I don't know why I believe I have any form of self-control. I shouldn't be starting another story. I really, really shouldn't. But I ended up being hit by a moment a brilliance and well… another story was born.
As you probably guessed, I don't own "Danny Phantom." If I did, the third season would have been longer and a little less… jumbled. I'd also be rich, but that's not the point. I don't own them, I make no profit from this, and updates will be insanely slow. But I hope you'll enjoy anyway.
Oh, and this is after "Phantom Planet." Which means the secret's out, Vlad is MIA in space, Dani is wandering the world and no longer about to dissolve into goo, Tucker is mayor, Sam finally ended up with Danny, and things are for the most part pretty good. That means it is a perfect time to unleash something horrible to force some team-ups between former enemies, devise a dangerous plan with high risks, and have an underestimated hero show the villain that it isn't wise to ignore an apparently weaker threat. All the fun stuff! I hope you'll like it.
Deep within the Ghost Zone, isolated and out of the way of most specters who might stumble upon it, dwelt one of the more powerful beings in the realm. Some might call him the most powerful, but he knew there were limitations to what he could and could not do. Just like there were limitations to what others could do. The trick was, in the end, figuring out how to use your abilities to do what was needed to overcome those limitations.
The ghost who dwelt in this particular corner of the Ghost Zone, for example, was both empowered and limited by his abilities. Wrapped in his cloak and observing the time stream with his bright red eyes as he shifted between different ages, Clockwork knew exactly what was coming. He knew what was coming in several possible futures. He knew which events would be turning points that could propel them towards a brighter reality or plunge both worlds into utter darkness. He knew which of the untold possibilities were most likely to come to pass without outside influence. Clockwork also knew that almost any of the thousands upon thousands ways he might try to help those involved would end with failure and, in many cases, his own destruction. Watching himself vanish from the timeline in hundreds of different manners was neither pleasant nor encouraging. It was one of the drawbacks of being the Ghost of Time, though.
He could, in theory, go back far enough to stop the coming disaster at the source. He wasn't supposed to interfere with the flow of events directly, but there were always loopholes that he could devise. But that was a more dangerous plan than the others. Not only would there be repercussions that would be difficult to manage properly, often leading to even worse futures if he made even the slightest error with his actions, but it was too easy to be tempted to make other changes. The more he interfered, the easier it became the next time. And Clockwork knew that he could easily become the worst threat to all of reality if he strayed too far down that path. He already could see those timelines where he used his power too freely and became corrupted. His limitations were partially due to his fear of what he could become; the knowledge of what he became in other timelines kept him from seeking out those loopholes and "cheating" that often.
No, the answers for the coming disaster weren't in the past. Nor were they technically in the present. The moment when he would have to act was in the near future. A small action, one that appeared at first to be meaningless, was all that he could risk. It should be enough to push events towards a more positive timeline.
Turning his attention away from the infinite timelines, Clockwork resisted the urge to sigh in frustration. He knew they were coming. He knew what they would undoubtedly say, though there were some variations between the timelines. They thought they knew what the best course of action was, but they could be surprisingly blind. They could see only the current and most probably timeline, not the alternatives or how little it might take to change something. They grew angry when he interfered with what they viewed as someone's free will, yet they would prefer to have a young teenage boy destroyed rather than take the time to ensure he remember there are consequences to his actions and give him the knowledge of what can happen if he loses his way. Second chances were not something that they believed in.
Two humanoid figures with giant eyeballs for heads entered the clock tower that he considered his home. The Observants lacked a proper face to hold an expression with, but he knew they were panicking at least slightly. They had even less freedom than him when it comes to affecting the world. That was why they wanted him to do their dirty work, even when their own knowledge of the timeline was too linear and limited to make such demands.
"He is going to wake up," the first Observant announced, skipping anything close to a greeting. "This cannot be allowed to occur."
"Unfortunately, it must happen," said Clockwork. "He will awaken regardless. It is better for it to occur now, when there are those who can and will combat him, than to postpone it to a time where he will be unhindered."
"You cannot be serious," the second Observant stated in shock. "You are the Ghost of Time. You cannot be so blind as to ignore what will happen if he is allowed free once more. Even if he has faded from memory of almost every other inhabitant of the Ghost Zone, you still remember him and what he is capable of. And if he wakes, it'll make the release of Pariah Dark look like an attack by that strange Box Ghost person."
