Summary: After graduating from their respective colleges, Daria and Jane's lives take an unusual turn due to Daria's new job

by Milderbeast

You can't overlook the lack, Jack, of any other highway to ride
It's got no signs or dividing lines, and very few rules to guide 
"New Speedway Boogie" by The Grateful Dead
The winter had not been kind to Boston. Over two feet of snow had fallen since the new year, blanketing the city in a shroud of white. It was now late February, and the temperature had continued to hover in the lower regions of discomfort for most of the denizens. On this particular day, a slow, steady snowfall had begun early and stubbornly refused to abate, driving the natives indoors. Only the snowplows and the foolhardy dared venture outdoors.

On a small, freshly plowed side street, a blue Chevy nova headed westward at a speed that definitely surpassed "safe".The sound of its engine echoed off the snow-covered homes like some crazed and flatulent elephant, drawing more than a few curious looks from the inhabitants. It approached a parking lot entrance on the south side of the street, slowed slightly at a sign that said "Raft University", made a hard left turn, entered the lot, and spun out of control until it skidded sideways to a stop at a sidewalk.  If someone had been standing right where it stopped, they could have heard a high-pitched "YES!" followed by a lower-toned "OW!" emanating from the interior of the vehicle.

Both doors opened simultaneously, and Jane and Trent Lane exited at a leisurely pace. Each was dressed in their usual casual attire, plus coats and hats. Trent's brow was creased and he blanched slightly as he straightened his grey trench coat.

"Jeez, Janey, if you wanted me to wake up you could have just said something."

Jane snorted. "I've been waiting twenty-three years for you to wake up, Trent. Think it might happen sometime soon?"


"What do you mean, 'Hmmm'?"

"I didn't say anything."

"Yes you did."

"No I didn't."


The siblings traded grins at the familiar exchange. Jane buttoned her black cloth coat against the cold, locked and closed the door, and stood on the sidewalk with her brother.

"Which building is it?" asked Trent.

Jane squinted. "The one farthest from the parking lot, naturally. C'mon, zombie boy."

The two braced themselves against the cold and began the arduous journey across the tundra. As they walked, Jane's mood echoed the ghostly grey light that surrounded them while the snow continued to fall. She worried for her brother, wondering how he managed to feed himself. Success had eluded her, but it had seen Trent coming a mile away and had scampered away from him like a frightened rabbit. Mystik Spiral had not progressed much beyond their gigs in Lawndale, let alone made a splash in Boston. Trent had tried, though, and was still trying to get at least an audition for the band somewhere in the area. He still believed.

Jane wasn't so sure she still did.

Most of her professors at BFAC had seemed to like her work, but a few had stubbornly refused to accept the irreverence and humor she diplayed. Serious artists made statements, they told her, not jokes. She had graduated in the middle of her class, continuing in her personal straight C traddition.

The professors who had liked her art had made some introductions for her, and the few gallery owners who hadn't tried to sleep with her had displayed some of her works. A few had actually sold, but sporadically, giving her barely enough money to rent her studio apartment. Fortunately, Daria fed her friend a steady diet of pizza and take-out. Jane begrudgingly accepted the charity; hell, she had to eat.

Trent seemed to pick up on her vibe. "You okay, Janey?"

"Mm-hmm." Jane shook off her dark mood as best she could. Today, things might just turn around. "How's the Spiral?" she asked, steering Trent away from her negative emotions towords his one true passion.

"Still trying to write some new songs. The rest of the band's on one of those...sabotages."

"Sabbaticals?" Jane interjected. That one was pretty Quinnish, even for Trent.

"Is it Sunday already? Man, how long was I asleep?"

"Never mind. You were right the first time. How's Jess?"

"Hurt his hand."

"A-minor seventh again?"

"B-Flat. That's why we're on...sabbatical." Jane saw her brother grin slightly. He'd been putting her on again, just to cheer her up. She smirked in return. He always knew just how to lighten her mood.

They trudged along for a few more steps, only halfway to their destination.  The snowflakes, getting bigger now, continued to lightly kiss the two on their way.

"Sooooo.." Jane said, "seeing anybody?"

"Nah. You?"


"Miss you, though."

"Miss you, too, bro. But," she shrugged, "life goes on."

"Yeah. And on, and on, and on....."

Jane laughed. "Maybe you should get a puppy."

Trent tilted his head at his sister, a smile playing on his lips.

"Idiot." he said.

"Right back atcha." Jane retorted, smiling as well. Trent would always hold a special place in her heart.

The two of them finally reached a large, brick building and headed for the glass double doors. Stenciled on the doors were the words HARD SCIENCES. Trent studied them for a moment.

"Hard sciences," he said, "Huh. Is there an easy kind?"

 "Yeah, but you know Daria. Nothing easy for her. C'mon, I'm freezing out here." She opened the door, and a most welcome warmth enveloped them.

Jane unbuttoned her coat, removed her knit cap, and reached into her right pocket, pulling out a scribbled note. "Daria said to go down the hall into the stairwell, down the stairs, turn right, second door on the left."

The siblings walked forward, their boots echoing rhythmically in the seemingly deserted building. Trent chanted along with the sounds. "Down, right, second left. Down, right, second left...."

Jane waved the note at him. "I've got it written down, you know."

"Yeah, but this hall has a nice reverb to it. Inspiring. Down, right, second left, the weight of the world is  what I heft...nah...hmm...what rhymes with left?"

"Absolutely nothing. Knock it off, willya?"

"But the reverb..."

"Trent..." Jane warned.

