Jack and Maddie had many questions about the nature of ectoplasm.
They knew that different samples often turned up different results in their chemical makeup, from acidity to temperature, there were a multitude of variations. Some chemical compounds they hadn't even been able to identify, especially one that seemed to show up in samples taken during battle.
Jack was now learning that this unknown chemical was likely the ghost equivalent of adrenaline.
It seemed obvious in hindsight.
It was the reason Jack's hands tingled when he was scared or upset or excited, the ectoplasm being pumped from his core was flooded with excess power, pooling in his limbs with the intent to be released either offensively or defensively.
"At first it's instinctual." Danny told him as he repositioned Jack's arms at a better angle, facing the crudely drawn paper target sticky taped to the wall. "But once you get used to the feeling, you can figure out how to turn it off and on without relying on your emotions. That's actually pretty important because as a ghost your emotions are a lot stronger, and it's easy to lose your focus in a fight. A lot of other ghosts often prey on that, they try to rile you up with shit talk to distract you."
That honestly explained a lot, Jack thought. He'd always assumed Phantom's witty quips were just him being an arrogant smart-ass, it was enlightening to find out they were a tactical manoeuvre.
Although he did often snark just as heavily at the very much human Guys in White, so maybe there was an element of normal teenage smart-assery after all.
With Danny's guidance Jack had managed to unleash one or two solid blasts of targeted lightning, he didn't quite hit the little paper target, but he'd gotten close enough to singe the edges, Danny seemed pleased enough with the results.
"Elemental abilities can be hard to control. You're not gonna get it right away, you should have seen me trying to use ice for the first time." Danny snickered. "I nearly turned myself into a popsicle."
Jack was just readying his third attempt when the hatch in the floor opened up and Jazz pulled herself through. She glanced over at the burn marks on the wall and the mostly untouched target.
"I take it the training is going well." she said. Jack wasn't sure whether or not she was being sarcastic.
"We're getting there." said Danny. "This is probably a good time to stop though, how do you feel dad?"
Jack flexed his hands.
"How do I make 'em stop tingling without throwing lightning at something?" he asked, feeling the pooled energy crackling between his fingers.
"Oh, uh, that's what your outlet is for." Danny pointed to Jack's hands and then trailed his finger up to his hair. "Try to focus on redirecting the current from your hands to your head."
As Jack tried to visualise it, Jazz began to speak to Danny quietly, but with a slightly frantic edge to her voice.
"Mom is about to do something really stupid, but I think I might be able to get her to see reason, I just made a call to-"
She was cut off by Danny gasping, Jack could see a vibrant blue mist escape from his mouth.
Jazz didn't seem to notice the mist, but she did narrow her eyes and square her shoulders as if preparing for something to happen.
"What is it? Is there a ghost?" she asked.
"Yeah but it's familiar, one of the regulars I think." Danny replied, his eyes seemed to be following something moving around outside of the building, his gaze slid upwards. "Someone with an electrical core, probably Technus, they're on the roof."
C R U N C H
The sound of tearing metal stabbed through Jack's eardrums and he desperately clapped his hands to his ears as the noise ricocheted through his brain.
"Are you sure you're in the right headspace for a fight with Technus of all people? I mean you've just been training with dad's electri-"
"I'll be fine Jazz."
"Are you sure?"
"I'll be fine."
It took Jack a few moments to clear the fuzz from his mind, and when he did he noticed Danny was gone.
"It's okay dad, Danny will deal with it." Jazz assured him with a smile, but there was a tightness to her voice. "Just stay here, he'll be back soon."
She bit her lip, glancing nervously up toward the ceiling. If Jazz was worried, there was probably a good reason for it.
Squaring his shoulders and feeling the tingle of power still coursing through his arms, Jack lifted himself into the air and stuck his head through the ceiling, cutting off Jazz's cry of disapproval.
Once his head popped through the other side, he activated his invisibility and took stock of his surroundings. Danny was floating before a ghost Jack recognised, but instead of fighting, he found them talking.
"Technus, I am really not in the mood for this." Danny rubbed tiredly at his eyes.
