THE ZODIAC IMPERATIVE
By Fritz Baugh
GBI Case File GBNY-1991-9/280
--An obscure passage reputedly from the Codex of Qizzon, holy book of lost Atlantis.
The audience roared with laughter as David Letterman read the topic.
"Hah hah hah...I think the audience likes the topic, Paul. Here we go, Top Ten Reasons Manuel Noriega Should Get the Death Penalty..."
"Number Ten: Infringed copyrights of Banana Republic"
"Number Nine: Clearasil endorsement deal gone wrong"
"Number Eight: Kept cutting lines at Panama City McDonald's, claiming 'Dictator Privilege' "
"Number Seven: Could complete poker foursome of Nikolai Ceausescu, Ferdinand Marcos, and Ayatollah Khomeini."
Letterman's voice trailed off as suddenly an unnatural wind filled the room. "Hal, did Biff Henderson have Mexican for dinner again?"
Suddenly, three spectral shapes appeared. Ferdinand Marcos, the Ayatollah Khomeini, and Nikolai Ceausescu.
"You've made jokes at our expense for the last time, Infidel Dog..." the Ayatollah spat. "Consider this a fatwa, Funny Boy..."
In the control room, Hal Gurnee calmly grabbed the phone...
"Not if you like Letterman..." a smooth voice answered.
"Arsenio's better anyway..." a third voice broke in.
"We gotta go on a bust? But I gotta pee..." a fourth voice whined.
"We can't stop now, and time's a wasting!!! Floor it, Z!!!" the first voice said, excitedly.
"Boys boys boys boys..." a smooth voice broke in. "You know Stupid Ghost Tricks aren't until Thursday--and we can't have you go screwing up the schedule."
The crowd cheered as a man walked out of the same door guests came from. Handsome, with brown hair and piercing green eyes, he was wearing a brown flight suit with blue-green trim on the cuffs and collar, and a bulky pack of electronic gear on his back. A nametag on his chest read "VENKMAN"
"Don't move!!!" A second voice broke in, the two doors to the audience exits flying open to allow two more men to enter the room. They wore the same flight suits and electronic packs as the first man, but had the gun-like throwers in their hands. The one who spoke was slightly pudgy, a set of goggles perched atop his forehead, partially obscuring his auburn hair. His flight suit was tan, with brown trim, and his nametag read "STANTZ"
Next to him was a muscular man of African descent. His suit was aqua, with red trim. His nametag read "ZEDDEMORE"
Everybody turned as a loud noise came from the last door, the one to the side room, a thud and and an aggravated obscenity. The door flew open a few seconds later to admit a short man with close-cropped brown hair, large eyeglasses, and a green flight suit with purple trim. "TULLY" was the name on his chest. He yanked his thrower off his pack, and turned it once in his arms, like he was trying to be sure it was facing the right direction.
"Who are these jackasses?" Ceausescu snarled.
"The UN War Crimes tribunal sent us." Winston Zeddemore deadpanned.
"So we can do this the easy way or the hard way..." Peter Venkman informed them. "The easy way, where you drop Dave and get into the trap like good little undead tyrants, or the hard way...where we have to blast you, but it ends the same way."
"Get them!!!' the Ayatollah snarled.
Winston and Ray Stantz opened fire; having some eight years of practice at it (minus a court-mandated sabbatical) they caught the two in confinement streams with almost zero effort. "You can tell they always had toadies to do their dirty work, can't you?" Ray smirked. "Louis?"
Louis Tully fired his beam, but it went wide--nearly neutronizing Anton Figg.
Winston sent out a ghost trap, and the two screaming tyrants (trying to offer their captives money, girls, or anything they might want to just let them go) were sucked into it.
"Looks like it's just you, Ayatollah." Venkman smirked.
The Ayatollah dangled Letterman by his ankle. "Be warned, Infidel Sorcerer...if you value this worthless life stay back..."
Venkman looked over to stage right abruptly. "What??? Salman Rushdie??? Nobody told me he was going to be on the show tonight???"
The Ayatollah dropped Letterman from the shock of the statement. "Rushdie??? That Infidel Dog??? I will carry out my fatwa myself!!!"
