Disclaimer: Right then, FreakyLinks belongs to FOX and whoever created the concepts behind the show and website. This my first attempt at writing a humor fic, so I'm not to certain of the quality, especially since this has the rather dubious honor of being the first story in this section. Remember that by no means am I slamming the show. I enjoy it very much, but believe that it would be even better if it didn't make such obvious mistakes. Thanks to my friend Jennifer Quail (ImperialGirl) for providing details of Darwinism, evolutionary mutations and specific case conditions to me, and thanks to jadecow for pointing out that the creepy guy with tattoos was named Vince, not Victor J. Enjoy.
As soon as Derek came back from the pizzeria, Lan knew that something was up. He had that look on his face, the one were his entire visage seemed lit up by some invisible source, and his eyes sparkled with intensity. He was just so cute when he did that… even though it usually meant that trouble was on the way.
"Alright, Derek, 'fess up." Lan said as she rose from the chair in front of the computer monitor and moved over to the warm boxes with the pizza.
"What?" Derek asked, giving her that endearing puppy-dog look of his.
"You have that look on your face."
"What look?" Derek asked, still playing innocent.
"That look when your entire face seems to light up from some invisible source, and your eyes sparkle with intensity."
Derek gave her an odd look. Chloe said that Lan had a thing for him, but he didn't really believe that. Except…
"Have you been writing poetry about me?" he asked.
"No, I was to lazy to come up with a description of my own so I just repeated what the author said in the first paragraph," Lan replied between bites of the pepperoni and cheese. "Anyway, what I mean is you look like you've just got an idea."
"Yes!" Derek exclaimed. "Something freaky occurred to me when I paid for the pizza. Consider," he said, accentuating his words with his hands, "We are four people who are basically unemployed. You take the odd jobs now and then, and so does Jason, but all I do is run the site. A Chloe is a student, so she's got even more bills than we do!"
"So? We've got the income from the Freak Store coming in."
"Oh, please, have you seen how much stuff we sell? It's just barely enough to keep pizza on the table. But what I'm saying is: if we're really on such a tight budget, then how come we can still go gallivanting off all over the country whenever inspiration strikes? Most people with normal, steady incomes couldn't afford that!"
"So how come weren't not in debt all the time?" Lan asked, slightly puzzled.
"Well, that's the freaky part. The money has to be coming in from somewhere. The FreakyLinks had offend a lot of people in all walks of life, who don't want the truth to be known… but maybe, somewhere out there, is someone who wants us to succeed. Some philanthropic and/or obsessed with freaky stuff rich guy, maybe, or a major corporation."
"That's ridiculous, Derek. If we had a corporate sponsor backing us up, we'd know."
"Not if there hid it well. You know, if they were all cunning and fox-like about it."
"At least check our e-mails for anything better before you set out to expose some evil conspiracy to give us more money," Lan said.
"Good idea," Derek acknowledged. Scooping up another slice of pizza, he moved to a terminal in the other room since Lan was using the one by the beachside bay window. As Lan picked up a piece for herself, she heard the front door open and close.
"Jason?" she called out.
"No, it's me," a distinctly female voice said.
"Oh, hi Chloe. I thought you were supposed to be conveniently away at some psychology convention this episode?"
"Nope, I conveniently came back just in time," Chloe answered. She sniffed at the air. "Oh, pizza."
"Sorry," Lan said as Chloe flipped open one of the pizza box lids. "There's pepperoni."
"Yick," Chloe said, letting the lid drop. "Where's my vegetarian?"
"You weren't supposed to be in this episode, remember?"
There was a long, uncomfortable silence as the two women waited for a plot development. Finally, Derek came back into the room.
"Anything interesting?" Lan asked.
"Nope," Derek said, taking yet another slice of pizza. "A half-dozen reports of Sasquatch sightings, a dozen reports of ghost sightings, fifty or so alien sightings, and one e-mail threatening to expose the FreakyLinks as a fraud." Derek shrugged. "Same old."
