('I' hereinunder = Peter Venkman) (See GBA#0 'Our Equipment' for notes)

Mother Earth, easing a discomfort, unthinkingly twitched her skin a few times like a horse being bothered by flies - and a city fell down. We went to help, for our PKE meters can be set to a mode that detects not ghosts but brain activity of the living, and so we could find people buried in rubble. The words "Beware the shaking of the earth" passed briefly through my mind. We took all our kit, and soon needed it. Someone, seeing us find a relative dead, had heart failure: Ray set his proton gun to electric shock prod mode and jolted the heart back to normal rhythm (doctors call it 'defibrillating'). Sightseers got in the way and reporters harassed the bereaved and busy with silly questions, and had to be ordered off, at gunpoint if they wouldn't shift otherwise. No help from many of the state's National Guard, for their barracks had fallen in on them. The prison also had fallen inwards ('thankfully', said some: the old clash between public order and criminals' lives). Much needed personal stored food was buried in rubble, and we soon found an old villianry: a shopkeeper selling food for several times its proper price: I challenged him, and while he bandaged his proton-beam-burnt hand and lamented his half-melted shotgun we distributed his stock free. As I wrote later reporting this incident, again our guns saved life: in disasters many patrols armed with ordinary guns have paid such profiteers with the bullet.

We continued to search for buried people. My PKE meter found another 'living brain activity' reading; I dug down to it. As I reached it, there was a savage growl, teeth against my visor (we wear helmets much more often than is shown in the comics and cartoons about us that we publish to help pay the bills), and a hot explosion that nearly stunned me. The 'life form' was a fear-crazed guard dog, and Winston had reset mode and aimed and fired only just in time. The reek of burnt dog fur brought back memories of the climactic end of our dangerous fight {GBF1} against Gozer. I climbed out of the hole and saw an Army patrol squad who had just then found us digging and searching.

"The Ghostbusters!?" said the squad leader, "There's emergency laws about unauthorized armed men! What are you doing? There's no time to chase ghosts now. Where's the fourth of you - the tall thin one?".

"That one's Egon." I said pointing to a hole that proton gun noise was coming out of, "He's down that basement burning through a fallen rafter that a woman's trapped under - something that rifles can't do.".

"Oh. Specialist stuff, both weapon and tool. No butt to club with: that'd be a disadvantage in hand-to-hand [fighting]. What was that other shot just now?".

"It was Winston at that dog: it attacked me when I freed it.".

"Holy #@$ what a brute! Looks like a mastiff and dogfighting dog cross. Looks like you need those guns of yours! OK, you four are well enough known of for us to trust you. You are now an armed patrol, under the local emergency law commander, put these armbands and badges on, you have powers of arrest and seizure as in these documents. Get in and help us to guard food shipments. We've at least two places to put each reliable armed man. A seismologist, that's an earthquake man, warned the National Guard about their barracks a while back, but they wouldn't listen. Have you got any restraint equipment?".

"Two handcuffs each, for schizos usually: sometimes they go violent when they call us and we can't bust their delusions, they accuse us of being part of ... Hang on." I said, and went to the hole. A woman crawled out of it, her dress singed and torn, followed by Egon pushing his proton pack ahead of him. "Where am I going to sleep tonight?" she complained, "They said this wouldn't happen.".

"Stay here till we come back. We'll take her to an emergency shelter.".

The Army patrol left. Quiet returned, but not the same feeling as before. The powers of arrest and seizure felt strange to my mind; the armbands felt strange to my arm, both as themselves and for the words on them. Survivors were digging for property and trapped people. We told some of them that we could burn through wood and metal if necessary, and got much work doing that. I sooner than expected needed the power of seizure, and had to shoot the door off a locked hardware shop to get chainsaws to cut fallen roof beams into pitprops for people digging to find buried survivors. The shop manager complained, for he had hoped to hoard them until need pushed the price well up. We checked wherever we saw a dog digging, for sometimes such a dog is trying to reach its buried master.

