Slayer Anderson

HIVE Minded Chapter XX

A Danny Phantom/Teen Titans Crossover Fanfiction


Chapter 20 – Living Dead Boy


Rough Road Romance Part 1

Jinx was conflicted.

That's probably the best word for it, she thought dejectedly, 'conflicted.' Danny actually waking up was the culmination of many long hours of hoping and, yes, praying. She'd been privy to far too much of the Titans' good cheer and positive attitude for it to possibly be healthy, but whatever her pains, Danny was awake, and that was what counted, right? Her…boyfriend was relatively alive, relatively healthy, and neither of them were going to jail for the numerous crimes they'd committed. Still…Danny had spent far too much time talking with the CIA Director and that General what's-his-name and not talking with her. Granted, they were talking about matters directly related to the whole 'not going to jail' thing, so she was willing to be lenient with her irritation, but it was still somewhat upsetting that they couldn't have any personal time.

Finally, Finally, the impromptu briefing was over with and they were given…

Jinx scowled, feeling sick to her stomach at the shiny metal resting in her palm. It was heavier than the one she'd played with as a child in the orphanage, but that one was made out of cheep tin…this one actually felt like what it was supposed to be; in fact, it felt even heavier than what it looked like it should. Supposedly, getting it was a matter of necessity…if she, Danny, and Wykkyd were all going to need to testify in courts of law as agents of the federal government, they'd need to be able to play the part. So, a call to the local CIA Office-

They had one of those in Jump City?

-and by the end of the meeting, all three former villains had been equipped with the proper paperwork, identification, and…

Say it Jinx, just say it…it's not the end of the world, Danny won't make you do anything silly like 'uphold the law' with it. Think of it like being undercover.

That still didn't change the fact that there was a badge weighing down the palm of her left hand. She knew what to look for from HIVE's training and it was all there…faux-leather case, proper numbering, picture beside it, watermarked papers. It looked…legal. Ugh…even the word leaves as bad taste in my mouth.

Jinx's pink, cat-slit eyes slid right and left, taking in the room around her and making sure no one was looking before slowly, slowly, raising the badge to her face. Once again, she made sure there were no observers as-

"It's not real gold, you know."

Jinx most definitely did not jump out of her skin.

Removing the badge from between her teeth where she'd preformed the classic 'pioneer bite test' on the metal, she glared at Batgirl crossly. "I know that, just…checking."

"Uh-huh," Batgirl muttered, a smile twitching at her lips. The pink-haired girl was a bit like a cat, as her eyes suggested. She'd have to be blind to miss the spark of curiosity and focus in those bisected neon orbs.

Suddenly, Jinx's scowl deepened as she remember exactly why she was leaning against a wall and not cuddled up against Danny. As sure as Batgirl had slunk into a shadow near her, her mentor, the Dark Knight himself, had approached Phantom, silently asking for a few minutes and, as much as she'd liked to have stayed, one glare from Batman sent her scampering to the other side of the room. The fact that the hero of Gotham was as scary as fuck notwithstanding, though, she had every right to be petulant about this recent development. "What're they talking about anyway?"

Barbara Gordon, currently Batgirl, raised an eyebrow, not having expected any attempts at conversation, and shrugged. "Don't know, Batman was keeping it on the down-low. He's probably just putting the fear of him into your…"

"Boyfriend," Jinx affirmed and looked closer at the interaction between Batman and her ghost. "Danny doesn't look like he's afraid."

"I know," Batgirl admitted. "It's weird…I've seen more reaction from our usual rogue's gallery than Phantom. He's got one hell of a poker face, I'll say that at least."

A silence.

"Hey," Batgirl said suddenly, "Is it…cold in here."

To her credit, Jinx kept her face blank at the comment, "Probably just a draft."

"Huh," Batgirl nodded, dropping into silence again. After another moment, though, she looked back to Jinx who was staring intently at Phantom, her eyes never leaving his form for long. "So…have you two…ya'know?"

Jinx did not blush, and she not see the vaguely obscene gesture Batgirl made.

"I don't see how that's any of your business, hero."

Batgirl snorted, then shrugged. "Whatever. If you don't want to talk about it, that's fine. You better be careful, though…girls love a bad-boy and Phantom's a hot topic right now."

