Disclaimer: Don't own DP.
What Happened Last Chapter: All the ghosts convened into a small guerilla army in anticipation of the CGIA's attempt to reclaim Danny, who still remains in suspended animation. Despite their best tricks and the help of Danny's friends and family, however, the ghosts are pushed back. Agent O contacts an injured Valerie and demands she surrender, an offer which she refuses. The CGIA evacuate their convoy and rig it to explode, blasting the ghosts and giving them a clear path to Danny's location inside the hospital. The blast takes down the barrier surrounding the hospital and knocks Vlad unconscious, and he transforms into his human form in front of Maddie. Convoys 2 and 3 arrive at the dimensional portal to backup the surviving GIWs, who begin to overrun the dimension.
In the sanctity of the still-standing hospital, the emergency lights flickered on, then died.
Maddie dropped down beside the unconscious Vladimir Masters. His features were unmistakable, even in the dark. She swallowed hard, heaving for air. "A ghost."
Many, many things clicked in her mind, and conflicting emotions swarmed through her in a torrent. "Like Danny."
Tears that she didn't understand bubbled up in her eyes.
And yet she knew she had no time to process her emotions. Vlad, her husband's despicable friend, the man who flirted shamelessly with her, who had once loved her, wasn't breathing. She tentatively reached for him. Is he dead…?
With some effort, she managed to push him on his back, and his gaunt, narrow features faced her, still slack without life. He looked younger, much younger than he truly was.
Tentatively, she tapped his face.
Oh, yeah. Sam and Tucker were still there with her. "Hey, is he okay?" Tucker called over.
Fearful that they would react worse to the truth about Vlad than she (had they even seen him transform?), Maddie called out, "I've got this. You two go check on getting power back up, and make sure Danny's still secure!"
The two hesitated, but neither of them having a great love for Vlad, nodded and left to accomplish their own missions.
Maddie's mind raced. She couldn't let him die. If Vlad were truly half-human, like Danny, then he would understand more about the mid-link transformation process than other ghosts. Maybe he was the only one who really knew.
And he had come to help her son.
She couldn't just let him die.
She rubbed her temples with a shaking hand, trying to convince herself that those were the only reasons she was about to do something that made her skin crawl. It wasn't like Vlad had once been her friend, or that her husband still believed Vlad was his friend. "Oh God. Okay. If he's still half-human, then maybe…CPR?"
A bit awkwardly, she swallowed hard. "I can't believe I'm going to do this," she mourned. But she knew time was running out; whatever had caused that major surge didn't spell victory for their side.
She tilted Vlad's head towards her with a shaking hand.
Then Maddie leaned over and pressed her lips against his, giving him her breath.
Outside of the hospital, the bodies of ghosts lay in tangled messes of their original forms.
The blast had thrown Ember back, breaking her guitar into pieces and searing Phantom's power across her skin. She cried out, somersaulting to the hard concrete with a crack.
The power carried with it an old agony, and it washed over her with images of a containment chamber at the CGIA.
Then she felt herself unravel in very unnatural ways.
As the roar of the GIWs rose to deafening heights, Ember simply tried to reconfigure back to reality, green eyes wide and unfocused.
For the first time in decades, she felt enough pain to feel alive. To feel in danger of dying again, of being truly snuffed from existence.
A few feet away, Skulker groaned as his exoskeleton shuddered from the damage done to it. His power percentages dropped. He retracted his cutlass back into his arm and turned around, optics wide. "Ember!"
His faceplates grinded into a scarred grimace as he dug his fingers into the ground and pulled himself closer.
The Guys in White stormed past them in heavily armed squads, eyes trained upon the hospital. They believed the ghosts neutralized threats and did not see their movements.
"Ember," his voice box rasped out, glitching between static frequencies and shorts.
Her pale blue skin whitened as ectoplasm leaked from the burns along her collar bone and throat. Her fiery turquoise hair faded and fell out of its ponytail, cropped and wildly tangled. Her dark makeup smeared and ran.
Skulker reached for her. She turned her head, and her green eyes landed on his in a whirlwind of pain and fear.
She coughed, ectoplasm coating her lips, wincing. "Go…!"
"Not without you," he grunted as he forced himself closer, reaching harder. His fingers shook as Ember curled in on herself.
With a few more dragging seconds, Skulker ended up in a heap beside his girlfriend, breathing heavily with the exertion and rapid deterioration of his energy.
