Maddie uploaded the last of Jazz's files onto the lab's data computer with a bing, signaling all the psychological questions were present for her use. She had wanted Jazz's recordings and findings for this particular project of hers; after all, the infamous ghost boy was just running with psychological mysteries.
It had been almost ridiculously easy to capture the elusive Phantom. Normally, she and Jack bumbled onto the scene, several seconds after Phantom had caught the ghost, and they'd exchange some witty banter before piling onto the weaponry. They'd shoot, and Phantom would turn invisible or intangible before he would even lift a finger in the fight.
This time around, Maddie had come up with the idea of going up to Phantom while he wasn't fighting a ghost. A few times, she had bumped into her son Danny, but by chance, she had caught him while he was lounging in the park, staring almost lazily at the blue skies. Maddie knew ghosts were constantly obsessive, but the peace was enough to make her pause. Jack was the one with the portable ghost shield and ecto-guns, and from there, he had simply thrown the shield up, shooting Phantom into the cage holding him now.
She knew it was odd of her to be psychoanalyzing a town "hero" as both her children had put it, but she had wanted a full scientific explanation for Phantom's actions. The reasons why he destroyed property and endangered human lives would be enough to persuade others that Phantom was a menace rather than a hero, perhaps enough to convince her children. Hopefully. It was painfully obvious how they saw Phantom, like many others at Casper High.
Her husband Jack insisted on the physical aspect of science, and to be fair in paranormal studies, she had divulged into the mental aspects of ghosts. His catch-phrase, "I'll tear the ghost kid molecule by molecule" certainly showed his interests in that area. Maddie herself had wanted the luxury of examining the physical ectoplasm in the ghost boy's body, but she relented once Jack had begged for platters full of cookies and fudge in exchange. That, and the other parts of psychology.
Jazz was the expert in psychology, so after Phantom was secured in the lab with an anti-ghost shield and several human locks to ensure no accidents occurred, Maddie immediately went to her daughter to see what types of questions she had asked some of her previous cases. Jazz had been furious when she heard of Phantom's capture, to Maddie's surprise. She knew that Jazz knew all ghosts were inherently evil. But Jazz had furiously screamed she would not hand over the files, until Maddie calmly explained to her daughter Phantom was only to be used as a psychological experiment.
It was a reasonable request for such a small price. Jazz finally gave up after hearing Phantom would not be harmed, only contained for the time being. Maddie herself knew that if she did harm Phantom, there would be major trouble with the town's inhabitants. Many had turned to Phantom's side after the Pariah Dark incident, which Maddie had even herself wavering on her position. But science was science. Past experimentation had proven ghosts were incapable of emotions.
Which was why Phantom was the odd one out. Whatever physical evidence was gathered, Maddie was sure the results would add to any ordinary ghost, albeit a more powerful one—from experience, Maddie supposed. Phantom had been fighting for nearly a year now, and it was reasonable that he would gain power in that way. But psychologically, and Maddie hated to admit this, Phantom believed he was saving people, whether or not the actual outcome showed it.
Hence Jazz's notes. Maddie sighed with relief at this early finish of the upload. Jack, who still insisted on tearing the ghost apart molecule by molecule, was currently out of the house, out with Vlad. The multibillionaire had first insisted on her presence, but Maddie knew this was the golden opportunity to ask the infamous Phantom some questions to prove he was capable of emotions. She had told Jack to go in her place instead, something Vlad found questionably irritating.
Maddie turned face Phantom once she hit 'print' on her computer screen. The sheets neatly stacked themselves on the board next to the beakers. Grabbing them, Maddie seated herself on a chair to fully examine the ghost boy in comfort.
He lazed around in the green shield, almost bored. Maddie found this intriguing. Despite having been trapped by ghost hunters, he gave no indication of fear. It wasn't to say he wasn't emotional at all. On the contrary, he looked like he was fiddling with his white hair to rid himself of the pure boredom. Like any ordinary teenager with nothing else to do.
For a second, Maddie let the words sink in, stopping her thoughts abruptly. Phantom looked like a teenager. That meant he had died as one. Perhaps he only stayed in Amity Park because it was his hometown from years ago. But that wasn't right. He had to have died recently, with his first appearance marked at almost a year now. It was impossible that he had died in Amity Park; she hadn't heard any of the news from town hall. Maybe he had lived in another nearby town? Or was it because the ghost portal finally worked, up and running thanks to her son Danny?
Maddie shuddered to think of what implications of an early death meant. Phantom must have been close to Danny's age. She winced as she thought of how Phantom had died—to think that her Danny could die at any moment's notice would be horrifying to her.
It would have to do as her first question, she decided. Might as well start with the big ones first. Maddie raised her chin, and looked directly at Phantom. He seemed to have noticed the questions were done uploading and was glancing expectantly at her.
"How did you die?" she asked, letting her voice drop to the flat-lined tone of a natural born scientist. There was no going around the question. It was as personal as anyone could get, she supposed. But even then, as she stared at Phantom's confused expression at her words, ghosts didn't necessarily remember how they had died, especially those who had been involved in an accident.
Phantom's brow furrowed, as though the question asked had been an excruciating difficult one to answer. It didn't seem to Maddie, however, that he didn't remember. He looked more or less like he was trying to pull it into words without revealing what actually happened. His luminescent green eyes stared at the ground and one of his gloved hands found its way to his neck, where he began rubbing furiously. A nervous habit, Maddie noticed as she marked the information on her sheet. It seemed curiously familiar.
