Relative Absolution

By Princess Artemis

A Real Ghostbusters Fanfiction, © copyright S.D.Green, 1999, 2003.

Of course, Real Ghostbusters are copyrighted by someone else...several someone elses in fact...

---
Relative: Dependent, Interconnected, Blood Kin.

Absolute: Perfect, Pure, Without Fault, Certain, Total.

Absolution:

Exoneration, Vindication...

Dismissal of Charges.

---
The Terms of Acceptance

"Would somebody please tell me exactly why we're doing this?" asked an exasperated Peter Venkman as he ducked, barely dodging the pale white ghost that had tried to take a swipe at him for the umpteenth time today. He picked up the flashlight he had dropped when he moved out of the ghost's way. Not that there was much to look at in this forsaken, dirty old subway tunnel. The spirit skittered away, almost laughing as it came up from its dive to hover overhead for a moment.

"It's our job, Peter," Egon answered somewhat irritably as he took aim at the large ghost, preparing to fire his proton rifle. This particular ghost had given them nothing but trouble since they had arrived at the abandoned tunnel. They had already lost one PKE meter, the insides fried as it tried and failed to measure the enormous energy the glowing ghost emitted. What was worse, the ghost seemed to delight in tormenting the four Ghostbusters. It had already managed to tie Winston's bootlaces together.

Peter groaned, muttering and cursing as he aimed his own thrower at the stubborn ghost. They had been at this for nearly two hours and had yet to come close to capturing the thing. Once, he swore he hit the thing, only to find the proton beam pass right thorough it. He knew that couldn't have been right, but the stupid thing was fast, so he hadn't had a second chance to see if it was just his imagination. He glanced over at Ray and Winston, who had cut his tangled laces apart. They both nodded, indicating their readiness to trap the frustrating ghost and go home. As one they fired, sending glowing red proton beams toward the white ghost. It only laughed, a strangely infectious sound, as it danced out of harm's way. With a joyous smile, the spirit buzzed Peter's head, reaching out one thin hand and mussing his hair as it passed. It flew farther down the subway shaft and turned a corner, disappearing.

Both Ray and Winston struggled to suppress a laugh. Egon seemed to give the new 'do careful consideration, then nodded sagely. "It's an improvement. I like it." The other two couldn't contain their laughter any longer.

Dr. Venkman cast a withering glare at his friends. It was doubtful that the ghost could have done a better job of incensing the vain Ghostbuster than it had by sliming his hair. Peter put a lot of time and care into styling his dark brown hair just so, and the pale spirit had utterly ruined it. Not only was Peter's hair sticking out in several different directions, but colorless slime dripped from the soaked spikes and trickled down his face and under his collar as well. After a moment of righteous indignation, he fumed, "OK, no one messes with Peter Venkman's hair and gets away with it!" then ran down the hall, thrower in hand.

The other three Ghostbusters sighed with some long-suffering humor and ran after Peter. As they ran, the white ghost poked its face out from behind the wall and smiled. It was hard to stay irritated with the pranks, for there was such a sense of joy about the spirit that it was impossible not to feel it. When it saw the rapidly approaching men, it waved and ducked back behind the wall, hiding it from view. All four rounded the corner and were confronted with a long empty hallway, dark and foreboding. The ghost was nowhere to be seen.

"Well, guys, I don't know about you, but I'm getting the distinct impression that we're gettin' the royal run-around," Winston commented as he reached down to tighten his loose boot laces.

"Think it might be a trickster?" Ray asked, diddling with a second PKE meter, trying to set it so it wouldn't blow the next time they tried to take a reading from the ghost. "It's at least a demigod. I don't know how we're going to trap it even if we do catch it."

"Well it's certainly played enough tricks on me today, thankyouverymuch," Peter pouted as he tried to wring the slime out of his hair. My beautiful hair...

"Maybe," Egon mumbled, thinking. He pushed his red glasses back up on his nose, as he did whenever he was trying to figure something out. "Do you remember reading about anything like this in Tobin's, Ray?"

"No, not off hand, but let me check." The shorter man handed the meter to Egon and fished in his pockets for his portable electronic version of Tobin's Spirit Guide. He pulled the thin guide from his pocket and opened it up, scrolling through it for entries on tricksters. "There's nothing in here even remotely fitting the description of this gooper."

"I wonder why. A ghost with enough energy to toast our meter seems like it would have been noticed before today. Don't demigods usually like to make themselves known?" Winston asked. Classification of ghosts wasn't quite his bag, but he'd been around the rest of the Ghostbusters long enough to understand that much. Ray and Egon usually handled the finer points of paranormal taxonomy.

"Yeah, usually. And before today, there hasn't been so much as a peep about ghosts in this particular area. Ghosts usually congregate around the areas that demigods appear," Ray replied, scratching his reddish hair. The call for this particular bust had come from a frantic overseer staking out the old shaft for possible reopening. He had described in near-hysterical terms how he had seen a glowing white form floating around the area and how it had tried to attack him. When the four had traveled down here, it became readily apparent that the ghost wasn't exactly the hostile beast the foreman had made it out to be. It had made no effort to communicate with them, but it had immediately started playing silly tricks on them. Ray had almost been the victim of a full Melvin, which apparently the pale ghost had decided at the last minute was beneath its dignity. It wasn't behaving like the 'normal' paranormal manifestations of this magnitude the four men had encountered before.

Egon made a last adjustment to the PKE meter and turned it on, tentatively pointing it down the hallway toward the last place the ghost had been seen. The two red antennae flew up, almost coming together at the top. Even at its lowest sensitivity, the meter began to smoke. Egon quickly shut it off before it completely overloaded. He shook his head and hooked the meter to a loop on his belt. "This spirit may be more than a demigod, gentlemen. We are extremely fortunate that it is has done as little as it has."

"What, does that mean we should leave it alone? I'm all for it. I'll be going now," Peter said as he turned around, preparing to leave. He had no desire whatsoever to further annoy a spirit that might be as powerful as Gozer. Especially not one that slimed his hair.

Egon reached out a long arm and grabbed Peter's shoulder before he could take a step. "This creature could be dangerous. We have to find a way to get rid of it; do you want to be responsible if it does turn hostile?"

