Happy Halloween!

Jeqo Halloween Special~!

C. A. E. Jones

$lj 3:44 PM 10/17/2009 (Starting)

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  Considering that the crown of pale blue feathers rarely moved, and the straight blue-uniform-covered back and shoulders never slackened, the alertness and energy in the seated man should well impress the easily exhausted. He'd been sitting like that for no less than an hour, with only the empty and silent blue and silver controlroom and the vast display of the stars in front of him as company.

Despite this monotony, something seemed completely natural about the way his hands moved when the darkly-colored object flew into view on the screen. A button--obscured to view from behind him, as it was in front of him, and he wasn't so close to the floor--and some stastitics scrolled onto a corner of the display. He didn't move his head--only his eyes--when he glanced off to another display to the right, where a colorful sign was flashing. He pushed another button, and a large gray circle covered most of the display. Not quite a second passed before the rectangle became the image of a man's face, surrounded in some plastic-looking hood-type thing. The accessory didn't come down very low over his face, but it obscured his eyebrows and hair--if he had either--and made it difficult to learn much from his skin. Despite this, he did seem to be older than the blue-feathered man, and there was only a smile on his face.

  ~:Your current trijectory will take you away from inhabited space,:~ the blue-feathered watcher spoke, his voice as steady as his posture, ~:Regulations require that you report your intentions, or submit a valid cause for refusal.:~

  ~:I am taking these people to the planet Earth,:~ the man in the display answered with a professional-sounding pseudo-cheeriness, ~:There is a holiday in certain inhabited regions where it is customary for civilians to wear costumes with little in the way of theme; our presence will go unnoticed.:~

  ~:I will need your name and the number of passengers aboard your vehicle,:~ the watcher answered.

  ~:Dinhcara,:~ answered the man in the display, ~:I have a group of five.:~

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* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 4:15 PM 10/17/2009* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

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  "Last year, we played the role of Mystery Inc.; this year, we've got the costumes. Now all we need is a mystery..."

  "I've got one," the red-haired thirty-something man said as he turned his attention toward the teenaged boy in the black-and-yellow ninja costume that had spoken, "Where's the guacamole?"

  "It's in the fridge door," the darker-haired woman that was crossing the threshold between the tiny thinly-carpeted kitchen and the armchair-filled livingroom answered, making a slight glance back at her husband and almost stepping on their two-year-old red-haired daughters dress in the process. "Careful there, Jes..."

  "Here are those pantywhose you needed." The guy in the white shirt + Orange Ascot with a bit less hair in the front than his costume's name's sake set the package on the bar as he made his way to one of the chairs with a decent view of the TV.

  "And of course he went into K-mart with the ascot on," ninja-boy added once he'd found space in the dark corners of the room.

  "Oh, yeah..." Captain Ascot said with something of a humored-but-tired grin, "You had me go into the women's underwear section with an already demasculizing outfit..."

  "'Hey, I'm married'?" laughed the red-haired housefather in a faux-deep immitation of the guy in the ascot.

  "It got some looks..."

  Through the wall behind the seated came the Doplar-effect-demonstrating roar of two firetrucks racing down the road.

  "That's probably those kids out on Likasprings," the wife--who had picked up the pantywhose--commented while she tore into some packaging, "Last year they got so loud Ynar got in his car to go yell at them."

  "Was he on duty?" ascot-dad asked.

  "No," answered Momma Pantywhose, "He said he wasn't going to tell them that. I guess the firemartial got there first."

  "Wait," Daddy Redhair said, slowly turning toward the window while reaching back a hand to move the curtains aside, "Which way were they heading?"

  "Toward... this end of the house," Ninja-boy answered, holding up an arm to indicate the wall against which the TV sat.

  "Likasprings is a couple blocks south," Red-dad continued, "Firestation's on the corner of Spruce and West Charter. If that's where they're heading, it woulda been quicker to go onto Spruce and turn at Junior's."

  "Well, I guess they're going somewhere else," Lady Whose shrugged. Having liberated the pantywhose from the packaging, she turned to face the entrance to the hallway opposite the window-wall. "I'm gonna fix my costume right fast..."

