Near 65th Street and Park Drive South
Well, it had been a good plan at the time. . .
No, really, it had. Ray had reworked the trap from top to bottom, bringing it into line with the specs on Tesla’s silver box. They’d pleaded, cajoled, and eventually bribed Lenny into following the time spirit’s trail despite his claims that it gave him the mother of all migraines. They’d done the math on the proton packs’ new capabilities (frankly, they strongly reminded Ray of the devices used by the Great Race of Yith against the only half-physical polyps, but he was pretty sure Egon didn’t want to hear that just now).They’d even run the thing to ground in Central Park, a disturbing experience given the park’s decidedly threadbare condition in 1905. Now there was just one problem.
Fighting a spirit entity capable of moving through the fourth dimension as easily as a human moved through dimensions one, two, and three was like trying to get a bead on a Muppet in an industrial blender.
“This is incredible!” shouted Ray over the swirling winds that marked the entity’s passage.
“This is exactly what Tesla and his research team had to deal with when this thing got loose at Wardenclyffe! Right down to the random aging and de-aging of parts of the surrounding environment!”
“That’s great, Ray,” Peter answered. “I’m glad you got to see it, I really am. Now how did they get it into the box? The proton streams-“
“Actually, Peter, right now they’re almost exclusively electron beams-“
“Thank you, Egon, like I cared. The point is they’re barely even slowing that thing down! How do we get it into the trap?”
“Yeah, Ray,” chimed in Winston. “How did Tesla pull it off? You’re the one who read the papers.”
“Unfortunately, he didn’t give specifics,” Ray said. “Not that Dr. Hrvanovic could understand, anyway. Too many abbreviations and dialect words.”
Peter clapped a hand over his face. “That’s fantastic,” he said. “So, what now? Do we jump up and down and shout ‘come and get it, big tasty bait’, or what?”
Ray grimaced, dodging a blue-tinged bolt of energy from the spirit. Where it struck the ground, a squirrel’s forgotten cache became four of New York’s newest and most surprised-to-exist oak trees. “That part I don’t know,” he answered. “My experience with aphysical chronal entities is pretty limited-“
“Winston! Get down!” Peter tackled the other man to the ground just in time; a red-edged blast tore through the rock that had been behind the Ghostbuster, turning the weathered, grimy, ancient hulk to a sharp-edged, fresh-from-the-massif piece of clean stone.
“-the Reapers devour whatever’s damaged the time stream, the Hounds only ever attack a particular target, and the Yithians aren’t like this at all, so this is obviously a separate class of-“
“Ray, look out!” shouted Egon.
The blast this time was directed not at Ray but at the ground under his feet- which did not so much explode as simply cease to be there. More precisely, a circle of ground some four feet acrss and about three and a half feet downwards ceased to be there all at once. Ray hit the bottom of the newly extant bit with a bone-jarring thump and fell heavily against the side of the pit. As he pushed himself upright, the time being’s half-there form suddenly loomed over him.
”Mother,” he blurted , and hunched his shoulders up around his ears.
The spirit’s disjointed, ululating wail entered the brain by way of the bones, rather than the ears. It took Ray a moment to realize three things: one, the spirit wasn’t attacking, two, it was in fact retreating at speed, and three, someone had just shouted in-
“Egon?” said Ray, opening one eye and scrambling out of the pit. “Is that Hebrew?”
Egon didn’t answer, as he had both hands clamped over his mouth and a horrified expression on his face.
“Oh, get over it,” Ray said. “So you’ve got an exorcist lurking under the surface. Big deal.”
“Can you do it again?” asked Peter. “That thing’s fallen back a lot. “
“It’s just getting ready to strike again,” Egon answered. “I think we should try the packs one more time.”
“Hate to break it to you, Egon, but that only pissed it off,” said Winston.
“That’s the point,” Egon said. “It’s not trying to get away. It’s regrouping. If we make it angry enough to attack us directly instead of firing on us-“
“Then one of us can open the box as it makes its charge,” Ray finished. “Egon, that’s brilliant.”
