Skulker pulled the electric screwdriver back into his armour and lifted up his protective mask, stepping back to admire his work. Vlad had recently employed his services for the task of rebuilding his ruined Ghost-Zone Portal. Of course, with Skulker's technological savvy, it wasn't much trouble. He had his resources, his tools, and anything he didn't have Vlad managed to obtain through his company Dalv Corp.
Vlad had been asking Skulker to help him with many things lately; one ongoing project had been constructing ghost-hunting weapons that seemed to be made for a teenager. He had no idea why Vlad was so intent on getting such things made, but he had known him long enough to know not to ask. In any case, he had always gotten his fair share from their deal.
The portal was just about done. All that was left was to turn it on. Skulker tossed his mask aside and grinned as he bent down to pick up the main cables.
"Now…" he said. "It is time to…" a beeping sound went off on his left arm. The ghost-hunter looked to see the message on the PDA.
"'Fly to magazine stand…'" he read. "'…Purchase magazine with article on dieting habits of purpleback gorillas…'"
With that, his rockets shot out of his back and fired off, catapulting him through the roof of the underground lab and out of Vlad's Gothic castle. As he hadn't had time to let go of the cables, he pulled them along with him, eventually tearing them out of their sockets in the wall. This set off a rather large explosion that produced a sound substantial enough to travel upstairs, where Vlad was reading in his den. At the noise, he looked down at the floor, sighed, set his book down, and headed downstairs.
All the work that had been accomplished on the portal was now ruined. The outer frame had collapsed, the main generator had blown out of the foundation and left a huge hole filled with soil in the wall, and the controls were completely fried. It was in even worse shape now than when repairs had started.
Vlad, trembling in his struggle to control himself, rolled up his sleeve and activated the voice communicator in his watch.
"Skulker!" he shouted in a way that demanded explanation.
"It's this infernal device!" the hunter yelled back, "It still acts up even with the reprogramming!"
Vlad sighed again. Somehow, they had to find a way to get rid of that thing. "Can you repair the damage?" he asked.
"Very well," Vlad sighed yet again. "See you when you return. I have things to take care of anyway."
The second part of Vlad's lab, once meant for ghostly experiments, had been converted to storage space for all of the weapons and equipment meant for Valerie Gray. Their arrangement with one another was going well; Valerie still had no idea who she was getting her toys from, and Vlad's goals were being carried out just fine. Now as Plasmius, he was gathering all his latest works together in a box for delivery. He had set everything out the other night, and now he just had to pack it.
As he was finishing up, he looked around to see if he'd missed anything when something half buried under the newspapers he used as packaging caught his eye. As he drew it out he saw that it was his picture from college of himself, Maddie, and Jack, Jack's face still torn off. He hadn't looked at this photograph since Jazz had been to his home. His eyes rested on Maddie for a moment before going over to his own face.
There was no beard then, his hair colour made him seem his age, and he actually appeared happy.
Then he recalled the day the picture was taken; one day before the accident.
"Jack," he hissed. And, though not consious of it, he began to let his mind wander back to that day…
(He's a Phantom)
Young Danny Fenton, he was just fourteen
When his parents built a very strange machine
It was designed to view a world unseen
(He's gonna catch 'em all cuz he's Danny Phantom)
When it didn't quite work
His folks, they just quit
But then Danny took a look inside of it
There was a great big flash
Everything just changed
His molecules got all rearranged!
When he first woke up
He had snow white hair
And glowing green eyes
He could walk through walls,
Disappear, and fly!
He was much more unique than the other guy!
(He's gonna catch 'em all cuz he's Danny Phantom)
(He's gonna catch 'em all cuz he's Danny Phantom)
It was then that he knew what he had to do
He had to stop all the ghosts
That were coming through
He's here to fight
For me and YOU!
Gonna catch them all cuz he's Danny Phantom
Plasmius…The Origins of Vlad!
Twenty years ago, at the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay, life was good for Vlad Masters. He was in his junior year, with high grades and several honours. He had majors in computer science, electronics, drama, chemistry, and mythology. He made his living off the money he received from scholarship. He was living in the same city as his favourite football team, the Green Bay Packers. And he had the best friend a man could have.