Jinx bristled silently, there had better not be a slag stupid enough to put the moves on her boyfriend…unwillingly, her mind drifted back to that orange-skinned girl from the warehouse party months ago and the warm feeling in her chest when Danny had stared her down. "I trust him." Whether she was replying to Batgirl or reaffirming herself was anyone's guess.

After all, she'd basically thrown away everything she'd ever worked for to be with Danny. She couldn't be a criminal when she was carrying this badge…could she be happy being a Government spook? Would Danny leave her for someone else? Someone not as…damaged as she was? She hadn't been a good person in the past after all…at points, she 'd been pretty desperate and it had reflected on her actions. Jinx shook her head, trying to clear it of doubt.

She trusted Danny.

He, at least, was a good person.

Batgirl nodded, "And…just a tip, you might not want to play with your badge much in public. That kind of thing makes you look like a rookie…and you're supposed to have been undercover for three years, right? A seasoned agent wouldn't keep messing with their badge."

Jinx bristled again, this time in a different type of alarm, "I thought-damn faulty government gizmos!"

"Don't blame them," the black-clad teen stated, "I don't know how he does it either, but he's The Goddamn Batman. Makes keeping a steady boyfriend a pain in the neck."

Jinx snorted, then saw the speculative glance Batgirl threw Phantom, "Don't."

Batgirl had the grace to look appropriately ashamed. "Sorry."

Another silence as the two young women stared listlessly at the Dark Knight and the Ghost Boy speaking in low tones. Finally, the caped crusader nodded once and turned away. He threw Robin a glance that was Batgirl knew to be half-worry/half-pride…though anyone else would be at a loss to decipher the masked expression. As Batman marched past his female sidekick, he fixed his gaze on her.

"We're leaving."

"Grump," Jinx muttered.

Batman twitched as Batgirl suppressed a snort.

A moment later, the two Gothamites were gone and Jinx was already on her way back to her boyfriend's bed. Not bothering to ask, she lay down next to Danny, basking in his unique cool-to-the-touch aura. "What'd tall dark and gloomy want?"

Danny fixed her with a serious gaze, locking their eyes. His left eyebrow twitched slightly as he spoke, "That…was the most utterly terrifying conversation I've ever had. Remind me to tell Plasmius that he needs lessons."

Jinx snorted, "I know he's got the rep and everything, but he's just a norm…how bad could he be?"

"He told me, with exacting detail, and thoroughness, what he would do to me if I proved Superman wrong about me…I may have nightmares about it," Danny admitted.

The pinkette blinked, "I thought he had the whole 'no killing' thing."

"Okay," Danny stated, leaning up and off the bed, "First: I don't have a pulse. Second…I'm pretty sure I'd survive all of that…and then wish I hadn't."

"Huh," Jinx said, considering that bit of wisdom for a moment. After the thought digested, she shrugged. "Whatever. I wanna' go out."

Danny blinked, "Wha-?"

"I wanna' go out," Jinx wheedled sweetly, "C'mon…I've been cooped up here for days making sure you're alright…after you went all 'hero'…so this is partially your fault, by the way."

Danny's mind winced at his girlfriend's 'logic,' but nodded nonetheless. Jinx would get prissy if he didn't go along with whatever she had planned…and, besides, there was something he needed to get done himself. "Sure, let me check with our jailers to make sure they won't sound the alarm…how do you feel about meeting my parents?"

Jinx cocked her head at the non-sequitor.

Danny sighed, maybe this was a bad idea.

"This is a bad idea," Robin muttered.

"Ugh," Jinx groaned, "Jeez Boy Wonder, it's not like we're gonna' rob a bank." Jinx paused and looked to Danny, "We're…not gonna' rob a bank, right?"

Robin twitched.

"Not funny," Danny sighed, looking to the masked 'former-sidekick.' "Robin…I know this is…weird and everything, but we're not going run. We're not going to commit a felony. Jinx and I just need a little breathing room. Being so close to people who've been using a 'subdue and capture' attitude on us until now…it's hard."

Raven, as was her want, silently drifted into the room with his suit, his coat, and a sheathed sword laying on it.

Robin's scowl deepened. "Raven…what are you doing?"

"He's trustworthy," Raven stated. "I'll take responsibility if something happens."