"Ghost!" Egon called. We hurriedly reset our PKE meters to normal mode and chased and cornered it, and a trap sucked it in. It was an unremarkable class 5 roaming repeater but near enough to the gremlin type for us not to want it loose near emergency vehicles. As we were setting our PKE meters back to 'find living brain' mode, I saw two men digging about, four addresses along from where they had been digging about a few minutes before. We casually approached them; then I challenged them.

"I'm their landlord, I'm entitled to. I'm not one of your ghosts, anyway." one of them said.

"Your tenants' stuff is theirs and not yours to take, if you are what you say. Lets see what's in that sack." I replied.

"These for a start!" they called, opening the sack and grabbing at two hunting rifles in it, but before they could arm themselves two of us fired between them and the sack, and they backed off a pace. They threatened to call a gang, and tried judo, but by now we had handled enough variously-trained people who call us and turn out to be schizophrenics and become violent, that with superior numbers and quick electric shock prodding we can defeat many common martial arts; while the two were numb from the prods we quickly handcuffed them. The sacks contained metal detectors and a variety of valuable objects. The patrol came back.

"Who are these two?" the leader asked us.

I explained what had happened, and picked up the two rifles by putting my proton gun through their slings. "We haven't touched these rifles ourselves, so ..." I started.

"We've no time to @#$% about with fingerprints and all that, or to be off patrol as [court] witnesses! Two more looters, that's obvious!" he shouted, snatched the rifles, raised one of them, and fired twice. We felt a moment of realization. We recovered our handcuffs from the bodies and got on their vehicle. "What's in that box with the red flashing light on your belt?" he said.

"A ghost. That box is a ghost trap.".

"Oo-er. That's your province. Keep it away from me. I don't want it loose round here.".

We rode on one food delivery without incident, then were brought back to guard another. Men got called away to things that arose, and I was ordered to drive the next delivery myself. Luckily I had driven a lorry before. At a depot two men in civilian clothes claimed to be authorized to receive the shipment, but something seemed wrong. We refused and aimed our guns. They spoke of an arrangement, and made veiled threats. Another patrol arrived.

"Arrest this four! They want to keep the load for themselves. This time that four have gone too far." said one of the two.

"No. They do, likely. They've got a funny threatening manner. There's something wrong about them." I said.

"I think so also. They're part of something that we've already found parts of. And some of them hinted at a lot of excavators somewhere - which we very much need!, the mess that earthquakes make - if we pay them this and that amount of money to be given different bits of the trail leading to them. I'm sick of that sort of thing. As far as I'm concerned, gangsters are just more terrorists and will be treated the same, $%@ racketeering in essential relief supplies to get money and feel important. And you four with your funny guns come with us also." said the patrol leader, and arrested the two. They shoved the two, and us four with them, into the back of their lorry. Inside, he said: "Right. Leave supplies alone, leave people alone. You're for a firing squad.".

"Here it ends," I thought, "unless the mix-up is cleared up in time, like when {GBC} those ghosts nearly firing-squadded us with our own proton guns, in that haunted film set area that time. Load, aim, fire, bang, 4+2=6 times, and our kit vanishes into a secret Defense lab or is destroyed by remote control. Some people still think there's no paranormal and that we're dangerous charlatans. We were put away by Peck {GBF1} and by Hardemeyer {GBF2}, but the Mayor of New York got us out both times. We've got through several close scrapes both on Earth and in the Beyond, but all long runs of good luck end some time. Why did we come here? We dug up their people who were buried alive; we guarded their stuff for them, and now we are right down from being trusted to being shot. Mix-ups happen, I suppose, like Egon on his computer erasing files by mistake sometimes, which is why he keeps backup copies of things. But where are backup copies of us? The 'Junior Ghostbusters' {GBC re Samhain} {GBM187 'Hide and Freak'}, those 3 children that Egon gave a PKE meter to: they've used proton guns a few times under close supervision, but could they take over from us already? Or that oddball Professor Dweeb {GBM183-184 'Do Not Attempt To Adjust Your Picture'} who lives near us with a cat and his two proton packs with red backpack boxes that he made for various jobs including for chasing Slimer about? Him and those 3 children, and Louis Tully and Janine, and our pet ghost Slimer. Perhaps time'll knock them into some sort of a team, if the authorities let them. What if we get 'fetched off' by anything else, or when we get too old and slow to chase ghosts any more? What if birth or marriage rather than death intervenes? Since we have no reliefs and must be always on call and so must live at our base, where'd we keep up to four wives and families, safely away from all the ghosts and kit and ecto stuff? Here we are: the place that we will never come out of again.". Beside me the other three of us thought roughly the same.

