"Hey, Kwan, you're in Home Ec., right?"

It was kind of funny to see that kind of haunted, hunted look on a big, bulky jock, but this was Amity Park. Hannah got to see that expression whenever Fenton had to go to the bathroom.

"Listen, I'm not going to blame you for this. I just want to know… why?"

"I don't know," said Kwan. "I think there might have been something about it on the forums, but I thought it was just a joke."

Hannah had seen the same thread. She hadn't thought it was connected.

"Isn't that the one the ghosts were in?"

"Ghosts? Come on, haha," said Kwan. "Those guys were just roleplaying, like whatever Nost and Kyle are doing."

Hannah briefly closed her eyes. "No, Kwan, they aren't roleplaying. Kyle doesn't even believe in aliens."

"No one believes in aliens. That's just you."

"Lots of people believe in aliens. I didn't make up the whole UFO enthusiast community. More importantly, you don't think this is, like, a Spectra thing, do you?"

"Man, I hope not. Mrs. Tetslaff said this was mandatory and worth twenty percent of our whole grade!"

"It isn't worth twenty percent of your grade, Mr. Kwan," said Mr. Lancer, materializing ghostlike out of nowhere. He was wearing a bright pink apron with the words Eat, Pray, Love embroidered on it in big, loopy, cursive. "It is, however, mandatory."

"How much of my grade is it worth, then?" asked Kwan.

Mr. Lancer sighed. "Zero. But, as I said, it is still mandatory."

"But why?" asked Hannah.

Mr. Lancer stared at her for a long minute. "If I tell you," he said, finally, "I know it'll be all over the school within an hour."

"No, it won't. I can keep a secret."

"You can't, but that's besides the point. If it comes from you, I'll have plausible deniability if the GIW come around."

"That's mean." She turned to Kwan. "Did you hear what he just said to me? Like I'm not trustworthy?"

"You aren't trustworthy. One time I left the room for a minute and when I came back you and your friends had made Mikey cry and you had coated the floor with whipped cream."

"That wasn't me."

"You were holding the whipped cream can."

"I was framed," said Hannah.

Mr. Lancer closed his eyes and sighed. "The cake idea was the only one that got any widespread traction on the Amity forums. There were, apparently, already some talks about doing something with it on some of the community and business boards. But we only got into it when Mayor Masters offered to fund the whole thing."

Hannah gasped. "You're on the forums."

"Despite my age, I do know how to work a computer."

"But," said Kwan, "what if it is a ghost thing? What if the cake is evil? What if the cake is a lie?"

"It probably is a ghost thing," allowed Mr. Lancer, "but since Phantom of all people is endorsing it, I think it will be fine. Also, you're going to be making the cakes, so if the cakes wind up evil…" He trailed off. "I need to go make some more arrangements before we leave. You two should report to your first period classes."

.

"I can't believe you and Vlad got the whole school roped into this," said Sam, kicking a bit of loose gravel off the path. "What even was the point of this?"

Danny shrugged. "It was the best idea we had?" he offered.

"Just because people liked it doesn't mean it's going to be functional," complained Sam.

"I think people liking it might actually make it more functional," said Tucker. "Just saying."

"I guess," said Sam. "But what are you going to do if everyone does come to this cake thing, including the paranormal investigator people? What then?"

"Come on," said Danny, "what kind of self-respecting paranormal investigators are going to go to a Community Cake Day when there are ghouls and goblins about?"

"You think these people are self-respecting?"

.

"A 'Community Cake Day,' huh?" said Ned. "You didn't mention that in your research."

"That's because it didn't come up in my research," said Az, scowling at the paper taped to the telephone pole. "It didn't exist."

"It's sponsored by MasterSoft."

"MasterSoft doesn't sponsor anything. That has to be a lie."

"Well, Vlad Masters is the mayor, right? Maybe the guy just really likes cake. Speaking of which, we could swing by after filming. Load up on some free cake."

"Absolutely not!" shouted the producer. "Do you know how many self-respecting paranormal investigators are seen at tacky small town cake-offs? None! Sip! Silch! Nada! Get into positions! And Jimmy… please, try to emote just a little. Susan! Where's my coffee?"

"'What self-respecting paranormal investigator,'" repeated Ned mockingly. "If we were self-respecting, we wouldn't be doing this."

