"Ore sanjou!"= human speech
"Ore sanjou!"= imagin speech
*Ore sanjou!*= human telepathic speech
*Ore sanjou!*= imagin telepathic speech
"Ore sanjou!"possessed human speech
"Ore sanjou!" Terminal Belt speech
{Ore sanjou!}= speech over a media device (ie phone, television, intercom, etc.)

Chapter 20: Staying Out Late

"…Well crud."

Eddy pretty much vocalized what his friends were thinking.

The group chose to re-enter the present in an alley a block away from their homes and walk the rest of the way back. When just around the corner from a back entrance to their neighborhood, they could hear that something was wrong.

They peeked over the fences and saw they were going to have a harder time then they thought.

Three squad cars effectively closed off the road to the cul-de-sac, illuminating everything in flashes of red and blue.

A policewoman was talking to Johnny's visibly distraught parents with a notepad in hand. Two more officers were situated across the cul-de-sac, one examining a gap in the concrete where a postal box was missing, and the other shining their flashlight over the Cadwӕlläders' front yard where there used to be a tractor.

A fourth officer, another policewoman, was speaking with the Stenbucks, and another officer stepped out of one of the squad cars with a radio receiver in hand.

With three squad cars and five officers present, it was a logical assumption that the police showed up in pairs. That meant one officer was unaccounted for.

"Cool! We're back in time for a block party, guys!" Ed cheered. "I hope they have those tiny, cheese blocks with toothpicks in them like last year!"

"Ed, please! Block parties are held in the summer! What's in front of us is a crime scene!" Double D exclaimed. "What happened while we were absent?"

"Okay, things look pretty bad, but let's not get ahead of ourselves," Hana tried to reassure the group. "We need to find out what's going on here before we start jumping to conclusions."

"I don't see Johnny anywhere! He'd never be scarce in this kind of commotion! The imagin might already have him in its clutches!"

"But things aren't asploding like last time an imagin got to the past, Double D," Ed pointed out. "I don't think the owl monster-guy finished his contract."

Eddy let go of the fence and stretched out the cramps in his fingers. "What now? We just waltz out and fake like we just showed up? Try to find out what the fuss is about?"

"Well, we really did just show up," Hana said, "but yeah, I guess that's what we're going to be doing."

"That might not be the best course of action." Double D dropped back to the ground and entreated the others. "I would like nothing more than for things to be so simple, but if we go out now, I highly doubt we'll be allowed to leave again. We'll be confined to the cul-de-sac all night."

"Yeah… It doesn't look like anybody's gonna be leaving anytime soon, not with those cops everywhere." Eddy scratched at the back of his neck, a plan already coming together in his head. "If we get shut in for the night, can't we just sneak out later? Won't be too hard if we keep it quiet and stay low."

"You guys won't have to if your neighbor Johnny is still here. That's the whole point of coming back; to keep an eye on him and wait for the imagin to show up," Hana said. "But if that kid is gone… I'm pretty sure this place is going to get locked down all night."

"My parents are gonna ground me for being out past curfew, guys!" Ed moaned. "I was supposed to bring Sarah back home! She will tell mom, and mom will tell dad, and dad will pretend to listen and say he'll deal with it later!"

"Oh crud! Wait a sec…" Eddy yanked out his cell phone, and with a few clicks, got into his 'missed calls' archive, which is exactly when his eyes nearly bugged out of his head.

"Oh man, I missed ten calls from my folks! I'm gonna get grounded forever if we go back!"

Double D went ahead and checked his own phone. "Oh dear, mother and father have been trying to contact me all night! They must be so annoyed!"

Eddy shuffle anxiously in place. "It's gonna be even worse if cops have to take us home! Geez, how long were we knocked out?"

"Can't go back! Sarah trouble! No gravy brittle for a week!" Ed cried. "I need gravy brittle for my mayonnaise and fish paste sandwiches! They will not be the same!"

Hana cringed sympathetically. "Ooh, sorry guys. I… I guess going back is out of the question then, huh?"

"Darn straight it's out of the question!" Eddy declared. "I bet the entire town's been put on curfew with that stupid owl freak flying around! I'm dead if my mom and dad get their hands on me!"

Double D clasped his hands together with an uneasy smile. "So, fellows… I move we forgo our return in favor of tracking down the Owl Imagin. I'm sure things will settle themselves down by then."

"Seconded on what Double D said!" Ed announced, raising a hand in the air. "All in favor for not getting grounded?"


Hana dusted her hands off decisively. "Then I guess we're headed back to the woods. Come on, we should get going before somebody notices—!"

"Hey, what are you kids doing back here?"

The group nearly jumped out of their skin when the surroundings suddenly lit up. They snapped around to come face-to-face with the sixth police officer missing from the scene, now scowling down at them from behind a flashlight.

"Don't you kids know that a curfew's in effect? Get to your homes immediately!"

Thinking fast, Eddy took center position in front of the others and did what he did best; improvise.

"Gee, you're sure right about that, officer. We just got a bit lost, what with it being dark and all."

"Y-yeah!" Ed joined in. "I can barely see my toenails! Oh wait, my shoes are in the way."

Hana faked a pleasant smile and slowly started scooting past the officer, grabbing Double D and Ed to take with her. "We just live a few blocks away from here. We'll be home in no time, sir."

"Well thanks for the warning, officer! Keep up the good work!" Eddy gave a sharp salute, and then hurried past to push the group away faster. "Heh, I bet our parents are getting worried right about now… who definitely live a few blocks away and totally not in this neighborhood."

