Amity Park. The most haunted place on Earth. Despite this unofficial title, the town was usually a great place to call home.
But not this particular day. First, a devastating explosion leveled the home of town mayor and billionaire Vlad Masters, who had yet to be found. Then some time later, a strange wail echoed all over the town, followed by a powerful tremor.
As swift as they came, the sound and tremor vanished. Like a ghost.
The citizens were in slight panic; while strange events were frequent in the town, the loss of the mayor and vanishing act of the city's usual protectors had them all more than a little worried.
Meanwhile, somewhere in town on an abandoned street, five figures laid on the ground in a crumpled heap. A shadow passed over them as Danielle landed with the Fentons. They were shocked to see Danny and his friends in the same pile as Plasmius.
The Fentons rushed to the kids, wondering why they were there and in such bad conditions.
At the same time, Danielle kept repeating the same thoughts over and over: Danny hates me now.
She knew that the only reason her cousin would be this beat up was if Neil had revealed himself and subsequently got his payback for getting shoved into a ridiculous thermos.
A voice snapped her out of her trance. "Danielle!"
The girl nearly blasted off of the ground. As it was, she managed to stay on the ground as she focused on the people in front of her.
Danny was standing, with Maddie's help. The others were standing uneasily, but apparently they weren't as injured as Danny.
Of course they aren't, Danielle thought. Neil doesn't care about them. He only wants Danny as the punching bag; maybe Plasmius too.
"Care to explain?" Danny demanded. His eyes were full of anger and betrayal; and maybe guilt as well, but Danielle wasn't sure; she was focused on the first two.
Danielle gauged the rest of them.
Jazz seemed to have a face of understanding and displeasure; she likely had a theory of what was going on.
Tucker was undecided on how to feel, so he focused on his PDA.
Sam, however, was very sure on how she felt. The goth glared like she wanted nothing more than for Danielle to burst into flames then have her ashes swept away by the wind.
The Fentons on the other hand, looked understandably confused.
"Well?" Danny prompted again.
Just as Danielle made to speak, a voice said, "Are you seriously doing this here and now?"
Dan stood in the middle of a wrecked street, taking a moment to compose himself after using the Ghostly Wail. He felt satisfied. After two long years of waiting, he got his payback. Granted the boy was still alive, but that could always change in the near future.
"Now then," Dan said as he floated above the buildings. "Let's see where the weaker Phantom ended up."
He turned invisible and flew in the direction of the teens. It didn't take long for him to find them; and everyone else for that matter.
He had reached the pile of bodies just as Danielle had landed with the Fentons. He silently made his way over to Plasmius, who was regretfully still unconscious.
The girl must have beaten the fudge out of him, Dan mused with a cruel smile.
"Danielle." Dan craned his neck towards the group. "Care to explain?"
Dan mentally scoffed. The boy with a dozen secrets, demanding answers. What a hypocrite.
When the boy prompted again, Dan decided to show himself.
"Are you seriously doing this here and now?" Dan asked, turning visible. He smirked when the humans jumped in surprise.
"Who are you?" Maddie demanded, aiming at him.
Dan didn't react. "The name's Dan Phantom. I'm the original Phantom."
The Fenton's eyebrows scrunched up. They were not expecting that.
"What do you mean the original Phantom?" Maddie asked. "How many Phantoms are there?"
Gotta love scientific curiosity, Dan mused.
He analyzed the group. The Fentons were understandably wary, the kids seemed afraid that he would spill their secrets, and Danielle simply waited for his lead.
"Before I get into that," Dan said. "How about I introduce you to the real Vlad Plasmius?"
He lifted Plasmius by the back of the collar. He raised his glowing free hand then turned it intangible.
Danny recognized what his future self was about to do.
"Stop! Don't do it!" He rushed forward but only managed two steps before Danielle blocked his way. "What the heck? Move, Danielle!" He demanded.
Danielle stood her ground. "He deserves this, Danny."
"What?!" Danny shouted in disbelief. "What is wrong with you? No one deserves this; not even him!"
Dan took advantage of the distraction and plunged his hand into Plasmius' back. Almost instantly, the half ghost snapped his eyes open with a loud pained scream.
"Stop it!" Danny shouted. He tried to move, but Danielle held him in place and he was still too weak to use his powers.
"You stop it Danny," Danielle ordered. "I don't want to hurt you, but if I have to, I will."
"What is going on here?" Maddie demanded. Her son had a history with these ghosts, no doubt about it; and from judging from the other teens' expression, they knew these ghosts too.
"Nothing Mom," Danny said, glaring at Danielle. "Everything's fine. Isn't that right Danielle?"
The ghost girl scowled at him.
"No it's not fine." She looked straight into her brotherly cousin's eyes. "The time for secrets is over." Team Phantom looked horrified with that statement. "At least within family anyway," she amended.
She risked a glance at her father who was still trying to split Vlad's halves.
"Any day now," she said slightly irritated at how long he was taking.
"Shut it," Dan barked. "You have any idea how hard it is to separate two consciousness that don't want to be separated?"
"Maybe you're getting soft and need to hit the gym?" She quipped.
Dan growled. "You are so grounded for that." He pulled harder. "And I mean that literally."
Plasmius had been able to handle the pain after the intrusion. He had been trying to use his powers to escape the mystery ghost's grip but couldn't focus hard enough. Now the pain doubled, his remaining focus vanished, and he screamed bloody murder.
With a sickening and satisfying rip, Dan managed to separated Plamius and Masters and dumped them on the ground.
Present company looked mortified; the teens due to the cruel display of what the alternate future Phantom did and because of the possible exposure of their secret; the Fentons because of the black suited figure that came out of the Wisconsin ghost.
"V man?" Jack said in disbelief.
