THE ZODIAC IMPERATIVE
By Fritz Baugh
GBI Case File GBNY-1991-9/280
That is my belief also... Zandrik Fallagar, who was flying along nearby, responded telepathically.
"That doesn't give us a hell of a lot of time..." Peter Venkman said, looking at his watch.
"I'm going as fast as I can on this road and trying to not attract police attention." Winston Zeddemore retorted. "We didn't exactly enter this country legally, and I don't know about you buy my passport is back at home..."
"That ain't gonna matter if we're all dead..." Venkman grumbled.
At the back of the car, Liz Hawthorne--the woman also known as Lady Enlightenment--couldn't supress a slight chuckle. Ray Stantz, sitting right next to her, couldn't help but notice. "They're like that all the time..." he shrugged, with a sheepish grin.
"I figured..." Liz answered. Barney Lupin, in his wolf form (though because of his particular werewolf tribe, he more resembled a German Shepherd than a wolf) was sleeping right next to them, and snoring loudly. "I could tell they were close. I was just thinking they sounded a lot like me and my sister..."
"You have a sister?" Ray asked, genuinely curious.
"An older sister, back in Nova Scotia...she hasn't left our hometown in her life, is settled down with a husband and an adorable little boy..." Liz looked away, with a bit of a wistful smile. "While I wander the world hunting vampires, hopefully preventing astrological disasters, and whatever else the Order wants done. Oversee Tribunals, investigate this Covenant's activities, rule on this dispute..."
"Sounds even more hectic than my life..." Ray nodded.
"I don't know....there are days where I think if I stayed in one place too long I might go insane...but then there are other days..." She looked back at him. "Where I wonder what I'm missing..."
Ray nodded. "I wonder so often to...you know, I have a brother and a sister I never talk to because, well, they hate me. Nieces and nephews that I probably couldn't pick out of a police line-up. I guess it's just as well I don't have a 'normal' life either...I'm too afraid I'd screw it up..."
Liz moved closer. "That, Ray Stantz, I think is something else we have in common..."
Ray looked at her...so very close...he felt his temperature rising...the urge to move even closer...close the distance to those so sensuous lips...and strangest of all, he had the unfamiliar feeling...that she wouldn't stop him...
Which was just when the ECTO-1 went over a particularly nasty bump, sending the snoozing werewolf hurtling into Ray's lap. When Barney woke up and started to shake his head woozily, the spell was thoroughly broken.
Egon studied his PKE meter. "Hm..." he muttered. "It's like he's mocking me..."
Janine Melnitz looked at him with concern. "Mocking? Who?"
"Nodus..." Egon answered, referring to the mysterious man who'd been popping up in their cases a lot recently. "This PKE reading from him is baffling...and a work of genius."
"What does it say about him?"
"Nothing, that's just the thing. He basically kept me from getting any information about him by somehow creating a feedback loop, sending my own biosignature right back at me. How he did it, I would very much like to know..."
"Wow...I mean, I assume that would be difficult to do..."
"Quite. It would take a considerable familiarity with both our technology and paranormal applications of quantum theory. I could do it, Raymond could do it...but until now I simply assumed nobody else could be that familiar with my design."
Janine's brow furrowed. "That lying bastard...he swore up and down he didn't have anything to do with Grossjuck's dirty pool..."
"Yes. It would lead me to believe that Nodus is still in posession of copies of the blueprints of Ghostbuster technology. And has been studying them rigorously." And Egon did not like that idea in the least.
"One more thing to worry about..." Janine said with anger, settling deeper into her seat. She took off her glasses and rubbed her weary eyes. She wasn't sure which she wanted to do more--scream or cry. The world about to end. Her perfect evening interrupted. More crap with Nodus. Victor...
"If it's at all possible, we will save Victor and the others." he said firmly.
It gave her a moment of warmth to realize he was getting to read her thoughts this clearly. "I know you will, Egon..." she smiled, and nuzzled up against him. Something close to a smile crossed his lips, and he shut his meter off.
Of course stopping meant it'd be later when he got home. When he got his precious cargo home. It would be later when he developed the film and began trying to figure out just what had happened at Stonehenge at the stroke of midnight.
