A/N: Welcome, dear readers! Thanks for tuning in! Have you ever wondered how each ghost in the DP world compared in power level to Danny? I always thought it odd that the show never mentioned any ghost's power level except for Danny's; you know, that he was at a power level of 'seven' when he was fourteen years old.…So, I started wondering…..hmm. How would the other ghosts measure up against Danny at that time? And then I started musing even more with my muse, Ms. Hyde…Hmmm, dearie! And then we, uhm, I mean,I, yeah, I also knew that Vlad Plasmius would also have been compiling that kind of information as well, all with the purpose of using it against our hero. So I just had my wonderfully evil muse, Ms. Hyde, smuggle that info out and then I ran it past a distinguished panel of other Danny Phantom writers who agreed that the list was good. But more importantly, the panel also thought our conniving older half-ghost's evil plan was pretty good, too. So, that is what this story's all about!

However, in this story, since all my stories form a continual series over all…—Okay, I'll stop here, since I just KNOW what you're thinking right now! Yes,Seeing is disBelievingis the exception, but really, you could say it is…uhm….in actually apastmemory of Danny's recorded by two people (me and my MEGA- cool co-author, pearl84) rather than atrulyout-of-sequence story... Ahem, well, you didn'texpectme to admit that I would do such a thing as put my stories out of order, would you? And, uhm, really, I explained about that little detail inthatstory's beginning, you know! But this story is sort of a sequel toSeeing is disBelievingmore than any other story following another. But it takes place about a year after Sid.

Anyhow,since all of my stories form a continual series over all, this one will carry on the tradition, even though the format will be a little different: it'll be a mixture of most all of the genres and I'm letting my imagination run on Red Bull, uh, even if I don't like Red Bull—-but it's as IF I had some Red Bull...Darn, I think you know what I mean! Anyhoo, that is why I labeled it as Suspense/General and gave it a "T" rating. Just a 'heads-up' on that. You know how I notice stuff like that!

Ahem, getting sidetracked—again! Sorry! Anyhow, like I was saying before I was rudely interrupted by my brain, since all my stories form a continual series over all, it might be best that you read them. But I'll make it easy for you:Bewerewulfed, His Own Worst Enemy, Shadow of a Doubt, TrueHeart, and, yes, even,Seeing is disBelieving(with major spoilers in here, so be warned!) are the closest stories to this one; so if you want some background to some references I will definitely make in this story, take a peek at them…and send me your thoughts forthemin the form a love review letter as well, of course! (Yes, shameless commercialism, I know, and I'm proud of it!—after all, it's all because of the fact that evil 'pure genius' part of me (AKA as Ms. Hyde) is fighting to get out! OUCH! That hurt!)

Anyhow, enough of that. But before we start, I would like to wish my good friend, Angelus-alvus a MEGA-COOL and SUPER Happy Birthday today! And I dedicate this entire story to you not only because you're a true friend, but you have been my most faithful reader through good times and bad-from the very beginning. Thank you! And thanks, as always for helping me out with the summary. YOU. ARE. AWESOME! Happy Birthday!

Ahem. Back to the story. I just go off like that you know, but then again I KNOW you KNOW that I KNOW you KNOW…Uh, or something like that. Anyhoo, it's time to give you a little background that might help you gel the theme of this story in your head….So, the prologue is going to give you a little science lesson for ya (Yeah, can't get away from school even here, can ya?)…..

Here is Chapter One. Don't forget my mantra: 'IDNOAC' (translation: I do not own any (Danny Phantom) characters). However, besides the ghosts you will definitely recognize, there are some OC's in this story that aretotallymine, some that totallyaren'tmine or some that arealmosttotally mine. You'll see and I'll explain them as their chapters come up…

So, are you finally ready to have me shut it and get on with the story? …Okay! I can take a hint! GEEZ! So, here ya go with Chapter One…And enjoy it, of course!


Gold Tested in Fire

(A Golden Opportunity for Horror!)

