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Chapter 1

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"I think- I think my powers are still out of wack," Danny admitted to his sister over breakfast. "This morning, I woke- I woke up fl-floating, and there was ice on my sheets." He stirred his cereal. "I had this weird dream, too, like, like, I was walking around the house in, you know, in ghost form."

Jazz stared at him blearily. "That wasn't a dream," she informed him. She pullex a plate from the cupboard, frowned, and replaced it with a bowl.

"Oh," said Danny.

"Yeah, you really need to get a handle on that astral projection stuff."

"Sorry."

"It isn't your fault." She looked at him with concern. "You haven't been having trouble accessing your powers, have you?"

Danny shrugged. "I don't think so, but I have- haven't been in all that many fights since I, um, since I got out of the hospital." Almost unwillingly, Danny raised his hand to touch the scar that ran back along his temple. It was still tender, but he didn't flinch.

He hoped his hair would grow over it soon. They had cut it short at the hospital, and he was pretty sure he looked ridiculous.

"You know how I've- how I have been doing here at home, anyway." Danny had started training again almost as soon as he'd gotten home. The last thing he wanted was to be blindsided by a powerful ghost while he was in a weakened state.

Interestingly, and luckily, Phantom hadn't picked up Danny's new scar, Danny's new haircut, or even Danny's new stutter. If he had, well, keeping his secret identity secret would have been much harder. He fidgeted at the thought.

Jazz frowned, gently. "Are you sure you're re-?"

The door that led down into the lab burst open, revealing a mass covered in caution-orange hazmat.

"Danno!" exclaimed the orange mass, better known as Jack Fenton. "Are you ready for your first day back at school?"

Danny winced at the volume. He'd been much more sensitive to loud sounds since he'd been shot. "Ye- Yeah. I think- I think so."

Fall term at Casper High had only started last week, but Danny hadn't been there. He hadn't had an okay from his doctors (well, Vlad's doctors) until this weekend. They'd been concerned about... Well, everything. Seizures, PTSD, migraines, overworking his brain, you name it.

"Great! I'll drive you! To the Fenton Ghost Assault Vehicle!"

Jazz blocked the door before Jack could rush through it. "It's okay, Dad, I already said I'd drive him. It would be silly to drive two cars to school anyway."

"That's okay, Jazzy! I'll drive you too!"

The two Fenton children shared a look. Neither of them wanted to arrive at school in the hugely embarrassing GAV. Not to mention the property damage Jack always caused when he drove.

"I don't think that's safe," tried Jazz. At Jack's look of confusion, she continued, "I mean, the doctors said that Danny shouldn't be making any rapid, jostling movements, and the suspension on the GAV isn't the best."

"She's right, Jack," said Maddie, coming up the stairs and wiping her hands off on a rag. She'd removed her hazmat suit, and was only wearing the spandex under-layer. "The GAV is great for chasing ghosts, but it's a little too bouncy for a ride through town. And remember what the chief of police said, last time."

"That I was a menace to ordered society, and if I ever drove the GAV when there wasn't a ghost, he wouldn't rest until it was sent to the junkyard for scrap?"

"That's it!" said Maddie, entirely too cheery. "And, look, Jack, they're not even done with breakfast yet."

"Ooh! Breakfast!" exclaimed Jack, rocketing off to raid the cereal cabinet.

Danny shook his head. Sometimes, he just didn't understand his parents. Jazz relaxed, and returned to finish her breakfast.

"Crisis averted, huh?" she asked, quietly.

"Crisis averted," agreed Danny.

Maddie sat down at the table. "You are ready to go back, though, aren't you? Just say the word. We can wait another week, or longer. Vlad's offered to find you a tutor."

Danny was very careful not to make a face at that, as was his initial impulse. He was, of course, inclined to reject anything from Vlad as a matter of reflex, but Danny's near-death experience seemed to have spooked Vlad thoroughly. He'd almost been nice, these past couple of weeks, and as long as Vlad was willing to try, so was Danny.

"I want to see how it goes on my own, f-first." He made a face at that. He'd almost gotten through the sentence without stuttering, and ruined it on the last word.

As if mentioning Vlad had summoned him, or at least his attention (and considering what they both were, Danny wasn't going to rule out the possibility), the phone rang.

"Hello?" said Maddie, picking up the phone. "Oh, Vlad! Yes, he's still here." She turned to Danny. "Vlad wants to wish you good luck," she said, handing Danny the phone.

Danny took it. He was careful to make sure he wasn't holding it like a snake.

"Hi."

"Hello, little badger."

"Please don't call me- call me that."

There was a long pause.

"Are you sure you are ready to go back?"

Danny rolled his eyes. "Wh-what? Because I stuttered? I ha- I had a stutter before, you know. In grade school."

"Because of your powers, boy. Surely, you are aware of the risk. If someone sees-"

"It'll be fine as long as I don't fall asleep or get- get drugged."

Another pause. "You are taking your medicine, aren't you? Getting those compounded was expensive."

"Yes, Vlad." Danny shook the bottle of pale green pills in his pocket, then glanced up at his mother, who was making herself breakfast. "You know, if you really want- really want to help my day go smoothly, you could try to, you know, to keep dis-distractions away. That would be nice."

Vlad sighed deeply. "I will see what I can do, little badger."

"I said, don't call me-" *click*

Danny grumbled at the phone. Stupid fruitloop.

"We'll need to go in about ten minutes," said Jazz.

"I know, I know."

It took them more like fifteen minutes to get out the door, but that was fine. Jazz always put a little wiggle room into her time estimates. Mostly because she was the only member of the family that was anything like punctual.

"So," said Jazz, as they drove down the road, "you have everything?"

"Mhm."

"And you're sure you're ready?"

"Yes, Jazz," said Danny, exasperated.

"Sorry, sorry, I'm just checking."

Danny sighed. "You know," he said, finally, "it's not- it isn't like this is all bad."

"Danny, you were shot."

"Yeah, but Sam- Sam's parents don't hate me as much any-anymore. An-and the teachers will be- will be nicer to me. And Dash ca-"

There was a great scraping, shattering noise as something impacted the car. Danny was flung sideways, and the car spun. Danny saw stars.

Then nothing at all.