GEMINI RISING
PART SEVEN

By Fritz Baugh


GBI Case File GBNY-1999-17/613
Null Zone
Intruder Alert...unauthorized rift detected from Planes 8932 Beta, 8932 Gamma, Sidereal code 0613-7-C-F

"How big is this place, anyway?" Winston asked, looking around, proton thrower primed.

"Literally as big as Nodus wants it to be." John answered. "It's kinda like the TARDIS from Doctor Who..."

"You guys still have Doctor Who in the future?" Ray couldn't help but ask, even in the middle of the current crisis.

"Heck yeah. Just wait till you see David Tennant..." John smirked.

"My brother has a fascination for many things created in England..." Eden said enigmatically, then studied some readings on her GBX.

"In other words, to get back on point, there could literally be assloads of those Robo-Freaks..." Venkman rolled his eyes.

Three Robo-Busters appeared from behind the corner. Winston and Venkman levelled their guns...

Egon raised his hand, signalling his friends not the fire.

Bio-Scan verification: Nodus, Albert Einstein; Nodus, Marie Curie

"Of course..." Eden realized. "They think we're Nodus's 'children'. Since technically, they are divergent temporal duplicates of us..."

Awaiting Orders

"Escort us and our...prisoners to Mister Nodus." John stepped forward, barking the order imperiously. "This is a priority order!"

Acknowledged The Robo-Busters' gun housings closed. Follow us, Master Nodus.

"Y'know, when I was about seven I plotted to build a bunch of killer robots to take over the world..." John smirked, drawing a smack to his elbow from Eden.

They were led, after an interval they couldn't somehow measure, to a place that made all of them gasp. All five of them had looked into the Ecto Containment Unit more than once--Egon had, in fact, journeyed inside it years ago.

The resemblance to the shifting energies and swirling choas of the Null Zone's core was unmistakeable.

"Wow..." Ray breathed.

"I wonder..." Egon started to muse. "The concentration of PKE caused the interior of the Containment Unit to dimensionally invert...the 'Null Zone' could be a very similar phenomenon..."

Pollux looked at her hand. "Curious..." she said, as she noticed a vague static haze, orangish in color...and realized Romulus was showing it too.

"Astute observation, Professor Egon Spengler..." the voice seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere. "It's a sign of your brilliance, actually, creating a Null Zone in your basement before anyone even knew what one was..."

Five proton guns were at the ready. "YOU PIGF***ING SON OF A BITCH!!!" Janine shouted. "I want my children!!!" It's only the fact that there was nothing to shoot at that had kept her from doing so already.

"Your pathetically limited mind has no clue how important your offspring are." Nodus's voice sneered.

Around them, the world then exploded in red agony. One set of shadowy memories from the split universes became newly-clear: the painful attacks on them by Albert and Marie Nodus. It was like living both of those attacks again, but cranked up to eleven...

For all but one.

Egon looked around, confused. His wife, his friends, had been thrown back and utterly agonized by the attack. Romulus and Pollux--his own children, from a future that was by no means certain at this moment--were closer; dazed, knocked for a loop, but not nearly as viciously as the others.

From the red haze, Josiah Nodus swirled into being.

Egon aimed his thrower.

Nodus gestured with his right arm. A very familiar click and whine was emitted. "I believe the phrase is 'total protonic reversal'...do you wish to take that risk?"

Egon moved the nozzle of the thrower away from Nodus, but did not holster it. "When my wife gets her hands on you, she will kill you. And I won't stop her."

Nodus shook his head. "How far you've fallen...strutting and threatening like any wild animal whose young have been taken from them."

"You have..." Egon snarled. "It's not just a powerful instinct--it's an extremely logical one..."

"What do you know of logic anymore?!" Nodus shouted back. "You sold out any claim to that when you were distracted from your mission by base emotion. When you decided that wallowing in your misery was more important to you than embracing your potential. When you allowed the sharpness of your mind to be dulled by your heart."

Egon glared at his accuser. "I know my feelings are far more logical than tearing the universe into two bastardized parodies."

Nodus looked about him. "One for each Twin, of course. But that was only the beginning..."

"Of what?"

Nodus didn't answer him. "More of Delphia and Ulforce's meddling..." he sneered, looking at John and Eden. "They're like you--an utter waste of their true potential."

"As opposed to those cold hearted monsters wearing their faces?" Egon replied. "Where are my children, Nodus?"

"Better off." Nodus answered. "My Nodus Twins are power incarnate. Far more than these damaged, blunted specimens. But I suppose that is to be expected--they were raised around a superstitious barbarian, a libertine conniver, and an emotionally unbalanced idiot, by their overwrought mother and their debased father."

"Edie..." John groaned, reaching for his sister.

"Don't call me Edie..." Eden replied.

"Is it just me or does this seem vaguely familiar?"

"Like when I was in Nodus...Albert Nodus's office. His attack scattered most of us...Mother and Father less...and I was all but unaffected."

"Except this time Mom got thrown too..." John mused. "And we got the lesser damage...and Pop..."

"Unngh..." Ray moaned, wishing the ringing in his ears would fade faster. "That's either the second or third time today...and it wasn't any more fun. Winston, you all right?"

"No." Winston groaned, even though he knew how this gag was going to go.

"Peter?" Ray asked.

"I'm fine." Venkman replied, clearly in pain.

Egon spared a quick look at his wife and friends. They were all right, apparently. "You seem to think you know an awful lot about us..." He and Nodus were circling each other...like two lions waiting for the right moment to strike.

"I know you better than you would ever think possible. I know you--all of you--because I've seen your lives unfold before." Nodus answered "I come from a time in the future...your histories are as familiar to me as the Periodic Table. Or they should be."

Venkman helped Janine back to her feet. "You okay?"

"I will be as soon as I kill that motherf***er..." She saw Egon was all right...and the future versions of her Twins...but the Robo Busters were starting to surround them, to keep them from interfering.

Nodus exhaled, a note that sounded like...weariness coming into his voice. "And yet...you have become nothing like the Peter Venkman, Raymond Stantz, Winston Zeddemore, Egon Spengler, and Janine Melnitz I knew. Everything has not happened as it did in the timeline I lived."

"All because of one choice that was made, a choice that made everything different." Nodus shook his head. "Raymond Stantz married and had a son. Peter Venkman is still alive."

"What does this have to do with my children?" Egon asked.

"Everything." Nodus replied.

Winston's brow furrowed.

"I'm dead?" Venkman sputtered. "This f***ing sucks..."

Ray smacked him.

"Ow!"

"If you felt that you're not dead, Peter."

The Robo Busters circled the Ghostbusters.

"Priority Alpha Password Invocation; Verify Voiceprint Josiah Nodus."

"Voiceprint Verified. Priority Alpha Password Mode Activated"

"The Robo Busters will now listen to me and me alone until I give them the order not to." Nodus glanced at John and Eden. "To prevent any more confusion on their part until this matter is resolved."

