THE ZODIAC IMPERATIVE
PART FIVE

By Fritz Baugh


GBI Case File GBNY-1991-9/280
Previously
Something is happening...
The Twelve stand complete
The Prince of Warlocks is their Prisoner
And the last gambit of the Archmage of Winds
Has failed
The Five Who Are One
Sacrificed to their own atomic fire
But what of the agenda of the Enigmatic One?
And what of the prophesies of the Ascension?
Can things not be as they seem?
Ghostbusters Central
"Oh man, I don't like that smell..." Louis Tully found himself grumbling as he started to wake up. "It means I freaked out again and peed myself again..."

Slimer still hovered close by, babbling something Louis couldn't understand (how Ray claimed to decipher those babblings was totally beyond him) as he realized there was an ice pack on his throbbing head, and he was perched in the chair at Janine's desk.

"I'm afraid that was my fault, Mister....Tully, was it?" a rich female voice broke in to his reverie. The source of it was...well, he had to admit to himself a quite attractive specimen of female homo sapiens: tall, with long brown hair, and some mixed ethnicity--Hispanic?--in her features. He realized she looked familiar...and not just because she couldn't help but remind him vaguely of his old neighbor, Dana Barrett...

"The werewolf!!!" Louis realized with a start, and shot upright. "There was a werewolf or something here!!!"

"Calm down, Mister Tully...the werewolf isn't going to eat you, I can promise."

"You sound awful sure about that...' he said, stumbling over to the storage lockers, intent on grabbing a proton pack.

"I am. I'm the werewolf." she responded simply.

Louis stopped. It hit him all at once. "That's where I've seen you before! You're Irena Cortez, that werewolf that Dr. Venkman...er, you were Dr. Venkman's friend for a while..."

"Where is he?" she asked with a little more gravity in her voice. "Earlier tonight my ward disappeared, apparently posessed. I called and talked to Peter about it, and he said he'd be on it as soon as he could--something similar had happened to another girl and to Janine's nephew. That was six hours ago. Where are they?"

"I don't know...I mean, I wish I did but I just came back to get my keys. But I noticed ECTO-1 is still gone which means either they never came back or they left again."

Louis noticed she was wearing one of Venkman's spare flight suits, and appeared to be barefoot. He gulped hard as what he remembered being told about werewolf transformations made him realize that that flight suit was probably all she was wearing, and had probably grabbed it after she'd accidentally scared him half to death.

"I can try the number for Ghostbusters Mobile, the cel phone in the ECTO-1. It's..."

Several loud alarms interrrupted him.

"That came from upstairs..." Irena said, eyes narrowing.

"Well, then that means that it isn't a problem with the Ecto Containment Unit, which would be bad..."

She grabbed him and yanked him along with her up the stairs. When they reached the computer area on the second floor, several screens were flashing error messages, and the printer was churning out some paperwork.

"PK field inversion...51 N 0 W...what does that mean?" Irena asked.

"Um...well...er..." Louis gulped. "I don't know..."

Irena looked away from the screen...there was a great unease growing stronger now....the same unease that she's attributed to feeling coming from the Earth itself, via her Garou gifts...something almost palpably...wrong...in the very air around her.

Slimer started to moan something softly...truth to tell, he realized he suddenly wasn't feeling all that good...

The Earth shakes uncontrollably...

Volcanoes go out of control...

Tsunami born of tidal forces wreck anger upon the world...

This is what they want...

This is the Imperative...

Raymond Francis Stantz realized that it was Phineus Eventide's voice...but when he opened his eyes, the man he saw was younger, with a full head of bushy dark hair. Wearing Eventide's cape and outfit, nonetheless.

They intended to use the power of the Nexus to blanket the Earth with quintessence, destroying most of the works of technology, and then subject it to all manner of natural disaster--earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes. The death toll would be catastrophic--but in their minds, the resulting diminished numbers of humanity would be stronger, more "fit" for survival.

