|Death and the Maiden
Author: deepfathom PM
-ON HOLD UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE- The Ghostbusters' battle with the Sorcerer ended with only one casualty. Now they, Janine and Reggie must find a way into Limbo and rescue the Ex-Custodian from the clutches of Death himself. -Part three-Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Supernatural/Humor - Chapters: 9 - Words: 16,103 - Reviews: 4 - Favs: 1 - Follows: 1 - Updated: 09-12-12 - Published: 05-29-12 - id: 8164364
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Work on the Limbo-contraption (nobody knew exactly what else to call it) started early the next morning. It was apparent that Ray and Egon hadn't given much thought to eating, sleeping or personal hygiene since Sophie had disappeared two days ago. They looked awful, their faces unshaven with dark circles under their eyes, but they seemed not to care or even notice. All that mattered to them at the moment was building their machine and setting their plans in motion.
Peter and Winston, on the other hand, had recovered somewhat from the week's interesting series of events. No major calls had come up, but the two of them went out earlier in the morning to handle a couple of small disturbances downtown. It wasn't as if they had anything better to do…
Ray and Egon were far too absorbed in their own world to respond to any offers of help. Winston had already tried that. Peter, of course, could care less and went about his day as if nothing was out of the ordinary. All they could do now was watch and wait as the strange machine began to take form in front of them.
At first, the sparks and the zapping sounds coming from the work area were a little annoying, even alarming. Soon enough, however, they became nothing more than background noise. When Ray and Egon spoke to each other, it was like listening to a completely alien language. Peter and Winston didn't have the slightest clue what they were saying so there was no way of knowing how things were progressing or when the machine would be finished. Finally, Peter had had enough and stepped out.
Janine, despite her claims about never coming to work again, had hobbled in later that morning on a pair of crutches. Her mood hadn't improved much since their adventure under the mausoleum yesterday, but at least she was a little less sleep-deprived. She mumbled a greeting to Winston, then sat across from him at the table to watch Ray and Egon.
At first she was curious, but after about thirty minutes of staring at them, she'd drawn a blank and her mind felt numb. So did her backside. She gathered her crutches and stood, aiming to check up on Sophie.
As she made her way to the far corner of the lab where the girl had been placed on the usual cot, she had to wonder why she'd even bothered. It wasn't as if the kid was going anywhere anytime soon. Sophie was covered in wires again, but the readings on the machine monitors were disturbingly flat. It was such a contrast to the furious jumble of peaks and valleys they had picked up just a few days before.
Janine sighed and glanced at Reggie. He was in the same place he'd been since she'd arrived: slumped down in a chair beside the cot, sound asleep. One hand was stretched out, clasped firmly around his girlfriend's. He must've been there all night. Apparently, nobody had had the heart to send him home. Not even Peter.
A slight smile played on Janine's lips. The kid was loyal to a fault, no doubt about that. She found herself wondering if a certain male in this room would ever stand guard over her like that if she was stuck in Limbo…
"Honey, I'm home!" Peter's voice echoed from the second floor landing and was soon followed by his entrance into the room. "I come bearing gifts!" He put down the paper bags he was holding.
Winston, who'd been lost in a book up until now, closed it and looked up. "Where you been, Venkman?"
"Oh, out and about." He pulled an elongated parcel from one of the bags and held it under Winston's nose.
"Is this what I think it is?" Winston took it immediately and ripped off the paper wrapper to reveal a delicious-looking sandwich.
"I just figured we'd need to eat if we're going to be sitting here all day." Peter reached into another bag and pulled out two more.
Janine hobbled over to the table and dropped heavily into a chair.
Peter cast a glance at her, looking more amused than surprised. "Well, well. Look who showed up. I thought you said you weren't coming back."
Janine merely scowled in response, not in the mood for a debate.
Peter shrugged and pushed one of the other sandwiches in her direction. "Lucky I got extra."
"How thoughtful of you."
