AN: This chapter comes shortly after the Young Justice episode Targets, but don't worry – I will make everything that it entails clear in the story itself. Just thought I'd make a note of it for the hardcore fans. (You know who you are.)
The inspiration for this was what I felt was missing from the episode Alpha Male, but it's changed so much since initial planning that I'm not sure it's what I was going for anymore. (I don't even care anymore, I've been working on this for too long.) Any and all similarities to Alpha Male are on purpose and amuse me greatly.
Chapter dedicated to the tumblr blog dannyphantom-justiceleauge [sic],who rekindled my love for mixing Danny Phantom and DC superheroes.
Superboy, the newly named Conner Kent, punched the glowing green shield as hard as he could.
The barrier trembled, but held strong, encasing Superboy on all sides. The spherical wall was so close, it was hard to get the momentum needed to destroy it.
Still, Superboy made one more attempt.
Finally, finally, the wall crumbled. Big hunks of glowing green energy broke off and disintegrated before they hit the ground.
A few steps away, the ghost that had held him trapped gave a small laugh. Phantom's arms still shook from the effort of maintaining the barrier. The glow that always surrounded his body was weak and flickering, nearly impossible to see under under the lights of the training room. His feet both touched the ground, a surer sign of exhaustion than anything else.
"Almost got you that time," Danny smiled.
Conner grunted in acknowledgement and turned to walk towards the kitchen.
Danny was quick to follow, as weird as it was that he did it on foot. "Thanks for helping me out."
Conner gave a small nod in reply.
"I don't get why it's so much easier to hold a sphere with me on the inside." Danny started prattling on about his lessons with Green Lantern, and Conner made sure to make noises at appropriate times.
The kitchen in the base under Mount Justice was empty when they got there. Conner pulled out a jar of cookies, made by M'gann and Danny, and pushed it towards the ghost before settling down in front of the TV. Conner switched on his favourite show: static.
Danny smiled and took the whole cookie jar with him to the sofa.
"Did you know, that roughly one percent of TV static is caused by the Cosmic Microwave Background?" Danny ate two cookies in quick succession, making a barely passable imitation of Wally. Still, his glow was starting to return to normal.
Conner grunted with interest. Neither Cadmus nor Happy Harbor High had thought to teach him that. Probably because the information was less than useful.
Danny descended into a somehow related story of satellite dishes and cleaning off bird poop to win the Nobel Prize. Conner could have done without, but it was obvious that Danny found the whole thing very interesting, so he listened anyway.
"Hey guys, what's up?" Robin came through the door, closely followed by Wally and the girls.
"We're talking about the program we're watching, of course." Danny grinned.
As one, the others glanced towards the TV. It was still displaying nothing but white noise.
"Riiight." Wally made a move to steal a cookie. Since Danny was glowing normally again, Conner let it slide. "Anyway, we've got no time to sit around. We've got a mission briefing."
Aqualad steeled himself, squaring his shoulders and taking a deep breath.
He needed to tell Batman now, before the others joined them in front of the holographic screens.
"May I have a word?" Aqualad almost hoped for a negative response.
Batman nodded curtly.
"When I helped Red Arrow protect the peace meeting, Sportsmaster made a worrying comment." Aqualad sighed. "He outright stated he had a mole on the Team. I'm unsure of how to proceed."
Batman became very still, and he seemed to stare into nothing for a few seconds. "There is no reason for him to tell you something like that, so he is likely lying... but we can't afford to dismiss it outright. It's best if we keep it a secret from-"
It was at that moment that Superboy entered the room, his deep scowl revealing how much of the conversation his superhearing had let him overhear.
"-a mole on the Team. I am unsure of how to proceed."
Conner could barely hear the rest over the blood rushing through his ears. A traitor. There was a traitor on the Team? No, that was ridiculous.
He barged into the room, followed by the others. While they hadn't heard what Conner had, they could easily tell from his reaction that something was going on.
"Superboy-" began Aqualad, before Conner could cut him off.
"You think there's a traitor on the Team!?" His voice raised in volume at the outrage. Conner stalked forward, not noticing or caring about how threatening an image he projected.
"Superboy, stand down." Batman's voice bore no argument.
Conner was about to make one anyway, when he noticed the reactions of his teammates.
Robin stood apart from the others, narrowed eyes flickering between them. His gaze seemed to rest especially long on Conner.
