The whip cracked down once more across his exposed back, splitting the skin. Air rushed through his teeth as the muscles seized under his skin, causing his back to arch painfully. Ectoplasm rushed to the wounds and poured down his back. With every rift through the air, a new welt appeared on his skin. Each one sent waves of agony throughout his body. He clenched his teeth against each lashing, clutching his restraints in a death grip; the only things keeping him up. Any thoughts that ran through Danny's mind were ripped apart like his skin with each strike. Only hope that it would end consistently occurred to him through the pain. But each time, it too, was driven away.
Danny had long lost the will to keep his head up, too exhausted to even obey his reflexes when the whip came down again. His head rested on his shoulder as dull green eyes gazed lifelessly into the pools of ectoplasm that soaked the floor. His body convulsed within the restraints as blood spewed from his mouth, splattering onto the stone beneath his feet, adding to the pool.
Cold liquid dripped from his mouth, creating ripples that fanned out in the pools. Danny watched as his reflection blurred with every drop. His mind was in a haze, slowly lagging through his thoughts. He had lost count of how many lashings he received versus how many he was supposed to get, although he was pretty sure they didn't quite match up.
Reflected in his own blood, he watched as Bullet raised the whip once more.
Reluctantly, Bullet lowered it.
"Perhaps now young Phantom has learned his lesson?" Danny kept staring into the mirror, watching with no amusement as the boy on the green stone floor became distorted. The Head Observant continued without missing a beat, "Good. Walker, Bullet. You two will relocate to its quarters to put an end to this hindrance. Make sure he stays alive."
Chains appeared around the boy in the blood and something clicked in Danny's mind. They're going to do the same to him! Danny forced his head up and made eye contact with the Head Observant. He sat in front of Danny in the stands along with hundreds of other onlookers arrogantly watching with joyous anticipation.
"Please," Danny choked out, barely even a whisper. His voice a rough, gurgling sound. His body shook as he tried not to cough more blood. He swallowed his pain, mustering up the strength to gain their attention. "Please!" The room, originally filled with a dull roar of chatter grew quiet until only Danny's heavy breathing could be heard. "You... can't—don't touch him!" Every syllable clawed at his throat as he spoke.
"How dare you tell us how to handle your transgression! Punishment will not be withheld!" The crowd roared in agreement. "You both knew the consequences of the sin you committed. You knew what lay at the end of the road you took. Now you both must suffer the outcome."
Danny glared into the eye of the Head Observant. "I won't let you hurt him! Not anymore!"
The ghosts in the room burst out laughing. Enraged, Danny began to summon an ectoblast. As soon as the energy solidified in his hands the chains shocked him and sucked the energy from his hand. Danny glanced around the room, watching as their shoulders shook with mirth.
"There's nothing to worry about brethren, he can't even get out of those simple chains!"
"Probably too weak to anyway."
"To think little Phantom thought he could actually threaten our power. What a foolish and naive boy."
With every ruthless comment Danny felt smaller and smaller, but was unable to shrink away. Yet, as they continued his rage grew. "...Stop..." He hung his head, refusing to give them his direct attention.
"We're at the top, Danny Phantom. How foolish to think you would get any headway in your ridiculous plight."
"He should consider the consequences quite fortunate. Had he tainted the boy any further, punishment would have been death for them both."
"I can't believe we've been on this one for so long. We should have started on the other long ago."
Danny clenched his fists. He couldn't believe he was hearing this. Didn't humans turn into ghosts after their death? One would think they would have at least some compassion for the boy who'd eventually become one of their own.
"Listen to me you egotistical maniacs! If you give him any sort of punishment similar to this, you'd kill him!" Danny shouted. "He can't heal as quickly as I—we can." He smirked at the Head Eyeball. "And you wouldn't want to have to wait until another child is born. Which, if I remember correctly, took ten years this time?"
The judge stared back at him, contemplating his decision. "And what is it you think you can propose?" A few eyes around him shot up in their seats wanting to complain about giving the young spirit a chance. The judge quickly raised a hand and silenced them.
Danny took a deep breath and exhaled nervously. "Let me take on his punishment. As long as it's agreed that you won't lay a single finger on him and that he stays unharmed." He was silent as he waited anxiously for their answer. Although he wasn't looking forward to what he suggested, it was an act he was willing to take. If they rejected it, he didn't know what he was going to do. He didn't ever want the boy to scream in terror like he did when they were caught.
The Head Observant cleared his throat. Danny looked up just as the Observants around the judge leaned back in their seats. "Young Phantom." Danny's core pounded inside his chest as he listened. "Your proposal has been rejected by the High Counsel of the Ancients. Punishment shall go as planned."
Danny froze. At first not sure if he had heard them right. I'll do anything. His mouth formed the syllables but his voice never came into existence.
