Quinn Morgendorffer whistled to herself. She hated to admit it, but she had not missed Daria at all during the past week while Daria was staying at the hospital again. The doctors had not found any abnormal brain activity with their machines – Quinn could tell the doctors a story or two about Daria's abnormal brain.
So Daria was coming back home. Quinn had put the dishes away, taken out the trash, and did all the skut work that Helen had asked her to do. It was the only benefit of Daria's return that Quinn no longer had to do the work of two people.
Quinn, however, had been far from bored.
She had new bedside reading material, namely, "A Guide to Electricity for Dummies" and "The Junior Scientist's Manual". She hated to think of herself as a dummy, but she was a sophomore, so the scientist's manual was one grade level above hers, and easy to read, too!
If anyone had taken a peek inside, they would have found, in addition to Quinn's two fuzzy looking sable bookmarks, a lot of pink and purple highlighted passages. Since she had been given this really cool power, she was going to learn as much as she could about it, as she had to get those books back to the library in two weeks.
But the fun part of life was the old Lawndale Quarry. Talk to the parents. Say hi to Daria. Call Sandi, Stacy, and Tiffany. Schedule "dates" for the future. And, while they all think you're at Chez Pierre, sneak off and light up the world. In the literal sense.
(la la LA la la)
Jake pulled the Lexus into the Citgo gas station. Helen sat in the front seat while Daria and Jane sat together in the back. Helen was doing enough talking for the three of them. Jane remained quiet, and Daria sat motionless, eyes closed behind her glasses.
Whistling "Jellico Songs for Jellico Cats", Jake put his Visa card into the card reader.
ERROR – SWIPE CARD AGAIN.
Jake stopped whistling. Annoyed, he tried it again.
ERROR – SWIPE CARD AGAIN.
"Lousy damn Visa card! Helen! I need another card!"
"What's wrong Jake? It's stripey side to the left!"
"I know it's stripey side to the left!"
"Well then you have the card in upside down!"
"I do not!"
"Oooooo!" Helen sighed. "Your father!…Daria, how are you feeling?"
"You'd better take Dad inside. I think I have a migraine coming on."
"Of course, honey." Helen smiled, trying to make Daria happy. "Shall I get you something to drink, Jane?"
With that, Helen went to console Jake, who was now arguing with the pump as the other patrons began to back towards their cars, slowly.
Alone in the car, Jane turned to Daria. "Migraines, hm?"
"That's what the doctors call it. I don't think it's a real migraine. But it might as well be one. At least when things get bad, I can call it a migraine and stay in my room with the lights off."
"Did your Dad set it off?" Jane was concerned.
"Yeah. I can deal with Mom. I just have to never think of a blue bear. I recite Lewis Carroll backwards in my head and I can shut her out completely. Dad…Dad just overwhelms me. He's filled with anger and fear all the time. I don't have much of a defense against those people."
"Gee." Jane didn't know what to say. "Do you think you can go back to Lawndale High?"
"To be honest…no. And I don't think this 'Imitrex' is going to help me any." Daria sighed. "It's always someone else's lack of brain power that proves to be my downfall."
"At least you'll be home with Quinn. No brains there to bother you."
"Maybe we could invite the Fashion Club over. I could learn brainlessness from the masters. Take lessons from Kevin."
"Eh," said Jane, "I'd rather have the headaches."
(la la LA la la)
Scented potpourri. Flowers. Air freshener. Daria's homecoming would be complete. Quinn was almost giddy at the prospect, for her own reasons. Too bad Daria would never notice any of the home touches.
The doorbell rang. Quinn bounced over to greet everyone.
"Hiiiii!!" An outsider would have thought that Quinn was the perfect loving daughter.
"Quinn, the place looks wonderful!" said Helen. "Don't you think so, Daria?"
:-hee hee I've got a secret I've got a secret I've got a secret I've got a secret…!!!-:
Quinn chattered a streak. "Hey, Daria! I put up black curtains in your room, because I know that you li-ike everything in black! And I'll keep quiet so you don't suffer from any migraines!!"
