Slayer Anderson

DC Phantom: Chapter IV

A Danny Phantom/DC 'Verse Crossover Fanfiction

Started - 07/19/2012

Summary: Danny's weekend passes almost without incident. Sadly, almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. Danny explores his new friendship with the silent Kyd Wykkyd, fortuitous and problematic meetings occur as the first day of school draws closer. Meanwhile, Phantom ponders the implications of living in his new school and the changes it is heralding within his body and mind...the latter of which are vastly more troubling.

Chapter IV – Night & Days

He'd taken a morning shower for more than three years by that point.

It wasn't the fact that he needed to 'wake up' that kept Phantom indulging in this habit, it was the fact that this tradition was, subconsciously, one of the few remaining links to his life in Amity Park. Thanks to the provision against electronics beyond a certain complexity (and his parent's stinginess) he wasn't allowed a cellphone or laptop. Although his mom and dad had talked about him needing either one of both, but they had eventually decided he'd have to make due with the facilities at his new school.

Still, a certain reluctance about using the school-provided laptop he'd found in the desk last night lingered. After all, he didn't know exactly who had access to the school computers, which meant someone would probably be able to put two and two together and realize that Phantom was Fenton if he just logged into the same instant messenger he'd used back home.

...so talking with his family or friends was out.

For the most part.

Brother Blood had given him permission to hand off letters whenever he saw the older man and had also promised to see to the boy's privacy. It wasn't as though Brother Blood was merely a mail horse, though. He had duties of his own, which meant 'mail service' was intermittent at best.

Danny had left his entire life behind in Amity Park, most of his possessions, and anyone who knew him. Even if a morning shower wasn't much of a condolence, it made him feel more...human, especially given last night's uncomfortable revelations, that was something that he needed desperately.

"It's kind of...weird, not sleeping," Danny admitted.

Kyd Wykkyd shrugged, as if to say, "I wouldn't know."

"I mean...I'm not tired or anything. Whenever I've pulled an all-nighter or stayed up all night watching movies, I've always been wiped the next day," Phantom explained, rolling his shoulders as he settled into one of the new jumpsuits his father had sent. Belatedly, he looked at the long black coat laying on the bed; it looked like leather, but given his family it was probably some sort of semi-futuristic material his father had crafted. Picking it up carefully, again because his father had made it, looked the clothing over.

A notepad thrust into the visual range stopped his train of thought:

You'll get used to it, Kyd's precise script read, the only problems I have with the late nights are finding something to do. You can't imagine, yet, how boring it can get with eight or nine extra hours to your day. Here the print was a little rougher, a mark of faster writing. What's with the coat?

Phantom hesitated, wondering on what to say...and whether or not he should lie to his new friend. Eventually, he settled on something near enough the truth, but vague enough to satisfy his new-found paranoia. "A going away present," he stated, slipping the article on and settling into it as his ectoplasm bleached it white. "You think it's too much?"

Kyd blinked, his pencil already moving:

You've gotta' tell me how you did that, but the coat looks fine...you don't look as skinny with it on.

Phantom scowled, Kyd's playful smirk keeping him from becoming truly irritated. "Haha, very funny; the clothes are a trade secret, though. You know, the 'I'd have to kill you before I told you type thing.'"

Kyd blinked, pressing graphite to paper again:

Shouldn't that be the other way around? You'd have to kill me IF you told me?

"Not when you're talking to a ghost," Phantom grinned.

Kyd gave every impression of rolling his eyes despite the fact that they were merely blank fields of red. Turning away, the blue-skinned teen picked up his cowl and cape and busied himself with readying for the coming day.

Phantom was glad for that, because his new friend didn't see him scowl into his dresser mirror, his own electric-green eyes glaring back at him. 'Why did I crack a joke about that, of all things?' Just for a second, it had been as though the burden of last night's realization had faded away to nothing, leaving only a...sense of lightness, as though there wasn't anything to worry about. 'I wonder why I did that...I mean, I shouldn't joke about death, anyone's death, especially my own, but...it when I said it, it just...didn't seem to matter.'

Danny shook the oddity off, looking over his reflection as he judged his appearance with the untrained eye of a teenage boy. He had to admit, the white coat looked pretty cool, trailing down to nearly his ankles and turning his rather lanky frame into something with a bit more substance. The half-ghost fiddled with the belt of the coat for a moment before shrugging a resolving to wear it untied around the waist, letting it sweep with his movements. 'Okay, the coat stays, I look pretty badass, it's as close to a cape as I think I'm comfortable with, and now I have some real pocket space.'

