Thursday had come all too slowly for Danny. He despised Thursdays – they were always so far into the school week, but not close enough to the weekend. He had already decided it was going to be a terrible day, just like every other Thursday morning – and he hadn't even gotten rid of his bed-hair yet. Snuggling further under his warm Corona Borealis constellation printed sheets, the mussy-haired boy contemplated the idea of feigning sick before quickly shoving it aside in fear of his mother's reaction to her 'poor baby boy' being ill. Not even skipping third period double English was worth risking another of her coddling sessions.
Reluctantly kicking off the starry covers, Danny felt the familiar twinge of cold rush over him as autumn hurried to introduce the sleepy Illinois town to winter. The room was significantly colder that from between Danny's sheets, and while it never truly affected him (thanks to the discovery of his cold core), the ghost-boy found that he'd much rather just roll over and go back to sleep than suffer through an early morning gym class with Ms Tetslaff and Dash. They were playing dodge ball again.
Inching his feet off the mattress onto the hardwood floors, Danny dragged himself up, shuffling his way out the door. Making sure to shut it softly behind him, he glanced at his sister's own closed door as he tiptoed past to the bathroom. It was rare for Danny to be awake before Jazz – she usually had to threaten him with one of their parent's modestly-named inventions.
His extra-sensitive hearing caught the sounds of his parents already tinkering away in the lab downstairs. Hopefully that meant that they hadn't prepared breakfast for him. He let loose a slight shudder at the memory of their ectoplasmic-infused toaster going on a cannibalistic rampage, attempting to devour the other appliances in the kitchen. The blender still had teeth-marks.
Sleepily pushing the bathroom door open, Danny edged his way to the mirror, rubbing his unfocused eyes before relenting to the morning and cracking them open to meet his reflection. The sight that met Danny was one he was still getting used to. Now at the age of sixteen ("two months off seventeen" he'd remind anyone that asked), the once scrawny and short boy had not only grown up, but also out. Danny had finally reached his impending growth spurt cast out to him by his future alternate self. He now loomed over both his sister and mother at six feet, five inches – and judging by the slight ache in his shins and back, he wasn't going to stop any time soon. He would possibly be even bigger than his father if he grew any more. He had inherited his father's famous girth as well – his shoulder's broadening and his jaw was no longer as weak. The once round, baby-fat face that gestured towards his youth had thinned out. Nobody could mistake him as a little kid anymore.
His hair, sadly, was the same. The unkempt mess of black still fell dangerously close to his eyes, which peeked out from under the shaggy mop in a soft, baby blue. Running a hand through his hair, Danny quickly stripped and hopped into the shower.
Dressing himself a few minutes later (sneakily using his intangibility to dry himself), Danny heard a sharp rapping coming from where he knew his room was. Slipping his head invisibly through the door, Danny watched as a disgruntled Jazz huffed indignantly.
"Danny, get up already! I know you're awake! If you don't, I won't say what Mum and dad's new invention is, and I can tell you now that it not very nice!"
Danny rolled his eyes (unseen by his sister as she continued to bang on his closed door) before smirking, allowing the feeling of weightlessness overtake him as he slipped through the bathroom floor-tiles and plummeted towards the kitchen, leaving his sister to continue knocking persistently on his door with an angry huff.
/ / /
Natasha Romanoff strode down the halls of the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division, appearing to be in a very bad mood. Not only was it a Thursday (her least favourite day of the week), but rumours had started to circulate about a possible threat in the north-east of America, involving a sudden oscillation of an unrecognisable power in recent years. SHIELD, however, had chosen to stubbornly ignore it, and as one of the irritable desk jockeys had deemed it "not worthy of their time" since one of the lesser agencies (either the GiW or the JL, she couldn't remember) had been delegated to the job by the American Government, despite the growing evidence listing otherwise.
Natasha glanced down at the rejected report she had written during her assignment in St. Louis, Missouri, where the rumours had first started to surface. Her undercover mission had exposed her to many unbelievable pieces of gossip, which she'd originally forsaken to focus on her job. But when the stories kept appearing through the grapevine, with even the mobsters she was investigating eliciting fear of whatever was in those sleepy eastern towns, her suspicions rose.
Now, as Natasha stormed through the steel walls of the helicarrier, she decided that Nick Fury's decision to delegate the problem was stupid.
Amity Park, a small city located in Illinois, was apparently having trouble with the supernatural ('ghosts', specifically) with fluxes of otherworldly power seeping from alternate realms. Fury had blown this off as a city-wide scam to promote tourism after reviewing the reports written by whatever mediocre government group had been sent to the case. The town newspaper had even gone as far as getting a teenage boy to bleach his hair white and dress himself up in a ridiculous skin-tight suit, claiming himself as a superhero (Natasha had rolled her eyes at that).
Despite Fury's loud demands to drop the subject, Natasha found she couldn't let go – the rumours were spreading too far to just be folk-tales, and the stories were beginning to hold a pattern, never reaching so far out of control to be completely unbelievable, but being absurd enough for people to listen. She was going to find out what was happening in that town whatever way she could. Her ledger was already soaked in red. What was a few drops more?
