Disclaimer: I don't own any characters here: They belong to either Butch Hartman, or are the property of Hasbro and any other respective owners. No Copy-Right Infringement intended. Have fun reading this one shot. (and if you want to use information from the story, go ahead. Just p.m. me before posting, so I too can read!).
Jack Fenton, husband to Maddie Fenton, father of Jasimine "Jazz" Fenton, and Daniel "Danny" Fenton, was once considered by most of Amity Park to be a bit out of touch with reality. When he and his wife- -pregnant with their daughter- -first moved to the small town, the neighbors welcomed them with open arms. Many of them were glad to see new faces, for they and others were young parents, or grandparents whose family lived out of town.
The first place the Fenton family lived in was a small apartment near the local Mom-and-Pop grocery store, and a short distance from several parks. The building itself was in pretty-good shape for its age, and for the number of occupants it served; in addition, the price of rooms was reasonable. As far as the expectant parents-to-be, the place was perfect. Plus the locals were friendly and gladly shared any advice and were willing to help out when asked. Maddie returned the favor as best as she could while keeping her husband away from modifying their first home, and building a lab in someone else's allotted space.
Sadly, the welcoming committee didn't last forever.
It stood intact for some time, as Jack's ramblings about ghosts could be ignored for a while, but eventually-shortly after young Daniel was born-the remaining few who had endured years of pressure from their friends on avoiding unnecessary social interaction with the Fentons finally gave in, and stopped inviting the Fentons over for meals, going to their place for lunch, or having play-dates between Jasmine and their children. However, the casual conversations from over the fence and between cars stayed until the day Jack Fenton found a real home for them to own and modify as desired.
He'd found a several-story abandoned building three blocks from a factory that had recently closed down, and bought the title to the deed; then, began changing the interior to suit the needs of his proposed labs, with his wife's help. Jack was ecstatic about finally being able to tear down cardboard-and-plywood walls and replace them with sturdier building materials. That first change was necessary, because he had big plans for the attic, and the basement. Maddie stoically helped out, and double-checked the calculations and placement on the new load-bearing support beams. After the switch from cheap, fragile bio-degradable materials to solid, dependable recyclable materials, the major reconstruction of the walls and support beams was finished; and only add-ons to the attic or changes to the basement were necessary. Those would be accomplished in stages, when the financial budget allowed and desire to build or tear down hit.
One look at the multi-story building that Jack had purchased- and before the escrow closed- -Maddie found a condo- -across the street, and visible from the new house- -for them to temporarily call home while Jack and she removed all the possibly rotten or termite infested floors and ceilings so they could live in it without fear of a collapse. While the newly bought build building was being refurbished, the two children were watched by a young married couple whose surname was Foley.
When Naphtali saw the moving truck pull up and noticed the two car seats, he asked his wife if she was okay with them watching two children. She brought the subject up with Maddie after introducing herself and her husband. They couple were warned that the three-year old was rather rambunctious, and the toddler needed watching constantly, but after being told that Maddie's husband wanted some major construction done in the house, Cynthia and Naphtali were all too happy to help out. Naphtali's parents had raised him to help out when and where he could, and he wished for he and his wife to be blessed with children. He loved his wife, in part, because his Cynthia loved baby-sitting her cousins, nephews, nieces, and younger siblings for her parents, aunts, and sisters.
It wasn't long before the house was livable again, and the Foleys were the first neighbors invited inside. While the two men didn't hit it off right away, their wives did, and over the years spent many hours talking and trading recipes-though, somehow, Maddie Fenton's home cooked meals never turned out quite right. The first time the ecto-enhanced hot-dogs wandered off the plates, the food was stunned into submission by Jack and Naphtali, who then ate the meat-Danny took a bit, before refusing more of the hot-dogs, while Tucker, (twelve months younger than Daniel), ate his pieces with relish and began searching for more. Maddie and Cynthia politely declined seconds while Jazz claimed she was full from a banana she ate earlier.
Time passed and things slowly changed. Events around the world impacted the small town of Amity Park little by little. Some of those impacts were huge, others barely made a wave in the lives of many. Most of the bigger changes were created by events from inside. A small decision made a little over twenty years ago made it possible for a huge impact in another state to make headline news.
Near the electronic store in the Amity Park Mall, Danny Fenton and Tucker Foley were sitting at a table in the court-yard of the mall, enjoying the last remaining fries and chocolate shakes. The two boys were talking rapidly about their Spring Break. Tucker spend the entire week with his extended family on his mother's side, and Danny's parents took him and his sister to see mother's sister in Arkansas. Danny's aunt didn't have time for anyone not family, and even then, being welcomed wasn't guaranteed.
When the entertainment/movies playing on the TV screens all changed to show massive building and infrastructure damage in the densely populated town of Mission City, Nevada, the adults took a gander to see where the ghosts had last attacked in force. Some of the teenagers glanced up once before resuming the talks with friends.
Many shoppers at the mall had to look twice before the white title in the red banner beneath the pictures registered. Only then, did the majority of conversations pause as they realized that this wasn't ghost damage of Amity Park, Colorado, but from a different state-one fairly close by, but not one that normally received friendly visits of similar paranormal creatures that thrived and fought in this small town.
Tucker was one of the few who's attention was focused on the screen from the very moment that the picture changed from the weather to this horrific battle-ground. Only once the background noise faded in response to the shock, was his whispered cry of "No, this can't be happening" heard by those at neighboring tables.
Danny glanced between the 'news-breaking' override of the television channels and his friend's waxen look. "Do you need a ride?" he asked.
Tucker shook his head. "Thanks, but no. I've got to tell my mother; she really enjoyed the family-reunion visit to Hoover Dam and the museums in the area. Several of her cousins were staying in Mission City before leaving for their homes." He stood up, unsteadily, but refusing to fall down. "Tell Sam and the family, something came up."
Danny stood up too, ready to grasp Tucker's arm if he teetered too far in any direction. "If you're sure," he trailed off, warned by the look in the green eyes hidden behind the black-rimmed glasses not to finish that sentence or argue.
While Tucker Foley weaved his way through the recovering shoppers and restless family members too young to understand, Danny Fenton turned the other way to talk to his parents while they were still at the Brown Shoe Fit CO, Inc. Behind the two teenage boys, the abandoned remains of food lay unnoticed on the table.
Most of everyone's focus was on the news update continued reporting the gruesome details of the battlefield remnants. One reporter, almost in hysterics, claimed it was the work of unknown terrorists, while another popular theory was a cascade effect caused by exploding drug labs, and yet someone else suggested it was a runaway military experiment caused by absent-minded inventors who's groundbreaking theories had either failed or been rejected. None of the aired theories were given any weight, as the parties most thought involved in this costly alteration could not be reached, or responded with "No Comment"
Ironhide, in his earth alternate form of a shiny black GMC Topkick C4500, followed the government vehicle that held a previously high ranked agent from Sector seven. The relatively slow pace that the driver insisted on keeping, was drawing upon the last tendrils of patience that Ironhide had.
The automated life form from the planet of Cybertron fought the urge to transform into his mech mode and walk down the main road: he'd been in this earth transport form since he left with the military men and government official almost two Earth weeks ago. While Optimus Prime's orders didn't prevent him from roaming around at night, he'd initially chose not to abandon his fellow warriors, thus letting them fend off the leech alone, even if it was just temporary, while while they slept in inadequate, debilitated rooms before resuming the search at daybreak. Now though, he was having to resist the very strong urge to stretch out and relax for a breem.
When he first came to earth, he'd carried no human passengers, and, as most of the traveling either was done at night or on ill populated roads, the lack of a driver wasn't a problem with the humans. Latter, Bumblebee's report to Optimus Prime had impressed upon them the necessity of having a human presence behind the wheel. Ironhide and Ratchet had fought long and hard with Optimus before giving in to the undignified position of carrying organic, living, sentient beings, instead of using their holo-emmiters. The three men he was currently transporting did understand the desire of not becoming a cargo carrier. In light of the need of having to carry an actual human in his cab they helped to make it bearable by acknowledging, to his face and before the other Transformers, that the 'driver' wouldn't be control of the vehicle, nor attempt to actually drive him anywhere. It shouldn't have mattered what the job or duties of his living passengers were, but to him and the other Cybertron survivors, soldiers who had actively fought along side them were preferred cargo to civilians not in the know-they would have been a major pain in the aft.
If Ironhide had to degrade himself, through human laws, to carrying people instead of using the traditional holomatrix, his passengers would be still-healing warriors. Because he now had a living being in the drivers seat, he could use the major roads and highways without having to use sometimes faulty countermeasures that might or might not cause a big enough disturbance to be noted by the locals. If Ratchet wasn't still repairing some of the minor damage inflicted to tertiary systems and back-ups from previous altercations with the Decepticrons throughout the vorns of fighting, and there was no reason to advertise the presence of a transformer in the midst of humans- -especially so soon after the losses at Mission City- -Ironhide would have taken his chances except that Optimus Prime ordered him to play nice with the locals.
Ironhide found most human military officers . . . difficult to understand and humor. Humans themselves were a major change from what he was already used to. Currently, Ironhide's passengers consisted of Captain William Lennox, Sergeant Robert Epps, and ACWO Jorge "Fig" Figuroa: three survivors of the military unit devastated by Blackout's and Scorponok's first attack, and the subsequent fight-for-survival, no-holds-bar battle in Mission City. Them, Ironhide was willing to call friends. No one else-except maybe Bee's human Sam. Or Micaela, who seemed willing to learn what Ratchet was willing to teach her.
As they were approaching the semi-final stop, Ironhide read the sign on the side of the road that said, "Welcome to Amity Park" and claimed it was the "Paranormal Wonder Capitol of the world." Ignoring the sign and the implications, he redirected some of his concentration back to the conversation- -or lack of one- -happening inside his cab.
If he could have rolled his audio sensors, he would have, when Fig broke the silence that had taken hold several miles back. "So, what are we doing here again?"
Captain William Lennox's voice was weary as he answered. "Ex-Agent C. R. Simmons is under orders to contact all support staff, including previously missing, absent, or fired Sector 7 researchers and tell them that their group is officially disbanded. This J.M.F. character was known to be alive when he took off over twenty-years ago, but has remained under the radar. No, I do not know how Simmons has tracked down all the known living members (and their staff), except this one, who had contact with the All Spark, and I don't want to know the technical details either." Lennox anticipated Fig's next question; which wasn't terribly hard as he'd been asking the same questions almost every time they caught up to a previously unknown member of the super-secret group.
