(Black screen. White writing reads "17 December, 2000". Fade up to...)

(Scene: Landon living room. Jodie, in her tattered jeans and a baggy white T-shirt, is standing in the hallway with a bag over her shoulder. Lehrer is standing in the open doorway, with Andrew Landon right in his face. Michelle is in the background, unsure as to exactly how to handle this.)

Andrew: You are not taking my daughter anywhere.

Lehrer: Mr Landon, it's a simple holiday trip. Yer daughter'll be perfectly safe with...

Andrew: I don't believe a word of it, mister -- so who else is going on this ... trip?

Lehrer: Some of the more intellectual students...

Andrew: Stop right there. I know what that means at Lawndale High, and if that Cullen girl's involved, my Jodie's not going anywhere near it. Don't think I don't know what you're doing, Mister...

Jodie: Dad, look...

Andrew: Stay out of this, Jodie; you don't know what you're talking about. You may think these people are your friends, but I've heard stories -- why do you think they won't go by their real names? (turning to Lehrer) Now she's staying right here, and damn be to the consequences!

Lehrer: Look, mate, you're the one who doesn't know what he's on about...

Jodie: Dad...

Andrew: Shut up, Jodie! You're not going with these people and that's final!

(Lehrer, a fed-up look on his face, simply lays Andrew out. Without a backwards glance, Lehrer turns and leaves. Jodie follows, but turns back to see Rachel, in a nightgown, looking at the scene with large eyes. Jodie closes her own eyes and walks out. Fade to black, with white writing reading...)


(Scene: a dark corridor. DJ, catlike, prowls along it. She opens a door, slowly steps inside -- then the lights come up; it's a square room, desk, chair with its back to the door -- and an armed guard, drawn down on DJ.)

Guard: Hey, Mr Norton, look what we caught.

(DJ closes her eyes and stands stone-still as the chair turns slowly to reveal a tall, powerfully-built man with reddish hair whose face bears a resemblance to that of the late Bryce Merritt.)

Norton: That perimeter guard just earned his keep.

(Black screen. White writing reads "18 December, 2000". Fade up to...)

(Scene: CU on Daria's face -- pale, soot-streaked and very still. Music: Coal Chamber -- "Not Living". After a moment, her eyes flutter open. Pan out on a generic spare bedroom, furnished and decorated by someone with a lot of money, an IKEA catalogue and no imagination -- this is obviously one more room in the Cullen house Lynn didn't destroy or redo. Daria, lying on the bed, turns her head to see Warlock watching her.)

Daria: What're you...

Warlock: I caught up with the Peril saving your life outside Biers. Brought you back here to recover. (beat) How're you feeling?

Daria: Someone tried to kill me. I'm confused, frightened, and more angry than I've ever been in my life. And if you don't tell me what the hell's going on, I'm pulling a Lynn on... ('Oooh THERE'S a thought...') She...

Warlock: She'll be right as rain when the tranqs wear off. (sighing at Daria's stunned look) When she was sure you were going to live, she made for her car with the intention to track Refugee down and feed him his kidneys. (shrug) Had to take her down somehow.

Daria: (raised eyebrow) 'Refugee'?

Warlock: Rogue assassin now on semi-permanent hire for the Merritts. Dangerous mofo. For now, that's all you need to know.

Daria: (trying to find context) So he's to them what DJ is to you? (Warlock's good at the mask. Daria's better at seeing behind it. Sledgehammer time.) So what's the plan now?

Warlock: Scar and Pagebert brought Narcissa, Scarlet, Maverick and the Four Musicmen...

Daria: (nearly amused) Neo-Grunge Earache.

Warlock: (very slight snicker) ...Anyways, they got in awhile ago. We got Lehrer to whip up some cock and bull story about a field trip over the vacation and fed that to the parents. Except yours -- we told them the truth.

Daria: You'd better be kidding. My family was close enough to a complete nervous breakdown. And that was before I met Lynn.

Warlock: Told them you were spending Christmas with your family. Didn't say whether it was big-F or small.

Daria: They were okay with that?

Warlock: Or were too scared of Scar to argue. Either way. (beat) I need to see the Peril. We had your sister pack a bag for you. Get yourself cleaned up and meet us downstairs in fifteen minutes.

(Warlock gets up from the chair he's been sitting in and heads for the door. Daria sits up, going pale as she does so.)

Daria: Why a bag? Where are we going?

(Warlock leaves the room, shutting the door behind him. There is a very short silence.)

Daria: (dry) Why did it have to be Quinn doing the packing?

(Scene: Lynn's room. Music plays on. Lynn sprawled on top of her bedclothes, pretty much dead to the world. After a long moment, she stirs.)

AP: (OS) Hey ho, Sleeping Beauty.

Lynn: (very groggy; probably still feeling the sedative) Don' call me tha...

(Pan for a wider view of the room and see AP sitting in Lynn's desk chair, putting a book down on the desk. He gets up and brushes her bangs out of her face.)

AP: (gentle) Y'okay?

Lynn: (fighting grogginess and losing) Wh... why d'my shoulders hur...?

Warlock: (from the doorway) CPR will do that.

Lynn: (still groggy but catching up with current events) Uhgod... she's okay?

Warlock: Fine. (beat) I'm hoping you're lucid enough to take orders and ... relaxed enough to do it without too much of an argument.

Lynn: (sitting up slowly; waking up properly now) I want coffee ... and I want an explanation.

Warlock: Coffee we can do. Report's going to have to wait until we're on the road.

(Pause as Lynn looks at him.)

Lynn: (swinging her legs over the side of the bed) Start the coffee. I'll start packing.

(Scene: on the road. Music: Pearl Jam -- "Rearviewmirror". Warlock in shotgun seat of the bigwhitevan, on the phone.)

Warlock: Report.

Lehrer: (OS from phone) Alright, I've got GPA Girl, Captain Sanity, Miss Manners and the Ranger.

Warlock: Any problems with the parents?

Lehrer: (OS) I took care of th' lot of it. So now wha' do we do?

Warlock: Find somewhere and go to the mattresses.

Lehrer: (OS) And if they come after us?

Warlock: I hope it won't come to that (beat; his eyes flit closed briefly) but if it does, sell yourself dearly.

(Warlock hangs up and puts his phone back on his belt -- at which point, it rings again. He picks it up, flips it open.)

Warlock: Yeah?

Lynn: (OS) We are stopping here.

Warlock: Peril, we...

Lynn: (OS) We need to stop. We're running on no food and less information and if you don't let us stop and get what we need ... we're just ditching you.

Warlock: Peril, that's not advisable. You remember that people are hunting you?

Lynn: (OS) At this point, I'm past caring. And so are most of the rest of us. Stop or you'll have to track us down and drag us behind you with tow chains.

(Warlock's phone goes dead. Warlock sighs and turns to Scar, who's driving.)

Scar: What's that about?

Warlock: There's a rest area in a mile or so. We're stopping there.

Pagebert: (from the back) Should we really do that?

Warlock: Unless you can track their cars from back there, I don't see we have any choice.

Pagebert: (thoughtful) I'll work on that when we stop.

(Scene: Roadside picnic area. Music: New Order -- "Crystal" [album version -- full intro]. Warlock, Pagebert and Scar are climbing out of BWV. The Merc pulls up in a parking space next to them and disgorges Daria, Jane, Lynn and AP. Tom, Angier and Quinn [who looks extremely pissed off] pull up a few spaces down in the Rustbucket, and the A-Tank parks next to it a moment later. As Trent, Jesse, Nick and Max exit, Lynn stalks up to Warlock with a really put out look. Daria, Jane and AP are right behind her.)

Lynn: Warlock. We've been on the road for hours. I want answers. Now.

Warlock: (tired, dry humour) So do I.

Lynn: WARLOCK...

AP: I wouldn't test her, man. Last two hours, it's been nothing but Methods. Methods I haven't even heard of. And they all sound really, really nasty.

Jane: I notice that didn't stop you from helping, though.

AP: Hey, look, I may not like the 'rents all that much but when someone comes up to 'em and...

Scar: Could you think of some other way to make them let you go?

AP: Listen, lady, no one terrorises my parents. That's my job.

Lynn: And mine, when he needs to double-team. But we're off the subject here, Warlock. I want answers.

Warlock: I'll give you what I know. But you were the one complaining about lack of food.

Lynn: On behalf of the band, yes.

Daria: We heard their stomachs growling from two cars away. Over Rammstein.

Max: (OS) Hey, can we eat? I'm starved!

Warlock: (*sigh*) Okay, Scar, take the Musicmen and go get some food. (Scar nods, heads towards the A-Tank, where the band is congregating.) Rest of you -- stretch your legs, whatever, but stay together. No one wanders off alone.

Daria: Excuse me. Given that we left with the approximate speed and organisation of a Polish fire drill, what are the odds that someone followed us out of Lawndale?

Warlock: Higher than you think.

(They look at him. He looks back, impassive. They walk off a ways, and Quinn joins them.)

Quinn: Okay, someone is going to tell me what is going on, like, now! Do Mom and Dad know we're gone? Why are we out here? Where are we even going? And Daria, are you okay? When they brought you to the house with the really weird decorations, you looked like you were... I mean, GOD, Daria...

(With that, Quinn hugs Daria, who looks more than a little shocked. She waits for a moment, though, before pulling away.)

Daria: I'm okay, Quinn, thanks. As for Mom and Dad, apparently they were told that we were spending Christmas with my family. Which, in a way, is unfortunately true.

Quinn: But why would I spend Christmas with your ... people? I mean, Christmas is a family holiday!

Daria: You sound like Mom. And possibly so that they could have some time to themselves. We've both been acting strange since the summer.

Quinn: Daria, you've always acted strange.

Jane: Okay, can we stop the sibling crap for just two minutes? She asked some other halfway-decent questions too.

AP: We're out here 'cos those ... those freaks we did nasties to last time tried to kill the Twin Terrors! And we're going ... east? (beat) Why're we going east?

Lynn: ... I think I know. We're going back to Mississippi.

AP: What, you mean that place with all the seafood where the Tank blew up?

Daria: And it's a sick, sad thing when all you can remember of a state is how someone tried to kill you in it.

Jane: Hey, give the guy some credit. (beat) He remembered the food, too.

Lynn: (*sigh*) Yes, the Gulf coast, where the Tank got bombed, AP got his face mashed in with a tenderising mallet and we did more shopping than gig-playing. We have ... friends there.

Jane: And when Mafia people say that, I come over all ... shuddery.

Quinn: What kind of friends? I mean, we saw you with people in Texas and we saw you with people in Pittsburgh and we saw you with people in New York and duh we saw you with people in San Francisco but we never saw you with anyone but us in...

Daria: When you went out the night the Tank blew up. You were ... taking care of business, weren't you?

Lynn: Not exactly. I was conning money out of Dad to pay for the damages to the van, the instruments and our wardrobes. But the guy who's out there does some other things than hiding the money. He's a shelter -- I figure we're headed for his casino resort hotel. And when we get there, depending on what Warlock has to say, I am going to get in touch with Dad and we are going to have words.

Daria: Are you sure that's wise?

Lynn: He's our father and he's letting this happen to us. Do you think that's right? Is that something Jake Morgendorffer would do? Or Fred McIntyre? Angier Sloane? Even Vincent Lane?

(The quintet look at each other; it's obviously hurting them to hear it as much as it's hurting Lynn to say it. In near unison, they lower their heads in grim acknowledgement. Smash cut to -- and end music on...)

(Scene: generic office setting. Kes walking among the cubes, carrying a small pile of papers, dressed in black blazer, black skirt and sensible black shoes -- blend-into-the-background tempwear. Her hair is tied back. A man we recognise as Mitchell from earlier is walking past her in the opposite direction. They nod casually at each other, as colleagues. Kes then disappears through a door.)

(Scene: the office [obviously a high-up in the company]. We recognise it as the one DJ was brought into in our first scene. Norton's inside, and he looks up at Kes as she drops the pile of paper on the desk.)

Kes: (accent now decidedly more American) Those files you wanted, Mr Norton.

Norton: Thank you. Any trouble getting them?

Kes: Nope. I'm pretty good at getting that kind of thing.

(Norton nods at her and goes back to his computer. Kes, without another look, walks out.)

(Scene: roadside rest area, at the picnic tables. Music: resume New Order's "Crystal" from where we left off. Daria, Jane, Lynn, AP and Quinn are sharing a couple of picnic tables with Tom and Warlock. The others are relatively nearby, but there's enough space between them to create an illusion of privacy for the group. The entire group are staring at Warlock.)

Daria: Don't tell us you didn't expect the Spanish Inquisition.

Quinn: I mean, who's in charge now? Those guys...

Warlock: Like I told you -- you can't kill a crime family just by killing a few people in it, even the head people.

Lynn: So who's in charge now? From what I've heard, Merritt's son is far too young and Jensen's only family is ... independent.

Warlock: Currently at the head of things is Bryce Merritt's cousin, Brett Norton.

Lynn: Oh, the Ram. And let me guess; Wedge is the Consigliore. (at Warlock's nod) Figures. Still stays in the family, no matter what you do.

Daria: Not that I'm not grateful for a sudden evacuation from Barksdale family feuding and Lawndale boredom in general, but I would like to know what promted it.

Warlock: Okay. The other morning, I was woken up by a pair of phone calls. One was Leopard, up in New York.

Lynn: And?

Warlock: Falcon and Number One missed a meeting with her. So she did some digging. She found One's body in a morgue.

Tom: Uncle Adam's dead?!

Warlock: Yeah.

Jane: (aside to whoever's listening) Even when the man's serious he makes those wretched puns. (to the looks) You know ... digging... (the looks get worse; she sighs) That was probably in bad taste.

(Emphatic nods all around.)

Lynn: What about Dad? (to Warlock's look) This is not the time, Warlock -- he's my father and I'm not going to bullshit around with his codename if something's wrong.

Warlock: He's missing. Not confirmed dead. But here's where it gets REALLY bad. Leopard says the shot that did (beat, small choke) Adam in came from Falcon's weapon. At close range -- powder burns on him.

Lynn: (she can't -- or won't -- believe it) How?

Warlock: Falcon's weapon was this silly Russian chambering. I trust Leopard. She sold it to him.

Daria: So, you're saying Jer.... uh, Falcon shot Adam?

Warlock: Him, or someone using his weapon. There're about five scenarios, and I like none of them.

(Stunned silence.)

Warlock: The other call was Slack, in Biloxi. He hasn't heard from Kestrel since she bugged out of SF. Put that together with the fact that someone on the other side obviously knows stuff they shouldn't...

Lynn: Are you suggesting JAN...

Warlock: I...

Lynn: I'm not listening to this.

(She stands up and walks towards the Merc. Daria gets up and follows her; Jane and AP take the time to glare at Warlock before doing the same. Warlock drops his head on the table. His phone rings.)

Warlock: Warlock.

Chopper: (OS) Warlock? Chopper.

(Warlock gets up and wanders away. Tom and Quinn look at the remnants of their meal and then share a look.)

Quinn: And we're stuck doing the cleaning up?

Tom: You get used to it. Welcome to the bottom of the totem pole.

(Tom picks up some of the trash on the table, gets up and heads for a garbage can. Quinn stares after him.)

Quinn: But ... I'm always the popular one... (yelling) Hey, wait! What do you mean, bottom of the totem pole?!?

(She grabs some garbage without even thinking, gets up and jogs after Tom. Cut to Warlock, talking into his phone some distance away from the picnic tables.)

Warlock: (slight tenseness) Have you tracked him down yet?

(Split-screen to "Chopper" -- heavyset man with black hair.)

Chopper: Cost me two good people, but yeah.

Warlock: Get in touch with Eco and gather the forces. That place needs to be hit.

Chopper: (thought VO) Who the hell does this kid think he is? (aloud) I'll set things up.

Warlock: (hears the reluctance) If nothing else, they probably have one of our assassins captive.

Chopper: How do you know?

Warlock: Never mind! Just do it!

(Chopper debates. On the one hand, he does not appreciate Warlock giving him orders. On the other, he does appreciate the opportunity to fight.)

Chopper: (slight sarcasm) Yes. Sir.

Warlock: Good.

(He slaps his phone shut and heads for the rest of the group, who are congregated by the cars -- the picnic mess is cleared.)

Scar: Fed, watered, present and accounted for.

Warlock: Good. Let's roll.

Lynn: (from a small huddle with Daria, Jane and AP) No.

Warlock: (*sigh*) Peril...

Lynn: NO, damnit. If you really believe what you're saying, part of this is going to turn into hunting Jan down. I'm not going to be part of that. She's no damn traitor.

Warlock: If you'd let me finish... (pause; Lynn inclines her head in a 'go on' motion) ...I don't think Kes is a traitor. Of the five or so scenarios, it's the least likely one as far as I'm concerned.

Lynn: But...

Warlock: My best guess is she went deep cover to try to crack a Merritt operation. The main reason I'm concerned is that, if we have a leak, her cover might not just be blown. It could be nonexistant.

(Off their reactions, smash cut to...)

(Scene: Norton's office, after hours. Music: Godhead -- "The Reckoning". Click as the lock gets picked, door opens. Kes enters, switching on the lights as she does, and then closes the door behind her and sits at the desk, switching on the computer and then setting to work picking the drawer lock as she waits for the computer to boot. Then she types in a username ... thinks, then types a five-letter password and hits enter. She gets in.)

Kes: (back to British; under her breath) "Merit". How bloody predictable.

(She opens the e-mail programme and starts sifting through the sent file. She takes a floppy disk out of her pocket and inserts it into the machine, exporting mail files. Then she sees one that obviously hits her hard -- she winces and nearly gasps. Then she exports it and starts logging off.)

Kes: (taking disk out and pocketing it again) Mission accomplished.

(She takes a quick sift through the desk drawer she's opened, ignoring the gun inside, and then shuts it, relocks it and makes for the door. Just before she reaches it, it's opened and Refugee stands there, flanked by goons.)

Refugee: (sadistic grin) Kestrel. Heeeeeeeeey...

(Kes gets an oh-shit look as he drags her out into the hall.)

(Scene: corridor. Music plays on. Kes is still being dragged by one arm down the corridor. It's narrow, so Refugee's goons are behind him, double-file. As they pass a random cube, Kes grabs a potted spider plant from the desk and goes upside his head with it. He staggers and she runs for it, knocking over a cube partition as she goes to block the path, buying her time.)

Refugee: HE--... oh, screw it.

(He pulls a gun and *bang*, Kes lets out a half-stifled scream and goes down. He wipes dirt off his face, moves the partition back to its proper position and walks up to Kes, who's bleeding and in obvious pain but still conscious.)

Refugee: 'Night.

(And with that, he pistol-whips her. Slam to black.)

(Scene: random motel room, night. Music: Ani DiFranco -- "Overlap". Daria and Lynn are in bed, but neither are sleeping. Both are, in fact, lying on their backs, staring at the ceiling.)

Daria: Lynn?

Lynn: Yeah?

Daria: ... What do you know about ... Jan, Kes, whatever?

Lynn: Well, she was sort of the first Smythe to visit at Thanksgiving. Along with Lorna -- I guess she was just in St Chris by then and needed the company. She insulted the crap out of my mother.

Daria: You two are ... close?

Lynn: As you can be to someone who's always lived a good few thousand miles away from you. (beat) She was good with presents the way Dad wasn't ... couldn't be, I guess.

(short silence)

Daria: I keep thinking about how I met her back in London. And I keep trying to make her fit the ... I don't know, the profile. And I can't do it.

Lynn: She looks too straight-edge, doesn't she?

Daria: Actually, I think her throwing that guy's drugs out the window is what makes it hard.

Lynn: We don't deal in that. And she's a medico -- anything heavier than pot offends her sensibilities somehow.


Daria: She's going to be okay.

Lynn: And you know this how?

Daria: I don't. And I'm not very good at this "comforting people" thing. But I'm trying, so be kind.


Lynn: Thanks.

(With that, Lynn rolls over and pulls the covers over her head. Daria looks at the ceiling for a moment longer.)

Lynn: (muffled) We'll be okay too. Or at least, you guys will. I'll make sure of it.

(Daria's eyes widen at that -- Lynn's obvious attempt at comforting fell very flat.)

Daria: If you're not okay, we're not. You do understand that, right?

(Daria waits, but never gets an answer.)

(Black screen. White writing reads "19 December, 2000". Fade up to...)

(Scene: darkened room. DJ sitting on the floor when the door opens and Refugee appears in it.)

DJ: (snide) Who do you think YOU are, Captain Rahim?

[footnote: The Critic episode "Sherman of Arabia"]

(He doesn't answer directly. Instead, he gestures behind him and the two goons behind him drag a female figure DJ can't quite make out at first into the room, dropping her roughly.)

Refugee: This nosy bitch isn't very good company right now, but take what you can get. (to one of the goons) Find our medic. Let's see if he can't get a Kestrel to sing.

(The door shuts and DJ's eyes go big as she realises who she's now sharing a cell with -- and the state of same.)

DJ: Kes? Ke-- oh shit.

(Scene: the Rustbucket. Music: Something for Kate -- "Electricity". Tom's driving, Daria's got shotgun, and AP and Quinn are in the backseat.)

Tom: Is it safe to ask why you asked to ride with me? I thought I was to blame for all this.

AP: Well, you are! Or at least you're a good scapegrace! (beat) No, wait, that isn't right...

Daria: You mean scapegoat, AP. And I wanted to ride with you because you're in a position to help me with something. And, in turn, help yourself.

Tom: (wary) And how do I need help?

Quinn: Even I know this one. You have, like, no pull with these people and you obviously need some or you're going to get treated like ... well, like you for the rest of your life! You want them to call you H forever?

(Slight pause. Tom's face is stone.)

Tom: What's the position?

Daria: You were given the job of safeguarding Lynn, weren't you?

AP: And you've been crap at it!

Tom: ...I was given the job. And no particular training for it, either. But I've been doing the best I could. So?

Daria: With all this going on ... Lynn gave me the idea that she's set to go kamikaze.

AP: ...Wait. That's the Japanese guys who did the suicide bombing things in planes? (Daria nods) She can't! She wouldn't! She ... oh. She can, she would, and she already did. Crap.

Daria: And you, Tom, should be trying to prevent that, if at all possible.

Quinn: Oh, please. It's not like he has the first clue about her.

AP: You what? You saw her more than we did, last spring! You've gotta have some idea how she is and how she's gonna be, right?

Quinn: Well, when I trained with him, he kept complaining. You know, about how looking at Lynn's face is like trying to read emotion in a brick wall or something. I guess he figured I'd understand all that, being Daria's sister and everything, but come on, even I can tell with her sometimes. When I feel like paying attention...

Tom: Will you shut up, Narcissa? I was counting on you to keep your mouth shut!

Daria: And the basis of your reptuation with Warlock and the others suddenly comes clear.

AP: You trusted the gossip queen of Lawnhell to keep her mouth shut? You're stupid!

Daria: But we're sidetracked. You're the one who reminded me of the "hurricanes in her eyes" condition that affects her in times of stress. What I'm asking you to do is simple. Watch for that and if you see it ... follow her. Keep her safe.


Tom: You do realise that agreeing to that is signing my own death warrant?

AP: Better you than her.

Tom: (*sigh*) And I think Warlock would agree with you there. (beat) Why are you telling me to do my job?

