Ghost in the Shell
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Madam Chaos Shadow
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Author Notes :
Last chapter was too short. I'm going to go insane and make up for it.
Incidentally, I just learned that Danny Phantom is going to stop at fifty-three episodes, which is a weird-as-hell number. However, unlike what happened with Invader ZIM (where the production crew was told they had twenty-four hours to leave and it took negotiating to let them finish a few of the final episodes and cast members were allowed to leave as their jobs finished until the skeleton post-production crew remained to wrap up the Christmas episode), the final episode is not slated for completion until February of next year.
You know what that means.
That's right. Online petitions and letter campaigns have a year to take their effect.
And you know what that means.
It means we as fans send hoards of well worded, calm, NICE AND HUMBLE letters to Cyma Zarghami, new president of Nickelodeon Networks (Herb Scannel apparently stepped down just last month. Interesting.) Remember that really angry, hate-filled letters don't work, ever; well-worded letters do.
Seriously. They do.
So we have a year. I know I'll ultimately be doing my part (because I'm a whore when it comes to supporting something I love). I would also like to re-emphasize that letters should be addressed to Cyma Zarghami. Not Herb Scannel, or Butch Hartman, or anybody else. They can't help you. Flooding the president's box, however, can. (And possibly the Kremlin. But I wouldn't be too reliant on them.)
So flood it with well-thought-out letters. Sign the good online petitions. And even if they don't rethink the action, rest assured that they know we're here afterward, and they'll be quite receptive to other suggestion; good DVD releases, for one.
Lastly, on a random note, I think I'm selectively psychic (all right, now that I've tested psychic abilities, time to try ghost powers, see which one is better). A long while ago, there was a half-hour Icons episode on, and when I hit information I says to myself, I says "It would be hilarious if this was the Tim Schafer hour-special and they mislabeled it". And they did. Later that week, Cheat! was on, and I said "It would be funny if this was the Psychonauts episode". And it was.
And earlier on Wednesday, I saw an hour-long thing titled Nicktoons TV, and thought to myself as I clicked on it "Wouldn't it be awesome if this was the Ultimate Enemy? Oh, but what are the chances of oh my god it's Clockwork".
And then I watched TUE again and it made me so freaking happy.
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C H A P T E R : F I V E
: C O N V E N T I ON :
"That does it!"
Jack pulled back on the Fenton Fisher and tossed the tangled mess aside, glaring at the school as another amorphous spectre lazily rose through the roof, looked down to the two standing outside, and yawned.
"Maddie, get in the van, we're ramming straight through!"
"Jack!" she cried. "We can't do that! This is still a school, and unless the ghosts do grievous collateral damage we can't interfere like that!"
Jack looked back at the school. The entire building had taken on a faintly blue aura, and the walls had taken on a faintly green colour. Ghosts – both clearly identifiable as once-people and simple ectoplasmic masses – fluttered in and out of the buildings walls, and he could swear that at one point he had seen a particularly nerdy-looking individual rise up and offer what he could vaguely identify as an eggcream.
"But Maddie, we've got all sorts of cool stuff on it..."
"No collateral damage!"
Collateral damage would have been the only thing that would work at this point; the concentration of ghost energy was giving the school an aura so powerful that Jack was finding it absurdly difficult to break through the defenses. He was working backwards by this point; the Peeler had been one of the first things to come out, and when the ghosts had all ganged up on him to keep it out, he had moved down; Maddie had been offering constant support with the more powerful guns, but the ghosts had eventually stripped them down to nothing but the RV, the Fisher, and a thermos that Jack had never gotten to function.
Now, they were down by the Fisher, too.
"This is really sad, you know," Jack said bluntly.
"Don't worry about it," Maddie murmured. "The ghosts haven't waged on offensive. That means we can catch them off guard. Arm the RV."
"No, we're arming it."
Jack entered the RV with Maddie falling in only a few seconds later, and with a flurry of button presses the RV suddenly came to life; several beam weapons mounted on the back, a shield generator at its belly, a little flag waving the Fenton name. Lightning shock, magma cannon, ectoplasmic beam... Everything at once was poured into the launching of the weapon systems, all hoping for a single assault on the school, for a tearing down of the ghosts taking up residence there.
No such luck. The entire procession needed merely to pull themselves back into the confines of the brick building, and they were completely unharmed.
"O-kay..." Jack said slowly. "This isn't good..."
"We're not giving up yet," Maddie hissed. "Jack, turn us around. We'll see what we can get back home."
