The Ghost of Christmas Present: Part XV
The Realm of the Far Frozen
December 23, Time Unknown
Sam always felt a little disjointed when she had occasion to be in the medical center of the Realm of the Far Frozen. The futuristic facility, with its high-tech equipment and de-icing chambers that resembled bacta tanks straight out of Star Wars, was incongruous with the rest of the Realm, which was more like a Tibetan village in the Himalayas than something out of a sci-fi movie. Like the rest of the city, the med center was built into an ice cave, and Sam was freezing even huddled in her parka and the sweater she'd changed into before coming to the Ghost Zone, but where the other caves where earthy and decorated with animal skins and cave paintings, this cave had complicated scanners and diagnostic equipment attached to the walls. Right now, however, the incongruity was more comforting than disorienting, and she was thankful for all that technology, which Maddie, Jack, Dr. Mihashi, Frostbite, and two of Frostbite's people were huddled around. They hadn't yet figured out how to get the poison out of Danny's system without killing him in the process, but Sam had faith that the three humans and three ghost-creatures would find an answer.
They had to.
Danny himself was lying unconscious in a gigantic hospital bed in the corner of the room, Sam and Jazz holding vigil on either side of him. He looked like a child sleeping in that bed built for the mammoth snow creatures, which only added to the perception that he was frail and vulnerable. On the up side, Sam was glad that his illness didn't require submersion in one of the de-icing tanks, since she found them slightly disturbing for reasons she couldn't explain, other than perhaps they conjured up images of Mark Hamill in a giant diaper, and she had no desire to see Danny so outfitted.
It had been about three hours since their arrival, and they were no closer to figuring out how to help him than they'd been back in Amity Park, despite the numerous scans Frostbite had done. Danny seemed to be holding his own, however, and as Sam clung to his hand, she prayed silently that they would find the answer and get rid of the anti-ghost drug in his system before it killed him. Whether or not they could do it without completely incapacitating his ghost powers was uncertain but, at this point, Sam just wanted him alive, whatever it took. She'd waited too long and fought too hard to lose him now, at the very moment she'd just gotten him back.
While they waited, several ghostly visitors flitted in and out. Word had spread quickly through the Ghost Zone that Danny Phantom was alive and in the Realm of the Far Frozen, and many of them came by to see for themselves. Once, the Realm of the Far Frozen had been isolated from the rest of the Ghost Zone, with its people keeping pretty much to themselves and the rest of the ghosts leaving them alone, but during the Ghost Zone Civil War that Vlad had started nine years earlier, the Far Frozen had become the main center of resistance against Vlad's forces. After that, many of the ghosts felt as much at home here as anywhere else in the Zone. It always was strange to Sam, however, how the various alliances and truces among the ghosts shifted over time, like a microcosm of international politics in the Human World. While Fright Knight and Aragon had sided with Vlad back during the Civil War, and Walker had been an ally, now the former two came to see Danny and bring their wishes for his recovery, while the latter was phasma non grata among the rest of the ghosts.
Skulker came, too, and Sam was oddly comforted by his insistence that Danny must recover so he could have his pelt at the foot of his bed. He was still there when the Box Ghost arrived, along with his daughter, Box Lunch, who left an ordinary, non-ghost-catching thermos at Danny's bedside as sort of a tribute. The three of them had just left when the sound of turbines flared outside the medical facility and, moments later, Tucker and Valerie came in, heading straight for Danny's bed.
Tucker nodded to Sam and Jazz in greeting. "How is he? Any better?"
Sam shrugged. "Not better, but at least not worse. They're still working on finding a way to get the Umbranol out of his system."
"What about ecto-purifier?" Tucker asked.
Jazz shook her head. "It won't work, and the various treatments Frostbite's people use could be dangerous for humans. They're considering trying to overshadow him and force him into ghost form so that they can try one of their treatments, but that could hasten the Umbranol's effect, so…" She trailed off.
Tucker nodded blankly, and Sam frowned, noticing for the first time the tired and drawn look on his face. Valerie, too, looked miserable, her eyes red and puffy, as if she'd been crying. Sam's stomach took a nervous dive. "You look like you have bad news. Don't tell me the flu bill passed."
"No, it failed. And the media's already putting the pressure on the FDA to slow down the approval of Fluumbrazin." But Tucker still sounded blank and deflated, and Valerie was blinking a lot, as if to stop herself from crying again.
"Okay… so why are you not celebrating?"
Tucker's eyes flicked down to Danny before meeting Sam's again. "We should talk outside." He looked across the bed to Jazz. "You, too, Jazz."
