Newer versions of this 'fic may be available here. Then again, knowing Crosswinds, maybe not.

DISCLAIMER: Any characters/events/situations/whatever relating to Daria are property of Viacom, Glenn and Susie. Any characters/events/situations/whatever relating to X-Men are property of Marvel, whoever was responsible for the movie and Stan. Please don't sue me. Anything that can't be traced to either show is probably mine, and anyone attempting to use or post it without my permission (or failing to send feedback) will die a slow and painful death at the hands of Humphrey B. Bear.

If you're unfamiliar with the X-Men, you might want to click here to find out what's going on...
Endnotes are at the end, surprisingly enough, done in J's style.
Now, on with the show:

It's happening again. Somewhere in my head, I know it's a dream. A nightmare. That doesn't help.

I'm back in the lab again. They had tried to give me anaesthetic for the operation. Of course it didn't work for very long. It never did. I've woken up split open down my body, again, every bone exposed, again, kept open by clamps so I won't heal over. A gag keeps me from screaming. The clamps keeps me from struggling. The pain is...

And then comes the molten metal.

I wake up.


(SCENE: Open road, farmland area. Lots of green, therapeutic to those of a certain frame of mind... such as Mr O'Neill, driving a small, "practical" mid-eighties car (use your imagination, hopefully it's less vivid than mine), talking with typical enthusiasm to an unsure-looking Barch, riding shotgun. Looking out the front windscreen, we see an ornate set of metal gates, with a large sign reading: LIBRATIA EDUCATORS' RETREAT. The gates open automatically, and the car goes through.)

O'NEILL: ... and not only will we finally get to meet your sister, I hear the speaker they have tomorrow is wonderful! Just a short half hour, and you come out feeling like a new teacher!

BARCH: Sounds great, skinny! (awkward pause) Isn't that whale sounds show on the radio you like on now?

O'NEILL: (looks at car clock in front of him) Oh no, you're right! It'll already have started! I hope I haven't missed anything exciting...

(He hastily flips on the radio, but not to worry -- he hasn't missed anything exciting, even by the standards of whalesong broadcast. But after a few seconds, the undeniably relaxing calls of the Orca (as opposed to the kind found on #Daria+) is obnoxiously interrupted by an overblown radio news theme, and the quacking of some third-rate wannabe Ugly Phil...)

RADIO ANNOUNCER: (more self-important than urgent) And we interrupt our scheduled program to bring you this special report. (O'Neill looks at Barch, concerned) Three people, believed to be diagnosed mutants, are confirmed dead and many more injured as a woman goes on a violent rampage in a teachers' retreat fifty miles outside Baltimore... (Barch has gone pale) Details are still unclear... (O'Neill turns the radio off)

O'NEILL: Janet? Is everything okay? (silence, except for the faint sounds of screaming in the background... the car rounds a corner, to pass the main part of the retreat complex... we see a few buildings, a car park a way ahead, a high outdoor stage seen from behind, and a whole lot of blood. A woman is standing on the stage, facing away, holding some kind of nasty-looking automatic weapon and some other meter-looking gadget... said stage is right in front of our heroes (for want of a better word).

BARCH: (deadly, not the comical semi-squeal we normally hear) Stop the car, Timothy.

O'NEILL: But it's not safe here, Janet...


(O'Neill eeps and jams the brakes on. Right behind the woman with the gun.)

BARCH: (quiet, serious) It's not safe anywhere, Timmy. Not for us. Not anymore.

(O'Neill just looks at her, bewildered and worried, as she opens the door, gets out of the car, and begins to walk towards the stage. Music: "How To Disappear Completely", Radiohead. Fade out all sound except for the music, as Ms Barch climbs a staircase at the back of the stage and strides across to confront the gunwoman. The latter turns around and points first the meter and then the gun at Barch, who smiles and says something. The gunwoman nods. Ms Barch turns around and shouts to O'Neill...)

BARCH: DRIVE, TIMMY! GET OUT OF HE-- (she's cut off, best not to know what by, fast cut to O'Neill, cringing to semi-foetal and shutting his eyes in horror and shock. He stays that way for a few seconds, before opening them again. Looking distant, he starts the car and drives off, accelerating... behind him, a street sign buckles over...)

(If we were going to bother with opening credits, we'd roll 'em right about now. This is a fanfic, we don't have the budget. So...)

Safest Emergency
MTV Mutants #1

by Caira

(SCENE: Home office, casa Landon. Andrew Landon is on the phone, talking... animatedly.)

ANDREW: Well, Danny, you can just tell the Senator that if the speech doesn't go out as is, he can kiss that little campaign donation of mine goodbye! No way are my tax dollars going to be wasted on some lousy public hospital or worthless state orphanage when there are mutant bastards out there cheating welfare, cheating business, cheating who knows what! (pause, calmer) Look, Danny. You're right, I do feel strongly about this. (back to angry) I've worked so damn hard to get where I am today, so has my wife, we have three beautiful children, and they're all succeeding on their own. To have some lousy freak of genetics take it all away...

(Cut to: A computer screen. Andrew's tirade into the phone is heard faintly in the background, fading out. We see an anonymous word-processor window on the screen, with a fairly generic (but impressive) college application essay being typed on it. Pan down and out, and there's no-one in the swivel chair actually typing -- the keys are apparently going up and down of their own accord. Zoom back, and we see Jodie Landon leaning back in an armchair, halfway across the room, talking on the 'phone, with half an eye on the computer.)

JODIE: (into the phone, grinning) Don't worry, Mack, I'm going to the dance on Friday. (pause) It's not a problem. Dad will faint -- I finished all the hundred sixty college application essays he asked me to write (pause again, the typing stops, the mouse moves, and a printer loudly springs into life in the background) ten seconds ago. I'm safe. Besides, it's not like I could turn my back on "mandatory school activities", even if he did haul me out of the design committee. See you at school tomorrow, okay? (hangs up)

(Cut to: DeMartino's homeroom. Jane, Daria, Mack, Jodie, and other assorted human debris are sitting down listening to the Evil Goddess Li (slight exaggeration) read the morning notices in various levels of attention and/or consciousness.)

MS LI: (loudspeaker V/O) And I would like to take this opportunity to inform you that the people who defaced the "Welcome to Lawndale" sign will be caught and disciplined, and that the sign has already been replaced by one by the well-known artist Andrew Blenkins, best known for his design work for One Humanity. (mutters something mercifully unintelligible) On a less... aesthetically pleasing note, some of you may be aware of the recent public outcry over... mutants in our free and fair society. After consultation with the school board and several influential local busine-- figures, it has been decided that (obligatory reverential tone) Llllaaawwndale High will implement a Genetic Watch Initiative in accordance with this state's Mutant Act of this year, starting immediately. Any student showing evidence of... naturally inexplicable abilities will be required to submit to a full medical, genetic, physical and psychiatric examination to ensure that Lawndale High can remain the secure and safe learning environment it is today. Thus concludes the morning notices. Commence learning!

(Jodie, whose expression has been dimming throughout the speech, now looks genuinely frightened. Daria sees this and makes a move to talk... but remembers the "security" cameras and thinks better of it.)

(Cut to: Lawndale High hallway, change of period. Daria and Jane run into Jodie (still looking nervous) and Mack as they leave a classroom and steer them down the hall, around a corner, past a bathroom, behind a block of lockers, through a door, down a flight of stairs and into some kind of empty storage room.)

DARIA: (calm, sympathetic) This is the only place on this side of the building where Big Brother isn't watching. Or listening. Anything you say here, stays here.

MACK: (eyebrows raised) OK. (pause) Jodie, something's been bothering you all day. What's the problem?

JODIE: It was that... Genetic Watch thing she announced.

MACK: I know. I've got a couple of friends, just out of high school, who'd be--

JODIE: It's more than that, Mack. (She pulls a pen out of her bag, and floats it slowly from one hand to the other. The others just stare.)

JANE: (first to recover) Does anyone else know? Your parents?

JODIE: No, you guys are the first. Dad would freak if he found out. (not worried so much as resigned) He hates three things: taxes, welfare cheats and "mutes".

JANE: Well, at least you can keep this one hidden easy enough. (pause, as if in thought, then cautious) What do you think I've been doing for the last few weeks?

DARIA & JODIE: Excuse me?

JANE: You know those little rain showers we normally have in the mornings around here about this time of year?

JODIE: Yeah, but...

JANE: You noticed how there haven't been as many lately? Especially on the mornings when I'm out running? (she lets this sink in)

DARIA: (slight disbelief) And why haven't I found out about this until now?

JANE: Um... nerves? (Daria cocks an eyelid) Seriously, I wasn't sure... how you'd take it.

DARIA: I'm not my sister, Jane. As long as I'm not the one who gets struck by lightning, I couldn't care less. (pause) I think there's a fashion club meeting at my house tonight -- do you want to come over? (Jane smirks, Daria follows suit, Jodie and Mack look at them like they're not sure if they're joking or not.)

(a pause)

MACK: So, do we know if anyone else is...

JODIE: Nobody I know of. And now Ms Li's effectively declared us untermenschen, it's not like anyone's going to be going out of their way to... (fire siren starts to ring) ... tell the world...

