Chapter 20: Frightmare
Arguing for going into the Ghost Zone alone was a losing battle with my mom and Jazz.
"I am not abandoning you in a dimension filled to bursting with the very creatures we are fighting to defeat!" Mom exclaimed.
"Mom knows how to operate the Ghost Zone Zipper, and you don't," Jazz pointed out. The Ghost Zone Zipper, by the way, was basically the same thing as the Specter Speeder – it just inherited a different name here. Also, it didn't have a cup holder.
If I had to go into the Ghost Zone with someone, I wanted it to be Jazz, who knew about my ghost powers – until I remembered that it was more advantageous to be human in the Ghost Zone anyway. I didn't have any of my offensive powers still. I relented at length. "Okay, okay. But Vlad stays here."
Mom gave me a curious look. Jazz didn't seem to think anything of it. "I'll stay here with Mr. Masters," she volunteered. "That way if something happens you'll have a good troubleshooting team." She looked up at Vlad with so much respect in her eyes that I made a gagging face, not caring if Vlad saw. Vlad kept his mouth shut but the smirk he gave me told me he still thought he was superior in every way. I glared back.
"I can do this on my own," Mom said, but Jazz clapped me on the shoulder.
"Come on, Mom, Danny is the only one that knows exactly what this Reality Gauntlet looks like and how it works. You need him."
That wasn't exactly true. For starters I had no idea what the correct gem sequence was; we'd activated the Gauntlet in my reality totally on accident. I also didn't know if the gems would be with the Gauntlet or if we'd have to go on some kind of crazy side trip to find those, too. But if it would get me into the Ghost Zone with Mom, I was all for it.
"All right," Mom agreed with a heavy Mom Sigh, the kind that says 'I'm agreeing for now but that doesn't mean you're right'. Jazz flashed me a smile. "I've set up the Ghost Zone Zipper to follow a powerful ecto-signature, but it may not be the right one. There's a few in particular I would like to follow up on. It may take a while."
Mom had tracked down five study-worthy ectoplasmic signatures in a Zone made entirely of ectoplasm in less than fifteen minutes. I told you my parents work fast when they want to. "It's worth it," I promised. And I clung to that as I strapped myself into the Zipper next to my mom and we flew off into the Ghost Zone.
We were really quiet for a long time. Nothing looked familiar about the Ghost Zone (well, except for the big purple football in the rear-view mirror), but nothing looked unfamiliar either; it was all just green and purple and black, and very creepy. Mom kept wringing her hands on the steering wheel. I was kind of hoping to avoid any kind of conversation whatsoever. I knew what Mom would want to talk about – it was the same thing everyone else wanted to talk about: what it was like where I came from.
"So … Danny …" Mom started. I slumped a little in my seat. "You know, Jack once sent the house into an alternate dimension."
I looked out the window. "Yeah?"
"Mm-hm." Mom glanced at me. "I never did find out what it was like."
Mom hadn't been home for that, just like in my reality. I guessed Mom was hoping this would prompt a story from me. I just didn't know what to say, though. I already felt bad about having to tell Mom I wasn't really her son. So I flaked out and changed the subject. "The Ghost Zone's really empty."
I wasn't just making things up. In my reality there were ghosts floating all over the place and it never took long to find some random ghost floating around, be it ectopusses or ghost bears or Skulker. But even though I didn't have a watch, I felt like we'd been flying for a while without seeing even one ghost.
"Many of the ghosts are out in the real world, honey," Mom explained. "It may not be all that wonderful for humans any more, but I suppose any place is less gloomy than here."
"I guess so." I shrugged. "Um, any idea how long until we get to the first ecto-signature?"
"Perhaps half an hour," Mom answered idly.
We were quiet for a minute, the conversation dying between us. I felt my eyes starting to drift shut; it felt more peaceful here in the eerily quiet Ghost Zone than anywhere else in this universe. But before I could sleep, an alarm on the Zipper's dashboard began blaring; I jerked to attention. Mom punched a button and the alarm shut off. "What's happening? What's going on?" I asked.
Mom was frowning at a display of glowing green dots and waves that I couldn't make heads or tails of. "A very strong ectoplasmic signature just appeared in the Ghost Zone," she explained. "It's moving, so it's probably a very powerful ghost. The Zipper is just warning us that it's coming this way."
I sucked a deep breath. "Shouldn't we get out of its way, then?" I asked.
"I'm already on it, honey." Mom smiled at me and pulled a lever. "Are you buckled in?" I nodded. "All righty! Hitting the afterburners!" She floored the pedal under her foot, and the Zipper took off at what felt like six hundred miles an hour. I was shoved back into my seat, my breath stolen. "That will … oh dear. It seems to be following us."
