You Only Hurt...


Chapter One: There's Something Wrong In The State Of...Texas? New England? California?


Daria Morgendorrfer shuffled a little in her seat, trying futilely to get a little more comfortable.

Some hope, she thought morosely. In front of her Mr. DeMartino was teaching his history class in the usual way. That is, shouting ever fifth word and looking like any moment he could collapse with an aneurysm.

At least that would liven things up a little. God knows, my life could use a little bit of momentum at the moment.

She sat back in her seat, reflecting over the last few months of her life. It wasn't that things were especially bad, just her life didn't seem to be going anywhere. She didn't know what she wanted. There was some good things. Quinn and her seemed to be almost getting along now, and she'd finally gotten over her embarrassing crush on Trent. Of course, now that had been replaced with an even more problematic infatuation, but she didn't want to think about that right now. She'd deal with it later.

She was shaken out of her reverie by DeMartino's voice rising a couple of decibels.

"NO Kevin, the Boer War was NOT fought over DRILL parts, but I'm happy that you SEEM to have a knowledge of SOMETHING else than football! Even if IT is NOT relevant to my class!"

"Er...thanks, Mr. D!" Kevin grinned that goofy grin of his.

Daria shook her head. At least Kevin was good for amusement, if nothing else.


Later that day, at lunch, Daria and Jane were walking towards their usual table.

"So you're feeling aimless, and that you don't fit in" said Jane. "And that's different from usual how?"

"I'm not in the mood for jokes, Jane."

Jane frowned a little. "Hey, I know I'm no Steven Wright, but if my amazing wit can't cheer you up, you must be depressed."

Daria smiled slightly. "I wouldn't call it wit, but what I'm thinking of does rhyme with that."

"Hey!" Jane affected a mock-hurt tone. They sat down, and Jane looked at Daria. "Daria, look. What's really bothering you?"

Daria sighed. "I just don't know what I want from life, Jane. What I thought I wanted, I don't. What I do want, I don't think I can have. Beyond the end of high school and college, I honestly can't see where my life is going."

"Hey, you're smart."

"Intelligence has much less practical use than you think, you know."

"I wouldn't know."

"What do you see yourself doing?"

Jane looked thoughtful. "I do keep having this recurring nightmare where I end up working for Disney..."

"Ouch. The dark side is pulling at you."

Jane smiled. "Daria, you can't always be the confident, self-assured, witty misanthrope we all, well, I know and love. Everyone has doubts and fears sometimes. You're no exception."

Daria half-smiled. "I guess. I just feel stuck in the same routine. I wonder if anyone else feels the same way?"


"Gee Quinn, maybe you should be the president of the fashion club, since you're so smart and everything." Sandi Griffin said that phrase for what felt like the millionth time. Across the table, Quinn said the typical response "Oh no, Sandi, I could never replace you."

How many times have we done this? Sandi stared at Quinn, trying to keep a scowl from creasing her perfect little face. I can't even remember why I said it this time. It's like I'm on autopilot, or something.

The Fashion Club was having one of its usual emergency meetings, this time to discus appropriate bad weather clothes after a surprise storm warning. The usual dynamic was being observed, and Sandi, for one, was sick of it.

Quinn, Quinn, Quinn! That little bitch has had it in for me ever since she got here!

Sandi watched as the Three J's filed up to Quinn, babbling away in their usual Quinn-worship mode.

They used to do that to me.

Stacy glanced at her watch, and cleared her throat, nervously. "Um...Sandi? I have to go to....a tutorial with Mr. O'Neill, and it's....really..."

"Alright Stacy." Sandi waved her hand dismissively. "Go on."

Stacy scurried away.

Like I'm too stupid to realize that you're dating that Ted geek. Oh well, at least you're smart enough to keep it a secret.

Sandi resumed fuming over Quinn, while the trio continued to discuss which raincoats were acceptable.

I just wish things would change.


Michael Jordan Mackenzie waited on the roof of Lawndale High, his temper growing noticeably worse by the minute. He glanced at his watch and frowned.

It wouldn't kill her to find some time for me once in a while. I mean, I know her extra-curricular activities are important, but the football team is important to me, and I still make the time for her!

Mack took a deep breath and tried to calm himself down. He heard a click from the access door and turned expectantly. Kevin and Brittany tumbled through the door in each other's arms and began loudly making out. Mack sighed.

She's not coming anyway.

He stepped over Kevin and Brittany, and through the door. Kevin and Brittany looked up from their make-out session.

"Was that Mack Daddy?" said Kevin.

"I...think so. He didn't look too pleased."

Kevin looked thoughtful for a long time. "Maybe....I...should go see what's wrong with him?"

"Oh Kevvie, that's sooo sweet of you!"

"Well, I am the QB!" Kevin looked self-confident. "If anyone can help him, it would be me, right?"

Kevin stood up, and strode out, purposefully, while Brittany looked on adoringly.


Mack walked down the corridor, seething inside. His expression made sure anyone with half a brain knew not to deal with him today.

Naturally, he wasn't at all surprised to hear Kevin's voice in his ear.

"Hey, Mack Daddy! Wait..."

Mack turned round, glowering. "I told you not to call me that! Are you completely retarded?"

Kevin's face went blank in an expression of fear.

Mack calmed down a little. "I'm sorry Kevin. It's just Jodie."

The goofy grin returned to Kevin's face. "Hey, no problem, Mack Daddy! You know, maybe I can help you with it. After all, I'm the QB!"

"I doubt it, Kevin. It's know how when you feel a certain way about someone, and you think that someone should do for you what you do for them? And you get upset when they don't."

"I know exactly what you mean."

Mack stopped in his tracks and stared at Kevin, amazed. "You do?"

Kevin slapped him on the shoulder. "Sure! Brittany wanted me to do it. She said if she had to put up with the taste, so did I! Man, she got pissed when I didn't. But you know, sometimes you have to do gross things like that. Right?"

Mack shook his head. "I guess so, Kevin. Well, thank you for"

"No problem, Mack Daddy!"

Mack walked off. Great. Now the team will get all kind of stories about my sex life. Oh well, Kevin was only trying to help. In his own unique way.


Jodie Landon finished putting the last of the books back on the shelf, and turned to the librarian. "There you go!"

"Thanks, Jodie. I couldn't have reorganized the library without you."

"Hey, no problem." Jodie glanced at her watch, and her eyes grew wide. "Is it really that late?"

A nod.

"Got to go." Jodie rushed out of the library and headed for the access door to the roof. I hope he's still there. God, lunch is almost over, and I was supposed to meet him fifteen minutes ago!

She reached the door, fumbled to get her key in the lock, and opened it. There was no-one on the roof besides Brittany.


Brittany looked up and smiled. "Hi Jodie!"

"Brittany, have you seen Mack?"

"Yeah. He was up here when me and Kevvie came up to..." She blushed. "But he left. Kevvie went to find out what was wrong. He looked sooo mad."

Jodie's heart sank. She sank to the ground. "This is...I don't even know how many times I've let him down. He must be furious."

Brittany looked thoughtful. "Well, he didn't look happy." She noticed that Jodie seemed on the verge of tears. "Jodie? Are you, like, okay?"

Jodie shook her head. "No. I feel like we're drifting apart. I mean, I know I have all these activities, and I don't have a lot of free time. But I do try...I mean, my parents...sometimes I just don't think he understands what I go through." She looked up at Brittany through tear filled eyes. "Do you understand?"

Brittany looked confused. "No" she finally admitted.

Jodie smiled sadly. "I don't think anyone does. That's the problem."


Ted DeWitt Clinton took a quick glance in the mirror as he awaited the arrival of the fairest maiden he'd ever set his eyes on. Admittedly, he hadn't set eyes on many women in his life, but he didn't any could compare to her.

Stacy opened the door to the empty classroom and walked in, leaving Ted speechless as usual. She walked up to him, and kissed him lightly on the lips.

"Hello, Ted."

Ted held up a single red rose. "I couldn't find something as lovely as you, but I hope this is enough."

Stacy blushed. "Ted, you always surprise me. How do you do that?"

Ted smiled. "I've been reading up on dating rituals. This has been a staple for quite a few hundred years, apparently."

She smiled. "You're sweet." She glanced at her watch. "We don't have a lot of time. I just wanted to see you before lunch was over."


Stacy looked up at the more serious tone.

"Why can't we tell anyone about us?"

Stacy sighed. "Ted, I'm not ashamed of you or anything. It's just that if Sandi found out, she might kick me out of the Fashion Club!"

"Why can't you just stand up to her?"

Stacy's eyes grew wide. "Me? Stand up to Sandi? I...I couldn't do that! She's" Stacy started to hyperventilate at the thought. Ted was used to this. He started tapping the pressure points he knew would release endorphins to calm her down.

She stopped hyperventilating. "Oh Ted, I'm sorry. I just can't...not with Sandi..."

"I know...I shouldn't have brought it up."

Stacy glanced at her watch. "Oh no! I'm going to be late for class." She kissed Ted quickly. "I'll see you tonight, okay?"


Stacy hurried out, and began walking to her next class.

What am I doing? Ted's the nicest guy I've ever dated. Would it be so bad if I did stand up for him? Her knees started going weak at the thought. I just wish there was some way I could do this!


"I don't think that's going to suit you, M."

Jake Morgendorffer turned at the distinctive English voice to see Wendy Thackerell shaking her head at him. He returned the underwear set he was holding to the rack. "It's not like you have much of a knowledge of underwear, Wendy."

"Well, the image that brings up is not one I want to see."

"I don't blame you." Jake turned around. Horizon Bridger was checking out the oils and bath products at the other end of the store. "Horizon? Any ideas?"

Horizon shook her head and wandered over to join the others. "Mr. Morgendorffer..."

"Jake, please."

"Jake. I don't really know...I mean, I've never even met her."

"Me neither" said Wendy.

"And helping you shop for your wife's birthday wasn't really in the job description when I signed on."

"Oh come on" said Jake. "This is fun! Besides, you are getting paid for this..."

The two women sighed, and went back to looking. "Why the big deal about her birthday this year, anyway?" asked Wendy.

"Well, I think it's her fiftieth."

"You think?"

"Well, she lies so much about her age it's hard to tell. I think she had all the copies of her birth certificate destroyed."

Horizon laughed. Wendy rolled her eyes. "Jake, you told me you've been together since the sixties. Can't you remember?"

"Wendy, for the most part of the sixties, I was fully convinced I could lift the Pentagon with my mind. I'm just glad I can remember my age."

Horizon looked thoughtful. "Yeah, my parents are the same way."

Jake looked morose for a moment. "Plus...things haven't been so good between us lately..."

Wendy looked at Horizon, then at Jake. "Why?"

"Well...she keeps telling me how stupid I irresponsible I can be..." Jake's tone went more grim. "I mean...I try, okay!? It's not my fault that..."

Horizon placed her hands soothingly on Jake's shoulders. "Jake, it's okay."

Wendy scowled. "Yeah. Keep the outbursts for the office."


"Jake, if she's being so much of a bitch..."

"Wendy." Horizon looked at her.

"Sorry. But if she is, why the trouble for her birthday?"

Jake's face softened somewhat. "Because, I want to show I can do something right. I want to show her I still care about her."

Wendy's mood softened. "Well, I suppose that's a good enough reason."

"Good girl! I knew your cockney charms would come through."

Wendy raised her eyebrows. "Cockney charms? You're only about 300 miles off."

"Oh" Jake's face fell. "Come on, anyway. I'm sure we can find something."


After school was out, the students all filed out. Jodie rushed out to see if she could catch up with Mack. She could have sworn he'd been avoiding her in class all afternoon. And he'd just rushed out when class was over. She looked for him in the teeming mass of people. There he was.


He looked round at her, then turned and walked off.

Jodie's stomach fell. Maybe he didn't see me. But she knew he'd seen her all right, and things between them suddenly seemed a lot worse now than earlier.


Jane and Daria trudged out of school together, and set off for home.

"How you feeling now, sport?"

Daria raised an eyebrow. "Sport?"

"Hey, one of us has to be up when you're down."

"You don't have to turn into Punky Brewster."

"I'm nowhere near top-heavy enough for that" Jane glanced down at her figure.

"Hey, thanks for the concern anyway" Daria deadpanned.

"With enthusiasm like that, how could I not help?"

Daria smiled slightly. Jane continued: "Hey, we all go through things like this from time to time. It'll pass."

"Even the unflappable Jane Lane?"

"You know me better than that, Daria."

"True." They stopped at Casa Lane. Jane gestured wildly towards the house. "Want to come in? I'm sure Trent would love to see you."

"Can't. Dad and Mom are working late, and Quinn's off with the Fashion Gestapo."

"So you have the house all to yourself?"

"Yeah. How often does that happen?"

"True. I'll call you tonight." Jane waved at Daria and went into the house.

Jane closed the door behind her and walked into the living room. "Trent?" No Answer. Guess he was practicing, or asleep. Come to think of it, those were the only two things he ever did. She plopped down on the sofa, and let out a loud sigh.

Why do I keep trying to foist Daria on Trent, anyway? Sure they'd make a cute couple, but I don't think they could make it work. And if they did, where would that leave me?

Jane shivered, as a wave of loneliness swept over her. She had always managed not to let Daria inside too much, worrying that if Daria ever realized how needy she was, she wouldn't want to be with her any more, and Jane never wanted to go back to being alone.

Is that why I do it? If Daria's with Trent, she has another reason to stick around. Like I'm not good enough?

Jane put her head between her knees.

Of course, if they do get together, they could just leave you out in the dust.

"Stop that!" Jane realized she was saying this out loud now. She was just being silly now. She knew Trent would never leave her, and Daria...

She ought to trust Daria by now to let Daria know how much she meant to her, right?



Daria opened the front door to her house, and walked in. The house seemed oddly quiet. No "Dammits!", no noisy chatter on the phone, no legal jargon. She walked upstairs to her room, and laid down on the bed.

Quiet. Absolute quiet. A chance to relax. Sort through all the stuff running through her mind at the moment. Or rather, the lack of stuff. That settled it, she was definitely in a funk. Oh well, she'd been in them before. Who could blame her? She'd get through it. All she needed was time. And the presence of her best friend. Who wasn't here. That was another story. Deal with that later.

Daria closed her eyes and futilely tried to relax.

The relaxation was shattered as she heard the front door crash open and Quinn bluster in, complaining loudly about something or other.

The door to Daria's room flew open and Quinn strode in.

"I can't believe she'd do that!"

"Hello Quinn. Yes, you may come in. I'm good, thank you."

"What? Oh." Quinn sat on the edge of the bed. "No, it's Sandi!"

