Episode 1: Pilot
Blake Hulner pushed through the corn stalks as if he was running from a fire. In his hand, he gripped his sister's and pulled her along. Regina Hulner was doing everything that she could to keep her feet under her as she allowed her brother to pull her along.
At 23, Regina was hoping to find out what her brother had been up to that was taking up his nights. She was bored and had nagged her brother, two years older than she was, to let her join him. He had finally agreed, but the look on Blake's face showed that he was regretting the decision more and more every second.
The corn field was about an hour west of Ames, Iowa. As they pushed deeper into the corn, Regina was becoming incredibly concerned about what her brother had been up to the last few weeks. Late night corn mazes? Deer poaching? Crop circles?
The aimless running continued with Blake randomly declaring how late they were. Finally, they broke through into a clearing.
The clearing could have been a crop circle based on it's size, but it wasn't. The circle of hooded figures and the bonfire were a little more than the aliens tended to leave behind when marking up Iowan fields.
As the broke into the clearing, Blake's hand was suddenly gone from Regina's. She slowed as her brother stepped forward.
Each of the hooded figures was chanting at the fire. There hands were high in the air as if they could amplify the chanting. The words were unintelligible as far as Regina knew, but she didn't know more than English and a little bit of Spanish.
As she slowed, Blake continued toward the circle. When he was almost in line to take his place among the cloaked worshipers, one of them threw back his hood and took large steps toward her brother. As his hood fell down around his shoulders, Regina thought he looked a lot like Donald Sutherland. His white hair was swept back from a high forehead and wrapped around his face to make a well-kept beard and mustache.
"Blake," he said, at first with open arms before his eyes landed on Regina and a scowl flashed across his face. It was only there for a brief moment before it returned to the welcoming smile. Regina hadn't missed it.
"Chairman," Blake returned the greeting and as they approached each other, they hugged and pulled away.
"Blake, who is your friend?" the Chairman never took his eyes off of Blake as he asked.
"This is my sister," Blake answered. "I thought that she might be able to join us this evening." He paused, aware that he might have made a mistake in bringing her. "I hope that I haven't overstepped my bounds."
The Sutherland-looking Chairman nodded slowly. "Well, normally it would be a little late in our preparations to bring anyone new in." He shook his head slowly. "You almost put us in quite the spot, Brother Blake. You're late, and we couldn't have pulled this off without you." The Chairman gestured toward Regina, "Bringing her could have thrown off our balance."
Blake's eyes fell in disappointment. Regina was confused. Her brother had never been one to show his emotions so clearly, but with the Chairman he was very expressive. He wanted this man to know what he was thinking and that he respected his opinion. It was an odd sight.
"Chin up, boy," the Chairman continued. "Tonight is the last night, and another body can't hurt anything. Any other night would have been a problem, but tonight the preparations are complete. We need only turn the key."
Regina wasn't quite sure what was going on but decided not to say anything. The whole situation was freaking her out, but she knew that her brother respected this odd man, and she wasn't going to jeopardize that, so she remained quiet.
The Chairman walked over to Regina. "Miss, would you mind standing at the edge of the clearing while we do our work?" He put his finger to his lips and said quietly, "We'll need you to be quiet and still. Can you do that for us?" The gentleness in his voice was intended to help ingratiate her to him, but it only added to the fear that was growing in her gut.
Regina stepped back until she felt the corn stalks pressing against her back. She watched as Blake followed the Chairman toward the edge of the circle. He was about to raise his own hands and join in with the others in the group when the Chairman touched his arm, said something inaudible, and pointed toward the fire. Blake looked confused and took an unsure step toward the fire. The Chairman nodded and Blake became more sure of what he was doing. He walked to the center and stood close to the bonfire. Regina continued to watch as her brother got to his knees and then spread his arms out wide.
All around them, the chanting grew to a crescendo. As their volume rose, so did the fear crawling it's way up Regina's spine.
Blake began rocking back and forth. At first, Regina thought it might have been the heat from the fire causing the air to shimmer, but within moments Blake was visibly rocking back and forth in time with the chants. After about five minutes of the odd worship, Blake collapsed forward. As suddenly as Blake had collapsed, the chanting stopped and all of the hooded figures dropped their arms.
