The Lady's Pleasure

by Sue K

 

 

Author's note: The Lady’s Pleasure: (Believe It or Not) A Halloween Story

(follows “Only in New York”)


“You did what?” Nelson asked, his voice rising enough to cause all of the men in the ward room to turn and glance at him before turning back to their lunches. The admiral’s glare was enough to discourage the most stalwart eavesdropper. Those who had heard the comment that preceded the admiral’s outburst bit off laughter. The men who had served on the Seaview for more than a couple of years knew just where the captain was coming from.

“I said that I had invited….”

“I heard what you said, Lee,” the admiral growled, glaring into his coffee. “I just couldn’t believe that you would call a group of supposed paranormal specialists to come to the boat and check it out.”

Crane shrugged. “Didn’t think it would hurt. And apparently, they aren’t ‘supposed,’ as you call them. I saw that green ghost that tailed Venkman into the bar. There was nothing supposed about him.”

“And that’s another thing . . . you found this guy in a bar?”

“Yes, sir. In the time before he took me up on my offer and called, I checked them out. They are legitimate, they have verified paranormal contacts and have performed their version of exorcisms enough to make me feel that they know what they are doing.” Crane smiled and then finished his cup of coffee. “It would be worth it if they could figure out why we seem to draw all kinds of paranormal entities, wouldn’t it?” He sighed. “Let’s face it, I sure don’t want a repeat of Krueger, Blackbeard or Shamus. Do you?”

“Of course not!” Nelson snapped. And he really didn’t, but if his friends in the Pentagon heard that he had invited a group of ghost exterminators on his boat, he’d never hear the end of it.

“They’ll be here in an hour and I did make sure to reiterate that they needed to leave Slimer back at their headquarters.”

“Slimer?” the admiral asked, his eyes wide in astonishment.

“The green ghost. Kind of messy little guy—leaves ectoplasmic goo wherever he goes. Hence the name.”

Nelson sighed. “All right, I’ll at least talk to them. But I swear, Lee, if they haul out voodoo dolls and chickens, I’m throwing them out—right into the harbor.”

Lee laughed. “From what I heard they have gadgets that may not look it, but would rival some of what you’ve invented.”

“You’re kidding, right?” The admiral prided himself on his scientific know-how and analytical problem solving. Somehow, he didn’t think of ‘ghostbusters’ as people who would use physics and logic to accomplish their purposes.

“No, I’m not. The leader of the group is very scientifically grounded with at least one doctorate, and even the guy I talked to, Peter Venkman has a background in physics and chemistry to go along with his doctorates in psychology and parapsychology,” Lee said, holding his cup out as Cookie came by with a fresh pot of coffee. “Half,” he said to the cook.

“Really?” The admiral looked at the card Lee had given him. “Which one is the leader of this motley crew?”

“Egon Spengler.” Lee ate another bite of his sandwich and washed it down with the coffee. “I’ll meet you in the control room in half an hour, Admiral.”

Harriman grunted absently as he continued to study the card. “Ghostbusters, eh?” he murmured as his captain handed a waiting galley mate his tray and left.

Both men were on deck to await the arrival of the four ghost specialists, as the admiral was beginning to call them. The sub was moored out in the harbor and Kowalski was at the dock with a skiff to bring them aboard. After meeting Peter Venkman that day in New York City, Lee didn’t think anything would surprise him, but as he watched through his binoculars, he found he was wrong. When the four men drove up to the dock in what appeared to be an ancient, though modified, ambulance and got out dressed in coveralls, he glanced at the admiral. The slight scowl that had been evident since Lee’s announcement of the invitation was now a deep frown. With a soft sigh, Crane continued to watch through the binoculars as the four men opened up the back of the vehicle and pulled out large backpacks that seemed loaded with a variety of equipment and gadgets. He recognized Peter immediately. One of the men, the African-American member of the team shook his head and refused to put on his pack. The other three walked to the end of the dock and carefully climbed into the skiff with Ski.

