The Quinn Show

Summary: Inspired by “The Truman Show”, as well as the IC: Hidden Nature, Quinn realizes that her life isn't what she thought it was.

Disclaimer: MTV owns Daria and the assortment of characters used.

Chapter One

Quinn sat at her desk, trying to finish her math assignment so that she could get to the more important matter of getting ready for her date. She couldn’t understand why it made any difference what the cosine of something was. She absently turned on the radio. Her usual station was on commercial, so she spun the dial to find a better station. She sorted through a country station, some hip-hop junk, one of those oldies stations where anything after she was born was forbidden, and settled on what seemed to be a talk radio station. “If I’m going to listen to people talk, they might as well not be selling something.” She listened as the person talked about filming something, so she figured it was about a movie.

“She’s probably the most difficult to film, because there are so many tempting options. All the others look best in a certain light, but she’s so special, she looks good from practically any angle. I mean, you could film Quinn’s knee and it would be adorable.”

At the mention of her first name, Quinn spun to look at the radio. Another voice came on quickly after a mess of static. “Um, yes, Adrian Quinn will certainly look amazing in her new movie. Now back to another half-hour boy band sweep on WTQS!”

Quinn was puzzled. Wasn’t she listening to WTQS before she started scanning? She looked at the dial. No, it’s at 103.9, where WTQS usually was. She could have sworn she was on 94 or so. “That’s weird.” Quinn said to nobody in particular. It really sounded like they were talking about her. “Ah well, I’ll have to get used to that when I get famous.” She got up and headed down to the kitchen for a glass of water and some celery sticks.

As she stepped down the stairs, she noticed a fresh bunch of flowers in a vase next to the stairs. “Ah, at least Mom knows to get fresh flowers from time to time. They smell so nice.” She inhaled deeply, closing her eyes, then, upon opening them, wrinkled her nose a bit. “But that’s a weird looking stem…” She trailed off as she realized she had found a microphone in the bouquet. She thought for a moment, and then her eyes went wide. She stumbled over her next words. “Oh, never, um, mind, that’s just a bud that didn’t open. Well, off to get that water and celery.” The wheels in Quinn’s head were turning, but she felt it best to try to look normal. Her nerves were steady enough by the time that she got to the refrigerator that she barely flinched when she noticed the camera behind Daria’s TV dinners in the freezer.

Quinn took her ice water and a plate of celery sticks up to her room, took a drink of the water, and lay down on her bed, gnawing on one of the sticks. She started piecing together a few of the things that hadn’t made sense, both today and before. Both Daria and she had been asleep for most of the move up from Highland, and when they woke up, they were pulling into their new home. Back then Daria had mentioned to her, when she thought nobody else would hear, that she saw cameras at school and whenever she ran into those two idiots around town. She said she felt like she was a walk-on for some TV show. Quinn had laughed and told her she was being silly, but respected her wish not to tell Mom and Dad. Later, Quinn could have sworn her house was covered in spider webs, and she could smell cookies baking, but she chalked it up to exhaustion from keeping her parents from having another kid. She even thought she saw Santa Claus, if Santa was a blonde teenage hunk. Maybe that was just some guy wearing a hat.

Quinn heard the door slam. Quinn sat up, jotted some words down on a piece of paper, folded it, and stuck it into her pocket. As Daria walked up the stairs to her room, Quinn approached her in the hallway between their rooms. “Hi Daria. Gee, thank you for your notes in history. They really helped me get a good grade on that test,” she said, thrusting the paper into Daria’s hand.

“But, I didn’t…”

“You really don’t know how important these notes were. Well, I’m off to get ready for my date. Bye!”

Daria watched Quinn as she went into her room. Daria looked at the folded note in her hands, then, as if struck by a bolt of realization, hurried into her room with a worried look on her face. She opened the note partially, so that only she could see what was written. “There’s a camera in the freezer; what do I do now?” Daria smirked as she went over to the window where she had a crude ashtray, ostensibly for burning incense cones, and burned the part of the paper with writing on it. She then walked over to her desk and wrote down a note the way she had practiced, making sure no camera angle would get a good shot of it. She worried that Quinn would open it wrong and let them see it, but she had to take the risk. She folded the paper and walked over to Quinn’s door. “Hey, did you want next chapter’s notes?”

“Well, okay. I guess it’s better than asking you for them next month.”

Quinn nonchalantly took Daria’s note, and went back to her primping. When she went into her closet to try a new outfit, she unfolded the paper and read.

“Football bleachers, after school, bring this note. Trust nobody.”

Chapter Two

Quinn tried to look calm as she walked towards the football stadium. Tonight was yet another big sale at Cashman’s, but she had asked Sandi, Stacy, and Tiffany to go first so that they would get the best picks available, and they had seemed to buy the excuse. She tried to suppress her newly-found instinct to search all over for cameras, but she couldn’t help looking around every now and then to see if anyone was following her.

She approached the bleachers. Daria was sitting there, reading a book while the football players practiced. She silently sat down next to her sister. She then thought to pull a Waif magazine out of her backpack and thumb through it absently. “So, now what?” Quinn asked.

“Now you tell me what you’ve seen. Then I tell you what I’ve figured out, and we go from there.”

“Well, I was listening to the radio, and I thought they were talking about me. When I noticed, it was as if the radio knob turned itself back to WTQS on the other side of the dial.”


“That’s my favorite station. All boy bands and teen pop singers.”

“Of course. That explains WTDS, the all-angst station. Go on.”

“Well, I saw the new bunch of flowers Mom got, and one of them, um, wasn’t a flower.”