"You kids stop right there!"

The group was brought to an immediate halt by how irritated the officer sounded. They exchanged nervous glances before slowly turning back.

The officer pulled out a notepad and gave it a good look over for a moment that seemed to stretch into eternity. He eventually put it away and shined his flashlight back on the group, this time focusing the beam on the boys only.

"You three fit some descriptions I've got here. Edward Jerry O'Kelly, Eddward Peterson, and Eddy McGee," the officer named off. "That you three?

The Eds nodded tensely.

"You boys know your parents have been looking for you all night?"

Eddy tried to stumble his way through another lie. "R-really? Heh, go figure, huh? Our phones haven't been gettin' service all night! Bad reception, ya know?"

"Uh-huh, I'll bet. Why don't I walk you boys back over to your homes over there?" The officer signaled over to the cul-de-sac. "Wouldn't want you getting lost in the dark again, ya know?"

The Eds could only blanch as the policeman turned them back towards the cul-de-sac and marched them around the corner. Hana followed right behind the boys with the officer close behind.

"A few blocks away my foot," The officer muttered.


The DenLiner didn't lose a beat in its pace as the Sands of Time shifted away in a blur. The scene outside the windows shifted from a desert to an obscuring tunnel of pure brilliance, then back to a sea of white sand once more. The change was brief, without turbulence, and aside for soft whishing sound, relatively noiseless.

Instantaneous time and space travel turned out to rather blasé.

Urataros raised himself up from his seat as the DenLiner came to a halt, "Hmm, looks as if we've arrived."

"It's about time!" Momotaros yawned and got up, ushering lazily towards the door. "Let's hurry up and dump this kid already, he's taking up space."

"Is this really the best way to go about this?" Kintaros plucked Edwin's limp form off the ground and threw him over his shoulder like a sack. "To return the boy to the timeline while still connected to that imagin? This will only be trouble for us in the long run."

"That seems to be our only option at this stage," Urataros resigned with a shrug. "Well… that's not entirely true. We could hold the human here until we find a way to eject his troublesome little stowaway."

"Ha! Forget that! The last thing this train needs is more passengers!" Momotaros objected. "I already gotta deal with you, the bear, and now that snot-nosed brat of a gecko!"

Urataros dismissed him with a wave. "Last time I checked, nobody was keeping you here, Red. Feel free to leave anytime. I'm sure you'll have plenty of space out in the Sands of Time."

"I was here first, ya jerk! You and that gecko weaseled your way on here; you guys oughta be the ones taking a hike!" Momotaros wheeled around to point at Edwin. "Hell, there's our solution right there! We dump the kid off in the desert, and we solve two problems at the same time!"

Urataros actually took time to weight that suggestion. "Hmm… well, it technically would. Our newest guest can't cause trouble in the timeline if he loses his only connection back to it," he contemplated, holding a hand to his chin. "Then the only problem we'd have to deal with is getting rid of that ticket of his."

"One sacrifice to protect many. Reasonable, but still…" Kintaros frowned deeply. "It is… disgusting. We would be no different from other imagin."

"In all honesty, I don't believe anyone here would actually have it in them to take that route. I myself find the idea more than a bit morally disturbing. You have to admit though; it does have its good points."

Kintaros adjusted Edwin on his shoulder and harrumph stubbornly.

"However ya cut it, we're stuck with the murderous little psychopath," Momotaros groused with crossed arms. "At least he can't go wrecking up the timeline, what with him tied down with a Singularity Point."

"Red, that was never his goal," said Urataros. "He possessed this specific Singularity Point for the sole purpose of getting closer to our contract holders. What I want to know is where he got a ticket. I never would have guessed such a ludicrous thing existed!"

"I am more curious about who motivated him," Kintaros said. "The imagin we deal with… he is impulsive. Not the type to think in steps. Someone else set things in place for him. We may have a bounty on our heads."

"That ain't a surprise. Heh, I'm pretty sure all the other imagins have found out about how we've been screwing up the 'master plan' by now. Of course they want us dead." said Momotaros.

"True, but Yellow raises a good point. Who's responsible for our would-be assassin? They must be rather resourceful to acquire something as esoteric as a ticket for a time-traveling train, no?" Urataros pointed out. "Something like that can't be easy to come by; there would be considerably more passengers if it was. I'm baffled as to where one would even learn about them."

"We can be sure that they are dangerous. They think differently from other imagins," Kintaros added. "Instead of a frontal attack, they have infiltrated our defenses. Now we face a lethal blow from the inside."

"Quite a strategic move."

"Feh, strategic my ass. This just means there's a sneaky bastard running around too afraid to throw down face-to-face," Momotaros said. "We'll smoke 'em out eventually."

Kintaros moved Edwin from one shoulder to the other. "We can talk later. Let us first return the human to his home."

"Right, I guess we did get a bit sidetracked," Urataros said. "I'm surprised Naomi's been able to keep that juvenile imagin preoccupied for so long with just a game of hide-and-seek. We must thank her later somehow. Maybe I can finally convince her to a night out on the town…"

"You're better off sticking to your own kind, Turtle. Maybe hook up with a nice, slimy reptile?" Momotaros snidely remarked. "How about trying your luck with those lizards in the other coach? One of them's got to be a chick. I'll even check for ya."

"Thanks, Red. While you're at it, you can clean their cage and scoop up a nice, big pile for yourself. We'll make it a double date."

