Author's Note: Daria Morgendorffer and her fellow characters from Daria are owned by MTV/Viacom. All other characters in this story are the property of Doggieboy. This is fan fiction and no money or other items of value have been exchanged for this story.
Part One: We Are So Screwed
"Tell me again why we're here, at this convenience store, today of all days," Daria Morgendorffer said as she stood against her mother's car.
Jane Lane handed Daria a twenty-ounce plastic bottle of Ultra Cola, a sub sandwich and a bag of potato chips. She smiled at her friend patiently and said, "The adventure of it, amiga."
Daria looked down, lifted her glasses and rubbed the bridge of her nose, then yawned. "You wake me up early on a Saturday morning, con my mom into letting us borrow her car, just to have us drive some two hundred miles into West Virginia to eat lunch? Then what do we do?"
"We drive back to Lawndale."
"I could have stayed in bed another two or three hours."
Jane took a bite of her sub and chewed it while trying to smile at Daria. After she swallowed the food, she said, "You would have rather stayed at the same old house, reading the same old books or watching the same old TV. Then later you would have wanted to eat the same old pizza and watched more of the same old TV." She waved her free arm at the hilly countryside. "You would rather have done all that when you could come here instead and see all this beautiful scenery?"
"And this is better how?"
"It's a change of pace. C'mon, Morgendorffer, it's Spring, time to shake off old man Winter and just be...spontaneous."
"How are we going to explain to my parents that we put four hundred-plus miles on Mom's car?" Daria asked and took a drink of the cola. "Sick or not, she's not going to accept 'spontaneous' as an excuse."
"You're an old fuddy-duddy. Just tell her that a band of roving gypsies forced us at gunpoint to drive them to a mini-mart in West Virginia." She saw Daria's blank stare and added, "Oh, all right, just tell her the truth. Tell her that we were abducted by aliens who wanted to examine the car in detail, including rectal probes. Also tell her that they dropped us off here and that we had to drive back, and were forced to listen to Slim Whitman on the radio."
Daria took a bite of the sub and chewed on it as she looked at her smiling friend. As she opened the bag of chips, she said, "You had me convinced until you mentioned Slim Whitman. No one will believe that one."
"I always go too far," Jane said with a shrug. "How do you like your lunch?"
Daria looked down at the sub. "What's this sandwich called? It's pretty good." Then she ate a couple of chips.
"A CBS sub," Jane replied and took another bite. As she chewed, she continued. "It has cheddar cheese, bacon and steak. I thought you might like it."
"It's nice to know that I can have variety when I clog my arteries. It gives me something to look forward to when I get older."
"Look at it this---" Jane was interrupted by a bright flash to their east. They looked to the east, as did a couple of men at the gas pumps. "What the hell was that?"
Daria still looked eastward as she said, "I don't know. Maybe a transformer explosion or something."
A second bright flash happened, this time to their north. Jane and Daria felt heat on the left side of their faces and one of the men pumping gas suddenly screamed. As the girls looked at him, he fell to the ground, his hands over his eyes. The gas nozzle he used flew to the side, gasoline spewing out the end. The other man stopped what he was doing and ran to offer assistance.
Daria and Jane then looked north, in the direction of Pittsburgh, and watched in numbed horror as a purple and red column rose into the sky. As the top blossomed into a black mushroom cloud creased with lightning, Daria whispered, "Oh, shit."
Jane scooped their food into the bag and said, "Let's get the hell out of here!"
The two girls jumped into the car and Daria quickly started the car, then sped out of the mini-mart's parking lot onto a four-lane highway. Doing so, she pulled out in front of another car and barely missed being hit.
As they rushed back towards I-68, Daria weaved the car around several stalled vehicles and narrowly avoided accidents with other still moving cars. A couple of times, she had to drive left of center to keep going forward.
"What's wrong with some of the cars?" Jane asked and shook with each near miss. "Why are they stopped?"
"Electromagnetic pulse from Pittsburgh," Daria said and glanced quickly at the black cloud that grew over the destroyed city. "Although I don't know why it missed us. The hills, maybe, or perhaps the mini-mart shielded us. I...I just don't know."
Both girls could hear thunder from the north. It grew in intensity as the seconds passed.
As they drove down the highway, a loud roar, different than the Pittsburgh thunder, could be heard. Neither girl could tell where it came from, however. Then they heard the sound of a local air-raid siren.
Jane looked at Daria with tears in her eyes. "Where did the first one explode?"
Daria didn't answer right away, swallowed in her fear and said, " I think it was Washington."
"Amiga, that's not even 50 miles from Baltimore...and Lawndale."
Daria's chin quivered as she sped back onto the interstate's eastbound lane. "I know, Jane. I know."
Just then, the ground shook and the girls screamed as Daria fought to keep the car on the road and going forward. The car went off the right side once and she managed to swerve back onto the outside lane. A light pole just past the entrance ramp fell and landed on a pickup truck behind them, which resulted in a shower of sparks. Jane stared back at the accident and then looked at the growing cloud over Pittsburgh.
As the shaking subsided, Daria said, "There'll be another ground shock coming from the first explosion. Buckle up."
Jane moved and reached over Daria, grabbed the seat belt and connected it securely. Then she buckled herself in as well.
A black pillar of smoke rose in the distance ahead and Jane said, "Something's wrong up ahead."
"I think it's off the road," Daria said and swerved to avoid being hit by a bus.
"How fast are you going?" Jane asked.
"Seventy-five. I don't think I can handle the car good enough at any higher speed."