"Sorry Janey." Trent decided a change of subject was in order. "So what kind of job does she have for you?"

"Don't know. She's got some kind of research grant from the government, experimental sciences and stuff."

Trent looked uneasy. "Government work? Eww.."

"She's the head of her own department here. Probably wants me to do sketches of her with her feet on a desk."

They descended the stairs, turned right, and walked to the second door. Jane frowned at the words on it.

"Custodial storage # 42?" she said. "Huh?"

"Daria's the janitor? Bummer..." said Trent.

Jane reached out and grasped the door handle, but it wouldn't turn. Above them, a mounted security camera whirred to life, rotating to focus on them. There was a sudden, brief buzz, and the door unlatched and opened with a click.

"Did you do that?" asked Trent.

"Nope." said Jane.

The two exchanged an uneasy glance. This was weird. Jane shrugged and gestured to the door. "After you." she said.

"You first." said Trent.

"Age before beauty." countered Jane.

Trent stepped forward and pushed the door.

 "Pearls before swine." he smirked at her. Jane smacked him lightly on the back of his head.

Trent walked throught the doorway, and Jane followed. Instead of a storage closet, they found themselves in yet another long corridor, barely wide enough for the two of them to walk side-by-side. At the end of it, they could see a uniformed man sitting at a desk. Behind him was an elevator, with the doors shut.

Another look passed between them, and they moved forward towards the man at his desk. He glanced up from the book he was reading (a Melody Powers novel, Jane noted) as the pair came to a halt in front of him.

"Names?" he said in a gruff voice.

"Jane and Trent Lane." said Jane, noting that his name tag identified him as Fred Krupke, Security Officer.

Krupke picked up a clipboard and went down the names listed. Trent shuffled somewhat uncomfortably as Jane leaned forward slightly and noticed several buttons and a security monitor built into his desktop. She saw a televised view from above of the hallway outside the "custodial storage" closet where they had entered. So that's why the door opened for us ,she thought, he saw us standing there. But why the security? Keep out the bad scientists? What has Daria gotten us into?

"Hmm..." Krupke intoned, glancing back at the two. "You two married?"

"Nah," said Jane, "he brings too many electrical instruments to bed with him."

Trent coughed. Krupke's look hardened. "You two don't dress like science majors." he observed.

"Gee, officer Krupke, nobody told us there was a dress code. We left our white coats back at the mental hospital." Jane declared. "Look, Professor Morgendorffer asked us to come here. You gonna let us in, or what?" She stepped back, placed her hands on her hips, and took an I-dare-you-to-piss-me-off stance.

Krupke remained stoic for a moment, then a small crack appeared in his tough guy demeanor; a slight smile crossed his features. "Yeah, you're Morgendorffer's kind of people, all right. You're both on the approved list." He gestured to the elvator doors behind him. "Press level 4 on the control panel."

Jane smiled when his face softened. "Thanks!  We'll put in a good word with the boss lady for ya. C'mon, Silent Bob." She grabbed her brother's arm and pulled him towards the elevator. Krupke pressed a button on his desktop and the doors opened. Jane and Trent got in, and as the doors were closing, Krupke heard Trent say, "Who?"

"Never mind, bro."

"What's goin' on here, Janey?"

"You got me. All I know is Daria's been working here on some sort of project. She won't talk about it, not even for pizza; and yesterday, she called me up and told me she might have some work for me. Pretty decent money, too. I asked her what kind of work it was, but all she said was that I'd see when I got here. I reminded her that you were visiting, and she said to bring you along. I said okay, wrote down the directions, end of conversation." Jane pushed the 4 on the control panel, and they both felt the elevator begin to descend.

"We are now entering hell..." Jane said softly to herself.

In a moment, the motion of the elevator ceased, and the doors opened upon a technological paradise.

Jane and Trent were taken aback by the sight before their eyes. A large room had been lined on all sides with dark wooden cabinets, and those were filled with an array of electronic devices of unusual complexity, with various wires and connections linking them to one another. Jane noticed most of the wall to her right was taken up with a rectangular green chalkboard, covered in inexplicable calulations. On the left wall were two doors, between the cabinets. On the far wall a third doorway was visible, larger than the other two. An imposing wooden console sat in the center of the room; two computer monitors with keyboards were on either side, with a board full of multicolored switches and buttons between them.

In front of the console stood a massive box, with clear glass on three sides.Two thick cables ran from either side of the console to the base of the box, which, like the cabinets, had been stained a very dark color. In the center of the box, visible through the glass, were two black handgrips.

"Whoa!" a startled Trent declared.

At the sound of his voice, a head popped up from behind the console. Auburn hair, a pair of thick, round glasses, and a nose were all Jane could see, but she recognized Daria immediately.

"Amiga!" Jane cried. Daria stood up and approached her friends. Jane saw that she was wearing a white lab coat over a dark green sweater and grey slacks, but her choice in footgear remained constant, utilitatrian Doc Martins.

"Jane." Daria answered in her usual monotone.

"Hey Daria." Trent said.  A corner of his mouth curled up in the patented Lane smirk.

"Hey Trent. Long time, no see." Daria's mouth curled upward slightly at the edges, which was, for her, a broad grin. Jane knew her friend's face well enough to detect a very minor twinge of rose appear on Daria's cheeks.

I'll be damned. After all this time...still got a little torch in there, eh Daria? I'll be damned, Jane thought.

"Aw, you saw me at Christmastime, Daria." Trent said.

"Umm, that was two years ago, Trent." Daria pointed out, her grin fading a bit.
Way to go, slick, thought Jane, steeeerike one.