A few goofy poses later and the dry sound of gloved hands clapping brought him back to the real world. Kyd was admirably attempting, but ultimately failing, to suppress a smirk and practically shaking with the effort of strangling silent laughter in submission. Instead of collapsing into a heap, he held up the notepad for a terribly blushing Phantom to read:

C'mon He-man, we'll be late to breakfast.

Danny pressed a hand over his face to hide his reddened cheeks. Embarrassed beyond words, Phantom tried to salvage the situation. "I think I should remind you that we're roommates, Kyd, and I'm not above extremely petty revenge if it comes to that."

Kyd mimed 'zipping' his smirking mouth closed and let the subject drop.

Absently, Phantom grabbed the set of documents off his desk, deciding to get a little reading done over breakfast, since he doubted ecto-contaminated/animated food would be on the menu. The half-ghost perked up at that, wondering what a 'normal' breakfast would be like.

DC Phantom

'This is kinda' boring,' Danny sighed somewhat despondently. The waffles hadn't attacked, the cereal and/or milk hadn't exploded, and the fruit wasn't protesting his eating it. All-in-all, beyond the fact that the cafeteria was filled with people in various multicolored and odd-looking costumes, breakfast was completely...normal.

And then his spoon fell through his hand.

Phantom frowned, looking at his translucent limb, "Crap. I thought I'd gotten over that."

Wykkyd, sitting across from him at their table, eyed his friend's arm similarly, pointing at it with his own spoon and raising an eyebrow.

"It's...well, I'm not completely used to all of my powers yet," Danny admitted, his cheeks flushing slightly in embarrassment. "Sometimes I go invisible or intangible without really meaning to."

Kyd nodded sagely, thankfully not seeming to think much of his 'problem.'

Concentrating briefly, his arm faded back into full-color tangibility and Phantom resumed eating, idly cutting a glance at the set of folded papers set next to his tray. As he brought his gaze over the various topics, his white brows furrowed in thought. The most interesting, of course, was the possibility which 'combat practice' represented. Then again, he'd never really taken classes like what the H.I.V.E. offered, except for math, and even that looked more interesting than the 'normal' high school curriculum alternative.

A dark-clad finger reached over and tapped one of the pamphlets he wasn't holding and the half-ghost's green eyes slid over to lock onto where Kyd had pointed.

"Foreign languages?" Phantom asked, looking up to Kyd's red orbs. "What about them?"

Wykkyd tapped the paper a bit lower, pointing at the options listed beneath this time.

"Oh, which one am I taking?" Phantom asked, clarifying.

The darkly-clad teen nodded, then pointed at himself and at the fine print: German.

"Oh, you're taking German?" Kyd nodded. "I...hadn't thought about it. Maybe Spanish? Or...I'd think Chinese or Hindi would be hard, wouldn't they?"

Kyd shrugged, apparently satisfied, though his eyes widened as he apparently focused on something behind Phantom, his fingers going limp as his own spoon dropped into the bowl in front of him. Danny blinked, staring at his new friend and wondering at the sudden change in the atmosphere. All around him, people were going silent, seemingly waiting on something...bad to happen.

Weakly, Kid raised an almost limp finger to point at the...

Well, it certainly looked like a large rock covered in irregular parts of spandex and hair which somehow sported narrow and angry-looking eyes. 'Okay, it's bigger than Dash, smells worse than Dash, and seems to want to hurt me way, waaay worse than Dash. Great, I wonder if I have a 'bully magnet' sticker on my back or something.'

"Well, lookie here. Didn't know they let stick-figures join the big leagues. Sure you punks are in the right place?" So said, the massive figure reached over and grabbed Danny's plate of toast and sausages, dumping the lot into his mouth and seemingly swallowing it whole.

"Name's Mammoth, dick-weed, and I think you're in my seat."

Danny's legs tensed, ready to cede the spot to the bully, before a curious thing happened.

"I'm sorry," Phantom replied innocently, then grinned, "But I think you've got the wrong spot; muscle-bound idiots are over there."