The interstate had the same amount of traffic that it did earlier that morning, but the smooth flow of it was disrupted drastically. Several vehicles in both lanes had stalled, and others were involved in pile-ups. One hill they passed had a massive fire on it and they saw what looked like the tail of a passenger jet sticking into the air from the flames. Flaming debris fell from the accident onto the westbound lanes, hitting vehicles or bouncing in different directions.
Some of the debris was human bodies.
Several more times they passed bodies on the road at an accident site or just off the road. They avoided all of them and drove on.
Then the second ground shock came, this time not as intense. Daria simply gripped the wheel tighter and said, "Turn on the radio. See what they're saying, if anything."
Jane pushed several buttons, but all they heard was static. Even the AM dial was silent. She covered her face and sobbed.
"Jane, stay with me here."
The tall girl held in her cries, took a deep breath and looked over at her friend. "I just thought of Trent. He was sleeping when we left."
"I know. I can't stop thinking about Mom, Dad, and Quinn."
"What if...what if Lawndale isn't there anymore?"
"I don't know, Jane," Daria said and looked forward. "I don't know."
After nearly 20 minutes of panicked driving, Daria saw a group of people on the road ahead of them and asked, "Can you tell what's going on up ahead?"
Jane squinted and said, "They're trying to stop people. Oh my God, Daria, they have guns!"
As they got closer, three men blocked the highway and Jane looked in horror as Daria sped up the car even more. "What are you doing?" she asked, her eyes wide open.
"I'm not stopping for them. Jane, do you see a cop or a police car there?"
"I just saw what looked like two bodies on the ground near them."
The car shook as they raced at the armed men. The men jumped aside as Daria and Jane sped by them, while others turned and fired rifles and shotguns at them.
One shot hit the back windshield and the girls screamed as the glass shattered inside and covered the backseat. Jane bent over and cried loudly as Daria slowed the car back down to 75 m.p.h. "Are you hit? Are you hit?"
Jane looked up at her and cried for several seconds. Then she said, "No. I'm just scared shitless."
Daria nodded and weaved around more stalled vehicles. "So am I." She glanced at the remnants of the back windshield from the rear-view mirror. "Mom is going to kill me." Then she bit her lower lip and her chin trembled when she realized what she said. I wish that I could be there for Mom to kill me.
"Daria," Jane said in a sad voice as she sat back up. "I'm sorry. I'm very, very sorry."
"For getting us out in the middle of nowhere when all hell's breaking loose. I'm so sorry."
Daria blinked. "Jane, how could you know? For what it's worth, I agreed with what you wanted to do. It's as much my fault as it is yours." She moved her right index finger under her right glasses lens and rubbed her closed eye.
Jane turned back to see if anyone from the roadblock tried to follow them.
Another bright flash illuminated the sky in front of the car and Daria screamed. She covered her eyes with her hands and slammed on the brakes. Jane turned around and also screamed as the car flew into an uncontrolled spin. The car rapidly went sideways into the median strip and slammed to a stop against several small locust trees near a ditch.
In the sky to their northeast, the glow of an artificial sun could be seen as it rose for several seconds before it subsided back over the horizon.
Daria wailed loudly as she leaned onto the steering wheel. "Shit! Shit! Shit! My eye! Oh, God, my eye feels like it's on fire!
"Jane, my left eye is burning! Oh, God, it hurts! It hurts!"
Jane shook and suppressed the urge to cry as she forced Daria back against the seat and tried to pull her hands down. "Let me look at it! Don't fight, dammit!"
Daria let Jane pull her hands down; her eyes were both wide open and her face was tear-streaked. "O.K., amiga," Jane said, "can you see anything?"
"My right eye's isn't damaged," the shorter girl said in a shaky voice. "I was rubbing it when the bomb exploded. But my left eye was wide open. I can't see anything out of it except a white light which keeps flashing." She swallowed nervously. "I think I have a flash burn."
Jane opened the glove compartment and pulled out two folded up napkins. "Close your left eye and we'll put this over it. I know it's not much, especially for the pain, but I don't know what else to do for it. You don't have a first aid kit, do you?"
"That was on Mom's list of things to buy, but kept getting put off."
Jane carefully put the napkins behind Daria's left spectacle lens. "You may have to hold them up there. Try to keep your eye shut."
Daria gave her a weak smile and said, "Thanks, Jane. I don't think I can drive anymore, though."
"I can drive now. I'll climb over you and you scoot over to the other side." The two girls switched positions and Jane tried to pull back up on the road. The car revved as she pressed the gas pedal in, but the vehicle only shook as it stayed in place. She tried several more times, but the car didn't move. "Daria, we're not moving." She rolled down the window and looked at the front wheel in silence for several seconds. Then she leaned back inside, closed her eyes and sighed loudly.
"What's wrong?" Daria asked.
"The wheel on the driver's side is bent in, maybe even broke. No way we can drive on it now. We're going to have to walk."
Daria leaned forward and sobbed bitterly. "I don't know where we are, outside of Interstate 68. I don't even know if we're back in Maryland yet. I don't know about you, Jane, but I don't even want to walk that kind of distance in normal times. Now....now..." Her voice got softer as she spoke. "Now, I'm scared to death to try it."
Jane looked at her and touched her left shoulder. "We can't stay here, Daria."
Daria turned and opened the passenger door. "I know. Let's get started."
Jane got out the driver's door and pulled out the bag of food. "Do you have anything of value you want to take?"
"The only thing of value I took out of Lawndale is Mom's car." Daria gave a short, almost bitter laugh. "If there was anything of value, I don't think I could see it."
