What do you get when you combine Daria, Jane, Trent, Jesse, Trent's friend Ed Fogel (My own contribution to the Daria universe), an international child slavery ring, and the Midwest's most powerful moonshine car? This story, which is set at the end of Daria's junior year in high school. The "200 Proof" is based on an actual car.

Trial by Ordeal
By Chris McElligott

Act One

Friday night. Jane's house. Daria was sitting on the bed, watching "Sick, Sad World", while Jane was working on a painting. The phone rang, and Jane picked it up.

Jane: "Hello? Trent? You're not Jesse, and you don't sound like a cop, so who are you?" (Pause) "Oh, hi Ed. Hang on." (She went over to Trent's door, started pounding on it with her fist) "Yo Trent! TRENT!!! PHONE!!!"

The blasting sounds of Korn grew softer, and Trent opened the door.

Trent: "Oh. Janey. What do you want?"

Jane: "Phone for you. It's Ed Fogel."

Trent: "Oh, okay. Cool." (Took the phone from Jane) "Hey, Ed. What's up?" (Went back into his room and closed the door behind him, still talking).

Jane returned to her room.

Daria: "Who was that?"

Jane: "Ed Fogel. He's an old friend of Trent's from high school."

Daria: "I didn't know Trent had any friend besides Mystyk Spiral's other band members."

Jane: "Oh yeah. Trent's known Ed longer than he's known Jesse, but Ed lives out in Swedesville now and they don't get together very often. Which is probably a good thing. You see, Ed's nuts."

Daria: " What do you mean?"

Jane: "Ed lives by some weird code of morality, and he does things that are illegal, but according to him, not im-moral. Get it?"

Daria: "Oh sure. A regular Robin Hood."

Jane: "Yeah, there you go."

At that point, Trent came into Jane's room holding the phone.

Trent: "That was Ed. He says he's gonna be in town for a few days, and he's gonna stop by. You know, see the band play a gig. Oh yeah, he's got a new moonshine car." (Noticed Daria) "Oh. Hey Daria."

Daria: *Must speak* "Hey Trent. What's a moonshine car?"

Trent: (Thought it over) "I'm not really sure, but Ed's bringing it by tomorrow."

Daria: "Speaking of tomorrow, I'd better be getting home."

Trent: "I'll drive you."

Jane: "You can't. Your car's in the shop, remember?"

Trent: "Oh yeah. Sorry about that, Daria."

Daria: "That's okay, I'll walk. It's a half-decent night anyway, and the streets are safer, what with the cops cracking down on the pimps and CHUDs and all."

Trent: "Okay, just be careful."

Daria: (Blushed) "Um, thanks. See you, Trent, Jane."

Trent: "Bye."

Jane: "Bye."

Daria left Jane's house and began the three-block walk to her house. It was already dark, and the wind was blowing hard now. She started getting this weird feeling, like someone was following her. Daria looked around and saw nothing. Admittedly, it was dark, but she saw no movement besides the tree branches swaying in the breeze. Just my damned overactive imagination, thought Daria. She turned back around and started walking toward her house. Just at that moment, movement registered in her peripheral vision, and she turned to face it. Something very strong slammed into the side of her head, knocking her to the ground and sending her glasses flying. Daria struggled to stand up, clutching the left side of her head. She was bleeding from a gash in her temple, and was having trouble standing. Fighting the intense pain in her head, and not being able to see well without her glasses, she turned to her left in time to see a dark shape rushing at her. She felt another blinding surge of pain as the world around her went completely black.

Act Two

Saturday afternoon. The Lane home. The neighborhood was quiet, except for the growing sound of thunder, coming from an old, beat-up black car that pulled into the Lane driveway. An old, black-primered 1978 Chevy sedan with a big hood scoop, jacked-up rearend, mag wheels and a giant rear spoiler, it was obviously not your average, rusted-out piece of crap. The driver, also all in black, shut off the thundering engine and got out. He was about 6'2" tall, average build, had black hair, sunglasses, black T-shirt, black jeans, and biker boots. He went up to the front door and rang the bell. Jane answered, sounding slightly annoyed.

Jane: "Oh. Ed. I should've know it was you, I heard your car coming from down the block." (Looked at Ed's car) "Jeez, Ed, this one's even uglier than the last one. And would it kill you to get a muffler?"

Ed: (Gave her a you-don't-know-shit-do-you look) "She's got a muffler. Two of 'em, in fact. 3-inch Thrush Magnum glasspacks. How you been, Jane?"

Jane: (Suddenly nicer, like she wasn't really annoyed) "Okay. Can't complain, but it's just so much fun to. I'll go get Trent. He's still sleeping, you know, it's only 1:30 in the afternoon."

Ed: (Smiled) "Same old Trent."

Five minutes later, Jane came downstairs with Trent, who was rubbing the sleep out of his eyes.

Ed: "You haven't changed a bit, Trent."

Trent: (Looked surprised to see Ed there) "Oh. Hey Ed. How's it going?"

Ed: (While they all walked into the living room and sat down) "Good. Business has been hot lately, so I could afford a new car. Well, new for me. Anyway, how's the band doing?"

