Chapter 1

Jane walked down the sidewalk back to her house alone, like she did every day, like she had done for the last two years.

School sucks, she thought.

Not like it hadn't always sucked. But it seemed to suck more now than it had previously.

A lot more than it did previously. At least before I had someone to share it with.

Jane tied to stop herself before that train of though went any further. She'd said it to herself a million times before, and all it did was make her angrier and more depressed than she already was. Daria Morgendorffer had been her best- well, only- friend. But no matter now. Daria had disappeared two years ago after storming out of her house in a fit of rage over her dysfunctional family. No one had heard of her since. She hadn't even said goodbye to Jane.

Of course, foul play had been suspect from day one, but there wasn't much evidence to support the theory of a kidnapping. For one, no one had seen anyone suspicious around town lately. Even in a larger sized suburb like Lawndale, there were always those who had nothing better to do than watch for things that were out of the ordinary. And nothing had been reported. Not a peep. There had been a police investigation, but Daria had taken enough of her things with her when she left that she could conceivably have settled anywhere. That, and the police were notoriously lazy around here. Lawndale's finest, indeed.

Jane smirked, imagining Daria working as a librarian somewhere, sorting through the books, giving kids a hard time, and being herself in general.

But then Jane frowned. Somehow, she couldn't just accept that Daria had just had enough and moved out. Some things just didn't fit. Daria's favorite aunt, Amy, hadn't heard anything from her, either. Jane had talked to all the local bus drivers and train conductors, and even taxi drivers (the English speaking ones, anyway) and none of them could recall seeing a girl of Daria's description leaving Lawndale. And she didn't say anything to me, damn it! She was just... gone. Without a trace. Missing in action. AWOL. Disaparecido. Poof...

Jane forced her mind to go blank, not wanting to dwell on the subject. She turned her attention to the surroundings. It was an unseasonably warm afternoon in late autumn, and the sky was darkening as it sunk below the tree line. The trees were already far into their seasonal change of hue, and the sidewalk was littered with brightly colored leaves. A breeze blew and sent some of the leaves swirling into the air, like a little vortex of foliage. Jane inhaled deeply, to help herself keep calm. Guess Wind's yoga techniques are good for something. There was a scent of dead leaves in the air, and a little bit of cut grass. Some car exhaust and a wood fire rounded off the mix. There was also... ozone?

Sure enough, the distinctive, fresh smell of ozone filled her nostrils.  That's weird...

Before she could complete the thought, a brilliant flash of light erupted a few yards in front of her, accompanied by a roaring noise that felt like it was coming from deep inside her. Jane instinctively put up her hands in front of her face and turned away. It lit up the road like a second sun and was intensely white with a certain blue tint to it. The light kept up in intensity for a few seconds, and then faded along with the sound.

Jane blinked her eyes and tried to regain her bearings. She was still partially blinded by the flash. It figures, she thought. What more do I need to make this day complete besides nearly being blown up? Well, something like that. Come to think of it, what was that? She blinked her eyes again, her vision finally returning in full. She looked ahead, to where she thought the flash had originated, and noticed a large form on the ground. When she approached it, she noticed several things in rapid succession.

First, that the object was human, and alive, judging from the rising and falling of the chest.

Second, that the person was wearing a very unusual set of clothing. She (for it was a her- Jane could tell from the size of the chest area and the facial features) wore a large black trench coat with golden shoulder boards over a red and black vest. There was a medallion of sorts hanging from a ribbon around the neck, and the small collar, almost like a roman collar, held tight to the neck. She was also wearing shiny, knee high riding boots over her cargo pants, and the uniform was topped off by a black officer's cap that had a large golden double headed eagle pinned to the front. It had an eerily gothic look to it, which was complimented by the various skull icons that ornamented the uniform, like the buttons and the cufflinks.

Third, that the woman was very well armed. There were grenades and ammo pouches hanging from her belt, and a knife sheathed on her leg. In one hand, she held a large, ornate officer's saber that looked like it had seen a lot of action. In the other, there was a very large and dangerous-looking pistol. It was still smoking.

Jane, unsure of herself, but feeling curious, crept closer to the woman's prone form. From a distance she could see a large scar on the lady's face, running down from below the left eye, across the cheek, and down the neck. Then she noticed something else.

"It couldn't be..." Jane said, thinking out loud.

Jane rushed over to the lying form.

"It is!" She exclaimed. The unconscious mystery woman was none other Jane's best friend in the world, Daria Morgendorffer.