"You got us by the balls, fine." Venkman nodded angrily. "Just what the f*** do you want?! If you were Pecker or Draverhaven or Blaque I might understand why you were doing this...but Egon and Janine or any of the rest of us never did anything to you..."

"It's all about the future. And the past, Peter Venkman. A grand scheme that was set in motion while our ancestors were still less than chattering monkeys. A mystery--a prophesy that wouldn't come true, a question that could not be answered, a destiny that was denied the world. A question...that has led to the most unexpected of answers. All springing from another choice. From a different destiny denied."

"Let me tell you...let me show you something." Nodus gestured, and the space around them went dark. "You want to see the truth? Here is the day the choice was made...the day everything I had known about the destiny of the Ghostbusters became wrong. June 8, 1993."

Janine heard Egon inhale.

"I see the date is of significance to you?" Nodus smirked.

"It was the tenth anniversary of the day Ghostbusters fully opened for business." Ray noted. "Ten years after I bought the ECTO-1..."

"Ten years after Dana became our very first client." Venkman added.

"Yes...but what other significance did this day hold?" Nodus gestured, and shapes appeared in the ether...

Nodus Imagonem
Egon Spengler jiggled the mouse to call up the display on his computer. After checking the weather, he noticed an alert...

Alert: Flag for Public Records

Egon grimaced. He'd set his computer to keep track of the public records databases--he just found himself unable to believe his friends would continue to notify him as to weddings, and births...but he unavoidably just had to know

Specify target hit?

Melnitz, Janine

His blood froze cold. What if something had happened to her? Again?

No. She'd endured enough bad luck for two life times. With him out of her life certainly this must be good news...

He inhaled. And clicked the link


Slimer picked through the remains of the breakfast Egon had dumped on the bed. It wasn't Slimer's bed, really--it was the bed Peter Venkman had occupied off and on for eight years.

He knew he should be hungrier...he had always been hungry, for as long as he could remember...but lately...and it wasn't because Peter went away...it happened before then...

He was startled out of his lethargy by a loud crashing.

"YOU BITCH!!!" he heard Egon's voice shout, in an anger that unnerved him. Egon was never that angry. He was never angry, period.

There was a feral shout, and more crashing sounds. Glass breaking, electronic devices being smashed...Slimer hid under the bed, and whimpered mournfully.


Egon surveyed the wreckage that had once been his laboratory, his breaths deep and labored. The desk chair he'd sat in had been thrown against one of the book cases full of assorted electronic gear and test tubes. Several more items he'd grabbed and hurled into the wall.

State of New Jersey Marriage License Filed June 6, 1993

Tully, Louis B.

Melnitz, Janine

"Oh Adonai..." Janine whispered. That was all she could say.

John and Eden looked at each other, feeling distinctly uncomfortable at the thought of their mother being married to the man they spent their childhoods calling "Doo Doo Head".

"Nothing to say, Egon Spengler?" Nodus queried.

"Rifling through those old memories is going to accomplish what?" Egon replied.

"Context." Nodus answered. "After that, you were travelling with Kirillian, and were brought into a dimensional null zone, where you passed three tests."

Egon's blood ran cold. A thought or two started to come together. "Sarim-Lar? Is that what this is all about?" His eyes narrowed. "You work for him, testing me again? Or are you Lar itself, adopting human form?"

"Perceptive guesses, Egon Spengler...but wrong." Nodus answered. "But he was known to me...I was once his apprentice, just as you would've been...had you followed the course I had forseen for you."

"Who the f*** is Sarim-Lar?" Venkman grumbled.

"Observe, and you shall see..." Nodus replied. "Let our drama continue..."

Nodus Imagonem
Egon didn't know for how long he fell, but when he hit the floor, it wasn't hard enough to kill or even seriously injure him, but hard enough he was dazed for a few seconds.

Excellent, Egon Spengler...you passed the tests. As I knew you would, of course...they were, after all, only a formality...

"You said the testing was over..." he finally said, pulling himself off the floor. The room was filled with darkness, but he could hear something...something moving...

I know of your history, Egon Spengler...I didn't think you would take this seriously if I didn't indulge in some theatrics...allow me to introduce myself...

There was a blaze of violet light, and from that light something that would have no doubt horrified a lesser man appeared. It looked like a giant anthropomorphic beetle, with a maroon carapace, standing some seven feet high. Its head, though, was bloated, with a huge, pulsating brain apparently having broken through its helmet-like covering. Four of its limbs resembled arms, but the last two were thicker, and more resembled legs...and were covered in a rather incongrous garment that looked, for all the world, like khaki cargo pants.

At the center of its "chest" was a glyph that looked carved in...two sets of circles joined together, reminding Egon of nothing so much as some crude representation of a hydrogen atom.

"You may call me...Sarim-Lar. I am the Lord of the Izumo, the Voice of Knowledge, and Warrior of the Thunders. I have watched you for many years...and I have been curious." As the creature spoke, it adjusted the other incongruous feature of its appearance--the thick, blocky (almost Buddy Holly looking) eyeglasses under it's protruding brain.

"Oh?"

"I have had dealings with the Council of Eight before...and with Spelger-Noge, he who is known to you as the Master of Shadow. When word reached me that he had been defeated and bound by one of the monkey-creatures on this lowly planet, I understandably grew curious..."

"I have watched you since then, through eight turnings of your world about it's star. And you have proven more than a worthy apprentice..."

Egon took a few seconds to process this. "Apprentice?"

"I am the Voice of Knowledge...and it is my calling to speak that Knowledge to the worthy...and you are worthy. With the tools of your science, you have rent the Gauntlet seperating the dimensions, and have reshaped the way your world views itself. It is your intellect that has proven key to protecting your world from the eldrich horrors that beset it as the new Age begins...from the Shapeless Destructor, to even the primal Lords of the Xodiac itself."

"I offer you the key to transcendance...to reshape the world by the force of your will, to know all that you wish to know--and far more. The answers to questions you haven't even yet known to ask..."

Egon's head was spinning...he could somehow sense it...the truth in Sarim-Lar's words. Ultimate knowledge? To know the answers to questions he hadn't even known to ask yet?

It would be everything he'd spent his life thirsting for.

But still...

"It has been my experience that such things seldom come without...a price." he finally replied.

"And that is why I have waited, Egon Spengler. I could see your bright potential....but that transcendant intellect of yours is crippled and stifled by the base emotions that still grip your mortal heart. The savage in you, and its affections for the other mud creatures that crawl on this world. The animal in you gripped by its primal urge to mate."

Egon inhaled deeply.

"You have long known, deep down, that these feelings...these animal passions, were what restrained you. You have often wished to unchain yourself from them....forget the tiresome bonds to the chattering creatures who shared your domicile, but not your world. Forget the scarlet-tressed succubus that toyed with your yearnings, but quickly brushed you aside for a specimen far your inferior."

The beetle creature moved close.

