The mysterious death of former baseball player Yuzuru Fuyuno sends TJ Anderson of Scotland Yard's Occult Crimes Unit to New York. She finds Fuyuno's niece, Marie Lupin, who was the intended recipient of the one clue in the case: a creepy amulet. Not long after TJ arrives, the two women are attacked by zombies and run for their lives.
Marie and TJ hitch a ride from fraternal twins John and Eden Spengler, who are having a bad night of their own: their parents--GBI Co-Founder Egon Spengler and his wife Janine--have been kidnapped. After shaking off a gang of zombie bikers, the Spenglers and their new friends head to Ghostbusters Central.
What they have yet to realize is that Yuzuru Fuyuno's killer and the Spenglers' kidnapper are the same man: Zoraldo. And Zoraldo appears to be answering to an even more powerful evil...
"I hear sirens, Master..." Dimsworth whimpered.
Zoraldo picked up the zombie's head, frozen with an "OH SHIT!" expression on its face. Zoraldo muttered an invocation...
After a few seconds of concentration, Zoraldo's eyes shot open.
"It's a small world sometimes, Dimsworth." Zoraldo shook his head. "The driver of the car who came to Lupin and the Englishwoman's aid was driven by two of those in attendance at the Etherite dinner. Considering their resemblance to Spengler himself, I presume his children."
Zoraldo dropped the head, and gestured for them to leave. "It appears that despite our best efforts, the Ghostbusters are in a position to get ahold of the Eye. We must act quickly."
It wasn't the original ECTO-1, purchased by the Ghostbusters in 1983, or even the replacement they purchased five years later. It was a "replivehicle", a car very much mimicking the look of the classic 1959 Cadillac Miller Meteors, but equipped with the latest, state-of-the-art automotive technology. (And the odd customized improvement or two implemented by Ray Stantz and Roland Jackson)
"So how good do you think the readings you took are going to be?" Roland asked from the driver's seat.
"Good enough, I hope." Kylie shook her head. "It had faded, and there were so many other people there...some of those guys, because of the odd stuff they're into, they can set off the meters too. Amore's reading was high enough he could be a wizard himself."
"That guy does seem a little creepy." Garrett agreed.
"Don't forget that Juan and Edie were there." Eduardo pointed out. "Juan seems like he was just about born with that PKE meter in his hand, like his Dad. I'd be just about willing to bet money he took an assload of readings right after it happened."
"I hope so, Eddie." Kylie agreed. "But even if he did, I'm not totally sure what we can do about it. Egon's the only one who really understands all that stuff with dimensional warp technology, and not even Ray's here right now. I mean, is ECTO-4 even operational?"
"We don't even know if they've been transported to another plane." Roland pointed out. "They may still be on Earth, for all we know."
"That's just the problem, though. We. Don't. Know." Kylie retorted.
"Which means you should drive faster, Jacko." Garrett interjected. "Maybe Eric's managed to dig up something on this Zoraldo character..."
"Last stop." John remarked brightly.
"Bloody hell, about time..." TJ grumbled. "I half expected us to end up plowed into a lamppost somewhere. You are an absolute menace to automotive transportation! You're..."
"I apologize, Officer. I'll remember that next time: even if you're being chased by killer biker zombies, always obey the posted speed limit." John retorted.
TJ scowled at him for a few seconds, then began to undo her seatbelt.
Behind them, Eden was similarly unbuckling, rolling her eyes the whole time. Her brother, she noticed, seemed to be deriving an inordinate amount of glee from picking at the flustered English policewoman. If he says something about raquetball I'm really going to get suspicious...
They had just exited the car when the night was broken by an unearthly shriek, and something jumped Marie Lupin from behind.
John reacted out of sheer instinct, tackling TJ down to the ground.
"Marie!" Eden shouted.
A snarling zombie, one of the ones that had chased them just an hour before, was latched onto Marie Lupin. Well, part of one of the zombies, to be more accurate--the lower half of it was gone. Its torn biker leathers ended just below its rib cage, and so did the rest of its body.
