Ok so this is gonna be a short story based on Cordria's one shot called "The Great Experiment". It's just one one shot in her Nova Shot's series. I loved it so much I asked if I could write a short story on it, and she agreed. It just touched me and I wanted to relay the relationship between Danny and his parents.
Once again, I thank you, Cordria, for allowing me to write this and I apologize for me taking so long to write it .
This story is dedicated to Cordria and her wonderful writing.
This first chapter will be her one shot, I will pick it up next chapter.
Disclaimer: I do not own DP, nor do I own the basic plot line to this story. They belong to their respective owners. ^_^
They had him. Finally. After months of collecting data and weeks of analysis to find a pattern to the ghost's behavior, hours of meticulous planning to set up their trap, and several heart-stopping, frantic moments when they thought everything was going to fall to pieces… they had him. Never mind that over the intervening months they'd both separately wondered whether or not they should catch him, catch him they did.
Jack leaned over the unconscious form, a huge smile plastered on his face even as he went about the frustrating task of untangling the ghost from the net they'd caught him in. Sticky fibers clung to the ghost's clothes, skin, and hair, and the whole mess was made infinitely worse by how much the ghost had struggled before succumbing to the sedative in the sticky goo. It had taken far longer than they had expected for the ghost to lapse into unconsciousness.
"You're never going to get that undone, Jack," Maddie said simply as she watched her husband try to find a place to being unwinding the net. The sedative should have taken effect immediately, resulting in none of this tangle of netting – she had already set part of her mind on figuring out what had gone wrong. "We're going to have to cut it off."
"Nonsense," Jack blustered, his large fingers picking delicately at the net. "I can do it."
Maddie sent him a small, tired grin. The large man would, if she let him, sit there and work on that stupid net for hours. "Let's get him in the GAV, okay Jack? You can work on it some more as I drive us back to the lab."
"Get the gurney, would you, Mads?"
Nodding, she vanished into the evening shadows in the direction of the Ghost Assault Vehicle. Jack plucked at a few of the net's strands as he waited for her to return, sighing a little. The thought of cutting his precious net apart was painful, but he was pretty sure that his wife was right. Getting the ghost out of the net would take hours – hours they didn't have.
Almost gingerly, Jack's fingers reached out to brush some of the white hairs away from the ghost's face, studying his captive intently. Getting the sticky net out of the boy's hair would definitely require some scissors. He could picture the look in the teenager's face when he realized that his hair had been cut. Those green eyes would simmer with power and anger. Strangely though, Jack couldn't picture the ghost being too furious about it.
"Danny Phantom," Jack said softly. "The ghost of Amity Park. I can't believe it." Deep inside, Jack was still waiting for the ghost to pull one of his miraculous escapes and vanish from his grasp.
The squeak of the gurney's wheels heralded his wife's return and Jack turned towards her. At her ready smile, Jack leaned down to pick up his prize. He was already busy cataloguing data in his mind – the boy was lighter than expected, perhaps only ten to fifteen kilos, and seemed to have an internal firm 'structure' not far off from a human's (Jack had often wondered if a ghost would become a rather formless blob when it lost consciousness, or whether its 'body' was more stable than that).
Laying the ghost on the hard gurney, Jack grinned. "You did a great job, Mads." He couldn't stop the bubble of happiness that was growing inside of him. Slowly but surely, he was getting his mind around the fact that he did, in fact, have Danny Phantom. The boy wasn't going to get away this time. "Right on target."
"It was your invention that worked so well," Maddie glowed back, her own smile threatening to split her face in half. She turned the gurney around and started back down the street, wheels squeaking pitifully, trying to split her attention between the pock-marked road and her captive.
"This will be great!" Jack was bouncing on his toes as the excitement about what was going happen next curling through him. He was finally going to be able to answer all the questions he'd been creating since college. How did the ghosts hold their forms together? How did they sustain their 'life'? Did they sleep? Did they eat? "We finally get to run all of those experiments we've been wanting…"
The squeak of the wheels stopped. Maddie's forehead was furrowing, her eyes narrowing, an intense look on her face as she studied the boy. She'd noticed something strange. "Jack…"
"What?" Jack looked down at the firmly trussed-up ghost, searching for any signs of consciousness. The boy shouldn't have been able to wake up while still in the clutches of the net.
Maddie reached forwards. One of the ghost's arms had been pulled up tightly against his chest by the net and Maddie put her hand on top of the arm, waiting for a few moments. There – she could feel it, the thing she'd noticed – a steady rise and fall to the boy's chest. She pulled her hand away, confused. Then she slowly took off her glove and placed her hand a few centimeters from Phantom's mouth. A slightly puff of cold air danced across her fingers. "He's breathing," she whispered, bewilderment warring with awe and curiosity.