Egon felt the burning...the others? The ones who distracted him for so long...the ones imprisoned by their ignorances, their petty preconceptions...imprisoned by their lusts and foolishness...

The one who had walked out of his life...and had just married Louis Tully.

“Accept my offer, Egon Spengler. I will purge you of the fetters of emotion...that vast mind of yours will be free at last, and with it....you will reshape reality itself...I offer you the Universe. And all that is required, is the leave your World behind...”

The creature extended a hand. A ball of violet light crackled there, the power that would begin Egon Spengler’s transformation. Ultimate knowledge.

Ultimate understanding

To have the pain go away

The pain.

Peter

Raymond

Winston

Janine

Egon could see it. The light of Knowledge, the light of Reason, the light he had been chasing since he was able to even formulate thought.

To be free of the humanity...to be nothing but Knowledge...to live nothing but Reason...

His hand closed on the glowing orb...

"I accept."

Damn you to hell, Bitch...

When his hand grasped the orb, the world filled with sparkling electric fire. Every cell of his body writhed in pain. But his mind...

His mind sang.

He could see it. The dance of atoms. The flow of energies. He saw how they fit together. In moments, he found the Grand Unification Theory that other men had spent decades searching for in vain.

It. All. Makes. Sense. Now.

But then he felt it. An anguished cry within his soul. A red fire that fought the effort to extinguish it. The words of Phineus Eventide came unbidden. Red is your Passion, your love of knowledge, your love of your brothers in arms, and your love for the one your heart has chosen as its own. Unlock that Passion, and unlock your true destiny...

NO!!! his mind forcefully shouted.

Passion is a curse. It is a weakness. Love is a lie to justify the basest urges of the animal mind. Friendship is a construction of mutual weakness to ensure survival. Eventide was a fool. Venkman, Stantz, Mother. They're all fools. All weak, pathetic fools.

Knowledge is strength. Knowledge is power. Logic, Reason, these are the keys to Knowledge. Passion is a denial of knowledge. Passion only shackles the mind to animal urges. Passion is useless to a true Scientist.

I deny this foolishness.

I DENY LOVE!!!

And with one last whimper, the red fire went out...

He picked himself off the floor, the man who had once been Egon Spengler. He opened his eyes, and stared at Sarim-Lar. While the gaze was no less intense than before, it was now colder than ice.

Were his features capable of showing it, the Voice of Knowledge would look pleased. "Now, my apprentice...time for you to begin to really learn."

Egon felt his throat dry up. The weird corrupted version of what he went through brought back more than one memory...and more than one question.

"You really..." Janine asked, unable to avoid the question. "You really thought of all of us that way?"

Egon couldn't lie to her. "At that moment...right after I'd found out about you marrying Louis, and nobody had made any apparent move to stop it...I did." He looked at her.

If I'd known I'd have f***ing stopped it... Venkman mused to himself, a flash of the old bitterness returning.

Egon looked at all of them. "But it didn't happen that way. I refused Sarim-Lar...and it was because of you...because of all of you...that I refused."

"But in the history I knew, Egon Spengler...you did accept." Nodus interjected. "You became the Lord of the Izumo's apprentice. He even called you a new name...to remove you from your previous life..." Nodus strode a few steps as he spoke. "You learned a great many things. One of them was the mystery that brought me here...a mystery I had learned from him just as you had..."

"Now we're getting somewhere..." Winston said. There was an idea forming in his mind, now...an idea that was, at the one hand, made almost every piece of information he had fall neatly into place. But on the other hand, it was so absurd...unthinkable...

Horrifying.

Nodus Imagonem
In the ancient myths of Atlantis, they told of a great War of the Gods, long before man arose...Vulguus the Traveler, and the Firey One, Hob-Annagarik, covetted the land known as Earth. The birthworld of your physical form, Knot.

The Great Beasts, enormous lizards that made the ground shake like thunder, were the prize. Both sought them for a grand army...but in their violence and zeal, they destroyed that which they sought to posess.

The dinosaurs? Sixty five million years ago, they were wiped out by a grand disaster. Current concensus was that a giant asteroid struck the Earth in the Yucatan, causing a "nuclear winter."

In the aftermath, Vulguus was shorn of his very form...

Vulguus Zildrohar. Gozer the Gozarian. I know of him. And of Hob-Annagarik.

Yes...of that I am aware. Which is why I tell you of this...for there is a conundrum in this story, a mystery I have yet to unravel...

A mystery?

After the death of the dinosaurs, and the censure of Vulguus, it is written that Xodiac, the Keeper of the Twelve Keys of Magic, rent his form into ether, and spread his essence throughout the very fabric of the Universe.

Fascinating. This Atlantean lore is something new to me. Much has been written about Atlantis's fate, but only fragments in legend.

The Atlanteans maintained that it was only after Xodiac destroyed himself, that sentience was brought to mortal life.

The Greek legend of Prometheus. He brought fire to mortal men, and was condemned by the Gods for it.

It can be assumed, that the Gods were, indeed, not happy.

They never are when mortals aquire knowledge. The Greek gods punished Prometheus. The Abrahamic God forbid his creation to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. Gods fear what would happen if the mortals became wise to their ways.

You seem disdainful...

Thus far, I have never met a God too far removed from the thirst for destruction. Even the most 'benevolent' glory in their own power and superiority to the humans I used to protect.

But you spoke of a mystery...

Yes...it is said, then, that though Xodiac was no longer, in his essence...ingrained in the pattern of mortal life itself, retained the power of his Twelve Keys. The essence of his power, and his universal understanding. The Atlanteans became convinced of the power of Xodiac, influenced by the very shape of the skies around them.

They ingrained the Twelve Principles in their lore. They spoke of the seven Grand Lights, which reflected his power...Helios, Selene, Hermes, Aphrodite, Ares, Zeus, and Chronus. And the subtle power of the Other Lights--Oranos, Triton, and Hades...

The planets? At least as defined by ancient astrology...the Sun is a class G2 yellow star, while the moon is a satellite... Then the Twelve Keys? The signs of the Zodiac.

Yes. Xodiac. Zodiac. The Twelve Keys survived in Atlantean science...but when the continent sank beneath the waves only the rudiments of that knowledge survived. The Sumerians and later the Greeks adapted it to their own cosmology...but only the echoes of the grand Atlantean truth.

But ingrained in sentient life are these twelve principles...the four Elements...the Wind, the domain of the Mind. The Water, the domain of Emotion. The Earth, the domain of Matter. And the Fire, the domain of Energy. And each, then, in three states...the Primordial state, raw and unformed....the Dynamic state, creating or destroying...and the Steady state, formed into pattern and resolute. Combined, the domains and the states produce the twelve principles.

The signs of the Zodiac. Aries: Cardinal Fire...

The Dynamic Fire in the Atlantean system...

Scorpio. The Fixed Water sign.

The Steady Waters

Gemini. The Mutable Air sign.

Gemini of the Primordial Wind....appropriate that you mention it...

