Could Someone Turn Down the Sun?
Text ©2003 Roger E. Moore (email@example.com)
Daria and associated characters are ©2003 MTV Networks
Feedback (good, bad, indifferent, just want to bother me, whatever) is appreciated. Please write to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Synopsis: Wackiness aplenty takes place on the “Good Mornings with Daria and Jane Show,” when Madame Tiffany the psychic accidentally causes the sun to go nova and destroy the earth. How will Daria and Jane cope with the loss of their core audience and network ratings, not to mention an astronomical catastrophe? Read on and find out! (Based on the future-ego shots at the end of Is It College Yet?)
Author’s Notes: This science-fiction tale is firmly grounded in reality: Miranda really is a large satellite of the planet Uranus, and the Chicago Cubs have not yet won the World Series. The story also has a few in-jokes in the form of noted “Daria” fanfic writers, webmasters, and fans marrying various characters, often multiple times, and you wouldn’t believe the complaining they did about it, too. I mean, seriously. (Opie, by the way, is the possum from Galen “Lawndale Stalker” Hardesty’s fanfic, Blood on the Asphalt. Opie was borrowed without permission because I forgot to ask first. Sorry.) The title, of course, is borrowed from the lyrics of Spendora’s splendid theme song for the movie, Is It Fall Yet?: “Turn Down the Sun.”
Acknowledgments: Thanks to everyone who did not threaten my life because they are here alleged to have married (in the future) certain “Daria” characters. (Heh heh heh.) And thanks to PPMB for hosting the earlier version of this tragic tale.
The stage manager in Media Command raised an index finger. “Three,” he said. “Two—” His hand dropped, and he pointed at the two fashionably dressed women seated on the brightly lit stage.
“Jane!” said Daria to her co-host.
“Daria!” said Jane to hers.
Both turned to Camera Two. “Yo, world!” they cried with glee. “It’s the Good Mornings with Daria and Jane Show!”
“Is it possible to destroy all life on Earth with the touch of a button?” said Daria.
“Can your pet’s psychic powers help the Chicago Cubs to really and truly—no kidding this time!—win the World Series?” said Jane.
“We’ve got the answers to both these questions and more—”
“—right here on—”
“The Daria and Jane Show!” they said together.
“Right after this word from Bro and QB Ice Cream,” said Jane. “Stay with us.”
The red light on Camera Three went out. Daria adjusted the front of her pantsuit to make sure her superbra-enhanced cleavage was clearly in view.
“Still have two of them in there?” asked Jane helpfully. “Or did you lose one?”
“Ratings,” muttered Daria. “I can’t believe the things we do to—” She stopped, noticing motion to her left. “Madame Tiffany, you and your psychic cats aren’t on yet,” she called.
“It’s too cold,” said Madame Tiffany. She had her arms crossed in front of her and shivered despite her heavy gown and many veils.
“Wait,” said Jane. She leaned back, half turning in her seat, and shouted toward Web Imagery. “Can someone call down and have the heat turned up in Madame Tiffany’s room?”
“I turned up the thermostat,” said Madame Tiffany, teeth chattering, “but it’s not working.”
“You don’t have a thermostat in your guest room,” said Daria. “It’s all controlled from—”
“It was in another room,” said Madame Tiffany, but she left in the direction of the producer’s office.
Jane sighed. “Going to complain.”
“If she was really psychic, she’d know that never works,” said Daria. She looked up. “Here we go.”
The red light on Camera Five went on.
“Welcome back!” said Jane with a billion-dollar smile. “That wacky old rise in technology makes it possible for our show to appear in every home on Planet Earth—and thank you for having us!—but it also makes possible the creation of doomsday devices of ever-greater potency and danger.”
Daria cut in. “We have with us today an expert on doomsday devices, and believe it or not, he’s yet another former classmate of ours from Lawndale High School! Won’t you please welcome Ted DeWitt-Clinton!”
Daria and Jane stood as a tall, gangly fellow with a lab coat and glasses walked onstage. After hugs and handshakes, Ted and his two thirty-something show hosts took their seats.
“Good to see you again, Ted,” said Daria. She looked at Camera One. “Ted and I dated once in high school.”