"Hey, guys!" a cry came from the front door.
"Yo, Jason!" Derek said, slapping his friend a low five before withdrawing his hand away in disgust. "Ew… what the hell is this?" He shook some sticky gunk from off his fingers. "Material for Tales from the Crypto?"
"No," Jason said, his large pants rolled up to his knees, "I was making a round of my pools and cleaning all the algae off the bottom of them. Someone has to bring in the dough around here!"
"About which," Derek started, "I've had this freaky idea–"
"Hey, look," Chloe said, pointing to one of the many computer monitors in the house. "Should it be doing that?"
The three others turned towards the screen and saw that the screensaver was gradually being eaten away by verticals lines of blackness.
"Shit!" Derek cried out, leaping for the keyboard. "That last e-mail must have had a virus that the VShield didn't pick up." Derek typed away furiously at the keyboard, trying every abort and reboot command he knew, but none seemed to work. "Eject, eject!" he called out.
Jason and Lan began moving through the house, popping out diskettes and CD-ROMs from all the computers before the virus had the time to spread to the other systems in the house. Derek dived under the desk and thrust his hand into the mass of cables and connectors. Scrambling frantically, he found the one that linked that console to the rest of the network, and pulled the plug. Breathing a sigh of relief, he then flicked the glowing orange button on the power bar to manually turn off the infected computer.
"It didn't work, Derek," Chloe called out from above him.
"What didn't? Did we lose the other mainframes?" he asked from beneath the desk.
"Huh? I don't know about that. I mean this computer is still doing that black line thing, whatever it is."
"That's impossible," Derek said, popping his head out from under the desk. His eyes went wide with dramatic effect, and the sound track went basso do. The virus, if that's truly what it was, was still worming its way across the screen.
Lan and Jason ran back to their side.
"Okay, all the external memories are out, and I've got the back-ups ready just in case, although I don't thin… what the hell?" Jason exclaimed. "Why haven't you closed this mainframe yet?"
"I did! There's no power!"
"What? That's bull! A system can't run without a power source."
"I know," Derek whispered. "That's what makes it so freaky."
"So, what do we do now?" Chloe asked.
"Nothing," Lan answered. "We wait."
Never ungluing their eyes from the screen, the foursome watched as blackness slowly replaced the frozen image of the screensaver. Once the darkness on the screen was complete, blocky yellow words began to appear, pixel by pixel. Eventually, if formed a message:
THE FINCHES ARE FLYING AGAIN
"'The finches are flying again'? What's that supposed to mean," Jason asked.
"Sounds like a line out of a Stephen King novel," put in Chloe. "Dark Half, more precisely. Though it was sparrows, not finches."
Everybody looked at her.
"What? Can't I have some interest in the paranormal too?"
They kept on staring.
"Fine, then, I read it to gain insight into Dissociative Identity Disorder and what is considered fearful in order to appeal to a mass media. It was for a psychology report."
"That still doesn't help us figure out what the hell this is supposed to mean," Derek said. "Doesn't anybody have an idea? A clue? An inkling?"
No one did, so they just continued to stare at the screen in silence.
* * *
Derek had mentioned the odd incident in his Diary of a Madman column, and afterwards pretty much forgot about the whole situation. It wasn't unusual, after all – so many incidents in his life seemed to go unresolved. This was just another. But sometimes these kinds of things can come back and haunt you…
* * *
"Hey, Derek?" Lan asked, staring fixedly out the window. "I think you should come and see this."
"Can it wait? I'm uploading the report on that freaky green moss-like stuff that breeds in public urinals. I still think it's sentient and trying to take over the world."
"No, I think you better see this. This is pretty freaky too."
Derek got up from the terminal and walked over to the window.
"Oh, no!" he exclaimed.
"What's wrong? Do you know what this means?"
"Yes, I know what it means, and you're not going to like it."
"That effect out there," Derek said, pointing out the window, "Can only be achieved using CGI. But having direct CGI would make the show go over-budget for this episode. I'm afraid we have no choice but to resort to Shaky-Camera Mode to show this."
