Author's Note: Hello, all! Uhh... this originally started off as a (very) messy drabble with no real direction in mind, but after a bunch of editing and plotting, I decided to turn it into a short story. I'd always wanted to try for an actual dissection scene, and aim here to practice working with emotions and keeping reactions as realistic (as I think would be) as possible. It's rated "T," just to keep in mind, but there's nothing terribly gruesome - the worst of it is in Chapter Two... I think.
Anyway, I hope readers will enjoy?
Blissful warmth instantly met the tension on my face as soon as I floated up through the big, metal roof of our family's Ops center. I sat down against the hard surface with a heavy sigh and took a look at the suburbs that were backed by the tall, distant buildings of downtown Amity. The skies were set ablaze by splashes of different shades of gold and orange, the bright late-afternoon sunlight casting long shadows everywhere while giving downtown a hazy glow. It was a beautiful view.
I loved spending the evenings up here, quietly watching the day fade away with the promise of a new one. Cheesy, I know – but at least it gave me some time to actually relax from a long day of trying to juggle school, my social life and my obligation to protect my city. If it wasn't for the fact that I was taking a serious risk by sitting up here – as a ghost – atop the headquarters of my obsessed ghost-hunting parents who were quick to shoot first and ask questions later, I'd probably spend a lot more time up here.
The nice weather offered a light breeze that brushed against my face and ruffled a few locks of my stark-white hair. I let a small smile drift across my face in response. Up here it was quiet, peaceful. The warm sunlight that countered the natural chill of my spectral temperature was quick to practically melt away any previous tension.
My admiring of the view – just sitting there, alone, with the whole world before me– was abruptly cut off by a sudden chilly feeling – colder than what I was already used to in ghost form – that plunged down into my core, sending shivers that wanted to wrack my body. My groan of annoyance fogged into the air in front of me. Fate had just chosen the perfect time to rear its ugly head.
"Can't even ask for an hour of peace nowadays, can I?" I grumbled to myself, getting to my feet. Putting on my brave face without giving my reluctance a second thought, I leaped into the air and took off high over the rooftops of FentonWorks' neighboring houses, warily searching the streets and around the buildings for the specter that'd triggered my inner sense for the supernatural. Hero time.
There were three of them. The ghosts, it turned out, were little more than barely-corporeal green blobs – paltry masses of ectoplasm that looked like they could scarcely do any damage even if they tried. All three of the ghosts were gathered together in a small alleyway a few blocks down the street from the house. Drifting through the air with a scowl, I just watched them for a few seconds before springing into action. They weren't even doing anything, but I wasn't going to take any chances.
"Hey, uglies!" I jeered as I plunged into the alley, my eyes blazing, letting the cold, supernatural energy of my powers burst into existence around my hands. "Sorry to crash the party, but you've got to go."
Sparks of emerald power crackled and arced over my wrists, the energy fizzing lightly against my nerves and bringing an unconscious smile to my face. I didn't spare another moment's hesitation before firing an onslaught of the energy from my open palms that sent them scattering in a chorus of startled shrieks. One of them peeled off from its comrades to lunge at me in retaliation with a tiny growl, two beady red eyes set in a feral glare. It might have intimidated a two-year old, but it was pretty pathetic.
"Please; this is too easy," I smiled cockily. I easily moved to the side and watched the ghost topple clumsily into the brick wall behind me. "That all you've got?"
I sent another bolt of bright green into the foes, who were now darting this way and that in fits of confused agitation and fury. It would be a waste of energy to weaken them since they weren't much to deal with in the first place, so my hand reached around to the back of my belt, where the thermos was usually clipped to my waist.
Nothing was there.
"Damn it," I muttered, sighing in exasperation. The thermos was still at home. I could just leave them here and try to retrieve it – it wasn't like they could cause any real chaos. But that would mean having to spend even more time tracking them down if they happened to escape while I was gone… which was something I really didn't want to do.
Brows furrowed, I studied the ghosts. They huddled together, snarling, red eyes flaring angrily in an attempt to try and frighten me, the third member of the group having rejoined its companions.
