...The Ones You Love.


(This story takes place two months after “You Only Hurt...”)


Chapter One: It’s The Same, Only Different.


He broke into a run, noticing the other man already tensing himself for his attack. He ran down the catwalk, pulled the knife from his belt, and slashed an attack. The other man ducked back, but the knife cut through his shirt, drawing blood. He slashed again - the other man ducked under his swing and he went wide. As he tried to steady himself, he was aware of the other man ducking past him. He regained his balance, and turned - slashing out at where he thought the other man was.

There was a flash of steel, and pain - extreme pain - all through his right arm.

So much pain! Try to keep conscious - can’t black out - not now.

He steeled himself to look at his right arm - scared to see how bad it was. He turned his head slowly.

Time seemed to stand still as he turned.

Then his mind screamed.

My arm!

It was missing from the elbow down. Blood was slowly pumping from the stump where his arm had been.

No, please!

As he numbly stared at his wound, suddenly he felt a second sharp pain from his chest. Slowly he brought his head down to see a sword - his sword - protruding from his chest.

Everything went fuzzy. He staggered back, trying desperately to keep the world from fading to darkness. As he stumbled towards the edge of the catwalk, he looked up into the eyes of the other man, the man who had done this to him.

Just before everything faded forever, he saw Timothy O’Neill smiling back at him.

Jake Morgendorffer’s eyes popped open and he sat up, trying to get his breath back. He wiped the cold sweat from his forehead, and felt his pillow. It was drenched in sweat.

The same dream again. The same dream I’ve been having for the past two months.

Helen sat up sleepily, and touched Jake on the shoulder lightly. “Jake? What’s wrong?”

Jake turned to her. “Bad dreams. I’m okay.” Helen leaned over and took him in her arms.

Jake pulled back from her embrace, and looked at her. She looked really hot with her hair messed up, he had to admit. “Why, Mrs. Morgendorffer, you’re ravishing.”

Helen flushed. “Stop it.” Jake took her face in his hands, and kissed her deeply. She responded for a few moments, and then pulled back. “Jake, I have to be up early...I have that big case...ohhh!” Jake had began nuzzling down her neck, and pulling the straps of her nightgown down. “I don’t know where you’ve been getting your energy from lately, Jake.”

Jake looked up briefly. “Not complaining, are we?”

Helen smiled. “Not at all.”

Jake gazed at her for a moment.

You know, she’s beautiful when she smiles. She certainly doesn’t look 48...or 47...or whatever the hell age she is.

Life was simpler with non-age specific birthday cards, mused Jake. He continued pulling the straps down, and lightly pushed Helen down onto the bed, as she giggled in pleasure.


Morning arrived. Jake awoke with a start, and realized he was alone in bed. He glanced at the clock, and saw why. He was going to be late, if she didn’t get moving. He got out of bed, and walked past the pile of discarded sleepwear on the floor, grinning at the memories. He reached into the closet, and pulled out a suit. With the recent success of Morgendorffer Consulting, and its imminent expansion, Jake had decided his wardrobe needed a boost. He’d blown his clothing budget for the next few years on some Armani suits. Nothing too fancy, just enough to show his clients that he was moving up in this world. Of course, Wendy still paraded around jeans, a t-shirt, and nothing else, but that was Wendy for you.

He wandered into the kitchen, and was mildly surprised when he didn’t see anyone there but Helen.

“Where is everyone?”

Helen looked up from the legal papers she was going through. “They both left for school, already.”

“Oh.” Jake sat down. “You know, I’m glad those two are spending more time together lately.”

Helen nodded. She got up and stuffed the papers into her bag. “Well, I have to go. Eric wants a plan for that big case by tomorrow at the latest, and I’ve got to get busy.”

She walked over to Jake and kissed him briefly.

“I’ll see you tonight.” She walked over to the door, and paused briefly. “Jake?”


“Are you...okay?”

“Of course, why wouldn’t I be?” Jake got up and took Helen in his arms.

“You’ve just been kind of evasive lately...and I thought we were getting along so much better.” Helen seemed uncharacteristically doubtful.

Jake responded by kissing her deeply. He broke off and said: “I’m fine. If there’s anything wrong, it’s just pressure at work, not you. Okay?”

Helen smiled. “Okay.” She kissed him again, and left.

Jake sat back down at the kitchen table and sighed.

Nice work, Jakey. I know you’ve been preoccupied with things, but don’t take it out on Helen. She’s right. You two are stronger than you’ve ever been, so don’t screw it up.

That was true. Ever since his ‘change’, they had been almost perfect. Communicating like they never had, talking, sharing, that sort of thing. Maybe his sudden transformation into being competent had been just what they needed.

There was only one thing Jake felt could screw them up, and it wasn’t Helen.

It’s me.

He’d become obsessed with finding out exactly what had happened at the school two months ago, and how exactly his father played into it. It wasn’t any secret Jake didn’t get along with his father, but this was something different.

Trying to find the men who had attacked him and Wendy in the alleyway - they were gone.

Trying to find the men who had invaded his house - they were gone.

Calling some of his father’s old friends - most of them hadn’t even talked to him, and the ones that had weren’t particularly useful.

Trying to do research on government projects like the events he’d been through - he’d watched a whole lot of bad movies, and had learned nothing.

Trying to gain access to his father’s old marine records - nothing in there of note.

Everything he did - a dead end.

Plus, the fact that he’d murdered one of his children’s teachers was weighing pretty heavily on his mind. He hadn’t told anyone about that. He thought Daria suspected, but if she did, she hadn’t said anything.

Good. It’s bad enough you dragged Wendy and Horizon into this. Don’t go dragging your family in too.

“I don’t want to talk about it, Wendy,” said Jake peevishly.

“Jake, we already know too much.” Wendy put her hands on her hips in annoyance.

“You know that we were attacked in an alley, and I beat the guys up. Is that so hard to believe?”

“Actually, yes,” said Horizon.

Wendy glared at him. “It’s not that you did that. It’s the way you did it that got me.”

“I don’t know what you mean.” Jake turned away.

Horizon glanced at Wendy. “I have to admit, what you told me does sound a little unbelievable.”

Wendy scowled. “Watch this.” She walked over to her desk, and pulled a knife from it. She aimed at Jake’s back and threw it. It flew through the air towards him. Horizon was too shocked to speak or yell a warning. Suddenly, Jake tensed, and whirled round, catching the knife effortlessly seconds before it hit him.

Horizon’s eyes went wide. “Holy shit.”

Jake’s eyes narrowed, and he began to speak. Wendy cut him off. “Check the knife, M. It’s plastic.” She grinned wildly.

Jake scowled. Horizon looked at him, amazed. “How did you do that?”

“Okay. Everything Wendy told you is true. I admit it.”

Wendy stepped forward. “So let us help you. Come on, Jake, we’re your friends. And you need help on this.” Wendy stood defiantly, looking a lot larger than her petite 5’3’’ frame.

Jake glanced at Horizon, who was standing in a similar position. He sighed. “All right.”

“Good.” Wendy smiled. “And we don’t want much in return.”

You forced me.”

“All I want is to be able to smoke in my office. Is that too much to ask?”

Horizon rolled her eyes.

Thinking about his colleagues suddenly reminded Jake he had to be at work early today, and he grabbed his coat and rushed out.


“And of course, you never listen to my suggestions. I mean, it wouldn’t kill you just to try some of my fashion tips once in a while.”

“But it’s always better not to take the risk.”

“Daria!” Quinn glared at her sister as they rounded the corner towards Lawndale High. “I mean, I’m trying to help you.”

“Or you could just be trying not to lose your fashion skills since you’re still not talking to the rest of the fashion club.” Daria raised an eyebrow to Quinn.

“Oh no.” Quinn laughed a little nervously. “That would be really pathetic of me.”

“That thought never crossed my mind.”

Quinn gave Daria a look. “Look, Daria, we’ve mainly been hanging around with each other lately, right?”


“But we don’t really do anything together. Just kind of hang around and talk.”

“Well, that’s what I always used to do with...” Daria tailed off and she stared at the ground.

“Jane?” Quinn asked softly.

Daria nodded.

“Look, Daria, I’ve never really understood why you’re not talking to her, and you haven’t been very helpful on that matter either, but since we’ve been getting so close, and I’m sure I could trust you with anything, why don’t you trust me with that?”

Daria looked up at her. “I’ve never been able to figure out how you can talk so long without breathing. Although the lack of oxygen to the brain would explain a lot.”

Quinn glared at Daria. “I’m being serious, Daria. Why don’t you trust me? It’s not like I have any other friends now to blab it to.”

“Why is that, exactly? You never had any trouble before.”

Quinn fell silent. Daria looked at her. “Quinn?”

Hesitantly, Quinn spoke: “I...don’t want any.”

Quinn looked at Daria. “I keep thinking about Sandi hurting me, and Stacy and Tiffany just watching, and it still hurts. I don’t want to let anyone hurt me like that again. You’re my sister, and you can be mean to me and stuff, but you’d never let anyone hurt me.”

Daria was speechless. Quinn smiled a little. “So, what is your problem?”

Daria looked at her sister’s face, and saw the obvious concern there. “Quinn, I appreciate the concern, I really do. But I can’t talk about it yet, okay?”

“It’s not about that guy you’re hung up on, is it?”

I never said it was a guy, Quinn thought Daria.

Quinn’s eyes grew wide. “Oh god, he’s not someone that’s dating Jane, is it?”

“Quinn, could you ever picture me stealing Jane’s guy?”

“I guess not.” Quinn smiled a little. “Daria? I have really enjoyed getting to know you better, even if it was just because we weren’t talking to our friends.”

“I never thought I’d say this, but I have too. If you tell anyone though, I’ll tell the school about your plaid phase.”

“You wouldn’t.” Daria smiled at her. “You would. Well, I’d tell everyone that you watch ‘Three’s Company’ when you think no-one’s looking!”


They walked through the main doors, and began walking to class. Daria saw Jane rounding a corner. Their eyes met for a second, and Daria hurriedly said goodbye to Quinn, and set off in the other direction, walking as fast as she could.

Jane did the same, not even noticing Jodie as she walked straight into her. Jodie lost her balance and sprawled onto the floor.

“Oh God, Jodie, I’m so sorry!” Jane knelt down and helped Jodie back to her feet.

“Let me guess,” said Jodie. “You saw Daria coming, and you hurried away as quick as possible, not noticing who was in your way.”

“Wow, I never knew I was that predictable.”

“Jane, come on. It just isn’t natural not to see you guys not talking and hanging out.”

Jane shot her a look. “Things haven’t exactly been normal around here for a while. Say, where is Mack, anyway?”

Jodie scowled. “Fine.” She began to walk away.

Jane grabbed her shoulder. “Jodie, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to say that.”

“That’s okay.” Jodie sighed. “Look, I know how it is when someone you care about isn’t talking to you. I Just figured you could use someone to talk to.”

“That desperate for conversation, huh?”

“I guess.”

Jane thought for a moment. “Okay. Sure.”

They headed down the corridor, walking past the Fashion Club as they did so.

All three members of the Fashion Club were standing beside the lockers, discussing a typically life-threatening problem.

“So, we’re agreed then. We’re having an emergency meeting tonight, at my house. It seems that some members of the Fashion Club haven’t been using the proper amount of effort in co-ordinating their outfits.”

“That’s soooo wrongggg,” drawled Tiffany.

“I know. And if those members aren’t prepared to put the proper work in, we’ll seriously have to think about terminating their membership. Are you listening to me, Sandi?”

Sandi looked up meekly. “Of course Stacy. I’m sorry. You are the President, after all.”

Stacy smiled. “Of course I am.”

Sandi’s head fell again, as Mack wandered past, lost in thought.

Mack shuffled down the corridor. Then, as he usually did, Kevin Thompson came bounding up. “Hey, Mack Daddy!

“I told you not to call me that.”

“Sorry, Mack Daddy! I mean, Daddy! No, wait...”

Wait. That hadn’t happened. In fact, it hadn’t happened in two months. Because Kevin was dead. He wasn’t ever going to come bounding down the corridor.

Mack couldn’t believe he was actually missing that. But, when he thought about it, Kevin had probably been his best friend, apart from Jodie.

And that’s a topic I definitely don’t want to think about.

He heard a noise from behind him, and he turned to see the Three Js wander up.

“Hey Mack,” they said, sort of simultaneously.

“Hey guys.” Was he this desperate for company?

Yes, I am.

Well, that was that settled.

“Hey, guys?” he asked. “There’s something I’ve been meaning to ask you.”


“Not that I don’t enjoy your company, but why haven’t you guys been bugging Quinn like usual?”

They all went pale.

“Well,” said Joey.

“Quinn’s dad came to the school one day,” said Jamie.

“And he kind of beat the shit out of us,” finished Jeffy.

Mack stopped in his tracks. “Mr. Morgendorffer? That doesn’t sound like him.”

Of course, acting out of character was practically a given these days. Considering the events that had taken place, who could blame everyone?

“I never touched her!”

“I never even kissed her!”

“I’ve never even held her hand!”

“Guys, calm down,” Mack said soothingly. “I believe you.”

They calmed down.

“So why hang around me? Isn’t there some other girl you could be pestering?”

Jamie: “Well, you’re kind of the coolest guy we know...”

Jeffy: “And more girls’ fathers might try to beat us up...”

Joey: “So we’re just going to hang around you, and try to be like you, cause we like you...”

Jamie: “But not like that.”

Jeffy: “No.”

Joey: “We like girls!”

All three: “You got it! Yeah!”

Mack sighed heavily, and set off for class, his three new proteges in tow. On the way there, he caught a glance of Brittany, standing by herself. Mack’s brow furrowed in concern. He couldn’t actually remember Brittany talking to anyone in the last few weeks. She’d just hung around by herself, looking miserable, and scaring anyone off that came near her. Mack turned away again. .


“Welcome to Morgendorffer Consulting’s new home!” Jake spread his arms expansively around the spacious office.

Wendy and Horizon provided less than enthusiastic applause.

“Ladies, come on! This is an excellent opportunity for us.”

Wendy crossed her arms. “Remind me again why we moved?”

“One: Larger offices. We now occupy two floors of one of the best business buildings in Lawndale. Two: More facilities. Better communications, computer systems, editing suites, that sort of thing. Three: Better location. Instead of being on the outskirts of town, we’re now slap-bang in the center. Closer to all those businesses who need our expertise.” Jake grinned. “And another plus. We all get window offices!” He glanced at Wendy. “Which you can smoke in. Happy now?”

Wendy curtsied slightly. “Exquisitely so.”

“Ohh. Window offices. A fabulous view of...some more office buildings,” muttered Horizon.

“I’ll get you some really thick drapes, I promise.”

Jake glanced over at Wendy. “Wendy? What do you think?”

“Okay, you’ve sold me with your spiel. At first, I thought you just wanted to move here because your wife is just around the corner, and you could go over for a quickie during lunch.”

Jake flushed red, and pretended to be very interested in some paneling on the wall.

“Wendy!” Horizon shot her a glance.

“Calm down, intern girl. It’s not like we all haven’t used our lunch for that.”

“Speak for yourself,” muttered Horizon darkly.

Jake finished his panel inspection and turned back around. “Anyway, this is a bold new step for us. Plus we need more space for all those new employees we’re getting.”

Wendy’s voice went more serious. “About those new computers; this isn’t more of your attempts at information grabbing, is it?”

“I don’t know what you mean.”

“Yes you do.” Wendy’s voice went low. “All of your little info searches on your less-than beloved Dad.”

Jake frowned. “Come on, Wendy, it’s bad enough that you guys know as much as you do about all this. I’m not stupid enough to involve you further by doing easily traced searches from my own office.”

“Fair point. Found out anything of note, anyway?”

Jake shook his head. “Not a thing, unfortunately. I still have a few sources to try, but nothing so far.”

“Cheer up,” Horizon added. “I’m sure you’ll find out something soon.”

“That’s one of the problems: I’m not sure if I really want the answers.” Jake sat down. “I never liked my Dad, but I never imagined he was involved in anything quite like this...”

He trailed off.

That’s not really the whole truth, is it? Your only real source left is Mom, and you don’t want to call her in case it turns out she knew something about all this. And I thought the Barksdales were dysfunctional.

Everything else had come up blanks. Everyone involved in the affair had either no memory of the incident, didn’t know enough to be useful, or had vanished. All the muggers he had wounded, and the men who had broken into his house had vanished from the hospital, and the staff weren’t telling him anything.

Wendy’s voice broke into his thoughts. “At least you got some good out of all this.”


“Well, your...abilities.”

“Ah yes. Those.”

Horizon chipped in: “Done any more testing on yourself?”

“Haven’t really had the time, or the opportunity, unfortunately. It’s not exactly easy to do it at home. I had to make up some pretty wild stories to explain what happened back then, and I know Helen didn’t believe me.”

“What did you tell her?”

Jake shrugged. “Nothing fancy. ’Why sweetie, did I forget to mention I’m a kung-fu expert who could probably break a bone with his first two fingers, and can jump huge distances without much effort? It seems like the sort of thing I would have told you’”

Horizon grinned. Wendy rolled her eyes.

“You mean you can’t fire lightning bolts from your hands? I thought everyone could!”

“You said that to a lawyer?”

“Of course not. I can’t even fire lightning bolts out of my hands. And if I have x-ray vision, I sure as hell can’t figure out how to turn it on.”

“With Wendy, you hardly need it anyway.” Horizon raised her eyebrow at Wendy, who ignored her.

“Of course, Helen didn’t believe a word I said. But she trusts me enough to know not to pry.”

“Wait.” Wendy held up her hand. “That last sentence didn’t seem to make any sense.”

Jake spoke slower. “Helen...”





“No, that’s where it all falls apart. When did that happen?”

“We’ve been better than ever recently. I guess we just clicked or something recently.” He beamed. “Works for me. Now, let’s actually get some work done.”


Jane sat back in her chair and sighed heavily. “So there you are. The entire sordid affair, or lack-of-affair, actually.”

Jodie glanced round the library, a look of shock on her face. “Wow. I mean, there were always rumors, but I never thought...”

Jane gave her a look. “Rumors? What do you mean?”

“Well, at one point, Upchuck said he had a tape of you two...you know.”

“I wish.” Jane saw the look on Jodie’s face. “Maybe...you should forget I said that.”

Jodie nodded.

Jane looked at her. “This freaks you out, doesn’t it? I shouldn’t have told you.”

“No,” Jodie smiled reassuringly. “I’m glad you told someone. It looked like you needed to talk about it, and who else is there? I swear I’ll never tell a soul.”

Jane nodded reflectively. “And you promise you won’t try to set me up with her in some cheesy romantic way?”

“Why would I do that?”

“It just seems like something you would do.”

Jodie smiled. “You know, can I be honest with you?”

Jane shrugged. “Sure. I’ve been more with honest with you. Though I left out some of my more explicit thoughts.”

“Thank you for that,” Jodie said, absolutely sincerely.

“So, what was your question? Shoot away!”

“Normally, I’d say you guys would make a cute couple, but...”


“Well, Daria seems so....cold sometimes. I can’t really imagine her being passionate, or...well, you know.”

“She seems that way, I know. But if you really, really get to know her, you get to recognize the smallest little shifts in her mood, by her eyes, her face...I can’t describe it. Have you ever seen her smile?”


Jane leaned over the table. “No, not that knowing smirk. I mean, when she’s really, truly happy, and she smiles. It doesn’t happen that often, but when it does, it lights up my whole day. And when she laughs? Happens even less, but it’s one of the sweetest sounds I’ve ever heard.” Jane smiled goofily. “And did you know she has a killer body? Oh yeah, I mean...”

Jodie held up her hand. “Please don’t go any further. We’ll both just be embarrassed.”

Jane looked guilty. “Oh, yeah, sure. Sorry.”

“That’s okay.” Jodie smiled uncomfortably. She glanced at her watch. “Oh. I’d better be getting on. I have a meeting of the student council to get to.” She got up, and put her hand on Jane’s shoulder. “Jane, things will be okay. I’m sure of it. Okay?”

Jane put her hand on Jodie’s. “Thanks, Jodie.”

Jodie smiled at her, and left.


As she left the library, Jodie spied Mack walking down the corridor. She put her eyes firmly ahead, and walked straight past him, making an active effort not to catch his gaze. She guessed he was doing the same.

If you could only do the same magic with your own love life, Landon.


“Sandi Griffin!”

Sandi looked up with a start. Stacy was glaring at her. “I don’t think you were paying attention to me, Sandi!”

“Stacy, I was, I mean...”

Stacy shut her up with a glare. “Now, back on to our discussion of pastels,” she said, placing her arms on the cafeteria table.

Sandi pretended to listen. She hadn’t been paying attention, she’d been staring over at the table Quinn was sitting at.

What happened to me? Didn’t I use to be President of this club?

Oh yes, but things change, don’t they? It certainly had for her. After her beating of Quinn...

You weren’t yourself. No-one was.

...She’d been so consumed with guilt about that, and her treatment of Stacy...

You were yourself when that happened, weren’t you?

...She’d actively tried to be nicer to Stacy. She’d allowed her to bring that geek, Ted, to their meetings, she hadn’t been such a bitch, she had even listened. Of course, Stacy saw that weakness, and muscled in for the leadership. Sandi hadn’t the energy to fight it, and now their positions were reversed. Stacy was making Sandi’s life hell, and deep down, Sandi felt she deserved it.

She looked up, and saw that the other two had left.

Without me? How could they?!

She slumped back in her seat, utterly depressed. She glanced over at Quinn’s table, and decided to take a chance. She got up, tried to stand straight like she used to, and walked over to the table.

Unfortunately, Quinn saw her coming, and left as quick as she could. Sandi stopped and just stood in the middle of the cafeteria. She knew people were staring at her, but she didn’t care.

You don’t care what people are thinking about you? Who are you, anyway?

Sandi sighed. She really didn’t know anymore.


“No, I don’t care what he says! We have photos. Yes, they are real. Yes, they are very explicit, so I don’t think you want to go to court. Get me? Good.” Helen hung up the phone, and smiled broadly. “You know, I love the feeling I get when I nail somebody’s ass to the wall, you know that?”