"What did she do this time?"

"What she always does. We can be talking, then she acts like I'm trying to throw her out of her own club!"

"Quinn, look..." Daria suppressed a snide comment. "Well, are you?"

"No!" Quinn looked sad for a moment. "We're supposed to be friends, but she acts like I'm out to get her."

"Maybe you should stop acting like it, then."

Quinn glared at Daria, then stormed out.

Daria went to cry out, then restrained herself. I didn't mean it that way. I was trying to help. Oh forget it.


Ms. Li placed her hand on the table. "Welcome to the annual Lawndale High budget report!" Her gaze went over the rest of the room, as the entire Lawndale High faculty sat before her, in varying states of (dis)interest.

"Let's go round the room, and go through your proposals, shall we? Timothy?"

Mr. O'Neill stood up and began. "Well, I was thinking maybe the students could put on a play this year. They seem so..."


"Okay." He sat down, disappointed.


"MUCH as I would like to USE school money to hire someone to KILL Kevin Thompson..."

"Anthony, please."

"SORRY. Anyway, I think that the BUDGET...."

The phone rang. Ms. Li picked it up.

"Hello? Who is this? You want me to do what? Do you know who this is?"

Ms. Li's face went pale. She hit the speaker phone button and put the phone down. All the other teachers looked at her oddly. Suddenly, a voice came out of the speaker.


There was complete silence in the room for a couple of minutes. All the teachers remained completely still, not looking at each other, not talking, nothing. Then, they all seemed to return to life.

"Well," said Ms. Li. "Our new agenda..."


Jake, Wendy and Horizon sat in the mall's food court. Wendy was scarfing down some steak fries, while Jake was picking at his lasagna absentmindedly.

"Cheer up," said Horizon. "I mean, I'm sure you'll find something before the big day, right?"

"I guess."

"She wouldn't have wanted that lingerie, anyway" added Wendy.

"Like you'd know."

"What's what supposed to mean?" Wendy glared at Horizon.

"Hey, on a windy day, the whole world can see you're a natural redhead!"

"Girls, please..."

Jake found the two women glaring at him.

"I mean, ladies, please..."

Jake's cell phone went off. He frowned. "I wonder who that can be?" He picked up the phone. "Hello, Jake Morgendorrfer consulting, Jake Morgendorrfer speaking."

Wendy and Horizon watched as his expression went to puzzlement, and he hung up the phone.

"Who was that?"

Jake shook his head. "I don't know. They just said one word, then hung up."

Wendy frowned. "One word?"

"Yes..." Jake tailed off, and he got a weird expression on his face. He stood up, clutched his head and screamed.

Wendy and Horizon leapt to their feet. The rest of the people in the food court were staring at Jake as he sank to his knees, still screaming. Horizon rushed round the table to him, while Wendy pulled out her cell phone and called 911.

Suddenly, Jake stopped screaming as abruptly as he had started. Then he crashed to the floor.

Wendy hung up her phone and joined Horizon by his side. The other customers in the food court came over and watched as they frantically tried to revive him.


Quinn sat in her room and fumed as she went over what Daria had said to her. How dare she! Suggesting that Sandi was mad because of the way she was acting!

She's right, you know.

Quinn sighed. It wasn't her fault she was so popular. Sandi just wasn't used to not being the center of attention anymore, and it had been that way for almost two years. No wonder she was mad at her. But what could she do about it?

Her thoughts were interrupted by the phone. She grabbed it. "Hello? Yes, this is the Morgendorrfer residence."

Her eyes went wide as she heard what they had to say.



Daria scowled and looked up from her book. "What is it? Double booked with Joey and Jed again?"

"It's Daddy!"

"What about him?" Daria looked at Quinn. It looked like she about to burst out in tears. "Quinn, what's wrong?"

"He's in the hospital! They think it's his heart again!"


Jake opened his eyes with some difficulty to see Horizon and Wendy standing over him.

"This must be heaven....." He tailed off.

"Good to see you haven't lost your charm, even at death's door." Wendy smiled grimly.

Jake tried to sit up, and found that his body wouldn't let up. Horizon put her hand on his shoulder. "Jake, don't try to move. The doctor said not to."

"What..." Even speaking was an effort. "What happened?"

"We were in the food court. Intern girl here was making cracks about my fashion sense, and you collapsed. Bloody weird, if you ask me."

"The doctor thinks it might be your heart."

"Didn't...feel like heart..."

A high pitched shriek caused everyone to jump. Jake winced in pain. Quinn ran into the room, bawling.

"Daddy! Are you okay? What happened?"

Jake strained to answer. Daria walked into the room behind Quinn, a concerned look on her face.


Quinn and Daria looked at each other, worried.

"Dad, what happened?" Daria came over to stand behind Quinn.

"They think it was his heart" Horizon said. Daria and Quinn looked round, noticing the other two women for the first time.

"Who are you?"

"I'm Horizon Bridger, and this is Wendy Thackerell. We work for your dad."

"Oh." Daria turned to Jake. "Does Mom know you're spending your days with strange women?"

Jake tried vainly to smile.

"She does now."

Everyone looked round as Helen strode into the room. Her expression instantly turned to concern. "Oh, Jakey! What happened?"

As Jake tried to get the words out, Helen sat down beside the bed, and took Jake's hand in hers. "Is he going to be okay?"

Horizon nodded. "According to the doctor, it's weird. It looked like his heart, but there doesn't seem to be any damage done to it. He should be out of here in a week."

Helen smiled. "Good. I'll take good care of you, Jakey." She turned to the two women. "I don't understand how this could have happened at his office."

Wendy stepped forward. "Maybe I can explain, Mrs. Morgendorrfer. Jake and the two of us were at the mall...."

Helen's eyes narrowed. "What were you doing at the mall? I thought he was at work."

Horizon stepped in. "Mr. Morgendorrfer was shopping for your fiftieth birthday, and..."

"Fiftieth birthday?" Helen's voice went cold. She turned to Jake. "Jake, I'm nowhere near fifty just yet. Don't you have any clue about our marriage? And now I see you're telling strange women..."

Wendy was getting incensed. Daria noticed the look in her eyes, and stepped in right before she could say anything. "I'm sure you're both thirsty. Why don't we get something to drink?"

"Great idea" said Horizon, practically dragging Wendy out of the room, her eyes still shooting daggers at Helen. Daria and Quinn followed them out, while Helen continued to harangue the helpless Jake.

They reached the hallway. Wendy was fuming. "The nerve of that bit.."

"Wendy." Horizon nodded at Daria and Quinn.

"Right." Wendy closed her mouth.

"Sorry about that." Daria looked slightly sheepish. "At least she waited until she knew he was going to be alright..."

"Well, that's okay" said Horizon. "I'm sure she isn't like this all the time, right?"

Dead silence.

"Okay" said Horizon nervously. "Well, I'm sure we have to be going, right, Wendy?"

Wendy mumbled something.

"Um...tell your dad that we'll be back to visit, and we'll see him back at the office when he's better. was really nice to meet you all."

Horizon took a still-blustering Wendy's arm, and the two women left. Daria and Quinn watched them leave, then turned to each other.

"Dad does keep some interesting company." Daria raised an eyebrow at Quinn. She nodded. "I think the blonde has a good eye for suits, but the red head! Ooohh...someone should have told her the no-support look went out in the seventies."

"That's what I love about always look past the surface to see a person's true character."

"Yeah." Quinn nodded, not getting what Daria had said. "Do you think we should back inside?"

"Let's let Mom vent her frustrations out first."

"But that could take hours!"

"True. But I'm hungry, and by the time I eat, I'm sure Mom will have finished."

Finished Dad off, probably.

Quinn looked dejected. "You're right. Let's go."


Back in the hospital room, Helen had finished her ranting when she noticed Jake had passed out again. She sat down heavily in the chair beside the bed and sighed heavily.

Okay, Morgendorrfer, you could have handled that one better. She looked over at Jake's peaceful form and frowned. He almost died tonight. Sometimes I wonder if he can function without me at all.

Helen leaned back in her seat and put her hands over her face. Their marriage had not been going so well lately. Jake's constant childish attitude and ranting about his father had started getting really old, really fast. Their conversations had been reduced to the barest minimum, in case another argument broke out. Why couldn't Jake just grow up a little?

It's not all his fault though, is it?

Okay, maybe she was a little controlling. But her family needed a little controlling, right? Someone to set an example, someone to take care of everything. She glanced at Jake again.

It's not easy to do everything, you know.

Maybe this attack of Jake's was a good thing. Maybe they could make a fresh start, fix everything that was wrong. Try to turn their marriage around. She looked at his sleeping form and smiled. He did look cute like that. Kind of like a lost little boy. But acting like a little boy can get to be too much after a while. She hoped he'd see that after he recovered.



Daria looked up from her plate at Quinn's unusually subdued tone.

"Do you think Daddy's going to be okay?"

Daria looked back down at her plate. "Sure."

"I'm being serious!" Daria looked up, surprised at how harsh Quinn sounded. "I just got over his last attack, and now we're here again! Why can't anything change around here?"

Quinn was on the verge of tears. Daria looked at her. "Quinn..."

Quinn stood up and rushed out of the cafeteria. Daria slumped back in her seat. Twice in one day had to be some kind of record, even for her. What the hell was wrong with everyone, including herself?

Quinn sat in the bathroom, her head in her hands. Everything was falling apart. No, that wasn't true. Nothing had been right to begin with. Her father had always been stressed out beyond words, and her "friends"...well, Sandi's attitude had steadily gotten worse over the last two years.

Because of you.

Yes, alright, because of her. Because of the way she'd basically muscled in on Sandi's territory. But that was going to change. Tomorrow, she was going to find Sandi and take to her. Really talk to her, and get all this out in the open. Then maybe they could start to be real friends. Quinn smiled. She felt better now. All she needed now was her daddy to get better, and things would start to fall into place again. She stood up, checked her reflection, and headed back to Jake's room.


Jodie flopped back in her chair and looked at the stack of documents on the table. School assignments, her timetable for the next month, proposals for the student council, all of it needed to be worked on. She wasn't going to have a lot of free time, that was for sure.

What else was new?

She was startled by the phone ringing.

Let the machine get it, I'm busy.

Her answer-phone message came on, then the beep. "Hey, Jodie, it's Mack. Um...I was wondering if you were free tonight. We haven't had a lot of time together, and, me. Bye."

Jodie sighed and reached for the phone, ready to apologize for having to blow him off. Suddenly she caught herself.

Wait. I'm always apologizing. I'm the one who's always in the wrong. He blew me off today, and he didn't even apologize. I'm sick of this. Let him sit tonight.

She returned to her work with added vigor.


Mack hung up the phone and looked at it for a second. Jodie had said earlier she would be working tonight. That meant she had to be home, and she was just blowing him off.

Fine. I've got plenty of places I could be tonight.

He frowned, and picked up his phone book.


In Lawndale High, the teacher's meeting was drawing to a close, albeit in a radically different way than what it had started.

"We can do this. Agreed?" Ms. Li stood at the front of the room, an eerie fire burning in her eyes.

Mr. DeMartino looked over some plans on the table, looking more calm than he ever had. "I think so. It's going to be hard."

"I have every confidence in you."

Ms. Barch frowned. "We need help."

"Already taken care of. Timothy?"

Mr. O'Neill sat back in his chair. "We can start recruiting students in a couple of days, maybe a week." His voice had dropped almost a full octave, and his face had lost it's usual gormless expression. "Margaret is going to help on that end." He gestured at Mrs. Manson.


Barch looked at Li again. "That's not going to help with labour, parts, security, that sort of thing?"

"We have some this town. I just need to get in touch with them, and all of our problems will be solved. Especially the main one."

"Which is?"

"Naturally, publicity, or the lack thereof. Thankfully, I have that particular aspect under control." She smiled, grimly. "I mean, you can't wipe out the entire population of Lawndale without anyone noticing."


Chapter Two: I'm Talking To The Man In The Mirror.


Jake turned off the shower and stepped out. He toweled himself off and slipped on his clothes, then headed downstairs. Quinn and Daria were sitting at the table, eating breakfast.

"Hey kiddo! Hi Quinn!"

"Morning daddy!"

Daria waved slightly.

"Where's your mom? She was gone when I woke up."

Daria looked up. "She left already. Said she had an important case."

"Oh." Jake's face fell. "It is my first day back at work, and everything. I thought..." He tailed off and went over to forage in the refrigerator.

Quinn looked concerned. "Daddy, is everything okay with you and mom?"

"Sure!" Jake tried to smile reassuringly. "Why do you say that? Everything's fine."

"Well, if O.J. can get off with overwhelmingly contradictory evidence, I guess you can too" muttered Daria, not looking up.

Jake scowled and turned back to the fridge.

"Well, I have to go." Quinn stood up and grabbed her bag. "Sandi's called an emergency meeting and I can't be late." She rushed out the front door.

"I've got to go too." Daria left. leaving Jake alone in the kitchen. He sighed and slammed the refrigerator door shut.


Jane stepped out of her room and headed downstairs. Passing by the living room, she heard Trent.

"Hey, Janey."

"Hey yourself. This is unusually early for you."

"Haven't been asleep yet. Late practice. Plus I've been thinking."

Jane's eyes widened in a mock-surprised way. "Mercy me. The world must be coming to an end."

Trent did that laughing/coughing thing he always did.

"What have you been thinking about?"


Long pause. Trent looked at Jane, and realized she wanted him to elaborate.

"I'll tell you later. You're going to be late for school."

"Ooo-kay, Mr. man-of-mystery." She got up and headed to the door. She turned before she left. "Hey, Trent..." She tailed off, as she saw he'd fallen asleep. She smiled and headed out the door.


Jane met up with Daria in front of the house. "Yo."


"You always make a girl feel so wanted, you know that?"

"It's like a gift."

"How's your dad?"

Daria looked at the ground. "Physically, he's fine."

"I've always thought he was lacking something mentally."

Daria frowned. Jane saw the look on her face. "I'm sorry. I didn't realize it was such a sore subject."

"That's not what I meant. Before his attack, he and mom had been drifting apart. I thought they'd learn to appreciate each other more since then. But..."

"They're still drifting."

"They spend all their time at their respective offices, and when they're at home, they don't even talk."

"I thought having your parents not talk was your idea of heaven."

"That's to me, not to each other."

Jane put her arm on Daria's shoulder, and was pleasantly surprised when Daria didn't pull away. "Daria, I know this must be hard for you. I know my parents aren't technically divorced, but they're almost never home at the same time, so they might as well be. So if you need any advice, I'll be here."

