Standard fanfic disclaimer that wouldn't last ten seconds in a court of law: this story is based on characters and situations from the TV shows The Real Ghostbusters and The Master. No profit has been made, nor will be made, from this amateur writing exercise which was conducted purely for the pleasure of the author and the readers. All characters will be returned to their original copyright holders, suitably bandaged. This story was originally published in the fanzine Things that Go Bump in the Night #3, published by Neon RainBow Press.
The Night of the Ninjas
by Susan M. M.
Carlos Chavez found Timmy Tanaka hiding on the far side of the playground, hiding behind a juniper bush. "You shouldn't cry. They only get worse if they see you cry."
"I'm not crying," Timmy said.
Carlos looked at his classmate's damp cheeks and swollen eyes, but did not call him a liar. "If they think they got you, they're worse. Like sharks smelling blood in the water. You gotta act tough; you gotta act cool."
Carlos knew all about them. His abuela sometimes called him "Gordito," or Little Chubby One. They called him Fatty or Burrito. He knew how hard it was to pretend to be tough or cool under the onslaughts of their attacks, both verbal and physical.
Timmy just sniffled.
"Your grandpa owns a karate school. Why don't you just kick 'em?"
"I'm not allowed to use karate outside of class," Timmy replied honestly. He neglected to mention that despite two years of lessons, and generations of martial artists in his family, he was the worst karate student in his class.
After recess, Timmy kept thinking about his conversation with Carlos, which was why he missed two words on the spelling test. He wasn't allowed to use karate or judo outside of class. But there was something his grandfather had that was tougher than karate. And although he knew he wasn't supposed to touch it, he'd never been specifically told not to use it against anyone at school. And there was no way Gage and his gang could stand up to the contents of the jade jar.
Timmy came into the kitchen and watched his mother stirring spaghetti. "Mom, if we got a dog, would it speak English or Japanese?"
"We're not getting a dog," Mrs. Tanaka replied.
"But if," Timmy persisted.
"I suppose it would speak both languages, like us. You can train a dog to obey to commands in any language." She unscrewed the cap off the garlic and shook one sprinkle into the boiling water. "I know sometimes they train police dogs to only obey commands in German or Dutch, so the bad guys can't tell the dogs what to do."
"How do you say 'sit' in Japanese?" Timmy asked.
"You know that. Suwari." She stirred the spaghetti.
"How do you say 'roll over'?
"Korogasu. Get me the Ragu out of the refrigerator, please." Mrs. Tanaka had discovered that it saved time and dirty dishes if she simply poured the sauce over the spaghetti, and let the heat of the pasta warm the sauce, instead of warming the sauce in a separate pot.
Timmy opened the refrigerator and poked around, looking for the jar of spaghetti sauce. "How do you say 'sic 'em' in Japanese?"
"Out of the way, Timmy, I need to drain the spaghetti and I don't want you getting burnt." She put on oven mitts and picked up the heavy pot.
"But how do you say 'sic 'em'?" Timmy persisted.
"Kogeki-suru,"she replied absently. "Now, scoot, I don't want to burn you. Or me. Go set the table." She drained the spaghetti into the sink.
Timmy stood on his tiptoes to reach the jade jar. It wasn't much bigger than the jar of Ragu he'd just gotten for his mother, but it was far, far heavier. He knew he wasn't supposed to touch it. He knew all the curios on that shelf were off limits; they were all old and very breakable. But he had to do something to stop Gage and the other bullies at school.
"Hey, Timmy, what you got there?" Gage demanded. He looked from the smaller child to his gang, a menacing expression in his hazel eyes.
"Just an old jar." Timmy twisted the lid. It was on tight and took a minute to come off. Then he pointed the open container at the boys and whispered, "Kogeki-suru."
Gray smoke poured out of the jar. The smoke coalesced into a man shape – a man with four arms. The top right arm held a ninjato, a short sword smaller than a samurai's katana, but larger than a wakizashi. The top left arm had nunchaku. A shuriken was in the lower right hand. The lower left hand held a small knife. A mask covered his whole face, except for his eyes – glowing eyes filled with malice and evil.
"At last," the ghost announced, "free. Free to seek new prey."
Hank wet his pants. Jacob and Bob ran. After a second's hesitation, Hank followed them. Gage, the terror of the playground, was too frightened to move a single muscle.
The ghost threw his shuriken. It flew right through Gage. The boy shrieked in agony, although there was no tear in his clothing, no blood on his body. The ghost raised his ninjato, ready to strike, and Gage fainted.
"You did it! You got them," Timmy crowed.
"Yes, descendant of my enemy. And you are next," the ghost warned, lifting his sword again.
