"Tell me again, Egon, why we're here," Peter Venkman whined from the
back seat. It was hot in the rental car, as the four Ghostbusters drove
through the California desert. Peter's humorous complaints had been
entertaining the other three for the past half-hour, but now even he was
starting to sound peeved.
Egon Spengler, sitting next to him, sighed. "We are here,
Peter, to investigate that call we received the other night. The one
that cut off in mid- sentence, remember? You were the one that took it,
if I recall correctly."
Peter shivered slightly, despite the heat in the car. The
tall, lanky physicist was right, as usual. Peter HAD been the one to
take that call the other night, and he had spent the past two days
wishing he hadn't. A Doctor Frank Weber had called them from Crissman,
California, a small town in Orange County. The man had been hysterical,
raving about strange lights and some sort of unstoppable menace. Peter
would have been inclined to rule him a psycho, except for one thing. The
call had been interrupted by a crash, a blood-curdling scream, and then
the line went dead. Peter had then called the Orange County Sheriff's
department, only to be told that there was no contact with the town of
"Why is it," the brown-haired Ghostbuster asked petulantly,
"that everyone immediately heads TOWARDS a blood-curdling scream?
Wouldn't your first instinct be to run away?"
Winston Zeddemore chuckled, his eyes never leaving the road.
"You're the psychologist, Pete. You tell us. You're right, though, I
never thought it made much sense."
"Gee," interjected Ray Stantz, the fourth occupant of the
car. "How could we not? That guy sounded terrified, Peter. You said so
yourself. He called us for help."
Peter sighed. "I really hope we get paid for this one. A lot.
I have this feeling that we're going to be earning it."
A little further on, the car ran into a roadblock. Winston
rolled down his window as one of the troopers approached the car.
"What's going on here?" Zeddemore asked.
"No one allowed in the town of Crissman, sorry. You'll have
to turn around and go back," the woman replied. Peter, who was also
sitting on the driverís side of the car, rolled down his window as well.
"Excuse me, ma'am, but we're the Ghostbusters. We received a
call the other night from a Dr. Weber, in this town. His statements
seemed to indicate a problem of a supernatural nature, and he seemed to
think we could help. We were cut off in mid-call, so I called the
Sheriff's Department, and they said that there was no communication with
the town. Has that changed?"
The trooper regarded him for a long moment, then shrugged.
"No, actually it hasn't. We're not supposed to tell the public about
this, but you gentlemen are professionals. After your call, Dr.-
Venkman?" At Peter's nod, she continued. "After your call, we sent a
couple of officers up to investigate. We lost contact with them, as
well. Currently, we're blocking off the town, waiting for the top brass
to decide whether or not to bring in the National Guard."
"Hmmm." Egon removed the PKE meter from his belt and pointed
it up the road. "I'm detecting elevated levels of PKE coming from the
town. Whatever's up there, it is most definitely supernatural." He put
the meter away, turning towards the trooper. "I suggest very strongly
that you let us investigate. I doubt that your department or even the
National Guard is equipped to handle what might be in there."
The woman shrugged. "I'll call it in." She headed back to her
car, and Peter turned towards his friends.
"Okay, Egon, Ray, what's going on here?" the psychologist
asked seriously. "I already don't like this."
"It could be any number of things," Egon replied, pushing his
glasses up on his nose. "There have been many reports of mysterious
disappearances throughout history."
"Right," Ray added. "Like Roanoke Island, or the Bermuda
"Or the _Mary Celeste,_ yeah, I know, Ray," Peter
interrupted. "But all of those obviously took place in a short span of
time, and there was never any evidence of violence. That phone call was
DEFINITELY evidence of violence."
"But remember, Peter, most of those disappearances took place
back when it would have been much harder to communicate. Perhaps
whatever caused those disappearances covered its tracks," Egon reminded
"So we're going to charge into a situation that we have no
earthly idea about?" Winston asked, resigned. "Here we go again."
"Look on the bright side," Venkman informed him, grinning
wryly. "Maybe the cops will tell us to turn around and go home."
"Well, here she comes," Ray pointed out. "What did they say?"
The trooper sighed. "They don't like it, but nobody has any
better ideas. If you gentlemen would check it out, the Sheriff's
Department would be happy to pay your bill."
Peter sighed. "Well, at least they're going to PAY us for
risking our lives this time." The roadblock was removed, and Winston
drove the rental car on up the road towards Crissman.
"No kidding," Peter agreed. "It's gonna be dark soon, and I
forgot my nightlight." The sun was slowly sinking down behind them,
making their shadows stretch before them towards the eastern horizon.
The atmosphere of quiet tension reminded Peter of the time that the four
of them had gone to Tombstone, Arizona to bust the ghosts of the Earp
gang. The moments directly before the shooting started had been exactly
"Hmmm." Egon was entranced by the readings on his PKE meter,
his calm demeanor a sharp contrast to the jumpiness of his companions.
Peter shot the blond physicist an irritated look.
"I hate it when you say that, Egon. It's almost as bad as
'Uh-oh,'" Venkman complained, eyes ceaselessly scanning the area.
Spengler raised an eyebrow at his friend. "These readings
are most fascinating. They don't seem to conform to any type of ghostly
entity that we have ever encountered. I believe we're on the trail of
something completely new."
"Wow!" Ray cried. The youngest of the Ghostbusters, Ray's
enthusiasm occasionally got the better of his common sense. "This is
Winston and Peter shared looks of amused resignation. "Right,
Ray," Winston sighed. "Real great."
The group moved off down the streets, Ray and Egon taking
readings at every turn, Peter and Winston guarding their backs.
