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The Night of the Ninjas

Chapter Text

 

 

 

Standard fanfic disclaimer that wouldn't last ten seconds in a court of law: this story is based on characters and situations from the TV shows The Real Ghostbusters and The Master. No profit has been made, nor will be made, from this amateur writing exercise which was conducted purely for the pleasure of the author and the readers. All characters will be returned to their original copyright holders, suitably bandaged. This story was originally published in the fanzine Things that Go Bump in the Night #3, published by Neon RainBow Press.

 

 

The Night of the Ninjas

The Master/The Real Ghostbusters

by Susan M. M.

For Ian


 

Carlos Chavez found Timmy Tanaka hiding on the far side of the playground, hiding behind a juniper bush. "You shouldn't cry. They only get worse if they see you cry."

"I'm not crying," Timmy said.

Carlos looked at his classmate's damp cheeks and swollen eyes, but did not call him a liar. "If they think they got you, they're worse. Like sharks smelling blood in the water. You gotta act tough; you gotta act cool."

Carlos knew all about them. His abuela sometimes called him "Gordito," or Little Chubby One. They called him Fatty or Burrito. He knew how hard it was to pretend to be tough or cool under the onslaughts of their attacks, both verbal and physical.

Timmy just sniffled.

"Your grandpa owns a karate school. Why don't you just kick 'em?"

"I'm not allowed to use karate outside of class," Timmy replied honestly. He neglected to mention that despite two years of lessons, and generations of martial artists in his family, he was the worst karate student in his class.


 

After recess, Timmy kept thinking about his conversation with Carlos, which was why he missed two words on the spelling test. He wasn't allowed to use karate or judo outside of class. But there was something his grandfather had that was tougher than karate. And although he knew he wasn't supposed to touch it, he'd never been specifically told not to use it against anyone at school. And there was no way Gage and his gang could stand up to the contents of the jade jar.


 

Timmy came into the kitchen and watched his mother stirring spaghetti. "Mom, if we got a dog, would it speak English or Japanese?"

"We're not getting a dog," Mrs. Tanaka replied.

"But if," Timmy persisted.

"I suppose it would speak both languages, like us. You can train a dog to obey to commands in any language." She unscrewed the cap off the garlic and shook one sprinkle into the boiling water. "I know sometimes they train police dogs to only obey commands in German or Dutch, so the bad guys can't tell the dogs what to do."

"How do you say 'sit' in Japanese?" Timmy asked.

"You know that. Suwari." She stirred the spaghetti.

"How do you say 'roll over'?

"Korogasu. Get me the Ragu out of the refrigerator, please." Mrs. Tanaka had discovered that it saved time and dirty dishes if she simply poured the sauce over the spaghetti, and let the heat of the pasta warm the sauce, instead of warming the sauce in a separate pot.

Timmy opened the refrigerator and poked around, looking for the jar of spaghetti sauce. "How do you say 'sic 'em' in Japanese?"

"Out of the way, Timmy, I need to drain the spaghetti and I don't want you getting burnt." She put on oven mitts and picked up the heavy pot.

"But how do you say 'sic 'em'?" Timmy persisted.

"Kogeki-suru,"she replied absently. "Now, scoot, I don't want to burn you. Or me. Go set the table." She drained the spaghetti into the sink.

"Yes, Mom."


 

Timmy stood on his tiptoes to reach the jade jar. It wasn't much bigger than the jar of Ragu he'd just gotten for his mother, but it was far, far heavier. He knew he wasn't supposed to touch it. He knew all the curios on that shelf were off limits; they were all old and very breakable. But he had to do something to stop Gage and the other bullies at school.


 

"Hey, Timmy, what you got there?" Gage demanded. He looked from the smaller child to his gang, a menacing expression in his hazel eyes.

"Just an old jar." Timmy twisted the lid. It was on tight and took a minute to come off. Then he pointed the open container at the boys and whispered, "Kogeki-suru."