"No, and that's exactly why I vote for going home and taking a shower. My hair is getting stiff," Peter complained. He may have said it in a joking manner, but he was serious in his concern. Going back to the firehouse and regrouping might give them the chance to do more research and figure out just what it was they were dealing with.

Before anyone could answer, the pale white ghost reappeared and neatly snatched the red-rimmed glasses right off Egon's long nose. "Hey!" the blond scientist exclaimed, instinctively reaching out to take back his glasses. The ghost darted out of his reach, then waved and sped down the hallway, laughing as it went.

Egon stood stock-straight, the picture of affronted dignity. "I guess you were next, big guy," Peter snickered, remembering his snide comment when his hair had been messed with. The steely, albeit myopic, glare he got for his trouble only made Peter laugh a little more; Egon just didn't take turnabout very well, especially when it was so richly deserved. Besides, it was hard not to share in the ghost's glee, when it wasn't him it was playing games with, anyway.

"Come on, guys, we gotta do something about this gooper, even if all we can do is talk nicely to it," Winston reasoned, waving the others forward. "It won't do at all for that poor foreman to have a heart attack when he finds this ghost still floatin' around down here." At his suggestion, all four men started down the hall, walking carefully, wondering exactly what they could do about the pale spirit.

Suddenly, they heard a shrill scream, echoing from farther down the shaft. With a quick, concerned glance at one another, all four Ghostbusters started at a dead run down the hallway. They were all fast and in excellent shape, but Egon was just slightly faster by virtue of his height, and so reached the small archway at the end of the hall first.

Peter was next, slamming his nose into the solid rock wall that wasn't there an instant before. He staggered back, only to trip up Winston and Ray who were less than a step behind him. After hitting the wall a second time, Peter and the other two men fell to the ground in a tangle of arms and legs. Many grunts and groans accompanied their attempts to disentangle themselves. It only took a few moments to finally sort themselves out and sit against the walls of the narrow stone tunnel, Ray on one side and Winston and Peter on the other. Peter gingerly set a hand on his sore nose then yelped. It hurt quite a bit, most likely broken.

"Peter, you're bleeding!" Ray exclaimed, pointing toward Peter.

Peter took his hand away and looked at the red liquid staining his fingers. "Waaah!" he exclaimed, instinctively scrambling to back up but only succeeding in bumping his head against the wall. "Ow! Is this official 'Pick on Peter' day or something?" he whined, squirming because he hated the sight of his own blood. Next thing he knew, that spud was gonna come and shave his head or sic bugs on him or something.

"We got worse things to worry about than your nose, Pete. That wall wasn't there when Egon ran into it," Winston commented as he handed the psychologist a handkerchief.

He took it and held it underneath his bleeding nose. "Yeah," he said in a muffled voice, "that's right. Hey, Egon!" Peter shouted, then listened carefully for a response. None was forthcoming. He reached a hand over and knocked carefully on the wall, but it felt solid. He shot a glance at Ray, who shrugged.

"We might be able to blast it, assuming the ghost made it. I don't know what else we can do," Ray answered. Before any of them could put that idea into practice, the pale white spirit reappeared just in front of the stone wall.

That will not be necessary.

---

Egon ran headlong through the dark archway, searching for the source of the scream. The instant he passed the arch, the echoing sounds of his companion's footfalls disappeared. He skidded to a sudden stop when he caught site of a blurry glowing shape right in front of him. The skid stopped the tall man mere inches from the pale spirit, leaving him face to face with it. At this distance he could see it clearly. Surprised at its beauty, Egon just blinked at it for a long moment. Before, it had moved too fast to get a good look at it, but here, hovering not three inches in front of him, he saw it had a very lovely face, impossibly beautiful. It was clearly male, despite its long hair and fine hands, which he saw when it carefully placed his glasses back on his face. There was no ectoplasm on them, which was a bit unusual.

Speak to the pillars. I will let your friends know they need not worry. With those silent words, it floated behind Egon, who turned to watch it go, through the stone wall that replaced the archway. Concerned, he reached out a hand to feel the wall, unsure what he should expect. It felt like stone.

Turning again to survey the small room, he found it to be a relatively small area with a high ceiling and no exit. On either side of him, one just before each wall, stood two tall pillars, easily fifteen feet tall, with large spreading wings extending from their sides. The one to his left was a soft white which shed a pale light. The one on his right was also glowing, but rather than white, it was multicolored and shimmering as a black opal made liquid might. They were both extraordinarily beautiful. Egon found himself drawn toward the white pillar, but as he neared it he realized he couldn't look at it without averting his eyes and feeling a strange and unaccustomed longing. Something he wanted very badly, but he couldn't place what it was. He had always been uncomfortable with his emotions, far preferring the rational. He turned away from the white pillar when he could no longer ignore the emptiness and deep hunger it evoked. He did not want to deal with those sensations.

Instead, he examined the multicolored pillar. The shimmering colors skated across its surface, ever-changing and dazzling. Underneath the skittering colors was a black darker than night. Egon could hardly look at this pillar either, but only because the colors moved in such a way that it was difficult to grasp. It was like looking at an ever changing fog and trying to see the edges. His mind wanted to make sense of what he saw, find patterns in the swirling colors, but every time one seemed forthcoming, it was swallowed up in more seemingly random movements. The longer he looked, the more difficult it became, for he felt so many times the pattern just within his grasp, only to find it shift out of reach again. It straddled a place between order and chaos so impossible that he gave up finally and lowered his eyes.

Nevertheless, it also evoked strong emotion...a fascination that bordered on longing...

"Feel foolish, being asked to speak to a pillar?" The voice was soft, but real.

"What? Who said that?" the physicist asked as he cast his glance around the room, trying to find the owner of the disembodied voice.

"Who asks? Tell me your name."

Egon looked suspiciously at the multicolored pillar, more at the shape than at the colors so as to avoid the trap of trying to make sense of them. Its broad wings fluttered a bit, stirring up dust. He took his PKE meter and turned it on, pointing it at the pillar. With a strangled screech, the PKE meter let out a puff of smoke then died. From what little he could see, the pillar's readings were vastly different than the ghost's, indicative of an even more powerful entity. He had a strange sinking sensation that the Ghostbusters were in way over their heads this time. It was indeed fortunate that these beings had done no more than they had.