"Pete, did you see those shop windows we passed?" Zeddemore
The psychologist nodded. "Yup. I don't think vandals broke
them all, either. I REALLY don't like this, Winston. I'm seriously
advocating getting our rears out of here, NOW."
The older man regarded his friend curiously. Peter Venkman
liked to present the image of a self-centered jerk, and in fact put a
great deal of effort into it. However, Winston had known him long enough
to see beyond that, to the brave, selfless man hiding behind the faÁade.
If the psychologist was seriously suggesting that they run away,
something about the situation was giving him very bad vibes.
The Ghostbusters turned down another street and found
themselves in a cul-de-sac that seemed to be the town square. Ray looked
around and shrugged. "Looks like a dead end."
Peter winced. "Did you have to use the word 'dead,' Ray?" A
sudden noise behind them made the four men whirl. Filling the street
behind them was a veritable army of shambling, emaciated humanoid
figures that could only be called zombies. They were a dusky gray color,
with blank white eyes and long talons. All four Ghostbusters swallowed
"Egon," Winston said levelly, "what are they?"
The physicist shook his head. His blue eyes were wide and
frightened behind his glasses, but his voice gave no hint of the fear he
felt. "I have no idea, Winston. However, I think it might be a good idea
to open fire."
Ray nodded. "Yeah. I don't think they're the Welcome Wagon."
In unison, the four men unshipped their throwers and moved into a
back-to-back formation. The zombies advanced on them, beginning to
"Fire!" Peter cried. Four streams shot out, making contact
with the advancing horde. The zombies struck with the beams fell to the
ground, smoking, but another one always moved to take its place.
"There's too many of them!" Ray called.
"Keep firing!" Egon shot back. "We've got to find a break in
Suddenly the sound of a gunshot drew everyone's attention. At
the entrance to the cul-de-sac, on the main road, was a cherry red
convertible. A young boy, no more than thirteen, sat in the driver's
seat, and in the passenger's seat stood an attractive redheaded young
woman. "Come on!" she cried, unloading
another round from her shotgun, knocking yet another zombie to the
ground. "They won't be distracted forever!"
"Head for the car!" Peter cried, giving Ray a gentle shove.
"We'll cover you!" Winston added, doing the same for Egon.
The four quickly made their way through the crowd of zombies, breaking
out through the hole that the woman in the car had so thoughtfully made
for them. While Peter and Winston laid down cover fire, Ray and Egon
scrambled into the back seat. Peter and Winston joined them, and the car
roared off, leaving the zombies behind.
Looking at his three friends
jammed into the back seat of the car with him, Peter grinned.
"I love my work."
The car pulled up outside a small, one-story white building.
Quickly, the six of them hurried inside, the woman bolting the door
behind them. Winston quickly took stock of their surroundings. They
appeared to be in a waiting room of some kind. Judging by the age of the
magazines on the tables, it was
probably that of the town doctor. There were no windows anywhere, and he
breathed a sigh of relief. The last thing he wanted to worry about was
zombies coming in through the windows.
"Are you four all right?" the woman asked, looking the
Ghostbusters over with a critical eye.
"We're fine," Egon responded. "If I may ask, who are you, and
what exactly is going on here?"
She sighed. Setting her shotgun down on the table, she sank
onto one of the couches in the waiting room, indicating for the rest to
do the same. Once everyone was seated, she began to speak. "My name is
Andrea Howard. I'm one of Crissman's two doctors- general practitioners.
From your outfits and weapons, I would guess that you four are the
Ghostbusters, which means Frank managed to get through to you. What
exactly did he tell you?"
Peter swallowed. "I'm Peter Venkman," he introduced himself.
"I took Dr. Weber's call the other night. He didn't say much- he was
kind of hysterical. All we got was that something supernatural was going
on, and that we were needed out in Crissman. Then the phone cut off. I
assume that those things
we saw out there found him." He was short and to the point, none of his
usual flirtation in his manner. This was definitely not the time.
Andrea nodded. "We think so. He went to go call you and he
never came back, so we figure the zombies got him. Oh, by the way, this
is Jake West. I wound up at his house when all hell broke loose, and
we've stuck together."
The boy, a short blond with brown eyes, nodded at the
Ghostbusters. Peter couldn't help but notice how tightly the boy clung
to Andrea. He didn't blame the kid. The woman was a rock, seeming very
calm in the midst of all the craziness that had occurred.
"So what exactly happened?" Ray pursued, once the
introductions had been completed. "Where did these zombies come from?"
Andrea sighed. "That's a long story. Two nights ago, a
strange light was seen out in the desert. Nobody thought much of it;
there are all sorts of stories about ghosts and such. While everyone was
going about their business, all the bodies in the cemetery on the edge
of town started pulling themselves up out of their graves." She
shivered. "They headed into town, started killing anybody they could. No
weapon seemed to stop them permanently, until you showed up with those
packs. Some people tried to get out of town. They didn't make it. The
zombies are watching the road, and they just- swarm over the cars.
Nobody gets more than a hundred yards." Peter suddenly remembered the
sheer drops he had seen on either side of the road as they had come up,
and shivered a little himself.
"Frank and I were working when the zombies showed up. We
cleared out, in his car. That's the red one out front. We wound up at
Jake's, which is on the outskirts of town, away from the roads. Jake was
waiting there for his mother, but- she didn't come home."
"She's probably hiding," the boy said. "Those zombies
couldn't catch her."
Andrea winced, leaving no doubt in the Ghostbusters' minds
what she believed. "Anyway, we agreed it was too dangerous to try and
get out of town, so Frank said he'd go call you. Jake's place doesn't
have a phone, so he headed back into town." She shrugged. "He didn't
come back either. We've spent the last two days hiding from the zombies
and trying to find someone still alive in this town."