That friend was Jack Fenton, the craziest guy on campus. He was Vlad's age and in most of his classes. His grades were all B-minuses instead of As, and he was the biggest, most absent-minded bumbling goofball imaginable, but he was still quite an inventor. He'd been tinkering with electronics and gadgetry since he was a small boy. Vlad had met him at the beginning of their freshman year, and the two of them quickly became inseperable. They were roomates. They were lab partners. Whenever tickets for a Packers game came along at a price within their range, Vlad resisted the urge to buy them right away, instead always making sure there were two available. If not, they watched the game from their room at campus. They were always swapping notes and trading ideas for classes and outside school activities. They weren't the most popular of people at the school – though Jack imagined they were – but it didn't matter. No matter how many times they were called freaks, no matter how many times someone poured the contents of a punch bowl over their heads at parties, no matter how many times the jocks shoved them around in between classes, they stuck together. They were the other's main compadre, their right-hand man, the yin and yang of one another. Best of all, neither thought it was weird that the other believed in ghosts.
Vlad had never actually seen a ghost, but before they died in that car accident his parents had done a lot of research into them as a favour to their horror novelist friend. Vlad had looked over the information they had found. For many weeks after he couldn't sleep, but once the initial fear went away, he began to find ghosts quite interesting. He stayed up late at night, watching old horror films and brimming over books, both fact and fiction, that dealt with the paranormal. He looked up books and reports by real paranormal experts. One night, he was even able to find some traces of ectoplasm for study. He had only reports and that trace of material to go on. When he made attempts at designing ghost weaponry more advanced than what was known to be out there, they didn't turn out well without more spectral power to go with them. But with all he had been able to learn he had managed put together quite a file. When it came to innovative ghost theory, he didn't like to speculate without more to go on. But he had made some discoveries on his own that were fascinating. One especially intriguing breakthrough he had made was learning that ectoplasm caused strange mutations in ghosts.
Jack was a complete ghost fanatic. He had compiled together about five hundred theories on ghosts and designed about two hundred ghost combat and study devices, all of them far more advanced than any used by paranormal experts of the day. He'd collected many ectoplasmic samples and had found ways to tap into spectral energies to power his devices. Most of his files were made up of crazy theories and guesses rather than known facts about ghosts, but they were just crazy enough to possibly be true. He also built his weapons instead of just designing them. Usually, Jack's hastiness caused him to make half his calculations in building his weapons wrong. Vlad was able to catch those mistakes, but neither of them could get anything to work. That's where Maddie came in.
If there was one thing or one person that could ruin Vlad's friendship with Jack, Maddie was that person.
They'd met at a party hosted by her friend Harriet Chin. The instant Vlad saw her, he was tempted to grab a punch glass, put on his best romantic face, walk up to her and say "Here's looking at you, kid." What happened instead was that she introduced herself to both Vlad and Jack, who both stammered out weak hellos. They soon became good friends with her. Maddie also believed in ghosts, and, being the most intelligent student at the entire university, could always spot all the errors in Jack and Vlad's inventions and work them out. She went over all of Jack's theories and weighed them with all that she had discovered about the paranormal. Half of his ideas she supported, and gave Jack and Vlad plenty of evidence to show that they were good theories. The other half she dismissed – which had little impact on Jack, who kept them anyway.
Maddie was smart, fun, beautiful…
Vlad was completely, obsessively, head-over-heels in love.
The problem was, so was Jack.
His obsession with ghosts and his goofy attitude made it hard for Jack himself to realise it at times, but Vlad could tell that Jack was as in love with Maddie as he was. Jack didn't know Vlad knew, and he also didn't know that Vlad had affections for Maddie as well. Vlad knew that the day they confessed to Maddie and each other was going to be the most trying day on their friendship. Vlad didn't know how it would turn out. He was already starting to feel some wear and tear on their brotherly bond; Maddie always seemed more interested in Jack than she was in him. Whether imagined or not, it appeared to Vlad that Maddie regarded him as just a friend, while there was something about Jack that she was drawn to. Jack was still too goofy to fully grasp this, but Vlad was sure he saw it happening And the most that he had done to combat this was flirt and hint at how he felt. Maddie seemed to take it all as a joke.
But Vlad had made up his mind – today was the day. He would tell Maddie how he felt.
Unfortunately, the hand of fate had Jack inviting both Vlad and Maddie to an important demonstration that same day.