"That's not possible," Jack said, taking off his own glove to feel the slight exhalations. "Ghost's don't breathe."
Maddie was slowly fitting her glove back on her hand, thinking through her next thoughts carefully. "Jack… do you think… that maybe he needs to breathe?"
Jack shot her a look, confused. "What do you mean? He doesn't have lungs, he doesn't have blood, and he doesn't have cells that need oxygen. He's a ghost."
"And ghosts don't breathe." Maddie frowned down at the ghost, the image of the tightly bound ghost refusing to leave her thoughts. "This one does, for some reason."
"True," Jack agreed, not knowing where this was going. "Come on, Mads. Let's get him in the GAV." He reached over and took the gurney from his wife, starting to push it towards their van, his mind turning to the experiments he had planned to run. The first – one that was already set up in the vehicle – was to take and analyze an ectoplasm sample. It'd tell them all sorts of interesting things about the young ghost boy.
Maddie nodded and followed, still troubled by her own thoughts. "What if he does, though." She bit her lip a little. "What if he does need to breathe and the net's too tight?"
"We'll cut the net off him," Jack said simply. He didn't like the thought of cutting up the net he'd worked so hard to create, but he'd go along with his wife on this one. And, on the off chance that the ghost really did need to breathe, Jack wasn't willing to risk losing his captive. He had too much riding on the young ghost.
"Good," Maddie said, pleased for some reason, and took a few quick steps to reach the doors to the van before Jack did. She unlocked the side door and pulled it open before climbing in. Once inside, she turned around to help Jack maneuver the gurney into the GAV's mobile laboratory. It wasn't as hard as either of them had been expecting – the old hospital gurney far out-weighted the slight ghost.
Jack clambered into the van with a grin, turning to search through the cabinets for a pair of scissors or a knife to cut the sticky net open. "We are going to be famous," Jack almost crowed with excitement, his eyes glittering in the fluorescent light. "Front page of magazines for sure." His fingers closed around a hunting knife he'd stored up in one of the cabinets. "Jack Fenton, the man who solved the greatest paranormal scientific questions of his day. The Albert Einstein of ectoplasmic physics. The Galileo of supernatural astronomy."
As he started to cut through the sticky net – the goo not sticking to the 'human' knife – Maddie dug out a stopwatch and started to count the ghost's breathing. "About ten breaths a minute," she whispered softly to herself after a few minutes of silent watching, grabbing a clipboard to scratch notes on. "That's about the same as me."
"I wonder why he bothers breathing," Jack said, sawing at the last few strands of the net. "There's no reason to, other than maybe psychological."
Maddie shrugged and took the knife when Jack offered it to her, the last bit of the net sliced open. The ghost was still covered in the sticky, sleep-inducing goo and Jack was slowly pulling pieces of the net off the ghost's body and tossing them into the sink. "A remembered affectation?" she guessed, set down her clipboard, and headed up to the ghost's head to help remove the clinging pieces of net.
"Who knows." Jack muttered, yanking some more net off the boy's ankles. "Put that question down next to the one about why he didn't get knocked out the instant the sedative touched him."
"It worked on all the test subjects," Maddie murmured, carefully pulling the net away from the boy's face and using the knife to cut the hair that was stuck irrevocably to the netting. She winced, seeing her handiwork. The poor ghost would look like he'd been attacked by hedge clippers by the time she was done. "Maybe not so sticky next time, Jack."
She'd worked about half of the boy's hair free when an odd question jumped into her mind. "I wonder," she whispered, stopping her work to strip off one of her gloves again. Jack hesitated from what he was doing to watch his wife press her fingers against the ghost's neck, perplexed by what she was thinking she'd find.
Even through the thick fabric of the boy's jumpsuit, she could feel the steady flutter of a pulse. Maddie's mouth dropped open in amazement, all thoughts of releasing the ghost from the net vanishing from her mind. "A heartbeat," she breathed.
Not noticing Jack's widening, disbelieving eyes, Maddie's bare fingers drifted up to touch the boy's cheek. She knew what to expect – freezing temperature, a strange semi-sold smooth feel to the skin, a slight zap of the ectoplasmic static charge that constantly hung around the spirit. What she expected, however, was not what she found.
"Jack…" She didn't know what to say beyond that, quickly tearing off her other glove to feel the boy's skin with both hands. Yes, there was the small static discharge but beyond that nothing was right. The ghost's skin had the same texture as her own, solid and firm. Underneath the soft skin, she could feel, impossibly, the bone structure of the boy's face. "Ghosts don't have bones…" she whispered to herself as her fingers traced over the boy's face, pressing firmly against the boy's forehead. The 'skin' should have given way under pressure – more like thick foam than skin – but her fingers refused to make a dent. The ghost's internal structure was rigid, unyielding, and entirely impossible.