'I always wanted to say that to Dash,' Danny thought with glee as Mammoth's face flushed in anger and his stomach began to sink, 'funny, I always thought that was the face he'd make, too.'

Cracking his knuckles, Mammoth seemed to be sounding funeral bells for the slight figure in front of him. "Wrong answer, punk." Out of the corner of his eye, Phantom saw a dark form flicker away and instantly felt relieved that his roommate wouldn't be caught in the backlash. As a fist larger than his own head barreled towards his body, Danny focused on that strange feeling buried deep within him that was incredibly hard to describe to anyone who hadn't felt it before.

He'd once tried to talk to Sam and Tucker about it, tried to describe the feeling of, 'cold glass washing over your soul like ice water in the dead of winter as a chill breeze flowed around you.' It was similar, but completely unlike invisibility, Danny pondered idly as the color washed out of his entire body, leaving him a study of contrasting, barely visible shades and lines.

Mammoth's fist rocketed through the space where Phantom occupied and into the syrup, milk, and mess of his breakfast. The bulky teen retracted his fist almost instantly, staring dumbly at the sloppy mixture pasted onto his hand, before shooting an ugly look at Phantom. The two teens, one barely visible, the other murderously angry stared each other down for a long, tense moment.

...

Contrary to anyone's impression of the thuggish brute, Mammoth wasn't stupid, he merely preferred a simple knockdown, drag-out fight, which was what he'd been looking for when he'd picked out the black-and-white figure that he'd learned was called 'Phantom.' Word around the Enforcers was that he was 'strong'...how strong, though, was something he had looked forward to finding out.

His enthusiasm soured at the realization that he wouldn't find a stress-relieving brawl with the white-haired weirdo, well that was just great.

The kid had seemed like an easy mark, something to step on to relieve a little boredom and cement his place in the H.I.V.E. as someone to not be messed with, but...

His opening jab had gone gone straight through Phantom, which meant he was shit-out-of-options when it came to picking a fight with the other teen. It was just his luck that the kid didn't even want to throw a return punch, which would have hopefully given him an opening. He also didn't look like he was getting tired of going see-through either. That, in turn, meant that he'd have to, as much as he hated to admit it, swallow his pride and make a tactical retreat.

...

Finally, after it seemed an age had passed by in the silent, mounting tension, Mammoth snorted, "Alright, punk, guess I can't beat you senseless...right now. Hope you have eyes in the back of your head, though...day'll come when your fancy tricks won't save you from a beatdown."

The entire cafeteria breathed a sigh of relief as the giant turned and walked away from the conflict. Danny faded into full visibility again and grinned suddenly, turning to the dark figure at his side who merely shook his head tiredly, spinning a lone finger next to his temple even as he smiled lightly.

"OK," Phantom nodded, "It was a little crazy, but I've dealt with bullies before, you can't give them any ground or they'll walk all over you."

Wykkyd gave the impression that he was once again rolling his red orbs even as he handed over one of the brochures his roommate had been looking at before the altercation, pointing at the text which read, Recreation Area. Danny shrugged, "Sure, we can check it out if you want." Heedless of the covert and overt gazes following them, the two turned towards the exit, dropped their trays, and walked away down the hall.

A pair of curious pink eyes, slit down the middle, followed their figures, looking after them wonderingly, consideringly.

Another pair of eyes, significantly more narrowed, kept themselves fixed on the exit even minutes after the white-haired teen had left. Their owner supposed, 'he was interesting enough, certainly more so than his classmates, with few exceptions. His roommate was somewhat intriguing as well, though admittedly less so, but both were something that I could work with.'

'The large student...Mammoth, was overly reliant on his strength, much like many of the other teens. Neither he nor many of his cohorts would have much recourse when tasked with the white-haired teens abilities. Phantom showed glimpses of that same fault, though they were less pronounced...probably due to his powers being so all-encompassing that it was hard not to rely on them in some way. It would certainly be a challenge...teaching a student who was innately supernatural to fight at nearly unpowered levels.'

With a final thought, Shado nodded decisively.

He was far from perfect, but he would do.

At least for now, at any rate. He was the most promising, but there was more than enough time for others to surpass him. Still, she would keep her eye on the 'ghost.'

DC Phantom

"It's infuriating, isn't it?"

The Headmistress' face may as well have been carved from stone. "That is one word I would choose, yes."

"But I imagine there are others," He asked, a sardonic lilt to his voice.

