Mr. Wizard and screaming phoenix. Good to see a couple familiar names from the Kim Possible continuum.

Mr. Wizard, your status as a seasoned Phantom fan will keep me honest. Doesn't it strike you as strange that FF-dot-Net doesn't have a category for our hero?

screaming phoenix--the omission of Ron Stoppable does not constitute neglect. I intend him to get his respect in this chpt.

Logan--no. Ron isn't the Phantom in this story. But--good news--there is a story like that at this site. The Phantom (id:3302824) by nkusenagi2 (id:1026184). It will appear using FF-dot-Net's search engine. I wish your critique was signed, so I could send you the link. Unfortunately, the story hasn't gotten beyond the 1st chpt. for a couple years now. I'm going to send him a message. If you do too, we might kick-start him.

Let me take time out to provide some background. The current Phantom, introduced to the world in 1936 by Lee Falk, is the 21st in the lineage. He set a couple superhero traditions. The first superhero to wear a skintight costume. The first superhero to have white mask eyeholes. (Personally, that always bugged me as a kid--but it's kind of a artistic custom now, like cartoon characters with four fingers.) He married his fiancé Diana Palmer in 1978--another customary thing--non-aging. They had twin children in 1979. Kit--who is the 22nd Phantom and the Phantom of my story--and Heloise. She will appear--or at least be referred to in chpt's to come.

There is an excellent article on the Phantom at Wikipedia, with links to wonderful informative sites by the dozens about our hero.

Now--for good or ill--Kim and Ron depart from our story. The Ghost Who Walks, meanwhile, will appear in a story of Kim and Ron's, Kim and The Lionheart. It is all tied together with an OC, Richard Harte. See my profile.

I know. OC's make people crazy. I beg my readers' forgiveness. To whet your interest, however, we have a crossover of the 20'th Phantom and Indiana Jones over in Indiana Jones and The Face of Uzuki

And if the OC bugs you--he's leaving too. It's pretty much a pure Phantom story from here on out.

In case the OC piques your curiosity, there's also Three Redheads and A Spider, Solo Mission, and A Very Team Possible Christmas.

For more on my take on Wade's family history, see chpt. 3 of Three Redheads…

Now--by the numbers.

Mark McKortle and Bob Schooley: Kim and Ron; the Little Diabloes; Wade Load: Erik the Synthodrone: Bonnie Rockwaller; Monique; Mrs. Load; Middleton; Lowerton; Lontaine; Drakken and Shego; Timothy North a.k.a the Fearless Ferret; the Kimmunicator; the Ronunicator; and Project Haephastus.

Lee Falk: the Phantom, a.k.a. Kit Walker; the Skull Cave; the Whispering Grove; the Deep Woods; the Jungle Sayings; Hero; the Wasaka; the Bandar; and Bangalla.

Me: Manuelito; Alabaster; Garm; Horus; Richard and Daphne Harte; Cyndi Larsen; Wade's full name; Mrs. Load's first name; and Lontaine's last name.

And not a farthing or drachma or pence do I receive for all my pecking on the keyboard.

THE GHOST WHO WALKS

chpt. 2

Back at the Skull Cave, Alabaster was stabled, fed, and rubbed down. "Good boy," the Phantom whispered. Like his father's horse, Hero, Alabaster was an invaluable ally, and deserved the best of care. A conscientious rider always took care of his animal before himself. Sometimes one of the Bandar, Manuelito, or another, would groom the horse.

Alabaster nickered and munched his food.

Garm the wolf and Horus the hawk were also fed. Sometimes they would catch their own prey, and sometimes they would eat of the scraps and food offerings left by the Bandar and the grateful inhabitants of Bangalla Island.

The Bandar people, who were sometimes called the Pygmies, or the Stunted, by their former masters, the Wasaka, and by the slavers, alone knew the secret of the Phantom and his family tree. As Kit Walker passed on his legacy father to son, the Bandar passed on their legacy to each succeeding generation. They were not his servants. They were his caretakers, his partners, in the great task of maintaining the heritage.

Like a knight, every Phantom has his steed. Arabian, usually white, bred from pure stock. And a faithful canine. Not a lapdog, but a hunter to follow the scent and tag the quarry. It seemed that even the animals of Bangalla Island participated in the covenant with the Guardian of the Eastern Dark.

The Phantom rejoined his mission coordinator. "How fares our young allies, Manuelito?"

He looked up from his monitor. "Young Dr. Load and I have been texting each other for the past hour."

"Dr. Load?" the man asked, surprised.

"Yes, sir. At the tender age of eight, Washington Demetrius Load achieved a Doctorate in Computer Science. But his life has not been entirely happy. The lad suffers from agoraphobia. His parents were both ordained Christian ministers, who cared for the poor and homeless in Lowerton, Colorado."