Smiling knowingly to himself as he shifted from his adult form to child, he remarked, "I find it curious that you keep attempting to inform me of things I am already aware of. I recall both his initial actions before the rise of Pariah and all the timelines where he continued to grow in power instead of being stopped. I also can see the timelines where he awakened sooner than this and destroyed both worlds with ease. Just as clearly, I can see what will come to pass if he is prevented from awakening now. It may buy the Ghost Zone and the Human Realm some time, but it will still lead to their inevitable destruction. Now is the only point where he can awaken and be stopped permanently."
"How?" the first asked. "All we see is his victory. Action must be taken before it is too late. It took you and five of the other most powerful ghosts of that time to combat Pariah in the first place. And he is far worse than Pariah Dark. Do you believe that you can stop him yourself once he awakens?"
"I cannot," he replied, shifting into an old man as bent over and weary with age as he truly felt when the weight of all the timelines began to weigh him down. "I cannot stop him if I should face him directly. At best, I risk my destruction. At worst, I risk my corruption. But I know who can and will attempt to face him."
"Danny Phantom," the two Observants answered in unison, rolling their eyes in a manner than was mildly distracting considering the size of the eyeballs in question.
"We know that you seem rather… fond of the boy," the first Observant said.
"I recognize his potential and the fact that his absence from the timeline would have made it worse in the long run," stated Clockwork firmly. "The Human Realm would be overwhelmed by the more chaotic ghosts, Vlad Plasmius would be still hunting for dangerous elements in the Ghost Zone that should be left well enough alone, and there would be no possibility of cooperation between humans and ghosts. There may not be many who would consider such things, even in the face of destruction, but the boy bridges that gap and opens possibilities. The Human Realm and the Ghost Zone depend upon the other to exist. The better futures are those that have the inhabitants remember that fact." Shifting back to his adult form, he continued, "Once he learns of the danger, he will almost certainly do everything in his power to stop him."
"We know that," the second Observant interrupted. "But he will fail. That is what we've seen."
Slowly, he nodded, "I know he will. I also know he will come to me for advice. That is where the change shall occur."
"What advice could you possibly give that will allow the boy to defeat someone like him? Someone you admit yourself that cannot be stopped by even the Ghost of Time. What could you say to him that will change what is to come?"
"I will tell him what he needs to know. No more and no less."
"Will it be enough?"asked the second Observant. "This is not an issue that should be taken lightly."
As he changed once more into an infant, Clockwork said calmly, "I know that even as a fourteen year old boy given powers he never expected to possess, he always found a way to do the right thing and to never truly accept failure. He will follow the advice because that is who he is."
"But will it be enough?" he repeated.
"If there is anything I know from observing the infinite timelines, it is the fact that even the smallest and most unlikely actions or people can make all the difference. Even when it seems like such an innocent or harmless act or individual, all of reality can shift."
Everyone knew that the Dis-asteroid changed everything, especially the inhabitants of Amity Park. Ghosts saved the world. How is that not supposed to make a difference? Granted, most ghosts were still at least semi-malevolent towards the population, but it was concrete proof that they weren't all completely evil. Of course, there were plenty of people who already believed that once it became clear that Danny Phantom was trying to protect the citizens of the town.
Then, they learned that their ghostly defender wasn't quite as deceased as his opponents. The idea that Danny Phantom, the hero, was also Danny Fenton, the ordinary high school student, shocked everyone. They were stunned by the sheer impossibility of being half ghost and, those closer to him, were shocked that they couldn't figure out the connection sooner. Too many classmates went around the school for weeks, muttering under their breath about how stupid it was not to notice the similar names. Adding in the fact that Vlad Masters, their mayor, was also Vlad Plasmius and another half ghost only increased the confusion.