"Your machine tells you little, but enough. When a god asks for your name, you should give it."

As the pillar spoke, an overwhelming sensation of wrath washed over Egon, driving him to his knees. The fury came from behind; it was so strong it was nearly palpable. But the wrath was held. He felt the multicolored pillar's response as an almost reckless arrogance. There was obviously something going on between the pillars, and he wanted no part in it.

He felt the colored pillar's attention return to him. It sent chills down his spine, but he quickly put it aside, attributing it to the enormous ambient psycho-kinetic energy. As he stood, he said, "I don't believe I will make that mistake."

A quiet laughter filled the room. "Superstitions by which I am not bound, Egon Spengler. I am Reason."

Egon looked again fully at the chaos-colors on the winged pillar, out of surprise more than anything else. He pushed aside all consideration of the powerful emotions passing through the room to give space for his thoughts to work. Now he was genuinely curious about this entity. Without his noticing it, the atmosphere of the room changed. As suddenly as it came, the overpowering emotional sense retreated. In that instant something important transpired, some decision made and course set, but there was no way to tell precisely what. Without knowing exactly why, Egon picked up a medium sized flat stone he saw and placed it in his pocket. It looked for all the world like a whetstone. He never spoke to the white pillar.

---

The pale spirit smiled lightly at the surprised expressions on the three men's faces. Truly, you need not worry. Your friend is as safe as if he were in his own room. Here, let me fix your hair. The spirit reached one thin hand over to Peter, who cringed, a bit unnerved by the ghost's silent speech. It touched his head, then pulled its hand back. Ah, it is as it was before.

"Huh?" Peter mumbled as he tentatively touched his hair. He expected slime, but found the dark strands as clean as ever and in the right place. He looked over at the ghost and asked, "Who are you?"

I haven't a name. Address me as you will.

"What, if I said 'hey, you', you'd answer?" Peter asked in his usually flippant tone.

I would. I know when I am addressed. Be aware, however, that I am a...messenger and not a 'demigod' as you thought.

"Wow," Ray breathed. "Where'd you come from?" Somehow he found himself trusting this creature and doubting none of its words.

Elsewhere. I wish to return. That will be as it will be...I wish the easier path, but I doubt it will end so. Humans rarely make the right choices. I lead you here for that reason. The ghost turned back toward the wall, a frown creasing its delicate features. Then it cast a weary glance toward them all, a look of near infinite sadness on its narrow face. Return here when you realize your mistake.

"'Hey, you,' whadda ya mean, when I realize my mistake? All I did was run into a wall. I guess that counts, but I don't quite catch your meaning." Peter gingerly rubbed his sore nose as he said this, his voice muffled.

The spirit cocked its head slightly. With a wave of its hand, Peter's nose stopped bleeding and the pain vanished. That was unintentional. Do not return until you have realized your mistake. So that no one questions, take this with you. With another wave of its thin hand, a small white ghost materialized, blinking stupidly as if it had just awakened from a sound sleep. The first spirit vaporized, as did the stone wall.

The little white spud opened its mouth with a yawn and stretched prodigiously. Ray and Winston exchanged glances, and then Winston slowly unhooked a trap and placed it quietly on the ground. Before the tired ghost even had a chance to realize what was happening, it was sucked down into the trap. "That was easy enough," Winston commented, picking up the trap by its trip cord.

"We'll get paid, too," Peter murmured absently, glancing into the heretofore closed stone room. There was a strange glow in there and Egon was standing roughly in the middle of the room, facing the right wall. Peter leaned over to get a better look into the room. He could just see the tip of what looked like a psychedelic bird wing on the right. "Hey, whatcha lookin' at there, Spengs?"

The blond man started, as if he had been caught in a trance. Peter smiled a little, remembering at least a hundred times seeing that same reaction whenever he decided to talk to Egon while he was reading. He was so easily lost in thought Peter swore he needed a trail of breadcrumbs to make it back to reality. "Earth to Egon, come in Egon. This is no time to wander off into La La Land," he teased, satisfied at the slightly perturbed and embarrassed expression it garnered him.

"Come and see for yourself. I doubt I have the words to properly describe these phenomena," Egon replied after a second.

Peter stood and gave him a disbelieving look. "O thou loquacious one, does not thy mental thesaurus provide thee with adequate terminology?" he said as he stood. He rubbed his head as he took a few steps and joined his friend in the stone room. "Now my head hurts. How do you use all those big words and not get a headache?" When he got a good look at the multicolored pillar, with its gently moving wings, his jaw dropped. No wonder Egon couldn't find the words. This was a work of unspeakable beauty; the physicist was not familiar with the use of such words as might describe the pillar...hell, no one was. He blinked a few times, unable to look at the constantly moving patterns for long. He shook his head, trying hard to ignore a sudden case of the willies that crawled down his back and made the hair on the nape of his neck stand on end.

"Wow...," Ray breathed as he entered the room. The pillars stood silent, glowing gently. He wandered over to the white pillar. He swung his flashlight beam on it, but the pale luminescence didn't change at all. He tried blocking the flashlight, to see if he could cast a shadow, but he could not. Something about it felt solid, secure, in a purely intuitive sense. Slowly a tear came to his eye as he stood before it, longing for the security, the missing piece, he felt there. He didn't turn away for a long time.

Winston came up next to him, joining him in his gaze at the white pillar. "That's some piece of work," he whispered, almost feeling as though speech would be inappropriate before such an object.

Peter rubbed his eyes and turned to look at the white pillar. "We're in over our heads, aren't we, guys," he said quietly, sensing the great presence emanating from the tall shape. The jitters disappeared quickly, only to be replaced by a sense of terrified awe and longing. They really were into something they couldn't handle. "Show of hands: who wants to go home and forget we saw this? Before we really get in trouble."

