The Amazing Adventures of
©2005 The Angst Guy (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Feedback (good, bad, indifferent, just want to bother me, whatever) is appreciated. Please write to: email@example.com
Synopsis: The unstoppable D-Day Morgendorffer and The Mighty Jane Lane face their greatest challenge yet in this alternate-universe tale of superheroes, supervillains, cliffhangers, and sudden death!
Author’s Notes: Many of this story’s roots began in online discussions of whether any characters on Daria were actually evil. Some characters who appeared briefly in the series had a pronounced nasty streak (e.g., conceited jerk Tommy Sherman, junior animal torturer Brian Taylor, the pedophile teacher of “Lucky Strike,” etc.), while others could be unpleasant but weren’t obviously wicked (e.g., Sandi Griffin and her mother). A few are borderline (e.g., principal Angela Li). I made notes on these discussions and saved some of the message-board threads for later study.
Other fanfic authors have written excellent crossovers and parodies depicting some of the Daria cast as superheroes, and the idea that intrigued me. And then there were the official alter-ego pictures of Daria and company, many in superhero garb or something akin to it. Daria’s alter-ego in motorcycle leathers and Jane in a spacesuit really locked it in. It all added up to the following story, sparked by an Iron Chef challenge from Mahna Mahna on PPMB, for a tale making use of certain movie clichés.
Acknowledgements: Mahna Mahna has my profound gratitude for her Iron Chef competition that sparked this story, though I am not sure if the final version of the tale adhered to the actual rules of the contest. Kristen Bealer nudged me to complete the story (and others) when I was being pulled otherwise, and I am grateful for her pitchfork.
Episode 513, Part One:
APOCALYPSE, HERE AND NOW!
Or, Once Upon a Time, in an Alternate Universe Far, Far Away . . .
As the warning klaxons went off in his ears and the steel floor of the hijacked Air Force C-5X Galaxy tilted forward under his feet, Ken “The Professor” Edwards (Language Arts, Creative Writing, Ransom Notes, Socially Repulsive Erotic Literature) grabbed for the netting on the side of the cargo bay with clammy hands and hoped the contents of his stomach would remain hidden during what was promising to be a supremely turbulent series of maneuvers. His tie was coming undone, his shirt was getting badly wrinkled, and his deodorant had long ago failed.
“S’matter, P’fessor?” shouted camouflage-clad General Buck “Blood-n-Guts” Conroy from across the cargo bay. “This little roller coaster churnin’ up the milk in your veins?”
“I’m perfectly fine!” Ken shouted back. “We academics have nerves of—uurp!” He clenched his teeth and fought back dinner as the monstrous Galaxy lurched hard to starboard.
Conroy roared with laughter as he hung from the netting with one hand, enjoying the ride. He despised most of the losers and goons that Chairman Li hired for this suicide mission, but Ken the Cradle Robber was the worst of a very bad lot. When Ken wasn’t playing the prima donna over his supposed criminal genius, he was surfing the Internet for kiddy porn and lecturing one and all about his favorite novel, Lolita. Perhaps “The Professor” could be encouraged to take a short walk among the clouds once the cargo bay doors opened—without his parachute, of course. General Conroy smiled. It would cap the end of a near-perfect day. The running gun battle at Dover Air Force base had been a particular thrill.
“Communications here!” came Linda “Anchor Babe” Griffin’s husky voice over the aircraft’s intercom. “Target sighted! Capture in ninety seconds!!”
Steel-plated news-bitch, Ken thought over his nausea. Think you’re everything with your dyed hair and Botox injections, but you haven’t been a real TV anchor-babe for over twenty years. You’re a washed-up marketing hag who couldn’t dig gold out of a tooth, and your control-freak daughter’s well on her way to being your carbon copy. I prefer my women a bit less . . . experienced. I should find out more about that delightful Tricia Gupty when we’re back on solid ground, unless the prize we’re about to take proves much more interesting. He shook his head with regret. If only I could have had Tiffany in her prime. . . .
“Capture in sixty seconds!” came Griffin’s static-distorted voice. “Cargo-bay doors opening! Capture maneuvers starting in ten seconds!”
“Hang on!” roared burly Big Jim, Conroy’s top sergeant and owner of a paintball field where Conroy’s Merc Jerks had trained in secret for this mission. Near panic, Ken looked back in the dim electric lights of the bay, hearing the rumble of machinery. A thundering roar of wind mounted from the rear of the bay as the massive twin doors of the modified aircraft separated and pulled apart, revealing a beautiful western sunset and Virginia’s Atlantic coastline over two miles below.
The aircraft dived again, and everyone in the cargo bay went weightless. “Yowza!” cried the red-haired Charles “Upchuck” Ruttheimer III in delight. Smutty but clever, Upchuck wore the silver-skull lapel pin of the Junior Division of the Lawndale United Command for the Implacable Furtherance of Evil and Repression, whose unavoidable but strangely satisfying acronym was never spoken aloud. He started the midair recovery system without delay. With a clanking roar, long collapsible poles were extended downward out of the bay, the poles pulling apart to form a wide upside-down V-shape with a heavy cable strung between their tips. “Ah, the ultimate way to capture a woman’s heart—and all the rest of her as well!” Upchuck said with a leer of anticipation. “Rrrrowrrr!”
“Radar contacts!” Griffin shouted on the intercom. “Fighters have been scrambled from Andrews, Langley, Dover, and two Air National Guard bases! Fifteen minutes until first-wave interception, nuclear decoy missiles on standby! Capture in thirty seconds!”
“Looks like we got ourselves some company coming now!” said Big Jim with a ferocious grin. “Somebody in the White House musta figured out they were short a family member!”
“Remember, the President’s daughter is to be placed in my care once she’s aboard!” shouted Ken.
“Unless she’d prefer someone younger and more, shall we say, energetic,” Upchuck added, wiggling his eyebrows. Ken glared at him, but Upchuck—who planned to take over Chairman Li’s position one day and had already planned out Ken Edwards’s untimely demise, was unfazed.
“No need t’ fight, boys,” growled the pinstripe-wearing organized crime lord known only as Bruno. “Dere’ll be plenty t’ go ‘round when da ransom comes. My cut should make up for alla time I was a guest of da feds, unable t’ see my sweet Rita. Speakin’ o’ which—” He turned to his corrupt corporate lawyer, waiting for orders at his side “—tanks fer springin’ me from da pen on dat technicality, Eric.”
“No problem, Mister Bruno!” said Eric Schrecter. He reached into his suit jacket pocket. “Care for a Cuban cigar?”
“Hey, don’ mind if I do,” said
Bruno, taking the cigar. “Tanks again. Chairman Li put t’gedda some good
muscle, eh? We got us a good squad o’ guys, ya know dat?”
“Hell, yeah, I’m good! Tommy Sherman rules, man!” Ex-football star Tommy Sherman, clad in dirty jeans, old sneakers, and a Lawndale High School tank top, pumped his fist in the air. “There’s nothing that can stop the Sherman Tank!”
“Sherman, I’m giving you a spot promotion to class-two private,” said the general solemnly. “The way you charged through those MPs at the Air Force base was incredible—and you didn’t even flinch when you hit that concrete wall behind them. You’re the best recruit for the Merc Jerks we’ve ever had.”
“‘Course I am,” said Tommy grandly, “‘Cause Tommy Sherman doesn’t do nothing halfway! Like that time I ran the final touchdown when Lawndale was down by five in the fourth quarter against Oakwood, and I was facing the whole Oakwood lineup when suddenly—”
“Neanderthal,” Ken muttered as Tommy droned on—but he said it only to himself. He’d gotten too many wedgies and Dutch rubs from the muscle-bound thug whose glory days as a high-school football star had left him with a broken nose and a moderate amount of brain damage. And Chairman Li’s biochemical-induced enhancements of Sherman’s natural gifts had made him a truly fearsome super-foe. Faking Tommy’s death to the public had been child’s play for someone of Li’s administrative talents, allowing her to secretly bio-engineer the big lug to her heart’s content. Ken sighed in disgust. If only the moronic Sherman Tank had been worth the trouble. Why, he’d probably never even heard of Lolita.
“Capture in five seconds!” shouted Griffin over the loudspeakers. “Closing . . . closing . . .”
The metal poles jerked backward. A loud, repeated snapping noise came from below, outside the aircraft. The Galaxy’s flight path leveled off and became blessedly steady.
“Capture!” Griffin screamed in triumph. “We have the balloon and its high-value cargo! Congratulations to the pilot and crew for a perfect catch, and congratulations most of all to our very own Chairman Li!”
I’ll make you my perfect catch, General Conroy promised as he listened to Linda’s voice. Once we bail out with the raft and ditch this jumbo jet in the Atlantic, you and I will do a little private celebrating while we wait for the submarine to pick us up. Maybe that cute brunette we have for a pilot will join us, and we’ll go fishing afterward and use the Professor for shark bait—one limb at a time.
“Allow me to escort the young lady in!” said Upchuck, reversing the recovery system controls. The poles pulled up, collapsing back into their pre-capture positions as they hauled the captured object with them. Merc Jerks cut away the weather balloon, throwing it out the cargo-bay doors, and carried the box toward the middle of the cargo deck. The double doors closed behind them, cutting down the wind and noise in the bay.