(Mack starts to go out the way they came. Daria shakes her head and guides him to another door on the other side of the storeroom. Jane and Jodie follow.)

Sitting quietly in Bennet's economics, some boring as hell Monday morning. I sketch a wolverine on the pad in front of me, instead of the usual football diagram on crystal meth that's on the board. But at least she isn't a total fruit loop like the rest of them. She just can't teach for shit.

Every other class has been let out for ages now. With the bell. But old Bennet can't always hear it from this end of the building, or that's her excuse anyway. I can, of course. But I can hear a lot of things. All the way to the cafeteria one way, or Ms Barch's lab, halfway across the building. I cast an ear her way, maybe the random male she's relieving of the burden of self-esteem will deserve it this time. Search... relative silence. Nobody's there. Barch is taking the day off, it seems. Isn't the kid creeping up on her door going to be relieved.

(SCENE: Ms Barch's lab, five minutes earlier. Said teacher is absent due to fatal illness (cranio-facial lead infusion). The door rattles and squeaks as it is opened the slightest amount. Come to think of it, not all of those squeaks were made by hinges... sure enough, it's Brittany at the door, peeking in with trebida-- trepi-- like she's really scared! Seeing that the coast is clear, she tiptoes in and puts a paper on the late Ms Barch's desk. She starts to leave, pauses, looks around, and gets what can only be described as an I'm-about-to-do-something-bad-but-fun! grin on her face (and not the kind of thing you're thinking of, Miss Friedman! Get your mind out of the gutter, it could use the change of scenery after so many years...) and goes over to one of the benches. It's overcast outside, the lights aren't on and it's hard to see much. Opening the cabinet, she removes a Bunsen burner and gas hose, which she connects to one of the gas taps. Cut to an overhead shot of the burner igniting -- no matches required. We zoom back, and see that the gas tap isn't on either. Meanwhile, Brittany is looking at the pretty blue flame, fascinated.)

BRITTANY: Ooooh...

(She gently picks up the burner with her right hand and ever so carefully moves it so that the flame is going straight into her other hand. Instead of getting burnt, her left hand "ignites" itself -- the flames doing no damage to her skin, just floating a millimetre or so above and looking pretty and orange. Putting the Bunsen burner down, she clasps her hands together, spreading the fire, and starts waving them about. They trail sparks and larger teardrop-shaped flames, hanging in the dark air for a few seconds before disappearing. Brittany keeps it up with a vacant-as-usual look in her eyes, utterly mesmerised by her own lightshow, watching it expand and become more complex. Then she draws her hands back behind her head... and decides to twirl one of her ponytails. Bad move. Whatever it is keeping her hands from catching alight doesn't apply to dead cells, such as hair. Net result: flames in close proximity to her head, which she knows at least instinctively is somewhat essential to her ongoing life.)

BRITTANY: (Yeah, I know it's obvious and clichéd, but I can't keep on writing descriptions for twenty lines straight. It's boring.) Eep!

(The fire alarm we heard earlier goes off in the background. Every gas tap in the room has a metre-long jet of flame coming out of it, providing a little light. She flails about, her now partially-extinguished hands occasionally slapping at the burning ponytail. She stumbles out of the room...)

The kid creeps up to Barch's desk like an amateur spy, but spies, even the amateurs, tend not to squeak so much. Oh, joy, it's our much-loved head cheerleader. But she's female, it's not like she has to worry about the real wrath of the teacher... even if she does have an assignment late, which would be the likely reason why she's putting a piece of paper on the desk. Starts to leave, stops and turns around, and goes to one of the benches. Opens a cupboard, removes... something... can't hear that much... does... something... I sniff. She's playing with fire, obviously. But that doesn't smell like a gas flame now. Sniff. It smells... it could be anything burning. Half a minute of this, the smell getting stronger but no more identifiable, and then it changes. Sniff. The stupid bitch's set her own hair on fire. Guess I'll have to go and help her out, it's not like anybody would voluntarily head towards the Lair of the Mantis. Nobody male, anyway. Wait for a second. Sniff again. What the hell is that, burning? The fire alarm goes off. Finally. "Orderly fashion, students! Stand up and walk out of the class to the designated area in a brisk and orderly fashion!" implores Bennet. Fat chance. Join the stampede out of the classroom, cut a left where everyone else takes a right and start running to where my ears and nose say the cheerleader is.

(Cut to: Hallway a way outside the science lab, a few kids are still in the hall on their way to wherever it is LHS students go in a fire drill. They stare in shock at the apparition of the cheerleader on fire without metaphors involved. She's in no control at all now, little fireballs shooting off her fingers and hair (the right half of which has almost completely singed away. One of the fireballs hits one of the kids -- it's one of the three J's, looking lost away from Quinn. Shirt on fire, he runs off screaming. The screams fade eventually, but not because of distance. The fireballs keep on coming, slamming into a huge "STUDENT COUNCIL: WORKING FOR YOU" banner over a doorway and setting it alight. At exactly the wrong time, a large class of year nines led by Ms Defoe turns the corner and passes through the doorway. The banner falls on top of them. Ms Defoe turns in horror as her students struggle and burn underneath the flaming effigy of school spirit. Brittany staggers on...)

Keep running, following the screams and the flames. Finally get a clear view of her, staggering without getting any ground in any one way or another. And if Ms Defoe wasn't leading her freshman Art class through the double doorway, I might be able to catch up to the cheerleader and stop her before she does any more damage. Of course, this still leaves the question of what to do when I do... oh, shit. That stupid banner on the other side of the wall just came down. Burning. On top of the Art class. Defoe is in shock. The kids seem to be pulling themselves out, but Brittany's moved on and the blockage means a nice long detour. Begin to sprint.

(Cut to: An outside shot of Lawndale High. Windows smash. Balls of fire ranging in size from a golf ball to half a metre's diameter fly out.)

(Cut to: Another LHS hallway, this one with lockers. Daria, Jane, Jodie and Mack come out from one door, another on the opposites side of the hall explodes into flame, spilling pieces of burning plasterboard and brick into the hallway, to herald the arrival of Brittany. The four rush straight back behind the door they came from, leaving it half-open.)

(Cut to: Yet another hallway, the one our heroes presumably came through. They're leaning back against the wall by the door, Mack being nearest to it and taking a few quick looks back through.)

DARIA: Is she still there?

MACK: Yeah... just going round in circles.

JANE: So what are we going to do?

JODIE: Do? Get the hell out of here and wait for the cops, like everyone else. We're students, not comic-book superheroes.

DARIA: And the ability to pull a Matilda at a hundred feet is in no way a comic-book super power. (pause, deadpan) And as much as I'd like to see LHS turn into the ending of Carrie, I've got some writing I don't have backed up on O'Neill's desk and I can't get it back if it's a small pile of ashes. (slightly exasperated -- this is classic Daria, you can hardly tell) You're telekinetic, get a chunk of plasterboard and knock her out.

JODIE: This still isn't the movies, Daria. I'd probably kill her or cause a lot of pain rather than just knocking her unconscious.

DARIA: As compared to however many people she's run into already? (sighs) You're right. Jane, can you attract rain like you drive it away?

JANE: Dunno, never tried it before. But there's a big stinkin' roof in the way.

MACK: Would a lightni--

(f/x: BOOM!)

(A huge fireball, courtesy of the still-out-of-control Brittany, slams into the top and side of the doorway and Mack is blown backwards, indirectly answering his question. The three girls run over to help. Jodie looks him over quickly and drags him out of the line of fire. Once there, he gets up by himself, a little uneasily.)

JANE: (forced casual) Let's get the hell out of here and wait for the cops.

(Cut to: LHS main building, outside shot. The students have been herded into groups on the front lawns and car park, staying in the most open spaces. Teachers are standing around, vainly attempting to take the roll in spite of the fact it's obvious no more than two-thirds of the school's population is out here. As the four come out a side door and make their way to the nearest grouping, conspicuously dark clouds begin to gather... Mack, Daria and Jodie look to Jane for an explanation.)

JANE: (shrugs, eyes glowing very slightly) We can at least help put the fires outside out, and at this rate she'll blow a hole in the ceiling pretty soon anyway... (to their continuing looks) What?

DARIA: Since when do you care about the maintenance of school buildings?

JANE: Hey, that was the art room she was heading towards. I've got a 20'-square canvas in there I haven't finished and no way is she turning it into--

(A metre-radius fireball blows out the main front doors, and the terrible image of the flaming, now totally bald, dirty and scarred Brittany slowly reveals itself, in the classic Carrie pose, from the darkness inside. Rain starts to fall, right on cue. Through the miracles of movie lighting and a power cut, her flames are the only light in the totally dark building, and through the miracle of the MPAA, her uniform is undamaged beyond a few scorch marks. The crowd draws a collective breath at the sight... and she stops, dead, in her tracks. Note the commas. A familiar set of three metal claws retract from the general area of her heart, and Brittany's body drops to the floor. The claws disappear into the darkness. Black.)

Jump through one or two fire-broken walls and finally get a clear view of Brittany from behind, still stumbling, still fumbling fireballs all over the place. I'm directly behind her and still wind up dodging them... finally catch up, have to do something, half the hall's already burning, extend those claws...

The doors open. Ten thousand eyes stare at Brittany, watch the life go out of her as I pull back.

