Disclaimer- Gosho owns DC and MK. Butch Hartman owns Danny Phantom. I own a car that just cost me nine hundred and fifty bucks in repairs. And Cade. This short is rated G by the Motion Picture Association of America. I know it's been ages, but I've finally been bit by the last of the stories I'd planned in this series. Oh, there'll probably be more, but I finally got this one out. Timeline note- I set Magic Kaitou one year before Detective Conan, which at the time of Unprofessional Opinion, has been running one year. Toichi died eight years previous to MK's opening.
For a man who'd never seen the inside of a jail cell while he was alive, Kuroba Toichi mused, he was certainly spending quite a bit of time in them now that he was dead. It wasn't that he couldn't escape Walker's fine establishment any time he chose to- he usually did, after a while, once he became bored. But like any Kuroba, curiosity had always been his besetting sin, and the Ghost Zone's prison was the place to find news and rumors of any type.
After all, Walker's obsession with rules and punishing violators of said rules had him hauling in ghosts from far-flung reaches of the dimension, places it would take a wanderer years to reach on his own. Getting incarcerated was easy- Toichi violated several of Walker's rigid codes just by breathing, or whatever the ectoplasmic equivalent was. And doing a stretch of time allowed him to listen in on the newest rumors, twit the hidebound warden freely, and occasionally arrange for the disappearance of certain unjustly condemned prisoners to boot.
Currently, he was sitting in a corner of the yard, amusing himself by creating ectoplasmic pigeon constructs. Not true ghosts, the birds were more like familiars, partially sapient, but tied into him. They acted very much like real pigeons, though that was due to his long familiarity with the breed. Certainly they were smart enough not to harass Skulker, though the Box Ghost was often the target of dive-bombing.
A whisper was sweeping through the crowd now, as the inmates began to crowd along the fence that separated the yard from the gates. Dismissing his flock, Toichi moved to join them, slipping easily through the crowd of bodies pressed against the chain link.
"What's going on?" he asked quietly, stretching to see over the Lunch Lady's wide back.
Skulker rumbled. "They're bringing in the Ghost Boy," the hunter replied curtly. He didn't look pleased with the news.
Ghost Boy- Toichi racked his brains for a moment to place the name. "The one they call Phantom? Walker must have gotten very lucky."
"Or he cheated," came the disgusted reply. The crowd fell quiet as Walker and several guards passed by, dragging their prisoner behind them.
He was far smaller than Toichi'd imagined, slimly built, with the unfinished look common to young teenagers. If the boy had seen the far side of fifteen, Toichi would eat his hat and cape. Even so, he was loaded down with chains so strong he could barely move, not that he was trying. He seemed content to lay still and let the guards drag him along the ground. Whether that was from exhaustion or a desire to irritate Walker, Toichi wasn't sure, but the defiant gleam in those blue eyes argued for the latter.
…Wait. His eyes were green, not blue. Staring closer, Toichi rubbed his own eyes for a moment, then looked again. Yes, Danny Phantom had white hair and green eyes. Every wanted poster, every rumor was firm on that fact. So why was it that Toichi could half-see black hair and blue eyes underneath?
The boy remained quiet as he was dragged through the main doors of the prison, which swung shut behind him, but Toichi's mind was now racing. Danny Phantom was a riddle, after all, and riddles were the Kid's stock in trade. He could hardly allow himself to fall behind his son's skills, could he?
With a smirk that had once sent the Task Force running for cover, Toichi turned to the hunter beside him.
"Skulker-san? Do you feel the delights of this place are beginning to pall?"
"Magician, I hate it when you ask me that…"
Not all ghosts needed sleep, but Walker and his goons were among the types that did. And what applied to Walker applied to the rest of the prison. Those were "the Rules." So despite the utter lack of a real day/night cycle, the prison periodically went into 8-hour lock down every 24 hours. Danny was lucky to get 8 hours of sleep as a human, let alone a ghost, so right now, he was lying on his cot, staring at his ceiling and idly poking at various thoughts.
