Title: A Dispirited Occupation
Summary: We Came, we Saw, We Kicked its Ass!
Many many thanks go to several supportive friends out there rooting for me in more ways than one. I especially want to thank my betas, Kim and Bets for their time, patience and ability to put up with my constant need for praise.
12:32 AM 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
The air was frosty outside the window; bare thorny branches graced the Rose Garden.
Scully stubbed out her cigarette in the ashtray on the desk, pulled on her heavy electrician's gloves and gave a weary sigh. At her belt, the walkie talkie crackled as Mulder's voice tinnily called out:
"Scully it's me - you there?"
"Yeah," she replied absently, pulling the scanvisor down and checking the immediate vicinity. There was some residue along the far wall, and she instinctively dropped a hand on the holster at her hip.
"I think he might be headed your way . . ." Mulder announced. Scully took a step forward and waited. The greenish goo in the wall grew brighter, forming into the outline of a man moving through the wallpaper. Scully unholstered her accelerator, tensing.
"Mulder, he's coming through . . ."
"Yes," came her resigned reply. "I really hate doing this to a former president."
A crackle of static was her partner's only response. Scully looked up at the apparition now towering in front of her.
"Sir, by the authority vested in me by the city of the District of Columbia, the county of Prince George and state of Virginia, I will have to take you into custody and remove you from these premises. Do you understand?" she quavered.
A vaporous Abraham Lincoln gave her a sorrowing look and Scully gritted her teeth. She squeezed the trigger, and immediately the crackling blue and red lasso of the proton accelerator circled the ectoplasmic essence of the 16th president. Lincoln frowned.
Mulder came puffing up the hall, trap swinging from his grasp. He snapped it open and shoved it forward with one booted foot, muttering,
"Lemme get this closer-"
"Duck, or you're gonna get one hell of a haircut, Mulder-" Scully snapped, trying to keep the beam steady. Lincoln was growing taller by the second and his expression was far from jovial. Mulder yanked his own accelerator muzzle up and a second stream curled around the ghost.
"Watch out for the portraits!" Scully muttered, shifting to the left of her partner.
"Sorry Mr. President, but the current tenants are insisting you get another address."
Mulder struggled as Lincoln raged against this atrocious pun, his non-corporeal essence twisting within the corral of the dual streams. Gradually, the particle beams forced him down into the confines of the trap, which snapped shut, leaving a tiny wisp of smoke in the shape of a stovepipe hat. The red light blinked steadily as Mulder picked the ghost cage up.
"Hail to the Chief-" he commented, slinging the metal shoebox to his canvas belt. Scully shut her accelerator off and glared at her partner.
"The man deserves a little more respect, Mulder," she growled, pulling her gloves off with jerky angry movements. He reached over and flipped off the switches on her back pack; slowly the flashing lights died away.
"Okay, okay, you're right," Mulder conceded, lighting up a Camel and blowing a plume of smoke up towards the ceiling. "But after a three hour chase, I think I'm entitled to at least one sdiaper remark. I'm sure it's in the manual." His eyes looked tired behind his glasses, and Scully didn't have the heart to nag anymore. They trudged out to the hall and met up with the Housekeeper and an aide.
"We did it - bagged the Great Emancipator." Mulder announced quietly. The aide gave a sigh of relief, and the Housekeeper, a tall matron with fluttery hands, frowned at cigarette dangling from Mulder's lower lip.
"Oh thank goodness! With the upcoming receptions - well, that's a load off my mind. What will you do with him?" The Housekeeper asked Scully, while pointedly ignoring Mulder.
"We can store him for a modest fee, or we can release him to the custody of his descendants," Scully recited quietly. "We can't guarantee that he won't return if he's remitted to the heirs, though."
"Ah. Well, I'm sure the President won't mind paying the storage fee-" The aide broke in hastily. Mulder nodded as if this was the expected response and scribbled out the bill.
They left through the back door, heading for the ancient ambulance parked there as the stars glittered down on them coldly.
"Chinese. I'll call it in," Scully briefly smiled as she began sliding the proton pack off of her back. Mulder gave her a hand, storing the units in the rear compartment of the ambulance.
"Did you notice his coloring?" Mulder patted the ghost trap as he spoke. "Byers will probably stick Honest Abe here in the observation tank."
"Doesn't he still have that TV evangelist in it?"
"Nope - accidentally flushed him into the grid this morning while Skinner was running the systems check. Walter threatened to scrape JFB's beard off with a credit card if he *ever* did it again." Mulder grinned at the memory. He slid behind the wheel while Scully reached for the CB speaker.