"None fit for polite conversation," The Headmistress admitted, turning to eye her fellow observer. He stood, leaning against the wall, his eyes locked on the screen before them. "Why are you here, David?"

"Numerous reasons, though I wonder if you're talking about this room specifically or the H.I.V.E. in general?" The man responded, rolling his shoulders within the matte black material of his bodysuit.

"You're lucky you aren't one of my students," The Headmistress replied, "I don't take that kind of lip from many people these days."

"Not even from an old 'classmate,' Irene?" David grinned, his mouth twitching at the sight of his old...well, 'friend' might be pushing it...acquaintance stiffening slightly.

"I'd hardly call our sort of education a 'class,' David," The Headmistress said stonily, her gaze flickering towards the man. "That is, ideally, what I hope to spare many of these teens from, our 'education.'"

"'Many of these teens,'" David quoted, "What about that one?"

The Headmistress' eyes narrowed again, fixing on the 'ghost-boy.' "Perhaps. It depends on several things, not the least of which is Brother Blood and his plans for Mr. Phantom. I had hoped to gather some manner of intelligence on his capabilities, though it seems I will have to devise some more...elaborate incentive for him to take the offensive. I hadn't expected a...child of his apparent age to be so slow to anger."

David stood, closing in on the monitor and freezing a specific frame. "He isn't. That face isn't reflective of the cool and composed attitude of a seasoned fighter...that's surprise, excitement, and...a bit of shock. He's surprised and elated by the fact that he...did something..."

The stocky man was silent for a moment as he mentally traced the expression on the teen's face, "...or because he didn't do something. He's surprised by the fact that he...stood up to the sack of meat."

"You know, David, I hadn't taken you for a psychology buff. How exactly is it that you're able to make such an accurate guess towards the underlying motivations of our newest problem student?" The Headmistress asked, staring at the man as if he'd just done something extraordinary.

"I was always a quick study, Irene, you know that...and it comes in handy when you're running an organization like mine...or raising a daughter," David replied.

There was absolute silence within the small room for a very long moment.

"A...daughter?" The Headmistress asked, scarcely able to contain her skepticism. David raised an eyebrow, while the stone-face woman actually blushed slightly. "I apologize, I shouldn't judge. It's just that you never seemed the...type, exactly."

David snorted, "I suppose not. Still, we're both getting to the age where we'd like to leave something behind...a magnum opus of sorts. She's my greatest project and...I'll be bringing her by in a few weeks."

The Headmistress raised an eyebrow, "Really? She's old enough for enrollment?"

"I never said enrollment," David denied, "She's six, but more than skilled enough to take out many of your 'students.' I want her to take a few lessons from Floyd."

Irene blinked, her mouth dropping open slightly and a stupefied expression blossoming on her face, "You want a six year old...a six year old child to take firearms lessons from Floyd Lawton?"

"She needs proper training in firearms and Lawton surpasses my own marginal skill set by several orders of magnitude. He's the obvious choice," David replied somewhat bluntly.

The Headmistress shook her head, turning back to the screen tiredly. "Phantom...so, he's been bullied before? He doesn't seem like the typical target for bullying, he has too much spine."

"He does now, but that doesn't mean he always did," David commented.

That was when the door opened.

In the same heartbeat, the Headmistress had flipped the monitor off and turned to greet the individuals now walking into the room. "Welcome, welcome. Please, have a seat," The Headmistress nodded, waving a hand at the long table bisecting the room, much like a company's board room. Unlike a board meeting in a corporate high rise, though, this group was just as eclectic and varied as the scholastic membership of the associated school, members of both genders filled in, looking as strange and bizarre as any student enrolled in the the H.I.V.E. Academy.

As the last of them sat down, the Headmistress nodded to each of them, "I'd like to extend greeting to each of this semester's guest faculty and, in light of our...varied membership, I'd also like to extend introductions."

Waving towards the man next to her, his black hair slightly graying in the temples, he was dressed in a matte black body suit with a fully kitted weapons harness tied about him. Between the military-esque stature and the intimidating air about him, it was obvious to all that this was a man used to authority. "First, our Temporary Overseer, David Cain."

Several sets of eyes around the table widened, their gazes shooting towards the muscular man; some were curious, others fearful. A few of the individuals didn't react at all, their faces remaining impassive, showing either a tight control over their own emotions or no knowledge at all of the very real threat which the man in question posed.

