Daria: Back to Highland. A Daria/Worm Crossover

DISCLAIMER: Daria was created by Glen Eichler and is the property of MTV Viacom. Worm was created by John C. "Wildbow" McCrae. I own neither franchise and neither expect nor deserve any financial compensation for this work of fiction. People wanting the real deal should watch the MTV Daria videos or seek out Wildbow's web serial.

It is now October, 1999 in Lawndale, Maryland

Back to Highland: A Daria/Worm Crossover. Chapter One

Lawndale, Maryland
October, 1999

Daria Morgendorffer finished toweling off, went to her locker, and started getting dressed. She hoped her trainer would think that she had a good workout. This exercise thing was not something she was used to. She felt her phone start buzzing. She had two: her personal phone, which generally didn't bother her that much when it started buzzing, and also her official Parahuman Response Team cell phone. The problem with registering as an independent hero was that despite the fact that she was nominally an independent, she could be called up if a some sufficiently large-scale Parahuman or more natural disaster came to pass.

She saw the caller ID. PRT Headquarters. She'd have to check in.

Damn.

She phoned in. Her call went directly to Lady Columbia, head of the local Parahuman Response Team.

"Morgendorffer!" said Lady Columbia. As much as Daria despised militarism and the militaristic mindset that had made such a hot mess of her father, there was something that made her say "Yes, Ma'am!" to Lady Columbia.

"We need you at headquarters in Baltimore. You need to be there in person. Get your ass here as soon as possible."

Daria wondered why Lady Columbia wanted her in person. She was an under-aged, undertrained independent hero, and Lady Columbia usually left the superhero thing to someone else.

Well, I guess I gotta go, she thought ruefully. She walked out to the parking lot and zipped up her leather jacket. She then put on her helmet, got on her motorcycle and started towards PRT headquarters in Baltimore.

During the last decade or so thruways across the Northeast and other built-up parts of the country had sprouted limited-access single-lane toll roads. Ostensibly they were for well-heeled commuters who wanted to get from one place to another quickly without being caught in traffic jams like less-provident drivers on other lanes. In reality their main purpose was to allow police and other first responders to get from here to there more quickly. As a Parahuman with Hero status, Daria was allowed to use those highways and, since the roads were dry, she revved up her motorcycle and blew past less-important motorists on the other side of the divider.

Daria made very good time to Baltimore and to the PRT facility. She rode into the PRT garage and parked. She noted a suspiciously familiar red Jeep parked two spaces down.

She got out and went in, passing the first security barriers. There was a receptionist as well as a couple of PRT troopers toting heavy-duty weaponry and wearing thick body armor. She checked in, using her key card as well as the facility's biometric scanner.

She went into the locker room and changed into her uniform. Cynic was now on the job. She looked at her image in the mirror and smirked My, my, Morgendorffer, you've sold out and become body-conscious, she thought. She hadn't thought that regular workouts would change her body image. Her butt was a little too big but otherwise who cared?

She came out and there was a Protectorate staffer in civvies waiting for her. "They want you in the briefing room," he said.

She walked down the hallway and entered the conference room. Lady Columbia was out of the room. Stronghold, the leader of the Baltimore—Wilmington Parahuman Response Team, saw her and gave her what must have been a glower under his helmet. Daria glanced around the conference room and recognized several other Capes in the conference room: a mix of wards and grown-ups. Some she'd met, others she hadn't.

"Good afternoon, Jefe," said Cynic.

"Cynic!" barked Stronghold.

"Yes, Jefe," she said.

"What do you know about Highland, Texas?" said Stronghold.

"Too much," said Daria. "My parents moved there when I was three and I went to school there until a few months after my sixteenth birthday." I also Triggered there a couple of weeks before my family moved away from there, but you don't need to know that.

"Could you still find your way around there?" asked Stronghold.

"Probably," Daria replied. "Of course I moved away before I learned how to drive. Why do you ask?"

She did not like the way this conversation was going She had a sinking feeling that some sort of Parahuman or natural disaster had hit Highland. She couldn't think of an Endbringer bothering with the place, even for practice.

