A Tale of Ghosts and Ice
Hiddey-Ho, everyone! Here's the next installment. I own nothing!
Chapter 3: Murphy's Law, in Action
Arendelle Castle Ballroom
Danny just couldn't believe absurdity of his situation. The thought that he just had a casual conversation with a crowned princess barely a half-hour ago practically floored him.
'This is just my luck. I meet the one cute girl who doesn't automatically turn her nose up in the air upon meeting me, and she just so happens to be leagues above me in social status. I should've known that it was all too good to be true.' Danny groused within his mind. 'But then again, why didn't she tell me that she was a princess when we first met? Why would she keep her identity a secret?'
"Hailing from Vennskapal," spoke the stout gentleman, snapping the teen out of his thoughts, "I present Jackson Fenton, Madeline Fenton, and Daniel Fenton."
The king smiled kindly at the family. "My honored guests, welcome to Arendelle. Allow me to be the first to thank you for taking time out of your lives and making the arduous trip to our kingdom to present your latest invention."
"Aw, shucks, K-dah, I mean, the pleasure is all ours, Your Grace." Jack stammered, catching himself before he unintentionally offended the king by his casual demeanor. "Your Royal Majesties, members of the council, death is a constant in life that we cannot avoid. It doesn't matter if you're wealthy lord, or a poor pauper; sooner or later, everyone will eventually die. Even though a vast majority of us have accepted this truth, we still can't help but worry about what awaits us in the afterlife, and just when we're going to die. This uncertain aspect of life can cause several inconveniences for everyone in the world, as well as untold amounts of grief whenever a family member or friend unexpectedly dies. Many have tried to find ways to cope with this stressful topic, but there's always the chance that some people will spend much of their life stressing about their inevitable demise, or never fully recover from experiencing such a horrific tragedy. But today, we offer a more fulfilling way to overcome the pain and anguish that comes with death, and to obtain a sense of ease in life."
Jack then walked over to the machine with the tarpaulin draped over it, while Maddie and Danny moved to the control panel that was connected to said machine by a long collection of thick wires. Grabbing a good portion of the large cloth, he turned his attention back to his audience. "Ladies and gentlemen, it is my honor to present to you: the Fenton Ghost Portal!" With a hard yank, he pulled the entire tarpaulin off in an extravagant flourish, revealing the massive machine to everyone's awe (and at least one person's disgust).
"After years of research and experiments, my wife and I have discovered a way to artificially create a functioning connection between the realms of the living and dead. In short, this prototype can allow a person to actually make contact with the deceased."
"Make contact with the deceased? Why would someone in their right mind want anything to do with such nonsense?" interrupted one of the robbed figures standing by the king and princess. He was a balding man that looked to be in his mid-fifties, and had a disgusted grimace etched on his face. A monocle was in position over his left eye, and he wore a silver medallion that dangled over his red robes from a black ribbon. Stamped on the center of the circular metal was yellow crocus, showing his position as a member of the royal advisory council. In his hand was a thick wooden cane, which was undoubtedly used to help the man walk.
The rest of the council didn't appreciate their fellow advisor's outburst, as the remaining five of them all shot disapproving looks at the elder man. The glare that the king gave the interrupter, however, looked downright dangerous, making the latter realize that he was on very thin ice and that it would be in his best interest to keep his mouth shut.
"I believe what Lord Ignacius was trying to ask is what will mankind gain from using technology designed to communicate with the deceased?" spoke another robed figure, whose medallion was on a yellow ribbon. This man's head shaved like a monk, and his body was of a heavier build than all the other advisors.
Without missing a beat, Jack enthusiastically continued with his explanation. "I'm glad that you brought that up, Lord…"
"Lord Lysander, advisor of public relations." answered the man.
"Right, thank you. As I was about to say, Lord Lysander, the possibilities that our invention can offer to the world are limitless. The Ghost Portal affords humanity the chance to finally solve mystery of what happens to our souls once we pass on. The debate that has sparked conflicts and bloody wars among the world's many religions can now be settled once and for all. The answers that the portal can provide will form the foundation for a more peaceful coexistence, regardless of a person's cultural background. Furthermore, our machine can also be used in more significant applications. Murder victims can provide concrete evidence in trials to ensure that the culprit is rightfully punished. Politicians and leaders can contact their deceased predecessors for counsel on troubling matters. Historians will be able to write accurate records about key figures and events from the past through something as simple as an interview. This technology can even be used for more personal matters, like providing someone the chance to say one last goodbye to a loved one who had died unexpectedly." The council began to murmur amongst themselves in light of Jack's proposal, and even the king began to look at the portal in a new light. Danny noticed that the princess' eyes were practically sparkling with wonder at the portal's potential. The only one that seemed completely unimpressed with his father's words was Lord Ignacius.
"But, like the old saying goes, actions speak louder than words. Let's get right to the main reason why all of you are here: the actual demonstration." Maddie walked towards the portal to help her husband start the machine, while Danny went to grab a box by the control panel. "Our son is going to distribute protective eye googles among all of you while the machine is being prepped. The initial flash that the portal creates when it's first activated can be harmful to a person's eyesight."
As Jack went to help his wife with the preparations, Danny approached the council with a small box under his arm. One by one, he handed a pair of goggles to each member of the council until he finally got to the princess. He lingered a second when he gave Elsa her pair, the two teens blushing when they felt their hands touch. He wanted to say something to the princess, but the fact that her father was in proximity made him hesitant in trying to start a conversation with her. Instead, they shared a brief yet timid smile before Danny was called back by his mother to help with the preparations.
Once he made sure that everything was connected, Jack turned his attention back to the gathered audience. "If everyone could please put on their googles, we are about to activate the portal shortly." He then turned back to his family as the audience obliged with his request, with Danny positioned at the right side of the outer frame, and Maddie stationed at the ready on the left. Both had their googles on and were standing by three pairs of switches that stretched across the length of the portal. "Alright, you two, just like we discussed. Throw the first switch!"
Mother and son pulled their respective switches, opening the circuits that connected the power source to the power generators. With a low hum that gradually grew louder, the generators' turbines spun faster and faster, creating the necessary electrical charge needed to activate the ion plasma generators that were located near the back of the portal's outer frame.
"Power output at 13%...25%...33%! Okay, move onto the second series!" Danny and his mother quickly dashed to the pair of switches that were situated in the middle of the outer frame, and waited for Jack's signal. "On my mark! 3…2…1…now!" As one, the duo pulled the second set of switches, making the electrical hum increase in volume. The middle section's plasma ion generators sparked to life, intensifying the violet glow that had started to fill the room. They pair then jogged towards the portal's opening to examine the instruments that were stationed there.
"Ecto-filtrator is functioning at full capacity!"
"Electric converter output at 100% with no fluctuations!"
"Power output has risen to 66%! This is it, you two! Throw the final pair of switches now!" Jack hollered over the loud thrumming noise that the portal was making. Like the previous two times, the mother-son pair pulled the last set of switches in one instant, which turned on the last of the plasma ion generators. The noise was now even louder as the ectoplasmic energy generators were fully activated, and a bright green glow began to form at the deepest interior of the portal. With their tasks completed, the duo dashed over to the control panel resting on the podium. Jack moved to the portal's far right to make room for his wife, who took her position at the far left.
"Power output at 100%! Preparing the final circuit" declared Jack. Nodding to Maddie, the two adults pulled out two matching metal keys and inserted them into the key holes that were located on the far sides of the control panel. "Initiating the formation of the ectoplasmic field in 5…4…3…2…1!" In one swift motion, Jack turned his key to the left while Maddie turned hers to the right. As a result, the noise instantly began to increase in volume to the degree that several of the room's occupants had covered their ears. The green light that started off as a dim flicker near the end of the inner chamber began to glow brighter and started to expand out towards the chamber's opening. By now, the green light took on the appearance of pulsating energy; to a few members of the audience, it looked as if it was some kind of miasma that witches and wizards supposedly used to cast their spells. Just as it looked like the writhing green light was about to reach the portal's opening, something went wrong.
