September 15, 2005: Hey, y'all. Next chapter. Not as long as I'd hoped, but I had to rush to get it in. Right now, I'm wishing that I could get it in before "The Ultimate Enemy" airs tomorrow, but I'm a bit dubious of that happening. Dangit, I swear, Hartman stole my idea:shakefist:
...actually, I'm a bit surprised he hasn't come up with the "take Phantom out of Danny and pit the two against each other" idea sooner. I mean, the fans are going nuts with that plot. XD
Neee, don't like this chapter as much. Too slow, too short, needs actiony goodness... Phantom's coming up the next chapter, I know, and maybe Conley as well. Because I know y'all love him to bits and bits.
Lessee. Kudos to my many new buds Mel, Ariel, and Olivia for beta'ing real quick. Chapter dedicated to all of them, especially Mel, for putting up with my technological impared-ness. Reviews are at the end of the chapter.
The actual story clocks in at just over 2,000 words, so about six pages...
in Star City
Chapter Thirteen: Suspicions
Eliza's feet pounded the sidewalk as she ran fast as she could after Gale.
"Gale! Gale, wait up-"
The older man didn't reply. When he reached the van, he skidded to a halt and ripped the door open. The back of the vehicle had been converted into a mobile computer lab that would have turned the CIA green with envy. Gale flicked a switch, and one of the monitors flickered.
Eliza paused on the edge of the van, sucking in lungfuls of air. Even that short sprint of thirty yards had worn her out. She really, really needed to get in shape one of these days.
"Gale," she panted, "mind telling me what's going on?"
He shook his head. "Be quiet," he said sharply, fingers flying over the keyboard. Several technical-looking graphs flashed across the screen, and one was dragged to the foreground. It looked like a topographical map, and Eliza recognized it to be that of Star City. Various shades of green and blue were sprinkled throughout the map, but one dash of bright orange stood out distinctly. It was over Star Mountain, the largest peak in the region.
"Jereni? Jereni, listen to me," Gale said urgently into a speaker. "There's not much time. I want you to check your graphs for me."
There was a lengthy pause. Eliza heard a soft gasp from the other end of the phone.
"I know. We'll be there in a few minutes."
There was a beep, and Gale looked over.
"Something's come up. We can't look for your brother right now."
"Well, duh," she said quietly as she climbed into the front seat. She looked back towards Star Mountain as they pulled away. The hairs on her neck stood at attention.
That had definitely not been a good sign.
No one was telling her anything. The minute they got back, Gale and Jereni gathered around a computer and spoke in hushed tones. Eliza tried to look on, but couldn't make heads or tails of what was on the screen. She retreated just outside the hallway, quietly eavesdropping.
"I told you, it's strained. It's not going to hold much longer."
Jereni's voice came in slightly calmer: "The wall's been breached before, Gale. It may still hold."
Hal came by and looked in the room. He saw Eliza peering around the edge and raised an eyebrow.
"What's going on?" he asked.
She gave a very eloquent shrug. "I have absolutely no idea."
He shrugged back and handed her two steaming cups of either very watery coffee, or very strong tea. "Danny's gone up to the roof. I think that the whole meaning of tonight has just hit. I thought it would mean more if you would go up and talk to him, as opposed to an old geezer like me." He gave her a smile. "Don't worry, I'll stay here and try to figure out what the Einsteins over there are up to."
She smiled back, and was halfway down the hall before she turned around. "You knew my dad, right?"
"Back in the day, yes," he said.
"Did he trust you?"
Hal cocked his head to one side, contemplating. "We were friends. I'd like to think that he trusted me."
Eliza nodded. "Alright, then."
She turned and headed up the stairs.
Within minutes of discovering the disappearances of both Gale and Eliza, Jereni had effectively worked herself into a frenzy. She was spouting what-ifs and far-flung scenarios faster than Hal could attempt to calm her. The excess noise and motion did nothing to stop Danny's headache. He mumbled a goodbye, which he doubt either of the adults noticed, and slipped out of the room.
Really, he wondered why he wasn't the one having the full-fledged panic attack. He was certainly entitled to some hysteria. But after the shock had worn off, Danny had retreated behind a veil of apathy. At this point, he didn't feel much of anything.
