This is an amateur, non-commercial story, which is not produced, approved of, or in any way sponsored by the holders of the trademarks/copyrights from which this work is derived, nor is it intended to infringe on the rights of these holders. And so it goes.
The sequence of events was later determined to be this:
On the afternoon of March 23, Egon Spengler was in the basement of the firehouse preparing a recently-obtained ectoplasm sample for study. Having forgotten to bring down a clean specimen container, Egon found an empty measuring cup on the shelf above the washing machine and poured a large portion of the deep blue slime into it. At that moment, the containment unit emitted a loud warning warble; Egon quickly set the measuring cup down on the washing machine and hurried over to the monitors to correct the situation.
While Egon worked on the containment problem, Dr. Venkman came downstairs to find out what was wrong. Seeing his partner taking care of the situation, Peter then noticed the cup of blue liquid and assumed that Egon had been preparing to wash a load of their dirty uniforms. He decided to lend his friend a hand and threw a pile of their clothing into the machine, then poured the ectoplasm into the dispenser and started the wash cycle. Dipping the cup into the rising water to clean it out, Peter left it where he'd found it; an hour or so later, Egon finally got the containment back under control and headed back upstairs, having completely forgotten why he'd originally gone downstairs.
Three days later, the trouble began....
Class fours were Peter's least favorite spooks to bust. They were noisy, they were wild, and worst of all, they were slimy. And they showed no compunction against sharing their ectoplasm with the world. One gooper could force a Ghostbuster to head back to the firehouse and completely change clothes.
And this was the third class four they'd come across today. Peter grit his teeth, aimed and fired at the screaming ball of slime that was careening from one wall to another...and just missed. The entity howled in outrage and changed course toward him. "Guys!" he screamed.
"On it, Pete!" called Ray; he aimed and fired a second stream that winged the ghost, but was unable to completely ensnare it. Worse, it knocked the creature off-course, sending slamming right into Peter's gut. The howls of both ghost and Ghostbuster filled the air momentarily, then the ghost took flight again, soaring away from one thoroughly-slimed Peter.
"NAIL THAT SUCKER!" he screamed as he lifted his thrower and fired. This time his shot hit the creature squarely, wrapping around the writhing ghost and stopping its ascent with an abrupt tug. A huge pile of slime squirted off the class four and splattered Ray's uniform with a loud squish.
"Trap in place!" Egon yelled as he rolled the tiny device into place beneath the ghost. His foot slammed down on the activator petal, and Peter quickly shut off his stream as the trap sucked the still-screaming specter into its mechanical depths. Instants later, the trap snapped tightly shut and sweet silence filled the warehouse.
"Nice shooting, Pete!" Winston said as he helped his slime-covered partner up from the floor. "Couldn't have done it better myself."
"Thanks, but if you really want to show your appreciation, get me a towel and help me wipe this off." Peter flicked a large wad of goop off his hands and made a face. "I hate this stuff!"
"Way to go, Pete!" Ray called from nearby. He holstered his thrower and headed toward the others. "Gosh, this one was a real mess, wasn't it..." Suddenly his foot hit a large puddle of slime, and he yelped in surprise as he slid off-balance and fell to the floor. "Ahh! My ankle!"
"RAY!" Peter screamed as he bolted into action. He ran over to where Ray lay and quickly knelt beside his partner. "Winston--get ECTO ready to roll, and call the hospital, tell them we'll be there as soon as we can. Egon, help me make a stretcher so we can carry him down! Oh God, Ray, I'm so sorry, I should have been there, I should have paid closer attention, and now you've paid the price for my carelessness! Ray, can you ever forgive me?" Tears were streaming down his face as he cradled the puzzled Ghostbuster in his arms.
"Pete?" Winston asked from nearby. "Don't you think that you're kind of over-reacting?"
"Dammit, Winston!" Peter yelled at his startled comrade. "RAY MAY NEVER WALK AGAIN, AND YOU THINK I'M OVER-REACTING? HUH? DON'T YOU GIVE A DAMN ABOUT YOUR FRIEND?"
Egon knelt down and examined Ray's ankle. "Peter, it's a sprain, and it's not even severe."
