By EGB Fan, Ben King, and Fritz Baugh
GBI Case File GBNY-1997-15/321
As Roland was leaving the library with an anthology of notes on Of Mice and Men tucked under one arm, he caught sight of Kylie silently perusing a book in a secluded corner. He thought she looked rather down, and was worried. Surely she couldn't be that upset about a recent crush becoming engaged. Perhaps she was still feeling superfluous now that the original Ghostbusters were back on the scene - or maybe it was a personal problem. Roland knew that Kylie had a few of those, and he wished that she would at least talk to him about them, especially after she had confided to him about the disappearance of her friend Jack during the Grundle incident.
"Hey," Roland smiled pleasantly, helping himself to the seat next to Kylie's. "What's up?"
"I'm researching a paper on the history of three-dimensional art," Kylie returned listlessly, not looking up from her book.
"Oh... Are you OK?" asked Roland.
"Shouldn't I be?" countered Kylie.
"Well you've seemed kind of low lately," Roland admitted.
At these words Kylie looked up from her book. She fixed her eyes on Roland, pushing back a stray lock of untidy dark hair as she regarded him carefully, apparently deep in thought. Then at last she told him, her tone calm and unruffled, "I'm thinking about quitting."
Roland was absolutely shocked. "You're not!" he exclaimed.
Kylie nodded mutely.
"Right." Roland stood up purposefully, grabbed Kylie's wrist and pulled her to her feet. "Come with me."
Ten minutes later they were in the cafeteria, carrying Styrofoam mugs of steaming coffee to a vacant table.
"And coffee is supposed to make me change my mind how?" Kylie asked sarcastically, as they both sat down.
"I just felt like one," shrugged Roland. "And anyway, it might relax you. The library didn't seem a very appropriate place to have this conversation."
"Why the hell not?"
"Go on then," Kylie sighed resignedly. "Persuade me to stay on."
"Well for one thing there can never be too many Ghostbusters," Roland began sedately. "And for another, those guys are getting kinda... well... old. And besides, they have other commitments. Dr. Venkman's family is in LA, and... oh, hi."
"Hi," Garrett smiled halfheartedly, as he and Eduardo approached the table together. "So what's new, guys - anything?"
"Plenty," Roland answered soberly. "Kylie's thinking about quitting."
Neither Garrett nor Eduardo looked as shocked and dismayed as Roland had hoped they would. Eduardo looked rather impassive as he sat down next to Kylie and said, "That doesn't sound like a good idea, Ky. You're a valuable member of the team."
"Why?" snapped Kylie. "The most useful thing I do is read Egon and Ray's books - but what good is that now that they're both there?"
"You're smarter than all of us," Eduardo insisted. "If you leave we might as well all go."
The words were spilling out of Eduardo's mouth before he was even aware of them in his mind. He was prepared to admit to himself how desperately he wanted Kylie to stay. If she left the Ghostbusters, when would he get a chance to see her? At college, perhaps - just occasionally. Looking at her now, morose and lonely in a room filled with the buzz of chattering young people, he felt that tugging pain in his chest again. Now that he realized he loved her, seeing Kylie every day was going to be torture for him. Maybe he should quit the Ghostbusters whether she decided to or not.
"You're right - we might as well all go," Garrett suddenly chimed in. "I mean - look at us: Goth girl, slacker boy, naive fantasist and cripple."
"GARRETT!" Roland exclaimed, horrified. "I know you don't believe for a minute that your disability gets in the way of your work!"
Garrett simply shrugged and said, "What's it matter if I do or I don't? The fact remains that we're here and the old guys are at the firehouse - or maybe even out on a bust."
"That's true," Roland said coolly. He drained his coffee cup and got to his feet. "Come on - let's get out of here. You three may think we aren't needed, but I'd like a second opinion. If all of the guys can honestly tell us that they neither need nor want our help, we can all quit. OK?"
They all had work to do, but at that point they didn't much care. Roland's sudden onset of authority meant that they were about to make an important decision that would ultimately affect the rest of their lives. They filed out of the noisy cafeteria and followed Roland outside to his car. They drove all the way to the firehouse in stony silence, every one of them suddenly realizing that they were terrified of what might be about to happen. Egon, Winston, Ray and Peter had all been full of reassurances at one time or another over the last few days, but it might all have been to spare the kids' feelings. What would happen if they suddenly asked for a totally honest, unedited answer to the question, "Do you need us?"
"No... we've done it all before and we don't need anyone's help. Sorry." They would certainly apologize, but it would be no compensation. This was a good time in their lives. None of them wanted it to end.
No sooner was Roland out of the car than Janine came running up to him, almost in tears, demanding angrily, "Where have you been?"
"College," Roland replied simply, pulling Garrett's folded chair out of the car boot. "Why - what's up?"
"The guys went out on a bust," Janine gabbled frantically. "It was more than two hours ago and I can't reach them via the radio."
"They're probably bowling," Garrett muttered bitterly.
"What?" Janine asked sharply.
"You know," shrugged Garrett. "Bowling. This happened before, remember - on Egon's birthday. They went out on a bust and came back over an hour later with a bowling trophy."
"But surely they would have called!" Janine wailed desperately.
"Ha - yeah, right," scoffed Eduardo. "They're in their forties."
"Maybe it's just a tough job," Roland suggested reasonably. "We've been known to go out on cases that take all day - sometimes even longer."
"But you always keep in radio contact," argued Janine. "You're probably right, but why can't I reach them?"
"It's OK," Kylie cut in, speaking in soothing tones and putting a reassuring hand on Janine's arm. "We'll go out and look for them."
Janine gave them the details of the call, and minutes later they were kitted up and back in the Mustang. Peter, Ray, Winston and Egon had been called to somebody's apartment to investigate some kind of problem - Janine was still upset and hadn't been very clear - but when the team reached the apartment their knock wasn't answered, so they made up their minds to scour the nearby streets.
