Rating: PG-13

Special THANKS go out to Thomas Mikkelsen and Nemo Blank for their patience and assistance in beta reading these stories!

The Time Capsule

Prolog

By Steven Brown

June, 2002.

Present day.  Lawndale High.  School is over.  It is the break before summer school begins.  Time: Night.

Daria and Jane, dressed in black pants, shirts, knit caps with dark smudges around their faces like commandos are skulking down a hallway.  They keep to the shadows.  The school is quiet and dark, but some residual moonlight filters into the hallways from the classroom windows.

Jane:                                       …well then, can you at least answer one thing for me?

Daria:                                      No, the jacket doesn't make you look fat.

Jane:                                       One more crack of you mistaking me for Quinn and I'm pulling the first fire alarm we come across.

Daria:                                      You mean they actually work?

Jane:                                       Sure.  How else do you think the faculty gets their pizza's on such short notice?

Daria:                                      The fire department delivers pizza's?

Jane:                                       Only between 5-alarmers.  I tell  you, ever since Ms. Li got on the city council…

Daria:                                      Okay, okay, enough already.  What's the question?

Jane:                                       How do I let you drag me into these things?

Daria:                                      What things?

Jane:                                       Oh, you know.  Breaking into high school comes to mind.

Daria:                                      Oh, that.  Blackmail.

Jane:                                       You wish. 

Daria:                                      It's your civic duty?

Jane:                                       You wish.

Daria:                                      It's a moral imperative?

Jane:                                       I've just got to learn what these "morals" are one day.

Daria:                                      You wish.

Jane:                                       So what're we up to this time?  I'm only asking so I know what to put down on my confession once we're arrested for breaking and entering.

Daria:                                      I want to know what's going on with that time capsule that Li's burying behind the west wall interior locker grid-7.

Jane:                                       The same time capsule that Trent…

Daria:                                      You know of another one?

Jane:                                       Details, then.

Daria:                                      Li's up to something.  We have to write our stories and come up with some crap for the capsule for her.  She produces them and gets some funding from the school board to complete the process.  But she doesn't make it known when or where she's putting the time capsule – only that she'd do it before school started next semester.  The question is why?

Jane:                                       No, the question is how do you know where and when the time capsule is being buried.

Daria:                                      Let's just say a little bird told me (smirks).

Jane:                                       I've just got to get one of these little birdies.

They round a dark corner.  A security guard walks in the distance.  They stop and melt into the shadows of a doorway.  A few moments later, the security guard gone, they resume their walk.

Jane:                                       Waitaminute.  You're not still mad at Li because of the picture are you?

Daria:                                      … mrumble …. grumble ….

Jane:                                       You knew she was going to do it.

Daria:                                      True.  But I don't have to like it nor did I like the picture she used.

Jane:                                       That's not all you're upset with, is it?

Daria:                                      No.  She wouldn't accept my donation to the time capsule.

Jane:                                       What was it again?

Daria:                                      Some Sea Monkeys.

Jane:                                       Oh, that's right.  You wanted to put in a living Sea Monkey colony.  What was she thinking not to include it?

Daria:                                      Darn straight.  They'd have made great mutants in a hundred years.

Jane:                                       Damn bureaucrats – always stopping scientific fun just when it gets hairy.

Daria:                                      Dicey.

Jane:                                       Huh?

Daria:                                      Not hairy – but dicey.

Jane:                                       Dice have hair?

Daria:                                      That's the end of the show, folks.  Thanks for coming.

They round another corner and come to the locker area.  The locker grid has been removed from the wall and are leaning against the opposite wall.  A hole has already been knocked into the wall and the time capsule is in it.  Bags of plaster are nearby indicating the work of resealing the wall will be finished in the next day or two.

Daria and Jane walk up to the time capsule.  They open the door and shine in a light with the flashlight they brought along.

Jane:                                       (gasps) This isn't what we donated or wrote.

Daria:                                      Nope.  I already found all that in the school's dumpster last week.  That's why I wanted to see what she was putting in here instead.  Who would've thought it would be this, though.

Jane:                                       No kidding. (beat)  We can't let her get away with it.

Daria:                                      I don't intend to.  It's a moral imperative we put a stop to it.

Jane:                                       There you go about that moral thingie again.  (beat)  So whatdaya gonna do?

Daria:                                      What I'm going to do is put our donations back in this time capsule.

Daria removes items from the backpack she'd been lugging around.  Among the clutter is a set of CD's.

Jane:                                       (picks up CD's) Um, I take it you burned all our stories to CD, right?

Daria:                                      Right.

Jane:                                       Just a simple observation, but how do you know they'll survive for a hundred years?  I mean, if it's a bad idea to use magnetic storage media like tapes or floppies for long time storage as it degrades and becomes unreadable after some 20-30 years, who's to say the same won't happen to these CD's?