"Let's look and see what's in the trunk anyway." Jane walked to the back of the car and looked at it quietly. Numerous BB-sized holes dotted the back of the car and body around the back windshield; Several barely missed the trunk lock. "Hoo-boy," she muttered as she opened up the trunk. She pulled out a blanket and said, louder, "We'll need this later on. Do you know what the weather's supposed to be today?"
Daria looked at her silently for several seconds and said, "With nuclear explosions, I don't what the weather will bring. We could get radioactive snow." She closed her right eye and put her right hand over her glasses. "Jane, we need to get some shelter. The wind was out of the southwest, so we won't get any fallout from Pittsburgh. I think. But I don't know about Washington or whether or not the wind will change drastically."
"Do you think the third explosion was from Baltimore?"
"No. It was northeast. I think it was Philadelphia. It was too close to be either New York or Boston."
Jane looked back in the trunk, smiled and pulled out a tire iron. "We may need this one," she said. "There's not much else in here but a spare tire."
"Mom doesn't like a cluttered car." Just then, the ground shock reached them. Jane rushed to Daria's side and wrapped her arms around her best friend until the shaking subsided. "Jane, you can let me go now."
"I don't like the earthquakes." She released Daria.
"They're shock waves, not earthquakes."
"Ha, ha, smart ass." Jane closed the trunk and they walked up together up to the highway. The eastbound lanes were empty, but several cars still sped in the westbound lanes. With a brief glance at each other, the two girls walked east in the emergency lane.
"Who do you think those guys were?" Daria asked after several seconds.
"Criminals, maybe," Jane said. "A gang of some sort." She took a deep breath and sighed loudly. "Thank you for not stopping for them."
"We have to be careful, Jane. We're two teen girls out alone in the wilderness. We...we have to watch out for each other, because I don't think we can rely on the authorities to protect us. At least, not anytime soon."
Jane hefted the tire iron. "We don't have any other weapons, outside of your wit."
"My wit isn't worth a damn, right now." She looked behind them, nodded and looked forward again.
"Sure it is, if only between us."
Daria gave Jane a small smile, then said, "For now, we need to look out for a big stick or a large, hand-sized stone. It's not much, but it's better to have more than one weapon." She shook her head. "What we really need, though, is a pistol. While I hope we never need it, it would bring some peace of mind."
Jane stopped and looked at Daria. "Amiga?"
Daria stopped and looked back at her. "Yes?"
"If...the worst happens, I want you to know that I love you. Not in some romantic way or even as sisters. But when you moved to Lawndale, I was no longer alone. I had someone to share life with, even if it still sucked sometimes. I don't know how to describe the love I'm talking about, except that our friendship means a lot to me."
Daria gave Jane a quick hug and said, "You don't have to explain it. I know what you mean. I love you, too. But don't worry about the worst. Let's just watch out for each other."
They walked down the highway again. For the next half-hour, Jane watched how Daria moved. Her steps were smaller than normal; she nearly tripped over an old McDonald's bag that she would have normally stepped over. She also showed a hesitation when she did step on a rock or some debris. "Um...ground control to Major Daria," she finally said.
Daria stopped and turned towards her. "What?"
"Are you sure that you can even see that well? You've nearly tripped on an old bag and you're walking...well, you're walking like a little kid. There's some deep ruts up ahead and I'm afraid you'll fall. There's no shame in me holding your arm or your hand, you know."
Daria looked away off the highway. "I can still see out of my right eye," she said, "but my left eye still has the constant flashbulb effect. My depth perception is kind of...off right now."
"Well, the next town we come to, we'll go in and see if there's a doctor or police station to get your eye treated, if we can." She shifted the blanket and food bag to her left arm and took Daria's left arm in her right one. "As much as I hate to say it, maybe they'll have a refugee shelter or some other place we can stay. Maybe we'll even find a phone where we can try and reach home."
They walked together at a slightly slower pace. Daria accepted Jane's controlling hold and looked down as they walked. "If only I had brought one of Mom's cell phones," she said. "I feel like I'm three again and Mom's holding my arm."
"Well, if I see a flash like you did, then you can lead me around like you're my Mom," Jane said and scanned the area as they walked. "As long as you get me a lollipop, I'll be happy. Would you like one?"
"I have a boot that I can put up your ass," Daria said with a smile. "Seriously, Jane, what do we do if more bombs go off in the area? We may end up in a ditch, blind and dying of radiation sickness. What do we do then?"
"Then we stay together until the end, amiga," Jane said softly as she still looked around. "There is still traffic in the westbound lanes, but I haven't seen any in ours since we passed the barricade. For some reason, that scares me."
"All the eastbound traffic probably wrecked when we did," Daria said. "I should have been prepared for it. All I could think about was getting back to Lawndale." She laughed briefly. "Now that's funny. All this time, I've been waiting to get out of Lawndale and now I can't think about anything else but getting back to it."
Jane didn't respond, but watched at a pickup truck in one of the westbound lanes slow down as the two men inside gestured towards them. "Daria, there's two guys pointing at us from the other lanes. We may need to leave the interstate." The truck then turned left onto the median strip and she said, "Shit! They're coming our way now! Let's get off the road, girl. Let's go!"
Daria tried to look their way, but Jane pulled her off the road and towards the right of way fence line. "Jane, slow down!" she said. "I don't want to fall!"
"I've got you, don't worry. Just run with me." They ran through the still short grass and to the fence. Daria climbed uncertainly, but Jane pushed her up and over the fence. She looked back to see the truck back on the road and stopped near them. Quickly she tossed Daria the blanket and bag and climbed over the fence herself. "Get into the trees! We'll lose them there."
As they reached the trees, the truck screeched to a stop and the men got out and followed them. "They went into the trees!" one of them said. "Come on, we can catch them!"