Prologue

Gold is a dense, shiny, yellow precious metal. Its unique qualities have made it attractive to mankind since earliest times. Not only is its color and brightness attractive, but it is also durable to the point of virtual indestructibility. It also does not tarnish or corrode. It is highly malleable and is usually found in nature in a comparatively pure form. A highly desirable substance, no doubt.

But, of course, the refined gold that we value and desire does not start out that way. It is mined like any other mineral, and when it is, it is intermixed with all sorts of impurities. Therefore, gold must be processed and put through a series of purifying steps before it gets to that point when it is considered a thing of beauty and admiration.

One such method to purify the gold is by burning off its impurities, which is called a fire assay. Cupellation is the name of the technique that forms the first part of the fire assay process, in which lead is added to the unrefined gold material. The mixture is heated in air to between 1,830°F and 2,010°F (1,000°C and 1,100°C), at which point the gold-containing metal dissolves in the lead. All base metals, including the lead, are oxidized to form a lead oxide slag. A gold-silver bullion, which also contains any platinum group metals present, remains. If pure gold is required, additional refining steps are necessary to separate out the gold…[1]

There it is; now you know all about how gold is purified. And the same, I daresay, can be said of one's character when it is tested in fire…


Gold Tested in Fire—Chapter 1—The Plot Unfolds

"Finally! All my hard work and time spent on this is about to pay off! And ha! You could even say that it is as good as a golden opportunity handed to me on a silver platter!" the red-eyed, fanged ghost hybrid gushed as he carefully put down a small black microchip on a table in his lab just before reaching for a strange looking grey gadget that was also on the same table.

But before he grabbed that gadget, his eyes drifted over to another item he was going to use in the near future. He grinned smugly at that mostly long and thin beige object as he continued, "And, oh, I must say this is the best—and most ingeniously diabolical—plan I've come up with so far. And this time, I know my Master Plan 285-MP and all its sub-components will work just to my specifications. In fact, now I have all the perfect ingredients and it is the perfect set-up in achieving my main objective!"

He smiled a bit just before he reached for that object. He had long gotten over the melancholy of having lost something very important within the last year during one of the most intense events he had ever endured….Or so he thought. But the truth that the man couldn't admit to himself was that he had devised this plan precisely because he was still not satisfied about the status quo. And he still had a bitter taste in his mouth and heart from it. No matter what he would or would not admit, he was driven by a dark desire for both revenge and conquest because of it: and all of it centering around one…person…Though it had taken longer than he had thought to plan and set everything up, he was patient and ever meticulous with it, grooming it as carefully as if it had been a surrogate…son. After all, he had to be this careful in order to be successful this time.

Vlad Plasmius cautiously picked up the grey gadget—which really was in fact a grey helmet—and brought it to eye level so he could inspect it once again. It certainly wasn't a plain helmet. It had blinking lights and wires all over it, and two antennas. And each of the antennas was exchanging bolts of electricity between them as if they were playing tennis with each other. He made certain that he was careful not to touch any of the electrical components of the helmet as he continued to admire it.

His attention was then momentarily drawn to a nearby white cat that had just come into the room and meowed when her feline green eyes met his glowing red ones. He smirked when the cat quickly ran up to him. Though the warmth his ghostly body generated overwhelmed hers, he could still feel the pleasant pressure of her arched up back as she rubbed her side up against one of his legs. With a slight chuckle, he quickly and yet gently scooped her up and placed her on a small table near where he had been still working.

"And as you'll agree, Maddie," he emoted, speaking to the cat with a wicked smile, "This plan will work where the others obviously haven't. I just wish you would've told me that all my other plans wouldn't have worked in the end so that I wouldn't have wasted my time with them…"

The cat just blinked in confusion and curled its tail around its torso just as it sat down on the small table next to him.