“No! No it is not brilliant!” Venkman snapped. “If you don’t open the box in time that thing’s gonna rewind us so far back in time we’ll be our ancestors’ ancestors, or we’ll end up a million years old or something.”
“Then we’re just going to have to open it fast enough,” Ray said. “Do you have any better ideas?”
“I don’t know,” said Peter. “Try asking it nicely?”
“Actually, Tesla’s notes did mention that-“
“Guys?” said Winston. “Do you think we could have this argument after we’ve nailed this thing to the wall?”
“Sorry,” said Ray. “Okay, everybody, all together on the count of three-“
The electrical strikes weren’t very much by comparison with the sort of energies the Ghostbusters’ proton packs usually unleashed, but there was still a hellaciously impressive display of light and sound as four crackling streams tore into the air around the time spirit. The being turned their way, hissing like a sandstorm.
“Ray! Trap now!” called Peter- but Ray was frantically stomping on the pedal already. “Oh, no…”
Stupid, stupid, stupid,thought Ray erratically, I should’ve tested the opening mechanisms after all the modifications we made- although there is one thing-
”What the hell are you doing?” Winston roared as Ray dove forward- straight at the point where some unknown part of the time spirit intersected with the ground.
Or rather, at the point about a foot in front of that point, where the trap lay inert. As the spirit winked out of its original configuration and blinked back into existence oriented downwards, the better to stare at the odd little human, Ray snatched up the trap and rolled over onto his back. “Hi there!” he said brightly to the thing. “I suppose you’re wondering what I’m doing here today.”
It stared at him. Everyone stared at him.
“I could probably give you a very impressive speech right now. But really? I’m turning this knob right here on the left-hand side,” Ray said. “The emergency open knob.”
The wail that echoed through Ray’s entire skeleton as he wrenched the knob all the way around, forcing the trap open, would snap him out of a sound sleep for a solid fortnight. But it was very much a wail of utter defeat; the thing’s charge had carried it straight into the box, and all its disjointed, ill-connected parts followed. As something on the order of Cerenkov radiation flared from the box for the last time, Ray forced the knob back around and snapped the doors shut.
There was silence in the park for a few moments as Ray lay there panting. Then Winston coughed and poked Peter in the shoulder. “I think it worked,” he said. “Take a look.”
Peter, Winston, and Egon all looked up in time to see the pre-war buildings that edged the park shimmer and change, drawing themselves upwards into some very familiar outlines indeed. The ground underfoot went from a patchy, scabrous mess of neglected earth worked and reworked by chronal energy blasts to the still-scungy but at least reasonably uniform ground cover of Central Park in February. The wood-and-brass boxes that had contained their electrical charge accumulators even shimmered and shifted back into the familiar forms of the proton packs-
“Um, guys?” said Ray from his prone position. “Could I get a hand up here? I think I wrenched something.”
“That’s what you get for playing tackle football with the invisible time monster,” said Venkman, but he grabbed Ray’s hands and hauled him upright. “You okay there? Anything broken?”
“I don’t think so,” Ray said. He ran his fingers over his torso and prodded at a few sore places. “It hurts like the dickens, but it’s all in one piece.”
“Good,” said Winston. “That means I don’t have to feel guilty if I slug you. What were you thinking?”
Ray grimaced. “Sorry, Winston. I had to get the trap, fast, and I didn’t have time to pull it in by the cable hand-over-hand. I didn’t think I was going to wind up that close to the thing- whatever it was.”
“You’re just lucky the knob functioned at all,” said Egon, who was examining his glasses as if to make absolutely sure the earpieces weren’t going anywhere. “If it hadn’t, you would’ve been in a great deal of trouble. Immortality or no.”
“And speaking of trouble,” said Venkman, “what are we gonna do with that thing now?”