If the Observants had visible mouths he imagined they'd all be smirking. "But, since you clearly want more..." The judge motioned at Bullet who came forward from the edge of the room. Danny managed to turn his head far enough to see the enthusiastic grin on the ghost's face. His eyes were locked on the sinister smile, unable to look away.
As though it had never happened, the whipping began once more, striking his previous wounds without remorse. Shock kept him still and mentally disconnected. He wasn't sure if the heat inside him was from the pain of each lash or if it was from the anger boiling inside him until a low growl began in the back of his throat. He closed his eyes as he summoned energy through his system, beginning to thrash. Immediately, he could feel the shocks becoming longer and harsher the more he struggled. Danny hadn't even noticed the lashes had stopped.
With a twitch of his body, ice shot out at an unsettling speed from his feet. It travelled along the floor until it hit the edge of the stands. The Observants shrieked in alarm. The ones on the lower levels, closest to the ice, jumped out of their seats and into the air. Ice engulfed the chains holding Danny’s wrists. He jerked his arms down, shattering the restraints. Every ghost was on edge as they watched the young spirit. Danny stretched his back, adjusted his shoulders and cracked his neck before finally opening his eyes again. The Head Observant leaned forward, gazing into Danny's eyes. He watched with horror as the once green irises' faded to a menacing deep red. "Take him away this instant!!" Even as Walker and Bullet contained Phantom, the boy continued to wear his infamous diabolical grin. "It's happening like we feared..."
Escorted by an unnecessary abundance of guards and locked with his hands behind his back in high security cuffs, Phantom calmly walked past the rest of the imprisoned ghosts. He peered into each jail cell, at each ghost within. Some cowered under his gaze and tried without prevail to get out of sight. Others simply made great efforts to ignore him as he passed by. One reached out from the imprisonment and grabbed Phantom's arm. He was tugged into the bars where the ghost held Phantom's chin with his free hand.
The prisoner stared into the deep red with wonder. "...you've finally returned to us?" Phantom said nothing as he kept his neutral expression throughout the whole event. "You never were one to-" Ice crept onto the ghosts' hands, quickly taking over his arms and froze him where he stood. Phantom smiled at the terrified look on the ghosts' face. With a quick jerk of his arm, he broke of the hand holding him and kicked the rest of the heap farther into the cell. The ice began to thaw with wisps of red entering the air.
The guards promptly surrounded Phantom, bringing him back to the center of the hall, towards his own personal cell. They opened the cell door and cautiously pushed him inside. As soon as the cuffs were removed, Phantom made to turn around when a sharp shock entered his system.
"Sleep tight, demon," one of the guards spat as Phantom fell to the ground. After locking the only way in or out, the guards set up shifts for watches and left for their tasks.
...ny... Danny? ...Danny! The young spirit awoke with a start, sitting straight up. Almost immediately he regretted the action as his wounds awoke with the movement and alerted him to their burning presence. Danny grit his teeth as he stood. He slowly walked over to the bars, hunched over and holding his sides. "Excuse me?" The guard moved his head to the side, presenting his ear. "Where am I?"
At first Danny wasn't sure if the guard was actually laughing or not. "You are being kept here so you are unable to interfere. Worry not, as soon as your wounds heal more, you'll be released and returned home, little one."
Danny’s green eyes scanned the surroundings as he retreated to the back of his cage. There wasn’t anything special about the cell he was placed in, except it was fairly isolated from the main holding area. Underneath his skin felt as though it had been set ablaze, the muscles on his back twitching from his sudden activity. Despite the fog clouding his mind the guard’s words finally set in. Interfere? …The human!
It didn't take long for Danny to hatch a plan of escape. He waited anxiously until the next shift change, since it wouldn't be the same ones monitoring him the entire time. Ghost Zone or Human Plane, some things were the same, but only a few. As soon as the guards switched, he began counting to one hundred in his head. At fifty, he stood up. Eighty was when he pretended to be casually hanging around the front of the cell. At number one hundred he reached out and froze the two guards whole. He patted them both down in search for the keys. Once he located the keys, he hastily unlocked his cell and bolted out into the air.
Danny remained visible as he floated near the ceiling, just like he had whenever he visited the room. He shot down the halls, barely stopping to check whether or not the coast was clear. As he flew in the direction of the room, he checked the ring of keys. After going through what seemed like a hundred keys he found one that he vaguely recognized as the one he saw the Observant use over a year and a half ago.
He ventured down into the depths of the darkness and stopped dead at the door. The loose keys jingled together as the main one was inserted and turned. As soon as the door was unlocked, Danny backed up and delivered a solid kick to it.
Inside, the boy had been curled up against the wall, trying to get sleep to consume him. He jolted awake seconds after Danny's foot connected with the door, making it swing all the way open and hit the wall. Light poured into the space, chasing away the darkness. The boy pushed himself up onto his feet and stood still, waiting for whatever it was to show itself. When Danny stepped into the light the boy stepped back cautiously, not recognizing the being in front of him. His hair was no longer past his back, but appeared to have been violently cut just a little above his shoulders.
