The Ghostbusters crept up on the Larabee Museum of Oriental History and Art. Moving carefully in the dark, they went to the rear of the building.
"What makes you so sure he'll come here tonight?" Peter asked.
"Feng shui," Winston whispered, "and the full moon tonight."
"Feng what?" Ray asked.
"Feng shui is a Chinese belief, not Japanese," Egon corrected.
"What is it?" Peter demanded in an irritated tone.
"It's a way of arranging buildings and furniture, supposed to promote harmony," Winston, an ex-construction worker, explained. "I know it's Chinese, but China and Japan aren't that far apart. When we were checking this place out earlier, I noticed the way they were raking the meditation garden."
Egon shone his flashlight over the garden. Two large rocks erupted from the carefully raked sand. The rake had left patterns in the white sand, patterns that were supposed to aid in meditation. A raised wooden platform stood at the back of the garden, against the rear wall of the museum. The beam of his flashlight rested for a moment on the rake, which someone had left lying near the entrance to the garden.
"The oval patterns in the sand, they could be ritual wards. And the rake lying there as it does," Egon realized, "it breaks the circle."
Ray nodded, seeing where Winston was going with this now. "Practically an engraved invitation for Warui."
"Nearly every other building in Little Tokyo has protective glyphs," Egon remembered. Some had been Shinto, some Buddhist, a few Christian, but almost every commercial building in the area – as well as many of the homes – had some attempt at arcane protection. "But with the rake breaking the circle, Warui should find this garden irresistible."
"Oh, I don't know. I prefer lilac bushes myself," Peter quipped.
Egon shot his colleague a dirty look as Winston picked the lock to the gate of the meditation garden. Trying not to disturb the rake marks, the Ghostbusters entered the garden. They arranged themselves at the cardinal points of the compass and settled down to wait.
"Too bad this isn't Man from UNCLE," Peter said in a loud stage whisper. "We could play Botticelli."
"Shut up, Peter," his team mates said in unison.
An hour and a half's worth of cramped muscles later, the ghost appeared. Cackling like one of Macbeth's witches, he floated above the entry into the meditation garden made by the rake. The Ghostbusters waited until he was nearly in the center of the sand before firing their proton guns.
The ghost whirled. His sword spun, seeming to be everywhere at once. The proton beams did not touch him. He rose into the air, and suddenly the night seemed even darker.
Peter muttered a cuss-word under his breath.
"You cease to amuse me, gaijin." The ghost gestured. The four Ghostbusters found themselves floating in the air, struggling to hold on to their weapons. The ghost's nunchaku whirled and struck.
As the Ghostbusters dangled upside in midair, the ghost's bo attacked, leaving painful bruises.
"Now I know how a piñata feels," Peter groaned.
They rose up, higher and higher. The ghost laughed maliciously, then snapped his fingers. The Ghostbusters fell to the ground.
"How shall I kill you, gaijin? Shall I pierce your veins with my shuriken, and watch as your blood stains the white sand? Or shall I chop off your heads with my ninjato?"
"Leave them, Warui, and face me," a voice said in the darkness.
The ghost turned around. A man stood there, clothed in the traditional black garb of a ninja. Silver chain mail veiled his face and protected his wrists.
"I am Okasa. I have come to defeat you," the ninja announced.
"Okasa… The name is familiar. I believe I slew one of your ancestors, many years ago."
"You will not slay me." Okasa charged the ghost, a katana in his hand.
Battered, out of breath, the Ghostbusters could scarcely follow the fight. The two ninjas, one alive, one dead, moved too quickly. Sword blades met. Feet kicked. Part acrobatics, part deadly dance, part donnybrook, the two attacked each other again and again.
The fight seemed to last for hours. They varied their fighting styles, each trying to prevent the other from predicting his next move. Karate, then swords. Nunchaku, then judo. They moved from the sand to the meditation platform and back again. Okasa leapt as Warui swung his bo. Warui caught Okasa's katana in his sai. Okasa kicked, but his foot passed through Warui's chest. Warui kept shifting from solid to intangible. The challenge of a worthy opponent amused him, and he permitted Okasa to think he had a chance of survival – perhaps even of victory – by letting their weapons meet.