"Heh," said Trent. "Time really gets away from you, you know?"

"Further from some than others, it would seem." Daria mumbled, turning toward Jane.

"What?" asked Trent.

"Nothing. So," Daria said, " I see you managed to find the place."

"Brilliant deduction, Sherlock." Jane replied.

"Elementary, my dear Watson. Elementary."

"I thought this was a college." said Trent.

Daria rolled her eyes. "It is, Trent. Welcome to the Morgendorffer University of Erotic Dance. Pasties are optional."

From underneath the console, there came a sudden, throaty "Rrrowrr !"

Jane froze. "It isn't. It can't be. No freaking way."

Up popped a familiar face. It was, indeed, Charles "Upchuck" Rutthiemer III, in all of his unseemly glory. Like Daria, he was garbed in a white lab coat, the sleeves rolled up to his elbows. "Well, well, well !  If it isn't the tempestuous Miss Lane, in all her elegant majesty !" he leered.

"You're working with UPCHUCK !" Jane cried, giving Daria a startled look.

"Feisty !" Upchuck declared.

"Down, Chuckie, or I use the shock collar again." Daria said.

"Eep!" cried Charles, "Sorry about that, Daria. Um. How are you, Jane?" His voice took on a more civilized inflection.

"Mildly nauseated, at the moment. What in the hell is he doing here, Daria?"

"Now, now, Jane," said Daria, " a little aversion therepy has tamed some of the more revolting aspects of our old Upchuck here." Charles cringed momentarily at the mention of aversion therepy. "But he happens to possess a surprisingly insightful scientific mind. Even if his personality is composed of greasy Tinker Toys."

"Just as Miss Morgendorffer here has exhibited an outstanding capacity for theoretical physics," Charles quipped back, "in spite of her sledgehammer wit."

"Don't forget my sadistic tendancies, Charles." siad Daria. She held her hand up, as if holding an imaginary remote control. "Zzzap!" she said, pressing her thumb downwards. Charles winced again.

Jane was dumbstruck. "You've been working here with Upchuck for, what, four months now?" Daria nodded. "Yet every time I asked you about this project of yours, you clammed up tighter than Rumsfeld's sphincter. I don't get it, Daria."

Daria's face turned regretful as she sighed. "I'm sorry about that, Jane. But I couldn't tell you anything about this project until you had recieved the proper security clearances. That took some time."

Jane looked around for Trent. She saw him stretched out on the floor, asleep again. "Yet you managed to get one for Rip Van Winkle in just one day?" she challenged.

Daria glanced at Trent's prone form. "That was easy. Appearently, the only things any computer anywhere has on him are his birth certificate, school transcripts, and driver's license. No tax returns, no work history, or police records. Took about an hour."

"Okay, I can see that, but why all the security? There's an armed guard upstairs; we're five stories underground, and I've barely seen you in the last four months. What's going on?"

Daria opened her mouth to reply, but Charles stepped forward and said, "Allow me to enlighten you, Miss Lane! Have you ever seen 'Star Drek'?"

Jane nodded. "Yeah, I like to watch that show. I don't play dress-up-like-your-favorite-character or learn to speak some made-up language, but I'm familiar with it."

Charles swept his right arm grandiosely to the box in the center of the room. "Feast your eyes upon the world's first fully-functioning transporter unit !"

"Oh, come on!" said Jane cynically, "Even I know that's impossible !"

"No longer, my dear !" Charles declared. "Thanks to Miss Morgendorffer's knowledge of molecular transmogrification combined with my unsurpassed electronic proficiency, you may now send anything, anywhere in the world!" He beamed with pride. "Or anybody--"

The large door in the back of the room suddenly opened with a bang. Kevin Thompson entered, carrying a hamster in a cage. Like the others, he was wearing a white lab coat.

"Here you go, Daria!  I changed the bedding in Hindenburg's cage, and gave him some of those pellet thingies!" he said with a grin. Noticing Jane, he beamed at her. "Hey, Jane! I'm a scientologist now!"

"The word is scientist, Kevin. And no, you're not. What's rule number three?" Daria said.

Kevin thought for a moment, and said, "Kevin doesn't do any experiments. He builds the cabinets, hooks stuff up, and cleans up. Oh yeah, and takes care of Hindenburg!" He smiled at Daria, goofily.

"Very good, Kevin." Daria reached into her coat pocket and produced a gummy bear. She tossed it at Kevin, who caught it in his hand and shoved it in his mouth. "But the hamster's name is Heisenburg. Try to remember that, okay?"

"Mgphkay." Kevin said, still chewing. He swallowed, and then said, again, "Hey, Jane!"

Jane turned to Daria, and said sharply, "Alright, Morgendorffer, joke's over. Ha-ha, very funny. The security guard was a nice touch,  really had me going there. First tweedle-dee," she jerked a thumb at Charles, "and then tweedle-dumb. I know you make a decent living, your Melody Powers novels are selling well, and you obviously went to a lot of trouble and spent a lot of money for a cheap laugh at my expense, but I thought you were my friend. This isn't very funny and if-"

"Jane." Daria said sharply. "It's no joke. We have built a transporter. It can instantly move any object from here to anywhere in the world. We have only one final test to perform, and that's why you're here."

Jane turned away, her mind reeling. This was far, far too much to absorb at once.

"But first," interjected Charles, "we must finish assembling the return control hookups. Come, Kevin, we have work to do." Kevin walked toward the console where Daria and Charles were working earlier, but stopped suddenly.