The three of them were in the science lab, lab coats draped over their usual clothes. Just minutes ago, Jack had told Vlad and Maddie that he had secretly been putting together a secret project that he promised would be his ultimate piece of ghost machinery. After a speech about the brilliance of this device and the aid it would give the three of them in their ghost studies, he had revealed the device, tearing away the white drape he had placed over it. What rested on the table was a circular frame hooked up to an engine on the floor. It was what Jack called a "Proto-Portal," and it was meant to open a portal between Earth and the ghost dimension that Maddie, Jack, and many paranormal experts felt to exist.
Vlad was sceptical, and had said as such as soon as Jack had shown them the device. He also felt there was a ghost dimension, but without more to go on, they couldn't know the precise calculations to tap into it. Well, Maddie might, but not Jack. And, based on their past record, success wasn't likely. Especially on an engine that Jack had likely messed around with before he hooked it up to any spectral power. Maddie, on the other hand, was ecstatic. She had been beaming up at Jack, who stood confidently and proudly.
In preparation for the Proto-Portal's first activation, Jack and Maddie were busy making some final adjustments. Vlad stood back a bit, nervous. With all this going on, there was now no worse time to talk to Maddie. Jack was with them, and in a moment of triumph nonetheless. Maddie certainly seemed happy for him…and did he detect something else?
But if he was going to go through with this today, it would have to be now. Maddie was supposed to leave with Harriet as soon as this demonstration was over. And if Vlad put it off again, he'd more likely than not fall back into the same vicious cycle.
With a last gulp, he smiled and stepped over to Maddie, who was hunched over the Proto-Portal.
"Maddie…" Vlad began, masking his fear surprisingly well. "There's something I've been wanting to tell you for a long time…"
"One second, Vlad," Maddie cut him off. "Jack, did you remember to fill the filtrator with ecto-purifier?"
"On it, baby!" Jack said, not looking up from the pamphlet in his hand.
Vlad cringed at the nickname. He watched as Jack filled up the filtrator, and looked away with a frown as Jack and Maddie shared a look. He leaned in towards the Proto-Portal as Jack and Maddie stepped back to admire it.
"I'm telling you Jack – it won't work!" Vlad repeated.
"Bogus V-Man! It totally will!" Jack brushed the comment aside. "This Proto-Portal is guaranteed to bust open the wall into the ghost dimension!" and with that, he and Maddie headed over to the table, Jack to get the trigger and Maddie to look over the blueprints. Vlad leaned closer, eyeing the inside of the machine.
"Jack, these calculations aren't right…" he heard Maddie warn, but it was too late.
"BANZAI!" Jack threw the switch. The motor started up, and the frame began shaking. That was all it did for a moment, but then a green mess of ectoplasm formed inside.
Vlad pulled back a little, surprised. Had Jack finally gotten something to work?
What followed next was quick, but it seemed to last an eternity. The glow from the machine had cast shadows all over the room, darkening the scene and preparing it for what was about to happen. The blast of spectral energy seemed to leap out, consuming the frame from whence it came in its glow and spiralling right across Vlad's face.
"BOGUS!" he shouted, but he was barely aware of the words that came from his mouth. The ectoplasm did not burn, nor did it cut. It cast a long, steady feeling of otherworldly pain right across his face. The closest earthly match would be that of an explosion, but even that did not fit. But beyond what it was doing to his face, something else appeared to be happening. A strange energy seemed to be seeping into his body from his head and dripping down his insides, filling him with a strange coldness that he had never felt before. The blast soon cut off, but the pain and the coldness did not go away.
Vlad put his hands to his face, trying to ease the pain. He was barely aware of his turning around to Jack and Maddie. Slowly he removed his hands away from his face, though not entirely. He heard them both let out gasps of horror. Covering his face again, he headed over to where he knew the mirror was. He dropped his hands and looked. His entire face was covered in red zits, from his forehead to his chin, but that wasn't the worst of it. His eyes, once deep grey-blue, were now a glowing hot blue, and his hair had gone ghostly white.
Vlad stared into the mirror for a moment. Then, for the first time in his life, he fainted, collapsing to the floor in a heap.
Jack and Maddie ran over and bent down.
"V-Man?" Jack asked, panicked.
Still no reply.
His best friend did not move.
"A little help here!" he called towards the door, quickly turning back to his unconscious friend.