Entering her fourth year of companionship with the entity Tawhirimatea, Daria had traveled all over the Earth searching for a way to banish him once and for all. She had been wholly unsuccessful with every one of her efforts to date, including the first effort, which had eradicated her best friend's brother (and one-time crush) Trent.

Most recently, she found herself in London, studying a Christian text on exorcism dating back to the sixth century, AD. She hardly paid it any mind, though, since she recognized it was a variation of a technique performed by Celts several hundred years earlier -- and that technique hadn't worked for her, either.

She felt the hairs on her arms raise, and an enraged snarl from within her own head.

'What now?' she asked of her companion.

'Another usurps,' it uttered cryptically.

'What do you mean?'

'Reach out, feel the Earth.'

Daria did.

She had discovered over the years that Tawhirimatea's dominion over thunder, lightning, wind, clouds, and storms gave her a number of unusual abilities, one of which was sensing the Earth's magnetic fields. She reached out and felt the subtle nuances of the fields. Normally they were rather benign, vibrating subtly, much like the tide of the seas.

This...this was a tsunami, an ever-rising wave of force she felt would drown her if given half a chance.

She withdrew with a shudder. "Did you do this?" she asked aloud.

'No, it is another,' it replied, angry. 'Find and kill it.'

Daria thought for a minute, then shook her head. 'I don't think it's another spirit. No, this feels like...' She trailed off.

She examined her memory for reference to what would cause a sharp increase in Earth's magnetic field...and what it would do.

One possible cause was a shutdown of the Earth's core...then Daria realized that was the plot of a terrible movie from several years ago and discarded it.

A nearby star could have gone supernova, bombarding Earth with massive quantities of gamma radiation. That would create an EMP effect, frying every circuit on the side of Earth facing the destroyed star, as well as giving all life on that side of the planet a dose of radiation many times above the lethal amount. It was unlikely that the sun itself had gone nova, as the planet hadn't been blasted out from under her feet yet.

She lay the text down and ventured to the nearest window, looking up into the night sky. The sun had just set three hours ago, but it seemed to be rather bright out. She realized it was the moon: It was brighter than normal.

It was sunspots, then. Unlikely to be an extinction level event, but the sheer enormity of the increase of Earth's magnetic field worried her very much. There might be a loss of power for a few days, and people went nuts if they weren't wired up 24/7. She decided that, for the time being, it would be a good idea to leave London.

She informed Dr. Loomis (the man who had kindly let her examine the book) that she was done reading it and quickly made her way to the hostel where she stayed.

Two of her roommates -- a man and a woman, both 19, turned when they saw her. "Hey, it's Melody," the man observed.

"Melody, we got some pot. Want to try it out?" the woman asked.

"Uh, thanks for the offer, but I actually have to get going," Daria brushed them off.

"Ah, that sucks. Oh well," the man shrugged. He and the woman moved over to the open window, where the smoke would waft out and not clue in the owner if he came in later.

Daria's belongings were few: Several notebooks for her diary and observations; a copy of Black Beauty, several manuals on learning foreign languages, a few sets of clothes, a sleeping bag, and an MP3 player. She was packed and out the door in three minutes.

As she rode a bus out of the city, she stared out the window into the night sky once more, and this time noticed an aurora borealis forming. Soon enough, the other (awake) passengers of the bus noticed, and oohed and aahed at the spectacle. Daria merely closed her eyes and attempted to get some sleep.

XXXX

Daria opened her eyes to see the sky was steadily brightening; dawn was on its way.

As she sat up, stretched, and yawned, the bus pulled to a stop in the middle of a small town that didn't seem to have any buildings higher than three stories. Daria was about to ask the name of the town when the sun crested the horizon.

She screamed as her entire body suddenly felt like it was on fire. Her body began seizing, which made her to fall on the floor, breaking contact with the metal wall of the bus. The floor, fortunately, was not metal, but it took Daria another few moments to gather what had just happened.

The bus driver was slumped over the steering wheel, dead. Daria felt it fortunate that he hadn't decided to die while the bus was still in motion. She wondered what killed him, and decided to 'reach out' again, checking to see if he had a pacemaker.

She was shocked to discover it had exploded in his chest.

Indeed, only now she realized the true extent of the flare-up. This had to be the most intense solar flare mankind had ever observed. The comparison to a tsunami had been more than apt, she realized, as she did in fact feel as if she were drowning now. Of course, it would be impossible for her to drown in it...she hoped.

She began to smell smoke, and noticed it coming up from the hood of the bus. She had to get off now, before the whole vehicle went up in flames.

Normally, she was reluctant to use the less subtle abilities granted to her by Tawhirimatea, but she had no choice in the matter now: She harnessed the nearby electromagnetic fields and nudged the doors of the bus open.

They flew off nearly too fast for Daria to see. They both hit a brick wall that the side of the bus was facing, leaving a significant crack in the masonry. Inside, she felt Tawhirimatea grin, a wolf's grin.

'You right, not another. Another would never gift me such power,' he gloated.

Daria ignored him and took stock of the area.

Numerous fires had already started around the small town. Wires igniting, Daria figured, from the massive output of EM energy. She didn't hear any emergency sirens...in fact, the only sounds she could hear was the burning of buildings, and the screaming of injured people.

Daria realized this scene must be replaying itself in every single modern city in the world, and suppressed the urge to vomit.

In her mind's eye, she pictured Lawndale turned into a burning hell by the sun's new fury, its citizens being electrocuted or burned to death. She imagined her mother talking to Eric on the phone, only to have the earpiece rupture, shooting bits of plastic and metal into her mother's head. Her father, in his SUV on the way home from work, losing control of the car from it dying or being shot full of enough electricity to power the town, and either being burned to death or crushed in the ensuing pileup.

Quinn...she didn't even know where Quinn was. California was the last she had known, and that was years ago, when she was still Daria Morgendorffer.

As she surveyed the devestation, she made a decision. She could not help the people in this town -- anybody dying would almost certainly die with or without her intervention. She wanted to stay on the move.

She wanted to find her family.

XXXXXXXXXX

Ah, I didn't really ponder hard for what the sequel to Schismatic would be until I saw the challenge thing TAG posted on the Fandom Blog Mk. II.

It's a shared multiverse dealie, in which any author is free to write a story in which a solar flare of apocalyptic proportions strikes out at the Earth. You can check it all out here: /daylight.html

But yeah, I'm excited to where I can take this. In fact, with the world now effectively over, I wonder if Daria would even want to rid herself of Tawhirimatea...