Doppelganger

S-Michael

"Hey, Danny, are you alright?" Sam asked.

"Sure," Danny said, shaking. He sneezed, and blew a hole in the wall of the school hallway. "Uh, maybe not. Let's get out of here before someone sees this." It was a pure and simple stroke of luck that there was no one there now.

Sam, Danny, and Tucker sped up their pace. "Oh, yeah, you're alright," Sam said sarcastically.

"Maybe you're developing a new ghost power, like when you got that ice ray thing," Tucker suggested.

"Yeah, well, for all this suffering, it had better be good," Danny said darkly. Danny started to sneeze, and stopped himself. "I think I should try not to do that," he said, remembering the hole in the wall.

Off in the distance, they heard Mr. Lancer shout, "Gulliver's Travels!" Yeah, the hole had been discovered, alright.

"I think we had better get to class," Sam suggested.

"Good idea," said Danny.

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Meeting after the school bell sounded, Sam noticed that Danny looked even worse for the ware. "God, Danny, you look like…" she almost said a ghost.

"Yeah, I know," Danny said, glumly. "I felt like I had a cold earlier. Now I feel like every single muscle in my body has a Charlie Horse," he complained. Then he shook violently. "I've been having tremors like that for an hour. Jesus Christ, I feel like a junkie."

"We should take the route through the abandoned construction site," Sam said.

"What? But that would take us even longer to get home," Tucker said.

"Yes, but that way there won't be anyone around to get hurt if something happens…like earlier," Sam said. "I've got the feeling that the next time, it'll be bigger."

"Sam's right," Danny said. "In fact, you should let me go alone. I don't want you guys getting hurt."

"Yeah, right, Danny," Tucker said. "In the state you're in, you could collapse."

They went down their chosen path, not saying anything. Then Danny started to sneeze, and the other two had barely enough time to get away before he blew a pothole in the ground and collapsed to his hands and knees.

Tucker looked at the hole and whistled. "That's a nice bit of damage."

"I just hope that this isn't all this new power does," Danny said. "There's something a bit undignified about sneezing your enemies into submission." Then he had a fit of sneezing, blowing a series of holes in the packed earth.

"Uh, are you alright?" Tucker asked, staying a safe distance back with Sam.

Danny nodded, getting to his feet. "Yeah. As a matter of fact, I feel a little bit better." As if the gods of irony were watching, that was the exact moment that he fell to the ground on his back and started screaming in pain and thrashing wildly. Sam and Tucker, acting before they had a chance to think, ran towards him, calling his name.

Then, unbelievably, right before their very eyes, they watched as Danny's ghost-half crawled its way out of his human half. Sam and Tucker looked back and forth between them, as if their minds refused to grasp that their friend was in two places at once, and Danny stared up at Danny, who stared back. Then the ghost Danny looked down at himself, grinned, and whooped.

"Ha ha! I did it! I'm free!" ghost-Danny shouted gleefully.

"What's going on?" boy-Danny asked.

"What's going on is that I'm finally free of you," ghost-Danny said, glaring down at his human counterpart. "Do you have any idea how long I have been inside of you, trapped in your body? Well, now I am free…" ghost-Danny's hands began to glow, "…and it is time for a little revenge."

"We should run," boy-Danny said in a curiously flat and deadpan tone.

"Yeah," Sam echoed. They ran for it, dodging plasma blasts, and hid behind some wreckage.

"Come on, now, I was just joking," ghost-Danny shouted at them. "You should have seen the looks on your faces." Danny stuck his head out, and saw a blast of plasma headed right for him. Stunned, not thinking, he tried to shield himself, and was shocked to find that it worked. The shield was weak, and the blast forced its way through, but it didn't kill him. "I'd say that it's impressive that you discovered that you're regenerating so soon, but, knowing you, I know you did that by blind instinct. The next attack won't be so soft." Ghost-Danny's hands began to glow bright green. "I suggest you run while you've still got the chance."

The three humans ran. "Maybe if I can shield, I can still go ghost," Danny shouted mid-flight.