Danny walked briskly towards the human who in turn backed against the wall, his body shaking as he waited for punishment. "Don't worry. It's me."
At the sound of his voice the boy's previously grim expression brightened. He threw himself at Danny, desperately wrapping his arms around the spirit and throwing him off balance. They landed on the floor with a dull thud. Danny pushed the boy off gently, slowly checking his body for any wounds or lesions. He found a group of scratches around the boy's shoulders mixed with a few gashes that seemed to have started to heal. There was also a deep black and blue mark covering the skin all the way around his neck.
"Are you alright? Did they hurt you?" Danny took the boy's face in his hands, inspecting it at every angle.
The boy laughed lightly. "I'm fine. Was I supposed to be?" He asked, not making any gesture to remove Danny's hands.
"I... I thought they were going to mutilate you..." Danny pulled the boy into a hug, wincing slightly when hands touched his still tender back.
Danny let go of the human and went to examine the chain links. It's so much shorter... He followed the links back to the boy's bloody ankle. "What happened to you?” he asked, inspecting the ectoplasm on his palms. “Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think you normally ooze green."
He made eye contact with Danny who looked away after a short moment. "It's... nothing."
With a twist of another key, the shackle broke open, releasing the boy from its rusty grip. "Come on. I'm getting you out of here." Danny hastily extended his hand.
At first the boy went to take it but retreated, as though unsure. "Out...of here?"
"What's wrong? Don't you want to be free from this prison?"
"Yes, but..." The boy ran a hand through the tangled mess on his head. "This room is all I've known. As long as that door is shut I can't be hurt by anything out there..." He turned his attention to one of the dark corners, worried and ashamed of what Danny would think of his thought process.
"You're right. It'll all be new and confusing and potentially dangerous at every turn." The young spirit took the boy's chin in his hand, "but I'll be there with you every step of the way." Danny trailed his thumb over the boy's lips and smiled. The boy smiled back, gingerly taking Danny's hand.
Danny pulled the human to his feet and brushed some dirt off of his body. He took a step back and looked the boy over who in turn wore a questioning expression. "What?"
Danny merely shook his head. He clasped his hands together and started to gather energy between his palms. Green light shined past his fingers. As the energy began to solidify he pulled his hands apart and within was a large black shirt with a white trim. Danny shook it out and motioned the human close.
"Lift your hands up over your head." The boy did as requested and Danny gently pulled the giant tee shirt over his head. The cloth fell over his upper body and he was both fascinated and extremely uncomfortable. As he observed the fabric, Danny created a pair of boxers and helped the human pull it on. He took a step back and looked the boy over. "There, much better."
"I don't understand." He pulled at the clothing, trying to get it away from his sensitive skin. "What's the point of these things?"
"Those are clothes. Humans and ghosts." He pulled at his turtle neck and lifted up one of his legs to show his dark cargo pants. "We all wear these to cover up our bodies. It keeps humans warmer and it has become socially unacceptable to go around without any."
Although still confused and visibly uncomfortable in them, the boy stopped tugging at the clothes.
"These won't last very long though. They're made out of my ectoplasm, so as soon as we reach the Human Realm we'll have to get you something more suitable." Danny extended his hand again and this time the boy took it without hesitation. "We need to hurry if we don't want to get caught."
Together, they walked out of the room and shut the door behind them. They took a few steps forward until they reached the stairs. Danny looked up the stairway and mentally pictured the long way out. Walking wouldn't be much of an option for the human, having never really had a chance to exercise his legs. "Do you trust me?"
The human nodded suspiciously. "What are you doin-woh!"
Danny lifted the human into his arms; one arm under his knees and one on his upper back. He slowly flew to the ceiling. Terrified, the boy wrapped his arms around Danny's neck and buried his face into the ghost's shoulder. Within seconds they became invisible. He held on tightly as the young spirit soared through the air, turning sharply at the corners and bolting down the hallways.
They turned at another corner. Danny could see the exit just a few halls down. He rushed for it when Walker and Bullet came from one of the side rooms, unknowingly coming in between them and their freedom. Danny swore under his breath and retreated back behind the wall. "Stay here. I'll be back." He lowered the boy to his feet and peered around the corner.
The boy's eyes widened at the thought of being left alone, even for a second. His hand shot out and grabbed Danny's sleeve in an iron grip. "No... please don't leave me..." he said, the boy's body shaking as he pleaded for him to stay.
