GOD SAVE THE ESTEEM
Ep 22: Anarchy in the Lawn-D
At approximately 15.00 through 15.10, the three local TV stations in Lawndale County (called in order of how far they were from the school) all heard about the allegations of a major grade-fixing scandal at Lawndale High. At approx 15.11, the Lawndale Sun-Herald also knew, thanks to the backdoor it had hacked into a network's intranet (they'd sent an email to an executive, with a video file and the subject "This cat thinks it's a dog!"), and at approx 15.12 so did the Lwndle Sux citizen journalism blog (their top man had been delivering a pizza and looked at someone's computer).
At the end of the school day, the journalists were swarming to the front door and security was informing Li they had arrived (so she could call in the lawyers). The students streamed past, completely bewildered by the sight. All except those who'd been in Daria's Gym class.
"You've really put the angry statue with a shotgun among the pigeons now, Morgendorffer," muttered Jane. "You should reallyget a lift home from Tom."
"Are you suggesting that snitches are unpopular? Oh rap music, you lie to us all."
They caught up with Tom, who looked freaked when he heard what Daria had done.
"Daria, do you have the slightest idea the crap-pile you're going to face at school for the next, oh, ever?Even that fat guy who blows milk out his nose won't go near you in case it hurts his social standing!"
"I ignored it like Quinn ignores the minimum drinking age." Daria then winced: Jane. She hadn't thought of that. "Ummm... Jane-"
"Bit late now," said Jane, her voice neutral.
Daria glanced at Tom, who responded: "Oh what the hell, I'm only here for another three weeks."
As they drove off, the prey of journalists – rabid and starving and realising they'd forgotten to bring alcohol – noticed Kevin in his Lawndale Lions shirt. They charged, fighting to get to him, and PBS-LC's reporter only got to him first by farting on command and scattering his rivals.
"Young man, Angel Rodriguez, PBS-LC!" (He gestured for his camerawoman to take the shot) "You're in the football team, yes?"
Kevin looked at the camera, stunned. "Whoa! Yeah, I'm the QB! Awww man, is PBS a sports channel? AWESOME! HI MUM!"
"We'd like to ask you a few questions about your last few tests-"
"Awww man! Coach said I didn't need to do them! I've been lied to!"
At the front of the school, Steve saw the scene, winced, and called in to Li: "The dyke has a leak, repeat, dyke has leak – Dutch boy needed!"
The scream from her end was so high, the sniffer dogs began to howl (and, in two cases, tried to mate with the radio).
Once at home, Daria knew she needed to think of what to do if and when the bomb she'd detonated splashed back on her.
And right after she'd watched a lot of TV, she'd get right on that.
"Are Girl Scout cookie sales cover for a nationwide drug ring? That's the way the cocaine crumbles, tonight on Sick, Sad World!"
"Foggy" Murdoch, Lawndale High's attorney and developer of many ulcers, arrived at Lawndale High to find the journalists still there, being bored to tears as Kevin Thompson prattled on about "cool" games, but none of them daring to leave in case he said SOMETHING ELSE newsworthy. That's how Murdoch knew things were really bad. (Screw the recommended dose, I'm taking three pills now he thought)
He pushed through the journo's with a barrage of "no comment!"'s, and noted with dismay that the staff car park was still full. Li wasn't allowing the staff to leave the building again. Oh god.
"Not ENOUGH to RUIN my WORKING LIFE, I now have to LOSE MY BRIEF MOMENTS OF RESPITE!" came an angry roar from... somewhere.
Murdoch knocked the secret knock on Li's door, waited for the locks to be undone, and entered to see a frazzled Li and two very worried Gym coaches (Morris and Gibson, he remembered).
"I was going to suggest we threaten a defamation case, but since Thompson has been talking around them, we've lost there," he told them. "But since nobody has said that everyone in power was involved-" He noticed Morris looking down, and carried on without missing a beat: "But since nobody has ever explicitly said the grades will be changed on a student's behalf-" He noticed all three people looking down, and carried on with: "But, hey at least you didn't actively threaten grade-fixing on students you didn't like OH COME ON!"
"We can claim lies!" said Li, breathing heavily. "We know which student did it, we can claim they lied – she has a record of misanthropy, and her friend had... had difficulties in track-"
Murdoch thought fast. "Ye-es, possible. You'd have to claim Kevin Thompson was joking – and frankly, the reporters will want to believe he was having fun at their expense and isn't like that. Play it very carefully though, we don't want the family suing for libel. Nobody else is going to come forward and support these claims, are they?"
Tommy Sherman looked up from his space at the bar, a drink halfway to his lips. "Well duh."
"May O'Nell, Mid-Maryland Network." She flashed her ID and a brilliant smile. "We're researching Lawndale High" (an intern had done two clicks on Google) "and we're led to believe you gave a speech there a few months ago, and, aheh, had some tales to tell."
"After an exclusive?"
"We'll give you $100."
"Done," he said, leaving out that she was the third journalist to come to him after finding Lawndale Leaks. Hey, Tommy Sherman never said he was giving them an exclusive...
There was an interesting smell coming from the kitchen. Jake had decided he was going to be a kindly uncle and teach Erin how to cook spicy pasta combos. The results smelt... edible.
"I don't think you're doing it right," he told her.
"Asking me to conform?"
"...OH GOD!" He clutched his chest, and then a bottle. And then drank the bottle. Which was chilli sauce and not booze. "GGLGGLGLGGGAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!"
Daria walked in to watch this, mildly amused as her father tried to gargle an entire tub of ice cream, then had to blast it out of his mouth and into the sink to not choke, then fell over breathing heavily.
"So they were right. It is a woman's place in the kitchen."
"Never... conform...!" gasped out the punk to Erin, before he fell over.
"Er, okay Uncle Jake."
While the kitchen was still being recovered, the doorbell rang. Quinn ran to it dressed in minimal leather, answering with a cry of "I'm almost ready to go out-" before noticing two men in suits. "Oh. Wrong house, dumbasses."
"I'm Mr Murdoch, this is Mr Ford. We're looking for a Daria Morgendorffer."
"...DARIA! Did you... DID YOU GET A JOB?"
Daria walked to the door, looking confused, and then showing understanding. "Ah. Of course. Quinn, get Mum please." As the punk stormed off, she carried on with: "I'm assuming you're with some law firm or other-"
"Vitale, Davis, Horowitz, Riordan, Schrecter, Schrecter, and Schrecter."
"Is the third Schrecter a spare in case one of the others breaks down?"
"God I hope n-" Murdoch was elbowed. "We're here on serious business, Ms Morgendorffer."
Helen arrived in a stomping of knee-high studded boots. "All RIGHT you capitalist lackeys! Whatever Quinn – sorry, sorry, force of habit. Whatever Daria is claimed to have done, you better have some reliable witnesses or you'll have to chase ambulances!"
"We represent Lawndale High, ma'am, and the school wishes to make a deal with Ms Morgendorffer," said Ford, a man with a gravely and disturbing voice (which is why he was talking). "She has made spurious and defamatory accusations against the institution and several of its employees, and when they are investigated, we require Ms Morgendorffer to formally notify the investigators that she lied. Otherwise, we will take up legal proceedings."
"And you have proof she lied, do you? That's a rhetorical question and the answer is BULLSHIT YA DO!"
"We have a lot of evidence-" Behind Ford, Murdoch held up a fat folder. "-from the school of her behaviour. It would not be difficult to convince a court that-"
"Ah, the old 'stuff a folder with blank paper' trick, eh?" Helen had her arms folded and sounded amused. "Dear oh dear."