"Oh no," Lan moaned. "I hate Shaky-Camera Mode. It always makes me sick to my stomach."
"There's no other solution. Brace yourself."
* * *
Starts off on: A black screen that resolves into the image of Derek Barnes holding the focus at his own face.
Derek: All right, fellow freakers, we've got some really freaky material for you. There's some freaky stuff happening right here at FreakyLinks headquarters, and it's freaky with a capital 'Free'. So prepared to be freaked out by this freakiness, freakers. (A/N: count those freaks!)
[Derek turns camera to his left. We see Lan briefly before he focuses on the window. The light is too bright, but it adjusts as Derek walks towards the window. He zooms in on the beach outside the window, where there are finches as far as the eye can see. Dozens of different species are represented. A few are flying around, but most are standing on the beach with their heads turned towards the camera.]
Derek: [Off-camera] Now this is seriously freaky stuff. Devoted freakers might remember my mentioning of an another freaky occurrence concerning finches last week in Diary of a Madman. I don't know if these two incidents are related, but if they aren't, then that's one freaky coincidence.
[Off-camera: Sounds of a door opening and muffled cursing]
[Camera turns away from window, passes over Lan briefly again, and focuses on the corridor behind Derek. Adjusting for the light differential, we can now see Jason slam the front door shut. He looks a little scared]
Jason: Holy shit! Have you guys seen all those dogs out there?
Lan: [Off-camera] Dogs? What dogs?
[Camera moves towards Jason]
Jason: There's like a dozen dogs out on the front lawn.
[Camera shifts from Jason and moves to a bay window. After adjusting for light differential, we can see approximately a dozen dogs, all of the beagle breed, sitting on the lawn, staring towards the camera]
Derek: [Off-camera] This is seriously freaky.
Lan: [Off-camera] What do you suppose it means?
Jason: [Off-camera] That we're being invaded by Snoopy impersonators?
Derek: [Off-camera] Jason, go check out the beachside, there's freaky stuff there too.
[Sounds of steps walking away]
Jason: [Off-camera & sounding far away] Holy bleep! What's going on here?
Derek: [Off-camera & crying out] Remember that 'virus' about the finches last week?
[Sounds of steps coming closer. Camera swings over to Jason and Lan]
Jason: Yeah. So what? We're being haunted by Charles Schultz?
Lan: "Ghost in the Machine"? Besides, there weren't any finches in "Peanuts".
Jason: [pointing] Look! They're leaving!
[Camera swings back to window, where the beagles are walking away and finches can be seen flying off]
Jason: [Off-camera] Bye-bye birdies. And good riddance, too.
[Camera goes static for a second and then goes black]
* * *
As Derek turned off the camera and took it away from his eye, Lan breathed a sigh of relief.
"My stomach and I are glad that's over," she said.
"It isn't over," Derek said. "We've got a majority freaky mystery on our hands here. First the computer that didn't turn off without power and displayed that freaky finch message, and now an odd gathering of finches and beagles."
"Maybe it's just a coincidence," Lan said. "The finches might be migrating or something, and the beagles might have been attracted by some kind of ultra-sound coming from the house. A pipe that's leaking air, maybe."
"No," Derek said. "If it was ultra-sounds, it wouldn't have just been beagles; we would have seen all kinds of dogs. Something else is at work here."
"Well…" Lan started. "I have a friend who works at the zoo. I'll call him up and ask him what he has to say about this."
"You do that," Derek said with a teasing smile on his face. Lan glowered at him, then left the room to find a phone not being used for the modems.
* * *
Two minutes later, after the commercial break, Lan walked back in with a look of resignation on her face.
"So what did your 'friend' tell you, Lan?" Derek asked.
"First of all, he's just a contact; there's no need for little quotation marks. Second, he said that it isn't migratory season for finches. And even if it were, we're not in the path. He's baffled as to what could draw both birds and dogs together like that.