Okasa was one of the deadliest fighters alive, one of the youngest men to achieve the rank of ninja master in the 20th century. But he was a live man, and Warui was a spirit. He had only two arms to Warui's four. Eventually, muscles tired, breath failed.
Warui knocked the katana out of his arms. His ninjato sliced through Okasa's flesh again and again. Finally, the half-dead ninja fell to the ground, unable to move. Warui raised his blade high, ready to decapitate his foe.
Suddenly a strange voice shouted out a command in Japanese.
Warui turned. The Ghostbusters, still barely able to stir, managed to look in the direction from which the voice had come. Two men stood there. One was clad as a ninja. The other, a young Caucasian, wore blue jeans, a flannel shirt, and a leather jacket.
"Check out, Jack," the young man said. He threw a shuriken.
"Foolish mortal," Warui cackled. Then he flinched. "I felt that!"
"Silver shuriken, blessed by a Shinto priest," the ninja explained. "Max, give him another taste."
Max threw three more shuriken. The ghost dodged two, but one struck him. Warui recoiled, more surprised by the pain than hurt.
"Get away from Okasa," the ninja ordered.
"Who are you to tell me what to do?" Warui demanded.
Blue eyes gleamed beneath the mask. "John Peter McAllister."
"A gaijin ninja?" the ghost asked in disbelief.
McAllister drew his katana and charged. "A ninja master, and the most dangerous man you'll ever meet, alive or dead."
Then the talking stopped. McAllister didn't waste his breath on clever repartee. He attacked the ghost, driving Warui away from Okasa so Max could drag the wounded ninja to safety.
Again, ninja ghost battled live ninja. McAllister moved with speed and dexterity that belied his sixty-odd years. Katana against ninjato, blades met and clashed again and again. McAllister neither stopped nor slowed when Warui's blade kissed his flesh.
Max crept around the fight, checking on the Ghostbusters and helping revive them. When all four were upright and at least semi-conscious, Max called out, "Take a break, old timer."
McAllister stepped back. Max rushed Warui. Nimbly dodging his eldritch sword, Max kicked and chopped. He did the ghost no harm, but he kept the spirit off balance long enough for McAllister to catch his breath.
"My turn, Max." McAllister returned to the fray. His sword flashed; his sword flew. He continued the lesson Okasa had started, reminding the ghost of the existence of pain.
Still groggy, the Ghostbusters readied their proton guns.
Max leapt and kicked, attacking Warui from behind. The ghost was solid at the time, and the blow knocked him off-balance. McAllister's sword came down, cutting off Warui's hand. The hand reattached itself a second later, but the sword fell. McAllister grabbed it, letting his own blade fall to the sand. Seizing the ninjato, he thrust it through Warui's chest, impaling him like a butterfly in an entomologist's collection.
"Now, guys," Max shouted.
The Ghostbusters fired their proton guns. Warui was caught in the streams. He struggled, but the four exorcists held firm, like fishermen trying to land an especially large trout. Winston tossed out the trap.
Warui shrieked as he was pulled into the containment trap.
The Ghostbusters breathed a collective sigh of relief. Peter swore.
"Are you hurt?" Ray asked their rescuer.
McAllister shook his head. "Nothing Bactine and a few bandages won't handle. Better check on him, though," he indicated Okasa with a jut of his chin.
Max hurried to his mentor's side. "This looks like more than just a first aid kit can handle."
"Come with us back to the firehouse," Egon invited. "We have a certain experience in dealing with ectoplasm-infected injuries."
Ignoring his complaints, Max helped McAllister into the van.
"Can he ride in your van?" Peter pointed to Okasa.
Max hesitated. "It might be safer if he rides with you." He glanced from McAllister to Okasa. "They don't get along so well. If he regains consciousness in my van and realizes where he is…"
Egon raised an eyebrow. "I hardly think, in his condition, that he would be capable of rendering any harm to you or your," the physicist hesitated, searching for the right word, "companion."
"I'm not worried about that," Max replied. "He's likely to hurt himself if he tries. And despite everything Okasa's done, it would break the Master's heart if anything happened to him." In his concern for his teacher, Max didn't even realize he'd let the nickname slip out.
Peter traded a quick, perplexed glance with Egon. Modern young Americans who looked more like surfer dudes than anything else generally didn't refer to people as "master."
Max reached for another slice of pizza.