"Allegations like that are defamatory to the firm of Vitale, Davis, Horowitz, Riordan, Schrecter, Schrecter, and Schrecter, and we will take action if ne-"
Daria smirked. "To be defamatory, don't you need to have had a good name to began with?"
"Permit me to make things clearer: Ms Morgendorffer made false accusations to the local media. The local media is currently being convinced, quite satisfactorily, that it was false – there will be no backing from them. The school, and the district, want to avoid taking a student to court but they can and they will if a deal is not struck."
In the lounge, a recovering Jake overheard things that sounded serious, so he dived for the coach and switched on the TV.
"...and while Principal Li told us that the claims were lies by a malcontent student, ex-Lawndale Lions quarterback Tommy Sherman confirmed that grade-fixing had been going on for years. 'Man, Tommy Sherman never even WENT to Maths class after freshman year!'"
Back at the doorstep, Ford looked like he wanted to cry, while Helen was grinning like Tom after finding both Jerry's legs were broken.
"Oh dear. It looks like Lawndale High tried to strong-arm my daughter into making false allegations during an official inquiry and was threatening to commit perjury! They'll receive my writs on Monday." She raised two fingers and made a flatulent noise. "DIE DIE MY DARLING! AHAHAHAA!"
Murdoch laid a consoling arm on Ford's shoulder and began to lead him away. "Forget it, Blake. It's Lawndale High."
Helen slammed the door shut and, to Daria's horror, hugged her daughter. "Having lawyers threatening you! Awww, my little baby's all grown up! SNAKEY! QUINN! DARIA TWATTED HER SCHOOL SO BAD THEY TRIED TO SUE HER!"
"Wait, you mean you're the lying malcontent who told the truth? KIDDO! TOTAL ROCK!"
Quinn looked stunned. "Wait. No. It's - Daria's a punk now?"
"SHE'S A PUNK'S PUNK, DAMN IT! YEEEEAAAAAHHHHHH!"
"No," said Daria.
"Well, gah, Daria, if you're going to be a punk, you gotta stop dressing like that. Come on, I'll let you borrow some of my stuff – Mum, can you ask Axl to do a house call tomorrow? This will take work."
Daria thought fast. "But if I stay dressed like this, the school will immediately recognise me and be afraid, because they know I'm coming. Isn't it punk to strike fear into the hearts of-" She punched the air, unenthusiastically "-the Man?"
Quinn thought this through, then scowled. "All right, Daria. You win this round."
"Let's ALL go out to celebrate!" cried Helen. "Quinn, weren't you going to the Zon?"
"Ugly Mofos are playing! At least one person gets glassed at every gig they do!"
"Family outing time!" Helen thought for a second: "Erin?"
"No," replied Erin, far away from the scene.
"You don't know what you're missing. Come on, let's go show the Zon the new punk in town!"
Daria sighed. "Alright, but only if we can bring our own toilet seat."
Saturday: Murdoch had to suffer Li in his office, chain-smoking cheap cigarettes. He made a show of going through his notes (one was just "OH GOD" written over and over).
"Well, we're almost certainly going to have a lawsuit from Daria Morgendorffer's family, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to claim this has been blown out of proportion. I would advise that one of your coaches" (he made finger-quotes) "'resigns to avoid bringing disrepute to the school'. This will, of course, mean paying them off-"
"Oh, no need, I've got blackmail material on both of them," laughed Li.
Murdoch covered his ears. "LALALALALALALALALA." He uncovered them. "Once that gesture is done, you'll need to get through the district's internal investigation, which certainly does not mean cutting a deal COUGH COUGH anyway. Then we'll need to think of a defence for the Morgendorffer suit..." He took a deep breath. "Ms Li – Angela– the best way out may be to claim a mistake was made and apologise-"
Li looked like a Knight Templar who'd walked into a multi-faiths orgy. "NEVER."
"We'll really struggle to find another-"
He sighed. Fine, they're paying for it. "All right. We should be all right as long as nothing elseslips out, but unless any of the faculty are inclined to blab... Li, are you alright?"
"You have to send lawyers round to Anthony DeMartino's. NOWWWWW!"
"...and by signing this, you agree to stay quiet and also agree that, with your record, it is right for Lawndale High and its legal team to assume you're responsible for any and all faculty leaks."
DeMartino scowled at Ford, like he'd have preferred a flaming bag of dog poo on his doorstep. "I SEE. And if I DON'T?"
"Then my client will have no choice but to fire you for the recorded theft of valuable school production infrastructure equipment."
The teacher worked this out. "You mean the POST-IT notes?"
"It counts as theft. Precedent from the Janet Bradley VS GeneriCorp 2002 case. Nobody ever proved GeneriCorp gave that judge a car."
Anthony DeMartino smiled a terrible, unbrushed smile. "VERY well." He took the paper and signed it, then casually held up his mobile phone, which was still in the middle of a call. "Oh, I DO beg your PARDON, but I forgot to TURN MY PHONE off when you CALLED." Into the phone: "SORRY, Mr Sun-Herald reporter, but I can NO lonGER... OHH! You'd like to TALK to MR FORD?"
Trent woke up five minutes before the Spiral were due to start a live pay-per-view web concert, and made an executive decision that a shower could wait. Luckily, he hadn't changed for bed, so that was a bit of time saved. He lurched off the couch, yawning slightly, and nodded at the waiting forms of his band-mates (he needed to get some locks).
When the doorbell rang, he frowned and went over to see who it was. To his shock, it was Ms Morris from his old school.
"Whoa. Ummm, I appreciate the gesture, but I think it'd be a bit too weird if you were one of our groupies."
Morris bit down an angry retort and smiled a fake smile: "Hello, is Jane in?"
"I... think so." Trent shut the door, went upstairs, peeked his head into Jane's room, said "hey", came back down, and opened the door. "Yeah, she's in."
Morris waited. So did Trent.
"I'd like to talk to Jane."
Jane came to the door, her face unreadable, her mouth chewing away at gummi bears. The teacher gave her another fake smile; Jane opened her mouth so she could see what chewed-up candy looked like.
"Jane. I, er, aheh, about that whole 'then I'll flunk you' thing, things were said in the heat of the moment that neither of us meant – not that I'm trying to dismiss things you said! No, no, no..." Seeing that wasn't working, she said: "I'll give you five hundred bucks if you deny the allegations."
Mystic Spiral began to thunder in the background: the song was Hey Mister Normal but Trent was singing "GYM GYM GYM – IT RHYMES WITH SIN!".
"You're offering me five hundred to tell everyone my best friend is a liar," said Jane. "I'm sure nothing bad will happen to her as a result. Now tell me more about these bridges you have for sale."
"If you support the school, the school will owe you and so will every student in sports." Morris looked Jane right in the eye, nodding slightly as the words registered. "They'll know you could have ruined them and you didn't. They'll all owe you. And you'll have a reputation as the girl who has everyone's back. A popular girl."
Jane was silent for a while. In the background, Trent yelled "I SAY GYM CAN GO IN THE BIN!" (with Jesse chiming in with "Hey Mister Normal – IT WAS YOU!" on instinct). Finally, she said: "That's a nice carrot. What's the stick?"
"You know what the stick is. I know you don't want what's coming. You had promise, Jane, you could've gone far and still can, you can easily be popular when the other kids start looking past your loner image – don't let Daria drag you down."
"Don't hang out with losers, right?"
Morris almost said "exactly", but stopped herself: that sounded like a trap. "You can go far, Jane. It's all in your grasp. And I'll go with six hundred."
Jane breathed in and closed her eyes.
Then she shut the door.
I should have said seven hundred, thought Morris.