Daria started to worry. "Uh…thanks, Quinn. I'll do the same!"
"Who's up for some dinner from Chef Jake?" said Jake.
"What's Chef Jake cooking?" said Jane. Anything was better than what was home.
:-I can't wait to get out of here and get down to the quarry where I can try my cool stuff out-:
Daria stayed quiet. She thought, "Cool stuff?" Now, she was intrigued. This gave her the opportunity to get Quinn in serious trouble, and that always brought a smile to Daria's face. Whatever Quinn was into now, it probably broke every Family Court rule in the book.
"Chef Jake's barbecue ribs with special Jake sauce!"
"I think I'd stay for just the sauce!" said Jane.
"Jake, remember the last time you made ribs? And everyone got sick?"
:-I could cook up those ribs in a jiffy with what I can do now it is so awesome and I am so cool-:
"Not everyone! Four people is not 'everyone'!!"
:-weird sounds of buzzes, zaps, and pops-:
"Mom…Dad…I'm starting to get a major headache. And I think I need Jane's help to get up the stairs."
"See Jake?" shouted Helen. "See what you did?"
"My ribs aren't that bad!!"
Jane held Daria's shoulder as the two of them sought the comfort of Daria's room. Daria liked the black wall-length curtains but she'd never tell Quinn that. Helen and Jake continued the argument about Jake's cooking skills.
Jane growled. "What's going on, amiga? I almost had ribs!"
"Shhh!!" Daria shushed Jane into silence as she flipped off the light switch.
"Sorry!" whispered Jane.
"I don't know what the hell's going on with Quinn…but she's hiding something."
"You read her mind?"
"I couldn't help it. She's the easiest person on earth to shut out. Trust me, Quinn's mind is too small a place for any human to be trapped in. During her thankfully brief visits while I was laid out, I turned off Quinn's fashion broadcasts. But right now, her thinking is too damn perky to be stopped. It's some kind of secret that involves hanging out at the quarry."
"She's making a lot of weird noises in her head too, like sound effects. You know what they say, Jane. 'Curiosity filled the cat'. I intend to find out what's going on out there. And that means following her."
"And you need me for…?"
"You're just afraid of the quarry."
(la la LA la la)
Daria was home no longer than three days when the opportunity presented itself.
"Quinn, leaving so soon?" Helen looked in the refrigerator for her power drink.
"I have a study session with Stacy!"
Daria raised an eyebrow. "Study session with Stacy? That's an oxymoron. No, that's just two morons."
Quinn giggled. "You'll have to study too, Daria, with all that school you've been missing! Later!"
:-quarry day!! time to zap a puppy!!-:
Daria blinked. "What a what?"
Helen turned to Daria. "What did you say?"
"Uh…nothing. And I now have a splitting headache. I suggest that no one bother me. For a few hours, at least. I'll send up a flare if I need anything."
Daria left the room as Helen searched for her drink. Daria then reentered the room, grabbed a bag of potato chips, and some pop tarts. Suitably fortified, she then went to call Jane.
(la la LA la la)
Jane picked up the phone. "Hello?"
"Hello? Dammit!" Jane slammed down the phone. CDs weren't working. All of her good video tapes had been erased. Prank phone calls, sometimes a dial tone, sometimes no one on the line at all. Her hard drive had crashed that afternoon and it looked like a complete system meltdown, nothing but the black screen of death. Maybe Daria could fix it.
"Who would be calling?" thought Jane. "The band? None of Trent's friends can afford a phone. It's got to be Daria." Jane put on her jacket and prepared to go over on the off chance.
As she left the kitchen, she heard a horrible crash behind her. Jane ran into the kitchen. Maybe Trent had left something on the kitchen table. Maybe the weak leg needed to be propped up with some more coasters.
It was the utensil drawer. It was wide open, and the cutlery was all over the floor. Jane figured she'd clean it up later. No sense it giving it a second thought.
(la la LA la la)
"Zap a puppy?" Jane continued chewing on the pop tart.