"Okay look," the ghost responded in a nasally voice. "I heard about what happened, and I just wanna say, I'm sorry for your loss."
"That's... very considerate of you." Danny replied cautiously.
"I just want you to know." The mulleted ghost placed a hand over his chest. "That if you need anyone to talk to, do not come to me, I'm terrible at the whole comforting people thing."
"Noted, and can I dare to hope that this is the only reason you're here?"
The ghost actually had the decency to look sheepish.
"Yeah well, about that."
A long metal arm shot out of nowhere and grabbed Danny roughly, slamming him into the roof of the ops centre.
"Look it's nothing personal!" Technus insisted as Danny froze the robotic appendage, smashing his way out of the sharp claws. "I promised the other guys I'd set the Ghost Zone up with the internet, and they're all starting to get on my case about it, it's just business, you get it."
Danny dodged several more grasping claws and knocked Technus off the edge of the building with an ectoblast, but the ghost caught himself with his metal arms and climbed around behind one of the various satellite dishes.
"What does attacking me have to do with the internet?" Danny flew around the dish and had to swiftly drop down as some kind of metal projectile shot towards him.
"I don't have the right tech for this sort of project." Technus, supported by his many clawed arms, climbed back into Jack's view, ripping another one of the satellites from its bolted base. "But this stuff has great range! With a few of these I could bounce the signal right through the portal!"
"You could have just asked!" An ectoblast to Technus' hand had him dropping his loot with a clang. "I actually would have been totally down to help, and Tucker would be over the moon to get involved in a project like this. He's all about making tech advancements for the Realms."
The ghost placed a hand on one of the antenna support beams, sending a current through it. A number of power cables running up the support structure broke away and went flying over to Danny.
He was too busy freezing another of the metal arms to stop it from wrapping around his leg, and sending a violent current of energy through his body.
Jack had heard Phantom scream in pain before, but this was something else entirely. It cut through his mind like a hot knife, sending sharp spikes of fear through Jack's very being, and an intense burning pain that wasn't his own went careening down into his left arm. He felt like his bones were on fire.
Even Technus seemed shocked by the response, as the cord and the metal arms were drawn back in sharply, he stumbled back as though he'd been physically struck.
Danny turned around to face the ghost, a harrowing, ferocious expression stretched across his gnarly fanged maw.
"I told you." he growled. "I am not in the mood."
Technus tried to pull himself together, obviously rattled by the effects of the scream, just like Jack he was gripping his own left arm in pain.
"Y-yeah? Well, um." The ghost swallowed, "Uh, oh what's that over there?!"
As he pointed over Danny's shoulder, another cable shot out from the other side.
Danny obviously had not been fooled by the ploy, he obviously saw the cable coming, he'd have had no problem stopping it. In fact the ghost likely wasn't even intending to hurt him with it, likely it was merely a distraction so that he could get away.
But in that moment, none of that occurred to Jack. In that moment he saw the cause of his son's agonising pain going in for a second attempt and before he even knew what he was doing, he'd flown himself up onto the roof and grabbed the power cable in his big, strong hands and yanked. It ripped away from the metal structure, severing the connection between it and the ghost.
Jack could feel the electricity flow into him, his hair buzzed with the overload, his whole body crackling as the currents ran over his skin, arcing up and over his entire body.
"Touch my son again," he growled, swinging the cord around threateningly. "AND I'LL RIP YOU APART. MOLECULE. BY. MOLECULE."
Technus pulled back, a stunned look plastered across his gobsmacked face.
"It can't be! You can't be! It's been a week!! How are you like this in a week?!" he turned to Danny, whether in fear or awe Jack couldn't tell. "He's not like you is he?"
"Technus." Danny sighed, his face back to its usual human-like appearance. "I think you should go home."
The ghost didn't argue, he just nodded, and like a dog with its tail between its legs, he disappeared from sight.
Jack watched Danny's eyes as they trailed downward, finally closing them with a sigh as, presumably, the ghost passed back to into his own realm.
"It had to be Technus." Danny pressed a hand against his eyes, rubbing his temples. "Of all the ghosts to find out, it had to be literally the biggest gossip in the whole ass Ghost Zone."