“Damn shame about those boys on the ground,” said General Conroy. He pulled a victory cigar from his fatigue shirt pocket, bit off the tip, and spat it in Ken’s general direction. The cigar tip missed and stuck to Dr. Margaret “Psycho” Manson’s gray tweed skirt. Frowning, she reached down and snapped the errand bit away with a fingertip. She then straightened and regarded the General with an arctic gaze.
“Damn shame they had to be boys!” screeched Janet “Über-Woman” Barch as she sharpened her well-used bull-castrating knife. “Losing men is no loss to me.”
“Hey, whaddya mean, General?” asked Tommy with a frown. “What’s the shame?”
“Well, son,” said the General, shaking out his match and tossing away, “Chairman Li’s temps did a fine job, kidnapping the President’s daughter and sticking her in that little box and sending her up to us in that balloon and all, but the reward they were promised . . . well, they might choke on it.” Bruno the gangster, Upchuck, Barch, and several others burst into laughter. Ignoring them, the General drew deeply on his cigar and blew out a ring of smoke. “That suitcase they thought was full of money, which they probably opened right after they sent up the kid, that kinda got mixed up with a suitcase full of cyanide gas containers. Damn shame about that. On the good side, they won’t squeal to the feds about where the kid went, and the temp agency will get a little kickback to keep it on our side.”
Ken paid no attention. He was already at the casket’s side, unlocking the multitude of latches. “She’ll be frightened, of course, and possibly disoriented,” he said as he worked. “It will take someone with worldly experience, someone with the wisdom and confidence born of a lifetime of academia, to help her through the first few days in our care. As it happens, only I among all those present have those qualifications.” He undid the last latch as a large number of Merc Jerks crowded around, eager for their first view of the President’s daughter. Ken lifted the container’s heavy lid. “You are in the safest of hands, my dear little . . .” His words caught in his throat as the lid came fully open. “. . . D-Day?”
In ash-gray motorcycle leathers, long brown ponytail, and owl-eye glasses, D-Day Morgendorffer sat up in the coffin on one elbow and tossed a red, round object at Ken, which he caught by reflex. “Speaking of safe hands, hold that for me, would you?” she asked—and fell back, slamming the container’s lid shut as she did.
“GRENADE!” screamed several Merc Jerks at the same time.
As everyone fought to get out of the way, it occurred to Ken “The Professor” Edwards that he should get rid of the ticking red ball with “That’s All, Folks!” written on it in script next to a multitude of little skull-and-crossbones markings, the red ball he held in his hands only a foot and a half from his face, before the damned thing expl—
Episode 513, Part Two:
D-DAY HITS THE BEACH!
Or, Things Get Complicated and a Little Messy
General “Blood-n-Guts” Conroy turned when he heard the cry grenade!—and saw a white flash six feet across, brighter than the sun in the Galaxy’s dark cargo hold. Caught in its glare were Merc Jerks diving for cover, and that pervert Edwards’ body, spinning through the air like a scarecrow in a Kansas tornado.
This is gonna hurt, Buck thought, a split second before he was swept up by the thunderclap, louder than a tank cannon fired next to his ear. The blast wave slammed him into a tall wooden crate that had been twenty feet behind him only a moment before. Luckily, the General had survived near-hits from badly aimed artillery on mercenary missions in almost every country on Earth. Reflexes took over as he got to his feet, ears ringing and the afterimage of the triple-strength flash-bang grenade imprinted on his retinas. He stumbled over a submachine gun on the floor and snatched it up with numb fingers, then groggily charged in the direction the grenade had gone off. The route was littered with the groaning bodies of his Merc Jerks and Li’s motley L.U.C.I.F.E.R. agents. Of Ken Edwards, nothing could be seen. No loss.
“Get up, you bastards!” he yelled, kicking his men as he ran. “It was just a damn concussion bomb! Get up and fight like men!”
“Sexist hog!” shrieked “Über-Woman” Barch, jamming a long ammo clip into her AK-47 from her hiding place behind a debris-covered crate. “If those men were women, we wouldn’t have this problem!”
“Take your radical feminist agenda and shove it!” the General shouted back. “Where’s the enemy?”
Barch gave him a nasty grin and pointed. “D-Day’s in the crate we hauled in, right over there!”
Buck felt the chilly finger of fear run down his spine. D-Day Morgendorffer? The D-Day, here inside this plane, with me? Jesus Harley Davidson Christ! He turned and saw the closed coffin-like container, the balloon line still attached. His brow darkened as his nerve returned. “There’s only one of her and a planeload of us!” he roared. “Charge, men!” With that he ran forward alone, submachine gun blazing. Armor-piercing rounds riddled the long container, punching through the metal skin and splintering the crates behind it. When General Conroy reached the container, he shot off the latches and kicked the lid open, then raised his weapon for the final killing spray of bullets—
—but the coffin-like box was empty except for torn strips of heavy-duty shockproof padding that had lined the inside.
His submachine gun wavered. “What the—” he gasped, eyes wide.
“Aw, no present from Santa?” asked a deadpan voice. He looked up.
Rising just above a pile of unconscious bodies on the cargo-bay deck, five-foot-two D-Day Morgendorffer fired a pistol right at Buck’s face. A projectile with wires trailing behind it struck him in the forehead. He staggered back from the blinding impact—and then seventy-five thousand volts came through the wires. He hit the floor like a wet sandbag.
“Shocking,” said D-Day to the twitching body of the mercenary commander. She tossed the stun gun aside and scurried for cover.
“What the hell’s going on down there?” came Linda Griffin’s voice over the intercom. “What was that noise?”
“Ah, everything is under control!” cried D-Day, spotting the intercom nearby. “Situation normal!”
“What was that explosion?”
D-Day kicked a Merc Jerk in the groin with a steel-toed boot, shoved him into a maintenance locker, then shut and locked it. “We had a slight weapons malfunction, but everything’s perfectly all right now!” she called back. She karate-chopped a mercenary who was getting to his feet, knocking him back down. “We’re all fine here, just fine! How are you?”
“How am I? Get General Conroy and put him on the line!”
Big Jim, his camouflage fatigues torn to shreds by the flash-bang grenade, tried to grab D-Day in a chokehold. She twisted out of his grasp, kneed him, then judo-flipped him flat on his back on the metal floor. “Ah, negative!” she shouted, kicking Big Jim in the noggin for good measure. “We’ve had a large reactor leak here, very large and dangerous! Give us a few minutes to shut it down before—”
“We don’t have a reactor on this aircraft! Who is this?”
D-Day sighed as she found several .45 Colt pistols and snatched up ammo clips for them. “I’m either animal, vegetable, or mineral,” she said, dodging a thrown crowbar. “You have nineteen questions left.”
Anchor Babe’s gasp echoed throughout the cargo bay. “D-Day?”
“Rats, you win,” said D-Day, and shot the intercom to pieces. “I forgot the rest of the script for that movie, anyway.”
“I admire your style, D-Day!” cried Barch, firing a rapid series of bursts from her AK-47 in the direction D-Day had fled. “Can I call you Daria, just between us girls? My offer for you to be my assistant still stands, if you want to join our side! Chairman Li has a very generous medical and dental plan, and there’s talk of a 401K starting next month!”
“Call me what you like,” said D-Day, firing back from behind a crate with the .45 Colts. “However, I believe Lawndale High has strict rules prohibiting fraternization between teachers and students. I’d hate to get on the Chairman’s—excuse me, Principal Li’s bad side.”
“Angela would make an exception in your case, I’m sure! And she could even get you vision insurance!”
D-Day stopped firing. “Vision? New frames for free?”
Barch stopped firing as well. “Yes!”
“Once a year, free!”
“Ten-dollar copay only!”
“Yes, yes, yes! Absolutely!”
“Too bad,” said D-Day. “I can’t wear contacts.” She fired until both pistols were empty, keeping Barch pinned down, then pulled a pink canister from her belt and threw it. The canister fell behind Über-Woman and began spraying a lavender mist in all directions.
“No!” Barch screamed, dropping her weapon to cover her face. “Chanel’s Forbidden Fragrance, Number Thirteen! I’m allergic to it! My eyes! I can’t see! Oxygen! Augh!” Unable to speak from coughing, she curled into a convulsing ball next to a group of gasping Merc Jerks who, too, were overcome by the suffocating perfume.
“Daria, are you there?” came a voice in D-Day’s left ear, faint against the roaring wind in the background.
“Glad to hear you’re awake,” said D-Day, pressing on the implanted microphone in her ear as she scurried for new cover. Bullets ricocheted from walls and floor around her—the Merc Jerks and their allies were recovering from the flash-bang. “I could use a little extracurricular help, whenever you want to wander over.”
“On the way,” said The Mighty Jane in a cheery voice. “I had to save Norfolk, Virginia, first. One of Chairman Li’s goons fired a conventional-warhead drone at the city as a diversion, but I jammed its guidance and sent it down into the Little Pond. Piece of cake. Speaking of cake, when are we going out for pizza next?”
“Let’s talk food later, okay?” D-Day ducked as a machinegun stitched a row of holes into another wall of crates. “Did you get the President’s daughter back to the Secret Service?”
