Standard Fanfic Warning that wouldn't last ten seconds in a court of law: these aren't my characters, I'm just borrowing them um, er, for typing practice. Yeah, that's it, typing practice. No intent to profit or infringe on copyright, just typing practice. Based on characters and situations from the TV shows Threshold and Castle. Originally published in the fanzine Diamonds and Dynamite #3, from Agent with Style Press.
Cryptozoologists and Creavers
by Susan M. M.
2015 FanQ Honorable Mention, Best Threshold Story
My name is Molly Caffrey, and I work for the federal government. I deal in worst-case scenarios, the unthinkable. On September 16th, 2005, the unthinkable happened. An extraterrestrial object appeared off the bow of a naval freighter. The entire crew was exposed to a high frequency signal. Some died instantly. Others began to change. They are now stronger, more resilient. They dream of alien landscapes. And they are driven by the impulse to infect others. Several of the crewmen are now loose in the United States. They will strike anytime, anyplace, anyone. Their goal: to turn us into them. But I have a plan to stop them. That plan is called "Threshold."
"I am a brother to dragons, and a companion to owls." Job 30:29, King James Version
Agent Sean Cavennaugh walked into the coffee room where the rest of Project Threshold's Red Team was fortifying themselves against the morning with heavy doses of caffeine. "Good news, people."
Dr. Molly Caffrey, Dr. Lucas Pegg, Dr. Arthur Ramsey, and Dr. Nigel Fenway looked up. 'Good news' wasn't a phrase that was heard often at Threshold headquarters.
"We've had a sighting of Captain Manning," Cavennaugh announced.
"Where?" Molly demanded. The redhead was the leader of Project Threshold.
"Facial recognition software caught Manning in Lansing, Maryland, at the Lansing Hilton. The hotel is hosting two conventions this weekend, and Manning's cousin is listed as presenter at the cryptozoology conference," Cavennaugh reported. He was a tall, muscular man with sandy brown hair.
"Cryptozoology?" Ramsey's eyes lit up. "Is Dr. Thora Konungursdóttir listed as attending that conference?" The mathematician and linguist was a Little Person, a good two feet shorter than Cavennaugh.
"I don't know, but we can find out," Cavennaugh said. "You can probably find out quicker than I can."
"Let me do some hacking. I know her; she'll help us if I ask."
"Ramsey and his women," Fenway muttered. The pathologist was the oldest member of the team. He was a former NASA researcher with graying hair.
"Hey, I'm not the one paying three different alimonies," Ramsey called over his shoulder as he hurried out of the coffee room to the nearest computer.
Lucas Pegg, the youngest of the time, snorted back a giggle.
Ten minutes later, Ramsey reported back to his team mates. "Two conventions at the hotel today and tomorrow. A Nebula 9 con -"
"Hey, I loved that show when I was a kid," Lucas interrupted.
"You're still a kid," Fenway muttered.
"And a cryptozoology conference. And two of the people presenting papers at the conference are Dr. Josiah Manning and Dr. Thora Konungursdóttir," Ramsey reported triumphantly. "Lansing, Maryland - we could drive there in an hour or so."
"We could fly there even faster," Cavennaugh pointed out. "I'll order the helicopter and some back-up."
Molly nodded her consent.
"Molly, do you mind if I skip this one?" Fenway asked. "My experiments are looking very promising; I don't want to interrupt them at this point."
"I think we can handle it without you," Molly agreed. "And the sooner you find a cure for the alien DNA, the better."
"Nigel is just scared of Creavers and chupacabras," Ramsey sneered.
"Creavers?" Molly repeated. Chupacabras she'd heard of, but Creavers were new to her.
"The evil aliens from Nebula 9," Lucas explained. The young aerospace engineer knew as much about the spaceships on Nebula 9, Babylon 5, Star Wars, and Star Trek as he did NASA's space shuttle.
At the Lansing Hilton, Ramsey ogled the women in original Trek mini-skirts and Xena, Warrior Princess costumes who were walking through the lobby. "Pity we didn't have time to go shopping before we came. If I could have found some Renaissance Faire garb, I could have slipped into the N9 con as Tyrion Lannister."
"Who?" Molly asked.
"Character from a book called Game of Thrones. I'd have all the fangirls all over me." Ramsey grinned lasciviously in anticipation.
"In your dreams, Ramsey," Cavennaugh scoffed. "Detoro, Harper, check out the cryptozoology conference. Dr. Pegg, Rice, Hargrave, check out the sci-fi convention."
"SF," Lucas corrected automatically.
