First off, I do not own Danny Phantom. This disclaimer will apply throughout this entire fic, so I'm not going to bother writing any more disclaimers.
Second, I do not own the plot for this fic. The original Backpack was written by Shamrock17, who put it up for adoption after about 29 chapters. The original is still up, if you want to read it- just don't put it on your alert list. Anyways, she agreed to let me rewrite it and finish it- in March. I haven't heard from her since then, and since it's been months, I decided to go ahead and start publishing. If this was the wrong thing to do, I sincerely apologize to her and promise to take down and/or revise the entire fic once I recieve word from her. In the meantime, enjoy the story.
"I hate my half-life," Danny Fenton-Phantom moaned into the phone.
"It can't be that bad."
"Uh, yes it can. First we had the mile run in gym, and I had to sabotage myself so no one connects slow, weak Fenton with fast, tough Phantom. Then we had two tests in my worst subjects, which did not go over well. Then there were, like, five ghost attacks and I missed lunch because it's apparently Inter-dimensional Starve Danny Day. Oh, and there's a new scar on my leg. It looks kinda like a banana."
Jazz's voice was sympathetic. "Well, at least it's over."
Her brother snorted. "No it's not. Dash Baxter is my partner for that huge English project everyone's been worrying all week."
"You mean that blond jock who constantly beats you up, verbally abuses you, and has a major crush on me?"
"The one and only, and he should be here about-"
Ding dong! sang the doorbell. "-now. Oh, joy. Gotta go."
"Bye Danny. Love you."
"Love you too. Good luck in that seminar. Bye."
The doorbell rang again. It might have been Danny's imagination, but he thought it sounded angry. "Coming, coming," the halfa groaned.
The next two hours (or was it two centuries?) dragged on and on. Naturally, Dash made his partner do all the work. All the jock did was sit around and occasionally make a rude comment about his host's ghost-hunting parents. Danny ignored him, steadfastly paging through Lord of the Flies to figure out the symbolism of the conch shell. Unlike the quarterback, he wasn't on any sports teams. He needed this grade.
The halfa had just finished articulating his (ah, their) second main point when a plume of frost escaped his lips. A quick glance revealed that Dash hadn't noticed the breath. "Um, I forgot something we need for the essay in my room. Bye!" Before his partner could protest, Danny was gone.
The ghost was a species he'd never seen before, some bizarre panther-elephant hybrid thingy. Fortunately, it wasn't that tough, and the experienced fighter made short work of it before racing back home.
Dash was gone. Danny grinned. Maybe now his day would get better.
He had no idea how wrong he was.
Dash Baxter, star quarterback of the Caspar High Ravens, couldn't stop smirking.
Like Fentoad, he'd also had a rotten day. He'd fumbled the ball last night, and no one let him forget it, especially not his girlfriend Paullina. Then he'd gotten a Saturday morning detention with Lancer for shoving some random nerd into a locker. He didn't like the overweight English teacher- other adults turned a blind eye to the football team's activities, but Lancer had recently forgotten just how important Dash and his buddies were to the school.
The quarterback would never admit it, but he was secretly relieved that Danny Fenton was his English partner. The smaller boy was smart enough, though he would have to make sure Fentoad actually remembered to complete this assignment. Even better, the loser knew his place. He wouldn't whine at Dash to "do your fair share of the work" or whatever.
Then the wimp had run off in the middle of their meeting and left him alone. Jerk.
Even at seventeen, Dash had the attention span of a gnat. Without Fen-toenail there to provide food (his mom made great snickerdoodles), he quickly grew bored. What should he do? The jock briefly considered looking at the paper before discarding the idea. Proofreading was for nerds.
Growing grouchy, he looked around the Fenton's kitchen. Fridge, sink, cupboards, Fentoad's ratty purple backpack….
He did a double-take. Fenturd never left his backpack just lying around. But there it was.
His curiosity piqued, the jock walked over to the backpack and began rummaging. A picture of Fen-toenail, Foley, and Manson; another of Fentina, his hot older sister, and some equally hot girl who looked like a female version of him (wait. Did that mean the dweeb was hot?); a couple of notebooks; an evil-looking ring (skull or no, Fentoad was such a girl); medical supplies; and, hidden between his algebra book and a binder, a folded piece of paper.
Deciding that the contents of the paper couldn't possibly be more boring than an empty kitchen, Dash opened it up. His eyes went wide.
