Author's Notes: New Year, new story. Welcome to "Lost and Found", the sequel to "Haunted Destiny", part of the Haunted Destinies Saga. This one shall be long, so be prepared for a nice ride. I'm going to try and get more of a consistent release schedule in order to please my fans, so rejoice! Enjoy this little prologue.
Start of Volume 2
Lost and Found Prologue
She finally had him.
Valerie Grey lay there, waiting patiently for her prey to show itself. Patience wasn't one of the girl's strong suits; she would rather just hit the ghost head on and be done with it. She was the 'shoot first ask questions never' type of hunter; but this prey was trickier than that. She was forced to try something different with him. She was forced to wait, to plan, to be patient. She had to work harder with this one, which would only make his capture all the more fruitful. After all, this was the ghost who had ruined her life: Phantom.
She didn't know why but things had changed abruptly with Phantom. The spook had become scarce, which simply annoyed her to no end. It wasn't as if he wasn't seen at all: whenever a ghost showed up, Phantom was there, supposedly protecting the citizens of Amity Park. Valerie couldn't believe that the city bought into that lie. She wouldn't have been surprised if Phantom had a deal with other ghosts to cause trouble, so that he could play hero. She wouldn't believe that the ghost, any ghost, was there to protect the city. He was a menace to society, a pest that needed to be dealt with. And she was the exterminator.
The problem was that whenever he did show up, he didn't stick around. By the time anyone else had shown up, he was already long gone. He'd take down whatever ghost he was fighting and disappear without a trace, and he got quite good at it, too. She hadn't been able to even take a shot at him recently and she knew she wasn't the only one: the Fentons, and even the Guys in White had a hard time keeping a tab on the elusive phantasm. It infuriated her. He was toying with the ghost hunters, making himself look like the hero while they looked like amateurs.
With no other options in mind, Valerie was forced to be sneaky. Instead of attacking Phantom, she stood back, watching and waiting. She would stake out the most common places ghosts would attack, watching for any type of patterns in the ghost boy's movements. It took many fruitless nights after work, either listening in on the police scanner for ghost sightings or doing research on what everyone knew (or thought they knew) on the specter. Finally she found something: a pattern. It wasn't obvious to see at first but after going over the data, she found that Phantom had a definite patrol route: going from Casper High, to the Nasty Burger, to the hospital, and finally to FentonWorks. The last one made sense in a way: there was a ghost portal there. She found it ludicrous that the Fentons didn't have better security: he practically lived with them as far as she knew.
She finally decided where to stage her ambush. A block away from the Fenton household was an old, rundown building that was ready to be demolished in a few weeks. She used that as her base of operations, setting up for her encounter. She spent a couple of nights surveying the sky discretely, catching glimpses of Phantom here and there. The problem was that she needed two things: something to lure him and something to wear him down. The answer to both those questions would be a ghost. She hoped that she would catch Phantom off guard during one of his battles and would finally be able to enact her brand of justice.
Her time came. She was lucky that the one ghost she hoped would come did: Skulker. She considered him an enemy, but at the moment he was doing her a major favor. Last year, the ghost had captured both her and Phantom, forcing them to join forces as he hunted them down like wild animals. It was one of the few times she was stupid enough to trust Phantom; weeks later he ratted her out to her father about her ghost hunting hobby during the Ghost King incident. She knew Phantom and Skulker had a history and that any fight between them would be longer than usual, and would probably wear the spook down enough for her to spring her trap.
Skulker seemed to have the same idea as she did: he was scoping out the Fenton home, probably in hopes of capturing Phantom for himself. It didn't seem to work, because moments after showing up, the guest of honor arrived, slamming into the mechanical hunter and sending him sprawling. The two circled each other and then the fight was on. As Valerie watched, waiting for her chance to enter the ring, she noticed a few things. First of which was that Phantom was good, really good. It had been months since she had crossed paths with him, but she could see the difference in the way he fought. He hit Skulker fast and hard, knocking him around like a rag doll at times. Valerie also noticed that the spook was noticeably silent. There was none of his usual witty banter, no wise cracks of any kind. Not even a smile graced his lips. His face was grim and determined as he swiftly beat Skulker before sucking him into a Fenton thermos.
Valerie wasn't sure how to proceed; her plan was revolving around Skulker giving Phantom a run for his money. She was going to have a tougher time capturing him now. Then again, this was a rare opportunity. She was ready; she felt confident that she could take him down. Activating her rocket sled, the hunter launched herself in the air, heading straight for the ghost. Blasters appeared on her wrists as she took aim and fired, hoping to catch him off guard. It didn't seem to work as Phantom dodged her first blast. He flew out of the way as she whizzed by him. She turned and faced him, a determined look showing behind her visor. Danny's expression, once he realized who had attacked him, turned from grim to mildly annoyed.