Trent: "Ah, okay. We're thinking of changing the name."

Ed: "How's Jesse? I didn't get to see him last time I was in town."

Trent: "He's fine. Him and Janey have been going out. He'll be by later. We're playing McGrundy's tonight."

Ed: (Looked at Jane) "Really. That's great. But Trent, what about this girl you keep telling me about. What's her name, Daria?"

Trent shot him a hey-man-don't-talk-about-that-right-now look, while Jane just smiled.

Ed: "Oh, sorry. I didn't know it was a secret."

Jane: "Well, yes and no. Everybody knows they like each other, but the won't come out and tell each other."

Trent: "Janey! Shut up!"

Ed: "Hey, she's right. If you like her you should tell her."

Trent: "I'm working on it, okay. Let's just drop it."

Ed: "No problem. Hey, who wants to see the '200 Proof'?"

Jane: "The what?"

Ed: "My car. I call it the '200 proof'."

Ed leads Trent and Jane outside to see his "new" car.

Trent: "Whoa. That thing's more beat-up than the Tank."

Ed: "Correction. Looks more beat-up than the Tank. Check this out." (He got in and started the engine. The huge motor roared to life, and as Ed revved it, the windows in the Lane house, and most of the houses up and down the street, began to vibrate violently. People came out of their houses to see what was making the insane racket. A few shouts of 'goddammed hot rodders!' and 'fucking idiot!' could be heard. Ed just smiled.

Jane: (Covered her ears and yelled over the dragster-like exhaust) "Shut it OFF!!! NOW!!!"

Ed smiled again and cut the engine. Jane and Trent took their hands off their ears. Trent was impressed.

Trent: (Smiled) "Whoa. Not bad, Ed."

Jane: "This car is insane. But I like the way it pisses off the neighbors. No way this thing came off a showroom floor."

Ed beamed with pride. He proceeded to tell Jane and Trent about the car's mechanicals. About the custom built suspension that made car capable of 1G handling. The four-wheel disc brake system that was originally designed for race cars. About the rearend that could stand up to the power of a drag engine and not fall apart. About how the nose of the car was reinforced to bust through police roadblocks. About the electronic jamming equipment that prevented pursuing cops from calling for backup, enabling Ed to get away. And about how the car was primer black to reduce the chances of a cop noticing him. But Ed really lit up when he described the engine. And to emphasize his point, he lifted the hood.

Under the faded, black-primer hood was a beautifully painted and chromed V-8 engine the size of a washing machine. Trent and Jane both whistled in admiration. It was the largest car engine they had ever seen, and also the nicest-looking.

Trent: "Wow Ed. Where'd you get this motor?"

Jane: "Holy shit."

Ed: (Still beaming with pride) "You don't buy something like this, Trent. You build it. Let me walk you through this baby. It's a GM 502 cubic inch cast-iron block with Edelbrock aluminum cylinder heads. She's also got a forged Callies crankshaft, forged Crower rods, 9.5:1 TRW racing pistons, Speed-Pro rings, Crane roller cam, a full set of Fel-Pro gaskets. Plus full-length custom exhaust headers dumping into 3-inch dual pipes and glasspacks. That's why she's so loud, she's got racing exhaust. And to top it off, we've got a B&M 8-71 supercharger pushing 10 pounds of boost." (Points to the large box on top of the engine) "Fuel injection and ram air, too. All fed through a beefed-up six-speed transmission. All told, this engine makes 985 horsepower."

Trent and Jane just stood there, mouths open.

Jane: "So Ed, how fast is the ol' '200 Proof'?"

Ed: (Thought about it) "Oh, she'll top 220 mph flat out."

Jane: "Wow, excellent."

Trent: "Yeah, cool car." (Looked through the darkly tinted rear windows) " But where's the backseat?"

Ed: "Took it out to make room for more moonshine."

Jane: "Oh sure. That makes sense."

Just then Jesse pulled up in the Tank. He got out, said hi to everyone, and Ed showed him the '200 Proof'.

Jesse: (In awe) "So, what did she cost?"

Ed: (Thought about it) "I don't remember exactly, but somewhere around $45,000 or $50,000."

Jane: "Moonshine business really paying off, huh?"

Jesse: (Turned to Ed) "Moonshine?"

The phone rang, inside the house. Jane ran inside to answer it, and was gone about three minutes. When she came back outside, her face was pale and wore a terrified expression. Her friends were silent.

Jesse: (Concerned) "Honey, what's wrong?"

Jane: (Still in a state of shock) "That was Mrs. Morgendorffer. She said Daria didn't come home last night, and she doesn't know where Daria is..." (She trailed off as her friends stood there in shocked silence).

Act Three

A bump shook Daria enough to wake her. She slowly opened her eyes, but her left eye felt like it was on fire and swollen shut. She couldn't see much without her glasses, and it was very dark anyway. She had a splitting headache, painful enough to almost make her lose consciousness again, and there was dried blood all over the left side of her face. She couldn't move, because her hands were bound behind her back with duct tape, her feet were bound with duct tape, and she was in too much pain from that damned headache. She tried to cry out, but the duct tape over her mouth prevented it. While she couldn't see anything, she could hear road noise that told her she was in a truck or van, being taken somewhere. An unheated van, Daria thought, as she was shivering from the cold, laying there on her side. She tried to move, but as soon as she did a terrific pain shot through her chest and arm, and she winced in pain.