"No." Maddie shook her head. "It can't be. It's not possible."
Vlad had always been a bit of creep, not that Jack realized that part, always seeing him as the best friend from college, but Vlad usually had the Fentons best interest in mind.
Now they find out that he was part ghost. Not just any ghost either; the Wisconsin Ghost. The same one that had tried to kill Jack on multiple occasions and was also at the center of a lot of the town's more dangerous ghost incidents.
Dan pulled a black thermos and captured Plasmius. Vlad watched on in despair. His ghost half was gone, captured by the strange ghost.
"Who are you?" Vlad said softly.
"A better question..." Maddie marched over to Vlad and placed her gun under his chin, "is who or what are you?"
"As fascinating as this talk is..." Dan said, forming a portal. "I think we need a more private setting."
"If you think-" Vlad started to say before Maddie interrupted with a solid hook to the jaw. Vlad dropped like a sack of potatoes.
Maddie looked critically at the so called Original Phantom. "Where does the portal lead to?"
"To your lab," the ghost said, apparently amused by violence towards Vlad. "Doesn't get more private than that."
He looked at the fallen Vlad. "Well, its private now; since the fruit loop is knocked out and we got rid of the cameras."
"What?" Jack shouted. "You mean to tell me that Vlad has been spying on my family?"
"Mostly your wife and your son, but yeah, pretty much." Dan shrugged.
Jack stomped over to Vlad in fury. He grabbed him by the collar and tossed him into the portal.
Dan hummed in approval. "Nice form. So, whose next?"
"I'm not done with him yet," Jack growled as he jumped through the portal.
Maddie sighed. "I'll make sure he doesn't kill the creep or blow up the lab." She jumped in.
Dan grinned at the teens. "Who's next down the rabbit hole?"
"I don't know what you're planning-" Danny started.
"And you never will." Dan interrupted. "But there's no need to give your three brain cells an exhaustive work out. The only plans I have are Danielle's birthday plans."
The teens looked at Danielle in surprise.
"Birthday?" They all said at the same time.
Danielle chuckled nervously. "Yeah, It's kind of the whole reason we were here in the first place." She snuck a glanced at her father. Though we'll probably take advantage to advance our interests.
"Talk later," Dan said. "Portal now."
He grabbed Sam and Tucker and threw them into the portal. He ignored their cries of surprise.
"Seriously?" Danielle deadpanned.
Dan shrugged. "You were taking too long. Speaking of which..." He grabbed Danny and Jazz by the back of their necks. "It's your turn." They let out a yell as they flew into the portal.
Dan raised an eyebrow. "What?" He asked. "I can't kill the idiots yet, and I can't go on violent rampages anymore, so I'll take my fun however I can."
"You coming for the explanations?" Danielle asked.
"Nah. I need to make sure the funds are transferred and then I have to do some... recruitment." He grinned darkly.
"Of course you do. Can you at least keep the trauma and collateral to a minimum?" She pleaded.
"What is this minimum of which you speak?"
Somehow... he sounded genuinely confused.
Danielle sighed in defeat. "Just... just don't kill anyone would ya?" She walked up to Dan and hugged him. "Be safe." With those last words, she doved into the portal.
The Fenton Lab was still as battered as they left it. Looking around, Danielle saw Vlad sitting inside a glass cage with his arms crossed. The Fentons and the teens were standing nearby, talking with a lot of arm waving.
Vlad caught sight first and grinned unpleasantly. "How kind of you to join us, daughter."
Everyone stopped talking and watched the ghost girl approached her creator.
"You are not my father," Danielle growled. "You are a lonely, bitter and delusional old fruit loop that has officially lost everything."
Vlad bared his teeth. "Watch your mouth you-"
"You what?" The youngest in the room countered. "You clone? You useless mass of ectoplasm? You failure of a laboratory experiment? Is that what you were going to say?" She looked at him with a proud look. "I outgrew that kind of thinking a long time ago, old man."
Vlad scowled. Danielle smirked and walked towards the group.
"Where's the jerk?" Danny crossed his arms.
"Look," Danielle said. "You don't like him-"
"Understatement," Sam said.
"-And he definitely doesn't like any of you," the ghost girl continued, ignoring Sam. "But can you keep your hate to yourself? Talk about my dad like that again and we're going to have a problem."
"How can you defend him?" Danny demanded. "Do you know what he's done? What he is?"
"I know the whole story," was the reply. "Do you?"
"Of course I-"
"No! No you don't know the whole story. All you know is what you witnessed."
"He destroyed the whole town," Sam said. "He tried to kill us so Danny would turn evil. What else is there to know?"
"How about his side of the story?" Danielle asked. "How about what was his motivation for turning out that way?"
The teens looked like they never thought of that.
Danielle shook her head. "Forget it."
She focused on the Fentons. "You probably have questions for me?" Her tone was a lot friendlier than a moment ago.
It took Maddie a moment to compose herself.
"Why yes, If you wouldn't mind; we would just like some clarity on today's events, maybe know your history a bit more?"
"Well you already know that the old man made a clone of Danny Phantom and then tried to kill us?"
"Yes." Maddie glared at said old man.
She smiled a bit when he jumped as Jack tried to use the Fenton Weasel on him. "Just one of dozens of atrocities we're discovering about that man."
"Thing is, he tried to clone him before. I was his fourth result. He was trying to create what he considered the perfect human ghost hybrid son." Danielle gestured at herself sadly. "As you can see, I was a failure even without being unstable."
Maddie could tell the girl used to be bothered by her former state.
"I see," Maddie said. "It's obvious half of you was from Phantom; but where did the Human DNA come from?"
"Same source," Danielle answered, completely ignoring Danny's stop talking gestures.
