Title: Wa-a-ay Out There
"The Real Ghostbusters" has quite a fan-following out there, with many wonderful fanzines filled with stories by very talented writers. Within the fandom, the show is generally referred to as "RGB", for short. This story originally appeared in "Crossfiles" in May, 1995. "Crossfiles" is an amateur fanzine for stories cross-universed with the X-file universe.
If you've never seen RGB, you can use the movie "Ghostbusters" as a quickie short-hand to understanding this story's characters-though they are occasionally quite a bit different in the animated version! So just to help you out if you've never seen the show, here are the bios of the guys from RGB, alphabetically:
Dr. Egon Spengler: Nuclear physicist. Tall, long-faced, deep-voiced scientist whose steady, pedantic manner is somewhat belied by his punky blond hair-do and funky red-rimmed glasses. A bona-fide genius with a wry, dry sense of humor that comes out of left field-has been compared to Mr. Spock.
Dr. Raymond Stanz: Occultist with a vast knowledge of spells and demons. Red-headed, chubby, open-faced, genial, optimistic, always eager; a perfect complement to the dour Egon and a hell of a nice guy. Though he is an 'occultist', he is also handy with the machinery of his trade, too. (He and Egon invented all of the Ghostbusters' equipment.) His child-like openness sometimes makes him a target for spirits seeking a terrestrial body to inhabit.
Dr. Peter Venkman: Sarcastic, sardonic, often annoying; this self-described "kid from Brooklyn" is actually a very good clinical psychologist who knows how to break up a tense moment with a joke. A nose for a buck; he is the one who cheerfully makes out the bills, then faces down the clients when they squawk about the price. Dark brown hair, hazel eyes, rather sharp-faced; it is almost unfortunate he is good-looking, because he thinks he's god's gift to women. Smarter than he lets you think he is. (Lorenzo Music-a.k.a. Carleton, your doorman, on "Rhoda"-played his voice on the show. He also plays Garfield's voice!)
Winston Zeddemore: Hired by the Ghostbusters when the number of ghosts in New York City got to be too much for three operatives to handle, he fits in as if they've known each other all their lives now. An "everyman", he is the most down-to-earth of the group. His knowledge of Biblical studies and baseball has come in useful on several occasions. He and Ray think of their converted hearse, Ecto-1, as their baby and have rebuilt her several times, they also share driving duties. He is a youngish black man with dark brown eyes and hair (Arsenio Hall, without the hip jargon, played his voice.)
And finally, the story! I hope you enjoy it. Oh... I usually put a funny song line or quote that comments on the action in the chapter at the beginning of each chapter in my stories--sometimes they are fake, sometimes real, often an in-joke. I think got the idea from Robert Aspirin's "Myth Adventure" series. The names at the section headings indicate point-of-view. It was kinda fun to write it that way.
Chapter One: "Don't ya, don't ya, don't ya; don't ya know, know, know; don't ya know that you're drivin' me cra-a-a-azy! Crazy, crazy!" Pop-star Lin Minmai's "Not A Drive, It's A Short Putt"
Somewhere on the New Jersey Turnpike August 16, 1994 2:13 PM-Dana Scully
"*What* is your *problem*, you nutcase?!" bellowed Special Agent Fox Mulder, honking the horn of the government-issue, American-made car he drove.
Dana Scully jolted to awareness and turned a blue-eyed glare on her oblivious partner, who was staring in disbelief at the city bus that had just cut him off at 65 miles per hour. Only moments ago, she had leaned back in her seat and closed her eyes; not tired, but bored after miles and miles of Jersey Turnpike; and had been on the verge of drifting off, when his yell of outrage pulled her back to the present. Not that she'd thought he was yelling at *her*-he'd been haranguing "those crazy Jersey drivers" since they'd hit the Turnpike almost three hours ago. It was part of the reason she was bored.
"I do wish we'd flown up," she said, regret coloring her words. "It's ridiculous. We could have rented a car at Newark Airport."
"Departmental budget cutbacks; this case isn't high enough on the priorities list to justify the expense of two airline tickets and a rental," Mulder stated, flatly. "...not that X Files is being unduly harassed by the upper echelons...." he added, *sotto voce*.
"Politics," Scully almost sighed the word, "not your strong suit. Nor mine, when it comes right down to it."
They were headed for, of all places, the swamps located south of Secaucus, New Jersey, just across the Hudson River from New York City. Investigating swamp gas!-who could Mulder possibly have offended this time for them to have been assigned this case?-mused Scully to herself. The list was endless.
Suddenly, she grinned briefly, turning her face to the window so that Mulder couldn't see her smile. If he did, he'd want to know what was so funny and would pester her until she told him. She was remembering what he had called the bus driver who'd cut him off. It was certainly a noteworthy occasion when Special Agent Fox "Spooky" Mulder got to call someone *else* a 'nutcase'...
Mid-town Manhattan August 16, 1994 2:13 PM-Peter Venkman
"Peter, I don't like this. In fact, I really hate this!" Ray Stanz slumped in the back seat of Ecto-1, looking uncharacteristically glum. The stocky occultist spoke to the back of the head directly in front of him, but the owner of same, Dr. Peter Venkman, ignored him. Peter pointedly buried his nose in the huge map of the New York City/Northern New Jersey highway system he had spread across the dashboard, making believe he was actually taking his job as navigator seriously-what did these guys *want* from him, anyway?
The four Ghostbusters were on their way to film a Special News Report for the WOR 9 News and, as the superstation was located in Secaucus, were fighting the usual mid-town Manhattan traffic on their way to the Lincoln Tunnel. There'd been reports of "something funny" going on in one of the local swamps; so one of the reporters had approached Peter, offering the Ghostbusters some free PR for a good news-bite. They would show how their P.K.E. meter worked, explain why there was nothing wrong at the swamp, and be shown gaily waving 'bye-bye' from the windows of Ecto-1 as they drove off into the sunset: the usual feel-good puff-piece tagged at the end of a newscast. Not a lot to ask for in exchange for what amounted to a free ad during prime time.
"Ray, what's with you? You've been crabbin' since we left headquarters," the driver, Winston Zeddemore, spoke over his shoulder, keeping an eye on the sea of yellow cabs that seemed intent on playing 'bumper cars' with them. "The traffic's bad, but no worse than the usual mid-afternoon nightmare...'sides, you're not the one driving in this mess, I am...Hey! Whatchit, fool!" This last was aimed at an idiot in a red Corvette who was apparently trying to beat Ecto-1 to the red light up ahead and was willing to lose some paint in the attempt. Winston's hands clenched on the wheel in a gesture Peter recognized-he was obviously resisting the urge to fling a one-fingered salute at the yuppie scum.
Ray snorted in annoyance. "Winston, Peter's dragging us down to Secaucus to investigate *swamp gas*! We all know this is just one of his silly PR schemes! Egon, you of all people should be on my side! Why aren't *you* complaining?" He jabbed his seat-mate, Dr. Egon Spengler, in the ribs with an elbow as he said this.
Egon adjusted his red-rimmed glasses on his nose and eyed his scientific cohort dubiously, but was otherwise unruffled. "Actually, Ray, I was quite looking forward to our brief sojourn in the Secaucus swamps. It will be fascinating to see how the local factories' toxic discharge has affected the indiginous New Jersian fungi...."
There was a momentary stunned silence, then an unholy wave of protest hit Peter from his left and behind him. "Peter! You tryin' to kill us???! What's with you, man?..." "Toxic waste?!-just how *toxic* is this toxic waste, anyway?! Peter!..."
Well, Peter thought to himself sarcastically, how nice. They were letting him know how much they appreciated his enterprise, and at top decibel. He was, after all, the most enterprising Ghostbuster. He sighed and pulled the map over his head. Even if traffic picked up, it was going to be a long trip to New Jersey.
"There are more things in heav'n and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy..." Hamlet, Act I, Scene V; the prince male-bonds with his main homeboy
Just outside Secaucus, New Jersey 4:07 PM-Dana Scully
"Where does one park in a swamp?" Mulder had pulled off at the exit noted in the directions faxed to their office by the local state police and the two agents found themselves bouncing over a roadway that was little more than a trail. Hubcap-deep in weeds, they drove past abandoned shacks and the occasional smelly, low-lying pool of green gunk.
Dana's sharp eyes caught a flicker of blue and red in the distance and answered his question. "I'd say over by that parked police car." She grabbed her pocketbook off the seat behind her and threw the strap over her shoulder as Mulder parked by the cop car. They disembarked, I.D.s in hand.
"This is Special Agent Dana Scully," Mulder dipped his head in her direction, "and I'm Special Agent Fox Mulder. What do we have here, officers?"
The larger of the two Jersey state cops, a big man with sandy, gray-flecked hair and a sprinkle of summer freckles across his sun-burnt nose, shook Mulder's free hand and nodded politely at Scully. "Sir...m'am? Good to meet you. I'm Captain Tommy Meller, this is Deputy Grimaldi." He indicated the dark-haired, younger policeman, who grinned a greeting. "I'm surprised it was so easy to get a couple of agents up here from Washington...good to see some one's actually taking us seriously."
"Yeah, the hard part's getting someone to take *us* seriously," said Mulder, straight-faced. "*Captain* Meller, is it? What brought you down from headquarters on this one instead of just assigning a field officer?"
"Personal involvement, actually." The police captain shyly ducked his head and avoided their eyes. "You ain't gonna believe this, but I've seen the strangest things this past week...."
"You would be surprised, sir," was Scully's dignified reply.
Just outside Secaucus, New Jersey 4:07 PM-Ray Stanz
Much to Ray's annoyance, Charles 'call-me-Chuck' Benson, the 9 News reporter, seemed to fancy himself a director, because he'd been ordering them about since Ecto-1 had pulled over by the camera truck parked on the side of the road moments ago. Now 'Chuck' was putting Egon through his paces. Ray thought it was lucky for the dweeb that Egon was such a polite guy, because a genius of Egon's caliber could have easily verbally filleted good, old 'Chuck'. In a battle of wits, the reporter was woefully un-armed.