Sergeant Robert Epps's frown wasn't visible as he stared unseeingly out the window, but it did affect his tone and sharpness of the constants in his speech. "Somehow I don't think this guy will be like the others."
Fig snorted. "Ya' mean, he won't whine or complain about the sudden cut-off of funds for any special projects he might be running? I'll take that bet."
Robert Epps shook himself and returned his concentration to the activity around him. This wasn't a rehash of previous encounters and talks conducted in the uttermost privacy.
Lennox straightened up from his slouch, twisted around to look in the faces of his friends. "We might be chasing a woman, instead of a man."
Epps felt his mouth drop a centimeter in astonishment. "Nothing in the late Sector Seven's by-laws states that they have to follow the hiring regulations of all other modern companies and government or public buildings. Because Sector 7 was established long before the Woman's Right Movements, Equal Opportunity Acts, and America Disability Acts, and managed to remaining hidden from the entire public review and changes, the fact we've actually met various ancestries and backgrounds or pasts in itself is astonishing. I'm of the opinion this J.M.F. character is a male, like everyone one else we've encountered on this long and boring trip across the states, but doesn't depend on government contracts."
Fig shrugged. "Hey, Ironhide, what do you think?"
Ironhide responded after a pause of picosecond, due to his astonishment at being asked for his opinion. "What I think we'll find, is a lonely man, so involved in his work he's forgotten that the outside world exists at all."
Lennox resumed the relaxed, forward facing position commonly adopted by drivers on long road trips. "Simmons has kept mum on the subject since his bosses sent him on this recovery-of-assets delivery-boy job."
Ahead of the Topkick, the lead government issued car slowed to a stop before pulling into the visitor's center parking lot. "Guess its time we found out more about whom we're seeking."
Lennox jumped out and stretched for a second. Fig struggled to get out of the cab without straining his still-healing knee. Epps took a deep breath and looked at the connected buildings. "How convenient. They've attached the library and news media center to the tourist section."
Ironhide remained behind while the four human members of the group went inside and asked for a map and information like normal visitors. While Roberts and William checked out the biographies of well-known individuals in town, spectacular events caused or started by one man, and the headline news in the unlikely event this J.M.F. failed to keep a low profile, Jorge and Simmons played nice with the people at the help desk and asked questions about the sights and destinations. One of Simmons random questions designed to ease the staff into seeing him as harmless, asked the attendant about the tacky "Fenton Works" neon sign he saw on the way into town.
The two manning the desk traded looks, before the one-who's name tag identified him as Irving Burns-backed off, hands raised. "What can I tell you about the Fenton Works? Nothing, but the family itself? A whole lot. Some unsubstantiated rumors on the Fentons' past, but nothing that can't be confirmed." Meanwhile, his companion retreated to the farthest side of the employee section and avoided all eye contact with the group that came in with Simmons.
"Personally, I'd stay away from Mr. Fenton if I were you." Continued Irving, disliking the fact that he was now alone with the scary man. "Especially once he pulls out his inventions and wants to show you how they work. While his wife may have more restraint when they start talking about their inventions, she's still got more anti-ghost weapons on her person than most families own. She's also a mean shot and a black-belt in at least three Martial Arts. The kids-Jazz and Danny-are much more approachable, but very protective of their parents. While he and his used to be the laughing stock of the town, they've become an acknowledged powerful force in protecting this town from invaders."
Simmons jumped into interrogation mode. "Invasions! You've got confirmed sightings of NBE's? Why was I not told of this?" He was pulled off the poor man by a returning William Lennox and Robert Epps who'd stopped what they were doing when the voices were raised. Jorge Fig stepped between Simmons and his prey. "Calm down, sir. Mr. Burns can't answer questions if you don't pause for breath."
Irving Burns, once free of the overwhelming presence of Agent Simmons, dropped beneath the counter and stammered out; "I was talking about ghost invasions, not NEB whatever!"
Simmons struggled in the grasp of the two military men as he was pulled out of the tourist information center. Jorge stayed behind, and talked with Irving, trying to reassure the poor guy enough so that he'd come out of hiding. "I thought ghosts were just stories told to kids; either to entertain, or to scare them into submission."
Irving's head peaked up once the bell above the door rang, signaling the exit of a person or group of people. "So did most most of the locals. The only ones who did believe in ghosts and the idea that they were more than just myths were Jack and Maddie Fenton. That was two or three years ago, before all strange sorts of anomalies began. For the longest time, conspiracy theories as the to the cause of the damages and missing merchandise ran rampant until Lance Thunder and the news crew got live footage of the ghostly skeletal army of an invading king who claimed to rule the Ghost Realm. I thought that was faked until I noticed that the sky had changed from its reassuring blue sky and white clouds to a very oppressive black and dark green background that swirled nauseatingly.
"It didn't help that all access in and out of town was cut off by a solid barrier that glowed and sparked-some of the buildings cut by the weird shield still have damage from the attack, and that wasn't even the first time something paranormal happened!
"Shortly before that episode, an anonymous donor offered a bounty of one million dollars for Public Ghost Enemy Number One-the infamous Inviso-Bill, or Danny Phantom as it claims to be, who'd earlier in the year kidnapped the Mayor. Jack and Maddie rescued the man, but the shock of being held prisoner caused him to forget the entire thing." Irving finally clamored back to his feet, and stopped peering around the edges of the merchandise, as if afraid of a hidden adversary.
Meanwhile, outside, Simmons had calmed down enough that the men felt safe enough to release him. Robert clear his throat. "Did you find anything that might lead us to J.M.F.?"
Simmons ground out "No." He turned to go back inside, but Lennox and Epps reached out to grab his arms once again. Seeing this, Simmons spun on his heel and paced behind the parked vehicles. "The volunteer worker had no useful information. What were you able to find?"
Lennox sighed. "We were able to find nothing that indicated a J.M.F. ever made the news- -no obituaries, no headlines, and no patents filed either."
Ironhide snorted from his position on the asphalt. "I could have told you that. Once I got close enough to scan the electronic records, I searched everything I could, and found nothing pertaining to a J.M.F. It is as if the guy never existed in the Amity Park Records. In all probability, he has changed his name in an effort to hide his past." His voice took on a sneering tone as he addressed Simmons directly. "When will you be willing to admit that you admit that you were wrong?"
Simmons shook his head. "Can't be. The trace amounts of radiation that permeated the entire Hoover Dam underground bunker infused themselves into the DNA of every worker who spent significant time working on the project. The scanners insist that one such person has taken refuge in this town, and did so shortly after leaving the project without permission. However, I can't pinpoint it beyond generalities, since the specific radiation wavelength of the extra-terrestrial object is being disrupted by locally occurring hot-spots of other items of interest. Or at least, they would be, if we could pinpoint the cause of the disruption fields."
Lennox and Epps traded a worried glance. "Radiation?"
Simmons waved off their concerns. "Relax, its just beyond the visible-light spectrum, and the levels emitted by the object of study were way too low to cause any lasting effects, even if one spent the entirety of their life right on top of the object that the robots hold in high regard."
Ironhide revved his engine in anger, but held his peace otherwise. This was a public place, and every move would be scrutinized. In an effort to keep himself from responding to the intentional insult with force, Ironhide busied himself by trying to decipher the conversation between Fig and Burns. Some of the more popular ghost stories were easy enough to find on-line, but the so-called life footage of the event that took over the entire town was a bit harder to find. There were several references to a ghost invasion about the same time that Inviso-Bill became a threat to the public. The newspaper reporter who wrote the article thought, and stated out right, that the lack of subtle differences in photographs and descriptions made him think that the entire event was a hoax by the Board of Directors in an effort to gain public popularity, and needed funds from the state government, but he'd report the facts as he heard them because it was in the public's right to know.
Jack Fenton was uncharacteristically silent when he saw the news feed on the devastation in Mission City. Maddie only asked where Tucker went, after Jazz and Sam were rounded up and arrived at the RV. She clicked her tongue, but didn't say anything when Danny told her that his best friend had headed out immediately to find his mother.
Once at home, Jack Fenton, instead of taking the sacks of items he bought before going to buy new shoes to the lab, dropped the purchases next to the sofa and sat heavily in his chair. The children took the sofa, and his wife sat on the love seat next to her husband. No one spoke for several long minutes, then finally Samantha 'Sam' Manson broke the burdensome silence. "Who do you know in Mission City?"
Maddie shook her head, and spoke in a low tone. "No one. Your father and I," here, she smiled at Sam, acknowledging the gothic girl as her own daughter "feared that something like this would happen."
Jazz wrinkled her forehead in thought. "Being attacked on our own soil? It's happened before. World Trade Center, Twin Towers, Pearl Harbor," she trailed off, almost frightened by the angry look her father was giving to an unseen figure in his past.
Jack, when he managed to gather his thoughts into words that his children and their friends would understand, continued the explanation his wife could not. "Shortly after Vlad's accident with the mini ghost portal, but before we got married, Maddie and I were hired by a top secret government agency, to study some undisclosed item. Our lab explosion left some very interesting residue that closely resembled their object's energy- -which they'd held and protected and studied since the early twentieth century. We never did get the full back-ground on the item, only that it was found by Archibald Witwicky in 1897, and could very well change the way we viewed the world."
While Jack paused for breath, Maddie continued the revelation. "I always felt ostracized in that place, and the constant feeling of being scrutinized by the mechanical being who was artificially kept in a frozen state did nothing for my nerves. Then we learned that the attitude held by a Mr. Cowell R. S. was the accepted view point, and anyone who disagreed with them was pressured to leave; despite the fact he and his group of like-minded thinkers were in the minority."