Maddie's eyebrow disappeared into her hairline. Even Jack paused in his attempts to torture Vlad when he heard the girl.
"Same... source?" Maddie said slowly.
Hidden behind his team mates, Danny was on the verge of ripping his hair out. Sam however was on the verge of ripping Danielle's hair out.
Maddie studied the ghost girl. Looking at her and then to Vlad, the ghost hunter shifted through everything she knew.
Her children and their friends seemed at ease with the situation. Incredibly bothered by the appereance of that Dan Phantom fellow, but not as confused of his existence as her and Jack. They obviously knew more than they let on, not to mention how familiar they were with their equipment when they never showed interest in ghost hunting or ghosts in general.
Vlad was a creep obsessed with her since college where he obtained ghost powers after being blasted with high levels of ectoplasms. He attempted to clone the ghost boy; of which only Danielle survived. The girl could pass as Danny Phantom's twin, there was no doubt she came from his ghost signature.
Human Ghost Hybrid.
She had never thought it possible, but having seen both halves of Vlad gave it merit.
No doubt it was something not easily created, otherwise there would be more specimens around.
Danielle's ghost side is Phantom; supposedly her human side is the same source, which meant... Danny Phantom was half human.
The realization made her feel sick. For two years, she and her husband had been hunting and threatening a boy no older than her own son.
But if Phantom was human, how did he become a ghost?
The woman in blue glanced at Vlad. Using him as an example, the only way to become a hybrid would be to survive exposure to high levels of super charged ectoplasm, just like he did with the proto-portal.
Maddie could swear the temperature dropped.
The Ghost Portal. High levels of super charged ectoplasm. Vlad's exposure was focused on his face, which caused the ecto-acne. It took him years for his body to adapt. If the ghost boy was the same way...
She stared at the Fenton Portal.
Judging from the animosity between Vlad and Phantom, not to mention the clone project, it was obvious Vlad had nothing to do with Phantom's existence. He simply wanted to control the boy when he found out there was another hybrid around.
Could it be possible that she and her husband were responsible for him? The ghost boy first appeared two years ago, and the only involvement with that much ectoplasm back then was the activation of the Fenton Portal.
The activation of the portal... which happened while they were out of the house... and only her son and his friends knew it happened before they did.
The implications scraped down her spine like a knife.
On one corner of the lab, Team Phantom and Danielle argued in whispers ever since Maddie went silent. On the opposite side, Jack kept shifting through his multitude of objects that could cause Vlad large amount of pain; either cause they were meant to cause pain or because they were failures and ended up causing it anyway.
This quiet yet enegetic atmosphere was silenced entirely by a metallic thump and shorts breaths.
"Maddie!" Jack shouted as he rushed to his kneeling wife.
"Is Mom okay?" Danny asked the group.
Danielle smiled sadly. "She's figured it out. All that's left is to confirm hersuspicions."
"Are you nuts?" Danny hissed. "The guilt will kill her!"
"I don't like it either, but this is your best chance to confess and have them understand the situation."
The teens comtemplated her words as the sobs continued.
"Danny," Jazz spoke up. "It's not perfect, but I think Danielle is right. They'll be devastated, no doubt about that; but the situation can still be salvaged. It'll take time, but they'll get past this."
Danny looked at his mother crying in his Dad's arms. His sister was right; again. He took a deep breath and took the plunge.
"Mom, Dad," he called as he neared them.
Jack looked as If the world's fudge supply had run out. His mom must have told him her suspicions. Speaking of his mom, she looked terrible.
Danny was torn. He had always feared their rejection and hatred, but the scene In front of him was the real reason why he kept quiet.
His parents were devastated.
Maddie wrapped her arms around her son. She couldn't stop crying.
"Please," she pleaded with a voice of shattered glass. "Please tell me we didn't act that way towards our own son."
Danny hugged his mom. Therew was no choice now, he had to tell them the truth, make them understand that he was to blame just as much if not more for keeping quiet.
Danielle was right. The time for secrets in the family were over.
There shouldn't have been any in the first place.
"Mom, Dad." Danny's voice was thick with emotion. "We have a lot to talk about."
He felt his mom tighten her grip as the flood of tears continued.
The green expanse of the Ghost Zone stretched as far as Dan could see. Unfotunately for his target, he could see very far.
Not long after Danielle had joined the rest of the humans, Dan formed another portal leading to a world that in his timeline he had all but conquered. With that abomination of a Phantom clone dealt with and Vlad biologically humanized, it was time to establish the ghost food chain now that Plasmius was no longer a link.
And the siren in Dan's sight was the perfect stepping stone.
The blue haired diva was caught completely unaware by a green blast that smashed her into the edge of the canyon she was flying over.
"Ugh, what hit me?" Ember asked as she got of the ground.
"I did," a voice bragged.
Ember looked up at the jerk. First thing she noticed was the DP symbol on his chest; followed by the jumpsuit that seemed like a sharper mix of Dipstick's and Big Daddy's colors. She lingered on the outfit because the guy was ripped.
Skulker has a lot of redesigning to do, Ember told herself.
The jerk seemed attractive with his blue skin and flaming white hair, the smug smile she could do without though; but what really caught her attention were his scarlet eyes. There was something in those eyes that ruined his charm.
"Who are you?" Ember demanded as she brought her guitar at the ready, simultaneously activating the emergency alert to Skulker and Technus.
Ember could tell this guy was dangerous. His whole being radiated power, but It wasn't his strength that worried her, not entirely anyway.
It was his eyes. Those scarlet red eyes that sung of inmense cruelty and burning rage, all sharpened with efficient restraint.
Those idiots had better get there soon or there won't be an Ember left to save.
Rather than answer, the mystery ghost fired an ectoblast at her.