"Dr. Caffrey, Dr. Ramsey, with me, please," Cavennaugh requested.
The three of them went up to the hotel's front desk. Cavennaugh showed the desk clerk a federal ID that claimed (falsely) that he worked for Homeland Security. "I need to speak to the manager ... discreetly."
"Of course, sir."
The clerk fetched the manager, and a minute later the four of them were in his office. "How may I help you?" the manager, Carlos Montoya, asked. He was a middle-aged Hispanic gentleman.
"We've had a threat against your hotel. My people are checking it out."
"A threat?" Montoya repeated. He sat behind an oak desk. Framed photographs of Mexico decorated the walls - Chichen Itza, a colonial church, a cityscape of Mexico City, a desert landscape, the beach at Acapulco.
Ramsey and Molly sat on a blue sofa; it complemented the blue floral wallpaper nicely. Cavennaugh took one of the two wooden chairs in front of the desk.
"It may be nothing, but we need to check it out. We don't want to alarm your guests. We'll be as quiet as possible," Cavennaugh assured him.
"Of course, of course," Montoya agreed.
"We need to have Thora Konungursdóttir paged, please," Molly spoke up for the first time. "And if you don't mind, may we borrow your office for a few minutes?"
"The Jersey Devil was not made up by the National Register to sell newspapers. Sightings date back to before the American revolution: oral accounts by the Lenape Indians, journals by Dutch explorers, colonial diaries ..."
"Paging Dr. Thora Konungursdóttir. Paging Dr. Thora Konungursdóttir. Dr. Konungursdóttir, please report to the main lobby," a voice came over the PA system, interrupting the lecture.
A strawberry blonde in her late twenties or early thirties stood. She wore a pink skirt and matching blouse. Speaking with a very faint Scandinavian accent, she apologized for the disruption and left the room. A tall, muscular blond man followed after her.
The pair went to the front desk, and were directed to the manager's private office. When she opened the door, the hotel manager was not there, but a woman and two men were. Molly sat behind the desk. Cavennaugh stood behind her. Ramsey was on the sofa.
Ramsey stood and greeted her enthusiastically, "Thora, darlin', when are you gonna marry me?"
"When you stop drinking, stop gambling, and stop chasing other women, I'll think about it. I'll think about it for about ten seconds, then I'll laugh in your face. And then I'll remind you that it's Dr. Konungursdóttir, not Thora, as far as you're concerned."
Cavennaugh smiled at her response.
Unabashed by her answer, Ramsey merely took her hand and kissed it gently, almost reverently. Molly raised eyebrow at the sight. Courtly gestures were the last thing she expected from Ramsey; his usual style was "Hey, babe, great hooters" and went downhill from there.
"Dr. Konungursdóttir, may I present Dr. Molly Caffrey, Center for Disease Control, and Agent Cavennaugh. Thora Konungursdóttir, and her," Ramsey hesitated just a second, "aide, Bjorn Eriksson."
Cavennaugh took one look at Bjorn's military posture, his hyper-alert eyes, and the familiar bulge beneath his blue suit. "Why does a cryptozoologist need an armed guard?"
"My father insisted, in case I ran into Dr. Ramsey when I came to the US," she replied.
"Arthur, darlin', Arthur," he corrected her.
Thora gave a half-smile. "Dr. Ramsey and Dr. Konungursdóttir is safer than Arthur and Thora."
Molly gestured invitingly at the chairs in front of the manager's desk. "Have you seen anyone acting strangely at the conference?"
Thora sat. Bjorn remained standing. "This is a cryptozoology conference. We're all strange. Half the people here are obsessed with their pet projects, two-thirds are - how do you Americans put it? - complete and utter fruitcakes. Most people here wouldn't know the scientific method if they tripped and stubbed their toe on it. There are a lot of conspiracy theorists here, convinced your government is hiding the truth behind Roswell, the Kennedy assassination, Bigfoot, and Elvis, and most think the others' pet obsessions are sheer lunacy whilst theirs are scientific inquiry worthy of Albert Einstein."
Cavennaugh asked, "And where do you fit into this mix?"
"Bjorn would say I'm one of the crazy ones. I prefer to think I have an open, if skeptical, mind."
In heavily accented English, Bjorn said, "In English, crazy if poor, eccentric if moneyed."
"The okapi was unknown to European science until 1901, thought to be nothing more than a native folk tale. The platypus and panda were suspected of being frauds, hoaxes, the first time their corpses were examined by western scientists. Men have been hanged on less evidence than exists for the Loch Ness Monster - which may say more about our justice system then whether or not descendants of plesiosaurs survive in Loch Ness and Lake Champaign. But you're not here about the Loch Ness Monster or jackelopes. What is it you need?" Thora asked.