Peter glared at the scientist. "Oh, and since when have you become a physician, huh?" He returned his attention to Ray, tenderly brushing his partner's hair--and a wad of slime--off his forehead. "You just sit tight, Ray, and we'll get an ambulance...no, dammit, if I have to, I'll carry you to the nearest hospital..."
"...which is ten miles away," Winston helpfully provided.
Peter paused. "We'll get you downstairs and take you in ECTO," he concluded.
* * * * * *
"So what the heck's going on?" Janine demanded. Peter was still wailing to the skies about how Ray's sprained ankle was all his fault, and how he'd failed his best friend, he could never live with himself knowing that he'd betrayed his partners trust... "What's wrong with Dr. Venkman?" she continued over the din.
Egon sighed and handed her the morning's receipts. "According to him, everything."
Winston shook his head and set down the gaggle of traps he was carrying to the basement. "Man, from the point Ray twisted his ankle on, he's done nothing but whine about his father, his mother, how lonely he is and why he can never commit to a woman, and so on...the whole trip home." He shook his head in disgust. "I was just about ready to stop the car, put a pack on his back, set it to overload, and leave him on a street corner just to put him out of his misery."
"And you would have had help," Egon added.
"But he was in such a good mood this morning...even said he'd pay me!" Janine said. "What happened?"
"Beats me," the black Ghostbuster shrugged. "But I hope it ends soon, and never happens again." He picked the traps back up and trudged toward the basement. Janine gave Egon a glance, but the scientist had already headed over to his locker and was changing clothes. Peter, meanwhile, was assisting the limping Ray toward a chair.
"Gosh, Peter, I appreciate the fact you're so concerned," Ray said, trying hard to keep his voice cheerful--he'd had about enough of his partner's whining. "But you're getting slime all over everything--maybe you ought to just go and get out of your uniform, then maybe take a hot shower?"
"Oh no," Peter groaned as he saw the trail he was leaving behind him. "Look at that! God, I'm such a slob, I'm so unworthy. I don't deserve to be a Ghostbuster, being so inconsiderate and all! And how could I deprive the rest of you of a hot shower--God, I'm so selfish and egotistical compared to the rest of you! I don't deserve friends like you, I really don't!"
"Funny, I was just thinking the same thing," Winston grumbled as he passed Peter on his way upstairs. "But if you really feel that way, why don't you clean up the slime trail you're leaving, and give ECTO a once-over while you're at it?"
Peter's head bounced up and down. "You're right, Winston. You're absolutely right. It's the least I could do, seeing as it's my fault and all...you guys are such good friends, I don't deserve you, I really don't, I could never repay you for everything you've done over the years..."
Winston grabbed Peter's arm and pulled him over so that they were standing face to face. "Pete," he said in low, dangerous tones. "Shut up." Then he let go and gave Peter a slight push backwards; Venkman watched as Zeddemore strode out of the firehouse, slamming the door behind him. Peter's jaw twitched, and his eyes appeared dangerously close to flooding.
"Pete," Ray quickly said before it was too late. "Get cleaned up first. You'll feel much better if you do."
"Well...you sure you don't need any help?" When Stantz shook his head, Peter reluctantly went to his locker and shed his slime-encrusted outfit, then slunk slowly upstairs, his eyes darting constantly back toward Ray. When the chubby Ghostbuster was sure his guardian angel was out of earshot, he sighed heavily, closed his eyes and leaned back in his chair. "Finally," he breathed.
"Pretty bad, huh?" Janine said sympathetically.
"Pretty uncomfortable, if you want to know the truth. I had to keep from shoving him back a few times. Would have hurt his feelings if I had, though, and he would've started another soliloquy, so I just put up with it."
"Wonder what's wrong?" The receptionist glanced up at the ceiling. "I mean, this is about as far away from what constitutes normal behavior for Dr. Venkman as you can get!"
"Dunno," Ray said, shaking his head and carefully removing the shoe that was on his injured ankle. "Maybe he hasn't been sleeping well..." He smiled as Janine snorted. "I know, pretty unlikely. But maybe if we just keep an eye on him, he'll snap out of it without any help from us." He winced as he probed the swollen ankle. "Janine, you wouldn't mind getting an ice pack for me, would you?"
