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BETWIXT TIME-LINE: Flipside, Dark Mirror / Burger Wars, Bad Taste, Children At Play, The Last Laugh, Toon Wars.

(since my main storyline seems to be on a hiatus at the moment I've decided to start another one which is unrelated to the previous - though it still involves Betwixt. Although it occurs roughly between the (unfinished) Dark Mirror and Children At Play storylines chronologically it will not really mention much about those storyarcs and can be considered a stand-alone title amidst the series).

Prologue

The scene begins in the late 50s with a stereotypical family sitting around an old-fashioned television set, the father smoking a pipe and reading a newspaper while the mother and children sat attentively - the view shifts over to show the television screen, which shows a collection of cartoon characters moving around in the typical minimalistic style of the times: enthralling the children while the mother and father stayed attentive.

Eventually a passing glance at a clock informs the mother that it is time for her children to sleep, they complain only for a short while before their father utters that timeless sentence: "listen to your mother" and they somewhat reluctantly comply.

As the mother and children head upstairs the father glances at the television set for a moment and decides the time has come for the man of the house to enjoy a bit of a variety show before attending to other things - moving over to adjust the television accordingly.

Yet it only took a few moments for the man to suddenly become aware of something very wrong as the screen suddenly warped to static - no matter how hard he tried to fix it - the static eventually forming a vaguely humanoid shape with long ears: the man was bewildered and a little startled as he stared at what he thought to be an illusion.. only for a voice to speak out from the screen..

"Hey Freddy, remember me? it's your old pal, Betwixt!" suddenly a manic laugh fills the air and the man jumps back in a panic and runs out of the room - proceeding to grab a shotgun from the basement.

The unsuspecting mother comes down the stair only to let out a cry of surprise and fear as a loud gunshot is heard from the living room and she rushes in to see her husband, cold sweat dripping down his brow and smoking shotgun in his hand.. standing over the now shattered television set.

"..Martha, get the kids - we're moving.." the man says, shaking visibly as he continues to stare at the shattered television set - that laughter echoing in his mind...

Chapter 1

Almost 56 years later the scene shifts to a suburban community where the grandchildren of the late Freddy reside, having been raised as brother and sister their whole lives they managed to stay together even in their adult lives and moved next door to each other.

Despite the rapid march of technology and time the two families still kept their white picket fences, old mailboxes and well-mown lawns - yet one thing was missing from both homes: television sets, in fact so strict was the rule that even fancy new gadgets such as computers and handheld phones were only used in dire circumsatnces, the two siblings still remembering the terrible anger and confusion that would befall them in their youth whenever their parents caught them sneaking out to watch television at their friends houses.

Yet on this seemingly average day one of the siblings decided to break away from the age-old taboo, her name was Sara and she had been living quite happily with her husband-to-be Cid for several years now: the couple had also managed to adopt a son who was now approaching his fifth birthday.

For a long time Cid had agreed to Sara's unusual rules but after several months he managed to persuade her the time was right to move on from her past, for the sake of their son - who she had named Robert.

Thus the couple decided to venture to a nearby electrical store to purchase their first true television, such a simple thing for most people - yet a wonderous and almost frightening adventure of Sara as well as the young Robert, whose eyes widened as he entered the large store with its bustling corridors full of customers and staff..

(ooc: edit below)

A short distance away, the wisp-girl Nebula was pulling her friend Ruichi into the store.

"C'mon, c'mon, c'mon!" she said in a voice with the speed of machine-gun fire. "We haven't seen this place, yet!"

"...Nebula, we don't need to go inside every last store in this city!" Ruichi said, but to no avail.

Cid and Sara move down an isle and begin to look around the television sets, Sara seems to edge towards the older makes while Cid seems more inclined towards the newer models - though he knows Sara is still a little uncertain so does not push her: in their new surroundings the couple momentarily let Robert out of their sight and like so many children he wanders amongst the crowds - slowly but surely getting further away from his unsuspected parents.

"Grr... why do I get the feeling that there's going to be trouble?" Ruichi mutters.

"Aw, c'mon, Ruichi!" Nebula said. "You're just tense. Relax"

Cid and Sara finally decide upon a television set and put it in their cart when Cid suddenly notices Robert is misisng, the couple look around and panick a little as the boy seems lost in the crowd - they start calling out his name as they move around the crowd "..Robert?! Robert!".

However the boy is distracted as he passes by a relatively deserted portion of the store filled with flat-screen monitors, one of which suddenly flicks on and plays a haunting melody in the style of 20s Jazz - the image of dancing figures in the style of an old cartoon display themselves as a voice speaks out from the monitor:

"Hey! Hey you! I see you! come on! we can be friends - I know lots of games we can play.. just you and me.. wanna see?"

Ruichi stops- his highly observant eyes and ears pick up on the television. "...is that television... speaking to that kid?" Ruichi wonders aloud.

"Oh, c'mon," Nebula said. "Don't be ridiculous..."

Robert tilts his head and slowly approaches the monitor - reaching a hand out - as he does so the monitor seems to bend as a gloved hand reaches out towards the boy: only to retreat back inside the monitor as Robert is lifted abruptly off his feet by Sara as she finally captures him, turning away - the monitor having switched itself off almost immediately.

"oh God.. Robert! don't you ever run away like that again.." Sara says, carrying the boy back towards Cid and the cart.

"Did... did you see that?" Ruichi said in shock. "Something came out of that television..."

"Hm?" Nebula said, distracted by every little other thing she saw. "Oh, Ruichi. Stop playing around...!"

"You're telling me..." Ruichi muttered.

The couple make their way to the checkout and make their purchase, as they do so Robert turns back and looks towards the monitors at the far end of the store - the boy seems to wave a little before he is taken away by his parents to the car park outside.