"Rego Corpus." a new voice broke in.
The half-zombie was torn off of Marie and thrown into the wall of the firehouse.
A man that TJ and Marie didn't recognize was standing there, with a determined look on his face, a long red and blue robe adorned with several holy symbols, and a set of aviator goggles perched on his head.
He gestured smoothly. "Perdo Corpus."
With barely a whimper, the zombie poofed into a cloud of ash, its now-empty leathers slumping to the ground.
For a few seconds, the four could just stare as the man in the robe exhaled.
"Eric..." Eden said. "What just happened?!"
"I could ask you the same thing, Edie." Eric replied.
"I mean...what you did to that zombie...you..."
TJ realized John was still lying on top of her. "I think it's over with." she said forcefully. "You can get off me now."
There was a mischievous gleam in his eyes as they met hers, and a smirk at the edge of his mouth. "You sure?"
He hesitated a few scant seconds longer, just long enough for her to reach the cusp of offense, before helping her up. When they were both standing, she brusquely pulled herself away from him, and started brushing off her crumpled jacket, muttering.
Eden gave her brother a look. He just looked up and crossed his arms with mock innocence.
"Eric..." Eden asked again.
Eric exhaled. "I started to tell JC earlier, before you showed up and all that stuff about the Professor and the Etherite dinner interrupted. Rein-Hagen wasn't just a private school. There's more to the nickname 'Hogwarts' than I ever would have guessed--it's a prep school for potential wizards. And I was selected."
Eric posed dramatically. "You are looking at a fully certified member of a twelve hundred and fifty four year old organization devoted to the study and practice of the magical arts. In the parlance of the Order, I am Eric Hawthorne, Filius of Vincent Belmont, Follower of Bonisagus, Magus of the Order of Hermes."
"Bonisagus? That's like a Hufflepuff, right?" John quipped.
"Don't make me Creo Ignem your ass, Spengler."
" 'Eric Hawthorne'?" Eden asked.
Eric sighed. "Why do you think I said it was so great you called me by my real name? I've had to go by Mom's maiden name for the last thirteen years, every since I got to Rein-Hagen...'Stantz' would carry too big a stigma in the Order...about the only name that'd draw more hate than that would be yours..."
"Eric Stantz...been a long time..." Marie said, going over to Eric and slapping him on the butt. "You've grown up nicely."
Eric chuckled. "You ain't exactly an eyesore yourself, Marie. So what are you doing here?"
"Am I the only one here who doesn't know everyone else?" TJ muttered.
"Pretty much." Eden replied blithely.
"I think before we answer any more questions..." John broke in, studying his GBX. "...We should get inside."
A fancy car sat in their way.
"Fine time for a breakdown." Garrett snarled. "Honk at his ass, Jacko! We got important stuff to take care of!"
Roland shook his head. "We don't lose anything by taking time to help a fellow motorist in need. He's probably already called for help, but you never know. Even in this day and age there are a few people who don't have cell phones."
"Yeah, and they probably don't drive anything more high tech than a horse and buggy, either." Garrett grumbled.
Roland got out of the car. "Good evening. I see you're having some problems with your vehicle. I'm a mechanical engineer myself, and I'd take a look if I weren't in a hurry, but can I call anyone for you or anything?"
The car door opened and a man in a tuxedo got out.
"Waitaminute..." Kylie gasped. "The description of Zoraldo...that guy looks..."
The man leered, and held up a glowing crystal. "That won't be necessary, Doctor Jackson."
Dimsworth and three more zombies appeared, each holding a glowing crystal. They surrounded the ECTO-1.
Garrett reached for a proton pack.
Beams of red light shot between each of the crystals, forming a pentagram.
"Arbadacarba! Otserp ognahc!!!" Zoraldo shouted.
The light flared to the brightness of the sun, and when it faded, the ECTO-1 and all four Ghostbusters were gone.
"Now then..." Zoraldo said, pocketing the crystal. "We have business to discuss with Miss Lupin and the younger Spenglers..." The night filled with his maniacal laugh.
