PANDORA'S BOX
PART THREE

By Fritz Baugh
Based off a Story by Barry Peterson


GBI Case File GBNY-1991-9/205
Previously
Another quiet day at Ghostbusters Central is interrupted by a phone call from the President of the United States. A pesky poltergeist was preplexing the Pentagon, and the Powers That Be called in our heroes to put a stop to it. They do. And then Undersecretary of Defense Jack Compford asked Egon if he was familiar with the work of Professor Ian Epimetheus.

As Egon had studied under Epimetheus at MIT, the answer was of course "yes". Compford turned over a device that Epimetheus had built before his disappearance in 1978; Egon surmises that it is an experimental dimensional portal. But when he and Venkman enter it, they don't find the aged physicist--instead, the Peoplebusters, weird undead counterparts of Ray, Egon, and Venkman, are set loose in New York City.

March, 1991
Ghostbusters Central
"So those were the same 'Peoplebuster' wierdos you guys ran into back in the old days?" Winston asked as he strapped into his proton pack.

"Yeah." Venkman nodded, strapping into his own pack. "While they're here you can ask them why they don't have a Peoplebusters Winston. That always bugged me..."

The phone was ringing loudly as Ray tried to keep up with it. "I know, Mister Mayor, but I swear-it's not us! It's a bunch of evil duplicates from a parallel dimension!"

"Jock sounds pissed." Venkman noted. "I'm glad I gave that call to Ray..."

"Never thought we'd miss Lenny, right?" Winston had to nod. "Egon?"

Egon hadn't put on a pack yet, and was still studying the device that started this whole disaster, Professor Ian Epimetheus's dimensional portal. "There's some process still running...it looks like some sort of failsafe program, but I can't figure it out..."

"How bad in it are we?" Ray asked. "I know when we went to the Peoplebuster dimension, our proton packs were pretty much useless..."

"The electrostatic properties of ectoplasm were reversed in that dimension. " Egon explained.

"So wait..." Venkman asked brightly. "So does that mean we got nothing to worry about? That maybe they're just as helpless here as we were there?"

"We can't assume that." Egon shook his head. "Positively charged ectoplasm could have even more deleterious effects than negative..."

"What? They shoot everybody and they all start singing 'Kumbaya?' " Winston asked.

"I don't mean the psychomagnetheric property, I mean..." But Egon's explaination was cut off by the portal starting to emit an alarm tone.

"The portal!!!" Ray shouted. He, Winston, and Venkman's throwers were armed and at the ready. Egon scrambled aside, and hastily donned his pack.

The door of the portal flew open, and a swirl of mist billowed out of it.

A dark shape appeared, and stumbled, grabbing onto the edge of the portal door for support.

Ray gasped. Egon's posture visibly stiffened.

"...good God..." a voice muttered., "...it appears I've made it at last..."

It was a human man; tall, though not as tall as Egon; dressed in a dark trenchcoat, with a burgundy jacket and a floppy bow tie showing from underneath it. When he looked up at them, it was with a gracefully aged face topped by snowy white hair. His eyes looked around, not appearing to comprehend what he was seeing...

...Until they rolled back into his head, and his body tumbled to the floor.

"Is that..." Winston asked, as Egon and Ray had already holstered their guns and moved to the now unconscious newcomer.

Ray nodded. "It's him, Winston...Professor Epimetheus..."

Elsewhere
"Look at this place..." Peter Venkman snarled. "It's so...bright. So clean. What kind of horrible place have we ended up in?"

The narrator will allow a moment to allow the irony of 1991 New York City being called "bright" and "clean" to sink in.

"Isn't it obvious, Peter?" Egon replied. "It's Epimetheus's world...a protoplasmic plane."

"Wow! This is amazing!" Ray cried excitedly, swooping in midair. "We can even fly here, just like the people can back home!"

Egon pulled a device off of his belt, one looking like a skull with a stick for a neck. "The protoplasmic energy emanations are very intriguing...hm..."

"I love that 'hm', Ziggy...it usually means you're up to something evil..." Venkman grinned.