"But of course, I couldn't blame you, Maddie," Plasmius said, turning the helmet off and momentarily placing it down next to the small black microchip and long, thin beige rod-like object with an eerie-looking top before turning back to his cat. "After all, I know you meant best. And I did learn from those failures. I now understand you were merely going about it all in the wrong way. Couldn't you see, for instance, that I haven't been able to break Daniel using the direct approach, though I've come close? Sure, some of his powers make it hard for me to do that, especially when that one power….Hmm, Maddie, what silly name does Daniel call it?"

He paused and looked at his cat. She was stretching, her claws now fully exposed.

Vlad suddenly laughed in delight before he said, "You are so clever for reminding me of his newest power arsenal, Maddie! That's what he calls it: his wulf claws! Yes, well, I was sort of responsible for his getting that particular ability, now wasn't I, since I did sic Wulf on him that one time?"

He briefly paused, then added with a more thoughtful frown, "Hmmm…Still, even when those little needles are impressive, they really haven't given him any physical edge over me…" He frowned even more at his next thought before he suddenly vowed passionately to his empty lab, "Not that it would matter in the end—as I will succeed, Daniel!"

But then remembering himself, he coughed and said, "...Ahem. Nevertheless, just like the past, I'll have to be careful how much force I use to try to break Daniel physically, because if I had tried even an ounce more of force to try to get him to yield physically, that would have only meant that I would have had to kill him—and, of course, that's not what I want to do."

The cat began to lazily lick her front paw, but the ghost hybrid didn't give it another thought as he became more irritated with his next thoughts, which actually had drifted to the things he had tried in the past and not what had most recently happened between him and the boy. After all, if he had completely won the boy over before their most recent ordeal together, he might have been able to come out of that without all of these…mental scars…So, it was indeed frustrating that he had wasted so much time, especially when he had come so close to breaking Daniel's will the last time he had tried. So close… He had almost created the perfect clone of the boy and used it to break him all at once! Confound it! If only he had been able to get him under his control then!

He suddenly growled in more frustration at that thought. But then drumming his fingers on the work bench, he forced himself to calm down and be reasonable again. After all, he had indeed learned from his mistakes. And that cloning incident, although hard-learned, had reaped some good.

He chuckled with that satisfying thought. "Yes. And I did get some useful information about Daniel in the end that I will be put to good use now... And I do tend to rectify that 'control' part."

He looked at his cat and she glanced briefly at him before looking immediately down at her front paw once more. She lifted it and began to lick it again.

Just then, a new light on the mainframe blinked and the cat flinched before jumping off of the table and landing softly on the floor.

Still, Vlad was not daunted by his pet's reaction as his mind had suddenly focused back on his more recent memory, the one where he had the very last encounter with Daniel. He continued, "Oh, yes, and there was that whole 'Observant and Iluzisto' affair…. Sure, I did manage to get him partially over to my side during that whole thing—and I could have possibly gotten more from him since I know a lot more about him. After all, we came very close to…"

He suddenly drifted off, his mind flashing with the memories of how it had almost succeeded:

"I'm so tired of this, Vlad," the teen muttered sadly, his back hunched forward and his arms resting on his thighs. "I'm tired of always having to fight against you. I'm tired of having to search for some underlying meaning to everything you say and do. And… I'm tired of you acting one way with me one day and the total opposite on another."

Danny finally looked up at Vlad with troubled eyes and asked, "Did… Did everything that happened in the prison mean nothing? Was it just an act because it benefited the both of us? Is… this our reality, Vlad? To fight each other for the rest of our lives?"

The boy's voice took a desperate tone when he got no answer, and instead voiced what he really wanted to know. "What is that you really want from me? To be your son? To follow your dark path? To be your chess pawn?"

But Vlad also remembered what he had told the boy later…

"When I first met you, I used to see you as a pawn I could use against your father," Vlad answered soberly. "But… as I began to discover your qualities, I wanted to test them, rival them. Somehow, though, that has also changed over time. You have become very important to me—like a son. All I want is for you to be my side, but… there is so much between us, Daniel."