"I won't be gone long. Only a few seconds." The boy vigorously shook his head in disapproval. Danny stared down at his pleading expression. He could feel the boy's grip tighten on his sleeve as he tried to take a step back. Sighing in defeat, he leaned in close, gathering the trembling human into a hug. He leaned away to look into the boy's eyes. "Alright. You win." Danny cupped the boy's cheek with his palm, instantly feeling the human's warmth crawling over his skin. "We'll find another way." He offered his best smile but deep down he wasn't sure how much longer they had until someone noticed one of them was missing. Then a whole search would be instigated against them. He couldn't explain it, but he felt deep in his core that if they didn't get out soon...
Danny's mind was dragged back into the present when he felt the boy suddenly tense in his arms. He leaned into Danny's chest, hiding his face, clutching the cloth in his shaking hands. It was then when Danny realized there were footsteps coming towards them from around the corner. Walker and Bullet are coming! Acting on impulse, he scooped the boy into his arms and bolted back down the hall from which they came.
After rounding many corners and having to retrace his steps a few times they came upon the prison ward where Danny had been previously escorted through after his retribution. The boy looked up from Danny's shoulder into the cells as they slowly floated by, invisible. It didn't surprise him that they went by unnoticed, but as they passed one specific cell he was caught off guard. The boy flinched away from the bars, burying his face against his ghost's neck again. Danny's eyes drifted over to where the human's attention had been seconds before.
Inside the cell stood a burly, gray ghost who wore old fashioned Crusade-like clothing. The prisoner's arm appeared to be slowly reforming from a recent injury. It took a few moments for him to realize that the ghost was staring directly at them. Instinctively, Phantom tightened his hold on his human. Noticing the act, the ghost smirked. "I see that hasn't changed." The prisoner's teasing smile quickly died as he watched the vibrant green eyes, locked with his, flash red.
He couldn't decide whether he wanted to get as far away as possible from this particular ghost or to get closer and listen to what he had to say. "What are you—" Danny whipped his head back, staring down the empty hallway. Further down, he could hear a large commotion making its way towards them. It was time to go. "Hold on tight." In response, the boy wrapped his arms around the ghost's neck, hooking his hands around his wrists. Danny leaned his head against the boy's. He smiled, "Let's get you out of here." After glancing over at the prisoner once more, he took off through the rest of the cell block towards the exit.
It wasn't until they were a couple of hours from the Observant's realm did they finally slow down. Danny twirled his fingers through the human's hair. "Welcome to the Ghost Zone," he whispered into his ear.
The boy lifted his head and looked around the Zone for the first time in his life. His eyes darted in every direction, trying to take in as much as possible. As they passed through a tunnel, he stretched his arm out to feel the gooey edges. The boy smiled, eyes filled with awe, as they floated through the Ghost Zone.
Danny couldn't help but smile. The human that he felt some bizarre connection with, the only one who captivated his interest, was safe and in his arms. He had done it, they were both free... Almost. You're not out of the woods yet. The thought surprised him, clawing its way to the surface from the depths of his mind. He quickly glanced around for something that might have set it off, but there was nothing. It gave him the feeling of being watched. He suddenly wanted to pick up the pace and just get out of there.
"What are those doors?"
Danny stopped. His eyes followed the boy's hand until they rested on a spiked door a few yards away. He hadn’t even noticed when they began flying through a field of doors.
"They're lairs. Every ghost has one. They're kind of like personalized sections of the Ghost Zone." He flew close enough to a few of the doors to allow the human to touch them. His fingernails scrapped across from side to side, over all the little dips and designs.
"What's yours like?" The boy retracted his hand and stared up at Danny with excited curiosity. "Can I see it?"
"Uh... I actually don't have one."
The boy lowered his head, his excited smile fading. "Oh... I'm sorry."
"Don't be. I'm not. Besides, it just means that the entire Ghost Zone is my home." Danny rubbed his hand on the boy's back in an attempt to reassure him. "Come on. Don't worry about it. Besides, even if I did have my own door I doubt I'd ever be allowed anywhere near it after this."
"What do you—"
In front of them floated a long piece of rock that lead to a mystifying green swirling portal. Danny calmly flew down and helped the boy onto his feet. At first he stayed still, stomping his foot down on the surface. "It won't crumble, ya'know." Danny had to stifle a laugh after he saw the glare he received in response.
The human took a few steps forward, testing the ground. Finally his eyes drifted up, following the road like structure. "What... what is that over there?"
"That's the Fenton Ghost Portal." The young spirit walked up beside the human, interlacing their hands. "It's our way out."
"So..." The hand around Danny's tightened. He could feel it shaking in his. "On the other side of that is the Human World?" The boy's attention, which was previously locked on the portal flicked back to the ghost at his side. He stared into the bright green eyes, not sure what he was looking for.
"I'll be with you every step of the way." He repeated with a reassuring smile. After a few moments, he broke the tense silence. "Are you ready?" Danny watched as the human's eyes danced back to the portal. He slowly nodded, as if unsure if he truly was. Danny glanced over to the portal, flashes of his last trip coming back to him. To think he was willingly choosing this portal instead of any one of the natural portals after almost being obliterated on his return to the Ghost Zone.