"You said 'were'," hedged the Phantom.

"Yes, Ghost-Who-Walks. His father, the Rev. Wade Load, Sr., was shot by a robber, and died of his injuries. His mother, Rev. Ophelia Load, has married again. A Lontaine DuPreé. They both continue the ministry, 'Mother Load's Perpetual Street Mission And Soup Kitchen'."

The Phantom pursed his lips. "How did young Wade cope with the loss of his father?"

"The boy became bitter and withdrawn. He relegated himself to a special room his parents had built for him. It was equipped with state-of-the-art electronic equipment."

"A sanctum. A Skull Cave, as it were,"

"Yes, sir. There he tinkered endlessly with his inventions and surfed the Internet, conversing with other withdrawn and troubled young geniuses."

"Like Thomas Edison or Leonardo Da Vinci--or Nicholai Tesla--puttering on their devices in seclusion. Or like St. Paul--writing his letters from prison. Or Benjamin Franklin--or Voltaire--corresponding with other contemporaries of their stripe."

Manuelito nodded. "Yes, sir. You are as much a student of history as I am of computers, Ghost-Who-Walks."

"How did he overcome his sorrow? How did he break out of his self-imposed silence and become Kim Possible's mission coordinator?"

"I cannot determine, sir. But I have a clue. Wade Load is also mission coordinator for--Team Harte."

The Phantom looked startled. "Team Harte? Richard and Daphne Harte?"

Manuelito grinned. "Exactly, sir. The children of Leo Harte. They both attend Middleton High School--with Kim Possible and Ron Stoppable. And they are doing missions.

"Are the two Teams doing missions together?"

"No, sir. The missions of Team Harte are done surreptitiously. Young Mr. Harte feels it would not be courteous to intrude into Miss Possible's affairs--even her missions."

"Does young Mr. Load say how he made the acquaintance of Mr. and Miss Harte?"

Manuelito shook his head. "No, sir. Dr. Load seemed hesitant to volunteer more information."

"Then I certainly will respect his confidentiality."

"He seemed very starstruck when I mentioned your name, sir," said Manuelito with a smile. "When I raised the possibility of you speaking with him personally, he appeared to almost faint with bliss."

The Phantom chuckled. "He certainly deserves my personal thanks for his information. Is the webcam on?"

"Yes, sir."

And back in Middleton, Colorado, in his upgraded computerized lab-dash-workshop-dash-bedroom, Wade Load waited impatiently. He wondered if he was being pranked. He didn't mind sharing valuable intel with other webmasters and tech advisors. It was really pretty obvious how to defeat the Diabloes. Drakken had gone for broke incorporating Dr. Possible's Project Haephastus technology, and then scrimped on a command signal relay system that could be easily jammed--or incapacitated by a child's toy, like the dart gun that Wade himself had adapted for Kim to use. He wondered if this Manuelito character was really the tech man for a living legend--and before his astonished eyes, the image came into focus on his monitor.

Oh, yeah. It was him. The Ghost Who Walks. The Guardian Of The Eastern Dark. The Man Who Cannot Die.

Wade gasped. He was familiar with super heroes. He had communicated with Hego, and Team Impossible. And he was a fan of the shows, movies, and graphic novels. He could tell the difference between an actor and the real deal. Timothy North came close to getting the look of a super hero while doing the two seasons of Fearless Ferret. But there was no mistaking the champion he was looking at for some guy in a rental costume.

That commanding voice. "Wade Load?" Even Timothy North or Steve Barkin didn't have such an authoritative voice.

And back in the Skull Cave, on Bangalla Island, the freckled face of a boy of color appeared on the screen, his mouth agape. "Sir? Is it really you? Do you really exist?"

"I assure you, Mr. Load, I exist."

Wade babbled excitedly. "Mr. Phantom, I have, like, a million questions! Have you really been alive for as long as the stories say?"

"Mr. Load, I have to maintain a certain confidentiality--just as you, I'm sure, have to keep a few secrets about Kim Possible."

"Yessir"

"This much I can tell you, in all honesty and candor. The Phantom has been meting out justice for more than four centuries--and any reports of his death have always been greatly exaggerated."

Wade's eyes widened and he mouthed a silent wow.

"Mr. Load--"

"Please, sir. Call me Wade."

"Alright, Wade. Can I ask how Kim Possible and Ron Stoppable are faring?"

Wade was astounded. "You remembered Ron's name? Nobody ever remembers Ron!"

I do, Wade. Courageous young men like him--and yourself--have a way of coming to my attention."

Wade blushed. "Thank you, sir. But courageous? Are you sure you're thinking of the same Ron Stoppable?"

"I am. Not everyone could do what he does--help Miss Possible save the world. Just as not everyone could do what men like you and my friend Manuelito do."