His thoughts suddenly fast-forward a bit, thinking about their very last encounter after defeating Iluzisto, just before they returned to their own homes back then...But, he just as quickly dismissed the thought, though there was a frown now on his face as he muttered, "Daniel probably would have objected about it in the end. After all, we both knew that we were forced into that alliance. Besides, had things worked out differently, he would always want to do the right thing in the end as well. Foolish boy. But now is the time to rectify all of that."

He paused a moment before looking down at his feline, which was now sitting on the floor, watching her own flicking tail. "At least I can say that the boy is predictable, which will also play well into what I have planned for him…," he told Maddie. "And that includes his intellect. It certainly hasn't been the least bit of a challenge to me, even when he has been able to pull a couple of good ones on me. But that was pure luck, wasn't it?"

He frowned at the animal when all she did was lick her fur. He then had to admit, "Well, maybe. After all, his grades have been coming up…Hmmm. No, that hasn't mattered at all."

He paused.

The white cat looked up when his voice stilled and meowed.

"You're absolutely right, again, Maddie!" he said with a satisfied chuckle, patting the inert grey helmet in between the inactive antennas. "But now, if I twist and turn and then break him mentally, then he'll be putty in my hands. And everything else will fall like dominoes. He'll be so helpless, his infernal will won't stand a chance to resist any offer I make him this time!"

He then walked over to the mainframe, mulling over his plans again.

"Oh, Maddie dear?" he finally asked the empty air as he began to study the readings flashing on the computer.

When he said that, the white cat meowed and came toward him at the sound of her name, just as a holographic image suddenly appeared near the man and just beside the cat. She looked even more like the 'real' Maddie Fenton now that Vlad had been able to improve upon the program enough to make the personification of his computer solid and give her features depth. The facsimile was nearly flawless—creepily so.

"Yes, my most handsome and brilliant apple dumpling?" the computer image purred, before spying and then scowling down at the white animal right next to her.

The cat meowed again and the holographic Maddie shooed it away with a quiet hiss, "He wants me now, you filthy flirty fur-ball!"

This time, Maddie the cat bared her teeth and claws and hissed back in threat.

But Maddie the hologram instantly grabbed a nearby magazine and tossed it at the animal, sending it to the other side of the room in quick retreat.

The computer-generated image then turned on her heels, flashed a large smile, and floated over to where Plasmius was.

Fortunately, the ghost hybrid hadn't pulled his gaze off of the computer readings during the whole time, and hadn't noticed that little interaction.

The female facsimile sweetly asked, "And what can I do for you, muffin cake?"

"I need you to check over these readings to make sure they are right. I cannot have any errors in them."

The holographic computer analyst quickly began to push some buttons and scan the readings. A few moments later, she announced, "As always, your calculations and conclusions are perfect, pumpkin. The roster of ghosts, which includes the ghost of your objective, is complete and in order; and the ghosts' calculated power levels are accurate. And all the materials you need to initiate Master Plan 285-MP are ready and in the queue for activation."

Vlad looked at the readings over her shoulder and replied with a smile, "And just in time, too. The sensors indicate that Daniel's energy power hasn't been at a 'level seven' for quite some time. Not that I had expected him to remain at that level, especially since he's still growing. After all, his inner energy core is very dynamic as it is mysterious, and he is older….In fact, how old is he now?"

Before the hologram could answer him, he continued, "Sixteen? Yes, he just turned sixteen in June, which was only a few months ago."

But what Plasmius didn't know about was that Danny was really over seventeen mentally, all because of that time change during his fight with his evil self over their fight for Clockwork's staff now well over a year ago.

"That's right, dumpling," Maddie the hologram agreed with a giggle. But then, she added, "Actually, he's at a power level of eight-point-five-three fantomos [2], and in general, that level is rising. However, there are fluctuations in those readings that are paradoxical."

Vlad frowned at the Maddie copy before replying, "Yes, I know. I want to see what all that means. It could be good and bad. Bad, because that means that he is getting even closer to my power level than I want him to be. And the way it's going, it won't be too long before I won't have any more leeway in getting control over him. Blast it! Does he even know how powerful he's becoming?"