Daria heard the van slow down and then stop, and then footsteps, like people running toward the van, began to sound. The rear doors were pulled open, and extremely bright light flooded into the interior of the van. She shut her eyes and recoiled from the light, which revealed half a dozen other teenagers, male and female, unconscious and bound and gagged the same as she was, in the van.

"Get them out of there!" a loud, harsh male voiced boomed. Seven large men with semiautomatic handguns climbed into the van, each grabbed a bound teen, including Daria, and exited the van. Daria was thrown over a man's shoulder, carried from the van, and thrown to the ground hard enough to knock the wind out of her. The man cut the duct tape off her feet, pointed his gun at her head, and screamed, "Get up, bitch!". Daria struggled to look at him, and when she found herself staring down the barrel of a gun, she struggled to get up, despite her splitting headache and the pain in her chest and arms. She couldn't do it. It just hurt too much.

"Not fast enough!" the man cried, and grabbed her by the back of her jacket, yanking her off the cold ground to her feet. "Now move it, that way.", and pointed his gun toward a large warehouse-like building. Daria obeyed as best she could, but her body still hurt like hell. The man wasn't satisfied. "Move faster, bitch, or you're dead!" and put the muzzle of his gun to her head. She managed to move faster.

Daria tried to look around. Everything was blurry, but she could make out that there were about two dozen other teens here, all undergoing the same ordeal as she was. The other teens were also bound and gagged. One other girl didn't move fast enough, and as Daria looked on, horrified, the guard knocked her to the ground and shot her in the face with his gun. Daria's eyes got real wide and she tried to scream. The man behind her said "See that. That's you if you don't cooperate. Keep moving!" and shoved her forward. As she tried to put the horrifying image out of her mind, she heard the murderous guard being chewed out by a superior: "What the hell's wrong with you?! We get top dollar for girls! You probably cost us 50 grand with that shot! Do it again and you die, too!"

Daria was led into the warehouse, which had been divided into rooms or cells. She was led down a long corridor to a door marked "102". The door was opened to reveal a dirty cot against one wall, and a small camp toilet. The guard grabbed her arm from behind and said, "It's too bad Harkonen wants you girls 'intact', or we could have some fun." He drew a knife and cut the duct tape from her wrists, then spun her around. " This is so you remember who's in charge here!", he said, and punched Daria hard in the stomach. The impact knocked here backward into the cell, and as she blacked out, she heard the door being closed and locked.

Act Four

Thursday morning. Daria had been missing four days now. Jane, Trent, Jesse, and Ed, who had decided to stay in town to help find Daria, had been turning Lawndale inside-out for most of a week looking for her. The Morgendorffers had called the police days ago, but the police had found nothing. Even Ed's near-criminal shakedown skills, including hanging a guy upside-down by his ankles out a third-story window, had failed to turn up a single lead. Everyone was starting to feel like they'd never see Daria again, but no one was ready to give up, especially Trent. He finally admitted to himself that he loved Daria, that he was a damned fool for not telling her when he had had the chance, and now she was gone. Well, he was going to find her and tell her, dammit! Trent decided to walk over to the Morgendorffers' house to see if they had heard anything from the cops. He took Daria's usual route from his house to hers. Trent had been walking about a block when he noticed something shiny near the storm gutter across the street. He didn't think much of it at first, but something told him to check it out. He went over, picked up the object, and his heart just about stopped. It was Daria's glasses, with the left lens broken, and covered in blood. Trent gasped in horror.*Oh my God, what happened to her?*, he thought. But wait, there was another object, also stained with blood, next to where the glasses were. A pager. Trent grabbed it and took off full speed for his house.

The Lane House. Jane, Jesse, and Ed were sitting in the living room trying to decide what to do next, when, Trent burst through the front door, out of breath.

Jesse: "Trent? What's wrong?"

Trent: (Panted) "Look what I found, about a block away!" (He holds out Daria's glasses and the pager.

Jane: "Oh my God..."

Ed: "Oh shit..."

Jesse: "Damn. WHERE'D you find them?!"

Trent: (Still out of breath) "About a block away."

Jane: "Let me see those." (Trent handed her the glasses) "Oh my God..." (Started to cry, went to Jesse for comfort)

Ed: "Jane, let me see those." (Jane handed him Daria's glasses) "This makes sense now. Daria didn't disappear. It looks like she was kidnapped. Someone grabbed her on her way home."

Jane: (Sobbed, sarcastically) "Oh, that's much better. God, just think what they might be doing to her!"

Jesse: "Wait! What about the pager? That could be a clue!"

Ed: "Yeah, Jesse, good thinking! Trent, let me see it!" (Trent handed it to him) "If there are any numbers left... Oh yeah! Oh yeah, here we go!" (Four phone numbers were still in the pager's memory)

Jesse: "So now we go to the cops with this!"

