[THE REAL GHOSTBUSTERS: ARMY BASE] (GBA#11) ('I' hereinunder = Peter Venkman) (See GBA#0 `Our Equipment' for notes)

One afternoon while we were catching up on base and kit maintenance we yet again started to discuss whether we had the money and need and room for a second ghost-containment. Egon (our scientist) was servicing and checking our PKE meters. I was finishing a work uniform: making our own saves on clothes bills. Ray and Winston were cleaning and mending and recharging ghost traps.

"What's the matter with the one we've got?" said Ray, "There's still plenty room in it, and it's not likely to break down soon, if Egon's right.".

"It does go wrong sometimes." said Winston, "Take that time I had to chase imps all over the basement when ecto-stuff leaked out of it. Lucky one of us saw it in time. Best have a spare containment in case.".

"Yes, I remember. It was a paranormal disfracture of the temporal stasis unit {GBM}." said Egon, "I secured it with a sonic weld easily.".

"Some time something may go wrong that we can't mend without switching it off. We still need a second containment and a way of emptying each of them into the other. If nothing else, it'll need cleaning out some time: all the normal and ecto rubbish that gets trapped and pumped in along with ghosts." I said, "And that brings up: what about the money for it? We can't keep on with freebies [= free busts] for every sob-story that people bring here; and it's time that candy firm that uses our name started paying us more for it. And all those firms that have started to call themselves this-and-that-Busters with emblems more or less like ours: Dampbusters, Dustbusters, Grimebusters, etc. And another foreign army, or someone that he says he's in one, 's written in wanting us to sell him a hundred of our proton packs, or to set up a factory in his country so he can make them. He offered quite a lot for them: do we need the money badly enough to go with him? If we do make them, where'll we get room and time and materials to make them all? And can we trust him to pay us? I don't suppose it's ghosts that he wants to use them on. The previous one said he wanted them `for research'.".

"Likelier as infantry anti-tank weapons or the like. Lucky we went public on enough of their design in time to stop the military from requisitioning the patent; that general that came that time was a bit pointed about that." Ray said.

"How is the containment for spare space?" Winston said, "Another big demon fight somewhere [busted and its participants brought here] and it'll be full. It's easy to keep on using something and saying there's still plenty of it, till suddenly there's none left.".

"The number of ghosts in there went down 7 over last night, but there's still as much ghost matter in there, its instruments say." said Egon.

"I know, some big ghosts absorb little ghosts. One ghost with the united strength of all is far more dangerous than all these little ghosts separately. Like that big pig-faced character that Slimer latched onto when he ran away that time {GBC `Slimer Come Home'}." Ray said.

"Going into the containment among the ghosts when it's running's risky enough in an emergency. We can't go in there routinely just to keep the peace. As long as they can't get out." I said.

"They won't get out. I've calculated it. And the total volume of the ghosts keeps gradually going down like ghosts do if they are cut off from a source of energy to live off." said Egon.

Outside a few doors away there were noises like a large electric arc and a flutter of frightened wings. We recognized and ignored the noise, and continued.

"You know your arithmetic, but do you know the ghosts' arithmetic?" I said to Egon, "We wouldn't have all this with the containment if we had a good ghost destructor working. How's the ghost destructor you're making now? I remember one you tried to make: New York full of tiny copies of Slimer [our pet greedy green ghost], and then that `Slimer Kong' when we made them all reassemble into one {GBC `Adventures in Slime and Space'}. I don't want that again.".

"It works. I and Ray have tested it thoroughly. We got a lot of help from examining the destructor in that ecto jet plane thing that we brought back from there that time {GBA#9}." said Egon.

"Yes. That crypt. One place that I was glad didn't exist except in bad 1950's children's ghost fiction, but it did exist and we've been there." I said, "But does it work?".

"Does it work, after the amount we've tested it?" Ray replied, ever cheerful, "As surely as Professor Dweeb likes pigeon pie!".

"He was after them [= street pigeons] again just now with one of his proton packs. He uses those packs of his for some rather rough jobs, and usually not on ghosts. Have you found yet how he found out enough to make them?" I said.

Professor Dweeb lives near us, alone except for a cat. A common description of him is "a scientist's head on a thug's body, with all the skills of both, and usually in a thick rough white overall.". He has at least two proton packs with bulky cylindrical gun-parts and (now much dented and patched) rectangular red backpack boxes with rounded edges and corners, that he made {GBA#0}.

"Likely partly from what I've published, and the rest here and there and what he's found for himself." said Egon, "What matters is that he's made them and can make more, and likely sell them all over the place even if we don't.".