“Roger that. How’d you catch up with the body snatchers?”
D-Day threw a hypersonic proximity grenade at the machine gunner. An ear-splitting BOOM! went through the cargo bay—and Bruno the crime lord and his cigar went to dreamland. “Li’s hired temps opened that cyanide suitcase before they sent the balloon up,” she said. “Greed really is one of the deadly sins. I had just enough time to get the kid out, give her the beacon to guide you in, then get in the balloon box and go. Everyone from L.U.C.I.F.E.R. must be here—everyone but the Chairman, of course.”
“Of course. Oh—” The Mighty Jane hesitated, her voice uncertain “—I meant to tell you, Tom called. Tom Sloane, I mean. He’s running late.”
“Damn it! Not the I’m-at-the-Cove-with-the-family excuse again!” Two Merc Jerks charged D-Day with commando knives, but she jumped and power-kicked each in the face at the same moment, getting only a scratch as she landed, rolled, and kept running so she wouldn’t be a standing target. “Guess we’ll do without him, then.”
“‘Fraid so, but he promised he’d make up for it.”
“Yeah, sure, whatever.” D-Day didn’t know if she bought Tom’s excuse that he was being mind-controlled by Chairman Li’s Atomic Neuro-Satellite when he kissed her while he was still dating Jane, but that was water over the dam now. So, is he going to go out with Jane or me? she wondered, then raged, Damn me for even thinking about this right now! Jane and I were the perfect team until Tom screwed everything up! Damn it, damn it, damn it! Anxiety gripped her again. Would the bonds uniting the Freakin’ Friends be broken forever—over a guy?! It was worse than pathetic. It was flat-out stupid. “Anyway, see you soon, Jane,” she said, trying to sound like her old self.
The Mighty Jane sounded as if she had no such worries. “No problemo, amiga. My E.T.A. is two minutes.”
“That’s . . . uh-oh.” D-Day skidded to a stop as she started to run behind a row of boxes. She backpedaled rapidly. “Jane, can you cut that E.T.A. to half a minute?”
“Trouble? More than the usual, I mean?”
It was hard for D-Day to talk with her throat so dry from fear. She kept backing up. “Looks like those rumors the CIA picked up about a Sherman Tank were true.”
“What? Tommy Sherman? No way! He’s dead!” A pause, then: “Isn’t he?”
Someone chuckled in a deep, stuffed-up-nose voice. “Well, if it ain’t the Misery Chick.” Tommy Sherman came out from behind the boxes, knocking many of them over when he brushed against them. He then kicked a 300-pound generator across the cargo bay—and didn’t flinch. “Babe, looks like this is your lucky day.”
Jane’s voice was hard. “Heard it, amiga. Afterburners on. Jane out.”
“Misery Chick,” said Tommy, “today you get to meet Superman—and the real thing, too.” He picked up the bodies of two unconscious mercenaries and flung them aside as if they’d been dolls stuffed with cotton. “And that Superman,” he finished, looking down at her as he advanced, “is me.”
“Aren’t you supposed to have a red towel on your back and fuzzy blue long johns?” said D-Day. She sensed someone behind her and dodged to the left. A steel pipe flashed through the air where she had been. She caught the pipe, turning it as she lunged in on Upchuck, and banging him hard across the back of the skull with the pipe’s end. He staggered but didn’t drop right away, so she grabbed his arm, twisted it to make him move in the direction she wanted, and flung him at the charging Sherman Tank, who was almost on her.
Tommy backhanded Upchuck and sent the youth flying. He threw himself at D-Day, reaching for her throat, but she hand-sprang over a crate to land on a hiding Merc Jerk, knocking him flat. She snatched his assault rifle, flipped it to full auto, then jumped to the left by instinct. The Sherman Tank hit the crate and knocked it into the side of the cargo bay, missing his chance to flatten D-Day. The unconscious Merc Jerk was far less fortunate. Only his left boot stuck out from where the crate and wall became one.
D-Day rolled, took a prone firing position, and squeezed the trigger, holding it down as she kept the barrel aimed right at Tommy Sherman’s chest. She knew as she did that she’d broken the one central rule for all superheroes: Don’t try to kill your opponent; take your foe alive to face justice. However, if the rumors were true about Tommy and his potential for violent and unstoppable super-crime, killing him here might not be the worst thing she could do. In the wild muzzle flashes and jerking of the weapon, D-Day could barely make out her target. The clip gave out after thirty rounds . . .
. . . and Tommy Sherman was still on his feet. He’d staggered back a few steps, but he was completely unharmed, except for his torn shirt. Tommy’s craggy face darkened as he looked at the under-tall heroine. His eyes seemed to glow red.
“Misery Chick,” growled the Sherman Tank, “now you’ve gone and pissed me off but good.”
“No chance that we can forget this and be friends?” Though she kept her tone light, D-Day wasn’t sure if she was really kidding. She prepared to spring to her feet and flee. If he caught her, he’d mash her up like Silly Putty.
“No chance . . . Quinn’s cousin, or whatever,” said a haughty, rather nasal voice behind her.
Still lying on her stomach, D-Day carefully put down the empty assault weapon. She did not dare turn her head away from the Sherman Tank. “Sandi Griffin?” she said. “Is the rest of the Fantastic Club here, too?”
“It would seem not,” said the voice dryly. “In fact, I doubt those fashion-fixated morons have any idea where I am. They’d certainly never believe I was here.”
D-Day nodded, still watching Tommy Sherman—who was smiling at someone standing behind D-Day. “You’re not here to help me out by any chance, are you?” D-Day asked, her voice rising.
“No,” said the voice. “Chairman Li made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. And if you make any sudden moves, I’ll pull the trigger on this grenade launcher, put a high-explosive shell right between your shoulder blades, and make my mother and the Chairman very proud of me.”
After an appropriate silence, D-Day cleared her throat. “Wouldn’t want to disappoint Mother, would we?”
“No, we wouldn’t. Oh, Tommy?”
“Yeah?” asked the Sherman Tank.
Without turning her head, D-Day could almost see Sandi Griffin’s perfect smile. “She’s yours.”
Episode 513, Part Three:
DEATH, BE NOT PROUD!
Or, No One Lives Forever—Especially Not a Hero
Ken “The Professor” Edwards, the substitute teacher with a gift for writing and a streak of pedophilia, was having difficulty getting around. He vaguely remembered opening a box that had exploded, but nothing after that. Now, he did not know where he was, his body was battered and aching, and his face and arms were burned as raw. Worse, he was blind and deaf, though he hoped it was temporary. For now, he could only crawl on his knees and hope for rescue from this nightmare.
After a terrible age of time, he sensed vibrations in the metal floor. Two people were passing nearby. He waved his arms and emitted guttural cries, his mouth unable to shape words properly. The vibrations stopped—then approached and stopped very close to him. Someone touched Ken on the left shoulder. He turned his head in the direction he thought his savior was standing. Help me, he tried to say.
Without warning, a sharp pain stung deep into his left shoulder. He cried out and cowered. They stabbed me! They stabbed me! Who would do such a thing to me, of all people? Who would—
He screamed. Molten lava raced through his bloodstream from the stab wound into every cell of his arm, down into his fingers, and up his shoulder into his chest. He screamed when the burning reached his lungs and speared every air sac. He tried to scream when the burning reached his heart, but a chest-crushing spasm choked off his cries. The burning came up through his neck and into his head, where it burst like a supernova. It was the purest pain in the cosmos, so great that it became holy and godlike. It burned up his thoughts, then burned the ashes, then the dust, and then—
He did not feel the steel floor when his head struck it.
“Whoa!” said the small boy with big eyes, watching as The Professor’s body twitched its last. “That was cool!”
The tall woman in the white lab coat and gray tweed skirt allowed herself a smile as she tossed away the hypodermic and selected another from her black bag. “Mister Edwards, though only superficially injured by the flash-bang grenade, was of no further use to our cause,” she said in an authoritative tone. She prepared the second needle. “His passing was quick, as intended—though likely not painless, given his reactions and the type of serpent venom used. The Indonesian fire cobra is widely feared for good reason, as you see. There are many types of snake venoms, each with its unique properties and uses. If you hope to be a professional interrogator, you must learn them all.”
The twelve-year-old boy looked up with awe at the tall, severe woman. “I want to do that, Doctor Manson. I want to be just like you!”
Dr. Margaret “Psycho” Manson was secretly pleased. She allowed herself to tousle the boy’s long, blond hair for a moment. “I’m sure that you will be,” she said. Withdrawing her hand, she returned to her humorless manner. “Now, let us find D-Day Morgendorffer, and I will show you what the venom of the Amazonian green rotting viper does to its victims.”
“Oh, cool!” Brian Taylor cried—then eagerly added, “Does it work on pets, too?”
Elsewhere in the Galaxy’s cargo bay, The Sherman Tank blinked in surprise, ignoring The Professor’s fading screams. “You’re giving D-Day Morgendorffer to me?” Tommy Sherman asked the slim, attractive, possibly underage brunette in the skin-tight purple bodysuit. He found her grenade launcher amusing.
“Exactly,” Sandi Griffin replied, struggling to keep the cumbersome weapon level. She was nineteen but would have been pleased to be mistaken for seventeen.