The loss of their mayor, the reveal of the identity of the town hero, and the near destruction of the entire planet was enough to make things complicated, but there were more changes as everyone tried to adapt. Tucker Foley became mayor even while balancing school. Those who complained about having a teenager in charge were quickly reminded that their last elected official was evil, so almost anyone would be an improvement. One of the first things that the new Mayor Tucker did was to pass a law prohibiting the Guys In White from setting foot within city limits. Even saving the world wasn't enough to completely extinguish the group's desire to drag Danny back to a lab. At least his family was no longer discussing the idea of ripping ghosts apart "molecule by molecule" quite as much. Valerie, while not yet willing to completely surrender her battle suit, kept some distance from Danny. She apparently surrendered her past hatred of Phantom and wanted to make amends for the past, but didn't seem quite ready to properly address that particular tangle of issues head on.
The celebrity status was a nightmare for a time since everyone wanted to see the heroic half ghost who helped save the world. While it was good for tourism, it was an annoyance for the teachers at Casper High School and the Fenton family started waving the Fenton Anti-Creep Stick at gathered crowds whenever they were forced to leave their home. Or, in the case of one individual in the household, turning invisible to escape. Privacy was a rare commodity for the moment. But even the flood of attention was beginning to slowly die down and Amity Park was settling down into a new form of normal.
The biggest change that came from the Dis-asteroid, as far as one individual was concerned, centered on the Goth girl that Danny was currently flying to the park with. Sam Manson was one of his best friends (along with Tucker), one of the first two people to learn about his transformation (again, with Tucker being the second), and someone he'd been in love with longer than either of them realized. She'd faced almost every kind of ghost that tried to pound him into the ground, offering support and assistance alongside Tucker. But while Tucker would always be one of his best and most loyal friends, even with his free time being stolen by his new job title, Sam was special. She wasn't someone he cared about because of her looks or popularity. He cared about her because she was… Sam. And he didn't know how long he might have waited to say anything or to admit it to himself if the Dis-asteroid didn't essentially knock some sense into him. Apparently everyone figured it out before the two of them.
She wasn't what was traditionally considered beautiful; at least that's what the other girls at the school always acted like until she won the beauty contest. Dressed in dark clothes and with black hair, she was surprisingly cheerful at times and merely held an interest in things beyond fashion and makeup. He was a black-haired blue-eyed human and a white-haired green-eyed ghost. Somehow, they fit together beyond the friendship they always held. But even admitting that their feelings weren't completely platonic, the strong bonds they built through that friendship still remained and only served to strengthen their new roles as girlfriend and boyfriend.
"I got a postcard from Danielle the other day," he remarked as the two of them reached their destination near the actual park of Amity Park. "Apparently she's traveling with Wulf of all people. She said she ran into him while exploring one day and he seemed to recognize her."
"She probably smells like you," Sam said. "He's also a good judge of character. So, when do you plan to tell your parents about your 'cousin'?"
Setting her down and changing back to his human form, Danny pointed out, "I wanted to let Mom and Dad get used to the idea of their son being half ghost before I introduce the idea that I have a younger female clone floating around who is also half ghost. You know, spread out the shocking revelations as much as possible."
"Not to mention it'll probably reignite your mom's desire to hunt Vlad down to make him sorry for every single thing he did as Plasmius," she muttered, taking a seat on the bench and indicating she wanted Danny to join her. "None of us really liked the guy, but I think she's going to hold a grudge about everything until the day that Skulker gives up hunting."
"Attacking your son and trying to repeatedly kill your husband apparently does that to a woman. I'm glad he's gone and out of all our lives. The only one who seems to hate him even more than her right now is Valerie. And maybe Dad."
Leaning closer to him, Sam added, "It certainly makes it easier to have him not making a mess of things or working on another plan. Sure, ghosts still show up and everything. But he isn't sending them after you or unleashing King Pariah again because he wanted power from a ring and crown or anything like that anymore."
"It does make things easier," he smiled, "for us to be alone together."
"I am the Box Ghost!" a voice interrupted, causing the two humans to roll their eyes in annoyance. "Beware!"
Just as they expected, a bluish figure was floating above them. Dressed in overalls and holding his hands above his head, the Box Ghost glared at them menacingly. Or at least, as menacingly as he could manage. The only time he could actually pull off the intimidation thing was when he stole Pandora's Box, an action he'd been thoroughly discouraged from ever repeating. For the most part, he was considered one of the most harmless and annoying ghosts Danny had ever dealt with. And he just didn't know when to give up.
"Really? Is the universe that desperate to keep us from being alone together?" Danny muttered, standing up.