I'm...not dead? I mean, I never bought into the whole Christian scenario of angels and fluffy white clouds...but I expected a little more than this...at least maybe Mom and Dad waiting for me...

Should you survive this day, you will have many still in front of you...

The field of his vision seemed to clear...there was energy crackling about, and he realized he wasn't alone. There was Peter, and Winston, and Egon and Janine...and Barney Lupin and Liz...

Eventide?

Yes...this is a place of mind, and here I appear as I did in my youth...

Fascinating...

Now how did I know you were gonna say that, Egon...

The time grows short...the power of the avatars has been disrupted by the destruction of your equipment...but in moments they will rally, and will complete the Imperative--even if they must destroy us and the bodies they posess to do it...

How...are we still alive? Winston was the one to dare to ask.

I expended a great deal of my remaining power to shift you out of phase just as the devices you bore were exploding...for I knew that though your sacrifice was noble, it would cut short the full destiny intended you...

Say what?

You are the Five Who are One... a new voice broke in. They turned, and there was Zandrik Fallagar, still looking barely alive, leaning on his staff, most of his clothing burnt away. Ray noticed, if noone else did, Liz cast a quick look at Eventide, and her features darken.

Perhaps you do not believe in Prophesy... Fallagar continued But I sense the truth of it--the words the Forever Swimmer wrote long ago...the Five who would be key to securing the Age of Aquarius...and then the Ascesion...

We must act quickly... Eventide shook his head. My power is fading...in moments, the avatars will realize what has happened...and will fulfill their Imperative...

So...what do we do now, anyway? Ray asked. I mean, we don't even have our proton packs--what can we do against that that we couldn't before...

The power lies within you--the power of the bond between you, and all that you know and have shared. You are never stronger than when you fight as one...

Fallagar, Lady Enlightenment...we must grab all of the energy we can before it fades...the energy even within ourselves...

But what of yourself, Master Eventide? You've already...

Eventide cut Liz off abruptly. That is unimportant, Child...

Venkman looked uncomfortable. Give us power? We're not sorcerers...

What...what will we do with it? Ray seconded

You will know...

The five Ghostbusters looked at each other. Only one way to find out... Ray finally said, which was met with four nods of agreement.

The atomic fire would've engulfed Stonehenge, if not for the efforts of the Zodiac Lords--instead, it burned in a shrinking ball of light. The twelve grimaced from the exertion...

Damn the Mortals and their interference...the entire Quintessential Nexus of the entire planet has been damaged by this...

Indeed...we had drawn so much of it's power here...

And so much of it consumed by the primal fires they unleased...

The girl wearing the glyph of Aquarius grunted as the last of the nuclear light faded.

NOW!!! The voice of Phineus Eventide shouted.

Nodus materialized back in normal space. Only a few dozen yards away, the Zodiac Lords were surprised by the return of the five Ghostbusters and their three allies.

He flexed his right hand. An electronic whine eerily reminiscent of the arming of a Ghostbuster proton pack began to sound...

Underneath his mask, Nodus smirked.

What in the name of the Twelve Houses?!

"Like we said earlier...NO MORE JUDGEMENTS!!!" Fallagar shouted, tamping the ground with his broken staff.

There was a crackle of energy.

The energy flashed through Eventide, Lady Enlightenment, and even Barney Lupin...

And then the Five Who Are One felt it well...

Orange is for Courage, Raymond Stantz...the light in your heart that never gives in to fear, even when all looks lost...

The gold, Winston Zeddemore, is for Faith. The belief that a grander force guides us, the hope for the future that has seen you through so many horrors...

The emerald is for Sincerity. When you triumph over the dishonesty of your birthright, and are honest with others--and more importantly, yourself, Peter Venkman--will your destiny be secured...

Violet is your color, Janine Melnitz, and it is the color of Kindness. Yours is a heart willing to do much for others with little immediate reward...but never let darkness take it, and you will attain all you desire...

And you, Egon Spengler, are probably expecting me to say the red means "Knowledge" or "Wisdom". You would be wrong. 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 it's own. Unlock that Passion, and unlock your true destiny...