When the chanting was happening, Regina had been hoping for quiet, but the silence turned out to be terrifying by comparison. It was heavy with something that she couldn't put her finger on.
To her relief, the silence was broken by the Chairman.
"Fear not, brothers!" He was shouting. "Brother Blake is preparing the way. Soon the world will know the power of Erra!"
Instead of calming Regina's concerns for her brother, her worry for her brother grew. The word or name 'Erra' sent shudders down her spine, but she didn't recognize it. If the word hadn't carried with it such emotion, she would have thought she had misheard it.
Suddenly, Blake was on his feet. His eyes found her and they were his for only a second before they were replaced with something that Regina didn't recognize.
"The door is open," Blake said in a booming voice that didn't belong to him, "but first, the path must be cleared."
Regina wasn't sure if she had walked toward the Chairman or if he had been making his way toward her, but he was standing beside her when she asked, "What does he mean by that?"
The Chairman seemed overly excited by the events, but also by having an audience to explain. His face was animated as he said, "Erra has a long way to travel and there are many spirits that need to get out of his way." His smile seemed inappropriate with all that was going on. "Imagine a pipe filled with souls. At one end is our world, and at the other end is the God Erra. Your brother has volunteered as the end in our world, and the pipe is about to be..." he stopped as Blake threw his head back and orbs of different colored lights began launching themselves from her brother's mouth.
"...flushed," the Chairman finished.
A roar built up as more and more orbs left Blake's mouth, shaping into a spinning funnel of light and energy.
Regina found her strength and was running toward her brother. The circle of hooded figures was thick and she had to fight to get past them. As she pushed further into the crowd, Regina watched as the orbs flew into the sky, into the earth, into the corn field, and then one by one into each of the members of the circle. While they were crowded tightly together, there were only around a dozen of the hooded figures in the circle, and as the orbs entered their chests, they're faces contorted for the briefest of moments before they spun and ran into the corn.
One orb flew at her, and Regina twisted to avoid it. It flew past her and into a hooded figure behind her. As she twisted around, Regina noted that she couldn't see the Chairman anywhere. She straightened up and took another step toward Blake when another orb came at her. The orb stopped instead of hitting her, and she saw that it wasn't an orb. Instead of a ball of light, it was an orange skeletal being. It had a face and arms, but it was transparent and that same face had teeth at least six inches long. It's arms were twice the length of it's torso and instead of legs the body looked as if it had been torn in half. The 'not-an-orb' was dragging transparent intestines instead of legs.
It seemed to be examining Regina as she froze in her terror. After what seemed like an eternity, the 'not-an-orb' let loose a scream that made Regina fall to her knees. It flew up, arced around her and then slammed into the ground with a plume of soil.
Regina was shuddering and mumbling to herself as she crawled the final distance between herself and her brother.
She reached out to him, and as her hand touched his chest, his head tilted forward and Regina could see Blake's eyes. They were the eyes of her brother and not whatever had been in there before.
"Regina, please," he gasped as if struggling with some inner demon. "Run!"
Regina watched as her brother's eyes were replaced again and an otherworldly grin stretched across his face.
Then she ran.
"No, you're not understanding," Jordan Ross was explaining in the middle of a privately owned coffee shop in downtown Des Moines. "It's a franchise. You and I would put forward the capital to purchase the materials, the equipment, and the office. We take some courses and get certified in the use of the equipment and standard procedure, and the franchise would supply us with any other resources, including research materials and access to corporate if we need any assistance."
Cynthia Palmer frowned at Jordan. She was wearing women's slacks and a tucked in green shirt. "Why not just put the capital into something that's entirely ours?"
Jordan nodded, "We could do that, but we would miss out on the global recognition and the reputation that the branding carries with it. We'd be turning down guaranteed clients. This would give us a leg up, and we still get to keep all of the profits." He took a sip of his coffee. "Besides, the franchise already has a standing government contract. If we decided to do this on our own, we would be saying no to easy government money."
"How much would we need to invest in this?" Cynthia asked.
Jordan looked up at the ceiling and started counting off the costs on his fingers. "They require a minimum of four people on the team. To fully gear up four people would take $10,000.00. Plus the rental cost for an office, a car and the insurance, and the containment unit to be installed at the office." He looked at his fingers as if the numbers were all right there. "Around $30,000.00."