He came out of the forest he'd been travelling in the last few miles...and clear of the trees, he saw a sight in his rearview mirror that made him come to a complete stop.
He jumped out of his truck and gazed dumbfounded at the sight. The sky was glowing--Back in the direction I just came!!! It's coming from Stonehenge!!!
I wonder...did I escape certain doom? Or am I missing the chance of a lifetime?
"There are a number of scenarios I'm entertaining." Spengler responded. "I'm hoping that Master Fallagar's greater familiarity with the situation will prove useful."
"Oh, yeah....he did such a good job before..." Venkman rolled his eyes.
"I really really hate admitting this, but I agree with Pete." Winston broke in. "There's something about that weirdo I have trouble trusting...like what if he really is eight hundred years old? That just ain't natural, man..."
Egon coughed firmly. "For one, his own belief in the matter is that if we can disrupt the unity of the avatars, the whole event will be likewise disrupted."
"One goes out, they all go out? Like cheap Christmas lights?" Venkman asked. Winston rolled his eyes in the driver seat.
Egon nodded. "One possibility is to utilize our personal connections with some of the avatars to break the possession. Janine or myself with Victor. Mister Lupin and Miss Hawthorne with Miss Peacecraft. Janine or yourself with Shannon."
"But Victor's Mom and grandparents were present when he was posessed..." Ray pointed out. "It doesn't get a much stronger connection than that..."
"And Bernard and myself were there when Lilly was..." Liz pointed out. "However, we were taken by surprise, and didn't know what we were dealing with. And I would presume neither Victor's mother nor grandparents have dealt with posession before."
"Quite correct" Egon nodded. "We however, have. I would assume Miss Hawthorne has access to numerous exorcism spells, and I know Ray knows a rite or two."
"Maybe Shannon should be our first target, then." Venkman suggested, his expression now serious. "His...unique heritage might mean he's better able to fight off the posession
Phineus realized, to belabor the obvious, that he wasn't dead...something to be thankful for, to be certain. But just as quickly, he realized that he wasn't able to move...
He managed to open his eyes, and saw that he was still at Stonehenge. The skies were dark, but the faintest ember of light could be seen in the East, were one to look hard enough. Far brighter was the light being generated by the twelve being surrounding him, all in matching outfits with capes and boots, each a different color, sporting a brooch with one of the ancient glyphs of the Zodiac emblazoned on it.
The spellsinger awakens... one of the twelve--the one wearing the glyph of Taurus--noticed.
Perhaps he is wondering why he still lives... the young boy wearing the glyph of Aries snorted. I wonder that myself...
The girl of about the same age, the dark haired girl wearing the sign of Aquarius, walked over to Eventide. This one is a receptacle of much power, my brother... she explained. It will serve useful at the moment of sunrise, and the final act of the Imperative.
"I will not help you..." Phineus managed to bite out.
You will have no choice... the intense-looking, long-haired teen bearing the glyph of Scorpio retorted. Phineus narrowed his eyes. Is that a bead of sweat upon his brow?
He then noticed another of the assembled avatars...That one bears the marks of a daemonseed...could that be the son of Astorath? Or is it another?
He turned back to Scorpio. I sense it...a powerful Gift in this one, trying to break through the posession...if Fallagar is successful in bringing the Five here, that may provide our opening...
"I am not the only one to oppose your Imperative." Eventide said firmly. "Even now one of the Children of Zodiac rallies the others. They will come here, and they will defeat you."
They will have to arrive very soon, then... the girl with the Virgo glyph mocked. Gaia's breath, Fallagar... Eventide thought to himself with a note of exasperation that he wish he didn't. Where are you?!
"So this is Stonehenge, huh?" a loud voice said with a distinct American accent. "Looks like we beat the rush!!!"
"It is like four AM here..." a female voice commented in a thick Brooklyn accent.
The assembled avatars turned incredulously to the source of the noise. A brown-haired man in a set of brown coveralls, brandishing several large cameras, strode into the ancient complex like he owned the place. Behind him, a red-haired woman in a matching blue outfit pushed a cart full of bundles in shopping bags.