"We're going to the Green Dragon for dinner break," she announced. Frohike's voice came back over the radio, grumpy as usual.
"You know there are two jobs still on the worksheet don't you?"
"Yep. Class five full roaming vapor at that seafood restaurant and a banshee sighting in the Smithsonian," Scully rattled off. "Is the vapor a repeater?"
"You bet - looks like the relatives couldn't keep him down on the farm." Frohike commented dryly. Mulder rolled his eyes as the Ecto-1 pulled into the early morning DC traffic.
"Food so good, you'll come back from the grave for it - could be a great advertising scheme."
"Mulder, this thing's a green blob who can't even keep the food he's gobbling *inside* his disgustingly slimy ectoplasmic form."
"Keep talking like that Scully - you're turning me on-"
She shook her head, pulling the scanvisor free from her hair, muttering, "Not as much as that Bambi ghost."
Mulder pinkened a little and stayed quiet for the rest of the drive. After a while, the Ecto-1 rolled to a stop outside a brightly lit restaurant tucked between two taller office buildings; faint scents of lemon chicken and pork fried rice drifted out the doors.
"Mmmm - fried wontons, here I come."
"At your own risk, Mulder - remember what Langly learned the hard way?"
"Oh yeah - Flatulence and phantoms don't mix . . ." Mulder stifled a laugh at the memory and climbed out of the car. They walked in, scouting the premises for a good booth.
"Oh Christ, *they're* here-" Mulder growled under his breath. Scully caught sight of two men huddled at a table off to the left and felt the hair on the back of her neck rise. She shot her partner a look and they spun around to beat a hasty retreat.
"Doctor Scully, how lovely you look in that jumpsuit this evening-" came the ingratiating tones of Special Agent Peter Venkmann. He managed to block their retreat and smiled, shaking chopsticks at Scully. "I'd know that cute little as ... cot anywhere."
"Venkman," she managed through clenched teeth. Peter Venkman's flyaway hair was reaching the limits of the Federal grooming code, and spots of soy sauce stood out on his polyester tie. The spectral Egon Spengler, his partner, rose up and joined the cluster at the door.
"Mulder. Scully." he monotoned. Mulder nodded tightly. Two pairs of glasses glittered in the light as they studied each other.
"Spengler. Still collecting molds and spores these days?"
Having exhausted his conversational limits, Special Agent Spengler simply stared at them. Venkman sighed.
"Trained scientist - what can I say?" Quietly he slipped a Nestle's Crackle bar out of his pocket and passed it to Spengler, who made it disappear into an inner pocket of his trenchcoat.
"We have a little problem, folks, and interestingly enough, you two are the only ones who can help us."
"Forget it, Venkmann, no dice. You've already screwed up three of our jobs and cost us the goodwill of the Library of Congress," Mulder growled. Venkmann shrugged and smiled, raising his hands in a gesture of surrender.
"Gaunt gray woman with hideous teeth and graveyard breath - she looked dead to *me*"
"Yeah, well Senator Matheson's mother could have used some Scope, " Scully admitted, "But she's still very much alive and pissed as hell that we torched her research notes."
"Face it - the old bat will be on your worksheet within the year," Venkmann dismissed it airily. "Naw, the job I have in mind is a little closer to home anyway."
"If it's *your* home, then we don't do ratholes-" Mulder muttered, starting for the door again, but the other man held out a hand.
"Now is that any way to refer to the headquarters of the Federal Bureau of Investigation?" Venkmann chided.
Spengler frowned, moving his owl-like gaze from Mulder to Scully. "Actually the substructure of said same," he added.
In the pause that followed, Mulder fought to keep from grinning.
"Substructure - Let me get this straight - you want us to clean out the FBI's *basement?* Who the hell's down there - Judge Crater?"
Venkmann looked nonplused; he glanced at Spengler, who remained a bespectacled column.
"Crater died before the building was built," Scully interrupted, interested in spite of herself. "You know you can't make an old ghost learn new bricks, Mulder."
"You are *so* right, Doctor Scully, and may I call you Dana-"
"-no. The fee is seven thousand, up front in cash, Venkmann." She gave him a hard stare; Venkmann sagged in mock-defeat, but Spengler held out a neat roll of bills without blinking.
"The last of the petty cash, but the job needs to be completed tonight. We can clear you through security," he intoned.
"So - do we have a deal or what?" Venkmann asked softly. Mulder and Scully looked from the roll of bills to each other.