"Next we have a guest lecturer, physical trainer, and Legacy known as Hellhound. He will be attached to the Enforcer in charge of the obstacle courses, workout rooms, and the fight rooms," the Headmistress elaborated, looking towards a man dressed in dark red leathers adorned with teeth, weapons, and accessories which painted the image of a 'dog.'

His response could best be characterized by a growl.

The next person was a bit odd even by the standards of H.I.V.E. Organization. He was a small man, the size of a tall boy with features that looked as shiny and inhuman as molded plastic. "This is Winslow Scott Jr. aka the 'Toyman,' he will be heading up a few of the science and technology classes and building a few new training dummies."

The perpetually-grinning biped gave a short nod to his cohorts, "So nice to meet you all."

The Headmistress repressed a shiver at the unblinking gaze of her employee. Waving towards a woman who wore precious little clothing more than a swimsuit would entail, she introduced her. "Twister, true name unknown. She comes to us as our Mental Conditioning Liaison."

The woman's black hair shifted slightly as she bobbed her head, giving no other sign of recognition other than a puff of cigarette smoke.

The Headmistress moved on, headless of Twister's rudeness.

"Heading the Applied Mathematics courses for this semester is the Puzzler." A nondescript man in a brown suit, tie, and glasses gave a polite nod to the villains around him. Although many of his cohorts waited for more information, the austere woman merely gestured to the next individual sitting at their table.

This person was less a 'person' and more of a man-shaped void of darkness, tinted sickly green on the edges. The only indication that the assembled group were not staring at a shadow cast on the ground were the glint of white teeth set within the chiseled ebon form. "Mr. Karkull will be overseeing many of our more...high-end metahuman students, and teaching Sumerian, Sanskrit, and Babylonian."

Again, the sparse information seemed all that they were going to be receiving as another person stepped into the limelight.

Clad from head-to-toe in silver with a set of overly-large faceted red lenses for eyes, the odd figure reclining in the next chair was amusing himself by toying with a cigarette lighter, eying the flame intently. "Firefly, alias Garfield Lynns, will be handling the Applied Chemistry courses as well as a few levels in German and Spanish."

"Next is Mr. Damien Darhk, who will be taking the Technology Primers, Latin, and Greek." The man she gestured to was a young-looking individual with short-cropped black hair wearing a ankle-length leather overcoat. Intelligent dark eyes flickered over the others seated at the table as the man gave a cordial nod.

Another man, this one wearing nothing but white sat further down the table, a white cap settled over his shoulders and hid his largely thin physique. Bright, nearly-mad eyes shone with a brilliant intensity as he smirked. "Dr. Arthur Light. He will be handling the more...technologically savvy students, self-study programs, and taking the overflow from Toyman's groups."

Left unsaid was that there, inevitably, would be. Every year the Headmistress had to suffer at least a few idiots who thought all it took to be successful in life was a death ray and a few pieces of witty banter. Each year she was also sorely tempted to allow them to remove themselves from the intellectual gene pool.

Alas.

"I had hoped we would have one more, though-"

"I am here."

Heads snapped and pivoted to the darkened figure stepping into the dim light of the room. She wore primarily black clothing, though the total of her outfit consisted of muted browns and earthy tones. A bit of exposed skin gave hint of Asiatic heritage and what little she'd spoken seemed to confirm such. Her posture was tense and coiled, every inch the dangerous fighter she was rumored to be.

"Shado," David Cain nodded cordially.

"Cain." It would go a bit far to say Shado greeted him, but she at least acknowledged his presence.

Neither seemed surprised to see the other.

"Indeed," The Headmistress nodded, managing to contain her slightly miffed tone. "Well, now that we are all present, I felt I should bring our new staff, temporary though it may be, up to par on current events. As your extremely lucrative contracts have stipulated, you will all be serving at least a full year as instructors in this facility. If you have not already read the terms and conditions of your employment agreement, I encourage you to do so; failure to observe rules and regulations in the HIVE will result in docked pay, cancellation of contract, or termination."

Each of the assembled gave no sign that they misunderstood 'termination' as merely being fired.

"As such, your courses have been scheduled according to your stipulations. The students in your classes are HIVE property and, just so we are perfectly clear-" Her gaze hardened at this, sweeping over the assembled villains. "-I do not tolerate permanent damage to my property...be it physical, psychological, or otherwise."