Ray looked ruefully at the modified trap. “I haven’t got a clue,” he admitted. “Although a trip to Milliways might be in order, if the door’s opening again-“ He stopped, wincing. “Huh boy. I just remembered I’ve got that get-back-to-the-Bar-free ticket from Dominic. I could’ve used it to get us some help at any time.”
“Oh, like we needed it,” said Peter. “We did pretty well in the end, didn’t we? Our world, our war. Not theirs.”
“I suppose you’re right,” said Ray. “Still, I think I’d like to get back to the Bar. Romana or Ace would be better equipped to deal with this thing. Or the Doctor, if he’s around. Or-“
“Ray,” Egon interrupted, his face gone even paler than usual, “I think you need to turn around very, very slowly, right now.”
A lean, horrible, starveling thing of fangs and angles was boiling out of the intersection of two fallen tree limbs. Ray swallowed as the Hound of Tindalos manifested, but did not move. His brain, however, chose that precise moment to give the lone neuron responsible for common sense and survival instinct the afternoon off, and so without really meaning to he said, “Took you long enough to get here.”
It cocked its head- or possibly its entire body; space in the thing’s vicinity did not look quite right no matter what angle you approached it from- and yowled, the sound oscillating rapidly between just above and just below the upper and lower limits of human hearing.
“…really? I would’ve thought you’d have been long since done with that trip,” Ray said, blinking. “Did the directions work?”
“Directions?” asked Peter. “What are you- ow!”
As Egon somewhat theatrically dusted off his elbow, Ray nodded to the Hound. “Okay, that’s something, at least. Is it too much to hope for that you’re here for this guy?” He held up the trap.
The Hound’s jaws snapped once with a sound like the collapse of empires. Droplets of phosphorescent ichor sprayed from its muzzle.
“Ew,” said Ray, wiping at his face.
It yowled again.
“Apology accepted,” Ray said. “One last question. Do you show up on cameras?”
The Hound’s entire physical structure was composed of pure angular wrongness, and everything about it was alien to the human experience, whether so massively so that it caused the eye to slide off or merely in subtle, disturbing fashion. Nevertheless, it managed to give Ray a perfectly recognizable look of pure disbelief.
“Sorry, thought I’d ask,” Ray said. “Anyway, if you’re ready-“ He hefted the trap. “Run for it.”
The sound of iron filings snapping into line with a powerful magnetic field filled the air as the Hound turned and bolted for Park Drive. Ray drew back his arm and threw the trap as hard as he could. It tumbled through the air exactly as one would expect an un-aerodynamic object made of metal to tumble, but that didn’t much matter; the Hound twisted in mid-run and leapt up to snatch the trap in its jaws. There was a spine-shivering crunch, and then the Hound leapt again, this time for a pair of crossed electrical wires overhead. A moment later it had vanished completely into the angles of the intersection, leaving no sign at all of its presence.
As the faint sounds of cheering started to rise from the Park Drive- it appeared that people had come running into the streets from every direction as soon as 2008 reasserted itself- Ray allowed himself a momentary sag forward. He braced his hands against his knees and closed his eyes. “That was too close,” he said. “That’s twice now I’ve run into Bingle there-"
"It's the closest I can get to a comprehensible pronunciation of its name. We don't have either the anatomy or the neurolinguistic concepts to understand how to produce the whole sound accurately- anyway, people aren’t supposed to survive even one encounter with the Hounds.”
“Yeah, well, you’re a freak,” Peter said with a shrug. “Our freak, and we love you, but a freak nonetheless.”
“Thank you, Peter.”
“Not a problem.” He grinned. “Of course, now we’re stuck with an entirely different problem.”
“One of you three has to tell the Mayor what went down,” Peter said. “The way I see it, we could all use some vacation time after this. Me, I’ve got just enough time to take Dana and get us both the heck out of Dodge for a few days before we have to start training the new crews.”
Ray rubbed at his face with both hands, but nodded. “All right,” he said, “all right.”