"I need a better vantage point." Egon replied. "Someplace to get a better look at the lay of the land..."

"What do you have in mind?" Ray asked.

Barbara...where are you? It's been so long...I miss you so much...I...

Where am I? It feels so different...

So heavy.

By the Ether...gravity? Is that gravity? It's holding me...I'm so used to being able to escape it at whim...but now...

Can it really be...

"He's waking up!" a tenor voice called

Ghostbusters Central
"He's waking up!" Ray cried out, breaking Egon's concentration.

Egon hadn't been looking at the prone figure stretched out on one of the beds. He was studying the PKE readings...and just simply mulling over all of this.

"I...am I on Earth?" the voice croaked.

"Yes Sir." Ray answered.

He opened his eyes...and looked around the room.

"Peoplebusters!!!" he shouted, and tried to jump out of the bed. He failed, and crashed to the floor.

"We're not the Peoplebusters." Ray told him, as he and Egon helped him back onto the bed. "We're the Ghostbusters...I'm Dr. Ray Stantz, and this is..."

Egon shook his head violently to cut him off. He didn't want to give out too much information yet...he certainly hoped this man was who he looked like, but until he could be absolutely certainly caution was in order. "I think it is far more important we establish who you are."

"Ian Chesterton Epimetheus, formerly of the Massachussetts Institute of Technology, Professor of Physics and..." his eyes focused on Egon, and grew large. "Egon Spengler!!! You're the real Egon Spengler, not that undead mockery wearing your face! You have no idea how sickening it was the first time I encountered that bastard..."

Egon's features did soften just a bit. "It is good to see you again, Professor."

"That's Doctor Spengler now, by the way..." Ray informed him.

"And you..." Epimetheus pointed. "I recognize you...you were Egon's friend from Columbia, the one who came for my retirement party."

Ray nodded in affirmation.

"It appears I've rather imposed on you all..."

"For a second after you fell out of the portal, I expected you to turn into Tom Baker..." Ray chuckled.

"It's all still so fuzzy..." Epimetheus shook his head. "How long have I been gone?"

"Thirteen years." Egon replied after a pause. "It's March 1991."

Epimetheus fixed him in a wide stare, taking a full thirty seconds to process this. "Please tell me disco is dead..."

World Trade Center
The ECTO-1 roared down the street. Winston was at the wheel, as he often was, while Venkman was looking at a PKE Meter. Winston had to remark to himself how, without Ray or Egon around, and the situation as grave as it was, Venkman wasn't feigning complete ignorance as to the device's operations the way he usually did. Normally he'd be joking about "Okay, so which button do I push to make Pac Man come out?" by now...

Slimer was cowering in the back seat. He had been so freaked out by the three Peoplebusters he insisted on staying near Venkman, even after the annoyed psychologist informed him that he and Winston were trying to find aforementioned Peoplebusters.

"I could just about see Egon's eyes about to fall out when Professor Epimetheus fell out of that machine." Winston had to admit.

"I never met the guy..." Venkman replied. "Well, until today, anyway--I guess I always pictured someone a lot more...I dunno, stuck up and proper looking. More like Egon when I met him--you think he had a broom up his butt when we started Ghostbusters, you should've seen him back in '73..."

Venkman studied the meter for a second. "They definitely came this way..."

Winston looked out to see police cars and several people covered with slime. "I kinda figured..."

When Winston and Venkman got out of the car, their old buddy Inspector Harvey Frump was there, looking pained. He grunted and stomped out his exhausted stogie as they approached.

"And a gracious good morning to you too, Inspector." Venkman said with exaggerated brightness.

"Somebody told me you clowns were outa town..." Frump grumbled. "You bring these slimey fruitcakes with you?"

"Nope. We left all the politicians back in DC, I swear." Venkman answered. "So about the guys who did this..."

"It's him!" one of the slime-covered victims shrieked, pointing at Venkman. "The one who slimed me looked like a zombie version of him!"