"Do not allow our past encounters to lull you into a false sense of security," the ghost stated, practically shouting as he floated in midair. "I have made it my goal to become even more terrifying and awe-inspiring than I was in our previous battles. It is only natural that you tremble in fear of the corrugated cardboard doom that awaits you."
"You do realize you're interrupting our date," Sam glared at the specter without even a hint of the requested fear. "Do you know how hard it is to be completely alone when there are reporters just itching for a chance to snap the next front page photo of Danny? While the attention is great for encouraging people to buy eco-friendly cars and to go vegetarian, it isn't great when I want to just spend time with my boyfriend." She stood up and continued, "You have two choices. Go away and leave us alone or get sucked in the Fenton Thermos and stay in there for a week before being tossed back into the Ghost Zone. Either way, you're going to stop bothering us now."
Danny rather enjoyed the look of confusion, shock, and mild terror that spread across the Box Ghost's face at Sam's calm yet angry statement. She didn't usually let her temper flare up this quickly or strongly, but this was actually their third attempt that week at getting to be alone together that had been interrupted by someone. And it was only Tuesday.
Quietly, the specter mumbled, "Sorry. I didn't know you were on a date. I actually won the bet about when you'd get together."
"There was a bet?" Danny couldn't help himself from asking.
Regaining his previous volume, the Box Ghost announced, "Yes! Almost all of your past opponents who witnessed your behavior came together and discussed the length of time it would take for your infatuation to reach the point where denial became impossible. Eventually, we contemplated your interactions and estimated what we each believed would be required for you to end up together. I was the one who was correct when I declared it would occur when the entire Human Realm was in danger of being destroyed, such as what happened with the asteroid."
"Our love life was the gossip for the Ghost Zone," sighed Sam as Danny smacked his forehead. "It is official. Everyone figured it out first."
"At one point, Skulker considered trying to give you advice to speed up the process so that he might win the bet before he succeeded in his efforts to 'strike you down and lay your pelt across the foot of his bed.' But since that would be cheating, the other ghosts threatened him if he should try," continued the Box Ghost.
"Dating advice from Skulker?" she said, raising an eyebrow.
"He's dating Ember McLain," the specter added helpfully. "He has to be doing something right." Looking mildly embarrassed, he muttered, "I can't even talk to the Lunch Lady."
Remembering one of the ghosts from the future he'd met, Danny flinched involuntarily and groaned, "Okay, that is still 'ew'."
"Are we seriously having this discussion?" moaned Sam. "Look, I know you have this issue with realizing that no one with any sense is scared of you and you seem to believe that ordinary boxes can be dangerous, but I think we're done for the day. Box Ghost, get out of here now or else I'll demonstrate why interrupting our date is a bad idea. Got it?"
Hesitating for a moment, the ghost glanced between the girl and the halfa who couldn't even bother to transform from his human form. The harmless villain looked briefly discouraged by her words and complete lack of fear. But that expression swiftly vanished as he threw his hands above his head again.
"Beware!" he shouted before flying away.
"Remind me to beat him up extra hard next time I run into him," Danny grinned evilly.
"No problem," she smiled, pulling her boyfriend back down on the bench.
The Ghost Zone was not for the faint of heart. It was a dangerous place if one was not careful. Natural portals that could connect to any time or place were scattered throughout and tiny pieces of solid land floated through the strange location. Some landmarks scattered through the dark dimension could be deadly and unpleasant to encounter. Others could simply be considered home to ghosts that could prove to be territorial or violent, the landscape shaping itself to reflect the will and desires of the most strong-willed inhabitants. The dimension, sharing a symbiotic connection to the Human Realm, was composed of variations of ectoplasm and thus was the ultimate source of all ghosts.
Ghosts weren't necessarily the souls of the dead, though the loss of human life could certainly spark their creation. One definition used to describe them was an "odd manifestation of ectoplasmic energy and post-human consciousness," but that was only one form and one way that they could come into existence. There was more variety to the inhabitants of the Ghost Zone than that.
