Fiction:"Pandoras Box, Part Two" by Fritz
Pandora's Box Part Two
Adapted by Fritz Baugh From a story by Barry Peterson GBI Case File GBNY-1991-9/205
Previously Another quiet day at Ghostbusters Central is interrupted by a phone call from the President of the United States. A pesky poltergeist was preplexing the Pentagon, and the Powers That Be called in our heroes to put a stop to it. They do. And then Undersecretary of Defense Jack Compford asked Egon if he was familiar with the work of Professor Ian Epimetheus...
Massachussetts Institute of Technology Cambridge, Massachussetts May 1972
"There's no chance we can convince you to stay?" The gawky fourteen year-old startled at the voice.
"Professor?" the boy finally said. "Er..."
"I mean it. It was quite a shock--Egon Spengler, wonder of the physics department, leaving..."
Egon inhaled. "I keep telling you, and this is the truth, that you should not take it as some sort of insult, Professor..."
The older man smiled warmly. "You won't be my student by any stretch of the definition anymore, Egon. Call me Ian."
"If that is your wish...Ian...you just have to understand. There isn't any more I can learn here...at least not about the things I feel I need to know about."
"And Columbia University can teach you?"
"Yes." Egon said simply. Even now he couldn't bring himself to tell Ian the rest of it...that the field he was interested in, now that he had his Doctorate in Physics, was Paranormology. That Columbia had a highly-regarded paranormal instructor, John Thompson, and he'd already probably missed the enrollment deadline for the Fall 1972 symester. But if I get in the school this fall, Spring or Fall 1973 is a certainty...
"You're not even staying for the summer?"
Egon shook his head. "No. I haven't been home since I got here, and my Mother is insistant I spend the summer in Cleveland before I get to Columbia."
"She's probably convinced you'll get mugged and shot or something, and wants to see you one last time..." Ian joked. "It is New York City..."
There was an awkward silence.
"I brought you something." the older man finally said.
Egon didn't even know how to react to that.
"I haven't told too many people this, but one of the main inspirations I had on the dimensional flux equations came when I was a teenager myself. I read a book on Babylonian geomatics..." he handed Egon a book. "The geomatic formulas might look familiar to you, actually, once translated into Arabic characters..."
"I...I don't know what to say..." Egon stammered.
"Thank you, perhaps?" Ian said, a warm grin spreading onto his lined face.
"Thank you, Professor. Er...Ian."
"You're quite welcome." Ian said, shaking Egon's hand. "And New York's not without it's charms--I met a firecracker from Brooklyn and fell madly in love with her...and ended up being married to her for the last forty years..."
Egon looked at the book, and the note scrawled inside.
Someday, when you win your Nobel Prize I'll be able to say "I knew you back in the day"
March, 1991 Ghostbusters Omnibus Timeline Year Nine
A team of workers contracted to the United States Pentagon unloaded a massive crate into the garage area of the former Hook and Ladder Number Eight firehouse, the facility now known worldwide as Ghostbusters Central. "My Dad always said 'Never come back empty-handed', but this time I think we probably should've passed." Venkman remarked.
Slimer, the resident Class 5 Full Roaming Vapor, Mascot, and Bane of Venkman's Existance, started sniffing nearby. He had to be sure the Ghostbusters hadn't brought back any doughnuts or a pizza or a t-bone steak or some ice cream or...
After the Pentagon movers had left, Winston, Ray, and Egon started to open the crate. The ECTO-1 had been moved to the alleyway in which Janine usually parked her yellow Volkswagen...she'd taken some vacation time since, when they left, the Ghostbusters had no idea how long they'd be out of the city.
"So this gizmo of your old mentor's isn't dangerous or anything is it, Egon?" Winston asked. "All I know is, that Compford and Col. Sullivan were anxious to get rid of it..."
"It was supposedly a prototype interdimensional portal." Egon said. "Which would be consistant with Professor Epimetheus's interest in Bell's theorem and dimensional physics. It was from him I first learned some of the basics of crossdimensional theory...this was the device he was working on when he disappeared."
"And to actually answer your question: Everything has a risk factor, Winston, and just because the Pentagon spent fifteen years without any success in figuring out how it worked doesn't mean that it can't."
Slimer started to play with the ghost trap the guys had brought back from Washington.
"I met Epimetheus once..." Ray noted. "He had his retirement party from MIT after my first year, and Egon bummed a ride to Cambridge from me. Nice guy--looked a little like Jon Pertwee from Doctor Who. Peter didn't go--he was...busy with other things..."
