Chapter 8: The Venkman Way
Now re-armed, the four Ghostbusters hurried with purpose in the direction of the prison chamber, following the signals from the ever-trusty PKE meter. They crossed a small bridge leading across a rushing underground stream, passed several stone doors, and negotiated a tunnel, before finding a stairway which led directly into the large, imposing, cylindrical hall, with its ghastly ectoplasmic prisoners held firmly inside their cells. There was no sign of Gundrik anywhere, but the Ghostbusters kept their throwers drawn and ready to fire at a split-second's notice. The purple glowing Gornath crystal held sway in the centre of the room, and the four men could feel its heat and a palpable feeling of energy emanating from it. Egon withdrew his PKE meter and began to survey it. Ray leaned over and studied the screen as wavy lines flickered and looped over it.
"Hmmm....this may be tricky," said Egon, more to himself than to anyone else.
"What does he mean, 'tricky', Ray?" asked Peter.
"Well, you see, the energy used by Gornath crystals is similar to that used in our packs," explained Ray. "That's partly what led us to consider using concentrated proton energy to catch ghosts in the first place. Which means that if we shoot it open with our throwers, it might cause an effect similar to crossing the streams. Or worse, we could end up linking ourselves to it."
Winston placed his hands on his hips. "So what do we do?"
Egon turned to the others. "I think that a non-ionizing source of energy would do the trick nicely."
"You mean like explosives?" suggested Winston.
Peter held up a finger. "Explosives? Well, there's plenty of explosives where we just came from. So what say we blow this baby up the old-fashioned way?"
"It's a plan, Peter," said Egon. "I only hope we don't end up bringing the whole fortress down on top of us."
Peter gave the blond man a disapproving look. "No time to be a killjoy, Spengs. We've gotta – " He cut off, and the other three knew exactly why.
A rushing, bubbling sound was issuing from the staircase they had just come from. As it got louder, the sound seemed to get angrier and more ominous, until –
"Gundrik!" shouted Ray, and a stab of anger as well as urgency could be heard through his voice. "Heat 'em up!" he shouted to the others, and they did so, in unison, poised for combat....
A furious torrent of water burst from the staircase and lanced into the air. Just a second before it would have hit the floor about ten feet in front of the quartet of mortals, it shaped almost instantaneously into the hulking crimson form of Gundrik, who landed gracefully on his feet.
"So, you escaped from my death trap," he spoke, in the tones of someone commenting on the weather. "That shows you are a resourceful group. And now you're planning to destroy my precious Gornath crystal, aren't you, Ghostbusters?"
"Well, we're kind of past the planning stage, Gundy." Peter wisecracked, clearly unperturbed by the fact that the last time he had backchatted the demon, he had got a bolt of charged ectoplasm to the chest for his trouble. "And now we're gonna blow it up good. So I'd stay around if you like fireworks."
"Is sarcasm not considered the lowest form of wit in your world?" asked Gundrik. "Never mind. Now we battle, and I will win." He said the last three words as surely as if he were talking about the morning sun rising.
"Hit him now!" On Egon's command, the foursome fired at Gundrik, who leapt out of the way and transformed as the yellow-and-blue proton streams lashed uselessly at thin air. The group could only watch as Gundrik's spiralling shape shifted into a giant fist – and then zoomed down towards them....
"SCATTER!" Winston's shout echoed through the chamber as all four of them jumped haphazardly sideways, before the fist slammed down, sending a shockwave through the floor. Egon rolled over and fired, but his stream passed harmlessly though the water. Cursing, Egon stole a quick look at his PKE meter.
"Put that away, Egon. That ain't gonna help us now!" shot Winston.
"If I can determine which frequency to set the streams to, we may be able to contain him in his elemental form," answered Egon through gritted teeth. "If he doesn't finish us off first!"
Gundrik was now transforming into a new guise, his watery shape now spinning rapidly. He was turning into a sort of ghostly tornado. Before the Ghostbusters had a chance to regroup, the Gundrik-tornado soared down and picked the four men off the ground, and then started to spin them round.
"Someone – do – something! I hate – unsafe - fairground rides!" yelled Venkman. "YEOWCH!" he exclaimed as his own thrower hit him in the face, having been wrenched from his hands.
"WHOA!" they all shouted in unison as the spinning got faster and faster, and Gundrik's vindictive laughter rang in their ears over the manic swishing of the water tornado. Then all of a sudden, the world fell apart and they fell to land with a thud on the stone ground. Their pain was overcome, however, by their determination not to give up. They fired at the still circling tornado. The streams bent around the spiralling form before curving off at a tangent and shooting off uselessly into the ceiling a hundred or so feet above.
"We need more time," implored Ray, whose lip was bleeding from where he had bitten down on it on impact.
"Doesn't look like we're gonna get it," said Winston. Gundrik had changed form and was now standing on a ledge about thirty feet above them.
"Accept your limitations....you cannot hope to defeat me directly!" barked the powerful demon down at them. "For your persistence, I offer you one last chance to surrender, and assist me instead. Refuse and you will most certainly die, and it will not be a quick death."
