The heavy steel door to the prison-lab shut with a definitive clang. The seven prisoners stood silent for a moment, taking in their surroundings. There were deep sinks and metal tables and plenty of medical supplies stuffed into cabinets, as well as a row of computers that glowed with dim purple screens.
Sam poked a sleek mouse beside one of the machines and Freakshow's leering face suddenly filled the screen. She jumped, but then realized it was just the desktop and rolled her eyes.
House caught her attention next and flicked his eyes up to the corner of the room where a security camera blinked a red light at them. Sam watched as the light steadily blinked on and off for a good ten seconds until... a pause, followed by a quick flash of green. That was the signal.
"We're clear," she announced and the room seemed to relax.
"Excellent." House slid into one of the chairs in front of the computer and began pouring over the only files on the desktop, which were indeed scans from the tick inside Danny just as the freaky guy had said.
Maddie leaned over his shoulder and began making soft comments about some of the ghostly features of the scans. House made grunting sounds and murmured a few questions back.
"Can a ghost really edit camera footage as it's being recorded?" Sam turned to find the Australian doctor at her side.
She shrugged. "It's not so much a ghost thing as it is a ghost of technology thing. Every ghost has a thing and Technus' is being able to control technology."
"What's Danny's thing?" Chase asked in reply.
The question seemed to spark everyone's interest, but especially Maddie's. She looked up from the computer and focused her attention on Sam.
"He... uh, his thing is..."
"Being more awesome than all the other ghosts, duh." Danny materialized into the room, leaning against the door.
Sam made a face. "Where have you been?"
"Checking out the rest of the Freak's castle. Trust me, you guys got the deluxe suite." Danny joined the huddle around the computer, keeping close to Sam and far from his mom. "Nice shirt."
Sam looked down at Danny's shirt and her arms crossed protectively over it. Maddie and House had gone back to looking at scans while the team gathered up pages that had begun to pour out of the printer.
Danny raised an eyebrow at her.
"Ugh, here." She quickly threw the t-shirt up and over her head to reveal her normal black tank top underneath and pressed the shirt into Danny's chest.
"That didn't mean you had to stop wearing it."
"You're here now and the plan turned out to be pointless anyways," Sam mumbled.
"Not that pointless, at least we found out Freakshow's plan." Danny swung the shirt over his shoulder and furrowed his brow when Sam left his side and began helping the team of doctors pick up papers. "I'm still sick, you know."
"Not for long." Sam cleared her throat. "Anything on there about how to remove the tick?"
"You're holding it." House swiveled his chair around to face Danny and pointed at the long metal table in the center of the room.
Danny looked at the table uneasily, but gave a curt nod.
"Check his vitals," House instructed the team.
"I'll do it," Wilson volunteered from across the room where he had been examining medical equipment. He met Danny at the table just as he was hopping up onto it.
"We could find a towel to put down or something," he said uneasily, "it must be cold."
"Actually my ghost half really likes the cold." Danny smiled to try to relax the nice doctor.
Danny wondered if he were really asking because he was curious or just to make more chit chat while he gathered supplies with more than a little nervous fumbling. He decided to keep the conversation going, but just for Wilson's benefit.
"Yeah, I guess that would be my thing if I'm being serious about it. I think all ghosts have a tolerance for cold, but I have it, like... inside me."
Danny saw his mom draw closer out of the corner of his eye, but kept talking. "I don't know. One day, a while after I had already gotten my powers and gotten used to them, I woke up unbelievably cold. I couldn't stop shivering. It turned out that it was coming from inside me and I had to learn to control it. So I did and now- er, when I'm healthy at least, I can freeze stuff."
"Hm, that's interesting." Wilson raised his stethoscope. "This is going to be- oh, I guess you don't mind that it's going to be cold." He laughed to himself, but it sounded fake.
Danny raised an eyebrow. "You okay, doc?"
"Sure, sure." Wilson tried to smile. "It's just..." He turned serious. "Do you get into situations like this often? Where people are able to just take control of your life and lock you up? I mean, where are we right now? Is this even real? Sorry, this is just too weird. Not that you're weird, just that- ah." He turned, putting his hand to his forehead.