Humans!!! This is the time of the Judgement!!! You are not welcome here!!! Lord Saggitarius thundered. Leave immediately!!!
The woman nonchalantly blew a bubble. "Look...dose must be somea' them Druid fella's I heard about..."
The man wasn't nearly so sedate. "Well, for a buncha religious guys they sure have crappy manners! Listen, Friar Tuck, I'm an American, I paid for this trip, so I'm gonna be here and enjoy myself!!! I'm just gonna watch and take pictures anyway--go back to sacrificing your goat or whatever, okay?" With that, the man pulled one of his cameras to his face, and a huge flash drove Lord Saggitarius back.
Phineus watched the whole scene incredulously. What are they planning?
"Hey, lookit' that guy..." the woman said, pointing at the demon-horned creature that was Shannon Phillips a few hours before. "Don't that guy look familiar?"
The man with the camera turned and clicked the shutter again, staggering Lord Gemini with a flash. "Hey, hell yeah! You look just like that costume a friend of mine wore last Halloween!!! So you go to the same place? I think he got it at Ron's Party Supplies..."
Human, I neither know nor care what you're talking about...
"You even sound like him too. Maybe you know him? Shannon Phillips?"
You try my patience...
"Aw, c'mon, that is you isn't it? You can't fool your Uncle Peter..."
"Peter Venkman? You know---dated your guardian for a while? Irena Cortez? Remember her?"
"I bet he does, doesn't he..." the woman added, the accent now less exaggerated. "Remember me too, Shannon?" Janine asked him; she spared a look at Lord Aries, her posessed nephew Victor...Stick to the plan... she had to tell herself, all too easily visualizing the state of panic her sister and parents must be in. "We helped you when that Mister Blaque creep came after you?"
"We went through hell in a pretty literal sense to get you back, remember?" Venkman's voice continued. "You gotta remember, Buddy..."
Beside Egon, Winston had pulled on his black work gloves (only Ray wore them with any frequency) and was clutching his neutrona wand anxiously...just wanting to do something. Barney Lupin was next to him, having adopted his powerful crinos form, the half-way point between homid (human) and lupus (wolf)
Liz stood on the other side of Ray, Fallagar next to her. She was feeling the flow of pure psychokinetic energy--vis or quintessence as the Order of Hermes referred to it--so powerful it was threatening to everwhelm her senses, even with her training in the art of blocking out the signals. (Egon hadn't even tried to turn on his PKE meter--he'd dryly joked "I'm half expecting it to overload even turned off.") In over two decades of dealing with magic, through her apprenticeship and her own travels as a full-fledged maga, this was simply the hugest paranormal event she'd ever experienced.
"I see Eventide." Ray said. "Looks like he's still alive, but in some sort of force bubble or something..."
"A relief" Fallagar replied. "I was certain they were going to kill him...perhaps he's powerful enough they judge him to be of use to them..."
"Use?" Barney asked. He didn't like the tone in the eccentric wizard's voice--he didn't trust magicians as a rule (Liz and Lilly being the notable exceptions, of course), and something about this one made the hair on the back of his neck stand up.
"Eventide's mystic descent is from the same Druidic orders that built this complex ...it gave him the insights we needed to even attempt to close down this complex. They might similarly hope to tap that knowledge. Or..."
"I don't like that 'or'..." Winston grimaced.
"Or they will sacrifice him at sunrise, adding the considerable power of his deathforce release to the flare of natural nodal energy."
"A living creature's PK doubles at the moment of death." Egon explained out of habit. "With Eventide's considerable cultivated energy field that could be.."
" 'Bad' I know, gotcha." Winston finished for him, adjusting his grip on his thrower for the fifth time.
"Hey, I'm a tourist! Aren't you supposed to lie to me and kiss my butt?" Venkman retorted, a little bit of desperation growing. Shannon hasn't even flinched...
Janine looked quickly back in the direction they'd come "I think the spore is about to hit the fan..."
"I never liked the horoscope anyway." Barney quipped. "No dogs."