Daria:                                      I see you've been taking your supersmart pills again.

Jane:                                       I do what I done did.

Daria:                                      You've got a point there, Jane.  It was a difficult situation … which amazingly had an easy solution.  Simply encase it in an inert environment that is structured to survive a century.

Jane:                                       And I take it you just happen to have one on you? 

Daria:                                      Actually, yes.

Daria pulls out a plastic baggie for the CD's and then seals it up.

Jane:                                       I don't think that'll work for a century.

Daria:                                      I have to agree with you on that one.  This is just to keep it from getting messy.  Now I'll store it in the inert environment.

Daria pulls out a box, opens a slit on it and stuffs the bag of CD's inside.

Jane:                                       (deadpan) That's a box of Twinkies.

Daria:                                      The food that was manufactured to survive a nuclear war.

Jane:                                       No fallout shelter should be without some.

Daria:                                      Or time capsule.

Jane:                                       But what if they still degrade to un-usability?

Daria:                                      Go to the backup plan I suppose.

Jane:                                       Really?  You went through with it?

Daria:                                      Li's not the only one with something to hide.

Daria and Jane remove everything from the time capsule and re-insert it with the student donations.  Daria then stuffs her backpack with all the things that Li had in the time capsule.  They close the safe's door.

Jane:                                       Do you think we're doing the right thing?

Daria:                                      Ask me again in a hundred years.

Jane:                                       What do you think this pamphlet Li had stashed means?

Daria:                                      Roughly translated it means 'Come to Cuba where for the right price you too can get sweatshop workers producing your school needs'.  That puts a damper on those school funding activities doesn't it.

Jane:                                       We had school funding activities?  I've just got to pay more attention to those school bulletins.

Daria:                                      We've already graduated, Jane.

Jane:                                       Your point being?

Daria and Jane, their task complete, skulk out the same way they came in.

FIFTY YEARS LATER

December, 2051.

Friday.  Lawndale High.  The school is undergoing a renovation from the inside out.  The last school bell rings and students stream out.  Inside, two students watch a third bang on a locker.

Melvin:                                  Stupid stinkin' locker!  Open up, you mrumble mrumble piece of mrumble. 

Harry:                                     Jeez, Mel, for being on the football team you sure are working up a sweat opening your locker.

Melvin:                                  Shut up.  You're not helping.

Joey:                                       What's with your locker anyway? 

Harry:                                     Nothing's wrong with it other than it's just a rusted piece of crap.

Joey:                                       I'll be glad when they install the new lockers.

Melvin:                                  I won't.  True, these suck, but once they put in the new sensor-pad models all it's going to do is allow faster entry by security dorks looking for fast cash, dope, or late library books.  Jeez!  Open up you godblasted mrumble mrumble mrumble.

Harry:                                     You know, you can swear when you want to, Mel.  You know that, don't you?  It's a little thing called the 1st Amendment.  We covered it last semester in… oh, that's right.  You were asleep.

Melvin:                                  You're not making friends here, Harry.

Harry smiled.  Melvin always said that.

Melvin:                                  Besides, why give any more ammo to a malfunctioning Li-anism?  Last thing I want is my swearing broadcast on all the school's monitors.

Joey:                                       I thought they took out all the Li-anisms during the last renovation.

Harry:                                     Try not to think, Joey, you'll hurt yourself.  But, no, they didn't get them all.  Every so often one of old principal Li's locks or security safeguards will fail and reveal stashes of stuff nobody ever thought she had.  Electronics, cash, even an old fashioned lie detector.

Melvin continues to beat up his locker.  It just won't open.  Finally, he steps back and runs at it, putting all the force he could into a shoulder check.  The locker, being on the end, didn't open.  But it did have sufficient force to knock it, and the rest of the small group of lockers, loose from the wall and tilt them over.

Harry:                                     Hey, Mel.  Make sure to tell that locker who's boss.

Melvin ignored Harry's comment and shoved the lockers all the way over.  Behind his locker was a small metal door.

Melvin:                                  (panting hard)  What the hell's that?

Harry:                                     (face losing color)  Oh, shit.  It's a Li-anism.  Why couldn't they have locked her up before she put in all this crap? 

The metal door opens and inside is a small safe, tumbler lock clearly visible.

Joey:                                       You think there's money inside?

Harry:                                     Knowing Li's penchant for penny-pinching?  Probably.

Joey:                                       You want to take it to shop and try to open it?  I can fire up the welder pretty quick.

Melvin:                                  What, you crazy or something?  Didn't you hear what happened to one of the janitors a couple years back when he found something like this?  He got his face half dissolved from some flying acid trap that old bat Li safeguarded.  And for what?  Inside the safety deposit box was a key to a bus station that isn't even there anymore.  No way.  I say let Principal Martins knows what's here and let him deal with it.