From amidst all the loud noise, a loud SNAP!was heardby everyone. A scant few seconds later, the green energy's luster began to dull and flicker. Before anyone could guess as to what was happening, the foreign emerald energy receded back into the inner chamber before it finally faded out. The entire room fell silent save for the portal's loud humming and the buzzing from the plasma ion generators, the latter of which were still burning bright violet. Danny suddenly felt highly aware of the numerous sets of eyes that were focused on him and his family; the sound of confused murmuring and googles being removed only worsened the uneasy sensation. With all his experience of having people stare at him with disappointed and scrutinizing looks throughout his life, the young teen had practically developed a sixth sense whenever he was the subject of such stares. It was a feeling that he always hated, and always made him extremely nervous; it was as if he was trapped in a cauldron filled with water that was being held over a large open fire. And from the look of his parents' faces as they frantically tried to locate the source of the machine's malfunction, Danny could tell that they were feeling the pressure of the situation, too.
"Jack, what's wrong? Why did the portal abort the ectoplasmic field formation process?" asked Maddie in a tense whisper.
The look on Jack's visage spoke of how stressed he was quickly becoming. "I don't know! Everything checked out from my end! The readouts I got from the panel showed that the machine was functioning at 100% efficiency. Are you sure that there was nothing wrong with any of the gauges on the portal?'
"Yes, but I-"
"I believe that we've all seen enough, Your Grace." interjected someone from behind them. Turning to where they heard the voice, the family saw that it was none other than Lord Ignacius. The elder man was staring at the Fenton trio with poorly hidden smugness at their supposed failure, his attitude similar to that of a demented child that took pleasure in torturing insects. After taking a few more seconds to commit the disheartened looks on their faces to his memory, he turned to face the king with a more "professional" attitude. "If I may be so bold in saying this, Your Grace, but it appears that these blundering fools have wasted our precious time. Not only is the main subject of their research based on a ludicrous idea, but their machine has broken down before it could even be turned on. This is most unbefitting of any respectful scientist, and they have dishonored you with this ill-prepared and poorly built invention."
"OR the portal's failure could be the result of technical difficulties caused by the untimely breakdown of a single part, specifically one of the hairline fuses." Danny instantly wished that he'd kept his mouth shut when his parents, the king, the princess, and everyone's eyes zeroed in on him. Regardless of the fact that he had a bad habit of losing his cool in stressful situations, he knew that he couldn't just back down now after he'd spoke up. Slipping off his own googles, he bravely looked King Agnarr in the eye, his facial expression unwavering and determined. "That is to say, sir-I mean, Your Majesty, is that the reason behind the portal's premature shutdown could be the result of one of the inner chamber's hairline fuses breaking." The teen turned to his parents, hoping that they would catch on to his attempt to save face with the king. "I heard a loud snapping sound coming from inside the portal, and I'm pretty sure that I saw a brief flash before the machine began to power down. If a hairline fuse burn-out is what's causing the problem, then it can eas-"
"Do not waste our time with your nonsense, boy." Ignacius pompously cut in. "There's no use in trying to make excuses for the incompetency displayed by your parents. You're only disgracing them even further by trying to pass off your pitiful defense as a reasonable explanation for your current quandary."
Danny glared angrily at the elderly man. The pretentious old fart's condescending words directed towards him didn't bother that much, but the young Fenton refused to let anyone get away with trying to humiliate his parents. "Now wait just a second, you decr- "
"I find it rather peculiar, Lord Ignacius," interjected a female advisor, "that you are so quick to deem this demonstration an outright failure. It's even more peculiar that you, the Royal Cultural Advisor, have somehow become such a knowledgeable expert on the Fentons' machine that you automatically know that the young man's solution holds no merit." The woman had red hair that was starting to gray, but her hazel eyes showed that they hadn't lost their sharpness with her age, even with the pair of crescent shaped glasses that were positioned in front of them. She, too, wore a Royal Advisor medallion over her red robes, except the ribbon was colored a shade of forest green.
Ignacius' expression soured at having one of his fellow advisors speak to him in such a manner, but his tone didn't waver. "I do not mean to presume my proficiency in scientific matters, Lady Eva. I simply beli-"
"Considering that you're out of your element regarding this experiment, your hastily-made judgment is completely unfounded, and should be treated as nothing more than a biased opinion." continued the now-identified Eva.
By now, the cultural advisor's face was turning an angry red. "Be that as it may, this poorly planned display is an insult to the crown. We should not have to endure such blatant ineptitude when our attention can be focused on more important matters!"
"What you are forgetting, Lord Ignacius, is that we do not live in a world of absolutes. Even the most thoroughly developed plans can still go awry without warning. A person's intelligence is not determined solely by how well they present their discoveries, it is also demonstrated by said person's ability to adapt to any given situation."
"Bah! What would someone like you k-"
"SILENCE!" King Agnarr's angry voice echoed throughout the ballroom, drawing everybody's attention to him. The monarch's burning gaze focused solely on the most outspoken advisor in the room with great ferocity. "I grow weary of your constant interference, Ignacius. You speak of how our guests have wasted our time, when it is you who is guilty of that wrongdoing. Your behavior has been outright deplorable and is something that I'd expect to see in an insolent child bullying his peers, not a man of your age, let alone a member of my advisory council. If I so much as hear another word out of you, I ensure you that you won't like the consequences." The old man's posture drooped from the monarch's reprimanding words, showing that the king's words had the intended effect on him. The elder had enough tact, however, to make sure that no one noticed the defiant glare that he aimed directly at his liege the moment the latter turned his attention back to the Fentons. "Now, to what purpose do these so-called hairline fuses serve for your invention?" Agnarr asked, his facial expression and tone of voice much calmer than they had been mere moments ago.
"Er…right. Well, you see, Your Majesty," began Jack, "when building a machine as massive as the one you see before you, extra detailed work on individual parts is something of a necessity. To avoid disassembling and removing some of the more complex electrical components from within the inner chamber, my wife and I installed a set of fail-safes that would allow us to run maintenance on the interior without running the risk of shocking ourselves with the electrical current, accidentally damaging vital parts, or unintentional activating the machine. These fail-safes can break the portal's main electrical circuit in two different ways: it can be manually triggered by the flick of a switch, or it can be blown when the charge of the electrical current begins to overload the circuitry and burns out the hairline fuse." While the man was talking, Danny rummaged through one of the many bags that contained spare parts for the portal and withdrew an object that easily fit in the palm of his hand. The teen then handed the part to his father, who promptly held it up for everyone to see. "This is what a hairline fuse looks like."
Held in between his thumb and index finger was an object that was just barely bigger than a medium-sized metal nut. The bottom end was a small metallic base grooved like a bolt. Above the base was a small hemisphere composed of translucent glass. Within the center of the glass case was a thin metal stem that held a miniscule wire filament supported by two spokes. The fuse's appearance had several members of the audience pondering at how something so small could play such a significant role in the large machine, although there were a select few members (specifically Lady Eva, King Agnarr, and even Princess Elsa) who thought that the part looked similar to one of Sir Humphry's experiments.
"Unfortunately, while these fuses are vital components to the portal, they have a tendency to be quite finicky at best." interjected Maddie, picking up where her husband had left off. "The wire filament that is necessary for this part to function properly needs to be of a specific metal and be crafted at a specific width. The reason that we call this devise a hairline fuse is because the only practical wire width that these fuses will accept is slightly thicker than a single strand of hair. This only complicates matters even further since said specific metal becomes more brittle the thinner it becomes. As a result, this design flaw can lead to the fuse burning out prematurely. Hopefully, we can rectify this problem with further research on our prototype in order to find a more durable substitute to serve as the fuse filament. Additionally, we'd also like to possibly condense the overall size and mass of the portal."
Another murmur started among the advisors until Lady Eva spoke up. "How long would it take to locate and replace the broken fuse?
"Not long at all, madam," answered Jack, "about five minutes, tops. Once we disengage the main circuit from the control panel, a person can safely transverse inside the portal and replace the broken fuse." In one swift motion, Jack and Maddie turned the keys back to their "off" position and withdrew them. Almost instantaneously, the humming noise decreased in volume until it final ceased all together, and the plasma ion generators slowly flickered off. Jack then turned to his son. "I hate to ask this of you, Danny, but since you're already wearing your suit, would you mind-"
"-if I be the one to replace the fuse? Don't worry, Dad, I'm way ahead of you." finished the teen, who was already packing up the necessary tools in his pouch.