"Maybe I could just… keep them frozen here or something until I get the thermos," I mused, then grinned; the solution sounded reasonable. "Hope you guys like the cold." I centered my focus for a moment as tendrils of blue, cold-as-ice energy formed within my palms—
I didn't have time to turn around before a hot blast of energy suddenly slammed into my back, throwing me into the wall and cracking my head against it with a thud. Dazed, I tumbled down to the asphalt below and blinked a few times to rid the stars from my eyes. I saw the source of the two voices that'd startled me.
"You've got to be kidding me," I whispered, seeing my day-glow orange and teal-blue hazmat-suited parents stalking forward, weapons pointed right at me. "Uhh… long time, no see?"
"Now, you just stay right there, ghost," my father advised. His tone was much more serious than the usual cheery him, underlying something truly dangerous, and it gave me a sudden ripple of apprehension. He walked forward, ridiculously-sized bazooka still aimed point-blank at me, and I instinctively scooted backwards against the wall, my mind racing. Stay put, or try to scram while risking getting shot. From this distance even my dad could blast me to pieces before I could so much as move. My options were bleak.
Trying to stall for time until I could safely get away, my eyes flicked up to the spot deeper in the alleyway where I'd last seen the three glowing blob-ghosts. They were long gone. Turning back to my parents, I tensed, eyes locked onto their arsenal.
"Wh-what do you want?" I squeaked.
"Mads, the sedative." Dad muttered, ignoring my question. My eyes widened.
Sedative? Oh, hell.
Licking my lips, I glanced around the alley, searching for possible options. A sharp pain cut through my back as I started to get up. In response my father warningly charged the gun in his hand, the ghost-intended weapon making that familiar ominous, high-pitched whining sound as it charged up. "I said don't move!"
"You know, I'd just love to stick around and chat, but…" I suddenly scrambled to get up, my father's eyes and bazooka never leaving my direction. I leapt into the air before managing to evade a hit, and in my peripheral vision I could see Mom stepping out from behind him, aiming what looked like a small pistol. With a yelp of surprise I threw myself to the side, feeling more than hearing something small whiz by my right ear. Instinct kicked in as I bolted in the only direction that seemed reasonable: up.
Before I could even get out of the alley and into the safety of open sky, though, the gun fired a second time. I felt something needle-sharp plunge into the skin just under my ribcage. I twisted around in surprise to see what looked like a small dart sticking out from my black jumpsuit.
"Yes, gotcha," I heard her say.
"Shit," I whispered as I yanked out the dart, cold panic starting to set in. But already the tranquilizer's contents began to assault my system at a relentless pace, beating me to whatever potential escape effort I had in mind. A sudden weakness rolled through me. "What…?" My body instantly felt like heavy lead and my limbs were like noodles. Before I could gather myself together and try to pull off a last-ditch effort at escaping, I involuntarily fell to the ground, unable to stay in the air, my right foot clipping the edge of a trashcan on the way and spilling its contents with a loud crash. Staggering backwards, my knees buckled as soon as I hit the asphalt for the second time in less than a minute.
"Jack, it's working," Mom exclaimed eagerly.
"I know, Mads, this is great!"
What… was working? I knew I should have been seriously freaking out, but my mind failed to process anything useful. I had to concentrate solely on sucking in gulps of air while I merely lied there on the ground, feeling the weakness grow into a strong desire to pass out.
Vaguely, I heard my parents step forward.
"No… stay… 'way from me," I slurred, grasping the last shreds of my mind and feebly trying to scoot back. The world grew distant and fuzzy as my vision blurred, and my eyes began to close.
The last thing I remembered was a haze of blue and orange confidently stalking forward, someone's hand reaching down slowly to grab me, and then everything sank into the quiet folds of blackness.
