The impossible choice.
Part one: The beginning of the end.
"Do you love me?" The voice asked. It called softly from the shadows of the darkened room sounding hurt and a little desperate.
Curled up in his grubby old armchair Metaxas wept bitterly. His hands were shaking so violently the whisky in his tumbler sloshed all over the carpet. He neither noticed of cared.
"You know I do?" He croaked, screwing his eyes up in an attempt to push back his tears. "I would do anything to help you my lord."
"Then why do you hesitate?" The voice snapped, it was harsher now. "This is your destiny; you were born with this task. Two hundred years ago you forefathers swore their allegiance to me and I swore to protect them in return. I have not failed them have I?"
"No my lord"
"Not one member of your family has suffered sickness or poverty in generations have they?" The voice demanded, it was very angry now.
"No" Metaxas whispered
"No My lord!" Metaxas squeaked, dropping his glass. It shattered as it hit the floor. The walls shook as the disembodied voice bellowed angrily.
"Why do you hesitate?" It yelled "You know the terms of my imprisonment, what it takes to free me."
"But taking an innocent life..." Metaxas protested. He had been raised thinking that he was working for a better future, one without illness and pain. Killing went against it all, he couldn't do it.
The voice became a little calmer." It is just one life, think of the good it will do everyone else." It said sympathetically "Do you want others to suffer?" Metaxas shook his head
"The sacrifice will feel pain for a moment," The voice continued "but their death will end all suffering. I will save this world. I'll be the god your kind deserves. Please Metaxas, make the call."
Tearfully Metaxas reached over and lifted the receiver. Hands still shaking he dialed and waited nervously as the phone rang His lips were dry and a nauseous feeling crept over him... After a moment a young woman answered.
"Ghostbusters," She said in a bored voice. "How can we help?"
They had by now perfected it. After months of practice all four Ghostbusters had managed to find their own unique way of getting out of bed, suited, booted and in the van within two minuets of Janine hitting the alarm.
Today, as always, Ray was always first ready. Both he and Egon had found that the most efficient way to prepare was to have everything laid out for them before they went to bed
Ray being slightly more excitable and eager to go dressed and washed in under a minuet. He was down the pole and snatching the clipboard from Janine's outstretched hand before she could scream 'Get up guys We've got one!'
She to had managed to perfect her own routine. As the phone rang she was already warming a fresh pot of coffee. Balancing the phone on her shoulder she took notes with one hand while preparing two very sugary coffees, for Peter and Winston with the other. (As scientific research had not yet proven that artificial stimulants weren't harmful to the body so early in the morning Ray and Egon didn't have any)
When Ray appeared she had the clipboard ready, a warm smile for Egon thirty second later and two warm coffees for the slightly less organized Peter and Winston who stumbled down after another minuet.
"Janine," Peter beamed swiping the mug from her hands as he headed to the van. "I think you may perhaps be the perfect woman"
"And yet I spend my days making your coffee and answering your calls!" She shouted back sarcastically as the wailing siren of 'Ecto one' fired up and headed out the door.
Heels clicking on the floor Janine crossed over and closed it after them. She sighed sadly to herself as she door slammed shut "Without as much as a thank you!"
Ray sat in the front next to Winston, who was driving. Scanning the sheet the secretary had passed him he called out directions to the Midlands hotel where their first call of the day had come from.
As Winston took the corner sharply Peter's coffee spilled onto his thigh burning him. "Dammit!" He swore "Why does Janine have to make the coffee so hot?"
"She doesn't have to make it at all!" Egon said pointedly fiddling with the PKE meter; it was clicking loudly. That was never a good sign. It usually only made that noise when something big was going down.
"That's what secretaries do." Peter said sourly as he dabbed his overalls with a handkerchief "They make coffee, file their nails, read magazines and spend twenty minuets on the phone to their sisters. Or maybe that's just ours"
"Guys!" Ray interrupted from the front "Listen to this: Fully manifested, human in appearance able to both communicate and make physical contact!"
Peter ran his fingers through his short brown hair. "Are they sure it's a ghost and not some wacko who's broken in?" He moaned.
In his experience ghosts who could talk never shut up and physical contact rarely meant they gave you a backrub. If it was a ghost they were in for a rough morning.
Ray twisted in his seat his cheeks a glow and dark eyes twinkling with excitement, he looked like a kid on Christmas morning.