"Hosed you." Venkman chuckled, blowing the mullah a raspberry as Ray and Winston blasted him. "But you know how it is--sometimes, Shiite happens."
Louis unhooked a ghost trap. "Let me do it Doctor Venkman because I almost toasted Paul Schaffer and the World's Most Dangerous band and I'm really sorry about that and..."
"Just throw the trap, Louis!!!" Venkman cut him off.
Louis twirled the trap like a cowboy about to rope a steer, and let it fly...
...Hitting Winston right in the back of the head.
"...ooops..." Louis said in a small voice.
"Oh fergrife'ssake..." Venkman muttered, pulling his thrower, helping Ray to keep the Ayatollah under confinement; with Winston stunned, he'd almost broke free.
Louis grabbed the trap and ran over to the writhing mullah. "Take this, you jerk!!!" and hit the button on the side, opening the trap.
The Ayatollah was sucked inside, promising that Allah would get his revenge...
"Nice recovery." Venkman admitted. "Though I would recommend staying away from Winston for a while."
"I...can't...see anything..." Louis moaned.
Ray shook his head. "You looked at the trap, didn't you?"
"Was I not supposed to?"
There is a pull in the flow of time and space...
As it was intended, so it shall be done...
Phineus Eventide, Prince of Warlocks, sat bolt upright with such a start that it startled his cat, Tarantula.
"Mrrow?" the cat asked.
"I don't know, Tarantula. But it is quite disturbing. I haven't felt so ill at ease for some eight years..."
"No, not even during the rise of Astorath. This is...different..."
Eventide gathered his cloak, and looked into the night skies, the constellation of Aquarius rising over the horizon. A sudden thought hit him.
"The Age...could it be..."
"I hope I am wrong, Tarantula. But there are those who would know for certain--and I must seek one of them out."
"Oh, my, were you scared?" Denise Melnitz asked her daughter.
"Nisey, don't interrupt! This is getting good!" Fritz Melnitz broke in. His wife of some forty years shot him a dirty look, causing him to chuckle.
"She's a Ghostbuster, Gram..." Twelve year old Victor Irwin piped up. "It's in the motto--'Ain't Afraid A' No Ghost'. Right Uncle Egon?"
"Well, to say that a Ghostbuster is never afraid would be an untrue assertion, Victor..." Egon Spengler answered.
"Let your aunt finish, Victor." Doris Melnitz Irwin scolded her son.
Janine cleared her throat, and shook her head with mock indignation. "If you're sure...anyway, the thing had us trapped, then Winston and Ray blew its leg off by detonating the pressure tank on Winston's slime blower. Then we buried the cavern by detonating the other pressure tank, so that guy ain't gonna be buggin' anyone for a while."
"Cool..." Victor said. "But back to what you said, Uncle E...you mean there are times you've been afraid?"
"Victor, only a stupid man is never afraid." he said, simply.
"And if there's one word that I'd never associate with Egon, it's 'stupid'..." Janine piped in.
"I admit I was quite afraid the first time I ever went on a bust--the equipment wasn't tested. We weren't even sure if it'd work. And even after we knew it did it was hard to control--as the manager of the Hotel Sedgewick could attest..." Egon continued, drawing a chuckle from the whole group.
"So like which monster scared you the most, Uncle Egon?" Victor asked, quite enthused. "The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man? Cthulhu? Vigo?"
"Victor..." his father, Joshua Irwin, said in mildy reproachful tones.
"It's all right, Joshua." Egon responded, then pausing before he answered. "All told...I'd have to say the opponent that scared me most was a creature called Makeoverus Lotsabucks."
Janine drew in a quick breath. She looked at Egon with sudden apprehension.
He looked back at her quickly, trying to say with his eyes No...I won't say the whole reason why...
"What'd that one do? I never heard about that one on the news..."
"It didn't make the news, Victor." Egon replied. "It tried to hurt your Aunt Janine, you see...and it very nearly succeeded."
"Whoa...but you stopped it, right?"
"Your Aunt and I both stopped it together."