  "Hey," the until-now-quiet woman in purple and green whose extremely-brown hair apparently didn't dye quite right, "Do you have a comb I could use real quick?"

  "Sure," Ladywhose answered, and they both disappeared down the hallway.

  "D'you know when Roola and Al are supposed to get here?" Red-dad asked Sir Ascot.

  "They said they were stopping at Chanette's for a couple minutes," answered Ascot-man.

Naturally, Roola (Rulah~?) and Al were in their a-bit-scuffy-but-still-new Chevy pickup, having just departed from the well-lit driveway of Chanette's house-that's-not-on-a-gravel-road. Oddly enough, the only source of light, aside from the house and the headlights of the truck, was a single-though-kinda-big plastic jacolantern perched in the V of a couple treelimbs a good seven feet above the ground. Rather than emphasizing the face of the jacolantern by making the eyes, nose and mouth black, said orifices were a briliant yellow, which, to unsuspecting eyes, made the jacolantern appear as a single orb of smokeless fire. Since there weren't many houses--and even fewer lit houses--in the surrounding hectofoot or so, said orb of smokeless fire dominated the night for a good distance, even to those that weren't facing it, courtesy the magic of rear-view mirrors.

  "That pumkin's brighter than the streetlights," Roola commented as she looked from the side-mirror of the truck to the one near the top of the windshield.

  "I don't see any streetlights," Al replied, "With all the people running around tonight, you'd think the city'd have those checked."

  "Nah," Roola said, somewhat dismissively, "There aren't that many on this street, anyway. That always kept us from wandering over here when we were kids. Not that we wandered anywhere else."

  "Could always bring a flashlight," Al would have smiled playfully at the remark, but his attention was divided between his cunning bit of a response and making sense of the dark road ahead with only the headlights of the Chevy as a guide.

  "I said we didn't do much wanderin," Roola quipped, "We have plenty of light at home, but the one time we were gonna sneak out and play at night, a snake crawled out of a tree."

  "So you got inside real fast, didn't you?"

  "We weren't quiet," Roola continued, "But I think we got back into bed before Mom and Dad had a chance to wake up!"

Al chuckled, then the truck slowed to a stop a good distance from the first streetlamp to appear since they'd left Chanette's.

  "What is it?" Roola asked, looking toward the light.

  "Do you see that smoke up there?"

  "It's so dark I can't see anything," Roola adjusted the not-quite-Coke-bottle glasses on her face (Jinkies, I wonder who she is supposed to be?), and regarded the darkness carefully.

  "Looks like something's burning, but I don't see any fire..." Al squinted at the darkness. "Ah well."

  "I think you're seeing things," Roola said as she leaned closer to the dash, "I can see some stars up there..."

  "Middle. Like... Is that a house up there?"


  "Directly above it. See?"

  There was suddenly a lot more light, as many things happened at once. There was a strange sound, as though music and static were having an accelerated battle over which would be loudest, followed by a brief, low-pitched "POP!". At the same time, the lights of the house that Al and Roola had been looking at got a lot brighter, several figures appeared outside it, and more than one vehicle's headlights came on as they stopped near the intersection, and not so orderly; Al's posture relaxed a bit when he realized stopping back from the intersection had been a good idea.

  "What the heck are they doing?" Roola asked as she drew back from the windshield, "I didn't see those cars coming... are they _trying_ to cause an accident?"

  "Look, there," Al lifted a hand from the wheel/gearshift to indicate the road ahead of the cars in question, "A couple people in the road."

  "Yeah," Roola agreed, "I can't see if anyone's hurt. They look like adults, though! Are they drunk or something, walking in the middle of a dark street like that?"

  "One's on the ground," Al observed, "And the other one's just standing there like a deer in headlights. Looks more stoned than drunk."

  And then the sirens became audible.

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* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 9:32 AM 10/18/2009* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

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  "Jees, what'd'you do this time?" a twenty-ish blond in an angel costume asked, one eye on the blue-and-yellow-clad guy in a tightly-fitting whitehelmet beside her, the other focusing on the smoke rising from the remains of a rather large speaker system.

  "I... don't..." he sighed. "Maybe it likes my costume less than you..."

  "I told you," the angel-girl said, playfully punching the guy in the arm, "Halloween's not where you dress up as comicbook characters you made up! That's what contests are for!"