"It's floating through walls and leaving trails of ectoplasm all over the place. It sounds like it's at least a class 7!"
"Yay." Peter sighed not sharing his friends' enthusiasm. "And just what form does this physical contact take?"
"According to the hotel manager. Mr. Petrakis staff members who have come into contact with the ghost have all had the same symbol burnt into their arm."
"Burt?" The others replied in unison though with a different inflection in their tones. Whilst Winston and Peter sounded apprehensive Egon sounded intrigued.
Straightening his glasses on his long pointed nose Egon reached across to where Ray was sitting and pulled the clipboard away.
Ray scratched his auburn hair thoughtfully and studied his friend as though trying to work out what Egon might get from Janine's hurried scrawl that he hadn't noticed.
"Hmm." Egon grunted after a moment.
"What is it?" Ray asked eagerly, rocking violently as Winston once again mounted the pavement.
Egon snapped out of his deep thoughts. "Oh nothing," He replied shrugging "Your right it seems like a class 7. Though my readings do seem to indicate something large in the vicinity. Well have to tread carefully and pay attention!" This last part was clearly directed at Peter. He opened his mouth to retort but Winston cut across him.
"We're here!" He called braking sharply and sending the other three Ghostbusters flying.
"You know," Peter said thoughtfully as they mounted their packs and headed inside. It's about time we fitted seatbelts in the van."
"Agreed!" Egon muttered rubbing the bump on his head which had smacked into the side window as the van had skidded to a halt. "Or at least cash helmets."
"No way!" Peter moaned aghast. "It'd mess up my hair!"
Back at their headquarters Janine was bored. The fire house was so quiet and empty today. Since the boys left nearly an hour ago there had only been two calls, one wrong number and a giggly young woman asking for Dr Venkman.
She was totally up to date with her filing, everything was tidy. Wait, that wasn't right, why was it so quiet and tidy? Where was Slimer?
Janine checked the kitchen first, no sign of him. Not in the boys room, the lab or the office either. This wasn't normal.
Janine was starting to get a little worried she ran down the stairs calling out for him, stumbling on her high heels as she leapt the last three steps. There was a whole box of iced donuts on the table upstairs totally untouched. This wasn't like the greedy little ghost. Maybe Peter had done something horrid to him.
She wrenched open each of the boy's lockers to no avail, there was only one place left to check. Hoping against hope that he was okay Janine headed down to the basement.
The lights flickered as Janine stepped onto the metal staircase heading deep into the cavernous room. The generator hummed loudly, she had to strain very hard but she could definitely make out a whining snivel coming from the gloom below.
"Slimer?" She called uncertainly. After a moment the hideous green glob floated up through the stairs and halted in front of her. He looked miserable.
"Janine," He whined, "It's bad!"
"What is? She asked concerned. "What have you done?"
Slimer looked scandalized. "Nothing! It's not me it's him he's coming!"
Slimer didn't answer. He gave a high pitched wail and shot up through the ceiling leaving behind a puddle of goo.
Janine ran to follow him but no sooner had she reached the first floor than the phone rang.
"Yes?" She snapped, still worried about slimmer. It was just another routine call. She dealt with it as quick as she could before slamming the phone down. It rang again seconds later, same thing again. Then again, Janine was on the phone for a full twenty minuets taking call after call. The ghosts were going haywire. After such a quiet morning they were now overbooked. The boys call out list looked about ready to take them into next Thursday and yet the phone kept ringing.
Deciding it was pointless taking anymore calls of now Janine switched on the answer machine and sank back into her chair rubbing her temples.
A polite cough from the other side of the desk made her jump.
"Hey," she snapped at the intruder "How did you get in?"
The Midlands hotel was a fairly modern building. Cheep and cheerful was probably the best way to describe it. Its entrance hall was most unimpressive. Inexpensive, dull blue carpet swept through the room into the lobby where rickety wooden chairs were placed around tacky fifties tables. Low cream sofas were scattered anywhere they would fit pressed against the colorless walls.
Lip curled in disgust Peter lead the way to the desk and dinged the bell half hidden behind a vase of dying chrysanthemums. There was no answer.
"They new we were coming right?" He demanded but the others weren't listening.
Ray and Winston stood in the far corner studying a disturbing portrait of a chain smoking dog and Egon was waving the PKE reader over the dead Chrysanthemums.