“That was a date?” Ted asked.
“Yes, and shut up,” said Daria, looking a bit testy. “Now, you’ve been researching doomsday devices for ten years now, right?”
“I mean, I thought we were just going out to do stuff,” said Ted to Daria. “I didn’t think it was really a date.”
“That’s what a date is, Ted,” said Jane. “You go out with someone and do stuff.”
“Oh,” said Ted. “I didn’t know. That explains why I never got married, I guess.”
“Let’s talk about blowing up the world before we have to listen to our psychic pets,” suggested Daria, kicking Ted in the shin.
“Ouch! Oh, sure! Well, doomsday devices have come a long way, you know, since the cobalt-salted thermonuclear weapons and mutated smallpox delivery systems of the twentieth century. Those were mostly theoretical, except of course for that ‘Tsar Bomba’ installation in the Urals, but the Soviets had to turn that one off because of budget cuts. I think Indonesia has it now. Anyway, the focus in doomsday technology nowadays is on remote control of the bonds between atoms themselves.”
“Remote control of what?” asked Jane.
“See,” said Ted, “there are all these forces between atoms—nuclear forces, gravity, and so on—and by manipulating whole fields of matter using n-space wormhole generators, we can control the power of the forces between those atoms. Like, we can increase or decrease gravity in selected areas, or make nuclear interactions weaker or more powerful.”
Daria blinked and leaned closer. “Does this have anything to do with why all those cars began flying around in Montreal last year?”
“Yeah!” said Ted excitedly. “That was us! I mean, that was my research group. We sorta got our global coordinates crossed up, you know, because we were supposed to be picking up these boulders in Nevada, but we picked up those cars over in Canada instead! Boy, was that embarrassing! Did they ever find that minivan?”
“No,” said Jane. “So, let me get this straight. You created a machine that not only controls gravity at any spot on Earth, it can also affect nuclear energy? Like, it can make it impossible for an H-bomb to go off, even if you hit it with a sledgehammer?”
“Oh, that’s silly. You’d never set off an H-bomb with a sledgehammer. Most of them, anyway. The Brazilian ones are sorta—oh, but, yeah! You’re basically right. We can make spaceships fly anywhere in the Solar System without rocket power, or stop all nuclear weapons from working—we’ve already done that, by the way—or anything!” Ted looked around. “Am I supposed to go backstage and—”
“Sure!” said Daria. She, Jane, and Ted got up and walked to the back of the stage (cameras wheeling automatically behind them), where a screen pulled aside to reveal another room. In this room was a desk-sized computer covered with knobs and dials.
“Okay, Ted,” said Jane. “This is your doomsday device?”
“It sure is!” said Ted proudly. He stood behind the console. “This is the experimental field selection section, which picks out the place we want to manipulate, and here’s the power level generator, and this is the . . . huh.”
“Huh?” said Daria. “This is the ‘huh’?”
“Someone’s already turned it on,” said Ted.
“It’s not plugged in,” said Jane.
“Well, it doesn’t matter,” said Ted, “because this has batteries, and it just transmits the settings on to our main research station outside Chicago, where the real thing is set up.” He frowned at the controls. “Huh.”
“Is ‘huh’ good?” said Daria.
“Excuse me,” said Ted. He pulled out a cell phone and punched a single number, then put the phone to his ear. “Frank? Hey. Ted. Yeah. Nothing much. Being interviewed. ‘Daria and Jane Show.” Yeah, cool. Hey, Frank, did you get a kinda-like accidental signal from my remote unit a little while ago? Uh-huh. When was that?”
“Is something wrong?” said Jane.
Ted looked at his watch with concern. “Frank, is there any chance that you all had the main unit down for maintenance or something, and . . . oh. When was that? Oh.”
“Is this a good time to cut to a commercial?” asked Daria.
“Probably won’t have time,” said Ted, lowering his cell phone. “See, I was going to make a few sunspots for you, or maybe a really big solar flare, you know, but someone turned the power unit up to the max about eight point two five minutes ago, and as at this point in our orbit we’re about one hundred forty-nine million kilometers from the sun, and light travels at—”
It got very warm in the room. Daria, Jane, and Ted looked up. The false marble ceiling smoked, then glowed red. Fire alarms everywhere went off.