Murdoch and his team had set up an 'operations room', complete with a whiteboard laying out all the problems and how they interlinked. In the corner of the board was a little stick figure and a cloud of cartoon swearing.
"First's first," said Murdoch. "Marianne?"
"Everything in our power is being done to stop Eric Schrecter from hearing this case exists."
"Thank Christ. Next up: we need to prepare an entrapment case against DeMartino, finish an injunction on the Sun-Herald and send a big crate of wine to the judge who'll be hearing it, prepare a defence against the Morgendorffers, prepare a secondary defence for when Lawndale High boots a coach, work out a plausible case for Li and the school district..."
Another lawyer raised a hand. "Foggy, about that: Superintendent Cartwright is desperate for a meeting tomorrow."
"On a Sunday? But all good people are in church then!"
All the lawyers had a good hearty laugh.
"Haha, but seriously, schedule him in." Murdoch thought for a second. "And most importantly of all..."
"OVERTIME AND EXPENSES!" they cried happily.
Now, if things don't get any worse...
A bored CNN News Aggregate Technician (Weekend Shift) clicked through the next local news website on his list. "Huh. School corruption scandal. Involves football."
"Football? Better pass it up to the news team."
Within ten minutes, CNN had decided this story could be used. Within an hour, MSNBC had heard about it via their mole in the secretarial staff, BBC World Service had heard about it after getting a CNN hack drunk, and Fox News had heard after their man nicked a document through an open window. Within two hours, two dozen big-name citizen journalism blogs – including education news blog Brick In The Wall and anarchist journo Subversion is We – had found out and hurriedly copied & pasted from other websites and/or each other.
Sunday: Ms Li, clad in her dressing gown and pyjamas, opened the door to collect the milk, yawned, and took in the dozens of cameras and microphones being jabbed her way.
"Code Red security violation – USE THE TASERS!" screamed Ms Li, before remembering she wasn't at school. "Erm. I mean... no comment!"
Steve's phone rang, disturbing him from his day of rest (and his dream about the naked ladies). Yawning, he picked up the phone: "Mrrr?"
"Mr... Steve, this is Sheila Hunter from NBC – I understand you're the head of security at Lawndale High" (the interns had searched on Facebook) "and we'd like to know about the techniques and equipment used-"
"Oh. Hang on. Ms Li gave us something about what we should say if you guys called." He sifted through mounds of porn, beer cans, and a copy of Ulysses, and found it. "Oh yeah, hang on: 'I have no comment to make, except that we follow the full letter of the law and are committed to providing a secure learning environment.'"
Steve put the phone down, then saw another part of Li's document, highlighted in red: "Don't tell ANYONE you've been told what to say."
Daria had just reached the good part where Hunter Thompson found out that violent, thuggish biker gangs might take your stuff without asking, when her phone rang. "This is Europe – is that London calling?"
"Even better, it's me," replied Tom. "But speaking of reports to Nazi-occupied states, our school is on the news."
"Which news network?"
"All of them.They have reporters camped outside Ms Li's house! They're reporting that nothing's happened there yet!"
Daria paled. "You know that scene in Fantasia, where Mickey realises he's lost control and the mops will just keep going on and on?"
"Oh. Sorry, I thought you'd be happy about this."
"I'm... I'm kinda worried what's going to happen at school. It might be better if you or Jane stay away from a day or two."
"Whoops, sorry, didn't hear that. Line went fuzzy. Anyway, see you tomorrow."
Dara smiled. "Sure."
The instant he hung up, the phone went again: Jane.
"Daria, I just saw the news! School will be besieged with cameras! And that means Trent will pay you ten bucks to wear a Mystik Spiral T-shirt on Monday and display yourself prominently!"
Jake burst in through the door, grinning madly and holding a T-shirt: "Daria! I'll give you ten bucks if you wear a Mystik Spiral T-shirt to school tomorrow! Man oh MAN, this will be a marketing BLITZ and no one has to sell out! HAVE ANOTHER TEN BUCKS FOR THE HELP, KIDDO!"
After he left, Quinn: "Daria, you'll wear this Mystik Spiral T-shirt and I'll give you ten bucks, and if you don't I'll set fire to your stuff. Trent will see I'm more supportive of his band than that... that Monique twat!"
Daria took the T-shirt and money, and went back to the phone: "Jane, things are looking up already."
Murdoch's meeting with Superintendent Cartwright had gone badly. The client kept bursting into tears. Murdoch felt a bit embarrassed patting a grown man on the back and saying "there, there".
As he returned to his team, all looking shell-shocked by the escalation of things, he burst out with: "Right, no more playing catch-up, it's time we went for the big guns! Contact Mr Vitale."
The team looked at him, horrified. "Disturb him... at home?" whimpered a junior associate.
"Hmm. Point. Marianne, get us some straws..."
A tent city had sprung up around Lawndale High, containing both dozens of journalists and dozens of very, very angry parents with picket signs. Every security guard at the school was trying to contain the chaos out front and separate the two groups.
"SAVE MS LI!" yelled Mr Thompson, holding up a pro-sports sign. "JOURNALISTS GO HOME!"
"SAVE MS LI! JOURNALISTS GO HOME!"
Nearby, Kevin looked mortified. "My dad's become a hippie!" he told Brittany.
"Ummm… I didn't know the hippies were pro-sports."
"Awww, Britt – everyone's pro-sports!"
In an act of cosmic correction, Daria, Jane, and Tom turned up. Kevin scowled at them.
"Oh hello, TRAITOR!" he yelled at Daria. "Nice day, isn't it – for a TRAITOR!"
"You can't betray something you never believed in."
He thought about that, and then went with "TRAITOR!" before walking off. The trio watched him go, Daria shaking his head.
"I've lost the respect and camaraderie of Kevin. But maybe there'll be some downsides too."
"Hey, the news crews are pointing their cameras our way. You know the drill…"
Daria and Jane flashed their Mystik Spiral T-shirts, and Jane yelled out the name of the band's website. "But they're thinking of changing the domain name!"
Behind them, a minivan pulled up and started to regurgitate Oakwood High football players in full team uniform. The lead quarterback nodded to his fellows, and they held up signs saying "BRO SOLIDARITY" and "PLAYERS UNITED". Their gesture was wrecked when Kevin yelled "Hey, Oakwood have come to diss us!" and the nearest Lions charged them, starting a fight.
The last thing Daria saw before entering the school was Steve running past with a huge grin: "ALRIGHT, TASER TIME!"
Inside the school, students were making out in corridors, playing loud music, and Shaggy, Burnout Girl, and their stoner friends were lit up. Shaggy saw the puzzled looks and said: "All the security guards are outside."
"What about the cameras, filming you for later?" asked Tom.
"The revolution will be televised," said Daria.
Every sports player was called out of first period classes (DeMartino wept for joy) for an emergency assembly. Morris, Gibson, and a Principal Li driven by caffeine and booze were waiting for them, a lawyer in the background and two middle-aged journalists dressed like teenagers hiding among the students. (One had dug out his old Frankie Goes To Hollywood shirt)
"My brave paladins of Laaaaaawndale High, I'm afraid I have… I have bad news. We're going to have to cease giving byes for the duration of this crisis, effective immediately. I am truly sorry but you'll have to do the end-of-year exams on your own."
Screams and denials and the sobs of broken men & women filled the air. (Except from Mack, who was sighing)
"We also may – and I stress this is only a may– have to tighten our belts. The Lawndale Lions may not be getting a post-game Jacuzzi after all."
The second class was, of course, Gym, and every sports player in the class was glaring daggers at Daria. She waved at them.
