Chapter 1:
New Beginnings

The three Fenton women and Sam walked into the building together, Sunday afternoon. The two older Fentons each held one of the younger's hands. Not because she needed to be watched in the parking lot. (They all knew she was safer from car wrecks than any of them were.) But, simply, because they were her family, now. And, the girl had been without a real family, for far too long. Sure, she'd had Danny for a 'cousin', but they almost never saw each other. Now, that was going to change.

"Okay, Ellie-Belle," Sam said finally, gesturing to the rainbow of preteen clothing in the brightly-colored store. The other three could hardly believe the goth girl would even set foot in the place. (There was a giant, wooden kitten with glittery, rainbow eyes hanging on the wall, for goodness' sakes.)

"Do you see anything you like, Sweetie?" Maddie asked, stooping to her youngest daughter's eye-level.

The girl looked around thoughtfully, then spotted something on the other side of the store. "Oooh!" She squeaked excitedly, taking off. Then, Jazz gasped, seeing something she liked, and took off in the other direction. Their mother smiled. Her girls were going to get along, just fine.

She and Sam sat back on one of the pink and yellow, paint-spattered benches, chatting and watching, as the two sisters ran around the store, oohing and giggling.

They hid their laughter, as the Fenton daughters ran into each other, landing on their rear-ends on the pink carpet. They were alright, though. Jazz showed Ellie the little, white bear with the huge, green, glittery eyes, she'd found. At the same time, Ellie showed Jazz a pink t-shirt with a little, cartoon ghost, that said 'Don't hate me 'cause I'm boo-tiful' in cursive. They both made over each others' finds, before running off to opposite ends of the store, nearly bowling each other over, again.

Maddie chuckled to herself. No doubt, their family would be banned from this store, too, by the end of the day. (It wouldn't be the first time.) But, it was worth it to see her girls so happy.

Danny and Tucker sat in the FentonWorks living room, bored out of their minds. There was absolutely nothing to do.

Sam, Jazz, Maddie, and Ellie were off doing girl stuff. Valerie was spending the day with her dad. Jack was in the basement, pretending he was working on a new invention while 'secretly' playing with Marty. They hadn't found anything about who else had been hit by the G.I.W.'s weapon in the news footage Danny had swiped. There hadn't been any violent ghost-sightings, since the library incident, Wednesday. The closest thing they'd had to excitement in the past few days was when Skulker decided he was Team Phantom's new bestie and wanted to spar. Even Box Ghost was back to his normal, boring self, now that there was no cardboard in jeopardy and the G.I.W.'s angry-machine was out of commission. (Though, he still kept sending Valerie dirty looks.)

Danny and Tucker had given up on playing video games about an hour before. So, to keep from going crazy, they'd finally settled for grabbing some junk food and making fun of TV shows.

"This has been: The Flapjack Whisperer," A little, cartoon surfer said, as the credits began to roll.

"Thank goodness, it's over," Tucker groaned. "This show was making me hungry. Even though I was eating chips, while I watched it."

"That guy can sure make a mean pancake, though," His best friend commented, sitting upside down on the couch, next to him.

"Next up: The Critical Crew," The cartoon-dude announced.

"The what?" Danny wondered aloud.

"Never heard of it," The techno-geek commented dryly.

Suddenly, the opening theme began, as the screen scrolled through five pictures. The first was a man pointing a camera at the viewers.

"Camera-ception!" The two boys cried happily.

Following the first man was a woman with a microphone, a younger woman with a duffel bag, a man with what looked like forensic equipment, and a really tall man with a notepad and pencil.

"My name is David Mathis," A new voice began, as the screen played clips from other episodes. "I lost my self-made business, nine years ago, when I was conned by a friend, who turned out to be a fraud. I lost everything I owned. My situation... was critical. Now, my team and I have made it our mission to seek out other frauds, and expose them, before they can cause harm to anyone else's lives. Using our investigative talents, we travel the country, seeking out rumors, mysteries, and folklore, and finding out the truth behind them.

"Sometimes, what we find is strange." A clip of a rabid monkey attacking the cameraman played. "Sometimes, it's criminal." Another clip played of a man cursing while being led away in handcuffs. "And, on some rare occasions, we find something real." A campfire scene appeared, the people around it chatting happily. Then, a strong wind blew, putting out the fire, as a blood-curdling scream pierced the air. "We investigate some of the strangest places on earth, so you know what's really going on." The screen zoomed out to show the adults standing together, as an explosion went off in the background. "We call ourselves 'The Critical Crew'."