2:32 AM 935 Pennsylvania Avenue Washington DC, Basement
They stood in the hallway, listening intently. Far off and several floors above, someone was running an industrial grade floor waxer. The fluorescent lights, cold and efficient, flickered. Mulder had the PKE scanner in one hand; the wings were arched so high that the entire device looked like the letter Y and the little bulbs winked frantically.
"Whole lotta spookin' going on," he observed. Scully's red lips were pressed in a thin line, but she nodded.
"A building like this has probably absorbed more than its fair share of paranormal energy. For all we know it might be holding it in a sort of battery charge of psychic activity, Mulder. There might be *anything* here."
"We see J. Edgar in a dress I'm calling the Enquirer - you want in?"
They crept up the hallway, gazes alternating between the walls and the PKE meter. Several yards behind them, Spenger and Venkmann followed, cautiously. All four of them jumped when Venkmann plowed into a trashcan.
"Sorry, sorry, just me-" he called out, righting the can. Mulder gritted his teeth and called over his shoulder.
"So where is this ghost of yours anyway?"
"Probably inside the office," Spengler intoned. "hovering just above the paper shredder."
Both Mulder and Scully turned to glance at him. He stared back, and Venkmann nodded wearily.
"He sort of ... haunts the shredder . . ."
"Haunts the shredder?" A smile threatened to cross Scully's lips, but Mulder snapped the PKE off and slid it into a pocket before striding over and grabbing Venkmann's collar in a tight tug. He pulled the shorter man closer until they were almost nose to nose.
"Mulder, I never knew you cared-" Venkmann muttered. Mulder shook his head.
"I don't. This stinks, Venkmann. I'm willing to bet you *know* who this ghost is. You know, and you haven't told us."
"Hey - back off, I'm a Federal Agent, man." Venkmann growled desperately. As Mulder slowly released him, he smoothed his hair back and gave the sort of deflated sigh that indicated that the truth was finally coming out.
"He was an agent, okay? A young punky nobody who apparently pissed someone off enough to get shot in our office. Hey *we* didn't kill him-" Venkmann protested, seeing Mulder's expression.
"True - I doubt you and Mr. Chatty here could hit the broad side of a StayPuft billboard."
"But he's driving us nuts! Runs the shredder at all hours of the day, locks the doors, re-files the files, makes personal calls-"
"Personal calls?" Scully looked askance, but Spengler nodded.
"The calls go to a disconnected number in town. We suspect it's that of his former partner."
"Who's *also* dead-" Venkmann added, "Again, not our fault." Mulder gave the agent a disgusted look and turned to the door at the end of the hall. Scully followed him, leaving Venkmann and Spengler in the hallway.
"A dead fed . . ." Mulder muttered, pushing the door open with his foot. "-charming."
They peered into the dark office, staring intently at the room. Mulder stepped in and rifled through pieces of paper on the only desk. He read parts of them outloud.
"Alien abduction? Demonic possession? Cattle mutilation ... Jeez, Scully, look at this crap our tax dollars is being spent on. Welcome to Spook Central."
"Mulder-" something in her voice made him twist around; he saw her floating in the air, almost high enough to meet his eyes. Her hair drifted around her, and gravity was doing interesting things to the front of her jumpsuit. Mulder clenched his jaw.
"Okay buddy, *nobody* gives my partner a lift but me, got that?"
Mulder spun back, and caught sight of the ghost, smirking. The pale thin figure was a greenish grey, with a huge smoking hole in the middle of his chest. He sneered at them.
"Drop her," Mulder ordered, his hand reaching for the proton muzzle. The curly haired ghost sneered again.
"Fine," Mulder turned on the proton beam, but instead of pointing it at the ghost, he fired it full blast on the shredder. There was a sound like a cherry bomb going off in a toilet, and the office equipment slumped into a pile of hot slag. Venkmann and Spengler peered in worriedly. Scully grabbed Venkmann's hair.
"Get me down - NOW!" she ordered. Cautiously, Spengler reached up, putting a hand on each of her shoulders and pushed her until her boots touched the floor again. Since she hadn't let go of Venkmann's hair, he was forced to bend over, still whimpering. Mulder and the ghost were in a face-off; the ghost looked shocked.
"No more confetti for a while. Wanna go for round two?"
The specter vanished. Mulder turned to meet Scully's gaze. She nodded, and slapped her visor down. Mulder did the same, scanning the room.
"Let's get him-"
"Wait!" An anguished cry broke in; a stranger with big puppy dog eyes and a round nose crawled out from under the desk. Venkmann snorted, and Scully finally released the handful of his hair she'd been clutching. Venkmann glared at the man on his hands and knees.
