Chapter 30 - Behind Enemy Lines
Danny groaned, lifting a hand to his head in an attempt to stop the growing ache. He felt like he'd been hit by the Spectre Speeder. Twice. As he rolled over, he felt the duvet wrap around his legs, its grip tightening on his body.
His groggy mind tried to find answers as to why his body was so sore. Had he fought a ghost last night? Had Jazz tried to get him on her new fitness regime again? His memory was… fractured… he couldn't remember anything bad happening…
He buried his head further into his pillow. Not quite ready to face the world. Maybe he was just sick.
It was only when he inhaled the scent of the pillow that he knew something was wrong. Within a heartbeat, everything came rushing back to him. Grandview. Melinda. The Guys in White.
Danny's eyes shot open and he jolted himself upright, frantically scanning the immediate area for threats.
It took a while for his pupils to adjust, but as soon as they had, Danny's breath caught.
His room. He was in his room.
He cautiously pulled the bed sheet from on top of him and dragged his legs over the side, allowing his toes to sink into the familiar bristles of his rug.
His posters still lined the walls – rockets, planets and stars staring down at him from all angles. Exactly as he remembered them. The model spaceships on his chest of drawers, the lamp by his bedside, photos of friends and family littering the various surfaces – everything was here.
Danny gasped as he realised he hadn't been breathing. The surge of emotion from within him hit harder than all Grandview's ghosts combined. He fought back the tears that were threatening to escape him, forcing himself to remember why he was here.
The Guys in White.
It was only when their name ran through his head that he realised everything that was wrong with the picture. The biggest difference was that there was no window. The synthetic sunlight pushed its way through the room via thin tube like bulbs that lined the top of the four walls, nestled directly under the roof. As he turned, he could see that his cupboard was also missing. A closer look told him that his lamp had no cable, and that there were no electrical sockets to be seen.
And then there was that clinical smell.
A bubble of anger burst within his chest, causing him to growl.
This was just a sick game to them. He'd lost everything. His very existence appeared to be hanging in the balance and they were… what? Mocking him? Playing mind games to see how much they could mess him up before the real experimentation started?
Balling his hands into fists, he stood and called upon his ghost half.
It didn't respond.
Slight panic blooming, Danny tried again. Despite his best efforts, he couldn't summon the white rings to complete his transformation.
"What the-" He gazed down at himself. Other than the lack of shoes and socks, he was in the same clothes he'd been wearing before the GIW showed up - blue sweatshirt and jeans. He'd never felt more uncomfortable.
Then he spotted the device on his wrist. It was the bracelet that agent had tried to get on him when he left the house. Registering it seemed to give it permission to start aching. He raised his free hand to feel for any latches, anything that would help to get it off. Twisting his wrist, he noted that the metal appeared seamless. Other than the small dark red orbs evenly spaced on the grey, there was nothing.
It wasn't until he pulled at it that he remembered the spikes that lined the inside. He gasped in pain as the force drove the needles further into his wrist. Whatever this thing was, it wasn't good.
He rubbed the skin around the device and stumbled to the door. Unsurprisingly, it was locked. With a sigh, he made his way to the back wall and slid down it, sitting on the floor. The thought of going near the bed again made him feel sick.
Being here made him feel sick.
He closed his eyes as he was attacked by memories of sitting with Sam and Tucker, making plans for the weekend, or holidays… talking about their dreams for the future.
None of them had planned for this.
Don't give in to it. This is what they want. To derail you. You can pull through this.
Danny scoffed at the thought. He didn't even know what this was.
The sound of the door unlocking drew him from his wallowing. He lifted his head as the exit swung open, glaring at the silhouette in the doorway. The man stepped forward and the door slammed shut behind him.
"Oh good, you're awake."
Opting not to answer, Danny observed the newcomer. Never before had he seen a man more bear-like. He was enormous, and not only in height. The muscular structure underneath his white suit looked incredibly out of place – like something you'd expect to see on a wrestler rather than a government agent. The man's face was weathered and worn, framed by a military style haircut that could have been brown but in the light, looked more black.
Danny had fought worse.
The man smirked at his silence, raising a hand to gesture at the room.
"I figured being somewhere you recognise would make this easier," he lied, smooth enough that anyone who wasn't Danny might have believed him. His accent was burred, similar to Adam's but with a touch of somewhere else. Australian?
"How thoughtful of you," Danny retorted, careful to keep his voice even. He couldn't let them know how much this was hurting him. He wouldn't give them the satisfaction.
