Vladimir Masters was weathering a midlife crisis. Not that he ever would admit to such a problem when he had such a carefully crafted persona to keep up... No, this little crisis was something he had become adept at hiding for a little more than two years now. At present, it had been almost four months since the failed ‘cloning’ incident, as Daniel called it. Chuckling bitterly at his desk Vladimir paused in thought. He didn’t like reminiscing on those events. He had lost more than Daniel would presumably ever know during that time period and Vladimir was still coping with the emotional stress that came from that particular act of desperation.
Grasping the bottle back to his face he took another swig. The ocher liquid splashed greedily against his jaw. Now the mayor of Amity Park, he was having serious issues retaining his narcissistic personality for the boy. The fire for his resentment just wasn’t there anymore. In reality, it never had been. He never detested Jack Fenton. He had been his best friend, and most staunch confident for nearly two years in college. Vlad could never see someone who had comforted him, supported him and shared his problems with him equally, as an enemy. He did; however, carry anger and grief in spades. Jack had abandoned him after the accident….so had Maddie. Vlad was hurting, but he didn't hate the Fentons. He never had. He loathed himself.
It’s easy to pretend to hate someone and plot from a distance. Their proximity to him, however, was starting to cripple the resolve for his little web of lies. Worse yet, Vladimir was becoming overly attached to the fat oath’s son.
The only two natural hybrids in the world, and they were beating each other up under false pretenses. Vlad groaned and struck his head against his desk. The whiskey wasn’t helping like it ordinarily did. He was second-guessing his motives again, ripping apart his carefully stitched and clumsily taped resolve back into fractured pieces.
Vlad’s fingers drummed his desk in worry. Sitting back up he glared at his hand’s nervous gestures. Perceiving his emotions out in the open was more than a cause for frustration. Angry, he ceased the movements and flung his now fisted hand hard against the mahogany. The closer he became to the Fentons the more his locked emotions became clear, and he HATED himself for it.
“Why should I care if that welp disappeared? He’s sixteen! It’s not like I care for that insufferable brat!!!” Glaring at the bottle in his left hand he took another swig. In his head, the thoughts lamented. ‘Since when did you NOT care Vladimir? Isn’t this all for him? For them?’
Vlad sat the whiskey bottle down on the desk and angrily glared at the almost mocking bottle. Yes… he was overly attached by this point. He wrung his hands in frustration. Enraged at his own thoughts Vladimir’s hand wrapped around the abandoned whiskey bottle and hurled it into the adjacent wall with enough force to crack the mansion’s office wall. The glass shattered and fell against the floor with a heavy crack. Chestnut paneling darkened in color where the remaining liquor had fallen. Angry, and fairly drunk, Vladimir slouched in his chair.
“Why the heck did things have to be this way?” Gnawing his lip in frustration he brought his hand to the bridge of his nose. ‘Because I am a deplorable liar…’ He groaned. Sometimes portraying a villain led to more serious morality issues than others. He could hope and trust in Daniel’s abilities, or he could intervene. Vlad’s eyes saddened.
‘It’s already been a week... If you don’t act now it will be too late…’ Getting up clumsily from his office chair, Vlad calmly called his secretary and informed her of his needed absence from the office for a few days. The dull click of the reservoir signified the end of his hastily made one a.m. call to Bertra Ann.
The woman was odd but hard-working and had never ceased to question his schedules or tendencies. With everything in order, he began re-buttoning his shirt before sighing and casually walking toward the door. A sharp stab of pain in his heel redirected his attention. He had forgotten all about the glass shattered across the wooden floor. Wincing, he reached down and gently grasped the shard that had become embedded in his barefoot only for another sharper and more excruciating pain to blossom through his body. Losing his balance he staggered into the end table adjacent to the Jack Daniel’s remnants. Something hot had scorched his hand when he had removed the shard. In his drunken aggravated state though he had failed to notice its source.
“DAMN IT!” He flinched remembering his therapy and rolling his eyes corrected himself, “Butter Biscuits.” Looking over the floor his gaze trailed to the wall outlet near the booze disaster. Grumbling in frustration, he stood and crouched down to look at the mess. “Just great I fried the damned outlet.” Grabbing his head and standing he berated himself. ‘What was the point of going to anger management classes when I was younger if a couple of bottles of liquor negate everything?!?’
