bar Champagne Lounge. It's the alleyway and it's not Antarctica. That's really all he could possibly hope to ask for at a time like this and it's everything he can do not to get down and boogie in a way completely unbecoming a Jedi, even a force-blind one.

When he checks the New York Post vending machine on the street in front of the Firehouse he really does do the White Boy Dance of Uncoordinated Flaily Joy, because it's still the same day. Time might've passed in Milliways while he was on Mythos Earth, but it sure as heck didn't pass here. He hasn't been missing. He hasn't been missing at all. He's home, he's safe, it's all right! Of course he's going to flail around like a freshly landed salmon in the bottom of a boat! Something finally went right!

Ecto's not there when he steps into the Firehouse. Of course she's not there. She and Winston had left for Floyd Bennett Field earlier so that she could go out and play with Francis without getting in anybody's way. That's fine, he's good with that, he only barely remembers it but remember it he does, and when Janine gets up to ask him if he's okay, well, she's getting the full Jimmy Stewart whoop of joy and dance-with-me from the end of It's A Wonderful Life. He'd do the same for the Siamese fighting fish on her desk, but even with a labyrinth organ those don't really appreciate being made to deal with the air all that much, so Ray just raids Janine's desk drawers until he finds the packet of dried Tubifex worms and drops in a treat for the perpetually surly fishy form of Walter Peck.

By the time everyone else comes back Ray's managed to get himself a little more coherent, at least enough to give an explanation. Egon has his PKE meter out within a syllable and a half of the word 'Arkham', and the look on Peter's face as Ray's explanation progresses would be considered priceless if the term wasn't necessary for the look on Egon's face when Ray produces his diploma from Miskatonic and his Sumerian-language notes on the Antarctic expedition. (He did, after all, get to see the upper levels of the underground complex of the Elder Things- he might have been there to trade himself for Gedney, but that didn't mean he didn't want to take notes on what he saw!) Ray is only too happy to let Egon hook him up to every possible testing device and piece of analytical equipment they own after that. It's technology. It's their technology, not some bizarre eldritch hybrid of principles beyond the ken of ordinary men. It's the stuff that home is made of.

There'll be a lot more discussion in the days ahead, in between all the rhythms of everyday life in a city under slow but constant siege from the restless dead, but for now everything is as good as Ray could ever ask for. And when the boundless ebullient energy that's kept Ray moving since his arrival finally wears off and he's too exhausted to go upstairs, Ecto pops open her back door.

Ray's never slept anywhere so comfortable in his life as the back seat of that car feels right now.

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Raymond Stantz

February 2014

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