This is an amateur, non-commercial story, which is not produced, approved of, or in any way sponsored by the holders of the trademarks/copyrights from which this work is derived, nor is it intended to infringe on the rights of these holders. And so it goes.
This, Janine Melnitz sighed as she trudged out of the subway entrance onto the grubby dawn of New York City, was going to be one of those very bad days. She was utterly sure about it.
Bad enough that she’d overslept; the last week or so, it seemed that no matter how much rest she’d gotten, It wasn’t nearly enough. She felt utterly wretched upon finally rising, and still felt a bit like death warmed over—perhaps she’d caught a bit of a bug going around—but that didn’t matter. Dr. Peter Venkman wouldn’t accept any excuse short of death (her own) for missing work, and he d probably make her work past closing time as punishment for coming in late. "Damn slave driver," she muttered to herself as she crossed 123rd Avenue.
Three blocks later, she’d finally reached the aging firehouse that currently served as Ghostbusters Central. Janine struggled with her purse momentarily, trying to retrieve her office keys and hold onto her lunch and tote bag simultaneously—and falling utterly as everything tumbled to the sidewalk. Cursing under her breath, she scooped her belongings up and, unlocking the main door, stepped inside.
As she stepped through the firehouse door, Janine immediately sensed that something was very wrong. She glanced around the dark confines, straining to see any of her employers stumbling about, but upon noting the still-unplugged coffeepot, abandoned that tactic. Sighing uneasily, she walked briskly to her desk, set down her purse and lunch, then moved to the light switches and slammed them all on with a flick of the wrist. Still no one in sight.
There was no note to indicate any trouble, and ECTO-1 sat sleeping in its accustomed place. But the unnatural silence of the firehouse continued to bother her. She could feel the containment unit’s steady vibration from the basement, which was a bit of a relief, but still...she hurried up the stairwell, her heels clacking crisply on the wood steps.
More trouble on the second level—the kitchen and dining room showed no evidence of recent use. The rec room was about as reasonably tidy as one would expect from four bachelors. But still the silence reigned. It was all Janine could do to keep from screaming, just to break that awful stillness.
She quickly went to the sleeping quarters on the third floor, and noticeably relaxed at the sound of life behind the giant oak door that barred her way. She knocked solidly three times and cleared her throat. "Guys? You okay?"
The door creaked open just slightly; a very pale Egon Spengler peered tiredly through the opening. Not really, Janine."
"Egon, you look awful!" she exclaimed, pushing her way through despite his best efforts to block her. What’s wrong?"
She raised a hand to his brow and gasped. "You’re so hot! What’s your temperature? How about the other guys?"
"I don’t know," Egon replied miserably. "We can’t find a thermometer." Behind her beloved scientist, she could see that Winston, Peter and Ray were lying in bed groaning and moaning. "We seem to have picked up a virus," Egon concluded.
"You’re not kidding! Look, go lie down, Egon. I’m going to call Dr. Rosenthal."
* * * * *
Dr. Leah Rosenthal sighed and put away the tools of her trade. "How many times have I warned the four of you about the disadvantages of communal living? You’ve all got classic cases of mono, and I’m guessing it’s going to be a few weeks before you’re going to be able to be up and around." She handed Janine a fistful of prescriptions. "Get these filled,
Janine, make sure they stay in bed and get plenty of fluids, and cancel their workload for the next two weeks. They’ve got to get some badly-needed rest."
"Oboy," Janine sighed sadly after the physician had left. "That’s not going to be easy. You guys are booked solid till Christmas."
"Just give me a minute or two," Ray groaned. "I can work—I think."
"Count me out," Winston shook his head. "I think standing’s out of the question at the moment, much less ghostbusting."
"But we can’t cancel!" Peter whined from his bed, wincing as his sore throat protested this treatment. "We’ve got all those bills to pay—including that stuff Egon purchased a few weeks ago! We need the money!"
"Well, you guys sure can’t do anything," Janine noted thoughtfully as she tucked Egon in. "But maybe...tell you what, guys. I got an idea, let me make a call and see if I can get some help."
"Oh sure," Ray shook his head. "Get some rookies to take over? They’ll destroy New York!"
"I’ll go out with them," Janine soothed him as she poured him a glass of ice water. "Here, take your medication."
"I hate to ask this," Peter mumbled out of his pillow, "But who you gonna call?"
