Vlad Masters walked out of City Hall with an easy, composed smile adorning his face. He clasped his hands behind his back as he walked down the stone steps that merged with the sidewalk of the busy street bustling with herds of people as they basked in the light, humble sun of the warm Friday afternoon. The schools were just beginning to let out, and while on any normal occasion the presence of teenagers would have bothered him, today he was in a good mood, and found himself offering up a smile of greeting or a small nod of the head to several teenagers passing by in their cars or on bikes or skateboards, and was left in pleasant surprise when the greeting was returned.

He walked along the sidewalk in this manner, his head held confidently, his eyes focused on the sidewalk ahead of him, the posture he believed to be that of a competent mayor. A competent mayor: someone who always looked composed and strong no matter the situation, no matter if the town fell into anarchy and he was perplexed with confusion and uncertainty. No, the town had not fallen into anarchy, because it was, in fact, just the opposite, with his direction, of course—society was calm, orderly, and above all, ignorant, too ignorant to realize that it was being led by the broadest example of a dictator. And though the people of the town might take this mask Vlad had put on, this intricately woven costume of composure, at face value, he would be lying if he said he felt how he looked, because despite this good mood he had adopted he felt how one might if the town they ruled suddenly and unpredictably fell into a state of anarchy—he felt confused and uncertain, but not unhappy. In fact, he was unsure how to feel anything but confusion and uncertainty in this situation, because it was neither bad nor good. The fact was, Daniel's momentary disappearance left him feeling for perhaps the first time in a long time without any certain emotion but vacillating neutrality.

It was not so much that Danny Phantom had disappeared but rather simply refused to take action against the impending rain of the ghosts that invaded the town of Amity. At least he did not believe that Daniel had disappeared permanently because he had seen him with his friends the week before in Amity's one and only mall—he'd only gone into the mall with the sole intent to check that the security systems where up to date and that the guards were competent but had found himself hiding behind the counter of a gothic clothing store watching as Daniel and Tucker helped Samantha decide on a pair of spiked faux plugs and wondering to himself why he cared so much what they were doing—as well as when he'd gone to Casper High to evaluate individual teachers' performances to see that they were fit for the job but had directed most of his energy into staring Daniel down through the small rectangular window on Mr. Lancer's classroom door, only to receive first an irritated look from the teen which then morphed into one childish resistance as he silently made faces and discretely picked at his teeth with his middle finger until Vlad took the hint and went away, and of course he had seen Daniel around the Nasty Burger and his friends' homes and his own, so he was sure he had not gone anywhere. But the ghosts hadn't gone anywhere either and were free to terrorize the town until the Guys in White or himself on one occasion recaptured them and destroyed them, because someone had to protect the town and it was obvious Danny Phantom was not going to do it. And what had preoccupied his mind that afternoon while sitting in the large chair in his office as sun spilled in through the window was simple and direct: why?

At first, he had not noticed Daniel's absence regarding the ghosts' activity, but when he had found it necessary that he step in himself and vanquish the malevolent spirits to keep the town at ease he had known that something was amiss. He knew Daniel and his morals, how he strove, since being given his ghost powers, to protect the lives of the innocent at all costs, to be the unknown hero who was satisfied simply seeing that he had brought evil to its knees once again. So where was he? Where was he when he must certainly be aware that his town was suffering due to his absence?

And while this question forced his mind into a state of utter confusion and uncertainty, he could not say he was in the least bit bothered by it, because Daniel's absence was, in plain terms, the key to his success in his plans for future domination of first this backwater town, and then the country, followed by the world. Without Danny Phantom to protect them, the town and everyone in it was totally and completely at his mercy, which was why he had been waiting for the perfect opportunity to take Daniel out of the picture, one way or another. And now, it looked as if the job had taken care of itself, which was why Vlad couldn't say he was necessarily happy about Daniel's disappearance, because he believed that should be his right, not the right of Daniel himself. It was his right to decide Daniel's fate, and it was as simple as that. It was up to him whether or not Daniel lived, whether he lay dead on a battlefield stripped of his dignity or he ruled the Earth beside him and became what he had always longed for—the perfect half-ghost son. He would be the reason Danny Phantom died to this town, whether literally or figuratively.

While Vlad Masters was uncertain whether he was pleased or upset by Daniel's disappearance, he did not force himself to decide, because truthfully it did not matter until he had deciphered exactly why Daniel had not protected his town as he had self-proclaimed. And this was why he had not stayed in his home this afternoon, because he had curiosity that needed to be satisfied. Curiosity, he realized, that could be only be satisfied from the reason it had come to be in the first place.

Fenton Works was only a few blocks down from City Hall, but on the way he happened upon Tucker and Samantha as they walked out of the movie theater together. Instead of walking the rest of the way to Fenton Works, he crossed the street to the movie theater and approached the two of them upon realizing that he had no idea if Daniel would even be at his home. If he was somewhere else, Tucker and Samantha would know, and while he was certain they would be less than keen to share their friend's location with his arch enemy, he was also certain he had ways of making them talk.

"Tucker, Samantha, a word," he called to them, leaning against the bricked wall of the theater and crossing his arms over his chest coolly.

Tucker and Sam turned around and stared at him. Their faces were pale and hardened, their eyes cold and somber.

"It's Sam," Sam said softly, but her voice sounded so pained, so hateful.

"As you must have noticed, my dear, I tend to address people by their full names, and I don't make exceptions, not even for my little badger."

Sam's eyes widened and her mouth fell slightly agape as she turned to look at Tucker, who gently touched her shoulder.

"It's okay, Sam," he said.

Vlad stared at them with an expression of perplexed amusement, smiling slightly. "What?"

Sam said nothing, and Tucker shifted uncomfortably and looked away as he tried to formulate a response. "Well…he's…I…"

Vlad stared at them for a moment more, and then he broke into a beaming smile and dissolved into a fit of laughter. "Oh my goodness, you betrayed him, didn't you Samantha?" he said through laughter. "You and Tucker betrayed him, didn't you? He loved you so much and you went and broke his heart! Oh, this is just—"

"You motherfucking idiot!" Sam screamed, jerking her gaze away from Tucker as she stared into Vlad's eyes, her face twisted in pure, undiluted rage. "He's in the fucking hospital, you prick! His dad almost killed him!"

Vlad stopped laughing and stared at her, the bitter amusement melting away into something of horror and shock. "J-Jack almost killed him?"

"Yes," Sam hissed as she started to cry, "Jack almost killed him." With that, she jerked her shoulder out of Tucker's grip and ran down the sidewalk.

Tucker watched her, unmoving, until he could not see her. Then, he turned to gaze at Vlad. His eyes were filled with hatred and coldness beyond comprehension.

"I guess you finally got what you wanted, Vlad. I hope you're happy."

And, he, too, ran away, leaving Vlad to stare after him in an emotion he did not believe he'd ever felt prior to that moment: guilt.


This is just an idea I had and I wanted to write it down and see how it turned out. Sadly, I'm actually ill for once, and I must admit this is not my best attempt at a story, so I appogize, but I'd still like to hear what you have to say. Please review and tell me what you think of this so I know whether or not I should continue it, because I'm already pretty swamped with stories I'm writing for .

Anyway, I actually did enjoy writing this one, but I kept thinking, "Sorry Vlad, but Adam West will always be a better mayor than you." I love that part of that Family Guy episode where he's like, "Every Friday night, I'm a clearance-sale area rug." Endless laughs right there.

Well, I hope you enjoyed this thing, and I sincerely hope you do not get sick, because it's a bitch, I can tell you that.