Jane was rewarded with a rare smile from Daria, and that alone made her day.


Jake pulled into the parking lot of Jake Morgendorrfer Consulting. He walked in the front door, and stopped short as he saw a large banner that read "Welcome Back Jake!" over his desk.

Wendy walked up to him. "It was her idea." She gestured at Horizon.

"I thought it was sweet" she retorted.

"It is sweet." Jake smiled. "At least someone appreciates me."

"Knowing that tone in your voice, I'd say you're either going to start ranting about your father or your wife."

"Actually, I haven't gone off about my father since I was in the hospital." Jake paused. "Actually, I haven't gone off on anything since I was in the hospital."

Wendy raised her eyebrow. "I'll believe that when I see it."

Jake smiled. "So what have we got for today?"


"I have an announcement to make that will make everyone's day!" Ms Li beamed into the microphone as she spoke.

"The teachers have all decided to join the circus?" muttered Daria.

"Work will begin today on a new sporting facility to be located here at Lawndale High. This will be in addition to our award-winning swimming facility, and will add further honor and prestige to Lawndale High's already stellar sporting record!"

"All right!" Kevin's voice rang out. "Lions! Lions!"

The Lawndale Lions chant filled the hall for a good few minutes while everyone filed out.


Daria sat down at her usual table. After a few minutes, Jane walked up, and sat down, visibly upset.

"Did you talk to her?"


"Not good?"

"No! I asked her if the new sporting facility meant that there wouldn't be any money left in the budget for that art seminar next month. She said no."

"Jane, I'm sorry."

"It's okay." Jane sighed and leant back in her chair. "I guess....well, I thought Ms. Defoe supported me, but I guess I was wrong."

"It doesn't sound like her." Daria thought back to her English class earlier. Things had been going as usual, right down to Kevin's asinine comments. Only, when he'd done it that time, Daria could have sworn Mr. O'Neill's face had shifted for a second to an expression of utter hatred. It was just for a second, but it looked like a mask had dropped. She didn't think anyone else had noticed.

", in English class..." She tailed up as Jodie came over and sat down.

"Hey guys." Her expression was glum.

"What's wrong?"

Jodie said nothing, but looked over at Kevin's table. Mack, Kevin and the three J's were sitting over there, laughing and having fun.

"Oh. You guys still haven't made up yet?"

Jodie shook her head. "We both have this stupid pride thing going. Neither of us wants to apologize to the other. I know I was the one that dumped him, but I thought he'd take that as a cue to try and see where I'm coming from. Instead, he just goes out with his football buddies..." She tailed off.

Daria looked at her and Jane. "I thought I was the misery chick. Look at you two."

That got a small smile from both of them.


Mack looked over from his table and saw Jodie talking with Jane and Daria.

Damn, I miss her.

Maybe he should go over and apologize.

No, she dumped you, remember?

Oh yes. She said he wasn't thoughtful enough, after all he'd put up with. Well, he could stick this out a little longer. Let her come to him, for a change.


Jodie stood up. "Well, I'd better go. I have to go over some stuff with Ms. Li about student volunteers. I'll see you guys later."

Daria watched her leave. Jane suddenly got up as well. "You know, I'm not feeling so good. I think I might skip the rest of the day."

"Want me to walk you home?"

"Nah. I'll be fine." Jane moved to leave.

"Jane, are you sure everything's okay?"

Jane paused. "Well, I'm pissed about the art seminar..."

"No, I mean about everything."

"I'm fine, Daria." Jane turned and left, leaving Daria alone with her thoughts.

Is she? I mean, she's seemed fine, but there's been a bit of a forced quality to it. I could be wrong. I hope she's okay.


Jane trudged home. This was all she needed. She'd been really looking forward to that seminar, hoping it would lift her out of her funk, and now it was canceled.


Despite her best attempts to hide her depression from Daria, she'd noticed. Damn!

She's your friend, she'd understand. She'd help you.

Or she might decide she doesn't want to hang out with a confused, lonely, depressed art freak. Take your pick.

She reached her house and walked inside. She headed down to the basement, where she could hear Trent.

"Hey Trent."

"Hey, Janey." He looked a little surprised. "What are you doing home so early?"

"Not feeling so good. What are you up to?"


"Not more of that thinking stuff?"

Trent laughed, then coughed. "No." He looked at Jane intently. "Janey?"


"You know Daria, right?"

"Well, she is only my best friend." Not that anyone would know it from the way I've been acting.

"Right. Do you think she..."

"She what?" Jane began to get a sinking feeling.

"Likes me?"

Oh no. "Sure she likes you, Trent. You're my older brother."

"No...I mean...does she like me?" Trent looked at Jane expectantly.

Jane's heart sank. "Yeah...I think she does." She got up and went to leave.

Trent smiled. Then he saw Jane, and his brow furrowed. "Janey? What's wrong?"

"I just don't feel good, Trent. I'll talk to you later." She left and slammed the door behind her.

Trent frowned. Something was up with Janey.


"No, I'm afraid that isn't possible. It wasn't in our original contract. No, it wasn't, I have it sitting right in front of me. Don't use idle threats on me, they won't work. We'll hold up to our original agreement, and no amount of bullying from you will change our minds. Goodbye."

Jake put down the phone calmly, and looked up. Wendy and Horizon were staring at him.

"What's wrong? I thought I handled that well."

"You did." Horizon glanced at Wendy. "It's just..."

"Don't take this wrong Jake, it's..." Wendy searched for the words. "You handled it a bit too well."

Jake frowned. "What do you mean?"

"Usually you fold with the clients, and let me do all the dirty work."

"That's..." Jake tailed off. Wait. That was true, actually.

"And at least once a day you launch into a rant on something or another."


Horizon nodded. "Oh yes. Damn coffee maker and their damn filters! Damn stupid Sunday drivers! God damn it, I want a damn..." She stopped as she saw the look on Jake's face. "Well, it's true."

Jake glanced over at Wendy, who was trying hard to stop from bursting out laughing. "You know, if you fire her, I'm sure she could get a job as the next Rory Bremner."


"Never mind."

Horizon shrugged. "That's what usually happens. Today, you just seem to be so..."

"Calm." Wendy finished.

"Collected." Added Horizon.

Jake leant back. "I don't feel as stressed, that's for sure. God knows, I should, given all that's happened."

"So what happened?"

Jake shrugged. "I don't know. I really don't."


Quinn stepped in the front door of Fortress Morgendorrfer and headed up to her room. Her plans weren't exactly working out the way she wanted them to. Sandi had called a second emergency meeting of the Fashion Club to discus the impact of the new sports facility on the Club. She'd been worried that it would affect their funding.

Quinn had been trying to talk to Sandi for over a week now about heir situation, but Sandi had always brushed her off with some feeble excuse. It was almost like she didn't want to talk to her out of the Fashion Club setting.

That's probably it. She doesn't see me as a friend. She just sees me as a rival, and she only wants me in a setting where she can control me.

She looked at the phone, thinking of trying to call her.

Not tonight. I need a new approach.


Trent was basking in the glory. Mystic Spiral was playing as the headline acts of Alternapalooza, their adoring fans cheering them on as they launched into their second set. Trent looked down into the audience, and saw Daria gazing adoringly up at him from the crowd. He winked at her, and she blushed slightly. Life couldn't get much better.

Suddenly, he heard it. The sound of his old nemesis.

Not here, man. Not now.

Trent stopped playing. The rest of the band looked at him, wondering what was happening. He looked at them.

"It's him."

Max went pale. Jesse put down his guitar and picked up a machine gun and tossed it to Trent, then grabbed weaponry for himself and the rest of the band. Trent steeled himself as the quacking got louder and louder.

Then, a sixty-foot tall duck came crashing over the horizon, heading straight for him.

Trent suddenly realized the phone was quacking at him.

Where does this shit come from?

He picked it up. "Hey."

Daria's voice came out of the phone. "Trent? Is Jane there?"

"She's in her room. She said she wasn't feeling well, and not to be disturbed."

"Oh." Daria sounded disappointed. "Not even me?"

"Let me check." Trent put down the phone and went upstairs to Jane's room. He knocked, and peeked his head round the door. "Janey?"

Jane was painting. "What?"

"Daria's on the phone. I think she's worried about you."

"I'm not really well enough to come to the phone, Trent. Just tell her I'll see her tomorrow."

Trent went back and picked up the phone again. "Daria? She's not feeling well enough to talk. Sorry."

Daria sounded disappointed. "That's okay, Trent." She paused. "Trent?"


"Does Jane seem okay to you?"

"Hmmm....not really. I gave her some good news today, and she kind of blew me off."

"I'm worried about her."

"She'll be okay, Daria. I wouldn't let anything happen to her."

"I know, Trent. I'll see you round."

"Bye." Trent hung up. He flopped back on the couch, and thought about Daria. He couldn't ignore what he was feeling any more. He liked Daria. A lot. He couldn't figure out when he stopped thinking of her one way, and started thinking of her as a potential romantic partner, but he did, that was for sure. Janey seemed to think she liked him too. He just needed to figure out the right time to tell her. Not until this thing with Janey was settled. He'd figured she'd like it if they got together. Hell, she'd been trying to set them up. He wasn't oblivious enough to miss that. But she'd reacted badly when he'd brought it up today. He didn't want to make a move till he knew Janey was okay.


Daria hung up the phone.

What's wrong with Jane?

Maybe the same thing that had been wrong with her? Just a funk, a temporary discontentment with the way things were? If so, why was she hiding it from her?

There's things you're hiding from her, too.

Okay, that was true. She still didn't want to deal with that yet.

You have to deal with it sometime.

Not yet, though. She had to help her friend through this first.

Daria sighed. Why did life have to be so complicated?


Jake pulled into the driveway, and saw that Helen's car was already there. He gritted his teeth. They had to sort something out tonight. He walked into the house, and heard Helen talking on her cell phone. The girls were nowhere to be seen. Jake walked into the living room, and saw Helen ranting on her cell phone as usual.


Helen waved a vague hello, and went back to her conversation.

"Helen, please."

Helen saw the look in his eyes, and heard the tone of his voice. "Eric? I have to call you back." She hung up and stood in front of Jake. "What's so important that I had to give up my phone call?"

"Helen, what's going on?"

"I don't know what you mean."

"I just got out of the hospital a week ago. Since then, you've barely spent any time with me. I could even think you've been avoiding me. Why?"

Helen scowled. "Don't be ridiculous, Jake."

"Today was my first day back at work. You didn't even wish me luck or anything. You were gone before I got up."

Helen sat down and pursed her lips.

"What's wrong?"

Helen started to say something, then stopped.


"It's nothing."

Jake stared at her for a few minutes. "Fine." He got up and walked towards the door.

"Jake, where are you going?"


He slammed the door behind him. Helen slumped back in her chair.


Jane lay awake in her room, everything racing through her mind at once.

Damn it, why can't I sleep?

She knew the answer, though. She had too much to think about. She closed her eyes and tried to get everything out of her head. Suddenly, she heard a very familiar voice. "Yo."

She opened her eyes. Sitting on the bed beside her was....herself. She closed her eyes, and reopened them. The other Jane was still sitting there.

"I'm not going anywhere."

Jane inched back a little involuntarily. "Who are you?"

"I'm you."

"You're not going to claim to be me from the future, or anything, cause I saw this on Star Trek last night."

"Relax. It's just a dream."

"My dreams are never this weird."

"But they do get pretty sexual, sometimes. Remember that one you had two nights ago?"

"Shut up." Jane was surprised at how vehement she sounded.

"Ooohhh...touchy." The other Jane was grinning wildly.

"Look, what do you want?"

"To help you."

"I don't need any help."

"Jane, we both know that's not true. You need a serious amount of help. Trent and Daria look like they're about to hit it off. Normally, that would be your wildest dream, but you seem kind of cut-up about it."

"You know why."

"So I do. We're a seriously messed chick, you know that? You think once Trent and Daria are doing the nasty, they're not going to want to be with you."


"Get real, Jane! Trent loves you, you know that. Daria's your best friend. They're not going to leave you out, and you know that. That's just the cover reason. The real reason is..."


"Down, tiger." The other Jane walked over to Jane, and took her face in her hands. "Jane, I'm you, remember. I know how you feel, how much it hurts sometimes. I want to help you. If you help me, I can help you. I can give you the courage to say what you want...what you need to say."

Jane looked deep into her own blue eyes. "What do you need me to do?"


Jodie put away the last of her books, and glanced at the clock. She sighed when she saw what time it was.

That's okay. I've gotten used to four hours of sleep a day.

She moved to get ready for bed, when her eye fell on the picture of Mack and her that was sitting on her bedside. Her eyes teared up slightly, and she kicked the picture over, and pitched down onto the bed.

"That's a shame."

Jodie's eyes flew open. An exact mirror image of her was sitting besides the bed.

"It's okay" said the doppelganger. "Don't be scared."

Jodie tried to move her mouth, but nothing came out. Eventually, she stuttered out "What...are you doing here?"

"I came to help you."


"I'm you, Jodie. We like to help people, don't we? Even though our parents make us do all the extra stuff, deep down, we do it because we like to help."

Jodie nodded.

"I know how things are with Mack. You miss him."

Tears began to stream down Jodie's face.

"Jodie, I can help you."

Jodie looked up, through tear-stained eyes. "How?"

"Don't worry. Just let me help you."

Jodie smiled slightly. "Okay."

The next morning, Daria set off for school. Jane wasn't in front of her house like she normally was. When she rang the doorbell, there was no answer. Maybe she was still sick. She walked the rest of the way by herself. When she got to school, she stopped short, not believing what she saw. The new sports facility was already well underway. The outer building was almost completely up.

"Impressive, isn't it?" A voice came from behind her.

Daria nodded mutely.

"They have three shifts working round the clock on it. The estimate is currently set for the end of the week."

"So soon?" Daria turned, and found herself staring at Charles Ruttheimer III. "Upchuck?"

Upchuck nodded. "My father's company is handling it. There's a lot of incentive being offered by the school for this."

"But they only announced it yesterday!"

"Oh, it's been planned for at least a week."

"Even so, that's no time at all."

"You'd be surprised what you can accomplish when you put your mind to it."

"Obviously.." Daria stopped and stared straight at Upchuck. "Are you all right?"

"Yes, why?"

"You haven't called me 'my sweet' or tried to pick me up, or build yourself up, or anything."

Upchuck smiled. "Well, we all have to grow up sometime." He walked off.

Daria stared at him, dumbstruck.

She finally saw Jane in the corridor, in front of her locker. Jane beamed at her. "Hey, amiga!"

