The Witch Doctor Incident
By Sqweakie the Wonder Mouse

Thanks to: Quacked Lurker, albinochocobo, Silver Shadowbreeze, peppymint, Lightning Streak, AvatarKatara 38, LokiWaterDraca, MiaRose 156, Xela Tokrub, Anne Camp aka Obi-Quiet, TexasDreamer01, Nylah and Gmasangel!

Extra Thanks to MiaRose 156 for looking this and the last chapter over.


Chapter Eight - The Epilogue

It took about seven hours to make it to the real world. Seven hours with fifteen children crammed into the speeder's pop-up benches between the fold out bunks, taking up the little room left in the cargo area. Seven hours where Danny sat almost catatonic in his bunk, still holding Janet and staring off into space. Thor flowed back and forth from the cockpit to the cargo area while Jacobs flew the entire time. The children all drifted off into sleep about the three and a half hours in leaving the last half of the trip painfully silent.

About twenty minutes from the portal Jacobs was able to reach the Fentons on the radio. He quietly informed them they hade the children and that three hunters were down. By four a.m. the speeder passed through the portal and landed in the Fentons' basement. Waiting for them were tense police officers and tenser paramedics. Thor and Jacobs led the children out first into the waiting arms of the emergency personnel. All fifteen were shuffled into the open basement while the paramedics entered the speeder. It was a much more somber affair when the stretchers left the speeder, the still over-crowded basement parting for Janet, for Townsend, for Anderson. Danny came stumbling out afterwards, a lost child getting lost in the crowd. Thor pushed his way through and grabbed his shoulder to stop him.

Painfully bright green eyes looked up at him and Willard Thorton made a decision. He reached up and pulled his headset off. Taking one limp hand he put the set into Phantom's possession.

"I trust you," was all he said before he turned towards Jack and Maddie. He wasn't sure it was the right decision but he gave Danny the only record of his human form. Each previous night in the Ghost Zone they downloaded the information straight from the headsets to the onboard computer. The live feed on the speeder's monitors was just that, a live feed that didn't record. With everything that transpired that night he never downloaded the information off his own headset and Danny never removed his. He gave that information to Danny and promised himself that he would keep the boy's secret if that was what the teen wanted.

He was the one who found Danny in the middle of the battlefield. Grey dust swirled thick in the air and only the sound of crying led Thor to the pair. Though he didn't know it, the image he found would haunt him for a very long time. Danny sat on the ground, mindless of the red and green blood painting his skin and clothes. He cradled Janet, rocking her back and forth, crying and whispering and completely lost. Now he stood in the middle of the basement looking just as lost. With a pained smile the half ghost nodded and then quietly disappeared. Thor nodded himself and turned back towards the organized chaos.

No reporters or worried parents held vigil outside the house that morning. The hunters decided to keep the rescue mission to themselves, only warning the cops and the hospital when Jacobs made the call that they were inbound. It was only an hour later when the children were loaded into vans and sent to the hospital that they let the rest of the world know.

They didn't tell the reporters everything. Leaving out the group's breakdown after the first crushing defeat or that their ghost guide was much more than he appeared. Instead, they let the spread the word that the children were safe in the real world, and the harrowing defeat of the witch doctor and they shared their grief at the loss of the three brave hunters. At the time of the first press conference they still held out hope that the three would awaken, the chance that soon they would shake off their 'sleeping beauty' slumber and join the rest of the world. At that point, while the others fielded questions at the press conference, Thor stood on the back steps of Fenton Works and watched the sunrise as he let relief at the rescue flood him and let the grief at loosing his friends, loosing Al and the others tear at his heart and knowing that by some miracle they had done the impossible by rescuing the children. They had won… at a terrible price.

oOo

One Week Later …

The scene looked ordinary enough at a first and at a second glance. A teenage boy lounged around as he messed around with a laptop, electronics scattered around him. Nearby an older man, possibly a father or an uncle, wrote in a notebook as his eyes kept flickering between a television and the boy's work. Nothing out of the ordinary unless you took into account the fact that the older man was a respected ghost hunter and the boy was half ghost himself.

