Warning: You know this story contains Adult Content. This is nothing new.
Disclaimer: Dido on the idea of me owning DP. Haha, yeah right! :(
Chapter 16: Routine
Joseph and I walked comfortably along the sidewalk. I didn't want to waste any of our time so I got straight to the point. "Jazz means a lot to me. I hope she means as much to you as I think she does because it is important to Jazz that she make the right impression on you. Whether or not you think she is the most amazing woman is not important to me. I just want you to be honest with her and not take advantage of her. I don't think it is, but if your reason of taking her away this weekend is to get in her pants, you'd better confess now. Jazz has enough men trying to take advantage of her. If one of them that means something to her breaks her heart, I won't overlook it."
Joseph took me very seriously. Whether it was because he respects Jazz or he understands who I am I'm not sure but he looked at me frankly. "I like your sister. I want to say I love her but I don't want to put either of us through that. I will not take advantage of Jazz, Danny. I give you my word as a man."
"I hope that you mean that," I said, glancing back at him. "Jazz has had many boys. What she needs is a man. Humans screw up, Joseph. I get that. I don't care if you make mistakes. I don't want you to be perfect. I just want you to be honest."
We were talking slowly and deliberately so the conversation was lasting around the block. Joseph looked to me. "I promise you, that whatever I do I will be honest with your sister. Even if I screw up, I will own up to my mistakes. She deserves to know who she's with. I don't pretend to be perfect but I hope I'm the perfect one for her."
I smiled warmly. "You don't have to be perfect in any context. Just be honest. I've been there before, Joseph. I based two years of my life on lies and it is the worst years of my life. No one is perfect but people choose to lie. Even if you think it will protect her, tell her the truth. She deserves to make that decision herself."
"I promise, Danny," Joseph replied. We circled the rest of the block and as we lined up with the house, Joseph saw Jazz's present. "Who does that black car belong to?"
"It's the reason I had you not pick up a rental," I replied. "It's Jazz's Christmas present."
"You are one amazing brother," Joseph laughed.
"She is one amazing sister," I smirked. "She deserves it for all she's put up from me."
Joseph gave me a playful smirk. "You've been lecturing me about treating your sister fair. Are you sure you're not the one who needs the lecture?"
I laughed. "I probably do. We pick with each other, though. There's nothing wrong with that."
"That's true," Joseph laughed.
We went back inside, laughing. Jazz sighed. "Thank God," Jazz sighed. "I was afraid he wouldn't return."
"Nah," I dismissed her fears. "Joseph is an alright guy. We just needed to have a word, man to man."
"And I think we accomplished a lot. We both want the same thing," Joseph replied. He walked over to Jazz, taking her hand. Jazz blushed as he walked up to her. "Jasmine Miranda Fenton, I want you to be happy and I hope I'm the one who makes you happy."
"I think that you are," Jazz smiled. Joseph rubbed a strand of hair down the side of her face.
"You are the most amazing, brilliant and beautiful woman I have ever met," Joseph replied. He tilted her head towards him and their lips touched briefly. The kiss was subtle and worthwhile; appropriate for in front of the girl's parents.
Jazz gasped for breath even though the kiss was simple. "You are everything I've ever dreamed of. You almost seem too good to be true. I don't want you to go away."
"I will but I promise you I will return shortly and then we will have the remainder of forever."
"Well, let's eat," Mom said, clearing her throat. "You kids have a long trip coming up."
"They sure do," I smiled. Sam and Tucker smirked at me.
3 3 3
Once breakfast was through, we prepared to see them off. "Okay, before you go, I have a present for you." I couldn't wait until I saw the look on her face.
"Okay," Jazz said suspiciously. We walked outside and the minute Jazz saw that strange car, she knew. "Oh, my God," Jazz declared. "Are you serious?"
"We'll be getting new cars soon so why couldn't you," I asked. Mom and Dad chuckled. Jazz ripped open the door, smiling ear to ear. "It's a 2007 Kia Spectra!" I couldn't help but let out a chuckle. Jazz froze in her spot.
"A Kia what," Jazz demanded, still sitting with one knee on the interior.
"A 2007 Kia Spectra," Tucker replied.
"Surely you know who Spectra is," I smirked.
She spun around from inside that car at inhuman capacities and she is only human. "You gave me a car—black no less—with Spectra as the name!"
"We thought it was a cute little joke," Sam said, crossing her arms smugly.
"It's not a joke," Jazz roared, "it's a freaking prank!"
"Oh, come on Jazz," Mom said playfully. "What's wrong with the name Spectra? It's like a ghost. I think it's cute."
"You've never met Spectra," Jazz declared. "There was a ghost named Spectra and she tried to kill both Danny and I and made him depressed."
