Five years after the accident
"Tucker, talk to me!" Sam gripped the steering yoke of the Specter Speeder as she spoke into the speaker of the Fenton Phone that Jazz had handed her. It had been about twenty minutes since Tucker and Valerie had gone after the Guys in White after they'd grabbed Danny, and Sam was nearly frantic to catch up to them.
It was Valerie's voice that answered. "Tucker can't come to the phone right now. He's busy screaming his fool head off about riding on my sled."
In the background, Sam could hear Tucker wailing in terror. "Do we have to go so high?"
Sam snorted. "Okaaaaay. You got counter-surveillance going, right?"
"Hang on. Tucker! Quit screaming! I need you to double-check the counter-surveillance!" There was a brief pause, and then she was back. "Yeah, we're free and clear."
"Where are you guys?"
"West, somewhere over Illinois. We stopped at an airfield not far from Hammond, just over the Illinois border, I think. That's where they switched from jetpacks to a jet plane. Thought about trying to stop them there, but there were too many of them for me and Tucker to take on alone."
Sam bit her lip. "No, you did the right thing, waiting for the rest of us. Did you catch sight of Danny?"
"No. They did load up some sort of box-thing onto the plane. Looked like an ecto-trap of some sort."
Sam glanced over her shoulder at Jazz, who was squeezed into the back row between Wulf and Nick. "You catching this, Jazz?" When Jazz nodded, her hand on the Fenton Phone in her own ear, Sam asked her, "Is that what they used to capture him?"
"They shot him with an ecto-weapon first, then snagged him with a ghost net and transferred him to some sort of boxy thing, yeah."
"Well, I guess the good news is, he's not going to be able to revert in something like that. Let's hope they don't open it up before we can get to them. Val. When did they switch to the jet?"
"They just took off about ten minutes ago."
"You still with 'em?"
"Hanging back so they don't see us, but yeah."
"And where are you now?"
"I told you. Illinois."
Sam growled. "You're gonna have to be a little more specific, Val. Illinois's a big freakin' state."
"Here. I'll send you a signal on the GPS."
Dani, sitting beside her in the passenger seat, heard Valerie over her own Fenton Phone and reached over to flip on the Speeder's GPS. It showed their own location as a green dot heading west out of Amity Park. A red dot appeared further west, past Joliet. Sam nodded. "Okay, Val. I've got you west of Joliet, headed southwest toward Peoria."
"Think you can catch up?"
"I think so. If we punch it, we might be able to reach you before you get to Peoria."
"Then what's the plan?"
Sam drummed her fingers on the steering yoke. "Good question. We've got you and Tuck, me, Dani, Jazz, Nick, a big ferocious ghost-wolf, and a whole bunch of Thralls."
"Wait. Did you say Nick?"
"Yeah." Sam glanced over her shoulder. "Jazz got him up to speed."
Nick leaned forward. He, too, was wearing a Fenton Phone in his ear. "I don't know how much you know about government operations like this, but guaranteed they're taking him to one heck of a secure facility. My dad was stationed at Area 51 for a couple of years when I was a teenager, and let me tell you, those types of bases are locked down tight. I never got past the outer fence myself, and never did know what kind of work my dad did there. It's gonna be quite a trick getting Danny out of a place like that."
Danielle stared straight ahead, her jaw set and her voice low. "I can get him out."
Sam flipped off the speaker to her Fenton Phone. "Oh, no. You aren't going anywhere near a big, secure base, you got me? If they find out about you—"
"Or if you sap all your energy using too many of your ghost powers," Jazz added.
"This is Danny we're talking about," Danielle argued, as if any of them needed reminding.
"You think I don't get that?" Sam shook her head. "But I am not gonna be the one who has to tell him that in getting him back, we lost you. And if they find out about you, his identity's blown anyway, which kinda makes the whole thing pointless."
"So are you gonna go intangible and invisible to get him out, then?"