Cynthia was about to balk at the figure that Jordan had quoted her when something else stopped her. "Containment unit? What's that for?"
Jordan gave her a look that seemed to ask if she was joking or not. "To store the ghosts we capture." He paused. "You do know what the Ghostbusters do, right?"
Cynthia shrugged. "It's kind of in the name," she took a sip of her tea. "Didn't they save New York a long time ago?"
Jordan smiled, excited to talk about it. "Actually, it was twice. Back in the eighties, they stopped a Sumerian God from reigning Hell on Earth. Then they also stopped an emotion feeding parasite from a few thousand years ago from bringing his hate filled war to our time." He shrugged. "They didn't just save New York. They saved the world."
Cynthia returned his look with one of her own. It clearly stated, "Sure they did."
Jordan ignored her look and continued. "The point still stands. If you Google the most haunted places in America, most of them are in the midwest and most of those are in Iowa." His eyes were wide with an excitement that bordered on obsession. "We are currently sitting on the off-ramp to a cross-dimensional superhighway."
Cynthia snorted, but asked, "What does that even mean?"
"It means that we can make money doing this. Lots of money," Jordan answered.
Cynthia went quiet as she fell into herself to contemplate what she was being told. Jordan knew what she was doing and also quieted down as he returned to his cup of coffee.
Cynthia was ex-military. She had served in the Army for a decade starting in 2002. Since then she had been working as an accountant for the state. She was looking for any reason she could to get out of it, and if this franchise plan could actually make them money, it might be worth the investment, but she had to weigh the options. She had to look at every angle and figure out the holes.
The first hole was fairly obvious.
"I don't believe in ghosts," Cynthia said after a full minute of silence. "If I'm going to invest in some pest removal service that focuses on ghosts, then you need to convince me that they exist."
"You don't believe in ghosts? How are we friends?"
Cynthia shrugged, "This sounds like a really big scam to me." She pulled the papers that Jordan had resting between them closer so she could take a closer look. "If we invest thirty thousand dollars to this..." she glanced down and then back to Jordan, "Venkman guy, he'll give us a bunch a couple of glow sticks to wave around until we're bankrupt and broken." Cynthia shook her head. "Sounds fake."
"Did you not hear me about the government contracts?" Jordan countered. "The city and state governments believe in it enough to have set up Paranormal Contracts Oversight Commissions boards to regulate and monitor the paranormal activity in given principalities." He threw up his hands, "Even if you don't believe in ghosts, the people with the money do."
Cynthia nodded, "And that's why I haven't laughed at you and left. Friends or not, this is crazy, but you're right, it does sound like there's money in it, but I can't sell something that I don't believe in."
"What are you saying?"
Cynthia slid his files back to him. "Convince me that ghosts exist, and I'll put in my half toward the investment. We'll be full partners, but you have to convince me."
Jordan smiled. "Is that all?"
Cynthia suddenly felt like she had been led into a trap, but she stuck to her guns and nodded as an answer.
Quicker than she thought her friend was capable, Jordan whipped out his smartphone and started swiping through screens.
Jordan flipped it around to show her the application that he was loading up. On the load screen was a characterization of a ghost pressing through a red circle with a line through it. It was spinning as the app loaded.
"They have an app," Jordan said with a smirk.
Cynthia sighed, "Of course they do."
Jordan stood and moved to the chair closer to Cynthia so that he could show her the screen of his phone and still see it himself. The screen soon turned into a map of the city of Des Moines with a marker showing their current location. All around the location marker, smaller version of the load screen logo started popping up.
"The app is free and when people see a spook they put a pin in the map and enter details. This is real-time."
Despite Cynthia's hesitancy, she was impressed by the level of community integration that the franchise had employed.
"There," Jason said excitedly. "Historic Doyle Herman House." He touched the icon and the map expanded into details about the location and the spirit there. "They are open for tours, we can see one now."
"Now?" Cynthia had expected Jordan to jump into a lengthy argument about the potential of life after death, but this was a proposal to see an actual ghost.
"Yeah, let's go." He stood and dropped his empty coffee cup into the garbage. "You can drive."
