Two, long weeks later, Danny was flying through the Ghost Zone with his friends and his sister following him in the Spectre Speeder. They were chasing down a cluster of snake ghosts that had been terrorising Amity Park for the past day.
"I could've sworn I saw one of 'em come right this way..." Danny said, stopping in mid-air, a look of confusion plain on his face. He scrubbed a hand through his hair and looked back at the vehicle in which his friends all sat.
"Well...maybe they went the other way, you can't get it right every time, dude," Tucker replied slowly from inside the Speeder. He, Sam and Jazz were wearing sets of ‘Fenton Fones’ so they could hear and speak to Danny outside of their 'borrowed' vehicle.
"And we got them away from town, they won't be back for a while, and next time we'll know to out a tracker or something on them...we have some kind of tracker thing, right?" Jazz said, leaning on the steering wheel.
"Erm...actually no," Danny sighed, "I dunno if the Booo-merang counts ‘cos it only ever really follows me around..."
"Oh..." his sister murmured.
"Hey…wait a sec...That’s them...over there!" Sam exclaimed quickly just as Danny breathed out his ghost sense.
"Let's get 'em!" Tucker grinned, and Jazz slammed her foot down on the accelerator.
"Why are you even here, Jazz?" Sam asked curiously.
"I like to help out now and then," the older girl replied with a shrug.
"Uh-huh...you like ghost hunting, it's okay to admit it," Tucker smirked as the Spectre Speeder flew behind Danny.
"I don't admit anything," Jazz said with confidence, "I just wanted to help my brother."
"Sure, Jazz," they heard Danny snicker.
Danny laughed to himself for a second before the sight of floating clocks and cogs made him stop in mid-air. "Wait...wait...this is..." he muttered to himself.
Since Clockwork had taken him back in time to watch his arch nemesis' struggle with ghost powers, Danny had avoided even thinking of the Time Ghost, let alone wandering into his lair. "Guys...let's just leave the ghosts, I...I've got some...erm...homework I need help with and I..." he said quickly to his friends.
"What's wrong?" Tucker's eyes widened, "We almost had 'em!"
"Yeah, Danny, come on," Jazz frowned. She'd slowed the vehicle considerably and it was now hovering not far from the motionless half ghost.
"It's nothing, I just really wanna learn about...fractions..."
"Sure, we're really gone believe that," Sam scoffed.
"Where are we, anyway?" Jazz asked, looking at the strange building they could see close by.
"Nowhere," Danny said quickly.
"Shows just how much you remember. We're in Clockwork's territory," Sam grinned.
"No!" Danny yelled. He'd so far avoided telling his friends anything about his recent journey into Vlad's past and he didn't want to have to do so now if the Master of Time decided to show up for a chat.
"Seriously, what's wrong, Danny?" Jazz asked looking out at her little brother.
"I...I..." the boy began to stammer but his ghost sense stopped him.
"...Time out," a calm voice said and Danny gulped.
The four of them could only watch as Clockwork raised his staff and transported them down into the heart of his lair. "Time in," he said, letting them move.
Jazz jumped out of the Spectre Speeder with a large ecto-gun in her hands pointed at the ghost before Sam or Tucker could stop her. "I don't know who you are or how you did that, ghost, but I..."
"Jazz, cool it, it's fine, he won't hurt us," Danny said, flying in front of his sister, blocking her aim.
"What?" his sister frowned.
"This is Clockwork, Master of Time, Jazz," Danny told her.
"Master of Time..." Jazz repeated, "I don't remember seeing him in your files," she said, still suspicious.
"Yeah, well, he told me not to write anything down," her brother shrugged.
"You've been avoiding me," Clockwork said to him.
"Erm...well...I...I haven't...I've been really busy, I mean..."
"I know when you're lying, Danny."
"Right...sorry, I erm, actually forgot about the whole...erm...thing..." Danny stammered, gesturing to the ghosts' staff.
"You took no notice of anything I showed you," the ghost said, seemingly ignoring Danny's friends, "You ignored it all.
"I didn't ignore it, I just...I..."
"That means I must try again..."
"Oh no, not again, please, not again," Danny begged the Time Master, but the ghost ignored him.
"Not again, what? What're you talking about, Danny?" Jazz asked him.
"I showed young Daniel that he and Vladimir have much in common, I know he failed to mention it to you. That is why you are here now," Clockwork said.
"We're here because those snake ghosts were..." Sam began, "Oh...that was you...you had them attack the city so we'd follow them in here...really?"
"Really," the ghost nodded, "I don't expect you to understand, but this is more important than you can imagine. It could mean the end of everything you know if you don't listen to me now."
"Yeah, yeah, I heard you last time, Vlad like me, he's misunderstood...he's this, he's that, blah blah blah, I heard it before," Danny sighed.
"No, you heard it, but you didn't heed it," Clockwork said.
"Huh?" the young half ghost furrowed his brow.
"This time, I have more to show you…all of you," the ghost explained.
"No, no, I don't want you to show me anything else!" Danny cried.
"You don't have a choice," Clockwork smiled kindly, raising his staff.
"No!" Danny yelled, as a green mist enveloped them completely.
"Whoa...head rush..."Tucker said, a hand gripping his head."Holy..." he muttered, looking around.
They were stood, while Clockwork and Danny floated, in a large, extravagant sitting room. It was made of dark wood and lined with old book cases, there were shining suits of armour and dozens of archaic portraits. A large fire was burning in an even larger, stone fireplace, carved with Russian words and historical figures on either side.
"Where...are we?"Sam murmured.
"Minnesota, 1976," Clockwork answered simply.
"What?!" Jazz exclaimed.
"Time ghost...remember..." Danny sighed, "And why exactly are we in Minnesota in 1976?" he then asked Clockwork.
"For him," the ghost answered, tilting his staff towards one of the large arm chairs that sat in front of the fire, "For that boy, there."
"What boy?" Sam frowned, and the four of them moved towards the chair.
A small boy was sat there reading a large book; he had black hair and blue eyes, pale skin and he was very lean, almost thin. The fire light played across his sharp features and his sombre expression never faltered as his eyes quickly scanned the pages.
"Hey, dude," Tucker said happily, but the boy didn't hear them, "Hello!"
"He can't see us...can he?" Danny said to Clockwork.
"No," the ghost answered, "No one can see or hear us. We are here to observe."
"Well, what's so special about this? Why are we observing?" Sam demanded, "I wanna know what we’re doing here."
"It's...it's like a mini Danny," Jazz giggled, smiling at the young boy sitting in the chair.
"Don't tell me that's..." Danny covered his eyes.
"That is Vladimir Masters, aged 12," Clockwork said with a smile.
"...Wow...but he looks so...not evil..." Tucker frowned.
"And he looks like Danny," Jazz repeated.
"He doesn't look like me..." Danny mumbled.
"This is really weird," Sam sighed, folding her arms.
"Vladimir!" a deep voice resounded throughout the house. It shook the portraits on the walls and even the books seemed to quiver in fear as the sound of loud, stomping footsteps grew ever closer. The boy's head snapped up and breathing quickened as he swallowed deeply.
"Whoever that is, dude doesn't sound happy," Tucker muttered.
"Vladimir!" the man repeated, now slamming open a door and filling the space. It was a well built, muscular man with white hair, blue eyes and pale skin. He was dressed in a tailored black suit and looked very much like the older version of Vlad that Danny was used to seeing.
"Is that...Vlad's dad?" Danny asked, and Clockwork nodded.
"Dude's scary..." Tucker remarked.
"No joke," Jazz agreed. There was something about this imposing man, made more evident by his deep Russian accent, huge figure and ferocious expression that made him appear extremely terrifying. This was not a man one wanted to fall foul off.
"Vladimir," the man repeated, stomping over to the boy.
"Yes, sir?" the boy asked, with clear resentment and fear in his voice.
"What is this?" the man asked the child, his Russian accent now more pronounced as he raised a sheet of paper to his son's eye level.
"A piece of paper," young Vlad answered, earning him a sharp backhand across the face. Vlad bit his tongue, holding back an angry remark that he knew would only get him belted across the room.
"Whoa..." Jazz jumped back in shock, "...Child abuse..." she muttered.
"That's really gotta hurt, poor kid," Tucker mumbled, raising a hand to his face where young Vlad had just been hit.
"...My exam results...sir..." the boy said, gritting his teeth.
"Correct," the man nodded, speaking Russian. "And what is problem I see with these exam result?"
"Sir?" young Vlad frowned.
"You come first in class by only one percent."
"...Well...I still did what you..." the boy began to protest bravely.
"Not good enough!"
"Not good enough! That's crazy!" Jazz exclaimed in shock.
"I..." young Vlad began to say, but his father didn't give him a chance to speak.
The man took the book from Vlad's lap and threw it across the room, "I don't want excuses. You will never get to the top with excuses," he yelled, raising his hand again.
"Vladislav!" a woman cried, "What are you doing?!" No one had noticed her enter the room because they'd been so shocked by what they'd seen, but they turned to face the woman who'd spoken in such horror.
She ran into the room to stand between Vlad and his father with a bold, yet fearful confidence. She was stunningly beautiful, young, with long black hair, time consumingly curled and pinned back in an almost medieval fashion. Her long dress was made of a tight fitting green silk with flowing sleeves and a small train.
"Teaching your arrogant son to respect superiors," the man replied without emotion.
"He's just a child! You can't do this!"
"Stand aside, woman!"
"Or what? You'll hit me too?" the woman scoffed, "I'm not afraid of you. Give the neighbours something else to talk about, it won't be the first time, Vladislav," she said, and unlike the man, she had no trace of a Russian accent.
The man growled and for a moment, Danny and his friends thought for sure he was going to attack her, but he didn't. Instead he stormed away, grumbling to himself in Russian as he slammed the door shut behind him.
"You didn't have to do that," young Vlad said after a minute.
"Of course I did, you're my son," the woman replied with a sorrowful expression. She turned around and knelt down to meet his eyes, "You shouldn't have to pay for my mistakes...if there was any way I could..."
"I know, it's not your fault, I understand," the boy told her.
"Oh, Vladimir, you understand too much for a child," she gave a sad smile and pulled the boy into a tight hug. "You deserve better than this," she wept.
"Wow...harsh..." Sam mumbled.
"Yeah, okay, I get it, he had a bad start...doesn't mean he had to turn out like his dad," Danny said, pacing about the room.
"Well it's hardly surprising, look at the example he had to follow," his sister protested.
"You're...defending him?" Danny scoffed.
"No...but statistically, children who are victims of any kind of abuse at home generally end up..."
"Don't quote stats at me, Jazz," her brother sighed, "Vlad wants to kill dad and marry mom, he beats me up all the time, he probably plots world domination in his spare time just for fun, he cheats and he lies. Don't defend him; Vlad's a bad guy, end of."
"Maybe...but people like that usually have a reason why they're like that..."
"Your sister is right," Clockwork said, speaking for the first time in a while, startling Danny.
"No, not you too! Vlad's the bad guy! Why are you all making out like I've done something wrong here?!"
"I never said that," the Time Ghost replied sternly, "I wanted you to see that you have the opportunity to change things because you have a good heart, not because you have done anything wrong."
"I agree, that Vlad is bad news, but maybe Clockwork has a point," Tucker admitted. "If it's a choice between having him as an enemy and trying to make peace, I know which side I'd rather be on."
"Danny, let's just hear him out, at least, I mean...maybe things have gone too far with you and Vlad...someone's going to end up seriously hurt, and I don't want it to be you, little brother."
"...Argh...alright...alright, fine," Danny grimaced, pulling at his hair, "Alright, Clockwork...I'll listen."
"Good," the ghost smiled, "I knew you would."
"Yeah…I'll bet," the young half ghost sighed and Clockwork chuckled quietly, raising his staff to change the scenery.
Not looking much older than the last time they’d seen him, the young Vlad was lying in his childhood bedroom, huddled in his large bed underneath two thick blankets to ward off the cold. The room was dark and there was nothing to heat the large open space, not even a welcoming fire in the large grate at the other end of the old room.