Walker had apparently learned some strategy recently. He'd used his goons to run Amity Park's ghost hunters ragged, finally catching Danny when he was too exhausted to put up much of a fight. The ghostly warden had managed to get his hands on cuffs that kept Danny in ghost mode, so simply walking out of the prison was out. Either there was going to have to be a jailbreak, unlikely given his lack of anything to work with, or he was going to need a rescue. He hoped Sam, Jazz, and Tucker could pull it off, but…
Danny sighed. At least Dr. M was back from his vacation. The man had a pretty good grasp of strategy, and his friends could at least go to him for help in the planning stages. It was weird, though. The school psychiatrist had seemed kind of preoccupied, and warned Danny to be alert for a call from Japan. "It'll only be if things go boom over there, and they've got things mostly under control, but… They're worse trouble magnets than you, and I want to make sure they can get a hold of me."
He hadn't said anything else, and Danny hadn't pressed. Not like he didn't know all about keeping secrets from everyone around.
A soft scraping noise from the door caught his attention, and Danny pushed himself up into a half-sitting position. The door swung open to reveal an unfamiliar ghost standing outside, smirking at him.
It wasn't the kind of smirk Vlad wore, at least; the kind that suggested he was in on a joke whose punch line wasn't particularly pleasant. This one gave the impression that as soon as you knew what you were missing, you were going to howl with laughter too. Definite mark in his favor.
Oddly enough, the ghost outside looked very human, rather like Johnny 13 or Danny himself. Asian features, though his skin was pale, almost white. Black hair, black mustache, height pushing six feet, build like a gymnast more than anything else. The clothes were strange, too, a white tuxedo, accented with a blue shirt, red tie and a white cape, of all things, hanging from his shoulders and rippling in a wind no one else could feel. Dr. M had said that Japanese culture considered white the color of death… but Danny didn't think that was the whole reason.
"Who're you?" he demanded, remembering to keep his voice down, at least.
The man's smirk broadened into a grin. "I'm tempted to say 'Luke Skywalker,' but you don't have the hair to play Leia. My name is Toichi Kuroba, as you'd say… but I am here to rescue you."
Danny stared at him for a moment, thoughts racing. It could be a trap, he supposed, but not one of Walker's. The rule bound warden didn't have the imagination for a sting. And if it was a trap by anyone else… well, the odds were still good that he could at least get clear of the prison before it snapped. It was worth the risk. Hopping off the cot, Danny brushed himself off. "Okay. What's the plan?"
"There's a little-used door on the west side of the prison- setting the front as north, purely for convenience. It leads out onto the cliffs, and is generally used for bringing in the more violent or dangerous prisoners, such as the Wolfmen. My associate says that with those inhibitors off, you can walk right through solid objects as we do in the world of the living. So you walk through the door, open it from the outside, and we're home free."
"Doesn't that door require a key? Or a key code?"
The grin widened. "Of course. But Walker doesn't hide the keys very well." Kuroba brandished a ring of metal keys. "He keeps them in a safe in his office, because those are-"
"The Rules," Danny finished. "I turned him purple once when I told him that was the name of a really sexist book on dating."
Kuroba laughed. "Ah, I'd have given quite a bit to see that. But we're wasting time… Let's get to the door, and then we'll see about getting those limiters off your wrist."
Smiling wryly, Danny swept one arm around in an elaborate bow. "After you."
The look on the child's face was worth at least two pelts on his wall, Skulker thought. It was getting harder to surprise him as time wore on, but apparently the sight of the ghost hunter waiting beside the exit door was enough.
Getting better at self-control, too. That yelp hadn't carried any farther than the end of the corridor, despite his obvious shock. Skulker grinned, shrugging one shoulder. "I can't hunt you while we're stuck in here, can I?"
The boy snorted. "You weren't Teddy Roosevelt when you were alive, were you?"
"I have no idea who that is."
A chuckle from the Magician. "Go haunt a library when we're done here, then. I think you'd appreciate the man. Now, do you think your tool kit might have something to undo the boy's wristband?"
"Let me take a look at it, and we'll see." Skulker extended a hand, slightly surprised when the child barely hesitated before placing his wrist in his adversary's grasp. Pushing that away, he bent closer to study the machine.
"Hmm… Yes, I can remove it, but I can't disable it. And it has a proximity sensor on it."
The boy rolled his eyes. "Translation, it comes off and Danny goes boom?"
"In a nutshell."
"That's fine," the Magician interjected, waving a hand. "Making things disappear is my specialty. Just toss it here when you're done."
