Author's Notes: Happy New Year, Everyone! As a late Christmas/New Years present and to appease all you who waited patiently, I have a brand new chapter, fresh off the presses! If you remember, last chapter things weren't looking so hot between the two Phantoms and it looks like Vlad has a sinister plan ready to spring on Danielle and the rest of the Fentons. How will things turn out? Well, read on and find out!
Chapter 19: Shop Till You Drop Dead
Sitting at one of the seats in the Amity Park Mall food court, Valerie Gray emitted an audible sigh as she sipped on a mango milkshake, in deep thought. The former ghost huntress was taking break after a failed attempt at a shopping spree. She remembered there was a time before her father had first lost his job when shopping was almost therapeutic for her; a chance for her to get away from the normal teenage stress of school and homework. Unfortunately, the shop-till-you-drop therapy had failed to clear her head of her troubles, more specifically those related to her dreams and a certain ghost.
She had that nightmare again; the same one that had been haunting her for months now. Last night's encore seemed to be more vivid than any of the others, causing her to relive every single detail of that night half a year ago. A shudder traveled down her body as a flash of her last fight with Phantom invaded her consciousness. It was obvious to her that it, and the lack of sleep that came as a result, were triggered by last night's meeting with Phan- no, Danny. She knew that her cure was simple; to finally confront him about that event and somehow put everything to rest. Unfortunately, she found that things weren't that simple.
"He was right there," she mumbled to herself in frustration. She could have easily talked to him in the aftermath of the break-in at Axiom Labs. Though she could have attributed the lack of communication between them to her attending to her father's wellbeing, she knew that wasn't the case. The fact of the matter was, despite what she wanted to believe, she was still afraid of him. Ever since that night when Phantom had shown her just how powerful he truly was, pangs of fear would grip her at his mere mention and being in the same room as him had held her tongue and keeping her at a distance from the ghost boy. She knew the only way to overcome and conquer that fear was to hit it head on.
"Gah, this is so stupid…"
"What's so stupid?" someone asked her curiously.
Valerie looked up from her drink to the voice that greeted her to find a pair of blue eyes staring back at hers. A girl a few years younger than her promptly took a seat on the other side of the table, causing Valerie to look quizzically at the newcomer. "Uh, hi…"
The younger girl beamed gregariously. "Hi, Val!"
Staring dumbfounded at the girl for a moment, the huntress began to scrutinize her closely. "Uh, I don't know you, do I?" Although her face did not ring any bells, there was something familiar about her.
The new arrival's face fell. "You mean you don't remember me?"
"Should I?" The feeling of déjà vu and familiarity weighed on Valerie as she tried to place where she had heard that voice and wondered why the ponytail that adorned the girl's head looked so familiar.
"There you are," another voice called as a young woman close to Valerie's age approached the table. "You shouldn't run off like that, Danielle," she continued, addressing the youngest girl. "Mrs. Fenton and Jazz are getting worried."
"Hey, Rae," Danielle said with a grin while pointing at Valerie, "Guess who I found?"
It took a few moments until the various pieces of the puzzle finally fit in the African-American girl's head. "Wait, Dani?!"
The grin on the ghost girl's face widened, "With an 'I'. Now do you remember?"
"But how…" The huntress was at a loss for words at the ghost girl's arrival and appearance, which answered at least the question of her humanity, but introduced many more. With her hair and eyes, she could easily pass as Danny's little sister, but as far as Valerie knew, he didn't have one. Her attention then shifted over to the other girl. "So you must be Ra…"
"Rachel. Rachel Roth," Raven interrupted abruptly. "Danny's friend from out of town. We've met."
"Right. Rachel," the huntress played along. It was obvious that this was Raven of the Teen Titans, judging from her features, though Valerie was confused by the sorceress's presence.
"You should come shopping with us!" Dani interjected suddenly, catching both Raven and Valerie off guard."Mrs. Fenton and Jazz are helping me look for some new clothes, but I can't seem to find anything I really like. You should definitely come give us a hand!"
"I'm not sure I should," Valerie replied. "I mean, I don't want to intrude or anything…"
"Pleeeease?" The young halfa gave her the most adorable puppy dog face she could muster.
