Chapter 3: Do you think they can read?

Peter landed face first on the hard cobbles. The weight of his pack slammed him hard into the surface so hard he felt his nose might be broken. He watched a drop of blood splash down onto the floor and swore. He knew those cobbles well, this was the fire house, he must have missed the portal.

"Damn it!" He spat. "I thought I'd made it. Why the hell is it so dark?"

But there was no response. With a great deal of effort Peter rolled over and righted himself. He felt his jaw drop.

The firehouse was wrecked. Even through the dim light of the streetlamps outside he could see that the building had been derelict for some time. The pole was rusted, cobwebs festooned every nook and cranny and there was no sign of any of the Ghostbusters. Peter's stomach gave an uncomfortable lurch of apprehension.

"Egon?" He ventured.

A sudden groan from the shadows startled him so much he turned and fired, missing the figure hunched on the floor by inches.

"Janine?!" Peter gasped, rushing over to her.

Janine was struggling to rise from the corner of the room. Behind her stood a rickety cabinet that looked as though something had smacked into it with some force, presumably Janine as she had been sucked through the portal. It would certainly explain her dazed and disheveled appearance. There was a thin trickle of blood running from a gash on her head. Peter caught her as she stumbled on her heels towards him.

Janine peered up at Peter with a slightly disappointed look as though she were expecting someone else. "Dr. Venkman? She said with mild surprise.

"Where did the ghosts go?" Peter asked her urgently, glancing wildly around the room half expecting this to have been a trap and that the hell dogs would pounce at any moment.

Janine shook her head uncertainly "I…I'm not sure." She groaned. "I hit my head and then I must have blacked out. I'm sorry." She said apologetically.

"Yeah, you should be." Peter teased. "I risk my neck to save you and you not even in danger. I wonder where they went."

"I wonder where we are."

"That to." Peter agreed. In his arms Janine swayed slightly. "Here, let me see your head."

Peter said softly before settling her on the cold cobbled floor. She didn't seem too keen.

"It's fine." She muttered pushing his hand away from her. He frowned at her and wagged a stern finger.

"Hey. Trust me," He ordered. "I'm a doctor."

"Of Parapsychology and psychology."

"Well they do say pain is all in your head." Peter shrugged.

"Quite literally in my case." Janine groaned

Peter grinned at her. "You wouldn't put up this much fuss if Egon was examining you." Her eyes narrowed but she allowed Peter to examine her. "It's not a deep cut." He assured her once he was done. "Let's find some water and get you cleaned up."

"Dr. Venkman..?" Janine began in a small, frightened voice.

"Janine," He interrupted. "You call the others by their names why not me?"

"Because you insisted upon it when you hired me." She smiled wryly. "You put it in my contract."

"Oh yeah." Peter smiled reminiscently "Well you can stop now. It's kind of annoying."

Too late he realised too late that that probably wasn't the best thing to say. Though still slightly dazed Janine managed a smile.

"Yes Dr. Venkman." She grinned. "Just kidding Peter. So what happened? This is the firehouse right?"

"Apparently." Peter nodded. "The question is 'is it our firehouse?'"

Janine looked confused so he elaborated. "That hole we went through was a portal through space and time." Peter explained "We may have gone backwards or forwards in time. We may even be in a parallel world run by giant ants that have enslaved humanity in order to build giant spaceships to invade other planets in the galaxy."

Perhaps due to his speculative flight into an unscientific world of fantasy Peter didn't noticed Janine got up and pulled back the firehouse doors.

"Looks like New York to me." She said mildly, sniffing the smoky air.

"NO!" Peter cried out diving forward and pulled her roughly away from the door. He slammed it shut and turned angrily to Janine. "Listen to me Janine," He warned, "you have to stick with me at all times while we're here those dogs might still be after us."

Janine said nothing more through shock than anything else. Ordinarily she would have told Peter off for manhandling her so roughly and accused him of overreacting but the look on his face told her that was not the case. She had rarely seen him more serious and that both shocked and frightened her. They were clearly in big trouble.

Still, there was no point in denying what she had just seen. It was defiantly new York

"We've must have gone through time." She nodded confidently. "Everything looked normal…ish. I mean not like the other parallel worlds that we've seen."

Peter nodded his agreement. "Forward or back though?" He muttered, more to himself than Janine.

He suddenly clicked his fingers, making her jump. Excitedly he led her down the stairs to the basement. It was dark down there, no windows meant no light. Janine fumbled in her skirt pocket and produced a cigarette lighter.

"It's Dr. Stanz's" She explained as she handed it to Peter who clicked the top open. In the faint orange glow she could see that he looked amused.