"How many are there?" Winston asked, knowing that he wasn't
going to like the answer.
"That we know about, counting the people in this room- six,"
she replied. "Jake's mom- well, we're still hoping." The five adults
fell silent at this point.
"Dr. Howard," Egon finally began, "do you know what might
have triggered all this? I mean, obviously the light triggered the
zombies, but why did all this happen now? Has anything strange happened
"Any new artifacts in the museum?" Ray added.
"No, nothing like that. I don't know what might have
Egon and Ray looked at each other, ready to start tossing out
theories. Before they could do so, however, Peter interrupted them.
"Dr. Howard, just how smart are these zombies?" he asked,
"I don't know what you mean, Dr. Venkman."
"Well, for instance, can they open doors?"
Everyone followed his gaze in time to see the door to the
rest of the office swing open. There in the doorway stood a swaying
zombie, which seemed to sweep the room with its dead white eyes. Tall
and gaunt, the creature still had a thick shock of black hair, implying
that it was relatively fresh.
Andrea gasped. "Oh, dear God. Frank!"
The zombie, which had been Dr. Weber, hissed, lunging at
Andrea. Instinctively, Peter threw himself at her, knocking her out of
the creature's path. Its sharp talons scraped across his back, and he
bit back a cry of pain.
"Car!" Winston cried, unshipping his thrower. "Now!" More
zombies had followed the first, and the oldest of the Ghostbusters laid
down a barrage of cover fire, following his friends out to the car.
"Punch it, Ray!" he cried, leaping into the back seat. Stantz nodded,
flooring the accelerator. The car roared away from the clinic, leaving
the zombies behind.
"Well," Peter said brightly. "That was- ungh!" He suddenly
doubled over as a wave of pain shot through him. Andrea, next to him,
"Dr. Venkman? Are you- oh, shit." She cut off seeing the
scratches on his back. "Dr. Stantz! We have to get him somewhere safe!"
"Any suggestions?" Ray hollered back, never taking his eyes
off the road.
"As few windows and doors as possible," Winston replied.
"My personal office, rather than the one I shared with Frank.
It's at my house, across town. Jake, can you give Dr. Stantz
The boy, sitting in the front seat between Egon and Ray,
nodded. "You bet, Doc."
That settled, Andrea turned back to Peter. He
was pale, and sweat was beginning to appear on his brow.
"Hurry up, Ray," he said weakly. "I don't feel so good."
Once at Andrea's house, Egon and Winston picked up Peter, who
by this time was unconscious. Quickly, the two men carried him inside.
Andrea locked the door and led the way into the living room. "Put him
down on the couch, face down. I have to clean those scratches on his
back, for all the good it'll
do." They did as she ordered. Andrea collected her medical kit from the
office, remarking as she did so, "Could somebody check the house? I'd
rather not have any unexpected surprises jumping out at me."
Winston took a look at Egon, who was obviously unwilling to
leave Peter's side, and nodded. "Yeah. Ray and I'll check it out."
"Can I go too?" Jake asked hopefully.
"Better not," Andrea replied. "Go into the kitchen and start
making me up some cold compresses, okay? Dr. Venkman's going to be
running a fever soon, and we'll need to keep his temperature down."
Egon raised an eyebrow. "You've seen this kind of thing
"Not everybody who got attacked by a zombie died right away,"
she replied, unzipping Peter's jumpsuit and peeling it away from the top
half of his body. Then she gently pushed his T-shirt up away from his
wound. "Jake and I ran across a number of people who had merely been
wounded. Some of them, a fairly small percentage, turned into zombies,
the way Frank did." She swallowed, then quickly went on. "Most of the
others went into some sort of toxic shock. That's what Dr. Venkman here
is experiencing. His body is having a toxic reaction to something that
was introduced into his system when the zombie scratched him."
"Will it kill him? And why the difference?"
She shook her head. "I don't know on both counts. I've never
had a patient live long enough to be tested, but not necessarily because
of the toxic shock. Their wounds were pretty bad, too, much worse than
Dr. Venkman's. We've got to keep his body temperature down. If it gets
too high, he could have brain damage." Andrea finished cleaning the
scratches on Peter's back, and taped a dressing over them. "Help me turn
him over, please," she requested. Egon did as she asked, just as Jake
came out of the kitchen with a bucket full of water and wet towels.
"Here's the cold compresses," Jake told her. "Should I go
She nodded. "Yeah, and put them in the fridge. We may need
them." He nodded and left again.
When she turned back to the couch, she found that Egon had
already begun bathing Peter's forehead with one of the compresses that
Jake had left. She raised an eyebrow. "You've obviously done this
Egon chuckled. "This isn't the first time I've had to nurse
him through a fever," the physicist replied, looking down at his friend
in fond exasperation. "For a man who makes such a production out of
minor injuries and illnesses, Peter is extremely stubborn about the
major ones. He'll run himself into the ground rather than take it easy."
"You've known each other a long time?" Andrea asked, coming
to sit next to him.
"Seems like forever," Spengler nodded. "We met in college, my
senior year, his junior. We were assigned to a project together in one
of our classes." He chuckled dryly. "Needless to say, it was not love at
first sight. He thought I was a nerd, and I was sure I would wind up
doing everything on the project, and he would get half the credit."
"He surprised me. That was only the first surprise in our
relationship, of course. I don't think he's quit yet. The subject was
one that interested him- astral travel, I believe. I don't really even
remember what it was. He insisted on doing his half of the research, and
his part of the project was of high quality. Over the course of working
together, we became friends, and we just never drifted apart."
"What's he like?" she asked curiously.