“The old mic-in-the-flowers trick. You mentioned a camera?”

“Behind your frozen dinners. I never saw you eating those before.”

“That’s because they were meant to block the camera. I’m sure I look terrible when I’m scrounging for food.”

“Daria, since when do you care what you look like?”

“Since I figured out why there are all these cameras around. Since I realized why those two jerks from Highland seemed to be everywhere I turned back then. Since I determined why Lawndale’s Football team plays year-round; why the same group of people always seem to end up on the same stupid trips and activities; why Kevin and Brittany keep passing classes despite having the IQ of those tackling dummies; why we always have the same exact teachers for English, History, and Science; why there are no drugs around here other than alcohol and caffeine. Quinn, either everybody here is even less sane than us, or we’re on TV.”

Quinn froze in realization. Her mind was processing the myriad of repercussions this would have on her life.

“Quinn, we can’t spend too long here or come here too often. They haven’t seemed to catch on to this place, and when I come here, I just pretend to read while I figure things out. I’ll let you know when this place is safe. Anything you want to say, I suggest you condense it down to the next few minutes before the coach arrives.”

“So, what’s with the radio stations?”

Daria sighed. “WTQS. The Quinn Station. Three guesses what WTDS stands for.”

“Oh, duh. That time where you said something about the Holidays staying in your room?”

“I figure by then they knew I was onto something, or maybe they were testing to see if I would break. I just took it in stride that the personifications of like seven holidays were in my home, and that they came from a high school on Holiday Island to form a band. I figured it would at least be a change of pace.”

“I knew I remembered our house filled with cobwebs. Anyone else you think isn’t in on the whole show thing?”

“I know Jane’s in on it. I’m betting that your Fashion Club and the J’s are in on it too. Jodie and Mack are in, and even if Kevin and Brittany aren’t in on it, they aren’t going to be much help. The adults are right out. I’m pretty sure we’re on our own. In fact, I was starting to wonder if you were in on it, but I remembered that I told you those things in Highland, and you kept your promise not to tell anyone.”

“This does explain why the J’s are still going after me after how little I’ve given to them. Why Sandi’s always trying to goad me into a reaction. Why Stacy’s always taking my side and never stands up for herself. Why Tiffany talks like a stoner, when she was fairly normal when I met her. So, what are you doing about it?”

“Well, I’ve done what I can to hide what I know, but I’m sure they have an inkling that I’m aware of the whole deal. I’m just riding it out to see where it goes. If this means that I’ll end up a celebrity, maybe I can turn it into a successful business or at least a lawsuit. Overall, I guess this is a better life than growing up on the streets, or to a welfare mother-of-twelve, or staying in Highland forever. There are just two things that worry me.” Daria motioned at the football coach coming onto the field, and started packing up.

“What’s that?” Quinn asked, gathering up her backpack.

“When does this end and what happens to us when it does?”

Quinn had no answers, and a part of her wasn’t sure she wanted to know what the answers were.

Chapter Three

The days passed quickly as Quinn wound down her junior year. She had gotten a job after her parents noticed a larger-than-usual credit card bill, “just happened” to meet a cool friend with a definite drinking problem, then left the job after she had made enough to pay off the bill and have a little left over to go somewhere if she needed. Daria was graduating, second in the class behind Jodie, big surprise there, and Quinn had been called to a conference with Daria that night at the bleachers. She told her to pack a backpack with a few essentials. Quinn was as nervous at this point as she was back when she found the microphone. Daria had mentioned going through a few dry runs for escape, but this was the first time she had called for a test.

Quinn packed a couple changes of clothes, her toiletries, her cash stash, and a couple sandwiches she made last night. She felt it was best to keep a couple extra on hand, in case it turned out her money was no good on the outside. She threw the bag on her back, and walked out the front door. Her parents were nowhere to be seen, which made it easy to slip out. She figured they were off doing whatever it was they did when Quinn and Daria weren’t there. She walked towards school, but when she passed by Jane’s house, she heard someone calling her name. She looked around, and saw Daria next to a hedge just before Jane’s house. Jane was there too, her hands tied and a gag over her mouth. Quinn wandered around to Daria’s area, and then ducked down to talk with Daria and Jane.

“Something tells me the news is not good.” Quinn whispered, as she let her eyes go wide at the sight before her.

“Quinn, it’s over,” Daria replied.

“Over? Now?”

“Yes. My graduation speech was the big ending for the series. Some of the people have already left for whatever their headquarters is. I’m sure you noticed the lack of J’s around you.”

“I wondered where Joey and Jeffy were. Jamie was still there, but he seemed more nervous than usual.”

“Quinn, we need to move fast. I saw things happening, and I decided to put the question to Jane. She denied everything at first, but a little torture did the job.” Daria loosened Jane’s gag.

“Torture?” Quinn asked.

“What can I say? She knows where I’m ticklish,” Jane replied, then sighed. “I might as well tell you too. This place is getting packed up. I was just getting my paintings packed away when Daria burst in. She wasn’t supposed to be over until tomorrow, and by then it’d be done with.”

“The move?” Quinn asked, hopefully.

“And us,” Daria replied. “Their plans were to tell the outside world some story about us moving on with our lives, while they kept us locked down. Eventually we’d be ‘eliminated’, while all the actors would go back to normal lives.”

“Well, something tells me that my normal life isn’t happening,” Jane replied. “The powers that be will not be happy with me, whoever they are. I just hope I can get out of here alive.”