Marianne looked up from her typing. “Oh yes, I believe it.”

Helen sat down at her desk contentedly. “You know, I feel like I’m on fire here.”

Sometimes I wish you were. “Oh really?” said Marianne.

“Jake’s just been there for me lately, like he hasn’t been before.”


“Even though there’s a lot he’s not telling me. I can tell.”

“Well, I...”

“He should trust me enough, right?”


“But I’m sure he has a good reason to keep things from me”

Marianne decided to experiment with not saying anything this time.

“So I should trust that he knows what he’s doing.”

Pleased with getting away with saying nothing, Marianne decided she wasn’t an essential part of this conversation anyway.

“Trusting Jake? That’s something I wouldn’t have been saying a couple of months ago.”


“Marianne? Are you listening to me?”

Whoops. Busted.

Luckily, Eric Shrecter took this moment to walk into the office.


“Hello, Helen.” Eric flashed her a big grin. “I have to say, you’re certainly dynamite lately. What’s been floating your boat?”

“Oh Eric, it’s amazing what a little marital harmony can do for you.”

“Yes, quite.” Eric face fell for a second, then perked back up again. “Well, just here to say keep it up!”

He moved to leave. “That’s funny. I don’t remember getting any window-washers for today.” Then he left.

Helen sat back in her chair, and smiled. Life was going well, wasn’t it? Her job was crackling, Jake was as loving and supportive as she’d always hoped he’d be, Quinn and Daria hanging out together.

There were only a few clouds on the horizon. Jake was still very evasive about what exactly had happened back then. Quinn hadn’t wanted her to sue Sandi’s mom, and Jake had backed her up on it. And there was the mysterious disappearance of several teachers, and the home invasion incident. Jake had assured her it was for the best if she didn’t know, and she trusted him. But it was still kind of annoying...

Put it out of your mind, Helen. Things are looking up for you.


Daria and Quinn headed out of the front door of Lawndale High, past the window cleaners, and headed down the road to home.

“I mean, it’s like she really wants to apologize, and stuff, but I’m too freaked to talk to her, cause of all that stuff that happened, you know? I mean, I know that it was a mind control sort of thing, but still...”

“Quinn, why would you want to hang out with those Fashion Zombies again?”

“Daria!” Quinn glared at her sister. “We had some fun times. Like that time when Sandi and I...” She noticed the look on Daria’s face. “Never mind. But even when me and Sandi were fighting, it was still kind of...fun or something. I was getting sick of it, but you know, if we’d reduced that a little...”

“Aha. The Joker needs Batman to define his own personality, right?”

“I guess. Rubber is so out though.”

Daria smiled slightly, then she glanced down the street. “Quinn, look, I have to go. I’ll see you back at the house.”

Quinn scowled. “I know where you’re going. You go there every day. I think it’s getting kind of stalker-ish, and I’m not bailing you out of jail if you get picked up.”

“Goodbye, Quinn.”

Quinn’s expression softened. “I hope you guys become friends again.”

“Me too,” Daria said softly. “Me too.”

Quinn walked towards Fortress Morgendorffer, while Daria headed the other way. As she did every day, she ended up opposite Casa Lane. She stood across the street, as she did every day, trying to muster up the courage to go to the door, and knock on it. She could talk to Jane and Trent, apologize for everything.

Wait, what do I have to apologize for? It’s not my fault that Trent fell for me, and it isn’t my fault that I fell for Jane.

Okay, not apologize. Explain, that was the word she was looking for. Maybe they could still be friends?

Daria suddenly imagined the situation.

Daria was sitting on the couch, when Jane walked in. Jane looked at her with an odd expression, and then sat down.

“What’s wrong, Jane?”

Jane paused for a second. “It’s just, when I see you looking at me, I think you’re imagining me naked, and that freaks the shit out of me.”
“That’s not true.”
“Oh yeah. Look me in the eyes when you say that.”
Daria stared at the floor and said nothing.

“That’s what I thought.”

Trent walked trough the door. He looked at Daria for a moment. “Come to twist the knife a bit deeper, huh? Not content with shattering my heart into a million pieces, Daria?”

Daria got up suddenly. “I gotta go.” She turned and ran out the door.

Daria snapped back to reality. Who was she kidding? She took a last look at the house, and left.

I really need to work on my fantasy life.


Laura Scott and Stephanie Williams, two of the new employees that Jake had hired before the move, said their goodbyes and left for the day. With the expansion of Morgendorffer Consulting, Jake had found he couldn’t run the office with just three people any more, so he’d gone on a hiring binge. Laura and Stephanie had been the results, and Jake was pleased with their progress so far. There were also a couple of part-time employees they had at any given time, depending on how busy it was. Jake was careful not to let them get any inkling of how he was different, and he’d warned Horizon and Wendy not to say anything.

Jake snapped his briefcase shut, and stood up. They were in the main conference room of (the new) Jake Morgendorffer Consulting. Horizon and Wendy were milling around, finishing up their business for the day.

“Ladies, it’s been yet another fascinating day, but I have to get home.”

The two women mumbled vague goodbyes. Jake wandered over to the coat rack to get his jacket. As he did so, he glanced out of the window. He walked over to Wendy.

“Wendy, has that window-cleaner across the street been there all day?”

She shrugged. Jake turned to Horizon.

“I think he was here this morning.” She thought for a moment. “But he left, I’m sure of it.”

Jake frowned. “He’s back now. That’s odd.”

He wandered over to the window, and looked across the street. The window-cleaner caught his eye for a moment, and there was something in his glance that Jake didn’t like.

As casually as he could, he turned away, and walked towards the door.

“I’ll be back in a second.”

As soon as he was out of sight, he broke into a run for the stairwell. He flew down the steps, as quick as he could.

Well, not as quick as I really could. That would be suspicious, wouldn’t it?

He reached the first floor, and bolted out of the front door. He looked up to where the cleaner had been.



When he reached the office, Wendy and Horizon were waiting for him, confused looks on their faces.


“Something doesn’t feel right. I think we’re being watched.”


“Just a hunch. Maybe you two should take some time off. I don’t want anything to happen to you.”

They both shared a glance.

“We’ll stay,” said Horizon.

“God knows what you’d get up to without us around,” added Wendy.

Jake smiled. “Maybe I should get you two costumes.”

Wendy grimaced. “I can see it now. Super-Jake, with his stunning sidekick, and idiot companion.”

“Oh Wendy,” smiled Horizon. “You’re not an idiot.”

Wendy made a crude gesture. Jake rolled his eyes.


The phone began ringing in a large, lavish office. A tall, forty-something man leaned forward in his chair, and answered it.


“Go secure.”

He tapped a few buttons on his phone.


“It’s 75 here, sir.”

“Something to report?”

“I think he saw me.”


“I think he knows we’re watching him.”

The man leaned back in his chair, and ran a hand through his close-cropped light brown hair. “It doesn’t matter. Events are about to spiral beyond his control anyway.”

“Yes, sir.”

“I’m still disappointed in you.”

“I’m sorry sir.”

The man hung up the phone, and turned his chair towards the large window at the end of the office. He raised his hands to his chin, deep in thought.

“Hello Newton,” he said suddenly, whirling his chair round to face the door. An older, white-haired man, stood in the doorway, flanked by a smaller, nervous-looking man in glasses.

“Alexander, it never ceases to amaze me when you do that.”

Alexander smiled. “Enhanced senses are quite useful sometimes.”

“You looked pensive. Is something wrong?”

“You could tell that from the back of my head?”

Newton took a seat in front of the desk. “Well?”

“I think we’ve managed to figure out who was behind that little fiasco two months ago.”

Newton looked up, expectantly.

“Jake Morgendorffer.”

Newton looked incredulous. “Are you sure? Wasn’t he supposed to be on our side?”

Alexander nodded. “Oh yes. But the last transmission we got stated that he was not behaving like he should have. That’s a loose end, and I hate loose ends. If he was changed, but not controlled like the others, imagine what he could be capable of.”

“And that’s why you think he was behind the failure.”

Alexander nodded. “That, his family’s reaction to him, his work history. Everything points to a huge change around that time.”

“We would have had a lot more information if a lot of our people hadn’t gone missing from the hospitals. They were checked in...”

“But they never checked out. They were just foot soldiers. None of the teachers had anything relevant to say either.”

Newton frowned. “You’re sure you’re not letting personal feelings get in the way here?”

“No.” Alexander turned to face the window again. “I’m aware he and I have a...history, but that has nothing to do with it. We’ll move in and find Jake Morgendorffer.” He smiled grimly. “Then show him the consequences of his actions.”

The smaller man spoke up: “Sir? Maybe Morgendorffer could be useful to us?”

Alexander turned to him. “Who are you?”

“Armstrong, sir. I work in information retrieval.”

Alexander raised an eyebrow. Armstrong realized that was his cue to start. “As you know, sir, a lot of resources were put into making Morgendorffer what he is.”

“That’s the way our leader wanted it.”

“Quite. But rather than just...getting rid of him, maybe we could direct him?”

Newton looked at him. “How do you mean?”

“Maybe we could feed him the wrong cues. Get him to rub out some of our enemies.”

Newton smiled. “Interesting.”

Alexander shook his head. “No. He’s a rogue element. He has to be eliminated. Have you forgotten what was supposed to happen in Lawndale? He has to be gotten rid of.”

“Nothing personal?”

Alexander stared at Newton. “Nothing.”

He gazed through the window. It opened out onto a huge room, filled with computer banks lining the walls, Huge power conduits rose from the floor to the ceiling, supporting a labyrinth of catwalks. At the center of the room, three huge concentric rings hung in the air, spinning faster and faster...


Chapter Two: Bad Day At The Office?


Trent stirred from his sleep, realizing that Jane had come in from school.

“Hey Janey,” he mumbled.

“Hey Trent.”

Jane walked past him, and began to walk up to her room. Trent reached out and grabbed her shoulder gently.


“I don’t want to talk about it, Trent. Okay?”

“Janey, you’ve been in a funk for the past two months. You’ve never told me what it was about, or why you and Daria aren’t hanging out with each other anymore.”

Jane turned to him. “It's not like you’re entirely happy with Daria either.”

Trent shrugged, trying to make it seem nonchalant. “She’s in love with someone else. It’s cool.”

“Yeah, right.

Trent sighed. “Janey, please? I thought we trusted each other. I thought we cared about each other.”

Jane’s expression softened. “We do, Trent. That’s why...I can’t talk to you about it yet, okay?”

“Okay. I’m just worried about you, Janey.”

Plus worrying about you takes my mind off how my heart is falling into a big black pit, and I don’t think it’s ever gonna climb back up. Hey, that would make a pretty good song. “Big black pit, big black pit, now that I see you, my life’s full of...”


Trent looked up at Jane. “Sorry, Janey. Zoned there.”

“Zoned. Like the Zon. I get it.”

Trent frowned. “I thought it was the Zen.”

“Opinions vary. Hey, you want some pizza?”

“Yeah, sure.”

Jane looked for the phone. “Trent, the phone?”

“Jesse got disoriented today and tried to rescue it from hunting season. I think it’s at the park.”

Jane rolled her eyes. “Okay, I’ll go get it. Back soon.”

As Jane wandered out the door, Trent’s eye went over to her discarded bag on the floor. Her notebook was in there, and it might hold some answers to Janey’s problem.

It’s like a diary, man. I can’t.

But if it helped Janey...

Trent walked over to her bag, and rummaged through it. He found her notebook pretty easily, and began looking through it.

He wasn’t expecting what he found there.

When Jane got home with the pizza, Trent was already gone.


Stacy looked nervously around her, and ducked into the empty classroom. As usual, Ted was there, waiting for her. She greeted him with a kiss.

Ted smiled. “How was your day?”

“Fine.” Stacy didn’t look fine.

“What’s wrong?”

Stacy looked away for a brief moment. “It’s Sandi.”

“What about her?”

“Well, I know she was always nasty to me, and stuff, but she’s just so miserable now...” Stacy looked at Ted. “I don’t know if I can keep doing this.”

Ted nodded sagely. “I understand.”

“I mean, it seems so mean!”

“Stacy, I’ve done a lot of research on this topic, and everything says that revenge is perfectly okay. We’ll just do it for a little while longer, and then stop when she’s learned her lesson, okay?”

Stacy tried to smile. “Okay, Ted. I trust you.”


Daria waited by the front door.

“I’m leaving in one minute, Quinn.”

A shout came down from upstairs. “Daria! I have to look my best, you know.”

Daria sighed heavily. Quinn walked down the stairs, immaculately dressed and coiffured.

“How do I look?”

“Think about who you’re asking.”

Quinn thought for a moment. “Okay. Never mind.”

They headed out to the car.

“Why did I agree to this?”

“Mom and Dad are working late, and Stevie doesn’t have a car.”

Daria thought for a moment. “You’re dating a guy without a car?”

“I have to work myself back into the dating scene slowly, you know. You know Joey, Jeffy and Jerry aren’t talking to me.”

“Ah yes. Nothing says romance like pissing your pants.”

Quinn glared at Daria. “Just drop me off at Chez Pierre, and pick me up at 9. Okay?”

Daria shrugged and started the car.


Jake finished talking to Helen, and hung the phone up. He looked up to see Wendy and Horizon looking at him.

“You know,” said Wendy. “When you two start your ‘Jakey-Wakey’ and ‘Heleny-Weleny’ stuff, you could remember that there are other people in the room.”

Jake pointedly ignored her. “You know, you guys don’t have to stick around tonight. I can finish up by myself.”

“What else are we going to do?”

“Hey,” said Horizon. “I have a life, you know.”

“What are you still doing here then?”

Horizon tried to think of a witty reply, but nothing came. “Okay. Damn, I have no life.”

Jake looked up suddenly. “Hey, who’s hungry?”

“It depends if it’s your cooking.”

Jake sat back down again, chastened. “Never mind.”

Laura walked in. “Mr. Morgendorffer?”

Jake looked up at the pretty brunette. “You can call me Jake, you know.”

“Okay, Jake. Are you going to need me to stay late tonight? It’s my sister’s birthday.”

Jake thought for a moment. “Nah. We’ll be fine. Has Stephanie already left?”

The young woman stuck her head round the doorway. “Still here. Just finishing up some stuff with Chez Pierre, and then I’m done.” She tilted her head to the side, her black hair falling to the side. “Do you guys live here, or something?” She left.

Jake, Wendy and Horizon looked a each other. “I could go for Chinese,” suggested Horizon, lamely.


Daria watched as Quinn flounced into Chez Pierre. Okay, what now? No point in going home, there wasn't anything to do there. She didn’t have anyone to call or talk to.

I know. I’ll go to the park, sit by myself, and wallow in self-pity.

She set off.


Quinn listened patiently as Stevie prattled on about his sporting escapades, and tried to stifle a yawn. Her heart wasn’t in this. In the past, she would have had him at her beck and call, regaling him with tales of her fashion exploits. Now, she could barely stay awake.

“Excuse me, Stevie. I have to use the bathroom.”

Stevie paused for a brief second to let her get up. She headed to the bathroom, and took a look at herself. She didn’t know who she was looking at. Now that the Fashion Club was gone, and her rivalry with Sandi with it, she didn’t know what to do. Dating didn’t even interest her much any more. Who was she?

I wonder if Sandi has this problem.

She sighed and left the bathroom.

And ran straight into Sandi Griffin.

Her eyes went wide, as did Sandi’s.

“Sandi?! What are you doing here?”

“I’m here with my parents.”

Quinn hadn’t seen or heard Sandi close up for months. She was shocked by her flat voice, and the lifeless look in her eyes. She stared at Sandi for a full minute before she realized Sandi had asked her why she was here.

“Oh...I’m here with Stevie.”

There was an uncomfortable silence. Sandi suddenly looked straight at Quinn, and said something Quinn had never heard her say before.

“Quinn, I’m sorry.”

The she turned and left.

Quinn went back to her seat. Sandi and her family were nowhere to be seen. She guessed Sandi had probably dragged them all out. Stevie took her return as a sign she wanted him to start telling her about his legend, and obliged. Quinn sat back, and thought about Sandi.


Daria sat in the park, thinking about life and how much it sucked. All she wanted to do was see Jane, and she couldn’t even get up the courage to do that.

Jane walked round the corner.

Daria looked at the sky.

Stupid fate.

Jane caught her eye, and moved to leave, but stopped short. Daria held her breath, and got up. She might as well get this over with. Maybe there was still a chance she could save their friendship.

“Jane, wait.”

Jane turned round to face her.

“Please come here.”

Jane hesitated, then came over to join Daria. They both sat down.


“So,” said Daria. “What are you doing in the park?”

“Trent vanished, so I went looking for him.”


More silence.

Daria decided to go for it. “Jane, I miss you.”

Jane looked at the ground. “I miss you too,” she said quietly.

“Can’t we still be friends? I know you don’t feel the same way I do....”

“That’s not it.”


Jane took a deep breath. “I...do feel the same way.”

Daria was speechless. ’What?” she whispered.

Jane looked up at her, her eyes full of sadness and regret. “I love you, Daria.”

Daria was speechless.

Jane smiled sadly, and looked away again. “I’ve been in love with you for over a year, Daria. I don’t know when it happened, but one day I looked at you, and knew I wanted to be with you. Not just as a friend, but with you with you. If you know what I mean.”


“You’re beautiful, you know that? Remember when you got those contacts? I could barely stop looking at you. And you have the nicest smile I’ve ever seen. It brightens any day.”

“Then....why have you been ignoring me?”

Jane’s tone went grim. “Trent. I’ve hurt him. I was trying to set you two up, and now he’s actually fallen for you. If we get together, it would kill him.”

Daria remembered the look in Trent’s eyes when she left him that day in front of Casa Lane. “Then, why...”

“Because I didn’t want to lose you. Because I didn’t think you felt the same as me. And if you two got together, at least you’d still be around me.”

“Jane, I would always want to be around you. You’re one of the only people that’s ever gotten past my barriers. You made me fall in love with you.”

Jane smiled a little at this.

Daria continued: “And this is killing me. I love you, and every day that goes by, I miss you more and more.”

“I can’t hurt Trent. He’s all I have left.”

“I know.” Daria’s expression turned to one of pleading. “Can’t we still be friends?”

Jane looked away again. “Can you see me every day, and know that you love me, but we can’t be together?”

Daria was silent.

“Neither can I. Goodbye, Daria.”

They looked at each other for a moment. Jane moved in as if to kiss her, then pulled back, and quickly stood up and walked off.

Daria sat back in the seat, and put her hands to her face. She couldn’t decide if what was worse - Jane not sharing her feelings, or sharing them, but choosing not to be with her.


The day at Morgendorffer Consulting wound up as usual. Jake had kept looking out of the window suspiciously all day, but he couldn't see anyone else watching them. Laura and Stephanie had already left. He stood up with a flourish. “Okay. It’s a wrap for tonight, ladies. I have to get home, and meet my beautiful wife. What are you two going to do?”

Wendy thought for a moment. “I’m going to go get shitfaced, then get laid.”

Horizon raised an eyebrow. “There’s such a thing as too much honesty, you know.”

“Shove it, Intern Girl. You’re coming with me.”

“Says who?”

“Look at you. You need it, take it from me.”

Horizon moved to retort, but Jake cut her off. “As entertaining as this is, I really have to be getting home.”

He moved to leave, then paused. He looked at the window.

Horizon walked over to him. “Jake, what’s wrong?”

He turned from the window, and in one fluid motion swept Horizon into his arms, and ran forward to grab Wendy. Behind him, the front window of Morgendorffer Consulting exploded inwards.

Jake and Horizon pitched forward, knocking into Wendy, and the three were flung to the ground. Jake groggily got to his feet, and helped the two women get up. He glanced towards the flaming wreckage of the window.

“Let’s go,” he said.

They began running for the stairwell. A second huge explosion rocked the building, and Jake had to steady himself.

“What was that?” yelled Wendy.

“I don’t know. Keep moving.”

They reached the stairwell, and Horizon flung the door open, then recoiled in shock. The other two pushed past her to see what was wrong.

The entire stairwell was engulfed in flames.


Jake turned around, and thought for a moment.

“The fire escape,” suggested Horizon.

They ran though the corridors. Jake’s mind was racing. It looked like his past was catching up to him. They turned a corner, and raced into one of the meeting rooms. Jake flung open the window, and began ushering the two women out. They raced down the fire escape.

A ripple of gunfire slammed into the wall beside them, stopping them in their tracks. Jake glanced over at the source. The air shimmered, and a sleek black aircraft came into view. Information flashed into Jake’s head.

Whisper craft. Jet/helicopter hybrid. Fast, maneuverable, deadly. Cloaking capability. Armed to the teeth. He glanced quickly at the weaponry. 30mm cannon. Missile pod with a variety of lethal and non-lethal weaponry, according to the situation. Rearward defense pod. All this versus their nothing. Good odds, all right.

The cannon on the craft readied itself on them again.

Jake made a decision. As fast as he could, he shoved both of the women onto the fire escape ladder, and kicked the release lever.

The ladder shot downwards, Wendy and Horizon only barely able to keep their grips.

Jake flung himself upwards as the whisper craft fired. He grabbed a railing, the level below him exploding in flames, sending twisted metal debris to the street below. His escape route was cut off.

He pulled himself onto the fire escape - threw himself through a window. It exploded behind him, sending him flying across the room.

He landed hard. He smelt his clothes smoking, and pulled off his jacket, and threw it beside him. Got up - staggered into the hallway. An rifle butt hit him in the face, sent him sprawling to the ground. He hit the floor - rolled over to see four black-clad troops standing over him.

Jake lashed out with his feet. Knocked one to the ground, dazed another. He flung himself to his feet. Another blow to his face - he rolled with this one. Followed up by sweeping the legs out from under the guy. Kick to the face meant he stayed down. Two left; dazed and not dazed.

