The Way to Go HomeBy Sheila Paulson
Page 2 of 13
|He stared at me blankly. I remembered Avon's description of how Blake had looked at Gauda Prime, one eye
pulled down by a nasty scar. This man didn't have the scar, but there was no reason why he should. That hadn't
really been Blake but a clone programmed by Servalan to deceive and capture Avon.
The Ghostbusters watched in fascination as Blake hesitated. Then he said coolly, "Right after she captured me, Servalan showed me a viscast of Avon shooting 'me' or, rather, a man he believed was me."
"A man who said he'd set him up," I pointed out.
Blake must have been a fair man because he paused. "Perhaps. He sounded like me, he looked like me. Avon thought he was me--and he still killed him."
"Because he didn't act like you," I insisted. "He didn't give Avon a straight answer. Blake, listen to me. I'll tell you all about it, everything you need to know. But don't hate Avon. What he did there nearly destroyed him. He's not a man who cries, but he cried for you. When Servalan told him he'd shot a clone of you, I saw hope in his eyes."
"If they captured her, she must have gotten away. I only arrived here last night. How long ago did this happen?" He was wary, doubtful.
"It was ten months ago. She could have escaped or been traded in a prisoner exchange or something. She sounds tricky enough." What I didn't say was that she may have found a way to recapture them and they might be dead now. He didn't need to hear that. If that were true, then he had no hope.
"How do I know this isn't all a trick, that you aren't telling me what you think I want you to say?" Blake demanded.
"We have equipment that can prove some of it," Egon jumped in. He sounded fascinated. "This device has been set to read your biorhythms. When compared with those of us who live in 1990, yours has a variety of minute differences. I believe that living in another century, exposed to different bacteria, different diet, even traveling in space, can account for them. I suspect if I could go back into my own past, I would find minute chemical changes in the people there."
Peter propped his elbow on Egon's shoulder. He did that a lot, and Egon just planted his feet to take his weight. "That's nice and all, Spengs, but can we cut to the chase here. This Blake guy is from the future. If he can tell us who wins the 1990 World Series, I can get in some bets and clean up!"
Egon elbowed him in the side and Peter moved a step away. "That would be dishonest, Peter."
"And your point is?" Peter winked at me.
"I don't know what the World Series is," Blake intervened. "So it would be impossible to help you. Is there any way you can help me? I would like to go back to where I belong. The Federation continues to oppress the populace."
"And you're dying to rush back and save your rabble," I said, recalling Avon's terminology.
"You do know Avon!" Something in Blake's face crumpled. He gazed at me. "This is real isn't it?"
"It's definitely real, Mr. Blake," Ray chimed in. "Gosh, I bet it's scary, knowing you're stranded in your past. We went back in time once to 1837. We didn't know we were in the past at first. It was great. We got to save Christmas."
"Christmas?" asked Blake, perplexed.
Ray's face fell. "You mean you don't have Christmas in the future? Gee, that's terrible. Hey, Peter, for him Christmas is just another day."
Peter made a face. "Come on, Ray, I was never like that." He glanced at Blake with interest. "This guy's really from the future. Major culture shock time. But that's not the worst of it."
"What is?" Egon asked in the tones of someone who has already reached his own conclusion and knew the answer very well. He and Peter exchanged a grave and thoughtful look. Winston nodded as if he, too, understood.
"This Servalan character," Peter insisted. "She's got a two-way conduit here from her Big-Brother-is-Watching universe. We might have some orbital Star Wars stuff, but if she decides to bring a fleet back, we're screwed."
"Gosh, an attack from space," breathed Ray in horror but with fascination, too. "We've gotta stop it."
"Oh, yeah, right, Ray." Winston frowned. "We ring up George Bush and say, 'Hey, Mr. President, bad guys from the future are about to attack Earth.' Next thing we know, we'll be locked up in a rubber room. You think Blake can prove he's from the future. You think anybody's gonna listen to Meredith's story about the invasion of Iowa last winter? We need proof of all this stuff before we do anything. Meredith, can you be sure he's really Blake?"