"OK, Dr. Spengler! You're gonna hold out your EKG gizmo, wave it at the swamp and look concerned!" ordered 'Chuck' in self-important tones.
"Actually, it's a 'P.K.E. meter'," corrected Egon, swatting ineffectually at a small cloud of gnats.
"Yeah, whattever," replied the smoothly-coifed young man, drawing a sharp look of disapproval from the tall nuclear physicist. "Let's do a run-through on videotape, fellas, we might get something good...." The cameraman hefted the vidi-cam to his shoulder and gave a 'thumb's up'.
"Now, let's be loose and enjoy this! Let's see some sparkle, Egon," called Peter to the unamused nuclear physicist. "The camera is your friend! Remember that! Sing out, Louise!"
"Good-bye, dignity! They're getting Peter's horsing-around on tape, that video-camera's running!" muttered Winston to Ray.
"So what?" the red-headed occultist shrugged. "We're all gonna wind up on the blooper reel the video editors put together for the Christmas party every year, no matter what we do...." He sighed, martyred; then both Ghostbusters turned to watch the fun.
"This is 'Chuck' Benson for 9 News, reporting from the swamplands of Secaucus. Just across the Hudson River, the skyscrapers of New York City glint in the late-afternoon sun; yet here, it is as if time has stopped. This almost primordial land, a mere a fifteen-minute drive from the height of civilization, has been the site of some mighty odd phenomena recently. Lights, wails and sonic booms have become daily occurrences according to the local inhabitants. But help is on the way! The Ghostbusters have been summoned...."
At this, the cameraman swung his vidi-cam over to where Egon stood, P.K.E. meter in hand. On cue, the dour scientist switched on the hand-held, energy-sensing device and swung it in a short arc. But 'Chuck' Benson, investigative reporter, never got to finish his sentence, because the meter emitted a piercing, metallic squeal, causing all in the vicinity who could to clap their hands over their ears. Egon looked astonished for a moment, then quickly threw the device as far from himself and the group as possible. It exploded spectacularly before it even hit the ground.
"Holy Malloly!" Ray's eyes danced with joy; apparently there was going to be some 'busting done after all. "That was a little bit of off-the-scale, I'll bet! Egon, didja catch the reading before she blew?"
The tall scientist looked impressed at the smoking crater that had been a half-dead shrub moments ago. "The needle was pinned, Ray. It was off-the-scale." His eyes roved the seemingly innocent woods arotƒd him with concern. "Ray, e are in big trouble."
'Cf2ck' Benson sputtered, finding his voice at last. "Y-y-you mean, this is a n-n-news story after all?! A *real* news story?"
"Yep," Peter leaned over and threw a friendly arm about the pasty-faced reporter's shoulders, "with danger and jeopardy and hazards and *everything*. Maybe Gozer's comin' back! What a scoop for you; eh, Chuckers?"
The glassy-eyed reporter shuddered under the psychologist's arm, "...I'd be an anchor by now if I'd stayed in Springfield, safe behind a desk...but, no, I had to move to the coast, to try for the big time."
"*That* was your first mistake," agreed the psychologist, flippantly. "Hey! Did anyone ever tell you that you look a lot like Charles Rocket?"
Sometimes Peter could be an idiot, thought Ray, but then he always went and did something wonderful to redeem himself. And, ya know, the guy *did* look like Charles Rocket....
"It's the end of the world as we know it; it's the end of the world as we know it; it's the end of the world as we know it an' I feel fine..." R.E.M.'s 'End Of The World', perky yet depressing 90's alternative-rock song.
4:20 PM-Dana Scully
"An explosion!" Scully said, tensed to listen. Two FBI agents and two policemen scanned the area, straining their ears and eyes to the limit.
Mulder pointed, "That way, c'mon!" and all four highly-trained officers of the law went loping off in the direction he'd indicated, guns drawn.
One minute, they'd been standing by the cars, swatting at gnats; the next, there'd been a hellacious explosion in a not-too-distant copse of woods. Pranksters with cherry-bombs? Would the case be *that* easy to crack?
Scully burst through a stand of trees and found herself by a road, in an open, marshy area; her companions came flying out of the woods on either side of her, then pulled up short, as she had done.
"Freeze!" yelled Deputy Grimaldi at the top of his lungs, gun extended. Six surprised people, four of them in coverall-style uniforms, stared at him as if he was The Creature from the Black Lagoon.
One of the men, who wore a flashy suit, his hair heavily lacquered, snapped, "Keep that tape rollin'," to another man carrying an elaborate video camera. He was carrying a microphone and stuck it in Grimaldi's face, ignoring the gun. "And what, may I ask, is the reason for this unseemly use of unreasonable force, officer?"
The police captain was already holstering his pistol. "It's all right, Deputy; I know this guy from TV...uh, Chuck Benson, I think he's on the local news." He jerked a thumb at the reporter. The news hound beamed, clearly delighted at being recognized.
"Hey! It's the Ghostbusters!" Officer Grimaldi apparently didn't recognize 'Chuck', but he seemed to know who the uniformed men were.
"The who?" Scully did not catch the reference, but her partner did. Mulder was able to sum up the group's activities for her in short order: "A New York City-based group of itinerant demonologists and occultists who capture and dispose of ectoplasmic and demonological entities for a fee." He smiled at her, as if pleased with himself.
Scully shot him a look of disbelief-did Mulder have the goods on every fringe group on the planet? She had to admit, thought, she did vaguely remember some excitement about the Ghostbusters in the yellow press some years ago. The New York Post had really gone down in quality since Rupert Murdoch had purchased it.
"And a hefty fee it usually is, my friend," one of the uniformed men apparently agreed with Mulder's assessment. "*I*," he continued with a flourish and a smile, "am Dr. Peter Venkman. *These* are Drs. Egon Spengler and Ray Stanz, and *this* is the estimable Mr. Winston Zeddemore. We *are* the Ghostbusters." He bowed.
Captain Meller seemed unimpressed. "Yeah? *I* am Captain Thomas Meller of the New Jersey State Police. You fellows got a permit to set off fireworks?"
Dr. Venkman's face fell.
"There were no fireworks involved, sir," Dr. Spengler hastened to explain. "We were called in to investigate some strange local phenomena and were attempting to do so, when the P.K.E. meter registered a power overload and blew. Most distressing. The last time that happened, the situation we faced was almost The End Of The World." Scully could tell that he had capitalized the last five words.
"I suppose you think that explains it all...." started the police captain, but his deputy jumped up enthusiastically, interrupting him.
"For cripe's sake, Cap! These are the *Ghostbusters*! We shoulda called them first, they'll deal with this! At least tell them what you and the kid saw!"
"Don't mind *us*," said Scully frostily. The red-headed FBI agent put her gun back into her shoulderbag and stood, hands on hips.
"Yeah, what are we, chopped liver?" her partner sided with her, though in amused tones. She was not grateful.
"Who are you two?" Mr. Zeddemore asked curiously, looking them over. His eyes narrowed. "You guys are Feds, aren't you?"
"How could you tell?" Scully was honestly impressed at the Sherlockian identification.
Mr. Zeddemore shrugged. "Nobody else would wear a white dress shirt and tie in a swamp on a day like today," he said, jerking a thumb at her partner. Mulder, who wore a rather expensive suit that now bore traces of swamp ooze on the pants cuffs, nodded ruefully in agreement. She looked down and saw the same muck encrusting her own sensible shoes and pant legs.
"This is all very interesting," Dr. Spengler interrupted, "but I really am afraid that Something Very Bad Is Happening. Right Now."
"Egon, would you stop capitalizing your words and tell us what's going on?" One of Dr. Spengler's companions, Dr. Venkman, was actually beginning to look nervous. He peered suspiciously at the underbrush, as if he thought a boogieman lurked there. She gritted her teeth. Obviously someone was going to have to take charge of the situation, and she supposed that someone was going to have to be her-she'd been getting a lot of practice in talking to border-line maniacs lately.
"*Excuse* me? We are Special Agents Scully and Mulder, FBI. We were called in by Captain Meller, here, with regard to some lights and noises originating in this general vicinity. Captain, I suggest you tell us your story from start to finish, perhaps we can finally get somewhere."
"Uh, no thank you, m'am," the police captain's reply surprised her. He glanced nervously at the 9 News vidi-cam and shook his head. The lens was aimed practically up his nose. "I don't think I have departmental authority to go on camera and...."
"Sir." Dr. Spengler, the only person there who could match the police chief's height, stepped forward. "I put it to you that if the world ends sometime in the next few hours, there will be no reason for your concerns about being quoted on television."
A silence fell over the group as they digested what the grim-looking nuclear physicist had just said. For the first time, Scully realized that there was no sound at all-no crickets, no birds, no distant animal calls-in the surrounding woods. Even the gnats had disappeared since the explosion. That, plus something in the tall man's demeanor, obviously impressed the police captain, because he began his story despite the presence of the reporter and the cameraman.
"*Youse* guys may not be afraid'a no ghosts, but as for *me*..." Satch, in The Bowery Boys' *Spookbusters*
4:35 PM-Dana Scully
"My son, Tommy Junior, and I like to camp out in these woods. Not too far into the swampland, mind you, but deep enough in so we don't have to listen to the cars on the highway. We were camping out last Saturday night and, at about ten PM or so, Tommy had to take a...s'cuse me, m'am...Tommy had to find a bush to do his business in, if you catch my drift. A few minutes later, he comes back and grabs a bag of Reese's Pieces from all the junk food we packed, and he says, "C'mon, daddy, I found E.T.!" I decided to humor him, but I made sure I had my piece on me, loaded, just in case 'E.T.' turns out to be something unhealthy."
"E.T.?" Scully's heart sank when she saw the way the story was going. She realized she'd been harboring a tiny flicker of hope in her heart that it was just a gang of vicious, blessedly normal drug dealers or nuclear-waste dumpers causing the problem. At least it didn't sound like the 'Jersey Devil'.