* * * * *
The Hong Kong Cavalier known as Nightowl shoved his brand-new eyeglasses up his nose and stared despondently at the computer terminal before him, which listed in green-and-white detail his current financial status—or lack thereof. How could one kid wind up costing so much? He was utterly, completely, flat broke—with Christmas only three weeks away.
His options were few. He could hit his father up for a loan, but that was out of the question; it wasn’t that the old man wouldn’t give it to him, but rather that it was a bad habit he didn’t want to get into. There was the possibility of getting an advance on his stipend, but that was only delaying his troubles to another time. Besides, Rawhide took a dim view of that practice. Or there was always the option of getting some outside work—he could call a few record companies, see if anyone was needing a hand with their album...but no, that would probably take him out to California, and he wanted to stay close by during the holidays.
Well, there was always male prostitution...
Just then Little Red came into the Bunkhouse (the site of the Hong Kong Cavaliers’ considerable computer resources and musical instruments) and cleared her throat. The six or seven people in the room glanced up expectantly.
"I just got a call from my cousin Janine," she announced. "The Ghostbusters are under the weather and can’t work for a few weeks. She’s looking for people to fill in until they’re better. Any takers?"
"You gotta be kidding," Reno grinned. "Who in their right mind would take a job assignment with long hours, hazardous activity, and constant weirdness?"
"We get enough of that here," Billy added.
"They’re willing to pay a bounty on each ghost caught, " Red continued. Nightowl’s eyes widened slightly. "And Janine’s willing to go out with you all and show you the ropes."
"I’m in," Perfect Tommy announced.
"OH NO YOU’RE NOT!" Red declared. "I’m not going to sit around here wondering how you’ve killed yourself this time! No way!"
"It’s cool, Red." Tommy unleashed that killer smile that no woman, not even a redhead, could resist. Red melted under its intensity. "Well...all right, but I’ll tag along. Janine’ll need someone to look after the four of them while she’s out."
"I’m game," Nightowl declared, firmly shutting off the computer screen.
Red nodded and wrote the names down on her clipboard. "Okay, that’s two. Anybody else?"
"Count me in, Red." Everyone turned to stare at none other than Buckaroo Banzai himself standing in the doorway. I’ve always wanted to conduct some hands-on research into the world of the paranormal..."
"...And you’ve been dying to get a peek at Dr. Spengler’s toys," Mrs. Johnson finished for him curtly. "Buckaroo, just because you’ve got a clear schedule for a change doesn’t mean you have to fill it!"
"Nonsense," the cool leader of the Cavaliers replied. "The Ghostbusters are friends. If they need our assistance, we should give it. I just want to do my share."
"Bull," Mrs. Johnson muttered under her breath. "You just want to play with those proton packs." But she knew she’d lost this round. "All right. I’ll finish clearing your schedule for you, and I’ll help man their phones if Janine’s going to be going out with your three. But you’d better be careful, got it?"
"Understood," Buckaroo smiled. "Red, when do they need us?"
"About two hours ago."
"Then we’d best be moving, hadn’t we, ladies and gentlemen?"
* * * * *
Upon arriving at the firehouse, Little Red immediately tool charge of the third floor and its patients. Janine gave Mrs. Johnson a quick once-through about the phones and the billing program, then gazed critically at her three charges. They were dressed in Institute coveralls—Tommy’s appeared to be specifically tailored for tightness in the right places, and Nightowl’s was in his usual black and silver. Buckaroo’s appeared to have never been washed.
Wiping a sheen of sweat from her forehead, Janine sighed and motioned for towards ECTO-1. "Well, let’s get this rolling." They piled in, with Buckaroo taking the front passenger side, Tommy and Nightowl the back seats, and Janine behind the wheel. "Okay, here’s the list of clients for today. I’ve got the proton packs and traps in back, and there are a few PKE meters for you guys too. I’ll show you how to use ‘em when we get to..." she studied the list, "...uh, the Lea Dye Factory." Sighing, she revved up the car and pressed the automatic door opener. "Let’s roll!"
"Thank goodness you’ve come!" exclaimed the shift manager as he ran up to ECTO-1. "It’s in the vat storage area, and causing all sorts of..." His voice trailed off as he stared at the four strangers. "You’re not the Ghostbusters!"
"I am, pal," Janine declared as she pulled her proton pack into place and shoved a clipboard into the manager’s hands. "And soon as you sign this release, we’ll get to work. These guys are helping out during the Christmas season. You got any complaints?"