Unsure of how to respond, Valerie focused her gaze on Raven, who simply shrugged. "As long as you don't try to put me in anything, you can come."
"Oh," the huntress replied simply. "Is… is Danny with you guys?"
The moment she said Danny's name, Valerie noticed that the mood of the other two changed dramatically. Danielle's face seemed somewhat darker by the mention of her namesake while Raven had a concerned look as she eyed the ghost girl. She wondered if their change in demeanor had anything to do with the apparent argument between the two ghosts the night before.
"He's not here," Dani replied with a solemn expression. "And I don't want him to be. I mean, can you believe he doesn't think that I can't take care of myself?"
"He never said that," Raven interjected.
"He didn't have to say it. He's treating me like I'm some kid who needs a baby sitter." She shifted her attention towards Valerie. "You saw how much we kicked butt last night, right? I don't need him taking care of me all the time."
Before either Raven or Valerie could respond, a shrill scream cut through the usual bustle of the mall crowds."GHOST!!" someone at the other side of the complex cried, sending everyone in the immediate area into a panicked frenzy. All three girls looked in the direction where the screams originated, their eyes scanning the area for immediate threats.
Valerie suddenly felt a hand clamp onto her shoulder and with it a chill and tingle ran though her as her body began to sink into the floor. "What the…" Turning to find the owner of the hand, she found Danielle, who gently controlled their descent until they landed inside a storage room below.
"Sorry," the ghost girl replied as she made them solid again. "I thought that Raven would have stopped us."
The ghost huntress regarded the girl quizzically. "Stop us from doing what, exactly?"
Dani gave the older a girl a large, energetic grin. "Kick some ghost butt, that's what! I remember how awesome we were last night, so I was hoping you'd want a piece of the action."
"Wait, shouldn't we let Raven and Danny take care of this?"
A look of disappointment crossed the ghost girl's face, which was quickly replaced by a look of determination. "Are you kidding me? This my chance to prove to Danny that I don't need his help and I can kick as much ghost butt as he can!"
Dani's words caused something to click in Valerie's mind and any hesitation that might have had seemed to dissipate. She let out a huge sigh while her suit came to life and covered her body, "Fine, we'll take care of this just this once, spook."
"Alright!" the ghost girl cried out gleefully as rings of light appeared around her waist.
"Wow," Valerie commented as she watched the girl transform into her ghost form, confirming that this was the same girl from last night. "So, where exactly are we…" The feeling of both weightlessness and intangibility overcame her as her new partner in crime carried her towards impending doom.
He should have expected this. Living in a town as weird and unpredictable as Amity Park, Tucker should have known that expecting a normal day of summer vacation was an almost futile gesture. He had been hoping for a lazy day filled with sleeping in late without the prospect of school, followed by hanging out with his friends doing whatever crossed their minds. Unfortunately, his dreams were shattered the moment his cell phone rang that morning.
"I'm going to kill him," the person on the other end had stated with venomous intent the moment he pressed the talk button on his cell phone.
"Do you have any idea what time it is, Sam?" he grumbled in reply, irritated that slumber had been interrupted. He grabbed his glasses from his dresser and took a look at the clock on his dresser. "Nine in the morning I shouldn't be awake for another three hours, at least…"
"I don't give a crap about your sleep cycle, Tucker," she barked through the line. "This is serious. Have you even seen the news this morning?"
Tucker grunted in pain from the volume of her voice. "Didn't I just say I was asleep? How the heck did I read the news if I was off in lala land?"
"Well, then I suggest you should. Now."
An exasperated sigh escaped the techno-geek's lips as he reached for his PDA at the side of his bed and scrolled through the articles of his news feed. The first thing that caught his attention were the three stories from various news organizations heralding the return of Phantom to his hometown as he stopped would-be thieves from burglarizing a local facility the night before. "Nice. Danny made it on the news."
"Exactly what? What are you so worked up about?" he asked.
This time it was Sam's turn to sigh as if she were ready to explain something to a child. "He should have called, Tucker. He promised he was letting us help him and then he goes off and leaves us in the dust, as usual."