As the skiff approached, the two men dispensed with the binoculars and quietly waited. It didn’t take Ski long and a couple of crewman helped the trio up to the deck where the two officers were waiting.

“Admiral Nelson?” the tallest one asked. The admiral nodded. “It’s an honor to meet you, sir. My name is Dr. Egon Spengler.” He held out his hand and the admiral shook it. “I hope we can be of some service to you.”

“I hope so, too, Dr. Spengler,” the admiral said hesitantly. “This is my captain, Lee Crane,” he added, gesturing to Lee.

“Welcome aboard, Dr. Spengler,” Lee said.

“Thank you.” Turning back to the admiral, he said, “Admiral Nelson, these are my associates, Dr. Peter Venkman and Dr. Ray Stantz. Unfortunately our fourth member, Winston Zeddmore declined to come aboard. He has a problem with seasickness,” Spengler explained.

Lee nodded, figuring that was the reason for the other man’s refusal to leave the dock. Spengler was slightly taller than he was; thin, his thick, strangely curled, almost white hair adding to the height. Stantz was shorter, and slightly chubby. He had been ogling the boat since they had arrived on the dock and he was still staring around in rapt wonder, his eyes wide in almost child-like wonder. Peter glanced at him and winked knowingly. Lee smiled softly. “If you gentlemen would follow me, we’ll go below.”

When they climbed inside and everyone was standing in the control room, all of the men were agape, gazing at the inner workings of the giant sub with awe.

“Very impressive, sir,” Dr. Stantz said, his eyes wide in awe.

“Thank you,” Nelson said. He hoped that the men would begin their ghostly detective work soon. The control room compliment stared at their visitors with as much open curiosity as the ghostbusters gazed at them and the equipment. Commander Morton stood leaning against the periscope island watching them with something akin to wry amusement.

“I think we should see what we can find,” Egon Spengler said to his comrades. He turned to the admiral. “Dr. Venkman passed along all that Captain Crane told him about your past, uh, problems.” He unclipped a device from his harness belt and turned a dial.

A soft humming and several lights told the admiral that the gadget was some kind of detection device. And it seemed to be detecting something. Harriman ventured to lean toward it. He wasn’t very surreptitious.

“A PKE meter. It registers any kind of paranormal emanations,” Spengler explained.

“Like a ghostly Geiger counter,” Nelson murmured, his curiosity piqued.

“I guess you could call it that,” Egon said with a smile. “Could we walk through your ship? I am picking up something, but it’s not refined enough to tell what kind of entity it could be.”

“Of course, Doctor,” the admiral said. “Lee, could you lead the way aft?”

“Aye, aye, sir.” He motioned and the three men followed, each one with their own PKE meters in their hands, occasionally fiddling with the dials, moving the device back and forth, up and down as though they were water witches, trying to find water. Trying to find ghosts.

“Wait,” Egon said as he stood by the periscope island. Chip had moved aside, still not saying anything. “A fluctuation in readings.” After a minute, he looked up. “Go ahead, Captain.”

Crane looked at Nelson and saw the same expression. It was that exact spot where he had been standing when the admiral had shot him. He wondered if Krueger had been standing next to him at the time. Wouldn’t be surprised if he had. They continued. Several more times the scientist stopped and studied his device. And each time, Lee could correlate a paranormal event. In the missile room, though, Crane could come up with no correlation that would fit ghosts. When he had been brainwashed…. In Sharkey’s quarters. Again, there was nothing, but it had been here that Curley had died in his sleep. In the sick bay, there was a jump in paranormal readings. Krueger had been here, but so, too, had been others who had suffered, bled and died.

Spengler looked up from his device. “Admiral, Captain, could you correlate each of these rises in paranormal activity to events that have happened on the Seaview?”

“Yes,” Nelson said softly. “Not all of them dealt with ghosts, though.”

“Something traumatic?” Peter asked.

