All right, guys? This is the big one - let me summarise. It's almost one big AU crossover, set 20 years in the future. Most of this came up from watching '24', but there's some elements of 'The Running Man', '1984', 'The Matrix' and 'Downfall' as well. This is probably going to take a while, but I think I'm going to enjoy writing this one. For fans Danny Phantom, Fairly Odd Parents, Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, Xiaolin Showdown, Ed Edd n Eddy, Grim and Evil and Invader Zim. Enjoy - reviews welcome.
It's the year 2026 and the concept of security no longer exists in the fragile human conscience. From the time the Keepers took control, it has long since vanished like the vague memories of a dream. Now they have control of everything. Indoctrination, intimidation and even torture and execution have become systematic. On the other side of the equation are the Black Dogs, a splinter group of the army also operating as a terrorist cell, and determined to overthrow the Keepers at all costs.
Metropolis is at war, and as potentially life-changing events begin to unfold, another resistance, those hounded by both sides, must take matters into their own hands and fight, even if it means resorting to drastic measures...
Disclaimer : The city of Metropolis, the Black Dogs and most of the Keepers belong to me. The other characters belong to their respective creators.
The sun had already risen, but fourteen-year-old Danny Fenton still lay in bed, half-asleep and bleary-eyed. He was unwilling to do anything much today, despite the fact that the powers that be had granted them a little reprieve from school. It was only a brief vacation – the only reason they were educated at all was to replace those teaching them, and any slacking was often regarded as idleness or weakness. But now he had a week or so to himself. He got out of bed and pulled some clothes on. Funny, he contemplated, he'd waited so long for this, and now it was here, he didn't know what to do with it –
He snapped out of his thoughts as a brick sailed through his open window and landed at the foot of his bed, a note tethered to it by a length of string. Viewing it as if it were a small creature, almost wary of what the note had to say, he gingerly unfurled the paper.
Daniel, it read:
You have never met me, nor do you know who I am – but I know about you. People like us have to look out for each other. I can't tell you any more in case my message is intercepted. Meet me at the power station at 6:00 tonight if you want to get out of here alive.
As he reread the ominous-sounding message, Danny's stomach turned. Get out of here alive?, he thought, what the hell?... He scanned the room furtively, in case anyone was watching or lying in wait for him, before he folded the note into four and slipped it into the back pocket of his jeans. He was supposed to meet Sam and Tucker later that evening, but he didn't suppose it would take that long to sort this out. Still, he felt ambivalent about going. What if this person was dangerous? What if they had a knife or something? After all, he didn't know them, didn't even who they were. His dad had been obsessing recently about government agents spying on him…was this something to do with it? Trying in vain to put the question out of his mind as he traipsed downstairs, Danny suddenly felt vulnerable and a little scared.
He glanced at his watch as he came to the door of the power station. It was a large, looming building, its concrete exterior stained grey through years of pollution both from outside and within. Plumes of smoke used to be churned out through its tall chimneys, rising into the sky like long, black snakes. Danny warily pushed open the door, flinching as the piercing sound of its rusty hinges grated at his ears. The breeze that entered with him kicked up a cloud of dust that went straight down his windpipe and into his eyes. Coughing and shielding his eyes, he pressed on, wondering why this guy would want to meet him here, of all places. Sunlight streamed onto the warehouse floor through its smashed windows as he walked towards the far wall, carefully stepping over fallen rafters and discarded oil drums. A little nervously, he looked around. This must be some sort of stitch-up, he thought, probably perpetrated by Dash or Kwan or another of the football jerks from school. The mysterious stranger, whoever he was, probably didn't even exist. He was completely alone – or at least, he thought he was.
"Good evening, Daniel," a deep voice said from behind him, and he spun around to face who it belonged to. A man stood about ten feet away from him, about six-foot-two with piercing green eyes and long, dark hair tied back in a ponytail. His trench-coat rippled as the wind coursed underneath it. "I've been expecting you."
"Who are you?" Danny asked, "What do you want from me?"
"My name is Vlad Masters," the man said. He took a step forwards. "And the reason I've called you here is that you're in very grave danger."
"Danger?" Danny questioned. "What are you talking about?"
"I won't lie to you, Daniel," Masters continued. "There are people out there who want you. There are people out there who want to take people like us and use them to further their own needs. These people are the Keepers, Daniel – and they're after you."