"From the conclusions on when you last had me analyze his current methods of fighting ghosts, I would calculate not, sweetums," the computer-generated Maddie cheerily piped in. "The ghost of your objective still uses much lower fantomos energy than he has."

The older hybrid's eyebrows shot up in surprise, before oozing back down into a frown. "Then, he may not know…But then again, we know that Daniel also has that 'hero complex' thing practically ingrained in him; and so I wouldn't at all be surprised if he wouldn't use too much energy to subdue the ghosts if he didn't have to. Even so, I need to do something about him before he gets much older—or more powerful."

The female hologram never lost her smile as she listened to the half-ghost. She then said, "And what is the good news, sugar sweet tooth?"

"Sugar sweet tooth?" the older half-ghost echoed back, raising an eyebrow in bafflement. He then thought to himself, "Looks like it's time for some computer maintenance!" But he said instead, "Oh, yes. The 'good news'? It's good that he is more powerful, because, of course, when I break him, he won't be just out of the way of any future plans of mine. He'll finally be at my side when I plan them—as my most ideal and powerful…son! And then, I can finally fulfill my life's dream."

"Oh, how wonderful, muffin doodle!" Maddie the hologram gushed just before she pushed a few more buttons. She then frowned and whimsically said, "Oopsie, lamb chop! According to this later data that has just been fed into my system, your future 'most ideal and powerful…son's' power level just went up by 0.025 fantomos."

Vlad's eyebrows shot up in surprise again as he uttered, "It has? Then, it's time to get on with my plans!"

He paused a moment as a light bulb suddenly brightened his brain with excitement. Everything he had worked so hard on was about to unfold!

He reflexively glanced at the long, thin beige object with its eerie top before continuing, "Hmmm, that's right...Daniel may not be aware or concerned about his rising energy level, but I know exactly who would be very concerned about that, even with all their blather otherwise! In fact, no matter what has happened in the past, they are going to play nicely into this plan of mine!"

Maddie's replica smugly replied, "And a most excellent plan it is, sugarplum. Not only will it achieve your objective, but it is the only way to find out how your future most ideal and powerful…son gained so much power so quickly."

Picking up and admiring the still de-activated helmet once more, Plasmius smiled and replied, "Yes, you're right, Maddie. I must know about that. And I have a few theories that may explain that. But all in due time, since that is only part of the whole plan. But, you know, you are right to make it an equal priority. Knowing exactly how Daniel is rising on the Fantomos Ecto-Scale may actually makes it even easier for me to finally get him to succumb and be at my side. Though, in the end, it won't matter because I will have him at my side."

He then put the helmet down and picked up the black microchip. He smirked at it. This, too, along with all of his latest inventions would be the key to breaking the boy. Yes, a few of his new tools had needed some modification for his dark purpose, but all was ready.

Skulker had also been much help, as usual. Well, he did complain this time around about the extra labor he had to do. But Vlad was hardly bothered by that. In fact, he was sure the hunter enjoyed all his tasks, especially when he had given him his Plasonar Modulator to use.

Vlad grinned, adding mentally, "Yes, he did enjoy itI could tell by how much grumbling he did for each task!"

But it wasn't like Vlad had not also done his share—if not more—work than his ally. After all, there were all those careful and meticulous samples, tests and such he had to do on the fruits of Skulker's work…

"Yes, in the end, all that sweat and toil on both mine and Skulker's parts was well worth it," he thought with satisfaction.

He suddenly chuckled at his own genius and added out loud, "Oh, Maddie, this plan is so delicious that I can almost taste it!"

"This plan of yours is edible, cupcake?" the hologram queried with confusion now reading on her face. "My memory banks don't record that."

Vlad then frowned and said, "Never mind, Maddie. I don't want to overload your circuits trying to explain that one!"

"Oh, good one, honey muffin!" she gushed.