What amazed her the most, however, was the temperature of the boy's skin. "Jack, feel this," she said, looking up at her husband with wide eyes.
Jack leaned forwards, taking off his glove and pressing the backs of his fingers softly against the ghost's face. "Woah…" he whispered, letting the improbable warmth of the ghost seep into him. "That's, what… twenty-five degrees C? Still too cold for a human, but…"
"But impossible," Maddie finished, dazedly. "Ectoplasm evaporates at fifteen degrees C. This ghost should be nothing more than a cloud of gas!"
Jack pulled his hand away and stood up, searching for the thermometer he knew was hidden inside one of the kits. "Ghosts maintain an internal temperature of fourteen degrees C," Jack mumbled to himself as he searched, "there's no way that what we felt is real. It was just some illusion of some kind. The lights, making it seem warmer than it could possibly be."
Maddie shook her head, continuing to slowly trace her fingers over the ghost's face. Every time she passed by the boy's mouth, she could feel that steady exhalation of cold air. When Jack dropped back down next to the gurney and put the thermometer's probe in Phantom's ear, she looked up at him, waiting.
"Twenty-three point four," Jack said numbly. "That's not possible."
Both of them sat silently for a long set of minutes, staring down at the ghost they'd managed to catch. The ghost that was breaking every one of their theories. The ghost that shouldn't exist.
"Let's get him out of the net," Maddie finally managed to get out. "Get him back to the lab. Run some… tests…" She hesitated, not sure what the tests would show anymore. Not entirely sure which tests to run. They weren't going to be running some experiments merely to prove their theories anymore. These tests, this data, would create new theories.
Jack nodded slowly, carefully starting to remove the remainders of the net still clinging tightly to their ghost. His mind was racing, confused and blank, as it tried to fit the pieces of the mystery together. "I just don't believe it," he muttered stubbornly. A sharp yank on a sticky piece of net took one of Phantom's gloves off of his hands. The instant it was away from the boy's body, it entire glove vanished into thin wisps of gas.
"I saw it," Jack said with an unhappy, befuddled sigh. He didn't like being confused.
"The ghost must have been holding it solid – when it left the boy's field of control, it's unnaturally high temperature caused it to subliminate," Maddie theorized, reaching down to pull off Phantom's other glove. Like its partner, the moment it was all on its own, the glove disintegrated into a frozen mist. "Amazing."
Jack pulled on the last remaining bit of the net he could reach, freeing the ghost from the clutches of the sticky webbing. "Now what?" he asked, baffled. All of his plans had been thrown out the window by this unconventional spirit.
Maddie rocked back on her heels, studying the ghost they'd captured. "Follow through with our plan, I guess," she said slowly. "Do the ectoplasm sample."
With a nod, Jack grabbed a tray off the counter, the pre-set-up equipment glinting in the florescent light. He picked up the needle, then hesitated. "Do you think he's got veins and arteries then? Or can we stick it in anywhere?"
Maddie rubbed her hand over her face. "Maybe." She was quiet for a moment, thinking. "I know how to take blood samples, I can do it." Grabbing the knife back off the ground, she sliced off one of Phantom's sleeves and studied his arm for a moment. "I'm going to need some kind of tourniquet," she said softly, "so I can find his vein. If he's got one, anyway."
Jack dug up the old first aid kit and handed her the stretchy piece of elastic, holding onto the needle while she tied it around Phantom's arm. Both of them watched a dark green glowing vein slowly appear just under the ghost's skin. Maddie took the needle, pushed it through the boy's cold skin, and slowly drew back on the plunger. Fluid raced into the capsule.
She released the tourniquet and pressed a piece of gauze against the small hole before she allowed herself to glance at what she'd just extracted. The fluid was a dark color – muddy greenish brown – and glowing faintly.
"What is it?" Jack asked softly.
Shrugging, Maddie just continued to stare at the liquid. It wasn'tectoplasm, that much was for sure. "Run it through the test, just like we had planned," she said after a moment.
Jack took the needle from her. "How much longer before he regains consciousness?"
"A couple of hours, now that the net is gone," Maddie said slowly, wondering if she was right. The goo had been designed to keep the ghost unconscious for several hours, at least. Whether or not it would was something her mind was fiercely debating. In the mean time, though, her fingers mindless brushed a bit of the ghost's hair out of his face.
"I'll get this going, then we need to get back to the lab," Jack said quietly, his exuberance at finally catching Phantom having been distilled by the confusion of what they'd found. Even as he talked about his pet equipment, Jack's voice was dim. "I enhanced the analyzer, so we should have results by the time we get home."