Power threshold, thirty percent, his body armor warned him.
But he paid it no mind. From this distance, he could see all the damage the blast that inflicted on Ember, who had been hit directly without any of the heavy armor he carried.
His hand found hers, and he cradled it next to his face, even as a sob hitched from Ember. "I…I c-can't…" she whispered, voice trailing off. She tried to move her legs, but she was missing one from below the knee. Her eyes brightened with tears (what if she couldn't find a way to regenerate? What if she were crippled forever?). She couldn't fly or fight without sapping too much energy. Skulker tightened his grip on her hand and squeezed it tight.
Guys in White caught a visual of the fallen ghosts moving and immediately moved forward to neutralize them. "Surviving entities targeted! Engage in necessary assault procedures!"
Ember's shaky fingers touched the sides of Skulker's face plates, following the grooved, deep scars the CGIA had placed there. "Get out of here," she rasped.
"Not without you," he said. His sparking, cybernetic hands gently moved beneath her and levied for stability.
Exoskeleton at critical mass, he groaned as he lifted her up. Ember hissed with the sudden pain that trailed through her broken body. Her weak hands clawed at his armor in an attempt to stop him, but he continued on, green optics hardened with determination to get her away from the GIW.
She wasn't going back to those hellish headquarters. Not if he had anything to do about it.
But in the time it had taken him to reach her, the GIW managed to close in around the ghosts. Shadows of men raised their weapons.
A barrage of blasts from the GIW sunk into the heavy-plated armor of Skulker's suit, and he groaned, even as he held Ember closer, protecting her from the attack.
More and more Guys in White surrounded them. Skulker faltered to his knees under the fire, the joints and gears sparking. He realized he would not escape them.
And if he couldn't, neither would Ember.
So he allowed himself to fall, covering Ember with his own body, and he off-lined his optics, shuddering and falling still.
"Play dead," he whispered in her ear, voice glitching.
Ember, without much trouble, went limp in his arms.
The humans stopped firing and stared at the ghosts they presumed exterminated.
"They still have recordable ectoplasmic levels, but without any energy sources," one of them said, lowering a handheld meter, "they'll fade out soon. Our primary concern is locating the war criminal Valerie Gray and obtaining the location of Danny Phantom."
So they returned to their overarching mission. They marched away in quick succession and pivoted around the unconscious ghosts.
In the rubble and debris left behind, Skulker raised up, his optics shuttered back online. Power threshold, fifteen percent, his body armor warned him. Shutting down all unnecessary systems.
His vocal processors went offline, as did his weaponry.
Power threshold, twenty-five percent.
He looked down at Ember, whose green eyes barely opened. Her streaked makeup lined and splattered her face, making her look like both an old woman and a wild, innocent child.
Skulker's heart thumped in fear as he looked down at the deep gashes in her throat.
Maybe they'd survive, but if they did, it'd be under the rule of the CGIA.
They couldn't fight anymore.
The CGIA was too powerful, too many, to stop.
The last hospital generators began to spark and die, and the suspended animation chambers below the hospital began to sound an alarm. Without electrical support, the chambers could not sustain the temperature necessary for cyro-stasis.
With Tucker heading to the main electrical breakers, Sam made her way down the basement to the cryo-stasis chambers. She could find no other generators, no circuit boxes, nothing. Her every step grew more and more wary.
If they couldn't get power back up…
She inhaled shakily, her mind's eye conjuring an image of a dark and tainted Danny, one who would not hesitate to murder.
Meanwhile, deep within the cyro-stasis chamber in the basement, the alarms began to screech, hitting a critical point in temperature. The gauges climbed, and condensation collected outside of the chamber.
Danny Phantom's ectoplasmic levels shot to a final one-hundred percent.
The glass cracked, and icy fog leaked through.
The delicate threads of Danny's mind frayed further as he slowly awoke from cyro-stasis. Although his body was still unresponsive, his mind flared to life. He realized he was bound, and for a second, he believed himself still in the clutches of the CGIA.
Panic tore through him, and his icy breath caught in his throat.
In the back of his mind, he thought he saw the scientists standing over him, turning his chin every which way, writing on their clipboards…waiting for approval to string him up again and tear at his jumpsuit with their gloves…then hooking him up to their machines and watching him hide his tears of pain and shame as he shook from the voltage.
"It appears his outputs have been dampened since the electrical surge."