Skulker shrugged, extending a glowing energy blade from one wrist. "Just don't squirm, Ghost Boy. This is delicate work."
"Yeah, that's what my dentist always says…"
Like all of Walker's gear, the limiter was not particularly imaginative in design, and Skulker had it easily removed in less than a minute. As soon as it left contact with the boy's wrist, it began to beep frantically, pitch climbing as it did so. As he'd been instructed, Skulker tossed the band in the Magician's direction, not entirely surprised to see it swallowed up in a sweep of the cape. The beeping cut off immediately, and the silence of the corridor seemed to echo in its wake.
"… Okay, that is a neat trick," the boy allowed, rubbing his wrist. "Give me the keys, and let's get this show on the road. I hope my aura works on ghost objects."
"Aura?" The Magician cocked his head as he handed over the keys.
"Well, as a ghost, I can turn solid objects ghostly. Hopefully I can do it the other way around, too." With the key ring clenched in his fist, the boy closed his eyes and was suddenly enveloped in rings of bright light, which slid apart to reveal his human form. The prison uniform he'd been wearing had vanished without a trace, replaced with jeans and a t-shirt.
Sneaking a look at the Magician, Skulker was gratified to see that for once, the man was left speechless… though the oddly wistful look on his face argued that it was from something more than simple surprise.
Taking a deep breath, the now-dark-haired child stepped up to the door and vanished through it without pause. After a second, the door swung open to reveal the boy, back in ghost mode.
"Well, what are you waiting for? Let's get out of here!"
"Indeed," the Magician agreed. "Let's go. Skulker, you remember what you promised?"
Skulker rolled his eyes. "Yeah, yeah, three day's grace. I'd suggest you two go that way- we'll be harder to track if we split up."
Taking to the sky, the hunter couldn't help but have a moment of sympathy for the ghost boy. From personal experience, he could say that once the Magician took an interest in you, your life started making a lot less sense. Then again, with the life the boy led, it was an open question as to whether it'd make any difference.
True to the earlier Star Wars quote, the two escapees had decided to wind their trail through the floating islands that made up the Ghost Zone's closest approach to an asteroid belt. After dodging, turning, and doubling back enough times to make a roller coaster seasick, Danny found himself led into a cave in one of the floating rocks.
"There isn't a giant worm in here, is there?"
Kuroba chuckled. "No, I promise, you and I are the only li- er, there's nothing in here but us and a lot of cold rock."
With a sigh, Danny sank down to sit against one of the craggy walls. "You haven't been dead very long, have you?" he asked, as gently as possible. The other man smiled wryly.
"That depends on your definition of 'long,' I suppose. Time is difficult to measure as a ghost… but as best I can tell, it's been almost ten years. Still, I spend a great deal of time watching the mortal world, so… I suppose my idioms haven't shifted yet."
"You speak really good English, too. You don't even have an accent."
Grey eyes sparkled back at him. "Yes, I do. I just have the same accent you do."
"Okay, point. You know what I mean, though."
"What makes you think English isn't my first language?"
Danny shifted slightly. "Back when you introduced yourself, you said I'd say your name as Toichi Kuroba. Which means you're probably used to introducing yourself traditional style, Kuroba Toichi, right? So you're used to a country, or at least a culture, where that's normal, and odds are that English wouldn't be the language of choice there."
To Danny's surprise, the man started to laugh. "Excellent deduction, Danny-kun. Tell me, are you fond of Sherlock Holmes?"
"Um… I liked the movie with Robert Downey Jr. I don't generally read much, besides comic books and some science fiction. It's just my school psychiatrist still has family in Japan, so I've picked up some stuff by osmosis."
"Not a fan of mysteries, then."
"No. Though I've kind of had observation hammered into my head over the past year or so, especially since Dr. M showed up."
Kuroba nodded. "You might wish to try some. I promise, reading can be far more enjoyable when you're not being graded on it."
"Eeeh… I can't really concentrate on books very well… Dr. M thinks I should be tested for ADD, but good luck getting my parents to listen."
"Mmm. You might try books on tape, I'm told they're available in MP3 format these days. Ghostwriter had a fit."