Joey:                                       (evil grin) Yeah, that way maybe half of his face can be fried off.

Melvin:                                  Dissolved off, you dummy.

Joey:                                       Says you!

Harry:                                     You're a jerk, Joey.

Joey:                                       Back at you, jerk-wad.

*****

January, 2052. 

Tuesday.  Lawndale High.  History 363.

In the history class are 30 students sitting at their desks.  The desks look similar to what students sat in 50 years ago but are a one-piece unit made entirely of plastic, plus are hollow to allow cabling.  The new semester is beginning.  A teacher comes in.  She is in her 70's with white hair and looks like a typical grandmother, that is if a grandmother knew how to dress in the current day's fashions and carried a briefcase.

Mrs. Whitmore:                    Okay, class, settle down.  It's good to see so many returning faces this semester.  I thought I'd scared most of you away last month.  Especially you, Dan.

Dan:                                        Oh, I could never be scared of your exams, Mrs. Whitmore.  Why, I just live for them.

A few chuckles are heard.

Mrs. Whitmore:                    Careful, Dan.  These are new shoes and it's getting deep in here. 

A few more chuckles.

Mrs. Whitmore:                    Okay, enough clowning around.  Welcome to History 363, what I call Recent History.  And what the school calls, one of those classes you need to take in order to graduate.  As you know from the course outline we will go to several museums, research topics you thought only your grandparents would have any interest in and get multiple tests, each ensuring that only a few of your will pass with an A.

Groans.

Mrs. Whitmore:                    Or we could take what is behind door #2.  What's it to be, class?

Bob:                                        What's behind door #2?  And what are we talking about, anyway?

Mrs. Whitmore:                    We're talking about a decision here, folks.  The door is a metaphor.  You can either take what I've just outlined as the course or opt to go in another, unknown direction.  Either way, you will learn something. 

The class looks around at one another.  Thirty pair of shoulders shrug and Dan finally speaks up.

Dan:                                        Uh, we'll take what's behind the mysterious imaginary door #2.

Mrs. Whitmore:                    Good choice.  I was kind of bored with doing the regular routine in this class anyway.  Okay, here's the scoop.  As some of you may recall, last December one of former principal Li's hideouts was found by a member of your student body.  What you don't know was what was hidden in there.

Dan:                                        (having an idea where this was heading) I bet it has something to do with history.

Mrs. Whitmore:                    Very good, Mr. Suni, you win a cookie.  Inside the hiding space was a time capsule.  I now have the contents of the capsule that are relevant to this class and no, Bob, it's not money so don't even think of asking me to invest in some of your sure-fire hot stocks.  (Mrs. Whitmore pulls out a large box and places it on her desk.)  In here are the contents of the safe.  You will be pleased to know no one was hurt while opening the safe, including principal Martins.

Groans.

Mrs. Whitmore:                    Very funny.  Inside the time capsule were 16 containers.  In the first container was this… (she holds up a CD).  On it is written README FIRST.  Do any of you recognize what this is?

Colin:                                      It's an old CD isn't it?

Mrs. Whitmore:                    Yes indeed, Colin. 

Bob:                                        Brown-noser.

Mrs. Whitmore:                    (to Colin) And for being so perceptive, you get the fun of opening it.  Unless you'd like to have a go at it, Bob.

Bob:                                        I'm cool.  Colin's better at this than I am.

Colin is given the CD.  He looks at it momentarily, flipping it over and over in his hands.

Dan:                                        How do you load it, Colin?

Colin:                                      I'm not sure.  I've done some research in Tech History and know this contains some sort of data, but I don't know how to read it.  Or load it. 

Barry:                                     How about sliding it past the IR reader on your laptop screen?

Colin:                                      I'd thought of that, but from what I remember they used a different form of reader.  Mrs. Whitmore, can I be excused for a few minutes?

Mrs. Whitmore:                    Reason?

Colin:                                      I think Professor Barch still has an old time CD reader in the computer lab.  I thought I'd see if I could borrow it for a bit.

Mrs. Whitmore:                    Confirm it first.

Colin quickly writes an e-mail and sends it.  A few moments later a reply comes in.

Colin:                                      He says I can borrow it.

Mrs. Whitmore:                    You're cleared for access.  You've got five minutes.

Colin races out the door.  A few minutes later he returns with a short looking box that he quickly attaches to the laptop on his desk.  The dangling power cable he attaches to the underside of the desk which was in turn cabled to run through the chair and attach into the subfloor power grid.  About 10 minutes go by while Colin powers up the box and reroutes files to support it.