“Wait, wouldn’t your parents report you if you didn’t come back?” Quinn asked.

“I’m an orphan; so’s Trent. They wanted it for realism since we would practically be living on our own. Also, since I’m not technically a ward of the state anymore, it would be easy to ‘lose’ me in the shuffle. At the very least, I’ve probably breached my contract royally and will probably come out of this with jack squat.”

Daria was taken aback by this. “Jane, I’m sorry…”

Jane interrupted her. “Don’t start Morgendorffer. I felt terrible keeping this from you. I felt like Judas taking the money while who knows what happened to you. I probably would have come over and told you tonight if you hadn’t beaten me to the punch. Now I don’t even have to make the walk and try to talk myself out of it. I’ll just sit back and await my fate.”

Quinn spoke up. “Why not come with us? You said they might do to you what they were going to do to us.”

Jane sighed. “I can’t. I’ve been implanted with an RFID tag. Legally they can’t force anyone to be tagged, but it was part of my contract. Your clothing has been tagged, but you have not.”

Daria untied her friend. “Jane, if our clothing has been tagged, what chance do we stand of getting out of here?”

Jane got to her feet. “It’ll be a lot better when you change into my clothes. I’m tagged, so my clothes don’t need to be. The people running this were looking to cut any costs they could. I think it’s airing on cable.”

The trio walked into the house, and into Jane’s bedroom. Jane pulled out a set of clothes identical to hers, as well as a set of track pants with a hooded sweatshirt. Whispering, she said, “Quinn, you take my cold-weather running getup. They never did have me use it.”

“Ewww, you want me to wear that?” Quinn asked in as low a tone as she could manage.

Daria shot her a look to kill. “If you’re wearing something fashionable and bright, it’ll be that much easier to spot you, now won’t it? Besides, you need something to obscure your bright red hair.”

Quinn gulped, and laughed nervously. “Oh yeah, I forgot. It’s going to be hard to be incognito. I’ve been trying to be seen since I was little.”

Jane smiled as she whispered. “I think that’s part of what drove them to move you guys to your own show. Daria was always the star, but you were a perfect foil for her anti-social tendencies. Plus, you helped cover the male demo they pursued. You two change in the bathroom, and, uh, when you’re done, just slip out the bathroom window. They don’t film anything too risqué since it’s aimed at teens, and filming your naughty bits could land them in deep trouble while you’re underage. I took the screen out yesterday in case of such an eventuality.”

Daria looked at Jane stunned. “So, this is it?”

Jane smiled. “Yep, you’re on your way to Raft. I envy you, but I’ll be up at BFAC soon.” She hugged Daria and whispered “Microphones everywhere, get a move on.” She then said, “Well, you two should be getting home soon, so see ya tomorrow!”

Quinn waved to Jane and ran off. Daria gave Jane a worried look, which Jane returned with a touch of anxiety, before Daria joined her sister. Daria and Quinn quickly swapped clothes, dug all their stored clothes out of their bags, and then hoisted themselves out of the window and into the Lane’s back yard. They started walking back to their house, and then made a turn for a side street; one they hadn’t gone down before and figured they wouldn’t go down again.

Trent watched as Daria and Quinn turned away from their home. He held his hand to his ear and spoke in his normal, gravelly voice. “Sir, it’s Trent. I think we have a problem.”

Chapter Four

Daria and Quinn continued walking in silence down the sidewalk until Quinn started to talk. “Daria, why are we walking? Why don’t we run or find a car or something faster?”

Daria spoke. “We may need our strength to run later. You don’t want them to find us tired out. As for a car, all the cars these days have tracking systems in case of an accident. I figure it’d be a small matter to hook up these powers-that-be to every car in town.”

“I suppose. I just feel like we’re out in broad daylight. I mean, it’s night time and the streetlights are out, but one car goes past and we’re caught.”

“That’s why we dive for cover at the first sound of a car. How are you holding up?”

“Okay I guess. I kinda knew this day was coming, but I expected to have more than my toiletry kit, some money, and a couple sandwiches with me.”

“Yeah. I’m sorry about yelling at you back there about the clothes.”

“Don’t worry. We’re both on edge, and I’m sure if I thought something you were doing would risk us getting caught, I’d let you know too.”

“I know. Do you remember when I almost crashed the car a while back? I decided to go to Tom’s house, even though it was fairly obvious they didn’t want me to go. I was so distraught, I decided to get out, and that was the only place I knew to run off to. I called Tom’s mom to let her know I was coming. After that, the rain got bad, the cars backed up, and then I almost got killed in that big pileup. I knew then that they would keep me from going anywhere, even if they had to resort to…drastic measures.”

Quinn winced at the thought, then sighed. “I don’t know how we’re getting out of here. If they can set up a traffic accident, how do we know if anything’s safe?”

“We really don’t, but I know somewhere we can at least sit for a while. When I recovered from the accident, I told Jane to meet me at a diner. Since they haven’t used the diner since, I imagine that they’ve either stripped it down or left it sit. There should be a few corners without microphones at least where we can talk this over.”

“Daria, thank you for believing in me. I know I’ve made your life hell at times, but you were still able to trust me enough to take me with you. I know you’re my sister…well, actually, I guess we don’t know that right now.”

“Maybe not, but even if we don’t share DNA, I’d be proud to call you sister anyway. I’ve done my share to make your life hell too. That’s what sisters do. To be honest, even though you didn’t tell anyone what I told you back in Highland, I still thought you might be one of ‘them’. When I got that note, I was happy that for once I wasn’t alone. With both of us together, I know we’ll make it. Just remember, DTA: Don’t Trust Anyone. The people we knew and others we never met will probably be coming after us in the next few hours once our ‘parents’ report us missing.”