"Let me guess." Winston rolled his eyes. "More co-eds and 'mystical Tibetan oil'?"
"You say that like it was a bad thing..." Venkman retorted. "Okay, I'll bite--just how dangerous could this thing be, on a scale of one to ten? Three? four?"
Slimer dropped the trap. The entity the Ghostbusters had caught in the Pentagon flew out.
"OH SHIT!!!" Ray, Winston, and Venkman said in unison.
Before they could move much, though, the purple ghost looked around the room. It's one bulbous eye went wide when it spotted the uncrated device.
"Epimetheus?!" it howled "Yikes!!!" At that point it did something the Ghostbusters were hard-pressed to remember ever seeing before: the poltergeist jumped back into the trap, squealing like a scared schoolgirl.
"You know, I'm gonna be disappointed if you don't answer in the double digits..." Venkman sighed.
A couple hours later, the device was completely removed from its transport crate, and standing on the garage floor. It was roughly cylindrical, and the size of a large elevator. A door was at the center.
"Professor Ian Epimetheus retired from MIT after his wife died..." Egon explained. "That was the summer of 1977, as Ray indicated earlier. He sent me some papers in the mail about his discoveries on Babylonian geomatic formulae and the dimensional quantum flux, but he stopped writing shortly after that. According to Compford, he accepted a government consultation contract--and data collected during the Unearth War."
"The Unearth War?" Venkman shook his head. It had been only the previous year the Ghostbusters had first learned about the dimensional rift in Vietnam, and the Advanced Radical Military Occult Railroad. And the government coverup of all concerned with it.
"The last time anyone in the United States Government saw Professor Epimetheus was in the summer of 1978." Egon continued "When they came to his workshop, he was gone and this device was apparently on-line. They deactivated it, and took it to the Pentagon to study."
"And now it's ours..." Winston noted. "I still don't believe they gave it to us to study. It's not the Pentagon's style to let go of something they might be able to use as a weapon someday..."
"Compford was familiar with Epimetheus's file. As a former student of his, I'm in that file." Egon said neutrally. "They assumed that my own interest would compel me to investigate--which is correct--and report back what I find to them."
"And what are the chances of that?" Winston asked.
"It depends on how dangerous it is." Egon replied, just as flatly.
"That should be the last of the power hook-ups..." Ray commented. "At least as far as I can tell. It's on a seperate circuit from all the Containment Unit lines so..."
"So if this thing blows up we don't have to worry about the Containment Unit blowing up too..." Venkman rolled his eyes. He indicated the door. "Can you imagine the door-to-door salesman who'd come out of there?"
"Why are we hooking it up, anyway?" Winston asked. "Shouldn't we just dismantle the thing and be done with it?"
"Yeah!" Venkman agreed. "Make the world a happier, safer place to live and raise the kids."
"There's just one problem with that idea, Winston" Egon shook his head. "We don't know where to start."
"One wrong turn of a screwdriver and KAABLOOWEY!!!" Ray added, spreading his arms for emphasis.
" 'Kaabloowey'? That's a technical term, right?" Venkman asked deadpan.
Egon studied the control panels. "This is part of the problem. Professor Epimetheus left no notes. And only someone who knew him as well as I do would recognize the symbols on this control panel: Babylonian geomatics."
Ray nodded with a slightly wistful tone. "If we'd listened to you back in '79 and used those instead of those Polynesian runes, maybe our experiment wouldn't have failed so spectacularly..."
"The Babylonian geomancers came up with some surprisingly astute observations about the structure of dimensional spacetime that were encoded in their equations." Egon explained. "Certainly lacking the refinement of modern quantum physics, just as Aretus's treatise on 'Spiritual Mist' was a surprisingly presentient model of what we now call psychokinetic energy..."
"Pete's nodding off, Egon. Boil it down to some smaller words." Winston interrupted.
Egon gathered his thougths for a second. "I didn't complete a working dimensional gate until 1984. But all of the rudiments of the theory were in place, and Professor Epimetheus had those rudiments as well. My hypothesis is this: Professor Epimetheus's device was successful in creating a dimensional rift. He was drawn into it and...at worst, destroyed. At best, detained for some unknown reason."
"Don't tell me..." Venkman sighed. "It's up to us to find out which, right?"