"Great," I groaned.
"We'll throw him off our tail," Mom promised, and then she proceeded to show that she could drive like Dad – as in, breaking traffic laws, speeding laws, and the laws of physics. I clung for dear life to the plush seating of the Zipper as we flew up, down, right, and left at breakneck speeds. At least I could take comfort in knowing that we'd have a hard time crashing into anything since as humans, we were like ghosts in the Ghost Zone.
"Vlad's calling," Mom notified me, and pointed to a set of headphones swinging wildly from their hook on the dashboard. "Care to answer?"
"Not really," I told her. "I'm gonna be sick."
"The barf bags are under the seats!" Mom said cheerily. She was probably having the time of her life. "We'll just call him back then!"
I seriously was going to be sick, and not just at the thought of hearing Vlad's smarmy voice. It's one thing to fly this way when I'm a ghost – it's another thing entirely to fly like this when Mom or Dad's in charge of the wheel. I reached under the seat as the Zipper gave another terrifying lurch, and the air in my lungs turned ice cold. I exhaled a fog of mist. "Mom, where's the ghost we're trying to avoid?" I shouted, my nausea abated by a sudden burst of adrenaline.
"I can't check the radar again until we stop the Evasion Maneuvers," Mom informed me. But halfway through her sentence, the alarm started blaring again.
I clutched the seat, sitting up again in a rush. Mom clucked her tongue and made a hard right. I ended up jamming my cheek against the window next to me.
And I found myself face-to-face … with me.
To be more specific, I was face-to-face with Danny Phantom, and Phantom wasn't looking so good. Ectoplasm slicked his back and chin and he was struggling with none other than Plasmius-Phantom, the Ghost King.
Phantom was futilely trying to kick the Ghost King off of him, dangling from his grip like he couldn't stay afloat on his own. His gaze swept past me before he did a double-take, and for some reason his expression lit up before changing to white-faced horror. "Danny?" he asked.
I didn't have enough time to react to anything. I gaped openly at them both.
"Well, well, well, a two-for-one-special!" The Ghost King sneered, punching Phantom across the face hard enough to knock him senseless. "Madaline and Daniel wrapped up with a bow!"
Mom screamed and slammed on the brakes. I bounced off the seatbelt so hard I think I gave myself whiplash. Plasmius didn't have time to react and, still flying at the same speed as the afterburners, became a speck in the distance in less than a second. "Plasmius!" Mom shouted.
The headphones buzzed and below them a little LED display read, "Vlad". Mom ignored it, breathing hard, fury in her eyes. She started punching buttons on the dashboard, which lit up red and green like a Christmas tree, glowing words like 'Armed' and 'Lethal'. The Zipper made whining sounds as things shifted around inside it. "I'm going to tear him apart molecule by molecule!"
"Mom!" I protested, terrified. "Mom, he's the Ghost King! The Specter Spee-I mean, the Ghost Zone Zipper isn't going to be enough to take him down! We have to get the Reality Gauntlet, remember?" I couldn't even begin to explain Phantom's presence to myself, much less to my mom, so I ignored it.
Mom gripped the steering wheel so tight that I thought I heard it crack, but after a moment she began to calm down. "Yes. Yes, of course. We'll just—"
I didn't get to hear what Mom would just do. I was distracted by the sight of Plasmius-Phantom diving at us, laughing all the way. I grabbed the seat under me tightly and willed myself and the entire Zipper to be intangible.
Plasmius flew right through the intangible Zipper and came out the other side. "Go go gogogogogo!" I screeched at Mom; Mom sat frozen, clutching the steering wheel for a moment, before she blinked and punched the gas pedal, and we shot forward at Afterburner Speed again.
I was trembling with anticipation. Mom just kept going in a straight line, her face tight with anxiety. I didn't think the Zipper could outpace the Ghost King, but after ten minutes without an alarm going off or a sighting, Mom slowed down. "The ecto-converter needs time to convert more ectoplasm to energy," she said softly.
I barely dared to breathe. I was totally prepared to tell Mom that I was the one that had turned the Zipper intangible if Mom asked, but we were both pretty shaken up. After another minute or two, I stammered, "Um, in my reality, the Ghost King was defeated by a suit that you and Dad made."
Mom jerked the wheel slightly in surprise before glancing at me. "Danny?" she asked quietly.