"I have no idea what that means." The two continued walking past the entrance to the old quarry and Daria slid between the gate and the chain link fence, holding the gap open for Jane. "Maybe it's drugs. Like 'smoke a bowl'? Quinn on drugs would be a waste of drugs."
"Maybe it means something else," said Jane, shoving the remaining pop tart in her pocket. "Like, I don't know, 'choke your chicken'…'flick the bean'…."
flicking the bean sounds really good…it's been a while
Daria turned red. Jane's thought wasn't meant to be read by anybody. She hoped Jane didn't notice.
"Uh…how are we going to find Quinn?" said Jane.
"I don't know. I thought we'd get some fishing line and drag a Cashman's platinum card through the quarry. This place is really creepy. I heard that there were gangs out here."
"There aren't any gangs out here." Jane snorted.
if you met anyone out here you didn't know you'd wet your pants
"Let's get this over with." Daria was insulted by Jane's thought. Too many people drove Daria crazy. And now, too few people. She figured this had to be a bad idea.
The walk was interrupted by the loud sound of rocks crashing to earth from somewhere in the distance.
"Blasting?" asked Daria.
"They closed this place before I was born. I'll bet that's Quinn!"
(la la LA la la)
Daria and Jane turned the corner from behind the hill. Quinn had set out some paper plates at varying distances several yards from her backpack. She was happily humming to herself as she worked.
"Is she reliving her inner childhood?" said Jane. "Is Mr. Wiggly going to have tea?"
Quinn pulled out a stuffed pig from her backpack.
"One lump of sugar, or two?" whispered Daria. "C'mon, let's sneak up on her and scare the crap out of her. Quinn will jump fifty feet."
Quinn was lost in the moment. The two girls crept up from their ground cover. Quinn placed the stuffed pig near her feet.
Daria and Jane crept closer behind her. Quinn paid no attention to the soft noices. Daria and Jane were about twelve feet away…closer…closer.
Quinn's pupils constricted.
Quinn aimed her left arm at a plate on the left side. Pointing her finger, blue lightning shot out of her fingertips, igniting the plate.
Cocking her finger like a gun, a more powerful bolt from her right index finger fried another plate. She aimed at the plate further in the distance, and fried it, too. Bullseye!!
Quinn turned, aiming her left finger at the plate in her far field of vision. She crouched down, like a tiger, and zapped.
"Gaahhhh!!!" squealed Quinn. She aimed both arms at the plate, a furious lightning display causing small pebbles to leap up yards away from her. The plate evaporated in the onslaught.
Quinn then grabbed the pig, and threw it as far as she could. She followed its path with her eyes, aimed both index fingers like guns – and two ugly looking arcs of bluish electricity soon found their targets.
Mr. Wiggly was now bacon. Nothing was left of him but his hooves.
"Wooooo!!!" Quinn felt like she ruled the world.
Daria and Jane stood behind an oblivious Quinn. They were completely slack jawed.
Quinn turned around to her backpack. It was then that she noticed the two intruders. Her limited emotional range went from surprise to confusion to fury.
"What---are YOU doing here?!?"
Jane was caught by surprise. "I…uh…I…!"
"Don't sneak up on me!" Quinn screamed. "I could have killed the both of you!!"
QUINN, you're a MORON. With a capital M!
Quinn blinked. "I…I'm not a moron!! And who are you to talk to me like that, Daria?"
If I were a paper plate, I'd be scared! Did you know how stupid this is? What if you get caught? What are you going to tell anyone? What are you going to say?
"I can take care of myself!" Quinn shouted to a furious looking Daria. "I'd say…I'd…wait a minute!" Quinn looked weak. "You…you said it…but…you didn't move your mouth! You didn't say anything!"
"What the hell is going on here?" said Jane. Each of the three girls was as perplexed as the two others. It would be many awkward minutes of silence. Finally, Daria and Jane decided to leave. Quinn followed.
(la la LA la la)
The three of them had reconvened in Daria's room. Few words were exchanged between the three of them until the door was closed.
Jane was resentful. "I only thought you could read minds, Daria. I didn't know you could talk to someone only using your mind."