"There not being haunted by dead flowers Egon!" Peter said in a patronizing voice.
"Interesting" Egon said ignoring him completely "I wonder…"
Flicking his blonde hair out of his eyes Egon pulled the flowers from the vase and tipped its contents onto the counter. Slowly a thick green goop splurged onto the counter.
"Ectoplasm." Came a deep voice behind them, causing Peter and Egon to jump. They turned to see that Winston had moved over to join them.
"Indeed." Egon nodded poking it with pen from the pot on the desk. "Where's Ray?"
The tall black Ghostbusters nodded his head to the left. "He's talking to Mr. Petrakis in the lobby."
They followed Winston over to a small cream sofa where Ray sat talking to a young Greek gentleman. Smartly dressed in a black suit, his long dark hair parted neatly in the middle Mr. Petrakis looked perfectly normal and respectable but there was something odd about him. He was twitching nervously, eyes darting all over the place. He was hiding something
"He has been seen several times on the thirteenth floor." He was telling Ray as the others moved nearer.
"Thirteenth?" Peter repeated "Why doesn't that surprise me?"
Mr. Petrakis continued "He first appeared about a week ago to one of our cleaners Mrs. Anton, she was first to receive the mark."
"How has she been since Mr. Petrakis?" Egon asked
"Fine. A little shaken at first but everyone who has come into contact, guests included, have said that they feel much more at peace after receiving Thagards mark. He has truly blessed us with his presence here."
The Ghostbusters looked at each other, confused. Unsurprisingly it was Peter who voiced the groups concern. "If this Thagards such a blessing why call us?" He asked "Why do you want to get rid of him?"
"We don't!" Mr. Petrakis smiled. It was a twisted smile that betrayed the dark influence he had tried so desperately to hide. He rose to his feet and rolled back his sleeve to reveal a glowing burn, an s shape with an arrow pointing downwards. The Ghostbusters backed away slowly. Peter lifted the rod of his proton pack but Ray batted it away.
"You can't" He muttered "he's human."
Mr. Petrakis laughed manically and the four Ghostbusters became aware that the room had suddenly filled out with members of staff and guests, all with the same look in their eyes, distant and glassy. The s shaped burn clearly visible on all of their arms.
"Okay," Peter whistled "well it was nice meeting you all. Have fun with your weird little cult." He yanked Ray off of the sofa and started towards the exit. A small group of men barred their path.
"How many has Thagard touched?" Egon demanded angrily.
"All our staff and guests." Petrakis grinned. He raised his arms and proudly indicated the assembled congregation. "These lucky few are just the first to be touched by his greatness. As his congregation grows he will become strong, taking his campaign to the streets he will convert all he meets swelling his army of followers and establishing himself as our rightful leader."
Peter once again raised his rod. "Perhaps you aren't aware but this is America "He growled "we vote for our evil overlords so tell this Thagard bozo to go back to whatever hell pit he crawled out of, he's not taking over."
To Peter's annoyance this didn't even phase Petrakis. The young man merely laughed again. A high cackle that was slowly taken up by the mass of people surrounding the Ghostbusters until the room was filled by their evil laughter. Peter shifted uncomfortably.
"This isn't good is it?" He enquired. The others shook their heads.
Over the row Petrakis raised his arms up again. "Great and wise Thagard'," He bellowed "Descend I pray. We have gathered the champions of this domain. Those who stand in your path. Come o lord and crush them."
A flash of lightning and rumble of thunder silenced the assembled crowd. As dark cloud gathered in the middle of the ceiling the Ghostbusters raised the rods of their packs. Another bolt of lighting came, this time from inside the building. It shot from the cloud to the ground. But it did not die away; the lightning bolt swelled sideways and formed a doorway.
The Ghostbusters shielded their eyes as a tall dark figure passed through. He was very handsome. He had Godlike proportions and was dressed in a fine red tunic. He didn't look evil at all. The being beamed softly at the crowd who sank to their knees and averted their eyes. As the light died away the Ghostbusters were able to look directly at him.
"Which of you is the champion?" He demanded.
"If you mean by champion, the guy who'll whip your butt then it's a package deal buddy." Peter smiled back. "Four for the price of one."
"Four of you?" Thagard laughed "That is unusual, it will make the sacrifice a little harder."