“Yes,” Crane answered before the admiral could. Doc looked ready to say something caustic, but Nelson cut him off with a wave of his hand. “Someone died or was hurt,” Lee continued.

“Hmm,” Egon murmured. “Makes sense. Was the control room manifestation the result of a ghost?”

“Yes.” Lee refused to elaborate.

“And the chief’s quarters a death?”

“Yes, Chief Sharkey’s predecessor,” Harriman replied. “Can you detect a presence then? Something influencing events on the submarine?”

“Yes, but it’s not in any kind of corporeal form,” Spengler said thoughtfully. “But it certainly would make sense that spread throughout your ship the way it is, there could be some kind of attraction bond to other metaphysical entities.”

Nelson had felt the same pain that he suspected Lee had felt when they had stopped in the control room. He had worked hard to rid himself of that pain, to go on, but apparently Lee had been right to get these men to exorcise whatever was residing in the boat. “Can you get rid of it?”

“I believe I can, though it will be tricky.”

“Why? Is there any danger to the crew or the boat?” Lee asked, alarmed.

“No, although I have never had an entity like this before, if I can even totally call it an entity,” Egon replied. He pulled another device from his belt and put it on the floor. Doc still looked skeptical, but he didn’t say anything. Apparently his curiosity was warring with his skepticism.

“How are we going to do this, Egon?” Ray Stantz asked.

“I am going to open the trap first and see if the ectoplasmic readings begin to gravitate toward this area.” Spengler pressed a button at his end of the cable attached to the trap. The small box opened like the top of a foot release garbage can and a bright white light shot upward toward the ceiling. They waited, and all the while the three ghostbusters were watching their PKE meters carefully. “Yes, there is a shifting of the entity, or aura, if you will. Very subtle, but it’s coming. It really can’t resist. It’s not that powerful.”

For several minutes the only sound in the sickbay was that of their breathing. Lee was able to see the meter in Peter’s hand fluctuate upward. Finally, Venkman said, “I think it’s as gathered as it’s going to get, Egon.” He pulled out what appeared to be some sort of outlandish rifle. Peter pressed a button and a high-pitched humming began. The rest followed suit.

“Yes, you’re right. All right, gentlemen, now!” Egon cried out. And three beams of powerful, concentrated light shot out and converged near the ceiling. The beams wavered, danced and changed color. From bright yellow to dull red, back and forth, then a whitish-blue light focused and was sucked into the trap that lay on the ground. It all drew in, and the trap closed.

Lee felt curiously empty, drained, as though he had been sucked dry. He wondered why these guys couldn’t have been around when Krueger had taken him over.

“That should do it,” Spengler said as he gathered the smoking trap and clipped it back on his harness. “We’ll take this back to headquarters and put it in the containment chamber.” He paused and stroked his chin. “I think I’ll study it a bit first, though. Check the readings. Try to find out more about this type of entity.”

“Thank you. I still don’t know what you did, but I am grateful if it cuts down on the amount of paranormal activities on board this vessel,” the admiral said. His voice seemed a bit drained. Lee had expected him to ask Spengler to explain the meters and trap, but he didn’t. He just stood by the doctor and watched as Lee escorted the men out of the room.

As the skiff jetted across the water with the three ghostbusters, Lee, standing on deck with his XO, sighed.

“Do you think they did something, Lee? Or was it all fluff and stuff?” Chip asked.

“No, they did something,” he said evenly. Why in the world was he feeling like he had just broken up with a girlfriend?

“Well, anyway, they’re gone. We can prepare to get underway and forget about all of this,” Chip said, shaking his head.

Lee nodded and followed his exec down the ladder. He checked the charts, gazed at their orders and quickly plotted a course. “Make the pre-checks and lay in a course for Panama and home,” he ordered.

“Aye, aye, Skipper,” Morton replied.