Oh?

I am getting ahead of myself...but here is the beginning of the conundrum: Not long after Atlantis formed, twelve of their people suddenly fell ill. When they awoke, they invoked the names of the Twelve Principles. Twelve people, each invoking one Principle. They gathered, and tried to destroy Atlantis...but were opposed by a woman called the Forever Swimmer, who had brought together several gifted magi. They convinced the Twelve Avatars that Atlantis was worthy of survival...and the Twelve abandoned their bodies, leaving Atlantis in peace--but only until the turning of a new Age. In two millenia, they would return...

I sense comprehension?

Two years before I came here...something very much like you describe occured at Stonehenge. Twelve avatars--including some people known to my past self--were taken. We stopped them, but both Eventide and that other mage, Fallagar, called them the Zodiac Lords...or should that be Xodiac Lords?

Then you heard the prophesy of the Five Who Are One...

At the Cusp of Oranos, the Stars Will Seek Judgement
The Twelve stand Marked by their Destinies
The Five Who Are One Will Stand United Against Them
And then, When the Enigma Is Revealed
They Will Stand United with the Restless Warrior
And Secure the Destiny of Hermes,
Thus the Ascension of the Children of the Twelve..."

They were talking about....the Ghostbusters. The four of them. And the woman who served them. It sounded important--is it? And if so, what does it mean?

That, my dear Knot, is the conundrum...

We fulfilled our destiny when it came to halting the Xodiac Lords. So there is more?

If the words are to be believed, yes...I believe that "Destiny of Hermes" refers to the missing Childe of Xodiac. That is something else you may not have heard about, so let me tell you...

The Xodiac Lords are the twelve Principles embodied as spirits. Powerful spirits. But there is another manifestation of the Xodiac principles--the Children of Xodiac. The Children are born of human blood, but in each of them, one of the principles takes root. The Children are still human...but with a touch of the spirits in them.

They live for millenia--indeed, the oldest of them, the Forever Swimmer, the one born under the sign of the Primordial Waters--is one of the first true humans ever born on that world. The Lord of the Primordial Fire is almost as old. The Lady of the Dynamic Earth and the Lord of the Steady Wind are known to you; she was born in ancient, dead Atlantis, while he was a child of Medieval Germany. Indeed, it has been suggested that, while they are killable, they will never die of old age or "natural" cause.

Immortality?

Perhaps. But here is the missing piece: only eleven have been born into the world. The Twelfth--the one to be born with the power of the Primordial Wind--has not manifested as yet. Gemini, ruled by the power of Mercury--Hermes. Only then will the circle will be complete. Only then will the Children of Xodiac begin their true quest for Ascension.

Ascension? And what does that entail?

Not even they know. They each have their own pet ideas, I've gathered--some think this means they will become unified, and lead Earth to a new, higher state of being. Some think it will mean the Twelve must war on each other, leaving only One...

Hm. Sounds like a movie Ray forced me to watch once...

One, the Lady of the Steady Waters, works to bring about the destruction of the world. She assumes that once the circle is complete, it will trigger some manner of apocalypse--and that is not impossible that she is correct.

Then somehow...the Five of us were to be instrumental in the creation of Lord Gemini. The daemonseed, Shannon Phillips, was posessed by the Gemini force.

Yes...but Shannon Phillips is not Lord Gemini. And we know it will be a male child, because the five signs that are classified as male--Aries, Leo, Libra, Saggitarius, and Aquarius--were embodied in male Children, while the six female signs--Taurus, Cancer, Virgo, Scorpio, Capricorn, and Pisces--produced female Children.

Is that why I was chosen? Because of my own link to his mystery?

No. You were chosen because you are the finest mind your world has seen in at least a century. But as one indeed linked to this mystery...I would think it would make discovering the truth all the more important to you.

Indeed, Master Lar...I will uncover the truth. I will find Lord Gemini.

"Lord...Gemini?" Johnathan Christopher Spengler inhaled. His sister grabbed his hand, and held it tight.

"Yes..." Nodus said. "The great conundrum that eluded Sarim-Lar. If the Ghostbusters defeated the Xodiac Lords, then where is their role in the creation of Lord Gemini? It is a question that weighed heavily on the man now known as Knot..." He turned away once more. "He searched...and found nothing. He began to doubt his master's 'wisdom'...and on a rather peculiar day, he made a particularlly peculiar decision." He looked back at them. "June 13, 1999."

"Today..." Eden pointed out.

"Yes. It seems today is fated to be one of destiny for Egon Spengler no matter which world he lives in..."

Nodus Imagonem
Sarim-Lar staggered...his massive form reeling, like he'd been punched in the gut by a creature even more massive than he was.

"It's...it's gone wrong!!!"

He didn't know how. He didn't know why. But something was terribly wrong.

"Knot!!!"

In a burst of light, his apprentice appeared. "You called, Master Lar?"

"I felt an undulation in the time stream...something has gone wrong. This was the day the stellar alignments pointed to--a day somehow linked to the Ascension and Lord Gemini. But it's not going to happen..."

"The Ascension will fail?"

"Yes..." Sarim-Lar shook his large head. "I can sense the flow of probabilies going awry...whatever was supposed to happen today, did not happen. And it never will."

"Unfortunate." Knot replied. "It means you have failed."

Sarim-Lar barely had time to register Knot's words before being staggered back by a blast of pure force.

"Failure means you are no longer the Lord of Knowledge, Sarim-Lar." The massive creature looked up to see his apprentice brandishing a weapon, clearly based on the technology Knot had used in his mortal days. "You are a waste of the title. Perhaps it is time for another--one who will succeed where you failed!!!" He blasted the Lord of the Izumo again.

Sarim-Lar had been blindsided. So wrapped up in unravelling the mystery he never forsaw this. "Knot...Spengler...how could you?!"

"Don't. Use. That name." Knot seethed. "This is my puzzle to solve now, and solve it I shall. Without your inept help."

Sarim-Lar knew he was done for. Knot had defeated greater beings than him while a mere human...now, with his knowledge and the power it brought him...

His last thought, as he was blasted into oblivion...was of the life--and the mate--he had left behind to pursue his own enlightenment. How foolish that suddenly seemed...

It hit Egon like ice water. He felt Janine's fingernails dig into his arm. She's realized it too...

Winston looked at him. Egon could see it in the older man's eyes--He'd probably guessed it first...

Nodus looked at them. "But even then, he could not find out the answer. The mystery remained unsolved. Finally, he made a decision--if he could not find the answers in his present, he would find them in the past. But first...one last moment of indulgence. One last remembrance of the man he'd once been..." Nodus snapped his fingers. "June 8, 2003..."

Nodus Imagonem
It had been years since he had set foot on this world. Ten, to be exact.

But unbenownst to Sarim-Lar...he had scried upon it from time to time.

He had seen, when his mortal identity had been declared "dead", Raymond Stantz quitting his job at Stanford, returning to New York and taking posession of Ghostbusters Central. Stantz had even taken over Egon Spengler's duties at New York City Community College.