Some ghosts were spontaneous creatures that emerged from the ectoplasm or were given form by other specters. Those tended to be the least human-like and often the least intelligent, though there were exceptions. Skulker, after all, was not the spirit of a living hunter, but a small green ghost who developed a battle suit to appear more humanoid and yet was as intelligent as any other specter. Given time, they could become smarter and grow more complex. Many, though, would remain as creatures that obeyed orders or acted on instinct rather than having a developed personality and mind.
Other times, a death of a particularly strong-willed person or one with strong emotions connected to the event would leave an echo of that person to form in the Ghost Zone, providing a template for their appearance, personality, and even occasionally memories. A ghost called Sidney Poindexter, for example, retained almost every memory of the human who once suffered so much bullying during his life and even managed to recreate the familiar school and inhabitants due to the strong emotions surrounding his demise. These ghosts were the closest to what was considered a "traditional" ghost. They weren't quite the souls of the deceased, but they were close enough for most people's definition.
The third type of ghosts was also spontaneous creatures that form from the ectoplasm of the Ghost Zone, but were the result of human belief rather than by mere chance. Belief, like strong emotions and will power can leave echoes behind that are felt though the same bond that connects the Human Realm and Ghost Zone. Myths, legends, and folk stories that are told enough generate belief and can cause ghosts to take those forms. This can range from the creation of werewolf ghosts to Pandora of Greek mythology to anthromorphic personifications of complex subjects such as time, nature, and sleep.
One such ghost was now traveling to a particularly dark and deserted corner of the Ghost Zone, fulfilling his final deal with Vlad Plasmius. The Fright Knight, the spirit of Halloween and the embodiment of the fear that it can generate, was searching for a long-forgotten and very powerful entity. He'd been looking for him for quite some time. Possession of the Crown of Flames was useless without the ring and no one was willing to risk freeing King Pariah once more, so an alternative would have to be found. There were few ghosts that could be considered his equal in power, so there were few places where he couldn't search for an artifact that could be forced to work with the crown. He'd already tried every other location or ghost that might have something they could use with the Crown of Fire. Now he was left with no other option. He guided his steed, a nightmarish beast of flames and darkness, to a place that others feared to tread.
It was dark, far darker than any other corner of the Ghost Zone. The only source of light was the purple flames that came from the black-armored knight. The green glow that could be found anywhere else in the dimension was absent. No one should ever come to this place and the Fright Knight knew it. He was old enough to recall what happened. It was from before King Pariah rose to power. He could remember what lurked in the darkness and even he feared what would occur if the past repeated.
Moving further into the darkness cautiously, he watched for any hint of land floating in the shadowy area. If there were any artifacts of power hidden here, he would find them. He just hoped to remain undetected as he searched. After all, almost any ghost as powerful as the one that dwelled in this dark place would have to possess something strong enough to work with the crown and they could unleash its potential once more.
Working with Vlad for now, the Fright Knight knew he would be able to conquer the human world and take it as his own. He knew of the man's setbacks concerning the asteroid and hadn't heard from him since, but the Fright Knight held no doubts that he would return eventually and seek a way to recover from those failures. And that was what the ghost was counting on. The man might be powerful, but he would be easier to seize power from than it would be from King Pariah. Cooperation now would mean a simpler victory later. The hunt for power would be Vlad Plasmius' undoing. A single slash of his blade would send the halfa into an eternal nightmarish reality and the Fright Knight would be left to rule.
A small glimmer in the dark captured his attention. The light from the purple flames on his head seemed to be reflecting off something. And objects of power tended to be at least somewhat shiny. Since there were no other landmarks in sight and he didn't have any other ideas of where to look, he moved toward the glint of reflected light.
As Danny came down the stairs into the basement, he caught sight of his parents drawing up blueprints. Some things never changed and their obsession with ghost hunting and creating inventions to assist in their hunting remained just as strong as ever. They simply excluded the idea of adding "Danny Phantom" to their list of targets now. The Ghost Portal was rebuilt, the equipment from Vlad's home that wasn't taken into the custody of the Guys In White were collected, and new designs were drawn. But what else could he expect? At least he managed to convince his dad that they didn't have to do all ghost hunting together. Not to mention he could always use a few new tools when it came to fighting ghosts.
"What are you working on?" he asked, glancing at the design.