“Finally!” came Madame Tiffany’s relieved shout from the producer’s office. “About time that thermostat worked!”
The ceiling turned yellow, then glowed a brilliant white and burst into flames.
“Damn it,” said Daria against the distant screams. “Damn it, damn it, da—”
“Oh, Kevvy!” cried Brittany Saint Ned Scarlett Yamiolkoski Wild Hardesty THM Tananda League Canadibrit Thorne Zara Taylor, standing before the panoramic window of the Miranda Interplanetary Research Station to admire the beautiful wasteland of ammonia-ice glaciers and meteorite impact craters outside. “Who would have ever believed that you and me would become astrojets!”
“We’re not astrojets, babe,” said Kevin Reaxion-Thompson. “That’s a sports team. We’re space travelers. You know—astrologers!” Wearing his best Bro and QB Ice Cream executive tuxedo, Kevin draped a broad, athletic hand around the slim, B-movie actress waist of his blonde high-school flame. “And that ain’t all, babe! I made a deal with NASA to supply them with dehydrated ice-cream bars for the next six spaceplane missions, and they gave me the use of this robotic base for the whole weekend—just for you and me!”
Brittany gasped. “Really?” she squeaked. “That’s so great! I love it!” Her look of excitement suddenly faded, and her lower lip stuck out. “But Kevvy, I really shouldn’t be cheating on another spouse with you, you know? Like, I’ve already been through something like a dozen divorces, and Thea will make me do the pony thing again if she finds out, but—oh! I’ve missed you so much since last week!” She threw her arms around Kevin, and they kissed with all the fiery heat of two thirty-somethings who never really grew out of their teen-somethings.
“It’s just the cold, dark universe and us, babe!” groaned Kevin in the throes of lustful passion. “Let’s warm that sucker up!”
“Oh, let’s pretend like we’re the last human beings alive,” Brittany gasped, “and we have to like repopulate the entire world again!”
“That’s cool with me, babe,” said Kevin. “Except, let’s skip the part where you have kids.”
“Okay!” said Brittany.
At that moment, alarms and sirens went off all around the station. Thinking it was just the thrill of lust ringing in their heads, Kevin and Brittany ignored the noise. In the panoramic windows of the Miranda Planetary Research Station, the bright dot of the distant sun swelled to intolerable brightness in the starry blackness of space. The ammonia-ice glaciers began to smoke.
“Wow, I can really feel the heat!” moaned Brittany. “Let’s blast off!”
Abruptly, several human-sized images of light sparkled into being in the N-Space Wormhole Emergency Transporter Chamber, immediately behind Kevin. Still wearing their smoldering but reasonably fashionable TV-show-host outfits, Daria and Jane appeared in the open chamber, along with Ted, around whose neck Jane’s hands were firmly clasped as she attempted to strangle him, and Madame Tiffany, who had been walking back to her guest room when she and the others left Earth in this completely unexpected manner.
“—mn it!” yelled Daria, looking upward. She froze, eyes growing wide, and her gaze slowly lowered to take in her new surroundings. Smoke drifted up from her scorched outfit and the burnt ends of her hair.
Jane, too, noticed the change in their surroundings, though she was slower to do so than Daria, being occupied with killing Ted. She looked around in shock, though she did not let go of Ted’s throat.
Daria and Jane saw Kevin and Brittany making out, and their worst fears were instantly confirmed.
“We died and went to Hell,” said Daria.
“Or we went back in high school,” said Jane, still strangling Ted.
“That’s what I said,” said Daria.
“Now it’s too hot in here!” exclaimed Tiffany in aggravation. She pushed on the panoramic window, trying to open it, then wandered off in a fit of pique.
Brittany was trying to get out of her ultrasatin 40DD Global Positioning Bra when she noticed that she and Kevin had company. “Eeep!” she shrieked. “Kevvy, you said we were going to be all alone!”
“We are,” groaned Kevin, kissing her neck. “It’s just you, me, and Mr. QB, babe.”