"Why do ghosts always go for the darkest corner?" Kylie asked dryly, following her PKE meter's lead into a typically sinister darkened alley. "Come on, guys - don't just stand there. For all you know I could be about to - "
She stopped dead, and so suddenly that she had her three companions quite worried for a moment. Garrett, Eduardo and Roland all ventured forwards together, but they stopped in their tracks as soon as they caught sight of what had Kylie so spooked.
Roland was the first to regain the power of speech. "Oh my God," he murmured.
Garrett shook his head disbelievingly, gaping like a goldfish and stammering helplessly, "It can't be. It - it just can't be."
But it was. There, half-concealed in shadow, were the forms of Peter, Ray, Egon and Winston. They stood still and lifeless, eyes and mouths open wide, their proton packs still intact but everything else - hands, faces, hair and clothes - perfectly formed in smooth grey stone.
"What the hell happened?" Kylie whispered, feeling somehow afraid that the slightest sound or movement might damage the statues.
"Even I've heard monster myths like this, Kylie," Eduardo murmured quietly. "But we can fix it though, right? All we need to do is find whatever did this and trap it."
"How can we?" Kylie asked despairingly. "Janine did say something about stone statues suddenly appearing, but nobody has reported seeing a monster. We don't even know what it looks like. Everyone who's seen it..." she tailed off.
"And if any of us sees it we'll go the same way," Roland intoned gravely. "Look, there must be a way around this. But in the meantime we'd better do something with these guys."
"If it can be cured without disabling the monster only Egon would know how to do it," Kylie fretted, and she felt tears pricking the backs of her eyes. "This is awful!"
For a moment they could think of nothing to do but stand and stare in silence, as though willing the problem to go away would actually work. Then Roland suddenly found himself overcome with morbid curiosity. He took a step towards the statues and reached out a hand to the closest one, which happened to be Peter. Roland removed his glove and ran a hand over the rough contours of Peter's hair, the smooth surface of his face, the cold hard lips that framed the gaping hole of his open mouth.
"It feels exactly like a real statue," Roland told his companions soberly. "I can't tell what kind of stone... like it matters," he added scathingly, at once deriding himself for saying something so futile.
"So what's happened to them?" asked Garrett. "Are they still in there? Can they see and hear us, or have they blacked out or what?"
"How can we possibly know?" Kylie returned scathingly. Her eyes fell upon Egon's dark-grey lifeless face and she whispered inaudibly, "Can't you find a way to tell me what to do?"
"Should we tell their families?" Eduardo suddenly asked.
"How can you tell them something like that?" Garrett cried in dismay.
"Dr. Venkman told his kids he'd be home at the weekend," Roland murmured quietly. "Oh my God - this is horrible..."
"Too much talk," Garrett suddenly decided. "We need to get them back to the firehouse. Roland, you'd better fetch your car."
"I'll go too," offered Kylie. "The Ecto-1 was around there somewhere."
"Ok, good," Garrett nodded approvingly. "Well, they can't say we're not needed after this."
"Yeah," Eduardo said expressionlessly, as he watched Kylie and Roland's retreating forms. "They can't say anything much right now."
"But we can fix them," Garrett insisted.
Eduardo raised his eyebrows and asked dubiously, "Can we?"
"Well we'd just better hope so," sighed Garrett, not appreciating Eduardo's cynicism right now. Ok, so they couldn't be sure, but one of these men was engaged to be married and the other three had wives and small children. The possibility that they might be stuck this way forever just didn't bear thinking about.
"Roland...could we try find something...I don't think Egon's gonna like being stone any longer then he already is." Eduardo replied flippantly from a desk chair as he studied a piece of technology he'd dug out, the components appeared to have burnt out and several others were hanging from the device, but it looked like a cobbled together rifle.
"Eduardo, do you have any idea how much equipment there is to look through?" Roland asked irritably. "Besides, Garrett and Kylie are going through the case files...if they find anything they'll let us know." Roland scrolled onto the next page and paused when he saw a listing for a set of 'VR Ecto Scopes', followed by two asterisks. He checked the legend at the bottom of the page, one asterisk signified 'Patent Pending' and two signified 'Currently in development'. Intrigued by the listing, Roland clicked on the link and began to read the page.
Equipment type: Ecto Scopes
Additional modifications (If Any): Modification for Virtual Reality interface
Design Patent owners: E. Spengler, R. Stantz.
Design development by: E. Spengler, R. Stantz
Date of last file modification: 11/25/97
Design Notes: It has been noted in previous cases, including GBNY Casefile 1985-3/244, that the Ecto Scopes, working with specific modifications, can be used to track entities normally invisible to the human eye, such as poltergeists. The tracking system is usually based off of scanning the PKE signature of an entity and compensating for the phase variance which creates the apparent invisibility. However, the modifications are costly and not produced to last for exceptionally long periods of design, usually requiring the Ecto Scopes to be reset to their original parameters. Based on the suggestion of GBNY Staff Member Dr. Ray Stantz, it has been investigated by the GBI Research and Development team of the plausibility of utilizing current and potentially future virtual reality equipment to simulate both objects, entities and humans in the case of either adverse weather conditions that limit visibility or in the case of a lack of artificial and natural light, it has been investigated if ultraviolet light emitters can be equipped but results have had varied success.
At the present stage, two models of Ecto Scopes with VR configuration have been developed and constructed with reasonable success, the downsides being that their VR simulations are far more simplified then preferred, and thus cannot be used for precision particle fire. The current system utilizes a ultraviolet emitter to project a wave of ultraviolet light, the light is then bounced back and collected by a receiver which is built into the front of the Ecto Scopes, this information is then sent to the CPU unit which attaches to a field belt, once the data has been received the CPU uses this to construct a 3D VR model of the world, including separate colors for PKE Entities and corporeal beings. At present the VR Ecto Scopes are still being developed and it is both the belief of myself and Dr. Stantz that a fully operable set won't be available until at least as early as 2015.
GBI - R&D - 2566.9
Case File Reference:
GBI Casefile GBNY-1985-3/244 codeword: 'Uncle Cyrus'.
"Mom! It's me," he announced breathlessly. "Is everybody home? ...Even Dad? ...Good. Listen, none of you can go out. There's something out there - probably a Gorgon... Yeah, and if you look at it you'll be turned to stone. So shut all of the doors and windows and everything, ok? Actually - Mom, let me speak to Tara."