"Daria, why is there a homeless guy asleep on the floor?" he inquired.

"That's Jane's brother, Kevin. Just let him sleep." said Daria.

"Oh no you don't! You pulled that one on me with that Tom guy! Hey, wake up, homeless guy!" Kevin leaned over and shook Trent.

"NO!" Trent shouted, "No more Polish women!" He sat up quickly, momentarily disoriented. He noticed they were all staring at him. "What?"

Jane turned to Daria, frowning. "What kind of test are we talking about?"

Daria looked at her friend. She could see that Jane was very conflicted about the whole thing, her usually confident features looking quite unsure. Maybe best to talk in private for a bit, she thought.

"Step into my office and we'll get the papers signed first. Make sure you get paid." said Daria. She gestured to one of the two doors on the left wall; she and Jane walked over to it in silence. Daria held the door for her, and closed it when they had both entered. Charles and Kevin knelt down to continue installing some equipment.

"Hmm." said Trent, looking closely at some of the machinery. "You got more knobs on these things than a Mesa Boogie cabinet head. What's it all for?"

Charles completed his tasks, stood up, clapsed his hands together, and prepared to dazzle Trent with his brilliance. Kevin waited patiently to be useful again. He thought of gummy bears and drooled.

Daria closed the door, and they were alone in her office. It was a comfortable reflection of it's owner, both vintage and modern meeting in some exotic dance of styles. A beautifully made wooden desk, stained dark like the cabinets in the outer room, dominated the center of the office; two antique, comfortable-looking chairs sat facing it. An extensive computer system, with plasma monitor, sat to the right on a seperate cabinet. An ornate brass lamp, with green glass shade, sat beside it on the desk, filling the room with a pleasant, soft light. To Jane's left, she saw a modern, chrome coat rack, holding Daria's expensive-looking green camel-hair coat.

"Heh. I thought by office, you meant bathroom." said Jane.

"Nah, you have to use the elevator to get to those. Level two is men's, three for us."

"Ours is closer."

Daria grinned. "RHIP."


"Rank hath its privileges." Daria gestured at the coat rack. "Take off your coat, stay awhile."

Jane did so, placing hers next to Daria's. She moved to the chair nearest her, and Daria sat on the desktop, her booted feet dangling.

Gently, Daria said, "What's wrong, Jane?" Let me in, please. I don't like the. . . distance in your face.

Jane folded her arms and looked away. "Nothing." she said. Not by the hair on my chinny-chin-chin.

"Jane. I have known you for seven years. I know when something's wrong. Spill." Pretty please, with pizza on top?

"Well, you used to know..." Take that, Misery Chick.

"What do you mean?" Explain yourself, Quarterback killer.

Jane sighed, and looked Daria in the eyes. "Daria, we've been drifting apart for the last few months. We didn't even go home for Christmas this year." She paused. " We always do that."

"Is that what this is about?" asked Daria, still puzzled.

"Sort of....I mean....I don't know what I mean. I guess.... it's just that...."

"Out with it, Lane." Daria commanded.

Jane paused for a deep breath, and said, "We're moving in opposite directions. You're a published author. You're a college professor. Now I find out you're also a mad scientist working with Upchuck and Rat Boy." Jane paused again, her eyes misting slightly. In a low voice she said, "You don't need me anymore."

Daria almost lept off the desk. She knelt down in front of Jane's chair, and said softly, "You don't really beleive that, do you?"

A single tear fell down Jane's cheek. "I'm a nobody."

Daria gently wiped Jane's cheek with her thumb. "Well....nobody's perfect."

Jane chuckled in spite of herself. "Ha ha. I get it."

"Jane, you are my one true best friend. I need you now more than I ever have. Do you realise what's going to happen when word of my work here gets out ?  It's going to get crazy, absolutely crazy. I'll need you by my side just to keep me sane." Daria let this sink in, and said, "I'll even pay you for it."

Jane frowned. "I don't want charity, Daria."

"Okay, screw charity." Daria suddenly stood up and walked around to the opposite side of her desk. She sat in her overstuffed office chair, reached into a drawer, and pulled out some papers. Plopping her feet up on the desk, she thrust the papers at Jane. "Earn your money."

Jane read. "Hmm...ten thousand be the first human to be transported...five thousand for a second experiment...two thousand for any subsequent million dollars to next of kin in case of..." She looked up at Daria, questioningly. "..accident ?"

"If it doesn't work, Trent's a millionaire." Daria said.

Jane smiled, some of her old self coming to the fore. "So THAT"S your evil plan.  Kill me for the insurance and marry my suddenly rich brother! I knew you were up to something!"

"Oh bite me, Lane. I knew I shouldn't have let you read that." Placing her feet under her desk, Daria leaned forward and said, "But seriously, it will work. Just last week, we transported Heisenburg from here to Kevin's dorm room. I've been monitoring his vitals, and checked his DNA. He's perfectly healthy, exactly the same as before he left."

"Hold it, back up a bit." Jane said, raising her hand. "Kevin's a student here?"

"Raft decided to start a football team last year."

"And he's the QB?"

Daria nodded. "O'Neill and DeMartino worked together to get him graduated, Ms. Li somehow fixed it so he could play high school ball for two more years, and then they got him into Lawndale State. He played there for two years, and Raft sent him an invitation to be a walk-on. He needed a science credit to maintain elegibility, and the Dean saddled me with him in exchange for building me this laboratory."

"I can't believe you'd be a part of academic fraud, Daria." Jane declared.