Wally was giving Artemis the stink eye, which she readily returned. Danny and Valerie seemed to be holding an entire conversation with their eyes, but there was no suspicion between the two of them. M'gann looked worried and withdrawn, her shoulders hunched.
Did nobody except him see how ridiculous it was? There was no way there was a mole on the Team. They were family.
Or at least they were his family. It wouldn't be the first time he let his emotions cloud his judgement. Just because he cared about every single member of the Team didn't mean they returned the sentiment.
Robin didn't know what to think.
There was no way KF or Aqualad was a traitor, he had known them for years before the Team was founded, but the rest...
Superboy was a clone, who had been mind controlled until the Team rescued him. There was no telling what sort of programming Cadmus had left in his brain. He could be the traitor and not even know it.
Artemis lied about her past, that much was obvious. The question was why and what she was hiding. He had been planning on finding out, but the mystery of Phantom had taken precedence on account of being more outlandish.
Red Huntress and Phantom also had secrets, like the previous animosity that the amnesia in Bialya had revealed. Red obviously had murderous tendencies, and a willingness to act on them, while Phantom was an impossibly big mystery. The time travelling ghost could hold loyalties to literally anyone.
Miss Martian was a suspect mainly on account of Robin not wanting to disregard the possibility. Besides, an infiltrator on a team featuring a mind reader was most likely to get away with it if they were the mind reader. Not that Miss M regularly read their thoughts beyond what they willingly shared with the mind link... Unless she was the mole and read their minds and kept it secret.
"Enough." Batman's brusque voice broke through Robin's haze. "I called you here for a mission."
A few quick clicks brought up poorly taken photographs of neon green against grainy black. Some of the black took the shape of leaves, and was obviously in front of whatever it was that glowed.
"There have been sightings of suspicious green light phenomena, as well as the sounds of explosions, in the Brazilian parts of the Amazon Forest. You will investigate."
Nobody seemed enthusiastic about the prospect anymore.
The Bio-ship landed in a small clearing by a river. The rain forest was lush, warm, and overgrown. The air humidity was ridiculously high, compared to Amity Park.
Danny was on edge.
'A traitor. There's a traitor.'
It seemed far-fetched, but Danny knew that at least one of his teammates had worked for a supervillain.
"Hey, psst, Red." Danny floated over as they exited the ship.
Valerie gave him a concerned look.
"Do you still work for Vlad Masters?" Danny kept his voice a low whisper.
"No, you were right about him being bad news." Valerie shook her head and made a face like she'd bitten into something sour.
Danny raised an eyebrow, but didn't comment.
'Wonder what he did to earn that reaction.'
"Miss Martian, establish a mind link," ordered Aqualad. His voice was his usual calm and even timbre.
"Are you sure that's a good idea?" asked Valerie with an uncomfortable glance towards M'gann. "If she's the traitor..."
Miss Martian fidgeted.
"Of course it is, there's no way Miss M is the traitor." Kid Flash sped over to stand in front of M'gann.
"Just because you have a crush-"
"I don't have-"
"We can stick to normal radio," interrupted Aqualad. "We're splitting into groups. Robin, Artemis, Red Huntress; you're with me. We'll follow the river upstream." Aqualad indicated the direction with his head. "Superboy, Miss Martian, Kid Flash, Phantom; downstream."
Danny gave Aqualad a quick salute before following his team into the forest.
He was growing tired of people thinking he was evil.
Danny had thought, for what felt like a fleeting moment, that joining the Team meant he was past that. That the Justice League deciding he wasn't a villain would soon mean that the rest of the world would realise the same thing.
Maybe he had been naïve.
Something as simple as moving forward was difficult, but not as difficult as it would be for normal people. He and Miss Martian flew above the undergrowth, and Superboy was in a category on his own. He barrelled forward like a bull, letting his superstrength and durability carve him a path through the forest.
Meanwhile, Kid Flash seemed to trip over every single thing he came across. Partly because he wouldn't stop sending Danny and Superboy suspicious glares.
Danny ignored him. Phantom got worse glares regularly from his parents. Instead, he focused on the forest around him. He couldn't see any suspicious lights, but that didn't mean there was nothing going on.
"Do you think we'll have to wait until it gets dark?" Danny floated higher, into hearing distance from Miss Martian. The sun stood low in the sky, but it would be hours until it fully set.
"Maybe." M'gann seemed happy to have something to distract her from the whole mole issue, even though it was still awkward.
Just as she was about to say something else, a green explosion came from the distance.