"Kiss my barbed, red ass!"

"You'd be so lucky."

"We should go while we can," Kintaros stated more firmly, snipping the potential squabble in the bud.

Momotaros lead the way. "Yeah, fine. Let's just get this over with."

He slid open the car door to what seemed to be a pitch black void for a few seconds, before the light of the coach spilled into it.

The three imagins stared into a small closet filled with nothing but checkered and pinstriped shirts, alternating from one pattern to another in a row. What was visible of the walls was pocked with sloppy, hand-etched measuring notches with no discernable order; they just seemed to fit in wherever they could.

Urataros moved a bit more into the doorway. "Well… peculiar."

"Strange…" Kintaros stared unblinkingly behind his shades.

Momotaros clapped his hands decidedly and moved forward. "Welp, who cares? He ain't gonna be our problem anymore."

It only took two steps into the closet before Momotaros tripped over a shoe. He staggered, which in turn caused Urataros to run into him and trip over, and then Kintaros ended up falling over both of them. It was like a game of primary-colored dominoes.

The DenLiner car door automatically slid shut behind them, sealing the bumbling trio away in the dark, confused and tangled.

"Dammit! Nice going, ya idiots! Get the hell off me!"

"I would if Yellow would move over! I can't feel my legs!"

"I cannot find the human! I think we are suffocating him underneath us!"

"I'm the one getting crushed down here, heavy-ass!"

"It's too crowded! Someone get the doorknob!"

"I think I landed on a hanger!"

"… Can anyone find my sunglasses?"

Urataros felt around and became aware of a grainy texture encompassing the floor. "That's strange. This doesn't feel like carpet."

"Hold on a sec…" Momotaros tried shifting his weight around. Despite being on the bottom of the dog pile, he felt relatively light. "Hey, I can move again!" He squirmed free only to meet a wall face first. "Ow! Stupid, dinky closet!"

"I am going to try standing." Kintaros slid his hands free and tried to push himself up, discovering that he couldn't move his lower body. "My legs are still stuck. Momo, get up and find the doorknob."

"I would if I wasn't kissing' the wall! Turtle, make yourself useful and get us out of here!"

Urataros tried to stand up, but it felt as if he'd lost all the strength in his legs. "No good. My legs are too cramped."

"That's just great! How the heck are we supposed to get out of here?"

"I'll do it, I'll do it!"

The gloom of the closet was transformed into a flickering, purple light show. In the few visible moments between flashes, The Taros Trio was able to catch a glimpse of Edwin's form springing up from a pile of shirts.

The closet door flew open, emptying out a possessed human and a crate's worth of sand.

The sand bubbled and fizzed as it rolled out onto the bedroom floor. Each grain bounced around with a life of its own, like an army of jumping beans on a sugar rush.

The possessed Edwin jumped onto the bed and watched with fascination as all the sand split into three dancing whirlpools. They tightened into humanoid shapes, gaining more and more detail by the second until finally settling into crude half-statues.

Momotaros was the first one to "finish" forming. He squirmed about on a pile of sand as he tried to keep his torso upright. "No wonder I couldn't feel my legs; I don't have any!"

Urataros conscientiously tried packing his sand tighter together. "Seems without proper contracts, we can't fully materialize into this world."

Kintaros crossed his arms, disgruntled. "I feel fragile."

The possessed Edwin clapped enthusiastically. "That was fun! Do it again, do it again!"

"What the hell are you doing here?" Momotaros demanded.

Rolling onto his back, the possessed Edwin hung over the edge of the bed and stared at the trio with a mirthful grin. "I heard you guys leaving, so I wanted to come!"

"Well field trip's over, brat! Get lost!"

"Hmmm... Okay."

Kintaros cocked an eyebrow. "Really? You will leave without trouble?"

"Yeah, of course!" The haunted child bound from the bed onto the middle of the floor. "I gotta go kill the Singularity Points anyway!"

"Well isn't this just convenient?" Urataros grumbled sarcastically.

"Oh, give us a break already! Can't this wait 'till after we take care of the owl bastard?" Momotaros griped.

"Nope nope, I wanna hurry up and take the DenLiner!" The possessed Edwin heartily waved goodbye and proceeded to bounce on his heels to the door. "Gotta go!"

The Taros Imagin squirmed across the room and cut him off. For not having legs, they were surprisingly swift.

"You wish it'd be that easy!" Momotaros boasted, striking a fighting pose as best he could. "You're not gettin' as much as an inch out of here, ya gecko bastard!"

"Indeed. We don't have the time or patience to deal with you right now," firmly stated Urataros. "We're going to need you to leave."

"We won't let you lay a finger on the Eds!" Kintaros avowed in tone.

Amassing into a living tidal wave of sand, the Taros Trio washed across the floor and engulfed the haunted child in a billowing cloud.

Posters, books, bed covers, and an alarm clock were just a few of the items sucked into the miniature sandstorm that tore the room apart. Three floating balls of light spiraled through the air, keeping the tumult brewing: one red, one blue, and one yellow.

Suddenly, a violent burst of purple static reduced the grating cyclone to an impotent shower of specks. The window shattered to pieces, just in time for the balls of light to go flying out of the empty panes.

The possessed Edwin brushed himself off as he took in the destruction around him with a cold appreciation. "Like you guys could get in my way."


"We told you already! We didn't want to fight the crowds, so we went for the junkyard!"

"That a fact? We took a look around there when you're parents reported you missing. Why didn't you kids come out when we were yelling for you?"