Cynthia owned an older pickup that was red. There was rust under the doors, but it ran and that's all that mattered to her.
Ten minutes after Jordan had opened the Ghostbuster Application on his phone, they were walking into Historic Doyle Herman House in downtown Des Moines.
The house was in the historic area of downtown Des Moines and had a full staff that offered tours and showcased local events in it's attached grand theater.
Cynthia and Jordan took a few steps past the large double doors and were greeted by a small lobby that was more reminiscent of an old movie theater or playhouse than a historic mansion. To the right was the windowed ticket booth with stairs opposite. Directly in front of the double doors was a hall that led to the main auditorium and the tours beyond it.
Self-guided tours were only five dollars each, so Jordan bought them both tickets and nodded toward the nearby staircase.
"Can we go up there?"
Through the ticket window, a very bored teenager nodded, "Just a few rooms up that way. The majority of the house is down the hall.
Jordan thanked her and together he and Cynthia started climbing the stairs to the second floor landing. When they reached the top, Jordan, who had been carrying an over the shoulder bag with him all day, stopped and pulled a small device from the bag.
It looked homemade out of the clear box that iPhones come in. The casing was filled with a bunch of wiring and LED's that lit up when Jordan hit a button. A bar graph of green lights shown bright.
"It's an EMF detector," Jordan explained. "Spirits can be detected through their effect on electromagnetic fields or more accurately through psychokinetic energy. Since we don't have a PKE meter yet, this EMF detector will have to do."
"You keep talking, but I haven't lost this bet yet," Cynthia countered with a smirk.
Jordan returns her smile and starts walking down the hall. "This way."
The halls were ornately decorated with intricate carvings in the edging and framed pictures of the house throughout the years. As they kept walking, the EMF detector would peak or fall as Jordan aimed it in different directions. They continued like that for the length of the hall until they came to a door that was open, but roped off. It was meant to be seen and people weren't supposed to go in.
Jordan winked at Cynthia and unclipped the velvet rope. They both highly doubted that the teenager from the ticket window was going to come charging up there.
Cynthia stopped only a few steps into the room, which turned out to be some sort of library or study. There were books on shelves that lined the walls. In the center of the room was a very uncomfortable looking chair next to a side table and a globe. She stood there while Jordan continued to walk around the room, following the EMF detector as it led him around the room.
"If I understand EMF correctly," Cynthia said, "how do you know you're not just finding all of the signals from the security cameras or whatever?"
Jordan stopped and turned slowly to face Cynthia. A smile spread across his face and, instead of answering Cynthia, he raised his hand slowly and pointed at the globe.
It was spinning.
As Cynthia stared, the globe began to spin faster and faster. Within seconds a hand could be seen floating only a few inches above. As the translucent hand became more visible, the effect began to spread. The hand grew into an arm, the arm became a torso, and within seconds a transparent man was standing next to the globe. He was a bald man with a long brown beard. He was dressed in period clothing in the form of a vest with an overcoat. While one hand hovered above the globe, his other hand was hidden behind his back.
If it wasn't for the fact that Cynthia could see directly through him, the sunken eyes and gaping hole in his throat gave every indication that she was looking at a dead man.
Jordan tore his eyes away from the spirit to look at Cynthia who's own eyes had filled with terror. Jordan hissed quietly to grab Cynthia's attention. She looked at him, but the fear didn't leave her eyes. He jabbed a finger at the wall behind Cynthia and she fought to turn her head to look at what her friend was pointing at.
It was a painting of the same man who's spirit stood in front of them.
"That's Doyle Herman, the original owner of the house," Jordan whispered.
Cynthia looked back at the ghost of Doyle Herman and his mouth stretched to ridiculous proportions as his eyes grew wider and sunk even deeper into his head.
Those deep eyes were staring directly at Cynthia. With a sudden roar the came from somewhere unearthly, the ghost launched itself at Cynthia. She froze in terror as his mouth went wide and his arms shot out in front of him. Suddenly, Cynthia was being lifted into the air by one of those spirit hands being pressed into her chest. It didn't grip her, but she was definitely picked up by the open hand.
Cynthia was slammed into the painting on the wall behind her, and the ghost kept traveling forward, through her and then through the wall. A thick mucus covered her chest, head, and wall wherever Doyle Herman passed through.