Venkman was enclosed in what could only be described as a bargain basement space suit. "...to do my duty, to Mom and my country..." he was saying sourly.
"You won the draw fair and square, Peter..." Ray chided him.
"Won?" Venkman retorted incredulously.
Ray looked at Egon, who was clad in a similar suit. It was the same suit he'd used to enter the Ecto Containment Unit back on Christmas 1984. "Are you sure you two want to go into the portal alone?" the occultist asked.
"Like I want to go?" Venkman griped.
"We'll be fine, Peter." Egon shook his head. He looked at Ray. "You and Winston will be needed to monitor the control panel. We should arrive at a pre-programmed re-entry postion. You'll also be backup for any unforseen circumstance..."
"Oh yeah." Venkman siezed on that. "A minute ago it was 'we'll be fine' now there's 'unforseen circumstances'..."
"If I could forsee them, they wouldn't be unforseen." Egon answered dryly, turning to the portal. "The theory is extremely sound, however..."
"I think I heard that just before you blew yourself to the Netherworld..." Venkman retorted.
Ray chuckled as he went over to the control panel. Egon had decorated it with Post-It notes that translated the control displays, and thanks to his knowledge of both the Babylonian characters and Epimetheus's methods, had found a way to get the screens to display in English.
They stepped into the device. "Now Ray." Egon called out on his radio.
There was an electrical noise, and the room around them went black...
It was rougher than Egon's dimensional portals; more like the "Riding a Tilt-W-Whirl 'till you puke" feeling of totally random interdimensional travel; the air started to swirl around them.
Just as their experience when Egon's body had been posessed and his soul shifted to another dimension, live on 20/40/60, there was a rope connecting the two Ghostbusters back to the portal device--and each other.
Strange trees and entities filled the air. Venkman could see the outline of a building, and there was something else beginning to eat at him (metaphorically). A nagging feeling of familiarity, and not just because he'd travelled dimensions before. "The tornado..." he realized. "Is it just me, or does this tornado look familiar?"
Egon had been wrenched from his own thoughts when Venkman said that. He'd been focussing on the building and the strange flora--especially the one that looked vaguely like a giant mushroom--and took note of the phenomenon. "Hm..." He turned on his PKE Meter. Then he looked at one of the indicators in his space suit.
"It's not a true tornado. There's no barometric pressure differential--it's probably a dimensional phenomenon of some sort, though..."
"C'mon, say it..."
"It does seem oddly familiar.""
"Okay, good. We're getting somewhere. Tornado, no barometric pressure, dimensional phenomenon...I got a bad feeling that you're about to tell me where we've encountered something like that before..."
Egon paused. "Once. Five years ago. The readings in the vortex exactly match those of a phenomenon we encountered in Central Park. The vortex sucked us and Ray into it..."
Venkman inhaled. "The Flip Side of the Spiritual Divide...Boo York..."
"The Peoplebusters." Egon added.
"You think Professor Ep got sucked off to the Flip Side? I mean, we know those ugly wierdos like to zap us protoplasmic entities and stick them in a box. And we know we weren't the first humans they grabbed..."
"Professor Epimetheus wasn't in the Peoplebusters', for lack of a better term, 'Protoplasmic Containment Unit', of that we're certain." Egon pointed out. "We can't even be sure the dimensional interface aligns the same way every time the portal is activated...but..what you say is not impossible."
"All I know is that I don't want to mess with those creeps again. They're creepier than those 'Anti-Ghostbusters' ever where...let's pull the rip-cord and bail on this one..."
"We won't find out anymore about Epimetheus that way..." Egon started to protest, when he was stopped by a voice.
A very familiar baritone voice.
"...Tracked the phenomenon this way."
"You said the readings match those from other portals to the meat planes?" an excited--and also very familiar--tenor broke in. "Oh this is gonna be great!!!"
"All I know is I don't want to see that ugly bunch from five years ago...those meatbags gave me the creeps..." a third voice, a very smooth one, joked.
"Do we know if he found the portal, or did we get here first?" the tenor asked.
"I see no sign of him. Either we beat him or he's already gone through. Either way, we keep going..." the deepest voice answered.
"Uh-oh..." Egon muttered. Venkman grabbed him and they hid behind one of the floating rocks.
They peeked around to see their worst fears confirmed.
Ray drummed his fingers on the console nervously. There was something about this whole thing that was beginning to unnerve him, and he couldn't figure out why. Maybe it was the danger his old friends were putting themselves in. Maybe it was because they were putting themselves in danger and he wasn't with them.