Gray smoke poured out of the jar. The smoke coalesced into a man shape – a man with four arms. The top right arm held a ninjato, a short sword smaller than a samurai's katana, but larger than a wakizashi. The top left arm had nunchaku. A shuriken was in the lower right hand. The lower left hand held a small knife. A mask covered his whole face, except for his eyes – glowing eyes filled with malice and evil.

"At last," the ghost announced, "free. Free to seek new prey."

Hank wet his pants. Jacob and Bob ran. After a second's hesitation, Hank followed them. Gage, the terror of the playground, was too frightened to move a single muscle.

The ghost threw his shuriken. It flew right through Gage. The boy shrieked in agony, although there was no tear in his clothing, no blood on his body. The ghost raised his ninjato, ready to strike, and Gage fainted.

"You did it! You got them," Timmy crowed.

"Yes, descendant of my enemy. And you are next," the ghost warned, lifting his sword again.

Timmy ran, but he was only flesh and blood. He couldn't outrun a ghost. The blade sliced through his body and he fell to the ground. When the school custodian found him, he was unconscious, and where the ectoplasmic blade had pierced his body, the temperature was lower than the surrounding flesh.


 

"Hey, guys, you got time to go out to Long Island before dinner?" Janine Melnitz asked the Ghostbusters.

Winston Zeddemore looked up wearily. They'd just returned from a case in Harlem, a jazz musician who refused to admit the Roaring Twenties were long over. It had been a tough case, but a successful one: they'd actually managed to exorcise the ghost and persuade him to move on. Usually they captured ghosts and brought them back to their ex-fire station headquarters, imprisoning them in the containment unit. All Winston wanted was a cold beer, a hot meal, and a soft bed. "What's in Long Island?"

"Some sort of ninja or samurai," Janine, the Ghostbusters' secretary, replied. "Attacked some school kids, and then moved on to a strip mall."

"Strip malls in Long Island deserve to be attacked," muttered Dr. Peter Venkman. The former parapsychology professor was now leader of the quartet of exorcists for hire.

"There's a lot of difference between ninjas and samurais," Dr. Ray Stantz began. "Samurais were ancient warriors, like European knights. Ninjas were members of an assassin cult."

"Not unlike the hashshashin of the Old Man of the Mountain in the medieval mideast," interrupted Dr. Egon Spengler.

"History lecture later," Peter declared. "Let's bust this ghost so we can eat dinner."


"Okay, where is it?" Winston asked as they parked the Ecto-1, the souped-up hearse that was the team's principal means of transportation.

Ray pointed to the people running in crazed terror from a Japanese restaurant. "There might be a good place to start."

Peter nodded. "Yeah, could be, could be."

Carefully hoisting their proton guns, the Ghostbusters headed for the Golden Dragon Restaurant.

"Don't panic," Peter announced loudly, "we're professionals." Lowering his voice, he asked his colleagues, "Do you think they'll give us some free tempura when we're done?"

"Fried food is bad for your health," Egon retorted.

They entered the restaurant cautiously; the banter stopped. Despite their boots, the four men moved as silently as shadows. Egon pulled out his PKE meter. His eyebrows rose as he took the reading.

"Class six," he whispered to his colleagues. "That way."

"Six?" Winston repeated. They hadn't faced anything that tough in months.

Ray's eyes sparkled in delighted anticipation. "Wow, a class six!"

Peter shook his head. Sometimes Ray was just too enthusiastic about their work. As far as Peter was concerned, that was unnatural – like being awake and functional before one's second cup of coffee in the morning.

The four walked through the foyer into the main dining room. Overturned chairs decorated the room; chopsticks, silverware, and spilled rice lay upon the floor.

The ghost was in the middle of the room, floating above a Benihana-style grill. The black-clad ghost was well-armed. In fact, it had four arms, a weapon in each. Bo and a swordin the top arms, shuriken and a sai, a Japanese swordcatcher, in the lower arms. Nunchaku were strapped to its belt. Two glowing eyes peered through a black mask.

