06: Past Present

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When It Happened (Chronicle Time): July 13 - August 16 2002

Who Was There: George Phillapoussis (Storn), Jonathan Wertham (Matt), Mark Donovin (Eric), Nemura Kentaro (Chris)

What It Was

The summer passes. Mark is besieged by horrific nightmares; Jonathan's dreams go electric; George's sex life rises and falls; and Ken regains some balance in his life. News arrives, perhaps from Tessa, about Thomas Donnelly and a demonstration by the American College of Orgonomy of an "orgone engine." George gives a taxi ride to Jonathan's mentor, Thomas Cartwright, and the Aces find a new favorite bar, O'Malley's. At the demonstration, Mark runs into an old nemesis, Curtis Book; has a bad flashback about Somalia; and runs into trouble with Donnelly. And when the Aces return home, there's a frantic call waiting from Cassandra Moon about a place called Winfield Hall.

The Full Horror

Mark has been having serious nightmares for weeks, and since June 23rd, they've been about the fight against Rhea Dimopoulos. He imagines her coming back to life in Katsoulakis' office, killing Alexandra right in front of George, and then setting Ken and George on fire. As his two friends begin burning alive, Mark always snaps awake in a cold sweat, back in his apartment.

Which is really strange because that night actually ended well. Alexandra hugged George and thanked him for helping to save them (something that caught the other Aces' notice only later). Katsoulakis paid the three men $20,000 each for their help. And then they left. Ken's skin was burned, but Daria Zannakis sent Ken a special balm to help him heal.

Because of his nightmares, Mark has been logging a lot of time at the Renaissance, and he's been getting by on only three or four hours of sleep a night. Everyone thinks Mark needs a vacation, but that's the last thing he wants. On the other hand, it would be a good time for it. One of Mark's guards, Latrell Dupree, has turned out to be an able lieutenant who can handle normal security on his own. And Jamal Rashid has been coming by a lot lately, which seems to keep the local gangs quiet.

On the night of July 10th, Jonathan has a new dream. He's back in the dry lake bed, facing the big, golden cobra. This time the lake bed dissolves away, leaving them in gray featureless space. The cobra transforms into golden electricity, and then plunges right into Jonathan's chest. A surge of electrical power floods his body, and he snaps awake in his bed, electricity still crackling around his hands.

Later that day, Mark receives an unmarked package at the Renaissance. After checking it carefully, he opens it and finds a photograph of two men talking at a sidewalk cafe. One man is unfamiliar, but the other is Thomas Donnelly, the former bishop of Grand Rapids. The package also includes a card which says the American College of Orgonomy is sponsoring a demonstration of "the world's first, true, orgone engine" at the Newark Convention Center on August 16.

With all this news, the Aces decide to talk it over at their new, favorite watering-hole: an Irish pub named O'Malleys, across the street from Penn Station. The bar is owned by a Jamaican man named George, and the Aces always get the same, excellent waiter: an upbeat transvestite named Michael.

Jonathan looks at the photograph from the package, and says the architecture in the background makes him think it was taken in Chicago. But since the photo was in the package, maybe whoever sent it is trying to say Donnelly is now in New York.

The Aces ask Mark how he's doing, and he says he's fine, but they aren't quite convinced. Then the conversation shifts to George. He's been the butt of many jokes since he told the Aces about his tumble with Alexandra. He admits he's been too embarrassed to see her or stop by the Katsoulakis residence. But he'll call her when the cards tell him the time is right.

Well, the beer and liquor are flowing, and suddenly George lays down a spread that tells him that time is now. He goes to the phone and calls Alexandra--only to hear her gasp in outrage and slam the phone down in his ear. George comes back to the table, insisting he doesn't care because he's already moved on anyway. Ken nods and says that's probably true since, after all, George hits on everything that moves.

Old School

On a rainy July 29, George is in his taxi when he picks up a man who is in his mid-fifties and has a shock of white hair. He wears a perfectly tailored, dark-gray Brioni suit and a scarlet and crimson bowtie. The man has George drive him to the Guggenheim, the Flatiron, the Chrysler, and the Empire State. At each stop, the man gets out, walks up to the building, runs his hands across the wall, and then seems to write invisible runes on it.