"I heard someone say that a month ago Dweeb was paid quite a bit to `sort out' some tramps who dossed in a shop somewhere and wouldn't move out when the shop was re-let at last." said Winston ominously, "Incineration time. Not like the times we've had to use our packs to defend ourselves against living attackers: we keep the power turned down if we can, when that happens.".

"At least he isn't selling them all over the place to all sorts - yet - as far as I have heard." I said, "I dreamed again two nights ago of that 3-hour police interrogation I had when someone used an industrial propane flamethrower with a backpack tank as a holdup weapon in Cincinnati and someone called it a proton pack and we got blamed for supplying it. Some of those `propane pack' burners work like a jet motor on afterburn, astonishing range they've got: I've got their maker's brochure on file. And that triggerhappy workman that narrowly missed us with one at that earthquake {GBA#6} when he was trying to burn up some rats. I'd hate to think of a squad of thugs armed with them.".

"I saw a car with Army number plates outside Dweeb's last night when I was mending that PKE meter. Not the first time it's happened. I wonder what they wanted." Ray said, "Some real right barrack square language from them when that cat of his lay on its shiny bonnet. I've wiped enough cat footprints off the Ecto-1 where they go for the warm patch over its engine.".

We went back to kit maintenance. Someone came to the door wanting a possessing spirit removing, but he had zero PKE and was probably a schizophrenic, and we said so. He became persistent, but left when we mentioned the police. Teatime came, and our redheaded receptionist Janine went home. After tea we started making another spare proton pack; we had to remind Egon again that our kit comes first because it and not his fungi brings our money in. There was nothing much in the TV news except something about new weapons for the army. It became late, and we slept.

The Army convoy that arrived brought at least 200 men and filled and cordoned off both 77th Street and 5th Avenue from our base to two blocks away in all four directions. We and everything found in our base were shoved into their vehicles. Men searched with various equipment to make sure nothing was missed. Professor Dweeb and his address were treated likewise. All they told us as reason was that it was Government orders. The convoy roared off with us. When I told them about our containment (which they had to leave), I was told merely that men have coped with or put up with ghosts from the beginning without fancy kit, and they can do so again. We were taken to an army munitions factory, where we and Dweeb were formally conscripted into an Army scientific unit and ordered to help them to set up a secret production line making thousands of proton packs for issue to troops, with design alterations as ordered including giving them a Dweeb-style but shrapnel-proof smooth casing. An officer lengthily and angrily "tore a strip off us" for not offering our proton pack design to the armed forces in the first place when we designed them. We were ordered to refer to them always and only by whatever current codename was ordered to be used (probably a set of initials or some Army man's name or dangerous animal, as often with Army weapons). Egon and Ray tried to explain how they worked, and were shouted at for not calling the officer "Sah!" at the end of every sentence. In the confusion and hurry a pile of stored radioactive parts went critical, and an alarm bell rang. Everybody ran out, but my feet were tangled in something. As I struggled, the alarm bell turned into our base's upstairs telephone bell. We were back home, or rather were still at home. I thankfully and relievedly shook off yet another variation on that persistent theme of dream that we had been having, and wondered briefly if it had been something at the back of my mind trying to tell me something. We snatched a bite on the run, dressed quickly, kitted up, and went to a routine poltergeist outbreak in a house in a town called Aquebogue on Long Island.

On our first few busts, that sort of quiet suburbia seemed the least likely place for the paranormal, but we long ago stopped being surprised at finding any sort of ghost anywhere. The incident was like many such: several months of objects unexplainedly being moved or thrown about, sometimes causing damage or injury, until the household called us. The poltergeists, like all their kind, were invisible except to a spectro-visor, weird-shaped, with a long tradition of harassing the living for fun, secure in their intangibility, until our proton beams hit them. After my overnight scare with the Army, none the less alarming for being a dream, I had short patience with yet another bunch of silly-shaped vandalistic imps despite their air of childish fun. Two of them I did not try to trap but destroyed them with maximum power straight-beam shots as they were picking up an ornament to throw at us. The other three ghosts' unpleasant mocking looks hardened into hate at our action; our uniforms and riotsquad-type helmets kept off much of their retaliatory petty childish object-throwing. As the cloud of disintegrated ecto matter dissipated we caged them in a network of branching particle beam tracks, and they were soon in a trap.