The blue light from Saggitarrius's eyes glowed brighter.
"GET DOWN!!!" Janine shouted, pulling a thrower out of the cart.
Venkman dropped, and a proton beam drove back the avatar.
"Your Chamber of Commerce is definitely hearing about this!" Venkman offered as one last sarcastic remark, scrambling toward the cart and the second proton pack hidden within it.
"I hope it wasn't nothing the three of them couldn't handle..." he mused quietly out loud, noting the assumption that Doctor Spengler hadn't returned yet. Don't think about that Louis...just like trying not to think about Dana with Andre or Peter...out of mind, out of mind... he chided himself. Just get what you came after and get out...
Sure enough, sitting next on the small desk at the side of the garage were his house keys. "I can't believe I forgot those..." he muttered out loud, scooping them up.
Slimer hurled down the stairs, making a beeline straight for him. "Oh hey Slimer sorry to distract you from your first or second late night snack but I forgot my keys and...Whomph!!!" This as the dripping green entity slammed into him hard, babbling something quickly and fearfully.
""Wha...huh...something about a monster Slimer? Now that's silly because this is where the Ghostbusters live and what monster's gonna be stupid enough to..."
His voice trailed off when he caught a glimpse of a dark shape near the staircase. "oh shit..."
He tried to creep toward the storage lockers, to maybe grab a proton pack and do something...
Before he tripped over his own feet and hit the floor, hard.
In seconds, it was standing over him. Six feet tall, covered in brown fur, with the head of a wolf. "Where are the Ghostbusters?!" it rumbled in a deep and impatient voice.
Louis peed himself and passed out.
Fallagar knew he didn't really "need" to speak the words aloud anymore...he had surpassed that need when casting simple elemental spells quite a long time ago. But there was over twelve hundred years of Hermetic tradition to be upheld--and sometimes he felt...he knew...that keeping enough of an eye on the past to remain human was all that kept him from falling over the precipice of sanity.
A howling gale engulfed Stonehenge...a rumble of thunder was heard in the clear skies...as one phenomenal will worked to reshape the very tapestry of reality in that area.
"Stick with the plan!!!" Egon Spengler shouted as he and the other two remaining Ghostbusters ran to the complex, neutrona wands ablaze. They did not aim to hit any of the avatars--yet--because though posessed, they were still flesh and blood humans. Egon and Ray couldn't be sure if that meant it would damage them significantly or not at all, and didn't have the time to study the situation enough to find out.
The pale girl wearing the purple outfit and the glyph of Aquarius shouted telepathically. The Childe of the Steady Winds seeks to challenge us again?
"You have your Imperative--I have mine!!!" Fallagar retorted. The howling grew to a crescendo, and the air grew pregnant with ozone.
"Janine!!! Peter!!! Move!!!" Winston shouted.
"Awooo!!!!" Barney Lupin (or, to use his self-proclaimed "werewolf name": "Nightclaw") charged the circle of avatars from the other side. Quick as lightning, he grabbed Lilly Peacecraft--the avatar bearing the glyph of Pisces--and sported her outside the stone complex before she knew what was happening.
"Blitzkrieg!!!" Fallagar shouted, invoking the language of the land of his birth.
The sky exploded with electricity, a thunderstorm of ground-shaking intensity, concentrated on the circle of beings who sought to remake the world in the name of their "Imperative"
"Now!!!" Egon shouted.
All five Ghostbusters fired as one. Each particle stream struck a different one of the stone monoliths, causing a dance of sparkling light to play around them.
The avatars, stunned by the abruptness and the severity of the attack--and perhaps unused to being interfered with at this stage of their Imperative--milled around in confusion. Until the one bearing the glyph of Leo noticed...The quintessence!!! They are attempting to consume the quintessence of this place!!!
Ray couldn't help himself--he spared a second's glance in the direction of Nightclaw and Lady Enlightenment, who were now attempting to reach the posessed mind of their friend, Lilly Peacecraft.