"'Cause we didn't hear you! We were trying to hide pretty deep, ya know? We didn't want the bird-mutant thing to get us!"

Eddy had been keeping up this run-around for the last half-hour, and it was starting to get on the policeman's nerves. No matter what the group told him, he just kept pushing for more detail. It didn't help the group was distracted with what they found out about Johnny, and how he had been taken by the Owl Imagin already. The entire cul-de-sac could confirm that.

Johnny's screams were heard by everyone when the monster swooped into the neighborhood and stole him away, along with a postal box and the Cadwӕlläders' family tractor. It frightened child and adult alike near to death.

The question that needed to be answered now was where did it take him? Everyone in the cul-de-sac was outside to find out. Either that or they just wanted to watch the Eds get chewed out by their parents.

"Kid, we had five people turning everything in that junkyard over. The only thing still in one piece is a wrecked-up minivan. Are honestly going to stand here and tell me you didn't hear anything?"

Eddy shrugged helplessly. "What? Some of the junkpiles are deeper than others. They're basically car tunnels made out of Styrofoam and tires. Don't even get me started on the acoustics in those things."

"What were you even doing in the junkyard in the first place, young man?" Mrs. McGee demanded. "What if you got cut on a piece of glass playing around, hmm? That place is a cesspool!"

"Mom, it's not that big a deal! We hang out there all the time!"

"Yeah, well not anymore," Mr. McGee ordered. "From now, you don't go anywhere near there. Its school, then straight back home for you. Do you understand me?"

"What? But dad—!"

"Do you understand?" He all but snarled.

"…Yes sir."

The other kids "oohed" and snickered, but their parents brought them back in line. That didn't stop Kevin from mouthing the word "dork" with a smug look on his face.

Double D kept his eyes to the ground so he didn't have to meet the disappointed looks his own parents were giving him.

"But Mom, it wasn't my fault I lost her! There were so many people and only one me!" Ed pleaded, on the verge of tears.

"That's no excuse! It was your responsibility to look after your little sister, and instead you go running off to play in garbage!" Mrs. O'Kelly scolded sharply. "You're lucky she didn't get hurt through all of this!"

"B-but I—!"

"No excuses! You left your sister to fend for herself, Edward Jerry! Did you ever consider how afraid she was, finding her own way home?" Mrs. O'Kelly protectively pulled her daughter closer against her. "Just look at her; she's shaking all over!"

Sarah was actually just struggling to pull out of her mom's crushing grip to breathe. She could have told the truth that she had ditched the gym with the other kids without giving Ed a second thought, but she wasn't about to risk getting in trouble herself.

"I know you have more common sense than this, son," Mr. O'Kelly said. "You risked yours and your sister's safety just so you could stay out late with your friends. I hope you realize how selfish and thoughtless it was what you did tonight."

Tears began to run freely down Ed's face. He bit his lower lip to keep from whimpering too loudly.

The policeman snapped his notepad shut and rubbed at his temples. "It's getting too late for this. We'll finish questioning you boys tomorrow. Right now, we need to focus on finding the Tūbiefoar child."

"What about Hana?" Double D built up the nerve to uncover his eyes and ask.

The officer snorted and jerked his thumb to the police cruiser behind where Hana was locked away in the back seat. "If we weren't so pressed, I'd drag her downtown for not cooperating and phone her parents to pick her up. As it is, I won't be leaving this area for a while. Looks like I'm stuck with her."

"We'd be happy to keep her over for the night, officer. Our home would certainly be more hospitable for a child than your car," Mrs. Stenbuck volunteered.

Mr. Stenbuck nodded in agreement. "We're already holding a sleepover for the kids over at our place. We have plenty of room for one more."

Eddy brightened up. "Sleepover? Cool! I'll go grab my sleeping bag!"

"Oh no you don't! You're marching home and going straight to your room!" Mr. McGee pinched Eddy by the earlobe and held on tight, despite his son's wincing. "You'll be lucky if I let you see the light of day again!"

The police officer manning the radio stepped back out of their squad car. "Something's come up! The bird's been spotted at Seed Drive a mile from here! It's headed towards the woods in this area!"

The Officer near the spot with the missing postal box ran back to the car. "What the heck was that thing doing all the way out on Seed Drive?"

"Report said it was… in the process of a grand theft auto."

"It was stealing a car?"

"Flying away with one! All available officers in pursuit!"

"Then so are we!" The officer ran back to his cruiser and hurriedly got Hana out. "Get going, kid! You and your friends better wise up and stay out of trouble from now on!"

All the officers rushed back to their vehicles and took off with sirens wailing. Nobody moved until the red and blue of their lights faded away, leaving only the streetlights to illuminate the cul-de-sac. The show was over.

A solemn Mr. Tūbiefoar led his distraught wife back inside their home.

The kids murmured amongst each other as Mr. Stenbuck led them back to the sleepover with Mrs. Stenbuck following behind them, gently directing Hana in front of her.

Before being taken into the house, Hana shot back a look at the Eds that was both apologetic and urgent.

The O'Kellys, the Petersons, and the McGees were quick to usher their own sons back to their own homes to await punishment in the morning.

"Superman get's kryptonite, we get parental authority," Eddy grumbled. "Ter-freakin'-riffic."


"Come out come out, where ever you are!" Naomi called out in a singsong tune.