The men followed them over the fence and chased the girls further into the woods. "Slow down, girls!" one yelled ahead. "Joe and I just want to...talk with you."
The one called Joe laughed and said, "Yeah, we ain't going to hurt you. What are you running for?"
The girls said nothing as they ran. Daria tripped on a tree root, but Jane caught her and they ran on.
Despite their head start, the men reached them within a minute and split up to block their escape. "No need to be unfriendly," one of them said. "Right, Tim?"
"That's right, Joe. We're real nice fellows. You girls look a little lost and we can...help you get somewhere."
"We're doing fine by ourselves," Jane said and hefted the tire iron. "Just leave us alone."
"You're awfully unfriendly, especially with that tire iron," Joe said. He pulled out a knife and said, "I don't like unfriendly people. How about you, Tim?"
The man called Tim pulled a small pistol out of the back of his pants and said, "Let's see which is tougher, girl. Your iron or my iron."
"FEDERAL AGENT! DROP YOUR WEAPONS, BOYS! WHERE I CAN SEE THEM!"
All four turned to the north, where a man in a suit and tie and a large, cocked revolver walked near them. Tim turned towards him with his pistol and the agent shot him once in the chest. As he fell, the agent turned towards Joe quickly. "I don't like punks," he said and shot him in the chest as well.
Daria and Jane stood still as the agent kicked the weapons away from the bodies. He holstered his pistol and looked at the girls. "You two ladies O.K.? Did they hurt you?"
"N-n-no," Daria stammered and shivered in fright.
"Good thing for you I had to make a pit stop," he said as he picked up the extra weapons and put them in an outer jacket pocket. "Can I give you a ride? My car's just over the hill there." He pointed back from where he came.
"What about them?" Jane asked. "Are you going to do anything about their bodies?"
The agent shrugged and said, "I'll call it in when I can get to a phone that works. My cell phone quit working after the bombs started going off. Right now, I can't do anything about them. I can help you two, however. That is, if you need my help."
Jane sighed in relief and nodded. "My friend here needs to see a doctor. The last bomb blinded her in one eye."
"I have a first aid kit. Got some eyedrops and a real bandage I can tape on her. What is that? A napkin on her eye?"
"It's all we had," Daria said defensively. "We didn't expect to be out at the beginning of a war."
"Neither did I," he said. "I was on my way back to Quantico, and taking the scenic route while doing it." He laughed and led them through the trees towards a car pulled off a two-lane highway.
At the car, Jane sat on the trunk as Daria sat on the edge of the back seat with the door opened. The agent leaned her head back and said, "Try to look up."
Daria obeyed and he put some drops in her eye.
"Go ahead and close your eye." She did so and he applied a bandage, then taped it securely. "Try not to strain your other eye. That should do until you can get a doctor to see it." He put up the kit and then said, "Hop in, I'll get you to an emergency shelter, then get on my way."
The girls got in the back seat and the man shut the door. He then got behind the wheel and looked back at them through the rear-view mirror. "Are you two high school students? Where are you from?"
"We're from Lawndale, near Baltimore," Daria said.
"You're a long way from home," he said. "Do your folks know where you're at?"
Jane shook her head. "We went on a road trip for the fun of it." She laughed bitterly. "Talk about sucky timing."
Daria looked at the man intently and said, "You said that you're a federal agent?"
He pulled a leather card holder out of his jacket pocket and opened it to show them a shiny gold star-shaped badge. "Senior Agent Larry Carter at your service." He shut it quickly and put it back inside his jacket. "I bet that your mothers would be upset about you being so far away from home."
Daria's face paled on seeing the badge and Jane noticed her reaction. She leaned over and whispered, "Daria, what's wrong?"
"FBI agent badges are shield-shaped, Jane," Daria whispered back. "Not star-shaped."
Jane had laid the tire iron on the floorboard and grabbed it as the "agent" turned with the revolver in his left hand. "Yes," he said, "you would think that your mothers would have warned you about accepting rides from strange men." He cocked the pistol and aimed it at Jane's face. "Drop it! Drop it or I'll splatter your brains all the back windshield. Don't test me, girl. You already know I'll kill you if I have to."
Jane dropped the tire iron back on the floorboard.
"Hands on your head! Both of you! Now!" Both girls obeyed him quickly and he untied his necktie with his right hand, then removed it. He tossed it onto Jane's left shoulder. "O.K., baby, tie your four-eyed girlfriend's hands together behind her back."
Jane took the tie and pulled Daria's hands behind her back. Both girls cried as Jane tied her friend's hands together.
"You better tie 'em tight, girlie, or else I'll put a hole in her shoulder. Anywhere I shoot her with this .357, she'll die from the shock, if she doesn't bleed to death first."
"Don't worry about it, dammit!" Jane snapped and wiped her eyes. "I've got her tied up."
"Good," he said and smiled. "Turn and face the window, both of you." They obeyed and he picked up the tire iron then laid it up front with him. "Here's the deal. I'll take you someplace where we can...get acquainted. Where I can take some time with both of you. I'll take you first, tall girl. Then I'll save you for later, four eyes."
"Why didn't you just share us with those other guys?" Daria asked, the terror evident in her voice.
The man hit the back of her head with the revolver barrel and was rewarded with a cry of pain. "I'm not a pervert, girl! Just shut your mouth and be quiet!" He looked at them and smiled. "You two are just like all the other women. Stupid and easy. You see a clean-cut man in a suit and with an attitude and you believe whatever you hear. Stupid. O.K., tall girl, lay face down on the seat, and keep your hands on your head while you do it. Then you, four eyes, lay on your back on top of her. Do it!"