The crawl back to consciousness was a slow, hazy affair. Being knocked out isn't fun; I should know that from multiple personal experiences. Being forced into a drug-induced unconsciousness by your own parents, on the other hand, is exponentially worse. Of course, I was in no state to wonder what their reasons were behind drugging me rather than just shooting at me on sight like they always did – the very first thing I noticed when coming around was a splitting headache and a strange weak sensation fluttering in my stomach.
"Wha…?" After a few sluggish seconds, the quiet beeping and whirring of what sounded like machines reached my ears, only adding to the steady pounding in my brain, making it feel as if nails were being driven into my skull. With a quiet moan, I squeezed my closed eyes together and tried to lift a hand to press against my head in an attempt to relieve the pain. It took a few more seconds for me to realize my hands wouldn't budge, even though I could feel the muscles twitch and try to jerk upwards.
That was when the back of my mind vaguely realized something was wrong. My eyes blearily fluttered open. I was met with the view of a solid gray, metal ceiling. That didn't offer much in my weak attempt to try and figure out where I was, but then I noticed the familiar, acrid scent of ectoplasm that wafted through my nose and assaulted my senses. There was another tinge to the smell.
I was in the lab.
Grimacing from the movement, I turned my head a fraction of a degree to glance over to my side.
I was, apparently, strapped down to an examination table.
Oh… great, my brain managed to think, and I blinked my unfocused eyes a few times to gather my bearings. I was still in my ghost form – I could already tell that much just from the lack of thudding in my chest and the familiar chilly feeling that was settled within my core. Despite this lovely new predicament I was suddenly in, at least I wasn't human at the moment. Which meant that my parents hadn't discovered me for what I really was. That was good.
But that left the foreboding question of why I was even here in the first place. Somewhere underneath all of the temporary confusion, a small trickle of dread seeped into a corner of my mind at the beginnings of several possible reasons as to why I was down here. I had a sinking feeling that this wouldn't end well.
Giving a weak attempt to shift from the uncomfortable position I was in – with little luck – I lifted the back of my head a few inches off the hard surface I was laying on to take in my surroundings. My eyes darted frantically from one side to the other, catching sight of a bunch of familiar machines and counters. Fear shot down my spine. A wide variety of silver, sharp tools, knives, and other surgical-looking instruments were arranged neatly across one of the tables that rested to my right, and I couldn't stop the automatic shudder that ran through me. They looked painful and their purpose wasn't exactly hard to guess.
Grunting with effort, I automatically tried pulling against the cuffs that held my wrists and ankles down. I struggled and flailed and yanked as hard as I could, gritting my teeth and wild panic threatened to grasp at my brain. "Damn it, damn it, come on!"
As predicted, they didn't move. The fact that they were glowing implied trying to intangibly phase my way out of this mess would be just as futile.
Well, I mused darkly, at least this'll certainly make for an interesting evening… or is it night time? How long have I been out?
I let my head drop back down onto the metal table with a soft thump and closed my green eyes again, struggling to breathe normally despite the cold fear that began to slowly envelope my body.
Alright, Fenton, just… just calm down. Think, I told myself. I was in the lab. I was tied down to a table. My parents were probably going to do god-knows what to me and I had no way of figuring out how to get out of here. Just great.
My thoughts were interrupted by a pair of familiar voices, and I froze. They were speaking in quiet, hushed tones, as if their conversation wasn't meant for me to hear.
"…could just keep him drugged constantly. We'd made enough supply of the spectral sedative to keep him out of it for at least a couple days – that'll be plenty of time for me to finish the last touches on the lab's ghost containment shield… and figure out what the heck is up with the test results we got back."
"I don't know," a woman's voice spoke up, and I instantly recognized it as my mother's. "What if the generator just shorts out again like last time?"
"Aww, c'mon, Mads! You know I'll be able to get that baby going by tomorrow morning, at least."
A soft chuckle. "Alright. The drug and anti-ghost cuffs should manage, for now. At least we won't need to worry about him going anywhere."
"Speaking of Phantom, wonder if he's still unconscious."
"Probably, but I'll go check on him. It's been a couple of hours now."