"Peter? He can be childish, vain, exasperating, and
occasionally infuriating. He continually forgets to do his chores,
always has an angle on something, and has a rather- basic sense of
humor." Egon chuckled, remembering some of the practical jokes Peter had
pulled on him over the years. "He is also the bravest, kindest, most
understanding man I know. He's a psychologist, you know, and a very good
one. If any of us have a problem, he's the first one we go to. He works
very hard to maintain his image as a jerk, but he's actually a very
warm, caring individual, with the habit of putting everyone else first.
I've trusted him at my back on a hundred busts, and I've never had to
worry that he wouldn't be there to cover it. If any one of us gets hurt
on a bust, it always seems to be him."
"Accident-prone?" she asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Not hardly. Peter always finds some sort of way to put
himself between us and whatever threatens."
Andrea smiled. "You're a lucky man, Dr. Spengler." Her gaze
fell on Peter. "And so is he, I think."
"How is he?" was the first thing Ray asked as he and Winston
returned from securing the house. Andrea shrugged.
"No worse, no better. He's obviously fighting whatever it
is." She cocked an eyebrow at Egon. "You didn't mention he was
The physicist shrugged. "It's been a part of him so long,
I've ceased to notice."
"Any idea exactly what's wrong with him?" Winston asked.
Andrea sighed. "Your guess is as good as mine, I'm afraid. I
can't believe that those scratches could have become infected this
seriously in this length of time, but that's all that makes sense with
"Hmm." On a hunch, Egon took out his PKE meter and took a
"What is it, Egon?" Ray asked.
"Peter's PKE levels are elevated far beyond what they should
be. Whatever this illness is, it seems to be supernatural in nature."
Winston raised an eyebrow. "Egon, are you saying that we are
dealing with a ghost VIRUS?"
"Unlikely, Winston," Spengler returned. "Viruses lack the
motivation to become ghosts. No, I doubt that this is a disease as we
"Hey!" Ray cried. "I think I've got it! Maybe it's not a
disease, but a poison. Some kind of psycho-spiritual taint or
contamination! It's introduced into the psycho-spiritual level by the
wound. The toxic shock is most likely the actions of a- a psychic immune
system. If your system is weak, you become a zombie. Stronger people
experience an immune response, and go into toxic shock."
Egon's brows came together. "It's possible, Raymond. There
are many instances of the mind and spirit affecting physical health.
Even the more conservative medical sciences admit the existence of
psychosomatic illness, and thautaumurgy, healing via mental or spiritual
power, has been known
since ancient times."
"This is completely nuts," Andrea told them, "but so are
zombies. Besides, it does make a certain amount of sense. A fever, like
the one Dr. Venkman is experiencing, is the immune system's natural
response to an invader. The body turns up the temperature to try and
denature the enzymes and proteins
of the invading microorganisms. If there is a psychosomatic component to
this, it would certainly explain why a spiritual ailment is causing a
physical reaction." She shook her head, smiling. "Anybody hears me
talking like this, and I'll lose my license."
"We won't tell a soul," Winston grinned.
"So now that we know what it is," Jake West piped up,
startling them all, "what do we do about it?" The boy had finished
making up more compresses, and had finally returned to the living room.
"Well, to stop this, we have to figure out what started it.
And the best way to do that is do research," Winston decided. "I say we
head to the library and check it out." Egon and Ray nodded. Winston
Zeddemore was the team's resident mystery buff, and definitely knew the
most about solving a
"Right. Dr. Howard, will you be all right here?" Ray asked.
The redheaded doctor nodded. "You go on. Jake and I will keep an eye on Dr. Venkman."
"Here we are," Winston announced, stopping the car. "The Crissman
Public Library." The three Ghostbusters looked up at the large building
"Itís pretty dark," Ray sighed.
Egon nodded. "Bring the flashlights," the physicist instructed. "Weíll
likely need them."
Gingerly, the three of them made their way inside, expecting at any
moment to be leaped upon from the shadows. "Itís only been a couple days
since all this happened," Winston mused. "The electricityís probably
still hooked up."
Ray reached out and flipped the switches on the plate nearest him.
Throughout the library, lights flickered on. "Yeah, Iíd say thatís a
"I think we should split up. We can cover more ground that way. Iíll
check through the microfilm readers, see if I canít find an answer to
all of this in back issues of the local paper," Egon suggested.
"Iíll look in the card catalogue for something on the history of the
area," Ray volunteered. "There has to be something in here. Californiaís
got quite a history."
Winston nodded. "And Iíll take the hardcopy issues of the paper.
Sometimes they donít put everything in the microfilm." The three men
split up, each heading for their personal destination.
Winston set a load of papers down on the table with relief. He hadnít
remembered just how heavy newspapers could be, and this was the third
load heíd transferred in and out of the back room. Taking a breather for
a second, he looked up to see Ray leafing through the card catalogue in
"You all right?" the older man asked quietly.
The occultist looked up,
"Oh, yeah, Winston," he replied, not at all convincingly. "I just canít
find anything on local history, and thatís ridiculous! Places like this
always have one or two sources on the areaís history."
"Well, maybe itís in a special collection," Zeddemore replied.
thought about that, then nodded.
"Could be. Maybe thereís a card catalogue behind the librarianís desk."
He moved to head over there, but Winston restrained him, placing a hand
on his shoulder.