"Are they experienced?" the man’s voice quavered nervously as he scribbled his signature on the paper.
"Oh yeah—real pros, believe you me." Just then Tommy dropped a trap on his foot. Nightowl was wincing at his pack’s weight and Buckaroo was eyeing the meter with intense scrutiny. "No problem at all," she sighed. "Where’s the storage area?"
* * * * *
"Quiet in here," Nightowl remarked, gripping the particle thrower tightly. Their footsteps echoed hauntingly throughout the metal facility, rebounding off the towering metal drums that surrounded them and reached to the ceiling. Even with the lights on, the entire place oozed shadows all around, setting already tight nerves further on edge.
"Don’t worry, it’ll get loud soon enough," Janine assured him, wiping the sweat from her brow. "God, it’s hot in here."
Buckaroo eyed her oddly, then his attention was riveted by two spindles extending wide on the device in his hand. "Janine, what does this mean?"
"It means...IT’S SHOWTIME!" From the rafters swooped a hideous phantasm, dripping with ectoplasmic slime and pure hatred radiating from its features. Janine’s reflexes shot into action; from her particle thrower exploded a rainbow of energy that zinged just past the creature and slammed into the ceiling. Separate! Form a circle! Get into position and fire—and DON’T CROSS THE STREAMS!"
"How the hell do we know if we’re crossing the streams?" Tommy cried as he ran across the room.
"Don’t worry—you do it once, you’ll never have to worry about doing it again!" Janine waved Buckaroo and Nightowl into the proper positions, then screamed, "FIRE!"
There is one thing to remember about using a proton pack—the things release a great deal of energy when activated. Therefore, there is considerable recoil involved. The Ghostbusters were well aware of this and always braced themselves without conscious thought—after the first time they d ever used them.
Three particle throwers flared into life. Three streams shot into the air—straight up, because all three Cavaliers had been thrown flat on their backs by the kick. The creature cackled insanely and swooped around in derision then abruptly dove towards Buckaroo, who was at the moment flailing about like a turtle on its back.
"I can’t get up! Someone do something! I can’t...AAAAAAAAAHHHHHGGGG!" There was a nasty "squishing" noise, and when the ghost soared to the ceiling once more, there lay a thoroughly slimed Buckaroo Banzai on the floor. "Ugh," he sputtered, trying with no success to wipe the goo off his face.
By now Tommy and Nightowl were back on their feet and taking aim at the ugly apparition. Their neutron blasts snagged the writhing creature and held it in place. "Banzai—throw a trap!" Janine cried, hoping to let them learn with practice. Unfortunately, the frazzled neurosurgeon threw the device too hard, and it tumbled and skittered across the floor, winding up on its side well away from the ghost.
"Oh, for heaven’s sakes..." With one cool practiced motion, Janine grabbed a trap, slid it across the floor, and slammed her foot on the activator petal. A nimbus of bright, unearthly light shot into the air, bathing the ghost in its aura. Nightowl and Tommy shut their blasters off; the creature screamed once before it was sucked into the trap, which then snapped shut and beeped.
Perfect Tommy gazed at the smoking device and tapped it with his boot, jumping back slightly as a crackle of eerie energy flickered around it.
Janine grabbed the trap by its connection hose and hefted it up. "And that’s how you do it. Any questions?"
Buckaroo sighed and tried to shake off the goop still covering him. "Is there any way to get this stuff off?" he asked plaintively.
* * * * *
"There he is!" Tommy yelled, punctuating his warning with a blast that sent the hideous specter flying...straight into the tendrils of Buckaroo’s fire. The creature flailed helplessly about, unable to free itself from the bizarre net, but it would not have to worry about such things for long; Nightowl send a trap rolling across the floor and activated it. Seconds later silence reigned once more.
"Awright!" Tommy grinned.
"I think we’ve the hang of it now," Buckaroo remarked to Janine, who was propped up in an office chair. "Are you all right?"
"Huh?" She blinked rapidly at the doctor. "Oh yeah, fine. Just tired, that’s all. Yeah, you guys did good this time. Of course, this was our sixth call." She whipped out a bill pad and scribbled out the details. "Here you go, Mr. Calloway, " she smiled as she handed the paper to a thin, balding man who had just come out of hiding. "We accept checks, cash and most major credit cards. If you don’t pay in thirty days, though, we bring the ghost back. Have a nice day."