"She's dramatizing this," I chuckled. "Spectra was real but she's no threat. She's found a non-evasive way to generate misery."
"How do you know what she's doing," Jazz asked, eying me suspiciously.
"Just because you don't know how to identify her doesn't mean I don't know how," I said cryptically.
"She hasn't attacked since 2004, right," Jazz asked. Sam burst out laughing.
"Jazz, you've seen her since then," Sam declared. "You just didn't know it was her!"
"When," Jazz declared, crestfallen.
"When your mom, you and I defended the town. That was Ember, Kitty and Spectra!"
"She looked nothing like Spectra," Jazz declared, confused.
"We destroyed her shell," I declared. "She looks different every time she comes out. That's the biggest thing I have to watch. If she stays too long, she starts to suffocate the soul. If she doesn't leave the shell soon, the soul will die and she will resume that form. That's what she done to the first body. She took over it five or more years ago."
"There's danger to… overshadowing," Mom declared. It took her a while to remember the correct term.
"Of course. Taking over an entire person isn't simple. Newton's law states that every action causes an equal reaction. Or something like that."
"The third law of motion applies to ghost physics too," Mom declared.
"Well, ghosts are a natural order of things so why not," Jazz asked. "It seems Isaac Newton knew what he was doing."
"Don't worry so much, Jazz," I replied. "Spectra is the least of our problems. She never was my most problem. She posed a more threat to you and those I loved than me."
"Well," Dad replied, his voice choking up. "I guess it's time for you to leave, princess."
"I'll be back, Dad," Jazz said, rolling her eyes. "I'm not going anywhere." She hugged Dad and Mom then hugged us three, leaving me for last. She gave me a great big hug. "Take care of yourself, Danny."
"I will," I smiled. I kissed her cheek. "Have fun!"
"I will," Jazz replied. She got in the passenger's seat while Joseph offered to begin the drive. We waved them goodbye as they headed for the interstate.
"I'm going to miss my Jazzypants," Dad declared. "Soon, she'll be leaving for good. She graduates this year."
"Thank God," I declared. Mom looked at me strange. "That means I graduate next year!"
"And that's the coolest news yet," Tucker said, fist-pumping.
"Amen to that," Sam smiled. We went inside, leaving our parents on the porch. Dani was still sitting on the couch but she turned around as we came in. She watched Jazz from the window.
"What are you wanting to do today, cuz," Dani asked me.
"I don't know," I sighed. "What can we do with four kids in the house and a town full of ghosts?"
"Relax," Tucker replied, plopping down beside Dani. He wrapped his arm around her. "Huh? What do you say, Danielle?"
"Sounds good to me," Dani smiled at Tucker. Sam and I sat down on the opposite couch just as the front door closed. It won't be long before the crying begins again.
3 3 3
Christmas came and went this year as every day does. Jazz came home Christmas Day with a rock on her hand. She wasn't happy, though. Joseph told her about his deployment and she knew what the true weight of that rock meant. She said she'd wear it but she wasn't going to honestly answer until he honestly asked. Seemed fair to Joseph.
School resumed after New Year's and things were quite turbulent. Danielle went to school for the first time. She was still refusing contact with the twins but we were learning how to control the chaos. If the boys seemed inconsolable, all I had to do was call Blue. Of course, this meant that Vlad and Blue were over more frequently and so was Dawn. The biggest problem I had was trying to separate Dawn and Megan. Whenever the girls had to separate, you'd swear they were actually attached the way they'd scream.
Mom and Dad started to slowly accept Vlad and Blue and adjust to the idea of Danielle being someone other than who they thought she was. We didn't have the Reality Gauntlet so I couldn't alter their memories (trust me, I wanted to). They were starting to come to terms with it, but you could tell in the way they react when they first see Blue or Vlad that the healing process isn't quite done.
We came home from school, meeting Dom and Gage in my bedroom. Sam took Megan this time while I took Lilly. We tried to trade off now and again so we won't favor one and neglect the other. Even Sam gets jealous when I hog Megan too much. I sat down on the armchair and placed Lilly on my lap. I picked up our latest book and began to read to her. Sam began to feed Megan my expressed milk. Tucker and Valerie hadn't come into the bedroom yet. They were still in the hallway.
Tucker and Valerie came in but Jazz was with them. That's why they waited a minute. Jazz and Tucker always talk. The two of them have gotten real close since Tucker started reading minds. As I've said, Tucker is just a more annoying Jazz now.
After Sam and I finished taking care of our respective girl, Sam laid Megan down while I held Lilly in my lap. She wasn't sleepy yet. Lilly was getting so big, lately. She's acting more grown up.