"It's worth a shot," Sam shouted back.

Danny tried to transform, but nothing happened. "Damn it."

"Guys, follow me," Tucker shouted. Having no better plan, Sam and Danny did as they were told and followed him. He suddenly vanished, but before Danny could stop and try to figure out what happened, he was on the spot that Tucker was and fell down the same hole. Danny noticed a distinctive and extremely unpleasant smell, and then landed in what he hoped was water. Before Danny could catch his breath, Sam landed on him and forced him under again.

"Jesus Christ, this stuff stinks!" Danny shouted.

"I think I got it in my eyes," Sam complained.

"Just be glad that that's the only--"

Tucker hushed them, and they treaded "water" in silence.

"Oh, Danny boy. Where are you?" ghost-Danny taunted from above. "Well, alright, then. I have several months in which I can kill you before your ghost body will regenerate, and even if you survive that long, it'll be at best an even battle, and your reputation will have been thoroughly trashed by me." Ghost-Danny flew off.

"Please tell me we aren't where I think we are," Sam whispered.

"We are," Tucker answered.

"How did you even know that this place was here?" Danny asked.

"I fell down that manhole a couple of years ago. I still have nightmares about it. It's why I try to avoid this place," Tucker said. "So, what's the deal with your evil twin?"

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"I don't think that that was my ghost-half," Danny said.

"It sure looked like it to us," Sam said.

"Yeah, but the more I think about it…well, for one thing, this didn't happen when I split myself using the ghost splitter," Danny said. "Besides, he said that my ghost side would regrow, and if he was my ghost side…that wouldn't happen, would it?"

Sam shrugged. "I don't know; they don't have metaphysics for an elective at Casper High," she said dryly.

"And he said that he was trapped within my body, not that he was a part of me…and besides, I would know if I had that inside of me," Danny said.

"You just said that that was inside of you," Tucker said.

"You know what I mean," Danny said, exasperated.

"So if it isn't…you know, you…what is it, and how did it steal your ghost half?" Sam asked.

"I don't know. In fact, there is only one person I can think of who even might know what is going on here," Danny said.

"You don't mean--" Tucker started to say.

"I do," Danny said.

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"Vladimir Masters, also known as Plasmius," ghost-Danny said.

"Well, well, well; if it isn't Daniel Fenton," Vlad said. "What can I do for you this time?"

"Actually, it isn't," ghost-Danny said. "Danny, I mean. And if I know that sap like I think I do--and I do--then he is on his way here to see if you can't figure out what I am and why he doesn't have ghost powers anymore. Tell me, do you know what I am?"

"Assuming you're telling the truth? I have an idea," Vlad said.

"And no doubt, as smart as you are, that idea is correct," ghost-Danny said. "I was afraid of that. You see, I can't allow you to tell him."

Vlad crossed his arms and leaned against the wall. "Oh? I suppose that this is the part where you are going to try to kill me. Emphasis on try."

"Now, now, my good man. It doesn't have to come to that," the ghost said. "After all, we both hate him? Do we not? I know for a fact that he hates you, at least."

"What are you proposing, exactly?" Vlad asked.

"He is coming here, and he will be weak and powerless on your doorstep. Do I need to spray paint 'golden opportunity' on these expensive walls of yours?"

"Ah," Vlad said. "And what do you get out of this, exactly?"

"Danny Fenton dead," ghost-Danny said.

"I see. One more question," Vlad said.

"What?" ghost-Danny asked.

"What is your name?" Vlad asked.

Ghost-Danny smiled, "You are smart," and then he disappeared.

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"Why are we taking the bus, again?" Tucker asked.

"Because when I tried to touch the ghost portal, it almost electrocuted me," Danny said.

"Yeah, I know. I was just complaining out loud," Tucker, who was sitting next to an unconscious homeless person, said. He whiffed audibly. "This guy smells like pee."

"Oh, like you're one to talk, sewer boy," Sam said.

"You're never going to let me live that down, are you?" Tucker asked flatly.

"Nope," Sam confirmed unnecessarily.