"But there is that other thing I need to check before we begin this scheme, Maddie dear," the older ghost-hybrid said before walking toward the entrance of the lab. He could see that the cat was sitting there as well.

"And what is that, apple-dumpling?" the hologram asked with a sugary smile.

Vlad replied, "Well, as you know, you have not been able to form without interference in that special room of mine. I'm sure it has to do with the fact that this is nearly a facsimile of the one at my mansion in Wisconsin. It is newer than ever, including all of its specialized and sophisticated features that I recently installed. In fact, it doesn't even look the same as the one in Wisconsin, so you probably wouldn't have recognized it anyways."

He paused and smiled sadly at her, adding, "I wish I could have had you share my excitement over the improvements, but you know I had to have all of the computers in that room off-line until I could complete the computer upgrades. And I hadn't been able to finish that until just a couple of hours ago. So, I think that program is ready and it will now be possible to have you there at my side. Just give me a moment, and I'll show you," Vlad casually remarked as he scooped up Maddie the cat.

Maddie the hologram narrowed her eyes in irritation when she saw the cat in the man's arms, but instead, she sweetly replied, "Of course, dearest. I will await you with bated breath."

The hybrid quickly retreated and floated up the stairs to the top floor of his mansion. He hurried to another part of his mansion until he came to the entrance of the place about which he had been referring with his Maddie computer hologram.

Still cradling the cat in the nook of his elbow, Plasmius slowly opened the door and flipped on the light switch. The light instantly flooded the room.

It was obviously some kind of control room. The bottom half of the far side of the wall contained multiple panels full of instruments, buttons and switches. Some buttons were lit, but most weren't. There was a large window just as long as the control boards imbedded in the top half of the wall just above the panels. But at the present moment, the window was darkened and nothing could be seen on the other side. In fact, all that could be seen in the window was Vlad and the cat's reflections as they moved further into the room.

And as Vlad and the cat came into the room, a small noise suddenly emitted from a coffin-like shaped dark grey receptacle the billionaire had installed quite some time ago. It, too, was one of many improvements he had made on this room, and would be serving his purpose—if needed—in the not-to-far future.

But when the cat had heard that noise, she arched her back and hissed in threat at the receptacle.

The half-ghost, of course, had noticed the change in the white animal and chuckled, "Don't worry, Maddie. Our 'new friend' is very safe and secured. I would not have had Skulker go to such detail and care in the receptacle's safety features when he had installed it if I thought it weren't absolutely necessary. And, believe me, what's inside that receptacle right now needs all the secured containment as possible."

Vlad placed the cat down on the floor just before he walked past the grey receptacle and over to the control board that contained the lit buttons. He quickly scanned them, his mind whirling in sync with their calculations.

"The systems are on stand-by, as they should be," he said to himself with a satisfied nod. He then glanced at a green button, which triggered another thing that needed to be done. "Ah, yes, there is that other important matter that I must set up," he continued before pushing that green button, which instantly lit up under his fingertip.

Not more than a few seconds later, the hybrid silently smiled when he recognized the deep familiar voice he had just summoned.

"Sir?"

Plasmius turned and instantly smiled at his ghostly employee. "Ah, just the ghost I wanted to see. I see you had no problem making it here from Wisconsin, hmm?"

The male ghost smiled back. "It was fairly easy to find your portal with the instructions you gave me. But…does that mean you would like me to carry out your orders at last? Is that why have summoned me?" he asked, an excited glint in his eyes.

Plasmius chuckled. "Eager as always. But, yes, I am just about ready for you to verify my findings. I will alert you when to proceed."

The male ghost nodded. "Yes, sir. I will stay close and be… ready…"

"Exactly what I want to hear," Vlad acknowledged with a smug smile. "Very good, then. You may go..."

"Yes, sir," the ghost replied before he quickly exited the control room.

Plasmius just hummed with satisfaction before turning back to the monitors and pushing a blue button this time.

The holographic image of Maddie Fenton just as instantly appeared once he had activated that button.