Oh, gods, no. What have I just done?

(SCENE: LHS auditorium. Music: "When I Tell You In The End", The Superjesus, continues throughout the auditorium scene. This room seems to have escaped the ravages of the pyromaniac cheerleader. The student numbers seem slightly diminished -- presumably through injuries -- and there are one or two obvious mutants in the crowd, looking uncomfortable and alone, and a few relatively ordinary-looking types not feeling much better. On stage sit the usual cast of idio... teachers, except for Ms Barch, obviously. Alongside them are Jodie, an unfamiliar preppy-looking type who is presumably the president of student council, and Kevin, with his usual dumb grin replaced by one of total sadness and wearing a black armband with his football uniform. Ms Li has the floor.)

LI: (holding back tears a little too easily) How are we to make sense of such a tragedy? Two days ago, at this very school, Brittany Taylor, an undiagnosed mutant, someone held highly in the school's esteem, lost control of herself. She lost her own life, left twelve in intensive care, many more with minor injuries, and (voice raises ever so slightly) caused hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage to school property.

(Fast cut to the remaining cheerleaders, sitting together in a row (any comments on their collective resemblance to bowling pins, to be knocked down or up, I leave to the reader) in the audience.)

ANGIE: I can't believe Brittany was, like, a mute. That's, like, not something we can have on the cheerleading team.

OTHER CHEERLEADERS: Yeah./You're so right./You mean she couldn't tal-- oh./No kidding.

(Cut back to the stage.)

LI: I have asked-- Kevin Thompson, our varsity quarterback and the late Ms Taylor's boyfriend, yes, he has asked (Kevin looks briefly confused over his misery) to deliver a speech, talking about his grief, our grief, and where we can go from heerrrre. (steps back, goes off stage, and after a few seconds the grieving Kevin realises what's going on and comes forward)

KEVIN: (pulling out a small stack of palm cards, Tiffanyesque, unlike in ATGIL he hasn't practised this one) Good morning, sut-- student body. I'm Kev-in Thompson, a-nother student here at Lawndale High, and QB for the football team. On Mon-day something happened to my best fr-iend and girlfr-iend, Brittany Taylor.

(Brief cut to Ms Li, off stage, she's talking on a mobile phone.)

LI: (to phone) Don't worry, Mr Landon, I've made arrangements for the quarterback of the football team and the head of the student council to make speeches supporting the GWI. One of them is going on right now...

(Back again to the audience, they're looking around, confused and suspicious... even Kevin's not normally this bad. Speaking of whom...)

KEVIN: No-bo-dy really knows what, but she started going around the school and things would (pron. "wowlld") catch fire. Ev-entu-al-ly, she made it to the main doors of the school, and al-most stepped out, when... (pause) something happ... dot dot dot curly thing start to cry curly thing. (The audience looks on, unsure of what to make of this. A handful of people figure the scam out and get looks of total disgust.) Curly thing re-cover and s-tart talking again af-ter about fifteen seconds curly thing. Something stabbed her from be-hind dot dot dot curly thing start sobbing again curly thing. Something stabbed her from be-hind, with three l-long sh-sharp knives or, pos-sibly, c-laws, as f-ound on some mut-tants. Be-cause of this, I want to see Ms L-i's exc-ellent Genetic Watch Ini-- inittyativ implem-- immeplented and ext-ended. If we had had s-uch a pr-ogram running, we m-ay have been ay-bul to prev-ent this traggedy. Th-ank you.

(Fast cut to the football team, sitting together in the audience near the front -- we see Mack, two of the three J's (Joey is missing) and a few other semi-familiar faces.)

JEFFY: Yeah! Go Lions!

(Utter silence, fast cut to Daria and Jane)

DARIA: I'm impressed. I honestly didn't think it was possible for Ms Li to sink this low.

(Fast cut to the cheerleaders again.)

ANGIE: Yeah, exactly, guys. I mean, if we'd, like, had the Genetic Watch going, Brittany would never have been, like, a mutant...

(Back to the stage, Ms Li has taken the podium again apparently without noticing how badly the speech she wrote for Kevin went.)

LI: I'd like to thank Kevin for his touching speech. That must have been very hard for you, Kevin, and I want you to know that you have the school's complete sympathies. If religion were permitted in public schools, you would be in all of our prayers. (mutters) As if God is of any use right now. (back aloud) And now, I welcome the president of Lawndale High Student Council, Dean Bradfield McBale, (blatantly fake) who I believe will be discussing the mutant problem as well? (Dean, the preppy-looking type, gives a subtle-as-a-brick nod -- obviously this was staged -- and steps up to the microphone.)

DEAN: (Think of the politician with the most boring voice you can and subtract about thirty-five years) Thank you very much, Ms Li. As most of you are no doubt aware, the issue of genetic mutants in society has been the significant one in the newspapers, on the television, on the radio, indeed everywhere in recent times, dominating debate for the forthcoming state elections. And I'm sorry to say that, as Kevin so... touchingly described to you, it has adversely affected our school. This only proves the need for our Genetic Watch Initiative, which I for one hope will be expanded, and other areas of mutant participation in the community of (in a similar but less pronounced reverential tone to Ms Li) Lllawndale Hiigh. Therefore, mutants will be exempted from extracurricular activities such as representative sport and debate teams and indeed (gestures to a small pin on his shirt) student council until their capabilities are properly determined. Separate classes will be created for diagnosed mutants, suited to their special needs while allowing the school to properly cater for the unaffected.

(There are mutterings throughout the audience, Jodie looks unsettled. Fast cut to Daria and Jane again.)

DARIA: What a polite way of saying segregation.

JANE: Does this mean I get the Art room all to myself?

(Back to the podium.)

DEAN: The results -- names, physical manifestations, detailed explanations of the abilities -- of the tests performed as part of the GWI will be published on the main school notice board. Furthermore, to ensure that this Friday's dance is as enjoyable to all concerned as possible, diagnosed mutants and those of plain human genetics will not be permitted to attend together.

(There are loud mutterings, some angry, some agreeing, some just confused. Jodie looks physically sick.)

(Cut to: the football team in the audience -- the two remaining J's have started a minor fistfight over some minor issue, not involving Quinn for a change, one or two of their stupider teammates are cheering them on indiscriminately, and Mack... Mack is sitting in his chair, head in his hands, eyes watering a storm even through his fingers. One of his teammates, who looks suspiciously like a slightly younger Kevin, has a red NY Yankees cap on backwards, let's call him... Fred, say... is sitting next to him looking worried in a stupid kind of way.)

FRED: Yo, you OK, Mack Daddy?

MACK: My eyes... my eyes...

FRED: Your eyes... what's wrong with 'em?

MACK: They... they hurt... like hell...

FRED: Mack?

MACK: They're... burning... just burning...

FRED: Okay, Mack, right... let me see?

(With difficulty, Mack drops one hand and opens the eye closest to Fred for just a split second... letting him see that it's just a plain red glowing ember. Fred jumps away, scared and trembling.)

FRED: (gibbering) M-m-m-mu... M-M-Mack D-daddy's a m-m-mutant...

(Suddenly, Mack's head snaps up and he tears his hands away from his head.)

(Cut to: Auditorium, outside doors. They break open as one, people crowding to get out.)

(Cut to: Stage. Chairs have been knocked over in the rush to get out, and it's deserted except for Kevin, who's sprawled on the floor, unable to run off owing to the hole in his head.)

(Cut to: Mack, alone in the audience, head in his hands again, sobbing uncontrollably. There aren't any tears this time.)

(Cut to: Outside LHS. Two ambulances pull up, sirens blaring, followed by God knows how many police cars of all shapes and sizes. Cops of various descriptions get out, most of them in riot gear of the kind normally reserved for small-cell terrorism or anti-capitalist protests. They immediately go into showy preparations to storm the auditorium, while hustling to get any stragglers out. The front row raises its weapons and prepares to charge in -- and freezes in mid-crouch. A familiar red convertible glides in through a gap between cop cars and a familiar face gets out. Readers are asked to put all thought of non-DWU Kara Wild fanfic out of your mind as Amy Charlotte Barksdale reveals herself from the driver's side in a wheelchair, and rolls calmly into the building. She reappears a few seconds later with Mack, who is walking tall and relaxed, hands by his sides, eyes lightly shut. They get into the convertible and drive off.)



One of the following ads [in this break or the next] is fake. First email correctly naming it gets a cameo in one of the followups... immediate family and beta readers are not eligible to enter.

(Vegemite. If you're wondering how the hell most Australians get so badly addicted to this foul poison, it's simple. They get us while we're young, innocent, and therefore easily corruptible. Using ads that sound like they were rejected from Disneyland's It's A Small World ride. *shudder*)

(Interactive Church presents: The Spirituality of Sex. "It's not what you expect!" What the hell am I supposed to expect? Thanks, but I'll stick with Fred Nile.)


(SCENE: Ms Li's office. She's at her desk, on the phone, looking like she wishes she was anywhere else but.)