“I know, DTA. We’re on our own now, and we have to make it out of here. I’m not even sure that anyone knows we’re real people or not. It might be a selling point to have real people on the show, but if they just figure we’re actors too, we’ll just be two more actors who never went anywhere after their big break. They’ll probably even do some ‘Where Are They Now’ assuming they can get people to take our places.”

“It’s been 5 years since Daria, so why’s the misery chick the maitre’d at this fancy restaurant? Angst on the half-shell: next on Sick Sad World!” Both laughed at that.

From a television control room, a man also laughed. His features were obscured by shadow, and his voice was familiar, but not immediately recognizable. “Oh Daria, Quinn, if only we could afford to air this little conversation. Sadly, it will have to be for our ears only, as you have been cancelled, or at least, you soon will be.”

Suddenly, a radio transmission came through on a nearby walkie-talkie. “Sir, Trent Lane has called in that the Morgendorffer girls have left their normal path home and are headed towards parts unknown.”

The shadowy figure picked up the radio. “Thank you, Johnson. I trust you told him to stand pat for now.”

“Yes sir, and I have contacted Helen and Jake that Daria and Quinn will be a bit late tonight, as you asked.”

“Excellent. This situation should take care of itself, but if it does not, make sure the backup squad is on their toes.”

“Yes sir. Over and out.”

The man put away his walkie-talkie and clasped his hands together. “Everything is going according to plan.”

Chapter Five

Daria and Quinn made their way to the roadside diner after about a half-hour walk. Thankfully, only one car had passed them during their trip, and they were able to duck behind a brick wall being used to fence in a yard. The diner was empty, as predicted, and only a handful of lights were on inside. After creeping up to it and ensuring nobody was there, they entered the building through the back door, which had a wooden wedge holding it open. Quinn mused that they must have left this place in a hurry.

Daria walked inside first, and after a cursory check, waved Quinn in. Daria went over to the refrigerator and, finding it barren, said “Like I figured, they only brought enough food for the day’s shooting. At least there’s coffee to brew.”

Quinn perked up at that. “Coffee, thank God. I don’t care about puffy eyes now, and I’m going to need to stay alert if we’re going to make it out.”

Daria started working on the coffee, while Quinn checked out a few cabinets for anything useful. Short of a box of saltines, the few things remaining were either too big to carry with them or useless to bring. Quinn did find two canteens on one of the tables, and rinsed and filled both before sitting down. Daria brought a tray with both cups. Quinn looked at the tray and stood. “Thanks. You know, we may not have another moment to stop, so I just want to say I’m honored to be with you on this journey.” With that, she hugged her sister.

Daria hugged Quinn back, a smile on her face from this show of emotion. “If you had told me last year that you’d be hugging me in a public place, I would never have believed it.”

“If you had told me last year that we were on TV, I wouldn’t have believed that.”

“All right, now let’s go over our plans for the next leg.” Both girls sat down and started drinking their coffee while Daria pulled out a map. “Now, going north of here is where they stopped me, but if they don’t know we’re there, we might be able to get there without a roadblock. Alternately, heading east might be riskier, but there are no roads for them to follow us on. West and South will head back into town, so they’re right out. What do you think?”

Quinn took another sip of coffee. “I think this coffee isn’t working. I’m half a cup down and I’m more tired than when I started.” Quinn tried to set down her cup, and ended up spilling it over the map. Her eyes drooped as her face fell into her hands.

“Quinn? Wake up, Quinn!” Daria shouted. Quinn tried to stand up, but in the process fell flat on her face. Daria stood over her sister looking concerned, then reached into her backpack and pulled out a walkie-talkie. “She took the bait, just like you said. Get here when you can. She’s not going anywhere.” Daria started walking over to the coffee pot to pour another cup. As she reached the bar where she had left the coffee, she felt the room start to spin. “Whoa,” she managed to say. She couldn’t walk, and standing was becoming impossible. Had they poisoned the coffee itself as a precaution?

“Oh, Daria, the old poison-the-coffee trick?”

Daria turned to Quinn, who had gotten back onto her knees and was standing up. Daria tried to speak, but couldn’t say a word. Quinn must have switched the cups while they were hugging.

“You said it yourself, ‘DTA: Don’t Trust Anyone’. Why would the bleachers be safe only until the coach came out? If they were going to kill us, why would Jane divulge the information after a round of tickle torture when they could kill her too? Why did we only see one car on the way here, when if we were really off the reservation, they’d be hunting us down in droves? Why would this diner be abandoned, but the door wedged open and the electricity and water running?” Quinn crossed to her ‘sister’ who was now writhing on the floor, trying to maintain consciousness and losing. “Daria, or whatever your name is, I had to test you. If you would have tried to wake me up or even left me here, you would have passed, but this is one test you flunked miserably. Now I really am an only child.” Quinn sighed as she ran her fingers through Daria’s hair. “I hope you were just told to knock me out, but if not, may God have mercy on your soul.”

Quinn rifled through Daria’s backpack. She grabbed the canteen she had given Daria and left the other things – books, walkie-talkie, even Daria’s sandwiches in case those were poisoned too – in the pack. Quinn grabbed her pack and a mop that was lying around. She removed the mop head and headed out of the diner. North was the best way to go. If she got nabbed on the road, she might be dead, but if some wild animal nabbed her in the woods, there would be no question about it. She looked back at the diner when she was about 100 yards away. She felt tears coming over Daria’s betrayal, but she stopped them quickly. There would be plenty of time to cry when this was over.