The girls obeyed and the man buckled the seat belts tightly. "Don't want you to fall." He then laughed, turned around and drove away.
For more than an hour, the man drove and occasionally watched them from the rear-view mirror. Daria looked out the back window and saw that they had stayed in the woods. In fact, the more they drove, the woods got thicker and thicker and the quality of the roads got worse and worse.
Finally, he stopped, parked the car and got out. He opened one of the rear doors, reached in and pulled Daria outside. She leaned unsteadily against the car when he released her. He then unzipped her jacket, pulled it halfway down her arms and said, "I'll take this and everything else off you later, baby."
When he reached in for Jane, she turned over quickly and kicked his thighs with both feet. He fell back and she dove out of the car after him. She managed to land two punches before he backhanded her away from him. "You're a regular firecracker, aren't you?" he asked.
"I'll show you 'firecracker', you sick bastard," Jane said, wiped blood from her lower lip and kicked at him. He sidestepped the kick and tried to punch her. She avoided the blow and jumped onto his back. She landed two more punches and yanked out a handful of hair to get a roar of pain from him. He threw her over his head and into an evergreen shrub.
Jane jumped to her feet, rushed at him and kicked for his crotch. Her kick missed, however, and the man rammed his fist into her face instead. She fell to the ground hard and laid still.
"Jane?" Daria asked weakly and tried to free her hands.
The man turned to Daria and leered at her. "Looks like you're going to be first after all, sweetie," he said.
"Jane?" Daria asked in a louder voice.
The man approached her and unbuttoned his shirt.
"JANE!" Daria screamed and cried again. She rushed the man and tried to head-butt him, but he sidestepped her and wrapped his right arm around her waist tightly.
"How about that? You're both firecrackers." He laughed as she struggled to free herself and added, "I like that. I like this also." He grabbed the top of her blouse and tore it down the front.
"NO!" Daria's sight was a total blur, but she continued to fight. "DAMN YOU!"
"Scream all you want. Everybody is a bit busy today. At least, those still alive are busy. Come to think of it, we're going to be busy, too." He grabbed the front of her bra and ripped it away from her chest. The straps snapped as they tore and she cried out in pain from it. He dropped the ruined fragments on the ground and kissed the top of her head.
Daria jerked her head to the side and tried to free herself from his grip.
The man laughed again, grabbed her head and forced his mouth onto hers. She continued to struggle and free herself, but failed. He broke the kiss and pushed her down hard onto her back. He glanced back at Jane, who was still and unconscious, then back at Daria, who had sat up.
"Stay on your back!" he ordered her and kicked her right shoulder back with his right foot. She cried out in pain and rolled onto her left side, while he undressed himself and laid the gun holster on top of his clothes on the ground nearby.
Daria shook her head as the man sat on the ground beside her and pulled her by her shoulders closer to him. "No, no, no, no, please, no," she begged him.
He forced his mouth onto hers again and muffled her cries. She continued to fight as he held and kissed her.
Jane opened her eyes. She took a deep breath and suppressed a groan as she listened to Daria and the man struggle. She slowly touched her nose, pulled her hand away and looked blankly at the blood on her hand.
Carefully, she looked towards the others. She could see the man was too busy kissing Daria to realize anything else. She saw the man's clothing on the ground, and the pistol and holster on top of that.
As Jane sat up, she grimaced from the pain in her face. She carefully moved her jaw and glanced at the man. Then she moved to the pile of clothing, and pulled the pistol out of the holster. She now glared at the man as she stood up, carefully cocked the weapon and aimed it at him.
The man broke the kiss, panted heavily in Daria's face and said. "It's time to really scream now."
"I agree," Jane said. "You go first."
The man turned around quickly, saw the pistol in Jane's hands and screamed, "NO!"
Jane shot the pistol and the bullet hit the man's right shoulder. He screamed, gripped his shoulder and fell onto the bound girl, who grunted from the sudden weight on her body. He yelled again and rolled off her to land on his back.
"Bastard!" she spat out and rushed to Daria. She pulled her friend away from him as she said, "Amiga! Are you still with me?"
Daria cried as Jane helped her sit up. She moved her head to Jane's chest and cried more.
"There, there," Jane whispered and rubbed the back of her head. Some of the man's blood had splattered Daria's face and Jane wiped it off with part of a ruined bra cup. "It's over. It's over."
Daria cried for several more minutes as Jane held her tight. Finally, as her cries subsided, she said, "Untie me, Jane."
Jane fiddled with the knotted necktie and after nearly a minute, untied it.
Daria stood, flexed her hands and stared at the man, who moaned weakly and shook as he bled from the bullet wound. "Help me," he said, his words a struggle.
She held out her right hand and said, "Jane, give me the pistol. I'll shoot him in the head."
Jane gave her the weapon and replied, "Yeah, put him out of his misery."
Daria got to her feet, cocked the pistol and spat at the man. "You bastard," she said and fired the pistol at his genitals.
The man simply gasped, shivered fast for several seconds, then passed out.
"I thought you meant the other head," Jane said, her eyes wide.
"Asshole ruined my clothes," Daria said and spat again twice. "He hurt you and me both. Let him bleed to death." She kicked his side, let out a frustrated scream and kicked him twice more. Then she looked down at her ruined blouse and bra. She sighed and looked even more frustrated. "I can't go around like this."
Jane picked up his shirt. "Maybe you should wear this. It's not like he needs them anymore."