Jack resumed his narration. "Outside of work, Cowell was an okay guy, but he didn't have much of a personal life and every spare minute was spent trying to decipher the secrets held by the object. Six other men were in charge of different operations, groups, studies, official cover-stories and public oversights. Those seven men oversaw everything and anything that had the slightest link to the NBE. Only they knew exactly what was going on. All the workers were compartmentalized, and the results of those research groups and studies were held in the highest levels of secrecy possible." He took a deep breath, and released it quickly. "What they were trying to do was capture and detain any and all beings who came after the object. We warned those who would listen to diversify the work teams. After a while, a fresh pair of eyes would increase productivity, and keep us all on our toes, was the angle we used. One of my and Mad's main concerns was the safety of everyone and everything- -not just those hidden underground and separated from society. We insisted that keeping the metal giant too close to what it searched for was a disaster waiting to happen."
Maddie sighed. "After getting nowhere with the leaders, the bosses, and those who paid the bills, Jack and I took off and left. All our notes were destroyed, and we dismantled and scattered the equipment was thought the various levels and other labs. Any various tools or hand-held equipment we found laying around was added to the mess we left behind. Our findings scared us, and made us fear for the future of this world."
Danny asked a question that had been nagging him. "So, you weren't hired to study a ghost or something?"
Jack and Maddie traded a look. A very brief smile broke through the frown on his face and the despair that had threatened to take over his entire being. "No. That's what we thought NBE referenced. Instead, it stands for something else- -what we weren't cleared to know and what we aren't telling you, is that the classification of NBE is shorthand for a Non-Biological Entity. We didn't want leave it there, but after seeing the fate of those mutated from any technology, neither could we release it. So, to our regret, we did nothing. Now, it appears something went wrong and hundreds have paid for our mistake."
Jasmine stood up and hugged first her father, then her mother. Holding the hands of both, she looked in their eyes-making them acknowledge her. "If the damage to Mission City is what happened after someone else released this NBE," Jazz grimaced in distaste " then this mechanical being either holds no regard for humans, or it lashed out on those it deemed responsible for its imprisonment. Now, if things had gone differently, what would the casualties have run to if he had been freed before being taken down before you got married? I am normally the last one to acknowledge this, but our technology and weapons have become more precise and powerful over the last twenty-odd years. If it has absolutely no respect for the human race, what could have stopped it from accomplishing grabbing its prize and destroying the entire world, or enslaving it in retaliation? Nothing, and based on what you two have deduced from the limited coverage of Mission city, it was better that the NBE" again, Jazz stuck out her tongue hating that there was nothing better or kinder to label the creature, "stayed in cryogenic containment. No, you two did the right thing in keeping the secret and avoiding the situation."
Danny only had time to say, "What she said" when the telephone rang. Sam, seizing the opportunity, jumped up and grabbed the land line phone. "Hey, Tuck" she said, after looking at the caller ID. "Did you get in contact with your mom." Her plastered smile became real as she listened to what Tucker had to say. "Really, no one in your extended family died? They had already left? That's great news! By the way, the Fentons have a more intriguing past than we imagined."
Sam laughed, but before she could continue, the phone was tugged out of her hands by Jack Fenton. "Tucker, you know I consider you part of the family. Always have, always will, so invite your parents over here, and we'll tell you guys something that should have been said a long time ago. Secrecy be damned!"
Danny smiled. "So, is this a legal formal adoption, or just an acknowledgment that our friends are family?" He teased his father.
Jack shrugged and released a belly-full of laughter; the deeply hidden past once again buried and pushed out of mind, temporarily. "I always wanted a full house of kids, and considering you spend a lot of your free time with Sam and Tucker, they might as well be our biological kids, so," he turned to Sam. "Welcome to the Fenton family, kid"
Once again on the road, Ironhide's passengers sat in silence. Silence that was broken by the Transfomer. "Jack and Maddie Fenton," Ironhide mused loud enough for William Lennox, Robert Epps, and Jorge Fig to hear. "The initials fit. Could they be the object of Simmon's search?"
Lennox dropped his head on the steering wheel. "I thought you said you hacked into the government database."
Ironhide's powerful engine rumbled. "I could only access the public servers in electronic reach. If they have a hidden past, it is still hidden from all forms of hacking. A lot of the history of small towns is still stored in paper format, and isn't always uploaded onto computers. There is no specific information that announces the arrival of the Fentons, just references that they've been here for many local seasons- -certainly their son grew up here, as records state he was born October 14th, fifteen years ago in the emergency room of the building labeled "North Mercy Hospital"- -but there was no birth record of their daughter."
Epps blinked. "Children? How'd you gather that information?"
Jorge Fig hung his head. "You listened in on what Irving Burns said, didn't you?" Not waiting for a response from the truck, the skinny white man turned to his companions. "Apparently we forgot that Ironhide's hearing is much more sensitive than ours, and he can multi-task better than any of us."
Lennox pulled his head off the dashboard to keep an unnecessary eye on the lead car. "So, who'd be easiest to approach? The father himself, his wife, who is almost certainly involved, or their children?"
Epps shrugged. "We could always drive by the school tomorrow, and request an audience. Or we could let Simmons drive around aimlessly." His grin told his two human companions which option he preferred.
Ironhide, still not familiar with human facial expressions and emotions stated, "That would be rather pointless, and I would like to finish this errand quickly."
Lennox, technically in charge of this mission as no one higher up in the chain of command officially recognized or knew of the presence of Ironhide and his companions, found a compromise he thought could work. "Or we could just ask the principle if we can talk to Danny and ask him a few questions. With his parent's approval of course. No one really looks twice at any of the armed branches wanting to recruit their children. Spend an hour or so during the day at the local high-school, and sign people up."
Epps snorted. "Did you loose some brain-cells with that motorcycle stunt you pulled? Or did you forget that we are on medical leave and supposed to have time to spend with our wives and kids; not sharing why we thought becoming a member of the Military- -regardless if they chose active duty, Reserve, or National Guard- - would be a good career move and life enhancing choice."
Jorge Fig shrugged and leaned against the side window. Being sent to the back, meant he had a whole row of seats to prop up his feet, and a chance to rest his twisted knee. "I wonder if my cousin Cynthia would be willing to cook a home-cooked meal" he mused, then pondered the question seriously.
Ironhide responded in a flat voice. "What?"
"Could you check to see if Cynthia Foley still owns property here?"
There was a pause as Ironhide accessed the requested information. William Lennox and Robert Epps opened their mouths to speak, but closed them at Jorge Figuroa's raised hand. "Yes. Cynthia Carver nee Foley and Naphtali Foley co-own property in Amity Park, at 852 N. Prospect Avenue. I've also accessed the telephone number. Do you need it?"
Fig smiled. "No, but thanks. I've already got it." He pulled out his cellphone and scrolled through the phone book, searching for a particular number. Once he found it, he hit the dial button and waited impatiently for someone to pick up. "Hello, You've reached the Foley Residence. We're not here right now, so leave a message after the beep, and we'll call you as soon as possible. Thank you and have a wonderful day." A female's voice rang clearly once the answering machine kicked in with the recording. Fig frowned and cut the connection without doing as requested. "They aren't home. I'll try calling again later."
Ironhide sighed and continued following Simmons, who seemed to have no particular destination in mind. The humans thought that Simmons was searching for the illusive trace radiation markers he claimed J. M. F. was still releasing. Fully perturbed with the aimless driving around, and his decision already made, Ironhide stopped escorting the other vehicle and turned towards at a Marriott hotel, where, earlier while browsing town statistics and information that was available on-line, he'd found a manager who was willing to give military men a reasonable discount. He pulled up to the drop-off point and flung open the doors on his passenger side but kept the driver's door locked, much to the captain's dismay. "Go, find a room, and come up with a workable plan of attack. I need to stretch my legs." Not wanting to stay inside the irritated alien transformer, Robert and Jorge grabbed their baggage and jumped out as quickly as they could. William stared at the backs of his retreating men. "Traitor's" he mumbled, trying not to irk Ironhide, but also understanding that most people would freak if they saw the truck drive off on his own, or someone wink into existence.
Once the Topkick pulled into the back, Lennox got out and pulled out his bag of necessities and fresh clothing. "Have fun, Ironhide," he said fondly, while patting the hood of the truck. He turned and ignored the sound of the engine fading in the distance, walking towards the entry and registration room to join his friends.
Ironhide felt the tension slowly drain away. After speeding off- -using a holo-transmitter that, while not at one-hundred percent reliability, kept unwanted attention away- -he'd searched for the nearest empty park and released the couplings that kept his truck-form intact. While the outskirts of town might have been a more logical choice, this place, being inside the limits of Amity Park, would decrease the time needed to respond and show up to any of Simmon's or his military passenger's calls.
The sun was starting to set in the west and traffic was fairly light, almost nonexistent in places. Ironhide stood up from the sprawl he'd lain in for four breems, and scanned his surroundings. He'd done one before he'd slowly collapsed, but that was just to make sure he had privacy. This second scan was to see if any recording or sight-enhancing devices were focused in the park. Again, there was nothing. He was careful to not dislodge any branches that protruded from the trunks as he stood up and peered over the tops of the trees. There was a near-by three-story building with an unusual top level was different from the human norm he'd observed and cataloged so far, but the deeper scan of the interior showed the eight living beings to be perfectly normal humans. While the entire composition of the building was made of Earth metals and organic matter, the layout was oddly familiar. Something about it reminded Ironhide of a memory he couldn't quite grasp.
The Transformer took another look up at the sky, checked the local time, and sank beneath the canopy level of the trees. He wasn't ready or willing to go back to being a pack-animal for Simmon's convenience, or government 'need'. That would come after Jorge was able to get in touch with this female cousin.
Farther in the park, further past the layer of trees and blooming underbrush, Ironhide found a convenient landing that opened up to the sky, and some rocks that were currently facing the mid-day sun and would be for the rest of the day, if the angle of the shadows was calculated correctly. Sighing deeply, Ironhide sat down on the rocks and allowed himself to slip into a state similar to recharge: taking in the energy from the sun and converting it into energon was a long but necessary task.
Perhaps half a joor later, just as the first rays of the sun were beginning to sink behind the faint mountain range twenty-four miles away, his internal commlink rang. Optics reluctantly opened, as the call was received. "Were you able to get ahold of your cousin, Fig?" he asked, automatically knowing who was on the other end-only his human friends had his number.
Fig nodded, though the action was unseen on this end. "Sure did. I hate to bother you, but we need a ride."
Ironhide interrupted before Fig could list the multitude of reasons Fig had rehearsed. "I'll pick you up where I dropped off the Captain." He hung up before Fig or any of the others could respond.