"Okay," I said softly. "We really need to discuss our game plan. We're going in our third week of January. That means Mom and Dad have had the Reality Gauntlet for three weeks and the second semester begins in two weeks. We need to fix these problems."
"Well," Tucker spoke up, his voice thoughtful. "We could do a search for unique signatures. We tried to search for the Gauntlet's signature but I was thinking. If something was powerful enough to hide it from us, wouldn't that mean it would have its own powerful signature?"
"You got a point," I acknowledged. I hadn't thought about what they were hiding it in. It has to be something big to dwarf the Gauntlet, though.
"Well, Vlad hid Dani with a shield," Sam spoke up. "Could it be something as simple as that?"
"I didn't have the frequencies to all of Vlad's equipment like I have of Mom and Dad's," Tucker replied. "There are no deployed shields. This is something local. They've hidden it with something that uses another source of power besides the mainframe. Maybe ectoplasm? Even Ectoranium."
"Well, that's what they were going to use the first time," I replied. "It's not a stretch of the imagination that they'd think of the same thing again."
"So how do we find this mystery signature," Jazz asked.
"The same way we find any signature," Valerie replied. "Now that we know what we're looking for, it should be easy to notice the elephant in the room."
"Nothing is ever easy," Sam groaned. "So don't think that."
"Especially with Mom and Dad," Tucker added. "They know what we are capable of and they will take every precaution to prevent us from finding it. You can bet this won't be easy."
"What about school, though," I asked. "I'd like our senior year to end the day we graduate and not have to go through hell to get there."
"It'll have to be technology," Tucker replied. "Staying in class for ninety minutes is working but it could improve. So what can we capitalize on to emphasize the coursework and not stay in one place."
Valerie's head whipped towards my computer. "Laptops! What is more flexible?"
"Of course," I declared. "Why didn't we think of it sooner?"
"Not everyone can afford a laptop computer, though," Tucker grimaced. "If I didn't have my job, I know I couldn't afford half the equipment I need."
"Well, the Division can take care of that," I replied. "We can even save money by having Mom and Dad build them."
"They'll have to," Sam replied. "We'll need to have a way to keep three hundred and some students online at the same time plus the teachers and the other schools."
"Heck, I could do that," Tucker scoffed. "All I need to do is increase the bandwidth."
"Enough to house around eight hundred users," Sam asked incredulously.
"Yes," Tucker retorted. "Please! That's easy stuff!"
"In the Ghost Zone, we have corded connections. We'll have to see if Mom and Dad can come up with something wireless."
"Wifi," Tucker replied. "They can do it. Normal technicians are doing it. It's just going to be the first one that is publically accessible."
"We'll do the planning now but we'll get the Gauntlet back tonight. They won't even know we're onto it until it's gone."
"What are you going to do with it afterwards," Jazz asked.
"I don't know," I sighed. "If they are using Ectoranium to get it, I'm defenseless against that stuff. I need to come up with a protection detail."
"Once I find out how they targeted it, we'll find out how to defend it. Until then, we can leave it at the castle."
"No way," I refused. "I'll leave it with someone who knows how to protect priceless artifacts."
"Who," Sam asked.
"Frostbite," I replied, smiling softly. It'd be good to see Frostbite again.
"What about Clockwork," Sam asked. "Wouldn't he be better for it?"
I gave her an incredulous look. "Clockwork gave it to me to protect. He's not going to do it himself!"
"True," Sam grimaced. "I guess we'll go see how the Far Frozen people are. I'd love to see Frostbite again."
I picked up Lilly and took her over to her toys. "You play while we work, okay?"
"Am I going to work with you today," Lilly asked me. I looked to my watch.
"You bet," I smiled. "Just you and I, little one." It was twenty after three so I have forty minutes until I had to be at work. "You play." I looked to Dom and Gage. "Have her ready by three-fifty-five."
"Yes, sir," Gage replied. Dom nodded. Sam, Tuck, Jazz, Val and I left the room.
3 3 3
Mom and Dad had Jacky and Jamie in the lab when we came down. I didn't know what they had planned but we began talking like we had discussed. We were talking about our idea and we had nearly all of Mom's attention but she had all of Tucker's. Mom had taken off Jacky's diaper and was wiping his penis with this brown liquid.
"What are you doing," Tucker asked, shocked.
"It's time for his passage into manhood," Mom said in a squeaky voice. "Yes, you're going to be okay, Jacky. You're my big boy."
Mom picked up a scalpel. "Uh, Mom, seriously. What are you doing?"
"They're boys, kids. They have to have a circumcision," Dad replied. "They're not going to like it, but it'll be okay." He lifted Jamie's hands up in the air with his fingers, engaging him. "Yes, it's going to be okay."