"Hey yourself. I must have missed you this morning."

"I was just feeling so much better, I ran to school!"

"Well, that's good."

Jane looked at Daria, concernedly. "You feeling okay?"

Daria shook her head. "I guess. Just...weird things. I'm half expecting to have a conversation with myself one of these days."

Jane went sheet-white. "You too?" She said it in a whisper.

Daria looked at her. "Jane?"

Jane seemed to recover her composure. "Just kidding."

Daria frowned. "Jane..."

"Hey, I have to go. See you at lunch, right?"

Jane walked off, leaving Daria standing by herself.


Sand walked up to her locker, and was surprised when Quinn walked up besides her.


"What is it, Quinn?" Sandi snorted. "Can't this wait until the meeting tonight?"

Quinn shuffled her feet a little. "Actually, Sandi, it's kind of important."

"Quinn, it couldn't be that important, or it would be worth discussing with the rest of the Club tonight."

"Sandi, it's not about the Club. It's about you and me."

"Quinn, I don't think there's anything about you and me we need to discuss. Unless you think I'm not doing a good enough job and want to replace me."

"Sandi, I could never..." Quinn stopped short. "No, it's not about that. Why do you always do that?"

"I don't know what you mean."

Quinn's eyes narrowed. "Fine. If that's the way you want to be, goodbye."

Quinn turned and walked off, leaving Sandi by her locker.


Later that night, Jake was waiting for Helen to come home. They had to sort out their problem, and they were going to do it tonight, no matter what. He heard the front door open, and Helen walked in. "Jake?"

"Helen, we need to talk. Please sit down." Helen sat besides Jake on the couch.

"Helen, why have you been ignoring me?"

Helen paused.

"Please, I need to know."

"Jake...ever since your second attack, things have been...different." Helen's voice had lost some of it's usual confidence.

"I don't understand."

"Jake, you used to annoy the hell out of me, you know that?"

Jake looked a little sheepish.

"But that's okay, it was part of our relationship, and I still loved you. I thought you were kind of cute when you got like that, actually. You seemed like a little boy." Helen smiled. "But, you know, enough is enough. I had gotten to the point where I wanted you to be a little more responsible. I thought a second heart attack might do that to you."

Jake shook his head. "I don't understand. I thought I had been getting more responsible."

Helen looked into his eyes. "That's the problem."


Helen struggled with the right words. "Jake, since then, you've been...different. You haven't been stressed, you haven't been uptight..."


Helen cut him off. "You haven't ranted about your father once, you're acting more and more responsible every day, and your job is going wonderfully."

"How is this a problem?"

Helen looked into his eyes. "You've changed, Jake. Dramatically. You're a completely different person than you were a week ago, and it's going to take me a while to get used to that."

"That's not true." Jake's tone grew more angry. "You're just pissed because now you can't baby me like you used to."

"What? Jake, I..."

"No, listen to me. You just enjoy putting me down and belittling me, and now you can't do that any more! Now we're on a more equal level, and you can't handle it."

Helen looked stunned. "That's not true."

"Right." Jake got up. "I'm going to be sleeping in the guest bedroom for the next few days until you get this sorted out." He strode out. Helen sat back on the couch, put her head into her hands, and began sobbing.


At Sandi's house, the Fashion Club (minus Quinn) were sitting on the floor.

"Whhheeerrre's Quinnn?" asked Tiffany, after a long pause.

"She's not coming." Sandi said sharply.

Stacy heard the tone in her voice, and decided not to push the issue.

"Now, on to the first order of business..."

"Er, Sandi, before we...' Stacy stopped short, and wished she hadn't said anything.


"I have to leave a couple of minutes early tonight....I have some stupid tutor stuff - my parents are making me do..."

"That's bullshit, Stacy."

Stacy went white as a sheet. "But...I..."

Sandi's face grew darker. "Do you think I'm totally stupid, Stacy. Do you think I don't know you've been seeing that geek and lying to us about it?"

Stacy stuttered, but no words came out.

"I don't think we need a lying little bitch in our club, do you?"

Stacy stared at Sandi for a moment, then fled from the room, tears streaming down her face. Sandi took a deep breath, and looked at Tiffany. Tiffany looked up.

"Wwwwhhhherrrre's Stacy?"

Daria heard the shouting from downstairs, and tried to block it out. This was not what she needed right now. It was like all the bad feelings she had had last week were all turning out to be premonitions. She glanced at the phone, and picked it up. She needed Jane.

The phone rang a few times, then Trent's sleepy voice came on the line. "Hey."

"Hi Trent, it's Daria."

"Hey, Daria." Trent's voice instantly picked up. Daria didn't notice it, though.

"Trent, is Jane there?"

"You mean, she isn't with you?"


"She said she had something at school to do. I just assumed she was there with you."

"No." Daria's brow furrowed. "Are you sure she's there?"

"Yeah. I had to call her there, to remind her to pick up some food on the way. She's there, okay."

"Well, thanks anyway, Trent." Daria hung up. That wasn't like Jane. This sure didn't help her mood, that was for sure.


Stacy sobbed her eyes out some more. She'd been crying almost all night, since she'd gotten home. Her parents had tried to comfort her, but she'd just fled to her room. She'd called Ted, and broken their date for tonight. He'd been disappointed, but more worried than anything. She just couldn't face anything tonight.

"I know you can't."

Stacy looked around to see herself. She screamed and jerked backwards on the bed. The other Stacy did the same thing.

" me!" said the other Stacy.

"I'm sorry!" cried Stacy.

"No, I am. I shouldn't have just barged in here like that."

"That's okay." Stacy calmed down a little. "Um...who are you?"

Other Stacy beamed. "I'm you!"

"Oh." Stacy frowned. "Why are you here?"

Other Stacy bit her lip, and looked like she was about to cry. "I know what we've been going through, Stacy."

Stacy looked at the floor, and tears began running down her face.

Other Stacy smiled through her tears. "Just let me help you..."


"Bitch!" screamed Sandi at the top of her voice.

"Bitch!" screamed the other Sandi, just as loud. Then, a little more calmly: "You know I'm right."

Sandi fumed. This could not be her. She didn't have that irritating of a voice, and it wasn't always that condescending.

"My voice is not irritating."

Sandi blinked in surprise.

"Look" said the other Sandi. "I know what you're thinking. I know what you're thinking about Quinn."

"That she's a dirty little bitch who just wants to get rid of me, and take over the only thing I've ever been any good at?"

She did try to apologize today.

"She didn't mean it."

Sandi looked at her double.

"She just wants you weaker, so it'll be easier for her to get rid of you."

"So, what do I do?"

Other Sandi smiled evilly.


At Lawndale High, construction crews continued to work through the night on the new "sports facility". To a casual observe, it would have seemed finished. The outside was completed, a dull gray stone building that betrayed nothing of the interior. Workmen and trucks continued to file in and out of the main doors, never pausing for an instant.

The construction foreman picked up his cell phone and dialed a number, glancing over the school yard to where he knew Ms. Li's office was. After a short pause, Angela Li's unmistakable voice came on the phone.

"Li here."

"This is Wright down at the site. Just your usual progress report."


"Ahead of schedule. Should be done in two days."


"Just wait until we're out of here, before you do anything. That was the agreement, remember?"

"Mr. Wright. You have done a job worthy of Lawndale High. I wouldn't dream of going back on anything."

"Good." He hung up.


Ms Li put the phone down, and turned to the rest of her staff.

"Mr. DeMartino, you have done an excellent job coordinating the workers. We are on in two days time. Timothy, progress?"

O'Neill sat up. "75 per cent of the students are ours now. The rest will be ours in a day."

"Good. Any problems?"

DeMartino spoke up. "One."

Li cocked an eyebrow.

"Our security chief has....been out of contact."

"What do you mean?"

"We haven't heard from him. At all."

There was a general murmur around the room. Li raised her hands, and everyone was quiet. "There's only one solution. Contact him."

DeMartino started to protest. "Contact him? But what if something went wrong? It would just alert outside forces to this."

"I know. But we haven't got any choice. Contact him, and find out if something went wrong."

DeMartino sat back and sighed. "And if it did?"

"Kill him."


Chapter 3: Working Relations.


Daria increased her pace slightly to catch up with Jane. "Jane!"

Jane turned to greet her. "Hey, amiga."

Daria frowned. "Where were you last night? Trent said you were here."

"I was." Jane's eyes narrowed. "You know that. Why weren't you here, by the way?"

Daria looked at her in confusion. "Jane, what are you talking about? You know I never get involved in school events."

"This one was special."

"Jane, I..."

"Daria, do you mean to tell me you don't know what's going on?"

Daria frowned. "No! I don't know what's going on with anything."

She walked away, more confused than ever.

Sandi walked up behind Jane. "What was that all about."

Jane shook her head. "I don't know. She says she doesn't know what was going on. Shouldn't everyone know by now?"

"Yes. Well, the teachers will have to be told. I'll look into her sister too." Sandi walked off, leaving Jane standing by her locker.


Lunch hour came. Daria walked towards the cafeteria, her mind racing a mile a minute.

What is going on? I've always felt like an outsider, but this is ridiculous.

All of her usual classes had been replaced with ones she didn't understand. The teachers kept going on about something big that was supposed to be happening in a day or two. They handed out technical schematics she didn't understand, but everyone else seemed to. Every time she tried to protest, or ask what was going on, everyone kept looking at her funny.

As if everyone knew instinctively, and I didn't.

She walked into the cafeteria, and was stunned by what she saw there.

It was empty.

There was no students there. No workers there. No people of any kind.

What the...?

"They're all working for that big event." Daria looked round to see Quinn, sitting forlornly by herself in the corner.


Daria walked over to Quinn. "Quinn, do you know what's going on?"

"No! I tried to talk to Stacy and Tiffany this morning, but all they could ask me was where I was last night. I said I thought they had been on dates, and they said that dates weren't important now, and I said what, and they..." She was getting more and more agitated, her voice growing higher and higher.

Daria winced and raised her hand. "Quinn, please lose the woodchuck impression."

Quinn glowered at Daria for a moment. "It's like everyone knows something big, except me."

"I know."

"Daria, what's going on?"

"I don't know. Once it became apparent I didn't know much, they all clammed up, and stopped telling me anything. Daria, what are we going to do?"

Daria looked at Quinn, unable to come up with an answer.


Sandi and Jane stood before Ms Li, explaining what they had seen with Daria.

Ms Li looked at both of them. "So you're saying, Ms. Morgendorrfer doesn't seem to have been...recruited?"

Jane nodded. Sandi spoke up. "Stacy and Tiffany told me that Quinn's like that too."

Ms. Li raised an eyebrow. "I wonder why. Though that would tie in with our other problem..."


Li waved her hand. "Nothing. A security issue."

"What should we do?"

"Ms. Griffin, I want you to get rid of Quinn Morgendorrfer. Nothing too serious, just make her leave the premises."

Sandi smiled. "Of course, Ms. Li." She turned and left.

Jane looked at her. "What about Daria?"

Li pursed her lips. "Her loss is regrettable. I could have done so much with her. Do nothing."

Jane blinked. "What?"

"You heard me. She's heard enough to become suspicious. She'll stay around here to find out more, and when the time is right, we'll dispose of her."

Suddenly, Jane's face slipped. "Dispose? But she's...I mean, I..."

"I know how you feel, Ms Lane, but you will do your duty!"

Jane snapped back into her former mood. "Yes ma'am." She turned and left.

Li sat back in her chair. Once Quinn was home, she'd be taken care of, along with their other problem. Daria was more problematic. If she knew too much, she could figure out what was going on. Let her try. Keep her in a place where they could monitor her. Then, when the time s right...

Li smiled.


Quinn was heading to class, when a familiar voice rumbled out from behind her. "Kuh-winnn!"

She turned to see the fashion club walking up behind her. "What is it Sandi?"

"Emergency meeting, Quinn."

"I thought I was out, Sandi."

"Oh no, Quinn, we couldn't let someone of your talent slip away from us."

Quinn sighed and stopped walking. "What do you want, Sandi?"

"Quinn, why were you always trying to get rid of me?"

"Oh, Sandi, I could never replace you." Quinn said that with a lot more sarcasm than normal. "Sandi, I tried..."

Quinn stopped short as Sandi's arm shot out and she grasped Quinn by the throat. "Sandi, what are you.." She gasped in pain as Sandi lifted her clear off the ground with one hand.

"This is a warning. Get out of Lawndale High, and don't ever come back." Sandi hissed the words with utter malevolence.

Quinn tried to break Sandi's grip on her throat with little success. She looked over at Sandi and Tiffany in desperation. "Help me!"

They looked on, impassive.

Sandi pulled Quinn closer. "Get out, today, and you'll never hear from me again. Okay?"

Quinn nodded as best she could, tears of pain running down her face. Sandi moved to put Quinn down again, then threw her across the hall at the lockers. Quinn smashed into the lockers and screamed in pain. She fell to the ground. She wiped the blood away from her mouth, looked up at the fashion club, and half-ran, half-limped away as fast as she could.

Sandi smiled.


"I'll see you guys tomorrow." Horizon picked up her bag, and walked over to Jake's desk. "Jake, are you sure there's nothing you need to talk about?"

Jake shook his head. "No." His facial expression told a different story, though.

Horizon sighed, and began to walk out the door, glancing at Wendy as she did so. When she left, Wendy strode up to Jake's desk, and firmly planted her hands on the desktop.

"All right, Jake, what the bloody hell's been going on?"

Jake scowled. "I don't know what you mean."

"You've been moping over your desk all day, you've been rude to customers, and you've been a total shite to me and Horizon."

Jake's face fell. "I'm sorry, Wendy. It's just...Helen."

"Ah." Wendy stood up and crossed her arms.

"She's just been so distant, lately, and when I talked to her about it, she told me she..." Jake shook his head. "Dammit!"


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

"Fine." Wendy walked over, and picked up her bag and coat. "I'm going to start walking home now. I'll just leave you hear to sulk by yourself."

Jake got up. "Wendy, wait. Can I...walk you home?"

Wendy turned, and cocked her head. "We both know that's a bad idea, Jake."

"I didn't mean it like that."

"Yes, you did. Even if you don't know that you did. I've been with enough married men to know that."

Jake smiled a little. "Why doesn't that surprise me?"

Wendy threw a paperweight at him. Jake caught it without thinking. "Wendy, I'm sorry. Look, let me walk you home, and I'll tell you what's going on. Maybe it'll help if I get it...what are you staring at?"

Wendy shrugged. "That was a pretty good catch, that's all."

"Oh, yeah, I guess."