Ember took to the air, and the blast left a large crater on the ground. Almost instantly Dipstick 2.0 was in front of Ember with his arm drawn back. She managed to avoid getting her teeth knocked out, but failed to stop the hard kick to the stomach.
Ember floated back a few paces. The jerk seemed amused by her pain.
"You know," the jerk said, "I've been told you have a beautiful voice."
Look who's talking, Ember thought. As a musician, she prided herself in knowing sounds, especially voices. More often than not, a voice could tell a lot about someone; and this guy's voice was soft yet sharp, like silk wrapped around a knife.
"Who are you?" Ember demanded once again.
The ghost tapped his symbol. "Isn't it obvious? I'm the better, superior Phantom."
"And what do you want with me?" Ember raised a glowing hand. She needed to buy time for her idiots.
Phantom gave her a cold smile.
"I want to hear your voice." Green energy gathered in his palms. "Let's start with your screams."
Ember strummed a chord, launching a stream of energy at Phantom. The ghost proved more agile than his size indicated as he snaked around the attack.
The diva swore as she dialed the Wave icon. Striking another chord, she blasted off a sonic wave. The attack made Phantom pause.
Perhaps if she had used more energy, she could have caused damage, but now she knew sonics were a good thing.
She quickly dialed the Fist icon, her most focused physical attack. She fired a purple fist as big as Phantom and landed a direct hit.
She grinned and fired a strong sonic wave, followed by a salvo of fists.
Phantom stood his aerial ground as the sonic wave washed over him, only to be knocked back by the concert of fists blasts.
Seeing the chance to escape, Ember took off.
Only to freeze at the sight of the flaming haired Phantom floating a few feet in front of her.
Floating without a care in the Ghost Zone with crossed arms and a smug smile. And without a single shred of evidence that he was hurt by her assault.
This was not good news.
"My turn," Phantom said.
In the blink of an eye, he was in front of Ember, his arm moving forward for a hammer blow. The hit sent her on a downward spiral. She managed to collect herself just in time to be blasted point blank, the emerald energy consumed her as she exploded in the crater from earlier.
"Ugh," Ember groaned from her postition on the ground. She opened her eyes slightly, only for them to almost pop out of their sockets as she saw the large sphere headed her way. She had enough time to shout, "Fuck!"
The sphere exploded on impact. The canyon shook under the force of the attack.
Ember's limp body fell out of the dust cloud and plumetted to the rocky abyss. She was barely concious and her body flared with pain, she couldn't focus enough to fly or slow down.
Most humans would be worried about reaching the bottom, but Ember wasn't. As a creature formed from a mass of ectoplasm shaped by human conciousness, she won't die from reaching the bottom.
It would hurt like hell, but she at least she wouldn't die.
What she was really worried about was that she would be at Phantom's mercy before and after she woke up. And unlike Dipstick, this Phantom had no mercy and no morals.
When the rushing wind reached a certain pitch, Ember closed her eyes and braced for impact.
Her body jerked, and the wind died out.
Why was she still concious? And not suffering pain that would make her swear up a concert hall?
Ember slowly opened her eyes and brightened at the sight of her boyfriend.
"Skulker!" She weakly exclaimed. "What took you so long? I almost died!"
Skulker made no reaction to the girl in his arms. His attention was on something else.
Ember looked at what he was looking at. Whatever hope she had, instanstly vanished.
In front of her, Technus had his arms extended forward as his hands glowed, coordinating the army of one hundred animal ghosts that he and Skulker had upgraded for a better hunt.
That... was not the problem.
The problem was that the Phantom on steroids was holding the animals back.
A hundred to one odds; and the one was winning, dominating.
The one was completely showing off.
Ember knew all about showboats making a spectacle. The point was to gain so much admiration or amazement that you could practically get away with anything. Another point was to intimidate the masses to the point that only the brave, the insane, the stupid, or some combination of the three would even think to get on your bad side.
She knew full well that Phantom was using the second reason.
"This isn't good," Skulker muttered. "He's taking this lightly."
"Tell me about it," Technus said. "What kind of freak can fight this many enemies without a scratch?"
"He said he was a Phantom," Ember told them.
"He certainly looks the part," Technus noted. "Looks a bit like Plasmius too."
The Master of Technology and All Things Beeping moved his hands like a puppeteer. The cyber animal ghosts doubled their assault and ferocity.
"Anything else to add?" Technus said.
Ember thought on that statement as she observed the battle. The beasts were far stronger than any generic animal from the Zone; only the high functioning mind of Technus allowed them to work together so well.
It won't be enough, Ember bitterly admitted.
The monster in front of them was too strong, too fast and too clever. Skulker's boast as the Ghost Zone's Greatest Hunter was not without merit, but even he paled in comparison to a creature whose very existence was to devour anything and everything it encountered in some way, shape or form. The roid raging Phantom was an apex predator above all others.
Apparently Skulker and Technus didn't like what Ember told them if their frown was any indication.
Technus made exaggerated arm gestures. The army surrounded Phantom from above, around and below. With the unity of a hive mind, every single beast unleashed a symphony of savage energy at their prey. Blue, green, purple, pink and red blasts were fired from their eyes, mouth and claws.
Never before had a rainbow looked so terrifying.
The symphony reached its peak as it exploded in fury. Light and wind rushed outwards. Only a large smoke cloud remained.
"Is it over?" Ember asked hopefully. Skulker's nervous grip gave her the answer. "What do we do now?"
A strange pressure flooded the area. Everyone froze. Their focus was solely on the dissipating cloud. The monter's scarlet eyes broke through the fog like floodlights.
Suddenly, the world was tinted red, dark laughter filled the air, ectoplasm was spilt, bodies were torn, ice flashed, fire raged, and electricity arced.
Green light exploded and the world returned to normal.
