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The Way to Go Home

By Sheila Paulson
Page 3 of 13

Abruptly, he wheeled and went over to Blake, plunging into a discussion of what engineers did in the future. Surprised, Blake let the exuberant babble wash over him like a river before he collected himself and responded. I was glad Ray had done that. I was sure he genuinely wanted to know, but Ray was kind of heart and I was pretty sure he'd realized how lost and out of it poor Blake must feel. He'd just drawn him back in.

"You don't have anything on you with these Tarial cells in it, do you?" he concluded after a discussion that had quickly left Peter, then Winston, then Egon, and finally Ray, scratching his head in doubt. Technology had progressed a lot in Blake's time. I remembered Avon's contempt of my Apple computer. Yet he'd believed he could go in and revolutionize the system, had he been stranded for good. Blake was, I'm told, an intelligent man--though Avon admitted it warily--but Avon himself was a genius, though not, possibly, as well rounded a genius as Egon. Avon had a very narrow focus. Peter and the others didn't let Egon's focus narrow in.

"No, nothing, I..." Blake's voice trailed off. "Wait a minute. Servalan wouldn't have left anything with me. I usually carry tools in my pockets." He began to examine pockets in the leather trousers and vest, and he came up with nothing, not even nail clippers or a hankie. Maybe in the future there was a cure for the common cold and people used lasers to clip their nails. His shoulders slumped in disappointment, then he gave a sudden, startled cry and began to tug off one of his knee-high boots. It was a complicated process. In the olden days, they had gadgets called bootjacks to help with the process but the odds were nobody at Ghostbuster Central had ever heard of one. Their boots came to just above their ankles to provide support while busting.

Intrigued, Ray jumped in to help, and he tugged at the boot so hard that he fell backward on his bottom, clutching it. With a good-natured laugh, he passed it back. "Boy, I'd hate to have to dress like you if I were in a hurry."

"Yeah, it's not the new look for upwardly mobile young Ghostbusters," Peter confirmed, though I had an idea he liked the boots and would have worn them if he hadn't believed they might be a fashion disaster.

Blake muttered a thank you and reversed the boot, prodding at its heel inch-and-a-half heel. His fingers found the right place and the heel pivoted sideways. A shake of the boot produced a small round something that landed neatly in Blake's palm. It was probably no more than an inch in diameter, and, to my surprise, it seemed to hover a fraction of an inch above his hand. Blake closed his fingers around it with careful pressure and, when he opened them, the gizmo lay against his flesh.

"It's a transponder," he said. "A locator. I forgot I had it, and it was shielded to keep it from being found if I were captured. They must have missed it when they went over my clothes. There's a sequence to get the heel to move." He held it out to Egon. "It should have a Tarial cell. We can use it to make more." He tugged his boot on again.

"What does a locator do?" Ray asked. "Can't it send a signal on its own?"

"Not that far away, and not through the vortex," Blake replied. "If it had been on when I went through and if I'd keyed it to Orac, they might have tracked me to the vortex, but they don't know I'm alive. I switched it off before Servalan caught me." He frowned. "She only captured me a month ago. That must have been after she saw Avon."

Egon plucked the transponder from Blake's hand and squinted at it up close. His long fingers traced the fine lines incised on the surface, then he picked up his ubiquitous P.K.E. meter and held it up to the device. It gave a weird, faint beep. With a snort of frustration, Egon twiddled the dials. He played the meter like Itzak Perlman played a violin. This time, it did something different; the screen put up a weird pattern. Peter craned his neck to see over Egon's shoulder and arched a surprised eyebrow.

"So, is this little doohicky haunted, Spengs?"

"Of course not, Peter. What it does is produce a form of unfamiliar energy I have never seen. I adjusted the meter for negative valences, and that isn't quite the right setting to take readings of this device. Perhaps the magnetometer..." His eyes glazed with fascination.

"Well, he's off in the clouds," Peter said to the rest of us. "So, Blake, how did you actually wind up in the Twentieth Century?"

"The vortex--" Blake began, but Peter waved him down.

"No, I mean you must have come in a pod or something, like Meredith said Avon did. She said they were shielded so radar wouldn't have picked it up, but if you crashed somewhere in the city, couldn't there be parts in it that we could use? Or did the cops impound it?"

Blake's jaw dropped. He must have just seen Peter's smartass attitude and failed to realize there was a clever mind behind the facade. Not surprising. Peter worked hard to preserve his image, and Blake was flailing for balance in a world that was not his own. "I landed in an area near a river," he admitted. "There were warehouses and abandoned structures nearby. I didn't crash, although it was a near thing. I managed to land it inside an abandoned structure, where I concealed it behind a row of empty crates. Then I went out to explore, and that was where your security forces discovered me."

"Security forces?" Peter echoed.

"Police, Peter," Egon reminded him.

"Gotcha. So what were you doing suspicious, Blake?"

"I didn't intend to be suspicious. I quickly realized my clothing was unusual for the time period. I couldn't change that unless I found other clothing, and I had no credits to purchase different items nor any understanding of your specie. The groundcars had wheels; I knew then I was in a time or on a world more primitive than my own. Yet when I landed I saw the moon. I have gone outside the domes on Earth and I remember Earth's natural satellite. That was when I realized I was on Earth. But it was not my Earth. I speculated about alternate dimensions or time travel. Either seemed unlikely. I considered that I might be prisoner in a programmed dreamscape, a visual image structuralizer."

"Like the one they used on Avon at Terminal," I said in surprise.