On his bedside table there was a small radio and the jovial voice announced that it was only a minute until Christmas Day and that the countdown would soon begin. At this news, most children would be bouncing up and down with excitement, Vlad however knew different, as Danny and his friends were about to learn.
"I told you before!" Vladislav's booming voice echoed over the sound of the radio from outside the closed room and they watched as Vlad closed his eyes tightly shut and buried his face in his pillow. "There will be none of these decorations in my house!" he yelled and it was followed by a loud crashing and banging.
"Why can't you just let him have one day a year?!" an equally furious, if terrified Rosalyn Masters cried back, "Just one day, Vladislav, that's all I'm asking!"
"What the?" Danny frowned and followed the sounds of the voices. He and his friends, his sister and Clockwork, all came into the corridor to see Vlad's parents standing a short distance away with Christmas decorations strewn at their feet. Only a few remained on the walls from which they had been torn.
"You think you can sneak these past me, eh?" Vladislav sneered. "You never learn. You try every year and every year I catch you. Why you still try?!"
"Will you at least be quiet? You'll wake him," she replied but he only scoffed. She crossed her arms in a display of defiance and bravery as she pulled her long, light brown cardigan around herself.
"Then wake the brat and let him hear. I don't care."
"He's your son, Vladislav, your child, and you treat him like..." she said in disgust.
"I treat him as any father treats his son."
"No, you don't and you know it. Do what you want to me but at least give him Christmas, every child should have..."
"Why not? We used to have Christmas, we used to celebrate every holiday. Don’t you remember?" Rosalyn sighed. "What changed?"
"You will take down these things now," Vladislav said slowly, pronouncing each syllable with great anger, ignoring his wife's question.
"I will not," she replied bravely.
Vladislav's face grew increasingly red with barely repressed rage, there was a pulsing vein on his temple and he seemed to explode on hearing her refusal. He struck out with his hand, swiping his wife across the face with enough force to send her flying backwards, bumping against the wall. Rosalyn Masters didn't make a sound although she had to be in pain, she simply stared back at her husband with an expression of deepest loathing and this only served to enrage him further. He let out a furious sound, a roar like groan which echoed loudly and stormed off, back down the corridor, leaving Rosalyn leaning back against the wall.
Once he was gone, she raised a hand to her face, clutching her cheek with a sigh. She then walked a short distance to one of the grand doors, opened it quietly and moved silently to the bed.
Danny and his friends could see Vlad, lying, pretending to sleep as his mother walked over to him. She silently switched off the radio and pulled the thick blanket up to cover her son's shoulder. From the large pocket of her cardigan she took out a small, rectangular box wrapped in blue paper and placed it beside the radio without a word, then she left the room.
After he heard the door click, Vlad opened his slowly eyes and reached out a pale hand from underneath the covers. He examined the present with a brief glance and then proceeded to place it back on the table and went back to sleep.
The field was blanketed over with fresh snow and all around them, a heavy snow storm obstructed the view. Barely visible in amidst the falling snow was the manor house of Vladislav Masters from which, they heard a very familiar, loud, angry voice shouting ferociously. They were too far away to hear just what was being said, but they were conveniently placed to see the small boy that was climbing nimbly from one of the upper story windows from the large building.
The child was using the vines of the plant which was growing on the side of the manor and he moved with practiced ease; evidently he'd done this before. He was dressed simply in a black jumper and trousers, his dark hair a mess and his eyes frantically darting around as his feet landed on the ground. There was a large purple bruise on the right side of his face, it stood out even more than it normally should have against his pale skin and dark attire.
The young Vlad passed straight by them as he walked away from the house, shivering from a particularly strong gust of freezing wind, crossing his small arms around himself and trying to stop his teeth from chattering in his mouth.
"Where's he going in this weather?" Tucker wondered.
"I guess away from that," Danny glanced back at the house; the sounds of a fuming argument still coming from the building.
"I don't blame him," Jazz said sadly.
Vlad suddenly fell face first into the snow covered ground and pushed himself up quickly with his shaking hands. He knelt, breathing heavily and looked back for a moment in the direction of the house, shaking his head.
"Wouldn't someone notice he was gone?" Jazz asked curiously.
"Apparently not," Danny answered.
They could hear that the arguing seemed to be getting louder and louder and they saw Vlad's mother and father were in fact getting closer and closer. They'd run from the house and were frantically looking around, calling Vlad’s name in between shouting at each other. Or at least Rosalyn was frantically searching while her husband merely continued to shout at her.
"Vladimir!" the woman called out, her expression a worried mix of fear and concern.
Vlad's eyes widened and he tried to hide but his mother saw him before he could get far. She ran over to him and looked him over with pale, shaking hands. "Vlad, why did you..."
"Foolish boy," Vladislav growled, stomping through the snow with ease. He reached down and dragged Vlad to his feet by his hair and pulling him back towards the house.
"Argh!" Vlad cried, "Stop!"
"Vladislav!" Rosalyn cried, trying in vain to free her son from her husband's unyielding grip.
Danny and his friends watched as the three disappeared through the snowfall and eventually disappeared into green smoke.
When the green mist settled this time, young Vlad was riding a large, beautiful horse through a heavily wooded area. The branches scratched at his face and hands but he didn't seem to care as he urged the animal to run faster. It was a huge brown horse with a long black mane and expensive riding gear.
"Spoilt rich kid," Danny muttered. He and his friends were following the young Vlad through the trees thanks to Clockwork's power, but the trees didn't touch them.
Suddenly, Vlad's horse tripped on an uprooted tree and the boy fell from the animal, landing with a cry of suppose and shock. "Argh!" he cried, breathing heavily on the ground.
"Vlad!" a young female voice called out from somewhere ahead and they heard a second horse ride back quickly.
"Who's that?" Danny asked curiously.
"His cousin,"Clockwork answered, "Her name is Valya, she lived in Russia but her parents brought her to visit her cousin often. Her mother is Vladislav's sister, a polar opposite of the man himself."
"You alright?" Valya asked with concern. She was just as young as Vlad, sitting astride a pale grey horse, and she had pale blonde hair, tied back, but they had the same eyes, skin tone and similar facial features.
"...Fine...I'm fine..." Vlad muttered.
"Then get up, Vladdie...we will never see which horse is best if you fall off animal again," the girl sighed, her accent very pronounced.
"This is the first time I've fell off!" Vlad yelled indignantly and pushed himself up from the ground, brushing the dirt from his clothes.
"Da, I really believe that," she chuckled.
"Shut up," Vlad replied, jumping back up on the horse.
"No, you can be one to shut up," Valya replied.
"Because that's really scary," the boy scoffed.
"I am scary! Is family trait. I be uncle Vladislav. 'Ah, we are descendants of great Vlad Ţepeș, blah blah blah, it is not good enough. Is not proper'..." Valya poorly mimicked her uncle's deep voice. "You must do this, you must do that..."
"That's pretty close..." Vlad chuckled, "But he's lying, we're not even related to Ţepeș," Vlad shook his head.
"How you know?"
"It's just another one of his lies. He always lies. Always," the young boy sneered, clearly well used to his father lying about a great many things.
"My mamma say the same thing about Ţepeș. Maybe is true."
"Yeah, and maybe pigs'll fly," Vlad muttered.
"Huh? Pigs..." she furrowed her brow in confusion.
"Nothing...it's just an expression," he shrugged.
"Is strange expression...but you are very strange person."
"That doesn't make sense, Valya," the boy laughed.
"Don't care, you know what I mean," Valya shrugged, "Not my fault English is hard."
"I never said you have to speak English. I speak Russian better then you speak English."
"Is good practice...so I am always told," the girl said sadly, "Always told...is other people always telling children so much as us?"
"Don't know," Vlad answered slowly, "...But your father isn't as nearly bad as mine. At least uncle Alexei smiles."
"Da, is true, uncle Vladislav scare me."
"Doesn't scare me."
"Lies," the girl said immediately, "He hit you."
"He always hits me," the boy said, "That's nothing new, I'm used to it."
"Mamma say you and your mamma should move with us, be better for you...I hear her say once," Valya explained.
"Father wouldn't allow it."
"No...you should run away...is popular theme in American TV, no?"
"Maybe, but it's not easy in American reality," Vlad replied with a smile.
"How you know this?"
"Where would I go even if I did run? I'm just a kid...maybe...when I'm older..."
"You serious," the girl frowned.
"Yes, I'm serious, I won't let him rule my life forever," Vlad said, with the confidence that Danny and his friends were more than used to seeing.
"Then good luck, Vladdie," Valya smiled.
"I keep telling you not to call me that," Vlad growled with good humour.
"When you leave home, I leave funny name...is deal?"
"...Is deal, Vally," Vlad replied with a smile, and nudged his horse into a trot.
"Vally, no, no, no, no call me Vally!" the girl cried out, following her cousin, the two of them leaving Clockwork and other others.
"Ha!"Danny laughed, "My dad wasn't the only one to call him 'Vladdie', I knew it!" he smiled.
"Indeed," Clockwork said simply, calling forth the green mist once more.
Now it was late at night and Vlad was by himself in a room which Danny guessed was a library. The other rooms he'd seen all had a few books in them, but each wall in this one had book shelves rather than just the odd one or two. There was a single light in the whole room on a small table and Vlad was sitting by it reading. He had a pad of paper and a pencil on the table by his book and it was covered in equations and diagrams and Danny moved to get a better look at it.
"...What is all that?"the half ghost muttered, "I don't get it."
"It's maths, dude," Tucker said shortly after he'd looked too.
"Yeah, I get that, but it's not any kind of math I've ever seen."
"It's university level maths," Jazz told then, stunned.
"Trust Vlad to be doing confusing maths in his spare time,"her brother scoffed, "...How old is he...anyway?"
"One year older than you right now," Clockwork answered.
"Why's he always have to be smarter than me?!" Danny moped.
"Maybe because he studied..." Sam murmured.
"He didn't have to fight ghosts, he doesn't even have his powers yet."
"Dude, you barely studied when we didn't fight ghosts," Tucker grinned.
"I studied plenty!" Danny exclaimed.
"Vlad?" the kind voice of Vlad's mother spoke in the darkness. She flicked on the lights and the room was bathed in electric lights, "What are you doing up, it's gone midnight?"
"Couldn't sleep," the boy answered, "I think I've almost got it."
"Got what?" the woman said, walking over to her son, "Insomnia?" she asked with a smile.
"Possibly, but that's not what I meant."
"Leave this for a while, and go back to bed," his mother sighed, "The equations will still be there in a few hours," she said, closing the note book.
"...Alright..." Vlad reluctantly closed his text book and stood up to leave.
"Good night, son," she smiled.
"...Good night," he replied, leaving her alone.
The woman began to slowly close the other books that were scattered across the surface of the old table, stacking them in one pile and picking up the notebook and glancing down at it for a moment. She furrowed her brow and picked up the discarded pencil to correct something written with a kindly smile, then she put the note book down and left the room, turning off the lights.
"Get up, boy!" Vladislav was shouting this time, "Not trying hard enough."
"I am trying!" Vlad hissed from the floor.
Vlad his father were in a large room which had all the furniture pushed to the sides. It seemed designated to weaponry with swords and guns and all types of medieval battle axes on the walls. One side of the long, rectangular room was a line of tall windows which let in the sunlight.
Vladislav Masters, now looking positively ferocious, held a cutlass in his right hand and so did Vlad who had been shoved to the ground by his father. Both were wearing padded vests intended for protection, but which in reality would provide little, if any. But fortunately, the weapons' blades were dull.
"Not enough, now move, move, move!" the man yelled.
"Is this ever familiar," Danny remarked. He saw himself in the young Vlad's place and Vlad in his fathers' place every time they'd fought in the past.
"I wonder why,"Jazz replied sarcastically, "If this is how his dad tried to teach him anything then..."
"Yeah...I get it, Jazz."
Vladislav's sword collided with his sons' and the two gritted their teeth as they fought for dominance. Young Vlad, of course, lost, since he was much smaller than his father, and he was pushed aside again, the sword falling from his hand as he fell.