"Yeah, E.T. We have the tape. Tommy is about the same age as the kid in it and he loves that movie." The captain continued, picking up the thread of his tale, "So, out we go, into the woods. It was quiet, like now. I'd have given anything to hear a car go by at that point, the hair on the back of my neck was standing up something fierce! But Tommy's cheerfully leading me along, and we come up to a clearing. There's green light in the clearing, and I pull the kid back. I go up and look around a bush, and there they are...."
"Who?!" gasped Dr. Stanz, leaning forward like a kid listening to a camp-fire story. The hope in Scully's heart that this wasn't going to be an 'X-file' crashed and burned.
"It was little greeny-gray people. I swear to you, I haven't had a drink since a glass of wine in a restaurant for my anniversary, two months ago. I wouldn't drink, not near my kid, not when I'm wearing my piece. I never even smoked pot in my life-you don't know me, but I am the straightest arrow who ever lived-ask Grimaldi here! But I seen 'em. There's these six little people, and they look just like those guys in E.T.! Or, even more, like those guys in 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind!'"
"*Spielbergian*," breathed 'Chuck', round-eyed. "This is great."
The police captain did not look happy on hearing this from the news reporter. "Listen, mister, don't be so cheerful! I could lose my job for seeing hallucinations, if somebody in the department really wanted to make trouble for me. But I saw them, I tell you. And *they* saw *me*! They came at me, peeping at me, their skinny little arms reaching for me, trying to touch me! I turned and ran, grabbing Tommy as I ran to the car! How I found it, I don't know, but I tossed the kid into the car, jumped into the driver's seat and peeled out! I left all that stuff behind at the campsite, I didn't even think about it. This is the first time since then I've been back. Next day, I started collecting up all the stories of other people who saw-something-like I did. I have a file this thick," he held his thumb and forefinger a full two inches apart, "of reports filed by people who saw lights, heard noises, all in the last couple weeks. A few even admitted to me that they saw little people, but no one would sign a report to that effect."
"Right." Scully traded a look with Mulder, squared her shoulders and faced the group. "Captain Meller, you and your deputy will please escort us to the location of your sighting. I am afraid that I am going to have to ask the civilians to stay behind-no arguments, please!"
"I approve-unless, of course, you are including *us* in that classification," Dr. Spengler said.
"Yes," responded Scully in unison with her partner's, "No!" and she traded another look with him.
"I assume you mean, 'no, you can't come along'?" asked the red-headed agent.
Mulder took a deep breath and turned to her, as if preparing for a fight-which, she supposed, he was. "No, I mean, 'no, you aren't civilians, you can come along', do you have a problem with that, Scully?"
"Do I have a *problem*? Mulder-these people make *you* look normal...."
While she and Mulder quarreled, the Ghostbusters went to their vehicle, a large, converted hearse; and removed some heavy gear from the back. Scully's angry voice trailed off when she caught sight of the strange equipment. Mulder raised his eyebrows at her in mutual surprise, then quirked his head in the direction of the busy group of scientists, and they sauntered over, intrigued.
"And what are *those*?" asked Scully, blue eyes narrowed suspiciously at the odd contraptions strapped to the Ghostbusters' backs.
"They're proton packs," answered Dr. Stanz cheerfully. "Don't worry, m'am, the EPA knows all about them." It occurred to her that he hadn't made it clear whether the EPA approved of them or not.
Mulder reached over and pulled on her sleeve gently to get her attention. "Scully, these guys are loaded for bear. We *may* need them. They've been operating in the tri-state area for some years now, doing some pretty funky stuff and, frankly, I've always meant to look them up. I say, 'once more, dear friends, into the breech,' for the lot of us. And there is this 'End Of The World' thing to consider."
Scully realized, grudgingly, that he was right, but she wasn't about to give in gracefully. "Hmph. You realize, of course, that if one of them gets hurt, Uncle Sam will probably be sued big time. Or, conversely, they might accidentally shoot *us* with one of those things...."
"Pretty lady, fear not," One of the Ghostbusters, Dr. Venkman, had obviously been eavesdropping. "We haven't accidentally shot any one in, oh, three, maybe four weeks. We are flawless professionals of the highest caliber. And besides, we have very comprehensive health benefits and insurance."
She smiled back at him, somewhat insincerely. "Dr. Venkman, I had no idea you could get insurance against The End Of The World."
"I'll believe there's tunnels under Manhattan the day the Chrysler Building sinks in up to its armpits." A mundane dissing B&B
5:00 PM-Fox Mulder
As it turned out, Deputy Grimaldi was unable to accompany the rest to the site Captain Meller had described-the captain announced that the only way to be sure 'Chuck' Benson and his cameraman left the scene was to escort them back to the highway, and assigned his deputy to that duty. The reporter protested fiercely, but Mulder somehow got the idea that he was relieved to be denied a chance to accompany them. After a moment of thought, Mulder grabbed the videotape from the cameraman, much to Captain Meller's evident relief. The FBI agent simply didn't want to encourage gangs of reporters cluttering up the area, and knew the wild tale the captain had told would act on them like honey on flies. The two civilians were stuffed into their 9 News van and sent on their way.
"Just one moment...." said Dr. Spengler from the back seat of the hearse, which the Ghostbusters referred to as 'Ecto-1', "...this will undoubtedly prove useful." Stepping from the car, he held out a duplicate of the P.K.E. meter that had blown up a few minutes ago. "I've adjusted the take-up to prevent overload, this meter is far less sensitive than other," he explained to Mulder. Holding the device away from the group, he switched it on...and a steady beep came from it. The tall scientist swung the meter in an arc, and the beeping picked up noticeably.
"Yep, that's the direction," the police captain nodded at the bearing the device showed.
Two FBI agents, four Ghostbusters and a New Jersey State policeman started out through the swamp, heading for the thickest of it.
Hiking through a swamp is not easy, even for a physically-fit Special Agent for the F.B.I., considered Mulder. Patches of squelchy soil, rocky stretches, and scrubby underbrush clutched at his feet, and he was finding it difficult to negotiate the terrain. He'd already written off his shoes. He snuck a look at the four oddballs who made up 'The Ghostbusters', and realized that his situation could be much worse-were he to strap what he knew was an illegal nuclear particle accelerator to his back and some ghost-trapping contraptions to his belt, he doubted he'd do as well as they were managing. The team seemed used to the added weight and kept up with the less heavily burdened agents of the law. Captain Meller, who knew the region, lead the way; Dr. Spengler kept pace a step or two behind him, confirming the direction with his modified P.K.E. meter. Mulder and the rest fanned out behind them, making their way through the brush as best they could.
"Here it is!" Captain Meller exclaimed, but it wasn't the infamous clearing of little men he indicated, it was the campsite he and his son had hastily abandoned some three days earlier. The site looked untouched. The police captain knelt down and reached through the tent flap, pulling out a worn stuffed toy. "Tommy's been missing Buddy-Bear something fierce," he shrugged, and stuck the bear in his inside jacket pocket.
"Sir, a bit more alacrity if you please," urged Dr. Spengler. He held out the P.K.E. meter for Dr. Stanz to see, and Dr. Stanz whistled, impressed.
"The needle's moving perceptibly higher!" observed the occultist.
"It's been set to show exponential growth," confirmed Dr. Spengler.
Scully looked liked the question she was about to ask had caused a bad taste in her mouth. "Exponential growth of what?" she inquired dubiously.
"Power. A massive power build up of a sort I can't begin to describe. I'm not even sure it's entirely supernatural, there are overtones...." the blond scientist trailed off, engrossed in the readings. "This way, it's not far." Spengler took the lead, the others puffed to keep up with his long stride. The P.K.E. meter in his hand sounding off so quickly it sounded more like a steady tone than a series of beeps, he led them to what Mulder realized was Captain Meller's clearing.
Mulder glanced professionally around the clearing, searching for...he didn't know what. It looked rather pretty in the light of the waning mid-summer sun; the gnarled trees half in shadow and the green, glossy foliage motionless in the unnatural calm. Dr. Spengler did not stop to enjoy the view, but pushed his way through a bush, seemingly unmindful of the thorns catching at his coveralls, and continued in a straight line across the clearing, disappearing into the gloom on the other side. Mulder traded a puzzled look with Scully and scrambled to keep up, followed by the rest of the group of investigators.
"Where'd he go?"
"Doctor Spengler? Sir?"
"Egon! Where the hell are you?"
The nuclear physicist's deep voice responded to their concerned calls. "I'm here. Just next to the spaceship...."
Following Spengler's voice, Mulder ducked under a fir tree, pushed through, and straightened...and found himself nose-to-wall with a large, silvery obstacle that gently curved up and away from him on either side. Bizarrely, he could not see any reflections in the otherwise mirror-like wall, lit as it was with an inner glow. Swallowing hard, he ran a hand over the surface, and it slid off as if he'd run his fingers over a vat of quick-silver ball-bearings. "Totally frictionless exterior...." he breathed. The FBI agent inched along the 'wall' until he came to the rest of the search party, who stood, staring, crowded near to one another-human beings taking solace in the companionship of their own kind in the face of the unimaginable. Spengler had turned off the P.K.E. meter and the group stared, in silence, at a huge rent in the side of the enormous shiny-silver, teardrop-shaped ship. The ugly fracture was singed and melted, and darkness lay within. Mulder moved carefully over the bumpy terrain to stand next to his partner.
"I don't suppose this could be an abandoned set from a science-fiction movie?" whispered Scully, more to herself than to any one else. "...guess not...." Never taking his eyes from the ship, he reached out and took her hand, giving it a brief squeeze for luck when he realized it was trembling.
"Well, boys 'n' girls, fellas and gals, this why we get the big money," Venkman's boisterous tone broke the spell. The psychologist flicked a switch on his proton pack and its whine filled the clearing. The other three Ghostbusters followed suit.
"Somebody has to stay outside...." Mulder turned to the white-faced police captain, "...just in case...?" He did not have to finish the sentence.
Captain Meller tore his eyes from the very special special-effect, to meet those of the FBI agent. "I have no problem with that, sir. I ain't a coward. I've arrested members of chain-wielding biker gangs, and I once tackled a son-of-a-bitch with an A-K 47 in his hands; but let me tell you, if God and His heavenly choir of angels flew down from on high at this very moment and bade me enter, I'm not sure even that would get me to set one foot in that thing there." The big man's voice actually shook.
