And remember, if you join the Legion, you get this free collectible luggage as a free gift…
Daria shoved her new clothes into a large black carry on. Things were still cool between herself and Helen, and Daria suspected they wouldn't be warming up any time soon. Helen and Daria had made an unwritten pact to avoid any mention of Daria's running away. It was easy to do, since the agreement of Dr. Burchell to follow up with Daria in Lawndale two or three times solved the medical problem that led to Daria's escape from Lawndale. Unfortunately, no agreement could resolve Daria's lack of trust of her mother.
And what was worse, Daria suspected that Helen didn't trust her, either.
Someone knocked at the door. It was the staccato rhythm that Jane used.
"Hey." Daria put her notebook in the large bag. "So, are you returning to slavery at Lawndale High School? Jane, there's no rule that says you have to go."
"Yeah," said Jane, "but I don't really care much for Utah. Or winter. Or snow. Or big empty mansions. Besides, with your powers I really can't wait to see what happens next."
"Or who it happens to."
"Say Daria," said Jane, "have your parents figured out what's going on here?"
"No. Not even after they watched the tape from last night. The evidence was right in front of them and Mom and Dad just discounted it. Dad spent an hour telling stories about his magic act at Buxton Ridge."
"Are you going to tell them?"
"No," said Daria, "because Quinn can't keep a secret. I'll just start a Utah cabin fund to replace the Montana fund."
"You know it was really nice here…learning how to fly and everything. The powers weren't too bad, if you knew what you were doing with them."
Daria sighed. "Say, Jane…what do you think happened to that other guy? You know the British guy? The one we had to let get away?"
"The what now?"
Daria closed her eyes and let them roll inside her eyelids. "You know, the three assholes on the plane flight. The one that shot at you, for example."
"Well," said Jane, "I figured the Feds got the shooter. Quinn might have fried the one guy and they sent him to the hospital. And the other guy got away because we were in a lot of trouble."
"You know," said Daria, "Russell Stark left here without any escort. Maybe we should have done something to help him."
"What are you thinking?" said Jane, arms crossed. She knew that Daria was having another of her 'moments'.
"Just this. All of our lives, all of this crap at school and at home we've had to take, we always had the best excuse in the world. Namely, that it was all out of our hands. The opinions of two outcasts from the pool of popularity and sports don't mean squat. We didn't really have power, and I'm not talking about mind reading or magnets. None of our opinions ever mattered for anything."
"And now, they do." Jane tried to guess where this was going.
"No…they don't. They still don't. But we do have power for the first time, and that forces people to listen to us, whether they want to or not. We have the cash, and we have these nuisance powers. Russell Stark got us out of a bad situation, and I'm starting to feel really guilty about it."
"Well, I don't think we can be his bodyguards," answered Jane, "he left us by ourselves for a reason."
"I just want to tie up loose ends," said Daria. "And as soon as we tie up that last loose end, this thing is over. I don't want to entertain anyone with this power, I don't want to be anyone's spokesman with it."
"But you're all about finding this assassin. So how do you plan that without your parents stopping you? 'Hey, Mom, I'm out to catch a killer, can you leave the key under the mat when I get back?'"
"We do this one thing, and I'm back to being a model student again."
"Until you wake up the neighborhood with one of your bad dreams." Jane continued.
Daria didn't have an answer for that. Jane was very worried that this mind-reading ability of Daria's was essentially uncontrollable. Sure, Daria was better at turning it on and off, but Daria wanted to avoid all of the moral conundrums caused by the power by hiding in a corner and claiming that they didn't exist.
"Dah-RIAAAAA!" shouted Quinn from somewhere outside the room. "Time to go!!"
(la la LA la la)
Daria, Jane and Quinn carried their large black bags outside. Helen and Jake and Dawn Hall waited as a limousine pulled up to the large circular drive.
"Dawn, how can we ever thank you for bringing our family back together?" said Helen, glad that the misadventure was finally over.