"Urgh..." the boy uttered, clutching his arm. His father pulled him up from the floor and put the sword in his hand again, clearly not caring that the boy was in pain.
Opposite from the wall of windows, a row of servants, all dressed in prim black and white clothes could only watch as their master basically beat up his son on the pretence of a sword-fighting lesson. None of them looked shocked or surprised so either this wasn't the first time their master had instigated such a lesson, or they were just so acclimatised to the man's brutal nature that nothing could surprise them.
"Why don't they do anything?" Danny asked, staring at them.
Vlad was thrown aside again, like a rag doll and this time he couldn't get up. His father was furious as he kicked the sword over to his son, intending for their 'lesson' to continue.
"N...no more...please..." the boy begged, evidently hating it.
"Hmmm," his father sneered, dropping his own sword to the floor. He didn't take another glance at his son as he walked away. "Not to help the boy unless you wish to lose job!" the man bellowed at his servants, "Understood?"
"Yes, sir," they nodded and stood unmoving as Vlad struggled on the floor. With much effort he managed to shimmy out of his padded vest and he lay, breathing heavily, trying to cool down.
"That's just as much psychological abuse as it is physical,"Jazz cried indignantly, "How did this go on for so long?!"
"Things were different then," Clockwork told her sadly, as the mist passed over them again.
The room was the same one they'd just seen but Vlad was a little taller and more muscled than before but the older man was still considerably larger than his son. They were alone this time, with no servants standing by as audience and instead of using swords, they were fighting hand to hand.
It was a brutal fight and despite Vlad energy, he was thrown aside several times but each time he got back up. His father brought his first across but Vlad used his right forearm to block his attack, his face a contortion of pure hatred, shocking the older man who moved back a step.
"You fight back now, for real?" Vladislav raised an eyebrow, looking a lot like the older version of Vlad that Danny was used to seeing.
"I won't be your doormat for the rest of my life," Vlad said to his father.
"Hah!" the man grinned, "Finally, you learn!" he chuckled.
"I don't see why this is funny," the young Vlad hissed.
"Not now, but one day you will," Vladislav grinned, "Now...again!" he yelled, starting the fight again.
Vlad was now breathing heavily, stuffing clothes and other things into a small rucksack which lay on a large bed. He moved quickly about the room which was obscured by shadows.
"What's he doing?" Jazz frowned.
"Looks like he's packing," Tucker murmured, "In the middle of the night...really quickly..."
"Packing for what?" Sam asked curiously.
"He's running," Danny answered with confidence. He could see how tense Vlad was and he knew the feeling all too well. He'd never run from home, but there were things he wanted to run from and he could recognise it in others.
"Running where?" Tucker muttered to himself, "...Not that I blame him or anything..."
Vlad stopped his relentless packing act and turned on a small desk light and sat at the desk, he pulled out a small piece of paper from his pocket and stared at it with a heavy expression.
"What's that?" Jazz asked.
"Looks like a ticket or something," Danny narrowed his eyes.
He wrote a short note and folded it quickly to hide inside a book that was on his desk. It was his favourite book and he knew his mother would find the note, his father would never see it. His father didn't even know what colour his sons' eyes were let alone what his favourite book was.
With a deep breath Vlad picked up a black coat, buttoned it up, slung his bag over his back and began his descent out of his bedroom window.
Outside the large manor house of Vladislav Masters, a car sped down the driveway and pulled to a wheel screeching stop outside the front door. A woman that Danny recognised as Vlad's cousin, Valya, now older, ran into the building, abandoning her car without parking it properly out on the driveway, and demanded to know where her aunt was from every servant she passed. She quickly found her aunt in the library, sitting down with a closed book on her lap. It was the favourite book of her son. Her son who was now gone.
"Aunty Rosalyn?! Vladimir...has...has run away? For true?" Valya asked her aunt, her eyes wide.
"We talked of it...as children...but never did I think..."
"...I can't say I'm not worried to death...but it's better than him living with Vladislav..." the woman sighed, putting her head in her hands. "I'd rather he be somewhere out there...it's safer than in here."
"Why do you not run too? My mother can..."
"Can't you see there's nowhere to run from him? In the eyes of the law I am his wife...in his eyes I am his property. Divorce must be mutual, he won't allow it. His 'faith' will not permit me my freedom, but my son can at least take his."
"It cannot just be for faith. You are in danger. Why can you not use the law for your protection?"
"No one would believe me, he's a pillar of the community...a wealthy pillar of the community. The police don't get involved in domestics, let alone the domestics of the wealthy. No, this is my doing, it was my decision and I'll have to live with it. What makes me sad is when I remember that he wasn't always such a tyrant!"
"He is now. It is not fair for you...you did nothing to deserve this..."
"Neither did my son," Rosalyn raised her head to give a rueful smile, "I hate to think of the damage my husband has inflicted on him...I love my son more than life itself, Valya. If you ever have children you'll understand...and I hope you don't make the same mistakes I have..."
"You made no mistakes!"
"I misjudged my husband, he used to be so...different..."
"Not your fault!"
"...Where do you think he's gone?" Rosalyn asked after a minute.
"...I don't know...but he's more clever than me, I wouldn't last ten minutes, I am sure he will be fine," Valya answered.
"Yes...I hope you’re right..."
"I hope uncle Vladislav doesn't find him."
"Yes...but...I've...I've made arrangements..."
"What...what arrangements?" Valya narrowed her eyes.
"My son has been gone for almost two weeks, my husband was only searching because of his anger and pride..."
"What did you do?"
"I swore that I'd never try and leave if he left my son alone," she whispered to her niece, "So, you see, there really is no escape for me."
"Aunty..." Valya sighed deeply.
"I don't know what'll happen...but I don't regret what I did."
"Not yet...why do you always have to do everything by yourself...why can't you ask for help?!" the younger woman cried.
"I share several traits with my husband, one is our stubbornness and the other is pride, but I'm a mother...he doesn't understand love anymore."
"Please...please let us help..." Valya begged, "We care about you..."
"I know," Rosalyn smiled, holding her niece's hand, "I know."
"Talk about family drama," Sam said just before the familiar green mist swirled in again.
The scene this time began, not with visual aids but with sounds, loud noises of backfiring engines and clattering pieces of metal on a concrete floor, raised voices echoing in a cave like space, open on one side to the elements overlooking a vast parking area littered with cars which emerged from the green smoke of Clockwork's power.
Danny and his friends watched as people began to form from that same smoke as they had done before and they were unsurprised when they saw a black haired, young Vlad in the scene again, however they were surprised at his appearance. He was wearing dirty overalls, leaning over a car engine conversing with another man beside him. They were having to talk loudly over the noise of the running engine which was clearly having problems with yet another who man sitting inside the car.
"You need to get this fixed, kid," the man beside him said.
"I'm trying," Vlad replied, not looking up.
"Yeah, and I got a bet that says you'll fix it in the next half hour," he laughed. "Look...you're good at this, but we...I mean...we've all noticed you been workin' more than you should, y'know...you're in college and all..."
"Not a good time to discuss my education, Bill," Vlad said sharply.
"A'right," Bill held up his hands, "Not my business anyway," he added before walking away. Vlad, meanwhile, continued to work, oblivious to the world around him as his uncle, Alexei along with a woman they'd not seen before.
"Who's she?" Danny asked.
"Alexei's wife, Kseniya on one of her rare visits to America," Clockwork answered.
"What can I do y'for?" Bill asked them as he walked across to them.
"Vladimir Masters works here, yes?" Alexei asked simply.
"Err...yeah, he's over..." the man turned to point and the two people walked off without another work, "You're welcome," he muttered.
"Vladimir?" Alexei questioned.
"I said I'm working on it, Bill!" Vlad yelled automatically, "Go away."
"Excuse me?" Kseniya scoffed, raising an eyebrow and Vlad spun around so quickly he hit his head on the car bonnet under which he'd been working and cursed loudly, dropping the metal wrench.
"...Argh...son of a..." the young Vlad grumbled, "...What...what are you doing here?" he asked quickly.
"You haven't been attending your classes, Vlad," his uncle said with a frown.
"I'm quitting," Vlad replied, kneeling down to retrieve the wrench.
"I can't afford it. I'm working three jobs just to keep that miserable flat, I've no time or money for college," he shrugged and turned back to the engine.
"Let me worry about the money. You're going to college," Alexei said in a tone that left little room of argument.
"No, I'm not. I'm going to work like everyone else who can't afford to study. It was a stupid, pipe dream anyway."
"You are too intelligent not to go and you can afford it."
"No, you can afford to go, I can't. So, I’m working" Vlad said stubbornly, "Now, please leave, I have to get this fixed."
"Don't...this was my choice, now I have to live with it."
"It's not a bad thing to accept help from your family," Kseniya told him, "Despite the things my brother says."
"He doesn't know that I'm here?" Vlad asked quickly, his eyes alighting with barely concealed panic.
"Of course not," his uncle told him calmly. "But...if we can't change your mind, maybe this will," he said, handing a letter to his nephew.
"From your mother, she wanted to come but I'm sure I don't need to tell you why she couldn't," Kseniya answered as Vlad took the letter from the envelope and read it silently to himself.
Danny only caught a glimpse of italic writing over Vlad's shoulder before he lowered it, clearly he was a proficient speed reader and regarded his uncle with a defeated expression.
"Fine, fine," Vlad muttered reluctantly as he folded the letter and stuffed it in his pocket.
"You will go back?" his uncle raised an eyebrow.
"...On one condition."
"You keep track of every cent I use until I finish and as soon as I can I'll reimburse you," Vlad said forcefully.
"No need, you are family. It is not necessary" Alexei replied kindly.
"If you don't keep track, I will, either way I'll repay you."
"You have your mother's stubbornness," his uncle shook his head, "Alright then, I will do as you ask."
"Wow...so Vlad dropped out of college...hard to imagine him doin' that," Danny said to himself.
"Well, it can't have been easy, living by himself, working different jobs to pay his rent and trying to pay for college," Jazz said.
"Is this your work?" Vlad asked, raising a disbelieving eyebrow. He was standing in a lab before a blackboard full of scientific formula with bits of paper pined to it on various places and plenty of smudge marks on its surface.
"Mine?! Hah! Good one," his companion laughed.
"Dad?" Danny blinked, watching the younger, teenaged version of his father, emerge from an adjoining room
"Whose then?" Vlad asked, oblivious to Danny and his friends, as ever.
"It’s Maddie's work, she's a genius, way smarter than me...maybe she's as smart as you, V-man," Jack smiled. Vlad rolled his eyes at the nickname, but surprisingly it was done, not out of hate and annoyance but out of fondness and humour, which surprised Danny immensely.
"And where is this 'Maddie'?"
"She'll be around somewhere," Jack shrugged. "Anyway, I'm glad you came back, it’s not the same without you here, even with her to help."
"Well...there seem to have been a lot of changes...is this a project of hers?"
"Yeah, well, I'm helpin' her now, it's really cool, you'd love it. You should totally help us out!"
"I don't know why you'd think that, Jack, all of this looks like pure theory. I don't deal in theoretical science," Vlad said, finally turning his attention away from the board.
"You can do anything, V-man," Jack smiled, "Want me to tell you about it?"
"I can see you're just dying to tell me, aren't you?" Vlad sighed sarcastically.
"It's like this, see..." Jack began by rooting through a pipe of papers and handing one to his friend. "There's this theory that there's a kind of ghost world, right so what we thought was..."
"A what?!" Vlad exclaimed, "Slow down...did you just say 'ghost'...as in..." he trailed off.
"Yeah, keep up, anyway..."
"No, Jack, you can't be serious..." Vlad shook his head, putting down the paper.
"We're totally serious," Jack said quickly.
"You can't honestly believe in...in ghosts," Vlad scoffed.
"Why not?" Jack frowned.
"Why not?" Vlad repeated, "Because it's absurd!"
"Can you prove that?" a third voice asked. It was the voice of a woman, a voice that Danny and his friends knew well. It was a young Maddie Fenton standing in the doorway wearing a white lab coat and holding a thick science book with paper and post it notes sticking out of it, proclaiming its use.