Listening as Roland expressed frenziedly to his younger sister how vital it was that she stay in until the threat was eliminated, Eduardo quickly realized that he ought to call and warn his own family of the same thing. His sister-in-law Beth would have collected her son Kevin from school about an hour ago. It might already be too late for them... if Eduardo called home he might not get an answer. But he had to try. And what about Carl? Eduardo had absolutely no idea which shifts his brother did and did not work. All he could do was wait for Roland to get off the line, and then call home and see whether anybody answered.
"I mean it, Tara," Roland was saying heatedly. "You absolutely must not go out tonight!"
"She is so going out tonight," Garrett muttered to Eduardo. He had not yet met Tara Jackson, but he had heard enough about her to realize that she was an extremely typical disobedient teenager.
Kylie was standing in the corner next to Egon's statuesque form. She was chewing on her bottom lip, but otherwise she was in as much a state of catatonia as the statues. Ray, Peter and Winston were still downstairs, as the statues were heavy and nobody felt inclined to move them about too much if it wasn't strictly necessary. But Egon, it was unanimously agreed, simply had to be kept out of sight of Janine. She wanted to stay with him, but Roland had quickly deduced that she couldn't cope with that. It had taken a lot of persuading to get her to stay downstairs. Even Slimer had been recruited to the cause, which had the desired of effect of obtaining Janine's agreement if it would shut them up!
"Staring at him ain't gonna do him no good," Eduardo suddenly snapped.
Kylie turned her head, dark hair flying back from her tear-stained face, and she glared hatefully at him. Trying not to cry had been a hard-fought battle, which overall she had probably won. A few treacherous tears had escaped, but for the most part she had managed to hold back. The two thin lines of mascara staining her cheeks didn't do justice to what she was feeling. Garrett and Roland were almost tempted to say that maybe she should stay out of Egon's way as well, but it seemed such a fallacy to compare her grief to Janine's. Only one of these women was expecting to marry the man!
As soon as Roland was back working on the visors, Eduardo went and snatched up the phone. He dialed his home number and waited.
"I could really use some help here, Kylie," ventured Roland, his tone entirely devoid of expression as his thoughts were now primarily on his unpredictable sister.
The sixth ring trilled ominously in Eduardo's ear. He didn't put the phone down just yet, still hoping. Maybe Kevin was in the bathroom and Beth was - what? - elbow-deep in the night's dinner, perhaps. Maybe they had gone to a friend's house after school. Maybe the TV was on so loud they couldn't hear the phone. Maybe...
"Sure." Kylie pulled herself together and stepped back from Egon. "I'd just kinda like to - you know - wash my face," and she shuffled off towards the bathroom.
The receiver clattered noisily onto its cradle and Eduardo sat down heavily on the nearest chair. To his mind there was little doubt that his sister-in-law and nephew, both of whom he liked a great deal, were both trapped in bodies of lifeless stone. And Kylie... why was she taking Egon's fate so badly? Did she feel that way about Ray too? She definitely had a crush on him as well, and Eduardo found he was seething with jealousy. He knew - just knew - that if he was turned to stone, Kylie wouldn't be nearly this upset. But how he would feel if it happened to her... it hurt just thinking about it. Why did he have to snap at her like that? The way she had looked at him, her usually big green eyes narrowed with anger and disgust, broke his heart.
"What if this doesn't work?" Kylie asked quietly, drawing up beside Roland. Her face wasn't streaked with jagged black lines anymore, but her eyes were raw and the tears still threatened to spill over.
"If it doesn't work," Roland replied gravely, "we'll just have to pray that there's somebody else out there who can help."
Despite it all, however, they at last settled down and worked earnestly for another hour. They took their breaks in turns, always checking up on Janine and finding her a little less negative with every visit. All felt sure that her devastation could not have decreased, but she was learning to hide it well. As the time passed her thoughts turned to people other than herself. On Garrett's visit she confided that she had thought about calling the guys' wives. They had a right to know - and leave it up to them to decide whether the children should be told.
"Don't," Garrett ordered firmly. "We're going to stop it. They'll be this way for a couple more hours at the most. Their families don't need to know until it's over."
"What if they call?" asked Janine. "People are becoming statues all over New York. A story like that can't avoid press coverage for long."
"It can," Garrett answered grimly. "If everybody from the press is a statue."
When Garrett returned to the rest of the team, they were ready to go. They had a very strong PKE trail to follow, made sinisterly easy by the human statues lining the sidewalks that confirmed they were on the right track. The situation had become a great deal worse during their time away from it. The whole of Manhattan was now a giant art gallery, its people immortalized in a less than beautiful stone, all at some halfway point in their everyday lives.
The roads were thick with grimy snow, nobody being available - or rather animate - to clear them. Driving through the city was quite a mission. Plenty of people had turned to stone whilst crossing the roads - but the Ghostbusters scarcely noticed this next to all of the crashed cars, buses and taxis. The drivers' cold and lifeless stone fingers gripped the steering wheels while the engines spluttered in protest. People had been hit, but close examination on the first two encounters showed that no damage had been done. Not a chip on any of them. Evidently this stone was hardy stuff.
Some people must have taken to their homes like the Jackson family had done, but it looked like they were a minority. This Medusa - or whatever - was running out of victims here. Maybe she (or he? - they had no idea) would move on. Or maybe not. There was no reason to assume that the thing derived any pleasure or sustenance from turning people to stone. From what Kylie could remember of Greek Mythology, this unfortunate side effect of looking at Medusa was quite unintentional on her part.
Roland drew the Ecto-1 to a halt when they reached Times Square, and the four Ghostbusters alighted. With the extinguishing of the car's siren, a deathly silence fell over the city. There were cars all around: parked cars, crashed cars, parked cars that moving cars had crashed into. A police motorcycle had been hit by a taxi. The cab driver and his passenger sat immobile in the car, but there was no sign of the police officer that had been driving the cycle. Still, whoever it was evidently wasn't the only cop working this extraordinary case. Two police cars had hit each other head-on when their drivers became stone - probably out looking for the officer or officers they had lost contact with.