"No problem." The smallish Dawn Hall embraced the older woman. "You can really thank Russell Stark for that. I was just happy to take over in his stead."
"I'm going to miss Utah…the snow…the ski lodges…the really cute boys…." Quinn had built up an imaginary picture in her head, despite the fact that she hadn't even seen a flake's worth of snow since she arrived.
"There are 'cute boys' enough in Lawndale." Helen sighed. "I'm glad this is over."
"So…what happens to the Legion?" asked Daria.
"Well, one of the Quest executives will start work here in Utah. We'll buy property, put up a few buildings. And of course, as 'founders' of the Legion, you're welcome to come by at any time. However, everyone's aware that Lawndale is a long way away from Utah, so we understand that we'll be seeing each other infrequently."
"When homework and other obligations don't intrude," said Helen.
"Homework always intrudes…except, somehow, when Quinn is involved," said Daria. "And as for family obligations, there's always something that either you or Dad think up at the last minute, some dumb place that you want us to go on what free weekends we have."
"Daria," said Helen, "despite all that's happened – you're still our daughters. And we're still your parents. And you might be the heirs to a fortune, but you can't traipse back and forth from Lawndale to Utah whenever you want to. You and I both know that's quite impractical.
"I think Ms. Hall has it all under control for now. You're still an important part of Russell Stark's vision. I suggest that we go back to Lawndale. You can always call and decide to be involved in the Legion as much as you want or as little as you want! It's all up to you!"
Daria glared at Helen. "Except when the family trump card is pulled and it isn't up to us."
"What do you want, Daria? Your own private jet?" said Helen, holding her ground. "I'm not having you go to Utah whenever you want."
"Sweetie!" said Jake. "It's just that…if you're not in Lawndale, how are we going to know if you're safe or not?"
"That's right!!" Helen grabbed at the opportunity. "We care about you! And I think that all of us would feel better if you were closer to home!"
Jane and Trent watched the argument slowly start to build. Jane had already taken a few steps backward. Trent followed along.
"Janey," said Trent, "Dawn Hall doesn't look very happy."
Jane hadn't even noticed the impatient glare of Dawn Hall. "That is damn suspicious. I think that Dawn Hall and Helen Morgendorffer worked this plan out ahead of time. Keep us away from Utah. Keep Daria and Quinn at home, and keep all of us out of Quest's hair."
"So," said Trent, "why don't you say something?"
"Trent, Daria told me that the fights between her and her mother are the stuff of legends. If I get involved, what if Helen decides to get all parental and decides that I'm a 'bad influence'? Then it goes all nuclear."
"Which leads to another argument." Trent understood. "Too bad that Utah isn't closer to Lawndale. Else, there'd be no problem."
Jane watched Helen patiently explain her reasoning to a suspicious Daria. Quinn crossed her arms and tapped her feet as she waited for the force of parental obligation and common sense to drag Daria into the limo.
Jane decided to speak up.
"Ms. Hall…why is the Legion doing its business in Utah?"
Hall smiled. "Well, you're here, we're here, this is where Mr. Stark thought of the Legion. The price of land is good, there are major airports and communication isn't a problem."
"So…why isn't the Legion closer to Lawndale?"
"Jane, Lawndale is a suburb at least an hour away from any major airport. Lawndale just isn't big enough for the Legion."
"Uh…no offense…but aren't we the Legion?"
Dawn Hall didn't answer that. "The organization Stark envisioned was to be bigger than just three girls. It requires proper financing and proper supervision."
"'Girls'. 'Supervision'. I got ya." Jane had put the pieces of her own puzzle together. "The way I understood Stark, the three of us are the Legion. He made us his heirs, he gave us his money…and I think he hinted that you would try to run things."
Jane had made up her mind. "I want the Legion in Lawndale. The Legion will be in Lawndale. Move everything to Lawndale."
"You're joking!" Hall was aghast.
Jane smiled. It was time for Dawn Hall, for Helen Morgendorffer, for the rest of them to find out who was really running things.
(la la LA la la)
The limousine made its way to the airport.