"Yeah. You called it the Fenton Suit. And a ghost stole it and piloted it, and he used it to defeat the Ghost King. He needed a lot of help to do it, but he won in the end." I swallowed. "So … if this whole Reality Gauntlet thing doesn't work out, maybe you can try that."
Mom smiled wearily. "Try having a powerful piece of technology stolen by a ghost?"
I squirmed. "I mean, making a Fenton Suit?"
"I don't suppose the ghost that stopped the Ghost King replaced him, did it?"
"No! No, he just … he just wanted to help."
"I find that hard to believe."
Of course. "I-I'm just trying to say that you can make something that can defeat the Ghost King! You've done it before, so why couldn't you … uh …" I trailed off as I realized we were flying through murky ectoplasm that was dark blue instead of green, and in the distance I could see the cogs of a familiar tower. Clockwork? "Um … is that where we're going?" I asked, pointing.
Mom glanced down at the radar we were apparently following. "It's the location of the first powerful signature I wanted to examine, yes."
"Oh," I said vaguely. I was now relatively certain that this wasn't where the Reality Gauntlet was; Clockwork, who almost never left his lair, was probably a powerful ectoplasmic signature all by himself. But I have to admit, I had no clue how to explain that to Mom. Mom would still want to go check it out.
The alarm started blaring again, warning us that we were close to the strong ectoplasmic signature. Mom turned it off absently. "Now to find an entrance," she murmured.
"Actually, you can fly right through the walls," I told her. "Humans are like ghosts in the Ghost Zone."
Mom blinked at me. "Really? We haven't had time for extended forays into the Ghost Zone … how did you find that out?"
"It's kind of a long story," I mumbled. "I'll tell you—" I suddenly had to clutch my hands over my mouth as my breath turned to mist again. I'm not reacting to Clockwork already – he's not close enough. Who's around? Could I dare to hope it would be a harmless ghost like Klemper?
No such luck.
The Zipper rocked suddenly as if from a heavy blow. "Ghosts!" Mom exclaimed. I clutched the dashboard, looking for the threat. "Firing off homing ecto-missiles!" Mom pressed a button and the Zipper rocked again as the weapons Mom had armed earlier fired off, leaving plumes of green smoke in their wake; they veered around and out of sight. I heard not-so-distant explosions. "That will keep them busy," Mom promised, gunning the Zipper forward again – or trying to. Nothing happened. "What … we've lost thrust!"
Mom didn't scream; I did. Plasmius abruptly appeared in front of the dashboard, but the Danny Phantom I'd seen earlier was absent. "Haha!" Plasmius laughed at my fear. "It seems like we just keep running into each other, doesn't it?" I didn't know if he was talking to me or Mom.
Mom scowled. "You!" She pressed another button on the dashboard, labled 'Specter Deflector'. You can probably guess what happened next.
The whole Ghost Zone Zipper glowed green. Plasmius-Phantom winced – Ghost King or not, a ghost shield was still able to stop him, at least for a while. And me? Well, maybe I couldn't go ghost, but I definitely wasn't just human any more. The Ghost Zone Zipper gave me a good, strong shock – strong enough to shock me into intangibility. I yelped and fell out of the Zipper; the last thing I heard from my Mom was her shouting my name.
As soon as I was clear of the Zipper my instincts kicked back in, though, and my instinct was to float. And to my great surprise, I did. I hovered there in the empty space of the Ghost Zone for about four seconds, blinking at the discovery that I had finally regained another power , before it occurred to me to do something with this newfound ability.
"Mom, I'm okay!" I shouted, flying up to where Mom would be able to see me. "Don't turn off the Specter Deflector! Just get away!" I'd go to Clockwork; not even Plasmius could do anything about Clockwork, I was sure of it.
Mom stared at me like she'd seen a ghost (or something really scary that she didn't see every day), though. I had about a split second to realize that it was probably a surprise to her to find out her son could fly, but there wasn't time for that. "Danny?"
"Just go--!" I shot off towards Clockwork's lair, not waiting to see what Mom did or what Plasmius did. Clockwork would make everything safe for me; I was certain of it.
And I couldn't have been more wrong.
To be continued
Author's Notes: Thanks to Cordria, YumeTakato, Nylah, New Ghost Girl, Kiomori, Blue Flyhight, BluFox15, and hawkflyer667 for reviewing chapter 19! I apologize for this chapter being so short, but things are about to intersect heavily between Phantom!Danny and Human!Kinda!Danny so I had to cut things off here. I will likely no longer be able to keep the two halves within their own separate chapters, so please bear with me.
Next time: what happened to Clockwork, what happened to Phantom, and the Reality Gauntlet, with a guest appearance by somebody dear to our hearts.