The air felt bitingly cold, the small snowflakes falling slowly and steadily. It was getting dark and the street lamps were coming on, illuminating the statues lining the streets in a dull orange light. It wasn't just people that had fallen victim to the Gorgon. Stone rats lined the alleyways, their eyes wide with terror, some of them standing on hind legs and holding morsels of food halfway to their open mouths. Scores of pigeons on both roof and ground level had fallen victim to the monster's curse. A few of the human statues held leashes tied to stone dogs, and here and there was a statuesque cat. They were all coated with soft white snow - nothing like the icy grey sludge that had been trodden into the roads. It occurred to Kylie that if she didn't think about what all of this meant, it was almost beautiful.
"Do not remove the visors for a moment," she cautioned her teammates, evidently now over her hysteria. "I think we should split up, just in case something goes wrong. We can't all be turned to stone - I really don't think Janine could save the city on her own. Guys" - she turned to Garrett and Eduardo - "I think it's safe to say that Roland and I would have more idea what to do in the event of failure than either of you two."
"I'm not going to argue," Garrett smiled dryly.
"Then Roland and I must stay separate to ensure that at least one of us stays animate," asserted Kylie. "We have to keep in constant radio contact. If anybody tries to communicate and doesn't receive an answer, assume the worst and take cover until you can decide on a course of action. Eduardo, come with me."
Garrett watched Eduardo and Kylie's retreating forms as they ventured into the shadows, and he remarked casually to Roland, "Kinda reminds me of Scooby-Doo. 'Velma - you, Shaggy and Scooby take the basement. Daphne and I will go up to the attic and make out.' Hey!" This when Roland, obviously not having heard a word, suddenly sprinted off in an apparently random direction and then skidded to a halt beside a pair of stone statues.
Garrett wheeled quickly after Roland, weaving expertly between the stone men, women and children that blocked his path. Darkness was fast descending over them, but Garrett could clearly see his friend's mortified expression illuminated in the artificial light above them. He was staring at one statue in particular: a girl with a mass of tiny mini-braids, clumped together and bumpy in their stony state. She had a generous curvy figure, the outline of a tight tank top and mini-skirt (In this weather? thought Garrett) clearly visible in the perfectly crafted stone. Garrett looked at her face. It was pretty even in that state with big eyes, thickset lips and a snub nose. She and her male companion were almost certainly black, Garrett could tell, despite the absence of any skin pigment. Though far from proof, this simple fact made it seem more likely that the girl was related to Roland.
"Who is she?" Garrett asked carefully.
"My sister," Roland answered, in strangely detached tones.
"Ah man, I'm sorry," Garrett sympathized. "But look, it'll be OK. She'll be back to normal in no time. Maybe we should - you know - get on and do something."
Roland's expression suddenly darkened as he came back to reality, and he exclaimed heatedly, "I told her not to go out! Boy Tara, is Mom gonna ground you when I get you home!"
"And who's this?" Roland squeaked hysterically, gesturing at the statue whose hand was cupped unashamedly over the back of Tara's immodest skirt. "My sister is fifteen, you sick pervert!"
"Really?" asked Garrett, his eyes moving over Tara's ample bust as Roland heaved the other statue some yards away from her. "She looks older. Hey, Roland - what's the point of that? He can't do much to her while they're like this."
"I don't care," snapped Roland. "He has no right to touch her... there. Who the hell is he anyway? I'm sure I've never seen him before. How old do you think he is?"
"It's hard to tell," Garrett replied cautiously. "Sixteen? Seventeen?"
"Oh come on! He looks at least nineteen and you know it!"
"Roland, maybe we should get on with trying to find this thing."
"I can't believe she went out! I told her - "
Garrett's walkie-talkie crackled as he said this, and he heard Kylie's voice breaking over the wavelength, not at all clear. He snatched up the radio on his belt and asked it tentatively, "Kylie?"
She said something else. Garrett caught two words - "radio" and "sidewalk" - and he couldn't even be sure that he had heard correctly. "Looks like we're gonna have trouble staying in touch," he told Roland dryly. "Seems to me there's a fifty-fifty chance each time that splitting up will turn out to be a good idea."
Eduardo, who had been recoiling disgustedly at the snow-covered stone likeness of a particularly large rat, turned round in surprise. Kylie, sitting forward on the bench, was still punishing her radio by threatening to break it against the icy concrete at her feet. Eduardo hurried over and snatched the unfortunate object from her hand, saying soothingly, "Take it easy, Ky. It'll be OK."
"Can you qualify that theory?" Kylie asked coldly.
"It just has to be," Eduardo insisted. "Have you seen this mess?" and he gestured widely to their surroundings. "We're the only people who can clean it up, and it ain't the first time that's happened. We - whoa!"
Kylie looked up in surprise when Eduardo suddenly abandoned his motivational speech mid-sentence and ran to something several yards behind the bench. She got up slowly and followed him; by the time she reached him he was gingerly extracting a revolver from the lifeless stone hand of his older brother.
"Don't want any accidents," Eduardo said expressionlessly.
Kylie looked in the direction the gun had been pointing. A newspaper stand, a Krazy's, and a young girl with a cute Jack Russell terrier (both stone, of course) were all within firing range. Eduardo had had the sense to flip the safety catch before trying to free the gun from the unbending finger poised on the trigger. It was a difficult job, but eventually he was able to drop the revolver into the snow at his brother's feet with a look of disgust.
"Was he trying to shoot the Gorgon?" wondered Kylie.
"Probably," shrugged Eduardo. "That's his answer to everything."
The snow was falling faster now, the glare from the street lamps creating miniature blizzards as streams of light illuminated the flakes caught in the icy wind that had been building with the darkness. Standing still, Kylie suddenly realized how cold it was, and she was gripped with a searing pain in her breasts as the skin contracted tightly. She instinctively wrapped her arms around herself, but whatever warmth was there could not penetrate her tough outer layers of clothing. This whole fiasco was getting worse and worse. She glanced at Eduardo, watching his breath like steam spiraling on the wind, but if the cold bothered him he didn't let it show.
