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Every Journey Starts with a Small Step

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Hindsight 20/20, maybe his ghost half wasn’t so bad.  His new powers just helped him escape Dash again.  The score was starting to even out between the A-lister and the outcast.

Okay, so the score was 4 to 112 in Dash’s favor, but Danny could practically taste victory!

“Greetings, whelp.”

He takes it back.  His ghost half sucks.

He turned to see none other than Skulker floating in the school hallway, guns all aimed at him.

“Aw, man.”

He tore off down the hallway, dodging blasts as his not-so-great-a-shot hunter chased after him.  He really did not want to do this.  He was already low on sleep because he stayed up talking to Jazz, telling her all about his abilities, and then he had to stop Lunch Lady this morning.  Why did Mr. Lancer have to switch to fish?  Oh yeah, it was Lent, and the pretty, new teacher was Catholic.  Thanks, Mr. Lancer.  You are a role model for us all.

“By tonight, your pelt shall be mounted on my wall!”

“Yeah, Skulker.  You’ve said that all other six times you’ve attacked me in the past two weeks.  Last time I checked, my pelt wasn’t on your wall.  Can’t you just call it quits for today?”  He hollered back.  Skulker’s response was an angry roar and renewed vigor.

‘Note to self: Do not anger ghosts while they are chasing you.’

He transformed while bolting out one of the back doors of the school, taking off into the sky, still dodging blasts.  Unfortunately, his thermos was full of Lunch Lady, and he honestly wasn’t sure if the thermoses could hold more than one ghost.  Even if they could, he wasn’t sure what Skulker would do to the poor old lady if they were cramped in the same thermos too long.  The hunter had already tried using the Box Ghost as bait.  He didn’t want the Lunch Lady to get caught up in Skulker’s craziness, so he was trying to lead Skulker back to the portal, hoping to throw the jerk through without a thermos. 

Skulker seemed to enjoy the chase, and Danny had to admit, fear was not the only thing pumping adrenaline through his veins.  Assuming ghosts had adrenaline, that is. 

The hit he took to the shoulder really dampened his mood.  It was too close to his wound from last night for comfort, but then, it was an injury.  It wasn’t supposed to be comfortable.

The blast sent him hurtling toward the building below him, where he crashed into the roof.  His other injuries were jostled pretty hard when he hit, and for a few seconds, he saw stars.  Those few seconds were all the time Skulker needed apparently, because before Danny could recover, Skulker had tied his wrists and feet together.  Glancing up, his eyes followed the ecto-rope from his hands up to the hand of the self-proclaimed greatest hunter in the Ghost Zone.  Skulker gave a hard tug, and Danny was pulled off the ground, only to get slammed back into it, hard.  The bruises littering his body multiplied, and the wind was knocked out of him.  He couldn’t get air back into his lungs, but he then realized, he was in ghost mode still.  He didn’t need to breathe in this form, and pain didn’t register quite the same now as it did when he was human. 

He really needed to get used to this.

Before he could do anything to free himself, Skulker was suddenly shot in the back from behind.

“Who are you, specter?  Where did you come from?”

‘Okay, they shoot first and ask questions later, and I’m still tied up!  Good thing Skulker dropped the rope.  Now I can escape while he’s busy.’

Unfortunately, he didn’t get very far before an agent hit him in the back as he tried sneaking away.  The rope Skulker used kept him from going intangible, and he belatedly realized that it was draining him of energy.

When he got hit everything faded to black.

 

 

When he awoke, he was strapped to a table, bright lamps shining in his face.  He groaned, stirring, blinking his eyes hard and shaking his head to clear out the stars.  His movements must have caught someone’s attention, because he was suddenly surrounded by GiW agents. 

His tax money was strapping him to a table.  ‘Gotta love the gov.’  he thought bitterly.

“Anyone feeling generous and want to let me go?”  he asked, hopeful grin plastered on his face.

The agents glared.  “Not until you explain what you are, Danny.”

Danny’s eyes widened.  He glanced up at his bangs.

Black.

“Oops.”

From another room, Danny heard Skulker scream.

 

 

“The Guys in White are a government organization whose mission is to rid the world of the supernatural.  They have been criticized for their unsavory tactics in the past, but most those that know of their existence and work are more than happy to lend their support.”

Jazz shuddered, reading the article she had found online.  After Danny had told her about the dudes in white suits that shot at him, she had researched like crazy.  After all, that was her specialty.  Before he left for school that morning, she had warned him not to go near the old house again.  What she was reading, and the pictures that went along with it, were only cementing her fears.

