Disclaimer: Daria and associated characters are owned by MTV. This is fan fiction written for entertainment only. No money or other negotiable currency or goods have been exchanged.
Original characters and plot copyright Richard J. Lobinske. 2004.
This is the thirteenth story in the Falling into College series.
Flaming the Fans
Karen Myerson stood at the makeshift kitchen that she and her Raft University roommate, Daria Morgendorffer, had set up in their dorm room. In use were a small microwave oven and a two-element hotplate. Daria's already-worn copy of 1001 Dorm Recipes for Hot Plate, Microwave and Toaster Oven - Revised Edition, a high school graduation gift from her Aunt Amy, was propped open against the wall. The sound of the door opening, followed by a loud honking of a nose being blown, made her turn.
Red-eyed and pale, Daria entered the room and tossed a used tissue into the trash. In a raspy, cold-distorted voice, she said, "Thank goodness the week is over. Maybe I can get a little rest and get over this freakin' cold."
Pointing the spoon she had been using at Daria, Karen said, "I'm still cooking. There is no way that 'Typhoid Daria' will get anywhere around my dinner. I'm not sick and I plan on staying that way. I'm sure some day I will get sick, you can inflict your cooking on me then."
The poorly-aimed backpack that Daria dropped on her desk chair tipped and fell over onto the floor. She gave the offending luggage a tired look. "Screw it." Her jacket was dumped on top of the backpack and she made her way past Karen to her closet. "I'm too tired to argue with your overwhelming concern tonight. Knock yourself out over dinner." After a loud coughing fit and change into a warm nightshirt, Daria flopped onto her bed.
A minute later, Karen walked over to her sleeping friend and removed her glasses. "Stubborn people."
Wracked by another coughing fit, Daria rolled out of her bed. "I feel like crap." Daria's mood sunk further as she realized her voice was still hoarse. She picked up her glasses from the window sill. "I don't remember taking you off…" She shrugged and put them on.
Achy and tired, Daria gathered her things together and headed out the door toward the common restroom down the hall. As she closed the door, she noticed Karen had tacked up a handmade biohazard sign with 'Plague Victim" written on it. Cute.
Inside the restroom, Daria worked through her morning routine. Partway through, one of the other floor residents, a brunette with narrow, oval glasses, Jenn Cavendish, entered. Daria turned to greet her, but abruptly turned away as another fit of coughing hit.
Jenn stopped short of Daria. "That doesn't sound good. Have you been to the student clinic?"
Still hoarse, Daria replied, "Not yet. You better keep your distance. I'm going to try to get over there after breakfast."
"Breakfast? Daria, I ate lunch an hour ago." Jenn looked at her watch. "It's one-thirty-five."
"I slept for nineteen hours?"
"Want someone to walk over with you?"
"Don't worry; I'll make it, thanks."
Jenn continued toward a shower. "Okay…Be careful."
"I will. I like the concept of continued existence."
Hours later, Daria sat on an exam table of the Student Clinic. The Licensed Nurse Practitioner on duty was talking. "You have a garden variety common cold, coupled with stress and lack of sleep common to students. I'm prescribing rest for the next three days, no getting out of it. If you give me your class schedule, I'll email an excuse to your professors that you'll be out of class on Monday and Tuesday."
"With how I feel right now, you don't have to work too hard to convince me to stay in."
"Exactly. Stay in. Minimize your outside activity as much as possible. I'd advise just keeping to your dorm room. Avoid others as much as feasible to prevent spreading the cold. We have enough students out this time of year as it is; every little bit helps. Stay well hydrated and use common sense and over-the-counter medicines to treat symptoms."
"Again, you don't need to twist my arm."
"Finally, you haven't shown any signs of a secondary bacterial infection, so the clinic won't give you antibiotics. If you feel any change for the worse, come back for a new evaluation. Any questions?"
"Know any good chicken soup recipes?"
The LNP smiled. "I like a good sense of humor. As a matter of fact…"
"Hey! Where have you been?" Jane's voice greeted Daria as she opened the door to her room.
"The clinic, getting this cold checked out."
"About time." Jane grinned.
"She wouldn't listen to me, either," Karen added.
