The Obligatory Author's Note:
Man, this was amusing to write. Since I can't live on rewrites my whole life and I had a perfectly good (and vaguely ridiculous) idea, I've decided to type this up, instead.

This is more like a prologue chapter. The chapters after this, if I'm right, will average out at about 3,000 words each. Anyhow, shall we?

The Obligatory Blanket Disclaimer:
Don't own anything. Well, I own my computer, and my bed, and my light, and my gaming consoles... yeah, I'll stop now.

Amity Park, City of Headaches
A fanfic by Pseudinymous

~ 1 ~
- You Are Not Alone -

"I'm telling you Jack, it won't work."

Hah! Where had he heard that before? Oh yes, back during the Proto-Portal incident. Maybe during that incident with the Fenton Disinfector, too. Oh, and how could anyone forget about putting the on button on the inside of the Fenton Portal...?

Admittedly, Jack Fenton had heard those exact words come from his wife quite a bit, really, and she was always right. But this wasn't a day that they were present – in fact, Maddie was grinning as she turned one of the final screws, the pride beaming and radiating from her face. Nothing had made either of the pair happier than this project. After all, it was their best invention yet.

As the couple tinkered away inside their far-from sterile, vaguely glowing basement, their teenage daughter wandered down to check up on what they were doing. She promptly stopped, and then she stared.

"... What exactly is that atrocity?"

"Really, Jazz?" asked Maddie, slyly. "You wouldn't want us to give away the big surprise, would you?"

The eldest Fenton sibling ran her eyes over the monster of a machine; it hadn't been nearly this big just a few days ago, but now that all the parts had been put together it seemed to take over at least half the basement. Obviously, they weren't planning on taking it outside – fitting it through any sort of door would have posed great problems, even in the machine's unassembled form – which meant that, just maybe, it had something to do with the portal.

Would it be too much for Jazz to hope that the result of this invention would be good?

"You know... actually, I kind of wish you would give it away."

Jack beamed at his daughter, but still gave her a devious look. "You'll find out soon, Jazzie-Pants."

Jazz glared. She really did wish her father would stop calling her that, but decided it was better to ignore the remark. "But what if it's important that I know what it does?" she asked, honestly. "What if it backfires?"

"It won't backfire." said Maddie, firmly. The sureness of her opinion permeated throughout her voice and her now-crossed arms, which was usually a better sign when it came to their more hazardous inventions. "We've tested all the individual parts, we've done all the calculations, and we've had quite a few people from quite a few reputable sources check everything. There's nothing to be worried about, sweetie."

... Which meant nothing when it came down to Danny.

On cue, Jazz's brother stumbled uncoordinatedly down the basement stairs, only almost spilling the lemonade he was holding. Jazz watched him carefully as he boggled at the now-assembled monster of a machine, and then tried not to gape at the people who were responsible for its creation.

"What's it do?" he asked, flatly.

"Oh, Danny, dear!" Maddie cried, throwing her arms into the air. She also totally ignored any and every expression on her son's face, and went on to exclaim, "We're so excited! But we're keeping this one a surprise."

"But I don't want you to keep it a surprise." said Danny, warily. Then, he repeated a little more forcefully, "What's it do?"

Both parents grinned. Jazz was very tempted to facepalm herself, but her brother didn't have nearly as much ability to hold himself back.

"Well, when are you turning it on?" Jazz inquired. "You can at least tell us that."

"Sometime this afternoon!" Jack exclaimed, still grinning and bursting with pride.

Danny took a moment to slap himself on the face a few more times and then immediately began heading in the opposite direction, back up the stairs. "Have fun testing that while I'm not here." He mumbled. "I'll be at Sam's!"

"Oh no you won't! You'll be down here with us to witness it's grand unveiling!" Jack called after him.

"No I won't!" Danny shouted back.

Jazz made no attempt to stop her little brother on his quest to get as far away as possible from something that could potentially kill him, and instead stepped down and tried to take an interest in her parents' bizarre work. "So, now that he's not home..." she attempted, almost managing an inspired look. "What does it really do?"

Maddie simply laughed. Jack joined in too, but not until he finally figured out what the joke was.

Contrary to testing out his newest invention, Jack had spent the afternoon trying to look for his troublesome son. Danny was certainly not at Sam's, where he'd said he'd be – although Jack had noticed quite a high ectoplasmic signature within their house and quickly offered to cleanse it for them, much to the Manson family's dismay. They really did try to say no.