"Hmph. I admit I was furious at first, but Kevin actually seems to understand that he has to behave himself and study a little. He's actually quite useful, when you reward him properly." Daria reached into her lab coat pocket and produced a couple of gummy bears. She tossed one to Jane and ate the other. After she swallowed, she continued. "Summers spent working with his dad actually gave him some decent woodworking skills. He built all the cabinets out there, and my desk too. He can follow a blueprint accurately, and as long as Upchuck shows him exactly what to do, he can do some electronics work as well."

"Isn't he a security risk, though?" asked Jane.

"There is that possibility, but look: if Kevin told you he was a scientologist who transplanted the Hindenburg into his dorm room, would you believe him?"

Jane laughed. "Okay, I see your point, but what about Upchuck? Last I remember, his Dad got him into Hardwood."

"Yes, he graduated top of his class with honors, same as me, but of course, a Hardwood degree is worth a lot more in the job market. Yet, the first thing he did was come here to enroll in my graduate program. At first, he hit on me, I hit back, same old same old. But I applied a little 'electrical influence' to get him to behave, and he eventually told me about his theories for a transporter. We worked out the actual designs, and I had Mom draw up an iron-clad contract; I retain all patents and he retains the rights to the electronics distribution. This made his Dad so happy, he set up a secret meeting with the Department of Transportation, and presto: instant grant for millions to do the research. Only stipulation: absolute secrecy until it's completed. Even the millitary knows nothing about it. "

"But won't they find out when you start to sell them?" inquired Jane.

"We're not going to, right away. When we finish here, we're going to transport the plans to all the heads of state in the world. Each country will have one."

"But isn't that dangerous? What if the Queen of North Korea decides to beam a nuke into Dubbaya's bedroom?"

"They can't. You know how on 'Star Drek' they had bio-filters to screen out diseases? Our design has that, plus a weaponary filter, hardwired to the design in such a way so that it won't work without them. They can't build it legally without Rutthiemer Inc.'s electronics. Upchuck also built a secret signal into the design so we can tell if an illegal one starts operating; we beam it and the plans away from any scoundrels. Lawyers and businessmen truly rule the world. And I," she said with a grin, "shall rule them all. Umm, I mean, we shall. Me, Upchuck, and you. Yes." Daria sat back and looked at Jane. "So, you in?"

Jane thought hard for a moment. "I still don't know if I wanna be a molecular jigsaw puzzle, Daria. What if something goes wrong?"

"Jane, I wouldn't risk your life if I thought for a moment that it would. And if it does, I swear I will destroy the transporter and retire into an alcoholic haze. Until I marry Trent, of course." Daria smirked.

Jane thought some more. "I don't know...."

Daria rose up from her seat, and returned to her kneeling position in front of Jane. Softly, she said, "I wouldn't hurt you for the world, Jane." You didn't kill him.

Jane grasped Daria's hands and stood up.

Jane smiled at Daria. "Okay, amiga. Let's do it!" You're not the Misery Chick.

Daria stood as well. "All right, then." she smiled.

"All right, then." Jane disengaged herself from Daria's hands and leaned over the desk. She signed the papers with a flourish.

They left Daria's office, to find Trent listening absently to Charles' explanation of the transporter. Kevin, having heard all this before (and understanding almost none of it), was wiping down the front of the console where Charles and he had completed their work.

"One computer handles the information input load, and the other manages the send signals and re-assembly at the chosen destination. And," Charles said proudly, "we have just finished installing a remote return capability. The subject simply wears one of our signal badges, and we can return them from their journey with the push of a button!"

"Huh," said Trent. "Can it make me some cheese fries? I'm kinda hungry..."

"No...that would be a food replicator. I do have some ideas for that, though. If we.." Daria interrupted Charles with a cough. He and Trent turned to look at her.

"Later, Doctor Cochran. It's time to get to work." she said. The two sat at their respective terminals and began typing commands. Jane turned to Trent.

"Daria told me about the job, Trent." she said.

"Cool. What do you do?"

Jane looked her brother directly in the eyes. "It's a little bit dangerous. I'm going to be their first human subject; they stick me in that thing and beam me somewhere. Like Wonkavision, only I'll stay the same size."

"Heh. I remember that movie."

"Something unexpected could happen." Jane said. She leaned in closer to her brother and said in a low voice, "If you don't want me to do it, I won't."

Trent thought for a moment. His eyes drifted to Daria, seated at her computer station, typing furiously. He said to his sister, "Daria doesn't lie. If she says it'll be okay, it will be."

Jane kissed her brother lightly on the cheek, her confidence buoyed by his attitude.

Daria stopped her typing and said to Charles, "All systems green."

"Affirmative. All green on my board." replied Charles.

"Good." said Daria. She swiveled her chair around and asked Jane, "So where would you like to go?"

Jane thought for a few seconds, then said, "All this snow and stuff is too damned depressing for me. I wanna go to the beach! Daytona Beach!"

Charles responded with a resounding, "And so you shall, fair maiden !" He typed 'Daytona' into the destination box on his screen.

Far above, on the roof of the building, a small shack suddenly split open at the walls, and a huge satellite dish appeared and came to life, rotating into its proper position.

Daria reached into a drawer, and pulled out a small, thin plastic device about the size of a playing card, only longer. "Here, Jane. Attach this somewhere next to your skin. It needs to be in direct contact with you."

"Well, how do I do that?" Jane asked. "Is it like a band-aid?"

", we'll have to fix that for next time. Umm....stuff it in your bra."