Ember couldn't stop shaking in fear. Neither could Skulker or Technus or any of hundred animals ghosts floating between them and the now visible Phantom.
His arms were at his sides, glowing with otherworldy power; his face was hard like stone and his eyes blazed.
Phantom was no longer showing off; no longer amused.
Ember should've told her friends to leave as soon as they showed up. She wanted to tell them now, but with only a hundred savage, cyber enhanced predators to delay what was quite likely the cruelest and most violent incarnation of death given form...
There was no hope for escape.
Phantom rushed at the army, and what followed was a never before seen massacre.
"He puts on a good show, doesn't he?" The guest of Clockwork grinned.
Clockwork turned, the screen behind him kept showing what lesser creatures would call a horror show as Dan ended the afterlives of an army.
He wasn't too bothered by the sight; he had already seen many atrocities and he would see many more in the future. Each one different in scale and brutality.
"Leaving already?" The child Clockwork asked the Dan Phantom look-alike.
"Yeah. Time to go introduce myself to my investments," the evil looking ghost said as he changed image.
His outfit turned black with white highlights, blue skin turned into an ethereal tan, flaming hair cooled into a mop in front of his face and his red eyes turned green.
He now looked like an adult version of a heroic Danny Phantom. "What do you think?" He posed heroically.
"That you would receive better reception if you stopped talking to others with their own faces."
The guy shrugged. "The boy has already talked to himself when he used the Ghostcatcher; he talked to his female face with Elle; and to his older evil self in Dan. Talking to what looks like an adult hero version of himself shouldn't be a problem for him."
Older Danny tilted his head. "Everyone else might freak a bit, but I don't care about their opinion."
"Has anyone ever told you how inhuman you can be sometimes?"
"Close relatives, trusted friends and the inmediately departed." Older Danny counted.
He grinned at Adult Clockwork. "Guess which one you are?"
"Considering I'm still here..."
Older Danny laughed. "And they say you have no sense of humor."
He turned to the portal displaying Fentonworks. "See you around, old man." He jumped in and the portal closed.
Clockwork floated in isolation. He approached the Time Viewer, which now showed Dan battling Fright Knight near Pariah's Keep as Ember, Skulker, and Technus watched from a safe distance.
"That's a lot of pieces to keep track of, your majesty," the time master mused. "It is in everyone's best interests that you remember that the pieces are able to move around the board without a guiding hand."
The living room of the Fenton household was filled with silence and comtemplation as the Fenton adults absorbed the extravagant tale.
How long has it been since Maddie broke down and Danny made his confession, an hour? Two hours?
It felt like an eternity as Maddie and Jack heard of their son's many, many near death experiences; all because of their neglect. Their heart broke when they heard that he kept quiet because he was afraid of being experimented on.
An understandable fear, but not one a child should feel from his parents. All their talk of ghosts being vile ectoplasmic manifestations of post human conciousness; their desire to capture a ghost to study it and rip it apart molecule by molecule; all their attempts to get Danny interested in the family business simply pushed him away instead of bringing him closer.
Danny's awkwardness, his aprehension with their inventions, the problems in school; everything really is clearer in hindsight.
They called themselves the world's leading ghosts experts and they couldn't even figure out they're own son was half ghost.
Danny, bless his soul, had no resentment, but that didn't excuse them. They had a lot to make up for now that Danny's double life was out in the open. The question now was: where do they go from here?
A sudden gasp of blue vapor from Danny and Elle gave an answer. Maddie watched in amazement as the teens went on guard, their eyes darted everywhere on watch for danger. Sam had a Wrist Ray, Jazz and Tucker had an ecto pistol, and Danny and Elle changed to their ghost forms.
Seeing her son go from Fenton to Phantom made her realize how blind she was to not have noticed the glaring truth that was always in front of her.
"Who is it?" Maddie asked as she stood from the couch with her own ecto pistol. She recognised what her son called his Ghost Sense.
A portal formed in the doorway leading to the kitchen. The sound of charging weapons filled the air as they took aim.
Someone stepped out of the portal and it vanished instantly.
Everyone stared at the newcomer.
The stranger chuckled.
"It's been awhile since I've had this many weapons pointed at me." The adult Phantom took a bow. "A pleasure to make your aquantice. " He straightened. "You may call me... Rex." He seemed amused at the name; like an inside joke.
Both Maddie and Danny made to step forward to confront the problem, and they looked at each other awkwardly.
"Um, Mom, I think I should handle this."
"Absolutely not! I won't let my boy near a strange ghost!"
"Why not?" Rex Phantom said calmly. "He's been doing it behind your back for years. What difference does it make to do it in front of you?"
Everyone could practically see Maddie's fighting spirit vanish as guilt and shame took its place.
"You bastard." Danny rushed forward. He threw a charged fist at Rex. Only to stop in his tracks at the very last second. "What the heck?" He said in surprise. "I can't move."
"I didn't come here to fight, boy." Rex paid no mind to the fist in front of him. "I come in peace. You're off limits to me anyway."
"What are you talking about?" Danny demanded as he struggled to move but failed.
The adult looking Phantom named Rex glanced around the room and noticed how on edge everyone was. He sighed.
A strange sensation flooded the room. Tension vanished, everyone lowered their weapons, the teen Phantoms turned human.
"What... what was that?" Jazz asked, amazed and worried. If he could affect people's minds, he could be a dangerous enemy.
"The Infinite Realms has many names for this ability," Rex said. "I believe here it is called... what was it again... ah yes, a Haunting Aura."
"A haunting Aura?" Maddie questioned. Apparently the effect and topic of the Haunting Aura brought her back to normal. "We've done research on that. Supposedly it allows ghosts to impose their emotions onto others. It's extremely rare... and extremely dangerous." Maddie narrowed her eyes at the end.