MS LI: (struggling to stay calm) Yes Mr Thompson, I know you must be feeling a lot of-- (she winces and holds the phone away as Kevin's dad makes his feelings known) -- anger at the moment. If it's any consolation, we believe his death was instant. He wouldn't have felt a thing. (more shouting from the other end) We are doing our best, Mr Thompson. We've just implemented the best mutant watch program in the state... There's simply no way we could have anticipated any of this. Yes, Mr Thompson. That's quite all right... of course, Mr Thompson. Goodbye.

(She hangs up, obviously relieved that that's over. She pushes a button on the intercom that cliché requires her to have.)

MS LI: Is Ms Manson still on... (pause) holiday? (vaguely affirmative-sounding buzz from the intercom) Good. O'Neill's probably on his way out right now, could you get him before he goes and tell him to drop in here? (another affirmative buzz, Burnsesque) Excellent.

(Cut to: O'Neill's classroom. Clearly he's attempting to have a counselling session with the LHS student who needs it most... namely, one Charles Ruttheimer III. Poor kid, must be the lack of a middle name that's troubling him. Or maybe the unsurprisingly large pile of... ahem... explicit publications that have been placed rather pointedly on a desk on the far side of the room. No, wait, it's probably the scars on his cheek from being slapped and scratched repeatedly by someone wearing fake nails.)

O'NEILL: (doing what he does best -- trying to be nice) Now, Charles, I know that the young women of Lawndale High sometimes... fail to appreciate your charms. But you have to understand--

UPCHUCK: (pleading, the try-hard seduction is off, in an unusually high-pitched but not actually irritating voice) But I didn't mean to do it this time, Mr O'Neill! I was merely admiring DeAnne's fine figure from a distance. Appreciative of the opposite sex I may be, but I am first and foremost a gentleman! I would never touch a woman in such an... intimate area without her express permission!

O'NEILL: Yes, Charles, but... given your past record, you can hardly blame her for...

UPCHUCK: It-- it can't have been-- I was twenty feet away!

O'NEILL: You were the only other person anywhere near her, Charles. (sigh) There's no point in denying it. What we can do is get you some counselling for your... problem. If you can do it and not remember afterwards, then there may well be something seriously--

UPCHUCK: (breaking) Okay, fine! Take me to one of your god-forsaken shrinks! Spin them whatever you like! Let them sedate me and torture me until I'm nothing but a... robot for them to program! Can they help me with THIS?!

(And with that, he sticks out his tongue. To the other side of the classroom. Whipping out with speed, it sticks to the top porno mag and brings it flying back across the room. He drops it in front of O'Neill and whips his tongue back in. Then he spits on it -- a huge green splodge suddenly appears on the cover, maintaining this fic's PG13 rating (ha!), and hardens.)

UPCHUCK: (irate) WELL? I'm a FREAK! Can you "happy-thoughts" me out of this one? Can you do ANYTHING?

(O'Neill levitates Upchuck's immodest wallet out of his pants pocket using the coins inside and dumps in on top of the hardened green saliva.)

O'NEILL: (level) Yes, I think I can.

(Cut to: A well-furnished house, spare bedroom. Mack is on a couch, asleep, a pair of dark, faintly red-tinged sunglasses on his face. He stirs, and his pose alters so we can tell he's waking up, even without being able to see his eyes. He lifts up a hand to take off the glasses...)

AMY: (V/O, apparently from inside Mack's head) Don't touch them!

(Mack sits up with a start.)

MACK: Who... what the hell are you? What are you doing?

AMY: (V/O, calm and calming) A friend. And keeping you from blowing a hole in the ceiling.

(Mack leans forward and looks to be starting to sob again as he remembers.)

MACK: Oh, God... four feet to the right... that would have been Jodie... He's dead...

AMY: (V/O, suddenly) Don't. (Mack snaps up) There was nothing you could have done. It's not your fault. (the voice gets louder) You have nothing to feel guilty about. Nothing. (Amy's voice starts echoing through Mack's head...)

MACK: (faintly) Nothing... nothing at all. (smiles)

(He gets up slowly, confidently, and leaves the room.)

(Cut to: Underground room with "evil genius's HQ" written all over it in big letters. Damn metaphorical graffiti artists. Upchuck is led by Mr O'Neill down a flight of stairs overlooking a hangar-sized complex... plenty of grime, huge screens on the walls at odd angles, large computer-like interfaces at every spare square inch, and a centrepiece is a huge, comic-book-impressive machine: a narrow walkway, with a hard chair in the centre and a triad of cathedral-like pulpits at one end, all done in a faintly, ominously glowing grey stone. Upchuck looks at the device with a mix of curiosity and foreboding. O'Neill follows his gaze and smiles.)

O'NEILL: Impressed? We've been working on that for a while. (sighs) It was one of Janet's dreams was to see that come to fruition. Now... I think we may stand a chance. The trick is to get as many people as possible within range, which is easy enough, but we needs fuel, too. So if we can do something at the dance on Friday, say...

UPCHUCK: (looking confused and a little frightened) Um, we?

O'NEILL: Oh, Anthony, Sam and I... Maggie, when she gets back. And Janet, until... (trails off)

(They reach the bottom of the stairs and turn left, away from the machine. We see a room about the size of an LHS classroom, but it seems like a small alcove compared to the rest of the complex. The sink, large table and cooktop would imply that they use it as a kitchen/dining room of sorts. "They" being Anthony DeMartino, Samantha Morris and presumably O'Neill, who goes over to the other two for a typically warm greeting. Upchuck just stares in shock at DeMartino. His right eye isn't bulging at all. And more to the point, he's about one and a half times his usual size, has long, dense, straight yellow fur growing out of most of his top half, and sabre-teeth. Hmmm, I wonder what mutant this guy is.)

UPCHUCK: M-mister DeM-martino...?

(DeMartino looks up, growls a curse and shrinks back to his normal size. His eye starts bulging slightly again, and behaves as usual when he speaks.)

DeMARTINO: SORRY about that, CHARLES. I prefer not to use my muTAtion to SCARE my STUdents. It's an unFAIR advantage.

(Upchuck whimpers)

(a long pause)

UPCHUCK: But... so what... what are you... what are you guys trying to do?

(O'Neill beams.)

O'NEILL: Well, you see, Charles, it all started when Ms Li became principal. She took money from the school budget to have this place hollowed out, either for a security HQ or a fallout shelter, I'm not sure. Someone found out, and to keep it from getting to the media, she had the place was sealed off. (childish grin, conspiratorial) Or that's what she thinks, anyway... (fades out, the camera starts panning away, we clearly see a photo of Daria and Tom, with Daria circled and the notation "She knows.")

(SCENE: LHS car park, the next morning. What? Oh, come on, I'm not going to give away all of the evil plan now. Some people... Anyway, Jodie, looking like she's been up half the night crying (she has) pulls in, gets out of her car and starts walking to the main building. Dean McBale is waiting there and tries to join her. Jodie keeps her distance.)

DEAN: Hi, Jodie. (pause) Do you want to talk? About...

JODIE: (miserable) No.

DEAN: Okay, that's fine. (She turns and goes in the opposite direction, he keeps walking with her, not trying to close or open the gap. A long silence.) Jodie?

JODIE: (sharp) What?

DEAN: About the dance. Look, my date kinda flaked out on me, you probably heard, and it's still compulsory because Li needs the funding to cover the GWI, and we both know how much sympathy she has for cases like yours -- none at all. I can understand you not wanting to go with anyone after what happened yesterday, but if you need a ride or anything, I can...

VOICE: (O/S) I don't think that'll be necessary, Dean.

(Jodie looks over Dean's shoulder and her expression clearly says she can't believe what she's seeing. In the background, a familiar modified-for-a-wheelchair red convertible speeds off down the road. In the foreground, Mack stands with a warm smile on his face, looking rather like Blade with the sunglasses.)

(Cut to: Lawndale High hallway, Jodie and Mack are walking to class arm in arm, chatting idly. Well, idly for "Dawson's Creek" characters anyway... *shudder*)

JODIE: So you'll be okay as long as you keep the sunglasses on?

MACK: Apparently. I hope I don't have to find out.

JODIE: And... you're okay about... Kevin.

MACK: (sighs) No, I'm not. (resolved) But there's nothing I can do about it now. There was nothing I could do about it then. So there's no point.

(Jodie nods, understanding. She briefly looks suspicious... but shakes it off.)

MACK: So, Jodie... that woman I mentioned...

JODIE: (now she looks suspicious) What about her?

MACK: She wants to see us all. This weekend.

(A pause. They turn a corner at a T-junction, passing a large noticeboard in the hallway. On it is a huge poster decorated with something vaguely resembling the T1000, announcing YOU'RE BACK! -- LAWNDALE NOT QUITE HALLOWEEN DANCE THIS FRIDAY -- SHOW YOUR SCHOOL SPIRIT BY COMING ALONG! -- ATTENDANCE IS MANDATORY and on a small sticker underneath, the message "Mixed-genetic couples are asked not to attend.")

MACK: (eyeing the poster) Say, Jodie, what are we going to do about...

JODIE: ... the dance? (sighs) I don't know, Mack. (pause, the faintest of smirks) I guess we'll just come in dateless and "hook up on the night"...

(Thunder rolls and the waters of the Lawndale sewers part as Ms Li comes steamrolling down around the hall around the far corner towards Jodie and Mack, with Dean right behind her. Mack and Jodie take one look and walk off -- one turns left, the other right. Ms Li hurries to catch up with them, and trips up after a few steps. Hmmm...)