"Is that it for today?" Nightowl asked wistfully as he helped Janine out of her pack. "My back is killing me."
"I think so," she nodded, stretching and yawning as she spoke. "Let’s get back. I want to see how Egon is doing. Buckaroo, you wanna drive?"
"All right," he agreed after a second; his eyes were studying the redheaded receptionist intently. "That might be a good idea." The drive back to the firehouse was relatively silent, save for the occasional snore from Janine, who was resting her head on Tommy’s shoulder.
"How’d it go, guys?" Mrs. Johnson asked from the desk. Nightowl smiled tiredly, holding up a gaggle of smoking traps as he headed for the basement. Tommy was trying to carefully extricate Janine from the car; the woman was still groggy, having just woken up as they’d pulled in. "Buckaroo, is she okay?"
"I don’t know, Eunice. Why don’t you get Red down here?" As Mrs. Johnson hurried upstairs, Buckaroo gratefully peeled himself out of his thoroughly stained jumpsuit. Tommy was doing likewise nearby, but Janine was stretched out on the couch, holding her head with one hand.
"Janine? Feeling all right?"
"Yeah.... " But when Red arrived from the dormitory floor, she headed straight over to her cousin and shoved a thermometer into her mouth. "Have you been feeling bad all day?" she demanded. Janine shook her head slightly, but Red wasn’t buying. "Why didn’t you bring her back here when you started noticing she was ill?"
"Because at the tine, she was the only one who knew what she was doing." Buckaroo peered over the nurse’s shoulder at the just-removed thermometer. "Mmmmm. Hundred-one, that doesn’t look too good." Crouching down beside the couch, he smiled at Janine. "Tell me, Janine. Do you eat upstairs often?"
"Do you use the glasses, silverware, and all?"
"Do you ever shower here?"
"Is there a spare bedroom here?"
"Umm..yeah, behind the kitchen."
Buckaroo looked up at Tommy. "Let’s get her up there. Red, I think we’ve got another mono patient for you."
"Lovely," the RN groaned. "Bad enough that Egon’s fussy, Ray’s constantly wanting to go to the bathroom, and Peter won’t eat anything except cherry popsicles. Buckaroo, I’m going to get Flo over here so that I can get some relief."
"Fine. See if we can get her to bring something to eat, too. Come on, Janine..."
"I can’t be sick," Janine whined as they lifted her to her feet. "My cat, she’s going to need to be fed...I haven’t got anything to wear here..."
"We’ll take care of everything," Buckaroo assured her. "Eunice..."
"I’m on it," she called from the desk. And Red’s getting one of Egon’s nightshirts."
* * * * *
As the days passed, the fame of the "New Ghostbusters" quickly spread:
"NEW BUSTERS NAIL NINTH AVE NASTY!"
ECTO-1 roared through the late-evening streets, in hot pursuit of a real ugly purple slimy sucker", to use Perfect Tommy’s precise terms. "Buckaroo—keep him close, I’ll hit him through the sun roof!" Nightowl cried.
"This car doesn’t have a sun-roof!" Buckaroo yelled. There was a sudden explosion of sound and light from behind, followed seconds later by a burst of cold air.
"There is now," Nightowl sheepishly replied.
"NEW BUSTERS FOIL GARMENT DISTRICT GHOST!"
"Tommy," Nightowl bellowed over the roar of particle throwers in action, "select the fabric for your new suit AFTER we catch the thing, okay?"
"NEW BUSTERS CATCH MUSEUM SPECTER!"
Perfect Tommy gaped in amazement as the curvaceous phantom floated before him, seeming to appraise her pursuer. Her gown drifted wildly about, as did her long blonde hair; suddenly, she vanished from sight. But seconds later, Tommy’s jumpsuit started unzipping as if by magic, followed quickly by his trousers. He gasped suddenly as the most incredible sensations overwhelmed his senses...
There was a burst of white light, and the wonderful feelings subsided. Tommy glared at Buckaroo, who held a smoking trap in his hand.
"Man, did you have to be in such a hurry?" Tommy complained.
* * * * *
"Oh God," Nightowl groaned as he stumbled out of ECTO-1. "I’m making all this money, and it’s going to have to go towards getting me a new back!"