"That's because it's nothing more than a cold, a miserable, make-you-feel-like-hell cold. I get bed rest and two days excused from class." Daria took a seat at her desk. "I'm also supposed to limit contaminating others. Though with you two, I may make an exception"
Jane tossed a wad of paper. "You've already contaminated us. What's to worry about?"
Karen looked over. "Speak for yourself. I've kept myself pure and unpolluted by her foul disease."
Daria tossed the paper wad at Karen and smirked. "That's about the only thing about you that is pure and unpolluted."
Karen gave a look of faux indignation. "I do have to maintain some standards." Returning to her normal face, she pointed to Daria's shelf and said, "Got some mail, including a something from Literature in Action."
Daria reached up and retrieved the envelope. She slit it open and removed the February issue from the mailer. About 2/3 down the left side of the cover she read:
Melody Powers in:
Fall of Ice Base Leopard
By Daria Morgendorffer
"I still can't believe a character I cooked up to read at that silly coffee house of Mr. O'Neill's has actually sold. One story in last October's issue, now this one. But then, this pulp magazine isn't exactly the height of quality literature."
Jane rose from her seat on Daria's bed and walked over to take a look. "Life is so rough."
"However, I'm not going to sneeze at five to six hundred dollars per story."
Jane put an arm around Daria's shoulder. "No, you're just sneezing and coughing on everything else."
Daria glared up at Jane.
"Hey, after your compulsive proof-reading, you've seen it enough. I want a peek."
Daria flipped a few pages to the story, so she actually saw the story in print. She allowed herself a small smile of satisfaction at getting that far before handing it to Jane. "Go ahead, make sure you let Karen fondle it, we don't want her to feel left out."
Karen scooted across her bed and came up behind Jane, looking over her shoulder. "Can't have that."
Jane had started to slowly page through the magazine and stopped near the front. Grinning, she nudged Karen with her shoulder. "Take a look at the letters column."
Karen read for a few moments, and giggled.
Daria looked at her friends. "What's up?"
Jane presented the open page to Daria. "Look, ain't that cute. You're getting fan letters from your first story."
"You have got to be joking."
Jane straightened up and adopted a formal pose as she read from the magazine. "The espionage action/adventure genre now has a new face and a new attitude."
Karen imitated Jane's pose. "The old gender stereotypes have been broken. I'll forever think of a certain popular character as 'spy gigolo'."
Daria looked a little surprised, and pleased. "Don't let it go to my head. They are probably just letters from regulars that write about every story in the magazine."
Jane shook her head. "Now Daria, don't knock the boys for having good taste."
Karen smirked, "Even if they will brag in the future that they were fans before you became famous."
Daria coughed into her fist. "Sorry. I should be grateful that people are responding to my writing like this. It seems so…"
Jane placed a hand on Daria's shoulder and grinned. "Freakish? Trust me; you'll get to like it."
Karen snickered. "One of the most talented people I've met and you're still uncomfortable with a little honest praise. Might be a reason we like you."
Looking over at Daria asleep on her bed, Michael Fulton smiled before going back to reading Daria's magazine. He sat next to her in one of the rolling desk chairs, back to the wall and legs stretched out straight. Startled by the ringing telephone on the wall close to his ear, he quickly picked it up. "Hello."
Confused by the male voice, Helen Morgendorffer said, "Hello? Oh, dear, I'm afraid I must have dialed the wrong number. I'm sorry for disturbing you."
"Hey, no problem. Stuff happens. Don't worry about it." Michael hung up the phone and looked over, Daria still slept. Good, it didn't wake her. The phone rang again and he picked it up before it completed the first tone. "Hello."
Helen was baffled by the voice. "Hello. I'm sorry; I was trying to get the extension for Daria Morgendorffer in room three-sixteen."
"You got it. This is Michael, Daria's boyfriend."
Very suspicious, Helen asked, "Where is Daria?"
"Is this Daria's Mom?
"Yes, it is."
Michael looked over with an evil smirk. "She's right next to me…in her bed."
"Young man, I…Oh my God!"
Michael clamped his mouth shut and squeezed his eyes to suppress laughing.
Daria stirred and opened her eyes. Sleepily, and still hoarse, she said, "Was that the phone?"
Michael placed a hand over the mouthpiece. Struggling to keep a straight face, he said, "I think your mother is jumping to conclusions."
Daria put her glasses on. "Wouldn't be the first time."