"Is that understood?"

A chorus of agreement muttered through the small crowd, some merely nodding with silent gravity.

"Good." The Headmistress glared. "That said, neither do I wish you to handle them with kids' gloves. The students need to be prepared for a real-world environment. No hand-holding, no coddling. You may hurt them, you may make them bleed, and you may work them until they break, but you had better be willing to put them back together again afterward."

"Oooh!" Toyman cooed, his voice raking shivers up many of the villains backs that they refused to show it. "I have a few new parts I've been dieing to try out!"

The Headmistress glared, "I'll want a signed letter of informed consent before you make any...improvements, Toyman."

A bit of the shine seemed to fall from the demented grin as the villain huffed and muttered under his breath.

"And in regards to training exercises?" David Cain asked, propping his arms up and interlacing his fingers.

"At a reasonable frequency, class size, and danger level students will be allowed off-campus with a teacher escort. I will sign off on any requests of that nature." The Headmistress stated, looking to David first and then to the rest.

"And when do we start leaving the brats holding the ball?" Hellhound asked, sharpening his claws.

"The HIVE generally allows a student to be captured and serve jail time after they start growing an independent streak. After you observe a student requesting solo jobs at an increasing frequency, send them on a relatively minor job and we'll hang them out to dry." The Headmistress explained; allowing a student to serve time and establish a record was an important part of the conditioning process. The more indoctrinated a person was to the criminal 'lifestyle' and all that entailed, the less likely they were to suffer an attack of conscience.

"And then we break them out, right?" Hellhound asked.

"Indeed," the Puzzler nodded, "But what if a student were to put together the pieces? To solve the riddle?"

"If ya' mean that they figure us out by all that weirdo talk?" Twister asked blowing another cloud of noxious smoke as she drawled out her question in a mix of a degraded British accent and South African affectation. "That's when you hand the little blighters over to me. I'll set 'em straight in a jiffy."

"Correct," The Headmistress nodded. "Any problems involving a student's willingness to partake in exercises of...questionable morality are to be referred to our resident...guidance councilor."

Snorts and grunts rang out at the 'title' they'd be calling the woman by.

"And conventional lessons?" Firefly asked, his faceted mask still locked on the flickering flame before him.

"Are the venue of the teacher," The Headmistress replied. "As long as the school rules are observed. I don't want to see any excessive destruction of school property, deaths, or explosions. Other than that, you may teach what you like, how you like, and at whatever intensity you choose."

The Headmistress stopped then, surveying the motley crew she'd gathered this semester. Villains, by and large, were a difficult bunch to judge and control; in private she'd often likened the process to herding cats. Each had their own 'rules' by which they ran themselves and their henchmen. Many of them also had violent 'tics' and knee-jerk reactions that brought out their most bloodthirsty sides. For instance, Firefly abhorred anything cold or icy...Toyman reacted violently to anyone who destroyed his precious creations, thankfully she'd managed to convince him to make a few sets of mass-manufactured fighting mannequins that he wasn't to attached to.

Cain's was laziness, she remembered that much from school. She hadn't really had enough experience with the others to learn theirs, but was confident she'd see more than a few over the course of the school year. There was the almost certain probability that more than one student would be hospitalized over the course of finding those 'tics' out. Thankfully, she'd avoided having Firefly and Mr. Freeze on staff the same year.

As the staff meeting continued, the Headmistress wondered whether she should bring up Phantom or not.

No. Blood's machinations would not be allowed to cast a shadow over the school.

DC Phantom

The Recreation Area was one floor above the sleeping quarters and cafeteria, on the same level as the training rooms, obstacle courses, and weapons' practice ranges. It seemed the implied motto of the school was "Work Hard, Play Hard," at least, judging by the arrangement of the floor plan. The Rec Area was comprised of numerous nooks, sound-proof booths, console and arcade games, musical instruments, and dozens of other things strewn about the room. Large couches sat back-to-back in various places with large plasma-screen TVs on the walls before them.

Kyd Wykkyd whistled lowly, the sound quiet against the hushed conversations occurring around the room by various individuals in bright, colorful costumes, most of them garish beyond belief.

"You can say that again," Phantom nodded, nearly in awe of the facilities. "I wish my old school had something like this. And...we can just use this stuff?"