From the information he received from Clockwork, Danny only vaguely knew what advances the Fenton family had made. The inventions that were on the market and frequently used by the Guys In White were the ones he knew best. Although no great inventor releases all of their successes for use. He was also aware that the boy had an older sister. Having never met her, she was a mystery except for a basic description from Johnny 13. For the time being, telling the boy that these were his parents would have to wait. At least until he was capable of truly reentering their world.
Invisibility overcame the two and they took their first step towards the portal. They stood right in front of it when they came to a halt. Danny turned back to the human who was visibly shaking. "I... I don't... th-thin..k..."
"You can do this. It'll be fine." He gently cupped the boy's cheek in his free hand. "Trust me." The boy gulped, readjusting his hand in the ghost’s. His lips moved but no sound came out. Hesitantly, they both stepped through the portal dividing the two worlds.
Bright lights blinded them as they arrived on the other side. The hustle and bustle of lab work absolutely surrounded them. On the tables were numerous beakers filled with ectoplasm, a few of them occasionally bubbling over. "Jack, hurry, they're ready!" A woman in a blue jumpsuit put down her scalpels in order to help her husband with his own experiment.
On the other side of the room stood a very big man in an orange jumpsuit. When he heard his wife's voice he quickly turned around to attend to the overflowing beakers. Multiple beeping sounds erupted into the air as ten different pieces of equipment all went off at once. Before separating again, Jack wrapped his arm around his wife's waist and delivered a quick but passionate kiss to her lips. "Thanks, Mads. You're the best." Without missing a beat, they both returned to their own work on opposite sides of the basement.
The newly arrived ghost and human pair stood frozen in front of the portal, neither daring to make a sound. Whenever one of the scientists had to cross the lab, the two new arrivals leaned back to get out of the way, even though there was plenty of space between them. Every movement was accompanied by a loud sound that echoed throughout the basement. One in particular, a mini explosion from one of the guns caused the boy to jump. Clinging to his ghost’s back and having a death grip on his hand, the boy buried his head between Danny’s shoulder blades in hopes of blocking out the lights and sounds.
In a vain attempt to comfort the shaking human, Danny reached back and patted the boy’s head. “It’s going to be fine,” he whispered, preparing to walk right through the lab and past the overly energetic scientists. “Just stay close to me.”
With the boy practically hiding behind him, Danny gingerly took a step. As soon as his foot hit the ground a bolt of electricity shot up from the floor and traveled through his system. What seemed like a million alarms blared as the shock entered his body. Danny doubled over, clutching his core with his free hand as the volts seemed to target his very being. Well… that’s new. Lifting his head, he stumbled back. His vision was blurry with spots and his head spun.
It only took a few seconds for his awareness to fully return. Lights were flashing red in all corners of the room and the scientists were no longer working. Instead, they stood between them and the door, guns loaded and pointing wholly at him. Danny stiffened, how? His eyes followed Maddie’s hand as it traveled up the side of her head to turn on a switch in her goggles.
“You can stand there pretending to hide all you want, ghost! It’ll just give us a clearer shot!” Danny’s eyes grew wide at the realization. Neither boy knew which one of their hands was the one shaking. “That’s right ghost, we can still see you.” Maddie smirked, the pure joy of bringing down another ghost flooded her system.
"Prepare to die, ghost!" Jack hollered. Maddie quickly looked the ghost over through her scope. Obviously male, but he looked like he could be a normal 15 year old boy… the same age as her son would have been. Maddie adjusted her grip on the rifle-like Fenton weapon in her arms.
Without moving an inch, Danny’s eyes warily found their way to Jack who held what appeared to be an automatic shotgun with the Fenton logo on it. Subtly tilting his head to the side he whispered, "Yrrow t'nod-"
Seeing the vile creature's lips moving put her on edge. Typically when a specter was unwise enough to trespass in their own lab, as soon as the alarms went off and their barrels were pointed at it, the waste-of-space would attack. But this ghost was clearly up to something new. It wasn't lunging forward to attack or screaming at either of them in what her and Jack figured was a sort of ghost language. Looking the ghost up and down once more only gave her one more piece of information. "Who are you conspiring with ghost?! Show yourself!" Maddie watched as the ghost's arm moved behind its back, fingers twitching around another hand.
This was bad. There was no way he'd be able to move at his full speed and carry the boy at the same time. Danny was prepared to use himself as a shield if it came down to that. It terrified him. Everything that the Fenton's invented could do serious if not fatal damage to a ghost. They no longer wanted to capture and study ghosts. Interrogate and kill was the Fenton's main objective. All for the continuous search for their lost baby boy, the one cowering behind the very ghost in front of them. It had been so many years since the incident. Many other ghosts wondered if they were still searching, if nothing else, to find a body for closure.