Not Dazed brought his rifle up, and fired. Jake tried to dodge, caught him in the shoulder. He paused for a moment in pain. Dazed had recovered. Smashed his rifle butt into Jake’s ribs as hard as he could. Jake felt his ribs crack. Not Dazed kicked him in the face. The world went spinning.

Jake tried to gather himself. The two troops didn’t give him a chance. Blow after blow after blow. Jake blocked as many as he could. In a matter of seconds, he was on the ground. Dazed gave him another kick in the ribs for good measure.

They stopped. Not Dazed pulled some advanced looking restraints from his pack.

Jake seized his chance. He rolled across the ground, and grabbed one of the fallen troops’ weapons. He shot Dazed in the legs before he could do anything. Rose to his feet - too slowly. Not Dazed had dropped the restraints, bringing his own weapon to bear. Jake shot in the knees. He fell, but not before getting a shot off. This one caught him in the gut. He fell to the floor.


Horizon and Wendy hit the ground, hard. The force of the ladder’s fall sent them both sprawling. Horizon was the first to rise. She pulled Wendy to her feet. They both ducked into a nearby alleyway.

“What the hell was that?”

Wendy shook her head. “God knows. We have to get away from here.”


“I have a place we can hide.”

“What about Jake? We can’t just leave him there!”

“I have a plan.”


Jake pulled himself to his feet with some difficulty. He staggered down the corridor, holding the rifle with one hand, trying to keep from bleeding to death with the other. He pitched forward, and the world went black for an instant.

I can’t black out. Not here. Not now.

He reached the other fire escape. There were already troops rushing onto it from the ground floor.


He raised the rifle, pushed a couple of buttons, and fired. The escape exploded, everything for several stores down falling to the ground in a hail of debris.

He turned away. Where now?

The maintenance stair way to the roof.

He could escape across the rooftops. He set off, and hoped that Wendy and Horizon were okay.

After a long and laborious trek, he reached the stairwell. He heard voices, getting closer and closer. They must have found another way in. They weren’t going to have any trouble finding him; he’d left a trail of blood for them to follow.

Jake began climbing the stairwell. He paused halfway up, and fired a couple of shots. Explosions resounded around the building, and the way to his current position was blocked. He finished the climb, and crawled out onto the roof.

Before he could make a move to the side of the building, another whisper craft rose beside him. He staggered back, and brought the rifle up to fire. A shot rang out, and the gun was knocked from his hands. The cockpit opened, and a well-dressed, tall man in his late forties got out. His light brown hair ruffled in the wind, and he smiled. He began to make his way towards Jake.

Jake tried to rush him, but he effortlessly blocked Jake’s attack, and delivered a powerful kick of his own to Jake’s chest. Jake flew backwards, and landed hard, sliding into the ledge at the end of the roof. The blood was flowing freely from his wounds now, and it was getting harder and harder to stay conscious.

“Hello, Jake.”

“Who...are...you?” Jake spat the words out, blood running from his mouth.

“My name is Alexander. Not the name I was born with, but a name I chose to take. In honor of my father.”

Jake’s heart began to sink.

“Alexander Hamilton Morgendorffer.”

Jake’s mind went fuzzy. “What..?”

“Not my real father, of course. The man who took me in. The man who raised me. The man who I owe everything to.”


Alexander’s mind flashed back to the first time he had met ‘Mad Dog’ Morgendorffer.

It was after he had been to Vietnam. He had only gone to ’Nam as a way to avoid prison. An orphan, he had constantly been getting into brawls on the streets, earning a reputation for viciousness. One day, he had gone too far, and almost killed someone. It took eight cops to pull him off the victim. The court had offered him a deal. Serve a term in ’Nam, or go to prison.

He’d opted for ’Nam. He excelled there. His reputation for viciousness was put to good use, and it was soon joined by a reputation for effectiveness.

One day, his patrol was ambushed by a Vietcong platoon, and the rest of his patrol killed. Single-handedly, he wiped out the rest of the VC by himself. They found him, gravely wounded, surrounded by dismembered bodies, laughing to himself.

He was shipped back to the states to recover. Whilst in the hospital, he was visited by ‘Mad Dog’. He’d heard of him - who in the marines hadn’t? Mad Dog had sought him out. He ‘d heard about his exploits, and saw parallels in his own life. He was heading something new up, and he wanted Alexander to be a part of it.

Of course, he wasn’t called Alexander back then. He’d taken that on later, to honor Mad Dog, a man who he saw as a father. Mad Dog saw him as a son, and he often talked to Alexander about his real son, the failure, the hippie. Alexander grew to hate Jake Morgendorffer, a man who’d hurt his adoptive father more than anyone else had.

They worked together for years, patiently putting their plans in motion. Alexander had been augmented, as had everyone else in the plan. he was faster, stronger, more agile than most other human beings on the planet. He surpassed Mad Dog’s every hope, and the pride on his face was the greatest reward Alexander could have wanted.

When Mad Dog grew too sick to head things up anymore, Alexander was the natural choice to head the operation. Following his father’s instructions, he’d began to put their plans into action.

Jake Morgendorffer was to be a big part of their plans. He was to be augmented too - to be what he’d never wanted to be - the perfect fighting man. All the things he had rejected were going to come back and bite him in the ass. He was going to be responsible for the deaths of thousands of people. And in the process, he would die too. Mad Dog would like that.

Being Jake, he’d screwed that up. Most of their servants (though not all) freed. The machine itself destroyed. And Jake Morgendorffer, alive and better than ever. Now Alexander was going to have to go to Lawndale and take care of business.

Business that included killing Jake personally.

That part particularly appealed to him. Alexander would never admit to anyone, but he was jealous of Jake. He was always acutely aware that Jake was the real son, and he was just a replacement. Alexander wanted Jake out of the way permanently, to be free from his shadow.

And now, Jake was lying in front of him, bleeding to death. Now he could be free.


Jake looked up, trying to keep conscious. Was this true? Had his father really adopted someone else as a result of his disappointment in his son? Something occurred to him, and he forced himself to speak.

“When did he take you in?”

“Just before he wrote you that letter.” He smiled. “You remember: ‘I have no son’?”

“But...he died after that...”

Alexander’s face flushed with anger. “How would you know? You didn’t even go to his God damn funeral!”

“My father...when did...he die...?”

Alexander ignored him, and pulled a sword from his belt. “Time to die.”

Jake struggled to his feet. He couldn't make it the whole way, and sagged against the ledge. He glanced over the edge, made a decision, and threw himself over.

“No!” Alexander rushed to the side, in time to see Jake’s body vanish into the flames. He pulled a small black box, the size of a cell phone, from his pocket. “Alexander here. He went over the side. Find him. If he’s alive, bring him to me.”


Jane walked back into Casa Lane. God, she needed Trent right now. She hoped to God he’d turned up. Sure enough, he was there on the couch. Oddly enough, he wasn’t asleep.

“Are your pants on fire or something?”

No laughter. Instead, he turned to Jane with a hurt look on his face.

“Why did you do it, Janey?”

“Do what?” She got a bad feeling about this.

“Try to set me up with Daria.”

“What do you mean?”

“Why, when you’re in love with her?”

Jane sat down hard. Her voice was a whisper. “How did you know?”

“Your notebook.”

“You read that?” A flush of anger.

“I was worried about you, Janey.”

“I’m sorry, Trent. I am. I didn’t mean...I just...”

“I know.” Trent looked towards the floor. “I’m sorry for reading it.”

There was an icy silence between them. Neither wanted to look at the other. Eventually, Jane picked up the courage to speak.

“What now?”

“I don’t know, Janey. I’m hurt. I mean, I’m okay with you being gay, and everything.”

“I never mean to hurt you.”

“I know. I think we’ll be okay. I just need time to think.”

“How long for?”

Trent frowned. “I don’t know. I really don’t.”

Trent got up, and began walking towards the door. Jane moved to call after him, but didn’t say anything. She slumped back in her seat. Great. Now she’d blown off her best friend, and the woman she loved, and her brother wasn’t talking to her. Jane was now at the stage she never wanted to be at. She was alone.

Guess I’d better hide the X-Acto knives, huh?

Impulsively, she picked up the phone, and dialed.


Jodie was sitting in her room, going over her summer plans. Finding summer plans wasn’t hard, it was paring them down to the amount of time she had that was the problem. Of course, she had a lot more time now she didn’t have a boyfriend.

Let’s try not to think about that.

She sighed, and laid her head on her desk.

The phone woke her with a start. “Hello?”


“Jane? I didn’t know you had my number.”

“Um, yeah.” Pause. “Jodie, are you busy? Stupid question. I’m sorry.”

“Jane, wait.” Jane sounded horrible. Her voice sounded like she had been fighting back tears for a while. “What’s wrong?”


Jodie shrugged. “I don’t understand.”

“Just...tell me your problems.”


“I need to take my mind off things.”

Jodie moved to protest, but Jane’s voice came back, totally desperate. “Please.

She decided it would be a good idea. She started talking about all the events her parents made her do, and how she was sick of them sometimes. Then she added how she actually enjoyed some of them, especially the ones that involved helping people. She thought she could do a lot better job at some of them, if she gave up the ones she didn’t like. Then she moved onto Mack, and how much she missed him, not as a boyfriend, but just a friend. Someone to talk to. She wished that they could look past the differences they had had, and be good friends again. She talked and talked, glad to get things off her chest.

“Wow,” said Jane when they had finished. “I thought I had problems.”


“Why don’t you talk to Mack - see if you two can’t be friends?”

“Did you talk to Daria?”

Icy silence. “I have to go now.”

“Jane, wait, I’m sorry.”

“That’s okay. Sore subject.”

“I know. Hey, thanks for listening.”

“Thanks for letting me listen. See you, Jodie.”

Jane hung up. Jodie put her hands under her chin. She knew what she was going to do now.


Daria pulled up outside Chez Pierre. Inside, she was dead. She knew now that Jane didn’t want to see her ever again. The person she loved the most in this world had rejected her. What was the point of anything now. She’d never find anyone as good for her as Jane.

She fought to overcome a wave of despair as it rushed through her.

The door opened, and Quinn walked out, accompanied by Stevie. He was obviously expecting a kiss or something. Quinn blew him off, and got in the car.

“God! That was the most boring date I’ve ever been on! And it’s all your fault!”

Daria’s eyes went wide. “Why?”

“You said once I should let guys talk about themselves for a change. And he did. All night! Sport sport sport!”

“The realities of relationships finally sinks home to you, huh?”

Quinn scowled. “What did you do all night?” She saw the look on Daria’s face, and decided to drop it.

The rest of the trip passed in an uncomfortable silence. They ran into a traffic snarl up downtown.

“Damn,” said Daria.

“I wonder what the hold-up is.”

“Maybe another stressed out business man decided to take diving lessons from his office.”

“Daria! That’s sick.”

The traffic proceeded at a snail’s pace. Eventually, they caught sight of fire trucks, and police clustered round a burning building. The fire crews were fighting a valiant, but losing battle. The building was finished. A sudden horrible thought occurred to Daria.

“Dad,” she whispered.

“What?” Quinn’s face fell. “What is it?”

“That’s where Dad’s new office is.”

“Oh God!” Quinn rushed out of the car, Daria following. They ran as close to the building as they could, until a fireman restrained them.

“Daddy!” Tears were streaming down Quinn’s face.

“Officer, please. That’s our father’s office. We’re worried...”

The fireman nodded. “I understand. But we went through the building already. There’s no-one in there.”

Daria pulled Quinn back. “Quinn, come on. He might be at home.”

Quinn nodded, and they rushed back to the car.


They sped up to the house.

“We’re here,” said Daria with a touch of anxiety in her voice.

“I hope none of those people saw our license plate,” said Quinn.

“Relax. They probably all have insurance anyway.”

The car pulled up in the driveway, just as soon as Helen’s SUV pulled up. Daria and Quinn rushed out of the car, and ran to Helen.

“Mom! Dad...he’s...”

Helen looked at her with a look of worry. “Quinn, what is it?”

“Fire at daddy’s office!”

Helen’s eyes went wide. “Oh God!”

“Relax.” They turned to see Daria in front of Jake’s Lexus. “He’s home.”

They all rushed inside. Jake was seated at the kitchen table, reading the paper. “I don’t get it. How can Sgt. Snorkel’s dog have a rank? Oh, hey honey!”

Helen and Quinn hugged him tight. “Are you okay?”

“Okay, Quinn?”

“The fire at your office,” said Daria.

“There was a fire at my office? Dammit!” Jake threw the paper down. “I bet those insurance people will try to stiff me. Well, they’re not going to fool Jake Morgendorffer!”

“Oh, Jakey. I’m so glad you’re okay.”

Daria looked at him. “Those two women you work with. Were they at home?”

“Who?” Jake’s face went blank. “Oh yeah. They were.”

Daria’s eyes narrowed. “Dad, is everything okay?”

“Sure, kiddo! I have to call those insurance people.”

Jake, Helen and Quinn all left the room, leaving Daria alone, with her thoughts...


Chapter Three: You Can’t Fight City Hall.


Alexander walked up the steps of City Hall, flanked by two other men. He strode down the corridor to the Mayor’s office, and pushed the door open. Inside, the mayor was in a meeting. He sprang to his feet at the interruption.

“Who are you people? How did you get past....” He stopped briefly, and his eyes flickered with recognition. “I do apologize, sir. How can I help you today?”

Alexander moved past him, and sat down at the desk. “I’ll be needing the use of your facilities for a couple of days, and a status report on the rest of our associates.”

“Of course. They are mostly back to their normal lives, though I’m sure they’ll be just as happy to return to your service as I was.”

“Good. You can go now.”

The Mayor nodded and left. Alexander settled back into his chair, and his two companions took guard duty by the door.

Now was the time he hated. Waiting.

Of course, hadn’t they already done enough waiting? He ought to be used to it by now. He thought back to all that time he’d spent with the organization. Almost thirty years. But now their time was coming.

He’d laughed at the idea at first.

“Taking over the government? You must be joking!”

Mad Dog was not joking, though. And neither were any of his associates. The principle was an old one, long discussed by conspiracy theorists and other such nut jobs.

A Shadow Government. A secret government operating alongside the regular one, designed to take over in the event of a national emergency. A government with the ability to suspend constitutional liberties, and basically do what the hell it liked.

Except that this one was planning on taking over a lot quicker than anyone planned.

The basic plans had been put into motion in the late sixties. Their leaders had decided that the current administration was impotent, and that things in America were going to get a lot worse. Rioting, general disorder, the moral fabric of America was vanishing. They had sought out a military legend, one that had a notorious hatred of the way the country was going.

A.H. Morgendorffer.

They’d drafted him in secret, faked his death, and put him in charge of their War Department. His objectives were to find a way for them to take control of the country in a timely and effective manner. That was when Alexander came into the picture.

They’d been given unprecedented access to the most classified research, things that most other people hadn’t even heard rumors of. SDI research, Stealth Drones, Pseudo UFOs, Plasmoid weapons.

All of that had been a dead end. They were beginning to lose hope, when they came across the wormhole technology. At last, something that had potential. They watched the research and development, until they had a working prototype. It was crude, but it worked to a certain extent. The first tests opened up doorways, but everything that passed through them was killed. Not immediately, though. They were mutated, horrifically. Twisted fleshy monstrosities, enough to set the fear of God in anyone who saw them. They were disillusioned then, until they discovered a side-effect. The wormholes could kill. They could send shockwaves that devastated human flesh. Perfect for their plans. They decided to test it on a larger level.

In Lawndale.

That was a setback, but they pressed on. While they investigated the causes of that fiasco, the prototype was improved, refined. Transport between worlds became a reality. Timetables were changed, dates were moved up. After thirty long years, the dream was becoming reality.

Their plan: To hide out in a parallel world, and fire the weapon on a huge scale. Ground zero? Washington DC. The current government would be destroyed, along with those agencies who would ask too many questions. The FBI, CIA, and DELPHI. There would be no inquiries from them. They would return, and assume control of the country.

If there were anyone who still resisted, what could they do? One of their appointed duties were to establish small, specialized, highly mobile, elite military units to effect their covert policies. They had done that, and with the technology they had at their disposal, they had some of the best-trained, and best armed troops in the world. They had been genetically enhancing all their troops for years, refining the procedure every time. Alexander had been one of the first recipients of this procedure, and he had continued to improve himself with every new development. He was now as far beyond normal men, as they were above apes.

Their conditioning techniques were flawless, creating troops who were not only stronger and faster than normal, but who also had a fanatical loyalty to the cause.

Plus, they had covertly conditioned thousands of influential people over the country, and blackmailed others. Those people would die to help their cause, at a moment’s notice.

They had the means and the power to destroy the government, and they had gotten it with the help of the very people they were going to kill.

Alexander smiled. All he had to do was to take care of his business in Lawndale, then the plans could be put into motion.

The door clicked open, and Newton walked in. The old man was a trusted friend of Mad Dog, and Alexander counted him amongst his closest friends.

“Alexander,” Newton began, his voice carrying a warning tone. “This is risky.”

“What is?”

“Waiting. We should get them now.”

“You know that’s a risk too. We need to wait. At least one day. To make sure.”

Newton shook his head. “I can’t shake the feeling that you’re letting your obsessions guide you.”

“I am not. Jake Morgendorffer’s fate may not be exactly what I wanted, but it will do for now.”


Newton didn’t need to know that, though. Morgendorffer was still a thorn in his side, a painful one, and he intended to rectify that someday.

“Very well,” said Newton. “I’ll begin contacting our old associates, then.”

Alexander nodded, and Newton left. Alexander turned the chair towards the window, and looked out onto Lawndale, deep in thought.


Daria finished dressing, and set off down the stairs, to face another painful day. Another day of seeing Jane, and not being able to talk to her. Another day of knowing that the woman she loved would never be hers. Another day...

Whoa. I really am getting to be the Misery Chick.

She sighed heavily and walked into the kitchen. Her dad was sitting, reading the paper. Something seemed odd about that, but she didn't know what.

"Oh, hey kiddo!" Jake looked up as she came in.


Jake went back to his paper. Helen bustled in.

"Morning everyone." She fixed Jake with an odd look, which he totally failed to notice.

Quinn wandered in. "Hi." She turned to Daria. "Ready?"

Daria nodded. "Sure."

"They're imposing stricter sanctions on road rage now!? Dammit!"

Quinn and Daria turned to look at their father, confusion covering their faces. He looked up at them, blankly.


Daria shook her head. "Nothing. We'll...see you tonight."

The two girls left, Daria giving a quick back at Jake as she left.

Jake turned to Helen. "What did I do now?"

Helen pursed her lips in concern. She appeared to be searching for the right words. "Jakey..." she finally said. "We...that is...I...oh Jake, what's wrong?"

Jake looked confused. "I don't understand."

Helen sat beside him at the kitchen table. "Well, lately you've been so....adventurous in bed...and last night..."

"I don't want to talk about it."

"Well, it was like before, when you had all those problems."

Jake stood up. "Let's just pick on old Jakey, shall we? He can't get it up! It happens to every man, Helen!"

Helen was getting exasperated. "Jake, I'm not upset, I'm just worried. This is so like you..."

Jake began to walk towards the door. "I'm not going to take this. Jakey's going to work, where people appreciate him!"

He slammed the door behind him. Helen sat back in her chair. A thought suddenly came to her. She flung open the door.

"You don't have a job. Your office burned down!"


The Lexus pulled away anyway. Helen closed the door and sat back down. That had been unusual. Jake had been so calm recently, and competent.

And passionate. Don't forget about that.

Helen smiled at the memories, before the current events flashed back into her mind. What was wrong with Jake? It could have been the trauma of having his job razed to the ground, she mused. Or whatever that trouble at work was that he couldn't talk about.

That trouble at work.

That still bothered her. What could be going on that Jake felt he couldn't tell her? A wave of jealousy swept over her.

I bet he could tell those two women he worked with.

Stop that. She knew Jake wouldn't cheat on her. Wait - that gave her an idea. Maybe those two would know what was going on. The Heather Locklear wannabe, and the mouthy redhead. She grabbed the phone book and began searching.

After a few phone calls, she was no better off. Just two answering machine messages. Where could they be? She tried the two new people he had hired, but they had left before the fire and didn’t know anything.

Helen frowned. Jake had some explaining to do when he got home that night.



Daria and Quinn reached Lawndale High, said their goodbyes, and split up. Daria took a deep breath, and headed for her first class. Maybe it wouldn't be as painful as she thought it would to see Jane. Maybe she would get over her in time. Maybe things could work out after all.

Jane walked round the corner with Jodie. Daria stopped in her tracks. After a short pause, she turned and fled.



Jodie and Jane walked towards class, discussing their respective problems.

"You two finally had that talk, huh?"

Jane nodded sadly. "And now Trent knows too. I don't see how life could get any worse."

"If it helps, Jane, I'm here for you."

Jane smiled at Jodie. "Thanks, Jodie. Hey, are you going to do anything about Mack?"

"Yes. I've decided. As soon as I see him today, I'm going to confront him."

"Good." Jane perked up a little. "Say, sticking your nose into other people's business is fun. I can see why you do it all the time."


"Kidding. I'm hope at least you two can work it out."

"Me too." Softly: "I'm sorry."

Jane tried not to let the tears fall again. She felt all cried-out anyway.



Daria sat on a rock overlooking Lover's Leap. She wiped away the last of the tears from her eyes, and sighed. It wasn't going to get any easier. It would never get easier. Jane would always be there, and never with her. She would always be alone.

She wished they'd never moved from Highland. Sure, there she was alone, and tormented by two morons who be could be outsmarted by Kevin Thompson, even in his current state, but that was better than being alone, and confronted by the person she loved every single day. Not to talk to her, not to touch her, nothing.

Maybe it wasn't too late to take that transfer to Grove Hills. Sure, they were all jerks, but she wouldn't get hurt by them. She wouldn't allow them to get close enough. That was the only solution she could think of. Except...

She looked at the sheer drop below her.

No. Don't even think that.

Quickly, she turned from the edge and walked away from it.



Mack was walking down the corridor of Lawndale High, when he heard Jodie behind him.