"Geez Ray, what the hell are you doing under the desk?"
"Rewiring the printer. The daisy wheel's as good as new," he beamed, standing up. His lab coat was dusty, and his bow tie looked as if it had come from a clown supply house. Seeing Mulder and Scully, his eyes widened.
"Ghostbusters? *Real* ghostbusters? Oh my gosh this is quite an honor-"
"I'm sure it is - excuse me-" Mulder muttered, moving over to a file cabinet and squinting at it. Scully gave a brief nod and moved her gaze to the far wall.
"Ray Stanz, FBI Technician . . ." he called hopefully. "Ah, excuse me, but is that a genuine unlicensed nuclear particle accelerator on your back, miss?"
"It is - I'd advise you to stay thirty feet back and shield your genitals."
Venkmann, Spengler and Stanz all did, immediately, scuttling awkwardly back out the door while Mulder stifled a laugh. He shook his head.
"You love using that line, admit it."
"I see an outline near the ceiling," Scully broke in, hiding her smile and pointing. "Looks like he's going to the upper floors. You stay here, and I'll try to herd him back down, all right?"
"Sounds good. Get Venkmann to take you up."
" ... of course Egon's convinced that this . . .*group*, this ... *syndicate*, this - big old badass *cartel* is responsible for all of it - alien abductions, the breakdown of the nuclear family, the floridation of drinking water, dogs and cats living together-"
"Gotcha. We're almost right above the basement now," he added hastily as Scully casually swung the accelerator rod towards his crotch. She looked around curiously.
"Nice big office - Who's AD Pendrell?"
"An associate . . .*senior* associate ... " Venkmann muttered resentfully, knocking the nameplate off the desk with casual indifference. Scully ignored him, and stared at the floor.
"I see an outline - better get in the doorway-" she warned. As the words left her lips, the long gray form of the ghost swooped up and into the room. Scully flicked on the back pack. The ghost narrowed his ferret-like eyes.
"Good evening sir. By the authority vested in me - SHIT!!!!!"
A huge wave of green goo surged through the air and saturated Scully, drenching her completely. Venkmann quickly took two steps back from her, wincing. Blue eyes blazing behind the visor, she whipped the accelerator muzzle up and fired. The beam, true and direct, sailed right through the hole in the ghost's chest and promptly fried the framed portrait of Janet Reno on the far wall.
"She looks better now - trust me," Venkmann observed. The ghost glanced over his shoulder at the smoldering picture for a moment and seemed to nod before turning back to Scully.
"This boy's *toast* . . ." she growled through her teeth, trying to scrape goo out of her hair. The talkie talkie crackled.
"I heard the shot-" came Mulder's worried voice. Scully slammed her free hand on the speak button.
"He *slimed* me, Mulder."
There was a pause.
"Oh that G-man's ass is *in* the grid now. Is he still there?"
"Yes," Scully glared at the smirking figure hovering in the corner. She pulled her visor off; her eyes were the only part of her not drenched in green slime. Venkmann offered her a box of tissues from the AD's desk; she took one and wiped her mouth, daintily.
"I think I can understand why someone shot you in the first place," she growled at the ghost. Casually, she swung the proton gun up, and blasted again. The lightning looped around the phantom in an arc of red and blue light, turning the green of his texture to a pale mint color.
He pouted and struggled, sending blasts of air through the office, scattering papers everywhere. Scully kept the stream steady, and caught sight of Mulder running through the door, trap in hand. He snapped it open, shoved it forward with one boot and stood back admiringly as Scully gave up the ghost.
"Nice shootin' Tex."
"Thanks, " she managed a quick grin at him, running a rueful hand through her gooey hair. He picked up the trap, and handed it to Venkmann, who stared at it curiously.
"Spook in the Box. Great. I'll just shove this in the filing cabinet," he murmured, holding it out before him like a dead rat as he left the room. Mulder scooped up another handful of tissues and helped Scully wipe her face.
"You look good in green."
"No, I mean it - you wear it well-"
A horrible squealing sound echoed in the room; Mulder looked around. Scully neatly dropped the tissues in the wastebasket and frowned. At the same time, they asked each other:
"Did you hear that?"
It grew louder, and nastier. Mulder thought it sounded like five sick cats riding in a Maytag dryer and said so. Scully gave him a worried look before pointing to the copier on the other side of the office.
"There. Paper jam?"