"You're a sensible man, Captain," Scully pulled her gun and nodded to Mulder, signaling her readiness. He pulled his gun as well and gestured for the Ghostbusters to fall back.
"*We* go first. Rank has its privileges, gentlemen. Wait for us to give the all clear, then you may enter after us. Though, frankly, I wish we had *your* weapons." That last was muttered out of the corner of the F.B.I. agent's mouth. He stepped up to the opening in the side of the ship, his partner a half-step behind. The eyes of quartet of disappointed Ghostbusters and a deeply shaken police officer followed them until they slipped through the crack.
"...they believe in Santa, but they think I'm *nuts*!" The little kid in the filksong, 'Little Green Bug-Eyed Monster', by T.J. Burnside
5:42 PM-Fox Mulder
Mulder moved from the warm pool of light thrown by the summer sun behind him, stepping gingerly as the floor, though solid, canted slightly down and away. He sensed his partner behind him and to the left. Darkness. He was as good as blind for a moment, but his eyes adjusted slowly and he realized the room was, in fact, illuminated by a soft phosphorescent glow. He stood, silent and tense, for a moment, just listening.
Mulder jumped when he felt, almost rather than heard, an odd, subsonic sound. It came up through the deck, up through the soles of his feet. Deep, weighty, difficult to define-there were no follow-up sounds, making it impossible to pin-point. Hyper-alert, guns still drawn, he moved away from Scully and paced the room, trusting her to guard his back. After a few moments, when nothing else happened, he relaxed marginally, and turned to her, one eyebrow raised. She merely gave him a quizzical look. He shrugged, and looked around the room again.
He blinked with surprise when he realized just what it was the room reminded him of.
"Scully? Did you ever see the movie 'Alien'?"
She wasn't given the chance to answer the question, as the lights snapped on abruptly and the machinery, for it was recognizable as machinery, suddenly came to life with a growing hum of power. "Your voice, Mulder...you spoke, and it all started up," she said in a level tone that he knew disguised her alarm.
Without thinking, he spun about, gun at the ready, and she took the same protective stance, back to back. But there was nothing to shoot, nothing from which to defend themselves. His suggestion that the room was reminiscent of the movie 'Alien' was a good one. The German artist, Giger, had wanted to suggest a technology of bio-mechanics in that movie and this room looked as if it had been grown, not built. Vari-colored stations sprouted at intervals from the floor more like elaborate floral structures than computer banks, yet for all that, the room was still discernible as a bridge. A large seat bloomed in the middle of it all, as recognizable as Captain Kirk's own bridge chair. It was obviously the nerve center of the room, as stem-like structures visible under the crystalline floor fed from each station to it. A naturalistic, domed ceiling arched high overhead, it was like being inside a huge cream-colored pea pod. It was possibly the most beautiful thing he'd had ever seen.
"Well?" Scully asked him.
"Well, what?" The power surge had leveled off and it looked as if nothing more was going to happen. The room thrummed softly around them. He put his gun back in its holster and turned slowly, drinking in the sight and sound.
"Well, Mulder, this is *your* thing. I've been trained to deal with serial killers, drug addicts, kidnappers...but *this*? What do we do, after you've said, 'I told you so'?"
Before Mulder could answer, a cheery voice from behind him interrupted.
"Hi y'all. How're things goin' in here; Tex, Missy-M'am?" The FBI agents spun on their heels to find a smiling Dr. Peter Venkman, humming neutron-thrower at the ready, coming in through the tear in the side of the ship closely followed by his fellow Ghostbusters. "We thought you'd need a hand, so we came in uninvited." Mulder had almost forgotten they were waiting outside, overcome as he was by the grandeur of the fallen spacecraft. The Ghostbusters entered the bridge area, consumed with admiration. It seemed even eyes jaded by the majesty of otherworldly continuums like Gozer's palace could appreciate the design beauty of the craft. Zeddemore whistled appreciatively, and Stanz and Spengler gravitated over to one of the stations. Even the dour nuclear physicist goggled like a kid in a toy store.
"Hey, guys, don't touch anything, O.K....?" was barely out of Mulder's mouth when he noticed an odd gaseous effect beginning to fill the room. "Omigod! What the hell is that?!"
The drifting gases abruptly coalesced into six little beings with long, spindly arms; large heads; and enormous, black eyes. They floated eerily around and around the humans standing on their bridge.
Captain Meller had neglected to mention that his little, greeny-gray people were translucent.
"This is the way the world ends, this is the way the world ends, this is the way the world ends-not with a whimper, but with a bloody great bang, bang, bang!" Roj Blake
6:00 PM-Egon Spengler
The modified P.K.E. meter in Egon's hand was silent one moment, then gave off piercing shrieks the next, alternately. "Tobin's Spirit Guide is going to be useless in this situation," intoned the tall scientist. He was not a happy camper.
"...and so's that meter. Turn it off, Egon, before she blows, too," said Winston, and the nuclear physicist followed his advice.
"We don't need the Guide!" enthused Ray. "They flew in, they crashed, they died...it was all so abrupt, obviously they felt they left something undone, so they all became ghosts!"
"That's a big leap of faith, Ray. You can't ascribe human-ghost motivations to these little guys," Peter shook his head, then stepped back as one of the creatures flowed past a mite too close for comfort.
"Are you trying to tell us...this isn't about aliens...and it isn't about ghosts. It's about *alien ghosts*?" Scully's eyebrows climbed toward her hairline as her eyes widened in disbelief. "That's insane."
"No, it isn't! Why *shouldn't* aliens become ghosts when they die?" asked Ray, indignantly. "They're people, too."
"Ghosts?" Special Agent Mulder's eyes glowed with the revelation. "They're *ghosts*? So, all of this...belongs to *us*?" His partner looked as if she wanted to slap him, to bring him to his senses-or just for the fun of it-but instead jumped back as a pair of wraiths almost blind-sided her. She edged towards the tear in the side of the ship.
"I don't care if they're goopers from the planet Yertle the Turtle-*they're* ghosts, *we* bust 'em." Peter adopted the wide-legged ghost-busting stance one took to keep oneself from being blown backwards by one's own particle stream and hefted his ion thrower cheerfully.
"Unlikely, Peter," Egon clipped the P.K.E. meter to his belt. "They're not like terrestrial ghosts. The harmonic oscillation they exist on is at a vastly higher frequency than what can be affected by our weaponry...or our traps."
Peter looked at the nuclear physicist, crestfallen expression on his face, and powered down his neutron accelerator sadly. "No blasting today? O.K.-so, now what, big guy?"
The aliens answered that question. They had been drifting delicately about the room, but began to move more quickly, until they surged and swirled around and around like leaves in a hurricane. The humans took refuge where they could, behind the odd furnishings growing out of the floor, helpless. Suddenly, all six aliens seemed to flow together, coalescing into a concentrated ball-lightening form. This 'ball' lightening swirled around the room once, twice, three times; then shot straight at Ray, who was peeking out from behind a chair, round-eyed. The energy force struck him on the chest with such power that he was thrown bodily against a wall, hitting it flat out. He slide down the bulkhead, unconscious. The bridge was filled with a stunned silence, which was then broken by the others' horrified cries.
"*Raaaaay*!!!" cried Egon, heart in his throat, in unison with Peter. They jumped from the stations they hid behind and nearly colliding in their haste.
Winston leapt to their side, "Ray, m'man, speak to me!"
"Omigod; Mulder, I warned you-let me through, I'm a doctor!" The red-headed F.B.I. agent pushed past the three Ghostbusters and knelt down beside Ray where he sagged against the curved wall as if all of his bones had turned to rubber. She felt the carteroid artery in his neck, and snapped, "...thready pulse...", and the fact that his best friend had a pulse at all was enough to start Egon breathing again, once he realized he'd been holding his breath. Gently pulling up one of her patient's eyelids, Scully seemed marginally pleased to see the pupil contract in the light, giving Egon further hope.
Then an odd thing happened. Ray seemed to pull himself together like a marionette on a string. His head lolled; his eyelids lifted of their own accord to reveal a steady, personality-less stare; and his mouth fell open upon his chest. A thin voice, entirely unlike his own, came out. *"Ugly bags of mostly water!"* shrilled the voice. Scully blinked and jumped back, colliding with Mulder, which stopped her in her tracks. "I'm sorry, what did you say, Dr. Stanz?" she asked him.
Where had he heard that odd expression before? thought Egon in confusion. The phrase was tantalizingly familiar. "Ugly *what*?" he asked.
*"It is in this one's mind that we/I should call you that. We/I do not know what this wordage means."*
It was the dependable Winston who cleared up the mystery. "Star Trek! Hey, Egon, they can read Ray's mind! That's a line from a first season Next Generation episode...I hated that episode."
"You hated first season," shot back Peter, "...so, Ray's possessed. The aliens are speaking to us through him. So what else is new?"
Egon straightened and pulled the P.K.E. meter off his belt, holding it to the occultist's limp form, but the meter just continued to give contradictory information. "I don't care what the P.K.E. meter does or doesn't say...I'm more convinced than ever that these alien ghosts simply have a different energy signature than terrestrial ghosts." Ruthlessly pushing aside his fear for the stocky occultist, he concentrated on the fascinating puzzle that presented itself to him for solving. He re-adjusting the meter, changing its parameters to match Ray's biorhythms. "I agree with your prognosis, Peter. I believe Ray is channeling one of these beings-perhaps all of them."
"You mean like that old Trek episode, 'The Lights of Zetar'?" Mulder waved a hand in front of Ray's eyes, without evoking a response. "I'm impressed."
"Not you, too, Mulder! Why am I not surprised you gentlemen are *all* Trekkies?" Scully pushed Mulder out of the way and checked the motionless occultist's pulse again, glancing at her watch and counting the beats. She put a hand to his forehead, plainly trying to estimate his temperature. "Interesting. His heart is beating very, *very* slowly, and I'd say he's running a high fever. It's as if the creatures inhabiting his body are interfering with his bodily functions. You can have no idea how much I hate to say this, but...well, it's like that old Star Trek episode, the one with, uh, 'Sargon' in it?"