"Oh, how could we forget this?" Ray exclaimed. For his part, he thought he'd found a piece of heaven on earth. He turned to face his partner, then inhaled sharply. The other pillar was beautiful as well, but all he could think of was how he wanted to get away from it as fast as possible...while at the same time to embrace it wholly. "Oh man, this is giving me the creeps. Maybe we should leave." There was something strangely familiar about the darkly colored pillar, a sensation he had felt many times before, but he couldn't place it.

"Perhaps you are right, Peter. We are in the presence of a very powerful entity, and it may be in our best interests to return to the firehouse so we can research this further," Egon replied, adjusting his glasses. He absently fingered something in his pocket.

"Yeah, let's head out. At least the messenger was nice enough to give us a ghost to trap," Winston commented as he turned to leave.

The other three men followed Winston out, shining their flashlights ahead into the dark tunnel. The room sealed up again as soon as they exited it. The three Ghostbusters that had seen the two pillars shared a common feeling about both but they said nothing; both of the winged shapes were terrifying, awe-inspiring, and evoked desire, but in entirely different ways. Winston had set eyes on one, not both. After a long look at the stone wall, the four Ghostbusters continued on their way. As they walked, Peter asked Egon, "What happened after you ran into the room?"

Egon pondered his answer for a moment. "The original ghost communicated with me via some form of telepathy. It wished for me to speak to the pillars, then assured me it would let you know I was safe."

Peter nodded and stretched his arms out in front of him. "Yeah, 'Hey You' came out and said something like that. Fixed my hair, too." He pointed a finger at his dark locks. "Did you say howdy to the glowing things?"

After glancing at Peter and deciding it wasn't worth asking why he called the pale ghost 'Hey You,' Egon continued. "Actually, no. The colored pillar spoke first. It wondered if I felt uncomfortable with the idea of speaking to pillars. It called itself Reason, and said it was a god. After that, the wall that had blocked my egress disappeared."

"Huh. Our ghost friend told me to come back when we realized our mistake. Wonder what it meant by that," Peter asked no one in particular. "I don't remember doing anything wrong, except for running nose-first into a phantom stone wall."

"Perhaps the spirit was incorrect."

Peter shook off a sudden chill. "Hope so. I don't know if I wanna find out what happens to people who make mistakes with those things."

---

Janine Melnitz twiddled her thumbs, bored silly. She had already filed her nails, painted them, and filed them again, then painted them a second time. The guys had been gone for a few hours on a bust that had promised to be quick and painless. They had told her she could go home after they got back; the call came around three, and it had been a slow day. She had been looking forward to a nice, relaxing afternoon. Well, it wasn't going to happen that way.

The redhead propped her head up on her arm and closed her eyes, intending only to rest, but she ended up falling asleep. Not long after, the Ecto-1 pulled into the garage. After shutting off the engine, the four men piled out of the converted Cadillac, fighting good-naturedly over who got the shower first and who was going to make dinner. While the other three headed up the stairs, Peter decide to sit in a chair opposite the secretary and stare at her until she woke up. He leaned back as far as he could without spilling over the back and propped his feet up on Janine's desk. Her face had slipped down her arm a bit, leaving her mouth open a little and her cheek stretched out of shape. Peter wondered idly if she would drool or not.

It didn't take too long for Janine to awaken. She gave Peter a dirty look then said in a sleepy yet irritated slur, "Are you finished, Dr. V?"

"I was just waiting to see if you had any interesting dreams," Peter said in his most innocent tone. He smiled in satisfaction when Janine stuck her tongue out at him as she stood up and collected her things.

"I'm going home now, Dr. Venkman," Janine growled as she strode out of the firehouse. She didn't hate the man, but he could be bloody irritating at times.

A moment later, Winston called down the stairs, "Are you gettin' dinner ready or not, Peter?"

"What? Who elected me cook tonight?!" the psychologist cried out incredulously.

"I thought you did. I mean, you didn't even fight for the shower, like you wanted the job, m'man." Winston knew why Peter had stayed downstairs, but he thought it only proper to make him fix dinner in defense of their secretary. Turnabout was fair play.

Peter grumbled and picked up the phone to order Chinese take-out. He was tired and didn't really feel like eating his own cooking just now. Just as he finished placing the order, Slimer swooped down on him and grabbed the front of his brown jumpsuit with both hands, shaking him and leaving slimy fingerprints everywhere. "Sliiiiimer!"

"Something wrong, Peter!" the green ghost exclaimed, still shaking him.

"Get your slimy hands off me!" Peter yelled as he waved his arms in an attempt to rid himself of the annoying ghost.

"Something wroooooong, Peter!" Slimer insisted, finally letting go and wringing his hands in concern.

"Whaddaya mean something's wrong, spud?" Peter asked, wondering if he misplaced his stuffed Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man or if it was actually serious.

"Bad...something bad...!" Slimer exclaimed, looking around suspiciously, as if he expected monsters to pop out and attack him any second. He started flying around in small, fast circles, flinging green ectoplasm all over, obviously worried. He whimpered again. "Something baaad!"

Peter gave Slimer a long look; the ghost was responsible for his very first sliming, and he ate everything in sight, but sometimes he was endearing, and occasionally turned out to be pretty useful. The psychologist sat up, thinking. The spud had good instincts; usually he didn't use them for anything more than locating his next snack, but when something big was afoot in the spirit world, Slimer sometimes knew about it far in advance. Maybe something big was about to go down. "Spud, I'm going up and telling the guys about this."

Slimer quivered with concern and followed Peter up the stairs to the Ghostbusters' shared bedroom. Ray was calmly reading a comic book while Egon sat on the edge of his bed, pulling a gray and red woolen sock onto his foot. Apparently he didn't feel like wearing his boots anymore and didn't want to lose toes to the chill in the room. Winston was in the shower, most likely hogging all the hot water.

"Guys, Slimer here is getting a case of the heebie-jeebies. I dunno if it's serious or not," Peter declared as he sat down on his bed.

"What is it, Slimer?" Ray asked in concern, setting his comic book aside. He opened his arms wide, prompting Slimer to speed into his comforting hug.

"Baaad, Ray! Slimer worried!"

"You really are worried. Can you tell me what it is?" Ray asked soothingly.

