Disputed Jurisdiction

It was a typical balmy summer day in New York, and Agents J and K were on their way to a typical case: an investigation of a non-registered and unknown alien in an apartment complex in Queens. J, however, was not being his typical, chatty self. Keeping his eyes on the road, K asks his partner, "Something on your mind, Slick?" When J says nothing, K asks, "Are you still angry that I didn't tell you about Boris and your father?"

"I'm not mad…" J denied.

"Really?" K questioned skeptically.

"…anymore," J continued, "I am irritated, annoyed, exasperated, and exhausted. However, I left 'mad' back in 1969. Finding out you've been watching over me all that time, since my father's 'disappearance', that's one emotion I found I couldn't take back with me."

"But you think I should have told you," clarified K.

"I think you should have told me," J confirmed, "Your habit of keeping things 'close to the vest' not only got you erased from history, but also put the entire Earth in jeopardy."

"And if I had told you, if you had managed to stop Boris from going back, even worse might have happened," countered K, "Your father would not have been killed that day, which means you might not have become an agent, the Arquillians might have destroyed the Earth to keep the galaxy from the Bugs, or Serleena might have got her hands on the Light of Zartha. Things had to happen the way they happened, and you had to learn things though the natural course of history."

"I'm aware," conceded J, "Doesn't change how I feel about it. So from here on out, I think I need the option of knowing whatever. You may warn me that I might not want to know something, or what consequences there may be to having that knowledge, but if I insist then you should tell me anyways."

"Whatever you say, Sport," agreed K.

After a moment's pause, J asked, "Is there anything you haven't told me yet?"

"Only unsubstantiated rumors," K said, "red herrings, fairy tales. Believe it or not kid, but even with as much as we know, kid, and we know quite a lot, there are still some questions that even we haven't answered for ourselves. If I were to tell you of all the cold cases and unsolved mysteries that are sitting in our vault, then I would have died from old age before I got through them all. This is our stop," K announced as he pulled over in front of the apartment in the report. As J and K exit the Ford LTD Crown Victoria, J looks up at the place and whistles before saying, "Well, our illegal immigrant sure found him-or-herself a nice place to stay."

However, as they entered the building and found the inside looking much more rundown than the outside, J said, "On second thought, I take that back."

K looked at the peeling wallpaper, the cracks in the walls and flickering lights, then states, "Whatever's causing this decay isn't natural. I'll call in a containment and clean-up crew and check the first floor while I'm waiting. You take the upper floors in the meantime."

After nodding in agreement to the plan, J entered the elevator. As he was deciding whether to start with the second floor of the eighth, J noticed that the button to the 3rd floor was cracked and not lit up like the others were. Recalling how K had mentioned that the state of the apartment wasn't a natural occurrence, J followed his gut and pressed the button for that floor.

As he stepped out of the elevator on the 3rd floor, it became apparent to J that he was on the right track. Instead of looking like a 5-star apartment complex, as it looked from the outside; or a slightly run-down hotel, as the first floor looked; this floor looked like it was run by a slum lord. As he followed the pattern of decay in the direction where it got even worse, he rounded the corner and saw a scene that was straight out of The Shining: In the center of the worst of the visible decay was a little girl, all dressed up in a nice, clean Girl Scouts uniform, not looking at all scared to be in someplace that looks like the location of a horror movie. As J came around the corner to advised her that she may have better luck selling her cookies elsewhere, J saw something else that gave him pause: clutched in her hands was not a box of cookies, but rather a book on quantum physics.

J rubbed his eyes in disbelief then looked again. Sure enough: 10-year old girl, carrying a book that's way too advanced for her, in a terrible place yet not at all scared to be there.

"No….way…" J breathed.

Then he aimed his Agent Pistol at him and fired.

"What the hell?!" Nick Walker exclaimed as he dived behind a couch that was on one side of the hall to avoid the sequence of shots that followed him from where he had been standing moments ago. He had been about to confront the Deado in the room was convinced he was hiding in when this guy came around the corner and started firing at him with what seemed to be some sort of ray gun. Nick was sure it wasn't firing rounds containing the Light of Judgment, but that first shot practically took out his piece!

Nick's senior partner Roy then came racing around the corner and dived next to Nick and whispered fiercely, "What in tarnation did you do, rook?"