"Are you OK?" asked Kylie.
Eduardo shook his head. "This is so weird."
"I don't feel anything."
"It'd be different if you didn't know he was going to be ok."
"Would it?" Eduardo asked dubiously. "How do I know he's going to be OK?"
"What were you telling me just now?" countered Kylie. "It's got to be OK. We have to do this. Failure is not an option."
"Right," Eduardo nodded slowly. "Because it's not like he's the only one. I think that Kevin and Beth..." he tailed off.
"Don't think," advised Kylie. "Let's just do it," and she whipped out her PKE meter. "Come on. The trail leads this way."
All stood there with expressions of horror...Ray and Winston looking like they were trying to aim their throwers...Venkman just simply dumbstruck.
And he didn't tuck his pants in as usual... she sneered to herself, regarding the cuff exposed over his boots. And you, Ray, are starting to need a shave really badly. Yeah, that's it, Janine, keep trying to make funnies of it...try not to let it all sink in...
What am I gonna tell Dana, and Kaila, and... she stopped herself angrily. Don't go there. Roland and the others are good. Probably better than Egon and the others were with only a year on the job. Of course, some of that had to do with having what Egon, Peter, Ray, and Winston didn't have when they first started--a couple of experienced Ghostbusters to show them the ropes...
Oh. Fuck. This.
She turned and walked briskly to the staircase.
Slimer appeared. He held up his green arms and babbled something along the lines of "You're not supposed to go up there..." following orders from Roland.
He tapered off. He knew that look--standing in her way would be futile, and probably get him hurt.
She inhaled deeply and opened the door to the lab.
A silent piece of stone stood there, PKE meter still tight in his stony clutch. Interestingly enough, she noticed it was one of the older models...the design he'd carried for all of the years between the battle with Gozer and the incident with Achira, as opposed to the upgrade he and Roland had masterminded.
"What have you gotten yourself into this time, Spengler?" she asked the silent statue. "Everytime I turn around you're getting sent to the Netherlands, possessed, unleashing dragons, infected by cursed potato chips, regressed to infancy, or turned into a werechicken..." She picked a piece of lint off of his collar.
"That's why I'm not freaking out, Egon." she said firmly. "I know you've had worse than this done to you...no way this is gonna stick now. Not now, not when we finally have so much to live for."
She regarded the ring on her finger. Against her will, she sniffled. She pulled something out of her own pocket--the twin of the coin she'd given to him over fourteen years before...
"What was it you said, Egon? 'For some reason I could never part with it, even in the depths of my depressions...because I somehow had this odd feeling...that if I disposed of it, you'd never come back to me'...that was me too, Egon." she held it to her heart. "Even in the grand total of like a month I thought things would work for Louis and I...I could never let this go."
She realized the tears were flowing now, but didn't care. "Married, Egon...we're getting married...and if Adonai is willing, there's a tiny Spengler or two in our future...that's why you're going to get through this...I..."
She reached up and kissed him...
"Well...you never know...that works sometimes in the fairy tales..." she chuckled with very little humor.
"Don't say that, Eduardo. I'm not ready to die."
"Neither am I. But I gotta admit I can think of worse ways to go."
"Well Kylie, look at this. It's... it's beautiful! We'd be immortalized forever. And if that happens to me, there's nothing I'd want more than to be with - "
Whoa, stop, too cheesy. Far, far too cheesy. I want our love to be preserved forever in stone, Kylie - that would make even the most romantic soul want to puke. Scratch that and start again.
"Neither am I. But if anything should... happen to one of us, there's something I want you to know... I love you, Kylie."
"Oh Eduardo! I didn't dare hope..."
He catches his breath sharply and turns to look at her. Slight hesitation and then, "Kylie... does that mean...?"
"Yes! I love you too!"
Up on tiptoe, arms round neck, encircle waist, pick her up, three-hundred-and-sixty degree turn. Hmm... bordering on cheesy again, perhaps...
"I can't help thinking about Egon..."
"Kylie, please... I thought..."
"No no." She presses her fingers against his lips to stop him - very nice effect. "I didn't mean that. It's just that... well, he and Janine fell in love all those years ago and they only just got engaged. And now look at them. Think of all the years of happiness they could have had before this happened, but they missed out on all of it. Eduardo... I don't want to waste time like they did. If we get out of this alive... I want to marry you."
"Well then." This would be a good time to kiss her, if you haven't done it already. "Now I'm even more determined that we'll get out of this alive."
Wow. That was different. Eduardo was surprised by how much being in love had altered his imagination. If it was a movie that he was watching, he knew it would make him want to throw up. But inside his head, when he saw it happening to himself and Kylie, he wanted it more than any of the other fantasies. This surprised him too when he realized it. It was an entirely different kind of vision: a far cry from the original fantasy born on the night of the Achira incident. It had started when Kylie asked him to kiss her; as he leaned towards her he had started to imagine all of the things he didn't dare hope might happen next. And he still imagined it to this day: how the situation might have developed if Kylie had been in her right mind; if she had been saying the words rather than the demon possessing her.
Coincidentally Kylie too had been thinking about the whole Achira incident. She still burned with humiliation whenever she thought of it, particularly in Eduardo's company. That demon had read her so astonishingly accurately... Achira knew the guise with which to entice her before she even clapped eyes on her. And then when she was actually inside her head... Kylie remembered her anger, and her words to Roland, Garrett and Eduardo when she was finally free to express it: "She pretended to be my Grandma Rose!" That had been bad enough, but she didn't add that something else had made her furious with Akira: that the demon had burrowed down to her most intimate thoughts, pulled out the shaming ideas she'd had about Eduardo and done what she herself would never dream of doing: saying them out loud, and to him of all people. Trapped inside her own body with Achira controlling her, Kylie had felt herself acting out the fantasies that were supposed to say deeply rooted in the darkest recesses of her mind. At the end of it all, when challenged by Eduardo, she'd felt that she had no choice but to disassociate herself entirely from Achira's actions: "I have no idea what you're talking about..." Her humiliation burnt more fiercely when she thought of Eduardo's reaction to her advances: she had felt his excitement pounding in his chest as she... Achira had pressed her body against his...
