"We asked a hundred people this question; the top answers are on the board. Name something that you don't want to find your dog chewing." The buzzer rang, and Steve Harvey said, "Carolyn."
"Your phone is..." *Ding* "number five. Erin?"
Erin looked thoughtful, then said, "My shoes."
Steve turned to the board. "Your shoes!" *Ding* "The number one answer! Ghostbusters, will you pass or play?"
Two weeks earlier, a representative from Family Feud's production company had come to the Ghostbusters office asking for their help. "It started last week, when we began this season's recordings," she said. "Whenever someone gets a wrong answer, there's this rumbling noise, and one corner of the set starts glowing green. The cameras don't pick up the noise or the light, so we've been having trouble convincing people that it's real, but one of the executives was in the studio yesterday and saw it."
Patty looked skeptical. "You sure it was a rumbling and not a buzz?"
"Um, yes, we're certain."
Holtzman didn't look up from the proton beam gun whose main chip she was replacing. "What shade of green? Blue or yellow?"
"Hmm." She tossed the old chip into the air and caught it between her teeth, then spit it into the trash can. "C-grade spectral phenomenon. Delta class?"
Abby replied, "No, that'd be *yellow*-green light. This is rho class."
"Oooh, right. Haven't seen one of those in a while."
The production rep looked helplessly at Erin. "And that means?"
Erin folded her hands in her lap. "It means you were right to call us. Kevin, can you check the flights to Atlanta?"
Kevin went to the window. "Which way is Atlanta?"
"Oh, we can fly you down," the rep said. "That's not a problem. But there's one other thing -- the executives thought it'd scare the audience if you just showed up in the studios. And one of the shareholders wants a pet company of his to play on the show, so we'd like to film a special small business episode of Family Feud."
"You mean you want us to pretend to be contestants?"
Patty punched the air. "Yes! I've always wanted to be on that show."
"But we need five people for a team," Abby argued. "And, well...."
They all looked at Kevin, who blinked and grinned at them.
"Look," Erin finally said, "we don't have to *win*; we just need an excuse to be there."
So here they were, in front of a live studio audience, playing against the staff of a small charter airline that none of them had ever heard of. Ghost detection equipment had been wired into their desks, and their weapons had been carefully stashed on their persons or under the desks. And so far no one had told Steve Harvey how much radiation the reactor under the central panel might be emitting, though Holtzmann had promised that it was less exposure than she'd gotten in a summer at Fermilab.
At least the equipment readings were proving interesting. Nothing happened when Abby answered the chewing dog question with "my bag" (number six), but when Holtzmann answered with "my multimeter," the buzz of the strike had indeed been accompanied by a low rumble, like a truck outside, and a slight tinge of blue-green light. Ditto Patty's answer of "a library book", to the team's general indignation -- what kind of people was the show surveying, that they didn't care what their dog did to library property?
"Kevin. Name something that you don't want your dog chewing on."
"Your cat?" *Ding* "Number four!"
"No, I really meant...."
Patty silenced him with a quick elbow to the side as Steve Harvey returned to Erin. "Erin. Name something that you don't want your dog chewing on."
Steve looked at her, then at the audience, then back at her. "Do you mean your own dead body, or some random dead dude who happens to be laid out in your living room?"
"Well, if you're working with ghosts, I guess you know where they came from. A corpse!"
The third strike sounded, and Steve went to the other team.
"Big spike there," Abby whispered. "Not enough coming through to identify yet, though. If I get this next question, I'll pass to the other team so we can concentrate on the readouts."
The other team failed to guess a correct answer ("A hairbrush? Really?"), and the next round began.
"We asked a hundred people to name an opera that they have heard something from. Abby!"
"Turandot." *Ding* "Number seven. Herc, name an opera that people have heard something from."
"If we're assuming average people, then I would have to say Carmen."
*Ding* "Carmen! Number one answer! Pass or play?"
The Ghostbusters team huddled over their screens as the other team answered questions. "I'm not getting anything," Erin whispered.
"They'll miss one at some point," Abby replied. "Nobody knows that much opera."