Ember was bored out of her skull.
She leaned against the alcove that led up and into the main doors, absentmindedly tuning her guitar – it didn't even need tuning, hadn't for quite some time, and never would again, but she was certainly bored enough to bother – and only looked up once she saw Skulker leap awkwardly into her field of vision, slamming against the ground as the graying mouse shot past him and down the steps, away from the school.
"What are you doing?" she asked bluntly.
"What?" Skulker looked up, looked down, looked after the mouse, and took a moment to formulate his response. "I'm... I'm hunting that mouse." He pointed as he stood. "I have this thing against mice that comes out when I'm bored enough, you see, and I was just..."
"That's great." Ember went back to 'tuning' her guitar.
"D'you know why we're here?" Skulker asked suddenly. "All I know is–"
"We were ordered," the pop star said immediately. "We were ordered here because we really have nothing better to do." She absently strummed one of the chords. "Nothing better to do. I think Phantom was involved in the deal, but we aren't supposed to move."
"It doesn't matter why we're here." She shrugged. "All I know is, I'm bored out of my mind and I have a concert I need to play later tonight."
"This does seem rather silly– Wait. You're playing a concert tonight?"
She looked at him. "I've been doing that every night in my Zone. Do my ad distributors not cover your Zone or something? You live in the boondocks?"
"No! That's Jebidiah's territory!" Skulker yelled indignantly. "I just... Lots of important things to do..."
Another unnecessary chord.
"Can't we get Poindexter out here?" Ember asked hotly.
"Of course not, the hunters would be in here immediately."
She frowned. "Not like we can't take them."
A silence stretched between them, and Skulker absentmindedly turned his attention to where the mouse had scampered off to, contemplating for a moment shooting it from afar. He decided, ultimately, that there wasn't much of a point; why bother? It was only a mouse.
"Why'd you come here?" Ember said suddenly.
"Why else?" Skulker responded, smirking. "I can't say no when there's a potential chance to get back at the ghost-child. He has made a fool of me several times."
"Out of all of us," Ember hissed. "Although I had been hoping for a far more personal encounter..."
Steel claws unsheathed on the back of the hunter's gauntlet. "My sentiments as well," he purred. "But as our employer stated, this could be our best opportunity to break him." He regarded the blades carefully, checking for any impurities and knowing full well he wouldn't find them. "So long as she gives me first choice on him, I'm very happy."
Ember sent him a glance out of the corner of her eye. "You're a bit unstable, aren't you?"
"I just want his head!"
She gave him a cold glare, and it was about then that the two decided to stop talking.
Danny looked over to Sam and frowned. "There's a ghost invasion at our school and I'm going to try and break it and figure out why. How am I nuts?"
"How many ghosts are in there? A lot. Every one on your files, plus a bunch of peons. You're not going to make it back alive."
"I hadn't intended going in their 'alive', so I don't think this is an issue."
Tucker nodded. "Point."
Sam sighed. "You know what I mean. But seriously– Danny–"
"I'll be fine!" he said again. "I've been through worse!"
Tucker nodded. "Point."
Sam glared at him. "Would you stop that?"
"Sorry." He switched the subject, bringing his PDA before him and nodding again. "All right; we got correspondence, we're hooked up, if anything happens out here we'll tell you immediately." He smiled. "Good luck in their, man."
"Yeah," Danny said hollowly. "I'll need it."
Electric white flash, and Danny Phantom shot out from behind the brush and toward the school. Same sighed and slid back into her position, then looked over to Tucker and frowned.
"And you just let him go in there."
"He's stubborn," he said with a shrug. "No use trying to get him away. Besides, he's got his turf to protect."
"His... His what?"
"Turf. You know... His territory. His pad. His–"
"Is Technus in your PDA feeding you this or something?"
Tucker was quiet for a long moment, until finally he managed to utter "Shut up."
I'm not here to fight them, Danny thought to himself, sliding up alongside the building. He was invisible, of course, stupid not to at least try for a semblance of stealth, and he slipped easily through the wall and into the hallways.
He blinked several times and frowned to himself.
This is underwhelming...
The hallways were, of course, flooded with spectral entities, mostly the amorphous variation of ghoul that Danny had encountered most often when the Fenton Portal had first opened – most of them had since learned not to go into the outside world since then. He said the grayscale entity Seymour Poindexter float by, chatting idly with one of the squid-like beings, but aside from that, nothing.
Way too weird.