The civic center wasn't quite empty, even this late at night. Clean-up crews and guards passed Danny as he walked down the hallway; none of them gave him a second glance. It was almost like he was invisible.
He found his way into a stairwell and wandered up three flights of steps. They opened out onto the roof, already damp from the listless rain.
Out there, he thought, walking out slowly, somewhere, is Jazz, and my parents, and Eliza, and Phantom...
Danny leaned his weight against the railing, careful of his left arm, and peered over the edge. Even before the accident, he'd never been afraid of heights. In fact, he'd gotten a kick out of testing how high he could fly before everything on the ground looked like a toy set. He'd grown quickly accustomed to moving in three dimensions, and looking over a hundred-foot drop felt like a kick in the shins. He wasn't used to the fear that came from being up high.
He sighed and let his eyes close. There was a wind blowing from the city, and he pretended that, just for a moment, he was flying.
Light spilled out onto the roof, framing a long silhouette. The door banged shut again, and footsteps hesitantly stepped around the growing puddles. Danny didn't even both to turn around. A hand touched his shoulder.
"Hey," Eliza said softly, handing him a cup.
"Where'd you run off to?"
She snorted. "Glad to see you noticed I was gone." Locking one arm around the railing, she swung around casually. She sipped at her drink, and made a face.
"Jereni was worried where you two had gone."
Eliza snorted again. "You mean she was worried about Gale. I'm telling you, man, they totally have a thing for each other."
Danny turned around suddenly, scowling. "Quit stalling! What happened?"
The girl felt her cheeks flush, and stood a little straighter. Very quickly, she outlined the events of the past few minutes, especially the overheard conversation. He was quiet for a long while.
"Did you see Jazz?" he asked finally.
She shook her head. "I'm sorry, Danny, but wherever she is, we didn't find her."
He turned back to the city, and she felt the urge to slap him.
"Aren't you in the least bit interested about what that flash on the mountain was? Or what Gale and Jereni were talking about?"
"Not even if it's important?" she pushed. "I mean, Gale totally freaked out, and-"
The look on his face stopped her. "What's wrong?"
He played with the blinds absentmindedly. "I don't trust them," he said after a while. "I- it seems convenient that we get attacked, and they should up five minutes later. They happen to know a doctor who could write an encyclopedia about ectoplasm, but doesn't have a clue about Todd. You and Gale run in with that Conley guy, and Gale actually runs off. Then, they get all worked up over something, and won't say a word." Danny shrugged. "I don't know. I just think something's wrong with this picture."
"Know what I think? I think the lack of sleep is making you paranoid. You sound like Fox Mulder, for Pete's sake."
"So you don't believe me?" There was a sharp edge to his voice.
"That's not what I meant." She blinked. "That's not what I said. I just think that you're seeing connections where there aren't any."
"Don't be stupid. Something's up. Something's not right."
He'd begun to pace, and Eliza's head turned with his movements in exasperation.
"Do you have any proof?"
Danny looked at her as though she were crazy. "No," he admitted. "I just feel it."
"So this is all a hunch." He didn't answer, and she sighed. Her tone softened. "Look, I know you're scared. I am, too. But pointing fingers isn't going to change a thing. Once you get some sleep, I'm sure-"
Something snapped and he whirled on her, letting his cup drop to the ground. "Why do you even trust them?" he demanded, inches from her face.
Her expression was startled and hurt, and Danny almost backed down. The hurt changed into a glare, and she leaned in closer.
"Because right now," she said, clearly enunciating each word, "they're the only hope my brother has got."
"You don't know that for sure. That's only what they said."
"Danny, listen to what you're saying. It's insane! It's stupid! It's just downright dumb!"
"You want dumb? You're the one being naïve and believing every word they say!"
"Since when did Gale and Jereni become a 'they'? You believed them, too." She shook her head. "I swear, Danny, you are so full of yourself."
It hadn't been a very good insult, and Eliza knew it. She'd never been good with coming up with them on the spot. Still glaring, she mustered for another one.