"I…eh, well, I was electrocuted," he said lamely, as though it was all he could say. Maddie's eyebrow arched at the simplicity of his death. Electrocution was common, though it must have been a large shock to send the boy to his death. But it didn't particularly explain his obsession with fighting. Specifically, ghost fighting, as the ghost didn't seem to like harming humans like other ghosts.
"Why do you want to help people then?" Maddie asked. "Electrocution doesn't give any clear reason why you would be fighting your own kind, or even become a hero for that matter."
Phantom shrugged at the question. "I don't know why I wouldn't," he pointed out, his voice echoing slightly. "It's not like there are competent ghost hunters around…er, I mean, there's you guys, the Guys in White, and Va-the Red Huntress, but c'mon. You guys couldn't even capture the Box Ghost, and even the Red Huntress has trouble capturing ghosts like Johnny and Kitty. They're more of a nuisance than an actual threat."
"That ghost couple is particularly vulnerable to humans," Maddie retorted. Who was the ghost boy to say she wasn't competent? It was really just a matter of who had more time on their hands to track down all the ghosts. Phantom was a ghost and didn't go to school or have a job. Maddie had to file taxes, cook meals, and create ghost hunting equipment. Well, the ghost hunting equipment wasn't necessary, but ghost hunting was her job. Which meant she had to be well equipped with good technology before facing a ghostly opponent.
She released a breath. It wouldn't do to have anger built up inside her while interrogating a ghost. Not with Phantom especially. He was too dangerous, and with the newfound knowledge of his electrocution death, Maddie wasn't sure whether or not the shock from her new invention to keep ghosts in line was a good idea of a threat. It would make Phantom berserk and unleash his fury onto her.
Maddie glanced down at Jazz's notes. The first question listed was a good way of breaking down Phantom's supposed hero complex. She looked up at Phantom again, noting how his eerie green eyes seemed to be drilling into her curiously. They were filled with a mix of concern, boredom, and curiosity. He wasn't a ghost mentally, not with his constant display of human emotions.
"What do you feel when someone's in trouble?" Phantom's eyebrow rose at the question. It wasn't the usual "how did you become a ghost" question, Maddie knew, like she had asked before during one of their fights. It meant she was serious about the psychoanalyzing. It also meant admitting Phantom had feelings. This much was enough to give Maddie a headache, but Phantom wasn't like other ghosts. For crying out loud, she had caught him while daydreaming in the park.
Phantom stared at Maddie for a few more minutes before settling into his thinking stupor. "Um…I guess how most people feel," he said, frowning. "No, that's not it…most people just assume that someone else would take care of things for them. It's more like that person's in trouble and I feel like no one else would save them. It's like because someone's crying and you need to comfort them…"
He muttered to himself for a few moments. At his answer, Maddie jotted down the words, but now she looked back on them. It was unusual that he could analyze in such careful observance how the general public felt towards a danger, and even more so that he had stated he "needed" to comfort them. Was that his obsession then, as a ghost? To protect others from danger?
No. Phantom was lounging in the park during the day. She knew for a fact that ghosts who wanted to protect would create trouble in order to find something to protect. Undergrowth had showed that much. It was in any ghost's nature to continually find ways to obsess.
"What's your obsession?" she blurted out, not bothering to look down at the notes. Psychoanalyzing or not, she had to know what Phantom most desired. Looking at how or why he carried out his obsession wouldn't matter unless she knew exactly what he was made up of in order to stabilize him into the material world.
Phantom grinned at this, to Maddie's surprise. "I don't have one."
Maddie processed the words carefully. It was impossible. All scientific evidence proved he wouldn't exist without one. "You have to have one."
The ghost shook his head, a smile still tugging at the corners of his mouth. "That's your problem. I don't have one, and why should I? It's just going to weigh me down anyway."
"You're saying ghosts can choose to have an obsession?"
Phantom opened his mouth to answer…and then closed it. Once again, the frown was back. "No, that's impossible," he said. "Ghosts need an obsession to remain in the real world. I mean, even the Box Ghost chose something to materialize around here—and boxes aren't the best obsession to have. I think that actually has something to do with his death or something…but I guess to answer your question, no. Ghosts can't choose."
"Then what makes you different?" Maddie challenged. Phantom smirked at this, only further irritating her. It was as though Phantom knew what made him different, and it didn't faze him in the slightest. The little bit of knowledge that he was emotional to situations, observant to social activities, and careful with his personal attachments and obsessions showed he wasn't similar to the other piles of ectoplasmic mess.
Maybe he was different physically too then, Maddie thought to herself. Perhaps it wasn't such a bad idea to examine Phantom by ectoplasmic splurts. It would explain all of the ghost's quirks and changes in personality separating him from the rest of his kind. Jack would have some use now—and upstairs, she could hear the front door opening, a loud thundering telling her that her husband was back from his day with Vlad.
"Mads, I'm home!" a voice boomed. Phantom looked up, a fleeting glance of worry in his expression before it faded into a nonchalant air. His arms folded—according to Jazz's notes, this meant he was blocking off further questions—in time for a physical check-up.