"Circumcision," Valerie asked, wrinkling her brow.
"It's this barbaric procedure where a baby boy's foreskin is snipped away in the first few weeks of life," Sam retorted. "Mrs. Fenton, are you serious?"
"It's beneficial to their health," Mom defended gently.
"It's genital mutilation," Sam retorted. "The baby has no say in this!"
"You're Jewish," Jazz declared. "Shouldn't you be for this?"
"I don't care what the bible says," Sam retorted. "It is damaging to an infant boy."
"Well, they are getting it regardless," Mom declared. "I circumcised Danny and now I'm going to circumcise Jacky and Jamie."
Mom cut that scalpel down the side of Jacky's penis and I flinched. That looked painful. However, I didn't have to guess too hard because Jacky let out a wail. Mom had him tied down in cloth restraints but he tugged on them so tight that I heard a rip.
"Uh, Mom," I said, slightly freaked out. That should not do that, right? "Are you sure he's secure?"
"Of course he's secure," Mom replied. "Them are brand new one hundred percent cotton restraints."
Jacky kicked his legs one more time and the brand new one hundred percent cotton restraints disconnected from the procedure table. Jacky had his arms still attached to the restraints but his legs were free. His legs were near the scalpel.
"No," I reacted, holding his legs down gently. He kicked at my hands with force that resembled a kicking mule. My hands reflexed with every kick. I heard the cotton around his arms rip and his hands became free.
"What in the world," Mom declared. She had continued the procedure because she didn't really have a choice. She had already began to cut when he broke the leg restraints. Now he was completely unrestrained. "Jack, help Danny!"
Dad tried to hold down his arms but we both let out a scream when Jacky was covered in this pure white, glowing material. "Oh, my God," I declared in shock. "He's using the Ghost Stinger!"
Jacky screamed out, completely inconsolable, as Mom gasped in shock. "Don't touch him," Mom declared. "That stuff just dissolved away my scalpel!"
"It's the Ghost Stinger," I declared. "Grandma Miranda has it!"
"He can use powers," Dad declared. "How do we get control over him?"
Mom rushed to a cabinet after the shock slightly worn down and returned with something that looked too much like an ice pick. It was completely gray with a fat handle and a skinny top. Mom touched it to Jacky's side and gasped as it started to melt. Jacky stopped glowing but the ice pick had taken some damage. "That just may be the most powerful ability I have ever seen," Mom declared.
I snorted internally. She hasn't seen the Ghostly Wail.
Jacky was still screaming as Mom handed the ice-pick-object to Dad. "I'll do Jamie," Dad replied. Mom picked up Jacky and transported him to a new procedure table. She secured him again and grabbed a new scalpel. When she looked back at Jacky's penis, she gasped again.
"Jack! Jacky is healed," Mom declared.
"Does that mean you won't be able to do it," Tucker asked.
"I don't know what that means," Mom replied, horrorstricken. "In theory, anything that happens when he doesn't have any powers should remain. I don't know how to test that theory, though."
"How long does that thing last," I asked. The Plasmius Maximus lasted three hours.
"Five hours," Mom replied. "My Power Neutralizer should do the job. I'm just worried about putting them through such pain and having no way to know it will last."
"Do you want me to call Grandma," I asked. "Maybe she'll know."
"She is raising Eddie and Jacob," Mom said, pondering. "But I don't know if it's the same thing. Eddie and Jacob are ghosts. Jacky and Jamie are humans who were born from someone built upon ectoplasm. I didn't expect them to have powers."
"Does that mean Dawn has powers," Dad asked, looking to Mom.
"Could very well," Mom nodded. "We'll need to give Blue and Vlad a heads up. But for now, I think I'll test Jacky out first. If it heals after his powers come back, I'll give up. If it doesn't, I'll take Jamie's powers again and do his procedure. Okay?"
"That sounds good to me," I replied.
"I'll go ahead and take care of it now, baby," Mom replied. "That way, you can spend the next five hours recuperating."
"I think that will be fine," I smiled.
Mom restarted the procedure and while Jacky screamed just as before, he didn't seem to be in any worse pain. In fact, as soon as it was over, he didn't seem to be in any pain at all. It might have been pure discomfort.
"You're okay, buddy," I replied, bouncing his hand in the air.
Jacky had stopped screaming and was drying his tears. Jamie was oblivious that his fate rested on his brother's penis. Literally.
3 3 3
When I got home from work, it had been five hours. They decided to wait until I got home to do anything. Once I was home, though, Mom checked Jacky's bandages. The only blood there was from before his powers returned. The procedure was still there but it looked to be days old. Mom's mouth opened and closed like a fish. "He's fine," Mom said in shock, her mouth closing. "In fact," she said, swallowing, "I'd say he could take off the bandage in two days."