Peter and Ray moved to the right, Winston and Egon to the left, flanking the specter.

"One for the money," Peter recited, firing his proton gun.

"Two for the show," chimed in Winston, readying his own weapon.

The ghost dropped its bo and drew his sword. The quarterstaff hung in midair. The sword deflected the energy beam.

Peter's jaw dropped. "Holy Hannah! Nothing's ever done that before."

"I told you, it's a class six." Egon fired his own proton gun. The ghost nimbly leapt over the beam.

Ray and Winston fired simultaneously. Their aim was true, but – somehow – the ghost managed to dodge both beams.

Peter snapped his mouth shut and fired again. The black-clad ghost jumped up, turned a somersault in midair, and landed in front of him. He grabbed his bo, and swung it, knocking the proton gun out of Peter's hands. He threw a shuriken at Ray.

"Ouch!" The chubby parapsychologist fumbled with his proton gun, nearly dropping it. "I felt that through my gloves."

The ghost cartwheeled across the dining room, moving through the tables and chairs. He kicked Winston, knocking the African-American to the floor. Then he spun, hitting Egon's wrist with a vicious karate chop. He glided back to the center of the dining room. With an imperious gesture, he shouted a command in Japanese.

Egon spoke a little Japanese, although neither as much nor as fluently as he did ancient Babylonian. It took him a few minutes to comprehend what the spirit had ordered. His face paled. "Duck!"

The warning came too late.

Decorations flew off the walls. The framed picture of Mt. Fuji came down on Peter's head. The imitation samurai helmet butted Ray in the stomach. The three foot long gilded bas-relief dragon flew around Egon three times before crashing down on his shoulder. An elaborately painted plaster pagoda came down hard on Winston's foot, then flew up and struck his chin.

The ghost laughed maniacally. "You amuse me, gaijin. Therefore, I shall permit you to live."

A cloud of chrysanthemum-scented gray smoke enveloped the room. When it cleared away, the ghost was gone.


 

"We need more information about this spirit," Egon announced over a late dinner. They were back at the firehouse, patching each other's wounds and eating McDonald's burgers.

"Ya think?" Peter asked sarcastically. His fries had gone cold, but he was too vexed with their failure to notice, let alone care. The Golden Dragon had not provided them with free tempura. By the time the time they had dug themselves out from the debris, not only was the ghost long gone, but Channel 5 news was there to capture their defeat in humiliating detail.

"It's not a kitsune," Ray volunteered. "They're mischievous, but seldom malicious. And I'm pretty sure it's not a gaki."

"Tetramands are generally found in Indian folklore, not Japanese." Egon sipped his Coca-Cola. "However, other than the extra set of arms, he looked rather like the depictions of a ninja one sees in low-budget martial arts movies. If you check Tobin's Spirit Guide, Ray, I'll do a computer search after dinner."

Ray nodded, his mouth too full of cheeseburger to speak.

"We need to back-track this thing," Winston suggested. "Why did it come to the Golden Dragon? Was that the first place it appeared, or were there other sightings? Wait, didn't Janine say it went after some kids?"


 

When Timmy woke up, he was in the hospital. He blinked, startled to see his parents bending over him. "Wh-what—"

"It's all right, honey. You're safe, and you're going to be okay," his mother assured him.

"How do you feel, Tim?" his father asked gently.

Memories suddenly floated back. Too many emotions flooded the young boy's mind: fear and shame being the chief among them. "Grandpa," he whispered. "Where's Grandpa?"

Mrs. Tanaka replied, "Grandma and Grandpa are at home, watching Emily."

"I gotta talk to Grandpa. I gotta tell him what I did." Timmy became so agitated that a nurse, monitoring the vital signs at her station, hurried in to sedate him.


 

The ghost attacked a sushi bar in Manhattan. It trashed a karate dojo in Queens. It paid a brief – and confused – visit to Yoshiko's Beauty Salon in Brooklyn, which had kept the name after Yoshiko Finkelstein had sold it years ago. Each time, the Ghostbusters got there too late. Channel 5 was having a field day at their expense.


