Thicker than Water: Part II
Five years after the accident
Jazz inhaled sharply. "No! Danny!"
Nick grabbed her arm. "Come on, we've gotta get out of here before—"
"LET GO OF ME!" She threw him off, furious. "I could have stopped them if you hadn't gotten in the way!"
"Are you insane? These aren't a bunch of ghosts, Jazz! They're from the United States government!"
"I don't care! They've got my… they got Danny Phantom and I was supposed to have his back! That was my job, and now he's—" The impact of what just happen hit her. "Oh, no. They've captured him. The government captured him."
Nick gaped at her. "This is the same ghost that saved the entire planet from an asteroid! I think he can handle a few feds!"
"You don't understand! He's unconscious, and if he…" If he reverts to human, they'll know who and what he is, and we'll never see him again. But there was no way to explain that to Nick.
"So what is this, Jazz? Is this what you've been keeping from me? All that denial that you had something going on with him during the asteroid crisis… was that a lie? Do you have some sort of thing for this ghost?"
She stared at him. "A thing…? Are you kidding me with this?" She shook her head, letting out a grunt of irritation. "I so don't have time to do the Star Wars thing with you, Nick!"
"The…? What's that supposed to mean?"
But she was already reaching into her pocket for her cell phone. "I have to get—"
She turned as Sam ran up to them, Dani behind her. Sam's eyes were wide with worry. "Did you see what happened? It looked like the Guys in White—"
Jazz nodded. "I think it was O. and K. They hit him with something that knocked him unconscious, and then they grabbed him and disappeared."
Sam looked even paler than usual. "Unconscious? He… he didn't revert, did he? Please tell me—"
"No, he didn't revert. But if he's unconscious…"
"He could at any time," Dani finished for her. "We've gotta find them, fast."
Sam nodded. "Tucker will be able to track his ecto-signature…"
"Way ahead of you." Jazz's thumb was already on Tucker's speed-dial number on her cell.
It took a few seconds for him to answer. "S'up, Jazz? I'm kinda busy here."
"The Guys in White got Danny. We need a trace of his ecto-signature, now."
There was a hiss that sounded like Tucker sucking in air between his teeth. "Oh, man. Okay. Where are you?"
"Behind the bandshell. The Guys in White and the ghosts are keeping each other busy over here, so you should be able to get to us without too much trouble."
"On my way."
Jazz hung up and looked at Sam and Danielle. "Okay. He's on his way. We've gotta figure out what to do once we track them."
"We need to call in Hunter," Sam said. "Her sled's faster than their jet packs."
"Already called her." Dani held up a cell phone in her hand.
Sam looked at Jazz. "What do we do about your parents?"
Jazz closed her eyes. "Great. I didn't think of that. They're gonna freak. We…" She opened her eyes. "We don't tell them anything, not until we get him back. Someone needs to stay behind and keep the ghosts from overrunning the town, anyway. Someone other than just the Guys in White."
A roar from overhead announced Valerie's arrival. She landed a few yards away from them and hopped off her sled. "What happened?"
"The Guys in White got Danny. We're just—"
"I'm here!" Tucker sprinted over to them, hunching over and panting as soon as he came to a stop.
"Where's your PDA?"
Still panting, Tucker reached into his pocket, pulled out his handheld, and started thumbing its buttons.
Valerie looked over his shoulder. "Once he tracks the ecto-signature, I can go after them."
"You can't go alone," Sam said. "This has gotta be a team effort."
"We're all going," Jazz agreed.
"Okay, I've got him." Tucker frowned at his PDA. "Dang, they're moving fast."
"Specter Speeder fast, or Fenton Jet fast?"
"Either would work."
Jazz crossed her arms. "The Specter Speeder has cloaking, and the Fenton Jet has the Auto Jack."
Sam grimaced. "Specter Speeder it is. Plus it's already here in the park."
"Then what are we waiting for?" Jazz asked.
"Have you all completely lost your minds?"
"What?" Jazz blinked at Nick, confused a moment. She'd forgotten he was there, and she suspected the rest of them had, too.