"Hey, Mads!" Jack beamed, "This is V-man...I told her about you..." he whispered to his friend. "He's gonna help us..." he added loudly.
"Is he now?" Maddie asked, walking into the room, not seeming to care that all eyes were on her.
"Well...I never said..." Vlad began to protest nervously, his calm demeanour obviously affected by this woman.
"Oh, brother, now I get to watch Vlad make a goo-goo eyes at my mom," Danny grimaced.
"I heard you dropped out a month ago," she said quite calmly.
"I had some...family problems," Vlad replied weakly.
"Well, he's back now," Jack announced cheerfully, "And he's the smartest guy in the college."
"But he doesn't believe in ghosts," Maddie said.
"I've...never seen anything to warrant a belief in ghosts," Vlad said, regaining some of his composure with a cough.
"Neither have I, but I will," she replied, "Once we finish this project."
"And what exactly is 'this project'?"
"We're going to build a working portal into the ghost dimension," she answered simply.
"A...working portal...into the...what?!" Vlad's eyes went wide, almost comically in his surprise.
"There's plenty of legends about this 'dimension' or whatever you want to call it. If we prove that it exists then surely it'll prove that ghosts must exist as well."
"Wouldn't it be easier to prove that ghosts exist rather than relying on theories about...about some other worldly dimension that might not amount to anything at all?"
"Maybe, but there's plenty of ghost hunters out there who know more about it than we ever could. We have a deadline for this project you know and we need to have something new to show for it. If we just copied everything that they did we wouldn't be doing anything worthwhile," she shrugged. "So...you in?"
"I can't imagine how you got permission to even write a thesis on this let alone occupy this lab," Vlad scoffed.
"The professor likes the theory," she smiled.
"Hmmm," he hummed, looking back at the board that has first caught his attention. "Well, all this is...impressive...whether it'll work in practice though..." he mused aloud.
"That's the point of theoretical science," Maddie told him.
"I'm...more of a practical scientist."
"Then you'll be useful when we have to actually build this thing."
"Yeah, and Vladdie's an engineer too," Jack smiled.
"Jack, I've worked in a garage, on cars, that doesn’t make me an engineer. I can understand mechanics, yes, but building something completely new based only on a theory is a whole different..."
"Still more than either of us know about the subject," Maddie shrugged. "Look, Vlad, I'm a theorist, but I have to be realistic too. I want this to work and I'm putting everything into this project...but it hasn't been easy. People don't exactly want to help us out this one."
"If you're trying to tell me that this will somehow 'tarnish' my reputation, I couldn't care less," Vlad waved a dismissive hand, "If I help you it'll be because I want to."
"Good...just don't say I didn't warn you," she said kindly.
"...Deal. So, lunch?" Vlad asked them.
"I actually wanted to go through some of the..."
"We can go through these...ideas of yours...and I'll see what I..."
"I knew you'd help, V-man!" Jack slapped his across the back, sending the smaller man forwards from the force and Maddie laughed.
"I haven't said anything yet," Vlad replied.
"Don't have to, you will," his friend declared as the three of them walked off.
Vlad was now sitting in the downtown apartment that Danny recognised, it was just as messy, just as depressing and threadbare as he remembering seeing last time. There were boxes and papers and bits of technological bric-a-brac scattered about the small room. One of the walls had a large burn mark on it, which Danny had a strong suspicion was caused by ectoplasm.
"Whoa...what a dump...Vlad certainly went down in the world," Tucker frowned, taking in their new surroundings.
Vlad himself was slouching in his arm chair, staring at the small television with a pile of papers discarded on the floor at his feet when he suddenly fell through the chair with a cry of shock. Instantly he reappeared, floating just above the floor and then he fell the few inches to the ground with a thud.
"Drat..." Vlad muttered, scowling at his hand that was now tangible again.
"Hey, Danny, that look familiar, or what?" Sam grinned,
"Vladimir?" a deep voice spoke. I was accompanied by a loud knocking at the door.
Vlad's head snapped up and he narrowed his eyes as he stood quietly, moving with grace and silence to the door. "Who wants to know?" he replied.
"Your uncle," came the reply and Vlad immediately opened the door.
"What do you want this time? Is my first repayment due already?" the young Vlad said at once.
"Not at all," Alexei replied. “We heard about an…accident…and we were worried about you.” The man was lean and pale with greying hair and none of Vladislav's anger and bulk.
He walked into the small apartment and into the sitting room where he at once was struck by the state of the place, and of course the singed mark on the wall held his attention. "What happen there?" the man asked, gesturing to the singed spot on the wall.
"Science experiment," Vlad said convincingly.
"Ah," the older man breathed.
"So...are you planning on telling my father?" Vlad asked brusquely.
"...No, I won't," Alexei sighed, "Not if you don't want me to."
"No, I don't."
"Then I won't."
"I will tell your mother, and Valya," the man said in a tone that left no room for argument, "She's angry with you for leaving without telling her."
"There wasn't time, I planned it carefully."
"Clearly, you did a good job. Why did you hide the accident from us? We could have helped you. We could have visited you.”
“I didn’t want anyone to know,” Vlad snapped.
“You're not a child and I'm not going to treat you like one, this was your choice, all of it...but are you sure you want to stay here?"
"If I was going to go back, I would've done it already," Vlad replied.
"Alright," the man nodded, walking back towards the door, "I only wanted to be sure that you were alright.”
"Well, now you are.”
"Yes..." Alexei sighed, pausing with his hand on the doorknob. "...You never wonder why Vladislav never find you?" the man asked, "He stopped looking after two weeks, he stop because of your mother, she saved you. Make her proud, Vladimir," he finished opening the door and leaving Vlad alone.
It was the middle of the day and Vlad was sprawled on the floor of his apartment, his hair was white but his skin was a sickly, ghostly shade of blue and he was glowing. He was breathing at an alarming rate and he was whimpering, it was a pitiful sight, really.
"What's wrong with him?" Jazz breathed.
Clockwork looked at Danny expectantly and the young half ghost sighed in defeat, "Okay," he rolled his eyes at the Time Master, "I'll tell 'em, then," he added.
"Tell us what?" she asked.
"You know how I got...kind of...electrocuted by the portal?" Danny muttered, "Clockwork said that because my whole body was shocked by the ecto energy it took like ten seconds, or whatever, for half of me to die and for the ectoplasm to make my ghost half."
"What does this have to do with..." Sam began but Danny continued.
"Well, when Vlad got zapped by their portal it was..."
"Contaminated with diet cola, you told us that, dude," Tucker said.
"Right, but that meant that it took longer for Vlad to get his powers...half of him had to die first...real slowly," Danny told them.
"You mean...that's what's happening now?" Jazz frowned.
"Guess so," Danny said, glancing over to Clockwork, "But you already showed me this," he added.
"I think you need to see it again, to understand just how lucky you were not to have to go through what he did," the Time Master explained. "I do not agree with him on many accounts and we are hardly allies...but he is to be pitied," he added.
Vlad was barely repressing his screams now and he was clutching at his head, burying his hands in his hair as his skin began to get ever more ghost like. The shade of blue was darkening and his eyes were glowing an angry red.
"Do we really have to watch this?" Jazz turned away from the suffering Vlad.
Vlad stumbled to his feet and pulled out a stained drawer from a small sideboard. He dropped it on the floor and rummaged through its papers until he found a needle in a sealed packet. With shaking fingers he tore it open and preceded to inject his own forearm with it. Danny could see several other small marks there on the pale skin.
"Whoa...that's new...what was that?" the young hybrid asked.
"Morphine," Clockwork answered, "After this happened twice, he started using it to relieve the pain."
"Was he...y'know...addicted?" Tucker couldn't help but ask.
"I can't answer that for him," Clockwork said, "But he didn't use it again after these episodes finished. As you know, he has a very high tolerance for pain, this is why," the Time Master told a rather concerned looking Danny.
"Because he's so used to pain," Danny said.
They watched as Vlad fell back onto the floor, dropping the needle with a deep breath. His eyes closed and after a moment, his hisses and whimpers faded away with the scenery.
It was in the midst of an empty field Vlad Plasmius, human-ghost hybrid for four years, finally defeated Skulker, Ghost Zone's greatest hunter. His suit lay in ruins, literally torn to shreds over the field in tatters.
In Vlad's opinion, his adversaries' defeat would have come much sooner had their 'meetings' not been so infrequent. The fact that he still didn't have a working portal into the Ghost Zone, which he now knew existed, meant that they relied on natural portals.
"My, how the tables have turned," Vlad smirked as he shot an ecto-blast at a piece of his nemesis' suit that lay in pieces at his feet. "I'd say this is long overdue...old friend," he added sarcastically.
"This isn't over!" a weakening, mechanical voice came from the head piece. The eyes on the metal head were flickering, losing their green glow as its power died out.
"Really?" Vlad raised an eyebrow, "What can you possibly do now? Head-butt me to death?" he scoffed.
"Hah!" Tucker laughed, "That's a good one!"
"How are you even talking to me?" the hybrid furrowed his brow. He planted his feet on the ground, walked across to the fallen hunter's head and picked it up.
"How dare you man-handle the head of the Ghost Zone's greatest..."
"The only thing that you are right now, Skulker, is the Ghost Zone's greatest pile of debris."
"Another one!" Tucker chortled, "Man, I gotta write these down. Danny, maybe you should be taking pointers."
"Shhh!" Sam elbowed him.
"Put me down!" Skulker yelled, his deep voice beginning to fail, "Now!"
"I wonder..." Vlad hummed to himself. He turned the head over in his hands, examining it from every angle until he came to see that it was hollow, like a Knight's helmet. Peering inside the opening at the neck he saw a small, glowing green light and he reached inside with a gloved hand.
"No! Stop!" Skulker cried, his voice now loosing its baritone and becoming the high pitched squeak as Vlad's hand emerged holding the small, blob like form of Skulker. Vlad stared in shock and let out a disbelieving scoff as he took in the tiny creature in his hand. "I will destroy you for..." the small ghost began.
"You will destroy me?" Vlad repeated, "And how will you do that, oh, small one? If anything I should destroy you for all you've done to me," he sneered, squeezing his hand round the small, blob-like entity.
"Then do it!"
Vlad's hand tightened around Skulker, becoming encased in glowing ectoplasm. It changed from pink to green to blue and each time the colour changed, so did the volume of Skulker's screams, they became increasingly pained.
"It wouldn't be difficult," Vlad remarked to himself, "But...you could prove useful to me," he added thoughtfully.
"Not likely," Skulker squeaked, his voice hoarse and rough.
"Would you prefer the alternative, then?" Vlad replied. His hand glowed again and Skulker reassumed his screaming.
"Alright! Okay! I'll do whatever you want!" the small ghost acquiesced.
"That's more like it. You'll have to find new prey, now, Skulker, otherwise I may choose to hunt you."
"Do I have your word that you will do as I ask, when I ask...as a hunter?" he asked with a smirk.
"Yes...yes!" Skulker cried, "Just let me go!"
"Very well," Vlad agreed, opening his palm and letting the ghost drop to the ground at his feet, "If I'd known you were so vertically challenged, I..."
"What?!" Skulker exclaimed just as the familiar green smoke started to envelop the scene, fading away to the sound of Vlad's amused chuckling.
Vlad looked young, he appeared to be in his mid-twenties and his hair was stark white which contrasted starkly to the long black coat he was wearing, added to the somewhat imposing figure he cut as he strode down a quiet street in the dark. The lamp lights were flickering overhead and there was very little traffic that passed by. In fact, it didn't look like the kind of neighbourhood where anyone, let alone Vlad, would want to wander in the night hours. In the distance they could hear sirens and shouting and even the odd gun shot being fired and each noise echoed eerily down the street.
Danny watched as Vlad suddenly stopped in his tracks and tilted his head as though listening carefully for something, then he changed course and headed down a narrow, rubbish filled alleyway off the larger street he'd been walking with an intrigued look on his face.
"Where's he going?" Danny asked curiously.
"Wait and see," Clockwork replied, typically.