"Bad ghost...bad ghost coming!" Slimer explained with a shudder. He snatched his Stay-Puft off a nearby nightstand and snuggled it close.

"Slimer, have you ever heard of a god named Reason?" Egon asked calmly.

"Nooo, Egon," Slimer whimpered.

Egon adjusted his glasses then stood, careful not to slip on the slick hardwood floor. "I'm going to do some research on this. It is possible that Slimer senses the presence of such a powerful ectoplasmic entity."

"Yeah, we better do that. I'll join you," Ray agreed, rising to his feet. He followed Egon out of the room, carrying Slimer with him.

Peter really didn't know what to make of it. It would just be their luck to get tangled up with a ghost powerful enough to call itself a god. 'Hey You' the messenger was bad enough, but Peter really wondered if that spirit would have scared Slimer so badly. He leaned back on his bed, trying to get comfortable. Maybe it was just Slimer's hysterical reaction, but for some reason a dull anxiety settled itself in the pit of his stomach. He tried to dismiss it, but somehow instinct and a track record of terrible luck when it came to the big baddies of the universe refused to let him.

When he heard the doorbell ring, Peter groaned loudly. Luck indeed. He had hoped Winston would be out of the shower in time for him to stick the take-out bill on the older man. He muttered all the way down the stairs, huffing about vengeful gods and overpriced food.

---

Evening arrived, leaving the four Ghostbusters with as little information as when they started. Egon and Ray had nearly exhausted every resource and turned up with absolutely nothing for their trouble. There was no information anywhere that even came near the description of what they had encountered earlier that day. It was highly perplexing. Things like powerful ghosts and gods or whatever just didn't turn up in abandoned New York subway lines without precedent, yet there was no history of similar occurrences in any literature. Usually there were huge disruptions in the ambient psycho-kinetic fields when entities of that magnitude manifested, as well as heralding spirits and general scene making. There wasn't so much as a blip. There weren't even any residuals.

It was as if it had never happened.

All they had to show for the experience was a full trap, two toasted meters, and a due bill. And perhaps Winston's ruined shoelaces.

They couldn't even figure out what Slimer was so upset about. Usually Ray could cajole a somewhat coherent explanation out of the green ghost, but such was not the case. Eventually, Slimer had bolted from the firehouse, distraught over the impending doom he kept predicting. No amount of loyalty would keep the spud around. He was plainly terrified of something, but for the life of them, the doctors Spengler and Stantz could not figure it out.

"Well, I dunno about you guys, but I say we sleep on it. Maybe you two brain trusts'll come up with something in the middle of the night," Peter said. Often, the rest of sleep and taking one's mind off-line for a while brought on startling leaps of intuition. Maybe that would be the case tonight. Peter sincerely hoped so; the anxiety he felt earlier hadn't left him.

The two research scientists nodded as they prepared for bed. Winston propped his head up on his elbow; he had already slipped under his covers. "Why do you suppose it called itself 'reason'? You don't suppose it was ever worshipped as a deity of rational thought, do you?"

"No, not really. If it was, we would have run into some examples of it in the literature," Ray answered, slipping his pointed nightcap into place over his auburn hair. "Maybe the word had a meaning it liked. Or perhaps at some point utterly lost to history, it had been given that name. I doubt it, though. History doesn't just lose itself like that. Even the rituals of Egyptian mystery religions came out, as the spirits behind them are still around."

"C'mon guys. Go to sleep! It's been a long day already and it's just getting longer," Peter complained as he shifted farther under his copious blankets. "We still have tomorrow to worry about this. All we've got to go on is Slimer's jitters. I don't think the world is gonna end before tomorrow morning."

After some final musings, the four Ghostbusters slept in relative peace, untroubled except for Peter, who dreamed of a great, sullen shadow cast on the earth by a winged creature. There was nothing but the shadow over all; it was not despair, not destruction, not even darkness, only a dull foreboding, an omen of things to come.

---
rationalism common sense intellect...intelligence. judgment discernment.
logic. Understanding.
---

The next day started just a touch earlier than Peter Venkman would have liked. The alarm startled him out of a sound sleep. He heard Winston shouting at him from the hallway, imploring him to get his buns outta bed and get dressed, 'cause they had a bust and it looked like a big one. The sleepy psychologist groaned and cursed mornings. They sure had better swing by a coffee shop, or else one Ghostbuster was gonna be in a real bad mood.

Squinting his bleary eyes in an expression of his normal morning grumpiness, the dark haired man stumbled into his clothes and stomped by the kitchen, growling a grizzly-bear version of a thank you when someone set a cup of Joe and a doughnut in his hands. He clambered down the stairs, gulping the hot coffee with a vengeance. The horrid taste more than anything is what finally roused him to full consciousness.

"Who made this tar?" Peter griped as he slid into place next to Ray in the back seat of Ecto-1.

"Don't complain, homes. At least you got some," Winston answered with a grin as he started the vehicle. Egon mumbled something through a mouthful of glazed doughnut.

"I like it," Ray enthused. The Ecto-1 pulled out of the garage with a screech of tires and a howl of sirens.

"You would," Peter grumped. He looked at the pastry in his hand and shrugged. It didn't have chocolate sprinkles the way he liked, but it would do. He took a huge bite out of it, then asked as he chewed, "So what're we goin' up against?"

"Sounded like poltergeists," Egon stated simply.

"Whoopee. We get to go have vast assortments of crap chucked at us."

"Isn't it great?" Ray said in his usual excited tones. Peter just rolled his eyes.

---

When they arrived at the townhouse several minutes later, a hysterical man in a three-piece suit covered with some sticky looking substance greeted them. The Ghostbusters piled out of the Ecto-1 and quickly collected their gear. Peter went to talk to the near-incoherent man about the disturbance, but it wasn't really necessary. A fine bone china teacup flew out the front door and nearly beaned Ray as he donned his proton pack. It was poltergeists all right. A quick PKE scan confirmed it.

"Well, let's go get 'em pardners," Peter intoned in his best John Wayne, which wasn't all that great.

The other three ignored Venkman's attempt at impersonation and instead entered the house, rifles in hand and ready to go. All was silent except for the quiet beeping of Egon's PKE meter. Peter motioned for Winston and Ray to head one way while Egon went with him. The ghost that had tossed the cup was nowhere to be seen.