"Mack, wait, please."

Mack tried to ignore her, and keep walking. She grabbed his arm to slow him down. he sighed and turned around.

"What do you want?"

Jodie looked him in the eyes. "We need to talk."

Mack frowned. "No, we don't. I think we've said all we need to each other."

"Please, Mack. I've seen what not talking to each other can do to people."

"I don't want to talk to you, Jodie. It's over, remember?"

Jodie looked down. "I know, Mack. But we didn't end it well. There's still a lot of bad feelings there."

"No kidding." Mack's tone was harsh. "Look, I have to go."

"Please." She looked up into his eyes.

Mack saw the look in Jodie's eyes, and heard the pleading in her voice. "Okay. When and where?"
"My house, tonight."

Mack nodded. Jodie smiled a little, and left.



"Sandi, if you keep embarrassing yourself in public, we'll have to do something."

Sandi bowed her head. "Okay."

"That's sooo wronngg," said Tiffany.

"Exactly, Tiffany. Some people have to learn that there's a code of conduct for the Fashion Club, and it's there for a reason." Stacy glared at Sandi. "Right?"

Sandi nodded. Stacy was really beginning to tick her off.

Well, she's only doing what you used to.

That was the worst part. She remembered all that, and didn't have the strength any more to speak out. Her past was coming back to haunt her.

"Excuse me."

Everyone looked up. Quinn was standing in front of their table, looking less sure of herself than she ever had. Sandi swallowed nervously, Stacy gaped, and Tiffany didn't notice.

Stacy flustered over herself. "Quinn...what a...I mean..."

Quinn ignored her. "Sandi. About what you said last night....um..we need to talk."

Sandi nodded nervously. "Okay."

"Oh Quinn! Are you coming back..." Stacy sounded like her old self for a moment, then snapped back to her uber-bitch mode. "I mean, there are rules and stuff, and you can't just..."

"Um....your house, tonight?" Quinn blanked Stacy completely.


Quinn looked at her again, then walked away as fast as she could.

Sandi stared at the table. What the hell was she going to say to Quinn?

Stacy looked at Sandi, then stared at the table. Was Quinn coming back? Secretly, Stacy hoped so. Then she could stop this mean act. Except maybe Ted still wanted her to do it. She was sure that if she told Ted she didn't have to do it any more, he'd let her stop. He was nice like that.



As she walked from the table, Quinn was shaking to her shoes. She didn't know what she was going to say that night. She wasn't even sure she wanted to do this, but she knew she had to. Something had to be done.



"Daria, wait!"

Daria turned, and saw Quinn rushing towards her.

"Where were you today? I didn't see you at all after we got in."

"I wasn't in school today."

Quinn frowned. "What?"

"I left. I just couldn't stay there any longer."


Daria remained silent, and kept walking towards Fortress Morgendorffer. Quinn scowled.

"Okay, if you don't want to tell me, fine. It's because of Jane, right?"

Daria nodded tersely. Quinn tried to put a reassuring hand on her sister's shoulder, but Daria shook it away. The rest of the walk passed in silence.

When they reached the house, Daria paused on the path. Quinn looked at her.


Daria opened the front door quietly. All they could hear from inside was shouting from their parents.

"I haven't heard that in a long time," said Daria quietly.

Quinn peered through the door, a concerned look on her face. "I wonder what it's about?"

Daria sighed. "I don't know. I don't care." She turned and walked towards the car, and got in. She rummaged though her pockets, hoping she had a spare set of keys. She had, and started the car. She was about to pull away, when the passenger side opened and Quinn got in.

"What are you doing?"

"Going with you."

"You don't even know where I'm going."

"I don't care." Quinn's tone got firm. "You're my sister, and I'm worried you're going to do something stupid, and I'm going to stop you. If you don't like that, you'll have to throw me out, and Mom and Dad will hear the noise."

Daria stared at her sister for a second. "Damn."

The car pulled out of the driveway, and down the street.

Quinn glanced at Daria. "Where are we going, anyway?"

"I don't know." Daria shook her head. "I just can't handle any more. I need to get away."

"Where to?"

"I...yes I do. I know exactly where to go."

They sped down the streets of Lawndale, heading out of town.



"You don't trust me at all!"

"That's not true!"

Helen and Jake paced around each other in the living room. It had all started when Helen had gotten home from work, and confronted Jake like she had planned. Jake totally over-reacted, and began ranting about every subject under the sun. He had accused Helen of not trusting him, of hating him, ranted about his failures, and his father. Especially his father. Helen couldn't remember the last time he'd acted like this, and she had forgotten how much it irritated her when he did.

"You know what, Helen? I think I'll just leave. That way you can find yourself a useful man!"

"Jake!" Helen's tone was one of exasperation. "You are not listening! You're acting like a child!"

"Just a big child, huh, Helen!"

"Dammit, Jake." Helen raised her hands, weary. "If that's the way you want to do it, fine. You're sleeping on the couch tonight. We'll talk more in the morning."

Helen left the room, listening to Jake continue ranting in the background. What was going on? Jake was back to the way he was. No - he was worse than what he was. It was like a amped-up version of Jake. She couldn't take that. Maybe he'd be calmer in the morning.



Mack parked his car in front of the Landon's house. He didn't want to do this, but Jodie was right. They had to sort things out. He'd missed her. The three Js were fun in small doses, but lately they'd been kind of trying. He wished they'd find another girl to fight over. He reached the front door, and rang the doorbell.

No answer.

He frowned, and tried again. Still no answer. That was weird. He pushed the door softly, and it slowly creaked open.

He made his way through the hall quietly. Jodie had said tonight, hadn't she? He peeked round the corner of the dining room, and saw Jodie being held at gunpoint, by a tall figure with his back to the door.

Oh shit!

He couldn't see the assailant's face, but it looked like a guy from here. Mack thought for a second. Should he call the cops? No - they'd never get here in time, and how could he do that without them hearing him? Only one choice, then.

He quietly moved round the door, and inched towards the man. Mack knew he was quiet, especially for a guy his size. The Landon's plush carpeting didn't hurt matters, either. He moved just a few feet away, and then Jodie spotted him. She tried to disguise it, but her eyes flicked to him for just a second. The man moved to turn, but Mack was ready. He swung a punch - it landed squarely on the man's jaw, sending him sprawling. The gun dropped to the carpet, and Mack scooped it up. He shook his hand gingerly.

Looks like I won't be throwing for a while.

Jodie rushed to him, and hugged him tight, tears streaming down her face. Mack held her, then he looked over her shoulder to see the face of her attacker.

It was Andrew Landon.

Mack looked at him, stunned for a moment. He didn't even hear Jodie's gasp of warning, until he had a second gun pointed at the back of his neck.

"Hello, Michael." It was Michelle Landon.

"What's..? I mean..."

"I'm sorry, Michael, but you and Jodie will have to come with us."

"Where are we going?"

Michelle said nothing, but moved round to rouse Andrew. He got up, and rubbed his jaw. "You've got a good right hand there, son."

"What's going on, sir?"

Andrew took the gun from him, and motioned for him and Jodie to go outside.

"Jodie, what is this?"

Jodie shook her head. "I don't know. They got a phone call, then they sent Rachel to her room, and pulled a gun on me, and said I had to come with them. Then Mom went off to call the sitter, and you came in."

Mack shook his head. "This is messed up."

They got in the car, and began to drive off. As they were leaving, a second car drove past them and parked outside the house.

"Who was that?"

"The babysitter," said Michelle. "For Rachel and Evan. I mean, do you think we're totally irresponsible?"

Mack was speechless now.



"I don't think she's coming."

"She's coming, Stacy. She said she would."

"Are you challenging my leadership?"

Sandi was infuriated. She'd had about enough of Stacy and her bossy attitude. Okay, maybe she deserved it, but she couldn't stand it any more. The thought that Quinn might be returning had given her new confidence, and she was already feeling more like her old self than she had for a while. She took a deep breath.


Stacy gasped. "What? I mean..."

She looked to Tiffany for support. Tiffany looked at Stacy, then Sandi.

"Which one of youuu is innn charrrge noww?"

There was an uncomfortable silence for a few minutes. It was broken by the door creaking open, and Ted DeWitt-Clinton walking in.

"How did you get in?" asked Sandi, frowning.

"Oh, your mom let me in."

Stacy ran to Ted. She was beginning to panic. Her voice had returned to it's former level. "Ted, I don't think I can do this any more. I know you said she deserved it, but it's getting so hard to be so mean..."

Sandi stood up. "You were behind this, you little geek?"

Ted nodded. "Yes. It was for the best, you know. You did deserve it. And so is this."

He pulled out a gun.

The Fashion Club gasped in shock. Stacy was the first to speak. "Ted, why are you doing this? Are you going to..." She tailed off in tears.

"It's okay, Stacy. I would never hurt you. This is for the greater good, so I'm told. And doing stuff for the greater good is the right thing to do. Isn't it?"

"Mommmmm!" Sandi screamed the word at the top of her voice. After a short pause, Linda Griffin walked through the door.


Sandi and the other two frantically indicated Ted, and his gun.

"Oh, that. Look, Sandi, we all have to leave now."


"And stop whining, do you know how annoying that's gotten over the past two months?"

Sandi was dumb struck. The other two girls, just looked at each other with a mixture of fear and shock. Just then, the phone rang. No-on moved to get it. After a few rings, the answering machine picked up.

"Hi..um..Sandi? It's Quinn. I won't be over tonight, there's something up with my family. I'm really sorry. I'll....see you tomorrow?" Click.

Linda spoke up again. "Come along everyone."

The girls filed out of the room, Ted following behind with the gun.



Trent wandered through the front door of Casa Lane a little woozily. Damn. He'd had too much to drink again. That meant he'd been incoherently rambling to Jesse for the last few hours. At least it wasn't someone who could figure out what he was talking about. He paused by Janey's door on the way to his room. She was fast asleep. Trent sighed heavily. He wasn't being a very good brother right about. Janey was in pain, and Trent had basically abandoned her.

She hurt you, man.

Yeah, but she hadn't meant to. Everyone does stupid things when they're in love, right? Daria and her did make a cute couple.

Plus it doesn't look like you and Daria are ever going to get together.

He didn't need reminded of that. Trent made a commitment. He was going to talk to Janey in the morning, and sort everything out between them. he figured that was the booze talking, but it made sense. Everything made sense when you were drunk, for some reason. He continued into his room, walked past his doppelganger, and plopped down onto the bed.

Wait a second, something didn't seem right about that. Trent looked back at where he had came, and saw his double sitting there. He put his head back on the bed.

"Go away. Janey told me all about this. It's not going to work. I won't betray my sister."

"I know, man. Actually, I'm just a projection of your subconscious. You guys don't have anyone else to bring you in, so I'm here to distract you."

Trent looked up. "Distract me from..."

He sank to the bed a few seconds after the tranquilizer dart landed in his neck.



Daria put a hand in front of her face to shield it from the piercing rays of the sun. The curtains had been flung back by the owner of the apartment she was now in.

"Can't sleep all day," said Amy Barksdale, smirking as she looked at Daria's obvious discomfort.

"Give me one good reason why not."

Amy cocked her head to the side. "Hmmm. Okay, I can't think of one. Except for I need my couch to watch TV."

"What could be more important?" Daria rose slowly from the couch, and grabbed the sheet she'd been sleeping on. "Um. Thanks for letting us stay here at such short notice."

Hey, what else could I do for my favorite niece?"

Quinn emerged from the bathroom. "This is terrible! I don't have any of my regular shampoos and moisturizers! I'm going to look like hell today!"

"And now you see why you're my favorite niece," muttered Amy.

Daria smiled a little. Quinn came over and joined them.

"So, what exactly is the problem?"

Daria and Quinn shared a glance. "Which one?"

"The parent one."

"Ohh," said Quinn. "Well, Daddy's been so relaxed lately..."

"Wait." Amy raised her hand. "Jake relaxed? Wait - did Helen move out?"


"Oh. There goes my explanation, then."

Quinn continued: "But then his work burnt down, and now he's like he was, only worse, and him and Mom were fighting so bad, and..."

"But Jake and Helen have fought before. What was so bad about this time?"

Daria looked at the ground. "There's...other issues."

"Oh. Guys?"

"Not really. Sort of. I don't know."

Amy looked mystified. Just then, the phone rang. "Hold on. I have to get this." She grabbed the cordless.

"Hey, Amy here. Okay." She nodded. "Right now? Sure." She hung up. "Change of plans, I'm afraid."

Daria looked up. "You have to go to work?"

"No." Amy shook her head. "An associate of mine wants to see you, and I have to bring you in."

Quinn blinked. "What?"

"You heard." Amy walked over to her jacket, which was draped over the chair, and pulled out a large automatic. Daria and Quinn immediately started back in shock.

"Aunt Amy, I..."

"Shut up, Quinn. If I wanted to hear your vacuous prattle, I'd call your house once in a while."

Daria stared at her. "You're one of them, aren't you? The ones who took over the school?"

Amy shook her head. "No. I'm just conditioned to work for them."

"But what use could you be? You're just an art appraiser, or something."

Quinn looked thoughtful. “I always thought you were a journalist.”

"Daria, Quinn, you have no idea what I do for a living. Let's just say I'm important, okay?"

"I don't understand..."

Amy raised an eyebrow. "And you're the brain here? Impressive, really."

Quinn started forwards tentatively. "What did you do with daddy?"

"Beats me."

Daria stared at Amy, her eyes burning. "I trusted you. I thought I could trust you."

Amy smirked. "Because of your inane prattling? Should I wear contacts, Aunt Amy? I hate this dress, Aunt Amy. Am I vain, Aunt Amy? Who gives a shit!"

Daria rushed her. Amy pulled the trigger, but Quinn knocked into her, sending the shot wide. While she was distracted, Daria punched her as hard as she could. Amy went down, and collapsed onto the carpet.

Daria and Quinn stood and looked at her for a few seconds, then rushed outside to the car. They both got in, and Daria sat and stared at the keys.

Quinn yelped: "Get us out of here!"

Daria sat, impassive. There wasn't anyone now. No-one she could trust, no-one...

Stop that! If there's something big going on, Jane's in danger. You have to pull yourself together and help her, you hear me!

Daria took a deep breath, and started the car. It roared into life, and sped back to Lawndale.



Helen walked down the stairs and into the kitchen. Jake was there, reading the paper. She snatched it from his hands.

"Hey! What, now I can't even read the paper? What now, Helen? No food?"

Helen fixed him with her most piercing stare, the one that had reduced witnesses to tears before. "Listen to me, Jake Morgendorffer, our girls weren't home last night. Their beds haven't been slept in. They've vanished."

Jake tried to get back his paper. "So?"

Helen threw it across the room. "You don't even care?" She stared him straight in the eyes. "What happened to you, Jake? You used to be like this, but you always cared about the girls. Who are you?"

Jake got up quickly, and stepped back. He looked panicked, and glanced round the kitchen table. He saw a cutting knife, and picked it up.

Then he lunged at Helen.

Without pausing, she grabbed a chair from the table, and smashed it across his chest. Jake fell to the ground wheezing. Helen grabbed the knife, and moved for the phone. That day she had always feared had come. Jake had lost it, completely and totally. As she dialed, a hand reached out and took the phone from her. Helen looked round in shock, she saw a late-forties man, with light brown hair, and an expensive suit, standing in her kitchen.

"Hello," said the man. "My name is Alexander. It's a pleasure to meet you, Helen."

Helen started back, and found herself in the arms of a burly man dressed in black combat gear. "Who are you people?"

Alexander stared at Jake, lying on the ground and moaning. "One simple task, and he screws that up too." He looked at Helen. "Come with me, Helen, and all your questions will be answered."

Helen moved to shout a protest, but the burly man guided her outside.



Daria and Quinn sped towards Fortress Morgendorffer. Casa Lane had been deserted, and none of Mystik Spiral or Monique knew where Trent was. They'd tried Jodie's to see if Jane was there, but the babysitter had said Jodie was out with her parents. Daria got a sinking feeling about what they'd find at their house.

The car pulled up, and they rushed inside. Nobody, and a broken chair on the ground. This wasn't good.

Quinn checked the rest of the house. "Nothing. Daria, what's going on?"

Daria shook her head. "I don't know."

"I do."

The two girls turned to see a totally unexpected sight. Brittany was at the door, dressed in a totally conservative way. She was wearing regular black pants and a black jacket over a yellow t-shirt. She was also wearing a very strange expression.


"The same people that killed Kevvie are in town again. All the influential people in town are under their control, and most of the students are being taken captive."

"Why?" asked Quinn.

"I don't know."

Daria frowned. "And how do you know?"

Brittany smiled. Very sinisterly. "My parents tried to take me in. I wouldn't let them. After a bit of persuasion, they told me everything."

Daria shivered, despite herself. "Where are they?"

"City Hall. I'm going there. I need your help. I figured you would be smart enough to avoid being captured."

"Okay." Even though this seems like a really dumb idea, and Brittany is really scaring me, I have to go. "Quinn?"

Quinn cast an odd look at Brittany. "Sure."

The three girls left the house.



A couple of minutes after they did, a car pulled up outside, and a figure, dressed entirely in black, got out, flanked by two smaller figures. They entered the house, and inspected it thoroughly. After they found nothing, they returned to the kitchen.

Jake Morgendorffer turned to Wendy and Horizon. "I hope we aren't too late."



Chapter Four: Now Take My Wife...


Daria, Quinn and Brittany peered round the corner to see City Hall.

“I don’t see any guards,” whispered Quinn.

Brittany took a quick look around. “They’re there all right. I can sense them.”

Daria and Quinn gave each other a look. “Look,” said Daria. “Let’s just find a side door, and sneak in, and see if we can find the others.”

“You think this is where Sandi and the others are too?”

“I’d bet on it. We have to get inside.”

“Then what?”

“I don’t know, Quinn. We’re not exactly Delta Force here.”

Brittany’s eye’s narrowed. “We should plant charges around the foundations of the building, make a frontal assault, and detonate the charges. The confusion will help us. Then we can eliminate the guards and execute the leaders.”

Daria stared at her. “Brittany, we haven’t got any charges, and we are not executing anyone. Okay?”

Brittany glowered at her.

Daria turned back towards City Hall, thinking that this plan was getting worse by the minute.


The guards set Helen roughly down in a chair facing the Mayor’s desk. Alexander sat behind it.

“I’m sorry for the rough treatment, Helen, but desperate times and all that...”

Helen brushed herself off, and glowered at him. “Who the hell are you? What have you done with Jake? Do you know how many laws you’ve broken here?”

Alexander stared at her. “I’ll say this for Jake, he’s a more patient man than I.”

“What did you do to Jake? What happened to him?”

“Relax, Helen. He wasn’t your Jake.”

Helen frowned. “What do you mean?”

“He was a Jake from an alternate universe.”

“That’s impossible,” Helen scoffed.

“Oh no.” Alexander sat back in his chair. “It’s quite possible, I assure you. I just needed a Jake to fill the spot while I was waiting for the right time. I obtained that Jake from a universe where he went insane, killed the postman, and took Quinn hostage. Don’t worry, you were fine, though.”

Helen looked at him, her mouth open in shock. She finally managed to speak: “What happened to Daria and Quinn?”

Alexander thought for a moment. “You really don’t want to know.”

“You’re serious, aren’t you? You really believe what you’re saying.”

Alexander smiled.

“Great. My husband goes crazy, and now I get abducted by another one. What happened to Jake?”

Alexander shrugged. “We sent him back. He’ll have to live out the rest of his days in an asylum for screwing up.”

Helen leaned forward. “So why am I here?”


“For who?”

“Your husband, if he’s alive. Your daughters.”

Helen’s eyes went wide. “What? I mean, Jake...”

“I was the one who destroyed his offices. The last I saw, he was bleeding to death, and taking a nose-dive off a twelve floor building.”
“Oh my God.” Helen’s eyes filled with tears.

“And I need your daughters.”

Helen looked at him. “Leave them alone. If you touch them, I’ll...”

Alexander laughed. “Helen, you are in a position unsuitable to making threats. My need for your daughters is one of the main reasons you aren’t dead right now.”

He smiled at Helen again.

Helen sank back in her chair. There was nothing she could do. Jake might be dead, and Daria and Quinn were in terrible danger. She still had her cell-phone in her pocket. Maybe if she could reach it...

“Excuse me,” said Alexander. He reached out and took Helen’s cell phone from her pocket. “You might be tempted to use this, and I’d hate to punish you for it. Yet, anyway.”

Helen sighed. She was helpless.


“Trent, wake up!”

Trent stirred. That voice seemed familiar. Oh yeah, it was Janey. Probably needed him to run her somewhere. Then the events of the night before went through his mind. He sprang up.


“I’m here, Trent.” Jane was sitting beside him. They were in a small featureless room, a storage room like they would find in any modern office building. Two small couches lined each side of the room.

“Where are we?”

“City Hall, I think.” Jane shrugged. “I was peacefully sleeping, and the next thing I know, I’m in a car, tied up and coming here.”

Trent rubbed his neck tenderly. “I was knocked out when I got in last night. This is something to do with that stuff at the school, right?”

Jane nodded. “I think so.”

“Oh man.” Trent’s head fell back onto the couch. “What do they want with us?”

“I don’t know.”

“Shit. I’m sorry, Janey. I should have protected you.”

Jane got up, and laid her hand on Trent’s shoulder. “It’s okay, Trent.” She sat beside him. “I’m the one who should be apologizing.” She paused. “I am now apologizing.”

“For what?”

“That thing with Daria.”

“Oh.” Trent’s voice was soft. He looked down at the floor. “I’ve been thinking about that, Janey...”

“I know, Trent. I should never have tried to fix you two up. It’s just...I didn’t want to lose her.”

Trent looked at Jane. “Does she feel the same?”

Jane nodded. “But I told her to get lost, basically, cause I didn’t want to hurt you. And then you found out anyway. Given how my life usually is, should I have been surprised?”

Trent shrugged. “I was thinking though....I know I was hurt at first...but I think...” He tailed off.