Rex took the accusation in stride. "Now that that's settled... how about you sit down and we have a talk."
Seeing as the ghost seemingly had no ill intentions, everyone sat on the couch.
Almost everyone; Jack, Maddie, Jazz, Danny, Sam and Tucker sat on the couch; Elle leaned against the wall with crossed arms.
She's imitating Dan, Rex noted.
"So what do you want?" Sam, the most vocal of the group, demanded.
Everyone wondered the same thing, but wanted to ask in a way that wouldn't alienate a possible ally.
The less enemies for Danny, the better.
Fortunately, Rex seemed amused.
"First of all," he said, "I apologize for today's troubles. It was necessary that the ghost hunting civil war be brought to an end."
"Civil war?" Jazz questioned.
"Today's troubles?" Danny's eyes glowed. "You mean you're responsible for-"
"Stopping your rant?" Rex finished. "Why, yes; yes I am."
He was unfazed by Danny's angry face and his scary eyes as Vlad called them.
"My time is limited, I would prefer minimum interruptions; better yet, make them non-existent."
"You have to understand," Maddie said before things got worse, "its been an exhausting day. To discover it was actually planned... its... its a bit concerning."
From the looks given, everyone else agreed.
"I suppose it is," Rex said. "I did my best to lower physical and emotional trauma. However, things don't always go as planned."
"Why make it happen in the first place?" Jack demanded. Ever since he sat down, his blaster was aimed at Rex and the hunter's finger never left the trigger.
"I needed a scenario where the reactions to the boy's exposure were... positive."
The words hung in the air like an impending storm.
Jack stood and aimed his blaster. "What do you mean positive reactions? How else were we supposed to react?"
"With contempt," Maddie said with hollow voice, "disbelief, hatred, paranoia..."
She took a breath, trying very hard not to cry. "If we had found out differently... we probably would have thought Phantom had killed our son and was simply pretending to be him."
Jack gripped the blaster so tight it could have snapped in two.
"Moving on," Jazz said. "What did you mean earlier about a civil war?" She wanted to keep her parents' thoughts away from the darker aspects of the secret keeping.
Rex smiled in understanding.
"The civil war refers to the fact that Amity Park's protectors: Danny Phantom, Fentonworks, and the Red Huntress have worked independent of the other, and sometimes interfered in their attempts to protect civilians."
Everyone looked sheepish at that, they knew what he was talking about.
"Now that the secret is out," Rex continued, "Fentonworks and Danny Phantom can work together to fight rogue ghosts and at the same time, improve his image if he's working with the resident ghost hunters."
Everyone seemed to like that idea.
Rex looked at Elle. "And because of your friendship with the Red Huntress, making a truce between her and Danny would be... possible."
Elle gave an amused smile. "You don't think she'll jump at the chance of fighting ghosts with her ex and his team?"
Danny blushed, Sam grit her teeth, and Tucker slumped his shoulders.
"What's the purpose of bringing us together?" Maddie wondered. "Not that I'm ungrateful or anything, but... why go through all that trouble?"
The adult Phantom looked at everyone in the eyes as a sense of peace and calm filled the room.
"A dangerous individual has become interested in you people," he said. "In order to fight this threat effectively, you needed to be on the same page. None of you are capable of defeating this enemy on your own."
"If the enemy had showed up while we still had secrets," jazz spoke up with wide eyes, "they could have used them against us."
"Any ideas who the enemy is?" Danny asked determinedly. No one was attacking his town or his family. Not on his watch. "Or when they might show up?"
"You'll likely fight the soldiers rather than the big boss... as for when or who... its hard to say. You'll just have to be on your toes, I suppose."
Without warning, Rex hunched over, looking violently ill.
Elle was the first to reach him. "Are you okay? What's wrong?"
Rex took labored breaths as they crowded at a distance.
"I'm... fine." He gasped out. "My time here is almost up. I sort of forced myself into this Realm... I can't be here for too long without an Acolyte. I'll be fine, I'm just getting kicked out the door." He tried for a smile but came out as a grimace.
"Just one question," Elle said quickly. "Are you him, are you our benefactor?"
Rex nodded pleasantly. "I am... Don't worry, my departure won't affect your family or anything."
"I don't care about that," Elle said. "I just wanted to thank you for everything you've done for us. Even if it was to further whatever plans you're making or simply on a whim..." Tears edged in her eyes. "Thank you, for giving me the chance to have a family."
"It was my pleasure, Elle." Rex looked at the crowd. "We'll meet again someday... take care." His farewell said, he slowly faded from view.
"Is he gone?" Tucker asked.
Elle paced the vacant spot as she rubbed her eyes. There were no obstacles and her Ghost Sense didn't detect anything.
Though considering what Rex was suppose to really be... she probably wouldn't detect him unless he wanted her to. Still, from what she knew of him thanks to Dan/Neil, Rex probably did get kicked out or he left since he had made his move. Now it was their move.
"Yeah," she finally said. "I think he did leave."
"So that weirdo," Sam said eloquently, "is the person responsible for you and... the other guy becoming a family?"
"And the reason today happened too," Jack added. "I'll admit I'm very ticked off that he did this to us... but at least now there's no more secrets. And protecting the town will be like eating fudge cakes since we won't have to worry about running into each other and getting in trouble."
"Wow." Maddie blinked. "That was very insightful, Jack."
"Ow!" Jack exclaimed. "What was that, honey? I was busy making this needle point." He showed off a quilt that showed everyone (Dan included) in a cool pose, ready to kick evil ghost butt.
"How did he make that so quickly?" Elle asked in astonishment.
"Forget that," Danny said. "How did he make it look so cool?"
"I know right," Sam agreed. "I look awesome!"