Chapter Six

Three matching minibikes and three ATVs rode up to the diner. The bike riders took off their helmets, revealing Joey, Jeffy, and Jamie. The ATV riders also removed their headgear, proving that they were Sandi, Stacy, and Tiffany. They cautiously walked in, and as they feared, Daria was lying on the ground, alive but unconscious, and Quinn was nowhere to be seen. Stacy radioed in, her normally sweet voice uncharacteristically tinged with anger. “Stacy here, sir. Daria’s out and Quinn’s gone. I knew we couldn’t trust her.”

On the other end, a familiar voice responded. “Patience, Stacy. Daria did what she needed to. Quinn’s in the running clothes, and she took off from the diner. If Daria had gotten Quinn, it would just be an added bonus.”

“I can’t believe she was able to trick Daria like that.” Sandi said to nobody in particular.

“Yeah, who knew she could outsmart the brain?” Tiffany added.

Stacy glared at her two female cohorts. “Unlike you two,” she thought, “I actually read those Melody Powers stories she wrote. None of that crap would make any sense in a real-life situation. Sure, she could pass through a real high school with straight A’s, but I trust her operational judgment about as far as I could throw her.” Stacy clicked the button on her radio. “Awaiting orders, sir.”

“As we planned, the ATV’s will fan out along the east pathway, while the bikes can take the northern road. Remember, I want her alive if possible. I won’t hold you responsible if lethal force is necessary, but if there’s any chance to get her alive, do so.”

“Understood, sir. Stacy out.” Stacy turned to her five cohorts. She forced herself not to roll her eyes at the three J’s roughhousing while Sandi and Tiffany were working on their makeup. She knew that she was cast as the cowardly follower as a punishment, and that having to lead this group of Hollywood rejects was part of the job. However, she would have had more trust in her superiors if it had been the other way around. “All right, knock it off, losers. We have to find Quinn, and find her alive. We’ll take the woods, and you three take the highway. If any of you spot her, radio in before you pursue.”

“I’ll knock her out for you, Stacy!” said Joey.

“I’ll tie her up with my bolo!” countered Jeffy.

“I can pick her up from my bike!” added Jamie.

“Just get her! We get her and we can finally go home. Remember, alive!” Stacy rolled her eyes when she knew nobody was watching. Three idiots trying to top themselves for her, a drugged out waif and a complete bitch that still believed she was Sandi Griffin. Stacy Rowe’s Zeroes, and not a brain cell among them. She considered trading vehicles with the J’s, but she knew the ATV’s could outrun their little bikes any day, and that Quinn would probably take the woods. After all, if she was smart enough to see through Daria, she probably believed that nobody would expect her to go through the woods, priss that she was. “Quinn,” she thought, “you better hope we’re not alone when I find you.”

Back in the control room, the shadowy figure watched the two posse’s fan out. “Ah, Stacy, do you actually think she was dumb enough to go through a path in the woods, or did you think she was trying to guess what we’d think? For your sake, I’ll assume the latter. It looks like the boys get first crack at her after all. I hope they at least remember to radio for backup.” He pushed a button on the console, and a fortified gate appeared on the screen, guarded by about 15 men in fatigues, each carrying a weapon of some sort. “Good, my backups are in place. If the J’s and the Club don’t catch her, the riot squad will have her.” He reached again for the walkie-talkie. “Everything ready, Jordan?”

A man on the monitor looked up towards the camera. “Yes sir. All weapons are live with non-lethal force. If she makes it here, she’ll go no further.”

“Excellent. I don’t want her killed that close to freedom. If someone outside sees what happens, it’ll be hard enough to suppress it as it is. Letting civilians witness her death might implode the whole operation. She could be there within the hour, so be ready.”

“Thank you, sir. Over and out.”

The figure set down his walkie-talkie and lounged in his chair. Leaning back, his mouth was illuminated, and a smile was on his lips. “Well played, Quinn, but the next move is mine.” He then frowned. “Ugh, no wonder the critics thought I wasn't believable. I really should have let the writers script my lines.”

Chapter Seven

Quinn had chosen to walk the trench alongside the road. The ground was firm, and it offered at least a bit of cover should something happen. The sky was quite dark now, and she had been up since 8 AM that day. She was tired, but she knew she needed to traverse more ground before she could rest.

She thought back to simpler times. She wished she could talk to Stacy about all this, if Stacy wasn’t on their side. Tiffany would listen, and occasionally understand what she was saying. Sandi might cut her off, but at least she could think critically about the situation. Hell, even Joey, Jeffy, and Jamie would get her a soda and make her feel wanted. Wanted. Quinn shuddered at that word. She already was wanted, and so many people would be after her. She could swear she heard their engines in the distance getting louder. Wait a minute; she did hear engines getting louder!

Quinn turned around, and saw three minibikes coming her way from about half a mile back. She ducked down into the trench and watched them approach. They didn’t slow down any, so she assumed they didn’t see her. She looked at the mop handle in her hand and got an idea. As the bikes got closer, she moved into position. Just before the bikes passed she threw it like a javelin towards the bikes. It slammed right into the near biker’s midsection, causing him to turn into the other two, and all three tangled together as they skidded to a stop. Joey and Jamie stood up and removed their helmets, while the third rider lay motionless. Jamie looked towards the fallen rider while Joey looked around to determine what had happened. “He’s all right. He doesn’t seem to have broken anything, but he’s out cold.” Jamie called out.