"That's a bit over-dramatic, don't ya think?" Tucker asked the screen, as it cut to commercials.

Danny chuckled, "That's show-business, for you."

"I mean, really," The teal-eyed teen continued. "I'm sorry the guy got duped, and all. But, how often do these people see explosions on the job?"

"We see explosions, almost every day," The halfa pointed out.

"Yeah, but we're not normal."

"Speak for yourself."

"You're half ghost."

"Shhh! It's coming back on!"

Ember McClain floated through the wall of the Amity Park mall, spotting the little Phantom there with her new family. She had to admit the kid was pretty adorable. Maybe even more adorable than her Dipstick of a brother. "Hey, Squirt," She called down. The cashier screamed and ran from the room, leaving the five girls as the only people in the store. The humans and half-ghost dropped into defensive stances, out of habit, before realizing who it was.

"Hey, Ember," Sam said, still somewhat cautious but trying to hide it. Mostly.

Ember was almost insulted. Hey, she couldn't help what the G.I.W.'s machine had made her do. And, if she wasn't going to attack anyone or try to take over the world, why should anyone care if she wanted to hang around the mall?

"Where's Babypop?"

"He's at home," Jazz said, nonchalantly. Okay, even the rocker had to admit that the redhead was way too trusting, sometimes. "We're having a girl's day, shopping for Ellie."

"Cool," The blue ghost smiled. "I used to have those with my Mom, all the time." She had hoped to look around, herself, but she wasn't going to interrupt their bonding stuff. "Well, see ya, later," She called, flying back out.

The girls on the ground looked at each other. "Well, that was awkward," Sam noted. Mrs. Fenton nodded, as her daughters remained blissfully oblivious. It wasn't that she and Sam were opposed to Danny's enemies becoming allies.

But, it was just so surreal.

"...I didn't know tonic water glowed under black-light," Tucker commented, as The Critical Crew came to a close.

"I can't believe those people were putting it into their rivers and hiding black-lights in the trees, to attract tourists," Danny added.

"This has been: The Critical Crew," Surfer-Dude said, returning. "Next up: The Adventures Of Banana-Man & Blue-Bird."

The channel cut to commercials, and the members of the Critical Crew suddenly reappeared on the screen. "Do you believe in ghosts?" The blonde girl asked dramatically.

"Hauntings?" The short one joined.

"Evil spirits?" The youngest man added.

A picture of a familiar line of buildings appeared on the screen. "Oh, no," The boys on the couch said in unison, looking at each other. Danny flipped right-side up, as they both turned back to the screen.

"Well, this little city claims to have all three," The tall one explained. "By now, I'm sure you've heard of the ghosts-fights that supposedly trouble this little town in Illinois. But, what's really going on in Amity Park? My crew and I intend to find out." The camera zoomed out, and the man reached down for the suitcase sitting by his feet. The screen moved with him, as he walked over to a news van and tossed his bag in the back. "So, we're traveling to the so-called 'most haunted city in America' to bring you the real story."

"Oh, no," The boys said, again, as Surfer-Dude returned.

"So, you think it's really haunted?" Carrie asked, cramming the last of her clothes back into her suitcase, where it had opened and dumped all of them onto the floor of her car. She slammed the lid shut and hopped up on top of it, so it could be latched.

"No, way," Toby replied, folding his arms. "Ghosts don't exist."

"And, yet, you believe in aliens," Dave pointed out, tossing his own suitcase into the van. They'd already done this for the cameras, but that had been weeks before, and the suitcase had been empty, anyways.

"Aliens can be scientifically proven," The younger man argued.

"Maybe ghosts can be, too," His sister, Angela, reasoned. "And, we just don't understand, yet, because no one's ever gotten any definitive proof that they've really talked to them."

"Well, I think the whole thing's a scam," Ray said.

"There's only one way to find out," Carrie piped up cheerfully, hopping of the re-latched suitcase on her own car's trunk and tossing it into the van's with the others'. The worn-out travel item slammed against the back wall, popping open again, sending the blonde's clothes flying.

"Care, if I ever have kids, remind me not to let you hold them," Toby commented, staring at the mess.

AN: Hey, everybody! :)

Well, that's the end of the first chapter. I know it's kinda short, but the next one'll be longer :) But, we get our first glimpse at the people from the end of 'The Core Cold' :)

Also, I'm trying not to go so overboard with the commas. Can anyone tell?

Well, lemme know what you think. Please, R&R. It makes me happy-dance and gives me motivation to write more :)

As always,
God bless, and I hope you enjoyed! :)
- Ellie