On sudden impulse, Crane walked to the observation bow windows and looked out across the harbor. He reached out and touched the bulkhead between the herculite windows. Then he jerked his hand back. Funny, he’d never noticed it feeling cold before. Of course, steel was cold, but he’d never noticed that it was, well, just that—cold. He couldn’t explain the difference. Oh, well…. He shrugged and headed back toward the control room. Chip ordered pre-checks of all systems and then ordered the course plotted in. Lee watched a while and then headed aft on an informal inspection. As he walked the corridor, he felt the slight movement that indicated that the propulsion units were coming online. Within a minute, Chip’s voice came over the intercom. They were leaving New York. He finished walking through the sub and headed toward the admiral’s cabin. Everything was normal. It was normal, and yet, something seemed not quite right. He shook his head and continued. Knocking on the door, he heard the quick, ‘come in’ and he entered.

“We’re underway, sir,” Lee reported.

“Good. I guess we’ll get to test whether those guys knew their stuff or not,” Nelson quipped.

“Well, for me, I can already notice a difference.”

“You can?” Harriman asked. He had, too. “In what way, Lee?”

“I really don’t know, Admiral. Just that there is one.”

“Well, if the result is nice normal missions, I’m happy,” Nelson said with a slight smile. “You were on watch part of the night and most of the day. Go get some shut-eye.”

Lee chuckled. “A bit of paperwork and then I’ll probably do just that.” An hour of eyeballing charts, reports and lists was all Crane could take and before he knew it he was dozing at the desk with his head on his arm. With a jerk he came out of his doze and shook his head, trying to get rid of the kinks in his neck from the awkward position. He looked up and saw the admiral gazing at him. Or was it? Somehow, there was something blank about the eyes. Something that reminded him of a previous experience. The cyborg! It hadn’t been nearly that apparent, but he had felt the same blankness. A blankness, like there was no soul inside. That was what he had thought of later, when the admiral had finally signaled him and he had figured out that the personage in front of him was not Admiral Nelson, but a cyborg with the admiral’s memories. No soul. Soul! Why was that important? What was it about a soul that he needed to remember or understand?

Crane stood up, shaking his head and then immediately regretted it. He was still half asleep, waking up in an awkward position, too fast. The room spun for a moment and then righted itself. Was he coming down with something? Even under the most adverse conditions, he usually had no problem with dizziness. “Admiral.” He looked toward the admiral again and there was nothing there. He was alone. Why was he seeing apparitions of people who were still alive? A thrill of alarm coursed through his body. By removing the mysterious entity from the Seaview had Peter and his companions let in something worse? He couldn’t sleep now, so he straightened up his rumbled clothes and left his cabin, walking aimlessly aft. He met Patterson working in the missile room, making checks of the weapons systems.

Patterson heard him and turned. “Evening, sir.”

“Evening, Pat. How’s it going?”

“Not bad, sir. Just finishing up the reports for Mr. Morton.”

Crane walked around, gazing aimlessly. He reached out and lightly touched the bulkhead behind the mini-sub. Again he was struck with the fact that the metal felt so cold, and then he was shocked to realize that it was cold--impersonal, not necessarily cold--cold. Impersonal? How could a boat be personal? The cyborg admiral had no soul. He was a cold assemblage of plastic, plasti-skin, metal infused with stolen memories. It had contained no soul. The Seaview was now a cold assemblage of steel, computers and it had no soul. That realization sent cold waves through his body.

He turned and caught Patterson staring at him. “Sir? Are you all right? Is something wrong?” the rate asked.

“Do you feel it?”

“What, Skipper. I mean, I feel there has been something slightly off since we got underway, but nothing that I can pinpoint. Is that what you mean?”

“Yes, that’s exactly what I mean,” Crane said with a grim smile. “Thanks and carry on.”

“Yes, sir,” Patterson said in a puzzled tone to the captain’s retreating back.

Lee almost ran to the radio shack. Sparks was on duty. Digging into his shirt, Lee removed the extra card that Spengler had given him. “Get this number immediately.”

“Yes, sir. Any security?”

“No, Sparks. Just call it and then give me the receiver.”