He was staring at them, incredulous. "You cannot seriously be considering going after the Guys in White."
Jazz set her jaw in determination. "Wanna bet?"
"Let me say it again, in case you missed it the first time. They are agents of the federal government who lawfully arrested an illegal ecto entity." Before anyone could protest, he held up a hand. "I'm not saying it's right, but it is legal. If you go in with guns blazing to free a legally arrested federal prisoner, your lives are over, do you get that?"
"What part of 'I don't care' do you not get?" Jazz clutched the handle of her Fenton Blaster so tightly she could feel the grip leaving an imprint in her palm. "They have Danny Phantom, to whom every single one of us owes our lives. Do you know what they'll do to him? 'Cause I've got a pretty good idea, and it doesn't involve anything as mundane as twenty questions under a bright light. They will haul him to some secret facility and gut him like a lab rat, and if you think for one second we can stand by and let that happen…" She stopped, not even knowing how to finish that sentence.
"Wait, Jazz." Sam put a hand on her shoulder. "He has a point."
Jazz gaped at her. "What? You can't—"
"I don't mean we're not gonna go after him. That's a given. But we can't just charge in there and grab him back. If they start taking a closer look at your family, then this whole thing's for nothing."
"If he reverts before we get to them—"
"I know, we have to work fast. But smart." Sam's crossed her arms at her chest, her eyebrow arched. "We need a ghost to go after him."
"A ghost?" Jazz frowned. "What ghost?"
Instead of answering, Sam put two fingers to her lips and let loose with a shrill whistle. Jazz gave her a confused look, unsure what she was doing, until she heard an unearthly howl, and then Danny's ghost-wolf friend bounded into view.
"Amikoj devas mian helpon?"
Sam looked at Tucker. "You know Esperanto the best. Tell him what happened."
Tucker nodded. "Uh… Danny estas kaptita. Ni bezon-as vian helpon liberigi lin."
Wulf growled, looking furious. "Walker… Mi ŝiros lin dise!"
"No! No, ne! Ne Walker. Uh… shoot. How do you say 'government'?"
"'Registaro,'" Nick supplied.
Tucker blinked at Nick, but didn't take the time to question his help. "Registaro, yeah. La Homa Mondo registaro kaptita lin. Ni bezon-as fantomon helpi al libera li. Estas tro danĝera por homoj."
Wulf looked eager. "Jes. Mi povas helpi al. Kaj estas aliuloj, ankaŭ."
"Aliuloj?" Tucker frowned in confusion. "Others? What others?"
"Jes. Aliuloj. La Thralls estas li amikoj. Ili helpos al. Li liberigis ilin, ilin liberigos lin."
Sam gasped. "Did he just say what I think he said?"
"He said, 'The Thralls are his friends. He freed them, so they'll free him.' But who are the Thralls?"
"Don't you remember?" Sam was talking fast now. "Summer before senior year, those green snot-ball ghosts that attacked Paulina? Amber Cross was using this stone to control them, so she could be head cheerleader. Danny destroyed the stone, and it freed the Thralls."
"Jes, jes. Li liberigis la Thralls. Ili vol revenig la la prefer."
Sam took a step closer to Wulf, snapping her fingers as if searching for words. "Uh… Ĉu vi…uh… scias la Thralls? Vi povas trovas ilin kaj… uh… alparol ili?"
"We don't have a lot of time to go searching for more ghosts, Sam. If he can't find them fast…" Tucker looked at Wulf. "Ni dev trovi ilin rapide. Ni ne havas multe tempon."
"Jes. Mi scias kie ili estas." Wulf held out a mammoth paw and extended claws so sharp Jazz gasped.
"No!" Sam waved her hands at the beast. "Not that way! Through the Fenton Portal! We need to go with you! Tucker…"
"Wait, what is going on?" Valerie asked.
"Wulf knows where to find these Thralls who can help us. If they distract the Guys in White…"
"Then we can free him without them knowing it was us." Valerie smiled behind the dark-tinted faceplate of her helmet. "Okay, I'm with you."
Sam rubbed her hands together. "I'll take Wulf in the Specter Speeder and go into the Ghost Zone to bring back some Thralls to help."