Sam gave her a hard look. "We need a better plan." She flipped the speaker back on. "Okay, Val. Did you copy what Nick said about the kind of place they'll be taking him?"
"Got it. Sounds like our best bet is to intercept them en route."
"Uh… I know I brought it up," Nick said, "but please tell me you're not planning on shooting down a government plane."
"No. That's what the ghosts are for. We'll sic the Thralls on 'em. With that many ghosts coming at them, they'll be forced to land, and once they're on the ground, Wulf can help keep 'em busy."
Wulf flashed a predatory grin. "Aj, Mi teniĝos ilin okupatan."
"Just busy, Wulf. You can't hurt them. Ne dolorantaj la homoj. The rest of us will get Danny out of there." She glanced at Danielle, relenting. "And… we might need a little invisibility and intangibility for that."
Dani grinned, victorious, and Sam responded with a warning look. "Only if we stop them en route."
"Sounds like a plan," Valerie said. "Let's just hope it plays in Peoria."
Sam rolled her eyes. "You've been ghost-hunting with Danny too long. Your puns stink."
"So…" Nick sounded apprehensive. "I know I'm just the noob around here, but do you really think you can beat these guys?"
Sam glanced over her shoulder. "They're actually not as good as they think they are. They were pretty inept when they started out."
"They have gotten better," Jazz pointed out.
"Yeah, but so have we. And we've been doing it longer. As long as they don't know who and what Danny is, and how to find him when he's not a ghost, then he'll be okay." Sam gripped the steering yoke again. He has to be.
They were over farmland somewhere northeast of Peoria when they finally caught up with Valerie and Tucker and the plane they were tailing. Sam had turned on the Specter Speeder's cloaking, so she double-clicked the talkback on her Fenton Phone to let Valerie know they were there.
"Now what?" Jazz asked.
"I guess we send the Thralls out to swarm them. That should force them to land."
"And… these 'Thralls,' they're just gonna follow your directions?"
Sam shrugged. "Not really sure. But they seem to listen to Wulf." She glanced back at the huge ghost-wolf. "Ĉu vi scias kion fari, Wulf?"
"Jes. Mi komprenas la planon." He turned around in the cramped space, nearly knocking Jazz into Nick's lap in the process, and phased his head into the back compartment of the Specter Speeder.
A moment latter, a swarm of green, blob-like ghosts streamed out from the back compartment. There were dozens of them, filling the sky, and moaning in something that sounded almost like a ghostly battle cry. Valerie had to dodge to get out of their way, but they ignored her and Tucker, heading straight for the plane that was about a quarter mile ahead of them. Its pilot realized fairly quickly that they were under attack, and they swung around to counter-attack. Ecto-missiles came screaming at them, and Sam and Valerie both veered out of the way, each of them resisting the urge to fight back. They needed to stay cloaked and hidden and let the ghosts do their part.
Fortunately, the Thralls were pretty good at evading them, and with so many of them crowding around the plane, eventually it was forced to land in a barren cornfield near Route 23. Sam brought the Speeder down as close as she dared, at the edge of the field where there were some trees they could use for cover. Valerie came in beside her, and Tucker rolled off the sled, landing on his hands and knees, kissing the ground. "Oh, solid land, I will never leave you again!" Rolling onto his back, he looked up at Valerie. "I love you, Val, but I am never getting on that thing with you again."
"Never's a long time, baby."
Sam, Dani, Jazz, Nick, and Wulf clambered out of the Speeder and hunched down behind the trees with Valerie and Tucker. About a hundred yards away, eight Guys in White had come out of the plane and were trying to fight off the Thralls. Wulf craned his head at them, an eager look in his animal eyes. "Mia turn aktuale?"
Sam nodded in confirmation. "Yeah, it's your turn, Wulf. You and the Thralls have to keep them busy and lure them away from the plane. Uh… Akiri ilin for de la aviadilo. Give us about ten minutes, and then get out of there. Claw yourself and the Thralls back to the Ghost Zone if you have to, okay? Dek minutoj, tiame deir. Reen al la Fantomo Zono."