"Okay. I know I'm not the fluffiest person around, but it couldn't hurt to talk it out."

"Thanks, Wendy."

Jake picked up his jacket, and followed Wendy out.


Daria ducked into an alcove in the library. She knew what she was going to do now. Something was not right in the school. She'd been noticing things for days, and now all the signs were too numerous to ignore. Jane, for a start. Unless, Jane was ignoring her because of her..

Stop that. That's your insecurities talking. Think about all the other evidence.

Jodie and Mack suddenly back on speaking terms. The fashion club getting along harmoniously. Upchuck not being lecherous.

She ducked behind a bookshelf as she heard someone coming. Kevin and Brittany walked past, not spotting her.

Kevin and Brittany in a library, and not making out? That had to be the biggest clue of all. Whatever was going on, she betted that it had to do with that sports facility. Her plan was to hide out in school until everyone went home, then check it out. The workmen were supposed to be finishing up tonight, so they would be out of the way too. She knew where Li put all of the cameras, and how to avoid them. One way or another she was getting to the bottom of this.


"She says I've changed. And that the changes scare her a little."

"To be honest, Jake, it scares me a little too."

Jake turned to Wendy. "Why?"

"Just look at yourself, Jake. A little over a week ago, you were a stressed out, clueless, spineless guy. Now you're Superman. Who wouldn't be a little concerned?"

Jake sulked. "It's nice to know you think so highly of me."

Wendy shoved her hands more deeply into her pockets. "Jake, it's the way you were. Don't get me wrong, though. Me and Horizon love working for you."


"Look, you and Helen have been together for what? Almost thirty years? I mean, she might come across as a bitch queen from hell to me..." Jake shot a look at Wendy. "But it's obvious you two love each other. So don't bugger it up."

"You're right. Hey, how did you get to be so well-versed on relationships, anyway?"

"Well, when you've had as many as me..."


Wendy scowled at Jake. They turned into an alley to cut across to Wendy's apartment, when they heard something.

"Get back against the wall."

They turned to see five men, all dressed in black, standing at the mouth of the alley.

"What is this?" Jake started to demand angrily.

Wendy nudged him. "Do as they say - they're armed."

Jake's eyes went to the tell-tale bulge under each of their arms. "Damn."

They backed up against the wall. The five men, walked up in front of them.

"Listen, if you want any money, we don't have much..."

"Shut up" said the leader. "We don't want your money."

He walked up to Jake. "We just want..."

He was cut off speaking, as Wendy delivered a powerful kick to the back of his legs. He fell to his knees - Jake noticed the others reaching for their guns - Wendy going to attack another - His heart pounding - Puling out their guns - Chest hurts so much - One taking aim at Wendy - Make it stop!

It was then that everything went black.


Li watched Daria make her way through the school. She smiled as she watched Daria carefully maneuver her way through what she thought were safe zones.

It certainly paid off to get those workers to install new cameras.

Daria had been moving very gradually, making sure that she wasn't seen, making her way closer to the sports facility. All of the students had gone home, preparing themselves for tomorrow. The workers would be finished in a couple of hours, which was when Li figured Daria would try to sneak in. Li smiled. This was almost too easy.



Jake stirred from the blackness, wondering where the hell he was. Then he remembered what had been going on when he passed out, and his eyes sprung open. He clambered to his feet, half-expecting to see Wendy lying dead in front of him.

What he saw was far stranger.

Wendy, physically unharmed, was standing in front of him, her face more shocked than he had ever seen it. He glanced around. The five men were lying around the alleyway, all unconscious, some of them badly hurt. It looked like some had broken limbs, while others were just badly bruised and beaten.

He glanced up at Wendy. "What happened?"

She stared at him. "You don't remember?"

"I blacked out."

"Bloody hell, Jake. Look at what you did!"

Stunned, Jake leant against the alley wall. "What I did?"

Wendy was shaking. "Oh God...I need a cigarette." She pulled one out of her coat and hurriedly lit it. Jake looked down at his hands. They were covered in blood and scratches.

Kicking one guy in the throat, turning and punching another half-way across the alley.

He shook his head, wondering where that memory had come from.

Breaking an arm, then throwing the leader into a wall.

The flashes were interrupted by Wendy exhaling loudly. She grabbed her cell phone and dialed 911, then told the paramedics where they were. She hung up and grabbed Jake by the arm.

"Come on, we have to leave."

"But the paramedics..."

"You just beat five guys half to death, and can't remember any of it. They'll lock you up!"

Jake and Wendy hurried in the direction of her apartment.


"Quinn, sweetie, are you sure you don't want anything?"

Helen waited outside Quinn's door.

"NO! Leave me alone!" Quinn shrieked.

Helen sighed. She went downstairs, and sat by herself at the kitchen table. Where was Jake? Where was Daria? Quinn had been in her room since Helen had arrived home, and wouldn't say why. Eventually, Helen had called Linda Griffin, and asked if Sandi knew why Quinn was so upset. Linda said that Sandi and Quinn had had a spat over the fashion club again, and that Sandi was just as upset.

Quinn seemed awfully upset though. Helen hoped she'd come out before the night was through. Impulsively, she called Jane's house.

Jane came on the phone. "Yo."

"Hello, Jane, this is Helen Morgendorrfer. Is Daria there?"

"Hey, Mrs. Morgendorrfer. Yeah, but she's in the bathroom. Do you want me to get her for you?"

"No, that's okay. As long as I know she's there." Helen said goodbye and hung up. Now all she had to do was figure out where Jake was.


Quinn got up off the bed, and walked over to her mirror. She hadn't even looked in the mirror since she'd gotten home - she'd been afraid to see what Sandi had done to her. She steeled up her courage and looked.

The left side of her face was swollen and bloody, and there were heavy bruises around her neck, where Sandi had grabbed her. She lifted up her tee and saw the marks around her ribcage, where she'd hit the lockers. She felt around and winced. Her reserve cracked and she broke down again.

Why had Sandi done that? Why had Stacy and Tiffany just watched? Why hadn't they done something? Weren't they her friends?

Quinn felt more alone than she ever had.


Jake sat down on Wendy's couch in a daze.

Wendy was pacing up and down, smoking furiously. "What's going on, Jake? Who the hell are you?"

Jake shook his head. "I don't know. This all started...." He looked up suddenly. "When I got that phone call in the mall!"

Wendy frowned. "What could that have to do with anything?"

"I don't know, Wendy!" Jake's cell phone went off. "Jake Morgendorrfer Consulting."

"Hi Jake." DeMartino's voice came over the phone.

"Oh, hi Tony. What's up?"

"Jake, why aren't you here?"

Jake furrowed his brow. "What? Did I miss a PTA meeting again?"

"You know what I mean."

"I'm not sure I do. Are you all right?"


"You sound....kind of...calm."

"I'm fine, Jake. You're sure you don't know what I'm talking about?"

"Completely." Jake stared at his cell phone as DeMartino abruptly hung up.

Wendy walked over. "What was that all about?"

Jake shrugged. "I don't know." His phone rang again. "Hello?"

"Jake! Where are you?"

Jake mouthed 'Helen' to Wendy. "At work. I had to stay a little late. Is everything okay?"

"Quinn's upset, but apart from that....I...miss you."

Jake raised his eyebrows. "I miss you too."

"Please, can you come home soon? We need to talk."

"I'll be home as soon as possible." Jake hung up. "Helen wants to talk. I have to go."

Wendy flopped down on the couch beside him. "What about tonight?"

"I'll handle that in the morning. Thanks for all your help, Wendy."

Wendy shrugged. "All part of the service, I guess."


DeMartino walked into Li's office. "He doesn't know anything. But...he's obviously been affected in some way. The welcome committee are all in the hospital."

Li frowned. "Then we go to our original plan. Send someone to dispose of him and his family. Daria is here. We can take care of her."

DeMartino nodded. "I'll send someone out in the morning. By then, it'll be too late for anyone to do anything."

Li picked up the phone. "I think it's time Ms Morgendorrfer came to us."


Trent walked through Casa Lane, looking for Janey. She'd been acting so weird lately, and she was never home. Every time he tried to find out what was going on, she always blew him off. Trent was pretty hurt. Janey was one of the only things in his life that mattered to him, and her acting like he was nothing hurt.

There she was. Talking on the phone.

"I'll be there in ten minutes." She hung up and turned to face Trent. "Hey Trent."

"Hey Janey."

"Gotta go." She made to push past him, and he stopped her. "Trent, let me go."

"Janey, things have been weird here lately, especially with you. I need to know what's going on. You're one of the only things that matter to me, Janey, and I need to know if you're okay."

Jane's face shook briefly. It looked like she was on the verge of cracking. Then, it hardened again. "Let me go, Trent. It's none of your business."

"You're not going..."

Trent reeled back as Jane delivered a powerful roundhouse kick to his stomach. He doubled over, and looked up just in time to see Jane's foot smash straight into his face. Trent collapsed, unconscious.

Unemotionally, Jane stepped over him, and left.


Jake's Lexus pulled up in the driveway, and he headed inside. Helen was sitting at the kitchen table, waiting for him.

"Hello, Jake."

Jake sat down at the kitchen table. "Helen, I..."

"Jake, I.."

They both stopped and smiled. Jake took the opportunity to go first. "Helen, I'm sorry. I've been acting like a child over the past few days. I overreacted to your concerns, and I didn't hear you out. I'm sorry."

Helen shook her head. "No, Jake, I'm sorry. I do want you to be more responsible. It's just, that all at once was a little...daunting. I'm sorry it seemed like I was treating you like a pariah."

"It's okay. I know how Daria feels now." Jake glanced around. "Say, where is Daria?"

"She's at Jane's. Quinn's still up in her room."

"What's wrong?"

"Sandi and her had a fight. She's taking it pretty badly."

Jake started to get up. "Maybe I should go talk to her."

Helen put her arm on his shoulder. "I tried. She won't open the door."

"Oh." Jake sat back down again.

Helen smiled. "You know, I could get to like this new Jakey..."

Jake smiled, and leant in to kiss her.


Daria watched from her hiding place as the last of the workmen left. She began to inch towards the sports facility, slowly and quietly. She reached the main door without a hitch, and looked at the locking mechanism. She flipped open an access panel, re-jigged a few wires and the doors slid open. She crept inside, not sure of what she'd find in there.

In her wildest dreams, she never thought she'd see what she was seeing.

The inside was huge, almost five stories high. In the center of the room were three giant concentric rings. She couldn't tell how they were suspended above the ground. A massive spider's web of catwalks spread outwards from the center of the room, with enormous pulsing power conduits rising from the ground to the ceiling. Banks and banks of computers and monitors lined the walls. Directly in front of the rings, about three stories up, was a huge console that could only be the control console.

Daria stood, slack jawed at what she was seeing. Whatever was going on here, it was a lot bigger than what she had originally thought. She couldn't do this by herself.

Who can I trust with this?

A wave of despair swept over her as she realized she didn't know who was still normal in Lawndale.

Her reverie was broken by a click from behind her. It was the sound of a gun being cocked.

"Hey amiga" said a familiar voice.

Daria turned, her heart sinking as she did so. It was Jane, pointing a large automatic at her head.

"Sorry, Daria, but you're gonna have to come with me."

"Jane, what's going on?"

"No can tell. That's up to the big kahuna." Jane waved her gun, and she and Daria headed towards Ms Li's office.


Li and the rest of the faculty were waiting for Daria and Jane when they got there.

"Thank you Miss Lane. At least one of you has become a credit to Lawndale High."

Jane smiled and stepped back. Daria glared at Li. "What are you people up to here?"

"Just a small favor for our employers."

"Who are they?"

Li just smiled. "We're running a small test of some equipment."

"It has to do with that....thing out there?"

Li nodded. "Mr. DeMartino and his crew have performed admirably well, wouldn't you say?"

"What is it?"

"A weapon."

Daria blinked in shock. "What kind of weapon?"

"It's all very complicated. Suffice to say, it's due to be tested tomorrow."

"What's it going to do?"

"Kill everyone in Lawndale, probably."

Daria's throat went dry. "You have to be kidding."

Li shook her head. "Anthony?"

DeMartino stepped forward. "All the preliminary tests we've run show that even without running at full power, Lawndale will easily be decimated. Well, the people anyway."

Daria couldn't believe what she was hearing. "'re mad! You'll be killed too!"

Li smiled. "We were just here to make sure it was built, and to recruit some people willing to actually fire it. We'll be far away enough to be safe."

"Recruit....the students?"

O'Neill spoke up: "All the students seemed perfectly willing to sign up, so to speak. Turns out almost everyone has something that they want - a weakness to lower their defenses, and let us in."

"Why wasn't I affected?"

"I don't know." Daria turned to see Manson. "None of your family were. Most problematic."

"I've taken care of that." Li grinned. "Your family will be dead in a few hours, as will you."


Helen snuggled closer to Jake, relaxing in the warmth of his body. Suddenly, the alarm went off. Helen cursed and hit the snooze button. Jake stirred. "Is it time for work already?"

Helen nodded. "I'm afraid so."

"Didn't feel like I got a lot of sleep last night."

"You didn't." Helen grinned. "Neither of us did."

"It's been a while since we've been that energetic." Jake hopped out of bed, and headed for the bathroom. "Do you want the shower first, or should I go first?"

Helen pulled the sheet from herself. "Let's just go in together, shall we?"

She closed the bathroom door behind her, as Jake smiled in agreement.


They both washed and dressed and headed downstairs. Jake frowned. "Where's Daria and Quinn?"

Helen went back upstairs, and called down: "Daria's bed hasn't been slept in."

Jake went upstairs to join her. They knocked on Quinn's door. "Quinn, honey, are you there?"

Quinn's muffled voice came out. "Go away."

Helen glanced at Jake. "Sweetie, I know you're upset, but you have to go to school."

No answer.

Jake thought for a few seconds, then grasped the door handle. He pushed it as hard as he could, and the door gave way. Helen looked at him. "I didn't think you were that strong."

Jake shrugged. Inside the room, Quinn was sitting on her bed, in almost total darkness. Helen reached for the light switch and flicked it on. Quinn threw her pillow over her face. "Go away!"

Helen sat on the bed beside her. "Quinn, it's me." She moved to take the pillow down. Quinn resisted, then let her. Helen and Jake gasped as they saw their daughter's face.

"Quinn, who did this to you?!" Helen finally spat out.

"I'll kill them!" screamed Jake. "Who was it? One of those three idiots you always.."

"Sandi." Quinn said it dully.