"Sure, no problem." She hurried upstairs and returned a moment later with the requested item; a minute or so later, Peter appeared on the stairwell, looking a bit damp but whistling cheerfully. He gave Ray a casual glance. "How's it feeling?"
"Better," Ray said cautiously.
"Good. Janine, I'm going out for dinner. Hold my calls."
"Wha...Dr. Venkman?" she called. He paused and turned, his face a mixture of curiosity and mild irritation. "Aren't you going to clean up the mess on the floor? And what about my paycheck?" she added in a rising voice.
He shrugged noncommittally. "Later." Ray and Janine watched in stunned amazement as he strolled out the door, looking as though he didn't have a care in the world.
"Boy, that shower must have worked wonders," Ray breathed.
"What a pity," Janine grumbled. "I shoulda asked for a raise while I had the chance."
* * * * * *
It was Winston's turn on the night shift, but so far there hadn't been any calls. Peter was still out (and the slime was still on the floor, growing harder by the minute), Egon was up in his lab, and Ray was reading in bed, which left the TV in his possession, and that suited him just fine. The Knicks and Bulls were just starting the fourth quarter when the business phone rang.
"Aw, damn," he grumbled, reaching for the receiver while keeping an eye on the game. "Ghostbusters...uh-huh. Yeah. How many? Slimy? Where at?" He scribbled down the address, his expression changing to glum acceptance. "Okay, we'll be there as soon as we can. Thanks." Sighing, he permitted himself one last look at a Knicks dunk, then trudged upstairs.
"What's up?" Ray asked from his bed. The light was still on in Egon's lab, but the scientist was probably too absorbed in his work to realize that the phone had rung. "Got a call? I might be able to help out..."
"Nah, just a couple of goopers causing trouble at Forbidden Planet. I think I can take 'em solo."
"You sure?" Stantz asked, looking a bit skeptical. "Never hurts to have a backup, you know."
Winston shook his head. "You need to stay off your foot tonight, and the Mad Scientist will never forgive me if I take him away from his toys. It's no sweat, man. I'll take care of it. See you later." He waved to his partner and headed back downstairs; Ray frowned and briefly considered getting up to go along anyway, but his ankle was still throbbing...Sighing, he shrugged and returned his attention to Dopey Dog--Doomsday at The Pound.
* * * * * *
The next morning, Janine walked into the firehouse to find Ray, Egon and Peter waiting for her. ECTO was missing, as was Winston. "Early call?" she asked.
"Last night," Ray informed her. "And he's not back yet."
"Oh." She frowned. "Did you check on him?"
"Of course we did," Peter snapped. "The guy at Forbidden Planet says he was there at 9:00 and finished up by 9:45. He also wants to know how to get slime off everything--apparently they had a pair of class-fours. But Winston didn't even have them fill out a payment voucher; he just took the traps and left. And no one's seen him since."
"Have you called the police?"
"Yeah, yeah, " Peter nodded impatiently. "They're looking for him." Just then the phone rang; Venkman lunged for it and listened to the caller intently for a minute or two before hanging up. "I don't believe this," he said. "A cop spotted ECTO at Coney Island while on a donut break."
Janine tilted her head and frowned. "What's he doing there?"
"That's what we've got to find out," Peter replied, advancing upon her with a gleam in his eye and an outstretched palm. "And since we don't have any other wheels at the moment..."
"There's ECTO-2," Ray piped up before Egon could clamp a hand around his friend's mouth.
Janine retreated from Peter's advance, defiance in her eyes. "Oh, no," she retorted. "No way am I going to let you drive my car. The last time you borrowed it, it came back drenched in purple slime...and the driver's seat kept patting my fanny the entire trip home!"
"Janine, perhaps if you drove us to Coney Island..." Egon suggested, tightening his grip on the squirming Ray.
"Well...okay," the redhead agreed. "But you sit beside me, or it's no deal."
"Hmph," Peter frumped, but given the alternative ("the flying deathtrap known as ECTO-2", as he'd once dubbed it), he reluctantly accepted the terms and assisted Egon in dragging the still-protesting Ray to her car.
* * * * * *
"If we'd taken ECTO-2, we'd have been here by now," Ray grumbled as Janine parked her car just behind ECTO-1.