Her partner grinned at her, as if he were suddenly terribly proud of her. "Excellent analogy, Doctor. I remember the episode." She looked embarrassed at this, and turned back to tend to Ray.
"I often think we could make more money simply renting Ray out as a medium," remarked Peter to Mulder, "but *he* won't let me." He jerked a thumb at Egon, who ignored him.
*"Talk talk talk! You talk too much to one another! What are I/we am, chopped liver? Shuttup, we/it will tell you something important."*
A look of irritation passed over Peter's face at the harsh quality of his friend's voice. "The aliens are *kvetching* at us-what a concept, alien nags. Tell us, O ye aliens, what you will! Then get the hell outa my buddy before you trash his bod, such as it is!" Egon knew it was typical of Peter to be flippant in the face of the unknown, but the FBI agents stared at the psychologist in horror. Fortunately, the aliens apparently did not take offense.
*"Send the Spengler to energy emissions device for measuringmentation. On quarter deck. Blue terminal, your water eyes see blue at station. Energy up soft blue down cold blue. Go now, the Spengler."*
Egon leapt to his feet and scanned the stations that grew from the deck near him. Only one glowed with a blue light. "I believe this is the one to which it-or-they refer," he said, looking over the panel, the glow reflecting oddly off his face and eyeglasses, "I can't make head nor tails of this with a mere cursory examination, it's simply too alien! Peter, ask it what I do next."
"The man sez, 'What next?'" Peter relayed the question for him.
*"Soft blue beep-beep-beep energy up, hard blue steady energy down. Tell us with your eyes, is hard and cold steady?"*
"Ya got that, Egon? What the hell is a 'hard blue', let alone 'beep-beep-beep'?"
Egon's sharp mind raced and a picture began to form-it was beginning to make sense. If only he had more time! "I think I understand, Peter. These beings use hues and shades of color to measure quantity and quality. In this case, if the panel were a cold blue, the energy quotient would be low, if we make the assumption that our eyes perceive color the same way the aliens' eyes do-am I right?" Egon raised his voice and aimed that last question at the spirits possessing Ray.
*"Is cold, yesss? Please, is cold by your eyes, say yesss?"* The aliens' hope was obvious even through the hiss of Ray's voice.
Peter came across the bridge to look at the panel over Egon's shoulder. "I'm no artist, but I'd say this is a nice, warm, soft blue-oddly enough, it's exactly the same color as your eyes, Ms.-Agent-Scully."
"I would concur-that the color is a warm blue, not about your eyes, m'am-which I assume means the energy, whatever kind of energy it is, is 'up'. And by 'beep-beep-beep', do you mean 'an intermittent pulse', because it's doing that, too." Egon searched Ray's face for the aliens' response.
*"Ooooooh. Is not good. Poor hue-maaans. Poooor little hue-mans."* Ray's harsh voice softened to a nattering sing-song. Scully looked appalled at the whispery pitch Ray's diction had taken, checked his temperature again. She didn't look happy with her findings. "This man is burning up. I suggest we bring this conversation to a conclusion, gentlemen!"
"I really don't like that," gulped Winston. "Sympathy from an alien and Ray on the edge. Let us in on it, will you, little guys?-but *hurry*!" he addressed Ray as if he were a telecommunication device.
*"Beep-beep-beep is engine-core breach. Matter-antimatter to blow-beep-small span of time-beep-poor little hue-mans-beep-melt. Stand just here, the Spengler. Now!"*
Egon leapt from the station to crouch beside his fallen friend. Still moving as a marionette moves, Ray's arm lifted slowly from his side until his hand barely touched the forehead of the nuclear physicist.
There was a bright, white light in Egon's head, and he stopped thinking for a while.
"*Now* what?!" Napoleon, at Waterloo
6:18 PM-Fox Mulder
There was no spark or discharge, but to Mulder's surprise, Dr. Spengler suddenly shouted incoherently and was thrown to the side as if some sort of explosion had occurred. He sat where he fell, shaking his head like a man who'd just had a cannon shot off near his ear. Mulder and Venkman reached down to haul the fallen nuclear physicist to his feet.
"'Hue-mans-beep-melt'? Ick," said the ghost-busting psychologist.
"Sounds messy," agreed the FBI agent, not nearly as flippantly. In fact, Mulder was understandably worried. "Are you all right, Dr. Spengler? Can you stand on your own? What just happened?"
"Wow!" it was the loudest Mulder had yet heard the phlegmatic nuclear physicist speak, he was practically shouting. Spengler was evidently oblivious to what Mulder had said, as he ignored his question. "Did you hear that? My ears are still ringing. What a rush!" He held his shaking hands in front of him and stared at them as if they were alien devices themselves.
"We didn't hear anything, but they can hear you in mid-town Manhattan now, big guy." Venkman rolled his eyes in amusement.
Spengler brought his voice down by sheer force of will, but seemed to quiver with suppressed energy. "When Ray touched my forehead, it was as if a thousand people were screaming at me. Or, better analogy, as if a thousand bits of paper, each with a sentence of information, were suddenly dumped on my head, but I could read them all, all at once! Suddenly, I knew exactly what's been going on around here for the past few weeks!...and you didn't hear *anything*?"
"Vulcan Mind Meld" everyone said in unison, even Scully.
"T-tell them, Egon," a faltering voice spoke from the floor. Mulder whirled and saw Stanz, damp with sweat and weak as a kitten, but apparently otherwise all right, holding out an imploring hand to his colleague.
"Ray! You're *you*!" cried Zeddemore in joyous tones. His attitude seemed to reflect those of his partners, and certainly that of Scully, who immediately took the occultist's pulse again.
"How do you feel, Dr. Stanz?" asked Mulder.
Stanz swallowed hard. "Forget about me...tell them, Egon, before it's too late! Tell 'em about 'hue-mans-beep-melt'!"
The artificially-charged up scientist seemed to visibly deflate until he was again almost the dour Egon Spengler that Mulder had already become used to. "The good news first...my prognostication that we face The End Of The World was, I believe, somewhat overstated."
"Now you're talkin', m'man!"
"Yeah, how bad can 'bad' be?"
Spengler stilled their chatter with a wave of his hand. "The bad news is that some time in the next few hours, we face a detonation that will take out a good-sized section of the Northern New Jersey swamplands...."
"A detonation? My ship...I mean, this ship's going to explode?!" Mulder gasped, stricken.
"So Lloyd Lindsay Young has a hell of a weather-forecast tonight. 'Hell-oooooo, Seeeeeecaucus! Good-byeeeeee, swampland!'" Venkman mimicked the infamous Channel 9 weatherman, "...so big deal. You guys grab Ray and let's get outa here, stat." He hefted the nozzle of his particle-thrower in a brief salute and made to leave.
"...and most of the West Side," Spengler finished his sentence.
"The West Side? Are we talking about *Manhattan's* West Side?" gulped Scully. "I can't believe I'm having this conversation...are you serious?"
"Yes, I *am* serious, Ms. Scully-deadly serious. Sixth Avenue is going to be beach-front property unless we do something very quickly to prevent it."
Venkman stopped short, shoulders up around his ears. He spun around to face the group, "West Side go 'boom'? My favorite Italian restaurant is on the West Side-we gotta do something!"
"Please. Help me up...." Stanz implored Zeddemore, who pulled the occultist to his feet, supporting him when he almost fell to the floor again. The occultist took a few steps, then fell heavily into the command chair. "Egon, didja get the part about how to start up the self-destruct sequence? I...I couldn't get m-m-my mind around it, it was just too weird."
"Uh, oh...too weird for *Ray*? Trouble," commented Venkman to Scully, who did not seem to find him at all amusing. The psychologist fished around in his pockets and pulled out a Snickers bar, handing it to Stanz, who quickly unwrapped it with shaking hands and took a bite.
"'Self-destruct sequence'?!" Things were moving too damned fast, Mulder felt as if he were running last in a race and he had no hope of ever catching up. "Waitaminute! Stop! Just stop! You guys are *not* self-destructing this ship. Can you imagine what we can learn from this great opportunity we've been presented with? " He made his stand from the very center of the bridge, determination personified. "How can we lose her when we just found her? I have only your word that there's anything wrong with her! I have to put the brakes on this operation now!" It was more of a plea than an order that finally burst from his lips. Scully, who seemed shaken by his outburst, put a hand to his arm as if to calm him, but he walked away from her, eyeing the Ghostbusters defiantly. It was going to take a lot more to mollify him than just her concern-he wanted answers, fast.
Stanz slumped in his chair, but Zeddemore and Venkman looked affronted and stepped up to argue with Mulder. Spengler held up a hand, and the two fell silent. "Agent Mulder. I fully understand your position. But use your own powers of cognition, and you'll confirm for yourself that we are in a dire dilemma. Here are the facts. This ship crashed two weeks ago-you can see the damage. I have a vague notion that they were investigating the effects of the Pleides meteor showers on our planet's atmosphere, and something happened-something unexpected, something bad...."
Stanz raised his weary head and added his voice to Spengler's side of the debate. "Horrible! It was horrible...they tried to self-destruct, really they did, Agent Mulder! They have a promise, an oath, built into their very DNA to destroy themselves rather than allow hyper-technology to fall into the hands of the primitives-that's *us&. I could still taste the desperation in that memory-*alien* desperation! I'm not surprised they couldn't rest in peace, poor little guys." His head fell back again and he relaxed into the alien seat. He looked exhausted.
Dr. Spengler picked up their tale. "The crash weakened the supports to their version of an "engine room"-frankly, I find it very odd that they think of this ship as a living being, the actual translation was the 'abdomen', if I got that right." Stanz nodded, but didn't speak, so Spengler continued. "If the energy that fuels this ship exerts enough internal pressure to crack its 'stomach' open, there will be an explosion on a sub-atomic level. I'm not even sure what kind of energy it is, but its power is immense."