They cautiously walked over to it, and Mulder yanked back the cover flap. Blue white strobe lights flared out, chalking their faces and instead of seeing the encased inner workings of a Xerox, they saw ...
Another dimension. A big, bad kick-your-ass-and-laugh dimension, with winged gargoyles and fanged spiders ruled by a hideous five-headed fiend lolling on a throne made of rotting skulls.
Mulder slammed the lid shut and spun around, teeth clenched.
"Yep, paper jam."
"Like hell it was-" Scully argued, reaching for the cover again, but Mulder dropped his gloved hand on hers, pinning it there.
"What's the first rule of Ghostbusting, Scully?" He looked deadly serious and she hesitated before whispering,
"No ... freebies."
"Right. So If AD Pendrell wants this Doorway to Cursed Sydanoth's Plain shut down, then he can damned well shell out the benjamins for it, right?"
"-right," she reluctantly agreed, watching the copier begin to vibrate. Both of them backed away. By the time they'd reached the doorway, the copier had begun to rise off the floor.
"I really think we ought to reconsider-"
TO BE CONTINUED "Semper ubi sub ubi." Disclaimers in part one.
The curling smoke of a Morley drifted up. A voice came out of the dark, hissing over a cell phone:
"They've stumbled onto it. How? That idiot Venkmann and his pouting poltergeist, that's *how*." A few tense moments passed and then - "shut them down. Keep them busy trying to save their precious business. Use that wimp at the EPA if you must, but do it now. I won't have eight years of Demonic negotiations flushed down the toilet because of a damned bunch of - Ghostbusters*."
Then Walter Peck jabbed the 'off' button and took a hard angry drag on his cigarette.
3:12 PM 615 Quintana Place NW Washington DC
Sunlight shone through the window blinds of the dilapidated three story brownstone, highlighting the dust motes drifting in the air. Three lab-coated men occupied the main floor, each lost in their own pursuits.
"Hey Byers . . ."
"Honest Abe is flipping you off man," Langly pointed out, grinning. Startled, Byers looked up at the observation tank, then scribbled furious notes on his clipboard while the entity glowered behind the glass wall, skinny middle finger extended.
Skinner strode in, wiping his hands with a towel, his expression grim.
"Bad news gentlemen - pressure's rising in the containment grid. We've got to build another one within the next two weeks." Frohike looked up from his copy of Cthulu Today, Byers raised his glance from the clipboard, and Langly let go of the Twinkie he was scarfing. It fell with a soft 'plop' on the floor, unheeded as all three men stared at Skinner. Byers was the first to speak.
"Are you sure? We haven't begun to reach estimated holding capacity."
"I'm sure," Skinner growled. "For the last three hours I've been crawling all over the damned thing, checking every circuit and force-field. Either the ghosts are getting stronger, or the containment grid's not as structurally sound as we thought." Skinner gave a harsh sigh, and slung the towel around his strong neck. Gloomily, Frohike tossed his magazine on the paper-covered desk.
"There goes the hot tub fund," he groused. The sound of boots trudging down the stairs announced that Mulder and Scully were finally awake.
"We got anything on the Hoover building?" Mulder asked absently, yawning. Skinner spoke up.
"We've got bigger problems right now, Mulder. If we don't start working on a second containment grid-"
"-a second grid already?" Mulder sharply looked around. "Has anyone checked the triangulated PKE readings from the outlying counties?"
"All up, considerably," Frohike grunted. "Any speculations?"
Mulder and Scully exchanged a glance.
"Gee, maybe a portal to a powerful demonic dimension is building a riptide of paranormal energy in the immediate area," came Scully's dry comment. She bent down to pick up the fallen twinkie as the men looked at each other. Mulder ran a hand through his hair and gave her a wry grin.
"Okay, that was a really good guess-"
"You said the Hoover building, right?" Langly babbled, throwing himself into the chair by the main computer. "Give us the details." His fingers danced over the keyboard, and everyone crowded around behind his back to stare at the screen.
After a while, the phones began to ring, but nobody moved to pick them up. Byers looked stunned; Frohike scared.
"Geez, people have been complaining about that place for years, and now I can see why. No wonder the design doesn't make sense-"
"-It's not of this world," Mulder proclaimed softly. "Weird alloys, unsupported walls, pay toilets - all part of some eldritch pattern of construction. A sort of Anti-Feng Shui."
"And you say a Xerox was the Doorway?" Skinner demanded. "Has anyone warned the staff there?" Mulder looked sheepish while Scully smiled in a bright and brittle way.