Daria laid the pistol down, removed her jacket and put the man's shirt over her ruined garments. She muttered under her breath as she buttoned the shirt up and kicked his unresponsive body again. She clenched her fists and asked, "Has it even been four hours yet? What happened? We zip through a roadblock, get accosted by two yahoos in a truck and beaten and nearly raped by some fake federal agent. What happened? It's like that damned Yates poem. The center doesn't hold, everything falls apart, or something like that."
"Look at it this way, Daria," Jane said as she picked up his clothes, a forced smile on her face. "We have a car again and guns as well."
Daria put back on her jacket, picked up the holster and slung it over her left shoulder. She holstered the pistol, looked at Jane's face and asked, "How's your nose doing? It looks broken."
"I can breathe," Jane said. "That's what's important. I'm sorry about tying up your hands like that. I know it hurt when I did it."
"Don't worry about it," Daria said as she walked up and gave her a quick hug. "Let's just get the hell out of here."
The two got in the car and drove off.
Daria wrapped her arms over her chest and sunk into the car seat as Jane drove down the access road. "Do you know where we are?" she asked. "I don't."
"No," Jane said. "We could be in Pennsylvania or Virginia for all I know."
Daria opened the glove compartment and pulled out a traffic map "New York State," she read. "Fat lot of good that does us." She threw the map behind her. "When you find a highway, get us to the next town, any town. Maybe we can get some shelter." She looked outside. "Not knowing where we're at, we could be downwind from a bombed city. Or maybe we're in a clear area. Without a Geiger counter or dosimeter, we'll never know how much fallout, if any, we've even been exposed to."
"Wouldn't we get ash or some sort of debris that could warn us?" Jane asked as she turned right on a sharp curve.
"Not necessarily." Daria took off her glasses and covered her eyes. "You can get debris like ash, but if you're close enough to an explosion, you'll still get fallout, with or without debris. That's the problem with fallout. You can't see it, smell it or taste it. But it can still kill you."
"What's wrong? Are your eyes hurting?"
"I'm getting a bad headache. It feels a little better when I cover my eyes." She paused, then added, "Who knows what that bastard put in my eye? It could have been saliva or worse."
"You just hold on, amiga, I'll get you some help." She paused, cleared her throat and said, "Daria?"
"We better not tell anyone about what we did to that man. I know that we probably have no danger of trouble, but I really don't want to get arrested by a would-be Barney Fife and live out a war in a prison camp somewhere."
Daria said nothing for several seconds and finally nodded. "You're right. He may be from this area. In fact, this car may be well known to the locals."
"I don't think so," Jane said. "I saw the plates. They're from New Jersey."
Daria uncovered her eyes and looked at Jane in confusion. She grabbed the man's pants, dug out the his wallet and opened it. "A New Jersey driver's license. One Larry Carter, age 42, from Cherry Hill, New Jersey." She grabbed his suit jacket and pulled out the leather card holder from the inside pocket.
"You told me he had the wrong badge," Jane pointed out.
Daria gave a short, derisive laugh. "'Special Agent'," she read. "It looks like one of those badges that rent-a-cops get. Probably bought it through mail order or something." She rummaged through his wallet and pulled out a card. "'Larry Carter, Senior Consultant, Phoenixville Consulting, Phoenixville, Pennsylvania.'" She then pulled out a wallet-sized photo. "He has a...a wife...three kids and a...and a cat." She dropped the photo, looked down and covered her eyes again. "Shit."
"Daria, if this guy was such a loving husband and father, why was he trying to rape us?" Jane turned the car right onto a paved highway and picked up speed. "There couldn't have been much love in his heart for them, if any, since he wanted to rape us or anyone else."
Daria simply shook her head and kept her eyes covered up.
Jane gave her a concerned look and drove on in silence for several minutes. Finally, she looked at a green sign that read "DAWSON 2" with an arrow that pointed to their left. "Jackpot."
"What?" Daria asked, her eyes still covered.
"There's a town two miles away," Jane said and turned onto a county highway. "We'll be there in a couple of minutes and get you some help."
Jane passed a few homes, all looking silent with no signs of life, except for a couple of dogs they passed at one home. She turned into a small curve and stopped at the top of a hill. "Uh, Daria, there's another roadblock about a hundred yards ahead," she said.
Daria quickly moved her head up and looked ahead. "They're using a bullhorn. Let's see what they're saying."
They opened their windows and heard a voice yell out, "...OUT OF HERE! JUST GO SOMEWHERE ELSE! WE HAVE NO ROOM FOR YOU HERE! GO AWAY!"
Jane put the car in park and stepped outside. She cupped her hands at her mouth and yelled back, "MY FRIEND GOT BLINDED BY A BOMB FLASH! SHE NEEDS HELP!"
The man yelled back, "WE HAVE MORE THAN 50 HERE WHO ARE ALSO BLINDED! WE DON'T HAVE ENOUGH MEDICINE FOR THEM AND WE HAVE NONE FOR YOU! WE DON'T WANT YOU HERE! JUST GET YOUR ASSES OUT OF HERE OR WE WILL SHOOT YOU!" To emphasize that last line, several of the men aimed rifles or shotguns at them.
"Let's get out of here, Jane," Daria said quickly. "I'll be O.K. Let's just go."
Jane flipped the men two upright middle fingers at the same time, got back in the car and shifted into reverse. "Screw 'em. So much for Southern hospitality."
"I can't blame them, Jane. They're probably just as scared as we are."
"I don't think so. They have a place to be and we don't. We're in worse shape."
Daria reached out and touched Jane's right shoulder. "We'll just go to another town. Someplace will help us, take us in." She gave her a small smile. "I recommend that you do not tell anyone else that they're 'Number One'. They could have shot us for that."