"What?" Helen touched Quinn's face lightly, and then noticed her side. She hiked up the pink tee, and saw Quinn's ribs. She put her hands to her face, tears streaming down her face. "Why?"

"I don't know!" Quinn's eyes welled up again. "She was so strong...and Stacy and Tiffany..."

Quinn's speech was cut short by a crash from downstairs. Jake rushed out of the room, to see the front door explode inwards. Jake turned to Helen. "Close the door, and get in the closet! No matter what, stay quiet!"

Helen's eye grew wide. Jake slammed the door, and hoped to hell whatever had happened last night would happen again here.

He spotted a figure in black coming up the stairs. He leapt, moving into a flying kick instinctively. The man went down - a blow to the throat ensured he stayed down. Jake gave him a once-over. Black commando gear. Armed to the teeth. No insignia.

A shot behind him. He ducked, bullets slamming into the wall where he'd been. He rolled, grabbing a pistol from the fallen man's holster as he went.

As he rolled, he fired, two more men fell. How many was there?

Jake leapt to his feet, pistol aimed in front of him. Noises from outside the house. He ducked into the living room, listened for any more intruders.

"Check the living room."

Another came into the living room - Jake kicked the gun from his hand - a second kick to the head sent him to the floor.

He rushed into the kitchen. Another one there. A shot to the man's arm sent his gun flying out of reach - Jake punched him square in the chest, and he went flying into the counter. As he got up, Jake was there, holding a gun to his head.

"How many more?"

"I'm the last" the man spat out, clutching his wounded arm.

Jake reached into the drawers behind the man, and pulled out some duct tape. He quickly bound the man securely, then checked the others. They were all alive, and out cold.

Jake stood up and relaxed. Then, the reality of what just happened hit him, and he had to steady himself against the wall.

Time for some answers.

He walked back upstairs, and opened Quinn's door. "Helen, Quinn, it's me."

The closet doors opened and the two women sprung out into Jake's arms.

"Daddy, are you okay?"

"Jake, what happened?"

"I'm fine."

They walked back downstairs, Helen and Quinn visibly shocked by the comatose people lying around their house. Jake walked over to the conscious man and pulled the duct tape from his mouth.

"Jake, what's going on?"

"That's what I hope to find out." Jake turned to the guy. "Who are you?"

"Go to hell." The man spat out some blood and teeth.

Jake sighed and pushed the gun to his head. "I really need to know."

He heard Quinn and Helen gasp from behind him. "Helen, maybe you'd better take Quinn into the other room."

He heard them leave. He pushed the gun harder into the man's forehead. "Tell me."

"Okay!" The man paused, then continued. "I was sent here to kill you and your family."

"Because you betrayed us."

"I've never even heard of you."

"We've heard of you, though. I'm from Lawndale High."

Jake frowned. "What?"

"You're supposed to be there right now, helping them. Instead, for whatever reasons, you've turned your back on them. We can't allow you to go free with what you know."

"I don't know anything!"

"You do. You just don't know it yet."

"The phone call..."

"Exactly. Something went wrong, and you didn't show up like you were supposed to. Must be something to do with your family."

"I don't understand."

"That's all I know."

"What's going on at Lawndale High."

"Testing the weapon systems."

Jake's eyes went wide. "What?"

"Shit, you really don't know, do you? In a few hours, everyone in this two will be dead, and there isn't shit you can do about it."

Jake stood up slowly.


He picked up the phone quickly, and dialed Jane's number. After a few minutes, Trent came onto the line. He sounded even more out of it than usual.


" this?"

"It's Jake Morgendorrfer, Trent. Is Daria there?"

"No...shit! Janey!"

"Trent, what's wrong?"

"It's Janey....she's at the school. I tried to find out what's going on, and she beat the crap out of me."


"Yeah, man. I gotta get down there."

"Trent, hold on. I'm betting that's where Daria is too. Hold on for a few minutes, and I'll pick you up."

Jake hung up. The man was laughing. "What are you going to do, break in and save the day?"

Jake shrugged.

"Who do you think you are? They'll kill you."

"I have to do something."

Jake walked into the front room, where Helen and Quinn were sitting, hugging each other.

"Jake, what's going on? Where's Daria?"

"I'm going to get her. Helen, call some paramedics for those guys. Just don't be here when they get here, okay?"

Helen nodded mutely.

"Then, I want you and Quinn to get out of Lawndale. Tell as many people as you can to get out too, especially Wendy and Horizon at my office, okay?"

"Where are you going?"

"To get Daria, and some answers."

Helen nodded. "Please be careful."

Jake leant in and kissed her. "I love you."

"I love you too."

Jake hugged Quinn, and headed out to the car, stopping briefly to pick the weapons from the intruders.


When he got to Casa Lane, Trent was waiting for him. He hopped in the car.

"Trent, this could be dangerous."

"I know, man, but I have to make sure Janey's safe." He paused. "And Daria."

Jake looked at him.

"I like her, Mr. Morgendorrfer. A lot. And I need to tell her before anything happens."

Jake sighed. "Okay."

He hit the gas, and the Lexus headed towards Lawndale High...


Chapter 4: School Daze.


The students all filed into the main hall. Ms. Li and the rest of the faculty were standing on the dais. Li spoke into her microphone:

"Students - today is a momentous day for Lawndale High! Today, you all get to be part of a major event in the history of the United States. You will be testing a new weapons system sure to benefit this great country, and your sacrifices will ensure the success of the test. Already some of you are guarding the entrances to make sure no-one comes and interferes with our plans. Soon , we will be leaving, and you will be activating the machine and preparing for the test. I am very proud of all of you, and your courageous actions will bring glory to Lawndale High!"

There was a smattering of applause around the hall. Li stepped down from the dais and walked over to DeMartino. "Any word back from the men we sent to take care of Morgendorrfer."

He shook his head.

Li frowned. "We can't worry about it now. Is everyone else in Lawndale out?"

"Yes. The only ones remaining are the faculty."

She nodded. "Get ready to move us out. Send Lane to kill that other Morgendorrfer girl."


Daria sat in Li's office, struggling against her bonds. She heard the door click open behind her and felt her bonds being loosened. She got up and turned to see Jane, still pointing a gun at her.

"Don't make any moves, Daria."

"Where are we going to now?"

"The teachers are getting ready to leave, and I'm going to take you out back, and shoot you."

"What are friends for, right?"

Jane smiled, and gestured towards the door.


The three J's tried to look as inconspicuous as they could as they could, guarding the back door. They spotted a blue Lexus drive up, and two men got out.

Jake and Trent walked towards the steps, and stopped when Joey and Jamie stepped in front of them.

"Hi, Mr. Morgendorrfer."

"Joey, Jeffy..." Jake waved his hand vaguely to indicate Jamie. "I need to go inside."

"Sorry, we can't let you do that."

"It's about Quinn."

No change.

"You must be brainwashed" muttered Jake. He moved to go inside, and the three J's all reached under their shirts. Jake whirled round and kicked Jamie in the chest. He grabbed Joey by the shirt and threw him into a wall. Jeffy had managed to get his gun out, but Jake ducked under his shot, grabbed his arm, and pitched him over, then smashed him in the throat.

Jake stood back up and straightened his tie.

"Whoa" said Trent.

"Come on."

They headed inside.

"Where to first?"

"The staff and students have all been brainwashed, and we need to unbrainwash them."

Trent thought about this for a moment. "Maybe I could play some of my music over the intercom."

Jake looked at him. "No, Trent."


Daria and Jane headed down the corridor.

"Jane, please. I know I don't like a lot of the students here, and neither do you, but we can't just let them all die."

Jane said nothing.

"Jane, I can't let you die."


"Jane, please. You're the most important person in my life. If you won't listen to me, who will? I need your help. Please."

Jane still said nothing, but her face looked like she was in a lot of internal pain.


O'Neill and Manson headed down the corridor.

"I just need to get something from my office. I'll meet you back at Li's office."

O'Neill nodded. Manson headed to her office and walked inside.

"Close the door, doctor."

Manson looked round in shock. Standing behind her desk was Jake Morgendorrfer, and a lanky guy she didn't know. Morgendorrfer was pointing a gun at her.

Quickly, she closed the door. "What do you want?"

"Answers. Sit down."

She did so.

"First of all, what's going on? Especially with me."


"Sleeper agents. Post-hypnotic commands are implanted in a variety of people, then a trigger reactivates them when the time is right."

"That's what happened here?"

"With the teachers, yes. With the students, it was a little more complicated. Just a couple of brainwashing techniques. First, find out what they want above everything else. Promise it to them, and when they let you in, take them over. They won't even notice you never gave them what you promised, you just needed that moment of weakness."

Jake sat down, trying to take all this in. "And me?"

"You were supposed be to our security chief. You were given the code word, but you never got turned the whole way. Probably something genetic, as neither of your daughters were affected, either."

"But why me?"

"Your father, I think."

"You think?"

"Mr. Morgendorrfer, I'm hardly the head of this particular operation. I was helping with the psychological aspects, that's all."

Jake seethed for a moment. "Okay, then, how do we get everyone back to normal."

Manson said nothing.

Jake raised his gun. "Please."

"Mr. Morgendorrfer, you're not going to kill me."

"Maybe, but I can tie you up and leave you here for whatever's going to happen."

Manson went silent, and Jake knew he'd hit a chord.

"There is...a second code deprogram everyone."


"That's it?"

Manson nodded.

"Wow" said Trent. "I guess this sort of thing's easier than I thought."

Jake nodded. "What is it?"

"I can't say it. I can't deprogram myself, can I?"

Jake frowned. He found a pad and a pencil and pushed them across the table. "Write it down."

She paused.

"It's that, or waiting patiently for that thing out there to fire."

She scowled and wrote something down. Jake grabbed the pad and looked at it. He looked at Manson and said "Nadsat."

Manson lolled back in her chair, going completely limp. Jake and Trent looked at each other, concerned. Then she got back up and looked at them both. "Where am I?"

"I guess it worked" said Trent.

"You're Jake Morgendorrfer, aren't you? And...I recognize you from somewhere" she said, pointing at Trent. "What are you doing here?" She saw the gun in Jake's hand and started to scream. Jake motioned at Trent, and he put his hand over her mouth.

Jake start rummaging through the room until he found some duct tape. He began tying Manson to the chair. She began struggling. Finally, Jake put some duct tape over her mouth.

"Are we just going to leave her here?"

"Yes. If we're successful, she'll be fine. If she goes to the other teachers now, and they see she's gone back to normal, I don't know what they'll do."

" what now?"

"I guess we go try to broadcast that thing over the intercom."

"Where's that at?"

"Li's office, probably. You know where that it?"

"Yeah. I spent a lot of time there when I was here."

"Good, let's go."

They hurried out of the room as quietly as they could.


Jane and Daria continued through the corridors, more slowly than before. Jane was looking even more troubled. Daria decided to take a chance and stopped. She flinched, waiting for the shot. When it didn't come, she turned round to face Jane. The gun was wavering in Jane's hands.

"Jane, you're my best friend, and more. You're the most important person to me." Daria paused, trying to work up the courage to say something. "Jane, help me."

She reached out slowly, and took the gun from Jane's hands. She threw it to the side and took Jane's hands in hers. Tears were running down Jane's face. "Jane, I..."

Suddenly, Jane's face went hard, and she pulled back abruptly. Without warning, she aimed a vicious kick to Daria's face.

Daria spun and hit the ground in shock. She looked up to see Jane's fist coming down, and she barely managed to dodge in time. She got up and backed away quickly.

Good job I took that self-defense class.

Jane's hand flew at her, and she blocked it. She didn't anticipate how strong Jane was, and the blow still sent her back a bit. Jane's foot hit her in the knees and she fell to the ground, a second kick sending her face smashing into the floor.

I don't want to hurt her.

"Jane, please!" Daria practically screamed it, spitting out blood onto the floor. She felt Jane grabbing her hair and pulling her on her feet, then a vicious jab to the stomach. Desperate, she flung her hand out, catching Jane in the throat. Jane gasped and staggered back.

"Jane, it's me!"

Jane began to advance again. Reluctantly, Daria spun round, kicking Jane in the head. As Jane went with the blow, Daria elbowed her in the back, each blow hurting her more than it was hurting Jane.

Please, Jane.

Jane fell to the ground. She got up, wiped the blood away from her mouth, and lunged at Daria. She delivered a powerful series of blows to Daria, who tried futilely to block them. The last one sent Daria's glasses flying. Daria looked up. Her entire worldview looked like a brown blob. She couldn't possibly defend herself like that, and Jane savagely knocked her to the ground.

Jane knelt down, and put her hands around Daria's throat, and began to squeeze. Daria gasped, and tried to pull her hands from her neck, without much success.

"Jane!" she gasped. Jane paused a little, and Daria took the opportunity. She grabbed Jane's head and brought it close to her, and she whispered something in Jane's ear. Immediately, Jane went limp, and fell on top of Daria.

"Jane?" Daria whispered, getting out from under Jane, and turning her over. Jane's eyes popped open, filled with tears.

"Daria? Oh God, Daria, I'm so sorry." The tears ran down her face. "I tried....but it was like...I was in there screaming....but my body wouldn't do what I told it to. And I could see what I was doing to you....I just couldn't stop it...!"

Daria pulled Jane close to her and held her close. "It's okay, Jane. It's okay."

They sat there for a long time, in each other's arms.

Finally, Daria got up. "Come on. This place is crawling with other people, and if they find us, I don't know what they'll do."

Jane got up as well. "Um, Daria....about what you said...."

"We can talk about it later."

Jane nodded uncomfortably, and walked over and picked Daria's glasses up. She handed them to her, and they set off.


Trent and Jake sneaked round the corridors, avoiding all the students they came across.

"This place is crawling with them" whispered Trent.

"Trent, it is a school."

"Oh yeah."

Jake sneaked a look around a corner. "Li's office is there. There's two kids guarding it. I think they're armed."

Jake heard a sound behind him, and whirled round, bringing his gun up. Trent did the same.

It was Daria and Jane.

"Daria!" cried Jake in joy. He hugged Daria tight. "Thank God you're okay!" He noticed the bruises and blood on her. "What happened? Who did this to you?"

"I'm okay" said Daria curtly. She noticed Jane hang her head, as Jake asked.

"Hey, Janey" said Trent, hugging Jane tight. Jane hugged him back.

"I'm sorry, Trent." Jane looked up at him through tears.

"It's okay, Janey, you weren't yourself." Trent hugged her tighter. He pulled away and moved to hug Daria. She pulled away abruptly.

"What are you doing here, anyway?"

"We came to rescue you" said Jake.

"I guess you're right" said Jane. "He really is more competent now."