"I knew that I could count you." Jack then turned back to his audience. "While our son sees to the repairs, my wife and I will gladly answer questions that any of you may have about our portal at this time." Danny said nothing as he relit the lantern's wick. With his parents running a Q&A session about their life's work, he was confident that he would have ample time to make the necessary repairs.
"May I come along with him?"
Danny nearly tripped over his own feet in surprise from the abrupt question. Focusing to where he heard the request, he and practically everyone else found themselves staring at a flustered-looking Princess Elsa. From the expression on her pretty face, the teen could see that the young royal didn't like suddenly being the center of attention.
"W-Well, I've never seen a machine as massive as this ghost portal, and I can't help but be curious as to what it looks like from the inside. Since it's currently inoperable, I was hoping that I'd might be able to get a glimpse of how the interior is built." explained the princess, her demeanor becoming meeker when she noticed the visiting family and her father's gaze were centered on her, "That is, if Mr. and Mrs. Fenton wouldn't mind granting me my request."
King Agnarr sighed. "Elsa, my dear, while I am pleased to see that you have a vested interest in new scientific discoveries, it isn't proper to ask our guests such a grand-"
"Actually, Her Royal Highness' request isn't all that extreme, Your Grace. She's more than welcome to tag along with our son."interjected Jack, once again drawing everyone's attention upon himself. Instead of getting tongue-tied like any other person would, the large man simply remained calm as if he were entertaining old friends. He did, however, manage to give his son a sly wink, which made the young teen wary of what his parent was planning. "After all, it would be a shame to restrict a young mind's curiosity. Danny would be more than happy to give Her Majesty a tour of the portal's interior."
To the king's credit, the surprised expression on his face lasted for only an instant before he adopted a more neutral look. "That is very generous of you, Mr. Fenton, but it wouldn't be proper to treat your invention like a circus attraction."
"Nonsense, My Liege, the Fenton Portal isn't some delicate house made of glass. Why, if it can withstand the constant strain of creating an energy field mainly composed of charged ectoplasm, then it can surely handle two people walking through its interior for some minor repair work."
Maddie, who was just as perplexed as the king, gently grabbed her husband's shoulder to get his attention. Before she could even ask what he was planning, the man subtly gestured towards something with his eyes. Looking to where he was "pointing", Maddie's eyes widened slightly at what she noticed: during the entire time that the conversation was taking place, Danny and Princess Elsa had been sneaking glances toward one another, only to abruptly avert their gaze and blush whenever they each other looking. She found the whole scenario charming yet disheartening at the same time. Although she thought that it was charming in the sense that there appeared to be a mutual attraction between her son and the Arendelle princess, it was also disheartening to know that nothing serious could develop between the two young teens due to the vast difference in their social statuses. That didn't mean, however, that she would actively try to prevent her son from interacting with the young royal.
"Yes, that's all very well, but is it safe? What if the machine-"
"-accidentally turns on while they're still inside? Not to worry, Your Grace, we've already taken the likelihood of such accidents occurring into consideration, and made the necessary precautions." finished Maddie, before she held up the large metal key that she and Jack had around their necks. "To turn on the portal, the main circuit that is housed within the control panel needs to be completed with these two keys. So long as we have the keys on our person, and the control panel remains undisturbed, there is no chance of the machine activating on its own."
Agnarr's worrisome expression lessened considerably, but he still looked hesitant about letting his eldest child walk into the mouth of the strange machine. His parental instincts were blaring in his ears to keep Elsa as far away from the contraption as humanly possible. Since it was still in its experimental stage, there was the chance that something within the machine could go horribly wrong and possibly kill both his daughter and the Fenton boy. Yet when he noticed the platinum blonde's subtle pleading look aimed at him, however, he found it increasingly harder to say 'no' to her. She was finally starting to become more comfortable with being seen in public, and there hadn't been any incidents where she lost control over her cyrokinetic powers; he didn't want to jeopardize the progress she made by keeping her by his side. She was fourteen years old and it was about time that he showed more faith in her.
"Very well," he began, "if it is of no trouble with the Fentons, then you may accompany young Daniel, Elsa so long that a royal guard is with you." He then focused his attention back to Jack and Maddie. "My stipulation by no means shows my lack of faith in your abilities as inventors and scientists but is simply a precaution any father would make just in case something happens."
"Completely understandable." answered Jack, before looking to his son. "What do you say, Dan-o?" Silence permeated the room as everyone's eyes focused on Danny as they awaited his answer. The whole situation was had just been made even more unsettling for the teen now that he knew that the princess and a royal guard would be watching him work; it would've made things even worse if it turned out that he'd been wrong about the hairline fuse. He'd figuratively taken a stab in the dark about what had caused the portal's abrupt shutdown, and while he was sure about what he'd seen and heard, there was always a chance that his assumption was wrong. Once the guard announced to the council that there was something else wrong with the machine, that Ignacius prick would surely use the situation to his advantage to further discredit his family and utterly humiliate them. His gaze shifted back to Princess Elsa and was immediately ensnared by her eyes. It only took one glance into her pleading pools of glacial blue for him to realize that he couldn't back out even if he wanted to.
"Er, yeah, sure. I don't mind the…extra company." he answered awkwardly. His embarrassment quickly melted away once he saw Elsa's ecstatic look shining on her pretty face as she and a guardsman made their way towards him.
"Atta boy!" Jack returned his attention to Agnarr and his council. "Now then, does anyone have any questions?"
"Yes, I have one about the portal's outer frame, Mr. Fenton. You previously mentioned how the portal is able withstand the stress of maintaining the ectoplasmic field necessary for creating the portal. Exactly what kind of metal did you use to construct these walls?" asked Lady Eva.
"Ah, that's an excellent question, milady. You see, we first tried to implement-"
Danny drowned out the rest of his father's explanation as he double checked to see that he had everything that he needed. Once he'd finished, the princess and her guard were standing by and waiting to be led inside the machine. Elsa smiled shyly at him, which prompted Danny to automatically smile back until he remembered that there was third person among them. Looking at the guard that was tasked to accompany them, the young teen gulped nervously as he gazed upon the imposing figure standing behind the princess. The royal protector looked to be in his early twenties and had the physique of someone who was physically trained to be a soldier. Said guard was also staring at him as if he were just waiting for the young man to do something he deemed inappropriate, which only made Danny feel even more uneasy.
"Randolf, stop intimidating him. He's our guest." chided Elsa, who'd easily noticed source of the Fenton teen's discomfort. "I am so sorry about him. He's just recently joined the Royal Guard and he's eager to make a good first impression, though he has a habit of going a bit overboard at times." she explained apologetically, all the while making sure to shoot the guard a warning look.
"Er, that's alright. At least it shows that he takes his duties seriously." Danny took two steps toward the mouth of the portal before turning back to his little tour group. "Well then, shall we?" With that, the group of three made their way into the portal. The moment she stepped inside the portal's threshold, Elsa felt as if she had entered into an entirely different world. She was fascinated by everything that she saw: the numerous slabs of metal bolted together, the small thin strands of copper that were embedded into the sides of the artificial cavern; the new environment was like nothing she'd ever seen before. Not even the locations that her novels described could compare to what she saw. As she walked further into the dark metal hollow, the blonde thought that the location was truly mesmerizing, especially with how the illumination from Danny's lantern further enhanced its mysterious charm. Glimpsing behind her, she noticed something large positioned around the portal's opening that made her stop in her tracks, which made Randolf stop as well.
"Um, excuse me, Danny?" The teen paused in his stride toward the first pair of fuses to see what the princess wanted. "The large clear structure that's just before the portal's aperture, is it made of glass or some kind of crystal?" Looking to where the royal was pointing, Danny instantly understood what she was talking about. The object in question had a shape like the omega letter in the Greek alphabet and was tall enough to reach the top of the inner chamber. It looked to be nine feet thick and made of hard transparent material.
"Ah, you've got quite the eye for minerals, Elsa-er I mean, Your Grace." Danny had to quickly catch himself from addressing her inappropriately. The look that Randolf sent him made it quite clear that the man wasn't amused with his slip-up, even with what little light that was radiating from the lantern.