 

John Peter McAllister sighed wearily. They must have visited every modeling agency in New York City, but they were still no closer to finding his missing daughter, Teri.

"Maybe we should check out talent agencies and casting directors tomorrow," suggested Max Keller, his traveling companion. "A lot of models try to become actresses."

McAllister nodded, too tired – and too frustrated – to speak. The WWII vet felt every one of his sixty-plus years today.

"You mind if I turn on the TV and check the news?" Max asked.

McAllister shook his head. The top of his shiny pate was bald, but the back and sides of his head were covered with white hair.

Max turned on the TV, then flopped down on the motel room bed with a decided lack of ninja grace. McAllister raised one white eyebrow, but was too tired to scold him about his posture.

"And in sports, the Cascade Jaguars beat the Knicks, 65-62. Moving on to local news, the Ghostbusters, heroes or zeroes?"

"Ghostbusters?" McAllister repeated.

"What, you never heard of them in Japan?" Max asked. His mentor had spent most of the past thirty years living in the Orient.

"I vaguely remember a Bob Hope movie about ghost hunting."

"Naw, these guys fight and catch ghosts." Max pointed to the TV screen, to four men in khaki uniforms. "There they are."

"Ghostbusters, heroes or zeroes?" asked the anchorman. "Once again, the Ghostbusters were defeated by the ninja ghost."

"What?!" Max and McAllister exclaimed simultaneously. "Ninja ghost?"


 

It took Mr. Tanaka several phone calls before he was able to reach the person he wanted. Each call led to another contact. He had to wait for messages to be relayed. But after several days, he was able to reach someone who could do something about the problem.

"Okasa-san? You must come to New York. We have need of you."


 

Egon rang the doorbell. A moment later a petite, attractive Oriental woman opened the door. "Mrs. Tanaka? I'm Dr. Spengler. This is Dr. Stantz. We called you about coming over to speak to your son?"

She nodded. "Please, come in." She opened the door wider, and Egon and Ray stepped inside. "Timmy and my father-in-law are in the living room. They insist they need to talk to you."

Egon and Ray followed her into a very modern living room, comfortable but ordinary. The only thing that indicated that the family that lived here was named Tanaka instead of Zimmerman or O'Reilly were the shelves of Oriental curios on one wall. Timmy and his grandfather sat waiting on the couch. Both wore modern American clothing, Timmy blue jeans and a T-shirt, his grandfather a dark blue business suit.

"Tanaka-san?" Egon bowed respectfully. Ray did likewise.

"Wow, the Ghostbusters!" Despite the severity of the situation, Timmy couldn't help his excitement.

Mr. Tanaka gave his grandson a quelling glance. The boy calmed down at once.

"We are honored you have invited us into your home, sir." Egon bowed again slightly, waiting for a sign of comprehension. If the elderly gentleman did not appear to understand, then he would repeat his comment in Japanese.

"I am the one honored." The older man inclined his head, acknowledging the respect due his white hair and wrinkles. "I know what it is you seek, and why you can not catch it."

"You do? What is it?" Ray was almost as excited as Timmy had been.

"The spirit you seek has been in the custody of my family for generations. My grandson was the one who released it, and we are responsible for seeing that it is recaptured. It is our obligation."

"With respect, Tanaka-san, the capture of spirits is our business. It is our calling," Egon explained. "There is no loss to your honor is accepting help from those whose task it is to aid in such matters."

"Our honor would be diminished if you did not permit us to help," Ray added, calling on a somewhat lopsided knowledge of Japanese culture garnered from watching Japanimation cartoons.

The old man smiled at the attempt they were making to be as Japanese as possible in their manners. "It is not a matter of honor, gentlemen. While giri is involved, there is also the matter of ability. You can not deal with the warui yurei. I have already made arrangements to summon one who can. I merely called you here to tell you not to worry, that the situation is now in hand."