"Put your hands up, now."

They all turned to see the guards from Li's office pointing guns at them.

"Oh yes, the guards" said Jake, embarrassed.

"And then again" muttered Daria.

As fast as lightning, Jake sped towards the first, kicking the gun out of his hands, then elbowing the second in the throat. He spun around, sweeping the legs out from under the second, and delivered a powerful uppercut to the first.

In three seconds, the two guards were unconscious.

"Whoa." said Jane.

"Tell me about it" whispered Daria, her eyes wide.

Jake set off for the office. "Come on!"

They all trooped into the office. Jake quickly explained what Manson had told him. He set up the intercom and spoke the code word into it.

"And that's it?" Daria said incredulously.

"Apparently so. Let's get to the main hall, and see."


They approached the main hall. Jake could tell there was an uncomfortable tenseness between Daria and Jane, but he decided not to push the issue just yet. Trent noticed it too.

They reached the doors, and Jake was about to push them open, when they flung open, sending him flying backwards. Two figures rushed past them, sending off potshots back into the room. Jane and Daria looked at each other.

"Was that Li and O'Neill?" asked Jane finally.

They hurried inside. The hall was a mess. A couple of students were wounded, and the teachers were gathered on stage, huddled over something. Jake rushed up on stage, pushing past the students. He grabbed DeMartino.

"What the hell happened?"

DeMartino looked shell-shocked. "We all....woke up...and suddenly, Angela started screaming about how we'd betrayed her, and started taking potshots at the students. Then, Timothy got up and started....ACTING really strange. Janet went over and HE....HE..." DeMartino's voice went out of control and his eye bulged uncontrollably. Jake glanced over at what the teachers were huddled over, and saw the lifeless body of Janet Barch.

"Jesus" he breathed. He ran down off the stage.

"Trent, come on! We have to find them." He turned to Daria. "We'll head for the weapon."

"Jane and I will cover the rest of the school."

"Daria, no! It's too dangerous."

"You and Trent can't do this alone."

Jake sighed. "Be careful, please."

"I will."

Jake and Trent rushed off. Daria turned and found Jodie and Mack, who were holding each other, and looking totally lost. "Mack, Jodie."

"Daria, what the hell's going on?"

"Too much to tell, Mack. Listen, you and Jodie get everyone out, okay? Get some medical care for the wounded."

Mack nodded.

Daria turned to Jane. "Coming?"

Jane nodded, and the two set off. As the rest of the students and teachers began to leave, under Mack's direction, Kevin and Brittany looked after them.

"You know, babe" said Kevin. "Sounds like they need some professional help. Like the QB!"

"Oh Kevvie, you're so brave!"

They set off after Daria and Jane.


Trent and Jake reached the entrance to the weapon. Jake punched in a number and it slid open.

"How'd you know that?" asked Trent.

"I just did." Jake shrugged.

They walked inside, and both were immediately stunned by the sight. After a few minutes, Jake recovered enough to spot a lone figure on one of the higher catwalks, by a large console.

"That must be him." Jake took a quick look around. "There's two catwalks that lead to that one. Split up. If he's armed, and I'm sure he is, he'll find two targets harder to shoot at than one."

Trent raised his own gun. "Got you."

They split up, and Jake ran to a ladder and began climbing. Trent did the same. As Jake was climbing, he saw the power conduits begin to pulse faster and faster, and the three huge rings in the center of the room begin to spin. He tried to climb faster, and began to speed up the ladder.

Then, his foot slipped.

He flailed for a grip, and fell down two rungs. He cursed, and wished he'd taken the time to change out of his work clothes before coming here...

Trent reached the right catwalk first. He ran down a connecting one, and ran towards the main console. Just before he reached it, he slowed down, and pulled his gun out. He cocked it, and aimed at Mr. O'Neill.

"Hello Trent" said O'Neill.

Trent paused. "You know who I am?"

"Of course, I taught you in English a couple of years ago. I never forget a face, you know."

"Oh...wait! You do. All the time."

"Well, that was the old me. What do you want? If you want to talk to me about your final grade, you'll have to make an appointment."

", man. I'm here to stop you."

"Of course." O'Neil didn't even bother to turn around. He kept pushing buttons. A loud hum began to emanate from the spinning circles.

Trent had to speak louder over the hum. "Come on, don't make me shoot you."

O'Neil ignored him. Trent gritted his teeth and aimed at his leg. He pulled the trigger.

Nothing happened.

O'Neill finally turned around. "You know Trent, guns don't work in here. Side effect of that." He indicated the whirling behind him. He reached behind him and pulled out a huge sword.

"This, on the other hand, works just fine."

Trent's eyes went wide. O'Neill lunged at him, and Trent tried to duck under the blow, only getting a nick to the shoulder. O'Neill then kicked behind him, getting Trent square in the chest. He flew back into the railing. O'Neill turned and delivered another kick, to the face this time. Trent tried to block, but self-defense wasn't one of his strong points. The kick landed squarely, and Trent went flying through the railing.

Jake reached the catwalk just in time to see Trent fall through the side. He watched with horror, as he flew downwards.


Jane and Daria rushed through the corridors, trying not to look at each other.

"Where do you think she's at?"

"Let's try her office" suggested Daria.

Hey, nice one, Lane thought Jane. Some naturalistic banter there to let her know you're not totally freaked out.

"Daria, I..."

"Hey, you two!" came a familiar voice from behind them. They both turned with a sinking feeling to see Kevin and Brittany behind them.

"What are you two doing here?"

"Hey, I'm the QB! If anyone can catch something, it's me!"

"Too easy" muttered Daria.

A shot rang out from the other end of the corridor. Jane fell down, yelling in pain.

"Jane!" screamed Daria, falling to her knees beside her friend. Footsteps could be heard running down the corridor. Kevin and Brittany ran off after them.

Daria inspected Jane's wound. It had hit her shoulder, and passed straight through. Daria tore off a strip from her jacket and bound it quickly.

"I'll need to amputate" she said dryly.

Jane smiled, then grimaced in pain as Daria tightened the bandage. "You'd better go after them. I'll be fine. I'll get myself out."

Daria started to protest. Jane cut her off: "Besides, someone has to stop Kevin from blowing up the entire school."


Jane got to her feet. She looked like she wanted to say something, then she turned and walked away.

Daria's heart sunk, and she turned and ran after Kevin and Brittany. One thought ran through her head.

I shouldn't have told her.

Trent landed hard on one of the lower levels.

Jake looked over the side at his prone form.

He's still breathing, thank God.

Jake looked back up. O'Neill had turned back to the console. The spinning rings were whirling too fast to make out individual ones anymore. There the center. Jake couldn't make out what it was. He walked over to the console, and when he got within twenty feet, O'Neill turned.

"Hello Jake."


Jake sized him up. He still couldn't believe this was Timothy O'Neil standing in front of him.

Then again, look at me.

"Jake, we were all disappointed when you didn't join us."

"Why me?" Jake stepped forward a bit.

O'Neill shrugged. "This...all of this..was your father's idea. He was more than a simple marine, you know."


"He was very keen to involve you. He saw it as some sort of payback for your total failure in life. At least, now you'd make something of yourself."

Jake tried to ignore the pointed insult. He tried to fight back the feelings of rage towards his father that he felt. "How do you know all this?"

"All implanted. You know it too, you just can't access it."

"But it didn't work. Not on me, not on my family. Why?"

"Some sort of genetic quirk, we think."

"If my father was involved, why didn't they know that?"

"Come on, Jake." O'Neill smiled. "This was 'Mad Dog' we're talking about. Think he'd let anyone talk him out of his whims? And that as all that you were. One of his jokes. His own little amusement. His spineless, failure of a son being responsible for so many deaths."

Jake gritted his teeth. "That means, this had to be planned for at least thirty years, give or take a few."

"Well, let's just say that my superiors are patient people."

"Who? Who are patient people?"

O'Neill just smiled.

The hum grew louder. Whatever it was in the center of the rings grew larger and larger.

Keep him talking. Try to distract him.

"Everyone else went back. You and Li didn't. Why?"

"On a basic level, everyone else wanted to go back."

Jake raised his eyebrows.

O'Neill grew more inflamed. "You think I wanted to go back to being the laughing stock of this school...this town? You think I enjoyed knowing the reputation I had? That people kept wondering "Did you pick him up from a street corner or something?"" O'Neill started to walk towards Jake, an insane gleam in his eyes. "I was a failure...a joke! Just like you." He practically spat out the last words. "And Barch....well, if you knew what our relationship consisted of, you would have done the same."

Jake gritted his teeth. "Li?" He thought back to the times he'd met Angela Li. "Never mind."

O"Neill smiled and turned back to the console for a split second. Jake took his chance, and lunged at him, raising the metal pole to strike.

O'Neill turned, parried his blow easily, and kicked Jake square in the chest, sending him flying backwards. Jake slid against the railings.

"Don't do that again."

Jake staggered to his feet. "You know if you set this off, you'll die too."

"All planned out, Jakey."

"What is this thing, anyway?"

"You know."

Jake tried to think. Some random words popped into his head. "It's...something to do with wormholes..?"

"Very good, class! They've been working on this for years. When you create one, there's a massive energy surge. Unless it's contained, it proves very fatal to anyone in the surrounding area."

"And that's what you're doing here?"

"Yes. First test, in fact."

"You can open wormholes...and you're using it to kill people?"

"Well, we've been able to see through them into other realities. We just haven't been able to stabilize one long enough to actually get through. That's the next step. This is just the beginning."

Jake squinted. "Other realities?"

"Oh yes. There's an infinite realm of possibilities out there. You wouldn't believe what we've seen. Realities where Daria is a super-spy out to save the USA...where Jane and her are adopted sisters...where you and Helen die and Quinn becomes a wild girl...where Helen has Daria committed. And there's so many different partners for Daria. Trent, Charles, Jane....don't they make a cute couple by the way? And my personal favorite, where her and I are secret lovers." He smiled.

Jake couldn't take it any more. He lunged forward again, this time with more restraint. O'Neill parried his blow again, and Jake ducked under his counterstrike. He brought the metal pole round, and swept O'Neill off his feet.

O'Neill fell to the ground, and brought his sword up to block Jake's blow. He lunged forward off the ground, bringing his fists into Jake's stomach. Jake pitched forward, winded, and O'Neill brought his elbow down on Jake's spine. Jake fell to the floor and gasped in pain. He turned over to see the sword point coming straight towards his face.

He inched to the side at the last moment, the sword going through the mesh floor of the catwalk, getting stuck. He got up quickly, and punched O'Neill on the jaw. O'Neill staggered backwards, losing his grip on the sword. Jake went in for a follow up, but O'Neill kicked his punch wide, and kicked him in the gut - followed up with a roundhouse to the head. Jake pitched over the side, just managing to grab hold of the railing before he fell completely off. O'Neill grinned and began to bring his foot down on Jake's already precarious grip.


Daria paused for a second, out of breath trying to keep up with Kevin and Brittany. They were both in such excellent shape, they left Daria in the dust. She hoped she could find them before they did something stupid.

She rounded a corner and found them both staring at the barrel of Li's gun.

I hate being smart sometimes.

She tried to duck back round the corner without being seen, but Li had already spotted her, and brought the pistol round to fire.


Jake grimaced in pain, as O'Neill's shoe ground down on his fingers. He looked below him, and took a chance. He flung himself backwards and tried to grab onto one of the lower catwalks. He missed the first - grabbed the second. His arms felt like they were going to come out of their sockets. He pulled himself up - saw O'Neill leap down onto the one he was on and run towards him. He was ready. Flying kick to the head - follow up blows to all the other vital points. O'Neill went down. Jake took his chance and rushed back up to the console.

He didn't have a clue what any of the buttons did.

Quick flashes in his head.

That one was the power control.

He pushed it and held it down for as long as he could. He saw a lot of the indicators glow a dangerous red color.

"No!" It was O'Neill, conscious again. So quickly? Running towards him. Jake turned and tensed himself.

One of the power conduits stretching from the ceiling to the floor exploded. Jake was thrown back against the console. He wiped bits of debris from himself, then realized in horror that the conduits held a lot of the catwalks up.

Including the one he was on.


Daria's mind raced, trying to find a way out of this, when the corridor behind her exploded. She was flung forward by the force of the blast, and hit the ground hard. She glanced up, dazed, to see Li lunge for the gun she'd presumably dropped, only for Kevin to reach out and grab it first. He stood up, pointing the gun at Li.

"I got her babe, I got her!"

"Oh, Kevvie!"

Wow. Kevin does something right. My faith in human nature is restored. If I had had any to begin with, that is.

Suddenly, Daria realized that Li was going for something in her jacket, probably another gun. "Kevin, Brittany, watch out!"

Li pulled out a small pistol and fired at Daria. She managed to duck behind a locker.

Kevin raised his gun and pulled the trigger.

Nothing happened.

Li brought round her pistol to Brittany, who froze in terror. Kevin looked dumbly at his gun, then looked up and, in one rare moment of clarity, realized what Li was doing.

"Brit, no!" He stumbled into her, knocking her out of the way.

Li fired.

Daria rushed out from behind the locker, and ran full speed towards Li. Li turned and tried to fire, but Daria knocked the gun from her hand, and knocked her to the floor. Daria turned and saw Brittany slowly get up and look towards Kevin. He was lying on the ground, totally still. Daria steeled herself, and walked over. There was a large, bloody hole though his chest, and his eyes were totally blank. Daria couldn't even begin to make a joke about that, not now. She picked up the gun he had been carrying, and looked at it.

The safety was still on.

"Kevvie?" Brittany knelt down beside him, tears running down her face freely. "Kevvie?" Her voice was getting weaker and weaker. Daria walked over beside her and knelt down, putting her hand on her shoulder.

"Brittany....I'm sorry..."

She heard a noise behind her. Li was regaining consciousness.

And then something snapped inside Brittany.

Her face hardened, and she grabbed the gun from Daria's hands. She rose to her feet, and began walking over to Li.

Daria got up. "Brittany, wait! I know that..."

Brittany turned towards her, and the look she gave Daria chilled her to her bones. Daria stumbled back, and turned and walked away as fast as she could, trying not to think about what was going on behind her.


Trent was stirred into awareness when he realized that the ground was falling out from under him. He rushed to his feet, and saw that the catwalk he'd landed on was slowly falling to the ground, the catwalks supporting it having already fallen. Quickly, but cautiously, he clambered down to the floor, and ran to the main entrance. He looked back, and realized he couldn't see Mr. Morgendorrfer. There was flaming debris all over the building, and the vast network of catwalks was collapsing, some quickly, some slowly.