"Me?!" Nick whispered agitatedly, "I didn't do anything! I was about to check where I believe our Deado's at when this spook in a suit comes around the corner and starts to shoot up the place!"

"You didn't do anything to blow cover?" Roy asked.

"This guy saw me for about 4 seconds before taking potshots at me, I didn't even get to say a word," Nock said irritably, "how could I possibly have blown cover?"

"Alright, little girl," J, who called out after having not taken anymore shots in a while, "assuming you really are a little girl, that is. You should know that those were merely warning shots just now, I didn't have to miss."

Looking down at the end of his ruined piece, Nick thought, He calls that "missing"? J then continues, "If you come out now, slowly and with your hands in the air, then as long as you don't try anything funny we can end this without anyone getting hurt."

Before Nick could decide whether to retort with a sarcastic remark or to ask Roy if he could borrow one of his pieces, Nick heard the sound of someone running up on the end of the trigger happy guy, followed by the gruff voice of an older gentleman saying, "Fill me in, slick. What's the situation?"

"I saw her, K," J said, "she's here, and she has someone else with her!"

" 'Her'?" K asked.

"Little Tiffany! From that day you recruited me!" J said agitatedly, "She's here!"

K sighed in exasperation and started, "J…"

"Look, K, I know what I saw!" K interrupted insistently, "A little girl in the middle of what looks like the set from a horror flick, holding a book that she couldn't possibly understand and not looking like she's about to wet her undies!"

Nick then gestures at his piece as he whispers furiously at Roy, "You see? Not my fault! This is the result of the shitty covers the guys Upstairs gave me for my piece and I!"

"Alright then, pard'," Roy replied, "how do you want to play this?"

"I want to find out who and what these guys are and why they're shooting at us!" Nick answered.

"Then I'd say the quickest means to find out would be to do as 'Slick' has requested," Roy responded, then he placed his hands over his head and started to rise slowly to his feet.

Just as K was thinking it might be time to Neuralize his partner into retirement, a beautiful young woman stands up from behind the couch with her hands in the air, followed by, yes, a little girl wearing a Girl Scout uniform and holding a quantum physics book in one of her upraised hands.

As he looked at both the young ladies, K announced, "They look pretty human to me, Slick."

As the little girl mouthed "Human?" to the older woman next to her, the book in her hand sparked where K had shot a corner out from it earlier, to which J retorted, "Oh yeah? How many 10-year olds do you see that carry college-level books that shoot sparks?"

K thought this was strange too, so he reached for his glasses thinking, I never thought I'd live to see the day I needed to use this.

As K placed the Ray Bans on his face, J asked, "Whoa, K, you're just going to Neuralize them without interrogating them first?" before K silenced him by raising a finger. Then he squeezed the right hinge twice, then tapped that side once, then followed that by a squeeze and a tap. Once he'd finished, the inner surface of the glasses lit up with a display that placed what he saw through a number of filters until he saw that the ladies were not ladies at all, but rather Caucasian gentleman: one about J's age and dressed like a plain-clothes detective, the other closer to his own and looking like a grizzled Sherriff from the Old West.

"What the….how'd you do that, K?" J exclaimed as he placed his own Ray Bans on.

As he demonstrated on his own without touching them, K explained, "Squeeze twice, tap once, squeeze, tap."

As J did as K instructed, his own glasses lit up. J then stumbled back in startlement and exclaimed, "What the….you girls….you guys…what are you?!"

"Something I thought was merely a rumor," K explained as he holstered his Agent Pistol, then he called out to the two men, "I assume you boys are from the R.I.P.D.?"

"They can see us?" Nick asked Roy as Roy asked K, "You've heard of us?"

"Only from random bits and rumors floating around the Bureau," K explained.

"And I'm guessin' from your fancy doodads and side arms that you dudes are from the MIB I've heard so much about?" Roy inquired.

"Indeed," K confirmed.

"Whoa, just a minute K!" J exclaimed, "You're outing us to a couple of strangers just like that? And what would a couple of Rhode Island flatfoots be doing coming clear up here looking like….girls?"

"Not Rhode Island, Sport," K corrected, "R.I.P.D.: Rest In Peace Department. The guys you see before you were very human once, it just so happens that now they're dead."

J gaped for a moment before barking, "Dead?!" He then forced out a chuckle as he said, "You're just pulling my leg now, right?"