"Shit," Eduardo murmured, and suddenly Kylie felt herself dragged forcibly into the nearest back-alley.
"What are you...?"
"I think I've just seen it."
Eduardo nodded mutely and so Kylie, ecto-scope already in place, ventured to peer out into the street. The creature had its back to them. It was impossible to tell how human it was, if at all, as its body was hidden in a long black garment that betrayed nothing in the way of shape, not even whether it had arms and/or legs. But this had to be it, the monster's identity betrayed by the wings on its back and the cluster of black and dark-green snakes that hung from its head, swaying limply back and forth and occasionally lunging at one another if they got in each other's way. Kylie sucked in her breath and retreated back into the darkened alley, whispering furtively, "Can we hold her here until the others arrive?"
"I thought we couldn't contact the others," Eduardo reminded her.
"Try," ordered Kylie, going to risk another look at the creature.
Eduardo pulled out his walkie-talkie, gave it a shake and then tried using it: "Guys? Can either of you hear me? C'mon - we've found it!"
"Eddie?" It was Garrett's voice, cracked and only just audible. "Did you just say you've found it?"
Kylie picked up her own radio and joined in the conversation: "I can only see her back view but I think she's eating. Let's hope it's just a burger - we're near a Krazy's. I don't think she ate live prey in the original legend... Anyway, can you guys get over here?"
"Did you get all that?" asked Eduardo, as his own radio starting crackling in protest to Kylie's nearness.
"Most of it," replied Garrett. "Can you be a little more specific than 'we're near a Krazy's'? We'll bring the car - maybe Roland can ram her into a wall or something, and then it shouldn't be too difficult to trap her."
Kylie started to give some more detailed directions, watching the creature through the ecto-scope the whole time, but then she suddenly gasped and pulled herself sharply back into the alleyway as the woman - for it was now obvious that she was a woman - started walking towards her.
"She's moving," Kylie murmured into the walkie-talkie. "Headed west. Just keep going where I told you and your PKE meters should do the rest."
She made a move towards Eduardo, as she was fast losing sight of him in the darkened alley, and instinctively grabbed onto his arm. They were in a dead-end alley whose only exit was flooded with artificial light, so she was unlikely to lose him, but it just felt safer that way. She felt him tense when she touched him. They were both very aware of their racing hearts - it was, to be frank, a shit scary situation. The four Ghostbusters weren't quite the only people in New York not turned to stone, but the streets were silent and deserted so they might just as well be. If it happened to them too... if there had been some minor calculation while they were modifying the ecto-scopes...
There was a moment of surprise when Eduardo and Kylie suddenly found themselves illuminated in a bright yellow glare, but then the familiar engine sound of the Ecto-1 told them what was happening and even managed to reassure them both. Kylie caught Roland's eye as he drove, and she gave him a small wave and a somewhat halfhearted smile of encouragement.
"Take a left here," ordered Garrett, carefully studying his PKE meter. "This thing's about ready to explode."
Roland did as he was told. The creature - the Gorgon, as they'd decided to call it - hadn't had time to get far. Of course she heard the engine noise, and Roland registered the movement of her writhing snake-covered head just in time to spin the car around and retreat a few yards before slowing to a complete stop.
"Do not look at it," he murmured to Garrett.
"How stupid do you think I am?" Garrett retorted.
"She sure looks like Medusa," Roland remarked. "And we had Cerberus to deal with the other day. So what'll be next - Harpies and a Minotaur?"
"She's coming towards us," Garrett hissed urgently, seeing movement in the rear-view mirror from the corner of his eye as his ears somehow caught the rustle of the creature's long black garment as she walked. Wow... it really was eerily quiet.
Roland suddenly took on a look of pure determination and pulled the car into reverse. He slammed down on the accelerator with a force that Garrett had never seen from him before even in an emergency, and the car shot backwards at breakneck speed. Roland felt the bump against the back of the car, and waited until both the back wheels and the front had run over whatever it was he hit before he stopped. Well, he had to assume he'd hit the Gorgon, but as he'd been so careful not to look at his target (he wasn't that confident of his protective visor) he couldn't be one hundred percent sure. Praying silently, he started to climb out of the car. He could see a vague shape on the ground in front of him, but the visor in front of his eyes was fast clouding over with snow. He squinted through it at the ground, and could no longer make out movement. He could see what he thought was the bundle of snakes, but even they didn't appear to be moving. Taking a deep breath, he reached for the snow-covered visor.
A few hundred yards away, Kylie and Eduardo had heard the screech of brakes, the sound of impact and the ensuing ominous silence. They had to assume that the Gorgon was still alive, as the people surrounding them were still motionless. (Of course if it turned out that they couldn't be released simply by trapping the creature there was going to be a hell of a lot more work to do...) Kylie led the way, Eduardo following reluctantly as she rounded the corner. They could just about make out Roland's form halfway out of the car... not moving... Oh shit no, surely not...
"Oh I don't believe it!" Kylie yelled exasperatedly, running over to the Ecto-1 and staring at Roland in absolute dismay. His hand holding the visor - this now stone, just to exacerbate things, as he was still half-wearing it - was caked in snow. Garrett was sitting in the car, in exactly the same state, cold and unmoving. "All they had to do was not look at her! I mean it's not exactly what you might call difficult, is it!"
Eduardo was reminded of the Tenebrach incident, when he too had broken the golden rule of not looking and accidentally taken an eyeful of the Orb of Moldova. He knew very well that not looking at the thing you were after could be surprisingly difficult. Even so, it didn't look as though these guys had made much of an effort. They were both staring fixedly at the ground straight in front of the car. Presumably then they had hit her... but she sure as hell wasn't there now.
"Kylie," murmured Eduardo. "Where is she?"
"She's somewhere behind us," Kylie hissed furtively. "I don't think she's too close right now but she's coming nearer. Come on - let's get outta here."