Gravity quickly reasserted itself, and Cynthia fell to the ground.
"What the hell?" She shouted as she shook the slime from her arms.
"That was amazing!" Jordan ran over to his friend and helped her to her feet. "What did it feel like?"
"Like someone just body slammed me into a wall before blowing his nose on me."
Jordan's grin was almost as large as Doyle's had been. "This is great."
"No, it's not," Cynthia countered. She sighed. "I'm in."
"What?" Jordan's eyes went wide.
"I'm in," Cynthia repeated. "I'll invest in the franchise." She looked down at her slimed clothes. "It's the only way I'll get payback on this asshole."
Jordan smiled with excitement.
"Wipe that smile off of your face," Cynthia added. "We still need two more Ghostbusters."
Simon Franco had put the advertisement on Craigslist only a few days before getting his first reply to it. It was very short, but he thought that it got the point across nicely. "Certified Engineer and all-around Genius looking for Freelance Projects."
In the body of the post, he had posted his entire resume, including his two doctorates from Columbia University and then a link to his Tumblr page that outlined all of his personal projects. Those projects ranged from growing and converting algae into an energy source using only kitchen supplies and time, to the isolation and containment of energy signatures to listen to hijack encrypted broadcasts.
He had a day job, but no matter how hard he worked, he was still bored out of his mind. The side projects and hobbies helped a little, but they just weren't enough. He wanted corporate sized projects and ground-breaking new ideas to work with. Not things that he could solve in an hour from his phone.
The reply to his ad was short but it had peeked Simon's interest.
"If you're interested in full-time pay and equipment that deals directly with particle physics in real-world applications, please meet us at the following address on Saturday." There was an address included and a zip file filled with several schematics that had further excited Simon's interests.
As he pulled up, he took in the average office park with rental signs and a few technology companies throughout. The side of the building the address was on was empty.
He parked next to a large red pickup truck with rust on the bottom. Leaning against it was a tall and serious looking blonde woman and a man with round cheeks who was a little shorter than the woman.
Simon got out of his car and stuck out his hand. "Simon Franco."
The woman took his hand and shook it. Her grip was strong. "Cynthia Palmer," she nodded to her companion as Simon shook his hand. "This is Jordan Ross."
"Have you had a chance to look over the documents we sent you?" Jordan asked his own excitement was clear.
Simon nodded and pulled a large sketch pad from the back seat of his car. "Yes," he handed the sketchpad to Jordan. "I made some modifications, reduced heat consumption, made them lighter." He frowned, "It looked like those designs were made in the eighties."
Jordan smiled and took the sketch pad like a thirsty man grabbing at a glass of water.
Cynthia frowned. "Do you understand what those schematics build?"
Simon shrugged, "From the designs I can tell that they are used for the the capture and containment of specific energies." He smiled, "Since I've been to New York a few times in a my life, I can also say that they are Ghostbuster Proton Packs. Are you starting a local franchise?"
Jordan nodded, "Yes, we are, and we'd like-"
Cynthia held up her hand. "You know they're for capturing ghosts and you're still here?"
Simon raised an eyebrow. "Yes, why?"
"You believe in ghosts?" She pressed.
Simon's eyebrows leveled out. "I'm a scientist. It was proven thirty years ago when that giant campfire goody was stomping around Manhattan that ghosts are real. After the papers put out by Dr. Spengler in the mid-nineties and the interviews with Doctors Venkman and Zeddemore it's obvious that, at the very least, there are entities made of energy that take on human form. They can be pests and the removal of them as a service is required. If calling them ghosts is the best we have, than I am completely on board." He shrugged again, "Besides, if there's a steady paycheck and the chance to play with particle physics, I'll believe anything you ask me to."
Cynthia allowed the corner of her mouth to raise in a small smile. "Welcome aboard."
They all shook hands again and then Jordan turned toward the nearest office in the office park.
"Welcome to the headquarters of Ghostbusters: Des Moines!"
"That's still only three Ghostbusters," Cynthia said.
Jordan nodded and reached into the back of the truck for a box that was almost too big for him to carry.