Ed: "No. They'll call this a simple missing-persons case, put it on the back burner, and forget about it. And we'll never see Daria again. But I have some friends who are real good at information retrieval." (Went to phone and started dialing) "...Yo, Park! Ed Fogel. Listen, I need you to check out a few numbers. This one's absolute top priority. Ready, here we go. First one..."

Twenty minutes later, Ed got off the phone, having called every information broker he knew. Now, Ed thought, it's just a matter of time before we find out where Daria is, and then we go get her and fuck up the people who took her (Ed tended to consider his friends' problems his problems). But for now all they could do was wait.

Jane: (Sounded irritated) "How fucking long is this gonna take, Ed?"

Ed: (Tried to calm her down) "Depends. Depends on how deep these guys who took her are hidden, if the phone numbers are still good, how many people my contacts have to lean on. Don't worry Jane, we'll find Daria."

Jane: (Lost it) "What the fuck do you care?! She's not even your friend!!!" (Started to cry again, Jesse comforted her)

Jesse: "It's okay, honey..."

Jane: (Burst out) "No, it's not okay goddammit. My best friend's been kidnapped, the people who did it are doing God-knows-what to her, and we're just sitting around!!!" (Continued crying)

Ed: (Looked at Jane sympathetically, turned to Trent) "I don't like to see my friends hurting like this, Trent. I know you love Daria, and that everyone else here cares deeply for her. I promise you, we'll find Daria, and then we'll turn whoever took her inside-out!"

Act Five

Thursday night. Daria lay on the cot in her cell, barely able to stay conscious. Her whole body hurt, some places worse than others, from the repeated beatings. She would've been crying if she wasn't so exhausted. Apparently, she figured, she had been kidnapped by people, evil people, who specialized in selling children, as slaves, overseas. Days ago, they had decided that she 'wasn't beautiful enough' to be sold as a harem girl or concubine, but maybe she would do as a laborer, maybe in some sweatshop in Central America or Asia. So for three days they had been 'testing' her. Making her dig holes in the ground, carry heavy baskets and barrels, and other intensely physical tasks. Out in the hot desert sun, for apparently that's where she was. And of course, they had been beating the shit out of her when she protested or failed to perform.They hadn't fed her much, or given her much water, so she was very hungry and dehydrated. So far at least, despite their threats, the guards hadn't sexually assaulted her. Yet. But they sure hit her plenty.

Daria thought about her parents. She thought about Quinn, Jane, Jesse, and Trent. Especially Trent. Oh, how she missed Trent! She thought about how they would never find her, that she would never see any of them again. She even missed Quinn. *God Daria, you know you're in deep shit when you start missing Quinn*, she thought. *But this will all be over soon. Tomorrow, maybe the next day, I'll drop dead from the heat or I'll piss them off and they'll shoot me* Daria started thinking about Trent again, and suddenly realized something. Something she had tried to deny for a year. She loved Trent. And with that thought, she began to sob and fell asleep.

Act Six

Friday morning. Trent had not slept in two days and he was exhausted. But he couldn't stop thinking about Daria. What she must have been going through, if she was still alive. God, he wanted to find the guys who took her from him and kill them. Slowly and painfully, they would die, if Daria was at all hurt. It was 8:00 in the morning and Ed was asleep on the couch, Jane and Jesse were asleep in Jane's room (She just couldn't bear to be alone right now), and Trent was pacing. Suddenly, the phone rang.

Trent: *Oh please God let it be...* (He went and answered it) "Yeah, he's here. Hang on." (Went over and woke Ed up) "Ed. Phone!"

Ed: (Sleepily) "Yo, this is Fogel. Go ahead." (His eyes widened) "Park! You got something?! Let's hear it!" (Trent looked at him anxiously) "Uh huh. Okay." (Long pause) "Bingo, that's gotta be it!" (Glowing from the news) "Park, what's the name of the place?" (Pause) "North Peak Industrial Park, in Gladdon, Arizona. Thanks, Park. Check your bank account tomorrow, there'll be a grand in there from me. Yeah, bye."

Trent: (Excitedly) "You got something?"

Ed: "Yeah. Go get Jane and Jesse, and I'll tell everyone at the same time."

Trent ran up the stairs, and a minute later came running downstairs with Jane and Jesse at his heels.

Jane: (Very excitedly) "Ed! Do you know where she is?!"

Ed: "Maybe. Park gave me a location, but it's the best lead we have, and it makes sense. Some place out in the Arizona desert. Some place you'd go if you didn't want to be found."

Jesse: "So what do we do now?"

Ed: "I'll tell you what we do. You all get cleaned up and dressed, and we take the '200 Proof' to Arizona to rescue Daria! But it could be real dangerous. We could all get hurt or killed trying to save her."

Trent: "I don't care! I love her!"

Jane: "And Daria's my best friend! I'm going!"

Jesse: "And where Jane goes, I go!"

Ed: (Pleased) "Allright, good, but first we have to stop off at my place first. We'll need supplies."

Jane: "Like what?"

Ed: "Guns. Lots of guns!"

Half an hour later, everyone had piled into the '200 Proof' and headed for Swedesville. Ed hadn't exaggerated his car's speed. At 190 miles per hour, Ed was slaloming the big moonshine car through the slower traffic, scaring the hell out of his passengers.