“No, it isn’t!” Brittany cried. She pushed Kevin away. “What are you snooping around here for?” she yelled at Daria, Jane, and the almost unconscious Ted.
“How the hell should I know?” yelled Daria back. “We were on Earth when Tiffany blew up the sun! Look!” She pointed out the window, and everyone saw the super-bright sun boiling off the ammonia glaciers of Miranda at a rapid rate.
“None of these windows open!” came Tiffany’s irritated shout from far down the corridor.
“Whoa!” said Kevin, watching the rolling clouds of ammonia vapor swirl past. “That rocks! I wish I’d brought my camera!” He turned to Daria and Jane. “Love your show, by the way.”
“Me, too!” said Brittany. “Aren’t you supposed to be doing a show about Doomsday? I thought that was one of those greeting-card holidays.”
“Yes and no,” grumbled Jane, who finally let go of Ted and walked over to look out the window, too. “It doesn’t matter now, though. The sun just went nova, and Earth has been destroyed. You can help me thank Ted and Tiffany for it.”
“We’re the only ones left alive!” gasped Ted, crawling over on the floor. “I was afraid one of the doomsday devices would get out of control one day, so I set up an emergency teleportation grid centered on my pocket protector. Everyone alive within five meters of me was to be sent to a satellite orbiting Uranus, and—OUCH!”
Brittany slapped Ted again. “How dare you talk about my unmentionable parts!”
Daria didn’t want to do it, but she stopped Brittany from killing Ted—only for a moment, she told herself. “Ted means we were teleported to Miranda,” she explained, “which is a giant satellite that orbits . . . a big planet in the far parts of the solar system. We’re millions of miles from where Earth used to be.”
“Oh, man!” said Kevin with unusual perception. “That means we’re the last human beings alive!”
“Yes, I said that,” muttered Ted, clutching his face.
“Kevvy!” cried Brittany. “You know what? You and I really do have to repopulate the universe! We’d better get started!”
“Wow! You’re right, babe!” said Kevin. “And now that Daria and Jane are here, they can help with—ACK!”
Brittany tried to pull Daria and Jane’s hands off Kevin’s throat, but they were too strong. “Help!” she shouted. “Ted! Do something!”
“Okay,” Ted gasped. He pulled out his cell phone, then groaned and threw it aside. “Nine one one doesn’t work anymore, does it?”
At this moment, Tiffany’s voice came over the intercom. “What’s the code number to open the airlock?” she said.
“Oh oh seven,” Ted called to the intercom. “Why?”
Instead of an answer, the air was filled with a hurricane roaring sound a second later. Everyone was swept off their feet and flung down the corridor toward the airlock toward the airless, subzero void outside.
As Daria flew head over heels in the grip of 300-plus kilometer-per-hour winds thundering down the space-station corridor toward the open airlock and certain doom on the surface of the frozen moon, Miranda, she could not help but think that things had taken a very bad turn in the last few minutes since Tiffany’s little mistake caused the sun to go nova. Maybe this is just a bad dream, Daria thought, and I’ll wake up in a minute to go to the bathroom and forget this ever happened.
Her thoughts were interrupted when she painfully slammed into Tiffany, who was hanging on to a computer console for dear life. The two of them were sucked out of the airlock with their companions and thrown into a huge lake of freshly melted water ice with an average temperature of 15 degrees Celsius.
“AAAAAAAHHH!!!” screamed Daria when she surfaced, thrashing about wildly. “IT’S FREAKING COLD! AAAAAAHHH!!!”
It was a moment later that she realized that she was not choking on ammonia fog or freezing solid in horrific temperatures near absolute zero, but was instead breathing fresh oxygen that smelled a little bit like window cleaner. True, she was thoroughly chilled, but she was still well within a nonlethal temperature range. The sky was blue, the pinpoint sun was very bright, the wind was crisp and roaring, and the landscape was rocky and barren but extremely acceptable as an alternative to the poisonous frigid glaciers that had covered the little world moments earlier
The lake turned out to be only three feet deep. Daria, Jane, Tiffany, Brittany, Ted, and Kevin (rubbing his neck where Daria and Jane had tried to strangle him) waded ashore, shivering. There, they stood in a huddled group and examined their surroundings.