"We were doing it before," pointed out Az.

"We were in college before. No one in college has any respect for anything, right, Jimmy?"

"Hn."

Az patted Jimmy on the shoulder. "Look at it this way. Most of that cake is made by high schoolers. They have even less respect for everything. And there's hardly anyone on the streets. That makes it more spooky. A real ghost town vibe."

"Right," said Ned. "Real spooky."

.

"Welcome back, cryptid crawlers, to the latest entry in our cryptid crawl across the continental US! Today finds us in lovely Amity Park, Illinois, as promised." Crawly turned slightly to frame the 'Welcome to Amity Park! A Nice Place to Live!' sign with their hands, before squaring themself to the camera again. "With me today is my cameraman Bill. Say hi, Bill!"

Bill briefly turned the handheld camera towards his own face, then rotated it to point at Crawly again.

"We all owe Bill a huge thank you, because without him, you'd be getting this on my GoPro. Anyway. Amity Park. Well, my first impression is that it is a little beaten up. Lots of… weirdly shaped potholes. They're in the sidewalks, too. Usually you don't get a great view of those in videos." Crawly skirted one hole. "This does look sort of humanoid-shaped, doesn't it? Weird. But, anyway, beyond being beaten up, Amity Park looks fairly average for a town, which is par for the course. Fresno is a completely normal town, too, after all. Weird things are normal, so you find weird things in normal places. Most cryptids don't live in the Himalayas, and with cities causing habitat destruction to the point where even well-known animals like bears and deer are becoming urbanized–" They'd have to fact check that sentence before they posted the edited video. They weren't sure it was actually true. "-cryptids, too, are moving into cities." They nodded sharply at this conclusion.

"Although… It is a little quiet, isn't it? Bill, what do you think?"

"Eh, you might be right," said Bill. "But sometimes small cities get their rush hours at different times."

"I suppose," said Crawly, already turning away. "Right, so, for this next bit, we're just going to walk around for a while. We can interview anyone we come across. Then, we'll go investigate the phantom's," they snickered, "haunts." A colorful flier on a nearby telephone pole caught Crawly's eye and they paused. "Oh, hey, there's a community event happening! That must be where all the people are. They're making cakes. Want to go when we're done filming?"

"Sounds good to me," said Bill.

"Then it's a plan!"

.

One good thing about impulsively telling everyone he shared his forum account with the 'real' Phantom was that Danny didn't get beaten up or dragged out into unused hallways after class all that much anymore.

Of course, it still happened now and again. Like today. Although today it wasn't actually between classes, but in that weird gap between roll call and when they got their assignments with the caterers and bakers. He'd somehow lost track of Sam and Tucker in the rush, but he wasn't particularly worried.

"Fenton," said Dash, more nasally than usual.

"Baxter." Danny made a face. "Are you, like, sick or something?"

"No," said Dash, who was distinctly red-eyed.

"Have you been…" Danny decided against accusing Dash of crying. "Smoking?"

"I'd never jeopardize our chances at state playoffs!"

"Oh!" exclaimed Paulina. "Just give him the stuff so you can stop posturing. Here!" She shoved a bag at him.

"Uh," said Danny, hugging the bag to his chest. "What is this?"

"Your costume."

"Uh. What?"

"For messing with the out of town dude. Dudette?"

"I think someone said they were nonbinary in the forums," said Danny, bewildered. He had his own incredibly tacky Phantom costume, and he wasn't just talking about the one he wore on a daily basis.

"Whatever. We're just making sure you actually show up and do what you said you'd do, so Phantom isn't left with the mess you caused."

Danny wasn't sure why Dash was blaming him for this particular mess, but he'd long ago given up on trying to understand Dash. However… "Why wouldn't I have done what I said I was going to do?" He directed the question more at Paulina.

Dash snorted. "You can't even run a forum account by yourself. If we didn't make you do it, you'd half-a–"

"Mr. Baxter."

The three of them turned towards the voice. Mr. Lancer stood at the end of the hallway, eyes glittering.

"I'm glad I found you three before anything… unfortunate… occurred. Mr. Baxter, Miss Sanchez, your cohort is working with the team from Creep-tastic Catering in the Culinary Arts kitchen."

"Come on, Dash," said Paulina, walking down the hallway. "We don't want to leave our friends waiting."