“Good, this job’s not worth dying over. Oof!” Joey was cut off by a blow to the head from what was left of the mop handle.

“My feelings exactly,” Quinn said, twirling her weapon and shooting a glance at Jamie.

“Quinn! Um, thank heaven we found you! Can I get you a soda?”

“Don’t even think about it, Romeo.”

“It’s Jamie! That’s not even close!”

“Shut up!” Quinn crossed over to where Jamie was standing. “We can do this the easy way or the hard way.”

“Um, what’s the easy way?” Jamie replied, as Quinn took the opportunity to bring the mop handle down on his head.

“You wouldn’t have liked the hard way.”

Quinn leaned over the Jeffy’s body and made sure that Jamie’s assessment was correct, which thankfully it was. As she looked him over, she heard a familiar voice, and saw a small radio in Jeffy’s pocket. “Joey, Jeffy, Jamie, come in! Is anyone home, you morons?”

Quinn smiled and picked up the radio, as well as the microphone from his headset. Pushing the only button on the radio, she said, “I’m sorry, Stacy, but Three J’s Thug Service is closed for the night. If you’d like to leave a message, simply wait for the crunch.” She then placed the microphone on the ground, held the talk button down, and crushed the microphone with her makeshift staff.

Stacy, Sandi, and Tiffany, who thankfully had been stopped at the time, grabbed at their ears and pulled their helmets off, the squeal of the dying radio still ringing in the implanted headsets.

“Ooh, that bitch!” Stacy yelled. “We need to get back to the road pronto.”

“But, what if she went by the trail?” Tiffany asked.

Stacy was about to respond, but Sandi beat her to the punch. “Tiffany, if she went this way, we would have bumped into her, not the J’s. Besides, we need to get out of this wilderness. My designer windbreaker is getting full of pine needles and mud, and I’ll never get these stains out.”

Stacy was ready to explode. “Stop, Sandi; just stop. I’m sick of this. It’s always ‘what about my clothes’ and ‘why would I wear that’ and ‘I should be the leader since I’m the President’. You couldn’t lead us out of a paper bag if you had a map! And Tiffany, since you decided to take your payment for the series by the dime bag, have you had one coherent thought? When we get out of here, I don’t want to see either of you again for as long as I live. Not on TV, not on a billboard, and definitely not in person. Now let’s get Quinn so that I can get away from both of you!”

Stacy shoved her helmet on and revved her ATV angrily. Sandi and Tiffany knew better than to talk back when Stacy got like this. They followed their orders, and joined Stacy on the trail back. Sandi wished she could have just one more day of pretending that Stacy was under her thumb. She hoped that Stacy wasn’t really threatening her future acting and modeling career. Tiffany just wanted to go home and eat. Getting off the show meant she didn’t have to deny herself the munchies trying to stay thin.

Chapter Eight

Quinn walked away from the tangled minibikes. She tried to salvage even one of them for herself, but Jeffy’s was too mangled to ride, and the other two were wedged together so tightly she couldn’t break them apart. She continued on foot, leaving the bikes strung across the road, hoping that at least they could slow down her next pursuers.

She had gotten about another third of a mile down the road, when she heard engines coming her way. These had seemed even louder than the bikes. Sure enough, as they came close, she heard two separate crunching sounds. There was some high-pitched conversation, then the motors started up again. She tried the same trick with the mop handle, but by the time she noticed the two ATV’s and realized it wouldn’t do anything, it was too late. The near figure swerved a bit, then stopped, while the far rider saw the first stop and turned her vehicle around as well. The handle was now trampled and broken into pieces too small to be useful.

Sandi took off her helmet. “Damn it, Quinn, you almost hit my face! If anything happens to this face, my career will be over.”

Quinn smirked, “Gee, Sandi, I would never do something to ruin your career; unless, of course, it meant saving my life.”

Sandi jumped at Quinn, and the two wrestled around while Tiffany watched, trying to see what would do the most good. Sandi was able to land two good punches to Quinn’s face, but Quinn kept the upper hand for the next minute straight. Sandi looked dazed, and Quinn stopped long enough to say, “Good night, Sandi,” before head butting her into unconsciousness. Quinn then stood up and looked at Tiffany, who really wasn’t sure what to do now. “Tiffany, you don’t want to fight me.”

Tiffany gulped. “No, but they said if I don’t they’ll stop paying me, and then I’ll have to get a real job.”

Quinn walked up to Tiffany. “Well, then just tell them you fought hard, but I was just too much. They’ll believe you. Now forgive me.” Quinn then punched Tiffany hard in the face, and the violent uppercut was enough to knock Tiffany out. Quinn wiped her hands together and surveyed the scene. “Hmm, Sandi, Tiffany, so where’s StacyEEEEEEEE!” Quinn’s thoughts were cut off by a sharp electrical shock coming from her right leg.

Stacy holstered her taser after adjusting the settings, and stepped off of her ATV. “Right here, Quinn. That was a level three burst. The next one I hit you with will be level eight. It might even be fatal if I hit you in the right spot. I have to say thank you for taking out Sandi and Tiffany before I got here.”

Quinn pulled the barbs out of her leg once she was able to regain control. “Why, because you were as sick of dealing with them as I was?”

Stacy smiled. At least someone else noticed. “Well there’s that. But more importantly, if there were any witnesses, we would have to take you alive. Now, if you don’t survive, I won’t get in trouble.”

Quinn gasped. “You’re actually going to kill me?”