"I hear if you show fear, they're more likely to attack," she muttered to Jane.
"All RIGHT, ladies!" barked Ms Morris, looking like she was teetering on the edge of a great abyss and that abyss was full of piranhas. "We'll be starting Volleyball-"
Shit thought Daria.
The girls were split into teams, and strangely Jane wasn't on Daria's team and everyone else who was ensured they weren't standing near her. Half a dozen angry jocks formed the opposition, all armed and intending to 'miss' the net. Daria had expected this.
The instant the whistle went, Daria dropped to the floor – Jennifer's hurled ball went flying past where she had been and smacked Nikki in the face. At Nikki's cry of pain, every other cheerleader in the class turned as one; Brittany's lip curled up as she spotted the miscreant and threw a ball at herhead.
"DODGEBALL!" yelled Andrea, joining in, and soon everyone was throwing at everyone else. Morris blew her whistle for calm until someone balled her in the kneecap (Jane then hid behind another student).
Daria started to crawl along the floor to the exit, hoping she was too difficult a target. The hope was dashed when two pairs of feet appeared in front of her, and balls were bounced – hard – off her back. She cried out in pain before the feet vanished, and Jane's appeared in their place with a roar of "GET OUT OF IT!".
"Up you get, amiga, we're pulling out of here."
"It's… fine…" she hissed through gritted teeth. "Who needs a spinal column?"
"If you're interested in the dodgeball war, Andrea and Brittany are squaring off."
Break time: the school grounds were commandeered by the Fashion Club and a gaggle of other popular girls. Sandi sat at the head of their circle, Tori Jericho next to her with a stack of spreadsheets.
"This is, like, the biggest crisis we've ever faced since some jerk claimed flares were back in fashion and people believed him – Stacy, quiet please." Sandi pressed her fingers together in a way she thought made her look cunning. "Every – single – jock is in crisis. They all have to, y'know, study now, and some will be off teams, and some teams may close and all this affects their suitability as dates."
She nodded at Tori, and the blonde started handing her sheets around. "This is the current popularity rankings for them all, and I've marked in red the ones that we know are doomed. The entire track team, for example."
"We need to decide who's going to replace them and who can be salvaged, and then start to divide them up, because a dating war will just weaken us and then less popular girls might get the new popular guys first." Sandi slammed a fist into the ground. "We can't let that happen! We need to, like, be united and stuff!"
"Shouldn't the cheerleaders be here?" asked Winona.
"Oh puh-lease. When the football team goes, they go."
"Ummm…" Stacy raised a nervous hand. "N-Not to interrupt or anything, Sandi, but if all the cheerleaders and the girls who play sports and the girls who date jocks are losing popularity… who are the popular people who aren't us?"
"Stacy, that's such a stupid-" said Sandi instinctively, before her face fell. "Oh dear. We'll have social climbers. Tori-"
"I'll get out my laptop now and check all potential threats!"
Upchuck sauntered up to the tent city, right in the DMZ between journo's and protestors, a large cart pushed before him. He was always one for a business venture, and once he'd located this one he'd sprung into action.
He whipped the cart open. "Who wants to buy donuts and beer?"
Daria had been "accidentally" bumped into twenty-three times so far, five of them hard enough to knock her to the floor; violent threats had been daubed on her locker; and everywhere she went, at least one person was glaring and making dark threats. It was all what she'd expected, which didn't make it any less of a pain in the goddamn ass.
And she was also expecting that it wouldn't be safe to go to the toilet on her own. Luckily, Jane expected that too, saving her from the embarrassment of having to ask for a bodyguard.
There was one of the hockey team there at the time – she looked like she wanted to start something, but with Jane around she decided to go for Plan B, calling Daria a very rude word before leaving.
"So according to this graffiti, I'm a slut and will, quote, get it Crips style, unquote," said Daria from inside a stall. "Is that better or worse than getting in Bloods style?"
"Did they actually spell 'get it Crips style' properly?" asked Jane.
"They misspelled 'it'. That's impressive, in its way."
As Daria flushed, she heard the bathroom door open – three people coming in. She made sure she had her expressionless mask on, then opened the stall door; a brief glance, identifying the girl from earlier, another one, and Siobhan from the track team, Jane watching them with her arms folded. Daria made sure to be brief and to walk past them to wash her hands.
"I'm sorry, but the queue was pointless: that toilet is just as grim as the others," she said, moving on to dry her hands.
"Brave little bitch," spat Siobhan. "You think Insane Lane will be enough to help you here?"
"No need, I think I have the hang of bathroom hygiene." Daria thumped the broken hand-dryer, sighed as that failed to fix it, and went back to the stall to get some paper to dry with. "Or was that a veiled threat? You could stand to be clearer with that."
"I need an athletic scholarship to afford my first-choice college," she hissed. "Way you've made things go, they'll be cancelling it any day now, and then that's me fucked. I'll have to go to goddamn Lawndale State. You have no idea how much the seniors have it in for you-"
"That is terrible. You're right to be angry. Goddamn Lawndale High, being so corrupt that any leak causes dozens to suffer. You should go tell Li and Morris exactly how much they've hurt you. In related news, I had my conscience removed on medical grounds, so a guilt trip won't work."
Siobhan smiled, coldly. "This is going to be the right place for you, with all the other shit. Girls-"
Daria held out a hand, just as the enemy and Jane were about to make their moves. "Wait, I have a better idea. You let me out of here unscathed, and I won't get my family and all their friends to go to the cinema every time you're working shift there."
There was a brief pause, before Siobhan said, "This isn't over" and left; the other two, rattled, followed her rather than risk greater odds against Jane. Daria waited a few seconds and then started to shake.
"I was worried for a second there that she'd switched jobs," she said. "Then I'd have been in a pickle."
"Sure, Jane. Sure."
The Maleficent Eleven had been doing a conga-line in front of the news cameras, chanting "SPIRAL ROCKS! SPIRAL ROCKS! SPIRAL ROCKS!", when something newsworthy finally happened: Superintendent Cartwright arrived at the school. He was besieged and security had to escort him through the throngs, "NO COMMENT!" yelled at the top of his voice.
Then another car pulled up, and the suited figure of Jim Vitale – senior legal partner, feared negotiator, horrible bastard – pulled up. Smiling.
"Well, hello there!" he called out to the press. "Just the one comment to make, fellas: this is all blown out of proportion and we'll have it sorted out by Wednesday at the most. But hey, slow news week, I know how it is."
The Eleven scowled as he passed. They had no idea who he was, but they did know he wore a suit.
"This is—this is-" Cartwright fumbled around for the right word. "This is sucks!"
Vitale leaned back in Li's office chair (Cartwright had got the visitor's chair, Li had to stand). "Accurate, if not grammatically."
"Everything is leaking about this place, EVERYTHING! And people are sniffing around Oakwood now!" Cartwright wheeled around to Li. "YOU MESSED UP GOOD, ANGELA."
She said something that sounded like "mmmppp".
"What we need to do," said Vitale lightly, "is try harder at shutting down the whistleblowers. I can handle that personally. They'll want to have a lawyer present, but in my experience it's easy to get around that if you just keep going. It won't be hard to find material on these two girls, that teacher, and Mr Sherman that will make them, aha, play ball – oh stop wincing, Stanley. Keep grinning, Angela, it's quite a turn-on."
"Just one thing, Mr Vitale," said Li, a human Cheshire cat; "your firm did try this before…"
"But that wasn't me doing it." He took a rubber ball from his suit pocket and began to idly bounce it. "You're running with the big boys now. Now call in that Jane girl first, and we'll see how fast she cracks on her own when any assistance is 'going to be contacted soon'…"
Art was a class full of paper and paint: great fodder for spitballs and things to flick at you. Every time Ms Defoe's back was turned, Daria's head got pelted. She was getting sick of this. At least it couldn't get-
"Jane Lane to Principal's Office – repeat, Jane Lane to Principal's Office."