Ray and Egon exchanged disgruntled looks. This was not what they had expected when they'd gotten the phone call inviting them over.

"Perhaps if we had more information, we could deal with it," Egon suggested, not quite concealing the irritated note in his voice.

"There's no harm in telling them, is there, Grandpa?" Timmy asked.

Mr. Tanaka gave him a haven't-you-caused-enough-trouble look.

"Please, sofu-san?"the boy begged.

"For the sake of my intellectual curiosity, at least, I would like to know what the spirit we've been fighting is," Egon confessed.

Mr. Tanaka gestured for them to sit down. "Hollywood would have you think that all ninja are either heroic warriors, defending the common people from ruthless overlords, or else vicious, bloodthirsty killers, slaying without rhyme or reason. The truth is far different. All ninja were trained in warfare and weaponry; all ninja knew how to kill. Some killed only when necessary, such as evil overlords whose death would free their subjects. Some were assassins for hire, using their skills to earn a living by others' death. And as with all people, none were pure good or pure evil. But there was one, centuries ago, one who came closer to pure evil than most humans ever do save in poorly written fiction. He enjoyed killing. He slew indiscriminately: those whom he was paid to kill, as well as their wives and children and servants, those who hired him, those who annoyed or disrespected him, even those who had done him no harm. His soul was so foul that his name has been forgotten, and he is remembered only as Warui, the evil one."

Ray leaned forward, looking for all the world like an overgrown scout listening to a campfire story.

"So evil was this ninja that the other ninja disowned him. They tried to kill him, because his actions dishonored and endangered all of them. But his skill was as great as his evil; none could kill him. So great was his evil that it drew a demon the way a magnet draws iron filings. Once possessed, he was even worse than he had been before. One of my ancestors was a man of power and wisdom."

"A shaman?" Egon asked. "A sorcerer, or perhaps a priest?"

Mr. Tanaka merely smiled inscrutably, and did not answer the question. "Not only a man of power and wisdom, but also a man of great skill in the martial arts. How he obtained the jade jar has been lost to time. Perhaps it was already a relic of mystical power, perhaps he enchanted an ordinary jar or had it enchanted."

"Or blessed," Ray suggested, knowing the line between magic and religion was thinner in the East than it was in western tradition.

"My ancestor fought Warui, and trapped him in the jade jar. Sealed, he could not escape from his prison, and there he died. Because of the enchantments on the jar, the demon remained bound to him, even after death. There they remained, until released from the jar a few days ago."

"Were we fighting the demon or fighting the ninja's ghost?" Ray asked.

"After being bound together so long, they are no longer two separate entities," Mr. Tanaka replied.

"No wonder the PKE meter read it as a class six," Egon said under his breath. Class fours were the ghosts of people, like Anne Boleyn at the Tower of London, who were still capable of interacting with the living. Class fives were Netherworld creatures like Slimer, or some of Gozer's lesser minions. Class sevens were demons. A ghost melded with the demon that had possessed it in life, yes, that would explain the class six reading.

"I have sent for someone who can deal with Warui. You need not concern yourself with the matter further," Mr. Tanaka told them.

Chapter Text


The Ghostbusters crept up on the Larabee Museum of Oriental History and Art. Moving carefully in the dark, they went to the rear of the building.

"What makes you so sure he'll come here tonight?" Peter asked.

"Feng shui," Winston whispered, "and the full moon tonight."

"Feng what?" Ray asked.

"Feng shui is a Chinese belief, not Japanese," Egon corrected.

"What is it?" Peter demanded in an irritated tone.

"It's a way of arranging buildings and furniture, supposed to promote harmony," Winston, an ex-construction worker, explained. "I know it's Chinese, but China and Japan aren't that far apart. When we were checking this place out earlier, I noticed the way they were raking the meditation garden."

Egon shone his flashlight over the garden. Two large rocks erupted from the carefully raked sand. The rake had left patterns in the white sand, patterns that were supposed to aid in meditation. A raised wooden platform stood at the back of the garden, against the rear wall of the museum. The beam of his flashlight rested for a moment on the rake, which someone had left lying near the entrance to the garden.