Daria: We're not telling you to do it. We're reminding you to do it.

(Tom, saddened, just keeps driving.)

(Establishing shot: casino in Biloxi. It's an architechtural nightmare of a building with harsh angles, pastels and neon signs, directly on the coastline. Music: The Yo-Yos -- "Home from Home". Lawndale convoy comes rolling into the entry drive at the front.)

(Scene: Slack's office. Music plays on. Enter Warlock, followed by Daria, Jane, Lynn, AP and Quinn.)

Slack: I've seen the convoy. (beat) All that? Just for my personal problems?

Warlock: Your personal problems and the Smythe business problems are linked in some areas, Slack.

Slack: I noticed that, yes.

Warlock: Get the kids set up somewhere and I'll brief you.

Slack: Sounds like a--

Daria: You mean WE'LL brief him.

Lynn: You mean, you'll brief US.

Warlock: (giving up) There'll be briefings.

Slack: So they're going--

Quinn: Will you people shut up and get me somewhere where I can get a BATH?

Slack: Is she for--

AP: At least you finally noticed you needed one...

Slack: Now that's just--

Quinn: (hits him) Creep!

AP: ow...

(Slack sticks two fingers in his mouth and blows an ear-splitting whistle, getting everyone's attention.)

Slack: EXCUSE ME! I KNOW I'M ONLY YOUR HOST AND ALL, BUT COULD I BE PERMITTED TO GET A WORD IN WEDGEWISE HERE? (Silence -- and they're all staring at him) Thank you.

Daria: Was that really necessary?

Slack: I don't have any fuel-air bombs on the premises. It seemed like the only other way to get your attention. You've been through some serious shit, haven't you?

Warlock: Indeed.

Slack: Well, you're forgiven then. For now, anyway. I'd better go hold a Bavarian Fire Drill and free up some room space for your passengers.

Warlock: I don't want anyone in a private room, understood?

Slack: My security's not that bad, Warlock...

Lynn: I understand him -- we'll explain later. For now, let's say Daria shares with Quinn, Jane with me, AP with Rust...

AP: Purple Peril!

Lynn: Fine. Rust can share a room with Remora, then. Trent, Jesse, Nick or Max. Take your pick.

AP: Aw, jeeeeeeeeez ... Sir Naps-a-Lot, then, if I gotta.

Lynn: (without missing a beat) Nick, Max and Jesse can squeeze into a room and the rest as they see fit. They, evidently, can take care of themselves. (beat) So what do we do while we're waiting for you to get things in gear?

Jane: Look for my wayward brother and his cronies, maybe?

Warlock: I think they found the bar.

Jane: Great! We'll join them, then. I for one could use something...

Warlock: Scarlet...

Lynn: Oh, shut up.

(And off they go. Warlock looks at Slack. Slack looks back, shrugs and picks up the phone.)

Slack: (into phone) Yeah, want to get Scooter in here? (beat) Sorry -- poorly phrased. Get. Scooter. In here. I have a job for him.

(Warlock's face takes on a look that says, "I don't like this at all.")

(Scene: bar. [Does it matter what it looks like? Most of the patrons're probably too drunk to know, so why should we?] Music: Pearl Jam -- "Rats". Trent, Jesse, Nick and Max are seated at a table -- a great many beer bottles stand on the table in front of them. They look terrible.)

Nick: I feel like we dealt with the devil, man.

Jesse: What?

Max: Take a look at it, you guys. We find this kid -- she sings damn well, she plays, she manages, she's hot...

Trent: How many times, man? You missed your shot. She's with the punk these days.

Max: Still doesn't mean I can't look! And don't talk to me about missing shots, okay? You and that thing for Daria...

Trent: Shut up, Max.

Nick: (picking up the thread) Anyway, we sign on this kickass singer with connections, and then we find out what all those connections are. I mean, living fast and dying young is one thing, but I got a family!

Trent: Nick, it's too late to be thinking like that now. If we weren't in it when we first met Lynn, we were in it when we went into that place in California armed to the teeth and looking to rescue her. Anyway, could you really turn your back on her now?

Jesse: And Jane's in it.

Max: And your Daria.

Daria: (OS) Sorry -- I wasn't shown my ownership papers. Whose am I?

(They all turn [Trent blushing madly] to see Daria, Jane, Lynn, Quinn and AP approach.)

Trent: Hey Daria. Janey. Lynn. Punk. Daria's sister.

Quinn: I don't know which is worse -- "Narcissa" or that.

Jane: Are they going to give us hassle over drinking here?

Lynn: Not if I go. I've been here before, remember? Who wants what?

Quinn: What's that peach stuff we had that time? With Jodie and that creepy Goth girl?

(AP winces. Lynn looks at him quizzically.)

Daria: He ... had a bad experience with the stuff at Biers.

AP: Just ... nothing lethal?

Jane: The exact opposite of what he wants.

Daria: I'll have what you're having.

Trent: You shouldn't go alone.

Lynn: What is with you people -- we're in one of our places.

Trent: Still. Jess?

(Jesse stands up; Lynn sighs and lets him accompany her. Daria, Jane, Quinn and AP drag over chairs and sit down.)

Daria: That was nice, Trent. Very ... much like what a caporegime would do, but nice.

Trent: Thanks, Daria. (beat) But what's a...?

Jane: A capo's sort of a guy who runs a piece of a crime family. Answers to the Don, but leads a lot of little guys. (beat) Or not-so-little, in Jesse's case.

Trent: Oh. Right. (beat) So what's going on? So far, we know jack.

Daria: Well, we're sort of thrown by what little we know ourselves. But the basics go, we're being hunted by the Merritts, who have picked now to make a move on the Smythes. (beat) Tom's uncle is dead. DJ, Kes and ... Jerome ... are missing, maybe dead. And one of them's a traitor and they don't know who.

(There is silence at the table.)

Trent: Shit.

Nick: This is dumb! They oughta know this stuff! It's their organisation!

Max: Yeah; I thought criminales knew it all.

Trent: How're you holding up? I know that Jerome guy...

Daria: Oh, please. I barely know him, and my only real ties to him are genetic and ... dangerous.

AP: It's Purple Peril you oughta be worried about. She's not showin' it, but she's freaked.

Daria: We're all freaked, AP.

AP: But you're not gonna go medieval on their asses with sharp things and no backup, are you?


Nick: She's not gonna do that, is she?

Jane: Not if we can stop her.

(Lynn approaches, followed by Jesse. Her hands are empty of drinks.)

Lynn: Word at the bar. We have rooms and there's a meeting. Daria, you're with me. The rest of you, hit reception for rooms. AP'll fill you in on who's sharing with whom.

AP: But Purp...

Lynn: You're the one with the memory. Please, AP.

(AP grudgingly nods. Daria stands and follows Lynn out of the bar. The others all look at AP.)

AP: Uuuuuuuuuuukay...

(Scene: Slack's office. Music: Tool -- "Useful Idiot". Slack is seated behind his desk; Warlock is in a chair opposite. Daria and Lynn enter and stand near the door.)

Slack: So, now that they're here, what's on your mind besides your hat?

Warlock: (utmost scorn) Ha. We have a situation.

Slack: Specifics, please. Generalities make my teeth itch.

Lynn: Well, for starters, there's a minor question as to whether my cousin's a traitor.

Warlock: I explained that, Peril.

Slack: I should hope you did, mister.

Lynn: Bitterness dies hard. You know that.

Slack: I know all about that. (rubs itching left foot)

Warlock: There's a leak within the Family. And there's reason to believe that Kes is gathering information on that leak under deep cover.

Daria: Oh yeah. And if you're right, that leak blew her cover.

Slack: Fuuuck.

Warlock: Adam was last seen in a NYC morgue, and the Falcon is missing.

Slack: Jesus. If they can get to the Falcon, they must have inside info.

Warlock: There are four main members of the Family dead, missing or both. And an attempt was made on those two. (gesture at Daria and Lynn.) They're here because this is the closest friendly place we could find.

Lynn: Would have been Texas, but the Rat met an exterminator.

Daria: Or twelve.

Warlock: A hit is planned on a Merritt stronghold in Michigan. We have reason to believe that at least one of our people are alive in there.

Lynn/Slack: (unison) Kes?

Warlock: Unspecified. It might be Kes. It might also be DJ.

(Daria and Lynn exchange looks.)

Slack: Zoinks.

Warlock: That's the briefing as it stands. Any questions?

Slack: Are these kids being stashed here to await the rescue mission, or to keep them out of its way?

Daria: The latter.

Lynn: To my extreme disappointment.

Daria: Lynn...

Warlock: We need them alive at all costs. We're the Family's present; they're its future.

Daria: No one seems to ask if we want to be this Family's future...

Slack: The Peril seems to have already made up her mind. Mostly, anyway. If you want out, feel free to start running.

(Lynn, without preamble, just marches out, slamming the door behind her.)

Slack: What brought that on?

Daria: Nice move, Zedd. We're still trying to talk her out of that decision you seem to assume she's already made.

(She slams out too. Warlock gives Slack a look as Slack stands there, nonplussed.)

Slack: (bad cockney accent) And for my next trick, I will swallow my other foot.

Warlock: You run a casino. I thought you needed diplomacy for that.

Slack: I'm the Head of Special Accounts. I got kicked into the books because of my amazing people skills.

(Beat as Warlock glares at, then dismisses Slack.)

Warlock: This is all need-to-know. If I think you need to know, I'll tell you.

(Warlock starts to leave, but as he opens the door.)

Slack: One more thing.

Warlock: (stops, doesn't turn) Yes?

Slack: I may have to send somebody to Hel for punching her ticket to Valhalla. Help me make sure it's the right somebody.

(Warlock nods and walks out. Slack rubs his foot some more. He hikes up his pant leg and rolls down the sock, and we can see that the foot, and the calf it attaches to, are prosthetic. He sighs loud and long.)

(Scene: corridor. Music plays on. Lynn's waiting for an elevator. It pings and the door opens. She steps in and hits a button. The doors are closing as Daria approaches but she thrusts her arm between the closing doors and the sensors kick in; the door opens again. Daria steps in and looks at Lynn harshly as the door shuts again.)

(Scene: lift. Music plays on. Daria is still looking harshly at Lynn. After a moment, she speaks.)

Daria: So have you? Made your choice?

Lynn: Overall, probably not. For the time being, yes.

Daria: Lynn...

Lynn: They might have my cousin under suspicion of espionage. You don't know what they do to prisoners.

Daria: ...I thought you didn't remember.

Lynn: The less you know, the better. You have enough nightmare fuel.

Daria: Are you talking about this, or the two morons from Highland?

Lynn: I don't know. Which makes it harder for you to sleep at night?

(There's a pause as Daria mulls this over.)

Daria: It's too close to call.

(Lynn gives Daria a slightly amazed chuckle and the doors ping open.)

(Scene: 'holding cell'. The door opens; DJ glares at the new arrivals -- Refugee, two mooks and a mid-height man with sandy blond hair who, despite his youth, looks very much like a medical type. He scans the cell and, after glancing briefly at DJ [she looks at him blankly], his eyes fall on Kes.)

Medic: Dear lord...

(The medic rushes over to Kes, kneels and looks her over. Refugee watches impassively for a moment, then gets impatient.)

Refugee: So what's the verdict, McLain? Can you patch her up enough to let us grill her?

McLain: She's a human being, not a ... a ... fraying pair of jeans! She needs more medical attention than I can give -- hospital care -- or she is going to die.

Refugee: (shrug) She's a Smythe... you think we care?

(DJ shrinks back a little, unconsciously.)

McLain: But if she dies before ... (checks her breathing) Oh hell... (looks up; total command mode) I need a laminated card -- credit card or library card or something -- and a roll of duct tape, STAT! (he gets looks) You heard me; MOVE!

(He's a doctor; used to being obeyed. They're mooks. Someone produces duct tape and Refugee himself produces a library card -- date on it says it expired in 1987. McLain cuts Kes' shirt away from the wound, cleans the area as best he can, then slaps the library card into place and tapes it over the wound. He checks Kes' breathing again and sighs with some relief.)

Refugee: Does it talk?

McLain: (bitter) No. SHE lives. And not even THAT for long.

(His Hippocratic Oath thus reduced to meaninglessness, McLain exits -- probably, as always after dealings with Refugee, grateful for his own life.)

(Black screen. White writing reads "20 December, 2000". Fade up to...)

(Scene: Daria and Quinn's room. Music: PJ Harvey -- "Big Exit". Daria's side is spotless -- she sits on her bed and reads a book. Quinn's side looks like a bomb hit her luggage -- she's fussing with her hair. Quinn turns around and looks at Daria with some scorn.)

Quinn: How can you do that?

Daria: (not looking up) Well, unlike you, who nearly had to be beaten with a stick to learn to read, I learned on my own when I was three.

Quinn: You know what I mean! How can you read at a time like this?

(Daria holds up the book -- "Cabin Fever -- How to Cope with Siege Conditions".)

Daria: At least I'm doing something useful.

Quinn: Daria, look. If I'm going to die in this mess that ... that Lynn freak got us into, I'm at least going to leave a pretty corpse. I have a reputation!

Daria: (rolling her eyes) If I believed in a god, I'd be praying for deliverance right about now.

(There's a knock on the door. Daria looks up, a little surprised.)

Quinn: Go away!

(The door opens and Lynn, Jane and AP poke their heads through.)

Jane: Sorry, Princess, but we automatically do the opposite of everything you want us to.

Quinn: Ugh!

Daria: And to what do I owe the interruption?

Jane: You remember the strip malls?

Daria: I remember the short-shorts.

AP: All they got's a Radio Shack but what the hey, it's better than nothing, right?

Daria: You're not suggesting we go out there, are you? It's more Quinn's job to risk her life for the sake of a shopping spree.

Lynn: Relax, Daria. There won't be any repeats of Pittsburgh.

Daria: Your near-suicidal self-confidence is always going to amaze me, you know.

AP: Not like that, Erudite Emerald! It's just she's been up to her ol' tricks again!

(Daria thinks about this for a minute, and then outright stares at Lynn.)

Daria: You bugged a Mafia family. And escaped detection.

Lynn: Hey, the FBI do it all the time, with other families. And the word is that most of the fighting is happening a lot farther north. And I could use a distraction.

Daria: Only you would see an attempt to sneak out from under armed guard as "a distraction".

Lynn: And you wouldn't have me any other way. So are you in?

Daria: I don't know...

Jane: Daria, would you really rather spend the rest of the day sitting in here with the same girl you've been trying to avoid ever since I've known you?

(Silence. Jane, Lynn and AP watch Daria expectantly, as does Quinn.)

Daria: (*sigh*) Okay, I'm in.

Quinn: HEY!

(Daria gets off the bed and heads out. Quinn watches, stunned.)

Quinn: Hey, wait! But ... what am I supposed to do?

(Tom appears in the doorway, looking a bit nervous. Quinn looks at him.)

Tom: Uh, hi. (beat) Bored?

Quinn: Yeah, tell me about it.

Tom: Uh ... there's a training room downstairs. Feel like venting some of that frustration by beating the living crap out of me?

Quinn: Sounds good. Just let me find the right outfit...

Tom: Even when you're about to sweat off about a pound of water weight, you still have to look your best doing it?

Quinn: Oh, why do I bother with you geek-people who don't understand the first thing about dressing right for something! I meant gym clothes or something!

(Tom nods, turns, and then looks back.)

Tom: Hey, where are the others?

(Quinn considers her reply for a moment.)

Quinn: God, like I pay attention! Downstairs or upstairs or wherever.

(Tom accepts this, shrugs and leaves, shutting the door behind him. Quinn shrugs, smiles and starts digging in one of the piles of clothes.)

(Scene: road, establishing. Music: Cake -- "Satan Is My Motor". A dark green Ford roars down the road.)

(Scene: Ford interior. Music plays on. Lynn driving, AP riding shotgun. Daria and Jane in the back.)

Daria: Whose car is this?

Lynn: Slack's.

Jane: Why not the Merc?

Lynn: Just a precaution. The Merc's a little conspicuous and I'm sure no one would want me driving it outside a convoy.

(slight pause)

Daria: I thought no one knew we were gone?

Lynn: They don't.

Daria: Then how'd you get the... (it hits) You hotwired it?

Lynn: Of course I didn't hotwire it -- what do you take me for? (beat) AP hotwired it.

(Daria and Jane exchange a look.)

AP: (picking up on it) What? Just cos I can't drive 'em, I can't steal 'em either?

(Daria and Jane just keep gawping at him.)

(Scene: training room. Music: Catatonia -- "This Boy Can't Swim". Quinn and Tom face off.)

Tom: Hey, what say we make this a bit more interesting?

Quinn: Don't even say it. Last time someone said that, that fat Goth chick Andrea suggested strip poker.

(Tom starts to blush a little.)

Tom: What, you afraid you're going to lose to me? Don't tell me you're worried just because you're not wearing matching underwear.

Quinn: God, no. Just, come on, I've had at lots of boyfriends and you are not who I want my first naked guy to be.

(Tom blushes harder. Quinn, realising what she's said, follows suit. For a moment, they can't meet each others' eyes.)

Tom: I meant something a little different than that. How about ... for every hit I score on you, you answer a question. Completely honestly.

Quinn: What do I get for every hit I score on you?

Tom: The immense satisfaction of seeing my face contort with pain?

Quinn: Not good enough ... Rust.

Tom: Five bucks?

Quinn: Deal.

(As she speaks, she lashes out with a fist and knocks him to the floor. He gets up with a rueful look on his face.)

Tom: What the hell did I let myself in for...?

(He ducks a flying kick and drives a fist towards her midsection.)

(Scene: the training room. Music plays on. Hold on the door as Warlock opens it to see Quinn and Tom sitting shoulder to shoulder, dripping sweat and panting. Tom looks to be in serious pain. Quinn looks tired but high on endorphins. Warlock looks at the two of them, eyebrow raised.)

Warlock: You two look ... busy.

Quinn: (scorn) Ew! Warlock-person, look, I'm not going to sit here and listen to your ... inneeandoes?

(Tom just blushes.)

Warlock: I was hoping to find the Peril. We have things to discuss. Seen her?

Quinn: She and Jane and that red-haired freak Daria used to date showed up at the room and said they were gonna find something to do. In case you, like, haven't noticed, it's boring in this place!

Warlock: Tell me that this "something to do" involved them staying in the building.

Tom: Warlock, she told me that they had gone upstairs. Or downstairs. I think that covers "inside the building".

Warlock: I was asking her. Don't you think that was a little vague?

Quinn: Look, they don't tell me everything, okay? And it's not like I care what they do or anything!

Warlock: You cared enough to be deliberately vague about where they were running off to. And we had the building searched -- they're not anywhere here. So where did they go, Narcissa?

Tom: Stop badgering her!

Quinn: Guh-AWD, Tom, I can take care of myself! (to Warlock) Look, I don't know really where they went and even if I did, I wouldn't tell you. I don't really care about that Lynn girl or the AP freak except that Daria likes them or whatever, but if she wants to get away from you freaky people, then I think that's great! And especially when she wants to go shopping!

Tom: Sh-shopping?

Quinn: And I'll see you later so you can pay up!

(She gets up and stalks out of the room. Warlock looks after her, then turns to Tom and notes that Tom has been following her progress with his eyes too. The eyebrow goes up again.)

Warlock: Get cleaned up, H.

Tom: What?

Warlock: I want you to set the land-speed record for showering; you should be outside in the parking lot in ten minutes. You know the malls better than we do. You're going to help us find them.

Tom: Yessir.

(Warlock stands there a moment as Tom picks himself up off the floor with a wince.)

Warlock: As for Narcissa...

Tom: Don't push it, Warlock. Just don't.

(Tom pushes past Warlock and leaves. Warlock rolls his eyes and reaches for his cellphone.)

(Scene: shopping mall food court. Music: Traditional mall Muzac. Daria, Jane, Lynn and AP are digging into their meals. Lynn has Chinese, Jane has a burger, Daria has lasagne and AP has pizza. Silence reigns, until...)

Jane: Don't you get enough of that at home?

Daria: That's kind of the point. (beat) Just don't let it get out that I'm a little homesick. What I want to know is how AP managed to make them make that pizza.

AP: Hey, it's not the normal one. They couldn't find capers or artichoke hearts so I kinda had to improv. It's creamed corn and ladyfingers this time. Anyway, this one uses catfish instead of tuna. (to the looks) I guess it's a Mississippi thing. It's kinda good, though. Anyone want?

(They all flinch back from the offered slab of pizza.)

Jane: Yeah, I want -- I want your head examined.

Daria: Or perhaps your tongue.

Lynn: (*smirk*) I can attest to the fact that there is nothing wrong with his tongue.

(AP blushes so hard he looks like he's going to spontaneously combust. Jane and Daria smirk at each other, and then Jane decides to change the subject.)

Jane: If that thing tastes like it smells, AP, you should have a biohazard warning slapped on that tray.

AP: Hey, Art-Smart Scarlet, opened your fridge at home lately?

(They all glare at him.)

Jane: Yeah, I have, AP. Telekinetically. From three-four states away.

(AP finally realises what he's said; his eyes go big and he crams his mouth full of pizza so there's no room for his foot. More silence. Then Lynn raises her head, looks across the room, and casually picks up her tray, which is still mostly full.)

Daria: Lynn, what are you doing?

Lynn: Making a strategic retreat. Look.

(They all do; Lynn rolls her eyes.)

Lynn: Way to be casual, people.

(We see what they see -- Warlock, Tom, Scar and Pagebert, standing by a mall map.)

AP: Aw, dang. It might not be a whole lot of fun, but Radio Shack was gonna be way better than seeing all the gear I'm not allowed to play with at that stup...

Lynn: Go.

AP: Come again?

Lynn: Go, but go via someplace they'd never look for you. If we hang back for long enough, they'll start looking in the unlikely places long enough for us to do some time in the likely ones. Now split up. If we're not caught, we'll meet at the car at four.

Daria: But...

(But Lynn's gone. AP follows suit. Daria and Jane look at each other.)

Jane: Where would they never look for us?

(They look at each other ... and sigh.)

(Scene: "Coiffe Medicine" hair salon. Two figures are seen under large driers -- they're hidden with magazines. After a moment, the magazines are lowered and we see Daria and Jane. Neither of them look impressed.)

Daria: (a bit loudly) Thirty-five dollars to look like we've never been near this place. Each. And they didn't bat an eye when we asked them to manage that. Does that strike you as strange?

Jane: WHAT?

(Daria sighs, rolls her eyes and lifts her magazine again.)

(Scene: jewellery storefront. Lynn drifts past, peers in the window at something. Hold there for a moment. A young man in a good suit comes out of the shop and looks at Lynn for a moment.)

Man: Were you looking for something in particular, ma'am?

(Lynn looks at him a moment, then back into the shop window, then sighs.)

Lynn: Nah. A bit fancy for my blood, if I'm honest. Thanks anyway.

(She walks off. The young man watches her leave, then shrugs and starts back into the shop.)

AP: (OS) Hey, mister, hold up!

(The young man turns towards the sound of the voice. AP careens into shot at a dead run, tries to stop, glides, hits the shop window and collapses on the floor in a little heap. The young man looks extremely confused.)

Man: Can I ... help you... (slightly overlong beat) ...sir?

AP: (*groan*) Well, first you can help me off the floor...