The game of hide-and-seek the childish imagin wanted to play had gone on for at least an hour, and Naomi still didn't have a clue where he could be hiding. She looked from coach to coach and didn't find a single scale. She even checked the locomotive and found it completely vacant. It was as if he disappeared into thin air.

He was an imagin, so the thought wasn't that farfetched.

At any rate, this was the most fun Naomi's had in a long time.

The DenLiner used to be so boring with no one to talk to but the Conductor, and even he wasn't around all that much. Hana eventually coming onboard was nice, but considering the girl's circumstances, it wasn't really something Naomi could be cheery about. Still, she was grateful to have any kind of company.

Then those three boys came along. Now there was more excitement than she could ever want!

"Are youuu… here?" Naomi threw open all the bottom cabinets, expecting to find the small non-human among the pots and pans. Nothing.

She tried to top cabinets and found nothing but the mugs and plates. The dishwasher was a stretch, but she looked inside it as well and found it empty. The space underneath the serving counter was bare too.

Naomi stopped to scratch her head. She didn't have a clue where to look next. "That's strange. Where could he possibly be?"

Sitting on the counter, the terrarium caught the corner of her eye. She expected to the see the movement of six small, scaly bodies running about. Instead, she saw empty space.

"Hmm…I guess he must be hiding with his little gecko friends."

Naomi couldn't help but conjure the image of the small imagin curled in a hiding place with his pet lizards tucked away in his oversized sweatshirt. It brought a great, big smile to her face.

"That's sooo cute!"


Eddy snatched his black turtleneck from out of his closet and quickly got changed. It was hard trying to tell the sleeves apart from the collar in near pitch darkness, but he needed his parents to think he had gone to bed.

After he finished dressing, he shifted through his sock drawer for his emergency flashlight. He replaced the batteries at least a week ago, so he knew it was good to go.

Eddy briefly considered that he was feeling what Double D probably felt most of the time; an annoying sense of responsibility. It was like a bad itch in a place you couldn't scratch.

The notion that his more straight-laced, undeniably nerdy friend's so called "ideals" were rubbing off on him made him queasy.

Setting that aside, he knew that there was a job needed to be done, and not even getting "grounded forever" was going to stop him from doing it. Heck, having his cell phone taken away wasn't going to even slow him down!

Over the summer, Double D had gotten the idea to create an emergency method of communication that could be wired between the three of their houses. It was out of sight and nearly undiscoverable by anyone who wasn't actively looking for it. There was no chance it could be stumbled upon by accident.

Eddy couldn't think of a better time to use it.

He peeled back his shag carpet to uncover the small compartment beneath. Unhitching the loose piece of floorboard keeping it hidden, he pulled out a tin can screwed to a buzzer. The string trailing from the bottom of it kept him from taking it too far from its hiding place, but just far enough so that he could talk comfortably.

He rang the buzzer for about twenty seconds before he got an answer.

{Hello, Eddward Peterson speaking?}

{Woo hoo, Party line! Conga everybody!"}

"Sssh! Ed, keep it down!" Eddy whispered harshly. "You wanna wake your parents up?"

{No, I do not want to get in any more trouble, guys!} Ed cried. {My mom and dad will make me live with my aunt! Her cat makes me sneeze and she never butters my toast!}

{Believe me Ed, the last thing any of us want is to be in even hotter water with our parents,} Double D stated somberly. {I've never seen mother so irate. And father… My goodness…}

"Yeah, my parents hit me with the full Riot Act too," Eddy grumbled. "I'll be shaving before I'm allowed to hang out at the Milk Dipper again."

{Be-better days we have seen, buckos,} Ed sniffled.

"Ya know what stinks the most about this? When I said I didn't do nothin', I actually meant it this time!"

{'No good deed goes unpunished' indeed,} Double D quipped. {But I digress; the fact that you've summoned us on the emergency line means you have something of rather significant value to discuss.}

"You bet your sissy bug collection I do!"

{…Words hurt, Eddy.}

"Listen up, you guys! That owl freak is still out there, which means we still have a job to do! So what we're gonna do right now is sneak out, grab Hana, high-tail it to the woods, and finish business once and for all!"

{I'm impressed with your bravado Eddy, but I can practically feel you over the line wearing that cliché burglar get-up you try to use so much,} Double D dully said. {Please tell me you didn't put on that ridiculous mask with it too.}

"Hey, it's called 'stealth gear', get it right! And no, I didn't put on the mask! It's in my laundry because I got spaghetti on it!"

Ed could be heard shuffling around on his end of the line. {We will be like three ninjas bringing justice in the night,} he tried to whisper with as much mystique as he could.

"See? Ed's got the right attitude."

{Theatrics aside, I agree that we must make haste,} Double D said. {It's only been by extreme providence that the imagin hasn't finished its contract yet. Shall we congregate behind the Stenbucks's residence?}

"Affirmative. Bring your walkie-talkies."

{Eddy, Kevin's house is literally just a walk away.}

"Just bring 'em! Over and out!"

{Over and out.}

{Over and under!}

As soon as Eddy re-hid the tin can receiver, he got busy shifting through the clutter on the floor for his leather gloves and skullcap, which he found tucked underneath his bed. He was ready to roll.

Sliding open his window with as little noise as possible, he tumbled out into his backyard. Instead of closing it back, he decided it would be better to have the window partially open in case he needed to retreat back.

Eddy was careful to keep low to the ground as he darted from shrubbery to shrubbery. He kept this up until hitting the main sidewalk, and then he stayed slinked up against the shadows of his yard's fence.