"You drive. I'll stay back here just in case he wakes up."
Jack looked worriedly into his wife's eyes. He'd seen that look in her eyes before; it was the same look that she used to give the abandoned kitten she'd found in college, and any number of creatures she'd found since then. "He's a ghost, remember that, Mads. Just a ball of spirit and energy. Maybe some new kind of ghost, but he's still just a ghost."
Maddie nodded, but as Jack put the strange sample into the machines and headed towards the driver's seat, she didn't know what to think. Ghosts don't breathe. Ghosts don't have heartbeats. Ghost don't have such abnormally high body temperatures.
Shaking her head, she braced herself against the jerk of the GAV as it started to move. Perhaps most importantly – to her, anyways – ghosts don't inspire motherly instincts.
Jack was staring, frustrated, at the results his supped-up analyzer had spit out for them. The ghost, still sticky from the residue but free of the scraps of net, was lying on the floor of their basement lab, surrounded by a powerful ghost shield, still unconscious.
"What's it say?" Maddie asked as she came down the stairs, her eyes drifting to the sleeping ghost. She held out one of the steaming cups of coffee to her husband.
"Gibberish," Jack said, disgruntled, willingly trading the test results for the coffee.
She scanned them slowly, sipping at her coffee, and perched herself on one of the tall chairs. "Amino acids?" Her forehead wrinkled. "I thought ectoplasm was the antithesis of basic amino acid structure."
"It doesn't make any sense." Jack frowned in agreement. "There must be something wrong with the analyzer."
Maddie didn't say anything for a moment, gazing at the odd chemical compounds the analyzer had graphed. Molecular enzymes, a strange watery plasma, carbon molecules… "It looks more like blood than ectoplasm," she murmured. "Amino acids – that could be some form of DNA or RNA."
Jack snorted. "What are you trying to say, that he's human or something?"
Maddie shook her head, but bit her lip. "I'm saying… maybe… he's not… a ghost." She closed her eyes, trying to piece together her impossible theory. "Could it be possible that he's something in between? A ghost with human genetics?"
"A creature that's half human and half ghost?" Jack's voice clearly stated how illogical he thought that was.
Maddie let a small smile drift onto her lips and she chuckled. She was about to respond to him, clarify her idea a little more, but a soft groan interrupted her thoughts. Both adults turned around on their chairs to watch the young ghost curl up on his side. When his green eyes finally flickered open, glancing around in worry, Maddie pushed herself to her feet and tried to ignore the little maternal fluttering that wanted her to rush to his side.
From her spot in the shadows, Maddie watched the ghost scuttle backwards and press his back against the thick shield of electrified plasma, his fascinating eyes fixed onto her form. "Interesting," she whispered. A 'normal' ghost wouldn't have been able to stand touching the shield. Phantom treated it more like a solid wall than the electrified fence it was designed to be.
"What… why… Let me go!" Phantom demanded, his voice shaking as he stared at her.
"Not yet," Maddie answered, stepping out of the shadows and slowly approaching the ghost, crouching down just outside the shield. Her goggles reflected the harsh fluorescent lights and she saw Phantom shudder.
"Mad scientist much?" he muttered darkly, his eyes narrowing as he gazed at her. Jack, still sitting in the corner with his coffee and test results, chuckled.
Maddie just quietly watched him, studying his every movement, cataloguing his actions against what she knew about ghosts. He wasn't floating like a 'normal' ghost would have. He wasn't reacting to his emotions through the use of violence or manipulation, rather he seemed to be trying to cover up his fear with barvado. He wasn't, she noted with surprise, willing to look her in the eye for more than a few moments at a time.
She was faced with the very simple fact that Phantom looked like a ghost. He had the same abilities as a ghost. Just looking at him, knowing what little she did about him, he was a ghost.
But there was so many things wrong with him. One or two things and yes, she would have been okay thinking her theories were just off base. There was no way, not after twenty years of experiments and research and data, that they were that wrong.
There were only two options. One: she was deluding herself and her paranormal theories were, in fact, impossibly wrong. Or two: she wasn't looking at a ghost.
Phantom looked up at her, fear and panic warring in his simmering gaze. "Let me go," he pleaded. His arms were almost visibly trembling by this point. "I don't want to be ripped apart."
Maddie didn't reply to that, but she already knew that she wouldn't be able to experiment on him… not until she knew more. She wasn't going to chance experimenting on something that might be sentient. The boy was in no real danger from either her or Jack.
This was their greatest experiment, finally captured and sitting in front of them. "What are you?" she whispered.
Tears were the only answer.
Ok so that was Cordria's one shot. I hoped you enjoyed her work and I look forward to posting again ^_^