"Ray, Iíll ask again. Are you all right?" Of all the Ghostbusters, Ray
Stantz was the most sensitive and sympathetic. It was one of the
qualities that made him such a good friend, but it also meant that he
tended to get very down when something bad happened. It was fairly
obvious that Ray was hurting over what had happened to Peter. Winston
had known the other three for a number of years now, and they were the
greatest friendships he had ever had. No matter what, though, he knew
that the friendship the other three had was stronger and deeper even
than that. This did not unduly bother him, though. Considering the
strength of the feelings involved, determining "closer" was like trying
to measure the spaces between electrons- done on purely theoretical
"Well-" Ray could see that the other was not about to be satisfied with
a single offhand answer. "Iím scared, Winston. Peterís always been there
for us, and weíve always been there for him. What would we do if we lost
Winston had been wondering that himself. Peter had once described Ray
as the heart of the Ghostbusters, and Winston had to admit that it was
more than applicable. Ray was the heart, Egon was the brain, and Winston
had always seen himself at the common sense. Going by that analogy,
Peter was the backbone of the team. Despite his frequently expressed
reservations about risking their safety, the psychologist was usually
the one who provided the team with their courage, kidding around to
break the tension and bolstering them all with unflagging support. Plus,
also like the backbone, he helped maintain the teamís structure. No
matter what, if things were going badly, Peter knew exactly how to pull
them all together. His sense of humor combined with his excellent
understanding of human nature was often the only thing that could keep
them all on an even keel. What would they do if they lost Peter Venkman?
"Weíre not going to lose him," Winston replied, in answer to both Ray
and himself. "You know Pete. Heís a fighter. Heís faced down worse
fevers than this without batting an eye. We WILL find out what started
all this, and how to stop it. Heís never let us down, and we wonít let
him down, either."
"What if we canít find it, Winston?" Ray sounded so young and
despairing. "What if thereís nothing to find?"
Winston sighed. He didnít really know how to answer.
"Sounds familiar," Winston interjected.
"The elders of the tribe sealed the contagion away, but it had already
decimated their people and their land. They left, to find another home,
and no more tale is told of them," the engineer finished.
Egon adjusted his glasses. "Most interesting, Ray. It fits nicely with
something Iíve discovered in the issue of the paper from five days ago.
Buried on the fifth page of the Arts and Entertainment section was an
article about a local archaeological dig. Apparently, theyíve been
digging up Indian artifacts for some time. The newest dig was scheduled
to begin on the day that the strange light was seen in the desert, the
day that all the trouble started."
"Of course!" Ray cried. "The Indians sealed off the source of the
contagion, and went away, but the newest dig must have uncovered it
again. That means that we can pinpoint the source of the taint with the
PKE meters, now that we have the search area narrowed down."
Winston nodded. "Weíd better get back to Dr. Howardís and let them know
what weíve found."
The three of them rose, when a shuffling sound met
Ray gulped. "That may be a little harder than we thought." The three of
them moved back-to-back-to-back as the shadows began to move.
"I see youíre up," Andrea commented, coming back into the room. Peter
turned towards her a little too quickly, and had to fight back a wave of
nausea as the room spun around him. "Feeling better?"
"Not really," he muttered, raising his hands to his head. "I feel like
I spent WAY too much time on the roller coaster."
She raised an eyebrow. "And youíre lucid, too. Thatís a change."
"Lucid? Was I hallucinating?"
Jake, still by Andreaís side, nodded enthusiastically. "Majorly! You
were yelling something about a Class V, and I think you thought you were
chasing a ghost at one point. Another time, you were saying something
about ĎSlimer.í Whoís Slimer?"
Peter groaned. "Heís our pet ghost, so to speak. He has an appetite
like a garbage disposal, and he REALLY likes sliming me."
Andrea chuckled. "Iíll go get you something to drink," she told him.
"You need to keep taking in fluids, with that fever and all. Jake, keep
Dr. Venkman company until I get back, okay?" The boy nodded, and she
headed into the kitchen.
"Whatís it like being a Ghostbuster?" Jake asked curiously, sitting in
a chair near the couch. Peter grinned. Despite how sick he felt, this
was the part of the job that always gave him a charge. Kids regarded
what they did as the coolest thing on the planet, and he was always glad
to tell them about the job.
"Messy," Peter chuckled. "Ninety percent of the ghosts we go after seem
to leave behind slime of one type or another, and its almost always
getting on us. Me more than the other guys for some reason. Itís
dangerous, sometimes, when we go up against a major bad guy, and it can
"You get scared?" interrupted Jake, his eyes wide.
"All the time," Peter replied solemnly. "There have been busts where
Iíve been so sure that one of us was going to buy it-" he shook his
head, pushing those memories away. "One good thing about it, though, is
that I know the other guys are always gonna be there to back me up.
Theyíre almost like my family." Peter examined the boy keenly, slipping
into psychologist mode. "You know, Jake, itís perfectly all right to be
scared. Everybody gets scared now and then, especially in dangerous
situations. Thereís nothing wrong with being scared, if you donít let
that paralyze you, and thereís nothing wrong with admitting youíre
scared. Sometimes it helps the fear go away, at least a little."
The boy thought about that for a long moment. "Iím scared," he finally
admitted. "Iím afraid my mom isnít going to come home. Weíve been
looking for her for two days." Jakeís head came up, and his brown eyes
locked with the psychologistís green ones. Softly, he asked, "Weíre not
going to find her, are we?"
Peter swallowed. "I donít know, Jake," he responded honestly. "People
can survive against incredible odds. My friends and I have proved that a
number of times. But-"
"Itís not likely," the boy finished. He smiled slightly. "Itís okay,
Dr. Venkman. You donít have to sugar-coat it. I lost my dad a couple
years ago. Plane crash. For a long time, we didnít know if he was one of
the survivors or not. I should know better than to get my hopes up by
Peter closed his eyes, against the wave of weakness that swept through
him, and against the memories of his own youth, when heíd spoken those
words far too many times. A cool sensation on his forehead made his eyes
fly open again. Jake was gone, but Andrea was patting his forehead down
with a cold, wet cloth. He forced a half-grin. "Here I am, alone with a
beautiful woman taking care of me, and Iím too sick to do anything about
She chuckled. "Look on the bright side, Dr. Venkman. Youíre also too
sick for me to slap you." Peter winced in mock fear.