"In the Ghostbusting business, we call that a Focussed, Non-Terminal Repeating Phantasm, and a Class Five Full Roaming Vapor." John quipped. "Though he prefers to be called 'Slimer'."
"You've never seen an ectoplasmic entity before?" Eden asked. "I believe you said you were with the 'Occult Crimes Unit'..."
"I just started with them this year." TJ answered, looking a bit uncomfortable at the admission. "This was my first case with them."
"I didn't think you looked like a grizzled old vet yet, no." Marie said. "Even though you sound like a fifty year old in a twenty-year old body."
"Twenty three." TJ corrected brusquely.
"And I'll be twenty two in five days!" John said in a mocking sing-song voice. "I'm a Gemini with Aries rising and my favorite color is red!"
"Don't start." Eden told him.
"I wasn't." John replied more somberly. "Howsabout we, oh, I dunno, find out why Marie and TJ were being chased by zombies. It gives us something to do until the Ghostbusters get back."
"They were jealous of our teeth." Marie quipped.
"TJ?" Eric said agreeably. "Pleased to make your aquiantance. Eric Stantz."
"Tessa Jane Anderson." TJ replied. "My name is not'TJ'..."
"Anyway, I think John's got a good idea, TJ." Eric nodded. "All I know is that something about you two is making the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Just what kind of bad magic mojo have you been fooling around with, Marie?"
"Nothing by choice, Eric." Marie shook her head.
She explained how Anderson had turned up on her doorstep; TJ, in turn, told them about the murder of Marie's uncle, Yuzuru Fuyuno, and her quest for answers--which led her to Marie Lupin, the zombie attack, and the subsequent meeting with the Spenglers.
"And it all appears to be about this." Marie said, taking the bundle out of her vest pocket and opening it. A gold medallion, about the diameter of a tennis ball, was emblazoned with a dark, ominous green eye.
Slimer screamed and hid behind the file cabinets.
John pulled out his GBX, and scanned it directly.
Error: PK Level Exceeds Sensor Tolerance Parameter.
"And the breaker's about five times better than the old Model 3..." John muttered.
"Wow!" Eric said.
"You have any idea what it is?" Marie asked.
"No...but it's cool! It's putting out vibes bad enough to depress Barney the Dinosaur, but it's cool!"
"Despite my own fear of the answer..." TJ said. "You said you had an emergency of your own, which I presume explains why the Ghostbuster aren't here?"
John and Eden nodded gravely, and told their own story--of how the gatecrashing stage magician 'Zoraldo' had absconded with their parents.
"Wow." Marie looked downcast. "All the stories I've heard about the Professor make him sound, like, invincible or something."
TJ's brow furrowed. "This seems a rather...interesting coincidence. If it is a coincidence."
"You think it could be related?" Marie asked.
"Think about it. An artifact--which appears to contain so much paranormal power someone's willing to kill for it--arrives in New York City. That very same night, one of the founders of the world's premiere paranormology investigative companies is kidnapped." TJ sat down at the reception desk, and started typing on the computer. " 'Zoraldo' you said..."
"I looked him up in the Hermetic archives." Eric said. "And on Google--I got nothing."
TJ arched an eyebrow. "You, however, do not have access to the Interpol database."
The Interpol page came up, and TJ logged in.
"I could probably crack it myself with very little difficulty." Eden said matter of factly.
"Edie, bragging about it while a cop is sitting two feet away from you is probably not the best idea." John chided.
"I didn't say I was going to." Eden countered indignantly. "Just that I could."
"Hm..." TJ muttered.
"You got something?" Marie asked.
"Perhaps." TJ answered. "I got two hits on the name 'Zoraldo'...but they're from the 1920's."
John and Eden looked at each other.
"In 1927, the police department in Amherst, Massachussetts investigated the mysterious death of a teenage girl. The investigation led them to a cult dedicated to 'Amot-Naphemus, Dark God of Atlantis'... One of the cult members was a local stage magician calling himself 'Zoraldo'..."