About seven minutes later, the black Topkick was pulling out of the Marriott parking lot. Lennox once seated, stated "Simmons has been trying to get a hold of you. Says he misses the help."
Fig grinned. "Yeah, can't imagine why the only civilian assigned to this project is so gung-ho upset about our allies taking off without a note or anything."
Robert joined in on the teasing. "Can't say I argue with the guy. After all, he's just so much fun to be around."
Ironhide didn't respond: partially because he didn't understand the joke, but also because there was nothing to be said.
The location of their destination was somewhat surprising. 852 Prospect was located less than a block away from the intriguing building. Out of curiosity, he scanned for the previous inhabitants, and found only four. Hmm, wonder where the two adults and second-frame organics went. Just to make sure there was no ambush for his fragile friends, he scanned the condo. Oh, so this is where three of them ended up. What happened to the femme youngling? Despite how safe this place appears to be, I'm not taking any chances, Ironhide thought, before spreading his awareness around the complex and surrounding area. This was no place to relax, though the multiple acre sized park was rather inviting. He had his duty, and that was to protect his assigned liaisons, chosen companions, friends and battle buddies. He'd found the easiest way to do that was to offline all the enemies, but where there was no visible Deceptricrons, it wasn't in his best interest to blow things up, or leave holes that announced his presence-current or past.
Ringing the doorbell to the Foley home, Jorge Fig, Robert Epps, and Will Lennox were fully aware that Ironhide could and probably was going to keep an eye and ear on them. They ignored it, knowing that no one suspected that the truck was more than a mass-produced, high-powered, heavy-duty vehicle. The door was opened by a beautiful African American. Two handsome male specimens were right behind her. Greeted by the three family members, Jorge Fig hugged Cynthia and kissed her cheeks. "Good to see you, coz."
Cynthia Foley slapped Jorge on the back. "I see time overseas hasn't harmed the rascal side of you one bit." She stepped out of his embrace and motioned to the man beside her, "This is my husband Naphtali" and to the teenager wearing a red beret, "and our son Tucker."
Tucker nodded politely at the three men before peering through his glasses at the truck parked alongside the sidewalk. Naphtali shook hands, then glared at Fig.
Jorge laughed and introduced his companions. "Cy, these are my friends. Captain William Lennox, and Sergeant Robert Epps."
"Nice to meet you all," said Cythina before stepping aside and letting them in. Naphtali led the way to the kitchen table. As they were pulling out chairs, she addressed her cousin. "While I'm glad you decided to spend some leave time here, why didn't you tell us you were coming over?"
Jorge Fig shrugged. "This was actually a spur of the moment decision."
Cythinia Foley nodded, accepting the explanation. "It still would have been nice to hear from you after the communications blackout was lifted, coz."
The war-torn survivors paused in the midst of sitting down and didn't speak.
Naphtali sighed. Oh, not a drill or malfunction. Guess we should have realized once the signal was interrupted. He started to ask something, then changed his mind.
Tucker didn't act like he'd picked up on the tension based on the amount of food he was piling on his plate.
Searching for a distraction, Robert looked around, and stared at the food on the counter tops. "Um, not to be rude or anything, but were you expecting company?"
Cynthia, waved her hands, motioning towards the refrigerator. "That's just some of the leftovers from the Foley and Robinson family reunion held over Easter Vacation that was thrust on us as we left for home. I had put some of the food in the oven, shortly before our neighbors invited us over. We were intending to eat a lot of it tonight and use the rest in rather large picnic tomorrow with our friends and neighbors after Tucker gets out of classes, but that may not work out." She smiled and ruffled her son's hair. "Go ahead and eat. No need to let good food to go to waste."
Jorge and the others relaxed enough to served themselves. He noticed with some amusement that Tucker had managed to avoid placing any vegetables or fruits on his plate. "Still going strong on the carnivorous diet?"
Tucker nodded, and chomped down on his selection.
Will watched with horror as he saw the young man pack away nearly six pounds of meat. "So, how are you and Jorge related?"
Tucker bit into another drumstick and pointed to his mother. Cynthia sighed. "Son, that's not how we answer questions."
The African American teenager swallowed. "I didn't want to talk with food in my mouth. Danny says its gross and Sam told me she'd post a picture she took of me while on stake-out if I didn't stop the disgusting habit." He shuddered. "Man, once on her bad side is bad enough. There's no way I'd risk Sam getting mad at me again."
Jorge was smiling through the whole ordeal. His grin was not encouraging to his commanding officers. Will gestured for Tucker to stop avoiding the subject.
Tucker put down his unfinished piece of chicken. "My mom's eldest sister married a man named George Figuroa, who is either Jorge's uncle or grandfather, not sure which." His brow puckered as he thought about a few of the other relatives he met just last week. He wasn't entirely sure how everyone was connected.
Will nodded. "So, not blood cousins, but cousins-in-law."
Naphtali shrugged. "You could put it that way, but most of us use cousin even if were not really related." The butter and apple cider was passed around the table. "I'll admit our family tree is kind of funky, and it makes for hectic holidays, but none of us would trade it for the world." He slowly chewed a slice of Banana Cream flavored Amish Bread- -hot from the oven- -and named some more family members. "For instance, my father had several children, and one niece married Nathanial Lee and makes sure everyone in her contact list knows of her only son's achievements." Naphtali and Cynthia smiled as they thought of the stories they'd read. "I've always looked forward to the current Christmas photos and letters, and I know other people eagerly anticipate our calls."
"So, how long until your unit is deployed back overseas?"
Tucker's question raised Robert's hackles, but his tone remained civil. "Not sure. Depends if the unit is combined with another one, or if our losses are filled in with new recruits."
Tucker's head popped up. "So, it was a surprise attack." His brown eyes examined the guests. "Who died in the first volley, and how many chose to be the rear guard to give the others time to escape?"
Naphtali cleared his throat, and Tucker stopped asking questions on the still-tender subject.
The table-talk was jumpy and hesitant as the three visitors tried to enjoy the comfort and warmth given off by their hosts, but were unable to settle on a safe topic. Still, the stifled conversation wasn't dominated by uneasy silence, but rather wonderment and confusion after Robert and the others began asking questions about the family reunion to head off questions from Tucker. It didn't take much effort, as the parents were willing to talk about their extended family.
What the military guests found out was: a niece named Nichelle had a sister-in-law who went by Uhura, and a third-cousin once removed was married to Thomas Lee who's eldest daughter was being courted by an Alexander Robinson. By the time Naphtali and Cynthia finally wound down on the family tree, the heads of Will and Robert were spinning from information overload. They could tell that even Jorge wasn't following how everyone was related to everyone else-though it didn't matter because apparently Cynthia could and would make friends with anybody, and she was able to make even complete strangers feel like family.
Once everyone had eaten their fill, Tucker leaned back in his chair, balancing on the two back legs. "What type of truck is your ride?"
Will saw no harm in answering that question. "A GMC Topkick."
A nodd. "Where'd you get it?"
A pause. "The Government"
At his father's stern look, Tucker sat back on the four legs. "Cool. What do you like most about it?"
"The excellent shock absorbers and comfortable seats." He frowned, wondering how deep this kid was going to dig.
Apparently that was it, as Tucker asked nothing else of the three men. Once the dishes were cleared from the table and the food put away, he asked to be excused.
Sometime after the sun had completely set, Jorge bid a reluctant 'goodnight' as the three men walked out to the truck.
"Well, that was interesting," stated Robert, helping Jorge to get in the back . "Really interesting."
Jorge shrugged as he clamored into the cab. "Last time I spent any major time with Cynthia's huge family, Tuck was maybe five years old, and had no interest in the adults talking to other people. Watching the kids run through the punch was probably the highlight of that entire visit."
Will, walking in front of Ironhide, stopped before settling into the driver's seat. "Running through the punch?"
Jorge shuddered. "Don't ask."
Robert reclined his seat. "What I noticed is that Tucker is more perceptive than he lets on. His only inquires were about what happened to the men overseas and the truck." He closed his eyes. "He didn't seem too upset that we interrupted him every time, but allowed his parents to finish their questions."
Ironhide took off before Will had a chance to buckle his seat. "What's the rush, Ironhide?"
The Weapons Specialist took the roads at a faster than advertised rate. "Simmons" he spat, "was coming too close for comfort. Does that obsessed individual every give up or even pause in his quest if it doesn't involve massive force?"
"No idea. Probably not, as he's a bit more focused than a typical absent-minded professor or insane individual."
Ironhide grunted. He slid into an empty parking space at the back of the hotel and threw open the cab doors. "Good night." He spoke those two words softly as the men left to reach their rooms.
A crowing rooster right on top of the roof of Simmon's car woke him from a restless sleep. "Stupid bird," he snarled after slamming his head on the seat in front of him. The startled rooster flapped its wings and ran down the hood, leaving a white mess behind him. The middle-aged man groaned. Trying to use the back-row seats of any vehicle as a bed was always his last resort, and only attempted after he found himself nodding off while driving.
Simmons blearily looked at the visibly lighter sky to the east and reluctantly slid outside the car before kicking the tires. "I hate this enforced retirement." Noticing that it was now light enough to read the street signs, Simmons opened the front passenger door and dug through the pile of papers that had slowly accumulated through this trip. His hands picked up one of the latest pamphlets and brought it to eye level, so he could view the restaurant-and-grocery store recommendations.
The ex-sector 7 agent glanced at his watch. "The only dinner open currently is Denny's." He reached down to pick up his cell-phone from the floor where it had fallen during the night and punched in the redial button with much greater force than necessary. "Terrific, the voice mail again."
Standing upright and stretching his back, Simmons walked around the vehicle. Slipping back into the rather uncomfortable seat, Simmons readjusted the mirrors before pulling out of the parking lot. Once on the main-roads, all he had to do was follow the signs to find Denny's.
Once seated in a good sized booth in the 'open 24 hours' restaurant, his first request was coffee, black. Sipping the bitter hot liquid, Simmons savored the taste. He'd give his armed escort half an hour before calling again. Last night was quite a change from the procedure that they'd taken for the previous seven or eight missing employees. Instead of taking only fifteen minutes to find the individual in question, after arriving in the town where they took up living, he'd been up most of the night trying to pinpoint this current target. All for naught, it appeared, because he had turned up nothing. Perhaps today's search would allow the sensitive equipment to finally latch onto the very faded and broken trail. That, or after a few more hours of research, the concentrated dots of positive sightings would make sense and he could ambush this old fiend.