"You could go ahead and take the bandages off now," I replied.
"Danny's right," Dad replied. "He's completely healed. They apparently heal really fast."
"Should we wait longer to make sure it doesn't completely heal," Mom asked.
"I don't think so," Dad replied. "The procedure was a success. We'll just have to take Jamie's powers."
"Sorry, buddy," I replied. Mom picked him up and attached him to the procedure table. She tapped him again and grabbed the scalpel. Poor kid. After that, we sat down with Mom and Dad and discussed the plans for the school. Mom and Dad's wheels started turning.
3 3 3
That night, we told Mom and Dad we were going to headquarters. My intentions were to throw them off but I may have made them suspicious. I don't know. Sam, Tuck and I were the only ones going in although all of us were still at Fentonworks (with the exception of Dom, Gage, Lilly, and Megan). I had Jazz, Valerie and Danielle stay outside until we were ready to go to Frostbite's. Jazz and Val had artic gear but Dani, Sam, Tuck and I only had winter clothes. Dani and I didn't really need the clothes but we wanted to support Sam and Tucker. I didn't want them thinking they could go to Frostbite's without a coat on.
"Okay, ready," I asked.
"Ready," Tucker replied.
"Let's roll," Sam replied.
Tucker began the search. We waited impatiently as he tried to isolate any strange signals and follow one. The first one he found led us to the basement but it was a new program Mom and Dad were working on for Dani and Blue. I'll have to find out what it does later. A few other signals led to similar results. However, one came from outside.
"It's weak," Tucker replied. "It's outside but it's not obvious. Let's go." I took Sam's hand and Tuck and I floated outside. Tucker can fly for short bursts of time but Sam uses my powers to do her flying. "Okay, it's definitely a signal," he replied. "It's not a weak signal either. It's muffled."
"Muffled how," I asked as I landed on the ground.
"Like a whisper on the opposite side of a wall," Tucker replied. "Something is separating it from us." He looked at me weird. "Maybe the ground?"
"Mom and Dad like building things under things," I shrugged. We followed the signal but it would never get any stronger than a two. We're looking for an eleven!
"If they are using led as the material, that could aid in shielding it without any energy," Sam replied.
"But it should vanish before it does," I declared, confused. We were around the shed and anywhere in the general backyard we could get a signal. If we made it to the swimming pool, the signal went away. If we went past the fence, it went away. Anywhere in that large area, though, it was constantly a two. "What would cause it to show the same reading for so many distances?"
"It's not different distances," Tucker declared. "It's under the shed!"
"That's insane," I declared. "There's nothing in that old barn!"
"There's junk," Tucker declared, running for the shed. He opened the door to the shed and switched on the light. Nothing but junk surrounded us. "I knew it," Tucker declared. "I have a five here! There's something muffling six points of the invention."
"What is it," I asked. I turned around in the shed, my arms spread, "Where is it?" I heard a latch open.
"… the breaker box. It's in the basement," Mom replied. Her voice was hidden before. It's soundproof.
"Hide," I hissed, grabbing Sam's hand. I turned us invisible as Tucker vanished.
"I know," Dad replied. "I don't know why the-the… hey! It's not the breaker, Mads. The lights up here are on."
"How," Mom's voice traveled through the area. I heard footfalls. "Who turned it on? The kids went to their headquarters."
"Unless that was their intention," Dad replied, looking over his shoulder. "Lock the door to the Molecule Lab! Someone is in here!" How did they know that?
"Okay," Mom declared. "You can come out now. We have you surrounded."
That's what they think, Tucker retorted. Let's get out of here and phase into this lab. It's directly below the shed.
You got it, I replied. I turned Sam and I intangible and tried to sink through the floor. I hit a solid object. What the?
You can't phase through it, Tucker questioned me. It must be phase proof. I'd bet the door is too. We'll have to open the door.
We can't open the door without them getting suspicious, I said, panicked.
We'll have to come back later, Tucker said softly. Come on. Val, Jazz and Dani are outside.
Right behind you, I replied. We phased back outside, scooping up my sister and Valerie. Dani flew with us, her vanishing as well.
3 3 3
Unable to work on the Reality Gauntlet, we decided to work some more on our idea about the laptops. Mom and Dad didn't have to do everything by themselves; we could do some of it. Tuck, Jazz and I each had a laptop while Valerie, Dani and Sam peeked over our shoulders. Tucker had linked the three computers so whatever was on one was on all three of them.
"We'll have to protect the computer from hackers and for tests," I replied. "I know someone is going to think about downloading someone else's homework and trying to pass it off as their own."