  "Well, at least mine gets a name." His tone was a bit heavy and forlorn, as though the jesting required more effort than he'd've liked.

  "Noone knows who 'Spectro' is! I can make up a name for my costume, too... Like... Angellica...tor?"

  "Arella," another girl called from the direction of the door, "Did you call the firedepartment?"

  "No," the angel-girl answered, "And 'Spectro' hasn't been near a phone."

  "Eem soar-ry," an urgent, heavily-accented, somewhat raspy voice said from outside, "Ee saw t'e smokeh..."

  "Just... calm down," the girl at the door urged, "It's... fine." Her sigh disagreed with her words.

  "Where are you going?" Arella snapped as Spectro tried to turn around inconspicuously.

  "I think I'd like some fresh air," Spectro answered, "Sorry about the stereo."

  "What did you do to it?" asked a guy in a Darth Maul costume who didn't want to take the hint.

  "Nothing," Spectro answered, averting his eyes from the direction of the Mauler.

  "Jees," commented the most prepubescent person in the room who was wearing some manner of red and silver headgear and goggles while simultaneously fidgetting with a blue-bladed plastic lightsaber, "What's his problem?"

  "You don't know the power of the dark--" The Sith Cosplayer was drowned out by the noise of a firetruck's arrival.

  "Freaking great!" the girl at the door groaned, "We get everyone to come all the way from out of state, and stuff starts exploding and the firedepartment shows up!"

  "Hey, relax," Arella said as she walked over to the perplexed girl, "I've seen a lot worse at Tri-U. Did I tell you about when Branche..."

  "Sgnilhtrae evah ytilibisivni?" The stranger at the door's voice sounded shocked, but only got confused responses from the girls inside the house.

  "What's goin' on, now?" A drawling voice, more distant than the others--one of the firemen, perhaps.

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* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *10:02 AM 10/18/2009* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

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  "Ainek, what are you doing?"

  "Who are you, sir?" the fireman asked as the darkly-clad man walked not-so-leisurely toward the house.

  "I'm the chaperone of these kids," the man answered, stopping and faining a smile, "Foreign students. One of them asked me about some decorations down the street, and before I was through explaining to that one, these had ran off on their own."

  "Do they not have traffic laws in their country?" the fireman asked, "They nearly caused an accident here..."

  "Traffic laws are different," the man said with an unassuming nod, "But that's no excuse."

  "Dinhcara," the one at the door of the house said, turning to face the Fireman and the "Chaperone" as his antennae flicked a bit, "T'ey ave eenvissibalitih! T'ereh's oneh over t'ereh!" He pointed toward the corner of the house.

  "I hope those people invited you to their house," the "Chaperone" scolded.

  "Ee thogut t'e smokeh..."

  "We'll discuss it on the way," the "Chaperone said, waving a hand dismissively, "I am sorry for your trouble, officer."

  "Now, you'll have to stay just a minute," the fireman spoke up, "Until we know what's up with the smoke coming from that house."

  "That ... was... me," Spectro said sheepishly as he stepped from the shadows of the house.

  "'Im!" Ainek said insistently, "Heh was eenvissibleh!"

  "Someone inside had a costume that reminded me of something... eh... unpleasant," Spectro explained, "I might have burnt something a little cooling off. I'm surprised there's so much smoke..."

  "What did you do?" the fireman asked, "The whole roof's leakin' smoke!"

  "It's just this night air," Spectro said insistently, "It's a small spot. There were some chunks of phoam or something..." The smoke did appear to be giving way, though there was something ghostly about the night glow that filled in the air behind it.

  "We should probably take a look to be safe," the Fireman said, "We got the truck out here... might as well use it." He turned to the self-proclaimed "Chaperone". "Try to keep your students out of the road, a''right?"

  "I will, thank you."

  "Good. Have a good night." The "Chaperone" turned to the antennaed one, who was eyeing Spectro in confusion.

  ~:Let's go, Ainek, before we have to scrape the others off of the road.:~ And they made their way toward the figures standing confusedly on the side of the road. Dinhcara stopped and took another look at the smoke drifting upward from the house.