"..see you real soon, Robert.." a voice whispers, almost inaudible, a glance at the monitor revealing for a split a second the image of a black and white humanoid rabbit: only to flicker back to a blank screen.

Ruichi goes up to the television, inspecting it closely.

Suddenly Ruichi finds a gloved hand on his shoulder as a small figure appears behind him, appearing to be a member of staff - yet something seems different about them as they speak: "..may I be of assistance?".

Meanwhile, just outside, Cid and Sara load their car and strap Robert in the backseat when they too are stopped by an unusual figure - taller than the one who talks with Ruichi but dressed in the same uniform and wearing gloves: "..excuse me sir, madam - I need you to step into the store for a moment..".

Nebula suddenly pops up next to Ruichi. "Oh, Ruichi, are you talking to people?" she asked excitedly. "I don't usually see you do that..."

Ruichi, however, stares at the gloved figure intently, as is trying to see through him. "...what are you?" he asks.

The figure looks to Ruichi and speaks quietly "..don't even try it - play along.." - the figure then turns to Nebula and notes "..I'm afraid the two of you will need to leave the premises, you're friend here was caught shoplifting - if you leave now we won't call the cops.." - as if to prove a point the figure reaches over and pulls out a small device, almost as if Ruichi had been concealing it.

As this occurs Cid and Sara are slowly dragged towards the store "..wait! my son! I need to get my son!" Sara protests, "..what is this about anyway?" Cid asks irritably.

Meanwhile inside the car Robert watches the scene outside, the car radio suddenly turns on and begins to tune itself with a static buzz - stopping after a moment as it plays a familar old-fashioned Jazz melody.

"...what? Ruichi doesn't do that!" Nebula protested.

"...you smell funny." Ruichi said to the figure.

The figure frowns at Ruichi, flicking the device to reveal a red button "..last chance, sir.. I really don't wish to harm you.." - he turns a little to Nebula and repeats "..either leave or I call the cops! your choice!".

Outside Cid and Sara are almost at the store entrance when the figure is stopped by a real member of staff, who begins asking questions - the figure stumbles a little as he tries to answer them: failing to do so several times..

"..I'm calling the police!" the staff member declares, only to be shoved aside as the figure runs away - disappearing out of the car park: leaving Cid and Sara confused and frightened.

The radio in the car turns off as the figure flees and Robert's seat belt unfastens, allowing the boy to escape the car and run towards his parents in the car-park as Sara hugs him: several other members of staff arriving on the scene as they usher the family inside.

Ruichi's hand begins to curl as if he was gripping the pole of his scythe...

Nebula, however, took notice of Ruichi's hand. "Don't Ruichi..." she said quietly. "That's not going to end well for the store..."

Suddenly several members of staff head towards where Ruichi and the mysterious figure stand, upon spotting them the figure suddenly disappears - quite literally - leaving behind a pile of clothing and several very confused workers.

Ruichi closes his fist. "I hate it when they do that." he mumbles.

+++++++

Several hours later the store is emptied as police finally finish questioning those involved, due to the circumstances their is very little they can do and with the lack of information it is unlikely their investigation will go much further.

Cid, Sara and Robert head back to their car - looking exhausted, a seemingly innocent day out having made Sara determined to return to the suburbs and try to put the experience behind her.. strapping Robert back in the car as they prepare to leave.

"Wierd things tend to happen around us, don't they?" Nebula said, regaining her former naive cheeriness.

"Yeah..." Ruichi said distantly. His sixth sense told him that this wasn't over, and that there was much more to this than he previously thought.

As the car drives away Ruichi notices someone motioning him over from the corner of his eye, it is an older man with a cap and old sports jacket: standing a fair distance from the crowds.

Ruichi sees the older man, and keeping his guard up, walks over toward him slowly. Nebula follows him out of curiosity.

The man waits until Ruichi comes over before he speaks in a quiet tone, "..those folks who just left in the car? their in great danger.. I think you know that though.. yeah.. you're special aren't you? you can see them.. my granddaddy was the same.. poor guy spent his twilight years locked up in some crazy ward..".

"Danger?" Ruichi asked. "From what? Something here is amiss... what is it exactly?"

The man sighs a little and digs into a pocket, taking out an old doll that resembles a black and white rabbit dressed in the style of an old drifter - he tosses it over to Ruichi "..they called him Betwixt - he was one of the first cartoons around.. of course few folk remember him these days.. problem is Betwixt didn't forget..".

"...a cartoon rabbit?" Ruichi says incredulously.

"Aww, cute!" Nebula exclaims, snatching the doll from Ruichi and hugging it.

The man cringes visibly as Nebula hugs the doll, "..there was a time not too long ago when cartoons weren't just pictures on screen - they walked and talked like people.. imagination made real.. I think the Tibetans had a name for it once, a Tulpa.. basically.. if you imagine long enough - it becomes real.. problem is once your thoughts start to think for themselves.. well.. stuff goes wrong..".

As Nebula (comically) continues to hug the doll, Ruichi sees the truth in the man's eyes. "It sounds ridiculous... but I believe what you're saying. This universe is huge; there are plently of unreal things out there..."

The man finally reaches over to take the doll from Nebula, "..the thing is once people start to remember, they home in - like flies to a garbage truck.. that's why most people have forgotten about them.. especially Betwixt.. look: we don't have much time to waste here and the more we talk the crazier it's going to sound.. just.. find that kid.. before *he* does.." - he motions at the doll.

"awwww...." Nebula says sadly as the doll is taken from her.

Ruichi nods. "Got it. It's just... how do I find him?"