"Where’s the nearest hot tub?" Tommy asked as he emerged from the car. "Failing that, the nearest chiropractor?" He winced as Little Red scrunched his shoulders. "Geez, if Spengler’s such a genius, why can’t he make lighter proton packs?"
"Perhaps he needs another point of view," Buckaroo remarked casually, eyeing the filing cabinet. "Why don’t we review the spec sheets on his design and see if we can’t suggest a few modifications?"
"Buck, you know that’s not a good idea," Mrs. Johnson rose and blocked his way, arms extended. "Would you want him to go poking around with your oscillation overthruster?"
"That’s utter nonsense," Buckaroo replied, trying in vain to get past her. "Dr. Spengler knows nothing about multi-dimensional quantum physics."
"And you of course know everything about these doo-dads."
"Of course," he replied with a smile. "I’m Buckaroo Banzai."
"Very funny," Little Red snapped, pulling his back with a sharp tug on his coveralls. "Keep your nose out of Egon’s toys. I’m going back up to see how everyone is doing."
The reception was far from warm. "So, I hear the conquering heroes are back," Peter greeted Red snidely. "How many did they snag today? Twenty? Thirty?"
"Five," Red informed him as she handed him his medication. "What’s got your back up, Venkman?"
"All this!" He slapped a hand down on the pile of newspapers he’d been reading. "They’re stealing our thunder! People are already forgetting about us, those guys are the darlings of the media right now!"
"Peter, I’m sure you’re exaggerating," she assured him. "Remember, too—you all asked for them to help out."
"Actually, it was Janine," Egon remarked. "Incidentally, Red, how is she doing?"
"Sleeping most of the time," the nurse answered. "You’ll all be able to go downstairs in a day or so and watch TV, maybe visit her."
"Oh joy," Peter groaned. "Sit there and watch the "New Ghostbusters" hog the glory. Next thing you know, the cartoon people will want them added, and the toy people will want new figures cast—of them!"
* * * * *
"Janine?" Eunice poked her head through the doorway; Janine was sitting up reading the latest issue of PEOPLE. "How you doing?"
"I’d be better if I wasn’t sleeping all the time," the secretary yawned and stretched. "How’s things downstairs? Looks like they’re doing all right."
"Oh yeah," Mrs. Johnson nodded. "In fact, business is up for some odd reason. Seems like the city is crawling with ghosts. Oh, that reminds me. You know that scheduling and billing program in your PC?"
"Yeah," Janine’s eyes narrowed. "What about it?"
"Well, it was so slow and didn’t seem to be able to handle the increase in volume, so I had Billy write up a version of the one we use at the Institute, and he implemented it the other day. When you get back on your feet, I’ll show you how it works. You’ll be amazed!"
"You...what?" Janine growled.
"It’s really so much better than that old clunker," Eunice continued, not seeing the reaction she was getting. "And when things were slow—which wasn’t often—l got your filing system updated and revised. How on Earth did you manage to cross-reference everything before?"
"Oh, you don’t have to thank me," Eunice waved her off. "It was the least I could do for a friend. See you later!" She walked out the door, shutting it behind her.
Janine’s face contorted with rage. "If I had the energy to get out of bed, I’d KILL HER!!!!!!!!!!!"
* * * * *
"All right Peter," Egon whispered as footsteps echoed up the stairs, "you know what to do."
"Why me?" the dark-haired scientist sighed to no one in particular.
"Because you can go on command," Winston snickered, then slipped back into an expression of tired exhaustion as Little Red appeared.
"How you doing, guys?" she asked happily (Tommy had gotten the previous night off).
"Uhhh, I gotta go take care of business," Peter mumbled with just the right tone of helplessness. Red rolled her eyes but helped the ailing Ghostbuster out of bed and helped walk him to the bathroom. As soon as they were out of sight, though, Egon slipped out of bed and stumbled to the windows.
Opening the window, the blonde scientist grabbed his PKE meter from its nearby hiding place and activated it, holding it outside and waving it back and forth. He then pulled the device back in and shut the window, studying the readings as he slipped the meter back into hiding. He had just slipped back into bed as Red and Peter came staggering back. "Anyone else feel like going for a stroll?" the nurse puffed as Peter fell back into bed.
"I think we’re fine, Red," Ray smiled. "But boy, are we hungry!"
"That’s a good sign," she beamed. "Let me grab Eunice and we’ll bring some
food up." The Ghostbusters waited until her head had vanished down the
stairwell, then three pairs of eyes turned to Egon.