TJ clicked a link. "Here's the mug shot on file..."
John and Eden's blood froze when they saw the grainy picture of a seedy looking man with slicked back black hair and a pencil mustache. "It sure looks like the same guy..." John said.
TJ paused before continuing. "Arrest record says his real name was Thomas Riley, and he was born in Hackensack, New Jersey in 1889."
"One hundred and thirty two years?" Eric whistled. "Even Vigo the Carpathian only made it to a hundred and five..."
"The charges were dropped when the Amherst police couldn't find enough evidence to make them stick."
"That time." Marie interjected. "You said there was a second hit?"
TJ nodded. "1929. Same Thomas Riley. Amherst police found his wagon burned to the ground, with scarcely a cinder larger than a quarter left of it. There were no human remains discernable to the forensic techiques of the time, but the police declared Riley deceased and closed the case." She looked up. "Apparently, the cult of Amot-Naphemus drifted apart after the arrest two years before--none of them were implicated in any foul play."
Eric stroked his chin. "Anything else?"
TJ shook her head. "Nothing."
"Great. Let me in here--I got something else to check on now..."
"Could it really be the same Zoraldo?" Eden mused.
"Possible, I suppose." John replied. "I remember Mom mentioning some wizards they met who were like three and eight hundred years old...I..." John trailed off.
He'd been distracted when TJ leaned over to inspect her own right shin. "Bloody things got a snag..." she was muttering. "Probably happened when some boor threw me to the ground."
"Next time I'll let the zombie strangle you. I promise." John spoke up.
TJ looked a little sheepish, not realizing she'd drawn his attention.
Marie rolled her eyes. "Could you two flirt later? We still don't know why the zombies are after this f***ing thing..."
"'Flirt'?!" John and TJ said in indignant unison.
Eden rolled her eyes. "I really wish the Ghostbusters would get back."
Slimer peeked out from behind the cabinet, whimpering. He started to look nervously at the direction of the front door.
Everyone else was too preoccupied to hear a vehicle pulling up to it.
"Crap." Eric grumbled. "Nothing on the online archive for an 'Amot-Naphemus' or even anything close to that. There's a lot of Hermetic archives that have never been scanned, but even if there was something at Horizon or Harco I'd have to go in person, and no telling how long it would take to actually find anything..."
"This is why print is dead, Eric." Eden quipped.
To a one, they all startled at the loud, angry rap at the front door.
"I'm the biggest." John growled. "I'll tell them to get lost..."
"Be diplomatic this time!" Eden called after him. "Just point out that office hours are nine to five, and they could come back tomorrow."
But when John Spengler opened the door, Slimer screamed and ducked back behind the file cabinet again.
"Zoraldo!!!" John shouted.
"I am not truly here." Zoraldo said with a Cheshire grin. "I am projecting my image over one of my zombies; destroy it if you wish--it wouldn't be the first one tonight, would it?--but it causes me no harm."
"You son of a bitch!" John snarled "Where are my parents?!"
"Safe, for the moment." Zoraldo answered. "Might I enter? That is one of the subjects I am here to discuss..."
John looked back at the others. Eric nodded. Marie and TJ were both ready to draw and fire the guns they carried at a second's notice.
John opened the door; the black clad magician strode into the garage.
"He's telling the truth about being an illusion..." Eric whispered to Eden. "It's an imagonem spell or a glamour over another zombie..."
"Tsukiko Lupin." Zoraldo bowed theatrically. "A pleasure to meet you at last. You have something that belongs to me."
"Oh do I?" Marie said, fingers itching on the pistol concealed in her sweat pants.
"The Eye of Aretpo." Zoraldo answered. "Your uncle, Yuzuru Fuyuno. He stole it from me, and I have very strong reason to believe it has ended up in your posession. I sense its presence here--do not try to convince me otherwise."
"Was it really worth killing him over?" Marie asked angrily.
"In truth..." Zoraldo replied. "Fuyuno killed himself. I had cornered him in London; he jumped into the Thames of his own accord."