Jane moved closer and put her arm on his shoulder. “What?”

“We wouldn’t have worked out.”


“I’m a slacker musician, who sleeps all the time, Janey. Daria deserves better than that.” He smiled. “You guys, though. You practically are dating. You spend all your time together, you always go out together, and you just click.”

“You think so?” Jane looked her brother in the eyes.

“Sure. I think you should go for it.”


“It’ll still hurt a little, but it’s for the best, Janey. Daria and you are made for each other.”

“Yeah.” Jane smiled. “She is great, isn’t she? Of course, she can be a huge bitch if she doesn’t get her way...”

“See? You are similar.”

Jane scowled, and thumped Trent on the arm. Then, impulsively, she hugged him. “Thanks, big brother. But, my mood still could use a little lifting.”


Jane glanced around her. “Well, we have been kidnapped, and probably brought here to die.”

“Oh, that.” Trent thought for a moment. “Don’t worry, I’ll think of something.”

Jane wasn’t entirely surprised when he fell asleep not five minutes later.


Horizon’s car sped down the streets of Lawndale, Jake Morgendorffer behind the wheel.

“You know speed limits aren’t optional, don’t you?” Horizon interjected from the back seat.

“I know, I know. I just can’t shake the feeling that something bad has happened to Helen and the girls.”

Wendy thought for a moment. “What’s the bad side?”


“I’m sorry! I’m just trying to lighten the mood.”

Jake relaxed a little. “Sorry. I need to know what’s been going on while I was out.”

Horizon looked at him, with a concerned expression. “I think you should still be out. I’m amazed you’re up and talking.”

“I know.”

Horizon and Wendy rushed down the alleyway, more explosions shaking the building.

“What the hell is going on in there?” screamed Wendy.

“I can’t see anything past the smoke.”

There was a large thump behind them, causing the two women to jump in shock.

“That wasn’t an explosion,” said Wendy. They moved cautiously towards the source of the noise, a large pile of garbage bags near the end of the alleyway. A prone body was lying face down on the pile. Wendy cautiously turned it over.

It was Jake, his face bleeding and bruised. He had two gunshot wounds, one in his chest, and one in his shoulder, both still bleeding profusely. He was out cold.

Horizon’s hands went to her face. “Oh my God.” She edged closer and felt for a pulse.

“Is he alive?”

“Barely, I think. He won’t be soon.” She tore a strip from her suit jacket, and began making a makeshift bandage. Wendy nudged her.

“We have to go.”

“Okay. I don’t know what moving him will do, but I guess we have no choice.”

They grabbed him, and half-carried, half-dragged him to Horizon’s car. Wendy jumped in the driver’s seat, Horizon in the back with Jake.

They sped off, Wendy checking for any of the mysterious helicopters. “I guess the smoke covered us okay. How is he?”

Horizon finished tying his bandages. “For the moment, fine. If we don’t get him to a hospital, I don’t know.”

Wendy shook her head. “Can’t. They’ll find us there.”

“Where, then? I’m guessing they know where we live.”

Wendy thought for a moment. “I know. I have a place I’m sure they won’t look.”

“If you say so.”

Looking through the rear-view mirror, Wendy saw Horizon stroking Jake’s face. “He’ll be okay.” She tried to sound convincing, but she didn’t think she was doing a very good job.

“I hope so.”

“How long was I unconscious again?” Jake asked.

Wendy looked at her watch. “About 30 hours.”

“And of course, as soon as you got up, you insisted on leaving.”

Jake shrugged. “So?”

“So?” Horizon frowned. “You should be dead.”

“I had no idea you wanted me gone that much.”

“You know what I mean.”

“I guess rapid healing is part of my gifts.”

“Not that rapid.” Horizon leaned forward. “Your cuts and scrapes might have gone, but your gunshot wounds aren’t totally closed, and your ribs are still cracked.”

“Horizon, I don’t have a choice.”

“Hey, Intern Girl,” Wendy turned to face her. “How’d you get to be a first-aid expert anyway?”

“Well, when you rock climb, you have to learn to patch people up once in a while.” She paused. “Plus, my uncle’s a doctor on some big cruise ship. I picked some of it up from him.”

“I have a question,” said Jake. “What happened to my clothes?”

Horizon flushed bright red. “Um...they were pretty badly beaten up, and I needed to work on the wounds, so...”

“Even my underwear?”

Wendy sniggered loudly. Horizon shot her a look that could have killed small animals. Jake sighed. “Okay, but when we tell this story to our grandkids, let’s leave that part out.”

Horizon coughed nervously. “I guess it was lucky that Wendy’s apartment had so many men’s clothes there.”

Jake glanced at Wendy. “I don’t pay you enough for two apartments. Where was that?”

“We all have our secrets, M.”

Jake mumbled something, then pulled the car over. “We’re here.” He got out and stared up at the offices of Vitale, Horowitz, Riordan, Shrecter, Shrecter, and Shrecter.

“That’s a pretty cluttered looking sign,” muttered Wendy.

They walked inside, and headed straight for Helen’s office. It was empty.

“Shit,” said Jake. “Marianne’s not even here yet. Let’s try Eric.”


“Helen’s boss. Cause of many an unsatisfying night.”

The two women looked mystified. “What?”

Jake shook his head. “Never mind. Office on top floor.”

They found Eric’s office, and Jake flung the door open. Eric was in, as was Marianne. Eric leapt to his feet., then relaxed. “Thank God, I thought you were one of my brothers.”


Marianne stood up. “Jake Morgendorffer? What are you doing here?”

“Have you seen Helen?”

Marianne and Eric looked at each other. “No. She’s not at home?”

“Shit.” Jake sat down. Where the hell could she be?

Wait. I have an idea.


Alexander turned from the security monitor, which was currently showing Daria, Quinn, and Brittany sneaking in through the air ducts, to Helen.

“My compliments, Helen. You have some intelligent progeny. Of course, that’s one of the reasons I want them.”

Helen glowered at him. “Don’t hurt them. I’m warning you.”

“I’m not going to hurt them. Physically, anyway.”

Helen opened her mouth to curse him, but was cut short by a familiar sound. It was her cell phone. Alexander took it from his pocket and answered it.

“Helen? Is that you? It’s me, Jake.”

Alexander smiled. All good things...

“Hello, Jake. Helen can’t come to the phone right now.”

A brief pause. Then: “If you’ve hurt her...”

“Relax, Jake, she’s safe. As are you, apparently. My compliments on your resilience.”

“What do you want?”

“You, of course.” Alexander waved a hand at one of his guards, who rushed out of the room.

“My father really messed you up, didn’t he?”

Alexander gritted his teeth. “He was a great man. You’re just too much of a spineless worm to realize it.”

“Look, can’t we work something out?”

“No. You should have thought of that before you abandoned him. Left him alone, with no heir, no hope, nothing! You pissed away your chance for greatness, Jake. I won’t do the same.”

“And what do you plan to do to achieve greatness?”

“You’ve seen our weapon, Jake. You know what it can do. Imagine that on a national scale.”

“You’re insane.”

“ I’m a visionary. Soon, this country will be ours, and it will be great again. People like you won’t have a place in my world.”

“I’ll stop you. You gave me these abilities, remember?”

Alexander laughed. “You’re nothing. You’re a pathetic joke of your father’s. Just because you were lucky enough to survive the school incident doesn’t mean you’re good enough to take me on. Be seeing you, Jake.”

He hung the phone up. The guard rushed back into the room. “We have him, sir. He’s at her law firm.”

Alexander smiled. “Go there. Take him alive.” He grabbed Helen roughly, and pushed her towards the guard. “Take her. If he gives you any trouble, use her to persuade him.”

The guard nodded, and dragged a protesting Helen from the room. She struggled to no avail, but one thought ran through her head.

He’s alive!


Brittany helped Daria down from the air shaft. She brushed herself off, and looked at the other two. “What do you know, they do make air shafts big enough to crawl through. And I thought movies only lied to you.”

Quinn ran her fingers through her hair. “God! I bet I look a total mess. My hair is ruined, and my clothes are all dusty!”

“And you want to look your best when you’re wandering into certain death.”

Quinn scowled. Brittany looked round the nearest corner. “It’s all clear.”

“Okay.” Daria took a deep breath. “Let’s go.”

“Um, Daria?”

“Yes, Quinn?”

“What exactly are we going to do when we get there?”

Daria thought for a moment. “I have no idea.”

“Great, Daria. I’m glad you’re the brains of this organization.”

Daria tried to ignore her, and sneaked round the corner, her mind working overtime to come up with a suitable plan. Sadly, everything she thought of ended in a fiery bloodbath, with Daria coming out worst. Still, she couldn’t do nothing, right? And the thought of saving Jane was revitalizing her a little.

They inched round a few more corners.

“I think the main office is around this bend,” whispered Brittany. She took a quick glance round, and then quickly pulled back. “It is. There’s lots of guards though.”

Quinn looked terrified. “What are we going to do?”

Daria blanked. Brittany smiled. “I know what I’m going to do.”

Daria looked at her. “What?” she whispered.

“It’s payback time.” Brittany was openly grinning now, a grotesque parody of her former bubbly self. “They killed Kevvie.”

Daria was getting worried. “No, Brittany, Ms. Li killed Kevin.”

Brittany stared straight at her. “And you know what I did to her?”

“I’m scared to ask.”

“She paid for that. Oh yes.” Brittany’s voice was getting louder and louder. “And now, everyone behind that is going to pay.”

Daria opened her mouth to say something, but before she could act, Brittany reached behind her jacket. She pulled out two huge pistols. Daria recognized them as Desert Eagles. Daria held her hand out. “Brittany, wait...!”

Too late. Brittany lunged around the corner, and began blazing away. The guards were totally taken by surprise, and ducked for cover. Luckily for them, Brittany’s slight frame was not designed to handle two .50 caliber pistols, and all of her shots were going wild. Quinn started screaming. Daria figured they had a couple of seconds, maybe less, until the guards started shooting back. Brittany’s guns ran out of ammo, and she screamed in annoyance, and moved to reload them. Daria took her chance, and lunged at her, knocking her to the ground. Brittany hit hard, and went limp, her guns clattering across the floor.

Daria managed to drag her back behind the corner just as a hail of bullets slammed into the wall where they had been. Gritting her teeth, she dragged Brittany’s prone form back a couple of feet. Quinn stopped screaming, and knelt down beside them, her face creased with fear.

“What do we do now?”

Daria looked up at her, just as scared. “I don’t know. We can’t carry Brittany through the air ducts, and we can’t leave her here.”

The hail of bullets from around the corner continued. Daria got up. Maybe, they could get out one of the side doors. She glanced round the corner at the other end of the corridor. More guards, then a second volley of bullets. Daria ducked round again, and ran back to the others.

“We’re penned in. It’s only going to take a little while for them to figure out we’re unarmed now.”

Quinn shivered. “And then?”

Daria didn’t say anything. Brittany stirred a little, and moaned. Daria put her hand on her shoulder. “Brittany? Can you walk?”

Brittany stared blankly at the ceiling. Her voice was a distant whisper. “Oh, Daria. I don’t really think I want to die.”

“That’s good, Brittany. I’m glad you decided that before we did something really stupid.”

Brittany continued, completely oblivious to the gunfire all around them. “I miss Kevin. I mean, I know we cheated on each other all the time, and sometimes he really annoyed me, but I miss him. It was like we were meant for each other, you know?”

Brittany continued rambling to no-one in particular. Daria put a comforting hand on her hand, and turned to Quinn. Quinn was trembling. “Daria, are we going to die?”

“I don’t know, Quinn.” Her voice fell to a whisper. “I’m sorry I dragged you into this.”

Quinn shrugged. “It’s okay. I had to try and help the rest of the Fashion Club. Fashion Club solidarity and all that. I just wish I’d made it up with them.”

“I thought you were still mad.”

Quinn shook her head. “I was going to try and work it out. I mean, they’re my friends and all.”

Daria thought of Jane, and sighed. Quinn noticed her reaction. “You’re thinking about Jane, aren’t you?”

Daria nodded.

“Why weren’t you guys talking? It was about that guy, wasn’t it? Please tell me, I’d hate to die not knowing.”

Daria thought for a second. What the hell. “It wasn’t a guy, Quinn.”

“You said...”

“I said I was in love with someone, and they didn’t feel the same. Turns out they did, but we still couldn’t get together.”

“But what does this have to do with Jane?” Quinn’s eyes went wide. “Ohhhh my God! It was Jane! You’re in love with her?”

Daria smiled a little sadly. “Still am.”

“Ewwwww!” Quinn shook her head. “Sandi was right! She said that anyone with your fashion sense had to be a lesbian.”

“I’m glad you’re being so understanding.”

Quinn looked at her. “I’m sorry it didn’t work out, Daria,” she said softly.

“Me too.”

Suddenly the shooting stopped. The sudden silence brought Brittany’s ranting into sharp relief. “I mean, it was more than sex, wasn’t it? The sex was great, and we did it a lot, but there was feelings there, right, and I miss him...”

“Is this how you saw yourself dying?” asked Quinn, her voice shaking.

“Oh yes. I definitely saw myself dying in the company of an embittered fashion princess, and a psychotic ex-cheerleader with a half-assed death wish.”

“Sarcastic to the last.”

Footsteps began walking down the corridor towards them.


Daria turned to Quinn.

Quinn bit her lip. “I know we haven’t always gotten along, well, we really haven’t gotten along at all most of the time, but I guess, well, I don’t hate you as much as I used to.”

“That’s very touching.”

“Daria! I mean...I...”

Daria touched Quinn’s hand. “I know. I do too.”

The footsteps grew louder.



“Where is he?”

“I don’t know,” said Jake angrily. “But he has Helen, and probably the girls for all I know.”

Eric stepped forward. “Um, what’s going on?”

Jake looked up. “A man has kidnapped Helen in order to get to me, as part of my father’s insane scheme to take over America using wormhole technology.”

Wendy rolled her eyes, and Horizon covered her face with her hands.

“I see,” said Eric, stepping back nervously.

“I thought we were going to let me do the talking,” said Wendy.

“Helen’s always said that Jake was a little high-strung,” whispered Eric to Marianne. “I think he must have finally gone off the deep end.”

Marianne nodded. “We should call security.”


Jake turned to see Horizon looking out the window. “I think we know where Helen is.”

Jake and the others rushed to the window. A whisper craft was hovering outside, gun ports open, aimed straight at them. Jake could see inside the craft. Two guards, one passenger. That passenger was Helen, at gunpoint. Jake turned from the window.


Loudspeakers from the craft crackled on. “We only want Jake Morgendorffer. Come out, and we’ll let her go.”

Wendy raised an eyebrow. “You believe them?”

“I sure as hell don’t,” muttered Horizon.

Jake looked up, and caught Eric and Marianne’s eyes. “Sorry, Eric.”

“Mr. Morgendorffer, what’s going on?” asked Marianne.

Jake turned towards the window, and walked towards it, stopping at the desk. Wendy and Horizon looked at him.

“Jake, what are you doing?”

Jake turned to Wendy. “Getting on that copter.”

Wendy’ eyes went wide. “Oh God. You’re not going to do what I think, are you? We’re ten floors up!”

Jake nodded. Horizon grabbed his shoulders. “Jake, I hate to point this out, but you can’t fly!”

“I guess it’s time to find out.” Jake grabbed the heavy wooden desk, and effortlessly lifted it, to the amazement of Eric and Marianne. He threw it directly at the window, and it smashed through, falling to the ground below. Jake ran towards the new hole, and leapt. He could see the surprise on the pilot’s face as he fell onto the cockpit, cracking the glass on the side. The craft veered to the side, sending Jake rolling off. He grabbed the side, and held on for dear life. As it straightened out, he pulled himself up, and smashed his fist though the glass., grabbing the guard with the gun on Helen. He pulled himself in, punching the guard in the jaw. The guard dropped the gun.

Jake followed up, knocking him unconscious. He turned to Helen, who screamed for him to watch out. He turned, saw the pilot raising a gun of his own - lunged at him, the shot went wide. Jake heard a gasp from behind. He turned and saw Helen go limp.

Have to act fast.

He threw the pilot at the controls hard. The pilot hit the console, and the craft lurched and dropped. The pilot struggled to regain control. Jake waited until they were a few feet above the ground, and grabbed Helen, and the other guard. He jumped, and landed on his feet. The whisper craft pulled up, and disappeared around a corner. Jake dropped the guard, and laid Helen down. The bullet had just grazed her skull. She didn’t seem to be badly hurt.

Thank God.

He heard footsteps from behind him, and whirled around, adopting a fighting stance. It was Wendy and Horizon, and Eric and Marianne.

“Oh my God!” It was Marianne.

“She’s fine,” yelled Jake. He lifted Helen in his arms, and walked over to Eric. “Eric, you and Marianne get Helen to a hospital, please.”

Eric nodded.

“Quickly.” Jake looked around. “He’ll be back.”



The doors to the main conference room in City Hall swung open, and Daria, Quinn, and Brittany were roughly ushered in. The room had been cleared of all furniture, except for one chair at the end of the room, on which a man sat. Daria didn’t recognize him. All around the other walls was a sight that made Daria’s heart jump. Practically everyone she knew from school lined the walls, some with their parents, others not. All had guards with guns trained at their heads. Jodie, Mack, Upchuck, the Fashion club - she heard Quinn gasp in shock, and guessed she was thinking the same thing - Trent, and Jane.

Oh God, no. Don’t let them hurt her. Any of them.

The man rose from his chair. “Hello, Daria, Quinn. We meet at last.”

“Who are you?”

“My name is Alexander. I suppose you could say I’m your uncle.”

Daria shook her head. “Neither Mom nor Dad has any brothers.”

“In a manner of speaking, anyway. I’m proud to continue the Morgendorffer line.” He smiled. “It’s kind of like a reunion here, isn’t it? I mean, everyone you and your sister gives a damn about is in this room. And Charles Ruttheimer III.” He shrugged. “He’s only really here because his father was helping us.”

Quinn stepped forward. “Where’s Mom and Dad?”

Your father should be on his way here. Your charming mother...dead, maybe. I don’t care about her.”

Quinn gasped. Daria tried to fight the sinking feeling in her stomach. “You’re trying to get rid of everyone who knows about that school incident, aren’t you? Who do you work for?”

Alexander laughed. It wasn’t a pleasant sound. “I don’t want them. The parents will forget everything if they are told to. The children know nothing.”

Daria’s heart sank.

“I want you.

Daria and Quinn glanced at each other. “Why?”

“You are the granddaughters of ‘Mad Dog’ Morgendorffer.”

Quinn thought for a moment. “That evil old drunk guy Dad used to rave about?”

“No!” Alexander’s reaction was so explosive, Daria and Quinn even stepped back. “He was a legend. A great man. Something you spoilt little bitches could never understand. But you still have Morgendorffer blood in your veins. You have potential. And I will use that potential. From now on, you will be my daughters.”

Shocked, Daria turned to Quinn. Tears were streaming down her face. Daria turned back to Alexander. She had to do something. She glanced at the guards around them. The closest one had a pistol in a shoulder holster. It was open. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Now or never.

Here goes.

She reached forward as quickly as she could, and grabbed the pistol. She pulled it out of the holster, and pointed it at Alexander. At once, almost fifty guns were aimed at her head. Alexander was unmoved. “Very good. You do have potential. Except you can’t possibly make that shot from that distance, and we both know it.”

Daria wavered slightly. He was right. She had another plan, though. She steeled herself, and turned the gun to her own head. There was a collective gasp from the room. Quinn freaked. “Daria! What are you doing?”

Daria stared straight at Alexander, who was frowning. “You want me? Let them go, or I’ll shoot myself. Then you’ll have nothing.” She looked at him. He was simply standing there, doing nothing. “What are you waiting for? I’m capable of it.”

He stepped forward. “I know you are. I’ve seen you kill yourself a hundred different times, in a hundred different ways, for a hundred different reasons. You can do it.” The tone of his voice gave her chills. “But if you do, I still have Quinn. I’d rather have you, but she’ll do. Despite what you’ve said in the past, you aren’t capable of really harming your sister, are you?”

Daria said nothing, but the gun was shaking in her hands.

Alexander continued, his voice growing harsher. “And if you do, die with the knowledge that you’ve doomed your friends. I’ll kill them, your little friend Jane last. And I’ll make her death slow.

Daria glanced to Jane. Her eyes were full of fear. Daria closed her eyes, and dropped the gun. One of the guards scooped it back up.

Alexander smiled. “Good. This is why I wanted them. I’ll discard the parents, but I’ll keep the children. Think of them as insurance, if you two ever try a stunt like that again.” He turned to an older man beside him. “Newton. Load up the transports. We’re moving out. With luck, Morgendorffer will join us soon enough. We‘ve spent enough time in the open already.”

Newton nodded. “Of course.”

Quinn moved to Daria and hugged her. Daria hugged her back. “I’m sorry, Quinn.” The guards began to bustle everyone out.


Jake watched as Eric and Marianne loaded Helen into the car. Wendy and Horizon ran up to him, as he lifted the guard off his feet. “Where is Alexander?”

“City Hall.”

Jake paused. “That was easy.”

The guard smiled. “He’s waiting for you.”

Jake let him drop. He turned to Wendy and Horizon. He opened his mouth to speak, then heard the hum of the whisper craft, as it came back for another approach. “Hide in that alley!” he yelled. “I’m going to City Hall.”

The whisper craft came rushing round the corner. Wendy and Horizon ducked into an alley, and it soared past them. Jake leapt up onto a fire escape and rushed up to a nearby roof.

The two women ducked out from behind the alley. “Does he even know where City Hall is?” asked Horizon.

Wendy shrugged. “Come on, Intern Girl.”


Jake ran across the rooftop, and leapt to another. He was astounded at how far he could leap, and how fast he could run. He hadn’t really had a chance to try out his new abilities, and now he was learning exactly what he could do. He heard the hum of the craft behind him, and the telltale click of the weapons arming themselves. He somersaulted off a building, just as an explosion hit behind him. He landed on his feet, and glanced up. Gas. Tear gas, from the look of things. The craft dived down to street level, behind him. He ran down the street, and ducked into an alley, too wide for the craft to follow. It pulled up to go over. Jake used the chance the try to lose it.