The hands holding Danny's clothes shook violently as the Fenton pair raised their guns. I have to get him out of here now! Two clicks and two red dots appeared on his body; one aiming for his core and the other at his head. "Thgit no dloh!" Two trembling arms quickly wrapped themselves around Danny's waist. Without hesitating, Danny crouched and shot into the air. As they phased through the ceiling he could hear the ecto-gun charging right before the trigger was pulled.
They reemerged into a living room. To their right was the entrance to the kitchen, to their left a set of stairs and behind them, the front door leading out. Before he had a chance to dash for the exit Danny seized up. They became visible and fell to the floor with two loud thuds and a curse. The human peeled himself from the ghost and rolled him over onto his back. "Ko uoy era? Gnorw s'tahw?" The boy placed a hand on the ghost's chest just as one would do to check the heartbeat of another human.
"Kciht oot si ria eht ,ffo s'gnihtemos ...tsuj ... thgirla m'I." Danny rested a hand on the boy's in reassurance. He could see the anxious look in his eyes. As Danny was the only thing in he boy's life that was positive, if anything happened to him the boy would be completely alone. Most likely captured and forcibly dragged by the hair back into the ghost zone to spend the rest of his life, if not executed upon return.
Danny pushed himself up from his elbows, gritting his teeth throughout the process. He opened his mouth to say something when Maddie kicked the lab door open and from behind her Jack pointed, aimed and fired his ecto-gun. Without even thinking or knowing where the shot was coming from, Danny pushed the boy away from him. He fell backwards to the floor as the shot hit Danny square in the back.
"Good job, honey!" Maddie reached into one of her many pockets and pulled out a cookie, handing it to her husband who gratefully munched on it.
They stepped out of the doorframe one at a time, each with a body in their scopes. The black haired one was still on the floor. His entire frame looked weak and dangerously thin for any creature. His arms wobbled as he tried and failed to push himself up.
Deeming that particular entity non-threatening for the moment, Jack turned his sights on the pearl white-haired ghost who had just extracted himself from the hole in the wall. "Stay still, ghost!" The specter rolled onto his stomach and warily stood. He lifted his head and Jack could see the fire burning in its harsh green eyes. There was no way it'd let them get another perfect shot like before.
Ectoplasm dripped from the ghost's back and head, dying a few strands an eerie green. A slow stream oozed from the wound. The substance covered the hole in the wall with a couple small splatters.
“This is the end of the line for you, ghost! Once we’re done with you, it’s your accomplice’s turn.” Jack’s eyes quickly darted to the other entity. It gave off the proper expressions of terror. The hunter smiled, “Don’t worry, ghost, you’re next.”
The white haired spirit became visibly angry, almost infuriated despite it’s current condition. “Eid dna mih hcuot!” The ghost hissed. Its hands rose in front of its face. Green began to glow around it for an ectoblast until the color seeped back into the air. The ghost glared at them, angry and confused.
The Fentons smirked. “Pretty soon you won’t be able to do anything, ghost,” Maddie said. “The air in our house has anti ghost properties. Soon you won’t be able to even move.”
Slowly, its body slid into a fighting stance. The young spirit lunged forward, at the same time Jack and Maddie fired. The ghost dodged artfully every shot as it circled around the room. It screamed as it flew across the space with Jack right in its path. Maddie thought quickly and retrieved her ectostaff from her suit and slammed it into the ghost’s back, sending it down through the floor. With one less entity to worry about for the time being, they both turned to the other intruder who remained unmoving.
The boy crawled away as the two scientists walked up to him. Maddie swung her staff, striking the ground right by the boy’s hand, halting any further attempt to put more distance between them. Jack looked to Maddie, waiting for the decision as she inspected the entity up close for the first time. She gave him a nod and he raised his weapon to the boy’s head. The tip of the gun pointed directly between his horrified eyes.
A click echoed in the room followed by the gun’s steady charging. The boy closed his eyes and turned away, the gun following his movements. As Jack pulled the trigger Danny shot up from the basement. He quickly wrapped his arms around the boy and dragged him along as he flew through the ceiling. They disappeared just as the ecto-charged blast smashed into the floor, accompanied with a large explosion and burn mark.
The two intruders came up through the floor into a nursery. Almost everything was the same as it was at the time of the boy’s birth. The walls were a baby blue and covered in dust along with everything else in the room from almost 15 years of inactivity. There was a crib in the corner, filled with little pillows and small baby blankets. However, the mobile was crushed on the ground, pieces of the ghost shaped ornaments scattered on the floor. The curtains were on the ground as if yanked from their proper position above the window. Danny wandered around the room, inspecting every inch while the boy, whose room it belonged to, sat in the middle. He picked up a pillow from the crib and turned it over in his hands. The name Daniel was lovingly stitched into it, along with every other fabric covered object around them.