An order of pancakes, hash-browns, and a three-egg omelet was placed in front of Simmons as he mentally pondered where to start today. He dug into the food with gusto.
Just as Simmons was getting ready to call Captain Lennox again, the man walked inside and wordlessly slid into the booth. ACWO Fig followed him. Sergeant Epps, instead of sitting next to Simmons, grabbed a chair from a neighboring table and sat at the edge. "Good morning gentlemen. How did you sleep last night?"
ACWO Fig snorted from his seat. "Better than you." He took one glance at the wrinkled suit and sighed. "Did you take a break at all before coming here?"
Simmons finished his cup. "Did you eat breakfast?" He pushed away the plate that held only remains of syrup while motioning towards the menu.
Captain Lennox picked up the menu, glanced at the items offered, and put it back down. "I'm good. How are you two?"
Sergeant Epps didn't touch the menu before shaking his head. "Still full from last night's dinner. Jorge?"
Fig, ignoring his friends' query's, talked directly to Simmons. "Did you find what you were looking for?"
Simmons growled and waved away the offer of a refill from the waitress. "No. Just trace remains of the signal. Not enough to positively identify any one person. Popular stops and shops, but not his home or work station." He rubbed his eyes, just as tired of this absurd hunt as the military group. "Got any ideas on how we can claim we finished this ridiculous quest?"
By the slow blink of his companions eyes, this question from him was unexpected. Lennox leaned back in the firm padding. "We've got a lead we can check out later this morning." Epps rested his chin on his clasped hands. "Do you have a name to go with J.M.F.?"
Simmons placed a few bills on the edge of the counter and stood up. He closed his eyes, trying to recall something from over twenty-years ago. "If I ever knew it, I can't recall his name or face. Why?"
Epps shrugged as he and the others also stood up. "No reason. With your permission, we'd like to check out the local high school and talk with the kids."
Simmons waved the men ahead of him. "Go ahead." he said, then mumbled, "Maybe we'll get somewhere, however unlikely it is."
The black Topkick glared at Simmons as he drove off in his government assigned vehicle. "I don't like where this is going."
Will kicked the floorboards. "Knock it off Ironhide. Simmon's has more ridding on this than we do. We" he pointed to his friends and the front of the truck as he said 'we' "could be ordered by our higher-ups to take off and just leave, but he doesn't have anyone wanting to hire him, or another job offer. Just some very angry bosses who want to drag him through the mud. Sometimes orders stink to high-heaven."
Ironhide overtook the smaller car and slipped into the lead. Keeping to a reasonable speed, the Cybertron led the way to the Marriott hotel and pulled to the side of the road. "One major flaw in the 'sign kids up' plan is that you don't have any informational packets or business cards."
Robert smiled. "You forgot to mention we're not in uniform either."
Ironhide kept the engine running for a few more minutes. Eventually the sleep deprived Simmons would get the hint. When the engine shut off, Robert spoke up. "So, why did we stop here?"
Ironhide blew warm air through his vents. "This is the closest to actively helping our guard-dog I will get."
Lennox thought he understood. "So, no obvious signs of sympathy." Slipping out of the driver's seat, he walked down the sidewalk and tapped on Simmon's window. The two spoke for a moment or two, then Lennox slipped a key card to Simmons and walked back to Ironhide. While Lennox got back in the cab, Simmons was approaching the hotel with a faked casual walk that he kept until he entered the rented room and collapsed on a bed.
Jorge Fig watched as Simmons stepped into the elevator. "Think he'll request a pull-out sofa?"
Robert shook his head. "Doesn't matter. We did request a four-person room in the first-place." The men quickly looked at the digital clock. "With Kinkos open we could print some pamphlets."
"Willing to drive us around town while we do errands, Ironhide?"
The alien posing as a truck replied "yes". The group of four spent the next hour or so making the material. Why Robert Epps had a flash-drive with basic information, copied from past brochures, on the seven military branches Lennox didn't ask, but it helped in making this look legitimate. That, and the business cards that Jorge Fig was able to churn out- -only three contact names and phone numbers, as there were only three individuals who were representing the Army and Air-Force this particular week day- -were necessary for their unplanned arrival and official visit.
Once they were done with that, the next stop-after taking time to change into their uniforms-was the local High School.
During the wait between the men waking up and him pulling into the parking lot of the public school, Ironhide had uploaded the latest map of the city and compared it with his scans of the town he had driven through. The only thing that didn't match perfectly was the exact distances between streets. There was something else he found that wasn't covered by the maps- -Ironhide thought he detected bomb damage that had been paved over. Something had impacted the streets and caused minor potholes that had been covered up, and there were a few- -currently two- -deep pockets in the road that had used higher density soils to fill them that didn't correlate to the surrounding land. It could have been sensor glitches, as he wasn't a scout, but he really doubted it. This small town had more mysteries than most other places he'd been in the course of his very long life.
Epps looked at the name of the school as he entered it. "Casper High? Was the movie named after the school, or the school after the movie?" He kept an eye on the lookout for an sign with an arrow pointing the direction to the principle's office.
Walking right by his side, Lennox simulated a huff. "Let's hope its not an omen or a sign." The layout of this two-story brick building was a bit different from the elementary school his kids attended.
Jorge, hiding an almost invisible limp, was on Epps' other side. "Could be a coincidence." His eyes took in every detail of the hallways that they passed. Names on doors and numbers on lockers, were dismissed as trivial information. Burn marks on the walls were scrutinized, as were the dents he could see. "Does this place remind you of a battlefield?"
A strong baritone voice from behind them almost caused them to jump in shock. "Yes, but not the kind you're thinking of." They turned as one to see who managed sneaked up on them.
A beer-gut belly bald man with black sideburns and a goatee took in their appearance and the box of military leaflets carried by the middle-man. He continued speaking once he was sure the visitors were paying attention to him and not just their surroundings. "We get fights here much too frequently for comfort. Phantom appears quite often to protect the students or force the vicious ghosts outside where there is more room to maneuver." He indicated one large dent in the wall beside him. "Most of the bumps come from Phantom impacting the structure, while the blast marks are typically from the hand-weapons the undesirable ghosts use."
Lennox surveyed the superficial damage before directing his attention to the middle-aged individual in front of them. "Could you direct us to the Principle's office? I know its standard procedure to contact schools some time before arrival, but somehow our notice didn't arrive in time. We can make due with whatever is currently available."
The man examined the three adults. "I'm the Vice-Principle of this school. I can get you supplied with anything you might need." He stepped forward walking between Lennox and Epps as they stepped aside, then led the men down the hall to a storage closet. "Would you prefer a table or an empty room?"
Lennox didn't hesitate. "A table. No use in using a room if no one knows where to go."
The V.P. nodded as he unlocked a double-door. "Did you want to set up outside, or in the cafeteria?"
Lennox, as captain, was in charge of this operation. "Outside at first, then move into the cafeteria around lunchtime, and various spots in the hallways between classes, if that's acceptable."
A note was made on a request form hanging from a battered clipboard on the wall "Anything else, gentlemen?"
Lennox hesitated one second. "What areas of this school are off limits?"
A black eyebrow edged upwards. "No one goes down to the basements. Otherwise, feel free to set-up at the main entrance, hallway corridors, or near the staircases if you desire. I would also advise against using the gym lockers" He was getting no hints as to what was going on in the minds of the men standing in front of his desk. "My name is Mr. Lancer, and welcome to Casper High. Hope you enjoy the stay." He shook hands with Cpt. Lennox and the others before pointing out where a cart was located, then left them alone in the storage room where tables of various lengths and chairs were stacked; waiting to be pulled out and used for various actives and events.
With Mr. Lancer gone, the men traded glances, then finished their study of the surface damage. Will Lennox spoke first. "There's no bullet holes. I also don't see any gouges that could come from knives."
Robert Epps nodded. "I don't see any blood stains, or other discoloration's caused by bleach or a cover-up paint job." He maneuvered the trolly to a place where they could easily reach as they grabbed the larger items.
Jorge Fig's shoulders slumped. "If the teachers and tour guides believe in ghosts, that means something really abnormal is going on." He picked up the box Lennox had placed at his feet and followed along as the other two began transporting the table and several chairs down the hallway. "I'm starting to wish that I didn't volunteer to come on this assignment." His knee twinged. "Even if the alternative was two months in a cast, thanks to a broken femur, and another month of recovery."
Shortly after passing Jazz Fenton in her chosen surveyer's spot, Tucker Foley elbowed Danny Fenton in the stomach. He spied and nodded towards a particular familiar vehicle in the visitor's parking. "There's the truck from last night."
Samantha Manson, from Danny's other side, took one look at the huge monstrosity and snorted. "'Government issued', indeed. Even 'Deep Space Telemetry' is more believable that that flimsy excuse."
They didn't stop walking until they stood eight feet from the steps leading to the main entrance. Danny slipped back slightly, allowing his friends to slid together. "When was the last military appearance for Casper High scheduled?"
Tucker put his hands on a precious PDA and accessed the school calendar application. "There's one scheduled all day today, but it's been retroactively added. I know it wasn't here yesterday."
Sam muttered, "That's ominous." She tensed slightly, waiting to hear from their hidden friend.
Tucker's brown eyes scanned the faces and he slowly relaxed his guard. "Chill guys. They were at my place last night. Mother approved, and the one currently sitting is one of my cousins in the military."
Danny raised a black eyebrow, but didn't resume walking forward. Behind the group of three, familiar laughter caused the three teenagers to break their formation apart, to create holes that would let the faster walking popular kids and their entourage have room to climb up the stairs.
Dash Baxter, current football star, stared at the table as he passed, then halted. He looked at the uniforms. "Where do I sign up?"
Star and Pauline gasped. Kwan didn't. He turned and looked at the very talented athlete, then at the men behind the table and the information scattered on it. "Are you sure, Dash?"
The blond jock nodded once. "My parents won't fight me on this decision."
Kwan shrugged. "What's the earliest I can join?" he asked, wanting to support his brother-in-all-but-name.