(The young man does. Once AP's on his feet -- reeling slightly -- the young man gives him the once-over.)

Man: Now ... was there something else?

AP: Yeah. Can you show me what the girl was looking at? It's kinda important.

(Now the man looks really dubious.)

Man: If you mean the girl in the purple jacket, I sure can, but ... I think that's a little out of your reach...

(AP scowls at the man, then produces a wad of cash from his pocket.)

AP: Mess ye not with techno-weasels, pencil-neck. You get real embarrassed. Now you gonna tell me what she was looking at or what?

(The man's eyes are very large by now, and he looks at AP with something like respect -- but not all that much like it.)

Man: I'll show you, sir. If you want to come inside...

(The young man leads AP into the store as Tom and Warlock turn a corner.)

(Scene: Radio Shack, exterior. AP, stuffing a small velvet jeweller's box into a jacket pocket, looks at the store and sighs.)

AP: (aloud to himself) Oh, how the geeky have fallen.

Pagebert: (OS) That's the problem with Southern backwaters.


(Pagebert approaches. AP looks at him with big puppyish eyes.)

Pagebert: What were you after in there, anyway?

AP: You want truth? I didn't really know -- just whatever hit me, y'know. Well, I need something to put together! Purple Peril and Erudite Emerald can do word puzzles and stuff and Art-Smart Scarlet can paint and draw and put together kitchen stuff and melt gummybears and...

Pagebert: I get the idea. (beat) Well, if I'm vague about when I found you, I can probably give you fifteen minutes.

AP: Fifteen minutes? I'll never find anything in ... ooh!

(He nearly bounces into the store; Pagebert looks after him, amused, and follows him.)

(Scene: bookstore. Music: Moxy Fruvous -- "My Baby Loves a Bunch of Authors". Daria has a large stack of books under one arm and is approaching the counter with a list. She drops the books on the counter, under the amazed eyes of a slightly scruffy clerk.)

Clerk: What, are you going into quarantine?

Daria: Yes. The AMA has recently stated that stupidity is contagious, so I'll lock myself in the storm cellar until the epidemic blows over.

(The clerk frowns at her for a moment, then turns his head and calls out to an unseen party to the left.)

Clerk: Hey, dude, this the one you're looking for?

(Tom steps out from behind a nearby shelf; Daria looks appalled.)

Tom: (to Daria; slight shrug) Hey, it worked for Cullen, didn't it?

Daria: What are my chances of getting away from you by screaming "rape"?

Tom: Well, if you really feel like calling that much attention to yourself...


Daria: I say this to Jane, but I mean it to you -- I really hate you sometimes.

Clerk: Hey, you going to buy those, or what?

(They both glare at him.)

(Scene: CD shop. Jane's has an armful of CDs and is consulting a list. She steps to the counter and dumps the armload, then looks up at the sullen-looking saleslady.)

Jane: I'm still looking for a couple of things. You got "Demons and Wizards"? Self-titled album.

Saleslady: Who?

Jane: Never mind. Anything by Iced Earth?

Saleslady: We got Ice-T, Ice Cube and Vanilla Ice, kid, but never heard of Iced Earth.

Jane: Pop Will Eat Itself? Mercyful Fate? Therapy? Me Mom and Morgentaler?

(The saleslady looks more and more blank -- and more and more pissed-off -- with each band listed.)

Saleslady: Look, what you see is what we got! Now you gonna pay for those?

Scar: (OS) You can track the rest of it through Amazon. Like you should have done with this stuff.

(Jane turns to Scar's accusing face; her own countenance is set in a near-exact imitation of the saleslady's -- sullen and pissed off.)

(Scene: video arcade. Music: Regurgitator -- "Superstraight". Close on Lynn, in firing stance, with a pale blue plastic gun in her hand. Cut to what she sees -- she is currently beating the unliving shit out of House of the Dead II. Warlock takes a place at her side and watches her for a moment. Lynn never takes her eyes off the screen, but...)

Lynn: It was too much to ask to let us out; we knew that. So we didn't ask.


Warlock: You could have done this for real back at the resort.

Lynn: Yes, but I would have had to do this for real back at the resort. (beat) I couldn't convince you to be briefly distracted by a game of Silent Scope or some...

(She trails off as Warlock just looks at her.)

Warlock: No.

Lynn: Can you at least let me finish my game?

(Warlock looks at her for a moment, then digs in a pocket. He produces coins, adds them to the player 2 side and picks up the other gun.)

Lynn: A different man would tell me to enjoy this while it lasts because twenty-four hour lock-up begins the minute we get back to the casino, right?

Warlock: Yyyyyyyyyyep.

Lynn: Oh great. Out of parental supervision and I'm still getting grounded.

(Scene: Isle foyer. Music plays on. Daria, Jane, Lynn and AP pile in carrying shopping bags and looking somewhat pissed off. They are followed by Warlock, Scar, Pagebert and Tom, who have that stern parental countenance.)

Scar: I've been talking to Pagebert about this. There are such things as mp3s. And e-texts. And there's that little thing about people out there...

Warlock: (to Scar, warning) This is not the place.

Scar: Upstairs, you people. We need to have a talk.

Lynn: You mean you need to have a bitch-rant. Not interested.

Warlock: She's right. You took a big risk today. I don't think you understand the situation.

Daria: It's you who doesn't understand. We know the situation better than you think we do.

(They are at the bank of elevators now, and waiting. Warlock looks at Daria.)

(Scene: Jane and Lynn's shared room. Music plays on. Warlock has followed the girls in. He looks like he's fighting extreme irritation, and losing.)

Daria: So we're telling you that we know that most of the Southern Merritt operatives have been moved to Detroit, and those who weren't are holed up in New Orleans somewhere. So Lynn figured that, with that kind of lowered risk, going out to the local temple of capitalism was about as safe as school's been for the last year. Possibly more so.

Warlock: And you know this how?

Jane: Boy, you're a bright spark, aren't you? We know because Lynn knew.

Warlock: (levelling a look at Lynn) And she knew because...

Lynn: (epitome of casual) I bugged Slack's office. And a few other strategic points around the resort. You know what they say about forewarned is forearmed.

(Warlock just openly stares.)

Warlock: That should not be possible. Doesn't this place sweep for bugs?

Lynn: Not as far as I'm aware. Remember, it's a remote outpost, of which Slack's in charge.

Daria: Look at it this way. If you stopped keeping things so close to the vest, we wouldn't have to resort to covert espionage. You have only yourself to blame.

Warlock: This won't happen again.

(With that, he leaves. Silence for a moment.)

Daria: Just reassure me of one thing.

Jane: What's that?

Daria: No matter what he does, no matter how bored we get, we will not resort to board games.

(AP rummages through the bags.)

AP: We got ... King ... Moliere ... King ... Eugenides ... King ... Garland ... Coupland ... King ... Gaiman a whole bunch of other people I never heard of... Y'know, I don't think you got a lot to worry about on "stuff to do that isn't board games".

Daria: You make a point. But what are you gonna do?

AP: (holding up a Radio Shack bag; big grin) Build a better mook-trap?

Jane: (at one of the end tables, where a boom box sits) Music to irritate?

(Daria, Jane and AP share a look.)

(Scene: corridor. A young man who looks just like Radar O'Reilly wheels a room service trolley towards Jane's room. At which point he is hit by the opening chords of "Rise Up" by Skunk Anansie, blaring at nosebleed-inducing intensity. He starts, then runs the trolley up to Jane's door, hammers on it for a second, then runs away.)

(scene: the improv prisoner cell. Music plays on. The room is dimly lit, reducing DJ and Kes to vague shapes on the floor. Kes is still sprawled out on the floor. DJ, seated in the corner, is wriggling.)

DJ: (muttering under her breath) Almost... got... this damn thing.

(She gets an arm free, detangles the ropes, and stands up, looking at the room's negligible contents.)

DJ: (musing) Weapon ... weapon...

(The door opens, letting in a bar of light. A silhouette appears in the doorway. DJ flattens herself against the nearest wall, barely breathing.)

Mitchell: Hello Smythes. (*snick-clack* as he loads and chambers a semiauto.) Your friends are here to see you. Too bad you can't come out and play.

(He steps further into the room and points the semi-auto at Kes, still sprawled motionless on the floor. DJ lashes out with her foot, knocking the weapon away into the wall. She spins, kicks him in the head, and then in the groin. He slams into the wall, she scoops up the gun and double taps him. As he falls dying, she turns to face Kes, when...)


(DJ does it, but with a tired and amused look on her face.)

DJ: Aph, it's a REALLY good thing I recognise your voice.

(Aph steps out of the shadows, gun out. She looks completely stunned.)

Aph: DJ!? YOU'RE the assassin Warlock was ... no WONDER! (noticing Kes on the floor) Ohmigod...

DJ: (leaning against the wall -- it's been a rough few days for her) You guys, like, need backup?

Aph: No, you just sit down. We've almost got things covered outside and NCM knows some first aid -- he'll want to look you and Kes over and...

(Gunshots nearby; the voices of two VERY pissed-off East Coasters drift to them.)

N.C.M.: (OS; mocking tone hiding grief) Oh my GOD. You killed Eco!

Chopper: (OS; deadly serious) You BASTARDS.

(Aph and DJ share a look and then, in unison, raise their weapons and head for the door.)

(Scene: Slack's hideout, Biloxi. Music: Alice in Chains -- "Confusion". AP steps into the doorway and then stops. Pan into the room -- it's a bedroom. The bed nearest the door is unmade and a sketchpad lies atop it -- Jane's, obviously. Lynn's sitting on the other bed, cleaning her gun. AP frowns at this.)

AP: Hey ho, Purple Peril.

Lynn: (distracted by her task) Hmm.

(Slight pause ... then AP gets a *ping* look.)

AP: And now for a musical interlude!

Lynn: (raised eyebrow, still not looking up) 'Interlude'. That's an impressive word for you.

AP: Yeah, well, I guess that 'Word of the Day' website is payin' off. Now do you want the music or not?

Lynn: (still not looking up) Yeah, whatever.

(AP turns away in thought, then clears his throat but doesn't turn back to her yet -- can't face trying to sing face to face with her, given her expertise.)

AP: (the only lyrics he remembers) o/` Your eyes cast a spell that be...o/` (*rustle* *thunk* from behind him; he turns, bewildered) ...witches?

(Pan to what he sees. Lynn is curled up fetal in the corner on the bed, pale and shaking. The gun lies forgotten on the floor. AP stares, unable to work out what's happened.)

AP: (bewildered) Purple Peril? (beat; worried at lack of response) Lynn? (beat; slightly more panicked) Lynn! (Leans forward, reaches to touch her shoulder) Lynn, it's okay; it...

Lynn: NO.

(As she says this, she lashes out with a foot; it's a totally uncontrolled move but it hits AP hard in the shoulder nonetheless, knocking him over.)

AP: (muttering to himself) ...'s NOT okay; okay is the LAST thing this is... How do I put this? (beat) SOMEONE GET THE HELL IN HERE!

(Tom enters the room and sees AP hauling himself into a sitting position as he rubs his shoulder.)

Tom: What the hell happ...

AP: Get. Warlock.

Tom: (sees Lynn; eyes widen) What's with HER? I...

AP: Just shut up and get Warlock NOW.

Tom: Look, kid, I...


Tom: Okay, okay!

(Tom exits at a run. AP stays at a distance, watching Lynn closely, not daring to speak lest he screw it up again.)

(Scene: another bedroom in the Biloxi hideout. Music plays on. Warlock is asleep on a bed [not in; on, as in on top of the covers and fully dressed]. Tom barges in and Warlock sits up at the noise, readjusting his glasses and looking at Tom with some irritation.)

Tom: (nervous) Warlock, we have a ... situation.

Warlock: What kind of situation?

(Off a squirming Tom, go to...)

(Scene: Lynn's room, Biloxi. Music plays on. Warlock barges in to find AP still on the floor, still staring at Lynn in some concern. Warlock takes this in and keeps a distance from Lynn.)

Warlock: Peril. (beat) Lynn. Three deep breaths. Stat. (beat; the shaking's eased a little.) Lynn, calm down and see the way back. (she seems to calm down a little more) Okay. H...

Tom: Rust...

Warlock: Now is not the time. Just get to her and get her to lie down.

(Tom approaches and reaches out for her. She tenses up and lashes out again; a second later, Tom's on the floor as well. Warlock sighs, sets down the case and opens it, taking out a tranquilliser gun. He loads it, aims and fires; Lynn flinches, then slumps as the tranquilliser takes hold. Warlock steps over to her and checks her pulse, then turns to the two boys, who are getting to their feet.)

Warlock: (after assessing them silently for a second) ...You're okay. Get out of here.

AP: NO! I want to find out what I did wrong!

Tom: Warlock...

Warlock: (mild rue) I'm the amateur psychologist around here and what I say goes. Both of you get out of here. Maverick... (softens a little) ...stick close by.

(With various degrees of reluctance, the two boys exit the room. Fade out.)

(Fade in on the same room some time later. Lynn opens her eyes; she still looks a bit pale and frightened, but coherent at least. She sits up and looks at Warlock, who's still nearby.)

Warlock: How are you feeling?

Lynn: Is AP okay? I...

Warlock: Him and H are both fine. You didn't kick them that hard.

Lynn: (guilty as hell) I thought it was the same person twice.

Warlock: Nopenope. (beat) What happened?

(Pause. Lynn looks at Warlock very dubiously ... then sighs. If she can't tell him, after she's opened up to him in so many other instances, she can't open up to anyone.)

Lynn: (slow and heavy) Let's just say that Lehrer is probably not a good idea.

Warlock: The Affilliate or...?

Lynn: No, not the Affiliate.

(Flashback: Merritt compound prison area. Music plays on. Quinn is bearing AP's weight, looking at Lynn as she's grabbed by Merritt's men. Lynn looks straight into Quinn's eyes ... and Quinn frowns, seeing that something isn't quite right...)

Lynn: GO!

Quinn: (resolute) I'll bring help. I...

Lynn: Will you just get OUT of... (she is injected and slumps into her captor's arms) ...ah...

(Quinn flees as quickly as she can under AP's nearly unconscious weight. Merritt turns to Jensen, who's dusting off the knees of his suit.)

Merritt: Let's just see which one we actually have.

Jensen: It has to be the Peril, sir. The Erudite isn't known for that kind of boldness...

Merritt: The Erudite is barely known at all yet, Jensen. (he steps towards Lynn and pulls down the collar of her yellow-orange T-shirt in the back until he can just see the head of the shark tattoo on her left shoulder blade.) That settles that. We have the Peril. And as per our agreement ... carte blanche, Jensen. But eke it out and get photographic evidence.

(With that, Merritt exits without a backward glance. Jensen gives a grin that would be nearly childish if it wasn't so evil, and rubs his hands together excitedly.)

Jensen: (manic) Oh, GOOD! This one can take a punch! (beat as he goes thoughtful; then to the minions, hurriedly) I need shrooms, strongest ones you can get hold of ... at least six more ampoules of that stuff (gesturing to the empty syringe in one minion's hand) ... a bottle of ipecac and thirty-three blue M&Ms. (beat) Oh, and the camera! (to the looks) Don't ask questions; move!

(The minions scarper. Jensen bounces around the room cheerily.)

Jensen: (sings) Oh, I ache for the touch of your -- lips, dear / But much more for the touch of your -- whips, dear... (Lynn starts whimpering; Jensen looks over at her with a widening grin. spoken) Ooh. You don't like that much, do you, dearie? (singing) You can raise welts/ Like nobody else...

[Endnote: "The Masochism Tango" - Tom Lehrer ... and thanks to Austin for looking that up; I kept meaning to add that...]

(End flashback. Lynn is sitting up in bed, hugging her knees, very pale. Warlock is watching her carefully. After a moment, when he knows she's not going to take a swing at him, he puts a hand on her arm. Pan to the doorway, where Daria and AP are peeking in, worried looks on their faces. Then they fade out of the doorway as Lynn's voice drones on.)

(Scene: corridor. Music: Staind -- "Can't Believe". AP and Daria look somewhat shell-shocked. There is a long silence.)

AP: You're the one with the words. Say something, Daria.

Daria: What kind of something?

AP: Something that makes that hurt less.

Daria: The only thing I can come up with is that at least there's a rational explanation for how she's been since the summer.


AP: Doesn't help.

(AP starts walking. Daria follows him.)

Daria: All that time. Three months at least. And she never said a word to any of us about it. She locked it all up.

AP: D'you think you could've?

Daria: I would have tried. I would have wanted to. But that... (beat; then she shakes her head) No. I'd have just fallen apart.

(Silence. They reach a doorway. AP opens the door, starts to step into the room, then turns to look at Daria.)

AP: I felt bad, y'know? I felt like, fine, sure, maybe it wasn't so bad to have killed the guy who did some really nasty crap to my ... well, to her ... but that it really sucked to have actually killed a body. Y'know? Even just knowing what she was like after, I still felt bad. And it's not that I don't feel at all bad anymore, but...

Daria: You feel a little more justified, maybe? Some of the things you heard helped to salve your conscience?

AP: In Geek-lish, please?

Daria: There's a voice in your head that you've had to argue with every day since you pointed that gun at Jensen's head and pulled the trigger. It's told you that you committed a murder -- a crime of passion, maybe, but that doesn't make ending someone's life right. And the other parts of your mind argue with you that you had your reasons. What you just heard gives that voice more ammunition.

AP: Oh.

Daria: I'm not very good at making people feel better about much of anything. Actually, I spent the best part of my childhood trying to make people feel less comfortable about their positions in life. So this might come out ... well, like something you might say.

AP: Great! I might actually get it first time for a change.

Daria: I heard Warlock talking. He wasn't going to let any of us on the front lines of this before. Now that he's hearing Lynn's little horror story, the odds are high that he's going to take the fight as far away from her, and consequently from the rest of us, as he can get without taking it -- or us -- out of the country.

AP: Some parts of Purple Peril, you just don't wanna know, do you?

Daria: Excuse me?

AP: She doesn't wanna be taken out of the fight. She had scores to settle when she didn't remember what the stupid goons did to her, and now she does. You don't think she wants it over? I mean, so she knows it's over, like her being right up at the front of it?

(AP shuts the door before Daria can even think about whether she has an adequate response to that.)

(Black screen. White writing reads, "21 December 2000". Fade up to...)

(Scene: restaurant bar, Biloxi casino. Music: Tori Amos -- "Precious Things". A breakfast buffet has been laid out at the far wall, and nearby, three large tables are occupied by most of the group -- Daria, Jane, Lynn, AP, Quinn and Tom are at one table, the band are at another and the third is occupied by Slack, Scar, Pagebert and Angier. Warlock steps into the room and surveys everyone, getting the mood of the room before he speaks.)

Warlock: State-of-the-war update, people.

(Conversation -- such as it was -- dies, people turn towards him.)

Warlock: Chopper led a strike against a Merritt stronghold in Michigan. Some of you already knew about this. While we didn't get Wedge, and lost Eco, (moment's pause) we managed to pull out DJ (for a second, the mask cracks and one can see relief on his face) and Kestrel. And we're pretty sure Kes knows who our leak is.

(Of the group, Lynn looks the most relieved, with Slack not far behind. Angier, however, has tried to school his expression but winced a little anyway; pan across to Tom, who throws a hard look at his father. Cut back to Warlock.)

Warlock: Unfortunately, she had to go into surgery. She's going to make it, but for the moment, we don't know exactly who said leak is. That is all.

(Warlock grabs a plate and loads up on food. Lynn and Slack, in near-choreographed unison, stand and approach him; Daria sighs and follows suit. As Warlock turns around with his plate, he sees the incoming questioners, sighs, and puts down plate on the buffet table)

Lynn: No, that is not 'all'.

Slack: Yeah. I mean, surgery? What the haemorrhaging fuck do you mean, surgery?

Daria/Lynn: (unison) Well put.

Slack: Oh shit. How bad is it?

Warlock: She'll live. Probably have nothing more than a scar for her trouble.

Slack: Could be worse. At least she's keeping all her limbs.

Lynn: That's supposed to be a comfort? What the hell was she doing in that situation without backup?

Slack: 'Damn if I know, Sarge,' he peed sarcastically.

(They all glare at him. Hard. He shuts up with a contrite look, not daring to say more ... for the time being.)

Warlock: Lynn, you know that there's a leak somewhere, yes? Kes was one of the few your father trusted implicitly.

Lynn: Trusted enough to risk her life for the matter. Wonderful.

Slack: She knew the risks, I guess. Not that it makes me feel any damn better.

Warlock: We all did.

Daria: Yes; basically, we did. Frankly, we didn't have any choice but to take them. Did she?

Warlock: Lynn, how do you think I feel? I was not one of those few, and now command has devolved on me.

Lynn: You and the command deserve each other. You could show a little concern for Kes.

Warlock: Showing concern is bad for morale. If I'm not worried, they're not worried.

Lynn: And it does my morale all kinds of good to know that, if I went down, you'd be an automaton.

Warlock: In public.

Daria: It might do morale better if you gave a damn about your ... well, whatever Kes is to you. After all, they're not just co-workers, as far as I can tell.

Warlock: (obviously quoting) Don't ever let your people see you bleed. Don't ever let them see you hurt. Do-- (stops in mid-quote; damn near Vulcan) Kes is to me about what you two were to each other before you found out your lineage.

(There is a long silence as this sinks in. Lynn closes her eyes and keeps them closed. Daria looks from her to Warlock, who looks back at her impassively, with large eyes.)

Daria: Oh.

Warlock: The word, you three, is umsiblings.

Slack: And we are in an umsituation.

Daria: Why am I not surprised an 'um;' would find itself in there somewhere.

Lynn: And that's not funny, Slack.

Slack: It was worth a try, I thought. Not really supposed to be all that funny anyway.

Lynn: Now. About this leak. Any leads?

Daria: Any leads you can't give in public, at least...

Warlock: Well, if one applies logic...

Slack: (comes over all Data) Ah. Indeed.

Lynn: Slack, shut up and let's hear the man.

(Slack makes a zipper motion across his lips.)

Warlock: It has to be someone who was high enough up to leak all this information.

Daria: That narrows it down some.

Lynn: And I guess Kes is fairly well alibied now...

Warlock: Fairly. So are Adam and Jerome.

Daria: That kind of leaves the heads of the other Family branches.

Lynn: Or people in close proximity to them.

Slack: (nods) Point.

Warlock: We think there's a mole at LHS. Because somehow they found out about the NASA trip.

Lynn: You're nuts. If they'd been at school, I'd have spotted them by now.

Daria: She left the surveillance gear up. Laziness or foresight -- I'm not making that call.

Slack: Could just be luck.

Warlock: Slack... I don't believe in coincidence.

Lynn: Someone related to a student, maybe.

Daria: But not the Landons.

Warlock: Someone related to a student... (thinking) I saw "Rust" throw a hard look at his father. And what Rust told me about the decaf. He said they didn't even keep decaf in the house!

Slack: Sounds like evidence, and like a plan.

Warlock: I know it's circumstantial evidence, but it's a lot of circumstantial evidence a), and b) there's no evidence pointing at anyone else.

Slack: Point taken.

Lynn: We just kill him now to save time, then?

Daria: That's not funny, Lynn!

Lynn: That wasn't meant to be funny. If it was him, look what he's done!

Slack: He's graduated from remora to lamprey, that's what he's done.

