"You… aren't a cryptid," said the man who'd been chasing Danny for literal miles.
"What?" demanded the other unbelievable human being, who hadn't been all that far behind the first guy. "Did these guys hire you to make us look bad?"
"Uh, no?" said Danny, who realized he'd said it like a question. "No," he repeated, more confidently, because this was the plan. "I am making you look bad freelance."
"That's the wrong word, dude," said Tucker.
"It's pro bono," corrected Sam.
"Pro bono." He nodded. "Like Peter Parker."
"Still the wrong thing."
"What does Spider-Man have to do with this?"
"We both wear cool costumes and have our pictures taken, duh," said Danny, not mentioning the superhero thing. He started to peel the contacts out of his eyes.
"What are you doing going around dressed like the Amity Park Phantom, then?"
Danny snorted. "There is no Amity Park Phantom. It's just me and sometimes my friends messing around."
Crawly's face turned dangerously furious. "It's what?"
"This is like…" He waved his hand vaguely. "A prank? Follow people around, spook them a little? It's something we do sometimes, for the bit."
"The bit? What do you mean, the bit?"
"For the joke. You don't think Amity Park is really haunted, do you?" Danny rolled his eyes theatrically. "I was going to do the same thing today, but then you started chasing me." He pointed accusingly at Bill. "Like, you chased me for blocks. It freaked me out." That last bit was hardly even a lie.
"Uh," said Bill. "Sorry?"
"I mean, I guess it's your job, but–"
"Wait, wait, wait," said Az, who had lost a great deal of his for-television veneer. "If you're not a ghost, how were you running that fast? How were either of you running that fast? That kind of speed isn't possible for normal humans!"
"Yeah, duh, that's because Bill is an ex-military super-spy!" said Crawly, leaning on Bill's shoulder.
"I'm retired from the spy business, actually."
"That's not the point!" said Az, throwing his hands up in the air. He then pointed accusingly at Danny. "You!" he said. "Do you have any idea how this'll affect our ratings? I can't afford to go job hunting again! No one will hire Jimmy! He doesn't talk!"
"Oh, yeah," said Danny, unzipping the top part of the fake hazmat suit so he could shrug halfway out of it and tie the arms around his waist, "where are the other two stooges?"
Az spun on the spot and stalked away, followed by a good deal of the camera crew. Then he came back, dragging his brother and Jimmy with him. Danny's eyes met with Jimmy's.
Danny's ghost sense started to go off– And he swallowed it. No breathing a bunch of weird blue fog in the middle of a sunny spring day on camera. Nope. Danny had to admit he was impressed, though. That was a very realistic human disguise.
"You," said Az, "are getting interviewed, and you," he turned his baleful finger at Crawly, "are getting off our set."
"What set? This is an abandoned lot. You can't make us do anything."
They started bickering.
Apart from one of the hosts being a ghost, and the others being bizarre enough that Danny was wondering if they would fit in in Amity Park, this was actually going quite well. Neither show would have a coherent enough episode to make Amity Park interesting to any wannabe ghost hunter tourists. Or cryptid hunters. Whatever.
Gosh, the only thing they needed now was for the UFO hunters to come out of the woodwork. Or was Hannah enough of one to fulfill that category all by herself?
Before Danny could decide, a massive pillar of green light originating from a couple miles away lit up the sky. The sky howled and pulsed.
"What the hell was that?" demanded Az. "You guys saw that, too, right?"
"Yep," said Ned.
"Hmm," said Jimmy.
"Bill," said Crawly, "I think this trip just became worth it again."
They all left.
"What," said Danny, "was that?"
"Uh," said Tucker, "I'm working on it. Get Ember."
"Or Desiree or someone else who can either cause a massive distraction or unscrew reality because I am–" there was a crashing sound. "
"I'll get her," said Jazz.
Danny jumped. "Have you been listening the whole time?"
"Yeah, but it's busy here, so sue me. I'll talk to Ember, just tell me what you need."