Michael handed the phone over. Helen could be heard from the earpiece. "You had better be a responsible young man, or I will have you over a legal barrel so fast it will make your head spin!'
Daria glared at Michael. "Hi, Mom. How are you?"
"Daria! Just what in the hell is going on? I didn't expect to call and find you in bed with your boyfriend. I thought you were going to discuss things with me before making such a decision."
Daria raised an eyebrow, and looked at Michael, who was holding a hand over his mouth to further suppress laughter. She rolled her eyes and shook her head. "Mom, what brought you to that conclusion?"
"He…he said you were next to him in bed! He must…"
Daria smiled. "…Be sitting in a chair next to the bed. After bringing lunch over for me. While I rest to get over a very common cold. Fully clothed."
"Oh…Oh, dear. You mean, you're not…"
"But you are two young people, out on your own for the first time, exploring all kinds of different ideas and situations…"
"And are such learning geeks that we wouldn't do something with the potential to interfere with college. I strongly suspect that you and Dad were…um…active by this point in your relationship. No, I don't want confirmation. I can understand how you could make the assumption we have, but we haven't."
Helen calmed down. "Oh, yes, of course Sweetie. I'm sorry. I worry about you." Helen registered another part of Daria's statement. "Cold? You have a cold? Have you seen a doctor? What are you doing about it?"
While Helen was talking, Daria whispered to Michael, "You did that on purpose. You will pay." Returning to a normal voice, she told Helen, "I went to the clinic yesterday. I'm to stay in and rest for three days. The LNP emailed an excuse to my professors for Monday and Tuesday. Nothing to worry about."
"Oh, yes. That's good."
"Now that you've had your aerobic exercise for the day, any particular reason you called?"
"We got the copies of your new story in yesterday; I just wanted to congratulate you."
"Thanks, Mom. Mine arrived yesterday also; Karen and Jane had a lot of fun with the letters column."
"The letters column?"
"Seems I've developed a fan base, somewhere out there."
"That's wonderful, Sweetie."
"I have to admit, it was kind of cool. I also noticed the magazine has an online message board, might lurk through it tomorrow."
"Sounds like fun. Just remember to take it easy and get better."
"I will. Since you're on the phone, how are Dad and my alleged sister doing?"
"Jake's been about the…come to think of it, he hasn't been ranting so much about his father lately. Been rather nice."
Daria smiled. Sounds like hearing those recordings of his father did help.
Helen continued, "Otherwise, about the same. Quinn is still Quinn. She finished trimester exams last week and has been working on her college applications. Sounds like her first choice is still Pepperhill."
Helen laughed a bit. "Good one. Between last year and this year, her grades have improved enough for her to get in."
"It has a bit of a party reputation, but it really is supposed to be a good school."
"Oh, I'm aware of that."
"I suppose you would be. By the way, how has her tutoring been holding up?"
"I'm pleased she's still at it. From what she says, Kevin has made a little improvement, though his parents' divorce is distracting him. Nasty would be an understatement to describe that mess. It appears there was some grade-fixing going on for athletes. The DA's office has started investigating."
Daria smiled. "You don't say. Athletes at Lawndale were getting by's on their grades. Who would have thought it?"
"That line of sarcasm tells me that it was common knowledge among the students."
"Who ever listens to them?"
"Well, it sounds like they might this time."
"Well, Jane and I aren't going to be heartbroken over it if Li goes down."
"Didn't think you would."
"Any other breaking news from the Lawndale front?"
"That's about it for now."
"Well, thanks for calling, Mom. I should probably get going, I am ignoring my guest."
"That boy gave me an awful start. No wonder you like him. Take care of yourself, Sweetie."
"I will. You take care of yourself."
Daria reached over to hang up the phone and found herself stretched over Michael. He took the opportunity to wrap his arms around her.
She looked into his eyes. "I hope that is an attempt at groveling. Implying to my mother we were in bed together…"
"Temporary insanity? I couldn't resist? Throw myself on the mercy of the judge?"
"Well, I'll need to come up with a suitable punishment..." She leaned against Michael, and suddenly pulled away just in time to cough. "Dammit."
Michael carefully leaned her back over toward her bed. "As much as I appreciate the thought…"
"…You don't want to be contaminated."