He had seen the woman...thrown into depression at just the moment she had finally liberated herself from him. Two years of drunkeness and depression...but since then happiness, of a sort, with the cockroach Tully.

He'd watched as the ebb of quintessence ended, when Ray and four students were forced to reactivate the banner of Ghostbusters due to the awakening of Achira.

And he'd watched as...

I shouldn't be doing this...this is far too much of a throwback to everything I left behind...

Knot stared for a moment at the gravestone.

Peter Charles Venkman, PhD
October 25, 1954
November 28, 1997

Idiot. You kept trying to pull me down to your own base level...become more "human"...but look where that got you. Look where ignoring that has gotten me. I am far more powerful, far more knowledgeable, than I ever would've been crawling in the gutters of "humanity" like you wanted me too...

He was about to turn and leave when he heard a voice. "...so glad all of you could make it today..." a forlorn female voice said.

"There was no way we were gonna miss this, Dana." a voice that was still tenor, but somewhat scratched from age and tobacco, replied.

"We owe it to you--and to him." a firmer, deeper voice added.

And he heard the voice he dreaded most of all, making no noise except a gasp. She's seen me...

He pulled into the power within him, and his face reshaped itself. Younger, with darker hair, a goatee and mustache appearing. Close enough that, perhaps, they could be forgiven for mistaking him, at first glance, for a man they believed dead--but quite clearly not that man.

He turned to face them. The redheaded woman stopped, the light of hope fading back out of her eyes. "Adonai...I'm sorry...for a moment...I thought..."

"Thought what?" he asked. "Am I intruding?"

Dana stepped forward, a sullen fifteen year old boy and ten year old girl close to her. "Not at all...it's just from the back, you looked like someone we used to know. Er, did you know my husband?"

"I attended college with Doctor Venkman and Doctor Spengler." he replied simply, turning back away. Fighting off disgust at the sight...particullarly of the dweeby little man and the droopy, redhaired four year old girl with him.

"Huh..." Ray said. "I don't remember you..."

"You wouldn't."

Winston looked about ready to punch the rude man, but thought better of it. His wife and his ten year-old daughter were nearby.

Children. Family. Pfagh. Ignorant breeders. Knot thought to himself.

"It was twenty years ago today it all started..." Ray said sadly. "And ten years ago today we lost Egon..."

"And over five since Peter died in that car crash..." Dana shook her head, the tears starting to form.

"We've got a new team of Ghostbusters, but it just isn't the same." Ray continued. "Egon and Peter should be here, not..."

He'd had enough. "I am going to be ill...all of you wallowing in your pathetic lusts and emotions, only concerned with your own pains. Where were you when he was in pain? You all turned your backs on him. You especially." He pointed at Janine.

She took a step back, shocked. "How would you..."

"You found solace with this...wretch."

Louis gulped, then spoke up. "Now wait a..."

"And what did any of you do?" Knot gestured, sneering at the rest of those assembled. "He made a decision that had to be made, and all of you turned on him. You backed away. When she stabbed him in the back, made a lie of all of her pathetic declarations of love, none of you spoke up on his behalf!"

"Now just a darn minute..." Winston snarled, fists clenched. Janine looked ready to either cry or murder the man--possibly both.

"But it's just as well." Knot smirked. "The man you knew as Egon Spengler has evolved into a higher being--one he never would've become without your betrayal. It untied his fetter to this pathetic mudball. Mourn him not--because he certainly doesn't miss any of you!!!"

Winston lunged...wife and daughter present be damned, he wasn't going to let this man insult his dead friend's memories any longer.

But he never made contact. He bounced off a forcefield.

Knot gestured with his left arm, and a glowing doorway appeared. He stepped through it, leaving his old life behind forever...

...But not before one last look at her. And he realized, despite his best efforts...she knew who he once was.

The core was, to invoke a cliche, so quiet a pin drop could've been heard.

The face of "other" Egon had warped and distorted into a face they all recognized.

The face of Josiah Nodus.

"And thus...he was ready for the last step..." Nodus said.

Nodus Imagonem
It is almost time.

I would allow myself a moment of satisfaction, but that would be a human response. A human feeling. And I have divorced myself from the burdens of human feeling long ago.

I am a creature of logic. Reason is my forte. The messy thrall of sentimentality will not hinder my plans.

I stride around my laboratory. Maybe I will allow just the faintest ember of satisfaction after all...

My pride in this place would be justified, after all. It is a pocket continuum, filled with all of the paraphernalia I will need to carry out my objectives.

It hadn't been easy.

I literally willed this place into being; even in my feeling days, I could grasp the concept in a way no other human alive could, save perhaps one, and with the full force of my transcendance I learned what I needed to warp this reality to my whim. I have created the perfect laboratory and staging base.

But I needed more power to accomplish my perfection.

I pull on the mask, black with a red visor. Interlaced into it are various sensors and detectors, allowing me to observe several different bands of the electromagnetic spectrum all at once. It will also protect me from the intrusion of...unwanted psychic senses. Spengler's equipment I've already taken into account...it was, after all, my own.

The bodysuit is also shielded. It resembles cloth, but carries the protection of an intermeshed material of my own invention, more powerful than kevlar, and expressly designed to disperse the power of an alpha particle ion stream...

The vest and coat are of a look I would describe as "techno-Edwardian", but an anachronistic look is one I have favored since my human days. It is, again, armored against all attacks I could conceive being thrown against me.

And then the gauntlets. Packed into them is a significant amount of firepower, more than sufficient for the task at hand: I could even bust ghosts with it, ironically enough.

I pull the garb into place. After a series of checks, I determine that all is operating nominally.

"Plot dimensional jump to plane 8932 Alpha, Sidereal code 0701-7-C-6"

confirmed. access point?

"Primary access point. Grossjuck Plaza." Maybe there's a touch of irony in me still...Paul Smart's crumbled empire will serve my needs perfectly. And with one year remaining until the Zodiac Lords appear, I will have plenty of time to get my pieces in place

confirmed. dimensional shunt online. awaiting final order.

"Execute"

The shimmering gate appears. On the other side, an empty, closed office can be seen. It will be so easy, and so perfect, to make use of Paul Smart's crumbled domain to mask my true intentions.

I spare one last thought to the ones I left behind. My friends and colleagues. The woman who brought me such ecstacy and such heartbreak. They would never have approved of this action...but they lost any say into my life when they stabbed me in the back. I sneer a last curse at all of them, and angrily push them back out of my mind---wallowing in emotion will serve no use when my plan is so close to bearing fruit.

I step into the gate. The destiny of the universe begins today.

So swears...

Hm...what am I now?

Yes...

So swears Nodus...

"And so he went back into time...to 1990. Made a fortune in the stock market--he knew, after all, which way the stocks would go, because to him it was all recorded history. And he watched...and he waited...he watched the Ghostbusters from afar, and everything unfolded exactly as he'd seen the first time. Egon Spengler became Knot. Knot destroyed Sarim-Lar. Knot went back in time to try to find out what went wrong with the Ascension."