Warlock: How about to leech?

Slack: I'm pretty sure lampreys suck blood too. My dad's an oceanographer. Not exactly a marine biologist, but he knows enough.


(Short pause in which the players collect themselves.)

Warlock: In any event. This is why the caution with public information.

Slack: (nods) Sensible.

Lynn: So we suspect. And we're not doing anything about it?

Slack: If he dies, his backtrail dies with him.

Daria: Innocent until proven?

Lynn: How much more proof do you want? A dead body at his feet?

Warlock: Well, you remember I said no one is to leave for any reason? Not even to run to a store or whatever?

Daria: Vividly.

Warlock: How does certain sabotage on his car sound?

Lynn: What kind of sabotage?

Warlock: Dig out the steering wheel airbag, replace it with a tranq dart, set it to trigger with the ignition.

Slack: (chuckles) Desmond Llewellyn, call your office.

Warlock: The sound you just heard was that flying so far over my head it had to file a flight plan.

Slack: 'Q' from the Bond movies. Before the latter part of the Brosnan era, anyway.

Daria: I'm sure this isn't the time or place for mindless trivia-buffery -- or maybe that should be buffoonery.

Slack: Is that even a word?

Warlock: This also isn't the time and place for random verbal sniping.

Lynn: Warlock, I'm not sure a dart is what you're looking for. You have to be careful where you aim it, for one thing. Not to mention dosage. If you want him alive...

Slack: Which we do, now you mention it.

Daria: You're telling them how to do their job?

Lynn: Hey, I practically wrote the book.

Daria: You did write the book.

Warlock: Lynn, you just gave me a better idea.

Lynn: Why does that scare me?

Warlock: You think the Maverick remembers the formula for that knockout spray?

Lynn: What do you mean remember? He carries a supply of the stuff since the incident with the gunman. Whether he'd get time to use it is another thing, but it makes him feel safer.

Slack: (nods again) Wise of him.

Warlock: Enough to load the airbag compartment with it?

Lynn: (thinks) Yes, I think so.

(At this point, it's Daria that looks scared -- she sees how well Lynn fits here and it's not good.)

Slack: Works for me.

Lynn: The question at that point is, how do we make it work for him? Or on him?

Warlock: That is the question.

Lynn: (*sigh*) Let me talk to AP. I'm sure he can rig it. I mean, if he can set up a blow-up doll in the airbag of Sam Stack's convertible...

Warlock: Peril...

Lynn: Look, I have to be a part of this somehow, don't I? This is personal now. And if all I can do is arrange the deed done, I'll do it. Just make sure he gets everything he needs -- including time and cover -- to do what you need him to do.

Warlock: Understood.

Lynn: Nice to know. Now if you'll excuse me, I have things to do.

(Lynn heads off. Daria glares at the two men and follows her out.)

(Scene: corridor. Music plays on. Daria has to jog to catch up to Lynn, and struggles to keep up as she strides down the corridor.)

Daria: Are you okay?

Lynn: I suppose.

Daria: (wry) Of course. Not being okay would involve you acknowledging the emotional side of things.

Lynn: Want to stop posting to alt.pot.kettle.black for awhile, Daria?

(They walk for a moment in silence.)

Daria: Okay. Fine. You want emotion? I'm terrified. Things weren't great when I first came to Lawndale, but the problems I had were manageable. Mom put work ahead of her family, Dad was clueless and a half-assed parent, Quinn was...

Lynn: Quinn was Quinn. Carry on.

Daria: But it had its compensations. I had a best friend, who made school purgatory as close to fun as it was ever going to get. And then I had two friends who did that. And then three. Then, before I know what's happening, one of my friends is my sister, and the bloodline we share goes back a long way in the crime annals. And now people want my sisters dead, not to mention my friends, and me. Instead of just watching the Barksdales or the Morgendorrfers or both warring with words over Christmas, I get to spend it in fear of my life. And yes, it scares me. And it pisses me off beyond my ability to express it.

Lynn: And it's my fault.

Daria: (Oh crap) Lynn, I didn't mean...

Lynn: Probably not, but it's true. I wonder if you know just how bad I feel about this. How I wish I'd never been in any of your lives. How I would give anything -- anything at all -- to get you out of the firing line. Or if you'd believe it even if I had the words to say it. (beat) Now if you'll excuse me, I need to talk to AP about this whole "get Angier" thing.

Daria: Lynn...!

(But Lynn has ducked into an elevator and hit the 'door close' button, shutting Daria out.)

(Scene: parking lot. Dusk, light rain. Remora loads a car. Pan over to a window, black like the rest, but inside...)

(Scene: hotel room. Tom is looking out the window with a pair of binoculars.)

Tom: (mutter to himself) Oh, damnit...

(He drops the binos, slaps a clip into his gun, shoves it into the waistband of his trousers and heads out at a run.)

(Scene: Lynn and Jane's hotel room. Jane is sketching on her still-unmade bed and Lynn is standing at the window. After a moment, Jane looks up at her. There is a long moment of silence.)

Jane: Much of a view, out there?

Lynn: (not looking around) Parking lot.

(In the beat that follows, cut to what Lynn's looking at -- the same thing Tom saw from his window. A dark figure, obviously Angier, loading his car.)

Jane: (dubious) Seems ... pretty interesting.

Lynn: Eh. I'm all out of book.


Jane: Oooookay...

(Jane goes back to her sketchpad. Lynn just keeps looking out the window. After a moment, she gets a worried and puzzled look on her face. Then she steps away fast, letting the curtains fall shut, and reaches under the pillow on her bed. Jane looks up again.)

Jane: Where're you going?

(Out of Jane's line of sight, Lynn is stuffing the gun she retrieved from under her pillow in her unlaced boot.)

Lynn: I just realised, if I'm all out of book, I can just raid the gift shop downstairs. Part-owner priviledge. I'll be back in a while.

(She heads out of the room, not at a run but still in a bit of a rush. Jane looks after her with a strange, puzzled expression. Pan towards the window and then through; we see a dark figure approaching Angier from the shadows.)

(Scene: parking lot. Music: Soundgarden -- "Mailman". The dark figure comes up behind Angier.)

Tom: Dad, what do you think you're doing?

(Angier jumps and spins in the same motion, so that he's facing his hard-faced son. He gapes like a landed fish for a moment, trying to collect himself.)

Angier: Umm... Warlock sent me on a mission. Top priority, can't wait.

Tom: Cut the shit, Da... (he stops in mid word) Remora. I know what you are.

(Angier's face suddenly goes cold and hard to match his son's.)

Angier: Do you.

(Scene: security office. Music plays on. Scar and Slack seated at a table, playing cards. Monitors show parking lot, hotel corridors, shots of the main casino. A rifle is leaned up against one of the work stations nearby; a pistol is at Slack's right elbow. Scar has two cards in her hand; Slack has about five.)

Scar: (lays the eight of clubs down; knocks on the table) Diamonds.

Slack: (starts picking up cards from the facedown stack on the table. After three, he smirks and lays down the eight of spades) Hearts.

Scar: Damnit, Slack...

Slack: Remember, I worked the tables for a year before they kicked me upstairs.

Scar: (mutter) Card-counting scum...

(She starts picking up cards. After she picks up her fourth, Slack takes a look at the parking lot monitor and facefaults.)

Slack: Our little parasite's out there ... and he's not alone.

Scar: (dropping her cards) WHAT?

(back to the parking lot. Music plays on.)

Tom: How could you?

Angier: Maybe you were happy with being kicked in the teeth constantly. Made constant fun of. Sneered at. Never good enough for them. I showed them. I showed them ALL.

Tom: (oh shit, he's a little over the edge...) But...

Angier: Oh, come on, Missing H. You know what I'm talking about. They promised me money. Power. Best of all, respect. The respect I couldn't get with this lot of weak minded cowards led by that ostrich.

(Snap cut to the interior, a common room. Music plays on. Pagebert is crashed out on a sofa. Warlock's sitting at a table, reading something off a laptop screen. Scar barges through the door, Slack following a moment behind. Both of them have their weapons to hand.)

Slack: In the parlance, Remora's doing a runner.

Scar: But he has company. H is out there with him.

Warlock: 'With'?

Scar: Well, he's out there, anyway. Trying to hold him off, from the look.

Warlock: (after a beat) Without backup? (beat) Idiot.

(He gets up and they charge out of the room.)

(Snap cut back to parking lot.)

Angier: You could join me, son! You could! Think of the glory! We'll get a hero's welcome!

Tom: Get real. The only thing we'd get is killed.

Angier: But I helped them! They owe me!

Tom: You owed me. You owed Uncle Adam. That didn't matter to you.

Angier: Adam owed me! His own brother! And look what it got me. (the light clicks on) You're stalling. I don't want to someday have to kill you, son. Come with me. Join me.

(For a second, Tom's tempted to accept. But he knows, if he does, he will never be able to look himself in the eye in the mirror again.)

Tom: No way in hell, Lord Vader.

Angier: Nice ref. (beat) You've been hanging out with Warlock too long.

(Tom draws his sidearm. So does Remora. They lock eyes.)

Angier: Rus... no. Tom. Last chance. Join me or die.

Tom: NOW who's quotehappy?

Angier: Answer me.

Tom: Fuck you.

(They bring up their sidearms. The weapons speak as one. Tom's head snaps back as the bullet tears through his throat. Remora drops to a knee as his shoulder is punched through.)

Angier: (in pain) Too bad. I win.

(Suddenly his chest seems to explode and he drops to the ground. Revealed charging in behind him are Warlock, Scar, and Slack. The latter two have rifles; Warlock has his 'sweet little pump-action shotgun' from ToD and a bow strapped across his back, with a quiver of arrows at his waist.)

Scar: No. You lose.

(Warlock walks over to Tom, flips him over with a boot, sighs)

Warlock: Rest in peace, (he starts to say H, stops) Rust.

Scar: We'll never figure out who he told what.

Warlock: (looks at Angier) We shoulda called him Cain. (taking his jacket off) Slack, help me.

(Slack hands over his own jacket, not quite sure what's going on.Warlock rigs a makeshift stretcher and hefts Rust onto it.)

Scar: He's dead.

Warlock: He proved himself at the end. I'm not leaving him out here in the rain.

(With that, Slack grabs one end of the stretcher and Warlock gets the other. Scar watches them both as they lift him.)

Slack: And that? (indicating Angier)

Warlock: Let him rot.

(There is a brief pause, then Warlock puts own his end of the stretcher down and kicks Angier in the ribs as hard as he can. Slack raises an eyebrow; Scar stares at him, dumbfounded. He picks up his end of the stretcher again.)

Warlock: (cont'd) We'll figure something in the morning.

(They start walking towards the entrance to the Isle.)

Slack: Who tells Peril about this?

(Warlock gets an 'oh-shit' look.)

Warlock: We'll burn that bridge when we come to...

(They've reached the hideout door now and it becomes clear that they have come to that bridge a little sooner than expected -- Lynn, in nightwear and unlaced boots, is standing at the door with a gun in her hand. She looks them over, then leans a little to look at the corpse Slack and Warlock carry. There is silence as they are frozen in tableau for a moment.)

Lynn: (no emotion) Remora?

Warlock: Got what he deserved.

Lynn: Doubtful. You weren't out long enough for that. (beat, glances down at Tom) We treated him like crap. All of us.

Warlock: Peril...

(She turns and walks back inside. Warlock, Slack and Scar share a look, then resume bringing Tom's body inside.)

(Black screen. White writing reads "22 December 2000". Fade up to...)

(Scene: Biloxi hideout bar. Music: Pop Will Eat Itself -- "Babylon". Daria, Jane, Lynn and Quinn are seated at a booth, all looking morose to varying degrees. There are cups of coffee before each of them -- Quinn's hasn't been touched, but the others are mostly empty.)

Quinn: (mild depression) What a WASTE; I mean, he was ANNOYING, but he was CUTE.

Lynn: (pissed off and miserable) Shut UP, Quinn.

(Short pause)

Jane: This sucks. This sucks SO badly.

Daria: Jane...

Jane: (interrupting) No. I treated him... (*sigh*) Never mind.

(She grabs the near-full bottle of wine and exits, brushing past AP as he enters the room. AP looks after her, seeming a little worried, then looks at the others, who look more so.)

AP: Where's she going?

Daria: Don't ask.

(There is an uncomfortable pause as AP takes Jane's vacant seat. He starts toying with her mug thoughtfully.)

AP: Well... I don't even know what to think here. I mean, I didn't... I didn't think any of us... I didn't think any of us was going to fucking SNUFF it, that's all!

Lynn: AP...

AP: Yeah, well, I KNOW, but if he can... I mean...

Lynn: AP, if you would calm down for just one second...

(AP drops the mug. It bounces off the table, hits the floor and shatters. AP takes a deep breath and appears to calm down)

Lynn: (cont'd) Tom wasn't built for this; he was being raised for something ... different. Why he was thrown into this, I don't know.

Daria: (bitterness) Probably because Family doesn't give a damn about Family...

Lynn: (cutting her off) No, ANGIER didn't give a damn about Family.

Daria: (backtrack) Lynn...

Lynn: ('not discussing this' tone) NO. (beat) No.

(More uncomfortable silence)

AP: (Sledgehammer of Subject Change) Art-Smart Scarlet's taking it hard.

Daria: Yeah, I know. She didn't exactly ... well, after how their relationship ended...

Quinn: Should it have mattered, REALLY?

Daria: Quinn...

Quinn: Well, I mean, if she LIKED him...

Lynn: (pointed) You liked Ted, didn't you?

Quinn: (miserable; angry) Don't talk about that. That's not FAIR.

Daria: Yes it is.

AP: Well, actually, no it isn't.

Daria: AP?

AP: Well, it ISN'T! I mean... Well... (*sigh*) AwhellIdontknowwhatImean. I guess this Family crap just screws with everything, doesn't it.

Lynn: (quiet, nearly hopeful) It doesn't have to.

(Very short pause; Sledgehammer of Subject change swung by...)

Daria: That reminds me; do we have any news on Kes and DJ?

Lynn: No; no we don't. Kes is still in surgery ... as far as I know, anyway. Warlock's playing things closer to the vest than I'd like.

Daria: (responding to the bitterness) Lynn...

Lynn: No, it's my FAMILY. With a small f.

Daria: Mine too. Technically.

Lynn: Yeah, but you haven't known them very long, have you?

Daria: Maybe it shouldn't matter so much at this point.

Lynn: (conceding) Maybe.

Quinn: (exasperated sigh) Daria ... why are you talking about them like they ARE your family?

Lynn: (incredulous anger) ExCUSE me?

Quinn: (to Daria, ignoring Lynn) Well, you don't know them, you're only half-related to them and ... (utter frustration) ...they're going to get you KILLED, Daria!

Daria: (concern) Quinn?

Quinn: (near tears) No; I CAN'T! I ... just CAN'T!

(She gets up too quickly, nearly knocking her chair over, and runs out with her hands over her face. There is silence.)

Lynn: Well. That's an interesting turn of events.

Daria: Now. Here's the question: which one of them do I talk to?

AP: Come again?

Daria: Do I talk to Jane, who obviously needs someone right about now ... or do I talk to Quinn, my up-until-recently-thought whole sister?

Lynn: That's your call, Daria. I mean, I could try to talk to Jane, but I don't think I would do as much good as you would and ... well, I don't really think Quinn wants to deal with ME right about now.

Daria: You make a point. (beat; deep sigh) You may as well just rename them Scylla and Charybdis and be done with it. (AP snickers, to Daria's obvious confusion) AP?

Lynn: (head in hands) Just ... don't ... ask, Daria. If you have any respect for me at ALL, you will NOT ask.

(Short pause while AP gets himself under control.)

AP: So what're you gonna do?

(Daria just gives a miserable shrug.)

(Scene: Daria and Quinn's room. Music: Therapy? -- "Unbeliever". Quinn is flopped face-down on her bed, not even crying. The door opens and Daria stands there for a moment. Then she knocks on the doorframe and waits for acknowledgement. She doesn't get it. After a moment, she steps into the room and sits down on her own pristine bed. She takes a deep breath to collect herself.)

Daria: It's going to be okay, Quinn.

(Quinn raises her face from the pillow and glares at Daria.)

Quinn: Yeah, right, Daria! You're always so good at telling it like it is, and now you tell me that all this is going to be okay when people are dying all over the place! I'm not so stupid that you can lie to me and keep me from feeling bad cos I feel bad enough already, okay?

(Quinn buries her face back in the pillow. Daria looks at her for a moment.)

Daria: Okay, let me amend the statement. If we sit back and let it keep getting worse, it isn't going to be okay.

Quinn: (looking up again) Like we can do anything about it! We're just kids!

Daria: That's true. But we're smart kids. With talents. And if we use the brains and the talents we have, we stand a better chance at getting out of this alive than if we stick our heads in the sand. (beat) Or the synthetic fabric of a pillowcase.

Quinn: Oh, go away, Daria! Go and hang out with your friends, or something. (beat) Or your real sister.

(Daria looks almost shocked.)

Daria: Quinn, you're my sister as much as she is. In ways, more.

Quinn: You stand up for her! You went out of your way to rescue her!

Daria: I would have done the same for you, if Lynn hadn't done it first.

Quinn: You'd rather have grown up with her. You like her better!

Daria: Familiarity breeds contempt.

Quinn: What's that supposed to mean?

Daria: I've grown up with you. I've seen you twenty-four hours a day, three hundred and sixty-five days a year, for most of my life. I've listened to you belittle me in front of your friends, get the lion's share of our parents' attention, and waste your brain in the never-ending search for popularity. I know you well enough to know when you're being manipulative, wasteful and just plain stupid -- and I see it all the time. You get to know someone well enough, sometimes you outwardly get sick of them.

Quinn: I ... I ... you think that's why I always try to be so different from you? Cos I get sick of you?

Daria: That's probably part of it. It's also something you can be better at than me, mostly because I don't have the least bit of interest in it.

(There's a long pause.)

Quinn: I don't want to die. And I don't want you to die either.

Daria: I second that. But the situation is as the situation is. And burying your head in a pillow and hoping it will all just go away won't make it do that. (beat) If you don't at least try to get along with the rest of us, at least for a little while, it's going to get harder to keep you safe. Ever heard of a tactic called "divide and conquer"?

Quinn: Like Sandi always tried to do with Stacy and Tiffany and me to make sure we'd never gang up on her and kick her out? (Daria raises an eyebrow) Once I got out of the Fashion Club, I kinda picked up on that.

Daria: Okay. In that case, yes. So will you try not to irritate people so they'll be more willing to keep you alive?

Quinn: Uh ... sure! I mean, I'm good at fitting in!

(Daria rolls her eyes in an affectionate manner.)

Daria: I guess you are.

Quinn: Now are you going to go and talk to your Jane friend? (to Daria's surprised look) I picked up on that too; I mean, duh! But why'd you come see me first?

Daria: Don't make me say it. I've said enough to prove the sisterly bond.

(She walks out of the room. Quinn looks after her with a thoughtful expression, then gives a little smile.)

(Scene: Jane and Lynn's room. Music: Offspring -- "Denial, Revisited". Jane has a pad on her knee and a stick of charcoal with her hand, furiously sketching. Daria hovers in the doorway. She clears her throat, and Jane looks up. Without a word, she holds up the pad. It depicts a rainy-day graveyard scene where pale shadows -- mist or ghosts, we can't be sure at this distance -- hover. Daria steps closer.)

Daria: It's...

Jane: Dark? Depressing? Morbid?

Daria: ...Actually, I was going to say it's just what this room needs. Art with personality.

(She nods a little at the bland landscape hanging on one of the walls. Jane gives a reluctant smile.)

Jane: The Horror-Show Hotel. Hey, think that Slack guy could turn a profit on that concept?

Daria: Well, I'd say it would clash with the architecture, but I'm pretty sure you'd say that the design of this building is enough of a horror-show for anyone.

(Jane gives another reluctant smile.)

Daria: You okay?

Jane: Hell no.

Daria: Do you want to talk about it?

Jane: Hell no.

Daria: Do you just want me to sit here and not pressure you to talk so that you can be alone but not alone?

Jane: Hell yes.

Daria: Got a book?

(Jane gestures towards Lynn's side of the room. Daria moves across towards the windows, where Lynn's bag is lying. She rummages, pulls out Clive Barker's "Weaveworld", then looks back. Instead of sitting on the side of Lynn's bed nearest the window, she moves around to the gap between the two beds and sits down on Lynn's bed, but fairly near to Jane. She opens the book without another word. Jane looks up and gives a grateful half-smile before going back to her sketch. Companionable silence follows.)

(Scene: a generic hospital room. Music: Will Haven -- "If She Could Speak". Privacy curtain is drawn between the two beds. In one is DJ, sitting up and reading. In the other is Kes. She's intubated and attached to two IVs -- one saline, the other whole blood. She blinks a couple times, panic clear in her eyes. She pulls at the tape binding both her arms to the bedframe [for the convenience of the IV's].)

DJ: Kes? You awake?

(Kes freezes. She has absolutely no idea who the voice belongs to.)

DJ: It's okay. Aph and them pulled us out. Speaking of whom...

(Kes is still tense. She knows the voice, but can't attach it to a name -- or even to an affiliation. Until...)

DJ: (dials phone, pauses) NCM? DJ. She's awake.

(Kes relaxes.)

(Scene: Warlock's room. Music plays on. Warlock is on his bed, grabbing some much-needed sleep. There is a muted ringing from across the room. It stops without Warlock waking; muted mumbling is heard in the background. Then a hand pokes Warlock in the back. He's immediately awake and turns to see Daria standing over him.)

Warlock: Meef...?

Daria: We've been watching you for an hour and a half now. (beat; dry) We had orders from on high.

Warlock: Why?

Daria: Fielding internal questions and standing guard so you could get some sleep. We didn't want to, but it was pointed out to us that you're the best chance we have of getting out of this alive. But I had to wake you for this.

Warlock: For what?

Daria: It was your phone. Kes is awake. And talking. Sort of.

(For a moment, Warlock just sits and stares at Daria, who stands impassive.)

Warlock: "Sort of".

Daria: Apparently, they're keeping her intubated for a little while longer until they're a bit more secure about her lungs. Though NCM said something about "it being almost worth it to shut her up for awhile". And given what she helped make me do in Pittsburgh, I can't really disagree with him.

(Warlock looks at her in shock. Daria gives a very thin version of her Mona Lisa smile.)

Warlock: In any other circumstances, I might say the same. Not here, though. But thanks for the attempt at humour.

Daria: Just don't let it get around; I have a reputation to maintain. (beat) Anyway, he said they were going to get information out of her and to give them a half-hour or so to do it. Consensus is she's fairly resourceful.

(Warlock nods and looks at her. The expression on his face isn't exactly expectant, but Daria knows.)

Daria: (cont'd) DJ's fine. She was the one who made the call telling them she was awake. Best not to call at the hospital, though.

Warlock: Why not? She not taking calls?

Daria: Not because of DJ's inability to take phone conversations. Let's just say Kes proved that she and Lynn are related.


Warlock: Property damage?

Daria: No, but she nearly ripped the side-rails off the bed when she found her arms were taped there. Then she started making some very odd hand gestures.

(Warlock raises an eyebrow at her.)

Daria: DJ thought she was trying to communicate. And that she might know what happened to ... (gropes for the right thing to call him) the Falcon.

