Chapter 7 – Our Country Tis of Thee, Sweet Land of Liberty

The creatures and their glowing eyes flowed forward in an endless stream. Their soft oily flesh gave way, ripped easily apart by the energy at his fingertips. Danny shredded them in sweeping arcs, but some made it past his deadly hands. They flung themselves at him, soft, toothless mouths sucking desperately at his back and legs and neck. Were these things even dangerous or just disgusting? Their attacks didn't hurt.

Slimy limbs and mouths piling onto his back, Danny gritted his teeth and ripped at his attackers desperately. With a burst of energy he shot into the endless black sky, flying away from his landlocked enemies. So stupid, he thought dismally. He hadn't even considered flying, not until the moment he jumped into the air wildly. Free from the slimy hoard, Danny just let himself coast through the dark, putting distance between himself and the sea of yellow eyes. He flew blindly, hoping the fuzzy fibers between his ears might stop buzzing and his thoughts might clear enough to figure out where he was and what to do.

Jazz, Tucker, and Sam sat silently staring at Maddie for several long seconds. "Danny Phantom isn't a threat to Danny Fenton," Jazz choked, horrified.

"Not anymore," Maddie agreed. "I couldn't take the risk. It's a pattern I'd seen myself. The ghost boy is around Danny too much to be coincidence. The correspondence from the Guys in White just solidified my own concerns. The eerily similar names; they even sort of look alike—it's classic stalker behavior. You know how ghosts fixate."

Jazz, didn't look to Sam and Tucker for permission to fill her mother in on the situation. If either of them had said a word to stop her she would have beaten them into submission with the nearest Fenton Thermos. Danny was in serious trouble, and it was her fault for not speaking up sooner. "Mom, it isn't stalker behavior." Jazz groped for the right words to spill her brother's big secret. "They're the same person. Danny had an accident in the lab years ago. It changed him. He never wanted you to know."

Maddie stared at her daughter and shook her head. "That's impossible."

Sam raised her hand. "Tucker and I were there when it happened. You have to believe us. You have to help us. How serious is the Fenton Finisher? How serious is the Phantom Zone? How do we help Danny?"

"I would know if something like that happened to Danny. If something catastrophic enough to change him into a ghost child happened, I would notice," Maddie said. "Danny is alive. I hugged him just yesterday and he was tangible and his heart was beating. Ghosts are not alive."

"Ectoplasmic living hybrid," Jazz explained in her most clinical scientific tone. "He is alive but ectoplasmically activated. Alive and ghost. He can switch between forms. You have to see it Mom," Jazz pleaded.

Maddie opened her mouth to argue, to deny the girls and their reasoning, but Tucker spoke up, his voice scared. "Mrs. Fenton, why would we lie to you about something this serious?"

Why would they lie? The panic and guilt hit in successive waves, suffocating, paralyzing. It wasn't like her to respond to emergencies with panic, then she had never used an untested super-weapon against her youngest child. "Oh God." Maddie clutched her stomach, suddenly too nauseated to breathe. What if he was dead? What if she killed him? Who knew what was in the Phantom Zone even if he survived?

"Mom, how do we help Danny?" Jazz asked.

"I honestly don't know."

Flying in this dark space was simple and monotonous and safe. It grew old soon enough. His own faint glow provided the only light in this place, and that glow didn't extend far enough to really illuminate. A flash of inspiration hit and Danny raised his hand. He could focus the light dancing over his skin to a point, to an energy pulse. Flashlight, he thought. Testing his theory, he pushed a soft green energy pulse into the inky blackness.

Desolate gray land studded with warty black hills glimmered into existence for only a moment as the light flashed past. Unappealing, Danny thought with a frown. Where was he? From where had he come? Thinking beyond the immediate moment just made his head hurt.

Well he was tired of flying. Did he dare descend to the land again? Yes, Danny decided. The murky creatures with their slimy mouths would be something to engage even if it was just to rip them apart. Aiming at the horizon, Danny shot arcs of energy toward his chosen path.

Once his feet were firmly planted on the soggy ground, he began moving through the black mounds he had spotted from the sky. One after the other, the mounds shifted, bright yellow eyes appearing. Instead of chasing immediately after Danny, they stagger-slithered after the pulses of pure energy he had sent into the distance. Feeling indefatigable, he shot a flurry of blasts after the first, enjoying watching the creatures scramble.

Carefully he crept up on one of the creatures. Instead of shredding it, he tried to engage it. "What are you?" A thousand mouths opened, reaching from every surface, desperately sucking, trying to attach to him. "I am not your lunch," Danny scolded.

With a sigh he sent another energy pulse into the endless dark. "Fetch then." The creature obligingly groped blindly for the new offering.

"You aren't ghosts," Danny speculated to no response. "I'm a ghost, Danny Phantom, a ghost who protects humans from ghosts." If the nation of Danny Phantom had an anthem it would be that simple sentence over and over. Just thinking it made him feel better, comfortable, complete…well, not quite complete.

There was a depressing dearth of humans and ghosts in his current situation.

Author's note: I stopped writing. Hadn't put pen to paper in months. Then I kind of felt like writing this weekend. It's short but this story is not one that I'm allowed to stress over lengths, so I'm just going to post and run. Next chapter, we add Jack to the situation, possibly check in with Vlad, and spend some more time with Danny.