Vlad walked calmly down another, even narrower alley and leapt over a tall, metal gate that appeared to be blocking his way with agile grace that even an Olympic gymnast would kill for. He landed crouching and straightened with ease, not stopping on his quest, undeterred by the foul stench that permeated the air around them.
He came to a stop before a large mountain of overflowing black bags, rotting cardboard boxes, squeaking mice and flies. Vlad then kicked aside on the bags with the toe of his shiny black shoe to reveal a young, pale girl, bleeding from a nasty looking head wound, unconscious, unmoving, and now completely in Vlad's power. Her life was literally in his hands.
"Whoa!" Tucker breathed, "How did he..."
"Her heartbeat...he could hear it," Danny answered for him.
Vlad seemed as stunned as Danny and his friends were and for a moment he just stared down at the girl stoically with his grey, blue eyes. Finally, with a sigh he knelt down and without moving her, he examined her head wound from all angles.
"I think she's still breathing," Jazz remarked, kneeling down beside Vlad and seeing the girl's chest gently rise and fall. But her breathing was becoming increasingly faint.
With an almost imperceptible turn of his head, Vlad gently raised the girl off the ground and, using his ghost powers, he flew her, invisibly and at record speed, through streets that passed by in a blur until he reached what was clearly a hospital. There happened to be an ambulance at the entrance and a medic was loading an unoccupied gurney into the back of the vehicle.
Not wasting any time, Vlad overshadowed the medic and placed the girl on the gurney and then he left, invisibly, watching as the medic stared in confusion at the unconscious girl in his care.
"Hey, where did she come from?" the medic frowned at the driver who only shrugged in reply.
Vlad remained until the girl disappeared from sight, deep into the hospital, listening to the medical jargon from the doctors who rushed her inside, and then he flew away.
"...Did Vlad just..." Sam began slowly.
"...Save someone?" Tucker finished for her.
"I think hell just froze over," the goth girl added sarcastically, unable to help herself.
This time, once again, Danny recognised the office as the one that Vlad had been given, legally, by his first real employer. It was night time and the office was only slightly lit by a few lamps dotted about the room. Vlad was sat at his desk, going over a pile of papers when the phone rang, echoing in the silent office, and Vlad pressed the button for the loud speaker. "Yes?" he drawled.
"Sir, there's a woman demanding to see you, she claims that she's your...your mother, sir," a somewhat nervous secretary said, probably anxious as to Vlad's reaction.
"Show her in," Vlad replied.
"Yes, sir," she finished quickly, the phone going dead.
He turned back to the papers on his desk, but a minute later the door opened and Vlad looked up, "Hello, mother," he said simply, putting his pen down.
"Vladimir!" the woman cried, "It is you," she walked forwards quickly as he stood from his chair. When she reached her soon she pulled him into a hug, holding back tears of joy, "I knew you'd be alright...I just never thought..." Rosalyn smiled.
"That I'd become a success?" Vlad raised an eyebrow.
"I knew you'd do well, you always did...but I'm so glad..." she stammered and took a deep breath, pulling away. "...I came as soon as I heard that you were in charge. You're an interstate celebrity...it's not hard to find you now...but...I always looked for you...discreetly, I knew it'd be best if your father never found you."
"I hid very well."
"Yes, you did..." she sighed, staring at him. “I...I'm sorry...you look...you look so like him...but you don't have to be like him, you know that, right?”
Vlad said nothing as he turned from his mother, walked across to the large wall of glass and to lean against it, looking out onto the city. "I'm not afraid of him anymore. I have no reason to hide away now, I have everything I could ever want. I have more power than him."
"...What happened...why were you in the hospital? I asked around and all people knew was there'd been an accident, they didn't specify what kind of accident...only that it affected you...gave you some mind of...some kind of disease."
"That was several years ago. The disease is gone, and I am fine."
"You're my son, I want to know..."
"As my mother, you're better off not knowing," Vlad replied.
"He's got ya there, lady," Danny muttered.
"Amen," Tucker nodded.
"As you wish," the woman sighed, coming to stand beside him. "So...business...wasn't it always science with you?"
"It got boring, I needed a challenge."
"It seems like it wasn't much of one if you're at the top already," Rosalyn Masters raised an eyebrow, Vlad's signature expression.
"I know, isn't it dreadful," her son sighed and she laughed.
"You always were too smart for your own good, Vlad."
"So I've been told."
"...I missed you, all the time, I missed you," Rosalyn sighed, "But I'm glad you got away."
"And you...you stayed, I assume?" Vlad replied.
"Of course, we all have to live with our mistakes...and I don't completely hate him. He gave me the most precious thing in the world, he gave me you...how could I hate him?"
"He's a...the man's a brute."
"Yes, that's true, I'm not defending him. He wasn't always like that, and he's not as bad, but I'm not a fool. There's no escape for me, he'd follow me to the ends of the earth, and I...I care more for you than I do for myself."
"What...what do you mean? What did you do?"
"...What I had to," his mother shrugged, putting a hand on Vlad's shoulder, "I did what I had to, and I don't regret it."
"You..." Vlad sighed, "You traded yourself...didn't you?"
"I did," she nodded once, "Good guess."
"I don't have to guess...is he still...has he...changed at all?"
"Not really, no," the woman answered, "He was furious when he found out you were only a state away. And of course, he's jealous."
"He has a right to be," Vlad smirked but it faded almost instantly. He seemed to be wrestling with some inner decision and after a minute, he turned to face his mother. "You don't have to stay with him anymore," he said awkwardly, "I...owe you, I'm not used to being in debt to someone, but you...saved my life...and I..."
"Shhhh," Rosalyn hushed, "I made my choice long ago, if I go back on it now..."
"I told you, he can't touch me, this time, he's the powerless little child."
"Maybe so, but I'm old, I'm set in my ways however strange they may seem, and I'm content," she said, cupping his face with her right hand.
"I'm offering you your freedom, I don't see why you..."
"No, I don't expect you to, my son," she smiled kindly, "...But, I know how to find you now, tell me we'll talk again...even if you don't mean it."
"We'll talk again...I promise," Vlad replied.
"That's my boy," his mother said, standing back, "...I'll show myself out," she finished, walking away.
Vlad watched her leave and after a moment, he turned back to stare out of the window with a look of complete and utter confusion on his face.
This time, Danny and Jazz recognised their surroundings instantly. They were in Fenton Works. All of the boxes had been moved and it had a much more lived in feel to it now.
"I'm sorry, Vlad, we wouldn't ask if we weren't desperate," Maddie was saying to Vlad. He was standing in the living room with Jack and Maddie dressed for the cold winter weather outside. "We can't travel as quickly with the kids and there's no one else we can trust to take care of them while we're gone."
"And you trust me?" Vlad scoffed in disbelief.
"Of course, we're still friends...and we really need your help," she replied, "My sister isn't well...she's in the hospital."
"Is this because I agreed to be their godfather, you think I..."
"Please, Vlad," she begged, "We'll be there and back in a few hours, I..."
"It'll take you longer than that, Maddie...you won't leave your sister until she's well, we both know that," Vlad replied.
"Two days, two days at most," Maddie amended, "We'll be back on Monday morning."
"...Alright, two days," he sighed, "No more."
"Thank you, Vlad," she said genuinely, leaning forwards to kiss him on the cheek. "They're both in bed for tonight, will you be alright..."
"I'll be perfectly fine," Vlad shrugged off her concern.
"Just don't let them into the basement, we've set up our lab down there," Maddie added as Jack began to take their few, hastily packed suitcases into the Fenton RV.
It wasn't long before Vlad was left standing alone in the living room, and he looked dreadfully out of place. He didn't wait another second before he walked around the ground floor and found the door leading to the basement. He descended the stairs and, with an emotionless glance, Vlad stepped intangibly through the reinforced door and once he became tangible again, his footsteps echoed throughout the basement. He walked confidently through the room, his eyes alighting on the flimsy structure at the far end. It was a forerunner of the Fenton Ghost Portal but it was in its infancy.
Vlad, as Danny knew, had built a working portal the years before the Fenton's, which meant that it was still two years away from being finished, but his was much further along than the one in front of him was.
"Pathetic," he muttered with a scoff.
Vlad then turned his attention to the work surfaces and examined the ghost weapons that were being built. He examined some of the pieces closely while others he simply tossed back down, rolling his eyes. Whilst he was looking over the mechanism for a small ecto-blaster, Vlad suddenly tilted his head as though listening for something in the distance. Through the thick lab door it would be impossible for a normal human to hear anything from the outside world, but not for Vlad.
With a dramatic sigh he floated up through the ceiling and up another level of the house before he came to a darkened bedroom. Danny and the others could now near the loud crying of a child, but to the half ghosts especially the noise was particularly damning.
"Is that...me?" Danny frowned.
"...You sure were a loud baby..." Sam moaned.
She, and the others, all noticed the reoccurring theme in the young Danny's room, almost everything had an outer space theme to it; the bedding, the decorations and the curtains.
As the baby Danny continued to cry, Vlad simply stared down at the child with a raised eyebrow. His expression displayed mostly annoyance but there was a small ounce of hate as well. This was, after all, the child of Jack Fenton, the man responsible for all but ruining his life, how was he supposed to act when the child of said man was at his mercy?
He snapped his head around quickly as the door clicked open quietly and young Jazz looked in.
"Why is he crying again, mister?" she asked sleepily.
"Go back to your room, Jasmine," Vlad ordered.
"Now," he insisted and she nodded, intimidated, and closed the door.
A moment later, the child opened his eyes and looked up to see Vlad, he then coughed and surprisingly, he stopped crying. His bright blue eyes seemed to shine in the dark room as they met Vlad's own.
"Your parents really are fools, boy, leaving you with me," he hissed, "I could kill you both so easily."
The baby was oblivious to Vlad's anger and he smiled suddenly, lifting his small arms, signalling wordlessly that he wanted to be picked up. Vlad furrowed his brow for a moment but, curiously, he obliged and lifted the child gently from his bed. His movements were awkward and he seemed genuinely confused as to why he'd not simply left the child alone.
"Apparently you are foolish too," he told the boy, "You should be afraid of me."
Vlad turned to look at the small blue stars that were being projected on the walls and the ceiling by a small light on the desk. With a flick of his wrist, it turned itself off with the aid of his ghost powers. The room went pitch black until Vlad raised his other hand and created a multi coloured ball of ectoplasm. It glowed with beautiful blues, pinks, purples and greens, projecting small pin points on every surface in the room. The projections looked like impressive photographs of the deepest regions of space and they quickly caught the child's attention.
"You like the stars, do you?" Vlad murmur to the child in his arm, "So did I, when I was a child," he added.
The young Danny was staring entranced at the slowly moving images of the nights' sky brought to life by Vlad's powers. "I never thought of using ghost powers for that," Danny remarked as he and his friends watched with similar expressions.
Vlad rolled his eyes and gave a rueful scoff, "I'm talking to an infant," he mumbled to himself sadly. "At least you won't remember this," he said.
"Whydon'tI remember this?" Danny muttered.
"You were only a kid," Jazz replied.
"D'you remember Vlad watching us?"
"No," she said, "But maybe this is why you're so obsessed with outer space, huh?" she smiled at her brother.
Vlad was sitting at his desk in his castle study. It was a stunning room to behold with all four walls lined with aged books and dark wood with an overbearing feel of grandeur and ostentatiousness. The hybrid's rather bored blue eyes were turned downwards, staring at the papers with a pen held loosely on his hand when the door suddenly clicked open and he looked up to see a young, rather beautiful woman enter the room.
She had pale skin, dark eyes and long dark hair and wore a fitted, knee length dress of black fabric under a long coat. Her pale features were marred with an expression of deep sadness and reluctance though.
"Gina, what are you..." Vlad began.
"Wait, Vlad," she began, stopping him before he could speak, "I'm not staying. I only came to give this back to you," she said, producing a small black, rectangular case from her handbag. She placed it tenderly on the desk before her. Vlad turned his eyed down to stare at the case as though it were some indecipherable puzzle, his expression was stunned and confused. He dropped the pen from his hand and ran his hand over the velvet box.