The power of your souls...use it well...

In front of each Ghostbuster, a ball of glowing light appeared...Ray studied the one in front of him, shimmering orange...

"Raw psychokinetic energy..." Egon mused, as the energy in front of him glowed red.

"Great. So what now?" Venkman asked. The ball of light in front of him glowed green.

"We have faith..." Winston answered, feeling the glow of the golden light in front of him. "You got a plan, Egon?"

Ray's eyes went wide. "I know what to do...we just do it the way we do best..."

Ray grabbed the orange light...and it swirled and twisted, reshaping...

Until a glowing orange proton pack appeared on his back, glowing orange neutrona wand gripped in his gloved hands.

Janine smirked as she grabbed the purple light in front of her. "I think he's got the idea..."

And in moments, the five stood armed once more.

"I wish to point out one important thing..."

"What's that, Egon?" Venkman asked, rolling his eyes.

"Since these aren't proton beams, don't worry about crossing the streams."

They fired.

The glowing beams, each in the same color as each Ghostbuster's energy, hit their targets.

The Zodiac Lords howled, and moved back.

What...is this?! the Avatar of Leo screamed

"Payback for that crappy Age of Aquarius song, Jerkweed..." Venkman retorted.

"In fact..." Egon said, an uncharacteristic hint of a smile curling his lip. "It might be that combining these beams will intensify their results..."

"Are you sure of that?" Winston asked.

"The theory is sound..."

Janine wordlessly re-aimed her beam, the violet light joining with Egon's crimson one. The Avatar of Saggitarius was thrown back.

"I'd say that works..." Ray deadpanned, joining with Venkman's blast.

"Master Eventide..." Liz said, worry growing in her voice, as the form of the Prince of Warlocks began to lose it's coherence.

My task is not done yet, my Child...

Barney, meanwhile, was being leaned on by the exhausted Fallagar. "Dude, earlier tonight you made me want to chunk my dinner with that bone-cracking thing, now you survived being roasted...you like unkillable or what?"

"Not quite..." the smaller man answered. "But having to stretch my vitality twice in one night takes a lot out of me..."

"Just what are these things, anyway? This really gets up my nose..."

Fallagar finally began to answer "In the myths of Atlantis, they were created by Iaoue, the One Above All...and that at the turning of each Age, they would visit the world of Mortals and render judgement upon it--they will not destroy the world, or even all of humanity...but they believe in a very Darwinist principle of the strong surviving..."

Egon Spengler--the weak link is Lord Scorpio. Eventide's voice called out, growing ever more ethereal. I sensed a powerful spirit, energized by the Gift, struggling with the primal creature that posesses his body. You must concentrate your effort there!!!

Egon's eyes narrowed. "Full stream--the one with the long hair and the aqua blue--Fire!!!"

"Did he say Scorpio? I'm a Scorpio..."

"Shut up and fire, Doctor Venkman"

"Of course, not all Scorpios are as cool as I am..."

The five beams joined as one.

A beam of white light struck the young, long-haired man bearing the glyph of Scorpio...

Vincent Abraham Belmont realized he was becoming aware again...trapped in his own mind, still, but no longer oblivious

A shell of aqua blue glass surrounded him...the shape of a scorpion...

But there...at the edge of the glass...

White light was burning at the shell...

Noooo!!!! the voice that had defeated him earlier screamed.

Vincent threw himself at the bubbling flaw in the glass...

And the prison in his mind shattered into a thousand pieces..

NOOOOOOOOO!!!

THE IMPERATIVE!!!

Mortal curs!!! You will die painfully for this!!!

Wait...

The young man wearing the glyph of Scorpio fell to the ground with a dull thud.

A blue glow appeared, that grew into the form of a scorpion, the glyph glowing white on it's back.

These mortals... the Scorpio being intoned. Bear examination...

"Have we won yet?" Venkman asked.

"It may only be half time..." Ray replied, gritting his teeth.