She sweetly said, "I missed you, honey doodle. And, oooh, I just love how you have decorated this wonderful room…So technical and ingenious, just like my sugar lump! Now, what can I do for you?"

Vlad smiled. The program worked! But he was quick to reply, "Please run down a diagnostic for this room and the other room it controls, Maddie dear. I want to make sure everything is perfect before we move on."

The computer image immediately began her task. But then she spied the cat right next to her foot and frowned. In the next instant, her face flashed a restrained wicked smile just as she quickly and quietly booted it toward the door.

Maddie the cat meowed in protest as it unwittingly slid across the slick floor, but Vlad didn't notice. He had been checking on some more instruments and was thereby distracted.

Before long, Maddie the hologram reported, "All systems are in order, angel cake."

"Including its capability in being ghost-proof?"

"Especially its being ghost-proof, lamb chops!" she purred back.

The evil hybrid felt a content smile pull on his face. It felt good. Very good. He knew that once he got Daniel here using that beige weapon, he would use that microchip, that upgraded helmet he had modified when it had mysteriously come into his possession a while ago, some other things and the special room just beyond the window in front of him to finally get Daniel to be by his side. And that would be only the beginning…

His smile never dimming, Vlad then walked up to the small console just under the window. He pushed a red button and immediately, light flooded that area just beyond the window. He looked upon it as an artist his work, even though it looked like a plain, white room that was merely connected to this control room. In fact, the window from which Vlad was currently looking out was more than a one-way mirror into that adjacent area. Indeed, it was very much a stealth window, for anyone in the room on the other side of this window would never detect the window at that vantage point. Not only that, no one would guess from its unpretentious façade what evils lay hidden within it...

Vlad smirked. Yes, this special room—his simulation room [3]—was his masterpiece and would be the ultimate key to his plans...

The man then walked quickly over to a television-type monitor which was busily calculating and displaying data. He quickly pushed the button in that area and once the screen went blank, he replied to his computer, "That is good, Maddie. All systems are a 'go'. And getting the boy here and under my control will have to be done carefully, to be sure. We both know that the direct approach has not worked in the past. He cannot suspect that it is me and my pawns behind what he will have to endure. But that will be time well spent. After all, to do it right is to do it slowly, like bringing the perfect recipe to a perfect boil under the perfect fire…"

"But I do not see any stoves in here, honey muffin," the holograph protested in confusion.

"You're right, my dear. But there still will be some fire shortly," the half-ghost replied with an evil smirk, not noticing the hologram's confused frown.

But that smirk melded into a self-satisfied grin again at the thought. He knew the time was ripe.

He finally told his holographic Maddie, "Now, the first step to getting the boy here is to see what he's up to right now. But, of course, we can't have him know that we're checking up on him, now can we? And so there is only one purely ingenious way to do that, hmm? So, shall we get on with it, Maddie dear?"

"Of course, pumpkin," the hologram said as she pushed the control button, which activated one of Vlad's spy bugs…


A/N: [1] The process of purifying gold was found on the internet. But since it took me forever to look it up, I can't remember all of the websites and forgot to write most of them down except one, which FF won't let me publish out right but I will try: w/ w/ w/ e/ how dot com. However, this information is not my own, and I give full credit to the author of this piece.

[2] Fantomos are used to measure the power level of ghosts and spirits. They are equivalent to our own units of measuring energy, like Btu's (British thermal units) or joules, only that fantomos are more powerful. In fact, one level of fantomos (therefore, a power level of 'one' for a ghost) is equivalent to over 1.0 megajoule. Quite impressive! And I want to thank one of the experts on that consultant panel for this bit of information. But, you know who you are and we'll keep it at that! *winks* And, BTW, the 'Fantomos Ecto-Scale' is totally made-up.

[3] Based upon the 'simulation room' invented by FanFiction writer pearl84 in her awesome epic Checkmate. Used with permission from the author.

Of course, I hope you like the start and since this is the month of love, that would be wonderful to send me a love letter in the form of a lovely review.