Peter sat down with his own sandwich and took a look at Ray and Egon, still buried in their project and showing no signs of coming up for air in the next decade. Rolling his eyes, he reached into a coat pocket, drew something out and tossed it onto the table. It was a pack of playing cards.
"We'll probably be here for a while. Might as well get comfy."
Two hours and several poker games later, Janine was feeling a bit richer and a lot happier. The growing pile of cash in front of her was definitely helping to improve her mood.
"And you said we don't pay you enough," Peter grumbled.
Janine smirked and was just about to lay down more devastation when a loud, crackling zap brought everyone back to reality. Cards and money went flying everywhere as a puff of white smoke came billowing from across the room.
"EUREKA!" Ray shouted from somewhere in the cloud. "It's finished!"
"Finished?" Winston asked, clutching his chest. "Sounds finished, alright. Like you just finished it off for good."
"No, no, no," Egon appeared out of the haze. "That was just the last step."
"So the last step was to fry the entire lab—OW!" Peter jerked back from the cluster of bills he'd been trying to spirit into his pocket while he spoke. Unfortunately, Janine noticed and he earned himself a nice slap on the back of the hand.
"Don't even think about it," she warned and began stuffing as much as the money into her own pockets as she could.
"What's going on?" Reggie, looking pale and very startled, had appeared next to the group.
"Lady and gentlemen," Ray announced with a flourish, waving away the last of the smoke. "We give you…the Physical Molecular Structure De-Materializer!"
Total silence. Peter, Winston, Janine, and Reggie stared dumbstruck at the complicated piece of equipment which had sprung into existence while they were otherwise occupied. It looked a bit like a tall, metallic spider with five legs that branched out from a wire and tube covered pillar topped with a silver sphere. Each leg hovered above a circular platform with a dentist's office-style seat in the middle.
Egon cleared his throat. "Ray came up with the name."
"Figures," replied Janine.
"So, whaddaya think?" Ray asked, grinning from ear to ear.
Winston snorted. "I think that thing's gonna kill us."
"Well," Egon said, rubbing his chin, "it won't actually kill us. Not completely, anyway."
"That's comforting," Peter muttered, then folded his arms. "Where did you get all this junk, anyway?"
"To put it in technical terms," Egon continued, ignoring Peter, "it will only sever our physical and spiritual halves, thus creating an artificial state similar to the one Sophie is currently in. We have also located the approximate dimensional—"
Ray sighed. "What he's saying is that this machine will send our souls into Limbo while preserving our physical state on this plane of existence."
"That's all we needed to know." Peter gave a nod. "Thank you, Dr. Stantz. That will be all."
Winston shook his head, looking doubtful. "I don't like this. All this talk about splitting us apart… It gives me the creeps!"
"Do you guys even know if this thing will work?" Reggie asked. He was pretty sure he already knew the answer, but he couldn't help posing the question anyway.
Egon and Ray exchanged a brief look.
"Well, we, uh…" Ray rubbed his head, trying to find the right words. "Not exactly..."
Egon stepped into his rescue. "We haven't been able to run any tests as of yet."
"Obviously," Janine mumbled under her breath.
"C'mon, man!" said Winston. "You're saying we're gonna have our souls ripped out and you don't even know if you can put us back together again?!"
Peter stepped up and put an arm around his shoulder. "Oh, Winston, Winston, Winston. I don't think we have anything to worry about. In fact, I have a feeling that everything will be just fine."
"What are you talking about?"
He let go of Winston. "I'm sure you all remember the countless times we've used untested equipment…"
"And the countless lawsuits that using that equipment has landed us in," Janine added.
"Yes, well, this time around is going to be different. I think we could spare just a little bit of time for a short test run, don't you, Spengs?"
Egon considered this proposal for a second or two, then nodded. "It would probably be in our best interest. But the test will require the use of an actual human being in order to accurately calculate the machine's effects."