“I don't know,” Stacy replied. “Death may be too good for you. Let’s just say I won’t be holding myself back. I would hope you wouldn’t hold yourself back either. I’d hate to think I beat you because you still thought of me as the meek, scared, sheep you tried to prop up through high school.”

Quinn grinned in spite of herself. “Nope, that Stacy wouldn’t taser me and threaten my life. After Sandi and Tiffany, I expected you to be cowering in a corner. At least one of my friends isn't as shallow as I knew them to be.”

“You don’t even know the half of it, but then again, you never will. Say good night, Gracie.” Stacy drew her taser, and shot it at Quinn. Quinn rolled to the right, and narrowly missed the probe. While Stacy tried to reload the taser, Quinn took the initiative and lunged at Stacy. She succeeded in disarming her assailant just as it reloaded, but was quickly punched in the stomach and pushed to the ground. Stacy was certainly better skilled than Sandi had been, and she wondered if Stacy had taken martial arts or military training classes over last summer. Quinn had taken several blows to the body, and had scored only a few lucky shots on Stacy, which failed to even slow her down.

Quinn knew she would lose a straight-up fight with Stacy, so she rolled her way out of her grasp and dived behind one of the four-wheelers. Stacy came around to Quinn, and Quinn hit Stacy with Tiffany’s discarded helmet. This stunned Stacy a bit, and Quinn used the moment to go after the taser. Stacy saw this and dived at Quinn, catching her as she reached it. Stacy and Quinn rolled around, trying to wrest it from each others grasp. Suddenly, both girls started to convulse. Quinn rolled Stacy off of her and shook off what energy had gotten to her. Stacy was not so fortunate, for the probe had struck her right in the middle of her chest. She didn’t even have time to scream before the electrical current short-circuited her heart.

Quinn finally recovered, and turned to Stacy, whose body finally stopped convulsing and went limp. Her eyes bulged out, and her mouth was wide open. Quinn touched her arm tentatively, then checked for a pulse. Finding none, and hearing no breathing, she crawled over to the ditch along the road and threw up. She had never seen somebody die, and even if Stacy was trying to kill her, she was still a person, and Quinn still thought of her as a friend. She finally calmed herself down, saying, “It was her or me. She would have done the same to me, and almost did.” She then gathered herself and tried to think of a plan. Struck by a bolt of realization, she went to her pack and grabbed her makeup and mirror. She then looked for weapons. “Where is that taser, anyway?” Then she saw it in Stacy’s hand. Even if Quinn had pointed the gun, it was Stacy who pulled the trigger.

Chapter Nine

Dennis Jordan stood along with the rest of his squadron. His trusty rifle was in his hand, but he would have felt better if it wasn’t filled with rubber bullets. He knew that they were just supposed to stop a little girl, but if she was good enough to get past Stacy, whom he had trained in combat in her off time, she was a force to be reckoned with. Then again, Stacy had always been headstrong. He knew the big boss wouldn’t let him teach her discipline the way he had been taught, and Stacy had proven arrogant and overconfident in her abilities.

Off in the distance, he heard a motor start up again. Just one motor. Maybe Stacy had succeeded anyway. Sandi and Tiffany were hardly worth throwing out there, but maybe they had kept Quinn occupied for Stacy to strike. “Men, that’s one of the ATV’s. Let’s look alive.” Even if he hadn't been the troop leader, he was respected enough to keep the men in line regardless. Everyone raised their weapons and waited for the ATV to approach.

The rider of the SUV was decked in Stacy’s suit, with her helmet obscuring her face. Behind her rode an unconscious figure in Jane’s hooded sweatshirt and running pants. Her arms were around the waist of the helmeted rider, and she was slumped forward towards the rider’s back. Dennis called to his men. “It’s Stacy, and Quinn’s on the back. Stand down.” The men lowered their weapons.

The rider came to a stop in front of them and put up her visor. “I got her, but I’m not sure if she’s alive. Tiffany and Sandi are knocked out back there. They’re alive, so I guess you should send people for them.”

The voice had sounded like Stacy, but Dennis felt something wrong. As two men moved the second passenger off the ATV, he asked, “Stacy, something wrong with your voice?”

The rider grimaced. “Yeah, the little bitch got me with a lucky punch.”

Dennis could see the bruise on her face just to the side of her mouth. “That she did. Well, at least it’s over now.”

One of the men who had taken the passenger off was checking vitals. “Sir, this girl is dead.” He took down the hood from the sweatshirt, revealing Stacy’s brown hair. “And it’s not Quinn!”

With that, Quinn put down her visor and revved her ATV. The gates had been opened to let medics through, just as Quinn had planned, and she plowed through the couple people unfortunate enough to be in front of her. She had made it through, and she kept going, trying to make sure they didn’t catch her from behind.

Back in the control room, the figure in charge was upset. “You didn’t even make sure who it was before you opened the door? Imbeciles!” The man grabbed his walkie-talkie. “Quinn, do you hear me?”

Quinn heard him all right. Stacy must have been half deaf when she set the volume on her helmet. She found the talk button on her wrist and pressed it. “Tom? Honestly, you’re the boss here?”

The man known to the public as Tom Sloane smiled. “I have been ever since the beginning. I just figured I would give myself a cameo on the show as Daria’s and Jane’s love interest.”

“Ugh,” Quinn replied. “Like Daria or Jane would ever go out with you in real life.”

“Actually, Jane’s my lover right now.”

“Maybe the actress playing Jane, but not the Jane I've come to know.”

“Enough. You will come back here now or else!”

“Or else what? If I come back you’ll kill me. What worse could you do if you have to catch me?”