The man notes "..they are heading towards the suburbs - shouldn't be hard to find if you hurry.. oh yeah.. before you go.. no matter what happens, no matter what he says or what he does.. don't trust Betwixt.." - with that the man turns away and begins to wander off, tossing the doll into a nearby dumpster as he goes: as if relieving himself of a great burden.

"Let's go, Nebula." Ruichi says.

"awww, but... ok Ruichi..." Nebula says, with one last look of longing at the doll.

Chapter 2

The scene shifts to later that day, the sun having already began to set as Cid and Sara return home and take Robert inside alongside the new television - though the couple are still exhausted from the experience at the store.. the suburbs were not a very hard place to find, just a few stops from the store.. however the near-identical houses may well prove to be an obstacle when Ruichi and Nebula arrive on the scene..

"We have to search every one of these houses until we find them?!" Ruichi said incredulously as he and Nebula entered the suburbs.

"We can go up to the windows and look in!" Nebula said.

"We'll look like a couple of delinquents!" Ruichi protested.

As the two argue a nearby trash can suddenly falls over, perhaps due to the wind or a passing cat - the contents falling out over the lawn: amidst the contents is a familar rabbit-shaped doll..

"...I'm seeing things..." Ruichi said.

"CUUUUUUUUUTE!!!" Nebula squealed.

"Don't touch it." Ruichi growled. It's just a coincidence. Don't let it bother you... no, this means something... he thought to himself.

"Well, maybe its this house." Nebula said.

"That's what I'm thinking..." Ruichi said. "However... it might be something to mislead us."

Suddenly a few lawns across from where Ruichi and Nebula are standing a woman comes out of her house and opens the car, taking something out as she yells out "..alright Cid! I have the instructions!" - she hurries back inside with a loose leaflet: which must of fallen out of something: the car looks identical to the one from the store.

"...Ok, we found them... now what?" Nebula said.

"We... er... dammit, I have no idea what to do!" Ruichi said.

"We warn them!" Nebula said. "Forward!" She began pushing Ruichi toward the house.

In order to reach the lawn Nebula and Ruichi must first cross a road, no sooner had the two set foot on the road than an ominous sound can be heard as a large steamroller suddenly comes into view: with a visible lack of driver, painted in an unusual black and white style.

Nebula screamed. Ruichi, analyzing the driverless steamroller sprang into action. Tapping into his dark powers, he summoned his scythe to his hand and smashed it against the front of the vehicle, with enough force to flip it into the air.

As the steamroller is hit it indeed proceeds to flip over, only to suddenly melt away - leaving behind a large puddle of inky substance that bubbles against the surface of the road before slowly fading away.

"That was... bizarre..." Ruichi mumbled. Not moments later, Nebula grabbed him and continued to push him toward the house.

"...Is that necessary?" he asked.

"Yes!" Nebula said. "Otherwise, you wouldn't have gone over there at all!"

Meanwhile inside the house Sara and Cid have finished setting up the television set and begin to tidy up around the house, leaving Robert in the living room where he plays with a few action figures - a seemingly innocent scene.

"Oh geez, oh geez..." Ruichi mutters, entering a small panic attack. "What the hell are we going to tell them? We're going to sound utterly ridiculous..."

"Hm..." Nebula thought. "Well, if we stand here thinking, nothing's going to happen. I suppose I'll have to take this into my own hands-"

"Thanks." Ruichi said, walking away.

"-and teleport us into the house."

"Oh god. NO! Nebula, don't you DARE-"

Too late; in a small flash of pink light, Nebula and Ruichi disappeared into the house.

Nebula and Ruichi find themsleves in the hallway just outside the living room, the door left open to reveal Robert playing happily - as the two begin to get to grips with their new surroundings the living room door slowly begins to close as the television screen suddenly flickers to life and a lively display of black and white cartoons can be seen briefly as a voice calls out: "Hello Boys and Girls! It's Time for Betwixt and Friends: The Laughter Never Stops!"

"Betwixt... Betwixt... Oh crap!" Ruichi said in quiet exclaimation, hurrying toward the living room.

"Ruichi, wait!" Nebula exclaims, hurrying after him.

As the two enter the living room they see Robert already heading towards the television set, which changes to a static backdrop and a shadowy vaguely humanoid shape with long ears.

"Hey, kid!" Ruichi said. "Get away from that!"

Nebula hurries over and pulls the plug out of the television. "Bingo!" she exclaimed happily.

Robert turns away from the television set and looks at Ruichi with surprise, yet it is too late - a pair of black arms reach out of the television and grab the boy, pulling him inside with the aid of gloved hands: as Nebula pulls the plug of the television a manic laughter can be heard as the faint outline of a rapidly closing portal can be seen on the screen.

"Dammit!" Ruichi mutters, leaping into the closing portal.

"Ruichi!" Nebula cries out, diving in after him.

+++++++++++++++

Upon entering the portal Ruichi and Nebula find themselves tumbling down a black and white vortex not unlike the old-fashioned "hypnotism" symbols - the spiralling mass eventually falling apart as the couple fall down into a barren wasteland that resembles an endless pile of junk: the environment now resembling a cartoon of the early black-and-white era, even Ruichi and Nebula's forms have changed, becoming more cartoon-like in this alien environment.

"The hell?" Ruichi exclaimed. "Where are we?"

"Hey, Ruichi!" Nebula giggled. "You look funny!"

A figure approaches the couple from nearby, revealing itself to be a rather short humanoid mole dressed in a bowling hat with a tuxedo jacket, black pants and basic shoes: the figure walks in a deliberately exaggerated manner befitting a stereotypical gentleman of days gone by, nose firmly in the air as he stops and observes the couple, giving a small sniff before he speaks:

"..I suppose this is the point where we exchange fisticuffs, am I correct?".

"Where we exchange... what?" Nebula asked curiously.