Victor downed another bite and got a mischievous twinkle in his eye. "I knew a long time ago you two were a good team."
She ran back on all four legs back to the house. Her ward, it had turned out, had inherited quite a fortune after his mother's demise two years ago, and though he had no interest in returning to his childhood home--and the bad memories it held, including his mother's traumatic demise--they were able to procure a nice house far enough from New York City for some measure of quiet, but not so far as to cut them off from their friends.
Her keen senses alerted her to her ward's state--napping, but not restfully. He probably senses it too...
She jumped into a second story window and went into the master bedroom. That's where the wolflike creature underwent a transformation...it grew as it stood upright, it's features becoming human, and it's fur disappearing...within seconds, the wolf had become a human being, a woman in her middle 20's, with mixed Hispanic features and long brown hair. She grabbed a robe to quickly cover her naked body, and walked swiftly to the room of her ward.
"Shannon?" she said softly as she knocked on the door.
It opened abruptly. Standing at the other side of the door was a fifteen year old boy with round features and limp blond hair...he was pale, and soaked with sweat.
"Shannon!" she cried, unprepared for her ward's state. "Are you all right?"
"We need to call Peter and the others..." he said, his voice dripping with fear. "Something huge is about to happen...huge..."
"You're scaring me here, Shannon...you talking Astorath big?"
"Irena...I think it's going to be worse than Astorath..."
Josiah Nodus showed no expression, and remained silent for some fifteen seconds before his response. "Excellent, Miss Van Horn. You've earned a bonus for this one--perhaps even a vacation to a place less...Gothic."
"Thank you, Sir."
"You may go."
She simply nodded, and left.
Nodus sat back in his chair, absorbed in his own thoughts. All went better than I anticipated...Chiron, ever so subtly, revealed himself to me as that which I thought he was...and by his words and actions confirms the Ghostbusters' importance..I could wish he'd been clearer as to how they fit into the Ascension, but this will do for now...and the fact that Vashnnivski didn't summarily dismiss my business propositions is an unexpected--though unnecessary--pleasantry...
He was interrupted from his reverie by a tone.
He punched the intercom button on his desk. "Miss Kinkaid, I am not to be interrupted by anyone until further notice."
"What shall I tell anyone who does try to contact you?"
"That I have left on an errand of greatest possible importance. And I mean that no one is allowed to disturb me. Is that clear?"
"Excellent." With that, he turned off the intercom, and pulled back his left sleeve, revealing a band with lights running across it. "Open gateway to Null Zero."
confirmed. dimensional shunt online. awaiting final order.
A shimmering, door-shaped hole appeared in the office. Nodus nodded, and stepped into it.
It faded away, leaving the office unoccupied.
"Slimer isn't going to jump and kiss you, Peter?" Ray asked mischievously, going to the back of the car to extract the ghost traps containing the essences of Khomeini, Ceausescu, and Marcos.
"I ain't complaining." Venkman responded. "He's probably knocking over a doughnut shop."
"But Peter, since everyone knows he's ours if he does then we have to pay for it..."
Louis Tully peeked from behind the rear driver door.
"Louis, I told you I ain't mad about it." Winston said forcefully. Tully timidly stepped out of the car.
"Any messages, Peter?"
Venkman was at the phone, checking. His face suddenly got very wide. "Just one, but it's a good one: it's Dana."
Dana Barrett had been the Ghostbusters first client back in 1983. She was also Venkman's occasional--and most heartfelt--love interest. They'd broken up badly in 1984; she'd married another man (violinist Andre Wallance), borne his son Oscar, and divorced him before reentering Venkman's life in late 1988. She'd received a lucrative offer from the LA Symphony Orchestra not long after, and after some soul searching Peter and Dana agreed that she should take it. They'd kept in touch ever since, though.
"She says she's accrued some leave time...she's gonna come to New York for a while in the fall to see her parents and me. And all the rest of you guys, too, I guess."
Winston put a hand on Venkman's shoulder. "Great to hear, Man. You could use a visit from her--keep you from chasing the sub shop girls."
"Well, at least while she's looking..." Venkman smirked.