He rushed through as many alleys, and back streets as he could, trying to lose it. He emerged, and looked around. No sign of the whisper craft. One problem, though,

He was lost. He didn’t have any idea where City Hall was from here.

As he was thinking, a chunk of the wall beside him blew out. The whisper craft. Jake narrowly dodged another shot, and jumped onto a fire escape. He leapt to another one, and climbed to the roof. The craft bore down on him. He ducked under it, and jumped, grabbing onto the tail. He swung over, and slipped in through the broken cockpit. The pilot turned, and fired,. Jake kicked his hand, making the gun fly out of the window. The pilot swung at him - Jake easily dodged. A return punch caught the pilot on the nose. He slumped back, and the craft instantly plummeted. Jake grabbed the pilot, and leapt from the cockpit.

He hit the ground, and rolled to safety. The whisper craft crashed in the middle of the street, and exploded, sending debris flying everywhere. Jake checked the pilot. He was alive.

Jake stood up and wondered where the hell in Lawndale he was. He had to get to City Hall.


Outside City Hall, the teenagers were being bundled into a number of transport helicopters, and the troops were moving out. Newton walked down the front steps to join Alexander.

“The adults are finished. They won’t remember a thing.”

“Excellent. Any word from the men we sent to retrieve Morgendorffer?”

Newton shook his head.
“It doesn’t matter. Even if he did get free, we have his children. He will find our message, and come to us.”

Newton looked at Alexander. “It’s too risky! What if someone else finds that message?”

“It can only be accessed by a Morgendorffer. Besides, we concluded that no-one else is watching. You have your orders, Newton.”

Newton nodded reluctantly, and walked away.


Aboard one transport, Jane and Daria sat facing each other. Trent was beside Jane, asleep. Jane glanced at Trent. “Sometimes, I think he could sleep during the end of the world.”

“I feel like he already is,” muttered Daria. “The end of our world, anyway.”

“Yeah.” Jane glanced down. “I’m sorry, Daria.”

“For what?”

“Screwing with your feelings. Screwing with Trent’s feelings.”

Daria looked to the side. “If I’d been honest in the first place, we wouldn’t have any problems. I was just scared.”

“Yeah.” Jane’s voice was quiet. “Me too. Um, thanks for what you did in there.”

“I didn’t do anything.”

“You were going to kill yourself to get us free.”

Daria looked at Jane. “I’d do anything for you, Jane. I love you.”

Jane smiled sadly. “I love you too. Actually, I kind of spoke to Trent about that. He says he’s comfortable with us having a relationship now. So..er...how about it?”

“The famous Lane timing strikes again.”

“And yet I still feel like there’s something between us.”

“Could be these restraints.”

Jane looked down. “Oh yeah. How come yours are spiffier than mine?”

Daria shrugged. Jane suddenly looked at her, deadly serious. “Daria?”


“In the park...”


Jane’s voice was low. “I should have kissed you.”

The two friends looked at each other silently.


In another transport, the former members of the Fashion Club sat in restraints. Stacy was bawling her eyes out. “It was Ted. He told me I should get you back for all the horrible stuff you did to me!”

Sandi scowled. “Stacy, whatever happened to Fashion Club solidarity?”

“There never was any,” shot back Quinn. “You always tried to put me down, and Stacy.”

“Kuh-winn, that’s not...wait, what are we doing?”

Quinn blinked. “I guess old habits are coming back.” She looked down. “Um. I’m really sorry about ignoring you guys for so long. It was just, after all that happened, it hurt...”

Sandi looked away guiltily. Quinn continued. “I mean, we fought and stuff, but we were friends, right?”

Sandi nodded. “Yeah. I missed you, Quinn. I’m sorry for everything I did.”

“That was beautiful,” blubbed Stacy. “Oh Quinn, Sandi, I’m so sorry!”

Sandi looked at Quinn. “Thanks for, like, coming to rescue us.”

“That’s okay. We’re friends, right?”

Sandi smiled. Quinn smiled back. Stacy kept bawling.

Sandi looked at Quinn, and her face became serious. “Quinn? Do you think we’re really going to...?”

“I don’t know, Sandi. I’m just scared.”

“Me too.”

Quinn smiled a little. “I’m just glad we’re together for this.”

Tiffany looked up. “Arrre weee at the mallll yet?”


“What’s going on, Jodie?”

Jodie shook her head. “I don’t know, Mack. I don’t understand anything.”

Mack slumped back against the transport’s side. Upchuck was beside them, looking terrified, and for once, speechless. Brittany was there too. She’d stopped ranting, and now she had a blank expression, full of despair. Mack couldn’t actually remember seeing her blink since they’d been in City Hall. “I mean, I always thought Daria’s dad was kind of clueless. That’s how she described him.”

“I know, Mack. I guess we’ll find out.” Jodie looked at him. “Sorry.”

“What for?”

“Breaking up with you so badly.”

“That’s okay.”

“No, it isn’t. You’ve been good to me, Mack, and I should have been a little nicer.”

“It’s okay.”

Jodie saw that Mack wasn’t in the mood to talk, and dropped it. She decided on a new topic. “Mack? Are you scared?”



Wendy’s car pulled up beside Jake. “Hop in!”

“Wendy? How did you find me?”

Wendy glanced at the flaming wreckage. “You ask the dumbest questions sometimes, M.”

Jake got in the back. “City Hall.”

Horizon glanced at Wendy. “Okay, he didn’t know where it was. You were right.”

The car pulled up in front of City Hall. Jake, followed by the two women, rushed inside. It was deserted. Jake checked all the offices as he ran through the corridors. Nothing. They reached the main conference room, and flung the door open. There was a handful of people inside. Jake ran in. He saw the Landons, and the Ruttheimers, and a little brown haired kid who looked kind of familiar. “Andrew!” He rushed up to Andrew Landon. “Where is everyone?”

Andrew looked at him. “Jake Morgendorffer? What are you doing here? Where is who?”

“The kids! They were here!”

“I told you the Morgendorffers were head cases,” muttered Michelle Landon, and they left. Jake looked around. The Ruttheimers had gone too, and that little brown haired kid. Where had he seen him before?

Horizon put her hand on his shoulder. “Jake?”

“They’re gone, Horizon. My girls are gone, and I don’t know where.” Jake noticed a small black box lying in the center of the floor. He walked over to it, and picked it up. Immediately, a life-sized hologram of Alexander flashed into existence before him.

“Hello Jake. I can only assume you were lucky enough to defeat those two men I sent to retrieve you. If Helen was unlucky enough to be killed, my condolences. If she survived, my even bigger condolences.”

“Anyway, I’m with your two charming daughters. They’ll be useful for my purposes in the future, and we’ll be able to achieve a lot as one big happy family. A more secure one than you were ever able to provide.”

“Only one thing remains to do before I can be content. Namely, kill you. I know you, you can’t just sit back, knowing your daughters are with me. Directions are enclosed. Be seeing you, Jake.”

The hologram fizzled, and vanished. Jake turned to the door, and began walking out. The two women followed.

“Jake, you aren’t thinking of going, are you?”

“Horizon, I don’t have a choice.”

“Jake, this is bloody stupid.”

They reached the front steps. Jake stopped short. A tall, well-built man in his thirties was leaning against Wendy’s car, smiling. He was handsome, and wearing an impeccably tailored suit. He looked like an actor, to be honest. Jake looked at him. “Who are you?”

The man smiled, revealing a set of perfect white teeth. “Hello, Jake. Let’s just say we have similar objectives. I’m here to help you.”



Chapter Five: The Final Confrontation?


Helen’s SUV, and Jake’s Lexus pulled to a stop. They were ins the middle of the desert, nothing for miles in any direction. The doors opened, and Jake, Wendy and Horizon stepped out of the vehicles.


“Who are you?” demanded Jake. “Are you with them?”

The man smiled. “Not quite. You could say...we’re professional rivals.”

“What do you want?”

“I told you, Jake, to help you.”

Wendy stepped forward. “Why should we trust you?”

“Hello, Ms Thackerell.” His eyes narrowed. “Or is it Ms Flores, or Ms Nogura these days? I forget the other one.”

Horizon spoke up: “Wendy, what’s he talking about?”

The man turned to her. “And you, Miss Bridger. Is it Horizon, or H. Elizabeth these days?”

Jake stepped closer to the man. “Is there a point to this?”

“Jake Morgendorffer. Well-meaning, but clueless father. Amateur chef. Unsuccessful management consultant. Major issues with his late father. Up until two months ago, when you suddenly found yourself becoming stronger, more confident, more successful. And not just that. Now you have gifts. Speed, strength, agility. All improved. Fighting abilities you never used to have. All of which came in very handy when you stopped a plan to destroy Lawndale, at the High School, resulting in the deaths of three teachers and one student.” The man cocked an eyebrow. “Does that about cover it?”


“What are we looking for?” Horizon shaded her eyes and gazed around the sweeping vista. Some tumbleweeds blew past them.

“I hate the desert,” mumbled Wendy. “This is going to pay hell with my complexion.”

Jake pointed off in the distance. “That.”

The two women squinted. “What?”

That.” Jake pointed to a small hut a couple of hundred yards away. It looked like an outhouse, of all things.

“I always said our government was going into the toilet,” said Horizon, and grinned.

“Spare me, Intern Girl.”


“So you’ve been watching us. So you know a great deal about us. That doesn’t mean we should trust you.”

“That’s the exact reason why you need to trust me. They don’t know we’ve been watching. They don’t know that we know so much about them. This is our chance to get rid of both of our problems.”

Jake frowned. “I don’t follow you.”

“Follow this. I work for a government organization. I’d rather not say which one. Our existence and powers are threatened by your brother’s plan. We’ve suspected them of this for a while, but we’ve never been able to pin anything on them.”

Wendy spoke up: “And this is our problem how?”

The man ignored her. “We got our biggest break two months ago. We heard about what happened at Lawndale High, and moved in. We acquired a number of their operatives from the hospitals here, and they told us about you. We‘ve been watching you ever since.”

“The men that disappeared from the hospital - that was you.”

The man nodded.


“Okay, so we found the underground lair. Now what?”

“Come on, Wendy. We both like Bond movies - what does he always do?”

Wendy thought for a moment. “Stroll in, exchange pleasantries with the bad guy, then get his arse bailed out by the handy army, navy, or ninjas that he has waiting to help him. Then he beats up the bad guys, blows up the lair, and gets laid.”

“Sounds like a plan,” said Jake.

“Very amusing,” said Horizon. “But what are you actually going to do?”

Jake thought for a moment. “Knock on the door, and go inside.”

“You’re kidding.” Wendy's face fell. “You're not kidding.”

“Jake!” Horizon looked at him. “You can’t. They’ll kill you.”

Jake thought for a moment. “No. Alexander wants to do it himself. I’ll be safe until I find him, then I’ll think of something.”

“How reassuring.”

“I don’t have a choice. They’ve got my daughters.” Jake turned and placed his hands on the two women’s shoulders. “Listen. If all goes to plan, the kids should come out of there soon enough. When they do, get them into the cars, and get away. Whether I’m there or not, okay?”

Wendy closed her eyes and nodded. Horizon bit her lip and did the same. Jake continued: “In the glove compartment of the SUV are two envelopes in case I don’t see you again. Inside are severance packages for both of you. Wendy, there’s also a letter of recommendation for you, Horizon, all my stuff for your semester review. I had to do them in a hurry, so sorry for any mistakes.” His voice became quieter. “Thank you for all your help - both of you.”

He moved to get up. Impulsively, Horizon took his face in his hands, and kissed him lightly on the lips. She drew back. Jake looked at her, confused, for a moment, then left. Horizon turned to Wendy, who was staring at her. “What?”

Jake walked towards the hut, not looking him behind him.


“Well, what do you want from me?”

The man looked at Jake. “They have a secret base somewhere in the US, with one of those weapons. We don’t know where it is. I think you do. Alexander’s feelings towards you are well known. He wants you to find him.”

“You want me to lead you to him.” It was a statement, not a question. “Why should I?”

Colonel Franklin Davers smiled. “Well, Jake. We’ll have to find something that’s appealing to both of us, won’t we?”


The door to the hut swung open as Jake approached. Two armed guards emerged, flanked him. They motioned for him to go inside. He did so, and stepped into an elevator. The guards entered, and one of them punched in a code. The doors slid shut, and the elevator began descending. Jake couldn’t tell how far underground they were going, but it had to be quite a significant distance. It stopped, and the doors slid open again, revealing a gleaming metallic corridor. It was lined with armed guards, and stretched as far as Jake could see. The guards motioned for him to walk, and he did so. Jake couldn’t help but notice how the guards trained their weapons on him as he walked past.

How are you going to get out of this one, Jakey?

The corridor ended at a set of large steel doors, which slid open onto a vast hall, decorated in white and steel. A huge window at one end showed the next room, which appeared to be an exact replica of the weapon at Lawndale High. Or more accurately, Lawndale had been a replica of that one. More guards lined the room. On a raised dais at the front stood the teenagers, Daria and Quinn among them. He saw Quinn’s fashion friends, Trent and Jane, and he recognized a couple of the others from school functions. Michael Mackenzie and Jodie Landon. Charles Ruttheimer’s boy, and a cheerleader. They gave a gasp of recognition as he entered. Behind them stood Alexander, and an older man. At the very back of the room were an ornate set of doors. They seemed very familiar to Jake, although he couldn’t place where or why.

“Daddy?” It was Quinn.

“I’m okay, Quinn. Everything’s going to be fine.”

“Yeah, right,” muttered Daria.

“Lying to your children is a terrible habit, Jake,” said Alexander, walking to the front of the dais. “I see you decided to show up.”

“I didn’t have a choice.”

“Quite.” Alexander smiled. “And here we are.”

“You don’t need them. Let them go.”

“You’re wrong. I do need them. Your useless, pathetic attempts at parenting are over. I’ll raise these girls in the manner they should have be raised. They will be a credit to the name Morgendorffer.”

“It’s not too late, you know. You have a choice. You don’t have to be what he wanted you to be. You don‘t have to do what he wanted you to do.”

“I’m not being forced. I chose this. Before this, I had nothing. I was a pathetic misfit, a lowlife. Now, I am a credit to my father, and his glorious plan. You’re jealous, because I got the adulation you always craved, but could never earn.”

Jake shook his head. “I learned a long time that I didn’t need to be what he wanted. You need to make your own place in the world. Don’t do this, please.”

Alexander walked towards Jake. “I choose this. I choose the legacy that you rejected. The only thing I need to do now is destroy you. Then, A.H. Morgendorffer’s one and only mistake will be erased. You know that’s what he called you? A mistake. He said that the only thing in his life he regretted was having you. I’m going to finally fix that problem.”

“Take your best shot. I’m wide open.”

Alexander was only a few feet from Jake now. “Kill an unarmed man?” He shook his head. “I can beat you any time, anywhere.” He pulled a sword from his belt, and threw it to Jake, who caught it. Alexander pulled another one out for himself. “Your final defeat in front of my daughters to show them what happens to weakness in my world.” He raised the sword in a fighting stance.

Jake stared at his weapon. “I don’t want to fight you.”

“But you’re going to.”

Newton stepped forward. “Alexander, what are you doing?”

“Stay back. No-one interfere. That’s an order.”


“You have your orders.”

Newton stepped back, glowering.

Jake stared at Alexander, then back to his sword. Could he beat him? He doubted it, but what choice did he have? He needed to stay alive for Daria and Quinn’s sake. The sight of Alexander made him think of Timothy O’Neill, and he nearly retched at the memory of killing.


Alexander raised his sword, and prepared to attack. He had no doubt he could defeat Jake. He had to. Jake had dogged his life, and now, by killing him, Alexander would finally prove to himself that he was the true son. He would be free.


Daria watched her father grip the sword tightly. On the one hand, she couldn’t believe what was happening. On the other, she was scared, more scared than she had ever been. Her father wasn’t a fighter, was he? He’d been in the school back then, and Quinn had mentioned about him taking down ten people at one time. But she was still skeptical, especially since at times, it was fifteen, or twenty.

She felt something brush against her hand, and looked down. It was Jane’s hand. Daria took it and squeezed it, and looked up at Jane, and smiled. Jane smiled back, a little sadly.


Jake raised the sword, and tensed. Alexander made the first attack, and swung at him. Jake parried, and made a counter attack. Alexander effortlessly blocked, and swung again. Their swords clashed again. Jake fell back, taken aback by the strength of Alexander’s attacks. Alexander struck again, and again. Jake stumbled back, parrying the blows in the nick of time. The attacks grew faster and faster. Jake blocked a swing, and tried to force the sword from Alexander’s hand. He responded by kicking Jake in the face, sending him sprawling.

Jake rolled from another strike. He flung himself backwards onto his feet, and ducked back as a sword swiped inches from his chest. An uppercut from Alexander kicked him off balance, and he barely avoided another swipe, this one cutting through his shirt, and drawing blood.

Jake staggered back, trying to regain his stance. Alexander gave him no quarter. Another set of blistering strikes came down, Jake only barely blocking them. He was being backed into a corner.

In desperation, he somersaulted over Alexander’s head, and ran a few feet from him, and turned. Alexander was on his tail. Jake swung low, aiming for his legs. Alexander leapt to avoid the swipe and Jake flipped over, and kicked him in the chest while he was in the air. He flew backwards, and landed hard. Jake ran in for the follow up. Alexander was already on his feet, and blocked the thrusts easily. Jake made a thrust - Alexander blocked it - Jake used his momentum to lunge past him, and elbow him in the back. Alexander fell, Jake turned to stab - Alexander had rolled clear, and swept Jake’s legs from under him.

They both clambered to their feet, Alexander swinging towards Jake. It caught him in the shoulder, and he cried out in pain. Alexander followed up by kicking him square in the back, sending him sprawling, his sword clattering across the room, out of his reach. Jake cried out in pain - the kick landing in his cracked ribs.

Alexander’s sword came down - Jake rolled out of the way, leapt to his feet. He dodged backwards as another swing came in. Another one - Jake grabbed Alexander’s hand, and tried to force him to drop the sword. Alexander head-butted him. Jake stumbled back, blood dripping from his nose - but he didn’t let go of Alexander’s hand. He squeezed as hard as he could. There was a crunching sound, and Alexander grunted in pain. Jake brought his knee up and caught him in the gut. Alexander doubled over, winded - and let go of the sword. Jake pulled it from him, but Alexander had recovered, and spun round, kicking it from his hands. It flew across the room, embedding itself in the wall. Alexander did a follow up kick. It caught Jake on the chin, sending him reeling - a third kick sent him flying across the room, sliding against the wall.

Alexander bore down on him - Jake got to his feet - punched Alexander in the jaw. A second blow to the gut. Alexander responded by delivering a powerful combo; devastating blows to the side, and the shoulder.

The exact spots where Jake had been shot. He flinched in pain as he felt the wounds reopening, something warm and wet trickling on the inside of his shirt. He saw Alexander smile, knowing he’d hit his targets.

He staggered back, trying to focus through the pain. Everything seemed distant, blurry. He could barely see Alexander advancing on him, drawing back his fist. Jake tried to block, but the punch slammed into his jaw. A kick to his chin, then another punch, right where the gunshot wound in his gut was.

Jake leapt back, and gingerly felt his side. His hand came up covered with blood. The room swam for a moment. Jake gritted his teeth and rushed Alexander. He swung a punch at him. Alexander moved to block, but Jake faked him, and drew back. Then he jumped up, and kicked him in the chest. Alexander staggered back. Jake grabbed his shirt, and threw Alexander against the wall as hard as he could. Alexander smashed into the far wall, it cracking a little under the impact. He yelled out, and slid down to the floor. Jake ran over to him, but Alexander had already gotten up, and grabbed Jake’s shoulders. Jake tried to loosen his grip, but Alexander slammed his fist into the wound, and twisted. Jake howled in pain. Still twisting the wound, Alexander punched him again, and again, in the ribs. There was a sickening crunch, as one of them finally broke. Alexander finished by punching his wound in his stomach again. Jake sank to his knees in pain and Alexander kneed him in the jaw, sending him flying backwards.


Alexander watched with some satisfaction as Jake slid across the floor, and lay there, trying to rise to his feet. He’d done it. He’d beaten him. He was better, just as he had thought all along. One more task. He walked over to him, and kicked him, hard, in the ribs. The ones he knew were cracked. Another cry of pain. The sound was very satisfying to him. He stood over him, and placed his right foot on Jakes throat. He pushed down hard, strangling Jake, and soon, breaking his neck.


Jake tried to focus through the pain.

Get up! You have to...

Another blistering surge of pain through his chest. Then he felt something hard go against his throat. It was getting harder and harder to breathe. With some effort, he opened his eyes to see Alexander’s foot on his throat, slowly crushing it. The room started to go black.

Looks like ‘Mad Dog’ wins again, huh Jake?

The thought of his father galvanized Jake. His father had interfered with his life up until he was 18. And now, again, the old man had set things in motion that were trying to run his life again. He couldn’t be free of him, and now he was going to die because his father would never let him run his own life.

“No,” he gasped. “No!”

He reached up and grabbed Alexander’s leg, and threw him off. Alexander landed on his back. Jake rose to his feet. Alexander did the same, looking surprised at Jake’s recovery. Jake lunged at Alexander. If he couldn’t make his father pay, he would make his protege pay. Alexander tried to block, but Jake’s blows were powered by anger, and they smashed through his blocks. One blow caught him on the face, smashing his nose. He staggered back.