The gears of understanding began moving in Tucker's mind despite the sleep still in his eyes. "We shouldn't be jumping to conclusions, Sam," he replied. "We don't know what happened. " His next sentence was in a more hushed tone, "And at least he had the courtesy to let me sleep."
"He probably ditched us because he was with her." she shot back, spitting out the last word as if it was some piece of meat byproduct invading her mouth.
"Jumping to conclusions isn't going to get us anywhere, Sam. For all we know, he just didn't have time to call us for any help."
"Or he just doesn't need it," she replied. "Either way, that's an easy problem to solve; I'm going to head over there right now to give him a piece of my mind."
He answered with a sense of foreboding. "Sam…"
"You aren't going to talk me out of this, Tucker," she warned before she promptly hung up.
Despite her warning, the African-American decided to at least try and stop her before she let her temper get the better of her. He shot out of bed, quickly showered, dressed and was out the door of his house in under five minutes. Knowing that she would be well on her way, he decided to intercept her en route, racing through every shortcut he could to reach her before all hell broke loose.
He somehow managed to catch up with her just a few blocks away from FentonWorks. "Sam, wait!" Tucker spurted out in between heavy huffs from exerting himself. Surprisingly she complied, though by her stance he knew she wouldn't wait long . "At least promise me you're going to give him a chance to explain instead of biting his head off the moment we get there."
Surprisingly, the Goth teen turned to face her friend. "I'm not making any promises," she replied before continuing her trek, the heavy soles of her combat boots stomping heavily onto the asphalt.
Tucker stared into her back as he followed her knowing that anything else he said would fall on deaf ears. He only hoped that he would be able to step in and mediate the impending disaster. He watched as she pressed the front doorbell and waited for the inevitable to occur and fortunately it never came. Tucker was sure that Sam was ready to launch one of her signature tirades but noticed that she froze the moment the door opened.
Standing in the doorway was Danny, who looked as if he just finished working out at the gym, wearing a pair of shorts and sneakers. Apart from the towel that currently draped his shoulders, his chest was noticeably bare, glistening with sweat and as Tucker noticed, definitely catching the attention of a certain vegetarian. Tucker barely held back a grin as Sam's violet eyes were inexplicably drawn to the hero's muscles, formed after two years of constant ghost hunting. Any hostility that the Goth seemed to have had before their arrival had all but evaporated, leaving her in a discombobulated state.
"I, uh…" Sam managed to utter nervously.
Despite Sam's obvious state, the Fenton cluelessness did its job, making Danny oblivious to her gawking. "Hey guys," he replied, moving out of the way to let them pass. "Give me a sec and let me shower and change. I'll be back in a jiff."
Tucker, seeing that Danny's words hadn't yet fully registered in Sam's mind, managed to pull her into the living room while Danny made his way up the stairs.
"That… was Danny…?" Sam muttered in a breathless tone when she finally found her voice moments later.
"Our boy has been taking his vitamins, that's for sure," Tucker replied with a sidelong glance. "Like what you saw?" He felt the heat of a withering glare as payment for his teasing.
"You are so dead, Tucker."
"Yeah, but the look on your face was worth it."
Before she could offer another retort, Danny entered the room now sporting his usual shirt and jeans, along with a slightly apprehensive expression. Sam did her best to avert her gaze, clearly embarrassed by her unbridled gaping.
"You guys are early," he stated. "I wasn't expecting you to show up till later today."
"Well, I was more than willing to sleep in late," Tucker began while shifting his gaze quickly onto Sam, "But after we heard you had a little fun last night, we wanted to know what happened."
Danny's face seemed to contort for a few moments before settling into a troubled frown. "Can we please not talk about last night?"
Tucker and Sam exchanged glances, their interest definitely piqued by their friend's response. "Come on, dude. It couldn't have been that bad," Tucker said half jokingly and instantly regretted opening his mouth when he received a disbelieving glare from his friend.