Turning from the mess his dark brow twitched in agitation. ‘This week isn’t off to a good start….’
Steel-blue eyes took one last glance at the office and frowning he walked into the hallway and shifted into Plasmius. There was immeasurable pain as the dark black rings expanded from his torso and activated his ghost attributes. The pain wasn’t entirely new. He had attributed it to a relapse in his genetics, similar to the forced reconstruction of his genome when it was first spliced with his ghost half in college. Really, what was he supposed to think? His body strained against the ghost plasma that morphed him. As the rings faded Vlad’s blue-tinged skin, spiked ebony hair and vampire-like appearance came into fruition.
Taking in a tremulous breath as Vlad Plasmius, he absently stared at his right gloved hand. He was having more issues than he could honestly admit to his friends…. Clasping his hand closed he floated intangible into the downstairs lab and opened the portal. The swirling familiar green shifted and danced, lighting the walls in neon sickly hues common in most horror films. Furrowing his brow he calmly stepped between the doorway connecting the two dimensions. Putting a gloved hand to his forehead he floated shakily for a moment to try and stop the spinning in his skull. The booze wasn’t going to help him any tonight… “I really should learn restraint when it comes to that garbage….”
Flying through the weightless murk of green and the varied assortment of doorways and landmasses that hovered around him he grumbled under his breath. “Grabbing a certain ghost and interrogating him over Daniel shouldn’t be too difficult.” His eyes rolled in annoyance. “It’s about time I paid a visit to the Box Ghost.”
Reaching Pandora’s domain Vlad hastily cloaked his breathing and heart rate. Unlike Daniel, revealing he was half ghost carried way more risk… Looking at the maze-like assortment of hedges and Greek architecture Vladimir’s eyebrow twitched in annoyance. The Box Ghost was almost as bad as Klemper and an extended conversation would surely tax his patience for the night.
Floating into the maze, Vlad quickly composed himself. From what he had heard in Amity, the Box Ghost was the last real battle Daniel had fought before disappearing. Granted, the pathetic cardboard obsessed fool was harmless, but he had been the last to see Daniel.
Easily walking past the Cyclops and the three-headed mongrel patrolling the grounds he found the blue specter. Eyes narrowing he casually addressed him, “I see your petty stunt in Amity has left you a common gardener.” Startled, the box ghost froze from his labors and spun around. Seeing Vladimir’s crimson eyes and the subtle crackle of condensing plasma from Vladimirs palms, he squeaked and dropped his hedge clippers onto the black grass.
The ghost timidly lifted his hands up in his customary greeting, “Beware..?” Vlad face palmed himself in annoyance and began asking the ghost about what he needed to know.
“Hello, Lawrence, I came here to ask you about a certain someone…”
The Box Ghost gulped at his name being used so casually. Typically, real names were reserved for only two things. Close friends or serious, often life-altering situations. The types of situations with severely negative and often painful implications. Looking at Vladimir’s expression he was willing to bet this was the latter of the two. Fastening his eyes fearfully with Plasmius, he meekly asked, “Um…whom do you want to talk about?”
Without even a pause of deliberation, Plasmius answered. “Danny Phantom.” His voice echoed threateningly to Lawrence, “The boy is a part of my new territory and as of your little incident no one has seen the brat!”
The Box Ghost’s eyes widened at the news. The boy had been there observing his labors around a week ago? Lawrence's nose squished in frustration. Vlad’s black boot tapped above him as he floated, waiting for the information. Gulping, Lawrence quickly blurted. “ We haven’t seen him since he left last Sunday? I think? I mean, human time is different depending on what area of the ghost zone you’re in!”
Vlad’s eyebrows furrowed.“So, I am guessing you have no clue which direction the little monster left by?” Plasmius frowned angrily.
“He said he was going to the timeless zone to check in with a friend before he departed.” The Box Ghost shuffled against the abandoned hedge he had trimmed nervously.