Jane looked at Daria, and vice versa; the artist shrugged and began to head out. Daria went for her mobile and started to text her mother.
'As you thought they've called Jane in.'
A few seconds later: 'haha fking called it heding 2 skool now'.
When Jane entered Li's office, she took one look at the crowd and asked: "So is this bribes or threats this time?"
"Nothing like that at all," said Cartwright, only to be interrupted by Vitale saying "it's threats".
"Awww, I like the bribes. They made me feel special."
Vitale began to idly bounce his stress ball with one hand, going through some papers with the other. "Your record is a fun read, Janey. There was that suspension – overturned, yes, but still there – and there are these multiple citations of disruptive and delinquent behaviour, and that time you vanished from a school trip to join in potentially criminal behaviour… oh, and look at this report from the school therapist! And the additions after those paintings you did for the state art competition! Dear me."
"I'm sorry, sir, I stopped paying attention after 'your'."
"Cute." He flashed her a grin. "Let's just say that your record is not very nice. And now we can add in your recent stunt – helping spreads lies about the faculty, tsk tsk. You physically assaulted some girls in Gym as well."
Jane looked stunned for a second and then smiled, bitterly. "Oh, so Morris was paying attention to Daria getting attacked. Sort of."
"She only noticed at that exact moment and you have no proof otherwise. But Stan and Angela here have a lot of proof against you." Bounce, bounce, bounce. "Now what does that say to me? That says to me that if I was principal, I should expel your ass because you're clearly a disruptive, corrosive element to my fine school and I can point to many, manyexamples of evidence. Add it all up and phrase it properly, and no court would stand against it."
Jane was quiet for a few seconds, so Vitale began to bounce the ball harder and said "Well, come on, Janey, you're thinking something, aren't you? Let's hear it, Janey. Tick tock, time's ticking away-"
"So I'll go to another school! Big whoop!"
"Hmmm. Stan, is Oakwood going to take Janey, you think?"
"It would seem unlikely," said Superintendent Cartwright.
"Hmmm. She may have to find a school somewhere else then. Oh wait. How easy is it to get to another school, Janey? They're not in walking distance. You'd need a lift from, oh… a parent?" He grinned as her face froze. "Don't be like that, Janey, I'm sure they'll be willing to help, unless they're rarely around and clearly negligent, in which case that will come out when the authorities check why you can't go to the other schools and then…"
"You need a moustache to twirl," she whispered, looking down.
"And you'd started off so strongly! Oh my. But I'm sure things won't have to come to this, Janey."
"You can't do this."
"I'm a lawyer. The law is what we make of it. Did you and your friend honestly believe you could cross the system and not face consequences?" He smiled, warmly this time. "Oh. I see now. It was your friend who did this without asking you first. Dear me. Did she not think about the consequences you might have? Hardly much of a friend."
Jane continued to look down.
"We can come to a deal here, Janey. Angela and Stan are willing to make a deal." Bounce, bounce, bounce. "It'll be a verbal contract, keep things clearer for you. All you'll need to do is-"
The office door slammed open and Hellion Wheels filled the space, all leather and hair and briefcase and a grin like a psychotic shark.
"Wotcha, motherfuckers! Helen Morgendorffer, attorney at law, Jane Lane's legal representative as appointed by her legal guardian!"
Cartwright and Li had jumped, but Vitale had just stopped bouncing his ball. "And which forged parental signature is that, Helen?"
"Parents? Who said shit about parents?" The briefcase smashed onto Li's desk, was snapped open, and a sheet of paper whisked from it. "Her de facto legal guardian is Trent Lane, as proven by his familial connections and this steady income that covers living expenses, and this is his signature as proof of my standing here." She flipped off Vitale. "Haw, HAW."
She picked up Jane, said "I'll need a moment in private to confer with my client", and they both marched out of the room. A minute later, they marched back in, Helen yelling "YOU DIRTY BASTARD".
"Well for a start, I'm going to be writing up an official complaint about your conduct and sending it off in the hope of getting you disbarred-"
"It can join the queue of such attempts, and I'm afraid there's no proof I said the things your client believesI said."
"That's good, because wow what a load of bollocks it was!" Helen folded her arms. "Give me two minutes and I can counter every quote example unquote you have of her healthy, questioning – I'm sorry, disruptive behaviour."
"But not the libel case."
"Corroboration from Tommy Sherman and Kevin Thompson."
"The former has a known grudge and is an unreliable source, and will be retracting his statement very shortly or being sued for libel, depending on his, aha, intelligence. Kevin was making a joke because he's an asshat."
Helen paused. "Okay, the courts will buy that one, I'll admit. Mr Sherman, on the other hand…" She grinned. "Well, let's just say any deal you make with him will have me advising him."
"I see." He stopped bouncing his ball. "Shall we go for closed room negotiations and discussion?"
"That means the rest of you leave."
"But… it's my office," said Li. "I need it for work."
"Greater need, Angela."
Jane staggered back into Art class to find Daria with paper-sodden hair and Les clutching his foot in pain.
"His foot slipped under my foot," Daria was telling Ms Defoe.
"MY MIDDLE TOE! MY MIDDLE TOE!"
"I apologise for ruining your games of This Little Piggy."
Daria let the rest of the class go before her, hoping to miss most of the corridor traffic. Instead, she found Les and another boy with Mack outside, Mack giving them quiet, annoyed words. They glared at her before leaving.
"Thanks for the assist."
"Don't." Mack sounded angry. "I'll stop them beating you up in the school, but that's allyou're getting from me."
"I don't underst-"
"Of course you don't! You don't care about anyone except yourself, how could you know what you've done? Jesus Christ, Daria, no one in a sports club is coming out of this unscathed, jobs and colleges will assume we all had byes! Scholarships are out the window!" He started to laugh at the sight of her face. "Oh, what, you thought I'd be supportive of you hurting me and my friends?"
"Clearly a flawed hypothesis," she whispered. "New evidence points to another conclusion. I'm sorry, Mack, I didn't mean to do this to everyone."
"You should have thought-"
"But I did mean to do it to every single member of the fucking track team and Ms Morris with them."
He stared at her, aghast. "You- I figured Morris, but those guys-"
"Those guys and gals all tried to strong-arm my friend. Now they suffer. All of them."
Mack looked sick. "You're worse than your sister, you know that?"
"IIIII thiiiiiink we were suppossssed to gooooo to claaaasssss—"
"Yes, Tiffany dear, but there's more important matters at hand."
The popular girls murmured their agreement.
"I'm going to restate this, I know you all disagree, but you need to face facts," said Winona. "The Glee Club will move up in the popularity vacuum."
"Oh not this ag-"
"Drama's semi-popular if you're hot, damn it! Music is going to be the same! And some of the Glee Club girls are okayish, if they paid more attention to Waif they could be acceptable!"
"I don't believe her, but I don't think we should take the chance," said Tori grimly. "I suggest we start some rumours about everyone in Glee Club – boys too, just to be certain – and spread them around by fifth period at the latest."
"We'll say they're frigid," said Sandi. "That'll keep the guys out."
"Except the born-again guys."
"I'm speaking genuinely!"
"Generally," said Stacy without thinking, before screaming "I'M JUST GUESSING!".