"How long have I been out?" he asked. She shrugged.
"I havenít exactly been keeping track. I think about an hour or so.
Your friends went off to the library to try and find more information
about whatís going on here."
"I hope theyíll be all right," he muttered. Then he fixed her with an
amused look. "Did you hear me talking to Jake?"
She nodded. "Yes, I did. Dr. Spengler was right, you are a good
"Egon said that? Out loud?" he asked, astounded. Then he shook his
head, bringing himself back to the conversation at hand. "You know, itís
all right for you to be scared too. Youíve obviously been the stable one
in this group since all hell broke loose, but you need to have your
reactions to this. Donít suppress them, or theyíll just end up causing
"Iíll be scared when thereís time for it, after this is all over.
Besides, I had my reaction two nights ago, when everything happened."
Quickly, she changed the subject. "Youíre pretty good with kids, I see.
Do you have any of your own?"
He shook his head, amusement creeping into his green eyes. "Not yet.
Although I wouldnít mind some- with the right lady. I just havenít found
"Not for lack of trying, I would imagine," Andrea retorted. "Your track
record with women has even reached California."
"Yeah, well-" Peter shrugged uncomfortably. The speed at which he
changed dates was a bit of a sore spot for him. Either they wanted to
get too serious too fast, or they were just looking for the quick status
boost that dating a Ghostbuster would provide. "So, are you single?"
She raised an eyebrow at him. "I think, Dr. Venkman," she replied
firmly, "itís time to take your temperature." Sticking a thermometer
into his mouth, she effectively cut off the conversation.
Peter endured his four-minute silence good-naturedly, watching Andrea
instead. Removing the thermometer from his mouth, she frowned at it.
"Still high," she sighed. "Hundred and five."
"Not quite life-threatening yet, but not good," he agreed. She looked
at him in curiosity, and he gave her a lopsided smile. "Iíve had fevers
before," he explained.
"So Iíve been told," she responded dryly. "Here, drink this." She
passed him a glass of ginger ale. "Itíll help you replenish your bodily
fluids. With that fever, trust me, you need it."
Sipping at his ginger ale, Peter regarded her with interest. "So why
did you get into medicine anyway?"
"What, you think itís an unusual field for a girl?" she asked. Despite
the teasing note in her voice, Peter thought he detected a bit of a
challenge there as well.
"Not really. Itís just that almost everybody has a story, a reason why
they do what they do. I was wondering about yours."
Andrea sighed. "Well, my dad was a doctor, actually. Small town GP,
here in Crissman, as a matter of fact. He was Frankís partner. I
idolized the man."
"And you wanted him to be proud of you?" Peter probed gently. Andrea
"My dad would have been proud of me if I had been an accountant. He was
always proud of me. No, I didnít go to med school to make him proud of
me, exactly. It was just- we were so much alike, and I always wanted to
be like him. He was always so happy as a doctor that I knew I would be,
Her blue eyes got a little distant then. "He got sick while
I was in school. Cancer, myodysplasia. Itís sort of a pre-leukemia.
Attacks the bone marrow, that sort of thing. I remember watching him get
sicker and sicker, but he never let it get him down. My dad was a
fighter. The day I graduated from medical school, he was so proud, I
thought heíd burst. He made a couple of jokes about us going to practice
together- Howard and Howard, said we ought to find a Fein to work with
us." She shot Peter an amused look. "My dad was a complete and
unapologetic Stooges fan," she explained. "Anyway, after that, he got
sicker, and a couple months later, he was gone. But I was always so glad
that he was able to see me graduate, and know that I was a doctor." She
turned to him, cocking her head. "What about your family?"
"Mine? Well, it was usually me and my mom. My dad was on the road most
of the time. Ostensibly he was a traveling salesman. Actually, he was a
traveling con artist. He still is, really. Anyway, he was gone a lot. My
mom pretty much raised me. I loved her, and she loved me, but the fact
was that we hardly had any money, or any things. ĎTil I went to college,
she and my dad were the only family I had, and I kind of grew up holding
"Then I met Egon. At first, I thought we were gonna hate each other, but somehow we wound up friends. And not just friends like Iíd had before, who would listen to you, talk with you, have a good time with you. With Egon, it was almost as if we were brothers. He was always there for me, from Physics tutoring to nursing me through whatever illness Iíd managed to contract. For a long time, I was scared to death that it was all going to turn out to be some really sick cosmic joke, and Iíd have everything snatched away from me. It took me a long time to relax.
"A few years later, Ray came along, and then after we started the business, I met Winston. Three guys who would and have put their lives on the line for me without a second thought. Itís a little scary, sometimes, how strong it is. But I donít think Iíd trade it for the world."
Andrea looked wistful. "I wish I had friends like that."
"Theyíre not just friends," Peter replied. "Theyíre family. Ray- Rayís
like your little brother- your genius little brother. He can fix just
about any piece of machinery he gets his hands on, and more than once,
heís come up with the solution to something that looks impossible. He
also is the only adult man I know to sit down daily and watch every
episode of Murray the Mantis.
"Egonís a genius, too, more of the logical, Mr. Spock type. He can be so serious that you forget that thereís a really evil sense of humor buried under there. I should know- weíve been sniping at each other and playing practical jokes ever since Columbia. Sometimes you canít understand a word he says, but he always knows what heís doing.