"And they'll have textbooks on the computer so during a test, they can cheat," Tucker nodded.
I snorted. "I hadn't even thought about that. I was thinking about the internet. Do you really think we can put textbooks on the computer?"
Tucker scoffed. "Of course I can put a textbook on a computer! What is this, the dark ages? We don't write books by hand anymore."
"Let's not forget about the dangers the laptops themselves face," Valerie replied from Tucker's shoulder.
"Someone stealing them, someone breaking them, viruses," Sam replied from my shoulder. "We'll need some kind of failsafe to protect the documents."
"I'll back it up to the website," Tucker replied. A screen pulled up on my laptop so that meant it was on Jazz's and Tucker's too. Tuck was probably the one doing it. "I was thinking about creating a website anyway. The one we have now sucks balls. We'll need a place for the teachers to post their lectures. It's pointless for the teacher to have to send the e-mail to every student, right?"
"I think it would be better to make a website," Dani replied from Jazz's shoulder. "Daily web lectures sounds better than emails with assignments."
"It would have to be in lecture form," Jazz replied. "Email would have to be set up so the students and teachers can communicate but personal emails should be banned."
"I don't know about personal emails but we should certainly find a way to make sure the students can't blow off the lectures in class and play video games all day long," Sam said. "We need to make sure this is helping, not hurting."
"Jeez," I sighed. "We need to find a way to get kids to class when there isn't a ghost attack," I pointed out. I was already starting to think that attendance would be unnecessary.
"No," Tucker grumbled, objecting. "That's why I like this idea!"
I laughed. "I get it buddy. It was my thoughts that made me say it. It's necessary, though. This is supposed to help in an emergency, not create ones. At least the kids are safe in the classrooms. If we don't know where the students are during the school day, the ghosts could target somewhere else."
"We have the radar," Tucker whined. I fought not to lose it with laughter.
"Danny's right," Jazz replied. "If we have students skipping, we don't know where they are. We may know where the ghosts are but we don't know where the students are."
"Easy for you to say," Valerie growled. "You're graduating in May!"
"Sam," Jazz directed, looking for support. "We need level headed people here."
"I have to say I'm on Tucker's side here," Sam remarked, causing me to look up at her in surprise. "I like the idea of sitting under a tree and making out with Danny as we watch our lectures."
A smile came to my lips. "When you put it that way, it doesn't sound so bad."
"Exactly," Tucker retorted, holding his hand out.
"Come on, guys," Dani interrupted. "You're not thinking this through. This is about student safety, not personal gratification."
I sighed. "Yeah. It is. I vote that attendance is mandatory."
"Optional," Valerie cut in.
"Optional," Tucker voted.
"Mandatory," Dani voted.
"Mandatory," Jazz added.
"You don't count," Tucker injected.
"She's a part of this team," I finalized her vote. "Three to two. Sam, you're the nail in the coffin."
Valerie and Tucker looked about to celebrate when Sam sighed regretfully. "Mandatory," Sam voted. Tucker and Valerie's faces fell. "Sorry," Sam sighed. "Danielle has a point. While we may be able to take care of ourselves, the people in this town don't. As a member of Team Phantom, I have to put others safety above my happiness. Mandatory."
"Brit isn't here," Tucker cried, desperate. "This is a team vote! We have to call Brit!"
"What difference would it make," Valerie sighed. "It's four to two. They'd either beat us by one or by three. Either way, they win!"
"Come on, Danny," Tucker grumbled. "Change your mind. What if we're separated next year again? If attendance was optional, we could hang out together and do our independent classes!"
His proposal sounded tempting but Sam was right. We have an obligation. "Sorry, Tucker."
Tucker grumbled. "Okay. So how are we going to make attendance mandatory? We can't exactly force people to come to class."
"We make a punishment they'll really hate and attendance will seem the better option," Sam replied. "Detention?"
"Please," I scoffed. "I don't want a bunch of delinquents in my detention hall. That's the only time I get to study."
"Okay," Jazz replied, "how about an assignment? If they don't have a doctor's excuse or a valid one, they'll have to write an essay." She turned to Tucker. "Can you create a program that records the typing process so we can see for sure they are doing their work?"
"So they can't copy and paste," Tucker clicked his tongue. "Good thinking. Wish I had thought of it."
"Yeah," Danielle scoffed playfully. "So you could try it!"
Tucker gave her a goofy grin. "Yeah. I can do that. I can create one for all the assignments so they can't cheat. It'll recognize all published work so it can check for plagiarism and for math, I can create something that can track the work done to get the solution."
"Good thinking," Jazz smiled.
"This sucks," Valerie grumbled.
"I know," I sighed. "But we have to do what's best for others."