They were about to move off - go anywhere but here - but a crackle on the car radio stopped them. Janine's voice was faint and distant at first, but the signal soon cleared considerably as though her own distress and determination alone were enough to penetrate a severe communications breakdown.
"What's going on?" the voice cried desperately. "Will somebody please answer me?"
"Janine," Kylie said briskly, snatching up the radio. "We've - um - hit a temporary setback... but it's going to be fine."
"What kind of setback?" demanded Janine.
"It's nothing. Really. It's going to be fine." She hoped she sounded a lot surer of what she was saying than she felt. "They'll be fine, honestly. I think we're pretty close to trapping her now. Look... we've gotta keep moving. Just hang in there, OK?"
"Kylie..." ventured Eduardo, frowning with concern at his PKE meter's increasing excitement. "She's close."
Kylie simply nodded and instinctively grabbed his hand, finding that she was grateful for the warmth that managed to penetrate both his glove and hers. She felt the pressure on her hand increasing, but she didn't mind; she quite understood that Eduardo was scared. So was she. It was just the two of them left now. As they walked, Kylie wondered where they should go and what they should do. She was tempted to walk to the Jacksons' house and hole up with them... but it didn't seem exactly constructive.
"Kylie," Eduardo said quietly. He was studying his PKE meter. "I think she's following us."
"Why?" wondered Kylie. "She didn't actually go after people in the original Greek legend. She turned them to stone totally by accident, as far as I recall."
"Well this ain't ancient Greece."
"This just gets better and better! What the hell are we supposed to do now?"
"Keep walking and find some cover. We're not safe in the open."
Kylie nodded and increased her pace in a gesture of determination. She was aware that she still had a good grip on Eduardo's hand. It was encouraging to feel the heat from it, and the movement of his fingers. Even though each knew perfectly well that the other was entirely all right, the certainty of touch was reassuring to both of them.
"We need somewhere with a lot of cover," Kylie decided, all the while keeping an eye on her PKE meter. "She's gaining. C'mon - let's see if we can hide out in there for a while."
She was looking at a supermarket over the road. She led Eduardo through the statues and trodden-down snow, both of them still amazed by how surreal this all was, perhaps even not quite believing it. Kylie remembered the paper on the history of three-dimensional art that she was supposed to be writing. All the time she'd been researching it she kept thinking of the Gorgon-esque myths: Medusa, obviously, and the eastern legends of people turning to stone for whatever reason - looking over their shoulder at a bad moment whilst climbing a cursed mountain, or encountering a malevolent being with a more unpleasant version on the Midas touch. She hadn't even started that damn paper yet. And Pagan would be howling for his supper by now... unless the creature had penetrated Kylie's attic room and done its dirty work on her cat.
"The signal's weakening," Eduardo observed, gently removing his hand from Kylie's. "Whoa - looks like she's already been here."
Checkout workers, bag boys, shelf stackers and weekday shoppers stood lifelessly all over the supermarket with various items of food in their cold stone hands. Both Eduardo and Kylie were suddenly very aware that they hadn't eaten since lunchtime, and now it was getting on for midnight. Kylie wandered over to a shelf stacked with various snack foods and picked up a multipack of ready salted crisps.
"You want some potato chips?" she asked, pulling open the large red packet.
"Sure," shrugged Eduardo, catching the small bag that Kylie threw to him. "Thanks. I suppose if we're about to save these people's asses they can't object to us borrowing a few things."
They each selected a soda can from the fridge near the exit and then made for the far corner of the store, where they slumped to the ground behind a shelf stacked with flour and sugar and the like. They took a moment to wolf down the stolen food and drink. Working non-stop all day with a nagging fear at the back of their minds had made them tired, hungry and thirsty. They were glad of a break.
"I think we've given her the slip," Kylie suddenly said, studying her gently humming PKE meter.
"Good," was Eduardo's response to that. "She'll find us, but in the meantime I think we could use a break."
"Everybody in New York is a statue," Kylie went on. "It's a horrible thought."
"Janine isn't," Eduardo pointed out.
"Yeah. And Roland's family." There hadn't been time for them to hear about Tara. "It's still pretty pig-awful, though. And I might as well tell you that I'm shit scared of it happening to us."
"It won't happen to us, Kylie. I know I'm pretty useless but you can do anything because you are such an amazing woman. That's why I love you."
"I love you too, Eduardo! Kiss me!"
"Hey," Eduardo ventured quietly. "You're not still thinking about quitting, are you?"
Kylie shook her head and said, "You and I are the only ones who haven't been turned to stone. I think that says something for our abilities as Ghostbusters."
"I probably wouldn't have made it without you."
"Yeah, well... ditto. You spotted her and pulled me into that alley, remember."
"There's so much more I want us to do together, Kylie. It's not just tonight - I don't want to go through the rest of my life without you."
"I meant what I said, Eduardo... about Egon and Janine... and us."
Eduardo gave himself a metaphorical slap around the face. This was neither the time nor the place. It would be nice, he thought, if he had the courage actually to say all of these things to her. Now seemed like a pretty good time to do it... especially as it might be his last chance. He wondered what would happen if he gave in to the strong urge to kiss her, which had become almost permanent over the last few days. He'd thought about it a lot, right down to the last detail of how much black lipstick would be left on his mouth afterwards. Vaguely Eduardo wondered if he had yet crossed the line between just thinking about her and obsessing.
"She's getting closer," Kylie suddenly announced, pulling the protective visor over her eyes. "If she's got our trail - however she does it - I don't think it'll be much longer before she gets here."
"So what's the plan?" asked Eduardo.
"Keep your eyes open for movement and shoot when she gets near enough," ordered Kylie. "And difficult as it may be, we must try so hard not to look at her. I'm really not sure I trust these things," and she tapped the visor over her eyes. "Well... good luck."
"Yeah, you too."
The PKE meters were getting really excited now. The chilling sensation on the backs of their necks may have been purely psychosomatic from fear, or perhaps it was just that some of the freezing cold air from outside was penetrating the doors and windows... or maybe the Gorgon really did bring it with her. Either way Eduardo and Kylie both felt it. The ecto-scopes were firmly in place (however much Kylie didn't trust them), and they both had their proton guns in hand.