Jane got the car turned around and drove back towards the highway. "Well, they ticked me off."
"Yeah, but they outgunned us, too."
Ten minutes later, the car passed a sign that said, "LEWISVILLE WELCOMES YOU".
"We'll see about that," Jane muttered as she stopped at another roadblock near an abandoned gas station, this time manned by police officers and apparent volunteers. None of them seemed angry or even frightened.
A policeman, his right hand close to his holstered pistol, walked up to the car as Jane rolled down her window. "I'm sorry, ladies," he said and he looked over the two girls from behind mirrored sunglasses. "We're only letting Lewisville residents in at the moment. I'm going to have to ask you to turn around and leave."
"I was blinded in my left eye by one of the explosions," Daria said. "Not only that, but we were attacked and beat up by some man. Can you at least have us checked out by a doctor?"
The policeman shook his head sadly. "We have at least a few hundred in the same boat as yourselves, Miss. We even have some gunshot victims. We have no doctors, nurses or even paramedics here yet. All we have are two first responders and a bunch of volunteers who don't know that much."
"How about a Geiger counter, then? We don't know if we've been contaminated or exposed to fallout."
The policeman nodded and said, "Pull your car in that old gas station lot." He pointed behind them to their right. "I'll send someone to check you and the car out. But do not come to us. Wait at the car."
Jane pulled into the gas station lot and watched in silence as a few cars were let into the town. Many more were turned away. "Do you want to wait outside?" she asked.
"Not really," Daria said. "Keep our exposure to a minimum."
After more than a half hour, a small, older man with a Geiger counter walked up to them. They stepped outside and he slowly moved the probe over Daria, starting at her head and moving down over the front of her body. He did the same with her backside and then repeated the procedure with Jane. Finally, he said, "Ladies, I'm sorry about how forward and personal that may have seemed. But as far as I can determine, you two are clean."
"Could you check out the car, please?" Daria asked and he nodded.
"You two are quite a ways from home," he said as he saw the license plate.
"We were on our way back." Daria added. "Talk about bad timing."
The man made a quick check of the car's exterior. "It's not hot and neither are you two," he said. "I don't know where all the bombs went off. But I do know that Washington and Philadelphia got it. If you're headed back to New Jersey, I suggest you go wide around Philadelphia."
"We have relatives in Lawndale, Maryland." Jane said. "We're headed there."
"Is that near Washington?" he asked.
"It's a suburb of Baltimore," Daria said.
The old man looked at each of them slowly, shook his head, then said, "John, the policeman over there, told me that Baltimore is being evacuated right now. They're having really heavy fallout and fires that spread from the Washington bomb. I don't think you should go there." He paused. "I don't even think you can get in there."
Daria paled and shook visibly. Jane put her left arm around her to steady her and asked, "Do you know of anyplace that's taking in refugees? We still need to see a doctor."
"I've heard that the Cumberland area has several being set up. Just get back up to the interstate and go east to get there."
"Let's go, Daria," Jane said gently. To the old man, she said, "Thank you for checking us out with that counter."
"God go with you two," he said as he waved and walked back to barricade.
As Jane pulled back out on the highway and drove away from Lewisville, Daria seemed to shrink further into the car seat. "At least these people were polite," Jane said in an effort to steer the subject away from the news about Baltimore.
Daria took off her glasses and covered her face with her hands. She rocked in the seat and shook as she did so. Occasionally, a sob could be heard from her. Jane glanced at her with concern several times, but drove on.
After awhile, Jane slowed the car and said, "Daria?"
Daria said nothing and didn't move.
"There's a church about a mile off the road to the north," Jane said. "Maybe we can get shelter there."
"What about going to Cumberland like that man said?"
"I don't want to chance being out at dark," Jane added. "I'm also getting tired, Daria. It feels as if we've been out for the whole weekend instead of the day. Let's face it. We both need to get some rest." Daria lifted herself in the seat and Jane saw that she had tears on her face.
"A church isn't exactly my choice for a shelter," Daria said, wiped her eyes and shrugged. "But I don't care. Do whatever you want."
"Beggars can't be choosers," Jane replied and turned down the next county road.
They reached the church about a minute later and Jane parked the car, then got out. No other cars were in the overgrown parking lot. She noticed that the wind was from the south and had picked up some as she moved up to the church's front door. A small marquee near the door read, "Crainstown Christian Church. Rev. Marion Summers, Pastor." That was followed by the service times through the week. Several letters and numbers in the sign were missing and Jane wondered if the church might be abandoned or just closed. Hesitantly, she knocked on the front door and tried the handle. It opened.
Jane looked back at Daria, who had scrunched herself back into the seat and covered her face again. She turned back to the church and moved inside. "Hello? Is anyone here?"
No one answered and Jane moved up to the entrance of the sanctuary. The inside of the church was dark and cool. She tried a light switch and the vestibule lit up. "They still have power," she muttered and looked for a thermostat. She found one and turned it up to 70 degrees. Somewhere in the building a furnace kicked in and a fan started up in it.
She went back outside and knocked on the car's passenger window. Daria looked up at her and Jane said, "Come on, Morgendorffer. We can get inside and get warm."
Daria got out of the car and trudged up the steps to the church's front door. She looked at Jane and asked, "We have permission to stay here?"
"Just get inside, Daria, we'll worry about it later." She pointed at the skies. "It might start raining soon. We need to be inside if it does rain."
Daria stared at her for several seconds, then went inside. Jane moved the car behind the church, loaded her arms with the belongings and went inside the church.