"Why would anybody make up a story like that? How would he even know to do it. Peter's the only one I ever told about it." I turned to the future man who had listened to us without participating. He was probably still in shock. "Blake?" I ventured. He knew that Avon was supposed to have shot him. But he could have extrapolated that from what we'd already said. "Tell me who your crew was and the name of your ship, when you were first with Avon."
"I was first with Avon on the London," Blake replied, causing me to frown. Avon hadn't mentioned that to me, but then he hadn't been exactly forthcoming in telling his life story. "But then we got the Liberator. We found it drifting following a space battle. We had Jenna, Avon, myself, Vila, Gan, and Cally, and Zen, the ship's computer. Later we got Orac."
"The computer Avon mentioned," I reminded the Ghostbusters. "And then Gan..."
"Died on Earth," Blake replied with a bitter twist to his mouth. "A few months after that, we went to Star One, and wound up taking Liberator against aliens from Andromeda. The Liberator was so badly damaged we had to evacuate in life pods. I never got back to the ship, and that was the last I saw of Avon or any of the others." He grimaced. "Supposedly, I encountered him on a world called Gauda Prime, but I assure you, that was not me. She hadn't captured me yet, at that time. I was cloned once. Perhaps Avon shot a clone of me. I am told Servalan had several made. Actually they were not true clones but copies and none of them had my memories except what could be implanted."
"Hey, maybe I could get a copy made of me," Peter put in brightly. "I could have him clean my closet and wash Ecto, and get up early in the morning when it was my turn to cook."
"And sneak out and date your girlfriends?" Winston asked, amused.
Peter grimaced. "Well, now that I think of it, it's a bad idea. Very bad." He cast a glance at me. "You wouldn't go behind my back with my clone, would you, Mer?"
"Not even if I were really your girlfriend," I said, and added before he could proclaim devotion none of us believed, "But we have to do something about Blake. We have to get him home where he belongs, and reunited with Avon. How can we do that?" I turned to Egon with my question. Of all of them, he was the one who might possibly come up with an answer.
"Hmmm." I had intrigued him, all right. Even more so, I'd thrown him a challenge, and he had never been able to resist scientific challenges. Peter had told me once that he'd gotten Egon to do his chores one day by making a scientific problem out of it. Of course Egon had wised up to his scheme midway through and found retaliation later. "He's too creative when it comes to payback," Peter had admitted. "Once he put something in my shampoo that turned my hair green. Another, he developed a potion that he put in my cologne and it attracted ghosts like crazy. I have to watch him all the time."
If Egon could invent such things, maybe he could dream a way to punch a hole out through the vortex and send a message through. Computers here didn't have those cells Avon had talked about that Orac could read. Tarrel cells? Varial cells? Whatever. I wasn't even sure Avon and his friends had Orac now. Avon had said he knew where it was. He could have retrieved it by now. If I could get that across to Egon--or if Blake could--maybe he could find a way to send a signal. Would our satellites pick it up?
"Blake, tell him about those cell things in your computers that Orac can read," I urged.
"Tarial cells!" Blake erupted to his feet, the light of eagerness in his eyes. "You can work out a message that could be detected by Orac?"
Egon frowned. "Since I am completely unfamiliar with the scientific principles inherent in your Tarial cells, it would be difficult. Still, if you can give me the necessary information..."
"I've worked with Tarial cells but I've never created one. I'm an engineer, not a computer specialist," Blake admitted. Some of the hope slid out of his eyes.
"Are you?" Ray asked, excited. "So am I, and Egon's a physicist, and Winston's really good at putting things together. If you sit down with us and go over what Tarial cells are and what their function is, maybe we can cobble something together. We're good at that. It might not be as compact or pretty as the original, but I bet it could do the job. Gosh, this is exciting."
I edged over to a chair and left the guys to it. They usually only needed a slight push to go in the right direction and they worked so well as a team that I knew myself to be superfluous. My function would be to remember all the things Avon had told me when he had believed himself stranded in the Twentieth Century and to toss in a useful tidbit if the need arose.