Lady Enlightenment was of the Quaesitoris...the adjudicators and officiators of the Order of Hermes. Mystic disciplines that invoked the sphere of Mentem...the Mind...were a specialty of theirs
The duo had not seen any sign of the consciousness of their friend when she had first been posessed, but they were taken by surprise. This time they were ready, and it was the avatar that was at the disadvantage of surprise.
Knowing she didn't have the time for subtlety, Liz Hawthorne knifed her way into the mind of her young friend...Lilly...please come out, Lilly...
This cannot be tolerated!!! the avatar of Aries howled angrily. I am the Lord of the Dynamic Fire, and I will not be denied by a mere mortal!!!
Aries!!! Do not... Aquarius started to say, as Aries--posessing the body of Janine's nephew Victor Irwin--took to the skies, barelling straight for the floating form of Zandrik Fallagar.
You choose wrongly...the weak link is not the daemonseed...it is...
Silence old man!!! the angry tone of Lord Scorpio broke in, overwhelming whatever message Phineus Eventide was trying to deliver.
C'mon, Liz...you can do it... Ray thought to himself. He hadn't know her for very long, but had to admit she was quite a fascinating person to know. Intelligent, resourceful...What am I doing? he chided himself angrily. I haven't known her long enough to be thinking like that!!! Dammit, Stantz, the world is at stake and you're getting wrapped up in...
He wouldn't even let himself finish that thought.
Lilly...please...I know you can hear me... Liz shouted mentally. Lilly Peacecraft was a natural psychic--a "Psi Sensative" of notable potential. The disciplines Liz had to develop through years of mystic training were as natural as breathing to Lilly...Liz was hoping that the young girl's power would give her a toehold, a means to shake off the posession.
FOOL!!! the angry voice of the entity posessing Lilly--the Pisces force--howled.
With that, Liz Hawthorne's world exploded in pinkish light, before becoming dark...
Ray choked a shout in his throat as Liz suddenly screamed and fell to the ground unconcious.
"Liz?" Barney called, as the avatar of Pisces rose to her feet. She gestured disdainfully, blasting Barney with the same sort of pinkish ectoplasm she'd attacked with when she first manifested.
"Oh hell..." Ray said outloud.
Aries crashed into Fallagar, psychokinetic fire dancing around his body. The strength of Victor Irwin's hands enhanced by supernatural strength as they closed around the older man's throat.
"Victor!!!" Janine couldn't help but cry out.
Enough of this!!! announced the man wearing the glyph of Capricorn. He gestured, and the ground began to shake violently.
The woman in green, Libra of the Dynamic Wind, gestured, and the storm began to quiet and break apart.
The Ghostbusters found themselves unable to stand as the ground pitched and lurched. "I knew I shouldn't have had that extra pizza before we left!" Venkman quipped.
Definitely not how I expected to spend the rest of the evening Janine told herself ruefully. The ecstacies of only a few scant hours before seemed like a million years ago.
Egon tried to steady himself, but failed (as did all of his comrades). But his mind was still racing. We were hoping between the mystic attack by Fallagar and our attack on the megaliths, we would consume enough of the PKE flow to drive it below whatever critical point these creatures require. I'd say it hasn't worked as well as we'd anticipated. There must be a way... he told himself. There must
Ray couldn't be sure how long the Earth protested, as it seemed like an eternity (though he figured objectively it was probably only a few minutes). He scanned quickly to and fro, locating each of his four comrades, Barney, and Liz...all seeemed to be breathing, though understandably stunned from the earthquake.
Lilly Peacecraft was standing with the Zodiac Lords once more.
"Where's the wierdo?" Barney asked, his lupine regenerative powers bringing him to his senses the quickest.
Ray looked again. "Over there!" he pointed.
Zandrik Fallagar looked like he'd been roasted. What was left of his clothing was still smouldering, and he lay very still...
"Make that an ex-wierdo, I guess..." Barney said, not much humor showing in his voice.
Ray turned to the circle, a panicky feeling he was wholly unused to rising in his throat. The twelve creatures had returned to their circular formation.
"Egon?' he heard a female voice say.
"I'm all right, Janine..." was the response.