  ~:Something's strange about that,:~ Ainek said, noticing Dinhcara's gaze, ~:I don't think there's any less smoke than there was before.:~

  ~:Smoke with no fire...:~ Dinhcara muttered, ~:Or is it fire without light?:~

  ~:What did you say?:~ Ainek asked.

  ~:It's interesting, isn't it?:~ Dinhcara said, now addressing the group of scaled and antennaed travelers, ~:One Earthlng gets tense, the roof smokes, and...:~

  And a pickup truck slowly makes the turn onto the street, trying to avoid the pedestrians and the firetruck.

  ~:... and everyone can travel in convenience.:~

  ~:Aren't those fumes from the back of the landcraft dangerous?:~ a copper-scaled female asked, ~:If there are thousands of them, would they not make people sick?:~

  ~:Yrekcom had such a problem, did it not?:~ Dinhcara asked. One of the scaled ones nodded. ~:It wouldn't take so much to clean things up here.:~ Dinhcara's hand twitched, then stroked something across his chest. "But this place isn't unobserved." He turned to look after the truck that was accelerating into the distance. "A happy coincidence."

  ~:What are you saying?:~

  ~:Pondering,:~ Dinhcara said, ~:Shall we take a closer look at the travelers?:~

  ~:They've gone rather far already,:~ Ainek pointed out.

  ~:Yes,:~ Dinhcara agreed, ~:But there's no worry. I have a way...:~

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* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *11:00 AM 10/18/2009* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

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  "Invisibility. I thought that's what he said." Spectro glanced around nervously. "All these trees, and no sticks?" He sighed. "Might as well follow them. I guess I can call Arella to let them know I'm not arrested." He looked around again. "... Or if I wind up there..."

  Meanwhile, back at the first house... Not much has happened. As it turns out, just asking for a comb and editting a costume takes quite a few minutes, and the rest of the ... party ... has managed to mostly stay in the same place making small-talk. Like, about... movies... and video games... and work-related anecdotes. Well, so that's just the two man-like people. Ninja-boy's just sitting quietly in the corner, while Jess... umm... is going back and forth between looking at the TV and coloring in a Halloween-themed coloringbook.

But behold: Knocking at the door! Well, the kitchen door. Since that's the one that opens to the carport, while the other door opens to the porch toward the road and is kind of hard to get to for some couch-related reason...

  "Come in!" shouts the red-haired daddyman. And the narration pauses just long enough to revert to the far less awkward past tense...

  "Did anybody bring Scooby-snacks?" joke-asked Al as he stepped through the doorway, followed closely by Roola.

  "Ah, Gubie's the only dogallowed in this house," Red-dad answered, "We've got some jalipeño sausages, though. Just don't ask what they're made of..."

  "Daderah Kiudak..." Roola said in a mock-scolding tone, "You 'a'n't been keeping strays, have you?"

  "He just takes what the Horse-and-Tiger can't sell," Captain-Ascot entered the tiring animal cruelty joke.

  "And he won't cook Gubie!" Jess piped up.

  "Sorry we took so long," Roola said apologetically, "There was some smokin' house and and some people standing in the street with some cars with their headlights off goin' down the one street without lights..."

  "There was that one light there at the corner," Al corrected, "If it wasn't for that, we'd probably've wound up in the mess."

  "Explains the firetrucks," ninja-boy muttered, almost as though someone was listening.

  "What happened?" Mr. Ascot asked, "People looking at the fire and not paying attention?"

  "There wasn't even a fire," Roola answered, "Not that we could see, anyway. I didn't even think there was any smoke at first."

  "Probably some kids messin' around," dut L'ascoteur.

  And that's around the time the women returned to the parlor-like area where most of this action-free bit of the story has taken place. And all the awkward six-way greetings that I don't feel like writing, and holy crap we decide to do some manner of Wickan Circle activity...!

So most everyone made their way outside, where the telling was swiftly overpowered by a bit more showing. This exchange wasn't quite visible, though, since it was nigh as dark as it would be for that evening. Most light came from the house, but even that was restricted by the carport, so it only spilled a short distance beyond, more like an unsightly puddle than a beacon or even a pool. The lawn was plenty green and well trimmed, but in the darkness it might as well have been painted a deep gray. The darkness was slowly broken up by briliant yellow-white spheres that came into existence near the ground a good distance from the house, as Daderah set up a series of lamps to form a circle that was no less than twenty-five feet in diameter. This was enough light to keep track of and identify people, but the setting remained prodominantly shades of midnight.

