A/N: Either AU or post season 2 and the product of a sleepless night and spending too much time over in the Danny Phantom fandom as of late, so fair warning. (Also because a few people on tumblr had asked me for more rc9gn fic.) Standard disclaimers apply.
Theresa dove for the bleachers. They wouldn't offer much cover, but any reprieve was better than none. Debbie followed her into her hiding spot, and she asked, "Have you seen Randy?"
Debbie shook her head. "He'll be with Howard. He always is. Hiding somewhere, like everyone else."
Like almost everyone else.
The unlucky ones had been turned into monsters.
And she hadn't seen Randy since the attack had begun, even though they'd both been in English together. She'd lost him in the rush of the hallway as students had fled, running in every direction despite Miss Wickwhacker's best efforts to keep them orderly. Theresa's head still throbbed in time to phantom whistles.
A shriek sounded from the direction of the band room, and Debbie winced. "That sounded like Flute Girl."
Theresa took a deep breath, trying to slow her breathing and get her racing pulse under control. Debbie looked rattled, but she was certainly more composed, and Theresa wouldn't be any help to her if she went to pieces right now. "There's got to be something we can do."
For once, Debbie looked reluctant to charge headlong into something Ninja-related. "I don't know if there is besides what we're doing now."
That was a lie. It had to be. Or at least an evasion. What they were doing now was running, fleeing like mice from a cat. Or rather, mice from a large number of cats, as well as any number of monsters in vaguely animalistic shapes. Worse still, the Ninja wasn't having any luck returning the students to normal. The last time Theresa had seen him, he'd been using his scarf to get away from a giant armadillo.
Bucky hadn't been so lucky.
She'd seen him struggle to escape the armadillo's claws before choking, shuddering, and transforming himself.
When his blank eyes had turned on her, she'd screeched and ran. If Pradeep hadn't tried to hold him off….
"There's so many of them," she whispered. She couldn't remember so many transformations happening at once before. A few robots, maybe. A dance troupe or a band or a team—rare, but not unheard of. But every student who got caught by the monsters?
It spread like a contagion, and the only one who seemed immune was the Ninja. If this wasn't stopped, the entire town—
"I know. That's why I'm not out trying to get the scoop." For the first time, Debbie sounded defeated, and when Theresa looked back at her friend, Debbie's expression was grim. "I've put my life on the line for a story before. The Ninja saved me then, but I don't think he'd be able to do that now. This is out of control."
More screams. Someone's hiding spot had been discovered, Theresa guessed, and they hadn't been alone.
"You don't think the Ninja can beat this," Theresa realized.
"I wouldn't be running if I did."
"But he's been around for over eight hundred years! He's bound to have more tricks up his sleeve than we know about."
Debbie was shaking her head. "I don't think he does. Theresa, I've been investigating him for almost two years. He's not some ancient, all-powerful being. He's someone like us, just with a fancy suit and some powers. I doubt he even has five years of experience, let alone five hundred."
"He's more likely one of our classmates than the spirit of some ancient ninja. And this time, he's in over his head."
Theresa swallowed. For all that Debbie had talked about finding out the Ninja's identity at length, she'd never put it quite like that before. She'd never doubted him, even though she had tried to convince Theresa he was someone who attended Norrisville High. And now….
"Theresa, look at me." Debbie looked like she'd been crying. "We might not make it out of this one. You have to know that. You can't put all your faith in the Ninja, not this time. He's overwhelmed. It's all he can do not to get caught himself. This is too much for anyone to fight alone."
What changed this time? Debbie wouldn't know the answer, though. Her guesses weren't likely going to be any better than Theresa's. The day had started off ordinarily enough. Sure, there had been some exchange student that most of the boys had fawned over again, but if anything, Randy had looked alarmed when he'd seen her, not lovesick. And he'd fallen asleep over his textbook in math again, unlike some of the other boys who had actually started to compose poetry for the new girl. Theresa had been naïve enough to believe that was a good thing; Randy wasn't going to ogle the new kid if he already had eyes for someone else.
"Then we have to help him," Theresa said. The Ninja had been kind enough to bring her flowers from Randy. If he was willing to do that for him, for them, then she could at least try to do something for him in return.