Ed: (Confidently) "Don't worry, you get used to it. Besides, we've got to go this fast for about ten hours to get to Daria, so just relax. I've done this lots of times!"

At the mention of Daria's name, Jane, Trent, and Jesse weren't so scared anymore.

A half-hour later, They pulled into Ed's driveway. Ed opened the trunk, then he unlocked the garage door and opened that. Everyone went into the garage to get supplies, with Ed leading the operation.

Ed: (Pointed to the big steel cabinet on the far wall) "Jesse, go in there and get four sets of body armor. Trent, Jane, follow me." (Jesse went and got the armor, and took it out to the car. Ed went to another, locked steel cabinet and punched a combination into a keypad on the door. The cabinet opened, revealing an arsenal of military-style rifles, shotguns, and handguns.) "We'll need these."

Jane: "Damn Ed. You really think we need all this firepower?"

Ed: "Well, not all of it. Here, take these." (Handed Jane two laser-sighted Beretta 92FS 9mm pistols) "Use these yourself. Here's how." (Showed Jane how to work the guns' various parts, and how to load them.) "Remember, just put the laser dot where you want the bullet to go. And don't point those at anything you don't want to destroy!"

Ed also handed Jane a belt, two double-magazine pouches, and a shoulder holster. She took off her red shirt. Ed showed her how to put them on, adjusted the straps to fit her. Then he handed Jane six eighteen-round magazines and three 50-round boxes of full-metal-jacket ammunition, and showed her how to load up the magazines. She loaded one magazine in each gun, one gun in each shoulder pouch, and the four backup magazines into the pouches. Jane put her red shirt back on.

Trent: "What about me and Jesse?"

Ed: "Here. Think you can handle this?" (He gave Trent a customized Remington 11-87 autoloading 12-gauge shotgun, which was equipped with a laser sight, an extended magazine that held 11 rounds, and a Sidesaddle shotshell carrier on the side of the gun that held another 11 rounds, a full reload.) "You hold it like this." (He put the weapon up to his shoulder and pointed it at the wall) "Use the CopperSolid slugs. They'll kill someone even if they've got body armor, but they won't spray everywhere like shot will." (Ed showed Trent how to load the shotgun) "Same things: Put the laser dot where you want the slug to go, and don't point this thing at anything you don't want dead! Jesse, you too." (Handed him an identical Remington 11-87) "Same deal as Trent." (Ed showed Jesse the same things about his shotgun) "And I'll use these." (Ed reached into the cabinet and extracted a Colt CAR-15 tactical carbine with an M-203 40mm grenade launcher attached, a 100-round double-drum magazine, and an LAR Grizzly .44 Magnum autopistol, three magazines for it, and appropriate ammunition, and loaded up his weapons) "Now, let's go get Daria!"

The rescue team jumped into the '200 Proof' and hit the road. Hard. Ed really leaned on the accelerator and got the big moonshine runner back up to warp speed. Even at near 200 miles per hour, though, they still had roughly ten hours to go and a whole lot of cops waiting up ahead. The time was 9:00 AM.

Act Seven

Friday morning. *Oh please God no not again! No, please...* thought Daria as the large man with the gun pulled her from the cot in her cell. "Rise and shine, bitch! Time to get to work! And if we don't like your performance today, you will die tonight! Move it!" He hauled Daria, who was exhausted, hungry, thirsty, and in aching pain, out into the vast, hot work yard. He put her to work on a gang of beaten, exhausted youths who were pulling a cart full of scrap metal (Apparently, just to be sadistic). Daria winced as she tried to push the yoke of the cart, but she felt like she would drop at any moment. Somehow, she managed to keep this agonizing work up all day, but eventually, she collapsed. Daria Morgendorffer had no strength left in her body. The guard grabbed her by the front of her shirt and lifted her off the ground. She just hung limply from his arm.

Daria: (Completely exhausted, gave up and accepted her fate, and with all the cynicism left in her) "Fuck you! Go ahead and kill me, just make it quick!"

Guard: (Sadistically) "I will. You're gonna be an example to the rest!" (Dropped her limp figure to the hot ground, waved to two other guards) "Pick her up and follow me!" (The two men grabbed Daria by the arms, duct taped her hands together behind her back, put duct tape over her mouth, and dragged her into the center of the vast yard. The first guard picked up a megaphone and yelled into it.) "Guards! Bring everyone here! They have an execution to witness!"

Little did the gathering crowd know that Ed, Jane, Trent, and Jesse were watching them, through binoculars, from an overlooking ridge about a mile away. They were beat, but pumped full of adrenalin. In the last ten hours, the four friends had driven almost 2,000 miles, become Public Enemies One, Two, Three, and Four to the dozens of cops that had tried to pusue them, busted through nine police roadblocks, and made five of the fastest gas fill-ups in recorded history. They had either lost or EMP-jammed all the police cruisers, so for now they were in the clear. They all gasped in terror as they watched Daria, bound and gagged in her severely weakened condition, being hauled into the center of the yard and forced to her knees. *God, she looks terrible* thought Trent.*I'm gonna fuckin' kill every one of those dickless fucks who did this to Daria!*

They watched as a large man, carrying a megaphone and a pistol, walked up behind Daria and started yelling into the megaphone. They couldn't hear him, but they got the gist of it. He was gonna kill her, just shoot her in the head like a fucking coward. Standing around watching the man verbally abuse and threaten Daria was a crowd of maybe 50 or 60 other teenagers, in similar bad shape as she was. There were also about twenty or so men, armed with shotguns and pistols.