‘He’s fine.  He’ll be fine.  You’ll just annoy him.’  She nervously glanced at a clock.  ‘But he should have been back by now!  I’m calling him.’

When he didn’t pick up after the fourth time she called, she grabbed her pre-packed bag and ran.

 

 

“Stop!  Please!  I’m telling the truth!”  Danny cried.  He didn’t have the energy to go ghost and escape. 

“I’m alive!  I swear!”

“No one can be both alive and dead at the same time.”  An agent, K specifically, argued.  “They are opposites.  It’s physically impossible.”

“AAAHH!”  Another slice was made into his chest.  They were slowly, painfully dissecting him.

“That’s enough.  We don’t want him to fade before we find out how he mimics life.”  Agent M ordered.

“Yes, sir.”

Danny was wheeled into another room and unceremoniously thrown inside.  He groaned when he hit the concrete floor, to spent to do more than lie there as the door was shut and locked. 

“Whelp?  What happened?”

Danny forced his head up, fighting through the pain, to see Skulker, but not the Skulker he was used to.  The tiny green blob had clearly also received torture.  Danny was surprised to see Technus hiding in a corner behind Skulker, mumbling to himself, a few ectopuses lying on the floor as well.

Seemed these guys weren’t ones to fool around with.

“Same thing that happened to you, apparently.”  He choked out, regretting speaking when his chest and arm flared up in pain at the jostle.  “They needed information and samples to figure out how I am ‘mimicking life’.”

Skulker chuckled darkly.  “You’ll be dead by tomorrow.”

Danny grimaced.  “I know,” his grimace became a pained grin, which are really hard to tell apart if you’ve never seen someone switch between the two before, “but at least now you’ll never have my pelt.”  He nodded in Technus’s direction, “and he’ll never rule the universe.”  Danny’s chuckles were cut off by the pain they caused.

Skulker frowned, studying the ghost boy, a crazy idea forming in his head.  Whether it was his own, or planted by what the whelp had said, he didn’t know, but he decided to use it.

“And you’ll never see your sister again.”  Glowing green eyes glared at him.  “There’s the fighting spirit I hate so much!  Don’t give up.  We haven’t faded yet.”

“No point…there’s no point…in trying…”

Skulker and Danny turned to Technus.  Danny’s scowl hardened. 

‘What am I thinking?  I can’t abandon Jazz like that!  Those monsters broke Technus, tortured Skulker and I, and probably the ectopi too!  No way am I giving up!’

Skulker grinned at the fire in his eyes.  There’s the whelp he was used to.

 

 

“Technus, no!  Don’t fade!”

The desperate cries brought agents to the door.  They rushed into the room, blasters pointed at the ghosts in the room. 

“Nobody move!”  One of them shouted.  A few started dragging the technology obsessed ghost out of the room.  Once he was out, the agents retreated, locking the door again.

Skulker turned to Danny.  “Quite the ingenious little plot, whelp.”

Danny shrugged, wincing.  His injuries were healing, but were still painful.  “I try.”

He had convinced Technus to try and escape again.  The plan was for Technus to infiltrate their computer systems.  Luckily for them, the locks on the cell doors were electric.  The guards’ guards would be down since they thought that Technus was fading. 

Technus had admitted that he had tried fading just to get out of there, but they refused to let one of their specimens bite the dust.  Danny decided to use that.

While Technus was faking fading, he was connecting to the systems, feeling for them.  He was going to get his new-found allies out of this hell hole.

 

 

Danny and Skulker waited, Danny carrying the ectopi with a suitless Skulker on his shoulder.  Danny wasn’t a huge fan of any of the ghosts in the room, but he wasn’t inhuman enough to leave them behind to suffer.  A small voice in the back of his head had also pointed out that the more specimens the GiW had, the stronger they could get. 

He really didn’t want that.

Suddenly, the door to their cell opened, alarms blaring, red lights flashing.  With a cry of victory, he dashed from the room, turned a corner, and ran into someone.  Before he could raise a hand to defend himself, Technus had pulled him up.

Oh.  He had run into Technus.

But Technus was supposed to be in the system to help them get out.

“I can’t get in the system!  Even after they pumped me with a serum that nearly restored me to my former glory, someone is keeping me out of the system!”

Danny and Skulker shared a glance.

“Then who let us out?”

Technus shrugged.  “Beats me.”

Skulker smacked Danny lightly on the back of the head.  “Does it matter, whelp?!  Let’s just get out of here!”