"you seek to stop Betwixt, which is understandable.. after all he is once again tearing down the natural order.. yet.. as I have said many times before.. and shall continue to say for as long as it takes.. toons stick together.." the mole replies.

"Then I suppose you understand why we're going to fight?" Ruichi asked.

"perhaps - the question is: do you?" the mole says in turn.

"Of course." Ruichi says. "But despite your intentions, that doesn't justify kidnap. Tell me; where's the kid?"

"..Robert is safe in Betwixt Land - you see his grandfather was always one of Betwixt's most beloved friends.. yet like all men Freddy grew older.. with age comes a loss of innocence, Freddy never forgot about Betwixt and Betwixt never forgot about Freddy.. yet as Freddy became a man his world changed - Betwixt's did not.. now Robert is the only part of Freddy left.." the mole explains.

"..why am I telling you this, you may ask? truth is.. I don't want to put that boy's family through pain.. as a toon I feel ashamed of myself.. yet I can not abandon Betwixt.. no matter how far he strays.. I know you understand.." the mole continues.

"You've already told me that toons stick together..." Ruichi said. "But why? Why does it have to be that way? If you are ashamed, then why do you still follow Betwixt?"

Moggy looks to Ruichi "..because in the end there is nothing more agonizing that spending every moment of every day looking back at a world you tried so hard to please only to realize they don't even remember your name.. besides.. as much as it pains me.. as much as I wish it were otherwise.. Betwixt is still my friend..".

"Very well, then." Ruichi said. "We are going to go find this kid. Let us be, and there will be no harm done; get in our way, and I'll have to cut you down..."

Moggy thinks for a moment, "..cut me down? ..hmm.. no.. I think that was a bad choice of words.." - he quickly pulls out two large cartoon-chainsaws that blaze to life with sparks flying from the spinning blades.

Battle 1 - Moggy

Nebula screams at the sight of the chainsaws and hides behind Ruichi, who already was brandishing his scythe, prepared for combat.

Moggy runs forward with the chainsaws blaring, swinging them around in an irregular pattern.

Ruichi runs forth to meet him, prepared for any incoming attacks.

Moggy flies forward only for a literal brick wall to burst out from the ground between the two - resulting in Moggy forming an imprint in said wall while Ruichi has the slim chance of skidding to a halt before colliding with the wall.

Ruichi slams head-on into the wall and falls back onto the ground, rubbing his head. "aaagghhh..." he snarls in frustration, lifting his scythe and stepping back from the wall.

As this occurs a figure appears behind Ruichi and Nebula, resembling an anthropomorphic cat dressed in the style of an old biker chick - sure enough a large motorbike with a passenger-cart sits in view as she looks to the pair:

"come with me if you want live" she says, starting the engine with a roaring sound.

Ruichi looks back for barely a split second before he grabs Nebula's hand and leaps into the motorcycle-sidecar.

The cat speeds off in a cloud of smoke, as she does so the brick wall shatters as a large black and white truck pursues them with a picture of a smiling Betwixt face painted onto it's front: at the driver's seat is Moggy.

Nebula gives a small yelp of fear and summons a fireball to her hand which she throws at the truck.

The fireball causes one of the truck's wheels to burst into flames and the vehicle swerves from side to side as Moggy struggles to keep control - at the same time the cat's motorbike increases speed, heading towards what looks like a large hole in the middle of the road.

"..alright.. here we go.." she says, clearly about to drive right into said hole.

"Whoa, wait!" Ruichi exclaimed. "You're not seriously going to drive into-"

"relax, fleshie - watch a professional in action.." the cat says, diving into the hole - strangely it's like entering a dark tunnel and soon enough the group land on solid ground without much problem: in a new location altogether.

As for the truck pursuing, the sound of a massive crash can be heard as Moggy obviously was not so lucky - the hole disappearing as the cat stops the motorbike and steps out onto the new terrain.

Chapter 3

"..you guys aren't from around here.. I could tell.. no toon fights like that.." the cat says, dusting herself off as she removes the biker outfit to reveal a more punk-like attire beneath.

"...Nope!" Nebula says, once more assuming her cheerful demeanor. "We're from Earth! And that thing you did with the bike! You just drove it into the hole! That was so cool!"

"Nebula..." Ruichi said.

"Relax, big guy.. let the kid speak.." the cat says, smiling at Nebula "..Earth eh? nice place - I used to hang out there.. course back in those days things were different.. toons and people lived side by side.. most folk would think you were crazy if you told them that even in the 30s toons were almost real people with jobs and everything.. then the wars started and everything changed.. toons were toons and the world changed big time..".

The cat shakes her head a little, "..now, I'll just drive you two mad if I go on about that.. I saw what happened out there and I'm guess you're trying to take on Betwixt? if so I only got two pieces of advice for you: get out of town and forget this ever happened.. Betwixt is bad news..".

"We can't." Ruichi said. "He took a kid."

The cat twitches slightly, then turns away - "..not my problem.. shouldn't be yours either.." she suddenly replies, quite cold.

"...well, it shouldn't be my problem." Ruichi says. "...but I'm helping anyway."

The cat stares off, keeping her back to Ruichi and Nebula "..I suppose you want to do the right thing, eh? help some kid out and be a hero? I wish I could help you.. but I'm done with that.." - as she speaks a small piece of torn paper blows across the ground, rolling past Ruichi and Nebula's feet.

"...we're not." Nebula said softly. "We're not done. And I don't want to be a hero. I just don't want anyone to be sad..."

"..what do they know of being sad.." the cat replies, the paper at the pair's feet revealing a black and white image of the same cat, looking cheerful as she sat with one arm around a small anthropomorphic frog, her other arm waving as a humanoid baby was frozen in midair, arms flailing as if falling into the camera with a look of comical fury in his face.