"There's no need to worry about proper formalities, I'm not the type of princess that is easily offended by something so minor. Please, just call me Elsa, I'm perfectly fine with be addressed by my first name." the royal said reassuringly, noticing her guide's unease.
Her guard, on the other hand, didn't think that the idea was a good one. "Forgive me, Your Grace, but considering that he's but a-"
"I said that I'm fine with being addressed by my first name." Elsa repeated in a stern manner, cutting off what Randolf was going to say. "I know that you have good intentions, Randolf, but please remember to be more courteous to our guests." The man had the decency to look repentant as the platinum blonde refocused her attention back to Danny. "I'm sorry, you were saying something about minerals?"
"Um, y-yeah." stuttered Danny. "I was saying that your second guess was actually spot-on. That huge structure is made entirely out of crystal; quartz crystal to be precise."
Elsa's eyes widened in disbelief as they immediately sought out the crystalline frame. "I…I've never seen so much quartz in one place before." she said in awe.
The young Fenton chuckled as he began inspecting the first fuse box. "Well, you might be seeing even more of that stuff if the broken fuse isn't in the first pair of boxes. There's another giant quartz structure in the very end of the portal."
"Two giant quartz rings?" Elsa's amazed expression whipped back to the teen so quickly that he could've sworn that her neck was going to break. "Why did your parents install so much quartz into their machine?"
"To help maintain the ectoplasmic field." Closing the first fuse box after seeing that the fuse was still intact, Danny made his way to the second box as he spoke. "In order for the ghost portal to work, the ectoplasmic energy needs to be held at a constant and stable level, otherwise the energy will either dissipate or cause a massive explosion. After several experiments, my folks discovered that quartz was the best substance for maintaining said field. That, and it also prevents the ghosts from using the portal to escape the Ghost Zone."
"Ghost Zone? What's the Ghost Zone?"
"Oh, that's just what I call The Spectral Realm of the Deceased. I figured that a shorter name rolls off the tongue much better than some long scientific description, don't you?" His joking smile shifted into a frown once he discovered that the second fuse was still functioning. "Well, there isn't anything broken in these two fuse boxes. Looks like we'll need to check the others, Elsa."
As Danny walked further into the portal, Elsa made sure to follow alongside him as close as possible in order to see more of the machine. Yet all too soon for her liking, an awkward silence settled among them. She couldn't think of anything to say since she was afraid that he was still upset about her keeping her identity a secret from him. She wanted to apologize to him and had planned on doing so when she asked to go along with Danny. The princess figured that the privacy of the inner chamber would've given her the best opportunity, but Randolf's unexpected presence had put the kibosh on those plans, and there was no way that she could subtly bring up the topic without her guard catching on. Regardless of the difficulties that lay before her, Elsa reasoned that she'd have another chance soon enough; she just had to be patient.
"Er, excuse me," she began, catching Danny's attention, "I don't mean to bother you with my countless questions, but-"
"Oh, no, no, it's not a problem at all. Please, ask as many questions as you want." he comforted her.
"Well, I was wondering just what are your parents using to power their portal? A machine this massive must consume a lot of energy, and I have yet to hear of any power source that could be capable of providing an ample supply of energy on its own."
"Another excellent question, Lady Eva." said Maddie, unaware that the same question was being asked within the machine. After Jack had explained how the steel outer frames were crafted, the married couple guided the king and his advisors all around the machine; that is, all except for one, whom decided to stay behind.
"If you would all follow us, we can show everyone our invention's power source." added the woman, as she and her husband led the group towards the very back of their portal after they'd finished showing them all of the equipment attached to the outer frame's right side. There, a few feet from the frame's back end, stood a massive black cube that was wired to both corners of the main portal. All across the cube's surface were numerous medium-sized black metal boxes. Once the group was close to the strange cube, Jack removed one of the metal box's top covering to reveal a copper interior that contained a thin metal sheet. Inside the box were twelve cylinders held upright by a small stand and halfway submerged in a transparent blue solution. The small cylinders were constructed out of unglazed earthenware that each contained a metal rod and were all interconnected by what appeared to be sizeable salt structures. The earthenware constructs were also filled with unknown chemical solutions that reached towards the middle of the individual rods. Out of the entire gathered crowd, only one person was able to identify the foreign objects.
"Of course, you'd be the one to immediately recognize them, Lady Eva." chortled Jack. "While their design is heavily influenced by John Frederic Daniell's work, what stands before you are not true Daniell cells. Despite the advancements that he made in his research, his original schematics proved to be incapable in properly powering our creation. Even if we had lined the entire outer frame with these cells, the portal would be active for barely two minutes at best. To remedy this situation, we've made several modifications to better suit our needs. For starters, we replaced the normal zinc sulfate solution that is normally used with a chemical solution of our own creation. Not only is our substitute capable of conducting an electrical charge for a longer period of time, but it can also store the energy and amplify it tenfold."
The woman's eyebrow quirked up in confusion. "That's quite the feat, but it doesn't explain how you managed to get the cells charged. The process would take months, possibly years, to complete."
Jack's grin only grew bigger. "You would be correct, Lady Eva, if we'd used conventional means. Instead of relying on a tedious and exhausting method, my wife and I decided to take page out of Benjamin Franklin's book and utilize one of our world's naturally-occurring energy sources." The eyes of the king and his council widened exponentially, their shock so great that they all momentarily lost their voices.
"LIGHTNING?!" Elsa's exclamation echoed throughout the portal's chamber, which prevented the trio from hearing a similar shout sounding off from outside the machine. Even in the dim light, the princess's disbelieving expression could clearly be seen. "Your parents used real lightning to power up their electrochemical cells?!"
"Um…yeah? I mean, it's not like they could have used artificial lightning instead." joked Danny as he checked the third fuse box.
"But…But…it's lightning!" continued Elsa. "The very substance that the Greek god, Zeus, was said to wield as a weapon; the same natural phenomenon that has caused forest fires during the summer season. Excuse my incredulous tone, but how did your parents manage to harness lightning's uncontrollable power?"
"Well, it's not like my parents decided to use it on a whim." tutted Danny, disappointed that the fuse was still working; his hopes for a quick repair were dwindling. "They had a friend who helped them get in contact with Benjamin Franklin, and asked him for some pointers on how to be as safe as possible when dealing with lighting; you know, aside from the number one rule: don't go messing around with it in the first place."
Regardless of the serious matter they were discussing, Elsa couldn't help but laugh at the young teen's dry wit. His unique sense of humor was certainly a nice change of pace from the prim and proper tone that the castle staff members always used when addressing her and her family. "All joking aside, how exactly did your parents manage to charge their power cells with lightning?"
"Well, to tell you the truth, their method was actually quite simple. They just built a massive lightning rod a few yards away from their workshop and wired their cells to it. After that, all they had to do was wait for a storm."
"Really? So how long did they have to wait?"
"Oh, not that long. As a matter of fact, my mom and dad managed to power up all the cells in one go, all thanks to a storm that occurred about five days ago. It made for quite the light show in the night's sky."
Elsa shook her head in amazement. "I can't believe that you got to witness something so spectacular."
Danny jolted to a sudden stop, his sheepish expression confusing the princess. "Er…yeah. Well, you see, I probably should mention that my parents' workshop also just happens to be in our house's basement."
Elsa gaped at the young man in disbelief. "Come again?" The sheer audacity of what the Vennskapalan had experienced just seemed too absurd to be real, but his serious tone of voice left no room for doubt that he was telling the truth.
"But don't worry, no one was hurt." Danny quickly assured her. "It was actually kind of fun, in a terrifying sort of way. My sister and I got the chance to witness a sight that not many could claim to have seen. We even made a bet with each other to help us keep calm: what would destroy our home first, the lightning or the explosion caused by the overloaded electrochemical cells. Fortunately, neither of us won."
At first Elsa said nothing, her awe was so great that she couldn't think of anything to say in response to his tale. Suddenly, a giggle broke through her restraint, which gradually developed into a small bout of laughter. "I must say, Danny, you live quite the exciting life."