"Why?" Jazz looked as anxious as Sam felt. "What's wrong?"
His lips pressed together in a thin line, Tucker shook his head and then jerked it towards the door. Then, his arm across Valerie's shoulders, he ushered her outside.
Sam and Jazz exchanged looks before getting up to follow them. Outside, the bleak, bluish-purple sky—so different from the weird, mottled, black-and-green "sky" that enveloped most of the Ghost Zone—darkened the icy landscape, making the Far Frozen seem stark and lifeless, despite the warmth of the residents that inhabited it. Sam wrapped her arms around herself above her swollen abdomen and stomped her boots in the snow in an attempt to get warm as she looked to Tucker expectantly. "Well, what is it? What's wrong?"
He looked at Valerie, who lowered her head and closed her eyes. His arm was still around her shoulders, and he gave her a comforting squeeze before he turned to Sam and Jazz. "We know why the Guys in White released Danny."
Sam's eyes widened, but Jazz folded her arms, looking angry. "It's because of the Umbranol, isn't it? They think they've killed him, or at least purged his ghost powers, so they don't need to keep him anymore."
"No. Well…" Tucker reconsidered. "Actually, that probably played a part in it. But that's not what I'm talking about." He glanced at Valerie again, who was still looking down at the ground. Facing Sam and Jazz once more, he sighed. "It's Danielle. She worked out a deal with them."
Sam gasped. "What? What kind of deal?"
Valerie looked up now, and her eyes were full of tears. "She traded herself for Danny."
Jazz was no less incredulous. "What do you mean, she traded herself? I thought she was in Amity Park, at your house!"
"She…" Valerie faltered, and Tucker took up the story.
"She never got on the plane. That's why Valerie took so long when she went to get her—Dani wasn't at the townhouse, and Val was trying to find out from the airline if she ever got on the plane. It was a diversion, saying she was coming home. Apparently, she found some lawyer in D.C. who helped her work out a deal like the one Danny made when he came forward. Full immunity for Danny, for the baby, and for Valerie, if they ever figure out about the suit."
"What?" Sam's hand went automatically to her abdomen. "She… she got immunity for the baby? How? What lawyer?"
"That guy who helped you set up the Human-Ecto Alliance back when you were in college. She found his name in your files."
Sam blinked. "Miguel Sanchez?" And then it hit her. He was the same lawyer who'd asked for a conference call with her and Rob and their other lawyers this morning… "Oh, no." She looked at Valerie, who was starting to break down. "Valerie. I'm so sorry. I never… This isn't how I wanted Danny back."
Valerie nodded, looking up at her. "What am I supposed to tell him? I was supposed to be the one who looked out for her, who kept her from doing anything stupid."
Tucker pulled her closer. "I told you, baby. It wasn't stupid. It was smart. Not what we wanted, but smart. She protected everyone she loved in one move. And she's not a little kid. You're not responsible for her."
"I don't understand," Jazz said. "How did you find out about all this?"
"The lawyer." Valerie reached into her coat. "He came to the apartment in Alexandria just when I was going out to search for her. He brought me letters that she wrote for us. One for each of you, and for your parents, Jazz, and one for Danny." She pulled out four envelopes and looked through them, handing Jazz and Sam one each. Sam looked at the one Valerie had given her and saw her name written in Dani's handwriting. Valerie, meanwhile, put the other two envelopes in her pocket and pulled out a larger manila mailer, handing that to Sam as well. "And I think these are the legal documents. He said he was sending copies to your lawyers by messenger."
Sam took this envelope as well and opened it first, skimming the contents quickly. "She… oh man. She agreed to 'disclose the identity and location of Daniel Fenton's biological daughter' in exchange for…" She sucked in her breath. "Everything. They can't touch Danny for anything ecto-related, not unless he commits a real crime. And the baby, and 'the child's biological mother.'"
Jazz blinked. "'The child's biological mother?' You mean you?"
Perplexed by Jazz's question, Sam frowned, and then she understood what Jazz meant. "No, not the baby's mother. Dani's biological mother. They're talking about Valerie." Sam gripped the documents so tightly she was in danger of crumpling them as she looked up at the others. "Those bastards. They thought she was giving them the name of an eleven-year-old child."
"They were willing to give up Danny to get a kid?" Jazz's expression was a cross between horror and confusion.
"Sure they were." Tucker's voice sounded like he'd swallowed sand. "They'd already poisoned him. What more could they do? Now they've got a genetic offspring with the same powers. More to ex—" He stopped short, realizing a little too late that he was only upsetting Valerie more. He squeezed her again. "She'll be fine. We're gonna get the press on this big time, and after the whole flu vaccine scam, we're gonna have enough support in Congress to do an investigation. They're not gonna be able to do to her what they did with Danny. I promise you that, Val."