Tommy laughed. “That’s funny!” he said. “You’re like claiming her, and now you’re trying to give her to me? That’s pretty good!” His humor faded. “She was mine before you got here, babe.” He squinted at Sandi and frowned. “Hey, I saw you on TV once. You’re some kind of hero or something. You got that ‘FC’ thing on your boob, so you’re in the Fantastic Club, right?”
Sandi gritted her teeth. “How very astute of you. Yes, I am the president of the Fantastic Club, and that is our logo on my—on my whatever. As it happens, though, I work for your side now. Chairman Li said she was proud that I met her extraordinarily high standards for membership in L.U.C.I.F.E.R.” She was careful to spell the acronym out, then she looked Tommy Sherman up and down. “It would appear, however, that her admission standards were quite low before now.”
“Yeah, till they got me,” Tommy grunted. He shifted his gaze to the diminutive brunette in the dark-gray leather motorcycle outfit, lying prone on the cargo-bay floor between himself and the treasonous Sandi. From the floor, D-Day Morgendorffer watched Tommy with grave concern through her still-undamaged glasses.
“D-Day,” Tommy said in reflection. “Not much for looks, but back-to-back keggers could fix that—only I don’t wanna wait that long for a waste of space like you. I’ll just waste your space now and get it over with.” He swaggered closer, glancing up at Sandi. “Hey,” he said, “whatever your name is, you gotta be older than fourteen, right?” His thick fingers reached down for D-Day’s long ponytail. “Maybe me and you could go somewhere when all this is over, get some brewskis, do a little weed, then get horizonta—”
Sandi shot Tommy in the face with the grenade launcher at point-blank range. The recoil from the weapon knocked her backwards off her feet and flung the launcher to one side, but the rocket-powered shaped-charge shell sledgehammered The Sherman Tank across the cargo bay. He slammed spread-eagle into the opposite wall, then smacked against the floor on his face, momentarily motionless.
“Ow, damn it!” yelled Sandi, sitting up on the floor and rubbing her bruised arms. “That goddamn thing hurts!”
Hardly able to believe her escape, D-Day jumped to her feet and hauled Sandi up a moment later. “Run now, talk later!” she shouted, and the girls fled for another, hopefully safer part of the cargo bay. Sandi coughed on the noxious air, thick with cloying perfume, gunpowder fumes, and smoke from small fires burning here and there.
“First of all, thank you,” D-Day said as she guided the leader of the Fantastic Club to a spot behind a pile of smoldering duffle bags. “Second, care to tell me what you’re doing up here instead of playing with the Powerpuff Girls back in Lawndale?”
“Oh, like I really want to be here!” Sandi snapped. “I thought a brain like you could tell that I was on a secret mission! Chairman Li put an anti-muta-something in the school cafeteria’s raspberry vinaigrette, and everyone in the Fantastic Club lost her mutant powers! I’m almost freaking mundane!”
“There are worse things,” said D-Day, irked. “I’m a mundane, technically speaking, though performing at peak Olympic mental and physical—”
“Oh, stop being such a Captain America! You’ve got to help us! Your cousin—”
“Sister! She’s my sister! Just say it!”
“What-ever! Quinn’s pyro-mutations can’t even light a match, Tiffany can’t generate enough water to wet a tissue, Stacy is hyperventilating because she can’t keep the wind from ruining her hairdo—and I don’t have my super-hard, silky-smooth, ultra-dense skin! This really sucks!”
“Why don’t you yell about it a little louder and tell everyone where we are?” D-Day shot back. “And how did you manage to get up here with the rest of the Beautiful People, anyway?”
“Chairman Li told me she’d give me a serum that would restore my super-powers and give me permanently tanned skin if I joined her side! All I had to do was get on this plane at Dover and kill any super-hero who tried to stop her plans!”
D-Day looked Sandi in the eyes. “That would be me,” she said carefully.
“Well, duh!” hissed Sandi. “And do you feel dead? No? Then I put one over on Chairman Li, didn’t I? And I used my super-name and not my real name when I signed my application paperwork, so it doesn’t count anyway. Just get over it and help me trash this place and find the anti-anti-muta-something serum that will get my superpowers back! And those of the rest of the Fantastic Club, of course.”
“Charitable of you,” said D-Day with narrow eyes. Something about Sandi’s story didn’t ring true. Sandi was her usual snotty self, and she was such a lousy actress she had to be authentic. However, it wasn’t like Chairman Li to let a hero convert to evil without some sort of insurance against the hero playing double agent. What was the catch, then? It was also a surprise to see Sandi risk her life on so desperate a mission with no super-powers to support her. Perhaps her fear of being forever mundane drove her to such extremes. Sandi was courageous, but as self-centered as ever, D-Day concluded. A pity. Sandi had so much potential.
No time left to worry about it. D-Day risked a look over the duffle-bag pile and spotted several Merc Jerks gathering about forty feet away behind a Humvee chained down to the cargo deck. The soldiers were heavily armed and taking orders from someone D-Day couldn’t see. “Company coming,” she said, ducking again. “Dressed to kill, too.”
“I hate it when they don’t phone ahead,” Sandi grumbled. “I could go back and get that gun-thingie I found—if you’ll shoot it for me.”
“Let’s not disturb Sleeping Ugly, please. Crap, my equipment belt is out of stink bombs and boomers. All I’ve got left is Jane’s Stik-Tite 9000 glue minigun. I could spray the floor and hope they’d fall in it, but—”
“Speaking of which, where is that other girl you hang around with? Isn’t she supposed to be here, too, or is this her day off?”
D-Day looked up with a glare. “You know what her name is. Jane’s on her way. It wouldn’t hurt to show a little respect to others once in a while.”
“Oh, right, like you’re really doing well here on your own. If I hadn’t come in and kicked Bulldozer Brain’s butt, you’d look like scrambled eggs by now.”
There wasn’t time to count to ten, so D-Day counted to two and promised herself she’d put instant hair remover in Sandi’s shampoo when they got home again. “Maybe we can scrounge up a smoke grenade or some tear gas,” she said. “Here, you look over that way, and I’ll—”
Something crashed into the floor between the girls. Before they could react, Tommy Sherman grabbed the girls by their necks and lifted them off the ground, ignoring their shouts, shrieks, and kicks. “Hey, I move pretty quietly in these sneakers, don’t I?” he said with pride. “Good trick with the popgun back there, chicky, but I got a better one. I’m gonna pick you both up by your feet, then smash you together and see whose head is the first one to—”
One of the two multiton rear doors on the C-5X Galaxy was ripped shrieking from its steel hinges, then tossed aside toward the ocean ten thousand feet below, admitting a hurricane blast that howled throughout the cargo bay. An instant later, a blur of white and red flashed inside, zeroed in on Tommy Sherman, and slammed into his chest at over 175 miles an hour. D-Day and Sandi fell to the floor like stringless puppets. D-Day groaned and sat up, wiping tears of pain from her eyes to see the white-and-red blur beating The Sherman Tank with merciless jackhammer fists. Though initially stunned, The Sherman Tank was fighting back with increasing ferocity. Maneuvering jets on the white-and-red blur kept it from being knocked away when Tommy’s punches hit home. Instead, the blur drove Tommy before it, toward the forward bulkhead of the cargo bay.
“Jane’s here,” groaned D-Day to Sandi above the racket. “We’ve got to get out of this place before they tear apart the plane or squash us by accident.”
“I think my mom’s in the crew cabin upstairs,” muttered Sandi, rubbing her neck with a grimace. “If I can pretend to still be working for Li, she might know where the Chairman keeps her anti-anti-whatever serum.”
“See if she knows where the parachutes are, too,” D-Day added.
“Oh, you won’t need a parachute, my dears.”
“What?” said D-Day and Sandi at the same time, looking at each other. They turned and looked behind them.
Acting on pure reflex, D-Day threw her arm upward and blocked Dr. Manson’s downward stab. She then spotted the hypodermic needle in Manson’s fist—and the needle arcing around in her other fist, too. Recoiling, she dodged the second attack by less than an inch, then kicked upward twice into Manson’s chest and heard ribs break. With a spinning kick to Manson’s jaw, she saw her foe fall—right on top of one of the hypodermic needles.
Marking the doctor as out of the fight, D-Day turned to Sandi, who stood clutching her right hand in obvious pain. At her feet was the most evil middle-schooler in the entire world, Brian Taylor—out cold, with an electro-paralyzer fallen at his side.
“I forgot I didn’t have my rock-skin powers!” Sandi hissed through her teeth. “I punched him right in the forehead and almost broke my hand!”
“You got the Hell Child before he got you,” said D-Day in surprise, looking Brian over. “I could almost admire you for that.”
“Drop dead,” sneered Sandi, though with a hint of satisfaction in her voice. She spotted Dr. Manson, then walked over and shouted down at the body, “And for your information, I do not have control issues, you . . . you sick-chiatrist!”
“Something from an inkblot test she once gave you?” asked D-Day.
“Oh, right, as if looking at cappuccino stains could tell anyone anything. Let’s get out of here.”