"Why?" he breathed.
"I think you know," the woman replied with a sigh. "You don't love me, not really, and I don't love you," she said.
"Whoa, whoa, wait, what's going on?" Danny looked up at Clockwork, but unsurprisingly he didn't get an answer.
"I don't think you gave me this so that I'd...stay...but I can't help but see it that way."
"Gina...even if it was meant to...persuade you," Vlad said, searching for the right words, "I don't see the problem with that."
"Well, I do," she emphasised, "I wouldn't be able to live with myself knowing that I'd...traded myself for jewels and money."
"You make it sound so crude," Vlad sniffed.
"There's plenty of women that wouldn't bat an eyelid, and I'm sorry, but I'm not one of them. Money isn't everything."
"Of course it is," he replied quickly and she gave a small, sardonic smile.
"Vlad..." she breathed, "You might be the smartest man I've ever met, but I can't stay with someone who thinks that way."
"I know you think you care, I do, and I know that you'd give me anything I wanted. That might be enough for some women...but not for me," she said sadly.
"You're being rather presumptuous about my feelings on the matter."
"What feelings, Vlad?" she scoffed as kindly as she could. "You don't let yourself feel anything, you're so...cold. In four years the only emotion I've seen you have is anger but at least it makes a change from your usual...indifference."
"Then why have you stayed with me at all?" Vlad said, his anger bubbling.
"Because I admired you, I respected you...and I did love you but how can anyone stay in love when all they get in return is indifference?"
"That's enough," Vlad whispered, his voice threatening despite the lack of volume.
"You won't let yourself..."
"I said, that's enough!" he bellowed suddenly, startling the young woman. Her breathing increased with fear and she took a step back. "You've more than made your point," he hissed, "Now get out."
With a fearful swallow and a sorrowful glance in his direction, she gave a small nod and left the room. Once the door clicked shut behind her, Vlad raised himself up and lifted the lid on the small box she'd left on his desk. Inside lay a stunning necklace of sliver and diamonds, sapphires and emeralds which shone beautifully in the light. It clearly cost a fortune, but it seemed to torment the man with each second he looked at it.
With a sudden cry of rage, Vlad swung out his pale hand and knocked the box onto the floor. The necklace clattered to the ground and fell from its box and yet still, Vlad couldn't bring himself to look at it. Instead, he turned to look down at his paper work again as he picked up his pen.
Danny and his friends were now watching the Mrs. Rosalyn Masters, though perhaps she had a few more grey hairs, walking slowly through Vlad's Wisconsin castle. She was taking in everything around her from the suits of armour that remained her of her own home, to the football memorabilia still in boxes, which spoke of her son's own personality. There were boxes everywhere but it was much tidier and elaborate than Vlad old apartment.
"This is usually around about the time when something jumps out at you to scare the bejesus outta ya," Tucker smiled.
"Ma'am, Mr. Masters is in his study, but he gave orders that he wasn't to be disturbed," the voice of a young woman suddenly said and Tucker did jump.
"What'd I tell ya? I was right!" the boy pointed.
Rosalyn, however didn't jump in surprise, instead she smiled at the younger woman dressed in a uniform of simple black clothes, with her brown hair tied back.
"I don't think he'll mind," Rosalyn said, "I'm his mother."
The young woman sighed, "Okay, I'll show you to the study...but if he asks..."
"I found it by myself?" Rosalyn guessed, and the young woman gave a grateful smile.
The two women walked in silence to a large wooden door, carved intricately with archaic patterns and the young woman quietly slipped away as Rosalyn opened the door.
"...Now get out, or I'll have my chef use you for an early thanksgiving dinner," Vlad's voice sounded in the large room. They saw that Vlad was standing facing the three vulture ghosts holding a piece of paper, and that he wasn't best pleased.
"Erm...we are vultures, boss, not turkeys..." one of the ghosts shrugged.
"You think that matters to me?"
"No, boss," another said, "We were just leaving," he finished and then the three of them flew off out the wall using their intangibility.
Vlad sighed and looked down at the piece of paper once again, then he ignited his hand in ectoplasm and burned it to a crisp. He shook the remaining ashes onto the floor and heard the door creak open.
"I said, no interruptions!" he called out then looked up when he didn't hear the door close as he expected. "Mother... what are you doing here?" Vlad's eyes went wide and he strategically moved to stand in front of the small pile of ashes on the floor.
"Well, when I heard that my son had just bought the largest, most expensive castle in the North-central area, I said to myself, that I had to bring you a house warming present...a castle warming present, at any rate," the woman smiled. There wasn't the slightest indication that she'd only moments ago seen Vlad using his powers, and she was a very good actress.
"Although, in a place this big, I don't think it'll make much of a difference," Rosalyn frowned, "...It's such a...lonely place."
"I like the peace and quiet," Vlad replied, "You wouldn't believe it was possible for the same dog to bark continuously until morning within the confines of an apartment building, without stopping for breath, or for a person to ignite fireworks on the tenth floor for seven hours, or even for the police to circle the building with sirens, for five weeks every night. The solitude is a welcome change," he finished.
"Yes," she sighed, and reached into her bag, "Here, a library always needs old favourites," she said, holding a book out to her son.
"Seriously, his favourite book was 'Dracula'," Danny scoffed, "Oh, the irony!"
"I'll say," Sam nodded as they watched Vlad take the book and look down at it with an unreadable expression.
"You...came alone?" Vlad asked her, moving to put the book on his old, wooden desk.
"Naturally," Rosalyn nodded, "I may be old but I'm still as independent as I was when I was your age."
"Hmmm," Vlad hummed.
"...Premature grey hair, it seems, is a familial trait, then," the woman said after a minute.
"It's the same as it was last time," Vlad shrugged.
"I thought it was some...new fad or other," the woman shrugged, and it was impossible to tell whether she was lying or not.
"When have I ever paid any attention to 'fads'? I live in a castle, doesn't that say something about how I feel about following the crowd?" Vlad scoffed.
"You haven't always lived in a castle," Rosalyn pointed out.
"...Did I get my stubborn streak from you, or from father?" Vlad asked with an raised eyebrow at his mothers' comment.
"From both of us, it makes you doubly stubborn, unfortunately."
"...Never seen anyone else try and beat Vlad in witty banter..." Danny muttered and his friends nodded, "I really need some pointers from this lady."
"Now, about that early thanksgiving dinner, I'm not sure I could eat all that much, but I am rather hungry," Rosalyn said and Vlad blinked.
"You..." the man muttered, furrowing his brow while Rosalyn just smiled, "Of course," he said, dropping his attempt to try and lie about what the woman had evidently seen him do.
"Was Vlad just...speechless...man...this woman? How does she do that?!" Danny cried.
They watched as Vlad led his mother through the house to the kitchen, and the green mist enveloped them again.
Vlad's castle lab was very recognisable now and the hybrid was standing with Skulker over a mass of wires and mechanical components on a work surface.
"Isn't trying to kill the man a little extreme?" Skulker asked Vlad.
"Says the Ghost Zones' greatest hunter," Vlad rolled his eyes.
"I can't be persecuted for my kills," the hunter shrugged. "And if you want the job doing properly, I'll do it, don't ask those bird brains to do it," he added.
"I don't want him dead yet, I want to test him," the hybrid remarked, "I haven't been keeping track of what they've been building in that little mock lab of theirs for a few years."
"You think he could stand up to me?"
"Very likely not. He's a fool, I've told you that."
"Then why not just kill him and be done with it if you detest the man so much?"
"I want to enjoy it, it needs to be perfect. I don't merely want him dead, I want him humiliated."
"Ah, I see. The thrill of the hunt," Skulker chuckled with Vlad for a moment.
"...I wonder what became of the children," Vlad mused to himself after.
"Children?" Skulker asked, "What children?"
"Hmmm? Nothing, never mind. It’s not important, anyway," the hybrid shrugged off.
"Enjoy your prey, Plasmius," the hunter smirked, lifting himself up off the ground, "I have prey of my own to catch."
"I'll let you know...once their pelt adorns my wall," Skulker laughed; obviously he didn't want another hunter tracking down his prey.
"Surely you're running out of wall space after all these years," Vlad raised an eyebrow.
"Never," Skulker replied, leaving Vlad alone without another word.
"Hmmm, so the child met Spectra, I suppose it was only a matter of time," Vlad mused with a faint smile, "Daniel has enough conflict and misery for her to spend eternity on."
"She is a foul parasite," Skulker sneered.
"Maybe, but she does have an interesting power. It makes us take a deeper look at who we really are and consider who we think we are."
"You're speaking in riddles, Plasmius."
"I wonder what it's like for her; sensing what it is we hate most about ourselves. What would it be like to literally live of other people’s misery?" Vlad thought aloud. "What is it you hate most about yourself?" he asked the hunter.
"Ghosts do not hate anything about themselves. It a mortal weakness we have long since shed," Skulker replied haughtily.
"Really?" Vlad raised an eyebrow in sarcastic disbelief, "Even you, my small friend?"
"Even me!" Skulker growled as Vlad chuckled.
"I don't believe you, you know," the hybrid replied after a moment.
"That's your problem, not mine. Besides, if you get to ask me that question, it's only fair that I can ask you. What does an all-powerful hybrid dislike in himself? What do you hate when you look in the mirror, Plasmius?" Skulker pressed.
"...You didn't answer me, why should I answer you?" Vlad muttered, uncharacteristically quiet.
Deep inside the Ghost King's Keep, Danny's eyes fell shut and he lay unmoving in the Ecto-Suit among the hundreds of celebrating ghosts.
"It's finished," Vlad announced, turning his attention to the mass of ghosts behind him, "All of you, go," he ordered in a deep voice that left no room for argument.
The ghosts all shared a nervous look, feeling somehow, that they'd exchanged one Ghost King for another, but they didn't fancy their chances against Vlad Plasmius, so they left. They exited the ruined castle in a mass of swirling energy, racing to re-claim their homes and survey the damage that Pariah Dark had wrought on their lairs. Only Skulker and the Fright Knoght remained, but for the moment, Vlad was indifferent to their presences as he walked slowly over to the fallen ghost boy and reluctantly placed the powerful ghost objects onto the ground at his feet. He then gently pulled Danny, intangibly from the Ecto-Suit which, instantly lost its connection to his powers and the insignia vanished.
"Take the suit to my lab, it may prove useful," Vlad told Skulker and the hunter nodded.
"And what about those?" Skulker asked him, gesturing to the Crown of Fire and the Ring of Rage. "You're strong, Plasmius, but are you strong enough to contain their power? Pariah Dark went mad with their power, perhaps it affected his mind in the end too...And you are still half human; that might not work well in your favour."
"Yes," Vlad sighed. The older hybrid hadn't looked up from the sleeping child in his arms as he spoke, "Then what would you suggest?" he asked suddenly.
"Me?" Skulker blinked, clearly surprised at being asked his opinion on something this important by Vlad of all people. "Well...I suppose I'd destroy them," he answered after a moment.
"They cannot be destroyed," the Fright Knight spoke up.
"Ah, Fright Knight, I'd almost forgotten you were here," Vlad said, standing up, holding Danny in his arms. "But he is right, Skulker, if they could be destroyed, the Ancients would have done it long ago," he said.
"My liege, with your permission, I will take them to a safe place, far away from here," the Knight said respectfully.
"...What did you call me?" Vlad raised an amused eyebrow.
"You are my sovereign Lord, my allegiance lies with you," the Fright Knight replied solemnly, giving a low bow.
"Why?" the hybrid asked simply.
"It was you who brought about the King's downfall," the Knight said.
"After, rather accidentally, releasing him," Vlad pointed out.
"I do not believe that it was an accident...my liege."
"Well, you should, it isn't often that I admit my mistakes. However, your loyalty isn't to be turned away," he smirked.
"If it please my lord, I am your servant."
"...And the Skeleton Army?" Vlad asked curiously.
"Belong to the wearer of the Ring and Crown, my liege."
"Shouldn't your allegiance be with the boy? He re-imprisoned the Ghost King, not I," Vlad pointed out.