"..kids.. they don't know anything.." she finishes, her voice slightly embittered.

Nebula picks up the paper, looking at the image sadly. "...but-" Nebula begins, only to stop as Ruichi places a hand on her shoulder.

"...It's all right, Nebula. She's made her choice. We've made ours."

"...her heart's broken, Ruichi... I can feel it... deep down..."

(note: Nebula is sensitive to emotion)

"..but I'll tell you one thing.." the cat notes, still looking away "..if I know Betwixt like I used to.. he'll be keeping the kid in Betwixt Land.. if you really want to be the heroes.." - she flicks her tail to one side, pointing at what looks like a mine cart connected to a long rail-track - "..take the Nowhere Express.. it'll get you there in no time..".

"...thank you." Ruichi says, hurrying Nebula along before she could object.

The cat sighs a little as she sits down, curling her tail around herself "..yeah.. yeah.. just.. be careful..".

Ruichi hops into the cart and pulls Nebula in.

"Ok... so, how does this thing go?" he wonders aloud.

"..the name's Cart, buddy!" a voice suddenly speaks out, a face appearing on the cart - which suddenly comes to life, a bar coming down to secure Ruichi and Nebula "..just tell me where you want to go and I'll get you there in a flash!" the voice continues, the whole thing rather surreal yet somewhat fitting to this strange cartoon-like environment.

"AAAAUGH!" Ruichi yells, startled at the talking cart. Nebula however, giggles with delight. "You talk! You're soooooooo awesome! Can you take us to Betwixt Land?"

"Betwixt Land, eh? you guys are crazy.. that place is bad news.. toons go in but they never come out.. you sure you want to go to that place?" Cart replies.

"Yup! We're on a mission!" Nebula says happily.

"..if you say so kid.." Cart says, suddenly taking off down the rails - the ride is akin to being on a roller-coaster without brakes, black and white scenery flying by at a frightening pace as the tracks loop and wind in varied directions: after a few minutes of this the image of a large complex in the distance can be made out, which gets larger and larger as Cart approaches - resembling an amusement-park yet surrounded at all sides by massive walls and search-lights.

"...Wheeeeee! This is fun! Put your hands up, Ruichi! It's more fun when you put your hands up!" Nebula squeals with delight.

"...I'm gonna be sick..." Ruichi groans, turning green in the face.

Cart suddenly comes to an abrupt stop as the track comes to an end, the bar releasing itself as Ruichi and Nebula find themselves a short distance away from the entrance of Betwixt Land - which looks like a giant metal gate with an image of Betwixt's face embedded onto it, lightning strikes the sky nearby as a large tower can be seen from within the complex, the top of which is a spinning globe fashioned to also look like Betwixt's face.

"..well.. here you go kids.. Betwixt Land.. I still say you're crazy.." Cart notes.

"Thank you! That was fun!" Nebula says, leaping out of Cart.

Ruichi manages to pull himself out, clutching his stomach and staggering away, in danger of throwing up after the experience.

The pair don't get too long to recover hower, for shortly after Cart disappears the gates of Betwixt Land swing open as a familiar figure in the form of Moggy appears: this time riding a top a large float complete with a gigantic inflatable Betwixt floating above, connected by strings - surrounding the float are many guards dressed not dissimilar to old-fashioned police of the late 20s.

Battle 2 - Moggy (second stage)

Moggy points forward, "..you should of just walked away.. now you leave me with no other choice.. guards.. cease these intruders!" - with that the guards march in unison, the float slowly following.

Ruichi staggers forth, still naseuous, yet almost falls and has to hold onto his scythe like a walking stick.

"Eeep!" Nebula squeals as the guards approach. She begins to throw fireballs at them in self-defense.

The fireballs cause the guards to fly in varied directions like hitting bowling pins, yet others continue their march regardless as Moggy directs the float forward - the giant inflatable Betwixt continuing to fly over the scene.

Ruichi, fully recovered, runs around the guards and leaps up, pulling himself onto the float.

Moggy reacts by manifesting a large mallet and swings at Ruichi "..I understand you're dedication to saving the child - however allow me to put things in a different light: here Robert will never need to grow old.. he will never feel pain nor suffering.. here he can be a child.. forever..".

Ruichi leaps back, avoiding the mallet. "That's simply unnatural." he said.

Moggy tosses the mallet away "..unnatural? my dear boy - I don't think you know where you are.." - with that he produces a lever out of seeming nowhere and pulls down, causing the ground beneath Ruichi's feet to spring up with considerable force.

Meanwhile the guards continue pursuing Nebula despite the fireballs causing them some problems - unlike Moggy or Betwixt the guards seem to be capable of very little other than waving batons and blowing whistles as they run around in a chaotic parody of a police force.

Nebula, realizing this, begins to giggle. "Hey, I wanna play, too!" she says, running around in the midst of the crowd.

Ruichi flips through the air, then catches himself by sprouting his signature dragon-like wings and hovering in place for a moment. He swoops down at Moggy.

Moggy turn produces a shotgun and begins firing at Ruichi - the bullets seeming to home in as he states: "..here in the Land Of Nowhere you're just like every other toon - you'll be surprised what you can live through..".

A few guards leap at Nebula only to suddenly be thrown back as a familar figure suddenly pops quite literally up from the ground - opening a trap-door:

"..I told you guys to be careful! grrr.. never have a fleshie do a toon's job!" she snaps, spinning around like a feline tornado and gathering the guards into a large ball before rolling them into the wall surrounding Betwixt Land, causing them to fly in all directions.

"...Yay, you came!" Nebula squealed with glee.

"Ruichi swerves to the side, attempting to dodge the bullets...