Danny had to snicker at that. "You spend a lot of time in the human world, huh?" It wasn't entirely surprising- Kuroba had the faint blue aura that indicated a ghost with unfinished business, rather than an irresolvable green ghost. Blue Ghosts didn't spend a lot of time in the Ghost Zone, though- most of them couldn't even reach it. The Box Ghost was a rare exception.
"Mmm. Yes, I do. It's still home to me, in ways this place is not, and will never be."
"And you can go back and forth pretty easily… which is probably part of the reason Walker hates your guts. So... why'd you break me out? If you could steal Walker's keys, you didn't need me. There are lots of doors that unlock from the inside around here."
Danny shrugged. "Let's just say I've learned to be a little wary of unexpected altruism."
A chuckle. "Wise boy. Sometimes things really are exactly as they seem, but not very often." The older man leaned back against a rock wall.
"I have a son. His name is Kaito, and he's seventeen. He's brilliant, brave, and utterly determined to follow in my footsteps, at least long enough to catch my killers. He carries my anchor object, but even with that, I only have the power to watch, and occasionally nudge events. And thanks to some rogue gene that pops up in our family line, he has bright blue eyes and dark hair that no comb can manage to tame. When Walker brought you in, for one split-second I saw you as a human, with that same coloring… I think I would have helped you anyway, simply due to your age and reputation, but that moment cemented it. I can't help Kaito, most of the time, but I can help you."
At that, Danny had to wince. An anchor object was something, or occasionally someone, deeply linked to a blue ghost's unfinished business. As a result, it gathered and concentrated stray PKE, allowing the ghost some measure of power and influence in its range. That was why blue ghosts tended to haunt places or people, until their business was resolved. Unfortunately, that PKE upwelling tended to draw ghosts and other entities to it. If Kuroba's son was carrying the thing, he was almost certainly becoming a trouble magnet. Add in that he was apparently searching for a murderer… Yeah, he could see why being mostly helpless was stressing the older ghost out.
"Would a message help him? Dr. M could write him a le… um."
A dark eyebrow rose. "Um?"
"I know this doesn't narrow it down, but… your son doesn't live in Tokyo, does he?"
"As a matter of fact. Why?"
"Dr. M just got back from there, and apparently he got involved with some other trouble magnets. He wouldn't say much else, which means whatever it is is kind of dangerous, which definitely fits with an unsolved murder case… And honestly, I've got the kind of luck where I could trip over a wallet in New York and meet the person who lost it the next day."
Kuroba snorted. "I have the same, as does Kaito. I think perhaps I should meet this friend of yours."
"Yeah, I had a feeling you'd say that. Well, the nearest rip's that way… Might as well go. They're going to be pacing up the walls worrying about me as it is."
Exactly when did my office become the War Room? Cade Maboroshi thought to himself, amused. Actually, he sort of knew the answer to that one. Normally, Danny and his support staff met at the Fenton House, but with Danny missing, it would have been far too obvious even to Jack and Maddie that something was wrong. As the only adult- only trustworthy adult, he corrected himself- in on Danny's secret, his office was the natural fall-back spot. Even if it was a bit crowded.
I have got to put in more chairs, Cade mused. Not that he needed them right now, since Jazz Fenton seemed to do most of her thinking while pacing. Although if this kept up, she was going to wear a hole in the tile.
"It's not that we don't know where he is- there's only one place in the Ghost Zone where Walker would have taken him. The problem is that a direct assault is pretty much out of the question. The Specter Speeder doesn't have the weaponry to go up against that many goons, and even if normal humans can just walk through the walls, Walker's obviously got something that can keep Danny from doing the same, and there's no way of knowing if we could get it off him." The redhead ran a hand through her hair, obviously restraining herself from tugging at it.
From her chair, Sam chimed in. "And while yeah, there are a couple ghosts who'd probably be happy to help Danny, we've got no way of contacting them with him gone."
"Vlad would probably help, but I think we wanna keep that option as a last resort," Tucker added, not looking up from his PDA.
"No kidding." Cade made a face. Yeah, the billionaire would probably be more than happy to break Danny out of confinement, but as far as Cade was concerned, Masters was the equivalent of a tac nuke- overpowered, unsubtle, and came with way too much fallout.
A breath of cold air suddenly swept through the office as two colored shapes came up through the floor. The green one quickly coalesced into Danny Phantom, wearing an exhausted smile. The other, blue figure, drifted back towards the door slightly.