"Then increase the machine!"
And painpainpain entered his mind, his heart, his lungs. He couldn't breathe. He couldn't breathe.
His dry lips cracked open. "P-please…"
"Is it speaking?"
"Yes, I believe it is."
"Please…s-stop…" He managed to raise his head, to stare one of them in the eyes. To make them see the humanity still left in him. "Please!"
It was the first time he had spoken in weeks. The last thing he had. Words.
"…Is it begging?"
They tilted their heads.
One smirked. "Yes, I believe it is."
Then the machine increased its demand for power, and suddenly the world spun as his essence and soul leeched away from his body in a warp of pain, leaving him a breathless husk. His limbs and head hung from his body like heavy weights.
He looked up at the lights dancing in a hallucinatory circle as he slumped against the back of his cage. His chest heaved with the labor of breathing and blinking. His lips moved with wordless pleas.
And then one of the scientists, a woman, stepped up to him. "Aww, you know, it's kinda cute when it begs. Like a puppy." She tapped her long fingers against his glass encasement. "Say please again," she whispered, lips curling up. "And maybe we'll give you a treat."
He felt pressure build in his head, and he began to feel dizzy.
"You can't teach an old ghost new tricks," another scientist joked.
But stripped of strength and dignity, Danny managed an unsupported, pained plea. His dry, cracked lips parted once more.
No! Don't give in. Stand tall! An unfamiliar darkness in his mind made him hesitate for but a second.
Forget pride. He wanted the pain to stop.
Tears of shame brightened his eyes. He looked straight into her gaze and fought to see beyond the darkness there. "Please…"
The woman scientist smiled, predatory. "Oh, I can teach this one. I can teach him many, many tricks…can't I, sweetheart?"
That smile, that inhuman desire for suffering, crashed against Danny's will, and the brightness of his mind went dark, smothered like a dying flame.
Suddenly, Danny Phantom's eyes snapped open, red, panicked. Revulsion and fear swarmed through him as he inhaled a breath he didn't need and struggled against the buckles holding him in place. Then his memories cleared from his eyes. He frowned, his sharp gaze recognizing where he was. With a quick pull of strength, he snapped the buckles.
He was in a containment chamber, but much different than the ones used by the CGIA. No, no: this was meant to keep him from hurting himself, evidenced by the smooth and well-padded straps.
He placed his hands against the freezing, glass compartment. His blue lips unfroze themselves, and he smiled. "Curious," he hummed in appreciation. His fingers suddenly sunk deep into the glass, shattering its innards into splinters.
But his smile faltered as the glass prison glowed bright blue and shocked him. "A barrier?" he wondered. Must have been an extra security measure.
He closed his eyes as power surged into his every nerve, outlining his veins. The barrier whined as it dissipated under his aura.
And then nothing stood between him and freedom.
All of his senses bombarded him with new information. No ghost signatures registered nearby within the hospital, and Danny frowned. His heightened aura shot forth beyond the walls of the cyro-stasis chambers to the farthest edges of the hospital.
There, he encountered an even greater surprise. His own signature, cold and metallic, warping with countless points of origin.
Phantom inhaled sharply. "CGIA," he breathed. "An army of them."
But instead of a sneer or a grimace, his lips curled into an awful smile. "Perfect."
Then he materialized into darkness.
"…Danny?" Sam's voice echoed through the suspension chambers, originating not too far down from his location. "Danny!"
The woman's purple eyes darted, scanning the cyro-stasis room.
Then, she saw it. The chamber, once locked and sealed, was decimated. The heavy straps were broken. Glass shards littered the floor.
Her eyes dilated. "Oh no."
In fear, Sam ran out, grabbing a blaster off the wall before she did.
On the other side of the battlefield, right beside the front of the hospital, lay an unmoving Valerie Gray. Her head had cracked painfully on the ground, and she had felt something snap in her chest, stealing away her breath, her consciousness.
The world went dark, then hazy again. She wavered on the brink of the waking world, unable to think or process much of anything.
As she fought her way back, the sound of boots pounding pavement registered in her ears. But she didn't hear their approach towards her until it was too late.
She opened her eyes, and a blurry figure blocked her view of anything else.
Cold ice stormed through her, and she was too slow to move.
Agent O grabbed Valerie's bad arm, and she gasped in pain as he hauled her up. She swayed and very nearly leaned on him to keep standing.
And was that the sound of her wheezing for air?