We obeyed the order to dismount. A wind blew dust across a barracks yard. We did not heed the birdsong. Better to die in action than a long delapidation of old age, some say. Still no attempt to handcuff us or even to disarm us, even though our proton packs were humming and obviously running. If that was a clever time-saving idea to destroy us and our weapons at the same time, that rifle and tank minded lot deserved the consequences, as I worked out the various likely outcomes of a firing squad's bullets blasting through running proton packs. I again remembered the foretelling poem "Beware ... bereft" that John the warehouseman had told us in {GBA#5} Radomierzew's warehouse. Now we despite this warning had come to 'the shaking of the earth', and we were no longer 'of a suchlike fate bereft'. Inside were 16 men in civilian clothes, some looking knocked about, blindfolded and tied to a chainlink fence. The two who were arrested with us were pushed over to them and tied up and blindfolded like them. Without waiting for the same to be done to us, a sergeant made an angry speech about gangsters and what he thought of them. Much of that speech was about topics well described in much fact and fiction about crime, and need not be repeated here. "... get back to Sicily and leave free people alone!" he finished. Still no order to disarm us. No sign of the firing squad either. "With 16+2+4=22 condemned to dispose of, they'll likely run a heavy machine gun across us all." I thought, then otherwise when we were ordered to "Quick march!" to a different place than expected. "Right!" he said to the 18 prisoners, "You haunt the country like ghosts, you cultivate a fear of you like you were ghosts and demons: so you will be disposed of like ghosts!". I realized at last that we would leave that place free and with all our kit; we were not to be shot, but the truth was for us at the time almost worse. We were the firing squad.

We waited for a last-minute reprieve as desperately as the prisoners did, but none came. OK, gangsters are vermin and someone has to clean them up, but why did it have to be us? We do not have police skills, although we catch criminals from time to time. We have caught ghosts of gangsters who endlessly re-enacted the internecine battles that they died in, until we intervened, in one case {GBN4, GBM95-99 'Ghost Gangsters'} in a children's hospital which in the 1930's was a hotel where a gang's base was. We have caught ghosts and demons that acted like gangsters here or in the Beyond. I thought that living gangsters were the police etc's job? OK, so the commander was so short of men that he grabbed regardless at the first four guns that came to hand to do the dirty part of the job. "No man is an island; we are all part of the continent." someone once wrote. I recognized three of the 18, from newspaper articles about the criminal underworld. Perhaps the commander had his reasons for not wanting volleys of rifle shots heard from his base just then. Us refusing would merely have risked trapped people's lives by causing him to take men off rescue work to arrest us and handle the 18. The inevitable came, and there was no point objecting.

"Squad 'shun!" the sergeant ordered. We obeyed.

"Present arms!". We each made a different attempt, none of them correct. The sergeant looked annoyed and continued.

"Fit magazines!". We were clearly going to get standard Army rifle commands and would each have to mentally translate. We variously pointed at or waved the leads that ran from our backpack powerpacks to our guns, to show that our nearest equivalent of his order had already been done.