(Scene: Hospital corridor. Leopard, Aph, NCM and Chopper pile out of the room and stop in the hallway.)

Leopard: Who calls Warlock with this?

Aph: What about DJ? He'd want to know she's all right anyway.

N.C.M.: Thought about that, but no dice. Nurse Ratchet and her band of Nazi candy stripers took her cellphone and she'd kill us if we went in there again. (beat) Lep?

Leopard: No WAY; you're not sticking ME with shit detail just 'cos I'm the youngest!

Aph: (rolling her eyes) I'll do it.

N.C.M.: No, I'll do it. He needs info, not a dramatic reading.

Aph: (scowl) HEY!

(NCM takes out his cellphone ... but stops when Chopper's phone rings. They all look at Chopper, who shrugs at them and takes out his phone.)

Chopper: Yeah? (beat) We were about to call you. Got news on the snake in the grass. It's...

(Split-screen on Warlock, who's just a bit too tired to hide anger and sadness.)

Warlock: Remora, I know. He's dead. Anything else?

Chopper: (blink) Uh... Falcon's dead. They got him and he did the cyanide pill thing.


Warlock: Good. I'll be in touch.

(As Warlock's phone clicks off, back to single screen and a bemused and annoyed Chopper.)

Chopper: Not the most polite person, him.

Leopard: Pity the man, Chopper.

Chopper: Why the hell should I?

Leopard: He's gonna have to tell the Peril her father's dead.

(Total, thoughtful silence. Chopper looks almost ashamed of himself.)

(Black screen. White writing reads "23 December, 2000". Fade up to...)

(Scene: basement loading dock and storage area. Music: Demons and Wizards -- "Blood on my Hands". There are crates everywhere, but there's a cleared space; Trent, Jesse and Nick are tuning their guitars. Max is setting up his drumkit. Daria, Jane and AP are sitting on crates, watching them set up.)

AP: You couldn't have left without that stuff?

Trent: Says the punk who's got a chemistry set all over the room.

Jesse: We wanted to play. Stay sharp.

Daria: Jesse. Sharp. That's about as much an oxymoron as Microsoft Works.

Nick: Where's Lynn, anyway? She had that ripping set of lyrics and Trent thinks he has a tune, don't you, man?

Trent: Yeah, but give her some time, Nick. Dunno what Warlock wanted her for.

Jane: Probably bawling her out for the mall trip again.

Max: I still don't believe you didn't let us in on that! You think we didn't want out too?

Jane: (dry) Yeah, but you're such a criminale, we figured you'd make more trouble than it was worth.

Max: (proud) Really? Cool!

(Door opens. Lynn steps in. She looks horrible. No one's sure entirely what to say.)

Lynn: I came to say that I'm not singing. That is all.

(She turns around and heads back towards the door.)

AP: Hey, Purple Peril, hold up! What's going on?

(Lynn stops but she doesn't turn around.)

Lynn: Daria.

Daria: (trepidatious) Yeah?

Lynn: Our father's dead.

(Shocked silence. Lynn starts walking again. Jane, the fastest of them, gets up and sprints for the door, slamming it shut almost on Lynn's nose.)

Jane: In the immortal words of both of you ... excuse me?

Trent: Lynn?

Daria: So ... it's confirmed, then?

Lynn: (still facing the door, not looking at anyone) The story is that he and Adam were cornered on their way to a rendezvous with Leopard. They couldn't fight their way free, so the theory is that Adam was a mercy-killing, to prevent him from being tortured for information. (beat) As for Dad ... he was prevented from doing the same job on himself, but managed to pop a cyanide pill before he spilled anything.

(A long moment of tense, shocked silence. Lynn is still refusing to face her friends.)

Daria: I'm not sure if I think that's sick or noble.

Jane: Maybe there's not too much difference between the two concepts, with a Mafia family.

Lynn: Now if you'll excuse me...

Daria: You're not going to do anything stupid, are you?

Lynn: You keep asking me that. (beat) In this case, the answer is "not yet".

Daria: Lynn, I know...

Lynn: Forgive me for pointing out that you know nothing about this, Daria. This was the ultimate act of war; the Smythes either fight or roll over and die. And I don't think anyone in this organisation knows how to do that.

Daria: Which means they're going to anything they can to keep you ... us ... out of the firing line.

Lynn: Us, maybe... But I'd like to make sure I know who they are sending to retaliate.

(There's an exchange of looks; Trent, Jesse, Nick and Max look unaccountably nervous. Exit Lynn with Jane on her heels. Daria and AP follow.)

Jesse: They'll find out.

Trent: I know, man. I know.

(Scene: same, some time later. Music: Alice in Chains -- "We Die Young". Trent, Jesse, Nick and Max have abandoned their instruments and are going through the boxes. Trent has a couple of pistols; shrugs and sticks them in his belt. Jesse is tying his hair back; he's wearing a black T-shirt under the black leather vest, a machete hangs at his belt and, with his arms raised, we see the Colt .45 in the shoulder holster he wears. Nick and Max pull out wicked-looking machine guns with near-identical grins of satisfaction.)

Warlock: (OS) Put them down.

Max: Aw, come on, man, we're criminales! Big-ass guns are what criminales are all about!

(Warlock comes into shot with the sternest look imaginable on his face.)

Warlock: Handguns only.

(Nick and Max, sullen but cowed, put the nasty guns down and accept the 9mm pistols Warlock offers. Enter Daria and Jane like avenging angels, with Lynn and AP close behind.)

Daria: NO!

Warlock: No, what?

Jane: Only one part of the owner's codename fits him. Since he doesn't wear a monkey suit...

AP: (down to essentials) He still hasn't swept for bugs yet. They know. 'Bout New Orleans.

Warlock: Most of our operatives are in the North, or gone to the mattresses. Word is that a Merritt base in New Orleans has the information we need to take this fight to the Merritts. It's a simple in-and-out...

Lynn: Not the band. Not any of them. Do you understand me? This isn't their fight!

Trent: Sure it is, Lynn.

(Lynn turns on him, but Jane beats her to it.)

Jane: How the hell is this your fight? You shouldn't even be involved!

Trent: If we don't fight them now ... fight 'em and win ... they're gonna get you, Janey. And Lynn. And Daria. (beat; that last hit hard) Even the punk. And they won't let you fight, even though from what I hear, you'd be best at it. So we're gonna. We protect what's ours. Like Max says -- we're criminales. For real ... for now.

(Daria looks at him for a long moment. Lynn watches them both. After a moment, Daria steps up to him slowly and kisses him on the lips; closed-mouthed but nothing even approaching chaste. Lynn smiles. After a long moment, Daria pulls away. Trent looks completely stunned, lost in his own little world.)

Daria: Chivalry isn't dead, is it? It's just a little stupid. (beat; to the rest of the band) You'll watch his back?

Lynn: Daria, you're not accepting this...?

Jane: I'm sure as hell not!

Warlock: Scar'll be with them. She'll cover their backs.

Jane: Yeah, but will she be enough? This is my brother's life you're gambling with!

Jesse: Her? Maybe. Her and us? Sure.

Nick: Hey, we look after our own, Jane! You know that!

Max: Yeah, man! We're...

Jane: I know, I know, criminales. (beat) Can I...?

Lynn: Don't even say it! (beat) It's bad enough if they're determined to go.

(Trent is still standing there, totally lost.)

Jesse: It'll be cool, Lynn. Daria. Jane. We'll keep safe.

Daria: Just make sure you do. I guess that's all I can say.

Jane: I can say one more thing. (beat; right in Trent's face) You don't come back, and that kiss you just got from her will only happen to you once.

(They leave; AP looks at Lynn, who nods towards the door. He follows the others out. Lynn watches Trent, who's still standing there with that dazed, vaguely happy look.)

Trent: (near-whisper) Once was plenty...

(Lynn steps up to him, a bland look on her face.)

Lynn: I once said to her that if she hurt AP, I would make her life hell. (beat) Come back alive. For her. Or I'll kick your ass via astral projection if necessary.

Trent: I didn't think you believe in that stuff, Lynn.

Lynn: We're all grasping at straws here, Trent. (beat) Besides, I think you'd make a damn good brother-in-law.

(She leaves. Jesse, Nick and Max cluster around him.)

Jesse: You cool?

Trent: Oh yeah.

Max: Sure you wanna do this, man? You got a lot to lose.

Trent: No more than Nick does. Less, really. (beat) Hey, man, you want out?

(Nick hesitates.)

Nick: We're the Spiral, man. The original. You go, I go.

Max: Criminales all the way, guys! Right?

(A short silence, in which there is solidarity, but fear.)

Trent: We're a freaky bunch of friends, man.

Jesse: Freakin' friends.

Trent: Hey, someone else wanna drive first? That'd make a cool song.

(All bearing weapons, they pile out of shot.)

(Scene: security office. Music: Smashing Pumpkins -- "Fuck You [an Ode to No One] There's a chessboard set up on the table. Warlock's sitting, watching the security camera views, when Lynn walks in.)

Lynn: Why them? Why them and not me?

Warlock: You know.

(He turns around to face the table, now directly in front of the black pieces. Lynn drags a chair around and sits in front of the white pieces.)

Lynn: They're not as well trained as I am. (beat) This had better not be one of those ageist, sexist things.

(She moves one of the white pawns ahead two spaces -- by some unspoken agreement, a game has begun.)

Warlock: They're also expendable.

(He moves a pawn of his own.)

Lynn: Not to us, they're not.

Warlock: You're the Family's best chance at long-term survival.

Lynn: Others could take the position. They may have to anyway, if I decide I don't want to play.

Warlock: Others would also be resented.

Lynn: And I won't be? Warlock, I'm eighteen!

Warlock: You're also the natural successor, in more ways than one.

(There's a pause, as Lynn looks at the chessboard, considering her next move. She picks up a knight, toys with it.)

Lynn: This is personal now. It has to be my fight.

Warlock: Personal isn't the same as important, Peril.

Lynn: Oh, spare me the Terry Pratchett bullshit. They are going after my immediate circle. (beat) They got my father killed. They got Tom killed. Kes is in the hospital. And how many times have they tried to kill Daria? And the others?

Warlock: You've seen what taking on too much has done to your family.

Lynn: That's the point -- it's my family; so my fight.

Warlock: And what do you think it would do to the Maverick, if you got lost out there? (moves a piece) Check.


Lynn: You miserable overprotective wanker.

Warlock: Your little stunt in San Francisco made that part of my job description.

Lynn: Well, it's sort of part of my job description to be protective of the band. They need some guidance...

Warlock: They've got Scar.

Lynn: Scar doesn't know how to handle them. I do. (moves a piece) Check.

(Beat as Warlock calmly studies the board.)

Warlock: And if you go out on some unprofessional kamikaze run and get killed yourself, she becomes the natural successor.

(Beat; Warlock considers, moves a bishop. Lynn frowns at the board.)

Lynn: I'm better than that, and you know it.

Warlock: You're telling me that you're willing to throw away your family, your friends and someone you love for a revenge ride? (moves a piece) Checkmate.

(She studies the board, then tips her king over. She walks out without a word.)

(Black screen. White writing reads, "24 December, 2000".)

(Establishing shot: Industrial estate, somewhere outside New Orleans. Music: Duran Duran -- "A View to a Kill". Zoom in on a large unmarked van parked off to the side of the administrative building.)

(Scene: inside the van. Music plays on. Five black-clad people are in the back, poring over a plan of the compound. Four of them are obviously turning to the fifth -- a tall man with short mouse-brown hair slicked back from his face -- as their leader; shooting odd glances at him from time to time. He looks only at the map. A large, heavyset man of Samoan descent sits behind the wheel of the van; headphones with an attached mike are on his head. After a moment, he turns towards his passengers.)

Samoan: Time-check, people. We havin' company in fifteen. So fill them in on the plan, Kat.

(The tall leader-man raises an eyebrow, but says nothing about the informality. Instead, he addresses his strike team.)

Kat: We are to allow them access to the compound -- they will get the information they require, and they will leave. By the time they have left the building, we will have the entire area covered.

(A young woman with long curly hair tied in a braid with a red ribbon looks scornfully at him. When she speaks, it is with a very strong French accent.)

Frenchy: How is it you are here now, if this is so? We do this well enough without ... without les assassins nouveaux!

Samoan: Dom, the Ram had his reasons, right?

Dom: Ferme-la, cochon!

(Kat continues as if nothing happened.)

Kat: Your job is to kill as many of these people as you can. My job is to take out the primary target.

Blond: And who the hell is the primary target? Or don't we get to find that out yet?

(Kat produces a photograph -- it's of Scar, obviously taken with a telephoto lens as she entered The Blue Motorcycle once.)

Kat: Karen Willis, a.k.a. Scar. Hand-to-hand expert for the Smythe Affiliation, trusted advisor to the acting head of their family. Strengths include her hand-to-hand expertise, an encyclopaedic knowledge of firearms and the hand-eye coodination to make the best possible use of that knowledge, and a certain amount of bravery. Weakness is her temper -- she has a slight tendency towards arrogance that gives a window of vulnerability lasting anywhere between thirty and seventy-five seconds. I was put among you to make best use of that window. So I repeat -- your job is to kill as many of her companions as you can. You kill any innocents, I kill you. You kill my kill, you get my pay. And that will make me unhappy.

(He says this with no inflection whatsoever but everyone in his team flinches back from him ... except Dom, who looks at him with a glint of speculation in her eye.)

(Scene: Sitting room, Biloxi hideout, late evening. Music: Duncan Sheik -- "Home". There is a very small Christmas tree in one corner. Lynn's curled up on the sofa, in nightwear, gun close to hand, reading. She hears footsteps and her hand drops on the gun even though it's clear from her expression she knows who it is. AP appears in the doorway in track suit bottoms and a Dexter's Lab T-Shirt ["This Looks Like A Fine Day For SCIENCE!"], rubbing his eyes like a sleepy 5-year-old.)

Lynn: You're not on watch tonight.

AP: Mmmno. (shakes his head and tries coherence) Thought I'd keep ya comp'ny.

Lynn: (sweet little smile; closes book) Always glad of it.

(AP plops down on the sofa next to her. Silence for a moment.)

AP: Purple Peril?

Lynn: Yeah?

AP: Uh ... Y'know Warlock keeps saying that you kinda sorta should stay out of the fight? (in a rush) WellIagreewithhim.

Lynn: (turning on him) Excuse me?

AP: (grabbing her by the shoulders, giving her a shake) Look, Lynn! You don't GET it! People ... have it ... IN for you! And ... (turning his face away from her) well ... you've come too close. I can't take that. (looking at her again) So listen to the man. For me?

(long pause)

Lynn: You know how low that is?

AP: Any weapon I can get my hands on, Purple Peril.

Lynn: (*sigh*) All right. All right. For now, I won't press the issue. (beat) I can't promise that I'll be able to keep to that if we lose anyone else to this crap.

AP: I ... (*sigh*) just don't want to lose you.

(Lynn decides not to answer that verbally -- she just snuggles up next to him. AP puts an arm around her and they sit in a companionable but uneasy silence. Then AP gets an idea -- visible *ping*)

AP: Hey, Purple Peril? Remember when I was eight and you'd just turned nine and we snuck out on Christmas Eve and exchanged presents under that big pine tree in Redgrave Park?

Lynn: Yeaaaaaaah...

AP: We-ell... (hopeful look; pulls a little wrapped box out of his pocket)

Lynn: (smile) Okay, fine. You'll probably appreciate not having to unwrap mine with everyone watching anyway.

AP: (blink) Come again?

(Lynn gets up and rummages through her bag, coming up with a wrapped parcel, which she hands to AP. Then she sits next to him and watches him as he looks at it.)

Lynn: This is one for tonight. You get the other Christmas morning.

(He looks at her, then at the parcel, then opens it up. Inside is a navy blue T-shirt -- yellow cursive writing across the front reads "Code Poet". He looks at it for a long moment, Lynn watching him with some trepidation. Then he looks at her and, lacking the words as usual, just grabs her in a hug. She isn't braced, so she flops on her back. Pan to the doorway, where Warlock and Daria, probably heading towards their own turn on watch, are standing.)

Warlock: (aside to Daria) Anyone tries to get to them, they'd have to get through me first.

(Black screen. White writing reads: "25 December, 2000". Fade up to...)

(Scene: Slack's office. Music: Weird Al Yankovic -- "Christmas at Ground Zero". Hold on the door -- there's a knock and it opens without permission a split-second later. Warlock barges in, looking harrassed.)

Warlock: Okay, Slack, if we're going to do this, we have to do it now. Get...

(He freezes in the doorway. Cut to what he's seeing -- a pale, worried-looking Slack sitting at his desk, accompanied by a heavyset goateed blond guy in a Buffalo Sabres cap ... and Jodie and Mack, who look really, really freaked.)

Blond: Salutations! (to the look) Uh ... Merry Christmas?

Warlock: What ... are they doing here? (turning to the large blond) Fett?

Fett: Incubus showed up on our doorstep couple days ago. Wisconsin got hit and they needed a hole.

Jodie: (little scared voice) They shot Mr Hopper. A lot.

Mack: I thought we were supposed to be dragged out of Lawndale to get out of this kind of trouble!

Warlock: So where are the Sloanes? And Incubus?

Slack: I sent them out to Pagebert and Scar. Figured someone ought to tell them about Remora and Rust.

Jodie: ... Wait. What about them? Did something happen to Tom and Angier?

(There is silence. Jodie gets visibly tenser.)

Jodie: Answer me. Did something happen to them? (beat) But they weren't ... if someone wants them, does this mean they could go after Dad? (beat) WHAT IS GOING ON?

Warlock: Talk to the Peril. I haven't got time for this.

Mack: Don't talk to her like that!

Warlock: Shut up. That kind of thing is something else I haven't got time for.

Fett: Chill the hell out, Herr Warlock! They're just kids!

(The two men glare at each other for a moment. Slack holds up his hands, trying to get everyone's attention.)

Slack: (to Jodie and Mack) Try room 316. Scarlet and the Peril should be in there.

(Jodie and Mack nod at Slack, shoot Warlock glares of their own, and exit.)

(Scene: the room. Music plays on. Jane's sketching. Lynn's pacing like something caged. Jane looks up at her occasionally, looking more and more stressed every time.)

Jane: Stoppit, you. I can't draw when you're like this.

Lynn: I can't help it. They disarmed me, they've got me on surveillance, and why?

Jane: Cos they're afraid you're gonna go psycho, maybe?

Lynn: And can you blame me?

Jane: Look, it's worse for me than it is for you, Lynn, and you know it.

(That freezes Lynn in her tracks and she sits on the floor, looking at her boots. There's a knock on the door. Lynn reaches out, grabs a book and throws it at the door as hard as she can.)

Jodie: (OS) Lynn? Jane? Uh ... merry Christmas?

(They both look at the door, then at each other -- Jane's face holds some happy surprise, while Lynn's holds deep anxiety.)

Jane: Jodie! Come in!

(The door opens and Jodie and Mack step in.)

Jane: (cont'd) God, it's good to see familiar faces! (beat; as she really sees those faces) What happened? Where'd they send you?

Jodie: Wisconsin. Green Bay.

Mack: Remind me not to let the Packers pick me in the draft, if I ever get that far...

Jodie: We got there okay, but when we did, it was a mess. We got to this sports bar and the next thing we know people are shooting at us. (beat) They got Mr Hopper.

Lynn: I'm just glad they didn't get you.

Jodie: So what's been going on here? No one was really willing to talk to us downstairs and that Chinese guy seems really stressed out.

Jane: Not surprised. Assassination attempts on the heirs to his crime empire are going to do that.

Lynn: Well, that and his girlfriend and my cousin going missing. And the hefty attack on the Blue Motorcycle. And...

Mack: They went after Lynn?

Lynn: They got us both to Biers via an ... inside informant ... and torched the place over our heads.

Jodie: It didn't have anything to do with Tom, did it? That guy Warlock told us to ask you...

Jane: It's a long story, but yeah, the inside informant has something to do with Tom.

Jodie: Tom wasn't...

Lynn: No.

(Jane and Lynn won't look at each other. Jodie and Mack exchange looks)

Mack: Then what?

Lynn: There was a confrontation -- Tom and ... him. (beat) Tom's dead. Along with a whole bunch of other good people.

(Surprisingly, it's Mack who seems to understand.)

Mack: You're not telling me...

Lynn: Don't say it. He's dead too, so does it bear considering, what this business will make people do?

(There is silence. Then a thought hits Jodie.)

Jodie: You said "heirs", plural. What about Daria?

(Lynn stands, shoots Jane a look, and walks out. Jodie and Mack look at each other, panicked.)

Mack: Answer the question, Jane. What happened to Daria?

Jane: Don't panic; she's okay. Lynn's still a little shaky from the whole thing. She had to do CPR to bring Daria back. (beat) We're gonna beat the guilt out of her with a stick eventually.

Jodie: Shouldn't she feel better? She saved Daria's life!

Jane: But she got Daria's life in danger in the first place. Or that's how she likes looking at it.

(Silence. Jodie and Mack look at each other, then watch Jane cautiously.)

Mack: Tell us everything.

Jane: Guys, I really don't think you want to be involved in this...

Jodie: We are involved, Jane. If I wasn't involved the day before Ms Li tried to kill you guys, I got involved the day I accidentally told Daria about it. And the less we know, the less we can do to protect ourselves. So tell us.

(Jane looks at them -- their faces are set and determined. Then she sighs.)

Jane: I'll tell you what I know. But it's not that much and you're not going to like it. Still, it'll pass the time while we wait for...

(Jane stops herself. Jodie and Mack glare at her.)

Jodie: Wait for who?

Jane: (defeated) My brother. My brother and most of his band went out there and God only knows what's happening to them now...

(Jodie and Mack look at each other again, worried this time.)

(Scene: the industrial estate. Nick is in the back of BWV, with Max slumped on the floor at his feet; Max is clutching his shoulder and moaning. Trent is standing at the back doors, a gun in his hand, trying to lay down cover fire for Jesse, who is carrying a limp, black-clad figure. Another couple of shots ring out and Jesse slumps to the ground; somehow he manages to toss the dark-clad figure into the back before he hits the floor. Nick grabs one of Jesse's arms and Trent grabs the other, and they both haul him into the van. Nick shuts the door behind them and Trent runs towards the driver's side. He climbs in and BWV starts up. Cut to the other van, where the Samoan man is still behind the wheel. He speaks into a walkie-talkie.)

Samoan: They're mobile! Are they supposed to be mobile?

Kat: (through walkie) All units to the van. We have a report to discuss.

(Scene: AP's and Trent's room. It's a complete pigsty -- clothes, an acoustic guitar, AP's laptop and chemistry set ... all spread out haphazardly. Music: Soundgarden -- "Limo Wreck". Lynn and Daria are sprawled across one unmade bed in the "something's eating at my soul position". AP's working with the chemistry set at the vanity table. Jane walks in and heads towards an easel set up in the corner, where a Pollack-esque canvas in purples and greens are in progress. Jodie pokes her head through the door and her eyes go wide.)

Jodie: Guys ... sorry for asking, but did a bomb go off in here?

AP: I'm on it, GPA Girl.

Jodie: (a little freaked) I don't want to know. (beat; as she tentatively enters) Still no word?