"Not exactly." Another voice cut in, slightly squeaky and nasally. "Yo! Saw that mess with the thug, name's See-More."

The person before them was an order of magnitude stranger than anything Phantom had been exposed to so far. Wearing a white body-suit with a stylized 'eye' on the front and green accents, See-More looked more like a carnival attraction than anyone qualified for, well, anything. The green headgear and prominent, single, bulbous eye topped off the image, making the other teen look oddly top-heavy.

"Uhh...thanks," Phantom said, suddenly unsure of the situation. Seizing on a topic of conversation, he shook himself, "What did you mean, 'not exactly?'"

"Eh, we gotta' earn it, ya' know?" See-More said conspiratorially, throwing an arm over Phantom and Wykkyd's shoulders. "Do well in school, kick your classmates' asses, that type of thing. Top dogs get access to perks and the like."

"Huh," Phantom grunted thoughtfully. It was utterly bizarre, this school, and the surreality had hit him yet again. They seemed to almost encourage bullying, in a certain sense. Well...not 'encourage' at any rate, but...they certainly didn't have anything against their students establishing a pecking order.

"Which means you need a guy who knows how the system works, if you wanna get ahead in the HIVE, get me?" See-More asked, grinning.

"So you can ride their coattails, right cyclops?"

The three boys' head snapped to the side, locking onto a pink and purple figure who prowled into the Rec Room with the easy grace of a large cat and slow, purposeful steps. Her hair and eyes were a nearly-blinding bubblegum pink, her skin pale as white ash, and her clothing the dark and lacy design of a gothic princess without unnecessary frills, decoration, or adornments.

"Jinx," See-More greeted coolly as Phantom felt tension build in his muscles. "Still sticking your nose into other people's business, I see."

"And you're still a snotty tag-a-long, what about it?" Jinx sniped back. "Who was it back at Darkway Prep? India Ink? Before that it was Johnny Rancid, right? Whatever happened to him, anyway? Last I heard he blew up the Detention Center and left four teachers hospitalized."

Kyd and Phantom exchanged odd looks.

See-More rolled his...eye, "Dude was a mad-dog, Pink! Better be behind him than in front of him, if ya know what I mean?"

"I know plenty," The pink-haired girl snorted rudely, then fixed Phantom and Kyd with an appraising glance. "So, you're betting on these two packing enough heat to keep the vultures off you, huh?"

"You're talking like I can't pull my own weight, Jinx," See-More scowled dangerously, his stance tightening.

Jinx spun, clasping her hands behind her head and presenting her back to her enemy with insulting nonchalance. "Now would I do a thing like that, cyclops?"

See-More growled.

Danny watched the entire confrontation with an oddly thoughtful look in his eyes. At first glance he'd thought this was another one of those bully-bullied match-ups; See-More looked a little wimpy (much like he had for the last several years of his life), but...

'See-More is standing up to...Jinx, I think her name was,' Danny thought with confusion. 'If Jinx is in the 'popular crowd' then, shouldn't See-More be backing down? Whenever I mouthed off to Flash...things went...badly.'

With that in mind, what See-More did next made Phantom's reaction almost natural.

See-More cut a glance to Phantom, grinning. "Watch me show this bitch what's what, bro."

The green-and-white-clad teen stepped forward, a glint of malice shining in his eye. Whether it was Jinx's turned back, her irritating nickname for him, or something else altogether, See-More's hand shot up to his headgear, twisting a knob on the right-hand side.

"You think I can't carry my weight?" See-More shouted, "Try this on for size, then?"

Phantom's response was part-horror and part-reflex. Whether or not the term 'bully' even applied here, despite the fact that these people didn't think much of heroism, he still had a conscience. Some distant corner of his mind 'clicked' on, his arm shooting forward to intercept the mass of gelatinous green goo See-More had improbably launched from his single, large, eye.

An electric-green blast of ectoplasm shot off from Phantom's outstretched hand.

Both the onset of hostilities and the ensuing small explosion turned every head towards the collection of teens now standing in the middle of a suddenly much less crowded Rec Room. Silence swept over the room as the bands of smoke and ash settled, every eye wary and waiting. Kyd Wykkyd stepped closer to his roommate, red eyes darting about checking for possible attacks or avenues of retreat.