"Dani!" exclaimed Danny, looking up. "Val!" He paused. "Are you sure you should be hoverboarding this close to the cameras?"
"Shut up," said Val, "we're here to give you a ride to whatever that was."
"I'm on my way, too," said Sam. "Hold on, there, Tucker."
Danny, Val, and Jazz arrived to see most of the Groovy Ghost Blasters Extreme unconscious and stuck to various walls with bright green goo and Tucker trying to hack the GAV and Danny's parents nowhere in sight.
"Where are Mom and Dad?" asked Danny, jumping off Valerie's board. Valerie tapped her heels together, retracting the board as soon as he was off.
"Chasing the tiger. Apparently they think it's a ghost."
"Great," said Danny, rubbing his hand down over his face. "Sam's not going to be happy about that." He jogged over to the Groovy Ghost Blasters Extreme and started checking vitals. "Everyone looks alive." Now, he should get them off the wall and to a hospital or something. Getting knocked out wasn't generally good for people…
"What should I do?" asked Dani.
"Uh," said Danny. "I don't know, Tucker? What was your plan?"
"Uh," said Tucker. He pointed at a trailer that held the ruins of several vehicles. "Stage." He pointed at the smoking holes in the street. "Mist from black ice?" He pointed at the GAV. "Lighting and sound system? I don't know, man. I'm just making things up. There's no way we can hide this on our own."
"The hunters are getting closer," said Sam. "It'd be great if I had some help slowing them down."
"Okay," said Danny, "okay." He ran over to the GAV and used his handprint to sign in. Most of the controls were still locked out for him - no driving license - but it got Tucker that little bit forward. "Uh, then, Dani, you fill up anything smoking with dry ice, Val, you and me, we need to get those guys to a hospital."
"I think I'll have to do that myself," said Val, "unless you have a hoverboard."
"To cut them out," said Danny, producing a pair of Fenton Scissors from his pocket and walking over. "Otherwise, that stuff won't come off unless you take a wall with it." He spoke from unfortunate experience. Usually, he'd just phase them out, but… witnesses.
Things had been going so well, too.
"Babypop is letting me perform in his precious city?" asked Ember, eyebrow raised.
"Assuming you do it fast, yes," said Jazz, blowing a strand of hair out of her face. She was covered in flour, eggs, butter, batter in various states of mixture, and icing. "You know that your performances were never the problem. The problem was the mind control."
"But he's suddenly okay with it now?"
"He's got to hide the results of a ecto-gun fight between our parents and trigger happy ghost hunters. Tucker thinks their ATV trailer could be covered up as a stage."
"And why should I? If Amity becomes famous, maybe some of that spills over. More people to hear me play. More people to shout my name."
"Do you want to be famous in your own right, because of your music, or because you're a ghost?" snapped Jazz.
"What do you think, babe?" asked Ember, leaning back towards the rest of the ghosts.
"Do it, and show them the error of underestimating you!" said Skulker, around a mouthful of cake, and how did that even work, exactly? Jazz just… ugh. She didn't want to know.
"Okay, yeah, sounds good. I've performed on worse. I'll take a look."
"Maybe we should call an ambulance, actually," said Danny. Getting knocked out like this and staying knocked out was generally a bad sign.
"And screw things up for whatever friend you've got coming to turn this into some kind of rock show?" asked Valerie.
"It's just Fenton Sleeping Gas," called Tucker. "According to the weapons logs, anyway."
Danny briefly looked skyward. "Why do they even have that? I swear…"
"I have Ember on her way, better get Valerie out of there."
"Yeah," said Danny, "just, uh. Dani! Help Val carry these guys, will you?"
Dani dropped another chunk of ice into a hole. "On it!"
"Cool, cool, cool," said Tucker. "There's so much stuff. Why is there so much stuff?"
Danny wasn't sure if he was talking about the code in the GAV, the weapons in the GAV, or the debris scattered all over the road. In any case, there was a lot of stuff.
