True old heads may recognize this character. If you don't recognize Day or Walker I've failed and will begin the rituals of redemption.
Spender left his students in the ghost train's warm interior. With the weather as it was, it was easier to chalk the moistness of its seating up to ambient humidity, and the Activity Club seemed comfortable, if a bit miffed to be asked to stay behind. A friendly Consortium spectral with a teapot for a head kept them busy with great mugs of dubiously sourced earl grey. They'd be safe, at least, and that's what really mattered.
There were others Spender recognized, stepping out past the barrier into the rain, and still others that he didn't. This was a large operation, and, judging by the grave looks on his fellow agents' faces, one that wasn't going well.
"Agent Spender." A small voice wound its way through the roar of the storm. "I was hoping you'd show up sooner than later."
Spender's forced workplace smile became genuine in an instant. "Agent Popova," he answered, starting to turn to face her. Of all the Paranatural Activity Consortium brass that could conceivably be heading an operation of this scale, Pasha Popova was as welcome a candidate for Spender's purposes as any. This would be a true collaboration, then, and not the tug of war he feared it would be if command was in the massive, meaty hands of—
Spender couldn't hide the disappointment in his voice. The towering figure of the Consortium's rootin'-tootin' top agent awaited him at the end of his rotation.
"If yer gonna spit the name out," Walker growled, "at least put some liquid in it, partner. Ptooey!" He hocked a cartoonish loogie into a nearby container. "That's how you show proper disrespect."
The container, it turned out, was Agent Popova's bottom half, which Spender and Walker both only realized when her upper section swiftly slapped him in reprisal. Though the power dynamic pitched and swayed over the course of the subsequent flood of cowboy contrition, it was clear to Spender now that Walker was in fact the man in charge here, and Popova his second-in-command.
When it rained, Spender thought to himself, it well and truly poured.
"Of all the indignities..." lamented Agent Popova, now polishing the basin of her body's inner void.
Walker tipped his cowboy hat in cowboy shame.
"Miss Pasha, please, let me!" A rookie with a rose-tipped cane stepped forward to assist her. She gave Spender an exceedingly nervous nod along the way, one almost low enough to be a bow. "A-A-Agent Spender. It's... it's an honor to finally—"
She trailed off. Spender's attention was elsewhere, fixed upon the sky.
"You'd think having the cavalry on call from the start would be a comfort," Spender remarked, lightning glinting off his glasses, "but I must confess it's had the opposite effect. Just what sort of threat could have warranted all this?" He gestured to the numerous agents buzzing about their makeshift basecamp, then to the mighty Agent Walker himself in all his lackluster glory.
"A force o' nature, that's what," Walker shot back. His leer was menacingly letterboxed between his hat's brim and a largely drained canteen. He grunted out a melancholy sigh of last sip satisfaction, then trundled on. "Any spirit that can shape the livin' world this much... it ain't somethin' the Consortium can ignore."
"Thank you, Val." Agent Popova gave her disheartened assistant a sympathetic smile. She'd helped to place her superior's torso back upon its hollow base, as any worthy intern would. "The creature calls itself King Catnine. Until recently, it ruled a far-off stretch of empty sky, but now..."
Spender's hidden eyes narrowed. "Now it wants more."
Agent Popova sighed. "What we don't know is why it would come here, to little Mayview of all places."
Spender and Walker traded instant matching looks of deep suspicion. Both of them had largely given up on prying out the other's secrets, but the spite that their attempts inspired kept the standstill from becoming a true ceasefire.
A strange expression passed across the rookie Agent Day's face, too, but it was gone after the next booming flash of lightning.
"We have a scouting party up there now," Agent Popova said, pointing to the peak of Mayview's bubble, "my nested selves alongside Stix and Stucks. Once they're back, we can—"
A great roaring burst of electricity scourged across the surface of the barrier, causing everyone below to clasp their ears.
Spender slowly pieced his senses back together. A ringing screech had replaced the rhythm of the rain. He shook his head, trying to dispel the deafening silence.
The relief that followed when the hum of the downpour returned moments later was short-lived.
The screech was still there, too. Getting louder, closer. Louder. Closer.
Spender looked up to the sky.