Sam clenched her jaw, furious. "I can't believe Miguel would do this! He was my legal advisor back when we formed the Human-Ecto Alliance, before I was even in law school. How could he be a part of turning an innocent girl over to those monsters?" She saw his business card clipped to the front of the stack of legal documents. "I need to talk to him. And to Rob Collins. I need to know what's going on." She looked at Jazz. "You can call out of the Ghost Zone into the regular phone system in the Human World from the Specter Speeder, right?"
Jazz nodded. "Use the Fenton Phones and dial in on the console. You have to treat it like an international call, so dial zero-zero-one, then the area code." She sighed. "While you're doing that, we should go tell Mom and Dad."
"Yeah, that's a good idea." Sam turned to Valerie, putting a hand on her shoulder. "Tucker's right, Val. We are so gonna nail them for this after what they did to Danny. They will not do the same thing to Danielle."
Valerie gave her a weak smile, and Sam squeezed her shoulder before turning to head towards where they'd left the Specter Speeder at the far end of the village. She only wished she felt as confident as she'd sounded to Valerie. Their entire case was built on Danny's imprisonment. They might have to start over from scratch now that Danielle was the plaintiff, and without doing a very careful reading of the contract in her hand, she wasn't sure how well all the work they'd done in Danny's defense would translate over to Danielle's rather different circumstances. She needed to talk to Rob Collins and the lawyers from Amnesty and the ACLU to even begin to sort everything out, but first she wanted to talk to the person who had done this in the first place.
When she was seated in the Specter Speeder with a Fenton Phone firmly in place in her ear, she dialed the number on the business card.
She was too angry for pleasantries or even to identify herself. "How could you?"
There was a pause, and then she heard a sigh through the Fenton Phone. "Sam Fenton. It's been a long time. I take it Ms. Gray has delivered the paperwork?"
"Never mind the paperwork. I wanna know how you could do this to me and my family. She's my husband's cous—" She stopped herself from finishing the lie that came so naturally to her lips. "She's his daughter, Miguel. The reason he let them arrest him in the first place, and you just helped them take her?"
"She would've done it with or without my help, Sam. I wanted her to have the best deal possible."
"Do you realize what you've sent her off to? What they'll do to her? They almost…" She stopped, swallowing over the lump in her throat. "They almost killed Danny. We still don't… we don't know if he'll pull through, and if he does, we don't know if he'll still have his ghost powers. And he's stronger than she is."
"I heard about what they did to him on the news." His voice was low and she could hear the anger rolling under the surface. "I just finished a conference call with your lawyers, and we talked a long time about that. It may constitute a breach of good faith."
"Ugh, Miguel! I'm not here to talk law with you! This is my family. She's my… my stepdaughter. And you helped them arrest her."
"I know, Sam. And believe me, it killed me to do it. She's… she's a courageous woman, and someone I've grown to care about like she were my own family, so believe me when I say it was not an easy or happy thing to do. But she's also a stubborn woman. I assume you know this."
She hissed out a long breath between her teeth. "Yeah. She's definitely that."
"When she first came to me, back in September, I didn't want to do it. I didn't want those pendejos getting anywhere near a nice kid like that. But she was pretty determined, and I was afraid she was going to try it without a lawyer, so I agreed to help her." And then he told Sam how they'd gone to the Guys in White in October, after she'd publicly confirmed her pregnancy, and how they'd signed the deal just last night, when Danny would have already been en route home. "You should've seen her tell them that the 'little girl' they were looking for was right under their noses all along."
"They… they didn't hurt her, did they? When they arrested her?"
"No. It was nothing like that video of your husband's arrest. Well, they did panic for a second when she disappeared to prove she really was half ghost, but she reappeared right away, and I made it clear I would be talking to the media if they handled her arrest the way they handled Danny's. They didn't want a repeat of all that bad press, so they just put ghost-proof cuffs on her and led her away."
"Have they let her speak with you since then?"
"What do you think?"
Sam leaned back in her seat with a weary sigh. "Miguel, do you have any idea what Danny has gone through to protect her? What all of us have gone through? This is going to devastate him. What am I supposed to tell him when he wakes up?"
"She left a letter for him. It explains everything."
"We can't just give him a letter! I'm going to have to tell him what she's done first."
"Tell him…" There was a pause before he answered, and when he did, there was almost a reverence to his voice. "Tell him he taught her well."