"Alright then, we've tried the 'normal' solutions, and it's time to get freaky. Lan, run a search online looking for any correlation for finches and beagles."
"Right," she said, sitting down at a monitor. She opened her favourite search program, typed in: Finches + Beagle, and pressed enter. Data streamed across the screen, and a second later the results appeared with a little ding! sound.
"Got it," Lan said.
"What? You searched the entire net already? That was fast."
"Well, the show is only an hour long." She turned to monitor towards him. "See for yourself."
Derek peered at the LCD screen on the monitor. The search had uncovered a single correlation.
"Charles Darwin," he read aloud, "studied finches whilst on the H.M.S. Beagle." He turned towards his companions. "Start looking through the books. Paranormal phenomena, ghosts, cults, everything. I want to know who this Darwin person is, and what he has to do with us."
* * *
"That's it!" Jason cried, throwing a voluminous tome to the floor, raising a great gout of dust from its pages. "I give up! This Darwin guy is just not in here."
"He's got to be!" Derek cried out, flipping frantically through pages. "A Native American shaman that communicated with animals, maybe."
"Give it up, Derek," Lan said. "We've got a name, but we're no closer to figuring out what's actually going on then we were before."
Derek sighed with resignation. It wasn't fair. It just wasn't. Why didn't anything ever resolve around here? Why was he always left hanging this way? Derek rose from his chair.
"I've got to go take a leak," he announced.
Jason grunted, and Derek walked off to the bathroom. He closed the door behind him, but when he looked into the glass on the pharmacy he saw… Vince!
Derek tried to spin around, but Vince grabbed him by the neck and slammed his head against the glass plane.
"Surprised to see me?" the wide-eyed man said.
"Well, yeah," Derek managed to choke out. "For somebody listed in the main credits, you sure don't show up in many episodes."
Vince swung him around and slammed him against the wall instead of the pharmacy.
"You listen to me," the man with the tattooed sigils on his arm said, "You don't want to be messing in this business. These are forces beyond your understanding. Forces that have existed since life itself. Forces that have the power to create… and destroy."
"They're the ones messing with me," Derek complained.
"You stirred him up with that website of yours. Now you're going to face his wrath."
Vince let Derek drop, and Derek bent over, clutching his throat, trying to let air back into his lungs. When he looked up again, Vince was gone. Disappeared, transported, evaporated to who-knows-where again. And as he usually associated with Vince's 'visits', Derek was left with a foul taste in his mouth… and a sense of dark foreboding.
* * *
"I'm back!" Chloe announced as she entered the house.
"Where were you?" Lan asked.
"I don't know," she replied. "The author didn't come up with an excuse for my being conveniently away this time."
"Well, you missed Vince."
"Victor?" Chloe looked alarmed. "Why? What did he say? Was there anything about Adam?"
"No," Derek answered. "He just said that the website was stirring up powers beyond our comprehension, and that we would suffer 'his' wrath. The usual lines."
Chloe looked disappointed. It was understandable, Adam had been very close to her, and his death left so many open wounds.
By this time, twilight had come and gone, and the night sky outside was covered up by clouds. A strong wind blew across the beach, causing the waves to crash against the shoreline in an incessant roar.
Chloe sat down on the couch with her associates, listening to them tell her about that day's odd events, and showing her the tape of the bizarre animal groupings. When they told her about their search online and the follow-up search through the volumes of paranormal phenomena, she exclaimed:
"Charles Darwin! He's the guy who came up with the Theory of Evolution." The others looked blank. "You know, natural selection?" Still no response. "Am I the only one here who reads something other than paranormal stuff and computer manuals?" The three others looked at themselves in confusion. Chloe sighed heavily.