Tucker was on his PDA. "This is going on a T-shirt. We'll make millions."
Out of nowhere, Jazz yawned.
"Way to kill the mood, Jazz," Danny complained as he yawned too. "Now I'm tired."
"Me too," Sam said.
"Same here." Tucker rubbed his eyes.
"To be fair," Maddie started. "It has been an exhausting day. I think we could all use a short nap."
Elle stayed on the couch as everyone went upstairs. She slumped on the couch when she was alone.
"Finally," she said with a sigh. "I thought they'd never leave." She lifted a small hand-held device. "Thank you once again... your majesty." The corner of her lip curved in amusement.
She got up and headed towards the lab, turning invisible along the way.
The damaged state of the dark lab made it even more frightening than a pristine one. The only light source was a light bulb over Vlad's cage.
The old man was slumped against the clear wall. The forced separation of his ghost half seemed to be taking its toll. Earlier he spoke in the same superior tone he always had, as if it was all a minor setback.
Now though, in the lonely darkness, he showed his true state. That of a broken and beaten man.
"Come to kick an old man while he's down?" Vlad said to thin air.
Blue sneakers formed in front of him, followed by red jeans, a blue hoodie, a beautiful round face marred by a scowl and glaring blue eyes, finally a raven black ponytail with a red beanie.
"Well, you got the old man part right," Elle said. "As for the kicking... you're not worth it anymore."
"What do you want child?"
"Me? Nothing." She pressed a code on the keypad; the sound of rushing air could be heard.
"My benefactor on the other hand..." She pulled out a small note. "He said there's unfinished business between you."
"What did you-" Vlad put a hand on his chest, it was getting harder to breathe. "What did you do?" He demanded as he fell to his knees gasping for air.
"Don't worry," Elle said calmly. "It's just a little oxygen deprivation. Soon you'll be too sleepy to even notice. Enjoy your nap, it'll be your last."
The fruit loop fell on the ground unconscious. Elle pressed another code and the cell opened with a hiss. She walked in and grabbed him by the collar and dragged him to the computer for closed portal.
As she worked on activating the portal, her ghost side began to bleed over her form.
When the portal opened and bathed the lab in its green glow, Danielle Phantom stood in front of it with a strong posture.
"Time to see our new home," Danielle said as she walked into the portal with Vlad in tow.
Steps echoed across the blood red hall. Portraits of battles, conquests, destruction and deaths decorated the walls. The green swirls outside the windows merely added to the uneasiness.
The Ghost Zone always gave an atmosphere of fear and madness in comparison to the human world, but here, in this castle, where shadows looked like sharp claws reaching out for their next victim or where the wrong turn or step could be your last... that sensation intensified.
Considering its last owner, and the constant voice in the back of one's head that seemed convinced that turning back and never returning was the idea of a lifetime or two...
It was easy to see why most ghosts avoided Pariah's Keep like the plague.
Strangely enough, as terrifying as the castle was now, that simple sensation of fear and madness was about to evolve into soul shattering Horror and Insanity with its new owner.
The steps came to an end. Their owner stood in front of a large set of double doors that tend to come standard in these types of castles. The doors, colored red just like everything else so far, opened with a painful creak.
Someone needs to oil those hinges, the person thought. And paint the walls, get rid of the red; change the color scheme a little bit, and the castle would look a lot better.
The room behind the doors was majestic throne room that was depressingly red. Chandeliers floated above, burning with red fire; torches were mounted on the walls and the large decorated windows let in light and formed intricate shadows.
It was an amazing room.
The throne itself, while awesome looking despite the red, was strangely empty. Apparently the new owner had yet to sit in it.
The observation of the throne revealed the five people near it.
Standing a bit away from the side of the throne, Skulker was easily recognized with his armor and flaming mohawk; Ember Mclain, the sexy diva in black, stood next to the hunter; Technus, in his upgraded form of a black suit and white cloak, was busy with a handheld device.
Strong and dangerous in their own right, together even more so; but the two ghosts in front of the throne were by far the most intimidating.
A tall and muscular knight in black and gray armor with a plume and cape of purple flames; the Fright Knight, Spirit of Halloween.
The other was just as tall and muscular. He was dressed in a black and white caped jumpsuit and had flaming white hair. Dan Phantom, a ghost from a now extinct future, born from the darkest emotions of two former hybrids.
"Took you long enough," Dan said to the new person. "What, did you stay for the waterworks?"
"Plasmius really has been separated," Skulker said. "And his runaway pup is all grown up. She would make excellent prey."
"I think you may want to rethink that," Ember warned. "And since when does Dipstick have twin?"
"Increase power output," Technus muttered. "Gotta ease them into modernism... at the very least I should give them electricity."
"She carries herself like a confident warrior," Fright Knight said, "yet does not give off an arrogant vibe. Apparently she is aware of her limits. If she's anything like the whelp, she might be a worthy foe."
Dan mentally scoffed. His daughter being similar to that weak child other than in looks was the best joke he ever heard.
Except for his weaker self's declaration that he'll put a stop to Dan's non existent plans. That was hilarious no matter how often the older Phantom thought about it.
Vlad was unceremoniously dropped in front of him. Dan gave his daughter a praising look.
"Have you brought the package?" He asked.
Danielle looked indignant. "Of course I got the package," she said as she brought out a pouch. "Who do you think I am, the Box Ghost?"
"I have feelings too, you know!" Said ghost said as he poked his head through a window.
The window was now a smoking hole as a result of the six blasts shot at it.
"Huh," Technus grunted before focusing on his handheld again. "That was familiar."
"How does that worm keep popping up every time he's mentioned?" Skulker complained.
"Hopefully he'll stay out of our hair for a long while now." Ember sighed.