Danny stayed silent, not really knowing what to say. Everyone else seemed distracted by the computer and instructions House was giving out. His mom had seemed to stop listening as well.
Wilson turned back to Danny. "Sorry, do you mind if I let someone else do this?"
Danny shook his head.
"What if it's your mom?"
Danny stared at the doctor for a moment, then slowly shook his head again.
"You should talk to her."
"I... I don't know what to say."
"Guess that makes two of us."
Danny smiled weakly.
"I have talked so many people through so many terrible situations." Wilson sighed. "But suddenly, I'm at a loss for words."
"That's because you've never had to deal with something like this before." Danny couldn't help but laugh a little. "It's nothing to be ashamed of... you know, if you're scared."
Wilson nodded. "Are you scared?"
"I used to. Not anymore. Kinda comes with the whole ghost-super-hero gig."
Danny straightened. "Reassuring you that everything is going to be okay is also part of my job."
That got Wilson to laugh. "I guess we have that in common."
"Except you don't actually mean it when you say it." House was suddenly at Wilson's side, still in the office chair. "He treats cancer patients."
Wilson rolled his eyes. "And you, House, only reach this level of jerk when something doesn't make sense to you. Now what is it?"
"What doesn't make sense to me is how you've been over here with the patient for the past ten minutes and I still don't have a clue as to what his vitals are. Go help the team gather supplies."
Wilson let out a sigh, but did as he was told. House got up and pulled the stethoscope from Wilson's hands as he passed by and proceeded to use it to listen to Danny's chest. He then silently checked his blood pressure and temperature. As he took hold of Danny's wrist to check his pulse, he finally met his patient's gaze.
"Everything ok?" Danny asked.
House frowned. "He's right. I don't understand." He seemed to be waiting for Danny's reaction to this.
"Ghost anatomy. I've learned as much as I can in the small amount of time I've had, but your mother... She's been studying this stuff her whole life."
They looked over at the computers. The team were fascinated by whatever Maddie was telling them. She made some gestures with her hands and the team nodded.
"What are you saying?"
House sighed. "I think she should be the one to operate on you. The team and I will assist of course, but mostly... it will be in her hands."
Tucker and Jazz shared a look.
"You think your mom will be able to handle this?"
Jazz frowned. "You mean do I think she will treat Danny like a human person instead of a ghost wearing her son's face?" She sighed. "I honestly don't know. Danny said he hadn't talked to her yet. Who knows what she's thinking right now."
She folded her arms on top of the desk in front of the security cameras and rested her head on them. The screens flickered with activity as Technus allowed the images to appear before the two teens unedited. Everywhere else throughout the converted town hall the footage playing was edited to show House and everyone hard at work on Freakshow's half-ghost concoction instead of getting ready to operate on Danny.
Tucker spun in his chair beside Jazz, PDA in hand. "I guess we can intervene if we need to." He suddenly stopped spinning and laughed. "We control all!" He faked an evil laugh.
Jazz raised an eyebrow at him, unamused.
Tucker composed himself. "Just saying, kind of feel like a secret agent."
"Then you might want to work on being more... secretive! Ah-hah-ha!" Freakshow cackled from the doorway.
Tucker and Jazz barely had time to react before they were being grabbed by two of Walker's guards.
Danny took it as a good sign that his mother approached him without her signature red goggles over her eyes. At the same time, he found himself longing for their reflective surfaces so that he could look his mom in the eyes without actually looking her in the eyes.
"Your vitals are good," Maddie commented, looking down at a clipboard in her hands.
"That's good," Danny replied, rubbing his arm.
"It's odd actually." His mom met his gaze now. "That tick should still be reeking havoc on your system. At the very least, your temperature should be raised."
Danny twisted the fabric of his jumpsuit around his arm. "So what does that mean?"
"It could mean the tick is damaged or powered down..."
"That would be good."
"Or it could mean your body has given up on fighting off what it would have previously perceived as an infection and is allowing the tick free reign."
"Oh... I don't like that option."
Maddie nodded in agreement, but Danny recognized the look in her eyes. She had a hunch.
"Are there any other options?" He asked casually, like he didn't already know the answer.
Maddie's brow furrowed. "Well I was thinking..."
"I could tell." Danny didn't know what had compelled him to say it. Maybe he had just gotten used to acting different around her and now he didn't really know how to act.