"It couldn't have been that bad?" Danny repeated in an irritated tone. "What part couldn't have been that bad? Getting woken up in the middle of the night to walk into what could have been a trap sprung my arch nemesis? Or getting my butt knocked across the front lawn of Axiom Labs by new bad guys; that couldn't have been that bad. How about when Valerie showed up and I couldn't say a single thing to her or when Danielle appeared despite the fact I explicitly told her to stay at home where it was safe. And of course who can forget coming home to a freaked out Mom who isn't used to having me leave in the middle of the night to fight ghosts, getting into not one but two arguments with my cousin and having her now give me the cold shoulder because she thinks I'm overprotective?!"
Both Sam and Tucker were stunned to silence by their friend's sudden tirade and watched as he collapsed into his seat and placed his face into his awaiting hands. Neither of them dared to speak for a few minutes as they digested the contents Danny's outburst. Tucker's face wore an especially guilty look for inadvertently initiating the response. "Sorry, Danny."
"You didn't know," the halfa replied with an apologetic sigh. "And I'm sorry for blowing up like that; I just haven't had a great time the past twelve hours."
"Anything we could do to help?" Tucker queried sincerely.
Danny looked up at his beret-wearing friend. "Not unless you can get Dani to talk to me -or at least talk to me without yelling."
"Well, I'm not one to talk, seeing how I'm an only child," Sam spoke up for the first time entering the Fenton household. Though the initial anger she had earlier this morning seemed to have all but vanished, her voice still had a subtle scathing undertone. "But you do have to admit that Dani has a point about you being a tad on the overprotective side. It's not like she can't take care of herself."
The outburst that should have come from Sam's remarks never came; instead Danny let out another remorseful sigh. "I know, I know, but I can't help it if I want to keep her away from Vlad" He looked thoughtful as he continued. "Actually, Raven said the same thing this morning."
Tucker smirked at the frown Sam now wore from being compared to Danny's current love interest. "Wait, so you and Raven made up?"
Danny managed to conjure up a smile in response. "One of the few good things that happened since last night. We managed to patch things up before things went south, which is a good thing because I don't think I could handle both her and Dani being angry at me at the same time."
"How are you holding up?" Tucker asked.
"Barely," the halfa responded. "I thought maybe she'd calm down from last night but she pretty much tried to bite my head off this morning. Raven thought I should give Dani some space and I know she's right but…"
"Where is Dani, anyway?" Sam asked suddenly, noticing the relative silence in the house. "Where is everyone else for that matter? Usually your dad sets off at least an explosion or two by now."
"Yeah, they're at the mall shopping for clothes and stuff for Dani. I would have gone, but she doesn't seem to want me around at the moment, so Raven went with them."
Sam's look changed to one of confusion. "Well, isn't a superhero walking around the mall going to get some attention?"
Danny's grin returned. "The other good thing to come out of last night. Apparently, one of the gifts I got from Cyborg to give to her had something in it to make her look normal." His smile widened. "She looked awesome…"
Tucker's technophile nature kicked at the description that his friend gave. "Dude, she has a holographic emitter? You have to let me have a look at it!" The techno-geek was so enamored that he failed to notice the furrowed brow Sam was now sporting.
"I don't think Raven would like you dissecting her present, Tuck," the halfa replied with a chuckle, though his expression changed a moment later. "Even though Raven is there I can hardly keep myself from going ghost and keeping an eye on her myself. I tried taking my mind off things by doing some training down in the lab, but that didn't work out too well."
"Well, why don't do something over at my house, then," Sam suggested. "I'm sure we can find something to clear your head."
"Thanks, guys. I really…" Danny was stopped mid-sentence by a familiar chime emanating from his pocket. The ghost boy fished out his Titan communicator, to which Tucker responded to what could only be described as a squeal. "And no, you aren't going to dissect this either, Tuck." Danny warned. He flipped open the lid and looked at the report that flashed on screen. "Oh, no…"
"What happened?" both Tucker and Sam stated in unison. The only response they got was their friend transforming into his ghostly alter-ego and shooting like a rocket though the ceiling without a word. The duo shared a look before Sam spoke.
"Ten guesses to where he's headed."
This was the part of the job he loved best.
The ghost appeared in front of an already fleeing couple, uttering a "boo" before sending them into the opposite direction. The screams of terror his random appearances throughout the shopping complex caused brought a satisfying grin upon his face. Causing terror and mayhem was what he did best and he loved every minute of it, even though he was limited to just one form at the moment.