Molly handed her a picture of Captain Manning. "Have you seen this man?"
"No, I don't think so." Thora passed it to Bjorn. He shook his head.
Molly continued, "Do you know Dr. Josiah Manning?"
"Only by reputation. His specialty is Sasquatch-hunting. Mine is comparing folklore against historical and natural evidence, with an emphasis on the Loch Ness Monster. I'm an archaeologist and historian by profession; cryptozoology is just a hobby," Thora explained.
"You know him by reputation. What is his reputation? What have you heard?" Molly repeated.
"His doctorate is in dentistry, not anthropology or biology. As I heard it, his hobby is deer hunting. He thought he saw a Sasquatch once, when he was less than sober, and he's been looking for proof ever since." Thora looked from Molly to Cavennaugh to Ramsey. "May I ask what this is regarding? And why a linguist is assisting the Center for Disease Control?"
"I'm also a mathematician, and I'm assisting with some pattern analysis," Ramsey said honestly.
"We're trying to track down a contagion pattern," Molly said, not lying.
"Why doctor and mathematician need armed guard?" Bjorn asked.
"That should be obvious, Bjorn. To protect the doctor from the mathematician." Thora rose. "If you have more questions, I shall be happy to answer them. If not, I shall return to the conference. I am scheduled to give my speech in twenty minutes."
"Thank you, Dr. Konungursdóttir," Molly said. She had the odd feeling that the younger woman was dismissing her, rather than being dismissed by her.
Cavennaugh waited until the door had shut behind Thora and Bjorn before turning to Ramsey. "Okay, who is she?"
"She's an archaeologist, a historian. She collects folklore and compares it to the historical record," Ramsey said innocently. "Her sister married a Scotsman, and she got interested in the Loch Ness Monster when she was on vacation in Scotland visiting her."
"Who is she?" Cavennaugh repeated.
Ramsey looked from Cavennaugh to Molly. Molly had that look in her eye, the one his mother used to have when she wanted to know who broke the cookie jar. Ramsey sighed. "When she's on a dig or at a conference like this, she's Dr. Konungursdóttir. But if she were in Washington at a state dinner, or trying to get a reservation at a fancy restaurant, she'd use her title."
"Her title?" Molly asked.
Dr. Thora Konungursdóttir is actually HRH Princess Thora of Drekinneyja. Drekinneyja is like Iceland; they use patronymics instead of surnames, even in the 21st century. Konungursdóttir isn't her last name. Literally translated, it means king's daughter."
"You know a princess?" Cavennaugh didn't bother to hide his disbelief.
"Not biblically, but yes, I know a princess," Ramsey retorted. "We met at a linguistics conference a couple years ago. She's fluent in Ancient Norse, and reads runes as easily as you do the Sunday funnies."
"You know a princess," Cavennaugh repeated softly, still finding it impossible to believe.
In her hotel room, Thora gathered her notes for her speech. She plugged in her laptop and quickly Goggled Dr. Molly Caffrey.
Ramsey sat in the audience as Thora gave her lecture on whether or not Loch Ness had the resources to support and hide a colony of creatures the size of plesiosaurs. Agent Detoro sat beside him, only paying half-attention to the lecture. His eyes continually scanned the room, keeping a lookout for Captain Manning, his cousin, or any other form of trouble.
Cavennaugh's other agents were searching the hotel. Probably searching Manning's cousin's room without bothering with a warrant, Ramsey guessed.
They met for lunch in the hotel restaurant. Cavennaugh raised an eyebrow as Lucas, Rice, and Hargrave came to their table. Lucas had been wearing a green polo shirt that morning. Now he had on a blue T-shirt with white letters that read 'Wesley weighs 73 kilos' and a con badge with his name. Rice and Hargrave were wearing sunglasses indoors. They had con badges that read 'Agent Smith' and 'Agent Jones.'
"Dare I ask?" Molly inquired.
"Purloined letter method - hide in plain sight." Lucas reached for his menu.
"Dr. Pegg figured if we looked like government agents, no one would suspect us of being government agents," Hargrave explained. He was a tall African-American, as bald as Yul Brynner.
Cavennaugh nodded. It made a certain amount of twisted sense.
"Where's Ramsey?" Lucas asked.
"Over there." Molly gestured to a nearby table, where Ramsey sat with Thora and Bjorn. "With," she hesitated just a second, "Dr. Konungursdóttir."