"The oval patterns in the sand, they could be ritual wards. And the rake lying there as it does," Egon realized, "it breaks the circle."

Ray nodded, seeing where Winston was going with this now. "Practically an engraved invitation for Warui."

"Nearly every other building in Little Tokyo has protective glyphs," Egon remembered. Some had been Shinto, some Buddhist, a few Christian, but almost every commercial building in the area – as well as many of the homes – had some attempt at arcane protection. "But with the rake breaking the circle, Warui should find this garden irresistible."

"Oh, I don't know. I prefer lilac bushes myself," Peter quipped.

Egon shot his colleague a dirty look as Winston picked the lock to the gate of the meditation garden. Trying not to disturb the rake marks, the Ghostbusters entered the garden. They arranged themselves at the cardinal points of the compass and settled down to wait.

"Too bad this isn't Man from UNCLE," Peter said in a loud stage whisper. "We could play Botticelli."

"Shut up, Peter," his team mates said in unison.


 

An hour and a half's worth of cramped muscles later, the ghost appeared. Cackling like one of Macbeth's witches, he floated above the entry into the meditation garden made by the rake. The Ghostbusters waited until he was nearly in the center of the sand before firing their proton guns.

The ghost whirled. His sword spun, seeming to be everywhere at once. The proton beams did not touch him. He rose into the air, and suddenly the night seemed even darker.

Peter muttered a cuss-word under his breath.

"You cease to amuse me, gaijin." The ghost gestured. The four Ghostbusters found themselves floating in the air, struggling to hold on to their weapons. The ghost's nunchaku whirled and struck.

"Ouch!"

As the Ghostbusters dangled upside in midair, the ghost's bo attacked, leaving painful bruises.

"Now I know how a piñata feels," Peter groaned.

They rose up, higher and higher. The ghost laughed maliciously, then snapped his fingers. The Ghostbusters fell to the ground.

"How shall I kill you, gaijin? Shall I pierce your veins with my shuriken, and watch as your blood stains the white sand? Or shall I chop off your heads with my ninjato?"

"Leave them, Warui, and face me," a voice said in the darkness.

The ghost turned around. A man stood there, clothed in the traditional black garb of a ninja. Silver chain mail veiled his face and protected his wrists.

"Who dares?"

"I am Okasa. I have come to defeat you," the ninja announced.

"Okasa… The name is familiar. I believe I slew one of your ancestors, many years ago."

"You will not slay me." Okasa charged the ghost, a katana in his hand.

Battered, out of breath, the Ghostbusters could scarcely follow the fight. The two ninjas, one alive, one dead, moved too quickly. Sword blades met. Feet kicked. Part acrobatics, part deadly dance, part donnybrook, the two attacked each other again and again.

The fight seemed to last for hours. They varied their fighting styles, each trying to prevent the other from predicting his next move. Karate, then swords. Nunchaku, then judo. They moved from the sand to the meditation platform and back again. Okasa leapt as Warui swung his bo. Warui caught Okasa's katana in his sai. Okasa kicked, but his foot passed through Warui's chest. Warui kept shifting from solid to intangible. The challenge of a worthy opponent amused him, and he permitted Okasa to think he had a chance of survival – perhaps even of victory – by letting their weapons meet.

Okasa was one of the deadliest fighters alive, one of the youngest men to achieve the rank of ninja master in the 20th century. But he was a live man, and Warui was a spirit. He had only two arms to Warui's four. Eventually, muscles tired, breath failed.

Warui knocked the katana out of his arms. His ninjato sliced through Okasa's flesh again and again. Finally, the half-dead ninja fell to the ground, unable to move. Warui raised his blade high, ready to decapitate his foe.

Suddenly a strange voice shouted out a command in Japanese.

Warui turned. The Ghostbusters, still barely able to stir, managed to look in the direction from which the voice had come. Two men stood there. One was clad as a ninja. The other, a young Caucasian, wore blue jeans, a flannel shirt, and a leather jacket.

