(See chapter 1 for the disclaimer.)
Danny ducked one of Skulker's missiles and retaliated with a set of rapid-fire ecto-blasts.
"Can't you go hunt someone else for a while?" he asked as he shot straight up to get a little more height advantage over the ghost. "The Behemoth looks like he'd be a challenge."
Skulker laughed and launched an energy bolo which forced the hybrid into a frantic zigzag flight to avoid being entangled. "I sleep under a Behemoth pelt, whelp!" he shouted back. "I feel no need to replace it. However, I do lack a ghost-child pelt."
The hunter's next missile detonated close enough to Danny that the concussion knocked him out of the sky. He went intangible as he plummeted through tree branches and managed to pull out of the fall just before he hit the ground. "What the hell's so special about my pelt, anyway?" Danny muttered as he slipped deeper into the trees. "I mean, I'm rather attached to it, but it'd look pretty creepy off of me."
"You can't hide from me forever, ghost-child!" Skulker laughed as he dove through the branches. An ecto-beam lanced out. Skulker ducked…and laughed again when he realized it had been nowhere close. "Your aim is deteriorating, whelp," he gloated, aiming his wrist cannon at the boy. Danny, for his part, looked rather unconcerned.
"Naaaah. I think I'm doing pretty good."
That was the only warning Skulker had before the heavy, oak limb Danny had cut through landed on his back. Before he could go intangible, he found himself staring down the open barrel of a Fenton Thermos.
"This isn't over, Ghost-chiiiiiiild!" he howled as it sucked him inside.
Danny rolled his eyes as he capped off the trap. "No, it never is. My life really sucks sometimes."
"OVER THERE! THE ENERGY BLASTS ARE COMING FROM OVER THERE!"
The boy groaned and slung the thermos over his shoulder. "And this would be one of those times."
A sports car painted up like a fire-chief's car roared into the park. Hot on its tail was a white and black Porsche.
"Red! Calm the slag down, man!"
The lead car transformed into a red-and-white robot who leveled a finger at the ghost.
"You! Stay where you are! It is imperative that…"
That I get the hell out of here! Danny thought as he went intangible and phased through the ground. As it enclosed him, he could just make out the second voice…
"Scrap! Smooth one, Captain Catastrophe…"
Danny flew underground for about half a mile before surfacing. He remained invisible for a moment before darting to an alley to change back to human form and checked his watch.
"Crud! Late for class again! Well, better minimize the damage."
He shifted back once more, turned invisible and flew for the school at top speed. The week after the Decepticon attack had been an exciting one for Amity Park. Even for a town used to ghost attacks on a daily basis, the sudden influx of friendly, alien robots was sure to stir things up. The entire technophile contingent of Casper High was in Nirvana, swarming around the Autobots like bees around a hive. Tucker in particular had made a pest out of himself trying to get autographs from every one assigned to the project.
Unfortunately, one of the projects the Autobots were pursuing here was Danny. The robots had been asking questions about him to the local police, the ghost hunters (his parents included) and all the witnesses of past ghost fights they could find. Now they were turning up every time some spectral creep had a go at him.
Danny sighed as he flew through the school roof and phased into a janitor's closet. He so did not need another complication in his life.
If anyone bothered to poll the Autobots about which member of their team was the most laid-back and unflappable, it is pretty certain that Jazz would be in the top 5. He was a cool-headed 'bot. "Do it with style or don't bother doing it," was his credo, and getting hot and bothered about stuff was so not stylin'
"This is absolutely unacceptable, Jazz! We must find a way to apprehend that creature. Can you imagine what such an entity can do to us? No one can be trusted! They might be under his control and we would never know a thing until it was too late!"
Jazz was proud of his cool attitude…which was why it really ticked him off that Red Alert was making him seriously contemplate ripping the security officer's voder out. This was the closest any of them had gotten to the ghost-kid since their first meeting and the Master of Paranoia just had to scare him off.
"Not like you trust anyone to begin with, Red," he said, sourly. "You know, if some 'bots would just play it cool, we might get a chance to see what that kid's all about."
"Just invite him over for…oh, what is it? Milk and cookies?" Red Alert sneered. "And while we're having our little chit-chat, he sizes up the best people to possess and…"
Jazz had rarely been so grateful to hear his comlink's incoming message beep.