En route to Geography, Angel 'bumped into' Daria and muttered: "Killer wants to know if-"
"No, tell her I still want her in reserve. It's like nuclear weapons: if you used them all the time, everyone would go 'oh, it's a nuclear weapon, how last season'."
"Our intelligence says someone spilt water all over your seat in Geography, so you have to get your skirt wet and everyone can claim you pissed yourself."
"Andrea texted us from your class."
"Ah." Daria thought for a second.
Daria walked into Geography class carrying the Lawndale Lions banner that hung over the school's trophy cabinet. Casually, she folded it up and put it on her chair as a water-insulated cushion, and sat down right onto the Lion's face.
"SHE'S GONE TOO FAR!" yelled Kevin, rising to his feet.
"If someone hadn't got my seat wet, I wouldn't need to do this. So it's their fault."
Kevin thought that through, then punched another student yelling "YOU SUCK MAN!".
Vitale had loosened his tie. "DeMartino, let's face it, has so much obvious hate for Li that any comment he make will be suspect-"
Helen downed another cup of gin (she'd raided Li's private stash). "Justified anger, I think you'll find, as a direct result of the very conditions he's blowing the whistle on-"
"And we'll lodge a complaint that you're representing so many clients at once and that we feel you're using them to support your own, biased defence of your daughter-"
"And I'll ask the county to investigate this matter of you threatening to use Social Services on Ms Lane-"
"You already did that threat."
"But it's such a good one."
Both lawyers stared each other down, willing (desperately)the other to be the one that suggested a bathroom break first.
Daria made sure to leave Geography first, Jane following behind, hoping to reach the cafeteria and then withdraw from it before too many jocks were there. A few guys were there and, to her surprise, the Fashion Club and some of their affiliates were also there early, talking loudly:
"Of course, I do not take seriously these RUMOURS that-" Sandi checked her notes. "LINDA CAPELLO STRINGS BOYS ALONG BUT NEVER GIVES IT UP."
"I have not heard those rumours!" said Tori in unconvincing tones. "Can you better explain it to me in lengthy detail?"
"I'll be giving a lengthy puke if they keep this up," said Daria.
"Well it is Mystery Meat today," said Jane.
Daria reached the lunch lady, collected her food, counted down a few seconds and listened out, and then quickly sidestepped so one of the basketball players charged pasther, 'accidentally' bumping Corey Bateman's tray onto the floor instead. Corey looked at him reproachfully. And then punched him.
Normally, a security guard would break up any such conflict, but as they were all still outside, the fight took both of them careening into a table, sending food and plates everywhere and causing a mob of girls to turn on them. Jane smiled a proud smile at Daria, who looked a little confused.
"I honestly didn't expect that to happen."
"We better move off to a safe zone before you get the blame, you wing-flapping butterfly, you."
Ms Li and Superintendent Cartwright sat in Ms Morris' office, Ms Morris standing. They'd been sitting (and standing) for a while now, wondering when Vitale was going to be done with the office. Li had taken a laptop with her and was scanning Internet & wi-fi access across the school, using a program Cartwright could not see honest.
"Word keeps getting out," she muttered. "People are going to blogs, news sites, email, Twitter, ORLY OWLS- The longer this carries on..." She frowned. "Wait, someone just updated the Lawndale Lowdown website. LANDON WOULDN'T..."
A few hours earlier:
Jodie had spent a good few hours watching the zoo outside, overhearing jocks moaning their arses off about how "unfair" things were, watching Li completely fail to handle things, and Sandi's cabal discussing how to carve up people. In principle, she was utterly opposed to what Daria had done: Li was a tyrant but needed for order, as this collapse showed. A weakness in the regime was causing chaos and destruction.
In practice, JESUS WEPT a lot of people were arseholes. Really big ones. With irritable bowel syndrome. And the bowels were in people's mouths and oh god she'd made herself feel ill.
So in between periods, she'd given up and said to some of the more reliable Lowdown contributors: "I think we should report on what's happening now."
"You think that?" said Jenna without thinking, before "er, and I mean-"
"We're a school newspaper, this is school news, and I'm sure we're capable of being objective. What do you say?"
They said "yes", and thought "ha ha up yours Principal Li!".
By the start of lunch, Breaking News updates were all over the Lowdown website, covering the growing pro-bye protestors (and how Li had been seen slipping them some better signs), the lawyers, whinging football players, the lunch violence, and the popular girls trying to spread rumours.
The Glee Club was very interested in that last one.
"But I'm sure Sandi doesn't have herpes really," said Linda Capello as she walked past the largest crowd of boys she could find.
Within ten minutes, both sides were reported to be STD-riddled, abortion happy, utterly frigid communists.
Within fifteen minutes, every news website and blog covering Lawndale was repeating the Lowdown's reports as "Exclusive" and "from our sources". This, sadly, included a spoof article that school funds had been spent on a ground-to-air missile system called the Fast Air-Responding Tactical System.
"Landon has betrayed us!" screamed Li, helping herself to gummi bears from Morris' desk (she reallymissed her gin). "Give me FIVE SECONDS and I'll have the Lowdown NUKED off our servers!"
Cartwright frowned. "That may be too-" Then he saw a headline mentioning rumours that he was approving the strong-arming of students. "NUKE NUKE NUKE!"
Li nuked – and, in her haste, managed to delete the entire Lawndale High website.
A minute later, live reports claimed that Lawndale High was attempting to ban the Internet on school grounds. A minute after that, someone on a message board had created a meme with a V For Vendetta mask superimposed on a Catholic schoolgirl, entitled "Studonymous" and talking about "banning school on Internet grounds" (it made sense to the guy at the time).
"Well, we lasted as long as could be expected," said Jodie.
"Li hasn't shut the printers off," said Jenna.
"So she hasn't."
"One dollar per Lowdown!" called out Upchuck, waving copies of the free paper in front of hungry journalists.
On the roof, Daria finished her meal and looked up at the news helicopter circling the school. "I wonder what they think they'll see?"
"At the moment, us," said Jane. She thought about this, then waved at the chopper.
"Don't respond, it just encourages them."
Li was getting the two-pronged strike of becoming sober and coming down from a caffeine rush. She was trying to pour whole sugar packets down her throat to compensate, but the sense of everything slipping from her – and only being able to cover sixcameras at once from the laptop – was too much for a more sugar rush to overcome. And Vitale was taking too long.
Cartwright was on the phone, screaming "do anything to prevent leaks from Oakwood, ANYTHING!", and looking like he wanted to cry.
Li checked the roof camera feeds. Morgendorffer and Lane were there, removed from any chaos they'd caused. So far they'd proven untouchable. On the other hand, there...
"Mr Cartwright, I have a plan but it's... not quite legal-"
"Oh dear I need to use the bathroom!"
She watched him go, then turned to Morris: "I need you to pass some word on."
"Lawndale High is in really bad shape, Mr Vitale-"
"-which is why we're advising full-on lawsuits and threats. Let's face it, we do well out of long, costly negotiations, don't we?"
Helen began to chuckle. "Well, Mr Vitale. Your... reputation may not do so well."
"Ooooh, we might lose a difficult case, that's certainly never happened to us before. As long as we mitigate the loss, and frankly that's not hard here-"
"Mr Vitale, Jim, Jimbo... You're a big cabal of bastard cunts, with you being the bastardiest cunt of them all, and I'm a self-employed lawyer who has never had a 'big' client. A long, costly negotiation that doesn't end in a crushing victory, against me?" She smashed her fist onto the desk in front of him. "You'll look like ONE SORRY FUCKER, Jimmy-Jim-Jim! Fucking Superman does not get kneecapped by that fucking dog with the cape, what was it called, Wonder Mutt?"
"I don't know!"