Once inside, Jane handed Daria what she brought in, and went back outside. She opened the car's trunk and looked over the late Larry Carter's possessions in curiosity. She grabbed a soft gym bag, filled it with different items and took it with the car's tire iron inside. Carefully, she then locked the church door and led Daria to a door that was labeled "OFFICE". She turned off all the lights, except the one in there and said, "You wait here and I'll look over the church. Maybe I'll find more blankets or bottled water or something else we can use."
"You brought the guns in, didn't you?" Daria asked as she sat on a couch.
"Yes, Daria, I brought in everything I could. I wasn't sure about bringing weapons in a church, but we can't leave them outside either."
Daria stared at the floor and rocked herself in small movements. "In the early history of the U.S., worshippers brought guns into church with them. They had gun ports in the walls in case they had to fight off the...previous owners of the land."
Jane stared at Daria and said, "Sometimes, I think you make this stuff up just to get me on it later."
"Damn. You found out my secret. Now, I'll have to kill you before you can warn the others."
Jane laughed and smiled at her friend. "You just stay in here and I'll be right back." She left the office and Daria opened the blanket and covered herself with it. When Jane returned to the office nearly 20 minutes later, Daria was laid out on the couch asleep.
Quietly, Jane moved up to Daria, lightly kissed the top of her young friend's head and said, "You rest. I'll keep my eyes open for you." She yawned. "But it's not going to be that easy."
Daria found herself at the kitchen table with her family as they ate dinner. At first she was shocked, but accepted it as Helen served lasagna to everyone.
She smiled as Jake complained about squirrels and the laws that protected them more than they did him. Quinn went on and on and on about the Fashion Club and their inane activities and that made her smile even more. Then Helen's cell phone rang and it was Eric again, of course.
A bang sounded off in the distance, but Daria was the only one to hear it. She looked around in confusion, especially as a loud roar seemed to get louder and louder.
Suddenly everything except Daria was engulfed in flames. But Jake still went on with his rant about squirrels, Quinn continued her talk about the Fashion Club and Helen still chatted with Eric on the cell phone. Daria yelled at them, but no sound came out of her mouth.
Then Daria saw that she was also engulfed in flames and waved her arms in panic. She screamed very loud and in horror.
"Daria! Daria! Wake up! You're having a nightmare! Daria!"
Daria screamed and waved her arms around in a full fledged panic, as Jane came to her and shook her.
"I'm right here, amiga. I'm right here."
Daria looked around the pastor's office and everything came back to her. The trip to West Virginia for lunch, the bombs going off, being blinded, nearly getting raped and then killing the man, being kept out of towns at gunpoint and the church.
"Bad dream, wasn't it?"
"A nightmare from hell," Daria gasped and sat up on the couch.
"About that Carter asshole?"
"No. It was about my family."
"Oh," Jane said. "You want to talk about it?"
"How long have I been out?" Daria asked and changed the subject. Then she looked at the lit candle and noticed how dark it was around the office.
"Almost five hours." Jane stretched her arms out. "I was getting ready to wake your lazy butt up. After all, I want a chance to get my 12 hours of sleep in."
"You've been awake the whole time?" Daria asked and Jane nodded. "What did you do?"
Jane shivered and said, "I read Mr. Larry Carter's secret diary, which he had in the trunk of his car. Congratulations, you're number 22. I'm number 21, if what I read in his notes was correct. Apparently, this character was a serial rapist...and murderer. Only three of his victims escaped and he tracked down and killed one of them." She swallowed. "He liked his victims to scream as he...crap, I feel dirty just having read it. The bad kind of dirty."
Daria held out her right hand. "Let me see it."
Jane shook her head. "You can't read it until you're old enough, Morgendorffer. We're talking mature subject matter here."
"Jane, I'm much more mature than you are."
"I just let you think that so that you have something to cling onto."
"You are so full of it, Lane. Don't make me come over there."
"Actually, I want you to. It's my turn to use the couch."
"Did you find anything in the church?"
Jane motioned to a pile of items on the desk. "They have a clothes pantry here. You need to try on blouses and bras and see which fits. Then they have some food in their kitchen. Crackers, bottled water, canned soda, assorted stuff that has to be cooked to be merely inedible. For the real lifesaver, there's a bathroom two doors down."
Daria stood up. "I'll be back, then." She stopped in the doorway. "Jane, I can deal with that Carter freak somewhat. He's dead and won't come back. I pity his family, however, never knowing anymore about him. What I can't get out of my mind is my family. I feel like I've let them down, though I do know better."
Jane looked back at her. "Like you said earlier, how could we know what would happen today? We didn't and got caught away from home."
"I know. I'll be back." She left and Jane laid out onto the couch and spread the blanket out over her.
(To be continued...)
Author's Notes: This section is chapters one through four of Apocalyptic Daria, as it was originally posted on the various message boards and ff.net
Thanks for Part One go out to Martin J. Pollard, who had an excellent suggestion for the title of this part. Also a thank you to Reese Kaine who mentioned a CBS sub on the PPMB once and caused me to get very hungry late one night.
Thanks also to Robin Sena, who posted the Iron Chef that spawned this serial, to Richard Lobinske, who answered some important questions I had, and to Brother Grimace and WacoKid, who had suggestions and ideas galore.
Thanks also to vlademir1, E. A. Smith, NightGoblyn, Dervish, Wormbait, Lawndale Stalker, Ranchoth, Ranger Thorne, DigiSim, Steven Galloway, JrGtr42, Derek and psychotol for their comments as I posted these chapters on the PPMB.
Thanks also to Paisleygal, cmanuk and YazzyDream for their comments on ff.net.
Finally, thanks to CINCGREEN, who had some suggestions and insights that I didn't think of, even if I don't agree with everything he said.