Jake kicked him in the stomach, sending him doubling up. Jake grabbed his arm, and twisted it behind him, dislocating his shoulder. Alexander cried out. Jake kicked him in the back, sending him sprawling against a wall. Jake walked over, and smashed his face in the wall, imagining that this was his father, and that all of his childhood anger was coming out at once. Alexander sank to his knees, and Jake picked him up, and threw him across the floor. Alexander landed hard. Jake kicked him in the ribs as hard as he could, sending him flying against the wall again. The sound of his ribs cracking was very satisfying to Jake. His father shouldn’t have treated him like that. Every punch, every kick, felt like he was getting revenge on his father for all those years of abuse. Alexander tried to get up, but he could only rise to his knees. Jake spotted the sword sticking out of the wall. He grabbed it, and swung it straight at Alexander’s neck.

Suddenly, he got an image of Timothy O’Neill as he fell to his death.

The room was deathly silent. Jake’s sword had stopped just a millimeter into Alexander’s neck, and there was a thin trickle of blood running down.

“I’m not a killer,” Jake whispered to himself. “It’s not your fault. He messed you up, like he messed me up. I have to let go of the past.” This was not his father. He had been used by his father, just as Jake had. Killing him wouldn’t solve anything. He’d be playing his father’s games, and he never wanted to do that. He needed to be his own man, not a shadow of his father, embittered and haunted by the past. He looked around. No-one else seemed to have heard him. He pulled the sword back, and pointed it at Alexander’s throat. Then he turned to Newton. “Listen to me! Let the kids go! Or I’ll kill him!”

“He’s bluffing,” said Alexander. “He doesn’t have the guts to kill me.”

You’re right. Hopefully they don’t know that.

Newton stared at him for a moment. Then he turned to a guard. “Let them go. Give them the code for the elevator”

Alexander blinked. “What are you doing?”

“You got us into this mess. You and your ego. I’m trying to get us out of it. The kids, realistically, are worthless to us. You, for all your faults, are not. We need you more than them.”

The kids started for the door, nervously. “Daria, Quinn,” Jake called. “Get them out. The two women I work with are above. Go with them.”

Daria and Quinn slowly walked over to him. “Daddy, what about you.”

“I’ll be fine Quinn.”

Daria took a look at the slowly growing puddle of blood gathering around his feet, and raised an eyebrow.

“Daria, please. Quickly.”

She nodded, and grabbed Quinn. Before she left, she glanced at Alexander, then back to Jake with a questioning expression on her face. Jake knew what she was asking. He shook his head. “No, Daria. I’m not going to kill him,” he said in a whisper, so no-one but her and Quinn could hear. She smiled slightly, and grabbed Quinn, and walked through the door, following the other students.

Alexander spat some blood out. “What now, Jake? You’re boxed in.”

Jake looked up, straight at the ornate doors on the dais. “We’re going for a walk.”


The elevator doors slid open, and the door to the hut swung open. All of the students, followed by Daria and Quinn, filed out.

“Girls! Over here!”

Daria glanced over to the source of the call. It was the redheaded Englishwoman who her dad worked with, plus the blonde in the power suit. They were standing beside her Dad’s Lexus and Helen’s SUV. They ran over, and the redhead began bustling everyone into the two cars.

“Hold on,” said Daria. “We’re not just leaving Dad here. He’s hurt, and still in there.”

“Hurt bad?”

Daria nodded.

“Shit. Look, Dara...”

Daria. We have to get out of here. Your Dad has something planned.”

Quinn looked confused. “What?”

The redhead told them. Their eyes went wide.


“Okay, Davers. You get what you want, and I get what I want. One condition, though.”

Franklin sighed. “What?”

“Wait until the kids are out. If something goes wrong, I don’t want them to be harmed.”

“And if you don’t get them out?”

Jake looked resolute. “I will.”


Jake led Alexander down the corridor behind the ornate doors. He'd fused the lock so no-one could follow them. He wasn’t sure why he had to go down this corridor, he'd just felt compelled to. This corridor was different than the others. It was pure white - Jake had difficulty distinguishing the walls and ceiling from the floor. Alexander was getting nervous. Jake couldn’t figure why.

“You don’t have the guts to kill me.”

“You’re right. Plus I don’t want to. The old man got to you just as much as he got to me. It’s not your fault.”

“Don’t patronize me, Jake. You’re dying. How much blood have you lost already?”

Jake glanced behind him. He was leaving a trail of blood across the gleaming white floor. Why hadn’t he gone up with the others? He didn’t know. He just knew he had to finish this, and the answers were down here - down this corridor. The corridor ended at another set of doors. They slid open, revealing a smallish room. This room still had the white floor, and the white ceiling, but the walls were more elaborate, with elegant trimmings and paintings lining them. There was only one piece of furniture in the room, a large king size bed along the far wall facing the door. Wires and tubing came from the bed into the wall behind it, which was lined with computer monitors and consoles. Jake and Alexander stepped into the room. Jake took a closer look at the bed. There was someone in it - an old man, maybe in his late seventies, with white hair and a beard. He looked familiar to Jake. Jake squinted, and suddenly he recognized the man. He took a deep breath, and said words he had not said for almost thirty years.

“Hello, Dad.”



Chapter Six: Fathers & Sons.


‘Mad Dog’ Morgendorffer smiled feebly. “Hello, Jake. Made it at last, I see.”

Jake lowered the sword in shock. “But...I thought you were dead.”

“I never said he was dead, Jake,” said Alexander. “All I said was that he didn’t die when you thought he did.”

“And I didn’t. Stop gawking, Jake! You look like a goddamn fish.”

Instinctively, Jake began to apologize, then realized what he was doing. “Shut up. This place. I knew this room. I knew how to get here. How?”

“All part of my plan.”

Alexander looked confused. “What? Why are we talking to him? Let me kill him.”

“Tried that already, sonny, and you screwed it up royally.”

Alexander flushed with shame. “I’m sorry...”

“And stop whining. Look, it’s time to come clean. Jake, you’re here because I wanted you here. I want you to join us.”

“What?” Alexander and Jake said it at once.

“You’re my son, Jake. My heir. I want you with me on this.”

Alexander stepped forward, angry. “What about me?”

“You're just some shitty street punk I picked up to do my dirty work. I needed you while I got Jake ready.”

“No...” Alexander shook his head. “That doesn’t make any sense.”
“Your conditioning, Jake. Ever wonder why it didn’t take?”

Jake shrugged.

“I knew it wouldn’t work. Planned it that way. That thing at Lawndale wasn’t just a weapons test. It was a test of you, as well. And you passed.”

Jake shook his head. “No...he tried to kill me,” he said, indicating Alexander. “He was serious.”
Mad Dog sighed. “Of course he was serious, moron. He thought he was my heir. He was just somebody to test you on. Who better to test you than yourself, basically? But you are here. You defeated him. Now, you’re worthy to join me. Passed the final test, Jakey. I‘m proud of you.”

Jake closed his eyes in shock. He’d waited all his life to hear those words from his father. But not in these circumstances. Not like this.


Jake’s Lexus sped along the desert, Wendy behind the wheel. Helen‘s SUV, with Horizon, followed.

Daria, in the passenger seat, turned to Wendy. “You’re telling me Dad has help from the government?”
“I don’t believe it myself, but that’s what the guy said.”

“Weirder and weirder.” Daria looked out the window. “God, I hope he’s okay.”

“When you say, hurt, how badly hurt?”

Daria shot her a look. “Bleeding to death.”

Wendy gripped the wheel a little harder. “Shit.” She tried to sound a little more upbeat. “Look, I’ve known your dad for a while. He can take care of himself in situations like this. It’s just things like remembering to pay the bills he has trouble with.”

Despite herself, Daria smirked a little. Jane leaned forward from the back, and squeezed Daria’s shoulder. “He’ll be okay, Daria.”

Trent leaned forward too. “Yeah. Your dad’s pretty cool. He can take care of himself.”

Daria turned her head. “I hope so.”

“Eep!” It was Brittany. Everyone turned to her in shock - this was the first thing she had said since City Hall. She was pointing out the window, an expression of fear on her face.

“What is it?” Daria followed her finger, and saw what she was looking at.

In the distance, coming in their direction, came a fleet of black cargo helicopters. They seemed to be a futuristic design, and they looked deadly.

“Think they’re on our side?” asked Jane, her voice trembling slightly.

“I don‘t know,” said Daria.


“What the hell are those?” Mack gazed at the sky.

In the front, Horizon looked with amazement at the sleek black craft roaring past them.

“They’re government issue. Thought they were only rumors, though.”

Jodie looked at Upchuck in amazement. “How do you know?”

He shrugged. “Everyone’s got to have a hobby.”

“They’re going to save Daddy, right?” asked Quinn anxiously.

“I hope so,” whispered Horizon.

“Quinn?” said Sandi. “I didn’t know your Dad was, like, a kung fu guy or something.”
“Neither did I,” muttered Quinn.

“I hope he’s okay,” said Stacy. Tiffany just kept filing her nails.

“That’s a really nice suit, by the way,” said Quinn to Horizon.

“Um, thank you.” She swallowed hard. “Jake, I mean, your dad, will be fine. I hope. Please God,” she said quietly.


The craft landed quietly beside the hut. The doors slid open, and dozens of black-clad troops swarmed out, and took up positions surrounding the hut. A number of them began planting charges around it, while the others readied themselves to begin the assault.


In the main hall, Newton was pacing around the room. Armstrong was following him. “Is he there?”

Armstrong nodded. “He’s in there right now.”
“Damn it. How did he know to go there? How the hell are we going to get him out?”

“It’s up to Morgendorffer now, sir. The older one, I mean.”

“I know what you mean! No more intruders?”

“No. All the screens are clear.”

Newton nodded in acknowledgment, and resumed pacing.


Jake shook his head. “I don’t understand.”

“Use your goddamned brain for once in you sad little life, son. You’re part of the reason I did all this. It was you and your hippie friends that began the decline of this country. After that, nothing was ever the same. People didn’t respect authority like they should. Good people were punished, and thrown from office, while decadent freaks rose to power. You were the catalyst, and you were to be the savior. My son would join us, and help cleanse this country again. That’s how you knew to find me. I implanted my own location in your head. Once you defeated this retard, you’d be compelled to come here, to find me. And here you are.”

Jake reeled from the news, but was distracted by Alexander grabbing the sword from his hand. He pointed it straight at Mad Dog. “You! I worshipped you, and you used me!”

“Get over it, you little punk,” snarled Mad Dog.

“My whole life...has it been for nothing?!”

Mad Dog smiled cruelly. “Sucks, doesn’t it?”

Alexander screamed and lunged at Mad Dog with the sword. Mad Dog flicked a switch beside him, and a beam of light flashed out from behind his head. It drilled straight through Alexander, and he fell to the floor. Jake knelt quickly beside him, but it was too late. He was already dead. Jake looked at his father. “There was no need for that.”

Mad Dog snorted. “He served his purpose. Why didn’t you kill him?”

Jake stood back up. “I’m not a killer, Dad, despite your attempts to make me one.”
“Bullshit. You killed that guy at the school.”

“And it’s haunted me ever since. I’m not like you, Dad. All the modifications and enhancements in the world won’t make me the same as you.” He paused and looked at his father. “How did you survive the cancer, anyway?”

“Treatment kept me alive for a few years, but it was getting to the point where I was going to die unless something drastic was done. Then, this weapon was devised. It’s keeping me alive.”

“Draws energy from my alternate selves. Kills them to keep me going. Soon, I think I’ll be the only A.H. Morgendorffer alive in the multiverse.”

“You never cared about what happened to others, did you?”

“It’s all bullshit, Jake. I brought you up better than that.”

“You? You brought me up?” Jake's voice rose to a yell. He could feel his wounds ache as he shouted, but he didn’t care. “You were never there to bring us up. And when you were, you’d just beat me, and tell me what a stupid little wuss I was.”

“I was on official business.”

“I know. You know something?” Jake’s voice fell. “I was proud of you. My father, the hero, out saving the world. Every time you would come home, I’d look forward to it. I’d think maybe this time he'll be happy to see me. Maybe this time, we can spend some time together, like fathers and sons do. And every time, you would disappoint me. You didn’t want to spend time with me. You could barely stand the sight of me. After a while, I didn’t look forward to you coming home any more. I’d dread it.”

“Whining, as usual, I see.”

Jake gritted his teeth. “You don’t care, do you?”
“I’m trying to fix this world, and all you can whine about is your damn childhood!”

“You know what’s sad? You wanted me on this, but you couldn’t even ask me. You had to do all this, just to get me here. You can’t even talk to your own son. You had to send me off to Military School because you couldn‘t even deal with having me there when you were home.”

“Shut your mouth, boy,” Mad Dog snarled.

“I’m not going to join you, Dad. I’m not a killer. You almost made me one, but I make my own choices in life. I chose not to kill him, and now I choose not to join you.” Jake paused. “I’ve lived under your shadow my whole life. I’ve let you affect my jobs, my marriage and my parenthood. But now, I’m going to live my life how I think it should be lived, not how you, or anyone else thinks it should be. If you were any sort of father, you’d respect my choices. But you never did. You don’t respect anyone else’s choices.” He gestured around him. “That’s what this is about. All of this. You and your superiors wanting to make everyone else’s choice for them. You’re pathetic, and I’ll never join you. I’m finally free from you, Dad. I’ve said all the things I wanted to say when I was a kid. And you won’t dictate my life any more.”

He turned and began to walk towards the door. Mad Dog yelled from behind him. “You haven’t changed a bit. You’re still a failure! What makes you think you can get out of here alive?”
As if on cue, the room shook as if an explosion had occurred nearby.

Actually, it probably has.


The main hall rocked with the force of an explosion. Newton grabbed onto the wall to steady himself. “What the hell was that?”

One of his men rushed up to him. “Sir - an explosion has breached the main elevator shaft.”

“What? How?”

Armstrong ran over to him. “Cloaking suits. Must have been. Didn’t show up on any of our scans. That narrows it down to US troops. No-one else has the technology, as far as we know.”

“Shit!” Newton turned to the guards. “We’re under attack. Find the intruders, and eliminate them.”

“Sir!” The leader saluted, and began ordering his men. Newton raised his comm unit, and tried to reach any of the other units. A lone voice crackled through the static.

“Sir! It’s Delphi!” Newton went pale. “They’re coming down the shaft - hard to tell how many...” The line went dead. Before anyone could react, the doors to the main hall blew open, and a group of black-clad soldiers rushed through, spaying the room with gunfire. The guards tried to put up a defense, but they were caught by surprise, and the Delphi squad cut most of them down and kept advancing.


“What’s that?”

Jake turned his head to face Mad Dog. “Before I came here, I ran into some friends of yours. DELPHI, I think they’re called. They offered me a deal if I told them where you were. So, I did.” He smiled. “Not such a failure, after all, huh, Dad? They’ve been waiting for an opportunity like this for years, and your little scheme gave them the information they needed to shut you down. I imagine they’re storming this place right now.”

“I bet it was that brown-nosing piece of shit, Davers.”

Jake nodded. “You couldn’t think you could get away with this for ever, did you?”

Mad Dog tried to sit up. “Last chance, Jake. You can still join me, and we can escape together.”

Jake shook his head. Mad Dog snarled. “Fine. Go back to your shitty little life, with your bitchy wife, that vain little bitch, and your dyke daughter. You’re still a screw up, Jake. Always have been, always will. You’ll regret this some day, when you’re thinking of how your life could have been. You’ll wish you joined me. I‘m your father, goddamn it!”

Jake looked at him. “I don’t have a father. I never did.” He turned towards the door. “Goodbye.” And, without looking back, he left his father there. The doors slammed shut behind him. He walked down the corridor, idly noting the blood on the gleaming floor. Oh yes - that was his blood. He began to feel a little faint. Everything started to go black. It didn’t matter though. He was free. All he had to do was get out of here, and back to his family. The room was spinning. Back to Helen. That was all he had to do. After all, now he was free...



Chapter Seven: Our Revels Now Are Ended.


It was a pleasant Saturday morning in Lawndale. Quinn was sitting at the kitchen table when Daria came in.

“Where’s Mom?”

“She had to go to the office to finish up some paperwork, then she’s meeting Daddy when he gets out of the hospital.”

“Aha. He is getting out today, then?”

“I think. Let me check.” Quinn picked up the phone, and dialed the number for the hospital. “Hello, this is Quinn Morgendorffer. I’m just checking that my father’s getting out of the hospital today.” A brief pause. “What?” Quinn went pale.

“What is it?” Daria got worried.

Quinn looked up at Daria, her face ashen. “He’s in a coma.”

Daria’s stomach sank.

“What?” Quinn scowled at the phone. “Well, you should speak up, then!” She slammed the phone down.

“What?” whispered Daria, nervously.

Quinn looked sheepish. “Actually, they said ‘He’s coming home today’, not “He’s in a coma today.’”

Daria rolled her eyes. “Don’t scare me like that.”

“Sorry. Anyway, got to go. Fash...I mean, I’m meeting Sandi and the others.”

Daria raised an eyebrow. “No Fashion Club?”

“We’re not sure there’s still one. That’s why we’re meeting.”

“I see. I’m going to Jane’s.”

Quinn looked at Daria nervously. “So, are you guys...you know...dating?”

Daria shrugged. “That’s what we’re going to sort out today. We’ve both had a chance to think things through, now we’re going to decide.” She looked at Quinn, suddenly looking very nervous. “Um, Quinn? You haven’t said anything to anyone, have you?”

“Daria! What do you think I am?”

“Do I have to answer that?”

“I haven’t told anyone, and I won’t. I mean, it still freaks me out a little, but I just don’t think about it.”


“Are you going to tell Mom and Dad?”

Daria thought about that for a minute. “Not yet. When we’ve sorted more stuff out, then I will.”

“Just don’t start wearing dungarees, or I’ll start calling you my cousin again.”

Daria gave Quinn a look, then left.


Jake finished pulling on the rest of his clothes, and looked at himself in the mirror. The cuts and bruises had mostly healed, and his ribs felt a lot better. There were still scars from the gunshot wounds, but on the whole, he was in good shape, especially considering what his poor body had gone through over the past week and a half.

Doctor Philips walked into the room, sat down, and began flipping through Jake’s chart. “How are you feeling, Jake?”

Jake shrugged. “Fine.”

“Yes, which is odd, since you came in here a week ago, with...” He checked the chart again. “Multiple gunshot wounds, at least one broken rib, and several cracked ones, several very deep cuts, a lot of muscle sprains, multiple bruises, and severe blood loss. And here you are, almost all better again.”

Jake smiled. “I guess I’m just a fast healer.”

Doctor Philips smiled back. “Of course. Give my regards to Colonel Davers when you see him, and tell him that I really don‘t like doing this sort of thing. So stay out of trouble, Jake.” He left.

Jake shook his head. The world certainly was a more complicated place than he’d thought it was. Oh well, he had to go meet Helen.


Daria took a deep breath, and knocked on the door of Casa Lane. After a short pause, Trent answered the door. “Hey, Daria.”

“Hey, Trent.”
Trent looked at her for a moment. “You’re here to see Janey, right?”

Daria nodded. “But I wanted to talk to you first. Can I come in?”

Trent let her past, and they went into the living room. They sat down on the couch, and Daria took Trent’s hands in hers. “Trent, I want to apologize. I...we...should have been honest from the start. We...”

Trent cut her off. “It’s okay, Daria. Janey’s already apologized. A lot. You guys were just screwed up and scared about how you felt. It’s not easy to admit that to other people, you know?”

“Yeah, I know.”

“Look, you two are great together, and I’m okay with it. I mean, don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine. We both know it wouldn‘t have worked out.”

Daria looked into his eyes. “Maybe.”

“We’re better as friends, right? I’m cool with that. That’s probably what I feel for you. You know, friendship.” He smiled sadly.

Daria looked at him doubtfully. She said nothing, squeezed his hands harder, and leaned in to kiss him gently on the cheek. Then she got up, and walked upstairs.

Trent watched her leave, a wistful expression on his face.

Daria reached Jane’s room, and pushed the door open gently. Jane was inside, painting. She looked up. “Oh, hey!” Her tone was surprised, but definitely happy.

“Hey, Jane.” Daria moved round to see what she was painting. It was two lovers, entwined against a background of violence. Their faces were blank. “Interesting. Who are they?”

“I was hoping you could tell me. What brings you here?”

“Well.” Daria paused. “I told you I needed some time to think it over.”


“And it’s been a week.”

“And I’ve decided.”

“Yes?” Jane was practically bursting with anticipation.

“I think...I want to do this.”

Jane smiled broadly. “Really?”

“Yeah.” Daria looked at the ground, suddenly unsure of herself. “I mean, you’re the most important person in my life, Jane. I love you.”

“I love you too.”

“And if the last few days have shown me anything, it’s that we could go at any time. And if I went without at least trying this with you, it would suck.”

“You’re so eloquent.”

Daria smiled slightly, then her look grew more serious as she looked at Jane. “I just don’t want to lose our friendship if this goes sour.”

Jane shook her head. “Never. I promise.” She smiled. “You may be a pain in the ass sometimes, but I couldn’t imagine my life without you now.”

Daria frowned. “When am I ever a pain in the ass? I’m always the happy one, aren’t I?”

“Well, if it’s just you and Leonard Cohen, then, yes, you’re the happy one.”

Daria smirked slightly. She suddenly looked unsure of herself. “Um. So what now?”

“I have an idea.” Jane smiled and reached over to remove Daria’s glasses. Daria flinched a little. Jane set them to the side, and stroked the side of Daria’s face. She leant down and kissed Daria lightly on the lips.

Daria felt her whole body tingle as Jane kissed her. She wrapped her arms around Jane, and leaned into the kiss. Jane broke away, and smiled at her, still in her arms. “Wow. How come we never did that before?”

Jane grinned. “Don’t think I didn’t want to.”

Daria smiled, one of her truly happy smiles. “We’re going to take this slow, right? I don’t think I’m ready to start rolling around naked with you yet.”

Jane nodded. “We’ll take it slow.”

“I love you.”

Jane leant down and kissed her again, deeper this time.


Stacy walked down the street towards Sandi’s house. Sandi had called an emergency meeting of the Fashion Club. If there still was a Fashion Club, of course. That was what the meeting was about. She heard a familiar voice call her name, and turned to see Ted rushing towards her, his face still covered with his usual gee-whiz expression. She sighed, and stopped to let him catch up.

