Final chapter: The decision.
Out side the city the Ghostbusters trailed along the dirt track road slowly. They were forced to travel behind Thagards followers who moved out to block their path every time they tried to move the van past. Ray pointed out that this was probably because they needed time to prepare the sacrifice and couldn't afford to let the champions arrive before time.
Peter saw that as the perfect reason to drive right through them but Winston refused as technically they were still human.
"That excludes Peck then." Peter pointed out sourly. "If you see him in there you could hit him."
Nobody seemed to find this amusing, especially Egon. Though Peter doubted if what he'd said had actually registered with his fellow Ghostbuster.
Egon was beyond any comfort. He sat staring off into space distractedly stroking slimmer, who had placed his head in Egons lap ,with one hand not noticing that he was trailing slime all over the place. He looked just like the poor possessed souls outside .The others racked their brains for something to say but nothing felt appropriate.
They drove in silence for another ten minuets, so slowly they may as well have gotten out and walked. Then, so suddenly it made them all jump, the crowd parted leaving a clear path all the way back into the city.
"Looks like it's time." Winston sighed.
Picking up the pace he drove on. It was funny but afterwards he always maintained that those last few blocks before the midlands were the longest part of the journey. As they turned into the street the gap in the crowd closed up behind them sealing them in and Winston was forced to stop.
The Ghostbusters got out of Ecto one and pulled on their backpacks. They noticed that a change had come over the crowd. Their faces seemed more animated. They were excited, glowing in anticipation. Somehow that was more unnerving than their ghostly blank stairs.
Once the four of them were ready Peter slammed the door of Ecto one with Slimmer still inside. "Stay here spud." He ordered "It's too dangerous."
"Aw Peter," Ray teased "You do care."
"He'd just get in the way." Peter mumbled as they mounted the steps and pushed open the glass door which led to the reception area.
Another huge transformation had taken over the Middleton hotel. Its expensive gothic décor had been replaced once again. Peter whistled as he took in their new surroundings.
"It's a big fiery pit!"
"Of course," Shrugged Winston. "You can't really have an apocalypse without a big fiery pit."
There was a large hole in the lobby floor which spread down as far as the eye could see. Hot magma poured from its walls, flame flickered and sulphur filled their nostrils making the Ghostbusters gag. There was a stone bridge which led from the lobby's entrance where the boys stood to a tall column which rose out of the pits center to floor level. Thagard stood in the center of the column, his mighty hand rested on Janine's trembling shoulder.
Egon stepped forward onto the bridge which shook violently forcing him back. Thagard laughed cruelly.
"You cannot cross." He called over the roar of the flowing fires below him. "Not until we are ready to decide her fate."
"Let her go!" Egon ordered his rod aimed high at Thagards head. He fired sending a bolt of energy at the would-be gods head. It bounced off without giving him as much as a nosebleed. Thagard laughed.
"I will do so gladly" He smiled graciously. "Just say the word and I will let her go."
"You can't!" Janine pleaded
"Silence!" Thagard roared. He grabbed Janine by the throat and twisted his arm sideways. Lifting her so she was dangling over the pit. She screamed and kicked out. One of her heels slipped and fell she watched it go and gasped. If he let go she's fall for ages before finally hitting the boiling liquid bubbling below.
From the other side of the bride all four Ghostbusters yelled desperately.
"You want her to live?" Thagard demanded. "Just try and imagine the pain she will feel as the fire scolds her pretty white flesh. Her terror as she falls down into the abyss. Do you want that for her?"
The boys shook their heads angrily; all four rods were aimed at the monster holding Janine now. Thagard laughed again.
"Then there is only one logical choice." He grinned at them. "I promise you, if you follow me I will make your lives blissfully happy. You'll never know pain or suffering."
"Or free will!" Ray yelled back. "Those people out there aren't following you because they want to. You're controlling them. They don't love you!"
"If love is so important to you, why are you doing this?" Thagard reasoned. "If you truly love this girl then you shouldn't hesitate to save her"
"No guys!" Janine screamed, trying to twist round and face them. "If you love me let me go."
Peter couldn't help but snort with laughter. "I can't believe you just said that!" He giggled.
"Enough!" Thagard bellowed so loudly it shook the chamber. "The time has come to choose. One by one you will step forward. You will face this young woman and tell her if you wish her to die. Step forward Zeadmore."
Slowly Winston made his way across the bridge. He stopped in front of Thagard shooting him a vile look. It took all his self control not to knee the brute in the groin. Winston took a deep breath and turned to face Janine.
"I don't want to do this." He said quietly.
"Choose!" Thagard ordered. He tightened his grip on Janine's throat choking her. Her eyes widened pleading silently with Winston. He nodded then declared in a loud clear voice.
"I choose the world!"
Thagard screamed in frustration as Winston backed away across the bridge. His mouth open in shock and self disgust, not quite able to believe what he had done. Ray patted his arm soothingly as Winston reached the other side.
"Forward Stantz!" Thagard called.
Ray crossed the bridge. "For goodness sake," He pleaded "Do you have to keep holding her like that at least let us talk to her properly."
Thagard looked a little put out then pulled Janine back onto the column, relinquishing his grip. She sank to the floor gasping for air. Ray crouched down with her and rubbed her back.
Tearfully she flung herself around his neck. They stayed like that for a few moments neither saying a word before Ray broke away. Choking on his words he gasped.
"I choose the world."
He pulled Janine into one last hug before turning away. He marched back over the bridge without looking back and swaying slightly as he moved. When he finally reached the others he sank to the floor, drawing his knees up to his chest he sat and wept.
"Venkman!" Thagard called desperately. "Make the right choice Venkman."