Timmy ran, but he was only flesh and blood. He couldn't outrun a ghost. The blade sliced through his body and he fell to the ground. When the school custodian found him, he was unconscious, and where the ectoplasmic blade had pierced his body, the temperature was lower than the surrounding flesh.
"Hey, guys, you got time to go out to Long Island before dinner?" Janine Melnitz asked the Ghostbusters.
Winston Zeddemore looked up wearily. They'd just returned from a case in Harlem, a jazz musician who refused to admit the Roaring Twenties were long over. It had been a tough case, but a successful one: they'd actually managed to exorcise the ghost and persuade him to move on. Usually they captured ghosts and brought them back to their ex-fire station headquarters, imprisoning them in the containment unit. All Winston wanted was a cold beer, a hot meal, and a soft bed. "What's in Long Island?"
"Some sort of ninja or samurai," Janine, the Ghostbusters' secretary, replied. "Attacked some school kids, and then moved on to a strip mall."
"Strip malls in Long Island deserve to be attacked," muttered Dr. Peter Venkman. The former parapsychology professor was now leader of the quartet of exorcists for hire.
"There's a lot of difference between ninjas and samurais," Dr. Ray Stantz began. "Samurais were ancient warriors, like European knights. Ninjas were members of an assassin cult."
"Not unlike the hashshashin of the Old Man of the Mountain in the medieval mideast," interrupted Dr. Egon Spengler.
"History lecture later," Peter declared. "Let's bust this ghost so we can eat dinner."
"Okay, where is it?" Winston asked as they parked the Ecto-1, the souped-up hearse that was the team's principal means of transportation.
Ray pointed to the people running in crazed terror from a Japanese restaurant. "There might be a good place to start."
Peter nodded. "Yeah, could be, could be."
Carefully hoisting their proton guns, the Ghostbusters headed for the Golden Dragon Restaurant.
"Don't panic," Peter announced loudly, "we're professionals." Lowering his voice, he asked his colleagues, "Do you think they'll give us some free tempura when we're done?"
"Fried food is bad for your health," Egon retorted.
They entered the restaurant cautiously; the banter stopped. Despite their boots, the four men moved as silently as shadows. Egon pulled out his PKE meter. His eyebrows rose as he took the reading.
"Class six," he whispered to his colleagues. "That way."
"Six?" Winston repeated. They hadn't faced anything that tough in months.
Ray's eyes sparkled in delighted anticipation. "Wow, a class six!"
Peter shook his head. Sometimes Ray was just too enthusiastic about their work. As far as Peter was concerned, that was unnatural – like being awake and functional before one's second cup of coffee in the morning.
The four walked through the foyer into the main dining room. Overturned chairs decorated the room; chopsticks, silverware, and spilled rice lay upon the floor.
The ghost was in the middle of the room, floating above a Benihana-style grill. The black-clad ghost was well-armed. In fact, it had four arms, a weapon in each. Bo and a swordin the top arms, shuriken and a sai, a Japanese swordcatcher, in the lower arms. Nunchaku were strapped to its belt. Two glowing eyes peered through a black mask.
Peter and Ray moved to the right, Winston and Egon to the left, flanking the specter.
"One for the money," Peter recited, firing his proton gun.
"Two for the show," chimed in Winston, readying his own weapon.
The ghost dropped its bo and drew his sword. The quarterstaff hung in midair. The sword deflected the energy beam.
Peter's jaw dropped. "Holy Hannah! Nothing's ever done that before."
"I told you, it's a class six." Egon fired his own proton gun. The ghost nimbly leapt over the beam.
Ray and Winston fired simultaneously. Their aim was true, but – somehow – the ghost managed to dodge both beams.
Peter snapped his mouth shut and fired again. The black-clad ghost jumped up, turned a somersault in midair, and landed in front of him. He grabbed his bo, and swung it, knocking the proton gun out of Peter's hands. He threw a shuriken at Ray.
"Ouch!" The chubby parapsychologist fumbled with his proton gun, nearly dropping it. "I felt that through my gloves."
The ghost cartwheeled across the dining room, moving through the tables and chairs. He kicked Winston, knocking the African-American to the floor. Then he spun, hitting Egon's wrist with a vicious karate chop. He glided back to the center of the dining room. With an imperious gesture, he shouted a command in Japanese.
Egon spoke a little Japanese, although neither as much nor as fluently as he did ancient Babylonian. It took him a few minutes to comprehend what the spirit had ordered. His face paled. "Duck!"
The warning came too late.
Decorations flew off the walls. The framed picture of Mt. Fuji came down on Peter's head. The imitation samurai helmet butted Ray in the stomach. The three foot long gilded bas-relief dragon flew around Egon three times before crashing down on his shoulder. An elaborately painted plaster pagoda came down hard on Winston's foot, then flew up and struck his chin.