"Check out, Jack," the young man said. He threw a shuriken.

"Foolish mortal," Warui cackled. Then he flinched. "I felt that!"

"Silver shuriken, blessed by a Shinto priest," the ninja explained. "Max, give him another taste."

Max threw three more shuriken. The ghost dodged two, but one struck him. Warui recoiled, more surprised by the pain than hurt.

"Get away from Okasa," the ninja ordered.

"Who are you to tell me what to do?" Warui demanded.

Blue eyes gleamed beneath the mask. "John Peter McAllister."

"A gaijin ninja?" the ghost asked in disbelief.

McAllister drew his katana and charged. "A ninja master, and the most dangerous man you'll ever meet, alive or dead."

Then the talking stopped. McAllister didn't waste his breath on clever repartee. He attacked the ghost, driving Warui away from Okasa so Max could drag the wounded ninja to safety.

Again, ninja ghost battled live ninja. McAllister moved with speed and dexterity that belied his sixty-odd years. Katana against ninjato, blades met and clashed again and again. McAllister neither stopped nor slowed when Warui's blade kissed his flesh.

Max crept around the fight, checking on the Ghostbusters and helping revive them. When all four were upright and at least semi-conscious, Max called out, "Take a break, old timer."

McAllister stepped back. Max rushed Warui. Nimbly dodging his eldritch sword, Max kicked and chopped. He did the ghost no harm, but he kept the spirit off balance long enough for McAllister to catch his breath.

"My turn, Max." McAllister returned to the fray. His sword flashed; his sword flew. He continued the lesson Okasa had started, reminding the ghost of the existence of pain.

Still groggy, the Ghostbusters readied their proton guns.

Max leapt and kicked, attacking Warui from behind. The ghost was solid at the time, and the blow knocked him off-balance. McAllister's sword came down, cutting off Warui's hand. The hand reattached itself a second later, but the sword fell. McAllister grabbed it, letting his own blade fall to the sand. Seizing the ninjato, he thrust it through Warui's chest, impaling him like a butterfly in an entomologist's collection.

"Now, guys," Max shouted.

The Ghostbusters fired their proton guns. Warui was caught in the streams. He struggled, but the four exorcists held firm, like fishermen trying to land an especially large trout. Winston tossed out the trap.

Warui shrieked as he was pulled into the containment trap.

The Ghostbusters breathed a collective sigh of relief. Peter swore.

"Are you hurt?" Ray asked their rescuer.

McAllister shook his head. "Nothing Bactine and a few bandages won't handle. Better check on him, though," he indicated Okasa with a jut of his chin.

Max hurried to his mentor's side. "This looks like more than just a first aid kit can handle."

"Come with us back to the firehouse," Egon invited. "We have a certain experience in dealing with ectoplasm-infected injuries."

Ignoring his complaints, Max helped McAllister into the van.

"Can he ride in your van?" Peter pointed to Okasa.

Max hesitated. "It might be safer if he rides with you." He glanced from McAllister to Okasa. "They don't get along so well. If he regains consciousness in my van and realizes where he is…"

Egon raised an eyebrow. "I hardly think, in his condition, that he would be capable of rendering any harm to you or your," the physicist hesitated, searching for the right word, "companion."

"I'm not worried about that," Max replied. "He's likely to hurt himself if he tries. And despite everything Okasa's done, it would break the Master's heart if anything happened to him." In his concern for his teacher, Max didn't even realize he'd let the nickname slip out.

Peter traded a quick, perplexed glance with Egon. Modern young Americans who looked more like surfer dudes than anything else generally didn't refer to people as "master."


 

Max reached for another slice of pizza.

"Uh, not that one," Ray warned.

Max looked down and saw that Slimer had dripped ectoplasmic goo on the piece he was about to take. He reached a little further and took a different slice. He watched as Slimer chomped down on two slices of pizza simultaneously. "How does he do that?"