I didn't know either. Leave it to Quinn. She pissed me off, and I thought she was a moron. Quinn has the power to bring out the worst in me.
"I have a whole lot more power than that! I've been practicing!"
Are you going to go to work for Lawndale Power and Light? A hard hat isn't fashionable. That's too much power for someone of your limited intelligence to deal with.
"At least I keep it to myself and don't go sneaking off into someone's head! That's just like you! I remember when you found my diary and sold the pages for five cents a copy! Well, I've got a thought you can read!"
Daria turned red. She squinted. Quinn could barely choke back a response, turning an even redder shade.
"All right, that's it!" shouted Jane. "Stop cutting me out!!"
Daria sighed. She lay on the floor, face up, finally covering her face with a pillow. "Crap, what are we going to do? My stupid sister is going to ruin it for all of us. In a week, they'll surround the house with torches!"
"I can be discreet!"
"Shut up, shut up the two of you! I'm sick of the fighting! You should just be glad that you're alive!!" Jane prepared to leave. She had had enough.
"Okay, so you can read minds, Daria." Quinn stood up. "Big frigging deal. So can you read minds, too, Jane?"
Jane stopped. It was the thought that bothered her, and had diminished her. She had barely come to grips about Daria. She had just learned about Quinn. And the scary thought is that she didn't know what she could do at all…if anything.
(la la LA la la)
"Why am I out here?" asked Quinn. The sheer walls of the old quarry surrounded the three girls.
"I brought some suitable reading material," said Daria. She tossed her backpack to Quinn. Quinn unzipped it. Jane wondered if Daria was having another conversation with Quinn.
"Comic books? Eww! Geek!!"
"Shut up. We have to figure out what Jane can do…if she could do anything."
Jane smiled. "Maybe I'm the sidekick. I get to wear a mask and tiny little trunks."
"You wish," said Daria. "We'll start with the obvious. Flight." She pointed to a rock. "That's ten feet. Think you can climb it?" Daria took out a pad and a piece of paper.
"I've got nothing else to do today." It was a good thing Jane brought her workout clothes. Maybe it would take the mind off how little sleep she had gotten.
Daria kept her stopwatch running. Jane looked red.
"I don't think she has the power to hold her breath," said Quinn, dryly. Jane finally choked for air, panting rapidly.
"Nothing," said Daria. "No flight. No strength. No speed. No endurance."
"No kidding!" moaned Jane. She had the bruises to prove it. Trying to lift those rocks almost killed her.
"No mind powers. No X-ray vision. None of the comic book powers in the books, and none of the handful of powers that Quinn could think of. And no, 'super cuteness' is not a power."
"Just be glad – pant – just be glad I can't summon demons. Is that even a real ability? Dammit Daria, who reads comic books about that?" Jane sighed, and flopped to the dusty ground. "I've got to have some sleep."
"Trent keep you up all night?"
"No. He went to practice somewhere with 'better vibes'. I can't get any rest. I haven't gotten any sleep for two days. Stabbing pains in my back."
"Maybe it's Jane's special ability!" squealed Quinn.
"Back pain? I doubt it." said Daria.
"Let me take a look at your back!" said Quinn as she walked over to Jane.
"You'd better be careful. I have an ugly rash. You might catch it. I'm showering like crazy, but it doesn't go away. It's probably a burn from the accident."
Quinn pulled up the back of Jane's shirt. Daria watched Quinn at her ministrations.
"Riiiiiight…." said Quinn. It was not what she had expected to see.
"What? What is it?"
Jane's back was covered with scratches. Adhered to her back, just under her bra clasp, was a metal fork. Jane had been scratched with it multiple times, and had drawn some blood.
Quinn pulled at the fork. The fork didn't want to move. Quinn pulled the flat end of the fork away from Jane's back, but she could feel magnetic resistance, an invisible line of attraction between Jane's body and the fork. Quinn let go, and the fork slapped against Jane's back.
"What the hell are you doing back there?" said Jane.
"Uh…Daria…I think I just solved the problem." She knew that Junior Scientist's Manual would pay off someday.