As soon as Peter and Egon entered the dining room, the silence was broken. China dishes started flying around like UFO's, shattering everywhere. The spirits quickly manifested, showing four in all—little blue and white imp looking things. Fortunately, these poltergeists weren't the shy kind that required those odd helmets to see them. "One apiece. Not too bad," Peter commented, bringing his thrower to bear.

---

Suddenly, all four poltergeists zeroed in on the dark haired Ghostbuster, zipping around so fast and close that Egon couldn't possibly get a clear shot. Peter was waving his arms around, trying to ward off the spirits' porcelain ammunition. Before the blond physicist could even react to Peter's sudden besiegement, he felt dark hands rest on his elbows, owned by a shadow that stood close behind him. Surprised, Egon spun around, but the shadowy hands moved with him. A silent whisper like black smoke filled his mind. I had thought you loved me.

The tall man shuddered as a bone-deep chill settled over him. He tried to speak, but the darkness behind him covered his mouth. Is it not customary to bend thy knee when addressed by thy god? For no logical reason he could find, Egon felt suddenly very ill.

objective aim incentive intention...purpose design object...

Motive. Impetus.

I will give these things.

The shadow passed as rapidly as it appeared. Egon shook his head, trying vainly to dislodge the sickening feeling that had settled behind his eyes. He turned toward the sudden sound of crackling porcelain. White, flat things flew through the air, some of them hitting a flailing form in the center of the room. The form was making a horrendous racket. Egon dropped the metal thing he was carrying and tried to beat off the offending ghosts with his hands. The ghosts pulled back in stunned silence.

The form stood, relieved for the moment of his siege. It wasn't just a form, but rather his brother. Egon blinked a few times, surprised. After a glance at the spirits, his brother made some more noises, questioning ones. Egon frowned, a little unhappily.

---

As soon as the poltergeists let up on their siege, Peter stood. Egon was standing there, thrower dragging on the ground and a deeply confused expression on his face. "Whatsa matter, Egon?" he asked, but the only response he received was an unhappy frown. Peter looked at Egon as if he had sprouted a third arm. This was seriously out of character. "Get your thrower out! What are you thinking?" When his friend reacted by sniffling and wiping a tear from his eye, Peter gaped, astounded. This was wrong. Really, really wrong.

A saucer sailing not an inch in front of his nose returned Peter's attention to the ghostly threat at hand. Whatever was wrong with Egon would have to wait until the poltergeists were trapped. He took aim and fired, catching one spirit in his beam. Fortunately Ray and Winston chose that moment to make their entrance, proton rifles blazing.

Within a few minutes the four poltergeists were trapped, although not without incident. Winston had a long cut on his forehead, inflicted by a fast moving gooper with a ceramic shard in its hand. Other than that, any injuries were very minor. Ray gathered up the traps as Peter handed Winston the handkerchief he had borrowed the night before. Winston folded it until he had a clean surface then held it to the bleeding cut. Egon watched the proceedings as if he had no clue what he should be doing.

The four stood there in silence for a moment. Peter looked carefully into Egon's thin face, concerned. "Something the matter, Spengs?"

Egon reacted to his concern, but it was plain he didn't know what the concern was for. He looked around at them, anxiety clear, but unfocused. Ray and Winston exchanged worried glances, which only served to upset Egon further. He started crying, fear and concern clear in his features.

Ray pulled his PKE meter from his tool belt and pointed it at his blond friend. Nothing. He turned to face Peter. "Did something happen to him?"

Peter shrugged. "Not that I could tell, but I was a little distracted by the dish-tossin' spudlife." He took Egon's elbow in an attempt to direct him out of the house. He wasn't sure the man could figure it out judging by the look in his eyes. It wasn't a dull expression; in fact, Peter never remembered seeing his friend so open with his feelings. It was, well, stupid, to put it bluntly. He looked like he was all feeling and no thought. The expression on Egon's face was completely incongruous with what Peter knew of him. The level of disbelief it evoked was comparable to how he would feel if Slimer declared he was going on a fast, but the dread that gripped him was far more serious. "C'mon, big guy," he said in his most comforting voice, "let's get back to the firehouse and figure out what's going on."

---

Egon followed obediently, a smile on his face. He liked the way his brother had said that. It sounded nice, even though he didn't understand the strangely familiar noises. It would be wrong to describe the sensations Egon was experiencing by calling them memories or knowledge. Words had ceased, thought no longer existed. Language was inadequate to the task—there were things the tall man knew without knowing, deep things that he understood without understanding. Nothing had been erased; indeed, it was more as if things had come into existence that were previously only ideas. Misunderstood emotions, wrongly categorized and misidentified, became solid and tangible and very, very real.

Ignorance had been lost as well as understanding.

---

This became increasingly apparent the longer Peter watched his friend. Ray was driving Ecto-1 back to the firehouse. They rode in comparative silence, concerned and confused. Egon reacted to everything. After watching buildings roll by the window, he turned back to look at his colleagues. He was watching Peter with a frightening intensity. Every nuance and color of expression, even the subtlest shift of the psychologist's green eyes, was seen and answered. No, there was no formal intelligence, no brilliant reason in Egon's face, but there was an unnerving perception there nonetheless. Peter had the sudden feeling that in this condition, no one could lie to Egon. No one could hide anything from him...if he added his formidable mental faculties to this new acute perception he would be a force to be reckoned with. As it was, only the strange simplicity in his blue eyes kept Peter from feeling like he was totally transparent and laid open like a cheap novel.

Well, he might not feel like Captain Obvious, but it was only by the slightest margins. Peter felt like he were having the most personal and intimate conversation he had ever had in his entire life and he hadn't even said a word! Egon expressed in purely emotional, reactive terms precisely how he felt about Peter. A friend closer than a brother. A man well loved and respected. One who has access to the truly deep places, welcomed in absolute trust. He never said the words but Peter could see it in his face with uncanny and uncomfortable clarity.