"Your friends are looking for you, Mr. Fenton," said Mr. Lancer.

"Okay," said Danny, "thanks. Um."

Mr. Lancer sighed heavily. "The three of you have been excluded from all the group lists. It wasn't my idea."

"And we never had this conversation," said Danny, solemnly.

"That's not what I– Oh, what does it matter? Avoid the actual hunters while you're wearing all of that, will you?"

"That's the plan."

Mr. Lancer's next sigh was even heavier.

.

"... and that's about the gist of it," said the woman from Poltergeist Pastries. "Any questions?"

About a dozen hands went up, including Star's. The woman looked… intimidated.

"You there," she said, pointing somewhere in Star's general vicinity.

Star would take it. "Do you know why we're doing this?" she asked.

"It's a community outreach–"

"No, I mean, why are we really doing this?" clarified Star. "How is this going to help with the problem?"

"The only problem I see around here is a lack of delicious cakes!"

"Uh," said Star.

"No, really," said the woman, wringing her hands together. "I think it will help. And don't worry," she continued, pitching her voice even louder, "after you finish your individual and group cakes and have them assessed by our esteemed judges, you'll be able to participate in the world-record breaking massive cake bake, where we will work together to make a single twenty-five by twenty-five meter square sheet cake." She beamed at them. "Doesn't that sound like fun?"

"Yeah!" said Ms. Tetslaff, their teacher chaperone. "We're going to bake this cake and get those tourists out of here! Who's with me?" She pumped a fist in the air.

Star was beginning to wonder if she had fallen into some bizarre mirror universe.

.

Danny stepped intangibly through a wall. He still had things to do, and he was running low on time. For all he knew, Crawly was already in town.

"Hey!" he shouted, getting the attention of everyone there. "Is everyone here?" He scanned the crowd. "Where's Dani?"

"I am only the master of all things electronic and beeping," said Technus, shrugging, "not unruly, sneaky, teenagers that call my hair 'whack.'"

Danny groaned and rubbed his hands down the sides of his face. He didn't know if he'd have time to find her. "Skulker?"

"I don't hunt clones. Only the originals!"

"There is something seriously wrong with you. LL, I've done what I can to make sure everything is the way you wanted it."

"We'll see, ghost boy. Cookie?"

"No, I– Oh, fine. It's not like it's cursed or anything, is it?"

"It depends on whether or not you're allergic to peanuts."

Danny took the cookie but didn't eat it. "Is it cursed if I'm not allergic to peanuts?"

"... No."

Well, that was unconvincing. Danny put the cookie down on a nearby plate. "Anyway, you guys follow your end of the deal, I'll follow mine. Are we still good?"

"THE BOX GHOST WISHES TO KNOW IF THERE WILL BE ANY BOX CAKES!"

"I don't know, probably," said Danny. "Everyone else? Are we good?"

There was a faint murmur of agreement.

"Great. Be aware that if you cause any trouble, I will make you regret it."

"We'll make a proper ghost out of you yet, dipstick!"

"Why do all of your compliments sound like you want to kill me?"

"Probably because they do!"

"Thank you, Sidney. I've got to go before the cryptid people fall into a trans-dimensional pothole Vlad didn't bother to pave or something stupid."

.

"Hey, Val."

Valerie jumped backwards and clutched at her chest. "Don't do that to people who are trying to sneak away from somewhere."

Dani snickered. "Don't worry, I have it on pretty good authority that there is life after death."

"Don't joke about that."

"Okay," said Dani, rising the rest of the way out of the ground. "So. You still up for some mayhem?"

Valerie raised an eyebrow. "What kind of mayhem were you thinking about?"

.

"Okay," said Tucker, using his stylus to poke at a map of Amity on his PDA. "According to this… we've got… The TV people over here… the internet people over here… and the ghost hunters here…"

"And my parents?"

"Unclear," said Tucker. "However…" He raised his stylus. "Do you hear that?"

"Yeah," said Danny. "It's the GAV. Loud as usual."

"I think it's probably somewhere north of Descarte and… east… Maybe east of fifteenth?"

"I think it's closer than that. Fourteenth," said Sam.

"Yeah, that could be right."

"Great," said Danny. "So, as planned, then?"

Tucker and Sam nodded. "As planned."