"And Winston, heís the anchor. The three of us, weíre all scientists, even me. Sometimes we get a little too wrapped up in the scientific aspect of things, and heís always the one to haul us back and tell us weíre crazy. Heís definitely the common sense of the team." He stopped and blinked. "I donít usually run on at the mouth like this. Sorry."
"Iím the one who should be apologizing," she responded. "I should know
better than to ask personal questions of a guy with a fever."
"So, as I was asking before, do you have kids of your own?"
She raised an eyebrow at him. "Thatís not exactly what you were asking,
but no. I guess I just havenít found the right person yet either."
"Well, looks to me as if youíve already adopted one."
"Jake?" She considered that. "Maybe. Iíve been taking care of him since
he was born. In a way, I guess Iím all he has left. I just hope that he
doesnít lose me, too."
"Do you want me to tell you that everythingís going to be all right?"
"I would rather you tell me the truth."
Peter chuckled. "Well, Egon, Winston, and Ray are out there working on
the problem. There are not two guys in the entire world that I trust the
brains of more than Egon and Ray, and if pure stubbornness counts for
anything, with the three of them, this should be over in another hour.
They have always- ALWAYS- come through for me before."
Sighing, she sank down on the couch next to him. "Thanks. I needed to
Slowly, he slid his arm around her shoulders, and she did not push him
away. "Donít mention it."
Ray had his back to the Young Adult section, frantically blasting away
at the zombies attacking him, when a crashing noise caught his
attention. He looked up just in time to see Winston follow the chair he
had just heaved out of one of the large front windows. "Egon!" the
engineer called. "Weíve got to get out of here! Theyíll just keep coming
until they overwhelm us!"
"Iím open to suggestions, Raymond," the physicist replied, never taking
his attention from his own attackers.
Ray scanned the library frantically, his mind working. "Iíve got it!
When the lights go out, head for the window! Iíll be right behind you!"
So saying, the auburn-haired man suddenly cut and ran, reaching the
librarianís desk and vaulting over it easily. "Okay, guys, lights out!"
Stantz yelled, slamming all of the switches down at once. The library
was suddenly plunged into darkness, throwing the zombies into confusion.
Egon quickly took the opportunity to throw himself out of the window
that Winston had broken, landing on the lawn below. For a second, he
wondered why none of the zombies had followed him, and then the sound of
a proton pack firing from inside answered that question. Ray was making
a target of himself, acting as bait to keep the zombies off Egonís
"RAY!" Egon yelled, his bass voice barely audible over the sounds of
mayhem inside the library.
"Egon!" Winstonís voice called. Egon turned to see the older man
sitting in the driverís seat of the car. The physicist ran over there,
his long legs eating up the ground beneath him.
"Winston! Rayís still in there!" he cried. Just then, the front doors
of the library burst open, and Ray came running out, a flood of zombies
on his heels.
"Get in the car!" the occultist yelled, waving at them. Egon did as
instructed, hopping into the shotgun seat while Winston revved the
engine. With an incredible flying leap, Ray landed in the back seat of
the convertible, and Winston hit the gas, leaving the zombies behind.
"Ray, are you all right?" Egon asked in concern. "You werenít injured,
Stantz shook his head. "No, Egon, Iím okay. Wow, that was kind of fun.
Of course, I wouldnít want to do it again, but it was cool anyway."
Winston shook his head. "Ray, you are a strange man."
"Whereís Egon?" he muttered. "I would have thought heíd be playing
mother hen, like he always does."
Andrea sighed. "Dr. Venkman, please try to focus. Dr. Spengler and your
other friends went to the library, remember?"
"Call me Peter," the psychologist mumbled. "Evírybody does. Well,
everybody except Janine."
Jake came back in with another load of towels. "Thanks, Jake," Andrea
said absently, taking one from the bucket and applying it once again to
Suddenly he reached up and stopped her wrist. "Did anyone ever tell you
youíre beautiful?" he asked dreamily.
She raised an eyebrow. "Not recently, Dr. Venkman. Now let go of my
wrist. We have to keep your temperature down."
Peter subsided, looking up at Andrea with half-closed eyes. Suddenly a
splintering crash caught all of their attentions. Peter sat up, trying
desperately to focus, as the door shattered inward, and a zombie made
its way into the living room. "Holy shit!" he managed, rolling off the
couch. He landed beside his proton pack, and grabbed at the rifle. Fever
or not, Peter had been using his pack day in and day out for a number of
years. There was no way he was going to miss. He snapped off a quick
shot, and the zombie fell smoking to the ground.
Andrea and Jake quickly hurried to Peterís side, helping him to get to
his feet. "Weíve got to get out of here," Venkman mumbled. "I donít want
more of them showing up." He squinted, trying to focus. "Dr. Howard,
youíd better wear my proton pack. I donít think Iím strong enough, and I
know weíre going to need it."
She nodded, and Jake quickly helped her into it. Once it was situated,
she and Jake draped Peterís arms around their necks and hurriedly helped
him out of the house.
They were about halfway down the road when Winston pulled up in the
car. "Hey, heís awake!" Zeddemore cried, seeing Peter.
"Sort of," Andrea replied, loading the psychologist into the back seat.
"We had some uninvited guests back at my place. Find anything at the
"Yeah, we think so," Ray answered, supporting Peter against his side as
the car took off again. "Turns out that this is coming from something
that the archeological dig outside of town uncovered. Weíre headed there
now. Hopefully, we can stop this there."
"Weíd better. I donít think Dr. Venkman has much time."
At the dig site, everyone piled out of the car, Peter supported between
Andrea and Ray. Egon pulled out a PKE meter and began scanning the area.