Ray looked over at Louis, who strangely enough looked even more depressed than before. "Hey, I thought you'd be happy too, Louis--Dana was your neighbor, after all..."
"Oh yeah..." Louis muttered in a small voice. "More salt in the wounds...just what I need..." With that, he plodded toward the stairs. "I'm gonna go change then I'm goin' home..."
"What's up with him?" Winston wondered.
"Who cares?" Venkman snorted. "I gotta see if my best suit is still presentable or if it's too ruined by green slime to wear..."
Ray lingered at the top of the stairway to the downstairs Ecto Containment Unit. I guess we all forget that Louis knew Dana before we did, and had a bit of a crush on her before Peter and Andre came along...between that and Egon and Janine finally making progress, and us all cheerleading it, it's gotta be hard on him...'losing' two women to Ghostbusters...sometimes I'm amazed he can still stand to work for us...
"And I am as amazed by that as anyone." Egon admitted. "Children tend to unnerve me--probably because I was never allowed to be one myself. I told you how my parents didn't believe in toys?"
"Except a Slinky and you straightened it, yeah...but he really looks up to you. 'Uncle Egon the famous Ghostbuster' "
"I don't think your husband is happy about that sometimes."
"Oh, pay Josh no mind....he's just a little jealous of the way Victor idolizes you. But it's been good for him--he's still a handful (that Melnitz DNA after all) but less so than he used to be. 'I gotta get good grades so Uncle Egon don't think I'm stupid or nothin'...bad grammar aside, I think his heart's in the right place."
Egon allowed himself a chuckle. "Uncle Egon...he's been calling me that for quite a while, hasn't he?"
"Pretty much since the first time you met. And let me tell you, I never heard any 'Uncle Paul' or 'Uncle Louis', to give you perspective. It was 'Mister Dumb' and 'Doo Doo Head' "
Egon raised an eyebrow. " 'Doo Doo Head'?"
"Yeah. 'You suck--where's Uncle Egon?' " Doris laughed. "So when are you too gonna make it official, anyway? When are you really gonna be his Uncle Egon?"
Just then, Janine came out of the doorway. "Wha? I thought you were getting the car?"
"I stopped him, Little Sister--my fault. Had to yak." Doris turned back to Egon. "Don't forget what I asked you about. And frankly.." she winked at him. "I think fatherhood is a more natural instinct for you than you realize. Good night."
Janine took Egon's hand as they walked. "What the hell was that about?"
"She was commenting on how well I handle Victor."
"Well...you do..." Janine agreed. They arrived at the VW Beetle.
"Here...you drive..." Janine said, giving him the keys.
"Um...that would seem impractical." he said, getting into the driver's seat anyway. "Since I will be departing at the Firehouse, you would have to change positions to get home..."
She grabbed him, and kissed him full. The passion was obvious. "I got a better idea..." she purred. "Forget the firehouse...just come to my place..."
There was no doubt in his mind what she was proposing.
This would be the final surrender of all base logic to animalistic urge!!! the logical part of his brain was yelling desperately. Far more rash and impulsive than anything you've ever done!!! I must protest!!! In his mind, he could almost see this voice as belonging to Edison Spengler, a manifestation of the strict logic and denial he'd impressed upon Egon. But then there was his mother's words of not too long ago: Son, even Edison Spengler knew that there was more to life than science. Or you wouldn't be here. Then, in his mind's eye, Peter Venkman appeared and slapped old Edison into a ghost trap. Don't worry, I'll let him back out in a few hours...now you go and enjoy yourself, Pal...
It's been eight fucking years, Spengs--you're more than ready for it.
"Yes..." he replied huskily, removing his glasses to kiss her more thoroughly.
Lord of the Steady Wind, this Age is thine...
Seek the Avatar chosen for you...
And summon thy brethren and sisters...
Eventide shook his head as he approached it. He knew the occupant would be well aware of him.
The door at the back opened just as Eventide landed, allowing a head of wild brown hair to peek out, wide blue eyes taking in the scene. He looked to be in his early to mid twenties, with a clean shaven face. A complete contrast to Eventide's large build, thick beard, and bald head.