The paper was labeled "Ghost Zone Map."
The quarterback's jaw sagged. No one had ever been into the legendary Ghost Zone (that time with the skeleton army didn't really count). But then, Fentoad's parents were ghost hunters, and they did have that inter-dimensional portal in their basement. Did that mean the map was real?
A grin broke out on the jock's face. It was real! Okay, so he didn't know what the symbols meant (Who was Skulker and why did he have his own island?), but he'd gotten decent grades in geography and could probably find his way to something really cool, like treasure or a plant that gave people ghost powers.
With that thought in mind, Dash looked harder at the map. Some places, like Skulker's Island or Walker's Prison, were labeled in red. Others were blue: Clockwork's Tower, Far Frozen, Pandora's Palace, Phantom's Keep…. Phantom's Keep.
"This is better than making the winning throw." He held in his hands a map to Danny Phantom's ghostly lair. It was too good to be true.
There was a clunking noise upstairs. Dash jerked, nearly ripping the map apart. Fentoad was back! He threw the backpack into its original position and ran for the door, thoughts whirling.
Ghost or not, Phantom was his idol. Dash wasn't half as obsessed as his girlfriend (though that wasn't saying much) but he had that squeaking plushie and a couple of T-shirts. He followed the hero's every exploit, and seeing him fight a ghost earlier that afternoon had made his day. The chance to actually talk with his hero, maybe even play a game of football, was a dream come true.
Even better, Phantom always helped people. Besides saving them from evil ghosts, he fought human criminals, raised money to rebuild Amity's office parks after ghost attacks, and helped little old ladies cross the street. Dash didn't want to admit it, but he needed help. Lately, he'd been feeling empty and depressed inside. It made no sense. He had a hot girlfriend, popularity, looks, everything, but these were becoming less and less important to him. He didn't know what Phantom would do, but Dash knew that befriending his hero (really befriending, not just the superficial stuff he shared with Kwan and the other guys) would go a long way towards healing him.
But enough angst, the jock ordered himself. How can you be angsty when you're going to meet Danny Phantom tomorrow? The angst vanished as an idea hit him. Paullina worshipped Phantom. Maybe if he introduced them, she would break up with him and he could date someone he actually liked! Laughing, the quarterback ran down the streets. He had to tell Paullina about this!
"Crap crap crap crap crap! Where is it?"
The contents of Danny's backpack were strewn over his bed, totally obscuring the covers. He glared at the items as though they were responsible for his inconvenience. Where was his map of the Ghost Zone? He knew he'd put it in there!
Furious, the halfa searched through his belongings again. Then he froze. He knew that the map was in there earlier, and he knew that he hadn't taken it out. That left him with one inevitable conclusion. "Blood, blast and fire!" the hero hissed, using an oath from the Far Frozen.
Someone had taken his map!
Three and a half years of hiding his secret had made Danny paranoid. That was why, instead of suspecting that Dash had taken it yesterday, his mind instantly jumped to the worst possible conclusions: Vlad Masters-Plasmius or his relatives.
He didn't know which was worse. Vlad knew his secret, so he didn't have to worry about exposure, but the man was fruit loop. If he had the map, he'd probably use it to recruit Undergrowth and Ember, break into Clockwork's Tower, release Dan Phantom, and cap it all off by stealing Pandora's Box and taking over the world. That would be bad.
On the other hand, if Jack and/or Maddie had found it, they would probably think he was overshadowed and attack him with the Fenton Peeler or some other painful weapon. Then, once their son was out of the way, they would send some kind of ecto-bomb into Phantom's Keep, which would be equally bad.
"Flames above, below and-"
"DANNY! YOUR GIRLFRIEND'S ON THE PHONE FOR YOU!"
"-between," the halfa finished lamely. "Coming, Dad."
Sam Manson, his girlfriend of almost a year (their anniversary was coming up in a week), was naturally horrified by her boyfriend's news. She promised to come over immediately after school. Unfortunately, their other friend, Tucker Foley, was recovering from an early bout of the flu and couldn't help them brainstorm.
Classes were agonizing. Danny was a nervous wreck. Sam was slightly less paranoid, but she still jumped every time someone opened the door, half-expecting two angry ghost hunters to attack. As soon as the final bell rang, they ran into a broom closet so Danny could go ghost and fly them to FentonWorks. Once there, the two lovebirds began brainstorming.