Danny shook his head.  “What about your suit?”  He handed the ectopi to Technus.  “Get them out of here.  Skulker and I are getting his suit.  Technus didn’t need any more convincing.  In an instant, he and the ectopi vanished, and Danny tore down the hallway, Skulker holding on for dear life.  Danny was still too weak to go ghost, and Skulker was too weak to fly, but together they managed to make themselves invisible.  They had to flatten themselves against the wall as two agents ran past.  Danny recognized one of them as agent O.  He seemed to be talking into the headset he was wearing. 

“-meras are down, so we have no visuals.  All four in the cell were weak, so we believe them to still be in the building.  Specimen 0253 has also escaped, and we have no visual.  If those specters join forces, they could be difficult to recapture.”  He and the other agent turned the corner, and Danny didn’t stay to find out what else he had to say.  They thought all of them were still in the building, so he and Skulker had to be extra careful.

“Turn left!”  Skulker hissed in his ear.

Danny didn’t question it.  He zipped around the next corner, narrowly avoiding crashing into the two teens running his direction.  They would have run right passed them if Skulker hadn’t given away their position.

“Unhand my armor, human child!”  He seethed.

Danny looked, and sure enough, that was one of Skulker’s gauntlets on the boy’s wrist, and one of his guns in the hands of the girl.  The boy had darker skin, a red beret atop his short, dark hair.  The girl was all in black, large combat boots on her feet that Danny really hoped she wouldn’t use to kick.  They looked like they weighed about fifty pounds each.

“Who’s there?!”  The girl shouted, turning and aiming the gun right at Danny’s chest.  He gulped.  The barrel of the gun was only about three inches away from his chest.  Before Danny could move out of the way, Skulker jumped at the girl, knocking the gun out of her hand and dropping their invisibility as he did so.  The girl gasped, rubbing her wrist where Skulker had hit her before diving after the gun again.  Danny beat her to it.  While Danny was retrieving the gun, Skulker had jumped on the boy, managing to startle the youth enough to grab the gauntlet.  With a little effort, he made it intangible, and the ghost hopped back to Danny’s shoulder, the gauntlet clutched in his tiny arms, making the disparity in size between his tiny form and his giant suit all the more obvious.  Danny would have found it hilarious if he wasn’t running for his life.

“Where did you get those?”  He asked the girl, gun aimed at her shoulder.  He didn’t want to accidentally kill her if the blaster went off, but he was trying to be threatening.  He couldn’t just put it down, and he didn’t trust Skulker enough to hand it over.  Besides, the little guy probably wasn’t even big enough to aim and fire the thing without his suit.

The girl just glared, but the boy was terrified enough to talk.  “Down the hall, make a left, second door on the right!”  He squawked.

“Tucker!”  The girl growled, not taking her eyes off the gun in Danny’s hand.

As she made a move to grab the blaster from him, Skulker again turned them invisible and Danny took off down the hall, following the boy’s instructions, leaving two dumbfounded teenagers behind him.

They found the room, the guard that had been out front was sitting in a corner, wrapped in dark green rope from head to foot, a green gag in his mouth.  While Skulker reassembled his suit, Danny inspected the room, searching for any sort of weapon he could use.  He turned to the guard, hoping to snag a weapon from him, and realized that the green rope was actually vine.  The man had been wrapped from head to toe in a thick vine-like plant.

Okay.  Weird.

He swiped the standard issue watch the agent was wearing.  He knew firsthand how powerful the lasers hidden in the watches were.

“Let’s go, whelp.”  Skulker barked, the only warning Danny had before he was swiped off the floor, Skulker’s arm wrapped around his middle.  He let out an indignant yelp, but shut his mouth when Skulker fired several missiles and blasters at the wall.  He fired up his rocket pack and took off through the hole in the wall, Danny in tow.  He repeated this until the hole he blasted in the wall led to the outside.  They took to the skies, Danny turning to look behind him to see the grey, unassuming building they fled from.  He had to do a double take when he saw the boy and girl from earlier climbing down a vine on the side of the building, dodging decidedly inadequate shots from agents firing from the roof. 

Making one of his Poor Decisions™, Danny forced his ghost half to the surface, transforming even though he was so weak, and squirmed out of Skulker’s grip.

He ignored his enemy-turned-ally in favor of flying down to the two teens, snatching them out of the air, and turning invisible as he carried them off.  Skulker himself never looked back, zooming off to who knows where.

 

 

“-nny!  Please don’t die on me!  Not for real!”

Danny pried his eyes open to see Jazz’s worried face leaning over him.  Memories flooded back to him as his sister tackled him in a relieved hug.