"That's insane!" Reggie blurted before he could stop himself. "It's unethical! Who do you creeps think you're gonna use as a guinea pig?!"
Peter turned to him, a calm, almost evil smile turning up the corners of his mouth. "Why, Reggie!" he swept the young man's hat off and ruffled his blonde hair. "How brave of you to volunteer."
Ten minutes later, an extremely unhappy Reggie had been wrestled into one of the seats as Janine watched from a distance. It took the combined efforts of Peter, Winston and Ray to hold him down while Egon tightened a silver metal loop with a little antenna at the back around the top of his head.
"Stop struggling," Egon said through gritted teeth. "You'll skew the data."
"Are you kidding?" Reggie answered, still trying as hard as he could to squirm out and make a break for it. "Who cares about the data? You're gonna skew my brain!"
"Don't make us sedate you, kid," grunted Ray.
"They'll do it," Peter added. "Take my word for it. Listen, do you wanna save your girlfriend or not?"
"Yeah, but I don't want my soul fried in the process! Isn't there some other way we can do this?"
"No," said Winston. "This is the only machine in the whole world of its kind. If somebody else had discovered a different way into Limbo before now, I guarantee Ray and Egon would already have researched it to death... Uh, no pun intended."
Reggie stopped fighting them. Finally, he sighed, closed his eyes and let his head fall back against the headrest.
"Fine…fine, I'll be your stupid guinea pig. But keep in mind this isn't for you guys or for science or whatever. It's for Sophie."
"Of course," said Peter as he, Ray and Winston let go and stepped back.
Egon finished attaching all the necessary wires and paraphernalia to Reggie and hooked them up to a couple monitors sitting on a tabletop about fifteen feet away. Ray took his leave of the group and stepped behind the makeshift command center where he began punching buttons on a panel.
After a few seconds, he looked up and gave a thumbs-up. "We're all set back here, Spengler."
"Very good," Egon replied, giving Reggie's colorful scattering of wires one last check before joining Ray. "Now, I suggest the rest of you clear the area. You'll probably be safest back here with us."
Peter and Winston didn't need to be told twice.
"Janine," Egon turned to her. "We could use your help."
She blinked. "Huh? Me?"
"Yes. Your unusual psychic abilities will probably be the only means of tracking Reggie once he's crossed the dimensional border. We've rigged a special system that will enable us to 'see' into the dimension in which Limbo is located."
"Well…alright." Janine picked up her crutches and slowly made her way over to them. Once she was there, Ray pulled out the colander. She rolled her eyes. "That thing again?"
"C'mon, Janine," pleaded Ray. "You've got to help us out, here. Sophie's depending on it."
"Ok, ok!" She grabbed the colander and jammed it onto her head.
After that, Egon and Ray began throwing switches and entering commands into one of the computers. Ray gripped a red lever, pushed it forward, and the machine hummed to life. Suddenly, a bright blue spark crackled from the sphere along one of the arms to Reggie's head. He yelped and gripped the arms of the seat as the lightning connected with the antenna on the headband and went on to illuminate his entire body. For a split second, Janine and the Ghostbusters had a spectacular view of every bone in his body.
Janine gasped and moved in to shove Ray's hand off the lever. "Stop! Stop it! You're going to kill him!"
Egon caught her before she could get any further. "It won't kill him, but if you interrupt the process now it could cause some severe damage."
"To him or the machine?" asked Winston.
"Both. We need more power, Ray."
"Comin' right up." He moved the lever forward again. The intensity of the lightning increased until everyone in the room was nearly blinded and had to shield their eyes. The sizzling bursts of electric blue energy stabilized into a steady glow. Above the incredible buzzing and hissing of the machine, they could hear Reggie yelling at the top of his lungs.
And then, with a final explosion of light, an eerie near-silence dropped on the room like a curtain. The buzzing stopped and was replaced with that quiet, mechanical hum. The five of them opened their eyes and froze in horror. Reggie was absolutely still.