"Daria," asked Quinn, "do you think that Jane will be coming along?"
"I don't know. She's probably still arguing with Dawn Hall." Go, Jane!
"I can't believe that Jane is so irresponsible!" said Helen, to no one in particular. "This is when we could have used Jane's parents!"
"If you could find them," said Daria. "If you find an atlas of countries, I would start with 'A'."
"Don't make jokes, Daria. Stark's will could still be contested."
"Exactly. But there's the risk that we stand to inherit nothing if you do that. And Dawn Hall won't do that because she has to answer to Russell Stark."
"Daria," said Helen, "even if the Legion somehow does make its way to Lawndale, what I said before goes. Homework, school, social obligations come first."
"And the Legion comes after that. I got it." Just don't push too hard, Mom. Because next time, I won't have very far to run at all.
(la la LA la la)
Daria answered the doorbell.
It was Jane Lane, dressed in her red jacket.
"So tell me about the blow-by-blow."
"Dawn Hall screamed, stamped her feet. Threw a cellphone at the ground. I thought I'd knuckle under, but I looked at Trent. Trent later told me that he thought Hall looked pretty pathetic throwing a fit. I got that impression and I just held my ground."
"So it's moving to Lawndale, then?"
"Yup. They're going to build Legion Tower at the site of the old quarry. We might not see much of Dawn Hall though. I think she's washed our hands of us."
"Don't bet on it." Daria and Jane sat down on the sofa. "Hey…Jane…I'm still thinking about that guy we let go."
"Well," said Jane, "I don't think we could arrest him…we don't have guns or anything…."
"Maybe so. But I want to know who tried to kill Russell Stark. When that happens, I can put everything to the side again."
"Okay. I have a question. Did Nancy Drew have a partner?"
"Well, she had George and Bess."
"Fine. I think I'll be 'Bess'. So, since this is your big idea, how do we go about it?"
"What we need is a passenger list. Then we go through the list and figure out who everyone is. The Brit stands out."
"And we knock on his door?"
"Or his head. And you do have a list of magic phone numbers."
"Yeah," said Jane, "there is that. Are you wanting to make some calls? You know, if you could get a list, we could just call the guy and ask him to turn himself in."
"Sounds good to me," said Daria. "I just want to throw a scare into this bastard. If you don't want to call someone, I will."
Jane pulled out a folded-too-many-times piece of paper. "Knock yourself out."
"Hmm. Let me keep this. If I put this list in your hands, it might end up as paper-mache."
"By the way, amiga, you do know that tomorrow is a school day?"
"Yeah," said Daria. "The fact crossed my mind."
"And your parents still don't know yet."
"No. I'm hoping that with the blood pressure monitor and my…uh…concentration techniques that I won't flip out too badly."
"Don't come without me. You might need someone to get you out of there fast."
"No problem. What I'm hoping for is a low-key arrival. We pass under the radar. No questions. No admirers. Nothing."
From above the stairs, Quinn listened in on the entire conversation. She was angry. Daria and Jane had already cut her out of their plans to get the "third gunman". She was as much a part of the Legion as anyone else, and every day, it seemed that Daria and Quinn wanted her to earn her place, and treated her with contempt most of the time.
As for the low-key arrival…well, Quinn wasn't going to break the news to Daria. Let her find out for herself. At least one of the three would be prepared.
(la la LA la la)
"So what's your excuse?" said Jane to Daria as they walked towards Lawndale High. "Mine is that I wanted to come to school, but I was kidnapped by Arab sheikhs."
"I think Dawn Hall already took care of that with Ms. Li. Remember the kickback?"
"Oh yeah. We roll into Lawndale High. Incognito. The perfect crime."
Daria and Jane heard what appeared to be martial music in the background. "Lawndale High School Marching Band practice?" said Jane.
The two turned the corner.
"WELCOME LEGION" bedecked the entrance of Lawndale High School.
Immediately, the high school band broke into the "Lawndale High School Fight Song" (the "Liberty Bell March" by Sousa) as Daria and Jane turned the corner. Applause broke out.
