Daria waited for a few minutes as the can of Ultra Cola dispensed from the machine. "Ultra Cola – drink of the gods. They oughta have one of these on every street corner."
"I thought you hated Ultra Cola," said Jane.
"Listen," said Daria, "I'm learning to enjoy the ravages of caffeine addiction." Daria took off her glasses and rubbed her eyes. Looking at Jane, she said, "You still here?"
"Boy, I wished I lived an interesting life like you."
The silence of the empty cafeteria was interrupted by the sudden arrival of Kevin and Brittany. Brittany's hair looked like she had just come from an all-night make-out session. Kevin scanned anxiously in both directions, as if he expected Oakwood linemen at any minute.
"Damn! They're not here!" squealed Brittany.
Kevin turned to Daria and Jane. "Uh…you two haven't seen a really short guy…wearing green and speaking in an Irish accent?"
"He smells like beer!" added Brittany. "And his friend is tall and blond and he wears a diaper!!"
Daria and Jane looked at each other. "Wearing a diaper on school grounds?" asked Daria.
"That's a paddling," said Jane.
Kevin and Brittany looked at each other as if their lives depended on it. "Ms. Li's office!!" they exclaimed, and departed the cafeteria with alacrity.
Daria and Jane both watched the swinging cafeteria doors for a while. Slowly, Daria sipped from her can of Ultra Cola. "I gotta give these up," she said. "I'm starting to see things."
"Stupid things?" said Jane.
"You got it." Daria put the cola down and began rummaging through her backpack. She finally found the papers she was looking for.
"Parental emancipation came through, huh?"
"Very funny," said Daria. "This is that assignment that I needed to turn in to Ms. Barch. Late, but completed."
"Well, you know how Ms. Barch feels about late assignments," said Jane. "Those are against the rules. And you know we can't disobey the rules," added Jane with some sarcasm.
"I don't really have any other choice. I'm not going to slide by with a 'bye'. If Ms. Li wants to run the school that way, fine. But I don't have to take part in it."
"Then I guess I flunk that math test due next period, huh?" said Jane.
"I haven't studied. At all. My mind has sort of been distracted…by other things."
"Oh." The two stopped their walk. "Don't tell me you're going to take that 'bye'."
"Let me get this straight. We have Tiffany Blum-Deckler in one of our trailers, and you're worried about me squeaking by on a math test?"
"Can't I be worried about both?"
"You worry about everything," said Jane. "We had a chance to put a stop to this last year, but someone decided to leave things just as they were."
"Hey, you decided too!"
"Listen…I can run the Legion, or I can pass math. I don't think I can do both."
"Can you make up the exam? Tell them you're sick?"
Jane sighed. "Sure. Why not? I'll just go home and rest. I'll probably understand Side-Angle-Side just as well asleep as awake." As Jane tried to figure out what she would tell her math teacher, she knew that she would not be going home at all – she'd be heading to the Legion Trailer Park to see Tiffany.
(la la LA la la)
His name was Lou Cypher. Or at least, that's what he called himself. He thought it was a really clever pun, so clever that his license plate read 'DARK 1".
Since he found the Crystal over a decade ago, Cypher had been John Dynell's "odd job" man. He had just received a call – go to a sleepy suburban down called Lawndale and put a stop to a kid's service organization called 'the Legion'. Why Mr. Dynell would want to stop the Legion was beyond him. He saw the commercials; he probably would have joined up with the Legion when he was a teen if it existed just to get out of the house.
But a job's a job. As Cypher's black Trans-Am found the Lawndale exit, he figured that this wouldn't be much of a problem.
Undoubtedly, Mr. Dynell figured that Cypher would probably go to the site and start cracking heads and generally terrorizing the place. However, Cypher had been watching 'the Sopranos'. He needed to think really smart, like that Tony guy that he admired so much.
Lou figured that rather than do any of the dirty work himself, he would start at the top of Lawndale's power structure, and get them to do the work for him, just by being his bad-ass nasty self. The local officials would take care of the Legion, he would get the credit for it and not have to dirty his own hands, which were not feeling that great and suffered in ways that no pain pill on earth could cure.
Maybe Dynell would give him Lawndale as a present. "The Devil's Own City". That would look great on a sign.
(la la LA la la)
With Tiffany recuperating, it had become a rule – the Legion would meet whenever and wherever it could, depending on how much hassle Helen Morgendorffer gave Daria and Quinn. Jane figured that meetings should be held on weekends. The Fashion Club would have dates, and that would keep things under Jane and Daria's control. For once, there was some advantage in not having a boyfriend.