The ghost laughed maniacally. "You amuse me, gaijin. Therefore, I shall permit you to live."
A cloud of chrysanthemum-scented gray smoke enveloped the room. When it cleared away, the ghost was gone.
"We need more information about this spirit," Egon announced over a late dinner. They were back at the firehouse, patching each other's wounds and eating McDonald's burgers.
"Ya think?" Peter asked sarcastically. His fries had gone cold, but he was too vexed with their failure to notice, let alone care. The Golden Dragon had not provided them with free tempura. By the time the time they had dug themselves out from the debris, not only was the ghost long gone, but Channel 5 news was there to capture their defeat in humiliating detail.
"It's not a kitsune," Ray volunteered. "They're mischievous, but seldom malicious. And I'm pretty sure it's not a gaki."
"Tetramands are generally found in Indian folklore, not Japanese." Egon sipped his Coca-Cola. "However, other than the extra set of arms, he looked rather like the depictions of a ninja one sees in low-budget martial arts movies. If you check Tobin's Spirit Guide, Ray, I'll do a computer search after dinner."
Ray nodded, his mouth too full of cheeseburger to speak.
"We need to back-track this thing," Winston suggested. "Why did it come to the Golden Dragon? Was that the first place it appeared, or were there other sightings? Wait, didn't Janine say it went after some kids?"
When Timmy woke up, he was in the hospital. He blinked, startled to see his parents bending over him. "Wh-what—"
"It's all right, honey. You're safe, and you're going to be okay," his mother assured him.
"How do you feel, Tim?" his father asked gently.
Memories suddenly floated back. Too many emotions flooded the young boy's mind: fear and shame being the chief among them. "Grandpa," he whispered. "Where's Grandpa?"
Mrs. Tanaka replied, "Grandma and Grandpa are at home, watching Emily."
"I gotta talk to Grandpa. I gotta tell him what I did." Timmy became so agitated that a nurse, monitoring the vital signs at her station, hurried in to sedate him.
The ghost attacked a sushi bar in Manhattan. It trashed a karate dojo in Queens. It paid a brief – and confused – visit to Yoshiko's Beauty Salon in Brooklyn, which had kept the name after Yoshiko Finkelstein had sold it years ago. Each time, the Ghostbusters got there too late. Channel 5 was having a field day at their expense.
John Peter McAllister sighed wearily. They must have visited every modeling agency in New York City, but they were still no closer to finding his missing daughter, Teri.
"Maybe we should check out talent agencies and casting directors tomorrow," suggested Max Keller, his traveling companion. "A lot of models try to become actresses."
McAllister nodded, too tired – and too frustrated – to speak. The WWII vet felt every one of his sixty-plus years today.
"You mind if I turn on the TV and check the news?" Max asked.
McAllister shook his head. The top of his shiny pate was bald, but the back and sides of his head were covered with white hair.
Max turned on the TV, then flopped down on the motel room bed with a decided lack of ninja grace. McAllister raised one white eyebrow, but was too tired to scold him about his posture.
"And in sports, the Cascade Jaguars beat the Knicks, 65-62. Moving on to local news, the Ghostbusters, heroes or zeroes?"
"Ghostbusters?" McAllister repeated.
"What, you never heard of them in Japan?" Max asked. His mentor had spent most of the past thirty years living in the Orient.
"I vaguely remember a Bob Hope movie about ghost hunting."
"Naw, these guys fight and catch ghosts." Max pointed to the TV screen, to four men in khaki uniforms. "There they are."
"Ghostbusters, heroes or zeroes?" asked the anchorman. "Once again, the Ghostbusters were defeated by the ninja ghost."
"What?!" Max and McAllister exclaimed simultaneously. "Ninja ghost?"
It took Mr. Tanaka several phone calls before he was able to reach the person he wanted. Each call led to another contact. He had to wait for messages to be relayed. But after several days, he was able to reach someone who could do something about the problem.
"Okasa-san? You must come to New York. We have need of you."
Egon rang the doorbell. A moment later a petite, attractive Oriental woman opened the door. "Mrs. Tanaka? I'm Dr. Spengler. This is Dr. Stantz. We called you about coming over to speak to your son?"
She nodded. "Please, come in." She opened the door wider, and Egon and Ray stepped inside. "Timmy and my father-in-law are in the living room. They insist they need to talk to you."
Egon and Ray followed her into a very modern living room, comfortable but ordinary. The only thing that indicated that the family that lived here was named Tanaka instead of Zimmerman or O'Reilly were the shelves of Oriental curios on one wall. Timmy and his grandfather sat waiting on the couch. Both wore modern American clothing, Timmy blue jeans and a T-shirt, his grandfather a dark blue business suit.