“Aye, sir.” Sparks was quick and soon Lee was listening to a dial tone and then a wide-awake voice. It sounded like Egon Spengler.

“Dr. Spengler?”

“Speaking.” There was a pause. “Captain Crane?”

“Yes. Have you done anything with that entity you caught here on the boat?”

“Only taking readings and trying to figure out what kind of manifestation it is. I was about to give up and take it to the containment chamber, hoping to see something when I release it with the other entities we’ve captured.”

“Don’t. I’ll be there within a couple of hours,” Lee said. “The address on your card correct?”

“Yes, but why….”

“Just trust me and I’ll let you know my theories when I get there. Oh, and my apologies about the hour.”

“No problem, Captain.”

Lee motioned for Sparks to cut the connection and he headed toward the Flying Sub bay. Chip looked up from the charts and his eyebrow went up in puzzlement and amusement. “I thought you were going to get some sleep.”

“Couldn’t and I need to go back into New York,” Lee said tersely.

“Why, Lee?” he asked.

Crane motioned for him to accompany him forward. “Chip, have you felt something different since the Ghostbusters were here?”

“Well….” Morton rubbed his chin in thought. “To be honest, yes. Or rather a lack of something. But I can’t explain it, so I haven’t tried to.”

“Touch the bulkhead.”

Chip looked at him, puzzled. But he complied and then pulled his hand away. “What am I looking for?”

“A difference.”

“Like I was touching a piece of metal.”

“Same as when you have touched the bulkheads before?”

Morton shook his head. “Not really. But again, I can’t explain it really. Kind of like it’s colder than normal.”

“Okay, good. Now I know I’m on the right track.”

“What track is that?”

“I’ll explain more when I get back.”

“Okay, Lee. Does the admiral know you’re hauling out in the middle of the night?”

“No. But if he asks, give him this riddle. What did his cyborg lack that the real Admiral has?” And with that Lee strode to the hatch and climbed down into the Flying Sub. Soon he had launched and was on his way to New York. As they weren’t that far out from the city, it didn’t take him long to land at the airport. Soon he was in a cab heading toward the headquarters of the Ghostbusters. Egon and Slimer met him at the front desk. Somehow, Lee wasn’t surprised that the building was a converted old--strike that, ancient fire station. Slimer floated around him, curious, muttering. He finally smiled a large toothy smile and stuck out his hand.

“Pleased to meet you, Slimer, but let’s skip the formalities,” Lee said, not wishing to wipe off gloppy-goo from his hands. He turned to Egon. “I believe that the entity you men captured was the soul of the Seaview.”

Egon only blinked at him a minute and then nodded. “That would make perfect sense. I have read where some cultures believe there is a spirit force within all things, be they living or inanimate matter. Your submarine has been through a great deal. It has seen plenty of action and experienced a lot of trauma. The emanations of that trauma, whether of a physical world, violent type of trauma or a spectral, paranormal trauma, have added to that so-called spirit force. I suspect that there was a small amount of that force just from the components that went into it.”

“And from the heart and soul of the man who brought her to fruition,” Lee added.

“Yes, that, too, would make sense. And that would explain why I couldn’t detect any kind of particular form. It’s one with your ship.”

“Boat,” Lee corrected. “I need to take it back. Whether it’s unconsciously attracting other entities or not, it belongs on the Seaview. I’m not the only one whose noticed a difference.”

“I would guess not, Captain Crane. Especially considering that you noticed so quickly. Or can I assume that you are one of those people who knows every ‘nook and cranny’ of your boat?” Egon asked with a knowing smile.

Crane returned the smile. “You might say that, but the men I talked to noticed a difference, too. The Gray Lady is special to all of us.”

“Well, Captain, all you should have to do is take the trap back to your submarine and open it with the release switch. As this is a benign form, you don’t need the foot trigger.” Spengler pointed to a button on the trap. “And it really shouldn’t matter where on the Seaview you do it.”