Bob:                                        Jeez, Colin.  Can you go any slower?

Colin:                                      Stick it, Bob.  I'd like to see you try this.  Oh, wait.  You did last semester.  Just before you paid Dennis to finish up your coursework.  Okay, this sucker is powered up.  Let's give it a try.

Colin inserts the CD and it begins to make a loud sound.

Colin:                                      That can't be right.

Mrs. Whitmore:                    I'm afraid it is.  Just give it a few moments and try again, Colin.

A few minutes later the sound subsides and Colin begins researching the CD again.

Colin:                                      There's got to be a… mumble, mumble, grumble.  What the… BINARY?!  What were these people thinking back then?!  Does anyone here have a binary interface handy?

No answer.

Colin:                                      Mrs. Whitmore?  I'm going to need more resources to break this file.  Do you mind if I go online?

Mrs. Whitmore:                    By all means, Colin.  But just a word of direction – try searching for readme's.

Another 10 minutes go by while Colin researches the translation. 

Colin:                                      Okay.  I've got something.  There's been damage to the file so I couldn't get everything back, but here's what I've got.  Downloading to the board… now.

On the electronic blackboard, words began appearing.  There were gaps and obvious misspellings but something was showing up.  It read:

                                                So this is the future?  …….….. t suck.

                                                …. esteem  ….…...  don't take this too

                                                seriously ………..………. Li had dirt on

                                                a lot………………………. oh who am I

                                                to lectur……………… enjoy these at

                                                your own peril.

                                                                D. M. – 2002

Diane:                                     That's it?

Colin:                                      That's all I could get.  The file was damaged.  There'd probably been electronic activity near it for the past couple of decades.

Mrs. Whitmore:                    This letter was signed D. M.  Class, your first assignment is to find out who this D. M. is or was.  Whoever finds that out will be made the team lead for the rest of the semester as we work on determining what this time capsule contains.  Class ends in 40 minutes.  Get cracking.

The class quickly opens their laptops and begin clicking away.

Colin:                                      Hey, Ben, you get access to the Li archives yet?

Ben:                                        I'm in.  Ride my line.

Colin:                                      Got it.

Amy:                                      Aw, man.  We've got rogue code.  Who's got an open account to a code breaker?

Barry:                                     Yo.

Colin:                                      Yo.

The exercise goes on.  Slowly, it appears that only Barry and Colin have active links to a code breaker service and the others are either chatting away with one another or looking over the two student's shoulders to see what progress they've made.

Nick is still at work on his old laptop.  It looks old because it is. 

Nick:                                       Hey, Amy, do you…

Amy:                                      Not now, Nick.  I'm a little busy here.

Nick looked at the others and rubbed his forehead.

Nick:                                       Mrs. Whitmore?  May I go to the restroom?

Mrs. Whitmore:                    (Sizes up Nick) Go ahead.  Access is cleared.

He leaves.

Five minutes later.

Colin:                                      Jeez.  How much security did Li put into her software?  Barry, you doing any better over there?

Nick returns, book in hand.

Barry:                                     No.  I've almost dropped my desk-net a couple times with the volume of info I'm getting.  Only the search engines can't give me a lock on who D. M. is.

Nick:                                       (opens book) D. M. is Daria Morgendorffer. 

The class stops what they're doing and in order to stare at Nick.

Mrs. Whitmore:                    Care to tell the rest of the class who you came by this tidbit of information, Nick?

Nick:                                       (holds up book) I went to the library and checked out the yearbook of 2002.  Then I searched for last names beginning with M and first names beginning with D in the senior class.  There was only one.

Bob:                                        Oh, come on.  Anybody could have looked that up in the library…

Mrs. Whitmore:                    And obviously, somebody who was an "anybody" did.

Barry:                                     That's not fair.  We needed to research this through the net…

Mrs. Whitmore:                    I never said that.  Congratulations.  We have a winner.  Nick is team lead for remainder of semester.  See me after class for workload.  The rest of you, we're ending early today.  See you Thursday.

Colin:                                      But… Nick?

Jim:                                         (begins laughing)

Colin:                                      What's so funny?

Jim:                                         How much did today's lesson cost you?  Probably a hundred, right?  Well, Nick used his wits and not his money to get the answer.  He won fair and square.  And here you guys are complaining that he cheated just because he didn't dig out his wallet to get an answer.  I think that's hilarious.  Way to go, Nick.

Several other students laugh at this as well while leaving.  A minute later Nick is alone in the classroom with Mrs. Whitmore.

Mrs. Whitmore:                    I think I'd have to agree with some of those comments, Nick.  You expanded your thinking outside the realm of computer resources.  Well done.

Nick:                                       Thanks, but it wasn't very hard to do.