Join with me my brothers and sisters...there is more than one way to pass Judgement...

"What's going on?" Barney asked.

"I don't say this very often after eight hundred years, Mister Lupin..." Fallagar replied. "But I don't know..."

Energy crackled around the five Ghostbusters...

The power they wield...not the power of dying atoms as before, but the power of their own souls magnified...feel them...see them...

Aquarius...the great granddaughter of Rose Lockyear, the first of the Avatars posessed...stood before them...

Yes...

Lady Libra nodded. Great Courage...Faith...Sincerity...Kindness and Love...

Lord Aries--the creature posessing Janine's nephew Victor--nodded as well Our Imperative was given to us by Iaoue the One...Lord of all Creations...before, our Judgement was averted by force of arms, or trickery...

But now... Scorpio said. You have dissipated our power at great cost to yourselves--and now, we see the shine of your souls. And they are Worthy.

We will return at the next turning of the Age the man bearing the glyph of Capricorn. But this day--our Judgement is to allow your kind to develop as they were...

You may yet render Judgement on your own kind before the next Age...but you have shown us you are now worthy of that responsibility for the next two thousand years. Pray your descendants are as worthy...

"We...we win?" Venkman asked, hesitantly.

If you want to view it as such... Lord Gemini answered.

The eleven avatars remaining began to glow...their borrowed bodies slumped to the ground, a form of light appearing next to them, in the forms of their sigils. A bull, a ram, a lion, a goat...two human-like beings apparently joined together...

Nodus primed the blaster embedded in his gauntlet.

Now...

As we depart this plane, all will be returned to the place they belong...

The twelve began to glow more brightly...

Suddenly, a blast rang out...a blast sounding very much like the proton blast of a neutrona wand...and it snared the double being that had just fled from Shannon Phillips' body...

"What the?" Ray turned.

But the beam couldn't hold...and the Gemini force broke free.

Nodus was thrown back in the aftermath.

"Nodus?" Egon asked, moving toward the man.

"Another time, Doctor Spengler..." Nodus replied, picking himself up and fading from existance. "I have what I came for..."

And then all of them were surrounded by white light...

Ben King had just made the decision to throw caution to the wind--that whatever was going on at Stonehenge, he simply could not miss it. He got back into his truck, revved up the engine...

And then the unnatural light in the sky faded to the normal dawn level of solar luminescence.

Vincent awoke in his own bedroom. Everything around him just as it should've been...

Was it all a dream?!

Until the door to his room was thrown open, and his parents stood there, his father brandishing a firearm. "Vincent?"

"Father...what happened?"

"I...was just going to ask you the same thing..." Benjamin Belmont replied, lowering the gun.

Vincent was comforted by his mother's embrace...but vague visions continued to trouble him...What was that thing in my mind? Why did it choose me...

And what is it that keeps telling me the Ghostbusters may have the answers to that?

Rose Lockyer was sitting in her living room, watching late-night television...ironically enough, David Letterman was showing the Ghostbusters' battle with four deceased tyrants, taped a few hours before her great granddaughter had vanished.

She looked at the phone one more time. There had been no follow-up call from the Ghostbusters. But then, neither had she had the courage to call up Steve Griffin, and let her grandson know of his daughter's odd disappearance.

Except...now she wouldn't need to.

In a blast of purple light, much like the one that had scooped her away, Kylie reappeared.

"Kylie!!!" Rose couldn't help but shout with shock and joy.

"Gran'ma Rose?" Kylie muttered, sounding like she'd just awoken from a deep sleep.

Rose hugged the twelve year old girl tight. She didn't know how she came back...or why she'd been taken in the first place...but she was here now, and that was all that mattered to her.

Lafayette, Indiana
Fritz turned over in his sleep once more...he hadn't been able to sleep in the two hours since he went to bed. Insomnia was an occassional visitor of his, and he was already pretty sure tonight wasn't going to be any different.

What in the world happened to Ann?

