"So, are we all set?" asked the Doctor. He glanced over at the kids glancing around the Tardis. "Well, are you ready?"
William snapped out of his stupor first, "Uh, yeah, I guess. Sorry, but, this is the first time we've ever been in a time machine . . . of an alien."
The Doctor grinned as he got the Tardis moving, "Naturally, I wouldn't have even offered you a ride if it wasn't of great importance."
"And if the genies hadn't told you about us," commented Will.
"Well, there's that too."
"Can you tell us some more about the genies?" Barney asked.
"Aren't they supposed to have lamps?" Simon pointed out.
"Well, they did, a long time ago. Somehow, well, they didn't tell me everything, but somehow they were freed and they moved to another planet." The Tardis gave a little lurch as it came to a stop. "And, we're here! Welcome to Pinedale, California!"
"Real quick, Doctor, why are the genies back?" Louisa quickly asked.
Doctor glanced at her before he answered, somewhat slowly at first, "Apparently their world is in trouble and they need young heroes to help them save it. I guess my help isn't enough, they need a lot of warriors to fight off some evil trying to take over their world."
"A-are we some of those heroes?" Bertram asked.
The Doctor shrugged, "I don't know, they didn't say, they just offered to help me defeat some of Earth's greatest enemies while they searched the planet for these heroes. And they told me that all of you were needed to defeat the Vashta Nerada."
"But, why, if only Will and Bran, and maybe even William, are the ones who can actually defeat the Vashta Nerada?" Peter asked.
"I don't know, unless it's by the actions of several of you that not only defeat the Vashta Nerada, but that keep the three of them alive. The genies can only see a part of the future, not all of it."
"Oh, OK, that makes sense," remarked Peter.
"OK, let's try this again. Welcome to Pinedale, California! We're going to have to do some hunting again, this time we have to find an old, eerie house that contains doors through time. Shouldn't be too hard, Pinedale is probably one third the size of Annapolis."
"So, uh, how do we want to do this?" Bertram asked.
"Split up into three groups, one led by Will, one led by William, and the third led by Bran," suggested the Doctor.
"Why don't you lead a group?" William asked.
"Because I'm going to search by myself," he answered with finality before taking off. Will sighed and set about putting together the groups, again, after lunch. Barney had noticed which direction the Doctor took, letting Will assign the groups directions. He took Louisa, Bertram, Lance and Jen and headed north, while William, Ellie, Simon, Jane, and Barney went east and Bran, Julia, Peter, Meggie, and Farid went west. Will's group came upon the city's tourist information center, giving them the opportunity to ask about any old houses on the outskirts of Pinedale, pretending to be interested in haunted houses.
"Oh yes!" exclaimed the woman at the counter. "There's that old Victorian house the Kings just moved into."
"Oh," muttered Will, feigning disappointment.
"I don't see why you can't talk to them about giving you a tour of the place, or if they have enough room to let you spend the night." Will grinned sheepishly, he wasn't exactly sure if they'd all be able to fit. Unless they had help from the Doctor.
"Well, maybe it would be best to do that, considering they're the only ones with an old house in the area. May I have the directions, please?"
"Of course!" The woman drew on a map the location and the best route to take to get there. Will glanced at the map and his eyes just about bulged, Bran's group was taking that path! As a matter of fact, a few minutes later, Bran's group stumbled across a house in the woods.
"This must be it!" Julia gasped as the group seemed to huddle together a little closer. No one had to mention it, they could tell, this place was giving them all the creeps.
Bran sighed, "Well, let's go in."
"Wait! What if someone is living here?" Farid asked.
"How could anyone live in a place like this?" Meggie asked.
"That's a good point, but we should proceed with caution, who knows if anyone is here," pointed out Peter.
"Right, so, doorbell then?" Bran asked as he moved forward. The other four quickly followed, glancing around the woods to see if they were being followed or if anyone was watching from the shadows, especially if the shadows were moving of their own accord. The five made it to the front door without any hinderance, but everything seemed to slow down as Bran moved forward to push the doorbell. The bell seemed to echo throughout the house, and the woods. If no one had known they were there earlier, they certainly knew now. But a few minutes had passed, and no one came to the door. Bran tried the door then, but found that it was locked, as he figured. Well, sort of, there was a fifty-fifty chance the door was unlocked, but knowing now that it was a hundred percent locked, he figured it was time to look over the entire house.
"OK, well, we're not getting in by the front door. Let's split up and look over the house, see if we can get in through a window. I'll take the right. Who wants to go left?" Farid and Meggie raised their hands. Bran just about let out a sigh of relief. "OK, guess that means Peter and Julia are coming with me. Meet you at the back."