Seeing that they had an audience, Lennox and Epps addressed the interested boys and talked with them instead of sharing the spiel a lot of recruiters were supposed to use.
From across the street, Jazz Fenton had been watching the group shortly after arriving at 7:30 am. She studied the activity for another moment, then jerked her shoulders. The GIW wouldn't use any sophistication, let alone use faces we can positively identify, and this isn't like the crazed fruit-loops past behavior. Touching a green earring, she announced, "People, I think they might be for real."
Samantha, who was wearing the matching earring, heard Jazz's statement. Danny also made out her words. Tucker, while he couldn't hear what was said by the protective sister, gathered from his best-friends reactions that this wasn't a trap or trick. He resumed walking to class, confident that Danny and Sam would be right behind him.
They made it through homeroom with nothing else standing out. No unwanted ghost appearances, no surprise announcements, and no shocking reminders that month-long projects were due at the end of the week. Same was true for first period, second period and third period. Fourth period had the Box Ghost popping up, but since there were no cardboard boxes or bubble wrap in gym class- -and because this particular ghost showed up weekly without fail- -he was ignored by the students. Miss Tetslaff, noticing the intruder, blew her ever-present whistle and glared daggers at the low-powered ghost.
The Box Ghost gulped, and fled through the nearest wall-which happened to lead to the outside. Once he phased through the wall, a signal installed by the Fentons beeped. Danny winced, but otherwise managed to ignore the high-pitched note that no one else heard.
The Box Ghost hovered over the grass, where he was spied by Maddie as Jack drove the RV down the street and over the curbs. Maddie jumped out of her cockpit seat before the Fenton Assault Vehicle made a complete stop. When Jack slowed to get through the normal sized door, his wife caught the blue ghost with a thermos Phantom had borrowed, then later returned.
The husband and wife team automatically strolled forward together, sweeping the outside grounds before moving inside to double check the entry-ways. Once the signals activated, other ghosts could pass through the same barriers and not be counted as they detected only the first intrusion. As they passed the gym wall, one of the electronic walkie talkies, carried by Maddie, reset the alarm, stopping the warning flashes that appeared on wrist-watches.
One advantage to sweeping the school yards after every automated signal was being able to catch a few of the more annoying ghosts before they could cause havoc in the classrooms. The natural portals that deposited the Box Ghost and others closed after a short time, but were unpredictable in their appearance. Oddly, Phantom rarely showed once the 'trip wire' flashed. Jack and Maddie were two members of a very small group who noticed this discrepancy in Phantom's appearances, and they were of the opinion that Phantom was warned off somehow by the electronic signal. The ones Phantom was still spotted at were the ones where the more dangerous ghosts had already attacked. Thankfully Skulker and Technus limited their assaults to twice a month. The others visited so sporadically, their faces and rumored appearances didn't have the same chaotic effect as the confirmed presence of the Hunter and Technology-stealing one.
This ghost-catching trip had found only the one wandering ghost. He might have been allowed to roam free, as the only place he was a threat was the Post Office, but he would have been setting off alarms all over town until he returned to the ghost zone of his own violation.
Jack noticed the tables set up at strategic locations around the school as he and his wife were checking the hallways. The cafeteria was the last room checked. Movement inside, visible through the glass-like panels on the swinging doors sent the Fentons to the walls. Before barging in and shooting their Bazookas and other weapons that had no harmful effects on humans, Jack pulled out the Ghost Gabber and Ghost Finder, to check their scopes and radar. Both were mercifully silent.
Maddie raised her eyebrows, Jack shook his head. Grips on weapons loosened, and most of the items were reattached to the belts or hidden in pockets. Ready, the two stepped forward together, startling the three men setting up the military station.
Jack took one look at the uniforms and smiled. "I didn't realize today was the military orientation day! Honey, we should have come earlier."
William Lennox berated himself mentally for jumping. A second time in less than five hours had to be a new record. He took in the two arrivals in one glance. The man who spoke was rather heavy-set, had greying black-hair cut in a buzz-crew, and wore an orange jumpsuit. The woman beside him protected her eyes by goggles that hid the color, and wore a hood on her head, minimizing physical features that could be made out. 'Honey' was shorter than the man and she wore a blue-jumpsuit that accented her petite body without hindering her movements in anyway.
"The Truck outside yours?" asked the big man. He didn't wait for an answer. "I was in the army once. Didn't reenlist when my four years were over. Didn't regret my time overseas, but also didn't want to make fighting for a commander-in-chief who could be replaced every four years a career choice, either." He and the woman approached them. "How are you doing today?"
Jorge Fig hobbled towards them. "We've been better. Have enjoyed the trip so far." He met them four feet away. "Where were you stationed overseas?"
Hands were shaken. "Don't recall. My time ended over twenty-five years ago." At honey's soft cough, he blinked rapidly. "Almost forgot. My name's Jack and this is my wife Madeline." Next to the military table Jorge spied a bench along the wall and sat down.
Blue-jumpsuit woman pulled the goggles down and lowered the hood, revealing short-red hair and purple eyes. "I prefer Maddie from my friends." She cocked her head, letting her eyes pass over the materials. "Ran low, or didn't plan to stop here?"
Robert Ebbs crossed his arms. "We weren't expecting to spend terribly much time here, but have found the town rumors interesting."
Jack barked. "Ghosts are more than rumors and children's stories in this town." His wife smiled, allowing her vocal husband to continue talking. "They don't make headline news anymore, but everyone knows they exist." He patted the large rifle hanging from his side. "How long were you going to stay?"
Lennox made sure there was only an empty wall behind him. "Until we're recalled or our current assignment is finished." He kept his eye on the gun. "Modified?"
Maddie smiled. "Nope. Home-made." She swung her side-arm into its holster on her back. "Most of our tools are home-designed, as it would take more time and effort to modify the guns so they don't shoot human-lethal rounds than we are willing to spend."
Ebbs allowed his astonishment for such a design to show. "Is that even possible?"
The bell rang before either adult could respond. Jack glanced at the clock above the entrance when kids started pouring in. "Lunch time already?" He frowned. "Are we allowed to eat the cafeteria food?"
Seeing the crowd of kids arriving, Jorge swung up to his feet and walked to the wall, leaning against it gratefully.
The three teenagers who proved to be more observant than most of the kids who passed by the military table arrived together. The blue-eyed boy noticed the oddly clad adults. His two companions were in his wake as he switched direction and target. "Mom, dad, what are you doing here?"
Maddie hugged her son, who returned the embrace. "Got to talking with these delightful gentlemen after picking up the 'Beware' ghost. It's been a quiet week so far."
The teenagers snickered. Robert blinked, and saw the other adults didn't understand what was so funny.
The girl didn't take her eyes off the unknown adults. "It's only Tuesday." Apparently satisfied with what she'd observed, she sauntered between the blue-eyed boy and them. She stood on her toes to look eye to eye with Jorge, who happened to be the first one she reached. He was standing beside the table covered with military info. "I don't care if you are Tucker's cousin. You hurt my friends, you will regret it."
Maddie and Jack both raised their eyebrows. Tucker face palmed. "How do you plan on doing that, Sam? You haven't even had a chance to take pictures of them yet."
Sam's smirk sent goose-bumps down Jorge's arms. "I have my ways." She turned her back on Jorge and his brethren and opened her brown paper sack. "Anyone want some tofu?"
Tucker whimpered. "I'd rather eat a vegi-burger."
"I've got some of those, too."
More snickers. Blue-eyed, black-haired young man tried hiding a smile behind his hand. "Go ahead and try it, Tuck. They aren't that bad."
Tucker's hands went into involuntary spasms. "If you aren't dying, I'm not eating any vegetables." He glared at his friends. "Not even if Sam has tasted one and liked it."
Sam shrugged and pulled out three burgers. "Too bad, I had one for me, one for Danny, and one for you. Suppose I could always give Maddie yours to heat up later." Her purple eyes sparkled.
Tucker cried and grabbed all three burgers from Sam's hands. He shoved the first one into his mouth and chewed frantically before swallowing. The other two he held out of reach of Sam.
Jack looked between his wife and the dancing teens. "What's wrong with the ecto-cooker? I like having to chase my food down."
A screech of tires on the pavement outside drew more attention than the antics of the three teenagers and the presence of the five adults-who-weren't-teachers combined. Fig held firm to his spot by the wall as the crowd rushed towards the huge windows. Even Jack and Maddie joined to see what was going on outside.
Lennox and Robert traded glances with Jorge. "Either this is the most unobservant group of teenagers ever, or the Fentons behind here at lunch is a common occurrence."
A brief commotion from the mob trying to see the supposed drag racer, was the only warning they got before an orange blur sped past them and hit the swinging doors hard.
Jorge reached out with his hands, trying to grasp Jack Fenton as the older man ran past them, whose only intention was on reaching the person who had just arrived. Jack's family was stunned into inaction by his swearing, and were too late in turning around to slow him down. From the dropped sandwiches and spilt cups of soda and water by the kids who had the foresight to grab their food and drinks, this wasn't normal behavior for the man. When Maddie spied the same individual her husband did she backed up, almost fearfully.
Danny didn't attempt to fight the mob for a good viewing spot. He took off and ran after his father. Tucker climbed onto a table and picked out the stranger. "Is that Cowell?" Maddie nodded. "Darn it! Sam, we've got to warn Jazz." Sam wasted no time in touching a green earwig device and trading tense words with the person on the other end. They too, backed away, but exited through a different pair of doors at top speed.
Robert stepped forward. "Jorge said it earlier. Something weird is going on with this town. You guys coming?"
Ironhide had taken the opportunity to shut down some systems after the fellow warriors retreated inside. This was a place of learning for the generations still growing and maturing, and as such, should be highly protected at the very least. Besides, the sun was approaching its zenith and even without the extra solar-collection panels available in his natural form, there was plenty of time to restore some of the energy used in this long trip.
Ironhide hadn't relaxed fully with the absence of his companions in this secure location. Nor had he reduced his vigilance one iota. He was disciplined enough to wait to do so after the mission was over. But he had allowed the tension to slip away under the calming effects of a cloudless, warm, spring day.