Wrapping an arm around his son with a wide grin on his face, Jack Fenton happily answered, "You'll love this. We've been studying the molecular properties of ectoplasm and how it manages to mimic and interact with normal matter. And considering that ghosts are made of the stuff, we're finding plenty of practical uses for that knowledge."
"For example, we have theorized that it would be possible to disrupt the process that allows ghosts to manifest and destabilize it enough to return the ectoplasm into the natural state of unspecialized goo," continued Maddie Fenton, equally excited about what they were designing. "It would take some time, but it might be possible to create a devise that could do that to every ghost within range."
"I'm calling it the 'Fenton Ghost Disruption Bomb.' Takes out anything made of ectoplasm without causing any other damage. What do you think?" Jack asked excitedly.
Danny took a calming breath as he stared at his jumpsuit-wearing parents. While he was beyond happy that they handled the news of him being half ghost so well and didn't treat their son different because of it, they did still have trouble seeming to remember how their comments might sound to someone who wasn't completely human. Even after allowing them a few (non-painful) experiments to satisfy their curiosity. And while his grades would never be the best, he'd been deciphering ghost gibberish from them his whole life and could decode it into plain English when necessary.
"Guys, I love you and everything, but I'm honestly not excited about you designing an explosion. Let alone one that will pretty much rip apart any ghost 'molecule by molecule' and dissolve them into a puddle of goo," the boy remarked casually. "I've seen what that looks like and it isn't very pretty. And I'm not eager for an encore."
It took only an instant for the pair to go from excited scientists to ashamed parents. He didn't want to make them feel guilty about everything, but it was bad enough watching Vlad's collection of clones degenerate into ectoplasm and Dani almost sharing that fate. He didn't have a problem trapping ghosts and tossing them back into the Ghost Zone. Destroying them wasn't something he was eager to do, though. Great power, great responsibility, and great amounts of guilt if he started going down a darker road.
"I guess that one will have to go on the backburner for awhile then," Jack said uncomfortably.
"But we can at least continue the research into ectoplasm," his wife commented, trying to cheer him up. "I'm sure there are plenty of other applications for this information."
"Yeah," he shrugged before turning his attention back towards his son. "So, did you and Sam have a good time?"
Smiling slightly, he answered, "We did. At least, we did once we got rid of an annoying pest."
The glimmer he'd seen appeared to be golden orb, the size of a pumpkin, which was floating in the middle of the suffocating darkness. The Fright Knight studied the shape carefully. There were no symbols, engravings, or other hints of what the purpose might be. While he could recall the days before Pariah Dark took over as king, he didn't witness or know all that occurred during that time. He didn't remember any stories about a golden orb. But he could feel power radiating from it, more than enough power to be of use. Surely there would be a way to use the object with the Crown of Fire in order to assure success.
For a moment, something deep inside the specter shrieked at him not to touch it. Common sense, the ability to identify who the best ally in a situation might be, and several surprising defeats seemed to have banded together in his mind to warn him away from this action. Perhaps risking the wrath of King Pariah would be wiser and safer. Even the certainty of awakening him might be better than the mere possibility of rousing what dwelt in this dark place.
Then, shoving away those doubts, the Fright Knight reached out towards the object. It was just a harmless golden orb. He was a powerful ghost, the very spirit of Halloween. Fear was something that he caused others, not something he experienced himself. Nothing and no one could stand in his way. He would claim the artifact as his own, take it back and present it to Vlad so they could use it to unlock the power of the Crown of Fire, and take over and rule.
As soon as his hand touched the sphere, it shattered into dust and the darkness around him seemed to deepen. His steed began to panic and struggle under his control, but the Fright Knight knew it was already too late.
In front of him, deep in the incredible blackness that surrounded him, a giant pair of red eyes opened and saw him.
In the frozen wastelands of the Ghost Zone, where the yetis made their home and the Infi-map was kept safe, it was peaceful. Not all parts of the dimension were chaotic and malevolent. And not all inhabitants of the Ghost Zone considered Danny Phantom to be an enemy. Frostbite and his people considered "the Great One" to be a hero for his defeat of Pariah Dark and would always welcome him.
But the general peace was shattered as Frostbite felt it. He'd never experienced anything like it before, but he'd heard stories. And as he saw every other yeti in sight react in the same way, he knew he was right.