"Oh. It's you," he said in a dull tone. Those three words seemed to have an effect on the hunter, igniting a fire in her gut. Her scowl darkened as she steadied her aim.
"The hell it's me!" she hollered, "I'm here to take you out for good, spook!"
"Do we have to do this now?" Phantom scoffed indifferently, souring Valerie's mood further. Who the hell did he think he was, looking down on her like that? "I'm sorry, but can we do this later? I have to do another sweep of the city before midnight. I can't play tonight, so go run on back home and let the big boys handle ghost hunting." That did it; Phantom's words were like a match in a room full of dynamite. The crimson hunter was practically fuming now, her temper rising with every waking moment.
"This isn't a game, spook. Tonight is going to be your last!" And with that she charged, firing away as she advanced. To her surprise, the ghost dodged the first salvo, ascending lazily out of her reach. She followed suit, not backing down as she continued her assault.
"This is ridiculous," Phantom commented, "I don't have time for this. Just leave me alone and let me do my damn job!"
"You mean pretending to be a hero so everyone will like you?" she jeered as she gave chase. Try as she might, she couldn't even land a shot on him, "Fat chance. You're no hero and I'm going to make the city see you as the fake you really are!" She noticed that Phantom seemed to waver at her remark, as if it really hit home. Her suspicions were confirmed when his eyes flashed with anger.
"Alright, fine," he replied in a dark tone she'd never heard him use before, "You want to play? Let's play." Phantom suddenly stopped his retreat, facing his foe without any visible fear. Valerie stopped as well, a good distance away. They eyed each other, neither one backing down. Suddenly he shot like a bullet towards her. Valerie, not one to turn down a challenge, did the same, beginning their game of chicken, hundreds of feet above the city streets. Neither side showed signs of slowing down as the distance between them shrank at a dangerous pace. At the last possible moment, a well aimed green blast tore into her sled, sending her tumbling down to the ground. The girl screamed as she was now playing chicken with Mother Earth, and she was about to lose.
She stopped with a jolt a mere few feet above a nearby roof top. She looked up to find that Phantom had saved her, a neutral look on his face. He then, just as quickly, let go, letting her drop the last few feet onto the ground with a thump. She growled under her breath as she got up, her pride bruised more than her body. She shot a glare towards Phantom, who landed a few feet in front of her.
"You dirty…" she began as fury took over and directed a kick to the ghost's head. He dodged the kick, as well as countless others as Valerie put every karate move she knew to good use. Every miss just made her even angrier as she doubled her speed. She finally thought she had him cornered as his back hit a chimney. She pulled back confidently and swung with a good old fashioned haymaker. She was so engulfed in anger and vengeance that she forgot one detail: he was a ghost. Her punch sailed harmlessly through his head, landing instead on brick and mortar. She let out a hiss as the pain coursed up her arm. She turned around angrily, only to find Phantom's fist, alive with ectoplasm, heading for her own head. She froze, forgetting about the pain, forgetting about her revenge. The only thing she could do was shut her eyes and wait for the impact.
She heard a small explosion detonate next to her ear, as well as the crackle of energy. She opened her eyes and looked to find his fist embedded in the brick right next to her head. The scorched smell of ozone assaulted her even from inside her suit.. She turned back to Phantom and felt something she hadn't felt in a long time: fear.
Valerie had never been afraid of ghosts, not really. Back when she was in the A-list at school, she ignored the weirdness the city was afflicted with. All she cared about was her status and her friends. Her father's job at Axion Labs had assured both for her. That all changed when Phantom showed up and ruined it all. Even then, she wasn't afraid; instead she wanted revenge. Valerie was always driven, something her father said she had in common with her mother before she died. She never gave up on a challenge. When she first took up karate, she was instantly singled out because she was one of the few girls in the class. While some of the other girls left, she stuck with it, eventually beating out most of the boys in the process. So when her social status was threatened by a white haired ghost, she didn't run away. Instead, she faced it head on, choosing to hunt him down and make him pay.
Now was a different story. For the first time ever after meeting the ghost, she was actually scared of him. His eyes glowed menacingly at her, showing no emotion. He pulled his fist from the still smoking crater he had created next to Valerie's head. She stared into those eyes, her mind racing. He could have easily done that to her head. When did he ever get this strong? Or was he always this strong?
"You were right," he simply stated. She blinked in confusion, unsure of what he meant, "This isn't a game. That's a fact I'm all too aware of. That's why I'm only going to say this once: quit. Stop trying to be a ghost hunter. If you can't beat me then you can't cut it. An amateur like you is just going to get yourself killed. Just go back home where it's safe." Valerie didn't move an inch, her eyes wide with terror. She didn't even dare to breathe as she watched to see if he would do anything else. They stood like this for a moment before Phantom simply turned around and flew off, disappearing into the night.