Daria: The saying "no news is good news" doesn't really apply when those who should deliver the news could be on a slab in a Louisiana morgue, does it?

Lynn: Careful, girl. You're supposed to be a cynic, not a pessimist.

Jane: Yeah; that's her job.

AP: Hey, come on! She's not a pessimist all the time.

Lynn: You're blackening my good name, AP. That's against the Boyfriend Code.

Jodie: She's right, you know.

AP: Boyfriend Code? Where's that stuff written down, anyway? Jeez, even my stuff has manuals...

(Lynn's phone starts bleeping "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life". She digs it out of her pocket, flips it open.)

Lynn: Cullen. (beat) WHAT? (beat) Okay, okay, Nick, calm down and start at the beginning.

(All eyes in the room are on Lynn, who goes progressively paler as Nick speaks.)

Lynn: Right. (beat) Oh. Okay. Good. (beat) No, head north. You'll be met. (beat) No, you'll be safe there. (beat) Medical I have no clue. (Eyes widen at the mention of "medical".) Let me think -- what route are you taking? (pause) Okay, it'll take you a little more time, but try passing through Pittsburgh -- NCM has some background in anatomy. (beat) Can you afford to be fussy? (beat) How the hell should I know? I don't deal in corpses! (beat) No, I'm sorry. Hopefully we'll see you there. (beat) Yeah, but give us a half-hour. Luck.

(She hangs up. Looks at the phone for a moment. Then makes as if to throw it across the room. Then just tosses it down on the bed. Then buries her head in her hands. There is a moment of silence as Daria, Jane, AP and Jodie try to decide how to broach this.)

Daria: Lynn...

Lynn: I don't want to have to say this twice.

(She gets up and walks out of the room. The others look after her, then follow at a run.)

(Scene: corridor. Music plays on. Daria, Jane, Jodie and AP are following along in Lynn's wake. They're not running but walking at a killing pace.)

Jane: Not Trent.

Lynn: No. Not Trent.

Jane: Thank God.

Daria: Amen.

AP: Who, then?

Lynn: Casualty lists should only have to be delivered once.

Jane: You told us about Trent...

Lynn: You asked.

Daria: I'm not in the mood for twenty questions, Lynn.

AP: Don't bother, Erudite Emerald. Remember, stubborn as the day is long.

Jane: Can't be Nick -- he was the one who called.

AP: Little Drummer Boy?

Jane: Scar? What about Jesse?

Lynn: Stop asking! I'll tell you when I give the damn report, now shut up!

(She accelerates further, breaking into a jog and outdistancing the others. They exchange a look but don't speed up themselves.)

(Scene: Slack's office. Music plays on. Lynn's standing to near-military attention in front of Slack's desk. Slack is seated behind his desk, Warlock is in one of the chair. As the group pile into the office, Fett and a tall, skinny off-blond boy with grubby jeans and a beat-up T-shirt turn up behind them.)

Warlock: Sitrep, Peril.

Lynn: I got a phone call from Poppa Bear -- regarding the mission outside of New Orleans.

Warlock: Why not from Scar?

(Lynn's face is horribly expressionless as she speaks.)

Lynn: Because Karen Willis is one of the casualties. Single bullet to the head. Probably sniped from a high place. Reminiscent of what happened to Charles Ruttheimer III. There was an ambush set up in the industrial estate parking lot. They turned the place into a Roach Motel. Snoops check in, but they don't check out.

Warlock: But they got the information?

(There is now a flicker of expression on Lynn's face -- unduluted rage the way only Lynn can show it.)

Lynn: Can I finish the casualty list first?

Warlock: Go ahead.

(A moment of silence. Lynn schools to expressionlessness again.)

Lynn: Little Drummer Boy took a bullet in the shoulder. Probably needs medical attention -- I sent them via Pittsburgh in hopes that NCM knows enough about anatomy to at least get the bullet out. (beat) And Jesse Moreno survived just past the border out of Louisiana. Double-tapped to the chest.

(There's a moment of silence.)

Jane: Oh God...

Lynn: They're on their way to Pittsburgh, then Detroit.

Warlock: An evac that far north? That's nearly thirteen hundred miles, Peril!

Daria: (who's worked it out) You want them coming here? If they're being followed, they'd lead the Merritts straight to us. This way, they've got thirteen thousand miles of road to lose pursuit in.

Jane: (distant) My brother's good at back roads.

(Lynn waits with strained patience as Warlock absorbs this -- he's obviously not sure he likes it, but there's not a lot he can say to dispute it either. Then Lynn speaks as if she hasn't been interrupted.)

Lynn: They'll be briefing Chopper when they get there -- Scar made sure that they all had the information before they left the building. But they'll be calling back in (checks watch) ten minutes or so. You can get what you need from them when they do.

Warlock: Right. (beat) Someone needs to tell Pagebert.

(Warlock looks to his companions. None of them look very thrilled about the idea. He turns next to Lynn, whose glare could freeze.)

Lynn: Someone. Tell. Him.

Daria: We have our own dead to mourn. You tell him.

(Daria puts an arm around Jane's shoulders; the rest of them huddle around her and they leave the room.)

(Scene: the bar. Music: Silverchair -- "Emotion Sickness". Daria, Jane, Lynn, AP, Jodie and Mack sit. There's rum -- two large bottles of it, obviously purloined from behind the bar. One of them's mostly empty. There's also Coke -- three two-litre bottles, one empty and the another about three-quarters full. None of them are exactly sober, but Jane and Lynn are farther gone than the others.)

Daria: It was really wrong to think that we'd get away unscathed. But wasn't Tom enough of a blood sacrifice?

Mack: (concerned; he's never seen Daria like this before) I guess when the business involves guns, you can't take anything for granted.

Jane: He useta c'mover to the house when we were jus' kids. W'n I was li'l, he'd eat m'artwork. (beat) 'N I rilly liked that toothpick sculpture, too...

Daria: This must be killing Trent. (beat) Thank God he got out, but at what price? I mean, what is he gonna do about the band? (beat) What must they be thinking about this?

AP: Live fast? Die young? Leave a pretty corpse?

Jodie: AP, that's tactless!

Daria: And inaccurate. I wouldn't call a corpse full of holes aesthetically pleasing.

Jodie: DARIA!

Daria: Oh, when did you become my mother?

Jodie: I'm not trying to! I'm just ... Daria, you're scaring me!

AP: Y'should be scared, GPA Girl. That's two down now.

Jane: 'M gonna disembowel those murdering pieces of...

Jodie: Jane!

Lynn: Lateral incision. Just below the navel. Then kick 'em over backwards. Everything'll just fall out at that point.

Jane: Good call, Lynn. Thanks for th'advice.

Daria: What, no shocked and outraged outcry at her?

Jodie: Uh...

Lynn: My reputation precedes me. Whoop.

Mack: So now what?

Lynn: They got the info. Some've us go in and...

(She slams a fist down on the table hard. The nearly empty bottle falls over, hits the floor and shatters. They all jump.)

Daria: They won't let you.

Lynn: Won't let? Don't tell me about "won't let". A year now I've been hangin' with 'em. I said no, they woul'n listen. They. Start. Listenin'. NOW.

Daria: Will you get over yourself?

(The vehemence in her voice takes them all back.)

Jodie: Daria...

Daria: No, you shut up. I don't know why you're in this now, but this isn't for you. (to Lynn) Look, I'm upset too. And so's AP, right?

AP: Damn straight.

Daria: And so's Jane. And aside from her drunken, ill-conceived disembowelment comment, she hasn't mentioned going out on a revenge run, and she has more reason than you do to...

Jane: Course I din't mention. Goes without sayin', right?

Daria: Jane, stand down and shut up; you're drunk.

Jane: In vino veritas, Daria...

Lynn: We refer to this concoction as "lengua libre", sis.

Daria: (dead cold) Don't call me that.

(Silence greets this. Lynn goes white.)

AP: Whoa, Erudite Em...

Daria: And you can shut up too. I'm not losing anyone else close to me to this. You insist on taking stupid chances, fine. Consider yourself disowned.

Lynn: Fine.

(She gets up, stalks out without a sound. Everyone looks at Daria, except for Jane, who's about yay close to passing out and probably didn't hear any of that anyway.)

Daria: Stop looking at me like that.

AP: Hell no! She's gonna take more chances than ever if we're not there for buffer zone! For someone who they call a brain at school, you're real damn stupid, y'know?

Daria: AP, I can't...

(At which point he grabs her by the lapels of her jacket, pulls her over to him until their faces are mere inches apart.)

AP: You're outta line, and you're bein' selfish, and it's not right for now. You can be a bitch about it later. For now, you wait until morning, and then you go to her and you tell her you didn't mean it. Grovel, if you have to. But she's not gonna think that no one gives a damn for her cos if she does, she's gonna die. You want that on your head?

(A lot of dead silence.)

Daria: You can let go of me now.

AP: Not until you tell me you're gonna take that selfish ... that ... that thing you said back.

Daria: I'll ... think about...

AP: Don't make me hurt you, Daria.

(More silence.)

Jodie: Daria, please. He's right. She needs you.

Daria: Let. Me. Go.

(AP thinks a minute, but he doesn't let Daria go.)

AP: Mack, Jodie, grab Jane. That's enougha this crap.

(Jodie and Mack each get under one of Jane's arms and haul her upright. AP, still dragging Daria by the jacket, leads the way out.)

(Scene: hotel corridor. Music plays on. AP approaches the door to room 320, still holding Daria by the jacket.)

Daria: (rummaging in a pocket for her key) I may have had a couple of drinks, AP, but I was perfectly able to find my own room.

AP: Sure; I know. But you're not going in there.

(With that, he hammers on the door. A moment later, Quinn, wearing the pyjamas we saw her wearing in "Admission: Impossible", opens it; she looks pissed off.)

Quinn: Daria, you have a key! Some of us care about getting beauty sleep...

(AP lets uses the hand he knocked on the door with to reach into the pocket of Jane's shirt, pulling something out. Then he nods to Mack and Jodie.)

AP: Okay, dump her.

(Jodie and Mack, after sharing a look, start hauling Jane into the room.)

Daria: Excuse me...

Quinn: What are you doing? Oh my God, how much has she had to...

Jodie: Enough so that you'd get drunk just from her breathing on you.

Quinn: Oh, no, I'm not sharing with her! What if she throws up on my clothes?

Daria: It'll be alternative.

Quinn: Alternative's for freaks like you! And where are you gonna sleep?

Daria: Good question. But the way I'm being dragged suggests a neanterthal mating ritual, so...

(AP drags her off. Quinn looks after them in shock. Jodie and Mack come out, looking a little freaked.)

Quinn: What is going on?

(Off Jodie and Mack's shared look, cut to...)

(Scene: further down the corridor; in front of room 316. Music plays on. Daria sees where this is heading and her expression indicates that she doesn't like it very much.)

Daria: If you think the "lock them in the same room" routine is going to work, you've been watching way too many teenybopper sitcoms.

AP: I'm not going to play word games with you., cos I'm not gonna lose this one.

Daria: How can you? You're not even blood-related to her, and you can still...

AP: I love her. (beat) Like it or not, so do you.

(Without ceremony, he unlocks the door, throws her in and shuts it behind her -- not slamming it but shutting it gently, in case Lynn's asleep. Then he leans back on it with a sigh.)

(Scene: Jane and Lynn's room. Music: Something for Kate -- "Photograph". Daria stands with her back to the door, looking in at the shambles the room has become. Lynn is curled up on the bed, dead to the world. Daria watches her for a long moment, then walks over to where Lynn lies. Lynn still doesn't stir, but Daria notices that there's a balled-up tissue sticking out of Lynn's fist -- that and the redness around her eyes indicates that she only got to sleep because she cried herself into it.)

Daria: (a whisper; doesn't really want to wake Lynn) Hey ... Lynn?

(No response. Daria notices something else -- a small photo album on the bed in front of Lynn's head. Daria picks it up and moves to the unmade bed Jane's been using, where she starts flipping through it. The first one she sees gives her pause -- it's a photo of a very young Lynn and a younger Jerome, both wearing Boston Bruins jerseys [Lynn's is grossly oversized], sitting in hockey stadium seating beside various obvious Dallas Stars supporters who are looking at them very strangely. Jerome's arm is around his daughter's shoulders and they look very close.)

AP: It hit her hard; they were close until then...

(She voices a sigh, then flips the page. It's Lynn and AP in their silly mouse ears, brandishing water guns, as they stand somewhere in the Wild West area of Disneyworld. Then a shot of Lynn as we first saw her sitting in a pub with a small group of people; one is Jan in an oversized Habs jersey but we don't know the others [buxom curly-haired brunette with glasses and a sexy smirk, a tall, sturdy off-blond, a small, skinny girl with lank pale hair and a swarthy girl with mid-length black hair in spiral curls and a big smile]. Then a shot of Daria, Jane, Lynn and AP in their Matrix-esque leather dusters, standing in front of the A-Tank in badass poses. Daria gives a very sad little smile, flips the page again ... and starts a little as a folded piece of paper falls out. She picks it up, unfolds it and looks at it, her eyes going wide.)

Daria: (whisper) The blood test results?

(She flips it over. In Lynn's looping handwriting, are these simple words: "Finally -- family I can rely on." When we look at Daria again, she is trembling a little as she folds it up and puts it back behind a picture of Daria and Jane at the "Trick or Trent" halloween party. She keeps going through the photo album -- the shot of Daria and Lynn dragging Jane out of the Tate Gallery; the black-and-white promo shot of Mystik Spiral; an onstage shot of Lynn and AP as Romeo and Juliet, kissing; the gang in their Rocky Horror outfits ... and then a screen capture, printed on photo paper -- Daria and Lynn sitting around a campfire. If you didn't know the backstory, you'd think they were typical sisters on a camping trip. Daria lingers over this last, then looks at Lynn, considering ... then shuts the photo album quietly and puts it back where she got it. She brushes a strand of hair out of Lynn's face in an almost tender gesture.)

Daria: (very quiet) My sister, the sentimentalist. (beat) But I won't let it get around.

(Black screen. White writing reads, "26 December 2000". Fade up to...)

(Scene: Daria and Quinn's room. Quinn is standing in front of the closed bathroom door, looking first-thing-in-the-morning dishevelled and completely pissed off. There's a knock at the door. Quinn goes over and opens it; Jodie's standing there.)

Jodie: How's Jane?

Quinn: Ewwwwww...

Jodie: (raised eyebrow) That good, huh?

(Puking sounds from the bathroom. Quinn rolls her eyes.)

Quinn: It's been like that since, like, five in the morning. Why couldn't she have stayed in her own room?

Jodie: Cos Daria and Lynn needed to talk.

Quinn: God, what is wrong with them? I mean, like, is it really a good idea to be fighting or whatever when there's this stuff going on?

Jodie: No it's not. But sometimes the stress gets to you, I guess. They'll get over it once they've calmed down.

Quinn: Oh, please. Daria holds a grudge forever. She doesn't really get over anything! They won't be talking for, like, weeks.

(Daria and Lynn poke their heads around the open door.)

Daria & Lynn: (unison) How's Jane?

Jodie: You were saying?

(Quinn makes a disgusted noise and walks right out of the room, with Daria and Lynn watching her with confused eyes. Then they look to Jodie, who shrugs.)

(Scene: a sitting room; probably in Slack's personal suite. Music: Tenkuu no Escaflowne -- "Revenge". Warlock enters, throwing a look over his shoulder.)

Slack: What's up?

Warlock: I'm sick of this. We're taking the fight to those bastards.

Slack: I'm with you. Any ideas?

Warlock: Hey, Incubus, remember that website you were showing us the other night?

Incubus: Yeah, hang on, I'll call it up.

Slack: You're thinking high explosives.

Warlock: I'm thinking high explosives. I'm thinking FAE as a matter of fact.

Pagebert: And I'm thinking EMP.

(They both turn.)

Warlock: (as gently as he can get) Are you okay?

Pagebert: I will be.

Warlock: Right. (dials his cellphone) NCM? Warlock. Right, I'm going to put Incubus on in a sec. (beat) We've got a bomb for you to build.

(He hands the phone to Incubus, turns to Pagebert.)

Warlock: Now, as for that EMP...

Pagebert: (cold) Let's get started.

(they exit)

(Scene: Jane and Lynn's room. Music plays on. The entire group is crammed in there, just hanging out. Enter Warlock, and Lynn sits up to something that would be attention in anyone else. The others watch her, seem bemused but follow her example.)

Warlock: We're moving out tonight.

Daria: Moving where? I thought we were here for our safety.

Jane: From everything but really bad architecture.

Warlock: This whole thing is moving north. We have a safe house about 40 miles out from River Rouge...

Lynn: Because you're "sick of this". And "we're taking the fight to those bastards".

Warlock: Remind me to talk to Slack about sweeping for bugs.

Lynn: I might as well, since it's not going to do me any good to have them anymore.

Jodie: You're putting us closer to the fight?

Warlock: Yes and no. You, you (points to Mack) and Little Drummer Boy are going to stay in Chopper's place in Royal Oak.

Mack: But what about them?

Daria: We're out there because some of us will be helping with the pre-game preparation.

AP: Knock-out gas? EMP? FAE -- oh, and you're goin' about that kinda dumb anyway -- you don't go to the right sites...

Warlock: And it's easy enough to defend. Just in case.

Lynn: And you want Nick and Trent in on this?

Warlock: I spoke to them. They won't be left out. (beat; ignoring Lynn's accusatory look) Get packed. We move out in two hours.

(Warlock exits; they watch him go. Then Lynn gets up and pulls out her rucksack, jamming things into it at nearly random. They watch her.)

Lynn: (not looking up; nearly bitter) Well? You heard the man. Oh, and AP, could you pack the stuff Trent left? I'll come help when I'm done.

(Jane gets up, grabs her bag and starts reaching for her clothes. Daria, Quinn, AP, Mack and Jodie leave as well.)

Jane: What about Nick and Max's stuff? And...

(Scene: AP and Trent's room. AP is stuffing what appears to be a last T-shirt of his into his bag; he snaps it shut and looks at Trent's half of the room.)

Jane: (OS) Need some help?

(AP looks at her a bit oddly as she enters the room and picks up a green T-shirt of Trent's. She starts folding it, then gives up and throws it on the bed, picking up a pair of jeans next and giving it the same treatment.)

AP: Where's Purple Peril?

Jane: (not looking up) She went to get the other stuff. Nick's. Max's. (beat) Jesse's.

(A moment of silence as Jane keeps collecting Trent's clothes off the floor.)

AP: Oh. (beat) Yeah.

(A moment later, he starts helping her pick stuff up.)

(Black writing. White writing reads, "28 December 2000". Fade up to...)

(Establishing shot: a large ranch-style house on a substantial plot of land. In front of the house are parked the BWV, a four-door grey Honda, the A-Tank, the Merc, a blue-green Chevy Cavalier -- in short, the front of the place looks like a used-car lot.)

(Scene: house front hall. The group are assembled with their luggage -- it's quite crowded. It's also somewhat ramshackle. The kids look around a bit uncertainly.)

Jane: I can usually find something artistic about anything.

Daria: And...

Jane: Notice I said "usually".

Warlock: I think safety's more at issue here than decor. And if everything goes well, you won't be staying here long.

AP: So now what?

Warlock: There's a dining area that should do for a workshop and lab. Go set up there.

(AP gathers up his bag and a rather large box and starts staggering out.)

Lynn: Pagebert? Incubus?

(Incubus takes the crate off AP, who looks at him gratefully. Pagebert collects up his own gear and they leave the room. Warlock looks at Lynn, who's digging through a fairly large crate.)

Warlock: What are you up to?

Lynn: Surveillance. A few well-placed hidden cameras in area streetlights, that kind of thing. We have no idea how much Remora leaked. This is one of the places Chopper set up, right? Long-established?

Warlock: ...Point. But take Fett with you. You'll need some cover. (beat) And take the Blow Job Bus.

Lynn: Excuse me?

Warlock: I'll let him explain.

(Lynn raises an eyebrow at Warlock, then steps towards the door.)


Fett: (OS; muted) Damnit, if it's about the BJB, that was my brother, not me!

(The front door slams. Warlock shakes his head.)

(Scene: ranch house room; practically bare. Music: The Saints -- "Everything's Fine". There are bits of luggage and weapons scattered around the place. There are a few mismatched chairs and a table battered worse than that in the LHS staff lounge, but that's all in the way of furniture. The walls are dingy. Daria, Jane, Lynn, AP and Quinn are seated around the table, holding cards. The rest of the deck sits on the table next to a substantial pile of change. Only Quinn has more than four cards in their hands; she has eight.)

Quinn: Got any fives?

AP: (grin) Gooooooooo fish!

(Quinn fishes, groans in disgust and drops a quarter onto the pile.)

Quinn: UGH! What the hell am I doing playing Go Fish ... and, like, for money and stuff?

Jane: Listen, princess, we're exactly forty miles from nowhere. You got any better ideas?

Daria: Or would you rather I loan you a book? If you liked the Iliad, you'd love the Odyssey.

Quinn: Daria, ew! You're not going to trick me like that again! (beat) Anyway, I heard the Odyssey was silly. That witch who turns guys into pigs ... Circa or whatever...

Daria: I think you mean Circe.

Quinn: Whatever. Anyway, what I heard about her reminds me too much of Sandi.

Jane: You know what we never did?

Daria: Spent Christmas in our family's homes like normal people?

Quinn: Hey, I did that last year!

Jane: Well, I meant exchanging Christmas gifts.

(Lynn and AP exchange a look. Daria sees it and smirks a little. Jane sees the nonverbal exchange and gives a smirk of her own.)

Jane: I take it I stand corrected?

Lynn: We never ... really ... finished the exchange, I have to admit.

Jane: Oooh-la-laaaa... Sounds like more than presents got unwrapped.

Lynn: I begin to see why you appealed to me. Familiarity.

Jane: Run that one past me one more time?

Lynn: Either that or you've been dating Goat-boy too long. You sound more like Mara every day.

Jane: I'm going to take offense to that.

Quinn: Hey, I wanna hear more about the presents! (to the looks) I like getting presents, okay?

(Fade to: the same, some time later. Music plays on. They are sitting in the same spots, but with crudely-wrapped presents [the paper is obvious scrap -- old newspaper, used printer paper, brown paper bags...] before them in small stacks.)

Daria: Okay, how do we start?

Quinn: Me?

Lynn: (tossing a box wrapped in white paper) Here; now shut up.

Quinn: (stunned) You got me something?

Lynn: What part of "shut up" don't you understand?

Daria: In that case ... Lynn, this is yours.

(She hands over a package. AP wordlessly hands one to Daria. Jane hands one to AP. Jane looks to Quinn, who shrugs. Without a word, they open the presents.)

Daria: (holding up a Geography textbook) It's ... it's ... (beat) going to be useful?

AP: Open it.

Daria: (doing so; flipping through) The pages are blank.

AP: Was Purple Peril's idea. Had it made special after you saw Mommy McBeal going through your room. A diary she'd never bother touching.

Daria: That was ... really thoughtful. Thank you.

AP: (to Jane) Nice etchwork on the glass. (he holds up an Erlenmeyer flask with the words, "Li'l Bastard" etched into it) You could market these at Bob's Bargain Basement.

Jane: Like I have the time to make as many as I'd need.

Lynn: (holding up a book with a grinning Dustpuppy on the cover) "Evil Genius for Dummies". I'm sure I'm going to be disappointed.