“Hello, Ted.”

“Stacy, why have you been avoiding me?”

Stacy looked at him. “Ted, you almost got us killed! Didn’t you know what you were doing?”

“I thought I was doing the right thing, Stacy. I mean, everyone always says that you should do the right thing.”

Stacy shook her head. “Ted, I don’t think we can be together. You’re...” She paused. “A little freaky sometimes. It’s like you don’t have any feelings!”

“Stacy, I do. I’m just so new at this.” Ted’s tone was unchanged.

“I know. But it still freaks me out. At least, it does now.” She looked at him. “You almost got us killed, and you’re still smiling, and cheerful! This isn’t going to work. I mean, I’m still willing to do everything everyone else says. So we’re not really right for each other until we both get a little more experience. Okay?” She smiled warmly at him, and left.

Ted stood in the street, and thought to himself. His experiment in dating hadn’t gone very well. Oh well, he’d have to find another experiment to keep himself occupied. He turned and walked down the street.


Quinn waited at the Griffin’s front door after she had rang the doorbell. Presently, Linda Griffin opened the door. “Oh, hello Quinn. How was your field trip?”

Quinn frowned. “Field trip?”

“The one about a week ago. All Sandi’s fashion friends were on it.”

“Oh yeah.” Quinn laughed nervously. “It was great.”

“And your father?”


“Well, I know he’s been having a lot of emotional problems. He was ranting and raving all over City Hall one night. Tell your mother I’m so sorry.”

Quinn bit her tongue, stepped inside, and made her way up to Sandi’s room. Sandi and Tiffany were already there.

“Why did your mom ask me about a field trip?”

“That’s where she thinks we were. I don’t know why.”

Quinn shrugged. Stacy came through the door. “I’m not late, am I?”

Quinn shook her head, and Stacy sat down. There was an uncomfortable silence in the room. Eventually, Sandi spoke up. “Now what?”

Quinn looked at the ground. “When you guys hurt me, I knew it wasn’t your fault, but it hurt when you did that, because I thought you were my friends. And it hurt when Stacy and Tiffany didn’t do anything to help me. But you weren’t yourselves, and I shouldn’t have ignored you like that. I’m sorry.”

Sandi swallowed loudly. “Um. I’m, like, sorry too. I know I was a total bitch to all of you.”

Stacy looked like she was about to cry again. “I’m sorry about Ted. It was...I mean...” She burst into tears again. Sandi and Quinn comforted her as best they could. After she had calmed down, everyone looked at Tiffany. She was idly checking her reflection.

The other three looked back at each other. “The Fashion Club?” said Stacy nervously.

“I don’t know,” said Sandi.

“Why don’t we just hang out for a while?” said Quinn. “You know, see what happens?”

The other two nodded. The four friends smiled at each other, and began to discuss the latest trends.


Helen picked up her briefcase, and headed towards the door. She was stopped on the way out by Eric. “What are you doing here? It’s Saturday.”

“I came into talk to you.”

“If this is about your office window, Jake already sent a check.”
“Yes...I wanted you to thank him for me. For not saying anything.”

“Well, if you scratch my back...”

“Yes, of course. How’s your head, by the way?”

Helen absently touched the band-aid on her head. “Fine. It doesn’t really hurt any more.”

“Okay. I don’t suppose I’ll ever find out what all that was about?”

“Oh Eric. I told you. Jake just got a little high strung, and got annoyed when he couldn’t find me at work.”

“So he threw a desk out of a window.”

“Well, you know Jake!”

“And the helicopters, and all that?”

Helen looked at him pointedly. “Eric, we’ve been very discreet. I think you should be too.”

Eric scowled. Helen walked past him and out of the building.


Andrew Landon opened the front door of his house to see Mack standing there. “Michael! How nice to see you. How was the field trip?”

“Field trip?” Mack was lost.

“That you and Jodie were on last week.”

“Oh yes.” Mack thought for a second. “Fine.” He noticed the large bandage on Andrew’s head, and swallowed nervously. “What happened to your head?”

Andrew looked confused. “You know, I don’t remember. Weird. Probably a golfing accident or something. I guess you’re here to see Jodie?”

Jodie came up behind her father, and smiled. “Hey, Mack. I’ll see you later, Dad.”

She walked out, and closed the door behind her.

Mack gave her a look. “I’m glad he doesn’t remember me smashing his head in.”

“I know. I appreciate it, though.”

“Well, it’s one way to get rid of overprotective fathers.”

“Yeah. So,” Jodie looked nervous. “What are we now?”

“What do you mean?”

“Friends, girlfriend and boyfriend, lovers, what?”

“I don’t know.” Mack looked at her. “I’m still a little mad at you.”

“Hey, I’m still mad at you.”

“Well, we did both act a little immaturely.”

“I shouldn’t have dumped you over my extra-curriculars.”

“I shouldn’t have dumped you over your lack of time.”

Mack and Jodie looked at each other. “So, since we’ve decided it was a bad idea to dump each other,” said Jodie. “Are we back together?”

“You do owe me.”

“For what?”

Mack smiled. “For saving your life.”

Jodie raised an eyebrow. “As I remember, you didn’t do a great job of it.”

“Give me points for effort.”

Jodie leaned over and kissed him. “There you go.”

“I used to get a lot more, didn’t I?”

“Let’s see where things go.” Jodie smiled. “And if we can both make this work, we’ll see.”

Mack took her hand, and they walked off.


Daria walked back into her house, feeling a great deal more content than she had for a while. Quinn was already there, looking equally content. Before Daria could sit down, the door opened again, and her parents walked in. Daria started with surprise. She’d been to see her father in the hospital, and saw that he’d been recovering, but his appearance was still a bit of a shock. When she had left him with Alexander, he’d been close to death. Now he looked none the worse for wear. He had some explaining to do, and she knew her mom and Quinn felt the same way.

“Hey, Daria! Hey Quinn!”

Quinn got up and hugged him. Daria waved a vague hello. They all sat down, and Jake cleared his throat. “Well. It’s been an eventful couple of weeks...”

He looked around and saw the facial expressions of everyone in the room. He decided to start again. “Things haven’t been the same lately, have they?”

More blank facial expressions. Jake scowled. “Oh hell.” He told them everything that he knew. Everything that had happened in the last few weeks, and what he could piece together in the past. He left out a couple of things, such as Horizon kissing him, which he still couldn’t understand, but decided not to pry. It was probably a substitute father figure thing, he guessed.

When he was finished, he looked around the room again. Quinn looked wide-eyed. Helen looked shocked. Daria looked incredulous.

“You expect us to believe that?”

“Based on what’s happened, yes.”

“Fair point. Never let it be said that my life was boring.”

“Jake,” said Helen. “Are you saying you have....super-powers?”

Jake nodded. “I mean, I can’t fly or anything, but yes.”

“Super-heroes are sooo geeky,” said Quinn.

“A wise observation, as always, Quinn,” muttered Daria. “Dad, what does this mean?”

“Nothing, kiddo! I’m still the same old Jakey I was before all this.”

“Actually, I think you’re a lot improved.” Helen grinned at him. Jake grinned back. Daria rolled her eyes.

“I mean, what’s going to happen to you?”

“Nothing, I’m going to go back to work, and keep trying to be the best dad I can be.”

“What about all those creepy guys?” asked Quinn.

“They won’t bother us again. We have...protection.”

“So, our lives just go back to normal?” asked Daria, incredulously.

“Daria, I’ve been thinking about a lot of things over the past while. Meeting my father again just solidified it for me. He tried and tried for years to get me to live up to what he wanted me to be, even after I thought he was dead. A lot of what happened was because he was still trying to do that. A lot of people died as a result of that, and even more people were hurt. I’ve learned that, in this world, you have to take charge of your own life. You can be anything you want to be, and your parents should support you, help you, and give you advice. But you can’t force what you want on other people. I’ve tried to be a good father, but I’ve been living under the shadow of my own. Well, now I’m free, and hopefully, I can be something like the father you girls need.”

He finished and glanced at the two girls. Quinn had tears in her eyes. “Oh, Daddy. You’ve always been there for us. Maybe not in an effective way, but you have.”

Jake smiled, and looked at Daria. Her expression was unreadable, as always. Suddenly, she got to her feet, walked over to Jake, and hugged him. Jake reacted in shock, but then hugged her back. She broke free, and sat back down.

“What was that for?”

“To say ’thank you’.”

“Oh, Daria...” began Helen, her eyes in tears.

“Don’t go getting all mushy on me, please.” Daria seemed a tad uncomfortable. “Well. Now what?”

Jake looked at his watch. “Actually, I have an appointment to keep.”

“Um, Dad?”

Jake looked at Daria. “What, kiddo?”

“I have a small favor to ask...”



Colonel Franklin Davers continued throwing crumbs at the ducks in the park. Jake walked up, and sat beside him on the park bench.

“Hello, Jake. How did the family reunion go?”

“Surprisingly well, actually.”

Davers smiled, revealing those annoyingly perfect teeth. “At least they don’t think you’re crazy.”

“Don’t remind me. Half the town thought I was crazy beforehand, now they think they know it.”

“You have a lot to learn about discretion. We did pay for that damage you did to the law firm.”

“That’s more your area of expertise. And hopefully, after this, I’ll never see you again.”

Davers raised an eyebrow. “Charming.”

“I’m surprised the police haven’t been round to arrest me.”

Davers grinned. “I’m not.”

Jake looked at him, then put his hand over his face. “You guys are everywhere, aren’t you?”

“More fingers, more opportunities.”

“Hmm. We had a deal, remember? I deliver you the machine and the ringleader, we get protection and left alone.”

“Don’t worry, we won’t go back on it. And you had better not go back on it, either. We can‘t allow this to go public. If it turns out someone is talking, we would have to take care of that person.”

“Interesting euphemism.”

“Just make sure everyone keeps quiet.”

“I will. I’m already feeling like I’ve done a deal with the devil. I mean, you do have access to that thing. I don’t think anyone should have that much power.”

“Not like you had much of a choice.” He grinned. “Plus, you can trust us.”

“Very convincing.” Jake didn't sound convinced.

“You’ve done a lot of good, Jake. It’ll take them years to recover from this, if they ever do. Plus, their main military leader, your father, is...”

Jake raised a hand. “I don’t have a father.”

Davers looked at him. “Of course.” He rose to leave. “Well, just checking in. I guess we won’t see each other again.”

“I’d say it was fun, but...” Jake turned to him suddenly. “One more thing. My daughter wants a favor.”

Davers stared at him. “A favor? Jake, this isn’t pony rides on the beach.”

“Hear me out.” Jake told him. Davers looked at him, wide-eyed.

“I’ll see what I can do. As a thank you.” Davers turned to leave, and began walking away. He stopped, and turned back. “One more thing.”

Jake looked up.

“As far as we could tell, the enhancements were done on you in the mid-70s, before the birth of your children.”

“And?” Jake was lost.

“It doesn’t skip a generation, Jake.” And with that, Franklin Davers was gone.


Wendy stood in front of the charred remains of Morgendorffer Consulting. Horizon came up behind her.

“Hey, Wendy.”

Wendy muttered a few terse words of greeting.

“What are you doing here?” Horizon asked.

“Just thinking.”


“Oh, just things. The truly screwed up events of the past few weeks.”

“Ah yes.”

“My parents always said weird things happened in the US. I scoffed.”

“Why did you come over here, anyway?”

“Long story.”

“I mean, we sure as hell didn’t need you.”

Wendy shot a glance at her, and flipped her a very rude gesture. “What are you doing here?”

“I don’t know.” Horizon shrugged.

They heard a familiar cry of greeting from behind them, and they turned to see Jake walking up. He gave them both a quick hug. “What are you two doing here?”


“About the future? Because I have some news.”

They looked at him. “Morgendorffer Consulting will be back in business very shortly!”

“Pull the other one.”

“Wendy, I’m serious. I found us some new offices, and the insurance money will be more than enough to get us set back up.”

Wendy shot him a look. “Well, there is the small matter that most of your clients probably think you’re a raving loony after your recent exploits.”

“Then we’ll find some new ones! Come on, are you guys in?”

“Count me in,” said Horizon.

Wendy paused. “Okay,” she said finally. “At least it’s not boring.”

“That’s my girls. Er, women.” Jake smiled. “Oh....since you both have your old jobs back, can I have those severance packages? I kind of took them from Daria’s college fund, and I don’t think Helen’s noticed yet.”

Wendy rolled her eyes. “What am I getting myself in for?”

They began walking down the street. “You certainly look a lot better than you did the last time we were in the hospital,” said Horizon.

“I know,” said Wendy. “Hey, you never did tell us how you got out of there after we got the kids out.”

Jake shrugged. “A crack government team stormed the building, found me bleeding to death, and rushed me to a hospital.”

“Told you it was crazy. But did you listen?”

“Wendy, I’m only human.”

Horizon looked at him. “You’re a bit more than that.”

He smiled. “Not where it counts.”

He looked up as he heard a car horn. It was Helen, in her SUV, parked across the street. “That’s my ride. I’ll see you both at the office, on Monday!” He walked across the street, and nearly got hit by a passing car. After yelling after it for a few minutes, he got into the SUV, kissed Helen, and they drove off.

“Some things never change,” muttered Wendy.

Horizon watched them drive off. “I guess they do make a nice couple,” she said, a little sadly.

“Yeah, right,” snorted Wendy. She turned to the taller woman. “Horizon?”

Horizon blinked in surprise, and turned to Wendy. “Yes?”

“We are going out tonight. We are both going to get very drunk, and do stupid things. I think you need it.”

Horizon crossed her arms. “Really?”

“Oh, yes. Have to do something about the wardrobe, though.”

You’re giving me clothes tips?”

“Melrose Place went off the air years ago. Get with it!”

Horizon took one look at Wendy’s tank top. “I’m keeping my underwear.”

Wendy grinned. The two women walked off down the street, exchanging friendly barbs with each other.


Jane and Daria walked down the street. “And that’s everything he said,” finished Daria.

“Wow. Your dad, a kung-fu superhero. Who would have thought it?”

“Not me, that’s for sure.”

Jane smirked. “Are you going to be his sidekick?”

Daria shot Jane a look. “It gets worse. Quinn immediately sketched out a costume he could wear, and volunteered the former Fashion Club as teen sidekicks.”

“You’re making this up.”

“Jane, my imagination isn’t that good. Mom squashed the idea. I think the idea of Dad spending all his time with hot teens in spandex was unappealing to her.”

“I wonder why?”

Daria shrugged, and smirked.

“I have all the hot teens I need right here.”

Daria flushed red.

“You’re blushing! This is so cool. Next, you’ll be giggling.”

“And there go your chances of ever getting to third base.”

Jane smiled. “You know I love you.”

“I know.”

“And you. God, you were willing to shoot yourself to save me!”

“You keep going on about that.”

“Well, it doesn’t happen every day, you know.” Jane turned to Daria. “Showed me how much you care, despite your attempts to keep everyone at a distance.”

“Not everyone.” Daria smiled back.

“What was going through your mind back in there.”


Jane raised an eyebrow. “Honestly.”

“I was hoping he wouldn’t drag Beavis and Butthead out and announce they were crack spies who’d been watching me since Highland. That would have been a bit too much to swallow.”

“I can think of worse.”


Jane struck a dramatic pose. “Daria.” Her voice as deep. “I am your father.”

“Oh Ben, why didn‘t you tell me.”

“What about your aunt? You know, the ‘cool one’? If the cool one tried to kill you, I have to wonder about the non-cool ones...”

“Called her to apologize. She didn’t know what I was talking about. She said she probably fell and hit her head on the kitchen counter, but she just couldn’t remember it.”

Jane thought for a moment. “Weird. At least you didn‘t alienate your favorite aunt.”

“True. Though at least Rita never pointed a gun at me.”

Jane grinned. “Where are we going?”

“Lawndale Cemetery. I have something to take care of.”


“That’s a great idea, Sandi,” said Quinn, sitting on the floor of Sandi’s bedroom. “You have such a good color sense.”

“Really?” Sandi wasn’t used to getting genuine compliments from Quinn.

“Oh yes. Haven’t I told you this before?”

“Yes.” She paused. “But I just assumed you were being, like, sarcastic.”

Quinn thought for a moment. “I probably was, but I mean it now.”

“This is awesome!” gushed Stacy. “We’re just friends hanging out! Why didn’t we do this before?”

“Hmm,” said Quinn thoughtfully. “Sometimes I enjoyed the power games.”

“Me too,” said Sandi. “Kept me on my toes.”

“This is better, though?”

The former Fashion Club smiled at each other, and went back to their current hot topic.


Daria and Jane reached the gates in a short while, and found Jodie and Mack outside. They waved to them. Daria and Jane walked up to them. “Hey, guys,” said Jodie.

“Hey,” said Jane. “You guys work it out?”

They smiled at each other. “Still touch and go,” said Jodie.

“But I think we can do it,” finished Mack.


“How about you guys?” asked Jodie.

In response, Jane slipped her hand into Daria’s. Daria was surprised at first, then closed her hand around Jane’s. Jodie smiled. “I guess you guys do make a cute couple after all.”

Mack’s eyes went wide. “Oh man, the rumors were true. I’m happy for you guys, though.”

Jane smiled. “Me too. Don’t tell anyone, we’re not ready to make this public yet.”

Mack nodded. “You can trust us.”

Daria changed the subject. “What are you guys doing here?”

Mack looked up the hill just behind the gates. At the top, standing beside a gravestone stood Brittany. The foursome made their way up to her, Daria leading the way. At the sound of their arrival, Brittany turned, and smiled as she saw who it was. “Hello, Daria.” She came, and gave Daria a crushing hug, that Daria tried futilely to escape from. “I just wanted to thank you for stopping me doing anything stupid back in City Hall.”

“You’re welcome,” Daria said breathlessly. “Brittany, I can’t breathe.”

“Oh.” She let go. She saw the others, and waved.

“How are you doing?” asked Jodie gingerly.

Brittany tried to smile, but only managed a teary half-smile. “Okay, I guess. At least my dad doesn’t remember me tying him up. Keeps asking about the field trip though, which I don’t understand.”

Jodie and Mack looked vaguely worried by the tying up part.

Daria looked at her. “And Kevin?”

“Still miss him.”

“I think we can do something about that.” Daria looked down towards the gates. Brittany looked confused, and followed her gaze. A large black car drove up to the gates, and the doors opened. A shout of “Get out, moron!” could be heard from inside, and a familiar blue and yellow figure tumbled out of the car. The car sped away, and the figure drew himself to reveal Kevin Thompson, alive and well.

“Kevvie!” Brittany ran down the hill, and leapt into Kevin’s arms, knocking him to the ground.

“Whoa, babe! I know I’m irresistible, but still...”

Mack and Jodie stared in shock.

Brittany kept kissing him over and over. “Oh, Kevvie!” She paused. “Wait, didn’t you die?”

“No, babe!” Kevin thought for a moment, and pulled a piece of paper from his pocket. “Wait.” He read off the paper slowly and methodically. “I was wounded, and then I was put in sups...spus...susp...puss...” He gave up and threw the paper away, and went back to making out with Brittany. Jodie and Mack had walked down to them, and were openly staring. Kevin noticed them, and got up. “Hey, Mack Daddy!”

“Kevin?” Mack stared at him. Then he grabbed him and hugged him.

“Mack Daddy! I’m hot, and I like you, but...”

Daria nudged Jane in the ribs. “I think this is our cue.”

They slipped away quietly. Once they had gotten a little bit down the road, Jane stopped and stared at Daria. “You did that, didn’t you?”

“Actually, Dad did, but it was my idea. I figured there would have to be a parallel dimension where they couldn’t wait to get rid of him.”

“You old romantic you. I knew you were an old softy.”

“Congratulations. There goes your chance of even getting to second base.”

“Damn.” Jane raised an eyebrow. “How long do you think it’ll take for everyone to get sick of him again?”

“I give it till Monday.”

“Yeah. Great, air-tight story there. No-one will suspect a thing.”

“I should have told them to keep it to one syllable words.”

“Hmm. You realize you’ve re-inflicted Kevin Thompson back on this world?”

“One day, I hope the world forgives me.”

Jane looked a bit uncertain. “You didn’t mind me telling Jodie and Mack, did you?”

Daria shook her head. “I told Quinn.”

Jane cocked her head to the side.

“I thought we were about to die. She won’t say anything.”

“One more thing. When do we tell everyone else?”

“Soon. I’m not ready yet, though.”

“Me neither. Not ashamed of me, are you?” Jane said jokingly.

Daria looked up at her. “I think this answers your question.” She wrapped her arms around Jane’s neck, and kissed her deeply on the lips. Jane responded, and the two friends and lovers stood, holding each other for a long time, each lost in the other, and the feeling that, no matter what happened, they’d always have each other, and their love.


Jake sat, looking out of the window. Quinn had gone over to Sandi’s, and Daria had said she had to go to the cemetery. He heard footfalls behind him. “Hello, Helen.”

Helen sat beside him. “How did you hear me? Wait, never mind.”

Jake smiled.

“What are you thinking?”

“Parenthood.” He turned to her. “Helen, am I a good father?”

She stroked his face. “Oh, Jakey. You used to be a little clueless. And frankly, you still are. But you always tried. And that’s important. Plus, since your change, you’ve been a lot more responsible. And you know the best thing about your parenting?”


“You’re not your father.”

Jake smiled and kissed Helen. “That was the best compliment you could have given me.”

“I can think of a better one.”


She smiled seductively, got up, and unbuttoned her jacket, and let it slip to the floor. She walked to the door, and paused. “Meet me in the bedroom in five minutes, and I’ll show you.” She winked, and walked out, heading up the stairs. Jake could hear several more items of clothing hit the floor as she walked. He smiled, and began to follow her. He stopped by the door, and his eye fell on the costume drawing Quinn had made earlier. He picked it up, and studied it for a few moments. Finally, he crushed it up, and threw it in the trash.

“No way,” he muttered to himself, and went up the stairs to be with his wife.


The End.