"If we'd taken ECTO-2, my stomach would be empty," Peter replied as he jumped out of the back seat, much to Janine's distress. "You guys check the car--I'll go looking for Winston, okay?" Not waiting for an answer, Venkman strode down the walkway in search of his comrade.
He found Winston not too far away, sitting in the sand and facing the ocean. The black Ghostbuster seemed oblivious to the stunning morning landscape; his face was drawn and puffy from lack of sleep and...crying? "Hey, Zee," Peter said with over-exuberant cheer. "Next time you want to take a break, let us know, huh? We were worried!"
"Go away, man," Winston replied tiredly. "Just leave me alone."
Peter flopped down beside his friend. "Wanna talk about it?"
"No." And just as quickly: "I don't deserve to be a Ghostbuster. I'm no hero, no genius like the rest of you. I'm just a big stupid black guy, the brawn of the gang. You guys don't need me." Peter blinked in surprise, but said nothing. Winston continued: "Man, when people think of the Ghostbusters, they see you, Ray and Egon. Like the movie posters, remember? I came in late, and no one ever thinks about me. Even the people who write those dumb stories--it's always about you, or Egon, or Ray. Never me. I'm the forgotten Ghostbuster. Maybe I deserve it."
"Come on, man," Peter said encouragingly. He sensed the approach of the others, but under the guise of a pat on his partner's back he waved them away. "You know that's not true."
"Oh man, it is, it is!" Winston cried. "And look at me! I hang out with three white guys, never any brothers! I've lost my African identity! I dress like a white man! I talk like one! Oh God, I hate myself!" His head bowed forward and great heaping sobs racked his body. Peter wrapped an arm around the big man's shoulders and tried to guide him up to his feet, but Winston suddenly bolted forward and ran straight into the ocean, screaming every step of the way.
The others ran forward to join Peter. "What are you waiting for?" Janine cried. "Go get him!" Peter blinked and shook his head, then ran after his friend, followed closely by Ray and Egon. A few moments later, four soaked Ghostbusters returned, one of whom was clearly at a loss.
"What the heck was I doing?" Winston asked, looking dazed and confused.
"Oh, nothing much, just trying to kill yourself, that's all," Peter informed him. "But we're too short-handed as it is. Afraid you're stuck with us, Zee."
Janine regarded the waterlogged quartet with a critical eye. "Well, one thing's for sure," she announced primly. "None of you are driving back with me!" Then she smiled shyly. "Except maybe for Egon," she amended.
But the blond Ghostbusters’s attention was focused on Winston. "Fascinating," he said, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. "Ray, would you go get one of the meters from ECTO?" As Stantz hurried to the vehicle, Egon regarded his black comrade carefully. "Winston, how do you feel?" he asked.
"Brilliant question, mad scientist," Peter muttered darkly.
"Uh...I'm darned if I know what I'm doing here, but otherwise I feel okay," Zeddemore said.
"Not suicidal? Depressed? Ridden with angst and guilt?"
Winston shook his head. "No. Just wet and cold."
"Fascinating." At that point Ray returned with a PKE meter, which Egon activated and ran over his friend's body. "Hmm. Just as I hypothesized. I'm picking up a very faint reading from your body. I suggest we return to the firehouse and study this further."
* * * * * *
"Well?" Winston demanded. He was wearing only a bathrobe at the moment, the rest of his clothing having been confiscated by Egon for analysis. Ray and Peter were chowing down on a box of donuts they'd bought on the way back from Coney Island; Slimer was circling the box from above, a hopeful expression on his face, but his every attempt to snag a treat was foiled by the back of Peter's hand.
Egon for his part had already finished studying Winston's underwear and was now examining his partner's uniform. "Fascinating," he repeated for the fourth time. "Every centimeter of this uniform has been permeated with a heavily-diluted form of ectoplasm."
"So what's that mean?" Winston asked, grabbing a donut and a cup of coffee which Janine had just brought upstairs for him.
"It's hard to say--the PKE reading is extremely weak. I can't really put a fix on it. But I would hypothesize that when you were slimed last night by that ghost you caught, that additional ectoplasm gave the original dose an additional charge, thus rendering it powerful enough to produce an effect. In this case, it caused you to have a depressive episode that terminated with your plunge into the ocean."