Once Daria was sitting straight on the bed, Michael leaned over toward her. "No, I didn't want to pick you up from the floor if you overbalanced during a coughing fit." He kissed her. "Besides, if you were going to contaminate me, I think it would have happened already."
"Your selfless concern is overwhelming."
"I try." He held up the magazine. "Do I need to be concerned about fan-boys now?"
Daria smiled at him. "I doubt it. I can't see anybody getting that worked up over me or my stories."
Daria sat at her desk in shorts and t-shirt sleepwear, as Karen prepared to leave for class. Daria turned to her friend and spoke in a clearer, but still congested, voice. "I made a few calls yesterday for my notes, so you don't need to haul my tape recorder around."
"I wouldn't have minded, but thanks." While settling her back pack in place, Karen coughed. Looking at Daria through narrowed eyes, she said, "This better not be your fault."
Karen shrugged. "I guess it can't really be helped with how small the room is. But, I will still blame you. See you later."
"Later." Daria checked the clock and spooned out another dose of cough syrup before going back to the computer.
She opened a web browser and typed in the URL for Literature in Action. She took her time looking around the website before finally going to the message board. At the top of the current threads, she saw the subject: Yes! Melody's back!
"I certainly didn't expect that kind of reaction." She opened the page and found a rather lengthy number of entries, all dated since Friday. Reading through, she discovered that she had developed a small group of fans. These ranged from adolescents drooling over the latest 'tough girl' to feminists fawning over a woman succeeding in a male-dominated arena. A couple even mentioned that the writing was good. Near the bottom of the page, her mood turned sour.
RealityCheck: I wonder if DM would go out with me?
Blademaster: Yeah, right dude. Probably some guy writing with a girls name.
nukem2000: I checked around, she is a she. Apparently got in a good jibe at Clinton back in 96 at some school in TX.
fullmetaljacket99: According to the DMV, this chick is only 19. How cool is that? Only a couple years older than I am.
Daria recoiled. "These people checked my DMV records? That's scary."
commiekiller: I did a net search and found this pic of her at some formal lawyer function. She's hot!
Lawndale Sun-Herald - Archives - June1999
Checking the link, Daria found the Lawndale Sun-Herald photo of her family at the State Bar Association Dinner they attended the previous summer. Helen had been chosen to present an award, so the entire family attended in formal wear, including Daria in an elegant black gown. "This is getting really weird."
Ladiesman: Look and weep boys, I've got the goods. Here's a color screencap from a TV broadcast of that event, plus a selection other candids of our fair temptress.
Feisty - Mysterylady - Revealed
"Candids?" Daria clicked on the next link. She found an image gallery of her days in Lawndale. Next to a video screen capture of her at the Bar Association dinner, was a photo of her at the Café Lawndale reading, labeled 'The true debut of Melody Powers'. Others included a shot of her graduation speech, getting off the bus in her "Okay to Cry Corral" shirt, sitting with Jane on the knoll outside Lawndale High, plus many others around school.
Reading the full URL of the link, the domain name caught her eye and she said, "Feisty? Damn, I wonder." She hit the home link to Ultrasuave Universe, a site devoted to misguided female worship, merchandising collectables, and an online wasabi gummy fish store. "Upchuck." Daria shivered as she realized that there were three school years of photos displayed. "That SOB had been photographing me since I started at Lawndale High."
fullmetaljacket99: Dude! Where did you find pics of her in high school?
Ladiesman: We went to school together, and I've always had a penchant for photography.
commiekiller: You lucky dawg. Got anything juicier?
Ladiesman: Are you kidding? I draw the line at risk to life and limb.
"You've got that right, Upchuck. I'm still considering numerous unpleasant things to do to you, if I had any idea of where you were."
Impatiently staring at the soup warming in the microwave, Daria tapped a pencil on her knee. "That disgusting little vermin. Following me around taking pictures. Who knows how many more he has? Setting up a web page, no less."
Daria opened the microwave door before the finished chime was over, angrily removed the cover from the cardboard cup and began to devour the soup single-mindedly.
"Whoa, what did that cup of soup ever do to you?" Jane's voice called from the door. Her black-haired head poked into the room. "Thought I would make a quick run over during lunch to check on you."
Daria turned to face Jane. "Hey."