When George tells the man he's not happy about someone from out-of-town leaving runes on his City's landmarks, the man says not to worry. He's just "feeling" the buildings, learning how they live and breathe. When George says he might want to meet Jonathan, the man simply nods. The final stop is Grand Central, where the man gets out, pays George, and says:

"And now, young man, just as you've charged me, now I'm charging you. Tell your friend, Jonathan Wertham, that his mentor, Thomas Cartwright, has come to the States. There are important matters I have to investigate here. Theories that need testing. People I must meet. But when I've done these things, and learned what I need to know, I'll be coming back here, and I'll be coming for him. There are things to be done. Time is much shorter than you realize, and you four have much to do. Much to do.

"But listen closely, Mr. Phillapoussis. Your enemies are on the move. Establishing plans of action and gathering resources. So now is the time for you to do the same. Remember this: I'm sure you've done many impressive and courageous things. But. You. Are. Not. Ready. Some day perhaps. Perhaps sooner than you expect. But not yet. And until your day comes, you must be cautious. Be vigilant. Listen. Ask questions and learn from the answers. But beyond that, wait. Tell Jonathan I'll be coming for him soon."

And then Cartwright is simply not there any more.

Back at O'Malley's, Jonathan says the man certainly sounds like Cartwright. The runes were probably part of a spell called "The Body Electric," which is supposed to do exactly what he claimed to be doing. But the tone of his message ("I'll be coming for him") sounds ominous.

Given all the electricity he's been channeling lately, Jonathan is starting to wonder if the rabbits in his dreams are Energizer bunnies. George says they should start calling Jonathan "Coppertop" or "Eveready".

The Demonstration

August 16th finally arrives, and the Aces go to the Newark Convention Center to see the orgone engine. The convention is a real freak show, with dozens of booths devoted to crackpot theories about orgone and other ideas of Wilhelm Reich. The security detail, beefed up after 9/11, means no one can go in armed, except bounty-hunter Mark, who knows how to trick the guards. Once inside, the Aces spread out and start looking for Donnelly.

Mark hasn't gone far when he sees someone he never expected: Curtis Book. Mark hasn't seen him since they were both Rangers, back in Somalia. But now here he is, in Jersey, watching the crowd. As Mark comes up, he can see that Book is actually watching Donnelly and checking something on a very expensive PDA. He hears Book say, "Confirmed. Not on the rosters. We should--." Book suddenly whirls around and faces Mark, but as the two men make eye-contact, they both have a flashback:


Mark and Book are cut off from the first rescue convoy and taking fire. There are six others left in their squad, but none of them are going to make it unless they find cover fast. The two men lead the squad down a quiet alleyway, but four men are cut down instantly in an ambush. Mark shoves the last two men into a blasted building, and tells them to take point. If they can cut through the building to the next road, they might be able to hook up with the convoy.

It's dark but quiet inside. Thompson and Grace are doing ok, as they enter a room directly ahead. But then they stop dead in their tracks. Mark and Book come up behind them and see:

"There are three. Sand colored, with scrunched faces, wrinkled and cryptic and--wrong. Evil. They have two Somali men down on the ground. And they're chewing. It's the intestines...just chewing...nice and slow...not pulling them out...leaving them in so the Somalis stay alive while they eat. And the worst part is the men aren't screaming. They aren't even crying. Their own guts are being eaten right in front of their eyes, but all they're doing is giggling, like it's fucking funny. And then one of them looks up, looks Mark right in the eyes, and starts laughing. This horrible laugh, like he knows Mark is going to be next."

And then, suddenly, the Rangers see six more creatures coming up behind them. Book grabs Thompson and Grace, shoves them at the sand creatures, and starts to run. Mark thinks he'll just grab Book. Force him to help rescue the two men. Then Mark can lead everyone out, like a soldier should. But, instead, Mark finds himself running right after Book. Behind him, he can hear screams, and then the sounds of two very wet and messy deaths. Mark and Book run blindly through the building until they come to a vast auditorium. Mark sees something in there, something his mind, even now, won't let him remember.