Quinn: Lynn, these earrings are great! God, if you have such good taste, how can you dress like that?

Lynn: I kept the receipt for them.

(Quinn's hands close protectively over the box and her lips tighten. Lynn smirks and hands a package to Daria. Daria hands one to AP. AP to Jane. Jane to Lynn. Quinn just shrugs again, but actually watches with some interest as the packages are opened.)

Lynn: A purple satin negligee, edged in black lace. (beat) This strikes me as being more for AP than for me.

AP: The gift that keeps on giving! And speaking of; hey, this was on my wish list!

Lynn: "Whoomp, There It Is -- Advanced Bathtub Explosives"?

Daria: No; they were out of stock.

AP: "Pheromones to Psychopharmacology -- Fun With Biochemistry"!

Lynn: Oh lord.

Jane: (holding up a little red tube that looks like a marker) What are these?

AP: Portable graffiti pens! Easy to hide, and indelible! Even work on anti-graffiti paint! Been working on those for months.

Daria: "Parental Unit Programming"?

Lynn: Section on neutralising undue smothering resulting from parental concern has been highlighted.

Daria: You always get me something useful, don't you?

Lynn: I don't deal in frivolities if I can avoid it.

AP: Does that mean no sexy satin thing?

(Lynn throws a package at him to shut him up, but gives a little sly smirk as she does. AP shyly hands over a parcel to Lynn. Daria and Jane, without a word, exchange gifts. Quinn now looks very put out.)

Daria: (noticing; picking up a small flat parcel) Oh, here.

(Quinn takes it from her delicately and starts unwrapping it as the others do the same. Lynn holds the little box AP produced on Christmas eve and unwraps it to reveal a little velvet box. She doesn't even open it -- she just looks at him.)

Lynn: How did you know?

AP: Saw you outside the store?

Lynn: (looking around her) I ... uh ... excuse me.

(She gets up and walks out. The others look after her.)

Quinn: What's wrong with her?

Jane: Every Christmas, this happens. She really doesn't deal well with nice presents, does she?

Daria: So how nice is nice? Were diamonds involved?

AP: (wide-eyed) Come on, Erudite Emerald; I'm thinking high school and college and crap first, okay? (picking up the box) I got her these.

(He opens the box to show them two pairs of earrings -- one set of very small amethyst studs and one pair of amethyst teardrop pendant earrings set in white gold. They all stare.)

Quinn: God, why won't you people show this taste all the time?!?

Jane: How'd you pay for these?

AP: (shrug) Royalties. The Methods sell pretty good, y'know.

(Re-enter Lynn, composed -- almost military posture -- carrying a Bat'leth. Now they stare at her.)

Lynn: (eyes lowered) I ran into Warlock. Scar'd already got it for me.

Daria: They got you Christmas presents?

Lynn: Remember my birthday? (beat) I'm Family, remember?

Quinn: (miffed) A coupon for "Books by the Ton"?

(That breaks the tension somewhat and they all look at Daria with congratulatory smirks.)

(Scene: ranch house dining room. Music: Tom Lehrer -- "Who's Next?" AP's rather impressive chemistry set is set up at one end of a vast dining table. The rest of the table is littered with firearms, Warlock's bow and a few items that look very familiar to any fan of ST:TNG. As Warlock goes over the firearms with an assessing eye, AP grabs one of the items and gawks.)

AP: It's a phaser! It's a phaser! (beat as he grabs it up and examines it minutely) It's a phaser! (looking up) Who built a phaser?

Warlock: Read the tag, Maverick.

AP: (reading aloud but not ahead) "Type I experimental laser pistol [prototype]. Capacity: 2 shots. Allow five minutes cooldown between shots. After second shot, dispose of with haste and take cover; overload and explosion imminent." (blink blink) Where's my Leatherman?

(Without looking up, he grabs a random tool [small flathead screwdriver, as it happens], pops the cover and starts digging.)

Warlock: Maverick, what are you doing?

AP: Seeing how this thing...

(*ZAP* -- the thing discharges a bolt of laser fire and burns a peephole in the wall. By the angle, it also probably singed Warlock's hair a little. AP doesn't even seem to notice -- he's still digging around in the guts of the "phaser".)

Warlock: Nice hole in the wall.

AP: (still not looking up) Give me two seconds. (He fiddles with the circuits and wiring for a moment) Okaaaaay ... this should give two minutes cooldown and a total of three shots, plus a thirty second margin before the thing goes boom.

(He tosses it to Warlock, who blinks at the contraption as he turns it over in his hands. Then he stares at the boy.)

Warlock: You sure, Maverick?

AP: (offhand) Oh yeah. Well, could be more like 45 seconds, but I'd have it out of my hands in thirty.

(He picks up another "it's-a-phaser" and starts tinkering with the components.)

Warlock: (to Pagebert, sotto) I see why the Falcon wanted him so bad...

AP: (looking up) So if you guys have phasers... does that mean you have... lightsabres? Do you? Do you?

Warlock: Not yet. We can't control the laser beam.

AP: (sulking) Nuts. (beat) Can I have a look? CanIcanIcanI?

Warlock: It's basically one of these (indicating phaser) in a hilt instead of a pistol. And no, you can't. They tend to explode.

AP: (*sigh*) You never let me have ANY fun! Anyway, the Ratman knew jack about the light sabre thing. It's not laser -- it's a plasma thing. Loops back on itself and there's a teeny air gap but the problem is where the hilt overheats and the whole thing goes boom...

Warlock: Whoa whoa whoa. Talk to Incubus about this. But later -- let's focus on the weapons that we know work.

AP: Aw, fine. (beat; eyes go wide as he remembers something.) DOWN!

(Warlock doesn't question; he just dives, hitting Pagebert and taking him down with him. AP is about to dive when Daria and Jane step in.)

Jane: Hey, wha...

AP: GET...

(*BANG* -- something in a flask on the table blows sky-high and Daria and Jane dive out of the room as AP just drops. There's a moment where the only sounds are the hissing of smouldering wood and the coughing as the smoke from whatever blew up hits people's lungs. Then Daria and Jane poke their heads back in.)

Daria: Let me see if I remember this one. Method ... seven?

AP: (from the floor) Too much? (beat) Too little? (beat) I have napalm... (longer beat) What?

(Establishing: Norton Steelworks, River Rouge, Michigan. Industrial complex with administrative buildings, storage areas and whatever other crap a steelworks actually needs [there's only so much research one can do without having a cerebral haemorrhage, you know...].)

(Scene: Norton's office. Music: Iced Earth -- "The Last Laugh". Norton is seated at his desk. Across from him, standing, is Refugee.)

Norton: Let me see if I'm understanding this. You lost my prisoners...

Refugee: Mitchell lost your prisoners. I offed the one they call Eco.

Norton: My brother has gone AWOL...

Refugee: We got word from one of our border contacts. He's gone to ground in Niagra Falls.

Norton: Our mole has been silenced somehow... (beat) No corrections to make there, wise guy?

Refugee: No. (beat) Sir.

Norton: Our New Orleans rat-trap was a failure. Our freelance stopped just long enough to collect his pay and vanished without a trace...

Refugee: Probably to go after that Maverick kid, after he turned Bill's head into ground chuck...

(Norton slams his palms on the desk as he propels himself to a standing position -- the rage and frustration apparently has him approaching apoplexy.)

Norton: SHUT UP! The point is, these are kids! We're being one-upped by kids! You couldn't even take down a couple of high school brats!

Refugee: Warlock showed! What the hell was I supposed to...

Norton: You were supposed to put them in the ground!

(Pause while Norton collects himself; he sits down again and fixes his gaze on the desk. Refugee wisely doesn't speak until the calming process has apparently been completed.)

Refugee: I want another shot.

Norton: You'll get it.

Refugee: Solo?

Norton: No. Get a team together. The South is compromised, so you won't be going far.

Refugee: Where?

Norton: From what I know of their current head, they'll be hiding somewhere in plain sight, and quite close...

(Black screen. White writing reads, "29 December, 2000". Fade up to...)

(Scene: Norton Steelworks. Music: Hole -- "Awful". Close in on a building within the compound. A grey van marked with the words "Three Chicks in Black Jackets Delivery Service" is parked outside. Aph and DJ, both with black ball caps as well as the black jackets, exit the back with a crate. Leopard, bare-headed but with the ubiquitous black jacket, approaches the door and pushes an intercom button.)

Intercom: State your business.

Leopard: Three Chicks in Black Jackets.

Intercom: I said business, not name.

Leopard: Consignment of eggnog?

Intercom: Little late for Christmas, ain'tcha, girlie?

Leopard: Hey, I don't make the orders, dude -- I just deliver.

(Pause. Door opens. Aph and DJ hand over the crate to a fairly burly brute of a man, who takes it easily and puts it down inside the door. Leopard hands him a clipboard and pen, which disappears in his fist as he makes to sign the form. She nods at him and heads back to the van with the others; they get into the back as she heads behind the wheel and drives off at a sedate speed.)

Bruiser: Eggnog. Ugh.

(He shuts the door.)

(Scene: long shot of the compound. Music plays on. In the immediate foreground is bwv. The first thing that happens is that the lights go out; the second thing is a not-so-muffled explosion and the pretty comprehensive destruction of the building. Warlock, standing outside bwv's passenger side door, lights a fire-arrow and launches it into the air.)

Warlock: I shot an arrow in the air.

Pagebert: (from in bwv) It came to earth ... somewhere back there?

Warlock: It landed in a Merritt's hair.

Pagebert: Now let's give 'em more than a scare.

(Warlock clambers into bwv and shuts the door. It drives off towards the now-buzzing compound; we can see from the angle that other vehicles -- the A-Tank, Fett's BJB, NCM's car and the grey van -- are all converging on the compound.)

(Scene: ranch house sitting room. The Superjesus -- "Strips of You". Quinn's sitting in a big, ratty wingback chair, doing her nails and idly watching a juryrigged bank of surveillance screens. Enter Daria.)

Daria: You want to be relieved from watch?

Quinn: Nah; that'd mean I'd have to go out there and maybe be nice to you guys and I'm not very good at that -- I'm not like you guys and you weird me out.

Daria: Fair enough. (beat) All quiet on the western front?

Quinn: So far, yeah. I mean, you really think those guys're gonna find us out in the middle of nowhere?

Daria: Better to have a battle plan and not need it than need it and not have it. (beat) Do you know what to do if they do?

Quinn: Duh, Daria! I help beat their faces in and ruin my manicure!

Daria: In this case, Quinn, it's your Apricot Shimmer or your life.

Quinn: I know. I'm not that shallow. (beat) Daria?

Daria: Yeah?

Quinn: I'm really not that shallow ... am I?

(Pause as Daria thinks about this.)

Daria: Not as much as even you like to think sometimes.

(She walks out. Quinn smiles a little and goes back to the surveillance.)

(Scene: ranch house living room. Music plays on. AP's pacing, toying with an "it's a phaser". He stuffs it in a pocket and keeps pacing, shooting Lynn [who's calmly loading her gun] little looks ever now and then. Then, taking a breath to steady his nerves, he stalks over to the sofa and sits down next to her.)

AP: Purple Peril?

Lynn: (not looking up) Yeah?

AP: I ... I dunno how we're gonna come out of this ... and I thought ... before it kicks off... (deep breath) I gotta tell you something.

Lynn: (looking at him -- sensing this is important) I'm listening.

AP: Purple Per ... Lynn... I never said it, even after you did and... (*sigh*) I love you. Have since I was nine. No matter what, I'll never love anyone so much. Ever.

(Short pause. Lynn just looks at him.)

AP: (getting nervous) I ... I'd've said it in prettier words, but ... well, YOU know how I am ... I... (nervous swallow) PLEASE say something...

Lynn: (fighting tears) Oh, AP...

(She kisses him and then just grabs him in a tight hug. Pan to Daria and Jane at the other end of the room.)

Jane: Awwwww. Isn't that sweet.

Daria: Positively cavity-inducing. If I were a diabetic, I'd be in a coma by now.

Jane: Does this mean that this is the time to make any of those last-minute confessions or do the soul-bearing thing?

Daria: Well, if we don't and things turn out wrong, we could regret those unsaid words for the rest of our lives. (beat) But then again, in this situation there's some comfort in that "the rest of our lives" wouldn't actually be all that long.

Jane: Daria? (beat) I'm scared.

Daria: Me too, Jane. (beat; quiet) Thank you for being my friend.

Jane: (equally quiet) Thank you for being mine.

(They reach for each other's hands at the same moment, squeeze once and then let go.)

Quinn: (OS) They're COMING!

(That makes for a shocked silence.)

Daria: (dry to hide the fear) Of course they are. If we hid in Antarctica, we'd find guys in penguin suits pointing guns at our heads.

Lynn: (approaching Daria) If she can see them, we have a minute. Come on; let's check this out.

(Scene: ranch house front porch; suitably fortified. Music plays on. The gang are watching a dustcloud suggesting at least three cars approaching at some speed.)

Lynn: Huh. I do believe Birnam Wood is coming to Dunsinane Hill.

Daria: You HAVE been hanging out with Warlock too long.

Lynn: Or Mr. O'Neill.

Daria: No, that had a more Warlock-like maliciousness to it.

AP: Can we stop NOW? BEFORE they start shooting at us?

(At the dry crack of a gunshot, everybody flattens themselves.)

Lynn: (dry) Too late.

Quinn: (OS) Do I have to say it again? They're COMING!

Daria: Gee. Y'think?

(They re-enter the house and shut the door. The sound several heavy-duty locks being shot home can be heard over the low growl of approaching engines.)

(Scene: Fortress of Cynicism, basement. Window is jimmied open, causing no alarms to sound. Wily [the goon we encounter a few times in ToD] clambers in through the window, lowers himself ... and drops. There is a splash as he hits.)

Wily: What the...

(Four other Merritts follow him through -- same splash -- and we pan down to see that all five men are up to their knees in water. They look at each other, a little dubiously.)

Wily: (impatient) It's just rising damp. Come on.

(The Merritts wade forward a few paces ... then stop at a burst of light and sound from somewhere above them. Music [the sudden burst of sound]: "Disposable Teens" - Marilyn Manson. They look up; there's a sort of balcony/walkway at one edge of the basement, with stairs leading from it to the door to the main house, and on it stand Daria, Jane, Lynn and AP, all totally deadpan. Lynn has one boot on a plugged-in TV [hooked to a long extension cord], which is playing the video [and song] 'Disposable Teens'. Cut briefly to the Merritts, who look nervous. The music hits crescendo and Lynn, waring an evil smirk echoed to at least some degree by the others, kicks the TV off the platform into the water-filled basement below. Music plays on, but we hear that nasty electrocution buzz and a cathode ray tube blowing up as the foursome watch, the smirks being slowly replaced by trepidatious looks. They steel themselves and walk away towards the door to the main stronghold.)

(Scene: entry hall. Music plays on. Outside, it sounds like World War III in progress; things are blowing up and there is screaming.)

Quinn: What is going on out...

Daria: Don't ask.

Quinn: But...

Lynn: Okay, you know your positions. Go for it.

(They scatter.)

(Scene: a spare bedroom. Music plays on. AP corners Quinn and hands her a phaser.)

AP: Now, treat this like a pre-Bubble Boy guy, okay?

Quinn: What are you talking about?

AP: Use once, throw away.

Quinn: But ... wha ... HEY!

(AP grins and dashes off. Quinn looks at the phaser.)

(Scene: an upstairs corridor -- more like a wide balcony with a door in it. Music plays on. Quinn's head appears around a doorframe. She looks one way, then the other, and then her eyes widen; she retreats as shots are fired in her direction. She comes back out like a Valkyrie, all fury, with the phaser held out in front of her.)

Quinn: You singed my hair with that!

(She fires once, then drops it as she retreats into the room. Refugee watches as a man named Burns walks up and picks up the gun. He fires it once at the door, making a hole in it at about Quinn-head level.)

Refugee: Nice toy there.

Burns: Coooooool!

(Burns stuffs it in its jacket and backs up, preparing to make a rush at the door.)

Refugee: Do you smell something burni-

(Refugee and the other two mooks catch on fast and run around a corner; we follow them as, a moment later, we hear a muffled BOOM from the spot they formerly occupied. They peer around the corner; we see their faces but not the result.)

Mook 2: Eww. Burns bits.

Refugee: Don't you mean "burned" bits?

All: Ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww.

Quinn: (OS) Yeah, you can say that again!

Refugee: You two get her.

Mook 2: Where are you going?

Refugee: Unfinished business. I got someone to ... (gun-to-head gesture) take care of.

(He walks off. The two Merritts look at each other, then turn the corner.)

(Scene: a downstairs corridor. Music: Iced Earth -- "Vengeance is Mine". Lynn and AP defining another doorway. It's quiet for the time being -- she has her gun and he has another "it's a phaser", which he fires once and then tosses down the hall.)

Lynn: Why'd you do that?!

AP: Because it's about to ex-

(BOOM! Again, we don't see the end-result, but we see spatter.)

Lynn: Oh. (beat) THAT! Is an EX-PHASER!

(AP turns to look down the hallway at the carnage he's just caused, and Lynn takes the opportunity to slip away from him while his back's turned.)

AP: And bereft of life, they rest in pieces. (he waits for a laugh, doesn't get one and turns to find Lynn missing.) Hey! Purple Peril! Where'd ya go? (beat; it hits) Awwww ... Purple PERIL! You PROMISED me you wouldn't DO this crap!

(Gunshots; AP ducks and runs.)

(Scene: basement training area. Music plays on. Refugee opens the door and enters carefully. It looks deserted. He enters, looking curiously at the swords mounted on the walls -- epee, broadsword, shortsword, katana. He takes the katana out of the wall rack and unsheaths it. Then he whirls as the door slams and locks. Behind it stands Lynn, pocketing a key. For a moment, they just look at each other. He pulls his gun, and so does she -- stalemate.)

Lynn: You really want to settle it this way? Who can squeeze a trigger first? Hardly a challenge, is it?

Refugee: You that anxious to die, kid?

(She just looks at him. Then she lowers the gun. He does the same, then holds up the katana.)

Lynn: Better.

(She reaches behind her and pulls the bat'leth. Both take attack stances.)

(Scene: the upstairs corridor. The walls are scorched and there's ... viscera. Quinn and Jane are standing back-to-back in the centre of the narrow hallway-cum-balcony, blocking the door with the "it's a phaser" hole in it.)

Quinn: Why are we doing this again?

(She kicks one approaching Merritt in the stomach and sends him into the nearest wall.)

Jane: Daria's got something going in there.

(Jane slashes out at an approaching mook and sends him over the side.)

Quinn: Like what? Oh, go left!

(As she says that last, she grabs the wrist of an approaching mook and kicks him in the head as she throws him. Since Jane's dodged left, he goes flying into another mook who was approaching Jane with a baseball bat. Instead, he drops it on his head as they both stagger backwards, out cold.)

Jane: Not sure I want to know.

(There are three knocks on the door to their left, a pause, then two more.)

Jane: Come on!

Quinn: Wha...?

(Jane has grabbed Quinn by the shoulder and thrown Quinn through the suddenly opened door they've been guarding. A small canister rolls out and the door slams shut. The mooks look at it...)

(Scene: a small, ratty guest bedroom. Daria is stuffing a blanket into the crack at the bottom of the door. A towel has already been stuffed into the hole the "it's a phaser" made.)

Quinn: What is going on?

(The sound of several bodies hitting the floor is heard out in the corridor.)

Daria: AP's knock-out spray. We wait a few minutes and it should have dispersed.

Quinn: But then what do we do with them?

Daria: At least get them out of here. Let them take their chances with the obstacle course outside.

Quinn: Obstacle course?

Jane: Land mines.

(Quinn stares; Daria lowers her eyes.)

(Scene: Merritt inner sanctum. Music: Catch 22 -- "Keasbey Nights". Ram is holding a glass of wine in one hand and a packet of some powder in the other. From the other side of his door come sounds of gunshots, the odd scream and incoherent shouted orders. Ram pours the packet into the wine glass and sloshes it around a bit to dissolve. He toasts no one in particular ... and the door bangs open. In the moment Ram's frozen in shock, the wine glass gets shot out of his hand. In the doorway stand Fett and Warlock, with Nick and Trent covering them. All four enter the room, weapons trained on Norton.)

Norton: Nice of you to join me.

Fett: This war is over.

Norton: Oh, I agree with you entirely there. (slight smirk) It's just a question of who won.

Nick: Looks like us from where I'm standing, hey Trent?

Trent: (icy smile) Looks like.

Norton: Of course, you do realise why you found it so easy to get in?

Fett: We don't listen to this bullshit.

(Fett cocks his guns [Colt 1911As, if memory serves]. Warlock glares at him and Fett holds his hand ... for now.)

Warlock: You sent the rest of your men elsewhere?

Norton: That secluded little hideaway you stored the Falcon's fledgeling in.

Trent: You little piece of...

(Warlock glares at him next. Ram can't resist the opportunity to gloat.)

Norton: I'd say that your people are about finished by now. And my successor's far more ... healthy than yours is at the moment. I'd say the Merritts are ahead on points. You took a great many pawns ... but I took your pieces of some worth. Rooks, knights ... and the Queen.

(Warlock doesn't say a word; just grabs for his mobile phone and hits a speed-dial number. There's a pause, then he gives an icy grin in Ram's direction as he speaks.)

Warlock: Yeah, Peril. Just checking in. (beat) Good. We're about clear here. Sitrep later.

(He hits 'End' and looks at Ram, who looks shocked.)

Norton: That's ... impossible.

(At which point, Fett double-taps him. Ram falls over. Trent looks relieved and triumphant; Nick the same, if a little sick. Warlock's face is expressionless.)

Trent: All right! We won!

Warlock: No. We didn't.

(He hits 'redial' on the phone and holds it out to Trent. He, Nick and Fett listen as we hear what Warlock heard.)

Lynn: (VO from phone; recording) You have reached Purple Peril's phone. If you're receiving this message ... whoops.

(Trent and Nick look at each other, then at Warlock, who still betrays no emotion. Apart from the muffled sounds of the continuing gunfight beyond Ram's office, there is utter silence.)

Nick: She said that when...

Trent: Shut up.

Warlock: This means something?

Nick: She said it when she thought she was gonna die. (beat; into the tense silence) It was a false alarm then!

Trent: Totally different, man. What are the odds it's a false alarm now? (beat) And who went down with her?

Warlock: Don't jump to conclusions yet. There's still hope until we've seen the bodies.

(Trent and Nick glare at him, then walk away. Warlock scowls after them.)

Warlock: Is it just rock band members that are so undisciplined?

Fett: Hey, Herr Warlock, chill the fuck out, wouldja? They're kids!

Warlock: They're older than you are, Fett. Now shut up and follow them. We're going to see just how bad the situation is.

(He stalks out after Nick and Trent. Fett scowls after him.)

(Scene: the Fortress of Cynicism, ext. Music: Cold -- "Send In the Clowns". Merritts in scattered cover, most notably in the explosives-created trench in the front yard. Occasionally one lets off a few rounds toward the house, answered similarly. The scene screams "Mexican standoff". Pan up to a window; Jane and AP are leaning out. Jane has a gun. AP's just watching for the time being.)

AP: Jeez, don't these people give up ever?