We quickly bought groceries on our way to a house in Rochester where an old man lived alone. Light and noise manifestations, with some sightings, had kept him awake for many successive nights, until desperation overcame his inability to afford us, and he called us. We waited there; the spectral form appeared. Without checking PKE we fired. Its yowl as a proton beam hit it, and stumble and fall on a mud patch as it ran rather than floating away, showed that something was wrong. As we chased it I took a ghost trap, and, suddenly realizing, threw it and its control cable not as usual but bolas-fashion at his legs as he got up from his fall. He fell again. I gave an order. Our four combined weights smothered his attempts at judo, and Winston handcuffed him. I recognized with distaste a luminous chemical imitation of ectoplasmic glow on his skin and clothes. "Playing at ghosts to scare him out to let some %$ redevelopment start, I bet: you're for the containment like a ghost! And, like we say to kids at Halloween, don't %$& about with that silly `Ecto-Glow' stuff when there's men with proton packs about!" I said to him, ignoring his predictable thin excuse. When asked who he was, he said "Mickey Mouse", so we searched him, finding on him three wallets with different names in them. That told us all we needed to know about his general character, as we took him to a police station. The resulting court case later ordered him or his employer to pay the old man for the distress caused and to pay us for our time. We went back to base and had the rest of that night's sleep.

That night's dreams were unremarkable, but when we looked out in the morning I had a brief shock of unreality, for there was an Army lorry outside our base: but only one. While we were collecting our kit and packed lunches and having a quick bite of cold breakfast a lieutenant who came in the lorry told us this:-

"I'm in charge of battle training some Marines on a training range in Maine. Whenever they are ordered to defend or attack a hill that we call `Hill 42', they act afraid and run away. Only there: they're all right elsewhere. I had them disciplined for disobedience or cowardice 11 times, but they still did it. My Marines aren't usually like that. Next time, I told some MP's (= military policemen) to supervise them, to see if that'd stop it. One MP had on him one of your PKE meters that he bought once: he'd told me he'd got it to check up on a bout of seances that our civilian employees had been holding. My men attacked the hill again, but fired wildly and ran away - and he switched his PKE meter on and got a reading on it. The reading stopped after half an hour, and my men started to say "sorry" and look embarrassed; but the same happened next day. I didn't believe in ghosts before this. Get in and we'll take you there. Marines training schedules have enough to get through without ghost nuisance.".

This caused discussion, for we intended to follow him in the Ecto-1 and bring all its kit with us. He reluctantly agreed, and we followed him, towing our one-man semi-open mini helicopter the Ecto-2 on a trailer. Parallel streaks of cirrus cloud were invading the blue sky and gradually cohering into a general milkiness. We went northwards out of New York state and through farmland and coastal towns into forested hills. We were let into the training range and past a local headquarters. We are familiar with being allowed into restricted access areas, when the apparently paranormal interferes with important matters. Except for army buildings there was no habitation, and not much sign of ruins of habitations of men long gone. A sense of desolation began to weigh on us.

"I wonder what we'll find, if anything." Egon said to the lieutenant, "Are you quite sure Hill 42 hasn't been in a powerful radar or microwave beam? I've heard of exposing the head to them causing head noises or making the mind act odd.".

"Quite sure." he said, "And how can you four just keep walking up to ghosts? Even the idea of them gives most people the willies.".

"We've got used to it." Egon said, "At our first bust it took a fairish mental effort to stay near the creature, although it was an ordinary class 5. The dirty thing wiped slime over Peter {GBF1} when he refused to run away from it.".

The milkiness of the sky had thickened to a dull grey roof and a threat of rain. The road branched into an assortment of trails trodden out by tyres and tank-tracks through patches of woodland and old farmland now going back to scrub through not being ploughed or grazed. We passed some Marines who were having battle training: as well as hearing ordinary rifles and machine guns we saw a hot beam or fire-jet coming out of cover. The lieutenant said it was a new type of flamethrower; but when the man wearing it broke cover, its backpack part was far from cylindrical. We stopped at the base of a hill. There was an ominous tone in the sound of the wind. A few birds sang, but not on the hill. He led us up it through patches of bush and long grass to a bare scarred hilltop with a wide view and new-looking army trenches. There was a feeling of fear. Being now able to point to the places involved, the lieutenant told us in more detail what had been happening to his men there.

"You're right, there is a presence here, but it's quiescent." said Egon after a PKE search, "It's diffuse and faint. We better look about some more. Get the picks and shovels and metal detectors out.". In one of the trenches we found bones, which looked as if they had been recently disturbed and put back. Ray after twelve minutes searching found a metal reading and dug down to it. It was a grave containing a rotted leather pouch full of War of Independence period British coins. We told the lieutenant so.