As if some pervert switch had been thrown in his brain, Charles lept up and cried, "I'll do it !" Jane lept back a few feet with an "Eep !" Trent stepped forward menacingly to intercept Charles. Daria, startled by the sudden movements, jumped out of her chair to stand next to Jane.

Blissfully unaware, Kevin came around to the other side of the console and began to wipe off Charles' computer screen with a cloth. The others, preoccupied with the situation, failed to notice him.

"Back off, man." Trent said with steel in his voice. He gripped Charles' lapels and spun him around away from Jane.

Day-to-na thought Kevin. Hey, I remember when Dad and me went there! Hmm, that doesn't look quite right. The rusty wheels of his brain, unused to thinking very often, suddenly made a sharp spin. He reached down and hit three of the keys with his index finger. Yeah! That's right! He stepped over to Daria's screen and began to wipe it off.

On the roof, the satellite dish moved imperceptibly to the right.

Daria regained her composure rapidly. She made the remote cotrol configuration with her hand again, and said,"Charles, control yourself, or else...Zzzap!"

With Trent in his face, and Daria's intent clear, Charles wilted quickly. "No! It was an accident! I'm sorry! I'm sorry!"

"Let him go, Trent." said Jane. Trent complied, releasing Charles, who looked ashamed.

"Sorry Jane, Daria. Sir. Old habits die hard." Charles looked up with a puppy dog face. "It won't happen again, I swear."

"It better not." said Trent, coldly.

"All right people. Crises over. Back to business." Daria said. She turned to Jane and said, "Go into my office what you have to do." Jane did as Daria suggested.

Daria turned to Charles. "All right, Upchuck moment over. Let's finalize our calculations." She gestured towards the console, and Charles warily crept past Trent to sit at his station. He grabbed his mouse and scrolled down the screen.

Kevin finished cleaning Daria's screen and moved to allow her to sit down. He looked at Trent as if seeing him for the first time. "Hey homeless guy! I'm a, wait, I'm not...I'm...I'm the QB!"

"Right." said Trent, moving away from Kevin to watch Daria. Kevin shrugged and went off to dust the cabinets.

Jane returned in a moment and walked up to the booth. "Okay, what next?"

"Step inside. One trip to Daytona, coming up." said Daria. Jane eyed the booth for a split second, inhaled sharply, and stepped inside.

"What are these handgrips for?" she asked.

"Gives you something wholesome to do with your hands." smirked Daria.

"You are such a bitch." said Jane.

"No, you are." countered Daria.

"No, you." Jane gripped the handles. "Ready."

Daria's hand stretched out to a red button marked "SEND". Her index finger hovered over it.

"Bring me back a seashell, Janey." said Trent.

"Bye Jane!" said Kevin. "Have fun at the Daytona 500! I know I sure did!"

"The what?" asked Charles.

Daria's finger pressed the button. A low humming sound began, followed by a flash of blue-green plasma.
Jane disapeared.

Something went wrong.

Sonny Pitstop shifted gears on his race car, increasing his speed slightly as he culminated his slingshot out of turn three. Adrenaline coursed through his veins as he flew around the track; if he kept up his speed, he would achieve his highest ever finish at the Daytona 500. Sonny was currently running eighth in the pack, his best position in twelve tries as a NASCAR driver. His sponsor, Ultra Chicken, would be very happy with a top ten finish, possibly earning him a bonus and another contract.

Sonny heard his crew chief on the headset, reminding him to pit at least one more time before the race was over. Sonny acknowledged, and checked his fuel gauge. He should be able to run at least three more laps before having to pit, and informed his crew chief of this fact. He could see pit row up ahead, and was planning on passing it by, when suddenly, an inexplicable blue-green flash on his right startled him. He whipped his head to the right, and saw an astounding sight.

A young woman was tangled in the cargo netting that served as his passenger side window. Her right hand clutched a wad of the netting, and her left gripped the top of the rear window. Her legs, clad in black tights, were visible from the knees down, ending in a pair of substantial black boots. Apparently, her rear end was dangling out of the window, visible to the fans but not to Sonny. Her oval face, framed by a mushroom of black hair, displayed a look of abject terror. Ruby red lips formed an "O" of surprised astonishment at her predicament, then broke into an embarrassed-looking smile.

"Hi! Can you please pull over? I really gotta pee!" she said, shouting over the engine's roar. Sonny hit his brakes, and steered towards pit row, intending to stop and have her arrested as soon as possible. How could she have gotten into his window like that? It didn't seem possible.

Just as Sonny's car left the race track, the same blue-green flash eveloped the girl, and she was gone. The cargo netting snapped back into its usual shape, and a barely perceptable *pop* reached his ears.

"What the...?" Sonny said out loud, but there was no one there to hear him. He drove his car to his crews' position, came to a halt, and removed his helmet. His crew chief's face suddenly appeared at his window, "Sonny, I thought you just said you were good for three more laps. Something wrong?"

"Did you see that?" Sonny asked. "There was...a my window...well, halfway in...where'd she go?"

"Sonny, are you okay? You didn't go out partying with Elliot again last night, did you? I've told you a hundred times, that's the oldest trick in the book....." Sonny stopped listening. He sat in stunned silence. Didn't anyone see? The fans must have seen. Maybe even the T.V. cameras had seen something.

Sonny's crew finished filling his tank. He prepared to re-enter the race, when a horrible, gut-wrenching sound filled the air. Sonny saw the yellow flag, and knew a crash had occurred. He replaced his helmet, hit the accelerator, and took off. Scanning ahead as soon as his veiw permitted, he saw a massive pile-up had taken out several cars. Carefully steering around it, he took his place behind the pace car.

