That's the Spirit!


A friend is nothing but a known enemy.
- Kurt Cobain


Valerie decided she was bored.

She smashed her fist into the ghost's gelatinous face, knocking it out of the air. It tumbled into the undergrowth, lost to her vision but not the sensors of her suit as it scrambled around pathetically, trying to get away.

Finally she was free to do what she wanted; school was out for the summer, and her father had finally found a new job—which meant that he was too busy to prevent her from ghost-hunting. The mysterious increase in ghost incidents over the summer suited her just fine. She should be happy.

But instead, it felt dull. Unfulfilling. Something was missing.

No, not something. Someone.

Valerie scowled as the ghost tried to rush her, claw-like fingernails blazing with green energy. It was only vaguely humanoid, with a hook nose and a patch of blue stubble on its green chin. A tattered bathrobe hung loose off its bony shoulders. She sidestepped and landed a kick in the ghost's midsection.

Phantom. Of course. Valerie had been prepared to spend her summer pulverizing that good-for-nothing, irritating troublemaker into ectoparticles.

The ghost doubled over from her kick, and she drove her elbow into the back of its neck, smashing it to the ground. As it tried to crawl away, she planted a boot on its back, staring at the sky as if Phantom might appear at any moment.

Where had he gone? Had he realized she would be free to come after him, and made himself scarce? Was he hiding from her?

She had scoured every corner of Amity Park, searching for the ghost boy with no results. No news or security cameras (which she of course did not hack using her dad's technology on the sly) had caught so much as a glimpse of him since the last day of school. Even the gossip had died down lately.

Maybe he'd returned to that 'Ghost Zone' place.

Valerie ground her teeth in frustration. She stomped down harder on the skinny green ghost, wishing it was Phantom she had pinned to the dirt under her boot heel. It whimpered pathetically.

"Quiet," she growled. "I'm trying to think."

It wasn't fair! Phantom owed her. He was her prey, her goal. That ghost and his worthless mutt of a hell dog had destroyed everything her father had worked so hard to earn, and her comfortable, socially acceptable lifestyle with it. He had put her through humiliation after humiliation. Finally he had tried to kill her. She'd watched with her own eyes as he shot an ectoblast directly through the faceplate in her suit. It was only by chance that it had been stolen that day.

"Please spare me oh great huntress," the ghost simpered, looking at her with big, teary red eyes. To do so, it had turned its neck a full one hundred eighty degrees.

"That's disgusting," she told it, pulling an ectogun from her belt. "And it's too late for a pitiful act."
Five minutes ago, it had chased a terrified six-year-old off a cliff in the park. It was only by chance that Valerie was patrolling that area on her gravsled close enough to catch the kid. If that boy had really fallen…either way, this ghost was getting obliterated. One less danger to Amity Park.

She powered up the gun, but couldn't help another look around. Phantom had a nasty habit of showing up to throw off her game at just the wrong moment, interfering in her fights. He caused utter havoc wherever he went, and she was one of his favorite victims. Maybe it wouldn't have been such a close call earlier if she hadn't half expected a black and white figure to streak in and snatch the kid from midair any second. But that wasn't right, was it? He was a ghost, too. He'd probably just look on and laugh.

Valerie shook her head, irritated by the contradictory thoughts. Here at least was one problem she could eliminate permanently.

"See ya, creep." She aimed right between those angry, inhuman eyes, and pulled the trigger.

The ghost hunter brushed a few bits of ectoplasm from her sleeve as she walked away. She jumped on her hoverboard and zoomed off, listlessly checking her scanners.

The freedom was nice, though, she reflected as she skimmed the treetops of the park, veering toward the residential section. No need to go to school, no homework, no morning bus to catch, no responsibilities—

The alarm on her cellphone went off, reminding her of her shift at the Nasty Burger in fifteen minutes.

"Crap." Valerie still had a college fund to save for, also thanks to Phantom. Life? Summer? Freedom? Ruined.

"I'll get you for this, ghost kid," she muttered. "And your little dog, too!"


A/N:

This story can stand alone, but it's also a parallel to Phantom of Truth.

This is the one I've been promising to write where we find out what's going on in Amity Park behind the scenes. It will have its own storyline and purpose, theoretically, but it should clear up a few things about PoT in the interim. If you like it, please tell me why! I need some serious motivation to get behind this story.

Thank you to sapphireswimming for naming advice and Kree Minory for the same, as well as helping with some plot issues! I'm somehow still unhappy about the name...eh, oh well. Just be aware it might change before the next update.

Concrit would be deeply appreciated.

-Hj

EDIT: Now spiffed up and tidier. Thank you so much, afftwill, for your critique!