Manuelito grinned and Wade blushed again. "Th-thank you, sir."

"The world judges people by how they appear in public view, Wade. Does a man have wealth, or fame, or power? But you and I know a how important a person can be whom the world never notices."

Wade could only stare transfixed. His close association with other supers had not dimmed his hero worship of who he considered one of the world's most fascinating men.

The Phantom smiled to himself. He had little use for celebrity status, but he admired others, who, like himself, were willing to undertake a lonely, unselfish, and possibly dangerous path to defend and serve others. "You were going to tell me, Wade--how Kim and Ron were doing."

Wade stammered. "Uh, yessir--Kim and Ron--well--they won, sir.

"I'm glad to hear that. But if I may ask further, Wade--I'm wondering. I had my hands full with just a few Diabloes. As a matter of professional curiosity, could tell me briefly how Kim and Ron were able to combat the entire Diablo Armada, plus Shego and all of Drakken's usual crew of underlings?

Wade hedged. "Welll--"

"Is it a matter of confidentiality, Wade? I can certainly appreciate the need to keep secrets. And if that's the case, I won't pursue the issue."

"No, sir, that's not quite it." And he proceeded to relate the story of how Ron had nearly been done in by his unrequited unconfessed love for Kim, and how Kim had nearly been done in by a boyfriend who was actually--

"And so Erik was a synthodrone--an android created by Drakken--sir."

The Phantom nodded. It was all very interesting--and enlightening.

"Mr. Phantom," ventured Wade, "I gotta ask--you don't think less of Kim for getting fooled by--a fake boyfriend--do you?"

"No, Wade. It's the nature of evil to be deceptive--and the nature of people to be foolish. If the centuries have taught me anything, it's never to think less of a fellow hero. I've seen too many take a nasty fall--usually after they've won a major victory. I've had many foes who have resorted to subterfuge."

"Oh, and by the way," interjected Wade, "Kim and Ron have just gotten to the Junior Prom."

The Phantom smiled. "I'm pleased. Then Kim has also learned an important lesson--to look beyond the outer appearance of the one whom she might fall in love with, as well as the one who is her partner."

"Yes, sir. It looks that way."

"May we all be as lucky--to find those who will love us for what they see under our appearance--and that includes you, Wade"

Wade blushed again. "Thank you, sir." He hesitated. "Can I ask you another question, sir?"

"Of course, Wade."

"Mr. Phantom--do you have anyone like that, sir? A wife--a girlfriend--somebody who loves you? Some of the stories about you keep mentioning a 'Bride of the Phantom'."

"That's another one of those things that I can't let the world know, Wade. But consider--it would take an exceptional woman to marry a man who will never die--to share the dangers and the trials."

"It sounds like you have a lonely life, sir."

"Sometimes, Wade. Sometimes."

"It's been a real privilege to meet you, sir. Am I free to tell Kim and Ron that I met you?"

"Yes, Wade, you are. And thank them for the help they've been in foiling Dr. Drakken's plan. And thank you, too, Wade."

"You're welcome, sir."

"Consider us your friends, Wade. Please feel free to call on me if you three ever need help."

"Yes, sir. And the same from me, sir."

"It must be late where you are, Wade."

"Yes, sir. It's past midnight here in Colorado."

"If you were an average young man, I imagine you would be fast asleep."

"Yes, sir. I keep strange hours."

"As do all who serve and protect, Wade. I'll just say Good Night."

"Yes, sir. Good Night to you, too." And Wade logged off.

In Middleton, Wade sat in front of his keyboard and monitor, gazing at the blank monitor screen, as though in shock. I have so got to tell Kim and Ron, he thought to himself. He relished the idea of telling Ron. "Dude! He remembered your name! 'Courageous young man!' he said!" Ron would so freak out.

He checked another monitor. Hmm. The Kimmunicator was transmitting. Strange. Who would Kim be talking to?

Aha! The Ronunicator was also operating! The new GF and BF were talking to--or texting--each other! Wade did a "thumbs-up". Ron-Dog! My Man! You rock!

Wade did some internet surfing. Pictures of the Middleton High Junior Prom had already been uploaded. Yeah. There it was. The two of them slow dancing--and kissing! Sweet!

There were other pictures. Bonnie Rockwaller, looking sour. Monique Knowles, gazing admiringly at Kim and Ron. Wade sighed. Oh, my sister! Lookin' so fine! Wish I was older--or you were younger!

There were the Harte twins, Richard and Daphne. You guys! Isn't it time you told Kim and Ron that you two are doing missions, too?

Wade was pumped--stoked--jazzed. The Diabloes taken out. Drakken and Shego put away. Kim and Ron dating. Images of The Kiss. Images of Monique wearing a one-shoulder formal gown.