"Looks like someone's having fun," a voiced chimed in earpiece he wore.
"Would be a lot more fun if you let me transform a few times, Spectra," he replied.
"Now, now Berty; you know the plan. The moment you change forms, the brat will know that it's us that are messing with his cousin. The longer we can keep him out of the loop, the more delicious this will be when all this is over."
"That's the only reason I'm agreeing to this," Bertrand stated, looking down at his current form: that of an amorphous blob. In this state he looked like any other low-level ghost but at the same time allowed to do some simpler morphing without raising some suspicion. "I still don't trust Plasmius."
"Is that jealously I hear, Berty?" Spectra's voice asked.
The ghost huffed. "Jealous of what? What you do with that halfa in your spare time is none of my damn business."
"Don't be such a prude," she replied. "What's wrong with mixing a little pleasure with business? Besides, we both what we want in the end: watching that twerp Phantom suffer." Her grin could practically be heard over the comm. "Don't worry, Berty. I won't replace you any time soon."
He didn't reply to her teasing opting to reach higher ground to gain a better perspective of his surroundings and to admire his work. The mall was nearly empty now and yet Phantom's female clone was nowhere to be found, despite all the ruckus he had created to gain her attention. "Are you sure she'll show up? Maybe they know something is up?"
"Oh, she'll show if she's anything like the original. Speaking of which, I think you should be ducking now."
After a moment of confusion and hesitation, Bertrand sunk his head into his gelatinous body just as a bolt of ectoplasmic energy whizzed over him. His crimson eyes scanned the scene for the source of the attack, stopping at the black and white figure that rose up to match his height. He grinned as he put on his game face: show time.
"Hey ugly," Dani began cockily, "Causing trouble while a girl is trying to shop isn't such a good idea, especially when that girl is me."
Bertrand stopped himself from laughing out loud; she definitely shared Phantom's love of witty banter. "And who are you supposed to be," he asked snidely, "apart from a fangirl?"
His remark seemed to get to her, judging from the anger that flashed on her face for a mere second. "The name's Dani Phantom, with an 'I' and I'm the one who's going to kick your butt back into the Ghost Zone," she boasted.
"Oh, how original," the ghost replied nonchalantly. "I seriously doubt that, sweetie. The real Phantom maybe has a chance of challenging me but not a wannabe copycat fangirl like you." A grunt was the only reply received before she launched herself at him with hands glowing emerald and an infuriated look on her face. Feigning indifference, Bertrand yawned and the moment one of the ghost girl's fists should have collided with him, his body separated into blobs of ectoplasm, causing her to sail right through before he reassembled himself. "You aren't very good at this, are you?"
She rebounded off of a nearby wall and went after him again, this time igniting the souls of her feet and letting loose with a number of arcs from her legs. Her attacks seemed to be in vain, however, as each one was evaded by Bertrand, who used his viscid form to morph or separate his way out of danger. "Hold still!" she yelled in frustration as she fired a ghost ray which was avoided by the formation of a hole in his torso.
"Come, honey, you can't be that bad," he teased. "The real Phantom would have landed a hit by now." Just as he finished his sentence, a blast hit his backside, sending him careening into a wall with a large splat.
"Like that?" Valerie asked as she floated towards Dani. "That ghost giving you trouble, kid?"
"I wanted to do that," Dani muttered angrily as she eyed the green mess on the wall when a face suddenly formed onto the goo, giving both girls a grin.
"Well, lucky me. A wannabe and a wash-up; two little girls coming to beat up on the big scary ghost," he teased as his form congealed and he pried himself off of the wall. "You sure you haven't bitten off more than you can chew, ladies?"
"I'll show you wash-up, you sorry excuse for a ghost!" Valerie's arms were up and pointing directly at the ghost, each wrist sporting an ecto-blaster humming with energy and waiting to be fired. "Care to say something else, ghost?" Besides her Dani had stayed noticeably silent, though her eyes flared with neon green and her hands matched their intensity.
"The truth hurts, doesn't it ladies?" Bertrand taunted, grinning as he noticed Dani's agitated state. "If I'm a little bit more than you can handle, why don't you girls run along and call me when Phantom shows up."