"Yep. It was them..." Winston rolled his eyes. "I better handle this..." he told Venkman, moving over to the victim. "He say anything while he was...attacking you, Ma'am? We're trying to find them and stop them, so anything might help."

"He said I was cute for a meatbag..." the woman replied. "He started getting all grabby, then the fat one who looked like a monkey said they had a date with a much bigger lady." The woman shook her head. "Then he shot this awful goo at me, cackled like a loon, and the three of them flew off to the south..."

Winston thanked her, and went back over to where Venkman and Frump were trading evil looks. "Well, he sure acts like you in ways. Maybe his Dana's been out of town for a while too..."

"Hah hah." Venkman replied humorlessly. "They say anything useful?"

"They said they had a date with a 'much bigger lady' and then flew south..."

Venkman mulled this for a few seconds. "Hey...you don't think they mean..."

"If they take it for a walk, I quit." Winston nodded.

Staten Island
"Mutha Puss Bucket!!!" Peoplebuster Venkman cursed. "What did they do to my precious Baba Yaga?!"

Right before them, in place of the witchlike statue back in Boo York, was some human-looking woman with disgustingly elegant features, a crown, and hoisting a torch and a tablet with an inscription: "JULY IV MDCCLXXVI"

"I bet she's not even naked under that toga..." Venkman snorted derisively.

"That is immaterial to our situation." Peoplebuster Egon interjected. "Why those two towers were standing in the Life Day Center, I'll never understand, but at least this is analagous to home."

"This will be the perfect place to figure out our next move." Peoplebuster Ray grinned, priming his slime pack. "As soon as we cleanse the place of tourists..."

"The Statue of Liberty?" Ray asked incredulously.

"It's to the south, it's a 'big lady'." Venkman replied. "It fits."

"And if these guys are like you, they might have a history with the place." Winston added. "Maybe Peoplebuster Peter wants to find out if it really is naked under the toga..."

Frump's phone rang. He answered it, listened a few minutes, and then came back to the two Ghostbusters. "That was a call from the Port Authority. Some jokers who looked like, and I quote, 'zombie Ghostbusters', unquote, just drove the tourists out of the Statue of Liberty and took over the place."

"Don't look so smug, Peter." Ray chided.

"He can't even see me!" Venkman protested to Winston

"He knows you." Winston replied.

"Get to the Statue." Egon came on. "Ray and I will be there in ECTO-2 as soon as I get Professor Epimetheus cared for..."

"Got it." Winston nodded.

"Don't engage until we get there unless something looks like it needs immediate intervention. Remember...these beings can think, plot, and react in ways uncomfortably analogous to us. They may be expecting us--we need the advantage of numbers."

"I don't need a baby sitter, Egon..." Epimetheus protested. "I am old enough to be your father, remember..."

"Professor, you just returned from the Flip Side." Egon shook his head. "There may be unknown deleterious effects from the transition back to our plane after all of these years. You can barely move and are in no shape to be confronting the Peoplebusters at this time..."

"But I'm the one they're after." Epimetheus said. "When I foolishly used the portal, I ended up in some strange dimension. A dimension filled with...well, what I could only call 'ghosts', remembering some of the things you told me about your studies at Columbia. Time passed, but it was so...strange, disjointed."

"You do look exactly the same as you did in 1977." Ray had to admit. "Just like the people we freed back in 1986..."

"You've been there?" Epimetheus's eyes widened.

"There was an incident five years ago, where Ray, Peter, and I were transported there by a dimensional flux that resembled a tornado." Egon answered. "We met our three...counterparts at that time."

Epimetheus shook his head. "I met them when I attempted to make contact with some scholars at the Boo York Public Library. I accidentally scared a librarian then the two who looked like you and Raymond showed up, then the other one later...I was more than a little unnerved to see one of them looking like some mummified version of my best student..."

Egon and Ray looked at each other, each having the same thought, wondering if Epimetheus's encounter was some strange, Flip Side counterpart of their own fateful encounter at the New York Public Library.