"Valerie Gray," Agent O announced, "you've been more trouble than you're worth."
Before she could move, he slammed his fist into her jaw.
His steel force sent her reeling back, teal eyes rolling up. She collapsed to the ground in a heap of writhing pain, wrenching all her bones yet again. He watched in satisfaction as a groan escaped her bloody lips, even as she reached for her weapon with desperate fingers. He kicked it out of the way. "You're pathetic," he told her. "You don't know when to stop."
For good measure, Agent O kicked her in the ribs. Her body jerked, and a pained whimper tore from her throat. Sharp pangs flamed in her body, and she curled in on herself to stop them.
Blood splattered from her previously injured side.
Get up get up get up, the neurons in her brain fired rapidly, but her failing body couldn't.
He kicked her again, watching tears of pain and anger slide down her face. "Can't even protect yourself, huh?"
Flashes of a dark room with a ghost, Danny Phantom, tore through her mind. She remembered him slumped against bars, struggling to breathe as the scientists shot him again and again with their weapons.
For that moment, Valerie felt a particular camaraderie with Danny. She wanted to fight, but the world spun under Agent O's steel-toed combat boots.
Then the commanding agent snapped his fingers, and two subordinates moved forward and picked Valerie up by her arms. She cried out as they jarred her beaten body, and she weakly thrashed against them, but they held her strong. They forced her to stand on shaking legs.
For a second, only Valerie's pained gasps echoed in the silence.
"It's over, Valerie," Agent O said. "This game of yours never stood a chance." Terror swarmed through her as he walked closer. "Now tell me where Phantom is."
She swallowed back blood and shook her head as she wheezed for air. Her thoughts scrambled every which way. Was her jaw broken? Maybe it was. She tried to think of an escape, but only her own panic reverberated in her mind.
Nearly two-hundred and fifty soldiers stood off to the side, waiting for Agent O's orders to infiltrate the hospital. Waiting for Valerie, their old superior, to break down and give the exact location of Danny Phantom.
Valerie's eyes wandered, in search of her army, in search of life.
Agent O grabbed her sweaty, matted curls and jerked her face up. Hot flashes of pain snaked down her spine. "I asked nicely, Valerie," he said, fingers digging into her scalp with suppressed anger.
He stared into her rolling, teal eyes with a seriousness that was not lost upon her.
What would he do to her if she didn't answer? Kill her and then search out Danny Phantom anyways?
What was this, then? A show of power, of the might of the CGIA? That they enjoyed playing with their food before eating it?
Revulsion and hatred for the man swept through her, and she gathered her strength. With a curled lip, she spat on him. Pleasure swarmed through her when she saw droplets of her own blood spray in his face.
For a second, Agent O froze in shock. Valerie delighted in the twitches of his face and in his speechless mouth.
Silence swung around for a bit between them.
In a show of great disgust, he wiped off the spit from his face. "I see," he said, voice stilted. But then he recovered.
"If that's how you feel about it…" Agent O pressed the end of a cold barrel to Valerie's head. "I'll just put you out of your misery."
Valerie stared him down despite the fear pounding into every last nerve. She was really going to die in the Ghost Zone, after betraying her own race for the sake of a friend gone mad.
The gun in Agent O's hand was a blaster, but it packed enough of a punch to be deadly to humans as well. Especially at close range.
"Y-you…gonna k-kill me?" she rasped in challenge, her jaw aching with every word. Maybe it wasn't broken, but it sure felt like it. "Here?" She tried to laugh, and it wheezed with bitterness. "A-against your p-precious rules."
"Execution of an unruly prisoner is within my authority," he hissed. "You can forget imprisonment. Your death will be far more expedient."
He put his finger on the trigger. The end of the barrel was icy, and it goose bumped her skin the more she thought about it being shoved against her skull. "Goodbye, Valerie."
She refused to close her eyes, rebellious to the end. If you're gonna watch me die, she seethed in her mind, then you're gonna see you never broke me.
She stifled the deep fear in her belly.
This was it.
Then, suddenly, a voice from above them all said, "Well, well, if isn't the CGIA doing what it does best. Coercion and torture."
Agent O's eyes widened. He wheeled around, pulling the ecto-gun away from Valerie's head.
A dark shadow floated above the hospital, arms crossed. The powerful lines of its body were solid and sharp. Its shock white locks glowed like an unholy beacon.