Stacy stepped into Daria's trailer. "Hey!" she said, smiling and looking down at the same time.
"Hey." Jane was still unsure of talking to the hyper-emotional Stacy.
"Uh…I'll just sit over here and take notes. Unless you want me on the couch! Or something!"
"No…that's okay. You can sit at the big people's table." Stacy quickly moved her backpack onto the table and begin looking for her notebook.
Sandi and Quinn stepped in the front door, together. Each of them carried large white boxes. Jane figured they had gone shopping at Cashman's before they made it to the Quarry.
"So, where's Daria?" said Jane.
"Uh…Daria got held up. Mom, you know." Quinn's eyes didn't meet Jane's. Sandi nodded as if to acknowledge Jane's presence, but barely.
Jane didn't care for Daria not being there. Daria should have at least called.
"Okay," said Jane. "There are a few things I need to bring up before Daria gets here."
"Uh," said Sandi, "excuse me, but as the President of the Fashion Club, a local civic organization recognized by Lawndale High School, I must object to meetings being so informal."
"If the Legion is to be successful, it must have a successful structure. Therefore, the first order of business is the reading of the order of old business," said Sandi, taking charge. "Stacy, you may proceed."
"Right! There was no Secretary of the Legion during the last informal meeting. Thus, no old business!"
"Thank you. We now proceed to new business."
"Okay," said Jane, "now, I need to – "
" – excuse me, Jane," said Sandi, all sweetness. "but before you proceed with your little thing, I would like to show everyone what's in the boxes that Quinn and I brought to this meeting of the Legion!"
Now Jane was curious. Sandi stepped over.
"The Legion's uniforms – if I must use that word – are nothing short of heinous. I have therefore come up with more suitable attire. Quinn, might I ask you for assistance?"
Quinn stood up and handed a box to Jane. "Jane, this is for you!"
Jane opened it. She saw what appeared to be her red set of scrubs. "This is just the stuff we always wear."
"Au contraire," said Sandi, using every bit of her high school French for effect, "I will have to make allowances for the fashion-impaired. First, Jane, if you'll notice that the neck is a square cut, which is more fashionable than a vee-cut. Second, you might notice the white turtleneck which is to be worn under the scrub with a small, fashionable, and cute miniature Legion logo on the right side of the neck, in contrast to the large unfashionable one on the left breast.
"Furthermore, these clothes are not of the 'one size fits all' variety that you and Quinn's cousin are so fond of. This clothing is fitted. Furthermore, I have maintained the primary color scheme that certain people were fond of, exchanging the orange color I was assigned for a much more fashionable burnt gold. Furthermore, your turtleneck is white, but not everyone has the same primary layer color. This provides us all-important color flexibility!"
"Okay, thank you Martha Stewart!" Jane had to get control of the meeting. "Now, as I was saying – "
"—Stacy, if you will hand out the agenda --!"
Stacy handed out canary-yellow pages of paper to everyone. Jane took a look at her paper.
"…call to order…old business…new business…vote on membership…assignment of Legion Media Specialist…public relations…." Jane looked concerned. "What the hell--?"
"In the future," said Sandi, "I would suggest that you look at the agenda more closely. Now, as I was saying, we might take up the topic of new business – with your permission, of course…."
(la la LA la la)
Cypher left the office of Mayor Mike Dunlap, the brother of ex-mayor Roy Dunlap. He had figured that Mike Dunlap would be a pushover, but boy was he wrong.
From Cypher's limited reading, he knew that the Dunlaps were Lawndale's political family. Almost every elected or appointed office in Lawndale had a Dunlap in charge of it. With Roy Dunlap under indictment for graft so blatant and so obvious that even the State had to wake up and take notice, the office fell to the head of the City Council, roly-poly Mike Dunlap.
Cypher expected the fat man to quake. He gave him his terms. If the Mayor played along, he'd get a $100,000 donation to his next mayoral campaign. All he had to do was to revoke the zoning permit that allowed the Legion to build an office tower in an industrial zone. Cypher didn't know (and didn't care) what kind of legal problems would ensue; the penalty for not playing along would be a horribly painful death.
The Mayor, however, had some balls. He ordered Cypher out of the office. Cypher was tempted to kill the man on the spot…but it would be too obvious who killed the bastard. Cypher wouldn't get farther with whoever replaced Dunlap, either. However, the fact that the Cypher could threaten someone and not be taking seriously made Cypher furious.