"Jazz here, Prime," he said as he activated it. "And, before you ask, ghost dude flew the coop again."
I was afraid of that. Optimus' voice was resigned. Resume your patrol and inform me immediately of any developments. However, if we can't make contact by tonight, we will have to re-evaluate the situation.
"Copy that," Jazz said, giving Red Alert one last glare from behind his visor before transforming. He wondered what karmic gaff had resulted in him being teamed up with the neurotic twit.
Danny gazed down at his lunch tray. This was the perfect capper to his day. Late for home-room, a Lancer pop-quiz, his daily "trip" to the locker room floor courtesy of Dash's foot and now…this. The cafeteria staff had outdone themselves today. The menu said "meatloaf surprise". Well, it certainly was surprising. Never before had he seen aquamarine colored meatloaf.
"Your parents haven't sold any of their ecto-cookers to the school, have they?" Sam asked, tentatively poking the quivering mass with a spoon.
"God, I hope not!" Danny breathed. "The last thing we need is to give the Lunch Lady reinforcements." He shoved the tray away and rested his chin in his hands. "I think that's ruined my appetite for the next two days."
"Ultra-recyclo-vegetarian, Danny," the Goth said merrily. "You never see me having problems like this."
Tucker sniffed in distain. "Don't listen to her, dude. Man was not meant to graze."
The high-pitched shout quite handily interrupted the impending vegetarian/carnivore debate. Every head in the cafeteria turned to see Mikey standing in the doorway looking like the Rapture was about to occur.
"Autobot!" he cried, completely ecstatic. "Here! Out front!"
The nerd was bowled over as three-quarters of the students present stampeded for the door. The rest crowded the windows to see what was going on. Danny and Sam (dragging a protesting Tucker) were in the latter group.
"Great," Danny muttered. "They've found a way to track me!"
"Don't be so sure," Sam said, hopefully. "They might just be asking questions again. Remember, Casper High is one of the ghosts' favorite targets." She frowned at Tucker. "Which one is that?"
"Wheeljack," the technogeek said confidently. "Autobot engineer. Transforms into a Lancia! Can you even comprehend the sheer level of uber-techno-coolness…"
Sam slipped a hand over his mouth before he could go on and pointed at the throng of kids being futilely waved back by the teachers as Principal Ishiyama came out. "Yeah, okay. Tucker, your mission, and you have no choice but to accept it, is to get as close as you can and find out what he's here for."
Tucker was racing for the front of the school the moment Sam let go. By this time, the cafeteria was largely deserted, and Danny turned around to lean against the window frame. "I do not need this!" he said for about the twentieth time that day. "Why can't they just go home?" Sam smiled and laid a sympathetic hand on his shoulder.
"Cheer up. I've heard they're almost done over at Axion Labs. They can't devote all their time to tracking you down after that. They've got other work to do."
Danny sighed and looked out the window again.
"Hope you're right, Sam."
Optimus looked over his troops as they filed into the warehouse Axion had loaned them for temporary headquarters. Their time here in Amity Park was almost up. He knew that in his microprocessors, but he didn't feel quite right about just leaving – not with the issue of the ghost unresolved. This final briefing was partially intended to attempt to find a solution to that conundrum.
"All present and accounted for, Prime," Prowl announced as the last Autobot (excepting a couple on perimeter guard), entered. The Autobot leader straightened his posture slightly.
"Repairs to the lab itself should be complete by late tomorrow," he said. "You have all done well, and Vlad Masters called to personally express his gratitude for our efforts."
He paused to let the murmur of appreciation die. "Perceptor, what is the status of the experimental generator?"
The scientist stepped forward. "The generator for the most part was undamaged in the fight," he explained. Then he gestured to the microscope barrel mounted on his shoulder. "However, on inspection under my electron-scanning function, I discovered that the antimatter containment shield had been riddled with micro-ruptures from its rough handling. It will have to be completely re-constructed before they continue."
"In other words," Wheeljack added, "we probably won't have to worry about the Decepticons coming after it again for at least two months because the generator's worse than useless without that shielding." He chuckled, his voder lights flashing. "That is, unless you're looking for a really spectacular way to commit suicide."