"The next time I met them, they were wearing those coveralls and had those slime throwers. By then I'd started to help humans who'd been thrown into that dimension, in ways that sound similar to what happened to you, get together and help each other." Epimetheus shook his head again. "I had no idea how or if we could even get home...I tried my best to help us have some sort of existance there, but the Peoplebusters didn't want to accept that."

"I was in Los Diablos...thier Los Angeles...when I heard the rumors that somebody had stood up to the Peoplebusters in their own home turf. I even saw some crude drawings of an anti-Peoplebuster symbol...which appears to be based off the one on the arm of your own coveralls."

Egon looked at the no-ghost logo self-consciously. "Our secretary came up with the design. Which reminds me--I need to make that call to your, er, 'babysitter'..."

Brooklyn
Janine reclined in the bathtub, her face covered with beauty mud and cucumber slices over her eyes. On the radio, turned up loud enough so that she could hear it from the other room, but not loud enough to have the neighbors banging on her walls in frustration, Duran Duran's "Rio" was playing.

Between the relaxing warm water, the creamy bubbles, and the music, she was nearing a sleepy state...

...when the phone rang.

She muttered a curse and sat up, the water sloshing as she reached for the cordless phone sitting on her toilet. The cucumbers dropped to the floor; the top half of her body, save for a few bubbles, was now exposed. "Melnitz, Whaddya want?"

"Janine?"

She sat up straighter, her mood brightening considerably. "Egon?"

"Yes"

She smirked. "I was just thinking about you...."

"I need a favor. I know you were taking some time off while we were in Washington, but something's come up."

'Something's come up'? And if you were here right now, I bet... "I dunno...I was kind of busy..." she teased.

"I'm sorry, but if at all possible...I need you to drop what you're doing and come right away. You don't even have to dress for work--whatever you're wearing right now would be utterly acceptable"

She licked her lips. "If it was just you, I might..."

"Oh?"

"I'm lounging in the bathtub." She informed him playfully. Today, she would entice him just a tad, when there was too much distance for him to feel any real danger from it.

Silence for a few second. "Bathtub?"

Her voice dropped in octave and volume. "You know...naked. Nothing but some lather and a couple of cucumbers...except the cucumbers fell off when I answered the phone..."

A few more seconds of silence. She could practically hear him blushing at the thought.

"Perhaps some clothing would be advisable." he finally managed to say.

"I'll be there was quick as I can, Egon." she replied in a more normal voice, made a kissing sound, and hung up the phone.

Ray was trying not to laugh as, halfway through the call, Egon's face turned bright red, he started sweating, and he stammered something about a "bathtub"

"Egon?" he asked.

Egon tugged at his collar, trying desperately to compose himself. "She'll...be here as soon as she can."

The World Trade Center
"I don't mind tellin' you clowns, the Mayor ain't too happy about all of this." Frump complained. "Zombies who look like you ain't good for the city OR you mugs. If I wasn't standing right here looking at you when that call about the Statue of Liberty came in..."

"We thank you for your generous, supportive nature, Harv." Venkman replied smoothly.

Winston grabbed his arm. "I gotta get you outa here before Frump arrests us anyway..."

They got about three steps before they were stopped by a blood-curdling shriek.

They turned to see the woman that Peoplebuster Venkman had slimed...and several more, starting to writhe in agony.

"What the f***?" Venkman and Frump said in disconcerting unison.

The slimed woman started to bulge and grow, at the same time her skin seemed to melt away. Behind her, several other victims started to undergo similar transformations.

"Aw, shit..." Frump muttered, drawing his service revolver.

"They're still people!" Winston shouted, pushing Frump's gun down.

"The Peoplebusters slime didn't do that back in their dimension!" Venkman cried, clearly confused.

"Any bright ideas, Mister Ghostbuster?" Frump asked snidely.

"Run!!!" Venkman offered. The two Ghostbusters and one police inspector took off at a run.

Slimer cowered in the back of the ECTO-1, then realized he was almost out of Cheesy Poofs. He whimpered and settled into the back seat. He started to wonder if the upholstery would taste very good.