"Wait a minute," he said, scarcely believing he was still listening to this psycho. "People like us? What do you mean 'us'?"
"I am like you in some ways," Masters answered. "Like you, I am also half-ghost, half-human." To demonstrate, he held out his hand and Danny watched as the colour and substance was drained from it, leaving it intangible. Still unconvinced, Danny waved his own hand through it, feeling the slight chill as it cut straight through the middle. Masters' hand became visible again. "And these people – they consider us assets, Daniel. They want to have all of us. They know where I am, they know about you." He paused. "For all our sake, you must listen to me and listen to me carefully. They're coming here for me now, they'll be here shortly. I have taken a suicide pill; I will be dead within the next few minutes. But you, Daniel, will be the one to continue the chain. That's why you must get out of here and run, as fast as you can, as far away as you can."
"Why do I have to run?" Danny asked, not quite understanding what this guy was getting at. "Why can't I just use my powers to get away from these guys?"
"You can't!" Masters hissed back at him, making him shrink back slightly. "You have to phase through the wall to get out, but on the outside, you can't go completely ghost. They have heat-seeking equipment – they'll spot you even if they can't see you. Your best chance of remaining inconspicuous is, ironically enough, to remain conspicuous. That way, they won't regard you with such high suspicion…"
At that moment, Masters gasped and clutched his chest – the pill had started to take effect. His strength gave out and he buckled forward onto his knees. Danny went forward to help him, but then he heard shouts and the sound of the big double doors being pushed open…and the sound of men running, dozens of them.
"Run, Daniel…" Masters groaned, lying down on his side. Danny hesitated. "Run!" he growled through gritted teeth. As uniformed men began swarming towards them, Danny went intangible and phased through the nearest wall.
The militiamen surrounded Masters' body and pointed their rifles at him; he wasn't moving. The commando of the unit stepped over and felt for a pulse. He found none. "Damn it," he cursed, "he's dead. He must have known we were coming." He stood up. "Find the other one," he barked, "now!"
As he emerged on the outside, Danny's eyes darted from side to side, anxiously seeking out any trace of the soldiers. He caught sight of a couple of them standing guard by the wall, but facing away from him. So as not to attract their attention, he crept away as quickly and quietly as he could. After he had pressed on for about thirty yards, he found the entire complex surrounded by a barbed wire fence. His basic halfa instinct and Masters' brief warnings were quarrelling in his mind. All of a sudden, there was a sudden metallic clang as the double doors of the warehouse were forced open again and rebounded against the concrete walls. Turning to look over his shoulder, he saw about twenty armed men in dark-blue combat gear swarm out. One of them noticed him about to climb over the fence and the group charged towards him, the sound of their feet rumbling like dim thunder. For a moment, Danny simply stood against the wire, scared into paralysis like a deer in headlights. His body refused to do anything as the militiamen came closer and closer…
He closed his eyes and turned himself intangible before flinging himself at the fence. Landing on the other side, he glanced back to see the soldiers still rushing towards him, and a new rush of adrenaline began to surge through his body. Almost losing his footing on the dusty road, he ran back towards the river, hearing the sounds of latticed wire being shaken violently behind him.
Out on the main road, Jack Fenton had been forced to pull over. The engine in his stupid RV had died on him again, for the third time that week. He didn't know anything about combustion engines, but no mechanic would agree to take a look at it for him. Wherever he went, the people there would consider him some kind of weirdo, just because he hunted ghosts for a living. He sighed irritably, giving the front of the vehicle a good, solid kick. He looked away from the road. At least from here you got a decent enough view of the river. Today it was better than usual; the sunlight shimmered on the surface as the water undulated beneath it. A boy ran across his line of vision. Out for a jog, he thought at first, but the kid was running too fast to simply be out for some exercise. He recognised his clothes and his hair colour, and it briefly reminded him of his son Danny…
Hang on a second. Was that Danny? It probably was, and he was running scared, he could sense it. "Danny?" he called out, but Danny took no notice. He started to run, abandoning his vehicle at the side of the street. He called out Danny's name again, but still no answer. By now getting concerned himself, he tried to retain an equal distance from him, but it was hard. Danny was thin and wiry, and although he was by no means fat, he was considerably larger. Keeping his eyes on his son, Jack followed him as he turned into an alleyway.