Since neither adult Fenton had tried to dissect their halfa son, they could safely assume that neither Jack nor Maddie had taken the map. That left Vlad, but why hadn't he stolen anything else? Well, Sam pointed out, it didn't really matter. All that mattered was getting the map back before something went wrong.
The lovebirds had just finished perfecting their plan to raid his mansion when Jack burst through the door.
"The Ghostketeers are reuniting!" he cried ecstatically. "You two wanna join?"
Danny and Sam exchanged glances. Jack (being Jack) took that as an affirmative. "Great!" he exclaimed, grabbing their arms and dragging them downstairs.
The Ghostketeers consisted of Dash, his girlfriend Paullina, Star, and Valerie Gray. Danny didn't care about the first three except to note their presence, but the sight of his ex-crush triggered dozens of mental alarm bells. Valerie was Vlad's chief minion, a ghost hunter with a grudge against Phantom. Her presence confirmed all his worst fears.
As Jack blathered on about ghosts, his half-ghost son watched their visitors. No one was paying attention to the obese hunter. All of them, not just Valerie, were restless and bored.
Finally, the older Fenton ran up to the Ops Center to get his new Ghostketeers their spandex uniforms.
Dash grinned as he and the girls stood up. Danny tensed, but the populars ignored him. Instead, they made a beeline for the basement.
A scowling Danny intercepted them. "Going somewhere?"
"Back off, Fenton," ordered Paullina. "You can't stop us from getting the treasure or meeting Phantom."
Another time, the irony of her statement would have made him laugh. Instead, the halfa raised an eyebrow. "Um, Danny Phantom doesn't live in my basement." He lives in my bedroom, but you don't need to know that. "And we don't have any treasure down there either. Besides, that would be stealing, which is both wrong and illegal."
Dash shoved him aside. "We're not interested in your stupid basement," he snapped. "We're going to the Ghost Zone!" He and the girls descended the stairs.
Danny and Sam fought back smirks. There was no way that Dash would figure out how to open the portal, which needed Fenton DNA to operate. Still, better to be safe than sorry. The couple followed the A-listers down the steps.
For a few seconds, the intruders stared in silence at the vast metal bulk of the Fenton Portal. Then Valerie gave herself a little shake, reached into her bulging backpack, and extracted a tiny plastic baggie filled with red hair. Danny stared. "What is that?"
"It's a lock of your older sister's hair," the huntress explained. "I knew that the portal needs Fenton DNA to open, so I grabbed some last time I was here." She made it sound like it was perfectly normal to do so.
"Wow," muttered Sam, "that's not creepy at all."
Her boyfriend was beginning to get desperate. Without revealing his unnatural skills, there was no way to get Jazz's hair away from Valerie. All he could do was try to dissuade them.
"Okay, fine. You know how to work the portal, but what makes you think that you'll find Phantom or a treasure in there? The Ghost Zone is a pretty big place."
The intruders smiled. Danny's hackles rose. He did not like those smiles.
Without a word, Dash took something from his pocket.
The halfa froze. "Oh, you think that's a map? It's not. It's just a doodle I made 'cause I was bored. Lancer does that to you."
"Nice try, Danny," chuckled Valerie. "We all know it's genuine."
"Yeah, a genuine doodle."
The huntress snorted.
The good news: Vlad wasn't involved. If Dash had just gone through his backpack and stumbled across the map, the older halfa had nothing to do with anything. The bad news: four idiot human teenagers were going to step through the Fenton Portal and get themselves killed searching for some imaginary treasure. Danny might not like the other teens, but he was a hero at heart. He couldn't let them die.
If Tucker were there, he could have hacked the portal's computer system and made inter-dimensional travel impossible. Unfortunately, the techno-geek was stuck at home. There was only one way to keep them out.
Danny dropped into a fighting pose. Sam crouched beside him. She wasn't as good at fighting as her boyfriend, but three plus years of ghost hunting would give anybody skills.
Dash burst out laughing. "You're gonna fight me?"
Neither lovebird made a sound. Star, though, did. "Paullina, don't touch that!"
The halfa's head whipped around at an inhuman speed. Paullina, bored with the opposition, had started snooping through the lab equipment- specifically, a portable portal maker.
The hybrid leapt forward, but he was too late. Paullina pressed an innocuous-seeming button- and the world exploded in a flash of white. The last thing Danny felt before the light faded into blackness was a stinging pain across his cheek.