In his clock tower, even with the knowledge that it was coming, Clockwork shivered slightly as he felt it.
Nicolai Technus, Master of Technology, was relaxing in his particular piece of the Ghost Zone. Part of his territory resembled a high-tech lab similar to the one that he might have possessed in life. Or at least, in the life of the human Technus whose death caused the formation of the ghost one. Either way, he was proud of his lab and enjoyed spending time there when he wasn't attacking the human world with technology.
Then it hit him, suddenly and unexplainably. Every piece of technology held in midair by his power crashed to the ground as he lost his concentration. While he might have no proof of it, he knew what he felt was only the beginning.
"I hope you do better on our next date, dipstick," muttered Ember McLain darkly as she glared at her likely-to-soon-be-ex-boyfriend. "Because, as fascinating as it is to watch you blow up cardboard cutouts of Danny Phantom, I generally have different ideas of how to have a good time."
The large, mechanical figure with flaming green hair glared briefly at the diva with the blue flaming hair and a guitar. Their relationship was practically the definition of volatile. The only reason they even became boyfriend and girlfriend in the first place was because they ended up stuck in the Fenton Thermos together over a weekend.
"You'll change your tune once the Ghost Child's pelt is draped across my bed and I give you his decapitated head as gift," Skulker stated.
Before she could comment on the unlikelihood of that ever coming to pass, she felt it and almost staggered to the ground. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Skulker grimacing and clutching the side of his head.
"You feel that?" she asked, almost certain of the answer.
Hesitantly, he nodded, "Do you know what it means?"
"I heard rumors," Ember said. "What do we do?"
While they weren't the most affectionate couple in the Ghost Zone, he wrapped an arm around her shoulders comfortingly. He didn't, however, answer.
Two figures were sleeping in a cave. While they occupied the human world, neither one was completely human. The larger one was furry and wolf-like. The smallest of the pair, leaning against her companion as she slept, appeared to be a black-haired girl of approximately twelve years of age. While the more animalistic-appearing figure was a ghost who could tear portals between the Human Realm and the Ghost Zone, the girl was the greater oddity. She was a clone, far younger than she looked, and a halfa.
Their sound sleep was shattered as they felt it, even through the barrier between the two dimensions. It sent the larger wolf-like figure into attack mode, snarling and looking for the threat, and the girl awoke screaming.
His fur still raised, he managed to mutter something his companion didn't understand. The language barrier was a slight issue for the traveling companions, but he understand her and she was working on teaching him English slowly and could guess meanings the rest of the time.
"I'm fine, Wulf," she assured him. "What was that?"
"Danĝero," he told her, the word close enough in his language for her to understand.
"Danger, huh?" she shivered. "I guessed that much."
Trying to shake off the remnants of his darker mood at the proof that even powerless, normal humans didn't fear him, the Box Ghost lurked around a warehouse packed with various boxes. While the selection wasn't as impressive in his opinion as his collection in the Ghost Zone, he did enjoy the various boxes that were just waiting for him to examine closer. At the moment, there were no humans around to witness the numerous cardboard containers floating in midair, but that also meant he didn't have to find out if they would actually fear him or simply tell him to leave too.
Then he felt it and every box fell to the ground at once as he released a short scream. He couldn't believe it and hoped for a second that he was mistaken, though he knew better than that. And while he felt mildly safer with the knowledge he was in the human world instead of the Ghost Zone, he knew that wouldn't protect him for long.
The loss of Vlad Masters made the ownership of Axion Labs very uncertain for a time. But after examining several lesser-known bylaws concerning the labs (and being very surprised to learn that there was an established procedure of what to do when the owner of the company turned out to be a ghost), it was determined that Dr. Damon Gray was the most qualified to take control and that there wasn't anything in place that could dispute that decision. He also took possession of a cat that apparently went by the name of "Maddie," but that was only because someone had to. And while he tried to discourage his daughter, Valerie, from taking part in too many dangerous battles with ghosts, he wasn't above using the research and technology from the labs to ensure she was safe whenever she did go against his wishes.