The Gorgon sauntered through the aisles with all the majesty of a queen. As she listened apprehensively to her approach, her heart hammering frantically, Kylie remembered the Medusa legend as she had heard it: Athena was angry with Medusa, then beautiful, for getting down and dirty with Poseidon in one of her temples. Understandably upset, she had cursed Medusa with claws and wings (not much of a punishment, Kylie thought - they might come in handy) and snake-hair and made her so ugly that anybody who looked at her turned to stone. Perseus had been the one to kill her, protected by some magic shield or other, by cutting off her head. Immediately afterwards it was revealed that Poseidon had made her pregnant in a somewhat unconventional way: as soon as her head left her body she had given birth to Pegasus, the winged horse, which had come through totally the wrong exit by flying out of her neck. It would be so cool if that happened now, thought Kylie. But they didn't have a sword - only a ghost trap. There wasn't even a chance.
Kylie's mistrust in the ecto-scopes had evidently been unfounded. She suddenly found herself looking straight at the Medusa, the monster's beady black eyes staring at her with a puzzled expression. Kylie felt herself frozen to the spot, the possibility of being turned to stone absolutely nowhere in her mind. To her intense shame and annoyance, she was freaked out by the snakes again. They were writhing, hissing and looking at her. She could almost have sworn they were laughing at her. She remembered Cerberus in Tower Records, and the sheer uselessness his five snakes had evoked in her. She thought back to the maggot incident in the basement inhabited by Fear Itself: the fifteen-foot "lard-butt mother of all maggots" (Garrett's words, of course) that burst on impact in a most spectacular fashion and oozed a lot of lovely green slime when dropped from a great height. Well, at least the snakes weren't maggots - that would be ten times worse. It occurred to Kylie that maybe she should try to get over these phobias. Apparently you can never tell when not being absolutely petrified by hairless wriggly creatures with no limbs might come in handy.
"Eduardo!" hissed Kylie, backing slowly away from the Gorgon and her unique and terrifying hairstyle.
Eduardo turned towards the sound of her voice, and then instinctively turned back slightly when he caught sight of the now familiar black garment encasing the Gorgon's body. She was still in his peripheral vision, though. The eerie almost-silence was broken by the sudden sound of Kylie's proton pistol bursting into life, and Eduardo squinted against the beam that the gun emitted. He quickly added his own contribution to the fire, and saw that the Gorgon was screaming and writhing in the two proton streams, the snakes going absolutely crazy.
Of course one of life's first rules is that nothing is ever easy. Eduardo felt his proton stream struggle against the creature's lively protest, and when he looked over at Kylie he saw that she was obviously experiencing some difficulty. The trap was on her back, but she couldn't seem to take either hand off her proton gun. For some reason, Eduardo felt compelled to do what Egon had always told him not to do and look at the trap. For a moment he met the Medusa's eyes. He couldn't be sure if it was his imagination, but he could swear that he felt his fingers stiffening, and he was suddenly overcome with the sensation that he couldn't move. With it however he felt the creature's efforts against his fire weakening. With the feeling of immobility in his arms and hands, he couldn't do very much about it - but Kylie seized her advantage and reached for the trap.
The creature started to scream again. Eduardo felt his fingers limber up, and he reacted quickly, shutting of his proton stream as Kylie closed the trap. They squinted against the brilliant light, compelled to watch as the creature was sucked inside. For Kylie the snakes seemed to linger for a moment, staring at her through yellow eyes, looking exactly as though were thinking how nice it would be to wriggle over there and bite her.
Eduardo breathed out heavily and ran his fingers through his hair a few times, instinctively looking towards Kylie. She practically ripped of her visor and stared at the trap, half expecting that damn woman to jump out of it and turn them both to stone. It only seemed likely after she'd caused them so much trouble.
"You ok?" asked Eduardo.
"Sure," shrugged Kylie. "Wow. What a bitch, huh?"
Eduardo was reminded again of the whole Tenebrach saga. He and Kylie had taken care of that one together, just like now. They had almost hugged at the end of it. He remembered that he had been as quick to stop that as Kylie had, but that was in the days when he tried to kid himself that he wasn't really that interested. And even if he was he didn't want to let Kylie know... But perhaps this time was different. He definitely wanted to give her that hug.
Oh, what the hell? He marched over to her and did it. It was chummy: just a congratulatory thing like you might give your teammates after a sports match. He sensed her confusion and tried to help her over it by acting naturally, tousling her hair in a friendly gesture and saying, "See? You're not so useless after all. I knew you could do it without Egon."
"Yeah, well," shrugged Kylie, not quite feeling like pushing him away. "I had to."
They separated by silent mutual agreement. Eduardo looked down into her slightly dazed green eyes and thought again about kissing her. But then a disorientated old dear wandered over to them with a trolley full of groceries, and Eduardo and Kylie found themselves having to explain to a group of confused shoppers what had happened to the last ten hours.
But his throat had frozen up before he could shout any warning...
...and the next thing Egon Spengler knew, he was standing in his own laboratory at Ghostbusters Central. Janine was standing there, eyes red, looking at him with shock and joy.
She grabbed him and hugged him tightly before he could say anything.
He returned the embrace, but had to ask..."We were out on a bust...Ray, Winston, and Peter, what happened to them?"
"They're downstairs...probably wondering what happened to them...and where you are, I bet..."
"Are you all right?' he asked.
"Am I all right?!" she asked incredulously. "You were the one turned into stone, for Adonai's sake!!! You really need to stop scaring me like that..." With that, she kissed him.
Ray appeared at the doorway. "Egon! You're here! That's a relief...Peter and Winston and I came to downstairs and you weren't there..." he turned and shouted "He's up here, guys!!!"
Ray turned back to the couple. "Or should I leave you alone for a while?"
Egon turned to Janine. "I am going to presume Roland and the others captured the creature, thus breaking it's spell. I'm sure they're going to want to see everybody."
She winked at him as they walked to the stairway, hand in hand. "Yeah...plenty of time for hanky-panky later..."
Extreme Ghostbusters Created by Fil Barlow