The two observed each other a little while longer before Military-man shoved his hands into his pockets, as casually as if they were discussing the weather.
"Henry Falcon. If you hadn't guessed already, I am the guy in charge."
"You say that like it's something to be proud of."
"Recently appointed. Don't worry, I plan to make changes."
Something about the level of disdain in his voice sparked Danny's curiosity. If he didn't know any better, he'd say Falcon wasn't his team's biggest fan. Cautiously, with the wall for support, he pulled himself up to standing.
"What kind of changes?"
The man didn't respond, electing instead to gaze around the room. His eyes landed on the chest of drawers to his left. Without a word he strolled over and picked up one of Danny's multiple photo frames. The picture he had chosen was of the Fentons, taken when Danny was ten. That was the day they unveiled the ops centre on their roof. The quality was poor and the image was slanted, what with a young Tucker having snapped the photo. Danny was sitting on his dad's shoulders, while his mum and dad squashed Jazz in between them. They were happy.
"You are a people person, am I right? I mean... You found a new home within the space of a few days. It's admirable. Not a lot of people can… schmooze like that."
Danny frowned, not liking the insinuation that he had somehow tricked the family into taking him in.
"I wasn't schmoozing. Melinda is a good person. She asked me."
"She did? You sure?" Falcon lowered the photo back on to the surface, turning to Danny like a predator facing his prey. "From what I heard, it was you who got her to collect you from the police station when you were in trouble."
"How did you-?" This guy shouldn't have been able to get near that information – he'd made sure to cover his tracks and wiped any record of the incident. Danny swallowed, realising that, that wasn't what he should be worrying about. "What are you getting at?"
"You're likeable. You have… charm. Evidently, you can get people to do things for you." The way his words slunk around the room made Danny's stomach churn.
"Does this little chat of yours have a point, or are you just here to bore me?" the teen asked sharply. A fraction of a second later, his eyes lit up and he lifted his hand in mock realisation. "No wait, I've got it! This is the first bit of torture, right?"
Falcon scoffed, stepping away from the dresser. "I'm not here to torture you, Mr Fenton."
"Right. Sorry. Experiment. Speaking of which," Danny thrust his arm in the air once more, gesturing at the metal grasping his wrist. "Care to talk me through this?"
The man clasped his colossal hands together, eyes alight with the mention of the gadget.
"Ah. There's a plant called a blood blossom that naturally repels ectoplasm. Our scientists managed to find a way to dilute the effects of the plant so that rather than causing pain to a ghost, it acts as a sedative. Elliot figured that if this diluted extract was to be applied to you, it would disable the ghost half for as long as the dampener," he pointed to the bracelet, "Is in tact. Turns out it works."
Elliot. That name was familiar. Agent A? "He's the guy that came to the house?"
"He's inexperienced, but he has potential." The man nodded, seeming unfazed by the idea that Danny was on a first name basis with one of his agents.
Danny's eyes fell on the hunk of metal once more. So he was right. This was what was disrupting his powers. He'd have to work on getting it off before he escaped. If he managed to escape. The thought was like a knife to his already aching core. If it wasn't torture or experimentation that he was here for… then what?
"What do you want?" There had to be more to this than he was letting on. Sure enough, Falcon's face twisted into something vaguely resembling a grin.
"Before I arrived here, my team focused solely on the capture, experimentation and destruction of ghosts."
Falcon paused, giving Danny a hungry once over with his eyes before he spoke again. "I want you to work for us."
Danny was silent for an entire three seconds before the first hint of laughter rose up through his chest. Before he knew it, he was rocking back and forth, clinging to his stomach as the laughing began to burn his insides. This was not happening. This was absurd. It had to be some kind of joke. Danny? Work for the Guys in White? That was an idea and a half.
Falcon didn't say anything as the boy continued to shake, simply raising an unimpressed eyebrow. As Danny began to calm down, he looked up at the agent. The man's sober expression and the lack of emotion in his eyes were enough to dry up any remaining laughter.
"Wait, for real?"
"For real," Falcon confirmed, folding his arms in a relaxed manner. "The world has always been a hostile place, it seems more so now than ever. I took over this department for one reason – to build a force capable of defending against any threat. I want you to be a part of that force. I want you to convince others of your kind… the more powerful half, to be a part of that force."
Danny gulped, watching the gleam of Falcon's eyes as the words sank in. This guy was crazier than Walker. Part him was still expecting the madman to start laughing any second. He shook his head in an attempt to clear it of the surprise.
"Nice speech. Did you rehearse that before you came in, or was it one of those spur of the moments thing?" Danny joked, hoping humour would save him from his building fear.