"It's strange, how the Fenton Portal did that," Jazz mused.

"Seriously, do we have to sit next to this guy?" Tucker pleaded.

"There's that 'Welcome to Wisconsin' sign," Danny said. "We're near where Vlad lives."

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Danny knew that going to his arch enemy for help was probably not the best idea he had ever had. The thing was that he had no idea what he was going up against, except that his enemy knew everything there was to know about him, and he was for all practical purposes powerless. A single ecto blast drained him, and it took two hours for him to gain enough energy to do it again. He learned quickly not to do it altogether. In short, the situation did not look good.

They were at Vlad's front door. "So, what? We just knock?" Tuck thought aloud.

"Not very dramatic, I know, but…" Danny knocked. Then the floor below him gave out. The four of them landed, not very softly, in Vlad's lab.

"Ah, Danny, nice to see you again," Vlad said.

"Trap doors, Vlad?" Danny asked. "Come on."

"Hey, it caught you, didn't it? As a matter of fact, I have to wonder why you didn't just fly out of it…unless, of course, it's because you don't have your powers," Vlad said. "Don't look so shocked, Danny my boy. Your…shall we say, other half…was here three days ago. He said that you'd be coming. I'd always figured you for the type to stand your ground and muscle it out, myself, but I guess he does know you better than I do. And now you're powerless and at my mercy. Oh, this is beginning to look like a great day!"

"We may not have ghost powers, but we are far from powerless," Danny said, preparing to charge Vlad.

Vlad used his index finger and blasted Sam, Tucker, Jazz, and Danny. The prior three were incapacitated, but Danny used his ghost shield, and almost succeeded in blocking it. Almost. Vlad's blast broke through in the end, it didn't freeze him, but it did give him a huge shock. Danny screamed.

"Hmm," Vlad said. "It seems your reaction to ectoplasm in this state is quite painful. Interesting." Danny remembered being shocked by the Ghost Portal. You have got to be kidding me. As if things couldn't get worse, and then this tidbit of information rears its ugly head. "Ah, well. Restraints." Suddenly, restraints came out of the floor and tied him down, and then the floor turned into a table, which then slid across the room to where Vlad was. It happened so fast that he didn't even know what happened. All that went through his head was, How did those guys get all the way over there? "Now, then, Danny, whatever shall I do with you? Oh, I know." He snapped his fingers, and a giant laser dropped from the ceiling. "I got this idea from an old James Bond movie."

The door opened, and a man in his early twenties with long hair walked in. "Hey, Mr. Masters, I have a question about…" he saw what was going on, and was rendered speechless. "O…K…" He pulled a cell phone out of his pocket and dialed 911, but Vlad shot it out of his hand. "Hey! That's my mom's!" he said automatically. "Uh…I'm just going to…"

"I wish you hadn't seen this, Shaun," Vlad said.

"Yeah, uh, me, too…" Shaun said, backing up, slowly.

"Not so fast, my boy," Vlad shot him, gluing him to the wall.

"Ah, man, I just got this job last week," Shaun said.

"My new secretary," Vlad explained. "Also maid and janitor. Really quite useful to have around. His seeing this is really quite…unfortunate. Anyway, I'm sorry about that little interruption. Where was I? Ah, yes: time to die, Danny." The laser turned on and began to slowly make its way up.

"Wait, you can't do this," Danny said.

"Yeah, you can't," Shaun piped in.

"Why not?" Vlad asked.

"Because…uh…" Shaun stalled. "…no…uh…no…I don't think 'Because it's wrong,' will work, will it?" Vlad shook his head. "Didn't think so. Um…kid, think of something."

"My mom," Danny said.

"You can't tell her about me if you're all dead," Vlad said.

"Yeah, but you're in love with her, right?" Jazz probed.

"The woman who's picture is all about this place, red hair and a blue jumpsuit? Yeah, he's nuts about her," Shaun said.

"No comments from the peanut gallery, please," Vlad said.

"Think about how she'll feel if her kids die or never come home," Jazz said.