"No job is too big, no *fee* is too big . . ." She quoted softly, then added, "I'm going to go back and see Venkmann - maybe he knows more than he's telling."
"Good idea. Langly, pull up Toban's Spirit guide and see if you can get us a printout on Sydanoth and his minions. Walter, second grid ASAP. Byers, start beefing up the PKE meters."
"What the hell are *you* going to do?" Frohike grumbled as he reached for the still ringing phones. Before Mulder could answer, someone walked in the front door, and they all turned to look. The short, nerdy little man spoke up in a reedy, whiny voice.
"Hi I'm Louis Tully from the Environmental Protection Agency and I'm here to inspect your facilities at this time. I couldn't help but notice your lighting, and you do know that you could save yourselves some serious money if you switched those overhead bulbs to the newer fluorescent bulbs don't you? Sure the amount's only a few pennies a day, but it can add up over a year to almost six dollars per bulb, which is enough to offset the cost of running your coffeepot nonstop, which you really shouldn't do . . ."
4:27 PM 935 Pennsylvania Ave. Washington D.C.
AD Pendrell was having a bad day. Janine hadn't made any coffee, the official Janet Reno portrait in his office had been vandalized, Special Agent Venkmann was trying to submit a seven thousand dollar pest control bill to Accounting, and to top in all off, the copier was acting up again. He stalked back to his desk and pressed the intercom.
"Bug-eyed freak," he grumbled to himself. Sighing, he stepped out of his office to her desk and fumbled through the rolodex for the copier repair number himself, wishing (not for the first time) that he had a quiet, simple job somewhere - running lab tests maybe. In his office, the copier chuckled. Unseen and unnoticed down at its base, a small black high heel sat on the dark carpet, smoking slightly.
5:05 PM 615 Quintana Place, NW Washington DC
"You can't shut us down!" whined Frohike desperately. Behind him, Skinner was pacing back and forth across the basement floor like a caged panther.
"Sorry sirs, but I've been empowered with this court order to do just that according to the dictates of Environmental Protection Agency and the office of the Mayor, even though I didn't vote for him the last election mostly because of his stance on tax reform-"
Louis Tully motioned to the worker in the hardhat, who had a gloved hand on the main toggle of the containment grid. The worker, whose name tag read COVARRUBIAS, gritted her teeth and narrowed her eyes.
"Mr. Tully, I don't recognize any of this wiring . . ." she hissed.
"Oh that's okay, you know most off-switches work about the same way, unless you're talking about something from Burkino Faso or Canada-"
"-Tully throw that switch and you're likely to go down in history as a dickless idiot," Skinner rumbled. "We've got eighteen months' worth of steady business in that thing - release it now and we won't be responsible for the consequences!"
"I have my orders, gentlemen. Sorry." Tully gave a weak nod to the woman at the switch; she gritted her teeth and flipped the toggle down.
Several things happened at once, none of them good.
"Oh shit-" Covarrubias hit the ground as the building began to shake. The overhead light blew out, in accepted dramatic fashion, one by one. A shower of white plaster drifted down, covering the cowering figures of Langly, Byers and Frohike. Skinner reached for the toggle, grimly trying to flip it up again as a solid wall of glowing green cannoned out of the Containment unit.
"Langly?" came Byer's bleat.
"Langly has gone bye-bye," Skinner announced, kicking to free his ankle from the blond nerd's whimpering deathgrip. "Frohike, what have you got left?"
"Sorry Skinner, I'm terrified beyond the capacity for rational thought," came the voice from behind the hot water heater. Slowly Skinner turned and took the cell phone that a stunned Byers held out with nerveless fingers. On the floor, Covarrubias was trying to untangle herself from the viselike arms of a shuddering Louis Tully while above them in the dim light of the basement, thousands of green and gray gossamer ghosts gibbered and glowered gleefully. Skinner gritted his teeth and started to jab the phone's buttons.
"Mulder-" he began grimly, "-we are in serious, Old Testament Wrath of God shit here-"
5:05 PM 935 Pennsylvania Ave. Washington DC
Inside AD Pendrell's office, a nice young man in overalls carrying a toolbox studied the Xerox machine with interest. He was handsome, in a clean-cut way, and had dark mischievous eyes. He was holding the high heel thoughtfully in one hand.
"Normally you don't see this sort of behavior in a major appliance," he muttered to himself. With a sigh, he set the toolbox down, and opened the lid of the copier. The bright light shone with all the intensity of a semi's headlights, blinding him; he grunted a curse in Russian, and knelt down, fumbling for one of the feeder doors. Suddenly, a hot stream of toner hit him viciously in the face, the black oily liquid forcing its way into his mouth, his eyes, his nose - and the last thing Alex Krycek heard was a woman's nasally New York voice demanding,
"So tell me handsome - are you th' Key masta?"