"Hi, honey, I'm home," Danny announced tiredly.
A flying glomp from Jazz nearly knocked him across the room. Tucker shot to his feet, catching Danny as he stumbled and shoving him into the recently vacated chair. "Dude, sit down before you fall down," Tucker ordered.
Doing as ordered, Danny shot his friend another weary smile, before being enveloped in a blaze of silver light that returned him to human form.
Behind him, the blue shape wavered and sharpened, and Cade's jaw hit the floor as he realized what he was seeing. He knew the uniform, of course, he'd watched hundreds of videos while putting together the profile. The face, he'd only seen in a few old magazine articles he'd looked up out of curiosity, but it didn't take a genius detective to put two and two together.
"Kuroba Toichi, I presume?" Cade asked, finally finding his voice. The ghost smiled at him.
"Ahh, you must be the school psychiatrist Danny spoke of. I assume you did, in fact, cross paths with my son?"
"It's kind of a long story. Name's Cade Maboroshi. It's nice to meet you, though I really shouldn't be this surprised. You broke Danny out?"
Kuroba chuckled. "I enjoy bringing chaos into Walker's life on occasion. It's not good for a person's life to be too routine."
Cade had to snort. "Poor substitute for Nakamori."
"Only too true. But we take our diversions while we can." Kuroba looked around, taking in the teens who'd been staring at him with wary curiosity from where they'd gathered around Danny. "But I think we're rather confusing your young friends. My name is Toichi Kuroba, magician and escape artist. Apparently your Dr. Maboroshi is acquainted with my son, though I'm not certain of the details."
"Long story, takes exactly two hours to tell. To hit the highlights, a friend of mine is also a friend of his, and when I went to Japan to visit family, I got involved in a mess that the kids are in up to their eyeballs. More profiling than therapy."
Danny yawned. "That's my sister, Jasmine, everybody calls her Jazz. And my two best friends, Sam Manson and Tucker Foley. They help keep my hide in one piece, usually when I do something stupid."
Kuroba gave all three teens an elaborate Western-style bow. "A pleasure to meet all of you."
"Likewise," Tucker replied, Sam and Jazz nodding agreement.
"Not to be rude," Sam continued, "but how'd you get in here? Danny's got an invitation, but I thought other ghosts weren't able to get past the ofuda."
Cade chuckled. Here, at least, he was on firm ground. "Literalization of metaphors," he explained, as the group turned to look at him.
"And… what is that in English?" Tucker asked.
"A ghost is basically a consciousness embodied in a mass of ectoplasm, kept together by PKE, right? Basically, a ghost is kept together by the force of its focus, or obsession, and shaped by mental constructs of identity. You are who you think you are. It's easiest to see in ghosts that used to be human, because we know how their minds work. A guy who had bad luck his entire life gets a shadow that's nothing but. A pop star who fed off fame fueled by name recognition-"
"Gets stronger when people say her name," Sam finished.
Cade nodded. "Bingo. And a magician, escape artist and-" he darted a glance at Kuroba, who gave him an amused nod- "and phantom thief becomes someone with the ability to really do all the things that were illusions in life."
"Wait a second- phantom thief?" Jazz held up a hand.
"The word is 'kaitou,' really, but that's a close translation," Kuroba told her. "We protect the precious things of this world by showing people how easily they can be lost, and then returning them. Though sometimes not to those we stole from in the first place, if the gain was ill-gotten."
"Think Robin Hood for the media age," Cade added.
Sam snickered, passing Danny the can of Red Bull she'd dug out of her bag. "Well, that explains the outfit. Seriously, though, is there anything we can do for you? You helped Danny out, we owe you one. And since you're a blue ghost, you've probably got some unfinished business to resolve."
That got a blink from Kuroba. "What exactly is a blue ghost? I'm afraid paranormal studies isn't really my field…"
"Sure, just like the average person doesn't know that much biology or psych," Jazz agreed. "Basically, there are a lot of different classification scales out there for ghosts, used to look at ghosts in different ways."
"It's like cars," added Tucker. "You can classify them by brand, or model year, or type, or engine, or function… depending on what the important information is."