Everyone, in one synchronized moment, blinked.

"Huh?" Danny asked intelligently.

"Friend Raven, are you sure that our former enemies will not do the 'misdeeds' if we allow them out of the tower?" Starfire asked delicately, wary of angering the dark Titan.

"I'll take responsibility," Raven reiterated, setting the bundle down in front of the ghost.

Less than five minutes later, the two teens were gone, leaving the assembled Titans to stare at the blade which had been left sitting on Phantom's bed. The stated reason of it being to 'conspicuous' didn't exactly fill the Boy Wonder with confidence, though the fact that the ghost wouldn't have a powerful weapon helped. A little. Robin waited another moment, then turned to Raven expectantly. "Any particular reason you expressed that much confidence in someone who, until three days ago, we thought of as a criminal?"

Raven was silent for a moment, then drifted over to Phantom's sword, "This blade is called Durendal, sometimes known among certain mystic circles as the Sword of Miracles."

"So…what, only 'good person' can wield it or something?" Robin asked, immediately skeptical of anything 'magic related.'

It was something of an…inherited prejudice.

"No," Raven rebutted sharply, then paused, looking at the sword she held in her hands. "The more knowledgeable of supernatural scholars, though, refer to Durendal as the 'Blade of Lost Causes' or, somewhat more politely, the 'Blade of Endurance.' Every person who has ever used this sword has done so in defense of something…an idea, a person, a nation."

"Okay," Robin nodded, drawing out the word. "That doesn't sound so positive."

"Everyone who has wielded this blade, also, has seen that person, nation, or idea, fall before them. The person they sought to protect would be killed. The idea they sought to forward was crushed. The nation they fought for, obliterated. This is the so-called 'curse' of the blade…to survive the death of that which is most important to you, in return each battle you partake in will be blessed, circumstance will favor you, and you will court victory."

"You can't honestly believe," Robin began, "That a sword can do so much. It's just a piece of steel."

"It's track record speaks for itself," Raven said quietly. "The legend of the Blade's Miracles and Curse began with the Fall of Troy. When the Hero of the city, Hector, gave his blade to Ajax, it was proclaimed, after the fact, that this was the event which would lead to his death. Ajax, however, would go on to win, or tie, every battle he would ever participate in, except for a contest with Odysseus. He had become so absorbed in proving he was better than his fellow warrior that, when he lost, he fell on his blade, this blade, and committed suicide. Of course, it doesn't end there: Hannibal fought Rome in the name of Carthage using Durendal. Roland, the Paladin of Charlemagne, famously used it to try and invade Britanny. The 'Witch of Orleans,' Joan of Arc-"

"-won," Robin interrupted. "Joan of Arc successfully expelled the British from France."

"-As a warrior of God." Raven stated coolly, her eyes alight with suppressed emotion. "Would you happen to recall how she died?"

Robin grimaced, then shook his head, "That can't all have been this sword. The invasion of Troy that Homer talks about happened in the Bronze Age, this sword is, at least, late Medieval craftsmanship."

Raven snorted in disbelief, an odd sound from the normally restrained teenager, "There is more to a sword…especially one such as this, than mere metal. A sword like this…is an idea, Robin. Despite that, though there are numerous reports of it being reforged by everyone from the Fair Folk, to famous Enchanters, to Archangels. This is just the latest incarnation of Durendal."

Robin and Starfire were both staring at the sheathed sword now.

The orange-skinned alien blinked, "When Friend-Phantom and I went to the future, his blade was glowing a very bright blue! It was most pretty!"

Raven blinked. "Starfire…is this the same sword that was…in the museum?" If this was the same 'artifact' that had been missing, the rusted piece of junk she'd seen pictures of…

Starfire's gaze glazed over as she searched her memory for some half-forgotten detail. Suddenly, her eyes widened, "Oh! Yes, I believe I remember Friend-Phantom holding a very old blade before we were sucked into Warp's portal!"

"That just brings up more questions," Raven mumbled, suddenly breaking off the conversation, uttering seemingly random magical words and phrases.

"Raven!" Robin nearly shouted, bringing the dark titan out of her sudden funk. "You never did answer…why should we trust Phantom?"