Ed: "Oh shit!!! I don't like the look of this! Get in the fucking car! We have to go now or never!!!"

The rescue team piled into the '200 Proof' and Ed floored it, racing down the hill and toward the industrial park a mile away. He prayed they would get there in time. He yelled to the others.

Ed: "You're gonna have to hit moving targets! Aim for those guys with the guns as soon as we get inside the fence! Load up!"

Everyone loaded magazines into their guns as Ed shifted the '200 Proof' into sixth gear and aimed straight for the main gate.

"...For continually demonstrating a lack of potential, and for repeatedly not working satisfactorily, I sentence this girl to death!" (He put the muzzle of his pistol to the back of Daria's head and racked the slide, chambering a round.)

Daria was shaking and clenched her teeth, waiting for the shot. *God, please just get this over with*, she thought. Just then, Daria noticed a loud, low-pitched rumbling sound that seemed to be getting louder. *What is that?*, she wondered, and looked in the direction of the main gate. The man behind her had heard the sound as well.

"What the FUCK?!!!" the man behind her cried as he looked over the crowd, out through the main gate, at a large black car barreling straight at him, showing no signs of slowing down. He forgot all about Daria as the big black vehicle crashed through the gate, scattering the crowd, and three people, a girl with two pistols, and two men with shotguns emerged from the windows and started firing at his men. The men fired back, but several were felled by gunfire.

Daria saw all this happening around her, but she just didn't care. She was too exhausted to care. All she wanted to do was lay down and die peacefully, but that obviously wasn't going to happen. She couldn't stay conscious any longer, and as the black car pulled up next to her, she blacked out and fell to the dusty ground.

Ed manuevered the '200 Proof' to shield Daria from the enemy gunfire as Trent and Jesse leapt from the passenger side rear door and knelt beside Daria. Trent cut the duct tape from her wrists with a pocket knife, and pulled the piece of tape from her mouth.

Trent: (Panicked) "Oh shit! Daria! DARIA!!!" (Felt her neck for a pulse) "Jesse, she's still alive! Help me out here!"

Ed: (Panicked) "Hurry it up, guys! Let's go, goddammit!!!" (Fired his LAR Grizzly at the guards, hitting one of them.)

Trent and Jesse got Daria into the car, and Ed punched it. Two rooster tails of dirt flew from the rear tires as the moonshine car accelerated for the main gate, running over a guard on the way out. Ed punched up the GPS unit, requested the location of the nearest hospital, and got onto the main highway.

Daria partially regained consciousness, and Trent leaned over her, scared to death for her.

Daria: (Dizzy, disoriented) "Help me...please...h-h-help me please" (Blacked out again, and stayed out)

Trent: (Panicking) "DARIA!!! DARIA!!! Oh no...Oh shit...oh shit! Ed, how much farther to that hospital?!!"

Ed: "We'll be in Phoenix in 15 minutes, Trent!"

Jane: (Looking into the backseat at her friend) "Oh my God, Ed faster! Drive faster!"

Ten minutes later, the '200 Proof' blasted into Phoenix, Arizona at well over 150 miles per hour, blew through several red lights almost causing three wrecks, and was pursued by four police cruisers all the way to the hospital. The cops thought they had a madman on their hands. When the hospital came into sight, Ed nailed the brakes, leaving skidmarks a hundred yards long and scaring the hell out of everyone who saw them. Ed pulled up to the Emergency entrance and the police formed a perimeter around him, drawing their guns. Ed and company ignored them, and when the doctors pulled Daria from the backseat, the cops understood why Ed had driven so fast, and they lowered their guns. Daria was loaded onto a wheeled stretcher and taken to the E.R., with Jane, Trent, and Jesse following, while Ed told the police about the slave camp.

He showed the cops all the bullet holes in his car and agreed to take them to the camp. One hour later, the Phoenix P.D. SWAT team, and a dozen ambulances, were heading at high speed into the Arizona desert toward the camp. But back at the hospital, Daria was in critical condition.

Doctor: (As he put on a pair of latex gloves) "Okay, we've got a Caucasian female, aged 17 or so, suffering from severe dehydration, starvation, heat stroke, multiple severe cuts and bruises, blood loss from several major lacerations,a mild concussion, and exposure."

The Emergency Room staff put Daria on IV's, oxygen, and several other systems to get her back to stable condition. But she was far from out of the woods. Trent, Jane, and Jesse were in the waiting room pacing when the doctor came out to see them. The three friends gathered around him.

Trent: (Concerned) "How is she doc? Will she make it?"

Doctor: "Yes, we think so." (The three uttered a collective sigh of relief) "However, Daria is still in very bad shape. The next twenty-four hours will be critical to her recovery. Because we don't know if she's suffered any permanent damage yet. We should know in a day."