"It’s not good," he admitted. "That surge in ectoplasmic energy has continued to build over the last two weeks."
"Man," Winston sighed. "Am I glad that I’m not out there right now."
"Yeah," Peter frumped. "The rookies are getting all the action, all the attention, and ten percent of our money."
"I’m rather concerned about that, too." Egon absently pushed his glasses further up and coughed. "You see, we’re used to these holiday surges and plan accordingly. They aren’t. We’ll have to give them some advice—especially with the class-eights and over."
"Why do these things always pop up at the same time?" Winston wondered.
"Actually, Egon and I have a theory about that," Ray answered. "Y’see, the two busiest times of the year for us are Halloween and Christmas—holidays which are deeply rooted in the spiritual side of mankind. We’ve been postulating that the psychic belief of people with those times causes the barrier between the normal and paranormal to weaken somewhat, making it easier for more spirits and the like to break through."
"That makes sense," Peter agreed, "but we’ve come through okay before, even with that ambush those ghosts set up last year about this tire."
"That was due to our experience," Egon reminded him. "Doctor Banzai and the others are lacking in that area. We’d best have a long talk with them tonight." Red and Mrs. Johnson showed up at that point with breakfast, so the topic was dropped for the moment.
* * * * *
"Well, I think that does it," Nightowl sighed as he climbed into the driver’s seat of ECTO- 1. "Let’s call it a day and head on back. I’ve got some last-minute Christmas shopping to do for Jessie."
Buckaroo lifted a hand up in warning; he was studying his rapidly beeping PKE meter. "I’m getting a very strong reading from not too far from here. The numbers are in the red end of the scale."
"Buck, no," Nightowl pleaded. "It can wait..."
"Lessee," Perfect Tommy ordered, taking the meter from his friend. "Wow. Must be a real beaut! Wonder if we ought to take a look-see?"
"No, no, no," Nightowl groaned, resting his head on ECTO’s roof.
"It certainly wouldn’t hurt," Buckaroo agreed with Tommy. "Something that strong shouldn’t be left unchecked. Nightowl, get in. I’ll direct you there."
They clambered into the battered vehicle. "I’ve got a bad feeling about this," Nightowl sobbed as he started the engine up.
* * * * *
The Gloeckner-McCarthy Emotional/Physical Trauma Center had been a going concern for many years, but time and finance had eventually closed the building down. Now it sat in the midst of a blighted neighborhood, looking forlorn and defeated in the fading light of dusk.
ECTO roared to a stop in front of the building. "This is it," Buckaroo announced.
"Are you sure about this?" Nightowl asked, eyeing the ruins nervously. "I mean, that was one heck of a reading, higher than anything we’ve gone up against so far. Maybe we should call Spengler or Stantz for advice?"
"Come on," Tommy chided. "This is gonna be a piece of cake, Owl. We’ve got the equipment, we got the ability, we got enough experience—what you worried about?"
"I don’t like this," the dark-haired Cavalier muttered, but his comment was lost in the explosion resulting from Tommy firing his particle thrower at the boarded up doorway. He watched his two partners step through the smoking gateway, then shook his head in resignation. "Oh hell. Who wants to live forever?" he grumbled to himself as he followed.
"Kind of dark, isn’t it?" Tommy remarked, flipping his flashlight on and playing the beams through the inky blackness. The air was musty with time and dust; the boards beneath their feet creaked in protest as they explored the interior of the building. Buckaroo waved the meter about in large arcs, motioning for the others to follow where the signal grew stronger.
"I don’t think this was such a great idea," Nightowl repeated. The hairs on the back of his neck were tingling, and he had the sensation of being watched. He tightened his grip on the particle thrower and strained to catch a glimpse of anything moving about.
"Oh, shut up, willya?" Tommy growled. "You got no sense of adventure anymore, Owl, ever since you got married and had a kid. You’ve gotten to be a wuss."
"No, just a tad more cautious, now that I’ve got something to stay intact for."
"Hmmph." Tommy held the flashlight so that Buckaroo could descend a flight of stairs. "You’re providing a great excuse to never get married. You aren’t gonna see me get tied down, no way."
"Does Red know that?"
"Quiet," Buckaroo ordered, waiting for them to join him at the foot of the stairwell. "The readings are pointing there...no, there...no, over there..."
"Uh-oh," Nightowl muttered, flipping his thrower on.