"Tanaka-san?" Egon bowed respectfully. Ray did likewise.
"Wow, the Ghostbusters!" Despite the severity of the situation, Timmy couldn't help his excitement.
Mr. Tanaka gave his grandson a quelling glance. The boy calmed down at once.
"We are honored you have invited us into your home, sir." Egon bowed again slightly, waiting for a sign of comprehension. If the elderly gentleman did not appear to understand, then he would repeat his comment in Japanese.
"I am the one honored." The older man inclined his head, acknowledging the respect due his white hair and wrinkles. "I know what it is you seek, and why you can not catch it."
"You do? What is it?" Ray was almost as excited as Timmy had been.
"The spirit you seek has been in the custody of my family for generations. My grandson was the one who released it, and we are responsible for seeing that it is recaptured. It is our obligation."
"With respect, Tanaka-san, the capture of spirits is our business. It is our calling," Egon explained. "There is no loss to your honor is accepting help from those whose task it is to aid in such matters."
"Our honor would be diminished if you did not permit us to help," Ray added, calling on a somewhat lopsided knowledge of Japanese culture garnered from watching Japanimation cartoons.
The old man smiled at the attempt they were making to be as Japanese as possible in their manners. "It is not a matter of honor, gentlemen. While giri is involved, there is also the matter of ability. You can not deal with the warui yurei. I have already made arrangements to summon one who can. I merely called you here to tell you not to worry, that the situation is now in hand."
Ray and Egon exchanged disgruntled looks. This was not what they had expected when they'd gotten the phone call inviting them over.
"Perhaps if we had more information, we could deal with it," Egon suggested, not quite concealing the irritated note in his voice.
"There's no harm in telling them, is there, Grandpa?" Timmy asked.
Mr. Tanaka gave him a haven't-you-caused-enough-trouble look.
"Please, sofu-san?"the boy begged.
"For the sake of my intellectual curiosity, at least, I would like to know what the spirit we've been fighting is," Egon confessed.
Mr. Tanaka gestured for them to sit down. "Hollywood would have you think that all ninja are either heroic warriors, defending the common people from ruthless overlords, or else vicious, bloodthirsty killers, slaying without rhyme or reason. The truth is far different. All ninja were trained in warfare and weaponry; all ninja knew how to kill. Some killed only when necessary, such as evil overlords whose death would free their subjects. Some were assassins for hire, using their skills to earn a living by others' death. And as with all people, none were pure good or pure evil. But there was one, centuries ago, one who came closer to pure evil than most humans ever do save in poorly written fiction. He enjoyed killing. He slew indiscriminately: those whom he was paid to kill, as well as their wives and children and servants, those who hired him, those who annoyed or disrespected him, even those who had done him no harm. His soul was so foul that his name has been forgotten, and he is remembered only as Warui, the evil one."
Ray leaned forward, looking for all the world like an overgrown scout listening to a campfire story.
"So evil was this ninja that the other ninja disowned him. They tried to kill him, because his actions dishonored and endangered all of them. But his skill was as great as his evil; none could kill him. So great was his evil that it drew a demon the way a magnet draws iron filings. Once possessed, he was even worse than he had been before. One of my ancestors was a man of power and wisdom."
"A shaman?" Egon asked. "A sorcerer, or perhaps a priest?"
Mr. Tanaka merely smiled inscrutably, and did not answer the question. "Not only a man of power and wisdom, but also a man of great skill in the martial arts. How he obtained the jade jar has been lost to time. Perhaps it was already a relic of mystical power, perhaps he enchanted an ordinary jar or had it enchanted."
"Or blessed," Ray suggested, knowing the line between magic and religion was thinner in the East than it was in western tradition.
"My ancestor fought Warui, and trapped him in the jade jar. Sealed, he could not escape from his prison, and there he died. Because of the enchantments on the jar, the demon remained bound to him, even after death. There they remained, until released from the jar a few days ago."
"Were we fighting the demon or fighting the ninja's ghost?" Ray asked.
"After being bound together so long, they are no longer two separate entities," Mr. Tanaka replied.
"No wonder the PKE meter read it as a class six," Egon said under his breath. Class fours were the ghosts of people, like Anne Boleyn at the Tower of London, who were still capable of interacting with the living. Class fives were Netherworld creatures like Slimer, or some of Gozer's lesser minions. Class sevens were demons. A ghost melded with the demon that had possessed it in life, yes, that would explain the class six reading.
"I have sent for someone who can deal with Warui. You need not concern yourself with the matter further," Mr. Tanaka told them.