"I'm going with you," Dani said.
"No!" Sam and Valerie responded together.
Dani grunted in irritation. "I know the Ghost Zone better than all of you put together. I'm going with you."
Sam shook her head. "I'm not freeing Danny only to tell him I got you captured."
"Dammit, Sam! He's my…" She glanced at Nick. "He's as important to me as anyone. More. I'm going."
"Let her come," Valerie said. "At least then we can keep an eye on her."
Sam relented. "Fine, you can come with me. Tucker, tell Wulf we need him to go with us in the Specter Speeder." While Tucker did so, Sam turned to Jazz. "You come with us, too, and we'll drop you off at FentonWorks. Get as much gear as you can. We need Fenton Phones, weapons, anything your dad has that will disrupt whatever that thing was that they trapped him in. Meet us out front in fifteen minutes."
Jazz nodded. "I'm on it."
"Hunter, you take Tucker and follow after Danny. "
Tucker blanched. "On her sled?"
Valerie smiled. "Come on, baby, let's go for a ride. I got you a helmet and everything." She held out her hand, and a helmet appeared out of nowhere as she called her sled to her and stepped onto it.
"Oh, yeah. A creepy magic ghost helmet makes me feel so much better."
Sam growled in annoyance. "Tucker, we don't have time for this! You can track him, and she has the sled that can keep up with them. We'll catch up to you in the Speeder as soon as we can. Hunter, your suit's com system works with the Fenton Phones, right?"
She nodded in confirmation, and Tucker pulled a bright green earphone out of his pocket and jammed it into his ear. "I've got one, too." Making a face as he took the helmet from Valerie, he put it on over his beret. "Danny better appreciate this when we get him out of there." He climbed onto the sled behind Valerie and wrapped his arms around her waist in a death grip, while still managing to hold his PDA so they both could see it. Then, with a stomp of Valerie's boot on the throttle, they were off.
Sam motioned to Jazz, Dani and Wulf. "Come on, let's go. Ni ekiru."
"Jazz, wait!" Nick put out a hand to stop her. "You can't—"
Jazz shook her head, pulling away from him. "I have to do this, Nick. Just… keep the ghosts from taking over the town while we're gone. And if my parents come looking for us, don't tell them anything. Just say we went chasing more of those Goons. I'll tell them what happened when we get back." And without waiting for an answer, she jogged off behind Sam.
After loading up a huge duffel bag full of every contraption from the lab that she thought might help them free her brother, Jazz hauled it up out of the basement and then out onto the front porch to wait for Sam and Dani. When she opened the door, she was surprised to see Nick standing there on the sidewalk at the bottom of the front steps. She sighed as she dropped the strap of the bag. "Nick, I—"
"I'm going with you."
"I'm going with you."
She blinked. "I thought you said going after the feds was insane."
"It is insane. But you're right. Danny Phantom saved all our lives. We owe him at least that much. Besides, that's a bag full of your dad's inventions you got there. You think I'm letting you go off with that stuff without someone along who can fix it so it doesn't kill you?" He gave her a half smile.
Jazz just raised her eyebrows at him, then sat down on the top step next to the duffel bag. "So you want to do this even though you think I have 'a thing' for him?"
Nick cringed, then came up the steps to sit down beside her. "That was a really stupid thing to say. I don't think… I don't even know why I said it, and I'm really sorry. I just… there's a part of your life you're shutting me out of, and I'm pretty sure it has something to do with Danny Phantom, but now's not the time to talk about it. I love you, I don't want you going off and getting yourself killed without me backing you up, and I want to help save someone who deserves saving. We'll sort through the rest later."
Jazz looked out into the street, silent for a long time. Then, she let out a long breath. "He's my brother."
Nick cocked his head at her. "What?"
She turned to him. "Danny Phantom. He's my brother."
He frowned. "In what sense?"
"What do you mean, 'in what sense?'"
"Brother in arms? Fraternity brother? You love him like a brother? What?"
"Brother, Nick. Sibling. Child of my parents."
He blinked. "You have two brothers named Danny, and one of them is a ghost?"
