Still dazed by the blur of events that led to her sentencing to the school, she passed through the barbed-wire topped fence and into the front door. She was halfway to the main office to report in when an older student stepped in her way. He towered almost a foot above her and was over twice her weight. He cracked his knuckles and said, "Huh, new meat. Give me all your cash."
Stunned, Daria could only think to ask, "What?"
"A tough girl. I don't think so." The guy grabbed Daria's hair and pulled her head back. Next, he snatched the glasses from her face and with one hand, snapped off both side bows before breaking the main frame apart over his middle finger. Dropping the fragments to the floor, he grunted, "Money. Now."
"Heh-heh, look what Todd told me to keep for a while," the dim-witted boy known as Beavis said to his equally dim-witted friend Butthead while pointing a revolver at a door across the hall.
Butthead took the pistol and pointed it down the hall, saying, "Cool."
"Give me that, buttmunch. Todd wanted me to keep it." Beavis pulled the gun away, also pointing it down the hall. He pulled the trigger twice, letting the hammer fall with a click onto empty chambers. "To keep it safe."
Wincing in fear at the damage the two could unknowingly do, Daria walked up to them.
"Heh-heh, Daria," Beavis said. "You know what they say, guns are for fun."
She said, "Have you fixed your lockers yet?"
Butthead laughed and said, "She said fixed."
"Remember?" Daria said, ignoring the comment. "Principal McVickers cut the locks off when you left the cow pies in them?"
"Uh…yeah. So, where are we gonna put this during class?" Beavis said.
Daria carefully laid her hand on top of the pistol, closing her fingers over the cylinder and pointing the barrel at a trash can. "Tell you what. I'll find someplace safe for it. Now please, give it to me before somebody gets hurt."
"Yeah, before I drill a hole in somebody. That would be cool," Beavis said and let go of the revolver. "Later, Diarrhea."
Butthead said, "Yeah, keep it safe or something, or Todd's gonna kick our asses."
Carefully holding the pistol as she grabbed it, with barrel pointed down, Daria sighed and walked toward the office to turn the weapon in. Just after turning a corner, the school's police resource officer shouted "Freeze!"
Leaning forward on both hands, Helen raged at the school discipline board, "What do you mean, your hands are tied? Daria didn't do anything!"
One of the board members said, "She was caught on school property with a loaded firearm in her possession. That's an automatic expulsion from regular school and mandatory attendance to alternative class."
Helen fumed more, "She took the gun from those two delinquents you tolerate on a daily basis and was taking it to the office!"
"The school resource officer claims she held the gun in a threatening manner."
"But the police investigation cleared her because her fingerprints weren't on the grip, only the cylinder. All she did was take the gun away from a couple morons and try to turn it in."
"That doesn't matter. She was in possession of the handgun. Our zero tolerance policy takes the decision out of our hands. Daria will attend Hope High for the remainder of ninth grade."
"But those two imbeciles that actually brought the gun to school aren't going?"
"They were not in possession of the gun."
"Their fingerprints were all over the grip! So were the finger prints of a Mr. Todd Ianuzzi, a locally known petty criminal. By their own statements, those boys were 'holding' the weapon for Mr. Ianuzzi."
"But, we don't know if they handled the gun on school property."
"I thought those two boys were the dumbest things in town. I was wrong, you are!"
"Come on, ya skank, or I'll cutcha up even more 'n last time," the dusky blonde said, cornering Daria in a restroom stall.
"Sorry, you're not my type," Daria said while carefully watching the box cutter in the other girl's hand.
"If ya think a teach'll walk in ta save ya 'gain, you're crazy."
"I'm not as slow as the other inmates around here," Daria said, slowly sliding her feet into a stable stance.
"Fine, I'll cut ya for the fun of it."
The hours of practice for Mr. Buzzcut's karate class paid off as Daria's left arm smoothly, quickly rose and swept to the side, catching the cutting edge of the blade on the newly installed armor plate to knock the box cutter from the girl's hand. Following in the same motion, Daria's right fist connected with the blonde's jaw, forcing her to stumble back and fall against the opposite wall in a daze.
Daria stepped out of the stall and kicked the box cutter into a coverless floor drain. She said, "I suppose you can reclaim that when they check the screens at the end of the month."
The blond girl cracked her knuckles and said, "Whatcha care? I ain't goin' to try to roll you again."
Balancing a sandwich and a carton of milk on a disposable, cardboard tray, Daria said, "Because the next person to stop you may not be as restrained. The administration doesn't do a good job of protecting us or really stopping anything. As long as we're contained from the 'normal' students, they seem to be happy."
"Look at this lunch. They don't even hand out plastic utensils because they know students will make shivs out of them. Therefore, all we get is food that doesn't need spoons or forks. Someday, somebody isn't going to be content with stopping you. They'll want to make an example. Call me silly, but I really don't want that."
Daria sat against the restroom wall with her knees drawn up to her chest and bloody hands folded together over them. She watched the paramedic cover the dusky blonde with a sheet. Her partner squatted and helped Daria to her feet and with one arm around her shoulders, led her outside.
In the hallway, he said, "We got word that the girl that did it is in custody. Don't be hard on yourself. You did everything humanly possible to save her."
Daria looked down at the hands that had vainly tried to stop the girl's bleeding. "I wasn't able to convince her to stop those shakedowns."
The grim face of the principal looked briefly at the remains of Daria's glasses and said, "Miss Morgendorffer, getting into a fight your first morning is not the way to start things."
Taken aback after being robbed minutes before, Daria started to explain, "I didn't start…"
"Quiet! I'm not interested in your lame excuses. You're here for a gun violation, so I already know that you're violence-prone. Don't even try lie to me about not starting things. I know better. Now, get to class and keep your snotty nose clean…if you know what's good for you."