gone_byebye: (le sigh)
"I don't get it," Janine was saying as Ray came down the stairs. "This is like the fourth or fifth month in a row I've been getting all of these data charges on my bill. Am I hitting the internet button by mistake when I put it down on the desk or something?"

"It wasn't me," said Ecto. "I use the Firehouse's internet connection. Hi, Dad."

"Hi, kiddo. Morning, Janine," Ray said.

"Morning, Dr. Stantz. You're up early," Janine answered. "Hey, Ecto, you think you could maybe figure out what my phone's doing?"

"I can monitor it from now on, but I can't really go back through the records," the car said apologetically. "I don't have access to that kind of data."

"That's okay, just keep an eye on it for me." Janine set the iPhone down on her desk and pushed it towards the car. "Thanks."

"You're welcome. What's up, Dad? You're usually kind of a zombie first thing in the morning."

Ray shook his head. "I'm trying something to get ready for October this year," he said. "What with paranormal activity ramp-up starting earlier every year and all I thought I'd better get ready ahead of time."

"Ha," came a squeaky-voiced, sour laugh from the direction of Janine's desk.

"Quiet, you," Janine ordered Peck. The fish flickered one pectoral fin through its castle window in the closest approximation of a rude gesture a Siamese fighting fish can make, then ducked out of sight. "What kind of getting ready?"

"Caffeine detox," Ray said. "I haven't had coffee, cola, chocolate or Third Rail in a little over a week."

Janine stared, wide-eyed. Ecto let out a startled honk. Even the fish poked his head out of the castle for a moment. "Jeez, Dr. Stantz," Janine finally said, "you're committing suicide?"

"No! No, no," Ray hastily assured her. "I'm just going off the stuff for a while-"

"You did talk to a doctor about this, right?" Ecto said. "I know how much you drink, Dad."

"It's going to take a lot more than caffeine deprivation to kill me, Ecto," Ray said. "Trust me, I-"

"Believe me when I say I mean no worry or concern by this," said Peck, "but given your workload and your less-than-healthy means of coping with it, you must be out of your mind."

"Look, every October since Gozer first showed up's been a nonstop knockabout round of pure insanity from start to finish," Ray said. "Last year's incident went completely over the top, what with the arrival of both Great Cthulhu and Gozer's second Destructor incarnation. We haven't had any reported activity beyond the usual from either R'lyeh or the North Magnetic Pole this year, but that doesn't mean there isn't something waiting in the works, and I for one would like to be in a mental state where any decisions I may have to make regarding whatever's coming will be the product of a reasonably well-ordered mind not completely overclocked on caffeine and adrenaline beyond the chemical tolerances of the normal human brain."

"Nice lung capacity, Ray," came Peter's voice from the direction of the stairs. "That was what, seventy-five words before you remembered to stop and take a breath?"

"Some of us are better at conveying our thoughts all at once than others, Peter."

"Yeah, whatever. I'll go put on some decaf for you."

"Good luck," Janine said, "but I kinda have to agree with Peck on this one."
gone_byebye: (civvies)
Ray doesn't always look at the calendar when he should. Mostly this is because he doesn't need to. Janine tends to yell at anyone who's got an appointment if they show any signs of forgetting it, and if she doesn't, Ms. McGee the publicity agent does. Ecto tends to remind her father of dates that slip the minds of the two humans, too. Egon's taken to silently reminding everyone when the weekends are by wiping the appropriate letter off Miss Eartha's forehead to prevent a golem rampage, too, so overall there just isn't usually a need for it.

Once in a while, though, Ray does glance up at the calendar in the Firehouse kitchen, and that's when he gets twitchy.

Why he looked he didn't know and couldn't say, but it was September the second, this time. Given the PKE trends of the past few years he was pretty sure that meant they could start seeing the October rise in two to three weeks' time. Ever since the report from the Ministry of Extraordinary Threats that the magnetic poles were shifting abnormally quickly, possibly in response to Mythos attempts to locate the Hidden City, October seemed to start earlier and earlier. Busy season was coming, inevitable as the tide and snide jokes from Venkman.

He shuddered, turned deliberately away from the calendar, and ducked into the pantry to grab the one box of Chocodiles that hadn't been raided by Slimer. No, they weren't good for him, but there wasn't any other junk food around and he needed some fortification if he was going to handle this. Janine had asked him to speak to the snickering fish on her desk, and he had a sinking feeling that Peck's evilly good humor probably had to do with the time of year.

Three snack cakes later he headed down the stairs. "Hey, Janine," he called out.

"I told you he'd be coming," Janine snapped to the occupant of the ten-gallon tank at her elbow. "He's not that tied up yet."

"Give it time, my dear, give it time." The sometime-EPA-agent-turned-Siamese-fighting-fish flared his fins. "I've seen how you people work."

"You gotta do something, Dr. Stantz," said Janine as Ray approached her desk. "He's being a bigger pain in the ass than usual and I can't get a damn thing done."

Ray nodded and tapped on the tank with one finger; Peck had darted into the little fluorescent green castle Peter had bought for him some time ago. "Mr. Peck?" Ray called. "I believe we need to talk."

"I can't possibly imagine what you and I would have to talk about," called the fish from inside the castle. His voice was high and squeaky as always, a subject of suppressed mirth for Miss Eartha whenever she heard it, but Ray tended to mentally substitute Peck's original voice regardless. "I'm just a harmless fish, after all."

Ray sighed. "Mr. Peck, you've been antagonizing the one person in this Firehouse who's willing to feed you on a regular basis-"

"Assuming you can call that vile Hartz Mountain stuff food." Peck poked his head out the castle window a bit. "I'd like to formally lodge a complaint about that, by the way."

"The guy at the store said it was just as good," said Janine.

"'The guy at the store' doesn't have to eat that bilge." Peck's gill covers flared outward a moment.

"Yeah, well-"

Ray coughed; Janine threw a glare at the tank and subsided. "All right," Ray said to the fish. "We'll see about upgrading your diet if it's really that much of a problem."

"Do whatever you want. Personally, I don't care," Peck answered. "It's not as if it's going to be a problem for very much longer anyway."

"How do you mean?"

"Look at me, Dr. Stantz." The fish eased his way out through the castle window. "I'm an adult Siamese fighting fish, thanks to that gangling blond friend of yours. The average lifespan of my adopted species is two to three years."

Ray blinked; given that Peck's punitive metamorphosis had been imposed upon him in late 2007, and Ray had run afoul of the Stone Angels at Milliways in 2008, he'd completely lost track of time.

"Oh my God," said Janine, color draining from her face.

"Huh?" Ray glanced over at her. "I would think you would be-"

"Happy, Dr. Stantz?" inquired Peck. "Apparently you don't think things through as much as your secretary does. Perhaps you should refresh your memory of a certain visitor?"

"I don't-"

"He means that demon lawyer guy a couple of years back," said Janine. "Ray, you guys own Peck's soul, remember?"

Ray stared from Janine to the fish and back again.

"That means when this guy dies, unless Upstairs wants him, we're stuck with him."

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Raymond Stantz

February 2014

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