(Cut to: Ms Li's office, later on. The Princess of Paranoia sits calmly and patiently at her desk with an unfamiliar man of about Ian McKellen's age in a suit, waiting for someone. A knock on the door indicates that that someone has arrived.)

LI: Come in!

(Mack enters, bag on his back. He sits in front of the desk, putting his bag down beside the chair.)

LI: Ah, Mack. Thank you for coming. (She and the man eye his sunglasses, but neither says anything.)

MACK: (suspicious -- Ms Li? Nice?) Hi, Ms Li. (pause) Who's this?

LI: Paul Hanson. He's--

HANSON: (cutting her off) A... partly-retired senatorial aide. I also do work in my spare time, such as it is, for One Humanity -- you've heard of them?

MACK: (nods, not happy) Yeah. The anti-mutant group, right?

HANSON: Oh, no, no. We support the rights of all humanity. (Mack cocks an eyebrow, very Dariaesque) And are vehemently against special privileges for any of it. We (pause) also support the right of parents to choose what's best for their children. (And the audience joins Mack in a collective "I knew it" expression.)

MACK: So I guess your organization supports the GWI.

HANSON: Yes. So you can understand our concern that one of the school's top students, and the captain of its senior football team, has been accused of being an... undiagnosed mutant.

MACK: Do you consider mutation a crime, Mr Hanson?

HANSON: Of course not! It's a perfectly--

MACK: Then how can someone be accused of it?

(a pause)

LI: (different tack) Mack, someone died in the auditorium yesterday.

MACK: (curt) I know that.

LI: He died because someone couldn't control his mutation, Mack. If our students are going to be in that kind of mortal danger all the time, we need to know exactly what is happening. A bill including the compulsory genetic testing of all suspected mutants is being put through Congress as we speak, but I'm sure the Michael Mackenzie I know would be happy to voluntarily submit to such a test in the name of school spirit.

MACK: (sighs, nothing to lose) There's no need, Ms Li. The tests have already been done. (opens his bag, removing a manila folder full of typically scientific-looking papers, and places it in front of Li) You should find everything you need to see me back in class and the team here.

LI: (reading the first paper) It says here the test was positive, manifested by (pause, quoting) "a ray of concentrated visible and infra-red energy, emitted from the eyes at all times unless the eyes are closed or covered by lenses of ruby quartz," whatever the hell that is. "The ray, blocked or otherwise, does not affect his normal vision." Look me in the eye and take off your sunglasses, Mack.

MACK: (quietly angry) Read that over again a couple of times, Ms Li, you seem to have missed a hell of a lot. These glasses won't come off that easily. (pause) And do you really want to lose the "potential Rhodes scholar" you were talking to Ms Barch about a month ago? (he gets up and leaves)

(Li and Hanson look at each other)

HANSON: (frowns) Well, if that's the way he's going to play it...

LI: (smiles... the "evilly" part is kind of redundant, really, isn't it?) There's more than one way to put a mutie in its place. (flicks a switch on the intercom, speaks) Would Jodie Landon please report to the principal's office immediately.

HANSON: His girlfriend, I take it? (takes the folder, starts flipping through)

LI: Ohhh, yes. They've been together for several years, and--

(Hanson curses under his breath)

LI: (raised eyebrow) Is there a problem?

HANSON: Well, yes. These tests were done at the Lawndale Egalitas Laboratories, by one Dr Amy C. Barksdale.

LI: And that's a bad thing?

HANSON: Maybe, maybe not. Doctor Barksdale is... probably one of the the world's most respected spokespeople on mutant issues. Pro-mutant, you understand. Made a small fortune out of writing satire and social commentary in her twenties, and somewhere down the line it turned into a large one, no-one's quite sure how. She spends the money on mutant research and education, mostly. Not one much for the public eye, but when she does say something, it gets heard.

LI: (worried) So why on earth would she be in Lawndale?

HANSON: No idea. Maybe she just has relatives in the area... or maybe there's something a little bigger about to happen here.

LI: (changing subjects with a large, heavy, blunt object) Well, never mind, we should be fine for now at least. Jodie'll be here soon, she's an intelligent girl, and I'd be very surprised if she didn't listen to reason...

(fast cut to Jodie in the hot seat)


LI: (firm) You must understand, Ms Landon, that with the recent increase in street crime we cannot have the vice-president of the student council coming to and leaving a school dance, at night, alone.

JODIE: (calm) I'm not coming alone. Mack and I have had arrangements for a while now to share a ride, and we can't abandon them now.

LI: (faux-sympathetic) We're worried about you, Jodie. We can't take the risk... someone has already died as a result of Mack's lack of control of his own abilities--

JODIE: I know that, Ms Li. They're under control. They're going to stay under control.

LI: (trying to cover her resignation) You are aware of the regulations on mixed-genetic couples at the dance?

JODIE: Yes, Ms Li. I guess we'll just have to come in all alone and lock eyes across the dancefloor... you know how it is. (smirks, gets up and leaves)

(Li puts her head in her hands for a second, then looks up again with the same smirk as Jodie...)

LI: (à la "Arts & Crass") Call her parents.

HANSON: I'm sorry?

LI: Never mind. (picks up the phone, dials) Hello, this is Principal Li at LHS, may I please speak to Andrew Landon? It's about his daughter...

(Cut to: Daria's locker, after school. She's shoving some books into her bag, talking to the waiting, ready-to-go Jodie, Jane and Mack.)

DARIA: So, this telepath that gave you the glasses wants to see us on the weekend. (Mack nods) Jane, your parents don't care and may well be dead for all we know, Mack's aren't going to get back until Monday even if they do manage to get seats on the next flight... (she hauls her backpack out of her locker and shoulders it on) Jodie can tell hers it's another extracurricular... (slamming the locker shut and locking it) ... and that just leaves me. Any bright ideas for excuses to keep Hell's guard dogs, occasionally known as my parents, down? Preferably believable ones? (pause) And who are we going to see, anyway? (they start to leave)

MACK: Her name's Barksdale. Amy Charlotte.

DARIA: (do I really need to tell you how deadpan she is?) Oh, that's all right then. I can just tell them I'm going to see my aunt.

JODIE/JANE: (simultaneously) Your aunt?/That Amy?

DARIA: My aunt. That Amy. And then I'll ask her what the hell she's doing in town without even trying to tell me. (pause) Or torture my parents.

JODIE: I thought you hated your relatives, Daria.

JANE: Ah, the exception proves the rule.

DARIA: She's the only one I have I can respect. Or was when I last saw her... about a year and a half ago. Made my cousin's wedding tolerable, hard as that is to believe... (fade out)

(Fade in to the group leaving through a side door, still talking.)

MACK: ...and I think that's the first time I've seen anyone serve cheese fries for breakfast.

JANE: Hey, you should see the stuff I eat in the morning.

DARIA: No, you shouldn't.

JODIE: That bad? Because...

ANDREW LANDON: (O/S) Jodie! What the hell is this I'm hearing about your going to the dance with a mutant?

(On hearing this, Jodie strides the short distance to her car, opens the door, gestures for Mack to get in, and drives off.)



(The Advertiser -- Adelaide's premier newspaper. A Murdoch 'bloid. Problem is, the slogan is true -- it's the only one in this town.)

(Classical music. Nature imagery. Upbeat messages on screen along the lines of "the power to connect". A phone company. *snore*.)


(SCENE: Daria's room. The phone rings. Daria, in the famous "something (possibly the question of how exactly Jodie and Mack are going to handle her parents) eating at your soul" pose, hauls herself upright and picks up the phone. Usual diagonal 'phone split screen. Avert your eyes, 'shipper purists -- it's Tom on the other end.)


TOM: No, it's Tom. I don't know who Amy is, unless you're talking about my old French teacher. (pause) Daria, do you have something you want to tell me?

DARIA: (deadpan, uneasy) Yes. I know all about you and the Mob, the cops are on their way.

TOM: (chuckle, deadpan) Oh, those cops? Made it here five minutes ago. Gave 'em a little something from the petty cash box and sent them on their way. Assuming I don't have to kill you for knowing too much, are we still on for that dance tomorrow night?

DARIA: Yes, if Ms Li doesn't let the power get even more to her head and decide to ban all couples from it instead of just the mixed-genetic ones...

TOM: Yeah, I heard about that. As long as they're not taking blood tests at the door, we're fine.

DARIA: Excuse me?

TOM: Oh, didn't I mention it? Apparently, I'm a "benign" mutant. Meaning I tested positive as a kid to that X-factor gene or whatever it is... but it hasn't shown up as anything obvious yet. So I'm as screwed as the rest of them if the Federal Mutant Act passes, and I can't even shoot funky green acid out of my arms to make up for it.

DARIA: Ah, your parents are rich. You'll be fine. Just don't wear sunglasses.

TOM: Excuse me?

DARIA: Long story. You'll see on the night. (sighs) Remind me again why we're doing this.

TOM: Friendship? Love? Because your principal needs the money and is making you go, so you may as well drag someone down with you? Because you want to show me off? Because it's an essential part of the aliens' plans to have you seduce me at the Hallowe'en dance -- not that we're even that close to Hallowe'en -- and impregnate me?