"You wouldn't do that to her if you loved her, man," Shaun chimed in. "That's…just wrong."

"What did I say about comments from the peanut gallery, Shaun?" Vlad asked rhetorically.

"Sorry, sir," Shaun said.

"Still, he's right," Vlad sighed. "Laser, off. Restraints, off." He closed his eyes, and the ectoplasmic restraints of the others disappeared, as well.

"So…uh, kids…should I, like, you know, go to the police?" Shaun asked.

"No," Danny said. "Don't bother. This sort of thing usually happens when I come here. Besides, they won't believe you."

"Oh, thank God! I really need this job," Shaun said.

"After you just saw him prepared to kill somebody. Seriously?" Sam asked dryly.

"Hey, after you've been unemployed for two years, you aren't too picky," Shaun said. "I'll, ah, get back to you with this, Mr. Masters."

"You do that, Shaun," Vlad said.

"Right, sir," Shaun said, and left the room, quickly.

"Well, I suppose that you came here to ask about your doppelganger," Vlad stated. "Luckily for you, since he was here three days ago, I have already looked into it."

"Well, I'd say that that was convenient, if it wasn't for this whole thing with you trying to kill us," Tucker said.

"Yeah, yeah, sure, sure," Vlad said dismissively. "Let's go to my study." He left the room. The teenagers gave one another a series of looks, then followed him through the halls to the study. It was a Victorian style room, full of bookshelves, and even a fireplace. Vlad sat in a leather chair behind a desk, and motioned for the others to do the same. They sat on the other side of the desk; in an eerie way, this was like a meeting with the principal. "Well, then, we should start at the beginning."

"Right," Danny said. "And that would be…"

"When you became half-ghost," Vlad said.

"Oh," Danny said. "I see."

"Do you know how that machine of your idiotic father's turned you into this?" Vlad asked. "I mean, the nature of the transformation."

"Hey, don't call my Dad--I mean, not the specific details, no," Danny said.

"Well, you see, my boy, everyone produces ectoplasm at a constant rate. Skin cells die, and also whatever creatures you might have living on or in you, things like that. We evolved long ago to repel this ectoplasm, because too much free-floating ectoplasm is lethal. The excess is drained into the Ghost Zone, where ghosts and other ecto-entities feed on it," Vlad said. "You are like a magnet who's polarity has been reversed. Instead of repelling ectoplasm, you absorb it, and instead of dying, you channel it into a ghost body, which is always becoming stronger as it absorbs more of your and everyone else's ectoplasm."

"So I'm always going to get stronger and stronger?" Danny asked.

"Well, there are limits to what your body can handle, so you had best do something ghostly to burn off that ectoplasm, but your accursed superheroing takes care of that," Vlad said. "Anyway, when your polarity was reversed, there just happened to be a huge quantity of ectoplasm available for you to absorb, and you have a powerful pull, it seems. You feel like a whirlpool."

"What do you mean?…" Danny asked.

"It's one of those things that I'll teach you about if you join me," Vlad said.

"I'll pass on that," Danny said. "Just hurry up and tell me what that thing was."

"Your loss, my boy," Vlad said. "Anyway, your body wanted ectoplasm like the Sahara Desert wanted rain, and when you absorbed all that ectoplasm, one of the denizens of the Ghost Zone was pulled along for the ride. Your body naturally tried to configure it all along its previously-existing specifications, in short to turn all that ectoplasm into an 'astral clone' of you, your ghost-body. This entity somehow protected its mind from being erased and overwritten like a computer by your body's subconscious actions, and then had to wait for your body to overflow with ectoplasm so that it could break free of you with your own ghost form."

"But you just said doing my ghost thing should have been enough to keep the ectoplasm in check," Danny pointed out.

"And it should have. I have two theories on that. One is that you spend a lot of time in the ghost zone, where you're literally swimming through the stuff, and so might be collecting faster than you can spend," Vlad said. "Of course, I have never had that problem, but it's still possible."

"And the other theory…" Danny probed.

"Well, I'm not sure I should tell you, what with us being mortal enemies," Vlad said.