He had grabbed the two teens, taken off, crashed in a nearby alley, transforming back in the process as his injuries from the GiW and his exhaustion finally caught up to him.

“Where are we?”  He groaned, sitting up on the bed he was lying on, not recognizing the dark room.

Jazz bit her lip, glancing up at the girl leaning against the door frame.  The same girl from the GiW.

“You’re in my house.”  She explained.  “Shortly after you collapsed, while Tucker and I were taking you back here, your sister here ran up, all panicked.”  The girl grinned.  It made Danny shudder.  This girl could definitely pull off the whole creepy goth thing.  “Did you know your sister planted a tracker on you?”

Danny turned to a sheepish Jazz.  Part of him wanted to be an angry, rebellious teenager and yell at his older sister, but his more rational side won out. 

“Thanks, Jazz.  That was smart thinking.”  He smiled at her, hoping she wouldn’t tackle him again.  He was still kind of sore. 

She stuck her nose in the air, radiating smugness.  “I knew it was, that’s why I did it.”

His smile dropped, deadpanning, “I take it back.  Your head doesn’t need to be any bigger.”

She frowned, ruffling his hair.  “You ungrateful little jerk!”

They both ended up laughing, and the goth by the door looked nauseous.

“Are you guys going to continue getting happiness all over my room, or are you done?”  She challenged, an eyebrow raised.

Tucker walked in the door at that point.  “Come on, Sam.  If you don’t appreciate guests, don’t bother staying in the room.”  Sam glared at him, then turned a suspicious gaze to Danny and Jazz.  She huffed, then left the room.

If what Danny suspected was true, he didn’t blame her for being cautious. 

“Are you guys hungry?  We’ve got plenty of food if you want something to eat.”

Danny shook his head, pulling himself out of the bed, stretching.  “It’s okay.  Thanks for the offer, but we should probably leave before your girlfriend attacks me with cacti or something.”

Tucker froze, his face unreadable.  Danny answered the unasked question by floating a few inches off the ground.

“What, you think I’m going to go tell them?  You guys may have just been stealing from them, but I was escaping.  I’m not going within a mile of that place ever again.”

Tucker relaxed a little, but he was still wary.  He stepped aside as Danny and Jazz walked out of the room, Jazz grabbing her bag as she went.

Danny headed down the stairs, hoping he looked more confident than he felt.  Honestly, he felt about due for a nervous breakdown.

“Thanks for not leaving me to die, Sam.  See ya.”  He called to the goth sitting in her living room.  He nonchalantly strode toward the door, Jazz following behind, but before heh could get there, vines sprung up from nowhere, wrapping around his and Jazz’s ankles, snaking up their legs.  Jazz started freaking out, pulling one of her parents ectoblasters that survived the explosion out from Danny doesn’t want to know where, firing at the tendrils wriggling around her.  Before she did too much damage, Danny swiped it out of her hands, turning to Sam.

“Mind letting my sister go?  She’s got nothing to do with this.” 

Sam frowned.  Despite the fact that he couldn’t move, he didn’t seem worried.  ‘Probably because of the gun he’s holding.’  She fixed that problem when she sent a vine that snatched the weapon from his grip faster than a python.

He barely blinked.

Now she was a little worried.  She knew he was different, but she didn’t know how different the fourteen-year-old was.  Reluctantly, her vines retreated from the orange-haired teen.

“Jazz, please leave.  I’ll be out in a few minutes.”

Sam’s scowl deepened.  He was still calm, and he was too cocky.  He thought she was just going to let a threat like him go that easily?

“Like Ghost Zone I’m leaving!”  Okay, maybe she didn’t need to worry.  “I’m not leaving my baby brother with some ghost I don’t know!”  Ghost?  She had been called a freak before, but never a ghost.  Was that even a valid insult?

Danny facepalmed.  “Like Ghost Zone?  Come on, Jazz, that was pretty weak.”  Jazz pouted, and Danny turned to stare straight into Sam’s eyes.  They flashed bright green, which Sam will never admit mildly freaked her out.  “Besides, she’s no ghost.”

All three teens in the room turned to Danny, confused, though for different reasons.

“I’m not sure how she manipulates plants, but she would have triggered my ghost sense if she was a ghost.”  Jazz nodded.  That made sense. 

Tucker and Sam were lost though.  ‘Ghost sense?’

“It was an accident with a plant in her greenhouse.” 

Tucker!”  She growled.  He had the decency to look sheepish.  Sam turned back to Danny.  “So then, are you a ghost?”  she asked, eyebrow raised, hip cocked.  The perfect picture of skepticism. 