He lowered his hand, pressing Jack with a heavy look.
"Why didn't you just stay in the ops centre? I was handling it."
"Didn't sound like you were handling it." Jack rubbed at his left arm, frowning. "When I heard you scream like that I just, I couldn't just... I just wanted to protect you."
"I would be... a massive hypocrite if I got mad at you for that."
Jack huffed a laugh, pulling his son in for a hug.
"Ancients dad, I'm gonna overdose on hugs if you keep this up." said Danny.
"I don't care." Jack held his boy close, safe.
Danny only let himself be held for a moment before pulling away firmly.
"We should head back inside, mom could be up here at any minute, there's no way she didn't hear all that."
Maddie did, in fact, hear all that.
Danny insisted that Jack hide away in his bedroom while Maddie was checking the damage to the ops centre, it was too risky hanging about in there with her attention on the place.
Jack sat at Danny's desk chair, it was rather small, and he was almost afraid of breaking it, but it didn't seem to struggle under his weight at all.
He was reminded again just how different it was, being a ghost.
Danny's bedroom window was open, along with the nice breeze he could hear Maddie cussing up a storm as she began the arduous process of fixing the roof.
Jack's hands twitched, it would be so easy for him to go up there and fix everything for her. Now that he could fly, he wouldn't have to tether himself to anything, he would be able to carry all his tools up at once easily with his new strength.
"Dad?" Danny's voice cut through his thoughts, and he found himself floating up toward the ceiling.
"Uh sorry, was lost in thought for a bit there." he dropped back into the chair, twiddling his thumbs.
He could probably go up and fix it later that night when Maddie was sleeping, he could see in the dark now so it wouldn't be too hard. He'd need to pick up a few tools from the workshop, he wondered if he could power the tools himself and save him having to rig up the extension cord.
"Daaaad." Danny's voice floated by his ears again, and once more Jack dropped back down in his chair.
Danny was sitting on his bed, homework spread out in front of him. He stared at Jack, his pen resting thoughtfully on his lip.
"Are you okay?" he asked.
"I'm fine." Jack replied, raising his hands placatingly. "I'm not the one who got thrown all over the roof."
There was a soft little knock on Danny's door, followed by Jazz's voice.
"Danny, you in there?"
Danny got up and unlocked the door, letting Jazz in before quickly locking it again behind her.
She rounded on him almost immediately.
"I could hear you screaming from inside the ops centre! What happened up there?"
Danny turned away from her, he sat back down on the bed and picked up his pen.
"He caught me by surprise, but I'm fine. It didn't even really hurt." he said in a dismissive tone.
"Maybe not physically." Jazz said, she'd softened her voice, but was still standing firm. "I know you can handle physical pain, this was something else. I know how you get around elec-"
She paused and glanced over at Jack.
"Around ghosts like Technus. You keep telling me that you can handle it, but that? That wasn't handling it."
Jack wasn't a moron, he knew he could be oblivious, and often missed the obvious, but he'd seen the way Danny had reacted the first time Jack almost hit him with his powers. He heard the way Jazz talked to him before the fight. She'd almost mentioned electricity, and she'd almost done it again now before cutting herself off.
Clearly, Danny had a problem with electricity, and Jazz was trying not to make Jack feel bad about it.
He felt bad about it anyway.
"Hey uh, Danny?" Jack started awkwardly. "Did uh, something happen to your arm?"
Danny looked up sharply.
"What do you mean?" he asked curtly.
"When you were screaming I felt, uh." Jack gestured to his left arm. "Burning, it was like I was feeling your pain, but the ghost was grabbing your leg not your arm so..."
Jazz was staring daggers into the back of Danny's head, but Danny's eyes were locked onto Jack with an uncomfortable intensity.
"I thought you said you told him-"
"I did tell him." Danny cut Jazz off. "I just... skipped over the details."
"Details for what?" Jack asked, he hated feeing out of the loop.
Jazz was still staring at Danny, who was starting to shift awkwardly beneath her gaze. She sat down beside him and placed a hand on his back.
"Do you want me to tell him?"
Danny didn't answer, he was staring down at the papers strewn over his bedsheets.