Realisation dawned on him. If the girl had not appeared in his window, he would have been in the accident.

She had saved his life.

She was an angel. A real, live guardian angel. Just like in that book he'd been reading.

Some time later.....

Jane sat in Daria's office, an emergency thermal blanket wrapped around her shoulders ("In case of shock," Daria had said). They had pulled her back as quickly as possible, almost immediately, and she had returned to a chaotic scene of Daria in a state of nearly manic anger. Upchuck and Kevin were on the recieving end of the most awful tirade of four-letter words Jane thought she had ever heard, and a red-faced Daria Morgendorffer was the surprising source.  Trent, apparently quite happy to not be on the recieving end of her formidable temper tantrum, had walked over and embraced his sister, pulling her out of the machinery. Upon seeing Jane safe and sound, Daria had regained her composure and began directing traffic, ordering Charles to get a blanket from the emergency kit and sending a chastened Kevin off in search of coffee. Daria had wrapped the blanket Charles produced around her friend's shoulders, and steered her into the office to sit down. A slightly disheveled-looking Jane had meekly agreed, disengaging herself from her concerned brother's hug. She now sat in silence, trying to absorb this bizzare experience.

The office door opened, and Daria entered, carrying a steaming thermos cup. She offered it to Jane.

"Raspberry hot chocolate," Daria explained, "courtesy of Kathy Krupke, the security guard's wife." Jane accepted gratefully, while Daria sat at her desk. She let out a sigh.

"Well, that didn't go very well. I should have known better than to let football boy anywhere near this project." she said, dejectedly.

Jane sipped her drink, and said, "Ah, don't take it so hard, amiga, 'm okay. Your experiment worked. I'm back, safe and sound. See? No blood, no inside out monkey, just little Janey with her hair messed up."

"I could have gotten you killed." Daria said, softly.

"Daria, it was an accident. You didn't do anything wrong." Jane consoled.

Daria sat wordlessly for a moment, lost in thought. Then she said, "Thank you, Jane, but it occurs to me that if this technology got into the hands of some psychotic mafia boss, he could beam people in front of semi-trucks or busses. Our technology couldn't stop something like that." She sighed again. "Maybe we should just forget about this..."

"Tell you what," said Jane, "let's forget about this stuff right now. Let's get some Chinese take-out, go back to my place, and drown our sorrows in "Sick, Sad World" and some bad movies. I'll treat...where's my money, Morgendorffer?" She grinned at Daria, who managed a slight smirk.

"That sounds good. question." Daria paused, and asked, "What did it feel like?"

Jane thought for a second, and said simply, "It tickles."


"Mm-yeah. It's like your whole body is being tickled from the inside out. Really weird, but not unpleasant."

"Huh. That's good, I suppose." Daria stood up. "All right, fried rice and junk T.V. Who could resist?"

Jane finished her drink, shrugged off the blanket, and stood as well. She gathered their coats, and the trenchant twosome exited the room.

They emerged into the main room, only to see Trent asleep on one of the chairs. Jane walked to her brother, put one hand on his shoulder, and softly said,"Trent? "

Trent sleepily mumbled, "...Jeez,  Jess, I'll buy you a new shirt..." and resumed his sonorous snoring. Jane said to Daria, "He's out pretty good."

Daria said, "Let him sleep. We'll leave him a note telling him what's up; we can take my car and he'll just have to catch up with us later. Oh, and tell him..." Daria whispered something in Jane's ear, and Jane laughed out loud.

"Oh this I gotta see!" Jane guffawed.

"Well, walk this way.." Daria replied, grinning.

"If I could walk that way, I wouldn't need the talcum powder." Jane said, still chuckling.

"Oh, shut up." Daria said, heading for the large door in the back of the room.

Daria opened the door and entered Kevin's workshop. The room was filled with a wide assortment of woodworking tools and not just a little sawdust. Two figures sat in chairs bound with duct tape.

"Jane and I have decided to call it a day, gentlemen. We are going home, and we'll leave Trent a note telling him to release you. I hope this little disciplinary action will dissuade you from further acts of random stupidity." She fixed a steely gaze on the two.

"Yes, ma'am." said Charles and Kevin in unison.

"Good" said Daria. Jane struggled to keep from convulsing with laughter at the sight of the two bound to the point of immobility. Daria turned and pulled Jane's arm, steering her to the exit. The door closed with a thud.

"Chuckup?" Kevin asked.

"Don't call me that." said Charles. "What is it?"

"I gotta pee!" said Kevin.

Daria and Jane exited the elevator and stepped over to Krupke's desk. He put down his book and smiled at them.

Daria smirked. "Still putting those intense security skills to good use, eh Krupke?"

Krupke chuckled. "Still the most charming professor on campus, I see."

Daria returned his thermos cup. "Thanks for the hot chocolate, Fred. We're headed out."

"Okay. The others leaving soon?" he asked.

"Pretty soon. One's still asleep, the other two are...tied up." Daria's smirk widened slightly. Jane snickered.

Krupke rolled his eyes. "Not again, Daria. I am not cleaning that elevator this time."

"Yeah, wouldn't want to add to your already crushing work load.  Go let them out, if you want."

"Can I tape the Thompson kid's mouth shut first? Gods, how did he get into this fine institution?"

"He definately needs to be in an institution, all right. But the thirst for gridiron victory knows no bounds."
Daria waved her hand in a dismissive gesture. "Do what you want with them. We're outie."

"See you," smiled Jane. Krupke returned her smile, and the two walked up the corridor.