K said, in his usual straight faced expression, "You know I never kid, Kid."

"Yeah," J said, sobering up, "not since 1969, at least."

After a beat of silence, K continues, "Anyway, there's hardly anything currently known about them, as no agent had successfully made contact, or caught more than a glimpse of them, since MIB was founded, but some believe that they round up souls that are remaining on Earth and haul them off to Judgment, while others think they simply eliminate them." Turning to focus on Roy, K asks, "How am I doing so far, Tex?"

"Not too bad, Stiff," Roy replied, "Actually, both beliefs are true: We bring Deados in to face Judgment when we can, and we eliminate those who prove too rowdy to reign in. As for you MIBs, you function much like an intergalactic Border Patrol: you make sure that all ET immigrants stay where they were given permission to settle, ensure that no unregistered BEMs try to sneak in or cause any harm to anyone or anything in this planet, all the while making sure that us natives remain clueless to that any of this is going on."

"Wait," Nick said agitatedly, "How are they able to do that?"

"They got this doohickey, you see," Roy explained, "looks like a duded-up cigar tube. They get you to look at the red end on top while they put on sunglasses to protect their own eyes. One flash of light later, you forget what it was you saw and buy what yarn they spin as to what happened."

"Just like that, they brainwash you?" Nick asked.

"More like we exercise editorial privileges with your memories," K clarified, "I must say I'm impressed, you seem to know a great more about us than we've learned about you."

"Well I'm impressed that you suits know about us at all," Roy countered, "considering the trouble we've went to in order to ensure our paths don't cross."

"Okay, so we're all impressed," J said impatiently, "so if we're all done sharing war stories and comparing battle scars, then can we get back to the reason we're here: such as what brings the undead Ghostbusters over to our bust."

"Just one minute, Slick," Roy said, chomping on his cigar and tilting his hat low over his eyes, "first of all, we're dead, not undead, and unless you wish to join us I'd advise you shut your chew-hole and perk up your ears. The lovely run-down state of this hallway? It's courtesy of the soul-stank coming from the Deado inside that room you prevented my partner from entering earlier. I figure that makes this our Claim."

"Maybe," K said, "maybe not. You see the breakdown pattern of the walls behind the peeling wallpaper? That's indicative of a radiation leak from a Kalpraxian Sunstone, very likely brought here by a Troglodinate Weaponizer. If that's the case, I don't think your little light guns will do much good here."

Roy chuckled and said, "We'll see." Then, as he reached for the door handle, the door was smashed open from the inside with enough force to knock Roy against the opposite wall. Standing in the now empty doorframe was a humanoid creature that stood 8 foot tall, with brownish-green skin, 4 heavily muscled clawed arms, two sets of three stacked narrow eyes, two pair of nostril slits but no nose, and a long snout filled with needle sharp teeth. Quickly looking both ways, the creature charged down the least populated end of the hallway, towards Nick. Before he can get within striking distance, though, K pulls out his De-Atomizer and spatters the creature all over everything in range, including Nick.

"Troglodinate," announced K as Nick spat alien goo out of his mouth, then K turned towards the darkened doorway just as a second figure burst through and knocked him down. This creature, who was in many ways even more hideous than the first, somewhat looked like someone took a figurine of Dr. Jekyll and one of Mr. Hyde, cut them both in half from crown to crotch, then tried to stick the half of one to the half of the other by melting them together. Seeing the gooey mess at the one end of the hall, the creature charged the other end, right towards J. J fired his Agent Pistol at the charging monster, but it had nearly as much effect on it as a flare gun on fog. Just as it's about to plow through J, a shot from behind causes the creature to light up then explode into shadow.

As Roy blows the smoke from the barrel of his golden gun, then twirls it on his finger before spinning it into its holster, he says simply, "Deado."

"Wait," Nick says, "so their aliens and our Deados are working together? What's that mean?"

"If the Troglodinates are involved, nothing good," Answers J, "As their surname suggests, the Trogs are manufacturers of all kinds of nasty devices, including weapons, many of which are illegal in this sector of the galaxy. That means big trouble for whoever's facing the wrong end."

"It sounds like we need to work together on this one," K says to Roy.

"I'm afraid I must agree with you, pard'ner," says Roy, "So why don't we see what nuggets have been left behind here, and I'll show you boys the way to our station."

End of chapter