“IT doesn’t have a name. Once you name something you begin to get attached to it. As soon as ghosts name IT, they’ll sympathize with it and won’t be able to give their burden onto it solely and fully-“
Danny looked up from the pillow and glanced over to the boy, to Daniel. He replaced the little pillow back inside the crib, his eyes scanning over the rest of the trinkets that had been waiting years for a child to enjoy them.
From the hallway, Jack and Maddie stood by the stairs. Each staring at the door to the room that the two intruders had invaded with tears in their eyes. Jack took a few steps forward when his wife called out to him in a chocked whisper. “I… can’t.” She clung to the wall, her weapon still at the ready in her arms. “That’s Daniel’s room…”
Jack embraced his wife. “I know, Mads. Doing this again- toying with our emotions like this is unforgivable.” It was a quick hug for there was a serious piece of filth that they both knew needed to be dealt with. Jack headed toward the door, gun held tightly in his arms while Maddie stayed where she was, unable to go into the room just yet.
Without any hesitation, Jack kicked the door open, readying his weapon as his foot touched down on the ground again. “How dare you insult us by hiding in here!”
The black haired entity flinched, locked in his sights. He slowly raised his scope as he found the other spirit. Rage began to cloud his mind as he realized the ghost was standing by the crib, the contents disturbed. How.Dare.it! He pointed the ecto-gun at the ghost but his hands betrayed him as they shook. What if he missed and hit the crib? Neither him nor Maddie or Jazz could deal with another piece of Daniel destroyed. Unable to stand the risk, he averted his sights to the other entity in the room.
As his finger tightened around the trigger, the white haired ghost, again, did something he wasn’t expecting. It moved in front of the other being as though acting as a shield. Although caught a bit off guard it didn’t stop him for more than a mere second. His hands steadied and took aim. The look on the spirit’s face was of pure determination whereas Jack’s was full of rage and inner pain. The gun began to ring. The noise steadily grew along with the boy’s eyes, fully aware of what that noise meant. “Prepare to meet your final end…”
The ringing was at its peak, “Ynnad!” The boy lunged forward, wrapping his arms around Danny’s waist. At the sound of Daniel’s voice Danny shot up into the air as the ball of anti ghost matter erupted from Jack’s gun, slamming into the ground. Three more shots chased after them before they finally phased through the window.
Fresh and cold air smacked against them as soon as they were free from the building. Without any specific destination in mind, Danny picked a direction and continued that way. Feeling Daniel’s arms wrapped tightly around his body he turned them invisible and flew through the evening sky. Unbeknownst to the pair, a girl watched them leave from street level before walking into the very same building.
“Mom? Dad? I’m home.” The girl quietly locked the door behind her. She strolled into the kitchen, washed her hands and picked an apple from a basket on the table. A chunk of the apple was torn off as the girl peeked behind the lab door. “Mom? Dad? You down there?” Met with only silence she continued upstairs, her bag slung leisurely over her shoulder.
The apple fell onto the ground as she stood at the top of the stairwell. Down the hall the door to what was still her missing little brother’s room was wide open, the old unused lighting inside casting a dull glow into the hallway. The number of times her parents entered the room was so small she could count the occasions on her fingers. Ghost attacks had significantly decreased in the past few years. The raw ectoplasmic entities most likely getting the hint that their own destruction awaited if they laid foot or tail in Amity Park alone.
She arrived at the doorway, her bag forgotten on the floor behind her. Her mother stood in front of the crib, a blanket held tightly in her arms. Her father stood beside her, one hand on his wife’s shoulder and an ecto-gun in the other. “What happened?”
“A pair of ghosts came through here Jazzinpants. Trying to terrorize and mock our family again.”
It was then Jazz noticed the scorch marks along the wall and floor. Ghosts had come here before, purposefully entering this room just to rub salt into their wounds. Her parents had chased them every time, but they rarely shot once they entered the nursery. Jazz figured the two ghosts must have done something serious for her parents to shoot in Daniel’s room.
“They got away didn’t they?” She could see her mother’s shoulders shaking. “Did… did you get any evidence on who they were, where they’ll be or what they came for?” She didn’t want to mention what she saw before returning home. How those two ‘ghosts’ flew off, one clinging desperately to the other as though he couldn’t fly alone.
Jack shook his head. “No, other than the basic surveillance.”
“Did they say anything?”
Maddie put the baby blanket back in the crib and turned away from it. “Yes, but it wasn’t any human language.”
“Why not use the Ghost Gabber then?”
“Great idea, Jazzerincess!” With a wide smile on his face, Jack grabbed Maddie and Jazz, dragging them to the master bedroom. He kicked the circular rug away, “Three to the Ops Center!” He yelled enthusiastically. The three of them were instantly transported into the fridge where the door automatically opened.