"Enschulidung? Haben Sie Holstein?"
"I am afraid not." Eventide responded somewhat curtly. "Archmage..."
"It's starting. I know, Phineus." the door opened to allow the man to step out of the truck. He was of average, even slightly scrawny build, dressed in a long purple coat (matching the truck), with khaki pants and a floppy blue tie. Pinned to his lapel was an insignia resembling a backwards letter "P". "I've felt it coming for hours now. I was hoping what the Swimmer said wasn't true..."
"Illogical, Zandrik. You know Lady Delphia verfied the account."
"True enough." the man replied, reaching into the truck and pulling out a staff of gnarled wood that gathered into a shape resembling a shepherd's crook. "But I feel it. Maybe more strongly than anyone else...because, according to Delphia, it is 'my' Age beginning..."
"Then time grows short. We must act." Eventide nodded. "We must find the manifestation point...any thoughts?"
"No. It could really be any ley line nexus on the planet."
Zandrik raised his hands, staff clutched in his left one, and the ring on the middle finger of his right hand began to glow with a violet light. "Let us open our senses together, then, Prince of Warlocks..."
"There is no time to find the others, Archmage..." Eventide stated gravely, his eyes also closing in concentration. "We must hope we are enough..."
Always having something of an interest in the occult, it'd gotten stronger since the divorce. Something to keep my mind at work...something to keep me from remembering how much I miss her...and especially how much I miss Junior...
Midnight Greenwich time...in three...two...one...
The shutter clicked just as Stonehenge exploded with light.
"BLOODY HELL!!!" Ben shouted, and ducked for cover.
There was something there, in the center of the megalith...a vaguely human form, a crackling figure of violet electricity...
Contact made... came a deep voice in Ben's head. From the..thing in the center of Stonehenge?
The form rose into the skies, and then disappeared..leaving only, for a faintest of seconds, a violet trail pointing to the west...
"Well, er, Peter gave it to me just before we went off to the Chateau Ritz..."
"So THAT'S what he did...heh heh..."
"Here...let me put it on you..."
"We must act quickly..." the younger looking man nodded. "We only have a limited amount of time before the avatars are gathered..."
Eventide gestured. "The power of the spell to take us there will leave us below full strength, but we must take that risk--speed is of necessity."
Zandrik nodded. He and Eventide both gestured, and vanished into a display of sparkling light.
"I'll get it!!!" Ray shouted. "It might be a call--or Egon!!!"
"He's under standing orders to not come back until at least three AM, remember?" Venkman smirked, inspecting one of his ties.
"Peter--it's Irena Cortez!!!" Ray shouted.
"Irena?" Venkman asked, with equal parts pleasure and trepidation. He nevertheless went downstairs.
"Whoa, whoa, Irena slow down--Peter's here, you want to talk to him?" Ray handed him the phone. "Here..."
"Um...thanks. Irena! So how's it going--Shannon doing okay?"
There was a long pause at the other end. "No, Peter, he isn't--that's why I called. He's been having some visions...bad ones. He thinks something's starting to happen..he says it's going to be, in his words, worse than Astorath."
Astorath was a demon that had set into motion a long term plan to invade Earth. In the mid 1970's, he'd impregnated a human woman with a daemonseed to allow him to come to Earth--Shannon Phillips was that child. In the summer of 1989, six months after returning to business, they stopped Astorath and freed Shannon from his power, but not before the demon had turned most of the people on Earth into his slaves for a brief, horrible time.
Irena Cortez was a Garou...a genetic werewolf. A few months before Astorath, Irena had been enslaved by a cult; the Ghostbusters freed her, and she later helped them against Astorath. She took Shannon in as her ward, and she and Venkman had had a brief affair after Dana had moved to LA with Oscar.
"Worse than Astorath? Irena, Baby, that is pretty hard to do unless your name is Cthulhu or Gozer..."
"I know...but Peter...I'm feeling something too...like a sick feeling in my stomach. I'd be willing to bet money that...something is about to happen."
Just about then, several loud alarms started to go off.
"That ain't the Containment alarm..." Winston noted.