Mrs. Whitmore:                    You'll note that none of the others thought of it until you showed up with that yearbook.

Nick:                                       That's because they had the resources at hand and didn't feel the need to find other non-spending avenues.

Mrs. Whitmore:                    Ah.  Yes.  That.  (beat) How are your parents, by the way?

Nick:                                       Better.  My dad'll be coming home in a few months so maybe mom won't have to work as much.  Thanks again for helping me get a school grant, Mrs. Whitmore.  I really appreciate it.

Mrs. Whitmore:                    I taught your mother a long time ago, Nick.  If you're anything like her, it would be a crime to let your potential go to waste.  Now let's talk about the assignment.  My goals are simple.  I want you to tell me about each person who wrote a story in here and what the story means to you.  Plus, they each left something personal in the time capsule.  Tell me what it is and why you think they put it there.

Nick:                                       This might be a little difficult considering how much damage was done to the first disk.  We might have some serious data damage.  I'm surprised they didn't think of a better way to package it for the future, anticipating electronic corruption.

Mrs. Whitmore:                    Who says they didn't?  (she reaches into her desk, pulls out an envelop and flips it to him)  Here.  A copy was made of each assignment and put on microfiche.  If you have any problems, refer to those.  Or if you want, you can access them on this A-O-L URL.

Nick:                                       A-O-L?  They're still around?  Who'd still use them?

Mrs. Whitmore:                    You'd be surprised.

Nick:                                       (looks at the microfiche first) Good idea to store these on hard plastic, but I think I'll have the class recover what they can electronically first from the CD's.  Some of them can really use the… challenge.  At worst, I'll sick them onto A-O-L if they complain too much.

Mrs. Whitmore:                    (grins) I'd like to see a story a week with analysis during class.  Your call how it gets done.  Your call how it gets graded.  Good luck.

TWO DAYS LATER

Thursday. 

Location: Lawndale High.  History 363.

Nick:                                       … so that's the gist of it.  Each team will need to decode the files, rebuild any bad sectors – Jim's already working on that for the class – and give an analysis of both the story and the object each writer left behind.  I'd also like to know what became of each author.  Who are they – or were they?  What accomplishments have they made?  Are they still living?  What kind of life did they lead?  There are 15 authors so I'd like teams of two.  Any volunteers?  Keep in mind that I'll assign teams if no one volunteers.

The class quickly pairs up and icons on desktops change to indicate who is on what team, which is reflected on the electronic blackboard for everyone to see.

Nick:                                       Good enough.  Dan?  Does your mother still work at the TV studio?

Dan:                                        Yeah.

Nick:                                       You get the fun of working on an AV project one of the authors did.  Your project will take longer so you get most of the semester to work on it.  As for the rest of you, here's what I was able to find out on each person I'm assigning you to research.  Downloading now.

Nick downloads the information from his old laptop through the desk-net to the others in the class. A picture of each person participating in the project along with a name shows up on each screen.

Diane:                                     (viewing the information and the photos that come up) Where'd you get the pictures, Nick?

Nick:                                       I used my granddad's old scanner and grabbed them all out of the yearbook I had the other day.  This was about all I could find on such short notice.

Bob:                                        Old 2-D photos?  Please.  I could've done better than using old equipment like Nick has to.

Diane:                                     I'm sure you could have, Bob.  But would you have thought to do so?  I don't know about that.

Nick smiles at the small victory.  It wasn't often that someone with financial stability took the time to speak up for him.  At least, not in the past two years.

Nick:                                       One of the perks about being team lead is of course gaining full and direct access to the Li archive instead of only accessing the public lists.  I got my password yesterday, ran a few quick searches and was able to piece together some downloads.  I thought you all might find it interesting to see old recordings of how this project came about and maybe see some interaction of the person you'll be researching.  This is at least one area of Li's paranoia that came in handy.  Uploading… now.

On the electronic blackboard, Nick's presentation flickers to life.

BEGIN VIDEO

September 2001.

Location: Lawndale High, hallway.  Time: morning.

Two students are standing at their lockers.  Video footage shows them being shot from ceiling, behind a vent.

Jane:                                       You should see it, Daria.  It's a real honest to god safe he salvaged from McGrudy's before they scrapped it.

Daria:                                      How big is it?

Jane:                                       Kinda small.

Daria:                                      Well, there goes my idea for getting rid of Quinn's body.

Jane:                                       That was assuming he would want to donate it to you in the first place.  But then again, I guess if you had worked your evil Morgendorffer charms on him, he would have been yours.

Daria:                                      That's not even funny, Jane.

Jane:                                       Yeah, I was stretching on that one.  I've got to get some new material from my writers.  But seriously, what do you think he'll do with it?

Daria:                                      Maybe he'll use it as a time capsule.  Who knows what he could bury in it. 