Agent O acknowledged the presence. "Danny Phantom."
A dark smile lifted the ghost's lips and glinted in his red eyes. "Miss me?"
The agents automatically dropped Valerie to raise their weapons at Danny. Weapons whined and charged up. A few henchmen faltered in their steps and trembled at the sight of their unleashed enemy.
The ghost tsked at the agents, but he did not act against them. "I wouldn't do that if I were you," he mocked them. "Somebody's going to get hurt."
He caught many of them swallowing hard and backing away. If their instruments were any indication, the Danny Phantom before them was significantly more powerful than they had ever seen.
Only Agent O showed no fear. Instead, his face smoothed into an impassive mask as he re-holstered the blaster. He pulled out his second gun, a .38 Colt, and he pointed it at Valerie. It would do much more damage than the blunt force trauma and burns associated with an ecto-gun. "You come any closer," he threatened casually, "and your little marionette here dies a very bloody death."
Valerie inhaled sharply as she tried to pick herself off the ground, to no avail.
Danny Phantom scoffed. "My…little marionette?" An amused glint tilted his lips and darkened his red eyes. "Even I can't control her. You're an idiot to think you ever could."
Agent O pulled back the gun to cock it, and he pointed it back at Valerie's skull. "Then you won't mind if I kill her. Provide corporal punishment for her failures."
Phantom's lip curled. His right palm began to glow a bright green. Before Agent O could blink, Phantom shot the gun out of his hand, and it landed on the ground with a solid clunk. Various squadrons of GIWs raised their guns higher and fired, kneeling down to plant themselves solid for combat.
Phantom flew up to avoid the blasts, and moving too fast to see, he appeared right before Agent O and grabbed his throat with steely fingers. Immediately, the firing concentrated on Phantom. Blasts tore at his suit, his skin. Rivulets of ectoplasm trailed from the burns.
"On the contrary," he said to Agent O as he forced the man to look at him, voice rough with dark emotion, "I do mind. I mind very much."
The agent met Phantom's eyes with great defiance, even as he choked from Phantom clenching his throat tighter. Agent O's large hands grabbed at the ghost's arms to push away, but steel muscle that didn't flinch under the pain of the blasts locked the agent in place.
Fear leeched into the man's eyes. Phantoms shoulders, his sides, the right side of his face burned with blasts from the GIWs' ecto-guns, but it didn't even affect him.
Phantom stared Agent O down with manic eyes. "You're pathetic," he mocked softly. "You just don't know when to stop."
Then, with a powerful pivot, Phantom threw Agent O to the side. The man's body slammed against a hospital pillar with a sickening crack, sinking down to the concrete like a broken rag doll. A trail of blood streaked down the pillar and down his nose.
He didn't get up.
Phantom sniffed with satisfaction and gave the agent no other thought as the remaining GIWs stood in shock, frozen at the sight of their fallen commander.
The chain of command quickly set into place. Faceless men in the crowd rose up and barked orders. A team quickly moved to surround Agent O while the rest fired their blasters at Phantom.
Phantom raised his arm, and from him spread out a shining green shield. The blasts harmlessly bounced off as his skin and suit began to knit itself back together from the damage he'd willingly taken on to neutralize Agent O. He leaned down and with his free arm scooped up the near-unconscious Valerie Gray.
Then he spiraled up and flew back behind the hospital, disappearing from the sight of the duly floored and hesitant CGIA, who floundered on whether to pursue or re-strategize.
As the seconds passed, no one moved to follow.
A/N: So, once I started hitting 27 pages in Word (and no end in sight!) with what would have been this chapter, I realized I could split it. This way, you guys could have a chapter now and another one very soon. I'm sorry about the longer wait for this chapter. The good news is I'm about halfway done with the next chapter! Trying to get as much done now as I can.
Hope you liked this installment! It's about time Danny got a fighting chance, right?
The most trouble with this chapter was this: the multiple perspectives I took in the last chapter created too many necessary plot threads for me to focus only on Danny Phantom. I felt that I couldn't skip straight to Danny waking up without at least an example of what had happened to the people who fought for him. There are also other threads that I will still have to address in part 2. I'd love to know your opinion on whose perspectives may interest you the most that you want to see next chapter, whether that be Valerie's, Danielle's, Vlad's, Maddie's, etc.
4. Other Comments?
Again, thanks to everyone for reading, reviewing, and favoriting this story! Love you guys!