There was the sound of quiet footsteps – they paused for a second, and then grew louder. "Jack, he's awake!"
My still-fuzzy mind was instantly brought back to reality as I jerked my head up. What truly gave way to a sinking feeling of dread that made my insides clench was seeing my mother walking toward me, her expression contrasting greatly against the seemingly happy tone she'd had just seconds before with Dad. She looked… furious?
I blinked a few times to try and get rid of the lingering dizziness before I found my voice. "L-let me go!" I blurted, jumping straight to the chase, automatically yanking against the glowing straps that held me down.
She ignored me. "You," she said acidly, getting straight to the point, sticking a finger in my face as she arrived at my side. "Explain."
I couldn't stop the small wince that passed through me at the razor-sharp accusation in her voice, the same kind of tone she used when I was in serious trouble as her son. My eyes widened for a moment – had they figured it all out while I was under? What the hell was going on?
"Explain what? Wh-what are you talking about?" I rasped in response, my voice trembling a little despite the conscious effort I made to try and keep it from doing so.
Ignoring my demand for now, Mom crossed her arms together while Dad joined her by the examination table, her forehead behind her hood scrunching up a little in thought. For a few seconds I didn't dare breathe, the clawing tension in the air so thick it was almost tangible. She was either debating on just how to rip me apart, or brewing up some seriously personal questions. Neither sounded appealing.
Finally she turned her back to me, rummaging around for something on one of the tables that loomed above my side. "Nothing about you makes sense," she muttered, though to me or to herself I couldn't tell.
"I don't care what I am to you; I'm not letting you get your hands on me," I said angrily as I jerked against the restraints again, feeling a flare of defiance replace, for now, the raw panic that dictated most of my thoughts. "Why am I here? What the hell did you do to me?"
In hindsight, snapping at her probably wasn't the smartest idea.
Mom's closed fist suddenly slammed down onto some sort of button on the side of the examination table, and a split second later my back arched violently off the hard surface as white-hot blasts of pain tore through my nerves. I couldn't stop the startled and pained scream from leaving my dry mouth; my eyes were squeezed so tightly together that it hurt, but that little discomfort was nothing compared to the waves of searing electricity that assaulted every atom in my body from the metal cuffs that strapped me down.
The pain seemed to last for hours. Then, seconds after it'd started, the shock died down to a cold ache that pulsed throughout every inch of skin as I collapsed limply back onto the table, spluttering and coughing in a fight for air. A few more seconds passed before I managed to crack my green eyes open and glare at both of my parents, breathing heavily.
"We'll be asking the questions here, Phantom," my dad said, his voice reprimanding, but soft.
There was a soft, rubbery snap by my mother's hands before she leaned in closer to me. I weakly tried to shy away from her, but to no avail.
"Explain, ghost, why and how the simplest tests we ran just an hour ago while you were unconscious managed to disprove more than twenty years of research, data, theories and solid conclusions… What are you? What… makes you tick?" Through the harsh fluorescent lights reflecting off her red goggles, I could see her eyes harden with more, unspoken questions. "You look like a ghost. You act like a ghost. You have the same powers as a ghost, and yet…" Mom sighed, looking frustrated. "You should, by all means, be a ghost. But if our results are right… you shouldn't."
Shuddering from both the lingering pain and her accusations, I managed to swallow the rock-hard lump that had formed in my throat. Part of me really wanted to know what 'results' she was referring to while the rest had no desire to even guess. I hadn't even said anything over the last supposed hour and already they knew way too much.
"P-Please…" I whispered, averting my eyes from them, my arms beginning to tremble, "Just let me go. Please."
Neither of my parents acknowledged my plea, but the confused, curious-turned-eager look on their faces wasn't hard to give away their intentions. I knew what they were going to do even before the thin latex gloves covering her hands came into view. It sent a nauseating pit of fear into my stomach that'd managed to slice its way past the haze of pain that coated my mind, every ounce of my being locked onto the one thing I'd been fearing for the last year and a half.
I, the enigmatic ghost kid, was here to play 'lab rat'.