So he kept an eye on the information sent back by the probe that was launched into the Ghost Zone during that time where all of Amity Park was pulled into the dimension by an entity called King Pariah. What he wasn't prepared for, however, was when the nearly steady flood of information transmitted across the barrier abruptly spiked and set off numerous alarms. Then, all transmissions ceased as the probe apparently overloaded completely. Dr. Gray stared at the screen for several seconds, a sense of foreboding beginning to rise as he wondered what could have caused that reaction.
Danny, about to share his and Sam's short encounter with the Box Ghost, abruptly felt something that sent him stumbling and caused his parents to look at him with alarm. Some of it was like his ghost sense and he could even see his breath, but it was like his ghost sense was on overdrive and there was an icy chunk where his heart should be. But there was more to it than that. It reminded him of being punched in the gut, so sudden and overwhelming that it took his breath away. He was hit with waves of fear, horror, dread, terror, and undeniable knowledge that he couldn't escape. There was nothing physical about what he felt. It was all emotions and concepts that blocked out momentarily the rest of the world around him, his parents worried questions barely reaching him through the haze of shock and panic. He could feel it all the way down to his core. Something horrible was coming. Something that couldn't be stopped, couldn't be contained, and couldn't be defeated.
Almost as quickly as it hit him, the feelings and sensations faded. Not completely, though. There was still a sense of doom that tickled at the back of his mind, but it no longer felt like it was trying to knock him off his feet.
"Danny, are you all right?" his mom said, something in her concerned voice telling him that she'd asked that question several times already. "What happened?"
Shakily, he replied, "I don't know. But something bad either just happened or is about to."
Far from home, alone and unloved, he pondered what to do with the remainder of his existence. His surroundings, while beautiful with all the stars glowing in the darkness, only served to remind him of how much he'd lost in his hunt for more. Greed, pride, lust, envy, wrath, and every other vice he possessed lead him to this path and now he had nothing and no one in his life. The silence and isolation was enough to drive a man mad. Or to let him recover his sanity enough to recognize what he gave up in his quest for a love he could never truly have. Wouldn't it have been better to have something rather than nothing?
It hit him, even this far away from everything else. His interest in powerful artifacts meant he knew even the stories that were rarely remembered. He knew what he felt and he could guess what it meant.
The question, however, was did he care? Out in the middle of nowhere, he was in no danger. For once, his self-caused banishment was a good thing. There was no threat to him and there was nothing left he could lose. Right?
Shivering slightly as he tried to shrug off the sensations he'd just experienced, he turned his bright red eyes towards the infinite stars above him as if he expected them to spell out the answers he needed.
The Fright Knight felt it as the red eyes opened and knew he'd awakened the last being that he'd ever hoped to see. Fear as he'd never experienced before wrapped around the specter as he met the red-eyed gaze. He raised his blade defiantly, refusing to surrender without a fight. His bat-winged horse still fought for control as it tried to flee, but the ghost still possessed enough pride that he would rather face his death than try escaping someone he couldn't.
Death was not something easily experienced by ghosts. Those who were echoes of once mortal creatures knew the sensation, but the others could only imagine. Aging was a tricky business in the Ghost Zone and injuries healed far quicker and easier than those experienced by humans. But it was still something that could occur in the right circumstances, just as permanent injuries could be obtained.
Black tendrils burst out of the darkness and stabbed at Fright Knight and his steed, ignoring his attempts to fight them off by slicing at them with his blade. While the sword held the potential to banish victims to a dimension crafted from their worst fears, pure spectral strength can overcome more specialized powers. The black tendrils struck true and a flash of dark energy erupted from within the ghost once known as the spirit of Halloween. Both the Fright Knight and his winged horse were destroyed, breaking apart into pure ectoplasm that dissolved away into the rest of the Ghost Zone.
Bored already with his efforts and dismissing his short-lived opponent, the red eyes turned their gaze away and began to search for something more interesting. It was time to wake up and see what had changed, after all.
So, we have a quick look at the hero of the story, a vague glimpse of the villain, and a lot of ghosts freaking out because "he" woke up. Not to mention the demise of the Fright Knight in the first chapter. How's that for a tough bad guy? I'll be sure to reveal more about him later. In the mean time, let me know what you think. This is, after all, my first "Danny Phantom" story. I might not update quickly, but I still want to do a good job with it. Besides, feedback is always a good motivator and I enjoy hearing your thoughts and predictions. Thanks.