“Quinn, we’re not trying to kill you!”

Quinn slowed her ATV. “Ok, then what are you planning? Obviously my life has been a lie. You don’t expect me to think you’re turning this escape into some sort of game show pilot?”

“No, we’re planning a new series with you as the star! Following Daria’s spin-off success, we’re moving on to The Quinn Show! The Fashion Club follows you into college, with, apparently, a replacement for Stacy. You get to learn about frat parties and sorority life. People find out how smart you really are. You’ll be the star, you hear me? The star!”

Quinn rolled her eyes. Like she trusted a word that man said. “While that sounds very generous, I’m going to have to say no. I’ve had it with this life, and your offer doesn’t interest me in the least. I’m going to find out who I really am, and I can’t inside your little world. You’ve been keeping me a slave for as long as I can remember, and you’re not going to stop me.” Quinn looked at the landscape, and nothing seemed to be changing for miles. “Why are you still asking me to reconsider anyway? I broke through your little welcoming party and got out of the gate.”

“That you did. But think: are you really free?”

Quinn sighed. “Let me guess: not really?”

“That’s right, princess! Your Mario is in another castle! Just up ahead is the real gate, with real mercenaries and real ammunition. You could still go back and turn yourself in. I’m sure you weren’t 100% to blame for Stacy’s death, and an Involuntary Manslaughter charge wouldn’t tie you up in prison for too long. At least you’d be alive, and you could still be on TV. Just imagine, the former Fashion Club diva forced to serve six years in prison, now enters the real world with no money, no friends, and no family to turn to. How will she find the will to pull herself out of the gutter? Find out on ‘Quinn’s Life on the Skids’” Tom laughed thinking about the idea.

Quinn took stock of her situation. “Tom, that proposal made death sound like a good idea. I’ve got another thought, but if it doesn’t work, you better be prepared to kill me, or you won’t like the show I give you.” With that she clicked off the radio and tore the wiring out of her helmet. Repositioning her helmet, she sped up until she could see the gate on the horizon.

Tom stewed in his chair. “I was so hoping to keep her on the schedule, but if I must, I must.” He picked up the walkie-talkie once more. “Omega team, it’s down to you guys. You know what to do.”

A husky voice came through the radio as a man carrying a high-powered rifle spoke. “Yes, sir. Terminate on sight. Over and out.”

Tom watched as the tracer on Stacy’s ATV got closer and closer to the gate. Finally, it got within range, and the command to fire was given. Each man poured their first rounds into the ATV, before the captain called off the shots and ordered every man to scatter. However, the call had come too late. The empty ATV crashed into two men before ramming the wall next to the gate. The throttle had been tied wide open, and while the ATV missed the gate itself, the event caused enough confusion to scatter the gathered force.

Off to the west, Quinn approached the wall. As she figured, the wall was impossible to climb and covered with barbed wire. Even if she got over it, the regrouped men would be all over her like the cuts she would have from the barbed wire. However, since Stacy had kept wire cutters on her ATV, Quinn found the mesh easy enough to cut through. She climbed through the small hole she made, then ran away at top speed. She wasn’t sure she could trust Tom’s declaration that the wall was the real wall, but she couldn’t stop now. All she knew was she had to find a real town. When she found a road 5 minutes later, she looked at the first sign she came to. Big Pool, Population 1055. Her exhaustion faded somewhat, and she ran with renewed vigor to find the local sheriff or police station.

Chapter 10 - Epilogue

Quinn relaxed in her tiny apartment, finishing up talking on her cordless phone. “No, I’m not upset that the rest of the cast wasn’t charged. Sandi and Stacy were the only ones who attacked me, and really, the damage I did in self-defense was punishment enough for Sandi. Well, just that I’m ready to start searching for my real parents and get some kind of high school diploma to start college. They’re not sure if I’m 17 or 18, but my lawyer was able to convince them I was able to live on my own until I find my parents. Oh thanks, it’s been great talking with you too. Bye!” She thumbed off the phone and rolled her eyes. “God, who’d have thought I’d get sick of talking to people?”

She stretched out on her overstuffed sofa. It was a bit threadbare, but it was so comfy. She may not have gotten a lot initially from her settlement, but it was enough to live on for now. She even heard about cameras set up in her bathroom, and if they found that evidence, she’d be getting even more. For now, though, she was going to relax, unwind, and start figuring out college and how to find her real family.

Quinn stood up and got herself a soda. This Diet Pepsi she found tasted pretty much like Diet Ultra Cola; maybe even a little better. It would take a while for her to adjust to the weird brand names everything had. She got funny stares when she asked where the nearest Cashman’s was. She took a can of soda out of the fridge and crossed over to the latest batch of flowers she’d received, this one from those nice cops in Big Pool. She smelled the bouquet; at least flowers still smelled as sweet as sweet as she remembered. She looked at one of the flowers. She thought it odd that one of them had a black center. Suddenly, recognizing the shape, she froze. A Microphone? Here? Her mind raced as she recounted the last mic she had found in a bunch of flowers, and all the events that spiraled out from that moment.

Then, a smirk came to her face as she noticed a wire leading from the bouquet to her front door. This was not exactly what she would call high-tech. Quinn took the microphone out of the bouquet slowly, grabbed a pan that was sitting on the counter, and smashed the microphone with the pan. Immediately, a man let out a high-pitched shriek just outside her door. “Thanks for playing! Please don’t try again!” she yelled in the direction of the scream. These Paparazzi were as bad as the J’s and Upchuck combined.

The End