"Why you little…" Before Valerie could finish her sentence or make good on her threat to the apparition, a black, white, and green blur flew past her towards Bertrand at breakneck speed. Hey wait! Hold up!"
Smiling ever so smugly, Bertrand dodged her first attack and every one that came after, pleased that his taunting had done its job to make her easier to read. This younger Phantom was very much like her namesake, prone to telegraphing her attacks the more frustrated she became. Though he didn't want to admit it, the intel Plasmius had sent them on the brat's fighting style was also helpful in keeping one step ahead of her. The more he kept out of her reach, the angrier the look she gave him and the wilder her strikes became. He decided to add some more fuel to the fire, "I'm sure Phantom would be happy to know you're doing such a good job."
"Shut up!" Dani screamed before charging blindly into him, or rather she would have if he hadn't formed a hole into his midsection, allowing her to fly straight through. She stopped herself midair and turned to launch another assault when something slammed into her chest, sending her flying into the nearest wall with a thud. Shaking off the effects of the impact, the ghost girl found her bearings and tried to move, only to find herself stuck to the wall by green ooze which encased much of her body. "What the…"
"I hope you're comfy," a voice said as the ectoplasm began to talk, forming face and head as it did so. "Oh, and I would try anything funny," Bertrand continued, this time focusing his attention on Valerie, who had her weapons ready. "You wouldn't want to hurt the wannabe, now would you?" He watched as her weapons lowered slightly, indicating that she had gotten the point.
Dani struggled against her restrains and let out a frustrated cry. "Let me go!"
"Hmmm, let's think about that… how about no," the ghost replied.
"I said," she continued through gritting teeth, "Let…Me...GO!" As she spoke, her hands, which like the rest of her body was covered in ooze, began to glow brighter and brighter with energy until it detonated, creating a blast that separating herself and the ghoul from the wall and leaving a sizable crater. She righted herself once she was free and shook the debris from her hair as she found her bearings
Reforming his body took longer than Bertrand had expected since the explosion seemed to have affected him more than he would have liked. He spotted his target and was ready to throw another verbal quip when a large claw of black energy clamped itself onto his torso and immobilized him.
"Are you two alright?" Raven asked as she got closer, her glowing hand commanding the construct that put the ghost in his place.
"And who the heck are you?" the shape shifter demanded with a hint of worry in his voice. His query earned him a glare that would have sent a chill down his spine if he currently had one.
"You are going to shut up now," the sorceress commanded darkly, "Or else you might find yourself decorating the mall."
"Don't you think now would be a good time to make a hasty retreat, Berty," Spectra suggested mischievously through the comm in his ear. Unable to answer normally he simply gave an angry hiss before focusing on his captor.
"Oh, I'd love to stay and chat and critique the lovely mess you ladies have made," he waived his hands at the various holes and scorch marks now decorating the mall,"But I do have other plans…" His form suddenly began to liquefy, allowing him to easily slip the grasp of his makeshift prison and hit the sound with a sickening splat. He reformed his face just to give one last bit of advice, "And by the way, wannabe: you could have just phased through the wall." Blowing a raspberry, he turned intangible and phased through the ground before any of the girls had a chance to reach him.
Danny moved as fast as his spectral form would let him, hoping that he would be able to make it in time and he would be able to stop whatever plan Vlad had set in motion. It was obvious to him that Vlad was behind this; the timing was too perfect. It wasn't as if he hadn't trusted Raven and his family in keeping Dani safe, but something inside him compelled him to be there and help his cousin the only way he knew how.
He made to the mall in record time and began scanning the situation. He immediately noticed the police presence outside the mall, keeping a crowd of curious onlookers from getting any closer to the facility. The crowd was relatively quiet, save for a small disturbance at one of the barriers closest to the facility where a number of people seemed to be arguing heatedly with the law enforcers. Danny wasn't going to make much of it until he realized that the two making the commotion had near-matching auburn hair and one was in a blue jumpsuit.