An hour later, Daria's purple PT Cruiser was parked in front of Jane's tenement building. It was not a pleasant part of town, and Daria vowed to get Jane her money as soon as possible. She had never wanted her friend to move into this dump, but Jane had insisted on maintaining her independence. Daria hoped she would change her mind about that, or at the very least, find a more suitable living space. She could see how living here had given Jane a negative atitiude about herself.

Jane's studio apartment walls were covered in her paintings, many of which, Daria noted, had an obvious downward cast to them. The corners were stacked with canvases, and a few odd-looking sculptures littered the floor. Daria saw the ever-present Stickmata 2000 glue gun near one of them. Jane had cleared off her futon, covered mostly with clothes in various states of filthy. The two of them sat on the overstuffed padding, boxes of Chinese take-out scattered around them.

"Pass me the Kung Pao shrimp," Daria said, between bites.

"Uh-uh," said Jane. "The last time you ate that, we had to fumigate the whole floor."

"It wasn't that bad," said Daria.

"The neighbor's bloodhound jumped out the window."

"You're on the first floor."

"He went blind for three days. So did I."

"Fine," said Daria, reaching for a handfull of crab rangoons. "Turn on the news, will you? I want to see if this weather's going to change anytime soon."

"Yeah, April, I think." Jane reached for the remote, and flipped the channel to the local news.

"..controversial ending to today's Daytona 500," the announcer said. "The race ended shortly after a massive pile-up eliminated the top seven positions." The T.V. screen showed flying debris, smoke, and various car parts filling the air. "Heavy favorite Stacy Rowe, the most successful female driver in history, got into an altercation with another driver, Smokey Tyres, after the track was cleared." Daria and Jane's jaws dropped. Onscreen now, the diminutive form of the Fasion Club's meekest member, immaculatley clad in a form-fitting jumpsuit covered in cosmetics advertising, could be seen shouting at a larger, equally vociferous male. Suddenly, Stacy swung an overhand right at the man's head, which snapped back as if struck by a Lennox Lewis punch.

"Did we do that?" Jane asked. Daria shrugged, bewildered.

"NASCAR officials' initial report indicated that Tyres rear-ended Rowe's Waif Dodge Stratus, causing the chain reaction crash." The screen showed a slow-motion film of exactly that. Jane breathed a sigh of relief.She hadn't caused the accident.

"But in yet another bizzare twist to the story, Daytona's official winner, Sonny Pitstop, made some unusual remarks at victory lane."

The screen showed a happy looking man, clutching a huge trophy, with several men in the background spraying champagne on each other. " I want to thank my guardian angel for asking me to pull over and keeping me out of the wreck!" he shouted. "She saved my life!" Jane felt her stomach drop.

"Track cameras recorded the alleged angel sighting. The film clearly shows something.."

Jane let a small "Ungh!" escape her lips as a blurry film showed what was surely her own rear end hanging out of the car's window.

"Umm..." was all a startled Daria could say. Jane flipped to the next local station, where the same footage could be seen.

"...and our own sports team has sent this footage through a special computer enhancement, in hopes of clarifying the matter."

The screen showed a slightly clearer vision, with a magnified derriere filling the entire window with its curves. Jane leapt up from the futon, scattering food in all directions.

"My butt's not that big!" Jane screamed, twisting her upper torso around in a fruitless effort to veiw her own cheeks. " it?"

"Umm..." Daria repeated.

"NASCAR officials refused to make an official statement regarding the matter, but our own Brad Hairdo caught up with racing official Sparky Pluggs outside the meeting room."

"We are not releasing any information at this time, pending an investigation." said a well-manicured man in a suit. "We are currently turning this film over to specialists in this type of identification."

The scene switched to an obese man with glasses, a moustache, and slicked-back hair. The caption simply said A SPECIALIST.

"Well, we don't really know what to make of this. It may require multiple veiwings before anything can be determined." The man then leered at the camera and wiggled his eyebrows.

Jane let the remote slip from her fingers. She clasped her head in her hands, sitting down abruptly.

After a long pause, Daria found her voice again. "Umm..don't worry, Jane. This will all blow over...eventually. They'll find some new story to jump all over, and this will all be forgotten..."

Jane sighed.

Two weeks later...

Daria had been proven correct. The media, constantly on the search for fresh meat for their grinders, had chewed on the story for a few days, and had quickly moved on. Jane spent a few nights gazing at her own buttocks on the news, and suddenly, the story died. Racing officials would niether confirm nor deny that a human being could have been in the car with Sonny. He was listed as the official winner of the Daytona 500.

Jane had kept a low profile, but found it was largely unnecessary; none could identify her as the subject of the controversy. Soon, she and Daria were back to their old selves, planning to eat dinner and have a bad movie night.

Daria had prepared a meal of chicken florentine, after reading about the recipe in a book. She and Jane sat in Daria's comfortable mid-town apartment, eating heartily and sipping merlot.

"Daria, you know red wine's not for chicken, right?" Jane asked.

"Yes, Jane, but as Justin Wilson used to say, 'The best kind of wine to drink is the kind you've got in the house.'"

"Mmm...good philosophy..."

"What time is it?" asked Daria.

"Almost seven. Time for 'Sick, Sad World' !"

Daria clicked the T.V. on, and the familiar green and red eyeball logo was visible.

"Tonight: Did a guardian angel save this race driver from certain death? Holy Rolling Hot Rods, next, on Sick, Sad World! "

"Umm..." said Daria.

"Oy...." said Jane.