"No table manners," Winston retorted automatically.

"No, I mean how does a ghost eat?" Max asked.

"Technically, he's not really a ghost," Ray replied.

"He's a class five spirit," Egon explained. "A Netherworld creature – he was never a living human."

"Remember," Peter quipped, "Casper the Friendly Ghost was once Casper the Friendly Boy."

Egon sighed. He'd heard that joke too many times for it to be funny anymore. He continued scanning Okasa's injuries with the PKE meter.

"You have placed me in an awkward situation, Master," Okasa complained. He spoke Japanese, sure this would keep their conversation private. He knew Max knew no more Japanese than any American could pick up from watching Shogun. "You have saved my life, but—"

"He did more than save your life," Egon interrupted, speaking badly accented but grammatical Japanese. "You owe him not merely your life, but your soul." Egon wasn't sure what the story was between McAllister and Okasa, but he could tell there was some form of relationship between them – a very strained relationship. He didn't know enough about modern Japanese culture to understand the requirements of giri, but he sensed that this debt might somehow be used to heal the breech between the two ninjas.

Okasa glared at Egon, one black eyebrow raising in annoyance at the interruption. "My honor demands that I kill you, taisho. Yet my honor also demands that I spare your life."

"Then you have a decision to make," McAllister told him. His voice was formal and neutral, as though the matter under discussion were of no interest to him. "You must decide along which path your honor truly lies: killing an old man who has never harmed you – an old man who was once far more to you than a stranger – or sparing the life of the man who saved your life." Cobalt blue eyes peered into the face of the younger ninja.

"You betrayed the—"

"I did nothing of the kind," McAllister interrupted. "If there was any betrayal, it was on the part of you and your companions, who returned to the old ways."

Max turned to his master. He couldn't understand what they were saying, but he could make some solid guesses based on the tone of voice.

"This is your path to walk, and your decision to make. Don't expect me to make it easy for you." Switching to English, McAllister said, "I hope you young whippersnappers saved some of that pizza for me."

Silently, Max placed a slice on a paper plate and handed it to him. He turned to Okasa. "Let me guess, you finally got the excuse you wanted, and now you're not sure what to do with it."

"What excuse?" Okasa snarled.

"Not killing him. You don't want to, not really, or you would have done it months ago. Now," the curly-haired young man shrugged, "you've got a valid excuse why you can't kill him."

Okasa sat, silent and sullen, unwilling or unable to reply.

"You have a decision to make," McAllister told his former pupil in English. He stood and walked over to Okasa. "But I think you should sleep on it. You are tired, and need to rest." He laid a hand on the younger ninja's shoulder, as if to comfort him. Then his hand slide an inch or two over and pinched a nerve. Okasa slumped down on the couch.

"You used a Vulcan neck pinch?" Ray asked, his eyes wide.

"Hey, Roddenberry didn't invent it. They used it in the Beach Blanket movies," Peter mentioned.

"You would remember a movie full of bikinis," Winston teased.

"Actually," Egon pointed out, "Hollywood used the 'Vulcan neck pinch' long before Star Trek or the Annette Funicello-Frankie Avalon movies. It was in Abbott and Costello in the Foreign Legion."

Peter was shocked. "You watch Abbott and Costello movies?"

"Hey, Hold That Ghost was one of my major inspirations when I was a kid," Ray protested.

"It's merely a matter of applied biology. The ninja have been using it for years," McAllister interrupted the Hollywood discussion. "He'll be all right, but by the time he comes to, Max and I will be long gone."

"Do you think he'll still come after us?" Max asked.

"That's his decision to make. We can't choose his path for him." McAllister glanced at the food and drinks on the table. "Somebody pass me another beer, will you?"

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Domo arigato to Ian for requesting a ninja ghost story, and making plot suggestions (the tetramandic nature of the demon was his idea) and to the inimitable Sheila P. for background information on RGB and TM. All errors, of course, belong to the author...unlike the characters, who do not (alas) belong to me.