He heard a shout, and peeked up. Venkman, Winston, and that fat policeman he'd seen before were running toward the car.

"This is not f***ing fair!" Venkman whined. "Zombies are supposed to shamble along like folks at a Florida retirement home, not sprint along like they're trying out for the '92 Olympics!"

Frump panted heavily, clearly not used to running like that any more.

"I guess the Peoplebusters have different zombie movies back where they come from..." Winston retorted.

Slimer screamed in horror as a half-dozen zombies ran at them like the ECTO-1 was a sale at Bloomingdales. The Ghostbusters and Frump were moving closer, but not close enough.

"Human beings or not, if we don't do something we're goners!" Frump snarled

"I'm too young to have my brains eaten!" Venkman cried.

"Yeah. If they knew what a light snack that was, they'd stop chasing us..." Winston couldn't help but quip back.

The first zombie to mutate--the woman who'd been slimed by Peoplebuster Venkman--jumped and tackled Venkman. "You did this to me!!!" she hissed. "Now you will pay!!!"

"Could I ask for a blood test first?" Venkman gulped.

Winston drew his thrower, but he was grabbed by two other zombies. He couldn't draw a good bead because the she-zombie kept Venkman between Winston and herself. "Peter!" Winston cried.

Slimer heard this and looked up from underneath the seat. "Pee-tah?"

When he peeked out the window, the scene was grim. Winston and Frump being manhandled by zombies. And Venkman being choked by the biggest, angriest zombie of them all.

Some distorted accounts to the contrary, bravery is not one of Slimer's more pronounced attributes. But one that is pronounced is his almost obsessive devotion to Peter Venkman.

The zombie reared back to strike, and probably rip several of Peter Venkman's more notable organs out of his body...

Slimer screamed Venkman's name, and smashed into the zombie full speed, hitting her with a wet, loud thud, sending green slime flying everywhere.

It was more from shock and surprise, but the zombie recoiled and dropped Venkman--which was what the little green ghost had intended.

"Slimer?" Venkman sputtered, not totally believing it.

He believed it even less when the zombie staggered back again. "What?" she said, then started to shriek as if in agony...

As Venkman watched, Slimer grabbing him for dear life, the zombie started to shrink...the deformities and discolorations faded...and when she fell to the ground, she looked human once more.

"Peter!" Winston cried, currently in hand-to-hand combat with two of the zombies.

"Slimer!" Venkman barked. "Slime all the rest of the zombies!"

Slimer babbled confusedly.

"Just do it!!!" Venkman pleaded. "I'll buy you your own chocolate cake!"

Nothing else needed to be said. Slimer tore into action, bobbing and weaving, and within a minute all the rest of the zombies (and, er, Winston and Frump) were soaked with his sticky green slime.

Just as had Venkman's attacker, the other zombies howled, writhed, and crashed to the ground, human once more.

"Gross!!!" Frump complained, wiping the slime off of himself.

"I'm getting too old for this stuff..." Venkman panted.

"Just how old are you, anyway?" Frump rolled his eyes.

"Twenty-nine." Venkman replied brightly.

"With about six years practice." Winston added.

Slimer was already looking around Venkman, like he expected the promised chocolate cake to just materialize right then and there.

The former zombie who attacked Venkman came to first. "What...what happened?"

"You don't remember?" Venkman asked. The woman shook her head.

"Probably better that way..." Venkman shook his head.

Frump dumped slime out of his hat. "Just what the f*** did happen?"

"Whatever that Flip Side slime did to them, the normal slime--and I use that as an extremely relative term in this case--seemed to cancel it out or something." Venkman mused.

"Careful." Winston quipped. "If Egon heard you talk like that, he'd think you pay attention to him or something..."

Venkman looked horrified. "It's only a dumb guess! Wait until we tell Egon what happened--then you'll get a good explaination with all sorts of fancy words and everything!"

Winston glanced south again. "And we better let him know fast...because there's probably more at the Statue of Liberty..."

Venkman and Slimer both audibly gulped.

To Be Continued
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