Danielle, unfazed by what just happened, unfurled her pouch to reveal the Crown of Fire and two Skeleton Keys.
The eyes of the non-Phantoms turned as big as saucers.
"My liege," Fright Knight spoke with a tremble. "At the risk of overstepping my boundaries, I must plead that you do not open the Sarcophagus and attempt to obtain the Ring of Rage."
Dan grinned as he held the Crown in his left hand and a Key in his right.
"Calm yourself," he said. "The Sarcophagus is of no use at this time." His right hand turned intangible then glowed green before he plunged it inside his chest. When he removed it, his hand was empty. "Now that that's in a safe place..." He walked over to the throne and place the Crown on top of it.
Invisible ripples rolled away from the Crown and washed over the room; as they passed, the room's colors change from an oppressing red to a stylish white with black highlights. The chandeliers and torches now had green flames and the windows now had DP in its design.
The color changing wave covered the room and seemed to sweep over to the other rooms as well.
"What... what just happened?" Ember blinked.
"That," Dan said, "was me claiming my place as the new Ghost King." He sat on the now white throne with black furnishing; on top of the back of the throne, the Crown of Fire now blazed with white hot fire.
The ghost trio were surprise at the claim.
Fright Knight wasted no time in kneeling at a respectable distance in front of the throne and king.
"My blade is at your command. May your reign last an eternity. All hail Lord Phantom, the new King of Ghosts."
Dan seemed amused by the display. His gaze fell on the other three ghosts.
Skulker was the first to act. He kneeled, though he didn't look happy. "I, Skulker, hereby pledge my abilities to your cause. I shall hunt down all who stand in your way."
Ember meekly followed her boyfriend's actions.
"Um, okay, I, Ember Mclain, pledge my abilities to your cause. I'll use my music to keep your subjects in line and cause chaos to your enemies... I really don't know how this goes, so that's the best I got."
Fright Knight narrowed his eyes at the siren. He didn't appreciate the disrespect in her informality.
Technus kneeled with a flourish. "I, Technus, Master of Science and Technology, shall use my brilliance to further your conquest."
"Excellent," Dan said. He looked at Danielle with a raised eyebrow.
She rolled her eyes and sat on the throne's armrest.
"Don't hold your breath on me kneeling," Danielle told Dan. "We're equals in this family."
"That you are. Which means... that you need a throne of your own."
At arm's length to Dan's right side, a smaller version of the royal throne rose from the ground.
Danielle hopped on the throne with a grin.
"Mmmm," she moaned as she stretched and got comfortable. "Best seat in the house."
"So uh," Skulker started, trying desperately to erase the last few seconds from his memory. "What do we do next?"
The hungry looks he got from the Phantoms made him nervous.
"You and Ember have already gone local with our proposal," Dan said. "And Technus is working on that backwards kingdom not far from here. The answer is obvious, Skulker. Now we... convince the locals that they'll profit from being a part of our group as oppose to being rogues as usual; and then we expand our influence."
"My brother and his family can handle the Human World," Danielle said. "Its up to us to protect the Ghost Zone from whatever is coming after us, and it'll be easier to do that if everyone is on the same page."
"It's not going to be easy," Ember noted. "The only time ghosts actually worked together was during the Ghost King's- I mean during Dark's revival," she corrected after a glare from the Phantoms.
She had to remind herself that while these two might be related to the Dipstick, they were not Dipstick. They were a hundred times more dangerous.
"Not everyone is going to be easy to convince," Ember finished.
"Your job is simply to spread the word," Dan said. "Soon, they'll be begging to be a part of the Empire. Now go. All of you."
The four ghosts nodded and left for their assignments.
Danielle sighed. It had been an exhausting day.
"I met Rex today," she told her father.
"Did you now?" Dan said. "What did he look like?"
"Basically you but with your humanity and old colors."
"I highly doubt there's much humanity in that guy."
"He's not helping us out of the good of his heart is he?"
"No. Not entirely," Dan said. "He's doing it for his entertainment... and because he won't allow the enemy to have control of this Realm."
"Some birthday huh?" Danielle said.
Dan didn't like how she sounded. Her voice had the same vulnerable tone she had when she had first escaped from Vlad.
He placed his hand on her shoulder to get her attention.
"Don't worry," he said. "We'll get through this. And you'll get the best Sweet Sixteen this town has ever seen."
Danielle gave his father a small smile. If he acted like this with anyone else, she knew he would be playing an angle; but he was always sincere with her.
Now if only she could find a way to get him to get along with Danny, then everything would be perfect.
"It doesn't have to be fancy," she said in response to the party. "All I want is for my family to be there... preferably without them trying to kill each other."
Dan kept silent. He knew she was asking for him to play nice with the weakling. While that wasn't going to happen any time soon, he had no problem ignoring the boy.
At least that way he can say he didn't start the trouble; he would simply end it.
"That won't be a problem," he told her. "Just know that I won't pay for any hospital bills if they bother me too much."
Danielle brightened and hugged Dan, almost tackling him off the throne.
"Thank you, thank you, thank you. I promise you won't regret it." She took off towards the door then halted mid-step.
"What is it?" Dan couldn't help the curiosity in his voice.
"I just realized..." Danielle turned with an embarrassed smile. "I don't know where my room is."
Dan blinked. He slowly realized he didn't know either. Not only that, whatever he did know was likely useless due to the remodeling to the castle.
He dragged a hand down his face. This was going to be a long day.
"Well," Dan started as he stood and walked towards her. "Let's get exploring, shall we?"
Danielle looped her arm with Dan's as he passed.
"Yeah. Let's." She couldn't help the smile as they walked out of the room.
When the door closed, Vlad Masters's shadow spread from under him and he slowly sank inside it. The puddle converge on itself like a drain and vanished.
The package had been delivered.