"Down, Rover," Peter told Ray. "I've got an idea their computer stuff would make Bill Gates and Steve Jobs look like dodos." He cast a knowing glance at Egon and Ray. "'Course with Dr. Einstein and Rube Goldberg here and anything Blake can throw in, we just might come up with the answer. Then we can patent it and get rich."
"It's not about money, it's about the scientific challenge," Egon objected. "To work out a solution to this problem--"
"It's about Blake being stranded in his past," said Winston. "We're doing it to help him out, not because we want to be rich and win the Nobel Prize. Not to say those are bad things, but let's sort out our priorities. I've got an idea building whatever gizmo you dream up is gonna put us in the poorhouse, so first things first. Pete, how does the research budget look?"
Peter winced. He guarded that research budget with his life. For somebody who had strong impulses to spend money like it was water, he didn't usually do it, at least not with the business funds. He'd talked to me once about how much Egon's experiments cost and how he had to rein him in. He hated doing it because Egon was his friend and Egon loved his research. "But we gotta pay Con Ed first or the containment unit will go blooey," Peter had explained. "When we get low on money, we do a lot of busts that ordinarily we'd write off: no-problem Class 2's that don't do any harm, stuff like that, because we still get paid for it. We need Egon's research. Our lives are on the line out there if we don't have the tools we need. Besides, it'd break his heart if I shot him down all the time. Sometimes I have to and I hate it." Then he grinned wickedly. "Just think, a con man handling the books."
"You're not a con man," I had chastised him. "You just like to pretend you are."
That made him slap a hand across his forehead in dismay. "Busted. You don't pull your punches, do you, Meredith?"
"I never learned to," I said. "Greg never let me."
Now I looked at Peter as he frowned. "We can squeeze a little in, but you get your positronic parts wholesale or I'll hide all your P.K.E. meters where you'll never find them--and don't think I couldn't."
Egon pretended to stagger and pressed a hand to his chest just like Fred Sandford on TV. "You wouldn't." Ray chortled with glee and Winston shook his head with the kind of tolerant amusement he'd had to develop to get along with the three mad scientists.
Blake stared at them as if they were demented. Avon had made it clear that life in the Second Calendar wasn't exactly sweetness and light. Blake didn't buddy around with his Liberator crewmates. They rubbed together with a friction that held each other at arms' length. It wasn't that safe to trust people because anybody could turn you in. Blake had seen fellow rebels gunned down on two separate occasions, I vaguely remembered. Avon had never understood how Blake could trust anyone after that since he rarely trusted anyone himself, not even his friends. Maybe Peter, who wasn't quick to trust people, either, might understand that better than any of the other Ghostbusters would, but he wasn't looking at Blake and didn't see his surprise and a quick, wistful look of longing that came and went in his eyes so fast I would have missed it if I'd glanced away. Instead, Peter was watching Egon.
"We can swing something, Spengs," he said seriously. "Who knows what parts we already have?" He gestured around the lab.
Egon's eyes smiled. He has this way of doing that, a total deadpan expression that strangers take for Vulcan stoicism but, behind his glasses, his eyes will twinkle with amusement or friendship or quiet contentment. Peter was a past master at reading those expressions. Or evoking them.
Peter was also a sucker for people in need. Not people who panhandled or tried to work a deal, but people who were genuinely hurting. He put in volunteer time at a free clinic, counseling with kids who came from bad homes or who had run away, and I was sure he was good with them. He'd helped Mrs. Faversham, an elderly widow on a pension, for free, and adopted her as a kind of grandmother afterwards. No, the surface Peter Venkman shielded a much nicer guy than he wanted strangers to realize. Blake wouldn't know that yet. He'd probably just seen the mouth.
Blake watched him and Egon as they bantered about money to fund the research. I could tell he didn't believe that the Ghostbusters didn't have personal motives for helping him, but I didn't think they did. Returning a lost and lonely time traveler to the future was nowhere in their Ghostbusting brief, but they plunged into the challenge with great enthusiasm. Ray was so excited he was almost floating in midair.
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