"We have to kill this ship. It's in terrible pain! We have to-we have to *euthanize* it," Stanz almost wept in sympathy. A much calmer Spengler nodded in agreement.
"So, who we gonna call?-" Mulder snapped at them sarcastically, "-Dr. Kevorkian?"
"We haven't time," answered Spengler, apparently taking the question at face value. "The aliens were actually wondering why the ship hadn't detonated before now. And when it goes...best-case scenario, I'd say a simple mass conversion of all matter in a ten-to-twenty mile diameter into energy, spherical scorch pattern. And when I say 'spherical scorch pattern', I mean that precisely-the crater will be a hemisphere, five-to-ten miles deep, the walls of which will be fused-glass, similar to volcanic glass. Hence, 'humans-beep-melt'. Worst-case scenario, as I've delineated *plus* a nuclear winter for, approximately, a decade."
"I'm sorry, could we go over the part where the world *isn't* destroyed again, Egon?" asked Venkman, but they all ignored him and stared at the angry F.B.I. agent, clearly waiting for his reaction.
Mulder looked at the floor, unable to meet the nuclear physicist's eyes. The destruction of this beautiful artifact seemed inconceivable, sacrilegious. How many rugs have to be pulled out from under one before one simply gives in? he thought to himself. So many near-misses! He felt a hand on his shoulder and knew without looking that it was his partner again.
"We don't know what to do...therefore, we explore possibilities," her soft voice sounded in his ear.
He looked up to meet her remarkable eyes. "First we figure out how to do the dirty deed, then we decide whether to do it...or not." She nodded. He turned to meet the eyes of the watchful Ghostbusters.
"Dr. Spengler, Dr. Stanz-I suppose you guys know where this 'engine room' is?" he sighed.
"What rough beast slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?" T.S. Eliot's obstetrician speaking to his veterinarian
6:32 PM-Fox Mulder
Even if they'd been able to locate and decode the alien ship's version of a "turbolift", they could not have taken it, as power seemed to be out over most of the ship. The mysterious energy force that ran the bridge fueled only a dim, greenish phosphorescence running the length of the deck and "stairwells", making progress difficult. The ship corridors were not only dark, they were creepy in their lack of clean, machine-made lines; the corridors seemed spun by insects; it was as if the intrepid group had been injected, as in 'Fantastic Voyage', into some enormous creature's body and were now wandering through one of its veins. Mulder had been amused when Venkman muttered, "Hey, ma, lookit me, I'm a blood corpuscle" under his breath as they descended a tendriled ladder growing on the inside of one of the vertical tubes leading to other decks. Despite Spengler's admonitions that their weapons were ineffectual against the alien ghosts, he alone of the Ghostbusters had decided against leaving his proton pack behind with Captain Meller, and it looked as if he was finding the climb a difficult one.
Away from the machine-hum of the bridge, Mulder could hear, quite clearly, that infrequent, 'sub-sonic' sound that had so surprised him in his first moments on the ship. "It's a heartbeat," gasped Scully in recognition the third or forth time she'd heard it. The rush of forced fluid, the snap open and shut of the valves; she'd determined the regularity of the beats by counting seconds under her breath. Incredibly, there were approximately 2 minutes between beats.
The deep, improbably slow heart-beat of the ship grew louder as they drew nearer to the engine room, no doubt about it.
Conflicting emotions warred within Mulder as he followed close on the heels of Doctors Spengler and Stanz. They were steadfast in their mission and knew where they were going, walking with a moral certainty of which Mulder was desperately jealous. The irony that his immediate mission was the same as theirs, to learn how to destroy the wonderful ship, was not lost on him. He wondered how the ship had looked when powered up-would these corridors be brighter, or did the aliens need less light than a human?-and his mind lead him down the increasingly morbid path it usually took when contemplating 'close encounters', to...his sister's abduction. This could be the very ship. Had her small, bare feet paced this same corridor some twenty years earlier? Had the little girl screamed and struggled in their grasp, or had she been tranquilized, carried on some sort of anti-gravity pallet? Had she lived much longer after her abduction or had she been sacrificed by the alien scientists in the name of higher learning, to gain information about "the primitives", as Stanz had said they'd thought of us. Or was she still alive, walking on the soil of a planet no other human had even seen through a telescope? He shivered, chilled to the marrow, yet the atmosphere wasn't cold at all; quite the reverse, it was unventilated, oppressive and unpleasantly humid. He was about to reflect on the unhappy state of lab monkeys in our own, terrestrial laboratories when a thin whistle of awe broke his concentration and he looked up into the cheerful, open face of the much-recovered Dr. Stanz.
"End of the line!" Stanz almost chirped as he spoke, and tapped the unhappy FBI agent on the back in a friendly manner. The occultist gestured to an small alcove which seemed to lead to another room, much larger. "You can go first if you'd like," he continued with a smile. Mulder somehow knew Stanz was according him a great honor rather than attempting to get out of doing something dangerous. He returned the occultist's smile and nodded, and the group moved out of his way.
The antechamber was pitch black, which was just as well, as it made his pupils dilate so that the room he stepped into seemed somehow brighter. The ceiling arched overhead reminded him of a cathedral, it dwarfed even the impressive ceiling that hung over the bridge; flying buttresses and odd, vine-like catwalks could be perceived dimly all around. Mulder wondered if the ship had dug itself deep into the earth before its power had been spent or if it were, T.A.R.D.I.S.-like, simply bigger on the inside than on the outside. They'd had no clue that the ship was this *big*. He stepped over some debris on the floor, then saw that a lot of it wasn't debris at all-the floor wasn't flat, but instead had tunnels running through it. It reminded him of what a lawn looks like when infested by moles-in fact, he realized there were no smooth surfaces in the roughly sphere-shaped room at all. The sound that filled the room was equally confounding-a 'squelching', squeezing noise that repeated over and over with a machine-like staccato, yet un-machine-like-it was too organic. It put Mulder to mind of the noise his stomach made when it grumbled, but through a loudspeaker and on a taped loop.
"Come on in and be awed," he spoke up clearly over his shoulder, and his fellow investigators filed in, eyes and mouths wide-open.
"There," one short word from Spengler focused everyone's attention on a greenish-gray, 25-foot high, globular structure suspended by stretched and glistening ligaments and viscera-like tubes from a framework in the approximate center of the room. It reminded Mulder of 'The Garden Of Earthly Delights', painted by Heironymous Bosch in the 16th century, and he said so.
"I don't know about 'delights'; yecch, it looks more like someone's insides turned outside," Venkman's lip curled in disgust.
"It sort of is, Peter," explained Stanz. "This is the source of their power, as well as of all our troubles. It's the ship's 'stomach' and it's gonna crack, and soon."
"And, as a rough comparison, just as our own stomach protects us from the hydrochloric acid that it contains, *that* stomach wall protects the ship from whatever inside of *it*. When what is inside breaches the stomach wall, there will be an explosion of biblical proportions," confirmed Dr. Spengler. They could all see that the bony structure the huge, pouch-like organ hung from was damaged, many of the struts were cracked in more than one place.
"...we could prop it up...." began a hopeful Mulder, but Spengler interrupted him.
"No. This room was designed to exist without gravity-look above you-there are actually several doorways over our heads without steps leading to them. The walls of the receptacle are as unsound as the framework, it's just not as easy to see the subtle damage caused by several weeks of earth's gravitational pull, and it's getting worse."
Mulder was tired, and he was beginning to resent the ready answers the nuclear physicist seemed able to call up at a moment's notice. The agent teetered on the edge of a decision, but he needed more information. "OK. So, let's assume that we have to destroy the ship...what do we do? Perhaps you could cut down the 'stomach' with your, uh, proton pack?"
"We haven't been listening, have we?" said Venkman condescendingly. "If we cut down the tummy, we break it open and it go 'boom', remember?"
Mulder shot him a resentful look. Here, he'd taken that critical step towards agreement with the necessity of the ship's destruction, and sarcasm was the thanks he got for his trouble. "O.K., smart-ass, how do we destroy the ship without destroying the 'stomach'? It seems we're in a Catch-22 situation," the agent sniped.
No one answered Mulder's question. Venkman shifted his shoulders under the heavy proton pack strapped to his back, plainly at a loss for words; Spengler fiddled uselessly with his P.K.E. meter; Zeddemore shrugged helplessly-in fact, the entire group of investigators seemed confounded as to what might be the next step.
During their discussion, Stanz had wandered a short distance from the gently groaning 'stomach' and was looking up at a drooping distention in the wall some ten feet above their heads; the wrinkled mass of it rose another 16 feet higher than that and followed the curve of the wall as it became ceiling. Scully leaned over to Mulder and muttered, "...I think I'd better stick close to him, I'm still a little worried about his color." Mulder nodded in assent. She walked over to the occultist and began, "Excuse me, Doctor Stanz?" when, suddenly, the distention over his head bulged out like a balloon abruptly filled, wrinkles stretched to the bursting point. They jumped back in alarm for fear that it would pop. Just as suddenly, the balloon contracted sharply, leaving the wall with the appearance of a wrinkled, empty sac, as before. If Mulder hadn't seen it, he wouldn't have believed it.
"It's the 'heart'!" gasped Scully. "We found the 'heart' of the ship!"
"*Thought* so!" laughed Stanz.
"Whoopee," muttered Venkman. He sounded distinctly unimpressed. Plainly tired of staring at a 'stomach' that did nothing but grumble to itself, he wandered over to look at the 'heart' just the same, and Zeddemore followed.
"Hmmm...the 'heart' is, in fact, the crux of the matter," said Stanz to Mulder. "The aliens communicated to me and Ray how to stop the heart to trigger the ship's self-destruct, but it was a very complicated procedure. Frankly, I don't think I ever really understood how to do it. And now I'm losing what little knowledge I got from my exhilarating experience on the bridge. I somehow doubt Ray's going to be much help in this regard, either."
"So. One way or another, this is going to be a heart-stopping experience after all," muttered Mulder.
Spengler shot him a look of betrayal. "Special Agent Mulder," he admonished. "I think the situation is bad enough without having to resort to *puns*."