And conversing with--him! The Phantom! And a screen-cap to prove it! This would make the most badical computer monitor desktop! And the accumulated images would make the most badical slide-show screen-saver.

Wade couldn't help it. He jumped out of his chair and did a variation of Ron's "Who's-The-Man-Booyah" dance. Quietly. The rest of the household was asleep. He pumped the air with both fists. He did an Air Guitar. This was adrenalin high. This was better than the Caffeine Power Drink Slurpster. He would be awake for the next two days. He would be wired for the next week--the next month.

Back in the Skull Cave, two men conversed.

"A most engaging young man, this Wade Load, I am glad we made his acquaintance," said Manuelito.

The Phantom nodded. "Kim and Ron are well served to have him in their service--as I am to have you in mine, Manuelito."

Manuelito bowed slightly. "Thank you, sir."

"He seems to be almost your equal in his computing ability."

Manuelito nodded. "A most perceptive and empathetic young man also. And if I may, Ghost-Who-Walks--seeing as how young Wade broached the subject--let me remind you of the duty your late father, God rest him, laid upon you--to find a bride--and insure that the Phantom will indeed live for another generation."

The Phantom folded his arms and gazed absently down. "I know, Manuelito. I've broken precedent by not taking a wife before taking up the mask of my ancestors. And it hasn't been for lack of trying."

Manuelito sighed. "I know, Ghost-Who-Walks. May the Almighty crown your search with success."

"I will be in my Throne Room, Manuelito."

Here was the Phantom's refuge. There was a huge high-backed chair carved of stone from the cavern wall, ornamented with an engraved skull crowning the chair back and a skull at the end of each armrest. It was his Throne. Here the Phantoms sat, and read, and wrote, and meditated.

Here were the journals, wherein the past twenty-one Phantoms had meticulously logged their adventures. The oldest almost five centuries old, they were yellowed and fragile. Manuelito had gone about the formidable task of transferring all the material to both hard drive and more durable hard copy--an ink and paper that would withstand the ravages of time for the coming centuries.

Here were displayed the personal effects of the Phantoms, their costumes, sidearms, and other weapons. Here was the skull of the Singh captain, upon which each new Phantom repeated the oath of the first, Christopher Standish Walker.

With a sigh, the man who was Christopher Walker's twenty-second descendant--sat down on the stone chair.

He rested his elbows on the arms of the throne and clasped his hands. He bowed his head, resting his chin on his hands. He prayed--and pondered. He himself was a Christopher Walker before donning the attire and taking up the heritage of the Ghost Who Walks.

My old friend--Richard Harte. We scarcely knew each other a year. He and his twin sister Daphne. Pastor's kids. Strait-laced, both of them. Hassled every day by the Popular Kids. The Gang. The Posse. The name changes every year. Then the home invasion happened. Cyndi Larsen's house. The Cheer Squad Captain. Her father was usually overseas on business. They broke in, looking for cash--because everyone knew he was loaded. I was ready to go and rescue her--until Rich insisted on helping.

We got her out safely. Her kidnappers--they were commando-wannabes. But Rich--he handled himself like a ninja.

And then I found out. He shared with me his secret. He lost his mother to a terrorist nerve gas attack in Tokyo. Had gotten some intense martial art training. Wanted to oppose terrorism like my ancestor wanted to oppose piracy. We really hit it off. And I shared my secret with him.

But I had to leave and fulfill my duty. It's only been a couple years. He's still in high school. Seems like a lifetime to me since then.

And then today. Talking to Wade Load. Somehow my old friend has entered the great fray. Good versus evil. Just like Wade, Kim, and Ron.

Talking to Wade. He lost his father. As I lost mine. As I expect my son will lose his father. God willing, I'll find a spouse willing to share my life--and my legacy--and bear a son who will in turn die violently. Willing to leave the life she knows for the life of the Skull Cave and the Whispering Grove. I wish I could share my secret with Wade. Perhaps it might soften the hurt--the sense of loss that must still reside in him. To know how noble it is for a son to carry on his father's good work.

But as it says in the Jungle Sayings--when the trees have ears, you don't tell your secret in the middle of the Deep Woods.

What does it all mean? Rich and his sister--Kim Possible and her Team? Like destiny is unfolding.

The Phantom smiled to himself. The Jungle Sayings of his ancestors addressed that question, too. Tomorrow's sun will shine on tomorrow's events.

to be continued

Another quick note. The Jungle Sayings, according to Lee Falk, are a collection proverbs uttered by the Phantom and the Bandar, and gathered throughout the centuries.

By Lee Falk: Whoever sees the Phantom's true face will die a horrible death.

By : When the trees have ears, you don't tell your secret in the middle of the Deep Woods. And, Tomorrow's sun will shine on tomorrow's events.

Next chpt. Classic Phantom storyline and foes. Pirates. Vaya con Dios.