Daria nursed her drink as she listened to Trent play in the background. After Jane's disappearance six months ago, Trent had left Mystik Spiral and had ditched his electric for an acoustic -- instead of being in a Doors cover band, he was now a Johnny Cash cover act. (He hadn't improved, of course).

The larger mystery was what happened to the Lane household. Trent came home one evening to find the lot completely empty, save the mailbox -- the house, the sculpture in the front, even the damn gazebo in the back had been replaced with freshly-upturned dirt.

The most media attention had come from Sick, Sad World, which spun the story into a wild tale of alien abduction -- claiming extraterrestrials had taken the house along with Jane. Daria despised the show ever since.

Jane's disappearance had sent Daria into a serious depression, crippling her schoolwork. If her grades continued their downward trend in the upcoming semester, she would be booted from Raft. Not that she cared very much.

Daria finished her drink and sat the glass down on the bar in front of her. "Another?" the bartender asked quietly. (Technically, Daria's drinks were going on Trent's tab, but the Zon could still lose its liquor license if caught). Daria shook her head, slipped down from the stool, and headed for the exit.

She bumped into an older man as she passed into the frigid December air and began walking home. "Miss Morgendorffer?" asked the man she had passed.

Daria turned. It was Mr. DeMartino. "Mr. DeMartino?"

The teacher nodded. "I heard you were in town, Miss Morgendorffer, and I've been looking for you."

Daria was puzzled. "Why?"

"I believe I know where Miss Lane is."

XXXX

Daria opened her eyes and groaned; the light streaming in from the window made her head throb.

She sat up and made a face at the foul taste in her mouth. As she made her way to the bathroom, she considered the crazy dream she had last night. Mr. DeMartino had taken her to his home, and told her...things...about Jane, and where she was.

Crazy things.

After she brushed her teeth and popped two Excedrin, she sat back down on the bed and rubbed the bridge of her nose. "That's it. No more drinky-drinky for Daria. Gives you bad dreams."

She moved to the table where her computer had once sat and which now held her laptop from college. Next to the laptop was a stack of papers and books which had not been there the day previous. The book at the top was entitled "A Brief History of Lawndale", by Lauren Gupty. A bookmark tempted her; she opened it to a passage on Lawndale's founding as a mining community in the 1850s.

She looked through the stack further. Blueprints for sewers, for sewer expansions; a pamphlet on an extensive fallout shelter built under the city; a book of myths handed down by Native Americans living in the region; and so on.

Daria's head was spinning the deeper she read through the stack. The ludicrous things Mr. DeMartino had told her last night...they couldn't be true. They couldn't POSSIBLY be true.

At the bottom of the stack was a note, with a Post-It attached to it. The Post-It was a note from Mr. DeMartino: "My dog fished a bottle from a sewer drain two weeks ago. This note was in that bottle."

The note read, "Tell Daria Jane says hi from down below."

XXXX

"I'm going down there, Trent."

Trent nodded. "Cool. I'm glad that Janey's alive."

Daria hesitated. "Do you want to come?"

Trent seemed to think on this for a minute. "Nah. Janey sounds happy down there. If she wants to come up, she'll come up."

Daria looked skeptical. "You can tell that from one sentence?"

Trent smirked. "She didn't say she was being chased by zombies or anything, did she?"

Daria shook her head.

"Well, there you go. Janey can take care of herself." He rubbed his chin. "She probably wants you to join her, anyway. The original freakin' friends." Trent smiled.

Daria nodded, and stood up to leave.

"Good luck down there, Daria."

"Thanks."

XXXX

"You're leaving, aren't you."

Daria looked up, startled to see Quinn.

"...Yeah." She decided honesty was the best policy.

"It's Jane, isn't it. You got some clue where she is, and now you're going off on a cockamamie wild goose chase."

Daria was glad that Quinn had stopped being ashamed of her intelligence.

Sometimes.

"Don't try to stop me, Quinn. I have to know she's alive."

Quinn scowled. "Damnit, Daria, I know I can't stop you. Just...just promise me that you'll be safe, alright? I'd hate to have to lose my sister after only knowing her for a year." Tears brimmed in her eyes.

Daria nodded, repressing the urge to tear up herself. Damn family members.

"Well...bye." Quinn slipped out the room, and Daria continued to pack items into her old backpack from high school.

As she turned toward the door, she noticed Quinn had left a can of Mace on her desk. She slipped it into her pocket.

XXXX

Daria paid the taxi driver the fare she owed and watched as he drove off. When he had turned a distant corner, she turned around and took in the quarry. Legendary as a makeout spot for Lawndale High's denizens, the notes Mr. DeMartino had given her had indicated one potential entrance to the patchwork labyrinth underneath Lawndale was here.

Down in the quarry itself.

Daria leaned over the edge and gulped.

After an hour, she managed to find a way down which didn't end with every bone in her body breaking, sending splinters into her organs and major arteries. She nearly stumbled going down the gravel pathway a few times, but made it down safely enough.

"Hello? Jane?" she called out, not being fool enough to expect a reply. And none was forthcoming.

She searched around the pit for nearly two hours, uncovering nothing that would indicate an underground passage. She began to get tired and thirsty, and the sun moved from its position directly overhead to just at the lip of the quarry. Frustrated, she sat down on a pile of gravel and took a bottle of water out of her backpack. "Guess this place crapped out," she said aloud after taking a long pull. "Maybe I'll have better luck sneaking into the sewage treatment plant." She made a face at the idea. She put the water bottle back into her backpack...

And the gravel shifted underneath her. "What the...?" She moved to stand up, but was too late.

The gravel fell out from beneath her, exposing a deep, black hole. She fell.

"Oh FU-" Her last words were cut off as she fell. The gravel continued to shift, covering the hole up after she had disappeared into it.

XXXX

Daria groaned. Her ass hurt like hell, and it was pitch-black. She reached into her backpack, found what she was looking for, and bent them. The illumination from the phosphorescent glow sticks filled the subterranean cavern with an eerie glow, letting her see again.

She looked behind her first. Gravel still trickled down from above -- she had slid down a slope, rather fortunately. (A straight fall would have broken her leg or worse). In front of her, a passage stretched on into the darkness, beyond what light came from her glowsticks. She listened intently, but it was deathly quiet. Regret started to burrow its way into her gut, sending her tiny signals that she had made a huge error in coming down here, that she was going to die alone hundreds of feet below the earth.

Cautiously, she took a few steps forward. Something on the wall a few paces further ahead caught her attention. She approached and saw it was a scrap of parchment -- actual 18th century-era weathered parchment -- and it bore a message in very familiar handwriting.

"Bienvenidos, amiga."

XXXXXXXXXX

Another new fic! (I'm pretty irresponsible to keep starting them like this, but I promise I'll finish them eventually! Most of them, at any rate...)

If any of this fic sounds somewhat familiar to you, well, it should. Last year, TAG posted a story idea for adoption in the Daria Fandom Blog Mk. II in which Jane falls into a fantastic underworld which is, well, under Lawndale. It's nestled in my brain ever since, until I had the idea to make the story about Daria instead of Jane, total rescue mission-style. You can totally take a gander at his original gameplan here: .

Will Daria rescue Jane? What sort of bizarre lifeforms will Daria encounter? Does Jane even need rescuing? Find out this and less, next time on Downbelow!