"That's true," he replied, "but they only needed us to purchase four of everything, with the justification of a fourth Ghostbusters." His face turned a little sheepish. "I might have already gone ahead and ordered everything." He pulled a large magnet of the No Ghosts logo and slapped it onto the side of Cynthia's pickup truck. "It all arrived yesterday." Jordan aimed a thumb over his shoulder at their newly announced headquarters. "Everything is inside waiting to be set up."
As one, they walked toward their new headquarters until Jordan stopped right outside the door. He reached into the box and pulled out a large light sign with the Ghostbusters No Ghost logo on it. It was about two feet by two feet. He set it by his feet. "We'll need to hang this."
He left it leaning against the wall and they walked into the building after he passed out their RFID key cards.
Simon was the last one in and he was just as surprised as Cynthia was by what he saw. Instead of a fully assembled and unpacked office, the large and wide open room had a few cubicles set up and a bunch of boxes and crates and stacked and cluttering the whole area.
"Some assembly required," he breathed.
Jordan nodded and started ticking off of his fingers as he recounted what they needed to do, "Yes, we're going to need to assemble the proton packs, the multitude of sensors for picking up local Psychokinetic readings, individual PKE meters, jumpsuits, phones, computers, portable dimensionometer, the containment unit, the desks, the chairs, the list goes on and on."
Cynthia slapped Jordan and Simon on their backs, "I'll leave you two brainy boys to figuring this out. Let me know how it goes." She turned to leave but Jordan grabbed her arm.
"I don't think so." Jordan smiled but raised his eyebrow. "This is an all weekend job if the three of us work on it. Only two of us and this business will never take off."
Cynthia's heart sank. "Then let's get to work."
Monday morning saw each of the exhausted Ghostbusters waking up to the doorbell of their office going off. They had worked around the clock to get everything assembled and set up and hadn't finished until late Sunday night. Once Cynthia had seen Jordan and Simon passed out in their newly assembled cubicles, she decided to prop her own feet up and pass out in her own.
The doorbell's chime caused Jordan to fall from his chair and Simon didn't wake at all. Cynthia, on the other hand was already waking up and was only surprised that the door would be ringing at all.
She glanced at her watch and noticed that it was only a few minutes before eight in the morning.
Standing, she went and opened the door to find a portly older man with a very thick mustache.
"Can I help you?"
"I hope so," he answered and stuck out his hand. "I'm Will Horton and I'm trying to find the Ghostbusters," he pointed to their recently mounted sign above the door as he said it.
Cynthia followed his gesture up to the sign and still found that it felt weird to say her next words, "That's us. Come on in."
Sometime while Cynthia was outside, Simon had woke up and joined Jordan while they stood and waited.
"This is Jordan and Simon," Cynthia said as introductions. "Guys, this is Will Horton." She turned back to Will. How can we help?"
"I'm the current custodian of the Doyle Herman House," Jordan's eyes lit up as Will explained. "The haunting at the house is old news, but recently Doyle's spirit has been more...aggressive. Before it was only sightings. People would see someone drift between rooms, or late at night they would claim that they could see someone in the windows upstairs." He shrugged. "The usual haunted house stuff. We liked it because it brought in a few more ticket sales than just the average house on the National Register of Historic Places." Will's face took on a sour look. "Unfortunately, our resident spirit has chosen to become more aggressive."
Jordan had been fidgeting since Will had mentioned the Doyle Herman House, and blurted out, "Aggressive how?"
Will was starting to relax as he told his story, "He, um, I mean Doyle Herman, seems to be going out of his way to scare people. Our computers have been wiped twice. Normally, I wouldn't have looked for help, but a quick internet search showed me that you just opened shop. This morning, I tried to open the house and the door slammed on me. I haven't been able to get in."
"He's locked the place down," Jordan repeated. "Something has him agitated." He frowned as he tried to piece his thoughts together. "Spirits normally don't change how they behave. Such a change is usually the result of something big, such as the demolition of a building, the disruption of it's resting place, or something...bigger."
"We know the problem," Cynthia said, "let's do something about it."
Simon nodded. "Whatever caused the ghost to change his normal operating procedure doesn't matter. What matters is that someone is giving us our first case."
"First?" Will blanched.
"Nothing to worry about," Cynthia replied as she threw a glare at Simon. "We're trained professionals."