At this information, Vlad instantly felt a shiver go up his spine. Unlike typical ghosts, some didn’t establish their homes in a singular space and would often, instead, stand by secluded areas until prey or a worthy meal came by. The timeless zone was no exception to that. If anything? It probably had many more demons than the younger hybrid could ever imagine. Vlad groaned internally. He was supposed to instruct Daniel on these things... He was the older of the two of them and more experienced. His little game was now causing more harm than good. Clockwork had been hinting for some time that Daniel would have to be taught formally by him about the nuances of their roles. Vladimir was more than apprehensive about the idea. After playing a villain for over a year, he had no doubt Daniel hated him with every fiber of his being. That was the plan, wasn't it?
‘This is my fault... The boy has no clue how the ghost zone really works….’
“For your sake Box Ghost, or more accurately for your afterlife’s sake Lawrence, I suggest you keep our little chat and my appearance here boxed up.”
The box ghost’s head bobbled like a plastic toy in response to both Plasmius’ threat and the menacing purple and pink energy saturating around the vampire ghost’s hands. “Yeeesss sir!” He bumbled and bowed.
Vlad turned and with a whirl of his white cloak vanished in a poof of pink and scarlet mist. Reappearing next to Pariah’s keep, he stumbled and placed a hand to his head. “Hmmm… good, Fright Knight’s sword is still sealing this dump.” Feeling dizzy he leaned against the green shield. Teleporting not only deprived him of oxygen but also energy. Looking around and seeing no phantoms or spirits near the abandoned castle he temporarily turned human and glanced at his watch. Five a.m. flashed in bright fluorescent green against the silver. ‘It’s almost the same color as that little brats ey-’ Vlad cut off the thought. Annoyed with his drunken thoughts he shifted back into Plasmius. The split and sudden pain seemed to only multiply with the booze drumming against his cranium. Sighing, he absently teleported near Clockwork’s and began exploring the area for the teenager.
Danny Phantom was having the time of his life. Vlad was out of his hair permanently. The idiot, after trying to kill Danni, had threatened the entire planet with the ultimatum he and he alone could save everyone in exchange for vast amounts of money and complete control over the world. Flying through the air Daniel laughed. “The megalomaniac, narcissistic Fruit Loop had it coming..” To top it off he had revealed his alter ego to the entire planet before threatening everyone. Daniel paused in his flight and looked up to the stars. ‘ Wait. Vlad always took great lengths to keep the fact that he was a half ghost hidden… why flaunt it?’ He shook his head to dispel the thought. He couldn’t possibly be thinking about that space hermit. ‘I mean... Six months have passed. Vlad is probably dead by now.’ Daniel’s green eyes saddened slightly. Looking down at Amity he smiled bitterly. It was a little late to lament his arch enemy and what cause did he have to worry? Vlad Masters had been a manipulative villain to the bitter end. Looking at the moon’s position in the sky he groaned. He was late for his date with Sam. Flipping in the air he spun downward toward the park. Tucker was Mayor. Sam and him were going steady. His parents had fully accepted him, as had every other human being in the world. The ghost’s in the ghost zone didn’t hate him anymore. He was content…... His heart shuttered…
He paused mid-flight and, feeling dizzy, turned human for a split-second and began plummeting to the ground. Catching himself he expertly forced a shift back into ghost form. The sickening jolt hadn’t been the first. They had become more and more frequent as the month’s dragged on. Floating back up into the sky he stroked his silver hair tiredly. Press stress and his hero duties must have been causing his powers to fluctuate. Popularity did that to a person. He grinned widely at the thought and sped his flight to Sam up, unaware of the dark shadow blending into the sky above him, spying and lurking in wait.
Daniel also had neglected to piece a few facts together about his supposed happily ever after…. Space rock...namely an asteroid the size of a small moon, would have taken years to reach earth from Saturn and not merely a few days. Being electrocuted to death wouldn’t have negated his powers and being blasted by every ghost he knew wouldn't have given his abilities back. Turning the ghost repelling asteroid intangible wouldn't have worked. The rock, if it existed, would have simply swatted the energy into the cosmos and shattered the planet like sugar glass…. But what did a happy sixteen-year-old really know? He was content, and everything was perfect for him. No enemies, no fear, no hate.
White hair glistening in the night, Daniel danced joyously between the clouds. With a deep sigh of gratitude, he beamed at the voice below him and sprung downward in delight.
Dreams have a funny habit of seeming perfect, that is until we finally wake up.