Jane: "Can we see her?"

Doctor: "No, not yet. She's still in the E.R. We'll be transferring her to a room in about five or six hours. You can see her then."

Jesse: "Thanks, doc."

The doctor left the room, and Jane, Trent, and Jesse, just sat down and waited. The hours passed like years.

Act Eight

Saturday evening. Daria lay in the hospital bed, in a coma. IV's were plugged into her arms, her head and cuts were bandaged, and she had an oxygen mask over her nose and mouth. The monitor on the table next to her bed displayed her vital signs, which were low but stable. She had been unconscious since the ride to the hospital, the day before. Trent was asleep in the chair next to her, slumped over onto the bed next to her, holding Daria's hand. This was the first sleep he'd had in three days. Jane and Jesse were also asleep, in chairs against the wall. They were all exhausted from their rescue mission, but they had succeeded! Daria was safe and alive, and with any luck, the people who did this horrible thing to her would be in jail by now.It was about 10:30 when Ed finally walked into the room. Jane and Jesse slowly woke up.

Ed: (Looked at Daria) "How is she?"

Jane: (Sleepily, yawned) "She's gonna live, but she's been out since the ride here, so we don't know yet."

Ed: "Okay. How are you two holding up?"

Jane: "Well, allright considering. Jesse and I are fine."

Jesse: "Yeah."

Ed: "Listen, the police have the fuckheads who did this in custody. I mean, the ones we didn't kill. Most of the other victims made it too. Unfortunately, some were too far gone for the paramedics to save. And you remember those cops who were chasing us for playing cannonball run?"

Jesse: "Yeah, like we'll ever forget!"

Ed: "Well, when they found out why we were going that fast, they agreed to drop the charges. Providing we pay for all the electronics my EMP burned out."

Jane: "That's fair, I guess..."

Ed: "Listen, I'm gonna call the Morgendorffers. The deserve to know that Daria's alive." (He left the room and went to a hospital phone booth)

Phone: "Ringggg......Ringggg.....Ringggg....Hello?" (Female voice, sleepily)

Ed: "Mrs. Morgendorffer?"

Helen: "Speaking"

Ed: "My name is Ed Fogel. I'm a friend of Trent Lane's. Listen, we found Daria, and she's alive."

Helen: (Suddenly very excited) "Oh my God! Jake! JAKE!! Wake up!! They found Daria, and she's alive!!!" (Jake is up and ready to go.) "Where are you, Mr. Fogel?"

Ed: "Phoenix General Hospital, in Phoenix, Arizona. Listen, Mrs. Morgendorffer, you and your family should get down here immediately. Take the next flight out here. Daria is alive, but the people who kidnapped her messed her up pretty bad. She's in a coma."

Helen: (Her voice cracked) "Right. Right. We're on our way. Thank you, Mr. Fogel." (Muffled) "Jake, wake up Quinn and get dressed! We're going to Phoenix!"

Act Nine

Sunday morning. Phoenix General Hospital, Room 129. Daria had been in a coma for at least 36 hours now. Jane and Jesse had gone to get some breakfast, Ed was down in the parking garage checking the damage to his car, and Trent was still at Daria's bedside, talking to her. He vowed he would not leave until she woke up.

Trent: (Softly) "...but listen Daria, what I'm trying to tell you is, I love you. I was stupid not to say anything earlier, when I could have. Oh God, I could've at least walked you home that night! God, please wake up!" (He started sobbing, still holding Daria's hand)

At that moment, Trent felt Daria squeeze his hand, ever so slightly, and the monitor on the table began beeping louder and faster.

Trent: (Excitedly, wiping away tears) "Daria? Daria! Come on, you can do it! Wake up Daria! Please!!!"

Daria began to take deeper and deeper breaths. The monitor next to her became even more animated, as her vital signs returned to a more normal condition. Trent squeezed her hand tightly. She slowly, painfully opened her eyes, winced at the bright light, and tried to speak.

Daria: (Weakly, pained) "Uhhhhh. Trent...Trent...Is that you?" (Tried to look at him)

Trent: (Excitedly) "Yeah Daria, it's me. You're safe now."

Daria: (Opened her eyes all the way, then squinted and looked at Trent) "Where am I? Trent?"

Trent: "The hospital. Me, Jane, Jesse, and Ed rescued you from that camp. You're gonna be okay."

Daria: (Started remembering, her voice cracked) "Oh my God...Trent...that man was going to kill me...and that car coming right at me..." (Started sobbing) "That's the last thing I remember..."

Trent: "It's okay now. You've been out for almost two days. We were all so scared for you." (Got real serious) "Daria, there's something I need to tell you. Something I should've said a long time ago."

Daria: "What, Trent?"

Trent: "I love you Daria. It just about killed me when I thought I'd never see you again I was going out of my mind thinking about you being gone. I wanted to kill the guys who did this to you. I love you Daria."

Daria: (Letting the words sink in) "Trent...I...I...I love you too. I was just afraid to say so. I thought about you when I was in that horrible place. God, Trent, the worst thought I had, over and over again, was that I would never see you again."