Twenty minutes later, the newly anointed Ghostbusters were dressed in the standard issue beige coveralls with their last names embroidered on their chests. All except Simon, who hadn't been around when the names had been ordered. On their sleeves was the No Ghost symbol that had come to represent their chosen line of work.
It was long before they had pulled up to the Doyle Herman House in Simon's car. They were unloading the proton packs and traps from the trunk of the car when Cynthia asked, "We are all trained, right? I took the online certification last week, but what about you two?"
Jordan nodded, "I took it before I even approached you with the idea, and Simon took it last night."
Cynthia smirked. "But did either of you pass?"
"Very funny," Simon shot back. "Did you?"
"I always pass," Cynthia said dismissively. She noted that they all had their packs on and said, "Turn them on."
A flip of a switch on each pack brought a whine that sounded akin to the charging of a portable camera's flash.
They started to walk toward the building, all of them very eager to try out the new equipment. As they climbed the steps to the door, there was a booming laugh and the door unlatched and swung open slowly.
"Told you he liked you," Jordan said with a smirk.
"Shut up," Cynthia said.
They walked into the front lobby of the Doyle Herman House very slowly. It looked just as it had when Jordan and Cynthia had been there last time, only all of the lights were off. Plenty of light was streaming in from the windows, but otherwise, the place looked like it was closed.
"Alright, get your PKE Meters out." She pointed down the hall that led toward the auditorium. "I'll check out the auditorium," she pointed to Jordan, "Jordan, check out his study. That's where we saw him last time, he might still be there." Cynthia shifted her finger to Simon. "Get your PKE Meter out and start checking this lobby. "When you two have cleared your area, meet me outside of the auditorium. We'll sweep the halls together from that point on." She looked them both in the eyes. "Got that?"
Simon paused, "Why are you in charge?"
Cynthia frowned and pointed at Jordan. "He and I are part owners. You're the super smart employee."
"Plus," Jordan added, "she was a soldier for ten years and this is a...strategic situation."
"That alright with you?" Cynthia said sharply.
Simon nodded, "Completely. Just checking." He pulled his PKE Meter from his belt and began scanning the lobby.
As Jordan went of the stairs, Cynthia made her way down the hall and toward the auditorium. She was only just outside the closed double doors when her PKE Meter began to screech in alarm. He was inside in a big way.
She opened the doors only a bit and peered in.
Sitting down in the first row was Doyle Herman with his back to her. He seemed to be enjoying some sort of show on the stage, but it wasn't a show that was taking place in the here and now. He was remembering some play or musical number he had enjoyed in life.
Doyle Herman let out a hearty laugh that made Cynthia jump, but she kept walking forward, propping open the door so that the guys would be able to come in without spooking the spook.
Grabbing her walkie-talkie from her belt, she said into it. "Auditorium. He's here."
The sound of her voice made Doyle Herman stop his enjoyment of the imaginary show and turn to face her.
"The lovely woman from the other day," he said quietly. "Welcome to my home."
Suddenly, he swelled to twice his size and lifted off of the floor almost ten feet. His face contorted into a painful looking grimace that stretched his mouth to inhuman proportions before he dove at Cynthia.
She was already pulling her neutrino wand when he lunged at her. Her first stream went wide and missed the ghost, but it veered him off course and away from her.
As Doyle looped to take another dive at her, he went lower and scooped up a chair, tearing it from it's bolted position on the floor, and threw it at her. "I can play too, my dear."
She leapt to the side and crashed among the auditorium seats. When she sat up, Doyle was coming right at her. From her prone position wedged between the seats, she couldn't bring up her gun in time.
From somewhere behind her, another stream streaked forward and hit Doyle in the face. He reeled back but the stream stayed on him, the energy wrapping around him as he struggled to race away.
Standing up, Cynthia saw that Simon was being dragged down the aisle and toward the stage as Doyle tried to flee the capture stream.
Cynthia stepped only half into the aisle and wedge her one foot against the nearest seat back. Leaning away, she let loose with her own stream again and was rewarded as the blast joined Simon's in wrangling the spirit.
Simon's movement slowed and Cynthia kept pressing her weight against the tugging creature.
"He's a fighter," she yelled over the sound of their streams. "Watch out."