He'd called her roomate, and she didn't have the slightest idea. The campus police made a perfunctory search, but really couldn't do much until she'd officially been gone twenty four hours...

He jumped with a start as a knock came at his door.

He opened it to find Ann Fishburne, looking confused. "I..."

"Are you all right?" he finally blurted out. "What happened?"

"I don't know....I was in the cafeteria, eating dinner, and then...next thing I know, it was dark and I was outside..."

Whatever happened, she looked clearly exhausted. He let her lay in his bed, and he called her roomate to let her know Ann was safe before curling up on the couch. There'll be plenty of time to figure this out later...

Ray Stantz realized with a blink he was back in Ghostbusters Central.

The pseudo-proton pack formed from the orange energy was gone. Peter and Winston were right beside him, as was...

"Shannon!!!" a female voice exclaimed and embraced the young boy, now looking fully human once more, the strange costume gone.

"I...Irena? I was running from the creature and then..." he said tentatively.

"Wow am I glad to see you guys..." Louis said, whiping some sweat off his brow. He was dressed, once more, in his green and purple Ghostbuster flight suit, and though he hadn't donned a proton pack, one was sitting next to Janine's desk for easy use.

"Even the ECTO's back..." Winston whistled, and sure enough, the team's ever-trusty vehicle was sitting in it's usual spot.

"Just one problem..." observed. "Where's Egon and Janine?"

When the light faded around them, Egon and Janine realized they had materialized in her parents' living room. With them was a groggy Victor Irwin.

"Aunt Jay? Yer crushin' me..."

"Deal with it!" she retorted, fighting back tears of joy.

Victor's mother and grandmother--who'd been awakened by the flash of light--weren't so restrained.

As his wife and daughters hugged his grandson threatened to suffocate his grandson in their joy, Fritz Melnitz vigorously shook Egon's hand. "Thanks...I don't know what Niessey and Dee would've done if..."

"It's all over, Mister Melnitz. Um...could I borrow your phone? I think I need to call home..."

Liz Hawthorne, Barney Lupin, Zandrik Fallagar, and Lilly Peacecraft appeared outside the hotel that the "Inquisitors" had been staying at.

Barney, now back into his human form, mussed the hair of the thirteen year-old girl, who was acting very much as though she'd just come out of a deep sleep.

"Master Eventide?' Liz asked.

The glowing form of the Prince of Warlocks appeared, as before, looking more youthful than the man who'd first joined Fallagar in trying to oppose the Zodiac Lords. I am here, Child...for another moment or two, anyway...

"The Ghostbusters didn't realize it...you wouldn't let me tell them..." Liz started to say.

That I used the power of my own life force to energize them? My sacrifice allowed them to secure the future of all humanity for another two millenia. And allow their own destinies to be fully realized...

"They are indeed the Five Who Are One..." Fallagar nodded.

"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 Warriors
And Secure the Destiny of Hermes,
Thus the Ascension of the Children of the Twelve..."

They all turned to Liz.

"It's a prophesy my mater taught me once...knowing the Age of Aquarius...ruled by Oranos--or Uranus--was about to begin..."

Your mentor was very wise...

"Your sacrifice will not be forgotten, Phineus. I can attest to that--as can Lady Enlightenment, I think..."

I thank you...I ask one last favor, old friend...

"Name it."

Please take care of my cat...

With that, the spirit of Phineus Eventide departed our plane...

Nodus sat down in his chair with a notable sigh of satisfaction.

All had unfolded as he had forseen.

But now, he had what might be the key to unravelling the mystery that gnawed at him.

He unclipped a small device from his right gauntlet, and inserted it into a slot on the side of what would look, to untrained eyes, like some kind of high-tech goldfish tank. He pressed the button, and the tank filled with an orange glow.

A sample of the Gemini force... he smirked to himself. If this will not allow me to find out what went wrong before, and allow me to thus control the Ascension, nothing will...

Postscript
Ghostbusters Central
July 31, 1991
Ray smirked to himself as he approached Janine's desk. She looked very tired--despite the fact that they hadn't had a call in three weeks.