Weird in a sense that everything seemed so very... Normal, where it not for the fact that there was a procession of ghosts instead of kids. Somehow, he was vaguely disappointed by the fact that he was not seeing the drunken revelry he had anticipated. And somehow, that meant immediately that something was wrong.
He crossed the hall between groups of spectral entities and phased into the next room, one of the bathrooms, where he had to stop for a moment to listen to the quiet, chilling sobs coming from one of the stalls. He opted not to see what was going on and continued easily past the sanitation corridor and into the record room.
Technus, as Jazz had reported, was playing around with the files.
And playing solitaire.
Which he was managing to lose at.
Ignoring him, Danny leapt out of the room and continued down the next hallway, glancing occasionally into the classrooms to see if there was anything going on in there. Sadly, there was nothing to intrigue him; Klemper, who looked a bit damp, was idly playing something that looked like pictionary at one of the chalkboards with a small group of other ghosts.
The cafeteria was an uproar of noise and confusion, marginally edible products flying everywhere, smeared against the walls and ingrained in the long scar-like crevices all along the walls, floors, everything. A faintly ethereal odour mingled with the dank stench of long-rested sweat, and...
Danny stopped paying attention after that. It was too similar to normal cafeteria conditions to really care.
The ghost-child pulled back and phased past the Lunch Lady and into the deepest confines of the school, settling outside of the principals office staring up at the ceiling.
What the heck?
As far as he could tell, they weren't doing anything of interest.
He phased back into full reality and leaned against the wall, sending a glance over his shoulder for a moment and smirking as he saw the rather large 'No Loitering' sign hanging above him. Yeah, this was the way to stick it to the man... Stand under the 'No Loitering' sign.
Oh yeah. I'm badass.
Danny hit the ground, feeling a peculiar lightness tingling inside his head. The lights flickered around him for a moment as his vision faded in and out, and a sudden warmth hit him as electric white threw a blinding veil over him for just a second, just enough for him to compute that he was lying on his side, his arm at an awkward angle under his body, and he was no longer in ghost mode.
He was allowed another second to let the words Ah, crap go through his mind, and suddenly he felt a sharp pain at the base of his neck, a flow of coldness accompanying it. A low grunt as he was hefted off of the hard tile floor, and suddenly medium blue met the flaring crimson of a true ghost's eyes.
"Okay, is it just you that likes throwing me or something?"
The snide voice that prompted the mutation to look over his shoulder, and he released his grip on Danny, allowing him to hit the floor hard. The hulking ghost pulled away, and allowed one of the various amorphous entities to walk forward. He was, however, definitely recognizable; the smile, the glint of the eyes, the fact that he was shifting every so vaguely to another form even as he approached Danny.
Bertrand suddenly completed his otherwise slowly consuming transformation, his form moving from the viscous sheet-ghost appearance to something that looked vaguely reminiscent of a werewolf monster. A really large, beefy, green, glowing werewolf monster, but a werewolf nonetheless.
Danny steeled himself for an attack by Bertrand himself, but he had no such luck; a growl from his left made him send a very slow, cautionary glance in the appropriate direction. He hoped desperately for the best; he had three allies in the form of ghosts, and one of them happened to be a werewolf (another one was the Wisconsin Cheese King – he didn't see much of that guy – and the third was the Lord of Time, a fairly beneficial acquaintance). He was hoping very much that when he turned his head to the left, he would find Wulf looking at him, and that his lupine ally would leap and give him an opportunity to escape.
Too much to hope for.
Another wolf was staring at him, eyes narrowed to scarlet slits, lips drawn back to reveal glistening white teeth. Danny continued staring from where he had found himself on his knees; the wolf continued growling from a higher, obviously advantageous viewpoint.
"Should I run?" he asked.
Bertrand nodded. "I'd suggest it."
"All right. Just checking." A pause as he rose slowly. "Do I get a head start or something?"
Bertrand began to laugh hysterically.
"All right. Thanks anyway."
He was off like a rocket in the other direction, and a second later he heard a loud bark from behind him. The werewolf, of course, was infinitely faster than he was in his human form. Ergo...
A wave of cold air blasted over him, accompanied by a hot electric white-blue, and the phantom form of the child took the air and forces himself full-tilt forward, heading toward the wall and out of the building, just before a took a southern turn and shot through the floor and back into the meat locker.
He lighted between rows of unidentifiable slabs of animal matter (he experimentally poked one of them just to make sure that it wouldn't prove to be feral) and with a heavy sigh he began to move forward, exasperation slowly creeping over him. This was getting ridiculous, they were all just hanging out on campus...