"That sounds enthusiastic."
"I'm a little pissed off right now."
"I never would have guessed."
Motioning to the computer monitor, Daria said, "Take a look."
Jane circled the mouse, clearing the screen saver. The gallery page was displayed. Jane looked surprised, and turned to Daria. "What the hell is that?"
"Turns out Upchuck is one of my fans. He did it."
"There's stuff there going back to when we were in tenth grade."
"I'm well aware of that. The little pervert was photographing me almost the entire time I was at Lawndale."
Jane shook her head. "In his own little sick way, he probably thinks he's complimenting you."
Daria began to speak, thought for a moment and sat back in disgust.
"He always did seem to have an eye on you."
"More like a lens. But still…it is creeping me out."
"I can see that. Outside the one video shot, the rest look like something you would find in a high school yearbook. At least he wasn't photographing through your window."
"Don't even think that. Just the idea…"
Jane's eyes widened. "Oh…damn. I'm sorry I mentioned…I'm sure you're safe; your room was on the upper floor."
"Thank goodness for second story bedrooms."
Jane tapped the monitor. "Back to this, how did you find out about it?"
"I checked the LIA message boards. Some of the fans are…um…adolescents with overactive imaginations, particularly when it comes to females. Those guys were…ugh. One pulled my name from DMV records to get my age; another found my picture in the Lawndale paper. To top them, Upchuck decided to brag."
"Are you serious?"
Daria rolled over to her computer and pulled the message board back up. "Take a look."
Jane peered over Daria's shoulder and read the comments. "Upchuck found soulmates. How touching."
Daria scowled in disgust. "Something I wouldn't touch with a twenty-foot pole."
Jane raised an eyebrow. "He has got to be stopped."
"You're right. But how?"
"We need to come up with something, just the two of us."
"Why just us?"
"This is an internal Lawndale problem. Word of this goes out to nobody else in Boston." Jane looked directly at Daria. "Especially Michael. We don't need him trying to break into a museum to steal a gladius."
"Though he does have a birthday coming up…" Daria raised an eyebrow. "You are right, this is an internal matter. We've dealt with Upchuck before."
"So, once again, it's us against Lawndale."
"Once more unto the breach dear friend, once more."
"Come on in." Daria's voice was noticeably clearer from the weekend. Jane entered the dorm room and looked at the styrofoam soup bowl on Daria's dresser. Sniffing, she went to the bowl and inhaled deeply. "Hmmm... Thai coconut milk soup. Smells like you had lunch brought in today."
"Michael insisted. Not that I minded all that much. That hit the spot much better than plain chicken soup." Daria smiled.
Jane looked askew at Daria. "How did you survive the spices?"
"He brought over the mild."
"You do have him trained well."
Daria mildly blushed. "I'm not training him."
"Sure. Back to business, do we have plans for his Grossness?"
"I've got a good idea, but we need a post a message online without it being traceable to Boston, or to us." Daria backed away to let Jane read the message she had composed.
Jane whistled. "That is pure twisted. I'm glad you're my friend, and not my enemy. But, I'm sorry, Daria. I really haven't met any of the geeks at the animation or computer graphics studios."
"Actually, I'm thinking we may need an accomplice within Lawndale."
"I wonder if Lindy will help."
"Who else can we reliably get?" She began to raise fingers on one hand. "Quinn would freak out too much. Trent's still protective. But, Lindy's level-headed enough to help. She's a Lawndale State student. If she checks her email at the computer lab and logs off. Then, logs on as a guest, it shouldn't be traceable to her."
"Better let me make the call."
Lindy looked up from her studying in response to the telephone ringing. She stretched, walked across the Lane residence kitchen to the counter and answered, "Hello."
Jane spoke. "Hey, Lindy. Is my good-for-nothing brother home?"
"Why do you want to talk to Wind?"
"You said your good-for-nothing brother…"
"Very funny, I wanted to…Wind's home?"
"He crawled in a couple days ago, saying something about waiting for his wife to put the shears away."
"I don't want to know any more…please. What about that brother of mine you seem to have an attachment to?"
"Oh, Trent. I wouldn't exactly call him good-for-nothing..."
Lindy laughed. "Sorry, he's not here. He had an amp blow on him last night. He left about ten minutes ago to take it in for repairs. Knowing how he gets at the music store, he'll be there all afternoon."