Before Cypher left Lawndale, he would wipe out the Legion's membership and take Mike Dunlap with him. Before the week had ended, everyone in town would know the name of the Dark Man who shook Lawndale to its core.
(la la LA la la)
Daria and Jane sat in Daria's room. Daria listened patiently.
"So that's why you weren't there," said Jane. "Thank God my parents aren't around to ask me to dust and vacuum. Trent and I breed dust bunnies for a living. So how did Quinn get out of it?"
"She didn't. We both have jobs around the house we're supposed to do. My job is to dust the living room and vacuum. I did it yesterday. When I got back, Mom told me it was as if I hadn't done anything at all. I look around, and the living room was filthy. I could write my name on the mantelpiece."
"So she made you stay and do the job?"
"Right," said Daria. "And I can't figure out how the living room got so dusty so fast. Although I'm starting to have my suspicions. So…how bad was it?"
"It was pretty bad." Jane sighed, and put her head in her hands, not to cry in defeat, but to rest the muscles of her face in exhaustion.
"So I'm not there at the meeting. Sandi and Quinn are. And they outvote you on new uniforms for the Legion, they make Tiffany a member, and they bring in Sandi's mom as a new Legion adviser. I don't see why you just didn't tell them to go to hell."
"I got close to it," said Jane. "But then they went on about how the Legion is not a dictatorship. I could have told them where to go, but…well, dammit! I don't want to be a dictator!"
"Right. So Sandi gets to be the dictator. If Sandi tries to run this group, I'm going to tell it where it can go and how fast it can get there. I'm surprised they left you as leader at all."
"I got lucky. Sandi wanted a vote of acclimation that she should be the leader." Jane stood up, now energized. "I asked them how they could vote me out if all of the members weren't there. Stacy then said there was no procedure for voting me out. Sandi told Stacy that there was no procedure for voting me in, either."
"I don't recall Russell Stark asking for a vote."
"Well, Sandi's asking for a vote. I mean…." Jane looked frustrated. "I mean, it wasn't like they took over or anything. Everything they wanted to do made some sense!"
"Except for the part about getting rid of you and choosing Sandi. And Sandi's mom."
Daria thought of Jane and Daria forming their own Legion – but that would just leave the Griffins in charge of everything.
"So Sandi said that as soon as you show up again, they'll hold a final election. And it's three against two…and I lose."
The two sat silently for a few seconds. "I don't understand it at all," said Daria. "How did you let this happen?"
"You've never had to deal with them all by yourself. It was like…an accessory-coordinated, cute, high school lynch mob! Sandi took over with her agenda and it was like I wasn't even there! I mean…."
Jane sighed. "I'm trying to make this thing happen the way Stark wanted it to! And think, Daria, he said we were the wave of the future. Or something. Suppose I had told Sandi to go to hell and I'll just run it my way! I become the Legion dictator! I don't think that's what Stark would have wanted!"
"So instead, you're going to let Quinn and her vacuous friends run everything into the ground."
"Maybe!" Jane shot Daria an angry look. "You could have done more to help, you know!"
"How? I was downstairs vacuuming! There was no way for me to get there!"
"Sure. You haven't even told your mom anything yet. And I'm trying to take care of Tiffany and I'm trying to make sense out of what we're supposed to do and I can't talk to Dawn Hall because she's pissed off and Trent can't do much more than help out and when I expect backup from you, all I hear is 'we can't take byes in class' and 'we have to worry about this and that', but you never have any solutions for anything! I feel like we're in a boat and every time I take the paddle, someone in the boat's paddling against me! Most of the time it's Quinn and her friends…but a lot of times, I think that's it's you, too."
Daria felt very guilty. "Look…I'll tell Mom. I will. I swear."
"Maybe it's too late for that. Maybe if you tell Helen, she'll put a stop to the Legion."
"No she won't. I won't let her. I'll threaten to run away again."
"Right. Then the police will put a stop to it. Or you'll freak out and get sick and…die."
The two were silent for a while. Daria sat up. "Hey. There was no procedure for voting you out, right."
"That's what they said. So they voted to wait until you got there and then they would figure out something. And sooner or later, you have to show up."
"Then we'll stall them until we come up with a plan."
"Yeah? Well, we need to come up with a plan by tomorrow at noon."
"Why's that," said Daria.
"Because Linda Griffin's recommendation was that we let the mayor give us the key to the city tomorrow. She's already scheduled it with Ms. Li."
"Great. Well…in that case, get me some Ultra Cola. It's time for me to pull an all-nighter again. Sandi Griffin's going to get all the rules that she can handle."