Besides, even if Debbie had scoffed at her, Theresa still thought the Ninja might be willing to arrange an 'accidental' meeting between her and Randy so she could try to thank him properly for the flowers without Howard making some remark and ruining her opportunity.
"It's too dangerous! We can't—"
The far doors of the gymnasium burst off their hinges. Debbie pulled Theresa down, but she could still see the giant spider scuttling away from the wreckage—poor Julian—and the pair of rhinos shaking splinters from their horns.
And she could still see the Ninja wrapped tightly in the tentacles of an octopus, which seemed to stand quite easily on its remaining two arms.
As the dust began to settle, Theresa caught sight of a humanoid figure in dark clothing striding behind. A raised hand swirled with purplish-pink power before lashing out, growing into a giant hand and snatching the Ninja along with the octopus.
It began to squeeze.
Debbie caught Theresa's attention, pointed at the door that led outside, and put a finger to her lips. Theresa shook her head—they couldn't go, not right now—but Debbie nodded and beckoned to her. The urgency was written all over her face. If they didn't get out of here now, they might not make it out of here.
But if they left the Ninja, they wouldn't be any further ahead. "We can't," Theresa whispered, trying her best to ignore Debbie's glare. She pulled her hand free from Debbie's grip and gestured back to the scene unfolding in front of them. The octopus was free now, standing below the suspended Ninja, no doubt to recapture him if something went wrong.
They had to find a way to make something go wrong before it was too late.
"You're helpless, Ninja," the figure—the woman, the Sorceress—hissed, her voice carrying despite the occasional screams from other sections of the school as the monsters—her monsters—continued their scavenger hunt. "Your sword master is trapped, your friends are mine, and your guardian has abandoned you. But I can be a forgiving woman, even considering what you've done to me and my partner in the past. Renounce yourself as the Ninja and I'll let you live."
They had to do something. Theresa started to get up, but Debbie caught her arm and pointed. The Ninja's suit had turned red and began burning through the magic that had been holding him in place. A fireball burst outwards, and—
Another phantom hand swatted it away, wisps of magic reforming its damaged parts. "You grow weaker," taunted the Sorceress and she turned to face the Ninja, who had escaped capture by the octopus and instead landed well clear of all the Sorceress's minions.
"Your judgement's wonk," the Ninja retorted. His hand reached into his pocket, pulling out a variety of Ninja Balls. In quick succession, the spider's legs were frozen in place, the octopus was seizing under a storm of electrical sparks, and the number of bees in the twin swarms around the rhinoceroses only barely outstripped the tripping balls at their feet.
Ninja Rings flew towards the Sorceress, but she deflected those with nothing more than the wave of her hand. And then she opened her mouth and screamed. The bleachers above them rattled and creaked as the bees dropped from the air and the ice around the spider's legs shattered. "I know all your tricks, Ninja," snarled the Sorceress, "but you don't know all of mine."
The Ninja responded with a watery punch (broken as it dissipated the Sorceress's conjured hand) and a hasty but strategic retreat.
He didn't see the Sorceress form the second hand and reach for him.
"No!" Theresa screamed, running from her hiding spot before Debbie could stop her. She had to act as a distraction, had to give the Ninja enough time to regroup and figure this out like she knew he could. Like he always had before.
The hand twisted and caught her in a flash. She screamed as the giant fingers tightened, trying to crush the life from her. She took a stilted breath as the Ninja faltered, but the pressure continued, not letting her lungs expand enough to fill properly. Her head began to spin, throbbing in time to her heartbeat.
"Theresa?" The Ninja gaped at her. "What are you doing?"
She couldn't find the breath to explain.
She'd just wanted to be a distraction.
She'd just wanted to help.
Instead, the Sorceress used the Ninja's sudden distraction to her advantage, and magic curled around his suit again. He struggled, his suit flashing to red as he gathered the power for another fireball.
Before he could release it or work his arms free, the Sorceress was there, her searching fingers smoking as they reached beneath the Ninja's mask to pull it off.
There was a bright red glow, but instead of another fireball, the Ninja's suit furled itself away.
Theresa stared with wide eyes at Randy, who had collapsed to the floor like a rag doll.
Very much human.
Very much helpless.
And very much no longer the Ninja.