Jazz took a deep breath.
"When Danny was in the portal," she squeezed his shoulder gently. "He put his hand on an exposed wire, the portal turned itself on because he completed the circuit. He was electrocuted."
Jack sat back, processing the information.
"That's... holy cow, that portal was hooked up to a generator running over a megavolt, that's over a million volts running through your body, 40 times what it would take to cook you to a crisp." Jack ran a hand through his hair, forgetting that he couldn't really tug at it anymore. "I mean I... I know you only... only kinda survived but my god, how?"
"I can't really answer this part, Danny?"
Danny sat impossibly still on the edge of his bed, elbows resting on his knees as he stared intently at the floor.
"The portal did to my spirit what the spell did to you," he said, his voice sounded flat and detached. "I basically speedran the spirit phase and went full ectoplasmic entity within seconds. The only difference was that ectoplasm also animates dead tissue, like that one thanksgiving when the turkey came alive."
Jack remembered that rather fondly, it had been a great ghost hunting family bonding experience.
"You know how people who die for a few minutes on an operating table say they can remember floating above their body?" Danny continued. "Well that's what happened to me, except when my body was reanimated and my spirit was pulled back in, it took all the ectoplasm it absorbed back in with it. So I'm still a living human but at the same time I'm a fully formed ectoplasmic entity."
"Hol- hold on now," Jack stuttered, brain furiously turning over this new information. "So you're saying the ectoplasm in the portal healed your body?"
They had been experimenting with ectoplasm as a medical treatment for years due to its ability to revive dead tissues, but they had never quite been able to get it right. Maybe if they tried with samples taken directly from the energy within the portal...
"That... wow, that confirms our theories that ectoplasm can be used as a healing agent, we could unlock a whole new level medical advancement with this information! If this particular ectoplasmic compound can heal a body that's been subjected to that level of electrical damage, it could revive dead skin from third degree burns. It could make skin grafts obsolete!"
Jack had begun floating again in excitement, Danny stared at him, slack-jawed.
"I... uh, wow. That's not at all how I thought this conversation would go." he muttered. "But, I mean yeah, I guess you totally could."
"Okay, this is obviously a very exciting revelation," Jazz cut in. "But we still have more pressing matters to deal with before you get started on a whole new project."
"Oh, right yeah." Jack sat back down, a little sheepish. "Sorry, I get that this was uh, a pretty big deal, and I uh, I'm sorry if my powers freaked you out a bit. I can't really blame you considering what happened."
"It's okay dad." Danny leaned forward and put a hand over Jack's. "You didn't know, I should have told you instead of just... hiding everything... it's just not easy for me to talk about. You're actually the first person I've ever really explained this to."
"Really?" Jack looked up in surprise. "What about Jazzy?"
Danny looked over at Jazz, who smiled back.
"She wanted to wait until I was ready to talk about it, so, yeah."
"I'm so proud of you." she wrapped her arms around Danny and gave a tight squeeze.
"For the love of the Realms, do I have a 'hug me' sign on my back?" Danny grumbled, but he didn't push her away. "Hey weren't you saying something about mom before Technus showed up?"
"Oh! Right!" Jazz pulled away and stood up, a scowl darkening her face. "Vlad's been talking to mom behind our backs! She's supposed to be leaving for Wisconsin with him tomorrow."
"WHAT?!" Danny shot up from the bed, fangs bleeding through as his face contorted with fury. "How could she do that?!"
"Look, we don't know what Vlad's been saying to her, or even how long they've been talking." Jazz wrung her hands anxiously as she spoke. "She thinks if she goes to Wisconsin she'll find Plasmius."
"His first known sighting was at Vlad's mansion." Jack muttered darkly, trying to ignore the taste of tainted champagne that crept into his mouth every time the man's name came up. "She probably thinks he'll have returned to his usual haunt."
"So how do we convince her not to go?" Danny snapped sharply, staring desperately at Jazz for guidance.
"I've got a plan." Jazz stated firmly. "I've already made the call to put it in motion, we'll just have to wait and see if it works."
At that moment, out in the backwoods of Spitoon, Arkansas, Aunt Alicia was making a phone call.