Danny's breath fogged in the air. "We've got ghost trouble."
Superboy gave a quick nod, and turned on the specter deflector he wore as a belt. Kid Flash pulled out a Thermos.
They approached quickly but cautiously, not letting anybody fall behind. It was more important to be prepared for whatever than to get there as soon as possible.
That didn't stop Danny from immediately getting hit in the chest by an ectoblast.
Danny pulled himself up again just in time to block a second blast with a small shield powered purely by his irritation with himself for not getting it up earlier.
'At least we found the disturbance.'
Hanging in the air, with a vicious smile on his face and an ecto-gun pointed at Danny, was Skulker. "Hello, whelp."
Danny blinked, before raising his index finger. "Okay, quick question and then we can get back to fighting or whatever... But Skulker, what are you doing here? We're in the middle of nowhere!" At the last word, Danny threw out his arm as if to encompass the entire rain forest.
"Do you know every ghost?" muttered KF.
'I bet KF is the mole and is using the situation to tear the team apart,' Danny thought bitterly.
"I'm on a hunt," said Skulker with a tone that made it very clear he considered the question ridiculous and unnecessary, and Danny stupid for asking it.
"You know, that much I could figure out for myself, Nimrod."
"My prey escaped to this place." Skulker looked petulant, which contrasted oddly with him shooting Superboy in the chest. "I just followed."
Superboy stumbled back, a smoking hole in his shirt, but seemed mostly unharmed. Skulker gave him a thoughtful look, like an antiques dealer appraising an unfamiliar vase.
"Is that a Kryptonian?"
A shiver went up Danny's spine.
Kid Flash's eyes, which were not in fact turned towards the obvious threat but at Danny, narrowed. Before Danny could make some lame excuse, he spoke. "So what if he is?"
Skulker grinned wider. "Kryptonians are even rarer than haflas. His cut off head would make a nice trophy on my wall."
"You couldn't just let me handle it!?" hissed Danny.
"Of course not, you could be the mole!" Kid Flash didn't have the decency to look embarrassed. "You and your ghost friend over there could be planning something!"
Danny felt like punching someone. In the face. With a blunt instrument. However, he couldn't even punch Skulker without giving up his defensive position protecting Superboy.
"Erm, guys." Miss Martian's voice cut through Danny's murderous fantasies. "Shouldn't we be more concerned with what he was hunting when he got here?"
Valerie dodged another swipe from the ghost's huge and sharp claws.
Artemis had taken up position in a nearby tree, reading her ecto-arrows, while Robin pulled out a Fenton-made staff that lit up green at the ends. Aqualad stuck to his usual weapons, as magic had proven effective against ghosts.
Valerie, being the one with the most maneuverability in the air, was acting as the distraction. The fact that the ghost was focused on her, to the exclusion of all else, helped.
'At least this isn't a weird "is this ghost evil" dilemma. A giant ghostly werewolf dressed in prison garb who attacks people is bound to be bad.'
Valerie immediately silenced the little voice in the back of her mind that pointed out that while the ghost had attacked them first, he seemed to have done so out of desperation rather than malice. That the looks he sent her were afraid, not smug.
However, prison garb meant bad guy. Right? Right.
Yet, she still wished she could understand a single word he said. The ghostly werewolf spoke some language that not even Robin could translate properly – he claimed that while it sounded close to Spanish, it was distinct enough to muck up his understanding. Even then, the ghost apparently wasn't all that coherent to begin with.
Valerie blasted the thing again, making it bleed ectoplasm on the forest floor.
The ghost flinched and... paused, turning his nose into the air and inhaling loudly.
Valerie froze. The ghost was smelling something... or someone.
Before she could finish her thought, the ghost started running in the direction of the others.
'Danny! The ghost must recognize his scent! If he gets himself mauled by a ghost werewolf I'm gonna-'
Rather than finish her silent threat, Valerie flew down and picked up her teammates. Robin and Aqualad crunched down on the front of the hover-board, while Artemis grabbed onto Valerie's shoulders.
Weighed down as she was, Valerie quickly lost ground on the ghost.
Valerie's breath caught in her throat as they turned a corner and it became beyond doubt that the ghost was running towards Phantom. Even Skulker, that hunter that had kidnapped her and Phantom and handcuffed them together that one time, became unimportant as the werewolf approached her friend.
Phantom was holding a glowing shield over Superboy, protecting him from Skulker's attack. He wouldn't notice until the werewolf was upon him.