"It still sucks, though," Valerie retorted, leaning heavily on Tucker's shoulder. Valerie looked at me from her new position. "Can we get out of school more often, though? Snow days maybe?"
"I see no problem with it," I replied. I gasped as a thought occurred to me. "I may be able to negotiate with you guys."
"How," Sam asked.
"Attendance will be mandatory but you don't have to stick around," I replied. "Students have to show up for the first five minutes and the last five minutes but they can go anywhere they want between. Ten minutes out of ninety isn't bad, is it?"
"Heck no," Tucker declared. "But why the change of heart?"
"You have a point, Tucker," I sighed. "I really hate the idea of being separated from you guys. Danielle is in a different grade from us for crying out loud. The only reason I say it has to be mandatory is because of safety. If a student who wasn't there at the beginning of class doesn't show up at the end of class, we'll know we have a situation. It's that easy. If they are caught skipping at the end of class or they are missing from certain classes, then we'll stick them with the punishment. If they miss a lot of school, then we'll treat it like truancy. It's best of both worlds."
Jazz groaned, unsure. "I don't know. School is important. I think we should only use the computers in case of emergencies."
"The teachers are going to record their lectures anyway. I'm thinking about making it a part of the day. You never know when a ghost will attack. The last thing we want is class being disrupted and the teacher hasn't done the lecture. Why are we needed in the class if the teacher is a click away?"
"Exactly," Tucker declared as last time.
"That puts a lot of strain on the teacher, though," Jazz still looked uncertain.
"Not if she's a good teacher," Dani defended me. "There will be students that need help, Danny, but they will be few and far in between." Dani looked to me when she said my name, playfully insulting me.
"Thanks," I retorted just as playful.
"It covers the important parts and leaves the best parts alone," Sam said, shrugging. "But we'll have to make sure they can't leave school grounds. It's a closed campus."
"That is what we'll have to work on," I agreed. "The kids will want to go to the Nasty Burger to eat lunch or run around town."
"I don't think they'll want to eat lunch anywhere else," Tucker chuckled. "We have a one hundred percent lunch attendance in this school. No one here dislikes the cubes or rectangles."
"True," I laughed. "But they'll still want to run around town. Especially kids with cars and ghost powers." I laughed again.
"You mean yourself," Valerie teased.
"Or Jet Sleds," I smiled at her.
"It's not enough to put a tracker in the computer," Tucker sighed. "They could just leave it in their lockers. But I think I can work on something. Maybe an activity monitor or some kind of notice to pop up after lengthy inactivity. Let me think on it."
"Take your time. It's just January," Dani replied.
"Okay, here's another issue," Jazz replied. "Laptops are expensive and we live in a city where bullying is a way of life. We can't keep replacing these things."
Tucker hummed as he thought about it. "It'll have to be cameras on the computer. They will send the footage to an independent source so if anything happens, we can look up the incident. I can put that tracker on here for this problem. If someone loses the laptop, we can do a search for it. If it comes up broken, we can check the story against the footage. Anyone destroying the computer deliberately has to pay for the replacement and do some kind of hard time: detention or suspension."
"Why reward them with suspension," I asked, raising an eyebrow.
"We'll make it miserable," Jazz replied, a smile on her lips. "Why else would we have the computers?"
"The assignment program," Tucker replied, snapping his fingers. "They'll be assigned additional homework and they will also have to complete their assignments from class. If they bulk on the assignments, we'll terminate the classroom passes. They are a privilege, not a right!"
I smiled. "Good thinking, Tuck. If you skip too many times, the privilege will be taken away. If you continue to miss school, they will be expelled from Casper High. Let's see how that punishment sounds."
"Jazz came up with most of it," Tucker shrugged, bashful. "I like the idea of it being a privilege, though. That does seem like something that is earned and what better way to earn it than to show up to class for ten minutes each day?"
"Each classroom will have this honor to distribute to their liking," Sam added. "If one student skips one class too much, he will lose the privilege there but he may not lose it anywhere else." I have a feeling she's thinking back to ninth grade when I skipped music all those times. Payback is a bitch.
"After the school is locked down a dozen times, it'll sink in," Jazz said sarcastically.
Oh, boy. "We would have to lock down the school, wouldn't we?"
"We won't know if it's a student who is skipping or who has been abducted by a ghost. What choice would we have," Jazz asked me more seriously.
I groaned out, hitting a wall. "Now what do we do?"
"I don't know," Tucker said, his eyes wide. "What do we do, put trackers in the students? That's crossing the line."
"It's illegal," Sam pointed out. "We could do it as the Division but if anyone makes a big fuss out of it, people could start asking questions. Could you imagine the headline: private school bugs students, government claims right."