"Because he's willing to die for something," Rave said short, her usual monotone stressed to the point of breaking. "Or…he already has."

"Raven," Robin began, "We're not getting into this discussion again. No matter what Phantom may seem, he's not-"

"-A ghost. He's not a dead person come back to life," Raven stated acidly. "Did you know, Robin, that I've had the strangest feeling about him since he first showed up? I keep getting this sense of déjà vu…like I've seen him somewhere before."

"And?" The Boy Wonder asked.

Raven held up a hand, an orb of darkness shimmering into the visible spectrum at the gesture. A moment later, a large tome had sparked into existence, "And then I found this when I was looking for information on that sword."

Robin looked at the hovering book, only mildly impressed as it opened itself and flipped to a full-page illustration of a ancient city on fire. Phantom and another 'ghost' were duking it out above the flames, locked in a vicious battle, both faces a rictus of rage and hate as they faced off. "This picture is known as Rome Ablaze, it depicts the eternal city during the infamous fire it experience under the rule of Emperor Nero. It was done by an Azarathian Sage just a few days later."

Robin refrained from swearing.

"Ah," Starfire interjected, looking over the picture, "This 'Rome'…I have heard of it on the Channel of Histories on the television. I had thought it was very old, though?"

"It is Starfire," Robin sighed. Looking to Raven, his eye twitched at her smug expression. "This doesn't prove anything."

He wondered if his voice sounded as unsure to Raven and Starfire as it did to himself.

"I hope you know what you're doing."

The Man of Steel turned his gaze on the Dark Knight of Gotham, "I have a feeling."

Batman scowled, "Need I remind you the last time you had a 'feeling' we ended up just short of invading Apocalypse?"

Superman's optimistic expression dimmed somewhat at the reference to Kara's appearance. "I think he's handled the worst of it himself. Besides, the Titans will be there to ride heard on him."

"Truthfully, it's not Phantom I'm worried about," Batman stated. "I don't like the amount of pressure the government's putting on the League. If this is a portent of things to come…"

"I don't like it either," Superman nodded, "But what are we supposed to do, Bruce? We can't exactly interfere in a sovereign nation's internal politics. The League is a policing body…we don't have the facilities or personnel to house and care for dozens of pubescent metahumans with criminal backgrounds."

Batman scowled more heavily, but remained silent on the matter, shifting the conversation to another topic. "This isn't a matter of politics, Clark. Neither is it about the treatment or prosecution of super-criminal offenders. This is about the United States of America building an Army to fight us. This is about a war."

"The Justice League won't fight a war," Superman refuted.

"Amanda Waller and Cadmus will, though," Batman replied.

There were a few heartbeats of silence as both legendary Superheroes confined themselves to their own thoughts.

"So the question becomes…" Superman considered, "What side this new faction will take?"

Batman snorted, "They're criminals, Clark."

"They're also children," Superman snapped, now glaring at his fellow hero.

"They've made their choice."

"And they deserve a second chance."

"If we were responsible for them, I'd agree." Batman growled. "But, this isn't about you and me. This isn't Kara we're talking about. This isn't Jason who's taken a step in the wrong direction. These are criminals, Clark, and they won't have someone to keep them on the straight and narrow like we've down with our wards over the years. Who will they look to?"

"He'll be able to handle it," Superman stated solidly.

"He's as much of a child as they are," Batman growled back.

"Maybe a year ago, he was," The Man of Steel allowed. "But he's grown up. Did you know that Clark Kent occasionally went to Amity Park to check out those 'Ghost Stories?' I wanted to make sure whatever was going on in that town didn't get out of control…and I met him, a few times. He probably doesn't even remember that reporter whose live he 'saved.'"

Batman remained silently, neither confirming nor denying the question.

"He has a good heart," Superman went on. "Phantom wasn't as serious about the job as either you or I are…but, when push came to shove, he'd pull it through. When he got serious, you could see it in his eyes…that look, that intensity, and I just knew he'd put himself in front of anything to save a life. When he was sitting there, talking with the General, though…"

"You could feel it," Batman nodded grudgingly. "He was able to meet my eyes, which is more than I could say for most of the League. You might be right, Clark. He might be able to handle it…but he's still a child, no matter how much he'd grown up over the last year."

"And that's why I have so much faith in him," Superman grinned.