"Look, it's him!" he heard someone in the crowd shout and soon after most of the spectators had their attention to the sky and at him. A number of cheers erupted from them, along with many hoots and hollers at the ghostly hero's arrival though Danny didn't care to notice. Making a beeline for the squabble he noticed earlier, he landed on the police side of the barricade.
His entrance caught everyone's attention, especially that of Jazz and his mother, who up until he appeared had been arguing with the police. "Da- Phantom!" Jazz quickly corrected herself. "They aren't letting us in."
"Like I told you before, Ma'am," a lieutenant spoke up, eying Phantom warily, "We have our orders from the Mayor's office. No one is to enter the facilities except for Phantom or the GiW."
"Uh, guys," Danny began, addressing the officers, "The Fentons are with me. Wherever I go, they go."
"Uh, right," the lieutenant replied uneasily, conflicted about taking orders from the former public enemy but he complied and motioned the others to allow the Fenton women to pass.
Wasting no time, the ghost boy grabbed his mother and sister by the waist and flew them towards the mall and out of earshot of crowd. "Where is everybody? Where are Dani and Rae?"
The women exchanged looks and hesitated for a second before Maddie decided to answer. "We're not sure, Danny," she replied truthfully. "We got separated during the panic and Jazz and I got pulled along with the crowd during the evacuation."
Danny's response to their explanation was to increase his speed, using his intangibility to phase into the now evacuated building. He set them down on the ground floor and immediately set his ghost sense into overdrive, hoping to pinpoint any ectoplasmic disturbances. Surprisingly he couldn't find any, except for the small one that was Dani's when she was in her human form. "This way," he called as he sped past his family members leaving them in his wake.
He slowed down the moment he spotted Raven and Dani along with a guest he was not expecting: Valerie. The three girls were in their civilian clothes, which indicated that whatever trouble had happened was now over, but the looks on their faces indicated that it wasn't necessarily a victory, especially the dejected expression that Dani wore. Both Valerie and Raven had a worried expression as they eyed the younger Phantom with concern.
"Guys!" The moment that he called out to them, he noticed the immediate change in Dani's demeanor as her body became stiff and her gaze became fixated with the ground. "Rae, Dani, is everything alright? Are you hurt?"
The silence between them was deafening and lasted a minute before Raven replied. "We're fine, but maybe we should go home before we get into what happened."
His anxiety climbing even further, the ghost boy wanted to press for an explanation but was interrupted by the arrival of Jazz and Maddie.
It was then that Dani finally reacted by running past Danny and into Mrs. Fenton's surprised arms with a sob. "I just want to go home," her muffled voice requested through Maddie's jump suit.
"Anything you want, dear," the matriarch spoke softly as she escorted the girl towards the exit.
Danny watched as Jazz trailed behind the two followed by Valerie, who like Dani also averted her gaze from the ghost boy. He gave Raven a look that pleaded with her for some answers, to which she answered with one that asked for patience and promised answers in time. He reluctantly nodded and let out a frustrated sigh as she brought up the rear of the group, leaving the halfa to wonder at the events he had missed.
"You were in excellent form today, Berty," Penelope Spectre complimented her assistant as she watched the Fenton Clan leave. "I mean, you were really cutting lose, weren't you. I couldn't have done a better job myself." She gave a moment to think. "Well, I could have done it a little bit better..."
Besides her, Bertrand was in his human guise, a small, graying mustached man in his forties, wearing a metallic looking belt similar to the one she wore and looking smug with himself. "I was good, wasn't I," he replied, stroking his own ego. "That kid's buttons were so easy to push, I hardly had to try. She's even more insecure than Phantom."
"Oh, and that misery." Spectra smiled and closed her eyes as if she were basking in the sunlight. "Nothing beats teenage angst."
"So glad you enjoyed yourself," Bertrand smirked, pleased by her praise. "Did you get everything on film?"
The ghostly psychiatrist's grin grew even wider as she held up a small video camera. "Every last minute. Just a couple of creative edits and it'll be show time for the ghost girl. I only wish I could see the look on her face when we make her famous…"
AN: Oh, schnap. Spectra and Bertrand are up to their old tricks. Something tells me Things are about to get much worse for Dani.
Special thanks for Cori for once again Betaing my story.