“Thanks, Dr. Spengler,” Lee said, holding out his hand. “And please, despite the outcome, don’t forget to send the bill to the Institute.”

Spengler smiled softly. “Knowing Janine, I’m sure she already has.”

Lee laughed. “Well, I guess I’d better get back and get the lady back together.” Soon he was back at the airport and winging toward the open sea. When he arrived back at the Seaview and had docked the Flying Sub, the admiral met him just outside the hatch.

“Now what the hell kind of question was that you had Chip relay to me?” he asked grumpily. He saw the trap in Lee’s hands. “So you went back and retrieved the mysterious entity.”

“Yes, I did. I couldn’t figure out what seemed to be different since they left the boat and then it finally came to me. They had removed the soul of Seaview.”

Realization dawned on Nelson and his eyes widened in disbelief. “You can’t really believe that this machine has some kind of soul, can you.” His hand waved to indicate the submarine.

“Whether it’s a soul or life force, the Gray Lady isn’t just the sum of the beams, nuts, bolts and other components. Nor is it even the sum of the crew who man her. The Seaview is . . . well, she’s a part of us and we’re a part of her, and all of that has combined to create some kind of real force or whatever you want to call it.”

“Lee, are you sure? Are you totally sure of what you’re proposing?”

“Admiral, you designed her. This submarine is the summation of your dreams and ambitions. Didn’t you feel a difference when that presence or whatever was put in this trap?”

There was a long drawn out silence. Then, “Yes, I did. Except it wasn’t anything to do with the boat. Or maybe it was. I don’t know, Lee. I felt empty. I thought maybe it was just that some other ghost or entity that had been influencing me and after Spengler and his companions left, it was gone. But I have felt empty….”

“That’s because a part of you is in this submarine and it’s a part of you. Like I said, a part of all of us, Admiral.”

“You know you’re taking a great chance here. What if you’re wrong?”

“Will we be any worse off, sir?”

The admiral smiled. “No, Lee, I guess we won’t. Just as long as the Gray Lady isn’t vindictive.”

Lee was startled. He hadn’t thought of that.

The admiral simply laughed. “I was just kidding, although we have had people and entities get angry for less reasons than being stuffed in a small brig,” he said, pointing to the trap in Lee’s hands. “Do you want to do this somewhere private?”

“No. I think it would be appropriate to release the . . . entity, on the front porch. That is the most unique part of the boat.”

They climbed up to the observation deck and looked out at the water sluicing over the herculite windows. Lee never tired of watching the wonder of it and stood quietly for a minute. Then he laid the trap down on the deck and bend to push the release button. He heard steps and glanced over his shoulder. Chip had joined them. He watched intently, no sign of his former disbelief on his features.

Lee reached over and pushed the button. With a loud snap, the trap sprang open and the bluish-white light exploded from within. It suffused the room, bathing Lee first, and then the rest of the men close by. Lee blinked, but didn’t move. He felt something caress him, a soft touch like silk and then it drew away and upward, flowing across the bulkhead, through the control room and beyond. Suddenly lighthearted, Lee stood and grinned at the admiral and Chip. They grinned back, apparently feeling the same thing he had.

Within moments everything was back to normal. Crane touched the bulkhead and although the metal was cool, there was something comforting in the contact. Nodding to the other men, he headed to his cabin to change, aware that his watch was in an hour.

“Lee, I took the liberty of changing your next watch with Mr. O’Brien. Get some sleep,” the admiral told him, as though reading his mind.

Crane didn’t object. Sleep sounded wonderful to him. As he lay down on his bunk, he remembered that first few seconds after he had opened the trap. The bluish-white light couldn’t just be analogous with the feel of silk, it was like emotion, soft, pleasant, happy, tinged with slight sadness and pain, but it was the rush of joy that he most remembered. As his eyes closed and sleep overtook him, he heard again a soft whispering, a tiny ‘thank you.’ Then Lee was fully asleep and the voice was gone.