"Vlad…" Danny threatened.

"Well, I suppose that if it's true, you'll find out eventually, and if it's not, it doesn't matter. I have noticed for a while that you don't seem as strong as I was when I was at a similar level in my ghastly education. It could be that I was older and larger than you, had more room for ectoplasm in me. It could also be that I am simply remembering wrong. After all, it has been twenty years. Or, maybe, and this is just a theory, the entity has been holding you back, siphoning your energy back into you to ensure that you would have to overflow eventually," Vlad said. "Mind, it's just a theory, but that would mean that not only is he as strong as you were, he's stronger."

"Well, this just keeps getting worse and worse," Danny said.

"On the bright side, that would mean that when you get your powers back, you'll be stronger than ever," Tucker said.

"And when will that be?" Danny asked.

"According to my calculations? Five months," Vlad said. "More, if it's true about his holding back your strength."

"Is there any faster way?" Danny asked.

"You could go into the Ghost Zone, but there's no guarantee that it won't happen again," Vlad said.

"How likely is that?" Danny asked.

"No idea. It happened to you and not to me, so according to the test sample, there's a fifty percent likelihood," Vlad said. "Wait, don't take that literally. It was a joke. I forgot what your grades were like."

"Ha, ha," Danny said dryly. And then he saw his breath.

"Vladimir, I'm disappointed," the doppelganger phased through the door, dragging a very pale Shaun with him. "You wanna know something? Your little assistant is deathly afraid of ghosts."

"Not deathly afraid," Shaun protested weakly. "It's just, well, the implications of ghosts actually existing…it freaks me out…" he looked at the others, and then he noticed something about Danny. "You two look a lot alike. Are you, like, related, or something?"

"Or something," Danny said.

"Shut up," the ghost barked at his captive.

"Let him go, …um, what am I supposed to call you?" Danny asked.

"An excellent question. The funny thing is, I don't seem to be able to remember just what my name was. Spending month after month inside of someone else's body, inside of someone else's head, can tear away at you, you see. Every day that passed, I could feel a little more of me get absorbed into you. I couldn't save my body, but my mind…I had to put myself into a near-catatonic state, and that was still only partially successful. You almost erased me from existence! Do you wonder why I hate you?"

"It's not like I did that to you on purpose. I didn't even know that you were there," Danny protested.

"That's the worst part of it! Not only was I being slowly absorbed into you, you didn't even know I was there! You were killing me, and you didn't even acknowledge that I existed!" the ghost was getting frantic, and Shaun, realizing that his captor's sanity was barely attached by a string, tried to break free. The ghost tossed him against a wall, where he was knocked unconscious. "Prepare to die, Danny Fenton!"

His blast was blocked by Vlad's ghost shield. "Go! I'll keep him fro following you." He transformed.

"Wow, uh, thanks, Vlad," Danny said. The teenagers fled the room.

"Really, Vlad?" Danny's doppelganger said. "I didn't know you had it in you."

"I doubt that I'll have much more trouble against you than I do against young Daniel," Vlad said.

"Ah, yes. I see. I didn't think you had it in you to sacrifice yourself for another," the ghost said. "You don't seem to realize just how much of Danny's vitality I have been leaching off of him. Plus, though this particular form is new to me, I have been a ghost longer than you have."

"And you don't realize that I go easy on Danny because I want him to join me," Vlad said.

"Ah yes, that little dream family of yours where Maddie is your wife and little Danny is your stepson," the ghost mocked. "You're pathetic, man. It will never happen. Danny hates you, and his mother is married to a fat retard." He laughed. "Give up, fool."

"Never," Vlad said. "I love Maddie. There can be no other."

"Aw, how sweet. Like a kicked puppy," the ghost continued to mock. "You know what I think? I think you think it's noble, to pine to death out here. All it is is pathetic, Vladimir my boy. To throw your life away so foolishly…but you'll have all your afterlife to think about what an idiot you have been."

"Now you've done something you shouldn't have," Vlad said. "You've made me mad."