Jane:                                       Some of Mystik Spiral's lyrics would be good.

Daria and Jane smile at that.  Then a voice comes crashing over the loudspeakers.

Ms. Li (V.O.):                        Daria Morgendorffer and Jane Lane report to the principal's office immmmmmmediatly.

Jane:                                       How does she get that word out in one breath?

Daria:                                      Better question would be why.  Let's go visit our captor and complain about the bread and water privileges.

Jane:                                       Yeah.  Maybe we can get rid of the bread.

Camera switch.

Location: Lawndale High, Principal Li's office.  Time: morning.

Ms. Li:                                    It's recently come to my attention that you two might know something about a time capsule.

Jane:                                       How do you know about it?

Li:                                            Oh, a little bird told me. 

Daria:                                      What's the electronic frequency of this bird anyway?

Ms. Li:                                    Donating your time to a time capsule project.  Think of the possibilities I… you could have with it.  I think it would be an excellent opportunity for you to show your true school spirit.

Daria:                                      What color would that be?  Black?

Time shift.

Location: Lawndale High, Principal Li's office.  Time: afternoon.

Daria and Jane are sitting in Ms. Li's office, nearly asleep and leaning on each other.  A knock on the door is heard and a bleary-eyed 20-something man walks in.

Trent:                                     Hey, Janey.  I got a call to come here and discuss your school performance.

Jane:                                       Principal Li called you this morning.

Trent:                                     I thought that was a dream.

Jane:                                       I called you an hour later.

Trent:                                     That was you?

Daria:                                      Do you know how long we've been in this office waiting for you?

Trent:                                     Can you give me a hint?  Time's a little fuzzy for me right now.

Ms. Li:                                    I'd like to get right to the point, Mr. Lane.  I'd like you to consider donating your salvaged safe for the glory of Laaaaaaaaawwwwnndale High's time capsule project.

Trent:                                     (arches eye) What's in it for me? 

Li:                                            I'll make sure your transcripts are released expeditiously when a college requests them. 

Trent:                                     Ho-heh-hah-hah-ha — cough-cough! Good one, Ms. Li. 

Li:                                            (to Daria) What did I say?  (to Trent) What do  you say, Mr. Lane? Will you donate it?

Trent:                                     I don't know.  I was going to use it for storing my toothbrush.  Maybe then I won't misplace it anymore…

Li:                                            How about I sweeten the pot a little more?  Donate it and I'll personally see to it that your sister passes her English class.

Trent:                                     (to his sister) Janey, I thought you were doing okay in your classes.

Jane:                                       I am. (beat) Mostly.

Trent:                                     Which ones aren't  you doing good in?

Jane:                                       Including English? (beat) English.

Trent:                                     Okay, Ms. Li…

Jane:                                       Hold on, Trent.  It's my fault I didn't study for the last couple of tests.  But that doesn't mean you can buy me a new grade. (Jane looks at Daria)  I got myself into this, I'll get myself out.  I still have time to brush up on my Shakespeare before the end of the semester.  (Quieter) That, or find a new way to torment Mr. O'Neill into giving me a passing grade.

Ms. Li:                                    What was that?

Jane:                                       (Louder)  That was me saying no deal, Ms. Li.

Ms. Li:                                    (Quietly) Plan B then.  (Louder) As you may not know, students, and former student, I have been known to misplace certain… documents from time to time.  If you would consider donating that time capsule, I might be able to find Miss Morgendorffer's transcripts.  If not, then I might just have to substitute the standard Pass/Fail listing for the past several years.

Jane:                                       The art of shakedown.  Who says you can't get an education these days.

Daria:                                      You can't do that.

Ms. Li:                                    Can and have are two different things, Miss Morgendorffer.

Trent:                                     Brutal, man.  But I can't let you do that to Daria…

Jane:                                       Hold on, Trent.  Sidebar, over here.

Trent and Jane conference in Ms. Li's office corner.

Jane:                                       Do you really want to give up your safe, Trent?

Trent:                                     It's cool. They paid me to get rid of it after all. I think Daria's education is more important than a stupid ol' safe. Besides, I can't find my toothbrush anyway – haven't for days.

Jane:                                       That's more information than I needed to know, Trent.  (to Li) Okay, Ms. Li, here's the deal.  Daria's transcripts get restored.

Daria:                                      Hold it…

Li:                                            Agreed.  I'm sure she'll get into a good school with these.

Daria:                                      Hey!  Knock it off already, guys!  No deal, Ms. Li.

Jane:                                       Daria… C'mon.  Your education's at stake.

Daria:                                      No it isn't.  It's an empty offer.  After all, Ms. Li wouldn't do anything that would tarnish the glory on Laaawwwnnndale High, would you, Ms. Li?  Especially when you know I can bring the full force of my mother's law firm down on you.