That, he thought bitterly, I don't get. School is the last place that I would hold my ghost convention...
A bang from above, accompanied by human yelling, and he knew immediately that his parents were on the scene.
"Oh, great," he growled. "That'll make things better..."
From behind him, a low growl, and he was very much afraid to turn around. Regardless, he did.
"You can't be serious..."
The ghost bear growled and slammed one of its additional arms into a meat slab, allowing a sickening, deep thud to resonate within the locker. A growl escaped its ursine lips, and Danny had a terrible feeling that he was the approximate equivalent of that poor meat slab to the ragged, hulking creature.
A bellowing roar answered him, and he took it in a manner that suggested he should fly away immediately and think about the answer to that question later.
He channeled a small ball of ectoplasmic energy in his palm and tossed it at the bear, allowing it to explode in front of the animal. In the midst of its snarling and desperate clawing to clear its vision, Danny pulled back and leapt up, through the ceiling and back into the central hallway. He shot a glance behind him – Jack and Maddie, back to back, holding each two Jack-o-Nine-Tails, doing a strangely good job of making their way through the halls.
Maddie, unfortunately, happened to be looking in Danny's direction.
Danny had made a moderate truce with his father while in his ghost form; he had helped Jack with a sinister plot that had been put out by Vlad Plasmius, after all, and had helped him escape from a prison impenetrable to the strictly living in order to do so. Maddie, however... Not so much.
Her eyes narrowed behind the cold ruby of the goggles, and Danny realized that of everything in the school, at that moment, his mother was probably the most dangerous.
"Ah..." he said stupidly.
"You," she hissed darkly.
He jerked his thumb behind him. "I'm just gonna phase through that wall and be on my way. Just thought I'd... Y'know... Let you know."
She didn't respond and instead placed the second Jack-o-Nine-Tails in her right hand, her left searching for the Fenton Thermos at her belt.
Oh. Not fun.
With a yell he spun and shot through the wall, out of the school, and back in the direction of the shrubbery that Sam and Tucker had been concealed in. They looked at him as he slowed down and landed. He sent a glance back at the school, from which a loud cracking sound was suddenly heard, and then back to his friends.
"Well, that looks like it went well," Sam said cooly.
"Yeah, very," Danny responded hotly. "Let's get out of here while my parents are busy ripping the place apart." He stopped for a moment, then looked back at the school. "Weren't Ember and Skulker up guarding the entrance?"
Tucker smiled. "They were, yes. But Skulker had to... fly, so to speak."
His frazzled nerves were mending themselves now. Danny could afford to send Tucker a sly smile. "Oh no you didn't..."
"Hey," he said with a laugh. "If Skulktech 9.9 couldn't handle the awesome power of my PDA, no way regular old Skulker can."
"She wasn't being watched anymore. She got bored and just kind of left."
"Great," Danny said with a sigh. "Won't have to deal with those two, then, and the way Mom and Dad are handling themselves..."
"So what did you find out?" Sam said suddenly. "What're they doing?"
A pause. A mild cough. An extremely embarrassed silence.
"I beg your pardon?"
"Nothing. I just learned that Klemper plays pictionary and Technus is awful at computer solitaire." The two stared at them, jaws slightly unhinged. "Seriously."
"So you just–"
"Complete waste of time."
So it seemed. He gave the two of them a lift back to FentonWorks, but on their way back, despite the jokes and the jests and the laughter, he knew deep in his mind that something was terribly wrong. There hadn't been much of a fight. There was no reason for the ghosts to stay in the school. They were waiting, it seemed. Waiting for something...
A wave of cold gripped him for just a moment, and suddenly he realized that he was, very likely, afraid.
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1. Jebidiah is a fun name. I hope there's a ghost named Jebidiah one day. What a fun name. I don't care what he's like; that's just fun to say. Say it. You know you want to.
2. Pictionary. My friends and I used to play abstract pictionary for about an hour before Latin Club. We had to use really obscure, long references to how the words worked... We managed to make 'Norway' by drawing a sexy troll. Now hold that mental image. I know you hate me.
3. "Cave ubi-lupem" is a Latin Club joke. Literally translated it says 'Beware where wolf', but obviously if you smush it together (smush!) it becomes 'Beware werewolf'. It originated from the saying 'ubi ubi sub ubi', which means 'where (oh) where is my under where'. We have the collective maturity of a sixth grade boy.
4. BS chapter title. End of discussion.