"Oh no you don't!" Valerie shouted and powered up her largest ecto-gun.
Danny's head shot up as he heard her shout, eyes snapping from her to the werewolf ghost.
In a flurry of motion, Phantom somersaulted over the werewolf's shoulder and brought up a shield to block Valerie's attack.
The ghostly wolf twisted, bringing himself to stand over Phantom without restraining the other ghost. He growled at them.
It took Valerie a dizzying second to interpret the body language for what it was; the werewolf was protective of Danny.
Danny didn't need to glare, in a sharp glowing neon green, for Valerie to regret attacking the other ghost.
"Friend of yours?" asked Robin.
"Amiko," agreed the werewolf.
Danny smiled at the word. Without turning, he then launched into a series of questions in the odd language before nodding decisively at the answers.
Phantom's eyes travelled between the members of the Team and Skulker, judging them on something she couldn't even begin to guess. Eventually, his gaze settled on Aqualad's water bearers. With them and magic the Atlantean could form any weapon. Danny took a deep breath. "Aqualad, cut off Skulker's head."
"Wait, what!?" shouted Kid Flash.
"I'm busy protecting everyone." Danny nodded his head towards his ghostly friend's injury and the green shields around Superboy. "Someone else has to do it."
"We don't cut off villains' heads!" objected Robin.
"Just trust me!" Danny's echoing voice had taken a broken tone, sounding like it hurt to use. He looked like he was about to say more, to explain, when Skulker shot a missile at him. The words were lost in the explosion, and when the dust settled a single dome-shaped shield was standing in the middle of a crater.
Aqualad's pale eyes narrowed, before he nodded towards Valerie.
It wasn't easy to dodge attacks and position herself in a good spot, but it wasn't all that hard either.
With one smooth motion, Aqualad jumped off the hover-board. His water shaped itself into twin swords, and Skulker's head was summarily removed from his body.
There was a perfect second of silence, before Kid Flash sped over and grabbed onto Aqualad's arm. "How could you-"
"It's fine." Phantom nonchalantly flew over to the abandoned head and pulled something small and green and protesting out of it. "I'd like to introduce Skulker, without the suit."
"Oh." Wally's exclamation was small, little more than a controlled exhale.
The tiny ghostly blob swore at them in a high-pitched voice. Danny stuck him in a Thermos.
"And this guy right here is Wulf." Danny threw and arm over the werewolf's shoulder. The size difference between the two of them was suddenly very noticeable. "He's my amiko, even if he looks kinda scary and only speaks Esperanto."
The ghost bared his teeth at Valerie when Danny wasn't looking.
"He's wearing prison garb," Valerie couldn't help but point out.
"Yeah, the Ghost Zone's legal system is... not a real thing? Don't worry about it." Danny scratched the back of his head. "Trust me on this one, too?"
Wulf said something in Esperanto, to which Danny nodded.
"Since Wulf's injured, he's coming back with us." Danny's voice was resolute, hard like steel.
Kid Flash looked like he contemplated protesting, but in the end kept his mouth shut.
Aqualad held up a single hand, silently asking for a moment's quiet.
Danny tensed, arm still slung around Wulf's shoulder.
"While Wulf may come with us, I fear there is another matter we must address." Aqualad looked between the members of the Team. "If we cannot trust each other, we cannot function as a team."
'He's dissolving the Team.' The thought ran through Valerie's head like an ice-cold wind. 'No! He can't do that!'
"As such, I feel it is necessary to point out that the information regarding the mole came from Sportsmaster."
"Sportsmaster, as in the mercenary?" Robin frowned.
"Sportsmaster!? You can't trust him!" Artemis gestured sharply.
"Indeed, we can not. Sportsmaster must have gotten his intel from comparing notes with other villains. This was likely a mere diversion, or an attempt to rip us apart." Aqualad nodded. "One that nearly worked. We will not fall for the same trick twice."
"So, no mole?" Danny looked hopeful.
"There is no mole." The thought was echoed by several members of the Team.
And it looked like they were going to stay members of the Team for some time still.
AN: I've decided that since I'm juggling so many characters I'm just going to not include Zatanna or Rocket. While having Zatanna interact with Danny might be interesting, it's probably not worth it. I don't want to become pulled into too many directions.
On that note, don't expect a lot of focus on Team Phantom or Dani. Both are gonna have their moments in the spotlight, but it's more of a one-shot deal than them becoming core members of the cast. (Why do I have so many characters?)