"Now I know. Trenches dug into a graveyard and disturbed something." he said, "Men buried here in a hurry, and the wooden markers rotted away. Oh-- I better get away from these trenches: creatures coming out of them -- I'll leave you -".

Not only he was affected. Despite my experience at resisting such effects, I felt a sudden foul miasma of fear and a feeling that the turf was a thin skin over vast fume and heat filled caverns; all other feelings and plans faded before an agonizing mind-dragging urge to run and run, away, to anywhere else than there. Egon went on all fours in his distress, but held onto his PKE meter: it made a piercing two-tone screech and its needle hit its end stop audibly. Ray knew what men had been through in Flanders over seventy years before. Winston imagined that every evil power known to voodoo was about to manifest there, and fell to his knees, but held his ground and fired and swept his proton beam round him level and then pointing up at an angle. The rest of us struggled desperately with our fear and imitated. The fear eased off as our beams penetrated the Presence and forced it to localize itself. Three demons and their familiars gradually solidified. One of them spoke in the Infernal language, which Egon knows; it was angry that we were not certain other people. This was far worse than the usual violated graveyard type haunting. Now I knew. An old unrecorded covenant with evil powers for some unknown benefit, on a (then still remembered) battle burial ground to get extra power; the hilltop dedicated and solemnly sworn to those powers in some horrible ceremony, but the local population not warned enough; and after the passage of years had removed all memory and visible trace of the events the evil remained and trench-digging troops disturbed it. Something of a power that at in other busts has needed other and heavier kit than we had on us then. No wonder that even US Marines had turned pale and fled from the place. I wondered where else the culprits had held such ceremonies and contaminated the ground.

The demons attacked in full force. We fought till our proton guns were nearly too hot to handle and their gauges started to complain, but at last we had to back against each other with a gun firing each way; our proton packs bumped each other. We had to keep on firing and to hit them all in rotation, or else some of them would have the time to make the dreadful fear-spell full power again. Two of them kept aiming powerful-looking ectoflamethrowers {GBA#0} at us. Ecto-fire has no effect on most unpossessed normal matter, and we ignore it; but something about their design made us keep firing back at them to stop them aiming: lucky that we did. Objects and demonic power-blasts knocked us about, and the cage of beam tracks that we tried to make round them kept bursting like cobwebs. The battle seemed to last forever, and the noises of our packs and guns, and the yelling demons, and the waves of nearly-blinding fear coming from them, and the dust, and the feeling that something was trying to suck us and them together into the Beyond. We got four small demons into traps, but the rest came on by weight of numbers, and were nearly on us when to my total astonishment five more proton gun beams came in from one side. "Straight beam all at the left big one's tank top!" I faintly heard an order. The demon also heard, and ditched his ectoflamethrower in a hurry. Many of their followers imitated, and disarmed and threw themselves down to shelter from the expected spectacular ecto-explosion; panic started and spread. We continued to fire, and threw in among them every ghost trap we had. The demons, weakened by their previous efforts, resisted a little longer and vanished inside the traps, and their lids shut. The hilltop wind blew the dust away. We sat on the ground exhausted and shaken.

We looked around, and saw on three jeeps some of the Marines that I had seen firing from cover before we reached the hill. Five of them wore what could not now be denied were big Dweeb-type proton packs whose characteristic streamlined backpacks were painted camouflage pattern instead of Dweeb's usual red; their bulky cylindrical gun-parts were hot from use. The men looked triumphant but shaken at a unexpected close meeting with the paranormal, for they also had had to fight their minds hard to resist the fear-spell and drive to and up the hill towards its cause and the illusive dreads and the unknown unearthly powers, even after our firing had weakened it. The lieutenant looked shaken also, for a different reason: a secret weapon had been irrecoverably revealed, and he would have to think long how to word a report explaining why the new and still being tested `Firedrill' PBG's (= Particle Beam Guns) had been used in front of civilians and for an unauthorized purpose. Ray set off down the hill.

"Phew! Thanks! Rohan rides to Gondor!" Winston exclaimed, referring to events in the `Lord of the Rings', as we got up and started picking up and checking our ghost traps. The Marines started to sing the "Ghostbusters" song from the movies that had been made about our work, showing clearly that they had recognized that their new weapons were proton packs despite official denials.

"Ye gods what a nasty one!" I said to the lieutenant, "Now I know what your men went through those times! It eased up when we kept it busy resisting our proton beams. It's OK, it's all in our ghost traps now. The place seems clean. We better come back in a month or two to check up.".