Danny grinned before transforming, going invisible and intangible.  Tucker and Sam both gasped.  He floated over to Tucker, flying into the boy.

“And if I am?”  Danny hissed as creepily as he could, using Tucker’s mouth.  Sam screamed, falling to the floor in shock as she flung herself as far from the boy as she could.  Danny laughed, pulling himself out of Tucker.

“You should have seen your—.“

He was cut off when something pierced through his chest, electricity zapping through his body.

Jazz screamed his name, and everything went black.

 

 

When he awoke a second time, he was strapped down on a table again, but this one was tilted so he was right side up.  Jazz was on the other side of the room, tied up in vines, mouth covered.  She tried calling out to him through the gag, but he couldn’t understand her.  He looked to his left.  Sam glared back.  He looked to his right.  Tucker’s terrified eyes stared straight through his soul.  He looked down at himself and gasped when he saw the electric cords poking out of his chest.  Three of them. 

‘That can’t be good.  No wonder I passed out.’  He tested with his pinky where they couldn’t see.  ‘Good, I can still go intangible.’

Sam opened her mouth to speak, but she never got the chance.  Danny fazed through the table, and all Ghost Zone broke loose.  Electric wires and thorny vines all chased after him as he grabbed Jazz, fazing her out of the vines.  He headed towards the door on the other side of the room.  He didn’t notice the electricity running through the door until he tried fazing through it, and it flung him back.

He groaned, sitting up, turning to face their captors again, but Jazz put herself between them and him, pointing another blaster at them.

“Stay away from my brother!  He didn’t hurt anyone!”  She yelled.

Danny pressed a hand to the three holes in his chest.  Ectoplasm was leaking down his suit.  He didn’t want to know what would happen if he changed back to human in that condition.

Tucker and Sam said nothing, but they glanced at each other, nodded, and moved, Sam on the left, Tucker on the right.  Jazz fired two shots, right in front of their feet.  They both skidded to a halt.  The tiny blaster in her hand had scorched the concrete floor of Sam’s basement.  They seemed to be rethinking charging them, which allowed Danny the time to crawl back to his feet.  He steadied himself with a hand to Jazz’s shoulder, trying to pull her back to the door at the same time.  He turned to look at the door just in time to see a vine make its way straight for Jazz. 

With a frustrated yell, Danny made them intangible again, hand gripping his chest, trying to staunch the bleeding.  He knew he wouldn’t last long like this if he didn’t do something fast.  He grabbed Jazz’s wrist and pulled her up and through the ceiling.

 

 

Once through the ceiling, Danny collapsed, dropping to the floor, barely conscious.  Jazz grabbed her bag from where she had dropped it earlier, rifling through it until she found the first aid kit.  She pulled it out, rushing to her brother’s side.  She rolled him over and go to work, ignoring the sound of the two superpowered teens thundering up the stairs.

When Sam burst into the room, she got ready to fight, but then saw the two on the floor.  Jazz shot them both the most terrifying glare they had ever seen.  It was equal parts cornered animal, guilt, righteous fury, and vengeful wrath.

“Get your butts over here and help me, NOW.

“Yes, ma’am!”  Tucker squeaked, rushing over to help patch up the half-ghost before he bled out on the floor.  Sam followed, albeit reluctantly.

The goth had to admit, the other girl, Jazz, knew what she was doing.  She expertly patched the boy up in record time, adrenaline probably speeding up her fingers.  When he was out of danger of bleeding out, he exhaustedly let his ghost half fade away, to leave the black-haired teen she had first met in that government base hallway in his place.

Jazz sighed, leaning back on her hands on the floor.  “Don’t cut it so close next time, little bother.”  She admonished. 

Danny chuckled weakly.  “…’k…”  he managed, before completely passing out.

Jazz brushed his bangs out of his face, smiling down at him before turning to Sam and Tucker.  Her face was unreadable.  Sam swallowed.  Suddenly, she questioned which sibling was the more dangerous.

“What do you want to know?”

Sam blinked.  “What?”

Jazz sighed, glancing down at Danny.  “What do you want to know?  You’ve seen too much already.”  She glanced ruefully back at Sam.  “Not much point in trying to hide anything now.”  Her expression changed, but Sam couldn’t read the new one.  “Besides, if you out him, we can out you.  We both have secrets the other knows about.”

Sam scowled.  The girl drove a hard bargain.

“How did he end up like this?  Sam got infected by radioactive plant pollen.  I got electrified working on a computer.  Did he catch a ghost flu, or something?”

Jazz sighed, curling in on herself slightly, her knees coming up so she could hug them.

Then she told them everything.