The waitress came and took their orders. Once she'd returned to the kitchen, Cavennaugh asked, "Any sign of Captain Manning?"
"Not yet," Rice said. He was a big, beefy, blond man, built like a fullback. "Did you want us to keep checking out the SF con or to help you look?"
"Manning's cousin will be giving his speech in two hours. I think Manning will be at the cryptozoologist conference, or near it," Molly guessed.
"I'll need you with us," Cavennaugh ordered.
Hargrave nodded. Lucas and Rice looked disappointed.
"Where are Detoro and Harper?" Hargrave asked quietly.
He didn't really need to keep his voice down. All around them people were carrying on conversations about chupacabras, feminism in Romulan culture, yetis, what would have happened if Bonnie Prince Charlie had won at Culloden, UFOs, and whether Joss Whedon should be canonized or merely knighted. Ramsey, Thora, and Bjorn were quietly chatting in Swedish or Norwegian or some such. Their conversation was not likely to attract attention.
"Checking out the rest of the hotel. Dr. Manning checked in alone, but his room shows signs of being occupied by two people," Cavennaugh answered, just as quietly. He didn't bother mentioning that Harper had taken DNA samples from Dr. Manning's room for Fenway to analyze later. He knew they'd take that for granted.
"Are you going to try to," Lucas lowered his voice, "abduct Manning's cousin, or are you going to let him make his speech?"
Molly thought out loud. "If we grab Dr. Manning, we may scare off Captain Manning. We'll let him give his speech, and watch for his cousin."
Cavennaugh nodded. The boss had given her orders, and he and his agents would obey. He turned to Hargrave and Rice. "Take off the sunglasses and the badges. Lose the jackets, too. Enough of those cryptozoologists are conspiracy theorists that you'll scare them into wetting their pants if they think you're real Men in Black."
Hargrave chuckled softly. "We are real Men in Black."
Federal agents fighting aliens. He was right, and Cavennaugh gave him a half-smile.
"This footage is a little out-of-focus, so you'll need to watch carefully," Josiah Manning warned.
Detoro muttered to Hargrave, "Looks like a bear to me."
Hargrave nodded. He continued scanning the room for Captain Manning.
"Let me turn the sound up a bit." Josiah Manning adjusted the volume. The sound of crunching leaves beneath heavy paws could be heard, and beneath the leaves, an odd tribrachic beat.
"That's it. That's the alien signal," Cavennaugh announced into his earbud.
Harper was closest. He walked swiftly up to the dentist and put his hand on the VCR. "I'm sorry, sir, but we're going to have to stop your presentation." He reached for the power button.
"No! They must hear! They must be improved." Dr. Manning was shorter than Agent Harper by a good six inches, but he pushed the African-American agent away as easily as a sixth-grade bully pushing a second-grader on the playground.
Cavennaugh drew his pistol and shot the VCR.
Almost everyone ducked. The cryptozoologists began screaming and swearing. Bjorn pushed Thora to the floor, then covered her body with his own. He drew his own weapon. One of the few people who didn't duck was a waiter carrying a pitcher of ice water.
"That's Manning! Get him," Cavannaugh ordered into his earbud. He ran after the captain of the Big Horn. Rice and Detoro followed him. Hargrave rushed to help Harper secure the dentist.
As Captain Manning turned to flee, he ran past the row of chairs where Thora, Ramsey, and Bjorn had been sitting. Bjorn got up. He jumped in front of Manning, and the alien infectee crashed into him. Both fell to the ground. Bjorn held him tightly until Cavennaugh could handcuff him.
"Federal agents," Cavennaugh announced loudly. "These men are under arrest, and you're safe now." At least, he hoped they were safe, that they hadn't heard enough of the alien signal to endanger them or alter their DNA.
"What the Hell is going on?" the president of the American Cryptozoology Society demanded.
"Sir, I am not authorized to give you that information," Cavennaugh stated truthfully. "All I can tell you is that there was a subliminal signal embedded in that videotape, one that was a danger to you and everyone at this conference."
"And why," Thora asked, "did these persons wish to expose us to a subliminal signal?"
"Yeah, why us?" demanded an expert on phantom cats.
"You're more valuable to your country than you know, sir," Cavennaugh lied. "Independent thinkers keep scientific inquiry alive and free, and keep official 'experts' honest." He glanced at Harper and Hargrave, who were still attempting to subdue the dentist.
"What are those two big Black guys doing to Joe?" someone asked, in a Mississippi accent.
Harper got a choke hold on Manning's neck. The dentist slumped unconscious.