She blew out another breath, this one in exasperation. "Work with me here, okay? I have one brother named Danny, and he's a half-ghost."
"A... what? How the heck can someone be only half ghost?"
Looking down a moment, she tried to think of a way to explain. "There was an accident with my parents' Ghost Portal when Danny was fourteen. It did something to his DNA… mutated it somehow, and gave him ghost powers. He can morph back and forth between his regular form and his ghost form—Danny Phantom. He's alive, still human, but with all the powers ghosts have. A half-ghost."
She watched as Nick absorbed this. "Danny is really…? But wait. I've seen them together a couple of times, your brother and Danny Phantom."
She nodded. "He can duplicate himself temporarily, and he can make one self go ghost—that's what he calls it, 'going ghost'—and keep one self human. He uses that sometimes so people don't suspect he's one person."
"And everybody knows this but me?"
"No, Nick." She sighed. "No one knows. Well, Danny's friends know. Sam and Tucker always knew, because they were there when the accident happened. I found out a couple months afterwards when I caught him changing. No one else knew for two years, not even my parents, not until the asteroid crisis. Then a whole lot of people found out, and it was my fault. I… I thought he died when the Fenton Jet crashed, and that we would all be dead when that asteroid hit, so I figured my parents should know the truth. I told them in a room full of people. I always felt bad about that, that I was the one who blew his secret. We got lucky and everyone who was there agreed not to say anything. They all signed a paper and everything, but…" She shook her head. "The anti-ecto laws are harsh. Legally, the Guys in White can do anything they want to him. If they find out he's part human, and know who he is and where he lives…"
"Oh, man." His eyes widened in understanding. "They really will… oh, man."
"That's why we have to get him back. And… he was unconscious when they caught him. He can't control what form he's in when he's unconscious. He could revert to human at any moment. He may already…" She swallowed.
Nick put a hand on her arm. "No. I've gotten to know him over the past few months… as your brother, mostly, but a little bit of Danny Phantom, too. He's a tough kid, Jazz. Both of him. I'm sure we'll get him out of there before they figure it out."
"We have to." She gave him a weak smile. "So, that's it. That's the thing I couldn't tell you. Not because I didn't want to or don't trust you, but because it isn't my secret to tell. And because I have to protect him. He protects the town—sometimes the world—and I protect him. That's the way it works. But… I didn't feel right, keeping it from you, either. It's his secret, but it's a pretty huge part of my life, too, and… well… you're kinda getting to be a pretty big part of my life now, too."
This earned her a somewhat dopey grin. "Really?"
"Okay, that's… yeah. Any other family secrets I should know about?"
Jazz considered the question a moment. "Danielle's a half-ghost, too. She got… someone messed her up pretty badly, and she gets sick a lot and can't go fully ghost anymore like Danny can. But she can still float a little, go invisible and intangible, and even shoot some ectoplasmic breams from her hands if she's really feeling well, but that drains her a lot so we try not to let her do it. We have to make sure the Guys in White never find out about her, too. She'd be in worse danger than Danny, because of… well, there's a lot more about Danielle, but that's for another day."
He stared at her. "I… I was kidding. What else is there?"
"Valerie's the Ghost Hunter Girl. And that's pretty much it." She gave a nervous chuckle. "And you thought the Fentons were a crazy family before…"
"No. Actually, everything makes a lot more sense now." He smiled at her, and started to say something more, but then the Specter Speeder roared out onto the street from the backyard and the access tunnel that led there from the basement lab. The hatch opened for them, and Jazz grabbed the duffel bag as she and Nick headed down the steps and climbed into the Specter Speeder.
Jazz looked around. "I thought you were bringing more ghosts?" Only Sam, Dani, and Wulf were inside.
Sam jerked her head backwards. "They're packed into the back. I didn't think I'd be able to drive this thing with a few dozen ghosts crammed around me." She glanced at Nick, then gave Jazz a questioning look.
"He knows about Danny, and he's coming with."
Sam looked from Jazz to Nick, regarding him a moment before nodding her assent. "Okay. The more help, the better. Welcome aboard, Nick."