The men stared at me. They had completely forgotten I was there. I explained what had been done, how Avon had been made to think he escaped and discovered Blake on that artificial planet, only to learn later that the encounter had never happened, that Servalan had planned the experience to get the Liberator. "Servalan told him you were dead, Blake," I explained. "He was devastated. He had risked everything, accidentally brought about the Liberator's destruction, to get to you. He pretended it was because the message supposedly from you offered great wealth, but that was just the way he covered up his need to find you for your own sake. His dreamscape probably lasted less than an hour. I doubt very much even Servalan could do all this." I gestured around. "Besides, we're all very real."

"You'd say that anyway," he protested.

"What to you know about the Twentieth Century?" Peter prompted. He was fascinated.

"Very little. President Sarkoff had a vehicle from the Twentieth Century. He called it a motorcar. But it was not as fast as the ones I saw here. It was open at the top and taller."

"Probably from earlier in the century," said Ray. "We've progressed since then. We just call them cars now. What else?"

"Music played on machines that spun a flat circular device with a small needle moving in the tracks."

"Phonograph records," Winston offered. "We're pretty much past those, too, but I've got some in the bedroom I can show you. We use cassettes and CDs now."

"Technology changes," agreed Blake. "Sarcoff was a historian and the Twentieth Century was his time period. I had little time to study his artifacts."

"Artifacts." Peter shivered involuntarily. "Oh, great, we're somebody's artifacts. I hate that."

"Not at this end of time, Peter," Egon replied. "It would behoove us to track down Blake's pod before it is discovered by someone else and exploited. There are bound to be more Tarial cells in it. Perhaps we can adapt it to boost our own signal device." He caught Peter's eye. "It would spare the budget."

Blake's eyes lit up. "That might work." Then his face fell. "I am not sure I could find it again."

"I assume the police who brought you here didn't just pick you up and deliver you at our door."

"No, they thought I was acting strangely and they took me to a medical facility first where doctors examined me and asked me questions. I was reluctant to speak freely, but I saw them exchanging knowing glances and shaking their heads when I theorized about coming from the future. Perhaps they thought I was demented."

"Yeah, but the cops don't usually bring us people with delusions," Peter said. "Okay, so they brought Louis Tully when he thought he was Vinz Clortho, but he could make his eyes glow and they thought he was possessed. What did you do, Blake? Growl at them and stand on your head?"

"No, but I said a lot of things that I shouldn't have said, that I controlled a ship that had the power to blast the whole planet, and when a man in a green shirt tried to grab me, I...used a...conduit from the pod that I had brought with me as a modified defense weapon to stun him. It vaporized on contact in a burst of light. I think they believed I could, er, 'zap' people. That was when they decided to bring me here."

"Zapping conduits. I like it," said Peter, brightly. "We have got to find your little space ship."

"They apparently thought he could cast fire like a demon, Peter," Egon explained patiently, although we had all figured that out. "Blake, could you guide us to your pod?"

"It was by a river," Blake admitted.

Winston squatted in front of him. "Blake, we're on an island. There's the Hudson on one side and the East River on another. Were you there when the sun came up? Did it rise over the water or over the buildings?"

"The water," Blake replied.

"Okay, the East River, then," Winston decided.

"Score a point for Sherlock Holmes," Peter crowed, clapping Winston on the back as he rose.

"Does that make you Watson, Peter?"

"Sherlock Holmes?" Blake stared at them in astonishment. "The Hound of the Baskervilles. A proscribed book, but I read it once."

"It's about a hundred years old in our time," explained Winston. "I like mysteries. Between Egon's meter that's keyed to Tarial cells and what we can work out, I bet we have your pod in hand before you can say Jack Robinson."

Blake shook his head, probably wondering why he would want to say 'Jack Robinson.' Egon grabbed up a couple of devices and they all started for the stairs.

I hesitated. Should I go with them? They knew what they needed now. But Peter snagged my arm. "Come on, Mer. You know more about Blake than the rest of us. We might need you."

"Where are you going?" Janine asked when we all trooped downstairs. She cast a suspicious glance at Blake.

"To look for Blake's escape pod, Janine, honey," Peter told her. "He's a little green man."

Blake looked down at himself in surprise, almost as if he was afraid he'd really changed colors. "Not so little," he objected, "And not green, either."

Janine grimaced and muttered, "Oh, brother," under her breath. "Meredith, don't let these guys buy into his delusion, okay?"

"It's not a delusion, just a weird coincidence," I assured her. "Egon's going to test me later to see if I might be some kind of nexus to the strange and futuristic."

"Oh yeah, he'll like that," she agreed, but the fondness in her eyes when she looked at Egon proved she would easily forgive him for falling prey to occasional delusions as long as he came home safely. "Egon, be careful."

"We will," Peter assured her pointedly. "Next time you warn only him, remember which one of us signs your paycheck."

She cast him a grimace and stuck out her tongue at him.

"Your face will freeze that way," he cautioned. "That's what my mom always said when I made faces."

"Egon, when are you going to transplant his brain into a cockroach?" she wailed.

"When business slows down." Egon gave her shoulder a pat. It was more a comradely one than a romantic one, but then Egon wasn't the type of guy to make romantic overtures in public. I suspected it would be hard to get him to make them in private, not because he was shy; he wasn't. He simply wouldn't think of them. If pressed, he would probably admit, although not in front of Peter, that Janine was his girlfriend, but it would never occur to him to send her flowers.

Janine was used to him by now and took the touch with delight. She waved us off with a warning not to let ourselves be transported up to the Enterprise.



*****




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