After a couple of dramatic rolls, Eddy broke away and scurried to press against the side of the Stenbucks's home. He tip-toed sideways the entire way until he made it to their backyard, right to the house's basement window.

Tucked away in a few bushes out of range from the home's back porch light, Eddy was able to make out Ed and Double D's crouched figures.

Ed log rolled around to Eddy's side, dressed in black like his shorter friend. "Silent as the wind and reporting for duty, Eddy."

Double D, wearing a simple black sweatshirt simply walked around the light's range. "Eddy, it took you five minutes to get here. What on Earth were you doing?"

"What? I was trying to lose anyone tailing me."

"Well I'm sure you succeeded in covering your trail in the total three yards it took you to get here," Double D droned.

"Anyways, look." Eddy peeked in just off of the edge of the basement's window and was soon joined by Double D and Ed who scooted in for room. They could all see the cul-de-sac kids huddle together in front of the TV.

It didn't look like anyone was really watching what was on. If anything, it was more like they were trying to distract themselves with the movie and failing horribly at it. Even from outside, you could tell how anxious and scared everyone was. Jimmy and Sarah were clutching on to each other for dear life, and Rolf looked especially on guard.

Hana was in the far corner, dressed in a pair of pajamas the boys instantly recognized as Nazz's. She sat off by herself, wrapped in an oversized sleeping bag for warmth and rocking pensively with her knees clutched to her chest.

"It's a relief to see her good and well… I think," Double D said unsurely.

"Yeesh, she looks twice as high-strung as usual," Eddy said. "She better be grateful we're going through all this trouble to fetch her."

Ed pressed his face against the window. "Do we go in and get her now?"

Double D rubbed his chin. "In any other situation, I'd vouch for a subtle method of extraction that would safely minimize the chances of throwing everyone into a frenzied panic, but time isn't on our side."

"So we're just gonna crash the place?" Eddy asked.

"I wouldn't say crash per se. We still want to avoid causing alarm. I'm sure everyone's exhausted from their fair share of chaos and discord already."

"Eh, I say a few scares here and there never hurt anybody," Eddy said. "You know what they say; a little surprise and childhood trauma builds character."

"Well whoever 'they' are, I doubt they're the least bit reputable, Eddy. Why don't we merely knock and inquire permission to—!"

"Man the helm! Dive, dive!" Ed threw the window open and toppled into the basement unceremoniously."

"We can always trust Ed to bring a generous application of thoughtless action for any problem, can't we?" Double D sighed exasperatedly.

"Half the reason we keep him around, Double D."

The two boys crawled in after their more eccentric friend, and found Rolf already upon him with a broom handle. The rest of the kids had scurried to the far end of the room amongst much screaming.

"Die, servant of Baba Yaga! Johnny the Woodboy will be avenged! The crone will prey on the cul-de-sac urchins no more! "

Ed desperately covered his head and midsection from Rolf's relentless jabbing. "I come in peace! I come in peace!"

"Rolf, desist! It's just Ed!" Double D cried.

"Yeah, Stretch! Open your eyes already!" Eddy turned his flashlight on Ed's bent over form, illuminating him for all to see.

Kevin was able to pry free from Nazz's death grip on his arm."Oh great, first monsters, now we got burglars."

"But it's just the Eds," Nazz said.


Rolf ceased his attack. "Huh? Wrung-by-the-ears Ed boys? What are you doing here?"

"You're parents are gonna kill you if they find out you're over here!" Nazz said. "I can't believe you guys snuck out!"

Sarah didn't miss her cue. "You're in sooo much trouble, Ed! I'm gonna tell mom!"

"Don't do it, baby sister! I had to, honest!" Ed begged, falling to his knees "We must fulfill our duties as a heroes of justice!"

Sarah fixed him with an annoyed glare. "What the heck are you talking about, Ed?"

Kevin rolled up his sleeves. "Yeah, and why shouldn't I pound you dorks for breaking into my house?"

Eddy pulled his gloves on tighter out of a growing sense of uneasiness. "Look, we don't even want to be here, okay?"

"We merely came to take Hana with us, and then we'll be out of your hair, I assure you," Double D said.

"Ready!" Hana had already thrown on her jacket, put on her shoes, and was eagerly making her way towards the window. "Thanks for the pajamas; I promise to give them back later!"

Eddy already started climbing back out the window. "Let's get going, people!"

"Have a good night, everyone," Double D excused himself.

Ed started running after his friends before Sarah yanked him back by the back of his collar. "Where do you think you're going, mister?"

Rolf pulled Eddy down by the leg and held him to flail upside-down suspended in the air. "What scheme are you dancing buffoonery Ed boys up to?"

"Uh, no idea what you're talking about, Rolf."

"Quit faking, we know you guys were the Technicolor Crew," Kevin said. "Jimmy says he saw you."

Double D could feel the first beads of sweat forming on his brow. "W-w-what a wild and completely unfounded claim! How could you possibly think us—!"

"I'm not lying! I saw it was you guys, I did!" Jimmy accused with a pointing finger. Tears threatened to stream down his face. "Right after that monster showed up, your masks came off! Don't deny it!"

Kevin snatched Eddy out of Rolf's grip and held him up by the collar. "You dorks have something to do with all of this, don't you? It's your fault Johnny's gone!"

"Seriously? You're gonna blame that on us?" Eddy growled, still trying to struggle free. "That's beyond bent, Kevin! Yeah, we were the Technicolor Crew, so what? That don't mean nothing!"