"How's it going, Egon? Have you found the frequency yet?" asked Winston of the physicist.
"Afraid not...the readings are only useful when he's in elemental form."
Gundrik leered down at them. "Yes, discuss amongst yourselves, for all the good it will do you."
Peter was thinking. Outmatched....needed reinforcements....He looked towards the main staircase entrance, almost as if he expected Janine and Slimer to come barrelling through, as the cavalry. Then he was struck by an idea. He removed the spare PKE meter from the mini-satchel on his belt.
"Peter, I don't think an extra PKE meter will help us here," Ray spoke.
"Hang on Ray. Dr. V has technical knowledge too, y'know, in case you forgot." Peter twisted the dial on the meter until it reached maximum sensivity. He then ripped off the back cover, felt around for a short while, then found a cable and pulled hard, ripping it out.
"What's Peter doing?" muttered Winston, ever mindful of the demon watching them.
Egon re-adjusted his glasses and said, laconically, "At a guess, I'd say he just ripped out the isotope stabiliser cable."
"Which would turn the meter into a powerful explosive. And with all the spectral energy about, there's gonna be a good-sized bang."
"Of course!" said Egon. "Peter's going through with the plan...Gundrik or no!"
"You have only a few seconds left!" Gundrik boomed. "Servitude or death, the choice is yours and yours alone!"
"I really hope I've got this right, or Gundy-baby'll be picking bits of our skulls out of the stonework for a year," said Peter. He switched the destabilised meter on, and angry sparks hissed from it. "All right, Gundrik!" he shouted up at his and his friends' enemy. "Here's the fireworks I promised you!" He rushed to the dais where the crystal was and placed it on the edge. "Now, take cover!" The four men ran ten feet before hurling themselves to the floor and placing their hands over their ears -
The explosion tore apart the stone dais in a searing red flash. A second later there was an eye-burning flash of violet light and a cascade of glittering energy soaring high into the air. The Ghostbusters stayed prone as bits of stone and crystal rained down on them. Then they turned, proton rifles at the ready, to see that the crystal had been completely destroyed and -
WHOOSH! The translucent cells securing the imprisoned sailors disappeared. Gundrik screamed and tumbled from his position of superiority to the ground as all of a sudden, his exhibits found themselves free. The four Ghostbusters were forced to drop back as about a hundred ghosts swooped down to the ground, forming a circle. Gundrik found himself in the centre, looking disbelievingly around, like a man who had found himself cornered by a pack of unruly wild animals.
"Good work, Peter. Crude, but effective." congratulated Egon.
"I didn't do anything you wouldn't do, big guy," said Peter, winking.
"Heads up, guys! Look!" alerted Winston.
"No! Get back! You cannot win against me!"
"Wir werden uns rachen!" Suddenly, the foremost row of ghosts jumped forward, follwing half a second later by the second. Gundrik felt himself pulled under the surge of rampaging, vengeful spirits. There was a muffled yell and then all hell broke loose. Gundrik was fighting against them all, swatting, punching and flailing at each ghost, but there were too many of them.
"I think he's about to transform. This could be our chance."
"I'm ready, Ray. Switch on again," said Egon, who had his thrower in one hand, meter in the other. The others heated up, ready to intervene. With a roar, Gundrik transformed, changing into his elemental form, turning grey and transparent, increasing his height. He screamed in rage and began to fire volleys of searing steam at his assailants. One was hit and went down, crying in pain. Gundrik shot at everyone who came near.
"OWCH!" cried Ray as one gout of boiling vapour nearly struck him. He sidestepped it, but it just grazed his arm.
"This is it guys, said Egon, stowing his meter. "Set throwers to 150,000 megaHertz, wide angle, high power," he ordered. "Ready, aim, FIRE!"
The foursome blasted straight at the hulking aqueous form of Gundrik and the streams connected. The demon gave a hoarse bellow of horror and rage as he was enscared in a yellow-blue maelstrom of protons.
"Curse you, Ghostbusters....you cannot imprison me! I will have my revenge on you people!"
"I got the trap!" Peter shouted, as he dexterously grabbed the trap from his pack and threw it out under Gundrik. The sailor ghosts stepped back obligingly, staring with awe as their saviours. "Smile, you son of a bitch!" Venkman stepped on the footpedal and the trap snapped open, unleashing a blinding white vortex upwards. Gundrik raged and fought, but it was no use as he was sucked into the trap. The striped yellow and black doors slammed shut, the trap's external mechanics sparked for a few seconds, then it was over.
Peter walked over and picked up the smoking trap by its cable. "Game, set and match," he said with satisfaction, giving the thumbs-up to the others, before wrinkling his nose. "Yuck, the nastier they are, the worse they smell."
It was then that Peter, together with the others, became aware of the multitude of human ghosts looking curiously at them. Some were chatting furiously amongst themselves. Then one of them, a tall ghost with auburn hair a similar shade to Ray's, stepped forward. "Wir danken Ihnen herzlich fuer Ihre Hilfe," he said in German. "Jetzt dass Gundrik gefangen worden ist, koennen wir endlich..." He stopped as he noticed that none of the four could understood what he was saying.