The moment he left the scene, she collapsed onto her now wobbly knees, the fear bearing down on her shoulders. The mask of her suit receded as she gasped for air. Her stomach suddenly seized up as its contents resurfaced and she heaved upon the rooftop. Her eyes watered as sobs racked her body with fierce intensity…
Valerie woke up with a start, her body covered in a cold sweat. It took her a few moments to catch her breath as she turned to look at the time: 10:30 pm. She had only been asleep for an hour. She cursed herself for having that blasted dream again. It had been a few months since she had last had it. The memories of that night six months ago still haunted her to this day. It was that night that she officially gave up ghost hunting.
Her father had been more than thrilled over the news. Ever since he found out about her extracurricular activities, he had been openly against her fighting ghosts. He had always leaned on the overprotective side: he had lost his wife all those years ago and wasn't about to lose his only child as well. She had resorted many times in the past to sneaking out of the house, or simply doing it whenever her father had a late night on the job. When she told him that she wouldn't ever do it again, he was thrilled, albeit apprehensive of why she had done so of her own free will. He knew more than anyone else how unshakable she was once she set her sights on something. She never told him, however, and he, to his credit, never pried.
With her lust to hunt Phantom now suppressed, Valerie decided to focus on other things, mainly her part time job at the Nasty Burger. She used all the energy she would have used on hunting there, quickly going up the ranks of the restaurant till she became an assistant manager during the night shift. She worked hard and quite enjoyed it; though she couldn't shake off the feeling she was missing something.
She sat up and she hugged her knees up against her chest. She knew it would be a while before she could sleep again. Instead, she let her mind wander for the umpteenth time onto the past couple of weeks, more specifically, the revelation that she learned while she was held captive by ghosts: that Danny Fenton, the goofy boy she once dated, and Danny Phantom, the ghost she thought she had despised, were one and the same.
She wondered how that even worked. How could someone be alive and be dead at the same time? And what exactly happened that made him that way in the first place? She had a hunch it was something his ghost obsessed parents did. Speaking of them, did they know all along? Was it some kind of experiment that they performed on him or was it an accident? How long did Sam and Tucker know? How could they even trust him? He was a ghost for Pete's sake! Or was he?
She shook her head to clear out all the questions that popped up. She decided to focus on what she did know: of how a lot of what was weird about both Fenton and Phantom suddenly made sense. For example, how she had never seen both of them in the same place at the same time. Or how goofy he acted at times; Fenton also seemed to disappear whenever a ghost attack occurred. One of the biggest coincidences that explained it was the sudden mood shift in Danny that occurred a year ago. Right around then was when Phantom changed as well: he became scarce to everyone. Something must have happened to change them… him so dramatically.
She was so confused. Valerie had so many conflicting images of him that she didn't know who the real Danny was. Was he the goofy, loveable boy whom she had a crush on? Was he the ghost that seemingly ruined her life and social status? Was he the hero Sam and Tucker seemed to think he was? Or was he that thing she had met that night. She shivered as memories came flooding back. If he had been just plain evil or cunning like Skulker or the Ghost King, she could handle it. But what she saw in those eyes: there was no hatred or even contempt. They were just cold, almost dead. They still gave her the chills.
She knew the only way to deal with this whole mess was to confront him face to face. The problem was that she wasn't sure she was quite up to meeting him again after so long, not after knowing his secret. She didn't know if she'd end up attacking him, or worse, break down into a blubbery mess. Neither prospects were what she had in mind, but she needed an explanation to all this confusion and was going to damn well get one… and soon.
AN: A little short, but to the point. Welcome to my next story, the sequel to "Haunted Destiny". This one is going to be a bit more ambitious, as I'll be juggling a lot: multiple plot threads, a boat load of characters, both good guys and bad (especially the bad). Speaking of bad, my villains are OC's, as were the Pyres, so I hope I get them fleshed out enough for you to enjoy.
I had a lot of ideas of how to write the prologue. I ultimately chose to do a dream/flashback, depicting Danny back when he was in jerk mode (or as Tucker shall call it, when he was all emoed out). We see what happened to rough and tumble Valerie that made her quit ghost hunting. With Danny's secret now blown, I wonder how'll she react? Will she continue her grudge? Will they have a heart to heart and mend broken bridges. Will she deathly afraid of our hero? And how will she react when she finds out Danny and Raven are a couple? I wonder.
Special thanks to one of my new betas, Em Phantom. She, along with my other beta, Fulcon, shall make sure my chapters are error free (or as error free as it gets)
One question to my more seasoned fans: know any sites where I can go to for names? I've got at least half a dozen baddies I need names for. Anyway, I hope you enjoy this next story. I hope not to disappoint.