/ / /
"Danny, my boy!" a hulking man in a bright orange jumpsuit cried gleefully, "Come look at my latest invention!"
Danny barely glanced up at his dad from his bowl of cereal, his mind still in a Thursday-induced haze of sleepiness despite his delightfully long and warm shower. Too bad Jazz won't be able to enjoy it, Danny sniggered to himself. He pulled himself from his thoughts at the sight of his dad's grinning face, inches away from his own, making him jump back with a gurgle as he choked on his breakfast.
Jack gave him a firm thump on the back, nearly sending Danny reeling from his seat, before stretching upright proudly, glancing between Danny and a rather peculiar machine. Danny stared; standing at over seven feet tall and looking extremely heavy, he wondered how his father had managed to even drag the contraption up the stairs from the lab.
The heavy-looking cylindrical machine was painted a flat white with a simple door. With delight at Danny's curious expression, Jack yanked it open, presenting a cramped-looking chamber. The interior gave off an eerie green glow as multi-coloured lights blinked disconcertedly at them, the exhaust fans creating a low symphony of whirrs. Jazz had been right, his dad's latest invention resembled anything but friendly.
"Er, that's great, dad. What is it?" Danny asked hesitantly.
Jack let out a bellowing laugh, as if the answer was obvious, "I call it the Fenton Ecto-Extractor! When a ghost is locked inside, it sucks out high levels of their ectoplasmic energy and transforms it into a usable power source – it could run half the city for a year if a ghost was strong enough!"
Danny felt his cereal try to crawl back up his throat, "Half the city? What ghost would be strong enough for that?" he laughed nervously, "I mean, it's impossible! You would have to search the entire Ghost Zone before you found one powerful enough!"
Danny's mother, Maddie, swept into the room, her arms laden with soldering guns and welding equipment, "What in the world are you talking about, sweetie? Of course there are strong enough ghosts! Everyone knows that Phantom is easily the strongest around. Him and possibly the Wisconsin ghost, of course."
Jack nodded fervently, "Imagine what this baby could do when we get our hands on the ghost-boy! It would be like two birds with one stone – give the city energy and get rid of all those pesky ghosts! Here, Danny, how 'bout you try it out?"
Danny did not like where this conversation was heading. Catching sight of a disgruntled, wet and shivering Jazz – since he had so generously supplied her with an ice-cold shower after she'd realised he wasn't in the room she'd been yelling into for over ten minutes – in the kitchen doorway, he turned to her, pleading desperately with his eyes as Jack attempted to coax him to step into the Ecto-Extractor to "get a closer look".
Jazz, despite being obviously annoyed at her little brother, asked innocently, "Danny, shouldn't you be heading off to school now? You're going to be late otherwise."
Danny grinned at his sister, "Right, school! I should get going! Otherwise I won't be as smart or courageous as two certain ghost hunters I know!" flattery was key, and Danny was an expert at stroking his parents' egos.
He watched as Jack's chest swelled with pride, completely forgetting about his quest to get his son to try out the Ecto-Extractor, "That's right! Hurry up and get good grades so you'll be my brilliant apprentice, Danny-boy! I'll show you all the tricks of the trade."
Danny's smile slid from his face, turning into an ugly grimace before he muttered something about brushing his teeth and headed up the stairs to get ready for school. It was going to be a bad day indeed.
/ / /
Natasha was frustrated. Trying to convince the other Avengers to join her to travel across the country – or in Clint Barton's case; the world – to investigate the truthfulness of a handful of rumours was not exactly working out as planned.
Seated in front of multiple monitors transmitting a teleconference between the five mortal heroes, Natasha attempted to keep the monotonous inflection that had come to represent her, "There have been news reports – both the townspeople and tourists have said they've seen things – doesn't it seem peculiar? An entire city can't all be in on a hoax like this."
Steve Rodgers' digitalised face looked at Natasha sceptically (or at least she thought so, he still might have been confused over the technology), "While there might be some strange occurrences, do you really believe in such things as ghosts? I've had to do crowd control in my day due to outbreaks of mass-hysteria—"
"If there is such a thing as aliens, why can't ghosts exist?" Natasha replied back snippily.
"Because aliens are alive. As in, they have a pulse. Ghosts, on the other hand, are believed to be the manifestation of a dead person's 'soul' or 'spirit'. It's simply not possible," Tony stark lazily stated, as if speaking to a child.
Clint Barton frowned, "What's gotten you so worked up? Usually you would be the first one to repudiate the idea of something like ghosts."
Natasha bristled, "I don't believe in them, I just know that there's something bigger happening in that town. Ghosts could simply be a cover-up for something more."
"You'd know all about cover-ups, wouldn't you, Natalia?" Tony said with a snort.
Natasha switched off the screen connecting her live-link to the self-proclaimed genius.
Clint shook his head slowly, "Look, I don't have time to chase fairy-tales. Maybe when I get back from this mission, okay?" without a goodbye, he turned off his own transmission.
The others shortly followed suit – Steve with a bit more time and confusion – and Natasha allowed herself to pinch the bridge of her nose in frustration. Glancing back at the monitors to switch them off, she paused.
Bruce's face was still staring back at hers.
He shrugged, "I've always liked ghost stories."