The girls left the area to avoid being shot by the surviving Merc Jerks or crushed in the chaotic and ongoing battle between The Sherman Tank and the powered-armor fury of The Mighty Jane, who were smashing everything in sight. Before leaving, D-Day noticed that Dr. Manson’s still-living body seemed to be rotting away from within—a sight she did not wish to observe further. She spotted the open spiral staircase up to the flight deck and directed Sandi toward it. “Hope you can convince your mom that you’re on her side,” said D-Day. What a mess her family must be these days. “Want to pretend I’m your prisoner to further the illusion?”
“No, she’d never believe that,” said Sandi—with a trace of regret, D-Day thought. “I’ll do this by myself.” Sandi swallowed, looking up the stairs. “Listen, Quinn’s cou—sister . . . if things don’t go well . . . I don’t want you to laugh at me, but tell Quinn she was always my best friend, my best friend ever. I cared about her, even if . . . even if I didn’t act like it. She was always . . . look, just tell her, okay?”
D-Day blinked. “Uh, sure. Good luck.”
“Thanks.” Sandi turned away and started up the stairs. D-Day watched until Sandi was out of sight, then looked around to see what challenges remained on the burning aircraft.
“Well, well, well,” said the pigtailed brunette in the Lawndale gym-teacher’s sweat suit. Behind her were a dozen armed Merc Jerks, their automatic weapons pointed at D-Day’s chest.
“Don’t tell me,” said D-Day in a deadpan. “As punishment, you want me to do fifty jumping jacks or two laps around the football field, right?”
“No,” said Ms. Morris, the girls’ athletic coach for Lawndale High School. “I just want you to die.” She tossed aside her razor-edged clipboard and took off her blue-and-yellow windbreaker, revealing a yellow T-shirt below and perfectly toned muscles.
“A martial-arts one-on-one,” said D-Day in instant understanding. “Fe-mano on fe-mano.”
“That’s it,” said Ms. Morris, taking off her sneakers to stand in her bare feet. She took the ready pose for the Thousand-Clawed Tiger fighting style, which was known to at most two people in the entire world, a master and a student. Chairman Li was the last known master. It figured. “You win, you go free,” Morris said. “I win, I put your head in my trophy case at home.”
“Fair enough,” said D-Day, reaching into a pocket in her leather bodysuit. She pulled out a small folded piece of paper.
“No tricks!” growled Morris, preparing to make the thirty-foot leap to kick D-Day’s head from her shoulders.
“No tricks,” said D-Day, flipping the piece of paper like a discus. It landed by Morris’s toes. “It’s a note from Penny Lane. You might want to read it before we get started.”
Ms. Morris’s face changed as she stared from the paper to D-Day and back. “P-P-Penny?” she gasped, her face turning white.
“I’d hurry and read it before The Mighty Jane comes over,” said D-Day. “She still has a grudge about you trying to inject her with mutagenic steroids and force her to join the cross-country team.”
Morris bent down and picked up the paper. She unfolded it with trembling hands and read the words on it, her face and eyes turning red as she did.
“She’s waiting for me in Panama City,” she said, her voice quavering. Tears ran down her cheeks as she looked up at D-Day. “She—I—we—it was—we couldn’t—”
“She left the country because she fell in love with you when she was a senior at Lawndale,” said D-Day in understanding. “She was too afraid of what everyone would say if they knew. You loved her, too, but couldn’t do anything because she was your student. You both parted, heartbroken—but she’s waiting for you, if you still want her.”
“I do!” said Morris, then put a hand over her mouth and shut her eyes tightly. After a moment, she regained her self-control, wiped her tears, and cleared her throat. “Looks like we’ll have to put this off until another time,” she said, straightening. She turned and waved at the Merc Jerks. “Stand down!” she yelled. “Everyone get a parachute and a life raft! We’re going to Panama City!”
Cheering, the Merc Jerks lowered their weapons and immediately left. Morris gave D-Day a last look. “Thank you,” she said.
“No problem,” said D-Day. “No hard feelings about running all those punishment laps, either.” She paused, then added, “Jane, though, might be a little—”
“Right,” said Morris, and she ran off to get a parachute.
D-Day sighed. Hearing a noise behind her, she turned—and saw Sandi Griffin coming back from the stairs. Sandi had a strange look on her face and clutched something in her right hand.
“What’s up?” said D-Day. Her gaze dropped. Half-hidden by Sandi’s right arm, a dark stain was spreading across her fashionable purple uniform, just below her breastbone where a small hole marred the fabric. Sandi began to fall, but D-Day lunged and caught her, then eased her down to lie on the debris-covered deck.
“This—” Sandi grimaced in pain “—is for Quinn . . . and the others.” She pushed her fist toward D-Day. Her fingers opened. A small glass vial full of clear liquid was in her palm. “The serum . . .”
D-Day took the vial and put it away without looking at it further. She then pulled a sterile gauze bandage from a side pocket and covered what looked like the entry wound from a bullet. Sandi gasped, and her fingers clutched at D-Day’s dark leather suit. “Be careful,” she whispered through her teeth. “My mom . . . has . . . a . . . g-g-g-”
“Gun,” said a woman behind D-Day. It sounded like Linda Griffin. D-Day did not turn around, continuing to try to stop the bleeding, but the exit wound on Sandi’s back was enormous and it looked like an artery had been severed.
“Mom,” whispered Sandi, looking over D-Day’s shoulder. “Mom . . . don’t . . .”
“Traitor,” Linda spat, the venom thick in her voice. “You betrayed me. My own daughter.”
“Mom,” said Sandi. She shuddered. “No . . . don’t . . . it’s wrong . . .” Her body stiffened . . .
. . . and then relaxed. Her breath came out as a long sigh. Her eyes remained open and fixed on a place in the air.
“Sandi?” said D-Day softly. She raised her voice and leaned close. “Sandi?”
“You’re next, Daria,” said Linda. “I’ve always hated that stupid name, ‘D-Day.’ It makes my super-name look pretty good.”
D-Day reached and gently closed Sandi’s eyes with her hand. “You killed her,” she said in shocked disbelief, still looking at Sandi. “You killed your own child.”
“I did it for Chairman Li!” Linda shouted, her voice quavering and far too high. “She told me that if I killed anyone trying to steal the serum, she’d make me her second in command! I’m proud that I did it! The worthless little bitch was a traitor! A traitor to me! To hell with her!”
Still kneeling, D-Day looked into Linda’s haunted eyes, not into the barrel of the silenced black pistol pointing at D-Day’s face.
“You killed her,” D-Day whispered. “I can’t believe it. Just like that, you—”
Linda’s face twisted. “I know what I did, damn you!” she screamed. The black revolver trembled in her hands. Her trigger finger tightened.
The gunshot followed.
Episode 513, Part Four:
THE FINAL SMACKDOWN!
Or, Just When You Thought It Couldn’t Get Any Worse Than This
The gunshot came from above and to D-Day’s left, not from Linda Griffin’s silenced weapon. However, what D-Day noticed first was that when she heard the gunshot, the pistol in Linda “Anchor Babe” Griffin’s hands vanished. So did her hands, which had been clamped around the pistol grip. Clattering noises came from yards away to the right, where the weapon’s remains bounced off the cargo bay’s floor and walls.
Linda staggered back, then looked down with wide-eyed horror at her arms, which ended messily at the wrists. Her mouth fell open to scream.
With the second gunshot, a spray of pink blew out from the back of Linda Griffin’s head, ruffling her brown hair and forming a mist that settled over everything behind her and stained it red. A surprised look came over Anchor Babe’s face as she made a curious noise, like a gasp. She then tilted to her left, her knees gave way, and she fell hard on her side, rolling on her back with limbs askew. D-Day watched it happen in stunned silence, then looked up.
A slim woman wearing a USAF pilot’s jumpsuit and carrying a quick-assemble sniper rifle ran down the spiral staircase from the crew level. She knelt when she got to D-Day, put the rifle aside, and took D-Day’s face in her hands to examine her. “Are you hurt?” the woman asked quickly. She looked a bit like D-Day, though her pinned-up brunette hair was naturally wavy and she wore no glasses. “Talk to me, Daria. Are you okay? Are you hurt?”
“I’m fine,” whispered D-Day dully. She reached up and pulled the older woman to her, burying her face in the woman’s shoulder.
“Couldn’t stand to see my favorite niece get hurt,” said the woman, hugging D-Day to her. She looked down at Sandi Griffin’s body. “Oh, my God. Is that . . . that’s her daughter? Sandi, from the Fantastic Club?”
D-Day nodded, then pulled away. Time to get up, she thought. I have to finish this thing. “We have to get out of here, Aunt Amy,” she said upon rising to her feet. “Jane’s fighting Tommy Sherman, but I think everyone else is either gone, dead, or out of action. How’d you get mixed up in this?”
“The Company wanted me to get in here as a mole,” said Special Agent Amy Barksdale, using the CIA’s favorite pseudonym. “We got wind of Li’s plot to kidnap the President’s daughter. One of the Chairman’s subordinates took me on as a pilot. I caught your balloon a little while ago.”
“Thanks,” said D-Day without emotion. She scanned the huge cargo bay, noting the torn-off door at the rear and several large holes in the fuselage in scattered places. “Jane’s nothing if not thorough. Doesn’t look like she’s here, though. Maybe she took the fight outside. I hope Tommy can’t fly.”