Batman glared at the Man of Steel.

"They'll listen to him, because he's one of them. He's been through the same things as them. He's grown up more than you might believe, Bruce…besides, if you're that opposed to Phantom heading up the former HIVE students, I'm open to another option."

Batman was silent.

After another moment, the Dark Knight's heartbeat vanished and Superman knew he was gone. With no one else in the room to catch him, Superman sighed tiredly.

"For what it's worth, Bruce, I hope I know what I'm doing too."

Unfortunately, the walls of the Watchtower Conference Room didn't have any comforting reassurances for him.

Danny smiled.

The expression felt unfamiliar on his face, sadly enough.

He knew he'd never been the most…happy-go-lucky kid, even before his half-death, but ever since his stay at the HIVE Academy he'd been more and more reluctant to open up to anyone. Especially in his first few months, he'd been largely without human interaction, save for the few and far-between calls to his parents or Jazz. His… classmates had been amiable enough, he supposed, but there was always that part of him which was wary of interacting overmuch with what were, in essence, villains in training. His reluctance to really talk to anyone had isolated him, until Jinx…and even then…

"How many dates have we been on, Jinx?" Danny asked idly as he phased through the outer walls of the Titan's Tower.

"Hmm," Jinx though, her purring vibrating against his chest as they flew. "I think…we went out for pizza that one time, and then the warehouse where we met the Titans, and…that can't have been it, can it?"

"And there was…" Danny stopped himself abruptly.

"The Noodle Incident," Jinx confirmed.

Both were silent a moment, an equivalent shiver passing through both of their bodies.

The pinkette twitched, muttering something along the lines of, 'so much broth.' "I thought we agreed not to bring that up?" She asked, visibly shaking herself free of the memory.

Danny nodded, "Right…sooo." He frowned lightly as he searched his mind for both the previous topic and a segue to a new conversation, barring himself from any intense emotion. "We usually eat three meals together in the cafeteria, but those aren't dates, are they?"

"Why are you asking?" Jinx asked, hating that her voice reflected her nervousness. Please don't say you're leaving…

"No real reason," Danny said lightly, oblivious to his counterpart's anxiety. "I just thought we should spend some more time together, ya' know…now that we're out of the HIVE."

"Oh," Jinx quietly exclaimed, both hating and enjoying the way her face heated up at the casual mention of their relationship. "That would be…nice." Nice? Nice? I am Evil! Evil doesn't do Nice! I am not a blushing schoolgirl!

"Yeah," Danny nodded. "I just though we should…do girlfriend and boyfriend stuff, right?"

Jinx cocked her head, thinking on the matter as they ached a path over the Jump City Bay. "What do girlfriends and boyfriends…do, exactly?"

Danny slowed to a stop, still intangible and invisible as he stared out over the skyline of the city. "I…I'm not sure, really. I mean…I've had a girlfriend before, but…that turned out…badly."

"Do tell?" Jinx asked, her tone deceptively light. Inwardly, her gut twisted with jealousy.

Danny tapped his ice, freezing over the embarrassment that threatened to flush his face. "Long story short…it turned out to be part of a ghost's evil plan to take over the global satellite system. It didn't really help that she'd been trying to hunt my ghost half down in the name of bloody vengeance for weeks at that point. I'd really rather not talk about it."

"Oh," Jinx nodded, trying again, to hide her true emotional response to the information. She was…pleased that there wouldn't be any messy ex-girlfriends to deal with. Because Danny was hers. "Um…you never told me where we're going, by the way."

"Ah!" Danny exclaimed, perking back up. "Well…my parents are in town and they're looking for me, so I thought I'd go make sure they don't think I'm dead or something."

"That's it!" Jinx cried, twisting in Danny's arms.

"Huh?" Danny asked intelligibly.

"Parents! Couples introduce each other to their parents!" Jinx explained.

"Oh!" Danny exclaimed, then blinked, "oh."

Jinx pouted, "Now that sounded enthusiastic." Her sarcasm wasn't lost on the ghostly teen.

"Jinx," Danny groaned tiredly, "I was joking when I offered to let you meet them. My parents are insane. You really don't want to meet them."