DARIA: Funny, I could have sworn it was the other way around. See you tomorrow. (pause) And come dressed as anything from Rocky Horror and I gut you in public.

TOM: Damn, and I put so much work into that Columbia costume. (long pause) Um, about Jane?

DARIA: She has to come, but she swears she's okay with it. Don't worry, you'll know if you've pissed her off when you get struck by lightning in the middle of the auditorium.

TOM: I take it the guy she's going with will be wearing a lot of rubber then? (pause) That didn't sound right.

DARIA: (definite smirk) No, it didn't. (smirk fades, sigh) And I don't think she's coming with anybody.

TOM: Oh.

(long pause)

DARIA: So, um... see ya.

TOM: See ya.

(they hang up)

(Cut to: Landon residence. Jodie's car comes round the front driveway and parks. She gets out, finding her father waiting.)

ANDREW: Just tell me how it happened.

JODIE: What?

ANDREW: You know what! The dance! The boy!

JODIE: (sighs) I don't know what, Dad. And I'm going with Mack.


JODIE: (level) Michael Jordan Mackenzie.

ANDREW: Oh. (pause) Sorry. (caught off guard, turns and goes inside)

(Jodie just stares at the door, incredulous, then shrugs and steps in.)

(Cut to: Andrew's home office. Again. He's on the phone. Again.)

ANDREW: Hello? LHS? Yes, I'd like you to take down a message for Ms Li. I don't know what problem she has with my daughter or Mr Mackenzie, but she can stop annoying me about it. If she makes that kind of accusation again, she'll be seeing me in court, and she knows I've already paid Reinhardt more than she ever could.

(Cut to: Jodie's room. The computer is off. Jodie is leaning back across the room, talking on the phone, as in the earlier scene.)

JODIE: And just when I thought I had my parents figured out, they pull this on me. But it looks like we're still going. Now, what are we going as? Robin Hood won't work with sunglasses.

MACK: Dunno. Blues Brothers?

JODIE: I think half our year's doing that. They're still hung up on Men In Black.

MACK: The Matrix?

JODIE: No way. One thing I have got figured out about my parents, they'll never let me out of the house in that much black. Hell, I wouldn't let me out of the house in that much black.

MACK: (pause) Amy gave me a hell of a lot of that quartz stuff. Anything with a mask over the eyes could work.

JODIE: (mildly sarcastic, mild compared to Daria anyway) Robocop?

MACK: Could work. Erving--

JODIE: Your older brother?

MACK: Yeah. He had this crappy plastic costume he wore to this dance in his junior year. It'll probably fit me now. Just a matter of finding it -- I think the visor's removable, or at least movable -- and figuring out a way of adding the quartz.

JODIE: And finding a valid excuse for Maid Marian to be going out with a police officer.

MACK: (pause, chuckling) We've been hanging around Daria too much.

(SCENE: Lawndale High school dance. There are pieces of very tacky Hollywood-Halloween decor strewn sparsely across the auditorium, pumpkins, green witch's faces, black and orange streamers and balloons, you get the idea, but no-one's really put an effort in. Chaperones and security guards everywhere, of course. A DJ is present, not Upchuck this time, he's in the audience, thank God. Said DJ is playing some horrible Britney Spears song (I almost said tune, but...) who really cares which? The one with "she's a star" in the chorus. Okay, away from that unpleasant topic, let's check out the dancegoers: the cheerleader seen slapping Upchuck in "The Daria Database" (does anyone really care what her name is, if any?) is here with some random footballer, dressed as Romeo and Juliet, surprise surprise. More unrecognisable students -- we see a Superman and Lois Lane, a disturbing amount of Harry Potter witches among the year nines, someone dressed as Marilyn Monroe (the [in]famous billowing white dress), someone dressed as Marilyn Manson (blue makeup around the eyes and a weird-coloured suit, thankfully not that stage outfit), and Quinn, in some kind of lavender fairy outfit with matching wings, antennae and Doc Martens. The three J's, dressed in "cute" formal servant outfits, are following her as if on leashes, as per usual. About half the people are just in formal wear, not bothering with costumes. And there's not a Man in Black in sight.)

(Cut to: some kind of fairly large back room close, but not too close, to the auditorium. A boombox has been set up near the windows and opposite the main doors, there are pieces of not-at-all-tacky Hallowe'en/Samhain decor strewn sparsely across the room, and someone has scrawled "LAWNDALE HIGH HALL OF SANITY" in letters as large as possible across the blackboard. Given the song playing on said boombox -- "The Shape of Punk To Come" by Refused -- it would appear to be true, at least compared to the alternative. The classroom is reasonably packed, but the only face with a name to it is Andrea (slate-grey jacket, buttoned up, we can't see what's underneath beyond the top of her usual shirt), who shares the area with a handful of LHS victims whose costumes have made them anonymous and extras, and including the one with brown hair and narrow glasses occasionally referred to as Lynn Cullen for the resemblance to the fanfic character. A small moshpit has been set up. Moshing to a recording in formal wear -- only in Lawndale. And the ARIA Awards. We can see the street from the window, and in this case a pale grey limousine driving up towards the school car park.)

(Cut to: LHS auditorium, outside. The grey limo pulls up and Jodie and Mack get out. Mack is actually dressed as a very fake-looking Robocop, the costume fitting him a little tightly. Jodie is wearing the Maid Marian costume. They walk inside and up almost to the ticket desk in the anteroom holding hands, then break apart, Mack going ahead.)

MACK: (dropping something big and colourful with an obvious security strip on it onto the table in front of a dazed Ms Li -- it looks more like a ticket to a major rock festival than a school dance) Michael Jordan Mackenzie.

(He walks through, stands near the door to the main auditorium, and waits. Jodie goes forward.)

JODIE: (handing over her ticket) Jodie Landon.

(She walks to the auditorium door, bows to Mack, takes his hand, and they walk in, getting closer together with every step.)

MS LI: (finally waking up) Six inches!

DARIA: (from behind) Excuse me?

LI: (looking behind her, she sees Daria and Tom. Tom is in a regulation James Bond suit and tie, fake concealed weapons easily visible. Daria looks like a modern-day version of Hela, the Norse goddess of death, no doubt Jane had a hand in this -- top half is a formal navy-blue gown, bottom half is rags over pants of the exact colour and apparent texture of a three-days-dead corpse.) Oh! Uh... Miz Morgendorffer!

DARIA: (condescending) That's right, Ms Li. And this is Tom Sloane.

LI: Tom Sloane? Son of Angier? (to Daria's nod, muttering just a little too loudly for her own good) Glad to she she's got better taste in men than that Lane tramp. (aloud) I don't suppose he could be persuaded to maybe share some of his wealth and wisdom with the Lawndale public school system?

TOM: He normally takes that kind of request through his secretary.

(While Ms Li seethes, Daria takes Tom's ticket and drops it with hers onto the table.)

DARIA: I've paid the entry fee, dressed up like an idiot as you asked, and got a rich kid along to see just how bad LHS is so maybe he'll still make a donation out of sheer pity. Can we get out of here early? Now, for instance?

LI: (choosing to ignore the snipes) No, no-one is permitted to leave befoooorre midnight. For security reasons. Enjoy the dance! (hurries them through the auditorium door, then gets back behind the desk with a sigh of relief)

TOM: (V/O, from inside) So what do you think she meant with that taste in men comment?

DARIA: (V/O, ditto) No idea, I thought she was coming dateless.

TOM: (V/O) Well, there she is. Dancing with a guy. Why don't you go and ask her?

(a pause)

DARIA: (V/O) No. No way. I don't know, I don't want to know. It's her business and nobody else's.

(Cut to: The auditorium. Miss Spears plays on, and Jane, dressed like Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer -- in other words, her usual gear with black jeans instead of shorts and a floor-length black duster, though she's forsaken Spike's Billy Idol dye-job, I wonder why -- is dancing nice and close. To Jesse "Morono" Moreno. And Daria's staring at them as if they were a car accident. Say, maybe that's why Jesse's so out-and-out stupid...)

(Cut to: The auditorium, an hour or so later on. The DJ is still behind the decks, but is currently silenced by a band. Not the BSB clone you'd expect with Ms Li in charge, this is a "real" band, a four-piece with guitars and a drummer and everything... never mind that they look like they'd lose in a fight with Hanson *shudder*, are wearing very fromageux Sgt.-Pepper-type outfits, and are near the end of covering and conclusively proving very wrong the title of Radiohead's "Anyone Can Play Guitar". To be fair, they can't sing or play drums or bass either. What? Yes, they are worse than Mystik Spiral -- at least that lot only murder their own material. One last "... and they won't be a nothing anymore" and they get off stage, leaving only a few security guards standing right at the back where nobody can see 'em. Dean McBale replaces the singer at the microphone.)

DEAN: (attempting to do showmanship, works about as well as the idea of a sex scandal involving John Howard) Goooood evening, Lawndale, and welcome to the twelfth annual Not Quite Hallowe'en Dance! (pauses for applause. Of course there isn't any.) Another night of good food, good music, and bad dancing! (fast) Please observe the six-inch rule at all times. To prevent lawsuits from parents who don't trust their own offspring, no student will be permitted to leave before the prom finishes at midnight and all students must be home before twelve-thirty. (pause) Now, let's get down and boog-ay!