The comment got a slight reaction out of Maddie in the form of a surprised smile, but she returned quickly to the matter at hand. "I overheard you mentioning something to Dr. Wilson about having an affinity for the cold and, um, freezing abilities?"
"Yeah, I can freeze stuff pretty easily. The, uh, ghost who taught me how to use the power said something about it coming from within and being a part of me and stuff like that. I had to learn to embrace it so that it would stop affecting my, uh, human half."
Once again Maddie recovered quickly from the images her son's explanation put in her head. "How was it affecting you?"
"I was so cold I was shaking all the time. Sam and Tucker thought I was just getting sick, but I knew something was up. The cold really was coming from inside of me, like from the very center of me." Danny touched his hand to the middle of his chest.
"Interesting." Maddie checked a scan she pulled from her clipboard and held it up in front of Danny. "The tick was supposed to stop at the exact spot you're pointing to..."
Danny looked down at his chest and then at the paper his mom was holding, but the image made no sense to him. "I know I should probably know this, being part ghost and all, but what exactly am I pointing to? My heart? I mean- ghosts probably don't have hearts." He couldn't help but blush a bit.
"It's more like a core," Maddie said gently, fumbling a bit. "But you can call it a heart. It's your source of energy, takes it in, lets it out." She was gesturing with her hands again and Danny realized in that moment that he really liked learning about ghost anatomy from his mom when she put it in terms he could understand.
"Are you okay? You looked sort of dazed for a moment." His mom was back to using her scientist voice mixed with concern. She had even pulled out a small flashlight and was about to check his pupils.
Danny laughed and gently pushed away the hand with the flashlight. "I'm fine, I was just thinking."
"Oh." His mom laughed too, but uneasily.
"It's nice to have someone explain this stuff to me, but I guess I never really thought about it much before."
"Too much else on your mind, I'm sure."
Danny rubbed the back of his neck. "Yeah..." He looked down at his boots hanging off the table. "Like figuring out what to say to you and dad." He flicked his eyes back up at his mother's face.
She nodded stiffly.
"I know it's kinda late now, but I am sorry I didn't tell you-"
"No, it's our fault." Maddie held up her hand to stop him from interrupting her. "I can't imagine how I would have felt in your shoes." She paused and then choked back a sob. "We must have seemed so cruel."
Danny opened his mouth to respond but the steel door behind him was suddenly swung open.
"Sneaking in to your own prison, tsk tsk." Freakshow entered the room smiling smugly. "I'm sure there's a rule about that. Guards?"
Danny had swung around on the table and taken up a defensive pose in front of his mom. As soon as two of Walker's goons appeared he mustered up all the energy he could and took them out quite neatly with an energy blast a piece.
Freakshow's smile faltered briefly. "No matter," he said, "if you want something done yourself..."
He leapt forward and the next moment was dragging Danny from the room by the back of his neck.
"Danny!" His mom called out to him, stunned by her own lack of action. But then again, she was still unarmed.
"Mom!" Danny had been caught off guard but recovered quickly, managing to elbow the Freak in the gut hard enough to make him lose his grip.
Danny ran to Maddie's outstretched arms and took her by the shoulders.
"Why were you asking about my core and the cold and all that?" he asked frantically.
"Um-uh the tick! Your core may have frozen it! Your powers could be semi-operational because the tick is just frozen in your core. Your powers may even return fully, but it would still be better if it came out."
Danny nodded, then kissed his mom on the cheek. "Love you. Be good."
Freakshow had called for more henchmen and they each had one of Danny's arms now. Sam had reacted, but also being weaponless now stood watching him get dragged away helplessly.
"That goes double for you." Danny, not entirely sure what had gotten into him, winked at her.
Sam's eyes went wide, causing Danny to then realize what he had basically just said to her. The lab door was closing before he had a chance to say anything more.
All too quickly, Danny was transported down a hallway and roughly thrown to the floor of a rather filthy dungeon-esque chamber where he was kicked and told to stay out of trouble.
"You wish!" He called to the retreating guards who promptly ignored him. But someone had heard him.
"Danny? Is that you?"
Danny stopped rubbing his bruising side and blinked into the darkness surrounding him.