"I hate to steal your line, old buddy, but I feel like the floor of a taxi cab." Venkman quipped as he painfully pulled himself to his feet.
Egon was looking at the skies as Janine helped Winston up. "Crumbs...it will be dawn in a matter of moments...we're running out of time..."
"What do we do, Big Guy?" Venkman asked, none of his voice's omnipresent sarcasm in place.
"Bottom of the ninth, we got two outs and nobody on base." Winston added.
Egon looked at them. Knowing them as well as they did, they could see the look in his eyes--somber even by his standards. Embracing a truth he didn't want to face--and speak aloud even less.
"We've failed. We couldn't break the posession, we couldn't stem the flow of PKE...and in a matter of moments whatever the circle has in mind will be activated."
"You don't mean..." Winston realized, eyes bulging.
Ray nodded ruefully. "The ultimate sanction...right, Egon."
Egon nodded, and gripped his thrower. "An explosive overload of five proton packs should more than disrupt the energy being gathered here. But in the process, Stonehenge and everything in it...everyone in it...will be vaporized."
"It's the only way..." Liz confirmed woozily. "The Zodiac avatars cannot be allowed to fulfill their Imperative..."
"We're blowing ourselves up?" Barney asked incredulously.
"If you have any other ideas, believe me, we're all ears." Venkman snapped
"There is no finer fate..." Liz said. "Than to die in the service of humanity."
Egon inhaled. "Open the safety plates."
With that, he and his four comrades flipped open the panel containing the safety switch. Another button awaited them underneath it.
"Execute." He said simply.
With the jabbing of the button, a shrill, angry whine entered the humming tone of cyclotron. The button began to blink a stern red.
Peter Venkman looked at his comrades. "I'd say 'see you on the other side' but I think that's been done..." he quipped. There was an uncomfortalbe round of laughter. And perhaps inevitably, his thoughts drifted...Dana...Oscar...I'm sorry...I hope someday you'll understand why I won't be there for you...
Winston Zeddemore said a silent prayer Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death... And a final thought of Kaila MacMillan. I thought for sure I'd get to marry you one day...
Ray Stantz smiled. I always knew I'd never die alone...and there's nobody I'd rather check out with than with this bunch. He became aware that Lady Enlightenment stood next to him. "I just wish I'd had the time to get to know you better..." he found himself blurting out.
She grabbed him and kissed him full on the mouth. "As do I, Raymond..." she answered, eyes sparkling with unspoken promise.
Aw, man...I hope Mom and Dad like her...
Egon Spengler took off his glasses. "I'm sorry..."
Janine Melnitz looked back at him. "Sorry for what?"
"I'm sorry I couldn't save Victor...or Shannon...or any of the others. And I'm sorry..." he paused, voice uncommonly close to breaking. "That I dragged you along into this."
"You didn't drag me, I insisted, remember?" she smacked him gently. "Victor wouldn't blame you for this--you tried your best to help him, remember?"
"I love you." Egon responded simply. "More than anything, I'm sorry I didn't admit that to myself a lot sooner."
"What's done is done..." she shook her head. "At least we're here together for the end..."
The tall physicist and short secretary shared one last passionate embrace.
Barney Lupin looked to the lightening sky. "Well, this sucks. I'd just renewed by subscription to Big Jugs magazine and everything..."
The whine of the proton packs began to louden noticably.
It was the avatar of Libra that noticed it. What is this? I feel a swelling of power...power not of mystic making, but of dying atoms?
No!!! Realization hit Phineus Eventide hard. Their sacrifice is noble, but it will upset the balance of reality!!! They will fulfill their destiny in the Judgement, but the Ascension will be threatened!!! I must act, even if the cost is all that I have left...
He knew what he must do. He reached out with the last of his power...
But fate had intervened that day, allowing them to abort the process before it reached its fiery conclusion.
There would be no such reprieve today.
"Oh shit!!!" Ray shouted.
I shall know no fear!!! Winston finished.
Venkman screamed one last insult at his foes. "EAT THIS, YOU SONS OF BI..."
But the rest of his words were lost, as the cacophony of dying atoms reached its orgasm.
All was going exactly as forseen.