"Nope!" Jinx grinned, her slightly-too-sharp teeth glinting in the sunlight. "I've gotta'! We've gotta' have one of those really embarrassing 'meet-the-parents' things, like on the sitcoms!"

"No, we don't," Danny pleaded.

Jinx sighed, "Okay, I guess I can go get coffee or something while you meet with your folks-"

Danny perked up.

"-thus proving you really don't care that much about me, our relationship is doomed to failure, and I'll have to return to the life of a cut-throat criminal to stave off starvation." Jinx crooned mock-sorrowfully, her eyes tearing up.

Danny deflated.

There was a heartbeat of silence before Jinx kicked in with soft sniffles.

"Fine!" Danny cried, "But just for the record, this was your idea."

Jinx's eyes instantly cleared, her lips twitching into a cat-ate-the-canary grin.

"And you enjoy my suffering way too much," Danny muttered.

The Ghost Zone was it's typical ecto-green on void-black environment.

As the Fright Knight galloped through the expansive space, lesser ghosts fled his path. Despite his humiliating defeat at the hands of Phantom, his reputation was still such that it terrified an spirit who wasn't Phantom's equal. Only he, Vlad Plasmius, and Pariah Dark had ever entertained any notions of truly being his better…

Thankfully, that was a short list.

Still, the ghost didn't take nearly as much pleasure as he usually did from the exodus of others from his path. Phantom had made sure that his thoughts would not rest for a very long time…he had brought back that terrible weapon into the world, that loathsome sword Durendal. And that…that, demon-spawn!

She had known him!

She'd known who he was, in his past life.

Virtually the only thing he had to be thankful for towards Phantom, though, was Plasmius' crushing loss, which broke the vow he'd made to the other ghost. With Pariah Dark still entombed, however, he was free to go about his own business…

His stead carried him onward, deeper still into the Ghost Zone.

Pandora's temple listed slowly past his side as he passed into the traditionally 'Greco-Roman' sector of the Ecto-Realm. There were no true 'kingdoms' in the Ghost Zone, beyond each Ghost's individual lair, but there were areas of the afterlife where ghosts of like-minds came together to share memories and reminders of their past lives. He, in fact, had 'lived' in this area prior to the Middle Ages…after the fall of the Classical World.

The Fright Knight was not one, normally, to reminisce like an elderly fool, but…

Seeing so many relics of that long-destroyed world standing before him…

It was in that age-old world where he'd first been imagined, first been Made Real by the prayers and exaltations of countless worshipers…where he'd been a GOD!

He'd ridden forth like a ravening storm on the backs of countless wars and plagues. He'd hidden in the hearts of men as they stared into the dark night around them, mere torches and fires the only comforting light. He'd fed civil wars, assassinations, murder, and mass panic. And, in the end, when the Barbarians came upon the Eternal City, he'd ridden wild like no other time in history…

Fear had run rampant through the streets…

Some and ash from the fires raiders set clogged the sky…

Women, children, men…gutted like animals…

Wild beasts from the Coliseum set free to ravage the populous…

With the death of Rome, though…he had lost himself. There had been no courage to foil his fear. There had been no Epic Heroes for him to cripple with whispers of cowardice and weakness. The killing blow, though, had been borne by that thrice-cursed blade Durendal!

The Blade of Endurance.

The Light in the Darkness.

The Sword of Miracles…

It was the blade that brought unbelievable chance and luck to it's owner, making defeat nigh-impossible

And armed with it, a mere mortal had done the inconceivable and killed a God.

The Fright Knight's hands clenched in memory of his own death as his winged horse carried him deeper into the Ghost Zone. Finally, within a deep cave, he dismounted and came up to the reason for his journey. His death…no matter how traumatic, held not a candle to what rested before him.

He'd died.

The cloaked figure before him assured him of that fact.

"You're looking…different."

A skeletal smile. "Indeed. Times have changed…and so have you."

He looked down at himself. He was wearing armor, heavy and black with green flames erupting from it in places. "Interesting."

A chuckle, the sound of grave soil being disturbed. "A Black Knight… appropriate for the new era, I suppose. It is, after all, the will of the living that shapes us."

"Us?" He'd asked, somewhat slowly.

"Mmmhm. Gods, the Faye, Ghosts." He left himself unsaid.

"You as well then, I suppose," He'd asked pointedly.