5:07 PM 935 Pennsylvania Ave Washington DC
Mulder tucked away the cell phone, looked up from the vibrating PKE meter in his hand and swallowed hard. Scully followed his glance to the walls of AD Pendrell's outer office. One by one the framed diplomas began to jitterbug off the wall. Venkmann tried to edge behind Scully; Spengler merely stared at the bouncing frames.
"Mother pus bucket!" Mulder snapped as the meter flew out of his grip, and buried itself in the wall. Immediately, green steam fizzled from the jagged hole. Spengler touched it with a finger.
"Ectoplasmic residue," he monotoned. "Interesting properties."
"Boardwalk and Park Place are interesting properties, Egon - that's just mucus." Venkmann pointed out.
"Are the guys on their way?" Scully stared out the window; down below, hundreds of agents were evacuating the building with remarkable speed, some running over the tops of parked cars in their haste.
"Yeah-" Mulder had given up trying to pry the PKE meter out of the wall and was pushing the door to AD Pendrell's inner office with his foot. "We should have backup pretty quick - Hell-o!"
The inner office was gone. No wood paneling, no Reno and Clinton portraits, no desk. The entire room was a mound of rubble. Scully sniffed the air, grimacing while Mulder looked in. Venkmann shook his head.
"Geez I hope the Xerox company talked Pendy-boy into an extended warranty."
"Hey, where do these stairs go?" Mulder demanded, looking at the rough stone risers that incongruously rose from the wreckage of the office to disappear through the ceiling.
"They go up," Scully replied drily. "And I suspect that's where we're going to go."
"I don't have to take this abuse from you," Mulder smiled briefly at his partner. "I got hundreds of people dying to abuse me."
"Gee kids, have fun," Venkmann smiled ingratiatingly, grabbing Spengler by the shoulder, "And now that you two can find your way up-"
"Anybody asks, we're exterminators-" Mulder called after the retreating agents. After a minute, heavy footsteps grew louder outside the door; Skinner stepped through and coughed at the acrid scent.
"We're bringing up your gear - what's the situation?"
5:40 935 Pennsylvania Ave Washington DC
They trudged up the stairs quietly, all five of them jumpsuited, goggled and powered up. Mulder led the way, followed by Scully, Skinner, Byers, Langly and Frohike. The steps numbered thirteen, and instead of leading to an asphalt rooftop, led to a smoky arena. Uneasily the six of them stood abreast.
"Look at the gargoyles . . ." Langly pointed out. The stone monsters flanked a huge set of doors at the far end of the roof, and resembled something vaguely familiar.
"They're cockroaches. Giant blatteria," Byers muttered.
"One of them's wearing earrings, " Frohike observed. "Kinky."
<SILENCE!!> Came a loud command, not spoken, but sensed just the same. The entire group looked at the doorway. The portal was slightly open, unearthly light pouring through. A nondescript older man in a dark suit stood on the top step. He lit up a cigarette and took a long, loving drag. The smoke trickled down to pool around his Florsheims.
<NOW COMES THE TIME OF THE TRAVELER AND ONE OF YOU WILL CHOOSE THE FORM> came the hacking, coughing voice. <CHOOSE WISELY>
"Wait a minute, wait a minute - we get to choose?" Mulder frowned, gripping the proton gun in his gloved hands tighter. "No - it's a trick. Whatever we think of-"
"-Will come to destroy DC," Skinner grimly finished. "But if we don't think of anything, then we're safe."
"Okay, okay, we'll just empty our minds . . ." Byers announced, glancing from right to left. "Should be easier for some of us."
"Har de har har, " Langly muttered, pushing up his glasses by the nose bridge. For a moment, all of them concentrated, and finally the voice announced.
<THE CHOICE HAS BEEN MADE.> The cigarette smoking man dropped the stub end of his smoke and ground it out.
"Wait a minute, I didn't think of anything - Skinner, did you think of anything?" Mulder complained, turning to the left.
"My mind was a granite slab. Frohike?"
"Nada mentalis - Byers?"
"Not me. How about you, Langly?"
"Honest to God, guys, I blanked out. It wasn't me."
They all looked at Scully. She gritted her teeth and muttered,
"All right I confess. I tried to think of the easiest thing to hate, guys. Something so annoying and irritating that it would be a pleasurable relief to gun it down. I *thought* I was doing the right thing-"
"Oh dear God no - it's . . ."