"Well, here's another one for you, Dr. Spengler," Mulder shook his head sadly. "I don't think I can give you a rational reason for my change of-sorry-heart, but I agree with you and Dr. Stanz now. You're right. We can't gamble with the lives of half of the people in New York City, let alone the chance of a nuclear winter, against the possibility of taking ownership of what is undoubtedly the neatest damned toy I've ever seen in my entire life. We have destroy this ship. Somehow, we have to stop that heart."
"The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of." Pascal's dangling preposition
6:32 PM-Dana Scully
"Stop a heart? Did you say something about stopping the heart?" said Scully, turning from the organ in question to speak to her partner and Spengler. She fingered her chin, lost in thought, then turned back to stare hard at the empty balloon that hung above her head. She could see, just beneath the surface of the wall, a network of thick 'pipes' leading to and from the leathery bag-arteries and veins, if the bio-engineering comparison held true. "There are, in fact, several ways to do just that; stop a heart, I mean." She saw that many of the pipes had access ports, most of them capped, but others had been knocked open. No ship's 'blood' leaked out, she noted with great interest. There were valves in the access ports, allowing entry, but preventing the fluid in the pipes from spurting out. "I suppose they could be applied in this case, as in any earth animal equipped with a heart," she continued her thought.
Venkman snapped his fingers. "That's right! You're a medical-type doctor, aren't you! Hippocratic Oath be damned, you can help us Kevorkianize this puppy!"
"Can't we just blast it with your proton pack, Pete?" Mr. Zeddemore said, then corrected himself. "No, not smart. We blast the 'heart', we get caught in the self-destruct sequence. We're gonna want something a little more subtle that'll let us walk away from this one, I hope."
"Yeah, I don't enjoy the idea of winding up like those Klingons in Star Trek III; crash, bang, boom...." Venkman said, pulling the heavy nuclear device from his back and laying it on the deck. "I could set it to self-destruct, giving us time to beat it...?"
"No-o-o-o," mused Scully, more to herself than to the rest of the group. She looked at her feet and confirmed that not all of the bumps and ridges were embedded beneath the floor-plenty of piping, jarred loose from its moorings, littered the deck. Possibly useful...though God only knew from what life-supporting mechanisms they'd been ripped when the ship had crash-landed. Now, were there the equivalent of 'lungs', to air-condition the ship...? She could barely make out something that looked like a cross between a huge calliope and a giant-sized bellows across the darkened room. That looked promising. "Unless you can pin-point the blast exactly," she continued, "you might take out the stomach wall along with the heart, before the self-destruct programming could come on-line, and that...would be bad...hmmm, I really think I have an idea."
"We could certainly use one of those about now," said Mulder, in regretful tones.
She turned to him, to tell him about her idea, but stopped. Somewhere along the line, when she wasn't looking, he'd apparently come to the conclusion that the Ghostbusters were right. Now he looked like a small boy on the verge of losing his puppy.. No, that wasn't right. It would be more apt to say he looked like a small boy on the verge of losing...his sister. "God, I'm so sorry, Mulder."
"S'OK." He shrugged. "I'm getting used to this unfinished-business thing. It's not like we haven't had this sort of thing happen to us before."
"It's *showtime*!" Beetlejuice, Humanbuster
7:40 PM-Fox Mulder
It was a helluva contraption, even Rube Goldberg would have been proud of it, if Mulder did say so himself. And he'd helped. They all had. God, he was depressed.
Through the gloom, he could see the glittering expanse of pipes that stretched from one side of the engine room to the other, connecting the calliope/bellows air-compression mechanism-or the ship's 'lungs', as Scully liked to refer to it-to the ship's pipes, or 'veins', leading to the deflated-looking goiter that acted as the ship's 'heart'. He was getting a bit woozy with all the bio-comparisons.
The 'lungs' were pumping but, like the 'heart', only just barely; hence, the oppressive, humid atmosphere in the ship's corridors. Either it was damaged or it simply did not have enough power to operate efficiently; they were betting on the latter. They'd almost given up on Scully's mad scheme when they realized they'd need a lot more power, until Spengler and Stanz had come up with a brilliant plan that utilized the nuclear particle accelerator in Venkman's proton pack as an alternate power source. "*Knew* it'd come in handy; nyahh, nyahh," was the ghost-busting psychologist's smug assertion. The two mad scientists had clucked and muttered over the power connections on one slide of the 'lungs' as, on the other side, Venkman and Zeddemore had done the 'plumbing' under Scully's direction. Her solution was devilishly complicated-yet also frighteningly simple. Bubbles of air, injected into the blood-stream leading to the heart, will stop that heart cold, in mid-pump. She proposed to inject some bubbles of air into this 'heart'.
"All right, it looks good," said Stanz. "We've slaved the circuitry in Peter's particle accelerator to the board with help from the last bit of alien knowledge we could dredge up from our memories. It's all pretty much faded now, like what happened to McCoy after he used the 'teacher' in that really bad episode, 'Spock's Brain'. God help us!"
"God helps those who help themselves," sighed Mulder. He'd dragged long, undamaged piping out from under damaged paneling, he'd searched for and found a box of alien engineering tools that helped them attach the pipes to the access ports, he'd even acted as a gofer for Stanz and Spengler without saying "Yes, mahster" in a bad Transylvanian accent even once-but he was damned if he was going to be cheerful about it.
"We're finished here, too," said Zeddemore. "It's a good job, it'll hold-you're a genius, Agent Scully!"
His partner smiled at the complement, but didn't seem convinced. "If it works, Mr. Zeddemore, I'm a genius. But if it doesn't...." She left the rest of the thought unspoken.
The same small group of humans that had stood on the alien bridge at odds with one another now stood united in a common cause, in the middle of what they'd done...in the middle of what they'd soon destroy. In theory, when Spengler pushed the button on Venkman's nuclear particle accelerator, the energy unleashed would jump-start the calliope/bellows mechanism, which would, theoretically, start pushing air through the pipes they'd attached to the access ports in the veins. Theoretically, the bubbles of air would push their way through the one-way valves in the access ports, then through the heavy liquid in the veins, and then, theoretically, to the heart. The theoretical bubbles of air would theoretically stop the heart. When the heart stopped, the ship's self-destruct mechanism would kick in, 'safely' destroying the ship before the energy in the 'stomach' could explode, taking part of Secaucus and most of Manhattan with it. Theoretically. Mulder felt a pang in his chest, feeling the loss as keenly as if she were already self-destructed. It almost equaled the pain he felt when he thought of his sister.
He leaned over to his partner and said, in a stage whisper, "This won't hurt a bit?", and she gave him a sympathetic look. Even Venkman seemed to recognize the small bit of gallow's humor for what it was; he reached across and patted the depressed Special Agent on the shoulder encouragingly.
"Hicks, hurry! I *mean* it!!!" Ellen Ripley, "Aliens"
7:45 PM-Egon Spengler
"Let us all be very clear on this," intoned Egon in his best, you'd-better-take-this-seriously-Peter-or-else manner. "When I throw this switch, we move out of here in as swift a fashion as possible. We have no idea how quickly the air-compressor will push the bubbles through the piping, nor do we have any idea just how much air it's going to take to stop the 'heart'. So we get *out*."
"Egon's right. Think 'fire drill'-move calmly, but quickly," agreed Ray. "Egon, I'll be leader, I still remember the way out pretty well. After you push the button, you can bring up the rear. Try not to trip."
Egon moved carefully over the uneven deck to the proton pack. The rest of the group stood near the exit, waiting. He hated to admit to the weakness, but he was glad they'd decided, without a need for discussion, that it was one for all and all for one-they'd entered as a group, and leave the same way. He didn't relish the idea of being alone in the engine room, not to mention having to make his way out of the ship on his own.
The blond scientist adjusted his red-rimmed glasses on his nose, contemplating the task before him. The act of pushing a button was simplicity itself but, as the alien urgency implanted in his mind diminished, he was beginning to find it a difficult act to commit. His eyes roved over the multiple connections from human-created nuclear accelerator to alien air-compression device; it shouldn't work, it couldn't work-but he knew it would. He also knew he was just stalling-possibly an unhealthy move, as they really had no idea when the 'stomach' walls would finally give way, to the city's great misfortune as well as their own. As a nuclear physicist, he knew there was no place in science for sentimentality, but he *did* regret the destruction of the fantastic ship. Dismissing the emotion, he pushed the button.
The nuclear particle accelerator sprang to life, the familiar hum starting on the low end of human hearing, building to a higher pitch as it warmed up. When it reached its highest pitch, it began to transferring power to the alien mechanism, which began to hum and warble on its own wave-length. Egon watched, utterly entranced. Lights raced each other across the face of the alien machine, the bellows on the other side groaned and heaved. He suddenly realized he could feel a breeze of clean, cooled air on his face and was looking around for the source, when he became vaguely aware of someone yelling his name.
"Wake up and smell the coffee!" Juan Valdez
7:48 PM-Fox Mulder
"Egon! Egon! For the love of...." Zeddemore waved his arms at the mesmerized nuclear physicist, desperately trying to get his attention. "What a time for a trip to la-la land!"
"What is with the man?" Mulder muttered, baffled. "This is the guy who warned us to get the hell out of here A.S.A.P., right? Dr. Spengler! Yo!"
"I think our Egon's in love," said Venkman. "Rather predictable, really."
Spengler turned and saw them, then came to life with an almost comical look of surprise on his face when he realized what was happening. Mulder was relieved to see the scientist start to pick his way across the engine room, his progress made easier by the fact that the ship's lights were coming on line, illuminating his way. But as Spengler got near the exit, the deck began to pitch and yaw beneath his feet and the terrifying scream of straining metal filled the air. "C'mon! Jump!" screamed Mulder, gesturing with his arms in case the message wasn't getting through. A look of panic etched on his features, Spengler launched himself over a pile of debris instead of going around it, to be grabbed in mid-air by the agitated FBI agent. "That's it," yelled Venkman over the noise. "Next time, *I* get to push the self-destruct button!"