Clouds of dust sprang up from the earth as Danny sprinted behind the houses of 12th Avenue, lodging in his windpipe and making him splutter. He hadn't seen the soldiers since he'd escaped the warehouse, nor his dad trailing him, but that didn't make him any less nervous. The slightest movement caused him to panic more and more. But he figured he was almost out – he'd been running for going on fifteen minutes non-stop. His throat was burning and his chest throbbed with a stinging pain. Spying the highway ahead of him, he put on an extra burst of speed. If he could just make it out to the open road, he might be able to flag someone down and get far enough away from here to safely use his ghost powers and slip back into Metropolis…
But just before he reached the mouth of the alley, a black van hurtled in front of him with a screech from the brakes and blocked his exit. He stopped running and saw two men, clad in black and wearing balaclavas, step out. He was about to swiftly turn his heel and go back the way he came when another tackled him violently from the side, slamming him into the ground.
Rapidly running out of breath, Jack rounded the corner to see a man kneeling on Danny's back, pinning him to the floor. Another unsheathed something from his coat pocket. At first glance, Danny and Jack thought it was a switchblade; but when the man brought it up to the light, and the fading rays of sunlight flashed off the tip, both realised with equal horror what it was – a syringe.
Danny was about to go ghost and try and escape these thugs before he heard someone weakly call his name. He looked up from the dirt to see his father running towards him as fast as his burly frame would allow him to. "Dad?" he called back, and then yelled in pain as one of his captors thrust the syringe into his neck.
"Danny!" Jack roared and charged toward the darkly-clad strangers like an enraged bull until one of them pulled a gun on him.
"Stay where you are!" he ordered. "Put your hands behind your head!"
"What are you doing?" Jack demanded of them. His cautious gaze shifted to Danny, his blue eyes betraying his incomparable fear. A small trickle of blood was making his way down the side of his neck from where the syringe had gone in. "Why are you doing this to my son?"
"Because we want him," the gunman answered. "Lie down on the ground." Jack, for a second, complied with his request, but paused when he was on his knees. Danny wasn't struggling so much now – his strength was evidently fading and his eyelids drooping. They'd probably injected him with some kind of sedative or anaesthetic. The gunman noticed him stop and then forced him down with a sharp kick to his shoulder. Jack fell over onto his side, grunting at the dull ache now throbbing in his arm. "Lie on your front! Now!" the gunman shouted at him, and he did so. As long as Danny was left unharmed, whatever it took.
The gunman glanced over to the other two, and both he and Jack watched Danny as his eyes closed firmly and his head lolled forward. The one with the syringe made a gesture to him and he acknowledged it. "Put him in the van," he called. While they placed Danny's limp body in the back, he bent down to look Jack in the eye and pressed the cold steel barrel against his temple. "If you try to follow us," he growled, "your son will be killed." And with that, he stowed the gun in his belt, jogged back to the van and hopped in the passenger seat. The engine revved up before the van squealed around the corner and out of view.
Jack watched it disappear and once the dust had settled, he got sluggishly to his feet, temporarily stunned by how quickly this whole thing had happened. For the first time in his life, he felt genuinely scared, unsure where Danny was being taken, what might happen to him…whether he'd ever see him alive again. He couldn't find the strength to move for a good few minutes, until he threw his head back and roared with frustration and anger, venting his fury at the heavens. Other people might have wondered what the hell was going on, but he didn't care – they hadn't lost a son today.
He turned on his heel and headed back towards the city. He couldn't pursue Danny's captors, they were too far away by now, but he could do the next best thing – report his disappearance. Determined to get him back, he made for the Ministry of Information.
Dr. Joseph Silbermann sat nonchalantly in his office smoking a cigarette. For all the power the Keepers possessed, they sure didn't know how to convert it into decent, smoke-able tobacco. As the vile fumes passed his lips in a ring that floated up towards the ceiling, a wispy halo that dissipated on the breeze, his 'phone rang. He stubbed out his cigarette and picked up. "Hello?"
"We've got the boy," the voice on the other end said. "We're bringing him in now."
"Good," Silbermann replied, "I'll inform the Inner Circle." He hung up before redialling the man in charge of the Ministry of Information. After waiting for the monotonous drone to lead to someone vaguely human, an assistant on the other end answered. "This is Silbermann," he said, "patch me through to Anderson."