Farid and Meggie nodded, "Right." They bounded off the porch and went to the left of the house, while the other three quickly made their way to the right. Peter, Bran, and Julia were not having much luck, until Farid and Meggie let them in through one of the ground-floor windows.
"How did you get in?" asked Julia as she got through the window and into the kitchen.
Farid shrugged as he pointed to the other end of the house, "There was a window that wasn't latched, it was pretty easy." He paused, a hint of mystery entering his tone, "Almost too easy."
"And there are people living here!" Meggie included incredulously. Bran clenched his teeth as he glanced around the kitchen, there were signs of people living here. He glanced at the clock, it was only nine o'clock, but if they only had to go out for groceries, who knew when they'd be back.
"Let's make this quick, we don't know when they'll get back."
"But how are we going to look over the house?" asked Peter as they followed Bran out of the kitchen.
"Forget the first floor, doesn't look like much would be happening here. We'll take a quick walk-through of the second floor, but we definitely have to be a bit slower in the basement and the attic."
Meggie nodded, sighing, "Yeah, that's where everything usually happens in a horror movie."
Peter blinked, "I thought you said you only read books?"
Meggie scoffed, "You can thank Farid for the movies." Farid grinned sheepishly.
"Let's head up to the attic first and work our way down."
"Right." The five bolted up the stairs, each going as fast as they could. Bran was beginning to think that they would have to make the quick walk-through of the second floor just to find the attic, until they entered the master bedroom. There they found a wall in shambles, plus some material for rebuilding, it would seem, and beyond that was a hidden room and a set of stairs.
"I think we found it," whispered Julia. Bran nodded, unsheathed Eirias, and bolted up the stairs, Farid close on his heels with a small flame in his hand. Meggie, Julia, and Peter quickly followed, the five stopping short at the top of the stairs.
"OK, this . . . this is starting to look like something out of a horror movie," muttered Peter as the five gazed down the crooked, hotel-looking hallway.
"So, why would they stay?" asked Meggie.
"Only reason why, something happened. Either someone they loved was kidnapped, or someone got lost in time. Looks pretty easy to do."
"Then let's make this quick, we don't want to get ourselves lost either, if that was the case. Farid, can you have a little stream of fire over that shadow right there?" asked Bran as he pointed out a shadow on the far wall. At first glance it looked fine, but then they noticed what Bran was beginning to grasp, there really wasn't anything casting that shadow. Farid nodded and proceeded with caution, Bran hot on his heels, Eirias at the ready. Farid let loose a stream of fire in front of the shadow, and when it didn't disappear like all the other shadows around it, Bran leapt into action. Letting loose a string of Welsh words, he stabbed the shadow with Eirias. There was a hissing sound that began to grow, sounding like a snake in pain. Bran grunted as the shadow seemed to flail under the point of the sword. Finally, the shadow seemed to shrink in size and sound before disappearing with a little pop. Bran backed away, huffing, as Farid lit up the wall again before checking the corners for any extra Vashta Nerada.
"Did you get it?"
"I think so. Farid?"
"All of these are regular shadows," reported Farid.
"Alright! You did it!" jumped Julia.
"That was actually quicker than I thought," stated Peter.
Bran glanced at him, "That was, there might be more, in the basement."
"Then let's go before any of the people who live get back home," remarked Meggie. The five bounded down the stairs, pausing as they heard a sound that nearly made their hearts stop.
"Shoot, there's a car coming!" blurted Peter as he let the curtains fall.
"How far out?"
"About a couple of miles, it's easy to see it through the trees."
"Oh no, what do we do? We can't let them catch us!" exclaimed Meggie.
"Even though we are technically breaking-and-entering," muttered Farid.
"To save their lives," pointed out Julia.
Bran thought quickly, "Farid, can you get out of the living room window by yourself?"
Farid nodded, relief flooding his face, "Absolutely."
"Alright, we're going back through the kitchen window. Make sure it's secured before heading to the living room. This will be close, but don't leave until he, or she, has entered the house, you'll be seen otherwise. And be as quiet as possible."
"Always, like a mouse."
"Good, let's go!" The five darted back to the kitchen, where Farid helped them climb out the window single file before closing and locking the window. He moved quickly to the living room, not a sound could be heard from his feet. He began to sweat as the seconds ticked, every muscle ready to move at the sound of the front door closing. He heard the car door close first before the sound of footsteps resounded on the front porch. A key jingled in the lock and the door slowly opened. Farid could hear some grunting, the person must have returned with some groceries. Though it would have been a great distraction, Farid knew the groceries would be dropped the instance he was seen. Finally, the door closed and there was some moving about in the foyer. Farid didn't waste another second, he slipped out the window, as quiet as a shadow. He quickly joined his friends, and the five tore off through the forest, eager to get everyone to the house and to actually enter through the front door.