Trent: (Reassuredly) "But you're safe now, and we're together." (He kisses her, and she recoils in pain) "Oh my God! I'm sorry!"

Daria: (Smiled weakly) "That's okay. We'll pick this part up later, when I'm better."

Trent: (Smiled back at her) "You bet we will!"

Jane and Jesse came back into the room. They were overjoyed to see Daria up and awake.

Jane: "God Daria. It's good to see you're awake! How do you feel?"

Daria: (In pain) "How do I look?"

Jesse: "Like shit."

Daria: "There you go. That's how I feel."

Jane: "Well, don't worry. You'll feel better soon enough."

Jesse: "Yeah. And your parents are on their way down here right now. They'll be here soon."

Daria: "I never thought I'd be glad to see them. But I am. I guess there is some permanent damage." (Pause) "Hey. Wait. How did you know where I was?"

Trent: (Still holding her hand) "It was an old friend of mine. His name's Ed. He's the one you should thank, Daria." (Trent, Jane and Jesse proceeded to tell her about the events of the past four days. The pager, the phone numbers, the 'Cannonball Run', the assault on the camp. Daria had trouble believing it)

Daria: "Wow. A bootlegger, a 200-mile-per-hour junkheap, and my friends playing SWAT team. If all that came from anyone else, I'd say they were full of crap. But here I am, so I guess it's all true. But where's Ed?"

Trent: "He's down in the parking garage. Checking out his car. It got pretty shot up."

Ed: (Standing in the door) "It's a hell of a car, Daria. You should see it when it's fixed. I'm glad to see you're awake. I'm Ed Fogel." (He went over and extended his hand)

Daria: (Reached out and shook his hand) "Hello, Ed. I'm Daria. I understand you're the one who saved my life. Thank you."

Ed: (Smiled) "Hey, no problem. I'm just glad you're okay."

Daria: (Looking down at herself) "Yeah. Well, sort of. But let me ask you: why'd you do it?"

Ed: "Well, Trent is an old friend of mine. And I saw the way it was killing him to think about what was happening to you. He must really love you, Daria. Anyway, I couldn't just leave my friend out in the cold like that. It wouldn't be right. So you see, I had to help."

Daria: (Thought his words over) "Well, thank you for rescuing me. Trent's lucky to have a friend like you."

At that point, Jake, Helen, and Quinn showed up at the door. The three of them gasped in shock at Daria's condition, but were overjoyed to see her alive and almost well. Hell, even Quinn was happy to see Daria was okay. Helen sat down beside the bed and embraced her daughter, crying, for what seemed like forever, and Daria cried too. She was really happy to see her family again. Jake didn't cry, but he sure did hug Daria a long time. He was ecstatic to have his daughter back, and murderously angry at the people who had hurt his little girl. Later, after the group had explained to him and Helen what had transpired in the last four days, he pulled Ed into the hallway.

Jake: "You saved my daughter's life, young man. If it weren't for you, Daria would be dead right now, I...I...don't know how to thank you." (He shook Ed's hand)

Ed: "Look, I just drove the car. It's those three that deserve the credit." (He pointed to Jane, Trent, and Jesse) "They risked their lives to save her. She's got some real good friends there, Mr. Morgendorffer."

Jake: "Yeah. Yeah she does. But there must be something my wife and I can do to repay you..."

Ed: "Yeah, there is. Daria's been through hell, Mr. Morgendorffer. She's gonna need a lot of support from her family in the coming months. Just be there for her, that's all I ask."

Jake: "You got it, my man!"


Six weeks later. Daria's physical wounds had healed, but she still had emotional scars. She was still occasionally waking up in the middle of the night, scared to death and drenched in sweat. Jake and Helen had finally convinced her to see a therapist, to help her recover from her horrible experience. She was making progress.

Jake and Helen had, sort of, straightened out their priorities. Helen no longer worked 12- and 16-hour days at the law firm, and Jake was much more involved with both Daria and Quinn. Quinn didn't think it was such a hot idea, though. Both parents had decided that their family life was well worth the drop in income.

Trent and Daria had their first real date as soon as she got out of the hospital. They had been going out for a month now. They both seemed happy with each other, but only time would tell where life would lead them.

Ed was back in business in Swedesville, pulling in big bucks running moonshine. While everyone had stayed in Phoenix until Daria was discharged from the hospital, Ed had had his hands full the first week repairing the '200 Proof'. He had had to replace all the body panels, most of the windows, one wheel, the radiator, and several expensive engine parts. All told, the repairs came to almost two grand, which Ed paid in cash. The clerks at the auto parts store thought he must've been a drug dealer when he pulled out a roll of hundred-dollar bills as thick as a beer can, to pay for the parts. And he paid for all the police electronics gear his EMP had fried.

As for the child-slavers, the trial was still continuing. When Daria was called to the stand to testify, and described the things that had happened to her, Jake lost it. He jumped out of the audience, screaming obscenities, and attacked one of the defendants, breaking the man's nose in the ensuing melee. The bailiffs eventually subdued him, and the judge gave him 30 days for Disorderly Conduct.

Daria just smiled.

The End

Chris McElligott 6-14-99