Getting a signal, he pointed to a cave in one of the rock walls of the
area. "In there," the physicist informed them. "Whatever it is, itís
The six cautiously made their way up to the cave. Once inside, they
quickly saw the source of their troubles. A huge fountain of black
energy was pouring out of a hole in the earth, spreading through the
sky. The energy even looked menacing, roiling and churning
threateningly. Looking at it, Peter groaned.
"Aw, man, I think Iím gonna be sick. Wait, check that. Sicker."
"Ray, are you sure this is a good idea?" Winston asked. "Isnít this
The engineer shook his head. "No, not really. Itís only dangerous to
living beings if itís absorbed through actual contact, like an injury
from one of those zombies. Otherwise, youíre perfectly safe."
Peter grimaced. "Define Ďperfectly safe.í"
As usual, Ray and Egon ignored him. "The readings would seem to
indicate that this flow is pure negative energy," Egon mused. "A
suitable application of positively charged energy will most likely
disrupt it and cause it to dissipate harmlessly into the psychosphere."
"Rats, and me without my mood slime," muttered Peter. Egon shot him a
look, which the brown-haired Ghostbuster returned in all innocence.
"Peter, our throwers should be able to provide the necessary amount of
energy," Ray told him. "But weíre going to need all four of them, at
full dispersal, fired at just the right places."
Andrea looked at Peter, who by this time was sitting on the ground. His
green eyes were glazed, and he was obviously slipping in and out of true
consciousness. She looked at Ray and squared her shoulders. "How do I
use this thing?"
As Ray was giving her a crash course in using a proton pack, Jake
walked back to the entrance of the cave. Looking out and down, Jake
could see a mass of zombies shuffling towards them across the valley
below. "Theyíre here!" the boy called, running back towards the others.
"Youíd better hurry this up."
"Careful, Dr. Howard," Winston cautioned. "These things have a bit of a
kick to them."
Andrea nodded, unshipping her thrower and aiming it at the flow.
"Ready," Egon echoed.
Winston nodded. "Ready here, too."
"All right," Ray replied. "Ready- aim- fire!" The four of them pressed
the triggers on their proton rifles, the four streams striking the black
energy with pinpoint accuracy. Around them, the entire cave began to
shake as the energy flow twisted and thrashed. Andrea ducked as a shot
of black energy came her way, but managed to keep her proton stream on
"Keep going!" Egon cried. "Itís working!"
"It better be!" Winston shot back. "This place is gonna come down on
The rumbling continued, growing stronger with each passing moment. Just
when it seemed as if the entire cavern would collapse, the flow suddenly
broke up into black mist, wafting away on the breeze. The rumbling did
not stop, however. In fact, it continued to grow, and pieces of ceiling
began to rain down on them.
"Everybody out of the pool!" Ray called, heading for the entrance.
Andrea was right behind him, pushing Jake before her. Egon and Winston
brought up the rear, supporting an unconscious Peter between them. The
six of them made it out of the cave just as the entire thing collapsed.
Egon and Winston laid Peter down on the ground. Andrea was instantly by
"His fever has broken!" she cried, feeling his forehead. "I think heís
going to be all right. Come on, Peter, stay with us."
Slowly, as if with immense effort, one of Venkmanís eyes rolled open a
crack. "You- called me Peter," he smiled slightly.
She shrugged. "Got your attention, didnít it? Donít pass out on me
again. Youíre still unstable."
"Iíd have to be," he grumped. "I let Egon and Ray talk me into this
Winston laughed. "Yeah, I think heís gonna be okay," he told her.
Ray looked around him in confusion. "What I want to know is- what
happened to all the zombies?"
"Well, I would theorize that when we destroyed the energy flow, they
were rendered discorporate by the sudden lack of energy to power them,"
Egon replied. Jake looked over at Ray in confusion.
"What did he say?"
Ray grinned. "He said they dried up and blew away," he translated. "I
guess itís finally over."
"As soon as our plane arrives, Peter. I must admit, Iíll be rather glad
to see the last of California for a while."
"Aw, it wasnít so bad," Ray replied, looking up from his magazine. "We
stopped the contagion from spreading, saved two people, and got paid
pretty well for it. All in all, I think it was a pretty good trip."
Peter grimaced. "Yeah, well you werenít the one who had to spend the
past three days living on hospital food. Never again, I mean it."
"Does this mean that youíre no longer a card-carrying knight in shining
armor?" a voice said behind him. He turned to see Andrea Howard grinning
"Slightly tarnished," he replied easily. "At the risk of sounding
clichť, whatís up, Doc?"
"PETER!" Egon, Winston, and Ray groaned in unison.
Andrea just laughed.
"Hospital food or not, your sense of humor seems to have survived
intact. Actually, Dr. Venkman, I just dropped by to see you off. Jake
would have come, but heís clearing up a few loose ends with Child
"Whatís going to happen to him, anyway?" Ray asked. "Did they find his
Andrea nodded sadly. "Iím afraid so. She never made it out of her
office. Jake doesnít have any other relatives, and as the town doctor, I
practically raised him. So, Iíve applied to adopt him, and the board
doesnít see any obvious barriers to it. As soon as the adoption is
final, weíre moving out of Crissman, and probably away from California."
"Good," Peter nodded. "He doesnít need the memories that place will
bring up, and neither do you."
"Where are you gonna go?" Winston asked.
"Iím not really sure yet, actually. It depends on what job offers I get
and where. So far Iíve had two or three from across the country."
Peter grinned. "Well, Dr. Howard, if youíre ever in New York, be sure
to look us up."
She smiled back. "Dr. Venkman,- youíve got a deal."