“The heat from the sun must have blown off all the ammonia on Miranda,” said Ted, his teeth chattering, “and converted the ammonia and water ice into a breathable nitrogen-oxygen atmosphere with actual fresh water! What luck!” He squinted up into the sky and pointed. “Hey! I can see Uranus! OUCH!”
“I warned you!” yelled Brittany, and she slapped Ted again for good measure.
Sighing, Daria and Jane glanced up and did indeed see Uranus (the planet) hovering large in the sky. The heat from the distant exploding sun was boiling off the gas giant’s atmosphere and hurling it into space, turning the blue-green world into a brilliant comet-like body that provoked oohs and aahs among the scattered survivors of the worst catastrophe to strike the human race since disco.
“We’d better go back inside,” said Kevin. “Brittany and I have a lot of work to do if we’re going to repopulate the world again!”
“Work, ewww,” said Tiffany, her arms
crossed in front of her. “It’s cold again. Can someone turn up the thermostat?”
“STOP HER!” screamed Jane and Daria, tackling Tiffany at once and holding her down despite her protests.
It was at this moment that the airlock door was pushed open wide from the inside and a dashing figure walked out of the Miranda Interplanetary Research Station. The figure was clad in a bright red jacket with a ruffled shirt, white silk pants, and tall black leather boots. He held a riding crop in his right hand, with which he scratched the top of his curly red hair.
“Feisty!” said Charles “Upchuck” Bealer Angelinhel Long Bealer Bunny Mahna Grimace Bealer Deref Nowall Bealer Wyvern Opie No-Never-Again-Bealer Greystar Last-Time-I-Swear-to-God-Bealer Beth-Ann Mahna Please-Just-Shoot-Me-Bealer Bealer Bealer Zara Bealer Ruttheimer III. “I didn’t know you fair ladies were into wrestling, or I would have gotten oiled up before I came out!” He nodded at Daria and Jane. “Love your show, by the way. Rrrowrr!”
Daria saw Upchuck and rolled over on her back with a groan. “We are in Hell.”
“Hey!” said Brittany, staring hard at Upchuck. “What is that you’re wearing?”
“This old thing?” said Upchuck, fingering his red jacket with a leer. “Ah, my dear, this is a special little something I borrowed from my most recent ex-spouse. I rather enjoyed its, um, equestrian flavor.”
“You look like a circus performer,” said Jane, who had let go of Tiffany and was now just lying on the barren rock, soaking wet. “Is there a show in the center ring?”
“Now that you mention it—” began Upchuck, but Brittany walked up to him and grabbed his lapels, staring at the nameplate thereon.
“Oooh, Upchuck!” she yelled. “This is Thea’s! You stole it, you jerk! And she never let anyone wear this unless—” Brittany shoved Upchuck aside and ran into the research station.
“Babe! Come back!” yelled Kevin, hurrying after her. Tiffany got up followed, muttering about a thermostat, and Ted went in to hunt for a manual on how the interplanetary base operated. After a moment, Daria and Jane got up and went inside to make sure Tiffany and Ted didn’t touch anything that would kill anyone else but them.
Brittany, with everyone else right behind her, headed right for the largest room in the interplanetary research station’s emergency human shelter area. She was tugging on the huge doors to the room when everyone else got there. With a mighty effort, Brittany hauled the great doors open.
Inside the room, which was gaily decorated with pennants, banners, and spotlights like a circus arena, were three attractive adult women wearing long white gloves, white stockings, white bikini bottoms with horsetails tastefully mounted on the backs, little caps with high colorful tassels, and bits and bridles. That was all. The bits were in their mouths. The women were holding a pose when the doors opened, standing on tiptoes as if they were performing horses rearing on their hind legs, their arms bent as if they were horse forelegs.
The three women blinked and stared at the group of people staring back at them on the other sides of the doors.
“Quinn,” said Daria to the red-haired one of the three, “what in the hell are you doing here?”