"Good. I was hoping to talk to you uninterrupted. Look, can you do me a favor?"
"I'll do what I can."
"Can Daria email you a message for you to post to an anonymous news tip website?"
"Um…okay…Anything I should be worried about?"
"Just a little payback on an old acquaintance."
"Can you do it from school?"
"Let me guess, you don't want to be traced."
"We're getting into murky territory here; fill me in before I agree to anything."
"Basically, this will do a roundabout to get the guy on a TOS violation. He…pulled a stunt on Daria that was really not cool. Check the links in the message she sends, you'll understand."
"Tell me straight, will this involve anything illegal?"
"That's the beauty of Morgendorffer revenge. Not a drop of illegality involved. I promise. Daria did learn a few things from her mother."
"Okay, I'll take a look at it. If I think it stinks, the deal is off."
"That's fair, thanks. By the way, how are you holding up running Casa Lane?"
"I'm surviving. Trent is a sweet man, but he does need a keeper."
"That's one way of putting it."
"Moving in has made me appreciate everything you were doing for this place. There aren't many people capable of keeping a household running at fifteen and still go to school."
"We do what we have to. Trent may be God's Own Slacker, but he was always there with the emotional support. I couldn't have made it without him."
"Neither could I."
"Thanks again. Talk to you later."
Daria held a particularly evil smirk as she emailed the message to Lindy for posting on the SBC "Anonymous Tip Message Center":
Hey Folks, did you know imagery from one of your affiliates is used on a stalker's website? LINK I found out about it from the guy bragging here: LINK2. So, I bet it was taken from your Lawndale station. A lot of the stuff looks like it was shot when the girl was underage. Don't you have lawyers to take care of this kind of thing?
Daria turned her browser to the Terms of Service page of the Literature in Action website.
The publisher of this magazine is a staunch supporter of intellectual property and copyrights. Supporting, directing, or linking to any website that uses or encourages the illegal or improper use of any copyrighted material will result in immediate suspension of all message board access. Websites illegally using copyrighted material will be reported to their hosting service.
She cringed and opened the offending gallery again. Looking carefully, she found no credit to the TV station for the screen capture on the website, but a small bit of text at the bottom said:
All material and images copyright Charles Ruttheimer III
Lindy sat down and logged onto the school computer. She quickly found Daria's email and copied the text to a word processor and saved the file to floppy. She logged off, and back on as a guest. Then she opened the text file and read the message, clicking on the links. "That scummy little…Oh, I'm going to enjoy this."
Charles Ruttheimer III stamped his feet in frustration when his logon was denied to the Literature in Action website for a TOS violation. Annoyed, he went to open his website to check his gummy fish orders. He found a filler page with a notation:
This website has been temporarily suspended for TOS violations.
Now angry, he opened his email to find several messages.
You are ordered to cease and desist from displaying any and all copyrighted material of SBC or any affiliates. Specifically, the screen capture of a broadcast from our KSBC affiliate in Lawndale, MD., displayed on your MysteryLady webpage. A formal court order will be delivered to you tomorrow, 1 March 2000. Information on this material has also been delivered to law enforcement authorities.
We have received legal notification that you have improperly claimed copyright for images owned by SBC Corporation. This is a violation of your Terms of Service. Please remove the offending material immediately to have your service reactivated.
To whom it may concern:
Your account: Ladiesman at Literature in Action discussion forum has been deleted for TOS violation: linking to a website illegally using copyrighted material.
Daria had a satisfied look on her face as she looked at the blank filler page for the gallery. She looked over her shoulder at Jane. "Well, it looks like things went according to plan. I owe Lindy a good one."
Jane cocked her head and looked thoughtful. "Daria…how many people do you know who routinely tape the evening news?"
"If he didn't have the habit of taping the news, how did Upchuck get a screen capture of something that was only shown once?"
Daria looked annoyed. "That…is a very good question."
Thanks to the residents of PPMB for comments, ideas, suggestions and other stuff, Isa Yo-Jo, Mahna Mahna, Ranger Thorne, Mike Nassour, Decelaraptor, Steven Galloway, and Kristen Bealer.
Thanks to Kristen Bealer and Galen Hardesty for beta reading.
Revised February 2005