"We're just taking him in for questioning. There's a very good chance that he was a victim himself," Cavennaugh replied. Lowering his voice, he spoke into his earbud. "Everybody out. Except you, Ramsey. Stay here; only Thora knows you're with us."
"You cannot stop us. We are humanity's only hope, humanity's only future," Captain Manning predicted.
Detoro gathered the pieces of the shattered VCR. Hargrave and Harper wrestled Dr. Manning out. Rice helped Cavennaugh gag Captain Manning and drag him out of the room. Molly and Lucas quietly followed the agents into the hallway. Bjorn nodded once to Cavennaugh, then returned to help Thora back into her chair. He took his seat beside her. Ramsey got off the floor and sat on the other side of her.
Montoya rushed up to them in the hall. "Was that gunfire? What are you doing with one of my waiters?" He stopped and took a second look at Manning. "This man isn't a hotel employee."
"No, he isn't, but we stopped him from hurting your guests. More than that is classified," Cavennaugh told the hotel manager.
Detoro dropped a piece of the VCR.
Lucas knelt to pick it up for him. As he stood, his face went white. "Film room. Every SF con has a film room." He dropped the broken piece to the floor again. He grabbed Hargrave's arm and pulled him away from the dentist, leaving Harper and Dr. Manning off-balance. "Come on!" The aerospace engineer ran off, dragging Hargrave as he went.
"Qué pasa?" Montoya asked.
Lucas ran into the film room, Hargrave at his heels. Steve McQueen was on the screen, trying to convince disbelieving adults that the Blob was not a teenage prank.
"Stop the movie!" Lucas yelled. "Technical difficulties."
"That's a band in Florida," someone in the audience retorted.
Hargrave showed his badge to the projectionist. He left his jacket fall open, revealing his gun. He reached over and pushed the power button on the VCR.
Lucas hurried shuffled through the tapes. He gave a sigh of relief when he found one labeled 'Bigfoot: Fact or Fiction.' "This is it."
"Do you want to take a chance that that's the only one?" Hargrave asked quietly.
"Um, no. No, I don't." Lucas began gathering up all the videotapes.
The projectionist swore and demanded to know what was going on.
"You know that FBI warning at the beginning of the film? We really do take that seriously," Hargrave replied, completely deadpan.
In the hotel lobby, ten minutes later, Thora cornered Ramsey. "Can I ask what happened? What this is all about?"
He shook his head. "May I ask you not to ask? May I ask you to trust me?"
"Does this have something to do with Dr. Caffrey being a contingency expert for disaster preparedness rather than a CDC physician?"
"Don't ask me questions I can't answer. I'm a champion liar, but I don't want to lie to you."
Thora smiled. "You lie to every other woman you meet."
Ramsey kissed her hand again. "You're not just any woman, Thora Konungursdóttir."
Cavennaugh and Bjorn watched them from a discreet distance.
Cavennaugh asked, "Do my eyes deceive me, or does he actually care for her?"
Bjorn shook his head. "Arthur Ramsey could never love any woman as much as he loves himself."
"Your English is good. Do you know the phrase 'need to know'?" Cavennaugh asked.
"Sorry, you don't need to know, but thank you. Thank you very much."
Bjorn replied, "I did my duty; I protected Thora Konungursdóttir."
Cavennaugh thought, And the whole world, pal. And the whole world.
Dr. Molly Caffrey: Carla Gugino (Ingrid Cortez in Spy Kids)
Agent Sean Cavennaugh: Brian Van Holt (Bobby Cobb in Cougar Town)
Dr. Arthur Ramsey: Peter Dinklage (Tyrion Lannister in Game of Thrones, Trumpkin in Prince Caspian)
Dr. Thora Konungursdóttir: Amy Steel (Pam Elliott in The Powers of Matthew Star)
Bjorn Eriksson: Eric Allan Kramer (Thor in The Incredible Hulk Returns)
Dr. Lucas Pegg: Rob Benedict (Chuck Shurley in Supernatural)
Agent Rice: Matt Sigloch
Agent Hargrave: Mark Berry
Agent Detoro: Seamus Dever (Kevin Ryan in Castle)
Agent Harper: Montae Russell (Dwight Zadro in ER)
Dr. Nigel Fenway: Brent Spiner (Data in ST: Next Gen)
Captain Manning: Scott MacDonald (Cmdr. Dolim in Star Trek: Enterprise)
The TV show Nebula 9 and its evil aliens, Creavers, were created by and for the TV show Castle. Det. Kate Beckett was a fan.
2015 FanQ Honorable Mention, Best Threshold Story