He waited a few seconds more before another voice came on the line. "Yes?"
"This is Dr. Joseph Silbermann at the Cicatriz Laboratory. I need you to draw up the records of Daniel Fenton."
On the other end, Howard Anderson pored over the internal database that held the details of every inhabitant in Metropolis. "We've got a couple of them, Joseph. How old is he?"
"14, date of birth 25th of June."
"Get rid of it."
"You have authorisation from the Inner Circle, I assume?"
"Yes. Remove it."
"It'll be restored to another location."
"That's not good enough, damn it," Silbermann growled, "I want it deleted. Beyond reach, beyond recovery. Completely eliminated."
"If you insist," Anderson acknowledged, removing all traces of Danny's existence at the push of a button.
"What do you mean, 'No Match Found'?" Jack questioned the clerk incredulously. "What do you mean, 'There's no record of Daniel Fenton'?"
"I mean what I said, Mr. Fenton," the clerk replied coolly. "I've put in the most precise details I can, and I've found nothing. There is no record of anyone in Metropolis named Daniel Lewis Fenton."
"This is crazy!" Jack protested, "I saw him there!"
"I can understand that you're probably feeling very distressed, maybe even a little bit disturbed, but maybe –"
"'But' nothing!" Jack shouted in reply, causing other people waiting in line to turn their heads and look at him. "This isn't a terrorist or criminal we're dealing with here, this is my son! For Christ's sake, he's fourteen! He's a kid! He's been kidnapped and taken away to some god-forsaken place, left to survive on his own, and you won't help him?" Almost apoplectic with rage by now, Jack tried in vain to calm himself down, but the clerk seemed unperturbed by his sudden outburst.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Fenton," he said with a po-faced shrug, "according to our records, you have one daughter – Jasmine, age sixteen – but no other children. So unless this child was brought in by you off the street and as such has not been registered by the state, your "son" does not exist."
"Don't patronise me, buddy," Jack warned, his temper rising again. "I've devoted fourteen years of my life to ensure my son's safe and proper upbringing. I've fed him, I've played catch with him, I was watching him grow up into a fine young man, and now…that's it? He doesn't exist? He just…wasn't ever there, like some sort of…ghost?"
"It springs to mind, Mr. Fenton," the clerk continued, disregarding his words and adjusting his glasses, "that aside from your family life, you have devoted much of your professional man-hours to the study and pursuit of things that don't exist. I'm talking, of course, about your particular obsession with ghosts and the supernatural. Your grasp of reality does not seem quite secure." He made a sweeping gesture with his arm, directing Jack's attention to the myriad interfaces and switchboards that covered the hallow walls of the Ministry, wires running between them like vines. "These computers don't make mistakes, Mr. Fenton. Humans do. Your son was little more than the vague dreams you've wasted so much of your time with."
"You son-of-a-bitch!" Jack roared, swinging his fist at the Plexiglas window hard enough to make it shake inside its frame. "What have you done to him? God damn it, tell me where he is!" All of a sudden, two burly security guards, even stronger than he was, ambushed him from behind and held his arms behind his back. As he struggled with them in vain, the clerk stood up from his chair, looking out smugly from his impregnable fortress.
"I've tried conducting business with you in an orderly fashion, Mr. Fenton," he said, his tone now much more austere. "But I'm afraid you've left me no alternative but to expel you from the premises." With that, he gestured to the two guards and said, "Take him outside."
"You can't do this!" Jack protested as they led him back towards the door, jostling with them every step of the way. "That's my son, you little son-of-a-bitch!"
As the guards threw him roughly to the floor, one of them leaned down and growled, "Better watch what you say, buddy, before I take you down to the mental institution and make sure you never see the light of day again." He straightened up. "Get out." A snarl still crossing his lips, Jack got back up and walked away, not comprehending the injustice he had just experienced. Danny, he thought, I know you're out there… He turned round to take a last look at the huge, almost cathedral-like building that was the Ministry of Information before making his way home, back to his wife and daughter. He felt a condemned man; God, how was he going to break the news to them? Danny was gone; his absence would sting all of them like salt in a wound. But I'm never giving up on you, son, he assured him as he walked down the pathway.