"Gentlemen," Buckaroo calmly announced, "I believe we are surrounded by a number of ghosts."
As if on cue, an unearthly glow from dozens of angry specters filled the chamber.
Tommy gulped nervously. "And boy, do they look pissed!"
* * * * *
Back at Ghostbusters Central, Mrs. Johnson was pacing nervously around Janine’s desk. "They’re 45 minutes overdue. Something’s wrong."
Little Red poked her head through the fire pole gap. "Still not in? Eunice, you know how bad traffic is at this hour. Maybe they’re stuck in gridlock."
"But I can’t reach them on the cellular in ECTO, either. This isn’t like Buckaroo, Rawhide’s drilled it into him time and again to check in when things go off schedule..." Just then her Go-phone beeped an "alert" signal. Slamming her finger down on the "activate" button, she breathlessly asked, "Buckaroo? Where are you?"
In the background she could hear particle throwers wailing away. "Eunice, we’re in a bit of bind right now. We were lured into a trap meant for the Ghostbusters. Could you possibly put Egon or one or the others on?"
Little Red cut into the conversation from upstairs via her Go-phone. "Here’s Egon, Boss. How’s Tommy?"
"Later, Red. Egon?"
"Yes, Dr. Banzai?" Egon spoke into the tiny device, eyes narrowed in concentration.
"We are surrounded in close quarters by about thirty or so ghosts, with our only escape route blocked. Our traps are rapidly dwindling to a minimum. You wouldn’t have any advice at the moment, would you?"
"What did the meter show before they manifested?" Buckaroo relayed the data; Egon’s face tightened. "Dr. Banzai, I would say that you have far more than thirty ghosts in there. Eighty would be a conservative estimate."
"Whattya know?" Peter grinned. "The golden boys have gotten themselves in deep shit!"
"This isn’t funny," Red growled, waving a rectal thermometer in his face. Peter paled and shut up. "Egon," she continued, "what can they do?"
"It doesn’t look good," Ray commented. "Having no backup at the entry point, they’re pinned down. And as soon as their traps are full..." His face fell into a mournful frown.
At that moment, there was a cry of pain, and the Go-phone went dead.
Egon turned and gazed at his comrades. "Gentlemen, we’re needed."
"Oh no you don’t!" Red snapped. "You’re in no shape to...to..." Suddenly she realized that her beloved Tommy was in mortal peril. "Ooohhh...all right, but I’m going with you!"
"Uh, Egon," Peter remarked as he dug around for his coveralls, "assuming we’re healthy enough to work, and capable of carrying around those god awful proton packs---those guys have our only working models, remember?"
The lanky blonde scientist smiled grimly and marched to a corner locker, unlocking the door and slamming it open with a flourish. When the other three paranormal paladins peered within, they saw four proton packs neatly stacked inside. "I’ve been working on redesigning them," Egon noted as he pulled one out and slipped it into place. "They’re lighter and more efficient in power usage."
"Not bad," Peter grunted as he pulled another one down. "How do they work in the field?"
"Uhhh...l hadn’t really gotten time for a proper field test, what with this virus and all."
"Well, no time like the present, huh?" Winston grinned. "Guys, let’s go save the rookies’ butts and let those goopers know the REAL Ghostbusters are back!"
"So to speak," Ray wheezed, swaying beneath his pack.
* * * * *
Egon tiptoed into Janine’s room and leaned close to the dozing figure. "Oh, Janine..."
"Where are your car keys?"
A hand emerged from the blankets and waved listlessly about. "Over by the dresser, in my purse. Go away."
Five minutes later, it suddenly occurred to her a) who had been in there, b) what he d asked for, and c) most likely why. Stumbling over to the window, she watched as Egon and the others piled into her precious pink VW Beetle. "You guys had better not put a single scratch or dent in that car, or you’re dead meat, soon as I have the strength to kill you!" she yelled through the window.
* * * * *
Things were not looking good.
Tommy had tripped while eluding a team of specters and twisted his ankle rather badly. Nightowl had been tricked into firing at the ceiling, and a large pile of plaster and rotted wood had tumbled down onto him. Buckaroo noticed the ugly red gash on his forehead but could do nothing to help; the three of them stood (or sat) back-to-back, firing at anything that came close enough to hit. But since they were out of traps, it was a futile, delaying gesture.