"We've had a good result here," I sighed. "I don't want to overstep the town's comfort zone. Putting trackers in their kids just may do it."
"The laptops are a different story," Tucker sighed. "That's private property being loaned out. Like the textbooks."
"If you don't return the textbook, you have to pay a fee," Dani pointed out. "Will there be a lost fee for the laptop?"
"You won't be able to lose it," Tucker replied. "It can be broken, stolen or destroyed but they won't be able to lose it. It'll have a tracker on it. If it's broken, there's no point in crying over spilled milk. Count our losses. If it was destroyed, then we'll punish the one who destroyed it. If someone stole it, well enough said. We'll get it back."
"It's the end of the year, though," Sam spoke up. "How are we going to punish someone that way when there's no school."
"If they're an undergraduate, then they'll get the punishment next year," Tucker said, smiling broadly. "If they have just graduated, that means they are of age. Do you know what the value of these laptops will be? That's a lot of serious charges."
"Grand theft," I asked, incredulously.
"Or destruction of private property," Tucker replied. "It'll make us seniors think twice before we try anything cute."
"So what do we do about locking the school down, though," Jazz asked again.
"The only thing we can," Sam sighed. "We'll give a test run. We will emphasize the importance of this rule and if it doesn't work out, we'll terminate the program. They will have two options: obey the rule or skip school and be expelled."
"Not if they come to one classroom," Jazz objected. "If they are proven to have showed up to any class, they're in the clear!"
Sam hummed as she thought it over. I had the solution.
"We put in an attendance tracker," I replied. "It'll be tracked by the office. This will go with the closed campus policy. If they show up late to school or leave early, it'll show up on the tracker. Anyone skipping any classes will be punished. If they exceed a limit, we consider it truancy. I think this is the best solution. We are a private school. We treat it like a public but we are private. This is an exclusive members only area. If you don't abide by our rules, you'll go somewhere else."
"Okay," Sam spoke up. "If you miss more than… no. If your attendance is irregular, you are guilty of skipping. If you skip or miss more than three days without a valid excuse, it is considered truancy. Guilty of truancy for three counts, you're out of here. Sound good?"
"I think so," I replied. "You have to have a valid excuse, though. There is no excuse why someone can't come to their classroom for five minutes in the beginning and five minutes at the end."
"What if they do have a good excuse," Valerie asked. I looked at her incredulously. "Ghost attack?"
"Crap," I declared, hanging my head. This is not as easy as I had hoped it would be.
"I can take care of that," Tucker replied. "All I have to do is record the radar. We can get someone to be able to type in keywords and see if there was a ghost attack there. It can be done in the office."
"Okay," I said, lifting my head in a little higher spirits. "They name where they were and what time it was. Check the radar and see if there was a ghost there at that time. If there was, valid excuse."
"Except ghost attacks make the news," Jazz replied. "How will we know if they aren't just repeating what they have heard?"
"This will go back to the closed campus thought," Tucker replied. "We have no idea how we are going to keep kids on the campus and keep the school from locking down. A doctor's excuse is easy. A ghost attack is a little more difficult to prove."
"Well, I think we have all the bugs worked out except for the closed campus policy," Val replied. "We need to find a way to make sure the kids don't leave the school grounds, don't lock down the school and don't use a ghost attack as a cover up."
"I think so," I replied.
"If only getting the Reality Gauntlet would be even relevantly as easy," Sam sighed.
"I know," I sighed. "The best bet we have is to keep those lights off," I replied. "As long as the lights don't knock underground, Mom and Dad aren't suspicious."
"That's no problem at all," Tucker replied. "We don't need light to see in the dark. At least four of us don't."
"Don't rub it in," Jazz growled.
"We'll have to do it when they don't know we're home," Dani replied. "Either pretending to go to HQ or pretending to go on patrol."
"Either will do," Tucker replied. "We go to HQ so we can stay on patrol without disruptions."
"No," Sam objected. "We go to HQ so we can spend time with the girls without disruptions."
"True," Tucker smacked his lips together.
"Speaking of the girls," I sighed. "I need to feed Megan and get her down."
"Okay, meeting dismissed," Tucker reported. Sam stepped away from me so I could stand up.
AN: Okay, another one down the hatch. Four more chapters left of this story and then the final installment of Danny's Story begins. Send in any requests for suggestions or for any questions you may want me to address. I'm available through review and Private Message. :)
Also, I'm sorry this chapter was posted a few hours late. My energy is way down for some reason today. I started working on this at 11:30 (Eastern time) but couldn't do more than thirty minutes of work. It's four o'clock now… so… yeah. I'm horrible. Sorry!
I like reviews!