Kevin lifted Eddy up to eye level. "Yeah, actually it does, dork," he growled right back. "It means everything. All this stuff started happening around you and your loser friends. First, that weird kid showed up at the dance with some kinda grudge against you guys. Then that bird flew in and wrecked the place. It ain't no coincidence, man."

Rolf was able to pin Double D against the wall with only one hand. "Yes! What vendetta does the demon child have with you Ed boys?" He demanded with a snarl. "What curse have you lot brought down on our heads? Talk, swindlers!"

"Yeah! Whatever you guys did, you brought it here to the cul-de-sac! Now we're all in danger!" Nazz wheeled around, jabbing a finger in Hana's direction. "And she's a part of this mess too, isn't she? I've never seen her at school before!"

"What?" Hana threw her hands up, taken totally by surprise. "How in the world did I suddenly become a target? You don't even know who I am!"

Sarah tightened her grip on Ed's throat. "What did you and your stupid friends do, Ed?"

Ed was trying and failing to pry Sarah's nails out of his skin. He felt like his head was going to pop off like a soda cap. "We didn't do anything, Sarah!" He wheezed. "Honest, it's not our fault!"

"W-w-we would n-n-never d-d-do anything to endanger an-n-nother's life!" Double D stuttered out. Rolf's seering glare and the slowly increasing pressure of his grip had reduced the boy's nerves mostly to jelly. "I-I implore you all! S-stop this paranoid madness!"

"No, you stop!" Kevin hurled Eddy to the ground. "You guys are always making trouble for the rest of us, but this is the last straw! We're all totally in danger because of you!"

Jimmy finally broke down into tears. "Why did you three have to come back? Why didn't you just stay away, why? Now we're all going to die like Johnny!"

Hana rushed over to Eddy and helped him back up. She looked around the room with a mix of disgust and fear. "What is wrong with you people? We didn't do anything! We weren't even here when that thing attacked!"

"I bet I came looking for you guys!" Nazz deduced angrily. "The same way it came for you guys at the dance!"

"You idiots probably messed around with it, and now it's ticked off and hunting you down!" Kevin cracked his knuckles. "That's why it took Johnny! It couldn't find you idiots, so it grabbed the next kid it could get!"

"You… you jerks!" Nazz seethe. "You're gonna be sorry for this!"

Kevin and Nazz menacingly advanced towards Hana and Eddy, closing the distance with expressions set in grim determination to inflict harm. Hana at first defiantly stood her ground, but rapidly lost nerve at the sight of the other kids joining in against them.

Sarah had gone full swing into her usual feral rage, and Ed was doing all he could just to keep her gnashing teeth at arm's length from any part of him. Double D on the other hand, was completely helpless. The frailer Ed could only shut his eyes tight and wait for Rolf's raised fist to whisk him off to a world of agony.

Eddy backpedaled until he met a wall. "This is crazy! You can't just lay the blame on us like this!" He was eyeing how far he was from the stairs, and honestly considering making a dash for it. "We didn't even come here to make trouble!"

"Too late for that, dorks!" Kevin spat. "Either you're gonna start spilling whatever it is you guys are hiding, or we're gonna beat it out of ya!"

The Eds all had the same thoughts in mind; how did things get so bad so fast, and how could they possibly get worse?

Murphy's Law had an immediate retort.

Ii jan, ii jan, so cool jan!
Ii jan, ii jan, so cool jan!
Ii jan, ii jan, so cool jan!
Ii jan, ii jan, so cool jan!

All intent on hurting the Eds fell away to sheer panic. The music was so loud and close, that no doubt everyone within the cul-de-sac could hear it.

"The cursed jig music has returned!" Rolf cried out. "Quickly, cover your ears and stifle your inner rhythm!"

"Not again! Not again!" Sarah wailed. She released Ed without a second thought and dove into a pile of boxes for cover. Jimmy was quick to join her.

"Ya mean those freaks with the knives are here?" Freaking out, Kevin wheeled around to the window, expecting the blade-wielding dancers to burst in any moment. "Oh man! We gotta block ourselves in!"

Nazz scooped up her own sleeping bag and the cushions off of the couch, and piled them underneath the window. "Hurry, we don't have much time!"

"Fortify the sleeping quarters!" Rolf began chucking every box he could find against the wall until the basement window was covered up. As a result, Jimmy and Sarah were left exposed to hold onto each other out in the open.

Eddy saw the opportunity in front of him and signaled to the rest of the group. They quietly excused themselves up the stairs while everbody else was running around building their barricade.

"Crud, crud crud!" Eddy cursed as he made a mad dash through the hallway. "We do not need this! Not now!"

"These complications will be the end of us!" Double D panted out, trying to keep up. "We can't allow ourselves to be sidetracked any further! We need to bring things to a resolution once and for all!"

Ed threw his fists up in rally. "Beat the bird and defeat the dancer!"

"If we're lucky, the owl hasn't gone to the past yet," Hana stated. "Three of us are going to have to stay and act as distractions so that someone can get to the woods in time."

"Me, I'll head out for the owl!" Eddy volunteered. "You guys drag Edwin back to the DenLiner and meet up with me later!"

The group stopped at the front door, which oddly enough, was wide open.

Ed scratched his head, puzzled. "Uh, was the front door always like this?"

"No, it wasn't," Double D said warily. "Mr. and Mrs. Stenbuck must have rushed out and neglected to close it behind them."