Marie looked at TJ. "That's what our forensics said. He was still alive when he hit the water."
"That doesn't excuse you sending zombies after us" Marie countered.
"I had hoped to regain my lost property without any further...entanglements."
"Is it really your property?" Eric asked. "Or does it belong to Amot-Naphemus?"
Zoraldo's eyes opened wider at the mention. "I don't know of what you speak." he answered after a second.
"Thomas Riley? Cult of Amot-Naphemus in Amherst, Massachussetts? None of that rings a bell?"
"Egon and Janine Spengler." Zoraldo countered. "Roland Jackson. Eduardo Rivera. Kylie Griffin. Garrett Miller. Do those names have meaning to you?"
Zoraldo stroked his mustache. "I know they do. All of them are in my...safekeeping. I propose a simple exchange: return to me the Eye of Aretpo, and I will return to you your parents and the other Ghostbusters."
"You piece of slime..." Marie growled.
"John...what should we do?" Eden asked.
John gulped. "Marie..."
"You guys are the experts in this stuff, Johnny." Marie shook her head. "I'll do whatever you decide."
It was a bit of an uncomfortable moment for Johnathan Christopher Spengler to realize that, somehow, the decision seemed to have ended up on his shoulders.
His parents were in jeopardy, that much he knew. And the other Ghostbusters--four people he'd known and looked up to his entire life--had been long overdue in returning. His instincts told him Zoraldo was telling the truth--they were also in the same predicament as his parents.
On the other hand...this "Eye of Aretpo" was powerful and probably quite dangerous. His instincts also told him that letting Zoraldo have it would definitely not be a good thing.
But what else could they do? They weren't the Ghostbusters.
Get his parents and the Ghostbusters back. And they could take care of whatever Zoraldo and "Amot-Naphemus" were cooking up.
That faith made the decision easier.
"Do it." he finally said, voice purged of emotion.
Marie hesitated for a second, then pulled the package containing the Eye out of her vest. "Bring them back to us first."
"Done." Zoraldo leered, snapping his fingers.
The garage of the firehouse was filled with an angry red light. Out of it, the ECTO-1 appeared.
Zoraldo snapped his fingers again. The package was torn from Marie's grip, and flew to the sleazy magician.
"Thank you for your cooperation!" Zoraldo said, sprinting out the door.
The fivesome were more preoccupied with the replivehicle and its contents. "Mom! Pop!" John called.
They threw open the door to the ECTO-1. Roland Jackson sat in the front seat, eyes open, but blank.
"I see Kylie, Garrett, and Eduardo, but not..." Eric started to say.
"They're in the back!" Eden called.
Egon and Janine Spengler lay in the back of the replivehicle. One of Egon's hands gripped a blinking Model 3 PKE Meter. The other gripped his wife's right hand. Their eyes were just as open, blank, and unseeing as their proteges'.
Zoraldo fingered the amulet, eyes glinting with glee. "At last...it's mine...after a century, it's all within our grasp." His laugh was deep and satisfied. "Drive faster, Dimsworth! We must complete the ritual. By the time Ghostbusters International discovers what's happened and sends in reinforcements..."
His grin was wide. He was shaking with anticipation.
"It will already be too late for them!!! It will be too late for them all!!!"
The Order of Hermes created by Jonathan Tweet and Mark Rein-Hagen for Ars Magica, currently published by Atlas Games. They also appeared in White Wolf's Mage: The Ascension and Vampire: The Masquerade. Developed for the GBOT continuity by Vincent Belmont and Fritz Baugh. Rein-Hagen Academy is, of course, named for Mr. Rein-Hagen, co-creator of Ars Magica and the original World of Darkness.
The Sons of Ether are inspired by the Tradition of the same name from White Wolf's Mage: The Ascension, created by Stewart Wieck and Mark Rein-Hagen. The Solificati and Electrodyne Engineers also come from Mage. Developed for the GBOT continuity by Fritz Baugh, with the advice of Vincent Belmont.