"I don't..." Ray rasped, his throat barely wanting to make the effort of speech. "I don't believe this..."

"Do you understand what it was like? Seeing it all happen over and over again? Failing?! Over and over again?!" Nodus pulled himself upright. "I observed the sequence of events unchanged ten times. I began to wonder if I'd trapped myself in some manner of causal loop. I've lived for over one hundred fifty years..."

The false face of Nodus faded away. The hair was white, but the goatee was still there. The face was lined, but still recognizable--to a one, they realized it drove home his resemblance to Egon's uncle, Cyrus Spengler. But it was unquestionably also the same face as the younger, cleanshaven Egon Spengler standing not ten feet away from him...save for the eyes.

His cold, dangerous blue eyes.

"And finally, I realized my error. I am a scientist. I must investigate. On my last unsuccessful venture, I intervened. I arranged for the Ghostbusters to go to Romania and meet Lord Saggitarius. I obtained a sample of the Gemini Force from the Avatar." Nodus shook his head. "And still the Ascension failed. Until I came back one last time. Until..."

He glared at Egon. "You chose differently. You turned Sarim-Lar down. You changed everything. You returned to your mundane life...Raymond Stantz stayed in California, and married. You formed the Extreme Ghostbusters to battle Achira..." He looked at Janine. "You returned to him." He looked at Venkman. "And instead of dying in a Thanksgiving auto accident, on November 28, 1997, you were in New York City." He spared looks at Ray and Winston. "And all five of you returned to Ghostbusters International. The Five Who Are One became One once again." He finally looked back at Egon and Janine. "And you two, even more than that."

"Ockham's Razor..." Winston shook his head. "I remember how Egon was confused back in '91 when you 'avoided' his PKE meter by generating an 'interference pattern' with his own essence. It wasn't a trick, though. You are Egon, but not our Egon. An older, bitter Egon Spengler.

"You've become intimately familiar with alternate universes of late, Zeddemore..." Nodus answered. "This is not much different."

"And not just any dimension...this is listed in the Chronomantic Archives of the Council of Eight as Timeline 8932. But what they never grasped, neither the Council or Sarim-Lar, was it's true importance: 8932 is actually the primal continuity, the timeline from which all others branched off in the past. They didn't realize that--why else give it a nondescript identification? But I discovered this...8932 is the source code of reality. By affecting it...I could affect the structure of the entire multiverse."

"Why?" Ray asked.

"Why else?" Nodus replied. "The same purpose to which I dedicated my life from the day the Boogeyman started appearing from my closet: perfect safety of the human race. A universe no longer brimming with the supernatural, no longer choked with demonic entities and self-declared gods. Rational, orderly, a universe free of want, and misery, and crime. A universe that is perfect!"

Janine felt a chill at the word "perfect". She knew that impulse all too well. I can't move...I literally can't move....this is just too much...oh, Egon, if this is doing this to me what is this doing to you?!

"But I needed the power of the Children of Zodiac--a unique ability to process temporal energy was integral to my plans. It's a power even I cannot give myself yet. Thus, I was compelled to solve Sarim-Lar's last riddle. Where is Lord Gemini?" Nodus turned back to them. "And then I found him. I found him in the one place I never would have expected--I had ruled out the children of my old comrades. Not Oscar Wallance, not Charlene Zeddemore, not Jessica Venkman--they were born exactly as they were, brought into this world before it was changed. Not Eric Stantz, powerful as he would become, even though he was born later than in your world. And certainly not Lana Tully."

"But you, Egon Spengler, made a different choice than I did. And from that choice, children I did not forsee--because they did not exist in the world I came from. Children, born in the Ninth Year of the Age of Aquarius, on the twenty-first day of the transit of Gemini..."

Ray gulped. "That's...that's Hermetic Reckoning..." He looked at Romulus and Pollux. "That's today."

"You, Johnathan Christopher Spengler." Nodus walked up to him. "You are the answer to Sarim-Lar's mystery. You are the Lord of the Primordial Winds. You are the one everyone's been awaiting."

Romulus couldn't process this. It seemed so impossible. But at the same time...what about the strange ways Delphia always looked at him? Would that even explain the terror he evoked, as but a child, in the likes of Dweeb and Loone?

There was a cracking noise.

"The crystals!!!" Eden called out. The chrono-quartz crystals given to her and her brother by Ulforce were finally breathing their last.

The adult Spengler twins tossed them aside in just the nick of time, as they exploded in blasts of orange light. Two very familiar shapes appeared--Albert and Marie Nodus, the dopplegangers of John and Eden, dazed, with only swirls of light concealing their now nude status.

"Ah...so there are my Nodus twins..." the man calling himself Josiah Nodus smirked.

"They weren't totally lying or being metaphorical when they called you their 'Father', were they?" Winston noted.

Janine's eyes went wide. The last time she'd seen the Nodus twins, she wasn't totally herself...but now, she realized...

"When I procured them, as but newborns, I brought them here, where time is completely under my control." Nodus continued. "I raised them the way they should've been--I awakened the power within them, just as Sarim-Lar had awoken the power I denied. Then, when they were grown, and all was in readiness, we began. The Nodus Twins returned to timeline 8932, and our grand agenda to recreate the universe began--though first, of course, that meant the unravelling of what was already there..."

"The split timelines..." Winston noted.

"Ulforce and Delphia became aware of our plan, and moved to stop us. They held the fracture down to the two causalities, but our success is only a matter of time. Save for Delphia herself, the other Children of Xodiac have been erased from reality. The Order of Hermes and the Sons of Ether never existed. Most of the vaunted membership of Ghostbusters International nothing but mundane shut-ins who post on message boards."

"You're...you're fading!" Janine called, looking at John and Eden.

"The crystals were keeping our temporal integrity intact...without them..." Pollux started to say.

"You are being overwritten by the Nodus Twins." Nodus gloated. "And in a few moments, together, we will have enough power at last to stop Ulforce and Delphia's meddling. They will be erased--as will the rest of you."

"I can't believe you care so little about us..." Ray shook his head.

"That thing isn't Egon, Ray." Winston growled. "And we're not done yet..."

Romulus looked his sister in the eye. "I seem to recall our Pop making a leap of faith earlier today..."

Pollux knew what he meant. "It is not like we have much to loose at this point."

"Accept your fate, Ghostbusters." Nodus continued. "Your reality is forfeit."

"My butt." Romulus snarled, and jumped at Albert Nodus.

Pollux, similarly, jumped for her counterpart.

"What in?" Nodus spattered.

The orange light swirled around, with an intensity that blinded them all.

"John! Eden!!!" Janine called.

"Blast both you brats!!!" Nodus shouted.

The light cleared.