That comment had Danny at a loss for words; he never thought that he'd ever hear such a compliment from a princess, let alone a cute one around his own age. He immediately felt his cheeks burn when he became aware of what he was thinking and was thankful that the fourth fuse box managed to hide his blush. "Er…well, I don't think that my life is really that exciting. I mean, compared to your life, everything that I encounter is just so trivial and…boring."
She shook her head. "I disagree. Getting to go outside your home by yourself, being able to interact with your friends and peers, it must be nice to have such freedom. I can't help but feel envious of you in that regard." Elsa truly meant it what she said. Ever since she adopted her more reclusive lifestyle, the platinum blonde had often longed for things to go back to the way they were before the incident. She missed having fun with her little sister, the hugs from her parents, and even something as boring as watching people visit the castle without having to hide away like a ghost. That was why she'd been so excited about attending the demonstration, even if things hadn't gone according to plan. It gave her hope that she'd eventually get a chance to have old life back.
Meanwhile, Danny was even more grateful that the princess couldn't see his darkening cheeks. Hearing a princess of all people admit that she was slightly jealous of his life floored him and made him wonder as to what the princess had to endure.
"You certainly have a way words, Elsa." he murmured with a small grin, until he took notice of the fourth box. "Aw, dammit."
Elsa swiftly became concerned by the sudden change in his attitude. "What's the matter?"
"Nothing, which is the part of the problem." Seeing her confused look, Danny explained in further detail. "I was hoping that the broken fuse was in either the first or second set of fuse boxes, and that we wouldn't have to bother checking the last pair. It looks like that we have no choice now." he finished with a sigh.
"Is there anything wrong with the last fuse boxes?"
Danny shook his head. "No, not really. It's just that they're located so far down the chamber, right where the charged ectoplasm first gathers before it's used to form the energy field necessary for the portal to work. Although the power's been cut off, I can't help but feel uneasy about being in that section." He then noticed Elsa becoming anxious, and her guard looking quite unsettled. "But don't worry, it's completely safe! My parents put in months of research and experiments to make sure that all of the fail safes worked properly, so we'll be fine." That seemed to put the princess more at ease. Randolf, on the other hand, still looked uneasy about traveling further into the portal, yet he said nothing as they continued their way.
The two teenagers remained silent as they continued walking, neither of them knowing what to say to each other. All the same, the silence that had settled between them was incredibly stifling. Just the sound of their footsteps echoing throughout the metal cavern made the situation even more uncomfortable. Danny desperately wanted to break the silence, but he didn't know what he could possible talk about without making him sound like a complete oaf. Fortunately for him, the princess was the first to break the silence.
"I'm sorry, Danny." she said, quietly.
The young man was caught off guard by her words. "Er…excuse me?"
"I just wanted to say that…I'm sorry for what happened back in the ballroom. For the way that Lord Ignacius spoke to you and your family, as well as for…everything else…that happened." she continued, hoping that he understood that she was subtly referring to how she kept her royal status a secret during their first encounter. It hadn't been her intention to keep such important information a secret, but she just wanted to be a normal girl, even if it was for a brief moment. The chance of being able to personally interact with someone her own age was so rare, and she was afraid that her title would've intimidated him into behaving like any other person when in the presence of royalty. "What I'm trying to say is th-"
"It's alright, Elsa." Danny cut in, a kind smile on his visage. "Although I appreciate the gesture, there's really no reason for you to apologize. I don't blame you for what happened, honest. The past's in the past, so there's no point in stressing about it, right?" he finished with a subtle wink.
It took a moment for the blonde to pick up on the teen's underlying message, but she returned his smile all the same. The atmosphere between the two teens became much more amicable from then on in as the group continued to walk.
"Alright, this is it: the last set of fuse boxes." Danny's comment snapped Elsa's out of admiring the craftsmanship of the inner portal chamber and brought her back to the present. "And if you look further ahead, you can see the second quartz ring." Shifting her gaze towards the area, she noticed the final crystal construct further down the chamber. Unlike the first ring that was stationed at the portal's opening, the second one had several sizable metal spokes piercing through the ring's shank, with the tips meeting at the center. The lantern's light cast the crystalline construct in a darker and ominous ambience, giving it quite the foreboding aura. Despite the eerie vibe she was getting from the construct, Elsa found herself unable to tear her gaze from it.
Danny, on the other hand, was beginning to feel the pressure building on him as he replaced the cover of the fuse box he'd been inspecting. He'd already checked five fuse boxes and still couldn't find the 9broken part. The small doubt that had been sitting in the back of his mind was growing bigger and bigger, making him feel even more nervous than before. He could practically hear his own heartbeat as he walked towards the sixth fuse box.
'Oh-kay. This is the last one…the last chance to fix the portal and save the demonstration. If this fuse turns out to be fine, then my parents are going to be humiliated. And no doubt that ancient, pompous prick Ignacius will rub this whole mess in their faces.' Danny thought with great trepidation. 'Come on, broken fuse…broken fuse.' Flipping open the hatch, he eyes widened in exhilaration at what he saw.
"Yes! Broken Fuse!" he exclaimed, only to flinch in embarrassment once he remembered that he wasn't alone. "Er…sorry about that. I just got a little bit excited." He continued to examine the fuse box to see if there were any more broken parts as his "tour group" approached closer to get a better look and was relieved to see that only the fuse needed to be replaced. The young teen felt as if a large uncomfortable weight had slipped off his chest and that he could breathe more easily. He tried to get straight to work but found the task difficult to accomplish while simultaneously holding the lantern.
"Here, let me help." offered the princess. Before he could say anything, Elsa's gloved hands grasped the lantern by its handle and held it up high enough so that adequate amount of light shined down on the fuse box. Momentarily surprised by the royal's considerate gesture, Danny gave a short nod to express his gratitude before focusing his attention back to the task at hand. The first thing that he made sure to do was to flip the box's breaker switch to disconnect the circuit and ensure that he didn't get electrocuted when replacing the fuse. Withdrawing a screwdriver from his pouch, he unfastened the protective latch covering the fuse, and unscrewed the broken part. Slipping the useless item into another pouch, he then quickly screwed in the replacement and reattached the latch. After double checking the box to see that all the parts were in their correct places, Danny moved to reconnect the circuit. Neither he nor the two Arendelleans were aware of the danger that was quickly approaching them.
The loud noise was as abrupt as it was ominous, bringing an immediate halt to all conversations among the group of adults standing behind the portal.
"What was that?" asked Maddie.
The second commotion made the scientists cringe. "Whatever it is, it's coming from the front of the portal." commented Jack, before he and Maddie both came to the same terrible realization.
"The control panel!" they exclaimed in unison. In the blink of an eye, they dashed towards the front of the machine with the royal procession following closely behind them.
As the sounds of destruction continued, the Fentons' fears worsened as they sped towards the source of the disturbance. Hundreds of possible causes for the noise were running through their minds as they approached the front of the ballroom, but they were nonetheless shocked to see Lord Ignacius standing before the portal's heavily damaged and sparking control panel. The fact that he was holding his cane high above his head gave everyone a clear indication of what the old man's intended to do
"No! Don't do it!" pleaded Maddie, but her words fell on deaf ears.
With one last mighty swing, Ignacius slammed his cane onto the control panel, sending parts flying and causing the console to spark even more wildly. His deed down, the advisor quickly turned towards the ballroom's double doors and stared to hobble to his escape.
"You idiot! What have you done?!" Jack bellowed after the fleeing elder.
"Guards! Seize him at once!" The two guards closest to the monarch immediately obeyed their king's order and sped after the culprit. Despite his head start, Ignacius was promptly subdued and forcibly dragged towards the king and the rest of his council, all the while futilely struggling to break free of the guards' hold. Meanwhile, the Fentons were ignoring the confrontation entirely in order to assess the damage to the control console and determine how to repair it as quickly as possible.
"What the bloody hell do you think you're trying to pull, Ignacius?!" demanded Agnarr, once the wayward advisor was before him.
Everyone's uneasy eyes whipped to where they heard the sound, only for them to realize that the commotion was coming from the portal and was steadily getting louder. To make matters worse, the plasma ion generators began to glow brilliantly, and blue electrical sparks began to dance across the outer metal frame.
"The ghost portal…it's been activated!" exclaimed Lysander.