"Fine then, I'll tell you about him. Charles Darwin was an Englishman who lived during the nineteenth century. He was born in a relatively well-to-do family and did well at college in geology, theology and the like. He got invited to travel around the world on the H.M.S. Beagle. When the ship stopped at the Galapagos Islands, he noticed that each island's animals had slightly different properties. He collected a bunch of different finches, and from them eventually proposed what is now known as the Theory of Evolution, namely that species change and adapt to their surroundings over many millennia. The whole point is that some animals are born with certain advantages, sometimes even mutations, over others of its species. Because of its advantages, that creature lives longer and breeds more, and the trait that gave it its advantage is passed on to its kids, and so on."
"But what does any of this have to do with the FreakyLinks?" Derek asked.
"I don't know," Chloe replied.
Suddenly all the lights went out, plunging the four friends into relative darkness. Lan let out a startled cry.
"The lights went out," Jason said flatly.
"I know that," she answered in an annoyed voice. "I mean why?"
"I don't like this," Chloe remarked. "Whenever the lights go out around here, it means that something bad is going to happen."
"Or it could be a blown fuse," Jason commented, his voice slowly receding.
"Or maybe we forgot to pay the electric bill and they cut us off," Lan suggested.
"I certainly hope not," Derek said.
"Because that would mean my corporate sponsor theory doesn't work."
If Lan had been able to see him, she would have slapped him. But in the darkness, this was quite hard, and she slapped a wall instead.
"You okay?" Chloe asked solicitously.
"Yeah, yeah, just bumped my foot," Lan lied.
By now Jason had returned from the Freaky Gear storage room, and had brought with him several flashlights. He held up one, flicked the switch and aimed the beam towards the four other people in the room.
Wait a minute, Jason thought, that old guy wasn't here before…
Everybody screamed except the newcomer.
"Calm yourselves! You act like little children," the man said with a thick British accent.
"Who…who…who…who…" Lan attempted to say.
"Are you an owl? No? Then let me talk. I am Charles Darwin, and I am here to expose your little society of conspirators as a perverse source of misinformation."
"A ghost!" Derek finally managed to say. With shaking hands, he began searching through all the discarded pizza boxes on the table for a camcorder.
"Yes, a ghost. You act as if you've never seen a spirit before. I have come to you to show how you have been fooled by trickery and hoaxes, and how in turn you propagate these lies through this infernal Internet machine."
"What lies?" Derek asked, having finally found a camera and intent on keeping the ghost talking as long as he could.
"I saw many of your so called 'researches', and have been shocked that you can actually believe such things when they can easily be disproved. Allow me to start with the case you have dubbed 'Mole Men'. The very name makes me shudder. Your team investigated the rumour of alligators in the sewers of New York City. As it turned out, it wasn't alligators, but 'Mole Men'. Your team claimed that these vicious pseudo-humans were a group of humanoids completely adapted to life underground. The problem with this is that there was nothing even close to resembling sapiens form in the Americas before humanity migrated out of Africa. So this can't be an American born species. Obviously, at this point you're probably thinking about a human offshoot species. While it does seem like a good solution, remember that the first humans to set foot on the American continent was a fairly recent occurrence, no more than 15000 years at the outside. It might be another thousand years or two before they migrate to the point where New York is now and choose (for some reason) to live underground. This still leaves us with a span of a few thousand years, which aren't enough for the changes displayed by your supposed 'Mole Men'. Certainly, they would have time to develop characteristics like the pale skin over a few generations, the beady pink eyes, allowing for the tendency for increased albino frequency in isolated populations, and the increased hearing and echolalia ability over the millennias, claws and fangs are simply too much of a divergence from the homo sapiens form to have been accomplished in so small a time period. Not only that, but in such a limited population (as they would have to be to remain undetected for so long), high occurrences of mutations leading to these development would mean that a high number of them would die out, as mutations are generally fatal, and the colony would die out from mutation and inbreeding related difficulties."
The ghost of Charles Darwin paused expectantly, as if expecting somebody to applaud him for his speech. But only Chloe was still listening. Derek was rocking back and forth with the camera filming saying "a ghost, a ghost" over and over. Lan was typing away at her laptop, and Jason had fallen asleep on a couch, and was snoring contentedly.