“So, Tommy Sherman’s alive?” asked Amy. “Li really made him super?”
“Last time I saw him, he almost tore my head off.” D-Day rubbed her sore neck, remembering, and looked down at Sandi’s body. “We can’t leave her here.”
Amy glanced down, then at her niece. “Daria,” she began, “she’s . . .” She read D-Day’s face and gave up. “Okay,” she said. “We’ll think of something.”
A white-and-red blur came into the aircraft through the rear where one of the bay doors used to be. The blur settled onto the ground nearby, revealing it to be a massive, seven-foot-tall, powered-armor suit in gleaming white—badly battered, smudged, dented, scarred, scraped, and stained, but still impressive. A huge red J marked the suit’s front.
“Yo,” said The Mighty Jane by external speakers, once the whine from her maneuvering jets had fallen. Jane’s sweat-drenched black bangs were plastered to her face, but her blue eyes were alive with strength. She gave Sandi Griffin’s body a brief look and her expression grew sad, but she made no comment. “So, you want the maybe good news or the definitely bad news first?” she said.
“Bad news,” said D-Day. “Why not.”
“The inside port engine is on fire. The fuel line through the wing is ruptured, and the whole wing could explode at any moment.”
“I thought as much,” said Amy. “The engine went out just before I left the cockpit. And the good news?”
“I’m not sure if it’s good news or what,” said Jane. “Tommy was holding on to me when we crashed through the port side, forward. When I flung him off, he went through the near port engine. I didn’t see him after that. He’s probably in the drink.”
“And swimming to shore,” said D-Day gloomily. “Good news only in that we don’t have to fight him here, and we can concentrate on getting the hell out. He’ll be back, though.”
“Hey, Mighty,” said Amy, looking around. “Can you carry a load of prisoners and evacuees inside that Humvee over there, if we can get them in it?”
“Back to shore?” Jane’s mouth twisted and she studied the Humvee with one blue eye closed. “At full power, sure, but it will be close. My suit’s down to thirty-seven percent after the beating Tommy gave it. It’s going in for major repairs once we get back. Man, I thought he’d never quit.” She unsnapped her helmet and raised it, breathing deeply. “Fresh air. Smells better than I do.”
“Our work here is done,” said Amy. She looked at D-Day. “Or is there something else you have to do?”
D-Day was peering at the Humvee that Amy had indicated earlier. She abruptly began walking toward it, her face set.
“Daria?” called Jane. “What’s going on?” She followed, walking, as did Amy Barksdale.
D-Day reached the Humvee and grabbed for a door handle, pulling it open. Inside the Humvee was a man in an executive suit, cowering on the floor in the back and waving a white handkerchief over his head.
“Truce?” said Eric Schrecter.
“Chairman Li’s legal advisor,” said D-Day. “The man my mother worked for until she discovered his duplicity and exposed his underworld connections, leading to his disbarment.”
“That’s still under review, so I’m still technically a lawyer, okay?” said Eric quickly. “And I am legally out on bail, and all my convictions are being appealed, so I’m clean, got it? No one has issues with that, I hope.”
“We were going to use that vehicle to get the wounded off this plane,” said Amy, walking up. “You can’t stay in there unless you’re wounded, too.”
“Oh, I can fix that,” said The Mighty Jane, her voice full of promise.
“Stop right there! I’m recording this!” said Eric, patting his shirt pocket. “You’re not using proper legal procedures for dealing with people who have not been accused of any—OUCH!” Grimacing, he grabbed at his pocket and pulled out a smoldering tape recorder, which he threw out of the Humvee.
“I fried its circuitry with my ECM jammers,” said The Mighty Jane. “Now, let’s talk about your unwounded condition.”
“No,” said D-Day. She stepped back. “Get out of the vehicle.” Eric did as he was told, still clutching his white handkerchief. “Go around and start putting the wounded into the vehicle,” said D-Day. “We’ll help with—”
“I’m not doing a thing!” he shouted. “You can’t legally force me to do any—”
Five-foot-two D-Day lunged at Eric, grabbed him by his shirt, lifted him from the ground, and slammed his back into the side of the Humvee. He dropped his hankie.
“Listen to me, you sack of rotting meat,” she hissed in a loud whisper, looking up at Eric’s frightened face. “Before my aunt can blow your head off or my best friend can tear out your lungs, they’re going to wait in line for me to finish with you first. You smeared my mother’s legal career when she unearthed your underhanded doings, and you leaked the story about my father’s breakdown at that superhero camp in his teenage years. You ruined my parents and forced them into retirement, and I swore on everything I held dear to me that I would find the person who hurt them and I’d make him suffer like no one had ever suffered before. And now I’ve found you, you lousy bastard, and you’re doing to do whatever I tell you to do, the second I tell you to do it, because that’s the only thing keeping your miserable evil ass alive right now. Do you understand me, dirtball?!” She shook him violently as she shouted the last five words.
Eric nodded yes as fast as he could.
“Then do it,” D-Day whispered. She flung the man aside, then walked off to the staircase to retrieve Sandi’s body.
Pale and sweating, Eric turned to look at Jane and Amy. Jane clenched a fist, and curved blades jumped out from the forearms of her powered suit. Amy took a dum-dum bullet from a shirt pocket of her USAF uniform, then loaded it into her sniper rifle and casually raised the barrel until it pointed at Eric’s crotch.
“I’m right on it,” he said, and began looking for survivors in the cargo bay.
D-Day wrapped Sandi’s body in a tarp, tied it up with cargo netting, then gave Linda Griffin’s body a brief inspection before dragging Sandi’s corpse to the Humvee. The glint of a silver communicator pen in Linda’s pocket caught D-Day’s attention. She wrapped a hand in rags and pulled out the blood-stained pen, wiping it off and examining it. The pen began to glow. D-Day dropped it, but the glowing continued. In moments, a life-size, three-dimensional figure appeared over the pen. It was a hologram reflecting from dust particles in the air.
“I should have known,” said Chairman Li, looking down at her. “This will go on your permanent record, Miss Morgendorffer.”
“You’re about to get your own permanent record,” said D-Day. “Superintendent Cartwright got the full story on your misdeeds, everything from your tampering with the budget to your attempts to subvert the government of the United States. You’ve been replaced as principal at Lawndale, and there’s a cell in a federal prison in Marion, Illinois, waiting for you—for the rest of your unnaturally long life.”
“They haven’t gotten through the glorious outer defenses of Laaawndale High yet,” said Chairman Li. “My fortress is quite secure from invasion at the moment.”
“Tell it to the Marines,” said D-Day. “They should be deep inside the building about now.”
Li’s glowered. “You have the same big mouth that your grandfather Mad Dog had,” she said. “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” The holographic image looked around with a tight expression. “Is Mister Sherman present?”
“He stepped outside for some air.”
“A pity,” said Li with real regret. “He’s immune to almost all damage, but he still has to breathe, you know. And he can’t swim.”
“Doesn’t know how?”
“Can’t. We had to replace his skeleton with iridium bones. He’s too heavy to swim, and he won’t be able to hold his breath long enough to walk back to shore on the ocean bottom. Two billion dollars down the drain.”
“Too bad there won’t be other Tommys to take his place,” said D-Day. “You could always get a dog, though. Ooo, sorry, forgot you won’t be able to keep one in federal custody. You can hug your pillow then, if they give you one. It will have more personality than Tommy ever did.”
“Don’t insult the name of Laaawndale High’s most famous student!” the Chairman snapped. “Mister Sherman led our school to victory in the Tri-County All-Season Football Championships, Miss Morgendorffer! Talent like that is to be admired and respected, nurtured like a rare tropical orchid and lifted to its fullest potential under the shining rainbow light of—”
“Excuse me,” D-Day interrupted, “but can you finish this after I take my anti-vomiting pills?”
Li’s eyes became narrow slits. “You have not won yet, Miss Morgendorffer. And my plans for world domination are still in the works, no matter what happens to me.”
“You’re not going to tell me your entire secret plan, are you? Oh, you are. How predictable. I’m sorry, I’m not in the mood to listen to you drone on for an hour when you can do it to the U.S. Marine Corps in person, so I’m going to cut this channel and—”
“Have it your way,” Li growled, her face alive with hatred. “But my revenge is not yet complete.” The holographic image vanished.
When D-Day got back to the Humvee, it was already full. “The courts are going to be packed for years,” said Amy Barksdale, shutting the tailgate door on the vehicle once Sandi’s body was placed inside.
“And the prisons for years afterward,” said Jane. She turned to D-Day. “Oh, and guess who’s here?”
“Now what?” said D-Day tiredly.
“Not a very enthusiastic way to greet a fellow crime fighter,” said a booming voice from outside the aircraft.
D-Day looked from Jane to Amy.
“It’s the TomBot,” said Jane. “You remember that thirty-foot blue-green robot with the TV-set head? The one Tom made for the county science fair?”
“With my dashing good looks being broadcast live on that TV-set head,” came Tom’s amplified voice. “Plus sensitive listening devices allowing me to pick up conversations anywhere within a mile, even over the roar of a jet. I understand you need help carrying a Humvee back to shore.”
“You’re late,” D-Day grumbled.