Ray returned in the Ecto-1. We found and loaded eleven full and nearly full ectoflamethrowers onto it; they would be useful additions to our kit. The men looked curiously but warily at those unearthly products of no living man's hand, tried in vain to pick them up (for weapon and ordinary hand went emptily through each other), and watched us handling them with our ecto-handling kit.

We set off, following the Marines and the lieutenant. At a refuelling point people kept away from us as if a cloud of fear emanated now from us. We sighed tiredly at that sign that action had caused yet another ecto-contamination of our uniforms and clothes; it would have to stay there for now, since until we got back to our base we would have no empty ghost traps to hold open at each other of us to clean it out.

In the headquarters we were given dinner. The lieutenant, realizing that little further harm can come from re-killing already-dead secrecy, did not stop us from reading an army handbook about the PBG that we found. It said nothing about us or Dweeb or ghosts. It called our usual ghostbusting mode the `MBM' = Meandering Beam Mode, and described it as "difficult to handle and aim, and inaccurate: this mode is used at short range to disperse civilian disorders and demonstrations". It went on to describe the SBM's (straight beam modes), and a long and tedious (and distressing to such as Ray who do not like seeing machinery damaged) list of where to hit various types of tanks and armoured cars and ordinary vehicles and helicopters and attack aircraft to knock them out.

We were paid; we banked the money as we went back to base, where we put the demons in our containment and the ectoflamethrowers in store. As I and Ray and Winston were cleaning the emptied traps and decontaminating our uniforms and clothes, I heard Egon's alarmed yell from his lab. When I went to see what had happened, he told me this:

"The eleven new ectoflamethrowers. Nine of them are ordinary, but these two big ones have a new design feature. They can pump into their ecto-fuel feed a new additive so the flame burns normal matter up as easily as petrol or propane does; but the whole thing is pure ecto and its wearer can take it through normal matter. That's the end of that old certainty. Now ecto-burners can burn us while we're alive. 'The other side' also are designing new weapons.". Great, we'll now have to design and make flame and ecto proof uniforms and helmets for ourselves.I knew this'd happen. Here comes the end of our easy ride through ghostbusting. So far we've won nearly every time. Now start the stand-offs and the retreats and dangers and an arms race. If we can keep up with that arms race. Else they'll just send a big enough squad armed with these things and trap us somewhere and incinerate us with them on the spot, proton packs and all. ".

Our common exclamation "this ghost is toast" no longer sounded so confident. Ray, who had come to see where I was, grimly code-named that new design the `Busterburner'. With its lethal-looking strapped-on additive tank it promised to be a quick efficient destructor of what had become a big menace to ghost-kind, and of any who may imitate us in the future. "I only hope that we got all their prototypes and plans and designers in that bust. If not, they'll have other uses for those things. We started this, defeating them so often that they had to forget tradition and design fresh kit." said Ray, "All they need now is proton beam proof suits to go with them. At least we better design full ecto fire proof suits, and wear them night and day including when asleep, not these cloth uniforms and open helmets any more." Ray said. However, as far as Egon can tell the only pure-ecto protection against proton guns is heavy armour like Nekkdasgeddon's {GBA#0} vehicle had, not any sort of uniform cloth - so far.

"Not for demons but for `deemonstrators':" Ray then said sourly about the PBG handbook, "the world's police better not start using them for that also, or that will kill people's goodwill for us. At least the armed forces also 'll be careful who gets hold of them, and they'll have thoroughly impressed ditto on that Dweeb when they met him.". We resumed normal life and awaited another call to action, relieved that proton pack possession was still under control.

Later Ray came back from a seaside holiday with an inshore fishermen's video about sea patrolling which talked of naval cooperation in keeping up a stock of men skilled in small boat and frogman and antifrogman techniques for any future semi-guerilla war. It showed at length a variety of boat and frogman techniques by rough-looking men in diving suits or sailors' waterproofs, as we came across some of on a previous bust in Maine {GBA#8} - including a short but clear sequence showing a big shellfish-poaching sport scuba diver invasion into a lobster-potting area being summarily silently tracelessly cleaned up by two inshore fishermen in a small crabbing boat. Both of them had guns that ran off navy-blue backpacks. One was clearly a type of powerful aimable sonar-guided underwater ultrasound gun described in alarmed tones in articles in sport diving magazines, and had little or no effect except through water; but the other fired a hot beam or fire-jet which burnt holes in pursued suspect craft and their motors and anything onboard them, and looked all too much like a `Dweeb pack'.