"Ah guess that means the 'Cons won't be tryin' for it until they've got the whole thing ready," Ironhide remarked. "Lazy, good for nothin' caulk-heads…"
Prime smiled behind his face-mask. "An accurate summation," he agreed. "As a result, our overt presence here would not be necessary, and we do have other matters that require our attention." He turned to Jazz. "However, there is one loose end I would very much like to tie up…"
Jazz rolled his optics behind his visor. "And I'd love to tie it off for you right now, Prime, but I can't. Depending on who you talk to in this crazy town, that Phantom cat is either the best thing since spiked energon or Megatron's own spark-mate." He gave Red Alert a pointed look. "The kid himself is pretty gun-shy, so going getting the straight scoop from the horse's mouth has been a no-go."
He rubbed the back of his head with one hand. "And, to be perfectly honest, I don't blame the kid for being…well, spooked." He paused, grinning unrepentantly, for the groans to die down. "He can't show his glowing face around here without a bunch of Ghostbuster-types trying to blast it to kingdom come."
"From what I heard, they may have reason," Prowl objected. "There was an incident where he held the mayor hostage…"
"But there's something fishy about that, too," Ratchet broke in. "I was there when you talked to the guy, Prowl. How did he get held hostage without retaining any personal memory of the incident? It sounded more like he was reading from a news report than telling his own story."
The tactician nodded, "Agreed, it is disturbing, but, since this Phantom has been so reluctant to cooperate with the local authorities, perhaps it is not in our best interests to try to contact him."
"Come off it, Prowl," Sideswipe called out from the back of the room. "The 'local authorities' are about as bright Forrest Gump and as trigger-happy as a short-circuited Sentinel. We're just gonna leave this kid to fight off the 'Cons on his own when they come back?"
"I would prefer not to do that," Prime said, grimly. "He did an excellent job of holding them off, but that may be because he was a completely novel enemy - one that they had no idea how to counter." He turned back to Perceptor. "Am I right in assuming that Danny Phantom may not have that advantage next time?"
"That is highly likely, Prime," Perceptor confirmed. "I've spoken to the local…ghost experts. It is possible to create weapons that could injure or destroy a ghost. There are also forcefield frequencies that can be used to block them." The barely suppressed distaste in the scientist's voice elicited grins from many of the Autobots. The encounter between him and the Fentons had been…memorable. Perceptor was having a hard enough time dealing with the concept of ghosts to begin with. On top of that, he had to deal with a pair of researchers whose enthusiasm (and paranoia) about ghosts was matched only by the sloppiness of their science. It was hardly surprising that he wasn't exactly enjoying this particular mission.
"So, if the Decepticons do strike again, the contest will not be as one-sided," Optimus concluded, grimly. "I suppose that making a public announcement that I want to meet with Danny Phantom would not be effective either."
Jazz shook his head. "Doubt the kid would show. Any public announcement will let the local hunters know where he's gonna be, and he's got no real reason to trust that we'll protect him. I don't see how we can set this up unless we can manage to talk to him directly."
Prime thought this over for a moment. "In that case, you have until repairs are complete to find him," he finally said. "We can't take any more time than that. Dismissed."
The meeting broke up with its usual banter and grumbling as the Autobots went back to their assigned duties. Jazz lingered for a moment. He was not happy with the idea of simply abandoning Danny Phantom to the cyber-wolves but couldn't see a way around it.
If we could only get a message to the kid, one he could trust. But who in Primus' name would a ghost teen trust?
He thought back over the information they'd collected: "hot spots" of ghost activity and the types of people involved in and around the attacks. Several facts and hunches connected in his processor and Jazz was hit by a new idea. Grinning like a maniac, he jogged out of the warehouse. "Prime! Wait up!"
(Author's Note: Thanks for all your kind reviews, folks. Now, a little warning. I'm about to blatantly abuse the timelines of both fandoms. In a exercise of poetic license, I'm merging the timefrane of the Transformers season 2 cartoon with that of DP. You'll see why in the next chapter. ;)
Also, since I didn't have a beta for this chapter, all constructive crit is welcome. )