Nobody, apparently, but the other team who proceeded to get all the answers, despite one member's long babbling before he burst out with "Rigoletto!" and another's unrecognizable attempt to sing "Ride of the Valkyries".
The filming paused for a short break. Erin banged her head against the desk. "We are never going to get this."
"Of course we will," Abby said, patting her arm. "It's just taking a little time, but we'll get the data. Remember when we had to run that sample for Professor Dodds? We can do it; we just have to be patient."
The third round began. While the other team won the face-off question ("Name a food that you eat with cheese"), they soon got a strike ("Arthur, you said 'fizzy yogurt'." Bzzzz!).
In the corner, the rumbling repeated and the blue-green shifted slightly bluer. "Wow," Holtzmann said, staring at her readout. "We've got a class seven, radiating in the low infrared."
Erin and Abby leaned over to see. "Whoopee!" Abby shouted, then realized that the camera crew, the other team, and Steve Harvey were all staring at her. "Sorry, everyone. I just got...caught. Caught up. Caught up in the game. It's so exciting!"
"Abby," Steve said, "I *love* your enthusiasm, but can you maybe turn it down a notch?"
"Yes, sorry. Sorry, everyone." She whispered to the other Ghostbusters, "This is so awesome!"
Steve Harvey shook his head and turned back to the other team. "Carolyn. Name a food that you eat with cheese."
"Okay," Patty whispered, "what's a class seven and why does the infrared matter?"
Holtzmann patted the pocket where the remote control for the trap lived. "It means we can't stop it with the weapons we have."
"That's right!" Abby clasped her hands together as if to contain a laugh. "The ionizing beams won't have much effect on it. At best we'll be able to annoy it, but it won't be permanently harmed."
Erin rolled her eyes. "Why are you excited about it if we can't destroy it?"
"Because we've never seen one before!"
"And now I can find out what happens if I connect the buzzers to the nuclear reactor."
"I can't believe I took this job."
"Grilled cheese sandwich."
They all looked at Kevin. Erin shook her head. "I'm sorry, what?"
"Something that you eat with cheese. A grilled cheese sandwich."
"Right. So, what do we *do* about this ghost? Isn't there anything that can stop it?"
Abby and Holtzmann looked at each other. "Another ghost."
"So we have to find another ghost before this ghost gets too strong, which should happen...." BZZT! "...after one more wrong answer."
"Great," Patty said as the last of the answers turned over to audience applause. "I just hope I get a question I can answer."
She went up to the podium and shook hands with Martin. Steve read the question. "Name a Marvel Avenger."
Patty's hand slammed onto the buzzer. "Tony Stark, Iron Man."
Steve paused. "That was the land speed record for an answer."
"Well, of course I'd know that one! He's a New Yorker. In the original comics, Stark Tower was on Broadway and 58th, near where the Museum of Arts and Design is now; later on it moved to Times Square. In the movies, it's on Park Avenue, where the MetLife Building is in real life."
"You know, when I think 'comics nerd', the mental image I get looks nothing like you."
"I'm no comics nerd, sweetie; I'm a New York history fan."
"That you are. You said Iron Man...." Ding! "Number two! Martin, name a Marvel Avenger."
"Um, Captain America?"
Ding! "Number one answer! Will you pass or play?"
Martin looked uncertainly at Carolyn, and at her crisp nod said, "Play."
As Patty returned to her desk, Kevin whispered, "Why didn't you say Zeus?"
"What do you mean, Zeus?"
"You know, Zeus? The one who's the thunder god?"
"The thunder...no, I am not getting into this with you right now. Besides, he wasn't either of the top two answers."
Kevin grinned. "But he's totally the best one."
Meanwhile, Steve Harvey now stood by the other team's last player. "Arthur. Name an Avenger."
"Oh, that's easy. Mrs. Peel."
Steve turned to the audience, all expression unnecessary, then to the board. "You said, 'Mrs. Peel'."
The buzzer sounded, and the blue-green light shifted to a lurid purple.
"What?" Arthur turned to his teammates. "Nobody picked her? But she's the best one!"