The skeletal figure in the black shawl fairly growled. He had always hated reminders that he was not, in fact, all powerful. "Come, father is waiting."

"How is Ares doing? I had thought the Fall of Rome would have truly killed him as it did so many others," He'd said.

A spectral scythe tapped mockingly against the floor of his lair, "War will never truly die, brother, and he's going by a new name these days."

"Do tell?" He asked sarcastically.

"Pariah. Pariah Dark. The Ghost King."

The massive coffin was tied down by thick chains, which had been wrapped across the container hundreds of years ago. Still, the years had made them weak and, with nary a hesitation, the Fright Knight brought his blade down on the chains. The sound of groaning ecto-metal screamed out for a moment, then the bindings split open. Another long, wooden groan, and the top of the coffin fell away, leaving the Fright Knight staring at the personification of death.

"Hello Phobos," The Grim Reaper stated, dust shifting from his bones.

"Deimos." The Fright Knight, the Ghost of the God of Fear, greeted neutrally.

"I take it that pumpkin was finally smashed?" The Grim Reaper asked, stepping from his coffin with his scythe. "I almost laughed myself sick when the Great Specters used that for your prison."

"Stupid pagan lore," The Fright Knight spat. "But no, someone let me out."

Orbs of black light grew large, Death's eyes widened. "Someone…what fool would let you out?"

"It's funny you should ask," The Fright Knight said. "That same fool bested both Father and myself in one-on-one combat."

The Reaper's eyes shot wider, "Hera's Tits, Man! Don't keep me waiting!"

"First, Dearest and Last of My Kin," The Fright Knight sneered, "Tell me how you would feel about another plague? Like that one you cooked up in the thirteen hundreds when father needed new recruits for his war against the Champions of the Ghost Zone?"

The Reaper stared at his brother for a long moment. He had not 'died' like his sibling and father, merely…transitioned when the pantheon of the Gods fell to ruin with Rome. He was the God of Death, after all. Still, his power was not what it had been in ages past. Death was no longer some mysterious and chance thing. Even while his material form had been bound, some part of him, an instinctual and animalistic piece of himself, had been out in the world, taking life where it was necessary. The modern mortals took great pride in having 'explained' and 'cheated' death with science and medicine. He would not be able to unleash another Black Death as he had before…

Though…now that he was free

Death's Scythe tapped twice on the floor of the ectoplasmic cave. "Give me a little time, brother, and I'll be sure to raise some Hell for you."

Well, it's been a while, folks, but I'm back.

Just to reiterate, I'm not dropping this story. I've been on it for over a year now and I'm pretty sure I'm going to finish, no matter how rough the going gets. Oh, on the topic of 'rough-going,' I'm now...technically, kind of, officially, a graduate. After an epic fetch-quest of the paperwork variety, it looks like I'm done with my coursework and will do the whole 'diploma' thing in the spring. Fun. On the topic of fanfiction, though, which is what you're all probably here for...this chapter was delayed for numerous reasons which I won't go into. Suffice to say, this is basically the pre-arc prep-work for the sequel. We're going into the last 2/3 chapters of HIVE Minded, right now.

In reflection...the early chapters are crap. I should really, REALLY, rewrite the first dozen or so chapter, at least. That's kind of a back-burner thing right now, though. I have talked to several people who've pointed out plot-holes or just 'weird' things that don't really fit in those early phases. I'm working on something that might fix that right now...hopefully not involving that time-consuming rewrite I mentioned earlier.

In any case you all can consider this a late Christmas Present or a slightly early New Year's Present. Virtual Fireworks for Everybody!

Um...I think that's it, actually. Let's see, the next chapters aren't going to be nearly as serious as the last few have and I'm really looking forward to them. Danny needs a little 'R&R' to get him ready for what I've got in store. Next chapter...The Fenton Family Reunion (Minus Jazz), Jinx's introduction, our mystery guest(s) enter stage left, and Dani's up and about.

Oh yeah! Go to my bio page, right now! I'm having a poll for what my next story should be! (And maybe check out JUSTICE, if you're a Code Geass fan.)

Go, Vote! Exercise your democratic rights and wrongs!

Jolly Tidings for a Yule-Tide Season, Slayer Anderson.