"Anyway!" She grinned the widest grin she'd yet done. "I DON'T think it's in your firm's best interests if you go up against me in court and it drags on and you get a conditional win, AND WE BOTH KNOW IT'LL DRAG ON. When it comes to fighting the Man, I am an Anti-Christ, and YOU'RE the Maniest Man who ever... MANNED!"
Vitale was quiet for a few seconds, and then said, "That was a highly articulate and well thought-out outburst, Helen. Apologies, in writing, from Lawndale High to Daria Morgendorffer, Jane Lane, and Anthony DeMartino in return for waiving the suits?"
"Apologies and some money."
"Oh, big spenders," she sneered. "Done. And be glad they're both lazy girls and will be happy to end things quickly."
"So you say. We'll discuss Mr Sherman another time. Oh, and entirely off the record?"
"Your passion is extremely attractive, Helen. If you're not doing anything tonight-"
She headbutted him, right in the teeth.
"HAHA OFF THE RECORD BITCH, I'M UNTOUCHABLE!"
It was worth a try OW OW OWhe thought.
"The pro-byes protestors are singing the national anthem – but don't know half the words," reported Jane.
"Good for them."
The roof door slammed open. Daria recognised Les, Chipmunk, Evan, Jennifer; four of the Lions, including a rather tense Joey; whatsisname from the canteen and some friends; two volleyball players. A sizeable crowd. Angry. Between her and the door.
She slipped her hands into her jacket pockets and stood straight, forcing her face to be neutral. "I swear, I gave at the office."
"Funny," spat Evan. "You're always such a funny bitch, aren't you."
"Come to this, has it Evan?" asked Jane, her voice flat. "I thought better of you."
"Oh great, more holier-than-thou crap. Well you two-"
"How's things back there, Joey?" called out Daria.
He didn't respond, looked instead to the others, looking reassurance.
"I don't see the other two J's. Why is that?"
Siobhan stepped forward, smiling. "You don't think your fancy words are going to help nowdo you?"
"Why break the habit of a lifetime?" She kept looking at Joey. "Come on, Joey. While you're part of a crowd, it may seem like everything will be okay, but once you're on your own, when you go back to Jeffy and Jerome, and they weren't there? Mack or Kevin either. Or when you're on your own."
Joey was looking more and more nervous, and one of the volleyball players was starting to sweat too. Joey glanced towards the door, then at the other Lions; he froze in the face of their glares.
"Oh let's just shut her up," said Evan.
"Before you do," said Daria, taking her hand – and her phone – out of her pocket, "did you know I have my sister on speed dial? Joey, make or break."
Joey left. One of the other Lions rolled his eyes and went to shut the door, saying "you really think those freaks will get here in ti-"
He had to stop talking on account of Andrea's fist.
"I didn't, no, but isn't it nice to be surprised," said Daria.
The Maleficent Eleven piled onto the roof, Quinn at the front with the biggest and meanest flanking her, eleven sets of knuckles cracking. One of the volleyball players quietly peed herself.
"Slutty Girl, Koichi, square escort duty!" yelled Quinn. "Everyone else – HEY HO LET'S GO!"
Evan began to speak, marking him out as the leader; Quinn leapt forward and delivered the mother of all headbutts. The roof erupted into a free-for-all, while 'Slutty Girl' Jackie and Koichi delivered a groin-kick-face-punch combo on Siobhan and then began to haul Daria & Jane away. Daria glimpsed a Lion thumping Andrea and taking blows to the gut; Dave throwing someone through the roof hut; Shane down in seconds crying in pain; Shaggy and Burnout back to back, lashing out at anyone near; Angel taking a blow to the face, dropping, and then elbow-striking knees; Spike being football tackled but dragging a screaming basketball player by the crotch with him; Scarlett throwing her trenchcoat over a girl's head and then whacking the blinded opponent.
Before Koichi and Jackie shoved Daria through the door, she saw Quinn punching Evan with his own fists, yelling "STOP HITTING YOURSELF! STOP HITTING YOURSELF!".
"Can't believe I saw anything in him!" said Jane as they fled down the stairs. "He fights worsethan a girl!"
The two exited the stairs – right in front of the hockey player that had worked with Siobhan earlier. Armed.
"Hi. I'm the insurance policy."
In the background, Stacy and Tiffany had just wandered in; both were frozen, confused. The player growled "beat it!" at them. Stacy shut her eyes, stiffened, and barked out "leave it out, sunshine, we run a cleanclub round here!". Then, in a totally different tone of voice, "This is the most unacceptable behaviour, if you continue this I'll be forced to-"
She swung her hockey stick, just to scare Stacy off, and was reallysurprised when Stacy grabbed it, high-kicked her hand to force it open, headbutted her, and then delivered an elbow blow to the back with a clean sweep to the feet once she was bent over.
"Even in this hell, there is justice," hissed Stacy, before turning to Daria and thrusting up a rock-out symbol: "YEEEAAAAHHHH! FIGHT THE MAN EH?"
The outcasts headed off, leaving an enemy unconscious and Tiffany scratching her head. "Whaaaat juuuust happeneddd?"
"I don't know," whimpered Stacy.
Joey skidded to a halt in the cafeteria, crying out to his friends: "There's a fight going on up on the roof and they were going to try and do in that weird girl and I didn't think we should and what should I do?"
Jeffy and Jamie blinked. "Could you repeat the..." "...all parts?"
"Some people ganged up on a girl?" It was Robert, one of the biggest players in the Lions. "I can't be holding with that! I'm heading up there!"
"It's the fight with Killer Quinn, you can't miss it!"
Jamie began thinking with his penis. "I have to help Quinn!"
"I... guess we have to help Jamie and Robert then?" said Jeffy, confused.
"Guess so! I'll show you all the way!"
Unnoticed by them all, Bob the punk rose up from his table. He never misbehaved on school grounds, but thiswas one of the unwritten exceptions. (Actually, it was written. He'd written it, in biro, in the back of his English book.)
Also unnoticed was Tom, rising with a look of black murder on his face.
The fight spilled down the stairs. Les saw the fallen hockey player, grabbed the stick. Andrea saw the fallen hockey player, grabbed the player.
"That's CHEATING!" protested Les before he got a head upside his head.
"There's a fight breaking out and Quinn's freaks are whaling on our guys!" cried out someone.
As one, every hockey player, basketball player, and soccer player- all genders and years – got up and armed themselves with sticks, chairs, and leftover food.
"Look! The jocks are getting hit!" said one Chess Club member to another.
"THE UPRISING HAS BEGUN! PAWNS TAKE KNIGHTS!"
"Hey guys, there's a fight going on!" yelled Kevin to every male in earshot.
"Who's fighting who?"
"...I dunno, but it's a fight, bro's!"
They all cheered and got up, and half of them began to hit each other, reasoning that they might as well get stuck in where they were.
Daria and Jane entered Maths class, reasoning nobody involved would be coming there.
Mr Ewing woke up, startled. "Are you... are you... you want to learn Maths outside of class?" He wept tears of joy.
"I... didn't catch that," said Jane, who'd mentally ignored his boring voice.
The front door to Lawndale High burst open as fighting pairs tore through it, knocking aside the smaller security guards and carrying on into the grounds.
A battered Quinn put down one guy but was cornered by a new one; Jamie leapt in, yelling "I'll save you Q-" before getting knocked out by one punch, but that distracted the other jock and stopped him seeing Bob, who punched the guy in his Little Jock.
Evan, still beaten and bloody, had emerged, now with a chair in his hands, and he saw Quinn trying to get her breath back. He moved in, when someone tapped him on the shoulder.