"He has a point," Abby murmurred, picking up her positron gun.
"True." Erin strapped the energy pack onto her back. "Marvel missed an opportunity there."
Patty pulled on her vest and turned on the transformer. "We could write them about it. Except that we're all going to die."
Holtzmann was already facing the corner, guns drawn. "Come on, let's see what you look like."
A giant glowing crow's-head emerged from the floor, followed by a body reminiscent of a lobster crossed with a tree.
"Ooh, yeah, that's perfect!" Holtzmann fired; the ghost's beak opened, and a microphone-frying screech filled the air. The other team dove down behind their desks, and Steve Harvey backed up behind the Ghostbusters.
"We're done for," Patty said, firing her own beam to the right of Holtzmann's.
"No, we're not!" Abby added her beam to the mix. "We just have to figure out how to get another ghost."
Steve said, "That's easy! Another minute, and we'll *all* be ghosts!"
"Wait!" Erin grabbed one of the question cards out of Steve's hand and started drawing on it. "Holtzmann, if we reverse the spin on the electrons, can we *summon* a ghost?"
"Of course we can; that's easy."
"Can we summon a ghost without producing an explosion that creates Atlanta Bay?"
"But that's boring... okay, yes."
"Great! You start on that and the rest of us will try to keep it contained."
As Holtzman dove behind their equipment waving her wrench, Patti said, "Are you sure that's a good idea? How do you know what kind of ghost we'll get?"
The ghost screeched again and waved a claw-branch; Erin's beam pushed it back, but only a few inches. "The theory says that the ghost will have --oof! -- a connection with this place."
"If we get an antebellum slaveholder, I'm sending his ass back from whence he came, I don't give a shit whether he takes Tweetybastian here with him."
A metal box sailed over their heads and landed between them and the ghost. The box bounced twice; then a bright gold circle appeared in the air above it.
Another swipe from a claw-branch, this one shoving Abby back a few steps. "Holtzmann!" she shouted. "Why isn't it working?"
"It's jammed up! The increased level of oxygen-18 isotopes says that there's more than one ghost trying to come through the portal, and they can't decide who should go first!"
Erin exhaled. "So, we're all going to die because a bunch of ghosts are having an argument?"
"No, there just isn't a force from our side strong enough to single out a particular one. Now, if one were summoned by name by someone with a connection...."
Patty blinked. "Wait a minute! Summoned by name? Connection?" She braced her positron gun on a corner of the contestant desk and turned her head. "Steve! For a hundred points and the saving of the whole damn world, name the former host of this show!"
"Which one?" Steve shouted, ducking to avoid another claw-branch swipe.
"Which one do you think?!"
"Oh, you mean Richard Dawson?"
"Is that going to work?" Erin threw a lepton mine at the ghost; the ghost squawked. "Or do we have to look up his birth name on Wikipedia?"
Before anyone could answer, a figure stepped through the circle and looked around the stage. "We asked one hundred people, name a creature that should be returned to the dimension of ghosts." The ghost roared, and the figure nodded. "You said, yourself. Survey says...."
Bright sparks flew from the figure's arms to the positron guns, and the beams changed color. The ghost howled, but was now forced toward the portal; Holtzmann adjusted the controls, and the portal slowly sucked in the crow-headed ghost.
As the last claw-branch vanished, the figure turned to Steve Harvey and shook his hand. "You're doing great. I really love watching the show." He saluted the Ghostbusters and then disappeared back into the portal himself; Holtzmann slammed down the power, and the gold circle shrank and vanished.
"Well," Erin said on the plane going back to New York, "we lost the game, but at least they did pay us."
Abby patted the copy of the bank draft that had already been wired to their account. "We don't have to take another job for a month."
"Now we can finally buy that new particle accelerator!" Holtzmann noticed the others' expressions. "Or we can fix the roof leak."
"We might want to think about taking on more trainees," Patty said. "With all the ghost stories I heard from the tour guides, there's enough business in Atlanta for a satellite office."
"But how would it stay in orbit?" Kevin asked.
The team looked at each other, then high-fived and laughed.