Falcon didn't say a word, choosing instead to pin his captive with his analysing stare. It wouldn't surprise Danny if this in itself was some sort of test.
The Guys in White were crazy. Falcon was a prime example of that. Danny wasn't a soldier. He only ever fought ghosts out of necessity. He didn't doubt for a second that all Falcon wanted was a weapon – someone able to hurt… even kill whoever the government or department decided was an enemy. Danny couldn't kill. Especially after seeing the level of destruction his evil future self had wrought.
"No." Never before had his voice been more clear. Falcon's face twisted into an unreadable expression – Danny couldn't tell if it was disappointment or satisfaction – and nodded slowly.
"I expected as much."
The amusement in the man's voice sent a chill down Danny's spine. He glanced at the exit, subconsciously wrapping his hand around the dampener.
"Was that it? Because nice as this has been, I've other places to be." Again, the level of confidence in his voice surprised him. As if it was that easy.
"It's good that your sense of humour is still in tact. You'll need that." Falcon planted his hands behind his back, looking more and more like an army general.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
The man gave the place an exaggerated look over. "I do hope you'll find this room to your liking."
As the realisation dawned, Danny's blood went cold. He glanced at the photos, the posters, the bed – all the things he needed to move on from if he wanted to keep his head level and swallowed. He couldn't stay here. Ten minutes had been bad enough.
"Come to think of it… perhaps being a people person isn't good for you. Solitary confinement can be tough on the most introverted of folk."
A spark of anger ignited in his chest, flaring up amongst the fear. He didn't like being taunted.
"You can't keep me locked in here forever," he spat, stiffening and taking the smallest of steps forward.
"Interesting that you mention forever. I am interested to see how aging works for you. Ghosts last millennia. I wonder how long a half ghost could exist. I guess we'll find out."
"I never thought, we should have put a clock or a calendar or something in here. Something to help you keep track of time. I guess you'll have food times. Sorry my team won't be able to hang around and chat. I'm thinking we'll likely be tied up with other things."
Danny's heart stabbed at his chest, trying to force its way out as the man kept pushing. Despite the fact that he knew Falcon was saying these things to get to him, it didn't stop the building panic. While the man's words were intended to wound, Danny knew that there was a frightful amount of truth in them.
When he'd lost his family, all he'd wanted was to be alone. And yet when he met Melinda, he realised just how much he'd missed having people around. He'd never been completely, entirely alone before and he knew that he likely wouldn't survive it. At least not mentally.
Falcon knew that too.
"Don't do this," he growled, fear and anger melding into one.
"Of course… if you change your mind at any point, there will always be a spot open for you on our team."
Danny snapped. Despite not having his powers and despite the enormous size difference, he launched himself at Falcon.
Before his fist could connect with the man's face, Falcon grinned. In that split second, Danny realised he'd made a mistake. Falcon's hand shot up and caught Danny's wrist, which just so happened to be the one with the needle bracelet around it. The pain and shock of the action was enough to stop Danny's breath in his throat.
All he could do was watch as Falcon's other hand appeared from behind his back, wearing a slim metal glove and holding a small spherical device. With a wicked glint in his eye, Falcon drove his hand straight into Danny's chest.
Danny gasped as the metal phased through his ribcage, driving straight for his heart. For a brief moment, he felt his ghost core come alive, absorbing whatever that ball of silver was. As soon as the connection was made, a jolt of pain shot through him, causing him to cry out.
He writhed, as though pulling away from Falcon would mean pulling away from the pain but the man simply took out the glove and held him in place, lifting him so that his feet weren't touching the ground. The teen's free hand shot to his chest, pressing against the material of his sweater.
As the pain began to fade, a metallic thrumming took its place.
"That beating you're feeling. It's a tracker. It gives me your heart rate, your core reading and your location. I wouldn't advice trying to get it out. It's designed to fuse to your ghost core. Can't phase or cut it out. It's a part of you now. So, just in case you do manage to get out… we will find you." Falcon released his grip on Danny, causing the boy to collapse onto the floor. With a final scathing look, he made his way to the exit.
"Enjoy your stay."
Danny heard the door close before he realised that Falcon was gone. He fought to catch his breath as his anguish, more emotional than physical began to overcome him. Pressing both hands against his chest, he began to cry.
AN: Sooo... that happened. I can never apologise enough for how crumby I am at updating. I am terrible. As terrible as Falcon maybe? :')
Hope this shortish chapter is enough to sate your hunger! Love you guys!
Until next time...