King Agnarr shifted his focus to the two scientists at the damaged control panel. "Hurry and shut it down before the ectoplasmic field is formed!"
"We're trying, but the controls aren't responding!" replied Maddie frantically.
"When your daft imbecile of an advisor took his cane to the panel, he damaged it to the degree that a short circuit was created!" declared Jack. "That short circuit not only managed to bypass the normal activation circuit that can only be completed with our keys, but it also completely fried the panel's emergency kill switches and destroyed the controls that regulate the machine's ectoplasm generators! Without those fail-safes, the ectoplasmic field could overload and cause the entire machine to explode!"
Without warning, large showers of electrical sparks erupted from the outer frame's sides, much to the scientists' horror. "The manual kill switches! Maddie, come on, there's no time to waste!" Without another word, the large man and his wife raced towards the machine.
"Now do you see, Agnarr?" asked Ignacius, his tone twice as arrogant and haughty as it normally was, but it now had a darker edge to it. It was a side of the man that the king and his council had never seen before. "This is the true nature of that wretched cesspool Vennskapal and their so-called science. This is what awaits those foolish and naïve enough to associate themselves with such filth: danger and despair! And now, by allowing those buffoons to bring their blasphemous creation into our lands, you've doomed all of Arendelle!"
"There was nothing wrong with their invention! Our current situation only came to be after you sabotaged the machine, you fanatical, superstitious idiot!" exclaimed Eva furiously.
"The outcome would've been the same, you conceited bitch!" the cultural advisor snarled. "My actions only helped expose these accursed ghost worshippers for what they truly are: vile, self-absorbed reprobates; degenerates who relish in spreading their perverted obsessions across this pure world!"
Agnarr's furious glare deepened. "The only self-absorbed reprobate that I see is you, old man! Have you forgotten that my daughter, YOUR PRINCESS, as well as the Fentons' son and one of our guardsmen are still inside that machine?! Have you no shame at the fact that your fanatical actions have put three innocent lives at stake?!"
"They've forsaken their innocence the moment they ventured inside that affront to the natural world." The dead seriousness in Ignacius' voice was as rigid as steel. "My fanaticism, as you call it, is for the just cause of preserving our pure world, and I'm willing to sacrifice anything to accomplish that goal."
"NO! Jack, none of the fail safes on my side are responding!"
"God damn it, neither are mine! That last power surge must have damaged the vital circuitry! All of the switches on my end have been completely wrecked!"
The king felt his blood turn to ice as he heard those exclamations, the severity of the situation settling in. His gaze veered back to the malfunctioning ghost portal. The inner chamber's bright green glow increasing in intensity with each passing second, and its outer frame sparking like mad. Agnarr made a mad dash towards the portal's entry, only for two more members of his guard to grab hold of him and stop him in his tracks. The king desperately tried to shake himself free, but the guards' grip was too strong.
"NO! Let go of me this instant!" Agnarr demanded desperately. "I have to save my daughter! Elsa! ELSA!"
Concurrently, Within the Portal
The moment Danny reset the breaker switch, he knew that something had gone terribly wrong. Once the circuit was reconnected, the sounds of something being repeatedly smashed drew his attention back towards the portal's opening. Any thoughts of investigating the disturbance was immediately put on hold when a sudden burst of electricity coursed through the circuitry embedded into the chamber's wall, causing each set of fuse boxes to spark wildly as the surge traveled past them and stopped at the last quartz ring.
"What the bloody hell was that?!" exclaimed a bewildered Randolf. "Was it supposed to do that?"
"Danny, what's happening?" asked Elsa worriedly.
"I-I don't know. The power to the portal was cut off by my parents; I saw it myself. The only way that the machine can be reactivated is through the cont-
Danny felt his heart skip a beat the moment he heard the portal's generators start up. Gazing back at the quartz ring, his fears only worsened when he saw its spokes slowly began to glow green. Hearing the gasps from the other two people with him, it was safe to assume that they too understood the dire significance of the machine's noises. Without a word, Danny turned back to the fuse box he'd just repaired and flipped the breaker switch, but nothing happened.
"What?!" Danny flipped the switch back and forth several more times, hoping that he could somehow cut off the power, yet his efforts were futile. "No, no, no, no, No, NO, NO!" Taking another glance at the open fuse box, Danny was horrified to see that several of the components had been damaged by the surge.
"Danny?" queried Elsa once more, but the teen in question was too busy trying to work out a solution to their dilemma.
"You, Randolf!" he said suddenly, instantly grabbing the attention of the guard. "Get to the fuse box on the side! Quickly, we've got to act now if we want to shut this thing down!"
After getting over his momentary shock, the guard quickly did what was asked of him. "Alright, I'm at the box! Now what?"
"We're going to try and break the circuit using the kill switches as an entire set instead of just relying on a single one!" replied Danny, hoping that his last-ditch idea would work. "On my signal, flip the switch! NOW!" The two males flipped their respective kill switch, but the noise continued to get louder, and the green glow grew even brighter. "Reset the switches and try one more time! NOW!" The duo repeated the action once more, but the machine continued to power up.
Danny banged his fist against the fuse box in frustration. Their predicament was steadily degrading with each passing second: the humming was getting louder, the intensity of the green glow was becoming stronger, and arcs of electricity began to leap off the protective layers. The last observation was especially troubling to the young teen, as it meant that all the safeguards against abnormal electrical currents had all simultaneously failed. On top of the fact that the glowing green energy was behaving in a way that he'd never seen during any of the machine's trial runs, it was clear that the ectoplasmic field that the portal was creating was going to be far more unstable and dangerous than the ones that were usually formed. There was only one thing left to do.
"We've got to get out of here, now!" Danny shouted over the portal's loud racket. "Hurry, before the electric discharges overload the ectoplasmic field generators!" Not waiting for any further explanation, the group sped towards the portal's opening as large showers of sparks began to sporadically explode from the chamber. Bolts, nuts, and even chunks of the metal walls were being blown off, making their escape all the more hazardous. In response to the new peril, Randolf positioned himself in front of the two teens in order to shield them from any falling debris. As they ran, Danny tried to think of a possible reason why the portal was malfunctioning so horribly. At the rate of how things were degrading, there was a high chance that the entire thing could explode and take half of the entire castle with it. The fallout from such a disaster would completely ruin his parents' reputation and guarantee that they'd spend the rest of their lives in prison, or worse, be sentenced the death penalty! If that worst-case scenario came to be, then he and his sister would have to relocate to a new country to escape the shame and scorn of both Arendelle and Vennskapal. The poor teen felt like his entire world was crumbling around him, just like the portal.
Then, without warning, the situation took another turn for the worse. The group had traveled about halfway across the portal when a large section of the chamber's interior broke loose with another large shower of sparks. The debris crashed onto the area they'd just passed with a loud bang!, making the ground tremble from the impact. Danny nearly stumbled from the powerful tremors but managed to keep his balance. Ahead of him, Randolf had experienced the same problem but had also managed to continue running towards the exit.
Hearing the distressed cry Danny chanced a quick glance behind him, only to gasp in horror and skid to a halt once he glimpsed at the sight that lay before him. Princess Elsa was lying on the ground, in front of the newly-created pile of wreckage. She quickly tried to scramble back onto her feet, only to trip and collapse onto the ground once more. Looking down, she immediately noticed that her foot was entangled with several wires that were integrated into a large jagged slab of metal. The princess frantically tried to free herself, but in her panicked state she found the task virtually impossible. Behind the distressed royal, the glow of the ectoplasmic energy coalescing in the center of the rear quartz ring continued to increase in brilliance, signifying the near completion of one overcharged ectoplasmic field. Danny turned back to the opening to call for Randolf's help, but the guard was too far away to hear anything over all the commotion. Gazing back at Elsa, who continued to desperately free herself, Danny found himself a proverbial fork in the road. He could either put his life in unnecessary danger to save a young princess who would most likely forget about him in a month's time, or do the smart thing and save himself before the entire portal failed completely. The internal strife between the heart and brain, altruism and self-preservation, made the young man feel as if his head was being pulled in two different directions at once. It was only when he saw the unadulterated fear and despair in Elsa's eyes that he made his decision. Ignoring the more logical part of his mind, Danny ran back towards the trapped princess. He paid no attention to the restrained king desperately calling out to his daughter, nor did he take notice of Randolf being thrown out of the portal from the force of a massive fiery explosion moments after he'd finally noticed the predicament further back and started to rush towards them to help. In that one moment, everything around him faded away until all that was left was the young royal and himself.