"Mi komprenas." And with an unearthly howl, he bounded off toward the skirmish.
"I'm going, too," Valerie said. "As the 'Ghost Hunter Girl,' I'm already more closely associated with Danny Phantom than Danny Fenton anyway. They're probably half expecting me to come after them."
Tucker, still looking a little green, put a hand on her arm. "Be careful. If they catch you…"
She smiled. "No way they'll even get close. As soon as you get Danny, double-click me on the Fenton Phones. Don't wait for me, though; just get Danny out. I'll meet you back home."
Sam shook her head. "Let's go to Hammond instead. Too many Guys in White still hanging around Amity Park. Danny's better off laying low at his dorm."
"Gotcha. Hammond it is." Then she was off.
"And the rest of us?" Jazz asked.
Sam chewed on her lip. In Danny's absence, everyone was looking to her as the sort of de-facto leader. "Okay. We need to get into that plane and get that containment box out, obviously."
"We should probably take out the jetpacks so they can't chase us once we get him out of there," Tucker suggested. "The plane will be harder to get off the ground in this field. I can hack into the packs with my PDA."
"I can help with that," Nick said.
"Cool. Danielle will get us in and get Danny. I'll go along as backup, and Jazz can pick us up in the Specter Speeder when we've got him."
"Sounds simple enough," Jazz said.
Of course, "simple enough" never seemed to work out that way in real life. They got in okay, Sam, Dani, Tucker, and Nick all linking hands so Dani could take them right through the fuselage into the cargo area at the back of the plane. There they found both jetpacks and the ecto-containment cube that Tucker confirmed was the source of Danny's ecto-signature. The pilot was still in the cockpit, but Tucker and Nick worked quickly and silently to disable the jetpacks, while Dani hovered nearby, ready to turn them invisible if necessary, and Sam kept watch with her Fenton Wrist Ray ready. When Tucker and Nick finished, each of the four of them grabbed a different side of the cube. Danielle made them all invisible and intangible once more, and they phased through the fuselage and out onto the empty cornfield.
As soon as the box itself passed outside of the plane, however, an alarm began blaring so loudly that Sam almost dropped her side of it to cover her ears. The two Guys in White who had been stationed outside the plane ran around back and, when they didn't see anything, immediately used their scanning equipment to lock onto the containment box.
"There it is! Point oh-three-seven, with four heat signatures… wait, are those humans?"
"Who cares? Just shoot!"
Keeping her left hand on the box so as to stay within Dani's invisibility cover, Sam took aim with the Wrist Ray on her right arm and blasted at them before they could bring their weapons up to bear. Fortunately, the Fenton ecto-weapons could deliver a nice punch to humans without seriously hurting them. Unfortunately, that meant the Guys in White were back on their feet quickly, and although Sam and the rest had the invisibility advantage, they were rendered largely immobile due to the fact that they all had to stay together and keep hold on the box for Dani to keep them all invisible. Sam and Dani were the only ones in a position to fire on them, and Dani's powers weren't strong enough for her to simultaneously use her ghost ray and maintain invisibility for four-plus-a-box for more than a minute or two, tops. Sam heard the whine of the Specter Speeder's turbines from the direction of the trees at the edge of the field as Jazz powered it up to come in and grab them, but she wasn't sure she would make it there before one of them got shot.
And then, with a bone-chilling howl and a flash of white teeth and black fur, the two Guys in White were batted aside like rag dolls. "Evit miaj amikoj!"
Sam didn't even have time to thank Wulf, because the roar of the Speeder's rockets and a massive gust of wind announced its arrival. Although it was still cloaked, when Jazz opened the hatch, the Speeder's interior appeared before them like a doorway to another dimension, and they scurried on board as quickly as they could while still dragging the containment box. Once they were all four inside, Jazz closed the hatch and stomped down on the throttle, blasting them away from the cornfield.
As soon as they leveled out, Sam threw herself at the box. "Tucker, can you get this thing open?"