Quinn, Daria’s younger sister and the current president of McDonalds-Microsoft-Time-Ford-Sysco-Starbucks-Viagra, turned red and put her hooves—er, hands over her face. To Quinn’s left, Sandi RedlegRick Uzurpator Teeki Ranchoth NomadX Zara Paperpusher Renfield Taryn Adelman Cincgreen Griffin (the marriages to Wraith, Pollard, and Dr. Mike were annulled and didn’t count) merely sighed, put down her hands, and adopted a relaxed pose. Being the CEO of the largest professional escort and call-girl business in the Western Hemisphere had accustomed Sandi to being interrupted during every sort of affair, so not much embarrassed her these days.
Stacy “Rockin’” Rowe, however, had been a winning NASCAR and monster-truck driver for years now, and her attitude and vocabulary had undergone a certain amount of change since her high-school days.
“Where the #### is Upchuck?” Stacy shouted, fists planted on her hips. “He’d better get his ######## ##########ing ass back here right ####ing now and explain why the #### you people are ####ing butting in and staring at us like you’ve got nothing ####ing better to do!”
“The sun blew up,” said Jane calmly. “Tiffany accidentally turned on one of Ted’s doomsday devices and we were teleported here just as Earth was fried. We’re the only humans left in the universe.”
There was a little pause.
“Oh,” said Stacy. She looked around the room. “Love your show, by the way. Hey, we have more costumes. You want to join the Royal ####ing Lipizzaner Mares? Upchuck’s the ringmaster. It’s out-####ing-rageous.”
“It’s harmless fun,” said Sandi with a shrug. “We all got bored and needed a vacation, and Upchuck said he knew a private—” She coughed “—place where we could help a dear friend play out her private fantasies.” She glanced at Quinn when she said this, as did everyone else present.
“God, kill me now,” moaned Quinn, turning beet red all over.
“I’d love to,” said Daria, “but no one brought a gun, so you’re out of luck unless you can get Tiffany to tighten your choker.”
“Why wasn’t I invited?” Tiffany said petulantly, glaring at the three women who had been in the Fashion Club with her in high school.
“You said your psychic cats were going to be on Daria and Jane’s TV show,” said Sandi. “I guess that and blowing up the world were more important.”
“Can I play horsie with you guys?” asked Kevin with evident excitement.
“Hey!” yelled Brittany. “We’re supposed to repopulate the universe! Or did you forget?”
“But babe, they said it was just harmless fun!”
“Maybe a little harmless fun first wouldn’t hurt,” said Ted, staring at Quinn, Sandi, and Stacy with eyes almost as big as the lenses in his glasses.
“Grab a ####ing costume, then,” said Stacy. “We could use a couple of big ##########ing stallions in the stable after the show, if you get my drift.”
“And I would be delighted to officiate the proceedings,” said a very pale Upchuck, who had suddenly appeared in the doorway, “but there’s a little matter we have to attend to first.”
“Daria and I will take Tiffany for a little walk,” said Jane, “and then we’ll come back and take Ted for a little walk. That should do it.”
“The matter is a little bigger than that,” said Upchuck. “Perhaps we’d best retire outside.”
Everyone followed Upchuck through the research station back out through the airlock. Once outside, Upchuck looked up, as did everyone else.
Covering most of the sky above was the largest alien spacecraft anyone had ever seen outside of a three-dee theater. As the former Lawndale High School graduates watched, a beam of golden light shot down and struck the ground in front of the group. When the light shut off, everyone saw what appeared to be a cockroach wearing a silver spacesuit.
“Hail, former Earthlings!” cried the cockroach. “And hail above all, Daria and Jane! We of the Infinite Inter-Galactic Imperium have been watching your show for trillions of yeksloms, and it is rebroadcast across the cosmos nightly! We have detected your distress, and we have come in our trans-lightspeed mega-stellarcruiser to rescue you and your comrade survivors! We are prepared to take you to the Central Capital of the Imperium and offer you the chance to broadcast your show from the Grand Throne Room of All Galaxies. We will of course offer each of you the rulership of several planets and unlimited wealth and luxury to compensate you for your time, and we have an attractive dental plan.”