"I would sooner destroy myself with my own sword than serve a mere boy," came the hasty reply.
"Hey!" Danny exclaimed.
"Very well, Skulker, go with him, lock these things away where no one can get them," Vlad said to the hunter, "I will keep the key in my vault," he added.
"Are you sure about that? Together they hold great power, it isn't like you to..." Skulker began.
"Just do it, Skulker," Vlad sighed, "Before I change my mind," he finished. He then flew out of the castle with the unconscious Danny, making for the Fenton Portal before he had time to hear Skulker's shocked response.
Vlad was now being chauffeur driven in a sleek black Bentley up to his fathers' house.
"Oh, boy," Danny muttered.
"Shall I park the car, sir?" the driver asked Vlad, as he opened the car door to let the man out of the car.
"No, this won't take long," Vlad replied.
"Very good, sir," the driver nodded as Vlad walked off towards the house.
"This took place only a month ago,"Clockwork said, "I advise you, Danny, to pay particularly close attention."
"Shhh," his friends and sister shushed Danny so he fell silent as Vlad opened the door, using his powers to force the lock silently. It did, however make the metal glow, but Vlad's heart was beating so rapidly he didn't give it much thought. He had enough forethought left not to phase himself through it though, which he considered a bonus.
The door opened with ease and the first thing he saw was that his mother was standing in the foyer stairs leading to the first floor. She'd turned when she had heard the door opening, and Vlad could only assume that the woman had not seen him using his powers.
"Vladimir," the now aged, yet still handsome Rosalyn Masters, said, "I never thought to see you here again."
"I just came to get something," Vlad replied, "Where's father?"
"The library," she answered, "But what..."
Vlad marched through the house and into the library where his elderly father was sat under a blanket. This Vladislav was no longer the imposing figure he had once been, he was old and frail, and Vlad was now much more imposing.
"Ah, the rich city boy deems me worthy to be in his presence, how delightful," the elderly Vladislav said with just as much anger and venom as Danny and his friends remembered hearing from Vlad's youth.
"Where is it?" Vlad demanded, standing tall before his father.
"Where is what, boy?"
"The pocket watch, do you still have it?"
"Of course, but I won't give it to you," the old man said stubbornly.
"I'm not asking," Vlad grinned, kneeling beside his father. He pulled back the woollen blanket and saw the golden pocket watch glinting on the old man's waistcoat.
"Get out of here!" Vladislav tried to yell, but his voice ended in a weak, hacking cough.
"What have we here?" Vlad smiled, lifting the watch from his father and examining it. "I trust you've taken good care of it in my absence?" he asked, standing up.
"Now that's just mean,"Sam remarked.
"Like the old man doesn't deserve it..."Tucker frowned, "Wow...can't believe I'm rooting for Vlad..." he said.
"You damn insufferable, little..." Vladislav growled, but Vlad only grinned as he put the watch carefully in his pocket.
"Good bye," Vlad said finally, leaving the room and his father, without looking back.
His mother was where he'd seen her last, on the stairs in the foyer, but of course shed overheard their conversation, and she regarded her son, who stopped at the door.
"Why do you want the watch?" his mother asked.
"...It's rightfully mine, I..."
"The truth, Vladimir," she lightly scolded, "I don't care how rich you get, you're still my son."
"I...have a godson...he'll be turning sixteen soon," Vlad answered, "Father no sooner gave this to me on my birthday, when he took it back again. Family traditions should be honoured, shouldn't they?"
"Wait...what?!" Danny exclaimed.
"Yes, they should," Rosalyn nodded, "What's the boy like?"
"He's stubborn," Vlad smiled fondly and Danny's eyes widened; he'd never seem Vlad smile in a way that wasn't evil or manipulative before, not once.
"Erm...who is that and where's the real Vlad?" Danny asked nervously.
"Like us," Vlad's mother laughed.
"More...like you in many ways, I think."
"You never mentioned him."
"I haven't had reason to...until recently...he's Jack Fenton's son."
"Ah...the boy...involved in your accident," Rosalyn frowned.
"Involved, yes," Vlad scowled.
"Them why do you care? I thought you resented the man."
"I...made a promise, almost sixteen years ago, which I haven't done a very good job of keeping. Daniel has a lot to learn, and even if it makes him hate me all the more, he will learn. It's the only way I know how to teach him."
"Vladimir," Rosalyn began, walking down the stairs to stand by her son, "I know something drastic must have happened to you two decades ago, I know you're...different...but I'm your mother; mothers have a way of knowing these things. I never asked, but..."
"Then don’t ask me now. There is nothing different about me…”
"Then I didn't really see the door handle glowing just before you came in, did I?"
"No, you didn't," Vlad replied.
"No, of course not," Rosalyn smiled enigmatically, "Of course not."
"That's one cool old lady," Tucker whispered to Danny.
"...Yeah," the half ghost agreed.
"Here, use this next time," the woman said to Vlad, taking out a key card from a drawer of one of the small, old, wooden tables. "I know you probably won't come again, but take it anyway," she added.
Vlad sighed and pocketed the card, "We went all technical around here about eight years ago after a break in down the road," Rosalyn remarked, "Some science company said it'd all been paid for even though I know we didn't ask for it...any ideas?"
"None at all."
"Hmmm, I didn't think so," she chuckled, "...Thank you, anyway."
Vlad gave a half smile before turning again to leave, "If this Daniel is really like me, then it's not an enemy he needs, Vlad," the woman remarked, urgency in her voice, "But you already know that, don't you, you always were the smart one."
"It's not about being the 'smart one', it's about doing what I promised..."
"Is it? If you left it for almost sixteen years to even think about the boy then something must've changed. If this promise meant so much to you, why didn't you act sooner? I'll tell you why, it's because you were too busy playing business man, weren't you, and this is some kind of self-reprimanding punishment? I know you, no matter what you think, no matter what's happened that you won’t tell me about...”
"I was building a financial empire from the ground up and I more than succeeded, I don't think that should be summarised as 'playing businessman', do you?" Vlad hissed, suddenly furious. His eyes shone red as he faced his mother and he breathed deeply.
Rosalyn, to her outstanding credit didn't even react to what she'd just seen as she sighed. "You've always had his temper and what he did never helped," she remarked. "And yes, you did succeed, you made me proud...but where is there left to go when you're at the top? Who's there to enjoy it with you if you've pushed everyone away?"
"I don't need anyone, I never have," Vlad replied.
"No," the woman sighed deeply, "You're wrong, you can be wrong just like anyone else, Vlad. I think someone should tell you that more often. Maybe this boy does and you don't appreciate it…I told you once that you didn't have to be like your father, I want better than that for you. Hate wasn't the only thing you learned in this godforsaken place...but it was the one thing that stuck."
"You're too sentimental."
"Maybe so," Rosalyn shrugged, showing no sign of insult, "But someone here needs to be...You're not a child anymore, I can't tell you want to do, and I know you certainly don't need me to protect you anymore..."
"Just how much do you know?" Vlad asked, slightly concerned.
"I know that I'm not your enemy, Vlad, so don't treat me like one."
"...I always did wonder why a woman as intelligent as you married a man like him," Vlad said, "But you're just as shrewd as he is, aren't you?"
"How else would I survive a lifetime in the same house?" Rosalyn waved a dismissive, elegant hand, "You don't get your brains from him, if that's what you mean. I was an intelligent woman before it was fashionable to be so," she smiled. "But...you're not going to take any notice of what I'm saying anyway."
"I shouldn't have thought so, no," Vlad said indulgently.
"Ah, my proud little boy," she murmured, "Eventually we all have to admit to our mistakes, the more intelligent the person, the greater the mistakes, human or..."
"Or what?" he asked dangerously.
"What indeed," the woman murmured simply, her eyes not breaking their staring match with Vlad's. "I suppose you're a very busy man," she said after a minute, "I imagine you have other things to be doing."
"Yes, I do," Vlad said, opening the front door.
"Good bye, Vlad," Rosalyn said, "And good luck with your godson, something tells me you'll need it," she whispered as Vlad walked back to his car.
The man himself was silent as he quickly opened the car door himself, giving the chauffeur no time to do so, and he sat motionlessly on the back seat. He let out a deep breath and took out the pocket watch, flipping it open with a swirl of his wrist.
"Sir?" the driver questioned.
"Drive," Vlad ordered quickly, with a frown on his face, snapping the watch shut and putting it back in his suit pocket.
It was a dark night and Vlad was sitting before a large open fire in his grand castle living room with a half empty glass tumbler in hand.
"And the bus?" he asked suddenly, confusing his invisible onlookers.
"What do you think? The ghost boy saved it," Skulker answered.
"Why did you and Technus decide to drop a school bus off a cliff, exactly?" Vlad asked, bemused.
"Well, we didn't really drop it," the hunter shrugged, "We were bored, we got into a fight and the bus was in the way. The ghost boy, as always, followed us and ruined our fun," he explained.
"The child thinks he can save everyone," Vlad scoffed.
"He's a foolish boy," Skulker said, "But I don't see why you care so much about what he's doing."
"...What happens when he learns that not everyone can be saved? And not everyone is worth saving, after all," the hybrid muttered.
"...You can go now," Vlad said, looking back briefly at the ghost.
Skulker only sighed as he left, clearly confused at his employers' behaviour but not willing to incur Plasmius' wrath in asking; he knew he'd not get any answer anyway. He was much more likely to get a powerful ecto-blast to the head.
Vlad was sitting in his city office at his desk, his back facing a wall of windows overlooking the main streets of the Wisconsin business district. There seemed to be nothing wrong with the scene save for the monotonous tone of watching a man do paperwork, until that was, a loud cacophony of noise began to filter through into the room.
"Get out of my way, woman!" a deep voice shouted.
"Sir, please, you can't go in there, Mr. Masters is..." a woman was saying and the old man forced open the door to the office with a brute force he didn't look like he possessed.
The woman was conventionally beautiful with pale skin, dark hair pinned back neatly into a bun and dark eyes to match. She wore a pale grey pencil skirt and white blouse and was attempting to stare down the white haired man in a black suit who stood before her.
"Don't bother, Elena, you couldn't stop him if you tried, believe me," Vlad said to her and she gave him a quizzical look. He replied by gesturing to the door and she left reluctantly, closing the door behind the old man who was stepped into the room. "I'd rather you not come here and brutalise my staff, if you don't mind," he told the man.
"I didn't lay a hand on the girl."
"What is it that you want?" Vlad asked without emotion, staring up at the man.
"Does a father need a reason to visit his son?" Vladislav Masters gave a small grin worthy of Plasmius himself.
"No...but you do," the hybrid replied coldly and his father laughed.
"Hah, that is true," the man said, "I want to know what it was you did with my pocket watch."
"I don't see how it's any of your business now that it isn't actually yours anymore."
"I want to know and you will tell me," Vladislav practically growled.
"And if I don't?" Vlad raised an eyebrow.
"Clearly I didn't teach you enough about discipline," the old man lamented.
"It certainly wasn't for lack of trying," Vlad replied, his eyes distant.
"Still you hold it against me?"
"Of course I do!" Vlad pushed his chair back quickly and jumped to his feet, slamming his hands down on the surface of the old desk as he did so. "You can't begin to understand just how much I hate you," he hissed.
"Even now? When you have all...this?" Vladislav asked, glancing around the room.
"Even now," the hybrid repeated in the affirmative, watching his father give a dismissive shrug on hearing his son's answer. “Especially now,” he added.
"So, the watch?" Vladislav questioned again.
"None of your business," Vlad repeated again.
"Do you have it still?"
"You sold it? No...you wouldn't, you gave it to someone?" the old man inferred, "Who?"
"No one you'd care to know."
"You think I want it back?"
"Why do you care?"
"I have my reasons."
"So do I," Vlad replied, "And I'm not telling you anything. Now get out of my sight," he pursed his lip in disgust as he sat back down in his desk chair.
Vladislav snorted in frustration before he tore open the door, forcefully, "This is not finished," he swore, storming away angrily.
It was a scene that was, unfortunately very familiar to Danny; it was a cruel replay of one of his fights with Plasmius. Both hybrids were floating high above the nights' sky of Amity Park, high enough to obscure the city beneath the cloud cover, shielding them from view.