Moggy keeps firing at Ruichi, hitting the inflatable Betwixt in the process - causing it to deflate and slowly descent upon the float.

At the same time the cat dusts herself off and looks to Nebula, "..don't act as if we're friends - alright? ..we get this done and you go back home.. simple as that.." she says, then turns towards Moggy and the float "..your boyfriend always fly like that?" she enquires.

Suddenly, Ruichi plunges toward Moggy, attempting to tackle him full force.

Moggy ends up tackled as the giant inflatable Betwixt falls down over the float, covering the area like a blanket as Moggy falls off said float.

Ruichi tears through the material with his scythe and pulls himself over the deflated float.

Soon the scene clears as the group stand over a scene of devastation, fallen guards laying all over the ground and Moggy's float having come to a halt as smoke rises into the air.

Suzie looks around for a moment as if ready to continue when she freezes as the doors of Betwixt Land swing open once more as a familar figure walks out in the form of Betwixt, dressed in a long flowing cape and sporting a large ornate crown and a royal sceptre:

"..hello Suzie.." Betwixt says as he comes to a stop, looking over the group with a frown.

Chapter 4

Suzie looks to Betwixt and readies herself, looking ready to either run or fight at any given moment: "..where's the kid, Betwixt?" she growls.

Nebula takes a wary step back. "...he's not as cute as that doll..." she whispers quietly. Ruichi glares at Betwixt, waiting for his answer to Suzie's question.

Betwixt points towards a large tower in the middle of Betwixt Land that has a large spinning Betwixt head on top of it and flashing neon signs reading "BETWIXT TOWER".

"..Robert is having fun in the Game Room, where he will remain - think on it Suzie.. he will be safe here.. forever young.. never to feel pain.. never to grow old or die..".

Suzie narrows her eyes as she looks Betwixt over, flicking her tail dangerously as she growls:

"..no Betwixt.. with you.. no one is safe..".

Betwixt tilts his head, his eyes looking sad for a moment before they flare up with fury as he tears the cape off - revealing his usual outfit of a 20s vagrant:

"YOU SHUT YOUR MOUTH SUZIE!" Betwixt yells out, pointing at her angrily.

Ruichi, having seen enough, spreads his draconic wings and takes flight, beginning to head for the tower.

Suzie steps forward, her anger fading away as she begins to change - her eyes growing sad as she holds her arms out either side of herself "..why? ..why do we have to fight? ..Betwixt.. look at what we've become..".

Betwixt growls, trembling slightly as he clenches his hands into fists - his eyes flaring up angrily as he yells out again, "..STAY AWAY FROM ME!".

Suzie continues walking forward, "..look at me, Betwixt.. look at what I've become.. now.. look at yourself.. look at what you've become..".

"I SAID GET AWAY!" Betwixt roared, hitting Suzie back with enough force to send her tumbling back on the ground.

"That wasn't nice, you big bully!" Nebula exclaims angrily to Betwixt.

"Life isn't nice, you little freak - so get used to it!" Betwixt replies angrily, then pulls out a large remote with a button on it "..now, let's deal with you're little boyfriend before he makes a fool of himself..".

Suddenly Suzie leaps up and charges at Betwixt, knocking the remote to the ground as the two suddenly clash, becoming a cloud of activity as the two toons fight in a flurry of fur and fangs.

Meanwhile Ruichi soon finds himself approaching the tower only to see several old-fashioned biplanes with logos on each wing depicting a smiling Betwixt face fly out towards him, swooping around him in an attempt to knock him off course.

"Crap!" Ruichi exclaims, veering off the the side and narrowly dodging one of the aircraft.

The biplanes quickly turn and pursue Ruichi as the large stylized Betwixt head continues spinning around on top of the tower - smiling madly over the scene as the flashing neon lights continued to go on and off.

Meanwhile, outside Betwixt Land, Suzie finally pins Betwixt down and looks visibly surprised as she realizes she has overpowered him - yet her victory is short-lived as Moggy appears from behind and pulls Suzie into a bear-hug, allowing Betwixt to stand back up as he dusts himself off, growling audibly.

Nebula runs in, recklessly attempting to tackle Betwixt.

Betwixt reacts by bouncing into the air and landing behind Nebula - forming a large net as he tosses it over her, Moggy still restraining Suzie as she growls:

"..let her go Betwixt! this is between you and me!".

Betwixt frowns as he looks to Nova, then at Ruichi in the distance - the biplanes still pursuing him around the tower:

"..wrong Suzie.. this is bigger than us.. they had the chance to leave - instead they fought against me.. Moggy.. let's go.." Betwixt said as he marched into Betwixt Land, several guards arriving back on the scene and helping the two toons to take Suzie and Nebula along as prisoners.

Chapter 5

Meanwhile Ruichi manages to find an entrance to Betwixt Tower just as another biplane swoops down, upon landing in the tower he is greeted to a very unusual sight as he enters a room filled with toys, music and laughter - all with a Betwixt theme: sitting in the middle of this room was Robert. Ruichi hurries over to him.

"Kid? Hey, you!" Ruichi calls out as he runs.

Robert turns around, as he does so a huge figure emerges from behind the boy - resembling a hamster dressed in the style of a stereotypical maid, only of a monstrous size and bulk.

"Run, it's right behind you!" Ruichi cried out.

Robert frowns a little at Ruichi and the maid steps forward, blocking Ruichi from the boy - who whispers:

"..make the bad man go away..".

Ruichi stops upon being confronted by the hamster. "Let me by..." Ruichi growled, raising his scythe a little.

The hamster rises up and lets out a massive roar, grabbing a life-sized Betwixt doll and throwing it at Ruichi - as the doll flies in the air it squeaks out "you're my best friend!".

Robert gets up and begins to exit the room as the hamster hurls more toys at Ruichi - the door opening from the outside as an unseen figure leads Robert outside.