He pulled out a cable attachment from his PDA and hooked it into the box. A few taps of various buttons, and then it popped open, spitting out Danny, still in ghost form, to land in a heap in Sam's lap.
"Danny!" She gathered him into her arms. "Danny, wake up! Are you okay?"
Jazz spared a glance over her shoulder. "Is he okay?"
Sam felt for a pulse, which was strong, and his chest was rising and falling normally. "I think he's just unconscious. And he's still in ghost form, which is a good sign. If he were too weak, he'd have reverted as soon as he was released from the box." She smoothed his white hair back from his forehead.
He groaned in response, his eyelids fluttering open. "Sam?"
"Danny!" She let out a breath she didn't even realize she'd been holding. "Thank God! You scared us half to death!"
"What happened? Where are we?"
"You got nabbed by the Guys in White while you were fighting Walker's goons in Amity Park. We're in the Specter Speeder, somewhere in Illinois, near Peoria."
"Illinois?" He pushed away from her so he could sit up, and rubbed his head with his hand. "Ow! What'd they get me with?"
"Ecto-weapon of some sort," Jazz replied from the driver's seat. "Then they grabbed you with a ghost net and put you inside that box."
"And we're in Illinois because…?"
"This is where we caught up with them," Sam said. "But we're headed back to Hammond. We figured we're better off staying on campus than back in Amity Park for the rest of the weekend."
Danny frowned. "Wait. You chased after them?"
"Duh, dude." Tucker joined the conversation. "What did you think, we were gonna let them haul you away like that?"
"Are you guys nuts? You can't go after the feds! They'll be dragging you in next!"
"They never knew it was us," Sam told him. "Wulf and a bunch of Thralls kept them busy, while we got you out."
"Wulf and… what? Thralls?"
"And Valerie," Tucker added.
Danny gaped at him, then at Sam. "What were you guys thinking?"
"Uh… saving your butt?" Sam crossed her arms across her chest. "Relax. We got out clean. Valerie was the only one they saw, and they already know the 'Ghost Hunter Girl' hangs with Danny Phantom. The Specter Speeder was cloaked the whole time, and Dani kept the rest of us invisible."
"Dani?" Now he looked around, even more alarmed, his eyes finally finding Dani, who was slumped in one of the seats, looking a little drained.
"Hey, cos." She gave him a weak smile and wave.
"Dani! What happened? Are you okay?"
"I'm good. Really. Nothing a little rest won't fix."
"Are you guys crazy, getting Dani involved? What if her ghost powers had—" And then he finally saw Nick. "Uh… hey? You're, uh, probably wondering—"
Sam cut him off with a hand on his shoulder. "It's okay, he knows. Jazz told him."
Danny blinked. "Oh."
"Yeah." Nick rubbed the back of his head and offered Danny a sheepish smile. "I'm not gonna give you away or anything."
Jazz glanced over her shoulder again. "I'm so sorry, Danny. I know it's not my secret to tell, and that I'm the one who gave you away in Antarctica too, but I couldn't keep making up stories anymore. It just wasn't—"
"Jazz, stop." Danny smiled at his sister. "It's fine. It's not just my secret; it has a huge effect on your life, too." Then he looked at Nick. "So, uh, welcome to Team Phantom, I guess."
"Thanks… I think."
Tucker grinned. "Yeah, it's kind of a dubious honor. You get a lot of ghosts chasing you all the time, and the occasional skirmish with the feds. But chicks dig ghost fighters."
Sam cuffed him upside the head. "Your 'chick' is a ghost fighter."
"Which would be why she digs them."
"Speaking of… where is Valerie?" Danny asked Tucker.
"She's meeting us back in Hammond."
"I'm tracking her on the GPS," Jazz told him. "She just started heading our way. She'll probably be, like, ten or fifteen minutes behind us."
Danny looked around at all of them. "Okay, then. And since we've got some time to kill, maybe someone can fill me in on what exactly happened here."