No sooner has she said that, when Doyle Herman stopped struggling, reached out, and grabbed Simon's stream.
"That wasn't on the test," Simon shouted.
With a quick jerk, Simon was sailing across the auditorium and toward the stage. He had the sense to cut his stream and landed face down. Cynthia could hear his loud grunt as he landed.
Jordan was quickly standing in the aisle directly next to Cynthia, preparing to throw his own stream.
Nodding to the next aisle, Cynthia said, "Spread out."
Jordan ran to the next aisle and pressed the button on his neutrino wand.
With a loud hiss, his coolant rods in his proton pack released and then retracted themselves.
"It's the red button," Cynthia shouted to him.
"Oh," was all Jordan said before finding the correct switch and throwing his stream at Doyle Herman's ghost.
Jordan copied Cynthia's approach and had propped himself against one of the seats next to the aisle that he was staging his attack from. Doyle tried to the tug at both of them, but it only yanked them around in their spots.
"Simon," Jordan hollered toward the stage. "Get the trap."
Simon was still standing up, obviously a little winded from the Doyle's toss. He pulled his trap and hopped down from the stage before rolling out in the general direction of the ghost. Then he brought his own neutrino wand back up to join the others.
Together, the three Ghostbusters shifted their hold on Doyle so that he was over the trap. When he was as close as they figured they could get him, Cynthia shouted, "Now, Simon."
Simon stomped down on the plunger and the doors to the black and yellow striped trap flew open. A bright white light shot out of the trap and enveloped the spirit of Doyle Herman. Together the Ghostbusters held their streams on him as the trap pulled him in.
"This battle is yours, but your hold on me will only be a brief respite before I am called upon again." Doyle wasn't struggling, but he was shouting these last words as he grew closer to the prison of the trap. "Erra has called and the world will tremble before his might. Erra is upon us."
"Release," Cynthia shouted, and all three Ghostbusters turned off their streams while Simon let his foot off of the plunger.
Doyle Herman was pulled into the trap and the doors shut. Smoke and the little blinking light on the box was the only indication that anything was in the trap.
"Well," Jordan said with a grin from ear to ear, "that wasn't so hard, was it?"
Back at the Ghostbusters Des Moines office, Cynthia was pouring a flask into paper cups.
"You realize that it's only nine in the morning, right?" Jordan said.
Simon scooped up his cup, downed it in one gulp and handed it back to Cynthia. To answer Jordan's question, Cynthia raised an eyebrow and poured Simon another.
"Who's Erra?" Simon asked after his second cup had been emptied.
Jordan had just finished his first when he answered, "Probably something really big and scary with claws or something." He shrugged. "I have no idea, but I'll start scouring the web and the Spengler guide and see if I can find anything."
Cynthia looked at Jordan and asked, "I thought you knew these machines, how did you miss the trigger?"
Jordan's cheeks turned a little red and it wasn't from the shot. "Design flaw, obviously. The temperature release button shouldn't be that close to the trigger."
Simon smiled and winked at Cynthia, "I'll take a look at that."
Cynthia was pouring hers and Jordan's second drinks and Simon's third when the door chimed and a younger looking red-headed woman walked in.
She had an almost sing-song voice that was only marred by the fear that it held.
"Are you the Ghostbsuters?"
Cynthia stepped forward. "Yes, who are you and how can we help?"
She gulped, trying to suppress a sob. "My name," she gulped again, "is Regina Hulner. I witness a cult, at least I think it was a cult, open a tunnel to...somewhere. A lot of...ghosts flew out of it." She rubbed her eyes and a look of steel determination peaked out from behind the tired and sad look she was giving them. "My brother was possessed by one of them and disappeared."
Cynthia turned to Jordan to let him handle this. She still wasn't nearly as knowledgeable as to how these kinds of cases should be approached yet.
Jordan stepped forward and placed a hand on their guest's shoulder. He offered her his cup, she sniffed it before drinking it quickly.
"Do you know the name of the spirit that took him? This could help us narrow down potential locations that he could be at, as well as how to properly exercise him."
Regina Hulner nodded, "It said that it's name was Erra."
Jordan's head snapped back to look at his partners. They both looked at him and all three of them wondered what they had just gotten themselves into.