Daria rushed outside the school, and looked for the other students. She spotted red and blue lights across the street, and ran towards them. The students and remaining faculty members were gathered in a parking lot across the street. Paramedics and police officers were busying around, treating the wounded, asking questions, yelling for backup. Daria slipped past the paramedics and looked for Jane. She spotted her, and yelled for her. Jane looked at her for an instant, then looked away as if she had not seen her, and vanished into the crowd. Daria sagged heavily against the nearest wall, events finally being too much for her to handle.


Jake grabbed the mesh floor of the catwalk, and wondered what the hell he was going to do now. The floor lurched again, and pitched down another 45 degrees. Okay, all he had to do was get to the ground safely, then he could get out, right?

Something grabbed his leg. It was O'Neill.

"You're going to pay, you mother..."

One of the other falling catwalks struck another of the power conduits, sending a second explosion through the building. The shockwave caused Jake to lose his grip on the floor, and O'Neill and him fell towards the ground. AS they fell, Jake spotted O'Neill's sword, still stuck in the floor. He grabbed it, and he stopped short. O'Neill kept falling. Jake strained to pull himself up, and managed to push himself off the side. He landed on a still intact walkway, the sword clattering beside him. He glanced behind him. The rings were spinning fast, more erratically, now. Jake had a horrible feeling they were going to fall eventually as well. He didn't want to be around for that.

He turned back, and saw O'Neill climbing up to his level.

Doesn't he ever give up?

O'Neill pulled a large knife from his belt, and ran towards Jake. Jake ducked back, the knife cutting through his shirt. The knife came forward again - Jake ducked under it, rolling under O'Neill, and lunging for the sword on the ground. He grabbed it - onto his feet. Another attack - Jake swung the sword, and the knife went flying across the building, accompanied by most of Timothy O'Neill's right arm. Jake followed up, and ran him straight through. O'Neill staggered back, looking at the sword protruding from his chest, and pitched over the railing, falling to the ground below.

Jake turned and ran, climbing down ladders, avoiding debris, and trying desperately not to think about what he'd just done. He reached the ground, and turned to see his prediction coming true. The huge rings were falling to the ground. Jake turned back, and ran towards the main doors. Trent was waiting there.

"Come on!"

They ran out, closing the doors behind them, and running from the building. There was an almighty crash, and the doors exploded out behind them, sending them sprawling.

Trent looked up and spat out some gravel. "You okay, man?"

Jake groggily got to his feet, and looked back at the smoking ruins of the "Lawndale High Sports Facility." He stayed silent.


Chapter 5: Epilogue.


Kevin Thompson's funeral was held at the school a few days later. It was a somber affair - no affirmations from the teachers, no eulogies, just a quick farewell. Had Ms Li been around, thought Daria, it would have been a huge media spectacle, with endless speeches about how Kevin had brought 'glory to Lawndale High'.

Thinking of Li made Daria feel sick.

Brittany was sitting at the head of the congregation. She'd become a totally different person since that day. No-one had really talked to her since then. The school had been closed while repairs had been done, and the teaching staff filled out with substitutes. Tomorrow would be the first day back.

Funerals had been held for Ms Barch, Mr. O'Neill and Ms Li the day before. Daria could only imagine what those must have been like.

Jane wasn't here. She hadn't talked to her since that day. There wasn't one moment that didn't go back when Daria didn't wonder if she had done the right thing. When Jane had been...possessed was the only word Daria could come up with....Daria had said the one thing that she thought would bring Jane back. Something from her heart that she knew Jane would respond to.

"Jane, I'll never leave you. I love you."

Should she have said it? It was true, and she had thought Jane felt the same way. Daria's head sank. Maybe Jane didn't feel the same. Maybe she'd ruined her only true friendship by trying to turn it into something more. Daria didn't know anymore. Jane was certainly ignoring her, and had been since then. Was she just scared, or was she freaking because she was straight, and she just found out her best friend wasn't?

Daria sunk down in her chair and tried to bite back the tears.


The next day, students began to file back into Lawndale High. Scaffolding was still up around the damaged areas, and the wreckage of the sports facility was still being removed, but generally the school looked back to normal.

Class passed uneventfully, and Daria walked into the lunch hall. The mood was still fairly subdued, far from the usual hubbub. Daria walked over to where Mack and Jodie normally sat and sat down. Jodie joined her.


"Hi Daria. How are you?"

Daria didn't reply. Jodie smiled a little sadly. "I know how that feels."

"Where's Mack?"

Jodie gestured over at the football team's table. Mack and a couple of other players were sitting quietly there.

"He took Kevin's death pretty hard."

Daria nodded. "Brittany? Has anyone...?"

Jodie shook her head. "No-one's been able to talk to her, not even the rest of the cheerleading squad. I can only imagine what it must have been like to watch the person you love die in front of you. Do you know what exactly happened in there?"

Daria shook her head furiously. "No." She said it a little more forcefully than she had meant to.

Jodie knew better than to press the issue. "Hey..have you any idea where Jane..."

Daria looked at her. "So why aren't you and Mack sitting together?"

Jodie blinked at the sudden subject change. "Um...well, we broke up."


"Well, we both decided we were too different from each other to work out. Neither of us was very satisfied with how it was going."

"And you're okay with this?"

"Not really." Jodie smiled sadly. "But what can you do?"

Daria sighed heavily. "I know exactly what you mean."


Jake hung up the phone and began jotting something down on his notepad. "Business certainly seems to be looking up."

"Well, that's true." Wendy glanced over at Horizon, then back to Jake. "You certainly seem to have gotten some kind of consulting frenzy lately."

Jake shrugged his shoulders.

"I just wish some of us could get some answers." She looked at Jake pointedly.

Jake ignored her.

"About your sudden abilities in ecky-thump, for a start!"

"Wendy!" hissed Jake.

"It's okay" said Horizon. "She already told me all about that night in the alley."

Jake gave Wendy a look.

Horizon added: "It's okay, you know how Wendy is."

"Yeah, my mouth stops moving, and my brain starts working."

"Plus, your wife calling us both and telling us we had to leave right away was another weird happening. Although at first, I thought she was just threatening us."

Jake sighed. "Look, I haven't really gotten any explanation, and if I did, let's just say it would be better off if you two didn't know."

He went back to writing, and the two women knew they weren't getting any more out of him today.

Jake was deep in thought. There had been a lot of government people sniffing around for the past few days. Of course, most of the teachers and students didn't know anything, and he'd managed to cover up his role in the affair pretty well. In the confusion, most of the people that had been there hadn't even realized he'd been there, and Daria wasn't talking.


Ted kissed Stacy, and left, holding onto her hand as long as he could. Stacy beamed and sat back down.

"It was really nice of you to let Ted sit with us today, Sandi!"

"That's okay" said Sandi distantly.

Stacy looked at Sandi. She was definitely not herself today. Maybe that was for the better, though, especially if she didn't have to hide her relationship with Ted anymore.

Stacy noticed that Sandi was staring over at the lunch hall door. She looked to see what she was looking at. It was Quinn.

Quinn stared over at the fashion club's table. Just go over there, she thought. They're your friends. Daria explained it to you. They weren't themselves. They're not to blame for what they did.

Quinn tried to break free from Sandi's grip. Her legs kicked uselessly beneath her, as Sandi tightened her grip. Quinn looked desperately at Stacy and Tiffany. They were just standing there, watching. DO SOMETHING! Aren't you my friends? Why are you just standing there watching? Don't you care?

Quinn turned and ran from the lunch hall, hoping no-one could see the tears running down her face.

Stacy turned back to Sandi. "I wonder what she's....oh."

Sandi got up. "I have to go." Her voice was flat.

Stacy sat back in her seat. She missed Quinn.


Sandi walked through the halls, deep in thought. Didn't she want Quinn out of the fashion club?

Not like this though.

And there was the big thing.

I miss her.

She missed Quinn. Missed talking to her, missed comparing fashion notes, even missed the competitiveness they always had.

She just hoped Quinn would forgive her one day. She thought back to what she'd done and cringed inside. Maybe she'd be able to forgive herself too.


Jane sat on her bed, watching TV. There was a knock on the door. Jane mumbled a vague 'come in'.

Trent walked in with a concerned expression. "Hey Janey."

"Hey Trent."

"Janey, I'm worried about you."


"You've been sitting on your bed watching TV for the last few days. You haven't gone out, you haven't painted, you haven't eaten any pizza, and you haven't talked to Daria."

Jane looked back to the TV.

"Is there something wrong between you guys?"

Jane shook her head unconvincingly. Trent raised an eyebrow.

"I'm fine, Trent. I just need a few days to rest up. Okay?"

Trent sighed and left.

Jane sagged onto the bed. She buried her head into her pillow and wondered about the mess her life had become. She'd managed to hurt the two people she cared about the most in the world.

She loved Daria. She had for months now. She'd only realized it when Daria smiled one of her rare smiles, the genuinely happy ones, and Jane had thought how beautiful she was. And now she knew Daria loved her too.

Except that Jane, being Jane, had acted as a yenta between Daria and Trent for the past two years, and Trent had actually fallen for her. She'd done it because she was convinced Daria didn't feel the same way, and if she got them together, Daria would have a reason to stick around her.

Am I pathetic or what?

She didn't know what to do. She didn't think she could get together with Daria - it would hurt Trent too much. All she could do was try to avoid Daria until she figured something out.


Jane cried noiselessly into her pillow.


Trent opened the front door to find Daria standing there. He grinned. "Hey, Daria."

"Hey, Trent. Is Jane there?"

Trent shook his head. "She didn't want any visitors, Daria. I'm sorry."

Daria's face fell. "Okay." She turned to walk away. Trent placed a hand on her shoulder.

Time to bite the bullet.

"Daria, wait. I have something to tell you. I didn't want to until Janey was better, but the last few days....well...anything could happen, you know?"

Daria looked sad. "Trent, I know what you're going to say."

"You do?" Trent's eyes went wide.

Daria's voice went soft. "You like me. A lot."

Trent nodded, dumbly.

"I saw it in your eyes at the school."

Daria smiled sadly. Trent took her hands. "Daria, what's wrong?"

"Trent...I love you. You've always been there for Jane and I. But..." Daria was struggling with the words. "I can't love you the way you want me to."

Trent's heart sank.

"I'm so sorry, Trent. You're like a brother to me. But..."

"Is there someone else?"

Daria looked at the ground, and nodded mutely. Then she looked back into Trent's eyes. She stroked in his face gently, and kissed him very lightly on the lips.

"Goodbye, Trent."

She turned and walked down the street. Trent watched her go, his world shattering with every step.


Jake pulled up in the drive. He went into the house. Unusually, Helen was there waiting for him. She greeted him with an enthusiastic hug and kiss.

"What was that for?"

"Because I love you."

"I love you too."

They sat down at the kitchen table. "Jake, I'm worried about the girls. They've both been so distant lately, especially Quinn. Now, I know I'm not exactly sure what went on at that school, but you said you'd taken care of it."

"I did." Jake took both Helen's hands. "But what they went through can't be forgotten easily."

What we all went through.

The look on Timothy O'Neill's face as he fell off the catwalk to his death ran through Jake's mind again.

"Helen, trust me. Things will be back to normal. But not yet."

Helen nodded. "All right."

Jake sat back in his chair and thought. He thought about his daughters. He thought of Helen. Most of all he thought about how much danger they were all in. O'Neill had never told him who was behind the events of the past few days. The appearance of the government people afterwards had raised even more questions. If they weren't behind it, who was? Jake sighed heavily. Whoever it was had to know what had happened. And if they didn't know exactly who had ruined their plans, they'd figure it out eventually. Jake vowed to protect his family and friends, no matter the cost.


Daria sat on Lover's Leap, overlooking Lawndale, the next morning, waiting for the sun to come up. Suddenly she heard a familiar voice from behind her.

"I used to come up here all the time."

She turned. It was Quinn, looking as bad as she did.

"With Joey, Jeffy, and....." She tailed off.

"Quinn, what are you doing here?"

"I...followed you. I just needed some company right now."

Daria moved to tell her to get lost, but instead she gestured for her to sit, with a resigned expression. Quinn eagerly sat down.

"They've stopped following me around now."

"And that's what's bothering you?"

"No." Quinn shook her head sadly. "Though it is weird that they seem to be scared of me now. I mean, I asked Joey to call me, and I swear he almost peed himself, which...." Quinn realized she was rambling and stopped. "No. It's....well...I thought people cared about me, and I know they weren't themselves, but when you think someone's your friend, and they don't help you, it hurts." Quinn looked sadly down at the ground. "I can't even talk to them."

"I know what that's like" said Daria.

Quinn looked at her for a second. "Daria, have you been crying?" She couldn't actually remember Daria ever crying.

Daria didn't say anything.

"What's wrong?"

What the hell. "I love someone....but...they don't love me back."

"Oh, Daria. It's not Jane's brother, is it?"

"I'm not quite ready to talk about who, yet."

"Oh okay." Quinn paused. "I've never been in love. I mean, I've been on a lot of dates, but sometimes I don't even really like the guy, he's just cute....but, I think I know what you're going through."

Daria looked at Quinn, an expression of utter disbelief on her face. "Quinn, I don't..."

"Listen, Daria. You care about someone, and that person is acting like they don't care about you! That's just what I'm feeling. Right?"

Daria smiled slightly. "Okay, I guess." She thought for a moment. "You only hurt..."


"An old saying. 'You only hurt the ones you love.' It means that only the people you love enough to let into your heart can really, truly, hurt you, and vice versa."

Quinn smiled sadly. "It's right."

"I know."

They sat in silence for a while. Gingerly, Quinn took Daria's hand in her own. To her surprise, Daria didn't resist. She wrapped her hand around Quinn's.

The two sisters, together, watched as the sun came up.


The End.


End Notes:


Well, there you are. The end of "You Only Hurt...", my first fan fiction. I certainly hope you enjoyed it, and now, a few notes from myself.

This was my attempt to blend the Daria universe with a more action/sci-fi oriented one. It always fascinates me when characters are thrust into situations they wouldn't normally face. I hope I made it believeable.

And yes, the two code words are a Clockwork Orange ref.

First of all, a big thanks to my darling wife, and Thea_Zara for beta-reading my story.

Thanks also to Brother Grimace for letting me use some of his characters. (Wendy and Horizons first appeared in 'It's All About Respect')

Thanks to everyone who offered feedback and support.

Thanks to MTV for providing me with the toys to play with.

For those of you complaining that I left too many open ends:

The saga continues in

'...The Ones You Love.'