Jack, Maddie and Jazz all rushed over to the screens where Maddie sat at the controls and brought up the security footage. She flipped the switch for the Ghost Gabber to automatically translate any sort of ghost language into words they use every day. The system was much newer and improved from their first attempt at the device.
After a little white noise and static, the footage started. It began in the lab. The three of them watched as the two ghosts, appearing only a little fuzzy on the cameras, took their first steps through the portal. They watched as the events unfolded, turning the volume up to the maximum as they strained to hear what the ghosts whispered between each other.
The two specters collapsed in the living room on the screen. “Why isn’t that one affected by the air?” Maddie wondered aloud. Jack grunted to show his own curiosity in the observation. Jazz on the other hand wasn’t as interested in the ‘whys’ her parents were asking. There was something about those two, the way that black haired one clung to the other and just the way they interacted in general.
She couldn’t help but wince a little at the ear piercing crack that exploded through the speakers when the ghost slammed into the wall. Her eyes darted back and forth between the two as this was the first time she was able to see them on their own. What would Daniel of looked like if he was here? The thought startled her. Why had that crossed her mind now instead of at any of the other times she thought about her missing little brother within the years. She shook her head, banishing the thoughts for now.
“Touch him and die!” Venom dripped from every syllable. For some reason, neither Jack nor Maddie caught how angry the ghost had been at the time until they heard him in plain English. Jazz gaped at the screen as she continued to watch.
The white haired spirit had just been hit with Maddie’s staff when the screens split, showing the lab and the living room at once. The ghost hit the basement floor hard. He rolled onto his side and lifted his head as he pushed himself up. The boy on the other screen looked like a terrified, cornered animal as the weapons were raised against him. A bit of red caught Jazz’s eye on the other screen before the two merged together showing the two fly up through the ceiling.
The two intruders surprised her once more. Unlike past ghosts, they didn’t immediately try destroying the only mementos they had of Daniel left. In fact, as one walked over to the crib she noted he looked… sad. Jazz hadn’t noticed she had leaned closer to the screen until her father suddenly burst into the shot making her jump back. “Strange. That one hasn’t moved, almost like it’s unable.”
“And the other knows and is protecting him.”
“Jazz, sweetie, these things don’t have feelings. In their world they’re each on their own. They have no need for compa-” The buzzing of her father’s gun roared through the speakers, causing them to vibrate from the intense volume. “Danny!”
Jack’s hand smashed against the counter. Maddie’s hands moved to cover her gasp. The tape continued to play, but the voice kept ringing through the room. Tears silently fell. It was like a new level of cruelty. Danny… Daniel. They leaned on each other as they cried. Jazz shut her eyes, feeling the warm tears crawl down her cheeks. That name was screamed in a panic without any thought. Even if it had been staged, plans go out the window when genuine panic sets in. Panic and anger dull the line between the truth and the lies. Did that mean it wasn’t intentional? To rip their hearts out after they built the walls. After they thought they had finally healed. It was another thing to add to the list about those two that didn’t match up with regular ghosts.
Out in the city, Danny flew just above the highest building. The arms wrapped around his waist shook from the chilly night air. His eyes scanned the structures below them, searching for a safe place to stay for the night. He had no idea if they were being followed either by the Fentons or by any one of the thousands of ghosts from the Ghost Zone. Surely one of them would have noticed the boy’s absence by now and left to search for him.
Daniel’s arms loosened slightly from Danny’s waist before squeezing him again. Was he falling asleep? “How are you holding up?” The only response he received was a long yawn. Danny quickly flew towards the first semi-suitable building he saw. They phased through the dilapidated wall and floated through the halls. Picking a random room, they phased through the door and soon collapsed on the ground in exhaustion.
“We’ll find a better place tomorrow,” Danny said as he leaned his back against a wall. Daniel crawled over to him, resting his head on the ghost’s lap. A quiet sigh of fatigue echoed seamlessly around the dark room. The only light source came from the half broken window partially blocked by ripped curtains across from them. Danny gently laced his fingers through the boy’s hair, massaging his scalp.
They laid there in silence as the sounds of the night silently bounced off the walls. The boy’s breathing was slow and even, Danny was sure the human had finally fallen asleep. He looked down at the calm expression on the boy’s face. He would no longer be tortured by the many ghosts who came to him. He could finally be free of it all and have a normal human life. A small voice quickly brought him out of his thoughts. “…Thank you.” Despite being right next to the source, the words were so soft spoken and came lightly to his ears.
Daniel turned his head towards the ghost. Their eyes locked. He stared into the deep blue irises, wondering what they themselves were looking for in his green. “Just get some sleep.” His thumb lightly trailed back and forth over the human’s cheek. “It’ll be a long day tomorrow.” As soon as Danny was sure the boy was asleep, he began to twirl a lock of Daniel’s long black hair between his fingers as he waited for dawn.