Ruichi leaps back, spreading his wings and taking flight once more, attempting to fly over the hamster and reach Robert.

The hamster charges across the room and into a mountain of toys where it ends up being buried - however by the time Ruichi has reached the door Robert has already disappeared down the hall, a nearby room's door slams shut.

Ruichi darts down the hall to the door that had just closed, grabs it's handle, and pulls.

As Ruichi enters the room he is greeted to Suzie and Nebula, both locked inside what resemble large glass bottles - Robert stands holding Betwixt by the hand as Moggy stands by a large lever which tips said bottle towards an open window in the tower:

"..terribly sorry to use such a tired cliche but you've left me with no choice.." Betwixt says as he looks to Ruichi, a frown still etched on his face.

Ruichi growls; his transformation to his darker alter-ego begins to enter it's final stages as he sees the danger that Nebula and Suzie are in. "Let them go..." he snarls, while his eyes turn pitch-black, his wings extend, and shadowy flames begin to swirl around him.

Moggy pulls on the lever slightly and the bottles tip slightly further, Betwixt simply looking to Ruichi "..I don't think you have the right to be demanding anything - now calm yourself or that temper of yours will cost you much more than just a bit of humiliation.." he warns.

"Betwixt! you're insane!" Suzie yells out as she slams her fists against the glass - Robert looks around, beginning to look confused as the boy notices all the hostility around him and reacts like most children would.

"Ruichi, be careful!" Nebula calls out.

Without another word, Ruichi darts toward Moggy, becoming a dark blur as he attempts to ram the mole aside and take hold of the lever.

Moggy falls over for a moment then leaps forward and begins to wrestle with Ruichi over the lever, causing the bottles containing Nebula and Suzie to continually shake dangerously.

As this occurs Robert becomes visibly distressed and Betwixt growls slightly as he lifts the boy up and starts heading out of the room: "..come on Robert - let's go..".

Ruichi's own shadow begins to spread out- splitting apart into two tendrils, it lashes out and wraps around the necks of both bottles, trying to pull them back into the room.

Moggy growls and runs to a corner of the room, growing in bulk as he rips out a section of the wall and lifts it high above his head as if ready to attack - however Ruichi's tendrils soon pull the bottles back into the room and the glass shatters, releasing Nebula and Suzie.

The shadow tendrils retract and launch out once more at Moggy in an attempt to make him stumble.

Moggy soon does exactly that, as he does the section of wall falls down on him and the floor beneath him shatters, sending him falling down several floors of the tower.

Meanwhile Betwixt straps Robert into a cart before hopping on himself, pulling a lever as a massive roller-coaster bursts forth from the tower and winds its way around Betwixt Land - rolling out in a cartoon-fashion as the carts begin to move away:

"..Betwixt? ..I want to go home now.." Robert said, the boy looking frightened.

Betwixt simply looked forward, frowning slightly as she noted darkly "..you *are* home..".

Suddenly, Ruichi, having flown onward after dispatching Moggy, touched down nearby, folding his wings against his back.

"Let the kid go." he demanded.

Betwixt pulls out a comically large gun and fires it at Ruichi, instead of a bullet however it fires a large boxing glove mounted on a spring - "..yeah.. because that's going to work.." he says as the carts continue along the tracks.

Meanwhile at the tower a large gaping hole is left where Betwixt had left, as Nebula and Suzie watch a familar voice suddenly calls to them as Cart pulls up "..hop on!".

Suzie blinked a little, "..Cart?! ..how did you..?!".

"..no time for questions, Suzie! ..come on!" Cart said, motioning the pair forward as storm clouds built up around Betwixt Land - bolts of lightning flashing across the sky.

Final Battle - Betwixt

Ruichi barely manages to leap out of the way; Betwixt's spring-loaded boxing glove snaps back and Ruichi takes flight, pursuing the roller-coaster car.

Betwixt growls slightly as he wiggles free from the restraints while making sure to keep Robert safe, standing up in the cart the rabbit turns around and begins to throw stylized bombs at Ruichi which explode into fiery balls of smoke in midair.

At the same time Cart speeds along the roller-coaster tracks, Suzie also wiggling free from the restraints as she too stands up and pulls out a highly-modified bazooka: "..get us closer, Cart - all I need is one good shot!".

Nebula leans toward the edge of Cart, watching Ruichi, who swoops about dodging the bursting balls of smoke; he appears to be gaining on Betwixt when suddenly, a bomb bursts right in front of him, throwing off his flight path and sending him spinning through the air uncontrollably for a moment.

Betwixt cackles madly as he raises his arms in the air and puffs himself up proudly "in your face!" he taunts - only for Suzie to fire the bazooka, firing a cream-pie at Betwixt which hits him in the face and sends him tumbling back, gripping onto the cart's railing to stop himself falling off: as he does so the railing breaks free slightly: causing Robert to wriggle loose as the roller-coaster heads towards a series of loops.

Suzie's eyes grow wide as she throws the bazooka away, her ears folding back "..oh crap.. the kid.. if he falls.." - she looks down a little, the ground far below them.

Ruichi, seeing the danger, flies quickly over to the car, and grabs onto the restraint holding Robert, trying to pull him out before the car becomes dislodged from the tracks entirely.

Betwixt suddenly flips over and delivers a punch at Ruichi as the rabbit attempts to tear Robert free himself, holding the boy close as the cart begins to soar straight towards a 360 degree loop.

Ruichi takes the punch but doesn't release his hold on Robert's restraint, which he pulls against with all the might he can muster.

Suzie then comes to a dark realization "..Cart! ..you need to turn back.. now..".

Yet Cart doesn't listen as he releases the restraints holding Suzie and Nebula "..it's alright, Suzie.. go.. get him..".