“Yes, so I’ve been informed,” said Tom testily. “It took a while to get here from the Cove, but I’m here now, okay? Do you mind if I help out? Jane said her armor was about to go, so—”
“I’ve got two hours left in the batteries,” said Jane.
“Right, whatever,” said Tom. “I can get the Humvee and save you a little trouble, at least.”
The three women shrugged at one another. “Sure,” said D-Day. “Can you come in the back where the door used to be?”
The TomBot, as Jane christened it, proved able to get into the cargo bay and lift the Humvee without trouble, keeping its contents level and stable with its gyro-sensors. “See you back on shore,” said Tom’s TV image on the robot’s face. The blue-green giant lifted from the ground on its antigravity foot-pods, then drifted out the back of the plane. Amy Barksdale waved goodbye from the driver’s seat, the last person who could pack into the vehicle before it left. Something about the scene bothered D-Day. She was missing something. What was it?
“Leaves just you and me now,” said The Mighty Jane to D-Day—but she stopped when D-Day raised her hand for silence. Jane waited as D-Day watched the descent of the TomBot once it left the aircraft, and the robot’s flight toward the coast.
D-Day finally lowered her hand and turned to Jane. “He’s over a mile away now and out of hearing range,” she said. “Listen—I want you to know that I’m not going out with Tom.”
“If this is about that kiss,” said Jane, looking uncomfortable, “that was Li’s doing. And Tom and I broke up yesterday, anyway. We weren’t right for each other. You can go out with him if you want.”
“No,” said D-Day. She bit her lip, then went on. “I’ll find someone else, if that’s what I want. I won’t endanger what we have, everything we’ve built. I can’t do it.”
Jane said nothing, only staring.
“So,” D-Day finished, “that’s all I had to say. Let’s get out of here and get some pizza—but without Tom hanging around, okay? Just you and me? Like old times? Freakin’ Friends forever?”
“Yeah,” said Jane softly. “Freakin’ Friends forever.” She turned, blinking back tears, then snapped her helmet down and locked it in place before walking over to the huge gap at the rear of the aircraft where the cargo door once stood. There, she admired the view from two miles up, ignoring the roaring winds around her. “I’ll carry you with me,” she said, turning up the speaker volume on her suit. “It’ll be easy. Want to eat at that Cuban-run pizza place in Miami on the way home? Or we can cruise down to—”
A thick bare hand came in from outside the aircraft, over the lip of the floor where the cargo-bay door once stood. It grabbed The Mighty Jane’s right foot, lifted her, smashed her three times against the cargo floor like a rag doll, then flung The Mighty Jane’s armored body out of the rear of the plane. The white-and-red blur fell spinning toward the clouds below, limbs flailing at random.
D-Day stepped back in disbelief. She then saw the hand grasp a tie-down ring on the floor and pull the rest of the body inside—and she ran for her life toward the front of the plane.
“Hey, Misery Chick!” called Tommy Sherman. He stood up and walked into the wind after D-Day, taking his time. There was no hurry now. “One cool thing about being Superman like me,” he yelled, “is that I can dig my fingers into airplane metal, even when it’s flying around. Steel is almost like butter to me. It’s sort of like mountain climbing or something, or like that guy, uh, Spider-Man, except he sticks to things but I make my own handholds. I like my way a lot better, don’t you?”
D-Day passed scattered piles of weapons and ammunition, but nothing that could possibly affect The Sherman Tank. And Jane was gone. D-Day tried not to dwell on that. No matter how damaged her suit was, or what injuries she’d taken in that ambush beating, Jane would figure out a way to recover and get back here. Jane could do it if anyone could.
All D-Day had to do was survive until Jane returned—but a crippled, burning cargo aircraft has only so many places to hide. And Jane might not return in time . . . if she returned at all.
Don’t think that! Stop it! Find a way out of this!
“Hey!” came an amused voice not far behind her. “Don’t be afraid, Misery Chick! It’s just me, Tommy ‘The Sherman Tank’ Sherman! All your friends got away, but you’re still here, so let’s play for a little, okay? I won’t kill you right away. I’ll make it last. I told you this was your lucky day, didn’t I?”
Episode 513, Part Five:
TEN THOUSAND FEET INTO HELL!
Or, The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea
With Tommy Sherman in casual pursuit, D-Day ran through the cargo bay for the stairway to the crew deck—until she saw dark smoke spilling from the hallway leading to the cockpit. She realized Amy must have sabotaged the flight circuitry, or else Chairman Li had done it by remote control to make the monstrous jet impossible to steer. She looked back and saw Tommy trudging toward her with a leering smirk.
There was simply nowhere else to run, unless she wanted to jump out one of the holes in the fuselage. That would have been fine except there were no parachutes left on the plane that she knew of. Being carried away by Jane in her powered suit was to have been her escape. D-Day grabbed for her nearly useless equipment belt, feeling empty pockets and bare device holders—and one last item. She put her plan together in a second and prayed it was not the last plan she would ever make.
“Tommy?” she said, forcing herself to stand very still and face him as he came for her. She kept her hands down at her sides after palming the one device she had left. “Tommy, you win. I surrender.”
“Cool,” said Tommy. His grin grew broader, and he did not slow down. “Doesn’t mean The Sherman Tank will go easy on you, but cool anyway.”
D-Day backed up a step, then made herself step forward again. He was sixty feet away. “We need to get off this plane, Tommy,” she said. “The wing’s going to explode, and then we’ll crash.”
“So maybe we’ve got a little time left to play games,” he said. “Tommy Sherman’s kind of games.”
“We have to work together if we—”
Forty feet. “Save your breath, Misery Chick. You’ll need it. Tommy Sherman likes his girls to scream. And Li will come by and pick me up pretty soon. She always does. Tommy Sherman’s not worried.”
“She won’t this time, Tommy. We told her you were dead.”
Tommy looked surprised. Twenty feet. “Me, dead? You told Li that Tommy Sherman was dead?” He threw back his head and roared with laughter, still walking toward her. His right arm loosened up and drew back, undoubtedly to slap or punch the living hell out of her when he got within range.
Ten feet. Tommy was still laughing.
D-Day wasn’t as skilled at leaping as martial-arts masters like Ms. Morris was, but she could move ten feet in almost any direction in less than a second, when the time called for it. She sprang at the laughing Tommy Sherman, her right arm shooting out for his face, fingers squeezing her last weapon.
Jane Lane’s Stik-Tite 9000 glue minigun was dead on target. Tommy Sherman’s mouth and nasal passages were suddenly clogged to capacity with a high-pressure blast of ultra-fast-drying, bond-to-anything-and-everything epoxy that also splattered over his eyes, ears, and hair.
Tommy was faster than D-Day had guessed. A tremendous blow from his fist took D-Day on her left side, smashing the ribs below her armpit. She hit the floor and rolled until she was twenty-some feet from the struggling Tommy, whose hands were clasped to his face in an effort to pull away the suffocating mass of epoxy.
D-Day, too, was unable to breathe. Knives of broken bone sliced into her left lung. Run, damn you, run! passed through her head. She forced herself up to her knees, almost passing out from the pain, then got to her feet and staggered away for an indefinite time before she stumbled and fell. Behind her, Tommy Sherman thrashed against the cargo deck, kicking and pounding as if fighting Death itself. As she struggled to breathe, D-Day heard the pounding become less violent and more infrequent. She did not recall the moment when it ceased altogether, though she was aware after a time that it was quiet in the cargo area, if one did not count the howl of jet engines and the roaring wind.
He’s immune to almost all damage, Chairman Li had said, but he still has to breathe, you know.
A spasm of intense agony passed. When she opened her eyes, she looked into a skull covered with rotting flesh, only a yard from her face. From the color and style of hair covering the skull’s top, D-Day knew she was again meeting Dr. Margaret “Psycho” Manson. The sour-sweet stench of decayed flesh was almost overwhelming, but the wind in the cargo bay carried most of the odor away.
D-Day noticed an unbroken syringe filled with a sickly green fluid next to the body and recognized the rare fluid. Amazonian green rotting viper venom, she thought. So that’s what was eating her. D-Day tasted blood in her mouth. Her left lung would shortly collapse, if it hadn’t already, but short shallow breaths kept the stabs of pain to a barely tolerable level.
“Daria Morgendorffer,” said a man. The voice was familiar.
Crap. D-Day turned her head, aware that blood was running out of her mouth. Standing a few feet away, aiming a small handgun down at her, was Eric Schrecter. He had a parachute strapped to his back.
It all fell into place. D-Day had not seen Eric inside the Humvee when the TomBot took it away. That was what had been missing from the picture—Eric. He’d escaped, and somehow no one had noticed.
“Chairman Li gave me a little bottle of amnesia spray,” he said, as if reading her mind. “I plugged my nose and spritzed a little around before that blue robot carried off the Humvee, allowing me to hide and later collect the last available parachute on this flight. Li’s sending a drone out to pick me up, so I don’t expect to tread water for long, if at all.” There was no sniveling in his voice, no trace of the frightened man D-Day had ordered around earlier. D-Day merely stared at him, not trusting her ability to speak.