(The DJ starts "The Rockafeller Skank" by Fatboy Slim -- make it the live version with the riff from "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" in it -- and the crowd starts dancing, or at any rate attempting to. At the back of stage, there's a sickening crunch. Something springs upward from the squashed-flat corpse of one of the security guards.)

(Cut to: The Hall of Sanity. The stereo is screaming out Radiohead's "Idioteque" (yes, I'm a fan of the band) and the former moshers are working out some dance moves to it. Well, some are still trying to mosh. The less said, the better, really. Daria and Tom are wallflowering near the door, watching the moshers with some amusement. Said amusement disappears when Jane gets thrown out of the pack and into the wall, near OH.)

DARIA: (shooing Tom off with her hand) Jane, I'm sure there's a perfectly good reason you're here with Jesse, and I'm going to wait here patiently until I find out exactly how many times you got hit on the head.

(Tom, thrown in both senses of the term, stumbles towards the door, looks out, and his eyes go wide. He moves away from the door and gestures that maybe Jane and Daria should too. The reason? All good things must come to an end, all parties must end with a bust, and all clichés must be fulfilled, so to that end, Ms Morris storms in, reaching over to grab one of the less athletic students. On the other side of the room. Think "Stretch Armstrong".)

The Hall of Sanity is the only reason I keep mine at money-making bullshit like this. It's been going on for a few years, since Ms Li cut the drama budget and they stopped using the room. Either Security Queen still doesn't know about it, or just prefers to deny it. No-one really cares either way.

Someone's slipped the last Radiohead CD on and people are trying to dance without stopping the mosh, the morons, so I force my way out. And then the kid next to me gets scooped up from twenty or so feet by Ms Morris. If this was a comic book, I'd be looking for a phone booth right about now. As it is, I lay low. She stretches out around behind us and starts pushing everyone in the room first into each other and then towards the doors. I can see Daria Morgendorffer's boyfriend looped up in one arm, and that Jane Lane (what were parents on when they named her?) chick turn around and shout at the bitch. Oops. Her hands busy, Morris just sneers and sticks her neck out towards Jane, a sadistic grin on her face.

A lightning bolt smashes the corner window and strikes Ms Morris across the shoulders. She snaps back to her normal shape, unconscious and possibly dead, but nobody's about to check. They're all too busy running for the doors, from the freezing rain and wind and from Ms Morris as if she could still do something. All except for Jane -- she's looking back, with the biggest, smuggest smirk on her face anyone's ever seen, and her eyes glowing solid white. Then the rain stops abruptly, her eyes snap back to blue and she calmly walks out.

I follow. Get halfway to the main auditorium -- that damn Radiohead song's still playing, but the Fatboy Slim isn't -- and something picks me up from behind. I have exactly enough time to shout "RUN!" before getting thrown into the wall.

(Montage -- Music: "Idioteque" continues)

(Main auditorium. The bulk of the people who were in the Hall of Sanity throw the back door open... and see Upchuck and O'Neill wreaking general havoc. Upchuck is leaping around, playing Spiderman with his tongue and crushing people at random. O'Neill is standing on stage directing proceedings and blocking the doors with any scrap metal he can get his mind around. We see Daria and Tom, running close to the walls, get pinned to one by what looks like it may once have been a window frame.)

(Hallway, behind the auditorium. "Wolverine" has made a hell of a dent in the wall, though his/her wounds are healing, and we see DeMartino, in full sabretooth mode, striding his way back to take advantage.)

(Amy Barksdale, sitting on a platform in the centre of a huge, cubic room with what looks like a cheap VR headset on. Suddenly, she throws it off and rolls out.)

(Main auditorium. Jane rushes in a side door ready to shout for help and sees that there really isn't much point. Anyone who hasn't been pinned to the walls by O'Neill or squashed flat by Upchuck is milling around the blocked-off front doors. Mass panic.)

(Mack, leaning out from under a table, fiddling with his helmet and trying to get a clear shot at O'Neill. He gets one. He flicks a switch on the helmet. The blast paints the auditorium red and blows a hole in the far ceiling. O'Neill ducks in time.)

(Amy's convertible, going down a street at speeds only dreamt of by revenue-raising traffic cops.)

(DeMartino and "Wolverine". The latter is still lying apparently unconscious by the wall. DeMartino lifts a clawed arm to strike... and "Wolverine" rolls, taking a swipe at DeMartino's leg on the way. Letting out a roar, DeM limps slightly after him/her.)

(O'Neill pulling himself up again and floating the microphone into his hand. He speaks.)

O'NEILL: Now Mack, I understand your anger, but that's really not the best way to handle it. You should really get some counselling, get help.

(Jane clenches her fists, her eyes getting brighter)

(a baseball-sized hailstone flies past O'Neill's cheek)

(Jodie running over to Mack, looking worried as hell. Upchuck lands nearby and spits on her, the velocity knocking her to the ground. Mack and Upchuck start going at it with fists. The latter is a decent fighter given his height/weight disadvantage, any problems from what looks like The Man With The Golden Gun school of martial arts being more than compensated for by his whiplash tongue and raw eagerness. Finally Mack gets a lucky cross in and Upchuck is off for long enough for him to check on Jodie -- she's fine. Then Upchuck's tongue is around his leg.)

(Door between auditorium and back hallway -- some moron's managed to get it shut, and it gets ripped off its hinges by the flying body of "Wolverine". He/she picks him/herself back up, and rushes back forward into the fray.)

(O'Neill, getting down off stage to where Daria and Tom are, stopping near the Mack/Upchuck fight. The occasional hailstone, varying in size from ping-pong ball to Slim Dusty CD box set. Then one of the smaller ones hits Mack in the head -- Jane cringes and stops the rain -- giving Upchuck time to leap up to crush Mack like he did the security guards. He gets up to the rafters and nods to O'Neill. Daria and Tom look on in horror.)

(Amy's convertible pulling into the LHS parking lot -- Anyone that could escape has and it's surprisingly empty. Squad cars follow.)

(DeMartino's leg, now almost completely healed, swinging back around towards "Wolverine"'s. One set of Wolverine's claws striking down to DeM's arm, almost cutting it off. The second set follows, raking out fairly deep wounds across half of his chest. He collapses, having trouble breathing.)

(Upchuck, springing down, tongue rolled out for show. Zoom down with the camera closer and closer to Mack's semi-conscious but terrified face -- and freeze it at about two metres above.)

(Jodie, having been rolled out of the way, one leg pinned to the ground by Upchuck's spit, concentrating hard on something.)

(Upchuck, suspended neatly above Mack, his tongue looped onto his back. He's slowly floating down and away from his intended crush victim... until he suddenly hits the floor nearby. Jodie is utterly exhausted, almost ready to pass out.)

(Upchuck, going up for a second shot at Mack, flying down...)

(... and Mack gets shoved out of the drop zone by one of "Wolverine"'s feet. Upchuck lands heavily, but gets back to his feet and faces off with Wolverine. He spits. It gets caught around one of the sets of claws... and smashed to a pale chlorine-gas-coloured fog by the other set coming in between at speed.)

(DeMartino, getting up and ready to have another shot at "Wolverine".)

(Mack, getting up and having a shot at DeMartino. The blast adds to the gore, knocks him out and blows him into the milling students, who either go down like bowling pins or explode out in a terrified mass around him.)

("Wolverine" and Upchuck fighting. The former uses his/her claws to full effect, keeping Upchuck on the back foot with forceful, regular swings. Upchuck jumps up and over, and lashes out with his tongue -- a miss.)

(A space has been cleared around DeMartino ... he slowly pulls himself up, and trudges toward the fight, bleeding and a little unsteady ... and hits the floor again, unconscious, with a THUMP, shaking the ground.)

(Jane sees Jodie half-conscious and rushes over to help. Upchuck falls in front of her on the thump, Jane runs up and takes a long jump, using him as the board. He springs up, looking angrily at Jane, and then snaps round to duck another swipe from "Wolverine".)

(Upchuck ducks and weaves more of the claws, then slips out his tongue and loops it around "Wolverine"'s leg, jerking her up and down a few times until she's knocked out and possibly dead. He turns and sees Jane leaning over Jodie, and leaps up to the rafters... Daria and Tom shout out a warning. Jane looks up and sees Upchuck grinning down at her, ready to strike. Music stops.)

JANE: (smirking) You know what happens when a slimy little bastard like you gets struck by lightning?

(Upchuck can't hear her, and gets ready to jump...)

(f/x: CRASH!)

(Jane rolls Jodie away with her as a burnt, steaming and wounded Upchuck, bleeding some putrid green substance, hits the floor where they were, followed by a few pieces of roofing.)

JANE: (surprised, impressed) Wow.

(O'Neill, looks around, resigned and tired. He hears the ceiling crack -- it's not stable. He shakes his head, and dashes over to DeMartino, helping him up. Neither is in much condition to fight. A nod of the head from the Marshmallow of Magnetism, and the metal falls away from the doors, unblocking them.)