"Hang on, Elsa!" he exclaimed, catching the platinum blonde's attention. Skidding to a stop in front of her, he quickly crouched down and tried to free the royal's leg. Despite his best efforts, the tangled mess was too severe for him to remove by his hands alone. Grabbing a small dagger that he kept in one of his pouches in case of emergencies, Danny began hacking away at the wires. It was tiresome work, but he knew that he couldn't afford to give up; not with the ectoplasmic energy condensing at such dangerous levels. Any second now, the collected energy stored within the rear quartz ring would be expelled towards the exterior one to form the ectoplasmic field necessary for the portal. From the multiple lectures that his parents had often given him and his sister, ectoplasmic energy was extremely dangerous if it ever made direct contact with the human body, which was why the adults were almost seen wearing their work suits. Just from a cursory glance at the abnormally large amount of the green energy coalescing behind them, he was sure that they would die instantly if they didn't escape in time.
"Danny, hurry! Please hurry!" cried Elsa, her terrified eyes darting to the glowing quartz ring.
"I am!" shouted Danny as he managed to sever half of the wires. "I'm almost done! Just hold on a little bit longer!" he reassured her, hastening his efforts in cutting the remaining entangled mess while occasionally glancing back behind them. The moment the last wire was cut, Danny immediately tossed the small blade to the side, scooped Elsa up into his arms, and made a break for the exit. The fact that she was being carried like newlywed bride didn't register to the young princess as she was too scared to be embarrassed at being held in such an intimate manner. She only had time to clasp her hands behind his neck for support and hope that they'd be able to escape in time.
The generator's loud whine brought the princess' attention back towards the rear of the machine. The intensity of the ectoplasm's glow had increased to such a degree that she couldn't look directly at it, which she could only assume was a sign that the ring was going to release the energy it had been collecting. Turning back to what was in front of them, she was disheartened at what she saw. Even though she could see her father struggling to break free of the guards restraining him and a few members of the royal council standing further back, the princess could easily tell that they had a long way until they reached the exit.
"We're not going to make it!" she lamented.
Danny said nothing at first, trying to concentrate all his energy into proving the girl in his arms wrong. In spite of his vigorous efforts, however, it was quickly becoming apparent that he just couldn't run fast enough while carrying another person. He fruitlessly tried to think of a way to save both the princess and himself, but nothing came to him. Just as he was about concede defeat, Danny saw something up ahead that gave him hope: a battered and somewhat burned Randolf running straight towards them. As much as it was a relief to see the guard coming back to help, a new sense of trepidation traveled down the young man's spine. If Randolf ran up to meet them, then they'd be wasting what precious time they had left to escape. On top of that, even if the young guardsman came to their aid, there was no guarantee that all three of them would make it to safety. There was one plan that would ensure that at least two people could escape the portal safely, but the concept of going through with it made him feel as if a large pit had formed in his stomach. He'd often heard tales of brave souls who'd made the same choice and how glorious their actions were, but now that he was placed in such a situation, he found that the entire ordeal wasn't as appealing as it had been made out to be. Despite his own hesitancy, Danny steeled his nerves for what he was about to do.
"No. No, we aren't," he said, much to Elsa's confusion, "but you are!" Without warning, Danny firmly planted his left foot on the ground and vigorously turned his body into a counterclockwise spin. Using his forward momentum to accelerate his spin, the teen catapulted Elsa from his arms the moment he was facing the exit once again. The bewildered royal was completely caught off guard by the sudden action. Time seemed to slow to a snail's pace as she flew through the air, her eyes solely focused on the teenage boy as she tried to comprehend the reason behind his actions. It was only when she felt Randolf catch her that time "returned" to its normal pace and she finally understood what he'd just done.
She was broken from hertrance when the guardsman immediately about-faced and tore down the chamber, leaving the young man behind.
"No!" she protested, struggling against the man's grasp. "Stop! Randolf, please, we have to stop and go back! Danny needs our help!" She managed to position herself so that she was able to look over the adult's shoulder. Sure enough, Danny was still running right behind them, trying desperately to catch up. Her distress worsened when she saw him trip over an upturned metal plate and crash hard onto the ground.
"DANNY!" Elsa desperately tried to break free from Randolf's hold, but it was to no avail. All she could do was watch as the distance increased between her and the young teen. She didn't even take notice of when they finally got back into the ballroom. "Danny! Danny, no! Let go of me, Randolf! Let me go! Please, we need go back! He's still inside the portal!" Her pleas were met with deaf ears as everyone standing in front of the machine fled far away from its opening, just mere moments before the unstable ectoplasmic field finally formed.
Even though all those present in the room had shut their eyes, the vibrant green glare could still be partially seen through their eyelids. The bloodcurdling scream that filled the entire room made the disaster all the more ghastly to bear, but none of the Arendelleans were as affected as Elsa. Even though Randolf was shielding her with his own body she could still hear Danny's pained screams, which only worsened the mental images of the young man's dreadful fate that assaulted her mind.
"DANNY!" cried his parents from behind their invention, horrified at what was happening to their son. Jack was the first to break out his trance and rushed to one of the decorative suits of armor that lined the room, where he yanked the displayed poleaxe free and then dashed back to the power supply. Bringing the weapon high up above his head, he brought it down with all of his might. The blade easily sliced through the thick cable, cutting off the power to the portal. With no more electricity running through its circuits, the generators gradually powered down, the green glow faded until it vanished completely, and the outer frame stopped discharging erratic sparks. Deathly silence permeated the area as the room's occupants came to grips with what had taken place right in front of them. As Jack and Maddie rushed to where everyone else was standing, one person managed to recover from her shock faster than the rest.
"Get away from me!" demanded Elsa, shoving Randolf back before leveling a furious glare at the man. "How could you?! How could you just turn your back on him like that?!"
Randolf was stunned by the sudden ferocity in the normally-collected princess' words. "Your…Your Grace, I-"
"No! No, I don't want to hear your excuses!" the young royal interrupted. "If you could've afforded to go back into the portal to save me, then you should've been able to rescue Danny as well! Instead you left him there to die as if he was nothing; as if his life didn't matter!"
"Elsa," interjected Agnarr, "I know that you're upset, but Randolf was just doing his duty in keeping you safe."
"I know that, Father, but that doesn't…that doesn't take away from the fact that an innocent person just died!" Tears began to well up in her eyes as her thoughts drifted towards the young Vennskapalan. "He was so young, probably around my age! He had his whole life ahead of him, and yet he willingly sacrificed it to save my own! That's just…That's just…" The princess's grief soon became too much to bear as her quivering legs finally gave out and she fell to her knees. Her gaze remained solely focused on the hardwood floor to conceal her tears from everyone, but she was still unable to hold back her mournful sobs.
Agnarr remained silent as he engulfed his eldest daughter in a gentle, comforting embrace. He, too, was deeply saddened by what had befallen upon the young lad, especially since the entire accident had been caused by one of his advisors. He was surprised by the boy's courage and was extremely grateful of how selflessly he'd acted to save his daughter, but he was still disheartened that the young Vennskapalan had died in such a gruesome way. What made the ordeal even worse was that his daughter had practically witnessed the entire debacle as it all took place. The king didn't know what to say to alleviate his child's anguish without unintentionally sounding callous, so he instead settled to consoling the distraught princess.
At that moment, the Fentons arrived at the scene of commotion. Just from observing all of the somber looks that the royal advisors (barring Ignacius) were giving the two scientists, the sight of the king soothing his weeping daughter, the absence of their son, and the wisps of smoke that were rising from their heavily damaged invention, it didn't take long for the married couple to conclude what had happened. Maddie quickly felt faint and would have collapsed to the ground had Jack not caught her in time. His wife grasped onto him, her entire body trembling with grief and her tears streaming freely down her cheeks. Jack said nothing as he returned the embrace, silently crying with his wife. What began as an once-in-a-lifetime chance to make a name for their family had turned into an outright fiasco.