Buckaroo slammed a particle beam into a particularly ugly ghost, then sent it flying into another bunch of horrors. "Rather reminds me of a time or two in Sabah," he yelled matter-of-factly to his companions.
"Everything reminds you of a time or two in Sabah," Nightowl muttered under his breath.
"Odds were about the same," Tommy agreed, firing a burst of energy at a spook that had come too close. "Any ideas?"
"About the only way we’re going to get out of here, short of a miracle, is back the way we came." And even Buckaroo could see there was no way to do so; the ghosts had them securely pinned down. And sooner or later Nightowl was going to collapse, or someone would make a fatal mistake...
Suddenly a familiar aura of white energy exploded from the stairway, and a large squadron of spirits abruptly vanished in the nimbus. "Hey, you lousy bunch of ingrates, you threw a party and forgot to invite us?" asked a grinning Peter Venkman, holding a smoking trap.
"Invitation must have gotten lost in the mail," Buckaroo smiled back. "But feel free to join in, don’t let us stop you. He captured a ghost in his particle stream and sent it flying the Ghostbusters’ way. Ray slammed his foot on a trap activation petal, and it captured both that ghost and several others.
Within minutes, the tide had turned. Egon had handed Nightowl a strip of cloth, which the dark-haired Cavalier had used to cover his wound, then waded into the remaining pile of spirits with his particle beams, sending the entities flying straight into Winston’s trap. Seconds later, the room was quiet once more, save for a great deal of panting and groaning.
Little Red came flying down the stairs. Oh God, Tommy, are you all right?" she cried, passing an exhausted Nightowl without even glancing at the bloody bandage on his head. Buckaroo Shook his head with a tired smile and moved over to the dazed Cavalier. How do you feel?"
"Awful," came the reply instants before Nightowl’s lunch wound up on the floor.
"Looks like a concussion as well as that gash." Buckaroo studied the wound carefully. "A few stitches and a few days in bed, you’ll be back to normal."
"I can’t," Nightowl groaned. "Christmas..."
"I’m sure Princess can take care of the shopping."
The black-and-silver Cavalier looked up bleakly. "That’s what got me into trouble to begin with!"
"Guys," Peter cut in, "why don’t we split this joint and head back to Ghostbusters Central? I m ready to go back to bed."
"Sounds good," Buckaroo agreed. "You take ECTO?"
"No, I don’t think so," Egon declined. "If Janine finds out that anyone else drove that car of hers, I shudder to think what she might do..."
"Yeah," Tommy agreed, hopping about with Red’s support. "Redheads are not to be trifled with, you know?"
* * * * *
"All right," Doctor Rosenthal smiled as she put her instruments back into her bag. "I’d say you’re fit enough for limited duty—no more than two or three calls a day for another week. But Janine stays put for another week."
"But I’m feeling much better," the secretary protested, but the physician lifted a finger for silence. "Oh, all right..." Actually, the idea of being waited on hand and foot by her employers (one in particular) did have its appeal, but she had to make token resistance.
"Well, it looks like you won’t be needing us any longer," Buckaroo smiled at Peter. The two men shook hands warmly. "But if you ever should need some help..."
"I know, we’ll call," Peter nodded.
"...We get the lighter packs," Buckaroo finished with a smile.
"We’ll see," Ray agreed brightly. "How are Tommy and Nightowl?"
"Tommy was checked at Gen’s E.R. and released. They’re holding Nightowl overnight for observation; I suspect he is getting fussed over and read the riot act by his wife in equal measures." He yawned and stretched. "Well, let me get Eunice away from that desk, and we’ll be off."
The four Ghostbusters and their guest slipped through the front door and walked past ECTO toward the main office. To their surprise, Mrs. Johnson was busily working, yanking files out of one cabinet and hurriedly dropping them into another. So intent was she on her work that she didn’t even raise her head to say hello.
A low, evil snicker quickly showed them the reason for her industriousness. Janine sat in a nearby chair, clad in pink robe and fuzzy slippers. Beside her sat the fifth proton pack, its particle thrower resting securely in her lap. "Oh, hi guys," the redhead smiled contentedly. "I was feeling so much better, I decided to come down and keep Eunice company while she put the files back in the correct order. She should be done in about an hour, wouldn’t you say, Eunice?"
A dark-haired head bobbed frantically up and down.
"Nobody messes with Melnitz," Janine declared smugly. "Or her filing system. Got it?"