"Stop looking at me like that!" Peter finally shouted, unable to continue with an emotional discourse in which he didn't know half of what he had revealed. Yes, they were friends of that caliber, but that didn't mean he was comfortable with such a deep and plain expression of it. It was hard to imagine that he had not accidentally 'said' the very same things. Egon flinched as if he had been struck. Peter expected him to turn away, but he didn't. His intense and piercing gaze didn't move, only changed to a sad wondering. Peter groaned, realizing his mistake. Egon wouldn't know it was out of sheer discomfort that he had snapped; as perceptive as his sight was now, it was still only half the man. He felt the irritation, but knew not from what it came. He couldn't know anymore than an infant could figure out why its mother was mad.

"Whatsa matter, anyway?" Peter wearily asked no one in particular. Where was he going to get an answer for this? He felt about two inches high for snapping at Egon; why not just go kick some puppies while he was at it?

"I wonder if it's that Reason character," Winston commented.

"Could be," Peter muttered. "But didn't it fry the PKE meter? If it were wandering around sucking up Egon's brains, wouldn't it sort of leave a 'BIG BAD GHOST WUZ HERE' sign in bright neon letters?"

Ray shrugged and said a bit morosely, "Yeah."

"This just doesn't make sense." Peter glanced back at Egon, who had returned to watching the road, his expression clouded. It couldn't be organic, could it? That thought gave him the shivers. "Ugh."

"Hmmm? Something wrong?" Ray asked.

"No, I just had a doozie of a thought. It's nothing."

The Ecto-1 pulled into the firehouse and settled to a halt. Winston and Ray stepped out of the vehicle and started around back to unload their gear and traps. Egon scrambled out of the car about as fast as humanly possible. He was a man with a mission. Peter jumped out after him, worried anew. The physicist poised himself to tear up the stairs then suddenly stopped.

"Oh my...," Peter breathed in amusement, smiling at the unabashed adoration on his friend's face. Janine was sitting at her desk, thoroughly engrossed in a phone conversation and goodness if Egon wasn't giving her a look! Dr. Venkman wasn't the only one getting the unfiltered response. "Hey, Janine," he said, voice full of mirth, "you might want to take a look at this."

"Just a second, Kel," Janine growled to her friend, displeased that Dr. Venkman had disturbed her conversation. She looked up, prepared to let loose the fires of hell on the dark haired man. It died in her throat when Egon rather unexpectedly kissed her, quite passionately at that. A moment later and he bolted up the stairs as if chased by terror dogs. Janine dropped the phone.

With an admirable show of effort, Peter bit back an ill-timed and callous explanation for Egon's behavior that might well have landed him in the hospital. Instead, after giving her a moment to recover, he said, "I got good news and bad news, Janine."

"Huh...?" Janine said faintly. Total blank surprise had been replaced by a dreamy look and a slight grin.

Peter ran a hand through his brown hair and said, "That's about as honest a declaration as your ever gonna get outta him."

Janine brightened considerably. "Oh? What's the bad news?" she replied.

"That was both. He's got a world-class brain cramp. You know that isn't like him."

Slumping, Janine muttered, "No, suppose not." She looked a little crestfallen. "Whadda ya mean, 'world-class brain cramp'?"

Peter scrunched up his face, trying to think of some way to explain it. "Well, while we were on the bust, and mind you, we don't know how it happened, he lost the ability to think."

"What?!" Janine shouted. "Is he gonna be all right?"

Ray came up just then. "We have to figure out what happened first."

---

Egon shut the door softly behind him. Something drove him up here to his lab with a dark insistence. Without understanding what it was or why, that fearful shadow communicated to him that he must take a certain action, that it was imperative. There were no consequences, no threat, just a persistent need to take the small stone he never remembered having in the first place and use it. Not for anything unusual, or at least, it didn't feel that way, just to sharpen a little pocket knife he often used to strip wires or cut small pieces of material. Something about the action frightened him, but it needed to be done.

So he took the whetstone out of his pocket and set it on a table, then retrieved the knife. He didn't know where it was, but something led him to it. Once he may have known how to sharpen a knife, but now he just stared blankly at the two objects on the desk. Again, something led him in the way it wanted the two objects used. It hurt; Egon sucked in a little gasp and cried freely at the pain.

After only a few minutes, a dim spark of awareness flickered through his mind, a slight knowledge telling him that this was a highly unorthodox way to hone a knife. The awareness grew, first to say that he was using a substandard whetstone, one that absorbed lubricant like a sponge...then to reason that the lubricant he used was improper... As his knowledge returned to him, it found its way back to his heart and in a sudden flash of disgust, Egon realized it was not improper, it was downright wrong.

He had honed the silvery blade in his own blood.

The knife clattered on the desk, dropped as though it were on fire. He looked at his right hand and saw the cut he had unknowingly made across his palm, at the prompting of a shadow. Bright red blood welled up in the hollow of his hand then trickled down his arm, staining the cuff of his jumpsuit. On the table, the whetstone glistened for a moment, then the blood which wet it was absorbed into its dark surface, never to be seen again. For a second, he struggled to remember how he came to this place. It didn't take long as his mind and his emotions finally settled themselves in their usual routine.

Egon twisted his face in revulsion. That ghost, that thing that called itself a god had taken his mind away as easily as he breathed. A deep and fearful sense of violation gripped him in its cold fists. He remembered what he felt then, and what he had done. Shame and disgust turned his gut, and an irrational panic followed close behind.

How lost you are, my child, without thy god.

The blond physicist clenched his teeth in frustration, anger, and fear. This was a spirit not to be taken lightly...one that tore from him his only security and all he had ever known. Literally all he had ever known. He said nothing and made no move.

Do not so anger me again...

"What did I do to anger you," Egon whispered through his teeth. He was the one that was angry. How dare it violate him so!

You did not acknowledge me as you should. And I must discipline my children who do not acknowledge me.

Egon's expression darkened, reflecting his growing rage at what this thing had done to him. "Discipline...." To lay him bare, to take his mind, to leave him without defense...

Oh, how I wish that it needn't be so. But I myself am bound by my own law. If I made exceptions for thee, then I must for all. I, thy god, hath given thee much. Surely, the logic of my situation is plain to thee.