“I want a vision plan as well,” said Daria, pointing at her glasses.
“A vision plan? Wait.” The cockroach used a tiny device like a cell phone for a few moments, then looked up again. “Agreed. Only one new set of frames per Earth year, though.”
Daria and Jane looked at each other. “Want to become a galactic media star?” Daria asked her friend.
“My calendar’s clear,” said Jane. “Beats having to repopulate the world with Kevin, Upchuck, and Ted.”
“Or play ponygirl to fulfill someone’s secret fantasies,” said Daria, with a sidelong glance at the mortified Quinn. “Let’s do it.” She turned to the cockroach. “Looks like you’ve got a deal.”
At this moment, Tiffany pushed her way through the crowd and looked down with revulsion at the diminutive ambassador from the Infinite Inter-Galactic Imperium.
“Ewww,” she said, “a bug.”
And she stepped on it.
Daria and Jane gasped, then looked up. Emergency lights flashed all over the gigantic alien mega-stellarcruiser as enormous gunlike devices suddenly projected from its sides—and aimed down.
“Shoot her first,” said Jane to the alien starship, pointing to Tiffany.
“Please,” said Daria.
The alien weaponry fired and lit up the entire world.
“Looks like this is it, amiga,” said Jane, as the alien starship open fire on them from orbit.
“You think so?” Daria replied, as the atmosphere burst into flames above them.
“I feel like we should say something,” said Jane, as the distant mountains of Miranda turned white hot and melted, the lava running like butter in a blast furnace.
“Okay,” said Daria. “I’m sorry I told the world about that tattoo of Cynigal on your butt when we were talking about fan groupies last summer.”
Jane sighed. “And I’m sorry I took that three-dee picture of you when you were drunk and your boobs fell out of your dress at the White House luncheon with President Landon, and I’m sorry I left the photo on my desk so that someone stole it and sold it to ‘Sick, Sad World’ and they didn’t stop using it as their opening photo for three weeks.”
“Oh,” said Daria, “actually, that was me who stole it and sold it to SSW.”
“What?” said Jane in amazement. “Why?”
“Ratings,” said Daria glumly. “We needed the ratings.”
“Oh. Then I’m sorry it didn’t work.”
Towering walls of flame and plasma surrounded the little group of Lawndalians, but just as the superheated walls were about to wipe them from universal memory, the searing walls—vanished. Walls of invisible force now held the devastation back from broadcasters and ponygirls alike, leaving them and the research station untouched.
Tiffany jumped as the cockroach crawled out from under her shoe. “You have passed our test!” cried the cockroach, looking quite bedraggled but mostly functional. “Prepare to meet my ruler, the Queen of Outer Space!”
“Ewww,” said Tiffany, and she stepped on the roach again.
Another golden beam of light shot down from the alien stellarcruiser overhead, and in moments, a tall, gorgeous woman in a tiny purple bikini appeared before Daria and Jane and the rest of the long-ago Lawndale graduates. Her short black hair was spiked all over, and her eye makeup was Egyptian in style. She towered over the cowering group and looked down on them with a smoldering gaze.
Upchuck was the first to recover. “Rrrowwrr!” he growled in a deep, passionate voice. “Andrea, my dark mistress of the night!”
“An-DRAY-ah to you!” snarled Andrea Ronin, who was particular about the way her name was pronounced. “I am the One True Empress of the Infinite Inter-Galactic Imperium! Years ago as a child, I was hidden away in a high school on a backward, barbaric planet to escape assassins and conspirators of a rival family in the Imperium. Now that they have been defeated, I have regained my throne, and you are at my mercy!”
Upchuck appeared on the verge of fainting. “My dreams are answered!” he cried in ecstasy. He threw himself at Andrea’s black-leather boots. “Beat me, kick me, make me feel cheap!”
Andrea beckoned to Stacy Rowe. “Can you get me one of those ponygirl costumes? I want to see how he looks in it.”
“####ing-A right!” said a delighted Stacy as she hurried off.
“What?” said Daria, whose mind was barely able to catch up with the dramatic sequence of rapidly unfolding events.
“Shh,” said Jane. “I want to see how he looks as a ponygirl. Rrrowrr!”