The next top was Tucker's. Jack offered to check their house for any sort of signatures while he was there, but was quickly shooed off by Tucker's father. He seemed so convinced of their current safety that he laughed at Jack and stated that, even if a ghost did show up, it would probably be rendered paralysed with delight from the cookies his wife was baking. That joke sealed his fate; with cookies in the house, Jack would have analysed it for ectoplasmic signatures even if he was told not to at gunpoint.

The only signature that showed up around their house, however, was coming from inside the Fenton Family Ghost Assault Vehicle. That was good; it meant he'd definitely caught the spook that was inhabiting the Manson's house. Typical mansion ghost, Jack thought. Although, didn't they usually go for the more abandoned types of buildings?

It didn't matter. Jack didn't know where Danny had disappeared to, and was probably at this point deliberately trying to avoid him. His son would just have to miss out on the first test. Jack thought it was sad that the boy didn't take more of an interest in their inventions (Jack never for one moment considered the idea that both his children might have been scared half to death of them), but he could always come back home later tonight and see it working its magic.

Jazz grimaced when her father arrived home, but was pleased to see that Danny was nowhere to be found – that meant he'd be well out of harm's way. Jack emptied the Fenton Weasel into the portal, shut its doors, and turned his attention to his wife.

"It's time, Mads."

"Indeed it is." She replied, ushering a very nervous Jazz down the concrete steps of the basement. "You know what, sweetie? This is going to be revolutionary. We'll be the heroes of Amity Park."

"Yeah, I'm sure you will..." Jazz winced. There was nothing she could do to stop inspiration like this; if her mother didn't turn it on, her father certainly would. So she stood there and waited, bracing herself for the worst.

Maddie made a final check for any contaminants, and gave it the okay. Then, Jack held up his hands and declared, "Let's start this baby up!"

The whining sound that both ghost hunters were so fond of was present in this invention, just like many of their others. Jazz took a few steps backwards; there were engines inside those machines that were being worked hard enough to make the floor rumble, and strange flashing lights blinking a terrifically ominous green from within the piping work.

Maddie and Jack Fenton continued to grin.

The vibrations in the floor began working their way up walls, and Jazz's nerve promptly committed suicide. She didn't want to see what this machine ultimately did, especially not with the Emergency Op Centre making those awful creaking sounds on the roof. The red-haired girl scrambled with all her might up the thundering basement stairs, through the creaking and cracking ground floor, and burst out the front door.

That was all she got to do. A wave of something that felt highly unpleasant and vaguely electric crashed into her back, and she collapsed to the pavement.

Eventually, the rest of Amity Park collapsed with her.

Thud. Thud. Thud.

Maddie opened her eyes, slowly. Something wasn't right – in fact, she could tell instinctively that something was extremely wrong. Her heart had migrated to a place midway up her throat and, on top of that, she'd acquired possibly the most atrocious headache known to man.

Thud. Thud. Thud.

Why was there ectoplasm everywhere? Granted, the lab always had its somewhat glowing stains, but now it'd become effectively radioactive... well, maybe not quite that bad, but the bright glowing greens certainly gave it that sort of an effect. And what was that infernal thudding? Was it her heart?

Thud! Thud! Thud!

... That wasn't the hammering of the vital organ; it was too tinny. No, Maddie now determined it to be completely separate. With an amount of difficulty she turned to face the source of the noise, which seemed to be the doors of the ghost portal. Someone... no, something was knocking on the back of that steel, trying to get out into the human world. Well, Maddie couldn't have that! Whatever it was could knock all day; she certainly wasn't going to let it through after turning on the Fenton Destabiliser!

"HELP!" screeched something behind the portal doors.

Maddie recognised that voice. That was her son!

Everything reversed; she had to get him out of there, stuff the fact that her body didn't seem to be obeying the commands that were given to it! She was going to make the stupid sluggish thing move whether it liked it or not! The son of a ghost hunter falling prey to a filthy ectoplasmic creature just wasn't on. Ever.

The mother was determined. So determined, in fact, that she managed to completely miss the point that her body was glowing, and that a crucial component of the Fenton Destabiliser was lying under a pile of other odds and ends, never having been attached to the machine in the first place. Maddie slammed the generic lock on the Fenton Portal, and her son – if there was such a thing as a graceful way to do it – overbalanced and fell out flat on the floor.

"Hi..." mumbled Danny, who did not even attempt to move from the nose-crushing position until he saw his mother's foot in his peripheral vision.

No, that couldn't be right... was she glowing?

Danny rolled onto his back and looked straight up into Maddie's goggled eyes, and screamed.