"You are no god of mine!" he ground out.

The fury his venom-filled statement produced was so thick and black it was nearly physical. You will NOT speak to me thus!

He found himself plunged into sudden darkness, the choking black of the darkest night, which clawed and tore at his mind. It wasn't the same...this time the dark spirit left Egon an awareness and premonition of what was to come, more of a deep subordination than a stealing away of his intellect. It would leave him to see with his own eyes what he was without his intelligence and powerless to stop or control it, not just to remember what had happened later, but to see it first hand. For the briefest of instances, for less than a split second, the panic that vision induced willed him to do anything to stop it. The spiritual compromise was quickly tossed aside, but not soon enough. The darkness let up and the powerful spirit pulled its claws back a little.

I will relent, if only you will spill thy blood for me.

I will not, Egon thought, sickened to know it wasn't so and hating that little flash of weakness.

You will. I do this not of my own choice...I loath to hurt my children, but it is the only way.

"Why?" he asked quietly.

I am bound by another's laws. Rising anger filled the lab. If I were only rid of the lawmaker, I would not have to demand my children's blood.

The fury abated somewhat. Now, though, is not the time for that. Blood is the price and blood I will have.

Egon growled deep in his throat as he picked up the finely honed knife, infuriated at the ghost's power, terrified of what surely would happen to him if he disregarded its demand, and frustrated nearly to the point of madness by his own weakness. For he now knew he could be bought.

Lock, stock, and barrel.

Reason was his god.

---

Peter walked slowly up the stairs and down the hall to stand before the laboratory door. For a moment or so, the four downstairs had discussed what could possibly cause Egon to lose his capacity to think. It was certainly a puzzle; there was no PKE to suggest a paranormal explanation and as far as they knew, Egon had no psychoses that might point to a psychological reason. An organic cause might have cropped up unexpectedly; organic brain damage had a tendency to do that, but the thought was quickly banished in favor of less horrifying and far more treatable possibilities. Horses first, then zebras, Dr. Venkman thought. Peter had decided that maybe a professional evaluation was in order...maybe there was some hidden hang up deep within Egon's guarded and difficult personality.

He rapped softly on the door, uncertain if Egon would understand the significance of his knocking. The dark-haired doctor was pleasantly surprised when Egon slowly opened the door. Peter smiled in relief when he saw that Egon's glance was as discerning and his expression as composed as always. "We were worried about you, big guy. What gives?" he asked.

The taller man pursed his lips, his face concealing the train of his thoughts. For some reason, the expression struck Peter as strange. It wasn't, not really...in fact, it was perfectly normal. Egon usually presented a composed front, a calm, although paradoxically open and amiable mask carefully held in place, guarding the workings of his mind. Only those who truly knew him or spent a good deal of time with him could see past it; Egon was nothing if not complex. He expressed only what he chose to.

And for some reason, the blond physicist's careful constructions felt very wrong to his friend right now. Peter shook off the strange uncomfortable sensation and stood silent, waiting for him to speak.

"I'm fine, Peter," was his response. "Whatever it was is gone now." There was a note of finality in the statement, one which did not quite seem justified. He adjusted his glasses in his normal manner, then stepped past Peter and into the hallway. "I think I will lie down for a while," he said as he walked carefully toward the bedroom.

Peter shook his head and followed Egon. "Hey, Spengs, I'm not lettin' you off that easy. We need to get to the bottom of this. I dunno about you, but I think it would be good thing to find out why your brains suddenly dribbled out your ears in the middle of a bust."

Egon cast a sharp glance at the other Ghostbuster, his expression clouded. After a moment his gaze fell and he confided softly, "I don't...I'm not ready to talk about it just yet." Shame, and something else, flickered across his face, then disappeared as he turned his head away.

The look was not lost on Peter. He nodded in understanding; it had to be difficult for his extremely intellectual friend to discuss the loss of his considerable mental capacity...and especially hard to come to grips with the actions that had resulted. Egon probably felt just as ridiculous and exposed as he would if he had streaked the Oscars. "Yeah, OK, I can understand that. We still have to talk, but not right now." He saw his friend nod slightly then enter the shared sleeping quarters. Egon looked a bit pale. Peter was surprised he hadn't noticed it before, but decided to leave him be for the moment.

---

"So? How's he doing?" Ray asked as Peter walked down the stairs.

"All is as it was before," Peter quoted an old Star Trek episode but with strained humor. "Well," he continued in a normal tone, "his brain is back in his head. I'll give him the third degree about it later."

Winston was thoughtful for a moment. "So now what? We just rest on it?" He didn't particularly like that course of action, but was willing to defer to Peter's judgment on this one.

Peter shrugged. "I don't know what else we can do. I'm getting the sneaking suspicion that Egon's experiencing some psychological upset. I don't like it...but what else is there?"

---

That same shadow cast its darkness across the stark landscape, but it was a little different this time. A dim smile, like a glowering Cheshire Cat...something very cruel was enjoying itself at someone's expense. Peter found himself standing just outside the feathered shadow, looking in. Tentatively, he extended his hand so that the shadow cast on it. Inside the darkness was a dimness of vision and a dulling of the senses...just by darkening his hand, he felt somehow apathetic. Was the shadow a living thing...?

Behind him stood a great white creature, a very gentle thing, yet at the same time terrible. He knew it was there before he saw it. He turned and looked up at it and realized suddenly that he was dreaming, for if he had not been, he would have fainted at its awful presence. As it was he gulped nervously. It was almost twenty feet tall. With four great wings and the head of an enormous ox, it was a frightening image. It had no eyes, but Peter felt it could see right through him. It had a somewhat human torso, with arms like a great eagle might have and a lion's hindquarters and tail. It looked down at him with its eyeless gaze and pointed its taloned finger at the shadow.

The foothold is grasped in bleeding fingers, tightly held so as to break bone and strangle spirit. Fingers will slip, the hands will break, and the spirit will die. Help him let go.

"What? What are you talking about?" Peter asked, clearly confused. But the great creature had disappeared, leaving him alone with the forbidding shadow. "Help who let go of what?" he asked the silent air, but as he expected, no answer was forthcoming.


End Section 1