Yelling and firing bolts of energy from his pack as he went Peter crossed the bridge. "Stopping you today wont be the end of this" He barked at Thagard. "I'm going to track you down into whichever hellpit dimension you get forced back into and then I'm going to make you Pay for this."
"It doesn't have to be that way." Thagard reminded him. "You could take her back across that bridge with you if you want"
Peter seemed to seriously consider it. Janine slapped him.
"Ow son of a.."
"Peter Venkman!" The secretary yelled beating angrily at his chest "Don't you dare save my life:
Peter smiled wryly "If I'd have known it meant so much to you I'd have had you killed a long time ago." Through her tears Janine couldn't help but laugh.
Peter lifted her chin with his finger forcing her too look him in the eyes. "I'm going to miss you. Now who am I going to annoy. Ray and Winston are unflappable and Spengs'll be in no mood for jokes after all this." He whispered "And who'll make my coffee now?" Janine burst into tears he wiped them away with his thumb then leant in and kissed her softly on the lips. "It's okay" He smiled "I'll make Ray do it."
"Are you ever serious?"
"Would you have me any other way?"
Thagard interrupted angrily. "Decide!" He ordered.
Peter nodded solemnly. "The world" he mumbled and slouched off after the others.
He was only halfway over when Egon barged past almost knocking him into the pit. He was staring fixedly at Janine, eyes ablaze. Peter regained his balanced and called after him "Spengs?" He cried out warningly "Think about what you're doing?"
Egon didn't listen he marched straight over to Thagard and opened his mouth. Janine quickly clapped her hand over it. He turned to face her.
"Remember your promise!" She warned him. Egon nodded.
"I do." He said quickly. "I promised to do what was right, this is right Janine."
"No," She moaned. "I'm not worth all of this."
"You are to me" He snapped. Before she could stop him he'd said it. "I choose Janine."
"No!" She cried as Thaggard rose triumphantly into the air in a halo of pale blue light. The earth shook as magma erupted from the walls of the pit in small volcanoes. The column and bridge started to crack but neither the Ghostbusters or Janine noticed. They were too busy watching Thagard who rose higher and higher until he had reached the lobby ceiling where a dark cloud had once again gathered. Lightning crackled overhead.
"BOW DOWN BEFORE YOUR NEW LORD AND SUFFER FOR THE CRIMES YOU KIND HAS INFLICTED UPON ME!" Thagard bellowed in an unearthly boom "FOR CENTURIES I HAVE BEEN TRAPPED IN CONSTANT PAIN, YOU WILL ALL SUFFER FOR IT YOU WILL ALL FEEL MY PAIN!"
"Nice going Spengs!" Peter shot from the bridge.
The lightning cracked and fizzed together forming one constant bolt of energy which poured from the cloud onto Thagard hitting him in the chest.
"Something's wrong!" Egon called over the din. "This is not how it's supposed to happen."
"Yeah," Janine yelled angrily "You were supposed to save the world."
"No!" Egon shook his head. "Something's wrong with his transformation. Our split decision has confused the whole process."
"Which means?" Peter prompted.
"Which means we can catch him!" Egon roared triumphantly shooting a stream of energy at Thagard to contain him.
"Alright!" The others yelled joining in.
Thagard screamed as the four streams of energy ensnared him. He struggled with all his might but to no avail. As Egon kicked forward a trap Thagard was defenseless and drifted down as docile as a kitten into the tiny box.
The Ghostbusters roared triumphantly as Egon scooped it up. Janine threw herself around his neck. As she did so the column wobbled ominously and a large chunk of the bridge broke away.
"Time to go!" Peter urged beckoning them forward. Janine flicked off her other heel so that she could run and hand in hand with Egon sped across the crumbling bridge. The whole building was falling down; pieces of ceiling cascaded down narrowly missing Janine and the Ghostbusters as the five of them cleared the reception area and dashed down the front steps.
Outside people seemed to be snapping out of their trances. They looked around confused then screamed in alarm as the Middleton hotel collapsed before their eyes.
Peter leapt onto the roof of Ecto 1 and addressed the frightened mass, at least the ones nearby. As half the city had been influenced by Thagard it was impossible to speak to them all.
"Ladies and gentlemen, I'm sorry to inform you that you've all been under the spell of a sadistic wannabe god who has for the last 22 hours held you under his spell and made you do his evil bidding."
The crowd murmured loudly. Peter raised his hands and called for silence. "Fortunately disaster was skillfully avoided by out team we were in COMPLETE control of the situation despite the best efforts of one or two dickless sons of bitches.
He spotted a familiar weasley face in the crowd
"And there's one of them now ladies and gentlemen. The weedy little twerp pushing through over there, could somebody restrain that man please?" A nearby policeman pounced pinning Peck to the floor and cuffing him.
As Peter continued to do what he did best Winston turned to Egon
"You sly dog," He grinned "you knew that would happen all along didn't you?"
"No" Egon shrugged "I'm afraid to say that I didn't."
Janine placed her hands on her hips. Hair ruffled and makeup smudges she looked mental. Her eyes flashed dangerously. "That was the most stupid thing you've ever done." She said through clenched teeth.
"It worked out though." Peter called from the roof. He had lost his audiences attention as most had slunk off home or to find their loved ones. "Things always work out for us."
"Don't say that!" Ray moaned "You'll jinx us!"
"Oh because we've had such a great run of luck so far."
"We're all alive, the world is safe.."
Winston rolled his eyes and got into the drivers seat. "Are you guys coming home?" He called, beeping the horn.
Ray and Peter stopped arguing and scrambled back into the van both looking forward to finally getting some sleep. Janine grabbed Egons hand to stop him as he tried to get in.
"Egon," She smiled pulling him into reassuring hug. "I'd have done exactly the same thing."