A low rumbling yap came rolling across the cityscape. Skinner grimaced, and Mulder dropped his face into one gloved hand as the giant Pomeranian scampered across the Potomac and between the government buildings
"It's QueegQueg," Scully announced absent resignation.
"It's a ninety foot hyperactive furball with fangs!" muttered Mulder, turning on his partner and glaring at her. "Thanks a lot, Scully."
"Look at him GO-"
"Hey, hey! *Nobody* takes a leak on a church in my town!" Skinner growled. He aimed his proton gun at the giant dog's head, neatly singeing the fur across the top of the skull and leaving a black streak there. QueegQueeg yipped, lowering his leg. He focused on the group atop the Hoover building and sniffed. Four more proton beams flared out, adding black tiger stripes across the giant dog's fluffy cheeks. He growled, the rumble of it shattering windows down the block.
"Bad Dog!" Scully screeched, "Bad dog!"
The lancing arcs of the proton beams danced around the Pomeranian, who barked and snapped at them, trying to bite the light beams.
"I *hate* the smell of barbecued dog hair," Langly whined. Frohike grimaced, and stopped firing.
"This isn't working, Mulder! There's too much fur protecting him!"
"Okay, okay-" Mulder motioned for the group to duck down behind part of the air conditioning unit. Scully was pale; Skinner had sweat rolling down his face.
"Let's just hope he doesn't start sniffing around the Washington Monument-" Byers murmured. Skinner met Mulder's gaze and spoke up.
"I have an idea, but it's extremely dangerous."
"What?" Scully broke in anxiously. A crunch, and a pitiful cry from below told them that QueegQueeg had just made a Volkswagen his new chew toy. Skinner rushed on.
"The door goes both ways - we could cross the streams."
"Cross the streams . . ." Frohike turned green. "Complete protonic reversal. Ah geez - Anyone got a Zantac?"
"There's *definitely* a slim chance we'll survive," Skinner added. Mulder looked from one face to the other as the moment of truth hit them all. He managed a sickly smile.
"Hey! You heard the man - definitely a slim chance, right?"
Langly, Byers, Frohike, Scully, Mulder and Skinner all sighed, and rose up with new determination. They spread out, a foot or so from each other and faced the glowing light that was shining along the half-open portals. Mulder glanced at his partner and gave her a gentle smile.
"See you on the other side, Scully."
"Nice working with you, Doctor Mulder, " She replied, smiling back. All six of them renewed the charges on the proton guns. Skinner growled,
"Let's show this Sydanoth of a Bitch how we do things downtown!"
"Byers, Scully - GO!" Two long tendrils of pulsating light shot out in parallel lines through the gap in the door. The proton streams were joined by two others as Langly and Mulder fired. Skinner and Frohike followed, their beams nearly grazing the edges of the portal. Behind them, the thundering impact of QueegQueeg's front paws on the edge of the building nearly knocked them off their feet.
"Now! Cross them!" Mulder yelled, wind whipping his hair, light glinting off his glasses. Scully moved her beam to touch his. The light changed to an octarine color, intensifying as the other four beams joined with them. A long howl reverberated across the nation's capital as QueegQueeg was sucked up and through the portals. The eldritch doors closed instantly, and the howl became a series of heartbreaking sonic yips as the huge bushy tail - trapped - squirmed frantically, sweeping the roof clean of fixtures, vent shafts, smoke and cigarette butts.
And it was gone.
There was a warm cloud of red all around. Scully felt a hand tug her to her feet. Mulder looked like an auburn Abominable Snowman, Langly was sneezing uncontrollably, and Frohike could have been Cousin Itt's twin. Skinner brushed the fur off his pate reluctantly.
"We did it!" She grinned, wiping QueegQueeg hair out of her face and mouth.
"Yes!" Byers pointed at the granite cockroaches that were now on their backs, legs in the air. "Ghosts, demons, even stone bugs-"
"The bug's moving-" Scully stepped over to it, breaking off a leg to reveal pink fingers that moved. With help from the others, she managed to free a scorched, dazed young man.
" ... helluva paper jam. Janine jam. Toner Keymaster, master ditto, Tunguska . . ." he murmured as Skinner and Frohike helped him down. In the crumbled remains of the other cockroach, a small and energetic young woman was clinging to Byers.
" ... I also play racketball. Do you have any hobbies?"
Mulder held back a moment from joining he others on their way down the stairs. He grinned at the sky.
"God I love my job."