Ms. Li:                                    (Quietly) Curses.  (Louder)  You win round two.

Trent:                                     Rounds?  You're serving drinks now?

Ms. Li:                                    I take it sympathy is out?

Daria:                                      You take it right.

Ms. Li:                                    Fine.  You've backed me into a corner, Miss Morgendorffer.  I'm afraid I have no other choice but to ask… do you like your current picture in the yearbook?

Daria:                                      (perplexed) I don't understand.

Ms. Li:                                    You know.  Your senior year picture.  The one you will always be known with.  The one you have professionally taken and submit to the yearbook for insertion.

Jane:                                       Oh, that one.

Daria:                                      It's okay.

Ms. Li:                                    Yes, I'm sure it would be okay, Miss Morgendorffer.  snort  If it had made it to the yearbook on time.  Unfortunately, there was a mix-up and it landed on my desk instead.

Daria:                                      It won't work, Ms. Li.  I don't really care if my picture is in the yearbook or not.

Ms. Li:                                    Oh, that I understand, Miss Morgendorffer.  I fully intend to make sure it gets in the yearbook.  However, I noticed your lack of, shall we say… expression… in the picture and decided you would look much better, and better for the glory of Laaawwwnnndale High as you put it, if you were… (beat) …smiling.

Ms. Li reaches into a desk drawer and pulls out a picture (obviously faked) of Daria – and she's smiling.  However, she's missing her two front teeth.  And her jaw seems more square, more rigid, more… hairy, like a hockey player's smile who just played for 3 hours and won the game on a power play goal.

Ms. Li:                                    Now, how about that time capsule?

Trent:                                     Woah.  That's pretty dirty, man.

Jane:                                       That is the most fiendish ploy if I've ever seen one.

Ms. Li:                                    Flattery will get you nowhere, Miss Lane.

Daria:                                      No.

Trent:                                     Okay.  You got it.

Daria:                                      Trent….?

Trent:                                     Anything for a friend, Daria.  You know that.  'Sides, I'm sure the shocks on the Tank would appreciate not hauling it around any longer.

Daria:                                      Thanks, Trent.  (to Li)  Just promise me you won't use that picture.

Ms. Li:                                    Agreed.

Time Shift. 

Location: Lawndale High.  Mr. O'Neill's classroom.  Time: afternoon.

Date: 2 weeks later. 

In the classroom are 14 students along with Ms. Li and Mr. O'Neill.

Ms. Li:                                    Settle down, people.  First, I'd like to thank each of you for showing up.

Daria:                                      You  mean we had a choice?

Ms. Li:                                    As many of you may know, the faculty posted sign-up sheets around school for a Time Capsule project we are doing.  So far only Miss Landon and Mr. McKenzie have signed up.  I would like to have 15 students participate in this, minimum.

O'Neill:                                   Um, Ms. Li?  There are only 14 students here.

Ms. Li:                                    I'm aware of that, Timothy.  A former student, one Trent Lane, who also donated the time capsule for my… that is, the school's use, has already agreed to participate.  And since the rest of you have graciously decided to volunteer…

Daria:                                      (to Jane) Meaning she had dirt on the rest of us.

Li:                                            … I expect to see some exemplary work that will bring honor to me… uh… that is honor to Laaawwwwwnndale High! 

Stacy:                                     (raises hand) But what if we don't want to do it?

Ms. Li:                                    You'll be expelled and disgraced before your parents and have to work as a dishwasher for the rest of your life.

Stacy:                                     Eeep!

Jodie:                                      Ms. Li?  The sign-up sheet said we were going to write a fiction story that will be placed in the time capsule.  Wouldn't it be better to write something that is from real life?  Something that shows future generations of what it was like during our days here at Lawndale High?

Ms. Li:                                    What?  Let them know about how I… that is, how you interacted in school?  An excellent question, Ms. Landon.  The answer is no.

Jodie:                                      Why not?  I thought the idea of a time capsule is to capture a bit of current time for future generations.

Ms. Li:                                    Ho-ho-ho.  You students still crack me up.  No, Ms. Landon, that idea has been done to death.  What I want is something that has a little bit more pizzazz than any of those other projects.  After all, the school board award… er, that is, the honor going to the most imaginative time capsule the school district and its students can produce will bring honor to our little school.

Daria:                                      You used 'honor' in that sentence twice, you know.

Ms. Li looks at Mr. O'Neill.

Ms. Li:                                    I'm holding your teaching responsible for that, Timothy.  (to the class) I want stories and I want them soon before any of the other schools have a chance to copy my idea and get their own time capsule created.

Jane:                                       Does that mean we can write something in the here and now then?