But Valerie was flying off, and… "Sam, do we have an ETA on those guys?"
"You're lucky they didn't have cars," said Sam. "Halfway there."
"Thanks." Danny transformed and started pushing stuff out of the way. He also did the fastest structural ice-work of his life, covering up the trailer and making it look more stage-like. He hid several of the gaping holes in the street– hopefully being filled with ice wouldn't make them worse– and worked on putting out the few fires that were still going, despite Dani's ice.
Then he paused and surveyed his work. It looked…
Genuinely, there was no way around it.
"Oi, babypop!" called Ember from above. "What're you doing chilling out when it's time to rock on?"
Smiling at Ember was a new experience for Danny. Maybe–
"Hey, uh. That one terrifying camera guy is fighting a tiger, now, what do I do?"
The tiger. The one his parents had been chasing.
"Sorry, got to go!" he shouted.
"Are you ditching me?" demanded Ember.
"It's not you," said Tucker, "it's the tiger."
"That's a tiger," said Ned. He might have been more concerned about the situation if the tiger wasn't running away from Bill.
"Hng," said Jimmy.
"Genuinely a tiger. Just a tiger."
"Hm," said Jimmy.
"You know what? I'm done."
"Yes! Get it, Bill! If we can't have a cryptid we can at least get an anomalous big cat!"
"Just done. Done with this, done with the show, done with everything. I want to retire and work on classic cars."
"You can't retire," hissed Az, who was hiding behind Jimmy. "You're in your thirties! And we don't know what that light was, yet!"
Ned was very tempted to say screw the light.
Behind him, the producer attempted and failed to call animal control.
"Fine, we can go see what the light was about, but if we get there and it's a kid in an iceberg–"
"What are you talking about?"
"Oh, like you never watch cartoons."
"Yes! Yes! Now zoom in on its face. I've never seen a tiger like this before, maybe it's endangered!"
"Please, please set up," begged Tucker. "Please start playing."
"Uh, no," said Ember, crossing her arms. "I'm not performing for an empty street."
"I'd said I'd take a look. So here I am. Looking."
"Ember," squeaked Tucker. "Come on. You got free cake."
"For staying hidden, yeah. But that's not my point, geek squad. Don't you think that me playing to absolutely no one would be suspicious? No way this is a concert. It's a special effects test for later this week. And you'd better believe that later this week, I'll be collecting."
Danny flashed into visibility in front of his parents and prepared himself for a very long chase.
They eventually got hold of animal control.
"No, you can't be here. I've got it cleared with the city to test this stuff, and it's proprietary. You're lucky security is on break, so you'd better get your stupid cameras out of here before they get back."
"But the light–" started Az.
"Pro. Pri. E. Tary. What. Part. Don't. You. Get. Little T, how's your martial arts class going, can you kick these guys out?"
"Uh," said Tucker, who was honestly sort of impressed by Ember's whole performance, improvised as it was. But then, he supposed she had practice. It must be hard getting a venue when you were dead and had no money. Between how she'd altered the stage with her powers and what she was saying now, they might be able to pull this off. "Maybe?" He sized up the tallest of the three 'Investigators.' "Probably not, actually." Not without weapons, anyway.
"Whatever, it's not like that's what I pay you for."
"You know what?" asked Az, who was, at this point, staring dead-eyed into space. "I'm done. Let's go get cake."
"That's the smartest thing you've said since we got here," said Ned.
"Cake," said Jimmy.
"Oh, crud," mumbled Tucker.
"What?" said Sam. He could see her head peeking out of an alley a few blocks down. "Are they not buying it?"
"Worse," whispered Tucker. "They're going for cake."
"Hey," said Crawly, as the tiger was loaded into the truck by animal control. "This might have been a bit of a bust, but we can still go get cake."
"Any day where I get to wrestle a cryptid tiger is a good day," said Bill.
"Uh," said one of the animal control people. "It's a regular tiger, just albino."
Crawly held up a finger. "Hush, you."