"That has all been sorted my lord!" Petrakis groveled from the carpet.
"Very well. May the task begin." The godlike figure roared triumphantly raising his arms above his head. His mesmerized followers, dotted around the room gave a huge cheer.
"Why exactly are we here?" Egon demanded loudly, cutting through the uproar.
Peter sighed "I thought you were supposed to be the smart one" He wailed. "Isn't it obvious? He wants to wipe us out."
"The puny one is correct."
"No need to get personal!" Peter snapped.
"He wants to kill us Pete" Winston reminded him. "How much more personal can you get?"
"That's not what I asked." Egon called to the Ghost "My question was 'why have you selected us'?"
"You are the only ones who pose a risk to me, you are the champions of this city."
"That's as good a reason as any I suppose," Egon reasoned. "Are you all ready?" He called to the others.
"Ceiling?" asked Ray.
On Egon's signal all four men fired at the ceiling. The cheep plaster exploded sending huge chunks onto Thagard and filling the room with debris. In the confusion they escaped, throwing themselves into the van and speeding off around the corner before the dust in the lobby had even settled.
"My Lord!" Petrakis wailed pitifully rising to his feet, "I have failed you!"
The ghost shook his head kindly. "No Metaxas," He beamed, "It is all happening just as I planned."
"What the hell was that all about?" Peter panted sitting in the front of 'Ecto one' his head in his hands. "No wait don't tell me, it's the end of the world again right?"
When Egon and Ray didn't answer he twisted around to face them, they were pouring over dusty old tomes wearing very concerned expressions.
"Right?" Peter tried again. Egon looked up.
"Peter please we're trying to concentrate." He snapped "Don't worry the second we find anything well dumb it down and tell you."
"Just give me a hint, is it worth any long term plans?"
"No." Egon sighed. "Now please it could take hours for us to find anything connected to..."
"Found him." Ray cut across.
Peter smiled as Egon's jaw dropped in surprise. Peter liked to see Egon surprised, it proved he was human.
"He was a minor God worshiped by the ancient Greeks," Ray explained. "He was thrown off of mount Olympus by Zeus for trying to take over. It says here that Thagard vowed vengeance and tried to raise an army. He turned entire villages into his slaves. Controlling them with his mark he turned them into zombie like creatures with no awareness of what they were doing. They marched to mount Olympus and challenged the gods."
"Zeus chose a champion to lead an army to meet Thagards minions and defeat them in battle. His champion Cyrus challenged Thagard himself. They battled for hours before events took a nasty turn. The untrustworthy Thagard had his followers take Cyrus's wife Helena prisoner. He forced Cyrus to choose, the human race or the woman he loved. Cyrus chose the human race"
"Not much of a romantic then?" Peter remarked his eyebrows raised.
"Well what else could he do?" Winston shrugged, now that they were out of immediate danger he was taking his corners a little slower, something the others were extremely grateful for. "There was no choice really."
Ray cleared his throat and continued. "Thagard was banished to another dimension but some remained loyal. A small order of men who had been burnt more severely than the others vowed to bring him back. They formed a secret order to restore Thagard back to his former glory and help him take over. But there's a problem."
"Hands up who's surprised?" Peter laughed.
"When he banished him to the other dimension Zeus cursed Thagard. According to legend Thagard can only truly return by defeating a champion. He must pass the same ultimatum onto a new hero."
"So who's the unlucky sap?" Asked Peter.
Egon threw up his hands in frustration. "It's us you idiot!" He growled "You volunteered us remember? Four for the price of one."
Peter didn't seem concerned. He twisted back to face the front and smile "Well it's not that bad then?"
"How do you figure that?" Winston shook his head, keeping his eyes on the road.
"Well the ultimatum's the world or your woman," Peter shrugged "and I know we're close but were not that close. In fact the only woman that connects us four is..."
He didn't need to finish the sentence. Winston switched on the siren and skidded round the corner as Peter scrambled for the radio.
"Janine?" He called desperately. Nobody answered
(A/N: I know, I know! I shouldn't start another fic when I haven't finished my others but I swear on my IPOD that I will finish the others soon!
As for this one- it's all done and dusted. Seriously I have finished every last word and just need to post it. I will write the date of the next chapter at the bottom of each one do you can all nag me if I'm late, okay? (Jan 26th for part two: Thagards message)
So, now that's over and done with.. what did you think?)