The appearance of the ghost was unexpected. To his shock, he couldn't scan anything off the floating creature. Confused, he checked the visual scanners. No, they were working fine. A more intense search of the area surrounding being revealed it was giving off waves of what was probably the distorted energy Simmons had complained about earlier- -this thing was preventing a solid, reliable picture of everything behind it in a conical shape. The distortion field was small, perhaps five feet wide at most, but still, very puzzling and worryingly.
Plus the multi-directional alarm was going to grate on his nerves if it continued for long. Therefore it was with some relief that he watched the two adults arrive and turn off the alarm. Though, the driving skills of the man would be a concern if he was truly stuck in this form without the enhanced durability of Cybertronian minerals. All the Transformers, be they Autobot, Decepticron, or Neutral (if there were any left) were stronger than their earth counterparts.
Ironhide watched and recorded as the man and his sparkmate removed the presence of the creature. He wanted to rumble in satisfaction when they expertly searched the entire school grounds for more of the miscreants. He settled down on the shock absorbers and waited for them to leave.
The newcomers spotted the military personal and 'talked'. Very little that was said made sense as the male- -Jack, he called himself- -became distracted easily. Although Ironhide couldn't see the kids, he could hear them, and from his companion's reactions they weren't like the children he 'met' earlier. Nor were they like others that Captain William Lennox and the others knew.
When Simmons pulled into the parking lot, he left burning rubber on the driveway, and didn't bother turning off the engine or shutting the car door before he took off, following the signal of the tiny machine he held.
Ironhide had to force himself to remain rock-solid when Jack tackled Simmons and threw several punches-only one of which landed before Jack was shoved off the much smaller man. Jack stumbled backwards for at least thirteen feet, but he kept his balance and remained standing.
A young kid had somehow shoved himself between the two fighters and physically separated them. He turned his back to neither one. A foot was placed on Simmon's sternum, encouraging the adult to stay down, while he turned his face to the enraged parent.
Jack stood up, refusing to hug his stomach. He only had eyes for Cowell. His normal brown eyes no longer shined with joy, but had darkened with anger and rage. He wanted to rush the man on the ground and punch him in the face, but the presence of his son stopped him.
Danny's entire body language had changed from the youthful kid who enjoyed life to that of a veteran of many fights. "Step away from him, son. You don't want to defend that murderer."
Danny's blue eyes had shifted spectrums. Instead of a solid baby-blue, they now swirled with tinges of green, and might have been glowing. It mattered not. "I don't care what this man did or did not do. You've taught me and my sister to not fight without reason, and to forgive the past. What has this man done that you refuse to hear him out?"
Simmons, from beneath Danny's foot ground out. "Yes, Jacobson, why don't you explain what you meant with your pathetic little stunt that set the us back almost a year and cost the taxpayers millions of dollars in damages?" He tried shoving the boy's foot off his chest, but the leg wasn't budging.
Jack heard the arrival of the men he could have served under. He didn't care who was here to witness an enemy's demise. "You lost your morals and compromised your integrity the first time you saw a toy turn into a miniature version of the monstrous beast locked beneath ice in the concrete cavern. I saw the delight in your eyes when you dissected the first machine after it changed and was killed with no remorse. I could not work under a man who has no respect for others."
A harsh grating clamor echoed across the silent lawn and parts shifted. Eyes automatically searched for the unnerving sound. From a vehicle in the visitor's section, seamless doors shifted apart and rearranged themselves; parts folded into others before they gave way to two legs, and a humanoid being. The sudden appearance of a thirty-foot tall metallic creature where a truck sat only moments earlier was enough to stun Jack. His anger gave way to shock as he stared at a slightly smaller, less imposing version of the NBE locked in ice last he saw. That is, less imposing until the arms pulled back and formed into cannons.
Jack vaguely heard Danny yell, "Tuck, I was wrong, you were right! There are visitors in town."
The men coming up behind him weren't amused at all. "Ironhide, what's wrong?"
The thing, Ironhide apparently, aimed his weapons at Cowell's head and feet. "This man gave orders to destroy younglings and sparklings created by the allspark. Megatron ordered their genocide, and I am not going to let anyone who followed in his path to remain unscathed! Or alive." The huge black cannons lit up from inside with electronic flashes and white plasmic energy. "Don't defend the monster, kid, he doesn't deserve to live."
Not seeming to care that the teenager wasn't moving, the weapons wined even louder with barley controlled power. Seconds before they finished loading, Tucker stepped in front of Jack and knelt on one knee. He was fiddling with an ever present PDA and abruptly the cannons switched off.
The black and silver mask changed appearances and gave off a barely noticeable look of confusion before his weapons warmed up again. This time, the white glow of plasma didn't appear before the cannons melted back into arms.
The huge being stepped away from his target and swung his face around, trying to locate something. "Alright, who's the idiot who shut off my main weapons?" Ironhide bellowed, making aggressive hand motions.
Tucker shakily stood up. "I did." He didn't flinch at the angry glare from the robot.
"You really don't want to get Danny mad. He can be a total jerk if he wants to be," said Sam shoving her way past the men trying to prevent more children from stumbling upon the scene. She took one look at the man on the ground. The blood had fled from his face, giving him a dead look. "Nice, Cowell looks like someone just walked on his grave."
The man Jack knew as Cowell tried again to get from underneath Danny. This second attempt was no more successful than the first. "My name is Reggie Simmons, not Cowell!" he spat from his prone position. "Jacobson Meridth Fen-toe-nail would know a think or two about name calling, wouldn't you?"
Jack drew a deep breath, preparing to yell again, when Danny chuckled. "Dad's name is Jack Huxtable Fenton." He stepped back and, with his off hand, grabbed the taller man by his collar and effortlessly lifted him up, letting the man's feet dangle off the ground. "What is your problem? So you and dad have different view points. And a history that is threatening to lead to blood-shed, which will turn into a pointless war."
Almost everyone's attention was torn away from the confrontation between the slight teenager and the thin hostage held with one-hand by a loud beep coming from where the grass met cement. The tool Simmons had dropped when he ambushed by Jack sputtered and burst into flames. The small fire died almost instantly when Danny's right arm shot off to the side and released a stream of blue energy. The instrument was immediately encased in a solid block of ice.
Eyes opened wide-Amity Park residents mouths dropped as far down as the military's. The teenagers had a lot of experience with ghosts and their odd methods of shooting. It was unthinkable that a human could have a ghost power, let alone be able to use it in such a controlled manner (especially an ability that was more rumors than fact)
Danny turned his attention back to the man in his grasp and asked something. Whatever Simmons saw in Danny's face scared him, because the coward nodded fanatically. Danny spun around once, twice, three times before flinging Cowell Reggie Simmons into the air. When he landed, he rolled into the legs of Robert Epps.
Jack didn't think that was enough punishment, and he stepped forward to leave his own mark on the man's face. Danny, who was between the iron giant and everyone else still managed to step in front of Jack before Tucker could take the five steps needed to get between Jack and his target. Danny's hands were placed on Jack's shoulders and slight pressure applied. To his surprise, even though he'd been thrust through the air and shoved over fifteen feet earlier, he couldn't move forward. Jack turned his attention from Simmons to Danny and stopped trying to advance.
Danny's eyes were no longer speckled with his natural baby-blue color and green glow. They now were a swirling mix of ghostly green and glowing blue. In fact, the eyes resembled Inviso-Bill's unusual ghostly eyes; much more than that of his son's. "Phantom?" Jack whispered in shock. Danny nodded once, and Jack's knees could no longer support him. In the end, the only thing holding him upright was young Daniel's steady grip on his shoulders.
Robert Epps ran outside, trying to recall the fastest route out. Keeping Danny in sight wasn't an option, because the kid had vanished the second he turned the corner. Behind him, William Lennox kept pace easily, while Jorge Fig was slowly falling behind. Thankfully they didn't have far to go.
Robert would have skidded to a halt if the solid pathway hadn't changed to soft grass. As it was, he slid forward an extra two feet trying to stop when he saw the scene in the middle of the quad. Jack Fenton was the first thing he saw. The big boned father was full of tension and rage. The only thing keeping him from any rash actions was the tenuous control he held over his emotions.
Given an extra few seconds to scan the grounds in front of him, Roberts was able to spy the car Simmons had been driving since the clean-up task had begun. Jorge pointed to a slight figure standing on top of something or someone, protecting it from Jack. Robert groaned. He almost didn't recognize young Danny from earlier. His stance was one willing to fight to protect what was underneath and behind him. A wrinkled sleeve moved, revealing the precise location of C. R. Simmons.
Jack was yelling something at Simmons. Robert didn't really care what accusations where shouted out as long as there was still a chance for this situation to be resolved without loss of major limbs or life.
That wasn't to happen. A loud, familiar and fearful grinding noise came from the truck in the parking lot. Lennox hissed, "Great, just great" then, in an effort to find out what enraged the weapons specialist, he raised his voice to carry across the grassy expanse, "Ironhide, what's wrong?"
Ironhide's response shocked and horrified Robert and his friends. They could understand Sector Seven unwittingly slaughtering youngsters, but for Megatron to intentionally kill all of the children wasn't something they had realized happened before the millennium old war spread to earth. Robert almost screamed for Danny to move, when he realized Ironhide was serious in his desire to eradicate the human who had captured Bumblebee and ordered the yellow 'bot's torture.
Before Robert Epps could do so, the impressive and powerful pulse cannons Ironhide used abruptly powered off and shut down. He could only watched, stunned as the weapons specialist spun around. "Okay, who overrode control of my weapons?" Jorge's young cousin stepped away from where he'd been hidden by Mr. Fenton's bulk. "That would be me."
Robert spun, trying to pull Sam from stepping closer to the area that would quickly become a battlefield if something didn't happen very soon. "You don't want to get Danny mad. He can be a total Jerk when he wants to be," She said as she gracefully avoided their hands. Sam stepped closer to Simmons and appeared to be studying his face. "Oh, hey, Cowell looks like someone just walked on his grave."
Simmons tried to shove the kid off him. This attempt was no more successful than the previous ones. "My name is Reggie Simmons, not Cowell!" he spat from his prone position. "Jacobson Meridth Fen-toe-nail would know a think or two about name calling, wouldn't you?"
Roberts could only watch helplessly as the kid, who was delaying Simmon's death by refusing to move, chuckled. "Dad's name is Jack Huxtable Fenton." He stepped off the man and, with his left hand, grabbed him by the collar and effortlessly lifted him up, letting the man dangle off the ground. "What is your problem? So you and dad have different view points. And a history that is threatening to lead to blood-shed, which will turn into a pointless war."