"...What's happening?" Nebula asks fearfully, sensing that something had disturbed Suzie.

"..no time to explain.. come on.." Suzie says, climbing out of Cart and leaping to one side - as she does so she produces what looks like a glider out of thin air.

Nebula leaps out of Cart and flies after Suzie.

At the same time Ruichi manages to break Robert free, the boy grabbing onto him as Betwixt forms large claws and slashes at Ruichi - Cart picks up speed and rams into the cart holding Betwixt, causing the rabbit to topple backwards as they fly right up the track until they are upside down - at which point the cart dislodges from the track and plummets to the ground below, along with Cart and Betwixt.

Betwixt managed to slash Ruichi across his wing, causing Ruichi to cry out in pain as he fluttered and crashed down onto the ground, keeping Robert safe from the fall by using his own body as a cushion.

Cart and Betwixt crash to the ground, as they do so Cart breaks apart and temporarily buries Betwixt under the wreckage - Suzie landing on the ground nearby as she looks over to Ruichi and motions to Nebula:

"..come on! get your boyfriend and let's get out of here!" - she pauses for a moment as she turns and looks at the wreckage "..3..2..1..".

Sure enough as soon as Suzie counts to one Betwixt bursts out from the wreckage, tearing apart his uniform as he grows into a monstrous version of himself not unlike a parody of a Godzilla movie - yet all humor is lost as his form begins to break and splinter like a twisted abstract art, the skies crackling with lightning.

Ruichi pulling himself up to his feet, picks up Robert and spreads his wings, flying away from Betwixts horrid form.

Nebula gasps in horror entirely lost for words.

Suzie narrows her eyes as she concentrates hard - creating a large vortex in front of Ruichi and Nebula: "..go.. while you still can.. I can't hold it for long.." she yells out.

As Suzie does this Betwixt spins around and roars, his massive body becoming akin to flowing tar as skeletal features begin to protude from his twisted form, black smoke pouring from his mouth as he snarls at Suzie:"..you! ..this is all your fault!".

"Suzie!" Nebula cries out.

Ruichi, still holding Robert, grabs Nebula's hand and takes off, flying away as fast as he could.

"We have to help her!" Nebula protested. "She came and helped us!"

"We can't!" Ruichi retorted. "We have to help this kid!"

Suzie's eyes turn sad for a moment as she smiles to Nebula, "..don't you worry.. I'll be waiting.. just.. don't forget me, okay?".

Suzie then turns as Ruichi and Nebula enter the portal alongside Robert, the monstrous form of Betwixt hits Suzie with enough force to send her flying into the background as he charges after the group:

"NO! NO! NOOO!".

Chapter 6

The portal reopens in the living room of Robert's home, right in front of his startled parents - the portal remaining open as Ruichi and Nebula regain their senses, the portal emiting from the television set.

"ROBERT!" Sara yells out as she runs over and grabs her son, Cid looking towards the television set as the room shook violently, lights flashing on and off..

"..what's happening?! who are you people?!" Cid yells out.

"Hi! I'm Nebula!" Nebula said, in her typical, over-cheerful personality. "And that's Ruichi! We went on an adventure- we got sucked into the TV trying to chase Robert after he was kidnapped and we saw a bunch of cartoon people who helped us find him and there was this evil rabbit that transformed into this monster and this cat who helped us-" Nebula babbled, speaking in her "machine-gunfire" voice.

The portal suddenly bursts open, causing the room to shake violently as the lights shatter - the place flashing like lightning as a monstrous Betwixt rips free from the television and knocks Sara aside as he grabs Robert with one long skeletal arm and begins dragging him into the television set again:

"..Mommy! Mommy help!" Robert yells out as he reaches out desperately for Sara, Cid races forward only to be hit back by Betwixt as he growls madly.

"HE'S MINE NOW! COME ON!" Betwixt declares.

"LET HIM GO!" Ruichi cries out, breathing a stream of fire into the portal; Nebula does the same.

Betwixt recoils, dropping Robert and the boy scrambles to his feet and runs to Sara and Cid - the couple holding their son close as they watch in a mixture of confusion and horror as Betwixt retreats back into the portal with a horrific roar, the television shattering as Ruichi and Nebula attack: as the television is destroyed Betwixt's link to the world also shatters, sending the toon back to his reality..

Ruichi and Nebula step back, both lost for words.

The room soon returns to normal as the television remains shattered, Robert and his family standing in the corner as everything goes silent...

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

A few hours later Ruichi and Nebula find themselves outside, Cid and Sara having thanked them but requested them to leave as Robert was put to bed - the light emitting from Robert's room visible from where the pair were situated.

The suburban streets were silent and oddly tranquil considering what had happened - a piece of paper blows in the wind and bumps against Nebula's ankle.

Startled, Nebula bent down and picked up the paper.

"What is it?" asked Ruichi.

The paper contained a hand-written note:

"hey kid,

you did it.. I knew you would.. I wanted to let you know I'm alright, it takes more than a few scares to do me in.. I also wanted to thank you and the big guy for everything..

you risked your lives for something you believed in.. the world needs more people like you.. never give up and stay strong.

- your friend, Suzie

P.S. - don't be too harsh on Betwixt.. he's crazy.. for sure.. but maybe.. some day.. he'll remember.. some day..".

"Aw, how sweet!" Nebula said.

Ruichi cracked a small smile; a rare occasion. "C'mon Nebula," he said, "let's go back home..."

As Ruichi and Nebula leave the scene a figure dressed in a trenchcoat and hat looks over from afar, the hat twitches slightly as a large cat ear pokes out momentarily before the figure turns around and walks away into the night:

"..catch you later, kid..".

-THE END-

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