"Are you ready," Thor had to ask one last time. Danny hesitated before nodding. On the screen and the TV a view from Danny's headset appeared. They watched as the view left the speeder and entered the Witch Doctor's castle for the first time. They sat motionless until reaching the point where they set off the trap. Without fanfare Danny hit a button and the television picture dissolved into static while the picture on the laptop continued to show the rocks tumbling down and then terrible darkness. The static persisted as the other view cleared and a lock of night-black hair fell across the camera.

Systematically they deleted the evidence of Danny's human form from both sets of the headset data. What they couldn't delete they turned black and white and grainy, trying to pass off the sabotage as damage to the cameras from the cave in at the castle. Eventually they would turn in the edited data to the remaining portion of the ghost patrol. At the same time Thor was taking notes, already finding the data recorded important, adding to the scant knowledge of ghosts and their world. If they edited all the miscellaneous footage of just flying through the ghost zone and interacting with the other hunters, they practically had a training video of what to do and not do when faced with a ghost of unknown power.

They showed the raw footage of Danny's headset to just one person. Danny owed Brian Smith the right to see the last minutes of his wife's life. Even though her body lived she was comatose, her soul missing (lost or gone forever he didn't knows). They let him watch alone in Thor's bedroom. After a time Brian stepped out, walked right up to Phantom, and hugged him. He stood frozen as the man cried silently, head bowed and resting on top of Danny's head. The man was smart and had probably gleaned more out of that vides than what Danny was prepared to think about. Eventually he let go and rested his hands on Danny's shoulders. With his voice wavering, he thanked Danny and told him that he was still welcome at the Smiths' house. That he wanted Danny to come over, still be apart of his and Ann's and Jason's life.

It still hurt to think of the others lying unmoving at Amity General. The doctors had not giving up the hope to cure the three. Specialists still flocked to the hospital but Danny knew it was only a matter of time before they gave up trying. Maybe the Witch Doctor could have reversed the damage but no one was willing to risk letting her free to ask. So the doctors poked and prodded and rumor had it that Maddie Fenton was poring over the tome that Jacobs found in the castle, hoping to find something there. It was too early to give up all hope he kept telling himself… to never give up hope.

After a time they finished the modifying Danny's data and went on to Thor's. It took even less time since they only had the hour or so of slinking around the castle to edit. The data after leaving Danny and Janet to fight Nuodov was left intact since it depicted the flight out of the castle and eventually out of the ghost zone.

"I'm not going to tell them," Thor stated white his eyes remained fixed on the staticy screen. Danny startled and peered over at the hunter unsure of where the random thought came from and if it was about what he thought it was. Taking note of his confusion Thor turned towards the teen pressed on.

"I'm not telling your parents about what you are," he repeated seriously. "It's not my secret to tell nor is it my place. I don't agree with you but I won't tell anyone."

Danny sat, unbelieving that this was the same man that, only a week ago, threatened to tell his parents and possible the whole world that Danny Fenton was Danny Phantom. Danny could only see earnest honesty in the hunters eyes and finally he believed.

"Thank you," he said, equally as honest. "I know you don't like it but the chance for telling my parents has long past."

"But they could help," Thor tried to reason. Danny shook his head even before the older man finished speaking.

"It's too late. They have to take care of Jazz and I don't want to add this to their responsibilities. Especially now that we lost three…" His voice became choked and he stopped, turning away.

"You know… " Thor hedged, changing the subject, "they are going to bring in a couple more hunters. Is there anyway you can convince your friend in red to join?"

"The Red Huntress? No, she's more of a loner."

"Even if she wasn't hunting that form?"

"What are you getting at?" he asked hesitantly.

"I think you should join as a human hunter," Thor said over-casually. He could see a glint in the other man's eyes that made a smile tug at his lips as he could see the man scheming.

"I've seen a little of what you can do," the hunter carried on. "And if your friend joins too you could be partners."

Danny stared at the computer for a long time, possibilities whispering in his mind.

"I'll bring it up with her… see what she thinks."

It was two months after that, that Echo and Tango joined the Ghost Patrol of Amity Park.

fin


AN: And that is the end of the Witch Doctor Incident. Thank you so much to everyone who read and reviewed this. You're support has meant a lot.

Again, thank you so much,

Sqweakie