"I'm going back down there," she announced, "and actually try to help get something done. You know, instead of acting all emo about it."
Eliza smiled triumphantly as she sauntered back towards the stairs. It had been a much better comeback the second time around. She glanced back before stopping.
What if- and this was a very big if, mind you- Danny was right? What if it was naïve to continue trusting these people? They hadn't had a choice earlier, but now that the immediate crisis was over, they could...
They could what? Take Todd and run? An overweight girl, her comatose brother, and a boy with a broken arm weren't going to get very far.
Danny looked back at her sorely, and she sighed.
"We can't just leave," she said. "Where would we go?"
"I don't know," he said quietly. "I just can't stay here anymore, doing nothing. Not when I know he's out there."
It must be driving him crazy, she thought suddenly, not knowing how all this'll play out.
Eliza couldn't bring herself to be mad at Danny. She knew exactly how he felt.
"What was he like?" she asked, coming closer.
He shrugged, letting his weight settle on the railing. "He was me, but he wasn't. He came with my powers, but was there the whole time. I can't describe it. You wouldn't understand."
Eliza wanted to point out that he probably didn't either, but bit her tongue.
"If he's part of you," she said slowly, "it stands to reason that you two'd have a connection or something. What if you tried to call him or something?"
"What makes you think I haven't tried?" A hand went up to the back of his head. "It feels like someone punched a hole right here. And..." The hand dropped. "It's pointless."
"No, it's not," she insisted. "Maybe you haven't tried hard enough."
The boy glanced at her wearily. "Fine. Whatever. If you think it'll help. But I don't know what to do."
She offered him a wry smile, then hesitantly slid up beside him. "If it means anything, neither do I."
He nodded and smiled back before closing his eyes.
"Phantom," he said, "Phantom. Can you hear me?"
He imagined a thin line stretched out between his body and his other half. If he could only find that line, then he would give it a sharp tug and Phantom would hear, and they would be reunited, and life would be normal again...
Phantom, and then louder, a mental scream, you've got to come back. Please, find me. Come back.
Nothing. And then...
Had he really felt that chill? He waited, tense, for a moment before opening his eyes. The world looked the same as it had before. His skin was no less feverish. His thoughts still echoed, empty, around his head.
Eliza was watching him, expectant. "Well?" she asked.
Danny pushed away from the railing angrily. It wasn't fair, he thought, for him to have to go through all this, and for her to stand there like that-
"Well what?" he practically snarled, shoving her out of the way as he stomped over to the stairwell.
Unperturbed, she jogged after him. "Nothing?"
He stopped suddenly, letting her run smack into him. "What do you think?"
There was a heavy slam, and he disappeared down the stairs.
"Nothing?" she repeated. "But- there must have been- something." Eliza stood there for a while, feeling hurt in general, and looked back towards the city.
"It always works out in the stories," she said sadly, following down the stairs.
Neither teenager knew just how far Danny's plea had reached.
Silver Latias: Yeah, I know I went AWOL for a while, but glad to see you're still here. Cliffhangers are good, except when I forget what I'm supposed to be writing. XD
Axion-Pup: You crazy? I need all the help I can get. I can't wait for the next part, either.
Straying Life: Can't say I remember you right off, but freaky how people find each other, isn't it? Did you review the story earlier? Don't remember your screenname popping up.
Lateraina Wolf: Glad that you caught the hints, but let me say loud and clear: neither Sam nor Eliza will hook up with Danny in DSC. :coughs: Of course, I didn't say anything about the sequel, but. Not in DSC. Danny ain't go no one to love! Awwww.
G.I.R.'s shadow: You? Sane? Perish the very thought! And thank you for the kind review. (And do you think I could have some of that chocolate pudding?)
Sigh. I haven't started writing the next chapter yet, though I know where I want to go. I've got other things on my writing plate at the moment, but I'm not going to forget DSC again. So, just be patient, and look through some other fics at the moment. I'm sure y'all can find something out there. ;)
BIG IMPORTANT NOTE OF IMPORTANCE: This will shortly be up on my LiveJournal and deviantART account. Feel free to drop a line here or there. It's easier for me to communicate with my readers through those sites.