The adult Johnathan Christopher Spengler stood there, solid, orangish electricity cracking around him, a powder-blue bundle held to his chest. "I believe you said something about a 'unique ability to process temporal energy'..."

Eden Marie Spengler was beside him, also surrounded by orange sparks, clutching a pink bundle. "Instead, it is your mockeries that are overwritten..."

"Eden, Johnathan...what..." Egon started to say.

"No time, Pop." John shook his head. "Take care of this guy, will ya?"

Egon was shocked to realize that the blue bundle held a dazed infant whose face and wispy red hair he was already familiar with.

Next to him, Janine was now clutching the pink bundle, passed to her by Pollux. Tears were in her eyes.

Nodus snarled. Despite all his claims of having purged emotions from his nature, something that looked very much like fury was twisted into his features. "Damn both you temporal anomalies...you purged them, took the temporal energy into yourselves, restored them to their proper ages. I shall have to start all over again..."

"You gotta get by us first, Buttf***er..." Venkman snarled, realizing he'd been uncharacteristically quiet this whole time. "Form up!!!" he shouted, and with practiced precision he, Winston, and Ray had their throwers out in a perimeter around the four Spenglers.

"You think you concern me, Venkman?" Nodus sneered. "Robo Busters--kill all unauthorized entities save the infants. Protocol four."

Acknowledge The robots began to march forward.

"Aim for the joints--the knees!!!" Winston shouted, two sets of shadowy memories compelling the idea.

"Why aren't they firing?" Venkman asked.

"The same reason Nodus didn't fire earlier..." Egon answered. "Crossing the streams is..."

"Bad." Venkman finished, and nodded.

"I bet you wish you brought your proton pack about now..." Ray said to the older Twins.

"Not a worry." Romulus smirked. He gestured, and one Robo Buster that attempted to attack him flew back, split in half.

"What in..." Nodus's eyes went wide.

"When we purged your mockeries, it appears we gained the power they had in the process." Eden explained, sending a Robo Buster away with a gesture.

The Twins joined hands. The orange glow crackled and swirled.

They ran for Nodus, Robo Busters trying to stop them flung away with no effort.

Janine called out their names.

"I sense it already...the power is fading. It doesn't belong to you." Nodus snarled. "And it is useless against me anyway..."

John and Eden looked at each other. "That's not what I remember..."

A blast of energy slammed into the shocked Nodus.

"Egon! We gotta shut down the Robo Busters!!!" Venkman shouted. "This guy played us like chumps all along 'cause he has your knowledge of us--now maybe, since we know why, we can use that against him!!!"

"What do you mean?"

"He voice locked the creeps--but think! You have the same voice! All we gotta do is figure out what the access code is! And if anyone can do it, it's you!!!"

Egon thought hard...putting himself in Josiah Nodus's place...knowing all he knew about the man's divergent history...and it came to him. Simple, logical, but something that noone would expect of an Egon Spengler who had "purged his emotions"--something they'd already seen signs of not being as complete as he'd claimed.

"It's worth a try..." he finally said. "Robo Busters! Override access!!!"

Voiceprint Josiah Nodus confirmed. Input code phrase for override

Egon gritted his teeth. "Six Zero Eight Eight Three."

Peter Venkman felt a bead of sweat on his brow.

The Robo Busters froze. Override accepted. Awaiting orders

"Immediate shutdown!!! Full deactivation!!!" Egon shouted.

"NO!!!" Nodus howled. "Reinstate override, access..."

Shutdown Sequence Intiated the Robo Busters said in unison, and went dark, falling to the ground.

"Six Zero Eight Eight Three..." Egon exhaled. "June 8, 1983..."

"I will kill you for this!!!" Nodus screamed, grabbing John. Angry red energies and sparking orange played around them.

"Johnathan!!!" Eden called, unleashing a blast of her own power.

Romulus flung Nodus off of him, sending the would-be dimensional dictator to the ground hard. "Hand to hand combat? You gotta be kidding! Uncle Pete always said Pop hit like a girl..."

Venkman looked at Egon sheepishly. "Well, you do..."

Nodus now looked crazed. Crazed, and old.

Ray Stantz looked at him, and for the first time....he truly saw his old friend. He holstered his thrower.

"Um...Ray..." Venkman said.

Ray walked between John and Eden. "There's no logic in this anymore, Egon."

"Don't call me that..." Nodus snarled.

"But then again...I don't think there's been much logic to this all along."

Nodus cocked an eyebrow. A very familiar gesture.

"Because I look at you, and I don't see the logic. Do you know what I see? I see a man who who's spent a hundred and fifty years going over his mistakes again and again. I see a man who wants to get back at the world that he feels wronged him."

"You made the choice that turned you into Nodus while you were in pain--Janine had just married Louis. All of us had abandoned you. Maybe you felt that was the only way..."

"And then you became obsessed with finding Lord Gemini. But don't you see? You became obsessed with finding why the Ascension--whatever that is--had failed. The problem is, deep down, you know what the failure is."

Ray walked up to him. "You saw the other choice that could've been made--the choice of hope instead of dispair. You see what your life would've been. You may not have had your knowledge, or your power, or been able to crack reality with a snap of your finger. But you would've been happy; the kind of genuine happiness that can't come out of numbers, cold logic, and godlike power. And you would've not only answered the question...you would've been part of the solution."

"I don't..."

"You're the failure." Ray shook his head. "You chose wrong."

Nodus looked ready to explode. "I chose wrong?! You dare to say that to me?! I was destined to be the greatest scientist of all!!! I became a far greater scientist than my father would have ever dared hope!!!" Nodus clutched his head, going into some kind of seizure. "How could I have been wrong?! I chose logic!!! I chose knowledge!!! Why was that the wrong choice?! Why is he the one being rewarded with destiny?! I don't...I DON'T UNDERSTAND!!!"

Josiah Nodus--a man who once called himself Egon Spengler, but a man that Egon Spengler will never be--uttered one last feral howl, which diminished to a whimper, and then fell to the ground.

Ray exhaled and staggered, looking about ready to faint.

"I'm confused....did we just win?" Venkman asked after fifteen long, quiet seconds.

There was an ominous rumbling. The skies became filled with lightning, and dark clouds.

"Oh crumbs..." Egon surmised. "I think the Null Zone is destablizing..."

"Without the chrono quartz, there's no way..." Eden started to shout.

Janine held her newborn daughter, the tears flowing. This isn't fair....their lives have just started...it just isn't...

There was a wheezing, groaning noise. A blue shape appeared.

Ray's jaw looked ready to fall off. "The TARDIS? You're kidding!!!"

"Not quite, Doctor Stantz..." a new voice called out of the ether, as the blue shape solidified. It was an old man in blue and black, sitting in a high tech chair. "Though I was a big fan--couldn't help but to copy the noise..."

"Professor Ulforce!!!" Romulus called.

"There isn't much time!" Ulforce shook his head. "The Null Zone will collapse in seconds..."

They huddled together, as the world around them faded to white once more...