"Uh, not that one," Ray warned.
Max looked down and saw that Slimer had dripped ectoplasmic goo on the piece he was about to take. He reached a little further and took a different slice. He watched as Slimer chomped down on two slices of pizza simultaneously. "How does he do that?"
"No table manners," Winston retorted automatically.
"No, I mean how does a ghost eat?" Max asked.
"Technically, he's not really a ghost," Ray replied.
"He's a class five spirit," Egon explained. "A Netherworld creature – he was never a living human."
"Remember," Peter quipped, "Casper the Friendly Ghost was once Casper the Friendly Boy."
Egon sighed. He'd heard that joke too many times for it to be funny anymore. He continued scanning Okasa's injuries with the PKE meter.
"You have placed me in an awkward situation, Master," Okasa complained. He spoke Japanese, sure this would keep their conversation private. He knew Max knew no more Japanese than any American could pick up from watching Shogun. "You have saved my life, but—"
"He did more than save your life," Egon interrupted, speaking badly accented but grammatical Japanese. "You owe him not merely your life, but your soul." Egon wasn't sure what the story was between McAllister and Okasa, but he could tell there was some form of relationship between them – a very strained relationship. He didn't know enough about modern Japanese culture to understand the requirements of giri, but he sensed that this debt might somehow be used to heal the breech between the two ninjas.
Okasa glared at Egon, one black eyebrow raising in annoyance at the interruption. "My honor demands that I kill you, taisho. Yet my honor also demands that I spare your life."
"Then you have a decision to make," McAllister told him. His voice was formal and neutral, as though the matter under discussion were of no interest to him. "You must decide along which path your honor truly lies: killing an old man who has never harmed you – an old man who was once far more to you than a stranger – or sparing the life of the man who saved your life." Cobalt blue eyes peered into the face of the younger ninja.
"You betrayed the—"
"I did nothing of the kind," McAllister interrupted. "If there was any betrayal, it was on the part of you and your companions, who returned to the old ways."
Max turned to his master. He couldn't understand what they were saying, but he could make some solid guesses based on the tone of voice.
"This is your path to walk, and your decision to make. Don't expect me to make it easy for you." Switching to English, McAllister said, "I hope you young whippersnappers saved some of that pizza for me."
Silently, Max placed a slice on a paper plate and handed it to him. He turned to Okasa. "Let me guess, you finally got the excuse you wanted, and now you're not sure what to do with it."
"What excuse?" Okasa snarled.
"Not killing him. You don't want to, not really, or you would have done it months ago. Now," the curly-haired young man shrugged, "you've got a valid excuse why you can't kill him."
Okasa sat, silent and sullen, unwilling or unable to reply.
"You have a decision to make," McAllister told his former pupil in English. He stood and walked over to Okasa. "But I think you should sleep on it. You are tired, and need to rest." He laid a hand on the younger ninja's shoulder, as if to comfort him. Then his hand slide an inch or two over and pinched a nerve. Okasa slumped down on the couch.
"You used a Vulcan neck pinch?" Ray asked, his eyes wide.
"Hey, Roddenberry didn't invent it. They used it in the Beach Blanket movies," Peter mentioned.
"You would remember a movie full of bikinis," Winston teased.
"Actually," Egon pointed out, "Hollywood used the 'Vulcan neck pinch' long before Star Trek or the Annette Funicello-Frankie Avalon movies. It was in Abbott and Costello in the Foreign Legion."
Peter was shocked. "You watch Abbott and Costello movies?"
"Hey, Hold That Ghost was one of my major inspirations when I was a kid," Ray protested.
"It's merely a matter of applied biology. The ninja have been using it for years," McAllister interrupted the Hollywood discussion. "He'll be all right, but by the time he comes to, Max and I will be long gone."
"Do you think he'll still come after us?" Max asked.
"That's his decision to make. We can't choose his path for him." McAllister glanced at the food and drinks on the table. "Somebody pass me another beer, will you?"
* ~ * ~ * ~ *
* ~ *
Domo arigato to Ian for requesting a ninja ghost story, and making plot suggestions (the tetramandic nature of the demon was his idea) and to the inimitable Sheila P. for background information on RGB and TM. All errors, of course, belong to the author...unlike the characters, who do not (alas) belong to me.