"Set to semiauto[matic], load!". We all knew what mode to set our proton guns to for that sort of job, which we had hoped by all the powers of the Beyond that we would never have to do. The last time I had done anything remotely like it was shooting a deer for food, when after a long hard bust in the forests of Maine we looked in the Ecto-1 for our badly-needed stored food and found only empty wrappers and Slimer's slime. We set our guns to that mode, feeling as fated looking at the rear ends as at the front ends of a firing squad's guns.

I empty-mindedly mechanically obeyed the feared alternating rhythm of "At (description of target), aim!" and "Fire!", as unthinking as a machine steadily pumping rubbish into a destructor. Beside me Ray and Egon and Winston did the same, empty-faced and dead-eyed. The time before the job started receded into the remote past; the end of the job was merely a distant vague hope, but at last came and the result all hung limp in their bonds with their chests charred open. All the time a ghost trap with a ghost in it hung from my belt, a reminder of our usual and much preferred job.

"Unload!". We thankfully reset our guns to another mode.

"Remove magazines!". With our guns we could do nothing to obey this at the time.

"Remove magazines!" he repeated, louder and threateningly.

"Sorry, we can't, with our guns that's a workshop job." Ray pleaded somewhat desperately, and then, belatedly remembering Army practice from films: "Sah.".

The sergeant looked angry for a few seconds, then muttered about "men coming with %$@ nonstandard weapons that the usual orders don't apply to" and said "Slope arms, left turn, quick march to the gate, then dismiss! Then go back to your own job if you wish. There's more men coming from other states.". We did so, thankfully. I do not suppose that any of the 18 bodies ever had grave or funeral.

We poked about with PKE meters for buried 'living brain activity' readings until we found no more. Once we just in time jumped out of the way of a powerful propane flamethrower blast, when the 'lives' detected were those of a horde of over a hundred rats from broken sewers that were scavenging on the dead and a workman wearing a 'propane pack' reacted too quickly in his disgust. "Whoa! Fine shoot'n', Tex!" I said as we got away from that trigger-happy 'walking incinerator' as fast as possible.

We found a large concrete-walled compound; its spike-topped gate had a clean patch as if a nameboard had been hurriedly recently removed. Egon shot a small hole in the gate to look through, and saw excavators, sheeted down so not easily found from aircraft. We shot the lock off the gate and went in. Inside three men came against us with guns, but, hearing me radioing, ran off threatening vengeance rather than be arrested for hoarding or ordered to shift rubble, for most of their muscle came from gymnasiums and anabolic steroids rather than from work and their hands were soft. Egon photographed the three as they ran out; they were three that the local police knew of. The Army base commander thanked us over my radio link and sent men to take over the compound. Ray helped them to 'hot-wire' the excavators, for most of their keys could not be found.

We got back to the Ecto-1 and were glad to set off back to New York. The sun set on the journey and an ominous-looking night closed in. Had we indeed been made to put up there the 'warning notice' that we had tidily cleaned away at Radomierzew's? Would ectoplasmic mock-ups of us and the 18 victims keep on re-enacting the event, until the Army, or whoever they may sell the site to, call us or our successors to get rid of them? We have not yet heard of it happening, but ghosts can remain long quiescent. We again remembered the words heard in dreams by people {GBA#5} in Radomierzew's, spoken by an image of one of a group of men who there in the 1940's were made to do what we were made to do:-

"Beware the shaking of the earth! when you will fare as we.
Beyond your island job and world, that greater forces be,
you four who'll come to seek us, learn! Were sentenced we two lots,
the one to feel the triggers in here, the other to feel the shots,
when greater forces we had woken forced our tidy world
of sheltering and being sheltered: dark deeds on us hurled.
Think you, Ghostbusters, come to neatly clean away what's left,
that you will be forever of a suchlike fate bereft?".

We got home. Like those men in the 1940's, we gradually got over it, but were left sadder and wiser. It was some time before Ray made a joke again. Luckily in our absence a backlog of jobs had built up, so we did not have much idle time to tempt us to fall into brooding and blaming ourselves. Normal life resumed.