"Excuse me," said Tom, before flooring him. "DAMN IT I HURT MY FIST ON YOUR FACE ASSHOLE!"
Following was Robert, pulling someone off Scarlett and body slamming them; a basketball player with three nerds latched on, feebly hitting him with lunch trays; an unconscious Spike being used as a battering ram by the girl's hockey team; Kevin trading punches with another guy, both going "WOOOOOOO!".
The journalists looked at this for a second, and then one began to yell into a microphone: "No, you are seeing this, that girl just headbutted three people in quick succession – and, and yes, that Goth is being tag-teamed with sticks, clearly not a fair fight – and MY GOD! The junior Sloane is attempting a Ram Jam from the top of the steps! THIS MATCH IS OUT OF CONTROL!"
Upchuck immediately appeared, yelling "Mouth guards, crotch guards! Buy your protection here! Buy one, get the other half price!"
As Quinn and Bob picked up and hurled a soccer player into the pro-bye protestors and Mr Thompson reverted to his mental glory days and ran forward grinning "FIIIIIIGHT!", Jim Vitale exited the school to his car. He sighed and took out his phone.
"It's me. That contract with the school district – how easy is it for us to raise our fees again? Excellent.
"Um... should we be doing something?" asked a security guard.
"We've got no orders," said Steve, drinking a brewski. "Ten on Quinn against Miguel."
Their radios screamed in Ms Li's voice, and Steve groaned. "Okay, okay. Full gear, everyone, including the riot shields." When everyone blinked, he said: "Y'know, the dustbin lids. On the plus side TEAR GAS!"
"That's right, I can see guards are now taking action against all comers," said Jodie, reporting via mobile phone to Z93. "They're using tear gas – I'm not entirely sure they're allowed that..."
Next to hear, Helen Morgendorffer was filming the scene with her camera phone and eating some snacks. It was awesome.
The wind had blown the teargas onto the road, grinding traffic to a halt. The security guards were pushing around the teacher's cars in order to clear a secure space around the school entrance. A goggle-eyed vigilante in a paintball mask was running around, firing a paintball gun at anyone who tried to kick someone who was already down. A full half of the jocks and their parents were down, along with most of the Maleficent Eleven, but everyone who wasstill up had long since forgotten what side they were on and had gone with Against Everyone.
Li and Cartwright looked like a time-travelling Goering and Hitler who'd arrived in 2011 Berlin during a Gay Jewish Pride parade.
"Mblblblblblb," said Li.
"Hello Mr President of the Board," whispered Cartwright into his phone. "Yes, it is bad, Mr President. I agree, Mr President, someone needs to be fired over th- Oh. I'd like to talk to our lawyers- oh, they recommended... Thank you, Mr President. Goodbye, Mr President."
The police had arrived and, on general principle, were hitting everyone. That seemed to have stopped the fight, so Daria and Jane felt it safe to come out. They could tell the police were confused about who to arrest and how they could arrest this many people, to the extent the lead officer was saying "well they do go to a high school, that's kinda like a prison already, right?".
Quinn staggered over to them, a shell-shocked Tom hanging onto her. "Did I really do all that?"
Quinn patted him. "Yep. You're alright, Richie Rich!"
"And this is why I don't get involved in things," whispered Daria, the eyes of a pioneering Internet programmer who'd realised they were partially responsible for 4chan. "I do a few small things and..."
"I was wrong, sis. You really are a punk. You could become the second-greatest punk of all time."
"Can't. I bathe regularly." She bit her lip. "Um, thanks for-"
"Family is family, Daria. And fights are fights! ROCK!" Quinn let Tom go and headed off to find out who in the gang was still conscious.
Daria couldn't look at Tom without blushing. "You... um..."
"Yeah, I'm amazed too."
She bent in and kissed him.
They'd have kissed for longer if the teachers hadn't appeared at the front of the school, O'Neill calling for attention: "Um, hello! Everyone! Can you all hear me okay at the back? Okay... It is my sad duty to have to inform you all that, ah, due to... personal reasons, we'll have to say goodbye to Coach Gibson, Ms Morris, and Principal Li-"
"SHE'S GONE FOREVER!" roared DeMartino before doing an air guitar. "DUN DANNA-DUN DANNA-DUN DANANANAAA!" He grabbed Ms Barch and started to dance. "DUN DANNA-DUN DANNA-DUN DANANANAAA!"
The crowd stared, trying to take the message in. And then Dawn Harris, always a mute and unconcerned figure hooked constantly to her iPod, opened up her backpack – and she took out a boombox and she raised it high.
And what happened next will blow your mind.
Over a hundred people had left work early to join in the street party; they remembered Li from their own schooldays and wanted to see her out. Music of all genres thundered out from boomboxes – Dawn had hit the Turbo Bass on hers – and someone had set up a barbeque grill. Upchuck was selling commemorative plates, and Ms Defoe had quickly made an effigy of Li, which was being set on fire.
Kevin and Brittany were dancing, one of two dozen couples cutting a rug – including Quinn and Jamie, who looked like he was living the dream. Daria and Tom had been one before Daria had gotten too embarrassed to continue. (Stacy had changed into her Stacy the Nerd guise and was dancing with Jeffy, who hadn't cottoned on to the fact that this contradicted her "I'm from Oakwood" cover story) Steve and the head police officer were happily sharing a joint with Shaggy.
"I distinctively remember all the jocks and their parents being worried about Li leaving," said Jane.
"Yeah, but as students, they all still wished Li would go," said Tom. "Humans are a contradictory lot."
"Also, after all this, the school's going to be shut for a few days while the district tries to sort everything out," said Daria. "And who doesn't want to celebrate that?"
"And everybody's temporarily forgotten they hate you!" beamed Jane. "Maybe when we all come back to school-"
"Yes, and maybe they'll club together to buy me a pony." Daria looked over the scene, as several of the teachers sang Glad It's All Over. "Doing all this scares me. I used to disengage because I didn't think I could change much and I didn't want the hassle of failure, but... if I can't controlthe change, then... Eh, I dunno. I may just be a wuss. Not very punk of me."
"Ah don't second guess yourself!" said Jane cheerily, putting a matey hand on Daria's shoulder. "You did a man's job, Dekker. And for all your talk about disengaging, you do keep getting involved..."
"Against my will."
"Never the less."
"And if it makes you feel any better, we can say you're not a punk," said Tom. "No, you're Punk Version 2.0. You're Punk 2011 Edition. You're Punk II: Punkment Day."
"Thank god you didn't say Electric Punkaloo." She could see someone selling ice creams now. "Y'know, I think my work here is done. Let's say we go get pizza."
The trio headed off, leaving the party behind. The last thing they heard was a BBC reporter intoning "and there's a strong feeling of community here, of reaching the end of a long, dark tunnel, and standing blinking in the light – and, and yes, I believe I can see the school's Spanish teacher doing the Bartman..."
AUTHOR'S NOTES: This is a turning point in the series – another one, that is. Things weren't intended to end up like this but once I decided "Daria blabs on the grade-fixing after all", it just snowballed from there. Poor Mack wasn't originally going to be turned against Daria by this, but that's just how the scene went.
Jim Vitale is a character created by Scissors McGuillty for Where's Mary Sue When You Need Her, and became a shared character who can appear in any fanfic. And because he's such a horrible bastard, he's appeared in a LOT. ("Law is what we lawyers make of it" and his favoured term "asshat" come from that fic, as does his lust for Helen) Subversion is We was a website from the Daria fics The Look-Alike Series, and I pinched the name because I'm a lazy git.
I may owe Lonely Island royalties for the repeated referencing their songs.