"The standard for most paranormalists is the Spengler-Stantz scale, which focuses on power and basic type. Not so good if you've got an outlier, and it doesn't tell you a lot about the ghost itself, but when your main concern is how hard it can hit you, it's definitely the most useful," Danny continued. "Unfortunately, it's determined by measuring the energy it gives off, so you need a specialized meter. Which we don't have."
Sam picked up the thread. "Folkloric classification gives you a lot of in-depth information, but it's not systematic, so you have to know what you're looking for. Great if you've got a lot of time and access to a library or database, not so good when it's attempting to hit you with a car."
"So around here, we tend to go by what's tentatively named the Fenton-Foley Chromatic scale," Cade finished.
Kuroba raised an eyebrow, looking towards Sam. "Fenton-Foley?"
She grinned. "The science isn't my area."
"Mine either," Danny agreed, perking up a bit as the caffeine hit his system. "The Fenton in the name is Jazz."
The redhead blushed. "Yes, well… anyway, the scale classifies ghosts due to ectoplasmic base color, or aura. It's hard to see if you're not used to looking for it, or aren't using special equipment, but you, for instance, radiate a blue color. Most ghosts have their base color expressed in their appearance somewhere, but not all. Base ectoplasm color is determined by the ghost's power source, which is shaped by the ghost's focus or obsession.
"Blue ghosts are what we call soul-powered. They're almost all spirits of the dead, rather than ghosts who were created as ghosts in the first place. Generally, they're the weakest ghosts in terms of sheer energy output, because they're the closest in state to how living beings work, but also because they're only held here by a resolvable focus, so they're halfway to the Other Side already."
"Then you have green ghosts, like me," Danny explained, straightening. "Green ghosts are mind-powered. They're focused entirely on their obsession, on the here and now. Green ghosts tend to obsess about things that aren't resolvable. A good way to simplify it is that blue ghosts focus on doing, greens on being. Though it's a little more complicated than that."
"It is mostly tied up in identity, though," Cade added. "Identity's really all a ghost has, when you get right down to it. Blue ghosts hold onto identity through memory and drive; green ghosts redefine themselves by their obsessions. World's greatest hunter. Keeper of the rules. Protector of the innocent. You are who you think you are, and when you see yourself in light of something that can't be let go of…"
"Most of the ghosts out there are green, too," Danny continued. "That's because the Neverborn are always green."
Kuroba blinked. "Neverborn?"
"Ghosts who were always ghosts. Patterned PKE. Familiars, tupilaq, tulpa, ship spirits, genius loci, egrigores… The ghosts call them Neverborn. Ghosts have a tendency to melodrama," Jazz explained, throwing her little brother a grin. He just rolled his eyes at her.
Tucker took up the explanation, adjusting his glasses. "Then… you've got red ghosts. We call them body-focused, because they've basically turned their ectoplasmic forms into a combination generator and capacitor. As a result, most of them are physically pretty static. Not a lot of shapeshifting or drastic deformation there. Plasmius- you might have heard of him- can do a mist-form trick, but that's part of his template, and he's a special case anyway. Anyway, reds are obsessed with ownership, with having. Which doesn't have to make them evil, if they're focused on something that actually belongs to them, but…"
"But when that something is a person, things are not so benign," Kuroba finished.
Danny made a face. "Exactly."
"Last is a very rare case, purples," Jazz continued. "We're not sure what they draw from, or if they're actually just a special case of reds. They focus on control, which conflates with ownership a lot, so they may just be really, really strong reds. We've only faced off with one so far, and heard rumors of others."
"The one we did face? Best as I can guess, rated a nine on the Spengler-Stantz scale. Which is demi-god," Danny said seriously. "Basically, if you see purple ectoplasm, run."
For a moment, Kuroba sat, digesting all of this. Then he sighed. "The problem is, I'm not entirely sure what my 'unfinished business' might be. It's all tied into a large, messy knot with the circumstances of my death. I'm certain it's not about vengeance, but… there's so much it might be. Or it could be all of it."
"Well… it can't hurt to tell us about it, can it?" Sam asked. "Maybe we can at least start trying to unravel it."
Cade chuckled, as Kuroba took another long look at the teenagers surrounding him. "They grow up so fast these days, don't they?"
Kuroba's smile was wry. "They always did. Very well, then.
"Legends state that there exists a gem named Pandora…"