  The street was many yards away from the circle, but little obscured the site from the road, which was a bit less bathed in darkness by way of smaller, more decorative lights whose reach didn't extend past the carport or the fake corpse-bearing trees near the driveway. Even with this imbalance of light, one might have, from the circle, been able to make out the dark figures that were gathered near the driveway at the road, had one bothered to look.

  The group at the road was certainly looking.

  ~:What sort of activity is this?:~ one of the antennaed travelers asked to whatever member of the group would listen, ~:I don't think that we've witnessed anything like it...:~ They had apparently established the fakeness of the decorative body in the tree.

  ~:Let us watch and see,:~ Dinhcara suggested, keeping his voice low enough that the others would (ur, should) take the hint and do the same.

  Five of those that had been in the house were now taking positions along the perimeter of the circle, though Daderah's guidance made it clear that only he had any idea what to do. All the humanoid Mystery Inc.-costumed adults were present, other than Al, and the boy in the ninja outfit stood somewhat idlely on the edge of the circle closest to the road, the hood and mask of his costume no longer on his head.

  "... of the guardian of the watchtower of the south. ..."

  ~:I can't hear; what are they saying?:~ Mumbled a scale-headed traveler in the group at the road.

  ~:Gardién?:~ Ainek tried making sense of the sounds, ~:Gardiun... Guardian!:~


  ~:I cannot hear while we talk.:~

  The ascot-wearing man in the circle made his way toward Ninja-boy, avoiding stepping out of the circle in the process, and said something that was too hushed to hear from the road. By now, Daderah was approaching Roola, with ...

  ~:He has a knife!:~ Ninja-boy twitched at the louder-than-the-rest outburst, but did not turn to face the source of the sound. Any bariers of awareness between the circle and the travelers at the road were broken, but Daderah continued, holding the knife to Roola's throat.

  "How do you enter this circle?"

  "With perfect love and perfect trust."

  Daderah withdrew the knife and spoke more before moving to the next in the circle.

  "You'd think they'd've learned from the last one..." Spectro quietly raised himself from where he'd been leaning against the out-of-frame side of the corpse-bearing tree. "But I have to admit... I wasn't expecting that either..." He positioned himself so that one arm was on the side of the tree closest the road, the other toward the circle--not the most comfortable position, but Spectro held it while he breathed deeply and deliberately. The chilled air whispered of the likes of the flu, but there was a heat to Spectro's breath that silenced it.

  Daderah reached the boy in the ninja costume and placed the knife to his throat, exactly as he had already done for the adults in the circle.

  "How do you enter this circle?"

  The boy's voice was too quiet to be heard clearly from the road, but apparently he'd recited the same as those that had gone before him, as Daderah withdrew and took his place once more.

  "Now is the time to make piece with the lost spirits that we have clung to," Daderah addressed the gathered, "The separation between life and death is at its thinnest. Now offer up any burdens that tie you to your spirits, and they will do the same for you. Now is the time to make peace with those we have lost."

  Spectro's left arm--the one toward the circle--lowered to his side. He even pulled back his right hand a bit, but it didn't fall.

  No magic tricks. Just a path to peace. Not a path that Spectro could see himself following, but...

  ... But he remembered why he'd left the party after the FireDepartment had arrived. He lowered his right hand to his side, then turned to face the circle of lamps.

  "I don't care how evil he was... It wasn't right. But if I'd stopped?" Two leaves fluttered their way down and into each of Spectro's hands. He held them higher and stepped back from the tree. A red haze washed over one, a pale, violet-ish blue the other. The blue-struck leaf sported black spots like scorchmarks; smoke rose from it, and when Spectro opened his hand, it became countless fragments that scattered and disappeared into the night.