The next thing Mark remembers is the two of them leaving the building, out to a street where Marines are being cut down by sniper fire. Then the two men hear a hummer coming down the street. It isn't slowing down, so--to Mark's horror--Book opens up on the two Marines inside. Mark is just too deep in shock to stop him. Instead, he helps Book haul out the bodies, and then jumps in beside him. Book floors it, and the hummer takes off, back to base at top speed. They're both shipped Stateside soon after, but Book keeps causing trouble. Later Mark hears Book finally earned a dishonorable discharge.

Mark and Book snap back into the present. Mark is shaken--he'd forgotten all of that. Book is shook up too. He claims he's there as a security guard, but Mark knows that's a lie. No one would hire someone like Book for that, especially after 9/11. They trade some tense words, and Book beats a fast retreat.

The Demonstration

Meanwhile, the other Aces are checking out the engine as the demo begins. After a short introduction by James DeMeo of the ACO, the engine's designer, Paul Rourke, turns it on. The engine does seem to work, making a series of lights glow without the slightest noise and without a single power cord. But of course, that doesn't rule out the possibility that the engine is just powered by batteries.

Jonathan, however, has a definite reaction to the engine. He feels a rush of. . . something. It's pulling at his arms and body, and his hands are crackling with energy. For some reason, he remembers the phrase "free-energy receiver." He's certain the ACO men don't really understand their engine's true potential.

After the demonstration, the Aces confront Donnelly. He's noncommittal, and tries to brush them off, but Jonathan keeps pushing him, daring him to explain why he's there at the demonstration. Then Donnelly quietly snaps:

"Mr. Wertham. I would take care. Mark van Laaden was a disturbed young man, someone we are all, quite frankly, well rid of. But I think you'll find I'm not nearly so easy to deal with." As he says this, he holds up his hands, and small arcs of blue-violet energy coruscate about his fingers. Fortunately, no one else in the crowd seems to notice, but it seems as if the "crowd effect" against Magick has no hold over Donnelly.

Donnelly leaves. Mark follows him, only to get ambushed right outside the building. Mark finds himself paralyzed, and Donnelly watches him struggle for a few minutes, clearly enjoying the show. Then Mark feels Donnelly invade his mind, forcing him to give up the name "Curtis Book." After that, Donnelly just walks to his car and drives off. As soon as he's out of sight, Mark is able to move again.

Shaken but furious, Mark immediately calls Carla Madajewicz to get her looking for Book and whoever he's working for.


The four men return to the City with many questions, but the answers will have to wait. Ken's answering machine is beeping with a message from Cassandra Moon. The Aces quickly arrange a meeting, and she shows up deeply worried. She starts by saying how impressed she's been by TNI:

"I've been learning all about them. How Alex Abel started TNI. How they helped the Nation of Islam and the Black Panthers fight the Dominican bokors in the '90s and save New York. All the spirits and evil people they've fought since then. They've probably saved hundreds of lives, but...

I just don't know. They say they have to be aggressive. They say when you figure out what kind of problem you're facing, you need to charge in fast, before whatever-it-is can react. But they aren't like you. They don't worry about who gets hurt, just so long as they get the one they're after. I mean, don't get me wrong, I think they're trying to do right. I wouldn't still be with them if I felt they were....well....I mean, they have Wicca helping them. There are Wicca in TNI. So it must be all right. And yet--I just don't know.."

But her real message is something has happened out on Long Island. At Winfield Hall, the old home of the Woolworths, out on the Gold Coast. Cassandra knows she would be in terrible trouble if TNI knew she was telling them about it, but she says she has no choice.

"We heard there was something very dangerous out there. So we sent a team. But now they've disappeared--last night--and we don't know what happened. So we're going to send another team. TNI has special teams for dealing with this kind of thing. But the special teams always make everyone nervous, and this second team--they aren't going to be very patient. I think people are going to be hurt.

"And well, there's a party happening. A benefit, raising money for the Robin Hood fund, and--well, I heard that you know Lady Margaret Jameson and Michel Borsavin. And there are other people out there too. And I think they may be trapped...."

Previous Recap | Next Recap | Updated 3/19/12, by the Croupier