"Are they always like this?" he asked Chloe.
"Most of the time, yeah. You get used to it. They begin to grow on you after a while."
Darwin grumbled, then cried out load enough to wake Jason:
"Hey! Wake up! If you don't pay attention, I'll haunt you!"
"You already are haunting us," Derek pointed out. "Just by being here."
"I'm providing valuable information here."
"Sorry," Jason said, "It's just that for a shade of the dead, you're pretty boring."
"Boring? You lousy kids today and your music. In my century, we would never have the gall to call an elder 'boring'. We paid attention to what our betters had to say."
"Look, nothing personal," Jason said, "But after all those creepy things you did, being lectured on evolutionary theory is somewhat of an anticlimax."
"Would you prefer I kill someone instead?"
"Uh, no," Jason answered quickly.
"Well then, listen up. Barely a week after this theoretical faux pas, your team ran into what you claim looked like a Pteradon. In the sixty-five million years since the presumed mass extinction, are you telling me that these animals never evolved? That makes no sense, especially when you consider what a small population they would have had to remain secret for all these years. And that's only if they had managed to survive this long, because a population small enough to be hidden would be plagued by mutations, inbreeding, and eventually death. Furthermore, the reptilian nature of the–"
The spectre of Charles Darwin broke off when he realized that his audience had fallen asleep once again, this time all four of them. He sighed with the heavy burden of the centuries.
"There is simply no way to teach people with such short attention spans. I'm afraid I must resign myself to another dark age of ignorance. Theories simply can't keep up with the glitter and glamour of the new modern world I suppose," the ghost mused as he sunk through the floor of the house. "Maybe if I got myself a five-minute clip on MTV…"
* * *
Derek stirred softly from his sleep feeling a warm presence on his chest. His eyes fluttered open and he saw he was sitting on the couch in the room giving on the beach, with Lan sleeping with her head against his chest.
"What… what happened to that ghost?"
"Never mind," Lan mumbled, "Go back to sleep; I'm comfortable here."
"No, we've got to get this uploaded as fast as possible."
"Alright," she muttered sleepily, getting herself off Derek. "I'll go make some coffee."
Derek tried to rise to follow her, but something was holding down his arm. Looking to the side, he saw Jason sleeping with one arm wrapped around him, and the other leading up to a thumb firmly entrenched in Jason's mouth.
"Get off!" Derek said irritably, getting up quickly and sending his friend sprawling to the floor with an umph! sound.
Derek walked into the kitchen, where Lan had already set a pot to boil and turned on the radio:
"And in other news, the head of the popular MTV television station was found dead early this morning. He was found with his hair white and spiked up in the air, his eyes wide and bloodshot, his mouth wide open and drooling, and wearing his sleepwear. It took almost two hours for the death to be reported because that's the way he usually looks. Preliminary analysis points to a heart attack, possibly fear induced…"
Jason and Chloe walked into the kitchen, her rubbing her eyes, him rubbing his head.
"Anybody remember what happened last night after that ghost started talking again?"
"Well, at least we still have it all on tape," Derek said, patting the camcorder next to him. To prove his point, he rewound the tape and played it on the side monitor.
The image was fuzzy and the sound full of static. They could barely see the briefest glimpses of what looked like a play-actor in period costume.
"No!" Derek cried out. "The camera was working perfectly well last night! Why? Oh, why?"
"Oh, Derek," Chloe said, putting a sympathetic hand on his shoulder. "It's not your fault. You know it's a staple of these kinds of shows to never have concrete evidence remaining at the end of the episode."
"Yeah," Derek sniffed, "But I thought I had finally beat the odds and come out with something important and shocking. You know, a season finale or something."
"I'm afraid that's still a while away," Chloe said in a soothing voice.
"You're right, of course. I guess I'm just going to have to upload this as yet another imprecise and vague Shaky-Camera Mode transcription."
"That's the spirit," Chloe said. "After all, if it was clear-cut and easy to see and understand, it wouldn't be freaky, would it?"