  The red-struck leaf remained unmarked, but had one looked closely with enough light, one could see that it was bubbling in places, as though drying without dryness. One of these areas became tense and, being at a particularly thin area that touched the edge of the leaf, opened a tiny tear in the leaf. The tear started as mere mililimeters near the leaf's edge, but it slowly grew toward the largest vein at the leaf's center, while other bubbles slowly became more pronounced, more tense, and slowly gave birth to tiny tears of their own.

  Spectro was suddenly aware of what seemed like an ocean of concrete blocks colliding. He looked up in time to see the group of travelers formerly gathered at the edge of the driveway now making their way along it toward the circle. Those gathered at/in the circle were currently remaining relatively motionless, and...

  Spectro let the slow-and-painful-death leaf drop out of sight as he held out his left hand. And the shadowy clod of travelers paused in their journey.

  ~:Where did that come from?:~

  ~:I think it's just light!:~

  ~:What kind of creature is that? Even the teeth are red...:~

  Daderah moved, and one-by-one the lamps began to disappear. The amorphous glowing red thing couldn't seem to maintain a single shape, but only the travelers that were now in the middle of the driveway were reacting to it; noone in the circle showed signs of noticing. Not that there was enough light to tell as much once most of the lamps had been extinguished.

  Spectro retracted his hand, but didn't drop it all the way to his side. As strange as they were, the travelers weren't doing anything wrong; the few second delay had been, for all intents and purposes, something of payment to the circle-makers for providing a space to deal with an unpleasant subject.

  ~:Whatever it was, it's gone now.:~

  "Good evening," Lady Pantywhose stepped out from the carport to greet the travelers.

  "Trick or treat," Dinhcara replied.

  "Which would you call this?" The voice was a new one, and it was from nigh directly above, as a shadow-clad figure descended from the blue-black infinity to hover a few feet above the ground, mostly out of the light.

  ~:Flying!:~ Ainek decided to inform the audience of what was just described, ~:That one is...:~

  "I couldn't help but notice the red beast trick," the newcomer said--the voice seemed to be male enough, "So I thought I'd drop in for the treat."

  "I wasn't aware that Earthlings can fly," Dinhcara's attention couldn't resist the oddity that had appeared from not-nowhere.

  "Most Earthlings aren't aware of that either," the newcomer agreed, "But that brings up the question: who are you?"

  "Merely travelers from a distant land," Dinhcara answered. One of his hands was inching toward his chest.


  "But I fear..." Dinhcara's palm pressed against his chest, "That we have less time than I thought." He pulled away his hand, and held it up as though he was holding something, or at least guarding the center of his chest from sight. Then turned, signaled to his group with the other hand, and moved toward the road.

  "So it seems I was right to question," the newcomer continued, landing at road's edge in the path of the travelers, "But what's the hurry?"

  Then a great many things happened at once.

  Spectro's voice came out of the trees, shouting "Hey, Fieron!"

  Dinhcara turned his hand over, and it seemed that both a large lightsource and a larger cloud of mist came into existence between him and the newcomer.

  A cloud of sparks enveloped the newcomer, and a small cloud of fire shot up as though from a collision with Dinhcara's light, then broke into several tiny flames that fell back into the mist and vanished.

  Several voices suddenly burst to life at once, and an incoherent shout from Dinhcara herolded the sudden quieting of most of them. The mist covered the whole driveway by then, and for a long moment the travelers became completely silent. Then several balls of color spun into view around the area, as though in an attempt to intersect the sudden streak of sparks that shot into the sky. On the ground, the mist dissolved, and there was no sign of the travelers. In the sky, the sparks darkened into a dim blue glow that faded as tiny splashes of flame fell into the colored orbs that made chase. The lights went down behind the house, and the commotion was at as abrupt an end as it had started.

  Spectro stared uneasily at the house across the driveway from the tree behind which he still stood. Between him and the house were Ladypantywhose and malfunctioning-Hairdye-woman, and making eye contact with them (though they didn't seem to notice) seemed to compell him to sigh and lower his hands before he turned and walked to the street and vanished into the night.

  "Umm, Happy Halloween, huh?" The Ninja-boy stumbled under the carport's ceiling after Daderah and Sir. Ascot.

  "I don't even wanna hear it," Daderah said with a loose smirk.

6:56PM 10/20/2009

Some edits 1:17 AM 10/21/2009

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