They were all tossed about the ship's corridors and stairwells like dried peas in a jar as the ship shook with the assimilated power of the nuclear particle accelerator. Mulder made his way as best he could, aiding the fallen and being helped in turn when he lost his footing. Fortunately the walls seemed to be made of a shock-absorbing substance, and he and his companions managed to half-crawl, half-run their way to bridge without much more than a few bruises. The vari-colored stations that surrounded the captain's chair flashed on and off and a piercing whoop instantly recognizable as 'Red Alert' filled the bridge, urging all of them on like a herd of panicked cattle. Mulder gave Scully a sharp shove in the small of her back to go first through the crack in the hull. Apparently she wasn't about to waste time arguing with that bit of rough gallantry, because she ducked her head and exited. Bits of the ceiling came crashing down as each member of the group squeezed through and out after her, into the blessed twilight of a summer night; Stanz, then Zeddemore, Venkman, Spengler...and last came Mulder. He felt he owed that much to himself, to be the final passenger on the incredible alien ship-even if they'd never left the ground. He exited backwards, giving a last, longing look at what he'd helped destroy, then was outside and found himself on his knees on the grass. Someone grabbed his arm and hustled him away as the ship keened in its death-throws, but he couldn't see where he was going because of the tears in his eyes.
"This, too, shall pass." Dr. Crusher to a six-year-old Wesley, that time he swallowed the dilithium crystal.
8:10 PM-Peter Venkman
Peter dropped from the crack in the hull, almost landing on Winston, who rolled out of the way barely in time. He felt the spongy soil beneath his fingers and resisted the urge to give it a big kiss, rolling out of the way in turn to avoid getting Egon's big feet planted in his back. Getting his bearings, he looked up and saw Police Captain Meller hovering over the three proton packs he'd been left behind to guard, clutching his gun uselessly. The last of their expedition, that special agent guy, dropped to the ground, but he seemed to have gotten some smoke in his eyes; fortunately, the delectable Dana Scully kept her head and grabbed his arm, spinning him away from the ship. "Go! Go!" yelled Peter at the top of his lungs, unsure if anyone could hear him over the roar of the self-destructing ship and he stumbled in the captain's direction as the ground shook beneath him. He knew they had to put as much distance as possible between themselves and the ship before she blew, but wondered if it would be enough.
"Grab the packs, the proton packs! Aaaargh! Ya didn't grab the proton packs!" yelled Peter, bringing up the rear, but nobody listened to him-typical! He was, as a rule, not very happy when expensive equipment got left behind to be destroyed in world-shattering cataclysms. The psychologist managed to snag one of the heavy particle accelerators by a strap as he ran by, but couldn't carry all three.
Peter followed Captain Meller's broad back as the captain lead the group over the top of a small hill that might prove a shield against a blast. Tripping over a clump of crabgrass, the psychologist hit the dirt and dug in, covering his head with his arms as protection-but if the ship was going to take out most of the swamp and half of Manhattan, there was no way any of them were going to survive it.
He heard, rather than saw, the implosion that took the ship from them. There was a sound like a vast sucking-in of breath, a swift, in-rushing wind that blew over him towards the ship, an audible pop...and it was over. Silence. Slowly he peered out from behind his arms, to find himself face-to-face with the soft blue eyes of Agent Scully. She looked cute with a smudge of dirt across her nose and bits of grass in her hair, and he grinned at her and winked. She gave a lady-like snort of disdain and pulled herself to her knees, away from him. Women. You survive The End Of The World with 'em, and they still won't give you the time of day.
He picked himself up off the ground, shaking his arms and legs to check for damage, and saw the rest of the group doing likewise. Finding nothing more than bruises, he hefted the proton pack he'd rescued and walked back to the spot the ship had occupied, to find...nothing. Just a deep, scarred depression in the shape of a hemisphere, some broken trees, and the smell of burnt metal. His friends clustered around him and they all peered into the crater in silence. The self-destruct *had* kicked in, and had literally deleted the ship from its existence as a crashed and broken derelict on the planet. No 'primitives' would gain knowledge from it now.
"I *still* think it was bigger on the inside than it was on the outside-and now, it's a hole," said Peter, with some finality. He handed off the proton pack to a grave-looking Egon, who stood staring at the scorched grass they'd all been walking on mere moments ago. "This is yours, Egon, I'll be damned if I'm gonna lug it around for you after I saved it-and you're welcome." Egon took it from him with a grateful, if dazed, nod.
Winston bent down to pick up his proton pack, which had somehow escaped destruction. Ray's was not so lucky as it had been just over the line into the circle of destruction, and was now the source of the burnt metal smell. The occultist peeked into the abyss. "Wow! The ship just up and disappeared, the same way they did when they got zapped on that old TV show, 'The Invaders'!"
Agent Scully threw her hands sky-ward. "Thank you! Thank you, Dr. Stanz! If I heard one more Star Trek reference out of you gentlemen, I think I might have screamed!" she took the sting out of her words with a charming smile. "I'll cop to the occasional Star Trek-everyone's seen it, if only once. I never saw that show you mentioned, 'The Invaders'?...but I bet you did, Mulder."
Her partner laughed softly, as if at a private joke. "Yeah, I've seen it. However, I like to think I have a better sense of humor than David Vincent-he was the main character on the show and he was *grim*. Though I'll tell you, Scully, I can certainly understand his paranoia."
"I'm so sorry, Mulder," Scully shook her head in commiseration. Mulder just shrugged. Peter had to give the guy credit for guts.
It was past time to go. The ghost-busting psychologist picked up a couple of scattered ghost traps and clicked them onto his belt, and saw Ray do the same. It looked like Ray had gotten over his traumatic alien possession, but Peter made a mental note to run some tests on his resilient buddy, just to be sure. As the sun fell low in the summer sky and the stars slowly appeared at the edge of the eastern horizon, Captain Meller set out in the direction of their cars, and Peter, for once without a ready comment, fell in step behind him. He was tired, tired down to his bones-and he bet he wasn't the only one. He glanced over his shoulder to see that, of the entire group, only Mulder looked back as they left.
"Twenty, twenty, twenty-four hours to go
The Ramone's "I Wanna Be Sedated", early '80s rock anthem
The Great Falls Diner Secaucus, New Jersey
August 17, 1994 12:05 PM-Fox Mulder
Coffee, and lots of it, was definitely in order, and a stop at one of the great American diners of New Jersey was a must for both agents and all four Ghostbusters. They bid a relieved Captain Meller good-bye and drove to a local diner often frequented by the police and recommended to them by the good captain. Once there, they took over a large corner table and started swapping tall tales, all of which happened to be true, late into the night. The waitress, amused by her unusual clients, kept them well-stocked with strong brew, and swiftly trotted out a dazzling array of very fattening, home-baked desserts. Mulder knew he needed the caffeine and sugar after what he'd just been through.
"Have I mentioned I saw 'Silence of the Lambs' four times?" said Venkman across the table to Scully, still in there, pitching. "I have this thing about good-looking lady FBI agents." The guy was simply irrepressible.
His partner tilted her head sideways and regarded the confident Ghostbuster suspiciously out of narrowed eyes. "Uh, huh.... As long as you don't have a 'thing' about liver with fava beans and a nice chianti, Dr. Venkman." Her tone was decidedly guarded.
But Venkman refused to be rattled, and just grinned back at her. "Sure, I can take you to dinner-I know a great little Italian restaurant, it's on the West Side-no fava beans, but they do a great calf's liver in wine sauce. They don't know it, but they owe us big-time. But *now* is a strange time to be thinking about food; you just snarfed down three big helpings of apple pie." Score one for the Ghostbuster. Mulder was impressed.
Scully did not deign to answer, but favored Venkman with one of her patented "oh, yeah?" looks. Mulder marveled at how she could do more with less expression than anyone else he knew-and it was nice to see some one other than himself as the recipient of that silent, blue-crystal stare. He suspected that someone had once told her if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all, and she'd taken it completely to heart.
"'Primitives'...." said Mulder, picking up the thread of their conversation, "...that suggests they think of us as intelligent beings, albeit uncivilized ones, not just animals."
Spengler was apparently not persuaded. "Which means precisely nothing, Agent Mulder. They may well accord us the status of 'beings', but they might still cheerfully on experiment on us, enslave us, obliterate us."
"History has shown us that whenever we humans have destroyed our fellow humans, we've accorded the ones we've destroyed to a lower status, relegating them to non-humanity," Zeddemore mused. "Which may go to show these aliens are a lot more human than is gonna be healthy for us, should they ever decide to come back again." Mulder blinked at that last, but did not say anything, merely compressing his mouth into a line as if to keep his response inside.
"But they *were* very upset about the city being blown up-'*poor* humans', they said!" Stanz protested. "They were inside my head and I could *feel* how upset they were about it."
"Ray, anyone would feel bad if one's lab rats got stepped on. But it wouldn't put a dent in one's life for very long," Spengler said gently to his partner.
"Besides, they were looking through the eyes of a great humanist-Ray Stanz!" Zeddemore lifted his coffee cup in salute to his friend. "That may have merely been your take on how the aliens *should* have been feeling. Ray, you are, simply, a *good* man-they are not men, and even our ideas of 'good' and 'evil' may be, well...*alien* to them."
"Well, we missed our chance at the brass ring this time," Mulder sighed. "If we'd even had a chance to remove one piece of machinery, to study it. We're helpless, aren't we...they can, and *do*, do as they please with us. They've been here before. They'll be here again."
Scully sipped the last of the dregs in her cup, then pushed it from her. She looked like she'd had enough for one night. "Perhaps they mean us well in the big picture, perhaps what they're doing is for the best. Or not. It's...it's difficult, isn't it, to look at the sky, and not be more than a little frightened. We don't know what or why or who-we don't even know the right questions to ask. And it's the waiting, not knowing the truth, that's the hardest part."
"Well, ya know what they say, pretty lady," Venkman leaned towards Scully, raising his eyebrows to help make his point. "The truth *is* out there. Unfortunately, it just so happens to be *wa-a-ay* out there."
I hope you enjoyed my story! Please drop me a line!