(Cut to: Outside the auditorium. Music: "Teenage Angst", Placebo. The students who were milling around in panic near the doors earlier are now milling around in shock around the assorted emergency-service vehicles. We see Mack and Jodie are getting loaded into ambulances. Jane watches it all, expressionless. Ms Li is shouting at a police officer. Tom and Daria are giving another one a statement, and a third is trying in vain to get a comprehensible one from Jesse. Amy looks around, giving a nod to an ambulance officer as they load "Wolverine" into a stretcher. She wheels herself to the side of the building and sees O'Neill and DeMartino carrying the unconscious forms of Upchuck and Ms Morris respectively out the back with them, in the direction of one of the other school buildings. She looks... thoughtful is the best word to describe it.)

(Cut to: Daria and Tom, getting into the newer rustbucket he got in IIFY. Music continues. Both look tired, but fairly happy considering.)

TOM: And here I was thinking tonight would be boring. (shuts his door, pulls on a seat belt)

DARIA: If it were a TV series, it would be. (shuts her door) This is pretty tame, nobody died. As far as we know. (seat belt) And the whole mutants-on-the-rampage thing's getting kinda old now.

TOM: (starting the car) And kinda illegal.

DARIA: Depends on how the Supreme Court sees it. (yawns)

TOM: True. (pulls out of the car park) What time are your parents expecting you?

DARIA: They're asleep, Tom. Dad told me to come back whenever I wanted. I think they're so glad I'm finally reaching out to someone that they don't really care how much I reach out.

(long pause, the car turns a corner)

TOM: But after everything that just happened... I'm exhausted. Let's just get back to our houses and crash, okay?

DARIA: Please.

(Another long pause, Tom pulls the car over, shuts it off and in crudest terms, they leap into each other's arms and start trading saliva. Tom's jacket comes off, followed quickly by her jacket and his shirt. He reaches under her top... and they freeze in place, blood vessels becoming visible on the exposed skin. Daria pulls herself off of him in desperation, the vessels disappearing, and sees that he's fallen unconscious.)

DARIA: Oh, Jesus... Tom...

(She finds his jacket and pulls out a mobile phone, bludgeoning in 9-1-1.)

DARIA: (into phone) Hello? Yes, something's... he's unconscious... my boyfriend... I don't know... (cranes her neck to read a street sign) Devitt Lane... hurry...

(Shove a "To Be Continued" in the language of your choice on the screen. Roll credits to the strains of "Revol" by the Manic Street Preachers.)

First of all, large and obvious nods to Loki, aka the Crazy Crossover Guy, whose partial posting of an X-Men movie crossover got my plagiarist muse running in the first place. And larger ones to my beta readers, NomadX and Robert Nowall.

... and the quacking of some third-rate wannabe Ugly Phil... : Ugly Phil O'Neil (one L) is a particularly obnoxious Australian DJ, who does the nation's highest-rating and equally obnoxious teenybopper show.

MTV Mutants : A series title too crappy to resist using.

... and not the kind of thing you're thinking of, Miss Friedman! Get your mind out of the gutter, it could use the change of scenery after so long... : Petty revenge for those "innocent" comments on IRC. Miss Friedman still swears blind she's not a sex fiend, and we all believe her... OK, you're right, this is getting kinda old. Last time, I promise. Be aware I'm not great at keeping promises, unfortunately.

DARIA: And the ability to pull a Matilda at a hundred feet is in no way a comic-book super power. : Matilda? Roald Dahl? Ah, go read a book. And as much as I'd like to see LHS turn into the ending of Carrie... : Book by Steven King, or more specifically the movie made out of it. Similar ref found in J Osako's fic Blood & Irony.

DARIA: Since when do you care about the maintenance of school buildings? : Thanks to medea42 for pointing this out and inadvertently suggesting an excuse...

JANE: ...I've got a 20'-square canvas in there I haven't finished... : ...and to Lew Richardson, whose epic fic Heroes... added a little more colour to said excuse.

JEFFY: Yeah! Go Lions! "Tribute" to Kevin's poetry reading in Milo Minderbinder's A Bouquet for the Brain.

LI: And now, I welcome the president of Lawndale High Student Council, Dean Bradfield McBale... : The name and basic idea for Dean McBale borrowed from Kara Wild's classic Outvoted. Middle name is mine (couldn't resist the MSP refcrime), as is the added character development. You'll probably be seeing more of this guy.

One of his teammates... has a red NY Yankees cap on backwards, let's call him... Fred, say... : Talkin' 'bout my generation... don't we suck?

... Amy Charlotte Barksdale reveals herself from the driver's side in a wheelchair... : "Charlotte" is a nod to Professor Charles Xavier, from the comic book and movie I'm ripping off here, as is the wheelchair.

LI: Paul Hanson. He's-- / HANSON: A... partly-retired senatorial aide. I also do work ... for One Humanity -- you've heard of them? : If you don't get this, be thankful. If you do, be thankful it's all over.

MACK: Do you consider mutation a crime, Mr Hanson? / HANSON: Of course not! / MACK: Then how can someone be accused of it? : Dialogue bearing a hell of a resemblance to a passage in Yui Daoren's Out On Vacation. Credit where credit's due, his idea first.

MACK: ... the "potential Rhodes scholar" you were talking to Ms Barch about a month ago? : Another piece of "inspiration" from another fic, this one being Michelle Klein-Hàss's Clothes Make The Manson.

LI: (changing subjects with a large, heavy, blunt object) : Because Canadibrit was already using the sledgehammer.

DARIA: Any bright ideas for excuses to keep Hell's guard dogs, occasionally known as my parents, down? : Yet more "inspiration" from Lew's Heroes... .

DARIA: Made my cousin's wedding tolerable, hard as that is to believe... : Yeah, yeah, "I Don't", yada yada...

DARIA: Yes. I know all about you and the Mob, the cops are on their way. : Loosely inspired (there's that word again) by Canadibrit and Ben Yee's 272K-when-saved-as-plain-text epic Tour of Duty.

DARIA: And come dressed as anything from Rocky Horror and I gut you. : Jill Friedman's RHPS-featuring fics Virgin Sacrifice and Chelsea Hotel, though I don't think Tom's that much of a bastard... moron, perhaps, but not bastard...

ANDREW: ...and she knows I've already paid Reinhardt more than she ever could. Judge Cornelius J. Reinhardt "borrowed" from CE Forman's continuum, hope he doesn't mind.

JODIE: Robin Hood won't work with sunglasses. : Most of the dance-related scenes take from other fanfics... well, more so than the rest of this fic, anyway. For example, Mack and Jodie were Robin and Marian in Canadibrit's Trick-or-Trent.

... Quinn, in some kind of lavender fairy outfit with matching wings, antennae and Doc Martens... : Yes, you can get them in that colour, yes, they'd work with the costume, and yes, Quinn would wear them. Based on Kemical Reaxion's comments on the PPMB awhile ago and real-life observations. There are more poseurs per capita at my school than anywhere in the country, though to be fair they're a little more diverse than the FC's.

... Moshing to a recording in formal wear -- only in Lawndale. And the ARIA Awards... : The ARIA (Australian Recording Industry Association) awards are mooted as "the Australian equivalent of the Grammies", with the difference being that having Radiohead playing at the ARIAs would actually improve ratings. Yes, there used to be people attempting to most in relatively formal wear, though that stopped this year -- everyone was wearing Coca-Cola T-shirts instead.

MS LI: Six inches! :Can't have the students engaging in the saliva trade on school property now, can we?

Daria looks like a modern-day version of Hela, the Norse goddess of death... top half is a formal navy blue gown, bottom half is rags over pants of the exact colour and apparent texture of a three-days-dead corpse. : More commonly spelt Hel, alternative used to avoid any possible puncrimes. Your gratitude is implied. "Modern day version" used because I wasn't exactly sure of what legend normally had her as. The thing about the internet as a research tool is that it makes you really appreciate a good local library, and the thing about my local library as a research tool is that it makes you really appreciate having the internet. Got the idea reading Thomas Mikkelsen's fic Self Less, and later on someone else pointed it out in a review on FFN.

DARIA: I've paid the entry fee, dressed up like an idiot like you asked, and got a rich kid along to see just how bad LHS is so maybe he'll still make a donation out of sheer pity. Can we get out of here early? Now, for instance? : Expanded version of a line in Canadibrit's Kiss & Tell.

MS LI: No, no-one is permitted to leave befoooorre midnight. For security reasons. : A rule put to good use in Acrobat's Three Prommed Attack sequel.

... Jane, dressed like Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer -- in other words, her usual gear with black jeans instead of shorts and a floor-length black duster... : Watch the Buffy ep "School Hard", the resemblance is striking with that large, heavy blunt object Ms Li was using earlier. Joss Whedon (or someone in costuming at least) has obviously caught the odd Daria episode...

... works about as well as the idea of a sex scandal involving John Howard... : I'm sorry. Really.

... knocks him out and blows him into the milling students, who either go down like bowling pins or explode out in a terrified mass around him. : More "inspiration"... Geoffrey Roberts's A Night On The Lame this time.

JANE: You know what happens when a slimy little bastard like you gets struck by lightning? : Based on the one line from the movie too out-and-out awful not to try and do something about.

Questions? Comments? Threats of a slow and painful death? Mail me.