"Why don't you stop trying to make my life so miserable and go and get your own life?!" Danny watched himself scream at his nemesis as he blasted small green ecto-discs at him.
Vlad only smirked as he raised a gloved hand and suddenly absorbed all of the energy from Danny's incoming attacks. His hand glowed with the ecto energy and he shifted it into a small round ball, tossing it almost absentmindedly between his hands.
"W...how did you...what the heck was that?!"
"Energy absorption, Daniel, very useful, don't you think?" Vlad raised an eyebrow, showcasing the boy's attack in his hand.
"How does that work, anyway?" Danny muttered, watching himself mull over the same attack.
"It truly is a sad day when I don't even have to exert any of my own power to defeat you," Vlad said and threw the energy back at Danny.
The young hybrid began to draw up a shield to protect himself but the attack smashed straight through it, sending the boy reeling through the air, uncontrollably, down into the city below.
"Do we really need to see me getting my butt kicked by Vlad?" Danny sighed, crossing his arms.
Plasmius remained floating in the sky, staring down at the gap in the clouds that Danny had made as he'd tumbled his way down, his cape billowing dramatically with the gentle breeze.
"I hope you were watching carefully, boy," Vlad was saying to himself, "You're a fast learner, but I can't afford to do that every time we fight," he said. A moment later, he turned his attention to his gloves, raising his hands slightly to see, unsurprised, that the black fabric was burned and charred, showing the wounded, bleeding blue skin underneath. They were, he revealed after taking off his right glove, a horrific mix of charred skin and ectoplasmic blood and even Vlad couldn't hold back his grimace.
"Gross!" Danny frowned, "Does that happen every time he uses that energy absorbing...err, thing?"
"It's a very unique ability in ghosts, it's a wonder that a half ghost like him manages to control it at all, let alone develop the power," Clockwork told him.
"I've never seen any ghost do that before," Jazz remarked, "I don't remember reading it in your ghost files, either," she said to her brother.
"Yeah...I never got round to putting it in there," Danny rubbed the back of his neck.
"Why not? It's cool," Tucker said.
"He used my own power to blast me out of the sky! It's...embarrassing," the young hybrid mumbled.
"But it's still cool," Tucker repeated stubbornly.
"You came, how...nice," the aged Vladislav snorted.
He was sat in his living room which was dark and filled with a tense atmosphere, as he stared across at his son. Vlad was standing, long black coat slung over his arm, with an impatient expression.
"Well?" he snapped, "What was so important that you had the audacity to summon me here?"
"What? No small talk? Won't you sit down, at least?" Vladislav smirked.
"What do you want?" Vlad sighed.
"I have made a rather interesting discovery..."
"And of course, I was the first one you thought of. I'm touched," the hybrid scoffed.
"I understand that you have...god children," his father sneered at the last words. "I wonder why you did not tell me," he mused.
"It's not your concern," Vlad replied quickly, his mood suddenly changing. In an instant he'd gone from being disinterested and even languid, to alert and focused.
"Jasmine and Daniel Fenton, hmmm," Vladislav hummed quietly, "They don't appear to be anything special, but looks can be deceiving, can't they? No, don't try and deny it, we both know they exist."
"...How did you find them?" Vlad narrowed his eyes.
"I have my ways. Now I need no longer wonder where my pocket watch went, do I? The boy is sixteen, you gave it to him, didn't you? It was very sentimental of you, Vladimir, I didn't think you had it in you anymore."
"Daniel doesn't have it. I took it from you and I destroyed it," the hybrid remarked, his poker face perfect. But clearly it wasn't good enough to deceive his father, the man who had taught him how to perfect his lying from an early age.
"Don't lie to me, boy, you forget who I am," the old man chuckled. "Perhaps I should...introduce myself. There must be something about them if you have taken an interest in them."
Vlad took a slow, predatory step forwards and the air around him crackled with restrained power, but his father didn't seem to notice or care. "Stay away from them," Vlad practically growled.
"And if I don't?" Vladislav raised a curious eyebrow.
"Then your rheumatism will be the least of your worries," Vlad hissed, "Believe me."
"Hmmm," the old Russian tilted his head, gazing over at Vlad without the slightest hint of fear. "From what I have been told you are a distant God father, to say the least...but could it be that you actually care about these American brats?"
"These 'American brats' are not your concern," Vlad replied.
"Neither are they yours, you see, people like us...we have no need of people like them."
"People like them?" the hybrid repeated slowly, in question.
"They are common, poor, not worth mentioning. But we, we are of noble blood, Vladimir, we are better than they. You know this," his father said arrogantly.
"You still believe that, you old fool," Vlad scoffed, inelegantly, "We have the blood of barbarians, of gloried terrorists and honourless thieves. Our whole history is built on lies and death," he said, shaking his head.
"How dare you?!" Vladislav bellowed, his face reddening instantly, "You insolent boy, you haven't changed at all."
Vlad shrugged nonchalantly as he regarded his furious father, "I meant what I said," he spoke, "If you so much as call the children, I'll be forced to act."
"I'd like to see you try, weak little boy that you are," Vladislav sneered back at him.
"Don't push me; I've destroyed better men than you for far less than this. It's only out of deference to mother's reputation that I've not done so before now. You really should be on your knees thanking her that you're still alive at all."
"You don't scare me."
"No? Well, I should," Vlad replied simply, "You've no idea what I'm capable of," he said, turning his back and storming over to the door. "Don't ever ask me to come here again," he said before he left.
Vlad was lying on the sofa in his large, spacious living room, it was dark and stagnant as he coughed, his lungs burning in the process. His face was covered in ecto-acne and his eyes were closed. Skulker stood not far from him, looking down at his employer in a mix of surprise and fear. He'd never seen Vlad Plasmius ill.
"Plasmius, what is this?" the hunter demanded.
"This, Skulker, is ecto-acne and it’s here to take what remains of my life," Vlad answered gloomily.
"The disease that gave you ghost powers?" Skulker frowned, evidently familiar with Vlad's accident, "I thought you were cured...how..."
"I wasn't cured!" Vlad hissed, "It half killed me last time I got this plague! This is a death sentence to me!"
"Then why can't you make a..."
"I don't know what it was that contaminated the energy the first time, I've no way of knowing...and without that, I..."
"But surely you planned for this," Skulker replied, "You plan for everything."
"Yes...I have a plan..."
"Then use it."
"...There will be consequences..." Vlad mumbled.
"Consequences be cursed, Plasmius, you're dying!" Skulker yelled.
"I...I didn't know you cared," Vlad managed to smirk, just about.
"The plan, what is it?"
"...My lab...open the vault...bring me the box labelled E-109," Vlad ordered him.
In the blink of an eye, the hunter vanished through the floor and remerged carrying a small metal box. It was an invention of Vlad's own design. It had a locking mechanism that opened only to his unique ecto-signature, almost like a high tech voice activated lock. The same was said of the lock on his vault, he'd adjusted it long ago to permit Skulker entrance much to the hunter's surprise.
Vlad held out a glowing hand, the pink energy had a much weaker glow than ever but it served its purpose and the lock on the box clicked. "Open it," he coughed again.
"What's this? Some kind of grenade?" Skulker asked curiously. In his hand held a small cylindrical device made of strong silver metal.
"In a manner...of speaking, yes," Vlad coughed, "It contains a sample of an extremely diluted airborne form of the disease...extracted from my own blood."
"Daniel knows the Time Master, he has his confidence..."
"If the boy's friends appear to be dying, he'll have to use Clockwork to discover just what contaminated the ecto-energy and what it was that caused my first outbreak."
"Why don't you just appeal to Clockwork yourself?"
"He doesn’t know me and I don’t know him. He will not help a stranger. He has no weaknesses to exploit either...Daniel on the other hand has plenty..."
"Then why do you seem reluctant to do this? It will save your life!"
"The child will hate me forever," Vlad sighed.
"He already does, you made sure of that yourself," Skulker replied.
"I did do a...a rather thorough job, didn't I?" he gave a rueful scoff.
"Regretting your decision?"
"No," Vlad shook his head, "No. Never."
Vlad took a deep breath and began to get up from the sofa, his movements were slow and lacking in his usual grace. Skulker quickly moved to help the hybrid up and, with an arm over the hunter's shoulder, Vlad tried to transform into his ghost half. At first the black rings fizzled away in an instant but after a few attempts, and several curses from Vlad, he managed to change successfully.
"Wish me luck," Vlad said sarcastically, taking the device from Skulker.
"Good luck, Plasmius," Skulker said, surprisingly sincere as he watched his employer - he'd never admit 'friend', teleport away in a puff of weak purple smoke.
Skulker was the first thing to emerge from the green smoke, he was tinkering in his lair on a nasty, metal contraption, and no doubt it would join the plethora of other murderous traps surrounding his home.
"Your plan worked then," he remarked, not looking up from his project.
"Of course," Vlad replied stoically, appearing beside the hunter in his ghost form.
"And the ghost boy?"
"Believes me well and truly capable of murdering his friends to save my own life," the hybrid said heavily. "If ever I had any hopes of him joining me, they're long gone now."
"Does that mean we can stop spying on him and just hunt the brat for real now?"
Vlad shot him a disapproving look and meandered about the room. It was a wide open space hewn from the rock of the largest cave on the floating island and they were standing in what constituted as a lab and Vlad absentmindedly examined pieces that were scattered about the work surfaces.
"I guess not," Skulker muttered to himself forlornly, “Maybe one day.”
Now Danny and his friends found themselves back in Clockwork's lair, the familiar gears and cogs floating all around them. "So, will you take heed this time, Danny?" Clockwork asked.
"Just what is it you want me to do, anyway?!" Danny huffed, throwing up his arms, "Even if I tried to talk to the guy he'd just end up blasting me to kingdom come!"
"Aren't you forgetting one thing...something you didn't tell your sister?"
"What...oh...yeah...that thing..." the young half ghost rubbed the back of his neck, suddenly nervous.
"What thing?" Jazz asked her brother.
"Erm...Jazz...see, about Vlad...he's...he's kind of...he's our godfather..."
"What?!" his sister exploded.
"Mom and dad agreed not to tell us because Vlad asked them not to."
"Why would he even agree to..."
"And...apparently...he does care... I dunno...but Clockwork showed me how Vlad had the same problems I had with my powers...and with all this..." Danny shrugged hopelessly. "It's...kinda hard to stay mad at the guy...stupid Clockwork."
"Clever Clockwork is more like it," Jazz sighed, "I think he did the right thing, the way things were going between you and Vlad, the only way it'll end is if one, or both of you...ended up dead."
"...You just mean me, don't you?" Danny asked her sarcastically.
"Well, I'm sorry, Danny, but he is more powerful. I mean, yes, we did get one over on him, but..."
"More than one, where've you been for the last year and a half?!" Tucker grinned, "Oh...yeah...right...sorry," he then mumbled, remembering that Jazz hadn't known about Danny's powers from the beginning.
"I know, I know, you're right...Clockwork's rights too...I can't just ignore this, not anymore," Danny sighed, "I have to talk to him..."
"But it's not like Vlad lives just down the street, he lives in a whole other state!" Tucker said.
"I can go through the Ghost Zone, I know where his portal is...I'll go tonight."
"I'm going with you," Jazz said immediately, "Hey, he's my godfather too, remember, and if things go south I wanna be there to help you."
"You realise that if things go south, none of us actually has a chance of stopping him," Danny dead panned.
"You can't get rid of us that easy," Tucker smiled, "We got your back, dude...besides, I wanna see how this pans out."
"Oh, real smooth," Sam scoffed.
"Alright...alright then," Danny conceded, "Just don't say I didn't warn you," he sighed.
"Where'd Clockwork go?" Tucker asked, looking around.
And, indeed, the Master of Time was nowhere to be seen, but this didn't surprise Danny at all. "Yeah, he does that," the half ghost said with a small smile, "Come on, guys, let's go home," he added, waiting for them to get into the Spectre Speeder before he took off into the Ghost Zone again.