Everyone's attention was instantaneously drawn to the mouth of the portal, bewildered at the sudden noise. The voice sounded awfully familiar and they all knew who was last seen inside the chamber, but the idea of said person still being alive was too farfetched to believe.
The voice sounded louder that time, indicating that its owner was moving towards them. Confused and alarmed mutterings erupted among the crowd began to fill the ballroom at the sudden development. Elsa felt so many different emotions whirling inside her that she was amazed that she managed to keep her powers in check. She sped off towards the portal's opening, followed closely by the Fentons, her father, and several members of the advisory council.
"Danny! Are you alright? How did you surv-" Elsa stopped abruptly, her shock rendering her speechless. The people behind her were just as stunned the instant they gazed upon what was approaching them.
The figure that lumbered out of the portal looked like Danny, but he was hunched over and had his arms crossed in front of his chest. His eyes were clenched shut and he was shivering as if he was chilled to the bone. It was only when he finally walked into the light that it became apparent that the young man had underwent several drastic changes. The one of the most noticeable change was that the color scheme of his work suit had been inversed, leaving him dressed in a predominately black suit with white areas around his lower legs, waist, lower arms, and neck. Although his skin still retained its tanned hue, it now looked eerily pale due in part to the faint silvery aura that encased his whole body. All the color in his spiky raven locks had faded until his hair was as white as freshly fallen snow, further enhancing his spectral appearance.
As he continued to slowly stagger forward, his form started to phase in and out of visibility at random intervals. The gathered people were left thunderstruck as they watched the young man's skin went transparent to varying degrees, giving them brief glimpses of the bones and muscles that made up his body. There were even fleeting moments where he vanished completely from sight, only to become visible once again. It was the last change, however, that really grabbed Elsa's attention the most. Every time that Danny took a step forward, a small patch of frost would form where his feet made contact with the hardwood floor. Small ice particles trailed behind him as he moved towards the gathered group, giving him the appearance of someone who'd been stuck in a heavy blizzard for hours. Suddenly he stopped in his tracks, frost forming in a sizable circumference around him. Then, as he slowly raised his head, Elsa and everyone else finally got a good look at Danny's eyes. Gone were the pale sky-blue orbs that he had before entering the portal, and in their place were a pair of bright green eyes that seemed to glow. Ghostly green met glacial blue for but an instant as a thin blue vapor of mist trailed out of the teenage boy's mouth, before his eyes finally fluttered shut as he lost consciousness and collapsed onto the floor. An even larger blanket of frost expanded across the wooden boards from where he'd fallen, eliciting startled gasps from the gathered advisors.
"Danny!" His parents rushed past the princess to get to their son. Maddie was the first to reach the downed teen and tried to turn him onto his back. Her hand had barely made contact with him before she sharply pulled it back with a surprised yelp.
"Maddie, what's the matter?"
"It's Danny, Jack, he's freezing cold to the touch!" exclaimed Maddie while strongly shaking her hand in order to regain the feeling in her fingertips.
"Let me see him! Out of the way, let me through!" ordered another woman dressed in red robes as she pushed her way through the gathered crowd. She had light brown hair that reached her shoulders and had small crow's feet near the corners of her eyes. Around her neck was a silver Advisor medallion held in place by a white ribbon. When Jack saw the woman approaching them, he immediately positioned himself protectively in front of his family. One of the king's advisors had already harmed his son, and he was sure as hell not going to let another one harm his family again.
"You stay away from us!" the large man snarled. The woman was temporarily startled by the animosity in the scientist's words, but she quickly regained her resolve.
"Please, I can help your son. I'm not just a member of the Royal Council, Mr. Fenton, I'm also the castle's chief physician. I've studied under several accomplished doctors and have had years of experience in treating a wide variety of maladies. If you'd let me, I'd very much like to help you and your family."
Jack remained silent as he stared directly into the woman's eyes, trying to peer into her very being to detect any sign of deceit or ill-will. After a brief tense moment, the man finally relented and stepped aside, allowing the woman to immediately rush toward Maddie and the unconscious teen. Tentatively reaching out to touch the young boy, she was quick to notice that young man's body temperature was a lot colder than that of a normal human being. The advisor swiftly divested herself of her red robes and draped them over Danny's prone form in order to help him retain what little body heat that he had.
"My lady, can you help our son?" asked Maddie desperately.
"There is no helping your wretched offspring, Vennskapalans!" exclaimed the restrained Ignacius. By now, he was looking quite deranged as he tried to break free of the guards' grip. His eyes focused solely on the Fenton family as a vindictive sneer formed on his face. "Do you now see the folly of your sacrilegious ideals, you filthy heretics?! You lot, who take obscene pleasure in corrupting the natural boundary between life and death, all for the sake of your perverted sense of scientific research?! What you see before you is your fully deserved punishment for your abhorrent sins! That abomination that was once your son shall now serve as a constant remin-OOFFF!" Ignacius' tirade was violently silenced when one of the guards slammed his fist into the elder advisor's stomach, knocking the wind of the raving madman's lungs and leaving him gasping for breath.
"That's enough out of you, traitor!" roared Agnarr. "Guards, lock this madman in the dungeon's most heavily guarded cells, where his deluded fanaticism can't do any more harm! I shall personally deal with him after this fiasco has been sorted out." The guardsmen silently carried out their liege's order, said madman remained silent as he tried to get his breathing back to normal. Meanwhile, while everyone's attention was focused on Ignacius, the Head Physician was examining her patient. She placed the fabric over Danny's neck and pressed her index and middle fingers against his jugular vein. The woman also slipped off her medallion and positioned the metal part in front of his nostrils for good measure. Her spirits lifted when she felt his heartbeat throb against her fingertips and saw his breath fog up her medallion.
"Your Grace, the boy is still alive!" she declared, instantly gaining everyone's surprised attention.
"Our…Our son lives? He truly lives?!" Jack's normally confident voice had taken on a desperate tone, as if he were afraid that simply inquiring about his child's well-being would somehow be enough to worsen Danny's condition. Maddie didn't even dare speak a word, her gaze centered solely on the doctor.
"Are…Are you quite certain, Nora?" asked Agnarr, who was still trying to overcome his disbelief that the young man had managed to survive.
"I…I believe so, Your Grace. The boy has a pulse and he's still breathing, but I don't know how deeply these altercations affect him. There's a chance that these changes are causing more damage to his body than we know. I need to get him to the infirmary to conduct some more tests in order to find out for sure, and whether or not his condition be reversed." She then turned to face her king. "I'd also need to examine your daughter and Randolf as well, Sire, if only to ensure that they haven't been affected by the portal and to treat any wounds they might have received."
Nobody objected to Nora's proposal. Jack carefully picked up Danny in his arms, all the while making sure that the red robes were still draped over his body, and then followed Nora as she led him and Maddie to the infirmary. The king guided Elsa out of the ballroom right after the Fentons, followed shortly by a guardsman and Randolf with the former helping the latter limp along. But even as she was being escorted out of the room, her gaze remained focused on smoking warped frame of the Fenton Ghost Portal and the patch of frost on the hardwood floor. One thought continuously raced through her mind.
'What have I done?'
TO BE CONTINUED…
So, there you have it: Danny's accident with his parents' ghost portal has forever changed his life. But unlike the original canonical event, this version of the accident has resulted in one ghost power developing a lot earlier than it did in the television series. Even though this recent development now gives these two teens something they can both relate to, the entire fiasco was quite sudden and dramatic. How will Danny react to his changes once he wakes up? What's going through Elsa's mind in light of what she'd just witnessed? Can Jack and Maddie find a way to reverse their son's condition? And what's going to happen to the unstable Ignacius in as a result of his actions? Find out next time on A TALE OF GHOSTS AND ICE!
Okay, as of this moment, this is the longest chapter that I've written for this story and it has taken me even longer than I'd would've liked for me to finally get it written. I just don't understand it. I had what I wanted to write while I was in the shower, walking to class, and eating meals, yet my mind went completely blank when I got in front of a keyboard. And of course, college classes take up a lot of time. Anyways, I hope that you enjoy reading this update. Please don't forget to Read and Review!