Ms. Li:                                    (puts forehead in hand)  Write whatever you want.  Just get something written and make it snappy.

Ms. Li leaves.  Mr. O'Neill addresses the students.

Mr. O'Neill:                           Okay, everyone, we're going to have a wonderful time with this project. 

Jane:                                       Can I go home now?

Mr. O'Neill:                           Um, not yet, Jane.

Jane:                                       I thought you said we were going to have a wonderful time.  Going home is my idea of a wonderful time.

Daria:                                      (to Jane) Since when?

Jane:                                       Since I wouldn't be here at school.

Mr. O'Neill:                           Let's talk about our projects first and then we'll call it an early day, hmm?  Okay, class, here's what I want you to do – I'd like to each to write a story of your hopes and dreams for the future.  We'll collect them as you get them written and they'll go into the time capsule to be read by students a hundred years from now.  Isn't that exciting?

Daria:                                      (to Jane) As exciting as the last Superbowl.

Jane:                                       I thought you watched something else that Sunday.

Daria:                                      My point exactly.

Mr. O'Neill:                           Once you have your story done, bring it to me along with one personal item that you feel describes you in a simply fantastic way and we'll go over your grade.

Jane:                                       We're being graded on this project?  I thought it was voluntary.

Daria:                                      Knowing Ms. Li, I'd bet we're being graded on how we breathe.

Sandi:                                     (raises hand) Since I heard that it was, like, Quinn's cousin's boyfriend that caused all this mess, which is keeping me away from popular fashion research, can we write about our hopes and dreams for HER future?

O'Neill:                                   Who?

Quinn:                                    Um, what Sandi means, Mr. O'Neill, is can we write anything about anyone, including but not limited to persons in this room?

O'Neill:                                   If that's what you want to do, then by all means run with it!  Enjoy the experience of writing a story, of expressing yourself positively!  This is going to be fun!  Just make sure you write something.  We want something the future can remember us by, Sandi.

Sandi:                                     Oh, I'm positive I'll enjoy this. (she looks evilly at Daria and Jane)

Brittany:                                 Daria has a boyfriend?  Wow!  I didn't think brains were even allowed to date.

Kevin:                                    They're not, babe.  It's like a law or something.

Jodie:                                      (sighs) There's no such law, Kevin.

Brittany:                                 There's not?  Then Daria does have a boyfriend?

Daria's head hits the desk several times with loud thumps.  Jane tries to suppress laughter.

END VIDEO

Nick:                                       That's all I've found so far.  I have a box for each team here which contains the artifact the author left behind along with the disk containing the data file.  Dan, yours is old video or film.  Sorry, I didn't research that enough.

Nick begins handing them out.

Mrs. Whitmore:                    This sounds much more interesting than what I had planned for the semester.  I'm looking forward to the first story and profile.  Obviously they put it in for a reason.  It would be interesting to know what that reason is.

Nick:                                       Jim.  Steve.  You get the first story.  Decode and present analysis next week.  (Nick drops the last package, a small box, on Steve's desk)  If you need any assistance, let me know.

Jim:                                         Who's the author?

Nick:                                       Jane Lane.

NEXT:                                   Jane's story: Daria meets… Daria?

Contact me if you want:

jwbandsb@cs.com

Disclaimer

Copyright (C) 2001 by Steven A. Brown, all rights reserved. No part of this work may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the author, with the exception of 1) brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews (yeah, like that's going to happen), and 2) the complete, unaltered text of this work, including this disclaimer (or an electronic document containing same and which has been data-compressed using a lossless algorithm) when used or reproduced for private and non-commercial use only (again, like that's going to happen). 

Permission is granted to repost, republish, or retransmit this work in any way, shape, or form as long as these disclaimers remain intact, and no one except Glenn Eichler, Susie Lewis, MTV Studios, or Viacom, the parent of MTV receive financial remuneration.

The Characters of Daria Morgendorffer, Quinn Morgendorffer, Jane Lane, Trent Lane, Kevin Thompson, Michael Jordan "Mack" MacKenzie, Brittany Taylor, Jodie Landon, Sandi Griffin, Timothy O'Neill, Angela Li, Anthony DeMartino, and many more, even if not mentioned here, are the creation of Glenn Eichler and Susie Lewis and Copyright MTV Studios. This story is in no way to be construed as a challenge to said copyright.

The Characters of future students are entirely fictionalized and only sounds like the names of other fan fiction authors whose work I have read and enjoyed.  Just wait until I start putting in other author's nam… er, that is, it's all a coincidence I tell you.  A coincidence!   To those of you who may be offended, remember: this is a cartoon. This is not and could never be real.  Or could it?  I leave questions like that to philosophers, or to OTR drivers who have experienced significant sleep deprivation.