“Nothing to say?” said Eric. Unlike Tommy, he didn’t smile. “No smart, edgy wisecracks? No clever comebacks? Alas. You should be proud of yourself, eldest child of Helen Pain-in-the-Ass Morgendorffer. You, a gifted mundane, actually killed the third most powerful supervillain in history, before he even got a running start on his career of terror—and you did it with a glue gun.” Eric shook his head. “The Chairman will be furious, but she still has other plans, and she still needs an attorney who knows all the ins and outs of her plans for world domination. Lord, she does go on about it, doesn’t she? At least the pay compensates for her ranting. And speaking of compensation, here’s a tidbit of knowledge for you. You know what a six-pack is? It’s a terrorist technique used on hostages they plan to release, so the hostages remember what they did wrong. Bullets in both knees, both elbows, both ankles. We’ll start with—”
His right arm straightened, aiming the gun at D-Day’s leg. He pulled the trigger. The muzzle flashed and D-Day’s ears rang. The searing pain from her right knee erased almost everything in D-Day’s head.
Even as she reacted to the lightning bolt of agony, D-Day swung an arm around and snatched up the unbroken syringe of venom. She sat up, lunged, and jammed it into Eric Schrecter’s thigh, then hammered down the plunger with her fist.
D-Day felt a hard punch to her gut as another gunshot went off next to her head. Her ears deafened by a shrill whine, D-Day writhed on her back, clutching her abdomen. She had a momentary glimpse of Eric running for the rear of the aircraft to jump out and escape, then she forgot about him. Too much hurt inside her, everywhere inside her, too much hurt to handle at once.
Rise above the pain, rise above the pain, rise above the pain. With both hands clamped over the gunshot wound in her abdomen, and trying not to stir her ribcage too severely, D-Day opened her eyes. She was still in the cargo hold of the hijacked Galaxy. She was still on the floor beside the remains of Dr. Manson. Eric was gone. Bastard.
But . . . Eric had the venom inside him. And it would be working on him at this moment, rotting him from the inside out as he hung in his parachute, the exquisite and unspeakable torment prolonged until his befouled body fell apart into the sea below. Li’s rescue drone would be wasted.
I swore I would make you suffer for what you did. I swore it, and I did it. See you in Hell.
She rose above the pain briefly, thinking of what Eric had said before he shot her. He said he’d used an amnesia spray, which had certainly affected D-Day as she had completely forgotten Eric for a time, and it had affected Amy, too, and Jane had opened her helmet briefly, so it had gotten her, too—
Tom was controlling his robot from the Cove in eastern Maryland, where his family was staying. He should have seen or heard Eric’s escape, because the TomBot could not possibly be affected by the amnesia spray, and it had such sensitive listening devices. And it was so large, it could see down over everything.
So, Tom knew of Eric’s escape. He had to know—and he did nothing about it.
Tom Sloane was working for Chairman Li.
D-Day groaned, even though it hurt terribly to do it. The TomBot had carried the Humvee away. All the live prisoners would be back with Chairman Li in minutes, with CIA Special Agent Amy Barksdale as their ace-in-the-hole prisoner. And Sandi’s body.
No, she protested. That’s impossible. Tom’s been cleared time and again by security scans of his entire past and lie detector tests Jane and I secretly gave him. He can’t be evil. But why’d he do it? Is he being mind-controlled by the Chairman again? Or is he being forced to work for her? He said yesterday that his younger sister Elsie was overdue from a ski trip to Wyoming. Did Li kidnap her and use her to make Tom work for L.U.C.I.F.E.R.?
What the hell else could go wrong now?
The Galaxy shivered as a massive explosion jarred the air. D-Day turned her head and saw a gigantic ball of flames forming in the forward half of the cargo bay from the ruptured fuel line. The yellow flames then roared down at her like a freight train, filling the width of the bay.
With her last bit of energy, D-Day rolled toward the opening where the rear cargo door had stood before Jane tore it away. She was too far from the gap when the flames reached her—but the flames pushed a shockwave of air ahead of them like a piston, and the searing pressure threw her out of the cargo bay to tumble through the air, ten thousand feet above the blue Atlantic ocean. Her last view of the Galaxy was to see it erupt into a two-hundred-foot fireball. The wings and tail section separated from the fuselage, then the monster jet disintegrated as a second, even greater explosion consumed it. Thousands of smoldering pieces of wreckage fell from a vast black cloud to the sea.
And D-Day fell with them, blue sky and blue sea spinning about her. Her glasses were gone, too, but she was in too much pain to care.
I’m going to die. It will be over soon. It will all be over, and I won’t hurt anymore. She thought of her best friend Jane Lane, how they had met, how they had fought crime and evil together to become one of the most famous super-duos in history. She prayed that Jane still lived and would go on without her. Jane was the greatest. D-Day thought of her parents and sister, too, and how she loved and missed them, but her thoughts always returned to Jane. I love you, she thought, sending the words away as a prayer. I love you, Jane, my best and only friend. I’ll wait for you on the other side, however long it takes. The pain in her gut became too great. Still tumbling, the ocean coming up to meet her, she passed out.
A jolt awakened her. She was moving swiftly through the air, but she didn’t seem to be falling. I’m dead. I’m a spirit flying. “I love you, Jane,” D-Day whispered when she awoke, her words almost carried away by the wind. Her lungs ached from the effort.
“Love you, too, amiga,” said The Mighty Jane, next to her face.
D-Day opened an eye. Below her was the sea, a hundred feet away. She was cradled in two massive white-metal arms, her right cheek pressed against a wide fishbowl helmet. Jane Lane looked back from inside the helmet. Her face was covered with drying blood from a long gash over her right eye, doubtless acquired when Tommy Sherman slammed her against the floor before throwing her out of the plane. Her right eye and cheek were turning black from bruises. The inside of her helmet and the controls in front of her face were spattered with blood and spit.
“Sorry I was late,” Jane went on, her voice amplified through external speakers. “Had some trouble with the suit. Down to thirteen percent or something. You miss me?”
D-Day nodded and coughed. It hurt like hell. Blood ran from her mouth and streaked across the outside of the helmet. Everything hurt from her shattered knee to her gunshot wound to her smashed chest. Her cuts and bruises and burns were nothing.
“Hang on, amiga,” said The Mighty Jane, urgency in her voice. “I want you to hang on. Don’t go out on me yet. I’ve got enough power left in this Buzz Lightyear costume to get us to Atlantic City, but it’ll be close. Don’t go anywhere without me, okay? Just stay with me, all right? Stay with me.”
D-Day nodded again. It hurt to breathe, but she could still breathe. She closed her eye and felt the wind roar around her. Her mind rambled ahead.
The days to come would be busy, she knew. They had to find out if Chairman Li had been captured in her underground fortress below Lawndale High, then figure out why Tom was helping Chairman Li when there was every evidence that he wasn’t a bad guy. And an emergency mission to rescue Amy Barksdale would have to get off the ground ASAP, perhaps that very night. Maybe Quinn and the Fantastic Club could do it, if they could pull in a few new members with sufficient talent. They’d want to get Sandi back for burial, for sure.
D-Day then remembered the serum. She raised a hand and felt the vial still safe in the crushproof pocket in her leather outfit. Sandi’s sacrifice was not in vain. The Fantastic Club was saved.
Whatever happened next in the war against Chairman Li, D-Day knew she and Jane would be there, too.
But that was then. And this was now.
D-Day opened an eye again. Jane glanced at her and winked. D-Day tried to smile back, but she closed her eye instead and let her best friend carry her to the distant shore.
Stay Tuned for the Thrilled Sequel:
IS IT RAGNAROK YET?
Same Lawndale Time, Same Lawndale Channel!
Ken Edwards: “Lucky Strike” (pedophile teacher)
General Buck Conroy: “This Year’s Model” (warmongering mercenary)
Angela Li: “Esteemsters” (Stalin-esque high-school principal, misappropriates funds)
Linda Griffin: “Gifted” (self-centered power freak)
Jim: “The Daria Hunter” (warmongering paintball-field owner)
Upchuck: “The Invitation” (lecherous, smarmy high-school student)
Bruno*: “I Don’t” (criminal)
Eric Schrecter**: “Pierce Me” (lawyer, Helen’s boss)
Tommy Sherman: “The Misery Chick” (egomaniac thuggish jerk, former football player)
Margaret Manson***: “Esteemsters” (high-school psychologist fond of testing)
Janet Barch: “Lab Brat” (loud, misanthropic science teacher, abuses male students)
Ms. Morris: “See Jane Run” (bad-tempered, quasi-sadistic phys-ed teacher)
Angel Li, Linda Griffin, Jim, Upchuck, Eric Schrecter, Margaret Manson, and Janet Barch are also mentioned and shown in The Daria Diaries and The Daria Database.
* Bruno is an off-screen character mentioned only in passing as a former beau of Rita Barksdale. He resides in a federal correctional facility.
** Eric Schrecter isn’t really evil, per se, but he dominates Helen’s time at home with his phone calls, overworks her, and won’t promote her, so . . .
*** Ms. Manson isn’t in touch with her student clients and was responsible for putting Daria (and perhaps others) into Mr. O’Neill’s self-esteem class. Her love of testing appears to be unlawful with regards to its use in school, at Ms. Li’s behest.
Original: 10/24/04, modified 04/06/05