Ray ran upstairs. "It's the PKE sensors..."
"Hang on, Irena--I'll call right back."
Venkman and Winston ran after Ray. "Ray, what the hell is going on?"
Ray studied several readouts. "We had the sensors online...we always do this time of year, with the solstice coming and such...oh, wow..."
"Ray, you're getting excited. You know that scares me."
"Just look at this!!! A 200 GEV spike in ambient PKE levels in only five minutes--this is incredible!!!"
"So how big a Twinkie we talkin' here?" Winston asked brusquely, his forehead unbiddingly breaking into a small sweat.
"We're not talking Gozer proportions or anything...at least, um, not yet...but..."
" 'Um...' what?"
"It's still climbing."
"Coming, Grandma..." Kylie Griffin replied, turning off the television. The thirteen year-old girl (somewhat pale, with long dark hair) went into the kitchen, where her great grandmother was putting the last bowl on the table.
"I heard from your father today.." Grandma told her. "He says he should be able to come home by the end of the week."
"Whatever..." the girl replied, slumping into her seat.
Rose Lockyer shook her head. Her great granddaughter had been such a happy child at the very first...but then her grandson's divorce, and Kylie's mother pretty much vanishing out of her child's life in a puff of smoke...right around the same time Kylie's one real friend disappeared (the police still hadn't solved that crime now, six years after the fact)...Rose's great granddaughter was beginning to worry her just a little bit.
"Your father works very hard to support you...if he could find a job that let him be home more, he would--you know that."
"Yeah...I guess..." Kylie took another bite. "I don't suppose we'll hear from Mom before the end of the year either...if that early..."
Rather than argue the point, Rose just shook her head. "I suppose not..."
"Fine with me."
Rose felt like she should argue, but her heart wouldn't be in it--she blamed most of it on her former granddaughter-in-law herself, so any defense would ring mostly hollow. Except one "She's still your mother."
"I need to get you a pet. Maybe then you might understand..." Rose was starting to say when the lights in her apartment began to flicker.
"Another blackout. Great." Kylie snorted.
Then thirteen year-old Kylie was violently hit by an arc of violet light, and her body convulsed as though a powerful electrical charge had gone through it. She didn't even seem to have time to scream before she fell to the floor.
Rose, stricken with panic, ran to her great granddaughter's side. "KYLIE!!!" she shouted. Please let her be all right...if something's happened to her I couldn't bear it...
"Kylie?" Rose said, her eyes beginning to well with tears, gently shaking the girl.
Kylie's eyes shot open. But any feature--pupil, iris, cornea--was obscured by a featureless violet glow--the same violet as the arc of energy that had struck her moments before.
Contact made a voice said in Rose's head...somehow Kylie's voice, yet...not.
"K...Kylie?" Rose asked hesitantly, now quite afraid.
Kylie literally floated upright, the eerie purple light dancing and fluorescing around her eyes. Without any other word--or any acknowledgment of her great grandmother's existence, she gazed at the window. A great gust of wind blew it outside, and Kylie flew into the New York night's sky, not even sparing a look back.
"KYLIE!!!" Rose screamed.
The Avatar will be suitable. the voice that was Kylie's but wasn't Kylie's said to the skies. Now...my kindred...
Kylie gestured...the winds howled stronger.
When the burst of white faded, eleven more glowing shapes floated in the skies beside Kylie Griffin. Some, like the manifestation at Stonehenge, in a vaguely human shape. Others perched atop four legs. One, glowing orange, almost looked to be two humans joined at the hip. They glowed in different colors, none the same; with the purple of the creature that was using Kylie's body, a complete wheel of color was present.
Brothers and sisters, in the name of the Lord of All, I have summoned thee. As we must, we must judge the inhabitants of this world. The Imperative is now in effect...
WE OBEY THE IMPERATIVE!!! all twelve voices called in unison.
Go... Kylie said, just the glimmer of a smirk forming at the edge of her mouth. Select your Avatars, that we may fulfill the Imperative...
The eleven lights shimmered for a fraction of a second, then vanished into a different direction, leaving only the fading echo of their glow behind...