I guess Peter was right--it is always the quiet ones...

"I don't suppose there's been any calls?" he asked brightly

"Of course not." she replied, stifling a yawn.

"You seen Peter?"

"He left with Dana and Oscar a little bit ago." she answered, then started to root through the papers sitting in one pile. "Oh, and I got something for you..."

"Aw, Peter isn't trying to push the bills off on me again, is he?"

She handed him an envelope with a slight smirk. "I suspect you'll find this a lot more interesting than the Con Ed bill..."

He stopped when he read the return address...from an address in Nova Scotia. And the name "E. Hawthorne"

"Um...I think I'll take this with me upstairs...' Ray said, trying (and failing) to not turn bright red.

Janine rolled her eyes and went back to filing her nails.

Dear Ray

Sorry about not writing sooner--it's been rather hectic since the whole thing back in June. I really shouldn't admit this, but a Special Tribunal was convened on the matter and of course I ended up being the star witness, and just about everything that happened that day was discussed, dissected, and analyzed. In addition to the Zodiac Lords themselves, they were interested in Fallagar--not that I blame them.

But I think I've said too much.

Barney, Lilly, and I've officially parted ways with the Church--the "Inquisitors" (as your friend dubbed us) are no more. I'm sure nobody expected that, right? Barney says he's going to take his severance pay to Las Vegas and try to "strike it rich". Lilly will be staying with me.

Here's the bad news: I can't give you any more details right now. I wish I could. But the Order wants me to take on a new project that will mean I won't be able to make it to New York for quite a while.

I feel bad about that--I was hoping to find out if Central Park was as beautiful in the summertime as you say it is.

Liz

Ray realized the letter carried the faintest hint of perfume...the same intriguing scent she wore back in Romania...

He breathed in deeply, and sighed...

Dana's in New York, which means Peter is behaving....Winston's had more time for Kaila. And Egon and Janine are finally making it work...

Why not allow myself to hope?

His reverie was interrupted when he realized that Egon had entered the room. Ray had known him long enough to pick up that the physicist's almost always impassive expression was being augmented by genuine concern.

"I've finally figured out why Slimer's been behaving so strangely..."

Ray's face darkened, all the pleasant thoughts of a moment ago fading due to concern about the status of another of his friends. Slimer had been sluggish and quiet since the battle with the Zodiac Lords. "How bad is it? I mean, he didn't even bear-hug Peter when we got back from England..."

"Slimer is suffering from PK underexposure. He's got a strong emotional connection to this firehouse, which has provided enough of a focus in our reality to keep him corporeal, but I don't think the problem is going to go away anytime soon."

"Problem?"

"It's the same reason we've had maybe five calls since June--I don't know how, but it seems that after the Solstice ambient PKE levels have been at the lowest they've been since I've been recording them. Without ambient PKE, most ectoplasmic entities are too weak to manifest fully in our continuum, and none are crossing over through portals. Slimer's been in our continuum pretty constantly for at least eight years--that and the emotional connection I mentioned earlier anchor him here. But hardly anything else is coming through."

Ray didn't like the sound of that. "No ghosts...nobody needs the Ghostbusters...how long do you think this is going to last?"

"I haven't the faintest clue. Let's pretend this Twinkie represents the normal PK level in the New York area..."

Egon stuck his little finger in one of the holes in the bottom of the snack cake, extracting a small dab of cream filling. "This is this morning's sample."

Ray gasped. "I knew it was bad, but...wow..."

"On the surface, this is a good thing. No demonic overlord is going to want to bother with Earth right now. However..."

"However, if your livelihood is based on chasing ghosts..." Ray continued the thought for him.

Egon nodded, and licked the cream filling off his finger.

"The Ghostbusters are in deep poodoo..."

Though this is the end of "The Zodiac Imperative", the fallout from it continues:

Ghostbusters: As Dreams Fade by Kingpin

Zodiac Imperative Epilog: Children of Zodiac

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