"Oh, hell!" said Daria.
"So much for 'the perfect crime'," said Jane. The two gingerly walked forward, bemoaning their fate.
Breaking from the crowd was Angela Li. "Ms. Morgendorffer! Ms. Lane! Let me be the first to say that speaking for the rest of Lllllawndale High, you have brought glory and honor to these hallowed halls with your selfless, charity work!"
Timothy O'Neill rushed forward to join her. "Jane! Daria! I can't believe that you could be so selfless, that you've finally blossomed from shrinking violets to full-fledged civic and community leaders! That you're ready to – dare I say it – stand up to the world and say, 'here I am, I, a young person, ready to contribute to the building of a new world of happiness and hope!'"
"Those were the words I was looking for," muttered Jane.
"Think happy thoughts, Daria."
"What was that?" said Li.
"Oh nothing," said Jane, " It's just that the…uh...wrist cellphone Daria uses is ringing with another congratulatory call!"
"'Wrist cellphone?'" muttered Daria.
"Shut up. It was all I had."
"Hey Daria, Jane," said Jodie Landon, "glad to see you back. I just didn't think it would be like this!"
"Me neither," said Daria.
"Is there a way we can skip the speech?" said Jane.
"Well…there is a meeting with the student council in one hour. We're going to discuss how to spend the Legion's grant money. All five hundred dollars of it!"
"For the student council?" said Daria. "So how much did Li really get as a contribution?"
Jodie pointed up. Daria and Jane watched a lone sentry at a guard tower ringed with barbed wire.
"Listen," said Jodie, "it's either student council or listening to Ms. Li's speech."
"Student council sounds great!" said Jane. "Just find Daria a quiet place to rest." Daria, meanwhile, seemed lost in her own imaginary world, thinking about someone nice.
(la la LA la la)
"So I then told Russell Stark, it's like, hey! I mean, why not us! Why shouldn't the fashionable, popular people have a say in things in the world? It's not we're like, void of ideas or something!"
"Quinn, that is just so great!" said Stacy. "You're a real inspiration!"
"That rocks!" said Jamie.
"Yeah!" said Joey and Jeffy.
"And I said, there should like be a whole group of people leading young people to make the right decisions, like, is there a place for pleated pants among today's youth? And it was at that moment that Russell Stark decided to found the Legion!"
Quinn's admirers applauded.
"I certainly hope that you gave credit," said Sandi Griffin, "to the Fashion Club. It would be, like, really wrong if a person sold out her friends to a creepy old man with money."
"Why, Sandi! The Legion's ideas are the ideas of the Fashion Club! When Mr. Stark heard about the Fashion Club, and about your leadership, Sandi – "
Sandi Griffin turned green. The voices in her head were calling to her again.
"I…gotta go!" Griffin raced to the nearest girls' bathroom. The others watched her go.
"Gee, what's wrong with Sandi?" whispered Quinn to Stacy.
"Sandi's been sick almost since you left. And Tiffany doesn't look that great, either."
The two looked at Tiffany. Tiffany's makeup was caked on so thick it might has well have been a death mask.
(la la LA la la)
we're sick…we're sick…we're sick
Sandi bolted into the girls' bathroom. It was empty. Everyone was listening to that stupid speech. Perfect!
Quite unfashionably, Sandi grabbed the commode and hurled up her breakfast, coughing and hacking all the way. Her bare midriff shirt had rolled almost up to the bottom of her bra, but she wouldn't have cared. Anything to stop the nausea, and the echo that was now going off in her head.
If someone had walked in behind Sandi, they would have seen something beyond the obvious, beyond some teenage girl throwing up.
The vertebrae of Sandi's thin back temporarily disappeared. They were replaced with a face bulging from Sandi's back, as if trapped under her skin. It tried in vain, to speak, almost caught in a grimace of agony and pain. The face subsided and finally disappeared, and Sandi rested her face against the commode lid, glad the puking and the voices in her head were gone once again.