"I think he's thanking us," said Egon.
"You are English?" asked the sailor.
Ray took a step forward. "Not quite. We're from the United States. A new country. I guess you've got a lot to catch up on."
"Yes, yes, so it would appear." spoke the ghost softly. "But on behalf of all of us, I thank you."
"Vielen Dank!" went up the cheer.
Then, the sailors were departing, some fading out instantly, some sweeping out through the doors, walls, and ceiling, grateful to finally leave the place in which they had been trapped for so long. The Ghostbusters watched them in silence, their hearts filling with pride at their work, knowing that they had done an unfathomably good deed. It was moments like this that made Ghostbusting so worthwhile.
Ray suddenly remembered Lorelei - the ghost that had brought them here in the first place. He addressed the seafaring spirit before him. "Listen, do you know a sailor named Karl? Lorelei - she's the siren who we initially came here to capture - is looking for him. I - we - thought we might be able to help her instead of busting her."
At Ray's words, the sailor's eyes misted over and all of a sudden he looked forlorn. His head drooped and he took a deep breath. "I...." he breathed, "...am he, my friends. You have found him. Without Lorelei, I cannot rest." Then he appeared to perk up again, and his eyes almost lit up with sudden hope and longing. "Is she here?"
"She's up above," replied Winston. "We can lead you to her. Can't we guys?"
"There shouldn't be any problem," Egon said. "Karl, I think we'll be able to rearrange a reunion between you and Lorelei. With you present, she should reappear any time."
"You can do that?" gasped Karl, who looked like all his Christmasses had come together. "You can take me to Lorelei?"
"No problem, pal," said Peter softly. "But first, we gotta get outta here...."
With Gundrik contained, crossing the lake to reach the tunnel to the outside world was much easier, as he alone had control over the various horrors that stirred within its treacherous depths. As they breezed across the unnaturally still waters, Karl had been telling them about his story. It had not been easy listening for the Ghostbusters.
"It was no use. The current at that part of the river is often is perilous, and I could not save myself," he had said. "My last thoughts were of Lorelei, and my parents, and of the beautiful Rhineland I would never see again...and then...everything turned white. I felt like someone had grabbed me and was pulling me, but that couldn't have been, surely? Then I woke up again, and I couldn't feel myself. It felt like I was weightless, and I couldn't move. I didn't even know I was a ghost, although somehow I knew I was dead. I just...knew it. I thought to myself....was this Hell?" The sailor shuddered at the recollection of his death and imprisonment.
"It sounds like it might as well have been, if such a place exists," said Egon. "Gundrik knew some very powerful magic, and you were unlucky enough to feel its effects."
"Unlucky, yes," echoed Karl in weary tones. "But how is it that you are involved in all this?"
Ray answered him. "We're the Ghostbusters. Our job is to contain ghosts that cause trouble and imprison them. The town called us here to trap Lorelei, as they believed she was distracting sailors and causing them to crash on the rocks. Turns out that was Gundrik's whole plan, to harvest souls for his collection. Sort of like a hobby to entertain himself as he plotted his escape." Ray gasped suddenly, as he realised that Karl might not know what had happened to Lorelei.
"It is well, I am aware of what happened, Gundrik made sure of that."
There was silence for a while in the boat. As Winston regarded their spectral friend, it occurred to him that Karl bore a very distinct resemblance to Ray. They had the same hair and eye colour, and the facial features were somewhat similar, although Karl's face was less round than Ray's, and he was a fair bit slimmer. Then he remembered what had happened during their encounter with Lorelei, and how Lorelei had appeared to break out of her trance briefly upon seeing Ray. Hmmm, the black man thought. Could it be...
They reached the opposite shore after a few minutes and disembarked onto the sandy shore. Soon they were making their way through the dark tunnel. It was harder going walking up than walking down, but they were up to it. They arrived at the hole they had blasted through the cliff, and were rewarded by the feeling of the night wind caressing their faces. It felt refreshing and satisying, especially as they had briefly suspected down below during their fight with Gundrik that they might noticti have ever felt it again. Their happy reverie was broken by the intrusion of a powerful searchlight on their position. About twenty feet or so out from the rocks was a large motorboat, and the guys could make out three figures on it. One they recognised as the tall, platinum-blonde topped figure of Josef Brunstein. Ray and Peter waved at him. They saw Josef say something to the boat captain, and then the boat fired up its engine and moved in close.
"We thought you were lost!" said Josef by way of greeting.
"Good evening to you too, Josef," replied Peter sardonically. "We've been checking out the tourist trail, and we kinda tangled with the resident lunatic. We've got a lot to tell you." Josef then caught sight of Karl, and he instinctively took a step back.
"Don't worry, Karl," said Ray quickly. "This here is Karl..." he paused for dramatic effect, "...Lorelei's lost lover."
Josef's eyes bulged. "Es freut mich, Ihnen zu treffen," he said, robotically.