He inhaled when shadowy shapes appeared on the monitor. "I think it's them, Winston!" he cried. "It's dark in there, but I can see something moving..."
"That's good" Winston said. "This gauge you told me to watch is starting to run down...we're not gonna be able to hold the portal open much longer either way!"
"I see...three shapes!" Ray remarked. "I mean, those are definitely Peter and Egon's outlines...I think they found the Professor!"
"Already?" Winston asked incredulously. "They just went in there ten minutes ago!"
"Maybe the temporal flow on the other side is disjointed..." Ray pointed to the doorway. "Let them out, Winston!!!"
When the door opened, it wasn't who they were expecting, to put it mildly.
One indeed looked a lot like Egon Spengler...but with chalk-white skin, and blank empty holes for eye sockets. He had the same blond pompadour, but the squiggly tail was replaced with some sort of leech attached to his neck. His blue and pink flight suit was tattered, with a huge hole on his left stomach exposing a skeletal rib cage.
One indeed liked like Peter Venkman, with the same chalk-white pallor, but with beady eyes and skin pulled so tight around his mouth it looked like a skeleton's jaw...his brown and blue flight suit wasn't as tattered as "Egon's", but still looked well-worn.
For a second, Winston wondered if something horrific had befallen his two friends...but the third new arrival dispelled that first notion. He didn't look a thing like the pictures he'd seen of Professor Epimetheus--he instead bore a distinct resemblance to the man standing only two feet away from him, Ray Stantz. Like the other two, he looked like death warmed over--and was squatter, and more simian than the real Ray, with one overlarge tooth jutting from his lower jaw and his left boot missing to make way for a foot that looked more like a third hand.
"It's not them!!!" Ray cried. "Holy f---!!! It's the Peoplebusters!!!"
It took Winston a second to process what Ray had said. But he didn't have a lot of time to worry about it...
Ray was lunging for a proton pack as the three mockeries looked around.
"Let'em go, Ray!" Winston shouted. "We're losing the portal!!!"
Ray whipped around, saw all the red lights on the control panel, and made a frustrated growl as began furiously working at the instruments. "I know I'm gonna regret this..."
Without a word, or a sound, or the merest apparent acknowledgement of that fact that they weren't alone, the Peoplebusters marched out the front door.
Ray finally saw two shapes nearing the portal. "I sure hope to God it's really them this time..."
Winston nodded. "Get ready to grab that pack again just in case..."
The door opened, and this time it really was Venkman and Egon, space suits and all.
"The portal! Close the portal!!!" Egon barked, not even removing his helmet.
"Shut down!" Ray cried.
"It wouldn't have lasted much longer anyhow..." Winston added
Egon took off his helmet, and slouched to the floor. "We failed. There wasn't a trace of Professor Epimetheus..."
"And it got worse." Venkman added. "You'll never guess who we nearly had a close encounter with in there..."
"The Peoplebusters, maybe?" Ray asked.
"How did you..."
But before Venkman finished his question, Slimer flew into the room, babbling fearfully.
"They popped out right before you did..." Ray replied, holding his temples, a huge headache starting to grip his head. "We thought it was you and the Professor, and..."
"Don't tell me you let them out!" Venkman's voice full of desperation. "Please don't tell me you let them out!!!"
All four Ghostbusters and Slimer were at the Firehouse door; while there was no sign of the three dopplegangers, there was a trail of slime and destruction in their wake.
"We thought it was you and Professor Epimetheus!!!" Ray repeated. "It was an honest mistake, Peter."
Venkman slapped him on the head. "The Chicago fire was an honest mistake!!! This...this is a potential f----up of epic proportions" Venkman sighed and slouched. "I'm going back inside the portal where it's safe..."
"No use crying over spilt ectoplasm.." Winston shook his head.
"We'll stop them." Ray rallied. "And that's not a threat, that's a promise..."
To Be Continued...
This story adapts material originally published by Now Comics in 1993 in The Real Ghostbusters 3-D Annual #1. Original story written by Barry Peterson, pencilled by Niel Grahame, inked by Jim Brozman, lettered by Andrea Albert, and edited by Joan Weis. Peoplebusters are from the episode "Flip Side" (RGB-402), written by Tony Marino.
A.R.M.O.R. and the Unearth War come from Real Ghostbusters #25 by James Van Hise and Niel Grahame.