“Ewww,” said Tiffany. “I can’t wipe this bug off my shoe.”
Andrea turned to Tiffany. “You alone detected that the proposal of my readily disposable minion was too good to be true, appealing only to the most vain and shallow among you. For your perception and insight, I make you Princess Tiffany, and I’ll give you your own galaxy to dominate as you wish.”
“Oh,” said Tiffany. “Thank you.” After a moment of thought, she added, “Will galaxies make me—”
“No, they won’t,” interrupted Andrea. “As for the rest of you, you can either become my eternal love slaves, or you can be destroyed. Maybe after a teeny little bit of torture, of course.”
The silence lasted for only a moment.
“Love slaves!” said Kevin with enthusiasm. “Yeah, cool!”
“Kevvy!” cried a distressed Brittany. “What about me?”
“You can be a love slave, too, babe!” said Kevin. “And I get to watch!”
“I’ll be a love slave! Pick me! Pick me!” cried Ted, jumping up and down with both hands raised. “Don’t leave me circling Uranus! OUCH”
“Potty mouth!” snapped Andrea, and she slapped him again for good measure.
“Can I, like, be the harem mistress-in-charge?” asked Sandi, eyeing Quinn and Stacy with a wicked smile.
“Sure,” said Andrea.
“And can I be your chief torturer and cheerleader?” said Brittany, giving Kevin a dark glare full of promise.
“Done,” said Andrea.
Daria and Jane looked at each other, then stepped forward, mouths open to make their own proposals.
“Forget it,” said Andrea. She snapped her fingers, and everyone but Daria, Jane, and herself vanished in less than the blink of an eye. “Don’t worry,” Andrea said. “They’re on my stellarcruiser now, being fitted for their official uniforms. That’ll take six weeks for Tiffany, but about five minutes for the love slaves, except for Upchuck and his pony outfit. Plus, they’ll get to meet the rest of the old Lawndale High alumni I’ve gathered up from around the solar system. I got loads of them at that class reunion on the Bro and DB Ice Cream Outlet on Deimos, and all their ex-spouses, to boot. Loved your show, by the way.”
“What’s going to happen with us?” said Jane.
Andrea shrugged. “We have a spot open in media promotions for selling exercise equipment. It doesn’t pay anything and you have to live in a refrigerator box, but you get all the day-old pizza you can eat. Or, I can kill you both and have you reincarnated as high-school students.”
She waited for their reply.
“Funny,” said Daria at last, “but I was just telling Jane how much I liked this old refrigerator box I used to have.”
“And day-old pizza!” said Jane. “Woo-hoo!”
Andrea nodded. “Good. We’ll send another stellarcruiser back for you in two weeks. In the meantime, enjoy Miranda. Oh, and I left someone male in nature to keep you company while you’re here.” With that, she snapped her fingers again, and she was gone—as was her stellarcruiser and all its awesome planet-burning weaponry.
The walls of force around Daria and Jane vanished. The ruined landscape of Miranda lay all about them. One clear-water lake had survived with them, along with the research station and whatever supplies it contained.
“Well,” said Daria, looking around. “I’d say it’s been quite a day. Earth is gone, our former Lawndale classmates are all playthings of a mad intergalactic queen, and we haven’t yet seen the bachelor behind door number one.”
“I think that’s him coming out of the airlock now,” said Jane, squinting her eyes at the research station. “And it looks like . . . oh, no.”
“Wow!” cried Artie, wearing the uniform of a Pizza King manager as he staggered out of the research station. “It’s you again! I knew you were both space vixens!” He ran toward the pair, arms out. “Now that Earth is gone, we’ll have to repopulate the world by ourselves, you know! Let’s get started!”
“Drown me in the lake, quickly please,” said Daria as she backed up.
“No,” said Jane, also backing up. “You owe me one after Tom! You drown me!”
“Jane, damn it!” yelled Daria, and they turned and ran as Artie gave chase. Trillions of yeksloms away, Andrea the Queen of Outer Space had a good chuckle before she changed the channel to catch the latest interstellar news.
Science fiction, comedy, future