Maddie twirled her screwdriver, smirking in satisfaction. "Give me the silent treatment all you want," she called over her shoulder brightly. "Soon enough you'll be talking to me like I'm the only person you've ever known."
She carefully tightened the final screw to just the right tension, placing the screwdriver onto the bench with finality. The new weapon was sleek and black, and although it was nameless, it'd still work just fine. Her only regret was that Jack couldn't be here thanks to the annual ghost convention two states away. As much as he had wanted to be there, they had both agreed over Skype that it was best to do this now, before the slippery character managed to escape.
Picking up the completed gun and cradling it in the crook of her arm like a newborn, Maddie used her free hand to drag a chair across the lab. She positioned it with its back facing the phase-proof and hypothetically indestructible ectoplasmic containment cube, straddling the chair and leaning her arms on its arched back.
The captive eyed its hunter apprehensively, drawing its knees up to its chest in a defensive position as it hovered in mid-air.
Maddie mentally kicked herself; she had to stop referring to the boy as an it.
Phantom stared at her with wide eyes that sparkled emerald, the fear evident on his face. He had given up trying to hide how afraid he was several hours ago, and had quit the screaming and begging, instead lapsing into anxious taciturnity.
They stayed like that, hunter and hunted observing each other, for several long minutes.
The teen broke the silence. "I thought you were the type to chop me up and rip me apart molecule by molecule, not sit and stare."
"A week ago, I would have destroyed you," she admitted.
The ghost boy stiffened, his eyes flying from Maddie's face to the gun before returning to her eyes. The tip of a tongue darted out, moistening the spectre's lips with a quick movement before slipping out of sight again. He seemed to be struggling with something, and then Phantom sighed heavily, descending to touch the soles of white boots to the floor of his confinement. "How much do you know?" he demanded in a tired voice, shoulders slumping in defeat.
"I know that you're half human," the huntress confessed, twirling her gun expertly. "That knowledge allowed me to create this."
"You don't know my human identity?" he asked, and Maddie almost chuckled at the thought that he had deliberately ignored the reference to the sleek new weapon.
"Of course not," she stated, waving her free hand dismissively, "but I'll know soon enough."
Phantom seemed to cave. "Alright, I know you're dying to tell me. What does the gun do?"
Maddie felt a feral grin creep across her face. "Ghosts' memories are imprinted in their ectoplasm, so can't be destroyed without destroying the ghost. However, if my calculations are correct, this gun will be able to affect the human portion of your brain. This is great, because the only memories your ectoplasm should retain after being blasted by this baby are the skills that you have, including ghostly ones. No memories, just skills. It'll take you a while to recover from the blast – it destroys a lot of your ectoplasmic content, but don't worry. I promise that I'll take care of you."
Phantom took a step back in alarm, his fear visibly morphing into downright terror. "Wait, this isn't necessary!" he exclaimed. "Just let me explain!"
Maddie kicked the chair away, stalking forwards. "No, you let me explain! You terrorise the town, cause millions of dollars of damage, and engage in petty social gatherings with the other spectres! You're a menace, Phantom! So, once I've wiped your memories with this gun, I'll train you. You're going to become a ghost hunter, and help Jack and me to rid the town of invading spooks! Once you've been shot, your memories will disappear as you change into your human form."
"Y-you can't be serious," Phantom spluttered, pressing himself harder against the far end of his prison. "Surely you're not that dense!"
Maddie raised the gun and fired in one smooth movement.
The blast passed through the ectoplasm confinement as though it didn't exist, slamming into the halfa's unprotected gut.
Phantom screeched, falling to his knees and instinctively pressing his hands against the burn. "Mum!" he shrieked, gloved hands flying to clutch at his head as a white ring snapped into place around his waist.
Maddie felt her heart stop at that familiar cry.
Phantom dug fingers into his scalp, sobbing as he visibly fought the transformation; the ring faltered, flickering briefly before brightening again. It split, the movements slow and halting as Danny tried to regain control of his hijacked core. Wherever the halos touched, ectoplasm and flesh fell away in sizzling patches, leaving the boy covered in burns of varying degrees as the blast from the gun attacked his ghost form.
Maddie could only watch in horror as they travelled jerkily over the teen's body. The pain in his head seemed to increase as neural pathways were destroyed, and Danny arched his back with a scream more tortured than Maddie had ever heard before, tearing at hair that turned black beneath his fingers. "MUM!" He collapsed as the rings disappeared, curling up with a whimper.
Maddie deactivated the confinement with a verbal code, stumbling forwards to wrap the child in her arms. "Danny… Danny, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry, please be alright!" she begged hysterically, holding him close.
The boy squirmed before phasing out of her grasp, scuttling backwards on the floor with his face turned away. He was shaking, looking around the room with jerky movements of his head. A trail of blood and ectoplasm smeared across whatever he touched, welling up from the burns scattered over his skin.
Blank blue eyes met hers, and Maddie's world came crashing down.