"And if they ran into the imagin inside Edwin, then…" Eddy ran out the open doorway with the others prompt to follow after him.

They all came to a stop on the sidewalk and just gawked at the scene in front of them.

Every parent in the cul-de-sac was out in the middle of the street, stuck in a synchronized dance routine to music with no visible source. They all looked every inch as frightened as the students did at dance when they went through the same predicament.

Ii jan, ii jan, so cool jan!
Ii jan, ii jan, so cool jan!
Ii jan, ii jan, so cool jan!
Ii jan, ii jan, so cool jan!

The paper mask dancers were up in front, just like at the gym, leading the adults in the choreography. The possessed Edwin was flailing around them in his own makeshift steps.

When he caught sight of the Eds, he immediately stopped and went running over to them, waving enthusiastically. "You're here, you're here! I was looking for you guys!"

Eddy gestured angrily for him to move. "We don't have time to mess around you! Out of the way already!"

"Nope, can't do that," The possessed Edwin shook his head vigorously. I gotta get rid of you guys so I can be the new Conductor, okay?"

When the group only glowered at him, the haunted child struck a slanted pose and pointed his fingers at them.

"Can't hear you!"

Ed retaliated back with a pose of his own, one he picked up from a TV Show. "You've been making this town cry for too long! Time to count up your crimes, menace from the dance floor!"

Pointing in opposite directions, the possessed Edwin somehow sent the adults hoping off to the sidelines. No matter how much they struggled, their bodies continued against their wills as long as the music was playing.

The dancers crowed in wicked delight as they unsheathe their oversized cleavers. They were far more feral than the group's last encounter, no doubt unfettered from having to maintain an already weak disguise of normalcy.

Hana apprehensively shuffled backwards. "Eddy, you need to get going, now!"

Eddy felt his legs start to shake. "Yeah, right. We looking at the same thing here? How the heck am I supposed to break past all of them?"

"Time to get started!" The possessed Edwin ushered forward, and all six of the paper mask dancers went charging at the group with blades swinging. "Go get 'em, go get 'em!"

"There's no more time!" Double D cried.

Ed jumped into action with the first half-formed idea that he could conjure. Without warning, he seized Eddy by the back of his collar and the seat of his pants.

"Ed, what the heck—!"

"Fly Eddy, fly!"

Ed tossed Eddy with as much strength as he could muster.

The shortest of the Eds went sailing far above everyone's heads with all the grace of a paper airplane, before crashing at the very end of the cul-de-sac like a rock. He hit the street with a hard thud, and actually bounced twice before settling down into a crumpled heap.

The rest of the group split apart at the last second, and avoided getting chopped together. However, now they were forced to fend for themselves individually.

Ed hurriedly shrugged his jacket off and wound it up like a wet towel. As the dancers tried to close in, he lashed out with his impromptu weapon to keep them back. Clothing met blade in a ringing chorus of metallic twangs as the boy fought desperately to keep from being flayed alive.

Instinct and adrenaline worked hand-in-hand as Double D outmaneuvered his pursuers in feats of physical prowess formerly alien to his lanky body. He dove, rolled, and hurdled over swipes and chops that were as relentless as his will to live.

Unlike Ed and Double D, Hana found herself facing two dancers instead of three, which was still more than enough to cause her trouble. She pulled a lawn flamingo out of a yard and swung it at her attackers, only for it to get clipped in half with one blow. Now all she could do was run.

When the world stopped tasting like pain, Eddy staggered back to his feet. He looked back to find the rest of the group struggling for their lives while the possessed Edwin just danced around with an eerily playful smile across his lips.

"Eddy, run!" Mrs. Mcgee cried. "Get back home and call the police!"

Mr. O'Kelly was struggling with all his might against whatever control was being exercised upon his body, but to no avail. "What is this? Why can't we move?"

Mrs. Peterson wept frantically, forced to be a helpless bystander to her own child's peril. "For the love of God, somebody do something!"

Eddy saw right before his eyes just how powerless the adults were, and it rattled him deeply, more than he was prepared for. All the people he always believed to have the answers to everything, the people he trusted to hold up all the responsibilities in the world… were helpless.

Everybody's parents were only a few feet away, and all they could do was watch his friends frantically avoid getting carved to bits. Lord knew Eddy couldn't do a thing either.

The boy never felt so alone.

Hana stopped running long enough to catch Eddy just standing there and watching, frozen in confused horror. "Don't look back, just get going!" She shouted.

Double D leapt behind a row of bushes for temporary safety. "We'll manage somehow, but you have to go and end this, Eddy!"

Ed wrapped his jacket around his arm for blocking, but it wasn't offering much protection. "Still have a job to do, remember?" He flinched as he intercepted a chop, ignoring the thin line of red making it's way down his elbow. "We are Masked Riders! We stand for justice!"

Against Eddy's normal instincts, he really didn't want to go, not when it looked like his friends were in real danger. It took a lot for him to finally grit his teeth and turn away.

"Don't you guys go biting the dust on me, ya hear?" Eddy called back as he ran down the street. "You better hang on! I promise I'll be as fast as I can!"

As he pushed himself on, Eddy could hear the music from the cul-de-sac fade into a faint echo that barely lingered through the air. Soon he was all alone with only the light posts to guide his way.

He chose then to get out his Rider Pass and summoned the Terminal Belt with a click.

"I swear when this is over, I'm making a list of butts to kick." The belt shimmered into existence around his waist, and Eddy locked it secure without even looking down.

"And that dancing psycho is going at the top!"