Jane: So long as we got rid of the ones in the house, it's cool for now. (beat) And at least now I have a few tricks for the squatters in the basement if they ever come back.

AP: You wouldn't do that to innocent people, wouldja?

Jane: Not the thing with the TV, and not that little trick with the chandelier, cos we don't have one, and probably not with your "it's a phaser", and Method 4 was overkill...

AP: In the words of a great man with bad hair, no, I think that was just enough kill, seeing as how they were pointing big-ass guns at us that were probably loaded with hollowpoints or at least had crosses filed in 'em...

Jane: Yeah, yeah, you made your point, but for a bunch of squatters... oh jeez, here comes wave three...

AP: Hey, no, wait...

(Back to their view out the window. Into the scene come rolling the strike force's vehicles, bwv in the lead. The passenger side window rolls down. Out pokes a bright red bullhorn. Which promptly blows "the cavalry charge".)

Random Merritt: THIS I do not BELIEVE. They're a Family of drama queens.

(Said random Merritt takes aim and shoots the bullhorn.)

AP & Jane: (OS) THANK YOU!

(Cut to inside bwv. Incubus behind the wheel, Warlock shotgun, with the remains of the bullhorn in his hand; he looks at it ruefully and tosses it.)

Warlock: At least two of them are okay. (behind him) Hand me the pump-action, wouldja?

(Scene: ranch house entry hall. Music: Linkin Park -- "In the End". Warlock and Fett enter first, weapons at the ready. But it's quiet. The only sign that there was life here at one point is a young man who is handcuffed to a radiator, smeared with face cream and painted all over with green and orange. He's not moving.)

Fett: Any shots on him?

Warlock: No shots ... no blood...

Quinn: (OS) One of the Methods, guys.

(Fett and Warlock look up. Quinn's at the top of the stairs, looking down at them.)

Quinn: (cont'd) See, I didn't even think about using that on Sandi, even to just make her sick, or whatever. But Jane wanted to do something a little more artistic or something on one of them when stuff got quiet and we had the stuff lying around anyway...

Warlock: ..."Stuff".

Quinn: Oh, just some face cream with some other stuff mixed in ... I dunno -- cya-something.

Incubus: (from behind them) Cyanide?

Daria: (coming in from a corridor) Potassium cyanide. I think she and AP made it as a Christmas present for DJ.

Jane: (from behind Quinn at the top of the stairs) Yeah, but we didn't want it just lying around, and anyway, that's supposed to be one of the little bastards who shot Jesse.

Warlock: Where're the Peril and the Maverick?

Daria: I ... I don't know. I haven't seen them. Jane? Quinn?

Jane: Uh ... no...

(AP dashes out of a room upstairs, heads for the stairs, loses his balance at the top and is only prevented from tumbling headlong down the things by Quinn and Jane grabbing his arms.)

AP: So we all here?

(Enter Trent and Nick. Trent heads straight for the stairs and his sister. When Jane lets go of his arm to head down to meet Trent, AP rushes down them himself. Jane and Trent meet on the stairs and hug tight.)

Trent: Thank God you're okay. We got Lynn's message and we thought...

(AP, now at the bottom of the stairs, turns to Trent so fast he falls over.)

AP: You got her voicemail? Her phone was OFF?

Warlock: Who was the last one to see her?

AP: M...me. I ... I ... I...

Lynn: (OS) Were playing hand grenades with the poor man's phaser, last I saw.

(They all turn to see Lynn, coming through a door at the back of the room. She's spattered with gore and she's quite pale. For a moment, no one speaks.)

Warlock: Any of that yours?

Lynn: Not enough to...


(He scrambles to his feet and launches himself across the room at her, nearly knocking her over. After a bone-crushing hug, Lynn pulls away slightly.)

Lynn: I'm covered in...

AP: Oh, who gives a...

(They start kissing. It, much like the Energizer bunny, just keeps going and going and going... Cut to Jane and Trent on the stairs.)

Jane: Getting ideas, brother dear?

(Trent slides down the banister, hits the floor and opens his arms to Daria, who approaches him slowly. Too slowly for his liking -- he takes three running steps to intercept her and grabs her up.)

Jane: Well, it's about time!

(Meanwhile, Lynn and AP, who still haven't broken the kiss, have stumbled towards and through an open door. A boot hits it and it slams shut. Cut to Fett, Warlock and Incubus, who look slightly amused by the whole thing.)

Warlock: That was a bedroom...

Incubus: Lucky guy.

Daria: (breaking her embrace with Trent) I hope you don't think we're playing follow-the-leader, Trent.

(Trent just shrugs and kisses her some more.)

Quinn: My god, unpopular people do put out!

Jane, Warlock, Fett, Incubus: Shut it, Narcissa!

Quinn: (taken aback) FINE! I'm going to take a shower!

Jane: No hot water. Bad pipes and blown fuses in the basement, remember?

Quinn: Ewwwwwwwwww!

(Quinn runs away from the stairway and we hear a door slam. Jane looks from the direction Quinn took, to Trent and Daria, to the shut living room door, to Warlock, Trent and Incubus, who shrug at her in a "now what?" manner.)

Jane: We kept your heirs safe, we downed a lot of your rivals and we got you the war.

Fett: And your point?

Jane: You owe us pizza. And lots of it.

(Jane moves the rest of the way down the stairs, brushes past them and exits.)

Incubus: She can eat. I'm impressed.

Jane: (OS) Come on! That kind of workout would put an appetite on an anorexic! (beat) And do you reeeeeeeeeeally want to be around when that bedroom gets ... ahem noisy?

(That gets through to even Daria and Trent.)

Trent: A-Tank.

Daria: Shotgun.

(They exit. Warlock, Fett and Incubus follow.)

(Black screen. White writing reads "30 December, 2000". Fade up to...)

(Scene: private hospital room. Music: Ani DiFranco -- "To the Teeth". It's looking a little lived-in -- books, a laptop computer, stacks of paper, flowers and cards, varied hospital room detritus. Kes is sitting up in bed, a little stiffly, reading. Enter Lynn, with Daria behind her like a trepidatious shadow.)

Lynn: Jan.

Kes: Hallo, you lot. (beat) How're you coping?

Daria: "Coping". That's a good one.

Lynn: We have a few things to set straight with you...

Kes: No; I have a few things to set straight with you, cousin mine. With all of you. And I'll start with Uncle Jerome's will.

(She pulls a few sheets of paper from the top of the stack on the table before her, looks them over.)

Kes: Now, Uncle Jerome made a few last-minute changes to his will after the summer ended. Basically, it states that Smythe Affiliated belongs to his two daughters, to be managed by myself until such time as they grow into the position.

Daria: Oh no. I'm not...

Lynn: Jan, do you even...?

Kes: (holding up a hand for silence) But, if you'd let me finish... (beat) Daria, this is yours.

(She gropes for another piece of paper and hands it to Daria. Daria scans it and her eyes go big.)

Daria: A bank account. In my name. Containing a pro sports star's salary for most of his career. Including endorsements.

Kes: It's called "buying you out". Your half of Smythe Affiliated belongs to me, if you accept this. And you're out -- I've made some provisions regarding buying your privacy. Provided you take no further part in any action against the Merritts, now or in the future, your safety is assured. You're out ... Ms Morgendorffer.

Lynn: What about Jane and AP? Quinn? Jodie and Mack? The band?

Daria: And Lynn.

Kes: Jane and AP won't be as well-off as Daria is in all this, but Jerome left them both a little something; it's the closest thing to an apology he could think to give, I suppose. And the provisions around Daria cover them as well. That includes Quinn, your bandmates and Jodie and Mack.

Lynn: From what I've been hearing, it's not that simple for AP. What about Jensen's brother?

Kes: We're ... I'm ... in the process of making provisions for that, as well. You're going to have to trust me there -- you all are.

Daria: And what about Lynn?

Kes: Entirely up to her. I've bought her safety until she finishes high school, renegotiable afterwards, depending on her choice in the matter. Basically, all of Lawndale is a Merritt-free zone from now on. But the terms of the will won't allow me to simply buy Lynn out until such time as she turns 21 and makes a clear-cut choice either way. (to Lynn) If you don't want in, you still receive profits from the Affiliation and can live your life exactly the way you want to. If you do want in ... your spot is waiting.

Lynn: But...

Kes: Now you listen to me, Lynn. You got hauled into this by some very poor circumstances and a few even poorer judgement calls on the part of your father. By sheer bad luck, people you care for got hauled in with you. I've never been happy with it -- you're only eighteen, and should be allowed a normal life and the ability to make your own choices. Now I've bent over bloody backwards to make sure you all have a fighting chance to get your lives back to normal. The least you could do is appreciate it a bit.

(Silence in the room.)

Daria: Yeah. Um. Thanks. (beat) Really. Thanks.

Kes: (small smile) You're welcome.

Daria: Now how am I going to explain this to my parents?

Kes: (raised eyebrow) Who says you have to? If there's something you must buy with the cash in that account, tell them the truth -- your biological father bestowed some guilt-cash on you.

Lynn: Can I talk to Jan alone for a minute, Daria?

Daria: Sure. I'll be outside with the others.

(Daria exits. Lynn looks at Jan.)

Lynn: What happens to you?

Kes: *shrug* None of your concern, for now. But let's just say I have good people around. I'll be fine.


Lynn: They're going to be safe?

Kes: As anyone ever is. (beat) Which way are you leaning, if I may ask?

(Long silence. Lynn bows her head.)

Lynn: I don't know.

Kes: Fair enough. But whatever you do, don't let the internal debate colour your entire life. You have a good chance at something ... well, let's just say something more with those three. Don't waste it because of this. You get very lonely if you try.

(Lynn looks hard at Kes, who looks back stoically.)

Lynn: I think you have a few things to tell me, don't you?

(Scene: Hospital canteen. Music plays on. Daria sits with Jane, AP and Quinn.)

Daria: So. Happy now?

Quinn: Well, yeah! But, like, are you going to use that money to get some decent clothes or something? I mean, God, Daria, that outfit bites! (to the looks) I'm kidding! Like I need the competition anyway.

(Daria gives Quinn a look of fond exasperation. Jane's expression is much the same, though it holds less fondness and more exasperation, and AP just rolls his eyes.)

Daria: I once said that I didn't know what the future holds, and that the only thing I did know was that if it moved, I was shooting it. (beat) I tempted fate, didn't I?

Jane: But that part of it's over now.

Daria: For us, anyway. What about Lynn?

AP: She's not stupid. She'll figure something out. Anyway, for now, let's play cricket!

Daria: Since when did you get interested in British sports?

AP: You know what I mean! The cricket and ... ants, and ... the world owes me a living...

Jane, Daria & Quinn: Grasshopper.

AP: Oh. Anyway. We saved our butts. I say we party!

(They all look at him.)

Quinn: He watches BUFFY?

Jane: We don't let that get around. (perky-popular voice a la "The F Word") Like, we have our reputation to think of, or whatever.

AP: Hey, you're the one who reads the fanfic! At least I don't sink that low!

Jane: Hey, I mostly read it because of the sick entertainment value of Xander/Angel slash!


Quinn: (to Daria) I was right -- even when you guys do normal stuff, you're weird.

Daria: So you get to keep your sense of superiority. And you're arguing with it?

Quinn: Y'know ... I hate to admit it, but the geek has a point. We should party. Sometimes you, like, need to blow off a bit of steam! Look at those two!

(Back to Jane and AP)

Jane: It's all about artistic outlet!

AP: It's all about people wanting to play God with some characters that someone else made up! And doing it crappy!

Jane: Actually, I'm not surprised you don't read it -- that would involve understanding words of two syllables or more!

AP: Hey! When you can figure out square roots of five-digit numbers or higher in your head, then you can call me stupid! Until then, shut it!

(Back to Daria and Quinn, with the arguing carrying on in the background.)

Daria: You make a point. But would you be seen at a party with freaks?

Quinn: It's not like anyone popular is going to see me there!

Daria: (Mona Lisa smile) Thanks, Quinn.

Quinn: What for?

Daria: For staying you.

(Exit Lynn. Daria stands to meet her.)

Daria: You okay?

Lynn: As I'm going to be. (beat) There's a wake-thing happening at that house tomorrow night.

Daria: (raised eyebrow) Oh yeah. The scarred-woodwork and bloodstain motif just makes a party.

Lynn: Ask Jane about that -- her with the tribute to Jackson Pollack. Anyway, it's mostly being cleaned up and at least we don't have to worry about wrecking the place.

Daria: There's one thing you are forgetting.

Lynn: Huh?

Daria: Drunken crime family members.falling into the holes in the front lawn.

(Lynn looks at Daria, who gives a Mona Lisa smile. Lynn responds to it in kind. It's a nice moment. Until...)

Jane: (OS) I can't believe you're being such an elitist!

AP: (OS) I can't believe you have no taste!

Lynn: Buffyfic?

Daria: Isn't it always?

Lynn: That or punk.

Daria: Party?

Lynn: We could use it.

(Black screen. White writing reads "31 December 2000". Fade up to...)

(Scene: ranch house living room. Music: The Velvet Underground -- "The Strangest Party" [soft; in the background]. It probably is the strangest party, at least for Quinn; she stands on the sidelines watching as the others sit in small knots, drinking, not saying much. Eventually, she walks over to AP, who is sitting a little apart from Daria, Jane and Lynn with a pizza box on his lap. Her facial expression indicates that she doesn't believe she's resorting to talking to him.)

Quinn: Hi...

AP: Hey ho.

Quinn: Who're these freaks? This is such an uncool song.

AP: Classic Britstuff, Narcissa. Course, you only know stuff from bands that some bunch of suits made up, so you're kinda lost here. These people like original.

(Quinn scowls at him. AP doesn't notice. Then Quinn looks at the pizza box.)

Quinn: Does that thing have cheese?

AP: This one, no.

Quinn: Can I have a piece?

(AP gives her a very strange look.)

AP: Ooooooookay.

(He opens the box, hands her a slice, takes one for himself and shuts the box again. Pan to Daria, Jane and Lynn, who have watched this transaction with interest.)

Jane: I guess no one ever warned her about the APizza.

Lynn: That is not the APizza.

Daria: The Techno-Weasel changes his feeding habits?

Lynn: This is the thing he gets when he feels like having something more...

(Quinn's scream Dopplers into shot as she runs past.)

Quinn: HothothothotHOTHOTHOT!

(They all follow her with their eyes, then stare at Lynn, whose face is expressionless.)

Lynn: (as if she hadn't been interrupted) ...Intense.

(Enter AP, looking a little annoyed.)

AP: Jeez, everyone's a critic. She coulda at least asked what was on it first...

Daria: Let's say I'm asking on her behalf.

AP: Red pesto base, onions, tofu chunks, asparagus, jalapenos and wasabi. Oh, and...

Jane: Don't tell me, let me guess -- extra garlic.

Daria: And she ate that? (beat) And you ate that?

Jane: And you expect Lynn to kiss you after you've eaten that?

Lynn: Part of his last birthday present to me was a butt-load of mints, to be presented to him as and when necessary.

(Quinn returns, wiping her mouth with a damp washcloth and carrying a piece of paper. She peels off the backing and slaps it onto the pizza box without a word -- it is a Biohazard warning label sticker. Then she stalks off. They watch her. Then they start laughing ... all but AP, who looks at it, very much offended.)

AP: Hey, look, Narcissa, you asked for it!

Jane: So what are we going to do with ourselves when we get back to Lawndale?

Daria: What, you mean now that we don't have to pummel secrets out of Lynn and run for our lives every school break? (beat) Study? Try to graduate?

Lynn: (for some reason bitter) College interviews.

Daria: Get back to the writing. (beat) I have a whole new perspective on Melody Powers now, I guess.

Jane: I was thinking of a new series of paintings. "The End of Innocence" or something like that.

Lynn: Well, without the band I'll have plenty of time to model for that.

(Slight respectful pause. AP breaks it with a hopeful look.)

AP: Prom? (beat; to the looks) Oh, c'mon, we gotta do Prom! I mean, I know the music's gonna suck and the people're gonna look at us funny and I'm gonna have to do the tux rental thing and it'll mean shopping again and all that, but ... but ... but...

Daria: But you're an incurable romantic who's afraid to admit it lest his girlfriend make a spirited attempt to disembowel him for being a soppy twerp?

(AP blushes magenta. Lynn rolls her eyes, and lets the pause stretch out and become loaded before...)

Lynn: Yeah, we have to do Prom. (beat) But no corsages!

AP: (blushing with pleasure now) Aye-aye, ma'am!

Warlock: (OS) Peril.

(They all look at Lynn, who shrugs and stands up.)

Daria: Lynn, no...

Lynn: I don't think it's like that. If it turns out to be...

(She considers, then just shrugs again and walks off. They watch as she approaches Warlock, who's sitting by a large unlit fireplace with Leopard and Kes. Leopard holds an acoustic guitar. Back to Daria, Jane and AP, who look a little perplexed.)

AP: Guess it really isn't like that.

Jane: I dunno. You think it's good to see her tight with them?

Daria: I couldn't tell you. (beat) But in a way, they are her family. Like it ... or not.

(The tone her last two words take indicate that it's most definitely "not", but that there's nothing she can do about it. And the music starts -- their rendition of Moxy Früvous' "The Drinking Song".)

And the band played on
As the helicopters whirred
Drunk on the lawn in a nuclear dawn
My senses finally blurred

(Flashback: The Zen, circa "Jane's Addition". Tom has approached Jane and they have obviously hit it off.)

He was a rock
Til the end, a solid reminder
Couldn't deny a friend
We lived in the noise an'
The sweet amber poison
Peekin' up the skirt of the end

(Flashback: Skunk's, circa "Blind Audition". Jesse stands between Trent and his assailant, finally getting fed up and punching him out.)

And we'd drink
Two gnarly dudes and some records
Much like plates of black food
We filled up our faces
Saw some far places
Stood on the roof in the nude

(Scene: The sitting room. Pan from the four singers to Daria, Jane, Lynn, AP, Quinn, Jodie and Mack. They are sitting at one end of the room in a protective huddle, just listening.)

And the band played on
As the helicopters whirred
Drunk on the lawn in a nuclear dawn
My senses finally blurred

(Flashback: Washington, DC strip club, circa "Tour of Duty". Trent has shoved Max's shirt down over Lynn and Jesse scoops her up over his shoulder, hauling her offstage.)

Between poles
He said we're like cows in the grass
Brushing off flies
Chaise lounging around
Standing up, falling down
Til we no longer opened our eyes

(Flashback: Nevada lounge/casino parking lot. Tom stands between the gang [sans Lynn] and the gun-toting Merritt mook, his own gun to hand.)

And we'd drink
Ever notice how drinking's like war?
Cup of troops o'er the gums
To the end of our health
A campaign 'gainst myself
Armed with bourbons and scotches and rums

(Scene: ranch house porch. The youngsters stand on the porch, looking at the carnage. They all wear their backpacks.)

And the band played on
As the helicopters whirred
Drunk on the lawn in a nuclear dawn
My senses finally blurred

(Flashback: LHS corridor, circa "Fifth Wheel". Tom is pinned to the lockers by Lynn, who holds a knife at his throat.)

Think of bombs
We're poised on the edge of disaster
Whether it's right or it's wrong
We opened the window
Played some Nintendo
Sang a few bars of some pretty old song

(Scene: the Merc, on the road. Jane is driving, Daria's in shotgun. AP and Lynn are in the back; Lynn's asleep with her head on AP's shoulder, but the way she shifts in her sleep indicates it isn't a restful sleep. Daria looks back with some concern, and AP looks back with just as much.)

Irene, goodnight
Irene, goodnight
Goodnight, Irene
Goodnight, Irene
I'll see you in my dreams

(Flashback: The Zen, circa "Thrash of the Titans". Nick and Casey scuffling; Jesse bashing their heads together.)

Oh to dream
Those impotent bones of extinction
Flying graceful and free
None but the best
But the man cannot rest
Til he's finally beaten his me

(Scene: the A-Tank. Trent's driving; Nick is in the shotgun seat. Nick looks back at Max, who is lying asleep in the back, well padded, arm in a sling and looking extremely pale. He twitches as if he has nightmares. Nick looks forward again, sadly.)

And the band played on
As the helicopters whirred
Drunk on the lawn in a nuclear dawn
My senses finally blurred

(Flashback: Biloxi casino parking area. Tom and Angier face off, glaring at each other. Shots are fired; Angier drops to his knee as Tom collapses.)

Til the end
He passed out on the sundeck that morning
Quietly saying good bye
But I was so hammered
I sputtered and stammered
Told him he couldn't just die

(Flashback: Jesse taking the double-tap in the back and slumping to the ground, chucking Scar's body into the back of the A-Tank as he does)

He was a rock
Went straight for his own armageddon
Face froze in a grin
Ambulance flying in
I never drank again
Can't really call that a loss or a win

(Scene: on the road. The small Lawndale convoy -- reduced to the A-Tank and the Merc now -- parked by the side of the road. Pan back to see a sign: "WELCOME TO LAWNDALE: POPULATION 1,437". That number is scrawled out, probably by one of Jane's graffiti pens, and underneath it is written "1,434". Hold on that for a moment as we see the diminished convoy driving towards the town proper.)

And the band played on
As the helicopters whirred
Drunk on the lawn in a nuclear dawn
My senses finally ... blurred.



It's been over a year since I wrote the last TLAS installment, so I guess the first thing to say is "sorry to keep you waiting". Mitigating circumstances, and all that. Anyway, it's here now. Hope it was worth the wait.

Thanks go out to three people. First, to Ben Yee -- the erstwhile co-author, the best friend, and the one I could call on 17th August 2001. If TLAS goes completely to pot after this one, or if no one liked this one, all I'll be able to say is that it's just not the same without him, and never will be. Then to Austin Loomis; who made the other important call of that night and always reminds me what I have without even knowing it, as well as at least trying to keep up with my pace in tandem writing. And then to Caira (rancour, whatever), for doing live-in beta reader duty for the week -- I'm just hoping the clubbing, museums and food is payment enough for the opinions. Not to mention the immense help he was with the music at the end of it -- he was so utterly patient with me when I got stuck on something, and his suggestions rocked.

So is this the end of TLAS? God, no. Will this be the end of the Mafia involvement? I hope so, but you never know when the slippery little buggers are going to show up again. All I know is that Brother Grimace has a point -- these kids need to be kids. I put them through hell, and now they deserve a little fun, the way only that group knows how. I have a few tricks of the TLAS-S1 variety still up my sleeve, so watch this space.


Daria Morgendorffer et al are the creations of Glenn Eichler and Susie Lewis Lynn but are owned by MTV, a Viacom company, copyright 1997, 2000. [Apparently, this is possible by 'work for hire', a concept that eludes me.] Lynn Cullen, AP McIntyre and any other character you don't recognise from any ep, on the other hand, were created and are owned by me, one Janet 'Canadibrit' Neilson, copyright 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002. Touch my characters without consulting me and it will go hard with you. All cameos used with permission, though by this point they're more characters in their own rights. This is a "substantially transformative" derivative work, apparently [what a highfalutin way to say fanfic], and is protected by the Supreme Court's decision in re Campbell v. Acuff Rose Music, so keep the copyright notice where it is and don't post it for money. If you do so without my permission and that of MTV Networks, I WILL pull a Lynn Cullen on you. And then I'll call lawyers.