"Ray told me he'd given up." Peter smiled.

Janine shrugged. "He has." She said. "Which is why I hide his lighters from him."

"Removing the temptation." Peter nodded. "Very wise."

He kicked the wooden door to the basement open and, taking Janine's hand, led her down the metal staircase. At the bottom they found… nothing.

"No containment unit." Peter said grimly. "We must have gone back. The containment unit is built to last forever."

"Really?" Janine asked surprised. "But what happens when you guys are gone? In like a hundred years when there are no Ghostbusters?"

"Janine, please!" Peter said in a mock diva voice. "We're scientists. We don't think about what happens after we've done an experiment. The way we see it, if the worlds still in one piece there's no harm done."

Janine rolled her eyes suspecting that that particular scientific reasoning was specific to Dr. Peter Venkman. After a moments uncomfortable silence she asked:

"So how far back are we?"

"No idea." Peter replied honestly.

"Oh god!" Janine groaned. "How do we get back?"

"No idea."

"Oh god! I hope Egon can find us."

Peter looked a little hurt. "Janine I am a scientist." He reminded her. "I'm sure that I'll think of something. Right now I think its best that we find out when we are."

Janine couldn't help but agree. Part of her felt that it might be best to stay put and wait for rescue but they couldn't be sure when or even if that would be possible. Besides the building was insecure and with the hell dogs around it might be a good idea to move.

Keeping close to Peter she followed him out of the building and down the street. The few people that they came across seemed normal enough for New Yorkers. They were dressed in fairly contemporary clothes, except a six foot tall, black transvestite who was wearing a bright red fifties dress and a scowl that would frighten a lion. Funnily enough though people seemed to find him normal compared to Peter and Janine.

"Everyone's staring." Janine whispered as they hurried quickly along.

Peter didn't seem too concerned. "They've probably never seen anyone as hansom as I am." He shrugged.

"I think it's your proton pack."

Even she had to admit Peter looked strange but perhaps that was because she was unused to seeing him wearing a pack without his uniform. It didn't really go with his faded jeans and blue sweater.

"I'm not going to take it off. We might need it," Peter reasoned. "Let them stare."

He held his head defiantly high and continued but Janine, who was never normally one to shy away from the spotlight found that she felt very uneasy under the old new Yorkers critical glare. She hung her head to avoid her gaze. It was perhaps because of this that she noticed the paper lying in the road. She scooped it up and scanned the front page.

"Five years!" She gasped reading the date by the headline. "We've gone back five years!"

Peter seemed to think that this was good news. "That's not too far." He shrugged.

"It's far enough." Janine replied shrilly waving the paper under his nose. "I'm not sticking around for Gozer again!"

Peter snatched the paper away and tried to place a soothing hand on her shoulder. She brushed him off. The glaring onlookers had now turned to gawkers who stood staring at Janine and Peter.

"That won't happen for another two years remember." Peter said quietly. "There aren't even any Ghostbusters yet. Just calm down. We don't want to draw attention to ourselves"

Janine now realised what a spectacle she and Peter had become. Taking his arm she pulled him swiftly away from the onlookers and carried on down the street so that they wouldn't be overheard.

"Well there are still Ghostbusters. " She said once she was sure that it was safe to talk. "You, Ray and Egon were at the university five years ago right?"

Peter could see what she was getting at and shook his head firmly.

"We were still just studying ghosts then." He reminded her. "Well Egon and Ray were anyway. I was studying in different areas."

"Yeah the girls dorm." Janine said pointedly. "Peter I'm sure Egon will help us if we ask."

Again Peter shook his head. "He's in the early stages of his research," He sighed. Slightly annoyed that Janine felt that a pre- Ghostbuster Egon (smart though he was) would be better suited to helping them out than he, Peter was. "Old Egon wouldn't know where to begin." Peter continued. "If we suddenly turn up saying hey we're from the future where we all hunt ghosts I think it might be too much even for his big ol' brain to handle. Anyway we can't really risk us seeing ourselves."

"Why what will happen?" Asked Janine.

Peter looked dramatically skyward "The universe will implode." He said softly.

"You're making that up." Janine frowned.

"Okay I saw it on TV." Peter admitted "But seriously though. Do you remember seeing yourself? I know I don't and it's the kind of thing that sticks out in your head. I don't think it's a good idea to mess with our past if we don't know what effect it'll have on our future."

Though she hated to admit it, Peter had a point. With a frustrated sigh Janine returned to the one question that had been plaguing them all evening: "So what do we do?"

They were by now on the main road where, even though it was quite late there was a constant flow of traffic and a large amount of people still bustling about. Peter moved to the curb line.