Ray snapped his fingers. "Say, you don't think that maybe Peter had the same problem the other day, do you?"
"I would have to say it's highly likely. The question is how their uniforms became infected in the first place, and why neither you nor I have shown any similar effects." Egon abruptly noticed the donuts and his stomach growled in response; Peter grinned and tossed him a chocolate-glazed sample. Unfortunately, Slimer thought that it was meant for him and soared hungrily towards it. Both Slimer and the donut reached Egon at the same instant, and they all fell to the floor in a slimy heap.
Peter and Winston helped the dazed scientist to his feet; Slimer, having captured the donut, had simply flowed through the floor and was now rooting through the refrigerator for something to wash the treat down. "Sorry about that, Egon," Peter apologized. "I forgot the spud was still around."
"It's...it's all right, Peter," the scientist replied, looking pale and shaken. "Ray, take a PKE meter downstairs and check each of our remaining uniforms. Here's the frequency you need to search for."
"Will do, Egon," Ray said breezily. "What do we do with the bad ones?"
"I...I don't know," Egon sighed miserably. "What does it matter, anyway? Do what you want with them. I don't care." He suddenly buried his head in his arms and began to sob violently. "Oh, Janine, Janine..."
"What?" said the redhead receptionist, who'd been sneaking a bite from a coconut-topping donut.
Peter and Winston looked at each other. "Uh-oh," they said in unison.
Egon was still sobbing his heart out. "How can I ever tell her how I feel about her, how much she means to me? Why can't I rid myself of this terrible wall inside my heart that keeps my feelings at bay? When is she going to give up and find someone who can love her the way she deserves? Oh, Janine..."
"Yo, Egon, over here!" Janine said, waving her arms wildly through the air. "So tell, so tell! I’M ALL EARS!"
"Janine, he's having a mood slime fit," Ray cautioned. "This may be a bit overblown..."
"Who cares? He's finally admitting that he feels something for me!" Janine went over to Egon's side, then gave the others a meaningful glance. "Don't you guys have some uniforms to check, or something?"
The three Ghostbusters glanced at one another briefly, then filed out of the lab. Janine wrapped her arms around the still-sobbing Egon and hugged him tightly. "There, there, Egon, it's all right. You just go ahead and tell me all those things you've been wanting to say. Then we'll take a nice hot shower, and you'll feel much better, I promise..."
* * * * * *
"Wow," Ray breathed. "Here's another one in my locker." He pulled out the uniform in question and tossed it on the floor. "That makes about two per person, when you add in the ones you guys were wearing."
"Huh," Winston said, rubbing his chin. "I wonder how they got infected. I mean, they were just washed a few days ago, weren't they?"
"Yeah, I did the laundry last--there were about eight or nine to get washed," Peter said as he waved his meter over his outfits. "You know, come to think of it, the stuff I used seemed awfully thick to be Cheer..."
"We'll have to ask Egon..." Winston said, glancing up at the ceiling. "Assuming he ever comes down from his lab."
"Or if Janine lets him," Peter said with a smirk.
"Ho ho ho," retorted the receptionist, who was just then coming down the stairs beside a clean and casually-dressed Egon. "Everything's fine, guys."
"Indeed," Egon agreed. "It would seem the ectoplasm 'jump charge' dissipates quickly when water is applied to the affected areas."
"We think we may know what caused it, Egon," Ray said excitedly. "See, Peter did the laundry a few days ago, and..."
"Gentlemen," Egon said, lifting a hand for quiet. "I'm sure we'll determine the source of the problem before long. But for now..." He smiled shyly at Janine. "I have a lunch date with Janine. We'll see you later."
"Don't wait up," Janine smirked as they passed the stunned Ghostbusters. Egon offered his arm, and she slipped hers through the crook as they walked out the door.
"Well, I'll be..." Winston breathed.
"So...what do we do now?" Ray asked.
"First things first," Peter declared. "We take the bad uniforms and burn them. Then we go shopping for new ones. And then..."
"Then?" Ray asked.
"Then," Peter grinned naughtily, "we go upstairs and see if Egon's got some mood slime that makes beautiful women fall helplessly in love with us!"
Ray and Winston looked at each other. "Works for me!" they declared with a laugh, then set to work.