June 13, 1999
2:30 AM
Ray didn't even realize he'd gone to sleep until Venkman poked him hard to wake him up. "Egon!" Ray cried, realizing his old friend was in the room too, looking haggard, exhausted...but ecstatic.

"Eden Marie was born at 1:30 AM, her brother Johnathan Christopher precisely five minutes later. "

Marie Cavendish audibly inhaled. "Eden Marie? Oh my God...she did remember..."

"Remember what?" Doris asked.

Marie shook her tired head. "Back when I told Janine that Ghostbusters was hiring a secretary...I made a joke about 'Just promise that if you get the job and marry your boss you'll name one of your kids after me...' "

There was a hearty laugh around the room as Egon recieved a heartfelt hug from everyone in turn.

" 'Christopher'?" Katharine asked. "Is that..."

Egon nodded. "Janine and I split up the naming duties. I gave our son his middle name, Christopher, from Christopher Melton--my great grandfather. Johnathan is from her side of the family..."

"My older brother." Denise Melnitz said, eyes filling with tears. "He died in Korea...I once told Jay that if she'd been a boy I mighta named her that."

"Marie, as noted, was from a promise Janine made sixteen years ago." Egon nodded in Marie Cavendish's direction. "Eden...well, in addition to being a proper Hebrew name (something Janine felt important)..." he hugged his mother. "It's similarity to 'Edison' is not unintentional."

Venkman laughed. "And heck, you even gave them 'E' and 'J' names, to boot..."

Egon chuckled. "Well...that did occur to us afterward..."

"What are we waitin' around here for?" Denise Melnitz said with noticable glee. "I think it's time we got a look at my new grandbabies..."

"Our new grandbabies..." Katharine added with just as much joy.

"I can arrange that." Egon replied, with the largest smile that any of them could remember seeing on his face. "The doctors said to make it quick--the children have been fed, and are sleeping already, but Janine needs her rest. I..." He looked at them, a strange pang coming...then subsiding. "I wish I could put it into words."

"We've all been there, old buddy." Ray smiled, patting him on the back.

Janine Spengler fought off the sleep. She knew she shouldn't fight it...the doctors told her she needed to sleep...but she didn't want to sleep. She didn't want to miss a second, didn't want to stop watching the two newborns lying peacefully nearby.

They were both so beautiful...she was, for only a fraction of a second, worried that when Egon handed her their son for the first time, that somehow it wouldn't seem as special as the instant she first held Eden...but she was wrong. It was different, but no less precious. Johnathan was no less beautiful. She loved him every bit as much.

She was anxious for Egon to get back. She wanted to see her parents, her sister, and the three men who were her brothers in all but the most literal sense of the word. She anticipated the joy on their faces when seeing Eden and John Spengler for the first time.

There was a knock at the door. Her husband appeared. "Do you feel up to some company?"

"Depends--if it's Professor Dweeb or Jack Hardemeyer, no." she replied.

"Oh, Drat." a voice came from the other side of the door--Peter Venkman doing a mocking impersonation of Norman Draverhaven's nasal voice.

"If it's our families and Ray and Winston, sure." she rolled her eyes and feigned a moment of deep consideration. "And if that Venkman guy is out there, I guess it'd be okay too."

There was a round of laughter, and the room was soon filled up with friends and relatives.

Denise Melnitz hugged her daughter. "Congratulations, Mom."

Janine laughed. "Same to you...Grandma..."

"She was already a Grandma..." Victor piped up amiably.

Everyone else stood back, allowing the Melnitzes and Katharine Spengler first access to their newborn grandchildren.

"They're both so cute..." Denise finally said. "I can't decide which one to hold first..."

Fritz laughed, tears in his eyes, as his wife finally picked up the little pink blanket. "Oh Adonai, I know that face...it's that same grumpy face Jay got from you..."

Katharine was now similarly cradling the powder blue blanket. "The Spengler genes are strong, but not indomitable. You certainly look like your father...but that distinct red hair is clearly from your mother's side." She wasn't a woman used to sloppy emotional displays, but today was definitely an exception. She had one step-grandchild; but Edison...you have a grandson at last. And a granddaughter that is ours. When her grandson grabbed her finger with a little tiny hand that looked like the one that had grabbed her fingers forty-one years earlier, Katharine's eyes welled with tears.

Katharine and the Melnitzes finally switched. "Heh...been a long time since I held a boy, either..." Denise noted. "Course all I had were girls..."

"My case was the opposite." Katharine nodded, stroking Eden's head. Do my eyes decieve me or is that a distinctly blonde wisp of hair?

And finally, the newborns' cousin and the three Ghostbusters got their turn.

"Wow..." was all Ray could say. "Eric is gonna love having some new playmates..."

"Y'know, if there weren't so many throwable objects around here, I'd comment at how much they look like our mailman..." Venkman smirked. "But since I don't want to get killed, I won't."

"Wise move." Winston rolled his eyes.

"Isn't our current postal carrier female?" Egon raised an eyebrow.

"Don't give him ideas." Janine quipped. "I hope they learn early that Uncle Peter isn't the best idea for a role model..."

Venkman feigned a look of hurt as everyone else in the room laughed.

"I feel like I'm intruding somehow..." Pollux said.

They were at the other side of a half-second phase shift, unseen but able to witness the room and it's occupants.

"Technically, you're not." Ulforce told her. "I mean, you both were there..."

"Will they remember anything?" Romulus asked. "Right now it's like....like it never happened."

"In a very real way it never did." Ulforce shook his head. "When the Null Zone collapsed, the timeline was reintigrated. All of history is restored to it's proper flow. But Delphia and I felt...a small gift was in order. They will remember Nodus, and his attempt to kidnap the children--you--later. With that, they will, unfortunately, remember Nodus and the truth about him. They will remember the imperfect worlds in fragments, like dreams. And they will know that Nodus will trouble them no more. But for right now...their moment of happiness is untainted."

Ulforce looked at John and Eden. "You they will not remember, just as they did not remember your previous meeting in 1986."

"Will we remember you?" Eden asked.

Ulforce shook his head. "Only vaguely...you will remember the existance of Professor Ulforce, the Chronomancer. The Fourth Law of Temporal Integrity protects my identity just as it does yours."

"What of him?" Eden asked, looking at Nodus. It was inevitable, she realized, that she felt sorrow at seeing his shattered form. He was, after all, an incarnation of her father...

"His mind is destroyed, his power is gone..." Ulforce shook his head. "If Delphia agrees, he will be returned to the timeline from which he came--it branched off into dimension 10211. It will give his surviving comrades at least some measure of relief to finally...know."

"What of the rest of it, Ulforce?" John finally said, features hardening. "The Ascension...the Children of Zodiac. Am I really this Lord Gemini that Nodus thought I was? If not, who is, and why are we so important to bringing him about? And if I am...what does it mean?"

"That, Doctor Spengler..." Ulforce finally answered. "Is a something that you will discover at a later time..."

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