Robert's concentration was broken by an unexpected beeping coming from an area between the three main confrontation spots. The tool Simmons had dropped when he ambushed by Jack sputtered and burst into flames. The small fire died almost instantly when Danny's right arm shot off to the side and released a stream of blue energy. The instrument was immediately encased in a solid block of ice.
Facial muscles slackened, resulting in jaws dropping. Lennox, Epps, Fig, and Cowell were very astonished at the knowledge they were facing something they had no concept of. Not even Liquid Nitrogen could cool something so fast that even the flames were left intact. This mind-numbing situation was becoming all-too familiar. First, it was the attack at the desert base overseas, then the battle in Mission City, and now here.
Thankfully, his brain was still reacting despite the lack of conscious thought, and sent automatic messages to the muscles, or Robert wouldn't have been able to crouch down and catch Simmons after he was thrown into the crowd bottle-necked at the side-entrance. He saw, from of the corner of his eye, Lennox taking steps to place himself in front of Jack, who was no longer motionless.
From beside the man, Tucker was too slow in responding. However, young Danny wasn't. The teenager somehow transported himself a distance of twenty feet before Jack could advance two steps closer to Simmons. Danny held back the much larger man, then ended up supporting him as unexpected news percolated through Jack's brain. Whatever was going on seemed to be unknown to everyone around them. At least this particular hot spot seemed to have lost its destructive power, as the situation was calming down.
Robert kept an eye on Ironhide. The Transformer narrowly missed smashing Simmons car with his foot as he turned around, searching for something to destroy. With his cannons currently out of the picture, the only thing in reach was the buildings. Robert felt himself flinching backwards as Ironhide slammed his fist into a second story corner of the brick school-thankfully he had presence of mind to select a side farthest from the gathered group of students.
Could things get any more unbelievable?
Apparently so, since Danny Fenton, after patting his father on the back and letting him fall onto his knees, strolled closer to Ironhide. "If you need something to blow up, the central garbage dump is where I go to let off steam."
Tucker Foley gulped but took a huge stride forward. "I only meant to slow you down, not disable your systems."
Ironhide pulled his hand back from the hole in the wall. "I know. I didn't reengage my cannons after the second time, because I wasn't sure I could stop myself from firing despite the presence of your stubborn friend."
Danny's attitude had changed. He wasn't gearing up for a fight, nor was he anxiously providing protection for someone, and he didn't seem confrontational at all. That was further evidenced by the chuckle he gave off at Ironhide's statement. "You wouldn't have hurt me, even in the unlikely event you had missed." His arms were crossed.
Robert was as confused by the statement as Ironhide appeared to be. In fact, his black-and-silver bodied friend seemed to be studying something.
Within two seconds of Daniel Fenton's confidently delivered statement, Ironhide had come up with multiple reasons that could explain the human's lack of fear in the face of death. One, Daniel assumed he was invincible. Two, he thought the weapons weren't a real threat. Three, Tucker had already saved Danny from certain death and had done so multiple times. Four, he somehow knew Ironhide always hit what he aimed for and never missed the target or grazed a non-target. Five, Daniel was still a kid, and Ironhide had revealed himself after hearing about the deaths of innocents, wanting revenge for the lost young. Six, He couldn't be harmed by conventional means.
While pondering the real reason young Daniel was so assured, Ironhide ran detailed scans on the boy and reviewed the entire sequences of events. He noticed, with some detachment, the arrival of William Lennox and the others. Through it all, nothing had phased Danny. "Why are you so sure I wouldn't harm you?" There was something different about the scans of Daniel, and the immediate area around him.
Danny shrugged. "Because I would have done the same." He frowned. "Have done the same." He turned around and walked towards his parents-Maddie had arrived and was keeping to the edges of the crowd, while Simmons was firmly surrounded by Ironhide's human friends and some of the children who had come out to find out the cause of all the commotion. Danny raised his voice to be heard by those in the very back. "I always pause when innocents get between me and my target, no matter how much I hate him, or despise her for her actions. I find another way of removing individuals that are shielded by the young." He revolved slowly, eventually facing Ironhide again. "I knew you would, too."
Ironhide frowned as Jack was reunited with Maddie. His audios heard her gasp, "Our son is Phantom?" and finally figured out what was so odd in the scans of Danny. "You give off the same field that the blue floating thing gave off. Except your field fluctuates and changes. The creature that attracted your parents had a slight, but noticeable and constant disruption of the electrical fields and radiation waves. Your disruption imprint has ranged from just below your skin level to twenty feet in circumference. Why?"
Tucker's mouth gapped. "Dude, is he talking about - -?" Danny interrupted him. "Probably." A faint smile appeared on his face. "Going Ghost" was almost inaudible, even to him who could pick out the heartbeat of Robert Epps from here.
Faint white light, a collection of partical waves from the harsh UV spectrum, to the unforgiving Infrared Radiation, condensed and swept over Danny. As it moved from his waist to his legs, a physical change became apparent. Before, Danny was a human kid, with black hair, blue eyes, peach-colored skin, and wore a white t-shirt and blue jeans. Now, Danny was something else-not exactly like the blue 'ghost' from earlier, but too dissimilar from his previous structure to be strictly human. In this alternate form, he had white hair, green eyes that blazed with power, and wore a black jumpsuit with a white D stitched on his chest.
Shock spread through the crowd of kids. Muttering conversations and whispered questions replaced the casual mentions of after-school plans. Most of them were variations of, "Did you see that?" and "Whoa, Danny Fenton is Danny Phantom?"
A door slammed and the sounds of a lightweight runner approaching, caught Ironhide's attention. He quietly watched as a young lady ran up to to Phantom. She looked a lot like Maddie Fenton. The femme had been across the street since early morning. He'd assumed that the building she came from was hers, not one she had taken refuge in to watch them and keep track of the strangers. Her presence on the field, caused no disruptions and the teenagers seemed accepting of her. Though, considering none had raised a ruckus over the military presence might be a cause for concern.
The femme human placed her hands on her hips. "I thought you said you didn't want everyone knowing you were Phantom."
Jazz almost fainted as she saw the normal looking truck turn into something from out of this world. She was too far away to help out when the warning from Sam came in, but that didn't stop her from taking position near the window and watching the events as they occurred. Jazz kept an eye on her baby brother, and cheered him on when he faced down the metal man. She wasn't ready for Danny to fight the NBE- -come on, couldn't they have come up with another term for 'extra terrestrials who happen to have metal bodies?- -but neither was she prepared for Danny to 'go ghost' in front of the entire school!
Concerned, but believing that her brother had a plan, she left her friends house at a fast pace and got ready to introduce herself to the strangers once she had figured out what was going through Danny's mind. "Did you at least tell our parents, first?"
To her astonishment, Phantom shrugged. "Dad figured it out, and I couldn't lie to him." He grinned. "At least mom's not shooting at me."
Jazz rolled her eyes. "That's besides the point, Danny, and you know it."
Sam shoved her way to the front of the crowd; her foot bouncing as she stood in place. "The Guys in White have a foothold in my parents place."
Phantom dropped to the ground in shock. "GIW? Again? Can't they take a hint? Wait, why are they at your place? Is that why you've spent every spare minute at my place?"
Sam nodded. "Yep. Those clean eccentric mindless drones decided my folks have the money to support some of their inhuman activities and brought some of Dlav's specialized equipment."
Tucker perked up. Unnoticed behind them, Cowell Simmons had finally stood up and was making his way closer to the edge of the crowd. "Do you know if their trade tools were based off designs stolen from the Fentons or fruit-loops own scary blueprints?"
Sam shrugged. "Could be both. I'm not the Technogeek you are, and didn't want want them to grab me. And, could you stop that please?"
Somewhat reassured, Phantom had started hovering three inches off the ground. He looked down. "Stop what? Floating? Sorry." He sank back down. "I don't float automatically as Fenton." He closed his eyes and reabsorbed his ghostly half, so the human part could come forward.
At Cowell's cough, Jazz spun around and marched up to the man her father attacked without provocation. "Got something to say, mister?"
Simmons met her hard glare and returned it. "Did you mention the GIW organization?"
Jazz nodded, not showing her confusion.
Simmons grinned. "As per order number 17398 of the President, they, are disbanded and any gathering of members in search of funding is now illegal and could result in them being deported to Antarctica. All research they have conducted is now prohibited and the findings are to be destroyed." He turned from Jazz to look all of them in the eyes. Seeing that his announcement was heard, if not accepted, he stepped backwards, into the loose protective formation that the military men had adopted. He took one last look around Casper High. "Jack Huxtable Fenton?" he asked. Jack and Maddie nodded. "Then what do the initials J. M. F. stand for?"
Jack grinned. "Jack Fenton, and Maddie Flores." He took his wife's hand. "We were engaged when your late boss recruited us." He frowned. "Though, I still strongly disagree with your methods of persuasion and the acceptable view of being human."
Cowell Reggie Simmons snorted. "I disagreed with them too, but compromised too much. I stayed silent, to avoid being terminated, and eventually saw no difference between them and me." He bowed slightly. "My intention was only to find J.M.F. and tell him that all of Sector 7 and its affiliated groups, and subsidiaries have been removed and to be considered just imaginary."
The metal being in the parking lot snorted. "You've still got to find another ride home." He turned to Danny. "You said something about blowing things up?"
Danny nodded. "At the edge of town, north-east of here. It's a great place to have a brawl and not worry about harming humans." A huge grin spread across his face. "Wanna race, Ironhide?"
Ironhide need no more encouragement. Before Danny could again transform into Phantom, he was already shifting back into his Topkick transportation form and pulled out of the parking lot.
Phantom was airborne before the driver-less truck had finished turning the corner. He was laughing as he flew directly to the site of many battles against an armored up Technus.
Whoa, this is finished! I've managed to work some references to other Television shows, movies, cartoons, and comics. Some mentions were intentionally made, others I noticed as I was re-reading to make sure no major grammar mistakes had occurred.
If you find one I missed, please tell me. I don't want to put substandard work up here. Thanks for reading, and may God Bless you, and keep you and make his face to shine upon you.