"Right now we find somewhere safe to stay." He said and holding out his hand and flagging down a yellow cab. Once it had pulled up he opened the door for Janine and passed her his proton pack before squeezing in next to her.

With small beady eyes the driver watched it suspiciously but neither Peter or Janine felt in the mood to explain anything. Now that the adrenaline rush he had received from fighting the dogs had faded Peter's exhaustion from the nights busts had hit him like a ton of bricks. He needed to sleep and he didn't care where.

"Where's the nearest hotel?? He asked the moment the door was closed.

"The Masondale." The driver said promptly still eying the pack suspiciously. He was a large man, both taller and wider than Peter but definitely not in the greatest of health. He wheezed with the effort as he turned to face Peter and Janine. Ash dripped from his cigar as which wobbled as much as his jowls as he spoke. Putting Peter in mind of those British bulldogs like Winston Churchill used to have, only with less hair.

"Sounds lovely." Peter said unenthusiastically through a curled lip. "Take us there."

With another heavy wheeze the driver turned round and pulled away. "No luggage eh?" He said with a knowing smile. "You know the Masondale's a little pricy if you're just renting the room for an hour or so a buddy of mine runs a place in Brooklyn I can get you in cheep."

Janine was scandalized "Listen pal, I know what you're implying and let me tell you…" She raged but Peter cut across.

"Great," He said quickly. "Take us there."

"Peter!" Janine hissed, uncomfortably aware that the driver was listening in. "I'm not spending the night in a sleazy hotel."

"How much money do you have on you?" Peter asked her wearily.

"$50."

"And I got $80." He sighed. "We can't really afford the Hilton."

Janine was far from satisfied. "People will think…" She began, again Peter cut across.

"Let them!" He said rolling his eyes. "Maybe it'll be a good cover. Which side of the bed do you sleep on?"

"The middle." Janine said icily.

"Me too."

Janine couldn't help but laugh "I'm sure they'll have a nice comfy couch for you Dr. Venkman." She grinned. Peter feigned a hurt look.

"And we're back to Dr. Venkman." He smiled "You know I am your boss, I should be telling you where to sleep."

"I should be sleeping back in my own bed." Janine replied Perhaps Peter imagined it but there seemed to be a slightly accusatory tone to her voice. He didn't see how this was his fault. She was just annoyed that he'd gone after her instead of Egon.

"Me too." He snapped defensively "I don't know why I came after you."

"Me either!" Janine shot back, folding her arms huffily across her chest. They carried on the journey in silence for a while, both Peter and Janine glaring out of different windows. After a while the driver, not the most discrete of men, asked:

"Er do you two lovebirds still want your room?"

Janine and Peter answered together.

"Yes."

"No."

"Janine, we can't stay on the streets." Peter pointed out.

"It's not hygienic." The driver agreed before coughing up a phlegm ball and spitting out of the window.

"Will you stay out of this?" Peter asked before turning back to Janine "Look, were both tired and frightened. I don't think either of us is thinking straight. We should get some rest and we'll tackle everything else in the morning."

"You should sleep on it," The driver agreed "you don't want to rush into anything."

Irritated Peter turned to berate the driver again and was amazed to find that they were stationary.

"Why have you stopped?" He demanded.

"We're here." The driver grinned showing an amazing array of black and yellow jagged teeth, faintly reminiscent of Slimer. "That'll be fifteen bucks."

"What? We only went a few blocks." Janine spluttered indignantly.

"Well I did save you money on the room." The driver reasoned.

Peter fumbled in his pockets and produced the money and slapped it into the greedy cabbies sweaty palm before slipping on his proton pack.

He emerged onto the street next to Janine who was staring in horror at the building in front of them. It was a dive.

The plaster was cracked, the neon sign which normally read 'Renbrant hotel' was only flashing four letters and rats were fleeing the kitchen through the open side door. It clearly wasn't the cleanest. Most secure hotel in the world.

"Remind me not to order room service." Janine sniffed as another rat left the kitchen, taking a large onion with it.

"Its low key," Said Peter, looking on the bright side. "And I can say with absolute certainly we're in no danger of bumping into anyone we know or knew here."

Janine groaned and hung her head.

"Will we be safe?" She asked.

Peter rubbed her hunched back soothingly. "Do you want honesty or pacifying assurance?" He asked.

"Assurance."

"We'll be fine." He grinned leading her in through the front door.

"Liar." Janine murmured as they stepped over the threshold to her right there was a sign. 'No dogs allowed.'

"Hey Peter," She called. "Do you think they can read?"