'You know, Phantom and I really have to talk about his luck. If this is the kind of mess he can get into before classes even start, this year's going to be...interesting,' Kyd sighed mentally, fingering a throwing knife.

"So that's how its gonna' be, huh?" See-More fairly spat, glaring at the ghost-teen. "You're on her side then?"

Before Phantom had even opened his mouth, Jinx had responded.

"You said it yourself, cyclops," Jinx taunted, her smirk growing as she spun back around. "Better behind me than in front, especially since you can't even manage to stab me in the back properly. Maybe he thinks he'll have better luck."

Again, Phantom moved to object, and again he was preempted.

"If that's how it is," See-More glared, "You better grow some eyes in the back of your head, Phantom, cause we've got unfinished business."

As the one-eyed teen stalked off Phantom's head swiveled between See-More's retreating form and Jinx's self-satisfied smirk as she, too, spun to walk away.

"Hey, wait!" Phantom called.

The pink-haired witch spun again, the movement graceful and almost dance-like. She raised an eyebrow as she looked over Phantom's and Wykkyd's forms again, this time pausing to assess languidly. She crossed her arms, every inch the gracious queen allowing her subject a boon by even deigning to listen to him.

"What? Make it quick." Jinx ordered.

"What...what was that all about?" Phantom asked, closing the distance between them and lowering his tone as he became more aware of the numerous gazes lingering on them.

"Nothing for you to concern yourself with," Jinx rolled her eyes. "Cyclops has always been...short-sighted, if you'll pardon the pun. He's a leach that jumps onto the first idiot stupid enough to listen to him."

Phantom frowned, "He attacked you."

"And...?" Jinx shrugged. "Big, burly, and hairy tried to pound you at lunch. You didn't have any trouble with him, I wouldn't have had any trouble with See-More if you hadn't butted in."

Kyd passed a note discretely to Phantom, who glanced over it and looked to Jinx, "What did he want us for anyway?"

"Protection," Jinx answered, speaking as if to a particularly slow child. "You two don't know anything, do you?"

Green and red orbs looked back at her guilelessly.

Jinx sighed. "Okay, follow me and try to keep up. The first thing you need to know about are team assignments. They'll be important in about a week or so and See-More was trying to jockey you two gullible idiots into a workable team. Teams come in sets of three, four, or five, which..."

As Jinx talked, Phantom and Wykkyd trailed behind her, lapping up her words of wisdom like water in a desert. Though it was difficult, Jinx managed to keep a victorious grin off her face. 'That'll teach the cyclops to try to poach from me. And to think I was ready to settle for the giant with body odor problems and the midget that can't even think up a decent curse word. Phantom will more than make up for the muscle-bound idiot and he's got that 'heart of gold' vibe going on. Kyd had enough common sense to duck and cover from Mammoth...and he can't even run his mouth like Gizmo.'

Jinx continued her lecture, pointing out various facilities as they went.

After all, she didn't want her teammates to be the losers that got lost on Monday, that would be bad for her reputation.


After School Special with Mr. Anderson:


"Huh...I finished it," the bearded man states as he rubs at his chin. "Well, holy shit...its taken me long enough."

He turns.

"Oh, hey...didn't see you there. Anyway, if you're reading this, you're far more patient and forgiving than you have any right to be. I'm kind of amazed at the utterly horrible update schedule this story has been possessed of. I mean, part of the reason this thing took so long was the villains' part. I had to pick juuuust the right 'level' of villains. Nothing to much in the way of 'big bad,' but threatening enough to give me some room to work with. Compound that with the fact that I'm actually TEACHING for the first time in my life, well...things suck."

He sighs.

"Okay. I'm not gonna' promise anything here, but I'll probably be able to get Chapter five up by this summer." Mr. Anderson rubs his forehead, "Then again, I said that about Christmas too...The only reason this is getting out right now is Spring Break (and the fact that I'm working on it instead of my Graduate Research Paper). Oh, and for those of you interested in getting you Graduate-level degree? Assembling a thesis board sucks hard."

"Anyway, feel free to review and tell me how much I suck with time-management. Uh...hmm, I think that was it."

Mr. Anderson walks off stage tiredly, muttering about sake and plum wine and getting drunk. Just as he passes the curtains, he turns back and pokes his head out, "Oh, and Cold blue? Yeah, turns out cursing does work, I guess."

He waves.

"Peace, guys! Slayer Out!"