"Are you aware of recent developments in Highland?" asked Stronghold.

"No, sir," Daria replied. "I left Highland in my mental rearview mirror when we moved away. I haven't thought about that shit hole since."

"Well, let's see if this can refresh your memory," said Stronghold. The main video screen activated, first showing a satellite image that Daria recognized as being Highland, Texas.

Oh, crap, thought Daria.

-(((O-O)))-

It was video, raw footage from somebody's personal video camera.

It started out with somebody giving a panting, frightened narration that they were in Highland, Texas and that their town was being devastated by monster mutants. The camera panned around to show fireballs flaming into the sky and people running away in fear for their lives.

Piss-poor camera-work, thought Daria.

The shouting and screaming grew louder as people screamed in terror or tried to run away.

Brave man, thought Daria, but you really should have skedaddled a lot sooner.

The camera panned away from the terrified narrator and the panic-stricken mob fleeing in terror to the menace they were fleeing.

"I AM CORNHOLIO!" shouted the giant Beavis. "YOU CANNOT ESCAPE THE ALMIGHTY BUNGHOLE!"

Daria heard the crashing, crunching noises as Cornholio stomped his way through town, stomping on buildings and occasionally on cars and trucks. The video cut to an aerial view; someone must have used his R/C airplane to videotape the idiot making his way through town. The thought of a giant stomping through Highland was bad enough. The thought that it was a giant Beavis stomping through was even worse.

Was he just by himself, or did he have company, she asked herself.

Her question was answered in a second. We like Fye-Yur! Fye-Yur is COOL!" shouted another voice, sickeningly familiar. This one was normal size, but looked like Butthead, only slightly older than she remembered him. Butthead shot bursts of fire first in one direction, then in another, then at the unknown cameraman who dropped his video-camera and either died or fried.

The film ended with some Texas state official announcing that Highland had been declared a disaster area and had been cordoned off.

The lights came back on.

"Do you recognize those two?" asked Stronghold.

"Yeah, I recognize them," said Daria. "When the Hell did those two Trigger?" she asked.

-(((O-O)))—

Stronghold gave her no answer. Instead, he directed his attention to someone else in the conference room.

"VIXEN!" he said. "YOU'RE LATE!"

"Sorry!" said a high, squeaky voice.

This keeps getting better and better, thought Daria. She'd wondered who Tall Vixen might be. She turned around to see what Vixen looked like. Tall Vixen was tall, with blond hair, a high, squeaky voice, a large bust, pony tails. Her suspicions were dead-on. Daria recognized her immediately.

"Vixen, when the briefing starts, I want you in here and sitting down!" said Stronghold.

"OK, OK," said Tall Vixen.

"We were discussing the Highland situation with someone who'd been there," said Stronghold.

"Like she's from there or something?" said another Cape. Daria took a deep breath, then exhaled. Remember, girl, she told herself, not having brains does not disqualify someone from becoming a Cape.

"Yes," said Stronghold. "Team, this is Cynic. She grew up in Highland."

Daria was still uncomfortable being the center of public attention. She stood up and said "Hi!".

Vixen looked at her. Daria saw her mouth drop open.

"YOU!" she said.

"Me," said Daria.

-(((O-O)))—

"You two can do your introductions later," said Stronghold. "We've got business to take care of."

"OK, people," he said, addressing the entire room. "The Governor of Texas has asked the Protectorate to supply heroes who are familiar with Highland and familiar with the Paras we are facing. Since we have at least one Hero who is familiar with the area, we are going to be sending in some of our people."

Daria knew all too well who one of those people was going to be. Oh, joy, she thought.

Another hand went up.

"Excuse me, Sir," said another Cape. Daria noted that the voice was young and didn't have all that much self-confidence either. "Do they have any people who are familiar with the threat?"

"Good question, Fly-Girl," said Stronghold. "We have footage of someone who knew these two before they triggered and has dealt with them for years." He activated the video-screen and it projected a image of David van Driesen.

Daria's immediate reaction was to do a face-palm.